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Archive for the ‘Bill Fox’ Category

CV1_TNY_06_23_14Booth.inddSOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF-If I Had a Hi-Fi (2010).

nadaI have enjoyed Nada Surf more with each album.  But for some reason, I never bothered checking out this covers album.  Which is my loss.  Covers albums fall into all different categories–bands that try to ape the original exactly, bands that mess around with the original, and band who take the songs and make them their own.  In this case Nada Surf takes all of these songs and makes them sound just like Nada Surf songs.  Sometimes, they make them sound unlike the original and give them specific Nada Surfisms.

I didn’t know all of the songs on this record.  In fact, I knew very few of them (which is a pretty unusual way to run a  covers record, no?  This falls into the “introduce your fans to songs you love category).

I knew “Enjoy the Silence” (Depeche Mode) which is incredibly different.  Obviously, the original is synthy, but while Nada Surf keep it dark, they add a bit of jangly chords and change the way some of the verses end (the way they do “and forgettable” is so intriguing).  Even the ba bas at the end transform the whole nature of the song.  “Love Goes On!” (The Go-Betweens) is a song I knew a little and Nada Surf sounds an awful lot like the original (but I like the way they make the chorus even bigger).   “Love and Anger” (Kate Bush) is similar to the original but with that Nada Surf twist.  It’s not big and epic and Matthew Caws doesn’t try to hit her notes (he does have a high voice though), but it’s a gorgeous rendition.  “Question” (Moody Blues) is probably the most famous song on the disc.  Nada Surf rocks the song pretty hard.  The pick up the tempo, but slow it down just right for the slow part.  It’s quite faithful, without being in any way proggy.

The rest of the songs I didn’t know.  And some of the bands I’ve never heard of (!).  “Electrocution” (Bill Fox) opens the records and while I don’t know if it’s any different, it could be a great original jangly pop song from Nada Surf.   “Janine” (Arthur Russell) is only a minute long. It’s a pretty, delicate acoustic guitar song.  “You Were So Warm” (Dwight Twilley).  I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a Dwight Twilley song, so I have no idea how this compares, but I like the way the last long of “Janine” is the chorus to this song.  I rather assume the original is not as poppy as this (but I don’t know Twilley, so why do I think that?–Turns out I was entirely wrong, the original sounds an awful lot like this version).

“The Agony of Laffitte” (Spoon).  I know Spoon, but not this song.  I can imagine how Spoon performed it, and I imagine that Nada Surf have smoothed the song out and made it prettier and slightly less dramatic.  “Bye Bye Beauté” (Coralie Clément) is sung in French. I’ve never heard of the original performer.  I don’t know how the original sounds, but this could easily be a Nada Surf song (they have done songs in French before) and the harmonies are beautiful.  Speaking of French, the also do “Evolución” (Mercromina) in French (“ev-oh-loo-see-own” is much more fun to sing than “ev-oh-loo-shun”).  This song starts out slow with a cello stating the melody.  It then turns into a dark acoustic guitar song, minor key and tension-filled.  Vocals don’t come in until a minute and a half in (the song is 5 minutes).  I’m not sure what the song is about, but even the catchy chorus is kinda dark.

“Bright Side” (Soft Pack).  Soft Pack is another band I’ve never heard of.  This song is a fun almost punk track–fast and catchy with simple lyrics a fun chorus (and ahhh backing vocals).  The disc ends with “I Remembered What I Was Going to Say” (The Silly Pillows) another band I’ve never heard of.  It is played on prepared piano in a waltz style.  Perhaps unexpectedly, it has no words.  It’s a nice capper to the album

Incidentally, the cover is a wonder line drawing that is fun to stare at and the liner notes (which would be much much easier to read on vinyl) are just jam packed with information about the original artists.

[READ: September 18, 2012] “Madame Lazarus”

Another story with a dog.  This one begins in a rather amusing manner.  An older gay man has just received a small terrier as a present from his younger lover, James.  The narrator is worried about his boyfriend staying around (he is so young and beautiful, while the narrator, who has just retired, is getting older and older).  The narrator doesn’t like the dog, but decides it will be one more thing to tie him to the James, so he decides to keep her.  He names her Cordelia.

The story is set in Paris, and the older man walks the dog around the city.  But mostly he thinks about his age and his past.  He says that anyone his age is amazed that he survived the Nazis much less lived to be an old man. He also thinks of his ex-wife, Simone, whom he meets for lunch from time to time.

The story seems like a sweet story of age and love, lost love, but love nonetheless.  But then the flashback introduces some darker moments. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF-Plays Covers on World Cafe (May 13, 2010).

I didn’t even know that Nada Surf had released a covers album (sometimes things slip through the cracks), but when NPR previewed their new song, I learned that they played some covers for World Cafe (not downloadable, sadly) to promote the album. 

So I’m going to be investigating that covers album shortly.  In the meantime, we get this very enjoyable four-song set (three covers and one of their own tracks). 

The band chats with David Dye briefly (about 5 minutes) before busting into the songs (a wonderful explanation of Bill Fox and a mention of reading about him in The Believer).  Their own track is “Whose Authority” one of their many wonderful songs.

The three covers are “Love Goes On” (by the Go-Betweens), “Enjoy the Silence” (by Depeche Mode) and “Electrocution” (by Bill Fox).  I didn’t recognize the first song until the Ba-ba-ba chorus kicked in, although I admit I’m not terribly familiar with it.  Similarly, the final song by Bill Fox is very obscure (as is Fox himself).  Both of these two songs are played with jangly guitars and are poppy and quite enjoyable.

The Depeche Mode song is the one that I already really knew well.  And boy do they make it their own.  They turn it from a somber dirge (catchy but somber) into a more upbeat almost poppy folk song.  It will probably be a polarizing cover (if anyone cares enough about Nada Surf to listen) and while I don’t think it’s as good as the original, it works so well in the context of a Nada Surf show, that it’ hard to argue with it.

Nada Surf is one of the great unsung bands and it’s hard to believe they aren’t more successful.

[READ: October 21, 2011] Mission Street Food

With Lucky Peach, McSweeney’s entered into the world of food publishing.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Lucky Peach.  But when I received Mission Street Food, I was no longer in the frame of mind to get excited to read this book, which, as the subtitle says, promises recipes and ideas.  And when I first flipped through it, I got to the recipes pages and said, well, when will I ever read this?

Then one night recently I couldn’t sleep and Mission Street Food was there, so I read the Preface.  And Anthony Myint has a great writing style, a great flair for telling a story and a wonderful story to tell.  Needless  to say, I read almost the whole first section before falling asleep.  And I was excited to tackle the rest of the book.

I hate to sound like I think that McSweeney’s has changed the way food book publishing is done, because that would be unfair.  I don’t read food publishing as a rule.  I can’t even enjoy looking in my wife’s cooking magazines.  Seeing names of foods and recipes for preparing them just doesn’t do anything for me.  But maybe the narrative of those books is more interesting than I give them credit.  Maybe I should sit down with another foodie book and see what it’s all about. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The Believer June/July 2007 Music Issue Compilation CD: Cue the Bugle Turbulent (2007).

The 2007 Believer disc smashes the mold of folkie songs that they have established with the previous discs in the series.  The theme for this disc is that there’s no theme, although the liner notes give this amusing story:

one decaffeinated copy editor (“the new guy”) made a suggestion: “The Believer CD should be composed of eight a.m. music/breakfast-substitute jams, like that commercial from a while back with the guy who gets out of bed over and over again while ELO plays over his morning routine. You should tell all of the bands to write/contribute songs worth listening to within three minutes of waking up.”

So, without a theme, they just asked artists for some great songs.  There’s one or two tracks written especially for the disc (Sufjan Stevens, Lightning Bolt).  There’s a couple B-sides.  There are some wildly noisy raucous songs: and three of them come from duos!  No Age offers a very noisy blast of feedback.  Magik Markers play a super-fast distortion-fueled rocker, and Lightning Bolt play 5 minutes of noise noise noise.  Oh, and there’s even a rap (Aesop Rock)!

Tracks 3-7 are just about the 5 best songs in a row on any compilation.  Oxford Collapse plays a catchy and wonderfully angular song with “Please Visit Your National Parks.”  It’s followed by a song from Sufjan Stevens that sounds NOTHING like Sufjan Stevens, it’s a noisy distorted guitar blast of indie punk.  I’m from Barcelona follows with a supremely catchy horn driven song that would be huge on any college campus.  Aesop Rock comes next with a fantastic song.  I’d heard a lot about Aesop Rock but had never heard him before, and he raps the kind of rap that I like: cerebral and bouncy.  This is followed by Reykjavik! with a crazy, noisy surf-guitar type of song.  It reminds me of some great college rock from the early 90s.

Of Montreal, a band I’ve been hearing about a lot but who I’ve never heard (and didn’t think sounded like this) plays a wonderfully catchy two minute love song that sounds ironic, but which likely isn’t.  The melody is straight out of the Moody Blues’ “Wildest Dreams,” and yet it is still fun and quirky.

There’s a couple instrumentals as well: The Clogs do a cool, mellow instrumental and Explosions in the Sky do one of their typically fantastic emotional tracks.  Also on the disc, The Blow contribute a delightfully witty song and Bill Fox, a singer I’d never heard of (but who has a great article about him in the magazine), really impressed me with his Bob Dylan meets Nico delivery.  The disc ends with an alternate version of a song by Grizzly Bear.

This is definitely my favorite Believer disc thus far.  See the full track listing here.

[READ: Throughout 2009] Schott’s Miscellany 2008

This year’s edition of Schott’s Miscellany is very much like last year’s edition (see that review here).  I mean, it is an almanac after all.  However, it is a wondrous testament to Schott that even though I read every word of the 2008 edition, I was able to read every word of the 2009 edition and not feel like I was duplicating myself very much.

Obviously the news, facts and events of 2008-09 are different from last year.  And since Schott’s writing style is breezy and fun with a hint of sarcasm and amusement thrown in, you don’t get just a list of facts, you get sentences with subtle commentary on the facts.  And it’s a fun way to re-live the past year.  Plus, the Sci, Tech, Net section discusses science stories that sounded really impressive and important which I can’t believe I didn’t hear about at the time. (more…)

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