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Archive for the ‘LGBTQ’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LAURIE ANDERSON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #212 (May 20, 2021).

Anyone who likes original or avant garde music knows Laurie Anderson.  Even forty years later, her music is unlike most other music out there.  Her music still sounds futuristic.

Which doesn’t mean it’s always enjoyable.  But some of it is quite good and it’s all pretty fascinating.  It’s also fascinating that you know instantly that it’s Laurie Anderson.  Her voice hasn’t changed in years–true she doesn’t sing, but it’s still the same.

She begins this set, which feels incredibly minimal with her keyboardist (and so much more–she played on and produced Big Science with Laurie Anderson in 1982) Roma Baron playing a simple clicking beat track.  She speaks (with her voice processed):

I met this guy and he looked like he might have been a hat check clerk at an ice ring.  Which in fact he turned out to be.  And I said oh boy, right again.

And Rubin Kodheli on the cello is playing gentle strings, including high notes sliding down the fretboard.

Is the song a story?  Does it have a narrative?  Or is it just stream of consciousness?  I’m not sure.

Laurie Anderson is a revolutionary artist who has mixed storytelling, music and technology for the past four decades plus. This Tiny Desk (home) concert celebrates the truly breathtaking breakthrough album she put out in 1982, Big Science. On that record, she used a few different voice processors; one of them was a Vocoder. By singing into a microphone attached to a keyboard, you can hear how it effectively adds harmony to her voice on “Let x=x.”

Laurie Anderson’s music seems so serious, so it’s delightful to hear her be so loose and chatty (and funny) between songs.

She introduces Rubin Kodheli, her favorite musician, with whom she plays all the time.  They create what’s listed here as “Violin Cello Improv.”  It’s about a minute of vaguely dissonant string music.

Then comes the big song, the one that people know Laurie Anderson for.  If it wasn’t a hit, it was certainly popular.

Laurie Anderson also used that [Vocoder] effect, creating what I think of as ‘the voice of authority’ in her storytelling, on “O Superman,” a song unlike anything music I’d heard when it came out in 1981. She made use of a vocal loop, something ever-present these days in sampling, but here she uses an Eventide Harmonizer, looping the single syllable “ha” as the rhythm of the song. It’s a song about dealing with the technological revolution, about compassion; if it’s your first time hearing it, take it in and see what strikes you.

The song has always felt very mechanical to me (it must be the looping and the synthesized voice), but it’s really interesting to hear how it changes live. Not drastically, but it feels like a living breathing song, which is pretty neat.  As is Bob Boilen’s story:

On a personal note, I was a lover of Laurie’s music back in those days; they were also the days I played synthesizer in my band Tiny Desk Unit. We opened for Laurie Anderson in 1981, and Laurie joined us onstage for a song. I bring this up because the Tiny Desk name (created by our guitarist Michael Barron) was familiar to Laurie long before this NPR series existed. At the end of her home concert, Laurie, I assume, mistakenly, thanks Tiny Desk Unit for having her. It made me smile and sparked so many memories. Thank you, Laurie.

Laurie Anderson is 74 and she seems as vibrant as ever.

[READ: June 10, 2021] Gravity’s Pull

I really enjoyed everything about Book 1 of this series and I was delighted to see that Volumes 2 and 3 were already out.

Volume 2 follows the same characters and is laid out in the same way (with each section following one of the characters but having the timeline stay linear.  MariNaomi also seems to be having even more fun with her drawings,

The first part is about Nigel Q. Jones (just like in the last book).  He’s in class when his teacher announces that the girl who was missing in book one (Claudia Jones–no relation) has suddenly returned and is coming back to school.  The teacher asks that everyone just give her space.

We realize it has been four months since the last book so Claudia has been gone along time.

Meanwhile Nigel still thinks about Emily (who has a cool new haircut–when a friend said she finally has good hair, the insult is not unnoticed) but realizes it’s time for him to move on.  As he’s thinking this Claudia Jones walks into the building and Nigel falls instantly in love with her.  How does she suddenly look so beautiful?  Almost otherworldly.  Here’s where MariNaomi has fun with the illustrations, making Nigel’s dreadlocks look like a kind of glove the way she draws his head. (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: DAÐI FREYR OG GAGNAMAGNIÐ-“10 Years” (Iceland, Eurovision Entry 2021).

I first learned about Daði og Gagnamagnið last year when Eurovison didn’t happen.  I have no idea how they came on my radar (something in Instagram, I assume).

Daði og Gagnamagnið is the creation of Daði Freyr Pétursson.  Much like The ROOP, the visuals from Daði and his band are what really sells the song(s).

Daði is the composer/musician and in performances, he is supported by his sister Sigrún Birna Pétursdóttir (backing vocalist), wife Árný Fjóla Ásmundsdóttir (dancer), and friends Hulda Kristín Kolbrúnardóttir (backing vocalist), Stefán Hannesson (dancer), and Jóhann Sigurður Jóhannsson (dancer)—known as “Gagnamagnið”. Gagnamagnið, means “the amount of data”, and is the Icelandic word for “data plan”.

And the real selling point?  Teal green sweaters with pixelized portraits of themselves on them.  Last year’s “Think About Things” was pretty awesome (the video is incredible).  A blast of disco fun.

This year’s “10 Years” opens with a string quartet playing a sad sounding melody and then Daði appears singing in his deep clipped style.  Then a huge disco bass line comes in and before you know it, the song is in full dance mode–a swinging disco confection with the remarkable hook

Everything about you [pause} I like.

Add in some disco wah wah guitars and some irresistibly dopey dance moves and its impossible to look away.

And what on earth are the weird keytars?  Presumably homemade and non-functioning except that now they shoot sparks from the bottom.

Just when you think its all over, up pops a fairly large choir of little girls to sing along before the disco resumes.

And then it’s over but they are not done because after an awkward pause of them standing there, one of the guys shoots a confetti cannon at the camera.

Novelty?  Sure.  Funny?  Absolutely.  Catchy?  Definitely.

UPDATE: This song came in fourth.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Girl Crazy”

Back in the mid to late 1990s, David Sedaris wrote a few Shouts & Murmurs for the New Yorker.  It’s interesting to see a writer whom you know for a certain style of writing crafting jokes in a very different manner.  Shouts & Murmurs are rarely actually funny, and that’s true of most of these.

Obviously the topical nature of most of these means there’s a component of “wait, what was going on?”, but the set up usually explains everything pretty well.  Now we are more likely to say, “Aw, remember when that’s all we cared about?”

This piece is about when Ellen DeGeneris’s character Ellen was about to come out on Ellen.  (Wow, remember when that was a big deal?).  And like several of these pieces, these are written as letters to the person in charge.

There are five letters here.

The first suggests that a six year old boy from North Carolina wouldn’t have gotten in trouble for sexual harassments for kissing a girl in his class if only he had kissed a boy.  The network best not mess with Regis and Kathie Lee. (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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SOUNDTRACK: PUSSY RIOT-“Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away” (2012).

This song, barely two minutes long, is what caused all of the stir around Pussy Riot.

Pussy Riot are an anarchic artistic collective in Russia.  They aim to provoke and provoke is what they do.

Their history and legacy (even the Wikipedia summary) are pretty fascinating.

So in this song (and video), a “choir” sings a holy-sounding chorus for 22 seconds.  Abruptly, a raw home recorded punk song takes over.

Everything is sung in Russian:

(choir) Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away Рut Putin away, put Putin away (end chorus)

Black robe, golden epaulettes All parishioners crawl to bow
The phantom of liberty is in heaven
Gay-pride sent to Siberia in chains The head of the KGB, their chief saint,
Leads protesters to prison under escort
In order not to offend His Holiness Women must give birth and love
Shit, shit, the Lord’s shit! Shit, shit, the Lord’s shit!

(Chorus)

The Church’s praise of rotten dictators The cross-bearer procession of black limousines
A teacher-preacher will meet you at school
Go to class – bring him money!
Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin Bitch, better believe in God instead
The belt of the Virgin can’t replace mass-meetings Mary, Mother of God, is with us in protest!

After 50 seconds its back to the choir (and the chorus) and  then the punk verses start again.

It’s fairly catchy given what it’s doing.  There’s one more chorus at the end of the song at 1:30 and just like that, it’s over.

Provocation complete.

[READ: April 26, 2021] We Are Pussy Riot Or Everything is P.R.

As the subtitle of this play suggests, this is a reenactment (of a kind) of the Pussy Riot art installation that got them arrested, and the subsequent trial and imprisonment of two members.

The above video shows the events of that day in February 2012 when five masked (in balaclavas) women climbed onto the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow and…danced.

The women were provocatively dressed (by Moscow church standards–they wore bright colors and tights under dresses) and they went on to the altar–a place where no woman (except the cleaning lady) was to ever set foot.

The dialogue of the play inspired by trial transcripts and statements by public officials (Vladimir Putin, Patriarch Kirill) which are available on the internet.  So while Hammond does use creative license, this is a pretty realistic reenactment of events.

The Dramatis Personae is listed in various formations depending on the size of your cast.  But the important main characters are Nadya, Masha and Katya as well as Sergei, a composite of male political activists, prisoners and artists.

The Russian feminist art collective Pussy Riot was formed in the fall of 2011.  Pussy Riot was inspired by the yurodivy (Holy Fools) of Russian history whose purpose was to wake people up to what was going on around them.

In February 2012 they uploaded the above video, “Virgin Mary, Chase Putin Away.”  The video, as you can see, is set on that altar, where women are forbidden.  The Kremlin and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church took notice.  Three of the four women were hunted down and arrested for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.”

When this play was written, Vladimir Putin had just changed the constitution so he could be president for life.  In the story Sergei comments, “So he likes his job. Who can blame him?”

The introduction says that in 2014 Pussy Riot became a brand–this branded Pussy Riot was set to tour the U.S. and I had a ticket until the pandemic cancelled everything.

Nadya has always said that “Feminism that doesn’t benefit men is not my feminism.”  The members are female but they are fighting for all.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the play is the way it starts. The doors to the theater are locked and everyone–cast and audience are milling about while a group of guards block the way in.  Eventually Pussy Riot members start to cause a scene in the lobby and then blend in with the audience.  When the audience is allowed in they are given a scarf as a head covering.  But pussy riot members try to give them balaclavas instead–the play is quite interactive. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MELANIE CHARLES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #165 (January 4, 2021).

I had never heard of Melanie Charles and boy was I in for a treat with this being my first exposure to her.

A Brooklynite proud of her rich Haitian heritage, Charles is conscious of the giant shoulders upon which she stands and takes steps to both honor and advance this music. Behind her, smiling pictures of her guardian angels, Mary Lou Williams and Billie Holiday, encourage Charles while she and her musicians blend the mystique of Haitian folk music with the sorrowful optimism of negro spirituals and the free space for elevation that jazz improvisation allows.

The video opens on a dark screen with samples being manipulated and twisted.  It’s amazing to have the camera fade from black into this really old-fashioned looking scene–upright bass, snare drum and a nearly sepia filter on the video.  And then there’s Melanie Charlie dressed in a beautiful but old-fashioned looking ensemble manipulating all of the sounds.

She is playing from the

Williamsburg Music Center, one of Brooklyn’s last surviving black-owned jazz venues… This performance was a full circle moment for Melanie Charles. The Williamsburg Music Center is owned by Gerry Eastman, a celebrated musician and composer who taught the jazz class Charles and her brother and saxophonist, Rogerst Charles, attended when they were in high school. According to Charles, Eastman “represents a special era of Brooklyn jazz musicians” and created a space that gave these artists a place to perform when all other doors were closed to them.

Then she starts singing French while Jonathan Michel plays a bass solo /melody.  This song is

“Damballa Wedo,” [in which] Charles channels her Haitian roots and delivers a modern twist of a traditional vodou song by Toto Bissainthe. She sings that when we seek transformation, we may become someone who those around us no longer recognize, but that the change is necessary and part of the ancestors’ divine plan. “C’est bon, c’est bon,” she sings.

Up next she offers a little Sun Ra vibration.  She plays a sample and dramatically shuts it off as it loops.  The starkness of the silence is very dramatic.   Then she starts singing

Charles’ arrangement of “Deep River” is inspired by her admiration for Sun Ra. The biography of the eccentric composer, arranger, musician, and early pioneer of Afrofuturism, Space Is The Place rests on a stand behind her. By really digging into his approach and arrangements and using his “spaceship setup as a performance guide,” she breathes new life into this spiritual, injecting it with a potency that is simultaneously somber and otherworldly.

While the sample continues the band picks things up.  The bass and sax play the main melody while Melanie plays some sharp and cool flute accents.

And what a voice!

Before the final song, she introduces the band:

Jonathan Michel: who looks like an upright bassist–he’s got that Ron Johnson turtleneck.  Shout out to Ron Johnson.  On drums, Diego Ramirez: coming in at the last minute and learning the songs over night.  On saxophone, Rogerst Charles, my blood brother, my heart.

The final song is “Dilemma.”

She finishes the set with “Dilemma,” a new song written to find the balance between self-care and showing up for those you love amid the cries for justice during the first summer of the pandemic. On our phone call, Charles explained that the song is an anthem that reminds us to not to “dim your light for anybody” and “remember how vibrant we are, despite what we as black people had to deal with in 2020.”

She plays keys and sings a soft song until the whole band joins in.  After a couple of minutes she she sings a high note and the sax plays the same note a wailing harmony of greatness.

With about two minutes left she starts singing the coda “we’ve been doing alright be we still shine bright.”  The band sings along and she interjects:

We’ve been doing alright
even though we didn’t get our stimulus.
But we still shine bright.

[READ: March 31, 2021] Only Righteous Fights

On December 31 of 2020 I donated some money to Elizabeth Warren (I’m not actually sure to what end it was used–presumably her Senatorial campaign?) to pre-order this collection of speeches (and get a laminated bookmark!).

There are few things more disappointing than reading amazing, inspiring and truly moving speeches by a person who lost a candidacy.

Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren were my number 1 and number 2 choices for President.  I didn’t have to worry too much about which one I would ultimately choose, I was just happy they both were so successful (until they weren’t).  Having Harris as V.P. is pretty awesome, and I will acknowledge that Biden (who was my last choice) has been doing a good job thus far (apparently having taken ideas from all the other candidates…which is rather a good idea).

But reading this book and seeing how genuine Warren was (or came across) and how much she cared (or appeared to) for the people she spoke to and about, it is crushing that her campaign didn’t last.

There are five speeches in the book as well as lots of photos.  There’s a few smaller sections as well, like photos from the Selfie Line, Letters to Elizabeth and Pinky Promises.

What’s impressive is how she manages to hit all of her main bullet points and yet how each speech is quite different. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS with MERZBOW-Gensho (Disc One: Boris) (2016).

In 2016, Boris teamed with Merzbow to create Gensho, a 2 CD package that was designed to have both CDs played at the same time.  Not the easiest thing for many people, but with the advent of digital recordings it’s now pretty easy to play both discs at the same time (this release is on Spotify).

Disc 1 was all Boris.  Disc 2 was all Merzbow.

When you play them together, you get the drumless Boris with all of the glitching electronica of Merzbow sprinkled around it.  The songs are set up in a very clever way with one of Merzbow’s songs being exactly equal to two or three of the Boris songs.

I played the CD of Boris and the stream of Merzbow on Spotify.  It was cool to be able to raise and lower the volunme of one to change the intensity of Merzbow’s glitches.

Merzbow’s “Planet of the Cows” plays over the first two Boris songs “Farewell” and “Huge.”  Farewell’s quiet drone tacks on Merzbow’s squeals and glitches which fill in the gaps quite nicely.  When “Farewell” ends, the Merzbow continues until the loud gongs heavy chords of “Huge” ring out.  The Merzbow chaos sounds almost like a solo over the slow low heavy drone chords.  Atsuo’s low growling even complements the spare noises.  Both parts ends with squealing feedbacking sounds–analog from Boris and digital from Merzbow.

Merzbow’s “Goloka Pt. 1” plays over three Boris songs “Resonance” “Rainbow” and “Sometimes” (the My Bloody Valentine cover).  “Resonance” is mostly percussion–kind of randomly hit in a slow rhythm.  Merzbow’s noises sound like static in a distance echoing signal from outer space.  “Rainbow” is a piece I don’t know.  This version features Boris playing some quiet guitar and a grooving bass with Wata singing vocals. Merzbow’s electronics sounds restrained here, adding louder noises when the vocals back out  This song has some tasty soloing from Wata with the electronics almost keeping pace.  It segues into “Sometimes,” with its loud thumping echoes and eventual wall of noise.  The vocals are pretty well buried but you can hear the melody of the MBV song.

“Goloka Pt.. 2” plays over “Heavy Rain” and “Akuma No Uta.” “Heavy Rain” starts out with noisy stabs of sound–it’s actually hard to tell who is making what, but then things mellow out as Wata sings.  The guitars drone loudly and the vocals mix in with the electronics.  It ends with the noisy guitar buzzing from Boris while the noises from Merzbow continue between songs–sounds of noise and electronic bleeps.  “Akuma No Uta” starts slowly with washes of guitar build up. The glitching Merzbow adds keeps it from being purely a drone.  The drone gets louder and louder and I like the way Merzbow’s glitches seem to back off as the man riff enters the song.  As it nears the end, glitching sounds to me like a menacing voice coming through the static and heavy riffage.

The final song is Merzbow’ “Prelude to a Broken Arm” which plays over “Akirame Flower” and “Vomitself.”  It starts out with watery sounds before the big chords and vocals kick in.  Merzbow’s noise is like a screaming train underneath the slow crooning.   The main riff from Wata has some electronic percussive sounds tacked onto it.  As the final chord rings out the song segues into the musch noisier “Vomitself.”   It introduces a huge wave of low chords as Merzbow’s noise amps up to correspond with a lot of low growling percussive sounds. As the song rumbles to an end the squealing intensifies like feedback added on top of the roar with the last notes sounding like a person raging.

It’s interesting how I don’t really like the Merzbow tracks, but how they add interesting textures to the Boris songs.

[READ: February 19, 2021] Caliente

Matu Santamaria is an Argentinian illustrator and his work is really stunning.

This book has a big warning: 18+ but it’s not fully explicit.  There are drawing of naked women and sex acts, but there’s only a few things that are NSFW.

Santamaria’s work is full of clean lines and and dramatic colors.  I really enjoy looking at it, regardless of the content.

This book contains a lot of his most recent work.  It seems to be split between positive messages about sexuality, body positivity and appreciation for frontline workers during the Coronavirus.  There’s also some celebrity pictures as well.

After some definitions of the word caliente, the book opens with series of pictures of women exploring the sexuality with each other.  Interracial women kissing and a woman taking her top off with the comment–“and without realizing it, it’s poetry.” (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACKSTEREOLAB-“High Expectation” (1991).

In Stuart David’s book, In The All-Night Café, he lists the songs on a mixtape that Stuart Murdoch gave to him when they first met.

Although I’ve been a fan of Belle & Sebastian for a long time, I knew almost none of the songs on this mixtape.  So, much like Stuart David, I’m listening to them for the first time trying to see how they inspire Stuart Murdoch.

In the book, David writes how much he does not like “rock,” especially music based around bluesy rock.  Most of these songs, accordingly, do not do that.  In fact, most of these songs are (unsurprisingly) soft and delicate.

Stereolab have been around forever (I saw them live two years ago) and their music has gone through several transformations over the years.

This song comes from their second release, an EP called Super-Electric, and was then released on the Switched On collection.  It’s a pretty quiet song, with a kind of soporific feel–muted guitars, no drums, and a kind of gauzy sheen over all the music.

One of the best things about Stereolab is that their lyrics are usually absolutely different from what you think they might be about given the music and Lætitia Sadier’s delivery.  She sings softly and, because French is her native language, her emphases are not always where one might expect, so she can sing a line like: “There is no sense in being interested/In a child, a group, or in a society” (in the song Spark Plug”) and it sounds like a pretty pop song with lovely backing vocals.

In “High Expectation,” she sings gently over this chill-out song:

Do you really want to love someone who does not love you
Do you really want to stab your enemy in the back.  Stab him in front.

and then the understated but still catchy chorus:

I don’t, I don’t, I don’t, I’m sorry.

Stereolab were unique right from the get go.

[READ: June 1, 2020] Check Please Book 2

Check Please is a two-part graphic novel.  Book 1 followed college freshman Eric “Bitty” Bittle through his freshman and sophomore years.  In book two Bitty is now a junior (and senior) Samwell College and is taking on more responsibilities.

The book is written as a vlog from Bitty.  As the opening blurb tells us

I’m a junior on the Samwell men’s hockey team and not only do I have new teammates and responsibilities I’ve got a new beau–remember Jack?  Dating a professional hockey player wasn’t anything I expected to do in college.  My parents don’t know, my teammates have no clue, and Jack and I aren’t sure that we want to keep it a secret.

Jack Zimmerman is now playing pro hockey for the Falcons.  He has a hockey nickname–Zimmboni–and the respect of his team.  Despite the high profile games dn Bitty’s schooling, they do manage to see each other (Zoom meetings before they were what everyone was doing). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RACHELE ANDRIOLI-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #135/153 (January 13, 2021).

Rachele AndrioliGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The third artist of the third night is Rachele Andrioli from Italy.  She is (almost) a one-woman band and makes amazing music with her voice and a loop pedal.

Recording from southern Italy, Rachele Andrioli’s performance highlights her mix of old and new, of traditional music and modern technology. Her trance vocals and loop pedals create a sound all her own, mixing music from Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Albanian and Romani cultures and traditions.

She plays three songs.  For the first, “Te Spettu” (“I Respect You”) she loops a jaw harp (who would have thought that that could be the basis for a song).  Then she loops her voice crooning.  She picks up a hand drum that looks like a tambourine (and gets an amazingly robust sound from it).  Her vocal style feels Middle Eastern.  It’s a really impressive piece of music.

“Pranvera Filloi Me Ardh” (“Spring Started with the Coming”) is in Albanian.  As the song starts, her accompanists come out.  Redi Hasa picks up a cello and plays a harmonic note (looped) followed by a gentle plucked melody.  Then Rocco Negro plays the accordion.  The mournful accordion solo sounds very Italian.  Hasa plays a mournful melody and she sings gently with them both.

The men leave and it’s just her for  “Ederlezi.”   She loops her voice singing a single note and then accompaniments herself including a distortion on her voice making it a very deep harmony.  She plays another small hand drum which gets an amazing sound.

This is a wonderfully unique set that I really enjoyed.

[READ: January 22, 2021] Snapdragon

For a while, I was reading every single First Second book that was published.  Once the pandemic hit, I fell behind and have not really been able to catch up just yet.  But S. brought this book home and I thought it looked interesting even before I saw that it was from First Second.

The cover is a little disconcerting.  Snapdragon, the girl in the picture, has hair up in pig tails.  But with a ghostly deer behind her, the way her har is drawn, it almost looks like some kind of antler (probably not intended).  But there’s a lot of things that are confusing in this story at first (and even second and third) glance.  I assume that these other decisions are deliberate.

Many of the characters in this story are African-American, including Snapdragon.  But her skin coloring is very different from all of the other characters.  I don’t think it matters for the story, whether she is or not (until the very end anyhow).  But it was very nice to see so many characters of color in the book.  In a strangely similar way, a main character, Jacks, I was sure was a man, but indeed, she is not.  Snap recognizes her as a woman right away, but I wasn’t sure if that made a difference either.  In fact, Jacks’ masculine appearance is important in the story, but I’m not sure if the reader is supposed to think that Jacks is a man as well?

None of that matters, of course, because once you learn the reality, you can just move on.

So just what the heck is this story about?

Snapdragon is a girl (all the women in her family are named after flowers).  She’s a little odd and the other kids are happy to let her know that.  The only kid who is nice to her is her neighbor Louis.  Louis thinks Snap is weird, but Louis is also pretty unconventional. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE ROOTS feat. JILL SCOTT-“You Got Me” (1999).

I’ve wanted to listen to more from The Roots ever since I was exposed to them on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.  But as typically happens, I’m listening to other things instead.  So this seemed like a good opportunity to check them out (based on Samantha Irby’s rave below).

One of the best things about this recording (and The Roots in general) is Questlove’s drumming.  In addition to his being a terrific drummer, his drums sound amazing in this live setting.

Erykah Badu sings on the album but Jill Scott (Jilly from Philly) who wrote the part, sings here.

It starts out quietly with just a twinkling keyboard and Scott’s rough but pretty voice.  Then comes the main rapping verses from Black Thought.  I love the way Scott sings backing vocals on the verses and Black Thought adds backing vocals to the chorus.

Midway through the song, it shifts gears and gets a little more funky.  Around five minutes, the band does some serious jamming.  Jill Scott does some vocal bits, the turntablist goes a little wild with the scratching and Questlove is on fire.

Then things slow down for Scott to show off her amazing voice in a quiet solo-ish section.  This song shows off how great both The Roots and Jill Scott are.  Time to dig deeper.

[READ: November 1, 2020] Wow, no thank you.

This book kept popping up on various recommended lists.  The bunny on the cover was pretty adorable, so I thought I’d check it out. I’d never heard of Samantha Irby before this, but the title and the blurbs made this sound really funny.

And some of it is really funny. Irby is self-deprecating and seems to be full of self-loathing, but she puts a humorous spin on it all.  She also has Crohn’s disease and terribly irritable bowels–there’s lots of talk about poo in this book.

Irby had a pretty miserable upbringing.  Many of the essays detail this upbringing.  She also has low self-esteem and many of the essays detail that.  She also doesn’t take care of herself at all and she writes about that.  She also doesn’t really want much to do with children or dogs.  And yet somehow she is married to a woman with children.

From what some of these essays say, it sounds like she is married to this woman yet somehow lives an entirely separate life from the rest of the house.  It’s all rather puzzling, although I suppose if you are already a fan, you may know many of the details already. (more…)

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