MY FAVOURITE THINGS, Indie story tellers of New York
I discovered My Favourite Things through their 3rd album, Fly I will, because I can, as it was sent sent to me by their great PR manager, Shauna McLarnon (Shameless Promotion PR, Ummagma, Sound of Sputnik).
Their song, a little closer, made its way immediatly to our 5 songs monthly playlist of June 2017 and made me want to discover their entire musical work. What a beautiful experience it was. I felt like sitting near master story tellers, that used music textures, many instrument, voice pitch and colours, and music types to tailor their songs to precisely narrate a story. I found it amazing.
What was even more amazing is that I was expecting them to be touring the big scenes and festival, playing with some of themost renowned artists, only to realise that the word is not out there yet. I can only hope that the work we did here with Dorothea Tachler, My Favourite Things' master mind, will be a step in that direction. But above all I deeply love their music and wanted this collaboration to paint an honest and loving portrait of the bands' music.
A genuine big thanks Dorothea for the kindness, the patience and openess that she demonstrated in preparing this piece with me. It was a real pleasure collaborating with her.
Presentation, interview, stories and music: you will find them all in this post. We hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed doing it and listening to their music.
Dorothea (formerly of The Swirlies) wrote and produced all the songs with their many textures, owing to the use of multiple instruments, many of which she also played: violins, flutes, and autoharps weave in and out of twinkling glockenspiels, vibraphones and intricate, sometimes shredding guitars, delivered on a solid bed of a grabbing bass and ripping drums, with Dorothea’s balmy voice hovering and twinkling atop.
From a young age, her Korean/German/Croatian background has immersed her in a diversity of musical influences.
In 2009, she released “rarara” (Afterhours/Japan), followed by “Tomorrow’s Far Away” in 2013, featuring guest vocals from several friends and former band-mates, including Valerie Trebeljahr of Lali Puna, Damon Tutunjan from The Swirlies, Daru Oda (Norah Jones), Sean Meadows (June of 4, Lungfish), and Doug Scharin (Codeine, HIM, Rex).
“Music was my anchor and my lighthouse in stormy and dark nights, and putting my inner turmoil into words really helped me process it better. It was kind of my metamorphosis, being disintegrated like a chrysalis, and being shaped into something new,” explains Tachler.
When performing live, My Favourite Things appears in different formations, ranging from a solo act to a five-piece band, featuring prominent musicians from the buoyant New York scene: Yoshio “Tony” Kobayashi on drums, Yusuke Yamamoto on vibraphone and synthesizers, Michael Figgani on bass, and various other talents.
The band has played many venues in the unforgiving NYC music circuit, transporting transfixed audiences from their chaotic built-up urban environments to a twilight world of their own favourite things.
Last year, My Favourite Things also toured Germany, featuring Notwist frontman Markus Acher on drums, along with other talented and experienced musicians from Germany’s active band scene.
What is their music about?
"The music in My Favourite Things is about exploring musical ideas in the form of song, mostly. Exploring different instruments, by writing songs on it, because it may be my favourite instrument at the time.
But also exploring different genres. There is no "favourite one“, no favourite color, they are all my favourites, perhaps this day it is Shoegaze, and tomorrow it is Folk - I believe we all go through different phases in life, musically as much as everything else. Sometimes we have a phase where we listen to specific types of music, which then changes again after a while. I love exploring the different genres by playing in different bands, but I include different genres and influences in MFT.
The music in MFT is also about putting my deepest personal experiences in the form of songs with lyrics. It is about processes, my path in this life, about people I meet, and loose, because they pass away -or lost because of a breakup… Processing things by writing a song about it has been a good way for me to deal with things. But it is sometimes also about my favourite things, like riding bicycles, for example, or just a moment that feels like infinity…"
Why we love them!
- The art of telling stories. You will see, when reading further, that each album has a theme, evolving from one another. You will also see that every song is a story in itself, talking about many aspects of life that we can all relate to in many ways. It is a music where the lyrics and what they say is important and beaufifully so.
- The art of creating a compelling sonic décor for each song. Once the song, the theme is ready, Dorothea and her musicains manage to chose the best textures and instruments arrangement to fit the narrative. It is not as easy as it seems, as they span music genres, tempos, instruments, voice patterns and many other tricks in a very clever and afficient way. That in itself shows the immense quality of Dorothea and all the musicians that have worked with her.
- The art of melodies. Well songs and texture are good and well, but on this blog we are lovers of melodies. And MFT did the "tour de force" of cristalizing their music with really addictive melodies. That's a difficult things to do. Only great artists manage to do so!
The comparison game
- Notwist. Notwist are indubitably one of my favourite things around. They have mastered the craft of using only what’s needed to get perfect and balanced songs, never falling in the trap of doing too much. Their arrangements are spot on, and they keep a tension in their work that gets you from befinning to end. MFT are very similar in that respect. Note that I wrote this part before realising that MFT played with Notwist's frontman. When reading this Dorothea told me:
"Markus plays in My Favourite Things when we have shows in Germany/Europe. He was a band mate of me in an other bnd, which was like in 1996/97, so we know each other a long time!! he brings wonderful musical ideas and instruments to the table, he plays drums, but last time brought also harmonium, xylophone, glockenspiel and other great things."
- Tom Waits. Not many artists are able to tell a story through music to the level of Tom Waits. Dorothea and her band are doing this to perfection, and I have found many similarities in their music.
- Suzanne Vega. While not having a “X factor” type voice, the artist has learned to use her voice fully, with superb melodic lines and use of different pitches and textures that fits the best. Dorothea uses her voice like this, sometimes sounding like Suzanne Vega, but also using many more vocals textures across the songs.
"Each record accompanied a specific time/phase of my life" tells Dorothea. And you will see this statement is consistent with the evolution of her musicas well as of the cover artwork.
Rarara, Album, September 2009
"This is the very first album. When I moved to Brooklyn, NY, I made a point of writing and recording my own songs with the goal of putting a record together with them.
I had not released any solo material until then, only music that came from collaborations with my other bands. So this record is reflecting me gathering sounds, moments, playing with genres, and has more of the ambient tracks (that later will turn into my other solo project Hunki Dori).
This record also teaches me that I can process personal life tragedies better with songwriting. I lost my grandmother and mother within 3 months after moving to Brooklyn, so my life was upside down and I went through immense grief. Also, the relationship I moved to NYC for turns out to be over.
Anyways, when I started, I was just exploring. Only when I released the album 2009 I came up with the band name and put a band together to play live. "
This record is indeed the maddest of them all, but also the funniest with many songs that make you smile or are easy to relate to.
1. Bicycles 01:54
"This was one of the first songs. I love bicycles and they certainly are one of my favourite things"
And it shows. The sonic texture is like listening to a rickety bike strolling in the streets, the music hinting at the wheels turning and the frame shaking a bit. It is a leisurely stroll that introduces you in the best way possible to MFT's music and how they can paint a sonic image using cleverly instruments and arrangements rather than effects.
2. the other way 01:36
A great New York song if any. Short, punchy and makes you urban dancing. The lyrics are in tune with a diffident "leave me alone" attitude to other people. I love this very short piece.
3. Each time 01:45
Ukulele and voice alone start, followed by a chaotic choir of voices and instrument. Maybe the sound of a hangover.
4. I wish 03:34
"This song was for my mother after she passed away. it was really hard to wrap my head around her passing and I’m still grieving her loss, even today "
Nothing to add. This is a beautiful and melancholic song. We all have experienced loss, and how often have we asked yourself "why did I not spend more time with that person?". I have, many times, and as a result this song resonates.
5. How 03:01
"It is a complement to the previous song."
6. The long goodbye 03:03
A nice little musical piece mixing harp, crickets, voices, and xylophone for a very bucolic feeling, a summer evening with the sun setting lazily. Very soothing.
7. Please Stop 02:39
If you ever had your girlfriend coming back late, with a few many drinks and had an argument about her state, this is the perfect song to illustrate the scene. This is captured masterfully by Dorothy. Listen, close your eyes ... and here you are. It is the perfect female counterpart of Tom Waits' song "the piano has been drinking"
8. Behind the Hills 03:37
"this song is about a relationship gone wrong. When you feel like the other person takes you so much for granted, they don’t even see you anymore. I am happy that Damon Tutunjian from The Swirlies sang in this song with me - I had the honor to play and tour with them for one tour in the year 2002"
The duet is perfect for this song about a relationship. The off-kilter feeling and the instruments give you the impression of a machine falling apart. Dorothea and Damon carry the song beautifully, and making the regrets of this lost relationship transpire in the middle of this crumbling-feel music.
9. Summer of '91 04:23
"This song is a love song when you’re 17 and fall in love so deep, it kind of blows your mind"
More Epic than the rest of the album, it fits well with the matter subject. All over the place in a ways, the pieces do not seem to fit together.
10. Volim Te 01:55
"This song was for my grandma who passed. Volim Te means I love you in Croatian because that’s where she was from. "
It also makes me think of my grandparents and relatives that are gone and have been so good to me. The melody is perfect, the voice vulnerable ...
I would love my kids to play that at my funeral. I hope they will agree with the lyrics. Such a touching and simple song. Makes me shed a tear now and again.
11. Black Past Bright Future 01:51
Melodically simple, the many sounds that journeys with the underlying chords are like a whirlwind, a vortex. Imagine a soft tornado in which you see a bike, ad tree and many other things going around like the soft madness of an insane merry-go around.
12. Now is Eternity 01:49
"This song is about how when you are completely in the moment, it is like you are staring into infinity. Sean Meadows played bass in this one, and I just love his bass line."
13. Saving you 03:00
An Irish ballad is this song, with banjo and violins in the forefront. I have heard many similar ballades here, in the West of Ireland. Also, maybe unknown to Dorothea, the first few notes of one cycle are actually the same than the Irish National Anthem, adding to the Irishness of the piece.
14. the things you tell 01:30
If your neighbours were palying folk guitars and singing along while the outside subway was passing. That's the feeling I get. When reading this, Dorothea's was kind enough to add:
"I recorded this with open windows, letting all the new york street noise in… I lived at a pretty loud place when I recorded this album, and so often had to wait for the 2 minutes of quiet to record something, but in this song, I let it all be part of the song, you hear the bus etc"
15. we dropped rocks 05:32
"This song was a collaboration with many friends and musicians, Valerie from Lali Puna sings the main vocals here (and she wrote the lyrics), and some of my band members play on this tune, Enis Sefersah (EDAS, The Letter E). It is a bit of a live jam, except we’re not really jamming this live but recorded at different times."
This album was made by the following artists:
- Dorothea Tachler: all songs, and Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Ukulele, Violin, Percussion, Glockenspiel, Keyboards, Rhodes, Piano, Autoharp, Steeldrum, Recorders, Harp, RaaghiniAccordeon
- Kris Bauman: Banjo on 13), Dave Burnett: Drums on 5), 13), Manuel da Coll: Drums on 4), Christian Dautresme: Vocals on 3), 7), and additional Electric Guitar on 15), Sean Meadows: Bass on 12), Egil Rostad: Cello on 4), 5), Enis Sefersah: additional Bass on 15), J. R. Spatzi: Drums and Percussion on 2), 6), 7), 8), 9), 11), 15), Valerie Trebeljahr (Lali Puna): Vocals and lyrics on 15), Damon Tutunjan (The Swirlies): Vocals on 8)
Tomorrow's far away, Album, October 2013
"This album is, as the title says, about that feeling when you are lost in the moment and like tomorrow is far away. It could be good, or bad, like when you are procrastinating things that you know you need to do.
It is about doing drugs and needing to quit, but someone saying “okay, I will quit tomorrow, and just doing this one last time today”, and then finding another excuse the next day not to quit.
It is also about, this moment is good, let’s stay in this and figure out how to master our problems tomorrow."
1. Flight of the Pterodactyl 05:27
"I wrote and recorded this song when I was staying in Los Angeles for a summer. It is about the feeling of not being good etc enough, not fitting in, and about how so many people feel this way. Live is okay if you feel okay, but you need to let yourself- sometimes it’s hard to do."
Well this songs makes me think of a young Pterodactyl that is going for its first flight. The first part of the song, a marimba, soft voice and brush on a snare, are like the clumsy steps of the little one heading for the edge of the cliff, supported by Dorothea's lyrics, like a mother encourageing its hatchling.
Then violins gather, like the courage of the little one, with Dorothea's voice taunting, the mum flying and calling her hatchling. When the distorted guitars strikes; the little one steps in the void and is surronded by the force of the wind, flying on the violins air currents, realising: "I can fly, I was made for this".
This is a transition reco, away from the quirkiness of the first LP nd not as mature as the third. It is more vulnerable though.
2. Tomorrow's far away 04:07
"This song is about people who are using drugs, and trying to hide it. and telling themselves that they will quit tomorrow, they just want to enjoy the high one more time today, and that feeling like they are flying when it is not real"
Title song of the album. This one of the best bass line I have heard. So simple, so direct, and the floating tempo complement the song beautifully, giving it a off-balance feeling,
The rest is again a great story, one of the best example of musical mastering MFT released. Just a great song, a perfect song.
3. Something, Anything 04:13
The chords are very similar to "stand by me". A dual voice,a beat box and a ukulele to supplement the beautiful lyrics "it's not like I have any choice of my own ... and it's not like I had anything under control". How many times I have sais this to myself.
4. Even when I'm alone 02:08
Simple, perfect. Soft voice of Dorothea with 2 instruments. She feels alone and vulnerable on this song, like putting here soul bare to the listener. One of the most touching songs.
5. The Space Inbetween Places 03:33
"This song I made together with my friend Sean Meadows, who is an amazing musician from a number of bands. We played in a band (EDAS) together in 2007 and since then collaborate when we can."
6. A Little While 05:00
"This song is about a painful breakup and the feeling of not understanding, and just wanting the moment of being together to linger on/continue."
7. El Sereno 03:31
"This song is capturing that summer in Los Angeles, staying at my friends' house and being in the moment in a beautiful way - sharing time, stories, songs with friends and family, all generations. "
8. bad new year 01:53
Slighty discordant, 2 voices with a simple guitar and kalimba, some synth and the snare brushes. Like waking up after a bad new year's eve, beginning to remember the silly things and excess of the previous night.
9. Not By Now 04:57
Almost bluesy with the Hamond organ in the background. The voices are magnificient and the progression with instruments coming and going a show of musical excellence, with this "just right, never too much" receipee that is the band's trademark. The drums are just fantastic.
And that's how the album was made:
- All songs written, recorded and mixed by Dorothea Tachler except track 5 written together with Sean Meadows (June of 4, Lungfish)
- Christian Dautresme: vocals on 7, Michael Figgiani: bass on 2, 3, 9, Andreas Nick Horn: drums on 2, 9, Paul Hutzler: pedal steel on 5, Sean Meadows: vocals, guitar, bass, raaghini, steel drum, percussions on 5, Daru Oda (Norah Jones): vocals on 2, 3, 9, Roger Park: pedal steel, upright bass on 7, Doug Scharin (Codeine, HIM, Rex): drums on 1, 5, 6, 9
- Dorothea Tachler: vocals, guitars, bass, percussions, kalimba, keys, autoharp, steel drum, marimba, ukulele, violin, banjo, harmonium, slit drum and Taishōgoto on 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Fly I will, because I can, Album, July 2017
"Musically, I wanted to explore the Autoharp and writing songs on it. that’s why this album is very heavy on the autoharp - I do have phases where I obsess about an instrument and write songs on it. For example, on the first album, I wrote a bunch of songs on the Ukulele.
In other regards, this album accompanied a time when I went completely sober, quitting alcohol etc. It became a time of spiritual awakening for me.
I was always interested in spiritual ideas, but finally actually explored them more with different kinds of meditation and really doing the personal work I’ve been putting up for so long, really looking inside myself, sitting with it and, after a while, being at peace with it. It was not an easy time, especially in the beginning.
It was accompanied by many other changes in my life, I lost my apartment, my relationship ended, and many of my friends and family moved away. I also lost a few friends by going sober. But I grew a lot in this time of clarity and honesty."
It is a beautiful album, deeper, stronger than the previous, following Dorothea's evolution.
1. Sunlight 04:19
"This song I wrote for a dear friend of mine who passed away and sadly, I hadn't spoken to her in years. If you have a friend who was once close and you’re not sure how they’re doing, reach out to them, ask them how they are. I am so sad I couldn’t do that anymore. "
The violins and vibraphones are like sunbeams through a windom, warm and soft.
2. Everything Changes 03:24
"The title says it all!"
A great ballads. It could almost have sounded tacky, but that's before used their magic potion to transform it into one of their perfect stories, with off-kilter singing line, instruments soft mayhem. Beautiful. One of my favourite songs. Tom Waits-esque.
3. Goodbye Again 04:01
A voice and guitar start, emerging in a full blown musical tale after a few minutes. Maybe the most Tom Waits-esque song with maybe the most Suzanne Vega singing line / tone.
4. Still Practicing 05:01
An indie ballad, with an arpegio electric guitar. The chorus with a very far away disto guitar, where Dorothea explains that she is "still practicing" is breath-taking. Maybe one of their song that would have the broader range of audiences and could bring people to MFT's music. Spread around people.
5. Some Things Stay the Same (Stay a little While) 03:31
"This song is about friends who live far away now but used to live close to us and we used to be so close- with some we are still so close, no matter how far the distance and our love to them is the same, even though everything constantly changes. we made a beautiful music video for it, using snails, one snail friend visiting another. I hope you watch it :)"
6. Growing Pains 04:03
Nice quirky song, reminiscent of a fairy tale.
7. Nobody Knows 04:23
The only song with an Electro feel, coveredwith other instruments. A great ballad, with a feeling not unlike their song "everything changes".
8. A Little Closer 05:29
"This song is about personal (or global/political/etc) growth and how it sometimes feels like its going painfully slow- two steps up, one back down. sometimes it feels like a regression but sometimes that is just how progress goes, and we are still one step further than we were before. "
This was the song that we used for our June 2017 playslist, as it is certainy their "Shoegaze song". Superb use of the engulfing song and reverb, with a a beautiful bassline that complement perfectly Dorothea's singing line. Just love listening to it again and again and again...
9. Keep Letting Go 04:55
I love this song for many reasons, one of them is the perfect vocals of Dorothea, and the beautiful high pitch, slightly meandring around the tune. It gets me. And the second vocals in the back, like a mermaid in the far just makes it ven more perfect.
10. Spaceman 04:19
Slow synth pads, flanger guitars, sputnik-like sounds, gives an atmosphere not unlike Slouvaki Space Station: soothing, slightly melancholic, otherworldly.
11. The Longest Winter 04:08
12. I don't know 05:18
Closing song of the album, "I don't know" is like the simple truth voiced by Dorothea: I don't know what will be next, how my music will evolve, how I will change.
But far from being full of fear and dread, the song has under-current of optimism, of hope (chorus voice lines). A step in the unknown, the first step of the next great travel destnation.
- Dorothea Tachler: vocals, guitars, autoharp, violin, keyboards/synthesizers, glockenspiel, chimes, flute, programming, bass (on 6, 11)
- Yoshio „Tony“ Kobayashi: drums on 1-9, 11, Yusuke Yamamoto: Vibraphone on 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, Michael Figgiani: bass on 2, 12, David Moss: upright bass on 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, Jonathan Granoff: bass on 4, 8, 9
When we look the tigers on the cover, we were wondering if there was a significance, a story? The cover theme seems to flow along with you own history, i.e. tiger in an artificial paradise, then transparent tiger looking for himself, then tiger in harmony with things around him.
"Yes the tiger is on every album cover. The artist are different artists:
Rarara is by Shinji Abe (he’s Japanese)
Tomorrow’s far away is by You Byun (she’s Korean)
Fly I will, because I can by Uma Sharma (she’s from India)
The tiger is sort of a representation of myself, maybe a part of me. I gave different guidelines to the different artists.
rarara, the first album, I told the artist, I would like a picture of my room, with instruments lying around, and a tiger. (also, there always seems to be a cat lying around in my room in real life, so that is like a mini tiger ;) )
I then sent him a photo of my room where I lived at the time with me in it, and he basically made a painting of it and added the tiger. (this was the room where I recorded most of the album, too)
The 2nd album “tomorrow’s far away”, I let You Byun do whatever she was inspired to do from listening to the album. I only told her to include a tiger in there, she came up with the rest.
The 3rd album, “Fly I will, because I can”, I worked closely with the artist. I had told her about my transformation in the last years, and she came up with many amazing images. It describes more a meditational state, or the state of transformation. she is lying in the water, looking up the trees (you can see it on the CD, there are more images). There is another image where she sits up on high cliffs and overlooking the land and clouds. that is an image I had come to me in a meditation. she listened closely to my story and the album, and she came up with her being in the water."
Where to buy their music?
Some good videos to watch.
The third single from their new album ‘Fly I Will, Because I Can’ has a clever accompanying video by Hiroshi Shafer, who is touted as one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite artists. This new single comes on the trail of the release of the first two singles 'A Little Closer' and 'I Don't Know'. The videos for both of these singles were created by Gi Yong Rhee.
Videographer Hiroshi Shafer explains his inspiration behind this new video: "Our friends used to live nearby around the block. We hung out or talked most of the day when we were little boys and girls. When we grow up, it’s not easy to fill the distance and time. I entrusted this feeling to my backyard snails and asked them to act in this music video."
What others have said.
"My Favourite Things excels in creating ambiance with the use of very little or almost no electronics. It is all Tachler’s voice, synthesizers, guitars, harps, vibes, anything that will create a mood that slowly takes you along to exactly the places the band want to take you to" – The Spill Magazine
"Absolutely stunning work! Of a sound and caliber that sends shivers up my spine... Dorothea’s vocal delivery is the icing on the cake. As for her timbre, I recall early Luscious Jackson and Liz Phair, as well as Still Corners. At times her vocals lean closer to MBV’s Bilinda Butcher and at others, she sounds like the female version of Kevin Shields" – Big Takeover Magazine
"A spacey and lilting gem that, despite it’s otherworldly and dreamy state, also manages to possess a significant drive and propulsiveness. Washes gently over the listener... Delicately soars with freedom and grace like some kind of regal bird" – Overblown Magazine
"The Tinkerbell of dream-gaze has finally emerged, weaving fantastic spells and treading new ground in the land of fusion-filled frolicking. 'A Little Closer' sounds like: MBV meets Tortoise, A Sunny Day in Glasgow" – The Record Stache
"All my band mates
Michael Figgiani, Yoshio Kobayashi, Yusuke Yamamoto, Daru Oda, Markus Acher, Ralf Nemetschek, Tobias Schmidt, Mathis Mayr, Michael Heilrath, Valerie Trebeljahr, Nick Horn, Chuck Palmer, Enis Sefersah, Jonathan Granoff, Dave Moss, Gi Yong Rhee, Hiroshi Shafer, Uma Sharma, Ricky Shane Reid, Matt Verzola, Nathan Rosenberg, Karsten Steiger, Lisa Miletic, Daniel Olshansky"