Archive for the ‘Beirut’ Category

5dails33SOUNDTRACK: ANONYMOUS 4 and BRUCE MOLSKY-Tiny Desk Concert #428 (March 28, 2015).

anon4I first heard about Anonymous 4 way back in 1990 when they started.  I even have their debut album of lovely classical a capella.  Now, twenty-five years and twenty-one albums later they are calling it quits.

Their final album is 1865, released to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. and containing songs from that era.

They sing three songs and, unusual as far as I’m concerned, they accompanied by Bruce Molsky, who plays banjo and violin and sings on “Hard Times.”  His voice mixes very well with their higher register–and they can hit some really high notes.

It’s unexpected to hear these singers whom I associate with classical music, singing these “traditional” songs.  But they do a wonderful job.

  • Listen to the Mocking Bird (Richard Milburn, Alice Hawthorne)
  • Hard Times Come Again No More (Stephen Foster)
  • Home, Sweet Home/Polly Put The Kettle On (Henry Bishop, John Howard Payne/Trad.)

As the site explains, the group is original members Ruth Cunningham, Marsha Genensky and Susan Hellauer, plus Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek along with singer, banjo player and fiddler Bruce Molsky, who also appears on the album.

You can watch it here.

[READ: April 4, 2015] Five Dials 33 part I

This issue celebrates the Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall and features illustrations by: Cari Vander Yacht.  They are cool colorful colored pencil drawings sprinkled throughout the issue.  Most of them are vaguely alien creatures sitting around, shopping, doing a head stand (or break dancing).  You know, as aliens do.

Rather than a letter from the editor, we get a link entitled What’s this issue all about?  It is a link to a Guardian article about #readwomen2014 asking Will #readwomen2014 change our sexist reading habits?  Of course, it is now 2015 and I missed the whole thing.  I wonder if it did. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_12_03_12Thiebaud.inddSOUNDTRACK: BEIRUT-Live at KEXP, October 3, 2007 (2007).  

beirutBeirut plays a fuller set here for KEXP than in the Tiny Desk concert.  They open with “Cherbourg” an accordion-based song that lurches along happily before the full band kicks in and begins rocking the song.   “Sunday Smile” feels very cinematic although when the martial beats begin the song takes quite a different sound.  “Cocek” opens with horns and accordion.  This is clearly not a typical rock set up at all, and it quickly turns into an awesomely shambolic dance instrumental.  My favorite track is “Forks and Knives (La Fete),” with it’s wonderful violin melody and falsetto’d lyrics.

NPR has given me a really great appreciation for this band.  They sound wonderful live.  I wonder if it translates well to studio albums?  You can hear this set here.

[READ: December 3, 2012] “Bear”

The December 3 issue of the New Yorker is The Food Issue.  Generally I don’t get that excited by this special issue, and this was no real exception.  But I wound up with some extra time so I delved into the four “Gut Course” articles in the magazine.

Gourevitch’s article is indeed about a bear.

He describes the “Summer of his twentieth year” (weird style there) in which he was in the mountains of Wyoming and got a job as an animal skinner.  He had no experience of skinning animals but he “moved through life with a dauntlessness born of cluelessness” (I like that) and he needed a job.

The place where he worked was a game-processing plant.  It was used primarily by tourists who killed for sport, so there was a lot of extra meat in the freezer. He and the other kid working there often liberated some frozen meat understanding that it would just get freezer-burned if they didn’t.  And then there came the bear. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_12_03_12Thiebaud.inddSOUNDTRACK: BEIRUT-Tiny Desk Concert #159 (September 21, 2011).

beirut tinyI don’t know a lot about Beirut.  NPR seems to like them and all I know about them comes from the shows NPR streamed.  This Tiny Desk concert is only 12 minutes long and the band doesn’t chat very much.  But they play three songs: “East Harlem,” “Santa Fe,” and “Serbian Cocek.”  This last song was meant as kind of a goof, a treat for the people who showed up (Beirut had just come back from Bonnaroo and were exhausted), but they allowed NPR to include it in the stream, which is a fun treat.

Beirut play a kind of jaunty horn-fueled eastern European-flavored music.  “Serbian Cocek” has a very tradition feel–an instrumental fueled by trumpets that’s very hard not to dance to.  They are certainly not to everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like some Europe in your rock, they are worth checking out.  Even if in this set they aren’t hitting the highest notes that they might otherwise hit.

[READ: December 1, 2012] “Literally”

This story runs a gamut of ideas in a very short span–death, race, marriage, public transportation, soft serve ice cream and the misuse of the word literally.

And perhaps there is too much crammed in here.  It’s not that the story suffers but by the time you get to the end of the story, the title seems irrelevant.   It refers to paragraph five in which Richard “liked to make his son smile by using his favorite word incorrectly.”  And then it’s not used again (unless you want  to argue that the end is somehow a literal moment, but I really don’t).

The story switches back and forth between Richard’s daughter Suzanne who works at the Dairy Queen and Richard’s son Danny, a smart alec kid who engages in the time honored tradition of mocking his sister (although she is completely oblivious to his taunts).  The story is also about Bonita, Richard’s housekeeper.

Every since his wife died (recently, in a car crash), Richard has become painfully aware of how much his wife did–even simple acts like communicating with Bonita.  Richard knows very little Spanish, while his wife was fluent.  His wife also helped out with Bonita’s son Isaac, who is “nervioso.”  So Bonita brings Isaac over most days.  Indeed, because of the districting, Richard and his wife agreed that Isaac and Bonita could claim that they lived with them, so Isaac could go to the better school.  Danny and Isaac get along very well, and often get absorbed in a game called “town” (which helps Isaac to relax). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HELIUM-The Dirt of Luck (1995).

Mary Timony fronted Helium for a few years.  In that time she was recognized as something of a guitar wizard–not in her speed and flash, but in the weird sounds she conjured from the instrument.

She also had very peculiar musical sensibilities (these songs are quite odd) and a cool feminist attitude.  This album features the amazing song “Superball” (one of the best songs of the mid 90s–check out the video and watch the guitarist playing the strings with a screwdriver!  Man I miss the 90s) as well as a number of unpolished gems like “Medusa” and “Pat’s Trick” (the dual vocals are very cool and the dispassionate “oh oh oh” is very interesting, plus I love the lyric about “long-ass curly hair”).

Her singing style is often quite slacker-y, like in the opening of “Medusa”–she’s not always audible, and she often seems like a kind of buzzy sound more than a voice.   She sounds like she’s singing from very far away–seemingly powerful and yet quiet at the same time.

But combine that with the cool scratchy/noisy guitar sounds she gets and she’s pulling off a very cool combination (think Dino Jr without the hooks and killer solos).

Like “Baby’s Going Underground” features some crazy shoegazer guitar washes for most of its 6 minutes which really changes the pacing of the record.  There’s also the great “Skeleton,” a riff so cool that Sonic Youth used it for “Sunday.”

She also has a way with haunting melodies as on the piano  instrumental “Comet #9” and on “All the X’s Have Wings” which sounds very medieval. I think of Timony as a guitarist and yet there is there are lots of keyboards on the album too–mystical keyboards that are fascinating and seem out of character with the guitars, but actually work quite well.   But the prettiest song is “Honeycomb.’  It’s a sweet song with a wonderful melody.  It is followed by the ender “Flower of the Apocalypse” a guitar-based instrumental that is mostly feedback but is also surprisingly melodic.

Helium had mild accolades back in the 90s.  They released a couple of albums and then Mary Timony went solo.  It’s nice to have her playing now with Wild Flag.

[READ: November 11, 2011] Five Dials Number 21

This is the first issue of Five Dials that I was ready to read when it was sent to me (I’ve been all caught up for a while now).  So that’s pretty exciting!

I was tempted to say that i enjoyed this issue more than other issues, but I have enjoyed most Five Dials issues equally.  But this one is definitely a favorite.

CRAIG TAYLOR–A Letter from the Editor: On Turning 21 and Thinking About Rock Stars and Greece.
The magazine introduction jokes about them now being legal to drink in the U.S. and also about now being old enough to run for M.P. in England.  He also tells us about their “new” section Our Town, which has vastly expanded in this issue.  He also explains that there are many rock stars on hand to give the magazine tutelage (authors that the rock stars enjoy) and three short stories.  He ends with a notice that they have gone to Greece where they are gathering material for Issue 22. (more…)

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The second disc in this set is a somewhat more raucous affair than the first (which was pretty much all acoustic performances).  On the surface, this seemed like the better disc of the two.  I like so many bands on this disc: Spoon, Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket, The New Pornographers, Stuart Murdoch, Blonde Redhead.

And the disc starts out really great. The Spoon track, “Well Alright” may just be my favorite song on the whole compilation.  The Arcade Fire are typically great.  Beirut, whom I’d not heard before have a great track and My Morning Jacket’s song is very good, in a mellow sort of way.

From there, though, the disc kind of goes downhill. The Sharon Jones track is okay.  Dave Sitek’s (of TV on the Radio whom I love) track is fine.  It’s very basic, especially for him.  It has grown on me somewhat, but it’s nothing too exciting.  The New Pornographers track is catchy but nothing amazing.  Even the Stuart Murdoch (who has never done a bad track) song is mild at best.

But Riceboy Sleeps, which is a side project from the amazing Sigur Rós just kills the disc in its tracks.  The thing about Sigur Rós is that if you’re not in the mood for them, they are too ponderous by half.  So, in the midst of these kind of rocking songs, this 9 minutes ambient instrumental is just death.  And, it’s followed by a dreadful version of “amazing Grace” by the usually delightful Cat Power.

And then comes the Conor Oberst song.  This is the second song by him that I’ve listened to in a short period of time (the other was on Future Soundtrack of America).  And I just don’t get this guy’s appeal.  I feel like I must be a crotchety old man thinking this but I’ll say it: he sounds like a total knockoff of Paul Westerberg.  And the weird thing is, he sounds like a 19 year old P.W. singing the songs of the middle-aged P.W.  “Lua,” the track on here has some clever wordplay, but the melody of the song is pretty much note for note of The Replacements “Sadly Beautiful.”

And at this point in the disc I never even give Blonde Redhead and Kevin Drew a fair chance.

Track sequence means a lot, and I fear they do a disservice to the disc on this one.  I’m still a fan of Disc One and there’s a number of great tracks on Disc Two, but I was rather disappointed by this one.

[READ: December 22, 2009] Love as a Foreign Language Vol. 2

This volume concludes this engaging romance from Oni Press.

I was a little concerned as the volume opened because the Joel-Hana budding romance is derailed by a couple of silly misunderstandings.  (I was afraid we were heading towards TV-slapstick territory).  But, they proved to be just a few moments of comic relief in what was heading into a pretty emotional conclusion.

There’s also the sudden realization/crisis that his fellow teacher, the fun and flirty British woman also has a thing for Joel (what’s a guy to do with two women into him?  And realistically a British romance seems more feasible than a Korean one). (more…)

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