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Archive for the ‘David Gilbert’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: CHLOE X HALLE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #123 (December 8, 2020).

Chloe x Halle’s album, with its arresting album cover, has been on all the top album lists this year.  I hadn’t heard anything off of it, so this is my introduction to this “powerful sister duo.”

Flanked by personal memorabilia supplied by their mother, the Bailey sisters did their best to make this studio performance really feel like a home concert.

I don’t know what he album sounds like, but this recording (complete with a full band, horns and strings) sounds pretty amazing.  Almost as amazing as Chloe and Halle’s voices.

As they volley off each other, swapping lead and harmonies, it’s amazing to watch how years of practice and innate genetic chemistry have them synced tight.

After introducing themselves, the sister play “Don’t Make It Harder on Me.”  There’s a clean bass opening from Elin Sandberg and quiet guitar chords (it’s fun to watch Lexii Lynn Frazier play as she is smiling a lot and really into it).  The addition of the trumpets (Arnetta Johnson and Crystal Torres) adding soft and then loud accents is a really nice touch.  But nothing can distract from the voices.

Halle takes the higher notes and wow does her voice soar.  But the two of them together, whether singer counterpoint or their gorgeous wordless harmonies are really amazing.

“Baby Girl,” the second song here, starts with notes reminiscent of Crystal Waters’ “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless),” and is preceded with Chloe sharing “I know this year 2020 has been absolutely bonkers for all of us. For those moments where you kinda feel less than and you’re not good enough … that’s why we wrote this song. … Whatever happens, we’ll be OK. And this is our world.”

The song is softer with keyboard splashes from Elise Solberg and soaring strings from Stephanie Yu (violin), Chelsea Stevens (cello) and Marta Honer (viola).

Halle sings the first verse with Chloe adding punctuation on this cool refrain

step up to the patio
listen to the radio
try to play it on my Casio

more great punctuation from the horns nicely flesh out this song.  The song ends with a short drum breakdown from Brandi Singleton with some ripping bass work as it segues into “Do It.”  “Do It” is a great moment to see the sisters play of of each other.  It’s fun watching them smile at each other as they bounce and bop and back and forth with the “do it”s and the “woo”s.

“Ungodly Hour” is upbeat but “Wonder What She Thinks of Me” is a very different song.  Chloe says it’s a song telling the perspective of the other woman and what does that feel like?  What would we do in that situation.  Chloe sings the first verses accompanied by gorgeous strings.  It’s a beautiful torch song and their voices are simply fantastic.  Their harmonies in the third chorus are, frankly, jaw dropping.

I don’t tend to like R&B albums, (and it’s possible the album doesn’t sound like this), but this set was really impressive.

[READ: January 3, 2021] “Preparing to Spin the Wheel of Fortune”

I like when an author I enjoy has a Personal History in the New Yorker.

This one was especially fun because David Gilbert relates his experience appearing on Wheel of Fortune.

The studio is cold.  There are contestant handlers who are mystically upbeat.  They tell them to clap without clapping (so they dont mess up the sound recording).

He rather enjoyed the make up because she makes him look very good (he’s very critical of himself).  Before talking about the whole process though, he gives some background on the show. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LILA IKÉ-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #67 (August 19, 2020).

Lila Iké is a Jamacian singer.  Although her music has reggae foundations, her vocals transcend the basics of reggae.

The set starts with “Solitude.”

 On “Solitude,” she blends avant-garde R&B with contemporary reggae in a hauntingly elegant song complemented by violinist Sean “Ziah” Roberts.

The opening guitar from Stephen Welsh is four notes that sound like “Stairway to Heaven” and for a split second I had no idea what to expect.  It’s the reggae bass line from Dane Peart that grounds the song.  The biggest surprise to me was the addition of a violinist Sean “Ziah” Roberts–not something I associate with reggae.  Backing singers Tori-Ann Ivy and Ovasha Bartley add some gentle backing harmonies and some fun choreography.

“I Spy” starts with that standard reggae staccato guitar riff and some fun drum fills from Kristoff Morris and Stephen Forbes.

Most of the band is socially distanced, although not everyone is (it’s a fairly cramped space and there are people off camera as well).

“Forget Me” is a slower song with prominent keyboards from Wade Johnson and gorgeous backing vocals.  There’s a lovely violin solo at the end.

For the final song, “Thy Will” all of the singers stand up.

The song (which borrows from the iconic reggae rhythm section Sly & Robbie) ends the set with an uptempo banger.

There’s some groovy sliding bass and a series of solos from all of the musicians at the end.

[READ: August 20, 2020] “Cicadia”

The narrative style of this story loops around a timeline.  We project forward and flashback as the actual motion of the story is just three boys heading to a party.

It’s a Saturday night in 1986 in suburban Cincinnati.  Max, Rodney and Ben are heading into senior year. They have been best friends forever.  Rodney drives, Max sits in the backseat while Ben, shotgun, tries to roll a joint.

Earlier they sneaked into Rodney’s brother Oscar’s room to steal his weed.  Rodney is convinced that Oscar will kill him when he finds out, but in one of the fascinating timeline shifts the story provides,

Oscar is going to be their savior, as he always is.  Oscar the berserker bursting onto the scene with exquisite timing, creating mayhem and staring down Blaine’s cohort of pretty boys who are ready to thrash Rodney and Ben and especially Max.

They are heading to a party where Max will be winked at by a girl in a red beret. It was a definite wink.  In fact, the winks seemed to keep coming all night

Then the story flashes forward to the party where Max punches Blaine and Blaine falls into the pool.  To me, it’s unclear if this is a real party or if Max is remembering a movie.  [Pretty in Pink]  Someone falling in a pool?  [Every movie ever] Everyone cheered when Blaine fell into the pool except the girl with the red beret–for she had left already.

Back in the car, they tease Ben for not being able to roll a joint .  It is pudgy in the middle but it “has a joint-like presence.”  (A phrase that Max really liked).

While all of this is going on Max (the philosophical one) is thinking about their past together and how he is evolving from his friends.  He nearly got a perfect score on the SAT without even trying.  He now kicks himself for the few questions he got wrong–he will try again to get a perfect score.  He’s also planned to stop reading Stephen King and start reading the authors whom Lou Reed recommends.

As the get close to the party, they realize they are lost.  They ask directions from a man walking his dog.  But as the man talks to them, his dog, Cupcake, poops on a neighbor’s lawn and that neighbor yells, “Really Harold, again?”

Harold starts to tell them where to go but when the neighbor charges at Harold with an aluminum bat, Harold and Cupcake hop in the cars and they drive off.  Harold seems pretty fun until he starts asking about the smell in the car.  The boys aren’t sure if he’s going to narc on them or if he wants some.

Then the story has a little perspective shift and addresses… the reader?

maybe, like Max, you know where this is heading … and maybe you’re tapping the person next to you and telling him or her, I know what’s going to happen, because you;re the kind of person who can predict these things… and if you had wanted to, well, you could have been a writer yourself.

But the boys make it to the party, as the story said they would.  And they debate how they should go about selling Oscar’s pot.

There’s a really fun last line.

And yet, I genuinely can’t decide if this is a story or an excerpt from a novel.  There is so much detail that it feels novel-like. I feel like these three characters have a lot more life to show us.

There’s so much potential for time shifting and narrative address, that a lot more could go on here.  At the same time, too much might overwhelm a novel. And it does feel complete, if confusing as a story.

I enjoyed it either way.

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SOUNDTRACK: REIGNWOLF-“In the Dark” (Field Recordings, June 29, 2012).

This is another Field Recording set at Sasquatch! Music Festival [Reignwolf: A One-Man Rock Show].

I’d never heard of Reignwolf and I’m still not sure if Reignwold is typically a solo project–like here or a band.  “In the Dark” is a simple blues rock song–like Led Zep via the White Stripes.

Jordan Cook plays a noisy, distorted guitar with a metal slide so that there’s pretty much always something coming out of the amp.  After some pretty simple verses he plays a wild, sloppy (broken stringed) solo.

The way he was tearing it up during an impromptu set at the Sasquatch Music Festival, you’d barely notice that Jordan Cook, a.k.a. Reignwolf, broke a string midway through his fiery rendition of “In the Dark” — that is, until you saw the mangled remnants of his guitar, smoldering on the ground after he’d wrenched every wailing chord from its guts.

The song works best when he plays the kick drum.  It adds just enough oomph to make it not seem like a guy playing a guitar.

The Saskatoon native and recent Seattle transplant never misses a beat — literally. When he’s not with a band, he accompanies himself on kick drum and makes enough noise to match a dozen metalheads. In this video, recorded at the artist campground between sets at the festival, Reignwolf causes a ruckus beside his RV and rousts a crowd of sleepy campers into dancing and cheering.

The soloing goes on for a while and the people around him seem to like it.  Although the soloing behind his head is a bit much, but hey, if you can do it, then go ahead!

[READ: February 1, 2017] “The Sightseers”

I really liked a main aspect of this story, and so many of the details.

The story begins with an overprivileged New York family.  They have a maid/cook/gofer named Kiki from Tibet and the husband marvels at Kiki and “their calm, those people.”

The father, Robert, is happy that they no longer go to North East Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving–the round nephews and the piles and piles of food.  For their Thanksgiving they would be having salmon as Robert was training five times a week with a Navy Seal.

When the salmon turns out to be halibut, the son says that wasn’t on the menu (the menus were designed ahead of time to limit daily stress by preparing the children for their dinners ahead of time–there would be no surprises.  The son asks if the next time they have halibut it will be salmon.  The father thinks that’s an excellent suggestion. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GUSTER-Keep It Together Live from The Beacon Theatre (2014).

In 2014, Guster released three CDs of them playing their early CDs live in their entirety (excluding for some reason their second disc Goldfly).  This is their fourth CD ‘Keep It Together’ recorded live in concert at The Beacon Theatre on November 30, 2013, ten years after its release.

As the disc opens, Ryan shouts, “Keep It Together starts now.”  This makes me think that they played other songs before it?  It would be great to hear an album in its entirety but not if that’s all they played.

After the first song, “Diane,” Ryan jokes,  “I guess there no real surprises in the setlist from here on out.”

Midway through the show, he comments that as an active band making new music, you want to be careful not to trade in nostalgia.  But he also knows that if one of his favorite bands played one of his favorite albums…it would be magical.

The band sounds great.  And, fortunately, it’s one of those shows where the live recording sounds at times even better than the original.

The only real divergence from the album is that after “Homecoming “King” they play “Chariots of Fire” on piano and strings.  I’m not sure why, but it’s fun.

One of the great moments of any Guster concert is when they play “Come Downstairs and Say Hello” and the Thundergod plays the bongos and smashes the cymbals with his hands.  It’s more fun to see it, but it’s great in this case to hear it.

“Red Oyster Cult” sounds great with the horns as an addition and Ben Kweller comes out and sings lead on the first verse of “I Hope Tomorrow is Like Today” (I had no idea he co-wrote it!).  They even leave a slight pause for the “hidden track” of “Two at a Time.”

This is a great version of this album, and well worth the listen.

[READ: June 2, 2018] “Fungus”

This is a story about carrying on after the unthinkable. But not just carrying on, carrying on with the mundane things that you can’t live without but remind you of exactly what happened.

The story opens with an insurance check and talk of geckos.  But the tone is not lighthearted like Geico commercials.  Andrew has access to Ingrid and Ron’s car, but really, he can only borrow it for so long.  It is time to buy a new one.

So Andrew and his daughter Willa go to the Subaru dealer.

These two scenes are simple enough, but they are fraught with meaning–with the undertone of what happened and how Andrew is allowed and allowing himself to deal with it.   There’s darkly funny thoughts (he’d like a homemade sign around his next that says “I don’t know”).  But the reality is that he has to go on for Willa’s sake, if not his own.

And then there’s this idea which is perfect for the story but works wonders in everyday life: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SINKANE-Tiny Desk Concert #611 (April 10, 2017).

I’ve heard of Sinkane but I didn’t really know much about them.  Not knowing what to expect, it was really fun to watch this show and see such diversity in the band.

Their music kind of defies categorization, which the blurb addresses:

Sinkane is the music of Ahmed Gallab — and such hopeful music it is. He grew up in London and has lived in Sudan and in Ohio and, these days, New York City. His band reflects his own love for music from around the world; you can hear a great New York jazz band in the rhythms of Sinkane, but you can also hear the influence of Bob Marley and the hypnotic repetition of Sudanese desert sounds.

“U’Huh”is the first song.  Ahmed says “You can help us out with this song you just have to say ‘u’huh.'”  The song is fun right from the bat.  The verses are catchy, with each line ending with “u’huh” (although singing partner Amanda Khiri  looks a little intent as she sings that affirmative line).  Ahmed sings with a surprising falsetto–which plays off against the repeated “u’huh.”

The song contains the Arabic phrase “kulu shi tamaam,” which translates to “everything’s great — it’s all going to be all right.”  And when it gets to the chorus, it grabs hold and won’t let go.

I love that there’s kind of reggae guitars (by Johnny Lam) and a surprising amount of acoustic piano (which you don’t hear all that much in reggae) from Elanna Canlas.  I also love that all of s sudden yo become very aware of all of the percussion, like a small triangle and cowbell and other things.  Those are all played by guest percussionist Reggie Pace from No BS! Brass Band.

“Favorite Song” opens with snaps /claps and a slinky guitar riff, a pulsing bass (Ish Montgomery) and a fun piano melody.  No falsetto for most of the main vocal lines and the great chorus “wont you play my favorite song….”

“Deadweight” has a cool dark riff on bass and guitar and the guitar uses a glass slide as well.  The bass and drums (Jason Trammell) are a great rhythm section.  Ahmed and Amanda sing a duet and they sound great together.  Then the whole band sings together.  I love that the piano plays little melodies that seem to be different from the rest of the song and yet work perfectly.  The guitar solo at the end comes as a surprise but it sounds terrific.

This is a fun, uplifting set from a really interesting band.

[READ: February 1, 2017] “Underground”

I really enjoyed this story quite a bit.  Although, as I think about it more, it almost seems like three unrelated episodes and makes me wonder if this is an excerpt from something bigger.

This is the story of Michael Salter.  Michael is forty-seven.  He’s recently divorced and even more recently come out as gay.  He has three distinct portions to his day.

The first is him at home with his most recent “boyfriend” Jeremy, a twenty-something guy he picked up on Grindr.  Michael is old-fashioned and formal.  He dresses beautifully (and has done so ever since he was little–learning to tie his own bow tie in school).  [There’s an odd line here “Mr. Collins, his Latin teacher, had taught him, and after an hour of practice Michael had the knot mastered along with a boner-size bruise on his backside.”  I have several possible ideas about what this means, but the “boner-sized bruise” just doesn’t make literal sense to me.]

Anyhow, Michael is a fancy older guy and Jeremy is a young stud.  Jeremy posts selfies all day and has thousands of followers.  Somehow this is part of his job.  At seven dates, Jeremy had become Michael’s most serious boyfriend.  And yet Michael is constantly checking Grindr, more in sheer amazement at the technology and the ease of cruising than for actually wanting to do anything. (more…)

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jun9SOUNDTRACK: THE PEANUT BUTTER CONSPIRACY-“It’s a Happening Thing” (1967).

pncWho would have guessed that a band from 1967 would come up with a name that seems relevant in 2014 (what with all the peanut allergies).  But they didn’t have that on their minds when they named the band.

I’m not sure that I knew of this band (they are mentioned in this story–although I had heard of the Flamin’ Groovies, also mentioned), although by now they seem like an obvious touchstone.  Because this is a major hippie band.  Indeed, this song seems almost quintessentially hippie.  The title, obviously.  But also the (sixties) fuzzy guitar, the super funky bass, the group vocals (very Jefferson Airplane).  The wild solo with even more fuzz on the guitar.  I especially enjoy the descending vocal line at the end of the chorus.

It’s a fun song, although kind of forgettable (possibly because of the lyrics).  After the chorus, the most repeated line is “Love is the grooviest thing up til now in the world.”  Up til now?

A little research says that the production on their second album is less obviously hippie, but this seems to be their most notable song.

Peace Man.

[READ: September 17, 2014] “Here’s the Story”

This year’s Summer Fiction issue of the New Yorker was subtitled Love Stories.  In addition to all of the shorter pieces that were included in this issue, there were also four fiction contributions.

This story takes a look at an already extant story and finds a story beneath it.  I didn’t realize this until about two paragraphs from the end of the story when it all came clear.  And then in retrospect I realized that there were a lot of hints thrown into the story and either I should have figured that out or, more likely, Gilbert made the hints minor and casual so that, like me, a reader might realize what he or she missed at the end of the story.

I’m not going to give anything away about the story; however, at the end of this post I’m going to put some of the hints that made me tilt my head at the story which proved to pay off in the end).

But without that information, the story was compelling but also frustrating.  Gilbert starts out the story so that you know there will be a sad ending: “It ends with his right hand griping her left…the plane is on final approach.”  The two people, both married meet and think about having an affair.  Both of them are pretty unhappily married with children and living in California.  But the story is told as an impartial report: “we also know that seven weeks earlier the Los Angeles Dodgers played their final game of the season.” (more…)

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CV1_TNY_07_22_13McCall.inddSOUNDTRACK: JOHN MARTYN-“Glory Box” (1998).

martynI learn about music from the most random places.  The other night we were watching the British dramedy Doc Martin (starring Martin Clunes and the wonderfully awful Lucy Punch).  Punch’s character was talking to a boy who is interested in her.  She mentions Portishead and how great “Glory Biox” is (true) and then they talk about John Martyn’s cover and how it’s even better (not quite).

I’ve heard of Martyn, but only barely.  The boy says that he has all of Martyn’s albums (which seems surprising as he has a lot).

I can’t guess too much about Martyn from this cover, but I’ll guess he’s a bluesy guy.

The cover captures the essence of “Glory Box” and then runs it in a totally new direction–low and rumbly (voices and guitars).  Interestingly, he shifts the song to the male perspective which makes the entire song have a totally different meaning.  Neat trick, that.

I don’t love bluesy music as a rule, but I really like this version.  Not enough to get his other music–and I do like the Portishead version better–but it’ still a nice discovery.

[READ: August 1, 2013] “From a Farther Room”

This story starts off pretty sanely and then quickly jumps in the realm of Wha??

As the story opens we meet Robert Childress.  He is a married man with children.  His family is away for the weekend and his wife has given him her blessing to go out and have fun.  He meets Stearns, a bachelor who takes him out eating and drinking and drinking.  There is talk of a strip club and lap dances but that idea is nixed.  Nevertheless, Childress is very drunk–so much so that he takes a limo home (at what cost?) and then has the bed spins during the night–with the expected result.

So far so normal.

The weirdness comes when he is awoken by his dog.  The dog who is nudging some… thing on the floor.  Which, when Childress looks more closely, reveals itself to be… alive.  Right where he threw up.  Did he throw up a living creature? (more…)

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CV1_TNY_11_12_12Tomine.inddSOUNDTRACK: WYE OAK-May 29, 2011, Sasquatch Festival (2011).

wye oakI don’t know all that much about Wye Oak.  This concert from Sasquatch has a very shoegazery vibe–like a more sultry Cocteau Twins.  This concert has a vibrancy and bounce that I like quite a lot.  The first half of the show comes from their most recent album Civilian.  Singer Jenn Wasner’s voice has a deep resonance that makes it sounds like high notes are not easy for her, but she manages them anyhow.   The songs are mostly a kind of indie rock, with fuzzy guitars.  Although “Dogs Eye” is a lot heavier with an interesting keyboard sound tacked on top.

The older songs aren’t quite as dynamic or interesting, even in this setting.  The whole show flows really well, but the beginning is a bit more exciting.

The strange thing is that her speaking voice sounds so southern when they’re just from Baltimore.

[READ: November 28, 2012] “Member/Guest”

This story is about Beckett, a fourteen-year old girl, and her friends.  They are members at a resort in the Hamptons, a resort they have been coming to since she was little.  I rather liked this description of her friends, “They were like a favorite TV show that had gone all ridiculous, yet you stayed tuned, hoping that the silly plots would get better.”  But rather than getting better, the girls were talking about what was in the shorts of Brad Sawyer and Justin Miller.  Natalie, the sexual oracle, (she showed them a Trojan the other day) predicted that it would look like Barbie’s leg.

The girls are naughty and vulgar (and rather funny).  Clio says they should all get out their Barbies for practice–their moms would be so happy to see them rediscovering their childhood toy!  There’s another funny sequence when Beckett sees her parents.  Her dad calls her toots and her mom mocks him saying “I didn’t know we were suddenly at the Copa.” (more…)

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