Archive for the ‘Great Lake Swimmers’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS-Live at Massey Hall (July 8, 2014).

I don’t know all that much about the Great Lake Swimmers.  I have heard of them (for years), but never actually heard them, I guess.

They are a five piece who play thoughtful folk songs.  Their tempo is varied with some upbeat songs and a few slower ones.

The lead singer is Tony Dekker and when he is joined by violinist Miranda Mulholland on vocals their harmonies are quite lovely.

“Think That You Might Be Wrong” is a slower song with a kind of sad violin and great harmonies.

“Put There By the Land” has a kind of fun build up with everybody “warming up” making strange sounds especially the guitar and drums, before the song kicks in properly.  The addition of the pizzicato violin really elevates the song.  I love the way in ended kind of noisily with some thundering drums as it segues into “Pulling on a Line.”

“Your Rocky Spine” opens with a banjo (Erik Arnesen) and changes the tone of the music–Dekker’s voice seems a bit higher too.

“Everything is Moving So Fast” opens with a cool mini drum solo (Joshua Van Tassel)–not a show off solo just a cool rhythmic exploration that leads to the quiet thoughtful lyrics.   There’s some wonderful harmony vocals from Miranda at the end as well as a little upright bass solo (Bret Higgins).

They brought in a string quartet to play with them, although I can’t tell if it make much of a difference since they already have a violin.

They end with “I am Part of a Large Family” which opens with another “warming up intro” which is fun.  It’s builds to a wild and fun climax with a ripping violin solo.  An excellent show ender.

These guys should certainly be in heavier rotation on folk shows.

[READ: March 20, 2018] Evil Librarian

Sarah was reading the sequel to this book (Revenge of the Evil Librarian) and I thought it sounded pretty funny.  So she encouraged me to read the first one.

I really enjoyed the combination of teen romance and demonic villianry.  There’s an obvious antecedent in Buffy, but this goes in very different directions.

I also enjoyed the way the story was paced.  The book felt very long–which I know is a contradiction–and could have been a lot shorter.  But I think the stuff that fleshed it out was what made it so much fun, so I’m glad it wasn’t shorter

It opens on our heroine Cynthia.  She is crushing hard on Ryan.  Ryan is like TV sitcom architect/kindergarten teacher–jobs that people have that work well in sitcoms but that no one really has in real life).  He is a jock who loves musical theater.  He hangs out with all of his jock friends.  But he has an amazing voice and is the lead in the school’s upcoming production of Sweeney Todd.

And he’s single! (more…)

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vamplove SOUNDTRACK: DO MAKE SAY THINK-You, You’re a History in Rust [CST045] (2007).

rustYou, You’re a History in Rust feels very different from DMST’s previous album.  That record felt kind of insular and tight.  This one feels expansive and experimental.  Like the first song which has multiple sections that feel completely unrelated and which are only connected by silence.  Or the fact that there are lyrics in a song, or even a fairly conventional song.

“Bound to Be That Way” This song opens in a peculiar way.  There’s a drum rhythm, that slowly builds and some piano chords are laid over the top. This goes on for about 45 seconds and then fades out.  And then a new melody–completely different–with horns and guitar peeks its way out. And then it too fades.  Then around 2 minutes a pretty guitar melody comes through followed by big crashing distorted drums. Eventually a new riff enters the song and it really starts grooving.  It’s fantastic, but it too is just a portion of a song which ends at around 4:30.  And then another new section comes in. Then acoustic guitar riff is counterpointed by some horns.  The final melody is the catchiest one of the bunch and it ends this strange song on a high.

But if that was strange, “A with Living” offers the biggest shock to fans of the band.  There are words in this song!  And they are sung! Words were co-written and sung by Alex Lukashevsky and the Great Lake Swimmers’ Tony Dekker.  Akron/Family also joins in doing “oohs” and “ahs.”  It opens with rumbling drums and then the singing begins.  The song has a conventional verse chorus verse structure with big horns.  It’s catchy (the vocals are great).   But it’s also a 9 minute song and at 4 and a half minutes the song moves way from the melody and enters a lengthy instrumental section with deep rumbling guitars.  The chorus of voices returns briefly before the mellow guitars lead us to the end.

“The Universe!” is one of my favorite DMST songs.  It rocks and rollicks.  It has two notes and then five bashing chords.  Repeated several times.  It’s one of the most straightforward songs they’ve done.  It has screaming guitar solos and a cool sliding bass. It’s also very raw sounding, with all kinds of noise floating around it.  And just like that, it’s gone.  Seguing into the quiet, “A Tender history in rust” which opens with processed guitars or keyboards, layered upon each other.   There are voices fighting through (saying all kinds of sounds—including laughing), before it switches to a pretty acoustic guitar riff.  It’s a delightfully conventional folk melody–another unusual addition for the band.

“Herstory of Glory” has another pretty acoustic guitar melody with some rattling drums (in the right ear).   Then there’s a rumbling bass and distant voices before more and more instruments add to the beautiful song–pianos, trumpets, claps.

“You, You’re Awesome,” is the shortest song on the disc at under 4 minutes.  It opens with slow electric guitars and a e-bowed solo.  After a minute or so, the rest of the band comes in with a slide guitar and banjo making a kind of sloppy folky romp.

“Executioner Blues” is another favorite.  Its 8 minutes long with some lovey guitar riffs and sounds.  It opens with some big guitars and a repeating riff.  A martial drums enters the song and keeps it moving until the next big section.  Horns repeat a similar melody and then a romping bass guitar takes over.  More instruments kick in making the song noisy and slightly distorted.  There’s piano trills, glockenspiel, electric guitar, noises and more.   and the instruments all go up the scale slowly for a few bars and then play a punch of staccato notes.  It’s rather dramatic.  After several permutations of this, they just keep going up and up the scale until the reach the top and then they gradually descend again.  The last minute is a series of quiet bass notes, as if everyone has totally come down from that intensity.

“In Mind” is a quiet disc closer.  A simple guitar melody, it is joined by banjo and trumpet.  Then some bass lines come in followed by a very distorted chorus singing “When you die, you’ll have to leave them behind/You should keep that in mind/When you keep that in mind, you’ll find a love as big as the sky.”  The disc ends with some quite banjo plucking.

This disc goes all over the place and really explores different avenues.

[READ: February 10, 2016] Vampire Loves

Joann Sfar created Little Vampire (and apparently about 100 other comics, some of which have been translated into English by Alexis Siegel and published by First Second).  Of the things I’ve read by him, (and there have been a few) I enjoyed this the most.  It seems like a lot of his books (like Little Vampire) are for kids, bu this one is absolutely for adults (there;’s curses in it and talk of sex and everything).

There are four stories in this book (I just learned that Sfar has written six in total, so maybe there will be more translated). After the third book in this collection, there’s a question as to whether or not Ferdinand, the vampire in this story is Little Vampire.  There’s a little drawing of Little Vampire which says that Ferdinand is him.  “But vampires don’t grow up!  No, but they can grow little.  Ferdinand was me before!  You mean that before being little you were grownup? Yes.”  So there’s that sorted.

“Could Cupid Care Less?” starts us off with Ferdinand the vampire’s woes.  His girlfriend, Lana, (a kind of plant creature) has just come back.  She cheated on him, but turns the conversation around to say that it is his fault–if he weren’t so jealous he never would have found out.  He freaks about this and she storms off again.  Furious, he sets off for his nightly feeding.  Ferdinand is a nice vampire–he takes little sips and only with one fang so it looks like mosquito.  While he is feeding on a woman, a red-haired vampire storms in and shows him how to do it right.  She is a vixen with an ankh necklace and after feeding, she comes on to Ferdinand hard.  She says she likes old, proper-looking vampires–not goth wannabes.  She brings him back to her house but before they can do anything, her sister walks in.  She’s also red-haired and has a shapely figure and actually has more in common with Ferdinand.  And that’s when we learn that the first woman’s name was Aspirine and her sister’s name is Ritaline (ha!).

All of the stories cut back and forth to different sections.  So we cut over the Lani who is staying with the Tree Man.  He is trying to hit on her, but she’s having nothing to do with it.

We return to Ferdinand where he just can’t get rid of Aspirine, even when he wants some alone time.  He can’t get a woman he wants and can’t get rid of the ones he doesn’t.

“Mortal Maidens on My Mind” opens with a Japanese woman meeting Ferdinand in Paris and falling for him.  They do all kinds of things together and she even writes home about him.  But Ferdinand had to return home and that was the end of that.

We cut back to the Tree Man who is still pining for Lani but is having no luck with her.

Back home, Ferdinand runs into the man who slept with Lani, Michael.  He also argues that it was Ferdinand’s fault that things wound up as they did.  He says that he was just looking for fun.  He didn’t want to hurt anyone, so why did Ferdinand have to get involved?  After a fight Ferdinand leaves to go to a bar where he tries to hook up with a woman but it all falls apart.

Then we cut to a man who has created a golem.  He wanted the golem to do bad things, but the golem is so kind that he couldn’t possible have made the him do the evil things he planned.

The postscript of the story contains a few notes on the protagonists of this story which sort of retroactively tries to make sense of the seemingly disparate story lines and lets us know how these characters belong here.

“Lonely Hearts Crossing” shows Ferdinand on a cruise.  But first we meet a woman named Alas, and her spiritual ghost-creature-friend named Sigh.  Alas is looking to score with the captain of the ship (who is the invisible man).

Meanwhile Lani is going shopping with Tree Man.  He has become her buddy and he can’t get out of it.

On the ship, Ferdinand runs into a werewolf who turns into a wolf when he sees a girl.  He only transforms back if he can kiss a girl.  But he is a such charming creature that he has no problems scoring–much to Ferdinand disgust and amazement.

The story turns very exciting as there are armed criminals on board and a shootout.  And by the end of the story Ferdinand is making out with the spirit ghost creature (who teaches him how to go through walls which turns them both kind of ghostly for a time).

“Moonstruck Post Mortem” ends the book with Ferdinand trying to pick someone else up.  His conscience is bothering him lately though so he manages to get rid of it.  The woman is interested in him but already had two boyfriends so she kind of blows him off.

The scenes shifts to Ferdinand at the police station.  He’s not n any trouble.  in fact, the police would like him to help with their investigation of suspicious murders.  Since he’s nocturnal they figure he can look at night.  That’s how police work, right?

Ferdinand decides to go out drinking again. He meets a woman he likes, but she seems disinterested. So he quickly moves on and finds a  creature who is into him.  But he is quickly utterly disgusted by her.  And the first woman just came back. Oh no!

Frustrated, he leaves and goes to see the dentist–because the dentist has some secret information about the investigation. But before he will give the information to Ferdinand, he needs to give him a compete check up.  By the end, he tells Ferdinand not to get involved. And as the story progresses and the criminal is found…  Ferdinand is shot and thrown into a hole!  Can Ferdinand’s conscience come to the rescue?

The whole story concludes with Ferdinand going back to find Ritaline (but of course finding Aspirine instead).  She offers to let him bite her–but when one vampire bites another it’s “catastrophe.”

It’s a totally nuts book but very funny.  Another fun book in my #10yearsof01 February.

I think the reason I don’t enjoy the Sfar books as much as I might is because they are printed so small.  I don’t know what the original size was, but the format makes everything feel really squished.  This makes the dialogue hard to read and means you can’t see all of the details that well.  I think if these books were bigger it would really help their appeal.

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CV1_TNY_10_14_13McCall.inddSOUNDTRACK: GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS-Tiny Desk Concert #16 (June 8, 2009).

swimmI knew of the Great Lake Swimmers from NPR, but only a song or two.  I found them to be pretty but a little too mellow for my liking.  In this Tiny Desk Concert, Great Lake Swimmer’s vocalist Tony Dekker stops by for a solo acoustic set.  His voice is delicate sounding and yet is powerful in its own way.

He plays three songs, the first two “Everything Is Moving So Fast” and “Pulling on a Line” both come from Great Lake Swimmers’ then recent album, Lost Channels.  Both Bob and Robin compliment his voice, which is really something (he says he grew comfortable with it about a year ago).   And there’s something about the way he sings that really draws you in here.

He is one of the first performers who talks about working in an office in Toronto. (He liked it and says people brought in guitars from time to time).

Then Bob mentions the “yelp machine”–the harmonica stand that Tony pulls out.  Bob says when a guitarist takes it out it makes fans go crazy, but Tony says that he finds it the banjo that makes people go nuts.  The final song, “Various Stages” features the harmonica, which although he says is easy for anyone to play, sure sounds good here.

[READ: January 7, 2014] “Labors”

This New Yorker has several small essays about work.  They are primarily from people who I wasn’t familiar with–only Amy Poehler saved the five from being unread.  When after reading all of them I enjoyed them enough to include them all here.

The pieces are labelled under “Work for Hire” and each talks about a humiliating job.

Rush is an author.  He has the longest article in this series (four whole columns!)  Rush talks about a number of jobs that he had over the years.  But mostly he says he chose jobs that would offer him free time enough to write.  Like picking cherries (?). (more…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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