Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘#metoo’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JESCA HOOP-Tiny Desk Concert #965 (April 3, 2020).

I really liked the Tiny Desk Concert that features Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop.  So much so that I bought the CD and it made me want to see both of them live.

Jesca Hoop last appeared at the Tiny Desk as a duet with Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) in the spring of 2016. They sang songs from their collaborative record Love Letters For Fire.

This time it is just Jesca and I have realized that I liked her more as an accompanist rather than a lead singer.  Actually, that’s not exactly right.  Her voice is lovely.  I just find the songs a little meandering.

This time around, Jesca Hoop came to the Tiny Desk with just her guitars, her lovely voice, and brilliant poetic songs. She has a magical way with words, and she opened her set with “Pegasi,” a beautiful song about the wild ride that is love, from her 2017 album Memories Are Now.

“Pegasi” is nice to watch her play the fairly complex guitar melodies–she uses all of the neck.  The utterly amazing thing about “Pegasi” though comes at the end of the song when she sings an amazing note (high and long) that represents a dying star.

She wanted to sing it today so it could live on Tiny Desk.

The two songs that follow are from her latest album, Stonechild, the album that captured my heart in 2019, and the reason I reached out to invite her to perform at my desk.

“All Time Low” is a song, she says, for the “existential underdog.”  She switches guitars (to an electric) and once again, most of the melody takes place on the high notes of the guitar.  Her melodies are fascinating.  And the lyrics are interesting too:

“Michael on the outside, always looking in
A dog in the fight but his dog never wins
If he works that much harder, his ship might come in
He gives it the old heave-ho.”

After the song, she says, I’m going to tune my guitar, but I’m not going to talk so it doesn’t take as long. If you were at my show, I’d be talking the whole time and it would take a long time.

And for her final tune, she plays “Shoulder Charge.” It’s a song that features a word that Jesca stumbled upon online: “sonder,” which you won’t find in the dictionary. She tells the NPR crowd “sonder” is the realization “that every person that you come across is living a life as rich and complex as your own.” And that realization takes you out of the center of things, something that is at the heart of “Shoulder Charge” and quite a potent moment in this deeply reflective and personal Tiny Desk concert.

This word, sonder, came to my attention back in 2016 when Kishi Bashi first discovered it and named his album Sonderlust for it.

The song is like the others, slow and quite with a pretty melody that doesn’t really go anywhere.

I found that after three listens, I started to enjoy the songs more, so maybe she just writes songs that you need to hear a few times to really appreciate.

[READ: March 2020] Ducks, Newburyport

I heard about this book because the folks on the David Foster Wallace newsgroup were discussing it.  I knew nothing about it but when I read someone describe the book like this:

1 Woman’s internal monologue.  8 Sentences. 1040 pages

I was instantly intrigued.

Then my friend Daryl said that he was really enjoying it, so I knew I had to check it out.

That one line  is technically (almost) accurate but not really accurate.

The story (well, 95% of it) is told through one woman’s stream of consciousness interior monologue.  She is a mother living in Ohio.  She has four children and she is overwhelmed by them.  Actually she is overwhelmed by a lot and she can’t stop thinking about these things.

She used to teach at a small college but felt that the job was terrible and that she was not cut out for it.  So now she bakes at home and sells her goods locally.  She specializes in tarte tatin.  This is why she spends so much time with her thoughts–she works alone at home.  Her husband travels for work.  Whether she is actually making money for the family is a valid but moot question.

So for most of the book not much happens, exactly.  We just see her mind as she thinks of all the things going on around her.  I assume she’s reading the internet (news items come and go in a flash).  She is quite funny in her assessment of the world (how much she hates trump).  While I was reading this and more and more stupid things happened in the real world, I couldn’t help but imagine her reaction to them).  She’s not a total liberal (she didn’t trust Hillary), but she is no conservative either (having lived in Massachusetts and New York).  In fact, she feels she does not fit in locally at all. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACKFRAGILE ROCK-“Smile More” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next two shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

It’s hard to talk seriously about Fragile Rock since they are a band of puppets.  Literally.

To say that Fragile Rock sent the evening hurtling sideways would be an understatement, as the band unleashed a torrent of faux-grim hilarity and chaos when it wasn’t urging the audience to shout out its prescribed antidepressants or berating fans for grinning along. (“We don’t appreciate your smiles,” seethed Brently Heilbron, in the persona of wounded frontpuppet Milo S. “You wouldn’t do that to Conor Oberst.”

And yet they are a good punk band and their lyrics have become even more pointed.  Especially this one.  They explain:

This is a song that Nick and I wrote reflecting on the #metoo and #timesup movements (that’s right lady in the back snapping your fingers you are correct).

This is a great punk blast and frankly it’s nice to hear a song sung by the female vocalists instead of the Fred Schneider-sounding male lead singer.

For “Smile More,” the spotlight shifted to Emily Cawood (performing as Briex Cocteau) and Megan Thornton (aka Nic Hole), who spent two minutes savaging the patriarchy. “Don’t tell me to smile more, don’t tell me what my mouth is for, from a man who started every war,” Thornton and her puppet shouted in unison. And, see, here’s the secret to Fragile Rock’s raucous, ridiculous charm: Subtract the puppets, the stage antics and the silliness of all, and you’re still left with some pretty damned good songs.

And nice succinct lyrics:

You could have had it all
You blew it didn’t you
I’m gonna watch you fall and
Never ever pity you
You’re purposeless
Your license is expired
Your services are no longer required

Your time has come and gone….time’s up!

All in two minutes.

[READ: March 14, 2019] Florida

When I started reading this book, I instantly remembered reading “Ghosts and Empties” in the New Yorker.  I assumed and was pleased that this was a full novel built out of that story.  Why?  Because nowhere on this book does it say that these are short stories.   Not on the cover, not on the front page, nor the back page.  It’s somewhere on the fly leaf, but since Groff also writes novels, it’s a bit of an oddity to not say “stories” somewhere on it.  I looked at the Table of Contents, obviously, but just assumed those where chapter headings.

I was exited to read the fuller story of the woman who walks at night.  And then I found out that the next “chapter” was a new story.  It turned out to be a fantastic story.  So that’s all good.  I don’t mind reading short stories at all, it was just a surprise.

It also turned out that I have read five of these short stores before (she is often printed in the New Yorker–the other stories were in different journals which I put in brackets after each title).

“Ghosts and Empties” (New Yorker, July 20, 2015)
I see now that I didn’t really enjoy this story the first time I read it (and yet it stayed with me all these years).  But I did enjoy it more this time (I still find it unsatisfying that the opening parental freakout part is never really addressed).  But basically this is a story in which woman walks around her neighborhood every night and observes things changing–for better or worse.  Old nuns dying, new houses being built, neighbors changing.  All in the heat of Florida. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: WU-TANG CLAN-Tiny Desk Concert #810 (December 5, 2018).

Wu-Tang Clan is more myth than real in my mind.  I didn’t even know they had released so many records.  I thought they had done two or three and then that $2 million record and that was it.

Of course I knew that each Wu had a hugely successful solo career as well.

Somehow I even missed that they are doing a show in Philly next month ($100/ticket for GA seats).

So I was pretty surprised to see them at the Tiny Desk.  And after watching the show, I totally see the appeal of seven or eight lead rappers flowing off of each other and backing each other up.  Each guy has his own style and it’s a ton of fun hearing them play snippets throughout their career.

Obviously I don’t know many of their songs, so I couldn’t even speculate how many songs they do a snippet of.   But I enjoyed watching them pivot around each other in this small space.  All the while the live strings (!) sounds great and RZA played DJ with turntables and a whole lot more.

The rest of the Clan include:

Cappadonna: black leather jacket/backwards baseball cap
U-God: gray hoodie and sunglasses
GZA: blue hoodie
Masta Killa: camo jacket
Raekwon: aqua jacket
Inspectah Deck: White hoodie blue sleeves
Young Dirty Bastard: black sweatshirt and fun hair

So what was this all about?

The Wu-Tang Clan gathered at the Tiny Desk to commemorate the 25 years since the release of the group’s landmark album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). With more than 60 albums between the various members, The Clan’s combined discography left them spoiled for choice when it came to narrowing down the set list for their performance. The result was an extended, 20-minute medley of songs from across the group’s iconic catalog.

The retrospective mashup of Wu classics started with the posse cut “Triumph.” Backed by strings (The Green Project), the performance morphed into an old-school cipher as Raekwon, Inspectah Deck and Cappadonna traded verses with GZA, Masta Killa and U-God. Young Dirty Bastard, son of original member Ol’ Dirty Bastard, provided a spark of energy reminiscent of his father.

As RZA cued up songs, the Clan got the crowd to chant along

Wu-Tang clan ain’t nothing to fuck with

The medley includes “Glaciers of Ice” and “Protect Ya Neck”

They give a shout out to Method Man who couldn’t be there, while RZA plays a clip from one of his songs.

After about fifteen minutes RZA says

We could do this shit all day we having fun like a motherfucker.

This leads to RZA rapping “Duckseason.”

At one moment in the performance, RZA — the mastermind behind the Clan’s success — omits some explicit lyrics from earlier in his Wu journey, while alluding to the #MeToo movement mid-cadence.

They finish up the set with “C.R.E.A.M.”  [Doll bill, Dollar bill, y’all].  This gets everyone going.  When they end, RZA has one more request.

He says he’s always wanted to play with a trio.  Is it okay if I do one dart and you can play whatever the fuck you want.

But it’s the poetic interlude, read from his phone at the close of the set, that better reflects his current state of consciousness.

The Green Project plays a great little mildly menacing melody as he does his brand new lyric.

They end with a big “Wu-Tang is for the kids.”

Kinda makes me want to spend $100 to see them.

[READ: December 20, 2018] “Addie and the Chili”

Lydia Davis is known for her short, quirky stories. But I often wonder if her stories get published just because of her name.

This is a story in which nothing happens.  And three-quarters of the way through, it even bemoans the fact that nothing happened.

It opens with

Years ago, Ellie asked me to write the story of our friend Addie and the chili.

She says she tried to write it then and gave up.  But now, 30 years later, she tries again. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: PEDRO THE LION-Tiny Desk Concert #802 (November 8, 2018).

At one time there were a lot of bands that had the word “the” in the middle of their name.

I have even tried to remember all of them, and it’s kind of hard:

Cage the Elephant
Portugal The Man
Young the Giant
Jukebox the Ghost

I pretty much made the decision to ignore all of them.  But over the years a few have either stuck out or remained for me.

Pedro the Lion was not one of them.  Probably because they went on hiatus while main Pedro, David Bazan recorded under other names:

“I’ve made music under many brand names. It was a dumb idea.  Don’t do that if you’re trying to make songs over your life and keep your creative personality intact and have people consume your music enough to allow you to do it you should use the same name.”  You can find that music filed under his previous “brands” or incarnations as Headphones, Lo Tom and his own name. But here Bazan returns to the one that first gave him voice: Pedro the Lion, a name he now says he intends to keep.

I don’t know much about Bazan.  He has a pleasing deep voice and his songs are pretty simple and catchy.

He opens with “When They Really Get to Know You They Will Run” a song that I rather like.  It’s got a great melody, with a cool slide during the guitar riff.  And I like that he’s playing lead bass.

No matter how dark or disastrous, there’s always been an undercurrent of grace to the music of David Bazan. Even in his most righteous anger, empathy seeps through. “When They Really Get to Know You They Will Run” opens the Tiny Desk set with sparse instrumentation — Erik Walters on guitar, Bazan on bass, Sean Lane on brushes and snare — not unlike performances of yesteryear, when slyly clever-yet-quiet riffs put Bazan’s sardonic wit front and center. Twenty years after being released on Pedro the Lion’s debut album, It’s Hard to Find a Friend, the cheeky song about hypocrisy (exposing the toxic male gaze through double standards of beauty) still rings painfully true.

The lyrics are pretty sharp, too:

Don’t like girls the way they are
So shave their legs and make them look like movie stars
Then we can pretend that it’s natural
Put on whatever makes you attractive
If it’s not you then do it for the sake of fashion
Your friends like a certain you
That’s who you’ve got to be

He says he wrote that song when he was 21 and he’s 42 now.

The second song “Yellow Bike” has been getting some airplay by me.  I find the recorded version way too simple and obvious.  But this version sounds great–it’s the roughness of his voice or the spareness of the instrumentation.  It’s a sweet song full of nostalgia.

When it’s over he says “we never played that in public before.”

Evidently Bazan created many songs under his own name.

So what about all of those songs released as “David Bazan” from the past decade? Those are now Pedro the Lion songs! That includes “Kept Secrets,” originally released on 2016’s Blanco. Its slow, doleful sway closed out the Tiny Desk with a hidden hope washed in snow, “white with ocean foam.”

This song is much slower and moodier.  It’s my least favorite of the three and I feel he sounds a but like the dude from Counting Crows, which is horrible.  But again I love the fact hat he’s playing bass chords and the harmonies are pretty terrific.

[READ: December 11, 2017] “Cat Person”

This is a terrific story about meeting someone and deciding if they are worthy of dating.  I particularly enjoyed that it was almost entirely from within the young woman’s head as she tried to figure out what to make of her new, older, suitor.

The story centers on a 20-year-old college student named Margot who gradually falls into flirtation with a man named Robert.

Margot worked at a movie theater.  When he bought red vines from her she said she didn’t think she’d actually sold a box before.  Margot used to flirt with customers when she was a barista–it got tips.  But you didn’t get tips at the concession stand.  Nevertheless, she was bored and Robert was kind of cute–not introduce-yourself-to at a party cute but cute enough.  Robert didn’t really respond to her.  But he came back the next week and when he got Red Vines again he said congratulations, you managed not to insult me this time.   He asked for her number and she gave it to him.

They spend a lot of time texting.  It was very jokey, but she seemed to be doing a lot of the work–he would respond, but if she didn’t say something funny, neither did he. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: OF MONSTERS AND MEN-“Mountain Sound” (Field Recordings, June 13, 2012).

When this song first came out I was instantly smitten by it.  The combination of male and female vocals, the big chorus and interesting instrumentation were just terrific.  And the song is catchy as anything.

And then the rest of the world thought the same and this song became inescapable.

Around the same time I heard Of Monsters and Men, I also heard The Head and the Heart who had a similar aesthetic.  And I still have a hard time telling them apart (even if OMAM is from Iceland and THATH is from Seattle).

This Field Recording [Of Monsters And Men Brings Out The Sun] was filmed on the first day of the Sasquatch! Music Festival.

We managed to get backstage of the Gorge Amphitheater to capture a live session with one of the hottest new bands to hit the festival circuit, Of Monsters and Men. No strangers to natural beauty, the Icelanders were nevertheless stunned by the picturesque backdrop of the Gorge as they performed “Mountain Sound,” one of the new songs added to the American release of their debut album.

“We sleep until the sun goes down,” they sang repeatedly while the sun instead broke through the clouds as if called out by the song’s radiant optimism. The band will continue to thrill fans in larger and larger venues, but it’s private moments like this when Of Monsters and Men best displays its natural charm.

This is a wonderfully low-key take on the song with just a couple of guitars, and accordion and a trumpet (and a big plastic drum as the percussion).

I’ve heard this song so many times that it’s nice to hear it in such an unadorned fashion.  To actually hear the two lead vocals–how unusual they sound.  And to see how much fun the band is having playing at the Sasquatch Festival (yes, in Seattle).

[READ: November 12, 2018] “Show Recent Some Love”

I love Sam Lipsyte’s stories.  I love the tone and breeziness he showcases, even in stories with serious undertones.

This story ( I assume it is an excerpt) is unofficially set during the #metoo movement.  Mike Maltby was recently fired from his own company: “Only an ogre could defend Mike Maltby.”  Isaac, the protagonist, was not an ogre–maybe a jerk–said Nina his life partner.

But Isaac agreed that Mike’s ouster was for the best–Mike had done all kinds of heinous things in executives suites, “because it wasn’t about sex.  It was about power.  And sex.  And probably a few other things.”

But Isaac felt a twinge of remorse because Maltby had hired him and “had also been, weirdly enough for a brief time, his stepfather.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK:  YO-YO-MA-Tiny Desk Concert #777 (August 17, 2018).

One needs to say very little to introduce Yo-Yo Ma, probably the most famous cellist in the world.  He is here because he has recorded Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach.  Again.  For the third time.

Obsessed or awestruck, artists revisit great inspirations because they believe there is yet another story to tell – about life, about themselves.  Cellist Yo-Yo Ma brought his great inspiration, and in turn part of his own life story, to an enthusiastic audience packed around the Tiny Desk on a hot summer day. Ma is returning, yet again, to the Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach, a Mount Everest for any cellist. He has just released Six Evolutions – Bach: Cello Suites, his third studio recording of the complete set and is taking the music on a two-year, six-continent tour. Ma’s first recording of the Suites, released in 1983, earned him his first Grammy.

Certainly one of the most brilliant cellists of modern times, he’s also a thoughtful, curious humanitarian, with an endless thirst to understand, celebrate, and connect disparate cultures of the world.

He plays three pieces from the Suites

J.S. Bach: “Prelude (from Suite No. 1 for Solo Cello)”  It is so beautiful and familiar, it sounds amazing on his cello.  he says “This was the very first piece of music I started on the cello… when I was 4 years old.  One measure a day.  It’s not painful to learn something incrementally.”  He describes how he recognized that the second measure was similar to the first and the third was just a variation.  He says, “I lived with this music for 58 years (plus 4, that’s my age).”

Ma has played the music for 58 years and along the way it’s become something of a practical guide to living, pulling him through hardships and celebrating times of joy. “It’s like forensic musicology,” Ma told the Tiny Desk audience. “Embedded in the way I play is actually, in many ways, everything I’ve experienced.”

J.S. Bach: “Sarabande (from Suite No. 6 for Solo Cello)”  The sarabande comes from many places.   All of these places have claimed it:  Guatemala, Mexico, Moorish Spain, via Portugal or Morocco.  He says the sarabande is the heart of the suites.

It has served dual purposes, Ma explained. “I’ve played this piece both at friends’ weddings, and unfortunately also at their memorial services.”

J.S. Bach: “Gigue (from Suite No. 3 for Solo Cello)”  He says for the last piece at the Tiny Desk, I’m going to play a tiny jig.  He says Bach goes from old dances to folk or popular dance.  Here is this German composer working a jog into the third suite.

The exuberant “Gigue,” from the Third Suite, with its toe-tapping beat, reminds us that Bach was far from a stuffed wig. Such is this sturdy, versatile and benevolent music, offering a full range of the human condition.

Ma is happy to teach the listeners what he is doing, to share the joy and love of music.  Sometimes literally

As soon as he arrived at our office to play, Ma unpacked his cello – a famed 1712 Stradivarius – and immediately handed it over, with his bow, and said, “Here play something.” It didn’t matter that I’d never held a cello. It was just another one of Yo-Yo Ma’s warm and welcoming gestures, another way to open up music to anyone and everyone.

It’s all beautiful!

[READ: August 27, 2018] “Ways and Means”

This story tackles sexual harassment at the workplace from an interesting angle (and is written in a great, fluid style that makes the story utterly compelling).

Hal (short for Haley-Ann, a name she always hated) is an engineer at a public radio station.  She was one of the first women to work in such a position and has been there for over a decade.  The story opens with her reading a public apology from an on-air personality, Oliver.  Oliver had worked at he station for over three decades and was a huge draw for both audience and pledges.

The apology went to everyone’s inbox and then went public.  She felt it was trite with words that he, Oliver, would never have said in real life like invalidated).

The accuser was unnamed but everyone in the building knew it was Molly, a 26-year-old podcast producer. (more…)

Read Full Post »