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Archive for the ‘Belle and Sebastian’ Category

[POSTPONED: CANCELLED: April 22, 2020] Real Estate / Palm

indexI saw Real Estate open for Belle and Sebastian five years ago.  I enjoyed their mellow set and found them very pleasant.

Seeing as how they are from Ridgewood, NJ (about five minutes from where I grew up), I feel like I should like them so much more.

Mostly I like their sound in small doses–it’s a little too mellow for me.  But i do enjoy them.

Mostly, though, I was going to go to this show for openers Palm.  I have seen Palm twice, both times in small venues.  I would have liked to see them on a larger stage (although I can’t imagine a less comparable band for them to play with than Real Estate.

Whereas Real Estate plays pretty songs, Palm plays chaotic, untethered, truly original songs.  They are magnificent and I love watching them play their bizarre songs.

There aren’t too many bands where I’ve thought “I need to see them a lot more,” but Palm is one of those bands.

This show was postponed, although I am really not sure if Palm will be with then when it gets rescheduled.  We’ll see.

UPDATE: On May 19 the band formally cancelled the show/tour

With all of the uncertainty about when we’ll be able to play live shows again, we have no choice but to formally cancel all of our announced headline shows including the previously postponed dates.

Please know that this is devastating for us on every level, but we have no doubt that it is the right decision to make.

Stay strong everyone, we will be back!

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SOUNDTRACK: XFM-It’s a Cool Cool Christmas (2000).

This is a long Christmas collection (about 72 minutes).  So it’s a bit hit and miss.  But the hits are pretty great.  The problem really is that the disc gets a little bogged down and slow in the back half.  The first half is bright and fun.  Either re-sequnce or add in some peppier songs!  There are a couple that just don’t belong on a Christmas collection.  Remove them, and you’ve got a good one.

GRANDADDY-“Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland”
I’ve loved this version of this song ever since I heard it here.  By making the simple substitution of Alan Parsons for Parson Brown (which doesn’t make any sense, really), they are able to make all kinds of weirdo jokes and musical changes to an otherwise completely faithful version of the song.  It’s terrific.

THE DANDY WARHOLS-“Little Drummer Boy”
Generally I don’t like this song.  It’s a little too ponderous and repetitive, but The Dandy Warhols totally rock it out.  It’s not crazy or anything, it’s just super catchy with a cool synth riff and great backing vocals on the “bum bum bum bums.”

THE WEBB BROTHERS-“Every Day is Christmas”
I feel like this compilation is the first I’d heard of this song, but since then I see that others have done it as well.  This version anyway is slow although it’s catchy–particularly the chorus.  I’m not sure I get exactly what the chorus is saying though: “every day is Christmas, if only tonight,”  What does that mean>

EELS-“Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas”
This is a poppy punky track that’s upbeat and fun.  Just before the solo E (the singer) even mutters, “Baby Jesus, born to rock.”

El VEZ-“Feliz Navi-nada”
One of my favorite Christmas songs–rocking and silly but with the spirit still in tact.

MORGAN-“Christmas In Waikiki” [NSFC]
This track opens with a Merry Christmas to the soldiers, in what sounds like Marilyn Monroe’s voice.  It then turns into a keyboard-heavy, almost reggae march through a wah wah instrumental.  Then there’s a quote from, I assume Richard Pryor, who jokes about a 300 pound honky.  This f-bomb dropping joke makes this not safe for Christmas.

DRUGSTORE-“Maybe At Christmas Time”
This a slow song filled with hope for Christmas.

BELLE AND SEBASTIAN-“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
I have always been puzzled at the way they change the melody of the song–they sing the “and random captive” part without a pause, so the first line runs right through.  It feels rushed, but is anything but.  Once you get past that though the music sounds lovely with those gentle guitars and voices.”

GIANT SAND-“Thank You Dreaded Black Ice, Thank You” [NSFC]
This is kind of a dark song, spooky and whispered vocals.  Even if there is a happy message, it’s not really a very festive song.

THE FLAMING LIPS-“White Christmas” [NSFC]
Despite my love for The Lips, I never cared for this version.

SAINT ETIENNE-“My Christmas Prayer” [NSFC]
A pretty, moody piece of longing.  Not really anything I want to hear on Christmas.

DEPARTURE LOUNGE-“Christmas Downer” [NSFC]
This is surprisingly catchy for such a downer.  But it is indeed a downer.

SIX BY SEVEN-“I Believe In Father Christmas”
Things pick up with this version of the dark, but wonderful Greg Lake song.

SNOW PATROL-“When I Get Home For Christmas”
This seems like its kind of dark and mopey, bu the sentiment is actually quite nice.  Sounds a bit like Sebadoh.

TITÁN-“Spiritual Guidance” [NSFC]
Titán are a Mexican electronic band.  This instrumental samples a movie which has a guy telling a young woman to remove her panties.  It’s a shame it gets dark like that because the disco Jingle Bells in the middle is good fun.

BIG BOSS MAN-“Christmas Boogaloo”
This is a groovy, funky instrumental with random chants about Christmas.  Its good fun indeed.

TEENAGE FANCLUB-“Christmas Eve”
This is a beautiful guitar based mostly instrumental.  It’s a lovely piece and far too short at only 2 minutes.

CALEXICO-“Gift X-change”
Despite Calexico’s usually bright sound, this song is pretty sad, musically and lyrically.

GORKY’S ZYGOTIC MYNCI-“Hwiangerdd Mair”
This is a very pretty song which, if Google Translate is to be believed actually means Mary’s Halloween in Welsh.  But whatever.  Gorky’s always has a great way with a melody.

LOW-“Just Like Christmas”
I actually thought this was Aimee Mann singing. Despite Low’s penchant for slow, broody songs, this one is upbeat, even if it wasn’t just like Christmas at all.  But the big thumping drums keep it moving along nicely.

LAUREN LAVERNE-“In The Bleak Midwinter”
This sounds like a children’s choir very far away.  I’d never heard of her before and I have learned: Lauren Cecilia Fisher, known professionally as Lauren Laverne, is an English radio DJ, model, television presenter, author, singer and comedian.  Wow.  This is pretty neat but could use a bit more oomph.

[READ: December 15, 2017] “The Copy Chief”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

I had to play catch up with these earlier stories because this collection arrived late (my fault, not theirs).  I put this one off because it was so long, and yet it turned out to be one of my favorite stories in the collection so far.

Not because of anything flashy or exciting, just because of good writing and compelling characters. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 3, 2017] Belle and Sebastian

Sarah and I saw Belle and Sebastian back in 2015 at Radio City Music Hall.  The show was great and we had a really fun time.  I knew we’d enjoy seeing them again, so I was surprised and pleased to see that they were playing the Mann Center (even if I said we wouldn’t go back and this was now show number three).

The venue was perfect for the band, and Stuart at least seemed to really appreciate the sound and warmth of the shell.  Astonishingly, the show was nowhere near sold out.  One of the guards told me they’d barely sold 3,000 tickets.  What the hell?   That explains how I was able to get row R or whatever we had.

So the band had no new album to promote (although they did recently release a new song).  I wondered what they’d be playing and if it would be basically the same show as last time. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 3, 2017] Andrew Bird

My experience with Andrew Bird has been frustrating.  I often hear a song or story about him and I think, “I love this guy!”  Whether it’s a feature on his amazing whistling or his adventurous violin playing, I love the songs that they play.

But when I try to listen to more of his songs, I find them…okay.  Never bad, just okay.  Perhaps if I really devoted time to the songs I would learn to appreciate them more, but as it is I find them pleasant.

And this concert was much the same.  I really enjoyed a number of the songs he played (I don’t know the names of most of them), but by the end of the set, I was sort of drifting off a bit.

Before the show we met some friends who were also there.  One of them told me that he often plays solo, looping his violin and such.  He did loop the violin a number of times, but he played every song with his four piece.  And while I can’t compare something I haven’t seen, I feel like the band worked very well and made the show a bit more upbeat. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 3, 2017] Porches

I’ve complained several times already about the trip to the Mann and while this one moved a little more smoothly, we were still pretty late.  We caught all of two songs from Porches.

I had heard of Porches when I saw that they were the opening slot for Belle & Sebastian and Andrew Bird, but I didn’t know much about them (I think I had them confused with about four other bands with similar names).

They are described as a synthpop band on Wikipedia, but as you can see from the photo, there’s more than synths. Lead Porch Aaron Maine was an amusing and engaged front man.  I enjoyed that when he introduced the final song he said, “I suppose this will be our last song,” or something else noncommittal.

(more…)

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april16  SOUNDTRACK: JEREMY MESSERSMITH-Tiny Desk Concert #158 (September 19, 2011).

jeremyI had never heard of Jeremy Messersmith before this show (the blurb even comments how it’s a shame more people haven’t heard of him since he is so sweetly poppy).

He looks a bit like Buddy Holly although my first though when he started playing was that he sounded not unlike Belle & Sebastian.  But there is more to his music than a simple reduction like that.

Messermith plays five songs (FIVE!).  For the first three he has a four piece behind him–big jangly electric guitar, a cello and a drummer accompanying his really nice picking style.

In “Toussaint Grey, First in Life and Death,” the electric guitar is mostly picking as well.  It’s a gentle song and you can really hear his voice well.

In “Knots” the tempo picks up with bigger drums and louder electric guitar.  I also love the picked cello as a bass guitar (this is the song that reminded me so much of B&S).  But by the end it is wholly his own (the falsetto note at the end is great).  This song is super catchy.  I love the break in the song when the drums kick in again.

For “Violet” the cellist switches to keyboards and the guitar plays some big jangly chords.  The chorus is great once again–super catchy and poppy.  Even better, there’s some great background Bah bahs and then other oohs of harmony.  But it’s the switch to an even higher note at the end of the bah bahs that totally had me hooked.

For the final two songs it’s just him and the cello.  His picking style on “A Girl, A Boy, and a Graveyard” is wonderful.  His voice sounds like someone although I can’t quite place it, but I love it.   The song is sweet and delicate.

Before the final song “Tatooine,” (which is about Star Wars obviously) he says that Steve Earle was in not too long saying that now songwriters write songs for nerds, and so this one is for the nerds.  The first line is “twin suns of Tatooine taught me everything I know.”  Pretty nerdy alright.  It’s just him and the keyboard on this, and the song is perfect this way.

I’m really looking forward to hearing some studio version of these songs.  This Tiny Desk was quite a find.

[READ: March 12, 2016] “Hygge”

I have read several stories by Dorthe Nors and I’ve found most of them a bit odd.  And so was this one, which was translated from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra.  I’m not even sure what the title means.

I’m unclear about a lot of things in this story.  How old is the narrator?  He is at an old folks’ home with a woman named Lilly. She has made the place nice for him (cleaned the dead leaves off the windowsill and put the budgie under its cover so it can go to sleep).

They’d had a fight earlier–she’d said that thing about his face–but she was trying  be nice now.  And she wanted everything to be cuddly.  Her hand was “inside the waist of my trousers.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 10, 2015] Belle and Sebastian

2015-06-10 23.11.13After the major hassle of getting into the city we at least had plenty of time for Belle and Sebastian (which meant plenty of time to take pictures of the awesome art deco structures and sculptures and paintings in Radio City Music Hall).  It’s an amazing theater.

We bought the tickets in April.  Then about two weeks ago we weren’t sure if we could go.  Then we realized we could.  And then three days ago, we had a miscommunication with our babysitter and thought we again couldn’t go.  So we tried to sell them to friends.  But thankfully no one took us up on it because our plans went as planned and we made it.

I had seen Belle and Sebastian back in 2002 with my friend Ailish.  Although my memories of the show aren’t the greatest because the crowd was so overwhelming (B&S were an “it band” at the time).  This was much more civilized.  And high tech!

Back in 2002, B&S were kind of mellow folksingers.  Some of their breakthrough If You’re Feeling Sisnister was bouncy and jaunty (and some was actually quite rocking), but the vibe was shushed and personal.  Well, thirteen years later, they are a huge band with horns and strings and dancers and a cool video screen and a ton of charm.  Just the fact that lead singer Stuart Murdoch ran around high-fiving everyone in the front row, and then later ran through the aisles singing is testament to how much more extroverted the band has become.

And Stuart and lead guitarist Stevie Jackson had a lot of amusing banter going on up there.  There was a lengthy one about walking around Broadway

Stevie: “I was walking down Broadway earlier today, singing to myself…”
Stuart: “Oh, and what were you singing Stevie?”
Stevie: “It was Guys and Dolls.
Stuart: “Oh, which part?”
Stevie belted out (very nicely) a line from the musical Stevie said he was a rocker who liked musicals.  and then Stuart said he was singing “Feelin’ Groovy.”  That’s when we learned that the trumpeter has played with Paul. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 10, 2015] Real Estate

relestateWe ordered tickets for Belle and Sebastian months and months ago (probably back in April before Sarah’s birthday).  We had no idea a) they would be playing in Philly as well and b) who the opening act would be.

In Philly the opener was Lucius, a band I like a bit, and who are quite dancey.  But at Radio City, the opener was Real Estate, a jangly pop band who I like better.

Real Estate’s previous album was selected on many 2011 best of lists.  Their new album I think may not be quite as catchy, but it has the same summery vibe.  (And the cover of the new album, Atlas, features Stefan Knapp’s mural that was on Alexander’s department store in Paramus–Real Estate are from Ridgewood, New Jersey, you see). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BELLE AND SEBASTIAN-Live at KEXP, April 13, 2006 (2006).

This four song set samples a broad swath of Belle & Sebastian’s career.  It takes place after The Life Pursuit‘s release, but they only play one song from it “To Be Myself Completely” (with Stevie on vocals).

It’s amazing how quiet and shy the band seems i the interviews (or is that bored and petulant) especially after being through the mad swings of success.  Indeed, the interviews are almost embarrassing how unresponsive the band is (but not rude unresponsive, just unresponsive).  Like “where did the soul influence on this album come from?”  “Probably black America.”  “Did the new producer have any influence on the soulfulness?”  “Not really.”

But they do let the music speak for them.  And they don’t just do the horn songs or the strings songs.  They play “She’s Losing It” from Tigermilk (with lots of horns–it sounds great), they play “A Century of Fakers” with strings (although the female vocals seem a little too subdued on this track).  They also play a rollicking cover of Badfinger’s “No Matter What.”  It’s a delightfully poppy song which I didn’t know but which Sarah did (and I thought was the Beatles, and the DJ guessed Paul McCartney wrote it–he didn’t).  It’s when discussing this song that the band finally gets animated, perhaps they just don’t want to talk about themselves.

[READ: October 15, 2012] Five Dials #25

The issue is all about the short story.  Five stories from Lydia Davis, a short story contest from Zsuzsi Gardner, and a couple longer stories as well.   But there’s also some poetry and an essay.  And I fear I have to say I didn’t enjoy this issue as much as some of the other ones.  I love short stories, but I didn’t really love these very much.  And, the essay at the end was a lot of fury about very little.  I have to assume Part Two will simply kick ass.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editors: On Orphans and Cork
Taylor name-checks the Cork International Short-Story Festival and mentions how this issue is a sort of tie in to the festival (and just how many writers wanted to be in this Cork issue).  Taylor says that many readers wanted more short stories in the Five Dials issues, and that Noel O’Regan, short story editor says that the short story is always alive–witness the great success of the Cork Festival.  Writers flock to it (and a hefty prize is given).  This issue is only Part I of the fiction issue because they simply had to break it into two parts. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ISOBEL CAMPBELL & MARK LANEGAN-Sunday at Devil Dirt (2010).

Sarah bought this disc for me for my birthday a few years ago.  I had a hard time getting into it even thought it was supposed to be amazing.  It turns out that it is amazing, but only when I’m in the right mood.

The is a disc of slow, moody songs.  The closest comparison I can think of is Leonard Cohen (even though all of the songs are actually written by Isolbel Campbell)–this disc is at times more and at times less ponderous than Cohen.

The main reason I couldn’t get into it is because the first two songs are really really slow.  “The Seafaring Song” is almost comically slow–as slow as Lanegan’s voice is deep.  And yet there is a very nice melody (and beautiful accompaniment from Campbell).  “The Raven” sounds like an old Western movie.  Indeed, a lot of the disc sounds like an old Western.

“Salvation” introduces the first real up-front melody. “Back Burner” has a very old school chanting chorus which is quite a change for this album (although at 7 minutes, it does drag a bit).

“Who Built the Road” is very much like a Leonard Cohen duet (especially the La la part) while “Come On Over (Turn Me On)” is like a sexy Serge Gainsbourg duet (the album really picks up around here).  “Shotgun Blues” is a big sexy blues (surprising for Campbell who sings lead) while “Keep Me in Mind, Sweetheart” is a country-style ballad.

By the time that “Sally, Don’t You Cry” comes on, I find that I have more or less had enough of the disc.  But that is the last official song.  My copy has five bonus tracks after two minutes of silence. But the bonus songs mix things up a bit more.  “Fight Fire with Fire” is a jaunty piano based song (although it’s still pretty slow-paced).  It’s funny to hear them talking about AC/DC albums in this slow piano song.

“Violin Tango” is just what the title says while “Rambling Rose, Clinging Vine” is probably the most upbeat song on the disc. Finally “Hang On” feels the most like a song from her old band Belle and Sebastian (by way of The Velvet Underground).  It’s also the only one she sings solo.

So yes, I do like this album quite a lot. Lanegan is a perfect foil for Campbell’s sweet voice and songwriting. They made another disc together, maybe I’ll get that in another couple of years, too.

[READ: February 5, 2012] The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt

This was a wonderful book that Sarah brought home and told me I had to read.  And I’m so glad I did.

The Scrapbook is a very simple story–it’s a biography of a lady named Frankie Pratt from the ten or so years after she gets out of high school.  She went to high school in Cornish, New Hampshire in the early 1920s; that’s when this scrapbook starts.  Over the decade, Frankie goes to college, gets a job in New York City, travels to Paris and then returns home.  That is the basic plot, but that simple summary does a grave, grave injustice to this book.

For Preston has created a wondrous scrapbook.  Each page has several images of vintage cutouts which not only accentuate the scene, they often move the action along.  It feels like a genuine scrapbook of a young romantic girl in the 1920s.

Check out the picture on the right.  Every page is like that–full of old photographs or ticket stubs, candy wrappers or advertisements.  And a few words here and there that Frankie has typed to move the story along.  It is a wondrous trip down vintage lane.

Now, as I said, the story is pretty simple (but it is befitting a scrapbook).  It showcases the highlights of Frankie Pratt’s life.  How she meets a man who wines her and dines her and treats her fine, until he reveals a shocking secret.  How she got out of Cornish, New Hampshire and went to Vassar (I admit I found this first section a little slow, but I was so absorbed in the look of the book that I didn’t really mind).

Once she gets to Vassar though, things are much more interesting because Frankie, small town girl with no money, is introduced to the rich sophisticates who attend Vassar–New York and Boston socialites.  She even rooms with one woman (who sends her down a path of debauchery and potential loss of scholarship).

Frankie longs  to be a writer, and she heads to New York to work on a magazine.  There she meets a man who wines her and dines her and treats her fine, until he reveals a shocking secret. (more…)

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