Some Fridays I offer up elaborate personal history to accompany whatever song has been selected for the kindergarten-approved act of sharing, or I’ll at least delve into some aspect of the artist’s career that I admire. And then there are the instances when a song merely hit my ear just the right way during the week, somehow asserting itself as the right little gem to join the couple hundred other tracks that have been scattered digitally throughout the years. Franz Nicolay’s “This Is Not a Pipe” shuffled up this week, and it set me gently aswirl.
To the degree that Nicolay is well-known, it’s probably as the keyboardist for the Hold Steady, a gig he held only for five years, from 2005 to 2010 (this stretch, it’s worth typing, coincided with the strongest music crafted by the group). He was a fairly conspicuous figure on stage, looking a little like an escapee from an H.M.S. Pinafore production that shifted the story to take place among old-timey New York mobsters. There were also an abundance of solo records released throughout this time, filled with sweetly odd pop that percolated with clever, esoteric flourishes. “This Is Not a Pipe” uses the conceit of the famed René Magritte painting The Treachery of Images to deliver a quietly devastating things of depressed beauty (“This is not a cup/ That is not a kettle/ It is not raining/ My shoe is not untied/ I have not been unhappy my whole life”).
In addition to his wholly evident talent for creating music, Nicolay is also available for hire as a piano tuner or simply to provide accordion maintenance, at least in and around New York City. In this modern time, there are all sorts of ways to be a Renaissance man.
Listen or download –> Franz Nicolay, “This Is Not a Pipe”
(Disclaimer: I’m not entirely sure if Luck and Courage, the album that is home to this week’s song, is easily available for purchase at your favorite local, independently-owned record store, but it can be procured through Nicolay’s website, along with a bevy of other items. So let this shared song be an introduction to Nicolay’s work and encouragement to go and explore more, more, more, making a purchase or two directly from the artist along the way. He’ll every record a custom cover song for a reasonable fee. If someone is feeling generous, I’m always in need of a good “Come On Eileen” cover. In sharing this song, I mean no fiscal harm to the artist. I will gladly and promptly remove this file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any entity or organization with due authority to make such a request.)