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Chase Meaning, Not Happiness

I see such an obsession with happiness these days. It's sad.

There's different sorts of happiness, but the one people seem after the most is the lowest, saddest form of happiness - a pleasurable mix of biochemicals.

Do you know how cocaine works? It's what's known as a triple-reuptake inhibitor. It makes some of the happiness chemicals - serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine - cycle out of your brain more slowly, giving you wonderful feelings.

And - so what? You've got more happiness chemicals in your brain so you bliss out? How could anyone in their right mind think this is the meaning of life?

I try to do things that I find meaningful, ideally on the largest scale I can. I'm not there yet, but I'm trying. I still need to get stronger in other areas, get more disciplined. But I'm working on it.

Beyond the Cranberries and Mounds of Merries - All Over the Map

On Mapping Happenings

I'm listening to Jonathan Richman's eponymous album from 1989. You can hear the influence of Lou Reed in this stripped-down album, along with Jonathan's own off-kilter sense of lyricism and humor. And he is no slouch when playing guitar, either, with a style somewhere between Lou Reed and Mark Knopfler. Talking about stripped-down, and not being a slouch, Normandie Wilson released her latest album, "Until the Whole of My Heart is Yours", this past Friday, November 21, and it is wonderful!

I stumbled upon Normandie when she performed this past June during the Art Around Adams music and art walk. The first thing that attracted me to her was "the look" - a pastiche of 60s pop/jet-set cultcha. My first thought was "Wow. Is she serious about what she is doing or is this a parody?". I decided I had to hear more, and know more about this curious, accomplished artist. I purchased her album "Geography and Other Problems" which is every bit worthy of its nomination for best pop album at the 2014 San Diego Music Awards. It was recorded in several locations, from Sweden to San Diego, with an impressive roster of musicians backing her up. I began stopping by the Lafayette Hotel lobby after work when I was in town, to listen to Normandy at the piano, singing pop standards, primarily from the 60s. This is where I got to know her as a person. She is always dressed to the nines in 60s style and wigged-out, literally, not figuratively; she is quite grounded in reality once you get to know her. Normandie has a passion for 60s pop culture, and it shows not only in her attire, but in the music selections she plays and in her own writing. She is a big fan of Burt Bacharach, The Beach Boys, and The Zombies, and also Cole Porter, ELO, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, and Amy Winehouse. You can hear the influences but never anything derivative. Her style is hers and hers alone. And I do believe Nomandie is one of the hardest working and prolific artists I've encountered in San Diego. Not only that, she has perspective, and is very involved in social causes in our community when she is not writing, rehearsing, painting, dancing, or performing. She doesn't stand still for a moment! The consummate artiste.

So what about this new release? It is stripped-down; just voice and piano. It plays like a diary of relationship concerns, which reminds me of Joni Mitchell's writing, but sounds nothing like Mitchell. Modern realities are thrown into a mid-60s pop style. Her piano is informed by Bacharach but is uniquely Normandie. Dave Fleminger recorded Normandie at Rarefied Recording in North Park, San Diego. On this, Normandie plays her Boston baby grand which was shipped from West Virginia to its new home at Rarefied Recording several months ago. According to Normandie, she and Dave spent two 12-hour days recording 25 of her songs, nine of which became "Until the Whole of My Heart is Yours". Not only is the sound and feel of this very personal, the sound is right up close to you, literally putting her lyrical thoughts inside your head, as you sit at the piano. Her vocals are expressive, from delicate vulnerability to joyful declarations of love. It is difficult to listen without letting the the music affect your own emotional state. She reaches into your soul with her words, finding commonality. We've all been through the pains of bad relationships as well as the sheer joy in the blossoming of the new. Normandie is painting pictures with these songs. Pictures of relationships gone wrong as well as right; and she describes the ups and downs within a relationship as two people struggle to make it work - sometimes having to sacrifice and put in lots of effort, as well as times where things come easy and effortlessly. I love this album.

Speaking of the effortless, Normandie is surprised that she is getting so much positive response to this release, since she said it was so easy to do compared to the last full release. "Geography and Other Problems" was a much bigger production; more intricate musically involving many more players. I think the secret of the responses to "Until the Whole of My Heart is Yours" is that it is reality brought into focus. We can all identify with it. And yet it is such a personal statement it makes one feel you are spying on Normandie's private life. Not to say that Geography wasn't a set of pictures of Normandie's life and relationships; it was. But the stripped-down nature of this gives you her words without any distractions; Normandie without her wigs and exquisite appearance. This is the real deal. Her inner beauty shines through with this release. Heart touching heart. It reminds me of John Lennon's first solo work, "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band". Sometimes simplicity is required when describing the human condition.

What about the Cranberries and Mounds of Merries?

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