w/ Angelo Spencer, Paul Baribeau, Charlie McAlister
Fri. March. 28
1977 Maybank Hwy.
"Tire Swing" from the original soundtrack to Juno
"Loose Lips" from the original soundtrack to Juno
At first listen, the acoustic music of folk-pop singer/songwriter Kimya Dawson may seem childlike, sparse, and uncomplicated — tuneful ditties with a wonderfully naïve way of looking at the world. After a few spins, however, her personable charm, positive vibe, and self-assured sense of intimacy are anything but kids' stuff.
Dawson spent a few years of playing with a semi-famous "antifolk" scene act called The Moldy Peaches with multi-instrumentalist Adam Green before going solo and creating some of the strongest, most heartfelt music of her career. Some critics still like to tag her spare vocal/guitar style as a novelty — quirky and weird.
"Eight years ago, it was a full band most of the time, but I started doing my own stuff seven years ago," says Dawson, speaking last week from near Pensacola in the family car, where she's holding her toddler and staring at truck traffic on the interstate. "Maybe it seems faster now, somehow. The thing about 'antifolk' is that it's really a community of people rather than a genre of music. I don't think that describes what I do. It's more of a description of who I've hung out with in the past. And the quirky thing? I don't even know [laughs]. I don't feel like I'm quirky. I don't really get it. I think I'm totally lacking quirk in the way I think of it. The Moldy Peaches could be seen more as quirky than me on my own."
A New York native based in Washington state, Dawson is currently back on the road with her husband, Angelo Spence and their new daughter Panda Delilah.
"It's just me on guitar and singing," she says of her recent performances. "This tour isn't much different from what I've done before. I've always had a pretty diverse crowd. It's just kind of getting bigger. I feel like it's always been very different kinds of people who get into my music. It's not super-specific stuff that only appeals to a certain type of person."
The Moldy Peaches released two albums on Rough Trade Records — a self-titled 2001 debut followed by a 2003 double album titled Unreleased Cutz and Live Jamz. Over the last seven years, Dawson recorded and released five solo studio albums — I'm Sorry That Sometimes I'm Mean (Rough Trade), Knock-Knock Who? (Important), My Cute Friend Sweet Princess (Important), Hidden Vagenda (K), and last year's Remember that I Love You (K).
Dawson received a bit of a boost in the mainstream press with the release of the original soundtrack for indie cinematic hit Juno. Released in January by Rhino, it features a half-dozen songs from Dawson.
Juno follows high-schooler Juno Page, played by actress Ellen Page, as she deals with an unexpected pregnancy. Page actually played a major role in selecting Dawson's music for the soundtrack — her solo and Moldy Peaches stuff.
"I'd never heard of that," Dawson says. "I think it's cool that director Jason Reitman actually let her have that kind of opinion when it came to the character," she says. "I've met Ellen and she's super nice. I am happy to say that a bunch of my songs are in the film."
In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Page explained how she went to bat for Dawson's tunes. "Jason and I were meeting for maybe the second or third time," she said. "He said, 'Well, what do you think Juno would listen to?' Immediately I said the Moldy Peaches. He wasn't familiar with their work, so I hopped on his computer, and I played the Moldy Peaches for him. The next thing I knew, he'd fallen in love and he was in contact with Kimya Dawson. It was really incredible how that all worked out because it just feels perfect."
The Juno songs include a brief "theme" called "Rollercoaster" (a textured, melodic, acoustic guitar chord progression with a "de de-de-de-de" vocal line); the waltzy, sweet "Tire Swing" (sung in rounds, elementary school music class-style); the jittery and upbeat "Loose Lips" (with rapid-fire lyrical lines that sound like the turntable is on the wrong speed); an instrumental titled "Sleep;" and the clever songs "So Nice So Smart" and "Tree Hugger."
Page and co-star Michael Cera deliver a rendition of The Moldy Peaches' "Anyone Else but You" as well.
In addition to her mommy duties and touring, Dawson recently finished recording a childrens' album titled Alphabutt, due this summer on K Records. The collection features a lot of kids playing various instruments (real gear, not plastic Fisher-Price stuff). Perhaps some of the new kids tunes will make it into her quiet, early-evening set at the Pour House.
"It's all just what I do, you know?" she says. "I try not to play in loud bars so much, and I try to always play all-ages shows. I think most of them come to try to listen. Maybe that'll change if, like, suddenly it's really cool to be seen at the show or something [laughs]. I'd rather play for 25 people who listened than for 500 who were loud, having conversations, and didn't care."