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Archive for the ‘New Yorker’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: HAYLEY WILLIAMS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #124 (December 9, 2020).

I basically missed Paramore entirely.  I’ve heard a few songs not realizing it was them and really liked them.  I listened to a bit more recently and really like the pop punk energy.

So this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert came as a real surprise. The music is stripped down and really spare.  There’s a real dancey element (funky bass and drums) and the guitars are really quiet.

The second big surprise came when Hayley introduced her band.  Becca Mancari on keys and backing vocals!  And Julien Baker on guitar!

This change in musicians and sound is intentional.

Petals for Armor is a soul-cleansing exhale from years of holding her breath. Originally released in a series of EPs, her solo debut sings through heartache in a tangle of triumph and hard-earned wisdom. It’s a pop album that knows sadness can simmer, but also shout over an ever-shifting sonic palette.

She plays three songs in ten minutes.

During the pandemic and protests, Williams has played these songs from her couch with muted restraint, and self-serenaded with acoustic covers — sad songs really can be sympathetic companions during dark days. But in her home, surrounded by blank canvases, Williams and friends splash a bottled-up energy.

The joy is infectious, as “Pure Love” bursts from first bloom

Aaron Steele counts off on the drums, while Williams gives a Huh! and Joey Howard introduces a funky bass line.  Her voice is powerful and soars throughout.

I’m disconcerted by the high fiving after the song–I hope they’ve been safe.

“Taken” shows off Baker’s jazzy-funk licks.

It opens with an outstanding bass from Joey Howard line that repeats throughout.  The song feels quintessentially dancey and a very different sound from Paramore.  Baker plays quietly wah-wah’d guitar as Mancari sings the backing bah bah bahs.  Williams plays a keyboard on a very tiny stand (I feel for her back).  The best moment comes with the five seconds of silence while Williams looks around and then jumps back into the danciness.

For the final song, Williams leans into the “Dead Horse” kiss-off with gleeful abandon.

The foundation of this song is the funky drum and bass once more. Williams picks up the guitar, but it’s Baker who plays the slightly askew riff that opens the song.  Baker plays lead licks throughout while Williams adds grace notes.  The best of which comes at 10:08 when both Williams and Baker plays a single note in harmony to make it really stand out.

And that kiss off?

When I say goodbye, I hope you cry.

[READ: January 5, 2021] “A Philadelphia Local is Unamused by the Fuss”

Today seemed like an ideal day to post about this election-related essay from Dave Eggers.

Today, a bunch if seditious Senators are going to pretend like our election was unfair.  They are going to make a spectacle of themselves and question the integrity of our very democracy.  They should be removed from office immediately.

This essay shows, in a small aside, how this phony scandal, this manufactured outrage, was created by the trump team long before the election happened.

On November 5th, while the election results were being tabulated, Eggers was in Philadelphia talking with Anna Palagruto.

Palagruto is the quintessential Philadelphian:

Palagruto has an accent so acute–“gonna” was “go-won-a” and an attitude so Philly-specific, that, if the city ever wanted a no B-S tourism spokesperson, no one but her would suffice. Come to Philly, she’d say. Or don’t.  No one cares.

Palagruto is fed up with the protesters on both sides. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ASHLEY RAY-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #125 (December 11, 2020).

Ashley Ray is a singer from Kansas.

Her voice is raw and harshly accented–purely from Kansas.  But her voice goes beyond country into what sounds like ancient folk music.

In this Tiny Desk (home) concert, Ray is

sitting on a screened-in porch with producer, songwriter and longtime friend Sean McConnell (and a distant chorus of crickets chirping in the early evening light).

I don’t know what her music normally sounds like, although this blurb says the songs 

all from Ashley Ray’s latest album, Pauline feel like a breakout release for this Kansas native, but she’s been putting in the hard work for close to 20 years now, spending much of her time waiting tables while writing songs for better-known artists.

All three songs feature Ray singing.  She plays guitar on the first one.  She is accompanied by McConnell.  He plays guitar as well, but it’s when he adds his harmony vocals that the songs really flesh out.  The second song, “Dirty work” almost feels like an X song (or many a Knitters song) with Exene singing lead and John Doe adding the harmonies (and playing the only guitar).

It’s interesting that Ray’s speaking voice is almost unaccented, when a song like “Pauline” is so clearly Southern.

“Just A House” feels more country than the other two–the melody of the chorus, I’m sure.  But I like the understatedness of it.

I do not like country music (duh), bit I really enjoyed this.  It was devoid of production and twang and felt real.

[READ: January 5, 2021] “Delaware Voters Await Joe Biden: ‘We Just Need Him'”

Today Georgia voters get to decide if Joe Biden will be roadblocked by The Worst Man in America, Mitch McConnell (he may have actually done more damage than trump).  

They get to decide if two trump supporters, who have already proven that their role in government is exclusively to get rich and screw the rest of us, should be thrown to the curb (preferably from a moving car).  

This election shouldn’t be happening.  These two horrible people should in no way be close to winning an election for anything.  And yet here we are. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHLOE X HALLE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #123 (December 8, 2020).

Chloe x Halle’s album, with its arresting album cover, has been on all the top album lists this year.  I hadn’t heard anything off of it, so this is my introduction to this “powerful sister duo.”

Flanked by personal memorabilia supplied by their mother, the Bailey sisters did their best to make this studio performance really feel like a home concert.

I don’t know what he album sounds like, but this recording (complete with a full band, horns and strings) sounds pretty amazing.  Almost as amazing as Chloe and Halle’s voices.

As they volley off each other, swapping lead and harmonies, it’s amazing to watch how years of practice and innate genetic chemistry have them synced tight.

After introducing themselves, the sister play “Don’t Make It Harder on Me.”  There’s a clean bass opening from Elin Sandberg and quiet guitar chords (it’s fun to watch Lexii Lynn Frazier play as she is smiling a lot and really into it).  The addition of the trumpets (Arnetta Johnson and Crystal Torres) adding soft and then loud accents is a really nice touch.  But nothing can distract from the voices.

Halle takes the higher notes and wow does her voice soar.  But the two of them together, whether singer counterpoint or their gorgeous wordless harmonies are really amazing.

“Baby Girl,” the second song here, starts with notes reminiscent of Crystal Waters’ “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless),” and is preceded with Chloe sharing “I know this year 2020 has been absolutely bonkers for all of us. For those moments where you kinda feel less than and you’re not good enough … that’s why we wrote this song. … Whatever happens, we’ll be OK. And this is our world.”

The song is softer with keyboard splashes from Elise Solberg and soaring strings from Stephanie Yu (violin), Chelsea Stevens (cello) and Marta Honer (viola).

Halle sings the first verse with Chloe adding punctuation on this cool refrain

step up to the patio
listen to the radio
try to play it on my Casio

more great punctuation from the horns nicely flesh out this song.  The song ends with a short drum breakdown from Brandi Singleton with some ripping bass work as it segues into “Do It.”  “Do It” is a great moment to see the sisters play of of each other.  It’s fun watching them smile at each other as they bounce and bop and back and forth with the “do it”s and the “woo”s.

“Ungodly Hour” is upbeat but “Wonder What She Thinks of Me” is a very different song.  Chloe says it’s a song telling the perspective of the other woman and what does that feel like?  What would we do in that situation.  Chloe sings the first verses accompanied by gorgeous strings.  It’s a beautiful torch song and their voices are simply fantastic.  Their harmonies in the third chorus are, frankly, jaw dropping.

I don’t tend to like R&B albums, (and it’s possible the album doesn’t sound like this), but this set was really impressive.

[READ: January 3, 2021] “Preparing to Spin the Wheel of Fortune”

I like when an author I enjoy has a Personal History in the New Yorker.

This one was especially fun because David Gilbert relates his experience appearing on Wheel of Fortune.

The studio is cold.  There are contestant handlers who are mystically upbeat.  They tell them to clap without clapping (so they dont mess up the sound recording).

He rather enjoyed the make up because she makes him look very good (he’s very critical of himself).  Before talking about the whole process though, he gives some background on the show. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLACK PUMAS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #122 (December 7, 2020).

After hearing a couple of Black Pumas songs on WXPN, I had to get the album.  They played such an interesting and catchy style of “gritty, retro soul.”

I was pretty happy for them when the were nominated for a bunch of Grammies.  Then S. and I were laughing because so many people we knew (who follow pop music) had never heard of them.  So I guess they are quite the niche band.  But I’m glad to have heard them.  And I’m glad they get the Tiny Desk Home Concert.

The Austin-based rock band Black Pumas is having a good 2020. The group, led by singer Eric Burton and guitarist Adrian Quesada, was just nominated for three Grammys, including album of the year for Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition), and both record of the year and best American roots performance for the track “Colors.” The band’s turn behind a tiny desk (and chair) shows why its debut album — now more than a year old — is receiving so much recognition right now.

The band is socially distanced in a studio with singer Eric Burton in a bad ass leather jacket up front.

Behind him are terrific backing singers Lauren Cervantes and Angela Miller.

Then, masked in the back row are guitarist Adrian Quesada, drummer Steve Bidwell bassist, Brendan Bond and keyboardist JaRon Marshall.

They play four songs and

the intensity level builds gradually throughout this four-song set. It’s clear why the band’s live shows have won over fans. From the opening strains of “Red Rover,” Burton digs deep and by the time we get to the ballad “OCT 33,” he’s burning with old-school soul heartbreak.

“Red Rover” is on the second disc of the deluxe edition, so I wasn’t as familiar with it.  But it’s got a nifty wah wah and echoed guitar solo from Quesada.

Up next is “Fire.”  Burton grabs a guitar as a keyboard melody opens the song.  Quesada plays a cool surf riff and then Burton takes over the vocals.  His voice is outstanding and this song is crazy cathy (the backing vocals are just icing on the cake).  When Burton sings a note mid song and kicks it even higher, his hat falls off–that’s the kind of intensity they bring.

Burton opens “OCT 33” with a soft, echoing guitar melody.  It’s simple but instantly grabbing.  He starts to sing as bass is added.  The song slowly builds over the length of it to a wonderful moment mid song where Burton sings and Quesada plays a ripping fuzzy guitar solo.

They end with the wonderful “Colors.”  An echoing, instantly memorable guitar lick opens the song.  Burton’s voice sounds fantastic as he sings.  I love the “doo doo doo doo” part in the middle and JaRon’s extended old soul-sounding organ solo is a fantastic treat.

The Pumas are probably my favorite new band of 2020.

[READ: January 3, 2021] “Rwanda”

I’ve really had a hard time getting into Wideman’s stories in the past.  I don’t like his writing style and I often feel like I know what’s going on until he starts to get really elliptical and he loses me.  I feel like this is a failing on my part, but who knows.

This story is told in four parts.

Part I

The narrator asks his niece (and us) a thought experiment.  If you were in charge of running the world and you learned that life on earth was going to end shortly (6 months at most) would you tell the public?

Wideman ties the story to what’s happening in the world.

What if this deadly plague meant that all life would soon end.  Would they tell us?  How would people react?  Would people freak out and go crazy–everyone for himself, or would some carry on as normal? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PJ MORTON-Tiny Desk Concert #120 (December 2, 2020).

PJ Morton did a Tiny Desk Concert back in 2018 and he won me over musically (although I didn’t love his voice).

If we invite artists to return to the Tiny Desk, we ask that they do something completely different from their first show. For PJ Morton, the obvious shift would’ve been to come solo. After all, he defied the laws of space back in 2018 and managed to squeeze 14 bodies behind the Desk. This time around he’s just as generous with the spotlight, but puts a new focus on gospel.

Gathered in a big airy space in his hometown of New Orleans, PJ and his band performed three selections from the now Grammy-nominated The Gospel According To PJ, his very first gospel album. He grew up playing gospel music, but chose secular music as his professional path. The album brings him back full circle, a journey mapped out in conversations on the album with his father, Bishop Paul S. Morton.

I like the sound of gospel, although lyrically I’m not that interested in it.  I’m also not that keen on his guest vocalists.

PJ only sings lead on one song but is clearly the maestro for this Tiny Desk (home) concert.

I like that the guests appear on TV screens in the middle of the room.

They open with the reggae-infused “So In Love,” featuring Darrel Walls and Zacardi Cortez.

This song opens with the standard reggae drum fill from Ed Clark before the reggae guitar of Shemaiah Turner and bass of Brian Cockerham join the trumpets from John Perkins and Stephen Lands and saxophones of Tajh Derosier and Brad Walker.

Darrel Walls sings first; Zacardi Cortez has an interesting raspy style of singing.  But I am far more interested in the backing singers who sound fantastic: Tiondria Norris, Jarell Bankston and Ashton Fortner Francis.

The song slows way down to just some lovely horns and piano as the song segues into the very religious song “All In His Plan.”  Morton sings this one and again, I love the backing singers.

The set closes with “Repay You,” featuring J Moss.

I’ve also never heard of him.  He’s got a Stevie Wonder kind of delivery.   I really don’t like the grace notes that he uses, but when he tells PJ to “let him be intimate” and he sings quietly it sounds really nice.  Morton’s piano is also really good.

[READ: December 30, 2020] “Acting Class” 

In 2019, the New Yorker experienced a cartoon takeover issue.  The same has happened to end 2020.  There are many many cartoons in it, including this excerpt from a Drawn & Quarterly.

I don’t know Nick Drasno’s work.  At first I thought it looked a lot like Chris Ware (lots of detail).  But Drasno’s people look very different from Ware’s.  Drasno’s people are realistic but with very limited line work–he conveys a lot with just a few lines.

This story opens in a car–there’s a neat moment in an early panel where he has light fall on one of the characters to show movement–a simple but elegant touch.  They are driving from the city to the middle of nowhere to go to an acting seminar. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MICKEY GUYTON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #108 (November 9, 2020).

Mickey Guyton is a country singer, which is probably why I have never heard of her.  And yet, when Guyton sang her first song, I never would have guessed she was a country singer.

Her first song “Black Like Me” is beautiful.

In June, after the killing of George Floyd, Guyton released “Black Like Me,” which tells her own story in a way that gently but resolutely calls for change.

Her desk holds the book that inspired it.  Her voice is powerful and there’s not a twang in sight.  The lyrics are sensational, with the excellent chorus:

if you think we live in the land of the free
you should try to be black like me.

The only problem I have with the song is that although the piano accompaniment from Lynette Williams is lovely, I feel that the song deserves a much bigger arrangement.

I love the arrangement of the next song “Salt.”  Soulful keyboards, the Afro-Caribbean instruments of percussionist Paul Allen, Jon Sosin’s acoustic guitar.  She sounds a lot more country music in her delivery (there’s an actual delivery style that you can hear as she sings, even without the twang).  I liked this song, and I think it’s clever, but after the resonance of the other two songs, this one–a warning to men about women–seems beneath her.  Although the lyrics are pretty clever.

In February, as protests against sexism intensified in the country world, she debuted “What Are You Gonna Tell Her” and it caused an instant sensation.

She sang the he song at the ACM awards and was the first African-American woman to sing an original song at the awards–in 2020!

It’s back to just piano again–maybe the more important songs are more spare?  For some reason, the music of this song makes me think it could fit into Hamilton.  And the lyrics, once again, are terrific.

She thinks life is fair and
God hears every prayer
And everyone gets their ever after
She thinks love is love and if
You work hard, that’s enough
Skin’s just skin and it doesn’t matter
And that her friend’s older brother’s gonna keep his hands to himself
And that somebody’s gon’ believe her when she tells
But what are you gonna tell her
When she’s wrong?

Wow.

[READ: December 7, 2020] “Cut”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America.

This year’s slipcase is a thing of beauty, too, with electric-yellow lining and spot-glossed lettering. It also comes wrapped in two rubber bands to keep those booklets snug in their beds.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

It’s December 7. Catherine Lacey, author of Pew, presses every button in the elevator on her way out.  [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

I read this story back in April, when it was printed in the New Yorker.  It’s the only story in this collection that I’ve read before so far.  It was bizarre and I loved it.  I’m going to post a briefer version of my original post which you can read here.

This story started out is such an amusing way:

There’s no good way to say it–Peggy woke up most mornings oddly sore, sore in the general region of her asshole.

But it’s not an amusing scene at all.  It burns when she uses the toilet and she finds blood in her pajamas.

She could see a cut but only when using a hand mirror while she was crouched at the right angle.  But even so, her groin “was that of a middle-aged woman and not as strictly delineated as it once had been.”  Nevertheless, whenever she looked for it she always “paused to appreciate the inert drapery of her labia.”

The cut was there, but it seemed to migrate.   She tried to look it up online, but only found porn.  Adding Web MD brought back porn in doctor’s offices.  And adding Mayo Clinic introduced her to people with a fetish for mayonnaise. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: POLO G.-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #106 (November 4, 2020).

I love that they play this Tiny Desk at a (socially distanced) basketball court.  The band are all wearing Lakers jerseys.

I love the live band in this set.  They are amazing and totally make the Concert worth hearing.

Polo G’s eyes are hidden behind his hair for the majority of his performance, but as he sings “I’m so sick of farewells and RIPs” on his latest single, “Epidemic,” it becomes clear that this 21-year-old Chicago emcee is going through a lot. I found it refreshing to hear a rapper normally backed by beats bare his “heart and soul” with a live band.

I had never heard of Polo G.

The man born Taurus Bartlett has achieved quite a bit for a relative newcomer in hip-hop. This summer he was selected for XXL’s popular Freshman Class cover. His second LP, The Goat, debuted at No. 2 on Billboard‘s Hot 200 and spawned two platinum-certified singles, including the braggadocious “Flex” that kicks off his Tiny Desk.

“Flex” is impressive for the virtually nonstop rapping that he does.  His delivery is fast and he never seems to come up for air.  There’s some soft echoing guitar throughout, although it never really changes.  But there’s a wild drum fill right at the end of the song.

Speaking of “heart and soul,” it amused me to hear him say he really put his heart and soul into this song, as if he doesn’t for the other ones.  And really, can’t you feel the heart and soul in lines like

Once you give my pussy up, it’s over with
Miss who you used to be, ’cause that’s who I was closer with
I’m in my bag, now I act like I don’t know the bitch

Before the final song he says that he was fortunate enough to play it with Bruce Hornsby.  “Wishing For A Hero” has the piano melody from “The Way It Is.”  He raps over it very quickly.  After his verse and chorus the backing singers (Shaunise Harris, Candice Boyd, Nava Morris) croon “the way it is” for a few more bars and then Polo G. walks off.

And that’s when the Concert really takes off!

The band jams for a bit, with a brief, thrashing drum solo from Vasjon Hill, followed by a little bass solo from Austin Cain and and some guitar shredding from Chris McCorkle.  When keyboardist Lamar Edwards gets his solo, it’s mixed a little too quietly  But they really jam out an have a good time.  I wish it was longer.  It’s almost a shame that polo G. is out there at all.

[READ: November 28, 2020] “Gigantic” 

This was one of those stories that seemed to try to turn me off right away.

It starts at a zoo.  But not a real zoo, more of a zoo behind the zoo, where the cast off animals go.  My understanding now is that zoos take good care of their animals (at least that’s what it seems).  Perhaps twenty years ago, near Camden Yards, things were different.

So the first page of the story is really gruesome and hard to read.  The narrator is named Fiddy, and he’s pretty awful.  But he’s not as bad as the guy who runs the zoo (Uncle Don) or the guy who works with Fiddy (Don’s nephew Dewey).  Dewey is the worst.  When Uncle Don has a complaint about something, Dewey blames Fiddy and Fiddy is fired. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SAD13-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #105 (October 30, 2020).

After yesterday’s Concert, this was an excellent palate cleanser.  Sad13 is basically Saude Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz.  Sadie is a fun and great frontwoman in Speedy, whose songs tend to rock.  For Sad13 she plays more synth and the songs are a bit quieter.

It was also fun to see bassist Audrey Zee Whitesides whom I have seen in many bands over the years playing on a Tiny Desk (and wearing rather convincing vampire fangs).

“We weren’t sure what to wear and the only thing we could agree on was devil costumes.” In a pink wig, blue horns and a purple cheerleading outfit, Sadie Dupuis brings a brightly ghoulish spirit to her Tiny Desk (home) concert, just in time for Halloween.

Drummer Zoë Brecher is also in costume–wearing a black cape and horns.

Sadie says “we are a coven of musical demons” and she hoped this would air around Halloween, but if not, haunted cosplay is “good for the whole month of October.  For 12 months a year.”  Plus it ties in with the new album.

Haunted Painting, her terrific new album as Sad13, is, in part, about metaphorical and literal ghosts: their weight and place in your life, but blasted with the sonic glee of a neon rainbow. While Dupuis’ guitar unmistakably squiggles with a vocal vibrato to match, Sad13’s pop sensibility differentiates from her other band, Speedy Ortiz; these sweet-and-sour songs explode with creative arrangements and nerdy production techniques.

I haven’t heard the record but I guess it sounds different from this Concert

Recording separately from their homes in Philly, New York and Stamford, Conn., Sad13 (featuring drummer Zoë Brecher and bassist Audrey Zee Whitesides) doesn’t so much slim down the wild details but finds different textures in these songs.

They open with “Oops…!” which has simple echoing guitar riffs and some fancy bass work from Audrey.  I love Audrey’s backing vocals when they sing opposite Sadie.  Sadie also throws in some waverly synth parts.

Between songs she says “they don’t make pink desks for adults so this is where I make music that I have to crouch over for and is giving me premature back pain.”

“Hysterical,” is up next.  Sadie moves to the organ for some cool synth lines.  Zoë sings backing vocals along with Audrey’s pumping bass line.  There’s terrific backing vox during the chorus, in particular.  The song

leans into a fuzzy space-age boogie, as Dupuis hooks up her Farfisa organ to an array of effects pedals, sounding like one of Joe Meek’s idiosyncratic productions from the 1960s.

“WTD?” (What’s The Drama?”) has a fun off kilter guitar riff and more killer playing from the band.

Sad13’s set ends with “Take Care,” a song that beautifully blossoms from grief. “It’s about caring for and missing people to an extent that’s detrimental to your own well-being,” she shares as cellist Sasha Ono and violinist Camellia Hartman take their virtual places. “I think, as we’re all secluded and cloistered away from the people we care about, this one’s been resonating harder with me than it did when I recorded it.”

It’s a lovely ballad with Sadie on acoustic guitar and delicate pizzicato from Camellia.  It’s a beautiful song and a great selling point for getting the album. They song fades out at the end but it feels like it could go much longer.

[READ: November 18, 2020] “A Bit on the Side”

This was the slow detailed story of a couple breaking up.

They met at their usual cafe and she sensed something was wrong.

He spoke positively of how nice she looked. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TY DOLLA $IGN: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #104 (October 28, 2020).

I didn’t know much about Ty until his previous Tiny Desk Concert, which I kind of liked.

When I saw this one, I still thought he was a rapper.  But he is a full on crooner in this concert.

I was fascinated to see that he was manipulating all of his effects himself–autotune and whatnot-on the box in front of him, which he kept walking around with.  But perhaps the most fascinating thing about this was that Skrillex was there playing with him (they are mates, I gather) and that Skrillex was playing the guitar for the first track.

This is one of those “six songs in 15 minutes” sets.  Each song is more or less a verse and a chorus.  And in between there’s a kind of fun jam.

“Temptations” features Skrillex on guitar.  It’s pretty short and soon enough Skrillex puts down the guitar and they are playing that interim music and starting “Something New.”  This song features a groovy bass line from Joe Cleveland.  I don’t quite know what the lyrics are but they are remarkably vulgar.

“Or Nah” opens with a cool spiky guitar riff from Brandon Chapman who Ty calls “my twin, Baby Dolla $ign).    Up next is “Paranoid” which is without question the worst song I have ever heard.

The lyrics are bad enough

I seen two of my bitches in the club / I know they know about each other / I think these bitches trying to set me up.

What the hell?  And worse than the lyrics is that he does that awful love song crooning, but it’s about he’s crooning about his bitches setting him up.  Oh god, its dreadful.  Although I was amused at the amusign way he introduces his keyboardist.  I gather he changes the lyric to “your bitch smells like Camper” [point to keyboardist].

After the excerpt the band jams out and it’s really good.  The band is tight and really rocks.  There’s some great drumming from Mike Moore and some more wild soloing from Chapman.  This was my favorite part of the set.

Although the sinister bass riff that opens “Ego Death” is pretty cool.  Again the jamming in the middle of the song is great (and the samples that Ty triggers are really fun).

The set ends with “Your Turn.”  Ty picks up the guitar but mostly plays occasional chords.  The song is all guitar and vocals to start with.  Then backing singer Ant Clemons sings a call and response.  By the end of the song he is singing “yee yee yee yee” for some reason.  I was really happy when this set was over.

[READ: November 25, 2020] “A House on the Plains”

I tend to think of E.L. Doctorow as writing kind of formal books.  That’s not based on anything except that he’s been writing for a long time and that some of his books have been turned into movies (and musicals).

So I was surprised at the tone of this story.   And then even more surprised as the plot started to reveal itself.  The story was wonderfully written.  There’s the story that’s not being revealed as well as the part that is.  And both are really engaging.

The story begins in Chicago.  The narrator says that his mama tells him that he has to start calling her Aunt Dora.  Why?  Because when they move, she can’t have other people believing she has a child his age.

The boy, Earle, (who is at least a teenager because he is having sex with a local girl, Winifred) is not happy about leaving Chicago.  Both because of the girl and because Chicago is a cool city and they are planning to move to the middle of nowhere. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BEBEL GILBERTO-Tiny Desk Concert #96 (October 15, 2020).

Typically, I don’t know the international performers that Tiny Desk brings out.  Of course I’ve heard of Bebel Gilberto, although I don’t know all that much about her music.

Bebel Gilberto is, of course, the daughter of one of the creators of bossa nova, João Gilberto.

And while her music is lovely, as the blurb says, I’m more blown away by her view!

When we invited Brazilian vocalist Bebel Gilberto to do a Tiny Desk (home) concert, we had no idea her home would have a spectacular view of speed boats gliding across the lagoon in the heart of the picturesque Leblon neighborhood overlooking the iconic Dois Irmãos mountain in Rio de Janeiro.

Her first song, “Cliché,” is mellow and smooth.  There a ton of music going on behind her, but she only has one other player with her, Chico Brown.  Is it all samples?  What’s going on there?

During this concert, she is accompanied by Chico Brown, the son of famed musician Carlinhos Brown and grandson of the legendary Chico Buarque.

Between songs she sits with Ella her tiny dog and talks about her new album–her first in six years.

“Na Cara” opens with a very cool deep bass line.  Brown plays the keytar and sings backing vocals.

You can feel the presence of all of that Brazilian musical royalty in one of Bebel Gilberto’s most popular songs, the closing “Aganjú.”

“Aganjú” was written by Chico’s father and is her most popular song.  Chico plays the acoustic guitar.  The song has a slow beginning but a much bigger sexier chorus.

[READ: November 23, 2020] “Ghoul”

This George Saunders story reminded me a lot of another George Saunders story, “Pastoralia.”

In that story a man and a woman work as “cavemen” in a living diorama.  They are watched all the time and must alway be “acting” when there are visitors.

In this story, everyone seems to be working in a living diorama.  In fact, their entire world seems to be a theme park or museum and everyone must perform for the visitors.

This story takes the premise of the first story further in almost every way–their entire world s underground with only one way in.  Everything has been turned into this amusement area.  They eat at Vat of Lunch, and every area of their universe has a clever name like Beneath Our Mother the Sea and Wild Day Out West.  The people in each of these scenes act as their are name implies.

The main character, Brian, is a Squatting Ghoul.  He and his fellow Squatting Ghouls are with Feeding Ghouls and Li’l Demons.  It’s not clear exactly what Brian does, but it doesn’t sound pleasant. (more…)

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