Archive for the ‘Coldplay’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: COLDPLAY-Tiny Desk Concert #957 (March 9, 2020).

Once, long ago, a Tiny Desk Concert was for a quiet, presumably up and coming band to play a short show for an internet audience.

Then there was Lizzo and Taylor Swift and now Coldplay (I’m actually not sure if Coldplay or Taylor Swift is actually bigger).  But what makes it fun when a huge band does this is that they have an opportunity to do something very different.

For this Tiny Concert, Coldplay was reduced to just singer (and keyboardist) Chris Martin and guitarist Jonny Buckland (bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion were “hiding under the desk” because it was so tiny.  But Coldplay was also expanded with the addition of the For Love Choir: Denise Green; Shaneka Hamilton; Dorian Holley; Stephen Mackey; Lamarcus Eldridge; Lawrence Young; Surrenity Xyz; Tiffany Smith and Mabvuto Carpenter.

Watching Martin at the keys, with the For Love Choir behind him and Coldplay guitarist Jonny Buckland at his side, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the happiest day of his life. Laughing, bouncing to the music and playing off the crowd, Martin and company gave one of the most jubilant, uplifting and memorable performances we’ve ever had at the Tiny Desk.

I’m not sure it’s the most memorable, but it is certainly fun watching Chris Martin (who the rest of the time seems very serious) laugh and smile and joke his way through the set (while being musically spot on).

It’s a bit unfortunate, to me, that Coldplay did this show after their newest album, Everyday Life, from which I haven’t heard a thing (which is crazy since most of their other stuff is so overplayed).

The first song, “Cry Cry Cry” features the choir, but to me the “Cry Cry” of the chorus sounds so much like Janis Joplin “Cry Baby” I can’t get past it.

I also had to laugh that the crowd was responsive to this song (and the other two songs from the new album), but they went berserk for “Viva La Vida.”  And as as he plays those notes and starts singing it becomes really clear that this is Coldplay.  I didn’t really notice Buckland on the first song, but he adds some nice guitar moments to this one.  Everyone lives the choir for these songs, but I feel like their backing lines are not right for the verses.  Their oohs and ahhs are nice though and the end “woah oh ohs” are really splendid with all of those voices.

Martin jokes that he was happy to step inside the internet to be on the Tiny Desk and to see that Bob is a real person.  Then he shouts out everyone in the choir without looking (I didn’t realize they’d been playing together for a while, otherwise I was really impressed that he could remember that many names so easily).

The choir is prominent on “Broken” and Martin joked that, “In a very real way, they’ve Photoshopped our songs to be much better than they actually are.”

As the song fades out he starts playing the opening to Prince’s “1999.”  How unexpected.  Each of the singers in the choir takes a line or two and everyone is really into it.  It sounds great.

They end with “Champion Of The World.”  Martin says that after releasing the new album, they stayed in semi-hibernation.  But this Tiny Desk is pure and wonderful and makes us remember that this is why we do what we do,

Even if they only played one song I would have wanted them to play, it’s still a very positive and joy-filled show.

[READ: March 29, 2020] “Here and There”

McCann has written a novel called Apeirogon which is a fictionalized account of the lives of Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian and Rami Elhanan, an Israeli.  Aramin’s ten-year-old daughter, Abir, was killed by an Israeli soldier.  Elhana’s 13-year old daughter, Smadar, was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber.

This excerpt only looks at Rami’s story.

Smadar had her grandfather’s watch on her wrist when she was killed.  It was still running.  She made sure to wind that watch every night lest it signal that her other grandfather Yitzak had died during the night too.

Smadar and her grandfather were buried side by side under a grove of knotted carob trees. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BABY ROSE-Tiny Desk Concert #944 (February 10, 2020).

I had not heard of Baby Rose, which I suppose makes sense since she put out her debut album last year.

The blurb makes it sound like she has been through a lot more than her 25 years might suggest.

But when the voice behind those words is as seasoned and vintage as Baby Rose’s, everything it utters reverberates like the gospel truth. The D.C. native — who came of age in Fayetteville, N.C. before coming into her own as an artist in Atlanta — returned to her birthplace.

She even speaks like a much older person:

“I would not be able to write with such emotion about these things without my fair share of regrets.”

It sounds like a sincere statement until you realize it’s a bit, an introduction to the song strangely spelled “Ragrets.”

But that is my favorite song here.  It’s got a great opening guitar riff from John Scherer that is duplicated on the bass (with some great high notes) by Craig Shephard.  Backing vocalist Erika JaNaé is there with her throughout–matching her with lovely backing ooohs.

Baby Rose has a voice that sounds a bit like Antony from Antony & the Johnsons–wavery and operatic.  Especially as the Concert opens with “Sold Out” which features strings from Jasminfire on viola, Yuli on violin and Noah Johnson on cello.

It’s also evident in the third song “Over.”  In the middle of the song she sings low and it sounds very Antony, although I suppose another comparison would be “the bluesy melisma of Nina Simone and the deep register of Sarah Vaughan–two of her idols.”  This song is, surprisingly, less than two minutes long.  It has a simple piano melody from Timothy Maxey.  In addition to Erika JaNaé, Jasminfire and Yuli sing backing vocals.  I like the bass slide at the end, which seems like it’s a transition to another part of the song, not the end.

The next song is “Mortal” which opens with a loud drum hit from Tauseef Anam and quiet shimmering guitars.  There’s a lot of backing singing on this song and they all sing very nicely.

As this song is ending she introduces the band and says

“This is what real love sounds like.  This is what it feels like.”

The blurb says

From any other new artist, a Tiny Desk declaration like that might sound a tad bit presumptuous if not altogether premature.

I actually thought pretentious was the word.

She asks if she can do one more (because of course an artist I’ve never heard of gets an 18 minute set).  And in introducing “All To Myself,” she says she is

Dedicating the song to herself — and “to anyone here that’s ever wanted to call or text somebody that you know you should not call or text” —  congratulating those of us who’ve refrained from squandering our emotions on the undeserved.

Her voice is really impressive on this song and I like that the blurb acknowledges that she’s not using autotune

In an era when the over-reliance on Autotune has nearly everybody in radio R&B land sounding like automatons, her unadulterated voice is almost otherworldly. It’s confounding how a vocal tone so weathered and wise emerges from her so effortlessly.

I was a bit cynical about her at first, but Baby Rose really brings the goods.

[READ: July 10, 2019] Who is Rich?

Rich Fischer is a cartoonist.  As the book opens, Rich is beginning his annual week-long teaching assignment at a New England beachside Arts Conference.  Rich was once sort of famous for his first (and only) published book and that’s why he was initially invited to instruct.  In the intervening six years, he has not really produced anything except drawings for magazines, but the head of the council still likes him, so Rich has that annual work to look forward to.

Although he doesn’t really look forward to it.  People come from all over to study all kinds of arts with esteemed faculty.  It’s a place where writers, artists and historians show off that they are really drunkards and perverts and are willing to do anything to dance naked on a beach in a drum circle.  At this point, he knows what he is and how he fits along with the rest of the teaching staff:

unknown nobodies and one-hit has-beens, midlist somebodies and legitimate stars.

His was a four day intensive workshop that cost $1500.  He details his students–a former high school art teacher (who tried to take over the class), a med student who didn’t want to start med school, a trans kid, a Vietnam War veteran, a grandmother and a teenager skulking in the back.

But he was also sick of it.  The same faces year after year.  Nadia Klein  “was widely mocked an imitated.”  Larry Burris skipped his meds one year and wore a jester’s cap to class and lit his own notes on fire.  And yet when he was asked to name another cartoonist he could vouch for to teach a second comics workshop, he didn’t answer the director, “because of the way my career had gone, I worried that I’d be hiring my replacement.”

He talks about his precocious success–at first it seems like a mistake, but you get used to it quickly. You assume it will always be there.  Until it isn’t.


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2012 saw the release of this very strange collaborative album.  Whether The  Flaming Lips had entered the mainstream or if people who’d always liked them were now big stars or maybe they all just liked doing acid.  Whatever the case, The Lips worked with a vast array of famous (and less famous) people for this bizarre album.  Here it is 8 years later. Time to check in.

The final song of the album features Chris Martin from Coldplay on the vinyl release.  But it’s something else entirely on digital releases.  This is the digital song.

This song is a slow echoing piano-based song that opens with some very familiar lyrics:

Imagine there’s no Heaven, it’s easy if you try

Despite the lyrics, the melody is nothing like “Imagine”  In fact he changes it to his own very Lips-ian idea:

No hell below us, you don’t go anywhere when you die
(I don’t want you to die and I don’t want me to die)

A new melody is added between verses.

Then after the second verse Chris Martin from Coldplay starts singing.  his voice is distant and echoed

And after all we’re only roses when we die, oh, I don’t want to say goodbye
After all we’re only roses in the sky, oh, I don’t want to say goodbye

He sings for all of twenty seconds before Wayne comes back.

I rather wish Chris martin was more prominent , but it is an amusing cameo.

This is such a better album-ender than “Maced and Tasered,”  I can’t imagine why they replaced it (I’ll assume it has something to do with Coldplay lawyers).

[READ: August 20, 2019] “Thyroid Diary”

I have a soft spot for Lydia Davis.  I like her sense of humor and how she works with the mundanity of existence.

But sometimes her stories are too much diary entry and not enough story.  This one is called a diary, but the New Yorker claims it is fiction.  So which is it?  It’s a mildly interesting diary entry (but not focused enough).  However, it’s not very interesting as fiction at all.

I did enjoy the first part.  They are going to a party at their dentists’s house.  The dentist’s his just earned enough credits at the local college to have graduated.  She has been taking tutorials with the narrator’s husband. (more…)

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2012 saw the release of this very strange collaborative album.  Whether The  Flaming Lips had entered the mainstream or if people who’d always liked them were now big stars or maybe they all just liked doing acid.  Whatever the case, The Lips worked with a vast array of famous (and less famous) people for this bizarre album.  Here it is 8 years later. Time to check in.

The final song of the album features Chris Martin from Coldplay on the vinyl release.  But it’s something else entirely on digital releases.  This is the digital song.

This starts as a buzzy feedback wall of noise.  Then comes a simple synth riff over which Aaron Behrens tells a story about cops busting into a party and macing everyone.

He was drunk and decided to fight the cop.  The cop turned around and maced him in the face.  So he ran.

He says Friends will stop chasing you after a while, but copes don’t stop.  They caught him and tasered him.  Hence maced and tasered.

Musically thus piece is interesting to listen to, but the story doesn’t really hold up to repeated listens.

[READ: August 20, 2019] “No Life”

This story concerns parents looking to adopt.  But it is handled in a unique (to me) way.

As the story opens we meet Edward and Alison.  Once happily married (having sex everywhere) they were soon desperate to get pregnant (sex became a chore).  Now they have given up on getting pregnant. But neither one will ever refuse sex (even if they don’t want to have it) because it means they have given up.

So they are looking to adopt.

I’ve never heard of a setup like this, but maybe it happens all the time:

Prospective adoptive parents are invited to a picnic where all of the potential adopted children are playing.  The adults are told to act natural and speak to the children casually.  Never say things like would you like to come home with us and try to keep things as upbeat as possible. (more…)

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 I really didn’t like the second volume of this series.  But this third volume is back to form.  Nearly everything on this record is great.  There’s a few songs where they have chosen to take all of the joy out of the Christmas song.  This is a valid choice, sure, but it doesn’t work when a collection mixes it up with happy Christmas songs.

But by far, this album is far more positive than mopey.

THE POLYPHONIC SPREE-“Happy Christmas (War is Over)”
I don’t really like this song, but this version is fun.  I think the full choir overwhelms what i don’t like about the song.

THE RAVONETTES-“The Christmas Song”
I don’t really know The Ravonettes, but I love this version of this song  The whispered vocals, the plinky guitar, the general rocking shuffle–it’s all good to me.

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE-“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
It would take a lot for Death Cab for Cutie to mess this up.  This is a terrific version of this song.

PEDRO THE LION-“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”
This is a slow piano ballad.  I actually thought it might be Coldplay.  It’s too slow, especially given the other songs so far.

BELSANA-“Bittersweet Eve”
This is a catchy folk song although it leans towards the mopey in the vocal delivery.  And technically it’s about New Year’s Eve.

IVY-“Christmas Time is Here”
I love Ivy.  Her voice is so great in general.  This version of the song sounds really compressed, almost like a music box, which makes its sound even prettier.

I don’t know if Royal Crown Revue is typically a retro sounding band, but man, this song is perfectly retro.  It sounds like it could have been recorded a long time ago, right down to the vocal styling.

TOM McRAE-“Wonderful Christmastime”
I don’t understand why you would take this song and make it a downbeat ballad.

PILATE-“Fairytale of New York”
I love the original of this song so much.  Musically, this version is pretty good, but there’s something vocally about it that falls flat for me.  It may just be that it’s close but not exactly right so it feels off to me.

LISA LOEB-“Jingle Bells”
It sounds like she’s smiling entirely through this song, which is exactly as it should be–even with a somewhat breathy version like this.

JARS OF CLAY-“Christmas for Cowboys”
This is a John Denver song that I didn’t know before.  It’s kind of a country song, but it doesn’t really feel like it in this version.  I like the cowboy whistle.

COPELAND-“Do You Hear What I Hear?”
Because of the autotune, this version grates.  And yet, I find it strangely compelling add well.   The guitar chorus and synth voices are great, but when it gets into the auto tune it goes too far until it goes way too fast and actuate sounds interesting again..

[READ: December 12, 2017] “Kings”

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 really enjoyed this story, which was designed as a Crowdfunding request to do exactly what the title asks.

We see that the person’s goal is $5,229 and that she has received $1,395 with 28 days to go.

That all seems reasonable except for the whole Land of the Dead business. (more…)

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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.

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.

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.

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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whiteSOUNDTRACK: IMAGINE DRAGONS-Night Visions (2012).

nightvisImagine Dragons is a band that is hugely popular (popular enough for “Weird Al” to parody their song) and seemed to come out of nowhere.  I kind of sort of like them but also sort of don’t.  I didn’t know anything about them when I first heard “Radioactive” a big bombastic anthemic sing along with big drums and an amusing (or interesting at least) part in the beginning where the singer “breathes in chemicals.” And what’s great about the song is that it’s fun to sing along to and it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

But the thing about the album is that some of their songs veer right into the realm of cheesey pop.  “Tiptoe” has a synth sound that is so cheesy I can’t stand it.  It also has a chorus that a boy band could easily do.

So the album is full of songs I like and one or two I dislike a lot.  “It’s Time” stays on the good side of pop with a preposterously poppy song which never drifts into cheese (even if it flirts with the line). “Demons” is catchy and fun as is “On Top of the World” (with the “hey”s and handclaps).  Depending on my mood, I could easily hate these songs, but most days I find them happy and enjoyable.

“Amsterdam” and “Hear Me” are rocking anthems that sits pretty squarely in the not-too-poppy camp.  They have big choruses and are pretty easy to like.

As for songs I dislike–“Every Night” is the worst piece of pop crap drivel I’ve heard in a long time.  Everything about it is gawdawful ( I won’t even list them all).  I can see it being huge.  And “Underdog” goes over the line into cheese for me as well.  I don’t know if it’s the synth sounds or the lyrics or what but I can do without it.

“Bleeding Out” returns to that gritty vocals but still pretty polished sounding song that Dragons do quite well.  “Nothing Left to Say” is an interesting ender to the album (with cellos and all).  The tacked on coda “Rocks” is also kind of fun in a Mumford and Sons sorta way.

It was about half way through the disc that I realized the band sounds like Coldplay (the opening of “Demons,” jeez–I may have even heard this on the radio and assumed it was Coldplay)–but like an excessive version of Coldplay (both in anthemic quality (which is hard to do) and in pop potential).

I haven’t heard the band’s new single, but it should let me know which way the band is going–more rock anthems or into the pop pit of despair–and that will probably determine my final verdict of the band.

[READ: October 17, 2014] White Cube

I found this book at work and was quite intrigued by it.  Of course, I am intrigued by nearly everything Drawn & Quarterly puts out, even if I don’t love everything they release. And I didn’t love this one.

In fairness, there was a lot I liked about it.  The fact that it was originally published in Belgium is pretty cool.  And the fact that there are barely any words in it also made it intriguing.  I even enjoyed that there were two main characters, each one a virtually identical pink bald man who express his pleasure by giving a thumbs up.  And yes, I enjoyed that most of the stories were about art.  So, perhaps I did enjoy this more than I realized.

The book as a whole seems to be mocking the state of modern art.  When the two unnamed guys go into the “White Cube” they follow signs for Modern Art and then make adjustments to what they see, giving a thumbs up when they are done.

What confused me was trying to figure out whether each piece was an individual story or part of the whole. Several of them start with a “title panel” that says White Cube (while others seem to have different titles).  But since they all seem to be about art, they could all be rooms in the big White Cube. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: K’NAAN-“Wavin’ Flag” (2009).

Like most people in America I don’t know much about K’naan.  This is despite the fact that this song (in a modified form) was the anthem for Coca-Cola and the 2010 World Cup and was HUGE (except in America where we like one and ignore the other).  There’s an article about K’naan in the July/August issue of The Walrus.  He is a Somali-born Canadian rapper and he is looking to break into the US market.

And that’s as much as I knew of him.  So imagine my surprise upon listening to this song to realize that it is an acoustic-pop song not unlike Coldplay (lots of Whoa-ohs) set to a martial beat.

It’s a catchy anthem indeed–made perfect for an event with lots of waving flags like the World Cup.  However, the original lyrics are impressive (and talk obliquely about his life in Somalia).

Out of the darkness, I came the farthest Among the hardest survival
Learn from these streets, it can be bleak Accept no defeat, surrender, retreat

So many wars, settling scores Bringing us promises, leaving us poor
I heard them say ‘love is the way’ ‘Love is the answer,’ that’s what they say

And yet the chorus is pretty uplifting:
When I get older I will be stronger They’ll call me freedom just like a wavin’ flag And then it goes back, and then it goes back And then it goes back, oh
Chorus aside, these lyrics aren’t exactly going to sell product, so it’s not surprising that the Coca Cola Celebration Remix has changed some lyrics:
Saying forever young Singing songs underneath the sun Let’s rejoice in the beautiful game
And together at the end of the day, we all say
Although this lyric could have been in either version
In the streets our heads are liftin’ As we lose our inhibition
Celebration, it surrounds us Every nation, all around us
And the chorus remains the same.
The remix is a bit more interesting musically.  The original is just him on an acoustic guitar with some drums.  It reminds me of Bob Marley (and references “Buffalo Soldier”).  The remix has a really cool drum intro.  It’s beefed up throughout as well.  I guess it’s easy to say it’s a sell out (but well, duh), but it’s still as catchy as the original without being too obnoxiously overproduced.  And heck, maybe people learned a bit about Somalia from it.  Stranger things have happened.

[READ: July 4, 2012] “And They Danced by the Light of the Moon”

Some stories are one thing at heart.  No matter how much you gussy them up and make them look all fancy, they’re always going to have heavy metal T-shirts under their formal wear (I should know).

And so it with this story set in the 70s in the Quebec town of Val de Loups (the fact that it is set here changes enough of the story that although the story is not atypical, it is at least in an unfamiliar setting (to me)).  Jules knows that he is in love with Manon.  Manon doesn’t know anything about love.  Jules is an only child, living in a trailer park, trying not to get beaten by his father. Manon is the youngest of 11 children (her mother kept trying until she had a girl).  She is beautiful with golden ringlets and a magical laugh and she is under the constant supervision and protection of her ten massive brothers (one is a wrestler, three work in the mines).

Jules is an intelligent boy who always gets in trouble.  He’s a class clown because he likes it when people pay attention to him, although he doesn’t really have any friends per se (when he gets in trouble, they aren’t there with him).  His last prank was an invitation to the aliens–spray painted in the school parking lot.  This gets him kicked out of the upcoming dance (even though he did a lot of the getting it setup).  He’s really bummed because Manon said she’d go with him.  Manon likes him because of the way he can roller skate.

Despite not being allowed into the dance, they meet up outside the building and go to a house in town where Jules is plant-sitting.  With the right music, the right lighting, the right setting, this would be a joyous romp of explored sexuality and post-dance bliss.  But this is Val de Loups, where no one leaves, where everyone is trapped. (more…)

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In my head, no band garners as much debate as Weezer.  According to this article, a man offered them $10 million to break up.  Even I go back and forth about whether they are great pop song writers or incredible sell outs.  I mean, look at one of the items on their thanks list for Hurley: “Dodge–makers of the timeless Challenger.”  Is this ironic or not and if not, does it matter?  I’m also torn by Rivers Cuomo’s Harvard degree, which I would think means he would write intellectually rigorous songs–and yet he never does.

But what of it?  Let’s talk about the music.  It has dawned on me that the closest band to compare them to is Cheap Trick.  They write poppy songs with often heavy guitars that are completely sing along-y but are in no way alternative to anything.  And yet everyone loves Cheap Trick, so why not love Weezer, too?

Hurley is no different.  Each song is 3 minutes of pure pop (for crying out loud Desmond Child is on one track–put one in the sell out column).  But they also have some odd fans on this disc: the crew from Jackass sings backing vocals on “Memories” and Michael Cera plays mandolin and sings backing vocals on “Hang On” (although you can’t hear any of them really).  “Hang On,” by the way is their most Cheap Trick-y song to date.

“Unspoken” features a flute and acoustic guitars until about two minutes into a three-minute song.  Then it bursts out of acousticland and into heavy rocking guitars.  The one song I don’t get is “Where My Sex?” which I suppose is the controversial song on the disc.  He’s clearly talking about socks but he keeps saying sex.  I really have no idea why.  It’s not funny, even remotely.  It’s just an odd decision.  And I would say I rather dislike the song, but the chorus is great, as is the totally unexpected third section (which is like  pop song unto itself) that comes in 2 and a half minutes out of nowhere.

“Smart Girls” has to be ironic, but who knows anymore.  To me the most interesting song is “Brave New World.”  It eschews the standard big-chords-for-choruses format they’ve been using with a much heavier guitar and single guitar notes in the verses.  (Although the chorus is, once again super catchy).

My version of Hurley has bonus tracks which are separated by an interesting 10 seconds of string music.  The bonus tracks include a cover of a song from Yo Gabba Gabba ( I really must watch that show some time).  There’s also a great cover of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” (in many ways Weezer is like a harder rocking version of Coldplay in terms of success and obvious sellout possibilities).  Although this live version shows that Rivers’ voice is no match for Chris Martin’s.

“I want to Be Someone” is an earnest acoustic solo track while “Represent” (Rocked Out Mix) is one of the heaviest things they’ve done.  I assumed the original was on Raditude, but it’s not.  Evidently it’s the unofficial song of the U.S. World Cup soccer team.  Huh, who knew?

So yes, it seems that they’re pretty much sell outs.  And yet for thirty minutes (all of their discs are so nicely short) it’s easy to stop worrying about “indie or not” and just sing along.

[READ: November 7, 2010] Fate, Time and Language: An Essay on Free Will

First I wanted to thank Columbia University Press for sending me an Uncorrected Proof of this book. I was pretty excited to read it, but to get it a few weeks early was even cooler (and, no, this won’t have any impact on my review).

Second, I wanted to state exactly what this book IS (because I wasn’t entirely sure myself).  The book is a reprinting of David Foster Wallace’s philosophy graduate undergrad thesis.  However, rather than just publishing the thesis (and giving us a short book or a long book with one sentence per page), Columbia University Press has packed the book with a great many essays that help to contextualize the thesis.  The Preface by Steven H. Cahn & Maureen Eckert explains this quite neatly.

So, my (briefer) version of the background: DFW’s thesis is about Richard Taylor’s article “Fatalism” (1962).  CUP has also included Taylor’s initial article (so we can see what DFW is talking about).  And even more than that, when Taylor’s article was initially published, it caused a bit of controversy and a lot of responses.  So, to get a sense of everything that DFW was working with (and against), this book also includes the intellectual dialogue: articles that range from four to ten pages (and also include a dense of Taylor by Steven H. Cahn himself (published in 1964).

Part II of the book includes an introduction by Maureen Eckhart and DFW’s essay.

Part III is a brief look at DFW as a student written by a former professor, Jay Garfield.

Before I get to the meat of the book itself, I wanted to say that I didn’t know anything about this essay.  And I’d thought about this thesis as possibly an interesting piece of philosophy from an author whose work I greatly admired.    Well the introduction to this book states in pretty certain terms that my thinking about this thesis is a massive understatement.  For, in fact, DFW’s thesis undermined Taylor’s argument in ways that no other argument had been able to do before.  His thesis more or less repudiated Taylor’s original essay.  The thesis also won the Amherst University Gail Kennedy Memorial Prize in Philosophy (and a wonderful piece of trivia: DFW’s father James won the same prize in 1959).  So, yes, this isn’t just a graduate undergrad thesis, this is real philosophy.

On to the book: (more…)

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hetiSOUNDTRACK: COLDPLAY-Prospekt’s March EP (2008).

prospecktThis EP was released hot on the heels on Viva La Vida. So hot, in fact, that since our copy of Viva was lost, I listened to this EP first.

If you absolutely love Viva La Vida, and wish it were longer, than this EP is perfect for you.  It has three remixes of songs from Viva.  I find the “Lovers in Japan [Osaka Sun Mix]” to be more satisfying that the original.  The opening track “Life in Technicolor ii” fleshes out the instrumental from Viva into a 4 minute song with lyrics.  And then there’s “Lost+” which tacks on an ill-fitting rhyme from Jay Z.

The rest of the disc is new songs in the vein of Viva.  They all contain that orchestral feel of the disc, especially “Glass of Water.”  Although the last track, “Now My Feet Don’t Touch the Ground” the a title that you would think would be over the top, is a more acoustic style ballad.

None of this is essential listening, but as a fairly cheap EP, it’s a not a bad addition to the Coldplay collection.

[READ: March 19, 2009] The Middle Stories

This seemed like it would be a fun little book. The cover (hand vandalized by Canadians, the website promised) has a photo of a man (see above). [In my picture, he is adorned in with a birthday hat, balloons and candles. I bought this from McSweeney’s recently (for a $5 sale, I believe) even though it was one of their first published titles.

Heti has two stories in McSweeney’s issues (#4 & #6), which are included here, but which I didn’t remember from before.  And that’s enough introduction. I really didn’t like this short story collection at all. (more…)

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