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Archive for the ‘Anne Enright’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BALÚN-Tiny Desk Concert #927 (December 20, 2019).

When I first listened to this Tiny Desk, I was delighted by the gentle way it started–pretty acoustic melodies on slightly unfamiliar instruments.  Although I usually enjoy noise and chaos, I really hoped that this whole set would stay like this.  And (for the most part) it did.

The set opens with sampled birdsong as “Vaivén” begins with a beautiful melody from Noraliz Ruiz on the Puerto Rican cuatro.  She’s joined by Enrique Bayoán Ríos-Escribano on the charango.  It’s a beautiful short piece that segues into “La Nueva Ciudad” and that’s when things changed a bit with the addition of electronics.

Their mix of traditional instruments with electronics creates not just a sonic treat but also a visual feast, as our eyes dart from one instrument to the other, drawn in by a Puerto Rican cuatro and a makeshift drum set.

Indeed

It’s impossible to not be drawn in by the visual specter of Balún. The band has refined their electronic roots with their turn toward self-discovery on beautifully crafted studio albums, and this set behind the Tiny Desk shows how expertly they deliver the same meticulous, artful music live.

“La Nueva Ciudad” opens with electronic-sounding percussion as Ríos-Escribano and drummer Shayna Dunkelman both scratch percussion instruments.  Then Ríos-Escribano plays a hand drum and José A. Olivares plays a little synth device as the melody unfolds.

Then we finally hear singer Angélica Negrón (with the purple hair).  She has a soft, high voice as gentle as the instruments around it.  Her voice is warm and inviting even if you don’t speak Spanish (it might make you want to learn).

For verse two Darian Thomas kicks in the violin with the charango adding its chords.  It’s a wonderful song, complex and fun.

Balún is from Puerto Rico and they dedicated the third song “El Espanto” to their island home.  Negrón says “El Espanto” is about cleaning up the bad energy and starting from scratch.    It opens with a fascinating percussive intro

I didn’t expect to be greeted by a mysterious, eighth member who made an appearance at the start of “El Espanto” in the form of programmed solenoids that struck the bottoms of pots and pans to create a rhythmic intro to one of their brilliantly crafted songs, mixing the folkloric with the modern.

The song starts with a weird synth sound (like an electronic folk instrument) which, along with the violin, pokes out the melody.  Electronic percussion fleshes out the staccato notes.  Midway through the song it gets huge with guitars, synths, who knows what else.  It brings a great alt rock sound and a hugely catchy melody (and Negrón’s voice is perfect for it).  Then the cuatro takes over the melody again.  The middle of the song has a ripping guitar solo from Raúl Reymund with Darian Thomas playing some wild violin.

I love that everyone sings along gently until the end of the song, when it’s a total freak out with loud electronic drums, noisy guitar, wild violin and all kinds of shaken percussion.  It’s the chaos I wanted after all!

Balún is part of a vanguard of bands that is expanding the musical landscape of Puerto Rico and it is a treat to watch them up close as they create an actual bridge between the ancient and the modern, set against a rich tapestry of vocals that extoll the virtues and challenges facing their beloved island these days.

“Punto De Encuentro” ends the set. It’s a new song.   Noraliz Ruiz picks up the bass (the first time a bass is used).  It opens with all kinds of electronics starting the song which turns onto a quiet, pretty ballad.  Thomas plucks the melody on the violin along with the synths.  Then the churango comes back with the bowed violin and all the while the complex percussion keeps the song moving along.

I had never heard of this band before this set and they totally won me over.  I’m looking forward to checking out their albums.

[READ: March 2, 2020] “Night Swim”

This story is set in Ireland.  I only find this surprising because in the story the narrator goes more or less skinny dipping which was something I didn’t think you could do in Ireland (do the lakes ever get warm enough at night?)–at least I’ve never heard of anyone doing that before.

But although that is the title and a crux of the story, it is not the entire story.

The story opens with the narrator, Michelle, driving her son Ben to a friend’s house.  Ben doesn’t talk much in general, but he seemed to open up in the car (I found that to be true about my own kids).

Michelle had not been to this friend’s house and was following the GPS map.  She was familiar with the area but not the route itself.

While she was driving, Ben began asking her “would you rather” questions: Would you rather drink a cup of lava or be drowned in a lava lake.  She doesn’t enjoy the game, but he is quite insistent.

When she answers she would rather neither of those things, he just repeats the question.

When he asks if she would rather drown in a lake or be strangled in the dark, she flashes back to the titular night swim. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ADIA VICTORIA-NonCOMM 2019 Free at Noon (May 15, 2019).

I saw Adia Victoria do a Tony Desk Concert back in 2016.  I liked her and thought it would be interesting to hear her when she wasn’t holding back for a Tiny Desk.  And here she is rocking out.

her music is a little hard to pin down, she describes it as blues, but there’s a lot more going on:

her songs were structured like mainstream R&B hits, but in her most memorable moments Victoria turned away from the traditional styles of blues and soul, and turned instead toward something more macabre–like the moody trip-pop of Billie Eilish.

This sound is the direction she went in on her new album.

The set began with “The Needle’s Eye” as a pulsing synth morphed into a danceable rhythm (electric and acoustic drums).  Victoria sang in a breathy voice.  After the chorus, two saxophones provided a noisy distorted solo.  She sang “I’ve been a fool, I’ve been afraid, I’ve been asleep, but now I’m awake.”

She introduced herself “My name is Adia Victoria. This is my band. We done come all the way up from Nashville to play my blues for you.” Then, after a beat, “Lucky you.”

Her introduction for “Different Kind of Love” was brief and mirthless. “It’s about getting dumped,” she shrugged, without even a moment of heartache over the one who dumped her.

This song continues in that dark vein with rumbling drums providing most of the “melody” along with more sax.

Up next was “Bring Her Back,” which she called “a song for my ancestors.” This song used an organ to change the tone.

Victoria played “Heathen” at the Tiny Desk on an acoustic guitar.  I thought it would be better louder.  And it was.  Especially knowing its origins:

As she introduced her final song, “Heathen,” Victoria mentioned some of the frustration she experienced as a young woman with dreams of becoming a professional performer. “My little voice would break and my knees would shake, but I had this song and I made no mistakes,” she rhymed. Victoria explained that she wrote the song “after I realized that there were two sets of rules — one for men, and one for women. When it came time to gettin’ your freak on, I was very naïve. So I wrote this song. It’s a nice little ‘screw you’ to the patriarchy. We play it tonight for every single woman in Alabama right now who’s got these men trying to make moves on their body. We say, ‘That’s bullshit.’” Victoria had aimed her criticism at Alabama’s state legislature, which recently passed a highly restrictive anti-abortion bill…. “This song is called ‘Heathen’ and it’s about giving no fucks,” she declared before counting it off.

The song was much darker and more raw than the Tiny Desk version. It also felt a lot more bluesy than her newer songs (with a lot of sax blowing around the simple chord pattern).

She finished with a gritty chorus of improvised scatting; each syllable landed somewhere between a laugh and a snarl. Afterward, she addressed the Philadelphia crowd resolutely once more and gave a single deep bow. “Thank you, goodnight.”

Adia Victoria is an intriguing performer for sure and I’m curious how her sound will expand in the future.

[READ: May 20, 2019] “Taking Pictures”

Two days ago I posted a story about someone stealing pictures.  Now here’s the title “Taking Pictures.”  They are not related in any other way.

This story is about a woman who has just gotten engaged.  And her relationship with Sarah at work–the bitch.

Sarah is

a washed-out sort of strawberry blonde with fine bones and small features.  She is fading to white.  She is constantly insulted by men.

Sarah at work also has a personality problem

Which is to say her problem is that she does not like other people’s personalities.

The narrator is surprised that Sarah is seeing someone.  Sarah says he won’t “do Saturdays.”  Maybe he’s a bisexual. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAVID WAX MUSEUM-“Born With a Broken Heart” (Field Recordings, January 12, 2012).

This was the third Field Recording in the series [David Wax Museum: Folk Among The Ruins] and it seems to have started a trend of recording musicians in the ruins at the Newport Folk Festival

The video opens with the band climbing through a broken down house.  Then the music starts with David playing the charango and Suz Slezak clapping.  It’s a catchy fun song with handclaps, wonderful vocal harmonies and oohs.

Two minutes into the song a tenor horn adds some depth and bass to the music, making it sound much bigger.  Around three minutes the whole horn section is playing along with a kind of mariachi feel..

At the end of the song you can hear cheering–presumably for the festival itself and not them, but it seems apt as well.

[READ: November 15, 2017] “The Hotel”

I feel like this is an excerpt.  If it’s not an excerpt than I don’t know what.

It’s basically about a woman who lands at an airport.  She is discombobulated from all of the flights and transfers (which seems unlikely but whatever).  The story starts with no explanation at all as to why the woman has flown from Dublin to New York to Milan.  She is now at a layover in Germany or Switzerland or Austria (the signs are all in German).

She can’t read the signs.  It’s very late. The airport seems to be closing down.  Her next flight is leaving in 5 hours.  She figures she will need to be back at the airport in four.  So instead of camping out at Gate 19, she decides to go to look for a hotel.  By the time she checked in , she would get max three hours sleep.  It’s just not worth it in my opinion, but whatever. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AVERY*SUNSHINE-Tiny Desk Concert #616 (May 1, 2017).

I had never heard of Avery*Sunshine and had no idea that she was a “soul maven.”  But boy did I enjoy this set.  She is a lot of fun, vibrant and playful and she really gets the crowd singing along.  Her lyrics are fun and improvisations are really fun.

Here’s what the blurb says:

When the soul maven visited NPR headquarters to perform her first Tiny Desk Concert, she gifted us with the story of her own redemptive love. And a whole lot of laughs in between.

Avery*Sunshine knows what love will make one do: Give up your favorite ice cream. Break up to make up. Even swear off of holy matrimony for good, only to fall head over heels again.

Newly married to her musical partner, guitarist Dana “Big Dane” Johnson, Avery*Sunshine broke down the meaning behind the title to her latest album, Twenty Sixty Four. But it was her playful charisma and those heavenly vocals that won us over, the same way she’s turned such legends as Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson into fans. Press play and prepare to fall in love, too.

And her band The Trustees is tight and hot: Dana “Big Dane” Johnson (guitar); Demonterious “Detoxxx” Lawrence (bass); Quinton “Q” Robinson (drums)

“Come Do Nothing” has a cool funk start and Sunshine’s sweet soulful voice.  It’s an interesting song of get away/come back, with the get away part being funky and cool and the come back being a bit treacly and sweet.  I loved this lyric: “I heard you found a girl.  I saw her pic online.  Yes I looked her up on Face Book (thump thump on Face Book).  She gets everyone to sing along “Come on Over here with me ; come do nothing here we me” before playing a joyful keyboard solo.

When the song ends, somebody jokes that “Big Dane” is not the one guilty of cheating.  There is much laughter as she explains that she and Dane got married a year ago.

Then she describes the song as a can’t live with you can’t live without you song:

“Go on, get out.  I put all your stuff out and you can come pick it up.   But when you come… ring the doorbell coz… I’ll be making gumbo.”

Then she talks about their marriage:  they were both married before and they swore that they would never get married again.  And then he proposed some time later.  And she prayed: Just give me until 2064 with this man.  I’ll be 89 and he’ll be 91. I won’t cuss anymore. I’ll eat all my vegetables.  I will be good.  That’s why the album is called 2064.

After they got engaged, she wrote “Ice Cream Song” as their wedding song.  It’s  sweet soulful ballad: “I’d give up ice cream just for you / I’d open my bag and sell my shoes.”

As she introduces the final song, Dane says, “You need to change the piano.”  “Will you do it, you’re so good to me.  He changes my keyboard sound for me, he’s so sweet.” And while he’s fiddling, she says, “The people are waiting, honey.”

She says that “Used Car” is a metaphor for divorced people.  Her mama said, “There;s nothing wrong with a used car.”  She says I’m not encouraging anyone to get divorced–but if you are, there’s no reason to not try again.  Just make sure its a certified pre-owned.

The song is bright and bouncy and  ton of fun with funny enjoyable lyrics.  There’s a cool break down with  funky bass line and she gets to talk about her cars, with the Trustees shouting : “a car payment is overrated.”  And man when she gets into it at the end she really shows off her pipes–boy she can sing.

They start chant at the end “used car” and she throws in lines like “I’m taking a selfie in my…”

The whole set is fun It’s a pretty great way to spend 17 minutes.

[READ: March 10 2017] “Solstice”

The story opens with a man in Dublin looking for his car.  It has gotten dark in mid-afternoon–it is the twentieth of December–and he can’t remember what floor he was parked on.  It felt like the longest night of the year, because it was.

And he marveled that at 10:44 AM the next morning the solstice “the event” would happen:  “Somewhere in that moment whether he believed it or not, the sun would pause in the sky above him, or seem to pause.  It would stop its descent and start its slow journey back to summer and the middle of the sky.”

I love that the next line undermines the wonder: “or this year, he thought, it might not bother.”

He drives home out of the city into the country where the night was very big. (more…)

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