We thought Standard Deviation was a song about two girls falling in love over a shared fondness for physics but the release notes say it is a “romance set in the multi-dimensional realm of theoretical physics”. Schmidt goes on to say that it “touches on the pushback” that smart women face in traditionally male-dominated arenas, and draws parallels between quantum entanglement and human entanglement. And yes, it’s also about love: there’s someone out there for everyone, even a girl who “spilled numbers from her head” and gets laughed at by the dumb boys.
(A recent Tez Talks podcast from Tez Ilyas featured an audience member who recounted an academic talk she gave. A male academic approached her afterwards and said “with strong conviction” that she should make herself aware of the work of Charlotte Mears … when she pointed out that she was Charlotte Mears, the man just ignored her).
Schmidt seems particularly interested in seeing things from a woman’s point of view. In We Need A Better Word, the word in question is “miscarried”: “It’s just a word, as if she dropped it on the floor / It’s just a word, as if it’s something she did wrong,” he sings.
As well as women, he likes physics, which crops up again in The Blue-Eyed Hole In Time: “There’s a hole in time / And we’ve fallen through” he sings; the song is about what a newborn baby makes a parent feel “instantly and forever”. (Just Wait Til They See You is also about a baby; we guess he had one).
Agents Of Change is more physics — tying in the gentrification of city areas with the movement of people and reverse entropy.
The best line on the album is not from the songs about love or science, it’s in The Bones Of Emotion, about families at Christmas: “The kids were hung over … from toys” he sings, adding just the right pause after “hungover”. Despite being very homely — “Henry was seven, Vanessa was four / They were making up stories in bed” he manages to reference some science, “their streams and their rivers ran nowhere at all / Like the whips of the snow in the globes of their brains,” which itself harks back to Standard Deviation, where a passionate kiss begins when “she grabbed her by the brainstem and she threw her to the floor.” It’s gentle but intelligent Americana.
He cites Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen but his blend of American roots / blues / gospel is hard to place. He reminds us overall of Gordon Lightfoot, who was also gentle and combined folk with other genres.
His voice takes a couple of plays to get into but a fine album.
Danny says: “Bandcamp & CDBaby are great to artists. Apple and Spotify are sorta ok. Google & YouTube are barely tolerable. And Amazon is absolute crap for artists. They basically facilitate the selling of stolen CDs. So please purchase with your conscience.”
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