Archive for the ‘José González’ Category


This album (Benevento’s second) with the confusing title is actually a (mostly) covers album.  Marco takes some familiar (to me) and some unfamiliar (to me) songs and turns them into instrumental versions using piano (and more), bass (from Reed Mathis) and drums.

The first song is My Morning Jacket’s “Golden.”  The melody is instantly recognizable and bouncy and fun.  Matt Chamberlain provides drums, which are skittery and complicated but never loud. Until the end when the songs starts to float away with trippy synths and some wild drumming.

“Now They’re Writing Music” is an original piece that switches between synth and piano and features Chamberlain and Andrew Barr on drums.

“Seems So Long Ago, Nancy” is a Leonard Cohen song.  It’s produced as if it’s on an old scratchy record with echoing bass and drums over the scratchy piano.  Barr is on drums.

“Mephisto” is an original, a slow jazzy number with a hummable melody and Chamberlain on drums.

“Twin Killers” is a Deerhoof song.  Appropriately, it has some riotous drums (from Barr who is on the next two songs as well).  It’s longer than the original because it features a cacophonies middle section that is just insane.  But Benevento’s faithful reproduction of the melody line makes this really catchy.

“Call Home” is a pretty lullaby.  It’s an original with soft keys and a baby cooing.

“Heartbeats” is the Jose Gonzales/The Knife song.  The main low riff sounds like its on the bass and then Marco plays the familiar lead melody with all kinds of fuzz thrown over the song.

“Sing It Again” is a mellow song from Beck off of Mutations.  I don’t really know it that well but this version is very pretty and simple.

A highlight of the album is this really fun version of Led Zeppelin’s “Friends.”  It’s immediately recognizable and yet different somehow.  Its full of raucous paying from all three especially when Benevento ads the sinister synths near the end.  Chamberlain plays up a storm on the drums.

The final song is George Harrison’s “Run of the Mill.”  I don’t know the original, but this is a jazzy song with lot of piano runs from Marco and some restrained drumming from Chamberlain.

This is a pretty solid introduction to Benevento’s music, although his albums definitely get better once he starts writing his own songs with words.

[READ: March 14, 2021] “Surrounded by Sleep”

Ajay was ten years old.  His family lived in Queens (having moved from India two years earlier).  He and his older brother, Amam, were in Virginia visiting his aunt and uncle.  One morning Aman was swimming in the pool.  He dove in and hit his head on the cement bottom.  He was on the bottom of the pool for several minutes before anyone noticed.

His parents were not terribly religious, but as Amar lay in a coma in the hospital, his mother began to pray regularly.  She also prostrated herself and fasted.

At first Ajay thought “her attempts to sway God were not so different from Ajay’s performing somersaults to amuse his aunt.”  Then Ajay knelt before the altar and drew in the carpet an Om, a crucifix, a Star of David and the Superman logo.

When his mother saw him praying, she asked what he prayed for.  He told her for a 100 on his math test. His mother said “What if God said you can have he math grade but then Aman will have to be sick a little while longer? …   When I was sick as a girl, your Uncle walked seven times around the temple and asked God to let him fail his exams just as long as I got better.”

Ajay replied, quite rightly, “If I failed the math test and told you that story you’d slap me and ask what one has to do with the other.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 10, 2017] Marco Benevento

2017-02-10-23-18-04Back in August I saw Marco Benevento open for The Claypool-Lennon Delirium.  I didn’t know Marco, but his show was so much fun I promised myself I’d see him again.  So I was pretty psyched to see that he was playing at this venue.

Marco’s show back in August was just so much fun–I had arrived late, after being caught in traffic, and within minutes he had totally uplifted my mood.

So I was thrilled to find the Ardmore such a small venue where I could get up so close–check out the bottom of the page for the up close look at his modified piano.  And when he show began, I was right up at the front of the stage.

2017-02-10-22-12-11In addition to Marco, who is a fantastic entertainer, his band consists of drummer Andy Borger (whose drum set includes a cowbell and what looks like the alarm bell from a school) and my new favorite bassist Karina Rykman.  2017-02-10-23-37-07It was actually Rykman who first won me over back in August because she was just so happy.  I don’t think I’d ever seen anyone have so much joy playing on stage before.  And this show was exactly the same.  Of course it helps that she’s a great bassist with an amazing sound.  She doesn’t do a lot of fancy stuff, but her groove is spot on.

The three of them came out and started playing the suite from The Story of Fred Short.  It’s a series of seven interlocking songs with a great groove and a lot of room to jam.   I walked in the middle of this suite when I saw them this summer and I was really excited to hear it again.  I love the bass lines and, in this case, the whistle in “Walking with Tyrone.” (more…)

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harp septSOUNDTRACK: JOSÉ GONZÁLEZ-Tiny Desk Concert #436 (April 29, 2015).

joseI really like José González.  The Swedish singer is one of the most soft-spoken singers I know.  His guitar playing is gentle and quiet (although more complex than it seems at first) and most of his songs sound, well, kind of the same.  But it’s more of a “I know what I’m getting” from him rather than an ”all his songs sound the same” vibe.

It’s fun watching his sing these songs because he barely moves, he barely even seems to raise his voice.  He is so mellow.

For the first song, “Open Book” he is accompanied on (lovely) backing harmonies by just one fellow (sometimes NPR forgets to include the band members in the credits).

On the second song, “With The Ink Of A Ghost,” three more guys come in and add more beautiful harmonies and a xylophone and a clarinet solo.

The final song, “Every Age” features the percussion of a tambourine and the clarinet player slapping his thigh and snapping his fingers…that’s the kind of raucousness you get from José González.

It’s a delight.

[READ: April 16, 2015] “The Weight”

This is an excerpt from 10:04 Lerner’s latest novel.

As with many excerpts, it’s not clear if the entire novel is about what the excerpt is about or if there’s a lot more going on.

This excerpt focuses on the narrator (in first person) as he welcomes an Occupy Wall Street protester into his house. The protestor has been in Zucotti park for a few weeks.  We learn that “civilians” have been offering protestors showers and food via Craigslist.  The protester took the narrator up on his offer.

The story stays in the apartment.  It begins in the kitchen with the narrator musing that he has never actually made food for another human being before (he’s making the guy some tofu and veg stir fry as a warm meal).  He realizes that people have made him food a lot, but he has never reciprocated. He gets mixed feeling about his–not helping people in the past but doing something good now (even if it is nothing compared to what this guy is doing). (more…)

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Burn-This-House-175x250SOUNDTRACK: THE KNIFE-“Heartbeats” (2002).


I learned of this song from the José González cover that was featured in the (very cool) Sony video with the bouncing balls.  The song turned me on to González, but not necessarily the song itself.  I knew The Knife did the original  and I remember when I first heard it, I didn’t like it nearly as much as the González version.

It’s been a few years and there’s a new The Knife album out and in the New Yorker review of it Sasha Frere-Jones mentioned this song again.  So I wanted to listen to it without the cover so prominent.  And indeed, the González cover is quite straightforward (acoustic guitar rather than mega synth, but otherwise pretty spot on). The Knife’s version is very retro synth-sounding .  It reminds me of a wacky 80s song.  Or perhaps a 2000’s Europop song.

The vocals are high-pitched and a wee bit over the top, but all in all it’s very catchy.  Frere-Jones said that The Knife version was very popular but evidently I didn’t travel in those circles because I don’t recognize it as being huge.

And I still like José’s version better.

I know it’s not really cool to show the video of the cover version when I’m talking about the original, and it’s really not that cool to use a commercial as a video, but it is still very fun to watch.

[READ: April 30, 2013] Burn This House

For the last day of April, the last day of poetry month, I read a new book of poetry that came across my desk today.  This is Kelly Davio’s first collection.  She is an MFA and quite an accomplished poet (managing editor and Pushcart nominee).  I also thought that I would see if she was a “modern, weird” poet or a more traditional one (I secretly hoped for more traditional as I’d burnt out on wacky ones).  For the most part she is more traditional and I liked most of her poems quite a lot.

The book was divided into five sections.  And I have to admit that the final few sections contained poems which seems a little forced to me (more on that later).  For it was in the early pages that I thought the poetry was most magnificent.

Although when I first started reading I was afraid that the poetry was going to be ponderous without enough concrete detail.  Like in “auguries” which showed a series of potential omens (Davio seems to have a thing with birds crashing into windows) which were effective, but I didn’t like the ending: “To what /significance such eroded things?” It seemed too vague to be powerful.

But the poems that came right after were just wonderful with detail like in “The First Lines” which had this description of a scarecrow: (more…)

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This compilation was released to benefit the Red Hot organization, who raises money to fight AIDS.  I’ve gotten about a half dozen or so of their compilations over the years (and was surprised to see that they have released about 2o of them!).

This collection is a two disc set of contemporary cutting edge indie rock bands.  And, when it came out it was definitely billed as a who’s who of cool.  The first disc is more or less an acoustic/folky collection of songs.  While that’s not entirely true, the discs are more or less broken down that way.  The artists include David Byrne & The Dirty Projectors, Jose Gonzales, Feist (on two tracks), Bon Iver, The National (a band I don’t know but whose song I love) and Iron & Wine.

Probably the coolest song of the disc (although not my favorite) is Kronos Quartet’s take on Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark was the Night.”  For years, Kronos has been interpreting rock and other genre songs to fit into their string quartet style.  And this song sounds amazing.  I’ve no idea what they’re doing, but they turn their standard quartet instruments: violin, cello, etc into really cool blues sounding strings (even a slide guitar at one point).  It’s really amazing.  As I said it’s not my favorite track, but it sounds great.

The Decembersists contribute a 7 minute song (that I believe is new as I don’t recognize it).  It’s very good, but it seems like the kind of song that normally would have had a lot of effects/orchestration on it.  And this is an acoustic rendition, so it sounds more sparse than I would think.  It’s still very good though.

Finally, the disc ends with the weirdest track, an 11 minute freak out by Sufjan Stevens.  Every time you think it’s going to end, it morphs into a new instrument which continues the track.  It works well as a soundscape, although it’s a bit tedious in comparison to the rest of the disc which is largely concise acoustic gems.

Disc one is a great collection of tracks, and the overall style works well together.  It’s a very worthy collection of songs and it’s for a good cause.

[READ: December 18, 2009] Love as a Foreign Language 1

This graphic novel is the kind of great romance story that I’ve come to expect from Oni.  It is clever, it is funny, it plays games with pop culture and, of course, the writing and art are fantastic.

Joel is a Canadian living in Korea teaching English to native Koreans.  The book opens with the 4 H’s of culture shock: The honeymoon (you love the place), the horror (you hate the place), the humor (you accept the place and its flaws) and the home (you see yourself living there).  Joel is clearly in the horror stage.  He hates everything about Korea, especially the food. Joel has a few months left on his contract but he wants to get out of it and just go home. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PETER, BJORN & JOHN-Writer’s Block (2006).

My friend Eugenie told me about these guys: 3 Swedish songwriters whose names are, indeed Peter, Bjorn and John. This is their 3rd CD and I’m not even sure what I thought they would sound like except that Eugenie has great taste. I think I thought they would be a bit more synth poppy (I guess the Abba connection is pretty strong) but instead, they write wonderfully poppy songs, but they are more folky, or alt-rocky. I was really pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this CD.

All three guys sing. Peter sings most of the songs and he sounds like a combination of John Lennon and Michael Penn…his voice varies quite a bit between songs. Bjorn sings two of the songs. His voice is quite different…deeper and more stark, and it’s quite a nice change from Peter’s (not that there’s anything bad about Peter’s). John sings one song, and his voice is fairly similar to Peter’s. But they all do harmonies, so you hear them all the time.

It took me about three listens to fall in love with this CD. There’s a couple of songs that are immediately gratifying; however, the rest really reward multiple listens. Interestingly, it’s the two Bjorn songs that are immediately catchy. “Amsterdam” and “Let’s Call It Off” (which gets a remix on the album too). “Amsterdam” (interestingly, Guster have a fantastically catchy song called “Amsterdam” which this song is not) has this immediately striking whistle (as in a person whistling) as its opening motif. It is stark and haunting, and will have you whistling it for days. “Young Folks” is a duet with Victoria Bergsman (not sure who she is) and has a deliriously catchy chorus. “The Chills” has this great shh-shh-shh sound that is at once chilly and interesting and reminiscent of The Cure’s “A Forest.” As you might guess, the CD covers some pretty different styles and genres, yet the album is not a mishmash. There’s a consistent PB&J sound that unifies the record and leaves you wanting to hit play again after it’s over.

The Swedish music scene has just been exploding lately…The Hives, Dungen, Jose Gonzales, Jens Lekman and PB&J are all adding to the (sadly seen as one-hit novelties) wonderful Cardigans.

[READ: January 2008] Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog

For Christmas, Sarah’s mom gave her this book, not knowing that she missed the intended target by mere inches. As soon as I saw the book I immediately had to read it. Diagramming sentences was always a guilty pleasure of mine, and I am saddened to hear that kids don’t do it anymore. (more…)

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