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Archive for the ‘Juliana Hatfield’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE ROOTS feat. JILL SCOTT-“You Got Me” (1999).

I’ve wanted to listen to more from The Roots ever since I was exposed to them on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.  But as typically happens, I’m listening to other things instead.  So this seemed like a good opportunity to check them out (based on Samantha Irby’s rave below).

One of the best things about this recording (and The Roots in general) is Questlove’s drumming.  In addition to his being a terrific drummer, his drums sound amazing in this live setting.

Erykah Badu sings on the album but Jill Scott (Jilly from Philly) who wrote the part, sings here.

It starts out quietly with just a twinkling keyboard and Scott’s rough but pretty voice.  Then comes the main rapping verses from Black Thought.  I love the way Scott sings backing vocals on the verses and Black Thought adds backing vocals to the chorus.

Midway through the song, it shifts gears and gets a little more funky.  Around five minutes, the band does some serious jamming.  Jill Scott does some vocal bits, the turntablist goes a little wild with the scratching and Questlove is on fire.

Then things slow down for Scott to show off her amazing voice in a quiet solo-ish section.  This song shows off how great both The Roots and Jill Scott are.  Time to dig deeper.

[READ: November 1, 2020] Wow, no thank you.

This book kept popping up on various recommended lists.  The bunny on the cover was pretty adorable, so I thought I’d check it out. I’d never heard of Samantha Irby before this, but the title and the blurbs made this sound really funny.

And some of it is really funny. Irby is self-deprecating and seems to be full of self-loathing, but she puts a humorous spin on it all.  She also has Crohn’s disease and terribly irritable bowels–there’s lots of talk about poo in this book.

Irby had a pretty miserable upbringing.  Many of the essays detail this upbringing.  She also has low self-esteem and many of the essays detail that.  She also doesn’t take care of herself at all and she writes about that.  She also doesn’t really want much to do with children or dogs.  And yet somehow she is married to a woman with children.

From what some of these essays say, it sounds like she is married to this woman yet somehow lives an entirely separate life from the rest of the house.  It’s all rather puzzling, although I suppose if you are already a fan, you may know many of the details already. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: beabadoobie-“Care” (2020).

This song has been getting a bunch of airplay prior to the release of beabadoobie’s debut, album and holy cow is it catchy.

It’s got a terrific 90s alt rock sensibility (Belly, Juliana Hatfield, etc).  Slightly distorted guitars, big drums and perfect use of silence to lead to a crashing continuation.

Beatrice Laus’ voice is gentle and soft as she sings the jangly verses.  The bridge then builds to the super catchy, two-beats-and-a-pause “care” chorus.  Her voice doesn’t get harsh or anything bit it does get a lot more powerful.

This song is hooky and memorable and instantly sing alongable.

I’d heard her earlier EPs and liked them, but nothing stood out as memorably as this song.  I hope the rest of the album proves to be as full of great songs.

[READ: October 15, 2020] “Time to Destination”

This is an excerpt from DeLillo’s forthcoming novel The Silence.  I tend to think that DeLillo’s novels are rather long, so I was surprised that this excerpt was only three pages.  (I realize an excerpt is a tiny piece, but it still seemed rather short).

I normally really enjoy DeLillo’s attention to quotidian detail, but this excerpt fell flat for me.

It is a man and a woman on a plane.  He wants to sleep but he can’t stop looking at the display that shows where they are and when they will arrive.

He reads many of these details aloud, but the woman (his wife) ignores him.  she is busy writing down all of the things they have done so far on th etrip.

While the talk, they challenge each other on some facts–Fahrenheit’s first name, Celsius’ nationality.  He mocks her for writing down all the details, like the rainy days–she wants to see the precision, the details.  He says she can’t help herself, but she replies that she doesn’t want to help herself.

Their conversation felt like airflight itself–automatically generated because of the enclosed space. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: beabadoobee-Loveworm (Bedroom Sessions) (2019).

beabadoobee is Beatrice Kristi Laus, a 19 year-old singer-songwriter who was born in the Phillipines and lives in London.  She has released some six EPs since 2018 and has been played on the radio on WXPN.  I see she’s also headlining a small tour over here in the Spring.

This EP is an acoustic version of her Loveworm EP.  I actually don’t know the other EP (that’s for tomorrow), but I wanted to start with this bedroom version because it promised to be stark.

It is just her on acoustic guitar and vocals.  Her voice is soft and delicate and quite pretty, with the “innocence” of early Juliana Hatfield.  That innocence makes her sharp lyrics all the more effective.

Even though this is a bedroom recording, it is in no way lo-fi.  The recording quality is excellent.  You can hear her hands move up and down the strings and there’s no hiss or fuzz.  You can hear her voice very clearly too.

“Disappear” has a simple melody.  I assume the guitar is looped at some point.  “1999” is not a Prince cover.  It continues in this quiet vein with some pretty guitar and vocals.  It seems kind of daring to name a song the same as one of the most popular songs in pop history.  But her understated take on 1999 is a quite different from Prince’s

You said I fucked up and ruined your life
But little did you know you ruined
Mine

“Apple Cider” is a bit more uptempo. with a cool delivery of this opening verse

We both like apple cider
But your hair be smelling like fruit punch
And I don’t even like you that much
Wait
I do
Fuck

“Ceilings” has a very pretty picked melody” while “Angel” is a darker song that sounds like it could be a Nirvana cover (it isn’t).  “You Lie All the Time” is a straightforward song and “Soren” features some interesting chords high on the neck of the guitar.  This final song is a sweet love letter

The green in your eyes
Are like the leaves in the summer
And it changes with the weather
The pink in your cheeks
When you slightly lose your temper
Makes me love you even more

There’s a lot of sameness on this EP, but that’s not surprising since it is an EP of acoustic versions of the he original album.  As an introduction to her music and her songwriting, though, it’s a great place to see just what she’s got vocally and musically.  I’m curious how she will flesh these songs out on the actual EP.

[READ: January 12, 2020] “Found Wanting”

This is a story of Scottish young adult trying to find his sexuality in a land that demonizes homosexuality: “living on a Glaswegian housing scheme and being gay was a death sentence.”  The narrator was more or less alone.  He lived in a rented bedsit.  His mother was recently dead and his brother, who had been looking after him, could no longer afford to.

The advent of a lonely hearts section in the paper allowed for people with similar interests to contact each other.  For the narrator, the day he mailed in his ad (which cost him much of his salary that week), opened up new avenues–avenues that were not always savory. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JULIANA HATFIELD-Sings Olivia Newton John (2018).

When I was a kid, I loved Grease.  My parents took me to see it multiple times and I loved the soundtrack.  There are still things from the movie that I am just “getting” now because I was so young when I first heard it.  I listened and sang along to Grease thousands of time.  I didn’t care for Saturday Night Fever (too dark and grown up), but i did love Xanadu.  So clearly I loved Olivia more than John.

I did not love “Physical,” the only other ONJ song I had heard, but honestly who didn’t dance around singing the chorus.

Aside from those songs I didn’t know a lot about ONJ’s career.   I had never heard of “Have You Never Been Mellow” until I bought the 1984 album by The Feederz.  They covered the song in the only way that a band whose album cover was literally sandpaper (to mess up the neighboring albums) would do.

Decades later I loved Juliana Hatfield.  I saw her live at Boston College (she opened for the B-52s and I left between acts because I was too cool for the B-52s).  She sung heartfelt and direct songs in a sometimes childlike voice.  But she rocked pretty hard too.

Juliana seems like an obvious choice to cover Olivia, except I didn’t think that Juliana had the range.  But boy was I surprised.  She hits high notes that I don’t recall her hitting before.  And while her singing style is still pretty soft, she really powers through a lot.  She also multitracks her voice from time to time to give it more power.

Plus, how great is that cover?

I didn’t know all of the songs on this but I grew to like the all.  I like the gentle synths and the cool guitar line on “I Honestly Love You.”  But she really impressed me with her take on Xanadu’s “Suspended in Time.”  She hits some beautiful notes and really makes the song wonderful.  I particularly like the e-bow.  “Magic” from the soundtrack also sounds great.  I’ve always liked this song so a cover has to meet some tough standards.  “Xanadu” is another great version–JH nails this soundtrack.

She hits some really wonderful high notes on “Have You Never Been Mellow?”  I’m still not sure if I’ve heard ONJ’s version.

“A Little More Love” adds some of Juliana’s crunchy guitar to the verses, but the chorus is pure ONJ.

I also had no idea she sang “Please Mr. Please,” which I remember from when I was a kid.  Who was listening to country stations in New Jersey back then?  Apparently much of ONJ’s pre-Grease career was in the country realm.

As I was going through this collection I discovered that ONJ sang a ton of versions of songs that I had no idea about.

Songs that she did a cover of which do not appear here:

  • God Only Knows
  • Jolene
  • Me and Bobby McGee
  • If You Could Read My Mind
  • Angel of the Morning
  • Take Me Home Country Roads
  • Summertime Blues
  • Ring of Fire
  • He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother [!]
  • Don’t Cry for Me Argentina [!]

And that was all before she did Grease.

This collection mostly covers her records from Grease (1977) to Physical (1981), but there’s a couple of older songs too.

I had given up on her by Physical, but JH’s version of the title song has some nice chunky guitars and emphasizes the cool riff in the song–it’s much less discoey than the original.  There’s even a loud (but short) guitar solo and some cool noise at the end.  She also sounds a lot more like Juliana than Olivia on this one.

I didn’t know anything from Totally Hot, the album in which she dressed all in leather (like Sandy!).  I feel like “Totally Hot” is the least successful song here.  The lurching style is kind of clunky.  Although JH is clearly having fun by the end with the multitarcked vocals.

“Don’t Stop Believin'” is not the Journey song.  It sounds so very ONJ to me (with the high vocal notes at the end of each line).  JH sounds a lot like ONJ on this one.

The biggest challenge has to have been “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”  It’s the only song from Grease that she tackles. JH sounds a little flat (not in notes, but in…power?) during the verses.  But the multi tracking on her voice makes the chorus sound wonderful.

“Dancin’ Round and Round” comes from that rockin’ Totally Hot album and JH covers it perfectly.  “Make a Move on Me” has some interesting guitar and synth sounds.

The “I Honestly Love You” reprise is more fun because of the extended noisy guitar at the end.

This is a really fun collection of songs, including many songs I had forgotten I liked.

  1. I Honestly Love You [various, depending on country of release, you know, like The Beatles]
  2. Suspended In Time [X]
  3. Have You Never Been Mellow [HYNBM]
  4. A Little More Love [TH]
  5. Magic [X]
  6. Physical [P]
  7. Totally Hot [TH]
  8. Don’t Stop Believin’ [DSB]
  9. Please Mr. Please [HYNBM]
  10. Hopelessly Devoted To You [G]
  11. Xanadu [X]
  12. Dancin’ ‘Round And ‘Round [TH]
  13. Make A Move On Me [P]

X = Xanadu ; HYNBM = Have Yo Never Been Mellow ; [TH] = Totally Hot ; [P] = Physical ; [DSB] = Don’t Stop Believin’ ; [G] = Grease

[READ: January 29, 2019] Is This Guy for Real?

I enjoyed Box Brown’s Andre the Giant book.  In fact I’m quite the fan of Box Brown’s work.  So you bet I was going to read Brown’s biography about the enigma who was Andy Kaufman.

I was old enough to be aware of Kaufman (from Taxi, mostly), and young enough to be interested in the wrestling aspect of what he was doing.  Even if I had no idea what was real during the whole thing.  Apparently no one else did either.  What’s interesting is that you probably couldn’t get away with these kinds of stunts now because of the pervasive media.

Andy Kaufman grew up as a pretty normal kid who liked Mighty Mouse, Elvis and wrestling.  He also liked to imitate all three.  The one unusual component of his arsenal of favorite things was Babatunde Olatunji a Nigerian drummer who played his high school.  Andy was transfixed by the drums and set his mind to playing them.  All of these would comprise his stand up act, (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 17, 2018] Tancred

When I saw the name Tancred a while back I imagined a kind of Middle-Eastern-sounding band.  I had a very specific idea in my head.  So I was really quite surprised to discover that they are actually a 90s-sounding alt rock band created (more or less exclusively) by Jess Abbott (who was in Now, Now for a time).

When I first heard “Bed Case” I was totally psyched.  It pushed all of the buttons I have for 90s female-led alt-rock.  I mean, holy cow.  There’s a total Letters to Cleo/Juliana Hatfield vibe but with a modern sensibility of not following exactly the 90’s rules.

I was super duper psyched that they were opening for Julien Baker.

Incidentally, Tancred (1075 – December 5 or December 12, 1112) was an Italo-Norman leader of the First Crusade who later became Prince of Galilee and regent of the Principality of Antioch…. thanks Wikipedia. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: YOU sleigh ME: Twelve songs from Twelve Atlantic artists for the twelve days of Christmas (1995).

This is one of the first “alternative” Christmas albums I bought.  At the time, I bought it for Tori Amos and Juliana Hatfield.  But this disc has not held up very well and collections have gotten so much better.

Between the poor song choices and the rather bland recordings, the whole things is kind of tedious.

MARY KARLZEN-“Run Rudolph Run”
I’ve said before that I don’t really like this song.  This version chugs along just fine.  The one thing it really has going for it is that she plays with the genders of the kids so that it’s the girl who wants the electric guitar. That’s cool.

COLLECTIVE SOUL-“Blue Christmas”
I don’t really love this song either, although surprisingly this is probably one of my favorite versions so of it.  The rhythm is a weird shuffle, almost like the hand-jive but I like the heavy guitars at the end of each verse.  Weird that his delivery is almost like Elvis though.

TORI AMOS-“Little Drummer Boy”
I can’t imagine when she would actually have sung this live (for it is a live recording). Typical Tori, her voice sounds great and it’s before she started singing in a weird style.

DONNA LEWIS-“Christmas Lights”
No idea who Donna Lewis is.  This song is a mild, inoffensive Christmas song that I can’t say much more about.

BILLY PILGRIM-“The First Noel”
I have no idea if this band is still around or even who was in them, but this version of the song is quite nice.  There’s pretty folk guitar and some great harmonies.  I can nit-pick about the No-ell-ell part but overall this one’s a keeper.

JULIANA HATFIELD-“Make It Home”
As I said, I bought this disc for Tori and Juliana.  This song is pretty, but it was used in My So-Called Life so it’s not special at all.  Boo.

JILL SOBULE-“Merry Christmas from the Family” (NSFC)
I’d always assumed that Jill wrote this song, although I see now that it was written by Robert Earl Keen.  This song is hilarious and mostly inappropriate.  And yet it also has a lovely sentiment (if you can get past the drunks and family problems).  It’s my favorite on this disc to be sure.

DANIEL JOHNSTON-“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
I just don’t understand why people listen to Johnston.  His voice is not compelling, and this sounds like someone making fun of the song.

DILLON FENCE-“Christmas”
This is a slick song that is about Christmas in some way.  It’s sort of blandly inoffensive jangle pop.

JAMES CARTER-“White Christmas”
This is an interminable 8 minute jazz sax solo version of the song.  Wow, it never ends.

VICTORIA WILLIAMS-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Victoria Williams also has a take-it-or-leave-it voice.  I used to like her more than I do now, bu that could change any minute.  This song is faithful to the original and pretty if you like her singing.

EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL-“25th December”
Another bland folky song.  The chorus is catchy, but I can’t be bothered to figure out what it has to do with Christmas.

Overall this is a disappointing disc and there are far better options.

 

[READ: December 17, 2017] “Last Woman”

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 enjoyed this piece for the way it juxtaposed a woman living by herself with the last woman left alive in a video game. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NOW,NOW-“Dead Oaks” (2012).

How do you make a song that I want to listen to over and over again?  Easy chord changes?  Sure.  Add instruments as the song goes on?  Absolutely.  Have a simple chorus that’s easy to sing along to?  Indeed.  Bring in a harmony vocal to repeat the chorus?  Definitely.  But the best way?  Do all of those thing and make your song 90 seconds long.

Holy cow.   This song starts with simple acoustic guitars and a charming girly voice (not unlike Juliana Hatfield).  At 40 seconds the drums kick in for the chorus.  After one run through, a harmony vocal comes in with all of the “oh oh ohs” that make this chorus so irresistible.  And just as the song shifts back to the guitars for the verses…it ends.

And I had to listen to it again and again.  As will you.

[READ: March 27, 2012] “Appreciation”

The first thing I thought when I read this story was that it was like David Foster Wallace.  Superficially because it opens with a lengthy segment about finances and taxes and the IRS (which was the subject of his unfinished novel The Pale King).  But once the story started going, it had mannerisms that were similar to DFW’s occasional style–a kind of detached narrator (no names are given in the story) coupled with a very formal style and excessive detail (repeating information, including which “she” the pronoun refers to in parentheses after the pronoun, etc)..

None of this is to say that the story is bad or a rip off of DFW’s style.  Just that I noticed it immediately.  In the Q&A that accompanies the story, no mention is made of DFW.  So perhaps that style has simply been assimilated.  Which is cool.

But beyond style, there’s a lot to like about this story.  The title is a clever play on words.  The story is about a mother and a daughter.  The mother has paid for a lot of the daughter’s expenses in her life, including buying her a house which was worth much more when they sold it.  And so, with the title we have two meanings of the word “appreciate.” (more…)

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wimpy4SOUNDTRACK: DAN ZANES-Night Time (2002).

zanesI’d only ever heard of Dan Zanes as the guy from the Del Fuegos (who probably got the biggest boost of their career when Juliana Hatfield sang about them in “My Sister”).  But once we had our first child, everyone told me to check out Dan Zanes’ “kids” records.  Night Time is one of our favorites.  It’s often played at night (obviously) as a good bedtime CD.

There a few rousing tracks on it but mostly it works as a mellow disc, perfect for winding down the day.  Zanes’ “kids” music is absolutely not just for kids (well, one or two tracks certainly are), because he uses his rock roots to play good roots rock (and folk).  Another fun thing about this disc (and most of his discs, in fact) is that he has a whole host of cool rock people to sing with him: Aimee Mann, John Doe (from X), Dar Williams and Lou Reed!

So, while you get a few traditional kids song (“Pay Me My Money Down,” “Rattlin’ Bog”) you also get a few traditional songs that work well for kids, but are fun for adults to sing along to (“Side by Side,” “What a Wonderful World,” “So Long (It’s Been Good to Know Yuh)”).  There’s also originals by Zanes (the fantastic “Night Owl,” “Smile Smile Smile” and the gorgeous closer “Linger for Awhile”) and some nontraditional songs (Zanes likes throwing in “world” music titles) like “Que Fortunidad,” and “Siyahamba”.

And it all sounds great.  There’s a horn section on a number of tracks, bringing a very rich texture.  But he also uses solo guitar or even mandolin.  And Zanes’ voice sounds fantastic.  He’s slightly gruff sounding, but in an endearing way.

I don’t know if I ever would have listened to these discs if it weren’t for having kids; but even if you don’t have kids, don’t let the “kids” label scare you away.

[READ: October 17, 2009] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

I was thrilled when this book came in the mail.  (Yes, we do order some books to keep).  I’ve enjoyed the whole series quite a bit, and there was so much hype about this book (it was ranked #1 at Amazon.com!) that I was very excited to get it.

This book’s title is something of a double meaning.  Dog days of summer, and also the animal itself (a dog features in several panels).  And so yes, the story takes place over Greg’s summer vacation.

The first half of the book I didn’t find quite as enjoyable as I wanted.  It’s not bad by any means, but a lot of the conflict from the other books is absent.  Because it’s summer, there’s no school conflict and for reasons that aren’t explained, Rodrick isn’t really in the story that much (maybe he’s on tour with Löded Diper) [which, yes, is still funny].  And Greg has a fight with Rowley, so they don’t speak for a while.

In many ways these are exciting developments because there’s a lot of newness in the storyline.  But, like a soft pillow, I missed my favorite conflicts! (more…)

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