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Archive for the ‘Harry Potter’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PHOEBE BRIDGERS WORLD TOUR (May 26-June 4, 2010).

Phoebe Bridgers is a fascinating person.  She sings the most delicate songs.  Her voice is soft and almost inaudible. Her music is simple but pretty.  And her lyrics are (often) devastatingly powerful.

And yet she is really quite funny.  Both in interviews and in her visual representation of herself.

Her logo when I saw her was a fascinating faux death metal style of her name.  And now with this world tour, you can see in the poster all of the metal bands referenced in the logos. (There’s Slayer in the kitchen for instance).

And then there’s the basic joke of this world tour.  No one can go anywhere, so she is travelling her world: kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom (second concert by popular demand??)

The first show last night raised money for Downtown Women’s Center.

After some introductory talking and even a magic show (!) from Ethan, her producer, she played five songs.  Midway through she agrees that the set was a bit of a downer, especially opening with these two sad songs.

“Scott Street”
“Funeral”

Then it was time for two new songs (and an electric guitar).

“Moon Song”
“I See You”

Before coming to the end, she delayed, because she was having so much fun (and raising so much money).  So she showed us around her kitchen and pitched the kind of guitar she was playing, the kind of capo (quite expensive!), and her Target-purchased kitchen ware.  

She ended the set with a boygenius song, “Me and My Dog ” dedicated to her dog Max who died at the age of 17 last year.

The first night of her tour was a success. Tonight is night two, from the bathroom.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.  You can watch it here.

[READ: May 27, 2020] “California Ghosts”

I don’t usually read profiles of artists I like.  But every once in a while, one strikes me as interesting.

Phoebe Bridgers is a pretty fascinating character (see the above part for some details).  So I though this might be an interesting profile.  And it was.

Bridgers was brought up in Laurel Canyon and came of age listening to emo.  I love that the writer has to define emo for the New Yorker crowd, “a sub-genre of punk focused on disclosure and catharsis.”  That’s probably the most concise definition of emo I have read.

She writes that Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes) is one of emo’s most beloved practitioners.  Phoebe grew up listening to him and then met him in 2016.  He says when he first heard her he felt like he was reuniting with an old friend.  In 2018 they made Better Oblivion Community Center together.

At Carnegie Hall (where she wore a tea-length black dress and high to Doc Martens), she sang a song with Matt Berninger of The National. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN PRINE-Tiny Desk Concert #717 (March 12, 2018).

For all of the legendary status of John Prine, I don’t really know that much about him.  I also think I don’t really know much of his music.  I didn’t know any of the four songs he played here.

I enjoyed all four songs.  The melodies were great, the lyrics were thoughtful and his voice, although wizened, convey the sentiments perfectly.

The blurb sums up things really well

An American treasure came to the Tiny Desk and even premiered a new song. John Prine is a truly legendary songwriter. For more than 45 years the 71-year-old artist has written some of the most powerful lyrics in the American music canon, including “Sam Stone,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “Hello In There” and countless others.

John Prine’s new songs are equally powerful and he opens this Tiny Desk concert with “Caravan of Fools,” a track he wrote with Pat McLaughlin and Dan Auerbach. Prine adds a disclaimer to the song saying, “any likeness to the current administration is purely accidental.”

I thought the song was great (albeit short) with these pointed lyrics:

The dark and distant drumming
The pounding of the hooves
The silence of everything that moves
Late in night you see them
Decked out in shiny jewels
The coming of the caravan of fools

That song, and his second tune, the sweet tearjerker “Summer’s End,” are from John Prine’s first album of new songs in 13 years, The Tree of Forgiveness.

He introduces this song by saying that.  This one is a pretty song.  It might drive you to tears.  He wrote this with Pat McLaughlin.  We usually write on Tuesdays in Nashville because that’s the day they serve meatloaf.  I love meatloaf.  We try to write a song before they serve the meatloaf.  And then eat it and record it.

For this Tiny Desk Concert John Prine also reaches back to his great “kiss-off” song from 1991 [“an old song from the 90s (whoo)…  a song from the school of kiss off 101”] called “All the Best,” and then plays “Souvenirs,” a song intended for his debut full-length but released the following year on his 1972 album Diamonds in the Rough. It’s just one of the many sentimental ballads Prine has gifted us.

He says he wrote it in 1968…when he was about 3.

Over the years, his voice has become gruffer and deeper, due in part to his battle with squamous cell cancer on the right side of his neck, all of which makes this song about memories slipping by feel all the more powerful and sad.

“Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That’s why last night and this mornin’
Always look the same to me
I hate reading old love letters
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my sweetheart’s souvenirs”

The musicians include John Prine, Jason Wilber, David Jacques and Kenneth Blevins.

 

[READ: December 11, 2017] X

I really enjoyed Klosterman’s last essay book, although I found pretty much every section was a little too long.  So this book, which is a collection of essays is perfect because the pieces have already been edited for length.

I wasn’t even aware of this book when my brother-in-law Ben sent it to me with a comment about how much he enjoyed the Nickelback essay.

Because I had been reading Grantland and a few other sources, I have actually read a number of these pieces already, but most of them were far off enough that I enjoyed reading them again.

This book is primarily a look at popular culture.  But narrowly defined by sports and music (and some movies).  I have never read any of Klosterman’s fiction, but I love his entertainment essays. (more…)

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curswedSOUNDTRACK: MAYA BEISER-Tiny Desk Concert #283 (June 29, 2013).

mayaMaya Beiser is an Israeli-born American cellist.  And the blurb tells us that:

Maya Beiser’s Twitter handle — @CelloGoddess — says it all. She’s a brilliant cellist with a stunning command of her instrument, and she’s tightly tied to technology. Beiser takes the sound of her cello and runs it through loop pedals, effects and other electronics to make her instrument shimmer, drone and groove.  Time Loops, her 2012 album, is one of that year’s hidden gems.

The music feels experimental in that she’s using an age old instrument (and age old tuning) mixed with technology.  But the two songs she plays here are simply beautiful and the technology only serves to make the songs all the more enticing.

I don’t know what these pieces are “meant” to sound like.  In fact, I don’t even know the composers.  But her version of these pieces (with the wonderful drones and echoes of what she is playing) are terrific.

Osvaldo Golijov: “Mariel” One of the fascinating things about this piece is that it is impossible to tell what she is looping (especially since we miss the very beginning to see if she clicks any pedals).  But is she looping what she has played or is there some other music being added in?  This is a mournful piece with some great sounds (looped) accompanying her.  It’s seven and half minutes of beautiful cello music.

She introduces the second piece “Just Ancient Loops” Mvt. 1 by saying that Michael Harrison wrote the piece for her.  She plays 6 minutes of the 25 minute epic piece, or what amounts to the first movement (called Genesis). She also tells us that it was written in “just intonation” which is an ancient way of tuning the cello, but it is natural for the instrument which is all about pure fifths.

It opens with some plucked bass notes which are immediately looped and run through much of the piece (how is she controlling the loops?  I can’t see her feet at all).  By the middle, the piece is in full swing with different cello sounds echoing and looping. It sounds full and fantastic and over all just really wonderful.

I typically enjoy cello music, but there is something especially cool about this performance.

[READ: September 2, 2016]. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I wasn’t all that excited about this book.  It was a play.  Did Rowling even write it?  (I actually still don’t understand the provenance of the story)?  And did I really want to read about a grown up Harry?

Well, first T. read it and then S. read it and they both said it was great.  So I read it.  And I flew through it (and stayed up too late reading it, too).  And, man was it enjoyable.  More than enjoyable.  I immediately got right back into the Potterverse and I loved seeing the famous characters grown up.

So, what’s this book about, exactly?

Well, without giving spoilers (to those few to whom it applies), the plot starts off 19 years after the action of the last book.  (more…)

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1999 SOUNDTRACK: JANE BUNNETT AND MAQUEQUE-Tiny Desk Concert #548 (July 12, 2016).

bunnettJane Bunnett is a soprano saxophonist and flautist from Toronto who performs largely with Cuban musicians.  She has been traveling there for about 30 years and has performed with all kinds of musicians.  For this Tiny Desk and her current she is playing with the women from Cuba in a band called Maqueque (they won a Juno award last year).

And they sound great together.  It’s interesting that Bunnett takes something of a back seat (or position anyhow) to singer Melvis Santa (who seems to mostly sing sounds (ah ah ahs, bop bop bah dah dahs, as opposed to words) .  But when it’s time to shine, Bunnett is there to impress everyone with her skill.

Felix Contreras says “If you want to hear what Cuba sounds like today, then be sure to listen.”

“Little Feet” features Bunnett playing a cool solo on her sax and Santa singing notes along with her.  But for this song Bunnett really wails.  (she’s quite winded by the end).

Of the three songs, the ten minute “Maqueque” is my favorite.  That’s in part because I don’t really like the sound of the soprano sax (she plays flute on this one) but also because the band membranes really get to show off their chops.  It starts with a simple piano melody and pretty vocals.  Then Bunnett plays the melody on the flute as Santa sings along.   When Bunnett gets her solo on, you can hear her vocalising a bit as she plays the flute.

After the song Bunnett says that women in Cuba don’t get the exposure they deserve, so she picked these woman to let the world hear them.

About 4 minutes in Dánae Olano plays an amazing 2 minute piano solo–fun to listen to and to watch as she is all over the keys–she plays  some great trills and riffs.  She’s very impressive.  About 8 minutes in Yissy Garcia (who Dave Matthews has said plays drums like Jesus) plays a great drum solo.  On the drum kit she is using her palms and fingers to play all of the drums and cymbals–she switches to sticks at the end. The percussionist Magdelys Savigne accompanies her, and while not actually soloing, she is keeping rhythm as well.

Celia Jiménez plays bass.  She doesn’t get to do anything fancy–no solos, but she keeps the rhythm perfect.

bunnett2“25 New Moves” has Bunnett back on sax with Santa singing along to her melody.  It’s a short (4 minute) catchy piece with another cool fast solo from piano and a few cool bass lines as well.

It’s a pretty great set with lot of cool jazzy Cuban melody and rhythms.  I enjoyed this set quite a lot.

[READ: November 3, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1999-2000

This is the final volume of Peanuts strips. After 50 years, it finally came to and end.

Schulz was diagnosed with cancer in 1999.  He died in February of 2000.

I was hoping that this book would be shockingly good–full of great “I’m finishing the trip” closure.  But as I understand it, he wasn’t ready to finish the strip, so things move on more as less as normal.

In fact, I found the first few weeks of 1999 to be kind of dull.  The punchlines just didn’t make me smile as much.  Of course there is something to be said for the consistency of the strip.  Linus still has his blanket, Rerun is still coloring (he has become a dominant force in the strip), Patty is still getting things wrong and Sally still doesn’t want to do anything. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 6, 2014] Universal Studios

usfS. and I had been to Universal Studios about a decade ago during a library conference.  It was super fun–we were there after the park closed and got to ride all kinds of things.  Despite that, we didn’t remember much about the park, and so much had been added since then, that we were very excited (for The Simpsons Ride and especially the whole Harry Potter experience).  As we approached S. said that it felt so much more commercial than Disney, and then we realized that Disney is the most commercial place in the world, so it wasn’t that exactly.  And then we decided that Universal is like Disney’s tacky cousin.

The set up of entering the park is quite unusual, especially compared to Disney.  You park in a parking garage (which is certainly more convenient than the Disney lots) and enter the CityWalk portion. This is an aggressively neoned area with every conceivable chain restaurant you have ever imagined–mostly larger ones (the kind that we assume people who don’t live near a city a very excited to eat at) which I won’t name, but they are usually associated with a TV show, movie or Hollywood in general.

Here’s what’s so unusual about Universal Studios.  The entrance is shaped kind of like a Y.  You come in via CityWalk and then you go left for Universal’s Island of Adventure or you go right for Universal Studios Florida (the older of the two parks).  Unlike Disney, both parks are right next to each other.  But like Disney, if you pick to go in one, you can’t go in the other.  Unless you buy the Multi Park Pass.  Then you can leave one and enter the other through the front, or you can go via the Hogwarts Express (recommended).

Universal also has a FastPass type deal, but unlike with Disney, you have to pay for the FastPass experience.  And the prices are something like $70-$90 per person on top of park admission.  So the heck with that.  The good news was that when we were there there were very few lines for anything, so it didn’t matter too much.

We entered the park and realized right away that the big attraction at Universal is Despicable Me’s minions–they are the Mickey Mouse of Universal.  But Universal is also super proud of The Simpsons, and as we entered the park, there were Homer and Lisa, and we jumped on line and got our pictures taken with them.  What a weird thing!

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ST. VINCENT-Actor (2009).

I had seen St Vincent on Austin City Limits, and her juxtaposition of waif-singer with noise mongering guitar player blew me away.  So I was a little disappointed when this album opened up with this gentle, practically 1950s sounding vocal and string line in “The Strangers.”  It takes two and a half minutes, but the noise eventually comes and it totally changes the texture of the song.  Of course now, “make the black hole blacker” is a fun thing to sing along with (and the lyrics in general are pretty great).  “Save Me from What I Want” is another quiet song with a catchy chorus.  “The Neighbors” has a great melody with interesting strings over the top of it.  “Actor Out of Work” brings in some stranger sounds to the album.

There’s something interesting about the songs on this album, like the way “Black Rainbow” has these sweet string sections but for the end half builds a crescendo of tension. I also love that a seemingly delicate song can be called “Laughing with a Mouth of Blood.”  Perhaps the strangest song on the disc is “Marrow” which has a strange horn section and the chorus: “H.  E.  L.  P.  Help Me Help Me.”  “The Bed,” “The Party” and “Just the Same But Brand New” continue in this vein–like a Disney princess song with a horrible threat underneath: “Don’t Mooooove, Don’t Screeeam.”  But that sense of princess who are slightly askew really resonates on this record.  It’s not as willfully dissonant as her first record, but lyrically it’s a knife covered in cotton candy, it’s still a gem.

[READ: March 20, 2012] McSweeney’s #39

One of the bad things about having a job with actual work is not being able to write complex posts about compilation books.  It’s hard to have your book open while bosses walk by.  So, its been a while since I read this and I’ll do my best to remember it all.  Incidentally, if you’re keeping track I skipped 38, but I’ll get to it.

Issue #39 is a hardcover and a pretty one at that. It has a front cover photo (as well as many interior photos) taken by Tabitha Soren.  Yes, forty-somethings, THAT Tabitha Soren, from MTV who has a new career as a photographer.

This issue continues with the recent return of the Letters column (as the magazine and front matter become more serious the return of the Letters adds an air of silliness). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: グラスハープ ハリーポッター HarryPotter [The Harry Potter theme played on wine glasses] (2011).

I have always been fascinated by musical wine glasses.  And it’s always fun to find a glass that you can play music on (it definitely won’t happen at the diner).   And if you can find a couple, it’s great fun to play different notes with different amounts of water.

I will never have at my disposal enough glasses to do this.  I think I could probably figure it out on glasses if I had enough time (and glassware).  But since that will never happen, I will just enjoy this.  It works especially well for the fantasy genre–some wonderfully spooky sounds.

Incidentally I included this song here because I have mentioned before that people accuse this series of ripping off Harry Potter.  You know, because there’s three protagonists and magic.  I’m not going to speak to that because it’s silly.  But I did want to mention that in one of these books (and I’ve now forgotten which one, which is driving me crazy), the kids say something about “You know who” and Eric’s mom says “Voldemort?”  That had me laughing out loud (although since Clark doesn’t know Harry Potter yet–you see, some books are meant for younger kids) he didn’t get the joke.

[READ: April 2012] The Secrets of Droon: Books 32-34 & SE#6

Droon grows more and more exciting with each book.  I have high hopes that we may finish this series before Clark’s school is over (sometimes it’s fun to set little goals for ourselves, even if they are meaningless).  [Since this is being published after he finished school, I know whether this came true or not, but you’ll have to wait to find out]. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-“In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” (2010).

My friend Jay sent me this clip of Phish covering Neutral Milk Hotel’s wonderful song.  He was at the show and sent me a link  to the YouTube video.

The original of this song is wonderful–always sounding like it’s going to collapse in on itself but never actually doing so.  It is full of angst and emotion and after the first listen, where you say, “is he really going to sing the whole thing like this?” you are totally hooked.

The Phish version evens a lot of that angst out.  It’s a strange thing to say about Phish, but they make this song far more commercial.  They turn it into a pretty ballad.  And that’s kind of a shame since the original is so iconic.

In Phish’s defense, this is part of one of their sets (they unveiled a new cover on every day of the tour), and it’s not like they are trying to record a definitive version of it or anything.  So they make it into a Phish song–with a long solo and everything.  And the solo sounds like a total Trey solo.  I’m not sure what songs surrounded this one, but it sounds like it fit perfectly into their set.

As the folks at Stereogum say, “If you’ve always felt “Aeroplane” needed more guitar solo, this is your lucky day.”  For me what it did was make me want to listen to the original–and that’s never a bad thing.

[READ: June 5, 2012] “Quests”

This essay opens up with a history lesson.  In the early nineties, Pizza Hut sponsored the Book It! program to promote reading.  For every ten books you read you got a free pizza.  Well, it turns out that they either still do this or they do it in a modified form because my son has been getting these free pizza coupons all year.  Of course, we live in New Jersey, where the pizza is plentiful and delicious (there are at least 4 excellent pizza places within ten minutes of our house).  And you’d be a fool to eat Pizza Hut, even if it is free.  My son is pretty bummed about this, because of course he wants to redeem his prize.  And I suppose one day we’ll let him do it, but it would painful.  I actually don’t even know where a Pizza Hut is by us.

But that’s got nothing to do with Russell’s essay.  She realizes the truism that there is no greater pleasure than reading for pizza.  Because it’s not just reading for escape and fantasy, now you’re a breadwinner. Literally.  Russell’s genre of choice was fantasy (Terry Brooks in particular–I love that she realizes later in life that he took his ideas from Dresden and Hiroshima and how it blew her mind). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKDALLAS GREEN-“The Gift” on CBC Kids’ Mamma Yamma (2012).

I have no idea what Mamma Yamma is (well, obviously it’s a kids’ show on CBC–Wikipedia tells me, “Mamma Yamma, who is played by puppeteer Ali Eisner, is a yam who represents Ontario as the owner of a fruit and vegetable stand in Toronto’s Kensington Market” so now we know).  It’s pretty low budget and quaint and actually rather funny.  Also, (given the few links I’ve seen on YouTube) it must host some pretty hip Canadians.

On this episode Dallas Green (who is City and Colour) sings a little tribute to Mamma.  here’s a brief intro and then he starts singing.  As one of the comments says, “Dallas Green: Phenomenal musician, terrible actor.”  And that’s pretty accurate.  If you can get through the awkward introduction (although I have to say Mamma Yamma is pretty funny…check out the clip with Jian Ghomeshi!), the song is really nice.

Dallas has a great voice.  Usually his songs are kind of angsty, but this one is really nice.  Not too many Dallas Green songs have the lyrics, “with jelly beans and sprinkles from front to back.”  I just hope that the kids aren’t running out to buy his proper album based on this.  It’s a rare treat for City and Colour fans.

[READ: November and December 2011 and January 2012] The Secrets of Droon, Books 13-SE#1

Even though I waited 12 books to talk about Droon the first time, this next section of books seems to have a definitive “arc” with SE #1 serving as a kind of transition. Book 13 introduces a new bad guy.  And although he doesn’t last all the way through to Book 16, Sparr is noticeably absent for this arc.  But just because Sparr is still missing, that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of trouble in Droon.

With this book, the series grows more magic based.  One of the first reviews I’d read of the series negatively compared it to Harry Potter.  I didn’t quite understand that since (in Books 1-12) the only magic came from the people who lived in Droon; the Upper World heroes didn’t have any.  Well, since book 12, Eric has gained magic and there is a bit more of a Harry Potter element now (remember HP was published in 1997, and really hit its stride around 2000).  I have no idea if Tony Abbott intended to give his main character magical powers from the beginning.  It’s possible, as there was magic in Droon, but Eric’s magic does add a new element to things.  He doesn’t use it often, it just seems to supplement things.  And remember, it’s not like wizardry is the point of Droon, the point has always been that the kids can work together to solve their problems (notice just how often Galen has to go away and can’t help any of them).  And, of course, this series is aimed at a younger group of kids.  Consider it a gateway book. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAN ZANES-“Wonderwheel” (2002).

This track comes from Zanes’ Family Dance album and from the For The Kids compilation.

Dan Zanes is a wonderful troubadour of kid’s folk rock.  The funny thing about many of his songs, like this one, is that it’s not really a kid’s song–there’s nothing about the lyrics that says “only children will like this.”  It’s just a generally happy song that is safe for all ages.

The song opens with a simple accordion melody and is about riding a wonderwheel (I’m not sure what that is actually–a ferris wheel?).  The melody is great and there’s a nice female vocal harmony.  The song reminds me of a poppier, happier version of a Richard and Linda Thompson song.  It feels olde, like a classic song that people have been singing forever, and yet it’s brand new.

Dan Zanes is going to be playing a show around here in February and I’m pretty excited to go.  He’s one’s of my favorite kid’s music makers.  His songs are clever and catchy and never pander to the lowest common denominator.

[READ: November and December 2011 and January 2012] The Secrets of Droon, Books 1-12

Every night, my wife and I read picture books to my kids before bed.  Once in a while I would read chapter books to my son (they’re usually a little too much for my daughter to focus on). Clark is 6, Tabitha is 4.

We had been reading The Magic Tree House (which both kids love) and then I hit upon The Secrets of Droon.  I knew of the series from the library, but I didn’t know a thing about it.  I thought that Clark might read it himself, but he asked me to read that first book to him (it may indeed be too much for him to be able to read and fully enjoy).  I’m glad he did, because it has begun a special evening ritual for us.

We try to read three or four chapters of a Droon book a night.  And he really follows along well.  There are times when he guesses what will happen, and he certainly remembers more about what happened than I do.  Sure there are a few things he doesn’t quite get–some of the books in the teens are, if not intense, then certainly mind-boggling: I don’t think a 6-year-old can really grasp time travel or the apparition of a character who has disappeared, but he certainly likes the good vs evil story and he thinks that Neal, the comic relief, is really funny.

We started with Book 2 (Book 1 wasn’t at the library), and continued through Book 6 before going back and reading #1.  He thought #1 would be boring because we’d gotten so far beyond that already, but even that book was good–and filled in a few questions that I had.

There are 36 books in the series (as well as 6 Special Edition books (we haven’t read any of those yet so I don’t know what that means)).

The first twelve books form a kind of arc.  I suppose it’s official as an arc (at least it seems to be in all of the official info about the series), because a problem runs through all the books and is then solved.  However, there’s no real mention of it as an arc in the books, the kids “finish” that task, but simply continue to go back for a new adventure in Book 13.

So, just what is this series about? (more…)

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