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Archive for the ‘Alexandra Sauser-Monnig’ Category

[ATTENDED: March 12, 2022] Daughter of Swords

I first heard The Tallest Man on Earth back in 2014.  I had a ticket to see him play Union Transfer in November 2018.  But I had to skip that show because of a Scout hike that I was asked to go on.

I promised myself I’d see him the next time he came to town.  That was October 2019.  But at the least minute he had to cancel the tour because of personal problems back home in Sweden.

He rescheduled the show for 2020.  The show was on my birthday, and I like to spend the day with my family.  I bought at ticket anyway, just to see how the day went.  And then Covid struck.

He rescheduled the show for March of 2021, but that had to get pushed back as well.

And here it is, March of 2022, four and a half years after the initial date, and I finally got to see him.  Interestingly, four and a half years isn’t really that long given who infrequently some other bands tour.  But for him, that’s a lifetime and a half.

The Tallest Man on Earth is Kristian Matsson, a Swedish folksinger with a great guitar picking style and a deep powerful gritty voice.   The lights went down and the stage was full of pointy shards of plastic (?) standing upright as a backdrop.  They were primarily white, but I loved the way the lights played off of them changing the colors of the stage.

After a recording of a Swedish song, Matsson came out on stage.  I don’t know if he is usually solo (I assume so).  He was dressed in a white T shirt with light pants that were rolled up.  And he scampered and leapt around the stage with lightness (if not always grace).  He capered.  From one side of the stage to the other, he checked in with the audience while he was singing.

He played two songs on electric guitar (“The Foothills” which I think is new and “The Gardener,” which is very much not new).  His voice is deep and gruff and incredibly powerful.

After two songs he switched guitars.  This time to an acoustic 12 string.

There’s something really fantastic about his guitar playing that just fills a room.  With just the one guitar (okay, like a dozen guitars, but one at a time) his songs never sound like a guy with a guitar.  He has a very percussive style of play and he uses a lot of opening tunings so his notes ring out and fill the room.  It’s pretty wonderful.

He also let us in on a secret.  After the third song, he stopped to tell us that his nail had come off. He told a lengthy story about himself and Jose Gonzales and how they both glue extra fingernails on the tips of their fingers to help the with their playing style.  And one of them had just popped off so he needed some glue.  He told us that he took off the nails at the end of the show so he could look normal, but that he couldn’t play without them.  So we waited while he talked and fixed his nail(s).

Then he switched over to an acoustic six string for the next couple of songs.

Joking that SHE doesn’t need fake nails, he called Daughter of Swords to perform a lovely duet of The Velvet Underground’s “I Found a Reason.”

When Alexandra left the stage, he went over to the piano that was at the side of the stage for There’s No Leaving Now.”

With a new six string acoustic, he played a few more songs like the fantastic “1904” and “King of Spain.”  Then he brought out his banjo for “Somewhere in the Mountains, Somewhere in New York.”  And he ended the set with an electric and electrifying version of “The Stranger.”

When he came back out for the encore, he sneaked around through the sculptures, hiding behind them and peeking out above them.

He started the encore with “The Wild Hunt,” and we all sang along.  Then he ended the show with piano version of “Like The Wheel.”

At the end of the song he stood on the piano and waved to everyone in turn, rotating to make sure he got everyone.  And then he leapt off the piano and scampered off stage.

What a fun show!  (I didn’t even need to mention the group of ten drunks behind me who were talking really loudly about New York and their drinks and who knows what else.  They sucked).

  1. The Foothills
  2. The Gardener
  3. Wind and Walls
  4. Dark Bird Is Home ♠
  5. Rivers
  6. A Lion’s Heart
  7. I Found a Reason (The Velvet Underground cover) (with Daughter of Swords)
  8. There’s No Leaving Now (piano)
  9. The Running Styles of New York ♥
  10. I’ll Be a Sky ♥
  11. 1904
  12. Love Is All
  13. King of Spain
  14. Revelation Blues
  15. Somewhere in the Mountains, Somewhere in New York ‰
  16. I’m a Stranger Now ♥
  17. The Dreamer §
    encore
  18. The Wild Hunt
  19. Like the Wheel (piano) §

♥ I Love You, It’s a Fever Dream (2019)
‰ When the Bird Sees the Solid Ground EP (2018)

♠ Dark Bird is Home (2015)
⊗ There’s No Leaving Now (2012)
€ The Wild Hunt (2010)

§ Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird EP (2010)
⊄ Shallow Grave (2008)

 

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[ATTENDED: March 12, 2022] Daughter of Swords

In my head, I thought that a show that started at 6:30 would be over in plenty of time for me to make a show that started at 8 a few blocks away.

I guess I hadn’t counted on Wet Leg having an opening band (of course, they couldn’t really charge a full price ticket for 45 minutes of music, right?).  So Wet Leg ended at roughly 8:15.  It took me about 10 minutes to walk to Union Transfer and get situated.  I saw the end of one Daughter of Swords song and by the time I found the much closer spot where I wanted to stand, she announced that she had one song left.

So I saw the final Daughter of Swords song. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FLOCK OF DIMES-Tiny Desk Concert #246 (August 10, 2021).

Flock of Dimes is a fun band name.  It’s the solo project of Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner (I thought Wye Oak was a solo project as well–no, it’s a duo).  [Gee, why wasn’t Andy Stack invited to this sing along?]

For this Home Concert, the solo project turns huge with nine people sitting around having a big ol’ sing along (I’ll assume they are all vaccinated and that this was filmed before Delta took off).

The setup is pretty simple: three guitars (I love that the guys on the couch are lefty (Michael Libramento, baritone guitar) and righty (Alan Good Parker, tenor guitar) so it looks appealingly symmetrical). some percussion and a lot of voices (the men on the right of the screen seems somewhat less invested).

The friends who are singing along include the three singers from Mountain Man: Amelia Randall Meath, Molly Sarlé and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig.  Meath is also in Sylvan Esso and her bandmate Nick Sanborn is also present (he’s one of the less invested men).  The set is filmed at Sylvan Esso’s new studio in Durham, N.C., called Betty’s.

“Two” is a bouncy number with lots of percussion.  I like the way the backing singers join in from time to time, but not constantly–it introduces new voices throughout.

One of the invested men is percussionist Matthew McCaughan from Bon Iver–he’s got a full complement of instruments at hand.  Joe Westerland (from Megafaun) is the other percussionist, he’s just a bit more subtle in his actions, but you can see him gently tapping through “Two.”

“Price of Blue” is a little slower but it has a wonderful melody.  The harmonies really standout on this song.

I don’t know the originals of these songs, but I have to assume the blurb is correct

These acoustic performances actually shed new light, thanks to radiant and radically different arrangements, while fully capturing the warmth we look for from Tiny Desk concerts.

Whatever the case, the backing vocals are tremendous.  You can really hear Molly Sarlé’s gorgeous harmony vocals.

“Awake For The Sunrise” feels like an old fashioned fire side sing along.  I’ve enjoyed Wye Oak’s music but I don’t know it very well.  I rather like Wassner’s delivery here–but i feel like these songs might not be as good without these harmonies!

[READ: August 12, 2021] New Teeth

I’m guessing that Simon Rich had a baby.

This collection of stories is loaded with stories about little kids.  And that’s all right because he has a very funny take on being a parent.

The other stories tackle the corporate environment and are full of fish-out-of-water stories.

“Learning the Ropes” is about being a new parent.  But it is written from the point of view of two pirates. And hilarity ensues.

What’s odd to me is that in his first books, his stories were really short, but I feel like lately his stories have gotten much longer–sometimes too long.  This one in particular kind of dragged at times, because it’s pretty much a one-note joke: what? pirates raising a little girl?!  One pirate is a concerned parent which means he wants them both to care about the child.  It’s got a few very funny moments, and of course, when the pirates who speak in pirate style (“The only man I trust is me first mate”) say things like “Arr… it be called ‘limit testing.’ She be acting out because she be craving discipline,” well, that’s classic Simon Rich right there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAUGHTER OF SWORDS-Tiny Desk Concert #971 (April 29, 2020).

Alexandra Sauser-Monnig is part of Mountain Man (who did a Tiny Desk Concert some time ago).  Daughter of Swords is her solo project.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is just as quiet and delicate as Mountain Man but with a little more instrumentation.

Though she’s joined by a full band here, Daughter of Swords was originally envisioned as a solo project for Alexandra Sauser-Monnig. … With a few hushed folk songs, the music was so eerily still, you could have heard a phone vibrate.

This has to be one of the quietest four-piece bands ever on Tiny Desk.

As “Long Leaf Pine” begins, all you hear is a low rumble–the floor tom from Joe Westerlund.  Then Alexandra Sauser-Monnig begins singing quietly.  Maia Friedman supplies soft backing vocals from time to time.  Sauser-Monnig sings high and quiet and amazingly hits and even higher note before the end.

I like the sound of “Shining Woman” more. I think Alex Bingham’s bass stands out a bit more.  Or maybe it’s because Friedman plays an electric guitar accompaniment.  This song starts with a smattering of interesting percussion from Westerlund and while it is in no way loud, it moves faster than the previous song.

When Mountain Man was here, they talked about breakfast food.  Alexandra reprises that by asking what people had for breakfast.  Answers: a banana, a soft-boiled egg.  Alexandra had a green smoothie and goes on about the large piece of toast she had.  She doesn’t normally eat bread and this felt crazy to her [that should tell you all you need to know about Sauser-Monnig].  Bassist Alex Bingham says, “wild day so far.”

For the final song, “Prairie Winter Wasteland” Friedman plays the guitar to start this song–quietly ringing electric guitar.  There’s an interesting bass line from Bingham on this song and Westerlnd is using a small whisk brush on the cymbals.

[READ: April 20, 2020] “Ride or Die”

This is an excerpt from the novel The Last Taxi Driver.

Set in Mississippi, this excerpt follows a cab driver with one fare, a man just released from prison.

He says they never tell him what they were in for, only that they just got out.

This man–white dude, mid-thirties, a few missing teeth, a few prison tats–is in a fantastic mood.  He’s carrying a twelve-pack of Bud Light and asks to go to the Bethune Woods Project.

The driver says he didn’t even know these projects existed before he started driving a cab.  Most of the other cab companies shun the projects.  He knows that Uber is coming to town “I’ve never used an Uber and don’t understand how that works”), and he assumed they will shun the projects too. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOUNTAIN MAN-“You and I” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

Mountain Man is a trio of three women with beautiful voices.  They often sing a capella or with one guitar accompaniment.  There music is quiet, designed for you to lean in to hear better.

The original song is a gentle folk song (with some gently rocking moments).  Mountain Man make it even more gentle.  The original has a vocal harmony from Feist.  Having a two harmony voices makes this version even more special.

Alexandra Sauser-Moning plays guitar (and maybe sings lead?) while Amelia Meath and Molly Sarle sing gorgeous harmonies.

As with everything Mountain Man does, it’s delicate and lovely.

[READ: February 11, 2020] The Time Museum: Vol. 2

Volume 2 opens up with very little explanation about what happened before.  In fact, it jumps right in the middle of a chase.  A purple creature with four tentacles is running away from Delia in an amusement park.  The purple creature is a kid and he doesn’t know why he’s being chased.  Delia communicates through her wrist watch that the kid has the Icono de Prestigo.

The rest of the beginning of the book has Delia’s Epoch Team chasing this (very fast) kid as he flees with the Icono.  The kid finally settles in the middle of an exhibit for Monstro the Terrible.  They freak out and don’t want to see the kid hurt, but he says his dad works there and the exhibit has been empty for years.  Which proves to be false as immediately Monstro (who looks a lot like the monsters in Stranger Things) awakens and swallows the kid.

Through some brave and disgusting techniques the kid and the icono are rescued.

After all of that, the kid hands over the icono and says its probably all melted anyway.  What?  Then they see him walk by with another one–the icono is actually a container for an ice cream sundae.  The Team was hundreds of years too late to save the actual relic.  When they return they are given a reprimand. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: MOUNTAIN MAN-3 songs from Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

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

Mountain Man have been all over NPR the last couple of months.  And here they are again, showing off their beautiful voices in a church.

When Mountain Man began a decade ago, it consisted of three close friends arraying their voices in a resplendent blend, often without so much as an acoustic guitar for adornment. Today, the configuration remains exactly the same, except that all three members — Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, Molly Sarlé and Amelia Meath — have developed strong solo identities along the way. Sauser-Monnig also records wonderful folk-pop songs under the name Daughter of Swords, Molly Sarlé released a magnificent single under her own name earlier this year, and Meath is the singing, dancing half of the transcendent synth-pop powerhouse Sylvan Esso.  So when Mountain Man showed up for a softly joyful set at NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Family Hour — recorded live at Austin’s Central Presbyterian Church during SXSW on Tuesday night — it was almost like seeing four acts at once: three solo, one collective. Choosing a single excerpt was a fool’s errand, so here are three: the breezy a cappella “AGT,” from 2018’s Magic Ship, as well as Mountain Man arrangements of Sarlé’s “Human” and Daughter of Swords’ “Grasses.”

The opening song is a capella.  It is started by Alexandra with first Molly and then Amelia all joining in to make their gorgeous harmonies.  After the first round through the song, they start singing faster and faster.  To a frankly impressively rapid speed by the end.

The second song is by Molly Sarlé.  She says it’s about how “unfortunately easy it is to talk to god like he’s a man.”  Molly sings the main body while gently strumming her guitar.  Amelia and Alexandra provide the lovely backing vocals.   (I love that Amelia seems to be cracking up a lot through the show, but is always pitch perfect).

Alexandra Sauser-Monnig’s Daughter of Swords song “Grasses” is up next.  The guitar is more picked than strummed, but it is still a very quiet, gentle song.  I really like Molly’s voice as a backing vocalist.

They’ll be performing at Newport Folk Festival and I’m intrigued to see them.

[READ: March 18, 2019] “Color and Light”

I assumed that this story is set in Ireland, although there was nothing explicitly stated about the location–except that it is by the water.

The main character Aidan, has an older brother Declan (could be Ireland or just America).  When we first meet them, they are in Declan’s car and he is driving a woman, Pauline.  Pauline is bold and flirtatious.  She is a screenwriter.  Declan doesn’t say much and Aidan is very shy.  So that leaves Pauline to make all of the comments.  She learns that Aidan works in the hotel.  And at one point she stares at him for a couple of minutes while he puzzles out what she’s after.

A few weeks later Pauline comes to the hotel restaurant with an entourage.  Aidan is surprised at how deferential everyone is to her.  She sort of recognizes him at first and when he explains who he is she seems happy to see him.  When she leaves with her crew she invites him along but he refuses.

A few nights later Declan picks up Aidan from work and a drunk Pauline is in the back seat.  She is feistier than usual and asks Aidan all sots of personal questions–like has he ever slept with a guest at the hotel.  Declan yells that she is flirting with him.  And when Aidan turns around to look at her, sprawled on the backseat, Declan punches him.  By the time Declan drops them off, Aidan can’t tell if Declan is mad at him or at her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOUNTAIN MAN-Tiny Desk Concert #824 (February 13, 2019).

I had only heard of Mountain Man from an earlier Field Recordings Session on NPR–back in 2012!  Since then the individuals have all gone to different successes but they have reconvened for a new album and this Tiny Desk Concert.  We’ll also be seeing them at Newport Folk Festival this summer.

Mountain Man is endearing.  And they are so quiet.

Mountain Man is the perfect band for a Tiny Desk concert. These three women make the most intimate music; and behind the desk, the voices of Amelia Meath, Molly Erin Sarlé and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig were the stars. Adorned by only light, rhythmic acoustic guitar, they sing songs that conjure a simpler life: dogs, friends, moonlight, sunlight, skinny dipping, beach towels and sand.

These dear friends have known each other for more than ten years, since their college days in Vermont. They released their first album in 2010 called Made The Harbor and only recently had a follow-up with the pleasantly surprising, 2018 fall release of Magic Ship.

They play three songs.  “Rang Tang Ring Toon” has a two note guitar melody from Alexandra Sauser-Monnig.  While she plays, she sings the first verse.  Then the other two join in (that’s Molly Sarlé on the really high notes).  It’s a very simple guitar melody–so simple that when she plays a kind of solo (also very simple) it really jolts you out of the gentle melody.

There’s a true kinship that happens in this trio. Things get quiet, sometimes funny and playful or, at moments, awkward, especially when they talk about “savory oatmeal.”

It’s Alexandra who talks about the savory oatmeal (with wild mushrooms, fried garlic, poached egg and chives).  It was delicious–although Molly says, “I had a different thing.”

For “Moon,” Molly plays guitar.  Her playing is more strumming.  She sings very high and the others join in.  One fascinating thing about most of these songs is the nonsense syllables they sing.  Obviously the first song (just the title alone), but even this one has a refrain of:  “Dai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai.”

For the last song Amelia Meath (yes, of Sylan Esso) sings a capella.  Before the song she says she’d like to dedicate it to “all my NPR crushes–anyone who works at NPR who has looked me in the eye and asked me questions about myself.” The song starts with all of them humming.  Then Amelia sings and they accompany her with their hums until they all sing amazing harmonies.  It’s all so quiet and sweet, you just want to lean in to hear them better.

In the eight years between Mountain Man records, Amelia Meath went on to create Sylvan Esso with Nick Sanborn. Molly Sarlé, meanwhile, was in a meditation center in California — at a cliffside trailer in Big Sur — and worked on her own, beautiful solo album, which is due out soon. And Alexandra Sauser-Monnig worked with Hiss Golden Messenger, released her own music under the name ASM and has a new record coming as well.  There’s a tour about to happen, and hopefully they won’t vanish after that for another eight years. There’s no other band like them.

[READ: February 12, 2019] “The Confession”

The confession in this story is a rape.

The narrator is the rapist.  He can’t reveal his name or the rural village where it happened because his father is a feared and respected man and he doens’t want to bring shame on him.

The summer this happened, the boy says his father didn’t want him to be idle, so he was sent to the countryside for hard work with the villagers.  The villagers were illiterate and there was no electricity.  He was bored out of his mind.  The only entertainment was the story that the boys all told about a girl from the area who had been rejected by her clan because of her sexual behavior.

One afternoon he went with one of the older men to the plains to gather grass for the animals.  The man treated the boy with deference because of the boys father, but he did show him how to do the work efficiently.

Then they both saw off in the distance, a young woman crossing the plains.  They both imagined it was the girl from the stories.  So immediately the man ran up to the girl.  She didn’t react to the man–she was too tried to resigned to her fate,  He threatened to hit the her if she screamed and then he tore of the girl’s harem pants.  He then presented the girl to the boy like a gift. (more…)

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