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Archive for the ‘Abortion’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MDOU MOCTAR-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #213 (May 24, 2021).

Mdou Moctar has been getting some well deserved recognition lately.  It’s pretty great to see a Nigerian performer, who plays distinctly Nigerian style music making an impression on American audiences.

Of course, since I’m contrary, I’m more attracted to Moctar’s drummer who is playing a calabash–in this case red object that looks like a turtle shell and makes a remarkable range of sounds.  But really the focus should be on Moctar’s guitar playing.

Get ready for some fiery desert guitar-shredding, Saharan style, with the music of Mdou Moctar. Producer and American bassist Mikey Coltun told me that “the concert was filmed outside of the house we were all staying at in Niamey, Niger, in November/December 2020.” He continued, “As with any sort of musical happenings in the region, once some music is blasted, that’s an invitation for anyone to come join, sing, clap, dance, and just come together as a community. We wanted to present the Tiny Desk exactly like this, from when we started playing to finally the energy growing with fans crowded around filming on their cell phones and passing around Tuareg tea.”

And so, the four musicians, seated on a blanket (designed with oversized roses) with amps on either side, start playing with no fanfare.

The (home) concert starts off with Mahamadou Souleymane, a.k.a. Mdou Moctar, playing a melodic line on acoustic guitar, with Ahmoudou Madassane on rhythm guitar, Souleymane Ibrahim playing percussion on a calabash, and Mikey Coulton on his Fender Mustang bass on the song “Ya Habibti” from the album Afrique Victime. It’s an album of songs dealing with intense subjects close to Mdou Moctar’s heart: colonialism, exploitation, inequality, but also love.

The song almost feels like a drone because the bass and rhythm pretty much never change throughout.  The drumming is muted–effective but never sharp.  And Moctar’s voice and lead guitar work is subtle.  I’m sure since I don’t understand what he’s singing (which sounds pretty intense), I find his voice very soothing.

“Tala Tannam” follows in the same pattern–except the bass is even less mobile and the way Moctar sings it feels like a lullaby.  The best part is watching Ibrahim and Coltun clearly enjoying themselves–smiling to each other and even hugging at one point.  It’s hard to know how long these songs are as they seems to just go until they stop, but this one does have a deliberate ending.  It’s when he puts down his acoustic and grabs the electric guitar.

You can hear the real musical fire on the last song, the roughly 7-minute psych-rock title track to Afrique Victime. “Africa is a victim of so many crimes,” Mdou Moctar sings in French. “If we stay silent, it will be the end of us.” Silence is not something in Mdou Moctar’s vocabulary.

Moctar’s soloing was subtle on the other songs, but you can really here it standing out with this sharp electric guitar sound.  It’s nice to watch his fingers fly around the neck. There’s some guitar god moments in the soloing–including some finger tapping–but having him seated and equal with everyone else, the solos never seem showoffy.  I also like the way the song speeds up incrementally as it goes–mostly notable by how fast Ibrahim is suddenly hitting the calabash.

[READ: June 10, 2021] Losing the Girl

This final book of the trilogy was a little disappointing for me.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but I feel like there wasn’t enough resolution for anyone.

The book opens on Nigel.  Claudia has shown up to tutor him in math.  He is so smitten he writes a poem that he submits for class.  He calls it “Teacher” and his teacher assumes it is about her.  I can’t even believe that he would submit a poem with the line “teach me how to make puppy love turn into doggy style”  (Nigel is so clueless).

Next we see Brett at his mother’s funeral.  Johanna tries to comfort him but he blows her off demanding to know why she didn’t tell him about her and Paula.  They smooth things over and she asks if his father knows that his mother died.  He says no, he hasn’t talked to his father in a long time.  Jo says her mother might know how to get in touch with him.

The next section is about Darren.  He is by himself remembering how his father hurt his mother and how he doesn’t want to repeat the cycle. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAURIE ANDERSON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #212 (May 20, 2021).

Anyone who likes original or avant garde music knows Laurie Anderson.  Even forty years later, her music is unlike most other music out there.  Her music still sounds futuristic.

Which doesn’t mean it’s always enjoyable.  But some of it is quite good and it’s all pretty fascinating.  It’s also fascinating that you know instantly that it’s Laurie Anderson.  Her voice hasn’t changed in years–true she doesn’t sing, but it’s still the same.

She begins this set, which feels incredibly minimal with her keyboardist (and so much more–she played on and produced Big Science with Laurie Anderson in 1982) Roma Baron playing a simple clicking beat track.  She speaks (with her voice processed):

I met this guy and he looked like he might have been a hat check clerk at an ice ring.  Which in fact he turned out to be.  And I said oh boy, right again.

And Rubin Kodheli on the cello is playing gentle strings, including high notes sliding down the fretboard.

Is the song a story?  Does it have a narrative?  Or is it just stream of consciousness?  I’m not sure.

Laurie Anderson is a revolutionary artist who has mixed storytelling, music and technology for the past four decades plus. This Tiny Desk (home) concert celebrates the truly breathtaking breakthrough album she put out in 1982, Big Science. On that record, she used a few different voice processors; one of them was a Vocoder. By singing into a microphone attached to a keyboard, you can hear how it effectively adds harmony to her voice on “Let x=x.”

Laurie Anderson’s music seems so serious, so it’s delightful to hear her be so loose and chatty (and funny) between songs.

She introduces Rubin Kodheli, her favorite musician, with whom she plays all the time.  They create what’s listed here as “Violin Cello Improv.”  It’s about a minute of vaguely dissonant string music.

Then comes the big song, the one that people know Laurie Anderson for.  If it wasn’t a hit, it was certainly popular.

Laurie Anderson also used that [Vocoder] effect, creating what I think of as ‘the voice of authority’ in her storytelling, on “O Superman,” a song unlike anything music I’d heard when it came out in 1981. She made use of a vocal loop, something ever-present these days in sampling, but here she uses an Eventide Harmonizer, looping the single syllable “ha” as the rhythm of the song. It’s a song about dealing with the technological revolution, about compassion; if it’s your first time hearing it, take it in and see what strikes you.

The song has always felt very mechanical to me (it must be the looping and the synthesized voice), but it’s really interesting to hear how it changes live. Not drastically, but it feels like a living breathing song, which is pretty neat.  As is Bob Boilen’s story:

On a personal note, I was a lover of Laurie’s music back in those days; they were also the days I played synthesizer in my band Tiny Desk Unit. We opened for Laurie Anderson in 1981, and Laurie joined us onstage for a song. I bring this up because the Tiny Desk name (created by our guitarist Michael Barron) was familiar to Laurie long before this NPR series existed. At the end of her home concert, Laurie, I assume, mistakenly, thanks Tiny Desk Unit for having her. It made me smile and sparked so many memories. Thank you, Laurie.

Laurie Anderson is 74 and she seems as vibrant as ever.

[READ: June 10, 2021] Gravity’s Pull

I really enjoyed everything about Book 1 of this series and I was delighted to see that Volumes 2 and 3 were already out.

Volume 2 follows the same characters and is laid out in the same way (with each section following one of the characters but having the timeline stay linear.  MariNaomi also seems to be having even more fun with her drawings,

The first part is about Nigel Q. Jones (just like in the last book).  He’s in class when his teacher announces that the girl who was missing in book one (Claudia Jones–no relation) has suddenly returned and is coming back to school.  The teacher asks that everyone just give her space.

We realize it has been four months since the last book so Claudia has been gone along time.

Meanwhile Nigel still thinks about Emily (who has a cool new haircut–when a friend said she finally has good hair, the insult is not unnoticed) but realizes it’s time for him to move on.  As he’s thinking this Claudia Jones walks into the building and Nigel falls instantly in love with her.  How does she suddenly look so beautiful?  Almost otherworldly.  Here’s where MariNaomi has fun with the illustrations, making Nigel’s dreadlocks look like a kind of glove the way she draws his head. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATHLEEN EDWARDS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #211 (May 19, 2021).

Kathleen Edwards is a wonderful songwriter with a fantastic voice.  I discovered her from her 2008 album Asking For Flowers.

She put out one more record and then disappeared.

Struggling with depression, Kathleen Edwards opened a coffee shop called Quitters Coffee and lived a very different life.  A handful of years later, in 2017, she was invited to Nashville by Maren Morris to write some songs. That Nashville visit sparked a new beginning and eventually the 2020 album Total Freedom, which birthed the four songs you hear in this Tiny Desk concert.

So Kathleen Edwards is back with a wonderful new album.

On this Tiny desk she is joined by Todd Lombardo and Justin Schipper on dobro (that slide guitar looking thing).

Kathleen’s voice sounds great and on “Glenfern.”

From a house in East Nashville, Kathleen Edwards sings about how thankful she is for those early aughts when she was praised with awards, television appearances, touring to packed venues — even if the tour bus with the bed in back was “total crap.” As she continues to sing “Glenfern,” the opening track to her first album in eight years as well as this Tiny Desk (home) concert, she remembers her former husband and collaborator.

After the first song she introduces the band and says I can’t sing through a mask so after this we’re going straight to to the COVID clinic.

Kathleen Edwards seems happy playing these new songs.  They can be songs of sadness, sometimes filled with seething, such as “Ashes to Ashes,” but she’s also grateful for her everlasting love for a four-legged creature and the little catalpa tree where it’s buried.

There’s some beautiful interplay of guitars in this song.  It’s amazing how great her voice sounds with no accompaniment, no effects.  And afterwards she tells a delightful story about catalpa trees–I just passed one on a dog walk yesterday and absolutely want to try to grow my own this year.

“Hard On Everyone” is the song that’s been getting some airplay around here.  It’s so catchy, I love it.  And the lyrics are pointed and spot on.  when the song is over she and Todd bump elbows and their guitars bump for a nice resounding thump.

I would love to see Kathleen Edwards live.  She played one of her first shows after retiring at XPN Fest, unfortunately that was the year we went to Newport Folk Festival.  Now I see she’s coming around again, but she’s opening for Jason Isbell, and I don’t want to see him, so I’ll have to hope she finds a smaller club to headline.

[READ: June 10, 2021] Losing the Girl

T. brought this book home from school and I though the cover looked pretty neat.  When I looked inside I really liked the crazy drawing style(s) of it (S. did not like it at all).

The book opens on Nigel Jones, a boy with dreadlocks (his profile is always great, and MariNaomi uses these dreadlocks to express Nigels’ mood in clever ways).  The book also uses simple things like arrows to convey movement in a panel, which I liked.  One of the early ones shows a city block.  We just saw Nigel get off a bus and the arrows and a tiny figure on a skateboard show which way he is going.  This effect is used very well at a party later as we see the crowd move about the room in a static picture.

It’s through Nigel that we learn that nobody’s phones are working–this is a steady concern and a minor (or major) irritant throughout the story.   We also learn that a girl, Claudia Jones, (no relation) has been missing for three days.  Everyone has speculations about what happened to her.

Nigel lives with his mom (his dad has moved out) and Nigel is not too happy about the new arrangements–just because your parents separate doesn’t mean they fight less.  In school the next day Nigel tells a joke to Emily.  I found it very funny but Emily doesn’t seem to.  She asks if that’s his way of flirting with her.  A lightbulb goes off and he says yes (he’s had a crush on her for years).  She agrees to meet him at the bleachers later. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MATT BERRY-Music for Insomniacs (2014).

Matt Berry is a renaissance man and I love everything he does.  Whether it’s acting in over the top comedies or making over the top prog rock, Berry is my guy.  He has several albums out already.  This one was his fifth. Evidently he created this album in the middle of the night while unable to sleep.

The back cover image is of him sitting amid a Rick Wakeman-like array of keyboards.  And if you’re into gear, he lists everything that he plays on this album:

Arp Odyssey Synthesiser, Korg MS-20 Synthesiser, Korg MS-20008 Synthesiser & Vocoder, Korg Sigma Synthesiser, Korg Polyphonic Ensemble, Korg SV1 Electric Piano, Minimoog Synthesiser, Mellotron-Pro, Solina String Ensemble, Roland Jupiter 4m Synthesiser, Roland Pro Mars Synthesiser, Roland juno 6 Synthesiser, Roland Gaia Synthesiser, Roland Jupiter 80 Synthesiser, Yamaha CS-15 Synthesiser, Yamaha CS-60 Synthesiser, Hammond XKB Organ, Korg & Roland rhythm boxes and found percussion.

Why would anyone need so many synthesisers?  Well, to make an album like this.

It is two 23 minute “songs.”  They are meandering, trippy sounds mashed up with snippets of “songs.”

Part 1 opens with vocals and then an organ playing a familiar-ish classical organ melody but it’s only a nod to classical music because soon enough a bass comes in and turns the music into a very different sounding piece.  I particularly love the way he phases and echoes the drums.  Variations on this song/theme run for about five minutes with more and more interesting sounding effects, until it all fades out into waves of synths.

The swirling synths create an atmosphere for another five minutes when abruptly, you hear something being turned off (or on) and a shushing.  More trippy synth washes follow and then at 13 minutes a new keyboard melody is added to the washes–a gentle tune that give the washes some momentum.  It starts building until 16 minutes when it grows distinctly dark.  Creepy echoing voices come out of the fog.  And you can hear someone shouting okay okay.  Then out of the quiet, a martial drumbeat grows louder and louder as a song starts to form.  At 19 minutes, the melody from “October Sun” from his Kill the Wolf album starts playing.  A processed voice sings the lyrics, but they are very hard to hear.  I assume it is Cecilia Fage, as she is credited with voice/choir.

Part two is not radically different.  It opens with a choir of voices.  It morphs into gentle washes of synths like mid-period Pink Floyd, complete with space sounds–whooshing and zapping.  Then comes what sounds like a horse walking by and some slightly dissonant keys before some hugely vocodered voice start singing a melody.  It’s followed by pianos at seven and a half minutes which merge with the rest of the synth melody.  There is much more going on in the background–voices, sounds, who knows what.

Things abruptly end with a big splash of water at 8:45 and remain underwater for a time before a new synth pattern emerges. Things become celestial with a choir around 13 minutes.  After a big explosion at 14 minutes, spacey chords return followed by another explosion and a return underwater–squishy sounds, then a distant bay crying (my daughter just walked in and said this music is creepy).  Other sounds swim in and out as angelic voices sing.  This goes on until 17 minutes when things settle down into a more stately organ-fueled section.  Things drift away almost to silence and then at 19, a pulsing synth bass starts things up again.  He adds a jaunty synth melody to the bass and it’s suddenly a new wave song.  This dancy part continues until the end of the song when things grind to a halt.

This is a peculiar record for sure.  It’s not soothing for sleep, nor is it particularly upbeat for non-sleep.  But it is an interesting look into Matt Berry’s headspace.

[READ: November 18, 2020] “Fata Morgana”

This is an excerpt from Koeppen’s novel Pigeons on the Grass which was translated by Michael Hofmann.

I’m not sure where in the story this comes from, but I feel like it jumps in right in the middle of a scene.

A black man, Washington Price, is walking through the streets of tenement houses (in Germany) with a bouquet of flowers: “he had marriage on his mind.”

He wasn’t particularly notable in this area, but the fact that he arrived in a blue limousine started a lot of people grumbling behind the tenement windows.

He was there to see Carla.  Carla lived on the third floor with some other girls and their minder, Frau Welz.  The other girls were there for the soldiers.  As (maybe?) was Carla.  They all knew he was there for Carla, but that didn’t stop them from trying to entice him into their room. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BECCA MANCARI-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #62 (August 11, 2020)

I saw Becca Mancari open for Joseph a couple of years ago.  She really won us over with her diverse musical sound (even though it was just her and a pedal steel guitar player on stage).

This set, with a full band, sounds very different and even better.

At the show, she was funny and thoughtful.  That attitude continues now.

She postponed this concert when the Black Lives Matter protests began in May: “I wanted to be so careful of respecting an extremely important movement in our country both now and then. So, we decided to all wait, learn, grow, protest, and listen.”

She has a new album The Greatest Part from which these four songs are taken.

The band she has assembled is terrific.  Zac Farro on drums (he is also in Paramore) plays many terrific flourishes and fills.  Bassist Duncan Shea (this is filmed in his woodsy home studio) doesn’t show off, but adds some great accents and lines as needed.  Guitarist Juan Solorzano plays perfectly off of Mancari–whether it’s leads or just interesting sounds.

Mancari’s songs often seek to reveal the unspoken, and you can hear that process in the way Caleb Hickman’s inventive keyboard parts respond to Mancari’s voice and Juan Solorzano’s searching guitar lines. And keyboardist Caleb Hickman fleshes out the sound.

Several of these home concerts have featured a full band, but

It’s a joy, in this time of isolation, to see her band connect and build something beautiful, despite the masks. “The band and I have been in our own little Corona-pod, but we wanted to be extra safe,” Mancari says of the protective gear.

“Hunter” starts with quietly sung vocals and guitars. I love the way the drums kick in about a minute into the song with six slow, powerful thumps followed by Solorzano’s raw, rough guitars.  The surprising pitch shift into the catchy “whoo”-filled chorus really makes the song special.

Introducing “First Time,” she says, “I came out when I was pretty young and it went pretty badly.”  This slower song is written for people like her to feel included.  The song is simple, but once again, the band fleshes it out wonderfully.  I love the cool theremin-like sounds from Solorzano and the super catchy middle part with a guitar solo and fun bass lines that make the chorus sound even catchier.

“Bad Feeling” has a gentle echo on this more down-tempo song.  It has a nifty retro feel.  And so does “Like This” which opens with a slow thumping bass line and some wah wah guitars.  The synths sound like a flute and you could easily see a flute solo floating over the middle of the song.

She introduces the last song, “I’m Sorry,” by saying, “When I wrote this record it was about my own personal journey towards transforming from anger into forgiveness.  It’s about learning to say that you’re sorry to yourself and others around you.”  The song is slow as befits the title.   The middle of the song has surprisingly catchy chorus and a fun dah dah dah dah dah part.  As the song ends it really rocks out again with great drums from Farro.

I’m looking forward to seeing her again.

[READ: August 10, 2020] “Annunciation”

This story is about Iris and it seems to race through her life, focusing on a few moments of significance.

It starts with Iris on a plane.  Her seat mates are a married couple sitting on either side of her.  The wife likes the window, the husband liked the aisle, Iris in the middle.  But they are not fighting–when the woman comes back from the bathroom, she happily shows Iris and her husband a birth control strip–they are pregnant!

On the way home from the airport, Iris tells her mother about this and her mother is appalled. How could they say something so early?  That baby could still die (Iris believes that the baby has died from the way her mother says that).

Years later, when she is about to graduate from college, Iris is dating a virgin, Ben.  She can’t figure out why he is still a virgin–he’s not ugly or weird.  On the night before graduation, she changes that.

A few days later Iris’ friend Charlotte laughs at her: A one-night stand with a virgin and she gets pregnant.  The movie writes itself.  She doesn’t tell Ben.

Iris is staying at Charlotte’s house.  Charlotte’s parents paid for the abortion and she promises she’ll pay them back even though they say she doesn’t have to.

Iris finds a place to live–it’s a room in the apartment of a married couple.  A married couple who sleeps with another married couple.  Iris doesn’t ask anything about this arrangement but Charlotte wants to find out all that she can. So on New Years Eve, instead of going to Charlotte’s family’s house, Charlotte comes to Iris’ weird set up.  By the end of the night Charlotte has had sex with the married couples.

A few days later, Iris is walking down the street and she sees Ben in a restaurant.  He is with an old lady and seems just as surprised to see her as she is to see him,.

The old lady insists that Iris sit with them.

I’ve only read one other story by Sestanovich and I really liked the open ended nature of it.  It felt incomplete in an intriguing way.  This one felt incomplete in a frustrating way.  There was just too much left out and I didn’t really care about any of the characters.

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SOUNDTRACK: NEIL PEART-September 12, 1952-January 7, 2020.

When I was in high school, Rush was my favorite band, hands down.  I listened to them all the time.  I made tapes of all of their songs in alphabetical order and would listen to them straight through.

I still loved them in college, but a little less so as my tastes broadened.  But every new release was something special.

It’s frankly astonishing that I didn’t seem them live until 1990.  There were shows somewhat nearby when I was in college, but I never wanted to travel too far on a school night (nerd!).

For a band I loved so much, it’s also odd that I’ve only seen them live 5 times.  However, their live shows are pretty consistent.  They play the same set every night of a tour (as I found out when I saw them two nights apart), and there wasn’t much that set each show apart–although They did start making their shows more and more fun as the years went on, though).

One constant was always Neil Peart’s drum solo. It too was similar every night.  Although I suspect that there was a lot more going on than I was a ware of.  It was also easy to forget just how incredible these solos were.  Sure it was fun when he started adding synth pads and playing music instead of just drums, but even before that his drumming was, of course, amazing.

It was easy to lose sight of that because I had always taken it for granted.

I am happy to have seen Rush on their final tour.  I am sad to hear of Neil’s passing.  I would have been devastated had it happened twenty years ago, but now I am more devastated for his family.

So here’s two (of dozens) memorials.  The first one is from the CBC.  They included a mashup of some of Neil’s best drum solos:

But what better way to remember the drum master than with a supercut of his drum solos? From a 2004 performance of “Der Trommler” in Frankfurt, Germany, to a 2011 performance on The Late Show With David Letterman, to his first-ever recorded drum solo (in 1974 in Cleveland, Ohio), dive into nearly five minutes of Peart’s epic drum solos, below.

The best Neil Peart drum solos of all time.

I was only going to include this link, because it was a good summary, then I saw that Pitchfork ranked five of Neil’s best drum solos (an impossible task, really).  But it is nice to have them all in one place.

You can find that link here.

Starting in the 1980s Neil’s solos were given a name (which shows that they were pretty much the same every night).  Although as I understand it, the framework was the same but the actual hits were improvised each night.

Even after all of these years and hearing these drum solos hundreds of times, watching them still blows my mind.

  • “The Rhythm Method”
  • “O Baterista”
  • “Der Trommler”
  • “De Slagwerker,”
  • “Moto Perpetuo”
  • “Here It Is!”, “Drumbastica,” “The Percussor – (I) Binary Love Theme / (II) Steambanger’s Ball”

[READ: January 2020] Canada 1867-2017

In this book, Paul Taillefer looks at the most historically significant event from each tear of Canadian history.  And he tries to convey that event in about a page.  Can you imagine learning the history of your country and trying to condense every year into three paragraphs?

And then do it again in French?  For this book is also bilingual.

I can’t read French, but i can tell that the French is not a direct translation of the English (or vice versa).

For instance in 1869, the final sentence is:

This, in turn, signaled the start of the Red River Rebellion which would not end until the Battle of Batoche in 1885.

Neither Batoche nor 1885 appears in the entire French write up.  So that’s interesting, I suppose.  I wonder if the content is very different for French-reading audiences. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ADIA VICTORIA-NonCOMM 2019 Free at Noon (May 15, 2019).

I saw Adia Victoria do a Tiny Desk Concert back in 2016.  I liked her and thought it would be interesting to hear her when she wasn’t holding back for a Tiny Desk.  And here she is rocking out.

Her music is a little hard to pin down, she describes it as blues, but there’s a lot more going on:

her songs were structured like mainstream R&B hits, but in her most memorable moments Victoria turned away from the traditional styles of blues and soul, and turned instead toward something more macabre–like the moody trip-pop of Billie Eilish.

This sound is the direction she went in on her new album.

The set began with “The Needle’s Eye” as a pulsing synth morphed into a danceable rhythm (electric and acoustic drums).  Victoria sang in a breathy voice.  After the chorus, two saxophones provided a noisy distorted solo.  She sang “I’ve been a fool, I’ve been afraid, I’ve been asleep, but now I’m awake.”

She introduced herself “My name is Adia Victoria. This is my band. We done come all the way up from Nashville to play my blues for you.” Then, after a beat, “Lucky you.”

Her introduction for “Different Kind of Love” was brief and mirthless. “It’s about getting dumped,” she shrugged, without even a moment of heartache over the one who dumped her.

This song continues in that dark vein with rumbling drums providing most of the “melody” along with more sax.

Up next was “Bring Her Back,” which she called “a song for my ancestors.” This song used an organ to change the tone.

Victoria played “Heathen” at the Tiny Desk on an acoustic guitar.  I thought it would be better louder.  And it was.  Especially knowing its origins:

As she introduced her final song, “Heathen,” Victoria mentioned some of the frustration she experienced as a young woman with dreams of becoming a professional performer. “My little voice would break and my knees would shake, but I had this song and I made no mistakes,” she rhymed. Victoria explained that she wrote the song “after I realized that there were two sets of rules — one for men, and one for women. When it came time to gettin’ your freak on, I was very naïve. So I wrote this song. It’s a nice little ‘screw you’ to the patriarchy. We play it tonight for every single woman in Alabama right now who’s got these men trying to make moves on their body. We say, ‘That’s bullshit.’” Victoria had aimed her criticism at Alabama’s state legislature, which recently passed a highly restrictive anti-abortion bill…. “This song is called ‘Heathen’ and it’s about giving no fucks,” she declared before counting it off.

The song was much darker and more raw than the Tiny Desk version. It also felt a lot more bluesy than her newer songs (with a lot of sax blowing around the simple chord pattern).

She finished with a gritty chorus of improvised scatting; each syllable landed somewhere between a laugh and a snarl. Afterward, she addressed the Philadelphia crowd resolutely once more and gave a single deep bow. “Thank you, goodnight.”

Adia Victoria is an intriguing performer for sure and I’m curious how her sound will expand in the future.

[READ: May 20, 2019] “Taking Pictures”

Two days ago I posted a story about someone stealing pictures.  Now here’s the title “Taking Pictures.”  They are not related in any other way.

This story is about a woman who has just gotten engaged.  And her relationship with Sarah at work–the bitch.

Sarah is

a washed-out sort of strawberry blonde with fine bones and small features.  She is fading to white.  She is constantly insulted by men.

Sarah at work also has a personality problem

Which is to say her problem is that she does not like other people’s personalities.

The narrator is surprised that Sarah is seeing someone.  Sarah says he won’t “do Saturdays.”  Maybe he’s a bisexual. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-12 Bar Bruise (2012).

12 Bar Bruise is the first full-length album from KGATLW.  It sounds even rawer than their EP.  But there’s no drop in intensity.  It’s an intense mix of punk, psychedelic blues, surf rock and boogie all filtered through a buzzing, fuzzy sound.  Distortion rules this album, but never enough to obscure what are remarkably simple but catchy riffs.  Most songs are just around 3 minutes long.

Once again, lyrics take a lesser place than great music. So “Elbow” has some bad words in it, but you can’t tell.  It’s more about whoops and tricked out guitar solos and chants of “ey ey ey.”  “Muckraker” introduces the surf punk elements and “Nein” has my favorite lyric thus far: “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, Nein, Nein, Nein, Nein, Nein”

“12 Bar Bruise” is the longest song on the disc at 3:47.  It is indeed a simple blues with muffled vocals.  “Garage Liddiard” introduces the concept of surf rock in a garage.  The guitar slides like a surf rock song but the whole vibe is garage with “ooh ooh” backing vocals and a harmonica solo that sounds like someone singing at the same time.

“Sam Cherry’s Last Shot” is the one very different song on this record.   It is played like a Western and it features spoken word.   Broderick Smith [of The Dingoes] is harmonica player Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s father.  He is an absolute Western nut so he narrated page 521 and 522 of the book “Our Wild Indians: Thirty-Three Years’ Personal Experience among the Red Men of the Great West” by Colonel Richard Irving Dodge, Aid-de-Camp to General Sherman.  This is certainly the set up for their next album, Eyes Like the Sky which is a full album of Western music with narration from Smith.

“High Hopes” is almost as long as “12 Bar,” but it has an intro of electronic drums and video game sounds before it switches back to the standard rocking sound.  There’s a lengthy, wickedly distorted harmonica solo.  “Cut Throat Boogie” features a different vocalist (I think Ambrose Kenny-Smith).  It’s a garage rock boogie.

Despite the title, “Bloody Ripper” is a slower, quieter less frenetic and really catchy song.  “Uh oh, I Called Mum” wins for best song title.  It opens with everyone chanting “mum” and lots of backing vocals.  The lyrics: “I bought a funny glob / I put it in my gob.”  “Sea of Trees” is the least distorted track.  It’s a catchy swinging song with a cool harmonica solo.

The disc ends with “Footy Footy,” a two-minute stomper dedicated to playing footy.  The chorus:
Footy footy, all I wanna do is
Footy footy, all I wanna kick is
Footy footy, they catch the ball, kick, play on!
Footy footy, footy footy footy!

But the verses are presumable great players:

Ang Christou / Che Cockatoo-Collins / Phillip Matera / Gavin Wanganeen / Gary Moorcroft / Aussie Jones / Bruce Doull, the ‘Flying Doormat’ / ‘Spida’ Everitt / ‘Spider’ Burton / Craig Bradley / The 1995 Carlton football team

and

‘Diesel’ Williams / Dale Kickett / ‘Sticks’ Kernahan / Darren Jarman / Chad Rintoul / Ashley Sampi / Mick Martyn / Dean [?] / Clint Bizzell / The Brisbane Bears / Aaron Hamill / Everyone

with the final line: “I hate what this game has become.”

It’s a lot of fun crammed into 35 minutes.

[READ: February 1, 2019] Checkpoint

This book was a pretty controversial work back in 2004.

Released before the re-election of George W. Bush, this book is, very simply, a dialogue between two men.

The topic?  Jay wants to assassinate President Bush.  Ben, his oldest friend, wants to talk him out of it.

There was a lot of discussion about the merits of this book–regardless of the politics–and I didn’t want to read it because of all of that.

In the real world, it’s fifteen years later and we are suffering through a trump–far worse than Bush could have even imagined being–although clearly Bush marched the Republican party off the cliff that had trump at the bottom of it.

So, how does one come down on this spicy subject fifteen years later? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STELLA DONNELLY-Tiny Desk Concert #819 (January 22, 2019).

Stella Donnelly has been generating some buzz lately, but I wasn’t familiar with her.  I didn’t even realize she was Australian.

She is adorable with her hair in two little nubs at the back of her head and a big smile most of the time.

She immediately won the office over with her broad smile, warmth and good-natured sense of humor. It’s the kind of easy-going, open-hearted spirit that makes her one of the most affable live performers you’ll see. While there’s no doubting her sincerity, she’s also got a disarming way of making her often dark and brutal songs a little easier to take in.

And indeed, she does not mince words when she sings.

“Beware of the Dogs” is a delicate song with Stella strumming her guitar with no pick and singing in a beautiful but soft voice.  There’s such a gorgeous melody for the chorus.

It turns out that this song and the other two are new.  Because she doesn’t even have an album out yet!

For this set, she performed entirely new — and, as of this writing, unreleased — songs from her upcoming full-length debut, Beware of the Dogs. Opening with the title cut, Donnelly smiled cheerfully through the entire performance while reflecting on the horrors that often lurk beneath the surface of seemingly idyllic lives. “This street is haunted like a beast that doesn’t know its face is frightening to behold,” she sings. “All the painted little gnomes, smiling in a line, trying to get your vote.”

As the song builds she gets more pointed:  “There’s no Parliament / Worthy of this country’s side / All these pious fucks / taking from the 99.”

She follows with “U Owe Me” which is “about my old boss at  a pub I used to work at back home.”

This song has a gentle guitar melody and some surprisingly soft vocals (including some vibrato at the end of each verse).   But the lyrics are straightforward and pointed (all sung with that disarming smile)

you put your great ideas up your nose /
and then try to tell me where the fuck to go /
you’re jerking off to the cctv /
while I’m pouring plastic pints of flat VB [or Foster’s or whatever].

At the end of the song she says, “He actually paid me a week after.  I was on the wrong week of my payroll.  It was very dramatic back then.”

She says “Allergies” is a run-of-the-mill breakup song.   “I’ve only got two of them and this is one of them.”  It’s a delicate, quiet song (capo on the tenth fret!) and once again, her voice is just lovely.

How can this Concert be only ten minutes long? I could listen to her all day.

Surprisingly, Donnelly chose not to play any of the songs that have gotten her to where she is in her young career — songs like 2017’s “Boys Will Be Boys” or last year’s “Talking,” two savagely frank examinations of misogyny and violence that earned her the reputation for being a fearless and uncompromising songwriter. But the new material demonstrates that her unflinching perspective and potent voice is only getting stronger.

I’m bummed that I am busy the night she’s playing a small club in Philly, as it might just be the last time she plays such a small venue.

[READ: January 26, 2019] Brazen

This is an awesome collection of short biographies of kick-ass women.  Bagieu has written [translated by Montana Kane] and drawn in her wonderful style, brief, sometimes funny (occasionally there’s nothing funny), always inspiring stories about women who spoke up for themselves and for others.  Some of the women were familiar to me, some were not.  A few were from a long time ago, but many are still alive and fighting.  And what was most cool is that the stories of the women I knew about had details and fascinating elements that I was not previously aware of.

What a great, great book.  It’s perfect for Middle School students all the way to adults.  I actually thought it might be perfect for fourth and fifth grade girls to read and be inspired by.  However, it skews a little bit older.  There’s a few mentions of sex, abortion, rape and domestic violence.  These are all real and important issues, but may be too much for younger kids.

Bagieu’s art for most of the pages is very simple–perfectly befitting a kind of documentary style but after each story she creates a two page spread that is just a breathtaking wash of colors which summarizes the previews story in one glorious image.  Its terrific. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FLASHER-Tiny Desk Concert #770 (July 30, 2018).

I haven’t heard of Flasher, but the description of the band (noisy) makes me think I’d like them.  I’m also intrigued by the various guitar and bass lines.  The vocals are also really nice–wonder just how buried they are on record:

For its visit to the Tiny Desk, this young Washington trio set aside the distortion and worked up a semi-acoustic set of three songs — taken from its debut album, Constant Image.  Voices sometimes in unison, sometimes swapping leads, adding a shifting point of view to songs that, on record, give equal footing to a precise noise.

These three high school friends, Taylor Mulitz (guitar, vocals), Daniel Saperstein (bass, guitar) and Emma Baker (drums) have been bouncing around the D.C. punk scene of house shows and DIY venues for some time.

I rather got a kick out of this little “How Bob knows the band”

I’ve been aware of Taylor’s work for a while…in the potent D.C. band Priests; Daniel I’ve known (a bit) since he was a child, mostly from Hanukkah parties with his family (his mom was the executive producer at All Things Considered when I was the show’s director); Emma can be seen playing around town with another band, Big Hush.

I really enjoyed the stops and starts of “Pressure” I imagine it’s really fun when they rock.  It also has some really clever word play: “saving face / self-effacing / keeping pace / in a stasis.”  Most of the delicate harmony vocals come from the bassist (who is actually playing acoustic guitar), although when all three of them sing it sounds even better.

The interchange of electric and acoustic guitar works great on “XYZ.”  All three sing in tight harmony.

I love the way “Who’s Got Time?” seems to be constantly catching up on itself, like they are running out of time to finish the song–even though it never sounds like they are out of sync with each other.

Their overall sound is wonderful acoustic shoegaze.  At least at the Tiny Desk.

[READ: August 15, 2018] “A Refugee Crisis”

I didn’t love Wink’s last story (about killing cats), but I found this one fascinating because of how many elements were included here.

The narrator is a writer living in a place where one can cross-country ski regularly (Bozeman, MT).  The trail is mostly unused except for a guy who runs tours by dogsled–and there is plenty of dog shit on the trail to show where the sled went.

When he gets home, M is lying on his couch.  She says she let herself in since she knew the key was still under the mat.  She says she just came back from Serbia.  (She had been in Athens, Budapest and Frankfurt among other places).  The refugee camps there were really bad–people are trying to get across Hungary and the military is beating them, shooting at them.

She is twenty-three but looks forty and her personal hygiene is atrocious.  They have sex anyhow.  She says they can’t get pregnant because she already is–from a nineteen year old boy from Raqqa.  She didn’t tell the guy.  She is planning to get an abortion shortly. (more…)

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