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Archive for the ‘Jim James’ Category

[ATTENDED: January 27, 2020] Illiterate Light

S. and I saw Illiterate Light open for The Head and the Heart back in October.  We were really impressed by them–their power (especially for just two people), their intensity, and their overall sense of fun.  In fact, because of annoying crowd people around me, I enjoyed Illiterate Light more than TH&TH.

I knew that they would be really great to see when they were the headline act, so when they announced a show at Johnny Brenda’s, I quickly got us both a ticket.

The band is a duo with Jeff Gorman on guitar and bass pedals (and what a huge difference those bass pedals make) and Jake Cochran on drums (and dancing).  The dancing is important because unlike most drummers, Cochran plays his drum kit standing up.  This allows him a lot of mobility–he wanders the stage, hangs out with Gorman and hits cymbals from all angles.

We couldn’t help but notice that there were several camera dudes all around the stage.  They told us that they’d be filming this show for some kind of upcoming something or other.  I’m looking forward to seeing it (we’re bound to be in it).  Although there was SO MUCH FOG (which is why my pictures are so hazy) that I have to wonder how good their video will be.

The guys came out and set up their gear (I was amused at how much more stuff Cochran had–I guess since his floor tom is removable?).  Although when Gorman brought in his foot pedals (a cool Moog device) he raised it over his head to much applause. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS AND HEADY FWENDS-“Children of the Moon” (2012).

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.

Lately, Jim James has been going in a more mellow direction after the pretty heavy psychedelia of Circuital in 2011.  But this song stays in that heavy psychedelic vein with a big distorted guitar riff and distorted vocals from James (and Coyne, I assume).

It’s that weird mix of creepy and catchy that the Lips do so well.  You can clearly hear James on the lead vocals, but who knows who is contributing vocals to the rest (the oh oh ohs).  The guitar solo is all distorted and reversed–a noisy explosion of sound.

This song is barely four minutes and it’s followed by another noisy short one before the album segues back into quieter terrain.

[READ: August 1, 2019] Strangers in Paradise XXV #6

Katchoo was given coordinates to meet Stephanie.  The coordinates put her way off the grid in Colombia.  As she waits, a guy on a moped drives up and a monkey hops off and delivers a package (that’s pretty adorable, honestly).

Katchoo can only assume things are bad since Stephanie didn’t show.  She can’t imagine what is in the satchel (she hopes it’s not Francine’s head).

But no, it is a tube and in the tube is an ancient piece of papyrus–Cleopatra’s mathematical ideas. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 27 & 28, 2019] Newport Folk Festival

Back in 1998, I won a radio contest (not through luck, I knew the name of a song and couldn’t believe no one else did!) and scored a ticket to the Newport Folk Festival.  It was in a lull back then and also, I believe there was only one stage (it’s hard to remember).  Now it is at full power, selling out before artists are even announced.

S. and I have talked about going and finally this year I saw when tickets were announced and I bought 4 tickets for us.  I knew that our son wouldn’t want to go, but I decided to make a long vacation out of it–a couple days in Rhode Island and then about a week in Maine.  He couldn’t say no to going to that.

I didn’t get Friday tickets because three days seemed excessive.  Plus, you never know who is going to appear until long after you buy the tickets. and that actually worked out pretty well.   Turned out, there wasn’t anyone I really wanted to see.

So we rolled in for Saturday.  I was told that if you wanted to get the poster you had to get their very early.  We arrived at 12:30 and they were long sold out.  Oh well. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: YIM YAMES-Tribute To (2009).

I really like My Morning Jacket, but I find that Jim James’ solo work is a little too slow for me.  This album is a collection of six coves of George Harrison songs.  I’m not a particularly big fan of George Harrison’s solo work, so really this just doesn’t work for me all that way.

This record is incredibly languid.  Although after several listens I finally found a way in and have begun to enjoy the melodies.  Also, reading this quote makes me like the album more

James recorded the album in December 2001 on a relative’s eight-track reel-to-reel tape recorder, just days after Harrison’s passing. Of the recording, James told Billboard magazine that “I felt like I was in the weirdest head space when I did that EP … I felt really confused a lot of the time. I wanted to just do it and let it come out even if I messed stuff up. It’s definitely not the tightest or most professional recording you’re ever going to hear in your life but I like that. I think it lends it a more childish atmosphere.”

“Long, Long, Long” has a nice melody in the chorus.  While “Behind the Locked Door” has a nice melody in the verse.

“Love to You” introduces a banjo, which adds a nice texture to the EP.  “If Not for You” is the most uptempo song on the record and is quite lovely.

The first time I listened through this album the only song I knew was “My Sweet Lord,” which was never a particular favorite.  Although I like the way Yames multitracks himself.

“Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp” has piano in it and it is also fairly upbeat, although boy does it go one for a long time.
the final song is “All Things Must Pass.”  This track is also quite pretty but also slow and long.

The whole EP definitely sets a mood, and if you are in the mood for pretty, slow acoustic songs, this is the place to be.

[READ: June 4, 2019] “Hereafter, Faraway”

The June 10th issue of the New Yorker features five essays by authors whom I have enjoyed.  They were gathered under the headline “Another Country.”

This essay is about the author’s mother’s death and the author’s subsequent return to Vietnam.

Her mother believed that another world awaited her and was not concerned.  The author imagines this other world was was like those found in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s film After Life.  In the film the newly dead pass through a halfway house run by angels.  The travelers must pick one even from their life that the angels will make into a movie, starring the travelers themselves. Heaven is this short film played on an endless loop. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto (February 15, 2001).

This was night 2 of 4 of the Horseshoe Tavern‘s 53rd Birthday bash.  Clark (the band) opened the show.

The Rheos play seven songs from their soon to be released Night of the Shooting Stars (those songs are bold), including the two songs they didn’t play the previous night.

Jeff Cohen, owner of The Horseshoe gives a great intro to the band.

“King Of The Past” is an exciting opening.  Tim seems to get lost on the lyrics but musically it sounds great.  It’s followed by “Christopher” which also has a nice slow intro and some great jamming during the solo.

“The Fire” is a new song that I feel they didn’t play much after this tour–it features alternating leads from Martin and Dave and a harmonica!  “The Reward” is the other new song they didn’t play the night before.

There’s some talk of Napster.  Dave says, “I don’t know if it is shut down but there’s a lot of neat stuff on the Rheostatics section that we don’t even have tapes of.  He says to check out “our performance of “Claire” with Rik Emmet (I would love to hear that).  People may have already heard “P.I.N.” on Napster.

“Christopher” was dedicated to Jeff of Kansas City.  Dave thanks the people who come from out of town to make a vacation of their four night run.

“We Went West” is followed by two songs from Harmelodia.  “I Am Drumstein” is kind of crazy, with Don singing parts of it.  At the end Dave tells him, you would have been asked to leave Drumstein’s orchestra for that last cymbal hit.  It’s followed by a sweet “Home Again.”

The crowd finally gets to hear “Record Body Count” which has a slow opening. Tim and Martin have a hard time with the words in the beginning prompting Martin to ask “Who wrote this?”

Then they call Ron Sexmith up on stage for his song “So Young.”  During the set up, Dave says that years ago when Ron released his first album Grand Opera Lane Don Kerr was on drums.  Ron sounds a bit like Jim James.

Then comes the old song “Bread, Meat, Peas & Rice” which is simple and fun.  Martin does a kind of trumpet solo with his mouth.  Dave says “That’s for the premieres over in China.”  Someone shouts “They’re in Korea.”  Dave: “Did they move?  I didn’t get the memo.”  It’s followed by “Remain Calm” which almost seems like a response to the previous one.

Martin introduces “The Sky Dreamed” as a sweet song called “Bug’s Song.”  Is it possibly Don singing on it?  Then Martin plays a lovely “Song Of Flight” which segues into a terrific “California Dreamline.”

There’s two more poppy new songs, “Song Of The Garden” and “Mumbletypeg.”  They miss the spoken middle part, and it sounds like DB is still tinkering with the lyrics, but it sounds great nonetheless.

Heading into the encore break, they play an amazing “Horses” (Martin even busts out the robotic voice to recite part of it) and a stellar “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”  (I wonder if I’ll ever get to see that live).

After the encore break, someone requests “PROD” but Dave says we’ve got four nights to play that one.  So instead, he sings “My First Rock Concert” and then a terrific take on “Aliens” with a little jam section in the middle.  Dave starts singing “Artenings Made of Gold,” but Martin doesn’t remember it.  But there’s some very cool drums in this part.

The tape ends with a delicate version of “Bad Time To Be Poor” which gets cut after a minute or so.

This was another fantastic show.

[READ: February 13, 2019] “Plastic Parts to Help with Life”

This was actually a series of short micro-fictions or flash fictions or whatever we’re calling them these days.  Although these are not really that short (1/4 to 1/2 a page as opposed to just one paragraph).  They’re all mildly amusing slices of modern life–each with an absurdist twist.  This comes from the author’s “third book in a trilogy of miniature fiction.”

“In the Privacy of Their Own Condo”
He agrees to watch a Woody Allen film because she wants to watch Blue Jasmine.  He finds Woody Allen movies too emotional and loud.  Sure enough, there’s a car scene where they yell at each other for a full minute while driving. He flings off the covers and flees the room, naked.  She’s not going to give up on the movie, although she does turn the volume down.  Can anything salvage this debacle?

“Protest”
This one opens, “Bryce said to me during dinner, ‘You look like Jack Nicholson when you smile.'”  Of course, this leads to a discussion of The Shining.  Why do I look like I have a drooling leer?  The talk was interrupted by protesters in the driveway.  They are out there most nights anyway with bullhorns and signs.  And they had many things to protest. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JIM JAMES-Tiny Desk Concert #799 (October 26, 2018).

Jim James is the singer of My Morning Jacket.  And I think he’s pretty great.

Although I like his band work more than his solo work, i was happy to see him in this Tiny Desk Concert.

Especially since he started with “I’m Amazed,” the terrific song from MMJ’s Evil Urges.  I think what’s most striking about this version is how stripped down the music is.  The song has become mostly about the words.  And, reading the blurb, that seems to be the point lately for James.

A single voice can send a powerful message – and that’s just what Jim James did at the Tiny Desk, with just his voice and an acoustic guitar. His lead-off song, “I’m Amazed,” comes from My Morning Jacket’s 2008 album Evil Urges. It’s a prophetic song in many ways – it speaks not only of a divided nation and the need for justice but also to the beauty in the life and plight of others. It’s something Jim James would find greater appreciation for after he fell from a stage at a My Morning Jacket concert, just three days before Evil Urges was to be released, sustaining life-threatening injuries. It would be a life-changing event and the inspiration for his first solo album years later, in 2013, Regions of Light and Sound of God.

Jim James’ second song at the Tiny Desk, “Same Old Lie,” comes from an album he released just days before the 2016 Presidential election.

This is a much darker song musically and lyrically.  Once again the (fingerpicked) guitar is lovely, almost all the higher strings.  But the lyrics are pointed:

The lyrics take on a deeper meaning now, just days before the 2018 elections. “It’s the same old lie you been reading about / Bleeding out – now who’s getting cheated out? / You best believe it’s the silent majority / If you don’t vote it’s on you, not me.”

James’ voice sounds a little off.  Not terribly, but perhaps it’s a little strained (these early morning shows are tough for musicians).  He also doesn’t say anything.  He’s just right there to start the third song, the strummed “Over and Over”

We fight the same fights / we drop the same bombs / put up the same walls, over and over again.

His closing tune, in what I think of as a purposeful trilogy for these political times, is from two albums he’s released this year, Uniform Distortion and Uniform Clarity. The albums contain the same songs, performed with his blistering electric guitar on one and on the other, as here, acoustically.

It’s a message of exasperation and hope, all set to a pretty melody.

After 20-some odd years of putting out music, Jim James is full of fervor and compassion for others as he sings, “How can we make / The same mistakes / and still carry on / Living the same we did yesterday / Have we learned nothing at all?”

[READ: January 12, 2017] “Tiny Man”

I have really been enjoying the Sam Shepard stories in the New Yorker.  They are surprisingly raw and gritty and feel a bit like a throwback (Shepard is 73 after all) to a more blunt storytelling style.

This one has two main sections, the Tiny Man part and the Felicity part.

The Tiny Man sections start like this: They deliver my father’s corpse in the trunk of a ’49 Mercury coupe.  His body is wrapped up tight in see-through plastic…   He’s become very small in the course of things–maybe eight inches tall.  In fact, I’m holding him now, in the palm of my hand.

Woah, what’s going on there? (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 28, 2015] My Morning Jacket

2015-11-28 23.28.16After seeing My Morning Jacket this summer, I was definitely psyched to see them again.  My friend Jay is a fan who had never seen them before.  So we jumped at the chance to see them at the Beacon.  I bought tickets for the fourth of four nights (I would have picked the earlier night had I realized that Strand of Oaks was opening, but that was the night before Thanksgiving, which is not exactly a good going out night for some of us).

We decided to blow off the opener, Craig Finn, but unfortunately because of a delay on the 1 train, we missed the first ten minutes of MMJ as well.  This proved to suck hard because we missed “Victory Dance” and most of “Compound Fracture.”  It sucked even more because the rest of this first set had a very mellow feel to it and Jay and I were looking to rock out.

2015-11-28 21.57.23So this brings me to a pretty weird sensation at a show.  Can you say that you totally enjoyed something but were somehow disappointed at the same time?  And then retroactively realize that what you saw was pretty amazing, but you didn’t realize it in the moment?  Because I think we both felt that way.  The band was in top form, the music sounded great. The audience was totally into it.  And the songs themselves were good, we just wanted different songs.

It turns out that the four nights at the Beacon Theater were designed as a cool package–each night they’d play different songs and dip into some rare tracks.  I had no idea that that’s what they were planning.  I was just psyched to get tickets.  What this meant is that they had played a lot of the big songs earlier in the week (of course, they saved some great ones for our show as well).  So when Jay and I looked at each other after the first set and thought, huh I expected to hear more songs that I knew, well, now we realized why we didn’t.

It turned out to be an awesome show for old time fans who had seen them a lot. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 25, 2015] My Morning Jacket

2015-07-25 22.10.21I had made a list of bands that I really wanted to see.  My Morning Jacket was pretty near the top of it.  My friend Jay and I marveled over singer Jim James’ use of a cape (which sadly he did not wear at this show).  Of course, it wasn’t just the cape we wanted to see, it was the whole band.

So when they were announced to headline the XPNFest, I knew I had to get tickets (the fact that St. Vincent was co-headlining was a huge bonus).

While the crowd was good for St. Vincent, they were ecstatic for MMJ.  Everyone was on their feet the whole show.  And what a show.  The band played for 2 and a half hours, running through much of their new album as well as classics from their past few records.

I had heard that MMJ were a big time jam band, and indeed they were.  In fact, even though Neil Young did some amazing jamming and soloing during his recent set, this was the first real “jam band” show I’ve been to.  Where the band takes a song in different directions, wending through different moods and styles like the 20 minute “Deodato”–more on that later.

2015-07-25 23.27.05In fact, each song was extended by some impressive soloing.  Interestingly, Jim James took a number of solos that were just himself on stage.  And I felt like his solos weren’t really that impressive.  There was a bluesy one that was very cool and one or two others that were more textural than “impressive.”  It’s clear that lead guitarist Carl Broemel can solo amazingly, but he didn’t get any features, just wailing solos during the songs.

I was pretty excited that they started with “Off the Record” which had some pretty impressive jamming in the middle.  Jim James was wearing an awesome jacket with neon stripes all over it and a pair of sunglasses that he never removed.  It was 90 degrees out that day.  How did he stand it? (more…)

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ladySOUNDTRACK: NEKO CASE-The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You (2013).

nekoSarah got this disc for me for Christmas last year.  Amusingly, she wrapped it and then we couldn’t find it  So I got to listen to the auto download on amazon and to wonder who threw it out.  When we took down the tree several weeks later, we found it on one of the branches.  Belated Christmas gift!

I have enjoyed most of Case’s output since I first heard he several years ago withe New Pornographers.  And this album is no exception.  There are 12 songs and most of them are quite short (no guitar solos for Case–well, okay a couple). And I love how great her voice sounds.  Although, perhaps surprisingly I do not like her voice in the few a capella moments she does.

“Wild Creatures” showcases her great songwriting.  “Night Still Comes” has some amazing harmonies in the chorus (I didn’t realize this but vocals are by Jim James).  I love the way the song builds and retracts as she criticizes “you” for not holding a falling star “at the right angle.”

“Man” is one of my favorite songs ever.  It’s so punchy and rocking.  And lyrically it is both subversive and really funny.  In addition to the whole premise “I’m a man, that’s what you raised me to be/ I’m not your identity crisis” it features the great verse: “and if I’m dipshit drunk on pink perfume, then I am the man on the fucking moon, coz you didn’t know what a man was until I showed you.”  There’s also a great simple guitar riff from M. Ward.  And at 3 and a half minutes I could listen to it over and over.

But Case plays with all differs style soft music on this record, so “I’m from Nowhere” is just her and an acoustic guitar (and her voice is gorgeous in this stripped down setting).  “Bracing for Sunday” is just over 2 minutes, but it’s not a fast punk song it’s just a speedy shuffling rocker (with horns!).

Then comes “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu.”  I don’t think I have hated a song as much as I hate this one.  It is more emotionally fraught that “Suzanne Vega’s “Luka” (which I like) with none of the subtlety.  I’ve only listened to it once or twice and don’t even want to listen to it again to say what else I hate about it.  Maybe if it was spoken instead of sung it would be more palatable, but ugh it is awful, and really seems to ruin the mood of the record for a couple of songs (even if I skip it).

“Calling Cards” is a countryish song, mellow and pretty, but after the bad taste of “Honolulu” I feel lit just kind of falls flat.  “City Swans” brings back the thumping drums and rocking guitars.  “Afraid” is a more successful a capella ish song (with vibes and autoharp accents).

Of course, I prefer when the album perks up again.  “Local Girl” has a simple but cool bassline and great backing vocals.  After a slow weird intro, “Where did I Leave that Fire” turns into a cool jazzy number.”  Although I don’t have a clue what she’s singing about at the end.  The final song, “Ragtime” has a kind of dreamy “Blue Moon” quality until the big horns kick in at the and it really swings and makes me want to listen to the album again

Despite how much I like Case’s voice I just don’t like the slow a capella moments on the album.  There’s so much I do, but I feel like those moments really mar the disc for me.  And yet after the final song, I’m always game to listen again (especially when “Man” comes on).

[READ: November 16, 2014] Lady Cycling

I saw this book at work and thought that with that title and that cover that it would be a very funny tome about how women shouldn’t really ride bikes (I mean “what to wear” comes first, right?). But to my surprise and delight, this book is actually very pro women riding (Miss Erskine herself is a rider) and while she does warn women not to overdo it (no more than 40 miles a day!), it is actually quite a practical and, dare I say still, useful book for female and male riders.

The funny, out-of-date parts are mostly about dress—she encourages all women to wear wool all the time because cotton chafes and wool keeps you warm when you get wet (and you will sweat a lot).  Now I’m not going to overstate the practicality of it in modern society, really, but there are some things in it which are terribly useful and which many contemporary riders do not observe.

But from the get go, Erskine is adamant that women do and should ride bikes.  She says it is much cheaper than owning a pony (true) and is more than just recreation it can also be a means to an end.  She addresses the then controversy by saying that if women “ride fifty miles when ten ought to be their limit—in short, if in cycling they cast reason and common-sense to the four winds of heaven—then, beyond all doubt, cycling is harmful.” (2). The one really out of date aspect here is that she says women ought not to race (it is bound to end in disaster), although I’m unclear if she disapproves of women racing or of racing in general.

In chapter three she answers the question about what kind of bike women should buy. And while she doesn’t exactly name brands she does sensibly say that a cheap bike will wear out and be less well constructed, so it is worth spending more up front.  More practically, she also talks about the location and adjustment of the seat and handlebars. She even talks about the proper way to pedal (using rat-trap pedals—which are apparently the ones we still use today with the metal grippers). (more…)

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