Archive for the ‘Miranda July’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: NEGATIVLAND-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #206 (May 6, 2021).

I’ve been a fan of Negativland since 1987 when I discovered Escape From Noise.  I even saw them live back in 2000–a very unusual concert, indeed.  I should have known that Bob Boilen knew of Negativland–he knows everything–but it’s always a surprise when someone has heard of them.

It may at first seem that Negativland’s sound collage is an unlikely candidate for a Tiny Desk concert, but honestly, how many bands can you think of making music since the late 1970s while sitting pretty much at their desks? Formed in the Bay Area, Negativland are proud subverters of culture, causing trouble while having fun.

Negativland are provocateurs, taking aim at the media and how technology alters our perception of the world. You can hear that on their 2020 album, The World Will Decide. This Tiny Desk (home) concert looks frightfully similar to the way many of us work these days — on video conference calls, reacting in real-time to our colleagues, dissecting our interactions … but also occasionally having fun.

Negativland create four tracks in 18 minutes–it’s samples and original music looped and repeated.

The found sounds of Negativland come from original members David Wills, Mark Hosler, and Jon Leidecker (from left to right on the bottom of the screen), with visuals by Kevin Slagle [digital images] and Sue Slagle [print images–you can see her hands] (top of the screen).

I don’t know if these songs come from an album or if they were made just for this Concert.  The first track “It’s Normal” opens with a sample saying “It’s normal for something to come to your attention/you’re watching live music online/the national anthem is being sung to a click track that you can’t hear.” And another saying “It’s Ok, ask me if it’s gong to be okay.”

Then a beat starts and all five start waving their finger to the beat.  Holser was wearing a pug mask.  When he takes it off he is wearing a Coronavirus mask, but he takes that off too–but all you can see is his gear.  Davd Willis (The Weatherman) has one of the more notable recorded voices in “music.”  I’m delighted to hear him speak, although he doesn’t just yet.  To start with he’s just playing with a mirror.

Then Jon asks what year is that Booper from?  Willis answers “2010 it never leaves Seattle.”  “It never leaves Seattle?” “Damn right.”

Samples continue, “we’re goin to verify every single experience.  Of course you can’t record everything that happens.”

The noise segues into “No Brain” with a sample “the simple fact is the world is trillions of times more complicated than we experience it.”  Samples of “meaningless data” and David playing with a remote that’s making buzzing sounds.  David: “my favorite remote control.”

The sample says “the world turns to meet your gaze” as it segues into “Reality Game.”   The sample: “we’re going to verify every single experience.”  And “You don’t have to pay people to participate.  Participation is its own reward.”

Throghout the clips there’s been all kinds of visuals floating around.  Scenes from movies and random patterns, as well as words that float around on pieces of paper.  Then comes a clip of whales floating in space.

Sample: “Patterns.  We think that they mean something.  Transparent bowling balls with monkeys inside them hooked up to the biometric monitors floating in outerspace.”

A new sample, “What does subaltern mean?”  (Willis laughs… “angry guinea pigs, hee hee”.  “You will have no idea who else is playing the game” (“I don’t give a damn”)  “Got it?” (Nope).

Then Jon asks David, are you in the mood for singing?  I might be.  Yea ,I’m getting a bit more excited.  I feel like I might want to sing.”  This is all intro to “I’m Going To Sing Now.”  of course his singing is just mumbling incoherent nonsense and making silly noises, including “I’m singing at the Tiny Desk.  I have no idea what that means but I’m doing it.”  I alwyas wondered if The Weatherman was crazy.  This des not help in my decision.

The song ends with the sample, “So this person can in fact sing.”

After some silence, David asks, “Is that it?” and then someone triggers the sample: “Shop as usual…. and avoid panic buying” (as heard on Escape from Noise).

O doubt this Concert gained them any new fans, but it’s always great to see them doing stuff.

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Atlanta”

The June 11 issue of the New Yorker had several essays under the heading “Summer Movies.”   Each one is a short piece in which the author (many of whom I probably didn’t know in 2007 but do know now) reflects on, well, summer movies.

The title of Miranda July’s essay is not about a feature film, but about a short film that she made.

When she moved into a new apartment, she found a copy of the Thunderball soundtrack wedged in a drawer.

Great, she decided, this would be the soundtrack to her movie (which she hadn’t made yet).

Her movie was inspired by the 1996 summer Olympics (it was 1996). The movie was an interview with a 12 year old Olympic swimmer and her overbearing mother.  Miranda played both roles.  She set some scenes at the YMCA–but no swimming scenes because she didn’t swim. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KELSEY LU-“Pushin Against the Wind” (2019).

The Kelsey Lu album has a song produced by Skrillex, and I was really surpirsed at how gentle the first song on the album was.  I was listening on Spotify and the second song started.

I was astonished how much the song sounded like a 70’s (British) folk song.

“Pushin Against the Wind” opens with a quiet, simple guitar melody.  Kelsey sings softly over the top.  The thing that sets it apart happens about a minute in when the tone changes.  She sings slightly faster and this bridge is punctuated by chunky percussion accents.  But those modern sounds are sparingly used, and this song feels delightfully timeless.

The song never gets all that big, but the end pulls the sound back even further to a simple cello and xylophone melody as she sings over the top.

This song is quite enchanting.

[READ: May 1, 2019] “The Swim Team”

This is a very short story (two pages) about the narrator living in a small town called Belvedere when she was twenty-two. The town was so small it wasn’t even a town–just houses near a gas station.

The citizens of the town thought her name was Maria and she was overwhelmed by the task of correcting people.

She knew three people: Elizabeth, Kelda and Jack Jack. (“I am not completely sure about the name Kelda, but that’s what it sounded like and that’s the sound I made when I called her name”).  They were all in their eighties at least.

There are no bodies of water or pools in Belvedere, but “Maria” gave the three of them swimming lessons.  None of the three of them could swim, and when Maria said she used to swim on her high school team, they asked her to be their coach. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TECH N9NE featuring KRIZZ KALIKO-Tiny Desk Concert  #780 (August 29, 2018).

I am constantly amazed at how many rappers this show has on that I have never heard of even though they’ve been around for decades.  I’m not really a rap follower, but you’d think I’d at least have heard of them.  Tech N9ne has 20 albums out and he’s got a number 9 in his name.  I’d think I’d have heard of him at least.

During a career nearly three decades in the making, Tech N9ne has dodged the fickle rap industry while surfing his own wave, stylistically and professionally. The Kansas City native has been a beast for years now, a musical misfit who laid a track record of underground success and struggle before building his own independent empire with Strange Music.

Especially since he is awesome.  He and Krizz Kaliko performed the best rap Tiny Desk Concert I’ve seen. [“Together, they’ve carved out an unorthodox niche: chopper-style speed rap that often plumbs dark, emotional depths”].  The band is awesome.  The two of them are awesome and they have a great rapport with each other and the audience.

Their playful banter between songs personifies that creative connection, as Krizz delivers backing vocals and guest verses from the soul. Backed by a guitar, drums and bass for their Tiny Desk, the trio brought out the rock-tinged hues of such definitive Tech N9ne songs as “Dysfunctional,” “Aw Yeah? (interVENTion)” – dedicated to his mother who died from lupus in 2014 – and “Fragile,” originally assisted by Kendrick Lamar, Mayday and Kendall Morgan.

I also love both of their deliveries which is often fast (yet comprehensible) with excellent inflection to really let the words flow (is that “chopper-style speed rap”?).  It’s a great fun set (with some great metal-inspired guitars).  These start off with the first song, “Dysfunctional.”  There’s inspired lyrics, there’s funny lyrics.  I particularly enjoy this couplet

[They both rap] Listen they call me genius, I run the show
[Then Tech N9ne demurs shyly so Krizz can sing, with emotion] Women on my penis…. it’s wonderful

Krizz sings the chorus with a great heavy metal riff.  He also takes lead on the second verse with Tech N9ne supporting him.

After the song Tech N9ne says, Oh yea, the boy can sing.  He can rap too.
Krizz: I learned it from him.  he taught me something like this: “Dommmmmm inae.” which is a lead into

“Aw Yeah? (interVENTion)” this song has some great lyrics, powerful and political with a very cool Middle-Eastern-ish guitar riff running through it

They gotta suffer the penalty cause of our education
Nobody wanna say nothing but I gotta call it abomination
Pissed off thinkin’ what this cost
What these babies blood drippin’ for?
So I say in Latin, listen Lord!
Audire DOMINE! (Audire DOMINE)
Only way people are gonna be able to kill off a demon is
Pick up a gun and be ready to put it between him
My nigga be screamin’
Audire DOMINE! (Audire domine)

Who the hell a brother gonna trust when it’s always dishonor
Hate me like Obama
And I ain’t even gotta run and askin’ you the question: God what about my

Tech N9ne asks for a moment, says he’s shaky.  Krizz explains: he lost his mom on my son’s birthday.  She’s been sick all of his life.  That’s a super emotional song

Tech N9ne segues: “That’s why I’m so “Fragile.”  This song is also excellent with some rapid fire delivery.  I also love hoe exposed he is:

Amateur writer dissin’
He’s a beginner and hopes for your demise, folks some may despise
Never do try to listen
It’s real, I’m mad
Clueless when you scribble on your pad
How you gonna criticize with a chisel on your nads sizzling your ad
You don’t really get why I’m so pissed? Understand this (Understand this)
I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my shit, yes I’m Fragile

To close the set, Tech and Krizz performed “Speedom (Worldwide Choppers 2),” a song inspired by folk rocker Richie Havens’ original classic “Freedom.” They laugh over Krizz’ excellent Richie Havens’ delivery.  It’s an excellent conclusion to a fantastic Tiny Desk.

Now off to investigate these guys some more.

[READ: August 31, 2017] “The Metal Bowl”

Miranda July writes strangely personal (but who knows if they are actually personal) and introspective pieces that are often overtly sad graphically sexual.  But she’s also not all that vulgar, even in a story about amateur porn.

It even made me laugh as the story begins.

He cupped the two halves of my tush and spoke directly to them.  “Run away with me, girls,” he whispered. She doesn’t understand our love.”


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[LISTENED TO: August 2015] The Organist

organistThe final 10 episodes of The Organist’s second season were of the same caliber of podcast.  I was surprised to see that it ended in March.  And, in a recent Kickstarter from McSweeney’s, the talk about getting funding to make more episodes.  I’d be bummed if they ran out of money to make more of these. Even if I have griped about the repeating, the quality of each episode is really quite good.

Episode 40: Cosmo’s Factory (December 30, 2014)
I was fascinated by this piece because I found the drumming in the song to be nothing special.  I never would have noticed all of the nuances that he fixated on.  And the song really isn’t that interesting.  Drummer Neal Morgan, who has supported Joanna Newsom, Bill Callahan, Robin Pecknold, and others, sat down with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Doug Clifford to dive into ecstatic detail on the arrangement of “Long as I Can See The Light.”

Episode 41: A Funeral for Everyone I Knew (January 6, 2015)
This week they finally get around to the Greta Gerwig piece they mentioned in Episode 38.  It is Funeral for Everyone I Knew, a new radio play by novelist Jesse Ball.  Starring Greta Gerwig and Whip Hubley, the play follows the dark machinations of a dying man, and his elaborate plans for his own funeral.  Frankly it wasn’t really worth the wait, and Gerwig isn’t in it enough. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MIRANDA JULY-10 Million Hours a Mile (1997).

I only listened to this again after mentioning it below (I wrote about the book before the CD).  I vaguely recalled this CD, but I recall buying it mostly because it came from the unquestionable Kill Rock Starts and must have gotten a good write up in some alternative rag that I read.

Basically, this is a series of performance pieces, most of which are set to music (the music is spare and basic if it’s there at all).  She has multiple characters, most of whom are having a rough time. 

The one thing that is overwhelmingly noticeable to me is that just about all of her characters seems to have some kind of stutter or vocal tic, which I have to say may bring verisimilitude but is also rather irritating to listen to.

Indeed, I think this is where my opinion of July stems from (see below).  These are artsy pieces that were kind of the rage back in the late 90s– riot grrl takes of one-woman shows.  They were interesting and maybe good for one listen, but not much else. 

In hindsight, and seeing the kind of work that July has done since, it is easy to see that this is a collection of character studies like the ones that would inform her later work.

The rather strange thing is that the titles of the songs don’t match up to the performances (at least on Spotify or allmusic), I wonder what’s up with that. 

There are some interesting scenes laid out here, although I find July’s delivery to be off-putting–it’s in that sPOKEn WOrd styLE where THINGS are inFLECted in a TERRibly deLIBerate MANneR.  I KNOW that that KIND of emPHASis is meant to be…

….draMATic, but I’m rather glad that people have stopped doing it.

The eleven minute “How’s My Driving” is a decent example of the kind of things she does (although most of the pieces are more like 3-4 minutes).  In this piece, a man (July’s voice) goes to a peep show and talks to “Penny.”  Their plot line is a bizarre story in which the details of each reveal disturbing similarities until the ending is a Twilight Zone twist.  This is interspersed with a girl named Penny who talks about how she first started lying, although she says driving.  It’s an interesting although somewhat forced metaphor, but it’s enjoyable.  The stories intertwine, growing more and more intense.   Although it could probably be a bit shorter.

In “Hotel Voulez-Vous” a young girl (or boy) goes back in time to the titular hotel to convince her parents not to have her.  The execution is interesting but flawed.

“The F-A-T-E” is a cool story about letting fate be your guide, but the crazy voice-noises she makes are very off-putting and kind of take away from what could be a cool twisted tale.

I guess my opinion of this album work hasn’t changed all that much.  It’s got moments of interest but seems to be a little too coffee shop/navel gazing and being weird rather than good.  But hey, she was young then, right? 

[READ: December 6, 2011] It Chooses You

I have this weird kind of relationship with Miranda July’s works.  I am hesitant to read/view something, but I seem to enjoy it in the end.  I’m not sure why I am so hesitant, there just seems something off-putting about, if not her, then maybe the “fame” that surrounds her.  Like if she hadn’t earned her accolades.

I first found her back in 1997 when her 10 Million Hours a Mile CD was released on Kill Rock Stars.   So she was kind of indie cool.  And I guess she still is indie cool, but I guess it was the quality of the CD–it seems goofy at best, that makes me question the quality of her art.

But that may have finally changed with this book.

I began reading this book with that same sense of trepidation about her art–that I wouldn’t really like it.  Why?  Because, as with the CD, it’s seems to be all about her.  And I feel like a lot of her work is about her.  Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes you think, aw who cares. 

What she’s talking about is her upcoming film, The Future (which has since been released).  She is stuck in massive writer’s block .  She hates her script and doesn’t want to look at it anymore.  So, as many people do, she starts flipping through the PennySaver(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KISS-Peter Criss (1978).

After Alive II, Kiss shocked the world by announcing that they would be releasing 4 solo albums at the same time.  The band WAS NOT breaking up; rather, all four members wanted to express themselves in their own way–four Kiss albums on the same day!  Holy cow.  Unheard of!  And as it turns out, this was probably the first step their money-making schemes.  [I assume that Gene is behind all of the money-inhaling schemes, but I feel like he may not have been savvy enough to think of this one back then.  Am I not giving him enough credit?]

So since you never bought four albums on the same day, that meant that you bought your favorite Kiss guy’s record first, right?  Well, my favorite Kiss guy was Peter Criss.  He was a cat after all.  And as the charts reflect, I chose poorly. 

Peter was the least rocking of the group (despite his great vocal turns in some really great Kiss rockers).  Appropriately, his solo album is a mix of old school rock and roll, ballads and a brief excursion into disco.  Because at the time I loved everything Kiss did, I didn’t discern that I hated these songs.  In fact, I listened to them and I still know all of them quite well.  But as an adult I can see what a crazy release this is from Kiss.  True, Kiss’ other records flirted with old school rock n roll (“Tomorrow and Tonight”), and Peter had had a hit with “Beth.”  But wow, who knew he would go this far?  I mean, “Don’t You Let me Down” is a very delicate weepy ball and “Kiss the Girl Goodbye” is a falsetto’d folk ballad.  My heavens.   And for pity’s sake, “You Matter to Me” out-discos even Kiss’ attempt at disco on Dynasty.  (That keyboard, zoinks!).

My friend Matt and I have always liked a few of these songs more for personal in-jokes than for the songs themselves.  “That’s the Kind of Sugar Papa Likes” is one (and actually of all the songs on the disc, this one has the best groove).  And I’ve always like “Hooked on Rock n Roll’s” preposterous lyric “I was/vaccinated by a Victrola needle” because it not only is antiquated and weird, it doesn’t even fit the rhythm of the chorus (who tries to fit the word “vaccinated” into a two-syllable space?). 

The funny thing is that the album is pretty solid rock n roll.  “I’m Gonna Love You” is an old school rock n’ roll song.  “Tossin’ and Turnin'” is standard old rocker, complete with backing vocals and horns.  It could come straight out of Grease.

But I can’t imagine anyone who likes this kind of music buying this album with the Kiss connection or with him in makeup on the cover.  It may have introduced Kiss fans to doo wop, but I think mostly it just collects dust.

My mom liked this album best of all the Kiss albums, but I distinctly remember she did not like “I Can’t Stop the Rain” because despite the pretty melody (and strings) he said “Goddamn” in the song and she didn’t approve of that sort of thing.  Kiss fans didn’t like this album, and moms didn’t like it either.  Poor Peter.

[READ: October 8, 2011] “Free Everything”

There were four one-page pieces in this week’s New Yorker under the heading “Sticky Fingers.”  Each one was about theft in some way (this being the money issue, that ‘s a nice connection).

Miranda July’s piece was all about herself.  She talks about how she first started shoplifting when she was little.  The first time she got caught was for slipping Neosporin in her sock.  But then she got more clever.

She talks about how the shoplifting really became a part of her life.  I’m fascinated that the majority of shoplifters seem to be women and I wonder why (she doesn’t address this issue).  July talks about all the places from which she stole and she speaks of it passively, with little room for regret (even when she stole from the Salvation Army where she worked).  [Let’s hope the statute of limitations is up for her]. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DO MAKE SAY THINK-Other Truths [CST062] (2009).

I’ve always enjoyed Do Make Say Think’s CDs.  They play instrumentals that are always intriguing and which never get dull.

But this CD far exceeds anything they have done so far (and  they’ve done some great work).   There are only four tracks, and they range from 8 to 12 minutes long.  Each track is named for a word in the band’s name: Do, Make, Say, Think.  And each one is a fully realized mini epic.

“Do” sounds like a gorgeous Mogwai track.  While “Make” has wonderfully diverse elements: a cool percussion midsection and a horn-fueled end section that works perfectly with the maniacal drumming.  “Say” is another Mogwai-like exploration, although it is nicely complemented by horns.  It also ends with a slow jazzy section that works in context but is somewhat unexpected. Finally, “Think” closes the disc with a delightful denouement.  It’s the slowest (and shortest) track, and it shows that even slowing down their instrumentals doesn’t make them dull.

It’s a fantastic record from start to finish.  This is hands down my favorite Constellation release in quite some time.

[READ: December 2009 – January 13, 2010] McSweeney’s #33.

The ever-evolving McSweeney’s has set out to do the unlikely: they printed Issue #33 as a Sunday Newspaper.  It is called The San Francisco Panorama and, indeed, it is just like a huge Sunday newspaper. It has real news in (it is meant to be current as of December 7, 2009).  As well as a Sports section, a magazine section and even comics!

[DIGRESSION] I stopped reading newspapers quite some time ago.  I worked for one in college and have long been aware that the news is just something to fill the space between ads.  I do like newspapers in theory, and certainly hope they don’t all go away but print issues are a dying breed.  When I think about the waste that accompanies a newspaper, I’m horrified.  Sarah and I even did a Sunday New York Times subscription for a while, but there were half a dozen sections that we would simply discard unopened.  And, realistically that’s understandable.  Given how long it took me  to read all of the Panorama, if you actually tried to read the whole Sunday paper, you’d be finished the following Sunday (or even two Sundays later).

Their lofty goal here was to show what print journalism can still do. And with that I concur heartily.  Even if I don’t read the newspaper, the newspapers as entities are worth saving.  Because it is pretty much only print journalism that finds real, honest to God, worthy news stories.  TV news is a joke.  There is virtually nothing of value on network TV.  Fox News is beyond a joke.  CNBC is sad (although Rachel Maddow is awesome!) and even CNN, the originator of all of this 24 hour news nonsense still can’t fill their airtime with non-sensationalized news.

Obviously, there are some decent internet sites, but for the most part they don’t have the budget to support real news investigation.  You either get sensationalized crap like Drudge or rebroadcasts of real news.

So, print is the last bastion of news.  And you can see that in journalistic pieces in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Walrus, Prospect and, yes, in newspapers.

But enough.  What about THIS newspaper?  Oh and unlike other McSweeney’s reviews I’ve done, there is NO WAY that I am writing a thorough comment on everything in here.  There’s just way too much.  Plus, there are many sections that are just news blurbs.  Larger articles and familiar authors will be addressed, however.  [UPDATE: January 18]: If, however, like Alia Malek below, you bring it to my attention that I’ve left you out (or gotten something wrong!) drop me a line, and I’ll correct things.

There is in fact a Panorama Information Pamphlet which answers a lot of basic questions, like why, how and how often (just this once, they promise!). There’s also a Numbers section which details the size, scope and cost of making this (it shows that with an initial start up, anyone could make a newspaper if they talked enough about what the readers were interested in). (more…)

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