Archive for the ‘The New York Times Magazine’ Category

download (59)SOUNDTRACK: TOM ADAMS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #53 (July 21, 2020).

download (60)I had heard of Tom Adams from Bob Boilen, but I guess I hadn’t actually heard him before.  This performance is otherworldly. It reminds me in some ways of Sigur Rós, although only in the ethereal moments.

Tom’s 2017 album Silence features Tom singing and playing minimal piano.  But here

what we have is Tom Adams at his home in Cornwall, England, playing four brand-new songs with minimal electric guitar and an enthralling mix of tech-altered sounds.

For the basis of this performance Adams is playing a subdued and lovely electric guitar (finger-picked).   He sings some fairly simple folk melodies, but it’s when he starts “oohing” and crooning high notes that things transcend the familiar.  Because even though his singing voice is fairly deep, he has an amazing falsetto.   And it’ s that falsetto that he manipulates in fascinating way.

That box with all the wires in the foreground is a Eurorack modular synthesizer which, in real time, processes his majestic voice in ways unpredictable even to Tom. He wrote to tell me that, “Once the system is set in motion, you never know exactly what will happen next… I like to think of it as being a bit like the waves on the beach; to some extent, they are all predictable, yet each wave is still unique.”

“The Turning Of The Year” is a delightful folk ballad with delightful lyrics

What a day / What a day / to share with these good friends
We sing the songs we always sing until / we’ve sung them all
and through the evening our voices ring / in the rafters of the hall.

But when the Eurorack takes over, that simple trip with friends feels very different.

“A Flower Disappearing” is a slower song with a deeper guitar sound.  It’s easy to forget about his falsetto and the electronics until he throws them briefly in after the verses.

I wondered though if all of the songs would be manipulated–would his regular voice hav a chance to shine?  It does on “If My Love Was A Guitar.”  He sings some delightful ooohing without any electronics.  His songs and vocal style reminds of Nick Drake, and this song in particular fits that bill (except for the falsetto, of course).

If my love was a guitar / it wouldn’t matter where you are
you could just take me in your arms / and hear the music in my heart
…playing gently

And if I was a melody / then you could take me when you leave
and anytime you felt a need / you could just sing along with me
…in perfect harmony

His amusing reaction at being out of tune is a nice moment of levity in this otherwise mellow performance.  “Postcards From The Road” features an entire section in beautiful unaltered falsetto.

all the friends you still miss / you kept in touch but cast adrift / you walked away but now you’re looking back

all the stories left behind / but when you read the final lines / turn a page and start to write something new

because all the choices that you make / these are not regrets to take / with you they’re just postcards from the road.

I love the cool effects that the Eurorack provides, but it’s great to hear him sing without it as well–his voice is really great.

[READ: July 24, 2020] “The Ethicist”

This is a Shouts and Murmurs piece that is a series of questions.  Typically I think this style works better than trying o stretch out a joke to a full page.

So in this one, people are writing in to The Ethicist with their problems.  The Ethicist is a real column in The New York Times Magazine and people write in with serious ethical issues.  Some people really like reading this column.  It was started in 1999 by a humorist, Randy Cohen, who did take the ethical questions seriously.  he stepped down in 2011 and others have run the column in his stead.

So this piece was written after the column had been around for two years or so.

Martin is his delightfully absurd self with his questions: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LA SANTA CECILIA-Tiny Desk Concert #327 (December 16, 2013).

santaAs this disastrous presidency continues to dismantle all the goodness in our country, and as the liar who current resides in the White House continues to claim that those who disagree with him are enemies of the people (I mean COME ON), I wanted to share magazine covers that show that a majority of people (both inside and outside of our country) think that Trump is the real enemy.

Originally I planned to just run these covers with no comment.  Then I heard this band La Santa Cecilia and decided that they needed to be put with these images.

La Santa Cecilia are from Los Angeles, California.  “Some of us were born here some of us were brought here and we have a passion for traditional Latin American music; but we also love to rock n roll.  We love blues and jazz.  And we love to celebrate that diversity.  And we love to celebrate where we come from and where we are.”

And unlike the hatred that we are inundated with: “La Santa Cecilia spreads joy every time its members plug in to do a show. They do it one dance step at a time, with cumbias, corridos, elegant mambos and plain old rock ‘n’ roll.”

La Santa Cecilia plays a traditional Latin American sounding music, although there is definitely a twist–lots of rock leanings.   “Falling” is sung in English and it is beautiful and heartfelt.  It’s also got a great guitar solo (and a cool little bass solo).

Introducing the next song, she says: “We’re proud to be from immigrant parents, to have been able to come to this country and to travel the world and share what this music is all about and that it is from the United States.  And we just need immigration reform so we can all be able to travel.  This is for all of the people who are out working in the kitchens in the beautiful strawberry fields.”

The song, “El Hielo (ICE)” is sung in Spanish.  But in the middle she recites a passage in English that has become more relevant now.  “Ice like snowmen in the wintertime; like ice cream under the summertime sun.  Happiness.  ICE: immigrations customs enforcement… and we never know when it will get… us.”

The final song returns to the joy.  “Monedita” is happy song.  “It’s Friday, lets dance.”  It’s got a wonderfully upbeat melody from the button accordion.

This push to ban immigrants is short-sighted and ignorant.  We are all from immigrants and immigrants have so much to offer.  Even if it is music and happiness.





and more importantly

IMPEACH (and preferably IMPRISON) the racist hate mongerer.  #ITMFA

It is not normal for our country’s president to be so despised, especially by our allies.  It is not normal for our country to be humiliated by a man who spends more time on Twitter and then has the temerity to say ‘Nobody Knew Health Care Could Be So Complicated.’  Idiot.

So Democrats, Clinton earned 3 million more popular votes–do not cave to this White Power endorsing man who cares nothing for the citizens of this country.

And Republicans, stop putting your personal gains ahead of what is good and just.  Supporting neo-Nazis, bigots, polluters, dismantlers of the foundations of our country will certainly come back to bite you on the ass. (more…)

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karlove SOUNDTRACK: ESPERANZA SPALDING-Tiny Desk Concert #110 (February 12, 2011).

esperanzaI didn’t know who Esperanza Spalding was before this show.  But she defied my expectations by being a fairly tiny woman who sings while playing an upright bass (not a very common combination for anyone).

For the first song, “Little Fly,” she plays a kind of jazzy bass, but has a string accompaniment–violins, guitars etc.  But it’s clear that the bass is the star.   And while her playing is very good (she has some great vibrato), it’s her voice that is mesmerizing–she’s hunched over playing the bass and still manages to sound strong and powerful.  “Little Fly”‘s lyrics come from a poem by William Blake.

“Midnight Sun” is a solo performance–just her voice and bass.  I loved the beginning where she sang notes along with what she played.  Then when the lyrics come in she sings in a very jazz voice (with eyes closed the whole time).  Turns out this is a Lionel Hampton song that only appears on the Japanese release of her album which make explain her singing style.

Because on the final song she sounds very different.  “Apple Blossom” is her own composition.  It’s her singing with the string section playing along (there’s no bass).  The song is lovely, but I prefer it when she plays bass in the song, too.

I enjoyed this performance and how delightful Spalding was.

[READ: January 9, 2016] “My Saga: Part Two”

Speaking of not finishing multi part essays, I ended my post about Part One of this essay by saying I couldn’t wait for part two.  And then apparently I forgot all about it because here it is almost a year later before I read part two (which was published two weeks later).

In this second half of Karl Ove’s journey he spends most of his time realizing that he hasn’t really learned very much for his assignment.  I can’t imagine anyone else being able to write endlessly about how he has nothing to write about (and still make it strangely compelling–his stress produces good sentences).

He does make some interesting connections though. (more…)

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primeSOUNDTRACK: YOUNG FATHERS-Tiny Desk Concert #442 (May 19, 2015).

youngfatherYoung Fathers may have the shortest Tiny Desk Concert ever.  It’s only 4 minutes long.  I know that these are edited down from the full show, but wow.

Young Fathers evidently sing a kind of hip-hop, but in these two songs they don’t really rap very much and are more soulful.  The members met in Edinburgh but are from distant exotic locales like Ghana and, um, Maryland.

Something must have happened with their technology.  As the blurb says, “Full-on drums and electronics weren’t going to happen on this day.”  So they chose a simpler path.

They sing two songs virtually a capella.  I don’t know any of the members’ names, but there’s one singer for “Am I Not Your Boy” (the guy in the photo above).  He has a soulful voice (more or less R&B) and there’s a simple keyboard backdrop.

On “Only Child” there are three vocalists, each taking a turn with a verse.  It is surprising that the man who sounds Jamaican (the first singer) is white.  The final vocalist raps, and then all three harmonize very nicely over the final chorus.

Bob Boilen raved about them when he saw them live.  I’m not all that impressed, as they sound like any other R&B band to me, but a four-minute sampler isn’t all that much to go on.

[READ: February 12, 2015] Prime Baby

I’ve enjoyed just about everything that Gene Luen Yang has done.  But I had no idea that a) he wrote a serialized comic strip and b) that it appeared from 2008-2009 in the New York Times Magazine!

It’s interesting to see these strips presented in one strip per page format.  But far more interesting is the very strange direction that this story goes in.

It begins with the main character, a boy named Thaddeus K. Fong.  He is a reasonably selfish young man with a penchant for saying things to get him in trouble.  (He calls himself a martyr for truth).  And then his parents have a baby.  And his whole life is upended.

The baby girl only says the word, “ga.”  His parents say that everyone develops in their own time, but he is not convinced.  And one day, when he learns about prime numbers in math class, he realizes that his sister only says “ga” in increments of prime numbers.    That is kind of interesting, but even more interesting is when his math teacher says that NASA has theorized that if aliens were to make contact with us it would be through prime numbers. (more…)

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dec2014SOUNDTRACK: LULUC-“Star” NPR Lullaby SXSW (March 18, 2015).

lulucRecorded outside of Stubbs while the groundscrew was cleaning up the huge mess, Luluc play a beautiful quiet ballad.

Steve Hassett plays lead acoustic guitar and sings harmonies while Zoë Randell plays rhythm guitar and sings lead. Interestingly, his voice often goes in higher registers than hers.

I really like the solo that he plays that adds a bit of uptempo feel to this otherwise quiet song.

Check it out here.

[READ: March 23, 2015] “At First Blush”

This issue of Harper’s featured five essays (well, four essays and one short story) about “Growing Up: five coming of age stories.”  Since I knew a few of these authors already, it seemed like a good time to devote an entire week to growing up.  There are two introductions, one by Christine Smallwood (who talks about Bob Seger) and one by Joshua Cohen who talks about the coming of age narrative.

Here’s yet another piece by Karl Ove (like the recent essay in the New York Times Magazine) translated by Ingvild Burkey

It’s hard for me to imagine that Karl Ove (who has written literally thousands of pages about his life) could have anything more to say–any incident that he hasn’t gone over with a microscope.  And yet, here he is with a new incident.

As with most things from Karl Ove, it explains a minute detail which proves to be a big event.  He was 12 and in school and told to spit out his gum.  As he walked up to the wastebasket the attention made him blush.  The first time he can recall the burning shame making him more self-conscious which then kept repeating itself.   And then some one said “Karl Ove’s face is all red!” (more…)

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01cover-articleLarge-v3SOUNDTRACK: DIANA GAMEROS-“Ligerita(Tiny Desk Contest Runner-Up 2015).

ligeritaLast week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners up that they especially liked.  And I want to draw extra attention to a couple of them.

Diana Gameros doesn’t do anything flashy or fancy in this video.  She simply plays the acoustic guitar (amazingly) and sings.  And man, does she have a beautiful voice.  Even more impressive is the way her guitar begins as delicate finger-picked melody in the verses and then transforms into a rollicking Spanish guitar style beauty for the chorus—the way she uses her right hand for the chord playing is great.

This is an absolutely beautiful song, and I was happy to read that she was recently featured on Alt.Latino.

I’m not sure what relaxing location she is in, but it’s nice little room. And even her cat—Lulu—seems to have enjoyed the song.

[READ: February 26, 2015] “My Saga Part One”

I didn’t know that Karl Ove had written this piece for the New Yorke Times magazine until someone brought it to my attention.  I was pretty excited to read it because Book Four of My Struggle isn’t due out until April and I think I’m going through Karl Ove withdrawal.

This first part of the story (because of course it would have to be in two parts) was, I have to admit, a little disappointing.  It features everything that I’ve come to expect from Karl Ove–minutiae, history, shock at people who are unlike him, and a general misanthropy.  But it almost feels like Karl Ove lite–like the Times asked him to write a piece like My Struggle, but, you know, more suitable for a newspaper.  Which may even be how they phrased it.  Of course, it may also be the translation.  Unlike the books, this was translated by Ingvild Burkey.  It’s not that the translation is bad, it seems perfectly fine to me, but the story isn’t as compelling in some way, and perhaps Don Bartlett knows how to capture Karl Ove’s voice better? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEFTONES-Diamond Eyes (2010).

diamondBefore releasing Diamond Eyes, Deftones had two band crises. The first was that they didn’t really seem to like each other anymore.  The previous album was fraught with tension and they barely toured.  After deciding that they wanted to remain as a band, they were invigorated and made an album called Eros.  But during the recording, bassist Chi Cheng was in a car accident and was in a coma.  As of yet he has not fully recovered.  So they shelved Eros, hired a temporary bass player Sergio Vega and set about recording Diamond Eyes.  And for whatever reason, it proved to be one of their best releases so far.

“Diamond Eyes” opens with a heavy down-tuned guitar–very abrasive–until the chorus come in and it’s their most beautiful ones yet–with soaring keyboards and  harmonies.  And then the heavy guitars come back–it’s what Deftones do so well–beauty and ugly together.  Stephen Carpenter really shines, as always.  “Royal” is a fast song with a great harmonizing chorus.  “Cmnd/Ctrl” has a shocking low riff that explodes into a  bright chorus.  “You’ve Seen the Butcher” has guitars that seem almost untuned as the song starts.  But it morphs into a kind of sexy butt-shaking chorus.  And Abe Cunningham’s drums are, of course, fantastic.

“Beauty School” is the first that doesn’t really start out heavy, it’s a got a gentle guitar intro and the first song where Vega’s bass is really prominent as a separate instrument and it creates a beautiful alternative song–great vocals throughout.  “Prince” brings in a lot of new textures to the album, including a clanging guitar sound and a great screamed chorus. “Rocket Skates” is one of my favorite songs on the record, it has a classic metal riff and the great screamed-beyond-comprehension chorus of Guns, Razors Knives and a weird little whoooo that ends the chorus.

“Sextape” is a surprisingly gentle song, opening with an echoed guitar riff and one of Chino’s most gentle choruses.  “976-Evil” has an echoey guitar and voices not unlike the Cocteau Twins.  “This Place is Death” has another great alt rock feel–a big song with bright guitars and dark lyrics.  I haven’t really mentioned Frank Delgado on keyboards and samples.  He’s been with the band since White Pony, and I feel like his presence was made notable on a few songs here and there.  But it seems like on this disc he really comes to the fore, adding new textures and sounds to the album which really fill it out.

[READ: March 12, 2013] McSweeney’s #14

After the colorful extravaganza of the Comics Issue of McSweeney’s #13, this book settles down into something more somber  The book is softcover and all white.  The cover depicts a cartoon of George Bush with both legs blown off and the caption, “I Am So, So Sorry.”  On the spine in small print: “We’re praying as fast as we can.”  It is the most context-full cover they’ve done yet and, nearly a decade away it seems like a rather mean cover, but if I remember correctly at the time it seemed apt and delicious, especially in light of the upcoming election.

Yet despite the overtly political cover, the content inside is not political or even thematic (although it is pretty dark stuff).  Nevertheless, the table of contents gives us a small joke when it says “To help you know which stories to read first, we have indicated with either a * or a † those that deserve special consideration from you, the reader.  If you see either a * or a †, do not miss that story.”  Of course every story has either a * or a † but they cleverly did not put any kind of pattern to the symbols.

The colophon explains that when they were in Ireland, they met an actual Timothy McSweeney.  He had been given a copy of Issue #3 and then promptly forgot about the magazine.  But when McSweeney’s was in Galway to do a reading at the Galway Arts Festival, Timothy (Ted) McSweeney traveled from Dublin to check it out (not a short trip).  This also resulted in a letter from Mr McSweeney which is actually quite funny.

There are also illustrations in the book, although they are small illustrations and are placed on the title of each piece in the book.  All of the illustrations are old, mostly coming from the 1800s, although one dates back to 1670.  They illustrations are all technical scientific ones and don’t have anything to do with the stories. (more…)

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