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Archive for the ‘Kindness’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MERRY CLAYTON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #222 (June 9, 2021).

Merry Clayton is a woman who every music fan has heard but probably doesn’t know it.

 Clayton has been making great music for almost 60 years. Clayton is one of rock’s most important backup singers (for starters, see The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” and Carole King’s Tapestry). She recorded several excellent solo albums that never broke big, but eventually received the recognition she deserved in the 2013 documentary 20 Feet From Stardom.

Clayton is not singing rock in this set, she is firmly in the gospel tradition.  And her voice still sounds amazing.

Members of The Waters and Take 6 (Maxine Waters, Julie Waters, Oren Waters, Alvin Chea and Alfie Siles) provide excellent backing vocals.

Merry Clayton’s Tiny Desk concert begins with the essentials. After a brief piano intro, she begins to sing “Beautiful Scars” — the title track of her new album — in a powerful and knowing voice.

Terry Young plays the slow piano and Nathan East provides the soft bass.

In 2014, she was in a serious car accident that required months in the hospital and extensive rehabilitation. With encouragement from her longtime friend and producer Lou Adler she decided to record a new album.

“Oh What a Friend,” written by Terry Young, features soaring call-and-response vocals between Clayton and the vocalists.

Charles Fearing’s guitar is not really noticeable amid the piano and bass but Harvey Mason’s drums snap and pop on the beat.

They conclude with a stirring and joyous version of Sam Cooke’s 1956 classic “Touch the Hem of His Garment.”

This song is acapella with the backing singers providing all of the music (including the foot stomps, maybe).  I love the bass notes from Alvin Chea.

[READ: July 1, 2021] “Spirit at Summer’s End”

This month’s issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue and features three pieces of fiction and three poems.

The final piece is a poem.  And it is summer themed.

Indeed, it is a visceral account of the end of the season:

scent

dust

bent straw

bee music

shrunken honeysuckle

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ROSTAM-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #221 (June 8, 2021).

Rostam Batmanglij was a founding member of Vampire Weekend and I was really quite bummed when he left (it was on good terms, apparently).

I assumed that his solo music would be very different from Vampire Weekend, but I never thought it would sound like this folkie sit-in.

Rostam and a group of backing musicians play two cuts from … Changephobia, a collection of songs that simultaneously look to the past and the future.

They opens with the

relatively breezy, escapist ballad “4Runner.”  It opens with Julian McClanahan Calvert on mandolin and Logan Kane on upright bass.  Conor Malloy plays some cool muted drums (with brushes) as Rostam sings in his soft croon.  Rostam himself doesn’t start playing the guitar until almost half way through before he jumps on the harmonica.

The band is sitting ion a circle with the camera on a track around them

My great-grandmother always used to say, “Life is a train. People get on. People get off.” And it just keeps going. Watching Rostam’s Tiny Desk performance, it’s easy to imagine you’re on that life-train, traveling around and around, catching glimpses of instruments and faces as they pass by, before coming back where you started. It’s a clever, if sometimes dizzying nod to the overarching themes of Rostam’s Changephobia.

For the reflective “These Kids We Knew,” Benji Lysagh starts the song with guitar.  McClanahan Calvert has switched to guitar as well.  Rostam plays a few lead licks, which are more of a nice riff for the song than anything approximating a solo.  Henry Solomon switches from congas to harmonica for this song.

The group closes with “In a River,” a one-off single from 2018 that sits perfectly alongside the newer songs as he recalls a warm night skinny dipping with a friend.

“In a River” opens with Julian McClanahan Calvert on mandolin.  Solomon adds some deep bass notes from his drum pads.  As the song nears the end, Rostam whoops, Benji Lysaght plays a quiet solo in the middle and Logan Kane bows the upright bass.

The setting feels perfect for a song like this. If only the candles were a campfire.

[READ: July 1, 2021] “Observed and Observing, That’s Him”

This month’s issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue and features three pieces of fiction and three poems.

The fourth piece is a poem. It reads a bit like flash fiction, but it’s really good, even with the odd title.

It begins with a man on a roof doing repairs.

I love the way the story describes him from “the glances from the backyard across the street.”  He is a shambles of a man with holes in his clothes.  And while on that ladder, he looks like a man “barely hanging on.”

(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: TH1RT3EN-Tiny Desk (Home Concert) #146 (January 18, 2021).

I had never heard of TH1RT3EN before this Tiny Desk Concert. But I was hooked from the beginning.  I liked everything about them.  The fuzzy distorted guitar from Marcus Machado, the excellent delivery of Pharoahe Monch and especially the fascinating drumming and drum style of Daru Jones (look at the way his drums are set up!).

Both the moniker TH1RT3EN and supergroup were born out of a frustration with the veneer of American society that underestimates the darkness of white supremacy.

“I knew 5 years ago where we headed,” Monch shared over the phone. “Sure, we’ve always done socially and politically aware music, but I’m tired of this “love will win” nonsense. Love may be the most powerful vibrating force, but consciousness is spreading and it’s impossible not to be more aware of the evil that has kept the world in complete darkness. TH1RT3EN is the musical personification of me and my comrades at combat.”

“The Magician” is based around the riff from Yes’ “Roundabout.”  Machado plays the riff throughout which I find much more interesting than if it was sampled.  Monch’s lyrics are smart and pointed.  There’s an incredibly fast rapping middle section with some amazing drumming.  I really like his delivery.

Moinch says that that song is about a student who was bullied and grew up to be a school shooter.  Ironically there hasn’t been any school shootings because we’re in the middle of a pandemic–a pandemic that has taken the lives of 250,000 Americans.  And yet Americans reman more afraid of Black Lives Matter than of COVID 19.

TH1RT3EN recorded this set in August 2020, as evidenced by Monch’s interlude, this four-song set still channels the discontent outside our windows today.  Shot in a padded “panic” room, this Tiny Desk (home) concert reflects the rage felt by this three-man battalion.

Monch continues “We are in need of cleansing and an exorcism.  “Cult 45” opens with a sample of a horn riff.  It’s quieter musically so it’s mostly vocals.  When the guitar joins in it’s mostly to add free jazz noises along with some wild drumming.

“Scarecrow” returns to the slow dirgy, aggressive guitar sound behind some fast rapping.

He says he started the band because he wanted a bit more authentic aggression by finding these two musicians.  And the set ends with “Fight” which has a nice big riff and crashing drums.

How’s this for an aptly aggressive verse

Burn a cross, water hose, dogs and nightsticks
Yeah, that’s what it used to be, see, they would usually
Just hang a nigga, fuck ’em
Now they don’t have the time to decorate the trees so they buck ’em

I’m going to have to check out this album.

[READ: February 28, 2021] You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey.

Amber Ruffin is a writer and comedian, most notably from “Amber Says What” on Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Amber Ruffin Show on Peacock.  Amber is hilarious.

But Amber is also righteously angry about the way Black people are treated in America.  Somehow she manages to take the most horrible things you can imagine and report about them with enough humor to make you listen and laugh and still get outraged.

This book is a collection of stories of racist things that happened to her sister Lacey.   Lacey lives in Omaha, Nebraska, where they grew up.  I don’t know anything about Nebraska or Omaha.  Apparently Omaha is a big city and has sections that have a lot of Black folks.  White people who are not from the city find the thought of going to Omaha scary.  It also means that when Lacey gets jobs outside of Omaha she is typically the only Black person in the building.

Which seems to make all of the white people there think it is okay to say whatever crazy racist shit they want to say.  But even outside of work, it seems like Lacey is a magnet for racist comments.  Is it because she is tiny and good natured?  Maybe.  But she is a also a bodybuilder, so watch out.

About this book Amber says:

When you hear these stories and think, None of these stories are okay, you are right.  And when you hear these stories and think, Dang, that’s hilarious, you are right.  They’re both.

There are going to be a lot of time while you’re reading this book when you think There is no motivation for this action. It seems like this story is missing a part because people just aren’t this nonsensically cruel.  But where you see no motivation, you understand racism a little more.  It’s this weird, unprovoked lashing-out, and it never makes any sense. It’s why it’s so easy for people to believe the police when hey beat someone up–because no one would be that cruel just because the person was Black.  But the are!  So as you read this book, when you see there’s no motivation, know that there is: racism.

The Preface has an anecdote that really sets the tone for the rest of the book.  Lacey paid at a store with a check. The checks had Black heroes on them.  Lacey paid with one with Harriet Tubman on it.  The cashier who had been very nice up to that point said “Wow you have checks with your picture on ’em.”  There is then a hilarious juxtaposition of the check with Tubman and one with Lacey’s photo.

Amber contrasts her life in New Yorke City.

Everyone I work with is stark raving normal. We don’t have any crazy bigots (dumb enough to run up) and I’m no one’s first Black friend.  Now I’m not saying no one ever says anything crazy to me–I’m still a Black woman in America–it’s just that we all know there are consequences for talking to me as if you’ve lost your mind.

But in the Midwest it is an unchecked tsunami of dumb questions and comments.  People think it your job to answer “Why can’t I (insert the most nonsense shit you’ve ever head)?”

Lacey chimes in (in a different font) from time to time with things like that she’s happy her little sister is successful in New York:

where someone would get fired for out-and-out racism.  I love that that really happens.  Never seen it, but I love it.  Like Santa Claus.

Amber ends the preface by saying

Hopefully the white reader is gonna read this, feel sad, think a little about it, feel like an ally, come to greater understanding of the DEPTH of this type of shit, and maybe walk away wit a different point of view of what it’s like to be a Black American in the twenty-first century.

And I did.  Boy did I ever. (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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81HkprYowjLSOUNDTRACK: SNOH AALEGRA-Tiny Desk Concert #947 (February 18, 2020).

maxresdefault (2)In what seems to be a new trend at the Tiny Desk, here’s another artist whom I’ve never heard of somehow and who manages to cram five songs into 16 minutes.  (I won’t complain about the length of this show because it’s not that long, but everyone knows you get three songs).

The most fascinating things about Snoh is that she is Iranian-Swedish.  And that her band is enormous.  And that they all have great names like: O’Neil “Doctor O” Palmer on keys, George “Spanky” McCurdy on drums and Thaddaeus Tribbett on bass.  There’s also Jef Villaluna on guitar whose name isn’t that crazy,

Unfortunately her songs and albums have terrible names.

Her new album is called Ugh, those feels again and her previous album is called Feels. (and she’s not even millennial).  And then the third song is called “Whoa.”  Good grief,

“Whoa” is a sweet love song that is detailed but not explicit.  Except the chorus which is “you make me feel like, whoa.”

The rest of her songs have a very delicate soft-rock vibe.  Especially with the string section of Ashley Parham on violin, Johnny Walker, Jr. on cello, Asali McIntyre on violin and Brandon Lewis on viola.

But apparently that’s not what her music typically sounds like.

On this day in particular, Aalegra’s tracks were stripped of their punchier, album-version kick drums and trap echoes. In their absence, it’s Aalegra’s delicate vocal runs and chemistry with her supporting singers that resonated most. “I Want You Around” and “Whoa,” which usually rest on a bed of glitchy, spiraling production, felt lighter thanks to the dreamy string section.

All of the songs featured her backing vocalists Ron Poindexter and Porsha Clay,  but they were especially prominent on “Fool For You” which ran all of two minutes.

Snoh seemed a little too cool up there, which did not endear me to her.  Her voice is certainly pretty though, even if I didn’t like her songs.

[READ: March 15, 2020] Best Friends

This book is a sequel of sorts to Real Friends.

It continues the story of young Shannon in sixth grade and how she deals with the minefields that middle school can present.

The same cast is back–the good and bad friends, the girls and boys and all of the insecurities that are practically a character in themselves.

As the book opens, Shannon realizes that she and her friends are not really in sync. She can’t keep up with the pop songs that they like–how do they always know the newest cool song (her family doesn’t listen to pop music so she is way out of the loop).

But aside form that, things seem good.  Shannon is best friends with Jen, the most popular girl in their class.  And since they are the oldest grade in school, Jen is therefore the most popular girl in school.

But the girls are always sniping at each other or trying to get Shannon so say nasty things about one of the other girls behind her back (while the girl was listening).  Shannon never did, though, because she is really a good person.  Something the other girls could use some help with, (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE KLEZMER CONSERVATORY BAND-Oy Chanukah! (1987).

For the first day of Hanukkah, it’s time for a Chanukah album.

This is a collection of traditional Chanukah songs interspersed with brief stories and a history of the holiday.

It works as a musical collection, although the dialogue does obviously stop the flow every couple of minutes.

Klezmer music is fun (provided you like the clarinet), but it really can’t be dissociated from the stories behind it.

The first narrator talks about the Maccabees and the Festival of Lights.  There’s the tales of Judith and Hannah and memories of klezmorim coming to the shtetl.  There’s even a recipe for latkes and the story of the dreydl.

Some of the songs have words (sung in Yiddish) but just as many are instrumentalist.  The majority of the songs are traditional, of course, but my favorite is “Klezzified,” which is written by one of the band.

This disc is a good introduction to Chanukah music.

[READ: December 12, 2017] “Souterrain”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

This story was really powerful and it revealed all of the details and connections in a slow and excruciating way–once you realized what was happening.

There are several characters in the story which takes place primarily in France.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAYBE THIS CHRISTMAS TOO? (2003).

This second installment of this Nettwerk Christmas series is much darker than the first.  Perhaps this is indicated by the tree being on fire.  In fact, of the three it’s the one I listen to the least, despite the fact that it has a couple of my favorite Christmas songs on it.  The downer songs are labelled [NSFC] Not Safe for Christmas.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT-“Spotlight on Christmas”  I love this song.  It’s actually quite sad and stands up for poor little rich people at Christmas, but the chorus is so pretty.  And i really love Rufus’ voice.

EISLEY-“The Winter Song”
I’ve never heard of this band outside of this song (they are still active).  The song is terrific and their voices and harmonies are really wonderful.

AVRIL LAVIGNRE & CHANTAL KREVIAZUK-“O Holy Night”
This version of the song has stuck with me for years.  I simply cannot decide if Avril has the most pure and unmodified voice when singing his song or if she is just totally flat (which I don’t think she is).  I find her delivery is haunting in a very strange way.  Krevizauk, on the other hand has and absolutely incredible voice and her parts are amazing.

RILO KILEY-“Xmas Cake” [NSFC]
This is the first of many depressing songs.  Five and a half minutes of bad news and sad tidings.  Good grief.  The melody is nice and maybe in another context it would be powerful, but holy crap, no one want to hear this at Christmas.

DAMIEN RICE & LISA HANNIGAN-“Silent Night” [NSFC]
This is a really dark song that turns Silent Night from a song of hope to one of despair.

GUSTER-“Donde Esta Santa Claus?”
This is perhaps my favorite Christmas song, ever.  It’s fun and lighthearted and super catchy.  I can’t believe it is wedged in between these really dark songs that I always skip.

THE BE GOOD TANYAS-“Rudy” [NSFC]
This is a sweet, catchy song until you hear the words and that its about a red-nosed wino who dies.  Good grief.

DAVE MATTHEWS BAND-“Christmas Song” [NSFC]
This song has a pretty decent melody but Matthews sings it really quietly and, man, it just never goes anywhere. It’s five and a half minutes long and has no energy.  Gah.

OH SUSANNA-“Go Tell It on the Mountain”
I always forget that this is a Christmas song, but it certainly is.  It’s full of gospel tinges, as it should be.  Apparently new lyrics have been added but I don’t know all the words so it was news to me.

BARENAKED LADIES-“Green Christmas”
BNL has recorded three versions of this song.  It was written for the 2000 film How the Grinch Stole Christmas and appeared on the soundtrack.  It also appears on Barenaked for the Holidays.  Each of those versions is different and they both differ from this one.  It’s a bit of a downer but only as much as BNL can be downers.

MARTINA SORBARA-“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” [NSFC]
Never has anything wonderful felt so sad and mopey.  This bluesy version is kind of interesting but man is it ever at odds with the meaning of the song.

BADLY DRAWN BOY-“Donna & Blitzen”
This is another terrific song.  Its got a  great melody, some terrific piano and a super catchy chorus.  Its not exactly Christmas although it sort of is and certainly works for the Christmas season

THE FLAMING LIPS-“White Chritsmas” [NSFC]
Despite my love for the Lips I really don’t like this version of the song at all.  It’s subtitled that it is a demo for Tom Waits which might explain why it is sung in such a crazy way, but Waits would do it so much better.  He just sounds mocking all the way through.

SIXPENCE NONE THE RICHER-“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”
This band used to be pretty huge back in the day.  This song is very pretty–played on a kind of Spanish-sounding guitar with some neat and kind of spooky keys playing single notes at the end of each verse.  It’s a really cool version and ends the disc on a good note.

[READ: December 12, 2017] “Kings”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

This is a story about D.H. Lawrence and his life in Kandy, Ceylon in 1922.  I don’t know anything about Lawrence, so I assume this is all based on research.  As with most fictionalizations of real people’s lives, I don’t get why it was written.  But it was quite interesting and enjoyable, so maybe that’s why.

He and his German wife had exiled themselves from England immediately after the war.  They met an American, Brewster, who invited them to Kandy, nicknamed Little England.  But it was a sad trick, that name, for it was all jungle.  Lawrence suffered from tuberculosis and the jungle heat did not help. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 8 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 18, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 18, 2004. This was the 8th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Featuring a crazy 17 minute medley followed by Neil Young’s Powderfinger.

Kevin Hearn played keyboards for much of the show and they played a number of songs from the Group of 7 disc and Harmelodia.  The show ran for 2 and a half hours.  There’s only one recording of this show, and it sounds great.

The show opens some what mellow-ish with “Digital Beach.”  It’s a pretty version of this unexpected song and it’s followed by an awesome “Boxcar Song” with Kevin Hearn on keys.

“P.I.N.” sounds lovely.  Midway through, you can hear bongos playing and Martin sings “I’m in the snow / playing bongos.”  He’s quite growly through the song.  After the song, you hear people shouting: “Come on let Martin sing!” Dave: “I think he is for hire, sir.”  Mike: “But only as a mohel.”

Kevin Hearn is on the organ for “It’s Easy To Be With You” and he sings on “Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun.”  Actually everyone seems to take a verse on this song (but I think they’re making them up as they go along).  At the end, Tim says, “We started off with no keyboard players and now we have two.”

Mike asks if he can get more of Kevin’s sampler?  Dave: “Careful what you wish for–he’s got some Buddy Hackett in there.”

It’s followed by three more from Harmelodia: a sweet “Loving Arms,” a fun “Home Again” and a romping “I Am Drumstein.”  Tim says he is disappointed because he missed a perfect bongo opportunity in that last song.

After an introduction of Chris Stringer on “the organ and effects and other stuff,” they move toward 2067 with “Marginalized.”  There’s a sweeping, trippy keyboard solo in the middle.  And then some guys start shouting “Whale Music” and other things.  Dave says “Loud guy crowd.  Every Fall Nationals there’s a loud guy crowd.”

Introducing “The Tarleks” Dave says, “Dr. Johnny fever was here last night in the flesh, it was rather exciting.”  (Did they really not mention Howard Hessman the night before?).

Over the entire run there’s been constant requests for monitor sound level changes, especially by Mike.  Mike says he could use less of Martin’s vocal (groans from the audience) and says he can’t hear Martin’s guitar.  Martin asks if his guitar sounds okay out front.  There is much applause.  Mike: “you’re just fishing for a compliment.”

Before “Pornography,” someone asks where the bongos are.  They are put to good use in the song.  After saying how proud they are of the new album the  opening of  “Shack In The Cornfields” sounds a little off.  But it is quickly righted and off they go.  The song ends with what sounds like a skipping record and very quiet percussion playing as the s song slowly segues into “Try To Praise This Mutilated World.”  Martin says, “I like that song.  Dave wrote it.  We’re the Rheosatics.  Are you having a good night?”  Someone shouts something and Martin snarks: “You wanna hear our older, funnier stuff?”

They go old, but stay mellow.  Tim is “gonna serenade you with a song.”  “All the Same Eyes” is one “we don’t do anymore.  And now one we just started doing, ‘Here Comes the Image.'”  Tim introduces it by saying “This is a lesson for all you drummers out there.  Never be late for a rehearsal or you will be banish-ed to the keyboard.  Because everyone else wants to play those drums, including me and Dave.  This next song takes place in 2067, so best of luck to you all.”  It’s followed by another mellow song “Who Is Than Man, And Why Is He Laughing?” with Jen Foster on accordion.  After the song, Dave says, “I don’t know if I was dying back there or if someone is cooking but I smelled pancakes.  Kevin, you got a griddle back there?”  Mike also says, “Shameless plug.  Jennifer has her CD for sale at the merch booth.”  Tim: “It’s called Shameless Plug.”

Dave notes that they are “just entering the ‘shang’ part of the evening, folks.”  Whatever that means, the first song is a rollicking “Stolen Car.”  It feels a bit shambolic, but never out of control.  There’s some cool keyboard sound effects during the middle jam.  There’s a pretty “Little Bird, Little Bird”and then a powerful “California Dreamline.”  It segues somewhat oddly into a grooving “Horses” (the only time they’ll play the song during the nine nights).   Kevin gets a wild keyboard solo in the middle of the song.

Dave says there are here the next two nights and the Loud Guy says “we’re coming tomorrow.”  Dave: “Thanks for the warning.”  Dave seems a bit tired of the bozos.  But he does seem to like the fans up front: “You guys have great looking twin shirts there.  I can’t read what’s on the second bus though.  Nowhere and Boredom.”   Mike says he’d choose Nowhere over Boredom, but Dave’s not so sure.  “Boredom gives you something to work with.”

Tim says, “Bear with us while we do this song for our friend Ron Koop.  He is having a hard time right now and hopefully he draws something from this.”  It’s a lovely version of “Making Progress” which is followed by an upbeat and rather silly “Monkeybird.”

And then comes the above mentioned 17 minute medley.  I’m glad Darrin wrote all the songs down, because it’s hard to keep track:

The Horseshoe Medley (The Pooby Song / The Hockey Song / Devil Town / The Ballad Of Wendel Clark Part II / Bees / Folsom Prison Blues / Ring Of Fire / Old Vancouver Town / War Pigs / Human Highway / Rockaway Beach / Walk On The Wild Side / So Long Farewell / Who Stole The Kishka / Let’s Go Skiing In The Morning).

It begins with Dave playing the acoustic guitar and singing “The Pooby Song.”  “Take one, Kevin” and Kevin gets a simplistic guitar solo.  Dave shouts “take it to C” and they start Stompin’ Tom’s “Hockey Song.”  After the “second period” Dave notes: “last game of the lock out season that didn’t exist.  Doesn’t matter, we got enough hockey stored up in our heads that we’re skating all the time anyway.”  The songs ends, but that isn’t the key from the first tune, we gotta go back to the first tune.  Tim: “Take it to B flat.  I love B flat.  Now, back to D.  You got any chords you like?”  Kevin starts singing Daniel Johnston’s “Devil Town.”  Up to E sharp (or F, whatever you want to call it).  Back down to D take it to C.  They start “Wendel.”  Kevin’s got one.  “‘There are bees, there are bees, everywhere’  you know this one, right?”  Tim: “Does this take place in the devilish town?”  Take it to C, for Dave to sing Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” then Kevin switches it to “Ring of Fire.”  Tim picks up with Stompin’ Tom’s “Bridge Came Tumbling Down.”  Kevin resumes with a hilariously upbeat and folksy “War Pigs” with Martin doing some suitably metal guitars sounds.  They even try to do the heavy staccato part before resuming the bluesy part.  “Go to G.”  Dave sings Neil Young’s “Human Highway” but messes it all up, “Okay, never mind go back to E again.”  Tim: “Take it up to A” for “Rockaway Beach.”  Then it’s Kevin with an amusingly upbeat take on “Walk on the Wild Side.”  Mike jumps in with a goofy stab at “So Long, Farewell” and then Dave takes over with “Who Stole the Kishka.”  Tim is yelling “someone call the motherfucking cops.”  The medley should end there but someone keeps it going “a two-step nightmare.”  Dave sings Frankie Yankovic’s “Let’s Go Skiing” while about three other songs go simultaneous.  Someone chants “four more years” and then Dave starts “Powderfinger” in the medley.  He kind of screws it up and as it fades, Martin asks, “What’s the next verse?”  “Something about hunting” and then Martin takes it over for real. He knows some of the words, and they kind of salvage it.”

At the end Dave even says “Thanks, I think.”

But after 8 days in a row, you’re allowed a bit of a fun meltdown.

As they walk off, Martin asks, “Hey Dave what’s a kishka? A sausage type thing?”  A fans shouts, “a small donut.”  Dave: “It’s not a small donut.  But that’s funnier.”  It’s a great and funny end to a wild show.

[READ: July 11, 2017] Real Friends

I’ve enjoyed Shannon Hale a lot recently, so I was pretty happy to read a new book by her.  Sarah had told me that it was a really excellent portrayal of girl friendship in grammar school.  It is also biographical and makes me think that it’s pretty amazing that Hale made it through to high school at all.

The book is divided into sections with friends’ names, and each of these sections is basically how she met these friends.

Shannon was the middle child between a pair of older girls and a pair of younger siblings.  She was kind of alone and was very clingy to her mom.  But on her first day of kindergarten, despite being nervous and sad, she made friends with Adrienne.

They were soon inseparable.  Shannon made up games for them in which they fought off bad guys (boys who just seemed to want them in whatever capacity a five year-old girls thinks boys might want them).  I love that their game was utterly feminist and yet they were portraying Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders because that’s who was popular and everyone wanted to be one.  And yet these cheerleaders had pet saber toothed tigers and sharks and they beat up ghastly boys. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: August 2017] Adventures with Waffles

I saw this book in the library and the title sounded interesting. The blurb on the back when enticing as well, so I grabbed it for our family road trip.

I had no idea that the book was a translation of a Norwegian story (Vafflehjarte) nor that it had already been translated into English as Waffle Hearts (a much more accurate, and frankly much more satisfying title).  I gather from a little research that Waffle Hearts is a British translation and Adventures with Waffles is an American one (although they both have the same translator, Guy Puzey).

The story is about Trille and Lena, two kids who live next door to each other in the village of Mathildawick Cove in Norway.  Their village is small and there are only 9 kids in their grade.  Lena is the only girl. The bully Kai-Tommy wishes she weren’t in their class.  But Trille feels that Lena is his best friend (he hopes it is reciprocated, but is unsure).  She is wild, she is spontaneous, she is dangerous.  And she is a lot of fun. (more…)

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