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Archive for the ‘Fog’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: REX ORANGE COUNTY-Tiny Desk Concert #961 (March 18, 2020).

I read about Rex Orange County (the low-key British pop star born Alex O’Connor) in some random article which basically said if you’re over twenty you’ve never heard of him, but if you’re under twenty, you think he’s the greatest thing ever. (My 14 year old son had not heard of him).

I didn’t read anything about his music, but I assumed he was a hip hop performer or the like.

So imagine my surprise when he turned out to be an English dude who sings like Stevie Wonder and (in the Tiny Desk at least) has music that sounds like it comes straight from the 70s.

“Loving Is Easy” features Michael Underwood on flute and Johnny Woodham on flugehorn sounding for all the world like a mid 70s AM hit.  Is he really popular with the young kids?

There was a palpable connection between the 21-year-old singer and [the crowd of millennial and Gen Z staffers that gathered early for Rex’s soundcheck]  that I don’t see often at this stage in a musician’s career. My guess is that they see themselves in him: introverted and shy, with the audacity to write and sing about his innermost thoughts.

I really feel like this blurb is overselling his openness.  I mean, most singer-songwriters bare their souls, so I’m not sure what makes him any different.  But the blurb really pushes his honesty

We’re in an age where young people are uninhibited and unafraid to address emotions, simple or complex. In that sense, his latest LP, Pony, is timely. He spoke with NPR and shared that he was incredibly unhealthy mentally throughout the making of the album. But there’s an arch to Pony and by the time we get to the final song, “It’s Not The Same Anymore,” he seems at peace with his new reality.

But what’s so intense about these lyrics?

Loving is easy
You had me fucked up
It used to be so hard to see
Yeah, loving is easy
When everything’s perfect
Please don’t change a single little thing for me

I mean, not much, so let’s not get carried away about how revolutionary he is.

I was instantly surprised by how white his band seems.  The band is dressed all in white and they are a remarkably pale bunch.  Drummer Jim Reed has the bright red cheeks of the overheated.  And Michael, Johnny and lead guitarist Joe Arksey are all blond and very pale.

Between songs, he seems like he has never been in front of an audience before with the awkward way he introduces these songs.

Up next is “Pluto Projector” in which Rex switches to guitar and  Underwood switches to piano.  There’s a moment in the middle when bassist Darryl Dodoo plays a slap note.  It’s really the only notable bass in the show.  Woodham plays a muted trumpet solo which is followed by a guitar solo from Joe Arksey that I was sure was bass, but it’s just a weirdly muffled guitar sound.

For “Always” Rex moves back to piano and he sounds even more like Stevie Wonder.  This song features sax and a non-muted trumpet.  There’s some great horn melodies in this song and I like the way he plays some piano parts in the middle.

There’s this awkward introduction.  Okay I only have one more now, and then I’m gonna go…  Let’s play the song that’s called “Sunflower” now.

“Sunflower” is “older,” meaning it dates all the way back to 2017.  He’s back on guitar with a nice echo.  The beginning of the song is guitar and flugelhorn.  Then in the middle, the song picks up the tempo and becomes the catchiest thing all show.  I’m not that keen on the rhyming/talking middle part–it seems oddly forced, but that’s okay.  There’s a jamming section at the end with a flugehorn solo followed by a sax solo

Rex did not blow me away, but I was pleasantly surprised by his sound and that kids actually like it..

[READ: February 21, 2019] The Dam Keeper Book 3

Kondo and Tsutsumi have both worked at Pixar, which may explain why this graphic novel looks unlike anything I have ever seen before.   I have (after reading their bios) learned that this was also a short film.  I’m only a little disappointed to learn that because it means the pictures are (I assume) stills from the film.  It still looks cool and remarkable, but it makes it a bit less eye-popping that this unusual style wasn’t made for a book.

For part three, the final part, our heroes, Pig, Fox and Hippo are trying to get back home to save Sunrise Valley.

This third part is a lot of travel, very little dialogue and, honestly some fairly confusing action.

Pig has been given a plant by the moles and he hopes to use it to find the smoke monster.  Fox and Hippo say the heck with that and choose to head home.

Fox and Hippo are on Van’s ship.  They are brought inside to meet Van’s children.  The room is full of dozens of children of all different species.  As hippo puts it:

Erm.. these are your kids?  But they don’t look like you or Van how is this possible?

Van;s wife says that all of the children were abandoned for being different so Van took them in. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MEG MYERS-Tiny Desk Concert #830 (March 6, 2019).

Meg Myers has a fascinating delivery–singing rather low on the first verse and then in a kind of falsetto on the second verse.  It’s kind of interesting but it seems at times like she’s mocking the lyrics or something.  But I love the music on the song.  I especially love the violin slide to the high notes at the end.

Apparently the instrumentation here is very different from the album.

Meg Myers put out one of 2018’s most intense and cathartic albums. Take Me to the Disco raged and threw sonic punches at anyone who’d ever attempted to use or abuse her, from former record executives to past lovers. Dressed in a sparkling blue leotard, Myers re-creates that fire and ferocity behind the Tiny Desk, replacing her album’s roaring electric guitars and electronics with a pulsing string quartet, piano and brushed drums.  [Jared Shavelson: drums, percussion; Josh Rheault: keys; Kristin Bakkegard: violin; Livy Amoruso: violin; Paul Bagley: viola; Carol Anne Bosco: cello].

But the most intense part of the performance is Myers herself. The distant, piercing looks she gives during the set’s opening cut, “Jealous Sea,” are unforgettable and unforgiving as she sings about a rat’s nest of feelings — anger, fear, jealousy, desire — over an ex. “Everything’s right, everything’s wrong / When you call my name,” she sings while half-hugging herself. “And I don’t think I can stop the jealousy / When it comes, it comes like waves and I can’t breathe.”

I am mixed on her delivery, but I like most of her lyrics.  I am fascinated by the imagery of “I don’t think I can stop the jealous sea, when it runs, it runs like lightning through my teeth.”

Myers follows with a searing version of what she calls “a very lovely, uplifting song” from Take Me to the Disco called “Tear Me to Pieces,” a frenzied takedown of liars, buried secrets and “wicked temptations.”

In the middle of “Tear Me to Pieces,” she sings “it’s in your eye,s you fucking liar” which she sings in what I assume is her normal voice.  And she sounds so powerful and clear there that I rather wish she sang more like that.   I wonder if all of these vocals styles sound different with guitars.  Because by the end, her yelling seems a bit out of tune.

She takes a little break before the final song because she played last night.  While she’s rehydrating, she talks about the next song, a cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.”

She then dials back the fury and indignation to close with a surprising version of “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush. Myers is a longtime fan, and often gets compared to the British singer. But Myers tells the audience she fell in love with the song for its meaning. “It’s about men and women and the differences between them, and learning to have empathy for each other.”

At first I wasn’t too keen on her version–again, her vocal delivery seemed really wrong for this song.  But as she was singing–and singing the lyrics so clearly, I started to really appreciate the way she was performing it.  So I’m overall mixed on her.  I wanted to like her more than I did.

[READ: February 21, 2019] The Dam Keeper: World Without Darkness

Kondo and Tsutsumi have both worked at Pixar, which may explain why this graphic novel looks unlike anything I have ever seen before.   I have (after reading their bios) learned that this was also a short film.  I’m only a little disappointed to learn that because it means the pictures are (I assume) stills from the film.  It still looks cool and remarkable, but it makes it a bit less eye-popping that this unusual style wasn’t made for a book.

For part two, our heroes, Pig, Fox and Hippo are trying to get back home.  But they need the help of that weirdo frog character named Van.  Van shows them the city where he lives.  And it is incredible. So many people, so many colors, and the dams are all automated.  But when they get down into the city, it is just fill of smog,.. so much smog that they need to wear masks.  Van gets ahead of them and they lost him, but everyone speaks a different language and it’s hard for them to find anything.

After wandering around looking for Van, Pig spies the ancient symbol of damkeepers.  He remembers back to his father saying it’s a symbol of the damkeepers’ promise to protect the city–they sacrifice for a greater cause. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHAWN COLVIN-Holiday Songs and Lullabies (1998).

This album “was inspired by impending motherhood and the rediscovery of a favorite children’s book–the enchanting Maurice Sendak-illustrated Lullabies and Night Songs, from whence many of these traditional tunes come.”

I wouldn’t have said it this way, but this quote from the Amazon page is pretty apt (if overwritten):

These simple, elegant songs outshine any nasty humbug associated with holidays and dark nights, offering sanctuary from the ill temper of the season.  Though she was heavy with child at the time of recording, Colvin’s sweet, girlish voice is here huskily warmed and enhanced by the fullness of womanly glow, conjuring the innocent simplicity of a safe childhood.

The songs are all gentle and have that lullaby feel.  Some songs have strings and horns, but mostly it is piano, organ and acoustic guitar.  And it is all down-to-earth, clean-sounding and cozy.

Technically this isn’t really a Christmas album, but it’s perfect to get you fall asleep early on Christmas Eve.

The songs include: “In the Bleak Midwinter” (Traditional) / “Christmas Time Is Here”  /  “Now the Day Is Over” (Traditional) /  “Rocking” /  “Windy Nights”  /  “All Through the Night” (Traditional) /  “Love Came Down at Christmas” /  “Silent Night” /  “All the Pretty Li’l Horses” /  “Little Road to Bethlehem” /  “Seal Lullaby” (Rudyard Kipling) /  “Evening Is a Little Boy/The Night Will Never Stay” /  “The Christ Child’s Lullaby” (Traditional) /  “Close Your Eyes” (Brahms)

What’s especially good is that she doesn’t take any fast or upbeat songs and make them slow and soporific, she takes most of the slow ballads and sings them very prettily.

[READ: October 31, 2017] The Dam Keeper

Kondo and Tsutsumi have both worked at Pixar, which may explain why this graphic novel looks unlike anything I have ever seen before.   I have (after reading their bios) learned that this was also a short film.  I’m only a little disappointed to learn that because it means the clips are (I assume) stills from the film.  It still looks cool and remarkable, but it makes it a bit less eye-popping that this unusual style wasn’t made for a book.

The story is a somewhat peculiar one, at least in the beginning.

Animals live in a town called Sunrise Valley.  The fog used to consume the town.  Then they put up a dam with windmills to keep the fog out. It is up to the dam keeper to make sure it is always running. Because the fog means death.

The dam keeper is a pig .  The fog came into town and killed the dam keeper’s wife.  The father taught his son about the dam and the importance of making sure the dam is always working.  Then one day the father walked into the fog and was never seen again.

His father always said that the dam was working if the residents forget about it.  And so they have–they think the Pig family is weird for monitoring it.

So Pig, with no parents, must attend school and monitor the dam.  He has a lot of responsibility.  And he has few friends. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NATALIA LAFOURCADE-Tiny Desk Concert #664 (October 27, 2017).

I’d never heard of Natalia Lafourcade , so here’s what the blurb says:

Natalia Lafourcade is a successful singer-songwriter whose voice and music live on the edge of pop, but maintain a distinct independence.

A few years ago, while Lafourcade was traveling Brazil, she felt a great nostalgia for her native Mexico and its folk music. When she finally returned home, she immediately called some friends for the kind of party that is ubiquitous in Latin America: lots of social drinking, lots of food and lots of guitars and singing. Classic folk songs were on the playlist and a good time was had by all.

Someone recorded the informal jam session and Lafourcade’s management team heard the tapes. “This is your next record!” they told her.

That record, Musas: Un Homenaje al Folclore Latinoamericano en Manos de los Macorinos, Vol. 1, [Muses: A Tribute to Latin American Folklore in the Hands of the Macorinos, Vol. 1] was a commercial and critical hit, and received a Latin Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. It only made sense for Lafourcade to bring her Musastour to the Tiny Desk. The performances are an ode to a magical time in Mexican popular music, one that is revived with every note this singer and her band perform.

Los Macorinos are Ernesto Anaya (traditional Mexican guitar), Uriel Herrera (drums) and Jorge Molina (double bass).

One important historical note: The two older gentlemen on the video are Juan Carlos Allende (acoustic guitar) and Miguel Peña (electric guitar), two revered musicians who played with the iconic ranchera singer Chavela Vargas.

She plays three songs:

Lafourcade has a lovely delicate voice and brings a lot of joy to these songs.  On “Soledad y el Mar,” her voice and all of the acoustic guitars meld together wonderfully.  There’s also beautiful “traditional” harmonies from the players.

“Mi Tierra Veracruzana” was written for her hometown of Veracruz (five hours from Mexico City).  She says “its full of energy and  the beautiful things that I remember about my little town.”  There’s some delightful little acoustic guitar solo runs in the middle of the song that really spice up this delightful song.  I love that there’s also someone there to give a high-pitched aahhhhhhh ha ha!

“Tú Sí Sabes Quererme” its a love song which means You Know How To Love Me.  There’s much chuckling and then she says, when it happens it happens. She plays a small four string guitar.  After running through the chorus for everyone to sing along: “mas o menos, you have to sing as you were very in love with somebody.”  This song really swings and it’s a lot of fun..

[READ: October 27, 2017] Ghosts

Ghosts is a very different story for Telgemeier.

In the past, her stories have been rather personal–taking events from her own life (I assume).

This story mixes some real events (a sister with cystic fibrosis–this is tangentially related to her own life) and fantastical events–ghosts appearing on Dia de los Muertos.  She does an excellent job of linking the two.  Not only because the sister is facing death, but also because the sister needs a breathing apparatus and the ghosts are also “seeking” breath to come alive for the festivities.

As the book opens, we see Kat and Maya in the back seat of the car.  They are pulling out of [not] In-N-Out Burgers and learning that their new home in Bahiá de la Luna does not have an In-N-Out Burger.  This is pretty upsetting, but Kat realizes that they are moving to save her sisters’ life.  Kat will of course miss everything back home, but Maya needs the cool wet climate (the sun only shine 62 days of the year) of their new home. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-“The Haunted House” (MGM Grand Garden Arena, Friday 10, 31, 2014).

In honor of Halloween, these Ghost Box stories will be attached to a recent Phish Halloween show [with quoted material from various reviews]. 

Known for dawning musical costumes to celebrate [Halloween], Phish broke with tradition last year to offer a set of original music.  The Phish Bill read that Phish’s musical costume would be a 1964 Disney album of sound effects – Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House.  But it wasn’t a cover set. Phish played original music set amongst an incredibly psychedelic, theatrical graveyard stage accentuated by zombie dancers and a ghoulish MC.  At the start of the set, the stage was cleared before a graveyard came to the foreground.  Smoke filled the air, zombie dancers appeared, and music filled the venue. A haunted house was brought to the front of the stage, which eventually exploded, and all four-band members appeared, dressed in white like zombies. 

After playing the spoken narration from the record, “You are a bold and courageous person afraid of nothing…” the band plays a fast thumping melody as the song builds in intensity.  It’s a bit dark and eerie with staccato piano and a slow, menacing riff.  It feels very zombie-like (on stage zombies came out from behind the gravestones).

There’s a slow menacing solo played over the top of the (over the top) screams and moans from the record.  It ends with a gong.

[READ: October 16, 2017] “The Night Wire”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar comes The Ghost Box.

This is a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening) that contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

A collection of chilly, spooky, hair-raising-y stories to get you in that Hallowe’en spirit, edited and introduced by comedian and horror aficionado Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, on the inside cover, one “window” of the 11 boxes is “folded.”  I am taking that as a suggested order

This story seems like it may have been the template for many stories that followed.  Which means to a reader nearly 100 years later it’s not that suspenseful or spurring.  But at the time it was probably pretty awesome. (more…)

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