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Archive for the ‘Arranged Marriage’ Category

download (62)SOUNDTRACK: NILÜFER YANYA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #54 (July 22, 2020).

download (61)Nilüfer Yanya is a pretty mesmerizing singer.  I feel lucky to have seen her live and would like to see her again.

In the meantime, this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert will have to do.

There’s something unique about the way Yanya constructs songs.  And her singing voice is really unlike anyone else’s that I’ve heard.

For this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, she plays four songs.  Three from her 2019 album and one new one.  All four are different from when she played Tiny Desk last year.

In her previous Tiny Desk Concert and when I saw her live, she had a full band. But for this one, it’s just her guitar and her voice.

For “Heat Rises,” she plays spare guitar lines and quiet chords as she sings in her unique style.  As the song moves along she adds high notes to the chords–fleshing things out in a subtle but effective way.

After performing “Heat Rises,” Nilüfer Yanya pauses to say a few things about herself, something we’ve been asking artists to do for these Tiny Desk (home) concerts.

“One of the things that’s been on my mind a lot is the racism and violence and injustice going on towards Black people and people of color, not only in America but here in the U.K. and all over the world. As a person of mixed heritage” — Nilüfer’s father is Turkish and her mother is of Irish and Barbadian descent — “this issue is something close to my heart.” Nilüfer urges us all to see the hurt being done. It’s the only way forward.

She then plays “Paralyzed,” a song that she says relates to the issue.  She’s never played it live before.  The song has a cool four note chord progression followed by a sinister feeling five note riff.

Bob Boilen writes: “I hear these words so differently now:”

I hear strained screams from Heaven singin’
“save me”
This can’t be okay
Shadow’s lyin’ here
And it’s blocking out the light
(I am paralyzed)

The above part of the song turns musically bright as she sings those dark lyrics.

“Day 7” is the new song.  She sings in a similar style to the one she uses on “Baby Luv” where she sings with an accent or inflection that is impossible to place but is very compelling.  This song also features a simple but unusual riff as she builds the song using all of the neck of her guitar (the chords she plays during the “go go” section are so interesting).

She ends the set with the final track from her album, “Heavyweight Champion of the Year.”  This is the only song from this set that she played when I saw her.  I was blown away by the song when I saw her live because the song mixed quiet and range perfectly.  It’s more subtle here and demands that you listen closely to the words.

[READ: July 20, 2020] “Nobody’s Business”

I’ve wanted to read more from Jhumpa Lahiri for years–she’s yet another writer who I feel like I need more stories from.  And I really liked this story a lot.

The story is written in the third person.  It’s about a woman named Sang.  She is living in Boston, having just dropped out of a graduate program from Harvard.   Sang has two roommates, Paul and Heather.

What was so interesting about the way that it was written is that it seems to be Sang’s story.  She is, after all, the person with all the action.  But by the end of the story it becomes more about Paul.  I thought that shift of perspective was quite engaging.

Sang is Bengali and every so often she would receive a call from a Bengali man who was courting her. These men had heard that she was pretty and smart and unmarried at thirty, so they were trying to arrange something with her.  Sang was never rude to these men.  She even met some of them.  But Sang was very serious about her boyfriend, Farouk, who was presently in Cairo.  That’s not a ruse, she is really dating him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JACOB COLLIER-Tiny Desk Concert #48 (July 9, 2020).

collierI had never heard of Jacob Collier until his recent Tiny Desk Concert.  He was an impressive fellow to be sure.  He has an amazing vocal range and he can play just about any instrument you can think of.

So it should come as no surprise that Collier’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concert is over the top as well.

But even knowing all of that, it is a still mind-blowing.  Because he has seamlessly spliced four videos of himself together.  So you have four Jacobs in four outfits playing everything in a room that is full of instruments.

The set starts with “All I Need.”  Lead singer Jacob is sitting on the floor in front of a steel drum.  This Jacob also plays the melodica solo.  On the left is keyboardist Jacob who plays the organ and, of course, mid song switches to piano and back again.  On the right is bassist Jacob who plays some excellent bass–including a nice solo at the end.  Way in back is Jacob on drums.  You can’t see him all that well, but you can hear his contribution perfectly.

Polymath musician Jacob Collier has been championing this style of one-man-band music videos since 2012, singing every note and playing every instrument. His cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing”earned him a devout YouTube following at the age of 19, and he hasn’t slowed down since. The London wunderkind owns four Grammy Awards already, including two at the age of 22 in 2017…. Now 25, and with nearly a decade of experience producing every aspect of his own music from his home, Collier is uniquely positioned to crank out his best work from quarantine. In this video, each of the four parts was recorded in a single take. Pay close attention ; it’s easy to get tripped up inside Jacob’s head as he arranges this Rubik’s Cube of a video production, which feels both like a magic trick and a no-strings-attached bedroom session.

Introducing the next song, one of the Jacobs (they fight over who is the actual Jacob), says that “Time Alone With You” is a little funky–hope you don’t mind.  It’s groovy bass line and smart snapping drums.   The end of this song is a wonderful musical freakout with a vocal section that leads to a series of four fast drum hits (including Jacob banging on the piano and some bass rumblings as well).  There’s even a jazzy breakdown (real jazzy bass lines) which allows one of them to whisper “jazz.”  Because even though he is super talented and a very serious musician, he’s also goofy (look at his clothes).

He’s in the middle of releasing his ambitious four-volume record, Djesse. The last song in this video is the premiere of his new single “He Won’t Hold You,” which will appear on Vol. 3, due out later this year.

When piano Jacob changes the mutes in the piano bassist Jacob talks about the record.  “He Won’t Hold You” song starts a cappella in four part harmony (with himself). He can ht some really deep notes and the harmonies are super.

The only problem for me is I don’t really like his style of music.  Which is a shame because he’s so talented, I want to watch him all day.  It’s just not my musical scene.

[READ: July 10, 2020] “Immortal Heart”

This is a lengthy, somewhat complicated and ultimately devastating story.

The story is quite long and it revolves around a woman and her Precious Auntie living in the Western Hills south of Peking.  Their village is called Immortal Heart and The Liu clan (her family) has lived there for six centuries.  They were ink stick makers. They had expanded to a shop in Peking–a sign of great success.

Precious Auntie was born across the ravine in a town called Mouth of the Mountains.  The village was known for dragon bones, which poor men collected from the Monkey’s Jaw cave.  Precious Auntie’s father was a renowned bonesetter and he used these dragon bones as part of his work.

Precious Auntie could not speak.  She communicated with the narrator. Lu Ling, through sign language which only the two of them knew.  Precious Auntie was rather naughty and their silent language allowed her to speak her mind freely (she disapproved of bound feet for instance). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: K.T. TUNSTALL-NonComm (May 16, 2019).

Most artists at NonCOMM get about 20 minutes.  The headliners get about 40 minutes.

When I saw K.T. Tunstall was playing, I assumed she would get 20 minutes–how could she be a headliner? Didn’t she have one hit like a decade ago with “Suddenly I See.”

But there she was with a 45 minute set.  I wondered why.  Possibly because she was playing World Cafe Live again the next night for a full show.  Or possibly because she had a huge hit that I didn’t realize was hers.

Tunstall was by herself on stage.  She had a guitar, a drum machine of some sort, a looping pedal and a kazoo.  Having a lengthy set also allowed for a looser, more talkative set.  She is very funny, bold, foul-mouthed (in the best Scottish way) and smart.

As the last night at NON-COMM was winding down, K.T. Tunstall was able to give the crowd one last hoorah. Tunstall’s set mixed the old and the new nicely, playing anything from covers and mashups to her most recognizable hits.

Tunstall started the set with “Little Red Thread,” the opener to her most recent release Wax. The tune was carried by Tunstall’s percussive guitar tapping and tambourine playing, and it sure got the crowd going.

It had a four note heavy riff with some echoey chords that propel the song.  After two verses she messes something up and says, “that’s a really shitty way to start,” but jumps right back in.

She liked playing the new song but then says, “Let’s trustfall into something familiar.”   She asked if anyone had a long-distance relationship.  “It’s a really fucking bad idea.  It’s good sex; it’s just not regular.”  This was an introduction to the quieter “Other Side of the World” off of her 2004 debut Eye to the Telescope.  The song opens with looping quiet percussion and her raspy voice singing over a gentle acoustic guitar.

“Backlash & Vinegar” is about someone trying to keep you down.  It stays quiet with just her guitar and voice.

She recalled going to a karaoke bar drunk with friends and looking for “Faith” by George Michael which they didn’t have.  WTF?!  The friend she was with said there was a song there that she knew all the words to.  It was her song!  What song was it?  There’s a bit more story.

When she first came to the States she performed her first shows inside Barnes & Noble stores. They close at 8 so you have to play at 7.  There were multiple hot women dressed like Jane Fonda.  Finally she asked a woman why she looked like Lydia from Fame.  She replied (in Tunstall’s great “American” accent: “Honey.  You don’t know? You’re huge in Jazzercise.”

So she plays her jazzercise hit “Black Horse And A Cherry Tree.”  This was the massive hit (and it was a massive hit because I’d heard it everywhere) that I had no idea was by her.  It starts immediately recognizably with the looped “who-hoo / whoo-hoo” and if that doesn’t remind you of the song, the chorus is “No no / no no no no / no no / you’re not the one for me.” It sounded sport on.

She ends the song with a kazoo (!) rendition of White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” which she looped in the backgroud of the end of her song.

Up next is “The River” which is about taking a spiritual shower and washing the world from our brains.  It’s a catchy folk song that could easily have been a Starbucks hit (and maybe it was).

She then teaches everyone a Scottish word: “jobby” it means “shit.”  It’s like the name of the poo emoji.  She wrote this song as an antidote to when you have a nice pair of white high tops and just out of nowhere you step in a really big jobby.  It’s the kind you cant get off with a stick and you have to go into a meeting with the jobby–it’s a metaphor for life.  You can smell it, other people can smell it.  And what you need is a song to get you through.

This is the intro to “Feel It All,” a catchy simple guitar riff and a quiet vocal line.   I don’t know what these songs sound like on records but they translate into pretty folks songs here.

She felt like with everything going on (a lot of abortion bans being proposed), she needed a cover by a master.

Tunstall banged away as she sang a fantastic cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” mixing in percussive elements with her thrilling vocals once again.
a rocking raw version

She said she likes to be a purveyor of joy but she needs to speak up.  She dedicates this song to all the women who have achieved incredible things in their lives.  And one of the reasons they’ve been able to achieve it is because they and their partners have had reproductive rights .   This song is meant to give strength to any woman who might have it taken away.

And there was the song I knew from her: “Suddenly I See.”  She started the song, a shuffling rocker, and said, “Every songwriter is like a juicer. You put a few things in and you hope it doesn’t come out brown and weird. This is what happened when I listened to Patti Smith and Bo Diddley on the same day.”

I never would have thought that on my own, but I sure hear it this time.  The song sounds just like I remember it.  Her shockingly un-Scottish-sounding vocals and a super catchy chorus.

I’m glad she got a 45 minute set, it was a great re-introduction to someone I liked a while ago.

[READ: June 1, 2019] “The Smoker”

I don’t understand the title of this story, but I really enjoyed it’s odd revelations.

Douglas Kerchek is a teacher of 12th grade A.P. English at a prestigious all-girls Catholic school in New York City.

Nicole Bonner was a standout student.  He had already written her a recommendation for Princeton.

She read an entire novel every night and retained what she read.  When he proposed a pop quiz, instead of answering the questions, she wrote the entire first page of Moby Dick verbatim.

Although at the end of a recent essay, she had attached a note saying she had noticed the bruise on his ankle and wondered what he had banged it on. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: O.C.-Tiny Desk Concert #732 (April 18, 2018).

This is where I get to complain again that The Breeders had three songs when O.C. [Omar “O.C.” Credle], whom I have never heard of (although he is apparently a classic) gets five songs in nearly 19 minutes.  Bogus.

As a member of Brooklyn rap collective Diggin’ In The Crates, Omar Credle, aka O.C., helped shape what was known as the golden age of 1990s rap. Marked by loops sourced from jazz recordings and lyrics rooted in one-upmanship, O.C’s two ’90s albums made him a rapper’s rapper, an underground star.

I’ve never heard of him but he is sure confident in his crew’s impact (which seems about right I guess.  It’s interesting that they were known for sampling, but they have a live band.  The band sounds fantastic by the way.

O.C. was joined at his Tiny Desk by Soul’D U Out, a jazz ensemble led by Grammy-winning trumpeter Maurice “Mobetta” Brown. The live instrumentation replicated the sample-heavy original recordings perfectly.

They mostly play old songs, but they start with a new one: “New Day,” from O.C.’s 2017 album which features young R&B singer Tay Bell on the hook.  Bell’s vocals are quite high-pitched.  I thought he was a woman at first (just hearing him, not seeing him).  But his voice adds a great fullness to the song.  That live trumpet is amazing, as is the quiet fuzzy guitar from Marcus Machado that runs throughout the song.

He says he wants to get into the old stuff.  He asks, “How many over 45?”  A woman replied, “Oh, that’s wrong.”  He laughs and says, “I’m only 23.”

The rest of the set was vintage cuts from O.C.’s heyday. “Day One,” a D.I.T.C. posse cut, featured emcee and producer Lord Finesse.

Robert “Lord Finesse” Hall gets a verse, which he delivers with a great style I actually like his more than O.C.).  I also love the vibes even if they are only on keys (by Chris Robs).,  He says that the song is about “20 years of history.”  Referring to other rappers, he says, “we birthed a lot of them, they might not say it, but I will. without D.I.T.C, there’d be no digging n the record crates. ”  I seriously doubt that statement, but whatever.

Then O.C. treated the crowd to a version of “Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers” (the one and only song by him, Jeru The Damaja and Chubb Rock).

I was more impressed by the trumpet than anything else.  The sounds he gets at the end are amazing.

He had to fit in his seminal banger and arguably most popular song, “Time’s Up,” from Word…Life.

He says “I hated this record when I made it but people convinced me to do it.”  Huh.  I like the cool bass from Parker McAllister that runs through the song.

The finale got personal when O.C. relayed the importance of the song “Born 2 Live.” “This is dedicated to a friend of mine who got killed down in Baltimore,” he said. “Every time I do this record, it’s somber. … But it’s a celebration at the same time. So I’m a just party it out and have a good time with it.” With a little help from Soul’D U Out, we did, too.

I’m only a little disappointed that the drummer (Camau “Klutch” Bernstine, whose hair is awesome) didn’t get to show off a bit more. He was really solid but there was nothing fancy.

I’m not bummed that he got 20 minutes, because I enjoyed his set, but let some other folks go over time too!

[READ: April 17, 2018] “A Flawless Silence”

Yiyun Li is perhaps the most consistently enjoyable New Yorker author for me.  I love the pacing of her stories and I love the way she tackles large and small personal issues sometimes at the same time.

This story is about a woman, Min.  She grew up in China but moved to America when her now husband proposed to her. As the story begins, she is with her twin daughters in the car.  They are fighting , of course, until one of them says that Kevin, a boy in their class is a Republican.

How do they know?  Because the teacher instructed them to write to either presidential candidate and while everyone class wrote to Hilary Clinton, he chose to write a supportive letter to the male candidate (Yiyun Li uses his name but I don’t feel compelled to). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: A DIFFERENT KIND OF CHRISTMAS (1994).

This is one of the first alternative Christmas albums I bought.  I don’t listen to it that much because I tend to think it’s not that good (the cover is pretty uninspired).  But there’s actually quite a lot of good stuff on this.

SYD STRAW-“The Christmas Twist”
I’m happy to report that the “twist” is not some dark storyline, but an actual dance of The Twist.  Syd has written a Twist and it’s fun and dancey with plenty of Christmas lines to sing along to.  It’s a great opening track.

SHONEN KNIFE-“Space Christmas”
Shonen Knife does what they do best–short fast punky pop songs.  This one about a space Christmas, of course.

NRBQ-“A Christmas Wish”
I know this from the She & Him version.  I didn’t realize I had the original.  It’s sweet and cute with a really catchy and lovely melody in the “people all over the world” line.

BRUCE COCKBURN-“Mary Had A Baby”
This is one of those call and response songs that is very repetitive and goes on for too long.  If it was shorter it would be fun.

The dB’s-“Home For The Holidays”
This is kind of a stomping country song. It’s got a cool stomp stomp in the middle.  At under 3 minutes it’s just right.

SHELLYAN ORPHAN-“Ice” [NSFC]
I love the vocals and the song is quite pretty.  But this song is a downer (I don’t like Christmas anymore) and at over 5 minutes is not really good Christmas party music.

FISHBONE-“It’s A Wonderful Life”
Man I love this song.  It’s a super fun and dancey ska song that cites It’s a Wonderful Life and is just full of fun and pep.

POI DOG PONDERING-“Mele Kalikimaka”
It’s funny to hear this Hawaiian song done in this New Orleans brass style.  It’s a fun song regardless of who is doing it.

T-BONE BURNETT-“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”
This opens as a pretty instrumental version of this song on acoustic guitar and violin.  Lovely.  The vocals are fine, but I’d have preferred it with no words–the instrumentation was really striking,

TIMBUK 3-“All I Want For Christmas” [NSFC]
I really disliked Timbuk 3 back in the 1980s.  But I find their strange deliver to be reminiscent of X and I’m quite attracted to their style.  I like this song a lot. Although I can’t endorse a Christmas song about WWIII.  And I suppose lyrically, it’s a bit naive.  But the music is fantastic.

DAVE EDMUNDS-“Run, Rudolph Run”
I don;t know that anyone can get me to enjoy this song. Certainly not this vert standard version of it.

SHAWN COLVIN-“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
Shawn has a lovely voice and this song is delightful.  It’s a simple piano version with some gentle accompaniment.  Interestingly, this does not appear on her own Christmas album (see the 24th), probably because it might be too upbeat–she does get a bit carried away, vocally, by the end.

So there’s nothing stellar on this disc (except Fishbone), but it’s a solid collection of alternative versions of songs and a few solid originals.

[READ: October 19, 2017] Pashmina

I wanted to love this book so much.  It has so many awesome elements.  The black and white to color juxtapositions are wonderful.  The colors are gorgeous and Chanani’s drawing style is simple but charming and effective.

And I think wanting to like this book as much as I did is why I wound up not enjoying it as much as I wanted.

And that’s because it feel like there’s a lot left out of the book–I wanted it to be twice as long.

This story is about Priyanka, a young Indian-American girl.  She is raised by her mother (and knows literally nothing about her father–her mother won’t say a word about him). (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: GABRIEL GARZÓN MONTANO Tiny Desk Concert #623 (May 26, 2017)

I have no idea who Gabriel Garzón Montano is.  The blurb suggests that even if I don’t know, others certainly do.

I was, admittedly, thrown for a loop when Gabriel Garzón-Montano told me that he wanted to perform unaccompanied, just him and a piano. The meticulousness of his work is clear on his debut album, Jardin, a three-year creative process in which Gabriel plays most of the instruments, tracking them to two-inch tape, layering its overall sound. Jardin takes its title as an umbrella; fruits, bugs and other plants are the driving metaphors tying together this dense work, which blooms over successive listens. Garzón-Montano doesn’t necessarily wear his heart on his sleeve — he forces you to listen and peel the layers back.

Garzón-Montano’s career trajectory veers wide — living with Philip Glass for a year while his late mother played in the composer’s ensemble, sitting under the minimal maestro’s piano as he practiced; Lenny Kravitz making possible his first tour experience; while Drake exposed Gabriel’s sound to the masses.

That decision to go it alone at the Tiny Desk made sense, though, the moment he started to play; his talent is left elegantly exposed in this unadorned performance. He says his visit to the Tiny Desk “with just piano and vocal reminds me of what is lost when a song is fully produced and arranged — it was an exciting and vulnerable experience. I was nervous for this one.”

Here then, are three songs from Jardin, along with the song that introduced Gabriel to the world… laid bare.

When I listened to this the first time I thought he played 2 longish songs but indeed, there are 4 shortish songs.

I really love the piano sound he gets but the r&b style of pop singing is not my thing and so many “babys.”

I singled out a few things in the songs.  The line in “My Balloon” “I’ll get back on my balloon and meet my baby on the moon” I find endearing even if it is kinda dumb.  I enjoyed the way “Long Ears” came seamlessly from the first song.  It starts with a high note and falsetto vocals. It’s much more interesting than the first song.  And the second half of “Long Ears” is quite interesting, almost dissonant–although I could do without the you you you section.

I thought the first line of “6 8” was “fuck me real slowly,” which was disconcerting.  Especially since a later line was “I’m just like a baby drooling over you.”  But I believe it is “rock me real slowly.”  It segues cleanly into the final song, “Crawl.”  I think he stars in the same falsetto but then switches to a deeper voice.  I love the bouncy middle section that sounds like a musical.  Although once again there’s too much oo ooo ooo ooo.

All of those vocalizings sound especially flat during an under produced occasion such as this.

[READ: April 26, 2017] “You Are Happy?”

This story was fairly straightforward, but it opened up a cultural aspect that I had no idea about.

The main character is Laskshman, an Indian boy living in the United States.  As the story opens, we see Lakshman’s grandmother telling Lakshman’s father that he should break his wife’s arms and legs to prevent her from getting to the bottle.

Lakshman’s mother is an alcoholic, and, apparently, there is no greater disgrace for an Indian woman.  At parties–parties that were usually segregated–she often joined the men and drank and gave her opinions, to the disgust of all present.

She had begun drinking was Lakshman was 8 and they moved to America.   But by the time he was 9 she was drinking during dinner.  When he turned 11 she was drinking during the day.  His father had had enough.  He stated matter of factly that she was a drunkard.  Their marriage had been arranged and they never grew to love one another.  This certainly didn’t help. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_10_13Schossow.inddSOUNDTRACKDRUG CHURCH-“Deconstructing Snapcase” (2013).

drugchurchYesterday I commented about another Drug Church song by saying I liked this one better.  What’s interesting is that this one is thirty seconds longer but seems shorter.

The song opens with big loud aggressive guitars (kind of early Soundgarden), but the vocals, which are screamed, are brighter that their other song, providing a  nice contrast.  But the thing that made me like this song more than “YouTube” is the fast bright guitar bridge, in which the guitars ring out in contrast to the heavy opening chords–it gives the song a lot of dynamics.

There’s a guitar solo, which surprised me for some reason, but it breaks up the song and reintroduces some of the earlier riffs.  It’s a good heavy song.

[READ: June 18, 2013] “Brotherly Love”

Lahiri has the last and longest story in this New Yorker issue that’s chock full of stories.  This one is some fifteen pages and is part of a novel.

I was gripped instantly by the story.  But I am glad that it is part of a novel as I feel there were parts of the beginning that seemed extraneous without more story to follow.  Or should I say, if it was just a short story, it could have been shorter.  The story is about two brothers, Subhash and Udayan.  Subhash is older by fifteen months but Udayan is the far more daring one.  Subhash is cautious and does everything his parents say, while Udayan flouts the rules at every opportunity.

The first transgression we see is when they climb the wall into the country club, where locals are pretty much excluded.  They were told they could get golf balls, so they hopped the fence and took what they could.  They also marveled at the manicured lawns and the beauty around them.  They returned regularly until they were caught–but luckily for them they were not turned in. (more…)

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43SOUNDTRACK: IRON MAIDEN-Killers (1981).

killersKillers picks up right where Iron Maiden left off–indeed many of these songs were written at the same time as the first album.  The difference is new guitarist Adrian Smith.

It opens with the great (but simple) instrumental “Ides of March” which segues into the blistering “Wrathchild.”  And it’s on this song that you can tell some of the rawness has been removed from the recording.  The guitars sound a wee bit more polished.

And you can tell the band are getting a bit more symphonic with the bass harmonics that intro the wonderful “Murders in the Rue Morgue” a song that feels long but actually isn’t.  It has several parts that all seem to signal the end until Clive Burrs drums come pounding in to restart the song.  Very cool.  “Another Life” is another fast punky song, and while I like it, it is probably one of the weaker songs on the album.  But that’s okay because it is followed by one of Maidens greatest instrumentals–“Genghis Khan” which has beautiful symphonic soaring solos over a cool propulsive beat.

“Innocent Exile” opens with another great noisy slappy bass riff that only Harris was doing at the time.  “Killers” is a classic track: fast and yet complex, with a very cool riff.   “Twilight Zone” sees Di’Anno reaching for higher more operatic notes.  He makes it, but you can just tell that the band needs more from their vocalist.  “Prodigal Son” opens with a pretty acoustic guitar intro.  I used to like this song quite a bit (whatever Lamia is), but I can see that it’s actually quite long and meandering (maybe this one is more like “War Pigs”).  It’s pretty but could probably be a bit shorter.  “Purgatory” sounds like track off the first album–fast raw and punky with screaming riffs.  “Drifter” ends the disc with a cool bass line and some more thrashing.  It’s a solid ending for an album that overall works pretty well, but which kind of shows that the band had to either do something big on the next album or get stuck in a rut.

[READ: June 1, 2013] McSweeney’s #43

And with this issue I am almost all caught up with my McSweeney’s.  More impressively, I read this one only a few days after receiving it!

This issues comes with two small books.  And each book has a very cool fold-out/die cut cover (which is rather hard to close and which I was sure would get caught and therefore ripped on something but which hasn’t yet).  The first is a standard collection of letters and stories and the second is a collection of fiction from South Sudan.  Jointly they are a great collection of fiction and nonfiction, another solid effort from McSweeney’s.

Letters (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKSUPER FURRY ANIMALS-“Let the Wolves Howl at the Moon” (From the Basement) (2007).

[DISCLAIMER: This post was published on September 6th see that post for details].

Continuing this exploration of the From the Basement series, I found this unlikely video from Super Furry Animals.  SFA have never been big here (well, that had a fluke hit but that doesn’t count).  I have no real idea how big they’ve been back home.  So maybe it’s not a surprise that they are playing here.

SFA were a bunch of crazy psychedelic indie rockers.  Their early albums are totally nuts (like the EP Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyndrobwllantysiliogogogochynygofod (in space)).  But over the years, they have mellowed considerably. This song is the final track from Hey Venus!, an album that returned the Furries to their more rocking roots.  Despite the album’s overall rockingness, this song is the mellow ender to the album. 

This live version is very good, with Gruff Rhys sounding in fine form.  Visually, it’s more interesting than say Neil Hannon’s in that there are five of them, but they’re not exactly putting on a crazy show. What’s nice is the chance  to see just what the recording space looks like (there’s lots of wide shots) and to see just which hairy Welshmen are making which sounds. 

This is a wonderful song that could easily have been on anyone’s mellow folkie playlist.  The album version has a little bit more going on, but it’s not missed in this someowhat stripped down form. 

[READ: August 29, 2011] 3 Book Reviews

After last month’s tour de force about one title, this month returns to Zadie’s typical 3 books/month schedule.

The first book is Ian Thomson’s The Dead Yard: A Story of Modern Jamaica.  Zadie makes the amusing observation that this book, a very good and very well researched cultural study of Jamaica was written by a white Scotsman; she notes that a sense of remove from the culture was probably essential in order to create this book. 

Thomson offers historical context for the dangerous world that Jamaica occupies now (it’s not all “Jah, ganja mon” in the country.  In fact, five people are murdered every day (on this island of 3 million).  Fascinatingly, there is much racism in Jamaica—people seen as too black are often looked down upon in favor of lighter-skinned people.  Because of this, respect is very important.  Indeed, any kind of disrespect can cost you your life—just about everyone packs a gun (hence the stat above.  Of course this racism also may be why the Jewish, Indian and Chinese Jamaicans are thriving while the majority black are not.

Zadie says the only place where Thomson falls flat is in his utter dismissal of dancehall music (he likes reggae but can’t stand dancehall).  He dismisses Sean Paul and although Zadie’s not a huge fan of Sean Paul, she finds this dismissal a poor oversight possibly due more to his age (culture being a young person’s game) than anything else.  I especially enjoyed her dissection of one of Sean Paul’s videos. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TORI AMOS-Live from the Artist’s Den (2010).

I think my relationship with Tori Amos has come to an end.  I haven’t enjoyed her more recent albums all that much lately, but I was excited to see that this live and intimate set was on PBS.  After all, it was just her with a piano and what turned out to be a really cheesy organ.

I was pretty thrilled by the setlist, which goes all the way back to her debut album (with “Girl” and “China”).  I was even more excited to hear “Bells for Her” one of my favorite songs by her and even “Concertina” one of her more mellow tracks that worked well for this show which was primarily mellow songs.

There were a lot of newer songs which I don’t know that well, and a few newer songs which I know okay.   I don’t love her newer stuff, but I was even disappointed with the presentation of her older songs.  She has definitely taken on a new technique where she reeeeeaaaaaalllllllllyyyyy streeeeeeeeeeeetches the songs out. And, as I’ve complained on other recent posts, she mis-pronounces or mis-enunciates words that she used to say perfectly fine.  I find it maddening.

It took me two days to watch this 50 minute show because I kept falling asleep.  Gadzooks.

Now I totally respect an artist’s desire to change her songs.  Indeed, there are some live versions of her songs that I have enjoyed more than the originals.  But there’s something about the way these are drawn out that it feels like the life has been sucked from them.  The melody of “Ruby Through the Looking Glass” loses its impact when it is slowed down so much.

I’m also really disappointed with the synth that she chose.  Synthesizers can make any sound in the world, so why did they program this keyboard to play utterly anemic strings?  The conclusion of “Girl” which is so dramatic on record actually sounds worse with the thin washes than it would if it were played on just piano.

And as for the way she sings words now…  “Bells for Her” to give just one example, has her mangling the word “you” so that when she sings “not even you” we get something like “not even yaow” which I don’t understand.  I mean, listen to the awesome live version on To Venus and Back–she didn’t used to do that.  So wha happa?

I used to think that I liked her solo better.  I always enjoyed the little quiet time section of the concerts when she would play a song or two by herself.  But I feel like now, when she’s by herself, she loses any sense of editing.  The band seemed to keep her on pace.  And it’s a shame to see her drift so much.

Because Tori was an important part of my music youth, I’ll give her one more chance–she has a new album due out reasonably soon, but I’m not holding out much hope for it.   I think we may just be on very different planes of existence anymore.

[READ: July 19, 2011] Five Dials Number 17

The brevity of the Christmas issue is followed up by the somewhat longer Five Dials Number 17.  (This issue also has 7 pages of photos at the end of the issue).  I admit I didn’t know where Jaipur was (it’s sort of north west-ish in India, not terribly far from New Delhi).

This is also the first issue of 2011 (I’m nearly caught up!).  So the issue opens with New Year’s Resolutions.  The letter is also from editors, plural, for a change.

CRAIG TAYLOR & SIMON PROSSER-Letter from the Editors
The letter opens with some enjoyably self-deprecating comments about resolutions (and how they made theirs now, instead of at the end of the year).  But what I enjoyed most was the collective list of resolutions that the entire staff made.  They are listed as one person, which makes for wonderfully contradictory resolutions.  I was particularly pleased by: “stop making that face when my brother makes a suggestion.” (more…)

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