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Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

[POSTPONED: April 29, 2020] The Beths /Weakened Friends [moved to Auguist 27, 2020 @ World Cafe Live]

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The Beths are from New Zealand.  New Zealand has a pretty great track record for producing great bands.

The Beths play a delightful alt-pop rock with a splash of grunge and punk all under Elizabeth Stokes’ high but powerful voice.

I’m not too familiar with their music, but I was planning to be by the time of this show.

The opening band Weakened Friends describes themselves as “We’re three tall young adults making some songs and eating some snacks. Indie noise junk band from Portland ME and Boston MA.”

I listened to a few songs and they have a great distorted guitar/catchy chorus sound.  J. Mascis even guests on one of their songs.  I think they’d be great live.

Hope they can make it back to the States next year.

I love World Cafe as a venue, but I really want to get to King Fu Necktie sometime.

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[ATTENDED: October 2, 2019] Aldous Harding

Aldous Harding came through Philly back in April.  She played Johnny Brenda’s and I bought a ticket but was unable to go.

I was resigned to the idea that she wouldn’t be back in the area again for a long time.  So I was happily surprised to see that she was passing through town again (in my head she came from England, landed in the east and went west and then wended her way back east to go home again).

I also was happy that she was Underground Arts, which is a venue I really like.

I knew a couple of Aldous Harding songs, but I primarily wanted to see her because I’d heard that her live show was fantastic. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 2, 2019] Tiny Ruins

I had originally planned to see The Tallest Man on Earth at the Met Philly on this night.  But some time ago he cancelled the entire North American tour.  Which is a bummer, since I’d really like to see him.

However, that allowed me to go to that night’s other wonderful offering–Aldous Harding.

Tiny Ruins opened for Aldous.  Tiny ruins is a band from New Zealand led by songwriter Hollie Fullbrook.  In fact, for this tour, Tiny Ruins was only Fullbrook and her guitar.

She came out front and sang about a half dozen songs in her beautiful voice accompanied by her exquisite guitar playing.

She opened with “Tread Softly” and she admitted the words were written by W.B. Yeats.  But she promised that the words for all of the other songs were her own.

I enjoyed listening to Hollie speak, although her accent wasn’t as strong as I imagined it would be. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALDOUS HARDING-Tiny Desk Concert #640 (July 28, 2017).

Aldous Harding is a singer from New Zealand.  Her second album, Party, is full of deeply personal songs with memorable melodies and spare instrumentation.  Aldous Harding’s musical partner for the Tiny Desk is Jared Samuel Elioseff .

I was mesmerized by her performance right from the start.  Her voice is deep and sultry like Nico’s, and I imagined that she was French the way she enunciated.  There’s something about her face–she seems to be filled with what…? disdain? emotion?  as she sings these song.  She grits her teeth, protrudes her lower jaw, makes fascinating expressions all to convey her meanings.

The first song she performs,”Imagining My Man,” is about what she calls the “tender and frightening thoughts that come with being in love,” and what you witness while watching her are often painful, pensive expressions that are as important to the song as the notes being played.

I really like this song a lot–the simple melody, the fascinating delivery and the wonderful touch of a strange little zip sound after each singing of “all my life….”  The way she sings “if you get down” introduces yet another strange expression and an even stranger vocal delivery.  It all borders on comical, but she is not funny she is baring emotion.

In introducing “Blend” she gives Jared the guitar and says “I’m really sorry for what you’re about to see me do, but it’s all for the good of the song.”  And I genuinely can’t tell what she’s talking about.  She doesn’t do anything expect change the drum sound on the keyboard.  This song is whispered and the guitar plays gentle picked notes.

For the final song, “Horizon,” she takes away the guitar, stands up and says “thanks for watching” with a smile.  She stands singing the final song which I think is my favorite.  The expressions she uses as she delivers the first few lines is really intense–almost like a verbal threat:

I broke my neck dancing to the edge of the world, babe
my mouth is wet, don’t you forget it, don’t you lose me

The fact that she stands straight, dressed all in white–unmoving except for some hand gestures–just adds to the subtle intensity of her performance.

[READ: August 1, 2017] “Eric Duncan”

Philip Roth retired from writing in 2012, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t get more new material from him (although this isn’t exactly new, since it is from 2008).  This excerpt comes from remarks he gave at his 75th birthday celebration and will be collected in a forthcoming volume.

This is his recollection of the first things he ever wrote on his mothers Underwood typewriter.  In 1943, Philip’s mother was teaching him to type–white keys with black letters and number which “constituted all the apparatus necessary to write in English.”

He says that as soon as he mastered touch typing, he wrote his first title: “Storm Off Hatteras.”  But he says that instead of writing his own name, he wrote by Eric Duncan: “There’s little that can bestow more confidence and lend more authority than a name with two hard c’s in it.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TASH SULTANA-Tiny Desk Concert #610 (April 7, 2017).

Tash Sultana is a force of nature.  I’d heard her song “Jungle” a bunch of times on the radio before seeing this.  I thought it was interesting and kind of catchy with some cool guitar work.  But it never occurred to me that Sultana was doing the whole thing BY HERSELF!

For this Tiny Desk, she recreates that song (and two others) entirely by herself with loops and loops and effects and all kinds of good stuff.

As “Jungle” opens, Tash plays the guitar chords and loops them.  And then she plays the opening riff.  And loops it.  And then more riffs on top and loops them.  She creates a huge sound for about a minute and a half.  Then when all that sounds good, she starts playing the drum machine.

It’s so much fum watching her dance around her little area (barefoot, mind you) tapping pedals and setting effects on and off.  And when she starts soloing, she’s got a perpetually big smile on her face just really enjoying all of the work she;s doing and the sounds she’s making.

She finally starts singing and she’s got two microphones–the chorus gets the second microphone which has a processor and echo to totally change her sounds.

And then towards the end of the song she starts messing around with a solo and has all kinds of effects at hand for whichever part of the solo she’s doing, including a wild, ass-kicking, classic-rock style solo that all mellows out into  sweetly echoed section and a gentle guitar ending.  The song itself isn’t that complicated, but holy cow she packs so much into its 7 minutes.

So who the hell is Tash Sultana?

This 21-year-old Maltese-Australian got a guitar from her grandfather when she was three, she says, and has played it every day since. It’s astonishing to watch Sultana’s fluidity on her instrument, like a natural extension of her body. (She also plays bass, saxophone, trumpet, flute and more, but kept it “simple” at the Tiny Desk.) I thought I had a lot of energy — watching her bounce from guitar to drum machine to two separate microphones — and then hopping barefoot from looping pedal to effect pedal as she builds her songs was exhilarating and exhausting.

She says she wrote “Notion” when she was having a difficult time with myself… and someone else.

It opens with that her singing “oohs” into that processed mic and it sounds otherworldly.  And then again she jumps around from guitar to drum machine looping more and more.  Although it’s interesting that most of the song stays kind of mellow.  Her melody is very pretty and her voice is great.  The only trouble is it’s kind of hard to understand what she;s singing.  But its fun that she’s singing some of the song without playing anything else (it’s all being looped) and how intensely she sings it.

After playing the song for some 9 minutes, she hits some pedals and the just takes off on a wailing guitar solo.

“Blackbird” is very different–it’s all played on acoustic guitar.  There’s no looping.  She says she wrote this while in New Zealand.  She was wandering and got lost in a cave.

But acoustic doesn’t mean simple folk song.  She plays some great riffs with her right hand while hammering-on with her left hand. The part around 19:15 is just fascinating to watch.  She must have an alternate tuning as well because when she plays opens strings it sounds great (and it’s 12 string as well, so it sounds even more full).

After singing a few verses she plays an incredibly fast section.

There’s just so much going on, and I have no idea if all of that is part of the songs or if she’s just going off into her own world.

I was so impressed by this set that I just got tickets to her when she comes to the area in a few weeks.

[READ: January 31, 2017] “Mo Willems’s Funny Failures”

I have never really written about Mo Willems, even though my family loves his books (I’ve even got an autographed copy of one of them).

The Piggy and Gerald books are wonderful first readers (and are fun for adults too) and Pigeon is the best bad-tempered character around.

Since I like Rivka Galchen and post about just about everything she writes, I wanted to include this here.  It is a biographical essay based on a few interviews she had with Willems. (more…)

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5dials32SOUNDTRACK: DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE-Tiny Desk Concert #430 (April 6, 2015).

dcfcIt’s hard for me to believe that Death Cab for Cutie had not been on a Tiny Desk Concert before.  But they are here at last.  Well, three of them anyhow.  It’s simply Ben Gibbard (of course) on vocals, Nick Harmer on bass, and Zac Rae on piano (now that Chris Walla has left).  And what makes this concert so special is that all 4 songs are played on piano–there’s no guitar at all.  It gives all of these songs (familiar and new) a much starker feel.  Not better, but very different.

There are two new song from Kintsugi, “Black Sun,” and “No Room In Frame” which sound so much like Death Cab for Cutie (probably because of Gibbard’s voice), that they fit in perfectly with the other two songs. “Your Heart Is An Empty Room” from Plans and “Passenger Seat” from Transatlanticism.

It’s a little uncomfortable watching Gibbard sing close ups with his eyes closed, but he sounds right on.  He says some nice words about NPR (a station they actually listen to for news) and he gets a nice round of applause when they say they’ll do a fourth song.  And Gibbard can even hit those high notes in this quiet setting.  This is a must hear for any fan of the band.

[READ: April 2, 2015] Five Dials 32

Issue Number 32 is a thematic one–based around the Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts.  And so many of the writers and artists are from New Zealand.  There are dozens of paintings by Francis Upritchard: colorful watercolors of monkeys, monocolor paintings of people and colorful masks.  They all look incredibly simple–like first drafts–yet are quite effective in their displays.

A Letter from the Editor:  On New Zealand Issues
Craig Taylor didn’t have a letter last issue.  This time he talks about the issue and about issues in New Zealand. He talks a bit sadly about how the New Zealand writer most often find a home in London even if the writers mostly think about national (New Zealand) issues. (more…)

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