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Archive for the ‘Marriage Trouble’ Category

SOUNDTRACK-XAVIER OMÄR-Tiny Desk Concert #181 (March 15, 2021).

Xavier Omär has a fantastic voice–one that I thought was rather unexpected given his appearance.  He’s a pretty big guy and seems like he’d have a deep resonant voice, but his voice is really soft and high.  And powerful.

He’s also had a pretty interesting career.

Omär’s career began in Christian music under the moniker SPZRKT, before he moved into secular R&B and hip-hop. Through his first couple of projects and work with Seattle DJ and producer, Sango, the 27-year-old singer’s heart-on-sleeve approach quickly created a buzz.

He says that the whole band is from San Antonio Texas.

Xavier Omär decided to turn his Tiny Desk home concert into a whole Texas affair. Initially, Omär wanted to recreate the look of the Desk: “I wanted to kind of bring the feeling of Tiny Desk back, so I had booked a library,” he said. Ultimately the library didn’t work out, but Rosella Coffee and Wine in his home base of San Antonio proved to be a great match for his sound–spacious and airy.

“Like I Feel” opens with some grooving bass from Korey Davison and wailing sax from Kevin Davison.  Josh Greene adds some big drums fills and guitarist Billy Ray Blunt Jr. plays some wailing leads.  Xavier trades off lead vocals duties with Talyce Hays whose voice is also terrific.

During “Blind Man” he throws in some rapping–a softer cadence, but to good effect.  There’s some response backing vocals from Jay Wile while Alana Holmes and Hays fill in the backing vocals.   Lyrically the song is kinda lame (sweet, but lame), but there’s some cool musical moments–splashes of four notes and more than a few tempo changes.

For good measure, he plays the song that put him on the map, 2016’s “Blind Man.” This is undoubtedly Xavier Omär’s best live performance on record.

I had no idea that this was his breakthrough song.

He tells a quick story (it’s amusing) about how he wishes he was at the beach.  But even if he can’t get there he can think of the the rhythm of the waves and the “SURF.”  He says he could enjoy the surf because his woman has that “splah” (?).  Its’s a pretty ripping song with, again, surprising tempo changes.  The song has moments that I would say come from Frank Zappa’s oddball melodies.  Ands once again, the drums are massive.

He says “So Much More” is the wedding song of the year.  It features Justin Crawford on keys and is a much more mellow song than the other.  It also allows Xavier to really show off his voice.

The Alamo City resident and his cohorts orchestrated a charismatic and vocally rich show. The set list perfectly depicts the emotional arch of if You Feel. He’s on a clear path to greatness in R&B music.

It was probably a smart move to go secular.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “A Man in the Kitchen”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Donald Antrim starts this rather sad memory with an amusing story.

His father learned how to cook when his mother served “hot tuna-and-mayonnaise casserole with potato chops as a decorative garnish.”

This story had become Received History in the family: “Baked mayonnaise! I had to take action!”

Soon cooking had become his father’s second full time job.  He taught literature at the University of Virginia and then he would drive around buying all of the food stuffs for their meals.  He would travel to different markets for different foods and he was an early adopter of the Cuisinart. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LOUS AND THE YAKUZA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #168 (January 27, 2021).

If I listen to a few Tiny Desk Concerts in a row, it can get pretty dull hearing the same more or less generic pop music (the bar has been lowered I’d say for Home Concerts).  So it’s really nice to hear something different.  Like vocals in French!

Lous — an anagram for “soul” — is Marie-Pierra Kakoma, a 24-year-old artist based in Belgium but born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Lous and The Yakuza perform a Tiny Desk from the Book Bar in the Hôtel Grand Amour in Paris.

“Dilemme,” her 2019 single, opens the set.

The song conjures up images of growing up in the Congo and Rwanda: “Living haunts me, everything that surrounds me made me mean,” she sings in French. Her songs are often set to Congolese rumba rhythms, filled with resilience, beauty and resistance.

I just love the way the chorus ends with a choruses and echoed “na na na na” (or “non non non non”) as Ayelya Douniama and Myriam Sow sing along and harmonize.

“Bon Acteur” opens with some sharp drums from Jamiel Blakeand and then gentle keys from Joseph Nelson while Lous kind of raps–quickly–in French. It is pretty sweet.  The song has a slower soft jazz feel at the end.

Up next is her favorite song on the album “Dans La Hess” means “being broke” ’cause that’s what I used to be.  “It’s over now because we’re shining.  Some black girl magic.”  The song has a soft bounce with some slightly funky five-string bass from Swaeli Mbappe.

And while the music is smooth, upbeat and warm, what lies beneath in Lous backstory, in her French lyrics, is, at times, deep and disturbing.

She came to Belgium because her family escaped war in the Congo. They were refugees.  These songs from her 2020 album, Gore, are steeped in a life that saw her mother imprisoned in the Congo for being Rwandan, then become separated during their escape to Belgium. They were eventually reunited, but Lous was a troubled teen and spent a period of time adrift before pulling her life together in pursuit of music and art. There’s much to uncover and discover here. This Tiny Desk (home) concert is a deep journey.

“Solo” is a quieter ballad with just washes of keys and her voice for the first half of the song.  Eventually the bass and drums come in, but they stay quiet accenting her wonderful voice.

She thanks everyone and then speaks in French to introduce “Amigo.”  This song feel more tense than the others.  There’s a wicked drum beat (mostly rims) and a sliding funky bass that counterpoints the swirling keyboard chords.

It’s fascinating not knowing what she’s saying and honestly being unable to tell what the tone of the lyrics are meant to be (if she is playing music that’s contrary to the lyrics, I’m a total loss).

“Amigo” feels very dancey with nice backing vocal but the highlight is the moment in the middle where it’s just the keys and her spoken word.  Who knows what she’s saying, but it sounds great.

[READ: March 20, 2021] “Seven”

I don’t often think that short stories published in the New Yorker are actually excerpts from future novels.  I’ve got it in my head that these are all short stories.  Which is patently false.  Although it doesn’t say anywhere on the page whether it is or not, so I simply don’t know.

What has happened many times is I’ve felt that a short story had a poor ending only to find out it wasn’t an ending, just a part of a whole.

So I’m assuming that this story is part of a much greater story because otherwise the ending is a total fizzle.  And yet the story felt like it could have been a short story–the detail wasn’t extravagant (the best sign that it’s a part of a novel is if it seems like there is too much detail).

This story is fairly simple, so far.  A Haitian immigrant is living in New York.  It has been seven years since he has seen his wife.  We learn a little later that they were married for exactly one day–as a binding agreement–before he left for New York.

He had been trying to get her a visa and it took over six years (hence the title “Seven”). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SEVANA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #159 (January 26, 2021).

I had not heard of Sevana, although she is a member of Protoje’s In.Digg.Nation collective

“If You Only Knew” is a pretty pop song.  I enjoyed the way the music dropped out and there wa s quiet drum fill Mark Reid.

This concert was filmed at the Kingston Creative Hub back in September 2020 (the interludes you’ll hear about the pandemic are reflective of that time).

The second song “Blessed” opens with gently picked guitars from and Nicolas Groskoef and Almando ‘Mundo Don’ Douglas who also both play solos throughout Almando first, Nicolas later in the song.  It sounds like a Santana song and is an example of her

jumping delicately between traditional R&B, Caribbean gospel and soul, with touches of reggae interspersed.   On “Blessed,” an infectious ode about the miracle of life and faith, she welcomes us with open arms into her church and demonstrates the wide range of her multi-octave voice.

“Be Somebody” has some interesting sound effects and vocal samples from Jean-Andre Lawrence and washes of keys from Rhoan Johnson.

She closes out the four-song set with her most recognizable tune, “Mango,” a dancehall-influenced love song.

I would have thought this dancehall song would be more of a banger, but aside for some quietly pulsing bass from Kawain Williamson, the song is pretty mellow.

[READ: June 3, 2019] “A Dream of Glorious Return”

This is an excerpt from Rushdie’s novel Fury which I have not read.  The thesis sentence comes fairly early though.

Life is fury, he’d thought.  Fury–sexual, Oedipal, political, magical, brutal–drives us to out finest heights and coarsest depths

It concerns professor Malik Solanka, a fifty-five year old retired historian of ideas.  He is presently living in Manhattan, although that is a recent change in his life.

He seemed to mostly want to be a solitary man–celibate by choice–ignoring those around him.  Like his neighbor, that damn Mark Skywalker who asked if the slogan “The sun never Sets on American Express International” would seem offensive to Britons.

The novel really sets the time and place quite well–current movies, the election (“unlovable presidential candidates (Gush, Bore))” and the talk of Cuban refugee Elian Gonzales.

The phone rings and it is his wife Eleanor in England.  She complains that their son is ill and he doesn’t seem to care.   But more importantly

without a scrap of credible explanation you walked out on us, you went off across the ocean and betrayed all those who need and love you most.

He thinks back to how they met and how he had fallen in love with her voice.  Fifteen years ago when he phoned a publishing friend, Eleanor had answered and he was smitten with her voice–asking her out for dinner that evening.

So how could he leave her and his child?  One night

he sat in the kitchen, in the middle of the night, with murder on the brain: actual murder, not the metaphorical kind.  He’d even brought a carving knife upstairs and stood for a terrible, dumb minute over the body of his sleeping wife.  Then he turned away, slept in the spare bedroom, and in the morning had packed his bags and caught the first flight to New York

He had left his first wife Sara earlier in a less dramatic fashion.  They married too quickly and felt trapped almost immediately.

He reflected back to his childhood in Bombay when Mr Venkat, the big-deal banker whose son Chandra was the ten year old Malik’s best friend

became a sannyasi on his sixtieth birthday, and abandoned his family forever, wearing no more than a hand-hewn loincloth, with a long wooden staff in one hand and begging bowl in the other.

He would never return.

This story could go in many directions from here.

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SOUNDTRACK: KISHI BASHI-“Honeybody” (2016).

I love Kishi Bashi and am always excited to see him live and to hear new music from him.

Much like the story, this song is remarkably cheerful and happy.  It feels different and special in Kishi Bashi’s canon.  All of the Kishi Bashi elements are there: strings, looping, soaring vocals, but there’s a few novel moments as well.

The chorus, for instance has an island feel.  The way he sings “Maybe sipping a Coca-Cola with me, babe” you can feel your feet in the sand.

But first there’s an orchestral string opening, following by some manipulated pizzicato plucking and Kishi’s singing

Then the chorus

Cause everybody wants a Honeybody someday
Mama said they don’t grow on them trees easy
Hands down on the ground
I’m begging you to please, Honeybody, please me

Followed by some lovely soaring oooh oooh oohs in the post chorus.

The song seems like it could just end with another repeated chorus, but after the post chorus, the song shifts gears to a buzzy synth sound.  The song turns vaguely electronic with a soaring violin as he sings the chorus to a new melody.

Delightful happy music. #stopasianhate (I mean, really, knock it off).

For a delightful twist on the song, check out this version with the Nu Deco Ensemble

[READ: March 13, 2021] “Honey Pie”

Most of Murakami’s stories are abstract or, at the very least, kind of puzzling  There’s usually some vaguely supernatural element to them that you’re never sure exactly how to read (and it usually doesn’t matter because the story is good.)  This story, which like most of the others was translated by Jay Rubin, is it only the most straightforward story of his that I’ve read, it is one of the most beautiful.

The story begins with a man telling a little girl a story.  The story is about Masakichi the bear, the all time number one honey bear.  The girl, Sala, asks many questions about the story–good, thoughtful questions (“Can bears count money?”).  The storyteller, Junpei, loved the girl and the questions.  The questions helped him to guide the story that he was making up.

Junpei was a professional writer, but these storytelling gigs were for his best friend Sayoko and her child Sala.  Sala had been having some terrible nightmares ever since the earthquake hit Kobe.  They don;t live near Kobe, but tit’s been on the news every day.  Sala fears that the Earthquake Man is in the house and she can’t settle down until she checks every single possible place in their house.  Finally Sayoko called Junpei because he stays up all night writing anyway. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MUZZ-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #162 (January 29, 2021).

I had not heard of Muzz before this set.  They are a project of Interpol singer Paul Banks.

Paul Banks and Josh Kaufman have known each other since childhood. You likely know Paul Banks as the singer for Interpol; Josh Kaufman is a producer and one-third of Bonny Light Horseman. They are both friends with drummer Matt Barrick, who played a Tiny Desk concert in 2012 with his band The Walkmen.

The trio plays three songs from their self-titled debut album.  I’m not sure what the record sounds like (Barnes suggests that at least one of the songs is more rocking), but this is a mellow gathering.

Josh Kaufman told me via email that “Paul was stuck in Glasgow and Matt and I were quarantining with families in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, respectively. At the very end of a long couple of days of rehearsal and taping, we — very late at night, Paul jet-lagged and the rest plain exhausted — stayed awake a little longer to try a campfire style strum along to some of the songs from our new LP. The result here is our Tiny Desk.”

All three of them are wearing masks and Barnes can sing no problem–people need to lighten up about the masks.

“Bad Feeling” has one guitar from Kaufman and quiet malleted drums as Banks sings.  I don’t really hear Interpol in this at all, it’s much folkier

“Knuckleduster” is kind of a rock n roll song but they’re playing it rather quietly.  It doesn’t sound any different in this format except the drums are heavier and there are some deeper chords.

Barnes picks up a guitar for “Trinidad” and plays the opening melody.  Having the two guitars playing harmonies is really nice.  The drums are just brushes rubbed on the heads.  It has a very campfire feel.

As they prepare for the last song, Barrick brings his drum mic up front.  It takes a moment or two (no edits, Banks jokes). “Summer Love” has a drum machine and Barrick playing a very quiet synth. It, too is a pretty, quiet song with a delicate solo from Kaufman.

[READ: March 10, 2021] “Family Furnishings”

One of the great things about Alice Munro stories is the way she fully fleshes out the characters.  In this story, the plot (such as it is) is one thing, but Munro adds in so much detail  about the characters–details that give you a fuller picture of them, but which don’t really have an impact directly on the plot–that you feel like you are fully a part of this world. We learn that the narrator was married twice an we learn a bunch  about her first and second husbands. None of this has any direct bearing on the story, but these details give you the most complete picture of the narrator and helps to flesh out the decisions she makes.

This is the story of a young woman who grows up to become a writer and how her father’s cousin had an unexpectedly big impact on that career trajectory.

When the narrator was little her father’s cousin Alfrida (Freddy) was a dramatic and dynamic person.  She worked for the newspaper and was part of the collective of writers who contributed to “Flora Simpson Housewives’ Pages” (there was no Flora Simpson, just a photo of a woman).  She also wrote the “Round and About Town” column which allowed her to give her opinion on all things local.

She was appropriately full of herself but she was always a delight to have around.  The rest of her family was quite dull and formal and the narrator felt like Alfrida loosened everyone up. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS with MERZBOW-Gensho (Disc Two: Merzbow) (2016).

In 2016, Boris teamed with Merzbow to create Gensho, a 2 CD package that was designed to have both CDs played at the same time.  Not the easiest thing for many people, but with the advent of digital recordings it’s now pretty easy to play both discs at the same time (this release is on Spotify).

Disc 1 was all Boris.  Disc 2 was all Merzbow.

Merzbow is a real challenge for me.  I’m not really sure how anyone can listen to his music for pleasure.  It’s harsh, electronic sounds, with high pitched squeals and low staticy distortions.  As an exercise in noise, it’s fairly interesting, but never enjoyable.

This disc includes four songs.

“Planet of the Cows” is over 18 minutes long.  It’s high pitched squealing and a low distortion.  There’s a thumping that works almost like a rhythm.  After ten minutes it sounds like a space alarm is sounding.

“Goloka Pt. 1” is 20 minutes long.  It feels bigger and more metallic.  The noises seem to coalesce into a distant screaming sound.

“Goloka Pt. 2” is 19:30.  It’s got a slightly lower tone, with slower movement among the noises.  Although sirens and pulsing sounds are present.  Then at 12 minutes all the sirens drop out to just a quiet robotic pulsing with thumping that sound like a heartbeat.  The track ends in what sounds like mechanical breathing.

“Prelude to a Broken Arm” is the shortest song at only 16 minutes.  It is quieter with a low crunching and bug-like sounds.  At 6 and half minutes the distortion comes in really loud with a mechanical drum/broken engine sound and then a looping siren with the kind of static noise that sounds like more screaming.

It is an unsettling and challenging listen and not for the squeamish.

[READ: February 10, 2021] “Our House”

Irish writers are often known for their humorous storytelling.  But wow, can Irish writers really hit hard with the tragedy, too.

This is one of the darkest stories I’ve read in a long time.

The story begins with the narrator saying that his father always told him to never buy a house on a  corner.  But the narrator and his wife did anyway.  It was in bad shape and needed a lot of work, but they fell in love with the place and felt they were up to the task.

The story sets up the spouses as opposites in love.  She is a non-practicing Protestant with a Catholic name (Ursula) and he is a non-practicing Catholic with a Protestant name.  She thinks he is funny and he never dares to admit that she rarely gets the jokes.

The previous owner died three years ago and they are the first people to check out the place.  The more they clean the more work they see needs to get done.  Although there are some nice surprises (like the five hundred pounds in cash they find under the carpet).

But it’s the neighborhood that proves to be more hostile to them than they could ever have imagined.  Children began gathering at the corner every day.  They get up to mischief right away–ringing the doorbell and running, bouncing a ball off the house.  But there is an underlying air of menace behind all of this. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS with MERZBOW-Gensho (Disc One: Boris) (2016).

In 2016, Boris teamed with Merzbow to create Gensho, a 2 CD package that was designed to have both CDs played at the same time.  Not the easiest thing for many people, but with the advent of digital recordings it’s now pretty easy to play both discs at the same time (this release is on Spotify).

Disc 1 was all Boris.  Disc 2 was all Merzbow.

Boris’ album is unusual in that it is re-recordings of some of the bands music as well as a couple of new tracks and a cover.  The unusual part is that there are no drums.  There are percussive elements, especially on one track, but there’s no regular drum beat to any of these tracks.

“Farewell” (from Pink) is a simple two note guitar melody with washes of sound behind it.  New notes expand that repeating motif. After two minutes a roaring chord comes in and holds while the vocals sing an uplifting melody.  The chord progression is very very slow with chords that drone. When the melody shifts to a higher note it feels like the whole song is elevated.  There’s a pretty little guitar solo in the middle and even a gong hit.  It’s one of Boris’ prettier songs and it fades softly into the noise that is “Huge.”

“Huge” (from Amplifier Worship) is two feedbacking guitars introducing distorted chords and lots of gong hits.  They’re followed by a ponderous drone-fueled six chord progression.  At around five minutes the vocals–a growl really–starts up.  At 8 minutes a new pattern emerges.  Two chugging chords and then a roaring low note–practically trademark Boris.

“Resonance” was a new song for Boris.  It is only echoed percussion–randomly and slowly hit.  The title makes sense as these sounds echo and resonate for a long time after they are sounded.  It’s not particularly interesting by itself but it works well with the Merzbow track tacked on.

“Rainbow” comes from the album Rainbow, a collaboration with Michio Kurihara.  I don’t know this record, but if this is any indication of that release, it sounds like a string record.  This is a quiet, pretty song–a sliding bass and a quietly echoing guitar riff as the song whispers along.  Then Wata starts singing quietly as the bass slinks around.  After three minutes a fuzzy guitar solo comes in drawing all attention to itself.  It rips through and ends in a wall of noise before the vocals start again.  This sounds very much like a Sonic Youth song.

Pulsing electronic noses open up “Sometimes” (a My Bloody Valentine cover).  After a minute, feedback and chords come in.  The vocals are nicely buried an you can clearly hear this is Boris’ take on MBV.  It’s a slow drone wall rather than a wall of different sounds.

It segues into “Heavy Rain” (from Noise) which opens as just a series of electronic rumbles and feedback jamming until a pretty echoing chord comes in and Wata sings very quietly.   After a minute and a half big droning chords ring out.  Then its back to the quiet–whispered vocals and gentle echoing notes over a slow meandering bass.   It soars quietly like this until the last 44 seconds which returns to the noise of the opening.

“Akuma No Uta” (from Akuma No Uta) is full of washes of notes, drones and gongs.  Over the course of the 11 and a half minutes of this song, it morphs into loud distorted chords drones ending with a slow heavy two note riff that fades with gongs.

“Akirame Flower” (originally from Golden Dance Classics a split EP with 9dw that I don’t know) opens with watery noises and electronic beat before raw guitar and vocals come in.  This is a softer drone with a pretty guitar solo on top of the fuzz.  The last note rings out and segues into the distorted bent chords of “Vomitself.”

“Vomitself” is the heaviest thing here–heavily distorted chords pummel along while growled vocals creak though.  It’s remarkable how heavy it is with no drums.

[READ: February 5, 2021] “Jamaica”

In this story, a man who is not allowed to go to his wife’s book club, finds a way to be a part of it

Everett is the narrator and he tells us about his family.  His daughter Theresa is dating a man much older than her (of whom Everett disapproves highly); Thomas his son who was born blind.  TJ their dachshund is as much a part of the story as anyone else.  His wife, Jillian, hosts the The Gorgon Book Club.

The attendees are Theresa, Dorry Smith a semi-professional archer–right down to carrying a bow and arrow with her wherever she goes, Luce Winningham who has “a Peter Pan haircut and a perky disdain for wearing a brassiere.”  There’s also Gwen Kirkle who loves animals more than anything (and often brings conversations to a halt when she talks about them).  The final attendee is Abigail Van Roost.

Everett and Abigail dated in high school. Then she had a terrible accident.  Everett (out of cowardice) broke up with her and started dating Jillian.  Amazingly, Abby (who is in a wheelchair) is fine with the arrangement,  She is happily married herself now and treats young Thomas like a prince. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKVOX SAMBOU-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #135/151 (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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