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Archive for the ‘New Yorker’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SEVANA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #159 (January 26, 2021).

I had not heard of Sevana, although she is a member of Protoje’s In.Digg.Nation collective

“If You Only Knew” is a pretty pop song.  I enjoyed the way the music dropped out and there wa s quiet drum fill Mark Reid.

This concert was filmed at the Kingston Creative Hub back in September 2020 (the interludes you’ll hear about the pandemic are reflective of that time).

The second song “Blessed” opens with gently picked guitars from and Nicolas Groskoef and Almando ‘Mundo Don’ Douglas who also both play solos throughout Almando first, Nicolas later in the song.  It sounds like a Santana song and is an example of her

jumping delicately between traditional R&B, Caribbean gospel and soul, with touches of reggae interspersed.   On “Blessed,” an infectious ode about the miracle of life and faith, she welcomes us with open arms into her church and demonstrates the wide range of her multi-octave voice.

“Be Somebody” has some interesting sound effects and vocal samples from Jean-Andre Lawrence and washes of keys from Rhoan Johnson.

She closes out the four-song set with her most recognizable tune, “Mango,” a dancehall-influenced love song.

I would have thought this dancehall song would be more of a banger, but aside for some quietly pulsing bass from Kawain Williamson, the song is pretty mellow.

[READ: June 3, 2019] “A Dream of Glorious Return”

This is an excerpt from Rushdie’s novel Fury which I have not read.  The thesis sentence comes fairly early though.

Life is fury, he’d thought.  Fury–sexual, Oedipal, political, magical, brutal–drives us to out finest heights and coarsest depths

It concerns professor Malik Solanka, a fifty-five year old retired historian of ideas.  He is presently living in Manhattan, although that is a recent change in his life.

He seemed to mostly want to be a solitary man–celibate by choice–ignoring those around him.  Like his neighbor, that damn Mark Skywalker who asked if the slogan “The sun never Sets on American Express International” would seem offensive to Britons.

The novel really sets the time and place quite well–current movies, the election (“unlovable presidential candidates (Gush, Bore))” and the talk of Cuban refugee Elian Gonzales.

The phone rings and it is his wife Eleanor in England.  She complains that their son is ill and he doesn’t seem to care.   But more importantly

without a scrap of credible explanation you walked out on us, you went off across the ocean and betrayed all those who need and love you most.

He thinks back to how they met and how he had fallen in love with her voice.  Fifteen years ago when he phoned a publishing friend, Eleanor had answered and he was smitten with her voice–asking her out for dinner that evening.

So how could he leave her and his child?  One night

he sat in the kitchen, in the middle of the night, with murder on the brain: actual murder, not the metaphorical kind.  He’d even brought a carving knife upstairs and stood for a terrible, dumb minute over the body of his sleeping wife.  Then he turned away, slept in the spare bedroom, and in the morning had packed his bags and caught the first flight to New York

He had left his first wife Sara earlier in a less dramatic fashion.  They married too quickly and felt trapped almost immediately.

He reflected back to his childhood in Bombay when Mr Venkat, the big-deal banker whose son Chandra was the ten year old Malik’s best friend

became a sannyasi on his sixtieth birthday, and abandoned his family forever, wearing no more than a hand-hewn loincloth, with a long wooden staff in one hand and begging bowl in the other.

He would never return.

This story could go in many directions from here.

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SOUNDTRACK: MARCO BENEVENTO-Me Not Me (2009).

This album (Benevento’s second) with the confusing title is actually a (mostly) covers album.  Marco takes some familiar (to me) and some unfamiliar (to me) songs and turns them into instrumental versions using piano (and more), bass (from Reed Mathis) and drums.

The first song is My Morning Jacket’s “Golden.”  The melody is instantly recognizable and bouncy and fun.  Matt Chamberlain provides drums, which are skittery and complicated but never loud. Until the end when the songs starts to float away with trippy synths and some wild drumming.

“Now They’re Writing Music” is an original piece that switches between synth and piano and features Chamberlain and Andrew Barr on drums.

“Seems So Long Ago, Nancy” is a Leonard Cohen song.  It’s produced as if it’s on an old scratchy record with echoing bass and drums over the scratchy piano.  Barr is on drums.

“Mephisto” is an original, a slow jazzy number with a hummable melody and Chamberlain on drums.

“Twin Killers” is a Deerhoof song.  Appropriately, it has some riotous drums (from Barr who is on the next two songs as well).  It’s longer than the original because it features a cacophonies middle section that is just insane.  But Benevento’s faithful reproduction of the melody line makes this really catchy.

“Call Home” is a pretty lullaby.  It’s an original with soft keys and a baby cooing.

“Heartbeats” is the Jose Gonzales/The Knife song.  The main low riff sounds like its on the bass and then Marco plays the familiar lead melody with all kinds of fuzz thrown over the song.

“Sing It Again” is a mellow song from Beck off of Mutations.  I don’t really know it that well but this version is very pretty and simple.

A highlight of the album is this really fun version of Led Zeppelin’s “Friends.”  It’s immediately recognizable and yet different somehow.  Its full of raucous paying from all three especially when Benevento ads the sinister synths near the end.  Chamberlain plays up a storm on the drums.

The final song is George Harrison’s “Run of the Mill.”  I don’t know the original, but this is a jazzy song with lot of piano runs from Marco and some restrained drumming from Chamberlain.

This is a pretty solid introduction to Benevento’s music, although his albums definitely get better once he starts writing his own songs with words.

[READ: March 14, 2021] “Surrounded by Sleep”

Ajay was ten years old.  His family lived in Queens (having moved from India two years earlier).  He and his older brother, Amam, were in Virginia visiting his aunt and uncle.  One morning Aman was swimming in the pool.  He dove in and hit his head on the cement bottom.  He was on the bottom of the pool for several minutes before anyone noticed.

His parents were not terribly religious, but as Amar lay in a coma in the hospital, his mother began to pray regularly.  She also prostrated herself and fasted.

At first Ajay thought “her attempts to sway God were not so different from Ajay’s performing somersaults to amuse his aunt.”  Then Ajay knelt before the altar and drew in the carpet an Om, a crucifix, a Star of David and the Superman logo.

When his mother saw him praying, she asked what he prayed for.  He told her for a 100 on his math test. His mother said “What if God said you can have he math grade but then Aman will have to be sick a little while longer? …   When I was sick as a girl, your Uncle walked seven times around the temple and asked God to let him fail his exams just as long as I got better.”

Ajay replied, quite rightly, “If I failed the math test and told you that story you’d slap me and ask what one has to do with the other.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KISHI BASHI-“Honeybody” (2016).

I love Kishi Bashi and am always excited to see him live and to hear new music from him.

Much like the story, this song is remarkably cheerful and happy.  It feels different and special in Kishi Bashi’s canon.  All of the Kishi Bashi elements are there: strings, looping, soaring vocals, but there’s a few novel moments as well.

The chorus, for instance has an island feel.  The way he sings “Maybe sipping a Coca-Cola with me, babe” you can feel your feet in the sand.

But first there’s an orchestral string opening, following by some manipulated pizzicato plucking and Kishi’s singing

Then the chorus

Cause everybody wants a Honeybody someday
Mama said they don’t grow on them trees easy
Hands down on the ground
I’m begging you to please, Honeybody, please me

Followed by some lovely soaring oooh oooh oohs in the post chorus.

The song seems like it could just end with another repeated chorus, but after the post chorus, the song shifts gears to a buzzy synth sound.  The song turns vaguely electronic with a soaring violin as he sings the chorus to a new melody.

Delightful happy music. #stopasianhate (I mean, really, knock it off).

For a delightful twist on the song, check out this version with the Nu Deco Ensemble

[READ: March 13, 2021] “Honey Pie”

Most of Murakami’s stories are abstract or, at the very least, kind of puzzling  There’s usually some vaguely supernatural element to them that you’re never sure exactly how to read (and it usually doesn’t matter because the story is good.)  This story, which like most of the others was translated by Jay Rubin, is it only the most straightforward story of his that I’ve read, it is one of the most beautiful.

The story begins with a man telling a little girl a story.  The story is about Masakichi the bear, the all time number one honey bear.  The girl, Sala, asks many questions about the story–good, thoughtful questions (“Can bears count money?”).  The storyteller, Junpei, loved the girl and the questions.  The questions helped him to guide the story that he was making up.

Junpei was a professional writer, but these storytelling gigs were for his best friend Sayoko and her child Sala.  Sala had been having some terrible nightmares ever since the earthquake hit Kobe.  They don;t live near Kobe, but tit’s been on the news every day.  Sala fears that the Earthquake Man is in the house and she can’t settle down until she checks every single possible place in their house.  Finally Sayoko called Junpei because he stays up all night writing anyway. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PICTUREHOUSE-“Sunburst” (1998).

Picturehouse drummer Johnny Boyle was in the Irish Drummers book.  I was unfamiliar with them, but apparently they were pretty huge back in the late 1990s (at least in Ireland).  Boyle played on this album (Karmarama) and the follow up.

“Sunburst” was apparently all over Irish radio when it came out.  After a fun opening drumfill, this song falls into a gentle indie rock vein.  There’s some lovely harmonies, some nice gravelly vocals from singer Dave Brown and a big soaring “what a day” chorus.

The end of the song bops along on series of bah bah bahs and and a tasty fuzzy guitar solo.

It’s a delightful jangly pop song and was understandably a big hit

[READ: March 15, 2021] “Girl with Lizard”

I was sure that I had read this story, or something like it, before.  But this is the first story by this author that I have read.  This story and the resulting short story collection Flights of Love were translated by John E. Woods.

The story concerns a boy and a painting.  It was a painting of a girl looking at a lizard on the beach.  His mother and father called it “The Girl with the Lizard” and his mother referred to the girl in the painting as “The Jewish Girl.”  The painting played a large role in the boy’s childhood.  He napped under the painting every day during nap time.  He became very familiar with the details of the painting, which had a pride of place in his father’s office.

He became so familiar with it that when asked to describe a painting in detail for school, he was excited to write about this one.  He stared at the painting and took in all the details. He marveled that when he was little he had to look up at the girl and now that he was older the two were at eye level with each other.

His father admired the essay but told him that the painting was very important and it would be much better if people didn’t know they had it.  He said it was valuable and din;t want anyone to steal it.  He refused to say anything more about it and over the boy’s life, he never learned the provenance of the painting,  But his father certainly believed it was valuable. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Jasper Heritage Folk Festival-Night set (August 3 2001).

The guys played a 40 minute set earlier in the day (playing the entire Harmelodia album).  Then in the evening they returned for an hour long set of new songs and some classics.

Night of the Shooting Stars was coming out soon and they were primed to play some news songs.  There’s also not a lot of goofiness–it’s a short set and they need to get it all out.

You can really hear Dave B’s acoustic guitar in “Mumbletypeg” and “In It Now.”

When they play “Aliens,” Dave sings “Artenings Made of Gold” at the end.  “Record Body Count” runs a little long with a lengthy solo at the end.

“Legal Age Life” has a country feel and when they do the “12 Bar Blues” part, they credit NRBQ–I never realized it was a song before–just thought they were making it up.
Dave asks, “Do the people of your generation still do the twist?  Because i saw very little twisting.  You twist now but there’s no music.

After a lovely “King of the Past,” They’re going to take it down for a couple of long slow songs.  They’re very poetic and we know how much the people of japer die for the poetry.  “Saskatchewan” is first and then “We’re gonna crank up the Hitmaker 2000” for “We Went West.”  Introducing the song:

The first time we toured was in 1987 across Canada.  I bet that was before you were born.  Every verse is devoted to a province–not every province but the ones we went to.  Yes, Alberta’s in it.  [cheers] Wait, you haven’t heard the verse about Alberta.

Someone shouts a request and Dave says, “We’re going to do a new song, but thanks for the request.”  Up comes a good “P.I.N.”

The set ends with a great “Stolen Car.”  The acoustic really rings and the end has a wicked loud and wild solo from martin.

These short sets are definitely less fun than the full length ones, but they sound fantastic.

[READ: March 14, 2021] “Austerlitz”

About ten years ago I read the novel Austerlitz, from which this excerpt comes.  At the time I had written

I read about Sebald in Five Dials. And the glowing talk about him made me want to read one of his books (specifically, this one).

This excerpt is quite long, but so is the novel.   It’s essentially the first few sections of the the novel.  I had written

Austerlitz is a strange novel [translated by Anthea Bell] which I enjoyed but which I never really got into.  I feel like rather than absorbing me into its words, the book kind of held me aloft on the surface.  As such, I have a general sense of what happened, but I’d be very hard pressed to discuss it at length.

The basic plot summary is that an unnamed narrator runs into a man named Jacques Austerlitz.  Austerlitz talks to him at length about his life. They run into each other at various points over the years, and Austerlitz’ story is continued.  And literally, that is the book.  Now, of course, Austerlitz’ story is multifaceted and complex.  But we will never forget that this is a story within a story (it’s impossible to forget because the phrase “said Austerlitz” appears about 500 times in the book.

It was interesting to me that the details I wrote about this novel ten years ago were the same ones I kept from this reading, more or less.  (Particularly the part about how it says “said Austerlitz” all the time). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Jasper Heritage Folk Festival-Day Set (August 3 2001).

Rheostatics played two sets at the Jasper heritage Folk Festival in 2001.  They did a day set to promote their new children’s album Harmelodia and then later an evening set full of hits.

This is a fantastic sounding show … the afternoon set at the Jasper Heritage Folk Festival and is unique in that it is an almost complete run through of the entire Harmelodia album including Dave reading parts of the book. One of the earliest shows with Michael Wojewoda on drums.

In the intro Dave explains that they’re playing the entire Story of Harmelodia album, borrowing a page out of Luther Wright and the Wrongs’ book and do a concept program.  [I wonder what that was].  We’re going to read a little bit and play a few songs.

The Intro music is kind of like the more we get together, the happier we’ll be.  Dave narrates and the music sounds really good.

He tells everyone that the album is available for only $25 over there, easy.  How much you got?  $15?  We’ll take $15.  And your hat and your glasses.

Tim sings “Monkeybird” which is, admittedly, not as good as Kevin Hearn’s version, but which is still fine (they have a really hard time with the high note of the “we love the sound.”

“Invisible Stairs” is a twist on the “Twinkle Twinkle” melody–a pretty 2 minute interlude.

During “Popopolis/Drumstein” Martin makes a cool humpback whale sound.

They take a small break, “a little interlude then the program will resume.”  Then he says “hurry hurry come on up,” and some girls wish Chrissy Way a happy birthday.  Dave jokes Chrissy’s 37.

Tim says that Dot wrote “Loving Arms,” but ripped off The Beatles.  Dave replies, “it’s make believe Tim, there’s no copyright in make believe land.”

They don’t do “Father’s Sad Song” (because Gord Downie wrote it?).

The bass is suddenly too loud but otherwise it sounds great.  You can compare the concert setlist to the album at the bottom of the post.

[READ: February 21, 2021] “Paris Diary (1992)”

I’m not sure who Mavis Gallant is, but she had the third of three “Memory” sections in this issue of the New Yorker, so here it is.  It is indeed a few samples of her 1992 diary.  The first few entries are from January.

She writes about three prisoners released from solitary confinement after eighteen years.  Two of them are shrunken and need a wheelchair.  The third has his daughter to look after him.  She imagines what it must be like to get your father back after so long.

Gallant was young when her father died and yet she could not accept the truth.  She always imagined he would return.  Like how Isaac Babel’s daughter wrote, “Every time a car stopped in front of the door, I expected to see my father step out of it.”  But of course, he never did.

Then she recalls Josée de Chambrun (her father ran the Vichy government in 1942 and was tried for treason).  She has just died.  Mavis and Catherine (whoever that is) saw her in a gallery, eyes full of defiance.  After the war, the French either stood behind her or despised her.

The next entry (February) concerns her friend at dinner.  She smoked through the meal, juggling fork, knife and cigarette.  No one seemed to mind. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-The Beverley Tavern (October 28, 1983).

This is one of the first recordings of the Rheostatics live.  As the blurb says, the band was only a trio at the time (Martin Tielli had not joined yet).

It is amazing that a show this old sounds so good – not great but considering it is from 1983 not too bad. It is also weird as hell. I’m not sure if it was the 27, 28 or 29 of October 1983 but since the 27th is my birthday I’ll go with that date. [They later say it’s Friday night, which was the 28th].  I think this is a Triostatics show with just Tim, Dave B and Dave C.

Some of these songs don’t appear anywhere else.  Like the first one “Get Rich, Get Bored” which really shows off how new wave they were in the beginning.  It’s got a funky bass line with jagged new wave guitar from Dave and I assume Tim singing.

The band was really goofy back then too (not that they aren’t now, but a sort of wild goofiness pervades this evening.  Like Clark saying “I don’t know what the hell’s sitting behind the drum kit” and Tim letting everyone know that “anything’s possible on Halloween.”  Until someone helpfully yells “It’s not Halloween yet.”

“Chemical World” is one of those early new wave songs that they played a lot but which never made it onto Greatest Hits.

There’s some peculiar banter that is hard to hear but it sure sounds like they thought it was funny.

“we’re gonna change our name to R and then to H and then K?   What’s up next on the bill Mr Vesely?  It’s in the key of C.  You’re cheap, like your clothing.  Woman in audience: “but he’s not easy.”

Dave Clark says “Straight to Hell” is about Dave B’s father.  Tim sings in a weird style, over new wave guitar chords and a seemingly random bass.  The middle has a spoken word part with a drum and bass breakdown: “Now Richard, what seems to be the problem…   doesn’t know what to do–he’s going straight to hell.”

Dave B asks, “Satellite Dancing” Someone: “No!”  “Satellite dancing” “No!”

So instead they play “National Pride” another song that they played a lot but which didn’t make it onto the debut (which in fairness came out four years later.  Dave B says they released this song a long time ago and nobody bought it so they’re going to play it tonight and hope someone buys it.  Midway through Dave says “specials effects, Julia Child” and then sings in a crazy falsetto.  Then Dave says “What was Reagan doing on TV the other night?  Explaining why he had invaded a country the size of East Toronto.”  The song ends with a mangled opening of The Star Spangled Banner.

Dave says someone complained they weren’t going to come to the show, “aw you guys play funk. I don’ want to see you play funk.”  So they play a funky “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).”  They thank Rick the amazing man with the echo machine.  Tim says, before you take anymore pictures let me put my hair on.  As the song ends, Dave says, “who said the 70s are dead?  Not us I tell ya.”  “It was you!  In a drunken haze you said the 70s are dead.”

Clark: lets do all 70s songs about the word Monday.

Up next is “No Religion,” the b side of our National Pride single that nobody bought.  It’s a bouncy song with la la las, although I can’t really make out words.
Clark: The b side of Tim’s underwear.
Tim: “The dirty side. Oh my gosh I don’t say things like that.

Someone shouts, “chicken rap.”  Then they say “Do ‘Walk the Line.’  It’s Friday night!  Tim plays a minute long bass riff “okay, that was our cover of “I Walk the Line.”
Clark: “we play both kinds, country and western.”

It’s crowd participation night we want the guy who was dressed like an albino up here. (dressed like an albino?).
He left.
They play “Louie Louie” and ask for volunteers.  Someone comes up” “Ladies and gentlemen the Prince of Toronto.”  The guy sings a made up verse.  It comes to a wild crashing rumbling ending.  You can almost imagine them smashing things.

Clark: “Okay that means we have to do an encore.”
It’s a song by Chic called “Good Times.”  Tim plays the bass line more or less the right way but the song sounds different the way they play it.  Then comes “the highlight of the evening” Dave Bidini singing “Fly Robin Fly” in falsetto!

Definitely an unusual show, but I love Darrin’s name “Triostatics.”  I’m glad they didn’t stay a new wave band.

[READ: March 10, 2021] “The Specks in the Sky” 

I had put off reading this story because it was so long (19 pages!).  But I regretted putting it off as soon as I started it because this story was weird and wonderful. Until the end.

Set on a farm in the middle of nowhere, “two-hundred and twenty-five days after my father left home” the young narrator Ryder, along wither her older sister, Aileen, and her mother are outside when they see specks in the sky.

They don’t know what they are until the get closer and it becomes clear that these are men parachuting to the ground.  The parachutes are pink, the men are all in red jumpsuits.

The first man lands mostly gracefully and clears his parachute away.  He introduces himself as Commander Kyle Cheshire.  Slowly, thirteen more men fall out of the sky.  One of them is immediately taken with Aileen “a real beauty with long hair and breasts and everything.”  But before anyone can say anything the commander takes roll call.

That’s when they realize that Chip Gainsborough didn’t make it.  His parachute must not have opened. The men are very upset, none more so than Bud who bemoans his oldest friend–they used to go crabbing in Maine together when they were little.

Finally the mom asks them who the hell they are–army navy, what?  The commander regrets that everything is classified, he can’t say anything,  The only thing he can relate is that their plane had trouble 20,000 feet in the air and they all had to jump out.  But they will be acting lawfully under the terms and conditions outlined in Section 15 of the Parachuting Handbook, Landing Upon Civilian Property Clause No 33B where it sates explicitly that we are to assist the said civilians in any way we can during our stay on the civilian premises. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PUP-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #149 (January 21, 2021).

A lot of Tiny Desk Concerts are by bands I don’t know (and then really like).  Some are by bands I don’t like.  And every once in a while they have one by a band I like a lot.

Pup is a hugely popular pop punk band from Canada.  I’m bummed I didn’t get to see them when they played around here, but I wasn’t really aware of them at the time.

I have since come to enjoy their music quiet a lot.

“Rot” (from the group’s aptly-titled 2020 EP, This Place Sucks A** ) opens with some fast drumming from Zack Mykula, then Stefan Babcock starts singing and playing rhythm guitar.  After the first verse, Steven Sladkowski adds higher harmony notes–a simple but cool effect.  It’s not until the (outrageously catchy) chorus that Nestor Chumak adds the bass notes and, suddenly, the song feels huge.  I really like that Babcock adds some noisy harmonics and mini feedbacks into the chaos.

The other fun thing is that everyone except Babcock is wearing a mask–even while signing backing vocals (it’s not hard to wear a mask, people).  For a fast punk song, it’s actually quote long–over three minutes.

“My neighbors hate us, and I don’t blame them,” Babcock said.  The Toronto group refused to dial down the volume, filling Babcock’s neatly-furnished living room – complete with an Ontario pennant – and just maybe making a few enemies down the street in the process.

“Kids” (From 2019’s Morbid Stuff) opens differently–bass and harmonics for the first verse, before the rest of the band crashes in. There’s even a harmonic-filled guitar solo.  I like in the middle when it’s almost only drums and Mykula plays some cool rhythms on the floor tom.

Up next is “Reservoir,” a track off the group’s debut.  It’s full on with lots o crash cymbal, and lots of fast playing from everyone during the chorus.

“Scorpion Hill” runs to almost seven minutes and has several parts.  It opens quietly with just Babcock singing and playing.  After the first verse the whole band joins in including backing vocals.  But it’s still fairly quiet until after a pauses a n a misdirecting guitar strum, the song rockets off with lots of thumping drums and bass  After a couple of lengthy section, there’s pause and then a simple riff during which everyone sings “ah ah ah oh.”

This was a wonderful set.  And the even better news

the handmade “Ceci n’est pas une Tiny Desk” (“This is not a Tiny Desk”) sign serves as a warning: When the Tiny Desk returns to NPR HQ and the U.S.-Canada border reopens, prepare to have your workday interrupted.

[READ: February 1, 2021] “Comfort”

This story seemed rather different from Munro’s usual work.

It is about Nina and her husband Lewis. Lewis was a teacher at the high school left until he left under less than positive circumstances.

Nina met with Margaret (another former teacher who left on good terms) at the high school tennis courts.  Nina had not set foot on high school grounds since Lewis had left

When she returned (victorious from her matches), she discovered that Lewis had taken his own life.  They had talked about Lewis doing this, but Nina always thought she would be there–a ceremonial act of some sort.  But clearly Lewis didn’t want her to see him do this.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MUZZ-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #162 (January 29, 2021).

I had not heard of Muzz before this set.  They are a project of Interpol singer Paul Banks.

Paul Banks and Josh Kaufman have known each other since childhood. You likely know Paul Banks as the singer for Interpol; Josh Kaufman is a producer and one-third of Bonny Light Horseman. They are both friends with drummer Matt Barrick, who played a Tiny Desk concert in 2012 with his band The Walkmen.

The trio plays three songs from their self-titled debut album.  I’m not sure what the record sounds like (Barnes suggests that at least one of the songs is more rocking), but this is a mellow gathering.

Josh Kaufman told me via email that “Paul was stuck in Glasgow and Matt and I were quarantining with families in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, respectively. At the very end of a long couple of days of rehearsal and taping, we — very late at night, Paul jet-lagged and the rest plain exhausted — stayed awake a little longer to try a campfire style strum along to some of the songs from our new LP. The result here is our Tiny Desk.”

All three of them are wearing masks and Barnes can sing no problem–people need to lighten up about the masks.

“Bad Feeling” has one guitar from Kaufman and quiet malleted drums as Banks sings.  I don’t really hear Interpol in this at all, it’s much folkier

“Knuckleduster” is kind of a rock n roll song but they’re playing it rather quietly.  It doesn’t sound any different in this format except the drums are heavier and there are some deeper chords.

Barnes picks up a guitar for “Trinidad” and plays the opening melody.  Having the two guitars playing harmonies is really nice.  The drums are just brushes rubbed on the heads.  It has a very campfire feel.

As they prepare for the last song, Barrick brings his drum mic up front.  It takes a moment or two (no edits, Banks jokes). “Summer Love” has a drum machine and Barrick playing a very quiet synth. It, too is a pretty, quiet song with a delicate solo from Kaufman.

[READ: March 10, 2021] “Family Furnishings”

One of the great things about Alice Munro stories is the way she fully fleshes out the characters.  In this story, the plot (such as it is) is one thing, but Munro adds in so much detail  about the characters–details that give you a fuller picture of them, but which don’t really have an impact directly on the plot–that you feel like you are fully a part of this world. We learn that the narrator was married twice an we learn a bunch  about her first and second husbands. None of this has any direct bearing on the story, but these details give you the most complete picture of the narrator and helps to flesh out the decisions she makes.

This is the story of a young woman who grows up to become a writer and how her father’s cousin had an unexpectedly big impact on that career trajectory.

When the narrator was little her father’s cousin Alfrida (Freddy) was a dramatic and dynamic person.  She worked for the newspaper and was part of the collective of writers who contributed to “Flora Simpson Housewives’ Pages” (there was no Flora Simpson, just a photo of a woman).  She also wrote the “Round and About Town” column which allowed her to give her opinion on all things local.

She was appropriately full of herself but she was always a delight to have around.  The rest of her family was quite dull and formal and the narrator felt like Alfrida loosened everyone up. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKGABRIEL GARZÓN-MONTANO-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #147 (January 19, 2021).

Gabriel Garzón-Montano did a solo Tiny Desk Concert a few years ago, as the blurb quickly points out

If Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s solo Tiny Desk back in 2017 was an exercise in restraint and vulnerability, his home set is the polar opposite. It beams ingenuity and unveils multiple layers, figuratively and literally.  In this performance he brought the full band, sporting all white from mask to toe and bringing to life all the sonics we hear on the record, last year’s genre-snubbing Agüita.

They play three songs.

Garzón-Montano morphs into three different characters from Agüita and stretches the boundaries even more, adding salsa flavor to “Muñeca” and delivering some bonus bars on the set opener, “With A Smile.”

“With A Smile” opens with just his face surrounded by flowers as he plays a pretty acoustic guitar.  The flowers move away as the Gracie Sprout’s harp adds more pretty notes.  As the song moves along with Gabriel’s soft and sexy voice, Itai Shapira’s bass and Lenny “The Ox”‘s drums come thumping in.

Like the rest of his band, Gabriel is in all white, including white Uggs and a long white coat with tails.   The only color is from the sweater underneath.

At the end of the song he raps in Spanish, which has a really nice flow.

Taking advantage of of the rare opportunity to gather musicians in quarantine times, he says “It’s like being a child who’s allowed to do what they always wanted to do when they didn’t wanna get up for school, and it’s also felt like an adult who didn’t know what to do at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon. I’m focusing on oscillating between those states with ease.”

For “Muñeca” he takes off the big coat and shows off the colorful sweater which has a fascinating cut, including tails.  For this song, it’s a trio of bass and Daniel Rodriguez on drums. Rodriguez plays a funky middle with conga and cowbell as Gabriel gets up and dances.  He picks up the guitar again at the end of the song for a little strumming outro.

Before the final song, Gabriel moves to the piano.  He takes off the colorful sweater to reveal a sleeveless shirt underneath (which shows off his tattoos).

“Tombs” features the KROMA Quartet and everyone else on synths.  Nicholas Semrad plays the lead, but everyone else adds melody.  It’s a delicate song with an interesting and slightly creepy synth melody.  About half way through this six minute song he gets up and picks up an electric guitar.  He and  Justin “Jhawk” Hawkins play a harmony solo together, which sounds pretty cool.

I am quite intrigued by this singer, and I love the description of genre-snubbing.

[READ: February 28, 2021] Pops

I have often said I wanted to read more books by Michael Chabon.  And after finishing this I realized that the only novel by him that I’ve read is Kavalier and Clay and that was 21 years ago.  So maybe it’s time to get into some of these other books.

Pops is a collection of (very) short essays.  Most were written for Details Magazine (which folded in 2015), one for GQ and a final one I’d already read in the New Yorker.

“Introduction: The Opposite of Writing”
It’s not too often that you really enjoy an introduction, but this one was pretty great.  In it, Chabon talks about when he was an up and coming writer and he met a well-established Southern writer.  This writer told him that the secret to being a good writer was not having children.  That for every child you have, you will lose one book.

Chabon had no children with his first wife but has had four with his second wife (the writer Ayelet Waldman).  So clearly they have lost eight books between them.

The writer’s argument was that children take away time from novel writing and that novel writing takes away time from children.  Chabon had always felt that his father was not very present (as one of the essays says) and he promised to be much more involved in his children’s lives).  These essays suggest that he was.  So how did he find time to write?  He does not say. (more…)

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