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Archive for the ‘Drugs’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BLACK MOTION-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #233 (July 8, 2021).

 Black Motion specializes in Afro-House and this set is infectious.

Afro-House has spread joy and healing across the country of South Africa, transcending local boundaries to become a thriving global dance phenomenon. In my experience, Its indigenous sounds and percussive rhythms drench the soul and heart with healing powers and cultivate communion with the infinite.

This Afro-House set is brought to life thanks to several featured vocalists and guest musicians.  Black Motion’s Tiny Desk (home) concert, recorded at the former residence of Nelson Mandela, feels like a spiritual sound bath. The South African production duo turntablist Bongani Mohosana of the Zulu tribe and percussionist Thabo Mabogwane of Sotho tribe — open their set with “Mayibuye iAfrica,” a cry for Africa to return to its culture and history.

“Mayibuye iAfrica” opens with a fun introduction.  There’s whooping, growling, cawing, (from DJ and producer Bongani Mohosana and keyboardist Almotie “Alie-keyz” Mtomben).  There’s some great percussion (producer and drummer Thabo Roy Mabogwane’s set has over ten different drums and a few cymbals).  Then, after a minute or so Siyabonga Hosana Magagula’s grooving bass and Lifa “Sir_Lifa” Mavuso’s slow but perfect-sounding guitar enter the picture.

Then the singers come in singing a beautiful chorus.  The three of them are: Lusindiso “Jojo” Zondani (tenor), Gugu Shezi (soprano) and Noxolo Radebe (alto), and there voices gel wonderfully.

Up next is “Rainbow” which shuffles along with the DJs sampling and a simple keyboard melody (that sounds a bit like The Way It Is).

South African singer Msaki makes her third appearance in our (home) concert series, after earlier credits with Black Coffee and our Coming 2 America special. She lends her vocals to “Marry Me,” a soulful jam from Black Motion’s 2020 album, The Healers: The Last Chapter.

Next up is “Marry Me.” Msaki sings lead vocals on this song which has a grooving echoing lead guitar. “Alie-keyz” plays a cool retro organ solo before “Sir_Lifa” jams out a guitar solo.

Interestingly, Msaki’s voice was relatively deep, but on the next song, “Joy Joy,” Brenden Praise’s voice is pretty high (in the choruses).  For the verses, he sings a bit deeper.  I like the way the backing vocalists sound like gospel singers here.

“Imali,” featuring Nokwazi, soothes the lingering remnants of pandemic fears,

The snare drum introduces the colorfully dress Nokwazi who sings “Imali.”  Her call and response singing is really great, as is her intense, growling style.

Tabia closes with the lilting “Prayer for Rain.”

Tabia comes out for “Prayer For Rain” and says “let’s pray” as she sings some wordless notes to warm up the song.  When she starts singing, I don’t know what language she’s singing, but the passion is palpable.  And the thunderclap that DJ Bongani Mohosana adds at the end is a welcome touch.

This is a powerful and moving (emotionally and physically) set of songs.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Easy, Tiger”

After reading David’s story about shopping in Tokyo, it was funny to go backwards and read about one of his first few trips abroad and how he started learning the local language(s).

He says that he had been using Pimsleur Japanese and felt fairly comfortable when in Japan.  But on this trip he was also going to Beijing and he had forgotten to study.

But this is not so much about China as it is about learning languages in general.

Since he doesn’t drive, phrases like “as for gas, is it expensive” don’t really help him out.  But he uses “fill her up please” when asking for a tea refill.  He also gets to say that he is a man with children since they do not have a phrase for “I am am middle aged homosexual…  with a niece I never see and a small godson.”

He recommends Pimsleur for pronunciations and memorization.  But he also likes Lonely Planet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Sonic Boom, Toronto, ON (September 5 2019).

Back in 2007, when the Rheostatics said farewell, who ever would have guessed that they’d be back in a record store for an album release event.  But here they are, playing in a record store and answering a formal Q&A.

For the release of the Here Come The Wolves album the Rheos did a Q&A at the record store Sonic Boom in Toronto with Laurie Brown.  Her interview is included here but the video can be found here.  The band then did a 45 minute set of new songs which may have been the first time since reforming that Hugh Marsh did not play with them as he was in Europe at the time. Luckily Eric Mac Innis traveled to Toronto from the Maritimes for this event and recorded it for everyone to hear.

After a 40 minute interview (which is quite nice), the four guys are going “to try to play the first five (actually six) songs of the record.”  Which is the first side of the record.

They tune up. Martin jokes “this is the Ravi Shankar portion” and DB says “our record is actually a Doors tribute album.  Every song starts in a minor key.”

They start after two minutes with “Vancouver.” The recording is very spare–like they are holding back for the small space.  The entire middle part is instrumental with maybe Dave noodling away until Martin comes back to sing the rest.  The end rocks a bit more.  Martin throws in a hint of a Journey song in the solo.  Tim: “We still haven’t quite learned that one yet.”   DC: “I did.”

“AC/DC On The Stereo” has big guitar chords and a few false intros (it’s weird without High’s violin).  “Rearview” sounds really nice in this setting.

DB: we used to do these things at the Rivoli–live rehearsals.  I’d like to bring that back.  Super fun.  We worked songs out.  It was entertaining for us.  Maybe not the audience.  I remember them being really full and then that thing turned up on YouTube of us spanking Dave Clark on the ass.  The Rivoli was very dark.  [whisper: people deal guns there?  Don’t go downtown, Dave.]  There’s no one–12 of our friends there.  You can buy gum at the Rivoli.

“Here Come The Wolves” is next.  Martin tunes while Dave gives a big drum intro.  Wanna see my tuner?  Here clip this on the head stock.  [Ha ha ha Now that’s comedy].  How you doin?  The song works well.  Everyone claps at the pause and then Martin does his part.

They thank Michael Phillip Wojewoda, Chris Walla, Gus Van Gogh for working on the album and Martin tells a funny story about MPW’s disgusting dreadlock.  Mike has left Dave has known him since he had that beaver-shaped dread in the middle of his hair it had a gray core–it was oxidizing in the middle.  Never leave a Rheostatics shows or the band will tell stories about you.

DC: I was being nice to the guy and you guys are tearing him a new one  Martin: that’s not a new one that’s something he did.  There’s nothing wrong with dreadlocks.  DC: I’m just stirring the pot.  MT: Stirring a big pot of dreadlock stew–it makes a fine broth.  We were on tour with the Dough Boys (Dreadlock Stu).

Next song is by David Clark.  DC: Martin, pick your favorite chord, don’t look.  Martin plays an insane chord and the song starts.  After the song DB: remember that chord, it’s pure gold.

Sympathetic vibrations.  DC starts talking about sympathetic advice he received from a luthier.  never leave your instrument in a case (they die), have them on stands in the noisiest part of the house they will vibrate and stay in tune.  DB says that’s bullshit.  Martin says it’s largely bullshit, but not totally.  Pick up an acoustic guitar that’s been in a case it will sound like shit; pick up a cheap one that’s been out and it will sound good.

DB: You learned that all from a Lutheran?
DC: Yes he nailed it to me.

Buy the record upstairs on the mezzanine level.  They play a jazzy number: buy the record in the mezzanine. How much does it cost?  $1.79.  No, that’s not even the tax.

They end with another song by Tim: “Music is the Message.”  We’re gonna play it and go.  It’s slow and pretty–sounds good, although the backing ahhs are a little crazy.

[READ: June 15, 2021] Void Trip

I saw this book on the shelf at the library and thought the title sounded promising.  The cover also looked pretty cool, so I brought it home.

As the book opens, we see Ana and Gabe stealing fuel from a tanker in the desert.  Gabe is much older than Ana and they seem to be arguing about their (confusing) plans.  They are quickly interrupted by the owner of the truck–a rather large but cute humanoid creature with a furry face.

Ana tells him that space pirates were trying to steal his fuel and she and Gabe frightened them off.  The trucker is grateful for the help but when he is visited soon after by a white robot, he’ll wish he wasn’t so gullible.

Ana and Gabe are the last humans alive (according to the back of the book, although I’m not sure it says that anywhere in the story).  They are headed to Euphoria, a sort of promised land planet.

They stop off at a rest stop where a humanoid elephant with lots of trunks (Ganesh-like) joins them to indulge in froot (various psychedelic drugs).  Mooreberry gives psychedelic experiences; Gaimangos turn everything into a fairytale.  Busiekhini will taste like the best food you’ve ever had.  (Those names are pretty good).  He eats it and hilarious trippiness ensues. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKSHELLEY [fka D.R.A.M.]-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #198 (April 26, 2021).

I’m always puzzled by the FKA in a singer’s name.  Is it part of the singer’s name? Is this singer’s official name Shelley FKA D.R.A.M.?  I don’t think so, I think it’s just for us to know who Shelley used to be.

When D.R.A.M. played the Tiny Desk back in 2017, he made a couple of things clear to us: His playfully dynamic personality was primed for the spotlight, and beneath the catchy hooks, there’s a real singer waiting to come out. For his Tiny Desk (home) concert, he does a complete 180. “It’s like a new beginning. Full circle. So this time, call me Shelley.” he says, following the opening track, “Exposure.” Everything is new. Silk pajamas and slippers replace the trench coat and plush beanie, and thanks to lifestyle changes, he’s slimmed down quite a bit and goes by his government name now: Shelley.

I enjoyed D.R.A.M and his vulgar silliness.  But Shelley is one of those singers who intends to hit every note every time he holds a long note.  He whines up and down the octaves constantly and I hate it.  I know that there are listeners who love this as the blurb admires

The shift from lighthearted melodic hip-hop to full-on R&B crooner shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen him perform live. It feels like it’s his way of saying, “Now that I have your attention, allow me to introduce myself.” We still get glimpses of the “Big Baby” here and there — the charm, a little bit of silliness, and the million-dollar grin — but other than that, it’s grown folks business and vocally flawless performance.

For the Shelley Show, he gathers a groovy band in front of a massive bookshelf and runs through selections, including the premiere of “Rich & Famous” from his upcoming self-titled project, due out on April 29, his late mother’s birthday. If D.R.A.M. was the ploy to break into the music industry, then Shelley is the longevity play.

“Exposure” and “The Lay Down” really accentuate his new vocal style.  But I liked the music of “Cooking With Grease.”  The simple drum beat from Keith “KJ” Glover and then the live viola from Yuli (a highlight throughout).  Sensei Bueno follows the melody on guitar and the song grows from there.

Of the four songs, I liked “Rich & Famous” best.  Trey Mitchell plays a grooving bass line, the backing singers Crystal Carr and David Fuller are ah ha-ing.  Sensei Bueno is wah wahing the  guitar and SlimWav is floating the keys around.  Shelley’s voice stayed low and less whiny.  Is he really going to try to make it with the name Shelley?

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “The Way We Are”

Reading this essay in 2021 was a really uncomfortable experience.  David Sedaris is not afraid of saying a risqué thing or three. But it’s amazing how much things seem to have changed in 13 years.

This essay begins in Normandy with David saying that the city shuts off the water without any warning.  Usually it’s a construction project or something.  It usually happens when David gets up around 10:30, which is practically the middle of the day for Hugh and the neighbors.

What they do at 6AM is anyone’s guess, I only know that they’re incredibly self righteous about it, and talk about the dawn as if it’s a personal reward bestowed on account of their great virtue.

The last time the water went off, David had a coffee problem. In order to think straight, he needed caffeine.  In order to make this happen he needed to think straight.  One time he made it with Perrier which sounds plausible but isn’t.  He tried leftover tea which might have worked if the tea weren’t green.  This time he decided to use the water in a vase of wildflowers that Hugh had picked. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MANIC STREET PREACHERS-“Die in the Summertime” (1994).

I really liked the Manic Street Preachers in the late 90s.  Perhaps ironically, I learned about them after the strange disappearance of lyricist and guitarist Richey Edwards, and really liked the first few albums that they put out without him.  I went back and listened to their older stuff later, but I still prefer Everything Must Go.

Nevertheless, The Holy Bible (where this song comes from) is a pretty great album.  And “Die in the Summertime” is really cool.  It opens with tribal drums and a nifty almost Middle Eastern sounding guitar riff.  When it kicks in after a brief intro, it’s more raw and heavy than their later stuff–was that Edwards’ influence?

I listened to this song a few times and will clearly have to dig out The Holy Bible for another listen.

Obviously Edwards looms over the band and clearly looms over this story.

The guitarist vanished on 1 February 1995 and is widely presumed to have taken his own life, but a body was never found and there is no definitive proof that he died by suicide.

[READ: May 31, 2021] The Forevers

This was a fairly simple (and familiar) story, but it was told in a very interesting way.

Ten years ago seven friends (or maybe not friends exactly) made a pact. They performed a ritual asking for fame and fortune.  And it worked.  They have all become very successful.

Each chapter has a title from a song.  The first is “Die in the Summertime” (3:07) [by Manic Street Preachers].

Ten years later we cut to Jamie Ashby–a strung out superstar singer (who looks an awful lot like the Irish guy from Lost, who was also a strung out rock star).  He is in a bad way.

Then we meet Daisy Cates.  She is a successful model,  But the person who takes her home does not have good intentions for her.

I liked the way their two stories paralleled on the same page with a different background wash of color.

Jamie does a show and when an old geezer says he’s washed up, he punches the guy and makes tabloid headlines,  We find out in the next chapter that the geezer was Robert Plant–ha!

Chapter 2 is “The Drugs Don’t Work”  (5:05) [by The Verve]. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD plays Nothingface (streamed May 31, 2021).

When I saw Voivod a few years ago, I was delighted with how good they sounded.  I only wished they’d played a few more songs from my favorite album of theirs, Nothingface.

Well, here it is, mid lockdown and the Voivod guys have answered my request.  They are going to play the entire Nothingface album live.

Over two days in May they recorded the entire album live–an album that all four of them had to learn all over again.  Some songs they had never played live.  And, of course two of the guys were not in the ban when Nothingface came out.   Indeed, bassist Rocky was only 15 and guitarist Chewy was only 13 when the album was released.  [It’s not that weird, singer Snake was about 25 at the time].

It could have been a disaster (but they wouldn’t have aired it, I’m sure).  But if you’re going to replace a unique composer like Piggy, who better to use than the kid who has been a fan of Piggy since he was 13?  Chewy gets Piggy and has even written tab books for all of Voivod’s albums–showing all of the complex and bizarre stuff that Piggy created.  Rocky actually acknowledged Chewy’s books as what helped him to learn the songs (even though he played the album every day for a year when it came out).

They did not play this in front of people.  Rather, they played in a studio.  But director Catherine Deslauriers designed the studio to project images behind the band as they played. It doesn’t feel quite like a Voivod show since they interact with the audience so much, but it feels very live.

From the opening chord of “The Unknown Knows,” this show was amazing.  The sound was fantastic–I was especially impressed with how great the drums sounded.  I don’t think I ever realized what a beast Away was on the kit.  Rocky’s bass sounded awesome and Chewy’s guitar parts were spot on.  Snake’s vocals sound pretty good too considering he’s thirty years older.  His voice is unique in metal–that thick accent and slight growl–and it’s all in place.  When Chewy hit that screaming bent note and the song paused then jumped into the next part, it was magical.  And when Chewy played those crazy chords in the section after it I knew the whole thing would be great.  Oh, and Rocky’s bass sound during the end part was perfect.

The only thing was that they didn’t play the coda to the song, but really, that’s quite alright.  They had to move on to “Nothingface.”  The jump from the angular sharp parts to the catchy “lapse of time/syncho-freeze” is just so good.  An I really enjoyed watched Snake sing the “Cold cold choke cold” part.

Before “Astronomy Domine, there was a brief interview with Snake.  He talks about how he didn’t want to do a cover, especially someone as big a Pink Floyd.  He also jokes about how hard it was to learn the harmonies–it was like Spinal Tap. But Piggy knew what he was doing.

And the harmonies with the new guys sound perfect.  They had been playing this on the tour that I saw them, but my show was a little shorter because it was three bands so they didn’t play it.

It segues perfectly in the opening bass notes of “Missing Sequence.”  It’s a cool slow moody intro before snake shouts NOW!  The harmonies on this song are so good and the way it jumps from this chugging heavy part to the staccato “down down, far underground” is tremendous.  Away’s alternating double bass is a great component.  There’s another great place for Rocky’s bass to sound fantastic.

Rocky speaks before “X-Ray Mirror.”  He speaks only in French and talks about seeing the Nothingface tour when he was 15 and just loving it.  He even took a promotional poster and had Snake sign it years later when they met.

I love the jazzy riff in the middle of the song and the thrashing double bass drum–Away’s drumming is just outstanding in this song.  Followed by the resolutely King Crimson chords  and the great fast thrashing section with the funky bass line and the wild solo

“Inner Combustion” has a striking ascending guitar riff that leads to the heavier section of the song. The distinctive snare blasts between each verse is such a distinctive aspect.

Chewy interviews before “Pre-Ignition” and he talks about how the album was the soundtrack to his teenage years.  He was 13 for this, his first show.  He was shorter than everyone but pushed forward and stood by the speakers until he got pushed back by the mosh pit.  he also mentions a launch party that aired on Solidrock.

Chewy studied contemporary composers in a course.  He was listening to a song and said “woah Stravinsky stole something from Voivod.”  Strange chords and time changes.  There’s even middle eastern harmonic minors.   Those orchestral guitar parts are so cool and very dramatic.  There’s really harsh chords and Away going nuts on the drums.   I always like the vaguely Middle Eastern part “ground and rock and sand come crumbling tumbling down.”

Away introduces “Into My Hypercube.”  He says whenever we go on tour I like to buy scientific magazines to read on the road.  In the 80s it was Omni and Discover.  He came upon an article about scientists representing visually a cube in 9 dimensions.  He and Snake had a chat trying to imagine living in a hypercube in a 9 dimensional building and he wrote these lyrics.

Away says that this song reminds him of “Remember Tomorrow” from Iron Maiden–his favorite metal album.

You can hear that in the slow echoing bass opening.   I love the way it goes angular and harsh and segues perfectly into the more catchy mosh part followed by a really heavy pounding section before a ripping guitar solo.  And once again Rocky’s great bass sound ends the song.

The show ends with “Sub-Effect” a song that builds dramatically into a pounding bridge and has a complicated riff that jumps into the “too late for SOS” funky bass and unusual guitar melody.  The show fades to black on yet another of Piggy’s bizarre but wonderful chords.

In a couple of weeks they are playing all of Dimension Hatross, and album I don’t know as well.  Bu I have time to learn it.

[READ: May 30, 2021] Redfork

I had just read a couple of violent and bloody graphic novels when I picked up this one.  The cover alone is pretty gruesome.  And I thought, what is it with stories that need to be so gory?  I don’t have an answer for that.

Then the story opens on a couple of hicks trying to steal drugs from the doctor’s office.  I have little time for stories of meth addicts, so that combined with the gore, meant that this story had a long way to go to engage me.

And yet it did.

Because it went places I never would have expected.

When the two boys were stealing drugs, the doctor walked in on them and one of the boys got scared and killed him.  The story jumps to six years later when Noah is getting out of prison.  He is huge–been working out the whole time, clearly.  His best friend D-Ray is there to pick him up.

I don’t know who storyboarded this book.  Maybe it artist Nil Vendrell, but he did some really cool things.  I love on one of the early pages as they are driving back home, the car stays in the middle of the frame but the scenes change around it and in the white borders there’s random townsfolk–showing everything Noah sees.  It’s very effective.

As is a later page that runs clockwise–counter to all graphic novel reading.  But it’s done with such a great purpose and effectively conveys a moment of two people at a distance from each other. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKLESLEY ROY-“Maps” (Ireland, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 has come and gone and of course I’ve got questions.

Even though I enjoy checking out Eurovision entries, I know very little about the Eurovision process.  I didn’t even know that there were countries that didn’t qualify for the final round.

Thirteen countries didn’t make it to the final this year.  Remarkably, when I listened to some of the songs that didn’t make it I really don’t understand why not.  It almost seems like some of the songs that didn’t make it are just kind of bland–perhaps not over the top enough?

Take Lesley Roy’s song.  There’s a lot of drums, there’s strings, there’s dramatic pauses and, given that the song seem to be about running, it’s got a propulsive beat.

The middle of the song breaks for a (very!) short tin whistle break and then resumes with the strings and drums.

It’s feels like it’s catchy and inspirational, but isn’t, really.  And yet, it is hardly worse than many of the other songs that did make it,   In fact I’d say it’s better than a number of songs that did make it.

So did something happen on the night to make it particularly not very good?  Is the whole score based only the performance of the night?  Not on the song itself, which people know about ahead of time.  Whatever the case, this is the sixth time in seven years that Ireland (who once couldn’t NOT win) has failed to make it.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “How to Spend the Budget Surplus”

Back in the mid to late 1990s, David Sedaris wrote a few Shouts & Murmurs for the New Yorker.  It’s interesting to see a writer whom you know for a certain style of writing crafting jokes in a very different manner.  Shouts & Murmurs are rarely actually funny, and that’s true of most of these.

Obviously the topical nature of most of these means there’s a component of “wait, what was going on?”, but the set up usually explains everything pretty well.  Now we are more likely to say, “Aw, remember when that’s all we cared about?”

This piece contains six letters to President Clinton about what he can do now that the government has balanced the budget.  Aw, remember when people (particularly Republicans) cared about a balanced budget?

Three years after the similar “How to Spend the Budget Surplus” this is five letters to the President. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: U.K. SUBS-Another Kind of Blues (1978).

In this essay, Rebecca Kushner mentions a bunch of punk band members that she either knew or hung out with.  I was amazed at how many of them I’d heard of but didn’t really know.  So this seemed like a good opportunity to go punk surfing.

U.K. Subs are a punk band that I’ve heard of but really knew nothing about.  A little research tells me that they have been active all of these years–their latest release was in 2019.  That’s some serious staying power.  According to Wikipedia, there have been about 75 members of the band over the years.

This first album is a pretty fascinating listen.  Most of the seventeen songs are under two minutes long, but they’re not blisteringly fast or anything.  The songs are more or less blues based (as the title indicates) but faster and grittier

This is definitely a punk album.  But they follow a lot of rock song conventions.  Indeed, “I Live in a Car” is a minute and a half long but it’s got verses a chorus and two guitar solos.  “I Couldn’t Be You” even has a harmonica solo.

But songs like “Tomorrow’s Girls” offer good old punk chanting choruses.  And “World War” which is all of a minute and twenty three seconds is actually over 20 seconds of explosion.

“Stranglehold” was a pretty big hit in England and it’s easy to see why.  It’s got an immediate riff, a three chord chorus that’s easy to sing along with and a bouncy bass line.  And it’s all of one minute and fifty-seven seconds.

Checking some of their other releases through the years, UK Subs definitely went through a metal phase in the 80s and 90s, but their 2016 album Zeizo has found the punk spirit again.  I think I like Zeizo better than their first.

[READ: February 2, 2021] “The Hard Crowd”

I’ve read a few things by Rachel Kushner, although I’ve never given any thought to her biography.  I never would have guessed that Kushner was part of a San Francisco pub scene when she was growing up (or that she is essentially my age).

This essay is about that time in her life.  When Jimmy Carter was president and he quoted Bob Dylan in his acceptance speech “He not busy being born is busy dying.”

She says that being born is an existential category of gaining experience and living intensely in the present.  Conversely, dying doesn’t have to be negative–the new stuff is over but you turn reflective you examine and tally–it is behind you but it continues to exists somewhere.

She says she’s been watching film footage found on Youtube shot in 1966 or 1967 from a car moving slowly along Market Street in San Francisco, where she grew up.  She assumes it is B roll from a film, because it is professional grade (she imagines it was for Steve McQueen’s Bullitt, but that’s not based on anything).

She worked at the Baskin Robbins making $2.85 an ahour.   The shop is now gone and she thinks it’s weird to be sentimental about a chain store, but when her mother took her to the IHOP years after she worked there, it all came flooding back–sights, smells.  Despite every one being identical, this one was hers. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL-“Ballad of the Times” (1985).

In Stuart David’s book, In The All-Night Café, he lists the songs on a mixtape that Stuart Murdoch gave to him when they first met.

Although I’ve been a fan of Belle & Sebastian for a long time, I knew almost none of the songs on this mixtape.  So, much like Stuart David, I’m listening to them for the first time trying to see how they inspire Stuart Murdoch.

In the book, David writes how much he does not like “rock,” especially music based around bluesy rock.  Most of these songs, accordingly, do not do that.  In fact, most of these songs are (unsurprisingly) soft and delicate.

Of course I know of Everything But the Girl, they really took off a few years after this album came out.  Indeed, their sound changed quite a lot since this first album.

But I never really listened to them.  Of course, I knew their song “Missing” (“like the deserts miss the rain”) which was pretty ubiquitous in mid 1990s.  But in the mid 1980s, the band’s sound was very different–characterized by jangly guitars and a more upbeat feel.

Love Not Money was the band’ second album.  The first song on the album “When All’s Well” has a very distinctive feel like The Smiths–with the picked echoing guitars and louder grooving bass.  But “Ballad of the Time” is a bit more downbeat (as a ballad should be).  There’s some big overdubbed guitars on top of the pretty picked melody.  It’s catchy in a very “of its time” way.

Interestingly, this album apparently sounds unlike anything else in their collection, which makes me think Stuart wouldn’t have pit a later song on the mix.

[READ: December 29, 2020] Solutions and Other Problems

Seven years ago I read and loved Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh’s first book.  So I was pretty excited that Allie Brosh had a new book out. Apparently she has gone through some stuff in the last seven years which I won’t go into.

Instead, I want to talk about how freaking funny this book is.

I hadn’t considered or realized that her art style had changed much since the last book.  Although comparing the covers, I see that her drawings do seem more sophisticated–which somehow makes her characters look even crazier.  I love that that yellow oval on her head is her hair.  And the massive eyes.  And that crazy smile.  It’s bonkers and hilarious.

This book starts out with a bang–a very funny story about a young Allie getting stuck in a bucket. But the best part is that she was in the bucket because she felt the need to get her whole body into the bucket.  She looked at the bucket and looked at her body and decided that one needed to be in the other.  The look on her face (and then later on her parents’ faces when they find her in the bucket) makes me laugh just thinking about it.

“Richard” is all about a person who lives next door.  Young Allie couldn’t quite grasp the idea that someone lived not in their house.  She never even thought about the next door house until Richard walked out of it one day.  So she snuck in through the cat door and started investigating the neighbor,  She would also steal trinkets on each trip.  And occasionally leave a “gift” (like a creepy drawing).  When her parents found some things, they asked her about it and she said she was “hanging out” with Richard.  This obviously made her parents…uneasy.  Poor Richard.  She went too far when she stole Richard’s cat. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHLOE X HALLE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #123 (December 8, 2020).

Chloe x Halle’s album, with its arresting album cover, has been on all the top album lists this year.  I hadn’t heard anything off of it, so this is my introduction to this “powerful sister duo.”

Flanked by personal memorabilia supplied by their mother, the Bailey sisters did their best to make this studio performance really feel like a home concert.

I don’t know what he album sounds like, but this recording (complete with a full band, horns and strings) sounds pretty amazing.  Almost as amazing as Chloe and Halle’s voices.

As they volley off each other, swapping lead and harmonies, it’s amazing to watch how years of practice and innate genetic chemistry have them synced tight.

After introducing themselves, the sister play “Don’t Make It Harder on Me.”  There’s a clean bass opening from Elin Sandberg and quiet guitar chords (it’s fun to watch Lexii Lynn Frazier play as she is smiling a lot and really into it).  The addition of the trumpets (Arnetta Johnson and Crystal Torres) adding soft and then loud accents is a really nice touch.  But nothing can distract from the voices.

Halle takes the higher notes and wow does her voice soar.  But the two of them together, whether singer counterpoint or their gorgeous wordless harmonies are really amazing.

“Baby Girl,” the second song here, starts with notes reminiscent of Crystal Waters’ “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless),” and is preceded with Chloe sharing “I know this year 2020 has been absolutely bonkers for all of us. For those moments where you kinda feel less than and you’re not good enough … that’s why we wrote this song. … Whatever happens, we’ll be OK. And this is our world.”

The song is softer with keyboard splashes from Elise Solberg and soaring strings from Stephanie Yu (violin), Chelsea Stevens (cello) and Marta Honer (viola).

Halle sings the first verse with Chloe adding punctuation on this cool refrain

step up to the patio
listen to the radio
try to play it on my Casio

more great punctuation from the horns nicely flesh out this song.  The song ends with a short drum breakdown from Brandi Singleton with some ripping bass work as it segues into “Do It.”  “Do It” is a great moment to see the sisters play of of each other.  It’s fun watching them smile at each other as they bounce and bop and back and forth with the “do it”s and the “woo”s.

“Ungodly Hour” is upbeat but “Wonder What She Thinks of Me” is a very different song.  Chloe says it’s a song telling the perspective of the other woman and what does that feel like?  What would we do in that situation.  Chloe sings the first verses accompanied by gorgeous strings.  It’s a beautiful torch song and their voices are simply fantastic.  Their harmonies in the third chorus are, frankly, jaw dropping.

I don’t tend to like R&B albums, (and it’s possible the album doesn’t sound like this), but this set was really impressive.

[READ: January 3, 2021] “Preparing to Spin the Wheel of Fortune”

I like when an author I enjoy has a Personal History in the New Yorker.

This one was especially fun because David Gilbert relates his experience appearing on Wheel of Fortune.

The studio is cold.  There are contestant handlers who are mystically upbeat.  They tell them to clap without clapping (so they dont mess up the sound recording).

He rather enjoyed the make up because she makes him look very good (he’s very critical of himself).  Before talking about the whole process though, he gives some background on the show. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GRUFF RHYS-Yr Atal Genhedlaeth (2004).

In 2004. Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys released his first solo album. The sung-entirely-in-Welsh Yr Atal Genhedlaeth.  It’s a lo-fi bedroom kind of recording.  Mostly catchy as anything, but with some typically weirdo songs as well.   Most of the songs are well under three minutes.

I’ve included some notes from Wikipedia (in italics) that offer translation advice.

The album opens with “Yr Atal Genhedlaeth” which is 8 seconds of warping looping nonsense.  In Welsh the title means ‘The Stuttering Generation,’ but ‘atalgenhedlu’ is also Welsh for a contraceptive.

“Gwn Mi Wn” is a proper song with Gruff singing over a drum pattern.  As the song moves along more looped vocals are added making the song bigger and bigger–almost trance like by the end.  Gwn Mi Wn translates as ‘I Know [that] I Know’, but could also mean ‘a gun I know’, a reference to the battle in the song.

“Epynt” is a 2 minute rocking raw song of guitar and synth and some shouted lyrics.  It’s oddly catchy.  The song is named after a mountain in Mid Wales, but is about money, with the ‘E’ standing for the Euro, and ‘pynt’ sounding similar to the Welsh word for Pound.

“Rhagluniaeth Ysgafn” is a slower, more electronic-sounding song (from the drums and sound effects).  Although guitars do move the song along.  There’s a kind of scream/laugh effect that’s played here and it gets repeated on other songs.  It translated as ‘Light programming’, but ‘lluniaeth ysgafn’ means a light snack.  This is also a catchy song that is a total sing along, if you know Welsh.

“Pwdin Ŵy” literally means ‘egg pudding’, or “egg custard’, two love songs.  “Pwdin Ŵy 1″ is a swinging song that features some nice layered vocals.  It’s upbeat and dancy.  “Pwdin Ŵy 2” is very different–it’s a mellow guitar song with a harmonica solo.

“Y Gwybodusion” (‘The Experts’) is a garage rock song with a cheesy synth solo.  The addition of a (cool) bass line half way through really fleshes the song out.

“Caerffosiaeth” is literally ‘sewage fortress’. ‘Caer’ is a common part of Welsh place-names used to indicate that there was a castle in the town.  It’s an all drum-machine rap full of sound effects.  As with all of the other songs he manages to make it really catchy by the end.

“Ambell Waith” (‘Sometimes‘) is a quiet folk song with interesting sound effects floating around.  The slight echo on everything makes it feel very full.  And the trumpet (!) solo comes as quite a surprise.

The final two songs are much longer than anything else on the disc.

“Ni Yw Y Byd” means ‘We Are The World,‘ but is not a cover.  It’s upbeat, four minutes long and feels fuller than the others.  It reminds me a bit of the melody of “The Gambler” and is therefore crazy catchy.  It’s even easy to singalong to even if you don;t know Welsh.  There’s a clapalong section followed by a flute solo.

“Chwarae’n Troi’n Chwerw” means ‘When Play Turns Bitter’ and comes from a Welsh proverb.  this song is a Welsh language standard originally written and sung by Caryl Parry-Jones.  It’s got a quiet electric guitar playing some lead riffs as he sings in a deeper register.  It ends with 30 seconds of quiet banjo playing.

This is a true solo record from Rhys–snippets, excerpts and home recordings.  It’s a quiet treat.

[READ: November 17, 2020] “New Poets”

When I started reading this story I was afraid that it was going to be one of those grimy violent stories that doesn’t exactly glorify bad behavior, but kind of revels in it.

The narrator, Monk, is recently sober, but he has had a string of bad luck and has moved in with an old college buddy named Dogman.  Dogman has not stopped drinking.  Indeed, he drinks a lot.  Which is odd because Dogman is an accountant in the Philadelphia office of one of the country’s largest banks.  It’s a boring job, so the weekend is for drinking.

They are in a pub (it’s the middle of the day) and Dogman tells Monk that a surprise guest is coming.  The guest is Sudimack.  Monk is really not happy about that. (more…)

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