What do these bands have in common? Cartwheel, Colors & Shapes, Casino Ashtrays, The Autocollants, Tears Run Rings, In a Day and Evening Lights. Well probably several things, but one is Laura Watling. Perhaps most well-known for being the female voice in The Autocollants, she now plays with Tears Run Rings (the picture is from one of their gigs). Apart from all these pseudonyms she also has releases under her own name. The album Early Morning Walk is one the finest things Shelflife have ever put out, and it's a true honour to be in a band that has a record out on the same label! The sound is so brittle and beautiful that the only thing I can really compare it to is a Motifs record. From the poignant lyrics of "Perfect Penmanship", to the laudable cover of The Motorcycle Boy's perhaps best number "The World Falls Into Place", to the gorgeous harmonies of "It's All I Can Do" (that always reminds me of a West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band song), the whole album bears the mark of Watling's penchant for simple arrangements, utilised to the fullest to accompany her plainly wonderful voice.
I've put together one song each by the bands of hers that I know of (there might be more?), starting with a solo number from a Popgun tape I have dated to 1997. Casino Ashtrays were Watling and Raoul who runs Popgun, and formed after The Autocollants split. Someone should really compile a full discography of Laura's releases, because even though I thought I had gotten hold of everything, at least digitally, I just found out that there is Popgun cassette from 2006 with three leftover Casino Ashtrays songs!
Colors & Shapes' (Watling + Tim Gauslin) only release was also a Popgun tape, with two songs, however doubled over both sides. In a Day (perhaps named after the Evening Lights song?) only had one release as well, a split-7" with the reformed Even As We Speak in 2003. Evening Lights themselves seem to be the group that prefigured Tears Run Rings, as it also included Shelflife proprietors Matthew and Ed. The song here is from their only ep, released of course, on Shelflife. Cartwheel was Watling and Dwayne Palasek (also in Autocollants and In a Day) and they released a 7" on Sandcastle. That label isn't around anymore, but their site is still up at Indiepages.
As you can see there is also a 'Library tape' with Laura Watling songs. If anyone knows where you could get hold of these songs please let me know! Apparently Sandcastle's idea was to create a library of songs, so that when you ordered something you could get a tape with your own selections recorded. What a great idea!
Just now I also found another band called The Disappointment, who had the same members as Evening Lights it would seem. I don't have any of their songs, but you can hear a few on Myspace. Right now you'll have to do with these:
Laura Watling - I Fell In Love On Saturday
Casino Ashtrays - Comfortable Distance
Colors & Shapes - Song One
The Autocollants - Skybloom
In a Day - Lazy Summer Days
Cartwheel - Halfway There
Evening Lights - Starless
Tears Run Rings - Waiting For the End
CLOUD 102 V/A - We're Still Fun
Ed told me that there is a Laura Watling retrospective coming out soon, with some unreleased songs. It's called Songs From Dreams and a track is included in the Shelflife sampler that you can get here. Also included is a track from an upcoming Evening Lights cd, compiling the odds and ends they never released! Called The Disappointment, not surprisingly.