NATALIE MERCHANT has released a compilation called RETROSPECTIVE 1990-2005. It features lots of her greatest songs, including ‘build a levee,’ ‘san andreas fault,’ ‘carnival,’ and the song ‘she devil’, which brilliantly opens the 2nd cd and should be essential café rotation this summer; this is classic, great songwriting and needs to be heard

She included the song ‘photograph’ which I sang with her a thousand years ago. It’s beautiful to hear now, it’s so different listening to it. I have always loved Natalie’s songwriting and lyrical take, and I learned a lot from her; this comp is a great and brilliant group of songs to put together. There are funny and revealing album notes in the booklet and excellent photos and packaging. I recommend buying this for your favorite cute boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s great morning music or driving music when you want to sing along top of your lungs and no one can hear . Click here to visit Natalie’s website.

Also re-released is the BLUE AEROPLANES lp called SWAGGER, featuring my cello-esque background vocals on the song ‘what it is’. The band approached me to add a vocal to the song a thousand years ago, and frankly I thought it was a perfect song already and I would only muddy or fuck it up. So I sang a cello part that they had to put in really quietly.

There is a little remix on the 2nd cd in the package where they mixed my vocal up really loud, and you can hear gerards pre-finished lyric; what I consider to be one of their greatest lyrics, and certainly for me, emboldening. I had always wanted to do a dylanesque, or lou reed type vocal on a song[hear it in ‘end of the world…’ or ‘belong’]but never felt that I could pull it off in an r.e.m. song; having toured with blue aeroplanes through part of May of 1989, I think it gave me the unconscious courage to go for it in what has become one of my favorite r.e.m. songs of all time, ‘e-bow the letter’. Gerards incanting over stunning guitars, layered like the feelies or john cale and brian ferry, with heavy dollops of neil young; its a great record. Throw it into shuffle, you want to hear one or two songs at a time, not the whole thing[like pj harvey or kristen hersh, or pixies or janes addiction. Or interpol or hidden cameras or antony and the johnsons for that matter]. Awesome, singular, revelatory. Also perfect summer listening. Here’s a website with more information on the Blue Aeroplanes.

Enjoy and hello spring we waited so long