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Archive for the ‘Harper’s’ Category

download - 2020-05-13T095755.048SOUNDTRACK: BOB MOULD-“American Crisis” (2020).

mpodldBob Mould was once a punk icon.  He has since moved through various styles of music (some more successfully than others).  But now, with everything going on in America these days, he is back to doing what he does best–writing short, powerful, rocking punk songs that address issues.

“American Crisis” starts out with a bashing guitar intro and Mould screaming (he can still scream with authority). The verses pound forward, unrelenting.  The verses are short–all the better to get to the chorus which is also propulsive and fast but really catchy.

I love the third or fourth part (there’s quite a few parts in this brief song).  The lyrics: “You’re one of us or you’re one of them.”  He gives a great wave of a guitar slide leading to a brief guitar pause before the song takes off again.

He ends the song with a whispered statement that was true during the AIDS crisis and is true today.  “Silence=Death.  Never Forget.”  Check it out.

[READ: June 5, 2020] “Bedside Planner”

This is an excerpt from Coetzee’s novel The Death of Jesus.

Simón and Inés are the legal guardians of a young boy named David. David suffers from an unknown disease and is bedridden. David is often asleep but is occasionally lucid.

David wants to know if he will be recognized.  Simón says, as a hero?  Of course.  But first you will have to do the deeds that will get you remembered.  That way someone will write a book about you.

David asks if he has done anything and Simón assures him that he saved Simón and Inés. He also says that some of the good deeds that David did he did with the aid of Don Quixote. (more…)

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june2020SOUNDTRACK: HADESTOWN-Tiny Desk Concert #977 (June 1, 2020).

hades

It’s unusual for a Tiny Desk blurb to tell us when the Tiny Desk happened.  Sometimes there are clues, but this blurb tells us straight out it happened on March 2, in “the Before-Times.”

Which you can tell because there are “16 performers bunch[ed] up behind the desk, singing formidably in close proximity as a large crowd gathers just off camera.”

I’ve never heard of Hadestown, but it sounds pretty interesting.  Evidently it is a Tony-nominated hit musical.

They’d wanted to get this Tiny Desk done, but kept running into delays until they finally managed to coordinate when “playwright Anaïs Mitchell–who wrote both the musical and the 2010 folk opera on which it’s based–was eight months pregnant.”  She also plays guitar and sings.

This is a “five-song distillation of a robust and impeccably staged Broadway production.”

A raucous full-cast tone-setter, “Way Down Hadestown” lets Hermes the messenger (André De Shields, in a role that won him a Tony–he also plays the train whistle) and Persephone (Kimberly Marable, filling in for Amber Gray) set the scene.  I love that Marable is acting (with her face) while listening to Hermes sing.  The song is a kind of piano-based rag song (played by Liam Robinson who later plays accordion) until midway when the whole band kicks in with a muted trombone solo from Brian Drye (who also plays glockenspiel!).

The musical is really about two loves stories: Orpheus and Eurydice and Hades and Persephone.

A medley of “Come Home With Me” and “Wedding Song” finds Orpheus (Reeve Carney) and Eurydice (Eva Noblezada) meeting and falling in love.

Gentle guitar from Ilusha Tsinadze opens as Orpheus sings his (comical) lyrics.

A singer , huh?
I also play the lyre.
Oh a liar and a player too.

As the song builds, strings are added from Megan Gould (violin) and Malcolm Parson (cello) and a pulsing upright bass from Chris Tordini.

“When the Chips Are Down” showcases the three Fates — spirits who often drive the characters’ motivations — as played by Jewelle Blackman (who also plays accordion), Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer (who also plays violin) and Kay Trinidad (who also plays percussion).

It opens with some interesting picked and harmonic’d guitar and a bouncy piano and a funky off kilter beat (and percussion) from Ben Perowsky.  Liam Robinson also get s a fun piano solo.

In “Flowers,” Eurydice looks back with regret and resignation on her decision to leave Orpheus for the promise of Hadestown.

Mitchell herself plays guitar and sings the opening and then lets Eva take over vocals.

Finally, the set concludes with “Why We Build the Wall,” which quickly became Hadestown‘s most talked-about number. (Mitchell wrote it a full decade before the 2016 election, but you’d never know it.) Though the song includes the full cast, it’s also a show-stopping showcase for the sonorous thunder of Patrick Page, who performs with a gravity befitting the king of the underworld.

It opens with two acoustic guitars playing a slightly discordant melody. Page’s deep voice is incredible.  It’s a call and response song that is remarkably prescient:

The enemy is poverty and the wall keeps out the enemny and we build the wall to keep us free.

I don’t know what will happen to Broadway after the virus is gone, but it would be a shame to lose a show like this.

[READ: June 4, 2020] “Still Life”

This is an excerpt from Oates’ new novel Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars.  The blurb tells what the story is about but this excerpt seems like the beginning of the story and context rather impacts the way you think about what you’re reading.

The story is about John Earle “Whitey” McClaren.  He is sixty-seven and is in the hospital trying to piece together what happened.  I feel like not knowing the reason he is in the hospital would make this story more compelling.  But having just the except without context would make the excerpt far less interesting.  So I won’t spoil.

He tries to explain what’s happening, but he can’t talk.  He realizes he’s not even breathing on his own. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ICE NINE KILLS-“Jason’s Mom” (2020).

I heard about this song from Metal Sucks who hilariously showed the three ways this song is perfectly timely:

  1. Paid tribute to one of the song’s writers, Adam Schlesinger, who died of COVID-19 last month.
  2. Paid tribute to the original Friday the 13th film, which turned 40 years old this weekend.
  3. Paid tribute to all of the world’s moms in time for Mother’s Day.

Ice Nine Kills’ songs are usually pretty heavy, so this acoustic number is quite a change (The video even shows the drummer using a hand drum rather than a kit).

It’s also an opportunity to hear how well they can sing (and harmonize).

But really, the fun of this song is in the lyrics

Jason, do you remember Camp wasn’t so great?
The counsellors had lots of sex while you drowned in the lake
But one woman stood by you when your life was taken
Yeah, she slaughtered them all and even killed Kevin Bacon
I’m making sure that she’s appreciated
She did it all for you and was decapitated

And of course, the twist on the chorus:

Jason, can’t you see the love behind her killing spree?
Whether her Head’s off or not
I’m in love with Jason’s Mom

Sometimes violence can bring people together with humor.

[READ: May 10, 2020] “I Incriminate Myself So No One Else Can”

This is a weird little story.

The sum total of the action is that a six year old girl is on the top of a slide in a playground. She is crying, getting more and more frightened.

Her mother is standing nearby desperately wanting the girl to get over her fear–to demonstrate internal fortitude.  She is getting angry as the girl screams louder and louder and other parents move in to see what’s wrong.

The story is, of course, the background of the mother. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JON BATISTE-Tiny Desk Concert #972 (May 4, 2020).

This Tiny Desk Concert was originally (sort of) posted on January 6, 2020 with this disclaimer

Jon Batiste’s Tiny Desk Concert was published prematurely. The new publication date is March 2020.

I don’t know if there was actually a video posted on Jan 6, but I’m curious if people got to see an unfinished version.

Regardless, here it is May (not March) and the Jon Batiste Concert is up. I now know Jon Batiste as the band leader on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, but I knew of him before that from an NPR recording with Stay Human back in 2014.

Batiste is a multi-talented musician, playing keys, and guitars.  He’s also a charming front man.  But he really lets his backing band shine here.

The New Orleans musician came to the Tiny Desk not with his late-night house band, but with an all-new cast. His all-female collaborators — Endea Owens on acoustic bass, Negah Santos on percussion, Sarah Thawer on drums, and Celisse Henderson on guitar and vocals — were an inspiration.

Batiste took us through some of the many sides of his rich musical history,

The soulful ballad titled “Cry” which features Batiste playing the Wurlitzer organ.  This is probably my favorite song of the set–I love the sound he gets.  He is a really impressive keyboard player, handling the cool Wurlitzer solo with ease.  The surprise for me came when Celisse Henderson played a great soulful guitar solo.  I just assumed he’d be doing all of the soloing, but everyone in the band had a moment to shine.

Before the song ended properly, Endea Owens started the next song with a great upright bass riff for the start of the jazz and hip-hop inspired “Coltrane.”  Batiste does an opening rap before the song slows down for the chorus where batiste jumps to the piano and the backing band sings along.

As is often the case when musicians perform in Washington (and especially blocks from the Capitol) the banter hinted at the political. Jon Batiste stopped to tell the NPR crowd, “we’re playing some music, and we’re coping. The times are in an interesting place, but music is always that universal language that can bring people in a room together.”

Then he says, “it’s the first time we’re ever playing these songs, and it’s the first time we’re playing together.”

Then Batitste picks up a square guitar to start the rocking Motown-inspired tune “Tell The Truth,” which he says is self explanatory.  Even though Batiste is on the guitar, Henderson gets the ripping solo again.    The middle of the song has a drum solo from Sarah Thawer but the real star is Negah Santos on percussion as her bongos really stand out.  Then Batiste takes out the melodica (like he uses on Colbert) and gets a terrific sound for a quick solo.

He ends the show with a bit of church.  He says “When times get weird we forget about the simple things, so I like to write a basic song to remind us of that.  That song is “I Need You.”  It opens with an amazing piano solo.  Batiste so casually plays all up and down the keys, it’s really impressive.  As is the solo he plays mid song.

[READ: May 1, 2020] “Padua, 1966”

Despite the title the story is actually set around Newark in contemporary times.  The 1966 part comes in a story told later.

I really enjoyed the way this story seemed to self-correct.

Miranda was tall and as dark-haired as they come.  I say was and not is and that is inaccurate because she is still around and I really am not.

Miranda was married to Luke, A WASP.  They had a daughter named Caroline, “a name I’ve never understood.”

How’s this for a line:

They fell out of love because they never were in love.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAUGHTER OF SWORDS-Tiny Desk Concert #971 (April 29, 2020).

Alexandra Sauser-Monnig is part of Mountain Man (who did a Tiny Desk Concert some time ago).  Daughter of Swords is her solo project.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is just as quiet and delicate as Mountain Man but with a little more instrumentation.

Though she’s joined by a full band here, Daughter of Swords was originally envisioned as a solo project for Alexandra Sauser-Monnig. … With a few hushed folk songs, the music was so eerily still, you could have heard a phone vibrate.

This has to be one of the quietest four-piece bands ever on Tiny Desk.

As “Long Leaf Pine” begins, all you hear is a low rumble–the floor tom from Joe Westerlund.  Then Alexandra Sauser-Monnig begins singing quietly.  Maia Friedman supplies soft backing vocals from time to time.  Sauser-Monnig sings high and quiet and amazingly hits and even higher note before the end.

I like the sound of “Shining Woman” more. I think Alex Bingham’s bass stands out a bit more.  Or maybe it’s because Friedman plays an electric guitar accompaniment.  This song starts with a smattering of interesting percussion from Westerlund and while it is in no way loud, it moves faster than the previous song.

When Mountain Man was here, they talked about breakfast food.  Alexandra reprises that by asking what people had for breakfast.  Answers: a banana, a soft-boiled egg.  Alexandra had a green smoothie and goes on about the large piece of toast she had.  She doesn’t normally eat bread and this felt crazy to her [that should tell you all you need to know about Sauser-Monnig].  Bassist Alex Bingham says, “wild day so far.”

For the final song, “Prairie Winter Wasteland” Friedman plays the guitar to start this song–quietly ringing electric guitar.  There’s an interesting bass line from Bingham on this song and Westerlnd is using a small whisk brush on the cymbals.

[READ: April 20, 2020] “Ride or Die”

This is an excerpt from the novel The Last Taxi Driver.

Set in Mississippi, this excerpt follows a cab driver with one fare, a man just released from prison.

He says they never tell him what they were in for, only that they just got out.

This man–white dude, mid-thirties, a few missing teeth, a few prison tats–is in a fantastic mood.  He’s carrying a twelve-pack of Bud Light and asks to go to the Bethune Woods Project.

The driver says he didn’t even know these projects existed before he started driving a cab.  Most of the other cab companies shun the projects.  He knows that Uber is coming to town “I’ve never used an Uber and don’t understand how that works”), and he assumed they will shun the projects too. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TŌTH-Tiny Desk Concert #967 (April 13, 2020)

For reasons I’m unclear about, I thought that Tōth was a heavy metal band.  Well, they aren’t.  At all.

The last time we saw Alex Toth at the Tiny Desk, he was standing against the shelves, trumpet to his lips. He performed in 2015 with Rubblebucket and his partner Kalmia Travers was singing lead. This time around, Alex sings about their relationship’s end in the song “Copilot.”

It’s a quiet song with gentle guitar and throbbing synths from Ben Chapoteau-Katz.  Alex Toth sings softly and drifts into a high falsetto during the chorus. There’s even some whistling.

“Copilot” is one of two songs Tōth performed at the Tiny Desk from his album Practice Magic and Seek Professional Help When Necessary. These songs are thoughtful, honest reflections on the end of his personal relationship with Kalmia Travers (although it continues professionally).

The arrangements here are spare but textured with bits of Alex on trumpet and touches from Ben Chapoteau-Katz on sax and electronics. The rhythm section of drummer Rebecca Lasaponaro and bassist Ryan Dugre pin it all together.

Rebecca Lasaponaro drums with And The Kids and she is fantastic.  Her drumming here is a bid more subdued, but she has a lot of electronics at her disposal which is fun.

“No Reason” is a slower song which features some mellow drums, but  also some lovely twinkling keys and Toth’s trumpet solo in the middle.

He says he’s thrilled to be drinking tea out of an NPR mug at NPR.

Up next is an excerpt from a new record:

The new tune “Turnaround (Cocaine Song)” is a funny/sad (and I’ll assume true) tale of poorly timed indulgence at his Aunt Mary’s funeral in New Jersey.

It’s a slow meandering (silly sounding) story about an embarrassing incident involving cocaine.  There’s a muted trumpet solo and a simultaneous sax solo from Chapoteau-Katz.

Toth says “Juliette” has an amazing and weird video starring Maya Hawke from Stranger Things.  There’s also audience participation which he’ll teach during the song.  Oh, he also has to take his beanie off.

The song begins with everyone shouting wha wha / wha wha ooh ooh. A simple bass line from Ryan Durge runs through the whole song as everything else is quietly performed (including more sax solos).  The song is sweet and odd but pretty catchy.

At the end, while everyone sings along, Toth recites a romantic scene

there’s a double rainbow and children dance all around us with ice cream cones and red balloons and lots and lots of puppies!

Sometimes I’ll see a band at my desk and wish I could jump in and join. That’s what happened when Tōth played the Tiny Desk. I felt a deep connection to both the fun and emotion in their music. Besides, I loved their outfits.

I’m not sure how memorable these songs are, but they are sure fun to listen to.

[READ: April 30, 2020] “Five Stories”

Here is yet another installment of microfiction from Diane Williams.

Every time I read stories from her I try to imagine how they were constructed.  I have considered that she takes pieces from other stories and jams them randomly together into short fiction.  But now I’ve decided that the way she writes her stories is that she writes a longer story and as she edits it, she accidentally deletes more than she meant to but then just leaves it.

Her stories just leave me going… huh? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE LUMINEERS-Tiny Desk Concert #966 (April 6, 2020).

When The Lumineers first came on the scene they were the band that sounded like Mumford and Sons.  It now seems likely that The Lumineers are more popular than Mumford.

I’ve known them since “Hey Ho” but I’ve never seen them I guess because sinegr Wesley Schultz doesn’t look anything like I thought he would (I’m not sure what I thought, but that’s not it).

Much of The Lumineers’ Tiny Desk comes from the band’s third LP, III, which tells a story of addiction in three acts.  They began with gut-wrenching renditions of “Gloria” and “Leader Of The Landslide.”

I’ve heard “Gloria” a million times, but it was nice to see it live.  I especially enjoyed  when violinist Lauren Jacobson joined in on the high notes of the piano while Stelth Ulvang played the low parts.  Byron Isaacs plays some interesting bass lines (That I’ve never noticed before) and adds nice backing vocals.

“Leader of the Landslide” has a very sad introductory tale.  Stelth Ulvang switches to accordion.  It is “accompanied by a cassette recording of crickets made on iPhones and dubbed to play on a boombox.”  It’s a quiet song, unlike what I think of them as playing.

The third track is also from III, but was an assignment from director M. Night Shyamalan. He tasked Schultz and his suspender-clad writing partner, Jeremiah Fraites, with composing a song for the end credits of a film. “Jer and I worked really hard on that, and then he didn’t need it,” Schultz confessed. The results are the stark and haunting “April” and “Salt And The Sea,”which strikes a different chord than any other song they’ve written.

“April (instrumental)” is a one-minute instrumental that segues into “Salt And The Sea” Drummer Jeremiah Fraites plays piano while percussionist Brandon Miller switches to drums. but he’s mostly playing cool atmospheric percussion (my new favorite thing of scraping drumsticks on cymbals).

It wouldn’t be a Lumineers show without a foot-stompin’ sing-along to end the set, which came with their crowd-pleasing hit “Stubborn Love”. Stelth Ulvang demonstrated a level of barefoot acrobatics unrivaled at the desk thus far, not an easy feat (or should I say, feet).

I never knew the name of “Stubborn Love” but I’ve certainly wanted to “Hey oh, oh oh oh) along with it.  And yes, Ulvang jumps on Bob’s desk to get everyone to sing along–I hope he didn’t step on anything (and that his feet were clean).

I’ve never thought about seeing them live, but I’ll bet their show would be a lot of fun. However, since they are now playing to 20,000 people, I can probably give that a miss.

[READ: April 25, 2020] “The Bird Angle”

Nell Zink and Jonathan Franzen are intricately linked.  As she writes in this essay

All I wanted when I first wrote to Jonathan Franzen–a birder who moonlights as a journalist–in 2011 was some attention for a bird-obsessed NGO.  With his help I debuted as a novelist five years ago at age fifty.

Her fifth book comes out this year.  She now has some money and wondered what to do with it.  Franzen recommended birding in Peru.

So this is the first non-fiction piece of hers that I have read.  It’s also the first piece about birds (aside from her novel the The Wallcreeper which has a bird prominently in it).

She was going to Cuzco, Peru for thee days.  First she toured churches (seventeenth century Jesuits made Christ look especially gruesome).  The next morning she hiked to Sacsayhuamán, an Incan ruin made of exceptionally large rocks.

She imagined Peru would feel like a hot night in New York when the A/C broke.  But she only got two mosquito bites the whole time she was there (both on her ass from peeing outside). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RODRIGO Y GABRIELA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #15 (April 28, 2020).

The only thing better than seeing Rodrigo y Gabriela live (which is amazing) is getting to see them up close just to be even more amazed by what they can do.

The Mexican duo known as Rodrigo y Gabriela travel the globe playing to crowds who are captivated by their almost telepathic acoustic guitar interplay. But they make their home in Mexico in a sunny Pacific beach town called Zihuatanejo (remember The Shawshank Redemption?). For this performance we get a peek at their home studio, where they surround themselves with guitars and dress down in sneakers and casual clothes. They run through tunes from throughout their recorded history, including a song they played at the Tiny Desk back in 2009. Rodrigo y Gabriela’s picking and strumming feel more relaxed than usual but maintains their intense focus.

“Tamacun” and “Diablo Rojo” come from their album Rodrigo y Gabriela (2006).  Rodrigo plays the amazing and catchy leads and it’s terrific to watch him.  But I think that Gabriela with her unconventional and at times mind-blowing rhythm section that is even better to watch.  I never quite know what she’s doing with her right hand.  Is she specifically hitting different strings with different fingers, or is it just an elaborate strum?

The percussive sound they both get on “Diablo Rojo” is fantastic.  That they can keep the song interesting while just hitting their guitars is so cool.

“Hanuman” is from the album 11:11.  Each song on that album is a tribute to an artist who has inspired them.  This is a tribute to Carlos Santana (whom they met after this song was released).

“Mettavolution” is the title track from their newest album.  I love that they are album to write so many instrumentals with just two acoustic guitars and have them all sound so different.  Near the end of this one Rodrigo says that normally they ask people to sing along (woah oh ohs), but since there’s no crowd, maybe you’ll sing along at home.

It’s hard not to.

[READ: April 25, 2020] “No. 13 Baby”

This is an excerpt from Barry’s novel Night Boat to Tangier.

I have mixed reactions to Barry’s stories.  I usually like the details, but sometimes the the overall story is too intense (I don’t especially like stories about drug dealers) .

Set in the Plaza de la Constitución in Spain, Maurice Hearne is waiting for someone. The man arrives and says Maurice needs to pay half of the money first before he can meet Karima.  Then the man tells him that he should have his head examined: Just forget these people, go back to Ireland and have some kiddies.

He called home to Cynthia to assure her that everything was going to be okay.  Then he went to meet Karima. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: COLDPLAY-Tiny Desk Concert #957 (March 9, 2020).

Once, long ago, a Tiny Desk Concert was for a quiet, presumably up and coming band to play a short show for an internet audience.

Then there was Lizzo and Taylor Swift and now Coldplay (I’m actually not sure if Coldplay or Taylor Swift is actually bigger).  But what makes it fun when a huge band does this is that they have an opportunity to do something very different.

For this Tiny Concert, Coldplay was reduced to just singer (and keyboardist) Chris Martin and guitarist Jonny Buckland (bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion were “hiding under the desk” because it was so tiny.  But Coldplay was also expanded with the addition of the For Love Choir: Denise Green; Shaneka Hamilton; Dorian Holley; Stephen Mackey; Lamarcus Eldridge; Lawrence Young; Surrenity Xyz; Tiffany Smith and Mabvuto Carpenter.

Watching Martin at the keys, with the For Love Choir behind him and Coldplay guitarist Jonny Buckland at his side, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the happiest day of his life. Laughing, bouncing to the music and playing off the crowd, Martin and company gave one of the most jubilant, uplifting and memorable performances we’ve ever had at the Tiny Desk.

I’m not sure it’s the most memorable, but it is certainly fun watching Chris Martin (who the rest of the time seems very serious) laugh and smile and joke his way through the set (while being musically spot on).

It’s a bit unfortunate, to me, that Coldplay did this show after their newest album, Everyday Life, from which I haven’t heard a thing (which is crazy since most of their other stuff is so overplayed).

The first song, “Cry Cry Cry” features the choir, but to me the “Cry Cry” of the chorus sounds so much like Janis Joplin “Cry Baby” I can’t get past it.

I also had to laugh that the crowd was responsive to this song (and the other two songs from the new album), but they went berserk for “Viva La Vida.”  And as as he plays those notes and starts singing it becomes really clear that this is Coldplay.  I didn’t really notice Buckland on the first song, but he adds some nice guitar moments to this one.  Everyone lives the choir for these songs, but I feel like their backing lines are not right for the verses.  Their oohs and ahhs are nice though and the end “woah oh ohs” are really splendid with all of those voices.

Martin jokes that he was happy to step inside the internet to be on the Tiny Desk and to see that Bob is a real person.  Then he shouts out everyone in the choir without looking (I didn’t realize they’d been playing together for a while, otherwise I was really impressed that he could remember that many names so easily).

The choir is prominent on “Broken” and Martin joked that, “In a very real way, they’ve Photoshopped our songs to be much better than they actually are.”

As the song fades out he starts playing the opening to Prince’s “1999.”  How unexpected.  Each of the singers in the choir takes a line or two and everyone is really into it.  It sounds great.

They end with “Champion Of The World.”  Martin says that after releasing the new album, they stayed in semi-hibernation.  But this Tiny Desk is pure and wonderful and makes us remember that this is why we do what we do,

Even if they only played one song I would have wanted them to play, it’s still a very positive and joy-filled show.

[READ: March 29, 2020] “Here and There”

McCann has written a novel called Apeirogon which is a fictionalized account of the lives of Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian and Rami Elhanan, an Israeli.  Aramin’s ten-year-old daughter, Abir, was killed by an Israeli soldier.  Elhana’s 13-year old daughter, Smadar, was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber.

This excerpt only looks at Rami’s story.

Smadar had her grandfather’s watch on her wrist when she was killed.  It was still running.  She made sure to wind that watch every night lest it signal that her other grandfather Yitzak had died during the night too.

Smadar and her grandfather were buried side by side under a grove of knotted carob trees. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TAIMANE-Tiny Desk Concert #956 (March 6, 2020).

This Concert opens with super fast percussive guitar. No!  Not a guitar, a six-string ukulele!

Taimane wears a crown of flowers.  There are flowers in front of the desk and in other places.  Taimane is from Oahu Hawaii so this love of colorful flowers makes a lot of sense.

So much magic unfolded in such short order. Within the first moments of Taimane’s stunning set, we hear her play fiery flamenco, a famous phrase from the opera Carmen, a touch of Bach and more than a nod to her Hawaiian homeland, all on her ukulele.

As she plays, this medley of “Carmen,” “E Ala Ē,” and “Jupiter” Ramiro Marziani adds some guitar and then Jonathan Heraux adds in percussion on the cajon.

After a brief introduction the Marziani stars playing the bass line to Carmen and she starts playing the lead on her uke.  She also plays an amazingly fast flamenco “solo” on the uke.

The playing and percussive style are not unlike Rodrigo y Gabriela.

As Taimane starts singing, violinist Melissa Baethoven adds harmony vocals and then Li’o comes out to do a Polynesian dance.

In what is a first at the Tiny Desk, a dancer named Li’o performed in a hau skirt made from dried lauhala leaves, with a lei of white conch wrapped around his neck. His Polynesian dance, along with the stick percussion, added to the beauty and the intensity.

After a brief cajon solo, Li’o returns without the skirt to show off his impressive legwork as he dances to a super fast ukulele melody.

Taimane is a an amazing ukulele player.  She began playing ukulele at age five; these days, it’s seemingly become an extension of her body.

Taimane has five albums out.  She

chose to represent the elements of the earth on her latest album, Elemental, and she brought the most feisty of those elements to the Tiny Desk: “Fire.” This music draws inspiration from Cuban traditions, with moments that are sensual as well as ecstatic.

This song is fast and fiery, including some impressively fast strumming from Taimane.  Then Ramiro takes a solo as everyone claps along.  Then after another impressive solo from Taimane, things slow down: “this is the sexy part,” she says.

The final song came as surprise because she does not play anything, she sings.  This is a lovely slow song called “Maluhia” which means peace.  It’s like a delicate cool down after the fire of the previous song.

I never knew a ukulele could sound like that.  I realize that this is a six-string and is considerably larger than a tiny four-string, but it’s still amazing to hear (and see).

[READ: March 29, 2020] “The Interpretation of Dreams”

This is a fascinating story set in 1924.  A thirty-three year old man, Gūnter Zeitz tracks down Sigmund Freud to talk to him.

Freud has a lisp and seems cranky to be interrupted by Zeitz.  But Zeitz starts flattering Freud’s ego and starts talking about dreams.  And by the end of the conversation, Gūnter says what he has wanted to: “I want to be a psychoanalyst, and I am hoping you will train me.”

Freud agrees and says the training will consist of Gūnter’s own analysis and Freud will be his analyst. (more…)

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