November 20, 2014

Gemma Hayes- "Jets" to "There's Only Love" to "Laughter"

Nov. 23 Update: This post has been edited to add a Facebook entry from Gemma Hayes the day after I wrote this. See bottom of post.

My first blog post about Gemma Hayes was in January of 2013, about her 2011 album, Let it Break, which I (stupidly) bought very late. My next post about her coincides with the release of her new album, Bones + Longing, which just came out last week. I was one of the first people to hear it, as one of 890 people who supported her through PledgeMusic to record it. I pledged the money over a year ago, and it was fun to track the progress of the album over the months, and thrilling to finally be able to download it this week. I have been listening to it non-stop since.

Gemma Hayes
This post though is going to be about one song from the album, which I discovered has three names: "Jets", "There's Only Love", and now "Laughter." On first listen of Bones + Longing, I instantly noticed that the first track, "Laughter" sounded very familiar. I quickly realized it was a different version of the song "There's Only Love", which is track 2 on Let it Break. I began doing research on the song, which led to two album reviews. Both however make false assumptions about the song:

From The Arts Desk:
"Bones and Longing kicks off with “Laughter”, a reworking of 2011’s “There’s Only Love” with a more shoe-gazy feel. Its minimal production sets the tone for much of the record. There are whispering vocals, acres of reverb and scratchy guitars that evoke feelings of distant youth." 

From Drowned in Sound:
"Gemma Hayes fans will do a double take as Bones + Longing whirs into life, and may check the correct file/CD/slab of wax is playing. Opener ‘Laughter’ sounds uncannily familiar... then click - it’s literally ‘There’s Only Love’ from 2011’s Let It Break. Recycling’s always shaky musical ground, especially around this time of the year as the market floods with errant balladry designed to keep Cowell’s pet blue whale in krill. Still, disposable dreck is one thing; it’s a bit odd when a serious singer-songwriter opens a fifth record with a cover of themselves. Maybe the creative flame has puttered out?

Not so: Hayes is making amends. She deftly recasts the original's sub-Snow Patrol slog via thoughtful, considered layering - drifting shoegaze guitars, insistent ride cymbal, flecks of synth and a buried, suggestive vocal wheeling beautifully out of the gorse. Voila; the pedestrian becomes the tantalising, lyrics glimpsed through the autumnal furze. It’s a perfect, and somewhat surprising, opening gambit for a record of brave self-assessment.

‘Laughter’ remains a shade tentative, feet carefully placed among slick leaves, but reinvention’s an aim without an obvious path. It’s the collision that discrepancy provides that ultimately gives the record its impetus as Hayes takes stock. 'Sometimes the magic is deadened by trying to record a perfect version of a song,' she said of the process. 'My aim was to make sure each song had a spark.'"

Both are wrong assessments, but the second (from Drowned in Sound) is especially misinformed and false, and takes Gemma Hayes' interview quotes completely out of context. In fact, Drowned in Sound appears to be attacking the original version (?) of the song, by calling it "sub-Snow Patrol slog". What does that even mean? It is a humorous description that I disagree with considering "There's Only Love" is perhaps my all-time favorite Gemma Hayes song.

But the main point here is that "Laughter" is not a re-working or a new version of an old song. "Laughter" is the EXACT same song as "Jets", which was released on the Velvet Ears Two compilation in Sept. 2011. This was a bizarre discovery! You can listen to it here:

As the original, Irish version of of Let it Break was released in May of 2011 (The North American version, which I have, was released in 2012 with a different track order), the question now is which song came first, "Jets" or "There's Only Love"? In Gemma's Wikipedia entry, it describes "Jets" as a demo. I find that hard believe due to the excellent quality and production of the song.

Based on everything I have read up until this point, I am going to guess that both versions of this song were recording during sessions for "Let it Break". Then I assume she picked one version of the song, named "There's Only Love" to put on that album. Considering the other version is equally outstanding yet very different, she picked it to be released that same year as "Jets" on the Velvet Ears comp.

Fast forward to 2014, for some reason, she re-named and re-released "Jets" as the opening track on her new album. While it is now called "Laughter", is is the exact same recording as "Jets" from three years ago. I only heard this song last week, so it is crazy to me it has existed for at least three years.

I admit I am a relatively new Gemma Hayes fan with limited knowledge of her songs (discovered her in 2008, and it wasn't until 2013 that I had more than one album of hers) . Perhaps she records different versions of songs often? Her catalog is so immense, and I am missing one LP and all of the EPs and singles from my collection.

I will continue my research on this song, and attempt to reach out to Gemma herself. I would love her insight on the different versions of this song, and if you are reading this, and have any information, please comment! In summary: 1 song, 2 recordings, 3 titles.

Update, from Gemma Hayes Facebook page on Nov. 21:
I can see on social media that some of you are curious to know my reason for putting an alternative version of 'There’s Only Love' as the opener on the album. I’m talking about 'Laughter'. The album was always a ten track album, I decided to add a bonus track during the mastering phase. Laughter was that bonus track and was set to be placed at the very end of the album as a secret track. The song has a lot of energy and good life to it. The more I lived with it the more I loved the idea of opening the album with this bonus track! It connects both albums or where I have been but more so it clearly establishes a loud and bold change. It's the same person but changed. So a ten track album became an 11. It's been only four days since it's release and the support and good will towards Bones + Longing is staggering. Thank you x G

While she didn't respond directly to me, I assume she did see my tweets and follow-up responses. This is interesting insight on the song, but still doesn't answer my primary question: when was "Laughter" recorded, and did it precede or follow "There's Only Love"?

November 5, 2014

3 new streaming tracks you need to hear...

First of all, the Decemberists are set to release a new album in early 2015, and this is the first single:

Secondly, one of my top-5 all-time R.E.M. songs, "Walk Unafraid," is being covered on an upcoming movie soundtrack:

Then, thirdly, Steve Taylor has a new animated video as we count down the days to his first album in 20 years. I'm not able to embed it as it is debuting on Relevant's website.

October 27, 2014

First Luxury song in a decade...

...and it iss far better than I could have imagined. I contributed more to their Kickstarter than I ever have before, and I am glad to help make this album possible. Apparently it is a few weeks away from a full digital release.

September 14, 2014

20 best Death Cab for Cutie songs

Recently Chris Walla announced he would be leaving Death Cab for Cutie after their next tour, which coincides with the upcoming release of their 8th studio album (early 2015). Because of that, there has been Death Cab news all over the web in response.

I began writing this post over a month ago, as I recently moved to Germany from the US, I didn't have internet at home for the first month, so blogging has been the last thing on my mind. But, I am WAY overdue for a post, and Paste Magazine inspired me as they posted a top 10 list of Death Cab songs.

The Paste list, found here, is terrible. I seriously doubt a fan of the band wrote it. Without ripping it to shreds, I’ll just post my own list. I have been a fan of Death Cab since 1999, so almost the beginning. The first album I bought was We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes and I saw them on tour for The Photo Album. I am not trying to defend my credentials, but I have them.
About Chris Walla’s departure: he is essential. Obviously Ben Gibbard is the voice and writes all the lyrics, but Chris Walla’s production and instrumentation are awesome. Grantland, a sports news website, published this terrific article about his contributions. I’ll say in summary that it would be silly for the name “Death Cab for Cutie” to be used in the future without him. Ben Gibbard has released solo work, plays solo shows, and even if they (bass player and drummer) decide to continue to tour together, they should just call it Ben Gibbard shows. And future albums as well... maybe The Ben Gibbard band.

Now, my list. I am going to do 20 songs because it is hard to narrow it down. Transatlanticism and The Photo Album dominate it, because they are far and away the band’s best work. (And only three of Paste’s 10 made my 20.)

20. "Company Calls" and "Company Calls Epilogue" from We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes (Paste’s #1)

19. "Summer Skin" from Plans

18. "Home is a Fire" from Codes and Keys (If Gibbard and Zooey Deschanel were still together, "Monday Morning" would be here instead. But their divorce ruined that song for me.)

17. "Someday You Will be Loved" from Plans

16. "A Movie Script Ending" from The Photo Album (Paste’s #5)

15. "Scientist Studies" from We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes (The first Death Cab song I ever heard, on a mix tape; led me to buy this album.)

14. "The New Year" from Transatlanticism (Paste’s #3)

13. "Coney Island" from The Photo Album

12. "Your Heart is an Empty Room" from Plans

11. "Title and Registration" from Transatlanticism

10. "Different Names for the Best Thing" from Plans

9. "Why’d You Want to Live Here?" from the Photo Album

8. "Title Track" from We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes

7. "You are a Tourist" from Codes and Keys (Paste blasts this--Death Cab’s best single--while including Death Cab’s two most popular songs ever, including the incredibly blah "Soul Meets Body".)

6. "I Will Possess Your Heart" from Narrow Stairs (I hate Narrow Stairs. HATE it. But I love this song. I bought the 7” single before the LP came out, and it would have been fine if the full-length had never seen the light of the day. Every other song on the LP, with maybe the exception of "Bixby Canyon Bridge", is completely forgettable).

5. "Styrofoam Plates" from The Photo Album

4. "This Temporary Life" from the Future Soundtrack for America complication (I have no idea where this song came from, but it is epic. I just did a Google search to read more on the the background.)

3 & 2 & 1. Ridiculous and amazing that these three songs are back-to-back-to-back on the same album—Transatlanticism. If I was going to introduce Death Cab to someone this is where I would start: "Tiny Vessels", "Transatlanticism", and "Passenger Seat". The middle of these three songs was performed at my wedding in 2004.

Here are the first two of those three songs being performed live back-to-back in 2012:

Final note: It is obvious that my favorite Death Cab for Cutie album is Transatlanticism. After you have explored that album in depth, check out the recently released Transatlanticism Demos, which is the demo version of all 11 songs on the album (only $5 at

Edit: I didn't know it at the time, but I actually posted this blog the day that Death Cab played their final show with Chris Walla. You can watch the final song from this show here.

September 6, 2014


Mineral is on tour, and video clips are starting to pop-up all over the web. Rather than taking the time to sort through them, I have found the best one for you! Planning to see them on Jan. 31 in Milan, Italy!

Powered by Blogger