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Archive for the ‘Marriage Trouble’ Category

SOUNDTRACKVOX SAMBOU-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #135 (January 13, 2021).

Vox SambouGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The first band on the third night is Vox Sambou a Haitian band recording in Montreal.

There are few performers as “alive” as Vox Sambou, whose energy and soul transcends the virtual space. He starts his performance at Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST with a short moment between himself and his son, overseen by a painting of his mother, highlighting the ways we pass down traditions from generation to generation. Based in Montreal, Quebec, Vox Sambou writes and performs in Hatian-Creole, French, English, Spanish and Portuguese. His music is a joyous fusion of Haitian funk, reggae and hip-hop.

He starts with a call and response with his adorable son.  Then the music starts and doesn’t let up  There’s intense trumpet, lots of percussion and some fantastic dancing from he co-singer.  He introduces everyone, but between his accent and their very French names, I couldn’t pick out a single one.

“African Diaspora” has fast intense and fun rapping and singing in French.  The joyousness of the music is infectious, and i love watching everyone dance.

“My Rhythm” is slower with a pronounced beat.  It’s great watching them all move in synch to that rhythm.  The song pauses for a few seconds until another dancer comes out.  There’s a ripping trumpet solo followed by a cool sax solo with all three up front dancing.  There’s even a brief time to show off the conga players.

“Everyone” ends the set fast and intense.  So much drumming, so many horns. It’s pretty wonderful.

These guys must be exhausted!

[READ: December 16, 2020] Something to Live For

S. read this book last year when it was called How Not to Die Alone.  In her post about it, she comments about what a great title it was.  I agree with that and am not sure why they changed it to the more generic Something to Live For. Although it was the cover/title that grabbed me when I saw it at work, so I guess this new title is good to.  But I think the Die title is better.

Compared to some of the more complicated stories that I’ve been reading lately–where I feel like a lot of background information needs to be filled in–this story was delightfully straightforward.  It was an enjoyably fast-paced read and resonated in a surprisingly powerful way.

Andrew is a middle aged British man.  He had worked in a public service role for many years until his position was terminated.  His boss helped him find a new job in the public service field.

This new job is absolutely fascinating to me and I have to wonder if we have such a job in the States.  Andrew’s job is to go to the house of a recently deceased person.  These are people who died alone and apparently have no contacts.  Andrew’s job is to determine if the deceased has someone to contact to come to (and pay for) the funeral or if the deceased has enough money in their apartment to pay for the funeral themselves. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKOWEN PALLETT: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #113 (November 17, 2020).

I know Owen Pallett from their performance at Massey Hall.  It was beautifully layered orchestral pop.

Typically they loop the songs to make them bigger, but or this set, Owen changed things up.

Owen recorded four songs in multiple stages on different instruments: first, they played acoustic guitar and sang; then they performed the songs again, but this time on violin and viola; finally, Owen layered the recordings in post-production, not really knowing what the final versions would sound like. They explain the whole process, charmingly, between songs.

The setlist here is complete different from the one from Massey Hall.  Although like a that show, he mixes some songs from his first album (released as the band Final Fantasy) as well as he official solo songs.

From a bedroom in Toronto, Owen traverses their musical history, opening with a dreamy song from 2005’s debut album (as Final Fantasy), Has a Good Home, 

His guitar melody is beautiful and the layers of strings make this song feel big and pastoral.  His voice is gentle and lovely.

Before the second song, “Cliquot,” he says that in 2007, he went to Quebec with the band Beirut to write songs and record his EP Spectrum, 14th Century. and Beirut’s album The Flying Club Cup. Zach Condin gave him an instrumental and asked Owen would write a melody, lyrics and sing lead.  They don’t play it live probably because it’s really really gay and Zach doesnt want any more werotci fan fiction writen about the two of them.

Beautiful string melodies in between verses.

“Perseverance of the Saints” is from Owen’s latest record, Island. Here it’s transformed from arpeggiated piano to guitar, and I love the tone it sets.

It is so gentle with swirling strings and a gentle melody.

Owen not only performed each instrument in separate takes, but also did all the production work: recording, filming and editing. A remarkable talent captured in a candlelit bedroom.

“Song for Five & Six” is from his 2014 album In Conflict.  He says when he loops live things to end to get “overwritten and annoying,” so he’s looking forward to playing this with arpeggiated guitar instead of synth.

This song was written about an incident he saw on the Orkney Islands.  After playing some kind of ball game, the men and boys, covered in mud, would climb on the back of a flatbed truck and ride through town banging sticks on the side of the truck.  He thought it was a beautiful image and probably the only pure thing that the men have ever done.

He sings in a gentle falsetto and there’s some gorgeous strings.

[READ: December 19, 2020] “The Snowstorm”

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 19.  Alexander Pushkin, author of Eugene Onegin, died in 1837 and so was unreachable for comment. [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

I have not read any stories by Pushkin before and I really enjoyed this one (translated by T. Keane).

Set in 1811, this story revolves around a young woman who has fallen in love with a young man whose station is far beneath her.  And such great quotes!

Maria Gavrilovna had been brought up on French novels, and consequently was in love.  The object of her choice was a poor sub-lieutenant in the army, who was then on leave of absence in his village.  It need scarcely be mentioned that the young man returned her passion with equal ardor, and that the parents of his beloved one, observing their mutual inclination, forbade their daughter to think of him.

They wrote to each other every day.  At last they decided that they would run off and get married in secret.  They would then hide away for a time and come back to throw themselves at their parents’ feet for their blessings. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KURSTIN x GROHL-“Rock n Roll” (The Hanukkah Sessions: Night Seventh” December 17, 2020).

   Producer Greg Kurstin (who I have not heard of) and Dave Grohl (who I have) decided that, rather than releasing a Christmas song this year, they would record eight covers of songs by Jewish artists and release them one each night for Hanukkah.

“This project, which initially began as a silly idea, grew to represent something much more important to me. It showed me that the simple gesture of spreading joy and happiness goes a long way, and as we look forward, we should all make an effort to do so, no matter how many candles are left to light on the menorah. ”

The final night night is a classic from the Velvet Underground.

So, sing along one last time to “Rock and Roll” by The Velvet Underground, a song about music and hope, and let’s keep spreading the joy and happiness. It goes a long way…..

This surprise gift from Kurstin X Grohl has been a wonderful treat.  Like many other people who have been watching these every night, I’m bummed that Hanukkah lasts only eight day, because I’d love to see more of these!

It comes as no surprise that they would play a Velvet Underground song (especially this one).  The surprise might be just how good this one sounds.

Kurstin does double duty with a piano for his right hand and a keyboard on his lap for the bass notes.  He also throws in some “it was alright”s.

During the keyboard solo, the video slides to the left showing all of the angles at once–like a middle school slide show.

Grohl plays drums and sings.  He doesn’t deadpan like Lou Reed, he just sings in his quieter style and it works very well. IOt does sound like he’;s telling a story.  Of course he falsettos on the “fine fine” musics.

The only mildly disappointing thing is that Kurstin doesn’t try to do the solo before the “it was all right” coda, but he jumps right in with the piano and the song bounces along.

The end of the video shows a couple of outtakes, but there’s goofy goodbye in the video.

[READ: December 18, 2020] “Happy Anniversary”

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 18. Adam Sternbergh, author of The Blinds, can only get reception if he stands awkwardly on top of this table. [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

This is a two part story of a couple’s third anniversary.

The first part is told from her Daisy’s point of view.

It’s hard to take a woman named Daisy seriously.  Trust her, she knows.

Daisy is a actor.  A decent actor (she has won an Obie) but not a star (she was nominated for a Tony many years ago) but nothing since.

She thinks back to when she met her husband five years ago–the dark restaurant they ate at and the way they sat next to each other to eat the dessert together. (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: SPILLAGE VILLAGE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #101 (October 23, 2020).

I never imagined that a video filmed in a church would have an explicit language warning at the beginning of it.  But such is Spillage Village.

The Atlanta collective consists of Dreamville records standouts J.I.D and EARTHGANG along with Jurdan Bryant, Hollywood JB, Benji and Tiny Desk alumnus Mereba. R&B star 6lack, also a member of the group, was unable to make it to the shoot due to travel restrictions.

There’s 12 people in the church (let’s hope they are all tested since they are not social distancing). And seven of them are rapper/singers.  The rest is a live band, and they are tight.  They sound great.  It’s amazing how much a live band can add to a rap concert.

Musically, “End of Daze” is very cool with funky bass from Benji and lots of grooving wah wah solos from the guitarist on the back.  The verses are rapped and everyone gets a turn.  What I especially liked was the diversity of voices and styles.

WowGr8 goes first.  He has a cool accent and delivery.  JID has a fantastic style–his voice is higher than the others and very distinctive.  Mereba has one of the best verses–referencing Nipsey Hustle’s murder.  Jurdan has the most conventional-sounding delivery.  Hollywood JB seems a but more lighthearted in his delivery.  Then OLU (dressed in a fantastic suit) sings his verse.  He has a great singing voice.  While he sings his verse and the song fades sprinkling keys twinkle.  They all sing the super catchy chorus. The backing band is apparently all related but someone is playing the keys and the credits don’t say who: Justin Barnett: guitar; Jerramy Barnett: bass; Nick Barnett: guitar; Dj Barnett: drums.

Christo the DJ starts out “Baptize” with a sample.  OLU raps.  I love his delivery–.his verse is choppy and funky.  JID takes the next verse, and I like him even more.  The song has a fun sing along chorus which seems strangely raunchy for a song about baptism.  WOWGr8 takes another verse and shows off some really fast rapping.

Before the next song, someone’s phone rings and one of them says “turn off your phone in church.”  Mereba sings this next song, which she says is called “Hapi.”  After she says this, someone sings “because I’m happy…) very quietly.  The song proves to be a full on gospel type song.  Mereba has a kind of spoken word section and then OLU croons beautifully.

“Jupiter” ends the set.  Mereba grabs an acoustic guitar and the whole group sings an almost campfire singalong.  The church does feel like an appropriate setting for these last two songs.

I’m really impressed by this group.

[READ: November 15, 2020] Where Are We Now?

Glenn Patterson is from Belfast, Northern Ireland.  This novel is a small (in scope) story about life in Belfast.  I don’t know that I’ve ever read a story that focused in such detail on the daily life in Belfast, post-Troubles.  The Troubles don’t really enter into the story–except that there are ever present reminders of them.

This is the story of Herbie.  Herbie is a middle-aged man.  I initially assumed he was older middle aged, then I thought he might be younger middle-aged.  I don’t believe it is ever stated.

I had a remarkably difficult time reading this book because there was so much I simply didn’t know.  Stuff that the average Belfastian person probably knows very well and with no problem.

It started pretty early on when someone says that a person had dumped a Portakabin on one of the roads running up to the hills on the far west of the city.

Okay so first, you have to find out what a Portakabin is (a mobile home of some sort). Then there’s a lengthy talk about who might do such a thing.  And I really didn’t understand much of what they were talking about.  Although I did like that they conclude that whoever did it could be summed up as The Ungivers of Fuck. (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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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #93 (October 9, 2020).

The Flaming Lips have recently performed a live concert in front of an audience (Yes!).  They did this by putting themselves and every audience member in one of Wayne Coyne’s giant bubbles.  What an amazing idea and a wonderful experience, I’m sure (especially after nine months of no live music).

Back in October, The Lips did their very first Tiny Desk Concert.  And, being the Lips, they decided to do their home concert entirely in their own bubbles.  (Although technically two people share two bubbles).

This Tiny Desk Concert features two songs from their newest album American Head.

The Flaming Lips have always embraced the surreal. Drugs are undoubtedly part of the culture, and on their new songs from American Head, drugs are at the core. These are songs for the lost, the overdosed dreamers, the damaged, the car crashed.

The open the set with “Will You Return/When You Come Down,” a simply wonderful song.

On the album’s opening track “Will You Return/When You Come Down” (which also begins this concert), Steven Drozd asks in falsetto, “Will you return? Will you come down?” while Wayne Coyne responds, “Thinking back to those lost souls / And their ghosts / Floating around your bed / Hear it said / Now all your friends are dead.”

I love everything about his song.  Gentle bells (from percussion Nicholas Ley) open the song along with Steven Drozd’s falsetto singing the refrain.  (Drozd is an amazing guitarist but only plays the keys in this set).  Wayne begins singing the verse.  It’s gentle and pretty, and then with a drum flourish from Matt Duckworth in comes Michael Ivins’ typically wonderful bass lines.

The song builds beautifully into a big major chord with Derek Brown’s acoustic guitar leading the way.

Whenever I’ve seen The Lips live, Jake Ingalls almost always sits on the floor.  In this set he’s sitting with Steven.  I’m never quite sure what he does, but I imagine he’s creating all kinds of interesting sounds.  Ingalls’ band Spaceface is pretty wonderful, but the way.

“God and the Policeman” features one of Ivins’ coolest basslines around.  It’s a stuttering rumble that seems to come from nowhere and adds a fantastic element to this song.  Ley adds in some tubular bells and Wayne plays the siren on his megaphone.  The main musical melody is a pretty piano circuit that soars with Wayne’s voice.

On the record, Kacey Musgraves sings the backing vocals but Steven takes them here. Wayne says that he has a good Kacey-esque voice.

Steven replies:

It sounds like you’re saying something nice but I can’t hear anything you’re saying.

The go back to 2013’s The Terror for “Be Free, A Way.”  Wayne says he wrote this when he was depressed.  He’s only been really depressed once or twice and this song came out of one of them.  I love the echoing vocals as Steven follows Wayne’s lead.  The vocal melody of two word sentences is just fantastic.

They end the set with “It’s Summertime” from 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Yoshimi is a fantastic album from start to finish, although this song is somewhat of a left-field choice–not one of the big hits from the album. Wayne gets a nice trumpet solo too.

This is a wonderful set to see.  And I really hope they bring their bubble shows to a theater near me.

[READ: November 20, 2020] “My Three Fathers”

I have not read any of Ann Patchett’s books, although I keep meaning to.  Her soon to be released novel is supposed to be fantastic.

This essay sounded kind of interesting even without knowing anything about her.  She talks about having had three fathers during her life.  She prefaces all of this by saying that marriage is irresistible to her family members: “we try and fail and try again.”  She and her sister have both been married twice, while her mother married three times (thus, three fathers).

Her first father was her biological father.  He and her mother divorced when she was little. Her second father was her mother’s second husband–he adopted her.  Her third father was her mother’s third husband.  Her mother married him when Ann was an adult.

She writes about this third wedding, the rare time when all three of Ann’s fathers were together and at which she got a picture of herself with the three of them.

Then she talks about all three men. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE HU-The Gereg (2019).

The HU were something of a novelty when they released this album.  A band from Mongolia!  Playing weird instruments!  Throat singing!

But they really proved themselves.  They toured the U.S. (and were great live), they’ve even had some famous-ish singers do some remixes).  A year later, this album really holds up.  The songs are simple, mostly relying on rhythm, but the melodies of the choruses really grab you.

Most of the songs revel in the low end–deep vocals, throat singing, and lots of drums and bass.  The first song “The Gereg” (Гэрэг “Home”) sets the example.  There’s pumping drums and chanting–perfect for a live event.  They also have some soaring solos from their Mongolian instruments, the Ayanga Morin Khuur and the Baigali Tovshuur.  There’s also prominent use of the Tumur Khuur (the jaw harp).  But its the chorus melody that is so wonderfully catchy.

“Wolf Totem” (Чонон сүлд) is really catchy.  It starts with some call and response singing and then a simple but gripping riff–like a slow heavy metal song.  When the band starts chanting “Hu Hu Hu” you can imagine the fists raised along.

“The Great Chinggis Khan” (Их Чингис Хаан) is a slower song with an epic feel. The vocals are quieter in the beginning, but the song slow builds.  There’s a lot more instrumentation and different types of throat singing by thened.

“The Legend of Mother Swan” (Хун ээжийн домогnext) has a fantastic groove as the song moves almost relentlessly forward, growing in intensity as the melody slowly goes up the scale.  The vocal melody is really enticing.  It’s like the Mongolian “Kashmir.”

“Shoog Shoog” (Шөөг шөөг) opens with the Tsuur, a traditional flute, and chants of “Shoog Shoog.”  But when the bass comes in with a very cool riff, the song becomes something else entirely, a kind of metal song.  When you add in the chorus (which is catchy and intense) it sounds fantastic.  It’s easy to sing along to and is a great love song.

“The Same” (Агаар нэгэн буй “Whisper Whisper”) is a slower song, built around a dramatic melody and vocal line.  With lots of high soaring solos.  But once again, it’s the propulsive rhythm that is the real hook.

“Yuve Yuve Yu” (Юу вэ юу вэ юу? “What is What?”) is a wonderful propulsive song.  The vocal melody is fantastic (the way it ends with the title which is fun to say even if you didn’t know what it means) is a terrific hook and the chorus is also lots of fun.  There’s even a sort of “oooh” singalong but it sounds different from any one I’ve heard in a Western song.

“Shireg Shireg” (Ширэг ширэг) sounds very different from the others–lighter and more ubeat.  There’s some gorgeous tsuur throughout the song and the vocal melody feels inviting.  It shows another side to the band and is really a nice addition.  The returning flute melody is very catchy.

“Song of Women” (Бүсгйн дуун) is the final song.  It’s another epic, this time seven minutes long.  It builds slowly.  Musically this song is nice and full and has some really pretty vocal harmonies.

This album is really terrific, with not a bad song in the bunch.  I really hope they can come back to the States when they tour again.

[READ: November 18, 2020] “Too Skinny”

Marv Bertel was a successful man in an unhappy marriage.  He was also very heavy and had been for most of his life.

So he started losing weight (he makes it seem very easy, too).  And when he reached his goal weight, he divorced his wife and tried to start a new life.

He went to bars, he met women, he appreciated being admired.  But he also had resentments from when he was heavy and these same women wouldnt look at him.

So he never did anything with them.  He accepted the the flirtations.  He lied about himself (a different lie for each person) and he started to feel strange.  Guilty that he could lie so easily, but also strangely powerful.

So I never saw where this was going.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF–North 6th Street (1999).

In 1999, Nada Surf released this collection of songs.

It was named after the street in Brooklyn where we first got together. It has our first singles, some 8-track demos we made in our practice space, some alternate versions, french versions, a couple of unreleased songs and a cover.

Collections like this can be hit or miss, especially when a band had progressed from their original sound.  But there’s nothing embarrassing about this collection at all.  In fact, there’s a lot of really charming stuff on here.

The first two songs, “The Plan” and “Deeper Well” are labelled as 7″ Version.  I don’t really know what that means.  Both songs appear on High/Low.  “The Plan” is a little shorter than the record and “Deeper Well” is a little longer.  They sound similar, although there’s a different drummer, Aaron Conte.  But they both sound really good and are a nice reminder that Nada Surf can really rock out.

The next three songs are demos of songs from High/Low: “Ice Box,” “Psychic Caramel,” and “Popular.”  These also have their first drummer.  These aren’t boombox recordings.  They sound well produced, although they do feel a little more grungy than the album.  “Popular” sounds the most different.  There’s female vocals in the beginning.  The tone of this version seems a bit angrier, but otherwise similar.

The next two songs are French versions of songs from High/Low.  Matthew Caws and Daniel Lorca met at a French school in New York, so their French is quite good.  It’s weird, but cool to hear familiar songs sung in a different language by the same vocalist.  These songs, like the whole High/Low album were produced by Rik Ocasek, so I’m assuming they were done a the same time.

“Traffic” and “Me and You” are (I believe) previously unreleased.  “Traffic” is a quiet instrumental propelled by Daniel’s bass and some gentle pretty guitar picking.  The ambient noise of an ambulance is a nice touch.  “Me & You” is a full-on folk song–acoustic guitars and possibly a suitcase for drums.  Each of these songs is 1:47 long–snippets into bits of songs.

“Silent Fighting” and “Spooky” are alternate versions of songs that appeared on the band’s reissue of their album The Proximity Effect.  They weren’t on the original album (which was lost in record label hell for quite a long time), but they are the final songs on the version that’s largely available.  “Silent Fighting” is a demo version, but again, it sounds professionally done.  And “Spooky” is listed as an Alternate Version.

The next two songs are also unreleased elsewhere.  “The Manoeuvres” is a quiet acoustic ballad.  “Sick of You” is an Iggy Pop song!  Like the original, this song is slow and moody with a distinctly Iggy tone in the vocal delivery.  And like the original, it rocks out in th emiddle with a full on punk assault.  It runs over five minutes long

Up next are two more demos from The Proximity Effect.  “Robot” is a lot quieter.  You can hear the lyrics more clearly and the heaviness is toned down.  “Amateur” sounds pretty similar–full with a great bass sound.  Although it’s missing the wonderful “ooh ooh ooh” part.

“River Phoenix” is a rocking song with a spoken vocal line and fascinating lyrics like:

River Phoenix
Ian Curtis
And river Phoenix
And me and you

And it’s quite catchy.

“Mother’s Day” is another demo from The Proximity Effect.  This is a fantastic anti-rape song with brutal, angry lyrics.  This version sounds a little different–a little less distorted, a little less loud, but still angry.

“Dispossession” is an alternate version from The Proximity Effect.  The album’s guitars sound a bit rawer, the guitars a little crisper and the whole things feels a bit more wild.  This version is a bit cleaner, except for the wild guitar solo.

[READ: November 7, 2020] The Midnight Library

S. brought this home and really enjoyed it.  She thought I’d enjoy it too.  Of course she was right.  I’d probably enjoy most of the books she reads, but I already have my own dozen dozen authors that I like to read already.

The book opens with the fascinatingly dramatic opening sentence:

Nineteen years before she decided to die, Nora Seed sat in the warmth of a small library at Hazeldene School in the town of Bedford.

Nora is playing chess with Mrs Elm the librarian when Mrs Elm gets a call that Nora’s father has just died.

The book jumps nineteen years ahead to “twenty-seven hours before she decided to die.”  The next few chapters list the miseries of her life: her cat is hit by a car, she gets fired from her lousy job (her boss has the funniest, meanest line I’ve read: “I can’t pay you to put off customers with your face looking like a wet weekend.”) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-“warpath” (2015).

Back in 2015, Boris released three albums on the same day all under the “new noise literacy” banner: “urban dance” “warpath” and “asia” [according to their label numbers, this is the order they go in].

All three records are experiments in abrasive noise.  Despite the adorable child on the covers, these records will scare children.

This album has four songs, all of which are variations on drone.

“Midgard Schlange” is 11 minutes of heavy distorted chords played slowly, as they ring out and rumble.  Its a a sort of seven-note melody but stretched out impossibly long.  At around 5 and a half minutes the electronics start to fade in from far away.  The first time I listened to the song I thought an airplane was flying overhead as these sounds came in.  These sounds eventually resolve into chords that acts as a kind of counterpoint to the guitar drones. It’s relatively fast tempoed for a drone song, but it still long and stretched out.

“Behind the Owl” continues the drone, but in a different way. There aren’t pummeling guitar chords that ring out.  Rather, they are just quietly building distortion waves, pulsing in and out.  It’s rather understated, a low menace that seems to cycle slowly between two notes.

The wonderfully named “Dreamy Eyed Panjandrum”starts with a kind of staticky electronic pulsing with occasional glitchy percussion sounds.  It sounds like somebody doing light construction for about 8 minutes.

The guitars come back on “Voo-vah,” and ominous ten and a half minutes of dark rumbling.  This time, the guitars are low and ringing, with waves of pulsing bass and stretched out chords. Around 8 minutes some higher-pitched notes come in, almost sounding like ghosts in the night.  Closing credits to a nightmare.

The album is credited to: takeshi: guitar, bass / wata: guitar & echo / atsuo: electronics.

[READ: November 5, 2020] “Sitting with the Dead”

I really enjoyed the way this story revealed its details.

It begins with an old, sickly man asking to go out to his barn. It was winter and he wore only his pajamas and a winter coat.  A week later, the doctor assured his wife Emily that that’s not what killed him–it didn’t even hasten the inevitable.

At half past seven on the day he died, the Geraghty sisters knocked on her door.  They were two middle-aged women who sat with the dying.  They were known in the area although Emily didn’t know them personally.  They had heard that her husband was dying and they came to sit with him, but they were too late.

Emily laughed to herself at how much he would not have wanted these two there to sit wit him.  He was not religious and he would have said that their sitting with him had an ulterior motive. (more…)

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