Essential Listening: Cabaret Rock Star, Amanda Palmer! A True Renaissance Woman Capable of Just About Everything!
All month long I’m paying it forward to a small select group of folks that I feel could use a signal boost (for the blog schedule this month, click here). Last week I went local, covering the creative accomplishments of a handful of my friends. Both Craig Kotfas and Rody Hillman have recorded full length albums for purchase (you can read their articles here and here, respectively), and Bobby Baham has filmed and released numerous short films (his article is here). So far this week I’ve covered the following major recording artists that deserve your attention: Spacehog, Islands, and the Mavericks (with yet more articles here, here, and here, respectively once more… again, again). All of these have been well and good as they are all great creatives that are tremendous performers, but there seems to be a key something missing from this list thus far. I believe that it’s high time that I shine a spotlight on a powerful female voice, and who better than the multifaceted and exceptionally talented Amanda Palmer! Be advised: the videos in this post may not be safe for work.
Who is Amanda Palmer: I suppose the real question is Who Killed Amanda Palmer? (See what I did there?) Amanda Palmer is a recording artist that rose to prominence when she started a group named the Dresden Dolls with Brian Viglione in late 2000. Performing in a bawdy punk/cabaret style, the Dresden Dolls successfully found a sizable following, easily becoming a cult favorite due to their uniquely styled music and high energy live performances. in 2007 Palmer collaborated with Jason Webley to form the group Evelyn Evelyn. Releasing an EP in 2007 and a full length LP in 2010, Evelyn Evelyn was a more experimental project for Palmer. She and Webley put on a stage show under the guise of being conjoined twins, both named Evelyn. Their music ranged from a variety of styles, including jazz, rock, pop, and was always staged for proper theatrical effect. In 2008 Palmer released the solo album “Who Killed Amanda Palmer?” (now do you see what I did there?) that ventured more into rock territory, while still maintaining her trademark piano and vocal style. Backed by the newly formed Grand Theft Orchestra, Palmer has also released the LP, “Theatre is Evil”. Not content to exist only in the realm of music, Palmer is also a NY Times best selling author and a pioneering crowdfunding supporter. Also of note, in 2011 she married the celebrated author Neil Gaiman, and the 2 have a child together named Anthony. For a nicely detailed timeline of her recordings, replete with video and audio, as well as other information about the performer, check out her site: Amandalanda.
Why You Should Be Listening To Amanda Palmer: There are a variety of reasons to listen to the various music offering that Amanda Palmer has been serving her fans. First and foremost, she has a strong, unique voice and a fearless vocal delivery that is just as capable of being dead serious as it is to be tongue in cheek. There’s a playfulness there, almost as if laughing through the tears, that gives her music an energy that you just can’t find anywhere else. Amanda Palmer is bluntly direct, which is also completely refreshing. She may present herself in her songs as funny, charming, vulnerable, tacky, hurt and/or any other emotion imaginable, but above all of those just mentioned, she is always sincere. Her music is heavily piano driven and she is quite gifted at tickling the ivories. Whether you been a fan of her since the early cabaret days, or have just recently stumbled across her most recent work online (which could be anything from rock songs to string quartet arrangements, and everywhere else in between), there is a lot of growth and wondrous discovery to be found by exploring her catalog. If you haven’t listened to her music before, do yourself a favor and start exploring!
What Has Amanda Palmer Been Up To Recently: What hasn’t Amanda Palmer been up to? In 2012, following a very successful Kickstarter campaign, Palmer released the album “Theatre is Evil” with the Grand Theft Orchestra. A broad sweeping LP, it covered the range of the Palmer experience from cabaret to rock, with a touch of tenderness as well. “Theatre is Evil” made it all the way to number 10 on the Billboard charts. Along the way, she has made a ton of highly entertaining music videos, including this stripped down version of “Lost”:
In 2014, Palmer released her book “The Art of Asking”, which would end up on the New York Times Bestsellers list. Designed as a natural extension of a TED talk speech that she gave in 2013, it covered a wealth of information in regards to her formative years as a performer, and went in depth on some of the key events that molded her into who she is today. Ultimately, her message that runs throughout the book is simple: ask for and accept help when it is given. A brief snippet, “Everybody at some point finds themselves in the position of needing to ask for a certain kind of help, and everybody finds themselves in the position of offering help. Friends, time, energy, love, space, listening, talent—there are so many levels of asking for help that I think we just block off from our reality.”
Palmer has also recently released a David Bowie tribute collaboration with Jherek Bischoff titled “Strung Out in Heaven: A Bowie String Quartet Tribute”. It is tremendously entertaining, and I highly recommend the procuring of it immediately! Palmer and Bischoff also just released a cover of the Prince staple “Purple Rain”.
Amanda Palmer is also on Patreon, a crowdfunding site, now (here’s the link). There, you can pledge any dollar amount that you are comfortable with, from $1 all the way up to $100 or more. Your pledge will grant you access to exclusive content and help to keep these amazing artist as she endeavors to record more music, and more. Currently, Amanda Palmer works on a variety of projects, including: videos, essays, performance art, films, and as she puts it “weird inexplicable shit.” Watch the following video as she explains why she made the move to Patreon.
On July 15th of this year, Amanda and her father Jack Palmer will release an album titled “You Got Me Singing.” The first single can be heard here:
How You Can Support Amanda Palmer: Buy her albums! The entire Amanda Palmer catalog (Dresden Dolls, Evelyn Evelyn, and her solo work) is available on CD and digital at various retailers, both brick and mortar and online. Also, buy her book! On top of that, you can head to her official website, amandapalmer.net, for more information about her music, news, bios, merchandise, music videos, and more. Amanda Palmer is very active on social media and can be followed on : Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and YouTube.
I leave you with this video of the Dresden Dolls performing on Halloween Night back in 2004. In full costume, the Dresden Dolls cover Sonny & Cher, then a have a little striptease, followed by a cover of Brittney Spears, and then perform yet another striptease whilst lip synching to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” (which may or may not be NSFW – again you’ve been warned). It is simply not to be missed!