To judge by their tightly wound, country-tinged pop songs, Olivia Mancini and the Mates aren’t shorting their craft. But even the most polished band needs its R&R, and this local act—featuring two former members of Washington Social Club—loves to curl up with a good book. That’s the impression, at least, left by “Graphology,” a rollicking gem from the group’s new album in which Mancini lists maybe a dozen book titles. Apparently, her bookshelf (including 50 Years of Fender, 1776, and Bob Dylan‘s Chronicles) is pretty heavy on nonfiction, although some Dashiell Hammett sneaks in (noir does not make its way, it only sneaks). Pretty eclectic stuff: too bad, then, that Mancini concludes each verse with “those are not enough to make me smart.” But we’ve all been there.
Olivia Mancini and the Mates perform tomorrow at the Black Cat with Stripmall Ballads. $8. You can download “Graphology” at the group’s Web site. Here’s another song:
More literary pop songs after the jump, including a nonsensical (what else!) Pynchon tribute, a lucrative (?!) Brontë homage, and Dan Bejar being Dan Bejar!
“Gravity’s Rainbow” by Klaxons (2007): This ravey U.K. lad band named a song on its 2007 album, Myths of the Future, after Thomas Pynchon‘s 1973 postmodern masterpiece, although the lyrics (something about Tangier deserts and the year 4000) share little with the namesake, save denseness. No clue if Pynchon would approve, but the song is probably a lot better than Laurie Anderson‘s proposed (and rejected) Gravity Rainbow opera would have been:
“California Zephyr” by Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar (2009): This rose-tinted cut leads off One Fast Move or I’m Gone, an album inspired by Jack Kerouac’s 1962 novel Big Sur. Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie) and Farrar’s (Son Volt) lyrics draw from Kerouac’s prose, and the two more or less match their vocal styles (earnest and weather-worn, respectively) to the book’s opposing tones (romantic and nightmarish).
“Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush (2008): The first single by the fey, experimental pop singer, which in 1978 made her, at 19 even, the first woman to both record and write a No. 1 single in the U.K. (This after her label wanted to introduce the singer with a safer song, but relented. Go lit!) She penned the song after watching a movie adaptation of Emily Brontë‘s tragic novel, which has bedeviled AP Language classes ever since its 1846 publication (OK, it took a few years for it to enter curricula). As weird as it is, the song is pretty restrained for Bush, who continues to make great, challenging music but is utterly to blame for nonsensical ’80s videos like Bonnie Tyler‘s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
“Your Blood” by Destroyer: Dan Bejar mentions a couple of Albert Camus novels in this cut from his excellent Rubies album. This being Destroyer, though, there is ostensibly no logic as to why.