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Archive for the ‘Joseph O’Neill’ Category

 SOUNDTRACK: THE DISTRICTS-A Flourish and a Spoil (2015).

A Flourish and a Spoil feels like an extension of The Districts‘ EP. And that’s no bad thing.

It’s got more of the same vibrato guitars and thumping bass all wrapping around Rob Grote’s angsty voice.  The big difference from the EP is that most of the songs are shorter (around four minutes with the exception of the end of the album).

A propulsive bass opens up the super catchy “4th and Roebling.”  The song starts somewhat quietly but turns into a raucous brawl by the end with crashing cymbals, smacking drums, and the whole band singing along.

“Peaches” has a fuller sound as the whole band plays the main parts until the catchy chorus where the guitar gets to play the lead melody along with the vocals.  “Chlorine” starts loud and then slows down for the verses.  Followed by the catchy chorus which is bigger and louder.  “Hounds” is built out of a simple riff that is played with a little delay so that it lurches interestingly until the shambolic ending of “hounds in my head, hounds in my head.”

“Sing the Song” is a slower song with a loud but spare chorus.  It’s got a rousing ending and then a lovely delicate denouement.

“Suburban Smell” is under three minutes. It’s a pretty acoustic song with some lovely guitar melodies and Grote’s more delicate vocals (and yes, there’s a questionable lyric in there). The song ends with a mic shutting off, like a real bedroom recording. It’s followed by a full on echoing drum intro of “Bold.”  The song is full of noises and sounds like a song in search of something.  It finds it with the soaring catchy ending section, fast chords, highs notes and a powerful repetition.

“Heavy Begs” is the last short song on the record.  It features the one thing that has been missing: some “oohs” (although only once).  It’s also got a new sound introduced in the guitar solo–a buzzing that works nicely with their overall sound.

“Young Blood” stretches out to almost nine minutes.  After a siren-like introduction, the song settles into a relaxed lope with catchy vocal melody.  The first four minutes jump back and forth between verses an chaotic crashing chorus.  Then comes a pause followed by a quiet bass line while the other instruments slowly add sounds and melodies (and what sounds like a party in the background).  This instrumental section builds on itself for two minutes until the coda.  The quiet “it’s a long way down from the top to the bottom” which repeats until the drums start pounding  before the final guitar solo takes the song out with a riff that sounds like it came from Built to Spill.

That feels like an album ender to me, but they put in one more song, the nearly 6 minute “6AM.”  This song also sounds like a bedroom recording–it sounds raw and rough–and it never sounds too long.

[READ: September 30, 2020] “Rainbows”

I liked the way this story seemed to be settling into a time frame and then leaped away from it to move on to something else.

The story is told in first person, by an Irish woman named Clodagh.  She came to America when she was twenty-three.  She’d never heard of mentors or office hours or anything like that in an educational system.  She was getting a Master’s Degree in Applied Analytics. 

She decided to audit a class in anthropology just to take her mind off the degree.  The teacher, Paola Visintin, became something of an unexpected mentor to her.  Paola was twenty years older, but cool in a way that younger teachers weren’t.  The bonded in coffee shops and talked about many of Clodagh’s problems.  Paola’s answers were short, direct and sometimes beside the point.

The passage of time is delivered in a fun way:

My kitten grew into a cat, turned into an old lady, died. The obstetrician lifted a red-blue creature from behind a blue paper curtain–and, flash, the creature, Aoife, turned eighteen. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN-Tiny Desk Concert #899 (October 7, 2019).

It was Sharon Van Etten’s 2010 Tiny Desk Concert that introduced me to her.  I was blown away by the songs from Epic.

When Sharon Van Etten made her Tiny Desk debut back in the fall of 2010 [with about fifteen people in the audience], her voice exuded fragile, gentle grace. Performing songs from that year’s Epic, she huddled around a single acoustic guitar with backup singer Cat Martino to perform a set of tender and evocative folk-pop songs.

Sharon released a couple more albums and then took some time away from music.  She returned this year with the appropriately named comeback single “Comeback Kid.”  The big difference was that now there were synths!

Cut to nearly a decade later. One of only a handful of artists to get a repeat headlining engagement at the Tiny Desk [that handful is getting bigger and bigger it seems]. Van Etten has spent the last few years purging her bucket list: She’s become an actress (appearing as a guest star on The OA), released a string of increasingly aggressive albums (the latest of which is this year’s synth-driven Remind Me Tomorrow), toured the world, performed on Twin Peaks, written music for films, become a mom, gone back to school and popped up in collaborations with everyone from Land of Talk to Jeff Goldblum.

I had no idea that these things happened.  So good for her, I guess.

It’s only natural that this Tiny Desk concert feels different; you can hear it before Van Etten and her band even show up onscreen. Its pace set by the ticking beat of a drum machine, “Comeback Kid” is in full bloom here, with a swaying arrangement that fills the room before Van Etten opens her mouth.

“Comeback Kid” is super catchy.  It sounds similar to the recorded version although a little smaller, perhaps.  There’s also a few extra keyboard flourishes from Heather Woods Broderick (who played the Tiny Desk as a member of Horse Feathers way back in 2009).  Charley Damski plays the synth washes that fill the room.  Sharon plays acoustic guitar and sings with serious intensity.

“You Shadow” starts with bass (Devin Hoff) and a drum machine (Jorge Balbi).  There’s no guitar on this track, but Sharon’s voice sounds great:

 the singer performs with considerable intensity here, seething through “You Shadow.”

She quietly thanks everyone and introduces the band.  This moment of thanks and appreciation in no way prepares you for the intensity in which she sings the set-closing “Seventeen.”

The song also starts with synth and bass.  Sharon sings but doesn’t start playing acoustic guitar until after the first verse.  Everyone adds gorgeous backing vocals for the chorus.  Then Sharon starts getting intense while singing.  Normally “la la las” are kind of upbeat, but she comes out of them with a fire as she sings “with a scream that slashes through the office air.”

Her voice almost breaks and she seems to be quite moved by the performance.  It’s really tremendous.

I admit that I like her earlier stuff better–the way she sang, the way her backing singers complimented her and the intensity of her music.  But after seeing her live this summer and now watching this, her intensity is still there–it’s just used more sparingly and appropriately.

The only downside to this Tiny Desk is that Heather Woods Broderick–who is an amazing backing vocalist–is pretty subdued here.  It’s appropriately subdued in this setting, but it’s a shame to not hear her in full.

Here (left) is a picture from Sharon’s first Tiny Desk Concert.

[READ: November 7, 2019] “The Flier”

This story was very cool.

I really loved the way the entire story totally downplayed “one of the most wondrous occurrences in the history of humankind.”

It begins with the narrator explaining that his wife Viki had invited their friends Pam and Becky over: “short notice–but there’s something we’d like to talk over with you.”

As he describes the meal he’s made, in quite a lot of detail, Pam and Becky arrive.  The narrator hears them talk about him and he acknowledges that his illness has made him small and light.

After the pleasantries are over, Viki says matter-of-factly that the narrator “has developed the ability to fly.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HALF WAIF-Tiny Desk Concert #803 (November 9, 2018).

Nandi Rose Plunkett is a member of Pinegrove. She released albums as Half Waif, and when Pinegrove retreated for a time, she toured as Half Waif.  I wanted to see her but didn’t have the opportunity.

I was under the impression that her shows were very spare and I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy a full live set by her.  This five piece version (see more below) has a wonderful full sound though and these songs sound terrific.

The band [is] more often a trio, with Nandi singing her songs and playing keyboards, Zack Levine on drums and Adan Carlo bass synth and guitar.

But for this show she has a five piece band, which she has a great introduction for:

Midway through Half Waif’s Tiny Desk, singer Nandi Rose Plunkett stops to let us all know that this particular Half Waif show is extra special. “So today we’re actually ‘Full Waif,’ because I am joined by my dear friends,” she says. “These are all musicians who have played with the band Half Waif over the past five years, but we’ve never all played together until now! So thanks for the opportunity to get ‘Full Waif’ together.”

The other two guys are Zubin Hensler keys and Robin electronic drums.

It’s clear that she doesn’t need all five of them–the music isn’t all that complicated but it ensures a really full sound.  What’s most notable is the two drummers–each doing his own thing but combining into a wonderful rhythm session.

The session opens with “Lavender Burning.”  It sounds like she is playing a harmonium, but I don’t think she is.  The layers of synth are added to by Adan and Zubin.  It’s not until about half way into the song that the drums come in and it adds a lot of texture to an already wonderful song.

“Lavender Burning,” with its opening line, “Staring out into the shifting darkness / Tryin’ to give a name to the place where my heart is,” reinforces my love for their peaceful, almost backwoods calm.

The more I listen to the song the more powerful it becomes.  And Nandi’s voice is just lovely.

“Silt” opens with electronic drums and Nandi’s simple synth washes.  I love the thoughtful and clear lyrics

Nobody deserves me.  I get lonely. I get angry.
My love is like an island.  You can’t find it if you’re not trying
And if you want my love I will guide you. I will be your anchor.  If I only have a minute to myself. T hen i would let you in without poison.  I would eat my anger if you only gave me what I wanted.

Adan offers some nice backing vocals and Nandi does double duty on synth and piano.  There’s so many interesting sounds I’m not sure who is doing what (like that synth solo at the end).

The final song is “Salt Candy” which is the a more acoustic track–Nandi on piano only to start.  Adan is making the tiniest sounds on guitar and the drumming is spare and minimal.

When they closed with “Salt Candy,” the line “I wanted to be carried in my mother’s arms / I wanted to be buried in my mother’s arms,” in this setting and with the spare punctuation of electronic drums and textures, sitting alongside Nandi’s voice, was particularly chilling.

It’s a beautiful set and makes me like them a lot more.  I’ll definitely have to see them when they tour again.

[READ: January 7, 2017] “Pardon Edward Snowden”

Many people feel that stories about writers are not very interesting.  I disagree typically, but that’s probably because I aspire[d] to write something someday.

This story is about a poet and I really liked it a lot.  I enjoyed the political and the literary nature of the story.

Mark McCain received an email sent to many American poets inviting him to sign a “poetition” requesting that president Obama pardon Edward Snowden.

The request also took the form of a poem and the narrator talks about some of the rhymes: “pardon and rose garden.”  “nation and Eden” “Putin and boot in.”

Mark forwarded the email to his friend, the poet E.W. West.  They were enraged by the “poetition.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AMIR ELSAFFAR & TWO RIVERS-“Hemayoun” (Field Recordings, July 3, 2013).

I was pretty excited to see the start of this Field Recording [Amir ElSaffar & Two Rivers: Golden Sound In A Gleaming Space] because it begins with hammered dulcimer and oud.  I have never seen these two instruments used in jazz before.

But once the band starts the jazz pushes out he Middle eastern instruments somewhat.

The oud is certainly drowned out by the horns, but you can hear it plucking away.  And the hammered dulcimer is hardly used at all.

I had never heard of the participants although apparently

The session had the feeling of a reunion. ElSaffar — a trumpeter and santur (hammered dulcimer) player who was born near Chicago to an Iraqi father and an American mother, and who grew up immersed in both cultures — had recently moved from New York to Cairo to pursue his work with Arab classical music. But this group with Ole Mathisen on saxophone, Zafer Tawil playing oud, Carlo De Rosa on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums shifted into Two Rivers gear immediately.

At 3:49 when the sax solo starts the minimal oud is used more to keep the beat than anything.  At 5:10 the trumpet returns playing a riff with the sax.  By around 7 minutes its all trumpet and drums (some good improv) with the bassist adding rhythm but playing very hard and being barely heard.  At around 8 minutes there’s a minimal oud solo that runs through to the end of this song.  This is particularly cool, although I kind of wish the other guys didn’t drop out entirely–I’d like to see the oud share the stage with the traditional jazz instruments.

I love that the music has non-Western instrumentation but I feel like it is underutilized.  But maybe that’s not the point

 ElSaffar has found a beautiful and singular way of pairing the sibling spirits of jazz and the classical maqam system of the Arab world, with their shared spheres of improvisation, deep knowledge of tradition and urge to keep innovating. Two rivers, but they lead to the same ocean.

[READ: October 22, 2017] “The Sinking of the Houston”

O’Neill has a way with making stories amusing despite the tension underneath.

It begins with a defense of sleep. The narrator says when he became a parent of young children, he became an opportunist of sleep: “I found myself capable of taking a nap just about anywhere, even when standing in a subway car or riding an escalator.”  But when the boys grew up into “urban doofuses neurologically unequipped to perceive the risk incidental to their teenage lives,” sleep became much harder to get.  He would lie awake until they were all home, and then every sound in the house would be meaningful.

Then comes the phenomenon of Dad Chair, a black leatherette armchair which he has designated as his haven.

It has worked pretty well except when the boys disrupt the peace.

The middle son asks if he’s heard of Duvaliers, the dedicators of Haiti.  The dad says he knows all about them–they were horrible.  When the boy tries to tell him more details, he retorts: “I lived through it ! I don’t want to discuss it!”  The boy logically says you didn’t exactly live through it.

Another son asks where East Timor is.  They all want to talk about atrocities.  But he has a new philosophy–Cest la Vie–it works pretty well. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKOWEN PALLETT–Live at Massey Hall (December 1, 2015).

Owen Pallett founded the band Final Fantasy (which was pretty much him anyhow).  Since 2010 he has been recording under his own name.  His music is orchestral and complex, but also distinctly weird.  He loves to explore sounds, but he also knows hot to throw in some catchy melodies as well.

He says he has plays Massey Hall before but this is the first time as a solo performer. He wants to take advantage of the beautiful-sounding room and comfortable seats.

The songs he plays are a mix of new ones and Final Fantasy songs as well.

On “That’s When the Audience Died” (Final Fantasy), he picks out a complicated pizzicato on the violin and loops it (he mutters, I hope that worked) and then he launches a great melody over the top.  He has a great singing voice as well.  The lyrics are consistently clever and interesting.  The end of the song is amazing with the sounds he ekes out of his violin.

He says he took violin lessons but wasn’t it to it because the violin leaves a mark on your neck.  He quit it because it ruined all his “sexual dreams,” and he switched to guitar and piano.  He was always really into composing–he loved Béla Bartók and György Sándor Ligeti–he wanted to make music you see in Stanley Kubrick film.

There’s beautiful looping with the pizzicato as he play’s the solos live.

“This Lambs Sells Condos” (Final Fantasy) is really quite funny if you know the story behind it, which I didn’t.  But here it is

This song is a comic interpretation of Brad J. Lamb, a figure in the Canadian real estate business (who used to live in the same building as Owen Pallett’s boyfriend), with allusions to elements of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game:

This snarky look at Lamb:

When he was a young man, he conjured up a firemare
Burnt off both his eyebrows and half a head of hair
And then as an apprentice, he took a drowish mistress
Who bestowed upon his youthfulness a sense of champagne chic
His seduction, his seduction to the world of construction
Now his mind will start to wander when he’s not at his computer
And his massive genitals refuse to cooperate
No amount of therapy can hope to save his marriage

Before he did Final Fantasy he played bad country music in bad country bars–because he had a violin.

“Tryst with Mephistopheles” rocks with a band (Matthew Smith and Robbie Gordon) and even some synths.  The drums really propel the song forward.

When he created Final Fantasy he had a guitar, a violin, a bed and some books.  He borrowed a looping pedal and got good with it.  He wanted to be the best violin looper.

“The Riverbed” is with a string quartet and has a fast ripping opening melody–dark and very cool.

He says now that he’s making a record in which he’s not thinking about how to play it live.  He’s just trying to make sounds–not thinking about performance or how to tour it.

So he’s playing new songs in traditional formal.  He conducts the orchestra and sings “On a Path.”  if t his is the “traditional format,” I’m very curious to hear what the non-traditional way is.  It has a fantastic vocal melody and is incredibly catchy.

The final song is “This is the Dream of Win and Regine” (yes of Arcade Fire).  It’s an older Final Fantasy song and has some great references to Montreal:

Montreal might eat its young, but Montreal wont break us.

There’s some great thumping beats throughout until the great dramatic ending.

Pallett had been on my radar, but I’m sold after seeing this show.

[READ: July 3, 2018] “The First World”

This story is bookended in an interesting way.  It starts with the narrator saying that his marriage had come to an end.  An unexpected consequence was that a series of men confided in him about their marriages past or present–not old friends, they stayed quiet, but people he’d had at arm’s length.  A contractor, the dermatologist etc.  People felt free to say wheat they wanted.

And then it was over, the men disappeared for about a decade during which time the narrator remarried.  And then Arty resurfaced.

Arty ran into him on Ninth Avenue and insisted they grab a drink.   He said there was something he’d like the narrator’s opinion on.

Arty had to talk about Gladys, the former nanny of his two girls. Gladys was is nanny for seven years, gave the girls all kinds of love and then left when the kids were old enough not to need her anymore. She got a new job in Chelsea for a younger child.

It was while working for this new family that Gladys lost her husband, Roy.  He had died while in the hospital and they were billing her for one hundred and ten grand.  She didn’t want to fight it because she was waiting for her green card.

Arty’s wife had cut off ties with Gladys (and didn’t want to talk to Arty either).   Not long after the divorce, Gladys rang him up and asked for $500, explaining what had happened to Roy.

She had agreed to a payment plan for the $110,000, but times had been tough.  She asked Arty for $500.

The bulk of the story is Arty’s impassioned telling of Gladys’ story.  How everything seemed to go wrong for her.  She moved back to Trinidad bit was not welcomed with opened arms.  She tried to find work but was unable.  And so regularly, she asked Arty for another loan, a loan that he knew he would never see.

She has even stayed with Arty when he pays for her ticket to visit her grown up son.

The narrator wants to get out of the conversation, but Arty has bought yet another round. The narrator has an amusing aside about how he lost his wallet and paid for his round with cash from his back pocket.

The story is bookended with the narrator returning home. The way the whole piece ends with him imagining his wallet being returned shows how differently two people can live and ponders what their attitudes have to do with it.

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SOUNDTRACK: RED BARAAT-Bhangra Pirates (2017).

Although Red Baraat’s first two albums were good, this one leaps beyond the other two.  Perhaps its the addition of the guitar–bringing a(nother) new element to their sound.  Or perhaps it’s that the whole thing just sounds so much bigger.  Half of the songs were recorded live at KEXP which might explain the fresh (and live) sound.

And as one review puts it

Clearer production makes it easier for each of Red Baraat’s chosen musical styles to stand out as they blend together. Jazz, funk, and rock and roll all play important parts on Bhangra Pirates, and it’s clear early on the album, even to newcomers, that Red Baraat is less about sticking to a genre than to doing what makes the whole band – and the whole audience — have a genuinely great time.

It’s here in their discography that I get a little confused.  Before this album, they put out an album called Gaadi of Truth which features about half of the same songs as this one.  There’s also something called Big Talk which seems to be a remix album of sorts.  Talk  is available from their bandcamp site but Gaadi is not (although it did get full on reviews when it came out).

There’s a tremendous riff that opens “Horizon Line” and the moody guitar drones really balance it out nicely.  Plus the dhol and the rest of the percussion sounds really clear–much more obvious than on the past two records.

“Zindabad” opens with a Middle Eastern guitar riff .  After a horn fueled intro the main riff kicks in.  And then the vocals come in.  No idea what they’re singing about and that’s all the better–it’s fun to chant along.  The riff after the first verse is another great brassy one.

There’s some big guitars that open “Banghra Pirates,” and once the song starts the vocals come in.  There’s lots of get your body moving sentiment and then some other words which who knows what they are, but rhythmically they’re great.   The middle has a great heavy almost metal chugging of chords for a nice slow down before the party starts again.

“Tunak Tunak Tun” is a song they recorded on their debut album.  It’s even better here.  It’s a cover of a song made popular worldwide by Daler Mehndi (and how much fun is the original).  “Rang Barse” opens with what sounds like a sitar although it’s not listed in the instruments.  “Bhangale” features guitars from  Delicate Steve.  There’s some great chanting up front that sounds like “Bhangale ooch oolay wah wah wah.”

“Gaadi of Truth” opens with a big guitar and some very cool effects (particularity on the sousaphone which has a cool underwater sound).  The middle has some interjections: “horn please” bwaaaaaaaah  “horn please” bwaaaaaaah.  There’s a pretty wild and noisy guitar solo too.

“Se Hace Camino” adds Spanish/Latin music to their reprtoire.  The song is sung in Spanish and English: “we make the road by walking.”  “Akhiyan Udeek Diyan”  goes through many different sounds and styles over its 6 minutes, ultimately with a fast rollicking pace before ending.

“Layers” ends the dis with an upbeat almost poppy instrumental.  It’s sweet with a kind of call and answer from the horns.  It’s a delightful ending to a party disc.

The lineup is largely the same, although they’ve added the guitarist and have changed a few members:

Sunny Jain – dhol & effects/vocals; Rohin Khemani – percussion; Sonny Singh – trumpet/vocals; Ernest Stuart – trombone; Jonathan Goldberger – guitar (all tracks except 5,10); Delicate Steve – guitar (track 5); MiWi La Lupa – bass trumpet/vocals (tracks 3,5,6,8-10); Chris Eddleton – drumset (tracks 1,2,4,7); Tomas Fujiwara – drumset (tracks 3,5,6,8-10); John Altieri – sousaphone & effects (tracks 3,5,6,8-10); Jon Lampley – sousaphone & effects (tracks 1,2,4,7); Jonathon Haffner – soprano saxophone (tracks 1,2,4,7) / alto saxophone (tracks 3,5,6,8-10); Mike Bomwell – soprano saxophone (tracks 3,5,6,8-10) / baritone saxophone (tracks 3,10);  not on this recording: Arun Luthra – soprano sax ;   Smoota – trombone.

[READ: March 6, 2018] “The Poltroon Husband”

I tend to like Joseph O’Neill stories–there’s usually something in the style and the structure that is pretty enjoyable.

And that was true for this one.  I wasn’t blown away, but I really enjoyed it and there were some parts that I enjoyed a lot.

A man and his wife move from Phoenix to Flagstaff.  They build a house there from shipping containers (I love that details and I’d love to see what it looks like). He tells his wife that it is going to be their “final abode.”  Jayne doesn’t like this designation.  But he defended the merits of the phrase with “an argument from reality.” Jayne said he was using “an argument from being really annoying.”

He says that abode means a residence, of course, but it comes from an Old English verb which means To wait.  Abide comes from the same root.

One night they are in bed and Jayne hears a noise.  They listen, hear a few more noises and what sounds like a cough  However, “although the house has two stories and numerous dedicates zones…only the bathrooms are rooms.  Otherwise the house comprises a single acoustical unit.  Often a noise made in one zone will sound as if it emanated from another.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE SHINS-Tiny Desk Concert #639 (July 24, 2017).

Although this is billed as The Shins, it is actually James Mercer solo (although really The Shins are more or less Mercer’s solo gig anyway).

Mercer plays three songs with just his voice and acoustic guitar: two new tracks and one that reached back to 2003 from the album Chutes Too Narrow.

The first two are slow and very folky–I don’t know the new album yet.

“Mildenhall” has a country flare and is something of an autobiography.  “I thought my flattop was so new wave until it melted away.”  The chorus is nice: A kid in class passed me a tape a later chorus reveals: “a band called Jesus and Mary Chain.”     Started playing his dads guitar and that’s how we get to where we are now.”  I love the unexpected ending chord.

“The Fear” is a delicate, simple song that fits perfectly with his voice.  It’s also quite sad.

“Young Pilgrims” is the recognizable song from Chutes to Narrow (the song even mentions that phrase).  It doesn’t sound that different in this stripped down format–there’ some missing extra guitars bit other wise the acoustic format fits it well. The biggest difference is that he seems to be singing in lower register here.

In fact none of the songs sounded like him exactly and I think that’s why– he usually sings in more of a kind of higher pitch, so it’s interesting to hear it slower and lower.

[READ: June 29, 2017] “The Mustache in 2010”

I really enjoyed the story.  I loved the strange way it was constructed and that even though it didn’t seem to start as a story, it certainly was one.

It begins

Social historians will record that in the early twenty-first century, the fashion for a clean-shaven face lost its dominance in metropolitan North American Bourgeoisie society.

After some lengthy discussion about the merits of various facial hair construction ,we meet Alex, a youngish (36 is youngish in New York City) businessman.  He availed himself of this trend by shaving only every third Monday.  His growth was dense and black.

One morning he realizes that he had left large sideburns, which amused him.  Thereafter he “subtracted facial hair so as to create an amusing residue.”  He never wore the stylized looks outside, they were private jokes for him and his wife.  Although there was always a scream of horror because he would sneak up on her.

This all l leads to some more details about Alex.  He was Québécois living in New York.  His English was fine but “fell just short of the level required for wittiness.”  This left him with an unjustly wooden personality.  So his wife was always looking for nonverbal diversion for him. (more…)

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feb20156SOUNDTRACK: TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND-Tiny Desk Concert #516 (March 25, 2016).

ttbandAs I write this, there is no band I am more tired of than Tedeschi Trucks Band.  It seems like they are everywhere.  Coming home from somewhere the other night, there was a whole hour of a radio show devoted to them.  Gah.

When I first heard about them I was interested.  Their story was fairly compelling–husband and wife join forces to make some music.  And then I heard the song they played and I though, huh, Bonnie Raitt and a blues bar band.  That’s fine.

I’ve grown sick of th eone song they’ve been playing a lot, but I enjoyed this Tiny Desk.

Their music is certainly fun–a lot more so in this live setting than on record.  And it’s very cool in “Just as Strange” to watch Derek Trucks play solos while using that slide on his finger.

“Don’t Know What It Is” fares better–the horns add a nice touch and the song gets treated more like a jam than a song.  I love watching Tedeschi play the bitchin wah wah solo.  There’s a lot of toe tapping in this song.  And after the hand clapping section, the song really takes off–the sax solo is tremendous.

The song segues into the one I’ve been hearing on the radio a lot–the one I assumed was Bonnie Raitt.  The problem for me with this song is that the verses are the exact same melody as Radiohead’s “High and Dry” and I keep waiting for the song to turn into that–which it doesn’t.  I don’t love the chorus so much but I really like the horn riffs at the end of the song and the guitar solo is wicked (I don’t think the end is as good on the studio version).

So after watching this I have grown to like them better.  Their musicianship is pretty stellar.

[READ: January 21, 2016] “The Trusted Traveler”

This was a fascinating story in that I loved some parts of it, didn’t like other parts of it and was amazed at how the main crisis developed and then was basically abandoned.

As the story begins we learn that the narrator and his wife Chris have received an annual visit–right after tax season–from Jack Bail, a CPA who is a former student of the narrator.  The narrator loathes this annual visit.  And I loved the reason why: “For some reason, almost anything that has to do with Jack Bail is beyond my grasp, I can’t even remember having taught anybody named Jack Bail.”

He feels worse for his wife Chris, because Chris actually remembers things about Jack and his life. (more…)

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91SOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-Pork Soda (1993).

pork sodaPork soda was a surprise hit read any review and they always talk about how it’s the oddest top ten record ever).  Even more unexpected was that the first single, “My Name is Mud” was also huge.  But how weird.   The bass is really low and rumbling–sometime so low that it sounds like drums (which I thought it was in the verses when I first heard it) and the guitar is just crazy cool–buzzing noises all over the place.  And the lyrics–whoo boy–they match the video perfectly.  And yet a big hit–which got them invited to Woodstock that year.

“Welcome to this World’ reminds me of the Dead Kennedys (which is weird, I know).  Not the opening bit of course, but the way Les sings the chorus and the punky chords that accompany it seem very DK to me.   “Bob” is a really dark song about a guy who hangs himself.  The melody is an interesting and compelling one, but man lyrically it is such a downer (Ler’s sirens guitar plays that well).

It is followed by the awesome “DMV.”  Between Les’ cool tapping bass, Ler’s crazy noise-chords and wild solo and Tim’s great drums, not to mention the awesome lyrics about the DMV, this song is a major winner.

“The Ol’ Diamondback Sturgeon” has an interesting bass line and is a kind of mellow song that tells the tale of a big fish in the waters of San Pablo Bay.  Musically the bass sounds Middle Eastern–although there’s no mention in the credits of any instruments other than bass and mandolin, so how does he do it?

I love “Nature Boy” a weird song (aren’t they all) in which he talks about dancing around the house naked.  The verses are quiet while the chorus is quintessential Primus–slapped bass and stop-on-a-dime changes.  At around 3 minutes the song changes tempo into this really fast section with Ler’s insane guitar solo, and then it migrates into an awesomely catchy fast instrumental section which is over too fast.

“Wounded Knee” is a 2 minute percussion piece that Tim Alexander says was inspired by “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.”  It’s followed by one of the craziest songs in Primus history–“Pork Soda.”  The bass is a bowed upright bass (but bowed in a way that I’ve never heard before) and Ler’s guitar is basically a one note ringing.  And all the while Les is rambling on about something that you can barely hear.  Until the chorus comes in and you can all grab a can of pork soda.

The next song is “Pressman” which was on Suck on This. It was my least favorite song on that disc and it’s not a lot better here.  It’s a much better sound, but I think it’s long and kind of unremarkable.  But “Mr Krinkle” changes that.  Another bowed bass song (with the weird sounds he gets out of it).  This one had a crazy wonderful video. It’s followed by the bluegrass sounding “The Air is Getting Slippery,” a banjo romp in which the obvious rhymes with luck and pluck are switched with a quiet “forgive me if I hesitate.” It’s followed by a weird banjo solo from Ler.

One of the highlights of the record is the 8 minute instrumental (yes!) “Hamburger Train.  It’s got a lot of slap bass and Ler’s crazy noises all held in place by Tim’s drums.  The biggest difference is that Ler gets a pretty normal solo and Les also does a fast solo.  This was clearly just an excuse to jam for a while and it’s a good listen.

The disc basically opens and closes with “Pork chop’ Little Ditty,” a mandolin song that is under a minute.  Although there a kind of bonus track called “Hail Santa” which is just a sort of woozy bass sound and bells.

It’s an unexpected hit, and one that I have to wonder how many people still play.  If you have it, put it on again.

[READ: January 7, 2014] “The Referees”

I’ve only read one story from Joseph O’Neill before and I enjoyed it a lot.  I also enjoyed this one.  I thought it was nicely funny and also constructed in an unexpectedly amusing way.

The story begins with the narrator talking about meeting up with his fiend Mike.  Mike is complaining about his neighbor.  The asshole known as Gus (real name Gustavus).  Gus is, well was, an alcoholic and he’s trying to make amends.  But Mike knows that Gus is an asshole and doesn’t want to be friends.

The way the story is told, the narrator describes it in the past tense, but then he interjects dialogue as if it is occurring the present.  He even interrupts himself: (more…)

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harpersfebSOUNDTRACK: BAND OF HORSES-Cease to Begin (2008).

band-ofOur friends Eugenie and Jarret introduced us to Band of Horses.  We liked the first one so much we couldn’t wait for the release of this follow up.  And it doesn’t disappoint.

The songs are so poppy that it’s shocking to me that they’re not everywhere (of course, I have limited exposure to the world, so maybe they are).

A funny thing is that even though BOH will always be associated with our friends, the song “No One’s Gonna Love You” is now linked with an episode of Chuck (a great resource for music these days).  In a very romantic scene, they used this mostly romantic BOH song. It fit very well, and now the song makes me think of the show.

Cease to Begin isn’t very different from their debut, although overall it is stronger and more complex.  The vocals are a high tenor, something that has become somewhat fashionable lately, and there are times when it’s not always easy to immediately tell BOH apart from say Fleet Foxes or My Morning Jacket, but since I like all those bands that’s okay.

The songs vary through a small sonic palate, from rocking numbers to more subtle, shimmery tracks.  There’s even some humor in the disc, on “The General Specific.”  All the tracks are really good.  I’m very thankful to Eugenie and Jarett for introducing them to me.

[READ: March 26, 2009] “The World of Cheese”

This is a sad but tender story about Breda Morrissey and the strained relations between herself and her husband and herself and her son.  As the story opens, we learn that her son Patrick has called her persona non grata.  All of this stems from her grandson’s upcoming bris.  Clearly, the Morrissey clan is Irish.  But her son has married a Jewish woman, and with the impending birth of their son, the talk of circumcision has raised its head. (more…)

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