Archive for the ‘Ann Beattie’ Category


In Stuart David’s book, In The All-Night Café, he lists the songs on a mixtape that Stuart Murdoch gave to him when they first met.

Although I’ve been a fan of Belle & Sebastian for a long time, I knew almost none of the songs on this mixtape.  So, much like Stuart David, I’m listening to them for the first time trying to see how they inspire Stuart Murdoch.

In the book, David writes how much he does not like “rock,” especially music based around bluesy rock.  Most of these songs, accordingly, do not do that.  In fact, most of these songs are (unsurprisingly) soft and delicate.

I’ve been aware of the Young Marble Giants forever, and yet I apparently knew nothing about them.  Like that they only put out one album (how are the so influential?) or that they were from Wales.

Young Marble Giants were a trio: Philip Moxham on bass, Stuart Moxham on guitar and organ, Alison Statton on vocals.  Yup no drums.

The songs on the record are short and seem to focus around the basslines primarily.  It’s really quite an unusual presentation–quite lo-fi and very engaging.

This song (the 12th of 15 on the album) is 2 minutes long.  It features a simple guitar riff, with a some extra detailed notes sprinkled at the end of the main riff.  Then comes a four note bass riff, with a little hammer on at the end of the riff.  After a minute, Alison quietly sings along with the melody:

Think of salad days
They were folly and fun
They were good, they were young

She sings for 15 seconds and then it’s all music until the end.  The bass drops out with 30 seconds left and the guitar plays that same melody with a few picked notes to the end.

It’s simple and delightful.  And as the start of a mix tape, it speaks volumes.

[READ: January 21, 2021] “Find and Replace” 

This story is written as a true story.  But there are plenty of little comments in the story that show how easy it is to change something in a story–maybe make it untrue?

The narrator, Ann, says her father died in hospice on Christmas Day–the day that she had left the country.  Her family was not the kind who communicated every day.

Her mother was not demanding.  She was a friendly person and had a million friends (she still wrote cards to a maid who cleaned their hotel room fifteen years ago).

Ann flew to Florida, rented a car and drove to her mother’s house.  Her mother showed her letters that she hoped Ann would help her make decisions about.  The last one was from a neighbor named Drake who asked her to move in with him.

Ann assumed it was a joke.  Then assumed her mother would laugh it off.  But indeed, she had said yes.  They might even move to Tucson. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GOAT RODEO-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #73 (September 1, 2020).

Classical music is for serious people.  Yo-Yo Ma, probably the best known cellist in the world, must surely be a very serious fellow.  False!

Yo-Yo Ma is a hoot.  How do we know?  The first song of this set is called “Your Coffee Is a Disaster.”  And the name of the group is Goat Rodeo, after all.

Yo-Yo man formed this assemblage known as Goat Rodeo nearly ten years ago.  It consists of Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile and many other folks.

You’ve probably heard Stuart Duncan playing fiddle on albums with Dolly Parton, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, and he was named the Academy of Country Music Fiddle Player of the Year numerous times. Edgar Meyer has played bass with Joshua Bell, Béla Fleck and Christian McBride, and the Nashville Symphony commissioned his first orchestral work in 2017. And you’d most likely recognize Chris Thile’s vocals and mandolin in the music of Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers.

I really enjoyed their wild (yes wild) Tiny Desk Concert back in 2011.

Fast forward a decade and this collaboration channels that same spectacular frenzy, separately captured in the gorgeous homes of the artists and mixed to perfection.

Thile introduces the song by saying the band is often in the midst of a a coffee war: Yo-Yo, Stuart and Edgar prefer beans that were roasted in a volcano for maybe millions of years, while Aoife and I prefer beans that taste as though the were fashioned by angels.  We like good coffee.”

Up next is one of many inappropriate (not scandalous or anything) titles.  When we are not arguing about coffee we are punning.  This: “Waltz Whitman.”  It is a slow piece that feels a lot like the kind of music Punch Brothers play–where it is a fiddle, not a violin.  Although the middle section which has some gorgeous slow cello from Yo-Yo Ma makes this song transcendent.

They’re accompanied by songwriter Aoife O’Donovan, who lends her pitch-perfect vocals to close out the set. Chris Thile … explains that “The Trappings” is about work/life balance, a timely sentiment.  How the things you are doing impact the ones with whom you do them.  How your partners aide and hinder your efforts (and the humorous variations he describes).

“The Trappings” is a faster song and it’s got vocals!  Thile sings lead and there is wonderful backing vocals from O’Donovan and Duncan.  There’s fantastic cello trills from Yo-Yo Ma throughout.

It’s good til the last drop.

[READ: September 1, 2020] “That Last Odd Day in L.A.”

This story was really interesting.

We meet a man who goes by his last name, Keller.  His girlfriend calls him that, his ex-wife called him that, even his teenaged daughter calls him that.

His wife left him after she had a bit of a nervous breakdown–the squirrels had dug up her bulbs and that was the last straw.

The woman Keller has been seeing, Sigrid, is a travel agent.  She has a son and an ex-husband who has gone deep into animal rescue.  Keller and Sigrid recently had a first date and it was a disaster.  Although they are planning another date after Thanksgiving. (more…)

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20000 SOUNDTRACK: LOU REED-“A Gift” (1976).

reedThis “soft rock” song features a slow guitar song with shuffle beat as Reed speaks his mind.

There’s not a lot to the lyric (most of which are repeated a few times), but they are either really funny or really obnoxious depending on your take:

I’m just a gift to the women of this world

Responsibility sits so hard on my shoulder
Like a good wine, I’m better as I grow older, and now –
I’m just a gift to the women of this world
It’s hard to settle for second best
After you’ve had me, you know that you’ve had the best
And now you know that– I’m just a gift to the women of this world.

This song comes from his 1975 album Coney Island Baby. Apparently, many of the album’s songs were inspired by and dedicated to Reed’s girlfriend and muse at the time, a trans woman named Rachel Humphreys.  Well done Lou!

[READ: September 10, 2019] “The Women of This World”

Dale and Nelson are married and are living in a house while its owners, a philosophy professor and his wife, are in Munich until next year.  They chose this place away from it all because Nelson is writing a book.

It’s Thanksgiving and they are hosting Nelson’s stepfather, Jerome, and Jerome’s new girlfriend Brenda.

They did not come on Thanksgiving day became Jerome’s ex-wife (Nelsons mother), Didi was coming on Thanksgiving and they’d rather not see each other.

Nelson loved Jerome and felt indebted to him for arriving when Nelson was five and saving him from the life that Didi has planned for him.  Nelson admired Jerome and they still got along very well. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: WE ARE AUGUSTINES-“New Drink for the Old Drunk” (Field Recordings, September 5, 2012).

I have never heard of We Are Augustines (and I’m pretty amazed to see them referenced with Titus Andronicus as if they were big enough to be known back in 2012.  Were they?)

For this Field Recording [We Are Augustines: Somewhere Over The Mountain], the three guys are on top of a mountain outside of the Sasquatch! Music Festival (where it is very windy, they keep saying).

The singer starts singing a song (perhaps an improv) and the band joins in briefly.  Then with two guitars and a box drum, they move on to their song proper.

The Brooklyn band We Are Augustines wouldn’t seem to lend itself to windblown acoustic sing-alongs: The songs on 2011’s Rise Ye Sunken Shipssongs bellow and soar in the electric, anthemic spirit of, say, Titus Andronicus. But for this Field Recording, captured during the closest thing to a quiet moment at the 2012 Sasquatch! Music Festival, the trio strapped on acoustic guitars — and grabbed a box for percussion — long enough to perform a cover of Crooked Fingers’ “New Drink for the Old Drunk.”

This has a good raw powerful feel and their style suits an acoustic performance–of course, this is a cover, so I still know little about them.  They were able to drown out the actual Festival (not far away at all), which you can hear as the song comes to and end.

[READ: January 7, 2017] “Save a Horse Ride a Cowgirl”

I really enjoyed this story a lot although I found it hard to follow a bit.  This was primarily because the protagonist of the story is not the person who opens the story.

It opens with Sterne crashing his car into the car of two young girls, Heidi and Bree.  We stay at the scene for a few paragraphs and we soon learn that Sterne was not at fault–the girls had been texting while driving.

We find this out through Sterne’s brother, Bradley, a lawyer.  And this story s all about Bradley. (more…)

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314SOUNDTRACK: ANE BRUN-Tiny Desk Concert #518 (April 1, 2016).

aneAne Brun is a Norwegian singer who is currently based in Sweden.  She plays piano and guitar and has a pretty voice which reaches high notes but maintains a kind of rough rasp.  She says she had a terrible cold and this is her first day of singing.  She doesn’t trust her voice yet and she thanks everyone for being so quiet.

The three songs she sings are slow (a little too slow for my tastes).  The blurb says that these are the three slower songs on the album, so maybe I’d like them a bit more amid the other songs  This is not to say the songs are bad, just a little too mellow.

Having said that, the melody and vocal lines of “Still Waters’ are beautiful.  This is the one song she plays on the piano and it does sound rather different from the other two.

For “All We Want is Love” (which she describes as the ultimate love song, kind of), she plays a pretty, picked melody on the acoustic guitar.  But its clear that her voice is the main instrument here–and she hits some lovely notes in the repeated refrain of “All we want is love.”

“Signing Off” is the last track on the album.  It is a slow guitar song. The melody isn’t as immediate as the previous song, but her voice really does carry the tune nicely.  I wonder if her voice normally sounds like this or if the cold impacted her singing.

[READ: March 14, 2016] “For the Best”

I wasn’t that inspired by the previous story of Beattie’s that I read.  And I didn’t really love this one either.  I found it very slow going.

The story is about a man named Gerald, an older divorced man, who gets invited to a party.  His ex-wife, whom he has not seen in some thirty years will also be invited.

But the way this was revealed was kind of circuitous, I thought.

the Clavells weren’t the sort to play pranks, so the printed invitation to their annual Christmas party arrived after what Gerald and Charlotte’s son, Timothy, would call a “heads-up,” sent by e-mail, letting them know that both were invited to the event, at the Clavells’ apartment, on West Fifty-sixth Street. Gerald hadn’t seen Charlotte since their divorce, thirty-one years before, and this was the first time he’d seen her e-mail address. Whether she was on any social media he wouldn’t know, as he was not.

I enjoyed some of the oddly phrased ways the story was revealed (like that last sentence), but it took me a few tries to puzzle out if Gerald was the recipient or the sender oft he invite.  It’s a long first sentence, I guess.

I also enjoyed this follow-up sentence: “It was a rather jaunty message from the Clavells, who were not jaunty people.”  But I think that reading so much of the story like this is exhausting. (more…)

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ny2015SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Hamilton ON (February 24 2001).

hamiltonThis is a show that there is no real information about.  In fact, I have to wonder if it is actually from the date that it says because during the set someone (very casually, I think) mentions that their album came out today (it was released on October 23, 2001).  It is also really short (just over an hour) and is clearly not the entire show.  I assume the first half was lost, but it’s hard to know.

Despite the brevity, there is a great sound on the disc.  The first two songs sound amazing.  And “Stolen Car” is scorchingly good.

There’s a funny discussion about the washroom, which turns into a joke that the “washroom rocks.”  And there’s some wonderfully funny “ads” for Snapple, Marlboro “the smoke that hurts,” and even a Gibson “the guitar for depressed musicians.”  “Feed Yourself” is particularly long with lots of chatter in the middle and they joke about Martin playing with “millennium technology,” some gadget that makes his guitar sound different.

“Four Little Songs” has a very funny refrain about Martin’s “device” which they now call the robot dog–there’s even a silly riff at the end.

It’s a great show, even if it is brief and it’s a good collection of older songs (which is weird if their new album came out that day).

[READ: April 21, 2015] “Major Maybe”

This was the second short and breezy story I read this week, which was kind of fun.

This story is so simple, it’s even told quickly, as if the narrator just had to get it out.

“Major Maybe” is the name of a dog in her neighborhood.  She and her roommate Eagle Soars (his real name) are living in Chelsea in New York.  He is a wanna be actor and she helps him with his lines.

One day they were rehearsing in their usual spot in front of their building.  Their building was quite nice, the first floor resident was a therapist and he decked out the front stoop very nicely with flowers and chairs.  As they were rehearsing the red-haried homeless lady came by.  She was known to have good days and bad days  Today was a bad day. (more…)

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#16SOUNDTRACK: SUGAR-Beaster EP (1993).

beasterI didn’t know that Beaster, the Sugar EP was recorded at the same time as Copper Blue.  Mould’s biography was very helpful in explaining all the details of the timing and styling behind these two recording.  As well as how the super pop of Copper Blue could be followed right on the heels with the very very dark EP of Beaster.

I have often thought of this disc as being really dark and insular and Mould confirmed as much—he was really airing out some demons with this disc.  But they thought it would be better to put them all in one place rather having them bounce around the poppier full length.  What must fans (like myself) have thought to hear this dark album after the pop of Copper Blue.  I mean just look at the cover!

I hadn’t listened to this in a long time, so I was surprised by how cool “Come Around” sounds—Mould’s acoustic guitar high in the mix with some appropriately grungey guitars in the background.  There are lyrics but for the most part I think of it as just Mould making sounds with his mouth.

It’s followed by the blistering “Tilting.”  It’s got superfast drumming with aggressive guitars, it’s like we’re back to the early Hüsker Dü punk sound (with a little more clarity).  The drumming is great in this track.  The song ends with a preacher being interrupted by dissonance and what sounds like electronic interference. And this song morphs into “Judas Cradle” one of Mould’s darkest songs.  It’s very claustrophobic-feeling with echoed vocals, lots of feedback and lots of compression on the overall sound—quite different from the big open sound of Copper Blue.  And yet for all of that, the chorus, “Have you seen the Judas Cradle, ah”is really quite catchy.

“JC Auto” has some buzzsaw guitars which make it seem like it’s going to be quite an angry song and yet the bridge is quite welcoming (all this talk of holidays) and then the chorus is amazingly fun to sing along to (Mould always finds pop in anger): “Passing judgment on my life you never really got it right/I can’t believe in anything / I don’t believe in / Do you believe in anything / Do you believe me now…  Look like Jesus Christ / act like Jesus Christ I Know I Know I Know Here’s Your Jesus Christ I’m Your Jesus Christ I Know I Know I Know.”  And, as always, I love when Mould repeats his lyrics in the background (the “I Know I Know” surfaces throughout the end of the song).

“Feeling Better” has weird synth blasts that kind of works in the song but sounds out of place on this record.  This song flips between really aggressive guitars and a very bright poppy chorus.   At 6 minutes this song is a little long (because it’s primarily repeating itself by the end), whereas Judas Cradle and JC Autos’ 6 minutes are well justified.

The final song “Walking Away” is a strange one. It is comprised entirely of organs (church organ it sounds like) with Mould delicately singing “I’m walking away back to you”  The end starts to wobble giving a bit of a nauseous feeling but then it’s over.  So even in his most downtrodden and questioning, Mould still has the chops to write some great music.  Down be put off by the cover, Beaster is a great album.

[READ: March 28, 2013] McSweeney’s #16

After the fairly straightforward Issue 15, McSweeney’s was back to fun with Issue #16.  The issue opens up into a kind of quad gatefold which has , in order–a comb, a book, another book and a deck of cards.

The main book contains nine stories, by the typical McSweeney’s roster at the time.  The other booklet contains a lengthy story by Ann Beattie.  The deck of cards is for Robert Coover’s “Heart Suite” and the comb is a comb.  It’s a nice one, although it has never touched my hair.

The MAIN BOOKLET (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TOM WAITS-Nighthawks at the Diner (1975).

This is Waits’ third album, a live recording (!) which was actually recorded live in the studio. But not the way most bands record live in the studio. The producers brought in tables and chairs and created a bar-like atmosphere into the (evidently rather large) studio.  Then they invited fans in to watch the performance. Wild, man.

Just as wild is the bebopping and scatting that Waits does here. The opening “Emotional Weather Report” is all kinds of comical phrasing and silliness about himself.  It’s funny and quite enjoyable.  And it makes it feel like a nightclub.  He also introduces mos of his sings with a story, and for most of the songs, the introductions are almost longer than the song.  The two-minute intro to “On a Foggy Night” is full of Tom’s storytelling–but in a much more improv jazzy style.  Indeed, it’s not entirely clear when the intro ends and the song begins.

The intro to “Eggs and Sausage” has the very funny conceit that the food he has eaten in some greasy spoon is pretty frightening.  The veal came down to beat the shit out of his coffee, but the coffee wasnt strong enough to defend itself.  Nice.  “Better Off Without a Wife” he talks about having an evening just to yourself, you know, for pleasure.  We all do it, he says, but I’m not weird about it; I don’t tie myself up or anything.

Overall, this is a fun album.  It’s loose, the crowd is at ease and so is Tom.  It’s long album–about 70 minutes, which might be a little too long, but you get the whole vibe of a night out–good stories and good music.

[READ: September 21, 2011] “Starlight”

This story is four short pieces.  The titles should tell you everything you need to know about the content: “Mrs. Nixon Joins the Final Official Photograph,” “Mrs. Nixon reacts to RN: The memoirs of Richard Nixon,” “Brownie,” and “Mrs. Nixon’s Thoughts, Late-Night Walk, San Clemente”

So, clearly these are four short pieces that delve into the mind of Richard Nixon’s wife, Pat.  I don’t know a lot about her or about Nixon himself, really (I know all the highlights or low lights but I haven’t really ever looked into the man aside from what the sitcoms say about him).

So when I was reading the first excerpt I just couldn’t get into it.  I didn’t know who the people were for sure.  I assumed Ollie was Ollie North, but who knows.  I almost didn’t read any more, I was so uninspired by the first one.  But the next day I decided to try again.  (more…)

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