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Archive for the ‘Canadian Content’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MERRY CLAYTON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #222 (June 9, 2021).

Merry Clayton is a woman who every music fan has heard but probably doesn’t know it.

 Clayton has been making great music for almost 60 years. Clayton is one of rock’s most important backup singers (for starters, see The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” and Carole King’s Tapestry). She recorded several excellent solo albums that never broke big, but eventually received the recognition she deserved in the 2013 documentary 20 Feet From Stardom.

Clayton is not singing rock in this set, she is firmly in the gospel tradition.  And her voice still sounds amazing.

Members of The Waters and Take 6 (Maxine Waters, Julie Waters, Oren Waters, Alvin Chea and Alfie Siles) provide excellent backing vocals.

Merry Clayton’s Tiny Desk concert begins with the essentials. After a brief piano intro, she begins to sing “Beautiful Scars” — the title track of her new album — in a powerful and knowing voice.

Terry Young plays the slow piano and Nathan East provides the soft bass.

In 2014, she was in a serious car accident that required months in the hospital and extensive rehabilitation. With encouragement from her longtime friend and producer Lou Adler she decided to record a new album.

“Oh What a Friend,” written by Terry Young, features soaring call-and-response vocals between Clayton and the vocalists.

Charles Fearing’s guitar is not really noticeable amid the piano and bass but Harvey Mason’s drums snap and pop on the beat.

They conclude with a stirring and joyous version of Sam Cooke’s 1956 classic “Touch the Hem of His Garment.”

This song is acapella with the backing singers providing all of the music (including the foot stomps, maybe).  I love the bass notes from Alvin Chea.

[READ: July 1, 2021] “Spirit at Summer’s End”

This month’s issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue and features three pieces of fiction and three poems.

The final piece is a poem.  And it is summer themed.

Indeed, it is a visceral account of the end of the season:

scent

dust

bent straw

bee music

shrunken honeysuckle

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MEN I TRUST-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #224 (June 16, 2021).

I hadn’t heard of Men I Trust, one of the more interesting new band names out there, but I really like their sound.  It’s a kind of gentle synth pop that seems to flow so effortlessly from French-speaking singers (even when they sing in English).

Men I Trust was initially the duo of high school friends Dragos Chiriac (keyboards) and Jessy Caron (guitars), before adding vocalist Emma Proulx in 2015 and recording the group’s debut album, Headroom. (They expanded to a quintet for this performance, with Cedric Martel handling bass and Eric Maillet on drums.)

The band straddle the line between interesting indie rock and 70s soft rock.  In fact even the setting straddles that line.

From a rustic and retro-looking cabin on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, the band Men I Trust seized the essence of the Tiny Desk almost to a tee. The controlled, yet layered four-song set, bookended by tracks from 2019’s Oncle Jazz would almost certainly make for a plug-and-play situation had it been behind Bob Boilen’s desk.

“Show Me How” leans away from the soft rock with a pretty guitar intro and some nice bass work.  Proulx’s voice has that softness that lures you in.  The shift to the chorus is a really nice chord change too.

The band’s style sways between rubbery upbeat electro-pop and the muddy pace evident on last year’s “Lucky Sue,” but generally hits that sweet spot for anybody looking to be cradled and carried by a vibe-y groove

“Lucky Sue” opens with a wah-wah guitar intro that sounds like synth.  Caron also makes some really cool chords on his guitar–he gets some really interesting sounds from it.

 The song “Humming Man,” was its first official single as a trio and they never looked back from there.

“Humming Man” opens with thumping drums and a soft synth chord progression.  Again Caron play a wah wah filled riff but also gets some really interesting guitar sounds–almost like a reverse wall of chords that he stretches out to a lengthy solo for the end of the song.

I’m fascinated to read that

The overdubs and reverb on Emma’s vocals are stripped away here, leaving a deceptively endearing quality to her voice.

Her voice here isn’t full of reverb, but I can’t imagine doing much processing to her delicate voice.  “All Night” sounds very nice–whispery and inviting even if this song veers a little too far into soft rock territory.  Caron’s solo takes up more than half of this song, and I found myself missing Proulx’s voice by the end.

[READ: July 1, 2021] “Private Hands”

This month’s issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue and features three pieces of fiction and three poems.

The fifth piece is a short story about provenance and ownership.

The narrator works as a (poorly) paid assistant to Harvey, a wealthy collector.  Harvey had made his money in pesticides and was worth about $200 million.  Harvey bought things with the intent of upselling them.  Disney merch always sold well.  But Harvey had a few things that were hard to sell, like Jimi Hendrix’ 1963 Fender Strat.

Paul was a buyer.  Harvey tried to sell him the Hendrix for $500,000 but he wasn’t biting.  Normally Harvey would haggle, but he had overpaid for this, and wouldn’t budge.

Harvey had a few other interesting items (a test pressing of Led Zeppelin III), but Paul really wanted guitars.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOSEPH KECKLER-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #223 (June 14, 2021).

I saw Joseph Keckler open for Sleater-Kinney.  I’d never heard of him and had no idea what to expect.

He had videos and sang funny lyrics.  And then, POW, he had the most amazing operatic bass voice I’d ever heard.

You can hear that about two minutes into the first song here.

“My love called me many names,” Joseph Keckler sings in “GPS Song,” which opens his Tiny Desk (home) concert. He proceeds to list them: “Baby animal. Little baby animal. Big baby animal. Black chicken.” (It goes on like this for some time.)

“GPS Song” — which is sung partly in a made-up language and evolves to feature the titular navigation system droning in the background of a breakup — is one of Keckler’s hallmark absurdist arias, which he performs with a commanding presence and a winking, deadpan delivery. While their content is quirky (another features the narrator’s relapse into a teenage goth identity), it’s not quite right to call them strictly funny; they’re infused with a kind of intimate, observational detail that makes them simultaneously comedic and affecting. (“It was the most heartbreaking moment of my life,” Keckler once said of the situation that inspired “GPS Song,” “yet it was also so ridiculous to have this disrupting automaton, breaking our silence to misdirect us at every moment.” This performance captures that ridiculousness and heartbreak equally.)

The music is wonderful.  Gorgeous piano from Matthew Dean Marsh.  Michael Hanf bows his guitar for rumbling low chords.  Two minutes in Lavinia Pavlish joins on violin and Keckler shows just how amazing his voice is.  Even if the lyrics are comic.

Is it funny?  Yes.  Baby potato?  Yes.  And also when he finds his love’s text messages (in operatic Italian) to “Baby Zebra” and when he sings “Google translate: ‘god is a bicycle, ride slow’ nothing made sense.”  Or when in the middle of the operatic intensity the GPS says (in English) recalculating, recalculating, recalculating.

But not everything is funny.

“City” has a bouncy piano with lovely violin from.  because of the slow operatic way he sings this song (in English) it’s a little hard to follow the words.  But again musically, it’s so interesting.  In the middle, there’s a cool soaring moment when both violin and Michael Hanf play a high scratchy descending note.

So who is this guy?

A classically trained singer, performance artist and writer whose work spans styles and genres, Keckler turns his Tiny Desk (home) concert, shot in Brooklyn, into a showcase of his dynamism as a performer.

For “Goth Song” he sits at the piano and says, “I used to work in a music library but one day…” That is not idle banter, it is the introduction to the song–the story of his descent into a teenage goth.  It’s very funny hearing him singing these things in his amazingly deep operatic German.

He ends with “Appearances” another song sung in English.  Michael Hanf swipes a bow across his guitar to generate an echoing chord.  Hanf also plays the low bass on the synth (and even a cymbal midway through).  Again, this song is not comic, but it really shows off his voice nicely.

[READ: July 1, 2021] “Giganto”

This month’s issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue and features three pieces of fiction and three poems.

The third piece is a short story.

It’s an interesting look at infighting in an under-funded and under-appreciated university department.

There are four people in the truck, a truck that’s off-roading until they have to start using the ATVs.  Dr. Krentz is head of the department.  The narrator, Melinda, is Dr. Krentz’ (poorly) paid assistant.  She intends to hang on to this job until Krentz retires and then take it over herself.  Camryn is Dr Krentz’ intern.  Camryn is Dr Krentz’ intern.  Melinda fears that Camryn, who is young (pretty) and full of energy, is looking to steal her own job.  And then there’s Nigel.  Nigel was some rando who “appreciated the doctor’s work.”  He was hoping to interview Dr. Krentz for his upcoming book on megafauna in North America.   Krentz was flattered and Nigel was a pain in the ass. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ROSTAM-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #221 (June 8, 2021).

Rostam Batmanglij was a founding member of Vampire Weekend and I was really quite bummed when he left (it was on good terms, apparently).

I assumed that his solo music would be very different from Vampire Weekend, but I never thought it would sound like this folkie sit-in.

Rostam and a group of backing musicians play two cuts from … Changephobia, a collection of songs that simultaneously look to the past and the future.

They opens with the

relatively breezy, escapist ballad “4Runner.”  It opens with Julian McClanahan Calvert on mandolin and Logan Kane on upright bass.  Conor Malloy plays some cool muted drums (with brushes) as Rostam sings in his soft croon.  Rostam himself doesn’t start playing the guitar until almost half way through before he jumps on the harmonica.

The band is sitting ion a circle with the camera on a track around them

My great-grandmother always used to say, “Life is a train. People get on. People get off.” And it just keeps going. Watching Rostam’s Tiny Desk performance, it’s easy to imagine you’re on that life-train, traveling around and around, catching glimpses of instruments and faces as they pass by, before coming back where you started. It’s a clever, if sometimes dizzying nod to the overarching themes of Rostam’s Changephobia.

For the reflective “These Kids We Knew,” Benji Lysagh starts the song with guitar.  McClanahan Calvert has switched to guitar as well.  Rostam plays a few lead licks, which are more of a nice riff for the song than anything approximating a solo.  Henry Solomon switches from congas to harmonica for this song.

The group closes with “In a River,” a one-off single from 2018 that sits perfectly alongside the newer songs as he recalls a warm night skinny dipping with a friend.

“In a River” opens with Julian McClanahan Calvert on mandolin.  Solomon adds some deep bass notes from his drum pads.  As the song nears the end, Rostam whoops, Benji Lysaght plays a quiet solo in the middle and Logan Kane bows the upright bass.

The setting feels perfect for a song like this. If only the candles were a campfire.

[READ: July 1, 2021] “Observed and Observing, That’s Him”

This month’s issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue and features three pieces of fiction and three poems.

The fourth piece is a poem. It reads a bit like flash fiction, but it’s really good, even with the odd title.

It begins with a man on a roof doing repairs.

I love the way the story describes him from “the glances from the backyard across the street.”  He is a shambles of a man with holes in his clothes.  And while on that ladder, he looks like a man “barely hanging on.”

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TOM JONES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #220 (June 7, 2021).

Tom Jones does not look as sexy as he once did (he was 81 on June 7), but wow his voice is as powerful as ever.

It’s a poignant moment in the life of a singer whose career spans 56 years and more than 100 million records sold; the passing of his wife, Linda, in 2016 after 59 years of marriage was devastating and resulted in the longest break between recordings of his career. But now Tom Jones is back with a new album, Surrounded By Time, and ready to share his deepest feelings, channeling songs by others with a voice still rich and muscular.

Jones may be 81, but you can see the generations of musicians who want to play with him here.  Stephanie Ward (with a great organ sound) could be his granddaughter and I’ve seen drummer Jeremy Stacey play with King Crimson!

The songs on the album (and for this Tiny Desk) deal so eloquently with time and aging. Tom Jones sings Bob Dylan’s “One More Cup Of Coffee” and going “down to the valley below.”

“One More Cup of Coffee” opens with some slow upright bass  and gentle drums.  I love Ward’s organ sound on this track.  Spare but perfect.

Then, he takes on Malvina Reynolds’ folk tune “There’s No Hole In My Head” and turns it into a fierce statement about being yourself.

For “There’s No Hole In My Head” Ethan Johns gets a surprisingly Indian (sitar?) sound out of his guitar.  Nick Pini switches to electric bass and Jeremy adds percussive sounds to his drums.  Tom really belts out the song.

He ends the set with “I’m Getting Old” a slow, sad ballad.  Ward plays piano and Jones sings these words.

When Tom Jones was 33, and after one of his infamous shows in Las Vegas, jazz composer Bobby Cole presented him with the song “I’m Growing Old.” With lyrics including “I’m growing dimmer in the eyes / I’m growing fainter in my talk / I’m growing deeper in my sighs / I’m growing slower in my walk.” Tom Jones didn’t feel old enough to do it justice, but he held on to it. His performance here brought me to tears and is well worth the wait.

I love to think of Jones as a young stud belting out songs.  Hearing him singing about being old is pretty intense.

[READ: July 1, 2021] “Dream Fragment”

This month’s issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue and features three pieces of fiction  and three poems.

The second piece is a poem. It is about the winter, which is a little odd for a summer reading issue.

An unnamed woman was seen at her door speaking to each of the seasons.  She had a clear preference for winter.

The weather was jealous and would see what it could make of her face. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE HOLD STEADY-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #219 (June 23, 20210).

sudan

I have never seen The Hold Steady, but I have seen Craig Finn solo (which seems like the same thing to me).  I never really liked them all that much, although he was great live.  It’s the spoken/sung delivery (that sounds a little too much like Bruce Springsteen) that makes all the songs sound the same to me.  I feel like there’s a story in each song and his delivery makes me tune out of the words.  Oops.

But for its first-ever full-band Tiny Desk appearance, the group squeezed behind a cramped backstage corner of the Brooklyn Bowl, COVID mask protocol in place.  Illuminated by string lights, the band ran through tracks from its latest album, Open Door Policy, kicking off with “Heavy Covenant” as a swell of clarinets and trumpets round out the sound

“Heavy Covenant” opens with an accordion from Franz Nicolay with Craig Finn singing.  After a verse or two Stephen Selvidge and Tad Kubler bring in the guitars.  Halfway through, The Horn Steady add clarinet (Stuart Bogie and Peter Hess) and trumpet (Jordan McLean).

Though the lineup consisted of its current supersized iteration – featuring both Steve Selvidge on guitar and multi-instrumentalist Franz Nicolay back on accordion – the band scaled back its swagger for the space. Here, the recurring “Woos!” on the recorded version of “Unpleasant Breakfast” become softer and more subtle;

For “Unpleasant Breakfast” Bobby Drake starts the song with some hi hat claps before Tad Kubler adds in chords and Stephen Selvidge adds in solo notes.  You can hear Galen Polivka’s bass pretty clearly (even if he is hidden behind Finn).  Normally I don’t like the addition of horns on songs, but these gentle additions (maybe its the clarinet sound) add perfects accents.  After what felt like three minutes of the same melody the song changes gears and gets really big and swaying–and I started paying attention again.

The surf sounds of “Riptown” still rolick, but with restraint that suits the setting.

Finn says “Riptown” is a fictitious place that they should now visit.  The claps are a nice addition as are the horns (once again).

“Parade Days” is a bonus song (it didn’t make the vinyl).  I like the drama of the opening guitars and the accordion build up.

[READ: July 1, 2021] “Dream Fragment”

This month’s issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue and features three pieces of fiction and three poems.

The second piece is a poem. It is about the winter, which is a little odd for a summer reading issue.

This story, about many things, but focusing on the moment children are taken from their parents, is a tough read.

The story is also not set at a specific time or place.  Some clues are given.  The parents are called Amma and Appa but those words are used in both Korean and Tamil.  The opening line asks, How do you find sweet syrup at the end of the world?

Things were bad.  The family would soon head into the basement and then “see if there was still an upstairs.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PUP-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #149 (January 21, 2021).

A lot of Tiny Desk Concerts are by bands I don’t know (and then really like).  Some are by bands I don’t like.  And every once in a while they have one by a band I like a lot.

Pup is a hugely popular pop punk band from Canada.  I’m bummed I didn’t get to see them when they played around here, but I wasn’t really aware of them at the time.

I have since come to enjoy their music quiet a lot.

“Rot” (from the group’s aptly-titled 2020 EP, This Place Sucks A** ) opens with some fast drumming from Zack Mykula, then Stefan Babcock starts singing and playing rhythm guitar.  After the first verse, Steven Sladkowski adds higher harmony notes–a simple but cool effect.  It’s not until the (outrageously catchy) chorus that Nestor Chumak adds the bass notes and, suddenly, the song feels huge.  I really like that Babcock adds some noisy harmonics and mini feedbacks into the chaos.

The other fun thing is that everyone except Babcock is wearing a mask–even while signing backing vocals (it’s not hard to wear a mask, people).  For a fast punk song, it’s actually quote long–over three minutes.

“My neighbors hate us, and I don’t blame them,” Babcock said.  The Toronto group refused to dial down the volume, filling Babcock’s neatly-furnished living room – complete with an Ontario pennant – and just maybe making a few enemies down the street in the process.

“Kids” (From 2019’s Morbid Stuff) opens differently–bass and harmonics for the first verse, before the rest of the band crashes in. There’s even a harmonic-filled guitar solo.  I like in the middle when it’s almost only drums and Mykula plays some cool rhythms on the floor tom.

Up next is “Reservoir,” a track off the group’s debut.  It’s full on with lots o crash cymbal, and lots of fast playing from everyone during the chorus.

“Scorpion Hill” runs to almost seven minutes and has several parts.  It opens quietly with just Babcock singing and playing.  After the first verse the whole band joins in including backing vocals.  But it’s still fairly quiet until after a pauses a n a misdirecting guitar strum, the song rockets off with lots of thumping drums and bass  After a couple of lengthy section, there’s pause and then a simple riff during which everyone sings “ah ah ah oh.”

This was a wonderful set.  And the even better news

the handmade “Ceci n’est pas une Tiny Desk” (“This is not a Tiny Desk”) sign serves as a warning: When the Tiny Desk returns to NPR HQ and the U.S.-Canada border reopens, prepare to have your workday interrupted.

[READ: February 1, 2021] “Comfort”

This story seemed rather different from Munro’s usual work.

It is about Nina and her husband Lewis. Lewis was a teacher at the high school left until he left under less than positive circumstances.

Nina met with Margaret (another former teacher who left on good terms) at the high school tennis courts.  Nina had not set foot on high school grounds since Lewis had left

When she returned (victorious from her matches), she discovered that Lewis had taken his own life.  They had talked about Lewis doing this, but Nina always thought she would be there–a ceremonial act of some sort.  But clearly Lewis didn’t want her to see him do this.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MUZZ-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #162 (January 29, 2021).

I had not heard of Muzz before this set.  They are a project of Interpol singer Paul Banks.

Paul Banks and Josh Kaufman have known each other since childhood. You likely know Paul Banks as the singer for Interpol; Josh Kaufman is a producer and one-third of Bonny Light Horseman. They are both friends with drummer Matt Barrick, who played a Tiny Desk concert in 2012 with his band The Walkmen.

The trio plays three songs from their self-titled debut album.  I’m not sure what the record sounds like (Barnes suggests that at least one of the songs is more rocking), but this is a mellow gathering.

Josh Kaufman told me via email that “Paul was stuck in Glasgow and Matt and I were quarantining with families in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, respectively. At the very end of a long couple of days of rehearsal and taping, we — very late at night, Paul jet-lagged and the rest plain exhausted — stayed awake a little longer to try a campfire style strum along to some of the songs from our new LP. The result here is our Tiny Desk.”

All three of them are wearing masks and Barnes can sing no problem–people need to lighten up about the masks.

“Bad Feeling” has one guitar from Kaufman and quiet malleted drums as Banks sings.  I don’t really hear Interpol in this at all, it’s much folkier

“Knuckleduster” is kind of a rock n roll song but they’re playing it rather quietly.  It doesn’t sound any different in this format except the drums are heavier and there are some deeper chords.

Barnes picks up a guitar for “Trinidad” and plays the opening melody.  Having the two guitars playing harmonies is really nice.  The drums are just brushes rubbed on the heads.  It has a very campfire feel.

As they prepare for the last song, Barrick brings his drum mic up front.  It takes a moment or two (no edits, Banks jokes). “Summer Love” has a drum machine and Barrick playing a very quiet synth. It, too is a pretty, quiet song with a delicate solo from Kaufman.

[READ: March 10, 2021] “Family Furnishings”

One of the great things about Alice Munro stories is the way she fully fleshes out the characters.  In this story, the plot (such as it is) is one thing, but Munro adds in so much detail  about the characters–details that give you a fuller picture of them, but which don’t really have an impact directly on the plot–that you feel like you are fully a part of this world. We learn that the narrator was married twice an we learn a bunch  about her first and second husbands. None of this has any direct bearing on the story, but these details give you the most complete picture of the narrator and helps to flesh out the decisions she makes.

This is the story of a young woman who grows up to become a writer and how her father’s cousin had an unexpectedly big impact on that career trajectory.

When the narrator was little her father’s cousin Alfrida (Freddy) was a dramatic and dynamic person.  She worked for the newspaper and was part of the collective of writers who contributed to “Flora Simpson Housewives’ Pages” (there was no Flora Simpson, just a photo of a woman).  She also wrote the “Round and About Town” column which allowed her to give her opinion on all things local.

She was appropriately full of herself but she was always a delight to have around.  The rest of her family was quite dull and formal and the narrator felt like Alfrida loosened everyone up. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DISTILLERS-Very Special Christmas Special, “Baby It’s Covid Outside” (December 18, 2020).

Despite going to many live shows, I haven’t watched a lot of streaming concerts. It’s not the same, and I don’t really like watching things on my computer anyway.

I’m not exactly sure what prompted me to buy a ticket for this one.  I saw The Distillers last year and enjoyed the show. But I feel like I didn’t get to fully appreciate it because the crowd was really rowdy and knew the band far more than I did.

So this seemed like a chance to see them “live” up close. The entire special was barely 40 minutes.  This is a bit of a bummer, but at the same time, it was really a perfect length for me.

In addition to the music, there were some skits.  As the show opens, Black Metal Santa unpacks some presents from his sack.  There’s a gun on a stack of presents, he pulls out a squeaking chicken dog toy and then a very adult toy.  He turns around, all Black Metal and says “Merry Fucking Christmas boys and girls, here’s The Distillers.”

On a well-decked-out Christmas-themed set The Distillers start to play.  There’s all kinds of Christmas things–blow up snowmen and giant stocking as well as digital flames.  And a full rig of lights. The band sounds great and the recording is well mixed.  The drums and bass sound huge.

They open with “Sick of It All.”  Brody Dalle is up front playing guitar and singing.  To her right is Tony Bevilacqua on guitar.  To her left is Ryan Sinn on bass.  All three are wearing Santa hats.  They all sing the opening verses and it sounds like a wall of vocals. Drummer Andy Granelli is not wearing a Santa hat, but he does have a knit cap on. The song sounds great–a blast of punk to celebrate the season.

They follow with the outrageously catchy punk of “Oh Serena.”  When I saw them, they opened with these two songs as well.  But this set list deviates somewhat. 

Up next is the quieter “L.A. Girl.”  It starts with everyone playing softly while Brody sings.  Then the whole band kicks in with massive drumming and some tasty bass fills. A martial drum beat opens “I’m a Revenant.”  Both guitarists play the lead riffs before Brody starts singing.  This song has some great sing-along moments as well as a brief part where it’s just Brody before the band marches in again.

“Sunsets” comes next.  They didn’t play this when I saw them.  Brody’s guitar is clean as the song opens.  She sings without a snarl.  The song does not turn into a balls out rocker.  It stays slow but gets very intense.  Bevilacqua makes interesting bendy sounds from his guitar in the middle jam section.  The song slows to a bass rumble before some Christmas music starts playing.

Black Metal Santa comes out and gives Brody a present.  It’s the album Faith by The Cure.  But there’s nothing inside–it’s just the cover. Black Metal Santa says, “Its my ‘Primary’ Christmas gift to you.  A cover.  Now play the damn song.”  It’s an amusing introduction to the song “Primary,” which I did not expect at all.  It sounds fantastic–close to the original, but heavier and obviously with Brody’s vocals sounding very different from Robert Smith’s.  She restrains her vocals until a loud snarling “oh remember” part.

Brody removes the Santa hat for “Dismantle Me” and the lights get brighter so you can see her more clearly.  This song has a great split with really fast guitars from Bevilacqua and slower guitars from Brody. 

The super fast chords continue into “Die on a Rope.”  This song also has some “Oh way oh” parts that are really catchy for such a dark song.  The middle jam is just bass and drums and Bevilacqua’s squeaky feedback while Brody sings.  There’s some thunderous drumming in the end as they jump into “City of Angels.”  This song is really catchy as she and the boys sing together.  There’s another cool middle section of just Brody’s guitar and noisy guitar sounds from Bevilacqua before the band roars off again.

The song ends and Brody looks off stage and says “Jesus.”  Granelli chides, “Brody, it’s Christmas.”  But she points off stage and Jesus comes out.  They ask what he’s doing there and he says it’s his birthday. They ask if he can make it snow.  Jesus says he makes miracles happen–he’s got a guy.   He calls a guy who comes down and the snow starts to fall.  Jesus and the guy get in a fight over who actually makes the miracles happen.  The guy says “ever since cofefe.”  But Granelli stops them, “we’re trying to do a Christmas show here, knock it off.”

Brody takes the mic and says “this year’s been a real ass kicker.  We’re looking forward to the new year.” 

Then they start Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight).”  It sounds great and is a perfect set ender for a holiday special.

The show ends and they play the Ramones song over the credits.  The band takes bows and makes snow angels.

It’s a fun special and totally worth the $15.

[READ: December 25, 2020] “The George Spelvin Players”

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 25.  Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers, could’ve sworn she left that porridge bowl right over there [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

I started this story and thought it was so familiar that I was sure I had read it before.  But as it went along, it didn’t seem familiar anymore, so maybe there is a similar component of it that I had read in another story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE NIGHT BEFORE–WXPN (December 24, 2020).

Every year, from Midnight on December 23 to Midnight on December 24, DJ Robert Drake plays TWENTY-FOUR HOURS of the most esoteric Christmas music around.  Sure, there’s some familiar songs, but mostly, this is weird, wonderful Christmas music.  It is a MUST LISTEN for your Christmas Eve.  Especially around 11PM, when he’s been up for over 24 hours.

Check out the stream here and read all about this fascinating history below

It was 28 years ago when WXPN came to me, with those puppy-dog eyes, hoping that I’d fill in on December 24. Seems no one was available, and in those days before digital, you needed a body to oversee any programming. So, I agreed – as long as they gave me complete freedom to spin an aural web of sounds of the season – direct from my collection of holiday tunes.

What they didn’t know was that I had already developed a fascination for Christmas songs. Not the burnt cookies anyone can hear up and down the dial in December. My collection was chock-full of unique nuggets – some not given the light of day for decades.

So, they agreed to give me three hours and I delivered. The three hours went to four – which went to six and then to twelve, to celebrate twelve years of tradition! The following year management asked what I planned to do to top my 12-hour marathon. I said, how ’bout 24 hours?! After checking my pulse and temperature – just to be sure I wasn’t babbling under some illness – they agreed. Ever since, I’ve been on the air for 24-nonstop hours every Christmas Eve.

And now I am doing it all again!

Within my 24 hour radio takeover on December 24, I will air some special programming that have become traditions within the tradition! Every Christmas Eve morning at 10am, I replay Home For The Holidays hosted by Helen Leicht. An amazing selection of regional artists perform classic sounds of the season.

At noon it’s my annual broadcast of STRIKING TWELVE – a wonderful and creative retelling of “The Little Match Girl”, a short story by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen and performed here by GroveLily.

Later in the evening at 7pm, I broadcast It’s A Wonderful Life – the 1947 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed … a perfect way to showcase the magic of radio on this most magical of nights!

Here’s a few songs you’ve already missed today

Bailen – Christmas Is All Around
The Piano Guys – Carol Of The Bells
Weird Al Yankovic – Christmas At Ground Zero
Asleep At The Wheel – Christmas In Jail
Wall Of Voodoo – Shouldn’t Have Given Him A Gun For Christmas
John Flynn – Christmas Balls

[READ: December 24, 2020] “A Portrait of an Unnamed Man”

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 24.  Edward Carey, author of The Swallowed Man, writes his phone number on his hand for just such an occasion. [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

This story read like a Mad Lib to me and I don;t understand why it was written.

It starts out fairly normally.  After a bad storm the air is full of the smell of rotting photographs.  That’s very specific, but I get it. (more…)

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