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Archive for the ‘Dublin, Ireland’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LANKUM-Tiny Desk Concert #975 (May 18, 2020).

At some point “new” Tiny Desk Concerts are going to stop being released to the site.  Given what the blurb says, it’s possible that this is the last one they recorded.

The band is super tight musically and I really enjoy the way they play traditional Irish music with a slight modern twist.

Bob Boilen loves this band and if it was the last Tiny Desk Concert for awhile, it seems like it was a good one for him to end on:

All of this was a build-up to a Tiny Desk concert I’ll never forget. I, too, am a massive fan of the drones from the uilleann pipes, harmonium, concertina and the stunning voice of Radie Peat. The Livelong Day to my ears has as much in common with Irish tradition as it does to electronic music, though everything they do is acoustic.

“The Wild Rover” is a nine minute song that builds slowly from its opening melody.  Daragh Lynch plays a repetitive quiet guitar chord high up on the neck and Cormac MacDiarmada plays a slow fiddle.  Radie Peat sings (in her very Oirish accent) while (I guess) playing the harmonium (although she doesn’t seem to be pumping it).  Ian Lynch adds an occasional note from  baritone English concertina.   After each verse (about drinking) all four of them sing the harmony chorus.  And after each chorus the song gets a bit louder–more concertina, louder fiddle.

Then surprisingly at 5 minutes after building so much, all the music drops out except for Lynch’s quiet guitar high notes as all four of them sing in close harmony.   Then MacDiarmada plays a fiddle solo and by the 7 minute mark the band starts playing with real discord as the harmonium and fiddle start playing slightly askew notes at the end of each line–adding yet more tension.

The song feels like it has taken you on a journey of its own.

Ian Lynch tells everyone that they are from Dublin (what a strong accent) and that they had lots of problems getting here.

Lankum’s journey from Ireland to the Tiny Desk was a wild and bumpy adventure. First, visa problems forced them to cancel their late February date. A week later, much of the world is more worried about COVID-19, though daily patterns here hadn’t changed. They arrived in New York, hopped in their van to Washington, D.C., only to have that break down. Finally, after all that, some good news: While in their new van heading to the Tiny Desk, the Dublin quartet received news that its brilliant album The Livelong Day had won Ireland’s Choice Music Prize Album of the Year!

The next song “The Young People” sounds very different.  It feels very traditional.  Daragh Lynch switches guitars and plays without a capo.  The sound is so deep compared to the previous song.  Daragh and Ian sing this slow, quiet song. I think Cormac MacDiarmada is playing the viola.  Mid song, Ian Lynch plays a brief uilleann pipe solo while Peat plays the harmonium.

The final song is an instrumental.  They remove the stand that Radie’s harmonium is on and she begins the song with a fast traditional melody on the baritone Irish concertina.  MacDiarmada plays a similar melody on the violin while stomping on a box.  Daragh Lynch bows the guitar at the start.

Then Radie puts down the concertina and sits on the floor at the harmonium.

After a couple of minute there’s the slightest pause of silence as the song shifts gears into a very catchy middle section complete with uilleann pipe solo.  The song flows through to the end with this very pretty melody.

Bob sees a lot of concerts each year.  This was his last of 2020 (so far).

A week later I saw Lankum in concert. It was the last one I attended in a real venue and the world was rapidly changing. Their journey home, I trust, was frightening. The idea of getting on a plane was so very different from just a few weeks before. I know it was tough, but I’m ever so grateful for this life experience and grateful to be able to share it here.

His last show was four days after my last show (Destroyer on March 8).  I was supposed to go to a show on March 12, but decided it wasn’t safe.  In retrospect, I should have gone, if only to get in one more show before music went away for awhile.

[READ: May 20, 2020] Five Years #9

This issue makes me think that either this series isn’t supposed to end in ten issues or he’s planning another series to continue this story after issue 10.

Because, boy howdy, there’s no way he can wrap this up in one more issue.

This book continues with the opening voice over.  Although this one is from one of the guards that Zoe has just stabbed. He is dying and he hears the voice of an angel.

The “angel” is Zoe (uh oh).  Zoe is on a mission and needs the weapon that she’s stuck in the guy’s chest.  Talk about a darkly comic opening. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAVID O’DOHERTY-“Florence Falls” (2012).

Back in 2012, Cathy Davey said she’d “been trying to figure out how to raise awareness for homeless dogs without it becoming a negative campaign.”  She says she “wondered how many songwriters would be interested in writing songs about dogs they have loved. It turns out nearly everyone I approached had a story to tell…”

So Davey and Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy curated this album.  Proceeds from the album go to the Dublin-based Dogs In Distress.

The album features new recordings from fourteen artists, including Lisa Hannigan.  When the album came out Hannigan tweeted: “A dog is for life, this album is for Christmas” playing on the Humane Society’s “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas” which is designed to discourage giving pets as holiday gifts if they can’t be cared for.  Sharon Shannon and David Gray both contribute instrumentals).  And of course, The Divine Comedy.

I was planning  to write about The Divine Comedy song, but my favorite track turned out to be this one from David O’Doherty, an Irish comedian.  I don’t know anything about O’Doherty, but the delivery of this bittersweet song was top notch.

Musically, the song is simple, just a keyboard playing a nice melody.  The story starts somewhat sweetly as Florence’s owner returns home.

As my key went in the door I’d call your name, you’d start to growl
And move menacingly across the floor
And as you’d thundered down the stairs
Snarling angrily
I’d wonder why I liked you so much
And you always hated me

The details of how bad Florence was are really hilarious.

In the winter you’d curl up by the fire at home
I’d go off to get your chew-chew
And then you’d eat my mobile phone

Then we realize just how bad Florence was

The first time that you nipped me people said you were just young
And the second time it was the heat
And the third you were only having fun (ha ha ha ha ha)
And the fourth time I actually needed Tetanus and you got neutered at the vet
She said that it would calm you down
And then you bit me on the leg

And since Christmas is coming, there’s a Christmas verse too:

I remember one time at Christmas
When you opened all the stuff
I put you out into the garden
And you were furious
You cried so much at this great injustice
I had to let you back in
And then you were good for an hour


Then you licked the turkey

Florence was truly a terrible dog.  A terrible pet.  And yet the ending reveals the truth:

Oh, Florence, there was nothing good about you I can’t think of anything
But I wish that you were still at home … hating me again.
You were a rubbish dog
But a rubbish dog is better than no dog

And even though this song is sweet and might make you a little teary-eyed, the phrase “rubbish dog” will always make me laugh.

[READ: November 30, 2019] “The Curfew”

I have loved Roddy Doyle’s stories for years.  His early stuff was very funny, but it has been a pretty long time since he has written anything genuinely funny.  But no matter, because what he writes is always good and very real.

The curfew in this story is in place because ex-Hurricane Ophelia is heading towards Dublin.

The protagonist is heading home, with a half hour to spare before the curfew.  His wife is dismissive of the curfew–“Do they think it’s a civil war?  It’s only a bit of weather,” but he likes the drama of it.  He felt like he was helping to stave of a catastrophe–it was doing him good.  It almost kept his mind off the medical news.

A couple of wees ago he’d had a checkup.  All he could remember was the prostate exam.  He smiled to himself thinking he could now address his daughter’s lectures about gender: “I know what you’re talking about, he’d be tempted to say.  A woman doctor had her finger up my arse and she was thoroughly professional.” (more…)

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chancers SOUNDTRACK: BUILT TO SPILL-You in Reverse (2006).

reverseI love the audacity of coming back from a five-year hiatus and opening your disc with an 8 minute song that has lots and lots of instrumentals and solo sections.  And man is “Goin’ Against Your Mind” a good song (the band opened with this when I saw them and it awesome).  At around 5 minutes the songs slows down for a quieter section and then it builds back up again. I particularly love the roaring guitars in the back of the song (which I think are from Brett Netson—it is confusing that the band has a Brett Nelson and a Brett Netson in its line up).

“Traces” slows things down.  It has a simple but really catchy riff.  “Liar” is a bouncy, rather fun song with some pretty guitar work (two guitars in the middle) and a super catchy vocal melody. “Saturday” is a slowish ballad that is only 2:24.

“Wherever You Go” has a kid of Neil Young stomp to it, but it’s “Conventional Wisdom” that really opens up the beginning of the second half with a great riff and a fun chorus. The dual guitar solo that starts around 3 minutes in is fantastic.

I also love the guitar riffs in “Gone” and how at 3 minutes it turns into something else entirely with a big organ sound.  “Mess with Time,” which they played live, has a great staccato riff and a really interesting (to my ear Middle Easternish) guitar riff.   I also like the way it sounds like perhaps a circular saw blade is being used as percussion.  And how at 3:15 it turns into an entirely new song—an almost ska song riff with great bass lines.  “Just a Habit” is a mellow song with soaring electric guitar lines.   The disc ends with “The Wait,” a slower song that I don’t usually love.  But they played it live and in the live setting it took on a new vitality was really enjoyable.

This is an album I can put on an enjoy from start to finish.

[READ: August 7, 2015] Chancers

Chancers is a short three-act play set in Dublin after the collapse of the Irish economy.

There are four characters: Aiden and Dee who own a small shoppe; Gertie, an older lady who comes in regularly and never has a nice word for anyone and JP, Aiden’s mate.

In the first scene, we see that Dee is getting dressed up for a job interview.  She doesn’t imagine she’ll get the job, but they desperately need the money.  Aiden reveals that they have stopped offering certain services because they weren’t profitable enough.  When Gertie comes in, she mocks the two of them for trying, and for overreaching.  Gertie is nasty, undermining everything that Dee or Aiden says.

In the second scene, JP and Aiden are talking about a lottery ticket.  It seems that Gertie has bought a ticket that has won a huge windfall.  But when she brought the ticket in for him to check, Aiden instinctively told her it was a loser.  JP says that the first step has been taken now all they need to do is get that ticket for themselves so they can cash it in. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_04_14_14Blitt.inddSOUNDTRACK: SIMONE DINNERSTEIN-Tiny Desk Concert #362 (June 2, 2014).

simoneSimone Dinnerstein plays several of Bach’s two-part inventions.  And my jaw hits the floor.

I like Bach–I like his elaborate arrangements and the way he makes the piano (or harpsichord) sing.  But I never really thought about how hard these pieces are.  Watching Dinnerstein play these–simply watching the amazingness of her fingers–has blown me way.  And if I may say, her fingers aren’t long slender graceful things, they look a lot like mine.  So she doesn’t seem to have that advantage of an octave and a half reach or anything.  I am amazed that her two hands can work so independently.  And it sounds beautiful.

She groups them together into three segments and between each segment she talks a little about Bach and about playing these difficult pieces.  Her story about learning these as a child and then teaching them to children is really fascinating (and funny).

I have no idea how many Inventions Back wrote, but this set list is: Inventions Nos. 1, 6, 8, then Inventions Nos. 9, 10, and finally Inventions Nos. 12, 13, 14.

Check this out.

[READ: June 3, 2104] “Box Sets”

How can Roddy Doyle, who does funny so well, also do domestic unhappiness with such verisimilitude?

In this brief story, just as Ireland is getting through the worst of the economic depression and Sam and his wife Emer are feeling like they can exhale, Sam is let go from his job.  Now he’s been on the dole for three months.  And he is miserable.  The only good thing is that he has been watching box set seasons of all of the really good TV that everyone’s been talking about.  He feels foolish watching it all after the fuss about them has ended, but he’s still glad to watch it.  And Emer is great through the whole thing, always cheerful, always trying to make him feel better.  Always with a smile.  But Sam is getting darker and darker.

Then one night when Emer says they’re going to a friend’s house on Friday, Sam says he’d rather not.  He reminds her that at their last get together he was stumped when someone asked him what he did.  He just doesn’t want to go out anymore.  Emer tries to comfort him but fails.  He just gets madder until he throws a coffee mug and it shatters.  He takes the dog for a walk down to the seaside to cool off. (more…)

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wilderSOUNDTRACK: WHITEHORSE-Live from Mountain Stage (May 16, 2012).

whitehorseWhitehorse is opening for Barenaked Ladies on the current leg of their tour (we’re going to see them in October).  I hadn’t heard of them.  Turns out Whitehorse is the duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland.  They are from Canada, which may be why they are touring with BNL–because they’re not very funny or very upbeat.

They play four songs in this Mountain Stage show.  I really like “Killing Time” which has a very alt-country feel—McClelland’s harmony vocals are great on the chorus, which has a very low down dirty feel.  I particularly like the lines:

Pimms in the cooler and daughter in the yard Playing California strip croquet

And

Tongue is a sharpened razor Little miss know it some But get her alone she cries I wanna go home Oh, this little piggy plays dumb.

They have some good stories too, like the one about “Emerald Isle” which is about Luke running a marathon in Ireland.  His Irish mother, who had never been to Ireland, flew out to meet him at the finish line and his wife, Melissa, flew in from Australia as well.  There are more great harmonies in this song which, while mournful has a wonderfully uplifting feel.  “Night Owls” is a very slow ballad which, while lyrically interesting, is a little too slow for my tastes.

For the final song, Melissa explains that the two of them had been playing solo and then they got married and still played solo.  And then they decided to join forces. “Broken One” was a song that Luke wrote for his ex-girlfriend (and it is mean); Melissa says that she fixed it for Whitehorse.  It’s a pretty standard country song with a honky tonk feel.  It has a great blow off line: “You gotta have a heart to have a broken one.”

There’s something about Canadian Country music that I like so much more than American country music.  I wonder what that is.

[READ: August 24, 2013] Wilderness

I recently stumbled upon this book at the library.  I was only vaguely aware that Doyle had written a children’s novel, but there it was on the shelf.  This is not a young child’s book, which is kind of a shame.  I know my son would love half of the book, but I didn’t think he was ready for the other half.

The two parts of the story are about different members of the same family.  The father, Frank, is the same.  He married a woman quite young and they had a daughter.  When the daughter was about 4 years old, the father and mother realized they could no longer live together.  After some fights, the mother left for America.  Where she stayed.  Gráinne, the daughter, is now 18 and she is a sullen, angry teenager.  Her dad is still okay, but most of the time she wants to treat him like he’s not.  But he seems okay with that and gives her space.  The crux of her story is that her mother has decided to come back after all these years.  And Gráinne now has to deal with that.

Her story is a little mature, (especially for my 8 year old son), and she has some pretty harsh things to say about her parents, (which I hope he doesn’t have yet).

The other half of the story concerns her half brothers, and I know my son would love this part.  Conveniently, the two stories are easy to demarcate–the ones with the boys are named Chapter 1 etc, the one with Gráinne are named things like The Bedroom, The Bus etc.  So I did consider telling him to read just those parts.  But maybe I’ll just wait.  Anyway, her half brothers, Johnny and Tom, belong to her dad and her stepmom, Sandra.  Sandra loves her boys and her husband and even Gráinne–most of the time.  But lately Gráinne has been a little much.  And Frank has encouraged Sandra to take the boys and go on a trip, just with them.  That will let her focus on the boys and give him some time with Gráinne. (more…)

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xmasSOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-Live from Mountain Stage (Jan 19, 1995).

barenakedladiesThis is wonderful show from 1995 (it was recorded on Super Bowl Sunday, which explains the football jokes…including the Baltimore football team that played in the CFL for literally one year). Having seen BNL recently (and enjoyed them), I forgot how much more bouncey and fun their earlier shows were (as their earlier songs were in general more bouncey and fun).  This show is also interesting because Andy Creeggan is still in the band.  Andy is Tim (bass) Creeggan’s brother.  And I have to wonder if he is doing some of the great harmonies (especially on “Alternative Girlfriend,” which I’ve never heard anywhere else).

I love each of the four songs they play here: “Life in a Nutshell,” “Jane” (a song where their harmonies are absolutely wonderful).  “Great Provider” slows things down but allows for Tim’s great bass work.  The set ends with one of my favorite songs “Alternative Girlfriend.”  They disingenuously announce that they will be playing the Mountain Stage theme song and I think everyone is a little bummed that they didn’t.  But I was just as happy to hear “Alternative Girlfriend and this is where those great unexpected harmonies come in.  They even throw in a smidgen of “My Sharona” for fun.

I’ll be seeing BNL again in a month.  After seeing them this summer, I wanted to tell them to dig deep into their catalog for some of their middle albums tracks (like the ones here).  Since most people who see them are die hards, we’d all love some of these older tracks!

Enjoy the set here.  Sadly, you only get to see Steven Page’s glorious mustache in this photo.

[READ: August 24, 2013] Not Just for Christmas

In addition to writing a lot of novels, Roddy Doyle has written a number of smaller books.  Like this one.  This was actually written for The Open Door series which is a series of six books by different authors that are designed to help adult readers who have trouble reading.  The stories are meant to be short, engaging and relatively easy to read.

I wasn’t conscious of this story being easy to read, but it is certainly simple.  It is 77 pages with big print and probably counts more like a short story, although I think it gets classified as a novella.

Simplicity aside, the story is a very good one.  Danny and Jimmy Murphy are brothers.  But they haven’t seen each other in twenty years.    When they were younger, they were inseparable and, although they were a year apart, people assumed they were twins.  We see a few instances from their childhood where they finished each others’ sentences and had a kind of psychic connection. (more…)

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vanSOUNDTRACK: FRANK TURNER-Tiny Desk Concert #287 (July 13, 2013).

turnertinydeskNPR introduced me to Frank Turner and I’m pretty delighted that they did.  I really enjoyed his set at the Newport Folk Festival.  And here’s another live recording (a Tiny Desk Concert).

In this brief set, Frank and mandolin player Matt Nasir (he’s only been playing it for 6 months) blast through 3 of his rockingest folk songs.  “Recovery,” “The Way I Tend to Be,” (with a very funny lead story) and a rousing mandolin solo-filled and a (reluctant) NPR audience singalong. of the great “Photosynthesis.”  I imagine it was quite loud in their offices that day.

Turner is fantastic live—he’s personable and funny and even more so in this intimate setting.  It’s a wonderful set.

Check it out.

[READ: August 23, 2013] The Van

This is the final book in the “Barrytown Trilogy” (except for the new one coming out next year).  Whereas The Snapper was tied to The Commitments by virtue of it being the same family, The Van is tied to The Snapper because it follows the same guy—Jimmy Rabbitte Sr.

It’s 1990 (a few years after The Snapper because the baby from that book is now talking and mobile) and like many older people in Ireland, Jimmy Sr. has been laid off.  The first third of the book looks at life on the dole in Ireland—skimpy Christmas presents and getting handouts from your son.  And yet there’s always money for a pint or two—so Jimmy still gets to hang out with his mates at the pub a few nights a week.  He also goes out with the baby from time to time and occupies himself in various ways (pitch n putt).  There’s a lot of humor and silliness in this section–especially within the family when the twin girls start getting older and even cheekier.  And the focal point is the World Cup—because Ireland is actually going to be in it this year—Italia ’90!

And the Jimmy’s mate Bimbo gets laid off.  And that’s where the titular van comes in (over 100 pages into the story).  Bimbo is crushed to be laid off, but Jimmy is a little pleased.  He’s not happy that Bimbo is laid off, but he is happy that he has someone to waste the day with.  They go golfing together (and win a prize or two) and they do their best trying to stay happy.  But they’ve noticed that the fish and chips van that used to be parked outside of the bar is no longer there.  It’s a sad state of affairs when you’re drunk and hungry at midnight and can’t get a fish n chips.

And that’s when their friend Bertie (who can get anything for anyone) comes through on Bimbo’s half serious question–could Bertie get him a chipper van?  Bertie finds one—an unholy filthy mess of a thing with no engine.  And Bimbo uses his redundancy money, £800, to buy the mess.  Jimmy is appalled until Bimbo starts talking about the two of them being partners—working together to makes some money and sell chips to their drunken mates and—even better—to the punters who are enjoying the World Cup!  And suddenly it seems like a real idea. (more…)

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snapperSOUNDTRACK: KISHI BASHI-“Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!” (2013).

kishiI’m still really enjoying Kishi Bashi’s debut album 151a, so it’s a treat to get a new track from him.  This one is a 7″ (and apparent digital download).

It doesn’t depart radically from Kishi Bashi’s formula (high vocals, violins and bouncy, exuberant melodies).  Although this song just has…more.  More instruments, more layers, more everything.

The biggest surprise comes around two minutes in when some of the layers drop out and we get this really cool bass (which reminds me of Paul Simon) that propels the song along.  But that’s a fleeting moment amidst the swirling and swelling violins.

Kishi Bashi is one of those artists who seems to release a lot of singles and digital releases and unless they get compiled somewhere, NPR podcasts are the only place I’ll ever hear them.  Nonetheless, I’m delighted to get to jam to this one.

[READ: August 19, 2013] The Snapper

When I first got into Roddy Doyle (around 1993), I read all three of the books that are considered the “Barrytown Trilogy” (which I have just learned, thanks Louise, that there’s going to be a fourth) very quickly.  Doyle’s writing in these books is very fast and very funny–tons of dialogue that flow easily and wittily.

The Snapper was also made into a film (not as popular as The Commitments, but much funnier–check it out just to see Colm Meaney down a pint).  And Doyle’s writing is just as sharp and screenplay-friendly as The Commitments was–which makes it a real joy to read.

Although this is considered part of a “trilogy” there’s very little connection to The Commitments.  The family is the same but Jimmy Rabbitte, the protagonist of The Commitments, is a minor character in The Snapper (I’m actually not sure if it is set before or after The Commitments).  [Oh and in the movie, the family name had to be changed from Rabbitte to Curley because the company that made The Commitments owns the rights to Rabbitte (Jaysus!)].  This book is about Jimmy’s sister Sharon and, for the most part, their da, Jimmy Sr.  [There’s a slew more members of that family–Veronica their mammy, Darren, the twins Tracy and Linda, Les, and of course, Larrygogan, the new pup.

So, what the hell is The Snapper about?  Well, “Snapper” is a slang for baby (apparently).  And it seems that young Sharon (19) has gotten herself “up the pole” (pregnant).  The surprising thing about the story is the family’s reaction.  It is largely positive.  She won’t say who the father is, and after the family accepts that, things seem largely fine.

Sharon is afraid to tell her friends, but even they, including her best friend Jackie, take it well (especially after a few drinks).  So where is the conflict? (more…)

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commitSOUNDTRACK: KANYE WEST-Late Registration (2005).

I lateregcan’t get over how much I’ve been enjoying Kanye West’s music as of late.  So much so that I went back and bought Late Registration.  I wanted to check out his early stuff, so naturally I started with…his second album.  And it’s a really enjoyable, soulful, gospel-filled rap album. Complete with Kayne’s bizarre, humorous and often offensive lyrics.

Musically the samples are wonderful—they create a very specific feel of pop soul that both works with and sometime against the lyrics.  The album suffers from two things that I’ve found I do not like in rap, and in articular in Kayne’s albums.  It bugs me when rappers intro their songs with several “uh, yeah”s.  I don’t know why but it does and that’s how Kanye opens the disc.

And, I wish there weren’t so many guests on the record.  While I understand the guest singers who provide backing vocals, I don’t get all the guest rappers (and there are a lot: Paul Wall, GLC, Lupe Fiasco, Common, Game, Jay Z, Really Doe, Nas, Cam’ron Consequence).  I mean, I’m not here for them, so why devote so much time to others, it makes you seem like you couldn’t thin of enough to say (and we know that’s not true about Kanye).  After a few listens, I have grown to appreciate the guests, but I like Kayne’s style so much that the other guys are just distractions.

Late Registration is largely produced by Jon Brion, who has made some amazing music with Fiona Apple and Aimee Mann—and while it is certainly stripped down Brion, the flourishes that Brion often employs are apparent here.  Like the tinkly pianos and farty bass that opens “Heard ‘Em Say.”  There’s some falsetto R&B-esque vocals from the singer from Maroon 5 here—I had no idea he sang like that.  It fits very well with the song.  And the instrumental section at the end is very Brion.

“Touch the Sky” uses a long sample (slowed down quite a bit) of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up.”  But the sample is so much of that original song that it almost seems like cheating.  Except that he has slowed it down and modified it somewhat, and…his raps work perfectly with it.  The other really crazy sample is from Gil Scot-Heron which samples “Home is Where the Hatred Is.”  The strange thing is that the song is 1:44 and the last 45 seconds of the song are just Scot-Heron’s song playing along by itself.  It’s weird to have given up that much to another song…but it sounds great.

“Gold Digger” is a very funny song about, well, gold diggers.  The topic isn’t new (the fact that it samples an ancient Ray Charles song attests to it), but the chorus of “I ain’t saying she’s a gold digger, but she ain’t messin’ with no broke niggers” is great.  There’s also an intro section with Jamie Foxx doing his now patented Ray Charles.  It’s a pointed song but done with a very funny twinkle in his voice (the Kayne twinkle).  “Drive Slow” is a cool slow-tempoed number with a great sample from Hank Crawford and an interesting slowing effect at the end of the song.  “Crack Music” is a great political song equating making records to selling crack.  The metaphor works well.  And this is one of Kayne’s strong pro-black songs.  It’s really powerful.

The surprising thing is the two really sensitive songs: “Hey Mama” which is a sweet song to his mother in which he promises to go back to school and get his doctorate and “Roses,” which is an angry but beautiful song about his grandmother being in the hospital.  There’s a great verse about her being poor and therefore not getting the best care: “you telling me if my grandmother was in the NBA right now she’d be okay”   As well as a line about a nurse asking for his autograph while they are worried about his grandmother—although, realistically, how often is a nurse going to meet a star like Kayne?  The end of the song has some great soulful crooning by (as far as I can read) an uncredited singer.  And I feel like Brandy, who opens up the next song really falls flat in comparison to this unnamed singer (I don’t care for the way newer black singers wail their scales).  But the Etta James sample of “My Funny Valentine” that floats through “Addiction” is gorgeous.

“Diamonds from Sierra Leone: is a surprisingly political song that samples “Diamonds are Forever.”  There’s two version on the album.  I like the remix featuring Jay-Z a lot less, in part because I’ve never been a huge Jay-Z fan, but also because his verses completely interrupt the flow of the song.  “We Major” has  a very retro, almost easy listening vibe. There’s a lot of backing vocals going on and they remind me somewhat of Ben Folds Five’s backing vocals (which is pretty weird, I suspect). This song is interesting for its talk of worrying about daughters—as with many rappers, women are bitches and hos unless they are your grandma, your mama or you daughter—which is kind of awkward, really.

“Celebration” is perhaps the weirdest juxtaposition of contents.  It’s a celebration, bitches.  A celebration apparently about the fact that he and a woman (who had a fatty) accidentally had a baby (“You my favorite accident”).   That line makes it sound like the child is at the party, which makes the chorus “Grab a drink, grab a glass, after that I grab your ass” hard to fathom.

 “Gone” has a nifty piano melody (and some cool interstitials very Brion-infused melodies) that plays under Cam’ron and Consequence’s raps.  The song is kind of a muddle (although a funny muddle) until Kanye comes in at around 4 and a half minutes.  I really like the way the album ends: with Kayne rapping “Sorry Mr West is gone” and the music completely cutting off.

The bonus tracks include the original of “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” and “We Can Make It Better” (which features Q-Tip, Talib Kweli, Common and Rhymefest). It’s an interesting track (especially the sped up backing vocals) but it seems like a bit of a throwaway (which is surprising given the number of guests).  “Late” is a unlisted bonus track which is very strange.  There’s lots of “ah ha ha has” in a posh sounding falsetto).  But there’s some witty lines in here, especially this verse:

They said the best classes go to the fastest
Sorry Mr. West there’s no good classes, and that’s what yo’ ass get
Not even electives? Not even prerequits?
You mean I missed my major by a couple of seconds?
Now I’m in the shop class or the basket weavin
With all the rest of the muh’fuckers underachievin

So Kayne is clever and stupid.  A great rapper and a not so great singer.  And amazing producer and a good song writer.  And this is as good an album as I’ve heard it was.

[READ: August 8, 2013] The Commitments

I have been reading a number of big, heavy books lately (which I have yet to post about…later in the week), so I decided to take a break with a light, fun book. And one that I’ve read before (and seen the movie of many times).  I looked on the inside cover where I wrote the date of acquisition (a thing I did for a while until I realized it was kind of silly, and yet I’m glad i did it here) October 1993, almost twenty years ago.

But aside from Jimmy playing songs on vinyl, there’s very little that’s dated about the album–which may even be the point of the book.

This is the story of a bunch of misfits in Ireland who join together to form a soul band.  The nucleus of the band is Jimmy Rabbitte, a local kid who lives and breathes music.  He had Frankie Goes to Hollywood before anyone else and he knew they were shit before anyone else.

Some of his mates have started a band (called hilariously And And! And) which plays new wave.  Jimmy tells them they should play soul instead.  He plays them some James Brown and they love it.  Which leads to the talk of music and sex.  And they are really into it.  And then there’s  the oft quoted line from the movie: “The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once and say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.”

And so they begin a quest to find the rest of the band.  Jimmy puts an ad in Hot Press (the Irish music magazine) and interviews everyone (some very funny jokes in there).  And the recruits form a crazy quilt of characters.  (more…)

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2003_12_15_p139SOUNDTRACK: TELEKINESIS-“Ghosts and Creatures” (Live at SXSW, March 21, 2013).

telekinesis

Telekinesis is, as far as I can tell, the brainchild of one guy (NPR points out twice in three paragraphs that the singer/songwriter is a drummer).  He has some special guests playing with him in this set (although nobody terribly famous–the keyboardist from Wild Flag (the only one in the band who I can never remember).

In a typical Telekinesis show the drums are up at the front of the stage.  That’s true here, too.  In this case the singer is standing, just playing maracas (and presumably the bass drum) for the first 2/3 of the song.  But by the end he sits down and starts pounding along with the song.

This song is a an interesting mix of dark (the keyboard’s minor chords) and bright (the guitar picking).  I enjoyed the way the song built over the course of its four minutes (including a cool break where it was just the keyboard).  At first I didn’t think there was much to the song, but after three listens I really got into it.  The harmonies were really good and there was some cool intricacy going on. I think watching the video helped as well (the bass player is really into it).

You too can watch it here.

[READ: March 26, 2013] “Recuperation”

This is the final uncollected story that I read from Roddy Doyle (okay, that Wikipedia list is clearly old as I see that both this and “Teaching” have since been collected in Bullfighting).  Oh well, that’s alright, then.

In this story, an old man goes for a walk.

And that’s it.

coolockWell, not entirely of course.  The man was told to go for walks by his doctor.  He needs the exercise and as he doesn’t golf or go to golf clubs or join groups, the doctor says he should go for a walk.  So the man walks around a nearby neighborhood, knowing that no one will stop and talk to him. And Doyle knows his area of Dublin, so we get a very detailed walkabout as the man traipses around Coolock in Dublin (by the Cadbury’s and the Classic Furniture). (more…)

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