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Archive for the ‘Ben Folds’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MAYBE THIS CHRISTMAS (2010).

This is one of my favorite Christmas discs.  There’s not a lot of traditional Christmas music on it, but the originals are all either spot-on Christmas songs or at least work nicely for this time of year.  The only song that doesn’t fit is Ben Folds’ which is funny and vulgar.  It is not safe for Christmas and should be skipped in a family setting and saved for the drunken debauchery part of the night.

PHANTOM PLANET-“Winter Wonderland” Back in 2010, Phantom Planet was a kind of buzzy, talked about band (you’ll have to look up why).  But this is a great version of the song, I especially love that it’s kind of rocky and slightly dissonant but still really pretty.

RON SEXSMITH-Maybe This Christmas.
It’s a shame that this series of records is named after this song, which is so forgettable.  I usually like Sexsmith’s stuff, but I can’t keep this song in my head at all.

COLDPLAY-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Unlike Phantom Planet which was all buzzy when this was recorded, Coldplay had yet to take off and had a small hit with “Yellow.”  It’s interesting to hear this spare version (just Chris Martin singing and playing piano) and how he modifies the words in small ways.

VANESSA CARLTON-“Greensleeves”  This is a lovely version of this song, even if Carlton’s voice is a bit affected (and its technically not a Christmas song in this lyrical version).

BRIGHT EYES-Blue Christmas
This is a nice version of this song, mellow and catchy.

SENSE FIELD-“Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” The more I listen to this song, the more I think it’s really weird.  “The yellow and red ones” (?).

JIMMY EAT WORLD-“12/23/95”
This is a very catchy Jimmy Eat World song (once again, before they got huge for a time).  It’s hard to realize its Christmas-related until late in the song when they mention the holiday.

JACK JOHNSON-“Rudolph”
I love this version of “Rudolph” so much because Johnson tacks on an ending where the other reindeer feel bad of making fun of Rudolph.  And Johnson’s vibe is just always so mellow and chill.

BARENAKED LADIES & SARAH McLACHLAN-“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
This recording is quite old–from 1996.  The artists work very well together and Sarah’s voice sounds great.

BEN FOLDS-“Bizarre Christmas Incident” [NSFC]
Ben played all of the parts himself on this song.  I love Ben and I love when he is funny and vulgar.  But this song which is very vulgar and mildly funny is so out of place on this disc.  You can’t play this for the kids, whereas everything else is totally fine. I might like it on a vulgar CD collection bu I dislike it a lot here.

DAN WILSON-“What a Year for a New Year”
Dan Wilson always writes pretty, catchy songs.  This is a lovely song that seems (possibly) even more appropriate in 2017 than it did in 2002 when he wrote it.

NEIL FINN-“Sweet Secret Peace”
This is a very pretty, delicate song with a wonderful chorus.  It’s not necessarily a Christmas song, but it works at this time of year.

LOREENA MCKENNIT-“Snow”
McKennit’s voice is amazing, and this song is hauntingly beautiful.  It’s a stark and lovely ending to this disc.

[READ: December 14, 2017] “Lady with Invisible Dog”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This story was pretty bizarre and really wonderful.

There’s so much going on.  And much of it is pretty weird.  The story is set in 1995.  The narrator, Edwin, has had a run-in with a man called “The Narrator.”  And that has set all of the action of the story in motion. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE ENFIELD TENNIS ACADEMY-“My Missing Eye” (2017).

The Enfield Tennis Academy is one of the major locations in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  So, of course, a band that names itself after it must be listened to.

This is the first release by the band (which states “The Enfield Tennis Academy is TR.”

The bandcamp site describes this song as

“Garbage thrown together on a free trial of Reason. Song’s about missing a fucking eye. Real music soon.”

This is two minutes of noisy instrumental metal math rock.  There’s a lot of different sounds in this two minute song.

It opens with some staccato pummeling sounds–the guitars are interesting in that they sound like they are chords yet ringing out at the same time.  The middle is a really fast pummeling section that reminds me of Ministry.  Those opens stringed chords come back late in the song, and they sound really cool.

I’m curious to see what TETA’s “real music” is going to sound like.

[READ: July 20, 2017] Reheated Liō

I have really enjoyed the Liō books (going forward, I’m leaving off that line over the o, because it’s a real pain).

The strip has been going on for some 12 years now, which is pretty amazing.  And yet, there don’t seem to be any new or recent collections out.

So Lio is strip about a boy named Lio.  Lio is a dark, dark kid.  He has a pet squid, he loves monsters and he’s delighted by chaos.  Over the years his character hasn’t changed much but Tatulli has given him some surprising tenderness, which is a nice trait. (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: RUFUS WAINWRIGHT-Tiny Desk Concert #237 (August 20, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

rufusPreceding his sister by a few months at the Tiny Desk was Rufus Wainwright.  I love Rufus’ delivery and style.  I really like his voice too.  The problem is I don’t really like his music all that much.  I wish I did, because I love hearing him sing.  But for some reason it doesn’t do anything for me.  We even saw him live (on a bill with Guster and Ben Folds) and left half way through his set because it’s such a different energy than the other two.

But I love this little bit of information about this show:

We’d never tried to squeeze a piano behind the Tiny Desk, but when I saw a chance to have Rufus Wainwright play here, I wouldn’t — and he probably wouldn’t — have had it any other way

That’s particularly funny because now some five years later they have had all kinds of things behind his desk.

He plays three songs on the piano.

“The Art Teacher”is a sad story about, yes an art teacher.  Really listening to the lyrics (full of art references) makes the song come alive.

Before the second song, he says I’m promoting my new album Out of the Game…yes, you may applaud if you wish.  Covers a lot of genres of music, one is, briefly, country.  Today is a lazy hazy day in the South–while we’re near the South.

“Respectable Dive”is a slow song (the country song, but not sounding country here) and again, the lyrics are great.

“Montauk” is about several people.  His daughter Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen and his fiance.  Viva’s bilogical mother is Lorca Cohen who is Leonard Cohen’s daughter.  The last verse is about “my mother, the great Kate McGarrigle” (Rufus’ father is Loudon Wainwright III).

This song is, as the blurb says:

Wainwright at his best. The piano lines flow with forward motion in a Philip Glass way, and there’s also a hauntingly beautiful story. Wainwright sings to his daughter Viva, [imagining her] grown up and visiting her two fathers in Montauk, a small community on the eastern tip of Long Island.

So I am torn between really liking his voice but feeling that his delivery is a little too slow to fully understand the great lyrics.  There’s so much greatness in his stuff, and yet I can’t find my way in.

[READ: December 20, 2016] “Defamer”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

I really liked yesterday’s story and I really liked this one as well, even though it is very different.

This is a the sad story of a woman named Birdie.  Boy oh boy everything goes wrong in her life.  She works at an office.

Big boss takes a four-hour lunch.  He has suffered no major disasters in his life.  [He and his wife plan] their vacation to Maine a year in advance.  This is one way to live.

Birdie works in a corner cubicle near Bog Boss’ office… [She] makes $20,000 a year forwarding emails to people who make $15,000 a year.

Birdie assumes that her boss is having an affair on his four-hour lunches.  But one day she see him during his lunch break working at a deli, frantically making sandwiches for customers.  Nothing makes sense. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 18, 2016] Ben Folds and a Piano

2016-09-18-22-37-01Back in July, we saw Ben Folds play with yMusic at Steel Stacks in Bethlehem.  We were about ten feet from the stage and it was terrific.  Before the show or perhaps just after, he announced that he’d be doing a solo tour in the fall.  And even though we were literally watching him, I decided to get us tickets for that show as well, because it was going to be just him and his piano.  What could be better?

For this show, at the lovely MayoPAC (the sound was amazing), our seats were much further away.  But unlike with yMusic, this time, he and his piano faced sideways.  And our seats were dead center, so we could watch him bang the hell out of that piano.  We could see every trill, every stomp and every riff. It was a perfect view.

Of course it being a dark theater, I was respectful of my neighbors and took only two pictures and only right after he sat down to start the second set.  Not to mention, a venue like that gives you crap photos anyway…witness the one below.

He started out playing a few rockers (watching him pound the piano keys is so cool since even when he is pounding with his fist (or his arm!), he’s always right in tune somehow).  He opened with “Annie Waits,” one of Sarah’s favorites by him, and one we’d never head before.  It was pretty great and set the tone for a fantastic set.

He complemented our ability to get the “clap” in the song solidly on time.  And because of that, he imagined we’d be up for a four-part harmony challenge.  So when he played “Bastard” he had us do the challenge–four vocals parts for people with different ranges.  It was really fun.  One thing I’ve always admired about Ben is how he really encourages his audience to sing along.  He seems to genuinely want people to sing (not just a cursory scream of the chorus), but like he’s trying to get people I who think the can’t sing to realize that maybe they can. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 14, 2016] Ben Folds with yMusic

2016-07-14 22.42.16This was the third time that Sarah and I have seen Ben Folds and he never fails to put on a great show.

Both of the previous times had been as an opening act (and both times were with Guster, interestingly).  So it was great to see him headlining.  I didn’t know a lot about yMusic before the show, but I enjoyed his disc with them So There.  It promised to be a great show.

And since, as I mentioned with Gracie Folds, we were literally three people from the stage, we knew the show would be special. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 14, 2016] Gracie Folds

2016-07-14 19.36.50The Levitt Pavilion Steelstacks in Bethlehem is one of my favorite venues.  Last year I saw Modest Mouse there and this year it was Ben Folds.  I raved to Sarah about the venue last time but I don’t think she realized just how great it would be until we walked onto the grass and walked up to the stage where there were only two people in front of us.  And, if we were pushier, we could have easily gotten up to the fence.

So, yes, we were about three people from the stage.  And just to make it better, the forecast predicted massive thunderstorms all night long, but by the time of the show, the clouds had parted and a cool breeze came in through the field.

As the show started a young girl walked out and sat at her keyboard and told us her name was Gracie.  Anyone who is a fan of Ben Folds knows he has a daughter named Gracie.  But those of us who have no concept of time passing still assume she is like 6 years old.  Well, she is 17 and she opened for her dad.  And that’s pretty awesome. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 18, 2016] OMD

2016-06-18 20.15.58Sarah and I calculated that this was our fourth time seeing Barenaked Ladies (I’ve seen them at least two more times than that).  What I enjoy about tehir summer tours is how they have such diverse opening acts.  Two years ago it was Guster and Ben Folds.  Last year it was Violent Femmes and Colin Hay and this year it is Howard Jones and Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark.  I was never really a fan of Howard Jones (I didn’t know most of his songs), but I love OMD’s greatest hits (which I know isn’t saying a lot since they have about a  dozen albums out, but it’s a great collection).

Because of circumstances beyond our control, we wound up missing the entirety of Howard Jones’s set.  A friend who saw the concert in New York last week said that HoJo was phoning it in.  But the two people n front of us at Philly said he was really good.  Bummed to miss him, especially the keytar.

We arrived just as the opening notes of “Enola Gay” were playing through the crowd.  Perfect timing. (more…)

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silentSOUNDTRACK: HOSPITAL SHIPS-Tiny Desk Concert #177 (November 23, 2011).

hospital shipsHospital Ships is a band created by Jordan Geiger, who was in the band Shearwater, among others. In 2011 he released his second album as Hospital Ships.  The blurb describes the album as “packed with poppy folk songs and brash rockers enhanced with instrumental flourishes and bursts of guitar feedback,” but for this recording, they strip everything down to the basics: a guitar, banjo, ukulele and a drum with a towel over it to muffle the sound.

Geiger has a rather high-pitched, delicate, almost talking-singing voice and his songs are rather pretty.  The band plays 3 songs in just over ten minutes.  The first one, “Phantom Limb,” (once my lover, now my friend, you are my phantom limb) has a recurring motif of them saying/singing “ha ha” which is rather catchy.

“Carry On,” features a four-letter word (technically a seven letter word), which might be one of the first times on a Tiny Desk Concert that such a word is uttered.  It’s especially funny given how sweet the band sounds.  The sentiment of the song is nice though: “To all the women I’ve loved, When I was with you I would say I was better off….  And when I’m gone, carry on, carry on.”  There were harmonies in the first song, but they are more prominent in this one (three part) and are quite nice.  The banjo player also does a whistling solo.

“Let Me In” made me laugh because he uses the word baby a lot (which Ben Folds said in his Tiny Desk that he has never said in real life, so why would he put in it a song?).  But this song is very gentle and sweet–just Geiger on his guitar singing “baby, let me in.”

Geiger’s voice reminds me of a few different people–Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie especially on the final track; perhaps the Mountain Goats or the Weakerthans.  And his songwriting is very good.

[READ: December 26, 2015] Silent But Deadly

I really enjoyed the first Liō collection, and was pretty excited that I could find the second collection so quickly (my library doesn’t have any more collections for some reason, so I’ll have to track the rest down elsewhere).  This book collects the strips from February 25, 2007 – December 2, 2007.

Not much has changed from that book to this one, but I think Tatulli’s comic chops have gotten even better.

The strip won me over immediately with the first one in the book. Lio draws a monster and it comes to life.  He looks at the marker and it says “magic marker” and he gets a big grin and goes back to work.  So simple yet so funny.

It is that big grin–wide open-mouthed just unfettered mischievous delight that occurs in nearly every strip. (more…)

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SlewisOUNDTRACK: BEN FOLDS-Tiny Desk Concert #508 (February 16, 2016).

benfolds I’ve liked Ben Folds for many many years.  He’s funny, he’s amazing live and he plays a mighty good song or two.  He’s the kind of artist you say, Has he really not done a Tiny Desk Concert before? (He did an episode of Live from Daryl’s House after all).  But he’s finally here to bang the hell out of their piano and curse up a storm.

He plays several songs from his new album So There, which is  a collaboration with the sextet yMusic.  I haven’t actually listened to the record much because I gave it to Sarah and haven’t grabbed it from her pile yet.  Since there’s no strings for this Tiny Desk, these songs sound just like normal Ben Folds songs–clever lyrics, fun piano and unexpected twists.

The first song is “Phone in a Pool,” one of his rollicking stompers.  It’s catchy and fun to sing a long to and after one listen, you’re right there with him in New Orleans throwing a phone in a pool.  Midway through the song, he forgets the words and just starts laughing: “In a world where you get applause for fucking up.”  And then he makes up a verse about forgetting the words.

“Not a Fan” is a slower song with a beautiful piano melody and biting, funny lyrics (get your T-shirt signed, fangirl).

“Capable of Anything” is a fast, romping song.  He says on the record the vocals are very quiet, so he’ll see what he can do.  After a run through a verse he stops and realizes that he has knocked the piano out of tune.   And when he bangs on the keys at the end, its easy to see how.  There’s some really fast piano work (and you can hear him stomping along).

he says he’ll play some old songs.  He asks for a song and someone shouts “Emeline,” which he immediately starts playing.  And then about a verse in, he gives some story behind the song.  He says that when he was a kid 8 or 9, he wrote earnest songs, but when he was a teenager he wrote “cool”s songs like “Having Two Dicks is Cool.”

And then he started using songwriter vernacular, words you only use in pop songs, “why’d you make me cry, girl?”  Why do people do that? When he was 18 or 19 he started to write songs that were more natural, like Emeline, the first song he was proud of–using the word “stupid” or a money analogy–and which he still loves playing.

He’s willing to do more songs and asks for requests saying which ones he can or can’t do.  And then Bob points out that he’s going to miss his plane if he does more than one song.  So he chooses for everyone and plays an amazing version of “One Angry Dwarf And 200 Solemn Faces.”  he says it can probably be done and will put the rest of the piano out of tune.  And he’s not kidding.  He really pounds the heck out of that thing–how does his own piano manage?

The song is bouncy and fun and he even jokes with the lyrics near the end.

It’s an amazing, invigorating set and has me really excited to see him this summer.

[READ: February 28, 2016] Lewis and Clark

In 2014, Bertozzi made the excellent Shackleton graphic novel.  But three years earlier he had created another historical graphic novel, this one about Lewis and Clark.

Like Shackleton, it aims to be truthful but not comprehensive.  Bertozzi himself explains that it is not meant to be a replacement for the scholarly recounting of the journey.  Rather, he hopes to show the “experience” of the journey.

The book doesn’t really include any historical context, so in a brief summary:

Shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, President Jefferson commissioned a group of U.S. Army volunteers under the command of Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close friend, Second Lieutenant William Clark to explore the territory.  Their journey lasted from May 1804 to September 1806. The primary objective was to explore and map the newly acquired territory, find a practical route across the Western half of the continent, and establish an American presence in this territory before Britain and other European powers tried to claim it.The campaign’s secondary objectives were scientific and economic: to study the area’s plants, animal life, and geography, and establish trade with local Native American tribes.

(more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 24, 2015] Guster

2015-04-24 23.01.50I’ve seen Guster a few times as openers (Tori Amos, Ben Folds, Barenaked Ladies) but never as the headliner.  And it was amazing how different the band was for this show–in which the crowd was totally there for them.

Singer Ryan Miller commented on how they haven’t played the Theatre of Living Arts in  a long time–and that the fans were with them on the way up and now again on their way down (it’s unclear if he was serious or not).  The band’s “stage design” for this tour was afghans.  As you can see in the pictures, the band has afghans draped all over everything.  Ryan said that the band’s fans supplied them with all of the afghans.  They decided to totally embrace the theme and even put an afghan on one of co-singer Adam Gardner’s guitar.  I did not get a good photo of it, but there’s a great photo on Instagram of it.

Midway through the show the band mentioned that they’d been together for 24 years.  Which is pretty impressive.  The three main guys (Ryan, Adam and “Thundergod” Brian Rosenworcel on bongoes and other drums (most of which he plays with no sticks–seriously, he smashes drums and cymbals with his hands–ouch)) are sill there.  For touring they’ve added an instrumentalist Luke Reynolds and a friend of the band on drums and percussion for some songs. (more…)

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