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Archive for the ‘Humiliation’ Category

SOUNDTRACKDRY CLEANING-“Her Hippo,”  and “Leafy” (album versions) (2020).

After listening to the Dry Cleaning Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, I wanted to hear the recorded versions since the blurb talked about how different they sounded.

Indeed, these versions sound very different from the Tiny Desk Concert.  Well, actually it’s the guitars sound very different because guitarist Tom Dowse is playing electric rather than acoustic.  But it changes the whole tone of the songs.

On the record, “Her Hippo” opens with quiet but sharp electric guitars that echo as the riff circles around. Lewis Maynard’s bass sounds the same, but Nick Buxton’s drums push this song into more of a rock territory (he played keys and electronic percussion in the Tint Desk)..

Florence Shaw’s vocal delivery is similar but perhaps a but more empathic while being heard over the more rocking band.  The middle part features just the rumbling bass and Dowse’s sharp (but simple) guitar solo.

“Unsmart Lady” opens with roaring, echoing wild guitars and thumping drums.  When he starts playing the main (weird) guitar chords they make more “sense” on the electric guitar, but they are still noisy and abrasive.  Dowse wrenches all kinds of screeching feedback and squeals out of his guitar.  The Tiny Desk version sounded really good, but this version is fantastic.

At the Tiny Desk “Leafy” was all delicate synth, but on the record, Dowse plays a kind of lead solo throughout the song–melodic and pretty while keeping the bass company.

I’m glad I listened to the recorded versions of these.  But I’m also glad I listened to the Tiny Desk (Home) Concert first, because hearing the structure of the songs was a great way to be unprepared for the distortion of the recorded versions.  I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of the record–and seeing them live.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “The Perfect Fit”

This is a hilarious essay about shopping in Tokyo.  It’s especially funny to imagine David and his sisters running around the city buying all manner of strange clothes.  Because if there’s one thing we know about the Sedaris family, it’s that they love odd items.

They stayed in Ebisu so they could shop at their favorite place Kapitol.  He talks about all of the delightfully odd clothes they sell there.  The store is still open, here’s a fun piece.

The store’s motto seems to be “why not?”  They make clothes that refuse to flatter you.   A shirt whose arm holes are not made like a capital T but like a lower case t. A jacket that poofs out at the small of your back where for no reason there’s a pocket.  He bought three hats that he wore stacked. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LIZ PHAIR-Tiny Desk Concert #227 (June 23, 2021).

I loved Liz Phair’s first two or three albums.  Then I got a little bored by her.  And then she went really aggressively commercial (to not so great effect).  This new single “Spanish Doors” sounds a lot like old school Phair but retains some pop sensibility in the super catchy bridge.

Liz Phair’s music was always meant to fill arenas. After a clever sleight-of-hand at the top of this Tiny Desk (home) performance, where it briefly seems we’ve returned to in-person sets behind Bob Boilen’s desk, Phair and her backing band do their best to recreate the kind of set you’d see in a much larger space; everyone plugs-in, turns it up and rocks with an impressive light show.

Phair plays three tracks from Soberish, her first new album in more than a decade.

She starts with “Spanish Doors,” a heartbreaking but hooky portrait of a marriage nearing its end.

It rocks a bit harder here with three guitars (Phair, Connor Sullivan), with lead solos from Cody Perrin.  Liz seems surprisingly nervous here–or maybe her patter is rusty.

She follows with a song against loneliness called “In There.”

It’s a mellow song with snapping drums (Neal Daniels) and rumbling bass (Ben Sturley).  It’s almost sounds like Liz Phair of old but is missing something.

followed by “The Game,” a meditation on the mind games that sabotage troubled relationships.

Liz switches to acoustic guitar for this one–and her guitar sounds wonderful.  There’s some terrific harmonies on this corner which really does sound like old school Liz.

Phair still finds joy and a playful sense of humor in her earliest work, closing her Tiny Desk with a generous version of “Never Said,” from Exile.

I loved Exile in Guyville and listened to it all the time.  It’s great to hear “Never Said” live like this.  When she played a few years ago, I didn’t feel the need to go, but if she played more of these older song (and the newer ones), I’m sure it would be an enjoyable show.

[READ: July 9, 2021] “Heirs”

This was an unusual story in which reality is never fully explained.

A man, Aryeh Zelnik, is resting on a hammock on his porch.  A second man pulls up in a car and heads to the porch.

The story goes into remarkably great detail about the man with his car–how he looks, what he does, even how he smells (not great).

We also learn a lot about the man on the porch.  His wife has left him and now lives in America (the story is set in Israel).  He has moved back in with his mother and is more or less waiting for her to die so that house can revert to him.

The man who arrives in the car, though, begins talking about legal issues.  At first he is very circumspect about what he really wants.

Would it be more comfortable for you if we were to chat awhile longer about [the loveliness of the land here]? Or will you allow me to go straight, without any circumlocution, to our little agenda?

Aryeh Zelnik is suspicious if not downright annoyed by this man who claims to have official business but who keeps avoiding details and calling him Zelkin. (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: DEEP SEA DIVER-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #214 (May 25, 2021).

I had not heard of Deep Sea Diver before this year.  But her song “Impossible Weight” is definitely one of my favorite songs of the last year.  Apparently, last year NPR voted “Stop Pretending” as one of their favorite song of 2020, so she clearly writes great songs.

She’s also got a keen sense for presentation, as soon as you see her set.

She also chose a very particular location for the shoot: “There were countless times this past year that I wanted to be transported out of my house and into a different world,” the singer and guitarist explains to NPR via email. “One of my favorite and most inspiring worlds is that of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. I wanted to pay homage to the show by recreating the red room for our Tiny Desk.”

I’m not saying that that would be terribly hard to do, but it certainly took a bit of effort.  And it looks awesome.

Inside the red room, the set includes three tracks from Deep Sea Diver’s marvelous 2020 album, Impossible Weight… joining the band are some special guests: Natalie Schepman and Meegan Closner of the band Joseph sing background vocals, and Dobson’s Beagle, Henry, makes an appearance. (Dobson claims he’s the only one who didn’t care that Deep Sea Diver couldn’t tour last year.)

“Impossible Weight” sounds fantastic.  I really love everything about it.  From the mutes guitar intro to the super catchy chorus to the wordless hook.  Every time I heard it on the radio, I was singing along to that chorus.

But that
was then
and this is now
I tried
so hard
not to let you all down
It’s an impossible weight
So I’ll just let you down now

On the record, Sharon Van Etten sings some part of it. I’m not sure what–I assumed Sharon sang the chorus, but it sounds the same when Dobson sings it here.  But in this Tiny Desk two thirds of the band Joseph joins her on backing vocals (I wonder why Allison wasn’t part of it) and they sound perfect.

After the song her drummer (and husband) brings out Henry, who gets a credit.

  • Henry Lee: beagle

“Lights Out” is up next and wow does it rock.  It’s got a great fuzzy bass intro from Elijah Thomson.  I feel like her voice sounds a bit like Torres here (no bad thing).  The sprinkling of keys from Elliot Jackson are a subtle touch, as is his later guitar playing.  But man, the guitar solo that Jessica plays absolutely rips–she gets a fantastic sound.  After the solo the song gets quiet for a minute but it slowly builds in power.  Mansen’s drumming by the end of the song is exhausting to watch.  The song comes to a fantastic abrupt end and it really feels like it needs a crowd cheering after it (so it’s nice that Joseph is off stage to provide the cheers).

She moves to the piano for “Wishing” where she shows off

an impressive homemade bolo tie that she crafted from an NPR enamel pin and “a little bit of duct tape.”

Pianos tend to mean ballad, and this song is more ballady for sure.  The synths give it a retro feel, although Mansen provides some good rumbling drums for the catchy chorus.  I also got a huge kick out of the end when she plays a chord and sings “Awesome.”

“Stop Pretending,” was chosen as one of NPR Music’s favorite songs of 2020.

It has a cool opening guitar riff and later in the song the guitar sound she gets is an amazing roar.  In fact the end of the song builds to a great wall of noise with intense drumming and some great bass lines while Jessica plays an amazing solo.

[READ: October 10, 2016] The Terrible Two Get Worse

I really enjoyed the first two books in this series (Mac Barnett is such a hilarious writer–or maybe Jory John is the funny one?  Well, I know from past books that mac is hilarious).  But I forgot about the series and didn’t realize that this one (or the next one) had come out.

So book three is different from the first two because it is set in the woods. In the summer!

Niles and Miles are spying on Papa Company.  Papa Company is a patrol at a summer camp–the wonderfully named Yawnee Valley Yelling and Push up Camp.  Papa Company is run by Josh Barkin.  Josh is the son of the boys’ Principal and their archenemy.  He has two cadets in his patrol.  He has nicknamed them Dugout and Mudflap.  It’s not entirely clear if Josh is supposed to be taking these boys on as his own patrol, but the only rules at camp seem to be yelling and push ups, so….

Josh was sent to the camp last summer as punishment.  But he loved the yelling and meanness so much that he asked if he could stay there all summer…and return again this year.  The camp is big on acronyms, and the authors have a lot of fun with them (right up until the end!) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAMES NEWMAN-“Embers” (England, Eurovision Entry 2021).

.Eurovision 2021 is over and the big news (aside from drug-taking accusations against the winner) is that the entry from England received zero.  Nul points.

This is not unique, but it’s not something that anybody wants.  It’s actually better to not make the finals than to make the finals and get nul points, because no one is going to forget that.

So just how bad was “embers?”

I’m not going to defend the song, because I would never listen to it on purpose–it’s not my thing.  But by the same token I can think of a lot of songs that are much worse than this.

This song is just kind of bland.  It thinks its big and catchy with the horns and the “light up the ROOM!” line.  But really it just doesn’t do much.  I could see this song playing in a club and people would dance to it and then forget it.  No one would ask who it was or request it again.

And maybe that’s worth nothing.

[READ: May 26, 2021] 52 Times Britain was a Bellend

Bellend is such a great insult and it is exclusive to Britain, which is a shame.

Also a shame is just how terrible Britain as a country has been throughout history.

Obviously any global superpower is going to be dickish–you get power by crushing others.  You could write this same book about the United States and cover just the last four years.

But Felton, whom I’ve never heard of before, but who is apparently a huge Twitter presence, narrowed history down to 52 (one a week) examples of Britain being absolutely horrible (and somehow managing to make it funny).

How did he decide on these events?  Well, they are judged by today’s standards (saying “I’m from the past” is no excuse).

What you’ll get here is a good overview of fun and horrifying times when we were cartoonishly evil, from a comedian just as appalled as you are about what shits it turned out we were in the past.

Most of the terrible behavior involves other countries.  Like starting wars with China because they wouldn’t buy British opium.  Or making Zanzibar pay for the bombs that Britain dropped on  them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: C. TANGANA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #194 (April 20, 2021).

It’s surreal seeing this many people standing so close to each other singing and having a good time. It’s also an incredible reminder of how good it sounds when a lot of people sing together.

The blurb is surprisingly lax about explaining who C. Tangana is–but I gather he must be pretty huge.

From Mexican Regional to Spanish flamenco, C. Tangana is simultaneously coming home and reaching out to bridge Latin music boundaries. He’s building a community of cross-cultural collaboration, rooted in a unifying love of language and tradition, making it clear he’s intent on giving everyone a seat at the table.

The blurb does say that this gathering is Tangana’s extended family (the clinks of salud certainly suggest familia).

After more than 13 months amid a global pandemic, C. Tangana’s extended family basking in the warmth of sobremesa with easy smiles and effortless baile looks otherworldly. (Check his mama and tía vibing in the corner.)

They open the set with

This first live performance of his latest album, El Madrileño (including a global premiere of a fresh single, “Me Maten”) buzzes with communal energy, spotlighting talent from across Latin landscapes.

C. Tangana sings with Antonio Carmona, on “Me Maten” and the whole show gets off to a warm, relaxed feeling.  The backing singers (Lucia Fernada Carmona, Pilar Cerezo, Marina Carmona, África Heredia, María Rubio, Mariola Orellana, Patri Alfaro and Mari Estrada) do an amazing job of fleshing out this and the other songs.

The concert’s star-studded cast of Spanish collaborators, including long-time friends (producers Alizzz and Victor Martínez) and new contributors (rumba legend Kiko Veneno and flamenco-pop icon La Húngara), are each spotlighted for their contributions to the record.

Up next is C. Tangana and Kiko Veneno singing “Los Tontos.”  Kiko plays guitar and opens the song.  When everyone sings along (especially the la na na na) it sounds wonderul.  Then Alizzz, who has been playing the keys, sings the New Order line “Every time I see you falling…” into the vocoder and it fits perfectly.  Kiko ends the song with lovely guitar melodies.

Tangana switches positions for “Demasiadas Mujeres.”  He walks away from the table to a nearby string octet (Pablo Quintanilla, Paula Sanz, Franciso Palazón, Marina Arrufat, Paloma Cueto-Felgueroso, Adrián Vázquez, Irma Bau, Daniel Acebes).  Huberto Morales (I think) plays a martial drumbeat.  Tangana raps this track and it sounds pretty great with the strings–the octet is really into it–rocking and bopping around.  They play a pretty solo as Tanagana heads back to the table.

There’s lots of friendly chatter before “Tú Me Dejaste De Querer.”  Alizzz once again plays keys and sings into the vocoder to introduce this wonderfully catchy simple guitar riff.  I’m not sure who is playing guitar as there are so many guitarists: Victor Martínez, Juan Carmona and Niño De Elch who sings a verse.  He’s also joined by La Húngara whose female voice brings a wonderful change to this great set.

[READ: February 1, 2021] Hasta el Mismísimo

I saw Hasta el Mismísimo which Google translated as “Even the Very” at work.  It was in Spanish but the cover was cute and I was curious what it was about.  The translated title certainly didn’t help.  I flipped through the book and found that it was mostly cartoons.  So it seemed easy enough to translate.

The first text is a big thank you page, the final line of which is Thank you to @glorianietophoto who gave me the brilliant idea of drawing a talking pussy [Google translates that last word a bit more harshly when it is by itself].

So THAT’s what this book is about and what’s on the cover.

The second pages says A los Mismísimos del mundo, !Bienvenido!  which gets translated as “To the themselves of the world, welcome.”  Clearly “Mismísimo” is a hard word to translate inthis context.

The first cartoon shows the talking pussy with a cup full of blood painting on a cave wall: “It seems that a long time ago we painted in the caves, but really today there are still a lot of cavemen.  That’s why it’s easy to finish UP TO THE SAME [Hasta el Mismísimo]. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CARM-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #192 (April 15, 2021).

CJ Camerieri is a co-founder of yMusic, which is how I know him (I saw him perform with Ben Folds).

This is his new project, CARM.  Camerieri is also a member of Paul Simon’s band, a collaborator with Bon Iver and a Tiny Desk alum. (You can hear his French horn with The Tallest Man On Earth from their 2019 Tiny Desk Concert.)

“Soft Night” is the first track and introduces us to what CARM is about.  He plays trumpet while Trever Hagen plays electronics and sets up the melody and drums.  Then Camerieri switches to French horn while Hagen plays some trumpet.  Then in a fun moment, Camerieri picks up the trumpet with his right whole still holding the French horn in his left.  He plays the trumpet melody and then puts down the trumpet and starts on the French horn.  For the rest of this five-minute instrumental, the two jump back and forth playing trumpet riffs and leads as the electronics build satisfyingly.

For CJ Camerieri … home is where the art is. He performed his concert at the Pablo Center in Eau Claire, Wisc., where [he] conceived and recorded all the songs for his 2021 debut solo album, CARM. “This particular community has been a really big part of my musical life for 10 years,” CJ says after playing the calming tune “Soft Night,” “so it seems like the perfect place to be doing this.”

He made “Song of Trouble” with Sufjan Stevens.  They wrote it before the pandemic but the lyrics have taken on new meaning.  S. Carey plays piano and sings.  This is another mellow song with some lovely muted trumpet and simple electronics backing the song.

“Nowhere” is a little stranger.  It opens with jittery trumpet and skittery and loud electronics.  The juxtaposition of the organic horns and the electronic instruments is very cool.

“Slantwise” opens with some rapid and wild drum loops.  Then Camerieri loops the French horn and trumpet giving the song a rather majestic feel.

[READ: May 11, 2021] A Complicated Love Story Set in Space

The librarian in West Windsor recommended this book to my son.  He didn’t read it, but I loved the title and was really interested in reading it.

And wow, did I enjoy it.

I have not read anything by Hutchinson before, so I’m not sure how this compares to his other books, but this was, indeed, a very complicated love story.  In the acknowledgments Hutchinson says that originally the story was called Gays in Space.  And while that is a fun title, I think the final title is wonderfully compelling.

The story opens on Noa.  Noa is a normal teenager from Seattle.  But he has just woken up and he finds himself in a spacesuit, floating outside of a spaceship.  He has no recollection of how he got there.  There’s a note that says “You are in space floating outside a ship called Qriosity.  There is no reason to panic.”

Well, thank goodness for that.

After getting his bearings, a voice speaks to him.  The voice is from a teenaged boy named DJ.  DJ is from Florida and he is aboard the Qriosity.  He also has no idea how he got there.

They are each tasked with a pressing problem and if they don’t fix them immediately, the ship will explode.  Noa panics (as he tends to do) but DJ calms him and talks to him as they work together to fix the ship.  Which they do.  But as Noa is heading to the airlock, his tether is not attached and he is flung from the ship.  He has nowhere near enough oxygen and soon enough, he is dead.

That’s a rough start for the protagonist of the story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKKIRK FRANKLIN-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #175 (February 25, 2021).

Religion is inextricably linked to gospel music, which I think is rather a shame became gospel music can be a lot of fun, regardless of the lyrics.

If I wanted religion in my music I would call on Kirk Franklin in a heartbeat.  His songs are super catchy and inspirational and he is a great band leader.

For nearly 30 years, Franklin has been widely regarded for revolutionizing gospel. He incorporated secular music, particularly hip-hop, while preserving the message and integrity of traditional gospel. Here, he and his powerhouse choir pace through a decades-long, sixteen Grammy award winning discography of faith, praise and encouragement while cracking plenty of jokes. I cannot recall a more moving Tiny Desk home performance.

The set begins with “Love Theory.”  Franklin doesn’t even sing on this one, leaving it up to the rest of his singers [from left to right Darian Elliot, Eboni Ellerson , Michael Bethany, Deon Yancey, Melodie Pace,  Tia Rudd] to croon the melodies.

He gets up and claps his hands.  He even does some dancing behind the keys.  His energy is undeniable.   And actually, this one could be secular: “I don’t love nobody but you.”  By the end of the song, he tells everyone to make it bounce y’all and the funky bass from Matthew Ramsey kicks in heavy.

Kirk Franklin, set up with his band and choir in a corner of Uncle Jessie’s Kitchen, makes a declaration. “I know you’re at home right now, in your draws, listening to some Jesus music. It’s ok. Jesus loves you in your draws!”  Those are your draws!  He blessed you with those draws.

“Silver and Gold” slows things down old school.  Franklin plays the piano but it’s all about the harmonies that the singers include.  They keep building on the word “gold” getting bigger and bigger to a huge, outstanding peak.

The Arlington, Texas studio, named after a long time close friend, features a large photo of the iconic “I AM A MAN” protest signs from the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike on the wall. The jubilant energy that Franklin and company emit, juxtaposed with a visual reminder of the strife that Black people have endured is illustrative of the importance of gospel music in the Black community.

He continues “If you still haven’t put any clothes on yet we gonna groove a little bit more. You in one sock, I see you with just one sock with a flip flop or a house shoe.  I see you.  You look crazy but Jesus loves you still.

“Melodies From Heaven” has a quieter intro, but it builds bigger and then Franklin gets up and dances around the room while Shaun Martin plays the keyboard and Terry Baker plays some crashing drums–But its all about that wild bass.

The song ends abruptly.  He says that’s all you gonna get now … but after the pandemic I’m coming to your house and I’m bringing everybody and we gonna do this in your living room, your living room–everybody gets a concert.

For the final song “I Smile” he gives this positive intro:

All you gotta do, no matter what you face, even if you don’t have all your teeth, even if you got one good tooth all you gotta do is smile.

It’s a fun, boppy song with some more terrific drums at the end.

If all church was like this, more people might go.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Sixty-Nine Cents”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Gary Shteyngart’s family moved to the United States when he was young and by the time he was fourteen, his accent was mostly gone.

He now had three goals: to go to Florida and Disneyworld, to have a girl say she liked him and to eat at McDonald’s.

His parents did not believe in spending money–they bought clothes “by weight on Orchard Street.”  Despite their frugality, their parents agreed on a trip to Disney.  The tickets were free after a timeshare presentation.
“You’re from Russia?
“Leningrad … please Disney tickets now.”

They drove to Florida and stayed in cheap motels along the way. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK2 CHAINZ-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #170 (February 17, 2021).

I’ve never heard of 2 Chainz, but I love that his Tiny Desk comes from Pamper Atlanta–his nail salon!

He’s a pretty fascinating dude

Colored in royalty, neon hues of lavender, fuchsia and violet, in his high-end nail studio Pamper (yes, he owns it, and he’s not shy about letting you know), 2 Chainz is feeling himself throughout his five-song set. Getting a champagne-soaked pedicure, rolling one and periodically shouting out his sixth and latest studio album, So Help Me God!, the rapper exudes Black excellence in the way of luxurious comfortability.

“Southside HOV” is a fascinating brag track with lines like

I’m from the gutter, diamonds studded, I am too for real
Name another rapper that got a Versace shoe deal

His unbridled braggadocio so clearly comes from the freedom of security after being denied opportunities, not just individually but generationally.

He ends the song with a statement to the little ones:  “Listen carefully, this is a grown man speaking to you … pedicure in this bitch. too.”

“Vampire” is another new song that he casually raps while getting his legs massaged.

Then the set jumps to another room with 2 Chainz sitting in the spotlight as his partially obscured band plays.

He rewinds the clock and samples [his] stacked discography (“Good Drank,” “I’m Different”)

“Good Drank” has a grooving bass line from Tyler Sherard with some cool soloing from Josh Sneed.  “I’m Different” opens with a quiet piano melody from Mark Polynice–it’s almost like a horror movie.  Most of the songs have a chill rap style, but in the middle of this one he really lets it fly for a verse–rather impressive.  There’s some great drumming from Alex Turner on this track too.

The set ends with “Grey Area” and good grief with these lyrics, so much for inspirational).

All this sh- that I have done, I can not believe in karma (yeah)
Old enough to be your Daddy
Young enough to f- your Mama (boom, boom, boom!)
Young enough to f- your sister, young enough to f- your auntie
I ain’t messing with your Grannie, I just juuged her out them Xannies (true!)

It’s surprising then, that he gets all thoughtful at the end of the set.  As Polynice plays some backing chords, 2 Chainz says “Let me inspire.”

“There are a lot of people who have been moving the needle forward for Black people. And they have been for some time,” says an earnest, almost plaintive 2 Chainz. In a heart-filled sermon, he cites Martin Luther King Jr., Tyler Perry and Puffy as trailblazers, practicing gratitude for Black leaders who inspire him and the world at large. It’s a sober moment of euphoria — and a drastic shift from the first 17 minutes of the Grammy winner’s flashy Tiny Desk.

When thinking of inspirations he thinks of Martin Luther King, Jr. “I played from M.L.K.” he says (this must be metaphorical since King died almost ten years before Chainz was born).  Then when asked to name names of black people “who are currently like breathing and accessible in entertainment and tech” he says there’s so many who have inspired him he really can’t think of any names, even though there are so many black billionaires … “their names logged in my phone.”

The jump from M.L.K. to Tyler Perry may be the only time that connection was ever made.  But at the end he admits

I wasn’t specific when answering the question.  I just said what my heart told me to say.

But damn, if Pamper Atlanta doesn’t look really nice.

[READ: March 31, 2021] Klawde: Evil Alien Cat 3

While I enjoyed Book 2, I thought that Book 3 was a bit more fun.

Because it has dogs!

Raj’s parents are heading to Hawaii for a dental conference (Raj’s dad is a dentist, which you know because he is wearing a “plaque is wack” shirt.  Dad said it was work, but Raj was pretty jealous.  He wasn’t allowed to go because he was in school.  And that could mean only one thing: his ajji (grandma) was going to come stay with him.  Ajji was old-school Indian and brought three suitcases worth of cooking supplies.  And a dog.

Ajji doesn’t have a dog, but she was foster sitting this fluffy creature named Wuffles and brought it with her.  Since Wuffles needed a seat, Raj’s appi (grandfather) had to stay home!

Obviously Klawde is not happy to see that the “mortal enemy of all felines” was going to stay with them (the drawing of Wuffles on the “mortal enemies” page is hilariously adorable.  As Klawde sneaked up to get a better look, Wuffles exploded, snarling and barking right in Klawde’s face.

Klawde surveys the creature from atop the fridge:  It has the good sense to walk on four legs and has proper anatomical parts: fur, tail, whiskers and claws. But the whiskers were short (and couldn’t possibly be intergalactic sensors) and the ears were flopped over–clearly broken. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ÓLAFUR ARNALDS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #177 (March 4, 2021).

Ólafur Arnalds is an Icelandic composer who creates (mostly) beautiful soothing songs.

I really enjoyed his previous Tiny Desk Concert where he displayed his high tech player piano gadget (used in one of these songs although it’s hard to tell).

He and his accompanying quartet (Geirþrúður Ása Guðjónsdóttir, Sigrún Harðardóttir and Karl James Pestka on violins; Unnur Jónsdóttir on cello) play four tracks.

The pensive set opens with an older tune, “Happiness Does Not Wait,” with Ólafur Arnalds seated at a short upright piano known as a Danish ‘pianette.’

“Happiness Does Not Wait” opens the set with a beautiful looping melody on the piano and gentle strings added on top.  Then the strings take over playing the piano melody and the backing melodies as Arnalds preps his next song.

The remaining three songs are form 2020’s, some kind of peace. 

For “Woven Song” he winds up an Edison “Fireside” cylinder phonograph which plays a haunting melody–a traditional Amazonian healing song sung by the late shaman Herlinda Agustin Fernandez.  He plays a complex piano melody on top of the song.  Then strings layer on top and then once again take over the melody as he stops playing and heads to his other piano.

He explains that in the tribe where Fernandez sings, they weave their melodies into cloth to write them down.

Then moving from the wax cylinder to his high tech Stratus music software.

Look closely at the piano toward the back of the studio during the tune “Spiral,” and you’ll see a piano playing seemingly without a performer. That piano is reacting to Ólafur Arnald’s real-time performance using algorithms he and his coder friend, Halldór Eldjárn, developed.

The song opens with the violin and then the rest of the strings flesh the song out while he begins the piano.  Then the instruments fall back leaving just one violin along with the piano for the end.

For the final song, he moves back to the first pianette to play “We Contain Multitudes” which has an otherworldly echoing quality to it.

It’s a lovely calming session.

[READ: March 21, 2021] Klawde: Evil Alien Cat 2

Book 2 picks up soon after the events of Book 1.  In other words, summer is over and it’s time for Raj to go to his new school.  The good news is that the friends he made at camp–Cedar and Steve–will be there.  The bad news is so will his enemies Scorpion and Newt.

In the introduction, Klawde explains that his name is not Klawde, it is Lord High Emperor Wyss-Kuzz, the Magnificent.  He says he hated the planet Earth when he was exiled here and he hates it even more now.

Raj is freaking out about school, but Klawde is not interested in his pathetic classes. Where is Battle Tactics?  The Art of Slash-and-Claw? The Art of Ambush?  And that made Klawde think–he will start his own school–a school for warriors.

Marciano wrote this book in 2019 but how crazily prescient was this.  Raj goes into his classroom but there is no teacher.  Instead a voice came from speakers

Now, y’all may think it’s weird to have a teacher on a screen, but it’s part of a new wave in education… remote instruction! [And] no you cannot do whatever you want… I may be sitting down here in Alabama, but … I have a split screen monitor right here with every student’s face on it.

Spooky! (more…)

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