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Archive for the ‘Illness’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ENYA-“Echoes in the Rain” (2015).

One of the running jokes in this series is that Daisy’s favorite musician is Enya.

So why not add an Enya song to the soundtrack here?

Enya has released eight albums over the last twenty years.  Her sound is instantly recognizable and distinctive.  The impressive thing about her is that if you give some time to her songs you can see just how much diversity there is in these songs that sound vaguely the same.

This song, from her latest album features those same synthy strings, layered and soft as they pulse through the melody.  And of course, he layered soft voice running through the melody.

The biggest surprise to me in this song is that the chorus is simply Alleluia repeated over and over (with a kind of weird 80s repeat on her voice on one of them).  I’ve never known her to have overtly religious lyric in her songs (of course I don’t know her music that well, so maybe she has lots of them).  The verse is also a bit less soothing than usual–like the words are very distinctive and clear and make you think more about what she is saying rather than the feeling the song evokes.

There’s also a piano solo (sort of) in the middle of the song.  This intrusion of an acoustic instrument (not soft and echoed like everything else) is kind of jarring.

All in all, it’s a lovely song fitting in with her other songs pretty well, although I tend to prefer her earlier singles for a total chillout.

[READ: January 21, 2020] Giant Days Vol. 6

Book six covers the Fall semester in the students’ second year at school.  It takes us up through Christmas and a few new (sort of) characters get a lot of story time (to very good effect).

It is also a time of tempestuous love and solitary death (not one of the main characters).

But the honeymoon of Esther, Susan and Daisy’s brand new flat doesn’t last long because…

Chapter 21
They are robbed! After an instinctual freaking out, they deal things in their own way–Esther attacks the room with her karate, Susan crafts a weapon out of a broom and knives, and Daisy tells the robber they can work it out–no harm no foul. Of course the robber is long gone, but at least we have that established. There is humor to be had though, Esther says that whoever stole Susan’s laptop is likely to catch typhoid from her keyboard. But Daisy is the most upset because the only items she had left from her parents–some pieces of jewelry–were also stolen.

The police come and Susan assures them they have reset their passwords “some of our new security questions answers aren’t even true” (I love this series). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAKE BUGG-“How Soon the Dawn” (2017).

Back in 2012 I recall Jake Bugg kind of buzzing around with his debut album.  One of my co-workers at the time was really into him as well.

He basically fell off of my radar entirely until I saw him mentioned in this volume of Giant Days, which is why I looked him up.  He has put out a couple of albums since 2012 with his latest being a 2017 acoustic album produced by Dan Auerbach.

This song has such an incredible 70s vibe both in the sound of his guitar and his vocal delivery.  His voice is soft and clear and the chorus is really catchy.  Really any song that has a “tooo” that you can turn into a lengthy “oooooh” section is going to be super catchy.  It’s just acoustic guitar and a very minimal accompaniment and it suits him rather well.

His Wikipedia entry says that in 2018 he signed to a new label “in a bid to relaunch his career.”  I guess that hasn’t happened yet.  Shame, because this is a really pretty song.

Incidentally, in the book, he is mentioned when the girls are at a musical festival. Daisy says “Is ‘Jake Bugg’ good music?” and Esther says “No.”

Ouch.

[READ: January 20, 2020] Giant Days Vol. 5

In 2017 I wrote

I love this series so much.  I can’t believe I have to wait forever for volume 5 to come out.

Turns out I took that forever more literally than I needed to.  This book came out in 2017, but it took me until 2020 to read it.  The only consolation is that I now have about 6 books to read right in a row!

Max Sarin’s drawings are still over-the-top cartoony which I rather like. Even though the story lines are realistic(ish), giving them a cartoony vibe allows the over-the-topness to feel natural.

This book focuses on the end of their first year of school (can it really be over so soon?).

Chapter 17 starts a mini thread with Daisy going on an archaeology dig.  Susan’s comment that “You’d have thought we’d dug up all the Romans by now is interesting since just a few weeks ago (in the real world) even more remains were recently discovered.  Daisy’s dig is a disaster because Professor Bradford (you mean bad-ford) is in charge and he criticizes everything Daisy does.  “You’re doing it wrong” is a constant refrain.  He is so mean because on his very first dig he sat on a mummified form and was basically never invited on another dig.

Susan is distracted by McGraw’s new lady whom Ed Gemmell describes as “she speaks better English than we do but in an accent that means I understand one word in three.”  Susan refers to her as an Andalusian Succubus.

Ed reveals that he has been making spare change helping his roommate Dean with a translating project.  Dean pays 25 pence for every three word phrase they translate.   Like, “philosophical ideas about” becomes “recondite notions of,” and “brutally powerful world” becomes “mean planetoid.”  It soon dawns of Esther though that making money this easily can’t be on the up and up and that’s when they realize that Dean is basically selling plagiarized papers (with very bad phrases included).

Chapter 18 sees Esther and Ed being so concerned that they will get in trouble for Dean’s work–there’s a Paypal trail–that they visit a 24 hour lawyer.

But the more concerning news (really) is that their beloved home, Catterick Hall is going to be torn down at the end of school.

There’s a delightful running joke about Daisy being an unwitting pool shark.  She’s so good that McGraw, in his spare time, made her her own cue, which she calls a “pool pole.”

At the Farewell ball, Ed reconnects with Jenny.  Jenny broke the story on Dean’s plagiarism ring but described the lower tier workers as “Mr. Hair and Vampiella” (hee hee).  After a night of dancing, Ed Gemmell has fallen in love.  Even if he and McGraw aren’t sure what  they ‘re going to do if their roommate is in jail.

Chapter 19 is a delightful side trip to A Music Festival!  Esther is all in, Daisy is quite nervous and Susan just doesn’t care.  She has been smoking a lot more and when it comes time to set up her tent, she just lays it on the ground.  She’s in a sleeping bag anyway, this is just another layer–“double bagged like in an American supermarket.”  [Is that a uniquely American thing?].

Esther has a crush on the singer for Poison Nebula and wants to get right up close to hear their topical song “You’re my Napster you’re my wifi.”  Esther followed the band to their bus (Daisy: “Don’t go into buses with strange men!”).  It turns out Poison Nebula is really into…calligraphy: “Quill work on rag-edge parchment.”  There a hilarious moment later on when Shinobi the drummer tries to barter one of his quills for food but the philistines don’t appreciate the quality of the tool.

Daisy is horrified by this spectacle and is looking for something with the majesty of Enya combined with the mystery of Enya, “You’re just jealous of her success.  Everyone is.”  But she soon finds herself loving the world music stage which means Susan can explore on her own.

Susan meets up with The Cowboy who drugs her drink and has her spinning and flying through the festival–not in a good way.

This is all just to much for daisy who needs to find a space to meditate.  Which she does just as the sky opens up a downpour on them all.   The only consolation is that Susan’s unpegged-tent is there to save the day.

Chapter 20 opens with two guys throwing a rager in a unfamiliar house.  The furniture looks utterly destroyed.  We find out the at this is the place the girls are living in this year.  Amazingly it all looks beautiful.  Until Susan sits on the couch and finds that it is all held together with school glue and tape.  This can only mean one thing: a trip to IKEA!

Esther has never been to one (The deGroots fled the Netherlands to escape the jackboot march of flat-packed furniture) but she is instantly convinced of its awesomeness. The next page shows them sitting on all kinds of furniture with IKEA sounding-names (the note at the bottom translates” Orkan/Hat/Slukhål as hurricane/hatred/sinkhole.

Esther is allowed to buy one puppet and they have come in under budget which means meatballs!  Susan explains that they are “made of the national meat of Sweden: swan.”

Then reality sets in–they have to transport all of those flat boxes home.  AND put it all together.  Susan refuses to let Daisy ask McGraw for help, but Daisy sneaks out to ask him for tools: “is one size of junior hacksaw enough?”   “For 99% of the human race, probably.”

McGraw and Ed move into their new place.  Ed has spent a fortune on a cappuccino maker which he says will save them a ton of money over the year.  When they come back from their evening out, Dean has returned and has immediately destroyed the coffee maker by stuffing bananas into it and saying the smoothie maker is broken.

It’s going to be that kind of year.

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SOUNDTRACK: PJ MORTON-Tiny Desk Concert (July 2, 2018).

I have never heard of PJ Morton.  So the opening of this show made me smile a little

So many people didn’t want me to be myself.  But I decided I was going to be PJ not natter what people told me.

Commendable, to be sure, but I had a hard time believing anybody cared what he did.  But I absolutely love the way this became the chorus:

They’d say PJ you’re not mainstream enough /Would you considers us changing some stuff or everything about who you are / No offense but were just trying to make you a star.

And then this awesome chorus:

But I must admit I’m claustrophobic / I have a hard time trying to fit into your small mind.

That’s fantastic (the song is called “Claustrophobic”).

Staying true to his own musical vision has always come first for PJ Morton. So when he expressed his desire to squeeze a 10-piece string section behind the Tiny Desk for his three-song performance, we were more than happy to oblige him.

Morton showed off the soulful Fender Rhodes chops that helped him earn a mentor in Stevie Wonder and membership to Maroon 5, while backed by percussion, bass and the same Matt Jones Orchestra that accompanies him on his soulful solo releases, Gumboand Gumbo Unplugged.  That’s: Matt Jones (Matt Jones Orchestra Conductor), Clayton Penrose-Whitmore (Violin), Arianne Urban (Violin), Olya Prohorova (Violin), Alexandria Hill (Violin), Danielle Taylor (Violin), Istvan Loga (Viola), Caitlin Adamson (Viola), Seth Woods (Cello), Malik Johnson (Cello), Victor Ray Holms (Bass),

That’s all well and good but who is he?

Well,

The preacher’s kid with the gospel roots wound up collecting two 2018 Grammy nominations for music from Gumbo, his fourth studio LP. Ironically, those industry accolades came as a direct result of Morton choosing to go his own way.

And what did people want him to do that was un PJ?

One record exec interested in signing him even suggested pairing Morton with popular West Coast hip-hop producer DJ Mustard. “It was so far off base,” he told NPR’s Michel Martin last January. Instead, he started his independent music label, Morton Records, with the vision of creating a new Motown in his hometown.

“Go Thru Your Phone” has a real Stevie Wonder vibes, particularly in the way he sings the end.  For this invites his girls The Amours (Jakiya Ayanna, Shaina Aisha) to sing with him.  In addition, we get Brian Cockerham (bass) and Ed Clark (percussion) playing some groovy funk.

He says the song is about “going through phones.”  It also has gentle pizzicato strings.  I don;t love his singing voice, but there is a great melody in the chorus.

He ends with “First Began.”  Again I don’t love his voice (there’s a Stevie Wonder thing going on again) in the verses but the sounds when the orchestra kick in are wonderful (including that low note and the wood block).   And yes, his Fender Rhodes is right on.

I am certainly interested in hearing his studio album.

[READ: January 8, 2017] “The Fugitive”

I have recently come around completely to Boyle’s writing  I’ve really enjoyed just about everything that I’ve read from him (and he gets published a lot).

But this one reminded me a lot of Rachel Kushner’s “Fifty-Seven” in that the main character does some horrible things.  He makes terrible decisions that impact other people. And while the circumstances of his initial trouble are unfortunate, I can’t feel bad for him and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to.

This is the story of a (legal) Mexican immigrant with little English (perfect for July 4th). He had contracted a very strong strain of tuberculosis.  He was told to take pills every day and come in for shots–that was the only way to cure it.  This could have gone on for up to 3 years.  But after three months, he was feeling better and quit taking the medicine.

Now he’s back, with Health Services.  They tell him that his condition has gotten worse and he is heavily contagious.  He must wear a mask in public as well as take medicine every day and come in for a daily injection.  This could also last for three years.  He agrees to it.  But the moment he gets off the bus, he goes into a bar, takes off his mask and drinks several beers, coughing all the while.

He has a job–doing gardening work–and he is treated fairly well on the job. But the medicine is wearing him down.

There’s an interesting parallel in the story in that part of his gardening job was to catch critters that damage the lawns. The first time he caught a live raccoon (the homeowners didn’t want to use poison), it was up to him to kill it.  “What are you going to do, take it home and train it to walk on a leash?”  And, yes, he is not unlike a trapped animal as well.

But still, if he follows the procedures he has a chance of getting better.  If he doesn’t, he could infect the rest of the population.  So, when he deliberately doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do and then fights back against the agents when they try to bring him in again, it’s hard to have sympathy–even if you feel bad for what happened.

If I was supposed to feel sympathy for him, it failed.

 

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  SOUNDTRACK: KING KRULE-Tiny Desk Concert #681 (December 6, 2017.

King Krule is one of those artists that I love on paper.  But who in actuality I find really rather unpleasant.  He was raved about by so many people this year, and yet, aside from a few parts of these songs that were good, this was all kind of slurry jazz to me.

The blurb says the music is a kind of mashup of “cool” and “jazz” and an acquired taste well worth dipping in.

I guess I don’t have that taste.

They play three songs with instruments including sax, guitars, bass, drums, live vocal processing of Archy’s voice and electronics

“Midnight 01 (Deep Sea Diver)” has interesting sound effects and echoes on his voice, which I like.  But his voice is deep and mumbly and the music is pretty standard lite-jazz.   There’s a sax solo and a jazzy guitar solo.

I don’t know if it’s the whole picture but this vibe turns me off:

lyrics that talk about the sorts of depression singer and guitarist Archy Marshall has dealt with in his young life (he’s 23).  “Why’d you leave me? Because of my depression? / You used to complete me but I guess I learnt a lesson.”  All this comes from someone who honestly looks like he couldn’t care less, which seems like a far cry from the words and care he puts into his twisted, woozy tones.

His “whatever” attitude annoys me and I can’t hear these words anyway.

“Lonely Blue” There’s some interesting things going on in this song–the shifts in tension and volume.  But those few moments can’t rescue the song for me.

“Logos/Sublunary” is 7 minutes and is either one long song or two shorter ones.   He switches to keys and I like it a bit more.  This song sounds like some other songs I like but those jazzy elements (two saxes!) bug me.  After 4 minutes it switches to a more funky style (that would be “Sublunary,” I guess).  The end is my favorite part.

But once again, I feel like I was set up to be blown away, and it sounds too much like jazz to me.  The musicians include: Archy Marshall; Connor Atanda; John Keek; George Bass; Jack Towell; James Wilson.

[READ: September 17, 2017] Science Comics: Plagues

This might just be my favorite of First Second’s Science Comics series.  I love the topic, I really love the art, and I love the way Koch has created a compelling story as well.

The book opens with a Bubonic Plague creature (a cute blue hot dog with yellow bits) meeting up with Yellow Fever (a yellow-green ball with nodules).  They are in a host body and are looking to take advantage of their surroundings. Before they can do any damage, though, they are attacked by a large, scary T-cell.

A fight ensures bit it is short-lived because, in fact, everyone is in a simulation created by ECHO [Education Control Hologram Overseer].  They are in CHAMBER [Center for Holographic Advanced Microorganism and Bio Engineering Research].

In CHAMBER, the researchers observe cells–like way white blood cells learn about germs (anything that makes us sick) and is able to fight it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NATALIA LAFOURCADE-Tiny Desk Concert #664 (October 27, 2017).

I’d never heard of Natalia Lafourcade , so here’s what the blurb says:

Natalia Lafourcade is a successful singer-songwriter whose voice and music live on the edge of pop, but maintain a distinct independence.

A few years ago, while Lafourcade was traveling Brazil, she felt a great nostalgia for her native Mexico and its folk music. When she finally returned home, she immediately called some friends for the kind of party that is ubiquitous in Latin America: lots of social drinking, lots of food and lots of guitars and singing. Classic folk songs were on the playlist and a good time was had by all.

Someone recorded the informal jam session and Lafourcade’s management team heard the tapes. “This is your next record!” they told her.

That record, Musas: Un Homenaje al Folclore Latinoamericano en Manos de los Macorinos, Vol. 1, [Muses: A Tribute to Latin American Folklore in the Hands of the Macorinos, Vol. 1] was a commercial and critical hit, and received a Latin Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. It only made sense for Lafourcade to bring her Musastour to the Tiny Desk. The performances are an ode to a magical time in Mexican popular music, one that is revived with every note this singer and her band perform.

Los Macorinos are Ernesto Anaya (traditional Mexican guitar), Uriel Herrera (drums) and Jorge Molina (double bass).

One important historical note: The two older gentlemen on the video are Juan Carlos Allende (acoustic guitar) and Miguel Peña (electric guitar), two revered musicians who played with the iconic ranchera singer Chavela Vargas.

She plays three songs:

Lafourcade has a lovely delicate voice and brings a lot of joy to these songs.  On “Soledad y el Mar,” her voice and all of the acoustic guitars meld together wonderfully.  There’s also beautiful “traditional” harmonies from the players.

“Mi Tierra Veracruzana” was written for her hometown of Veracruz (five hours from Mexico City).  She says “its full of energy and  the beautiful things that I remember about my little town.”  There’s some delightful little acoustic guitar solo runs in the middle of the song that really spice up this delightful song.  I love that there’s also someone there to give a high-pitched aahhhhhhh ha ha!

“Tú Sí Sabes Quererme” its a love song which means You Know How To Love Me.  There’s much chuckling and then she says, when it happens it happens. She plays a small four string guitar.  After running through the chorus for everyone to sing along: “mas o menos, you have to sing as you were very in love with somebody.”  This song really swings and it’s a lot of fun..

[READ: October 27, 2017] Ghosts

Ghosts is a very different story for Telgemeier.

In the past, her stories have been rather personal–taking events from her own life (I assume).

This story mixes some real events (a sister with cystic fibrosis–this is tangentially related to her own life) and fantastical events–ghosts appearing on Dia de los Muertos.  She does an excellent job of linking the two.  Not only because the sister is facing death, but also because the sister needs a breathing apparatus and the ghosts are also “seeking” breath to come alive for the festivities.

As the book opens, we see Kat and Maya in the back seat of the car.  They are pulling out of [not] In-N-Out Burgers and learning that their new home in Bahiá de la Luna does not have an In-N-Out Burger.  This is pretty upsetting, but Kat realizes that they are moving to save her sisters’ life.  Kat will of course miss everything back home, but Maya needs the cool wet climate (the sun only shine 62 days of the year) of their new home. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MARTIN TIELLI-The Starlight Club Waterloo, ON (September 24, 2008).

This Martin Tielli show is the final solo show (excepting a Bidiniband that I am saving) on Rheostatics Live that I have to write about.

This is the first show of a tour at The Starlight Club in Waterloo Ontario. Just prior to release of The Ghost Of Danny G Part 1. Only live recording I have to date of “Ship Of Fire” and “Our Keepers.”

As Martin comes out he says, “This is our first show, we’re starting it here at my favorite club.”

This is a new band
Selina Martin – acoustic guitar, vocals, bowed saw ;  Monica Gunter – piano, synth, viola, vocals ; Greg Smith – bass, vocals ;
Ryan Granville-Martin – drums, vocals, glockenspiel.  There’s a lot of Martin up there.  Martin says, “My name is Martin because my mum’s last name is Martin.”

I really enjoyed this set a lot . The sound quality is excellent and the band is in tremendous form.

“Dead Is The Drunkest You Can Get” starts with just acoustic guitar and voice.  But when the get to “just like a child” the backing vocals come in.  And the xylophone sounds pretty.  It’s quite a surprise when the drums kick in mid way through the song.  “That’s What You Get For Having Fun” opens with some quavery violin and guitar trills–very different from the Nick Buzz version.  It’s overall more rocking and less cabaret style.

“Love Streams” sounds really pretty on piano.  He says, “that was a song I did a long time ago with a group called Nick Buzz.”  “(A Romantic Place) She Said, ‘We’re On Our Way Down'” opens with a musical saw!  He tells us, “I have to adjust the teleprompter here.”  He says it’s tough one, it’s a song I wrote about a place I love in Toronto.  A bar called the Inter Steer.  I wrote it in the bar while other music was going.  There’s too much music in pubic places, I think.  We should ban it.”  It has some great low acoustic guitar trills.  Overall, it’s a pretty spare song with Martin on guitar and the saw playing along.  When it ends he says “sorry about my brain… my brain my brain.”  That’s one of my favorite chorus of any song.  It’s by Wayne Omaha.

“That’s How They Do It In Warsaw” has a false start and lots of laughter.  He describes it as a “bit of a rockabilly number,” and when it’s over he says, “there were some devil notes in there.  Satan!  Frightening music that rockabilly.”

He opens “The Underbrush” by saying , ” the next few songs are on my subscription series records. These 2 record are about growing up in rural southern Ontario.”  This one is about a feral child.  Then he tells a story about his sister: She had an afro but she used to wear a towel on her head pretending she had straight hair.  I used to ask her what is wrong with an afro, it’s awesome….   We don’t talk anymore.  She lives in Brampton.

I love that you can hear the footsteps like in the beginning of the album and love how quiet and delicate it is with lovely backing vocals.

He busts out the vocoder for “Something In Those Woods.”   And then plays the beautiful “Watersriders”  They guitar is terrific and the keyboards add wonderful atmospherics. I love the guitar melody on “I’ll Never Tear You Apart” as well.

He tells a little bit about the subscription series: I had a bout of bravado about 4 or 5 years ago.  I’d do a subscription series and do 4 or 5 records in a year.  Then we blew the entire budget on the first record, Operation Infinite Justice, uh Joy.  Justice was the name that Bush gave to the first war on terror.  The town I’m writing about is Priceville.  Someone has heard of Priceville?  Priceville is where my grandparents live. His Italian grandparents are from a town near Verona, Italy.   A month ago I celebrated for a week because I finished all of the paintings.  The art is an important part of these records.   I was hoping to have it ready for Halloween because there are spooky musings about ghosts and spirits.  But now I’m hoping Christmas.

“Beauty On” jams through the whole first part even the normally quiet intro: “i am not.” It sounds great with the percussion.  But he asks, “Did we drop a verse n that song, it seemed too short.  He confesses, “I like working in bars because you can drink cocktails while you do your job that you get paid for.  I have a passione for the cocktails.

It’s nice to hear him do a Rheos’ song: “Take Me In Your Hand” is quite slow and different-sounding with the female backing vocals.  The coda on bells and melodica(?) is charming.

“My Sweet Relief” sound nice with the piano and Neil Youngish with the backing vocals.  “A Hymn To The Situation” is solo piano.  he interrupts the song to say “At the end of the next verse, there’s an axe and I want some heartfelt applause for the idiot I’m portraying, not an idiot…an honest guy.”  The crowd responds wonderfully.   He says that he’s been trying to rearrange “Sane, So Sane” so much that that’s the only way it can be done now.  It sounds good you can really hear the “lesbian pasta, please” lines.

He then says, “the next song is one I wrote with a certain hockey writer/sports writer.  Nice fellow, very gregarious.”  “Saskatchewan” opens sounding like “I’ve Got Sunshine on a Cloudy Day” and the band jams it for a moment before playing a really good version of the song–appropriately rocking.

He uses the robotic voice thing again for “Sergeant Kraulis.”  It sounds great but when he gets to the end, it feels like he wants to do something else but it just sort of fades out with him playing weird notes. The backing guitarist plays the notes that should come next, but he says “That’s the end.”

Then he introduces a “Totally new song.  I’m pretty sure it’s going to be on my next record after I finish this subscription… debacle.”  He says “Our Keepers” is “full of hate… the most invigorating emotion, hate… the most delicious, invigorating, joy-inducing emotions.  bloody ..and loving.”  The song totally rocks and the middle section is pretty classic rock sounding.  It’s shame it’s only available on More Large Than Earth (We Will Warn the Stars).

Apropos of nothing he says, “this is Buddy Holly’s Stratocaster–midi Stratocaster.  The light keeps things from getting too spontaneous.”

Then it’s back to the music with “another song I wrote with this Armenian-looking guy who writes columns for the Star and is on the radio a lot.  I stole the song and changed the entire meaning of it.”  “Stolen Car” sounds great.  The backing vocals are different, but Martin is the heart of this song and he songs it great.

Then it’s back to “Sergeant Kraulis” with the “Reprise.”  The song picks up with the repeated notes from earlier and then Martin repeats primarily the “we were opening packages” mantra on the robotic voice.  The end is a long jam with wild soloing from Martin.  At the end, We had to pick up the last bit of that song.”

During the kind of encore break, he says “thanks for helping us kick this little tour off.”

The intense “Ship Of Fire” has a rather Neil Young sound but with some cool synths.  This is the only recorded live version of it which is a shame because it is intense live.  There was more robot voice at the end.

Martin begins tuning and says, “Let’ do ‘Voices from the Wilderness.'”  And you hear someone say “Oh, yeah, okay!”  There is a hunt for capos “Capos have been located.”  More tuning Martin says, “Talk someone, while I tune.”  Selena sings “G…  A….” (as Martin tunes those notes, then asks, “So uh what’s things like in Waterloo?  I never get to spend any time here.  Just soundcheck, show.  It seems like a swell place.” Martin chimes in:  “I got to spend a lot of time here when I was a kid–Kitchener/Waterloo.  There was a big cemetery we used to play in.”  Someone asks, “Did they used to be two towns that grew together, kind of like mold?  But good mold on cheeses.  When we get big we’ll have people who can tune guitars for us–were working on that.  You know Gibson has expensive guitars that actually tune themselves.  I think Jimmy Page had one a really l long time ago.. because he could.  Voices has a lovely guitar melody and bells.   I like that he puts in the line “I know Geddy, but he don’t know me.”

[READ: April 20, 2017] Giant Days Vol. 4

I was so excited to see two volumes of Giant Days out!  This meant I could read them right after each other.

And its a good thing because the third book ended with a bombshell that Esther was dropping out of school.

Chapter 13 opens with Esther storming around her house, her parents quite upset about her decision.  But Esther is certain and she even goes out to find a job.  She gets one at Bakerymax as a sausage roll technician.

And how is Esther enjoying being home?  She runs into her old best friend Sarah (who has fun hair) and they catch up.  There is a wonderful joke about textiles.  And then she sees her ex, Eustace.  But he just looks at her and walks away.  It’s ugly being home.

Meanwhile Daisy is so upset to have found out that Esther is not returning that she talks to her grandmother for advice (I love the way she twists anything her gramma says into something good for her).  Daisy and Susan decide to go and find her to bring her back.  They show up at Esther’s house and her parents are thrilled to see them (and thrilled to offer them so free luxury–Esther’s parents are loaded!). (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: NICK BUZZ-Lula Lounge, Toronto, ON (December 9, 2010).

I was looking through the solo concerts on the RheostaticsLive page and realized that there were only a few left for me to post about.

This is the first of two Nick Buzz shows on the site and the one I hadn’t posted about yet.

This audio has been taken from the Mini DV recording of the show that I put on YouTube (which is available in 13 parts).  These clips are all available on YouTube.

It’s interesting hearing Martin with Nick Buzz because they are clearly a more cabaret style–even on Martin’s solo songs.  As of this recording, they had released Circo and the Shoenberg EP.

“Spilling The Wonderful” sounds terrific.  It’s odd and cabaret-ish and as the title says, Wonderful.  On “That’s What You Get For Having Fun” it is cool watching him pluck at his guitar.  It’s a weird song but always sounds great.

He says, “Thanks a hell of a lot for coming” and then takes off his suit jacket.  “Just Because” is quiet and pretty.

Then he explains that the next few songs are from the Schoenberg EP.
I can’t tell how they do that opening collage of music and spoken words for “Gigerlette.”  But Martin seems to be enjoying it.  At the  end of the song he says “Strangely all these rather formal songs that Schoenberg wrote back then are all about sex, is that strange?  I don’t know.”  I cracked up that during “Der Ganugsame Liebhaber (Black Persian Kitty) he shakes his head after he sings “it shivers as I stroke its velvety nap.”  Then he even does some jaunty dances.  The final one is “Arie Aus Dem Spiegel Von Arcadien.”  It is so much fun with the boom boom boom bits.  He notes: it’s 100 years old.

“A Hymn To The Situation” is from “our first and essential only album Circo.  The other album was part of a subscription service I’ve done over the past 38 years–a collection of the creepiest Schoenberg songs.  But this is one of the most despicable songs I have ever written.  And I want to share it with you.

“Milkeek” is a new song.  It’s inspirations are from a dream world.  It doesn’t make any sense to me hopefully it will make some sense to you.  And it’s about keeping certain types of food separated from other types of food.  There’s scratchy violin.  He says that song was about “The relax”.
This song ain’t.  “Eliza” features banjo and Martin takes his guitar guitar back.  Although once the vocals start he takes the guitar off again.

“L’Astronaut” has an amusing story attached:    He says it’s inspired by a fantasy:  one of the things that occurred to me and a friend of mine was how we felt at folk festivals.   We would like to attend one in a spacesuit with tools to take samples of the boutiques and booths and bongo jams and take samples and do observations to take back to our world.  To use a boring drill to take sample drill into a djembe.  We’ll play the song and see if its comparable at all.   Don’t think so.  Not sure if there’s second unknown song or if that was part of “L’Astronaut,” but at the end, Martin jokes, “yes, we’re a little bit country.

“The House With The Laughing Windows”  is spare and pretty with a lovely piano melody.  I love when the guitar comes kicking in near the end of the song.  “Sane, So Sane” opens with him saying” Are you enjoying the show so far?  This is only our second show in a normal venue.  We’ve only done abnormal venues at this point things like television and classical tent arrangements.  This is a song about Toronto where I don’t live anymore.  There’s some really cool sound effects throughout.

“Love Streams” is from our album Circo.  The first time we played it from top to bottom we kept it for the record.

He says this next song features my bass playing.  It’s “Uncle Bumbo’s Christmas.”   It’s pretty long and for the end he’s basically playing two notes.  I wonder if he was bored.  The final song “If You Go Away” gets cut off at the end, but it is a delightful torch song.  Martin walks away for a bit in the beginning but comes back after 2 minutes to start singing.

I assume there were more songs at the show, but we will have to make due with what we have.  The quality is good and the band sounds great.  It’s nice to see Martin working with violinist High Marsh in the Rheostatics reunions.

[READ: April 20, 2017] Giant Days 3

Boy do I ever love this series.  It might just be my favorite graphic novel series yet.  And that’s saying a lot.

The only thing that confounded me a bit was that in the year since I read the last book, I’d forgotten a bit about what was going on.  But it only took a short amount of time to get caught up again.  I also noticed that I said I didn’t like Max Sarin’s drawing style in the previous book.  Well, I find that I really like it now and that I just didn’t like the change from one to the other in the middle of the previous book.  Because here it’s just right on–exaggerated and fun, but still delightful.

Chapter Nine opens on what I thought was a confusing scene–Ed and a woman (Amanda) are spying on the student government. The woman is an editor at the paper, she is older and pretty intense.  But they find out some shocking secrets (which allows them to make great use of the joke “absent Parent”).  After their espionage, Ed falls for this editirix.  And she is quite taken with him so she invites him home.  But she is older and more experienced and well, soon someone has some stories to tell. (more…)

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giants-days-2 SOUNDTRACK: THE OH HELLOS-Tiny Desk Concert #493 (December 8, 2015).

ohhelloThe Oh Hellos are technically a duo of Tyler and Maggie Heath.  But live (and here) they play chamber pop with nine members in the band.  They have an accordion, a violin, a banjo, guitars and great harmonies.

“Hello My Old Heart” starts with a quiet acoustic feel–slow and mellow.  But it picks up after a verse and grows in intensity.  The song has a few different parts that keep returning to the “ba dum ba, ba dum bah” melody.  I love the way the song builds to a rousing (and abrupt) end.  There’s so much going on in the song its hard to believe its only 4 minutes long.

The band members are all rather sick–they all have colds and there’s much talk of how bad they feel and how much they are coughing and sneezing (with a revolting/hilarious image of confetti).

“Like the Dawn” also opens with some lovely acoustic guitar.  This time Maggie is on lead vocals and Tyler’s harmonies sound really good with her.  Maggie’s lead soars (even while sick) and I love the way the song builds to a big folk rock explosion by the end.

Before the final song they joke about everyone being sick and how they are ready to be done with the tour.  They start talking about laundry and underwear and get very silly.  It’s pretty impressive the way Tyler can go from chastising them for being gross and then singing the first delicate falsetto note of “Exeunt” so perfectly.  Its fun watching the band (especially the guitarist and violinist) really get into the big chords in the middle of the song (jumping up and down as they rock out.  The song has an amazing ending as it builds and everybody sings “I have set my mind and my will” before all voices drop out and he gently sings, “I am leaving.”

It’s a pretty great ending although he notes that “The end of that one is a little more impressive with the full set up but you get the idea.”

The Oh Hellos are a great addition to the chamber pop world, and I look forward to hearing more from them.

[READ: June 16, 2016] Giant Days 2

What’s interesting but a little disappointing about his series is that continuity doesn’t seem to be a high priority between the stories.  The characters never change their behavior, which is good, but it feels like these stories are episodic rather than continual, and yet there is certainly meant to be a building upon previous stories.

Except for Chapter 5 which picks up right after the previous book with the men and women shopping for formal attire for the Hall Ball.   Esther convinces the women to buy secondhand dresses and then says that her brother can fix them–an excellent joke at the end of the page.

Meanwhile Ed and McGraw are trying on suits.  Ed says he hopes that Esther will be into him someday and McGraw looks to the heavens and saying “The maintenance, Ed.”

The dance proves to be successful for some (well, Esther) until one of the men says that there’s a bet a the dance to see who can hook up with her.  Well, that ends Esther’s fun.

And then some unexpected (or maybe not) pairings occur.  Each person is a bit ashamed (at least in front of the others).  And in classic “friend” scenario, Esther tells Ed that anyone who would not go out with him is an idiot.

And then everyone heads home for Christmas holidays.

Chapter six shows an emergency visit to Northampton and Susan’s home. We all know that Susan is prone to aggressive outbursts.  Well that was true in her past as well.  The girls show up to rescue Susan, but she doesn’t appear at the train stations.  How will they find her?  (There’s a very funny joke about all smokers knowing each other).  I also love the continuity of the amusing joke that McGraw really loves keys.

The crux of this chapter is that some time ago, Susan greatly upset the daughter of the richest family in Northampton.  And now that she is back, revenge is to be served.  This chapter is very funny but mostly centered on its own plot rather than advancing the college story.  As it ends, Esther realizes that exams are common up and she hasn’t been to a lecture since November.

Chapter Seven opens and things are…different. There is a new illustrator (Max Sarin) for the next two books and I have to say I really don’t like the new style.   Even though Cogar still does the colors, everything in this book feels much brighter–in part it’s because Max’s lines are thinner, but also because almost everything he draws is softer and rounder.  It take a lot of the edge off of the book and make s the whole thing a lot “cuter.” Which is disappointing.

The story is pretty solid though.  Esther is freaking out about exams-she thought her exam about the New Testament would be really easy.  To prepare for this exam she decides to go out dressed in whiteface to see Necrotising Swamp–a band that is satanic in a fun way.  On the way out of the show, while protesters are trying to make her feel guilty for being there, she decides to go to “the source” and in a joke that I love, she decides to ask a priest for help in her theology class.

In an act of desperation, Esther finds one more person who might be able to help her…which turns into something more.  At the same time Daisy discovers that Susan and McGraw have been “sexing.”

As Chapter 8 opens all of the couples are together.  Susan and McGraw, Esther and her new guy and Ed and Daisy (although not as a couple).  And this meeting is for Esther to introduce her new man to her friends. And conversely for him to introduce her to his friends (which could go better) and his parents (which could definitely go better–until she decides to really be herself).

When pressed she admits that she has a weakness for milquetoast handsome.  And while their backs were turned, Daisy became addicted to Friday Night Lights.  And while Ed has been trying to figure out how he could take his mind off of Esther and her new guy, he wound up joining the newspaper–what will that produce?

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giant-daysSOUNDTRACK: NATHANIEL RATELIFF & THE NIGHT SWEATS-Tiny Desk Concert #488 (November 17, 2015).

nateNathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats get a ton of airplay on WXPN–perhaps a bit too much airplay.  And yet I can’t deny the supreme catchiness of his music which owes a lot to Van Morrison’s brand of soul music.

Rateliff was (and perhaps still is) a folk singer.  But in 2015, he released this album with the band The Night Sweats and has had huge success with this more rocking soulfulness.

“I Need Never Get Old” sounds so much like a Van Morrison song that it’s hard to deny how catchy it is (especially the chorus).  “Look It Here” has a similar vibe with the kind of loudly mumbled vocals that sit nicely with backing vocals and horns.  The middle of the song picks up in intensity and changes the overall tone in a good way that segues nicely back into the main melody.

“I’ve Been Failing You” features more piano up front.  It’s a little more bluesy than soulful so I like it a bit less.  Although the backing vocals in the quiet section (Don’t you weep and don’t you worry) are very cool.

Typically a band does three songs, but Bob walks up and shakes his hand and asks if he wants to do another.  Nathaniel asks, do another or do that one over?  But Bob says, no another song if they want to.

The band agrees they can’t really do “Shake,” so instead they play “Mellow Out.”  Rateliff says, “Same key different song.”  And everyone laughs until he realized, “wait it’s actually a different key.  What do I know?”

“Mellow Out” which opens with some very Van Morrison “do do do dos.”   It sounds very much like the other songs–catchy and swinging with horns in all the right places.  When the song ends Bob says it sounded great and someone comments that they had an extra late night last night before the audio turns off.

I am genuinely surprised that they didn’t play “S.O.B.,” their first single (a song used in a Lipton commercial–although not any part that sings “son of a bitch, I might add).  But since I don’t really like that song, I’m glad they played the other ones.

[READ: June 15, 2016] Giant Days Vol. 1

Giant Days was excerpted in the back of a Lumberjanes book and I loved the excerpt–very funny with a great drawing style. Then as I am wont to do, I forgot all about it.  But in the library the other day, the librarian recommended the book and I was delighted to be reminded about it.

This series is set in a British college.  Susan, Esther, and Daisy are roommates.  Susan is the sensible one–a little angry at men and unwilling to take crap from anyone.  Esther is a goth hottie.  She dresses outlandishly and has a (literal?) forcefield of bad luck around her.  And Daisy was home schooled–she is very sweet and rather naive.

I loved right from the start when the three girls head out to campus.  Susan bets Esther that she can’t go three days without some kind of drama happening around her.  But as soon as they get outside, Susan see McGraw.  And she is furious.  McGraw has floppy hair and a big ol’ mustache.  And they launch into each other with cold pleasantries.

When the girls  force Susan to tell the story, there’s a very funny moment when the other two start chanting Flash-Back Flash-Back but we get a brief, intentionally unsatisfying one. (more…)

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shadowSOUNDTRACK: ERIC CHENAUX-Skullsplitter [CST112] (2015).

chenAn album named Skullsplitter sounds like it should be really heavy and loud.  But if you know Chenaux, you know that that’s not his thing at all.  So what wins?

The traditional Chenaux wins.  At times light and beautiful and at times wobbly and disorienting, Skullsplitter sounds like many other Chenaux releases.  And you either like him or you don’t. His slow songs, vibratoed guitar and really delicate voice either win you or not.

“Have I Lost My Eyes?” has one of the most wobbly guitars I can thing of (even for him).  The slow electric guitar solo is pretty much perpetually played with wah-wah bar in motion.  After 90 second of this, Chenaux’s delicate tenor voice comes in and sings a melody that is not exactly suited to the music, but which doesn’t sound off, either.  Classic Chenaux.

Alternating with the vocal pieces are instrumentals.  Chenaux plays a lot of ringing and delicate solos and overdubs them.  And the instrumentation is pretty varied: Voice, electric guitar, un-amplified electric guitar, nylon-string guitar, speakers, melodica and electronics.  “The Pouget” is roughly two minutes long.  “My Romance” has a kind of warbling guitar solo over some mellotron.  “The Henri Favourite” is another 2 minute slow piece with a slow guitar solo played over some keyboards.  The last instrumental is quite different.  “La Vieux Favori” changes the tone with a bowed sound (although you can see there’s no violin listed–he must be bowing the guitar).  It doesn’t have the same smoothness as the other songs, although it is certainly interesting, especially near the end when it is just that bowed instrument with no accompaniment.

“Skullsplitter” is, as I said, a mellow song just like the others.  His voice is relaxing and calming and the music is also mellow with waves of keys.  I’ve never really tried to figures out the words to any of his songs before–he sings so slowly it’s kind of hard to follow the thoughts.  But the lyrics to this song are the cover art.  And seeing them printed, I still don’t know what they mean.

“Spring Has Been a Long Time Coming” is the most friendly song of the bunch–music and vocals meld perfectly, and Chenaux’s guitar sounds beautiful.  The 8-minute “Poor Time” has a jazzy feel as it unfurls slowly.  It intersperses his vocals with a delicate but wildly-wah-wahed solo.  The final track, “Summer & Time” ends the disc with some pretty acoustic guitars and Chenuaux’s delicately soaring voice.

[READ: June 1, 2016] Lighter Than My Shadow

I was looking on the shelves in the library for some books and I saw this book on the shelf next to them. I loved the title, Lighter Than My Shadow and when I pulled it off the shelf, I really liked the drawing style that Green employs.

I genuinely had no idea that this book was going to be about woman suffering from body issues and anorexia.  It all seems obvious, but i didn’t look that closely at first.  Such a topic could be really hard to read about, but I was also really surprised and delighted at how good the book was.

She covers her mental state in all capacities.  And she really demonstrates the way her body rebelled against herself.  In fact, this was the most compelling and complete look at anorexia that I have ever seen.

There is something about the way her drawings style–simple figures and even simpler backgrounds work perfectly in this story.  She is able to show herself getting thinner without resorting to shocking illustrations (well, there are one or two mildly shocking ones).  The most effective part of the book is the black scribble that hovers around her representing her interior self. (more…)

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