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Archive for the ‘Karl Taro Greenfeld’ Category

augSOUNDTRACK: TUTLIE-“The Bison” (Tiny Desk Contest Runner-Up 2016).

tutl;ieLast week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners up that they especially liked.  I want to draw attention to a couple of them.

I started out liking this song so much.  It opens with a singer singing beautiful notes.  And as the camera passes we see a harp (!) then keyboards, drums, bass, trumpet and glockenspiel.

There are many different parts to the song and lots of interesting harmonies.  And its starts beautifully.  I was surprised by the shift in tone (and the trippy end of the chorus).  And their harmonies are truly wonderful.

I also liked that they were all filmed under a staircase.

But the song was a little too drifting and slow for me.  It reminds me a lot of a slower song that might appear on a 70s prog rock album.   The song that I would tolerate while I waited for the faster heavier song to come along.  Of course, after many listens I would grow to appreciate it.  And I’m sure I would grow to appreciate this song too.

[READ: February 10, 2016] “Untitled (Triptych)”

The August 2015 Harper’s had a “forum” called How to Be a Parent.  Sometimes these forums are dialogues between unlikely participants and sometimes, like in this case, each author contributes an essay on the topic.  There are ten contributors to this Forum: A. Balkan, Emma Donoghue, Pamela Druckerman, Rivka Galchen, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Ben Lerner, Sarah Manguso, Claire Messud, Ellen Rosenbush and Michelle Tea.  Since I have read pieces from most of these authors I’ll write about each person’s contribution.

I am pretty sure I have read stuff by Ben Lerner but I didn’t expect a poem from him.  Especially such a long one.  And what can a poem teach us about parenting?

I was daunted by this piece, and the poem even helps address why.  It talks about how “poems are great places to make information disappear, dissolve.”

And it also covers pretty much everything that has to do with art. (more…)

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augSOUNDTRACK: LA MISA NEGRA-“Sancocho” (Tiny Desk Contest Runner-Up 2016).

misanegraLast week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners-up that they especially liked.  I want to draw attention to a couple of them.

La Misa Negra is a cumbia-loving band from Oakland, Calif.  There are eight members in the band.  There’s a drummer with a small kit but lots of frenetic drumming, and a bongo player who is also frenetic.  The percussion is pretty major in this band.

There’s also a sax, trumpet, clarinet, guitar and upright bass.  The guitar player does super fast ska chords, while the horns plays some insanely fast riffs.  The singer is full of yips and trills.  It’s a non-stop fun rollicking ride.

I have no idea what they’re singing about (it’s all in Spanish) and I just don’t care, (“Sancocho” is named after a hearty stew popular in several Latin American countries).

Their tiny desk is a school seat with the writing top attached to the side.  By the end it can’t contain the singer who has to get up and dance around too.

What a fun song.

[READ: February 10, 2016] “In Praise of Boredom”

The August 2015 Harper’s had a “forum” called How to Be a Parent.  Sometimes these forums are dialogues between unlikely participants and sometimes, like in this case, each author contributes an essay on the topic.  There are ten contributors to this Forum: A. Balkan, Emma Donoghue, Pamela Druckerman, Rivka Galchen, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Ben Lerner, Sarah Manguso, Claire Messud, Ellen Rosenbush and Michelle Tea.  Since I have read pieces from most of these authors I’ll write about each person’s contribution.

I don’t know Claire Messud, but I totally related to this essay,

She is about my age and explains that the world she grew up in no longer exists.  She says her parents, while wanting for nothing, were always frugal–they saved Ziploc bags and repaired things rather than threw them away.

They didn’t aspire to material wealth or popular culture, but rather they traveled a lot and had the children read.  But Claire says that as a child she would rather have her own record player and clothes from the Gap.

So when her mom went to work she grew absorbed in pop culture TV and she felt like she became less serious than her parents.

I agreed with this:

The comparative ease of our upbringing first inspired guilt, then defiance. If, as our parents said, we should be eternally grateful for our comfort, then couldn’t we be grateful without feeling bad about it? Why should we accept that the hard path was always superior? Why shouldn’t we enjoy life’s pleasures? Why believe that reading Beckett or, God forbid, Heidegger, was an innately more worthy activity than watching music videos? Says who?

She knows that reading Beckett is a stimulating hour, but she can spend that hour just as happily watching Scandal. (more…)

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augSOUNDTRACK: GWEN AUSTIN-“Child” (Tiny Desk Contest Runner-Up 2016).

maxresdefaultLast week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners up that they especially liked.  I want to draw attention to a couple of them.

The production values of this video belie the quality and intensity of the song they play.

The video is set in a dark room with the only light coming from an open window.  The vocal is a bit staticy and at times too loud for the mic.  But that doesn’t overshadow the fact that this is a beautiful, sad song.  And that Gwen Austin has a powerful, somewhat haunting voice in the vein of Sharon Van Etten.

The music is simple Gwen on acoustic guitar and an accompaniment of a very echoey electric guitar Russell Marshall, but she sings with intense aching in her voice.  The song comes from Austin’s feminist folk opera about the nativity story, which I’d sure like to hear more about.

[READ: February 10, 2016] “Fever”

The August 2015 Harper’s had a “forum” called How to Be a Parent.  Sometimes these forums are dialogues between unlikely participants and sometimes, like in this case, each author contributes an essay on the topic.  There are ten contributors to this Forum: A. Balkan, Emma Donoghue, Pamela Druckerman, Rivka Galchen, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Ben Lerner, Sarah Manguso, Claire Messud, Ellen Rosenbush and Michelle Tea.  Since I have read pieces from most of these authors I’ll write about each person’s contribution.

I believe that everything I know from Taro Greenfeld I know from Harper’s magazines.

The title of this one had me preparing for something very different.  I imagined an article about illnesses and not a basketball team.  His daughter played for a team called Fever and he was called upon to be a coach because no one else would (that sounds familiar).

Unlike my own soccer league with many different teams, this basketball league had but two teams, and Fever played Sky every week for 12 weeks.  Karl was a first time coach and didn’t know much about how to be a coach.  The other coach was pretty good (he had a clipboard) and somehow managed to get all of the tall, talented players compared to Karl’s less experienced ones.

Since the played the same team every week, they lost 12 games in a row.  Which is pretty disheartening.  Especially when the games were pretty much blowouts.  He even lost a few players to disenchantment. (more…)

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augSOUNDTRACK: DECLAN McKENNA-“Brazil” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 22, 2016).

mckennaDeclan McKenna is 17 and recently won the Glastonbury Contest with this song.  I’ve never heard the original, although it is described as more rocking than this version.

This is just McKenna and his acoustic guitar.  The melody is great and his guitar playing is good too.  His singing voice reminds me a lot of the guy from the Arctic Monkeys.  Although there’s moments in this version where he really seems to be straining/affecting his voice, which would probably work in a rocking song but which sound kind of rough in this little lullaby version—especially since his normal singing voice is really nice.

I was really surprised when the song switched to the third part (the Brazil part).  It switches the tone of the song quite a bit and he does some nice falsettos too.  “Playing the beautiful game in Brazil” is quite different from “The guy who lives down the river with six cars and a grizzly bear.”

Okay I just listened to the proper song–it’s much poppier with all kinds of harmonies.  The song is much hookier this way.  His vocals  work better, although I’m not sure I’m sold on them entirely.  In fact, when I was watching the video of the song, one of the comments (NEVER READ THE COMMENTS!) says, “Settle down McLovin” and, yes, that’s it, he sounds like Christopher Mintz-Plasse straining, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to unthink that.  And now, neither will you.

[READ: February 10, 2016] “On Being a Stepparent”

The August 2015 Harper’s had a “forum” called How to Be a Parent.  Sometimes these forums are dialogues between unlikely participants and sometimes, like in this case, each author contributes an essay on the topic.  There are ten contributors to this Forum: A. Balkan, Emma Donoghue, Pamela Druckerman, Rivka Galchen, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Ben Lerner, Sarah Manguso, Claire Messud, Ellen Rosenbush and Michelle Tea.  Since I have read pieces from most of these authors I’ll write about each person’s contribution.

I don’t know Ellen Rosenbush’s work (she is an editor of Harper’s so I don’t know how much else she has “written.”  Rosenbush talks about the pros and cons of being a stepparent. (more…)

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augSOUNDTRACK: TIMMY THOMAS-“Dizzy Dizzy World” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 21, 2016).

timmyTimmy Thomas wrote many many hits in the 1970s and 1980s.  His name is on credits that just about everyone has sung at some point.

Of course, I’d never heard of him.  Thomas is 71 and was playing at SXSW, so they grabbed him for a Lullaby.  And his voice sounds really fantastic–rich and full–you’d never guess he was over 70.

He sang a song from his 1973 album Why Can’t We Live Together called “Dizzy Dizzy World.”  What’s so interesting to me about this song is that it sounds like it came from the 1970s.  Not because of the instrumentation, which for this is just keyboards, acoustic guitar and upright bass.  And it’s not exactly the lyrics (although they are earnest and slightly dated–but also still appropriate).  There’s something about the feel of the song–it sounds like an anthem from the 70s for fighting against the craziness of the world.

It’s mellow and quite lovely.  They just don’t write songs like this anymore.  Well, maybe Thomas does, I don’t know.

[READ: February 10, 2016] “The Donor”

The August 2015 Harper’s had a “forum” called How to Be a Parent.  Sometimes these forums are dialogues between unlikely participants and sometimes, like in this case, each author contributes an essay on the topic.  There are ten contributors to this Forum: A. Balkan, Emma Donoghue, Pamela Druckerman, Rivka Galchen, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Ben Lerner, Sarah Manguso, Claire Messud, Ellen Rosenbush and Michelle Tea.  Since I have read pieces from most of these authors I’ll write about each person’s contribution.

I read Emma Donoghue’s first novel Stir Fry back in 1994.  She was an unknown author and I liked the book quite a bit.  Since then she has taken off with her book Room, which I have not read.

Donoghue’s essay is about how she tells her children that they were both conceived through a sperm donor.  She and her partner chose to go with a donor from a sperm bank rather than a known person.  They refused to pay extra for the “premium collection of men with PhDs” since she and her partner both have PhDs “so we know what a feeble guarantee of intelligence they are.” (more…)

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augSOUNDTRACK A-WA-“Ya Shaifin Al Malih” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 20, 2016).

awaA-WA are three sisters from Yemen.  They sing in Yemeni Arabic.  And they have a dance single out (see the video shot in their neighborhood where three guys wears tracksuits and baseball hats with tassels).

For this Tiny Desk, they are also in a hotel room.  Unlike with Mt. Wolf, this room is dark and then an electric guitar starts playing.

The lead singer begins singing this song (in Arabic).  It is a Yemeni folk song about a love that hurts.  “There’s an enjoyable love and there’s a love that gives you heartache.”  It is a sad aching song.

After a second verse the three sisters start singing in harmony

It’s in the next verse when the three-part harmony becomes really distinctive, and the song feels even more intense.

It’s a far cry from a dance song, but an interesting listen to voices you don’t hear much in song.

[READ: February 10, 2016] “The Grand Shattering”

The August 2015 Harper’s had a “forum” called How to Be a Parent.  Sometimes these forums are dialogues between unlikely participants and sometimes, like in this case, each author contributes an essay on the topic.  There are ten contributors to this Forum: A. Balkan, Emma Donoghue, Pamela Druckerman, Rivka Galchen, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Ben Lerner, Sarah Manguso, Claire Messud, Ellen Rosenbush and Michelle Tea.  Since I have read pieces from most of these authors I’ll write about each person’s contribution.

I have read only one thing by Michelle Tea.  But I really enjoyed her contribution to this forum.  She discusses giving birth by Cesarean and losing a lot of blood.  She was in the hospital for four days.  And although the room itself was ugly, the view (on a hill in San Francisco) was magnificent.

She and her wife spent those four days holding their baby and basically being a in a bubble.  Michelle would breastfeed and her wife would do most everything else.  People marveled at what a great team they made. (more…)

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augSOUNDTRACK MT. WOLF-“Hex” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 19, 2016).

mtwolfMt Wolf breaks with the tradition of the Lullaby by playing their song in a hotel room!  This is the band’s single.

It’s a 6-minute beautiful song notable for singer Sebastian’s Fox’s soaring falsetto.  His voice is really quite amazing.

The second guitarist plays the quiet melody and then Fox plays a kind of solo over the top of it. After the initial falsetto of the first verse, the second verse shows the range of his voice, as he starts a little lower before soaring the heights once again.  The band has a female backing singer who actually sings high notes that are lower than his.

By four and a half minutes the songs starts to rocks out (and no doubt the room next door starts to wonder WTF)

The feel reminds me a bit of Sigur Rós, with that kind of soaring intensity.  This is definitely a love it or hate it song, but I think it’s quite beautiful.

[READ: February 10, 2016] “The Grand Shattering”

The August 2015 Harper’s had a “forum” called How to Be a Parent.  Sometimes these forums are dialogues between unlikely participants and sometimes, like in this case, each author contributes an essay on the topic.  There are ten contributors to this Forum: A. Balkan, Emma Donoghue, Pamela Druckerman, Rivka Galchen, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Ben Lerner, Sarah Manguso, Claire Messud, Ellen Rosenbush and Michelle Tea.  Since I have read pieces from most of these authors I’ll write about each person’s contribution.

Anyone who reads this blog knows I don’t know poets very well. A. Balkan is a poet whom I had never heard of.

Imagine my surprise to find out that his essay was the most dramatic and exciting and went in directions that I never would have guessed.

He says that when his twin daughters were born, he and his wife were exhausted from all the work.  So his family and friends invited them t0 a cabin where they could relax and have other take care of the kids for a couple of days.

Sounds ideal.  Except that on their second day there, a tornado came through and destroyed the cabin they were staying in (for real!)  Fortunately they were not in it. (more…)

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augSOUNDTRACK MAREN MORRIS-“I Wish I Was” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 18, 2016).

marenMaren Morris was a buzz artist at SXSW.  I listened to about 45 seconds of her single “My Church” and determined it was way too country for me.  So I wasn’t really looking forward to this Lullaby.

However, Morris’s sound strips down nicely.  Although she still sings with a rich country twang, she also adds levels of soul to her singing (particularly after the guitar solo).  There’s two guitars (Morris in rhythm), and her two supporting dudes singing very nice harmonies.

And the setting for this video is quite lovely–the chirping insects would agree.

[READ: February 10, 2016] “Curling Parents and Little Emperors”

The August 2015 Harper’s had a “forum” called How to Be a Parent.  Sometimes these forums are dialogues between unlikely participants and sometimes, like in this case, each author contributes an essay on the topic.  There are ten contributors to this Forum: A. Balkan, Emma Donoghue, Pamela Druckerman, Rivka Galchen, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Ben Lerner, Sarah Manguso, Claire Messud, Ellen Rosenbush and Michelle Tea.  Since I have read pieces from most of these authors I’ll write about each person’s contribution.

Druckerman’s name sounded familiar.  It turns out she wrote the book Bringing Up Bébé in 2012.  The book compares the child-rearing practices of middle class parents in France with those of the United States.  She says that US parents tend to have a more anxious, labor-intensive child-centric style of parenting.  And that today, college educated American mothers spend nine more hours per week on child care than they did in the mid-1990s.  This style has taken hold in most countries.  Except France. (more…)

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augSOUNDTRACK: HOLLY MACVE-“Sycamore Tree” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 16, 2016).

macveHolly Macve (pronounced Mac-vee) is a 20-year-old songwriter from County Galway. At the time of SXSW she only had some demos available.

For this Lullaby, it’s just her and her acoustic guitar.  Her low notes seem surprisingly low somehow (I ‘m guessing she plays very cleanly so her notes stand out).

But the thing that stands out most is her voice.  The song’s melody is pretty standard, but she often jumps octaves and nearly creaks her voice while getting there–it’s unsettling and charming at the same time.  She sounds very old school country to me.

Also notable is the length of this song.  It seems like a simple folk song with a pretty standard verse structure.  In good Irish tradition, it also tells a story.  But the slow pace seems to really stretch out the music.  The chorus seems a few lines longer than one might expect (I do love the past and future mixed together in the lyrics).  When she gets to a third part, which takes the song in a rather unexpected direction with very high notes, it’s unclear how long this song might just wind up being.

Macve has a lovely sound, and I enjoyed this song as a lullaby, but I think she’s too far into the country realm for my liking.

[READ: February 10, 2016] “Notes on Some Twentieth-Century Writers”

The August 2015 Harper’s had a “forum” called How to Be a Parent.  Sometimes these forums are dialogues between unlikely participants and sometimes, like in this case, each author contributes an essay on the topic.  There are ten contributors to this Forum: A. Balkan, Emma Donoghue, Pamela Druckerman, Rivka Galchen, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Ben Lerner, Sarah Manguso, Claire Messud, Ellen Rosenbush and Michelle Tea.  Since I have read pieces from most of these authors I’ll write about each person’s contribution.

I have enjoyed Rivka Galchen’s works.  Indeed, I have tried to write about everything she’s written.  One of the things I especially like about her is that she always defies expectations.  So, in this Forum, while everyone else is writing about being a parent, Galchen writes about writers who were or were not parents.

She lists dozens of writers and states their parental status.  I will not go through them all because it would be exhausting (and would basically just duplicate what she wrote). (more…)

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augSOUNDTRACK: LUCIUS-“Dusty Trails” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 15, 2016).

luciusI’m kind of mixed on Lucius. I love the vocals of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, they are genuinely amazing.  But their music is often a little too poppy, too dancey for me.  So this stripped down version is just perfect.  It’s probably my favorite song of theirs now, (I haven’t even heard the original, yet).

The visuals of this lullaby are pretty awesome too.  The guitar players in the background, Jess and Holly stand on a bridge in electric blue body suits and shocks of red hair.  The image of party and dance is so contrary to the lovely music that they play.

The song starts as a kind of folkie, almost country song. The two guitars play nicely together.  And the women sing kind of gently, but with those harmonies intact.  Once they get to the chorus, though, Jess and Holly start belting out their song with their power and harmony.

And when they get to the middle section of “We’ll be alright,” the vocals are just amazing–powerful and loud and right on key.

The guitars drop out for a near a capella section–just a low drum keeping time–and they keep it up beautifully.  This song is a little too loud and intense to be a lullaby, but it’s great nevertheless.

[READ: February 10, 2016] “The Grand Shattering”

The August 2015 Harper’s had a “forum” called How to Be a Parent.  Sometimes these forums are dialogues between unlikely participants and sometimes, like in this case, each author contributes an essay on the topic.  There are ten contributors to this Forum: A. Balkan, Emma Donoghue, Pamela Druckerman, Rivka Galchen, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Ben Lerner, Sarah Manguso, Claire Messud, Ellen Rosenbush and Michelle Tea.  Since I have read pieces from most of these authors I’ll write about each person’s contribution.

I especially appreciated that the introduction which says “This forum…is not prescriptive but descriptive: not ‘how you should’ but ‘how we have.'”  Which is probably the best kind of advice a mother or father could give.”

I have enjoyed Sarah Manguso’s works.  Her last book talked a lot about her becoming a parent so this essay seemed right up her alley.

She begins by saying she never wanted to be a mother.  To her “mother” was a giving up of your self.  You couldn’t be a writer and a mother. And those writers who were mothers, she was sure that they gave up more of their writer-hood to have more motherhood. She says her fantasy at 23 when her friends were getting married was that she’d move upstate with them and seduce their neighbor’s children. (more…)

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