Archive for the ‘Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TWEEDY-“High As Hello” (Field Recordings, August 7, 2014).

This Field Recording [Tweedy And Son Take To The Tunnels, Friends In Tow] is another one from the 2014 Newport Folk Festival.  Much like with the Jazz Festival, it was raining during the folk festival.  This means the musicians had to play in a that by now familiar tunnel–away from the elements.

These musicians were NPR favorite Jeff Tweedy and his then new project, Tweedy.  The project features Jeff’s then 18 year-old son Spencer on drums.  Jeff and Spencer are accompanied by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig from Lucius (who don’t get to really show off their pipes, but do provide great backing vocals).

With the rain, it was not possible to shuffle drums, so

Spencer Tweedy’s drums are made from found trash and objects lying around the fort, including a cardboard box and some boxes of gum. Still, magic happened.

I can’t help but remark (again) on the wonderful sound equipment.  The band sounds terrific and you can hear all of the guitars (a full band list isn’t given).  Somehow Spencer’s drums don’t sound like cardboard boxes.

This recording is from 4 years ago either before Jeff started wearing the ubiquitous cowboy hat or he didn’t want to wear it in a tunnel.

“High as Hello” is a slow song with great backing vocals and solos from at least one of the three guitars.

[READ: September 18, 2018] “Poor Girl”

This story was translated by Anna Friedrich and is about a woman trapped in a situation she hates.

What’s interesting is that it’s unclear if the title refers to the young mother or her daughter (as they are both poor in different ways).

The opening line is quite surprising:

The wretched mother could easily have lost her sanity watching her husband love their daughter….

What an odd thing to be upset about.  Until…

the way he stroked the child when she was falling asleep or waking up, his blissful expression when they touched, the fact that he bathed her himself, believing it to be his right and his responsibility.

So, the woman, Irina, raises some red flags, although it’s not always clear if she is being reasonable about them. (more…)

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1182016SOUNDTRACK: DAMIEN JURADO–Tiny Desk Concert #114 (February 28, 2011).

damienI had always assumed that Damien Jurado was someone else entirely.  I had no idea that he was (as the blurb describes him) “a big dude playing sad songs.”

And he is.

For this Tiny Desk it’s just him and his guitar.  He keeps his eyes closed tightly as he sings these sad songs.  His guitar playing is simple–just strummed chords and his voice is simple as well–there’s no tricks.  It’s all about his songwriting.

I liked all four of these songs: “Cloudy Shoes,” “Newspaper Gown” (that was my favorite), “Arkansas,” and “Beacon Hill.”

The strangest thing about him was how uncommunicative he seemed to be–almost nervous.  He barely spoke and when he did it was hard to hear.  And as soon as the set was done he immediately stood up to leave.

Although he does say it’s “nice.”

His songs were lovely although I don’t think I’ll be seeking him out anytime soon.

[READ: January 12, 2016] “The Story of a A Painter”

This story was translated by Anna Summers and, as the title suggests, it is about a painter.

But this story delves into surreal territory pretty quickly.  It may even be a fairy tale as the opening line is “There once lived a painter….”

This painter has had some bad fortune as of late.  His landlord promised to get him a lot of money if he would sell his large apartment.  But the landlord sold the place and kept the money (a lawsuit is pending).  Then the landlord offered him a place under the stairs–no running water–which the painter accepted.  But he can’t pay the landlord, so the landlord gives him grief every day.

On another day a man asked if he would rent him his “apartment.”  The painter said yes for money up front.  The man gave him the money then moved his entire family into the tiny, below-the-stairs place and planned to never leave.  Now the painter was destitute and homeless. (more…)

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killersKillers picks up right where Iron Maiden left off–indeed many of these songs were written at the same time as the first album.  The difference is new guitarist Adrian Smith.

It opens with the great (but simple) instrumental “Ides of March” which segues into the blistering “Wrathchild.”  And it’s on this song that you can tell some of the rawness has been removed from the recording.  The guitars sound a wee bit more polished.

And you can tell the band are getting a bit more symphonic with the bass harmonics that intro the wonderful “Murders in the Rue Morgue” a song that feels long but actually isn’t.  It has several parts that all seem to signal the end until Clive Burrs drums come pounding in to restart the song.  Very cool.  “Another Life” is another fast punky song, and while I like it, it is probably one of the weaker songs on the album.  But that’s okay because it is followed by one of Maidens greatest instrumentals–“Genghis Khan” which has beautiful symphonic soaring solos over a cool propulsive beat.

“Innocent Exile” opens with another great noisy slappy bass riff that only Harris was doing at the time.  “Killers” is a classic track: fast and yet complex, with a very cool riff.   “Twilight Zone” sees Di’Anno reaching for higher more operatic notes.  He makes it, but you can just tell that the band needs more from their vocalist.  “Prodigal Son” opens with a pretty acoustic guitar intro.  I used to like this song quite a bit (whatever Lamia is), but I can see that it’s actually quite long and meandering (maybe this one is more like “War Pigs”).  It’s pretty but could probably be a bit shorter.  “Purgatory” sounds like track off the first album–fast raw and punky with screaming riffs.  “Drifter” ends the disc with a cool bass line and some more thrashing.  It’s a solid ending for an album that overall works pretty well, but which kind of shows that the band had to either do something big on the next album or get stuck in a rut.

[READ: June 1, 2013] McSweeney’s #43

And with this issue I am almost all caught up with my McSweeney’s.  More impressively, I read this one only a few days after receiving it!

This issues comes with two small books.  And each book has a very cool fold-out/die cut cover (which is rather hard to close and which I was sure would get caught and therefore ripped on something but which hasn’t yet).  The first is a standard collection of letters and stories and the second is a collection of fiction from South Sudan.  Jointly they are a great collection of fiction and nonfiction, another solid effort from McSweeney’s.

Letters (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MUDHONEY-Live on KEXP, March 14, 2006 (2006). 

I was never a huge fan of Mudhoney.  Of all the Seattle grungy bands, Mudhoney was always near  the bottom for me.  Some of their stuff was great (“Touch Me, I’m Sick” is undeniable) but I never really got into them.

Having said them, this set taken from the Under a Billion Suns album is really good.  It’s more political than their earlier stuff, but the band still sounds heavy and loud and right on.  “Where is the Future” (“Where is the future that was promised us?  I’m sick to death of this one”) really summarizes their sound–slightly off sounding vocals, slightly off sounding verses and a great chorus.  “It is Us” (“I’ve seen the enemy and it is us”) features some of the more extreme vocals moments in the band’s sound.  And then the chorus is surprisingly catchy.

“Empty Shells” sounds like a hardcore song from the 8os, slightly awkward verse and then a gang-shouted chorus.  “Hard On for War” is kind of funny (but yet really not) about how since all the men at war it’s important to have sex with him as much as possible.  (“These lovely lonesome ladies don’t ignore me anymore.  Now I know why dirty old men are always pushing for war.”

As with every other heavy, angry band, it’s always funny to hear them being chatty and friendly with  the DJs.  They’ve been around Seattle forever and are very nice and happy to talk about their upcoming shows.  Mark Arm, incidentally has been interviewed in Metal Evolution, the 11-part series of VH1 that I have been enjoying a lot lately.  And he seems like a funny guy in that documentary as well.  Maybe it’s time to reassess those early CDs.

Hear this set here.

[READ: November 1, 2012] “Ali-Baba”

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s last story in Harper’s was called “Medea,” and now she has “Ali-Baba.”  In this one, Ali-Baba is a woman who has a drug and alcohol addiction.  Her mother continually tries to get her help, but this inevitably fails, especially now that the mother is in the hospital and Ali-Baba has free access to the house.

Ali-Baba has sold a few large books from her mother’s library to get some cash and is now out on the prowl at a bar.

Strangely though, this story opens with Victor, a man who has more or less given up on women.  He sees Ali-Baba dancing seductively, but he ignores her, believing that women would have no interest in him.  Eventually they wind up next to each other and they begin talking.  Seeing how unused Victor is to attention, she feels a strange tenderness towards him and even buys the last round.

But she is  especially delighted to learn that he lives alone (and not with his mother).  So she goes home with him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WEEZER-Death to False Metal (2010).

This is a fascinating release.  I assumed it was a quick cash in of unreleased tracks.  And yet it doesn’t sound like a bunch of tracks from different eras thrown together.  A little digging reveals that it is sort of a collection of unreleased tracks.  The ten songs here were written over the band’s career but were either never finished or were finished but never released.  According to various places online, Rivers edited and manipulated the songs (and maybe re-recorded some?) to make them all sound current (and like they’re from the same time).  Thus he considers this to be the follow-up to Hurley.

The album is full of poppy songs (“Turning Up the Radio” has FIFTEEN people listed as composer on Allmusic–the true sign of a pop juggernaut).  There’s a couple of slightly heavier songs, “Blowin My Stack” has a big shouty chorus and “Autopilot” has a very electronic kind of sound.  But perhaps the most notable track is the cover of “Unbreak My Heart.”  That song came out in 1996, so one assumes that this version must be at least ten years old, because why would someone make a cover of an old pop hit from fourteen years ago?  It’s quite good, though, as Weezer covers tend to be.

If you like Weezer, this isn’t a throw away.  The songs are just as good as their other recent records (which means they’re not as good as their early ones, but are still poppy).  If you don’t like Weezer this will do nothing to change your mind.

Although I am amused by the album cover design that they chose for this title (which is a tribute to the band Manowar, obviously), I think a better cover would have been Weezer in loincloths.  Can you imagine Rivers Cuomo brandishing a giant sword?

[READ: May 21, 2011] “Medea”

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya had a story in The New Yorker recently.  The fact that she has one here as well can only mean she has a book coming out (although a quick look at Amazon does not indicate that she does).

The opening line says, “This is an awful story…”  And it’s true (not in the sense of being bad, but in the badness that it contains).  Petrushevskaya tends to write very dark stories (dark fairy tales is how they’re mostly categorized), and while this is not a fairy tale, it is certainly dark (and as with most of her stories, it’s quite short).

It’s a fairly simple story: the narrator hops in a cab and complains about how her seventy-three year old grandmother called for a cab to pick her up at a certain time but it never came–and never even called to say it wasn’t coming.  This meant she missed her plane, and the people waiting for her missed her and basically the whole day (and a lot of money) was lost because of a cab.

The cabbie didn’t have anything to do with that, but he tells her that it could be worse, and proceeds to launch into a story trying to outdo her story.  They jockey for position in terms of terrible stories (a woman whose baby dies on vacation–and that’s only the beginning of her problems) until finally he talks about himself. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE HEAD AND THE HEART-KEXP in Studio, September 14, 2010 (2010).

My saga of The Head and the Heart continues.  Sarah had ordered me the disc for Christmas, but the self-released CD had gone out of print.  This is because Sub Pop was going to re-release the record sometime in the new year.

Well, NPR loved the album, so why wouldn’t they have more recordings by them?  (This is one of the great things about enjoying new bands…they are far less likely to restrict listening and downloading abilities online).  So, this session (September) was recorded shortly after they released their album (July).  I have still yet to hear the actual album, but I have fallen in love with these songs.

This set (which has some very brief interview portions) is five songs. The band sounds great, with wonderful harmonies.  The first two songs “Cats and Dogs” and “Coeur d’Alene” meld together seamlessly, and it works wonders.  “Lost in My Mind” is an amazingly catchy single: the “whoo whoos” (which sound not unlike a train) are wonderfully catchy (in a Mumford and Sons kind of way).

They also play “Ghosts” (another catchy catchy song) and the non-LP song “Down in the Valley” (which has the slightly uncomfortable opening lyrics: “I wish I was a slave to an age-old trade”).

This neo-folkie revival has generated some great bands, and The Head and the Heart are yet another one.

[READ: April 14, 2011] “A Withered Branch”

This is a very brief short story (a page and a half) translated by Anna Summers.

A young woman hitchhikes into Vilinus.  She is picked up by a trucker and is unbothered until they get to a rest stop.  While they are having dinner, one of the drivers wonders who she will sleep with that night.

But that is the prelude to the story.  When she arrives in the city, she meets a woman of about fifty who, when the narrator asks if there is any place to stay, offers her own house to the (dirty and sweaty) stranger/narrator. (more…)

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harperoctSOUNDTRACK: MY MORNING JACKET-Acoustic Citsuoca (2004).

mmjThere was a lot of fanfare when this EP was re-released recently (at least I think it was re-released; there was a lot of fanfare about it recently whatever the case). This is a live acoustic performance which features 5 songs from MMJ’s earlier recordings.

I’ve become a pretty big fan of MMJ over the last few years, but I haven’t really delved into their back catalog all that much.  As such, this album doesn’t blow me away, because to me, these aren’t different versions of the songs.  They’re just the versions of the songs.

That said, the disc is very enjoyable, and the band, especially Jim James, sound in great form.  If you’re a fan of the earlier discs, this is probably a stellar addition to the collection, especially since (as I’m led to understand) the early discs are full of reverb and all kinds of fun things like that.  And this is a very stripped down recording.   (Although I have to admit that I think “Sooner” sounds an awful lot like “Sweet Jane”).

If you’re new to the band, I recommend either their newer discs or Okonokos, the live disc, where the band really rocks out.  It’s a great introduction to latter day MMJ.

[READ: October 12, 2009] “Hygiene”

scaryThis story is listed as coming from the book There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales.  Which sounds pretty cool.  But I only have this one story to mention.  And, it seems to fit in quite nicely with the title of the book.

“Hygiene” is set in a city in Russia.  As the story opens, a stranger rings the Family R’s door and informs them that a plague is coming.  They should stay housebound, and not speak to anyone.  And, most importantly, they should stay away from mice (who as we all know, are carriers).  He also confides in them that he is one of the few people who has survived the plague.  If they agree to pay him some money he will happily go out and get them supplies on a regular basis. (more…)

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