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Archive for the ‘Games (Non Video)’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MARGO PRICE & JEREMY IVEY-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #2 (March 26, 2020).

Since the quarantine began, many many many musicians have been playing shows at home.  There are so many online home recordings that it is literally impossible to keep up with them.  I have watched a few, but not many.  I’m not sure how many of the online shows are going to be available for future watching, but at least these are saved for posterity.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It’s the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

I respect Margo Price’s lyrics and attitude. But her music is just too country for my tastes.  I don’t know anything about her husband Jeremy Ivey (turns out he released his first album this year at age 41).

In this concert, Margo’s accent is subdued and her songs sound great.  Plus, she says what we are all thinking between the first and second song.

Margo Price and her husband, Jeremy Ivey, performed a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert from their Nashville attic. Behind them are two handmade signs inspired by John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed-In For Peace that simply reads “Stay Home” and “Save Lives.”

They play three songs

They played “Stone Me,” a song they co-wrote and included on Margo’s upcoming album, That’s How Rumors Get Started.

Maybe it is best is Margo stays in the country world, because her lyrics really stand out against the status quo:

Love me, hate me
Desecrate me
Call me a bitch
Then call me baby
You don’t know me
You don’t own me
Yeah that’s no way
To stone me

Plus it’s really catchy.

After the song Ivey jokes that you can hold your applause until the end.  But then Margo gets serious saying the last time they did Tiny Desk trump had just gotten elected and didn’t think things gcould ever get worse…here we are.

The second song, “Just Like Love” is from an EP.  It’s a minor key song, less catchy but more affecting with Ivey’s excellent backing vocals and guitar solos.

Margo and Jeremy dedicated this concert to all those that are struggling right now and thank “all the people still out there working, the doctors, all the sanitation people, everybody out there just doing what they have to do to so we can survive, all the people working in grocery stores. And to everyone who has lost their job, we feel you.”  In addition to the rapidly spreading virus, Nashville was recently ravaged by tornadoes.

The video cuts to black and Margo returns saying Take 25, while carrying a hand drum.

They ended the set with a premiere, a song called “Someone Else’s Problem,” that they wrote together on an airplane while Margo was pregnant. It’s a song dealing with the guilt many of us have, being part of a problem instead of part of a solution.

This is another minor key song and it’s quite long (about 7 minutes).  It’s almost like a Bob Dylan story song (including a harmonica solo).

She ends the set by looking at the camera and asking, Where’s the ventilators” if only the stereotypical country fan would listen to her and maybe change their minds about the impeached president.

[READ: March 30, 2020] The Adventure Zone 2

I loved this book.  It is a graphic novel realization of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign.  It is based on a podcast called The Adventure Zone.  The podcast is fun and is a real scenario of friends (in this case brothers) playing D&D.  The podcast is pretty funny if a little unedited.

Book Two picks up more or less where the last book left off.  Our heroes Taako the elf mage, Merle the dwarf cleric and Magnus the fighter meet with the leaders of the Bureau of Balance, a volunteer organization dedicate to finding and eliminating weapons of magical destruction.

They are given new gear, they level up, they shop at Magic Costco.  Then they are to board the Rockport Express train and retrieve the Oculus, a magical object.  The person who had it, Leeman Kessler, was killed for it.

The train is pretty cool with a crypt safe that can only be opened if the engineer’s hands are on it for an hour.

There a bunch of hilarious NPCs in the game including the engineer, Hudson, and the guy who is there to help them, Jenkins.  Jenkins brings their food and shows them the magic portal room (it’s not-only-a sex thing).  The fun that the characters have at Jenkins’ expense it totally worth the reading of the book.

Also on board is a young boy (I’m ten, not eight) Angus McDonald the self-proclaimed world’s greatest detective who offers to help him (and sound snotty doing it).   Angus knows about Leeman Kessler’s death and he is out to find “The Rockport Slayer.”  The three adventurers agree to help him.  As they go snooping around they discover another dead body.  His hands and head were cut off.

Coincidentally also on board is the professional wrestler, Jess the Beheader (Magnus loves her and has both her action figures, the regular one and the rare one).  But Merle snarks: “Don’t you know wrestling is made up fantasy bullshit?”

The rest of the book becomes kind of a mystery story–finding the Rockport Slayer and eventually getting the magical oculus out of the cryptsafe. There’s magical spells, serious hit point damage, a large  crab, preposterous story lines and a nice plot twist.

The fun part at the end comes when our heroes hand over the oculus (come on that’s not a spoiler) but the head of the BOB reveals that there are a total of seven magical items that they must retrieve and thanks to our heroes, they now have two.

So you’re telling us that you and your big organization and secret moon base and flying snow globes have been doing this for however long and your score is zero?!

Two?

No that’s our score…BOB Incorporated has a big old goose egg.

As the book ends a mysterious hooded figure who has been lurking throughout the book crosses out the oculus on a list.  The phoenix fire gauntlet is already crossed out.  That leaves Five to go.

I really enjoyed this story even if it was more of a mystery than a good old D&D story.  Although honestly I haven’t looked at D&D since the 70s so maybe it’s different now.

Although, more specifically there is no way this is how a D&D story could work.  The repartee and the battles are too clean cut and plotted.  Now I realize that the book borrows liberally from various things to create the story line.  So maybe they have taken the podcast and taken the highlights and best quips and made this story from it  I mean, it works as story but it doesn’t work at all as a campaign.  Which is fine, since this is a story not a campaign.

I’m just curious how the actual campaign worked.

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SOUNDTRACK: BOB WEIR AND WOLF BROS.-Tiny Desk Concert #953 (March 2, 2020).

Bob Weir is, obviously, a founding member of Grateful Dead.

This set goes on much longer than a typical one (and they’re not rappers or R&B singers).  I got a kick out of this comment in the blurb:

When I produce a Tiny Desk Concert, one of my most important jobs is to make sure they run on time and that the performance sticks to our set time limit (roughly 15-minutes). So when Bob Weir and Wolf Bros achieved lift-off during a pre-show sound-check, it was my unthinkable responsibility to tell the guy who practically invented the jam band to… stop jamming.

It also fell to me to keep looking at my watch during the performance, even as I realized that my favorite “Dark Star” jams alone lasted well beyond our fifteen-minute performance window.

I’ve never been a big fan of the Dead (despite how much I enjoy jam bands).  Their music is a bit too slow for my tastes.  But in the right mood (like a rainy Sunday), they can be right on.

These songs are slow and expansive and allow for a lot of jamming.  There’s not a lot of opportunity for jamming here as this is just a trio, but Weir is very comfortable stretching things out.

The trio make an interesting look with drummer Jay Lane in a tie-dyed shirt and upright bassist Don Was in all black.  Weir stand between them in a gray T-shirt and his gray hair.

The first song

“Only a River,” from Weir’s 2016 solo album Blue Mountain, feels like a memorial to Jerry Garcia, with a reference to the Shenandoah River, a body of water Garcia famously made reference to on the song, “A Shenandoah Lullaby.” Weir turns the chorus into a mantra and seems to evoke the spirit of his fallen bandmate.

This song references the melody of “Shenandoah” pretty directly n the middle, but the “hey hey hey” let’s you know that this is a very different song.

Before the second song, he says they just got clearance to play it.  I didn’t realize that “When I Paint My Masterpiece” was a Bob Dylan song, but I guess maybe I should have.

And what would a Grateful Dead-related performance be without a Bob Dylan song? The intimacy of the Tiny Desk turns Weir into a sage Master Storyteller during a version of “When I Paint My Masterpiece” with its reference to Botticelli and a lonely Roman hotel room.

The set really comes to life when special guest, Mikaela Davis comes out to play harp.

The harp is always a magical-sounding instrument and amid the quietness of this trio, it really shines.  Davis basically takes the lead on “Bird Song” including bending strings (I’ve never seen a harpist do that before).

Midway through the song, Weir waves his hand and allows Davis to take a solo while Weir puts down his acoustic guitar.

When Weir switches to electric guitar midway during “Bird Song,” I looked at my watch because I knew we were in for some time travel. And the band didn’t disappoint as the rhythmic interplay between Weir and Davis showed off his singular rhythm guitar style, honed from more than thirty years of playing alongside one the most idiosyncratic lead guitarists in modern music.

Davis does some more note bending in her solo, which is so interesting.  When Weir joins in, their music melds really beautifully.

They jam the song out for 8 minutes and as the music fades Bob says, I’m pretty sure we’re over our time limit.

He says they were slated for 20 minutes and they’re at forty now (sadly we only get to see 26 minutes).  Someone shouts “keep going” and they do one more.

They play “Ripple” Grateful Dead’s fifty-year-old sing-along from their album American Beauty.  It demonstrates

the song’s celebration of hope and optimism, found in the spirit of all of the band’s music. Bob Weir continues to evoke that spirit every time he picks up a guitar; and as we all sang along at the end, we evoked that spirit too: “Let there be songs, to fill the air.”

I suppose it’s never too late to start enjoying a band, right?

[READ: March 25, 2020] “In the Cards”

This is exactly the kind of story I don’t like.  It seemed to go nowhere and in an oblique fashion. Plus the narrator was really hard to relate to.

The point of the story seems to be the last line: “You’re crazy when you’re a good writer.”

It starts with a discussion of playing cards and moves on to tarot cards.  Her friend Michel gave her a deck and she felt ill at ease just reading the directions.  But what most disturbed her was the image of The Fool.

The narrator says she is unfamiliar with playing cards and yet later she says when she was a child they played Mistigri which is a card game.  So go figure.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHARLY BLISS-“All I Want for Christmas is You” (2017).

For some reason I though this Christmas cover song came out this year.  It actually came out two years ago!

Charly Bliss do a fun power-pop version of this Mariah Carey song

It starts off quiet;y with just Eva Hendrick’s voice and a gentle guitar.  After the first verse, the whole band kicks in with a rocking pop version of the song.  There’s some great backing vocals from the guys (their oohs and ahhs are really great) and even a set of jingle bells from time to time.

Eva gets to rock out in the middle third with some loud high notes and then the band rocks out after that with some loud guitars a and a few screeching solo notes before the pleasant guitar solo that takes the song out.

There’s a lot of great versions of this song, and this is one of them.

[READ: December 20, 2019] “The Unbeatable Deck of Ronan Shin”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story was remarkably sad, but with, maybe, a small glimmer of hope.

Despite that overall tone, I loved the way it was created.  And that the main character plays a role-playing game.

The story is about Ronan Shin and his fantastic deck for the game Aftermath. Aftermath is a knock off game… sort of like Magic: the Gathering, but more nebulous.  It’s this vagueness that appeals to Ronan.  The cards

are made with a fraction of the budget of the card titans, and it shows.  The ink work is scratchy.  The faces are sometimes disconcertingly unfinished, askew, the expressions wrong, like they were meant for a different card, or a different game altogether.  …  Even the universe of the game is sketchy.  The game never attempts to explain who the player is within its world.  Nowhere in any of the flimsy game materials is the calamity that has befallen the planet described

It’s this shoddy strangeness that first hooked Ronan.  Of course, none of this matters in competition–it has nothing to do with the rules, which are concrete-but it’s the vague backstory that he likes.

His best (and really only) friend is Nima Tehrani.  Nima has theories about what the backstory is supposed to be–he spends time imagining an explanation for where they are playing. But Ronan knows the truth.  There is no secret mythology.  The company that makes Aftermath bought unused concept art from a few other failed role playing game and cobbled them together.  The game was made in a boardroom by people with no imagination.

But he still loves the game and he has an unbeatable deck. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-“History Never Repeats” (1995).

On December 2, Pearl Jam announced that their fan club holiday singles will be released to streaming services.  Their first holiday single was released back in 1991.  It was “Let Me Sleep (Christmas Time).” They are rolling out the songs one at a time under the banner 12 Days of Pearl Jam.

These releases are coming out as a daily surprise.

I was not aware of this recording at all.  It is, indeed, the Split Enz song.  It was recording during a Pearl Jam show on March 24, 1995 in Auckland, New Zealand.   It must be during a quiet middle section, because it’s just Eddie with Neil Finn & Tim Finn live at the Mount Smart Stadium.

It is a bare-bones version with just voices and one electric guitar.  Neil Finn plays guitar and sings the first verse.  Eddie takes the second verse.  Tim Finn sings the third verse.  All three share  backing vocals and the chorus.

It’s a rare treat to hear an old recording like this, especially one of a song they’ve not played since.

[READ: December 13, 2019] “The Infinite”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

I really like César Aira’s stories.  He’s a fascinating guy and insanely prolific.

He has written nearly a hundred books.  Most of his novels are quite short, so I’ve never really thought of him as writing actual short stories.  This one comes from his collection The Musical Brain: And Other Stories which was translated by Chris Andrews.

The unnamed narrator says that as a kid he played some extremely strange games.  I love this line, “They sound made up when I explain them, and I did, in fact, make them up myself.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DANKO JONES-Garage Rock! A Collection of Lost Songs From 1996-1998 (2014).

Danko Jones has released nine albums an a bunch of EPs.  Back in 2014 he released this collection of songs that he wrote and recorded before his first proper single (1998).

This is a collection of raw songs, but the essential elements of Danko are in place. Mostly fast guitars, simple, catchy riffs and Danko’s gruff voice, filled with braggadocio.  With a cover by Peter Bagge!

He describes it:

Back in the 90’s,the Garage Rock scene, as I knew it, was a warts-and-all approach that favoured low-fi recordings and rudimentary playing over any modicum of musical prowess in order to glean some Rock N’ Roll essence. However, once a band got better at their instruments, songwriting and stage performance, the inevitable crossroads would eventually appear. Deliberately continuing to play against their growing skill would only evolve into a pose. There were a lot of bands who did exactly this in order to sustain scenester favour. We did the opposite.

What you hold in your hands is a document of what we were and where we came from. We didn’t know how to write songs and could barely play but we wanted to be near to the music we loved so badly. We ate, slept and drank this music. We still do. That’s why we have never had to reunite because we’ve never broken up. After 18 years, we’ve stayed the course, got tough when the going did and, above all else, we have never stopped. This album is the proof.

The first two songs are the best quality, with the rest slowly deteriorating with more tape hiss.

1. “Who Got It?” a big fat bass sound with lots of mentioning of Danko Jones in the lyrics. [2 minutes]
2. “Make You Mine” is 90 seconds long.  With big loud chords and rumbling bass Danko says “one day I’m going to write a book and let everybody know how to do it.  Seems to me there a lot of people around who want to see if I can prove it.  I been a rock prodigy since the age of 20 and my proof… my proof is right now.”
3. “I’m Your Man” is a bit longer.  The quality isn’t as good but the raw bass sound is great.
4. “She’s Got A Bomb” is good early Danko strutting music.
5. “Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue.”  He would name an album this many years later.  This song is fast and raw and only 90 seconds long.
6. “Dirty Mind Too” This is a fast stomping one-two-three song that rocks for less than a minute.
7. I’m Drinking Alcohol? This is funny because later he says he doesn’t drink.  I don’t know what the words are but the music is great–rumbling bass and feedbacky guitars with lots of screaming.
8. “Love Travel Demo” and 9. “Bounce Demo” are decent demo recordings.  “Bounce” has what might be his first guitar solo.
10. Sexual Interlude” “ladies it’s time to take a chance on a real man.  I’m sick and tired of seeing you women selling yourselves short, going out with a lesser man.
11. “I Stand Accused” Unexpectedly he stands accused of “loving you to much.  If that’s a crime, then I’m guilty.”
12. “Best Good Looking Girl In Town” a fast chugging riff, “oh mama you sure look fine.”
13. “Payback” This one sounds really rough but it totally rocks.
14. “Lowdown” Danko gives the lowdown: “You want a bit of romance?  I got you an bouquet of Flowers and a box of chocolates.  Why you crying for?  That ain’t enough?  Me and the fellas wrote this song just for you.”
15. “One Night Stand” garage swinging sound: Danko is a one woman man and you’re just his type.
16. “Instrumental” is great.
17. “Move On” is a long, slow long bluesy track about love.

It’s not a great introduction to Danko, but if you like him, you won;t be disappointed by this early baby-Danko period.

[READ: August 10, 2019] I’ve Got Something to Say

In the introduction (after the foreword by Duff McKagan), Jones introduces himself not as a writer but as a hack.  He also acknowledges that having something to say doesn’t mean much.  He has too many opinions on music and needed to get them out or his insides would explode.  He acknowledges that obsessing over the minutiae of bands is a waste of time, “but goddammit, it’s a ton of fun.”

So this collection collects some of Danko’s writing over the last dozen or so years. He’s written for many publications, some regularly.  Most of these pieces are a couple of pages.  And pretty much all of them will have you laughing (if you enjoy opinionated music writers).

“Vibing for Thin Lizzy” [Rock Hard magazine, March 2015]
Danko says he was lured into rock music by the theatrics of KISS, Crue and WASP.  But then he really got into the music while his friends seemed to move on.  Thin Lizzy bridged the gap by providing substance without losing its sheen or bite.  And Phil Lynott was a mixed race bassist and singer who didn’t look like the quintessential rock star.  What more could Danko ask for? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TINY DESK PLAYLISTS (2019).

As on October 1, NPR has started the Tiny Desk Playlist page.

As of today there are 9 Playlists on the page.  I’m not going to comment on them, as I’ve already posted about all of these shows (except CHAI as of now).  I might disagree with some of these lists, but whatever the case they are a good introduction to Tiny Desks if you haven’t already seen one.

5 Tiny Desk Concerts That Will Literally Make You Cry
• Julien Baker (read more)
• Yusuf/Cat Stevens (read more)
• Bernie and The Believers (read more)
• Rev. Sekou and The Seal Breakers (read more)
• Barbara Hannigan (read more)

The 5 Most Uplifting Tiny Desk Concerts
• Lizzo (read more)
• Superorganism (read more)
• Fragile Rock (read more)
• Dan Deacon (read more)
• Mucca Pazza (read more)

The 5 Wildest Tiny Desk Concerts
• Gogol Bordello (read more)
• Red Baraat (read more)
• The Cristina Pato Trio (read more)
• George Li (read more)
• Dirty Three (read more)

The Best-Sounding Tiny Desk Concerts, Vol. 1 [selected by “the guy mixing the performances and bopping his head along just off (and sometimes on) screen” Josh Rogosin].
• Monsieur Periné (read more)
• Andrew Bird (read more)
• Nick Hakim (read more)
• Tedeschi Trucks Band (read more)
• PJ Morton (read more)

The Best Of The Very Beginning Of Tiny Desk Concerts
• Laura Gibson (read more)
• Vic Chesnutt (read more)
• Tom Jones (read more)
• Thao Nguyen (read more)
• Dr. Dog (read more)

The 5 Best ‘Before They Were Stars’ Tiny Desk Concerts
• Brandi Carlile (read more)
• Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals (read more)
• Adele (read more)
• H.E.R. (read more)
• Mitski (read more)

Tiny Desk Trick Or Treat: Our 5 Favorite Concerts In Costume
• Neko Case’s Halloween Special (read more)
• Blue Man Group (read more)
• Mucca Pazza (read more)
• CHAI (read more)
• Preservation Hall Jazz Band (read more)

#ElTiny: The Best Latinx Tiny Desk Concerts, Vol. 1
• Natalia Lafourcade (read more)
• Jorge Drexler (read more)
• Juanes & Mon Laferte (read more)
• iLe (read more)
• Café Tacvba (read more)

Lianne La Havas’ 5 Favorite Tiny Desk Concerts
• Tank And The Bangas
• Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals
• Noname
• Tamino
• Mac Miller

[READ: October 28, 2019] “God’s Caravan”

This story opens with boys crouching in the dirt shooting marbles.  I assumed it was set in the 1950s, so I was surprised to see that the boy knew of Michael Jackson’s moonwalk.  But it is set in Memphis, Tennessee–“Soulsville the black part.”

Earl was kicking butt and winning marbles left and right when the boys heard an ice cream truck trundle up.  But this was no ice cream truck.  Rather it was a van and it was playing “I’ve come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee.”  On the side of the van, painted in “blood of Jesus” red were the words “God’s Caravan.”  The speakers then broadcast “When I say, ‘Ride or die’…you say ‘Amen.'”

The voice said “Ride or Die” and Earl and the other boys all shouted back “Amen.”

The door opened and there was the pastor, dressed in black judge’s robes.  He said he had sweets for their hearts. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: IDLES-Tiny Desk Concert #858 (June 28, 2019).

I had heard of Idles from All Songs Considered.  On the podcast, Bob Boilen raved about seeing them live.  Like this:

My first time seeing IDLES ended with guitarist Mark “Bobo” Bowen frenetically dancing on a bar, his guitar still keeping time, until the swinging neck suddenly shattered some low-hanging, glass lighting fixtures. The band’s set at South by Southwest was fierce and I knew it’d be a challenge trying to figure out how to bring that cathartic rage behind my desk. There was talk for a while of some members of the band strapping on pocket-sized guitar amps and beating on a single drum. But a week before this bunch of British madmen arrived at NPR, the instrument list had grown and what ensued was just about the loudest, most fun and most raucous Tiny Desk Concert in memory.

This is all true, for sure.  But this Tiny Desk, as amazing as it is, doesn’t come close to showing how incredible their live show is.   Idles live is a truly unforgettable experience.

However, seeing all of that energy and fun contained in a small place is awesome and this is one of my favorite Tiny Concerts as well.

The first song “Never Fight A Man With A Perm” opens with a siren sound from keyboardist Jeremy Snyder and the main constant of Idles’ music–steady bass from Adam Devonshire.  Add in the thumping drums from Jon Beavis and you have the ground work for Joe Talbot to start his singing/yelling.

The band also has two guitarists.  Mark “Bobo” Bowen thumps on the floor tom while Lee Kiernan jumps around, slashing at chords.

The title sounds funny and it is, but the song is a serious indictment of male aggression.

What lead singer Joe Talbot and his mates bring to their shows is a mix of love and outrage. Their songs are often bursts of fury, but the message is insightful and not intended to incite. Joe Talbot says their opening Tiny Desk song, “Never Fight A Man With A Perm,” from their album Joy as an Act of Resistance, is an “exploration of the horrid corners of my past.”

The chorus of “concrete and leather” thumps around before the song returns to the verses, with some cockney slang:

Brylcreem
Creatine
And a bag of Charlie Sheen

A heathen from Eton
On a bag of Michael Keaton

Bobo is a ton of fun to watch–shirtless, wearing American flag spandex pants, he climbs on everything: amps, desks, and other unseen things.

“Mercedes Marxist” starts with a thumping single bass note which will remain unchanged for two and a half minutes.  Snyder takes over on the floor tom while Bobo and Lee trade off guitar sections.

The song is almost entirely that one bass note (with all kinds of guitar melodies and riffs swirling around it).  Until a big chorus comes near the end.  Through it all,  Talbot is directing the fun with his scary vocals.

It only took a few seconds for Joe’s face to turn blood-red; as he growled, it stayed that way for the next 13-minutes, even as he curtseyed at the end of the first song and bounced his way into the second.

The one thing that this Tiny Desk misses is Talbot’s love and generosity.

Despite his tone and the roughness of the music, his kindness and consideration is paramount to the band.  Hearing him wish nothing but love on everyone is a pretty wonderful feeling especially after he sings “dirty rotten filthy scum.”

“We are not the Jonas Brothers,” Joe Talbot explained before their final tune. “People get confused.” He said this with his charming smile and began to run in place while singing “I’m Scum,” just to make it clear who they are.

Before the songs, he asks, what song are we doing?  Someone says “Scum.”  He smiles, “I like this song.”  Before it even starts he begins running in place, knees high as he chants “hey! hey!”  The energy of this band is incredible and certainly hard to contain.

 watching the hyperactive movements in this confined space, it’s actually hard to believe that so few things broke.

Mid song Bobo leaves the desk area to grab someone on the crowd.  He gives her percussion instruments to bang. Then Bobo grabs somebody else and he takes over percussion as well.    Then Bono crawls around on his knees, climbs on the desk and is having a great time.  As is everyone else.

I thanks All Songs Considered all the time for the band they’ve introduced me to, but Idles might be the best find ever.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “A Crowded Memory”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1988: This story is written in paragraphs with drawings in between.

It is the story of a 7 year-old girl going to Hong king for the first time.

She was spending a month in Hong Kong without her immediately family.  She would be living with her Nai-nai and Gong-gong.

The place was total culture shock.  She had never heard only Cantonese before. She had never seen so many Chines people.  There were street vendors and apartments and the colors and smells were overwhelming.  Everything feels to loud, too big and too hot. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSNorthlands Coliseum Edmonton AB (November 12 1996).

Rheostatics opened for The Tragically Hip in Fall 1996.  Some of the shows were online already, but in 2018, Rheostatics Live added about ten more shows.

This is the 4th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.

For this show their opening music is the Wizard of Oz’s Munchkins singing “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”  Martin follows with some lovely noodling that segues into a lovely “Song of Flight.”  The band sounds a little bit sloppy, surprisingly.

The song segues into “California Dreamline” and the crowd is appropriately responsive.  “All the Same Eyes” follows, sung by Tim in what seems like a casual way.

“Fat” sounds especially great.  Martin starts the song asking “What are you saying, who are you talking to?”  I wonder if it was directed at someone.  The band sound great and everyone seems really into the “robot/zombie” part.

As the song ends, Dave notes, “There’s a bit of banging going on over there but it was in time to the next song.  If you could do that four times….  Not whooing, banging.  Rumor has it that there’s a hockey team that plays out of this rink.  We’re from Toronto and in the 1980s the Leafs sucked and the Oilers were winning cup after cup and we see the banners and it motivates us.  Tim: and it motivates us to move to Edmonton–for the summer only, of course.

There’s more Tim as he says that “Bad Time to Be Poor,” was a true story.  Then its more Tim with “Claire.”  Martin does some great Neil Young sounding solos in the introduction.  The song sounds great with some cool ripping solos from Martin.

“Dope Fiends and Booze Hounds” always sounds great.  This one has a pretty intro and a small stumble before they rock out.  There’s great backing vocals here.  Martin does a weird ending for the “dark side of the moon” part–it’s more growling and he doesn’t quite hit the awesome high note at the end.

“Feed Yourself” is dedicated to The Tragically Hip.”  Tim: “You can all go get a coffee of something.”  The opening is utterly chaotic in a not so great way.  But they settle down and really rip through the song.  Tim seems to be mucking about near the end.  Dave does go dark and creepy with the end part but in a much less dramatic way than he would if they were the main band.  They absolutely destroy at the end and the crowd is very responsive.  What a fantastic opening set.

[READ: March 4, 2019] The Adventure Zone 1

I loved this book.  It is a graphic novel realization of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign.  It is based on a podcast called The Adventure Zone.  The podcast is fun and is a real scenario of friends (in this case brothers) playing a new game of D&D (with new characters).  The podcast is pretty funny if  a little unedited.

The graphic novel is certainly edited.  It’s fun to have a visual accompaniment and the illustrations by Carey Pietsch are terrific with a wonderful comic-fantasy feel. .  If you wanted to hear the comparison from podcast to book, Page 18 syncs up to minute 100:00 in chapter 1 podcast.

But I have one MAJOR complaint.  Why is there so much cursing?  I get that this is a real adventure and that is literally the way people talk when the play the game.  But it is really off putting in this book.  Especially in the beginning when we don’t know these characters well.  Reading them cursing is not nearly as enjoyable as hearing them cursing in the podcast.

PLUS, this book, aside from the voluminous amount of cursing, would be suitable for just about all ages.  The adventure is PG (with maybe a couple of gentle tweaks) and the violence is comedic.  But the point is that this book would be such a great introduction to Dungeons and Dragons to any age and it’s a shame that they blew it.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GEORGE LI-Tiny Desk Concert #782 (August 31, 2018).

Is it a showstopper if it is your first song of the Concert?  That’s the question I asked while I marveled at George Li playing every single note on the piano at the same time (it seemed) during the opening piece by Horowitz.  The show did not stop, and he played two more beautiful pieces.

George Li is a 23-year-old American pianist.  He began lessons at age 4, and at 10 gave his first public concert. Five years later, he snagged the silver medal at the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Last fall, he released his debut album on a major label and these days he’s playing with many of the world’s major orchestras while touring the globe. He just graduated from Harvard where he studied English literature and piano, in a hybrid program with the New England Conservatory.

That first piece was by Li’s idol Vladimir Horowitz: Horowitz: Variations on a Theme from Bizet’s Opera Carmen.  

To honor Horowitz, Li begins his Tiny Desk recital with the master pianist’s electrifying reboot of a theme from Bizet’s opera Carmen. Li describes it as an “insane knuckle-buster.” Just watch his hands blur during the fiendish interlocking octaves at the explosive climax.

The camera zooms in on his hands and it’s still impossible to see what chords or notes he is playing.  But it is very impressive to see how high he lifts his hands between notes.  Wow, what a piece.

He then moves onto Liszt.  Liszt is also a composer who makes pianists tremble.  Although the first piece by Liszt is quiet and beautiful, the second one shows off more of Li’s amazing chops.

Then it’s two pieces by the ultimate monster pianist, Franz Liszt. The Consolation No. 3, with its gently flowing, long-lined melody and diaphanous ornaments, reveals the poetic side of the composer….

Liszt: Consolation No. 3 is just lovely the way it floats and soars through the melody.  Although even a fairly “simple” opening does involve using his right hand to play the bass notes.  I love that his left hand is playing this soothing melody while his right hand is constantly seeking out new variations on that melody.

But that’s nothing compared to Liszt: La Campanella in which from the angle of the camera it’s impossible to see what his right hand is doing the way it moves so quickly.  He borrowed themes from the Caprices of Paganini, “they’re all extremely difficult, of course.”  La Campanella means the bells and you can hear the high notes that keep repeating.

the rip-roaring La campanella begins with a single tinkling bell that multiplies into a wild cacophony of trills and scales, ending in what Li calls “a big bang.”

He talks about the bells building and building, adding new notes and octaves over the course of the four minutes.  And you can hear those high notes (I imagine it sounds amazing on a grand piano).  And just as you get 12:38 he starts doing this trills up at the higher register of the piano.  He gets both hands involved and it’s nearly 30 seconds of massive finger workout.

It’s exhausting just watching him.

Li is no doubt used to playing grand pianos, and the blurb wonders…

when Li revealed his Tiny Desk setlist, one thought came to mind: How will these powerhouse showstoppers sound on an upright piano? The music he intended to play, by Franz Liszt and Vladimir Horowitz, was designed for a real, 7-foot concert grand piano – the kind they used to call “a symphony orchestra in a box.”

Turns out, there was nothing to worry about. Li’s technique is so comprehensive, so agile, so solid, that instead of making our trusty Yamaha U1 quake in fear, he made the instrument sound several sizes larger, producing glorious, full-bodied colors and textures.

While I love seeing musicians shine while playing impossible pieces, technical virtuosity is nothing without feeling.  And Li’s music is full of feeling as well.

[READ: January 3, 2016] “A Gentleman’s Game”

I always think that I like Jonathan Lethem’s stories, but I’m not really sure that I do (I’ll have to read back and see what I thought of previous stories).  But he always writes about things that I don’t expect.

Like this story.  It is set in Singapore and is about an American who has settled there and becomes a very good backgammon player.

The exotic setting is enticing, I suppose, but the story is really about two men who knew each other who engage in a contest to see who can win.

Bruno grew up in Berkeley, CA.   But when he was old enough he left and has never been back to the States.  He has been in Singapore for a long time and he is shocked one day to see Keith Stolarsky, a former schoolmate, walking up to The Smoker’s Club, a typically underground and unknown-to-tourists-club. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AHI-Tiny Desk Concert #693 (January 16, 2018).

AHI is apparently, inexplicably pronounced “eye.”  He is an Ontario-based singer.  There’s nothing strikingly original about his sound, but his songs are pretty and thoughtful and his voice has a pleasing rough edge.

Bob says,

AHI’s gruff but sweet voice and openly honest words were my gateway to this young Ontario-based singer. AHI says he sings Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” at the end of every set with a sense of hope. It was powerfully moving, without a note that felt clichéd or overly nostalgic. At that moment, I knew he needed to play a Tiny Desk Concert.

With a tasteful band comprised of Frank Carter Rische on electric guitar, Robbie Crowell on bass guitar and Shawn Killaly (a man of a million faces) on drums, AHI put his heart into three songs in just about 11 minutes, all from his debut album We Made It Through The Wreckage, which came out a year ago this week.

“Alive Again” builds slowly, but by the time the chorus comes around and he adds some whoops, the song really moves. I’m quite intrigued at the constant soloing from guitarist Frank Carter Rische.  It’s virtually nonstop and really seems to propel the song along.  It’s a catchy and fun song the way each round seems to make the song bigger and bigger.

About “Closer (From a Distance)” he says, we all have relationships.  Some are good; some are bad and some are just awful.  You may care about someone with your whole heart only to realize that you care about that person more than they care about themselves.  No matter how strong you are your strengths may not be as strong as their weaknesses.  Sometimes the only way to save the relationship is to walk away–“maybe we’ll be closer from a distance.”   This is a really heartbreaking song.  The lyrics are clearly very personal and quite powerful.  And the soloing throughout the song is really quiet and beautiful.

“Ol’ Sweet Day” is bouncy and catchy with a propulsive acoustic guitar and lovely licks on the lead acoustic guitar.  The drums are fun on this song as Killaly plays the wall and uses his elbow to change the sound of the drum at the end of the song.

The burning question that is never addressed is way he is wearing a helmet –motorcycle? horse riding?  It stays on the whole time.  At one point he even seems to “tip” his hat.  How peculiar.

[READ: December 8, 2017] Glorious and or Free

The Beaverton is a satirical news source based in Canada.  It began as a website in 2010 and then added a TV Show in 2016 (now in its second season).  To celebrate 2017, the creators made this book.

They have divided the history of Canada into 13 sections.  As with many satirical history books, you can learn a lot about a country or a time from the kinds of jokes made.  Obviously the joke of each article is fake, but they are all based in something.  Historical figures are accurate and their stereotypes and broadsides certainly give a picture of the person.

Some of the humor is dependent upon knowing at least a little about the topic, but some of the other articles are just broadly funny whether you know anything about it or not.

When we made this book our goal was to transport readers back to grade school to remember what they were taught n Canadian history class.  And so what if your teacher was hungover most of the time?

~30,000 Years of History in About Four Page (3,200,000,000 BCE – 1496)

“What the hell is that?”  –God after forgetting he made beavers. (more…)

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