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Archive for the ‘The Sun’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ERIC CHENAUX-Warm Weather with Ryan Driver [CST068] (2010).

I just checked my review of Chenaux’s previous album and it’s funny how similar it is to what I figured I’d write about this one: soporific, free-form, sweet, hard to get into at first but ultimately rewarding.  Chenaux must be the most mellow person ever.  His songs just sort of drift around without any real theme to guide them.  Sometimes the chord changes even seem arbitrary.  And Chenaux’s voice is so slow and gentle that it’s not always clear he’s even singing along with the music.  But the thing about all of this is that it sounds very pretty (so he must know what he’s doing).

It’s not even worth me doing any kind of song by song evaluation because they are all pretty much the same–slow guitar with occasional keyboards and backing vocals.  I find the disc maddening at times and yet at other times I find it achingly beautiful.  My favorite song, the one with the most compelling melody to me, is “Mynah Bird.”  I suppose it’s the most “obvious” song, very Nick Drake-like, but it’s a great way into this record.

The Ryan Driver of the title is a piano/synth/melodica player who contributes all of the accents to the record.

There are times when I adore this album.  In the right frame of mind, this is simply a gorgeous record.  But in the wrong frame of mind, this is just slow plodding dullsville.  Choose wisely–and you will be rewarded.

[READ: January 4, 2012] “Final Dispositions”

This is another story recommended to me by Karen Carlson (see all of her recommendations in the comments to this post).  Of this one she writes: “from her linked-story collection This Road Will Take Us Closer To the Moon, available online in The Sun, Feb. 2009. A little sentimental, but well done. Try it with S&G’s “Bookends” or Janis Ian’s “Hymn [as a soundtrack].”

I loved the way this story was set up.  It opens with a woman, Margaret, who seems off somehow: “I am the oldest sibling.  Always have been.  I thought the years might mute the effect of that, but nothing so far.”  Her siblings are deciding “what to do with her.”  And after they have their confab, they call her up and ask her questions based on what they decided.

Initially you feel angry on her part, that her family is so dismissive of her.  But it soon becomes clear that they feel she needs help.  Interestingly, since the story is from Margaret’s point of view and she is lucid, it’s hard to know exactly what is wrong with her.  She talks of depressive things and speaks very deadpan but then wonders why no one has a sense of humor.

There’s not a lot of plot in the story, but there’s an initial “subplot” point when Margaret’s sister (“Irene–I mean, Eileen…. I like it that I can never keep her name straight”–[I love this joke/telling remark.  It is such a smart encapsulation of a person who is forgetful but still with it]) sends her husband over to pick Margaret up.  Tom, her brother-in-law, was previously married and the beginning of the story focuses on that a bit–on Margaret’s prying into Tom’s past presumably to needle Eileen.  The narrator soon finds out Tom’s ex-wife’s name and plans a surprise for her sister. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: A CAMP-Colonia (2009).

This is the second album from the side project of The Cardigan’s Nina Persson.  This disc was created with her husband Nathan Larson from Shudder to Think.  Their first album had a country flair to it, but this one eschews that entirely for a pop feel that is entirely different from The Cardigans’ two main styles: the “cheesy” happy pop of “Lovefool” and the bitter guitar pop of their later discs.

Although like the Cardigans, Nina uses her beautiful, almost angelic voice to mask the critical, often bitter lyrics that fuel this disc.  The music is kind of sparse, which really allows for Nina’s voice to shine through. “Stronger Than Jesus” is a wonderful song about, of all things, love.  While “Bear on the Beach” opens with a delicate twinkling piano. And “Love Has Left the Room” has soaring vocals and a wonderfully catchy melody line.

The best track is probably “Golden Teeth and Silver Medals” a cool duet with a tongue-twisting chorus.

They also have a bit of fun with genres, so “Here Are Many Wild Animals” opens like a doo-wop song, but swerves into a cool minor key masterpiece.  Even the album closer, the slow, meandering “The Weed Had Got There First” works nicely with Nina’s voice (although I wouldn’t want a whole album like this).

Anyone who misses the Cardigans would do well to track down this disc; or, if you find the Cardigans too treacly, this is a great representation of the true side of Nina’s character.  I just can’t decide if the A in the band name is the indefinite article or the letter A.

[READ: March 3, 2010] “By Song, Not Album”

My friend and coworker Anna loaned me this issue of The Sun saying that she thought I would enjoy it.  I’d never heard of it before, but I’m always up for new things, so I decided to check it out.  I really enjoyed the Photo Essay “With Eyes Shut.”  And I read two of the longer pieces as well.

This first one, is, I believe non-fiction.  And if it is non-fiction, it is the least believable non-fiction piece I may have ever read.  I was interested to read it because of the title, which seemed an interesting conceit for a story.  And while that does come into play, the story is really about a young woman who is studying abroad in France who is suffering from a severe depression.

The only one who can pull her through is her father, who is similarly afflicted with depression.  He flies over to assist her and they wind up spending several days together.

What I found unbelievable, was the way her father behaves.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NIRVANA-Bleach [Deluxe Edition Reissue] (2009).

I bought Bleach after I fell in love with Nevermind.  I liked it, but I think at the time I felt it was too raw, or maybe just less poppy than Nevermind.  But in listening to this remaster I’m inclined to say it’s better than Nevermind (although, granted I haven’t listened to Nevermind in a while now, either).

The disc is raw, and yet Cobain always had a knack for pop sensibilities (just disguised under noise and feedback).  You can see his love of pop by the choice of covering The Vaseline’s “Molly Lips.” And in a song like “About a Girl” (which they played on their MTV Unplugged show).

What’s amazing to me about this disc is how full the band sounds with just the three of them. Even when Cobain is soloing, it never sounds like the guitars are gone and it’s just a solo over a bassline.  Not bad for $600.

Of course, having said that about the poppiness of the band, there is still some pretty heavy, weird and ugly stuff on here. The heavy thudding intro of “Floyd the Barber,” the screaming cover of “Love Buzz,” the weird noises in “Big Cheese,” the wild bent notes in “Negative Creep” and the absolutely crazy feedback noise of “Paper Cuts.”

And the disc ends with the fantastic wordplay of “Downer.”  It’s really a solid collection of sludgy grunge songs.

So, famously, this disc was originally recorded for like $600.  I don’t know if the “remastering” has done anything.  I didn’t compare it to the original, although it seems like the vocals are a little clearer.  For $600, I’d think the original was all done in one take, and yet there must be overdubbed vocals (Cobain is the only one signing on “Big Cheese,” right?)

The real selling point here is what’s included in the second half of the disc: a concert from 1990 in which the band sounds tight, fast, and quite amazing.  It’s most of the material from Bleach, with a few extra tracks thrown in and it sounds fantastic.

There’s also a 40-some-page booklet which is good for a read, but nothing all that special.  Nirvana only put out 3 proper albums, so I’m not sure if you can say this was really overlooked, but it’s certainly worth looking into again.

[READ: March 3, 2010] “Aftertaste”

This was the second piece that I read in The Sun.  This one was fiction.  And it featured a recovering heroin addict as its protagonist.

Abby lives in Manhattan and goes, for the first time, to Gourmet Fair, the health food store around the corner from her house. As she’s walking out she runs in to Gideon.  Gideon lives nearby and owns the cafe across from her apartment.  They’ve never spoken before but she is aware of him from his cafe (and the elaborately hand drawn menus in the front window).

Oh yeah, and Abby is a former heroin addict. (more…)

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