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Archive for the ‘Matt Haig’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF–North 6th Street (1999).

In 1999, Nada Surf released this collection of songs.

It was named after the street in Brooklyn where we first got together. It has our first singles, some 8-track demos we made in our practice space, some alternate versions, french versions, a couple of unreleased songs and a cover.

Collections like this can be hit or miss, especially when a band had progressed from their original sound.  But there’s nothing embarrassing about this collection at all.  In fact, there’s a lot of really charming stuff on here.

The first two songs, “The Plan” and “Deeper Well” are labelled as 7″ Version.  I don’t really know what that means.  Both songs appear on High/Low.  “The Plan” is a little shorter than the record and “Deeper Well” is a little longer.  They sound similar, although there’s a different drummer, Aaron Conte.  But they both sound really good and are a nice reminder that Nada Surf can really rock out.

The next three songs are demos of songs from High/Low: “Ice Box,” “Psychic Caramel,” and “Popular.”  These also have their first drummer.  These aren’t boombox recordings.  They sound well produced, although they do feel a little more grungy than the album.  “Popular” sounds the most different.  There’s female vocals in the beginning.  The tone of this version seems a bit angrier, but otherwise similar.

The next two songs are French versions of songs from High/Low.  Matthew Caws and Daniel Lorca met at a French school in New York, so their French is quite good.  It’s weird, but cool to hear familiar songs sung in a different language by the same vocalist.  These songs, like the whole High/Low album were produced by Rik Ocasek, so I’m assuming they were done a the same time.

“Traffic” and “Me and You” are (I believe) previously unreleased.  “Traffic” is a quiet instrumental propelled by Daniel’s bass and some gentle pretty guitar picking.  The ambient noise of an ambulance is a nice touch.  “Me & You” is a full-on folk song–acoustic guitars and possibly a suitcase for drums.  Each of these songs is 1:47 long–snippets into bits of songs.

“Silent Fighting” and “Spooky” are alternate versions of songs that appeared on the band’s reissue of their album The Proximity Effect.  They weren’t on the original album (which was lost in record label hell for quite a long time), but they are the final songs on the version that’s largely available.  “Silent Fighting” is a demo version, but again, it sounds professionally done.  And “Spooky” is listed as an Alternate Version.

The next two songs are also unreleased elsewhere.  “The Manoeuvres” is a quiet acoustic ballad.  “Sick of You” is an Iggy Pop song!  Like the original, this song is slow and moody with a distinctly Iggy tone in the vocal delivery.  And like the original, it rocks out in th emiddle with a full on punk assault.  It runs over five minutes long

Up next are two more demos from The Proximity Effect.  “Robot” is a lot quieter.  You can hear the lyrics more clearly and the heaviness is toned down.  “Amateur” sounds pretty similar–full with a great bass sound.  Although it’s missing the wonderful “ooh ooh ooh” part.

“River Phoenix” is a rocking song with a spoken vocal line and fascinating lyrics like:

River Phoenix
Ian Curtis
And river Phoenix
And me and you

And it’s quite catchy.

“Mother’s Day” is another demo from The Proximity Effect.  This is a fantastic anti-rape song with brutal, angry lyrics.  This version sounds a little different–a little less distorted, a little less loud, but still angry.

“Dispossession” is an alternate version from The Proximity Effect.  The album’s guitars sound a bit rawer, the guitars a little crisper and the whole things feels a bit more wild.  This version is a bit cleaner, except for the wild guitar solo.

[READ: November 7, 2020] The Midnight Library

S. brought this home and really enjoyed it.  She thought I’d enjoy it too.  Of course she was right.  I’d probably enjoy most of the books she reads, but I already have my own dozen dozen authors that I like to read already.

The book opens with the fascinatingly dramatic opening sentence:

Nineteen years before she decided to die, Nora Seed sat in the warmth of a small library at Hazeldene School in the town of Bedford.

Nora is playing chess with Mrs Elm the librarian when Mrs Elm gets a call that Nora’s father has just died.

The book jumps nineteen years ahead to “twenty-seven hours before she decided to die.”  The next few chapters list the miseries of her life: her cat is hit by a car, she gets fired from her lousy job (her boss has the funniest, meanest line I’ve read: “I can’t pay you to put off customers with your face looking like a wet weekend.”) (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: December 2016] A Boy Called Christmas

boyS. brought his audiobook home for us and we started it the night we went to pick out our Christmas tree.

This is a delightful story of Nikolas, an 11-year-old boy living in Finland in the olden days.  His parents called him Christmas, because he was born on Christmas day.

Nikolas’ life has been one of terrible hardship.  His mother was killed when she was attacked by a bear (a bear that lingers around their house to this day).  His father, Joel, is a woodcutter.  He cuts enough wood for them to survive, but otherwise things are bleak.  They eat mushroom soup for every meal and, in Nikolas’ whole life, he has received just two toys: a sled and a doll with a turnip head.

The only friend that Nikolas has is a mouse named Mika.  Now, this may be a fairy-tale kind of story but even Nikolas can’t understand Mika’s squeaks (although we can).  Mika is constantly on a quest for cheese–even though he has never tasted it.

Joel has noticed a man, a hunter, in their vicinity.  He turns out to be an excellent bowman with silver arrows.  In fact, once, when the bear that killed Nikolas’ mother is nearby, an arrow flies through the air and scares off the bear, saving Nikolas’ life.  The hunter finally comes to their house with a proposition for Joel.

The hunter is on a quest on behalf of the king.  They are setting off to prove that Elfhelm, the mythical land of elves, really does exist.  If they can bring proof to the king, they will be incredibly rich men. Joel and Nikolas believe very strongly in magic and in Elfhellm, and after much hemming and hawing, Joel decides to go on the quest.

This leaves Nikolas alone (with Mika).  So Joel calls his sister Aunt Carlotta to watch over Nikolas while he is gone.

There’s a lot of villains in the story, but Aunt Carlotta might be the worst of them.  She is mean from the start.  She takes all of the cushions for herself and forces Nikolas to sleep outside.  He is put to work immediately–gathering food and firewood–and cooking for her.  And finally she reveals that the only reason she came is because if his father does return–which she doubts–he will give her a lot of money.  As the section with Aunt Carlotta continues, she commits the gravest sin imaginable.  And that’s when the last straw is broken and Nikolas leaves. (more…)

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