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SOUNDTRACK: DAVE-Tiny Desk Concert #908 (November 8, 2020).

Usually if you go by a mononym, your name is unique.  This British rapper goes by “Dave,” which seems rather bold since it’s hardly unique.  It also seems like it would be very hard to find in a search engine.

Perhaps the understated name applies to his understated delivery.  He has a lot of great things to say, but he’s not grandiose about how he says them.

He also seems very nervous (you don’t mind if I steal one of these waters, do you?).

 Dave made a special trip all the way from the UK just for his Tiny Desk performance. If that isn’t proof that it was a big deal, his nervousness before the show confirmed it. But he powered through in a performance that puts his gift for making the personal political on full display.

“Location” is first.  Tashera Robertson sings the introduction. There’s quiet but somewhat complex guitar work from Markelle Abraham.  Daves’ rapping is very understated almost quietly rhymes.  His delivery is almost mumbly because it is so quiet, but her remains clear.

He shares the inspiration behind the aptly-titled song “Black” from his opus of a debut. “It’s just about the black British experience,” he says. “Everyone’s experience of being black is a little bit different, but this is my take on it. I wanted to deliver it to the world and here it is for you guys.”

“Black” starts with a spooky piano melody Aaron Harvell and a very simple drum beat Darryl Howell based around rim shots.  The bass from Thomas Adam Johnson punctuates the melody.  There’s cool scratching sounds from Abraham on the guitar which add a spooky texture.  Robertson sings backing oohs and ahhs.

But the lyrics are fantastic

Look, black is beautiful, black is excellent
Black is pain, black is joy, black is evident
It’s workin’ twice as hard as the people you know you’re better than
‘Cause you need to do double what they do so you can level them

With family trees, ’cause they teach you ’bout famine and greed
And show you pictures of our fam on their knees
Tell us we used to be barbaric, we had actual queens
Black is watchin’ child soldiers gettin’ killed by other children
Feelin’ sick, like, “Oh shit, this could have happened to me”

Black is growin’ up around your family and makin’ it
Then being forced to leave the place you love because there’s hate in it

Her hair’s straight and thick but mine’s got waves in it
Black is not divisive, they been lyin’ and I hate the shit
Black has never been a competition, we don’t make this shit

Black is my Ghanaian brother readin’ into scriptures
Doin’ research on his lineage, findin’ out that he’s Egyptian
Black is people namin’ your countries on what they trade most
Coast of Ivory, Gold Coast, and the Grain Coast
But most importantly to show how deep all this pain goes
West Africa, Benin, they called it slave coast

Black is like the sweetest fuckin’ flavour, here’s a taste of it
But black is all I know, there ain’t a thing that I would change in it

The song builds slow and dramatically with more guitar work as Dave’s delivery gets more powerful.  It’s really intense.

But the climax here comes near the end, when Dave takes a seat at the piano to accompany himself while rapping his 2018 hit, “Hangman.” In the moment before he plays the opening keys, he pauses to take a breath before channeling the weight of the world through his fingers.

“Hangman” is more of the intense personal political storytelling.  His delivery is so perfect for this power of his lyrics.  This song has a few extra musical elements–some cool bass lines and guitar fills.  It also has an instrumental interlude at the end which allows Robinson to sing wordlessly.

I’m not sure if he has earned his mononym, but it’s a great show.

[READ: April 30, 2020] Bitter Root

I was drawn to this book by the outstanding cover art.  A 1920s era family dressed to the nines standing around a robot-like creature.  It’s sort of steampunk, but with a Harlem Renaissance twist,

In the essays in the back, the style of this book is described with a bunch of awesome phrases: cyberfunk (black cyberpunk), steamfunk (black steampunk) and dieselfunk (black dieselpunk).  There’s also EthnoGothic and ConjurePunk.

This story starts in 1924 indeed, during the Harlem Renaissance.

The story opens with music and dancing in full swing until something terrifying happens.

Next we see some police officers.  The black officer saying that “these people” give me the creeps.  A white police officer says “these people?” and the black officer says “The Sangeyre family ain’t my people. My people don’t mess with this mumbo jumbo.”

So then we meet the Sangeyre family.  Blink Sangeyre says she doesn’t like it that the police just bring them to their store. But Ma Etta Sangeyre says it’s better they bring them in before the kill someone.

We cut to the roof where Berg Sangeyre, a very large man with a wonderfully expansive vocabulary says “Cullen, might I offer you a bit of sagacious insight to your current predicament.  My assistance would hardly prove heuristic to your cause.”

Cullen Sangeyre is a skinnier, younger gentleman and he is fighting a bright red, horned demon known as the “Jinoo.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JESCA HOOP-Tiny Desk Concert #965 (April 3, 2020).

I really liked the Tiny Desk Concert that features Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop.  So much so that I bought the CD and it made me want to see both of them live.

Jesca Hoop last appeared at the Tiny Desk as a duet with Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) in the spring of 2016. They sang songs from their collaborative record Love Letters For Fire.

This time it is just Jesca and I have realized that I liked her more as an accompanist rather than a lead singer.  Actually, that’s not exactly right.  Her voice is lovely.  I just find the songs a little meandering.

This time around, Jesca Hoop came to the Tiny Desk with just her guitars, her lovely voice, and brilliant poetic songs. She has a magical way with words, and she opened her set with “Pegasi,” a beautiful song about the wild ride that is love, from her 2017 album Memories Are Now.

“Pegasi” is nice to watch her play the fairly complex guitar melodies–she uses all of the neck.  The utterly amazing thing about “Pegasi” though comes at the end of the song when she sings an amazing note (high and long) that represents a dying star.

She wanted to sing it today so it could live on Tiny Desk.

The two songs that follow are from her latest album, Stonechild, the album that captured my heart in 2019, and the reason I reached out to invite her to perform at my desk.

“All Time Low” is a song, she says, for the “existential underdog.”  She switches guitars (to an electric) and once again, most of the melody takes place on the high notes of the guitar.  Her melodies are fascinating.  And the lyrics are interesting too:

“Michael on the outside, always looking in
A dog in the fight but his dog never wins
If he works that much harder, his ship might come in
He gives it the old heave-ho.”

After the song, she says, I’m going to tune my guitar, but I’m not going to talk so it doesn’t take as long. If you were at my show, I’d be talking the whole time and it would take a long time.

And for her final tune, she plays “Shoulder Charge.” It’s a song that features a word that Jesca stumbled upon online: “sonder,” which you won’t find in the dictionary. She tells the NPR crowd “sonder” is the realization “that every person that you come across is living a life as rich and complex as your own.” And that realization takes you out of the center of things, something that is at the heart of “Shoulder Charge” and quite a potent moment in this deeply reflective and personal Tiny Desk concert.

This word, sonder, came to my attention back in 2016 when Kishi Bashi first discovered it and named his album Sonderlust for it.

The song is like the others, slow and quite with a pretty melody that doesn’t really go anywhere.

I found that after three listens, I started to enjoy the songs more, so maybe she just writes songs that you need to hear a few times to really appreciate.

[READ: March 2020] Ducks, Newburyport

I heard about this book because the folks on the David Foster Wallace newsgroup were discussing it.  I knew nothing about it but when I read someone describe the book like this:

1 Woman’s internal monologue.  8 Sentences. 1040 pages

I was instantly intrigued.

Then my friend Daryl said that he was really enjoying it, so I knew I had to check it out.

That one line  is technically (almost) accurate but not really accurate.

The story (well, 95% of it) is told through one woman’s stream of consciousness interior monologue.  She is a mother living in Ohio.  She has four children and she is overwhelmed by them.  Actually she is overwhelmed by a lot and she can’t stop thinking about these things.

She used to teach at a small college but felt that the job was terrible and that she was not cut out for it.  So now she bakes at home and sells her goods locally.  She specializes in tarte tatin.  This is why she spends so much time with her thoughts–she works alone at home.  Her husband travels for work.  Whether she is actually making money for the family is a valid but moot question.

So for most of the book not much happens, exactly.  We just see her mind as she thinks of all the things going on around her.  I assume she’s reading the internet (news items come and go in a flash).  She is quite funny in her assessment of the world (how much she hates trump).  While I was reading this and more and more stupid things happened in the real world, I couldn’t help but imagine her reaction to them).  She’s not a total liberal (she didn’t trust Hillary), but she is no conservative either (having lived in Massachusetts and New York).  In fact, she feels she does not fit in locally at all. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LESLIE ODOM, JR.-Tiny Desk Concert #909 (December 2, 2019).

I knew I had heard of Leslie Odom Jr. but I couldn’t remember from what.  Apparently I have heard of him from….everything.

A Tony- and Grammy-winning star, Odom has added a slew of achievements to his portfolio since 2016, when he left his role playing Aaron Burr in Broadway’s Hamilton. He’s continued his work in television and film, written a book and released jazz and Christmas albums. He co-wrote most of the songs on his latest project, Mr; out earlier this month, it’s his first album of original material.

Dang.

His singing voice is fantastic and these songs that he wrote are really wonderful.

“Cold” is a hopeful ballad with a beautiful melody and a hint of contemporary musical theater.  It opens with a lovely acoustic guitar from Jeremy Ting and piano from Tommy King.  Odom’s voice is powerful and strong and he hits some nice falsetto notes.  This is all accented by rim shots and cymbal taps from Garrison “G-Beats” Brown.

His backing vocalists, Christine Noel Smit, Nicolette Robinson (Odom’s wife) and Astyn Turr add some nice calla and response and then harmony voices. There’s a pretty acoustic guitar solo as well.

And all the while Odom’s voice and lyrics are fantastic.

When it’s finished he says, “you are the second group of people to hear that song.”

Then he

recalled advice he’d received from a friend: “You have to get used to it — you are part of a cultural phenomenon in New York City,” Odom said, before quipping, “I feel so blessed to be a part of … Law & Order: SVU for three magnificent seasons.”

Up next is “Foggy,” which he says is the most personal song on the album.  It’s much more spare, a love song filled with the regret of failed good intentions.  It’s almost entirely just he and the piano.  Although half way through some xylophone notes add a cool echoing sound.  As the song nears its end, Astyn Turr sings along with him.

Introducing the final song, “Hummingbird,” he says “This song is admittedly… I think it’s a bop, but it’s an odd little bop.  But it has been tested by my 2 year old and it is her favorite song on the album.  For this song Tommy King and Theron “Neff-U” Feemster switch places so “Neff-U” (who worked with him to make the record) is now playing piano.

The song features some wonderful violin from Andrew Joslyn.  It’s a fun boppy song and I love that everyone raucously sings the “you’re my hummingbird” line.

I really didn’t know what to expect from this set, but Odom has a fantastic voice and his songs are really very beautiful.

[READ: August 2019] Gods Without Men

I had read a review of this book by Douglas Coupland on two occasions and each time it made me want to read the book.  So I decided to read the book.  And what a book.

Coupland had warned, in a sense, that there were UFOs and aliens–but not to be put off by them.  And he’s right.  The book centers around aliens and such, but there are no “little green men.”

Rather, the book looks more at a location and the spiritual power it has had on people throughout history.

The book bounces back and forth between various eras and the present.  In most summaries of the book, the present takes prominence–and it is the most often visited timeline in the book.  But at times I found the story in the present to be less interesting than those in the past.

The book begin in 1947 with a man named Schmidt.  Schmidt drove out to the Pinnacles “three column of rock that shot up like the tentacles of some ancient creature, weathered feelers probing the sky.”  He used his diving rods and sensed the power here.  He paid $800 to a woman who owned the property and then settled in.  Schmidt built an underground structure to live in.  He bought an Airstream trailer and set it up as a diner.  Then he put in an airstrip and a fuel tank.  Soon enough pilots were stopping in for fuel as they sailed across the desert.  Schmidt is an interesting character (with a reprehensible past).  He also, every night, lit up the lights on top of his property that said WELCOME.

One night a ship descended from the sky. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NEIL PEART-September 12, 1952-January 7, 2020.

When I was in high school, Rush was my favorite band, hands down.  I listened to them all the time.  I made tapes of all of their songs in alphabetical order and would listen to them straight through.

I still loved them in college, but a little less so as my tastes broadened.  But every new release was something special.

It’s frankly astonishing that I didn’t seem them live until 1990.  There were shows somewhat nearby when I was in college, but I never wanted to travel too far on a school night (nerd!).

For a band I loved so much, it’s also odd that I’ve only seen them live 5 times.  However, their live shows are pretty consistent.  They play the same set every night of a tour (as I found out when I saw them two nights apart), and there wasn’t much that set each show apart–although They did start making their shows more and more fun as the years went on, though).

One constant was always Neil Peart’s drum solo. It too was similar every night.  Although I suspect that there was a lot more going on than I was a ware of.  It was also easy to forget just how incredible these solos were.  Sure it was fun when he started adding synth pads and playing music instead of just drums, but even before that his drumming was, of course, amazing.

It was easy to lose sight of that because I had always taken it for granted.

I am happy to have seen Rush on their final tour.  I am sad to hear of Neil’s passing.  I would have been devastated had it happened twenty years ago, but now I am more devastated for his family.

So here’s two (of dozens) memorials.  The first one is from the CBC.  They included a mashup of some of Neil’s best drum solos:

But what better way to remember the drum master than with a supercut of his drum solos? From a 2004 performance of “Der Trommler” in Frankfurt, Germany, to a 2011 performance on The Late Show With David Letterman, to his first-ever recorded drum solo (in 1974 in Cleveland, Ohio), dive into nearly five minutes of Peart’s epic drum solos, below.

The best Neil Peart drum solos of all time.

I was only going to include this link, because it was a good summary, then I saw that Pitchfork ranked five of Neil’s best drum solos (an impossible task, really).  But it is nice to have them all in one place.

You can find that link here.

Starting in the 1980s Neil’s solos were given a name (which shows that they were pretty much the same every night).  Although as I understand it, the framework was the same but the actual hits were improvised each night.

Even after all of these years and hearing these drum solos hundreds of times, watching them still blows my mind.

  • “The Rhythm Method”
  • “O Baterista”
  • “Der Trommler”
  • “De Slagwerker,”
  • “Moto Perpetuo”
  • “Here It Is!”, “Drumbastica,” “The Percussor – (I) Binary Love Theme / (II) Steambanger’s Ball”

[READ: January 2020] Canada 1867-2017

In this book, Paul Taillefer looks at the most historically significant event from each tear of Canadian history.  And he tries to convey that event in about a page.  Can you imagine learning the history of your country and trying to condense every year into three paragraphs?

And then do it again in French?  For this book is also bilingual.

I can’t read French, but i can tell that the French is not a direct translation of the English (or vice versa).

For instance in 1869, the final sentence is:

This, in turn, signaled the start of the Red River Rebellion which would not end until the Battle of Batoche in 1885.

Neither Batoche nor 1885 appears in the entire French write up.  So that’s interesting, I suppose.  I wonder if the content is very different for French-reading audiences. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SPACEFACE-Holidazed EP (2018/2019).

Last year, Spaceface released a single of “Christmas Time is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas.  It was trippy and cool with lots of echoing guitars and keys.  I guess it came from this EP, which I only learned about this year.

Although i see that some of the songs on this EP came out in 2019, so Spaceface is messing about with time this year.

The first song is “Christmas Party (Naughty & Nice)” credited to Spaceface, Andy Clockwise and Swimm.  Swimm is a band that “makes music with the concepts of weightlessness and fluidity as the common elements in their genre-blurred sound.”  Andy Clockwise and Chris “Cookie” Hess (from Swimm) do the vocals on the track.    The song opens with jingling bells.  Then a big fat fuzzy riff kicks in and the song takes off.  Angelic group vocals sing the chorus and then the music fades out as the spoken word part comes in.  With statements like “it seems like this year we might be able… to party” and “we’ll have a merry Christmas after all as long as Jake can share his adderall,” that must be the naughty side.  While the nice side has the angelic voices singing “your presence is the only present we need.”  It’s pretty catchy and that cool opening riff comes back at the end to finish it off.

Up next is “Single Star” featuring “LABRYS on vocals (Penny from Broncho).”  I unpacked this to discover that Penny Pitchlynn’s solo project was called Labrys and she is now in Broncho.  A quiet echoing guitar flows through the song as Penny’s low key voice sings the lyrics

A single star is lighting our new way,
but is it fate? A shadow’s doubt outshines your quiet truth
A single star’s bluish halo hue, brings promise of truth
Unbroken yet fickle as a flame

It doesn’t feel overtly Christmasy, although the lyrics do tend tin that direction.  But the addition of jingle bells in the chorus do give it a holiday feel.

There is also “Wish To Come True” which is the demo of “Single Star.”  It’s a lovely instrumental version of the song.

The EP also includes the original “❇Christmas Time Is Here❇” as well as the instrumental version by Spaceface and Kwka (Mike Fridman) which ares till trippy and wonderful.

This is a nice leftfield Christmas EP–a trippy addition to your holiday party.

[READ: December 15, 2019] “Executions and Horses”

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’m going to use Jarman’s description of the story to summarize it, because I couldn’t do it justice.

“Executions and Horses” is historical fiction set during the Red River Rebellion.  Riel’s shooting of Thomas Scott at Fort Garry is often viewed as his big mistake and that Riel was hanged in 1885 because of this shooting. The Prime Minister said Riel will hang though every dog in Quebec howl.  This still echoes in Canadian politics.

I couldn’t do it justice because I don’t really know this period in history very well at all and I really didn’t know what was going on for much of the story.

The story is elliptically written and, although the death of Thomas Scott is a central moment to the story, the focus is really on someone with nothing to do with the story.  I actually assumed the narrator was a woman, although re-reading the story there is no indication of that and I think perhaps the narrator is a man.  Which means that the lesbian/outsider subtext I assigned to the story is totally false.

Rather, I guess it is just a guy who fancies Gertie the Outside Woman who “walks her manic chicken on a length of twine.”  He is following Gertie’s backside, but also wondering if they put Scott’s half-alive body under the river ice. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JONAS BROTHERS-Tiny Desk Concert #897 (September 30, 2019).

I actually don’t know anything about the Jonas Brothers.  I think for a while I thought that the Jonas Brothers were some kind of offshoot of another pop band–someone named Jonas, maybe?  So I don’t know them and I had no idea they were still popular.

But the blurb says

The Jonas Brothers announced their reunion in February after a six-year hiatus and soon dropped a new single, “Sucker,” which debuted at number one of the Billboard Hot 100.  During their time apart, Kevin [vocals, guitar] focused on family, Nick [vocals, keys, guitar] went solo and Joe [vocals, in the pink hoodie] formed the band DNCE.

and also that

The line of NPR staffers waiting to see the Jonas Brothers’ Tiny Desk concert began forming four hours before the scheduled performance.

But I still didn’t know any of their songs or even what they sounded like.

However, they seem like really nice fellas and that goes a long way with me.

So the first song they played, “Sucker” seemed really poppy.  In fact, their vocal style screams pop music (which is code for “I don’t like it”).  And yet their instrumentation was primarily acoustic here.  Is that a part of being at the Tiny Desk or is this what the song sounds like?  I thought that the song had a pretty jazzy feel and the blurb concurs calling the version a “jazzy rework” so i guess they don’t normally sound like this.

The second song “I Believe” is really poppy and I didn’t really like it.

But between songs they were pretty funny.  Nick says he likes the “Nick pin” he sees and the audience member says she’s had it since 7th grade…she’s 23 now.

Earlier they had mentioned that this tour they were surrounded by toys (because of Kevin’s kids).

As the trio approached the desk, they were immediately drawn to the knickknacks and toy instruments scattered throughout the area. They ended up working them into their performance, adding a little childlike flair to “Only Human” from their latest album, Happiness Begins.

Nick says they made a video for the song in which they “took it back to the ’80s, which is long before I was born.”

I admit that this song is incredibly catchy and I love the way they use the toys to good (and humorous) effect through the song.  Although I hate the “eye eye eye eye” part, I’ll bet it’s a lot of fun live.

Joe asks where his Leos are at and they announce that it is his birthday today.  They say that last year on his birthday he said that next year, he wanted to play the Tiny Desk and now, amazingly, wink wink, this year it happened on his birthday.

so our video producer (and proud Joe-Bro fan), Morgan Noelle Smith brought a cake, and the large crowd serenaded him with “Happy Birthday.”

Jonas Brothers are not alone for this show.  They are accompanied by Jack Lawless on drums, Tarron Crayton on bass, Tom Crouch on guitar and Michael Wooten on keys.  Wootens’ piano parts are excellent and the full band accentuates these songs quite nicely.

[READ: August 8, 2019] Labor Days

I have clearly had this graphic novel in my house for over ten years.  I has assumed I’d read some of the early issues of it but it was all new to me.  And boy did I enjoy it.

The book is set in London where a goofy, somewhat likable guy named Bags is talking to his girlfriend.  She is inexplicably hot.

Fate interferes with Bags though in the form of a video tape.  Bags had put up a flyer “Bagswell household chores for hire” and this person is taking advantage of the services.  He offers 20 quid to look after the tape. But this tape will prove to be the start of something huge and terrifying for Bags.  One that will take him across Europe with tons of guns pointed at him.

Bags heads to his local where Warren the bartender tells him it’s one of those days.  He swears he used to push the handles to make the beer come put but today he has to pull them.  Bags has gotten a letter from his girlfriend.  The bartender gives him six shots and says to read it aloud.  “Bagswell—I hate you .  Have done so for a long time. –Kelly.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KLESEY LU-NonCOMM 2019 (May 15, 2019).

I had just listened to a few songs from Lu’s album Blood and now here she is at NonComm.

It’s hard to guess what the crowd was expecting when they saw Kelsey Lu‘s six-piece band waiting for her on stage. Or when they saw her, with flowing black, red, and orange hair, and ring laden gloves. Despite what they assumed she would sound like, she dazed everyone with her ethereal four song set this evening on the NPR stage.

According to the blurb, she started with a song that’s not on the player.

Lu started, just her and her keyboardist, with the title track of her debut album Blood, which was released in April via Columbia records. The song is a touching tribute to the love that permeates all. She delivered it with such conviction, as did her band, who gradually all joined in.

From “Blood” she swerved straight into the glitter of “Due West” and got the crowd moving along with her.  “Due West” starts quietly with strings but the song adds a  super catchy melody as it bridges into the chorus which brings an even catchier hook.  The recorded version is very poppy, but live, the pop elements have been stripped out somewhat.

Lu is most known for her work as a cellist.  Tonight however, Lu did not touch a cello once. The focus was on her mind bending and majestic voice. She mostly sang with her eyes closed, showing that regardless of the fact that she performs them every night, these songs still affect her as much as they do her audiences. The cello was not entirely absent, as one of her band members impressively played an electric one. Another demonstrated expertise of the violin, especially during the dramatic and sultry “Foreign Car.”

“Foreign Car” opens with wavering synth stabs and creepy strings.  It has a catchy fluttery chorus which I rather like.  I also really like the interesting electronic sounds that are added.

The last song of the set, the shimmering “Poor Fake,” Lu introduced as her ode to disco and dance.

She said “I don’t know if any of you grew up around the disco era.”  The crowd mutters.  She is the most animated of the night when she says, C’mon I know some of you did.  I didn’t, but I’m a big fan.  This was an opportunity to have an ode to disco.”

The somber strings that start the track then caught the crowd off guard. Once the beat kicked in, all doubts and confusion were whisked away.

The bass and drums are pure disco and her voice seems to reach back to Donna Summer.

As Lu’s voice did acrobatics, her hair put on a show of its own. She tossed it back and forth, making her floor-length orange braid whip ferociously, matching the melodrama of the song.

Who would he ever guessed she could hit such impressive high notes based on the quiet of the other songs.

Lu’s record is interesting, but it sounds like her live show is where it’s at.

[READ: May 20, 2019] “Personal Archeology”

It’s coincidental that the story I read for yesterday was about old photos and a person’s history.  This story is also about history, but it is the history of a place.

I really enjoyed this personal archaeology because I have had a similar experience finding old things on our property.

Fritz Martin was older now–his golfing buddies had died or were not playing as much.  So he had a lot of free time. He spent it looking for the traces that the previous owners of his house had left behind.

He imagined there were four eras of the house’s history. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEVON GILFILLIAN-NonCOMM 2019 Free at Noon (May 15, 2019).

Devon Gilfillian has a fun name to say.  Beyond that I assumed he was an Irish singer-songwriter.  But in fact, he is Philadelphia-bred, and Nashville-based and he plays soul and hard rock.

WXPN has been mentioning him a lot and I see that he is just about to release his debut album.  He has a powerful voice and commands attention

Gilfillian never wasted a moment on stage, and he never shied away from showmanship either; by the time he reached the second chorus in the opener, “Unchained,” he was already belting in his strongest range. The singer’s voice shook the room, rich, full-bodied, and gorgeous.

I love the way this song seemed pretty big during the verse but took off during the chorus and took off even more in the second chorus.

“Get Out and Get It” sounds like it could have come from a 70s movie with the riffing guitars and keys.  I don’t know if the crowd clapped along to the “La Da Da di” (it’s hard to hear them) but I don’t know how they couldn’t.

The “Good Life” is all about learning to love people better.

During the R&B-inflected “The Good Life,” Gilfillian charmed the audience with sweet falsetto and plenty of smiles as he dreamed about life in a loving city. “Remember when the bank got sold, and everybody took their gold, and everybody helped each other?” he asked in the second verse.

The super fuzzed out guitar solo is pretty spectacular.

They followed it up with the ballad “Stranger,” which Gilfillian introduced with a story from the band’s time on the road: He and his beloved bandmates got into a terrible car accident in 2018 that involved a drunk driver speeding through the hills in Georgia. When the band survived and lived to travel on, Gilfillian wondered at how quickly a stranger could accidentally change the course of another person’s life. But the “stranger” the singer calls out to in the song’s chorus turns out not to be the stranger who caused the accident, but the stranger who let him live through it — his savior.

They end the show with two rocking songs.

“Come Here and Come Down” is rocking and soulful, with a great wah wah sound on the guitar.   There’s a roaring guitar solo, but it’s not quiet as roaring as the final track “Troublemaker,” their heaviest track of the afternoon.  With a simple but powerful riff that really screams for a slide guitar solo, although Gilfillian’s solo is pretty fantastic too.

[READ: May 20, 2019] “A Hundred and Eleven Years Without a Chauffeur”

This story had such a peculiar title that I couldn’t quite imagine where it would go.

It starts off discussing how our ancestors did not drool over us.  They thought of the future in only the most general terms.  Their memoirs were not the whole story.  Worse yet is if we only have a few photos.

The narrator of this story is looking for photos for a biography.  She finds her old supply of photos but she knows some are missing.  But who would steal old photos?  People might take books from a guest room but who would steal Victorian and Edwardian pictures with no artistic merit?

She remembered one of her cousin bending over a sewing machine.  Her dream was to one day own a Rolls Royce with a chauffeur.  It never happened. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NEGATIVLAND-Points (1981)

Negativland’s second album continues with the noisy nonsense of the first.  This disc actually has track titles, which is nice.  It’s about 38 minutes of experimental sounds, home recordings and all manner of noisy sound effects.

“Harry to the Ferry” features David teasing his mom who is playing the accordion–retake after retake with laughing and frustration.  Totally covered by jamming noises.  At the end his, aunt sings while his mom plays the title song.

“The Answer Is…” is simple synth sound–possibly even a demo from a synth?  It sounds like an ice skating rink.  It’s quite nice.  After three minutes we get the title sampled and then the music begins again with a bit more improv.

“Scolding Box” over menacing synths, David says “Green boy is extremely mad, he’s going to start scolding.”  The rest of the nearly six minutes is wavery, unsettling synth waves and what might be clarinet samples.

“That Darn Keet” David shouts, “Blue boy escaped!” followed by thumping and more menacing synths.

“Dear Mary” with a buzzing sound underneath and amid slamming noises, a man recites a stiff, formal letter to Mary about how hard it is to be yourself.  The end is a TV clip from a game show.

“Clutch Cargo ’81” piano improv with weirdo synth sounds bouncing in an out.

“Babac D’babc” all manner of weird chirping sounds and maybe balloons and then people arguing about their marriage.  The argument comes in chunks with each one getting more intense.

“A Nice Place to Live” a promotional audio for Countara Costa county.

“A Bee Fly” mechanical sounds and high pitched noises for a minute before it jumps to a track that actually talks about a bee.

“No Hands” starts as a song of sorts under lots of echo.  Then come voices of people at a barbecue (with more bee interruption) and meat sizzling.

“Potty Air” is basically six minutes of various electronic noises and static–seems like they are testing out to see just what their electronic machines can make.

[READ: April 20, 2019] “White Walls” 

This story is set in Russia and was translated from the Russian by Jamey Gambrell.

It begins with the tale of Mikhail Avgustovich Janson, a pharmacist of Swedish descent.  In 1946 he built a dacha near Leningrad intending to rent it out to city folk.  He was soon ready for tenants and a family.  But “The Lord had something else in mind,” and Janson died soon after finishing everything.

The narrator’s family were his tenants and they bought the land from Janson’s widow.   But that was years before the narrator was born–she never met Janson.  But she and her brothers found all kinds of artifacts in the house.  Items in the attic and a large iron object that the kids assumed was a bomb even though they were told it wasn’t.

In 1997, the narrator and her family decided to strip the wallpaper and make the place their own at last.   They bought new wallpaper that they rather liked and began stripping the old. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Memorial Stadium, St John’s, NL (December 03 1996).

This is the 17th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour. First 4 songs missing.

Even with the first four songs missing, this tidy little 30 minute set is quite enjoyable.

It opens with “Four Little Songs.”  Dave says that Don Kerr on the durms, he invented this beat (a simple snare/bass 4/4).  Then Dave messes up the 4-3-2-1 intro!   But they start over and rip it out.  When it comes to Tim’s part, he says, “Song two if you’re keeping score.  Tim changes the lyrics a bit from

This lady’s shaped like the Tour de France.
A thousand wheels besieged the city of romance.

to

This lady’s shaped like the Tour de France.
A thousand wheels besieged her underpahnts

And after the jaunty “you cant go wrong/you can’t go wrong”, Dave shouts “UNLESS” before Don’s “Huge creatures plowing the streets tonight, right, right. / The mighty puffin sets the sky alight.”

I learned a fascinating thing during this show.  In Canada, the corn dog is called a “Pogo!”  “While you’re picking yourself up a pogo or a root beer you may want to check out the CD with lovely cover art by Martin Tielli as always.”

Up next is “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine” in which Martin jhits some amazing high notes by the end.  It jumps to “Feed Yourself.”  The end rocks with some great feedbacking.  Tim comments: Way to go Dave.”  Dave replies “Way to go Tim” as they start “Bad Time To Be Poor” which is “for all the green sprouts.”  They thank the Tragically Hip for bringing them to Saint Johns twice.

Then they end the set with “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”  It sounds great–Martin’s vocals and guitars, everything is great.  The high notes at the end are wonderful.  And even though at the end, he sings the opening lyric, he catches himself and sings the proper ending.  Great stuff.

[READ: April 2, 2019] Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules

Boy do I love Delilah Dirk.

These stories are wonderful–fun, fantastical, exciting, witty and historically inaccurate (mostly).

I have totally embraced Cliff’s drawing style.  He has wonderfully subtle, expressions and his command of faces is amazing.  I absolutely love his amusing “action” words when one of the characters does something: “Skid,” “Grab,” “Hoist,” “Scramble.”

But like with the first two books, it’s the story that is really wonderful.

This book opens in 1812.  Delilah Dirk and her companion Erdemoglu Selim are in Turkey waiting to help a ship in Adalia’s harbor.  They are trying to protect the ship from the local tyrant Küçuk.  We see Delilah mingling at Küçuk’s party (and her expressions of distaste are wonderful).

Things do not go as planned, but the end result is the same–success for Delilah and humiliation for the tyrant.  Of course, it’s the not-going-as-planned that makes all the fun. (more…)

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