Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-tears e.p. (2019).

Boris tends toward being a very heavy band.  Their two recently albums D.E.A.R. and NO are some intense heavy metal.  They also do a lot of noise and heavy drone.  But they are not afraid of melody.  And they are not at all afraid to make pretty, dancey music.

There are five songs.  The first song “どうしてもあなたをゆるせない (doushitemoanataoyurusenai)” is on the disc twice.  The first version of this song is a remix by Narasaki under his name “Sadesper.”  It opens with a grooving bass line and some pretty guitars.  The drums are metronomic and there’s a sprinkling of keys.  I’m not sure who sings, but there’s a lot of falsetto. I love how just before the chorus there’s some orchestra hits.  It’s pretty much a full on dance song and it suits them perfectly.  You’d never guess it was Boris, but it makes sense once you realize it.  It even ends with a nifty guitar solo that sadly fades out.

“u fu fu” opens with a fast simple guitar chugging riff.  After a good ol’ “Whoo!” from Atsuo, the song pulses forward on the insistent grunted  “ooh ah” that works as a foundation to the song.  There’s a lots of great backing vocals in each ear. With about a minute to go, the bass takes over with a fast, heavy rumble before the harmonizing vocals kick in.

Up next is a fantastic cover of a Coaltar of the Deepers song “To the Beach.”  I didn’t know Coaltar of the Deepers before this release, but I have listened to them a bunch since and they are a terrific Japanese band unknown in the States.  I’m not sure how much this differs from the original , but this version is fantastic–slow and moody with lots of build and release.  The song starts with a pretty guitar melody and then a series of crashing chords and cymbals while Wata’s guitar soars.  The verses are slow with a whispered vocal.  But the choruses resume the crashing chords to punctuate things perfectly.  In the middle of the song as the vocals overlap and blend, it sounds magnificent.

“Peaches” comes next, it’s a 2 minute song sung by Wata.  A pulsing bass line propels the song forward as Wata chants the the word “peaches” over and over with an occasional “la la la” fleshes things out.  A repeating piano is added for a bit and then a shift to a kind o funky bass line that leads to the end of the songs.  It’s only two minutes long and kind of goofy but I wish it was longer.

The disc ends with an instrumental version of “どうしてもあなたをゆるせない.”  The song is so catchy and wonderful that hearing it a second time in the EP is a great thing.  It’s one of the few instrumentals that I think might sound better than the original because you can really hear what the musicians are doing–and its some great stuff.

[READ: October 29, 2020] The Ten Loves of Nishino

I have a stack of books waist high next to my desk which I intend to read.  And yet, I continue to find new (to me) books that I jump in and read first.  This book was recommended by the most recent Tiny Desk Contest winner Linda Diaz.  Why on earth would I read a book recommended by a person I’d never heard of before?  She said it was her favorite book ever (which seems weird since it only came out in English last year, but whatever).  It was also pretty short.  So I decided to check it out.

I have enjoyed many of the Japanese writers that I’ve read, so I was intrigued to read a contemporary female author (this book was translated by Allison Markin Powell).

So this book is written in ten chapters–each one written by a lover of Nishino, an enigmatic figure whom we only learn about from the women writing about him.

There is something strangely seductive about Nishino that these women find hard to resist.  He is aloof and puzzling, but that seems to make women want him even more.  But he is perpetually with women (more than these ten, it would appear). (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: TOKYO JIHEN [東京事変]-“The Scarlet Alibi” (永遠の不在証明 Eien no Fuzai Shoumei) (2020).

220px-Tokyo-Jihen-News-EP-cover-artRingo Sheena formed Tokyo Jihen (which means Tokyo Incidents) in 2003.  They put out five albums and disbanded them in 2012.

Then she surprised everyone by reforming the band in 2020 (with the same people who played with her in 2012).  They have released a new EP, News.

永遠の不在証明 which translates more or less as “Eternal Alibi” is the final song on the EP and the only one that Ringo Sheena wrote the music for.

It starts like a kind of James Bond theme (and it is indeed a theme for Detective Conan: The Scarlet Bullet).  It’s got a noir piano, but the bass is really fat and fuzzy.

The chorus gets big while the piano stays prominent and the bass does some really fancy fretwork.  Then in th emiddle of the song there’s an instrumental break.

Seiji Kameda (亀田 誠治Kameda Seiji) gets a wicked bass solo followed by a ripping guitar solo from Ukigumo (浮雲The Drifting Cloud) and a soaring keyboard solo from Ichiyō Izawa (伊澤 一葉Izawa Ichiyō).  Everyone gets a moment to shine except drummer Toshiki Hata (刄田 綴色Hata Toshiki)–but his playing throughout is stellar.

The song halts at 3 and half minutes, but there’s a jazzy jamming coda (lots of piano and guitar solos) that runs for about a minute as the song concludes.

Although I just discovered the band this week, it’s nice to have them back.

[READ: July 1, 2020] Fuku Fuku 2

This is Konami Kanata’s second and final collection of FukuFuku stories.  After all of the Chi stories, it was probably for the best to limit FukuFuku to just two volumes.

It allows the story to go out on a high note.

The framing device of the series is an older woman looking at pictures of her cat FukuFuku when she was a kitten.   I was pleased that this book ends the framing device with FukuFuku as an older cat–the flashback is complete.

This volume is less about FukuFuku exploring new things and more about her owner’s expectations of her. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: RINGO SHEENA [椎名 林檎]-Shōso Strip [勝訴ストリップ] (or Shouso Strip or Winning Strip) (2000) 

Yumiko Shiina (椎名 裕美子Shiina Yumiko, is known by her stage name Ringo Sheena (椎名 林檎Shiina Ringo). She later fronted the band Tokyo Jihan.

I’m not exactly sure how I discovered this album.  I think I had been reading about psychedelic Japanese bands and this album came up as a must-listen.

I found a copy on eBay (it’s also streaming) and, wow–it’s my favorite album in a long time.  Ringo Sheena flirts with just about every genre of music throughout her career.  Often times, including several genres in one song.  But throughout this album, it’s her singing and songwriting that really stand out.

Plus, I absolutely love the sound that she gets from her bassist.  I have included all of the credits from the album below because my copy of the album is entirely in Japanese. The “official” Wikipedia entry is first, but the Google Translated version is second.  I’m not sure what is going on with the Google Translated version, but for most of the songs the bass is described as “Bombshell base” which is totally accurate.  Interestingly, sometimes the guitar is described as “Oxygen deficient guitar” which I think just means electric, but I love that description.

So the overall feel of this album is grungy.  There’s a lot of distortion among the guitars and the drums.  None of the songs would be described as metal, but there are definitely some heavier rocking elements.  But there is an underpining of J-Pop throughout.  Both in her catchy choruses and the way her voice soars as she sings.

The disc opens with “I Am a Liar” (虚言症 Kyogen-shō) 5:26 [“False” from Google Translate].  A funky slap bass and some flutes introduce this song that has a great mix of alt rock and J-Pop.  Sheena Ringo has a great voice that can sing low but also soars nicely when needed. The chorus of this is instantly catchy with a great melody disco flourishes and her fantastic vocals.

“Bathroom” (浴室 Yokushitsu) 4:15 [bathroom] is a wild song (and one that she has apparently performed in very different styles over the years).  A ripping funky bass and synth lead to a great pulsing ear worm of a melody.  The chorus is warm and inviting and fantastic.  “Excuse Debussy” (弁解ドビュッシー Benkai Dobyusshii) 3:16 [Excuse Debussy] is another propulsive rocker with a great fat bass sound.

Things slow down for “Gips” (ギブス Gibusu)  (which apparently means “orthopedic cast”) 5:38 [Gibbs] but it has a huge soaring chorus that is partially in in English “don’t you think I wanna be with you….”  It’s about the catchiest peppiest thing and it is awesome.  The songs is quite long–over five minutes–and the last few minutes feature a great guitar line that repeats and repeats until it breaks apart with chaotic confusion.

Things slow down even further for the gorgeous strig opening of “A Driving Rain in Darkness” (闇に降る雨 Yami ni Furu Ame) 5:03 [Rain in the Darkness].  Interesting electronic sounds and some electronic percussion mask the beauty of the stirrings and then after 45 second the strings turn pizzicato and pop song structure stars with a loping bass that plays some funky high parts.  It’s a pretty song that segues nicely to the scorcher that is “Identity” (アイデンティティ Aidentiti) 3:05 [Identity].  It opens with a ripping guitar and Sheena screaming like the best of them.  This song hits pretty standard metal sounds and is a total rocking freak out with her singing syllables as the guitars and drums just go bananas.  Her band is really fantastic.

“Crime and Punishment” (罪と罰 Tsumi to Batsu) 5:32 [Crime and Punishment] plays like a torch song ballad, but it’s accompanied by a heavy guitar and a big fat bass that keeps it in the alt-rock arena.  The juxtaposition is great.  There’s a lengthy jamming coda as well.

“Stoicism” (ストイシズム Sutoishizumu) 1:46 [Stoicism] is a short interlude.  Her voice is manipulated while she’s singing a simple melody as bouncy synths underscore the whole thing.  It flows into “A Broken Man and Moonlight” (月に負け犬 Tsuki ni Makeinu[3]) 4:14 [Lose dog on the moon] which sounds like a grunge version of “Closing Time” until the loud distorted bass crashes in and upends everything. The end totally rocks out.

“Tidbits” (サカナ Sakana[4]) 3:43 [Fish] opens with a harpsichord and the makings of a bubblegum pop song.  But as the verses come in it feels kind of noirish with horns and a great catchy chorus.  The end of the song features that noir bass and a piano.

“Sickbed Public” (病床パブリック Byōshō Public) 3:16 [Patient Public] has super distorted drums and a heavy bass rumbling underneath her whispered vocals until it switches to a bright J-Pop chorus.  “Instinct” (本能 Honnō) 4:14 [Instinct] has a menacing opening of sound effects and turntables that meld into a super catchy poppy melody with wild bass.  The verses slow to a slinky sound, but that chorus is undeniable–especially when the whole song shifts up a note midway through.

The disc ends with fun watery sounds that bloop and blip for the opening of  “I Am an Addict” (依存症 Izon-shō) 6:23 [Dependence].   The song begins with a delicate synth but there’s a fun fun soaring chorus (of course) that you can’t stop humming.  The song and disc end with ends with three minutes of everyone jamming at the end of a show when the star has left the stage and the band is just going to keep playing until they can’t anymore.

I haven’t really looked into much more by her–although I did enjoy the one Tokyo Jihen song I heard.  This album is so good I’m afraid to explore anything else for the time being.  So I’ll just enjoy this one.

[READ: July 1, 2020] Fuku Fuku 1

Konami Kanata wrote the wonderful manga Chi’s Sweet Home about a family who adopts a cat.  It’s wonderful and is apparently one of many manga about cats.  Even though it’s sweet and adorable there are occasionally weird thing that make it seem more adult than it seems to be (the word pissing is in one of them, which seems a little odd for a cute book).

The framing device of the book is an older woman looking at pictures of her cat FukuFuku when she was a kitten.   FukuFuku wants to see them too, which means lying on them, of course.

And so there are 24 short pieces about kitten FukuFuku’s introduction to living with this woman.  I understand that the book is translated, so I don’t know if the cat sounds are translated as well, but I love that when she tries to pick up the kitten for the first time, it says “Mii?”  And when she grabs for it it says “Mya”

The translator also has a lot of fun with the kittens’ action words: Skoot, Bound, Dash, etc. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS-Live at Massey Hall (October 1, 2017).

I’ve been a fan of the The New Pornographers for years.  Their first single, “Letter from an Occupant” was one of my favorite songs of 2000.  For nearly twenty years, they’ve been releasing super catchy fun poppy alt rock.

I was really excited to see them last week.  And then almost equally excited to see that they had a show on Live at Massey Hall.

This show did not have Neko Case singing and while she is not the crux of the band, I’m glad she was at my show, because her voice is great and having three women singing was more fun than having just two.

Before the set, singer and songwriter AC Newman says, “I’m nervous because I realize this is what I do … people paid to come see you.”  His niece, keyboardist Kathryn Calder is with him.  She says she loves having the momentum of 7 people on stage.  It’s a very in the moment feeling shared by all of them.

The show starts with an older song “The Jenny Numbers.”  There’s a wild ripping guitar solo from Todd Fancey in the middle of this otherwise poppy song.  Calder and violinist Simi Stone sound great with their backing vocals–so full and complete.  And excellent compliment to the songs.

Up next is “Whiteout Conditions” which starts with a ripping violin melody from Stone.  I happen to know their newer songs a lot better than their middle period songs and I really like this song a lot.

The full setlist for this show is available online.  They played 22 songs at he show, so it’s a shame to truncate it to 35 minutes.  How did they decide what to cut?  They cut “Dancehall Domine.”

Up next is one of the great songs from the Together album, “Moves.”  The opening riff and persistent use of violin is perfect.

Between songs, Newman says to the audience, “you’ve got to promise not to sit down because it’ll be like a dagger in my heart.”

In the interview clip he says he always love the compartmentalized songs of Pixies.  They influenced the way he wrote music.  So did The Beach Boys for harmonies.  He says it’s hard to know what seeps through, but there’s a ton of it.  Sometimes I’ll hear an old song I used to love and realize I totally stole a part from that song and I didn’t know it.

The show skips “Colosseums” and moves on to “The Laws Have Changed.”  I loved seeing this live because of the amazing high notes that AC Newman hits in the end of the song.  This is also a chance for Kathryn to shine a bit.  “High Ticket Attractions” comes next in the show and here.  It’s such an insanely catchy song.  From the call and response vocals to the overall melody.  It’s one of my favorites of theirs.

The show skips three songs, “Champions of Red Wine,” “Adventures in Solitude,” and “All the Old Showstoppers.”  So up next is “This is the World of the Theater.”  I’m glad they chose this because Kathryn Calder sings lead vocals and she sounds fantastic.  The middle section of the song also includes some hocketing where Newman, Calder, Stone and maybe some others sing individual notes alternately to create a lovely melody.

I noticed that drummer Joe Seiders sings quite a bit as well.  And a shout out to bassist John Collins because he gets some great sounds out of that instrument.

Newman tells the audience that Massey Hall is an intimidating venue, but one you get here it feel welcoming and warm.  The crowd applauds and he says, “soooo, I’m not sweating it.”

Up next comes the poppy and wonderful “Sing Me Spanish Techno.”  It has a constant simple harmonica part played by Blaine Thurier who also plays keyboards.   It’s such a wonderfully fun song.

They skip pretty much the rest of the show to play the big encore song, “Brill Bruisers.”  [Skipped: “Backstairs,” “Play Money,” “Testament to Youth in Verse,” “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk,” “Avalanche Alley,” “Use It,” “Mass Romantic” )that’s a surprise!) and “The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism”].

“Brill Bruisers” is from the then-new album.  The first time I heard it I was blown away.  Those “boh bah boh bah bah bohs” in the beginning are so arresting.  The harmonies that run through the song are sensational and the “ooh” part in the verses just knocks me out.  Its a great great song.

“The Bleeding Heart Show” closed the show and it is played over the closing credits.

This is a terrific example of how good this band is live, but nothing compares to actually seeing them.

[READ: August 1, 2019] Bit Rot

A few years ago I had caught up with Douglas Coupland’s publications.  I guess it’s no surprise to see that he has published more since then.  But I am always surprised when I don’t hear about a book at all.  I just happened to stumble upon this collection of essays.

Coupland’s general outlook hasn’t changed much over the years.  He is still fascinated by “the future,” but he looks at technology and future ideas in a somewhat different way.  He tends to mourn the loss of some things while often embracing what has replaced it.

As my son is now a teenager, I wondered what his take on some of these essays would be–if he would think that Coupland is an old fuddy duddy, or if he was right on.  Or, more likely, that he had never looked at some of these ideas that way at all.  Coupland is quite cognizant that young people are growing up in a very different world than ours.  And that they don’t have any problem with that.  They don’t “miss cursive” because it never meant anything to them in the first place.  They can’t imagine not having Google and hence all of the world’s information at their fingertips.  Of course they assume that technology will continue to get smaller and faster. We older folks may not be prepared for that (or maybe we are), but that’s what younger people expect and can’t wait for

This was a very long, rather thick book that was just full of interesting, funny, thoughtful essays and short stories. I really enjoyed it from start to finish, even if I’d read some of the pieces before. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: Y LA BAMBA-Tiny Desk Concert #893 (September 20, 2019).

It used to be that no one was invited back to play a Tiny Desk Concert.  The rules have been relaxed somewhat as of late (I would have thought that maybe they’d wait until 1000 shows).

The blurb explains why they (she) was invited back though.

Luz Elena Mendoza has such a far-reaching creative spirit that it’s almost impossible to confine her to a single musical identity. Which is why she’s one of just a handful of artists who’ve been invited back to the Tiny Desk to offer a revised musical vision.

Y La Bamba was on back in 2011 and they played a more acoustic style of music–accordion, percussion, guitar and lot of singers.  For this show, lead Bamba, Luz Elena Mendoza looks quite different.  In 2011, her hair was black and long, here it is silver and short–the neck tattoo is the same, though.

When she was here last with the band Y La Bamba, it was a vocal-heavy, folk outfit. The band’s sound has always been about vocals and her music has become even more so over the years.

Back in May, Y La Bamba played Non-Comm and Mendoza was pretty confrontational.  She is less so here, allowing the music to speak for her.

And the music is quite different.  It’s almost all in Spanish this time.  There’s a second guitarist (Ryan Oxford), a bass (Zachary Teran), and a drummer (Miguel Jimenez-Cruz).  She also has two backing singers, Julia Mendiolea who also plays keyboard and Isabeau Waia’u Walker.

I knew that Y La Bamba was the project of Mendoza, but i didn’t realize she did everything herself:

Y La Bamba’s albums are meticulously crafted sonic treats with her vocals layered like a choir made with a single voice. But in our offices, she called on vocalist Isabeau Waia’u Walker to replicate their distinct sound.

There’s a great variety of styles in this Tiny Desk.

“Paloma Negra” (“Black Pigeon”) [also played at Non-Comm] benefits from the voices of the entire band in a high-energy mediation on rhythm and voice.

It’s got a groovy, funky bassline and some cool echoing guitars.  There’s a tension in the verses that is totally relieved in the super catchy chorus.

This song segues into “Rios Sueltos” which is a kind of rap–but sung.  It’s bouncy and catchy but I sense is probably not a happy song, despite the catchy “hey ey ey heys” in the middle.

The song ends with a rumbling from Mendoza’s guitar as she starts up “Bruja de Brujas” [also played at Non-Comm].

There is a bruja energy and spirit to their performance, and not in the negative connotation that is the Spanish word for “witch.” In Luz Elena Mendoza’s hands a brujeria spirit is all about conjuring the kind of magic that took place on this video.

The song opens with a cool bass line and a somewhat menacing feel.  It starts quietly, but when all three vocalists sing together it’s really lovely.

At the end of the song she sinks to the ground to play with her effects as the song fades out with trippy sounds.   She jokes, “And aliens came down.:

Then she realizes, “we forgot to do one more.  Sorry the aliens did come down… and took my brain.”

The final song is the fantastic “Cuatro Crazy” [also played at Non-Comm].  It is sweet and pretty and has echoing guitars and a vocal style not unlike a Cocteau Twins song.  It even ends with a lot of “dah dah dah dahs.”

I really enjoy their music quite a lot and should really look into their stuff more.

[READ: October 6, 2019] “Abandoning a Cat”

This essay is, indeed, about abandoning a cat.  The cat story has a happy ending (although another one might not).  But mostly the essay is about how mundane events trigger memories of our parents.

He says that when he was little, his family had an older cat and they needed to get rid of it.  “Getting rid of cats back then was a common occurrence, not something that anyone would criticize you for.  The idea of neutering cats never crossed anyone’s mind.”

His father took the bike and he sat on the back with the cat in a box.  They rode to the beach about 2 km from their house, put the box down, and headed back.

When they returned home, they opened the door and there was the cat “greeting us with a friendly meow, its tail standing tall.”  His father’s expression of blank amazement “changed to one of admiration and, finally, to an expression of relief.  And the cat went back to being out pet.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: September 13, 2019] Babymetal

I first heard of BABYMETAL back in 2014 when they were a massive WTF in the music scene.

Here was a band that played heavy heavy music but the singers were teenage Japanese girls who were totally kawaii and who sang in a distinctly pop style.  The 17-year-old metal purist in me would have been infuriated by this abomination to metal.

But my adult self things this is an amazing amalgam of style and one that is designed to shake people out of their comfortable bubbles.   Even if you balk at the singing style (and the dancing), the music is really really heavy.  Like, impressively heavy.

But the juxtaposition doesn’t end there.  Between the heavy music comes occasional moments of synthy pop goodness.  It made my brain explode the first time I watched the video for “Gimme Chocolate.”  By the time I watched it a second time I was hooked and was determined to see them live.

Back in 2016, I somehow missed that they were playing the Electric Factory.  I was seeing Mastodon there two nights before their show but when I asked if there were any tickets left, they had sold out ages ago.  Boo!  [Looking at that setlist I see they played seven different songs last time!]

So, three and a half years later they finally came back into town and I bought a ticket right away.  Actually, I was supposed to be away for the weekend so I bought a ticket for Sunday in New York City.  This would have been so much work because I would have just come back from a camping trip, I would have had to drive into NYC to a place I’ve never been and it was a Sunday night.  So I was glad the trip was cancelled and I could go on Friday night after all!

I arrived and ran past the merch hoping to get a decent spot, but it was pretty packed.  I managed to get behind some short people and all was well for the opening band.  Then, when Avatar left, somehow 200 people pushed their way in front of all of us who felt like we were packed in pretty tight already.  I didn’t step back at all but somehow twice as many people were in front of me.  Woah. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: September 7, 2019] Boris

It was almost exactly two years ago that I first saw Boris.  They had come out with a new record and were actually thinking of calling it quits.  But they were inspired to do a tour, which I was sure was their last one, and it was spectacular.

Yet in the last two years they have signed to Third Man Records and have done a live session there.  They are just about to release a two album set called Love Evol (technically Lφve Evφl) and reissue Feedbacker and Akuma No Uta.  So when they announced that they were coming back–and coming to Jersey City–there was no way I could pass it up, even if it meant three concerts in three days.

Especially since the last time they played pretty much the whole new album, which was great, but I wanted to hear some older stuff too.

After the previous two nights of cutting it very close to the start of the show, I knew I wanted to get their early, in part because I had some merch to buy.  I’ve gotten very frugal about buying merch and I often don’t buy anything.  But Boris is a band that’s hard to find stuff here.  And even though Third Man was reissuing records which would mean they are much easier to get, I wasn’t taking any chances . So I arrived plenty early, bought some vinyl (and now greatly regret not buying the Tears EP, which I somehow didn’t know about and now see that it is impossible to get anywhere else). (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: IDLES-Tiny Desk Concert #858 (June 28, 2019).

I had heard of Idles from All Songs Considered.  On the podcast, Bob Boilen raved about seeing them live.  Like this:

My first time seeing IDLES ended with guitarist Mark “Bobo” Bowen frenetically dancing on a bar, his guitar still keeping time, until the swinging neck suddenly shattered some low-hanging, glass lighting fixtures. The band’s set at South by Southwest was fierce and I knew it’d be a challenge trying to figure out how to bring that cathartic rage behind my desk. There was talk for a while of some members of the band strapping on pocket-sized guitar amps and beating on a single drum. But a week before this bunch of British madmen arrived at NPR, the instrument list had grown and what ensued was just about the loudest, most fun and most raucous Tiny Desk Concert in memory.

This is all true, for sure.  But this Tiny Desk, as amazing as it is, doesn’t come close to showing how incredible their live show is.   Idles live is a truly unforgettable experience.

However, seeing all of that energy and fun contained in a small place is awesome and this is one of my favorite Tiny Concerts as well.

The first song “Never Fight A Man With A Perm” opens with a siren sound from keyboardist Jeremy Snyder and the main constant of Idles’ music–steady bass from Adam Devonshire.  Add in the thumping drums from Jon Beavis and you have the ground work for Joe Talbot to start his singing/yelling.

The band also has two guitarists.  Mark “Bobo” Bowen thumps on the floor tom while Lee Kiernan jumps around, slashing at chords.

The title sounds funny and it is, but the song is a serious indictment of male aggression.

What lead singer Joe Talbot and his mates bring to their shows is a mix of love and outrage. Their songs are often bursts of fury, but the message is insightful and not intended to incite. Joe Talbot says their opening Tiny Desk song, “Never Fight A Man With A Perm,” from their album Joy as an Act of Resistance, is an “exploration of the horrid corners of my past.”

The chorus of “concrete and leather” thumps around before the song returns to the verses, with some cockney slang:

Brylcreem
Creatine
And a bag of Charlie Sheen

A heathen from Eton
On a bag of Michael Keaton

Bobo is a ton of fun to watch–shirtless, wearing American flag spandex pants, he climbs on everything: amps, desks, and other unseen things.

“Mercedes Marxist” starts with a thumping single bass note which will remain unchanged for two and a half minutes.  Snyder takes over on the floor tom while Bobo and Lee trade off guitar sections.

The song is almost entirely that one bass note (with all kinds of guitar melodies and riffs swirling around it).  Until a big chorus comes near the end.  Through it all,  Talbot is directing the fun with his scary vocals.

It only took a few seconds for Joe’s face to turn blood-red; as he growled, it stayed that way for the next 13-minutes, even as he curtseyed at the end of the first song and bounced his way into the second.

The one thing that this Tiny Desk misses is Talbot’s love and generosity.

Despite his tone and the roughness of the music, his kindness and consideration is paramount to the band.  Hearing him wish nothing but love on everyone is a pretty wonderful feeling especially after he sings “dirty rotten filthy scum.”

“We are not the Jonas Brothers,” Joe Talbot explained before their final tune. “People get confused.” He said this with his charming smile and began to run in place while singing “I’m Scum,” just to make it clear who they are.

Before the songs, he asks, what song are we doing?  Someone says “Scum.”  He smiles, “I like this song.”  Before it even starts he begins running in place, knees high as he chants “hey! hey!”  The energy of this band is incredible and certainly hard to contain.

 watching the hyperactive movements in this confined space, it’s actually hard to believe that so few things broke.

Mid song Bobo leaves the desk area to grab someone on the crowd.  He gives her percussion instruments to bang. Then Bobo grabs somebody else and he takes over percussion as well.    Then Bono crawls around on his knees, climbs on the desk and is having a great time.  As is everyone else.

I thanks All Songs Considered all the time for the band they’ve introduced me to, but Idles might be the best find ever.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “A Crowded Memory”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1988: This story is written in paragraphs with drawings in between.

It is the story of a 7 year-old girl going to Hong king for the first time.

She was spending a month in Hong Kong without her immediately family.  She would be living with her Nai-nai and Gong-gong.

The place was total culture shock.  She had never heard only Cantonese before. She had never seen so many Chines people.  There were street vendors and apartments and the colors and smells were overwhelming.  Everything feels to loud, too big and too hot. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: May 20,2019] Mono

It seems entirely possible that I could subsist on rock bands from Japan for a couple of months.  Between Acid Mothers Temple, Boris and now Mono, I have an amazing collection of experiences both on record and in person.

I was unfamiliar with Mono when Union Transfer announced that they’d be playing a “big, intense show, like usual.”  But I had to check them out…  (especially since tickets were only $10–a criminally low price for such an amazing show).

Mono has released some ten albums (plus EPs and more) since 2001.   They have been a band since 1999 with only one lineup change.  The original drummer left in 2018 and was replaced by New Yorker Dahm Majuri Cipolla. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: CAROLINA EYCK AND CLARICE JENSEN-Tiny Desk Concert #816 (January 11, 2019).

There have been a lot of bands I have first heard of on Tiny Desk and whom I hope to see live one day.  Carolina Eyck and Clarice Jensen are two women I would love to see live–together or separately.

The concert opens with a looping voice (Carolina’s) and what appears to be her using a theremin to play looped samples.  And then soon enough, she starts showing off how awesome she is at the futuristic 100-year-old instrument.

Carolina Eyck is the first to bring a theremin to the Tiny Desk. The early electronic instrument with the slithery sound was invented almost 100 years ago by Leon Theremin, a Soviet scientist with a penchant for espionage. It looks like a simple black metal box with a couple of protruding antennae, but to play the theremin like Eyck does, with her lyrical phrasing and precisely “fingered” articulation, takes a special kind of virtuosity.

After playing a remarkably sophisticated melody on the theremin (with suitable trippy effects here and there), for about three minutes, she explains how the instrument works.  She even shows a very precise scale.

The position of the hands influences electromagnetic fields to produce pitch and volume. Recognized as one of today’s preeminent theremin specialists, Eyck writes her own compositions, such as the pulsating “Delphic” which opens the set, and she’s got big shot composers writing theremin concertos for her.

Up next is Clarice Jensen with “her wonderful cello.”

Joining Eyck for this two-musician-in-one Tiny Desk is cellist Clarice Jensen. When she’s not making gorgeous, drone-infused albums like last year’s For This From That Will be Filled, Jensen directs one of today’s leading new music outfits, ACME, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble.

Jensen doesn’t explain what’s going on, but she makes some amazing sounds out of that instrument–she’s clearly got pedals and she modifies and loops the sounds she’s making.

“Three Leos,” composed by Jensen, offers her masterful art of looping the cello into symphonic layers of swirling, submerged choirs with a wistful tune soaring above.

Vak Eyck comes back for the final song, a wonderfully odd duet of cello and theremin.

The two musicians close with “Frequencies,” a piece jointly composed specifically for this Tiny Desk performance. Amid roiling figures in cello and melodies hovering in the theremin, listen closely for a wink at the NPR Morning Edition theme music.

Van Eyck make soaring sounds, while Jensen scratches and squeals the cello.  Within a minute Jensen is playing beautiful cello and Van Eyck is flicking melodies out of thin air.

[READ: June 24, 2017] Less

It wasn’t until several chapters into this book that I realized I had read an excerpt from it (and that’s probably why I grabbed it in the first place).  I also had no idea it won the Pulitzer (PULL-It-ser, not PEW-lit-ser) until when I looked for some details about it just now.

It opens with a narrator talking about Arthur Less.  He describes him somewhat unflatteringly but more in a realistic-he’s-turning-fifty way, than a displeased way.

And soon the humor kicks in.

The driver who arrives to take Less to an interview assumes he is a woman because she found his previous novel’s female protagonist so compelling and persuasive that she was sure the book was written by a woman (and there was no author photo).  So she has been calling out for “Miss Arthur,” which he has ignored because he is not a woman.  This makes him late and, strangely, apologetic.

He is in New York to interview a famous author H. H. H. Mandern who has, at the last moment, come down with food poisoning.

It takes only ten pages to get the main plot out of the way:

Less is a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrived in the mail: his boyfriend of the past nine years is about to be married to someone else. He can’t say yes–it would be too awkward–and he can’t say no–it would look like defeat. The solution might just be on his desk –a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.  Can he simply get out of town, and go around the world, as a way to avoid looking foolish? (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »