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Archive for the ‘Joseph’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BECCA MANCARI-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #62 (August 11, 2020)

I saw Becca Mancari open for Joseph a couple of years ago.  She really won us over with her diverse musical sound (even though it was just her and a pedal steel guitar player on stage).

This set, with a full band, sounds very different and even better.

At the show, she was funny and thoughtful.  That attitude continues now.

She postponed this concert when the Black Lives Matter protests began in May: “I wanted to be so careful of respecting an extremely important movement in our country both now and then. So, we decided to all wait, learn, grow, protest, and listen.”

She has a new album The Greatest Part from which these four songs are taken.

The band she has assembled is terrific.  Zac Farro on drums (he is also in Paramore) plays many terrific flourishes and fills.  Bassist Duncan Shea (this is filmed in his woodsy home studio) doesn’t show off, but adds some great accents and lines as needed.  Guitarist Juan Solorzano plays perfectly off of Mancari–whether it’s leads or just interesting sounds.

Mancari’s songs often seek to reveal the unspoken, and you can hear that process in the way Caleb Hickman’s inventive keyboard parts respond to Mancari’s voice and Juan Solorzano’s searching guitar lines. And keyboardist Caleb Hickman fleshes out the sound.

Several of these home concerts have featured a full band, but

It’s a joy, in this time of isolation, to see her band connect and build something beautiful, despite the masks. “The band and I have been in our own little Corona-pod, but we wanted to be extra safe,” Mancari says of the protective gear.

“Hunter” starts with quietly sung vocals and guitars. I love the way the drums kick in about a minute into the song with six slow, powerful thumps followed by Solorzano’s raw, rough guitars.  The surprising pitch shift into the catchy “whoo”-filled chorus really makes the song special.

Introducing “First Time,” she says, “I came out when I was pretty young and it went pretty badly.”  This slower song is written for people like her to feel included.  The song is simple, but once again, the band fleshes it out wonderfully.  I love the cool theremin-like sounds from Solorzano and the super catchy middle part with a guitar solo and fun bass lines that make the chorus sound even catchier.

“Bad Feeling” has a gentle echo on this more down-tempo song.  It has a nifty retro feel.  And so does “Like This” which opens with a slow thumping bass line and some wah wah guitars.  The synths sound like a flute and you could easily see a flute solo floating over the middle of the song.

She introduces the last song, “I’m Sorry,” by saying, “When I wrote this record it was about my own personal journey towards transforming from anger into forgiveness.  It’s about learning to say that you’re sorry to yourself and others around you.”  The song is slow as befits the title.   The middle of the song has surprisingly catchy chorus and a fun dah dah dah dah dah part.  As the song ends it really rocks out again with great drums from Farro.

I’m looking forward to seeing her again.

[READ: August 10, 2020] “Annunciation”

This story is about Iris and it seems to race through her life, focusing on a few moments of significance.

It starts with Iris on a plane.  Her seat mates are a married couple sitting on either side of her.  The wife likes the window, the husband liked the aisle, Iris in the middle.  But they are not fighting–when the woman comes back from the bathroom, she happily shows Iris and her husband a birth control strip–they are pregnant!

On the way home from the airport, Iris tells her mother about this and her mother is appalled. How could they say something so early?  That baby could still die (Iris believes that the baby has died from the way her mother says that).

Years later, when she is about to graduate from college, Iris is dating a virgin, Ben.  She can’t figure out why he is still a virgin–he’s not ugly or weird.  On the night before graduation, she changes that.

A few days later Iris’ friend Charlotte laughs at her: A one-night stand with a virgin and she gets pregnant.  The movie writes itself.  She doesn’t tell Ben.

Iris is staying at Charlotte’s house.  Charlotte’s parents paid for the abortion and she promises she’ll pay them back even though they say she doesn’t have to.

Iris finds a place to live–it’s a room in the apartment of a married couple.  A married couple who sleeps with another married couple.  Iris doesn’t ask anything about this arrangement but Charlotte wants to find out all that she can. So on New Years Eve, instead of going to Charlotte’s family’s house, Charlotte comes to Iris’ weird set up.  By the end of the night Charlotte has had sex with the married couples.

A few days later, Iris is walking down the street and she sees Ben in a restaurant.  He is with an old lady and seems just as surprised to see her as she is to see him,.

The old lady insists that Iris sit with them.

I’ve only read one other story by Sestanovich and I really liked the open ended nature of it.  It felt incomplete in an intriguing way.  This one felt incomplete in a frustrating way.  There was just too much left out and I didn’t really care about any of the characters.

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[CANCELLED: July 31-August 2, 2020] Newport Folk Festival

Last year we took the whole family to two days of the Newport Folk Festival.  It was a fun experience for the most part.  Both kids were exhausted and my son decided he’d rather stay in the hotel than go on the second day.  However, this year he said he;d like to go again, so since the 2020 Festival was cancelled, maybe next year all four of us will go again.

I was not surprised that the Festival was cancelled. But it was still a shock when it happened on April 29th.

Here’s the formal message

Dear Folk-

This is the letter I was praying I wouldn’t have to write, feeling we need the healing powers of live music more now than ever. It is with the heaviest of hearts we announce the cancellation of the 2020 Newport Folk Festival. As devastating as it is to write those words, it’s balanced with a renewed sense of, well, HOPE. It’s Rhode Island’s motto for good reason and it’s also the feeling you, our festival family, constantly exudes when we come together in good times and perhaps more importantly, in difficult times as well. This community is truly unlike any other in music, and I believe we can emerge from this hardship stronger and more connected than ever before.

However, while your safety was at the core of the present decision, your support will be at the core of our future viability. Our ability to produce this festival in 2021 – and continue making a lasting difference in the lives of artists, students and music lovers like yourselves – is in your hands. Quite simply, we need your help.

Due to the financial and institutional uncertainties we find ourselves in, we believe the most trusting and direct course of action is to let the ticket holders decide where their ticket dollars should go. We have sent all ticket holders an email mapping out three options: 1) donate all or a portion of your ticket that will go directly towards ensuring our festival for 2021 while continuing our support for artists and educators; 2) apply your refund towards a 2021 Revival Membership – a new and one-time offer we’ve created specifically to ensure our future and provide these members with 3-day tickets to the 2021 festival (remaining memberships will be offered to the general public directly after the request period); and 3) receive a 100% full refund if desired.

For those of you who didn’t have tickets for this year, PLEASE consider making a tax-deductible donation. Help us continue these festivals, support year-round music education initiatives, and provide grants to artists in need.

I want to personally thank our founder George Wein, our staff, our Board of Directors, the City of Newport, and the DEM for their continued efforts. And, offer a personal note of gratitude to Rhode Island Governor, Gina Raimondo, for her leadership and counsel in prioritizing our well being in making the decision to cancel the festival.

Although we won’t be able to gather at the Fort this summer, rest assured we have invited ALL the announced artists to join us next year. In the meantime, we promise we will all commune one way or another on our festival weekend. As always, we have some secret surprises in store as well, so stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks. Until then, stay strong and folk on.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BAILEN-NonCOMM 2019 (May 14, 2019).

A couple of years ago I had a pass to NonComm, but ultimately I decided not to go.  I had never been to World Cafe Live and, while it sounded like a fun time, it was just so many mid-week nights and lots of leaving early, that it sounded more exhausting than fun.

I have now been to World Cafe Live and I can imagine that the (less divaish) bands are hanging around talking to people (and radio personalities) which is probably pretty cool.

I love the idea of these sorta personal concerts, too.  But I have since come to see that they are 20-45 minutes tops.  Hardly worth driving 90 minutes (one-way) for.

But since the shows are streaming you can watch them live.  Or you can listen here.

Bailen is a trio made up of siblings Julia, Daniel and David Bailen.  The have an interesting mix of rock and country with folk leanings all serving as a backdrop for their stunning harmony vocals. 

They opened with “Rose Leaves,” which features lead vocals fro Julia and lovely harmonies from David.  Those harmonies continued on “Something Tells Me” in which both of them sang the whole song in perfect synchronicity.

“Going on a Feeling” is a much faster song with, again, dual vocals for the verses and then some cool Fleetwood Mac-esque vocals for the chorus.  There’s some really gorgeous wordless-harmonizing during the middle of the song and the a fairly rocking guitar solo from Julia.  That’s Julia on guitar for all of the songs as well as Daniel on bass and his twin David on drums.  So they’re sort of like the mixed-doubles version of Joseph.  Daniel says they couldn’t find any friends to be in their band, so it’s just family members.

After a jokey “thank you for choosing NonComm over ComicCon,” they play “I Was Wrong.”  The song has been getting a lot of justified airplay on WXPN and I really like it.  I really like the riff and the way it counterpoints with the smooth chorus.  It’s also catchy as anything (and their voices are stunning–even live).

It’s fun to hear a young band play a festival like this and talk about meeting some of the other bands.  I think it’s David who says, “we’re technically opening for Morrissey… with some stairs involved.”

“Your Love is All I Know”  sounds even more Fleetwood Mac the way the guitar and drums open the song.  There’s some country leaning in the sound,  but then another ripping buzzing rock guitar sound rocks the ending.

Their set ended with “Not Gonna Take Me.”  One of the guys sings the main lead vocal.  But when Julia adds harmonies after a few verses, it’;s magical once again.

I can see Bailen getting huge and yet, I can also see them being too hard to market.  Which is a shame because their music is superb.

[READ: May 3, 2019] “The Second Coming of the Plants”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue.  This year’s issue had three short stories and three poems as special features.

I have enjoyed Gartner’s stories in the past. I liked the premise of this story but felt that, even at its short length, it was too long.  I get that the over the top language is done for effect, but plants can be boring too.

The premise of the story is that plants have taken enough from people and animals and are ready to dominate the earth.

There are three parts to the story, with the first being “Twilight of the Insects.”  This section is very long compared to the other two.  In this one, we hear about the plants kingdom’s rage.  Rage at letting “the insects carry on our fornication for us.”  Especially since “some of us virtually all vulva and vagina, penis and gland.”  They are the true hermaphrodites. The Mighty Hermaphrodites! (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 27, 2018] Joseph

I saw Joseph on a video from the Newport Folk Festival a few years back and I loved the way the three sisters of the band sounded singing together.  The power of their voices and the harmonies they sang were just stunning.

Natalie, Meegan and Allison Closner are Joseph.  The band name, Joseph, is a real problem, at least if you are trying to find them on the internet.  (They are apparently named for their grandfather or their father or the town they are from or something).

I had put them on my list of bands I wanted to see, so I was pretty excited to see that they would be playing in Sellersville Theater.  But I had a weird experience by the tickets.  I first saw a notice about the show listing in January.  I immediately grabbed tickets up close.  And then all notice of the show seemed to vanish.  It wasn’t on the band’s website.  It wasn’t on the Sellersville theater website.  It wasn’t listed anywhere.  I kept checking to see if the show was cancelled, but there was no word at all.

And then about a month and a half later the show was officially announced again and my ticket was good. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 27, 2018] Becca Mancari

I hadn’t heard of Becca Mancari before this show.  So when Becca’s pedal steel player came out and sat at the instrument, I wondered if this is what she looked like and what she played.

Well, after a minute or so of pretty, trippy, soaring pedal steel (which Sarah said reminded her of Sigur Ros), Becca came out in a jump suit and goggles and started playing her guitar.  I have no idea if this outfit is typical.

The first song was rather serious, so I was surprised that after the first song, she started chatting with us and was very funny and quite silly.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOSEPH-Live at the Newport Folk Festival (July 29, 2017).

 Every year, NPR goes to the Newport Folk Festival so we don’t have to.  A little while afterwards, they post some streams of the shows (you used to be able to download them, but now it’s just a stream).  Here’s a link to the Joseph set; stream it while it’s still active.

Joseph is a band of three sisters and their sound is a little like Indigo Girls–if there were three of them.

When Natalie, Meegan and Allison Closner shout together to the heavens, accompanied only by Natalie’s acoustic guitar, it’s a joyful noise that intrinsically celebrates their bond.

So yes, Joseph is all about harmonies.  They play six songs from their recent album I’m Okay, No You’re Not which is a pretty great release (with a few songs that go a little too commercial).  For the most part, it is just one guitar and three voices.

Their first song “Stay Awake” starts off quietly with one of the sisters (Natalie, I assume) singing and plucking a spare melody on the guitar.  And then about a minute and fifteen second in, all three sisters sing and suddenly the song is magical.

 “Canyon” has a number of amazing moments, but especially when they sing along with one of the sisters taking lead and the other two doing some great harmonies.  When the lead sings “I wanna feel it,” all three singers soar to the rafters in a gorgeous harmony (around 7:25 of this set).

They get applause for “S.O.S.” before playing it.  This is their poppiest song and the one that verges closest to a sound I don’t like (especially for them).  But it’s hard to deny it when they sound so good live.

For “Planets” they ask if anybody wants to sing and they give the audience a mildly complicated melody to sing.  I can’t really tell if the audience is any good at it, but the sisters seem to like it.  And “I Don’t Mind” has a terrific melody even without the harmonies, but when they come in it’s even better.

They describe “Sweet Dreams” as like a lullaby that they used to say to their mom ” Sweet dreams, I love you, good night.”  But this song is anything but a lullaby.  The melody is sophisticated and their voices are powerful.  It’s quite something,.

They have time for two more.  We’ll sing one from our old record and…maybe our single.  That single, “White Flag” finds a stellar balance of pop and folk.  It hits just the right edges of pop to make the song insanely catchy but with an almost aggressive folksiness that is undeniable.  And live it’s almost breathtaking.

Their voices are just amazing.

[READ: June 20, 2017] “I Have Fallen in Love with American Names”

Earlier this month I posted a piece from Roth about names.  I assume that this excerpt comes from the same source.

Roth’s parents were born in New Jersey at the start of the twentieth century.  They were at home in America even though “they had no delusions and knew themselves to be socially stigmatized and regarded as repellent alien outsiders.”  And that is the culture that Philip grew up in.

Butt the writers who shaped his sense of country were born in America some thirty to sixty years before him.  They were mostly small town Midwesterners and Southerners.  None were Jews.

What shaped those writers was not mass immigration from the Old Country and the threat of anti-Semetic violence, but the overtaking of farms and villages  values by business culture.

He says what attracted him to writers like Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, Ring Lardner, Sinclair Lewis, Thomas Wolfe and Erskine Caldwell was his own ignorance of everything North South and West of Newark, New Jersey.  And the way that America from 1941 to 1945 was unified: (more…)

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jf SOUNDTRACK: JOSEPH-Tiny Desk Concert #575 (October 28, 2016).

josephI have been hearing “White Flag” quite a bit on the radio. I had a hard time keeping track of who sang it (it doesn’t help that this trio of women is called Joseph).  But I have really grown to love the “ooh ooh” part and the screamed chorus.

So it’s interesting to see Bob Boilen’s blurb in which he says

My first experience seeing Joseph was in 2014 as an opening act in New York City. It was just the twins Meegan and Allison Closner and their older sister, Natalie Closner, and it was clear then they had something special. Over these two years, Joseph’s sound has grown beyond the Closners’ harmonies. Now, you’re likely to see them with a band or hear songs from their latest record, which is filled with sounds far beyond voice and acoustic guitar.  It’s been a treat to witness Joseph’s journey, but I was also fairly thrilled that for their Tiny Desk the sisters stripped it down to their original setup: three voices and one guitar.

They play “White Flag” first.  I was a bit disappointed at first because even though Bob loves the stripped down sound, I like the recorded version a lot.  But by the end I was loving how great their voices work together.  Plus I was able to hear the word a little better: “I’d rather be dead than live a lie…burn the white flag.”  Natalie sings lead on this one, while Meegan and Allison do the great oooh oohs.

When the song is over Natalie tells us why she wrote the song: a response to everything going on in the world and how it wants to push you back into your home and stop you from going out and living your life and deciding no thank you I’m going to do that anyway.

 Meegan introduces “I Don’t Mind” by saying it’s about sadness… and it was something she wanted someone to say to her about her sadness.  But she realized she had to say it to herself before she could receive it from anyone else.  She sings lead and it builds slowly with some harmonies coming in. I love how big it gets from such a small opening.  The final chorus reminds me a bit of Lucius–big bold singing in close harmony.

I was delighted by how different the three songs sounded.  “Canyon” sounds nothing like the other two–the chorus is powerful and hypnotic with the repeated sounds.  It also has an incredible moment in the middle of the song where the twins are singing backing vocals and Natalie is singing a lead line and the three of them all end on a really long note together.  It’s mesmerizing.

So even if I really like the album version, these versions are pretty spectacular.

[READ: February 27, 2017] “An Occurrence on the Beach of Varosha”

This is an excerpt from a novel called The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep and I’m glad I knew that going in because the story mentions some previous incidents and also ends rather dramatically but in an unfinished way.

Set in October 2012, Elias is on the beach at Varosha in Northern Cyprus, marveling at the size and number of the hotels that line the barbed wired fence on the beach.   Elias’s aunt and uncle currently live on the Greek Cypriot side of the Green Line, but they were among the first to build a hotel there.  However, there’s was just three  stories with twenty-four room.

Elias is there ostensibly to check out he property to see if it is still standing during the conflict.   He is capable of doing this because he is Canadian and has a foreign passport.  Thus, he can cross the Green Line without trouble. (more…)

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