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Archive for the ‘Jhumpa Lahiri’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: FIRST AID KIT-Stay Gold (2014).

This album was also produced by Mike Mogis, who did The Lion’s Roar.  And with each new album, the “duo” of Klara and Johanna Söderberg grows bigger and bigger.  This album adds a full string section as well as a mellotron, vibraphone and lap dulcimer (these last three all thanks to Mogis.

“My Silver Lining” is an incredibly catchy, swinging song.  In addition to the cool strings and the lovely oooh melody, it’s that big bold “Woah oh” that really sells the song.  I also love the whispered vocals at the end the “try to keep on keeping on” is really cool and a very different sound for them.

“Master Pretender” has some interesting instrumentation–a bass clarinet in the first verse, fiddles and pedal steel in the second verse and striking lap dulcimer in the chorus.  It’s also the first instance of them cursing I think, “I always thought that you’d be here / But shit gets fucked up and people just disappear.”

“Stay Gold” a beautiful chorus sets this song apart, the melody is really great.  “Cedar Lane” is a slower song that focuses on the sisters’ harmonies in the beginning but the chorus inspires with those soaring falsetto notes.  But the biggest and best surprise of this song comes nearly 4 minutes in when the song shifts to an intense refrain of “how could I break away from you?”

“Shattered & Hollow” is a slower, more mellow song with an interesting percussion.  “The Bell” has some unexpected melody lines but soaring vocals, but it all coalesces wonderfully in the last minute “Can you hear the bell?” in great harmony.

“Waitress Song” is so wonderfully down to earth (if not depressing):

I could move to a small town / And become a waitress / Say my name was Stacy / And I was figuring things out / See, my baby, he left me / And I don’t feel like staying here tonight

I also love the way they sing this line in the folky style of the song despite referencing a very different type of song:

I remember the music / From the down stair’s bar: Girls, they just want to have fun

The way the ending of this song redeems itself with the cool lap steel and their ooohs as well as an uplifting ending makes this a surprisingly powerful track:

I could drive out to the ocean / And just stare in awe / I could walk across the beaches / And sleep under the stars / Our love would seem trivial and obscure / Now and never feel lost anymore

“Fleeting One” This song moves along really nicely with some amazing high notes in harmony.  “Heaven Knows” is their by-now familiar autoharp song.  Except that it also combines the rocking elements of the previous albums’ “King of the World” a shuffling guitar, stomping drums and great good fun. And while the last album had them shout FIRE! in the middle of Conor Oberst’s verse, this time they up the ante further by slowing things down and sing

Tell me what’s your story / do you think it’ll ever sell / and what’ll you do if it comes down to it / and it all goes…. STRAIGHT TO HELL!

“A Long Time Ago” ends the album as a dramatic piano ballad.  It sounds really quite different for them.

So this album builds on everything they’ve been working on, adding more and more sounds and getting their voices to sound somehow even better.

[READ: January 30, 2018] “The Boundary”

This story is from the point of view of a young girl whose family looks after a small cottage.  The cottage is in the Italian countryside.  Her family is not Italian (they are from very far away), and when they moved to Italy they first lived in the city.  The countryside is about as alien to them as they can imagine  And they don’t especially like it.

Every Saturday a new family comes to stay in the cottage.  And those people love the countryside, can’t stop talking about how great it is.

The girl who looks after the cottage is familiar with the routine.

There’s usually four of them–two parents two kids. The girl shows them around, shows them the mouse poison and tells them to kill the flies at night because their buzzing will wake them up in the morning.

As the guests settle in, she pretends to ignore them, but she always watches–especially when they leave the screen doors open.  Since the cottage is so close, she can hear everything the family says. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NINET-Tiny Desk Concert #602 (March 3, 2017).

One of the things I’d hoped to do this year was to finish posting about all of the Tiny Desk Concerts.  I didn’t know how I’d do it, but at some point I just decided to plow through them all.  And as of today, I have posted about all of the Concerts from the first one through March of this year.  There’s about 25 newer ones left.  It’s a pretty good feeling to accomplish arbitrary goals.

Ninet is the first of the newest Concerts.  Ninet Tayeb is an Israeli singer but she doesn’t sing any kind of “ethnic” or “world” music.  Rather, she and her band simply rock out.

As the first song, “Child” opens, the band sings in great harmony.  I love that the drummer (Yotam Weiss) is using a box drum but also a small hand drum (tapping with his fingers) and a cymbal (playing with his hands perfectly).  Ninet herself plays acoustic guitar and I love that you can hear her strumming and scratching on the guitar even with everyone else playing.  After a few verses, the whole band starts to rock out.  The great guitar sounds come from the electric guitarist (and main backing vocalist)–Joseph E-Shine Mizrahi.  I loved watching his guitar solo and the way he was occasionally hitting all of the strings to make them ring them out as he soloed.

I love the melody of Elinor–the way the guitars and bass (Matt McJunkins) play the same thing but in different tones.   The song takes off and runs nonstop with some great riffing in the middle and Ninet’s angry, snarling but catchy voice rising over it all.  I also love the great use of snyths (Doron Kochli) to play divergent and dark swells underneath the main riffs.

The song rocks to an end and they laugh as the guitarist picks some things up off the floor and says sorry Bob.  To which he says “what did you break now?”  That remains unresolved–I’m not even sure when it happened.

“Superstar,” the final song has the same snarling coolness as the previous two.  But it adds an interesting middle Eastern vibe from the keys as well as during the vocal lines near the end.  It sounds amazing.

The blurb has this to say:

“[Ninet is] one of the most famous entertainers in Israel today.”  She has recently settled in the States.  She has released five albums, “and their most recent, Paper Parachute, is the home of the songs she brought to us. It’s filled with a her husky-toned voice and guitar lines straight out of stateside ’70s rock, with a Middle Eastern lean. It’s a winning sound, performed by an unrestrained talent.”

I really enjoyed this set–her voice is really captivating and the riffs are wonderful.  As the song ends, Bob says “and that was the stripped down version,”  I’d like to hear the full on rocking version too!

[READ: January 12, 2017] “On the Street Where You Live”

Just the other day I learned that Yiyun Li would be joining Princeton University’s Creative Writing team.  That’s pretty exciting. If I was a groupie it would be even more exciting.  It would certainly be awkward to go to her office and thank her for all of the great fiction she’s written.  But how cool would it be to walk down the hall and see her and Jeffrey Eugenides, A.M. Homes, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Joyce Carol Oates chatting by the literary water cooler?

This is the story of Becky.  Becky’s son, Jude has autism and is being seen by two specialists.

She is in the remodeled San Francisco museum, talking to a man who says he hates museums–he hates sharing art with others.  The man is wearing a red tie that reminds her of Spongebob Squarepants.  She will write about him in her journal (mentioning only the red tie).  Her journal is comprised solely of descriptions of people.  She imagines that one day Jude will read it and be appreciative for all of her words. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_10_13Schossow.inddSOUNDTRACKDRUG CHURCH-“Deconstructing Snapcase” (2013).

drugchurchYesterday I commented about another Drug Church song by saying I liked this one better.  What’s interesting is that this one is thirty seconds longer but seems shorter.

The song opens with big loud aggressive guitars (kind of early Soundgarden), but the vocals, which are screamed, are brighter that their other song, providing a  nice contrast.  But the thing that made me like this song more than “YouTube” is the fast bright guitar bridge, in which the guitars ring out in contrast to the heavy opening chords–it gives the song a lot of dynamics.

There’s a guitar solo, which surprised me for some reason, but it breaks up the song and reintroduces some of the earlier riffs.  It’s a good heavy song.

[READ: June 18, 2013] “Brotherly Love”

Lahiri has the last and longest story in this New Yorker issue that’s chock full of stories.  This one is some fifteen pages and is part of a novel.

I was gripped instantly by the story.  But I am glad that it is part of a novel as I feel there were parts of the beginning that seemed extraneous without more story to follow.  Or should I say, if it was just a short story, it could have been shorter.  The story is about two brothers, Subhash and Udayan.  Subhash is older by fifteen months but Udayan is the far more daring one.  Subhash is cautious and does everything his parents say, while Udayan flouts the rules at every opportunity.

The first transgression we see is when they climb the wall into the country club, where locals are pretty much excluded.  They were told they could get golf balls, so they hopped the fence and took what they could.  They also marveled at the manicured lawns and the beauty around them.  They returned regularly until they were caught–but luckily for them they were not turned in. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  MY MORNING JACKET-“Touch Me, I’m Going to Scream (Part 2)” (From the Basement) (2009).

As I mentioned, My Morning Jacket is one of the few bands that has two videos up on the From the Basement site.  So here is Part 2 of the song from yesterday.  While Part 1 is a beautiful, smooth, folkie kind of song, Part 2 delves into a more electronic sound.  It starts with some keyboard noodlings, morphs into a loud rocker and then ends with more keyboards noodlings. 

I enjoyed watching this because Jim James is playing the keyboardy parts on a very small contraption the size of an iPad.  It’s one of those new fangled instruments that make me show my age.  I gather it’s a sampler, but even looking at the buttons I have no idea what he’s doing with it.  About midway through the song, James puts down the keyboard object and pulls on the Flying V guitar for some good loud guitars. 

Again, the harmonies are fantastic and it’s cool to see the whole band sing along.  I also enjoyed watching the other guitarist play the slide on his guitar.  

By the end of the video, it’s amusing to see them all sink lower and lower to the ground as the music fades and regresses into tiny quiet twinklings.  Until, that is, the surprising (and unannounced) addition of the 6 second “Good Intentions.”

Jim James does not wear a cape during this song, by the way.

[READ: September 1, 2011] “Trading Stories”

I have still yet to read much Lahiri, a woman whom I know I should be reading.  And now that I just learned she won a Pulitzer, it seems even more egregious that I haven’t. 

This personal history is about growing up without books.  Her father was a librarian so they borrowed a lot of books; however, but she never really owned any.  [My wife and I are not that kind of librarian–books litter our house]. 

The story reveals Jhumpa as a child writing stories with a friend in school (even during recess).  They were immensely creative and inventive and they loved it.  But she slowly began losing interest in writing.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CITY AND COLOUR Live at the Sasquatch Festival, May 29, 2011 (2011).

City and Colour have a new album coming out soon.  So it’s kind of surprising that this seven-song show is three songs from their previous album, two from their first album, a cover, and only one new track (“Fragile Bird”).

This is the first time I’ve heard City and Colour live with a band (most of the recordings I have by them are just Dallas Green solo).  It’s nice to hear how powerfully they work together (giving some of those songs an extra push).

Despite the brevity of the set (and the amusing banter about airport etiquette) you get a pretty good sense of what the “pretty-voiced guy” from Alexisonfire can do on his own.   I found the cover, Low’s “Murderer,” to be a really perfect choice–one that suits the band and their slightly-off harmonies, rather well.

I’m looking forward to their new release–“Fragile Bird” is another beautiful song.  But in the meantime, this is a good place to hear what they’ve been up to.

[READ: early June 2011] 2011 Fiction Issues

Five Dials seems to always generate coincidences with what I read. Right after reading the “”Summer’ Fiction” issue from Five Dials, I received the Fiction Issue from the New Yorker.  A few days later, I received the Summer Reading Issue from The Walrus.

I’m doing a separate post here because, although I am going to post about the specific fictions, I wanted to mention the poetry that comes in The Walrus’ issue.  I have no plan to write separate posts about poetry (I can barely write a full sentence about most poetry) so I’ll mention them in this post.

The main reason I’m drawing attention to these poems at all is because of the set-up of The Walrus’ Summer Fiction issue.  As the intro states: “We asked five celebrated writers to devise five guidelines for composing a short story or poem. They all traded lists–and played by the rules.”  I am so very intrigued at this idea of artificial rules imposed by an outsider.  So much so that I feel that it would be somewhat easier to write a story having these strictures put on you.  Although I imagine it would be harder to write a poem.

The two poets are Michael Lista and Damian Rogers.  I wasn’t blown away by either poem, but then I don’t love a lot of poetry.  So I’m going to mention the rules they had to follow. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TRACY BONHAM-Live on Mountain Stage, September 29, 2010 (2010).

I loved Tracy Bonham when she first came out.  Her EP and first LP were amazing explorations of controlled anger with great bursts of violin.

As with many angry songwriters from the 90s, Bonham seems to have become, shall we say, happier.  She has a new album out this year called Masts of Manhatta.

I haven’t heard the album, so I don’t know if this Mountain Stage performance represents it well or not.  I’m guessing that the Mountain Stage setting has made it somewhat more mellow than the original (steel guitars and fiddle solos?), but that may not be the case.

Regardless of the tone of the album, the songwriting tricks that Bonham has always employed are still in evidence here.  In fact, even though I’d never heard these songs before, the chord progressions (and of course, her voice) make these songs sound distinctly hers.  And lyrically she’s still clever as anything–witness most of the lyrics to “We Moved Our City to the Country”  which also features a very conventional fiddle (no, not violin) solo.

It seems like Bonham has grown as an artist and is exploring lots of different styles. And although I really love her early rocking stuff, and I was a little concerned that she had gone soft, it’s clear she’s just channeled her hardness in a different direction.  She’s also got great stage presence.

Manhatta here I come.  The show is available here.

[READ: October 12, 2010] “The Third and Final Continent”

Jhumpa Lahiri was the final writer in the 1999 New Yorker 20 Under 4o issue.

I have heard such wonderful things about Jhumpa Lahiri, and I have been intending to read her novels and short story collections for quite some time.  I’m a bit saddened that this is the first fiction by her that I’ve read.  But it was an excellent place to start.

The story is a masterful telling of what, even the main character admits, is “quite ordinary.”  And yet it is touching and moving and a wholly realized experience.  [DIGRESSION: I have been listening to old interviews with David Foster Wallace and in most of his interviews he argues that good writing should be “real” as opposed to ironic and sarcastic.  He worries that hipster irony has eroded people’s ability to tell real stories.]  Well, this is a very real story.  It is simple and honest and wholly believable–just what the doctor ordered].

The story opens with an Indian man leaving India for London in 1964.  In 1969 he gets a job offer to work in the library at M.I.T.  Before leaving though, he confirms his arranged marriage, meets his bride and officially weds.  But days later he has left for America with the intention of her following in about six weeks.  He lands in Massachusetts on the day of the moon landing.

After staying at the YMCA, and adjusting to American life, he finds an apartment at an old woman’s house.  He tells the old woman that he is married bit she is insistent  that he has no female visitors.  The old lady is strict and a little crazy (she makes him marvel about the moon landing on a nightly basis).  And yet, despite herself, it is clear that she approves of this polite man. (I was a little surprised that she would be so approving of a foreigner, but maybe she was more progressive than I give her credit).

And the bulk of the story is made up of his life in this small apartment with this ever-present landlady who he feels somewhat indebted to, even though all he really owes her is $8 a week. (more…)

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While I was looking around for Jonathan Franzen pieces in the New Yorker, I stumbled upon the first 20 Under 40 collection from 1999.  Since I had received so much enjoyment from the 2010 version, I decided to read all of the 1999 stories as well.  It was interesting to see how many of the authors I knew (and knew well), how many I had heard of but hadn’t read, and how many were completely off my radar.

I initially thought that they had published all 20 authors in this one issue, but there are five stories (including Franzen’s) that were just excerpted rather than published in full.  And I will track down and read those five in their entirety.  But otherwise, that’s a lot of fiction in one magazine (a few of the stories were quite short).  And it features a cover by Chris Ware!

So here’s the list from 1999.

**George Saunders-“I Can Speak™”
**David Foster Wallace-“Asset”
*Sherman Alexie-“The Toughest Indian in the World”
*Rick Moody-
“Hawaiian Night”
*A.M. Homes-
“Raft in Water, Floating”
Allegra Goodman-
“The Local Production of Cinderella”
*William T. Vollmann-
“The Saviors”
Antonya Nelson
-“Party of One”
Chang-rae Lee-
“The Volunteers”
*Michael Chabon-
“The Hofzinser Club” [excerpt]
Ethan Canin-
“Vins Fins” [excerpt]
*Donald Antrim-
“An Actor Prepares”
Tony Earley-
“The Wide Sea”
*Jeffrey Eugenides-
“The Oracular Vulva”
*Junot Diaz-
“Otra Vida, Otra Vez”
*Jonathan Franzen-
“The Failure” [excerpt]
***Edwidge Danticat-
“The Book of the Dead”
*Jhumpa Lahiri-
“The Third and Final Continent”
*Nathan Englander-
“Peep Show” [excerpt]
Matthew Klam-
“Issues I Dealt with in Therapy” [excerpt] (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLUE ÖYSTER CULT-compilations and live releases (1978-2010).

For a band that had basically two hits (“Don’t Fear the Reaper” and “Burnin’ for You”) and maybe a half a dozen other songs that people might have heard of, BOC has an astonishing number of “greatest hits” collections.

Starting in 1987 we got Career of Evil: The Metal Years (1987), Don’t Fear the Reaper (1989), On Flame with Rock n’ Roll (1990), Cult Classic (which is actually the band re-recording their old tracks (!)) (1994), and the two cd collection Workshop of the Telescopes (1995).  There’s even Singles Collection, (2005) which is a collection of their European singles & Bsides.

This doesn’t include any of the “budget price” collections: E.T.I. Revisited, Tattoo Vampire, Super Hits, Then and Now, The Essential, Are You Ready To Rock?, Shooting Shark, Best of, and the 2010 release: Playlist: The Very Best of).

The lesson is that you evidently won’t lose money making a BOC collection.

I don’t know that any of these collections are any better than the others.

The 2 CD one is for completists, but for the most part you’re going to get the same basic tracks on all of them.

And, although none of them have “Monsters” for the average person looking for some BOC, any disc is a good one.

Regardless of the number of hits they had, BOC was tremendous live.  And, as a result, there have also been a ton of live records released.  Initially the band (like Rush) released a live album after every three studio albums. On Your Feet or On Your Knees (1975) Some Enchanted Evening (1978) and Extraterrestrial Live (1982) were the “real releases.”

Then, in 1994 we got Live 1976 as both CD and DVD (which spares us nothing, including Eric Bloom’s lengthy harangue about the unfairness of…the speed limit).  It’s the most raw and unpolished on live sets.  2002 saw the release of A Long Day’s Night, a recording of a 2002 concert (also on DVD) which had Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma an Allan Lanier reunited.

They also have a number of might-be real live releases (fans debate the legitimacy of many of these).  Picking a concert disc is tough if only because it depends on the era you like.  ETLive is regarded as the best “real” live disc, although the reissued double disc set of Some Enchanted Evening is hard to pass up.  Likewise, the 2002 recording is a good overview of their career, and includes some of their more recent work.

If you consider live albums best of’s (which many people do) I think it’s far to say that BOC has more best of’s than original discs.  Fascinating.  Many BOC fans believe that if they buy all the best of discs, it will convince Columbia to finally reissue the rest of the original discs (and there are a number of worthy contenders!) in deluxe packages.  I don’t know if it will work, but I applaud the effort.

[READ: October 2009-February 2010] State By State

This is a big book. And, since it’s a collection essays, it’s not really the kind of big book that you read straight through.  It’s a perfect dip in book.  And that’s why it took me so long to get through.

I would love to spend a huge amount of time devoting a post to each essay in the book.  But, well, there’s 51 (including D.C.) and quite a few of them I read so long ago I couldn’t say anything meaningful about.  But I will summarize or at least give a sentence about each essay, because they’re all so different.

I’ll also say that I read the Introduction and Preface last (which may have been a mistake, but whatever).  The Preface reveals that what I took to be a flaw in the book was actually intentional.  But let me back up and set up the book better.

The catalyst for the book is the WPA American Guide Series and sort of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.  The WPA Guides were written in the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration.  48 guide books were written, one for each state.  Some famous writers wrote the books, but they were ultimately edited (and many say watered down) by a committee.  I haven’t read any of them, but am quite interested in them (and am looking to get the New Jersey one).  Each guide was multiple hundreds of pages (the New Jersey one is over 800).

State By State is written in the spirit of that series, except the whole book is 500 pages (which is about 10 pages per state, give or take).  And, once again, famous writers were asked to contribute (no committee edited this book, though).  I’ve included the entire list of authors at the end of the post, for quick access.

So I started the book with New Jersey, of course.  I didn’t realize who Anthony Bourdain was until I looked him up in the contributor’s list (I’m sure he is thrilled to hear that).  And his contribution was simultaneously exciting and disappointing,.  Exciting because he and I had quite similar upbringings: he grew up in North Jersey (although in the wealitheir county next to mine) and had similar (although, again, more wealthy) experiences. The disappointing thing for me was that Bourdain fled the state  for New York City (and, as I now know, untold wealth and fame (except by me))  I felt that his fleeing the state, while something many people aspire to, is not really representative of the residents of the state as a whole.

And that dissatisfaction is what I thought of as the flaw of the book (until I read the Preface).  In the Preface, Matt Weiland explains that they asked all different authors to write about states.  They asked some natives, they asked some moved-ins, they asked some temporary residents and they asked a couple of people to go to a state for the first time.  In reality, this decision makes for a very diverse and highly entertaining reading.  In my idealized world, I feel like it’s disingenuous to have people who just stop in to give their impression of an area.  But hey, that’s not the kind of book they wanted to compile, and I did enjoy what they gave us, so idealism be damned.

For most of the book, whenever I read an essay by someone who wasn’t a native or a resident of a state, I assumed that there weren’t any famous writers from that state.  I’ve no idea if that played into anything or not.  From what I gather, they had a list of authors, and a list of states (I was delighted to read that three people wanted to write about New Jersey-if the other two writers ever decided to put 1,000 words  to paper, I’d love to read them (hey editors, how about State by State Bonus Features online, including any extra essays that people may have wanted to write).

From New Jersey, I proceeded alphabetically.  And, I have to say that I’m a little glad I did.  I say this because the first few states in the book come across as rather negative and kind of unpleasant.  Alabama (written by George Packer) comes across as downtrodden, like a place you’d really have to love to live there.  Even Alaska, which ended up being a very cool story, felt like a veil of oppression resided over the state (or at  least the part of the state that Paul Greenberg wrote bout.)  But what I liked about this essay and the book in general was that the authors often focused on unexpected or little known aspects of each state.  So the Alaska essay focused on Native fisherman and the salmon industry.  Obviously it doesn’t do justice to the rest of that enormous state,  but that’s not what the book is about.

The book is meant to be a personal account of the author’s experiences in the state. (more…)

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