Archive for the ‘Donald Antrim’ Category

SOUNDTRACK-XAVIER OMÄR-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #181 (March 15, 2021).

Xavier Omär has a fantastic voice–one that I thought was rather unexpected given his appearance.  He’s a pretty big guy and seems like he’d have a deep resonant voice, but his voice is really soft and high.  And powerful.

He’s also had a pretty interesting career.

Omär’s career began in Christian music under the moniker SPZRKT, before he moved into secular R&B and hip-hop. Through his first couple of projects and work with Seattle DJ and producer, Sango, the 27-year-old singer’s heart-on-sleeve approach quickly created a buzz.

He says that the whole band is from San Antonio Texas.

Xavier Omär decided to turn his Tiny Desk home concert into a whole Texas affair. Initially, Omär wanted to recreate the look of the Desk: “I wanted to kind of bring the feeling of Tiny Desk back, so I had booked a library,” he said. Ultimately the library didn’t work out, but Rosella Coffee and Wine in his home base of San Antonio proved to be a great match for his sound–spacious and airy.

“Like I Feel” opens with some grooving bass from Korey Davison and wailing sax from Kevin Davison.  Josh Greene adds some big drums fills and guitarist Billy Ray Blunt Jr. plays some wailing leads.  Xavier trades off lead vocals duties with Talyce Hays whose voice is also terrific.

During “Blind Man” he throws in some rapping–a softer cadence, but to good effect.  There’s some response backing vocals from Jay Wile while Alana Holmes and Hays fill in the backing vocals.   Lyrically the song is kinda lame (sweet, but lame), but there’s some cool musical moments–splashes of four notes and more than a few tempo changes.

For good measure, he plays the song that put him on the map, 2016’s “Blind Man.” This is undoubtedly Xavier Omär’s best live performance on record.

I had no idea that this was his breakthrough song.

He tells a quick story (it’s amusing) about how he wishes he was at the beach.  But even if he can’t get there he can think of the the rhythm of the waves and the “SURF.”  He says he could enjoy the surf because his woman has that “splah” (?).  Its’s a pretty ripping song with, again, surprising tempo changes.  The song has moments that I would say come from Frank Zappa’s oddball melodies.  Ands once again, the drums are massive.

He says “So Much More” is the wedding song of the year.  It features Justin Crawford on keys and is a much more mellow song than the other.  It also allows Xavier to really show off his voice.

The Alamo City resident and his cohorts orchestrated a charismatic and vocally rich show. The set list perfectly depicts the emotional arch of if You Feel. He’s on a clear path to greatness in R&B music.

It was probably a smart move to go secular.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “A Man in the Kitchen”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Donald Antrim starts this rather sad memory with an amusing story.

His father learned how to cook when his mother served “hot tuna-and-mayonnaise casserole with potato chops as a decorative garnish.”

This story had become Received History in the family: “Baked mayonnaise! I had to take action!”

Soon cooking had become his father’s second full time job.  He taught literature at the University of Virginia and then he would drive around buying all of the food stuffs for their meals.  He would travel to different markets for different foods and he was an early adopter of the Cuisinart. (more…)

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oceanToday, Darlingside announced the release of a new song–a wonderful surprise–and an upcoming new album.

The basic sound of Darlingside doesn’t change (thank goodness), but on their last album, they mixed things up by throwing in some electronic sounds.

There’s no electronic sounds on this song (which doesn’t mean there are non on the album) but there is a lot more percussion than usual.

It opens up with some thumping drums.  Is there a drummer?  It’s more than the kick drum they usually use.  Then comes the mandolin and some clapping.  A smooth grooving bass slides in and then, as the voices come in, everything settles down into pure Darlingside.

The verses are individual voice but the bridges are gorgeous harmonies.  The song moves swiftly with a percussion backing as the lead voices sing.

Then the surprise–the middle is practically a drum solo–with rumbling percussion and some kind of low pulsing note (is that secret electronics after all) that adds almost a sinister feel. But that segue leads right back to the mandolin.

I love that this song can sound so much like Darlingside and yet also shows them changing things up. In some ways it’s a step back since their first album had a drummer and their later ones did not.  But this drumming and percussion is a very different sound.  very exciting–how will they do it live?

[READ: July 10, 2020] “Black Mountain, 1977”

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.

Donald Antrim’s essay is considerably shorter and much more harrowing than the previous one.

Antrim tells of the horrible situation that his mother grew up in.  His mother’s mother was a cruel parent, carrying out “an aggressive campaign against her daughter’s body, even going so far as to advocate unnecessary surgeries for her only child,”

His mother’s father was a meek and cowed alcoholic who never stood up to his wife. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE JACK FAMILY-“You Are My Sunshine” (Moose: The Compilation, 1991).

Back in the 1990s, it was common to buy a compilation or soundtrack or even a band’s album based on one song.  Only to then find that you didn’t really like anything else on it.

Maybe that single sounded like nothing else on the album.  Maybe the movie was almost entirely one genre, but they had that one song that you liked over the credits.  Or maybe the compilation was for something you didn’t know, but a song you really wanted was on it, too.

With streaming music that need not happen anymore.  Except in this case.

I bought this compilation, used, recently exclusively for one song, Rheostatics’ “Woodstuck.”  It’s a goofy song and this is the only place you can get the studio version.  The actual compilation was not well documented, so I didn’t know what the other bands on it might sound like.  It turns out to be a compilation for Ontario based Moose Records which specialized in Rock, Folk, World & Country.  They put out another compilation in 1992 and that’s all I can find out about them.

According to Reno Jack’s biography: The Jack Family was a bunch of musicians who jammed out to whichever song was chosen by whoever was singing. Unrehearsed and free floating each member choosing an alias with the last name Jack just having fun away from the pressures of presenting original music. The band had names like Reno Jack, Bunk “Everyone Drums” Jack, Chief Don Jack, Mercedes Jack, Monterey Jack, Nevada Jack, One-Eyed Jack, Y “Tip” Jack and The Jackets backing singers.

This is the slowest, mopiest take on “You Are My Sunshine” I have ever heard.  Reno Jack is know for “country blues” and this version sounds like the most depressing part of both genres.

[READ: July 30, 2019] “The Pancake Supper”

Thomas suggested that all of the teaching analysts go out for a pancake supper twice a year.  Not at the fancy pancake house, but at the modest open-all night Pancake House & Bar.

Because Breakfast foods, except for cereals, that contain inordinate amounts of sugar, have, in my experience, a comforting, antidepressant quality.

The first to arrive was Manuel Escobar who disagreed with that sentiment: “I suppose that is true is you are an American.”

Escobar flirted with the waitress.  He also wanted to make love to Thomas’ wife.  Thomas was introspective about this:

It has occurred to me from time to time that an affair between this man and my wife could be harmless enough, and might solve a variety of problems in my home life.

Up next was Maria who immediately praised Escobar’s work. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_02_03_14Blitt.inddSOUNDTRACK: COURTNEY BARNETT-Tiny Desk Concert #348 (April 14, 2014).

cbThe first time I hear Courtney Barnett’s “Avant Gardener,” I fell in love with it.  A nearly spoken word almost slacker style vocal delivery of some really funny and very clever lyrics.  Plus a catchy chorus.  Swoon.

Then WXPN started playing it to death and I got a little tired of it. Thankfully, they found another track on the album (two eps together with the delightfully odd name The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas).  And that proved to be just as good.  Then I saw her live on a late night show and her live delivery was different and even more compelling.

In this Tiny Desk Concert, she plays the guitar differently on “Avant Gardener”, bringing in some new textures behind her accented Australian voice.  The second song “History Eraser” is another song from the EPs.  She has mentioned loving Nirvana, and I can see a similar style of guitar playing in this one.   The chorus reminds me of Liz Phair’s “Flower” which is no bad thing.

The final song is a new one about a suburb near Melbourne called Preston.  The song is called “Depreston,” and its about house hunting.  It’s another interesting story telling song with a great melody.

Barnett doesn’t do staggeringly original music, but it’s all really enjoyable.  And it’s fun to see just her and her guitar in this setting.

[READ: June 11, 2014] “The Emerald Light in the Air”

This story begins as one thing (which I liked) and slowly turns into something else (which I also liked but not as much).

As it opens, we see a man driving his father’s (and his father’s before that) Mercedes in Charlottesville.  There had been thunderstorms that afternoon and one of the roads is blocked by a large tree.

What I liked about the story was the way his present (driving, planning his dinner for his date tonight) was interspersed almost on a paragraph by paragraph basis with moments from his past.  The past is brought up by the present events–he is having a date with Mary Doan, the woman he lost his virginity to.  They happened to run into each other after all of these years.  Humorously, she didn’t remember him, even though she was a huge part of his life.

He is also thinking about his ex-wife.  He has some of her drawings and paintings in the trunk of his car.  He’s planning on taken them to the dump so they’re out of his house.   So he thinks back to their days as young artists together.  He also thinks back to the days when he was suicidal, and how now he carries a gun but only for his art, not for suicide. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_11_04_13Brunetti.inddSOUNDTRACKJOHN VANDERSLICE-Tiny Desk Concert #29 (October 7, 2009).

Ivanderslice only know about John Vanderslice from NPR.  He’s an artist that Bob and Robin have talked about him forever.  They play a song of each of his new albums, so I know quite a few of his tracks from over the years (he has put out ten albums since 2000).  And yet I have never seen his name anywhere else.  I’m fascinated by this, because he must have a following or he wouldn’t still be recording.  Turns out Vanderslice created a recording studio called Tiny Telephone where many big name alternative bands have recorded.  He also recently finished a Kickstarter campaign to create his own label which was hugely successful.

Most of his songs I find are nto that memorable at first.  But after two or three listens, all of their amazing features come out and the songs become wonderful–full of unexpected layers and instrumentation.

The Tiny Desk Concert contains four songs from his then recent album Romanian Names.  his band consists of two acoustic guitars, a bass guitar, a flute and saxophone (often playing in a way that sounds very un-sax-like) and a drummer who is playing a Surdo drum–the kind usually used in parades.  It is a deep resonating drum (especially when he gives it a good loud whack).

The four songs are diverse (within the confines of the band, of course) and passionate.  Vanderslice’s voice is pleasant, but it’s the way he uses it around the melodies (and especially the big minor chords that really sets his stuff apart) that makes these songs sound great.  Like the way the “still wide-eyed, you” section builds in “Romanian Names.”  The saxophone playing what sounds like a guitar solo is very very cool in the second song, “Forest Knolls.”  “Too Much Time” is a more upbeat song (it’s neat to see the cool percussion he gets out of one drum).  The final song “Sunken Union Boat” makes good use of the flute.  It’s a great set and makes me think that Romanian Names would be a good place to start with his studio albums.

[READ: January 5, 2014] “Fed”

Antrim’s story is a personal reflection.  He talks about the breakdown he had a couple of years ago.  He also talks about suicide (see, food stories always seem to be about something else).

The doctors were worried about him when he left for home–being older and by himself seemed like a dangerous way for him to live at the moment.  This was especially true as he was having trouble with coordination, which mean that cooking was out of the question.  This made things even worse because Antrim loved to cook.  (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: November 20, 2013] “Urban Planning” podcast

podcastIn the third New Yorker fiction podcast, Donald Antrim reads Donald Barthelme.  I know both writers, but neither one all that well.

The story is absurdist and very funny.  In it, the narrator buys “a little city,”Galveston, Texas.  He keeps things pretty much the way they are–he doesn’t want anything too imaginative going on.  He tears down several houses and builds new developments (cut in the shape of puzzle pieces).  But he’s a little bored so he goes out and shoots 6,000 dogs, and then makes a front page announcement that he had done it.  This causes some upset (naturally), and he’s appreciative for the excitement.

But overall he is unsatisfied because he is in love with a married woman.  And she won’t leave her husband (and may not even know who the narrator is–except that he owns the city).  Eventually he had to sell the city back (and he took a real soaking financially on that deal).

The story has many many funny lines–laugh out loud funny–and (dog killing aside) it is a funny and delightfully weird story that retains its voice no matter how odd it seems. (more…)

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This was the song of the day on NPR on March 14th.  While NPR describes it as like 90s indie rock, I find it to be much more like early 2000s indie rock (think The Strokes or Arctic Monkeys).  True, those bands were playing in the spirit of 90s rock, but they had a slightly different take on things–cleaner, perhaps.

So, while the guitars are buzzy and distorted, the vocals are up front and clear (even if the words aren’t entirely understandable–a neat trick that).  The song is under three minutes and has a catchy, powerful chorus.  I’ll bet it’s a lot of fun to hear live, although honestly I don’t think it’s anything all that special.

[READ: March 9, 2012] “Ever Since”

I’ve enjoyed many of Antrim’s stories in the past.  And, I rather enjoyed this one as well.

This was a fairly simple story of a man who has not let go of the woman who broke up with him a year earlier.  And how she haunts him and his current relationship still.

The opening of the story is really quite wonderful.  It didn’t really have an impact on me at first but when I reread it, I realized it’s a wonderful precis of the story:

Ever since his wife had left him–but she wasn’t his wife, was she? he’d only thought of her that way, had begun to think of her that way, since her abrupt departure, the year before, with Richard Bishop [I’m interrupting to say wow, has he packed a lot into a dependent clause.  And then he continues with the rest of the powerful descriptor]–Jonathan had taken up a new side of his personality, and become the sort of lurking man who, say at work or at a party, mainly hovers on the outskirts of other people’s conversations, leaning close but not too close, listening in while gazing out vaguely over their heads in order to seem distracted and inattentive waiting for the conversation to wind down, so that he can weigh in gloomily and summarize whatever has just been said.

Now, THAT, dear readers, is a SENTENCE!

To make him even more pathetic, when he summarizes an idea he often claims that his ex-wife felt a certain way about it…and then explaining that she wasn’t really his ex-wife.

The crazy thing is that Jonathan has a new love in his life: Sarah, the kind of woman who  appears by his side at a party (a work party for her) and says, “Hey Buster, lets’ go fuck in the bathroom.”  It’s unclear whether she was joking, which makes it even more fun. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BOOKWORM-Jeffrey Eugenidies: The Marriage Plot (December 1, 2011) (2011).

Since “Just Kids” mentions  Eugenides’ book, and since Eugenides happened to appear on Bookworm at around the same time as I read this article, it seemed like a good pairing.

Obviously, from the title of the episode you can tell that this is all about Eugenides’ new book, The Marriage Plot.  Michael Silverblatt raves about this book like no other book I have heard (granted I haven’t listened to all that many episodes of Bookworm, but still).  In fact while listening to this episode, I put The Marriage Plot on hold at the library.  I always planned to read it but figured I’d just get around to it some day.  Now I feel more of a sense of urgency.

They talk at length about the state of marriage in the 21st century.  Not as in its decline but in how it differs so much from classic literature in which women had to get married by 21 or risk spinsterhood.  Eugenides set out to write a book about people getting married without having the trappings of classical literature.

It sounds wonderful.

The reason I mention this interview at all is because in the article below, Hughes talks about contemporaries of DFW using DFW as the basis for a character in their books.  So, in Franzen’s Freedom, there is character who is very much like DFW (I haven’t read Freedom yet so I can’t say). 

And in The Marriage Plot, there is a character who resembles DFW.  When I read the excerpt of this story in The New Yorker, I had to admit he did seem an awful lot like DFW–a tobacco chewing, bandanna wearing philosopher.  Eugenides had been mum about it for a while, but now, under the gentle nudging of Michael Silverblatt, he comes clean. 

He admits that there are some characteristics of DFW in the character.  However, he says that he didn’t know DFW all that well and the character has been kicking around since he went to college (long before he knew DFW).  Tobacco chewing was rampant at Brown in the 80s apparently.  But it’s a nice revelation and it ties in very well with the article.

You can listen to the show at KCRW.

[READ: December 7, 2011] “Just Kids

I have always grouped together certain authors in my head.  When there were a bunch of Jonathans publishing, I kind of lumped them together.  I think of Mark Leyner and Bret Easton Ellis in the same breath.  It’s fairly common, I suppose.  But I never really thought of David Foster Wallace in terms of a group of authors.  He seems so solitary that it’s funny to even think of him as having friends.   But according to Hughes, many of today’s established authors prove to have been a part of a kind of nebulous writer’s circle.  A kind of 1990’s update of Dorothy Parker’s vicious circle.  But more insecure.

The article bookends with Jeffrey Eugenides.  In 1983 he and Rick Moody drove to San Francisco with the intent of being writers.  Five years later with no written works, Eugenides moved to Brooklyn, alone.  In that same summer, Jonathan Franzen was in Queens, also feeling alone (even though he was married–unhappily) and desperate for friends and peers.  And then Franzen got a fan letter from David Foster Wallace (that’s after he had written Broom of the System, but before Girl with Curious Hair) praising The Twenty-Seventh City

Franzen and DFW became friends.  To this friendship was added William T. Vollman, and David Means, also Mary Karr (whom DFW dated) and Mark Costello (who co-wrote Signifying Rappers with DFW).  Later they would connect with Eugenides, Rick Moody and Donald Antrim.  (more…)

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I discovered My Morning Jacket through their awesome live album Okonokos.  Most of that album comprised songs from their previous disc, Z.  But there were a number of tracks from this record as well.  So I was thrilled to put this in for the first time and recognize a number of these epic tracks (4 songs are over 6 minutes).

It Still Moves is a soaring, gorgeous record of folk rock plus.  Some of their tracks are rooted in Americana, but they have wonderful touches of psychedelia and soaring sounds (choruses, guitars, voices).  It’s a great combination that never settles into one style of sound, and as much as it stays out of the reach of commercialism, it embraces catchiness.

And for an album that seems like it might resist the average listener, there’ some amazing stuff here.  The opening three songs are absolute stunners–catchy and interesting.  “Magheeta” is a slowish opener; “Dancefloors'” has a great riff and ends with a cool boogie of horns and pianos; and “Golden” is a shuffle song with terrific harmonies.

“Masterplan” is the first really slow song, but it has a dramatic buildup that is wonderful.  It’s followed by the first of the soaring guitar songs on the disc.  “One Big Holiday” opens with a cool tight guitar riff which turns into a soaring guitar riff of joy.  The second one is “Run Thru” which is one of my favorite songs of the past few years.  It opens with a slow soaring guitar riff that is totally catchy.  By midway it turns into a dancey discoey song for a few measures and then returns with the great riff.  It’s excellent.

“I Will Sing You Songs” is a 9 minute slow boiler of a track.  It’s very slow, almost lazily paced, but it’s never dull (credit Jim James’  amazing voice for keeping the whole proceeding interesting).  “Rollin’ Back” opens a bit like “Waiting for the Worms” from Pink Floyd the Wall (soaring oooh ooohs), but quickly settles into a slow roots song.

The end of the disc is a bit slow and meandering (the last song especially is practically a sleepytime ballad) but it works for the overall feel of the disc.  The whole enterprise is a bit long–it’s hard to listen all at one setting.  But nevertheless, it’s a great record with some amazing songs ion it.

[READ: May 9, 2011] “He Knew”

I rather enjoyed the last story by Antrim that I read, but I didn’t care for this one at all.  And that was pretty much because I didn’t care about the characters at all.

The story is about an out of work actor, Stephen (who is on antidepressants) and his very tall wife Alice (who is on Valium).  They’re sort of pathetic and it’s not even entirely clear if the like each other (or is that the anxiety speaking?).  She accuses him of wanting to sleep with every woman he talks to, and he looks longingly at most other women he sees. (more…)

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[READ: September 24, 2001 & May 9, 2011] Talk of the Town

After 9/11, I read everything about the incident (like the multiple comics that came out).  About a week after 9/11 my friend Al and I went down to Hoboken and absorbed the decay (and I can’t help but wonder if that’s why I’ve developed adult asthma).  My 9/11 story is no more compelling than anyone else’s and may even be far less compelling (you can read a snippet at Al’s blog, should you care to).  Anyhow, when this issue of The New Yorker came out (with the amazing cover that you can’t really see here–the towers are in a shiny black that reflects the light), I read all of these accounts and recollections.

I came upon them again recently when I was doing a New Yorker search for Jonathan Franzen.  I recently read all of his New Yorker entries, but when I saw that he had one that was part of this 9/11 issue, I decided to put it off.  It was reasonably close to the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, and I told myself I’d wait until then to reread and see what I thought.

And then President Obama gave the order to capture and kill Osama bin Laden (hooray!) and that seemed like a far more propitious reason to go back and re-read these articles.  Now I can feel a bit lighter about the whole thing (just a bit, but a bit can be a lot).  And so, here’s a somewhat facile reaction to these reactions.

I’ll preface by saying I can’t imagine what it must have been like to write something, anything at that time.  Some people respond well to pressure and tragedy and perhaps that’s what happened here.  I can’t help but wonder how paralyzing it must have been for other writers (as it was for most people).  So that these writers had the wherewithal to write anything coherent is pretty amazing.  And the fact that the could express the range of emotions that they do is extraordinary. (more…)

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