Archive for the ‘Portlandia’ Category

carrieSOUNDTRACK: CATE LE BON-Tiny Desk Concert #337 (February 18, 2014).

cateCate Le Bon has a very interesting style of singing–it reminds me of Grace Slick in her enunciation, but also like someone whose speaking accent is very strong and is somewhat masked by her singing (like the way she sings “reason” as “ree-sun” as opposed to “reezun”).

The blurb explains that her “phrasing is completely tied to her Welsh dialect — in fact, her first record was in Welsh…. The enunciation is completely tied to the loneliness and the questioning.”

 For this concert it is just her and her fellow guitarist H. Hawkline (both wearing super cozy sweaters).  They share the guitar licks very nicely–it’s not always clear who is playing what–with her sometimes finishing his lines (I believe).

“Are You With Me Now?” has a very catchy chorus (with an “ah ha ha ha ha” part that makes it sound like an olde English ballad).

“No God” plays with very simple guitar lines (chords played very high on the neck of her guitar and a simple accompanying riff).  Hawkline plays keys (and sings some great falsetto backing vocals) to flesh out this song.  Everything is so clean you can hear each note from the guitar and her voice.

“Duke” opens with some interesting slightly off sounding from Cate while Hawkline plays a simple chord pattern (his fingers are enormous, by the way).  Hawkline’s falsetto is almost as engaging as the vocal lines that match the guitar line which Cate plays.  And when she says “I’ll see you here” in that unexpected pronunciation, it’s totally captivating.

I like Le Bon a lot and want to hear what she wounds like on record.

[READ: May 18, 2016] Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

After finishing Bob Boilen’s book and thinking about how I don’t really love music-based books, I immediately read Carrie Brownstein’s book.  Carrie Brownstein is one of the two guitarists in Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag.  She is also one of the leads (writer and actor) on Portlandia.  And she wrote for NPR for a while, too.  Basically, Carrie is the shit.

One thing I took away from this book is that I’ve read a few musician memoirs (Mötley Crüe and Marilyn Manson to name a few) and this is the first one I’ve read that was filled with so much sadness.  Not “I was stoned and regret sleeping with that person with an STD sadness,” but like, real family problems and even a dead pet.  And, as Carrie herself jokes, her stories of being on tour and ending up in the hospital are not based on drugs or other debauchery, but on anxiety and even worse, shingles.

The beginning of the book starts in 2006, around the initial break up (hiatus) of Sleater-Kinney.  Carrie is in pain–emotional and physical–and she can’t take much more.  She starts punching herself hard in the face. (more…)

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chloeSOUNDTRACK: ROGER McGUINN with THE ROCK BOTTOM REMAINDERS-Tiny Desk Concert #62 (June 1, 2010).

mcguinn There are many unusual Tiny Desk Concerts, but this may be the strangest.  Ostensibly, the show is from The Rock Bottom Remainders, an informal and revolving assortment of good-natured authors who masquerade as a rock band for charity.  In this incarnation, they are Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, Roy Blount Jr., Kathy Kamen Goldmark and Sam Barry, none of whom brought any instruments.  But leading them is Roger McGuinn, who brought his guitar and the chords to two songs.

The authors (mostly Dave Barry) are funny and self-deprecating, “We’re gonna attempt a song involving actual singing now,”

So McGuinn leads them in a rendition of “Sloop John B.” which they and the audience sing in a fun, campfire sorta way.  On the second song “May The Road Rise To Meet You” the backing singers mostly just sit and watch McGuinn.  And McGuinn seems fine with that.

He of course has a lovely voice.  And at the end, he does  neat little guitar solo.  And they all applaud.

[READ: July 29, 2015] Chloë Sevigny

I saw this book at work and decided to flip through it.  It has an introduction by Kim Gordon and an Afterword by Natasha Lyonne, so that seemed interesting enough.  The rest of the book is photos of Sevigny.  And nothing else.  Although Gordon says that “this book allows us a peek into her teenage bedroom and evokes the visceral thrill of getting dressed.”

I don’t really have an opinion of Sevigny.  Although I noticed that she tends to appear in things that I like–she’s like the cool guest star that appears on fun shows (like Portlandia).  But I don’t really know anything about her.

And I still don’t. (more…)

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2013 has been cruel to TV that I like.  Between the shows that have been cancelled and the shows that are ending, there’s not much to look forward to for the Spring.  Ben and Kate is gone, the US version of The Inbetweeners is gone, Don’t Trust the B—- is done (but we had stopped watching anyhow), 30 Rock is done, The Office is finishing up, Parenthood & Bunheads have budget issues which means there is some amount of question about their future and The Mindy Show is awful.

And yet, after that introduction, it’s not like there’s nothing on.

So here’s what’s on our schedule as February draws to a close.  I never bothered to tally shows by network before but let’s see:
NBC: 4  FOX: 3   CBS: 3  Comedy Central: 2  FX: 2   PBS: 2  ABC: 1  Lifetime: 1 SyFy: 1  IFC: 1 (more…)

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pdxyarI wanted to explore more of The Doubleclicks’ music, and their site showed off this EP.  It was made for Talk Like a Pirate Day (you’re already sold, right?) and EP is a tribute to the Portland Pirate crew of PDXYAR (whatever that is).  The first song is “The Pirates of PDXYAR highlights what I’ve come to understand is the real Doubleclicks sound: ukulele and cello.  But this one also has a host of backing vocals (make and female).  The song is all about the pirates of PDXYAR and how they came to be and how the represent Portland.

The second song “How Not to Touch a Pirate” is a simpler song which insists that, tempting as it may seem, you should NOT be touching any of the pirates (this seems like a real inside joke).  Its amusing and would probably be funnier if I knew more about PDXYAR.  And oops, this song even has an F-bomb at the end–watch out!

The final track is a remix of “The Pirates of PDXYAR, ”  And mostly it allows more funny backing vocals.  It’s a better, funnier track because of it.

I’m not sold on The Doubleclicks yet.  I like them, but I think more in small doses.

So it turns out that PDXYAR is a Portland-based pirate crew, which you can read about on their website.  The lyrics to the song seem to explain  the origins of the pirates (kickstarter).  Frankly, I don’t know why the pirates (and the Doubleclicks) haven’t appeared on Portlandia yet.

[READ: February 7, 2013] Alison Dare: Little Miss Adventures 2

Volume 2 of Alison Dare is just as fun as Volume 1.  Although I admit the first story was a little confusing (I was never really sure exactly how these books were published originally, so it wasn’t clear that the first few stories were connected.  Although in retrospect it seems obvious enough.

In the first story, “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” it’s obvious that Alison doesn’t have much in the way of the excitement that girls expect from her.  So she makes up an elaborate story which all of the girls (except her two close friends) find wonderful   In “The Unbelievable Truth” we see what really happened (and we see that Alison’s story wasn’t far off, but that details make all the difference).

In “The Perfect Gift” the Blue Scarab (aka Alison’s dad) searches for the perfect gift for his daughter.  But that proves harder than he thought, especially when she accidentally takes a precious jewel that he has recovered in a mission.  In “A Day at the Museum” the girls open something they shouldn’t and unleash a plague.  This ties to the previous story in an unexpected way.  And in “The Gift Exchange” the previous two stories come together for a satisfying conclusion. (more…)

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brockIt’s hard to review a band that you only saw once.  It’s also surprising that said band, which appeared on Portlandia has virtually no web presence–not a video to be found!

In a previous episode, two parents at Shooting Star Preschool are distraught that the music in their children’s classroom includes the likes of Mike + The Mechanics (a gateway band) and are “getting very stressed out that the head of our school does not know about Neu!”  (and doesn’t know that there’s Clash songs before “Rock the Casbah”).  The parents stand up for indie rock: “Who’s to say a kid can’t appreciate a guitar solo in a Dinosaur Jr. song?”  And then Modest Mouse’s Issac Brock brings in a crate of LPs (from the likes of Talk Talk and Temple of the Dog) and is more or less drummed out.

Well in the continuation of this skit, the four parents decide to form a band.  It is atonal and noisy and utterly devoid of melody and at one point Carrie Brownstein screams out “Everyone leaves me!” (all of this to a room full of stunned children).  I would love to get a link to the video, but there are none as of yet (nor of the amazing Squiggleman who headline the concert).

But just remember, kids prefer repetition like Philip Glass rather than Top 40 pop.

[READ: February 3, 2013] “Dear Mountain Room Parents”

Sarah and I have just finished a book by Maria Semple called Where’d You Go Bernadette.  Semple’s bio said that she had written for the New Yorker (and Arrested Development which is all the cred I need).  Interestingly she has only written one thing for the New Yorker (but it still counts) and it’s this Shouts and Murmurs piece (which I read and enjoyed when it came out).

In light of Bernadette, it seems like perhaps Semple has had some hands-on experiences with private school buffoonery.  In this story the teacher of The Mountain Room sends an email to the parents about their upcoming Day of the Dead celebration.  Immediately she has to reply that there’s nothing wrong with  Halloween and that the parents signed up “for Little Learners because of our emphasis on global awareness.”  But of course, it doesn’t get any better for her.

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I’m white, so that means I own a copy of this CD (according to the book below).  And I do, because it’s mandatory in college that you play “Jammin'” at every party.

Now, I like ska (yup, still).  I know that ska came from reggae, but to me reggae is just boring ska.  I couldn’t agree more with Barney on How I Met Your Mother:

Ted: Oh, get this, she plays bass in a reggae band. They’re having a show this Friday. How cool is that?

Barney: Oh, does she know that one song? Mm-hm chaka, mm-hm chaka. What’s that song called? Oh, right, it’s called every reggae song.

Although in fairness, listening to this again, it is a rather nice album (I guess I know every song).  I have a personal aversion to some of the really overplayed songs, like “One Love” (because if you go to any Caribbean location they all act like it’s the official slogan of hot weather.  We even have a Christmas ornament from St. John that says “One Love”  WTF?  And I don’t think anyone needs a 7 minute version of “No Woman No Cry.”

But some of the lesser played its (“Could You Be Loved” and just about anything with The Wailers backing him are pretty great).  Although I’ve got to admit I can’t take more than a few songs.  I had to skip through some of the last songs (thank goodness I don’t have the 2 disc version).

[READ: July 26, 2012] Whiter Shades of Pale

Christian Lander created the blog Stuff White People Like.  It was very funny (it hasn’t been updated since Feb 2011, so let’s assume it has run its course).

Lander had released a first book of SWPL back in 2008.  I didn’t read it (blog to book deals were overwhelming in 2008), but I had seen enough of the site to assume it was funny.  One of the funnier jokes when the blog first came out was wondering if the creator was white or not.  (Well, the author photo gives that away, but I won’t).

We grabbed this book at a Borders going out of business sale (sorry Borders, you are missed).  This book continues where the first book left off (I gather).  I don’t know if every entry from the blog made it into the book (the thanks at the end of the book lead me to think not), but I have to assume most of them made it (and maybe there is new stuff in the book too?) (more…)

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The TV Season scheduling continues to confuse me.  It’s February and two shows are done already.  And new shows are starting this week.  I actually appreciate this rolling schedule because it means new shows instead of repeats.

So hey, networks, why not go all the way and just let the shows run for twenty weeks and then end.  Stop showing reruns (or better yet, rerun them at like 2 in the morning so we can watch them if we miss them) and the introduce a new show for the next half a year.  We wouldn’t have this six weeks off nonsense of Community and Glee or three weeks of repeats of other shows.

I’m picking this week to write this simply because of the ending of the two shows.  We haven’t had a look at the new ones yet, so it’s a clean slate.

Somehow we don’t even have time to watch movies anymore, so the TV shows must be very good. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The 90’s Are Back, Or Whatever… NPR.  (2011).

This is a 90 minute podcast about the music of the 90s.  And, of course, it opens with “The Dream of the 90s” from Portlandia.

I don’t listen to too many full discussions on the All Songs Considered site, but since the 90s were definitely my favorite era of music, I thought it was worth a listen.  Incidentally, it’s funny that the 90s are so meaningful to me when, really I should be a child of the 80s.  But in reality, my 80s music was mostly heavy metal, because I hated all pop radio then.

This radio show (available for free download here) features four NPR music geeks talking about the music they loved during the 90s.  There are some obvious points (“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “1979,” “Song 2,” “Loser”), but some unexpected songs as well: “Grace” (Jeff Buckley), “Long Snake Moan” (PJ Harvey).  And of course, probably the biggest surprise: Sebadoh’s “Soul and Fire as “song of the decade.”

The hosts have a lot of fun with bad songs (severe bashing on Collective Soul or hilariously cueing up “Can’t Touch This” to punk one of the speakers when they are talking about Missy Elliot–yup, it’s not all alt rock, Missy Elliott and Lauren Hill crop up along with Johnny Cash and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan).

But let’s not forget my perennial favorite from Cornershop: “Brimful of Asha.”  And, yes, My Bloody Valentine.

These days, when I do listen to the radio, I find that the stations I prefer tend to play a lot of 90s songs, but it’s surprising to me how infrequently they play some of these really big artists (I hear a lot of Harvey Danger, but no My Bloody Valentine).  It’s funny that one of the songs they talk about, Len’s “Steal My Sunshine” I actually heard coming out of a radio at a pool while on vacation in Florida this past January (!?!).

It’s a fun segment and makes me think that although I do like a lot of new music, I’m a gonna hafta retire to Portland.

P.S. Stay till the end of the show for the hilarious impersonation of Trent Reznor.

[READ: February 17, 2011] 3 book reviews

Zadie Smith is an author whose output I fully intend to ingest one of these days.  So I figured why not read a few of her book reviews, too.

Smith reviews three new titles: Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America, by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts; My Prizes by Thomas Bernhard; and While the Women are Sleeping by Javier Marías.

I’m intrigued by her review of Harlem is Nowhere.  She seemed to be rather critical of the author, especially of her mannerisms: like calling James Baldwin’s “habit of speaking to Harlem folk, having experiences, and deriving from these encounters “a metaphor about all of black existence”–“The Jimmy.”  (where others might have simply called it “writing”).  Or the fact that the author describes herself as a “single girl” as if that has anything to do with anything.

The second half of the review concedes that once you abandon wanting to known anything precise about historical Harlem, it’s a lovely book.  Smith revels in learning about James VanDerZee, Raven Chanticleer and Alexander Gumby (and her enthusiasm makes me want to investigate this book, if not their own works).

So, despite initial criticisms, she ends the review very positively and gives a thumbs up to the work. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PORTLANDIA: “Dream of the 90’s” (2011).

This is song that I think of as the theme song for the show Portlandia. (I’ve only seen the one episode so far so I don’t know if it is or not, but if it isn’t, it should be!).  This song is so indicative of the show that, if you like the video, you’ll likely enjoy the show too.  Portlandia is written by and stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (of Sleater-Kinney).

Although this song is meant to be evocative of the 90s (the chorus is “The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland”), musically, it’s not a 90s-era song (despite the comment that flannel still looks good in Portland).  It is actually a keyboard-only song, kind of discoey (dare I say Pet Shop Boysish?).  It’s a simple musical motif, with a catchy chorus and spoken verse, but really you listen for the lyrics:

Remember the 90s when they encouraged you to be weird?

Portland is the city where young people go to retire.

It’s like Gore won, the Bush administration never happened….  Portland’s almost an alternative universe.

It’s all tongue-in-cheek (with a surprisingly catchy chorus).  But, oh to dream.  Sleep ’til eleven…

Watch the video here.

[READ: January 24, 2011] “Always Raining, Somewhere, Said Jim Johnson”

This second Harper’s story suffered from a similar problem as the previous one.  This story felt like several snippets that never tied together.  In any way.

We see a student at the Iowa writer’s program (this sent up red flags immediately for me–not a story about being in  writing program).  And we read a lengthy section about rain.  Except it’s not really about rain, it’s about a pub in Iowa City.  And the concreteness of it is very cool.  You can really see and smell the bar.   The bartender’s routine is so exact you can win bets on when he’ll finish.   He ensues that everything is tidy and that everyone gets the hell out.  Cool, I’m with you.

Then there’s more rain and the narrator and a guy named Rich crash at Rich’s place.  Rich’s wife, Liz is also there and we learn a word or three about her.  And then the narrator starts really checking out Liz, who is completely naked on the bed with Rich.  And there’s some interesting intense moments where he thinks he’s caught.

Then we jump to another bar scene and some pretty funny comparisons between Liz and Gayle Sayers.  These come from the titular Jim Johnson who is apparently dead by the above scene.  (You don’t have to know who Gayle Sayers is to get the joke, I don’t think.  But if you don’t know who he is, he was a football player).


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SOUNDTRACK: THE DECEMBERISTS-“The King is Dead Live from Portland” on OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting) (2011).

NPR loves The Decemberists, and so do I.  Not only did NPR stream their new album before it came out, they are also showing the audio and the video of this hour-long concert of the band playing The King is Dead start to finish.

I haven’t really had time to digest the whole album yet, but I am quite fond of it.  I’ve listened a few times and it’s very different from their previous releases, it has a much more folk/country feel (with harmonicas!).  And from what I can tell this live set is quite faithful to the recording.

Interestingly, when they played the entirety of The Hazards of Love live (also available from NPR), they played that entire epic album straight through with no chatter in between.  This live set is much more cordial and relaxed (like the disc itself), with some amusing delays and chatter between tracks.  (There’s an amusing reference to the lyrics of the new IFC show Portlandia).  There are tuning and tech malfunctions, and everyone plays along very nicely.  It really shows the difference between the two albums and how adaptable the band is.

Much has been made of the fact that Peter Buck plays on the album, and I have to say that the live mixing of “Down By the Water” makes it sound even more like R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” (that guitar, wow).  But it’s the country and bluegrass really comes out in this setting.  Sara Watkins’ violin really stands out.  They also mention the band’s side project, which I’d not heard of before now.  The band is Black Prairie and features Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee and Nate Query (I guess Colin Meloy is  real taskmaster that they needed to escape?).

The middle of the set is an interview with the OPB DJ (unnamed as far as I can tell) and Colin Meloy.  They talk about Hazards and the new one.  And at the end of the set there’s a Q&A from the audience (hear of Jenny’s wardrobe malfunction!).

But stay until the end because they also play “We Both Go Down Together.”  It’s a great, fun, loose set.

[READ: January 23, 2010] “The Hare’s Mask”

One of the fun things about vacations for me is that I bring all the magazines that have been idling around my house and I read them during down time.  So, I grabbed all of the magazines that were unread or half-read and put them in my suitcase.  After long days at Disney, when the family crashed, I took the time to finish those final pages.

I often find myself falling very far behind on my magazine reading, but I was delighted that after this vacation I was totally caught up (except for the 4 that awaited me when I got home).  This Harper’s story (and the next post) were the only stragglers from the trip.

And I find that I have much more to say about my trip and my magazines than about this story.  I feel like it was meant to be profound, and it certainly had the ingredients for profundity, but it failed to move me.

Perhaps it was the metaphor of tying fishing lures, which I don’t care about. Perhaps it was the rabbit killing, which was heart-string tugging, but was more distasteful than anything else. (more…)

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