Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: CHRIS FORSYTH WITH GARCIA PEOPLES-Peoples Motel Band (2020).

This is a fantastic document of a band an an artist who are totally in sync with each other, making forty minutes of amazing jamming music.  I saw this combination of artists in New York City on New Year’s Eve and the set was spectacular.

I absolutely could have (should have) gone to this show.  It was recorded on September 14, 2019 at Johnny Brenda’s in Philly, a place I have been to many times.  I can’t recall why I didn’t go to this one.  But this document (while obviously shorter than the real set) is a great recording of the night.

Recorded September 14, 2019 before a packed and enthusiastic hometown crowd at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia, Peoples Motel Band catches Chris Forsyth with Garcia Peoples (plus ubiquitous drummer Ryan Jewell) re-imagining songs from Forsyth’s last couple studio albums with improvisatory flair.

As is often the case with Forsyth shows, the gloves come off quickly and the players attack the material – much of it so well-manicured and cleanly produced in the studio – like a bunch of racoons let loose in a Philadelphia pretzel factory.

Recorded and mixed with clarity by Forsyth’s longtime studio collaborator, engineer/producer Jeff Zeigler, the record puts the listener right in the sweaty club, highlighted by an incredible side-long take of the chooglin’ title track from 2017’s Dreaming in The Non-Dream LP (note multiple climaxes eliciting wild shouts and ecstatic screams from the assembled).

The disc opens with “The Past Ain’t Passed” a kind of noodling warm-up with three guitarists all taking various solo pieces and it segues into the catchy riff of “Tomorrow Might as Well Be Today.”  It’s a bright instrumental with a series of jamming solos all around a terrific riff.

Up next is “Mystic Mountain,” the only track with vocals.  It has a classic rock vibe and Forsyth’s detached voice.  The highlights of this nine-minute song are the riff and the soling.

The best part of the disc is the 20 minute epic “Dreaming in the Non-Dream.”  The studio version of this song is terrific with Forsyth playing some stellar riffs as both lead and rhythm lines.  But here with three lead guitarists Forsyth, Tom Malach and Danny Arakaki) the experimentation is phenomenal.  But it’s Forsyth’s wailing solo at 18 minutes, when he is squeezing every noise he can out of his guitar, that is the peak of the song and the set.

Also playing: Peter Kerlin: bass guitar; Pat Gubler: organ/synthesizer and two drummers: Cesar Arakaki and Ryan Jewell.

This is a great release and I’m pretty happy to have gotten the vinyl of it..

[READ: September 1, 2020] “Serenade”

I started reading this and thought it was a short story (the title where it says “Personal History” was blocked).  It seemed to be oddly written.  Then when I got to the paragraph where he talks about writing Love in the Time of Cholera, I realized it was non-fiction.

He says that Love is based around his parents’ own love story.  He had heard it so many times from both his mother and his father and he seemed to remember it in different ways, so that by the time he wrote the book he no longer knew what was the actual truth.

And what a fascinating and tangled story of love they shared. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: KT TUNSTALL-“Wash ya Hands” (2020).

KT Tunstall has been on my radar a lot lately (I think she’l l have about five posts about shows I’m not going to).  Turns out that she released a special COVID-19-related song called “Wash Ya Hands.”

It’s not a great–but it is danceable and funny–for a song that’s all about a message.

The music starts kind of menacing (which is appropriate I suppose) with some swelling strings.  But it’s all about dancing and washing your hands.

Lyrically it’s pretty straightforward and easy:

Here’s the rules you have to follow
Wash your hands while you can
Keep on following the plan
Keep your fingers off your face
Keep your distance, give a wave
Call your fiends that you love
Shout out who you’re thinking of
If you gotta cough don’t be dumb
And don’t forget your thumbs.

Those last two lines fall flat, for sure.

However, the video is pretty cute and it’s full of kids dancing around (and the song is clearly for them).

The middle breakdown section is interesting with strings and lots of percussion, including water droplet sounds.

The end adds a bit more fun when the song moves up a step and the lyrics continue:

Wash your hands while you dance
in your favorite underpants.

It’s a positive message in a negative time.  Remember: all you’re spreading is love.

[READ: July 4, 2020] Becoming RGB

Why is is that children’s (graphic novel) biographies are so good?  Is it because they can focus on all of the important things in a short amount of space?  Is it because it is written at a levy that is easy for anyone to understand?  Whatever the reason, this biography of the amazing Ruth Bader Ginsburg is fantastic.  The illustrations from Whitney Gardner are great too–clean and informative.

Most Americans know that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the tiny woman on the Supreme Court.  She’s been there for a long time and she is steadfast and true–very much unlike the two jokers who were recently appointed.

But aside from that, what do most of us know about her?  Well, for me, that was a big “not much.”

Her real name is Joan Ruth Bader.  But there were three Joans in her kindergarten class so she went by Ruth (everyone called her Kiki anyway). She grew up in Brooklyn.  She was left handed and the school forced her to switch (which she refused to do).  It was the first of many time she bristled at what a girl was supposed to do.

Ruth’s family was Jewish and they listened to the horrors of the Nazi progression on the radio.  Her grandparents immigrated from Russia and Australia years earlier assuming they could escape prejudice in America.  But Antisemitism was alive in New York.  As was racism and sexism.

And yes, it’s still here–somehow more vocal than ever.

But RBG saw it and wanted to do something about it.  She was inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt who said that “cruelty is a double-edged sword, destroying not only the victim but the person who indulges in it.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: PHOEBE BRIDGERS WORLD TOUR (May 26-June 4, 2010).

Phoebe Bridgers is a fascinating person.  She sings the most delicate songs.  Her voice is soft and almost inaudible. Her music is simple but pretty.  And her lyrics are (often) devastatingly powerful.

And yet she is really quite funny.  Both in interviews and in her visual representation of herself.

Her logo when I saw her was a fascinating faux death metal style of her name.  And now with this world tour, you can see in the poster all of the metal bands referenced in the logos. (There’s Slayer in the kitchen for instance).

And then there’s the basic joke of this world tour.  No one can go anywhere, so she is travelling her world: kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom (second concert by popular demand??)

The first show last night raised money for Downtown Women’s Center.

After some introductory talking and even a magic show (!) from Ethan, her producer, she played five songs.  Midway through she agrees that the set was a bit of a downer, especially opening with these two sad songs.

“Scott Street”
“Funeral”

Then it was time for two new songs (and an electric guitar).

“Moon Song”
“I See You”

Before coming to the end, she delayed, because she was having so much fun (and raising so much money).  So she showed us around her kitchen and pitched the kind of guitar she was playing, the kind of capo (quite expensive!), and her Target-purchased kitchen ware.  

She ended the set with a boygenius song, “Me and My Dog ” dedicated to her dog Max who died at the age of 17 last year.

The first night of her tour was a success. Tonight is night two, from the bathroom.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.  You can watch it here.

[READ: May 27, 2020] “California Ghosts”

I don’t usually read profiles of artists I like.  But every once in a while, one strikes me as interesting.

Phoebe Bridgers is a pretty fascinating character (see the above part for some details).  So I though this might be an interesting profile.  And it was.

Bridgers was brought up in Laurel Canyon and came of age listening to emo.  I love that the writer has to define emo for the New Yorker crowd, “a sub-genre of punk focused on disclosure and catharsis.”  That’s probably the most concise definition of emo I have read.

She writes that Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes) is one of emo’s most beloved practitioners.  Phoebe grew up listening to him and then met him in 2016.  He says when he first heard her he felt like he was reuniting with an old friend.  In 2018 they made Better Oblivion Community Center together.

At Carnegie Hall (where she wore a tea-length black dress and high to Doc Martens), she sang a song with Matt Berninger of The National. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: KING’S X-Live Love in London (2010).

King’s X released their most recent studio album (XV) in 2008.  It’s been over 11 years since that album came out, but King’s X still tours pretty much all of the time.  They could stand to mix up their setlists a bit from time to time, but they still sound quite good.

This concert was recorded on January 22nd, 2009 at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London, not long after XV came out.  As such, there’s five songs from that album.  I actually thought that XV was a pretty great record and these songs hold up quite well with the rest of them.

This show starts, as pretty much all shows do since 1998 with “Groove Machine.”  The opening of “Welcome to the Groove Machine” is a pretty terrific way to introduce everyone to the show.  There’s a slightly extended drum solo in the middle of the song, but nothing too crazy.

It’s followed by a new song, “Alright.”  It features some noisy, squeaky guitars from Ty and is really catchy in it’s simplicity: “one day, (one day) it’s gonna be, (it’s gonna be) alright, (alright) alright, (alright).”  It’s a great singalong.

They quickly jump back to a popular older song, the quiet “Pleiades” although Ty’s vocals sound a little rough on it.  Back to the new record with “Move,” a suitably heavy song, although “What is This?” from the debut sounds much heavier.  You can tell that the band has played this song a lot because dUg is taking liberties with the lyrics: “make you look so fucking foolish.”  And lots of screaming.  Ty’s guitar solo is pretty epic.

Then they play two songs in a row from the King’s X album.  Up first is the quieter, grooving “Lost in Germany.”  Then comes the hugely popular “Black Flag.”

There’s a slightly lengthy bass intro as the band sets up for the new, absolutely rocking song “Pray,” in which dUg once again grapples with religion.  This is another great chanting sing along.

The crowd is excited for the older hit “Dogman” with some more noisy guitars from Ty.  dUg also makes his first reference to pot: after the line “give me a skinny or give me a fat,” he says “I smoke em fat.”

Then there’s two new songs in a row, yet another great sing-along” Go Tell Somebody.”  It’s a rollicking song that sums up the King’s X ethos pretty well: “if you like what you hear, go tell somebody.”  It leads into the quieter, Jerry Gaskill-sung “Julie” a nice song to his wife.  That’s it for new songs as they head back to older albums from here on out.

The first one is the only song from Ear Candy, the rocking “Looking for Love.”  It’s interesting when Ty plays his solo how much the rest of the sound goes away–its just bass and drums while Ty totally wails–a rather long solo for a 4 minute song.  The crowd goes crazy for “Summerland” and you can hear them all singing along to the final verse including the slight pause before it resumes.  The crowd is incredibly important at a King;s X show and it is a bit of a shame that the crowd is mixed out of this recording (I assume it’s a sound board and therefore hard to include the crowd).  But it’s really great to hear them sing along.  Apparently there is also a lot of chanting and such that is edited out for the CD, which makes sense, but is a bit of a bummer if you want to really capture the energy of the show.  At one point dUg even says, “I’ve been listening to you sing all night and its alright.”

They end the set with a rousing 12 minute “Over My Head.”  The extended part comes in the middle, of course.  The song slows down, the crowd starts clapping, and Ty plays a really impressive solo–just wailing around for almost 3 minutes.  Then it’s dUg’s turn.  “Welcome to the first church of rock n roll.”  He talks about the importance of music, “Music got me through a lot of hard times.”  In almost every show he tells a different anecdote.  This time he says, “My aunt told me … its a terrible thing for a man to do the thing he don’t wanna do for the rest of his life.  I decided I’m gonna make fucking music.”  The audience then sings the chorus pretty much through to the end of the song.

Then it’s time for the encore.  (The encore breaks are not evident on the CD).

dUg says, “This is gonna be a long encore.”  It starts with two songs from Faith Hope Love.  “It’s Love” was probably their biggest hit.  The song sounds great, although truthfully their impeccable harmonies sound a little tired here.   It segues perfectly in to “We Were Born to Be Loved” one of the great show enders.  This version runs to about six minutes with some extended moments and that awesomely complex ending sequence.

They come back out for encore 2 and play the lovely “Goldilox.”  The big difference this time is that the crowd sings the entire song!  Quite well, in fact.  dUg doesn’t sing anything and Ty only plays loud between verses.  It’s pretty cool.  They stay with the debut album for one more song, “Visions” which returns to the heaviness but keeps the harmonies.  The end part really takes off with some wild soloing from Ty as dUg and Jerry jam out together.  It’s a wonderfully wild ending and seems like it could easily end the show.  But the band isn’t quite done yet.

There’s one more encore break before they come back with the wild “Moanjam.”  The harmonies seem to have completely lost them by this time, but musically the song is outstanding.  Just a terrific jam that rocks out.

King’s X is a fantastic live band.  And, yes, they are getting older and don’t sound as amazing as they once did, but the energy and musicianship is still top-notch, even almost ten years after this release.

[READ: February 2019] King’s X: The Oral History

Even though I love music, I don’t read a ton of books about musicians.  I kind of don’t care all that much about most of them.  I want to see and hear you play, but I don’t have that much curiosity about your history.

But some bands defy the tropes of rock, and their story can often be interesting.

I’ve been a fan of King’s X for decades and while I knew some things about them, it turns out I didn’t really know all that much.  And it was fun to read this book which is constructed of quotes from the band and the people who were around them.

Most of the people interviewed are huge fans of the band and can’t understand why they were never more successful (a common question).  I also had no idea there was such acrimony between the band and their original unofficial fourth member, Sam Taylor (who does not make an appearance in the book).

Perhaps the biggest surprise to me was to find out that Doug (dUg) Pinnick is 68 years old! That certainly explains why his voice doesn’t sound superlative live anymore.  And fair play to him.  He sounds amazing for 68.  He is otherwise ageless, that guy.  dUg had a pretty rough upbringing–and he didn’t get a bass until he was 23!

Jerry Gaskill has had two heart attacks (!) and is from South NJ (and now lives near Asbury Park–wow, imagine running into him).  He started a band with his dad and his brother when he was 7 years old (Jerry & The Knights).  And they played out at weddings and parties.  How fun is that?

Ty Tabor is the baby at 58. Ty learned guitar from a babysitter and has been playing ever since.  He and others keep referring to Phil Keaggy.  I had never heard of him and was surprised at Ty’s reverence.  Well, Keaggy is an adult Christian musician so clearly I’d never have heard of him.  I listened to a track or two but just couldn’t get past the Christianness of it to really appreciate the music. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: DEVON GILFILLIAN-NonCOMM 2019 Free at Noon (May 15, 2019).

Devon Gilfillian has a fun name to say.  Beyond that I assumed he was an Irish singer-songwriter.  But in fact, he is Philadelphia-bred, and Nashville-based and he plays soul and hard rock.

WXPN has been mentioning him a lot and I see that he is just about to release his debut album.  He has a powerful voice and commands attention

Gilfillian never wasted a moment on stage, and he never shied away from showmanship either; by the time he reached the second chorus in the opener, “Unchained,” he was already belting in his strongest range. The singer’s voice shook the room, rich, full-bodied, and gorgeous.

I love the way this song seemed pretty big during the verse but took off during the chorus and took off even more in the second chorus.

“Get Out and Get It” sounds like it could have come from a 70s movie with the riffing guitars and keys.  I don’t know if the crowd clapped along to the “La Da Da di” (it’s hard to hear them) but I don’t know how they couldn’t.

The “Good Life” is all about learning to love people better.

During the R&B-inflected “The Good Life,” Gilfillian charmed the audience with sweet falsetto and plenty of smiles as he dreamed about life in a loving city. “Remember when the bank got sold, and everybody took their gold, and everybody helped each other?” he asked in the second verse.

The super fuzzed out guitar solo is pretty spectacular.

They followed it up with the ballad “Stranger,” which Gilfillian introduced with a story from the band’s time on the road: He and his beloved bandmates got into a terrible car accident in 2018 that involved a drunk driver speeding through the hills in Georgia. When the band survived and lived to travel on, Gilfillian wondered at how quickly a stranger could accidentally change the course of another person’s life. But the “stranger” the singer calls out to in the song’s chorus turns out not to be the stranger who caused the accident, but the stranger who let him live through it — his savior.

They end the show with two rocking songs.

“Come Here and Come Down” is rocking and soulful, with a great wah wah sound on the guitar.   There’s a roaring guitar solo, but it’s not quiet as roaring as the final track “Troublemaker,” their heaviest track of the afternoon.  With a simple but powerful riff that really screams for a slide guitar solo, although Gilfillian’s solo is pretty fantastic too.

[READ: May 20, 2019] “A Hundred and Eleven Years Without a Chauffeur”

This story had such a peculiar title that I couldn’t quite imagine where it would go.

It starts off discussing how our ancestors did not drool over us.  They thought of the future in only the most general terms.  Their memoirs were not the whole story.  Worse yet is if we only have a few photos.

The narrator of this story is looking for photos for a biography.  She finds her old supply of photos but she knows some are missing.  But who would steal old photos?  People might take books from a guest room but who would steal Victorian and Edwardian pictures with no artistic merit?

She remembered one of her cousin bending over a sewing machine.  Her dream was to one day own a Rolls Royce with a chauffeur.  It never happened. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Siboney Club, Toronto, ON (November 17, 1988).

I thought I had listened to every show on Rheostatics Live and then I saw today that Daron had posted this new (very old) show.  This show is from before they released their second album Melville.  Most of these songs would appear on Melville, but a couple wouldn’t be released until their third album Whale Music.

This is a live cassette recording of Rheostatics at The Siboney club in Toronto November 17 1988 provided by Tom Parry. It is the earliest live versions I’ve heard so far of Christopher, RBC, The Royal Albert, Greensprouts, Horses, Chanson, What’s Going On, Queer and a one off song which I’m not even sure what it is called. Something about Space? The sound quality is rough but it is an interesting document due to the early nature of these songs – Queer in particular.

This show starts off with a TV show (I guess) about the history of hockey with a story that Bobby Hull has signed a contract with the new World Hockey Association and then a clip of Canada v Russia.  I can’t tell if the reaction to the Canadian goal is from the TV or the people in the room.  It goes for about three minutes and then the ripping guitars come in to start “Christopher.”  The first part of the guitar solo is very different from the sound that Martin would eventually get–although the second half of it is pretty raging.

“RBC” is quick and to the point.  Someone (Dave?) starts the intro to “Dope Fiends” but Tim slaps some bass as Dave says they’re going to play “The Royal Albert (Joey 2)” which I didn’t think was written for a few years.

“Dope Fiends” feels faster than usual.  In fact the whole show feels kind of fast.  Is the tape sped up or did they just play faster back then?

Martin starts playing the Green Sprouts Theme Dong with a crazy hopped up vibrato which actually sounds like munchkins.

Dave: Welcome folks!  Hot dogs only $1.75 Dijon mustard is an extra 30 cents.  It’s hand carved by Dave’s Irish grandmother.

I don’t love the song “Ditch Pigs” (from Greatest Hits) but I always like when they play it because by now it’s such a novelty.   There’s a jamming end section in which someone (Bidini?) is singing about the good food “I want an egg salads sandwich and a box of popcorn”.

DB: It’s poetry time from Clark.  Will it be a winsome poem or a lonesome poem.
Clark: It’s not necessarily a poem.  This is more of a lyric than a poem.  I wrote for a friend and it about if you’ve ever worked for somebody who is kinda dumb and they’re mean to you because they feel threatened by you when you just want to be their friend.

It begins: Don’t call me pal or buddy when your not really my friend…

“Horses” is remarkably slow with a thumping bass.  The chorus is almost painfully slow.  But the ending is really intense.  Martin does some great soloing as Dave screams the end, but there’s very little in the way of horse sounds.

“Chanson Les Ruelles” is loose and fun–Tim’s “French” is quite good.   Dave rambles about some kind of voodoo that he put on the Baltimore Orioles pitcher.  And it worked!

Then out comes Tim with the accordion for “What’s Going On Around Here.”  It all sounds quite good even though the tape is sounding worse.

The last three songs sounds pretty bad (in quality).  The song that Daron says he doesn’t know sounds like Dave calls it “Space Arm.”  It’s a stomping heavy song with some ripping guitars.  Wonder whatever happened to it.

“Queer” sounds very different in so many ways.  It has a really long introduction and a decidedly honky-tonk/country feel to the verses.  The verses end with a kind of old-timey rock n roll bah-bah-bah-bah.  And there’s no ending part.  I’m so glad they fixed it up.

The final song is cut off.  It’s a slow song that I recognize but can’t place called “Seems Like.”  I see that it was only ever released on a Green Sprouts music compilation.

This is a great find–one of their earliest shows where you can hear what their new sound is going to be like.

[READ: May 8, 2019] So Much Longing in So Little Space

Karl Ove Knausgaard just never stops writing.  And he never stops exploring the world around him–through words or, in this case, art.

This book is divided into three parts, although unlike his massive tomes, this one is only 233 pages (with pictures).  Before the parts, he offers a little introduction about how he sees art and how he has always been moved by an (admittedly) simple painting by Edvard Munch called Cabbage Field.

There is a longing in this painting of the cabbage field, a longing to disappear and become one with the world.  And that longing…fulfilled the painting for him.  That is why the painting is so good, what disappears re-emerges in what comes into being as he finished the painting, it is still represented in the picture, which fills us again and again with its emptiness.

In Part One he gives a brief biography of Munch.  Everyone knows The Scream of course, but that represented only one brief phase of Munch’s life-long career as a painter.  Indeed, he started painting when he was a teenager, making small pictures of potted plants and interiors and he continued painting until he was eighty years old.

The years are divided somewhat into phases.  First was the apprentice years during which he painted his first masterpiece, The Sick Child, when he was twenty-two.  In the second phase he was searching and trying many styles–from realistic harbor scenes to Impressionist street scenes.   Then comes the period for which he is most famous (The Scream and more).  The final phase was less abstract and more painterly. (more…)

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: LINIKER E OS CARAMELOWS-Tiny Desk Concert #800 (October 29, 2018).

I listened to this Tiny Desk Concert for a few minutes before watching it and when I clicked over to it, I was quite surprised to see Liniker, whose voice is quite deep, look so feminine.  It was also confusing because as I clicked over one of the backing singers was singing in quite a high register so I honestly wasn’t sure who was who.

I also love that the NPR doesn’t address this at all.

Watching this performance is to witness a spell being cast, note-by-note. Liniker e os Caramelows (Liniker and the Caramelows) are from Brazil but steeped in the tradition of soul from here in the U.S. They started their turn behind the desk with the ballad “Calmô,” a testament to the power of slow songs dripping with soulful emotion. It was a bold statement of just who they are as a band and what they stand for.

As for Liniker’s look, the second paragraph uses the feminine pronoun (although Liniker’s [Google-translated] Wikipedia page uses a male pronoun, saying Liniker:

began to invest in an androgynous visual identity. As an artist, his vision began to mix turban, skirt, lipstick and mustache in his musical performances that incorporate scenic elements into his voice “sometimes hoarse and grave, sometimes clean and sharp, which forms a Brazilian black music, but stuffed with pop elements “, according to O Tempo.

The Tiny Desk blurb is certainly more current and more reliable:

Lead vocalist Liniker Barros has obviously done her share of listening to soul singers and she effortlessly slides from lower registers to an emotional falsetto.

They play three songs which cover a lot of styles and sounds.  “Calmô” is a  light jazzy number with some gentle guitar pieces and twinkly keys.  The percussion is notable for the shakers and drums, giving it a cool Brazilian feel.

It’s also fun to listen to Liniker speak.  He sings in Portuguese, although his English is excellent, except for some of those fun words like “percoosion” and “fell-ix” (referring to Felix Contreras).

You have to go back to the co-mingling of jazz and Brazilian music in the late 1950s to appreciate the affinity our two countries have had for each other musically.

“Tua” is a great song that  sounds like it could be a Tindersticks song–jazzy and noir, except that Liniker voice ventures high instead of low like the Tindersticks.  The second half of the song adds a great 70s keyboard riff to and some “ohh ah ahs” (and a deep sax solo).  It s a fun example of

Brazilian funk … complete with a mid-song, church-revival breakdown, featuring tenor sax.

It’s hard to pick a favorite song although “Remonta” the final song might be it.  It covers multiple genres in its five minutes and Liniker is smiling throughout.  The band moves:

from ballad to a reggae bridge, eventually exploding into a majestic African-based Candomblé rhythmic finish.

The end is a great with lots of percussion, great 70 keys, and a robust, but not wild, fuzzy guitar solo.  The band’s joy at the end is infectious.

[READ: January 24, 2018] “My Fanon Project”.

This is an excerpt from his Wideman’s novel Fanon.  In this excerpt he is writing to Frantz Fanon, who fought for Algerian independence and then died in 1961.  This project has been on his mind for over forty years, since he read The Wretched of the Earth. [That part is all real].

After reading this book he wanted to be like you, Fanon, a writer committed to telling the truth amid racism and oppression.  He couldn’t live up to that so the project shifted to writing about disappointment with “myself and my country.”  He had published many books over the years hoping to at least never dishonor Fanon.

Then he changed the project, instead of living Fanon’s life maybe he could write it

Okay, so far so good. (more…)

Read Full Post »

  SOUNDTRACK: THE RADIO DEPT.-Clinging to a Scheme (2010).

In this final book, Karl Ove mentions buying a record on a whim by The Radio Dept.  Given the timing of the book, I assume it’s this record.  So I’m going to give it a listen too.

I really enjoyed this record which has a feeling of a delicate My Bloody Valentine fronted by The Stone Roses.  The key word in all of this is delicate.  It’s a very soft and gentle record (except for one song).  It hits all the buttons of 90s Britpop and to me is just infectious.

“Domestic Scene” opens the disc with pretty guitars intertwining with an electronic thumping.  After the first listen I was sure the whole record was synthy, but this track has no synths at all, just like five or six guitar lines overdubbing–each opener just as pretty as the others.  The voice sound a lot the guys from The Stone Roses on the more delicate tracks.

“Heaven’s on Fire” opens with bouncy synths and a sampled (from where?) exchange:

People see rock n roll as youth culture.  When youth culture becomes monopolized by big business what are the youth to do.  Do you have any idea?
I think we should destroy the bogus capitalist process that is destroying youth culture.

Then come the jangling guitars and the introduction of synths.

“This Time Around” has a cool high bass line (and what sounds like a second bass line). I love the overlapping instruments on this record.  I couldn’t decide if it was a solo album or a huge group, so I was surprised to find it’s a trio.

“Never Follow Suit” continues this style but in the middle it adds a recorded voice of someone speaking about writing.

“A Token of Gratitude” has some lovely guitars swirling around and a percussion that sounds like a ping-pong ball or a tap dancer.   The last half of the song is a soothing gentle My Bloody Valentine-sque series of washes and melody.

“The Video Dept.” is full of jangly guitars and gentle blurry vocals while “Memory Loss” has some muted guitar notes pizzicatoing along and then what sounds like a muted melodica.

David is the one song that sounds different from the rest.  It has strings and synth stabs and drums that are way too loud.  Most of the songs don’t have drums at all, but these are deliberately recorded too loud and are almost painful.

The final two songs include “Four Months in the Shade” which is an instrumental.  It is just under 2 minutes of pulsing electronics that segues into the delicate album closer “You Stopped Making Sense.”  This song continues with the melody and gentleness of the previous songs and concludes the album perfectly.

I really enjoyed this record a lot.  It’s not groundbreaking at all, but it melds some genres and styles into a remarkably enjoyable collection.

[READ: September and October 2018] My Struggle Book Six

Here is the final book in this massive series.  It was funny to think that it was anticlimactic because it’s not like anything else was climactic in the series either.  But just like the other books, I absolutely could not put this down (possibly because I knew it was due back at the library soon).

I found this book to be very much like the others in that I really loved when he was talking conversationally, but I found his philosophical musings to be a bit slower going–and sometimes quite dull.

But the inexplicable center of this book is a 400 plus page musing on Hitler.  I’ll mention that more later, but I found the whole section absolutely fascinating because he dared to actually read Mein Kampf and to talk about it at length.  I’m sure this is because he named his series the same name in Norwegian.  He tangentially compares Hitler to himself as well–but only in the way that a failed person could do unspeakable things.

But in this essay, he humanizes Hitler without making him any less of an evil man.  His whole point is that in order to fully appreciate/understand Hitler’s evil, you have to realize that he was once an ordinary person.  A teenager who had dreams about becoming an artist, a boy who was afraid of sex and germs.  If you try to make him the inherent embodiment of evil, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that he was a child, a teen, a young man who was not always evil.

Why Karl Ove does this is a bit of a mystery especially contextually, but it was still a fascinating read especially when you see how many things gibe with trump and how he acts and behaves–especially his use of propaganda.  It’s easy to see how people could be swayed by evil ideas (and this was written before trump was even a candidate). (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“The Hamilton Polka” (2016). 

Lin-Manuel Miranda has declared his love and respect for “Weird Al” on many occasions.  So it makes perfect sense that he would ask Al to contribute to the online Hamilton project known as HamilDrops.  The Decemberists’ “Ben Franklin’s Song” is amazing too.

But seriously, how could Al parody a more or less biographical story of a historical figure (that’s two hours long)?.  By not parodying it at all.

Rather, he makes one of his polka mashups which he’s been doing hilariously since his second album.  They are often a highlight of each new album.  This song compresses (almost) the entire musical into 5 minutes.

“The Hamilton Polka,” provides what’s essentially a CliffsNotes-style run-through of the musical’s hooks and highlights — just enough to get the entire musical stuck in your head all over again.

I love the way in the original, the third sister, poor Peggy, is sort of musically dissed whereas Al is just explicit about it.  And of course, how could he refuse to include some actual gun shots for “Not Throwing Away My Shot?”

So they cram in 

Alexander Hamilton
Wait For It
The Schuyler Sisters
Yorktown
You’ll Be Back
The Room Where It Happens
Guns and Ships
Washington On Your Side
Non-Stop
History Has Its Eyes On You
My Shot

And Al can really sing and rap some of those lyrics quickly.  It’s a really fun mashup.

[READ: January 11, 2018] Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of an American Founding Father

Before the musical, most people’s familiarity with Alexander Hamilton probably came from this (awesome) commercial (even if none of us could remember what it was ultimately for).

Actually, my father worked for (and owned for a time) Alexander Hamilton Printing in Paterson, NJ, so Alexander Hamilton has always been a part of my life.  Although I had no idea why.  Not really.

There’s a new reason why people know about Alexander Hamilton (can you even say his name without singing it?).

And I’m sure that reason has something to do with the creation and publication of this book.  But Hennessey is not just jumping on the Hamilton bandwagon.  Well, maybe he is, but he has two other historical graphic novels out already: The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation (2008) and The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation (2012).  He also has books called The Comic Book Story of Beer, and The Comic Book Story of Video Games so he’s not all stuffy.

The musical is far more catchy than this book–far more steamy.  But this book is really chock full of details that the musical skips (for various reasons, obviously).  The book is a lot less interested in the romantic dalliances of the founding father, although it certainly does acknowledge them.

Indeed, the book is 176 fully illustrated pages jam-packed with information.  It reads a little, if not dull, then certainly more academic.  That’s because there’s a lot of text and a lot of history. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »