Review Summary: that chick from the moldy peaches who did music for that movie about the pregnant girl......
Kimya Dawson has accomplished a lot. As one half of The Moldy Peaches, she established herself as an important figure in the world of lo-fi Indie music. After the band went on hiatus in 2004, she embarked on a solo career that has placed her in the forefront of the Anti Folk scene. She’s released a handful of well received albums. She’s collaborated with everyone from They Might Be Giants, to The Mountain Goats, to Third Eye Blind. She’s been invited to be a guest on Sesame Street, and is currently working on an album of children’s songs. She’s dressed up in a giant rabbit costume on stage. She named her child Panda Delilah. However, despite all these accomplishments; Dawson will probably only be remembered for one thing:
The 2007 film Juno. A sleeper hit that basked itself in hype, critical adoration, and hipster praise for it’s acting, clever directing, and exceptional soundtrack. A soundtrack that was based off, and comprised mostly of, Kimya Dawson material. Her gentle vocals and jangly guitar playing served as a brilliant juxtaposition to Juno’s clever brand of humor; working to create a mood that was both uplifting and contemplative. Put simply, Dawson’s music complemented the film perfectly; and as a result she gained more notoriety and publicity than ever.
Despite the fact that I quite enjoyed Juno, I don’t feel right about bringing it up in the context of this review. Why? Because an over hyped 2007 film should have no bearing on what I think of a 2006 record. Even so, it’s hard to think of Dawson’s music outside the context of Juno. The film and it’s soundtrack went together hand in hand; each playing off of the other’s unique quirkiness. They succeed for a lot of the same reasons, and despite being familiar with Dawson’s material before ever seeing the film, I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t have a newfound appreciation for her rather tender brand of folk.
As far as I’m concerned, Remember That I Love You
remains Dawson’s strongest release yet. A heartfelt collection of songs that cover political, emotional, and deeply personal ground; yet ultimately succeed because of the inherent optimism and honesty that seems to accompany everything Kimya writes. There’s a really unique sense of hope that fills the record. It’s nothing corny or obvious. Nothing that I can really pinpoint. But somewhere between her lullaby delivery and gentle lyricism, there’s something special that forces a smile.
It’d be a mistake to write Remember That I love You
off as a feel good album. Despite the positive message, it constantly tiptoes around Dawson’s insecurities, depression, and self doubt. It works on a much deeper level than any casual Folk release, largely due how easy it is to relate to. I’d be hard-pressed to find someone who couldn’t relate to at least one of the themes Dawson touches on. The real brilliance of her songwriting is how she takes her negative ideas, experiences, and emotions; and channels them into fantastic songs that work to reverse that same aforementioned negativity. It’s therapeutic songwriting in the truest sense.
For example, one of the album highlights The Competition
covers Dawson’s depression, and how she eventually channeled that into writing positive songs. Lyrics like “but other times I'd feel so bad that I could not get out of bed and on the days I stayed in bed I sang and sang and sang about how crappy I felt not realizing how many other people would relate
” are bare, direct, and rather captivating. Dawson clearly understands the healing power of music, as she continues with lines like “now people send me emails that say thanks for saying the things they didn't know how to say
”. I Like Giants
works to similar effect; tackling Dawson’s own insecurities with her weight. It’s one of the more colorful songs on the album, utilizing tasteful metaphors to create a serene mood that accompanies the songs message: “When I go for a drive I like to pull off to the side Of the road and run and jump into the ocean in my clothes And I'm smaller than a poppyseed inside a great big bowl And the ocean is a giant that can swallow me whole
”. Other album favorites include My Mom
, which makes use of a delicate bell melody and some accompanying male vocals to craft a heartfelt tribute to Dawson’s ailing mother; Loose Lips
which contains probably the most effective lyrical delivery on the album(“so if you wanna burn yourself remember that I LOVE YOU and if you wanna cut yourself remember that I LOVE YOU and if you wanna kill yourself remember that I LOVE YOU
”); and I Miss You
, a beautiful little tune that accomplishes everything it needs to in only 43 seconds.
Remember That I Love You
is such a great listen because Kimya Dawson picks out her strengths and sticks to them. The album doesn’t really vary itself in a dynamic, harmonic, or tonal sense. Each track revolves around Dawson, and any accompaniments(Bells, Mandolin, Additional Vocals) work to better the song without ever actually taking center stage. As a result, the album sounds rather homogenous; but in all honesty, any drastic variation to the established formula would work against the album. It’s an album that addresses our insecurities, issues, and humanity; and then dismisses all of them in the name of music, friendship, and hope. If nothing else, Remember That I Love You
is an album for the little Kimya Dawson in all of us. It’s something to listen to on those rainy days, or something to make us all feel better after we molest a carton of Ben & Jerry’s at 2 a.m. It’s an album that addresses two extremes, and works them into compatability. Like Yin and Yang, it’s a testament to what can come out of a little depression and insecurity. At the very least, Remember That I Love You
shows that Kimya Dawson knows exactly who she is. And after all these years of doing what she loves, I think she is perfectly fine with it. While we can’t all be so secure, we can all take a little bit of serenity from her music, and hope for the best.