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Archive for the ‘Wolves’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JOHN LEGEND-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #58 (August 3, 2020).

I don’t know all that much about John legend.  I know he’s released a lot of popular music and that he seems to be famous for being famous at this point.

But wow, this set is great.  Legend has a terrific voice.  I’m not really sure what genre his music is–it’s very soulful–becuase it’s just really great songwriting.

They kick off the set with “Ooh Laa,” a song John calls “doo-wop meets trap” it’s also the lead-off track to his summer album, Bigger Love. 

I don’t know how the “trap” part fits into this song, but the combination is fantastic.  The song opens with a sample of the “shoo bop shoo bop” from The Flamingos’s “I Only Have Eyes for You.  It works as a great foundation for this song of love and romance.  It’s got a great chorus of, yes, “Ooh Laa,” which is a perfect line for this song.  It also has Kaveh Rastegar on upright bass, which adds a great slow jazzy feel.

“Wild” opens with a quiet guitar melody from Ben O’Neill that reminds me of a Beach House song (although it sounds very different with Legend singing).   It’s fascinating how different this song sounds from “Ooh Laa” even though it is very clearly a John Legend song.  It’s also got a fantastic wailing guitar solo, which was completely unexpected.

All of the songs filmed on this day are from Bigger Love, including “Conversations in the Dark,” which John says is “a good song for babies to dance to — you might want to get married to it, too, if you’re so inclined.” Meanwhile, behind the band on a big screen reads, “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”

“Bigger Love” is catchy and bouncy with some great sounding drums from Jimmy “Rashid” Williams and simple keyboard splashes from Eugene “Man Man” Roberts.

[READ: August 1, 2020] “The Shawl”

This story is compact and written in a well-plotted style.

It begins with a story.  A story that the Anishinaabeg people on her street speak of.

A woman had two children whom she loved: a boy and a girl.  Then she had a baby girl with a different man.  She loved the new man more than her first man and decided to leave her family for the new man.  But she decided to bring her daughters with her.

On the way out of town, their carriage was attacked by wolves and the older girl fell out of the carriage and was killed.  All that was left of her was a torn and bloodied shawl. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TWIN PEAKS-“Spiders (Kidsmoke)” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

This was the last song on this compilation and it’s my favorite.

There’s a lot of Wilco songs that I like and “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” is way at the top.  The song is really long and doesn’t change a lot but the changes are fantastic.  One of the great things about the song is Nels Cline’s insane guitar work throughout–noisy and seemingly uncontrolled, but somehow fitting in perfectly with the 1-2-3- bass line.

This version by Twin Peaks is as good, if not slightly better than the original.  I say that because the band sounds a little fuller during the verses which I like (although it does make the change to the noisier section less dramatic).  And Nels Cline;s guitar work is more interesting than the Twin Peaks version–although they do some cool things too.

I think Twin Peaks has a bit more of the heavy alternative sound the I like.  The vocals are great, the guitars are great.  I’ve now listened to both versions back to back and I like them both!

This cover actually made me investigate Twin Peaks more and I was bummed to find out that they had just played a show in our area after I had listened to this song.

Next time!

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Volume 5

This book opens with Adrienne and Bedelia enjoying a cleansing bath in a lake (I assume).  While they are getting clean, Adrienne mourns the state of her hair.  How often she has tried to straighten and control the knotty curls on her head.  And after some serious thought, she has Bedelia shave it all off.  I love that when she pops out of the water newly shorn, she looks gorgeous–well done Emily Martin.  On a less great note, there’s a scene in the water where Bedelia, who is a strong and rugged half-dwarf lets not forget, is drawn with a waist that would be about 10 inches across in real life–bad form Emily Martin.

In book two, Devin and Kira are trotting along (with the tough Kira getting nauseous on the back of a horse).  When suddenly Kira smells… an elf.  And it is her duty to kill it.  Kira dives on the elf’s travelling companion, who is Prince Wilcome.  The elf, named Tempest, quickly disarms Devin and takes his sword.  They are at an impasse.

Next we jump to the dwarf kingdom.  There are two male guards out front discussing music and almost come to blows during their argument, calling each other girlie and arguing which one is the real man.  But when another dwarf comes along shouting Dragon, we find out that the dwarf dragon slayers are all women.  They prep themselves and get ready to make dragon stew.  After a kiss between Benna and Gretta they fling the dwarfs through the air from a catapult. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE HANDSOME FAMILY-“Capitol City” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

I’ve know of The Handsome Family for a long time, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard them before.  “Capitol City” is also a bit of a mystery.  It appeared on a Wilco bonus disc (for the deluxe edition of The Whole Love).  I assumed it had something to do with The Simpsons, but I guess it doesn’t.

This is a kind of honky-tonk version with banjo and “gadgets” as part of the lineup.   It’s fun with lots of weird sound effects swirling around this otherwise conventional song.

I wish you were here. Better yet, I wish I was there with you.

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Volume 4

Sir Gahiji the Hunter has learned that Adrienne is actually not dead and is in fact the knight they are all after.  He shares this information with the Black Knight. They instantly fight and the Black Knight knocks out Gahiji (or Cat Hat, since he wears a wolves’ head on his head).

Adrienne and Bedelia are headed for Grimmorium Swamp.  Bedelia tells of some horrible things that live there: flesh eating goblins, swamp creatures, electric fish, squirrels… real live squirrels! (The squirrel revelation is pretty great).

Back at the castle, the King grabs Devin and brings him along to the forest where the encounter the remains of the Queen’s carriage.   The King says he thinks the Black Knight is responsible.  The King then introduces Devin to the wolves (Kira scares the daylights out of him).

Amazingly Devin and Kira soon bond well enough.  The leader of the wolves says that he wishes his daughter were inquisitive like Devin. The King says he’d rather have Kira in battle–he’s seen rabbits with more courage than his son.  In the background we see Kira and Devin climbing all over his mother’s empty chest.  When he comes out he stands tall and says “I’m going on a quest to save my mother!” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PUSS N BOOTS-“Jesus, Etc.” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

This was my introduction to Puss N Boots, a group consisting of Catherine Popper, Sasha Dobson and …Norah Jones?  They’ve been getting some buzz lately (of course) and it’s interesting to have my first exposure to them through this cover of one of my favorite Wilco songs.

This has a great slow rocking sound.  It’s got minimal instrumentation (no drums), just electric guitars and bass.  The women harmonize really nicely.

I really like this version, although whoever is singing lead (Catherine or Sasha) has that weird thing that singers seem to be doing now where it almost sounds like a speech impediment on the letter r.  The way she sing skyscrapers so it almost sounds like skyskwrapers.  And cry sounds like cwry.

It’s a thing that I’ve heard a lot lately and I can’t quite wrap my heard around it.  It’s not an accent, but what is it?

Regardless, I do like this version.  The opening electric guitar is great and their voices work very well together.

[READ: February 19, 2020] Princeless: Volume Two

I like the artwork y in this book so much better than the first.  I feel like Emily Martin brings a whole new level of greatness to this series.  The coloring is also much more vibrant.  It’s possible that the printing I had for book 1 wasn’t very good, but this book is fantastic.

The book opens with Adrienne’s father speaking to the bravest knights of the land: Sir Rocks the Mighty; Sir Gahiji the Hunter (who wears a wolf head on his head); Sir Raphael the Handsome (a poet and a vampire); Sir Walsh the Braggart; Sir Zachary the Pure (who serves the gods); and The Black Knight, the king’s fiercest of friends.  They have been summoned to kill the knight who made off with Adrienne’s head and bring the head of her dragon.  Whoever can do so will win his daughter’s hand in marriage.  (Which daughter? someone whispers).

Devon is angry that his dad is doing this so he goes to talk to his mom.  But she has plans–she is leaving and going to visit her parents.  He can’t believe she is running away too.

Back to our heroines.  We see them flying on Sparky, with Bedelia hanging from a rope and swiping food from the cart of a thief who stole the food in the first place.  But Sparky isn’t the most coordinated of fliers and soon enough, Bedelia and Adrienne wind up in a tree.  Again.

They manage to regroup and are sitting near a fire eating their plunder when a dandy prince shows up.  His name is Roderick Lovelorn and he is a poet.  He calls her fair lady and i love that there’s a running joke that she is not fair–fair means pale and she is not pale, she has brown skin (and kinky hair) thank you very much.  He is heading home to his muse.  The lady whom all seek to see but none dare to touch.

As he goes on like this, Adrienne gets annoyed because she realizes that he is talking about…her sister Angelica. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAZY GRACE-“You Don’t Know How Much” (Moose: The Compilation, 1991).

Back in the 1990s, it was common to buy a compilation or soundtrack or even a band’s album based on one song.  Only to then find that you didn’t really like anything else on it.

Maybe that single sounded like nothing else on the album.  Maybe the movie was almost entirely one genre, but they had that one song that you liked over the credits.  Or maybe the compilation was for something but a song you really wanted was on it, too.

With streaming music that need not happen anymore.  Except in this case.

I bought this compilation, used, recently exclusively for one song, Rheostatics’ “Woodstuck.”  It’s a goofy song and this is the only place you can get the studio version.  The actual compilation was not well documented, so I didn’t know what the other bands on it might sound like.  It turns out to be a compilation for Ontario based Moose Records which specialized in Rock, Folk, World & Country.  They put out another compilation in 1992 and that’s all I can find out about them.

Here’s another traditional song performed very slowly.  This feels like a blues song only played with a more country style with violin as the lead instrument.  The two women singing have good harmonies, but it feels so downcast that I don’t want to listen to it again.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Poem #8–Beetle”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue. This year’s issue had two short stories, a memoir, three poems and a fifteen year reflection about a novel as special features.

I assume this poem is part of a series, although I don’t know for certain

This is a poem about nature.

It is set at a lake in the woods of the eastern slope of the Rockies. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-“Here Come the Wolves” (2019).

This is the first new officially released Rheostatics song in 15 years.  And it’s a doozy. A six and a half minute epic with a few different parts and styles within.

I’ve heard this song on a few of the the recent RheostatcisLive recordings, but this studio version explores depth and detail in a way that the live version could not.  And it’s really fantastic.

The video is also cool because it shows guitarist/singer Martin Tielli in a timelapse video finishing the cover art.

Starting with a menacing riff including Hugh Marsh on violin (and some interesting whoos! in the distance), the chorus opens the song.  Then comes a stomping series of catchy verses.

After 2 and a half minutes, the song slows down and Martin picks up a quietly sung middle section.  He sings over some eerie violins and keys before the guitars slowly build.  Quietly picked acoustic guitar flesh out the song as Martin continues.

After two minutes of this quieter section, it picks up again with a piano-based version of the melody.  This takes on a more uplifting feel as Martin sings in his whispered vocals.

The song has a nice climax and then a short denouement.

It’s nowhere near as weird as some of my favorite songs by them, although it is far from a guaranteed radio hit.  Nevertheless it is pure Rheostatics, and I love it.

I’m delighted to have them back making new music and holy cow, if I have to go to Toronto to see them play live, so be it.

[READ: June 24, 2019] “Back Then”

This is a story of a woman looking back on her burgeoning adulthood.

In the summers she and her family would go to a lake (in Ohio).  The story begins with them watching the Perseids.  She and her sister wanted to go down to the lake to see them fall into the water, but her mom always said no.

The story is full of sweet details–her sister peeing behind the furnace in her grandmother’s room, walking in flip-flops to buy the paper for their dad, the goat in the neighbor’s yard, even the trailer park.  They had enforced lunch and “quiet time.”  Quiet time was supposedly to prevent them from getting cramps, but it was really just for their mom to have some peace.  And how the last day always brought a double feeling of wanting to stay forever and wanting to go home. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PET SHOP BOYS-“Always on My Mind” (1987).

I certainly have my favorite Christmas songs.  But it never occurred to me to winder what the perfect Christmas song was.

I love music; I don’t care about “perfect” songs or “algorithms” or anything like that.  I just like what speaks ti me.  But there are those who want to figure out things like the perfect song .

So the geniuses at Ostero Music ran their data, crunched the numbers and determined that Pet Shop Boys’ “Always on My Mind” was the perfect Christmas song (even if  it’s not a Christmas song).

S how did hey figure this out?  They analyzed every (UK) Christmas No. 1 from the past 50 years and found the winning combination of four different components – song duration, key, tempo and the artist’s age.

They also found most Christmas hits tend to be ballads and cover versions – and they are almost all about something other than Christmas.

So this is more about sings that are #1 at Christmastime instead of Christmas songs.

At any rate, the perfect formula is

1. Song duration of 3:57
2. In the key of G major
3. Tempo of 114 bpm (beats per minute)
4. Performer is 27 years old

“I think we’re a long way from an algorithmically-generated Christmas number one,” said Howard Murphy, founder of Ostereo. “But certain characteristics do make a song more likely to resonate with audiences at Christmas.”

So why did the Pet Shop Boy win?

If the formula is applied to all the Christmas No. 1 songs from the past 50 years, the song that comes out on top is the Pet Shop Boys’ 1988 cover of Elvis Presley’s ‘Always On My Mind’. The duo covered the song in G major at a speed of 125 bpm, and the song lasts 3:55. The duo’s average age at the time of its release was 31.5, a few years off the ‘perfect’ 27, but combine this with the length, key and tempo, and you find the Christmas No.1 sweet spot…apparently.

So be sure to include this song on your next holiday mix and see everyone observe how perfectly it fits.

[READ: December 19, 2018] “In This Fantasy”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection, although today’s SOUNDTRACK is a special 2018 holiday news item (sort of).

Kim Fu summarizes her story rather well in the Q&A with Kim Fu. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BETSAYDA MACHADO Y PARRANDA EL CLAVO-Tiny Desk Concert #707 (February 16, 2018).

How can you not love a band that is decked out in wonderful colors and whose only instruments are percussion?

I love the first song, “Santa Rosa.”  The chorus is super catchy and when they raise the note in the chorus on the “Oh! Santa Rosa” the song just soars.  Although Betsayda Machado sings most of the songs, this one opens with one of the men (in yellow) singing and I really like his voice, too.  I could even figure out the gist of the words.

And the percussion?  Two floor drums, 2 hands drums, shakers and that friction drum.  So cool.

So who are these folks?

The roots of the music of Betsayda Machado y Parranda El Clavo extend to the Venezuelan slave trade, and while the vocals are in Spanish and not an African dialect, the instruments the group plays date back more than 500 years.

The large bamboo cylinders, the djembe-like drums and the large friction drum together create a symphony of interlocking polyrhythms that was unlike anything I’d heard. Machado’s vocals soar over the unrelenting rhythms, and when she harmonizes with the other singers, it creates a choir-like display of African call-and-response vocals.

When discussing African-influenced music from the southern hemisphere, we often focus on countries like Brazil and Cuba, places where the folk music eventually made its way into popular music. Afro-Venezuelan culture and music is rarely featured or even acknowledged outside of the country. As you’ll see in this video, that should change once music fans take in the beauty of Machado’s voice and the power of her historical message.

“Alaé Alaó” is much more somber, but the percussion is incredible–three men playing bamboo sticks against bricks–the details of what they do are fascinating.  The song starts to pick up with bongos and other hand drums as the guy starts singing again.  During the middle of the song one of the women goes out dancing on the main floor with some of the crew.  This can only lead to more dancing.

“Sentimiento”  The guy in yellow sings the beginning of the song and then Betsayda comes in.  The friction drum is back along with all the shakers and percussion.  I love the way they all stop perfectly at the end.

The band includes: Betsayda Machado, Nereida Machado, Youse Cardozo, Blanca Castilo, Adrian “Ote” Gomez, Jose Gomez, Oscar Ruiz.

[READ: November 20, 2017] Science Comics: Dogs

I have enjoyed every Science Comic that has come out, but this might have been my favorite.

In addition to being about a great topic: dogs, it was also updated with a ton of new information that I had no awareness of.  On top of that there’s a ton of scientific information about genetics, evolution and natural selection.  To top it off, it’s narrated by an adorable pup named Rudy who loves a tennis ball.

Once Rudy drags his owner to the dog park, Rudy can tell us all about dogs.

He explains that all dogs are from the species lupus, and yet look at how different all of the breeds are.  So Rudy rushed back to 25000 BP (before present). (more…)

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