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Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MÅNESKIN-“Zitti E Buoni” (WINNER Italy, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us. It’s hard to follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online.

I enjoy seeing Eurovision entries for the novelty or for seeing the amusing bands that are popular elsewhere.  I never expect to genuinely like a song (although there’s several I liked this year).  I also never expect a song that rocks as hard as this one did.  And certainly never expected it to win.

Måneskin means Moonshine in Danish and was inspired by bassist Victoria De Angelis’ half Danish heritage.  The rest of the band are vocalist Damiano David, guitarist Thomas Raggi, and drummer Ethan Torchio.  “Zitti E Buoni” roughly translates to Shut Up And Behave

There’s very little new about this song (or the band).  They’re a partying, sleazy rock band.  But their music pushes a lot of my buttons.

Distorted guitar playing a simple riff? Yup.  (The riff sounds really familiar…).  Rumbling bass?  Check.  (And a cool bass guitar as well). Quiet verse into loud chorus?  Check. (The additional high note at the end of the chorus lines earns a small bonus point).  And even more bonus points for singing in Italian.

After the chorus he sings really fast in what could be a rap, but probably isn’t.  After two minutes there’s a little bass solo which is a nice touch,.

They end with a slightly new riff and a little soloing which gives the song a cool twist for the end.

I’ve listened to this a number of times since the victory was announced and still dig it.  Am I actually in touch with Eurovision?

UPDATE: How do you say winner in Italian?  Måneskin.

[READ: May 10, 2021] “Relationship Quiz”

This is the first piece I’m aware of that has both Amy and David writing together.  I wish it were funnier–but, you know, it’s a Shouts & Murmurs.

It’s a 9 question relationship quiz.  What does make me laugh is that after half of the questions, the (d) answer provides the basis of the next question.

It starts off with you being interested in a business acquaintance.  What do you do?  Introduce yourself over a thermos of ice-cold daiquiris?

What do you do next? Meet for drinks at the local airport bar.

Note: If you chose these options you might have a drinking problem. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEMI LOVATO-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #191 (April 14, 2021). 

I’ve never given much thought to Demi Lovato.  All I knew about her was that she also sang a version of “Let It Go” on the Frozen soundtrack and that I liked her version a LOT LESS than the one by Idina Menzel.

But aside from that I didn’t even know if she was all that popular.

Recorded on a sunny spring day in her Los Angeles backyard, Lovato begins with a moving rendition of “Tell Me You Love Me” from her 2017 record of the same name, accompanied by subtle, sparse keys.

Given how over the top “Let It Go” is, I did expect a lot more over-the-topness here.  But it is quite subtle.  Well, musically it’s subtle.  Steven “Styles” Rodriguez plays quiet keys throughout the set.  But Lovato is anything but subtle.

She continues her set with the title tracks from her recently-released studio album, Dancing With The Devil…The Art Of Starting Over. On both tracks, Lovato’s voice feels stabilizing and grounding; there’s a sense of clarity and purpose in its power.

The blurb suggests she’s gone through some rough times, but I don’t know about them.  I do know that she has managed to feed a squirrel from her hand, so that’s something.

Through it all, her voice is something to behold.  Wow, can she ever she hits some really amazing notes–long and lasting and powerful.  I like the deep keys that “Styles” adds to the chorus of “Dancing With The Devil,” it adds some nice drama.

[READ: May 3, 2021] A Wiser Girl

Different things can attract a person to a book.  In this case, it was the author’s name.  I’m not sure why the name Moya Roddy appealed to me, but it did.  I’d never heard of her and this short book seemed like an interesting way to get to know her work.

This is the story of Jo (Josephine) Nowd, a Dublin girl who had to escape Dublin and flee to Italy in 1975.  The reason that she fled Ireland is twofold, although the primary reason is to escape her ex, a man named Eamonn.  The other is because she wants to be an artist and feels that an artistic life is more likely in the land of art than in Dublin.

Jo is a mostly engaging narrator.  She has a pretty strong personality.  Part of it is directed inward–she has some insecurities brought on by growing up as a poor Irish Catholic girl.  But she is also very opinionated, especially about art.  For her art is all about the supernatural–primarily the divine–but mostly she doesn’t like art that represents reality, she wants art to transcend reality.

She also has a (justifiable) hatred of the rich.  She feels that the poor get the shaft while the rich (especially the English rich) are oblivious to all that they have and all they step on while they get it.

And yet, for all of her insecurities, it’s pretty daring to up and leave your country to move to a place where you do not speak the language and have hardly any money. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHICANO BATMAN-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #46 (July 7, 2020).

I first became aware of Chicano Batman (what a great name) a couple years ago either from WXPN or from a Tiny Desk.  I didn’t know they’ve been around for ten years.

They have an interesting mellow psychedelic sound that seems to center around Bardo Martinez’ soft croon.

they’ve crafted their musical identity with layers of sound, from vintage organs to the most nuanced of funk grooves.

Although I feel like their music is pretty recognizable, the blurb says that their new album Invisible People

is a major shift in their group sound. As you hear in songs like “Polymetronomic Harmony,” their sound is now much denser, with full-on references to a variety of influences, including the 1973, Herbie Hancock funk-jazz classic Head Hunters, which makes a walk-on appearance in the stack of vinyl just behind guitarist Carlos Arévalo.

“I know It” starts the song in perfect style with Bardo playing guitar and singing along to the melody he’s playing.  There’s a funky bass line from Eduardo Arenas and the soft echoing guitar chords from Carlos Arévalo.  The time changes at the end of the verses are a nice touch.

Bardo introduces the band and then for “Moment of Joy” Bardo switches from the guitar to a great retro-sounding keyboard.  Carlos plays a slow echoing guitar as the band lays a groove around them.

“Color my life” opens with great sliding then high note bass from Eduardo with scratchy wah wah from Carlos and clicky drums from Gabriel Villa.  Carlos plays some unexpectedly wild buzzy guitar solos throughout and then ends the song with another sound change for the guitar before the song abruptly ends.

“Polymetronomic Harmony” opens with a pretty guitar intro and thumping bass.  The song just feels like it’s building to something and after a fake out with soft keys after the first verse, the song takes off with roaring guitars and the propulsive rhythm section.

This is a really fun set and I’ll bet they are great live.  They were scheduled to play in Philly during the quarantine.  I’m definitely going to have to check them out next year.

[READ: July 11, 2020] “The Birthday Present”

I wanted to like this story more than I did.  It had an intriguing premise but it seemed to get lost in the musings of the main character.  Some of what she thought about was interesting, but I think it could have been much shorter.

Ariel has been married to Roberto for many years.  She is younger than he is (she is his second wife). Things have gotten steady and calm in their marriage.

She has classic American beauty–she is tall and solid–which is something of a novelty in Italy.  Roberto’s friend Flavio had often pursued Ariel but had recently given up.  He now liked to give her a hard time instead.  She had been talking to Flavio and he suggested that she get Roberto a prostitute for his fifty-fifth birthday.  He wanted to see how she would react (she was believed to be an American prude), so she told him she thought it was a great idea.  And she called the woman he had jokingly suggested.

Ariel believed wholly in fidelity.  But she she was Roberto’s second wife.  He had a few indiscretions during their marriage.  But she felt this would be an interesting gift.

She would make a date with Roberto for dinner.  But she would arrange for two prostitutes to show up and dine with him.  And then they would all go back to Flavio’s apartment to do whatever they wanted.

On his birthday, their children greeted him as is tradition–waking him up early and jumping on him.  Ariel gave him a package that he was not supposed to open until dinner–it contained money and silk underwear.  The underwear was to go to the woman he liked better.

Then she had the whole day to herself.  She never once had misgivings about her plan.

She drives around, checking out the prostitutes who line Italy’s streets–she felt badly about them being there when she first arrived in the country.  But she has gotten used to them.  There were one or two that she slowed down in front of to really look at–they were very pretty.  She wondered about the women who were with her husband.

He called her at 8:15 to say his surprise had arrived, They weren’t dressed for a fancy restaurant and he did not look forward to eating with them.  But he thanked her for the present.

She spent he rest of the evening in her own head and then was pleased at how clean he smelled when he arrived home that night.

I’m not sure what I expected from this story but it was too meandering.

 

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SOUNDTRACK: JON BATISTE-Tiny Desk Concert #972 (May 4, 2020).

This Tiny Desk Concert was originally (sort of) posted on January 6, 2020 with this disclaimer

Jon Batiste’s Tiny Desk Concert was published prematurely. The new publication date is March 2020.

I don’t know if there was actually a video posted on Jan 6, but I’m curious if people got to see an unfinished version.

Regardless, here it is May (not March) and the Jon Batiste Concert is up. I now know Jon Batiste as the band leader on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, but I knew of him before that from an NPR recording with Stay Human back in 2014.

Batiste is a multi-talented musician, playing keys, and guitars.  He’s also a charming front man.  But he really lets his backing band shine here.

The New Orleans musician came to the Tiny Desk not with his late-night house band, but with an all-new cast. His all-female collaborators — Endea Owens on acoustic bass, Negah Santos on percussion, Sarah Thawer on drums, and Celisse Henderson on guitar and vocals — were an inspiration.

Batiste took us through some of the many sides of his rich musical history,

The soulful ballad titled “Cry” which features Batiste playing the Wurlitzer organ.  This is probably my favorite song of the set–I love the sound he gets.  He is a really impressive keyboard player, handling the cool Wurlitzer solo with ease.  The surprise for me came when Celisse Henderson played a great soulful guitar solo.  I just assumed he’d be doing all of the soloing, but everyone in the band had a moment to shine.

Before the song ended properly, Endea Owens started the next song with a great upright bass riff for the start of the jazz and hip-hop inspired “Coltrane.”  Batiste does an opening rap before the song slows down for the chorus where batiste jumps to the piano and the backing band sings along.

As is often the case when musicians perform in Washington (and especially blocks from the Capitol) the banter hinted at the political. Jon Batiste stopped to tell the NPR crowd, “we’re playing some music, and we’re coping. The times are in an interesting place, but music is always that universal language that can bring people in a room together.”

Then he says, “it’s the first time we’re ever playing these songs, and it’s the first time we’re playing together.”

Then Batitste picks up a square guitar to start the rocking Motown-inspired tune “Tell The Truth,” which he says is self explanatory.  Even though Batiste is on the guitar, Henderson gets the ripping solo again.    The middle of the song has a drum solo from Sarah Thawer but the real star is Negah Santos on percussion as her bongos really stand out.  Then Batiste takes out the melodica (like he uses on Colbert) and gets a terrific sound for a quick solo.

He ends the show with a bit of church.  He says “When times get weird we forget about the simple things, so I like to write a basic song to remind us of that.  That song is “I Need You.”  It opens with an amazing piano solo.  Batiste so casually plays all up and down the keys, it’s really impressive.  As is the solo he plays mid song.

[READ: May 1, 2020] “Padua, 1966”

Despite the title the story is actually set around Newark in contemporary times.  The 1966 part comes in a story told later.

I really enjoyed the way this story seemed to self-correct.

Miranda was tall and as dark-haired as they come.  I say was and not is and that is inaccurate because she is still around and I really am not.

Miranda was married to Luke, A WASP.  They had a daughter named Caroline, “a name I’ve never understood.”

How’s this for a line:

They fell out of love because they never were in love.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAZMINE SULLIVAN-“Stupid Girls” (Field Recordings, August 12, 2014).

NPR and Jazmine Sullivan were in New Orleans’for the Essence Music Festival.

I’m intrigued that this Field Recording [Jazmine Sullivan Fades A New Orleans Barber Shop] is the second one set in a barbershop (technically, this is the first one as I have been watching them in backwards order).

This barbershop, Claer-Vue, is just a few blocks from the Superdome, just off Canal Street. It has been in business since 1948.  It is a men’s barbership and I know that a barbershop is part of the culture but nearly every man waiting to get their hair cut has really short hair already–like closely buzzed.  Are they hanging out or do they get it cut daily?

I had never heard of Jazmine, but she was apparently known to at least some of the patrons

When she walked in, patrons and barbers alike were wary. But they knew who she was, from hit songs like “Bust Your Windows” and “Holding You Down (Goin’ in Circles).” And when she began to sing, wearing her powerhouse instrument lightly, everyone ceded her a floor that had been previously occupied by a heated debate about college football.

With just an acoustic guitar accompanying her, she sings her beautiful song.  Her voice is clear and pretty and devoid of all the trills and filigree of pop singers.

To a roomful of captivated men, she sang a brand new song, “Stupid Girls,” that warns women to be careful with their hearts.

You can see most of the men nodding along. Most are deferential, with side-eyed glances.   There’s polite applause at the end, but Jazmine is pretty pleased with herself–as she should be.

[READ: September 14, 2018] “Cecilia Awakened”

Tessa Hadley continues to make wonderful stories where nothing seems to happen, but there is a lot going on internally.

Like the way this one starts:

Cecilia awakened from her childhood while she was on holiday in Italy, the summer she turned fifteen.  It was not a sexual awakening, or not exactly–rather, an intellectual or imaginative one.

Cecilia is described as an odd child, but one who fit in perfectly with the oddity of her parents.  Her father worked at a university library and her mother, Angela, wrote historical novels.  Most of all they both loved the past.  When they had Cecilia–late in their lives–they did not feel any need to conform to society any more than they already did.  (more…)

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