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Archive for the ‘Graphic Novel’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PINO PALLADINO + BLAKE MILLS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #225 (June 17, 2021).

This is a mellow, jazzy set with four musicians all playing at equal strength.  I’ve only heard of Blake Mills (although I might be getting him mixed up with Buck Meek or James Blake or Mike Mills).  But apparently I should know more of them.

 Pino Palladino is a prolific bassist whose sound you’re already intimately acquainted with (even if you don’t know it). Blake Mills, a guitarist and two-time Grammy nominee for producer of the year, has an impressive catalog of his own. Together, in the studio, the topshelf sidemen are in their element, distilling the sonic creativity that is the first release under Palladino’s name, Notes With Attachments.

“Just Wrong” opens the set

Eight pulsing calls from saxophonist Sam Gendel usher us into Just Wrong a melodic meditation that unfolds like a blossom in timelapse. Guitar, bass, sax and Abe Rounds’ colorful dustings of percussion in this song are magical; we soar with the musicians through varied repetitions of the melody before they gently set us back on our feet.

All three musicians slowly play one note to start.  Then Pino Palladino meanders up the neck of his fretless bass while Blake Mills plays higher and higher chords on the guitar.  Then he switches to an interesting picked note melody while Abe Rounds adds gentle percussive bells.  Sam Gendel on the sax plays the main lead while Paladino adds gentle harmonics. Eventually the drums get louder and Mills and Gendel seems to be responding to each other with leads.   Gendel’s sax sounds like it’s processed in interesting ways, making unusual sounds.

“Ekuté,” is a tune that explores traditional West African music, jazz and rock influences with a few modern touches of technology.

A soft shaker opens the song as Palladino plays a fretted bass melody as a lead.  Gendel starts adding in some swirling sax melodies before Mills throws in some cool wah wah guitar forms.  As the song takes off it’s like a conversation between guitar and bass, both more or less playing lead.  Gendel lays some random skronking sax notes over the bed the guitars lay down.  Eventually the song settles into a nice groove while Mills plays a fascinatingly complex solo.

“Djurkel” the final offering in this set, is also experimental in nature. Palladino’s trademark bass sound lies in the cut, the fertile ground on which Mills, Gendel and Rounds dance dreamily around each other.

This one opens with sax and guitar washes before Palladino takes over with a cool lead bass line.  Mills is playing a fretless guitar on this songs, allowing him to create a really interesting mix of sounds.

I really enjoyed the diverse amount of sounds and the mellow exploration that this set provided.

[READ: June 27, 2021] Heartstopper 3

I’ve really enjoyed this series so far and I’m quite pleased to see that there’s going to be another book after this.

This book centers around a school trip to Paris.  Both Charlie and Nick had signed up already.

After Charlies’ mom signs the permission, he bashfully says he has something to tell them.  His dad jokingly says “Are you trying to come out again, because we already know.”  Charlie laughs and then tells them about Nick and his parents are very happy because they saw how much he liked him.  But Nick is definitely banned from sleepovers forever now.  (Dad, stop saying “hanky panky.”)

When Nick sees Charlie at school the next day, Nick tells him that he came out to his mum last night and she was really supportive, too. They share a kiss and Nick jokes tat kissing at school is still a terrible idea.

In a later scene Nick’s friends Christian, Sai and Otis apologize to Nick for what happened that night when Nick got into the fight with Harry–they admit that they should have told Harry to fuck off. They all agree that they like Charlie and the four are friends again.  When Nick walks away one of them says what was I supposed to say we know you and Charlie are a thing and that’s fine??

Later, after the rugby coach sees the two of them kissing, she calls Nick into her office  After offering him the position of captain, she says that she met her wife at university.

People gave us a lot of shit.  Things are a little better now but you never know.

It’s a nice moment.

Followed by an unpleasant one, when Nick’s brother has come home from university. He says to Nick that he is talking to Charlie to meet the guy who turned his brother gay.  It turns ugly with Charlie lamenting why does being out have to be so complicated.

But there’s the Paris trip, which is definitely going to be cool. The chaperones say…no rooming between boys and girls which gets groans from everyone except for Tara and Darcy and Charlie and Nick. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Avening Hall, Creemore, ON (November 16, 2019.

At the moment, the link for the first show of this series downloads this show instead of the 15th).  When the link is updated, I’ll post about November 15th.

It was pretty amazing that Rheostatics were going to do a mini tour.  I wanted to go to these shows so badly, but it was really hard for me to get up to Toronto.  I even bought a ticket for the final night, hoping something would allow me to go.  But, alas.

Second of the 7 Ontario shows for the Here Come The Wolves mini tour. The band were having some sound issues during the first set and I think it threw them off so Clark suggested they take a 10 minute break to regroup. This recording is actually a mix of one of the audience mics and the soundboard. The Soundboard mix, however, was all instruments other than kick drum in the right channel so I had to turn it into a mono file or it would have been unlistenable. I added the audience mix in for some room ambience and added a bit of compression, etc in Garageband for the final mix.

This show did not have Kevin Hearn, but it did have Hugh Marsh.  I’d have liked to see one show with Kevin and one without.

This show opens with a quiet intro and lots of Hugh Marsh playing as “Stolen Car” begins.  There’s some wild soloing in the middle of the song with Martin and Hugh having a “conversation” with bending notes.  Dave B sings the “I don’t need anger” verse.

Up next is “AC/DC On The Stereo (Country Version).”  for whatever reason, they play this as a more folky song (hence the “country version” label).  DB sings the first part; DC sings the middle.  When it ends, Martin jokes “that’s the brand new country version.”

During “Rearview” someone plays a simple acoustic solo (Tim or Dave?) and BD jokes “pretty hot licks.”

They go a little nuts on “Here Come the Wolves” with barking and howling.  When Hugh plays the middle violin riff, martin sings every day is silent and gray (Morrissey).  ‘It’s The Supercontroller!” has a false start but a wonderfully trippy opening from Hugh and DC.  Before the lyrics begin, DB asks for a monitor adjustment: “There’s a squirrel in my monitor.”   Martin: you hate squirrels.  Dave: No, Martin YOU hate squirrels.  MT: It’s not that you hate them, it’s that you don’t think they are worth your time.  Clark gets audience participation on the  “ahhs”

DB says they are playing the new album in order.  We are never out of order.
DC: We are never out of odor.  My wife thinks I  am never out of odor.
MT: I’ve never thought you were smelly–that’s not part of your reputation.

A lovely “Music in the Message.”  Then Dave says that people flew in from Vancouver and asks if anyone is from further.  DC: We’ll still thank you anyway.  Then he jokes about Tyler Stewart and says we’re in the drummer’s union.  It’s okay.

After babbling a bit, “I’m not sure what I’m trying to say. I’m not trying to say anything. I just feel like words belong here and I’m trying to make things flow.”  He says “Vancouver” is a song he wrote when he was around 18 (he says he was born in 1967) and which he rewrote last year.  This gets him to ask everyone’s birth year and hospital of birth.

DB 1963 in Etobicoke, St Michaels (a good Italian will be born in a hospital named after a Saint).
Tim: Etobicoke General (he’s the only real Etobicoke native).
DC 1965
Hugh: Montreal
Martin gives a shout out to Hugh and Nick Buzz: we’ve done 3 albums in 30 years.
“Vancouver” takes a bit of time to get going. The b vox are a little rough on this, but Martin’s echoing rippling guitar blasts at the end are awesome. The solo quotes from Journey’s “Who’s Crying Now.”

“I Wanna Be Your Robot” is rocking fun.  DC encourages the audience to make a new friend tonight.  Turn and introduce yourself.  You’ll make a new friend, for life potentially.  It feels really nice.  You’re all fans, you might as well.

The start of “Beautiful Night” has Hugh making all kinds of cool trippy violin noises.

They take a little break you can hear LP’s “Lost on You” in the background.

They return with “Northern Wish” to some cheers and talking, but there’s lovely crowd singing at the end.

Dave says they’d like to thank their opening band.  They were a little nervous: The Rheospastics.

Up next is one they haven’t done in a while.  “P.I.N.” starts out happy, but “just you wait.”  The final notes (Dave B) are messed up.

DB: IS it going a little better in the second set?  Tim: a little funnier at least.

During “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne,” Hugh plays a ripping solo and DB says “these are the rotation of chords where we think about what Hugh just played.”  During the ending “Crazy Train” line Martin plays the riff and it fits perfectly.  DB says that song is more of a PSA than anything.

They ask what do you want to hear (Horses of course).  But they play “Legal Age Life” with a wicked wah wah violin solo.  They have a little fun with a guy in the vest in the audience–“he’s not from Vancouver–MT: he lives in a shack in the parking lot.

I love the record version of “Goodbye Sister Butterfly,” but this live version feels a little weird.  However, the disco ending is hot and they throw in some lines from “Good on the Uptake.”  They get really silly making robot and dog sounds.

Martin introduces he next song: This next song is about a robot dog named “Claire.”  He plays a  ripping solo very Neil Youngish.

Then comes an 11 minute Horses -> Crosseyed And Painless -> Another Brick In The Wall -> Horses.  DB sends this out to all the teachers.  Thank you for being teachers.  We love you.  We got your back.  There’s a percussion solo in the middle (glasses and wood blocks).  The speakers crackle at the end.

I want to be in a audience to scream “holy mackinaw, joe.”

After the encore break, DC gives a nice talk about friendship and music.  Then they introduce Hugh who is from Montreal and is “beautifully exotic” and was “born in a violin case.”  Martin talks about Hugh’s first violin lesson.  He plays a scratchy Mary Had a Little Lamb.  How?  on his guitar?  on the violin?  That’s how he got the Bruce Cockburn gig.

Then Martin talks about places where he’s lived. Funny jokes about Flesherton and sex cults.  Finally someone shouts Play a song, then!

DB: Here’s a song, sir.  But not for you.  It’s for everybody else.  Al the patient ones.  They play a brooding “Albatross.”

Dave says this is the first time he’s ever directed anyone to a website in his life.  But Darrin Cappe [the guy who runs the Rheostatics Live site!] who is here tonight has concerts going back to 1981.  MT: Hey Darrin, How you doin?

The end with “Mountains And The Sea.”  They mess up the challenging transition but quickly get it back and Hugh plays another wicked solo.

This show is almost two and a half hours long.  There were some glitches and lots of chatting, but what fun.  And great to have them back.

[READ June 25, 2021] Banned Book Club

I saw the title of this book and was instantly intrigued.  I had no idea that it was about banned books in Korea, though.  It’s immediately apparent that it is set there (the first page says South Korea, 1983), and that’s when I realized I knew nothing about South Korea in the 1980s.

The book opens on a family arguing.  They are in their “Fancy Steak Restaurant” where the main character, Kim Hyun Sook, is planning to go to University.  Her mother argues with her that she should be working in the restaurant not going to school.  But her father wants her to pursue her dream, like he pursued his (which was to open a steak restaurant).

Next we see her arriving at University where protests are underway.  She is irritated by them (her mother had bad things to say about them) and just wants to get to class.

She does well in school and joins a masked dance folk team as an extracurricular activity.  The folk dancing is wonderful, but at their first performance, the protesters arrive.  The drums team tells her that it was planned–they are part of the protests as well.  She is outraged and says she doesn’t want to do anything political. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ACID MOTHERS GONG-Live Tokyo (2006).

Gong is a band that started in Paris in 1967 by Daevid Allen.  The band is still active and has seen many many lineup changes over the years.  From 2003-2004 the band included members of Acid Mothers Temple.  They released a weird (well, all Gong albums are pretty weird) album called Acid Motherhood.  And then released this live document in 2006.

The line up was Daevid Allen – guitar gliss, vocals/fx; Gilli Smyth  – space whisperer; Josh Pollack – guitar, megaphone; Kawabata Makoto – guitar, voices; Cotton Casino – synth, voices; Hiroshi Higashi – synth, voices; Yoshida Tatsuya – drums, sampler; Tsuyama Atsushi – bass, whistle, vocals.

Gong used a sped up vocal technique a lot, which you can hear in the opening 40 second song called “Gnome.”  Gnome introduces Acid Mother Gong and  segues into “Ooom Ba wAH!” which is improvised processed sped up vocal nonsense.

“Crazy Invisible She” is a nearly 4 minute spoken piece by Gilli that segues into “The Unkilling Of Octave Docteur DA 4J.”  This is a nine minute jam with trippy chords and a two note riff.  There’s wild soloing and trippy space keys.  “Avahoot Klaxon Diamond Language Ritual” has more nonsensical spoken word with wild drums and guitars.  The guitar turns into a siren as chanting begins and segues into “Rituel: Umbrage Demon Stirfry & Its Upcum,” a three minute fast chanted piece with distorted voices and rocking chords.

“Jesu Ali Om Cruci-Fiction” is a ninety second swirling feedback segue into “Ze Teapot Zat Exploded” (“Flying Teapot” alternate title) a nine minute song that feels like a proper song.  It starts with a riff and then the whole band jumps in.  About halfway through someone starts singing (in English!).

“Eating Colonel Saunders Upside Down” sounds like a 7 minute transmission from outer space with a slow beat then turns into a kind of tribal chanting and ends with a high pitched voice singing a wild melody.  “Vital Info That Should Never Be Spoken” is a spoken word piece in which the sound regularly cuts out making it very hard to understand this vital info.

“Parallel Tales Of Fred Circumspex” is a five minute recited piece about Frederick in English and possibly translated into Japanese as they go?  Or is it something else?  By the end he is chanting how everyone is nude.  I guess the nude people then go to “The Isle Of Underwear.” I’m not sure why its called this as it is “Pink Lady Lemonade.”  Aafter 8 minutes someone gently sings the words of “Pink Lady Lemonade.”

“Ohm Riff Voltage 245″is 8 minutes of faster and faster chanting with lots of drums.  Then it turns into slow jamming until the end.  It segues into “Totalatonal Farewell To The Innocents” which is full of soaring sounds and deep sing song chanting that turns into a bouncy jam. By the end, the gnome voice is back.  And the show ends.

You have to be in a very specific headspace to really get into this.

[READ: June 20, 2021] Heartstopper 2

I enjoyed Heartstopper Volume 1 so much I couldn’t wait for Volume 2.  The story is so sweet and kind, I was happy that volume 2 kept up that level of joy.

I also enjoyed that Iseman opened the book with a little drama, but that it was resolved pretty quickly.

In Volume 1 we meet Charlie, who is gay.  He befriends a boy named Nick who is straight.  Charlie is unlike anyone who Nick has hung out with–he usually hangs out with jocks. Charlie is so much the opposite it’s a breath of fresh a air for Nick.  And suddenly, Nick realizes that he is falling for Charlie.

At the end of Volume 1 they kissed…

But as Volume 2 opens we see Charlie’s diary and he is very upset because Nick ran off and didn’t text or anything.  He thinks he ruined everything.  Then we see Nick trying to type his feelings in a text.  He’s sorry for running off, he really likes Charlie, he was just scared.  But he decides it would be better to say something in person.

The next morning, Charlie wakes to the doorbell.  He is in his PJs and with behead and Nick is standing there.  Nick explains everything and suddenly they are having a wonderful day together.

I love the way Iseman draws them–so sweet and loving. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Sonic Boom, Toronto, ON (September 5 2019).

Back in 2007, when the Rheostatics said farewell, who ever would have guessed that they’d be back in a record store for an album release event.  But here they are, playing in a record store and answering a formal Q&A.

For the release of the Here Come The Wolves album the Rheos did a Q&A at the record store Sonic Boom in Toronto with Laurie Brown.  Her interview is included here but the video can be found here.  The band then did a 45 minute set of new songs which may have been the first time since reforming that Hugh Marsh did not play with them as he was in Europe at the time. Luckily Eric Mac Innis traveled to Toronto from the Maritimes for this event and recorded it for everyone to hear.

After a 40 minute interview (which is quite nice), the four guys are going “to try to play the first five (actually six) songs of the record.”  Which is the first side of the record.

They tune up. Martin jokes “this is the Ravi Shankar portion” and DB says “our record is actually a Doors tribute album.  Every song starts in a minor key.”

They start after two minutes with “Vancouver.” The recording is very spare–like they are holding back for the small space.  The entire middle part is instrumental with maybe Dave noodling away until Martin comes back to sing the rest.  The end rocks a bit more.  Martin throws in a hint of a Journey song in the solo.  Tim: “We still haven’t quite learned that one yet.”   DC: “I did.”

“AC/DC On The Stereo” has big guitar chords and a few false intros (it’s weird without High’s violin).  “Rearview” sounds really nice in this setting.

DB: we used to do these things at the Rivoli–live rehearsals.  I’d like to bring that back.  Super fun.  We worked songs out.  It was entertaining for us.  Maybe not the audience.  I remember them being really full and then that thing turned up on YouTube of us spanking Dave Clark on the ass.  The Rivoli was very dark.  [whisper: people deal guns there?  Don’t go downtown, Dave.]  There’s no one–12 of our friends there.  You can buy gum at the Rivoli.

“Here Come The Wolves” is next.  Martin tunes while Dave gives a big drum intro.  Wanna see my tuner?  Here clip this on the head stock.  [Ha ha ha Now that’s comedy].  How you doin?  The song works well.  Everyone claps at the pause and then Martin does his part.

They thank Michael Phillip Wojewoda, Chris Walla, Gus Van Gogh for working on the album and Martin tells a funny story about MPW’s disgusting dreadlock.  Mike has left Dave has known him since he had that beaver-shaped dread in the middle of his hair it had a gray core–it was oxidizing in the middle.  Never leave a Rheostatics shows or the band will tell stories about you.

DC: I was being nice to the guy and you guys are tearing him a new one  Martin: that’s not a new one that’s something he did.  There’s nothing wrong with dreadlocks.  DC: I’m just stirring the pot.  MT: Stirring a big pot of dreadlock stew–it makes a fine broth.  We were on tour with the Dough Boys (Dreadlock Stu).

Next song is by David Clark.  DC: Martin, pick your favorite chord, don’t look.  Martin plays an insane chord and the song starts.  After the song DB: remember that chord, it’s pure gold.

Sympathetic vibrations.  DC starts talking about sympathetic advice he received from a luthier.  never leave your instrument in a case (they die), have them on stands in the noisiest part of the house they will vibrate and stay in tune.  DB says that’s bullshit.  Martin says it’s largely bullshit, but not totally.  Pick up an acoustic guitar that’s been in a case it will sound like shit; pick up a cheap one that’s been out and it will sound good.

DB: You learned that all from a Lutheran?
DC: Yes he nailed it to me.

Buy the record upstairs on the mezzanine level.  They play a jazzy number: buy the record in the mezzanine. How much does it cost?  $1.79.  No, that’s not even the tax.

They end with another song by Tim: “Music is the Message.”  We’re gonna play it and go.  It’s slow and pretty–sounds good, although the backing ahhs are a little crazy.

[READ: June 15, 2021] Void Trip

I saw this book on the shelf at the library and thought the title sounded promising.  The cover also looked pretty cool, so I brought it home.

As the book opens, we see Ana and Gabe stealing fuel from a tanker in the desert.  Gabe is much older than Ana and they seem to be arguing about their (confusing) plans.  They are quickly interrupted by the owner of the truck–a rather large but cute humanoid creature with a furry face.

Ana tells him that space pirates were trying to steal his fuel and she and Gabe frightened them off.  The trucker is grateful for the help but when he is visited soon after by a white robot, he’ll wish he wasn’t so gullible.

Ana and Gabe are the last humans alive (according to the back of the book, although I’m not sure it says that anywhere in the story).  They are headed to Euphoria, a sort of promised land planet.

They stop off at a rest stop where a humanoid elephant with lots of trunks (Ganesh-like) joins them to indulge in froot (various psychedelic drugs).  Mooreberry gives psychedelic experiences; Gaimangos turn everything into a fairytale.  Busiekhini will taste like the best food you’ve ever had.  (Those names are pretty good).  He eats it and hilarious trippiness ensues. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BUZZY LEE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #218 (June 2, 2021).

Everybody sounds better in the bathroom, right?

There’s a comfort to be found singing in a bathroom; we all sound better with our voices bouncing off the tiles. For Sasha Spielberg, a.k.a. Buzzy Lee, she took it a step further, recording her Tiny Desk (home) concert in her childhood bathroom, which her parents decorated with images of fairytales.  … “I’d spend hours on end in here dreaming of singing in front of people. It’s also where I wrote my first song, age 5, ‘You’re Just Like Pie Crust.’ It was a pop song. Huge hit.”

Buzzy Lee’s Home Tiny Desk is filmed in her bathroom.  The show opens with her sitting on the edge of her tub playing the keys and gently singing “Strange Town.”  After 43 seconds, she adds a bass note with a second keyboard and the song fleshes out.  But when the camera pulls back you can see Adam Gunther sitting in the bathtub playing modular synth and modular bass (it sounds really good later in the song).

After a minute and a half the song changes from soft washes to a super catchy synth riff and Jorge Balbi Castellano who has been sitting on the toilet all this time, starts adding electronic drums.  Once the riff kicks in the song is really catchy and Spielberg’s voice proves to have a lot of different sounds (including a really cool mic that is like an echo chamber unto itself).

For the rest of the four song set

we hear songs and tales with different themes: obsession, love, attachment, and self-doubt, all filled with playful wordplay and her passionate voice.

It’s weird to hear her ask Gunther to “pull up the file for ‘Coolhand.'”  But it’s all smiles as he “types” in to the keyboard on the tiniest Tiny Desk yet.  This song is poppy and bouncy with some really fun singing in the verses.

When the song ends, she says “We’re going to play ‘Spoiled Love,'” and hands Jorge a newspaper.  He puts down his sticks to read while sitting on the trouble.  This song is a gentle ballad (with no drums).  I love the use of that crazy echoing microphone.

To start the final song, “What Has A Man Done,” she reaches over and “starts” the computer.  Her keyboard has a really soulful sound as she sings this slow, moody piece.  I love the way her voice goes from deep to a really high falsetto as it shifts from verse to chorus.

[READ: June 1, 2021] Heartstopper 1

Sometimes a simple love story which is told very well, can be a real joy to read.  It’s even better when there are wonderful illustrations.

The story opens on Charlie (a quiet boy) and Ben (a much louder boy) kissing in the library at school.  But the bell rings and class starts–and Ben seems a little jerky.

Charlie has a note that says he’s in a new class with kids from all four grades in it.  Charlie is in grade ten and he is placed with Nicholas Nelson an 11th grader.  As their eyes meet, the title–Heartstopper–flashes across the page

Nick is a big strong guy–a rugby player–and although he is very nice to Charlie, Charlie assumes that Nick is messing with him.  Charlie doesn’t trust the jocks–and with good reason.  When it got out that Charlie was gay (in an all boys school) news travelled fast and people weren’t nice to him.  But he seems to be pretty well accepted now–at least by some. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FAT JOE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #217 (June 1, 2021).

This Tiny Desk (Home) Concert opens with big chords from Eric Whatley’s bass and Simon Martinez’ guitar.  Then some record scratching from DJ Ted Smooth and crashing cymbals from Rashid Williams.

Fat Joe walks into a shop and is handed a mic as the Eugene “Man-Man” Roberts plays a menacing melody on the keys.  I like Fat Joe’s vocal style but “My Lifestyle” is just another story of bitches n’ hos.

A founding member of the D.I.T.C. (Diggin’ In the Crates) crew, Fat Joe Da Gangsta has managed to last nearly 30 years and multiple generations in the rap game without ever giving up his lease on the top of the charts.

He introduces DJ Ted Smooth and his protégé Angelica Vila and then the Terror Squad band.

That crew turns the rugged “My Lifestyle” into a visceral experience with layers of nuance added by Joe’s longtime DJ Ted Smooth.

“What’s Luv?” is a slow ballad.  Angelica Villa sings and her refrain of “whats luv” sounds remarkably like a sample–her voice is really amazing.

 On the 2002 smash “What’s Luv,” Angelica Vila takes the spotlight singing a hook originally performed by Ashanti.

It’s weird to see her dancing and grinding like it’s a music video, which I guess it is, but still.  There’s some salsa infusions in the song.

“Lean Back” has a bad ass riff and a repeated chant of “lean back.”  It’s really catchy.

Latino hip-hop legend Fat Joe muscled his way out of the streets of the South Bronx with his debut album, Represent, in 1993. He radiates a different energy in 2021, sauntering in his own uptown streetwear shop, fresh fitted in pink leather and a designer bucket hat, but he’s still got that old larger-than-life electricity.

And yet he still seems unreasonably angry–staring down the camera and shouting, “Tiny Desk don’t play with us like that, man.”  [What could that possibly mean in this context?]

Up next is “Sunshine (The Light)”

an effervescent new springtime jam that was spawned by 22-year-old internet sensation Amorphous, who mashed up Luther Vandross’s debut single “Never Too Much” with Rihanna’s “Kiss It Better.” Joe, who has always had a solid ear for new talent and a prowess for pinning down a buoyant hit record, came in and gullied this sparkling jam, renewing a glow that’s been dim for this last year.

It’s a pretty song and Angelica’s voice sounds really great.  I look forward to hearing more from her.

He shouts out to Luther and then goes on a little rant about being old and having everything ripped away and the coming back at 40.  I don’t know he seems pretty successful to me.

“All The Way Up” ends the set sounding similar to “Lean Back” but with a jazzy sample.  Throughout the song as he raps lines there’s a response.  I thought they were samples, but it turns out that the DJ is his hype man too.

I tend to like rappers in this Tiny Desk Home Concert better than on record, but I really liked Fat Joe’s style.  I’ll have to keep it limited to this though, I think.

[READ: May 20, 2021] Heist

I enjoyed this book so much I wanted to see what else Paul Tobin had written.  Lo and behold, he is responsible for a favorite graphic novel Claudette.  This story is a lot different and a lot darker, but it still has his sense of humor.

The book opens with a man fleeing from people trying to kill him. Glane Breld escapes and says he needs a drink…and a  crew.  He’s been out of prison for nine hours and he is ready for his next heist.

The people he wants are Celine Disse, master gunsmith, Gaville, master of disguise (she is crazy-she enjoys blowing things up and collecting famous peoples underwear).

Saving the best for last Eddy Lets.  Why is he the best?  Because the closest this planet ever had to a leader was Eddy’s mom Lera.  Her assassination was Glane’s fault.

When Glane heads to his rendezvous he is met by a local street urchin named Brady.  Brady latches on to Glane and Glane cant shake him.  But the kid proves useful.  Not only does he get Glane away from some assassins but he also gets Glane a splint for his brain–so his mind can’t be read.

Then Brady, believing he has a tourist with a lot of money, tells the history of planet Heist.  Right up to the story about Glane himself (Brady does not realize the man is Glane).

Dignity Corporation owns all of the planets in the area but this one (Heist).  Glane was hired by the Dignity Corporation to find incriminating evidence on Lera.   This faked evidence was used by Dignity to bring down Lera which eventually led to her assassination.  Soon after, Heist was taken over by Dignity Corp. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MDOU MOCTAR-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #213 (May 24, 2021).

Mdou Moctar has been getting some well deserved recognition lately.  It’s pretty great to see a Nigerian performer, who plays distinctly Nigerian style music making an impression on American audiences.

Of course, since I’m contrary, I’m more attracted to Moctar’s drummer who is playing a calabash–in this case red object that looks like a turtle shell and makes a remarkable range of sounds.  But really the focus should be on Moctar’s guitar playing.

Get ready for some fiery desert guitar-shredding, Saharan style, with the music of Mdou Moctar. Producer and American bassist Mikey Coltun told me that “the concert was filmed outside of the house we were all staying at in Niamey, Niger, in November/December 2020.” He continued, “As with any sort of musical happenings in the region, once some music is blasted, that’s an invitation for anyone to come join, sing, clap, dance, and just come together as a community. We wanted to present the Tiny Desk exactly like this, from when we started playing to finally the energy growing with fans crowded around filming on their cell phones and passing around Tuareg tea.”

And so, the four musicians, seated on a blanket (designed with oversized roses) with amps on either side, start playing with no fanfare.

The (home) concert starts off with Mahamadou Souleymane, a.k.a. Mdou Moctar, playing a melodic line on acoustic guitar, with Ahmoudou Madassane on rhythm guitar, Souleymane Ibrahim playing percussion on a calabash, and Mikey Coulton on his Fender Mustang bass on the song “Ya Habibti” from the album Afrique Victime. It’s an album of songs dealing with intense subjects close to Mdou Moctar’s heart: colonialism, exploitation, inequality, but also love.

The song almost feels like a drone because the bass and rhythm pretty much never change throughout.  The drumming is muted–effective but never sharp.  And Moctar’s voice and lead guitar work is subtle.  I’m sure since I don’t understand what he’s singing (which sounds pretty intense), I find his voice very soothing.

“Tala Tannam” follows in the same pattern–except the bass is even less mobile and the way Moctar sings it feels like a lullaby.  The best part is watching Ibrahim and Coltun clearly enjoying themselves–smiling to each other and even hugging at one point.  It’s hard to know how long these songs are as they seems to just go until they stop, but this one does have a deliberate ending.  It’s when he puts down his acoustic and grabs the electric guitar.

You can hear the real musical fire on the last song, the roughly 7-minute psych-rock title track to Afrique Victime. “Africa is a victim of so many crimes,” Mdou Moctar sings in French. “If we stay silent, it will be the end of us.” Silence is not something in Mdou Moctar’s vocabulary.

Moctar’s soloing was subtle on the other songs, but you can really here it standing out with this sharp electric guitar sound.  It’s nice to watch his fingers fly around the neck. There’s some guitar god moments in the soloing–including some finger tapping–but having him seated and equal with everyone else, the solos never seem showoffy.  I also like the way the song speeds up incrementally as it goes–mostly notable by how fast Ibrahim is suddenly hitting the calabash.

[READ: June 10, 2021] Losing the Girl

This final book of the trilogy was a little disappointing for me.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but I feel like there wasn’t enough resolution for anyone.

The book opens on Nigel.  Claudia has shown up to tutor him in math.  He is so smitten he writes a poem that he submits for class.  He calls it “Teacher” and his teacher assumes it is about her.  I can’t even believe that he would submit a poem with the line “teach me how to make puppy love turn into doggy style”  (Nigel is so clueless).

Next we see Brett at his mother’s funeral.  Johanna tries to comfort him but he blows her off demanding to know why she didn’t tell him about her and Paula.  They smooth things over and she asks if his father knows that his mother died.  He says no, he hasn’t talked to his father in a long time.  Jo says her mother might know how to get in touch with him.

The next section is about Darren.  He is by himself remembering how his father hurt his mother and how he doesn’t want to repeat the cycle. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAURIE ANDERSON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #212 (May 20, 2021).

Anyone who likes original or avant garde music knows Laurie Anderson.  Even forty years later, her music is unlike most other music out there.  Her music still sounds futuristic.

Which doesn’t mean it’s always enjoyable.  But some of it is quite good and it’s all pretty fascinating.  It’s also fascinating that you know instantly that it’s Laurie Anderson.  Her voice hasn’t changed in years–true she doesn’t sing, but it’s still the same.

She begins this set, which feels incredibly minimal with her keyboardist (and so much more–she played on and produced Big Science with Laurie Anderson in 1982) Roma Baron playing a simple clicking beat track.  She speaks (with her voice processed):

I met this guy and he looked like he might have been a hat check clerk at an ice ring.  Which in fact he turned out to be.  And I said oh boy, right again.

And Rubin Kodheli on the cello is playing gentle strings, including high notes sliding down the fretboard.

Is the song a story?  Does it have a narrative?  Or is it just stream of consciousness?  I’m not sure.

Laurie Anderson is a revolutionary artist who has mixed storytelling, music and technology for the past four decades plus. This Tiny Desk (home) concert celebrates the truly breathtaking breakthrough album she put out in 1982, Big Science. On that record, she used a few different voice processors; one of them was a Vocoder. By singing into a microphone attached to a keyboard, you can hear how it effectively adds harmony to her voice on “Let x=x.”

Laurie Anderson’s music seems so serious, so it’s delightful to hear her be so loose and chatty (and funny) between songs.

She introduces Rubin Kodheli, her favorite musician, with whom she plays all the time.  They create what’s listed here as “Violin Cello Improv.”  It’s about a minute of vaguely dissonant string music.

Then comes the big song, the one that people know Laurie Anderson for.  If it wasn’t a hit, it was certainly popular.

Laurie Anderson also used that [Vocoder] effect, creating what I think of as ‘the voice of authority’ in her storytelling, on “O Superman,” a song unlike anything music I’d heard when it came out in 1981. She made use of a vocal loop, something ever-present these days in sampling, but here she uses an Eventide Harmonizer, looping the single syllable “ha” as the rhythm of the song. It’s a song about dealing with the technological revolution, about compassion; if it’s your first time hearing it, take it in and see what strikes you.

The song has always felt very mechanical to me (it must be the looping and the synthesized voice), but it’s really interesting to hear how it changes live. Not drastically, but it feels like a living breathing song, which is pretty neat.  As is Bob Boilen’s story:

On a personal note, I was a lover of Laurie’s music back in those days; they were also the days I played synthesizer in my band Tiny Desk Unit. We opened for Laurie Anderson in 1981, and Laurie joined us onstage for a song. I bring this up because the Tiny Desk name (created by our guitarist Michael Barron) was familiar to Laurie long before this NPR series existed. At the end of her home concert, Laurie, I assume, mistakenly, thanks Tiny Desk Unit for having her. It made me smile and sparked so many memories. Thank you, Laurie.

Laurie Anderson is 74 and she seems as vibrant as ever.

[READ: June 10, 2021] Gravity’s Pull

I really enjoyed everything about Book 1 of this series and I was delighted to see that Volumes 2 and 3 were already out.

Volume 2 follows the same characters and is laid out in the same way (with each section following one of the characters but having the timeline stay linear.  MariNaomi also seems to be having even more fun with her drawings,

The first part is about Nigel Q. Jones (just like in the last book).  He’s in class when his teacher announces that the girl who was missing in book one (Claudia Jones–no relation) has suddenly returned and is coming back to school.  The teacher asks that everyone just give her space.

We realize it has been four months since the last book so Claudia has been gone along time.

Meanwhile Nigel still thinks about Emily (who has a cool new haircut–when a friend said she finally has good hair, the insult is not unnoticed) but realizes it’s time for him to move on.  As he’s thinking this Claudia Jones walks into the building and Nigel falls instantly in love with her.  How does she suddenly look so beautiful?  Almost otherworldly.  Here’s where MariNaomi has fun with the illustrations, making Nigel’s dreadlocks look like a kind of glove the way she draws his head. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATHLEEN EDWARDS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #211 (May 19, 2021).

Kathleen Edwards is a wonderful songwriter with a fantastic voice.  I discovered her from her 2008 album Asking For Flowers.

She put out one more record and then disappeared.

Struggling with depression, Kathleen Edwards opened a coffee shop called Quitters Coffee and lived a very different life.  A handful of years later, in 2017, she was invited to Nashville by Maren Morris to write some songs. That Nashville visit sparked a new beginning and eventually the 2020 album Total Freedom, which birthed the four songs you hear in this Tiny Desk concert.

So Kathleen Edwards is back with a wonderful new album.

On this Tiny desk she is joined by Todd Lombardo and Justin Schipper on dobro (that slide guitar looking thing).

Kathleen’s voice sounds great and on “Glenfern.”

From a house in East Nashville, Kathleen Edwards sings about how thankful she is for those early aughts when she was praised with awards, television appearances, touring to packed venues — even if the tour bus with the bed in back was “total crap.” As she continues to sing “Glenfern,” the opening track to her first album in eight years as well as this Tiny Desk (home) concert, she remembers her former husband and collaborator.

After the first song she introduces the band and says I can’t sing through a mask so after this we’re going straight to to the COVID clinic.

Kathleen Edwards seems happy playing these new songs.  They can be songs of sadness, sometimes filled with seething, such as “Ashes to Ashes,” but she’s also grateful for her everlasting love for a four-legged creature and the little catalpa tree where it’s buried.

There’s some beautiful interplay of guitars in this song.  It’s amazing how great her voice sounds with no accompaniment, no effects.  And afterwards she tells a delightful story about catalpa trees–I just passed one on a dog walk yesterday and absolutely want to try to grow my own this year.

“Hard On Everyone” is the song that’s been getting some airplay around here.  It’s so catchy, I love it.  And the lyrics are pointed and spot on.  when the song is over she and Todd bump elbows and their guitars bump for a nice resounding thump.

I would love to see Kathleen Edwards live.  She played one of her first shows after retiring at XPN Fest, unfortunately that was the year we went to Newport Folk Festival.  Now I see she’s coming around again, but she’s opening for Jason Isbell, and I don’t want to see him, so I’ll have to hope she finds a smaller club to headline.

[READ: June 10, 2021] Losing the Girl

T. brought this book home from school and I though the cover looked pretty neat.  When I looked inside I really liked the crazy drawing style(s) of it (S. did not like it at all).

The book opens on Nigel Jones, a boy with dreadlocks (his profile is always great, and MariNaomi uses these dreadlocks to express Nigels’ mood in clever ways).  The book also uses simple things like arrows to convey movement in a panel, which I liked.  One of the early ones shows a city block.  We just saw Nigel get off a bus and the arrows and a tiny figure on a skateboard show which way he is going.  This effect is used very well at a party later as we see the crowd move about the room in a static picture.

It’s through Nigel that we learn that nobody’s phones are working–this is a steady concern and a minor (or major) irritant throughout the story.   We also learn that a girl, Claudia Jones, (no relation) has been missing for three days.  Everyone has speculations about what happened to her.

Nigel lives with his mom (his dad has moved out) and Nigel is not too happy about the new arrangements–just because your parents separate doesn’t mean they fight less.  In school the next day Nigel tells a joke to Emily.  I found it very funny but Emily doesn’t seem to.  She asks if that’s his way of flirting with her.  A lightbulb goes off and he says yes (he’s had a crush on her for years).  She agrees to meet him at the bleachers later. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MANIC STREET PREACHERS-“Die in the Summertime” (1994).

I really liked the Manic Street Preachers in the late 90s.  Perhaps ironically, I learned about them after the strange disappearance of lyricist and guitarist Richey Edwards, and really liked the first few albums that they put out without him.  I went back and listened to their older stuff later, but I still prefer Everything Must Go.

Nevertheless, The Holy Bible (where this song comes from) is a pretty great album.  And “Die in the Summertime” is really cool.  It opens with tribal drums and a nifty almost Middle Eastern sounding guitar riff.  When it kicks in after a brief intro, it’s more raw and heavy than their later stuff–was that Edwards’ influence?

I listened to this song a few times and will clearly have to dig out The Holy Bible for another listen.

Obviously Edwards looms over the band and clearly looms over this story.

The guitarist vanished on 1 February 1995 and is widely presumed to have taken his own life, but a body was never found and there is no definitive proof that he died by suicide.

[READ: May 31, 2021] The Forevers

This was a fairly simple (and familiar) story, but it was told in a very interesting way.

Ten years ago seven friends (or maybe not friends exactly) made a pact. They performed a ritual asking for fame and fortune.  And it worked.  They have all become very successful.

Each chapter has a title from a song.  The first is “Die in the Summertime” (3:07) [by Manic Street Preachers].

Ten years later we cut to Jamie Ashby–a strung out superstar singer (who looks an awful lot like the Irish guy from Lost, who was also a strung out rock star).  He is in a bad way.

Then we meet Daisy Cates.  She is a successful model,  But the person who takes her home does not have good intentions for her.

I liked the way their two stories paralleled on the same page with a different background wash of color.

Jamie does a show and when an old geezer says he’s washed up, he punches the guy and makes tabloid headlines,  We find out in the next chapter that the geezer was Robert Plant–ha!

Chapter 2 is “The Drugs Don’t Work”  (5:05) [by The Verve]. (more…)

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