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Archive for the ‘Nirvana’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: J.S. ONDARA-Tiny Desk Concert #937 (January 24, 2020).

WXPN has been playing J.S. Ondara quite a lot since his album came out.  And while the DJs would often give some details about his life story, he gives a bit more here.

J.S. Ondara’s journey to the Tiny Desk is a fascinating one. From his home in Nairobi, he listened on his sister’s radio to American artists, including Nirvana, Jeff Buckley, Death Cab For Cutie and, most importantly, Bob Dylan. He wanted to be a folk singer, so he moved to Minnesota, Dylan’s home state.

In between songs he narrates his life in a wonderfully comically understated style.

Ondara told us his story. “I remember, at one point, someone told me about this contest that you guys do called ‘the Tiny Desk Contest.’ And I was, at the time, desperately trying to be a folk singer. And I’m not quite. I’m not a big fan of contests, but I like NPR. So I figured I’d give it a shot. And I’d just written that song, ‘Lebanon.’ So I made a video of me playing that song, and I submitted it. And I suppose that things didn’t go quite in my favor. So I figured I’d find a bit of a roundabout way to get here, which involved making a record and touring it relentlessly and stalking Bob [Boilen] all around South by Southwest. (I actually didn’t do that part.) I was thinking about it. And now I’m here. The journey would have been a lot shorter had I just won the bloody contest. It’s on me, not you, I suppose, I should have written a better song.  But in the very wise words of Miley Cyrus, ‘it’s not about how fast you get there, it’s about the climb.’  I can’t stop quoting that song, it’s one of those words even when I don’t want to.”

“Lebanon” is a slow ballad with Ondara’s unique singing style (S. and I genuinely didn’t know if Ondara was a man or a woman upon hearing his song “Saying Goodbye” because his voice is so multivaried.  I really like the passion of the lyrics and how it is countered with the slowness of the music.

In the water, fire
I’ll go wherever you go
In the valley, in the canyon
I’ll go wherever you go
Hey, love, I’m ready now
Can’t you see this riot
Inside of my veins
Hey love, I’m overcome
By desire
How must I wait?
Up next is “Days of Insanity” with this fascinating lyric

There is a bear at the airport, waiting on a plane
There is a cow at the funeral, bidding farewell
There is a goat at the terminal, boarding the C-train
There is a horse at the hospital, dancing with the hare
Somebody call the doctor, from the university
Somebody call upon the witch and the wizardry
Somebody call the rabbi, the pastor and the sheikh
Coz we are coming on the days of insanity
The days of insanity.

In talking about this song he says it is such a rich time to be a folk singer in America.  He wrote the song while making the record.  He was watching videos of kittens and puppies as he does every night before bed and the video suggested watching Stephen Colbert with John Mulaney.  Mulaney took a trip to Japan and described things in America as being like seeing a horse loose in a hospital.  It’s like something no one’s ever seen before.  Ondara encourages us to watch the clip and he is right–it is hilarious!

“Saying Goodbye” is the song that’s been getting the airplay.  It’s passionate and powerful and when he sings in the higher register it really is otherworldly.

This live version is quite a revelation.  His delivery is different–much more slow and deliberate.  But he can still hit that glorious high notes..

Amazingly, Tales of America was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Americana Album (not bad for a guy from Kenya).  Sadly it didn’t win.

[READ: June 2, 2018] Cleopatra in Space Book Five

It took Maihack seventeen months to make this book!  He says that sixteen of those months were spent growing the bear on his author picture.

This story is action-packed with some fascinating twists and turns.  Consequently, seventeen months is a long time to go between books.  Fortunately, Maihack’s quality of illustration and storytelling has maintained its high standards.

The book opens with a flashback to the moment when Cleo first disappeared from Gozi while they were having target practice (back in book 1).

The actual story has followed Cleo on her adventures.  But now we see what happened to Gozi.  He was attacked by … someone … and imprisoned.  Gozi believes that whatever happened to Cleo–it was her choice not to return and help him.

I have to admit I was more than a little confused as to just what happened next, [Gozi explains things later on].  IN the montage of events, there’s a spaceship and lots of cats (I suspect that if I had read the other books more recently this would be more clear).  In whatever happened, Gozi is badly burned and the pain never goes away.  He was wrapped in bandages but that didn’t really help at all.  Then we see exactly what happened to make Gozi tun into Octavian and to agree to use the Lion’s plasma to carry out the ruin of the galaxy. (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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[ATTENDED: May 10, 2019] Kevin Devine

I saw Kevin Devine open for Frightened Rabbit back in 2017.  I didn’t know his music, but I really enjoyed his solo set.  When I heard that he was doing this tour with John K. Samson I was really excited to see him again.  I had hoped he’d be with His Goddman Band, but it turned out to be solo again.  I kind of assumed it would be with the band because of the new piece of merch (below) which I love but can’t imagine where you’d wear.

But it was excellent to see him not with the Goddamn Band because he was excellent solo.

Devine came out on stage to much applause.  He fiddled with the microphone stand and then said, you should be careful with your applause–what if I spend the whole night just tightening the mic stand.  Which he proceeded to do for another 40 seconds or so to much laughter until he admitted he couldn’t keep up the joke.

Devine played a song or more from nearly all of his nine albums as well as from his new split singles sets. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 30, 2019] Daddy Issues

I love the name of this band, Daddy Issues.  And I loved hearing about how they came up with their name

When singer and guitarist Jenna Moynihan saw the phrase “Daddy Issues” scribbled on the bathroom wall of a now-defunct Nashville DIY venue, she mistakenly assumed it was the name of an all-girl punk outfit sure to become her next favorite band. Upon realizing that no such band existed, Moynihan and friends Emily Maxwell (drums) and Jenna Mitchell (bass) picked up their instruments, taught themselves how to play and started their own band.

I had seen Emily Maxwell play drums with Jessica Lea Mayfield, but I was really quite excited to see the whole band. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PALEHOUND-A Place I’ll Always Go (2017).

Ellen Kempner’s voice is a bit louder in the mix so you can really hear the words despite the fact that she is still singing mostly in a whisper.

It’s a logical step from her previous album and every thing sounds a bit bigger and a bit better.

“Hunter’s Gun” is slow and a little creepy with the echo on her vocals and her whispered lyrics.  There’s also some great weird effects floating around in the background–especially by the end as the echo more or less takes over.

“Carnations” starts simply enough with a quiet chugging riff.  But the chorus is a wonderful–louder guitar with the guitar and vocals doing the same catchy melody.  It also has some great lyrics

They’re still in love with their ex
And I’m not feeling my best
This is a bad combination

‘Cause I’ve been dreaming I might
Just up and bail on this plight
And maybe go on vacation

Pack up my shit in the dark
And if the car doesn’t start
It spares us both conversations

“Room” is slower more acoustic-feeling.  It’s a sweetly romantic song with the lovely chorus line “She keeps me…  at night.”

“If You Met Her” starts out kind of sinister musically, but it has a really catchy chorus as well  It’s a wonderful song about breakup and new love perfectly summed up with this ending line

I’m with someone new
And I know that you would love her if you met her

The set up of rocker followed by slower song continues with  “Silver Toaster,” a loose, acoustic song that reminds of a snarky/simple Nirvana song (with a banjo solo!)

“Turning 21” has a big shoegaze guitar sound and a wonderfully catchy melody in the bridge.

“Flowing Over” mixes some good guitar lines and a rocking mid bridge section but its the oh oh oh oh section and the way it changes throughout the song that is the major hook.

“Backseat” opens with pulsing keys.  It’s a dark mediation that segues into the beautiful guitar of “Feeling Fruit, ” a pedestrian-seeming lyric that is much deeper and quite moving.

“At Night I’m Alright With You.” is a quiet moody song with a real Twin Peaks vibe.

These two releases are great but to really get to see how amazing Ellen is, check her out live.

[READ: January 23, 2018] “A Change in Fashion”

When I read this recently it sounded really familiar.  Clearly I had read it back in 2006 and it was so striking that I remembered it 12 years later.

And indeed, it is a memorable story, even if it’s not especially profound or funny–it’s mildly amusing and thoughtful.

Basically, this is an account of the way fashions changed after the Age of Revelation.  Girls and women were happily showing off their thongs but it was as if, after a half a century of reckless exposure, a weariness had overcome women…a disenchantment to invite a bold male gaze.

At first girls were opposed to it–it reminded them of old photographs in boring albums.  But soon it became stylish to wear dresses that brushed the floor–wearing lambskin gloves and rising collars. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CLOUD NOTHINGS-Live at Massey Hall (October 4, 2017).

Cloud Nothings are, to my knowledge, the first non-Canadian band to be featured on this Live at Massey Hall series.  The band (which was at one time the solo project of Dylan Baldi) is from Cleveland.

Baldi talks about growing up in Cleveland, Rush and cover band and then putting music online and getting found out.

“Pattern Walks” opens with a great rumbling loud bassline from TJ Duke. This is without a doubt the loudest show of the series (so far).  Baldi has a great rock singing voice that falls somewhere between Kurt Cobain and Paul Westerberg..  The music for this song is fast and loud with some great ringing out guitars from one of the guitarist while the other plays some melodic sections.  The backing vocals (from Duke) just help to bring the melody forward.  The nonstop pounding drums (from the utterly remarkable Jauson Gerycz) keep up the relentlessness.  I love that both guitarists (Baldi and Gris Brown) play a squalling feedback solo at the same time but also independent of each other.

The end of the song is kind of feedback jam which Baldi describes (they intercut his interview) as “lots of parts that are sort of free-form…live we can just go off into more self-indulgent occasionally boring things.  And that’s what I like.  Hopefully it’s not too much.  That kind of stuff is more fun for me than playing the same song every night.”

Psychic Trauma is a bit more poppy/Replacements-sounding.  Even when it thumps in double time for the chorus, it’s still petty clean.

“Modern Act” is the catchiest so far.  Midway through the song Brown plays a solo and its fun to watch him manipulate the sound by playing with the dials on his pedals.

Duke says to the crowd that Neil Young Live at Massey Hall 1971 is one of my favorite records of all time so I’m a little freaked to be here.  Thank you all.

“Fall In” is a thumping pounding track with a whaling guitar solo.  Once again Gerycz is just a flurry of activity.  While “I’m Not Part of Me” is really catchy.  The middle has a fun section that sounds like a great lost Replacements bridge.

“Wasted Days” is the last song.  It opens with both guitarists playing different thing until the drums pounds in.  And once again the drums are amazing throughout.  The song lasts about 3 minutes when it slows down to a slapping drum and Baldi manipulation effects pedals while he continues to solo.  Brown plays with high notes.  The propulsion during this jam seems to be controlled by the drummer who is going fast and slow intermittently until he exhausts himself.  Meanwhile, Duke plays a steady two-note bass over and over.  After two minutes of that the band jumps aback up and starts again.   After nearly ten minutes incredible minutes, the final chorus returns.

It’s an amazing show.

[READ: February 1, 2018] “The Clockmaker”

I had a really hard time following this story at first.  Partially because I didn’t know what an animacula was–and whose fault is that?

A carafe filled with water has been sitting on a table for a week.  The animacula (microbial creatures) “had attained a great antiquity.”

These creatures delighted in astronomy and philosophy.  They based the theory of their world on everything they saw around them–light from the windows and of course the giant clock that sat across from them.  One philosopher thought of a clock maker theory of the world–a giant anilaculum of unheard of bigness who did something to the clock every day.

This version was widely accepted as the truth.  They identified the giant man with the sun and began to think of him as the Clockmaker. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-Noise (2013).

You really never know what you’re going to get with Boris.  Most of the time, there are multiple editions of releases with different covers and different mixes.

In this case, despite the different covers of this record (see below), the track listing is exactly the same (except that the Japanese version came with a bonus disc).  Total length: 57:52

I like that this album cover parodies (sort of) Nirvana’s Bleach album cover.

“Melody” (黒猫メロディ) 6:40 The disc opens with some ringing alt-rock wit a distorted rocking chorus.   Despite the cover, it’s not like Nirvana, it’s more soaring  there’s catchy backing oohs and a cool hi-hat flourish.

“Vanilla” 4:15 is heavy in the same vein as “Melody” and “Ghost of Romance” (あの人たち) 5:49  has slow guitars and soaring leads with a heavy solo.  “Heavy Rain” (雨) 6:12 starts quite slowly with vocals by Wata and then there’s a big crash and the heavy section follows.  It alternates between quiet and loud at intervals.

“Taiyo no Baka” (太陽のバカ) 3:36 is almost a pop metal sound with dancey vocals and woah hos.  There’s even a simple guitar riff that follows along.  At three and a half minutes it’s a pure pop gem.

“Angel” 18:42 Angel, on the other hand pushes 19 minutes and it’s an epic workout.  It begins with a pretty, quiet guitar riff interlaced with a second guitar and interesting percussion.  There’s slow vocals as well.  But after 6 minutes, a loud distorted guitar interrupts the pretty melody, but it’s only playing an intermittent chord.  Even the powerful drums blasts don’t change the overall tempo of the song until a minute later when it takes on a loud droning quality with harmony vocals and a distorted bass moments.  There’s a soaring guitar solo as well.  By around 10 minutes the song turns into an uptempo rocker with falsetto vocals!  The song seems to climax at 13 minutes with a big gong.  But there’s more.  The song turns into a kind of soaring instrumental with echoing guitars and thumping drums.  With two minutes left the song returns to that opening guitar riff with a tidy solo over the top.  It’s like the song is nicely bookended with itself.  It’s quite the centerpiece.

“Quicksilver” 9:51 Who know what another band might follow a 20 minute song with, but Boris chose a nearly 10 minute song.  It seems at first that “Quicksilver” is going to be a short blast with the super fast pummeling hardcore sound.  There’s screamed vocals and wild drumming but it’snot that simple.  At 3 and a half minutes, the song slows down some although it stays heavy.  By around the 5th minute there;s lou dbacking voclals to accompant the lead vocal.  Once again, a false climax comes at 7 minutes but there’s more feedback to come along with a quiet, pretty guitar outro.  Until the final two minutes when there are loud droning chords that play through to the end.

“Siesta” (シエスタ) 2:50 Siesta is the shortest song on the disc, an instrumental that is kind of pretty and kind of woozy at the same time.  It’s definitely a slow down from the erst of the album and a nice conclusion.

This was the first Boris album I bought and it’s still a favorite.

The Japanese edition (cover to the right) came with this bonus disc, which I’ve not heard.

CD 2 (Another Noise) Total length: 23:26
1. “Bit” 9:35
2. “Kimi no Yukue” (君の行方) 4:51
3. “Yuushikai Revue” (有視界 Revue) 3:32
4. “Discharge” (ディスチャージ) 5:32

[READ: July 23, 2015] “Love is Blind and Deaf”

This was the 2015 New Yorker fiction issue.  It featured several stories and several one-page essays from writers I like.

In addition to those essays on Time-Travel it also included this short piece from Safran Foer.  I hadn’t seen much from Safran Foer recently, so I was interested to read this (very) short story.  It’s all of one page.

Much as Zadie Smith’s story about celebrities was unexpected, so was this one (on the following page in the magazine no less) about Adam & Eve.

We learn that Adam was blind and so never had to see Eve’s hideous birthmark.  And that Eve was deaf and never had to listen to Adam’s whiny narcissism.  And then they ate the apples and knew everything.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 8, 2018] Palehound

I also first heard Palehound on Tiny Desk.  I was really impressed with the range of songs that Ellen Kempner played as well as her dynamic guitar work–from pretty melodies to seriously scorching solos.  But it was her other show (from (Le) Poisson Rouge in the fall of 2015) that NPR broadcast that really made me want to see her live.

So getting Palehound and Waeves in one show was pretty awesome.

I was pretty delighted that she said she was inspired by Weaves to make their setlist fast in the beginning–she was ready to rock out.  And so she started with some of her best full-on songs.

Kempner is fun to watch (she was wearing that cool dress and some big work boots) as she switched effortlessly from wailing guitar to singing and sometimes both. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 11, 2017] Metz

2017-10-11-20-23-18-e1508356087344 (1)I knew of Metz from NPR, which is kind of funny given the kind of in your face pummeling metal noise that this three-piece from Canada makes.

I was pretty psyched that they were opening for Modest Mouse (not exactly the most logical fit).  But I should have learned from the last time I saw Modest Mouse at Starland Ballroom that there would be a huge line outside–I missed a lot of Mimicking Bird’s set last time.  This time I missed the opening minute or so of Metz’ set.  But it was loud enough that I could hear it from where I was standing.

And when I got onto the floor itself it was plenty loud enough. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 21, 2016] Umphrey’s McGee

2016-10-21-21-25-48 As of this summer I didn’t know who Umphrey’s McGee were.  I assumed they were a country band or something.  Then I found out a friend of mine who was at the Phish show that I went to was a huge fan of Umphrey’s McGee too.  She said that they were amazing live.  I listened to some of their stuff (and learned that their debut was called Greatest Hits Volume III, which I love), and then saw that they were playing three nights at The Fillmore in Philadelphia.  So I got a ticket for the middle night to see what the story was.

And I think I picked a good night to go.  Friday night the band had an opening act, not so Saturday or Sunday.  This meant that they didn’t go on until 9:15, which was fine.  I arrived in time but I had forgotten about the long security lines (and I’m thankful for the security, but ouch, it adds ten minutes to the line).  I missed the opening song, but since the band played for nearly three hours, that was okay.

So it turns out that Umphrey’s McGee are a jam band who work within a more progressive/metal sound.  They have a lot of stops and starts and time changes and their guitar solos are superfast pyrotechnics.  Most of their songs extend to about ten minutes or more (maybe like Dream Theater if they were a jam band).

But the fun thing about UM is that they throw in all kinds of cover segments and mashups.  To my knowledge there were no mashup in this show, although they are about a to release a whole album full of great mashups. However, they did tease out sections of other songs during some of their longer instrumental jams, which was fun. (more…)

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