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Archive for the ‘Babies’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: FLOCK OF DIMES-Tiny Desk Concert #246 (August 10, 2021).

Flock of Dimes is a fun band name.  It’s the solo project of Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner (I thought Wye Oak was a solo project as well–no, it’s a duo).  [Gee, why wasn’t Andy Stack invited to this sing along?]

For this Home Concert, the solo project turns huge with nine people sitting around having a big ol’ sing along (I’ll assume they are all vaccinated and that this was filmed before Delta took off).

The setup is pretty simple: three guitars (I love that the guys on the couch are lefty (Michael Libramento, baritone guitar) and righty (Alan Good Parker, tenor guitar) so it looks appealingly symmetrical). some percussion and a lot of voices (the men on the right of the screen seems somewhat less invested).

The friends who are singing along include the three singers from Mountain Man: Amelia Randall Meath, Molly Sarlé and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig.  Meath is also in Sylvan Esso and her bandmate Nick Sanborn is also present (he’s one of the less invested men).  The set is filmed at Sylvan Esso’s new studio in Durham, N.C., called Betty’s.

“Two” is a bouncy number with lots of percussion.  I like the way the backing singers join in from time to time, but not constantly–it introduces new voices throughout.

One of the invested men is percussionist Matthew McCaughan from Bon Iver–he’s got a full complement of instruments at hand.  Joe Westerland (from Megafaun) is the other percussionist, he’s just a bit more subtle in his actions, but you can see him gently tapping through “Two.”

“Price of Blue” is a little slower but it has a wonderful melody.  The harmonies really standout on this song.

I don’t know the originals of these songs, but I have to assume the blurb is correct

These acoustic performances actually shed new light, thanks to radiant and radically different arrangements, while fully capturing the warmth we look for from Tiny Desk concerts.

Whatever the case, the backing vocals are tremendous.  You can really hear Molly Sarlé’s gorgeous harmony vocals.

“Awake For The Sunrise” feels like an old fashioned fire side sing along.  I’ve enjoyed Wye Oak’s music but I don’t know it very well.  I rather like Wassner’s delivery here–but i feel like these songs might not be as good without these harmonies!

[READ: August 12, 2021] New Teeth

I’m guessing that Simon Rich had a baby.

This collection of stories is loaded with stories about little kids.  And that’s all right because he has a very funny take on being a parent.

The other stories tackle the corporate environment and are full of fish-out-of-water stories.

“Learning the Ropes” is about being a new parent.  But it is written from the point of view of two pirates. And hilarity ensues.

What’s odd to me is that in his first books, his stories were really short, but I feel like lately his stories have gotten much longer–sometimes too long.  This one in particular kind of dragged at times, because it’s pretty much a one-note joke: what? pirates raising a little girl?!  One pirate is a concerned parent which means he wants them both to care about the child.  It’s got a few very funny moments, and of course, when the pirates who speak in pirate style (“The only man I trust is me first mate”) say things like “Arr… it be called ‘limit testing.’ She be acting out because she be craving discipline,” well, that’s classic Simon Rich right there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PALBERTA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #210 (May 18, 2021).

Palberta has a great name (even if they are not from Alberta).  They are an underground Philly band.  I saw them a few years ago, and this attitude of relaxed yet frenetic fun was evident then as well.

While many of us have gotten better at using technology to feel close to our friends and collaborators over the past year, there’s still no replacement for being in the same room as someone who you swear can read your mind. That’s what it feels like to watch punk band Palberta, whose music makes magic out of repeated phrases sung in tight harmony and charmingly zany pop hooks. For its Tiny Desk (home) concert, shot on a MiniDV and a Hi8, the band crams into Nina’s Philly basement for a set that’s a testament to the group’s tight-knit collaboration and playful exuberance.

The band plays six songs in fifteen minutes (including the time it takes to switch instruments).  Five songs are off of their new album Palberta5000.

The guitar-bass-drums trio is made up of Ani Ivry-Block, Nina Ryser and Lily Konigsberg, and each member sings and plays each instrument. Here, they trade places every couple of songs.  The songs aren’t over-complicated but still manage to surprise at every turn – a true Palberta specialty.

The “frenzied opener” “Eggs n’ Bac'” has a wild instrumental opening which jumps into a faster indie punk sound for most of the song.  All squeezed into less than 2 minutes.  For this song Nina is on bass, Lily on guitar and Ani on drums.  Their sound reminds me of early Dead Milkmen.  Is this a Philly thing?

For “No Way” Nina stays on bass, Lily switches to drums and Ani takes the guitar.  Nina sings lead with the other two giving great tight harmonies.  For these songs the bass lays down the main melody and the guitars play a lot of single note melodies that run counter to the bass.

For the “queasy-yet-sentimental” “The Cow” it’s the same lineup but Lily sings lead on the first verse and Ani sings leads on the second verse.  The staccato guitar style on this song is so unusual.

For the “anxious and melodic” “Big Bad Want” Lily stays on drums and sings lead, Ani switches to bass and Nina gets the guitar.  Ani plays some chords on the bass and you can really see how the guitar plays a repeated pattern while the bass takes more of a lead role.  The call and response for this chorus is really tight.  Nina even plays a guitar solo.

“Sound of the Beat” (from 2018’s Roach Goin’ Down) is “a sweet testament to grooving” and gets a full lineup switch.  Nina sits behind the kit, Ani is back on guitar and Lily is on bass.  This song is really catchy–surely the catchiest thing in this set.  It has a feeling like early Sleater-Kinney.  All three sing harmony lead.

They end with “Before I Got Here” with same line up.  It’s one of their longer songs at over three minutes.  Ani and Lily switch off lead vocals for the fast verses.  After a minute or so, the tempo shifts and the last two minutes are a slow instrumental jam with Ani playing a guitar solo while Lily keeps the melody on bass.

It’s tempting to try to see if one of them is “better” at one instrument or another, but they are all clearly very comfortable on each instrument.  This leads to endless possibilities for songs.

[READ: May 1, 2021] Weird Women

“Introduction” by Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger

Why summarize when they say what this book is about so well

Any student of the literary history of the weird or horror story can hardly be faulted for expecting to find a genre bereft of female writers, at least in its first two centuries. …

Yet there were women writing early terror tales—in fact, there were a lot of them. During the second half of the nineteenth century, when printing technologies enabled the mass production of cheap newspapers and magazines that needed a steady supply of material, many of the writers supplying that work were women. The middle classes were demanding reading material, and the plethora of magazines, newspapers, and cheap books meant a robust marketplace for authors. Women had limited career opportunities, and writing was probably more appealing than some of the other avenues open to them. Though the publishing world was male-dominated, writing anonymously or using masculine-sounding names (such as “M.E. Braddon”) gave women a chance to break into the market. It was also still a time when writers were freer than today’s writers to write work in a variety of both styles and what we now call genres. A prolific writer might pen adventure stories, romantic tales, domestic stories, mystery or detective fiction, stories of the supernatural—there were really no limits.

Spiritualism—the belief that spirit communication could be conducted by a medium at a séance, and could be scientifically proven (despite continued evidence to the contrary)—was widely popular, and so one might expect to find that many writers of this period were producing ghost stories. But ghost stories were just one type of supernatural story produced by women writers at this time. Women were also writing stories of mummies, werewolves, mad scientists, ancient curses, and banshees. They were writing tales of cosmic horror half a century before Lovecraft ever put pen to paper, and crafting weird westerns, dark metaphorical fables, and those delicious, dread-inducing gems that are simply unclassifiable.

ELIZABETH GASKELL-“The Old Nurse’s Story” (1852)
Gaskell wrote primarily about social realism, but she also wrote this creepy story.  The set up of this story is fascinating. A nursemaid is telling a story to her new charges.  The story is about their mother–from when the nursemaid used to watch her.  The story seems like one of simple haunting–strange things are afoot at this mansion.  But there’s a lot more going on.  I love the way everyone is so calm about the broken pipe organ playing music day and night.  Way back then, the children’s mother saw a girl outside and went to play with her.  But it was winter and when they found the child, alone, under a tree, there was no evidence of anyone else being there with her.  That’s when we learn the history of this house and the way the owner treated his daughters.  The ending gets a little confusing, but when you unpack it, there’s some wonderful deviance at hand. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: C. TANGANA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #194 (April 20, 2021).

It’s surreal seeing this many people standing so close to each other singing and having a good time. It’s also an incredible reminder of how good it sounds when a lot of people sing together.

The blurb is surprisingly lax about explaining who C. Tangana is–but I gather he must be pretty huge.

From Mexican Regional to Spanish flamenco, C. Tangana is simultaneously coming home and reaching out to bridge Latin music boundaries. He’s building a community of cross-cultural collaboration, rooted in a unifying love of language and tradition, making it clear he’s intent on giving everyone a seat at the table.

The blurb does say that this gathering is Tangana’s extended family (the clinks of salud certainly suggest familia).

After more than 13 months amid a global pandemic, C. Tangana’s extended family basking in the warmth of sobremesa with easy smiles and effortless baile looks otherworldly. (Check his mama and tía vibing in the corner.)

They open the set with

This first live performance of his latest album, El Madrileño (including a global premiere of a fresh single, “Me Maten”) buzzes with communal energy, spotlighting talent from across Latin landscapes.

C. Tangana sings with Antonio Carmona, on “Me Maten” and the whole show gets off to a warm, relaxed feeling.  The backing singers (Lucia Fernada Carmona, Pilar Cerezo, Marina Carmona, África Heredia, María Rubio, Mariola Orellana, Patri Alfaro and Mari Estrada) do an amazing job of fleshing out this and the other songs.

The concert’s star-studded cast of Spanish collaborators, including long-time friends (producers Alizzz and Victor Martínez) and new contributors (rumba legend Kiko Veneno and flamenco-pop icon La Húngara), are each spotlighted for their contributions to the record.

Up next is C. Tangana and Kiko Veneno singing “Los Tontos.”  Kiko plays guitar and opens the song.  When everyone sings along (especially the la na na na) it sounds wonderul.  Then Alizzz, who has been playing the keys, sings the New Order line “Every time I see you falling…” into the vocoder and it fits perfectly.  Kiko ends the song with lovely guitar melodies.

Tangana switches positions for “Demasiadas Mujeres.”  He walks away from the table to a nearby string octet (Pablo Quintanilla, Paula Sanz, Franciso Palazón, Marina Arrufat, Paloma Cueto-Felgueroso, Adrián Vázquez, Irma Bau, Daniel Acebes).  Huberto Morales (I think) plays a martial drumbeat.  Tangana raps this track and it sounds pretty great with the strings–the octet is really into it–rocking and bopping around.  They play a pretty solo as Tanagana heads back to the table.

There’s lots of friendly chatter before “Tú Me Dejaste De Querer.”  Alizzz once again plays keys and sings into the vocoder to introduce this wonderfully catchy simple guitar riff.  I’m not sure who is playing guitar as there are so many guitarists: Victor Martínez, Juan Carmona and Niño De Elch who sings a verse.  He’s also joined by La Húngara whose female voice brings a wonderful change to this great set.

[READ: February 1, 2021] Hasta el Mismísimo

I saw Hasta el Mismísimo which Google translated as “Even the Very” at work.  It was in Spanish but the cover was cute and I was curious what it was about.  The translated title certainly didn’t help.  I flipped through the book and found that it was mostly cartoons.  So it seemed easy enough to translate.

The first text is a big thank you page, the final line of which is Thank you to @glorianietophoto who gave me the brilliant idea of drawing a talking pussy [Google translates that last word a bit more harshly when it is by itself].

So THAT’s what this book is about and what’s on the cover.

The second pages says A los Mismísimos del mundo, !Bienvenido!  which gets translated as “To the themselves of the world, welcome.”  Clearly “Mismísimo” is a hard word to translate inthis context.

The first cartoon shows the talking pussy with a cup full of blood painting on a cave wall: “It seems that a long time ago we painted in the caves, but really today there are still a lot of cavemen.  That’s why it’s easy to finish UP TO THE SAME [Hasta el Mismísimo]. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NATHANIEL RATELIFF-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #190 (April 12, 2021). 

Nathaniel Rateliff treads a fine line between country and rock.  But between this album and his work with the Night sweats, I tend to prefer him to others like him.

The Mercury Café is one of the first places Nathaniel frequented when he moved to Denver in 1998, hearing jazz, dancing, and eventually playing many shows there. For his Tiny Desk (home) concert, he’s assembled a dozen players including a string section, backing singers, and some of his oldest friends: Joseph Pope III on bass, Mark Shusterman on keys, Luke Mossman on guitar and Patrick Meese on drums.

On the opening song and the title track to his 2020 album, And It’s Still Alright, they’re restrained as Nathaniel sings about loss, “I’ll be damned if this old man / Don’t start to counting his losses / But it’s still alright.”

This song is so darned catchy, despite how sad it is.  Mossman plays lead guitar and Shusterman keeps the keys going throughout. The addition of strings (Chris Jusell: violin, Joy Adams: cello, Adrienne Short: violin and Rachel Sliker: viola) add a new component that sounds great.

“All Or Nothing” has an interestingly picked guitar with lots of bouncy bass from Joseph Pope III.  Midway through, the song starts rocking out with two drummers.

But restraint lets loose on the chorus of “Redemption,” a song about breaking free of the past and written for Apple original film Palmer.

“Redemption” is a powerful song that has a simple but big chorus “Just set me free.”  The backing vocals from Larea Edwards, Chrissy Grant and Kinnie Maveryck sound fantastic.

The ender, a tune called “Mavis,” truly is a grand finale, a song that conjures up images of The Band singing Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” — and what a fabulous release it is.

Half way through the song builds to a really full sound.  Rateliff sounds great and so do his songs.

[READ: May 7, 2021] “The Shape of a Teardrop”

I really love the diversity of style and subject matter that T. Coraghessan Boyle brings to his stories.

This one is told from two different points of view.

We open on Justin, a belligerent person, angry that his parents have kicked him out of his room. It took three final straws–dropping him from the family cell phone plan; putting a lock on the fridge and the final final straw was the eviction notice on his door.

Alternating sections are are supplied by the first narrator’s mother. She says how much they loved their son and tried to give him everything they could.  They had tried so hard to have children, including expensive in vitro.  And then one day their miracle was born.

Their son doesn’t have a car (it’s on blocks in the driveway) and doesn’t have any motivation to get a job.  But he does have very expensive salt water fish and a bar that he likes to go to (he enjoys the bartender whose name is apparently Ti-Gress. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Fishing for Fishies (2019).

The first of two albums released by KGATLW in 2019, Fishing for Fishies is a bluesy, boogie-filled record.

It opens with with two false starts.  There’s the briefest sound of a sound like they’d recorded over another track but left it, then there’s a drum beat that hits a few and stops only to resume a few seconds later and starts the title song.  “Fishing for Fishies” is a soft shuffling song with delicately whispered vocals and a bouncy melody.  It’s super catchy and is followed by “Boogieman Sam” with its bouncy staccato guitar and then Ambrose’s wailing harmonica.

“The Bird Song” is a favorite on the record.  Fun gently whispered lyrics and a remarkably catchy jazzy song.  “Plastic Boogie” is loose blues song with a lot of people talking throughout, giving the whole thing a party atmosphere.

“Cruel Millennial” is sung by Ambrose.  It’s a swinging boogie with a catchy chorus and some wailing harmonica soloing at the end.  “Real’s Not Real” starts as a potentially heavy rocker but as the song proper starts, it shifts abruptly to a kind of mellow Beatles-y piano-pop song.

“This Thing” is a harmonica-fueled blues song with great big bouncy bass line.  “Acarine” is an unusual song on the disc.  It’s slower and moodier slow moody with whispered vocals and piercing harmonica.  Although the last two and a half minutes are an instrumental jam with  looping synths that sound like a sci-fi soundtrack.

“Cyboogie” ends the disc.  It was the first singe off the album and it’s as catchy as anything.  Who knew it was so much fun singing “boogie, boogie, boogie, boogie, boogie, boogie, boogie.”  The buzzy bouncing synth is a great sound for this song and the cyber voice prompts a return of Han-Tyumi who pops in after murdering the universe.

[READ: April 29, 2021] Manopause

I have no idea who Bernard O’Shea is.  Well, he’s an Irish comedian, but I don’t know what kind.  He could be Ireland’s Jeff Foxworthy for all I know.  I doubt that he’s Ireland’s Dave Chapelle, anyway.

I read O’Shea’s first book when it came across my desk at work.  When this one appeared a few days ago I thought it was the same guy.  A little research confirmed it, and since I mostly enjoyed the first book, I thought I would read this one as well.

It’s tough playing the mid-life crisis card, especially for a successful male.  And, honestly, for a bunch of the book I did think “oh, moan moan moan.”  The key though is if you can make the moaning funny.  O’Shea manages to do that for a time but then, unexpectedly, the book gets serious.  O’Shea looks seriously into changing is life and he explores several ways to do so.

Manopause is a funny enough term, but I appreciate that O’Shea had the sensibility to include his mother’s comment about him using the word.

He told his mother he was going through “the manopause…the male menopause.”  To which she replied

If you had any idea what the menopause was like, Bernard, believe me, you wouldn’t go through it.  Sweating, hot flashes, no sleep–at times it feels like you are going mad….  You wouldn’t survive 30 seconds of it.  No man would survive it.  Jesus, if ye did go through it, we’d never hear the end of it.  And if you went through it, you’d hospitalise yourself.

That might be the funniest thing in the book.

We met Bernard’s long-suffering wife Lorna in the first book.  She is longer-suffering still.

In chapter one, Lorna gives him an amazing birthday present.  She takes herself and their three kids away to her mother’s for five days.  He has five days to himself, to do whatever he wants. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STEADY HOLIDAY-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert Meets SXSW: #187 (April 5, 2021).

Every year, NPR Music participates in the SXSW music festival, whether it’s curating a stage or simply attending hundreds of shows at the annual event in Austin, Texas. Last year, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but it returned this March as an online festival. We programmed a ‘stage’ of Tiny Desk (home) concerts and presented them on the final day of the festival. Now, we present to you Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: four videos filmed in various locations, all of them full of surprises.

Steady Holiday is the music of Dre Babinski. This video, filmed for our virtual SXSW showcase, finds her by the fireplace, a dog at her feet, an acoustic guitar in her arms. Steady Holiday is singing “Living Life,” a tune about a favorite topic of mine: the everyday, the mundane, and living in the moment. All the songs in this Tiny Desk (home) concert are from Steady Holiday’s 2021 album Take The Corners Gently, a top record of mine this year.

As “Living Life” opens, Dre Babinski sings the first verse solo, then you can hear other musicians join in and she reveals their secret location (with some very loud shutters).  Derek Howa plays a pretty solo on the keys and by the end of the song drummer Brijesh Pandya is “da da daing” along to really flesh out the song.

Surprise guests aren’t the only surprise.  After the first song, her printer (with googly eyes and an arm) prints out the next song on the setlist.

“Tangerine” is a bouncy song with some heavier ends and an interesting chord progression.  Howa’s keys sound almost like a toy piano (but louder) and add a chiming quality.  It’s wonderfully catchy.  I’m curious how much bigger the proper version of this song sounds. Howa adds some creepy spacey effects in the middle, so I imagine the recorded songs have more going on.

The printer spits out a piece of paper: Your band is overdressed.  Then she tells us why the guys are outside (it’s pretty funny).

Laughing while her dog grabs a chew toy, she performs the album’s opening track, “White Walls,” a song about self-reflection and how doing the same thing over and over (“painting white walls white”) won’t make life better.

This is a slow bouncy song with a really catchy chorus: “painting white walls white just to kill the time.”

Then she shutters out her band and

As her printer cues the last song, (oops, small spoiler), Steady Holiday takes us out on a lovely tune, Love Me When I Go To Sleep”:

It’s just Bea and her guitar as she delicately sings

“Fragile aren’t we, who would guess / Here today, tomorrow’s taking bets.” Her refrain amplifies that fragility with a reminder to appreciate the gift of life. “Love me when I go to sleep / Love me with no certainty / Love me when I go to sleep.”

Her voice is clear and lovely and the final song feels like a lullaby.

[READ: April 20, 2021] Joan & The Man

This book came in at work and something about it made me want to read it (the shortness helped).

So this is a self-published book (I think–it could use some editing) that we received as a gift (from the author?).  It is Rykaczewski’s fourth novel and it is a wonderfully weird mix of reality and nonsense.

Chapter One focuses on Joan as she tried on some clothes in a mall–she is buying bralettes–imposed propaganda to younger hip girls.  Then it pushes back as she and The Man head to their place–the World Revolt Art Gallery.  But more on that place after a brief excursion to the Riverbend Arts Market.

Joan & The Man are artists living in Florida.  She works in paint and he works in words.  They spend time at the RAM hoping to sell some works, but really it’s a sucker’s market.  They often head down with their dog Duke,  Duke is a nasty dog to everyone but The Man. Then there’s a weird moment where Duke winds up trading places with a movie star dog (to the terminal end of the movie star dog).  But losing Duke frees them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KISHI BASHI-“Honeybody” (2016).

I love Kishi Bashi and am always excited to see him live and to hear new music from him.

Much like the story, this song is remarkably cheerful and happy.  It feels different and special in Kishi Bashi’s canon.  All of the Kishi Bashi elements are there: strings, looping, soaring vocals, but there’s a few novel moments as well.

The chorus, for instance has an island feel.  The way he sings “Maybe sipping a Coca-Cola with me, babe” you can feel your feet in the sand.

But first there’s an orchestral string opening, following by some manipulated pizzicato plucking and Kishi’s singing

Then the chorus

Cause everybody wants a Honeybody someday
Mama said they don’t grow on them trees easy
Hands down on the ground
I’m begging you to please, Honeybody, please me

Followed by some lovely soaring oooh oooh oohs in the post chorus.

The song seems like it could just end with another repeated chorus, but after the post chorus, the song shifts gears to a buzzy synth sound.  The song turns vaguely electronic with a soaring violin as he sings the chorus to a new melody.

Delightful happy music. #stopasianhate (I mean, really, knock it off).

For a delightful twist on the song, check out this version with the Nu Deco Ensemble

[READ: March 13, 2021] “Honey Pie”

Most of Murakami’s stories are abstract or, at the very least, kind of puzzling  There’s usually some vaguely supernatural element to them that you’re never sure exactly how to read (and it usually doesn’t matter because the story is good.)  This story, which like most of the others was translated by Jay Rubin, is it only the most straightforward story of his that I’ve read, it is one of the most beautiful.

The story begins with a man telling a little girl a story.  The story is about Masakichi the bear, the all time number one honey bear.  The girl, Sala, asks many questions about the story–good, thoughtful questions (“Can bears count money?”).  The storyteller, Junpei, loved the girl and the questions.  The questions helped him to guide the story that he was making up.

Junpei was a professional writer, but these storytelling gigs were for his best friend Sayoko and her child Sala.  Sala had been having some terrible nightmares ever since the earthquake hit Kobe.  They don;t live near Kobe, but tit’s been on the news every day.  Sala fears that the Earthquake Man is in the house and she can’t settle down until she checks every single possible place in their house.  Finally Sayoko called Junpei because he stays up all night writing anyway. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL-“Ballad of the Times” (1985).

In Stuart David’s book, In The All-Night Café, he lists the songs on a mixtape that Stuart Murdoch gave to him when they first met.

Although I’ve been a fan of Belle & Sebastian for a long time, I knew almost none of the songs on this mixtape.  So, much like Stuart David, I’m listening to them for the first time trying to see how they inspire Stuart Murdoch.

In the book, David writes how much he does not like “rock,” especially music based around bluesy rock.  Most of these songs, accordingly, do not do that.  In fact, most of these songs are (unsurprisingly) soft and delicate.

Of course I know of Everything But the Girl, they really took off a few years after this album came out.  Indeed, their sound changed quite a lot since this first album.

But I never really listened to them.  Of course, I knew their song “Missing” (“like the deserts miss the rain”) which was pretty ubiquitous in mid 1990s.  But in the mid 1980s, the band’s sound was very different–characterized by jangly guitars and a more upbeat feel.

Love Not Money was the band’ second album.  The first song on the album “When All’s Well” has a very distinctive feel like The Smiths–with the picked echoing guitars and louder grooving bass.  But “Ballad of the Time” is a bit more downbeat (as a ballad should be).  There’s some big overdubbed guitars on top of the pretty picked melody.  It’s catchy in a very “of its time” way.

Interestingly, this album apparently sounds unlike anything else in their collection, which makes me think Stuart wouldn’t have pit a later song on the mix.

[READ: December 29, 2020] Solutions and Other Problems

Seven years ago I read and loved Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh’s first book.  So I was pretty excited that Allie Brosh had a new book out. Apparently she has gone through some stuff in the last seven years which I won’t go into.

Instead, I want to talk about how freaking funny this book is.

I hadn’t considered or realized that her art style had changed much since the last book.  Although comparing the covers, I see that her drawings do seem more sophisticated–which somehow makes her characters look even crazier.  I love that that yellow oval on her head is her hair.  And the massive eyes.  And that crazy smile.  It’s bonkers and hilarious.

This book starts out with a bang–a very funny story about a young Allie getting stuck in a bucket. But the best part is that she was in the bucket because she felt the need to get her whole body into the bucket.  She looked at the bucket and looked at her body and decided that one needed to be in the other.  The look on her face (and then later on her parents’ faces when they find her in the bucket) makes me laugh just thinking about it.

“Richard” is all about a person who lives next door.  Young Allie couldn’t quite grasp the idea that someone lived not in their house.  She never even thought about the next door house until Richard walked out of it one day.  So she snuck in through the cat door and started investigating the neighbor,  She would also steal trinkets on each trip.  And occasionally leave a “gift” (like a creepy drawing).  When her parents found some things, they asked her about it and she said she was “hanging out” with Richard.  This obviously made her parents…uneasy.  Poor Richard.  She went too far when she stole Richard’s cat. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KURSTIN x GROHL-“Sabotage” (The Hanukkah Sessions: Night One” December 10, 2020).

  Producer Greg Kurstin (who I have not heard of) and Dave Grohl (who I have) decided that, rather than releasing a Christmas song this year, they would record eight covers of songs by Jewish artists and release them one each night for Hanukkah.

“With all the mishegas of 2020, @GregKurstin and I were kibbitzing about how we could make Hannukah extra-special this year. Festival of Lights?! How about a festival of tasty LICKS! So hold on to your tuchuses… We’ve got something special coming for your shayna punims. L’chaim!!”

The first night is a ripping version of Beastie Boys’ Sabotage.

As the only Rock and Roll Hall Of Famers with a lyric about kugel, we thought it would be a shanda to not kick off this party with New York’s (and Abraham’s) finest…known by some as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abedenego, known by others as Ad-Rock, Mike D, and MCA…known by their Imas and Abbas as Adam Horovitz, Mike Diamond and Adam Yauch… Beastie Boys!

Kurstin plays synth (the bass is not quite as cool sounding as the original, but is otherwise pretty spot on).

Grohl plays drums and sings.  The singing is hilarious because he does his best Beastie Boys vocal style, including a tinge of an accent.

The video is done in one take, including a moment where Grohl drops his drumstick (the video mockingly points this out).  But he manages to get it back without any real damage to the song

This is a fantastic introduction to this enjoyable new tradition.

[READ: December 11, 2020] “Must be Peopled”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America.

This year’s slipcase is a thing of beauty, too, with electric-yellow lining and spot-glossed lettering. It also comes wrapped in two rubber bands to keep those booklets snug in their beds.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

It’s December 11. David Burr Gerrard, author of The Epiphany Machine, kindly requests that you un-tag him from that photo.[Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

This story was hilarious and dark at the same time.  It was an opportunity to live out a perverse fantasy and then to see what doing so would send back your way.

The narrator says that he and Kate often joked about ranking friends’ baby pictures from cutest to ugliest.

I mean, who hasn’t?

Anyway, Kate has left the narrator, so he is now going to start ranking.  Publicly.

He begins by saying “Maryanne Jameson is the curtest baby on my feed Congratulations, Maryanne!!!!”

Within seconds many people have liked the post–primarily Maryanne’s mom and her friends.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TIGRAN HAMASYAN-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #110 (November 11, 2020).

I have never heard of Armenian pianist Tigran Hamasyan.  I really enjoyed his solo pieces here and am somewhat surprised to read that he often plays with others.

The first piece,

“Road Song,” features a melody Hamasyan wrote in 2008, but recorded with a quintet on his imaginative 2013 album, Shadow Theater. He frequently plays a solo version of it live, but had never played it alone in a studio until now.

It starts quietly.  Then he begins whistling (!) which makes it even more haunting.  At around 4 minutes his  left hand rhythm remains slow and steady while his right hand flies all around the keyboard.  It’s wonderful.

That’s followed by “Our Film,” from Hamasyan’s latest and most enterprising release, The Call Within. This performance mirrors the intensity and sentimentality of the album version, but here it’s more intimate and fanciful.

It also has pretty, haunting melody (with more whistling).   It picks up the pace in the middle and gets almost frenetic (around 11 and a half minutes into the video) before settling down again.  It’s amazing how it all holds together with the more staid left hand.

The last tune, “A Fable,” is the title track of his 2011 solo album, which was inspired by 13th century Armenian writer Vardan Aygektsi.

This piece is flowing and a bit more upbeat.  He really gets into it and starts grunting at one point.

Hamasyan is a jazz pianist, but his foundation comes from Armenian folk music.  Perhaps that’s why i like this so much–it is very jazzy, but is grounded in traditional melodies.

[READ: November 30, 2020] “Ema, The Captive”

This is one of Aira’s earlier (and longer) stories.

I’m fascinated that his earlier stories seem to be grounded much more in reality–blood and gore–rather than fantastical ideas.  Although calling this story grounded in reality is a bit far fetched as well.

This is the story of Ema (at one point in the book it is mistyped as Emma) a woman who goes from being a concubine to running a successful business.  The story (translated by Chris Andrews) is broken into several smaller anecdotes as Ema’s life progresses.

But it starts out with no mention of Ema at all.

Indeed, the opening chapter is revolting. A wagon train carrying prisoners is heading across the Argentinian desert (set in the nineteenth century). (more…)

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