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Archive for the ‘Fish’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: NATHANIEL RATELIFF-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #190 (April 12, 2021). 

Nathaniel Rateliff treads a fine line between country and rock.  But between this album and his work with the Night sweats, I tend to prefer him to others like him.

The Mercury Café is one of the first places Nathaniel frequented when he moved to Denver in 1998, hearing jazz, dancing, and eventually playing many shows there. For his Tiny Desk (home) concert, he’s assembled a dozen players including a string section, backing singers, and some of his oldest friends: Joseph Pope III on bass, Mark Shusterman on keys, Luke Mossman on guitar and Patrick Meese on drums.

On the opening song and the title track to his 2020 album, And It’s Still Alright, they’re restrained as Nathaniel sings about loss, “I’ll be damned if this old man / Don’t start to counting his losses / But it’s still alright.”

This song is so darned catchy, despite how sad it is.  Mossman plays lead guitar and Shusterman keeps the keys going throughout. The addition of strings (Chris Jusell: violin, Joy Adams: cello, Adrienne Short: violin and Rachel Sliker: viola) add a new component that sounds great.

“All Or Nothing” has an interestingly picked guitar with lots of bouncy bass from Joseph Pope III.  Midway through, the song starts rocking out with two drummers.

But restraint lets loose on the chorus of “Redemption,” a song about breaking free of the past and written for Apple original film Palmer.

“Redemption” is a powerful song that has a simple but big chorus “Just set me free.”  The backing vocals from Larea Edwards, Chrissy Grant and Kinnie Maveryck sound fantastic.

The ender, a tune called “Mavis,” truly is a grand finale, a song that conjures up images of The Band singing Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” — and what a fabulous release it is.

Half way through the song builds to a really full sound.  Rateliff sounds great and so do his songs.

[READ: May 7, 2021] “The Shape of a Teardrop”

I really love the diversity of style and subject matter that T. Coraghessan Boyle brings to his stories.

This one is told from two different points of view.

We open on Justin, a belligerent person, angry that his parents have kicked him out of his room. It took three final straws–dropping him from the family cell phone plan; putting a lock on the fridge and the final final straw was the eviction notice on his door.

Alternating sections are are supplied by the first narrator’s mother. She says how much they loved their son and tried to give him everything they could.  They had tried so hard to have children, including expensive in vitro.  And then one day their miracle was born.

Their son doesn’t have a car (it’s on blocks in the driveway) and doesn’t have any motivation to get a job.  But he does have very expensive salt water fish and a bar that he likes to go to (he enjoys the bartender whose name is apparently Ti-Gress. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LETTERS TO CLEO-Ok Christmas (2019).

After a lengthy hiatus and a comeback EP, Letters to Cleo have returned with a Christmas EP.

It’s four songs and the title is a pretty funny indicator that the songs here are not full of great cheer–things are okay.

It’s a bit of a surprise for such a happy-sounding band.

The first song is a fun rocking version of The Kink’s “Father Christmas.”  This song always seems happy until you listen to the lyrics.  This version is a bit more pop punk than the original, but not by much.  However, Kay Hanley has updated the lyrics from

But give my daddy a job ’cause he needs one
He’s got lots of mouths to feed
But if you’ve got one I’ll have a machine gun
So I can scare all the kids on the street

to

But give my daddy a job ’cause he needs one
He’s got lots of mouths to feed
And can you melt down all the machine guns
so the kids are safe on the street

“Miss You This Christmas” is an original that sounds like classic Letter to Cleo and could easily have been written and recorded back in the 90s.  Its a song of longing (obviously) with a positive twist at the end–coming home to kiss me New Year’s Eve.

“If I Get Home on Christmas Day” was sung by Elvis.  It’s a poppy little number that sounds upbeat and has a lovely lap steel guitar. But it has a lot of questioning about being together for the holidays.

The final song “X Mas Time (Sure Don’t Feel Like It”) I heard recently by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.  I assumed it was their song–it suited their sound very well (and its about Boston).  But it turns out it was originally by The Dogmatics (which makes sense because it’s a bit too dark for the Bosstones).

It’s the twentieth of December
Rain is coming down
Kenmore squares deserted, now
The college kids have left town

This version is a little less dark than the Bosstones’ since Kay Hanley’s voice is so much prettier than Dicky Barrett’s but it’s still not a very happy ending.

I understand what the band was doing with this OK Christmas, but I do wish it ended a bit more happily. Because that album cover (a great design by Daykamp Creative) is just fabulous.

[READ: December 24, 2019] “Vigil”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story is a memory of Christmas Eve,  It also includes a bunch of Polish words.

On the Holy Night vigil, Wigilia (which means “to watch” in Polish), the young narrator and his family sat around while his father read “The Night Before Christmas.” They were ready for bed when there was a knock on the door. It was the grizzled, kooky old taxidermist from downstairs.

The man presented them with a large unwieldy package.  They invited him in, but he wouldn’t stay.  They wished him Wesolych Swiat and closed the door.

The present proved to be a very large carp wrapped in newspaper with a pinkish bronze tail and a gray thick-lipped snout with its white mustachios. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAMIAN ‘JR. GONG’ MARLEY: Tiny Desk Concert #889 (September 8, 2019).

I’m not sure if everyone with the last name Marley becomes a singer, but it sure seems like it.

I had not heard of Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley before, but of all of the Marleys, I think I like his music best (he is Bob’s son).  I had no idea where the “Jr. Gong” came from, but the blurb helpfully says “Jr. Gong” is after his father’s nickname of “Tuff Gong.”

Even though the blurb describes the music as reggae, this set is pretty far from what I consider reggae.  Some components of reggae are there, but it’s mostly in his delivery (and accent) and the backing female vocals–from Roselyn Williams and Sherieta Lewis.

But the main element of reggae–the beat/rhythm/staccato guitar–is completely absent.

“Slave Mill” starts with delicate keys from Sean “Pow” Diedrick.  The song is catchy with great lyrics.  I really like the percussion from Courtney “Bam” Diedrick.  I assume those are brothers known as Bam and Pow, which is great.

I like that the blurb addresses the issue of Bob Marley and yet I feel like Damian is his own musician, with a distinct (if slightly familiar) voice.

Damian’s father cast a giant, magnificent shadow on the world and it can’t be easy to follow in those footsteps as a songwriter and musician.  Damian seems to be undaunted by that legacy and instead draws on it for inspiration and guidance. Not to mention there is more than a hint of his father’s unmistakable singing voice that so often preached the same messages of self-identity and self-determination that his youngest son is now doing so successfully.

He says the second song “So A Child May Follow” is one of his favorite tracks on the album.  He thinks about his nephews and nieces who are young adults now.  The song:

addresses the troubles youth confront around the globe and how to persevere to succeed.

It’s an acoustic ballad.  I like watching Bam play, because after each piano melody, he stops and pounds his fists in the air as the song pauses and resumes.  The main verses features a gentle acoustic guitar from Elton “Elly B” Brown.  It’s a lovely song of optimism in the face of trouble.

They end the set with “Speak Life” which “sums up the message of his music: live a life that will enable us to survive life’s slings and arrows with dignity and love.”

speak life and lead a humble and meek life.

All three songs feature great bass work by Shiah Coore.  I also really love the backing “woah ohs” in the song.

Damian says that they made a video of this song which was shot in Ethiopia and is subtitled in Amharic.  He says that as Rastas, Ethiopia is very close to their hearts.

The end of the blurb makes me wonder if I would enjoy the recorded versions less, since that what I enjoyed so much:

But what makes his music stand out on this session is the prominence of the acoustic guitar and piano in the arrangements, which makes the familiar sound somewhat new.

But he is very charming and funny and he ends the set talking about boxing Babylon vs Natty Dreadlocks.  Then he shouts, “We did it boys.  In the big leagues baby!”

[READ: July 21, 2019] This Was Our Pact

I really enjoyed this graphic novel.  S. had told me about it and told me I’d really like it.  She was right!

The pact of the title is simple.  There are two rules: No one turns for home and No one looks back.

The narrator is Ben.  He is one of five young boys who have made this pact.  The pact revolves around the Equinox Festival, in which the townsfolk send hundreds of lanterns down the river.  Every year a group of kids hopped on their bikes to follow the lanterns.  Usually everyone petered out.  But this year they were going to go all the way. The wondered, “Did they really journey far into the stars, like the old song sang?”

The boys set out following the lanterns.  As soon as they head out, they are followed by, “nerd alert!” Nathaniel.  None of the boys (except Ben) is friendly with him.  Even when Nathaniel says his mom made Rice Krispie treats, they don’t turn around and let him join.

The imagery of the book is beautiful.  It’s largely in blues because the story takes place at night.  The lanterns are little white spots in the blue and black rivers. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALISA WEILERSTEIN-“Prelude from Bach’s Suite No. 5” (Field Recordings, February 16, 2012).

One thing I love about the Field Recordings series is the wonderfully unexpected places they have the performers play.  Like this Field Recording [Alisa Weilerstein: Playing Bach With The Fishes] which is set at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

Strategically positioned above a tank full of stingrays, Weilerstein unpacked her cello to serenade the sea creatures — and dozens of pleasantly surprised aquarium visitors — with music by Johann Sebastian Bach. She chose the Prelude from Bach’s Suite No. 5 for unaccompanied cello. The music’s tranquil power and meandering melodies became an extraordinary soundtrack to the majestic rays as they roamed through the water, rising occasionally to catch a note or two.

The music is sublime–sad and powerful but ever so fluid.  And the setting is just perfect–you can almost see the fish appreciate it.

[READ: February 2, 2018] “Four Fictions”

Breytenbach confounds me with his stories.  This is a collection of four really short pieces and while I enjoyed parts of some of them, overall they were a big huh?

Race
This appears to be a race through the sea?  On foot?  A tractor charges into the waves and a Jeep follows. The route will take them through the sea to Germany and back to Stockholm.  Their friend Sven is running in the race (he’s from Lapland).  When the race is over he still has to run through the house to the balcony.  When they gather for the results , how many drowned, etc, the story ends with another man removing his top hat and his hair looking sunken and dry.

What? (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: RED BARAAT-Chaal Baby (2010).

Red Baraat is one of the few bands to play two Tiny Desk Concerts. I’ve also had the fun experience of seeing them live.

The band was founded by dhol player Sunny Jain as a way to bring Bangrha music to Brooklyn.  The band speaks to many disciplines and plays a wonderful mash up of styles.  So while the foundation is bangrha music, there’s elements of funk, go-go, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and jazz–all designed as one big party.

This debut album features the dhol, soprano and tenor sax, trumpets, trombones, sousaphone and drums and percussion.

To my ear the sousaphone is the grounding instrument–often standing out as the bass while the rest of the brass is playing melody or soloing.  And yes, sometimes the sousaphone gets a solo or two as well.

I love the vocal interjections–whether nonsense or actual words I can’t tell, but they are often fast and fun–good punctuation to the melody.  And the band knows melody.  The main riff of “Tunak Tunak Tun” is a blast.  And the vocal phrases are there to humanize the party.  I didn’t realize that this was a cover of Bhangra pop singer Daler Mehndi’s song of the same name, but that explains the catchiness.

In fact there are several covers on the album.  “Hey Jamalo” (a reworking of Malkit Singh’s popular “Hey Jamalo Tootak Tootak Tootiyan”) opens with a rousing introduction with a solo from dhol.  I rather wish there was more obvious dhol playing (which is so much fun to watch live) but it blends in pretty perfectly with the rest of the music and fits perfectly with the percussion solo in the middle of this song.

They play three Bollywood soundtrack hits “Dum Maro Dum,” “Samaro Mantra,” and “Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna.” “Dum Maro Dum” has some cool percussion sounds an a real jazz feel–I love the way they stretch out the notes in the middle.

The word Baraat (Hindi: बरात) (Urdu: برات‬‎) means a groom’s wedding procession in North India, West India and Pakistan.  Unsurprisingly, they play two covers of traditional Indian wedding songs “Punjabi Wedding Song (Balle Balle),” which has some fun stop and start melodies and a real marching band kind of vibe and “Aaj Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai” which opens with some dramatic percussion before settling into some very pretty processional music.

But it’s not all raucous party music.  “Arcana” slows things down with a cool riff or two and nice accompaniment.

However, other songs like “Drum and Brass,” escape easy categorization with a clarinet reminiscent of Eastern Europe combined with percussion and melodies from Western Asia.

The title song “Chaal Baby” has some great chanting and dramatic horns moments which I saw described as “the Dirty Dozen Brass Band gone Bollywood” or belonging at a Punjabi football halftime show.

Speaking of marching band, there are a few moments on this album that felt kind of like a marching band to me.  “Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna” was an example of a marching band vibe.  That kind of sound is hard to avoid (if indeed they are trying to) with that kind of instrumentation, although perhaps that is the inevitable comparison to processional music. My experience is that it works better live than on record.

But songs like the original “Baraat to Nowhere,” showcase a great original melody and some fun soloing.  Nearly every song features a solo by one or more members of the band allowing everyone to show his chops.  And back to that sousaphone–I’ve never heard anyone make sounds like that from an instrument before.  Great stuff.

“Samaro Mantra” the Bollywood song, ends the album on almost a down note.  The melody is somber, the drums are martial.  It’s kind of an odd choice for an otherwise upbeat and celebratory album.  But maybe it works as a calm down after an exiting wedding–time to go home everybody, party’s over.

Sunny Jain – dhol / drumset / percussion ; Rohin Khemani – tavil / doumbek ; Tomas Fujiwara – drumset ; Arun Luthra – soprano sax ; Mike Bomwell – tenor sax ; Sonny Singh – trumpet ; MiWi La Lupa – bass trumpet ; Smoota – trombone ; John Altieri – sousaphone

[READ: January 14, 2018] “Pieces”

I rather enjoyed Hye-Young Pyun’s previous story and was intrigued to read another one.  This one was translated by Sora Kim-Russell.

The previous one was thoughtful and disturbing and so is this one.

In this story, which is surprisingly unspecific about the characters, a man’s wife went missing a month earlier.  She slipped off off of a gorge and was presumed drowned.

He has just gotten a call from the police that a body part has been found and they would like him to identify it.  The part that was found was a right leg. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANNA MEREDITH-Tiny Desk Concert #713 (March 2, 2018).

I have never heard anything like this.  From sound to melody, to intensity, to instrumentation, this whole thing just rocked my world.

The melody for “Nautilus” is just so unexpected.  It opens with an echoed horn sound repeating.  And then the melody progresses up a scale, but not a scale, a kind of modified scale that seems off kilter just as it seems familiar.  The cello plays it, the guitar plays it, the sousaphone (!) plays it.  And it continues on in like fashion until only the high notes remain and then a menacing low riff on sousaphone cello and guitar breaks through–a great villain soundtrack if ever there was.  While everyone plays this riff, Anna returns to the keys to play the modified scale.

Meanwhile, the drummer has looked like he’s asleep behind his small kit.  And then 3 anda half minutes in he wakes up and starts playing a loud but slow rhythm.  The guitar begins soloing and as it fades out that main riff begins, now with a simple drum beat–not matching what anyone else is playing, mind you.  The sousaphone (which must have an echo on it or something and the cello pick up the low menace and it seems like everybody is doing his and her own thing.  But it all works amazingly.

So just who is Anna Meredith?

Anna Meredith was a former BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Composer in Residence. Two of the three songs performed here come from her 2016 release called Varmints.

Bob Boilen was also impressed when he first saw Anna Meredith live:

I first saw this British composer a year ago, in a stunning performance at the SXSW musical festival. It was one of the best concerts of my life. The music I heard sent me into a state of reverie. If music could levitate my body, this is how it would sound. It carried me away and thrilled my soul. I was giddy for days.

Now, I know this isn’t music for everyone. … But if you know and love the music of Philip Glass, King Crimson or Steve Reich — music that’s electrifying, challenging and sonically soars and ripples through your body — then crank this up.

Lest you worry that she couldn’t translate it to the Tiny Desk (she says they normally have 23 suitcases full of crap so this has been an exciting challenge to squeeze in here)

Out of nearly 700 performances at the Tiny Desk, this is simply the most exhilarating one I’ve experienced. The instrumentation is unusual, with pulsing bass sounds produced by a wonderful combination of cello, tuba and electronics. It’s all rhythmically propelled by an astonishing drummer and Meredith pounding a pair of floor toms. And much of the repetitive melody is keyboard-and-guitar-driven that morphs and erupt with earth-shaking fervor.

The second song, “Ribbons” is quieter.  It’s and new song and it has vocals.  Her vocals aren’t great (“hard when you’ve got the voice of a five-year old boy”) but the melody she builds around it shows that her  voice is just one more instrument (albeit saying interesting words).  Actually, that’s not fair, they are just so different from the noise of the other two songs that it feels very faint in comparison.

It opens with a quiet guitar and electronic drum.  And slowly everyone else joins in.  A nice string accompaniment from the cello (Maddie Cutter), bass notes on the sousaphone (Tom Kelly) and even backing vocals from everyone.  By the third go around the drummer (Sam Wilson) is playing the glockenspiel.  By that time the song has built into a beautiful round and the quietness of her voice makes complete sense.  As the song nears its end, Sam has switches to a very fast but quiet rhythm on the floor tom.

She introduces the band and wishes a happy birthday to guitarist Jack Ross.  She says this is a great present as “so far all we’ve gotten him is an apple corer, the gifts have been a bit low grade.”

They make some gear switches, “we have a bit of a logistics problem with all our gear we can’t quite afford to bring enough glockenspiels, we pass the pure crap glockenspiel  around ans everyone gets to go ‘my turn!'”

“The Vapours” opens with a wonderfully wild guitar riff–fast and high-pitched and repeated over and over.  Anna Meredith adds waves of synths and then in comes the sousaphone and plucked cello.  Then fast thumping on the floor tom propels the song along.  The song slows a bit a Anna plays the clarinet (!).  The song dramatically shifts to some complicated time signature while Anna plays glockenspiel.  After a few rounds, while this complex guitar riff continues the drum and sousaphone start playing a pretty standard beat the contradicts everything else that’s going on and then Anna just starts pounding the crap out of some more toms.

All through this there are electronic sounds adding to the chaos and I have no idea who is triggering them, but it’s really cool.

The end is almost circusy with the big sousaphone notes and yet it’s like no circus anyone has every heard.  When the camera pulls back and you can see everyone working so hard and yet smiling ear to ear (especially Maddie), you know this is some great stuff.

The end of the song winds up with a hugely complicated tapping melody on the guitar and everyone else working up a huge sweat.

I couldn’t get over how much I loved this.  I immediately ordered Varmints and checked her touring schedule.

How disappointed was I to see that Anna Meredith had played Philly just last month and has now gone back to Europe!  I do hope she comes back soon.

[READ: August 30, 2017] McSweeney’s 48

For some reason, I find the prospect of reading McSweeney’s daunting.  I think it’s because I like to post about every story in them, so I know I’m in for a lot of work when I undertake it.

And yet I pretty much always enjoy every piece in each issue.  Well, that explains why it took me some three years to read this issue (although I did read Boots Riley’s screenplay in under a year).

This issue promised: “dazzling new work; a screenplay from Boots Riley with a septet of stories from Croatia.”

LETTERS

GARY RUDOREN writes about using the Giellete Fusion Platinum Razor every day for 18 days and how things were good but have gotten a little ugly.  On day 24 he had a four-inch gash under his nose.  Later on Day 38 it was even worse–a face full of bloody tissue squares.  By day 67 he is writing to thank McSweeney’s for whatever they did perhaps it was the medical marijuana but now his face is baby butt smooth even without shaving.  He wants to change the slogan to Gilette Fusion the shave that lasts forever. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 4 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 14, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 14, 2004. This was the 4th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  It was an all ages show and ran about 90 minutes.

There are two recordings available for this show.  The Sloggett version is from the soundboard, but the Clarkson recording sounds a bit bigger with more bass and stage noise.   Although you can’t hear the spoken word part of “Mutilated World” at all.  You can hear Dave’s daughter Cecelia chatting you can hear her at one point say “Hi, Tim!”

The start off saying they’ll do a coupe of songs from The Story of Harmelodia to start us out, get us in the mood.

They open with “Home Again” which sounds appropriately cute–Martin has fun with it.  Then for “It’s Easy to Be with You”, they “invite Don Kerr up on stage for this next number on the tenor guitar.  A man of many talents, above all growing a handsome mustache (MPW: or perhaps partially shaving a fanatic beard).  Don says: “Somebody called me papa smurf the other day because I had a cap on.” Dave: “I think Papa Smurf was a little rounder around the middle.”  The song sound nice with that extra guitar.

You can hear on the Clarkson recording “When is my song?”  Dave: “Gonna be maybe in about 5 songs?  Maybe in about 4 songs?  Wanna do it now?  well.  alright.  Does your brother wanna sing too?”  Cecilia (who is like 4 years old, maybe) does an amazing job with Dave Edmund’s “Almost Saturday Night.”  She has a great sense of melody and really gets the feel for the song.  At the end Mike says, “It’s a perfect song to sing on a Sunday.  That’s optimism.”  As she walks off you hear Dave say, “Good job, Cees.”  And she replies, “Good job, dad.”

Then it’s on to a solid version of “Claire” which they send out “to Paul Quarrington, Gillar nominated, should have won.”  Tim says, “co author of this song.”  Mike: “At least on the SOCAN form.” Dave: “A man who launched 1,000 careers.”

“Aliens (Christmas 1988)” opens with a kind of rocking rhythm.  Martin starts singing a weird version of Split Enz ‘ “I Got You” before doing the “whoo hoo hoo” and launching into an incredibly fast paced version.  When it slows down in the middle, Martin says, let’s bring it to normal speed.

For “Try To Praise This Mutilated World,” they also shout out to Chris Stringer on keyboard “bringing down the mean average age of the band.”  I normally can’t hear the spoken parts, but you can hear someone speaking polish I believe.  Each version of this song sounds better and better.

To continue this mellow middle section, Jen Foster is back on accordion for “Who Is This Man, And Why Is He Laughing?” and then comes “Making Progress.”  However, they start in wrong key.  As they get situated, Martin asks Dave why no one is showing minor league and jr league hockey.  Dave says that the CBC is complicit with the NHL in holding back younger players.  Once they get the song going, it sound perfect.

As an introduction to “Take Me In Your Hand,” Martin plays a quick guitar lick from one of his solo songs (“Waterstriders,” I think) and then segues into a very delicate version of the song.

Dave asks if any of the horn players from the Hebrew School Dropouts are still around (they opened the show).  Up come Adam and “Fedora guy” to play horns (including solos) for “Legal Age Life At Variety Store.”  Dropping out of Hebrew school is the best thing you guys ever did.

“Northern Wish” is a very pretty, very mellow version.  It’s followed by a really lovely slow version of “Stolen Car.”

After the encore break, Tim comes out to play a special request “all the way from California.”  He starts “Row” and asks if it’s the right song (it is).  He forgets a few lines but is otherwise quite pretty.  When it’s over, the requester shouts, “Thank you!”  Someone else shouts “Saskatchewan” but Tim says the Hebrew School Dropouts are going to school in Etobicoke so we’ll do a good Etobicoke song for them.  That song is “Self Serve Gas Station.” Martin changes a line to “What went wrong with little Jimmy, is he dumb?”

It segues into a wild, upbeat “Song Of The Garden.”  It’s rollicking and crazy and sort of segues into a slapdash cover of XTC’s “Radios In Motion.”

And that’s it.  It’s short show for the band, but probably perfect for an All ages crowd.  Speaking of All-ages, it’s pretty kid friendly, but not entirely (with some of Martin’s songs).  It would have been really fun to see though.

[READ: July 7, 2017] Animal Crackers

The origins of this story are confusing to me.  It was originally written in 2011 (and published by a different publisher (with a different cover, of course).  But there’s not much you can find out about it.  There’s also a prequel (also originally released in 2011) which came out by First Second around the same time, but that’s for another post.

This book bears the sticker that says “Now a Major Motion [Animated] Picture (due out in Fall 2017).”  Given how short this book is, I wonder if the movie is based on both books or what.  Guess we’ll see.  Since I first wrote that, I have seen that the film has been released, but not in the States.  And, it has major stars associated with it.  I still can;t imagine how they stretched this premise out to 94 minutes.

This story is cute and fun with some good humor.  The problem is that the entire plot is given away in the blurb on the inside cover (so don’t read that). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NATE SMITH + KINSFOLK-Tiny Desk Concert #667 (November 3, 2017).

Nate Smith is a jazz drummer, although much of the music in this Tiny Desk is quite rocking.

The jazz is evident in the complexity of the tunes.

Just try to discern the multiple time signatures in the first tune, “Skip Step” Syncopated yet steady, its rhythmic motifs bolster Jon Cowherd’s keyboard riff and the song’s melodic statement, played in unison by saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and guitarist Jeremy Most.

The song opens with a great chugging riff on the bass (Fima Ephron) and guitar.  The keys play a drifting melody as the sax take over a solo (followed by the guitar).  Smith’s kit is fairly small but he makes great use of the various drums, putting in all kinds of interesting rhythms.

The quintet slides right into “Retold,” a beautiful song with a nostalgic melody that suggests a quiet moment for personal reflection and self-discovery.

This song instantly feels more jazzy because of the lead saxophone.  The drums are primarily cymbals (and brushes) and a lot of keyboard soloing in the middle.

After that song, Nate introduces the band and then says, “Jeremy noticed–the desk is not that small.  I was expecting a smaller desk.  I don’t know how I feel about his.  But I’m going to move past that because it’s not about me.

On the next song, “Pages,” Smith welcomed vocalist Amma Whatt to the “stage.” She wrote the lyrics for Smith’s 2017 album Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere.  I don’t care for this song as much.  Her vocals are a little too R&B for me (and I don’t like soprano sax).

It’s a very gentle song, though and probably fits nicely into the album.  It’s followed up by the final tune, “Rambo: The Vigilante” which he describes as “it’s short but it’s angry.”

Hypnotized by its shifting time signatures, this fusion jam is punctuated with a haunting rock lick played simultaneously by the entire band, and seamlessly aligned with Smith’s dazzling display of dexterous genius.

Smith’s drumming is phenomenal on this track–with lots of action on the high hat and some fast drumming on the bass and snare.  It’s not all fast though, there is a mellow middle section with gentle keys and a mellow sax solo.

I do like jazz with crossover appeal, and this certainly has it.

[READ: March 21, 2017] Fish Girl

David Wiesner has drawn some of the most gorgeous picture books ever.  And several of those books don’t have any words–they are just amazing stories, beautifully told and wonderfully illustrated.  Seriously, look up Sector 7 and Flotsam and be blown away.

Well, his pictures are in full force here (I recognized his octopus immediately).

This is his first graphic novel and his first pairing with Donna Jo Napoli (who I am unfamiliar with).

The story is a fairly simple and fairly familiar one, but they have put some wonderful twists into it.

In a building on a pier is Ocean Wonders.  It is a fully functioning aquarium inside a small warehouse.  On the outside is a big sign that says “see the mysterious Fish Girl.”  As the story opens, there is a narration by Neptune, god of the seas and storms.  He tells the spectators that in every room of this house you will see the most amazing creatures of his kingdom. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Casbah, Hamilton, Ontario (November 6, 2004).

This was a Hamilton show between the 2004 Western Fall Nationals and the 10 night Fall Nationals at The Horseshoe Tavern the following week. The band attempted to play all of 2067 succeeding apart from “The Latest Attempt On Your Life” and “Try To Praise This Mutilated World.”

The recording opens with some wild jazz playing–rather incongruous opening music.  But it quickly fades and you hear the guys plucking away as their noodling solidifies into “Easy To Be With You.”  They seem to be having a lot of fun with the hoo ah hoo ah middle part–making it a bit more rocking, perhaps?

Martin: “This is for Yod’s sister.”  Mike: “And Daryl from Niagara Falls, Happy Birthday.”  Tim: “We couldn’t download the lyrics to ‘Edmund Fitzgerald’ so we’re gonna do this one instead.  Mike: “All the teleprompter rentals were eaten up by the U.S. election.” Martin: “And Velvet Revolver are on tour.”  They play a  stompin “Record Body Count.”

So we have a new record out.  It’s called “twenty one twel–“.  It’s called 2067.  Tim: “It’s our 2,067th release.”  Martin: “We’re a very prolific band.  And we’re gonna attempt to do it top to bottom.”  Mike: “And you know what they say, there’s a fine line between flagship and guinea pig and you’re it.”

The first song is “Shack in the Cornfields.”  Martin introduces it: “This song had a large head. But Mike and I got down to it and made sure it was born.  In the corn.” It sounds good and has a really long percussion ending and then opens up into Dave’s quiet “Little Bird,” a song they have played a lot over the  last year.

Next up is “Marginalized,” which is a bit softer and less angry than some other versions.

Dave says, “We’re gonna do a song we just shot a video for.  We do a video every couple of years.  We got Frank Bonner to co-star in this video with Martin. It’s called The Tarleks and it’s about Herb Tarlke from WKRP in Cincinnati from the late 1970s and 1980s, the heyday of modern American sitcoms.  And one day it will be done and you will see it. But until then you just have to fantasize what it might look like.”  It’s a little slow an angular.  Like much of the show it feels either tentative or like they want the audience to be able to experience the songs fully.

“Power Ballad for Ozzy Osbourne” has the opening stanza which they hadn’t been playing live.  This is slower than usual, I think–although it feels like a real ballad the way it builds.  There’s a buzzy wire as well, which I’m sure bugs the band.  “I Dig Music” is a little goofier and less rocking than other versions.  On the way after the middle section MPW plays the drum fill for Rush’s “Lakeside Park” but not quite right.  For “Here Comes the Image” Mike plays a playful almost bell-sounding keyboard solo–although it does cut out a few times during the lengthy solo at the end.

Dave notes: “The worst part of switching instruments is not knowing which beer is yours.”

Mike says, “This song [“Who Is This Man and Why Is He Laughing?”] has no words.  It’s drifting and mellow.  Next up is supposed to be “The Latest Attempt on Your Life” which they have played live before.  But you hear Martin say he doesn’t want to do it: “Let’s skip that one and do ‘Polar Bears.'”  Mike agrees, “If we were doing Dark Side of the Moon or something we’d stick to it but we’re going to deviate.”  It’s a spare but romping version of “Polar Bears” with some loud “hey hey ho hos.”

Dave: This next song is about yesterday’s football game that Tim wrote, uh, four weeks ago. Two days ago?  Friday night?  What day is it?  That was yesterday I was talking Tiger Cats.
Mike: “Making Pierogies.”  It’s a slow mellow song.  Very pretty, especially the guitar parts at the end

Next week is our 4th annual Fall Nationals at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto (corner of Queen and Spadina).  Ten nights in a row this year starting next… the coming Thursday.

Tim: Thanks to Wayne Omaha for playing tonight.  They’re selling their new album back there and if you wanna get their other one Can the Maps. Go For the Beauty, bug them, and they’ll sell it to ya.
Dave: I think those guys should tour prisons. I think it would be really good for the country.  As long as they’re on the right side of the bars.

They skip “Try to Praise This Mutilated World” and go into “P.I.N.”  They play the coda at the beginning and then the songs starts.  Martin sings his verse in a kind of flat deadpan and Dave says Martin Stop rapping and Martin seems to get annoyed or something–he starts singing crazy–more deadpan and then he screams a punky style and then redlines the volume with a scream on the mic–it’s a little disturbing.  They jump into a poppy “Mumbletypeg” and after the first line Dave says “That’s a lot of beer.”  It gets pretty wild by the end.  It segues into a dark “Stolen Car,” with Martin singing “Goodbye suburban motherfuck.”  The middle has a lengthy instrumental section with Tim getting to mess around on bass a bit.

After a relatively long encore break, the come back with “Pornography.”  “We wish that song wasn’t relevant; however, it is.”

Then there’s a slow “California Dreamline.” And they end with a long “Feed Yourself” with a really creepy section of Dave whispering all kinds of things like “me and you in his head.”  The song ends with some wild effects from someone–almost a minute of pinging sounds after which Dave says, Sorry.

[READ: February 21, 2017] Furry Logic

This book came across my desk at work (I’m still bummed that they changed the way we get books at work so I don’t see as many interesting ones as I used to).  It looked interesting, so I brought it home and read it over the weekend.

This is a pop-science book that looks at how animals use physics to their advantage:  “If you’re scared of physics, don;t worry, we’ve kept things simple.”  I enjoyed that the book states right up front that the authors are anthropomorphizing the animals because that makes for a much better story. Even though, in the end, they dismiss this idea.

Chapter 1 is called Heat: The Warm Up Chapter.  In which we learn about gender-swapping snakes, floppy skinned dogs, mosquitoes that wee blood, killer bees, hot-tailed squirrels, vipers that see heat and beetles that hear infrared.

The chapter looks at (using the research of others) how snakes in Manitoba keep warm by piling together in a big clumps.  But more interestingly, there are certain snakes which swap genders (temporarily).  Male snakes secrete female pheromones to attract males for body heat.  We learn that dogs shake the water off of them because the energy they expel from the vigorous shaking is actually far less than the energy they would have to use to keep warm if they were so wet.  The authors talk a lot about just how interesting it is to see their skin flip back and forth (this goes for all mammals since they all seem to shake in vaguely the same way. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-A Live One (1995).

Phish has released virtually every show that they have played in some recorded format (not to mention all of the shows that have circulated as tapes).  But before all of that, it took them five studio albums before the released their first official live record.  And while it is not one show, it is a great collection of their more popular live songs.  There’s some really long jams (30 minutes for “Tweezer”) but also some normal length songs (several under 5 minutes).

If you ever want to know anything about Phish, they are probably the most well-documented bands around.  Their fan base is encyclopedic (if they didn’t follow Phish, they would be really into sports stats, clearly).

So a cursory search will tell you

Each track on the album was recorded at a different live show in the United States during Phish’s 1994 summer and fall tours. Several of the songs have never appeared on studio albums and the track “Montana” is not really a song, but actually a two-minute excerpt from the longform improvisation that followed “Tweezer” during the band’s show in Bozeman, Montana.  On A Live One, “Montana” serves as a prelude to the epic “You Enjoy Myself”, one of the most well-known versions of that song.

“Bouncing Around the Room” is light and fun, a great start to a show.  I was really happy when I finally got to see it live.  It segues into a a rather quiet “Stash.”  There’s a lot going on in the solo with the chorus repeating and then a solo resuming.  It’s followed by a slow Gumbo with The Giant Country Horns: Peter Apfelbaum – tenor saxophone; Carl Gerhard – trumpet; Dave Grippo – alto saxophone; James Harvey – trombone; Michael Ray – trumpet.

“Montana Jam” is a short instrumental segue into “You Enjoy Myself.”  As stated above, this is a killer version of “YEM.”  There’s a funky bass solo, there’s many elements to the jam including a section where they chant “ahhh way um way um.”  After 15 minutes, the end is a five-minute “voice jam” with them making crazy sounds.  It devolves into a lot of clicking and other weird noises.  “YEM” would normally end a set but this one it’s followed by a rousing “Chalk Dust Torture” (a song that I really wanted to see).  The disc ends with a really rocking “Slave to the Traffic Light,” that has a mellow solo until everyone builds it up hugely at the end.

Disc two opens with “Wilson” (I was really excited to see that one live).  The “Tweezer” on this one is a much darker version—with lots of weird solos and crazy sounds including keyboard sirens.  The song kind of thuds and lumbers along and then turns into what sounds like a heavy metal riff—distorted guitars and bass–until it eventually returns to a rocking jam.  They start doing the “Tweezer” riff again but it segues into a new jam with noisy guitar and funky keys.  There’s a whole lot more going on in these 30 minutes).

“Simple” is rocking fun and ends with them singing in a whisper.  This version of “Harry Hood” sounds great with all three parts connected by lengthy jams.  The drums are quite prominent in this song with Fish doing all manner of drums fills.  The disc ends with Squirming Coil which is primarily a long and pretty jam, with some really nice solos.

Since it’s a well curated live album, it’s really a great place to start exploring their love shows.  And the sound is fantastic.

Some people care about this sort of thing, so these songs come from:

  • “Stash,” July 8, 1994, Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts, Mansfield, MA
  • “The Squirming Coil,” October 9, 1994, A. J. Palumbo Center, Pittsburgh, PA
  • “Harry Hood” October 23, 1994, Band Shell, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
  • “Tweezer,” November 2, 1994, Bangor Auditorium, Bangor, ME
  • “Chalk Dust Torture,” November 16, 1994, Hill Auditorium, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
  • “Slave to the Traffic Light,” November 26, 1994, Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis, MN
  • “Montana,” November 28, 1994, Field House, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
  • “Gumbo,” December 2, 1994, Recreation Hall, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA
  • “You Enjoy Myself,” December 7, 1994, Spreckels Theater Building, San Diego, CA
  • “Simple,” December 10, 1994, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA
  • “Wilson,” December 30, 1994, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
  • “Bouncing Around the Room,” December 31, 1994, Boston Garden, Boston, MA

[READ: March 10, 2017] “Jack and Jim Who Lived by the River”

I tend to not really like the stories in Lucky Peach.  That’s not entirely fair, because some of them are quite good.  But many of them, like this one, are just kind of weird an unsatisfying.

Jim doesn’t like to each much fish in the morning, but Jack sure does. He eats fish because “we are Jack and Jim who live by the river, and we are excellent fisherman.”

Jack smokes his fish while he drinks a beer and then he goes over to see Jim who has just woken up. (more…)

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