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Archive for the ‘Annie Proulx’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LOS BITCHOS-“The Link is About to Die/Turkish Delight” (2020)

linkdieThis is Los Bitchos’ most recent single.  The cover has the same style as their previous one which makes it seem like an album is in the works.  Although it has been nine months between releases.

“The Link is About to Die” really fleshes out the band’s sound.  It opens with some funky percussion–bongos and cowbells–before the groovy bassline introduces the guitar melody.  There’s discoey synths on this track too.  There’s even a surf-sounding echoing guitar slide straight out of the beach.  This song even features a percussion solo. It’s still clearly Los Bitchos, but the new elements are a fun treat.

“Turkish Delight” is slower with a more reggae feel in the bass.  The funky percussion is still there, perhaps even more pronounced. About two minutes in a new guitar sound in introduced which changes the feel of the song and makes it that much more interesting.I’m really looking forward to them putting out a whole album. 

[READ: July 14, 2020] “Big Skies, Empty Places”

This issue of the New Yorker has a series of essays called Influences.  Since I have read most of these authors and since I like to hear the story behind the story, I figured I’d read these pieces as well.

These later pieces are all about one page long.

Annie Proulx says that her biggest influence is the landscape of the hinterlands.  She writes about rough weather, rural people living in isolation and with the decisions of the powers in distant urban areas.

She does not do this for nostalgia, but rather she likes imagining histories. (more…)

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6916SOUNDTRACK: GIRL IN A COMA-Tiny Desk Concert #190 (January 30, 2012).

girlcoma I was planning on writing only about recent Tiny Desk Concerts for a while, but Nina Diaz’s (Aug 2016) Concert informed me that she was the singer of the band Girl in a Coma who are presently on a hiatus while Nina tours some solo material.

So I went back and watched this Tiny Desk to see the origins of Diaz’s music.

Girl in a Coma is a three-piece with Nina Diaz on guitar and vocals, her sister Phanie Diaz on drums and Jenn Alva on bass.  The blurb suggests that the band plays punk–typically loud crunchy guitars (although I listened to the recorded version of “Smart” and it doesn’t really sound very different from this version).  So I didn’t get that.

At any rate, the trio sounds great in this setting.  The percussion is simply tambourine and a shaker.  And Alva’s bass is really melodic and lovely playing more than just the same notes as the guitar.

“Smart” is really catchy (although Diaz does some weird things with her voice late in the song).  “Knocking At Your Door” has a fast, almost metal sounding guitar (albeit acoustic here).  But it’s the bass (which is not doing anything crazy) that takes center stage with the melodies she plays.

Before the final song Nina says it feels like show and tell or something.  And while she’s saying this, the other two switch places, with the drummer coming up front and the bass sitting in the back.

“So” has a pretty traditional folk song structure.  The reason for the switch of seats comes in the second verse when Phanie plays the melodica.  It’s a pretty song and Diaz’s voice is really nice.

I really can’t imagine them being a punk band at all, frankly.

I’m also going to point out what Diaz looks like here for contrast of what she looks like in her solo show four and a half years later.  In 2012, she’s wearing dark jeans and a v neck sweater (stripes in the purple family).  Her hair has bangs and a long braid on the side.  And she has no obvious makeup on.  Keep that in mind for the next post

[READ: November 1, 2008] “Tits-Up in a Ditch”

I read this story back in November 2008 and just couldn’t get into it.  I tried several times and could not penetrate the barrier that I felt Proulx was creating.  Well, here it is 8 years later and I tried it again, and not only did I finish it, I sort of enjoyed it.  Even though it, like everything else I seem to have read from Proulx was incredibly depressing.

The story is about Dakotah.  Dakotah’s mother abandoned her when she was a baby and left her own parents to take care of her.  They resented their daughter and Dakotah from the start.  They were harsh and uncaring towards her (although it could be prairie love, I suppose).  The grandparents are named Verl and Bonita Lister (Proulx has fun with names in her stories).

Verl and Bonita are hardscrabble, religious folks who don’t have a lot of joy.  Well, Verl had moments of happiness but probably no joy–he rode hard and then injured himself.  But he was stuck because during the 1980s in Wyoming oil companies came in and took away all the workers.

Verl gives us the title of the story when he says “Had me some luck today.  Goddam cow got herself tits-up in the ditch couple days ago.  Dead, time I found her.”  See, charming people. (more…)

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may5SOUNDTRACK: SAINTSENECA-Tiny Desk Concert #377 (July 29, 2014).

saintsenecaLike Highasakite, Saintesenca is another band who plays instruments that are unusual (and whose Tiny Desk Concert is way too short).  But before the music started, I was fascinated by the hair of the band.  Zac Little’s head is partially shaved and he beard  is unshaven, but he also has an incredible mustache.  It’s so thick I couldn’t see his mouth moving when he started singing!  There’s also the co-lead singer, Maryn Jones’ hair which is equally fascinating.

And there’s also their instruments.  On the album, they play: banjo, baglama, bulbul, balalaika, bowed banjo, baritone ukulele, bass and bouzouki as well as a stomp box.  For the first song, “Happy Alone,” In this set there is a baglamas (played by Jones), while Little plays a Paul McCartney style bass.  There’s also drums and electric and acoustic guitars.

And their music is fantastic “Happy Alone” has a kind of Decemberists vibe.  There’s a great chorus (and two acoustic guitars accompanying).  The melody is catchy but by the time it comes around a second or third time, it’s a total ear worm.

Between songs they talk about the stompbox.  It’s a roughly 2’x2′ plywood floorboard meant for pounding the beat. The blurb says that “at a show just before this Tiny Desk Concert… Little put his boot right through that floorboard.”  There’s a hole in the box which Jones seems concerned about falling through.  The box also explains why Jones and Little both seem so outrageously tall at this show.

On “Fed Up with Hunger” Little plays a four-stringed guitar (I wish they would say what all of these instrument are).  He plays some wonderfully elaborate chords on it.  Jones sings lead in a very high-pitched delicate voice.  There’s an electric guitar added for the chorus but for the most part this is a stripped down song with some lovely harmonies in the end section.

The final song “Blood Bath” has three distinct parts and it is awesome.  Jones plays bass, Little plays acoustic and the other acoustic guitarist  plays a tiny triangular instrument (a balalaika?).  Little sings in a kind of broken falsetto.  After the first slow verse the whole band kicks in and the song really takes off.  But soon after, the whole band seems to deconstruct the song, playing a few seconds of utter noise before coming back in and following it with a really fast rocking and equally catchy section.  It’s pretty awesome.

I’m going to have to look for more from them.

[READ: May 5, 2008] “Them Old Cowboy Songs”

I was looking through older stories and saw that I had not finished a story by Proulx which was written in a June issue of the New Yorker in this ame year.  How did she ever get two stories within a month of each other?  (And they’re both really really long, too).

This story is dark. Very dark and brutal.  It is set in 1885 and looks at a young couple trying to make it out in the wilderness

Archie is a sixteen year old who lies and says he is 21 to try to get better jobs.  He works a cowboy in Dakota Territory.  In addition to being a hard worker, he is a consummate singer with a golden voice.  He marries a young girl (14), named Rose whose parents don’t approve of him or of her getting married at 14, and they settle in.  The narrator notes: “There is no happiness like that of a young couple in a little house they have built themselves in a place of beauty and solitude.” (more…)

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march 21 SOUNDTRACK: PWR BTTM-Tiny Desk Concert #519 (April 4, 2016).

pwrbttmPWR BTTM are the most fun Tiny Desk concert to come along in a long time.  They are a two person—drums and guitar only–queercore band.  The two guys are Ben Hopkins and Liv Bruce.  They are punky and brash and a lot of fun.

Ben plays guitar for the first three songs and they switch off lead vocals.

“Ugly Cherries” opens with an excellent, complex guitar riff played on a very distorted acoustic guitar.  I love that that complicated riff runs through the song and ends with an awesome harmonic’d note.  It’s two minutes of pop punk fun.  And the opening lyrics sets the tone for the song (and the band):  “My girl gets scared, can’t take him anywhere.”

Between songs Ben and Liv are full of jokes and chatter.  Liv says “This is my favorite show that we’ve ever done…its cool to be someone’s lunch break.”

For “Dairy Queen,” Ben switches guitars.  He has an electric guitar this time and Liv sings lead.  Interestingly, this guitar is less distorted than the acoustic.  This is a funny song with the refrain of “right now I’m in the shower.”  There are lots of ideas about things they could do if he wasn’t in the shower like “We can go to Disneyworld and fuck shit up,” At the end of the song Liv moans that he had planned to change Disneyworld to NPR because it is the same syllables, but he forgot.

“Nu 1” returns Ben to lead vocals.  It is a slower song with a simpler guitar riff.  Although once the chorus comes in it’s loud and brash with backing vocals from Liv.  The opening line “God damn everyone’s dumb” is pretty great.  The end of the song has a guitar riff that is similar to the first song, but played in a very different style.

For the final song “C U Around” they switch places with Liv moving to guitar and lead vocals.  As Ben heads to the drums Bob comments on his nail polish and Ben looks over and says “Bob… up here” pointing to his eyes.  While everyone is laughing and Liv is tuning, Ben says

When I was 15 and didn’t think a queer person could ever be in a band….  I  never thought I’d get to throw shade at Bob Boilen.  This is my biggest dream come true.

Then Ben asks how is Liv doing up there and Liv shouts “Guitars are hard!” His guitar playing is very different–more strumming than Ben’s manic style.  The song is slow with a plucked guitar riff and I like the way near the end he starts strumming really hard and gets a cool fuzzed out bass guitar tone while retaining the regular sound of the guitar’s high end.

As you can see from the photo, PWR BTTM dress outlandishly.  Ben is in a bright red dress with sparkly nail polish and really garish facial makeup (with his beard showing through) and swim goggles on his forehead.  Liv is a bit more subdued although when he steps to the front mic you can see that his lipstick is really quite striking.  A few months back Bob said they put on his favorite live show.  If I loved the fifteen minutes of this one I can only imagine how great a 90 minute extravaganza of PWR BTTM would be like.

[READ: March 25, 2016] “A Resolute Man”

Since I’ve read a few pieces by Proulx recently I felt like I knew her M.O.: bad things happen to people who seem innocent, but might not be–usually by strangely named people.  And all set a long time ago.

This one is not far from that description, although it does change things somewhat.  And I enjoyed it a lot more.

I found the beginning to be a little slow going (but that may be because I was anticipating a long slog).  We learn about Captain James Duke.  And this time I marveled at Proulx’s descriptive sentences; “Duke, at fifty, was complicated, dark-haired, and somewhat handsome”.  That’s a lot of things in a few words.  We learn about Duke’s history and then we learn that he has inherited a parcel of land in Boston (he currently lives in England). (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_10_13Schossow.inddSOUNDTRACK: ScHoolboy Q “Collard Greens” (2013).

colalrdgreens-f7ef9a5569c897652952a2688c4af9911361663a-s1NPR opened their summer preview show with two rap songs.  This was the second.  The bass line is very neat—propulsive and continuous and there’s this little keyboard sprinkling across the top.  This is West Coast rap style and I like the music quiet a bit.

The rapping is unusual—some amusing voices and nonsense words, but I admit I didn’t really get into it until about half way through when the rapper (ScHoolboy Q or guest Kendrick Lamar I don’t know) comes in with an unusual-sounding voice—sped up and goofy.  And he does one of my favorite rap things—singing really fast in a high voice then ending with a low word (Gawd).

The song feels atmospheric, although overall, I’m not a fan.  The DJ who introduced the song says that he is part of the “supergroup” Black Hippy, along Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar.  She describes ScHoolboy Q as the darkest of the bunch, which makes me think I should check out the rest to see what other kinds of things they do.  [I did, and I didn’t like them–lyrically they are remedial at best].

[READ: June 18, 2013] “Rough Deeds”

This story is set in New France, (also known as Canada).  Duquet is a timberman, seeking his fortune by amassing the largest area of woods to be exported both to the Americas and back to Europe.   He connected with a man named Dred-Peacock (I included him mostly for his name) who set him up with a connection in Scotland.

Duquet wasn’t exactly sure about trading with the enemy, the English, but money is money and they had lots of it and need for lots of wood.  And soon a fortune was made.

Then Dred-Peacock encouraged him to head to Maine where thousands of acres were there for the asking.  Indeed, Duquet was able to buy twenty thousand acres at 12 cents an acre.  But when he and his man Forgerson went to investigate, they found a crew cutting down trees on his property!  When he accosted them, they fled.  The youngest member of the thieving team had a limp and fell behind–which gave Duquet the opportunity to hurl his tomahawk at him, felling him instantly.

When the boy won’t talk, Duquet cuts off two of his fingers (Duquet does not mess around) and the boy reveals that he works for McBogle.  The boy already had an infected leg and Duquet had no intention of healing him, so he allowed the boy to die, ultimately killing him and burning his body in McBogle’s makeshift mill.

While Duquet was doing this, Forgerson was off scouting a new way to get the timber to the mill and finding people to work with them.  When he returned, he wondered where the boy had gone, but said nothing.

And there were no consequence for Duquet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RICHARD THOMPSON-Dream Attic (2010).

I was a little disconcerted by this CD when I first listened to it.  The opening song, “Money Shuffle” has a really long sax solo.  I’m not a big fan of sax solos in general, and the fact that this was so prominent was really confusing to me.  It was only more confusing when later in the disc I noticed some clapping.  Was this a live album?  Made of songs I’d never heard before? What the hell was going on?

Well, this is an album of all news songs.  They were all recorded live in California on West Coast tour.  It’s unclear why you can occasionally hear the crowd noise.   RT’s live records have always been a place where he really shines.  He lets loose with amazing solos and just seems so less constrained than he does by his studio work.  This is  logical way for him to record an album.  And I think it’s one of his best.

So anyhow, “Money Shuffle” is one of RT’s great indignant songs about the banking industry. It rocks hard (I can get into the sax solo at this point) and it features some great angry (but intelligent vocals).  It’s also got a nice wailing guitar solo (and an electric violin solo, too!).

As with many RT discs, this one is sequenced beautifully.  The second track is the beautiful melancholy ballad “Among the Gorse, Among the Grey.”  It’s a quite track with minimal accompaniment and the melody is haunting.  It’s followed by the shuffling rocker “Haul Me Up” complete with all kinds of deep backing vocals.  It’s the perfect place for RT to put in a long guitar solo.

“Burning Man” is a slow, quiet track with a great melody line.  It’s followed by the upbeat, hugely sarcastic “Here Comes Gordie” about a puffed up guy.  It’s rather funny and has a great violin solo.  “Demons in Her Dancing Shoes” has an unexpected chorus, with a rhyme scheme that is unusual in a rock song.  I wind up singing this song all day after I hear it.  The horns play fantastic accents and the guitar solo is brief but fiery.  It ends with a great jig that feels like a different song altogether.

“Crimscene” is one of RT’s fantastic stories.  It is a slow building affair about a crime, obviously.  It opens with slow violins as the scene is set.  But it quickly reveals itself to be the kind of angry RT song that is going to feature a scorching guitar solo. And does it ever!  The only surprise is when the raging solo is over that he can get back to that earlier mellowness so seamlessly.  “Big Sun Falling in the River” is another great singalong.  The chorus is just so darn catchy (even if it’s hard to remember the words exactly).

“Stumble On” is another classic RT type of song.  It’s a slow mournful song of failure, something he does with incredible beauty.  And “Sidney Wells” is a vicious story about a serial killer. It’s 7 minutes long with dozens of verses and a solo after each verse (sax, violin, guitar–which is brutally great).  It’s a wonderfully told murder ballad (and also features an interesting jig at the end).

It’s followed by “A Brother Slips Away.”  This is a sad mournful song that RT also does very well.  I don’t really care for these songs in his catalog (I prefer the faster songs), although this one is really pretty.  After many listens, I have started to rather enjoy this song too.  He follows this ballad with “Bad Again” a stomping rocker about losing in love (if he ever had a successful relationship, he’d have no more songs!).  It’s a fun old-timey rocker, that even sounds like it might be from the fifties.

The disc ends with the amazing “If Love Whispers Your Name.”  This 7 minute song can easily sit alongside his other majestic epic tracks.  It opens with great minor chords and a dejected but not bowed RT standing up for Love.  And by the end, everyone in the house should be moved to tears.  The lyrics are simple but powerful:

If love whispers your name
Breathes in your ear
Sighs in the rain
Love is worth every fall
Even to beg, even to crawl

‘Cause I once had it all and
I once lost it all and
I won’t miss again
If the chance should come my way
If love should look my way

You can hear the aching in his voice as the song builds through several verses.  And then he lets his guitar speak for him–an amazingly aching solo if ever there was.  And how do you come out of a soul-wrenching three-minute guitar solo?  You don’t.  You let the disc end with nothing but applause.  Amen.

RT has made a really stunning album–unmistakably RT, and yet original and wholly enjoyable.  It’s never easy to say where to start when advising someone to gt into RT, and I would definitely say that this is as good a place as any.  He covers all the bases in terms of style, and the playing is simply wonderful.

[READ: December 22, 2010] “A Year of Birds”

After reading several Jonathan Franzen birding articles in a row, I wasn’t sure if I was up for another one.  But Proulx–whom I’ve never read before even though I’ve planned on reading The Accordion Crimes for years–takes a very different approach to our avian friends.

This piece is a memoir of her stay in Bird Cloud, near the Medicine Bow ranch in Wyoming.  The house that she is living in overlooks a vast gorge with a river and mountains on either side.  From her dining room window she can see a family of bald eagles who swoop around and dive for fish.  They chase away other birds of prey and, despite what the books say, they do not seem to overtly fear Proulx when she wanders around.  (The books say they will never nest within a 1/2 mile of a house).

Most of the story is taken up with her trying to figure out what the dark birds circling another area of the mountains could be.  After several months of fruitless binocular searching, she finally realizes that they are golden eagles.  Again, the books suggest that golden eagles would never nest so close to bald eagles, and yet there they are. (more…)

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ny1It took me going to Seattle to learn about The New Yorker magazine.  I was visiting my friend Rob and he was really surprised that I didn’t read the magazine all the time (my reading always seems to surprise people, see The Believer.)

Upon my first read of the magazine, I was surprised to see that the first twenty pages or so are taken up with upcoming shows: films, concerts, sports, everything.  I actually wondered how much content would be left after all that small print.

Since then I have learned that Sasha Frere-Jones writes columns in here quite ofuiten.  For reasons known only to my head, I was convinced that Sasha was a black woman.  Little did I realize that he is not.  And that he was in a band that I have a CD of called Ui.  He is an excellent resource for all things music, whether I like the artist he’s talking about or not.  Some entries are here.  This audio entry about Auto-Tune is simply fantastic.

But of course, there’s a lot of content.  And the first thing you get are letters.  I don’t think I have EVER looked at the letters section. (more…)

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[READ: November 1, 2008] “Tits-Up in a Ditch”

When Accordion Crimes came out, the hype was fairly large, and I made a mental note to read it.  I never did, though.  So, this is my first exposure to Annie Proulx, and I’m not sure if it is representative of how or what she writes about. But with a title like this, how could I pass it up?

The story follows the life of Dakotah, whose mother left her shortly after she was born.  Dakotah’s grandparents were stuck with her.  The story notes that they were “in their late thirties” which is crazy that they are grandparents, but hey, I’m in my late thirties with two kids of my own, so no sympathy here.

The second arc of the story concerns Wyatt March and his rise to prominence in this Wyoming town.  He married well, moved up in society, started the March Ranch, and

Well, that’s as far as  I got.  I tried to resume the story on 3 occasions and just didn’t care.  There’s like ten pages left in the story, and, well, I have things that I’m more interested in.

Sorry, Annie Proulx, maybe someday I’ll get to Accordion Crimes and see what the hype was about.

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