Archive for the ‘James Kelman’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TORI AMOS-Live from the Artist’s Den (2010).

I think my relationship with Tori Amos has come to an end.  I haven’t enjoyed her more recent albums all that much lately, but I was excited to see that this live and intimate set was on PBS.  After all, it was just her with a piano and what turned out to be a really cheesy organ.

I was pretty thrilled by the setlist, which goes all the way back to her debut album (with “Girl” and “China”).  I was even more excited to hear “Bells for Her” one of my favorite songs by her and even “Concertina” one of her more mellow tracks that worked well for this show which was primarily mellow songs.

There were a lot of newer songs which I don’t know that well, and a few newer songs which I know okay.   I don’t love her newer stuff, but I was even disappointed with the presentation of her older songs.  She has definitely taken on a new technique where she reeeeeaaaaaalllllllllyyyyy streeeeeeeeeeeetches the songs out. And, as I’ve complained on other recent posts, she mis-pronounces or mis-enunciates words that she used to say perfectly fine.  I find it maddening.

It took me two days to watch this 50 minute show because I kept falling asleep.  Gadzooks.

Now I totally respect an artist’s desire to change her songs.  Indeed, there are some live versions of her songs that I have enjoyed more than the originals.  But there’s something about the way these are drawn out that it feels like the life has been sucked from them.  The melody of “Ruby Through the Looking Glass” loses its impact when it is slowed down so much.

I’m also really disappointed with the synth that she chose.  Synthesizers can make any sound in the world, so why did they program this keyboard to play utterly anemic strings?  The conclusion of “Girl” which is so dramatic on record actually sounds worse with the thin washes than it would if it were played on just piano.

And as for the way she sings words now…  “Bells for Her” to give just one example, has her mangling the word “you” so that when she sings “not even you” we get something like “not even yaow” which I don’t understand.  I mean, listen to the awesome live version on To Venus and Back–she didn’t used to do that.  So wha happa?

I used to think that I liked her solo better.  I always enjoyed the little quiet time section of the concerts when she would play a song or two by herself.  But I feel like now, when she’s by herself, she loses any sense of editing.  The band seemed to keep her on pace.  And it’s a shame to see her drift so much.

Because Tori was an important part of my music youth, I’ll give her one more chance–she has a new album due out reasonably soon, but I’m not holding out much hope for it.   I think we may just be on very different planes of existence anymore.

[READ: July 19, 2011] Five Dials Number 17

The brevity of the Christmas issue is followed up by the somewhat longer Five Dials Number 17.  (This issue also has 7 pages of photos at the end of the issue).  I admit I didn’t know where Jaipur was (it’s sort of north west-ish in India, not terribly far from New Delhi).

This is also the first issue of 2011 (I’m nearly caught up!).  So the issue opens with New Year’s Resolutions.  The letter is also from editors, plural, for a change.

CRAIG TAYLOR & SIMON PROSSER-Letter from the Editors
The letter opens with some enjoyably self-deprecating comments about resolutions (and how they made theirs now, instead of at the end of the year).  But what I enjoyed most was the collective list of resolutions that the entire staff made.  They are listed as one person, which makes for wonderfully contradictory resolutions.  I was particularly pleased by: “stop making that face when my brother makes a suggestion.” (more…)

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Back in the 90s, Teenage Fanclub released a few noisy, feedbacky records that were quintessential 90s alt rock.

Since then they have mellowed considerably, and this album is one of their most mellow to date. Usually for me this kind of mellowing is a sign that I’m done with a band; however, Teenage Fanclub’s songwriting gets better with every disc.  And these folky tracks are all fantastic.

What’s neat about the arrangement of the album is that each of the three members of the band writes four songs.  They are collated so that you cycle through each singer before repeating. You get maximum diversity–and it’s easy to tell which songwriter is your favorite.

The opening two songs, “Sometimes I Don’t Need to Believe in Anything” and “Baby Lee” are two wonderful upbeat pop confections.  They sound very different and yet both are infused with wonderful pop chops.

It seems that Blake is my favorite songwriter on this disc. He did “Baby Lee”, “Dark Clouds” (a pretty piano based number) and by far the prettiest song on the disc “When I Still Have Thee.”  It’s an amazingly catchy folk song that sounds timeless (and even has the great couplet: “The Rolling Stones wrote a song for me/It’s a minor song in a major key.”

That’s not to dismiss the other songwriters at all.  In fact, hearing their different takes on pop music is really pretty amazing.  It’s a shame that it takes them so long to put albums out (about 5 years these days).

[READ: June 10, 2011] Five Dials Number 9

Five Dials Number 8, The Paris Issue, was pretty big (45 pages), but it had a lot of pictures.  Five Dials Number 9 is also pretty big (41 pages) and it’s (almost) all text.  For this is the Fiction Issue, and there are a lot of short stories in here.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On ‘Summer Reading’ and Fiction Issues.
Since most of what I talk about in the introduction to these posts is covered in Taylor’s Letter from the Editor, I figured I’d switch formats and start talking about his letter right away.  In this letter, Taylor talks about the serious pitfalls of  ‘Summer Reading’: We pledge to read mammoth books over the summer, but really we never finish War and Peace over the summer, do we? (except those of us who finished Infinite Summer, am I right?).  And so, this Fiction Issue was released in December (finally, a date is given to a Five Dials!).  Taylor briefly talks about all of the authors who contributed (including a pat on the back to Five Dials for securing the rights to a Philip Roth contribution in its first year of publication).  He also talks about the essay from David Shields that is decidedly anti-fiction.   And the final note is that Taylor’s own father has a piece in this issue (nepotism is alive and well!) (more…)

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