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Archive for the ‘Pretty in Pink’ Category

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: LILA IKÉ-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #67 (August 19, 2020).

Lila Iké is a Jamacian singer.  Although her music has reggae foundations, her vocals transcend the basics of reggae.

The set starts with “Solitude.”

 On “Solitude,” she blends avant-garde R&B with contemporary reggae in a hauntingly elegant song complemented by violinist Sean “Ziah” Roberts.

The opening guitar from Stephen Welsh is four notes that sound like “Stairway to Heaven” and for a split second I had no idea what to expect.  It’s the reggae bass line from Dane Peart that grounds the song.  The biggest surprise to me was the addition of a violinist Sean “Ziah” Roberts–not something I associate with reggae.  Backing singers Tori-Ann Ivy and Ovasha Bartley add some gentle backing harmonies and some fun choreography.

“I Spy” starts with that standard reggae staccato guitar riff and some fun drum fills from Kristoff Morris and Stephen Forbes.

Most of the band is socially distanced, although not everyone is (it’s a fairly cramped space and there are people off camera as well).

“Forget Me” is a slower song with prominent keyboards from Wade Johnson and gorgeous backing vocals.  There’s a lovely violin solo at the end.

For the final song, “Thy Will” all of the singers stand up.

The song (which borrows from the iconic reggae rhythm section Sly & Robbie) ends the set with an uptempo banger.

There’s some groovy sliding bass and a series of solos from all of the musicians at the end.

[READ: August 20, 2020] “Cicadia”

The narrative style of this story loops around a timeline.  We project forward and flashback as the actual motion of the story is just three boys heading to a party.

It’s a Saturday night in 1986 in suburban Cincinnati.  Max, Rodney and Ben are heading into senior year. They have been best friends forever.  Rodney drives, Max sits in the backseat while Ben, shotgun, tries to roll a joint.

Earlier they sneaked into Rodney’s brother Oscar’s room to steal his weed.  Rodney is convinced that Oscar will kill him when he finds out, but in one of the fascinating timeline shifts the story provides,

Oscar is going to be their savior, as he always is.  Oscar the berserker bursting onto the scene with exquisite timing, creating mayhem and staring down Blaine’s cohort of pretty boys who are ready to thrash Rodney and Ben and especially Max.

They are heading to a party where Max will be winked at by a girl in a red beret. It was a definite wink.  In fact, the winks seemed to keep coming all night

Then the story flashes forward to the party where Max punches Blaine and Blaine falls into the pool.  To me, it’s unclear if this is a real party or if Max is remembering a movie.  [Pretty in Pink]  Someone falling in a pool?  [Every movie ever] Everyone cheered when Blaine fell into the pool except the girl with the red beret–for she had left already.

Back in the car, they tease Ben for not being able to roll a joint .  It is pudgy in the middle but it “has a joint-like presence.”  (A phrase that Max really liked).

While all of this is going on Max (the philosophical one) is thinking about their past together and how he is evolving from his friends.  He nearly got a perfect score on the SAT without even trying.  He now kicks himself for the few questions he got wrong–he will try again to get a perfect score.  He’s also planned to stop reading Stephen King and start reading the authors whom Lou Reed recommends.

As the get close to the party, they realize they are lost.  They ask directions from a man walking his dog.  But as the man talks to them, his dog, Cupcake, poops on a neighbor’s lawn and that neighbor yells, “Really Harold, again?”

Harold starts to tell them where to go but when the neighbor charges at Harold with an aluminum bat, Harold and Cupcake hop in the cars and they drive off.  Harold seems pretty fun until he starts asking about the smell in the car.  The boys aren’t sure if he’s going to narc on them or if he wants some.

Then the story has a little perspective shift and addresses… the reader?

maybe, like Max, you know where this is heading … and maybe you’re tapping the person next to you and telling him or her, I know what’s going to happen, because you;re the kind of person who can predict these things… and if you had wanted to, well, you could have been a writer yourself.

But the boys make it to the party, as the story said they would.  And they debate how they should go about selling Oscar’s pot.

There’s a really fun last line.

And yet, I genuinely can’t decide if this is a story or an excerpt from a novel.  There is so much detail that it feels novel-like. I feel like these three characters have a lot more life to show us.

There’s so much potential for time shifting and narrative address, that a lot more could go on here.  At the same time, too much might overwhelm a novel. And it does feel complete, if confusing as a story.

I enjoyed it either way.

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