The songs on DYHAC seem a little deceptive at first because the presentation is sparse yet the songs take on mythic proportions the more you listen, sink into and connect with the archetypal spaces this music accesses. It's not a bad idea to read the lyrics while listening to get full immersion into the space. The EP's production is quite different and interesting sounding like it was recorded in Notre Dame Cathedral or some other huge church space. It creates a dreamy, otherwordly atmosphere that seems appropos of the subject matter. Sometimes the thick ambience creates a fog for the attentive listener to penetrate and dig in which only adds to the mysterious quality. I get the feeling of Sherlock Holmes looking for clues in the street on a foggy London evening. One gets the same sense of forboding, unseen evil lurking in the background in the third song, In His Image.
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The first song, Marina, is one of the best songs about the oceanic depths of Woman I've ever heard. It also expresses how dangerous that can be if the humans diving into it are unable to swim in those depths. It's aligned with the doctrine that even well-intentioned male energy is disruptive and destructive in higher (oceanic) spaces - " He had not meant to hurt her. Of this, oh, she was sure." she sings at the end. The name Marina is brilliant for the protagonist as it conjures both the sea, the female and of something getting marred. It's a song that both invokes an archetypal, nonhuman space, and warns of the danger of plunging to quickly into it.
The second track, Frankenstein, takes a personal and empathic point of view of one of the more relevant myths of modern times, the creation of the Übermensch, the Overman or Beyond-Man as it's been translated. Pinkerton reveals that she isn't simply using Mary Shelley's gothic tale as a jumping off point, but is connecting to the deeper myth in the story with the lyric: "Oh modern Prometheus, Unbreakable, Unbreakable, and better made than me." Anyone on any kind of transformational path - artistic, spiritual, or what have you, can relate to the personal turbulence and alienation of trying to stay true and change into the ideal being aimed for, whatever that may be. Pinkerton succinctly expresses these emotions in Frankenstein.
In His Image, is a powerful, defiant song of liberation from pain and oppression, but not without ambiguous feelings. The title puts a sharp, perhaps critical, twist on the biblical passage, "God made man in his image," though it also points to the identification of the macrocosm (God) with the microcosm (man). Looked at in this way, in archetypal fashion, the song goes beyond one individual scenario. It becomes a statement about the current world situation. It becomes every woman's voice defiantly saying no to the insanity and pain created by Brute World male animal diseases like war, anger, and oppression.
We're All Wild shows us different kinds of wildness from the fine and fair lady in her garden to the worm in the dirt with other wild things in between. It's told with the lyrical imagery of an adult fairy tale and contains as much useful information as any classic fairy tale or fable. The melody draws you in.
The Queen's Brigade continues in the allegorical fairy tale style of imagery, but with the confrontational edge of a Bob Dylan song from a distinctly female point of the view. And not just any woman - The Queen - who reminds me in this song of a contemporary form of Edmund Spenser's The Fairy Queene, the epic 16th Century prose poem.that influenced Shakespeare and Crowley among many others, including, on an intuitive level at least, Riley Pinkerton.
These songs are mythic poetic sketches - hierophantic; an education for the heart both pro and con, good and bad. Guides for teaching the spirit coalescing into Essence. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger especially if you can sing about it. The connecting thread is Riley's voice. It's unique, I find it hard to describe - pure, strong and emotive with the intensity of a young Joan Baez, yet different. Her voice communicates much more than words she's singing.
Riley graciously and candidly answered a few questions I posed about her new EP and future recording plans:
1. What inspired the title Do You Have A Car?
I had a car: The Rat Mobile. A 97’ Honda Accord, which essentially blew up on the side of I-75 in Auburn Hills, MI, a few months before my move to NYC and leading up to my transition into becoming a solo artist. Living where I did in Michigan meant I was borrowing cars and asking for rides regularly up until my move to a city where having a car would end up a major inconvenience. So, the question "Do you have a car?" became a running joke between myself and friends and family. The question mark was then dropped as if to suggest that it was more of a demand than a question, and the phrase ended up being used in social situations with a connotation of "I want to get out of here." Over time it transitioned into the acronym "DYHAC," which appears on the back cover of the CD and is stamped on the CD itself. It felt appropriate to title my debut EP after what had developed into a sort of "catch-phrase" and give a nod to an event that marked the start of a very transitional time in my life.
2. What are some of your musical influences? Your melodies sound like you might be familiar with traditional Irish or English folk ballads?
My very first musical love was The Beatles; that's what I was raised with and it's the foundation of my influences. I have strong childhood memories of listening to Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Lyle Lovett, and the Squirrel Nut Zippers on a pretty regular rotation with my mother. In my teens I found myself drawn to music by Nick Drake, Neutral Milk Hotel, Beck, Nirvana, and Jeff Buckley. Later on I was introduced to the music of Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and then somehow stumbled into a Black Sabbath phase along the way. In regards to your second question: I’ve never felt as though the music I listen to has managed to make itself very influentially apparent within my own songwriting; perhaps I have enough Irish blood in me that it’s filtered out elements of traditional folk ballads in what I listen to and into my melodies. Ha!
3. You recently moved from Michigan to New York City. How has that affected your musical direction?
My move from Michigan to New York City coincided with my transition from performing as one half of a duo act to pursuing a solo career, so the move has really been almost a complete redirection. I’ve had to learn to become comfortable with being completely alone on stage and performing my songs in a way that I feel they can stand all on their own, along with writing new material while bearing in mind that it will need to be able to do the same. So far it’s been equal parts liberating and terrifying. It feels wonderfully gratifying to be entirely responsible for my own act, and the transition has definitely caused me to grow as an artist and as a performer quickly to fill in the gap left behind after having become accustomed to having a partner to “share the load,” if you will. I believe, because of my move and because of the caliber of artists that saturate the communities I’ve become acquainted with, I’ve been driven to grow that much faster. I’m learning a lot from the musicians around me, especially in the realm of managing the business side of things. I’m not sure if I would’ve received the same amount of guidance from local musicians if I’d stuck around Michigan, so I feel very fortunate to have been able to relocate to the East Coast and have the experiences I’m having now.
4. My only criticism of Do You Have A Car is that it's too short, I want to hear more. When can we expect more songs from you? Can you give us an idea of how the new songs or production might be different? Conversely, do you foresee any connecting links between Do You Have A Car and your next release?
A further description and additional reviews of DYHAC is here.