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Archive for the ‘Padgett Powell’ Category

2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: MIGUEL-Tiny Desk Concert #260 (December 31, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

miguelI didn’t know Miguel before this.  I’d heard of him, but I didn’t know any of his songs.  Given the above blurb I assume that his songs are poppy and really dancey.  But this acoustic performance is fantastic.  Miguel’s voice is great and he has amazing presence up there.

Miguel turned up in the NPR Music offices early one morning, after playing a show late the night before. He appeared light and calm, and betrayed no hint that he was nervous about stripping his highly produced hits down to their bones. Accompanied by just his guitarist, Dru DeCaro, Miguel eschewed flash and went big on small gestures — ingratiating ad libs, only one full spin and voice control that kept the songs close to his chest but emotive enough to translate to the back of the room.

He commands the room with little gestures like when he takes off his sunglasses or lifts his hat briefly.  And then there’s his winning smile.

“Do You…” opens with a fun lyric: “It’s Friday and I’m feeling good.” Then he turns to the audience and asks, “It is Friday right?”  The chorus is also fun, and rather unexpected.  “Do you like drugs?  Do you like drugs?”  “Well, me too”(too much laughter) “Do you like hugs?  Do you like hugs?  Me too.”  He hits an amazing falsetto in the middle of the song and then keeps it up high as he sings the next section.

“The Thrill”is his favorite song off his second album.  It feels like an anthem or a dance song that people might love.  It’s about being at a club, and this line struck me as interesting:

Jamie, Johhny and Jack know
Shoot ’em up, shoot ’em down, jus-jus-just sh-sh-shoot up
Dance it up, we never black out

It’s not quite as successful as an acoustic song, although he sounds great and comfortable singing it.  He does some small dance moves during the quiet end section.

“Adorn” was apparently a Grammy nominated song. I wish I knew the original for comparison’s sake.  But the song works really well with an acoustic guitar.  Frankly, Dru DeCaro is masterful at playing these songs–heavy strumming and even harmonics when called for–nice accents too.  Miguel hits some great falsetto hoooos and the ending where he goes high on adore and then ends with a quietly spoken “you” is nicely dramatic.

I don’t know what’s become of Miguel in the last four years, but if the pop music thing doesn’t work out, he’s got a  great career with just a guitar and his voice.

[READ: December 23, 2016] “The Lunacy of Gumbo”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This was the least story-like story of the collection.  Honestly, I’m not even sure what to make of it.

The narrator says that back in 1980, he was in Louisiana.  It was 11PM and they had been drinking all night.  Finally someone said they should have a gumbo and the narrator thought that that was insane. (more…)

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#15SOUNDTRACK: SUGAR-Copper Blue (1992).

copperblueAfter Bob Mould made some solo albums, he created another band.  Another trio, this one called Sugar.  Sugar seems to take Mould’s poppiest elements and wrap them in a big 90s grunge sound–a sound that Mould pretty much invented in Hüsker Dü.  And in many ways Sugar is not all that different from Hüsker Dü–maybe a bit less experimental and a little more commercial.

One thing I noticed about this album that, once I noticed it I couldn’t avoid it, was that when the drummer plays the cymbal (it might even be a hi hat with a tambourine on it), which he plays a lot, the tinny shimmer of that sound is so pervasive, I find it rather distracting.  Or should I say it adds an almost minute level of static over the proceedings.

The disc opens with “The Act We Act,” where big grungy guitars and a simple chugga chugga riff burst out of the speakers. I love the Pixies feeling of “A Good Idea” both that up front bass and the buggy sounding guitars provide an almost false introduction to the catchy verse and chorus that’s to come.  I also enjoy the unexpected break after the chorus.

It’s followed by the ringing guitars that introduce “Changes” a classic poppy rock song that is unmistakably Mould.  The uneasy almost nauseating sounds at the end of the song are again like a feint in the wrong direction as “Helpless” easily the most pop song Mould has ever written comes out.  Of course, as with Mould, this outrageously poppy song is all about feeling helpless.

Keyboards open the next song, “Hoover Dam” (something of a surprise for this album), which proves to be yet another big Mould single.  The song is so open with multiple acoustic guitars (and that cool synth solo) and a really wild reverse guitar solo.  It’s one of my favorite Mould  songs and yet another example of why this album was such a huge hit.

“The Slim” brings back the darker songs that Mould is also known for.  And just when you think that Mould can’t pull out another huge big single, he gives us “If I Can’t Change Your Mind,” one of his great big bouncy acoustic guitar songs.  It is almost obscene how catchy this song is, right down to the simple scale solo at the end.  Mould has this little technique that I find irresistible where he plays a song normally and then plays two fast chord changes segueing into another section.  It’s so cool.

“Fortune Teller” is a fast rocker with Mould’s trebly guitar taking the lead.  “Slick” is the only song I’m not crazy about. There’s something about it that kind of slows the momentum down, which is odd for a song about a car.  It’s got a real middle-period-Who feel to it, which I do like (and I really like the bridge) it just feels odd in this place in the disc.  The end of the song has some snippets of chatter that could have been edited out but lend an amusing air to the final track, “Man on the Moon” which ends the disc with that same air that the rest of the album has—big guitars and Mould’s slightly distorted vocals.  The solo is weirdly processed and kind of fun.  The end of the track with its repeated half step has a very Beatles feel to it. And the very end of the disc has the sound of tape rewinding, an amusing nod to the digital era.

Copper Blue was Mould’s first huge success and in his book he talks about not realizing quite how huge it was until he was in the middle of it.

[READ: March 20, 2013] McSweeney’s #15

I was a little disappointed with McSweeney’s #14, but #15 was once again fantastic.  This issue is a smallish hardcover (I like when their books are this size).  The bottom half of the cover features a cool 2 color painting by Leif Parsons.  The issue is known as the Icelandic Issue because of a few things.  The first half of the book features stories by the usual suspects.  Each of these stories is accompanied by an illustration of a Scandinavian rune that dates to the Viking era.  The stories in the second half of the book have illustrations that are taken from Icelandic grimoires–magician’s handbooks.  It is these second half stories that are all from Scandinavian authors.  It’s a fascinating peek into a culture few of us probably get to read.

There’s no letters in this book, which removes some of the levity, but that’s okay.  The front page has a brief story that it was being written on November 2, 2004 in New Mexico, hoping to bring some voting power to “the good guys “in this “completely fucking terrifying election.”  (The bad guy eked out a victory 49.8 to 49.1).  They went canvassing door to door with an Iraqi veteran named Joey (who was 21).  He was very pro-Kerry and may have even convinced a young girl to vote (she thought her vote didn’t count because she was poor (!)).  It really evokes the feeling on that dark night in 2004 when the iota of hope was snuffed out. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: EVANGELISTA-Prince of Truth [CST061] (2009).

This is the second disc by Evangelista, the band fronted by Carla Bozulich. This disc continues in the vein or the previous disc, which is a little disappointing.

The disc is chock full of a lot of noise: stringed instruments, textures, layers, but they all add up to very little.  Bozulich’s voice is in another location entirely.  On most of the songs, there’s no real connection.

Two songs in the middle, “You Are a Jaguar,” and “Iris Didn’t Spell” are more reasonable attempts where Bozulich’s wild vocals are wedded to a more standard musical composition.  And those tracks work pretty well.  But when there’s so much directionless stuff floating around on the disc, it’s hard to want to listen to it.

[READ: May 25, 2010] “Afraid to be Men”

This is a conversation between two men.  They are given no context and are speaking abstractly.  These two things combines make for a less than satisfying read.

Admittedly, this piece is excerpted from a longer piece called “Manifesto.”  I’m not planning to read the longer piece, so I’ll never find out of context is given. (more…)

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