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Archive for the ‘Fears’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MATTHEW CAWS-“When History Comes” (2020).

Recently Rough Trade released an online album Talk – Action = Zero, Vol. 2.  It was a collection of songs with the intent of giving money to get out the vote organizations like Spread The Vote.  There were some 90 songs on it.  One of them was from Matthew Caws from Nada Surf.

On the most recent Nada Surf album, the song “So Much Love,” featured a lengthy spoken sort of rambling section.  Caws’ voice works quite well for that fast spoken section and when I saw them play it live, he was able to recite (or read, he had the lyric sheet in front of him) the whole thing while still playing which was pretty cool.

So this new song follows in that model.  The song is a simple riff that repeats.  And the lyrics are probably not spontaneous, but are pretty close.  There’s also a chorus.  It’s really catchy, just like all Nada Surf songs tend to be.

My contribution is a protest song; a get out the vote song. Will any Republicans hear this song outside of my liberal music bubble?  I don’t know.  I want them to.  Maybe there is a way.

What should a protest song say?

I protest the dismantling of the Postal Service which right now means the dismantling of democracy.

I protest the denial and protection of systemic racism.

I protest the dismantling of regulations that protect public land.

I protest the dismantling of the trust between a country and its media.

Am I naive enough to think that naively expressing these things can change anyone’s mind?  YES

I’m naive and a dreamer but also ambitious.  I believe in people.  I believe in change.

I’ll say this I vote Democrat but I don’t hate republicans.  I just hate this administration.

When history comes and sticks out its thumb / asking you for a ride / I hope that you see how fast it can be / it goes by in the blink of an eye.
We’re stuck in this boat / it’s barely afloat / we’re watching the water rise / History’s ill / it needs some good will / and we’re so tired of the lies

We’re all canaries in the coal mine.  We have to say what we see.  We’re all the band on the Titanic.  Don’t stop when the ship goes down.

Let’s be cheerleaders for postal workers.   Cheerleaders for voters for braving the long lines of the maskless.

We implore that you nurture your inner artist.  That you make something for yourself so that you have fulfillment.  So that you don’t seek satisfaction in the hot flame of mockery, the perversity of trolling, the thrill of baiting and phishing.

I believe that we’re all made out of love and good things.  We just get sick

When history comes and sticks out its thumb / asking you for a ride / I hope that you see how fast it can be / it goes by in the blink of an eye.
We’re stuck in this boat / it’s barely afloat / we’re watching the water rise / History’s ill / it needs some good will / and we’re so tired of the lies
Come out of your shell / the country’s unwell / we really need you to fight.

[instrumental break]

I’m an atheist and I had a friend in college who was Christian.  He belonged to a Christian group, I can’t remember which one but he wore a lapel pin with his name on it.  Anyway, really lovely guy.  We were both in film class and we’d get together once in a while to study.

Then one day we were saying goodby before winter break in front of the library.  The sky was dramatic, a whirlwind of leaves was nearby.  He gave me the hard sell. He said, “think about it… eternal life.”  It was moving.  I knew he wanted the best for me and in that spirit I’d like to say to you:

Imagine that the left don’t want to destroy America, because we don’t.  We just want it to be more fair. We want it to live up to its promise and that’s because we love it so much.  Don’t be afraid, we;re all right.  I’ll tell you what’s fake news… it’s that we’re bad people.   We’re not.   [It’s] that we want trump to fail.

I didn’t want him to fail. I wanted him to do great.  He didn’t.  But I wanted him to.

He makes me feel bad.  He makes other people feel bad too.  That doesn’t set a good example.  Sometimes it just comes down to that: don’t make people feel bad. And for every decision think about how it affects poor people the most.  Think about how it affects children.

You know…

Alright go register go vote.

So simply stated.  so true.  What a great song.  I hope people outside his bubble hear it.

[READ: October 21, 2020] “Suffocation Theory”

This story started out rather strange and I thought it was going to coalesce into something enjoyable.  But it never really did.

Out of the blue Amanda told the narrator they were moving.  He liked their apartment just fine and don’t want to move, but she told him the movers were already outside.

He watches a lot of news and everything is terrible.  Killings with guns, bombs and cars.  He is amazed that people have the irresistible idea “that killing a bunch of strangers would solve whatever problem they thought they couldn’t solve any other way.”

The new place is terrible.  It feels like a giant warehouse with rooms and lots of empty space. The bathroom doesn’t have a shower.  The neighborhood is terrible.  They also have a roommate.

The roommate is a jerk.  He jokingly points a gun at the narrator. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LINDA DIAZ-Tiny Desk Concert (October 5, 2020).

In the past I’ve been quite aware of the Tiny desk Contest winner.  But this year, with the pandemic , it passed me by completely.

So I don’t know anything about Diaz or any of the other competitors, except for what I just looked up now.

And I find it a little cheaty that she won because

Diaz actually made an appearance at the Tiny Desk last year, as a backup singer for Jordan Rakei.

However, she seems very nice and I’m happy for her that she won, especially after reading the blurb she wrote for this concert.

At one point, we finally had everything set and ready to go. Then, days before the shoot, I tested positive for COVID-19. I will spare you all the details (lots of tears, lots of phone calls), but I am so grateful for my band, the NPR Music team and the Javits Center for going above and beyond for me, the human as much as me, the musician.

That’s right, the Javits Center.  This set is filmed on op of the Javits Center fifty days before the election.  That’s September 15–potentially a chilly day to be on top of a New York City building.  Also, who knew the top of the Javits Center was green and lush?

But more important than any of that is this quote that she reiterates in the set and mentioned earlier this year, that “Black joy is radical.”

“I do think it is a radical thing to be like, ‘I’m happy and I’m focusing on my joy and I’m focusing on my purpose and I’m not necessarily focusing on an audience or what other people want from me,’ ” she says. “But truly, I am recognizing the things in my life that are good, and many of those things are coming from my community. I think in that way, it’s super radical to love yourself as a Black person in this time.”

She sings three songs from her Magic EP.  She says that the EP was inspired by her favorite book The Ten Loves of Nishino Paperback by Hiromi Kawakami.  I find it a little strange that he favorite book came out only last year but whatever.

I don’t know a lot about R&B (duh), so I can’t honestly see what would have set her apart from the 6,000 other entries.  Her voice is lovely.  Her songs, like “Magic” are gentle and sweet.  But I don’t find her any more memorable than many other singers.

Having said that, her Tiny Desk Contest winning song “Green Tea Ice Cream” is really catchy and of the three is the most musically interesting.  It opens (like the other two songs) with sprinkling of gentle keys from Jade Che and a mildly funky bass from “Fat Mike” Mike Fishman (who co wrote and produced the record).  Her backing singers, Bianca B. Muniz and Jacqueline A. Muniz (the only two who aren’t socially distanced up there because they are sisters) really shine in their backing vocals here.

Throughout the set drummer Andrés Valbuena plays some cool drums and percussion sounds, but they really stand out on this song.

After showing some of the personal effects she brought with her (I wonder if doing the Tiny Desk here instead of at the actual desk with the in house audience was less nerve-wracking), she encourages everyone to vote.

Then it’s on to the final song “Honesty” which is about “speaking your mind and talking about what’s important to you and communicating with others and how that’s a really scary thing to do.”

The set is pleasant and enjoyable, but far less memorable than past winners.

[READ: October 2, 2020] “The Forbidden Words of Margaret A.”

During the COVID Quarantine, venerable publisher Hingston & Olsen created, under the editorship of Rebecca Romney, a gorgeous box of 12 stories.  It has a die-cut opening to allow the top book’s central image to show through (each book’s center is different).  You can get a copy here. This is a collection of science fiction stories written from 1836 to 1998.  Each story imagines the future–some further into the future than others. As it says on the back of the box

Their future.  Our present.  From social reforms to climate change, video chat to the new face of fascism, Projections is a collection of 12 sci-fi stories that anticipated life in the present day.

About this story, Romney writes

In this story an imprisoned Black woman is forbidden to speak because her words are too powerful.  I’m including it here for two reasons. First, because it captures my central theme of predicting not just individual pieces so technology, but also what t feels like living in 2020.  I read this story an I recognized its truth: that a woman’s words can be powerful, but they can just as often be viewed as dangerous.  The second reason I included it is because it is really, really good.

Romney is right, this story is really, really good. It is also pretty simply summed up by her first sentence.

The story is written as a report for The National Journalists’ Association for the Recovery of The Freedom of the Press.

The report is from the journalist who was able to meet Margaret A. in prison. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NUBYA GARCIA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #81 (September 16, 2020).

Nubya Garcis is a jazz saxophonist and this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert is unlike any other thus far.

Look to the left of Nubya Garcia’s Tiny Desk (home) concert and you’ll see a hanging plant swaying right above the keys. It never stops moving during the next 23 minutes, and it’s for a bizarre reason. Garcia’s (home) concert took place on a boat — a first in Tiny Desk history.

Garcia and her band are at Soup Studio, a recording facility built on a decommissioned floating lighthouse moored on the River Thames. It’s also where Garcia recorded her excellent new album, SOURCE. This set features three songs from the record; the title track starts it off with a reggae, dub vibe.

“Source” opens with some great low end from Daniel Casmir’s double bass.  The main melody comes from Joe Armon-Jones’s simple keyboard hits.  Sam Jones makes the drums almost a lead instrument as well, as he plays a lot of cymbals and interesting fills.

There are two backing singers for these songs.  Richie Seivwright and Cassie Kinoshi add some ahhs and oohs as needed.  They’re not intrusive and add a human element to Garcia’s otehriwse otherworldly saxophone soloing.

At around eight minutes, the singers do a lot of woohing and scatting which I find less interesting than the rest of the band does.

After nearly 12 minutes, everything slows down and Casmir does a bass solo as the introduction to “Pace.”  Armon-Jones plays piano with his right hand keyboards with his left to lay down a complex musical tapestry which Garcia weaves her saxophone all over.  Armon-Jones also gets a quiet piano solo, then the song takes off again, crashing to a wild conclusion with frenetic drumming and piano.

“Boundless Beings” opens with a slow saxophone introduction and the bass matching the notes. This song is only two minutes, and I assume that’s because time runs out on her video or her session.

[READ: September 15, 2020] “Whose Little Girl Are You?”

I had read Fox’s Desperate Characters after three authors that I like all championed it.  S. knows of Paula Fox as a children’s author.  I had no idea she had the kind of crazy childhood that this memoir lets on.  Indeed, this is an excerpt from her memoir Borrowed Finery.  And, while I’ve no doubt this is all true.  It is as exciting (and horrifying) as fiction.

When Paula was born her parents deposited her at an orphanage.  Paula’s mother Elise was a panicked nineteen-year-old and wanted to get rid of her as quickly as possible.  Her father Paul brought her to a Manhattan foundling house.  She was taken in by the Reverend Elwood Corning who raised her and whom she called Uncle Elwood.

Her maternal grandmother came to New York from Cuba and learned of her whereabouts.  She intended to take her back home to Cuba with her, but her grandmother worked as a companion to a rich old cousin and could not possibly look after a baby, so Paula stayed with Uncle Elwood.

When she was about five, her father came to see her. He had a large box which he dropped with a thud.  He looked at her and said “‘There you are,'”\ as if I’d been missing for such along time that he’d almost given up searching for me.”   The box contained a whole host of books. The next morning when Paula woke up he was not there anymore.

Later that year Uncle Elwood drove her to Provincetown where her parents were living.  The main memory she took from that visit (because all she ever did was visit her parents) was that she had found a large steamer trunk and was exploring it when her mother walked in and yelled, “What are you doing?”  And then, “Don’t cry!  Don’t you dare cry!”

A year later they were living in New York City and Paula visited them for a few hours.  When her mother came into the room she stared at Paula, her eyes like embers. Then she flung her glass and its contents at the girl.  Water and ice fell all lover her.

The next time, she went to see them they were staying in a hotel in New York.  They had room service for dinner and Paula ordered lamb chops.  It felt special.  When the meal came Paula said “There’s no milk.” Her father stood, grabbed the tray of food and dropped it down the airshaft saying “Okay, Pal, since it wasn’t to your pleasure.”  She had no dinner that night.

Her parents were often leaving Paula with strangers. One time she went to Grand Central Station on a train by herself and was met not by her father but by a couple–actors who knew her father–with Great Danes.  They expected her father to turn up any moment.  Two days later he showed up.

Another time she visited them in Los Angeles.  Her father’s sister Aunt Jessie took her.  Jessie stayed for a few days and on the day that she left, Paula’s parents went out for the evening leaving Paula by herself.  She wandered around and eventually wandered out the front door which locked behind her.

A neighbor found her and brought her to his house where his wife made dinner for her.  The next day she walked home and opened the door shouting “Daddy!”  Her father jumped out of bed–the woman next to him was not her mother–and whisked her out of the bedroom quickly.  He sat on a chair and began to spank her. The maid stopped him–Paula years later realized how brave it was for her to speak out.  A Few days later he dropped her off in the care of an older woman.  Years later he told her it was his motehr’s reaction to Paula that made him send her away–either she goes or I go.

A few years later in Malibu, she visited on weekends. The house had a deck that jutted into the ocean.  One day, her father gabbed her hands and dropped her into the Pacific . She freaked out fearing that she was drowning, but her father laughed because it was so shallow.

One night she told her father that she had a toothache.  He mother had entered the room and said I’ll fix it for you.  She put Paula in the rumble seat of the car and drove madly through the winding roads.  Paula was shaken like a rattle. They drove for twenty minutes (it felt like forever).  Finally they returned home and her mother looked at her and said “Do you still have a toothache?”

When Paula was eight (all of that happened before she was eight!), her Spanish grandmother came for her.  She had lighter duties in Cuba and brought Paula home with her.  Paula lived there, in Hormiguero for many years, going to school there–having a crash introduction to Spanish. She had nothing but freedom there but soon grew very bored and lonely.

When she was ten in 1933, her family fled to he country for New York because the President of Cuba, Gerargo Machado, had been overthrown.

Good lord, how did she ever get through it without going crazy.  And what on earth are her children’s stories like?

 

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SOUNDTRACK
: BILLIE EILISH-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #71 (August 26, 2020).

There’s so much to say about this Billie Eilish concert.

The biggest artist in the world has just done a Tiny Desk Concert!

Somehow it looks like she’s in the Tiny Desk studio!

Why does she only play two songs?

My daughter and I were supposed to see her back in March and she cancelled her tour about three nights before our show was supposed to happen.  What a bummer!  Especially because who knew if people would even want to see her again in a year (I’m pretty sure they will).  And would her stage show and song style change over that year?

The answer to that seems to be a dramatic yes.  Especially if these two songs are anything to go by.

For these two songs Billie embraces her torch song inner child.  She has a really lovely voice–delicate and emotional.

These songs are personal and lovely–there’s no “Duhs,” there’s no snark.  Compared to what I expected, they were kind of dull, actually.  Very pretty, but kind of dull.

These are the two new singles.  For “my future” Billie plays keyboards and her “real brother” Finneas plays guitar and sings some backing vocals.

On “everything i wanted” they switch places, with Finneas playing the pretty piano melody and providing a lot of nice backing vocals.

These two songs seem like they would go very nicely in the middle of a set of bangers for a few moments of cool down.  I hope when her show is rescheduled that she still brings all the excitement I;d heard her shows typically have.

As for the background…at first I thought it was just a cute idea.  But after six months, it was really comforting to have musicians look like they were playing the actual Tiny Desk.

[READ: August 28, 2020] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Wrecking Ball

This is the book that started my resurgence into reading Wimpy Kid books. I bought this one for my daughter.  This story had me laughing out loud once again.

This book has a lot to do with the Heffley’s house.  I don’t know if middle school kids can appreciate jokes about household maintenance, but as an adult I sure can.

The book opens with Greg’s mom wanting to do some cleaning up.  That means going through the closet in Greg’s room.  He tells us that he basically just throws things into it, so it’s like an archaeological dig.

He starts sifting through things and finds old toys and things to feel sentimental about which is pretty funny.  But with all this junk, he decided that rather than throw it out, he should make some money off of it and have a garage sale.  Cue: Family Frolic magazine and their “great” ideas for a garage sale.  [I love when he makes fun of this magazine].

Greg has labelled his tables in creative ways: “Great gifts for your grandkids”(stuff from his grandparents that he doesn’t want).  “Pre-written birthday cards” (with his name white-outed). Mystery socks (which is just a pile of junk for 50 cents) and Rare Items (like an invisibility lotion and a freckle remover (an eraser or soap I guess)). (more…)

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download (98)SOUNDTRACK
: TAME IMPALA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #69 (August 24, 2020).

download (97)With so many artists that I’ve never heard of doing really long Home Tiny Desk Concerts, why on earth did Tame Impala, one of the biggest bands around, only play for 16 minutes?

The studio version of Tame Impala is pretty simple on paper: All songs are written, produced and performed by Kevin Parker. For the live version, Parker is still front and center but surrounded by a host of musicians who interpret his recorded work almost to a tee.

For his Tiny Desk (Home) Concert or his “Tame Impala Soundsystem” Parker brought Jay Watson and Dom Simper together to

do this kind of electronic jam with heaps of equipment around us and we’ll recreate the songs with samplers and sequencers. I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while and thought Tiny Desk would be the opportunity to do it.

So the three of them are in a room with banks of keyboards and all kinds of buttons to push and knobs to twist.  There’s even a guitar (most notably on “Is It True”).

They play two songs from this year’s The Slow Rush.  They open with “Breathe Deeper.”  The most interesting part of the song comes at the end when Parker starts messing around with the mixer in front of him and he starts generating drum beats and manipulating the sound of the entire song.

“Is It True” is similarly dancey and Parker’s soaring falsetto rides over the top of the song nicely.

They end the set with “Patience” a fantastic 2019 single that for some reason, didn’t make it to The Slow Rush.  This is my favorite song of the three.  The melody is great and with the pace slowed a bit it makes the song a bit more memorable.

When I saw then live, their show felt massive.  This show sounds massive too, yet it’s all confined to a tiny room.

[READ: August 20, 2020] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway

I was looking forward to reading this book after really enjoying Book 12.  But I felt like this one wasn’t quote as laugh out loud funny as some of the others.  I find Greg’s family dynamic to be the funniest part of these books and his family doesn’t feature all that much in this one.

This book is all about snow.  And snow means snow days from school, sledding and snowball fights.

The book begins with some environmental concern about global warming (it is unseasonably hot that winter).  Despite the genuine concern for global warming, Greg’s take is always a little warped–he’s concerned that if the ice caps melt there could be a giant monster hiding in there.  (more…)

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download (92)SOUNDTRACK: VÍKINGUR ÓLAFSSON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #63 (August 12, 2020).

download (91)Víkingur Ólafsson has a fantastic name.  But even better is his way of talking about the music he plays.  He adds so much detail and information about these songs that they really come to life.  I don’t often buy classical music anymore, but I absolutely want to get his new record of Rameau and Debussy pieces).

Ólafsson  has moved from strength to strength, releasing three terrific albums in a row (Philip Glass, J.S. Bach, Debussy-Rameau). And now that he has a young son, he wants to spend as much time with the family as possible these days.

So he tells us that he is leaving Berlin after living there for eight years, to return to Iceland with his wife and son.

He opens with a beautiful slow and stately piece from J.S. Bach (arr. Stradal): “Andante” (from Organ Sonata No. 4).  The piece runs about five minutes and after four slow lines, he throws in some amazing speed near the end.  he says that Bach is a good idea whether you are happy or sad–whatever it is, Bach makes things better.

Then Ólafsson offers a crash course in the fascinating music of Jean-Philippe Rameau and Claude Debussy, two French composers who lived nearly 200 years apart. Ólafsson connects the dots between the two seemingly strange bedfellows, illustrating his points with demonstrations on his Steinway.

Introducing Jean-Philippe Rameau, he says the music will go in a very different direction (than Bach).  Rameau was two years older than Bach and was dubbed the Newton of harmony.  He defined harmony and opened musical doors.

For Rameau: “Le rappel des oiseaux” (“The Recall of the Birds”) he says that he is playing two birds: one in his right hand and one in his left.  They are calling to each other–one imitating the other with perfect recall.  Then they take flight and we see the landscape under their wings.  When he plays it, it absolutely comes to life.

He says that was first piece of Rameau that he had ever heard.  The version he heard was by a Russian pianist who played it “more sad, more Russian.”  He plays it like that original version and you can hear the remarkable difference and how both versions work so well–although I like Ólafsson’s better.

Introducing Claude Debussy, he says it’a unusual pairing since they lived 200 years apart.  But Debussy’s idol was Rameau.  They were both musical outsiders, reinventing music, bringing life to a tired scene.

He plays a simple Debussy melody–harmony in space, a timeless beauty.  But Debussy did not like being considered an Impressionistic.  He was interested in the baroque, and there is a baroque structure to his music.

For Debussy’s: “The Snow is Dancing” (from Children’s Corner), he describes the driving rhythm that never stops as he explores harmonic inventions.  This song wa written for his four-year-old daughter as he was exploring the snow with her. You can absolutely hear the textures of the snow in the song.

Ólafsson has a penchant for making transcriptions, taking pieces written for other instruments and making them his own. He closes with “The Arts and the Hours,” his mesmerizing arrangement of a scene from Rameau’s final opera, which he plays as a farewell to his Berlin apartment.

Ólafsson says that he wrote his last masterpiece (an opera) a year before he died and he never heard it performed.  Indeed, it didn’t get a world premiere until 200 years after he died in 1960.  This is a transcription he made because he was jealous of all the conductors and orchestra players who got to play this music.   Rameau (arr. Ólafsson): “The Arts and the Hours” (from Les Boréades) is more loveliness from a composer who I feel may be quite under appreciated.

[READ: 2017 and August 15, 2020] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway

I read this book when it came out in 2017 but never posted about it.  Then I recently realized that Kinney had written two more Wimpy Kid books that I hadn’t read (and two books written by Rowley, that I don’t know at all).  So it was time to get Wimpy again.

This book is a Christmas book and yet it’s not a typical Christmas story–no annoying relatives, no bad gifts, not even snow.  For The Heffleys have decided to go on holiday for Christmas.    Their Christmas planning was going very badly (a funny picture of the tree on its side with Manny playing with tinsel), so when they saw an ad for Isla de Corales, where Greg’s parents went on their honeymoon, they decided to get out of town for Christmas and celebrate in the warmth of the holidays.

Now, unlike shows where the place is far worse than the advertisement shows, Isla de Corales proves to be a wonderful paradise.  However, the place has now been divided into the mild side for families and the wild side for couples.  Obviously, the wild side is better but the Heffleys have no way to get there.

But before they arrive, they have to get there.  Their entire trip to the airport is one terrible moment after another–bad traffic, lost luggage, late shuttle.  Not to mention terrible lines and a hilarious pile of confusion at the security line–I love that it’s not Greg’s fault that things went so badly but the Heffleys had to pay for it anyway.  And of course Manny is a nightmare. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RunHideFight-“He’s a Jerk”/”Because I Love You” (2018).

RunHideFight is (was?) a Philly band which features author Christine Weiser on bass.  This is their only available single and I love that the cover features lead singer Geeta Dalal Simons holding her double neck 12-string guitar (which is in fact a custom 12 electric neck / 12 electric sitar neck).

“He’s a Jerk” is a two minute blast of garage rock fun. The song has lots of fuzz and a simple riff that sounds like “All Day and All of the Night” but isn’t.  Lead singer Geeta Dalal Simons has a great rough, unpolished scream of a voice.  And the chorus is really catchy.  There’s even time for a guitar solo from John Terlesky.

“Because I Love You” slows things down with a nifty sitar line.  I really like the start-stop nature of the main riff.  The intertwining backing vocals really flesh this song out.  It clocks in at 2 and a half minutes, but really fits in a lot of different musical moments.

This seems to be the band’s only release and it was from two years ago, so maybe they are no longer.  Which is a shame, these two songs are pretty great and although I listened because if Weiser, I want to hear more from Geeta Dalal Simons.

[READ: July 25, 2020] Broad Street

I saw Christine Weiser play bass in Suffacox a few months ago.  When she was introduced, it was mentioned that she was a writer.  I found this book, her first novel, and decided to check it out.

Weiser has been in a number of bands.  One in particular was Mae Pang (if you don’t know the origins of that name, do look it up–I had no idea).  Mae Pang was an all-girl garage rock band based in Philly.  As far as I can tell, they didn’t release any music.

However, Weiser has mined her experiences with Mae Pang for the basis of this book.  She has chosen the far superior band name of Broad Street for the book.

Kit Greene is a proofreader for a medical publishing house.  It’s the kind of job where an errant decimal point can be deadly (literally–it could effect the dosage of medicine).  It’s high stress and her boss doesn’t make it any easier. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JACOB COLLIER-Tiny Desk Concert #48 (July 9, 2020).

collierI had never heard of Jacob Collier until his recent Tiny Desk Concert.  He was an impressive fellow to be sure.  He has an amazing vocal range and he can play just about any instrument you can think of.

So it should come as no surprise that Collier’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concert is over the top as well.

But even knowing all of that, it is a still mind-blowing.  Because he has seamlessly spliced four videos of himself together.  So you have four Jacobs in four outfits playing everything in a room that is full of instruments.

The set starts with “All I Need.”  Lead singer Jacob is sitting on the floor in front of a steel drum.  This Jacob also plays the melodica solo.  On the left is keyboardist Jacob who plays the organ and, of course, mid song switches to piano and back again.  On the right is bassist Jacob who plays some excellent bass–including a nice solo at the end.  Way in back is Jacob on drums.  You can’t see him all that well, but you can hear his contribution perfectly.

Polymath musician Jacob Collier has been championing this style of one-man-band music videos since 2012, singing every note and playing every instrument. His cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing”earned him a devout YouTube following at the age of 19, and he hasn’t slowed down since. The London wunderkind owns four Grammy Awards already, including two at the age of 22 in 2017…. Now 25, and with nearly a decade of experience producing every aspect of his own music from his home, Collier is uniquely positioned to crank out his best work from quarantine. In this video, each of the four parts was recorded in a single take. Pay close attention ; it’s easy to get tripped up inside Jacob’s head as he arranges this Rubik’s Cube of a video production, which feels both like a magic trick and a no-strings-attached bedroom session.

Introducing the next song, one of the Jacobs (they fight over who is the actual Jacob), says that “Time Alone With You” is a little funky–hope you don’t mind.  It’s groovy bass line and smart snapping drums.   The end of this song is a wonderful musical freakout with a vocal section that leads to a series of four fast drum hits (including Jacob banging on the piano and some bass rumblings as well).  There’s even a jazzy breakdown (real jazzy bass lines) which allows one of them to whisper “jazz.”  Because even though he is super talented and a very serious musician, he’s also goofy (look at his clothes).

He’s in the middle of releasing his ambitious four-volume record, Djesse. The last song in this video is the premiere of his new single “He Won’t Hold You,” which will appear on Vol. 3, due out later this year.

When piano Jacob changes the mutes in the piano bassist Jacob talks about the record.  “He Won’t Hold You” song starts a cappella in four part harmony (with himself). He can ht some really deep notes and the harmonies are super.

The only problem for me is I don’t really like his style of music.  Which is a shame because he’s so talented, I want to watch him all day.  It’s just not my musical scene.

[READ: July 10, 2020] “Immortal Heart”

This is a lengthy, somewhat complicated and ultimately devastating story.

The story is quite long and it revolves around a woman and her Precious Auntie living in the Western Hills south of Peking.  Their village is called Immortal Heart and The Liu clan (her family) has lived there for six centuries.  They were ink stick makers. They had expanded to a shop in Peking–a sign of great success.

Precious Auntie was born across the ravine in a town called Mouth of the Mountains.  The village was known for dragon bones, which poor men collected from the Monkey’s Jaw cave.  Precious Auntie’s father was a renowned bonesetter and he used these dragon bones as part of his work.

Precious Auntie could not speak.  She communicated with the narrator. Lu Ling, through sign language which only the two of them knew.  Precious Auntie was rather naughty and their silent language allowed her to speak her mind freely (she disapproved of bound feet for instance). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LOS BITCHOS-“Tripping Party/FFF” (2018).

fff

 Los Bitchos are a London-based quintet who play “tequila cumbia instrumentals.”

Although they reside in London the band has an international base, with members hailing from Perth, Montevideo, Stockholm and Croydon.  The band is made up of Serra Petale on lead guitar, Carolina Faruolo (guitar), Augustina Ruiz (keytar), Josefine Jonsson (bass), and Nic Crawshaw (drums/percussion).

The band has been around for two years but only have eight songs on bandcamp (spread over five releases).  This is their first single.  Both songs are terrific evocative instrumentals.

“Tripping Party” has a great Western swing sound, but with a rock foundation.  After about a minute the guitars take on a kind of ska vibe with a slinky lead guitar solo.  A lower guitar solo comes in after the first one–adding a new dimension to the sound.  By the end of the song, the swinging sound returns and ends with a great vibe.

“FFF” is a slower, some what more Middle Eastern sounding song.  There’s some great percussion throughout as the Middle Eastern soloing vibe runs throughout.

This is a great introduction to the band whose newer songs are even better.

[READ: July 14, 2020] “The Book of My Life”

This issue of the New Yorker has a series of essays called Influences.  Since I have read most of these authors and since I like to hear the story behind the story, I figured I’d read these pieces as well.

This essay is surprisingly dark.

Hemon grew up in Sarajevo and studied under Professor Nikola Koljevic.  The course was in Poetry and Criticism and Hemon learned the New Critical method.  When he graduated he phoned his professor to thank him.  This was unusual, but Koljevic was flattered and invited him for a walk to discuss literature.

Soon after, Hemon began working for an independent Sarajevo magazine and Koljevic gained a high position in the Serbian Democratic Party run by Radovan Karadzic, “a psychiatrist and talentless poet.”  He would soon become the most wanted war criminal in the world.

Whenever Karadzic gave a speech on TV, Koljevic was there beside him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DARLINGSIDE-“Ocean Bed” (2020).

oceanToday, Darlingside announced the release of a new song–a wonderful surprise–and an upcoming new album.

The basic sound of Darlingside doesn’t change (thank goodness), but on their last album, they mixed things up by throwing in some electronic sounds.

There’s no electronic sounds on this song (which doesn’t mean there are non on the album) but there is a lot more percussion than usual.

It opens up with some thumping drums.  Is there a drummer?  It’s more than the kick drum they usually use.  Then comes the mandolin and some clapping.  A smooth grooving bass slides in and then, as the voices come in, everything settles down into pure Darlingside.

The verses are individual voice but the bridges are gorgeous harmonies.  The song moves swiftly with a percussion backing as the lead voices sing.

Then the surprise–the middle is practically a drum solo–with rumbling percussion and some kind of low pulsing note (is that secret electronics after all) that adds almost a sinister feel. But that segue leads right back to the mandolin.

I love that this song can sound so much like Darlingside and yet also shows them changing things up. In some ways it’s a step back since their first album had a drummer and their later ones did not.  But this drumming and percussion is a very different sound.  very exciting–how will they do it live?

[READ: July 10, 2020] “Black Mountain, 1977”

This issue of the New Yorker has a series of essays called Influences.  Since I have read most of these authors and since I like to hear the story behind the story, I figured I’d read these pieces as well.

Donald Antrim’s essay is considerably shorter and much more harrowing than the previous one.

Antrim tells of the horrible situation that his mother grew up in.  His mother’s mother was a cruel parent, carrying out “an aggressive campaign against her daughter’s body, even going so far as to advocate unnecessary surgeries for her only child,”

His mother’s father was a meek and cowed alcoholic who never stood up to his wife. (more…)

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