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Archive for the ‘Kevin Barry’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RODRIGO Y GABRIELA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #15 (April 28, 2020).

The only thing better than seeing Rodrigo y Gabriela live (which is amazing) is getting to see them up close just to be even more amazed by what they can do.

The Mexican duo known as Rodrigo y Gabriela travel the globe playing to crowds who are captivated by their almost telepathic acoustic guitar interplay. But they make their home in Mexico in a sunny Pacific beach town called Zihuatanejo (remember The Shawshank Redemption?). For this performance we get a peek at their home studio, where they surround themselves with guitars and dress down in sneakers and casual clothes. They run through tunes from throughout their recorded history, including a song they played at the Tiny Desk back in 2009. Rodrigo y Gabriela’s picking and strumming feel more relaxed than usual but maintains their intense focus.

“Tamacun” and “Diablo Rojo” come from their album Rodrigo y Gabriela (2006).  Rodrigo plays the amazing and catchy leads and it’s terrific to watch him.  But I think that Gabriela with her unconventional and at times mind-blowing rhythm section that is even better to watch.  I never quite know what she’s doing with her right hand.  Is she specifically hitting different strings with different fingers, or is it just an elaborate strum?

The percussive sound they both get on “Diablo Rojo” is fantastic.  That they can keep the song interesting while just hitting their guitars is so cool.

“Hanuman” is from the album 11:11.  Each song on that album is a tribute to an artist who has inspired them.  This is a tribute to Carlos Santana (whom they met after this song was released).

“Mettavolution” is the title track from their newest album.  I love that they are album to write so many instrumentals with just two acoustic guitars and have them all sound so different.  Near the end of this one Rodrigo says that normally they ask people to sing along (woah oh ohs), but since there’s no crowd, maybe you’ll sing along at home.

It’s hard not to.

[READ: April 25, 2020] “No. 13 Baby”

This is an excerpt from Barry’s novel Night Boat to Tangier.

I have mixed reactions to Barry’s stories.  I usually like the details, but sometimes the the overall story is too intense (I don’t especially like stories about drug dealers) .

Set in the Plaza de la Constitución in Spain, Maurice Hearne is waiting for someone. The man arrives and says Maurice needs to pay half of the money first before he can meet Karima.  Then the man tells him that he should have his head examined: Just forget these people, go back to Ireland and have some kiddies.

He called home to Cynthia to assure her that everything was going to be okay.  Then he went to meet Karima. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ERASURE-Snow Globe (2013).

Rather than making a straight up Christmas album, Erasure created a hybrid of original songs and traditional songs for the holidays.  I’m not even sure if some of the original songs can be considered holiday songs at all.  What’s interesting is that while the songs are clearly Erasure (Andy Bell’s voice is unmistakable), they don’t exactly sound like Erasure.  Musician Vince Clarke said, “Everything about Christmas has been written already. We thought it would be more interesting to look into the darker side of the season. For a lot of people, Christmas is not a happy time.”  So a lot of the songs feel stripped down or perhaps eerie.

The first song “Bells of Love (Isabelle’s of Love)” is a song of hope.  It has an Erasure feel (especially in the chorus), but it’s definitely not as full as a typical song from them.  It may not be especially Christmasey what with these lyrics:

I don’t believe in your religion
I only know what I can see
So many sad, so many lonely
It’s only love that sets us free

But the sentiment is what’s at the heart of Christmas sprint

What we want
What we need
Is a touch of the healing hand
With a little emotion
Can you hear the bells of love?
One day they’ll be loud enough

“Gaudete” is absolutely wonderful.  It’s a 16th century Christmas Carol (which means “rejoice”).  Erasure could easily make an album doing this with traditional songs and it would be amazing.  They stick to the traditional melody, but it just feel so powerful.  The backing vocals, thee Latin, the bells and subtle bass.  Everything about this song is very cool.  It doesn’t really scream Christmas, but clearly it is a Christmas song.

“Make It Wonderful” has a cool synth riff after the chorus and a somewhat poppy feel.

“Sleep Quietly” is a by Ruth Heller (originally called “Sleep Quietly My Jesus”) who I can find no information about.  This version feels eerie for sure with the synth choices and the nearly whispered vocals by Bell.  These songs about Jesus seem odd for Erasure, since their song “Bells of Love” specifically mentions not believing.

“Silent Night” is a beautiful song and they do a lovely job with it–layered synths and Bell’s gently echoed vocals.  It’s lovely.  “Loving Man” feels most like an Erasure song–bouncy synths and clacking drums.

“The Christmas Song” is one of the most unsettling songs on the disc because Bell sings the song fairly traditionally, but the music sounds like an 8-bit video game.  That is until the chorus which sort of takes off in a dance direction.

Next up is a delicate take on “In the Bleak Midwinter.”  It is pretty and gentle and as with many of these songs I love the attention to care that they band put into the backing vocals and production.

“Blood on the Snow” hardly seems like a Christmas song, but it is about the snow.  It’s quite sinister, especially that powerful five-note bass line and those eerie mechanical synths sounds.  The lyrics make it seem like a take on the three wise men story, but with a darker twist

Star don’t lose your shine
Be sure to light the way
Your essence is divine
For these three gifts we bring
It’s only a small offering of time

“There’ll Be No Tomorrow” is a pure Erasure dance song.  It doesn’t feel bleak like the other songs because its got that whole “party like there’ll be no tomorrow vibe,” and yet lyrically that’s a pretty bleak thought:

All bets are off, the party’s on
So let’s away and drown out our sorrows
So don’t be late and celebrate
And party like there’ll be no tomorrow

“Midnight Clear” is the traditional song. Bells’ vocals are lovely.  The music is a little weird–deep almost ghostly backing vocals and a very cool, but unexpected, melody between verses.

“White Christmas” is definitely eerie.  And since the song is actually quite a sad song, it makes sense.  The vocals are distant and almost sound like they are over the phone.  In fact, with the intro and outro sound effects, it seems like maybe it’s meant to be sung on a train.  And again, there’s that spare mechanical music accompanying.

“Silver Bells” is a simple, pretty take on the song.  It’s softer than the other more mechanical songs, with some sweet backing vocals.  A slightly happy ending to a rather sad Christmas album.

[READ: December 17, 2018] “Deer Season”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This is the second story I have previously read in the New Yorker.   I assume that since I read it before I read it differently because I feel like I got more out of it this time.  On the original read it seemed like a guy writing a story about a girl who wants to have sex.  What I found interesting on this read was realizing that a young girl having sex in a small town can have consequences–and not the typical ones (she doesn’t get pregnant). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIG BOI-Tiny Desk Concert #793 (October 9, 2018).

Like everyone is America, I loved OutKast’s “Hey Ya” when it came out (still do).  And that album was pretty great (if a little long).  And then they kind of imploded.

I was always more of a fan of Andre 3000’s trippy side than Big Boi’s pop side.  And yet for this Tiny Desk, Big Boi is  aton of fun and the songs are really catchy.

These guys helped redefine the sound and style of hip-hop in the ’90s, incorporating funk and psychedelia while transcending genre boundaries. As half of OutKast — still the only rap group ever to take home Album of the Year at the Grammys —

The energy in the room was buoyant and vibrant from the moment they walked in the door. OutKast star Big Boi, Sleepy Brown of the prolific Atlanta production collective Organized Noize, and their eight-member backing band have been working together for 20-plus years, and their chemistry is instantaneous and undeniable.

And Big Boi is hilarious from the get go:

We have come from the planet of Stankonia to give y’all three big songs behind a tiny-ass desk.

The set starts with OutKast’s: “So Fresh, So Clean.”  It sounds as good as it did in 2000, and possibly a little better live.  Big Boi’s voice instantly sounds like it does on the record (the way he echoes clean).  The bass (Preston Crump) sound great running through the song and the gently echoing guitar (David Brown) sounds great.

The backing vocals (Keisha Williams and Terrance “Scar” Smith) are spot on.  Perhaps the biggest surprise comes from the trumpets (Jason Freeman and Jerry Freeman).  It didn’t occur to me that he’d use them, but they really make the track.

After the track, he cracks up the room by saying “the Tiny Desk needs a Tiny fan” (of course they are all wearing matching hoodies that say TRAP HOUSE (in the style of WAFFLE HOUSE).

Big Boi continues to thrive as a solo act, riding the charts with last year’s Boomiverse and its hit single “All Night.”

He describes the song as a “current pop smash hit with L.A. Reid–the first hit to launch that label.”  It opens with a super catchy and fun piano riff (very old-school sounding). The piano is a sample which DJ Cutmaster Swift plays on his Mac and then scratches it on the turntable.

Holy cow is that song catchy.  I love at the end when Big Boi and his rapping partner Sleepy Brown mime the piano part perfectly.

The final song is “The Way You Move” from 2003’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.  He describes it in a hilariously casual way as “one of the biggest things we’ve ever done.”  It opens with some great scratching and the snappy drums from Omar Phillips.  This is a song that was a little too poppy for me on the record, but man it’s an undeniable track.

It’s a terrific set and one that I wish was ten minutes longer.

[READ: October 14, 2018] “The Coast of Leitrim”

This story seems like a simple case of a loser-ish guy trying desperately to woo a woman.

Seamus Ferris is thirty-five.  He lives alone in an inherited house and he has fallen hard for a Polish woman who works in a cafe down in Carrick.  He has no mortgage, which is a plus, but he’s not especially exciting, generally speaking.

He feels that the situation is like a vast love affair, although he has never spoken to her–more than ordering anyway.  But he knew that she was sensitive, with a “dreamy distracted air” and she was “at a remove from the other mullockers who worked in the cafe.”  She was pretty but no supermodel–Seamus admitted he himself was not hideous.

Using some sly detective work–he peeked at the work schedule while using the toilet, he learned her name and then did some research on Instagram.  Her full name Katharine Zeileinski was unique enough for him to be able to narrow down the account quickly.  She didn’t post much, but what she did suggested she was single. That’s all he wanted. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SERGIO MENDOZA Y LA ORKESTRA-Backyard Show (Field Recordings, June 4, 2014).

This Field Recording [Coffee And Mambo With Sergio Mendoza Y La Orkesta] differs from other ones because it is actually a mini-concert.  Almost like a Tiny Desk Concert outside.

Sergio Mendoza and his band La Orkesta are from Arizona and they play three songs in this backyard party.

They mix myriad Latin styles — what Mendoza calls “indie mambo,” salted with generous handfuls of cumbia, merengue and ranchera — and then feed all that through a psychedelic prism. They perform their songs with charm and panache, set off by the fireworks of the group’s resident showman, the multi-talented Salvador Duran.

While NPR Music was in Austin for SXSW this year, we coaxed Mendoza and his crew into a three-song backyard party after a little local coffee. But they didn’t really need the caffeine to get everyone’s blood pumping.

“Traicionera” (Treasons) has a great pedal steel guitar part running through it.  Duran is dancing and stomping on the stomp box and then he takes a great vocal run with his deep resonant voice.

“La Cucharita” (Little Spoon) Sergio sings thee main verses, but when the chorus comes in, Duran takes lead and Mendoza sings backups.  There’s an appropriate trumpet solo as well as a rocking guitar solo from the slide guitarist.

The final song “La Rienda” (The Reins) opens with a wah wah’d slide guitar–it sounds otherworldly.  Throughout the song he plays some very cool slide guitar sounds.  Duran sings lead and I love his gritty but beautiful voice.  As the song nears the end, during a relatively quiet part, you can hear a bird chirping as it quickly flies past–a nice bit of proof that it’s live and outside.

[READ: January 4, 2017] “Deer Season”

The title of this story confused me somewhat because while the story may be set in deer season, the story is actually about a seventeen-year-old girl.  The girl was “almost 18 and determined to have a fuck before it.”

She lives out near the woods and has her sites set on a country man who she has seen around.

She sat out under a tree–knowing he would pass by–reading a novel by Roberto Bolaño.

She was worried that the book might be too much for him, but he seemed interested. Then he told her that he had to burn half of his books last winter to stay warm.  They shared pleasantries and go their ways.

She has about a week to go before her 18th birthday.  And she is planning accordingly. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BELLE AND SEBASTIAN-Live at KEXP, April 13, 2006 (2006).

This four song set samples a broad swath of Belle & Sebastian’s career.  It takes place after The Life Pursuit‘s release, but they only play one song from it “To Be Myself Completely” (with Stevie on vocals).

It’s amazing how quiet and shy the band seems i the interviews (or is that bored and petulant) especially after being through the mad swings of success.  Indeed, the interviews are almost embarrassing how unresponsive the band is (but not rude unresponsive, just unresponsive).  Like “where did the soul influence on this album come from?”  “Probably black America.”  “Did the new producer have any influence on the soulfulness?”  “Not really.”

But they do let the music speak for them.  And they don’t just do the horn songs or the strings songs.  They play “She’s Losing It” from Tigermilk (with lots of horns–it sounds great), they play “A Century of Fakers” with strings (although the female vocals seem a little too subdued on this track).  They also play a rollicking cover of Badfinger’s “No Matter What.”  It’s a delightfully poppy song which I didn’t know but which Sarah did (and I thought was the Beatles, and the DJ guessed Paul McCartney wrote it–he didn’t).  It’s when discussing this song that the band finally gets animated, perhaps they just don’t want to talk about themselves.

[READ: October 15, 2012] Five Dials #25

The issue is all about the short story.  Five stories from Lydia Davis, a short story contest from Zsuzsi Gardner, and a couple longer stories as well.   But there’s also some poetry and an essay.  And I fear I have to say I didn’t enjoy this issue as much as some of the other ones.  I love short stories, but I didn’t really love these very much.  And, the essay at the end was a lot of fury about very little.  I have to assume Part Two will simply kick ass.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editors: On Orphans and Cork
Taylor name-checks the Cork International Short-Story Festival and mentions how this issue is a sort of tie in to the festival (and just how many writers wanted to be in this Cork issue).  Taylor says that many readers wanted more short stories in the Five Dials issues, and that Noel O’Regan, short story editor says that the short story is always alive–witness the great success of the Cork Festival.  Writers flock to it (and a hefty prize is given).  This issue is only Part I of the fiction issue because they simply had to break it into two parts. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: !!!-Live at KEXP, May 3, 2007 (2007).

!!! play a funky dance party music.  It’s certainly not Top 40 dance, as it throws all kinds of elements into the mix.  I have one of their early EPS but I haven’t listened to much more from them.  This show is from 2007, so I don’t know how much their sound has changed these last five years, but this is a cool and interesting set.

“Myth Takes” has a great bass line while “Heart of Hearts” has a steady beat with 70’s retro keyboards and cool guitar sections.  The jam at the end of the song is great.  “Yadnus” has a slinky feel until the screamed chorus (and there’s one member with a great scream) makes the song rock hard.

The entire set feels like a rollicking party.  I’ll bet they are a lot of fun to see live.

This band is especially hard to search for (search engines don’t know what to do with “!!!”) so the link is here.

[READ: October 26, 2012] “Ox Mountain Death Song”

This was a very brief story set in Ireland.

It was constructed as two parallel narratives: one about a policeman Sergeant Brown, and one about a criminal, Canavan.  Canavan  comes from a long line of criminals–thieves, sexual abusers, violent thugs, and he is no exception   And as soon as the community learns that he has a deadly cancer, they prepare for the worst from him, because what has he got to lose?

Sergeant Brown has dealt with his family for years.  He’s old now–fat and tired and soon to retire, but he wants this guy before he does anything worse.

Brown speaks to an older woman who was recently beaten up by him.  She protects him for a while until she finally reveals his hiding place–in the Ox Mountains.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NO FORCEFIELD-Lee’s Oriental Massage 415-626-1837 (2000).

I was terribly disappointed with the second No Forcefield album (so why did I get this one?  Because I got them both used at the same time for $1 each).  And I can’t help but think Id have been so much more disappointed in it had I listened to this one first.

This first record is really quite good.  I still have no idea why Ler from Primus is in the band or what he does on this disc (and he’s the reason I learned about the band to begin with), but this disc sounds like a proper album and not just a bunch of undercooked ideas.

This disc is primarily a collection of electronic/scratching tracks.  The beginning of the disk has more scratch-heavy pieces (provided by DJ Disk), and as the disc moves along we get slightly longer more instrumental-only dancey tracks.  But they’re not really dance tracks either, they’re heavy electronic tracks in the vein of say Prodigy (with no lyrics).  They’re quite inventive and they rock pretty hard.

But it must be said, it sounds nothing like Primus.  There’s virtually no bass, and no guitars and no vocals.  I assume that Brain does all of the electronics and drums, and then there’s a few extra folks helping out.  There’s some definitely worthwhile tracks on here (and the samples are all fun…Mister Roger’s Neighborhood music, for example).

This isn’t a genre I know very well, so I don’t know how it compares globally to others. But I do know bad techno music and this isn’t it.

Not bad for $1.  And, no I never called the phone number.

[READ: January 26, 2010] “Fjord of Killary”

This is a quick, dark story.  It concerns a poet, named Caoimhin, who moves from the city to the West Coast of Ireland.  Specifically, he goes there to buy a hotel.  The hotel has been extant since the 1600’s and was even written about by Thackeray.  Since he is having massive writer’s block, he assumed that this little community on a fjord will give him lots to write about.

But instead, he finds himself very busy tending to the locals (the hotel bar is the real draw) and largely uninspired to write anything.

The actual plot of the story concerns a terrible storm.  The raging ocean that is right below the hotel is rising and rising.  Caoimhin is rather nervous, but the patrons, all old residents of the area, tell him not to worry.  Well, actually they ignore him, (despite all of his lame attempts at conversation making) but the effect is the same.

It’s only when the water actually comes up the porch and under the doors that the people start to really get nervous. (more…)

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