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Archive for the ‘Tove Jansson’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ADAM SCHLESINGER (October 31, 1967 – April 1, 2020).

Adam Schlesinger was best known as the co-founder of Fountains of Wayne.  I always appreciated the band because I was familiar withe the store Fountains of Wayne (in Wayne, NJ).  But I was never a big fan of the band.

They wrote indie pop songs, which were not really my thing in the late 90s (although I did really enjoy “Radiation Vibe”).

Ironically, Schlesinger was pretty much simultaneously involved with a band that I really did like called Ivy.  I liked Ivy a lot primarily for the vocals of Dominique Durand and had no idea that Schlesinger was involved.

Since then I have really come to appreciate Schlesinger’s songwriting (he’s written amazingly catchy songs for just about everyone).

The Coronavirus is devastating the world and Schlesinger’s death from it just amplifies the unfairness of this deadly virus.  That a man who made people happy with his melodies should be killed by it while people who are causing direct harm are not even infected by it just seems to show where we are in the world.

[READ: April 1, 2020] “Inside Tove Jansson’s Private Universe”

I’m a fan of the Moomin Universe and I know a bit about Tove Jansson.  I also know that her brother Lars (she called him Lasse) took over doing the Moomins at some point because she had burnt out.  She died in 2011 at age 86.

This essay is more or less a book review of a new collection of Jansson’s correspondence called Letters from Tove, which I might consider reading.

I did not know that Jansson wrote short stories. Her short story “Messages” is composed of snippets of letters she received: “Last time you didn’t make a happy ending.  Why do you do this?  We look forward to your valued reply soonest concerning Moomin motifs on toilet paper in pastel shades.”

It’s easy to see how forty years of these letters would be wearying. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STELLA DONNELLY-Tiny Desk Concert #819 (January 22, 2019).

Stella Donnelly has been generating some buzz lately, but I wasn’t familiar with her.  I didn’t even realize she was Australian.

She is adorable with her hair in two little nubs at the back of her head and a big smile most of the time.

She immediately won the office over with her broad smile, warmth and good-natured sense of humor. It’s the kind of easy-going, open-hearted spirit that makes her one of the most affable live performers you’ll see. While there’s no doubting her sincerity, she’s also got a disarming way of making her often dark and brutal songs a little easier to take in.

And indeed, she does not mince words when she sings.

“Beware of the Dogs” is a delicate song with Stella strumming her guitar with no pick and singing in a beautiful but soft voice.  There’s such a gorgeous melody for the chorus.

It turns out that this song and the other two are new.  Because she doesn’t even have an album out yet!

For this set, she performed entirely new — and, as of this writing, unreleased — songs from her upcoming full-length debut, Beware of the Dogs. Opening with the title cut, Donnelly smiled cheerfully through the entire performance while reflecting on the horrors that often lurk beneath the surface of seemingly idyllic lives. “This street is haunted like a beast that doesn’t know its face is frightening to behold,” she sings. “All the painted little gnomes, smiling in a line, trying to get your vote.”

As the song builds she gets more pointed:  “There’s no Parliament / Worthy of this country’s side / All these pious fucks / taking from the 99.”

She follows with “U Owe Me” which is “about my old boss at  a pub I used to work at back home.”

This song has a gentle guitar melody and some surprisingly soft vocals (including some vibrato at the end of each verse).   But the lyrics are straightforward and pointed (all sung with that disarming smile)

you put your great ideas up your nose /
and then try to tell me where the fuck to go /
you’re jerking off to the cctv /
while I’m pouring plastic pints of flat VB [or Foster’s or whatever].

At the end of the song she says, “He actually paid me a week after.  I was on the wrong week of my payroll.  It was very dramatic back then.”

She says “Allergies” is a run-of-the-mill breakup song.   “I’ve only got two of them and this is one of them.”  It’s a delicate, quiet song (capo on the tenth fret!) and once again, her voice is just lovely.

How can this Concert be only ten minutes long? I could listen to her all day.

Surprisingly, Donnelly chose not to play any of the songs that have gotten her to where she is in her young career — songs like 2017’s “Boys Will Be Boys” or last year’s “Talking,” two savagely frank examinations of misogyny and violence that earned her the reputation for being a fearless and uncompromising songwriter. But the new material demonstrates that her unflinching perspective and potent voice is only getting stronger.

I’m bummed that I am busy the night she’s playing a small club in Philly, as it might just be the last time she plays such a small venue.

[READ: January 26, 2019] Brazen

This is an awesome collection of short biographies of kick-ass women.  Bagieu has written [translated by Montana Kane] and drawn in her wonderful style, brief, sometimes funny (occasionally there’s nothing funny), always inspiring stories about women who spoke up for themselves and for others.  Some of the women were familiar to me, some were not.  A few were from a long time ago, but many are still alive and fighting.  And what was most cool is that the stories of the women I knew about had details and fascinating elements that I was not previously aware of.

What a great, great book.  It’s perfect for Middle School students all the way to adults.  I actually thought it might be perfect for fourth and fifth grade girls to read and be inspired by.  However, it skews a little bit older.  There’s a few mentions of sex, abortion, rape and domestic violence.  These are all real and important issues, but may be too much for younger kids.

Bagieu’s art for most of the pages is very simple–perfectly befitting a kind of documentary style but after each story she creates a two page spread that is just a breathtaking wash of colors which summarizes the previews story in one glorious image.  Its terrific. (more…)

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6616 SOUNDTRACK: YANN TIERSEN-Tiny Desk Concert #219 (May 21, 2012).

yannYann Tiersen scored the soundtrack to Amélie.  But he also writes and sings lovely chamber-pop music.

The first song “The Gutter”  opens with Tiersen playing a swirling violin melody accompanied by an acoustic guitar, a ukulele and keys.  Tiersen doesn’t sing, but the lead singer’s voice is yearning and delightfully accented as well.  (No names are given for the rest of the band).  I liked the way the song built in intensity even while his voice retained that quiet style of singing.

For the second song, “Monuments” everyone switches around.  Tiersen plays a lead 12 string acoustic guitar, the ukulele player is on keys and all four sing harmony lead.  You can tell that Tiersen is not American because of the way the word “Monuments” is sung “all monYOUments…” which adds an exotic flavor to the song.  The delicate keyboard sounds float nicely over the acoustic guitars.

They stay with this lineup for “Tribulations.”  The singer from the first song and the acoustic guitarist sing lead.  And everyone else joins on harmony.  “The Trial” opens with the four singing a beautiful “ooh” in harmony.  Then the other three sing a complex backing vocal while Tiersen sings lead.

There’s some really lovely melodies in this concert.

[READ: January 12, 2017] “Where is Luckily”

The June 6 & 13, 2016 issue of the New Yorker was the Fiction Issue.  It also contained five one page reflections about “Childhood Reading.” 

Having a child is like rereading your own childhood.

Galchen has a young daughter and that daughter has a some favorite stories.  One is a Moomin (which I love), another is a Piggy & Gerald.  Galchen says that if you read children’s book enough times, “they start to seem like Shakespeare.”

But she says that her daughter doesn’t read in a linear fashion.  “What happens next” doesn’t seem to cross her mind.  She reads them more like eternal landscapes: “In that sense, nothing is happening, and she reads for that nothing.” (more…)

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moomin9SOUNDTRACK: LILY & MADELEINE-Tiny Desk Concert #330 (January 7, 2014).

lilmadLily & Madeleine are a duo (surprise!).  But for a real surprise, they are sisters and at the time of the recording Lily was 16 and Madeleine was 18.  They sing beautiful folkie rock with fantastic harmonies.

That’s Lily on guitar and Madeleine on keys (and higher harmonies).

They play threes songs.  The first one, “Devil We Know” is amazing.  Their harmonies start off the song and it’s a beauty.  It’s an uptempo song that has a gorgeous verse.

“Paradise” features each sister singing an individual verse before the other chimes in with a harmony.  And while their individual voices are nice, when they harmonize it’s really something.

“You Got Out” sounds like a folk song from long ago–with the chord structure and harmony “ooohs.”

The duo is really great and they have just released a new record this year.

[READ: March 19, 2016] Moomin Volume 9

Moomin Book 9 and every subsequent book is made entirely of strips written and drawn by Lars Jansson.  These stories originally ran in the Evening News, London 1960-1975.  I have more or less caught up with the Moomin series at this point.  Book Ten has been released but my library does not have it yet.

This book tends to veer away from the Moomin family a little bit.  Of course they are still present, they just aren’t always the focus, as you might be able to tell by the chapter titles:  “Damsel in Distress” “Fuddle and Married Life” “Sniff’s Sports Shop” “Mymble’s Diamonds.”

(more…)

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moomin8SOUNDTRACK: VAN-ANH VANESSA VO-Tiny Desk Concert #329 (January 4, 2014).

voOne of the things I love about the Tiny Desk Concerts is that they expose listeners to artists that we’d never encounter anywhere else.  As a person who loves rock, there’s no way I’d encounter this artist who plays traditional Vietnamese music.  Even though I think she;s amazing, I’d have no exposure to her otherwise.  So this is a wonderful treat–even more so to see her play in such a small space.

Van-Anh Vanessa Vo is a Vietnamese born musician living in America.  Typically the field of Vietnamese traditional music is dominated by men, but she fought to learn and here she demonstrates her skill on three very different instruments.

The first song “Three-Mountain Pass” is played on the Hang.  The Hang is like a steel drum with different sounds at all of the flattened indentations.  There’s also a tone in the middle which resonates nicely.   It is played with the fingers rather than mallets.  It’s a cool instrument to be sure.  For this song she also sings a Vietnamese song that is very breathy.

For the second song, she has taken Erik Satie’s Gnossienne No. 3 and arranged it for dan Bau, the traditional 9th century Vietnamese monocord. The instrument (“invented by beggers on the street”) has a single string, but by bending it with a kind of whammy bar made from a water buffalo horn.  Despite having one string the bar allows her to go 5 steps up and 1 and a n half octaves down.  She plays a backing track of a while playing the main melody line on the dan Bau.  Watching her play this one string and get ting so many interesting sounds out of it is very cool.

“Go Hunting” is an original composition played on the dan T’rung, a bamboo xylophone from Vietnam’s south highlands. This instrument, which looks a bit like a skeleton, is struck with double-headed mallets.  She says on the album she has a taiko drum, but there is no drum here.  But she doesn’t need it as the song begins slowly but grows faster and faster with the crowd offering some extra percussion.  She plays some amazingly fast melodies as the song reaches its climax.

[READ: March 19, 2016] Moomin Volume 8

Moomin Book 8 and every subsequent book is made entirely of strips written and drawn by Lars Jansson.  These stories originally ran in the Evening News, London 1960-1975.

The story is much more reflective of Lars now.  His art is slightly different is subtle ways, but you can see him using his sown style rather than trying to exactly mimic Tove’s.

The chapters are “Moomin Family Robinson,” “Artists in Moominvalley,” “Sniff’s Holiday Camp” and “The Inspector Nephew” (more…)

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cst053webmoomin7SOUNDTRACK: THE DEAD SCIENCE-“Throne of Blood (The Jump Off) 7” single [CST053] (2008).

This was a tour only 7″ that Constellation picked up before releasing The Dead Science’s Villianaire album.  There are two songs, “Throne of Blood (The Jump Off),” which is the lead song from the Villainaire and “The Duel of Iron Mike” which is unavailable elsewhere.

“Throne of Blood (The Jump Off)” opens with some lovely harp playing before the eccentric vocal styles of The Dead Science take over.  Everything about this song is unexpected–the weird staccato guitars, the crazy falsetto, wavery vocals.  The song seems totally random until you hear all of the intention in it all where it all gels at the chorus. I love the part where the backing vocal comes in and sings “Villainiare Ice Grillianiare” (or whatever the heck it says).

“The Duel Of Iron Mike” (not to be confused with the Wu Tang Clan track which is what you’ll find if you look up the song n YouTube), opens with an interesting riff.  There’s that low bass and that falsetto vocal that you either love or hate.

The chorus is almost catchy–it’s a little too minor key to be catchy but it’s very intriguing because it’s not quite what you expect and after one or two listens, you can’t stop playing it.  The end section with the two layers of falsetto vocals is weird and very cool, too.  The Dead Science are a unique band.  I wish they’d put out more music.

[READ: February 12, 2015] Moomin Volume 7

Moomin Book 7 and every subsequent book is made entirely of strips written and drawn by Lars Jansson.  These stories originally ran in the Evening News, London 1960-1975.

These four stories continue with the themes that Tove wrote about.  And Lars’ drawings look very much like Tove’s as well.  I have noticed a few things that look different–sometimes he does the eyes differently, and certain angles don’t look quite right.  But otherwise, it’s a pretty seamless transition.  Oh I aslo noticed that in this book, he has begun signing his name much bigger in each strip.

The chapters are “Moomin the Colonist” “Moomin and the Scouts” “Moomin and the Farm” “Moomin and the Goldfields”

(more…)

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6SOUNDTRACK: DO MAKE SAY THINK-Goodbye Enemy Airship the Landlord Is Dead [CST010] (2000).

330px-DmstgoodbyeenemyAfter their debut album, Do Make Say Think made this second album which sonically fits together perfectly and really explores instrumental post-rock.  Most of the songs were recorded in a barn giving it a very big sound (complete with insects chirping).  While there were horns in the debut, they seem to be punched up a bit more on this record, and they really seem to help the record rock more.

“When Day Chokes the Night” song is 6 minutes long and I love the way the opening is a simple guitar melody slowly picked and strummed for 3 or so minutes. Then at 3:30 there’s a noisy “drum solo” that sets you up for the second half of the song which introduces wailing saxophone and it all really rocks out.

“Minmin” is 8 minutes long.  It opens slower but adds a steadily propulsive bass and drum pattern. Around 5 minutes the drums become martial and a new rhythm and bass pattern enters as the song gets bigger.  The riff is a solid rock riff and there’s some interesting feedback behind it.  It’s some of a classic construct of a slow building song that shifts gears midway through.

“The Landlord is Dead” (at a brief 5 and a half minutes). opens with a similar echoing riff, this one is more catchy than the others. Some horns fill out the background.  The song builds properly to a screaming guitar soloing wild ending.  It’s easily my favorite song on the record.

“The Apartment Song” is slower, with echoing guitars and a more trippy feel.  I love the way the really noisy guitars blast out for 8 notes and then recede again.  It’s the first of two songs under four minutes

“All of This is True” starts out with a noisy drum beat, open chords and a distant horn.   This song slowly builds for about two minutes before pausing entirely and then resuming as something else—more slow horns layering on each other the horns drift away and guitars take over again.  There’s something of a dancey beat on the drums all along.  The song ends with crowd noises and someone shouting “Merry Christmas Everybody” before seguing into “Bruce E Kinesis.”  “Kinesis” opens with a heavy bass line and insistent drum beat before the interesting guitar counterpoint plays over the riff.  For the first time, really, a keyboard riff takes over  It feels slightly sinister.  This song has a kind of claustrophobic feel, but with a kind of funky drum all the way through.  At only 3:40 this song feels compact and efficient, and as something of a lead in to the 12 minute album closer “Goodbye Enemy Airship”

The final takes a while to get where it’s going.  After some introductory drumming there’s plenty of one-note guitar and horns which keep growing louder and more insistent for the first 4 minutes.  It turns into a very bright guitar melody–bouncy and fun.  (This is one of the two songs not recorded in the barn).  It develops a distinctly jazzy feel.   The song gets bigger with some great bass chords alongside the repeating riff on the guitar.  At around 9 minutes the song morphs into the third part of this exploration of similar riffs and textures. This one is a bit trippier. The disc ends with some mildly dissonant keyboard notes as the guitar echoes to halt.

While I do enjoy their debut, this album feel like a giant stride forward in terms of composition and cohesion.

[READ: February 3, 2015] Moomin Volume 6

Moomin Book 6 is composed entirely of strips written and drawn by Lars Jansson.  Lars was 12 years younger than Tove.  He was a writer, translator and gold-miner (!).  He wrote his first novel at fifteen and then proceeded to write 8 more.  Lars translated the earlier strips into English as Tove wrote them in Swedish.  Tove’s contract was to expire in 1959, so he began teaching himself how to draw Moomins (Tove didn’t know).  Tove’s creative fatigue set in and so Lars wrote his first comic in 1956 and by 1960, he was ready to take over.  The newspaper syndicate approved the switch and so these final strips all belong to him.  He created Moomin for fifteen years–twice as long as Tove worked on it.  These stories originally ran in the Evening News, London 1960-1975.

I love that they must have agreed that each strip would open with a big Moomin behind as well.

The chapters are “Moomin’s Lamp” “Moomin and the Railway and “Moominpappa and the Spies” “Moomin and the Circus”

(more…)

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moomin5  SOUNDTRACK: JAMES VINCENT McMORROW-Tiny Desk Concert #151 (August 25, 2011).

mcmorrowI don’t know McMorrow. He is an Irish singer who plays acoustic guitar.  His singing voice switches between a kind of raspy voice and a keening falsetto.

He plays four songs and his style and voice reminds me a lot of Bon Iver.

I don’t find any of his song especially compelling. They’re all nice–the humming part of “This Old Dark Machine” is pretty memorable.  As the part in the middle where he seems to get pretty intense.

“Sparrow And The Wolf” has some nice chord changes.  I think my favorite song is “Follow You Down To The Red Oak Tree,” which opens a little differently.

I have to say it’s a little awkward watching him up close as he does some pretty unusual things with his face when he sings.

The final song, “Red Dust” really shows off his falsetto.  I found his songs to be entirely pleasant and think they would sound great in a coffeeshop on a Sunday afternoon.

[READ: February 3, 2015] Moomin Volume 5

Moomin Book 5 is composed entirely of strips written by Lars and drawn by Tove.  These are the final strips that she contributed to.  And, as such, there are only three chapters in the book.  As with the others these stories originally ran in the Evening News, London 1953-1959.

The chapters are called “Moomin Winter” “Moomin Under Sail” and “Fuddler’s Courtship”

(more…)

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moomin3  SOUNDTRACK: THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA-Tiny Desk Concert #139 (July 5, 2011).

bboaI have of course heard of The Blind Boys of Alabama, but they only came on my radar maybe a decade or two ago.  And I never knew these things about them:

  • They formed under a different name in 1939.
  • The band has understandably experienced many lineup changes in the 72 years since.
  • Singer Jimmy Carter is the only participant in this lineup billed as a founding member, and even that term is up for debate.
  • They have released 60-plus albums and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
  • And that wherein these Blind Boys are young and old, blind and sighted.

There are six players for this Tiny Desk–a guitarist, a bassist and a barely visible drummer as well as three singers.

It makes me laugh that the guy on the far left sings much less than the others and seems to be less happy about being there.

They play four songs and, no surprise, they sound fantastic.  Their harmonies are outstanding and the music is quiet and subtle–a mellow accompaniment for this soulful music.

But their rendition of “Amazing Grace” is indeed amazing–they do it to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun” and it must be heard to be believed.  I happen to really like the original of “Amazing Grace” and I hate when it is done poorly.  But I love this interpretation–it’s original and still moving.

  • “Take The High Road”
  • “I Know A Place”
  • “Jesus Built A Bridge To Heaven”
  • “Amazing Grace”

[READ: January 23, 2015] Moomin Volume 4

Moomin Book 4 changes things pretty dramatically.  Because starting with this book, the stories were written by Tove’s brother Lars!

The colophon explains “[Chapters 14-17 were written by Lars [Jansson] and drawn by Tove.  Chapter 18 was to be run before Chapter 14 and be Tove’s farewell strip but she stayed on to draw 7 more chapters].”

So that means that the first four chapters in this book were written by Tove’s brother but she drew the art.  How fascinating.

This book contains the stories: “Moomin Goes Wild West,” “Snorkmaiden Goes Rococo,” “The Conscientious Moomins,” “Moomin and the Comet,” and “Moomin and the Golden Tail.”  As with the others these stories originally ran in the Evening News, London 1953-1959. (more…)

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moomin3  SOUNDTRACK: PAUL JACOBS-Tiny Desk Concert #148 (August 12, 2011).

pauljacobsPaul Jacobs is an organist.  In fact he heads the Julliard School’s organ department.  For this Tiny Desk Concert they moved in Jacobs’ massive organ–complete with foot pedals.  I feel like he should have played for an hour for all the work that must have gone into moving this.

I had thought about describing the way the Tiny Desk Concert has changed as I went through the Concerts.  But I have gone out of sequence so often that it’s kind of moot.  Nevertheless, it’s fun to marvel at how in the first few shows, it was one camera, there was little editing and what you got is what you saw.

Well, for this, the 148th Concert, they have three cameras.  And that is perfect because one is on Jacobs’ face.  One is on Jacobs’ hands as he plays these amazing Back pieces.  But the best one is on Jacobs’ feet.  Jacobs play a melody with his hands and a separate melody with his feet.  Watch as he looks like he’s tap dancing all over these massive foot pedals. The mind boggles watching him.

He plays four Bach pieces:

  • J.S. Bach: “Gigue” Fugue
  • J.S. Bach: Arioso
  • Bach/Reger: Invention in F Major
  • J.S. Bach: Fugue in A Minor

The Arioso is recognizable to me as a familiar piece.  It’s low and beautiful with washes of foot pedals.  But even more familiar is the Invention in F minor which most piano students try to play.  This version was arranged by Max Reger who turned the left hand melody into a foot pedal melody–so Jacobs is all over the keyboard on this one.  It’s stunning.

The final piece is somewhat recognizable (well, to me its recognizable as Bach, since his stuff is so elaborate and cool).  This piece is really fun to watch his hands and feet at work.  Especially at the end when he plays an intense “foot solo” before returning to an incredibly fast finger coda.

It’s such a neat instrument and he’s an amazingly talented player.

I prefer to watch on the NPR site, but its easier to embed the YouTube version:

[READ: January 13, 2015] Moomin Volume 3

Moomin Book 3 is slightly different n that it has four stories instead of three.   The stories feel shorter too, although I don’t have the other books handy to compare.

This book contains the stories: “Moomin Falls in Love,” “Moominvalley Turns Jungle,” “Moomin and the Martians,” “Moomin and the Sea,” and “Club Life in Moominvalley.”  As with the others these stories originally ran in the Evening News, London 1953-1959. (more…)

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