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Archive for the ‘Simone Heath’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SINGLE MOTHERS-“Marbles” (2014).

Single Mothers has been together in one way or another for years.  In fact their blurb says

Single Mothers broke up in 2009 and have been playing shows ever since.

I had not heard of this London, Ontario band until reading this story from Evan Redsky, so I wanted to find a song that he played on.  Their lineup was everchanging and as far as I can tell this album, Negative Qualities, is the only one he played bass on.

Negative Qualities has a classic punk sound with a twenty-first century production quality.  The songs are short and fast (most are around two minutes).

One of the more important things for a band like this is how the vocalist comes across.  Drew Thompson screams melodically and, more importantly, clearly enough that you can hear most of the words.

I picked this song, the second on the album because it opens with a great rumbling wall from bass from Redsky and this fantastic lyrical verse, bridge and chorus

She’s like
Blah, blah, blah, blah
Something ’bout McSweeney’s
Something ’bout her thesis
Something ’bout it’s meaning
Something ’bout whatever
Something like
“Why do you gotta be so mean?”

‘Cause I don’t care about your first editions
And I don’t care about your typewriter ribbons
I don’t care about your punctuation
Puncture wounds
That you’re trying to inflict me with

‘Cause I’m a hypocrite
And I’m okay with it
And I’m so self-aware
That it’s crippling
At least I don’t pretend my whole life’s held together by bookends

The whole album is really good.  While exploring their bandcamp site, I found their first EP (with longer songs and a slightly different sound) to also be excellent.

[READ: December 2019] “Smack Dab in the Metal”

The December 2019 issue of the West End Phoenix focused on Indigenous People.  Most of the writers were Indigenous and the news stories shone a light on Indigenous issues.  Much of the presence of Indigenous peoples is seen through their art–whether through beads, paint or sculpture, the images are often quite striking.  The issue even included a “colour me” page with a striking image from Taylor Cameron, a 23-year-old Anishinaabe artist from Saugeen First Nation (I can’t find an image online).

To a Polish person, the name Evan Redsky sounds Polish or Russian, but I can clearly see that it is not.

Redsky is a musician.  He has released some solo material, but he is perhaps best known as the bassist for Single Mothers.  That’s how this piece opens anyway.

He says in his later teens and early twenties he traveled the globe with this punk band (that I hadn’t heard of).

There’s nothing too unusual about a teenage boy being in a punk band.  But the fact that Redsky is Ojibway from Mississaugi First Nation in Northern Ontario is pretty unusual–especially in the punk/metal scene. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ERIN RAE-Tiny Desk Concert #867 (July 12, 2019).

Lars Gottrich is one of my favorite NPR personalities.  He picks some of my favorite loud music but he also loves a lot of quiet music.  So even though I have never seen Erin Rae, he has apparently seen her many times.

Every time I’ve seen Erin Rae live, she transforms her quiet storms into different hues of squalling introspection.

She opens with “Bad Mind.”  But before that,

Her performance at the Tiny Desk opens with a soft tide of ambient tones — both a way to ease into the song but also understand that life’s unease is ever-present.  Then a lilting acoustic melody introduces “Bad Mind,” a stunning statement of identity from a Nashville singer-songwriter who shares the secrets we keep close.

She’s joined here by Jerry Bernhardt, a treasured collaborator and a guitarist who knows how to play decorative but unobtrusive figures. He and drummer Dom Billet both appear on Putting On Airs, taking those arrangements and stretching them out at the Tiny Desk with Mellotron/Rhodes piano player Ben Tanner and bassist Joe Garner.

It’s a lovely melody and she avoids the dreaded country twang when she sings. In fact when Bernhardt and Billet sing along, their voices are pure folk gold.  Bernhardt introduces a quiet buzzing guitar solo which, along with the organ adds all kinds of neat sounds to this simple song.

Before the second song she says she and her sister used to make their own radio shows.  They were a big NPR family but she thought it meant Nashville Public Radio.

“Can’t Cut Loose” is a song about letting go of things that aren’t good for you anymore.  Its’a quiet slow song with a pretty chorus.

The Tiny Desk closes with “the summer jam,” as Erin Rae jokingly calls “Love Like Before,”

She says it’s their most upbeat song, although that is all relative.  It’s about learning to be content wherever you may be.

It’s definitely a bit more upbeat but it’s still a slow and thoughtful song.

I won’t be going to see Erin Rae, but I did enjoy this mellow little Concert.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Radio Summer”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

2003:  Here’s another summer job story.  But this one is actually a happy summer job story.

Abdelmahmoud says that normally you want a summer job that starts in the evening so you can sleep in.  But there was one job worth getting up at 8AM for: being the summer DJ at CKVI 91.9 FM in Kingston.

It was part of a school program and for the summer he was the only DJ there from 8AM to 4PM.  You want jazz? Sure! A ska show from 2-3? Sure!

This was a dream job and one lucky person got it each summer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LUCKY DAYE-Tiny Desk Concert #852 (May 28, 2019).

I watched the Raphael Saadiq Tiny Desk Concert where he brought out Lucky Daye before watching this one.

I might have appreciated Lucky Daye’s guest spot more had I seen this first.  I wound up liking him quite a bit in this Concert.

In the blurb Sidney Madden writes:

NPR Music’s Bobby Carter and I have been checking for Lucky Daye since last year when we dubbed him one of the “Kings of R&B.” Then, after seeing Lucky perform live in Washington D.C., we knew his charisma and control would translate well to the Tiny Desk.

This set is fun for all of the horns that are included (which we’ll chalk up to his hailing from New Orleans).  I feel like the horns give the songs more excitement than if they hadn’t been there.

Hailing from New Orleans and inheriting a love of sticky, bass-bumping funk early on, Lucky wanted to bring the full flavor of his debut album, Painted to NPR. So he brought along a 10-person band, including a quartet of horns.

“Roll Some Mo” opens with a quiet guitar from Kenji Chan and twinkling keys from Quintin “Q” Gulledge.  There’s a soft cymbal escalation from Kendall Lewis when a cool bass line comes in from Daye’s go-to producer Dernst “D’Mile” Emile II.

The horns are quiet as the song starts.  The camera seems to really like trumpeter Crystal “RØVÉL” Torres as it zooms in on her a bunch.  Brandyn Phillips on trumpet and flugel gets some screen time too.  There’s not a ton of differentiation between the horns–no solos or anything.  But once in awhile you can pick out Chris Johnson on trombone and Corbin Jones on baritone sax.

Nikki Flores does the first backing vocal part but then Chelsea “Peaches” West adds a lot to the call and response.

“Misunderstood” is a quiet song with keys and Crystal “RØVÉL” Torres playing a muted trumpet.  This is my least favorite song because of the way he sings it–all of that moaning and ohhing is not my thing.  I don’t care for an R&B ballad, obviously.  But he won me over after the song.

“I’ve never performed that song in front of anyone with a band,” he said, trying to laugh off mid-set jitters and bask in the moment. “This is amazing, y’all. I’m really grateful.”

The final song, “Late Night” is a lot of fun.  It starts with some great wah wah guitar with horns and vocal hits.  I like the way his sings this song much better—deeper vocals and some fun backing vocals.

The end of this song with the horns swinging and singers singing is really fun.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “First Time”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1998

This story is mostly visual.  Because there’s not a lot of text.

Grade 11.  A daily bus ride.  A beautiful girl.

He wore a school uniform (grey pants, green cardigan).

She had long straight hair, amazing eyes and was always alone.  She was out of his league. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STING AND SHAGGY-Tiny Desk Concert #866 (July 10, 2019).

Sting is certainly one of the biggest names to play the Tiny Desk Concert thus far (even if his star has probably faded somewhat).  I was surprised to see him here. And also surprised to see him with Shaggy, a singer I don’t know all that much about.

Sting and Shaggy might not be the most likely musical pairing. But one thing is certain, they love playing each other’s music. On a bright autumn morning, the legends arrived at the NPR Music office bleary-eyed yet excited to play for the diverse staff of Shaggy and Sting fans. What surprised many of my NPR colleagues is just how well the collaboration works.

I don’t know if they have done more together besides this, but they certainly sound familiar with each others work.  Well, the blurb suggests that they are or were touring together:

Shaggy affectionately refers to his collaborator as “Stingy,” putting his arm around him mid-performance. It’s easy to see the camaraderie that being on the road together affords these veteran musicians.

They open the set with “Englishman in New York” and Sting’s bass sounds great.  When he sings, he is so clearly Sting (even if he’s singing is slightly affected).  Dominic Miller strums Reggae offbeats on acoustic guitar.  Then Shaggy takes the second verse.

Shaggy (zoinks! – his nom de guerre comes from the Scooby-Doo cartoon character) was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He moved to New York when he was 18 and his music evokes only good vibes. The positive energy he brought to their opening song, “Englishman[and Jamaican]In New York,”had everyone in the room grinning ear to ear, “early morning Reggae style,” as he put it.

Shaggy adds this humorous verse:

I wear my colors in my back pocket / I got a big spliff in my hand /
and you might notice there’s swagger anytime I walk / I’m a Jamaican in New York.

Their voices sound great together especially as the end of the song soars unexpectedly.

After the tune, Sting announced “I never sang that song before 8 PM… Ever!”

Up next is “Don’t Make Me Wait,” a song I don’t know.  Sting plays a reggae bass line will Shaggy sings the first verses. The backing vocals from Gene Noble and Melissa Musique fill the chorus.  Then Sting takes the next verses.

The end is really funny as Shaggy tries to clap along with the backing singers but he gets lost and everyone laps.

The final song is a mash-up.  Dominic Miller co-wrote “Shape Of My Heart” which is mashed-up with Juice Wrld’s “Lucid Dream.”  “Shape of My Heart” sounds familiar–or at least sounds like a pretty typical Sting song.  Since I don’t know either song, I didn’t realize that Gene Noble was singing the lead of “Lucid Dream” within “Shape.”  Miller and Sting plays the same melody all the way through.  Noble has a nice voice, but I don’t like the way he sings.  Shaggy takes a verse.

This is an unlikely collaboration, but it works very well.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Diamond Monkey”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1995: This is another story about a summer job opportunity–one that promised much but delivered little.

This time the job opportunity was working the diamond mines in Yellowknife, Canada.  Heidi and her friends were driving up from Montreal.

This was pre-cell phone, pre-internet, pre-everything.  They squatted in grubby trailers playing cards.  What else was there to do?  Drink beers of course.

But you never wanted to go outside to pee, even after four beers because 20 seconds of dropped pants equaled at least three times that number in angry northern mosquito bites. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LADAMA-Tiny Desk Concert #853 (May 30, 2019).

There’s a lot to like in this Tiny Desk, but I am immediately drawn to Mafer Bandola’s  bandola llanera.  Is it see through?  Is it hollow?  I have so many questions.

Some of which are answered in the blurb.

But what might be even more interesting than the instruments is the international makeup of the band.

During the course of their performance behind the desk, the four core members of LADAMA — Lara Klaus, Daniela Serna, Mafer Bandola and Sara Lucas — had a chance to display their individual cultural and musical roots as part of an engaging and mesmerizing whole. Represented in glorious musical virtuosity are Brazil (Lara Klaus), Colombia (Daniela Serna) and Venezuela (Mafer Bandola), with a dash of New York City (Sara Lucas and bassist Pat Swoboda) thrown in just to make it interesting.

Not to mention all four of them sing lead.

“Sin Ataduras” opens with great sounds from the bandola llanera and some really great bass work Pat Swoboda.  Daniela Serna sings, almost raps, the lead vocals.  The song is catchy with a middle parts that’s all rim shots from Lara Klaus and clap alongs.  Then Sara Lucas adds a little guitar work, but it’s Mafer Bandola’s solo that’s really fantastic.

For the second song, “Elo” Lara Klaus plays the pandeiro and it’s amazing how much sound a little tambourine-looking drum can make.  She also sings lead–a very different vocal style.  Daniela Serna moved over to the congas and the tambor alegre.  Mafer Bandola switches to a more traditional-looking bandola llanera but still plays some amazing leads.

Throughout the songs, Sara Lucas plays quiet electric guitar that acts a foundation to lead bandola.  Incidentally, Mafer Bandola is a stage name (I assume Mafer is her first names put together).  Her real name is Maria Fernanda Gonzalez.

“Tierra Tiembla” is a much slower ballad.  Sarah Lucas sings lead (in Spanish).  Has a slow, smooth rhythm with nice echoing sounds form the bandola.  Sara Lucas sings lead on this one.  Lara Klaus is back on the kit, so with her and Daniela on congas, there’s a lot of percussion.   Mafer plays some nice lead lines and everyone sings delicate backing vocals.

The final song is “Inmigrante”  this song is for everybody–para todos inmigrantes–we are all immigrants.

It’s the fiery “Inmigrante” that finally raised the BPM meter and got hips swaying in our corner of NPR’s HQ, with its call-and-response back-and-forth and a very enthusiastic audience. T

Mafer Bandola sings this last song.  The bandola is a echoed and very cool sounding as she plays an excellent riff.  The drums are mostly hi-hat while the congas supply most of the percussion.  Sara Lucas puts down her guitar to play the raspa.

The song ends with a clap along and some fast and furious congas from Daniela.

This is yet another great Spanish-language band that enjoyed quite a lot.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “A Love Story”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1992: This is the story of tree planting and romance.  Claudia and her friend drove to the planting location with dreams of getting rich.

I have heard about tree planters from many different sources (it seems a very Canadian thing to do–I’m not even sure if people do there).  All sources suggest it is very hard, physically exhausting and pays little.  No matter how romantic the idea sounds, it’s not a fun job.

Claudia adds to this idea and includes that they slept in tents and were sleeping in an area where bears traveled.  They could hear the bears every night but the experience planters assured them they were safe (how does anyone do this long enough to become experienced?). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: IDLES-Tiny Desk Concert #858 (June 28, 2019).

I had heard of Idles from All Songs Considered.  On the podcast, Bob Boilen raved about seeing them live.  Like this:

My first time seeing IDLES ended with guitarist Mark “Bobo” Bowen frenetically dancing on a bar, his guitar still keeping time, until the swinging neck suddenly shattered some low-hanging, glass lighting fixtures. The band’s set at South by Southwest was fierce and I knew it’d be a challenge trying to figure out how to bring that cathartic rage behind my desk. There was talk for a while of some members of the band strapping on pocket-sized guitar amps and beating on a single drum. But a week before this bunch of British madmen arrived at NPR, the instrument list had grown and what ensued was just about the loudest, most fun and most raucous Tiny Desk Concert in memory.

This is all true, for sure.  But this Tiny Desk, as amazing as it is, doesn’t come close to showing how incredible their live show is.   Idles live is a truly unforgettable experience.

However, seeing all of that energy and fun contained in a small place is awesome and this is one of my favorite Tiny Concerts as well.

The first song “Never Fight A Man With A Perm” opens with a siren sound from keyboardist Jeremy Snyder and the main constant of Idles’ music–steady bass from Adam Devonshire.  Add in the thumping drums from Jon Beavis and you have the ground work for Joe Talbot to start his singing/yelling.

The band also has two guitarists.  Mark “Bobo” Bowen thumps on the floor tom while Lee Kiernan jumps around, slashing at chords.

The title sounds funny and it is, but the song is a serious indictment of male aggression.

What lead singer Joe Talbot and his mates bring to their shows is a mix of love and outrage. Their songs are often bursts of fury, but the message is insightful and not intended to incite. Joe Talbot says their opening Tiny Desk song, “Never Fight A Man With A Perm,” from their album Joy as an Act of Resistance, is an “exploration of the horrid corners of my past.”

The chorus of “concrete and leather” thumps around before the song returns to the verses, with some cockney slang:

Brylcreem
Creatine
And a bag of Charlie Sheen

A heathen from Eton
On a bag of Michael Keaton

Bobo is a ton of fun to watch–shirtless, wearing American flag spandex pants, he climbs on everything: amps, desks, and other unseen things.

“Mercedes Marxist” starts with a thumping single bass note which will remain unchanged for two and a half minutes.  Snyder takes over on the floor tom while Bobo and Lee trade off guitar sections.

The song is almost entirely that one bass note (with all kinds of guitar melodies and riffs swirling around it).  Until a big chorus comes near the end.  Through it all,  Talbot is directing the fun with his scary vocals.

It only took a few seconds for Joe’s face to turn blood-red; as he growled, it stayed that way for the next 13-minutes, even as he curtseyed at the end of the first song and bounced his way into the second.

The one thing that this Tiny Desk misses is Talbot’s love and generosity.

Despite his tone and the roughness of the music, his kindness and consideration is paramount to the band.  Hearing him wish nothing but love on everyone is a pretty wonderful feeling especially after he sings “dirty rotten filthy scum.”

“We are not the Jonas Brothers,” Joe Talbot explained before their final tune. “People get confused.” He said this with his charming smile and began to run in place while singing “I’m Scum,” just to make it clear who they are.

Before the songs, he asks, what song are we doing?  Someone says “Scum.”  He smiles, “I like this song.”  Before it even starts he begins running in place, knees high as he chants “hey! hey!”  The energy of this band is incredible and certainly hard to contain.

 watching the hyperactive movements in this confined space, it’s actually hard to believe that so few things broke.

Mid song Bobo leaves the desk area to grab someone on the crowd.  He gives her percussion instruments to bang. Then Bobo grabs somebody else and he takes over percussion as well.    Then Bono crawls around on his knees, climbs on the desk and is having a great time.  As is everyone else.

I thanks All Songs Considered all the time for the band they’ve introduced me to, but Idles might be the best find ever.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “A Crowded Memory”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1988: This story is written in paragraphs with drawings in between.

It is the story of a 7 year-old girl going to Hong king for the first time.

She was spending a month in Hong Kong without her immediately family.  She would be living with her Nai-nai and Gong-gong.

The place was total culture shock.  She had never heard only Cantonese before. She had never seen so many Chines people.  There were street vendors and apartments and the colors and smells were overwhelming.  Everything feels to loud, too big and too hot. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TASHA COBBS LEONARD-Tiny Desk Concert #860 (June 24, 2019).

Tasha Cobbs Leonard tells the crowd we’re gonna do some worship songs–gonna go to church some.  Everyone is wearing blue except Tasha who is in a very colorful outfit.  She is “regarded as one of the best gospel singers performing today — she’s won numerous awards, including a Grammy.”

“Break Every Chain” has the opening lyrics: There is power in the name of Jesus.”  It opens with David Williams II playing keys and after a verse or two Wellington “Boo” Britt adds some simple drums.

Her backing vocalists Kennya Miller, Breona Lawrence, and Emoni Robinson sound fantastic–adding a wonderful chorus.

After the first chorus Archie “Snoop” Pearson adds some bass and the whole song feels full.

Her Tiny Desk set started out with one of her favorite songs and her most popular tune, “Break Every Chain,” an anthem that reminds many of us that “there is power in the name of Jesus.”

Tasha gives a little preach about God’s plan for everyone before the next song

“You Know My Name,” is one Cobbs Leonard wrote a few years ago with South African musician and friend, Brenton Brown.

This songs starts out as a ballad with just guitar from Benjamin Forehand and voices.

I like the way Tasha was brought to the Tiny Desk:

I first saw Tasha Cobbs Leonard sing live in my church’s 4,000-seat sanctuary. Her voice easily powered-over the PA system and I was amazed by how well I could hear its beautiful resonance and clarity.

The final song is “The River of the Lord,”

a country-influenced tune, written by her husband, musical director and producer, Kenneth Leonard, along with some of their friends. Originally from Jesup, Georgia, Cobbs Leonard explained that “where I’m from, this is called a hand-clapping, foot-stomping, church song. We’re going to clap a little bit, put a smile on our faces and celebrate the river and the joy of the Lord.”

I grew up listening to religious music that was pretty bland and people who didn’t seem to like singing it.  But I can see why people get into gospel music.  Music that’s this fun–even religious music–is really enjoyable..

[READ: July 1, 2019] “First Powwow”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1983: Waubgeshig and his family traveled more than 300 kilometers from Wasauksing to Mississaugas for his first powwow.

He doesn’t remember the journey or arriving.  He really only remembers the sound of the big drum.

The beat echoed in his chest and he was thrilled at the colors of the people dancing around the drum. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BETTY WHO-Tiny Desk Concert #861 (June 26, 2019).

I had never heard of Betty Who before this show and my word did she win me over.  She is so much fun, so entertaining that it makes me want to explore her music (and maybe even see her live show).

However,  Betty Who is an Australian cellist who plays dance pop music.

Her third LP, Betty, falls squarely in the … sun’s-out, buns-out pop genre.

I suspect that as with most of the pop stars who play quietly at Tiny Desk, I will probably much prefer these version to the original–so maybe I should just leave it here.

Some background

She grew up in Sydney, Australia, and started playing [cello] at the age of four (just like Yo-Yo Ma). Maybe it had something to do with her mom being in the room, but emotions ran high for the charismatic and chatty singer. “I didn’t want to be the girl who played cello and sang,” she told the crowd gathered to watch. “‘Cause that girl feels really far away from ass-out, sparkle-covered pop-star me.”

I would not have guessed her pop star ambitions as the first song starts with just her voice and cello.

When all the studio production is stripped away, what’s left are intricate melodies that soar through Betty’s impressive vocal range and relatable lyrics. As the audio engineer for the Tiny Desk concert series [Josh Rogosin], I’m always curious how the vocals will translate without the aid of pitch correction and tons of effects you hear on the album. I’m a sucker for great melody and Betty Who’s raw vocal performance at her Tiny Desk had me in a state of aural ecstasy.

It sounds fantastic.

She plucks the cello for the beginning.  She has a terrific voice, although she sings a little too pop for my full appreciation.  After the first verse, Myla Bocage adds some keyboard notes to flesh out the song.  After another verse, Jemila Dunham adds some cool bass lines.  Her bass throughout the show is pretty excellent.

After a chorus or two, she throws in a bowed cello solo which works perfectly (and sounds great of course).

After the song she is so bouncy and bright and energetic.

She tells us that she always wanted to be a pop star–she likes sparkles and have her ass out.  She wanted to be the love child of Beyonce and Britney Spears.  But she studied classical music since she was little.  She says, “I told myself I would commit to pop star life and dance and do what I always wanted to do and make that vision come true.  And then one day I’d just whip out my cello and say oh P.S. By the way.…  And this is the first time I’ve been able to do this.”

One of my favorite things about Tiny Desk concerts is that artists are often inspired to experiment. Betty Who was in town recently for a three-night residency at D.C.’s famed 9:30 Club where her sound was larger than life. The subwoofers cranked out backing tracks you could feel in your gut and dancers flanked the pop star, punctuating every pulsating beat. But she began her Tiny Desk performance with only her cello and her voice — the first time she’s ever accompanied one of her original songs with the instrument.

Song two is “Friend Like Me,” which is one of her favorite songs she’s written.

She wanted to wrote a song that said, I love you but you make me fucking crazy and I want to punch you in the face or I love you so much but you’re your own worst enemy and you’re taking yourself down.

It’s just her on the acoustic guitar and her voice is really lovely (less loud and poppy)  After a couple of verses Bocage adds some keyboard twinkles.  Some bass fleshes out the song, but it remains a very pretty ballad.

Before the final song, “I Remember,” she introduces the band and says “Ian Barnett on the [drum] pad.  You should come see us, he does much more than this.”

Betty Who says she dreamed of having a Tiny Desk concert ever since she was a teenager. She chose to end hers by asking everyone to sing along to the track, “I Remember.”

Dancing under the stars
Kissing you in the dark
I remember your love, oh
Never giving you up, giving you up, oh.

I love that she gives hand motions and massive encouragement as she teaches everyone the words.  She says she has three plants in the audience.  They’re going to sing loud and you can all mumble along if you want.

She says this song is about real couples “not kind of Instagram we love each other so much.  People who don’t fight, ick, what is that.  The best couples know each other the best and can push each other’s buttons.  It’s an amazing feeling to love someone so much but also want to strangle the life out of them,  They make you the most crazy, but that’s what makes you love them so much.

Betty’s reaction to their singing is wonderful.

She’s great and I hope she starts selling bigger venues.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Bad Dream Job”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1978: Dave Bidini got his first job working in a record store at the Albion Mall (made famous (to me) in the Rheostatics’ song “Jesus Was Once a Teenager Too”).

It was a dream job–that’s where he bought his 45s and LPs.  It was right across from an Orange Julius! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SAINT SISTER-Tiny Desk Concert #863 (July 3, 2019).

The first surprise from Saint Sister is the harp.  The second surprise comes when you realize that Saint Sister’s music isn’t going to be traditional harp-centric folk songs.

The third is when Morgan Macintyr speaks after the first song and she has a pretty heavy Irish accent.

It’s a surprise because their voices are angelic and accent-free while they sing their pretty songs.

Saint Sister makes the sort of music I’ve been fascinated with for much of my life, music that mixes the organic with the electronic. In this case, the organic sounds come from that Dusty Strings harp and the harmonies of Gemma Doherty and Morgan Macintyre, with electronics performed on keyboards by Morgan and Dek Hynes, and the mostly digital drums of Shane Gough.

So, yes, even if the harp is the centerpiece (“[when] Gemma Doherty pulled her 34-string lever harp from the band’s vehicle; it seemed bigger than all of us”) the rest of the band fleshes out the harp with waves of synths and percussion.

Causing Trouble” opens with single harp notes and echoing drums.  Then Gemma and Morgan start singing and their voices blend beautifully.

You can tell the Irish connection in the lyrics of this song:

We danced from Belfast to the Basin
When you sang, “And it stoned me”
Well it stoned me

“Shape of Silence” is a short instrumental made up of unearthly sounds and voices as Gemma plays a lovely harp melody.  It’s about a minute long and segues into “Is It Too Early? (Kilmainham).”  They sing in a kind of staccato style (and remind me a bit of Lily & Madeleine here).  There’s no much harp in the verses–it’s almost a dance song, but when the synths fade off, the harp returns and sounds even lovelier somehow.

For “The Mater” Dek and Shane leave so it is only Gemma and Morgan.  This song is quieter with just the harp and their voices.

Although the melding of harp and electronics is cool, they sound beautiful with just harp and voices.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “The Not-Okay Corral”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

This story is told in comic book style with panels.

1976: If you are Janet, when you are ten years old, the worst thing about horseback riding camp is the horses.  They are massive and muscular and totally in charge.

Much of the camp seemed to be about teaching the horse who was boss. When the kids were told to walk the horses around the ring, that was okay, even if Janet was clearly letting the horse lead.  But when they left the ring to return to the paddock, the horse let Janet know who was actually in charge.  It stopped following the horse in front of it and stopped to eat some grass. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LARAAJI-Tiny Desk Concert #846 (May 2, 2019).

Who is Laraaji?

I had no idea, and yet, it seems like I should.

40 years ago … Brian Eno produced an ambient album of his music called Ambient 3: Day of Radiance as part of a series of ambient records from Eno that began with 1978’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports. Edward Larry Gordon, now known as Laraaji, was a comedian as well as a musician. I suppose that explains the laughter as part of his meditative and therapeutic music. Laraaji is now in his mid-70s, has released over 50 recordings as well as an abundance of sound-healing sessions.

Laraaji and his musical partner Arji “OceAnanda” Cakouros (“draped in loose-fitted, saffron-tinted clothes, with a table draped in a similar orange fabric — almost the tones of a setting sun”) play an uninterrupted 15 minutes of chillout, which they call “12345678…”

It begins with a small bell, a set of tiny wind chimes and a plucked, angelic zither sounding much like a harp.

Laraaji plays the electric autoharp/zither and has a cool swirling echoing effect on it.  Meanwhile OceAnanda has all manner of percussion at her disposal, including, chimes, shakers, and most surprising, and iPad synth (but that comes later).

The opening is incredibly soothing with just chimes and the autoharp  Laraaji uses a pick and his fingers to create notes and chords.  With the delay on it, it is incredibly chill.

After about two minutes OceAnanda plays some notes on the iPad.  Then around 3 and a half minutes Laraaji picks up drum stick brushes and begins gentle tapping the autoharp.  OceAnanda plays the kalimba, which is a little too loud, but still works nicely.

Then Laraaji began to laugh. I smiled. (His laugh is infectious). Then more of us in the office smiled as he brushed rhythms on his zither and processed the sounds to add delay and intensify the hypnotic pulse.

I agree that his laugh is infectious, but I found it so jarring that his laughter turned into him singing.  Rather than it being fifteen minutes of blissful chill out, it was now a song with words–even if the words were meaningless, or very familiar.  He sang “12345678” and “lum lum lum lum lumalum la”

But since the majority of the song has him singing over it, I soon got used to it and allowed it to wash over me as well.  But, really his voice definitely brings you out of the headspace you’ve created for yourself.  Even if his laugh is indeed infectious.

At seven and a half minutes OceAnanda starts playing a violin melody on the iPad and it works very nicely–slow and pretty with a melody that works, even if it is random.  After a couple minutes she changes the sound of the violin to a more synthy sound, which fits in even better.

With a few minutes left, OceAnanda switches to a shaker which works its own hypnotizing momentum.  And then for the end, she plays a bit more of  that violin iPad while Laraaji sings the words from “this little light of mine.”

And then it all fades and you come back to reality.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Bacon Fat”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1974: This is a short story about the summer that Michael’s family wanted to build a log cabin on a piece of land in Newfoundland.  It was a popular place and they had next door neighbors at the lake who built a log cabin in what seemed like a weekend.

His parents were from England. But his dad always wanted to be a cowboy and his mom always wanted to live in New York City.  So they settled on Newfoundland. (more…)

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