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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: THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS-Live at Massey Hall (October 1, 2017).

I’ve been a fan of the The New Pornographers for years.  Their first single, “Letter from an Occupant” was one of my favorite songs of 2000.  For nearly twenty years, they’ve been releasing super catchy fun poppy alt rock.

I was really excited to see them last week.  And then almost equally excited to see that they had a show on Live at Massey Hall.

This show did not have Neko Case singing and while she is not the crux of the band, I’m glad she was at my show, because her voice is great and having three women singing was more fun than having just two.

Before the set, singer and songwriter AC Newman says, “I’m nervous because I realize this is what I do … people paid to come see you.”  His niece, keyboardist Kathryn Calder is with him.  She says she loves having the momentum of 7 people on stage.  It’s a very in the moment feeling shared by all of them.

The show starts with an older song “The Jenny Numbers.”  There’s a wild ripping guitar solo from Todd Fancey in the middle of this otherwise poppy song.  Calder and violinist Simi Stone sound great with their backing vocals–so full and complete.  And excellent compliment to the songs.

Up next is “Whiteout Conditions” which starts with a ripping violin melody from Stone.  I happen to know their newer songs a lot better than their middle period songs and I really like this song a lot.

The full setlist for this show is available online.  They played 22 songs at he show, so it’s a shame to truncate it to 35 minutes.  How did they decide what to cut?  They cut “Dancehall Domine.”

Up next is one of the great songs from the Together album, “Moves.”  The opening riff and persistent use of violin is perfect.

Between songs, Newman says to the audience, “you’ve got to promise not to sit down because it’ll be like a dagger in my heart.”

In the interview clip he says he always love the compartmentalized songs of Pixies.  They influenced the way he wrote music.  So did The Beach Boys for harmonies.  He says it’s hard to know what seeps through, but there’s a ton of it.  Sometimes I’ll hear an old song I used to love and realize I totally stole a part from that song and I didn’t know it.

The show skips “Colosseums” and moves on to “The Laws Have Changed.”  I loved seeing this live because of the amazing high notes that AC Newman hits in the end of the song.  This is also a chance for Kathryn to shine a bit.  “High Ticket Attractions” comes next in the show and here.  It’s such an insanely catchy song.  From the call and response vocals to the overall melody.  It’s one of my favorites of theirs.

The show skips three songs, “Champions of Red Wine,” “Adventures in Solitude,” and “All the Old Showstoppers.”  So up next is “This is the World of the Theater.”  I’m glad they chose this because Kathryn Calder sings lead vocals and she sounds fantastic.  The middle section of the song also includes some hocketing where Newman, Calder, Stone and maybe some others sing individual notes alternately to create a lovely melody.

I noticed that drummer Joe Seiders sings quite a bit as well.  And a shout out to bassist John Collins because he gets some great sounds out of that instrument.

Newman tells the audience that Massey Hall is an intimidating venue, but one you get here it feel welcoming and warm.  The crowd applauds and he says, “soooo, I’m not sweating it.”

Up next comes the poppy and wonderful “Sing Me Spanish Techno.”  It has a constant simple harmonica part played by Blaine Thurier who also plays keyboards.   It’s such a wonderfully fun song.

They skip pretty much the rest of the show to play the big encore song, “Brill Bruisers.”  [Skipped: “Backstairs,” “Play Money,” “Testament to Youth in Verse,” “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk,” “Avalanche Alley,” “Use It,” “Mass Romantic” )that’s a surprise!) and “The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism”].

“Brill Bruisers” is from the then-new album.  The first time I heard it I was blown away.  Those “boh bah boh bah bah bohs” in the beginning are so arresting.  The harmonies that run through the song are sensational and the “ooh” part in the verses just knocks me out.  Its a great great song.

“The Bleeding Heart Show” closed the show and it is played over the closing credits.

This is a terrific example of how good this band is live, but nothing compares to actually seeing them.

[READ: August 1, 2019] Bit Rot

A few years ago I had caught up with Douglas Coupland’s publications.  I guess it’s no surprise to see that he has published more since then.  But I am always surprised when I don’t hear about a book at all.  I just happened to stumble upon this collection of essays.

Coupland’s general outlook hasn’t changed much over the years.  He is still fascinated by “the future,” but he looks at technology and future ideas in a somewhat different way.  He tends to mourn the loss of some things while often embracing what has replaced it.

As my son is now a teenager, I wondered what his take on some of these essays would be–if he would think that Coupland is an old fuddy duddy, or if he was right on.  Or, more likely, that he had never looked at some of these ideas that way at all.  Coupland is quite cognizant that young people are growing up in a very different world than ours.  And that they don’t have any problem with that.  They don’t “miss cursive” because it never meant anything to them in the first place.  They can’t imagine not having Google and hence all of the world’s information at their fingertips.  Of course they assume that technology will continue to get smaller and faster. We older folks may not be prepared for that (or maybe we are), but that’s what younger people expect and can’t wait for

This was a very long, rather thick book that was just full of interesting, funny, thoughtful essays and short stories. I really enjoyed it from start to finish, even if I’d read some of the pieces before. (more…)

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bourbonSOUNDTRACK: RAQUEL SOFIA-Tiny Desk Concert #395 (October 11, 2014).

raquelRaquel Sofia has been a backup singer for Juanes and Shakira and has no come out front to make really catchy songs about breaking up with people.

She sings in Spanish (although her English is excellent) about love and loss and the blurb correctly notes “it’s hard to believe that feeling bad can sound this good. ”  Her songs are all acoustic, but with a fiery punk flair (to match her partially shaved head).

Of the first song, “No Me Importas,” she says she wrote this song about a guy who didn’t call me.   It is a rollicking fun song which starts out with a big HEY! before rocking out.  Her voice is awesome–loud and powerful and for this blow off song, she’s got a great sense of bite in her voice.  And again, for a break up song it’s really fun and even has a with a clap along section

“Agridulce” (which means Bittersweet) is a more mellow ballad.  She says she was in a relationship and was about to get dumped.  Too much damage had been done to say she was sorry so she had to write a song.  She says it’s her next single.  It’s a pretty song and at he end, she says that the look on his face when she told him she wrote the song made the trouble worth it.

She says she wrote “Te Amo Idiota” which means “I love you, Idiot” in the darkest, darkest hour of her life.  It’s an impassioned song.  Not quite as fun as the others, but really good.  The end is really great.

She wasn’t expecting to do a fourth song, but they ask her to and she plays “Hombre Como Tú.”  She says she was mad at a guy and was sure she was never going to see him again.  So she wanted to make sure he knew exactly what she thought about him.  We never find out what he thought of that one.  She says it’s her next single (even though the other song was also her next single).  It’s incredibly catchy and even if you don’t know what she’s saying.

Hearing how great her songs are, it make me want to have a bad break up with her so she can write some more great songs (especially since I wouldn’t know what she’s saying).

[READ: June 11, 2016] Bourbon Island 1730

I joked with Sarah about the disclaimer at the beginning oft his book which says that “Bourbon Island 1730 is not intended to be a historical account.  It is a fictional narrative, freely inspired by historical events.”  And I joked because one of the main characters is a bird and the other looks like a dog or something.  So clearly not historically accurate.

But I soon learned that this is a more or less accurate account of piracy  and slave trading around Bourbon Island in the 1730s.

Although as with a lot of Trondheim’s books I found this one to be lacking focus somewhat.

I wasn’t always sure exactly what was happening.  And one of the problems to me especially was that the book deals with racism and slavery, but it wasn’t always clear who was who because the characters were animals–how do you depict racism with animals if the animals don’t seem to conform to a race? (more…)

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