Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘New Yorker’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ANI DIFRANCO-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #208 (May 10, 2021).

I was a huge fan of Ani DiFranco when she came out.  I loved her indie style and her cool percussive acoustic guitar playing.  I stopped listening to her when she turned more jazzy/soulful.  Given her vast output, I’ve probably missed about fifteen albums.  Actually, when I looked her up, I see that she has slowed down on her studio output (so it’s only about 9 albums that i haven’t heard).

I thought that perhaps I would enjoy her newer stuff is it was played acoustically lie this.  And I realized I really liked this first song, which I assumed was new.  But, in fact it’s from an album I have.

Ani opened her set with “Everest” from the 1999 album, Up Up Up Up Up Up, a song that for me is about viewing life through different lenses and finding beauty.

I probably haven’t listened to this album in a decade, but this reminded me of why I liked her so much back then.  The melody and her guitar picking style is so expressive and her lyrics, as always are thoughtful.  I love the sound she gets from her guitar too, so rich, with a great low end.

I was actually a little surprised that she played these older songs, because her new album is getting some airplay (around here at least).  But “Not a Pretty Girl” is such an iconic feminist song that it’s always great to hear.

Next, she sings the title track to her 1995 album, Not a Pretty Girl, which shakes the shackles of stereotypes.

She switches to a hollow-bodied electric guitar for this song (with some interesting tuning, I’m guessing).  Again, terrific sound.  What’s interesting is that when she first sang this song, she sang with bite in her voice.  Now, all these years later, the song still resonates, but her delivery is now from a different perspective–she’s seen it all, for far too long and she knows that we all know it.

Ani DiFranco has always done things her way, and for this Tiny Desk (home) concert, she’s a one-woman team, filming and recording herself in the front hall of her New Orleans home and studio, Big Blue. The not-so-tiny desk you see in the hallway was her great grandfather’s. Other personal items seen as we scan her home include a purple painting of a tree by her cousin Jim Mott and a portrait of a woman and ghostly girl by a painter named Renata. At the time of this recording, Ani was planning to move after more than 10 years at Big Blue, so this concert is likely one of the last performances to take place in that space.

She does play a new song, though.

 Her final song for this (home) concert is from her 22nd album and her latest release, Revolutionary Love. The song brings compassion to troubled times by dismissing hatred — or in her words, “To forgive but not forget.” It’s a message that shows the beauty and power of this artist, and her heart.

“Revolutionary Love” brings in guitar number 3, an acoustic guitar with a different sound than the first one.   The song has a great melody and sounds very different from the recorded version.  I much prefer this acoustic version than the produced version that has horns and keys.  I really love the way she plays–using her thumb and fingers in a very distinctive playing style.  Her voice sounds fantastic throughout–with clarity and power

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Commando”

The June 11 issue of the new Yorker had several essays under the heading “Summer Movies.”   Each one is a short piece in which the author (many of whom I probably didn’t know in 2007 but do know now) reflects on, well, summer movies.

Interestingly, this essay is not actually about the movie Commando, but about movies like it.  It’s about when he and his friends would imitate the movies and play “commando” in the woods–they were no doubt validated when Commando was released.

They had the perfect location.

Because, yes the woods behind our house do look like a Central American jungle.  And of course it was the perfect place to reenact scenes from First Blood or Raiders of the Lost Ark–of hunting and being hunted.

Within hours of leaving the theatre, we would put on our fatigues (we called them camos) throw our weapons and accessories in our backpacks, get on our bikes, and ride down to the ravines by the beach.

[I can recall doing just what he says (although not in such a dangerous way)–replicating what we saw in the movies]. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: MOSES BOYD-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #207 (May 7, 2021).

Moses Boyd is a jazz (primarily) drummer from England.

The Church Studios in North London is an institution, home to some of the most iconic records of the last three decades…. From the hallowed Neve Room, Moses Boyd and his band remind us that the U.K. jazz scene still bangs. They also remind us that COVID-19 regulations are much stricter across the pond: physical distancing is the name of the game in this at home concert.

The set begins with “Stranger Than Fiction,” a bouncy grime tune that features saxophonist Quinn Oulton, whose pedals lend his horn a dark and haunting quality.

The song starts with Moses playing some fabulous rhythms.  Renato Paris plays a choppy but funky bass line that melds into a groove while there’s some lead sax soloing from Quinn Oulton.  Later in the song both Paris and Oulton play the same melody giving it a really big sound.  The guitar goes almost unnoticed until nearly four minutes in when Artie Zaitz gets a cool solo.

Boyd humbly introduces the band and slips right into “2 Far Gone,” and we get a chance to sink our teeth into his virtuosic drumming. Dynamic, at times explosive, and always tasteful, he lays down a bed of rhythm that gives keyboardist Renato Paris and guitarist Artie Zaitz plenty of room to shine. T

It’s fun to watch Moses play from over his shoulder from where you can see all of the interesting things he’s doing including rim shits, paradiddles and even a drum stick flip that appears more functional than fancy.  It’s a pretty lengthy intro before the keys and sax come in, sounding echoing and far away.  Paris’s solo has a total space synth vibe—it’s great and feels very proggy to me.

“BTB” is a funky Afrobeat tune with an infectious melody that serves as the perfect closer.

Zaitz plays a looping guitar melody while the bass note pulses.  Then the sax comes in and takes over the main melody while Zaitz plays filigrees between.  And of course, all the while, Boyd’s drumming is fantastic.  Although, focusing on him while Zaitz is playing some cool solos is a bit uncool.  But I love the wall of sound the band generates by the end.

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Immortality”

The June 11 issue of the new Yorker had several essays under the heading “Summer Movies.”   Each one is a short piece in which the author (many of whom I probably didn’t know in 2007 but do know now) reflects on, well, summer movies.

Gary Shteyngart became a man in 1985 (according to Jewish tradition) while he was summering in the Catskills.

During the work week the cabins were inhabited by grandmas and their charges.  An unhappy local middle aged woman would shout “Bread! Cakes!” and the week old raspberry Danish on sale for a quarter tasted as good as anything he had ever known.

His grandmother has always been tough

women who had come of age under Stalin, whose entire lives in the USSR had been devoted to crisis management, to making sure the arbitrary world around them would treat their children better than it had treated them.

His father was at the apex of middle age and loved to fish.  Each year he caught hundreds if not thousands of fish out of streams, lakes and oceans with a three dollar bamboo fishing rod and a chilling competence. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: SON LUX-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #200 (April 28, 2021).

Robin Hilton is a huge fan of Son Lux and it was his gushing that got me to check them out.

The band is absolutely incredible.  Ryan Lott started the band as a solo project.  He is the composer and singer (with an otherworldly voice and sensibility).  Guitarist Rafiq Bhatia, plays pretty melodies and then turns the same guitar into an instrument of noise.  Sometimes at the same time.

And then there’s drummer Ian Chang.  He is utterly mesmerizing to watch.  It’s not that he does things that other drummers don’t do–he just has his own sense of where beats should go.  And I love watching how he puts them there.  Ian Chang was supposed to open for Half Waif in 2019 and I wanted to go to the show mostly to see what Chang would be like as the main performer.

I had tickets to a Son Lux show and was really excited to go and then something came up and I was out of town.

But I can simply enjoy this concert.  And Robin’s excitement about it.

Watch this stunning “home” Tiny Desk performance from Son Lux and you might conclude the band members live together in an all-white universe without walls or boundaries. But it’s all an illusion. In fact, guitarist Rafiq Bhatia, drummer Ian Chang and singer-keyboardist Ryan Lott, who started Son Lux as a solo project back in 2008, each shot their own, separate video with their iPhones, at different times, at their homes scattered across different states. So did the guest vocalists, Nina Moffitt and Kiah Victoria. Editor Evan Chapman then stitched all the videos together.  The effect is dizzying and sometimes disorienting.

 Together – and alone – they’ve perfectly captured the upside-down world we’ve been living in this past year, where the lines between what’s real and imagined are blurred, all sense of place fades into the ether and the normally predictable rhythms of life come undone.

“Prophecy” opens with a bass line (which is actually Bhatia playing  seemingly simple guitar line.  Lott starts singing and then throws in some synths.   Once Chang hits a snare drums the voices seems to descend like they are falling to earth.  And from there, the melody continues with little guitar notions and gorgeous (and surreal) backing vocals from.  An unfussy but complicated drum fill transitions t the second half of the song.

superimposed images flicker and warble over one another against Bhatia’s skittering guitar lines. Everything is bent and a little off – intentionally, not because of the production challenges – and nothing sounds quite like you expect it to.

Near the end of the song we see Bhatia’s guitars one on top of the of the from the same angle–playing different things.

“Only” opens with an operatic voice and Lott’s keyboard as images flicker in an out.  Chang’s drums seem to roll as he uses brushes (rolling the stick on the rim of the drum) and plays short sharp fills–following perfectly Bhatia’s guitar.  And with the bass drum hits Chang flashes on screen in time.

Watch Bhatia’s all-too-short solo on “Only”

It’s simple and almost all static but it adds so much to this unsettled song.  As it does a the end of the song when the guitar seems to try to take over with the noises he’s making.  It’s easy to lose the beautiful keyboard melody that Lott is playing underneath as he sings in a clear, deeper voice: “I need a different kind of love.”

[Watch] Lott as he walks his fingers over the keys near the beginning of “Vacancy.”

The sounds are otherworldly and don’t seem like they are made by human hands.  So when Chang’s drums kick in (is he hitting the microphone or his lap?) it’s a shock of reality.

The players fade out visually so that Kiah Victoria can come in and sing lead for a verse–her voice is perfect.

The end part of the song features Bhatia paying the main melody on the guitar while the rest of the music seems to float in and  out.

The setlist for this performance includes a song from each of the band’s last three albums, a trilogy released over the past eight months, called Tomorrows III and III.

There’s really nothing quite like a Son Lux song.

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Old Enough”

The June 11 issue of the New Yorker had several essays under the heading “Summer Movies.”   Each one is a short piece in which the author (many of whom I probably didn’t know in 2007 but do know now) reflects on, well, summer movies.

Like Miranda July’s essay, this one is about the author’s first film.  Although for Marisa Silver it’s a feature film.

She had broken up with her significant other and the day before she started shooting, she went to get her essentials.  She promised herself that she would not get into it with the guy–she would be cordial and quick.   But instead, she found her stuff in the garbage out front:

everything I owned overflowing the twin garbage cans that fronted my old building

(this including school report cards she had felt the need to bring with her). (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: NEGATIVLAND-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #206 (May 6, 2021).

I’ve been a fan of Negativland since 1987 when I discovered Escape From Noise.  I even saw them live back in 2000–a very unusual concert, indeed.  I should have known that Bob Boilen knew of Negativland–he knows everything–but it’s always a surprise when someone has heard of them.

It may at first seem that Negativland’s sound collage is an unlikely candidate for a Tiny Desk concert, but honestly, how many bands can you think of making music since the late 1970s while sitting pretty much at their desks? Formed in the Bay Area, Negativland are proud subverters of culture, causing trouble while having fun.

Negativland are provocateurs, taking aim at the media and how technology alters our perception of the world. You can hear that on their 2020 album, The World Will Decide. This Tiny Desk (home) concert looks frightfully similar to the way many of us work these days — on video conference calls, reacting in real-time to our colleagues, dissecting our interactions … but also occasionally having fun.

Negativland create four tracks in 18 minutes–it’s samples and original music looped and repeated.

The found sounds of Negativland come from original members David Wills, Mark Hosler, and Jon Leidecker (from left to right on the bottom of the screen), with visuals by Kevin Slagle [digital images] and Sue Slagle [print images–you can see her hands] (top of the screen).

I don’t know if these songs come from an album or if they were made just for this Concert.  The first track “It’s Normal” opens with a sample saying “It’s normal for something to come to your attention/you’re watching live music online/the national anthem is being sung to a click track that you can’t hear.” And another saying “It’s Ok, ask me if it’s gong to be okay.”

Then a beat starts and all five start waving their finger to the beat.  Holser was wearing a pug mask.  When he takes it off he is wearing a Coronavirus mask, but he takes that off too–but all you can see is his gear.  Davd Willis (The Weatherman) has one of the more notable recorded voices in “music.”  I’m delighted to hear him speak, although he doesn’t just yet.  To start with he’s just playing with a mirror.

Then Jon asks what year is that Booper from?  Willis answers “2010 it never leaves Seattle.”  “It never leaves Seattle?” “Damn right.”

Samples continue, “we’re goin to verify every single experience.  Of course you can’t record everything that happens.”

The noise segues into “No Brain” with a sample “the simple fact is the world is trillions of times more complicated than we experience it.”  Samples of “meaningless data” and David playing with a remote that’s making buzzing sounds.  David: “my favorite remote control.”

The sample says “the world turns to meet your gaze” as it segues into “Reality Game.”   The sample: “we’re going to verify every single experience.”  And “You don’t have to pay people to participate.  Participation is its own reward.”

Throghout the clips there’s been all kinds of visuals floating around.  Scenes from movies and random patterns, as well as words that float around on pieces of paper.  Then comes a clip of whales floating in space.

Sample: “Patterns.  We think that they mean something.  Transparent bowling balls with monkeys inside them hooked up to the biometric monitors floating in outerspace.”

A new sample, “What does subaltern mean?”  (Willis laughs… “angry guinea pigs, hee hee”.  “You will have no idea who else is playing the game” (“I don’t give a damn”)  “Got it?” (Nope).

Then Jon asks David, are you in the mood for singing?  I might be.  Yea ,I’m getting a bit more excited.  I feel like I might want to sing.”  This is all intro to “I’m Going To Sing Now.”  of course his singing is just mumbling incoherent nonsense and making silly noises, including “I’m singing at the Tiny Desk.  I have no idea what that means but I’m doing it.”  I alwyas wondered if The Weatherman was crazy.  This des not help in my decision.

The song ends with the sample, “So this person can in fact sing.”

After some silence, David asks, “Is that it?” and then someone triggers the sample: “Shop as usual…. and avoid panic buying” (as heard on Escape from Noise).

O doubt this Concert gained them any new fans, but it’s always great to see them doing stuff.

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Atlanta”

The June 11 issue of the New Yorker had several essays under the heading “Summer Movies.”   Each one is a short piece in which the author (many of whom I probably didn’t know in 2007 but do know now) reflects on, well, summer movies.

The title of Miranda July’s essay is not about a feature film, but about a short film that she made.

When she moved into a new apartment, she found a copy of the Thunderball soundtrack wedged in a drawer.

Great, she decided, this would be the soundtrack to her movie (which she hadn’t made yet).

Her movie was inspired by the 1996 summer Olympics (it was 1996). The movie was an interview with a 12 year old Olympic swimmer and her overbearing mother.  Miranda played both roles.  She set some scenes at the YMCA–but no swimming scenes because she didn’t swim. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: CANDE Y PAULO-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #205 (May 5, 2021).

I chuckled to myself when I saw how skinny Cande Buasso was.  She plays the upright bass, one of the largest, shapeliest instruments.  And there’s Cande, rail thin, probably weighing half as much and  easily hidden behind this mammoth thing, but still playing deep effective notes.

Vocalist and upright bassist Cande Buasso and keyboardist Paulo Carrizo are from San Juan, Argentina, a very small town nestled by the Andes close to Chile. I like to imagine that the secluded location contributes to the magic and nuance of the very personal musical language the two have developed since forming the duo in 2017.

Things kick off with the magic turned up to 11 with Leonard Cohen’s “Treaty.”

The duo has a light jazzy feel, with Cande’s voice coming in delicately but passionately as she plays the gentle melody.  She’s yet another person who sings Leonard Cohen songs better than Cohen.  Paulo starts playing the piano while muting the strings with his left hand before opening up the piano fully.  Santiago Molina adds very tasteful drums.

The duo’s introduction to the world was a heartbreaking YouTube performance of “Barro Tal Vez” by the Argentine rocker and songwriter Luis Alberto Spinetta, and their performance of it here is no less haunting and captivating.

Paulo plays a kind of slinky organ sound as Cande sings in Spanish.   Midway through she starts bowing the bass while “ooohing,” which creates a haunting moment.  The beautiful theater in San Juan is way too bright for a torch song like this.

“Limite En Tu Amor,” a cover of Feist’s “Limit To Your Love,” is a preview of one of the tracks that will be included on their upcoming album of covers, produced by Grammy-winning producer Larry Klein.

This song is really fun to watch as Cande plays upright bass chords and then a slow, funky riff while Paulo plays some muted piano chords.  As the song starts properly, he switches to the organ while Cande plays a lead bass line.  Her voice sounds so sultry through this song.

And they seal the deal with “Tuyo,” a nod to one of the most unheralded singer-songwriters in Latin America, Rodrigo Amarante of Brazil. Tuyo translates to “yours” and it’s a fitting close to the briefest of introductions, but one strong enough to make Cande y Paulo one of our favorite discoveries of 2021.

This song feel the jazziest of the set.  You can practically smell the cigarettes as Cande sings and the bass rumbles while Paulo plays a lovely jazzy piano.  The wonderful difference between this and an old school jazz club is that Cande is not only singing she’s playing the bass too.

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Summer of ’42”

The June 11 issue of the New Yorker had several essays under the heading “Summer Movies.”   Each one is a short piece in which the author (many of whom I probably didn’t know in 2007 but do know now) reflects on, well, summer movies.

Of all the writers of these Summer Movie essays, Charles D’Ambrosio was the one I didn’t know.  But he made me laugh with his opening.

He says that he rarely went to the movies as a kid, but he did see the movie Summer of ’42 which looked back–way back–to the summer of 1942.  He says

I believe the movie is famous for a funny scene about buying condoms, but perhaps all summer movies feature some amusing scene with condoms I wouldn’t know.

He grew up in a family of seven where making plans took as much time as executing them and no plan pleased everybody.  It was exhausting enough to eat dinner together every night and to get to church on Sundays. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: NENNYTiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK: #202/196 (May 1, 2021).

Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK was the opening event of AFROPUNK’s “Black Spring” festival. The virtual celebration, hosted by Jorge “Gitoo” Wright, highlighted outstanding talent in Afro-Latin and Afro-Caribbean music across the globe. Our showcase featured four artists who honored their homes and celebrated the art their heritage has inspired.

With warm maroon box braids nearly sweeping the floor and glitter adorning her eyes, NENNY’s presence demands full attention before she even opens her mouth. Dressed in a flowy, all-white outfit accented with a pastel checker pattern and surrounded by a matching four-piece band, the 18-year-old Portuguese singer-songwriter and rapper appears otherworldly, almost heavenly, as she harmonizes with electric guitar and jumps across the room, dancing with her entire body. NENNY first appeared on heads’ radar in 2019 with her single “Sushi.” She’s continued to impress with several more singles and the release of her debut project, 2020’s Aura.

I love that her band is all dressed with the same fabric–pants on the guitarist, shirt on the bass player and sash on the drummer.  They play three songs.  I have no idea what she’s rapping about, but the flow in Portuguese is pretty great.

Jonatas gets some really great guitar sounds in the solo of “Bússola” and I love the deep bass that Peterson gets.

When she talks you can tell just how young she is.  She’s full of energy!

“Wave” opens with sampled acoustic guitar as Nenny sings this ballad.  I like that she switches from rapping to singing and her singing voice is really good.

Keyboardist Gui Salgueiro starts “Tequila” with an acoustic guitar sample and Ariel plays some cool percussive sounds while a spoken word (in English) interview plays.  When the song kicks in she’s rapping in Portuguese again and the electric guitar plays leads while the acoustic is still looping.

She really does seem to float around the room in this high energy Concert.

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Walkabout”

The June 11 issue of the new Yorker had several essays under the heading “Summer Movies.”   Each one is a short piece in which the author (many of whom I probably didn’t know in 2007 but do know now) reflects on, well, summer movies.

It’s interesting to me that Roger Agnell wrote about Quest for Fire, a small French Canadian production (with full nudity) and Jeffrey Eugenides writes about Walkabout a small Australian movie (with full nudity).

[This movie is permanently lodged in my own consciousness because I was living in Boston when it came out and it screened at the Brattle Theater for seemingly ever.  I often thought about seeing it, but never did].

Eugenides says that he saw it at his family’s yacht club (!).  His father and brother were sailing so he and his mother went to this movie that they knew nothing about.

He summarizes the little I know about it.  A father drives his children–a teenage daughter and young son–into the outback.  He then sets the car and himself on fire. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: ROD WAVE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #201 (April 29, 2021).

I was shocked when this show open and Rod Wave started singing because his voice was terrible!

He couldn’t hit the notes and he’s straining all over the place.  So I was rns out shocked to read

 It’s been said that Rod Wave could be an R&B or blues singer in another era. With this Tiny Desk concert, anchored by the interplay of flute, piano, bass and drums, he seems to suggest: Why not this one?

What?  The rest of the blurb gives some context, I think.

The first song Rod Wave performs in his Tiny Desk concert comes with a bit of a wink. The St. Petersburg, Fla., rapper interpolates Drake’s “Over My Dead Body,” the delicate intro to Take Care. Like Drake, Rod Wave makes sad, melodic rap music.

The rest of “OMDB” is rapped and his rapping is pretty solid, but man, when he sings, it’s so awkward.

He talks about his new album after the song and I honestly didn’t understand a word he said the first time.  How can a decent rapper be such a bad speaker?

I like the music on “his 2020 hit record ‘Rags2Riches.'”   Live flute always sounds great and it sounds especially good here when Tomoka Nomura-Jarvis plays against the slow bass from Franckelson Brunot.

I’m always surprised when I find out someone I have never even heard of is huge: “he’s quite clearly one of the biggest rappers in the country right now.”  So obviously I don’t know anything.

“Street Runner” starts with a sampled female voice–I assume that’s what the (“featuring Ruth B.”) refers to–and piano from Gil Smith.  Drummer Hosny Franck mixes organic and electronic drums to good effect on this ballad.  But I swear he is flat when he sings “higher and higher.”

The set ends with “Don’t Forget.”  Tomoka Nomura-Jarvis switches to saxophone (which I like a lot less than the flute).  Although the end of the song features an instrumental jam that I quite like.  Especially the drum flourishes from Franck.

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Ice Cream and Ashes”

The June 11 issue of the New Yorker had several essays under the heading “Summer Movies.”   Each one is a short piece in which the author (many of whom I probably didn’t know in 2007 but do know now) reflects on, well, summer movies.

Roger Agnell says that summer movies don’t have to be about summer [true] and don’t have to open in the summer [um…].

He argues that summer movie are movies that come up with friends on a long drive or hanging out or just before bed: “What was the name of the movie where the cow falls down a well and everybody’s looking for that famous old Irish tenor?”  Of course now we would just look it up, but in 2007 we had to … no wait, in 2007 we could look it up, too.

Some summer movies are counter-classics.  1940’s Remember the Night which isn’t Double Indemnity, or Tremors the Kevin Bacon vs underground-monster-worms movie that made sequels and has ended up on TV at all hours. He even mentions Trees Lounge, which opened and disappeared in a nanosecond [but which I really liked].  Steve Buscemi directed, wrote and starred.

But the bulk of the essay is about Quest for Fire, a movie that I have seen maybe way back in 1982.  I think of it (or the title at least) fairly often, but I don’t remember much about the movie.  His summary makes it sound pretty good. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACKSHELLEY [fka D.R.A.M.]-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #198 (April 26, 2021).

I’m always puzzled by the FKA in a singer’s name.  Is it part of the singer’s name? Is this singer’s official name Shelley FKA D.R.A.M.?  I don’t think so, I think it’s just for us to know who Shelley used to be.

When D.R.A.M. played the Tiny Desk back in 2017, he made a couple of things clear to us: His playfully dynamic personality was primed for the spotlight, and beneath the catchy hooks, there’s a real singer waiting to come out. For his Tiny Desk (home) concert, he does a complete 180. “It’s like a new beginning. Full circle. So this time, call me Shelley.” he says, following the opening track, “Exposure.” Everything is new. Silk pajamas and slippers replace the trench coat and plush beanie, and thanks to lifestyle changes, he’s slimmed down quite a bit and goes by his government name now: Shelley.

I enjoyed D.R.A.M and his vulgar silliness.  But Shelley is one of those singers who intends to hit every note every time he holds a long note.  He whines up and down the octaves constantly and I hate it.  I know that there are listeners who love this as the blurb admires

The shift from lighthearted melodic hip-hop to full-on R&B crooner shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen him perform live. It feels like it’s his way of saying, “Now that I have your attention, allow me to introduce myself.” We still get glimpses of the “Big Baby” here and there — the charm, a little bit of silliness, and the million-dollar grin — but other than that, it’s grown folks business and vocally flawless performance.

For the Shelley Show, he gathers a groovy band in front of a massive bookshelf and runs through selections, including the premiere of “Rich & Famous” from his upcoming self-titled project, due out on April 29, his late mother’s birthday. If D.R.A.M. was the ploy to break into the music industry, then Shelley is the longevity play.

“Exposure” and “The Lay Down” really accentuate his new vocal style.  But I liked the music of “Cooking With Grease.”  The simple drum beat from Keith “KJ” Glover and then the live viola from Yuli (a highlight throughout).  Sensei Bueno follows the melody on guitar and the song grows from there.

Of the four songs, I liked “Rich & Famous” best.  Trey Mitchell plays a grooving bass line, the backing singers Crystal Carr and David Fuller are ah ha-ing.  Sensei Bueno is wah wahing the  guitar and SlimWav is floating the keys around.  Shelley’s voice stayed low and less whiny.  Is he really going to try to make it with the name Shelley?

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “The Way We Are”

Reading this essay in 2021 was a really uncomfortable experience.  David Sedaris is not afraid of saying a risqué thing or three. But it’s amazing how much things seem to have changed in 13 years.

This essay begins in Normandy with David saying that the city shuts off the water without any warning.  Usually it’s a construction project or something.  It usually happens when David gets up around 10:30, which is practically the middle of the day for Hugh and the neighbors.

What they do at 6AM is anyone’s guess, I only know that they’re incredibly self righteous about it, and talk about the dawn as if it’s a personal reward bestowed on account of their great virtue.

The last time the water went off, David had a coffee problem. In order to think straight, he needed caffeine.  In order to make this happen he needed to think straight.  One time he made it with Perrier which sounds plausible but isn’t.  He tried leftover tea which might have worked if the tea weren’t green.  This time he decided to use the water in a vase of wildflowers that Hugh had picked. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: JENDRIK-“I Don’t Feel Hate” (Germany, Eurovision Entry 2021).

I couldn’t really leave Eurovision without mention the German entry which raised lots of eyebrows with its dancing foam middle  finer.

The melody is very catchy–reminds me a lot of Wham or a George Michael song except he’s playing it on the ukulele.  After a quick clapped beat, the bass kicks in.

The song is pretty over the top in terms of everything, but his heart is so on his sleeve that I 100% support his message of tolerance.

So you can wiggle with that middle finger, it’ll never wiggle back to you

And then came the big surprise.  He sings “I don’t feel”  and the song explodes with orchestral hits.  It turns into a big dance party and then ends as quickly as it started.

There’s a middle section that begins

I really don’t mind (ah, ah-ah) to be your rival (ah-ah, ah-ah)
‘Cause for your kind it’s essential for survival (say what? He did not just say that)
Yes, I did (yes, I did), and I feel sorry (so sorry)
I don’t feel hate, that’s the whole point of this song (that’s the song)

and then segues into a twenties-era melody with muted trumpets and very fast vocals:

I guess you need patronization as some kind of validation
You won’t cope with the frustration that your random me-fixation
Is another affirmation that you’re just a hateful person
Who’s not really better than me

Then comes a muted trumpet solo which toes in perfectly to the following, yes, tap dance break.

Jandrik really couldn’t have put anything more into this song.  It is so over the top, so very much too much, and I really like it. The foam middle finger is crazy cheesy though, which fits pretty well.

The actual video though is quite well produced–his extras are really excellent.

[READ: May 21, 2021] “How I Spent the War”

Do you want to know what went through the mind of a Nazi as World War II was ending?

Well, this essay by author Günter Grass–whom I have never read although I have often intended to–tells you.

When he was fifteen, living in Danzig, he volunteered for active duty.  This was not youthful folly.  He wanted to support his country and his Führer–he offers no excuses.

He had been serving in the Luftwaffe auxiliary–a group of boys too young to be conscripted.  It was compulsory but many viewed it as a respite from school routine.

They felt like they were guarding the front line–the last line of defense before Germany was destroyed.  They were allowed to go home every two weeks but Grass’ home wasn’t great.  He hated his father–probably because his father was a peace loving man.

So he would watch the newsreels and revel in videos of Germany’s subs returning victorious.

He volunteered to serve on a submarine, was rejected–they had too many volunteers and he was too young.  He was later called up for Labor Service like everyone his age–three months active duty—giving up the chic Luftwaffe uniform for Labor Service’s shit brown. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: ELENA TSAGRINOU-“El Diablo” (Cyprus, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 has come and gone and I am very amused at how angry people get about it.

After the results were announced, someone in a comments section was shocked that their song didn’t do well and couldn’t believe that the entry from CYPRUS made it.

So, obviously I had to see what Cyprus contributed.

This songs opens like a fairly classic Euro dance song to me.  Elena Tsagrinou has a powerful voice and the song starts with a big soaring chorus and a love song at that–although to the devil, which is a bit odd.

After the chorus, the verses sound more contemporary.  She sings in a kind of rap style and the music is more smooth throbbing bass with a familiar 2021 sound to it.

My favorite part is the quiet middle with the simple twinkly melody and heavy breathing.  And the puzzling choice of singing

mamma- mamma- cita tell me what to do.

The mamacita line is a bit odd, unless the whole song is meant to be sung by a Mexican person, I guess.  But whatever. It jumps nicely into the chorus from there.

This song came in 16th place.  So what could have upset that commenter so much?  Could it have been the subject matter?

I fell in love, I fell in love
I gave my heart to el diablo, el diablo
I gave it up, I gave it up
Because he tells me I’m his angel, I’m his angel

Or perhaps it was the children’s choir taunting “I love el diablo, I love el diablo.”

It’s pretty fascinating.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “April & Paris”

Surprisingly, given some of his later books (Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk), Sedaris actually seems to like animals (or he did back in 2008).  He talks about watching nature programs and getting far too invested in the animals.  He knows its wrong to anthropomorphize animals and yet he’s as guilty as anyone of it.

He watched a show called Growing Up Camel (was that real?) and when it was over–despite nothing terribly dramatic happening

The final shot was of the three camels standing in the sunshine and serenely ignoring one another.

David was a crying wreck on the couch.

The subject turns to inside their Normandy house which is full of all kinds of insects.  And spiders.  He heard a faint buzzing sound and went to the window and watch as a spider rushed forth and carried a trapped fly

screaming to a little woven encampment.  It was like watching someone you hate getting mugged.  Three seconds of hardcore violence and when it was over you just wanted it to happen again..

The spider was Tegenaria Duellica–a big spider the shape of an unshelled peanut.  This was an adult female (which can live for two years) and he called it Alice. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »