Archive for the ‘Tony Earley’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: NICHOLAS PHAN-3 by Britten (Field Recordings, November 20, 2013).

This was 2013’s last Field Recording [Britten Goes Back To Brooklyn With Nicholas Phan].

In addition to providing some powerful vocals and introducing many (including me) to Benjamin Britten’s more down to earth songs, this Field Recording also provides a lot of historical information.

Composer Benjamin Britten, whose 100th birth anniversary falls on Nov. 22nd [2013], is so deeply associated with his native England that he’s on a new 50-pence coin issued by the Royal Mint. This British cultural icon felt so strongly his music should be of a particular place that he set down roots in the seaside town of Aldeburgh, England and stayed there for nearly 30 years until his death in 1976. But he had a surprising two-year sojourn living far from home — in a boisterous, bohemian group house in Brooklyn.

Coaxed to the borough in 1939 by a friend, poet W.H. Auden, Britten and his longtime partner, tenor Peter Pears, moved into 7 Middaugh Street in Brooklyn Heights (an address long claimed by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway). Their housing situation there could only fairly be described as bohemian. Along with Auden, the house’s revolving cast of residents included novelist Carson McCullers, composer and writer Paul Bowles, and burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee.

So in hopes of evoking something of that 1930s Brooklyn boho vibe, we invited an extremely fine young American tenor Nicholas Phan (pronounced “paan”), who’s become a champion of Britten’s vocal music, to return to Brooklyn on Britten’s behalf, accompanied by harpist Sivan Magen. We shot this Field Recording at 70 Fox House, a communal house in the Fort Greene neighborhood not all that far from where Britten and Pears lived and made their own art.

Amazingly Britten was still writing in the 1970s, and he made arrangements for these in 1976.

Witty and surprising, these songs are full of odd — but beautifully moving — harmonies and textures. It’s a perfect match for Britten and Brooklyn.

The first, “Lord! I married me a wife” is as funny as the title suggests.  Phan sings with great passion and exasperation: “I married a wife, she made me work in the cod rain and snow.”

“She’s like the swallow” is a prettier song with lovely harp playing to accompany it

“Bird Scarer’s Song” is a very different piece, with fast plucked harp that sounds more like piano than a harp and Phan singing aggressively and, yes, frighteningly.  With a big “Ha!” at the end.

[READ: November 5, 2018] “Backpack”

I have enjoyed several of Tony Earley’s stories, but I see that he hasn’t had a piece published in the New Yorker in several years.

Well, this one was great.

It is set up with something specific in mind.  John goes to various stores, buys several slightly questionable items, pays cash, and then heads home.

John is a professor, happily married for decades with a daughter just out of college.  But it is clear he is up to something.

From the items you can kind of imagine what he has planned. It is clear he is going to do harm to someone–either himself or someone else.  And when his wife leaves for the day, John shaves his head and shaves his beard (except for a Fu Manchu mustache), puts on sunglasses and a pirate bandanna and assumes the identity of Jimmy Ray Gallup. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_12_03_12Thiebaud.inddSOUNDTRACK:  PETER BJORN AND JOHN-Live at KEXP May 10, 2011 (2011).

pbjkexpPeter Bjorn and John play KEXP every couple of years.  This set is promoting their most recent album Gimme Some.  I haven’t heard much of Gimme Some.  I found the last album to be kind of dark, but this one seems to have upped the poppy quotient a bit.  I was surprised when they opened the set with “Second Chance” which is the theme from 2 Broke Girls (and is the best thing about the show, I hope they get a ton of cash from that!).  If you ‘ve seen the show, you may be surprised that there are lyrics, but there are, and it works as a full length song, too.

“Dig a Little Deeper” has a kind of reggae feel and an amusingly long drum opening because “Peter dropped his guitar”.  It’s a poppy catchy singalong with lots.  “May Seem Macabre” is a funny title for a song that is as poppy and danceable as this one.  “Eyes” continues that upbeat poppy flavor.   This is a very fun set and I’m going to have to check out the album as well.  Peter Bjorn and John have proven to be a consistently great band where every album sounds different. You can listen to this show here.

[READ: December 5, 2012] “Nighthawk”

Tony Earley’s essay in the food issue differs from the others because it is not about a specific food, but about cooking.  Or, lack of cooking.  It’s a pretty funny essay about a boy of a certain age and time who was, if not spoiled exactly, simply waited on–by his mother and his grandmother.

His mother would make on demand fried bologna and onion sandwiches (wow, that sounds gross but I’ll bet it’s pretty good), and his grandmother would have waiting for him anything he desired when they visited.  Even when he went to college, he lived close by so he just went home for meals.

It wasn’t until he moved to Tuscaloosa that he realized he had no idea what to do in the kitchen (the description of the muffin tin and his inability to even conceive of its use is very funny).  And then, like other students, he subsisted on frozen meals and whatever else he could whip together with his meager skills.  His point though, is that eating alone is okay, but it really takes a toll on the taste of food–no matter how much cheap wine you drink with it to appear sophisticated.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  DINOSAUR JR and HENRY ROLLINS-Live on KEXP, December 27, 2011 (2011). 

Back in 2011, Dinosaur Jr did several shows in which they played their Bug album in its entirety.  They also brought Henry Rollins along.  Not as an opening act–he rightly suggests that rock audiences wouldn’t want to hear him talk for 45 minutes, but as an interviewer.  Before each set he asks the band a few questions that a long-time fans might want to know.

In this concert spot he asks some questions as well, although none are all that interesting (I assume he saved the good ones for the paying audience).  But that’s neither here nor there because what we care about is the reunited Dino playing songs.  And they sound great!

It’s a four song set: “Little Fury Things” an absolute scorcher of a version of “Yeah We Know.”  And great version of “Freak Scene” and (a surprise for me) their cover of “Just Like Heaven” (which I think of as a novelty but which still sounds great).  I love that it still ends with the roared “YOU!!!”

The band sounds great–the guitar is loud and overwhelming -Murph and Barlow sound great too.  And Mascis’ voice sounds exactly the same–which is a good thing.  It’s hard to believe they were separated for so long.   This set is totally worth hearing.

[READ: October 16, 2012] “Jack and the Mad Dog”

This is a strange story in which the protagonist is “Jack, that Jack, the giant-killer of the bean tree.”  This story works to update the Jack story now that many years have passed and Jack is older, less mythical.

It begins with Jack waiting for a farmer to fall asleep so he can have sex with the farmer’s wife (for $4).  Then we see that Jack had drunk some moonshine on the way there (he is drunk for the first time).  He waits and waits for the farmer to leave, but the farmer is on to him and tells him to go home.

Frustrated, Jack leaves only to run into the Mad Dog.  The Mad Dog is sent to bite Jack and give him rabies–in other words, the fairy tale is over.  But Jack has a few resources left and he evades the dog’s bite.  As he flees, with the dog in hot pursuit, Jack sees a number of maidens and he runs with them until they catch him checking out their asses.  They turn tables on him and ask him to defend his past of lechery and debauchery. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RUSH-“Caravan” (2010).

I was watching a great, lengthy interview with Rush on CNN.  At the end of the interview they mentioned that Rush had released two new songs (somewhat unheard of for the band to release a “single”).  I had some extra download cash from Amazon, and was even able to get the “booklet” yeeha.  The song is also available on YouTube, if you want to check it out.

When a song throws you a curve, it’s really only a curve the first time you listen to it.  And boy, “Caravan” has crazy curves in it.  In fact, musically, “Caravan” is easily my favorite Rush song in years.

It opens with some faint chords and sound effects and then kicks in with a loud riff, the likes of which Rush has specialized in lately–heavy, heavy, nasty guitars.  The bass is insane throughout with some breakneck stuff, and then at the 1:30 mark, the bass slides and the song drops out into a delicate, gorgeous guitar piece; it surprised the heck out of me.  It’s brief and effective and sets the stage for the next heavy riff.

The beautiful quiet bit returns and is then followed by another twist: a mildly funky bass solo (which hasn’t featured prominently on the last few albums) which leads into a really cool instrumental mid section, that’s almost like a self-contained song.  All of this leads to one of Alex’s insane solos.  It’s noisy and crazy and wonderful.

I’m very excited about this new album.

[READ: October 10, 2010] “The Wide Sea”

Tony Earley is the next writer in the 1999 New Yorker 20 Under 4o issue.

After several funny, clever and witty stories this rather simple story came as a bit of a welcomed respite.

This is a very straightforward story about Jim and his Uncle Al. They live in Aliceville (which, I had to look up, is in Alabama).  Jim takes many trips with Uncle Al “to see a man about a dog.”

This particular trip is Uncle Al’s chance to buy Belgian horses (Uncle Al and Uncle Zeno currently use mules on their farm).  They travel to South Carolina (which, looking on the map is quite far–over 550 miles!). (more…)

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While I was looking around for Jonathan Franzen pieces in the New Yorker, I stumbled upon the first 20 Under 40 collection from 1999.  Since I had received so much enjoyment from the 2010 version, I decided to read all of the 1999 stories as well.  It was interesting to see how many of the authors I knew (and knew well), how many I had heard of but hadn’t read, and how many were completely off my radar.

I initially thought that they had published all 20 authors in this one issue, but there are five stories (including Franzen’s) that were just excerpted rather than published in full.  And I will track down and read those five in their entirety.  But otherwise, that’s a lot of fiction in one magazine (a few of the stories were quite short).  And it features a cover by Chris Ware!

So here’s the list from 1999.

**George Saunders-“I Can Speak™”
**David Foster Wallace-“Asset”
*Sherman Alexie-“The Toughest Indian in the World”
*Rick Moody-
“Hawaiian Night”
*A.M. Homes-
“Raft in Water, Floating”
Allegra Goodman-
“The Local Production of Cinderella”
*William T. Vollmann-
“The Saviors”
Antonya Nelson
-“Party of One”
Chang-rae Lee-
“The Volunteers”
*Michael Chabon-
“The Hofzinser Club” [excerpt]
Ethan Canin-
“Vins Fins” [excerpt]
*Donald Antrim-
“An Actor Prepares”
Tony Earley-
“The Wide Sea”
*Jeffrey Eugenides-
“The Oracular Vulva”
*Junot Diaz-
“Otra Vida, Otra Vez”
*Jonathan Franzen-
“The Failure” [excerpt]
***Edwidge Danticat-
“The Book of the Dead”
*Jhumpa Lahiri-
“The Third and Final Continent”
*Nathan Englander-
“Peep Show” [excerpt]
Matthew Klam-
“Issues I Dealt with in Therapy” [excerpt] (more…)

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