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Archive for the ‘Jory John’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DEEP SEA DIVER-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #214 (May 25, 2021).

I had not heard of Deep Sea Diver before this year.  But her song “Impossible Weight” is definitely one of my favorite songs of the last year.  Apparently, last year NPR voted “Stop Pretending” as one of their favorite song of 2020, so she clearly writes great songs.

She’s also got a keen sense for presentation, as soon as you see her set.

She also chose a very particular location for the shoot: “There were countless times this past year that I wanted to be transported out of my house and into a different world,” the singer and guitarist explains to NPR via email. “One of my favorite and most inspiring worlds is that of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. I wanted to pay homage to the show by recreating the red room for our Tiny Desk.”

I’m not saying that that would be terribly hard to do, but it certainly took a bit of effort.  And it looks awesome.

Inside the red room, the set includes three tracks from Deep Sea Diver’s marvelous 2020 album, Impossible Weight… joining the band are some special guests: Natalie Schepman and Meegan Closner of the band Joseph sing background vocals, and Dobson’s Beagle, Henry, makes an appearance. (Dobson claims he’s the only one who didn’t care that Deep Sea Diver couldn’t tour last year.)

“Impossible Weight” sounds fantastic.  I really love everything about it.  From the mutes guitar intro to the super catchy chorus to the wordless hook.  Every time I heard it on the radio, I was singing along to that chorus.

But that
was then
and this is now
I tried
so hard
not to let you all down
It’s an impossible weight
So I’ll just let you down now

On the record, Sharon Van Etten sings some part of it. I’m not sure what–I assumed Sharon sang the chorus, but it sounds the same when Dobson sings it here.  But in this Tiny Desk two thirds of the band Joseph joins her on backing vocals (I wonder why Allison wasn’t part of it) and they sound perfect.

After the song her drummer (and husband) brings out Henry, who gets a credit.

  • Henry Lee: beagle

“Lights Out” is up next and wow does it rock.  It’s got a great fuzzy bass intro from Elijah Thomson.  I feel like her voice sounds a bit like Torres here (no bad thing).  The sprinkling of keys from Elliot Jackson are a subtle touch, as is his later guitar playing.  But man, the guitar solo that Jessica plays absolutely rips–she gets a fantastic sound.  After the solo the song gets quiet for a minute but it slowly builds in power.  Mansen’s drumming by the end of the song is exhausting to watch.  The song comes to a fantastic abrupt end and it really feels like it needs a crowd cheering after it (so it’s nice that Joseph is off stage to provide the cheers).

She moves to the piano for “Wishing” where she shows off

an impressive homemade bolo tie that she crafted from an NPR enamel pin and “a little bit of duct tape.”

Pianos tend to mean ballad, and this song is more ballady for sure.  The synths give it a retro feel, although Mansen provides some good rumbling drums for the catchy chorus.  I also got a huge kick out of the end when she plays a chord and sings “Awesome.”

“Stop Pretending,” was chosen as one of NPR Music’s favorite songs of 2020.

It has a cool opening guitar riff and later in the song the guitar sound she gets is an amazing roar.  In fact the end of the song builds to a great wall of noise with intense drumming and some great bass lines while Jessica plays an amazing solo.

[READ: October 10, 2016] The Terrible Two Get Worse

I really enjoyed the first two books in this series (Mac Barnett is such a hilarious writer–or maybe Jory John is the funny one?  Well, I know from past books that mac is hilarious).  But I forgot about the series and didn’t realize that this one (or the next one) had come out.

So book three is different from the first two because it is set in the woods. In the summer!

Niles and Miles are spying on Papa Company.  Papa Company is a patrol at a summer camp–the wonderfully named Yawnee Valley Yelling and Push up Camp.  Papa Company is run by Josh Barkin.  Josh is the son of the boys’ Principal and their archenemy.  He has two cadets in his patrol.  He has nicknamed them Dugout and Mudflap.  It’s not entirely clear if Josh is supposed to be taking these boys on as his own patrol, but the only rules at camp seem to be yelling and push ups, so….

Josh was sent to the camp last summer as punishment.  But he loved the yelling and meanness so much that he asked if he could stay there all summer…and return again this year.  The camp is big on acronyms, and the authors have a lot of fun with them (right up until the end!) (more…)

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two-worse  SOUNDTRACK: CHEICK HAMALA DIABATEN-Tiny Desk Concert #285 (July 6, 2013).

hamalaNPR Music has been the sole source of my exposure to music from Mali.  I have really grown to like its slightly unusual patterns which are all based on a fairly standard rock structure.  But unlike some of the other Mali musicians I’ve been exposed to, Diabaten does not play guitar.  He plays banjo and the ngoni (but there is plenty of guitar in the song too).

The blurb tells us

Malian tradition lies at the heart and foot-stomping soul of Cheick Hamala Diabate and his band, but their melodies and undeniable rhythms cut across age and ethnicity. Diabate primarily plays the ngoni and the banjo; think of the ngoni as a great-grandfather to the banjo and it all makes sense, because both instruments share the ability to convey melody and plucked percussive rhythm.

Diabate is from Kita in Mali and born into a family of griots, or storytellers; his first cousin is the legendary kora player Toumani Diabate. Cheick Hamala Diabate makes his home these days in a Maryland suburb a few miles over the D.C. line, and his musicians are American-born and inspired by this lively lyrical music, which often tells a tale about Mali and its people as part of the sway and shake.

“Mali De Nou” sounds fairly traditional–with all of the percussion.  And then about a minute and half in a noisy scratchy guitar solo plays over all of the music–a very Mali sound.  But it’s interesting that, for the beginning anyhow, Diabate isn’t doing all that much.  In fact, the song feels almost overwhelmed by percussion (but in a good way). There’s a shaker or two, big floor drums (congas?) and a drum held between the knees and there’s even that big round gourd drum.

There’s also a sax and a bass, the lead guitar and of course, Cheick’s banjo.  By the middle of the song,  Chieck does some lead banjo playing.  And then it sounds like he’s put some effects on the banjo making it sound almost like a kettle drum—he even plays the strings below the bridge.  He really gets a lot of cool sounds out of the instrument

After this song he chats briefly and wants to “Invite you guys to visit Mali, it’s a beautiful country, you’ll be more happy.”

For “Talcamba” he switches to the ngoni.  He explains that the original ngoni had 4 strings, but his has 7 so he can play…more.  This instrument can play reggae, salsa, everything.  This is when he says the American banjo is like the grandson of ngoni.

Tacamba is a dance from north Mali—you can move your body (he waves his arms).  There are vocals but they are mostly a chanted refrain   The solo on the ngoni isn’t a conventional solo, it’s him flicking the strings making a very interesting sound.  I could have used more close-ups of this instrument as you could barely see the strings, and I’d love to see how he fit 7 on that small neck.  Half way through the song it shifts gears and the tempo really picks up—there’s a fast guitar solo with all that percussion keeping up.  And then the percussionist puts down her shaker and starts dancing in the center of the room.  It feels inspired and impromptu and it’s a lot of fun to watch.  While she’s doing that, Cheick picks up a hand drum and starts creating a new rhythm.  It is joyful and celebratory.

For the final song, “Djire Madje,” he switches to acoustic guitar which he plays lefty upside down (so the high notes are at the top).  He plays the lead riff.  At one point the electric guitar is also playing a lead but in a very different styles and they work very well together.

[READ: October 10, 2016] The Terrible Two Get Worse

I really enjoyed The Terrible Two, and this sequel is just as enjoyable.  The pranks are bigger, but the victim has changed.  Why?

Because Niles Sparks’ and Miles Murphy’s pranks got their principal fired!

Principal Barkin was the perfect guy to play a prank on–he had no sense of humor, he was pretty jerky and his face got really purple when he was upset.  But Principal Barkin is nothing compared to his father.  We met his father in the previous book–he yelled a lot, especially at Principal Barkin.  You see, the principal’s father was the previous principal, and he was a tough guy–he took no guff from anyone.

So after a delicious opening prank, Niles and Miles set about to making a great prank on Photo Day.  One of the great things about these books is the illustrations (by Kevin Cornell).  Sometimes the text incorporates the illustrations into the story. Like with Picture Day–the hilariously bad “pictures” absolutely make the sequence.  But it’s what they do to Principal Barkin’s son (who has paid the extra $10 for a gray background) is frankly genius.

But even better is what they have done to the whole school photo– a prank many months in the making.

(more…)

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two SOUNDTRACK: MOHAMMAD REZA SHAJARIAN-Tiny Desk Concert #276 (May 20, 2013).

rejaI had never heard of Mohammad Reza Shajarian, but I see that he was voted one of NPR’s 50 Great Voices.

With the visit of the incredible, honey-voiced Mohammad Reza Shajarian from Iran, we lucked out by having him sing on not just any day, but on the biggest holiday of the Persian calendar: Nowruz, the New Year.

Shajarian is accompanied by brothers Sohrab and Tahmoures Pournazeri (celebrated musicians in their own right) and French percussionist Robin Vassy.

They play one song, an improvised piece called “Az Eshgh (Love Song).”  There is an upright, bowed instrument, the Kamancheh which plays the lead melody for much of the song.  The rest of the music comes from the Tar, one of the most important musical instruments in Iran and the Caucasus.  It has a rather tinny sound.

Meanwhile, the drummer has several different gourd drums.  He hits one with his fist and scratches the notches on the side.  Around three and a half minutes in, he starts blowing into this whistle-like object that makes a wind sound.  He also has two gourds that are floating in water.  He takes one out and we can hear the dripping.  He gets almost two minutes of a solo to play all of these sounds.  Its very cool.

Interestingly, even though this Tiny Desk is all about Shajarian, he doesn’t sing all that much.  But when he does, it’s quite powerful.  As the blurb says:

In the course of this love song, titled “Az Eshgh,” Shajarian unleashed torrents of swooping, soaring, goosebump-inducing sound — still perfectly controlled at age 73.

[READ: September 20, 2016] The Terrible Two

I love Mac Barnett.  He’s one of my favorite children’s authors.  I only know Jory John a little but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read by him.  There are also fantastic illustrations by Kevin Cornell to make this book a delightful story about pranksters.

The book opens in Yawnee Valley, a quiet place where cows are the main thing.  Literally.  They are everywhere–and you hear them mooing all day and night (and throughout the book).  Miles Murphy (the dark haired boy on the cover) is moving to Yawnee Valley.  And he is not happy.  He has already sighed 100 times that day.  He hates the thought of leaving his friends and starting a new school.

Page twelve lays out an excellent summary of what it’s like to be a new kid in a school.  What kid are you going to be?  chess kid? basketball kid?  front-row kid? kid who’s allowed to see R-rated movies?  Kid whose family doesn’t own a TV and just wants to watch your TV?  And so many more options.  But Miles knows who he is.  He’s the prankster.

But when he gets to school (this is the first day of school), someone has moved the principal’s car to the front of the stairs–blocking the front door. Looks like Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy already has a prankster.

The principle is Principal Barkin.  He loves being principal of the school, as his father and his father and his father and his father had been.  There was one embarrassment in the family chain of command–the principal who actually closed the school during a blizzard, but otherwise, their record was sound–no closures.  And Barkin’s own son was poised to become the principal as well. After all, he had been elected president the past two years–just as had all of his ancestors–president and then principal–that’s the plan.

But this first day of school was not a good day for Principal Barkin.  And Chapter 6 lists the 40 things that happened as soon as he found out that his car was blocking the main entrance (none of them were good for him).

Principal Barkin suspects and questions everyone for being responsible for doing this prank.  And when he sees Miles–the only child he doesn’t recognize–he automatically assumes he is guilty.  Miles assures him that he didn’t do it.  Principal Barkin says okay but he will have his eyes on him.

Barkin then gives him a book called 1,346 Interesting Things You May or May Not Know About Cows.  He also gives Miles a buddy.  The buddy is named Niles.  He is dressed in a blazer with a sash that reads “school helper.”  The introduction goes like this: “Niles is the student who first told me abut my car.  Miles is the student who I suspect moved it.”

Niles is the most cheerful, obnoxious child Miles has every seen.  And he will not let up.  Niles introduces Miles to people (like Holly the girl who sits next to him).  He states the obvious.  And he tells Miles about Josh Barkin, the Principal’ son.  And boy is Josh a jerk.  Josh intentionally hits Miles in the face with his backpack as he walks by.

Niles says “while i don’t want to call anyone the worst, Josh is pretty mean sometimes…also he really likes the word nimbus for some reason.” (Josh calls everyone a nimbus as an insult).

Another kid who makes a lot of noise and is used mostly for comic effect is Stuart, Stuart talks in all caps and really really states the obvious.  Everyone hates him.

Miles is still pretty bummed about someone else being the school prankster.  But when Josh comes over in the cafeteria to give him a hard time, Miles deliberately dumps his food all over himself and then manages to blame Josh.  Josh says he didn’t do it, but Niles supports Miles.  When Miles asks why he would lie for him, Niles says that Josh made him swallow a rock over the summer–twice.

Miles gets home an has a kind of rough night.  So doe Principal Barkin whose father calls to yell at him for the embarrassment of his school day.  But while Bakin is beaten down, Miles is inspired.  And he comes out with his greatest prank ever.

The awesome birthday party of a boy he just made up, Cody Burr-Tyler.  The plan?  Make the party secret, tell only a few people and then watch everyone show up with presents.

It’s a great plan and it works.  And just as he is about to reap his rewards, Cody Burr-Tyler shows up and steals the show.  What just happened?

I don’t want to spoil who the prankster is.  He is impressed by Miles but sees some serious flaws.

Like the birthday party–did Miles really think he could fool the entire class and walk away with a bunch of presents and have people still like him?  He had to learn to be subtle.

And so the prankster offers to let him join forces to become a great pranking team.  But there is no way Miles is going to join forces with HIM.  So instead, Miles challenges him to a prank battle.

And the rest of the book is a series of escalating pranks.  The whipped cream one is outdistancing as is the diorama double cross (everything about the plan is genius–on both sides).

Can these two join forces to torment the person who most needs some comeuppance?  (Yes).  But what can they do that will really be a spectacular prank that people will talk about for years?

I was surprised and delighted by the final prank and I love the way they pulled it off.

I’m really looking forward to book two.

 

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internetSOUNDTRACK王蓉Rollin-小雞小雞(Chick Chick) [RONG “ROLLIN” WANG-“Chick Chick”]. (2014)

chickchickDon’t call it a novelty! You must watch it.

Is it a kid’s song?  I have no idea.  But it is mesmerizing.  I have now watched it about a half a dozen times and somehow it gets better each time.  Not as awesome as Babymetal (who are Japanese), but awesome in a wholly different (Chinese) way.

So far it only has 8 million views, the number must be increased!

[READ: November 15, 2014] The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

Although I have been a fan of McSweeney’s from the very beginning, I have never faithfully read their online Internet Tendency.  Of course I have read the often circulated ones, and a few years ago I said I would read the old posts from the beginning (I didn’t).  Now I discover that in the years since I said that, the Internet Tendency has 283 pages of archives (with something like 30 entries per page).  Get moving on that.

Having these best pieces in a book form is nice, as is anything with “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers” printed on the cover.  Since I haven’t read all 8,000 entries, I can’t say what qualifies as the best.  Although I have to wonder if some of these were picked more for their contributors than their actually bestness.  (Take a look at some of the heavy hitters represented below).  Regardless of how these were chosen, it is an excellent collection of funny stuff.

When I finish reading all of the online pieces (in about two years), I will have more authority to say if these 50 are the best, but in the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy this very funny selection. (more…)

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thanksSOUNDTRACK: YES-90125 (1983).

90125We had a snow day Monday, and since we were all home, I thought it would be fun to bust out some old records.  As soon as the opening chords of “Owner of a Lonely Heart” crashed out, Sarah gave me a “What made you think of playing this?” look and then said “What made you think of playing this?”

And there is no answer.  I saw it and figured it would be fun to hear. And it was.

Now, as an olde Yes fan, I should probably not like this album.  My favorite Yes album is Relayer, so really I have no business liking this.  First, it has no really long songs, second, it’s totally poppy, and third, it tries so hard to create hit singles.  And yet, I loved it then, and I still enjoyed now.   What’s interesting about it is that even though it was rather state of the art at the time, it doesn’t sound dated now.  Probably because, for instance, the orchestral hit in “Owner” has been sampled so much, it still sounds contemporary.

And so side one (for so it was at the time) has three songs that were hit singles: “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” “It Can Happen,” and “Changes” (which is probably the most “Yes” sounding of the bunch).  Even “Hold On” while not a single, gets recognition for being on the popular side one of the disc.

Side two features another great hit song, “Leave It” (with vocal sampling galore).  Although I think by the end, the disc loses some steam, and “Hearts” is a bit of a drag.

I knew that Trevor Horn was involved with this disc.  But since there have been multiple members in Yes, including two Trevors (!), I’d never really kept it all straight.  So, Trevor Horn was responsible for The Buggles (“Video Killed the Radio Star”) as well as The Art of Noise.  Their song “Close (to the Edit)” was a great video staple on MTV back in the 80s.  It features three gentlemen in suits and a very disturbing little girl smashing the hell out of musical instruments.  This song, which came out the same year as 90125 samples “Owner of a Lonely Heart” so the circle is complete.

Trevor Horn clearly had a big impact on the band and on 80s music in general, which is probably why the disc sounds so good all these years later.

[READ: February 27, 2009] Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country

I couldn’t recall the exact title of this book, so when I typed on Amazon.com “letters obama” I was surprised (although I shouldn’t have been) to see TWO books that fit this description already.  I suppose it makes sense that such compilations are being made (in fact, it seems that Obama could reignite the economy through merchandising of himself alone).  The second book isn’t due out till April, so I guess McSweeney’s have expediency on their side. (more…)

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