Wisconsin is supposed to make a girl feel bratty. Bratwursty, that is.
Problem is, I’ve made bratwurst before. And thanks to my ham, I have… well, I have a lot of ham in the house. Adding to the supply of pork and pork products seemed imprudent.
My solution was to meld the idea of bratwurst with apples and onions and the concept of Jefferson’s Virginia ham pasta. So we have ham, pasta, apples, onions, cranberries (a Wisconsin product!), and a sort of au jus.
I think I found piano-driven alternative rockers The Picture Perfect (Bandcamp) via Reverbnation’s local-chart feature. This is indie summer jam material, right on target for 2012′s young feel even though the latest album is a year old. It would seem that Reverbnation shares Paste’s ability to empty my wallet. Shall we find out why?
“Sing Along” reminds the world that I’m a sucker for that distant-radio-signal echo effect at the beginning. I’m also a sucker for how the song bounces into a bigger sound, not mention the rhyme between “resist” and “lips.”
Try to retain bouncy enthusiasm within bounds that will prevent yourself from losing a finger while slicing a tart apple. (No, I haven’t damaged myself further.) Also chop about half a large onion. This all goes into a pan with a tiny bit of butter, over low-to-medium heat, as the idea is to cook it gently rather than frying it into submission.
It’s incredibly apt that a song called “Sing Along” has a big, sing-along chorus. This is working for me because the bounciness is contained by moderately crunchy guitars, distinct alt-rock huskiness on the vocals, a little darkness in the bass/drum line, and some exuberant piano-bar arpeggios. So the effect is less “boy band frolicking on the beach” and more “plaid-wearing hipsters make meaningful eye contact with twee girl at craft fair stand, singing-dancing number around fountain ensues, with extreme stunts on fixies.”
When the onions are transparent, it’s time to add all sorts of marvelous things:
–a nice handful of dried cranberries that have been rehydrated in white wine, along with the wine
–a scant teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon
–a preliminary cup or so of water
–a fistful of pasta (I’m aiming for two servings)
Yes, the idea is to cook the pasta in the sauce. I’m not worried about the pasta absorbing all the liquid, as I can always save and reduce the extra. It’s more important to add enough water to get the pasta covered.
The Picture Perfect started as Kyle Featherstone’s side project for more piano-driven music, as “You, Me & 88 Keys” demonstrates in both instrumentation and title. He’d been pursuing life as an acoustic pop solo artist, and the charm of how his vocals work with bandmates Colin Huntington and Justin Hallman convinces me that a band was the move for giving his vision an effective voice.
That’s a fancy way of saying that my favorite effect in this song is how one voice (I assume it’s Featherstone’s) handles all the verses that are internal monologs of self-doubt and striving, and then, with the chorus’s address to The Other (“give me an answer”), a second, very different-sounding voice comes in. And there’s a sort of dialog between the internal and external voice. I’m not sure they don’t trade places at some point, but every time I listen through the song, I get swept up in the piano line and lose track. Either way, it works.
When the pasta is al dente, drain it over a bowl, so that the bowl catches the excess liquid. Use the pan to fry up some ham — or this is a fine moment to deploy the bratwurst — and then have the sickening realization that the bottom photo here is out of order. Does anybody care? I don’t have a ready substitute, as the sauce-making process just looks like a pool of murk.
If you care, distract yourself with how after the song has done the power-ballad thing in the middle, it wraps up with a minimalist, plinking-at-keyboard-in-early-stages-of-composition coda. These are simple features when I talk about them, but the match between sound and sentiment gives the composition a feeling of inevitability.
Also inevitable: dish up the solid ingredients and drizzle enough of the excess sauce over them that you feel things are adequately dampened.
I had to go reheat a serving to remember how it tasted, other than good! You need to like a sauerbraten effect, as apparently these were very tart apples, and it also helps if you enjoy sweet-salty combinations. I do. It’s a nice light meal that doesn’t weight the ham down with cheese.
In honor of both the approaching end of the 50 States project and the dominance of the “young” sound in current music, let’s wrap up with “Waiting for This.” This song captures The Picture Perfect’s sound: moody piano interspersed with big, bouncy instrumentation; vocal layering and effect; lyrics with depth (and with music references); releasing and increasing tension in the song structure supported by levels of layering; and big, sing-along choruses.
Whew! That’s more ingredients than I used in dinner. And they meld. It has a beat and you can dance to it without surrendering hipster cred. If this is one of those veiled paeans to the artist’s relationship with the music industry… then it’s optimistic and involving rather than tormented.