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Archive for the ‘Harper Lee’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ALICE RUSSELL-Tiny Desk Concert #288 (July 15, 2013).

I read the name Alice Russell and pictured some kind of folk artist.  Boy, was I surprised to see a woman with  bleached blonde hair, a leather jacket and a funny t-shirt.  And then her band started playing low groovy soulful music.

Turns out:

Russell is a classic soul-infused singer — close your eyes and it’s easy to hear a Southern drawl, but truth be told, she’s a Brit. American-style R&B from Britain has a long history dating back to the 1960s with Dusty Springfield and on up through 21st-century artists like Adele. As for Alice Russell, she’s been making great soul music for 10 years, and her arrangements on To Dust often include a dose of electronics.

I didn’t love her voice when the first song “To Dust” started.  But as soon as the chorus kicked in I was hooked–wow, what a great voice she has and with the full band playing behind her it sounded amazing (the sampled backing singers was a bit flat, but otherwise OK).  And by the second chorus, man she is belting out the song—it’s great.  The Adele comparisons are spot on.

Then she hit Bob’s gong at the end of the song and told us that it was an ode to the taxman.

“For a While” is a great big soul song.  The drummer gets some great sounds out of that one drum he has.  And they keys sound great too.  I love the middle part where there’s some seriously long pauses in between beats–they are all wonderfully in sync.  At the end of the song she yells “I didn’t gong!” and then makes a peculiar hand gesture about a turtle.

“Heartbreaker” has such a classic-sounding riff it’s hard to believe it’s a new song.  I like it a lot (although I don’t care for the chanted “when it falls, when it breaks” by the guys).

I have to agree with this blurb about her:

To Dust is Russell’s fifth album, but the hiatus that followed 2008’s Pot of Gold may be the reason too many people don’t yet know what she’s doing. This stuff is as powerful as the work of any American singer making soul music in the 21st century. If you haven’t heard of her yet, think of this as a well-overdue introduction.

[READ: May 15, 2016] I Kill the Mockingbird

I bought this book from the bookstore in Bethlehem, PA.  I don’t buy too many books these days but I saw this one in the PA authors section (and it was 20% off) and the title sounded intriguing.  So I grabbed it.

And I’m I glad I did. This book was outstanding.  I loved it from the first chapter and was thrilled that the ending was also very satisfying–not easy given the way the story was heading for a conclusion that could have gone in many different directions.

So what’s this about?  Well, there are three kids, Lucy Elena and Michael.  They are at the heart of the story.  I loved loved loved that these three were great friends who’d known each other forever.  And they were all big big big readers. Such an awesome start to a story. (more…)

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Our family visited Washington DC and went to a few museums.  We talked about subscribing to Smithsonian magazine (and getting a membership to the museums), but we put it off.  Then I received an offer in the mail to subscribe to the magazine and get a membership all for $12.  So we did.  And I’m thrilled with the magazine.

I recall subscribing to this magazine many years ago (turns out it was about fifteen years ago) as I distinctly remember reading, savoring and the keeping the September 1995 issue which featured a cover about James Gurney’s Dinotopia.  The cover is still blazed in my memory (even if I can’t find a better picture than this online).

As with many things, I find that as an adult (and a dad) I enjoy this sort of magazine a lot more than I did as a recent college grad.  It was also fascinating to learn in the new 40th anniversary issue that the magazine started not long after I was born.  It’s like we grew up together (but I ignored it for years). (more…)

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jokeSOUNDTRACK: FRIGHTENED RABBIT-Midnight Organ Fight (2008).

rabbitMy friend Jarrett introduced me to this band.  He rather casually called it his favorite album of the year, so I figured it was worth checking out.

Frightened Rabbit are a group from Scotland, and they play a sort of disaffected folk.  Although that’s not a wholly accurate description because they do kick in the drums and louder guitars.  So, yeah, they don’t sound anything like Belle and Sebastian.  This is complemented by the lyrics which are somewhat bitter or aching.

And speaking of lyrics, the first song that I wanted to sing along with most was “Keep Yourself Warm” and then I realized that the chorus is “It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm.”  There’s also a very pointed use of the mother of all C words, in another song, too.  And I’ve had that song in my head for about three days now.  But I absolutely cannot sing the song at work or at home, or, well, anywhere except in the car when I ‘m by myself.

This all leads me to wonder, Do bands save their best songs to fill with curses or am I just 8 years old and I listen to the song with curses the most?

The one thing that has troubled me about the record is that at times the singer can sound like the guy from the Counting Crows.  And the Counting Crows are probably the band I hate the most in the universe.  But I just focus on the Scottish burr which lessens the Durwitz effect, and then I can enjoy the disc again.

[READ: Summer 2008] The McSweeney’s Joke Book of Book Jokes

This is a collection of humorous vignettes that are, if not about books exactly, certainly literary in nature.  If you like your humor to be bookish, then this is a great, funny collection.  It starts with the cover itself, as it is printed backwards and upside down w(the cover above is actually on the back).

Many of these pieces are very short (some are a page, even some more are just a few sentences.)  Plus, there are so many pieces that I’m not willing to write all that much, just a one-line summary (that I will try to make funny without giving away the punchline).

I thought about indicating in some way which ones I liked best or some kind of rating system, but that just seems extensive and cruel.

Most of these pieces came from McSweeny’s online, and I’m sure many of the pieces are still available there, but I’m not going to do all the work for you.  And it’s funny how many jokes there are about: James Joyce, Kafka, Homer and children’s books!

Oh, and authors: I started to include all of your names in my Categories, and then it just got too overwhelming.  But if you want to be added, just drop me a note!

Click here for the egress: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKNADA SURF-Lucky (2008).

Just as I was thinking that Nada Surf had dropped off the face of the earth, I discovered that they were releasing LuckyLucky continues Nada Surf’s fantastic output of beautiful melodies and poppy, almost folky songs.  I hate to make it sound like Nada Surf have mellowed, but they certainly have.  Nevertheless, their song craft has risen to even newer heights.  The first three songs are some of the best singles you’ll hear (and you may have heard “Whose Authority” which got some airplay…. If you liked that then you’ll love the rest of the album.)

There are obvious precedents for who Nada Surf now sound like, but it’s not an aping of sounds where you say, oh they sound just like Matthew Sweet or Semisonic or something, but they have that kind of vibe.  If the jangly alternapop of the late nineties were still popular, Nada Surf would be leading the pack.  As it is, they don’t sound retro in any way, the songs just exist, almost timelessly.

The middle songs culminate with “I Like What You Say.”  There’s no reason this song shouldn’t be a huge hit.  The lyrics are slightly hard to sing along to (which usually makes for the kind of song that people like to learn) “You say, I like what you say, I like what you say, you say,” but the chorus of “Baby, I only want to make you happy” lifts your spirits.  All eleven tracks are solid, and there’s enough diversity, even within the limited palette to keep you interested.  There’s even a short oom-pah-pah at the end of “Ice on the Wing.”  I’m not sure why it’s there, but it adds a nice bit of texture to the album.

This disc came with a bonus EP (something Nada Surf seems to like doing) which comes with acoustic versions of two of the songs from the album, and two new songs.  The last one, “Everyone’s on Tour” shows a rare glimpse of Nada Surf really rocking out.  It’s something of a throwaway song, but it shows off an interesting side of the band, just in case you were afraid they were getting too mellow.

[READ: Fall 2007] To Kill a Mockingbird.

There was some impetus that made me want to read this book and watch the movie.  I think it’s because Sarah likes to repeat her favorite line from the movie (see below) and I wanted to see it myself.  I wasn’t entirely sure what it was even about.  I think it was simply that I knew so many cultural references to this book without knowing the original.  It made me say, okay, time to read this thing.  (Similarly, if you’ve never actually seen 2001, A Space Odyssey, you are missing hundreds of cultural reference points every day).

And I am so glad I did.  Now, obviously, its a Pulitzer Prize winning story, and everyone is supposed to read it in school (why didn’t I?), so I’m not the only one to think it’s good.  But in addition to being Substantial and Substantive, it was also a really enjoyable read.  I admit that some of the classics are difficult to get through, but this one was so great I practically rushed through to the end.

So, of course, this is where Boo Radley comes from.  It’s also where Atticus Finch comes from.  It’s also a story about race, rape and a lawyer who is willing to stand up for what’s right even in the face of violence. That’s a lot to pack into a small book. (more…)

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