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Archive for the ‘Of Montreal’ Category

rek2SOUNDTRACK: OF MONTREAL-Tiny Desk Concert #263 (January 28, 2013).

of-montrealWhen I saw that Of Montreal was doing a Tiny Desk Concert I really had no idea what to expect.  I mean, it could have been anything.  The blurb even jokes that Of Montreal concerts have been described as “wildly theatrical,” “flamboyant,” “synchronized dancing” and having “strange, wandering creatures that look like amoebas.”

So I was absolutely not expecting to see two guys with acoustic guitars and a woman singing a gentle folk song.  I actually double checked to make sure I was watching the right show.

Evidently around this time, Kevin Barnes (the man behind Of Montreal) had been working on quieter, more personal work. And so we get these three songs which are, more or less, Barnes solo.

The first song, “Feminine Effects” has the assistance of singer Rebecca Cash and guitarist Bryan Poole.  Cash sings the entire song, and it’s quite lovely, if not a little dark.

The next two songs “Imbecile Rages” and “Amphibian Days” are Barnes by himself, strumming guitar and singing.  The music is fairly straightforward, although he does throw in some unexpected chords which makes the songs stand out. And, of course, his lyrics and delivery are quirky. His enunciation is peculiar and even more pronounced in this setting.

This is a real surprise for Of Montreal fans, and frankly almost a red herring for anyone new to the band.

[READ: December 31, 2016] The Impossible Fortress

Sarah received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from her friend Mary Lynn and thought I would like it.  And boy did I ever.  I read this book in half a day.  It’s a quick read and while not profound of life-changing, it was really fun and funny–with a fairly dark twist.

There are two major plots in this book and they intertwine very nicely.

The first–the “action” plot–involves the Vanna White Playboy issue.  The second–the main character plot–involves coding a video game on a Commodore 64.  For this book is set in 1987 in the suburban New Jersey town of Wetbridge.  Our protagonists are 14-year-old boys who never really fit into other cliques.

The story is about Billy Marvin.  He never knew his father and his mother has started working the overnight shift at the Food Mart to make an extra dollar an hour.  Billy’s mom has really high hopes for Billy.  But his school life is pretty dismal.  His mom believes that Billy is really smart and she tries to get Billy into honors classes.  But his grades indicate remedial classes.  If he can succeed in these classes he can get moved up.  But he does not succeed. At all. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SINKANE-“Jeeper Creeper” (SXSW, March 21, 2013).

sinkaneI’ve never heard of Sinkane either (was there anyone at this SXSW that I knew?).  NPR is streaming on song from this band.  It’s about 7 minutes of low-key funk with reggae-like guitars, some great bass jams and simple lyrics.  I really like the vibe that the song gives off.  They would be a great band to see live.

Sinkane later played with Usher and The Afghan Whigs, which shows a very cool range.  And evidently Sinkane leader Ahmed Gallab has collaborated with the likes of Yeasayer and Of Montreal.

Watch it here.

[READ: March 19, 2013] “Kattekoppen”

I had just finished John LeCarré’s excerpt in Harper’s when I read this short story (or possibly excerpt—it ended rather oddly).  So here was another spying operation, although this one was American and military-based.  I know very little about military operations, so this was all new to me.  And there were some things I liked about this story quite a bit. The story is set in Afghanistan where the army has just brought in a new howitzer-liaison (good job title, that) named Levi.  Levi is Dutch and yet somehow still in the US Army–and he is a good soldier.   His wife lives in Texas and is about to have a baby.

Levi gets Dutch care packages a lot.  In addition to stroopawaffles (yum!) are Kattekoppen which are cat-shaped licorice-like objects.  Levi loved them as a kid bit now he puts them on the shelf of things that people don’t want (until they desperately want them).  Eventually the narrator tries one and immediately spits it out because it tastes like ammonia.  He’s not even able to get the taste out with snow… or dirt.  It’s that bad.  I found this part of the story quite interesting.

The rest of the story was more specific to military operations.  He talks about how Levi targeted the howitzer and how he made target rings which offered an area of projection for where the shell would strike.  And that he was very good at it.  The minor problem was that Levi wanted to be home for his son’s birth.  Not a big problem except that thy Generals wouldn’t give them a new howitzer liaison in the meantime. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The Believer July/August 2010 Music Issue Compilation CD: “We Bumped Our Heads Against the Clouds” (2010).

Of all the Believer music compilations, this is by far my least favorite.  It would be oversimplifying things to say that the music is not for me, but in many respects it is not.  Chuck Lightning, the curator of the project states that this compilation is more or less a look into the state of the union for black artists.  And that invariably means a lot of R&B and songs that might be heard on Glee (I like the show, but I never know any of the music).

Deep Cotton’s “Self!” reminds me of novelty dance hit from the late 80s.  Of Montreal, who I thought sounded totally different from this, offer “Hydra Fancies” which is as catchy a disco anthem as any disco anthem can be.  Roman GianArthur’s “Depraved Valet” is an amazingly falsettoed Prince knock off.  Cody Chestnutt’s “”Come Back Like Spring” is a simple almost acapella ode to spring.  Saul Williams’ oddly titled “B.S. in a Tampon” is a spoken word with acoustic guitar that reminds me of Gil Scot-Heron.  Janelle Monáe’s “Cold War” is the first really catchy song (the la las remind me of Carole King), although  I could do without the overstated “Calinda” part and the extended fade.

The first song I really liked was BLK JCKs “Iietys” which sounded enough like TV on the Radio to be really interesting.  Spree Wilson’s “Chaos” also sounds like TV on the Radio (the more R&B side of the band, although the guitar solo is a dead ringer for “Hotel California.”  Scar’s “Rewind” is the song that should be on Glee.  I want to hate it but it is so damned catchy, I can’t.  Again, those Oh Oh Ohs are too perfect (and the auto0tune of course is unassailable).

Rob Roy’s “Velvet Rope Blues” is my favorite song on the disc by a large distance. It’s a weird rap that reminds me of The Streets, with an awesome sung chorus ala OutKast.  Hollyweed’s “Have You Ever Made Love to a Weirdo” is a trippy, juvenile space rap that is really silly.  Sarah hates it but I kind of like it, as it’s in the spirit of Frank Zappa, (although I hate the sax solo).  Fear & Fancy’ s “Off the Grid” sounds also not unlike OutKast.  And George 2.0′ s “Turn Off the TV” is a anti-TV rap rant (with the somewhat ironic conclusion that you yourself might end up ON the TV).

M.I.A. is probably the biggest name on the disc. “Born Free” is a weird little track of highly distorted vocals over a punk guitar buzzsaw sound.  But her vocals are mixed so loud in the mix that they sound unrelated.  It sounds not unlike a Go! Team track.  This track makes me wonder how she became such a sensation.

Hot Heavy & Bad’s “One” returns to that disco sound in the vocals with some contemporary bass sounds.  It wears out its welcome pretty quickly.  Tendaberry’s “Cold Boy” sounds like a less horn-y Fishbone.  Mother Novella offers one of the few all guitar songs, “Closer 9 1/2” and it’s an okay mid tempo rocker.

The final song is pretty awesome in theory: Nina Simone covering Alice Cooper.  That’s right, Nina Simone covering Alice Cooper.  Sadly I don’t know the Alice Cooper song, so it’s a bit lost on me.

[READ: September 16, 2010] Speaking with the Angel

I bought this volume when it came out (and apparently donated $1 to TreeHouse at the same time).  It’s a collection edited by Nick Hornby (and the cover is designed similarly to the way High Fidelity and even About a Boy were at the time (“the Hornby look,” I suppose).

I didn’t buy it for Hornby alone, although he does have a story in it, but because it looked like a really promising collection of stories from authors I liked.  And for some reason I didn’t read it until now.  It includes 12 stories, and as the introduction notes, $1 was donated to TreeHouse.org.uk (in the US $1 goes to TreeHouse and another $1 goes to New York Child Learning Institute).  I don’t know if the money still goes there, but you can donate with a form at the back of the book.  (more…)

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[WATCHED: September 5, 2010] I’m Here

I’m Here is the new short film that Spike Jonze directed.  (You can read more about the story behind the film at my post about the accompanying book There Are Many Of Us.) And you can see the whole film and much more at the official site.

The film is 30 minutes long and it is surprisingly touching.  Surprisingly especially because the main characters are robots.  The robots are wonderfully designed (they’re not animated, they are people with plastic coverings and fantastic heads–the main male robot’s head is made from an old Macintosh computer).  I assume there is CGI for the mouths (they look too fluid to be anything else), but the rest of the movie is very old school.

As the film opens, we see Sheldon, who works in a library (as a shelver) who seems content and who seems to be making the best of things.  The other robots that we see live in what seems like a kind of narcotic state (plugging themselves in to recharge at night).  One morning, while he’s waiting for the bus (because robots can’t drive), he sees a robot driving a car.  She is a beautiful robot, and we see them share a moment across the busy street.  And since this is short film, you know they are destined to be together.

The robots share tender moments (their substitute for kissing is very sweet) as well as rocking moments (they go to a Lost Trees concert together).  We get to see a bit of their inner lives as well.  And the two form an intense bond.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Soundtrack to “I’m Here” (2010).

This soundtrack comes with the book mentioned above and below.  It is the soundtrack to the film “I’m Here” which also comes with the book mentioned above and below.

I haven’t watched the film yet, so I don’t know how well the music works.  But the book explains how many of these songs came to be in the film.  And the organic nature of the compositions sounds like they are very suitable.

The first track (and “theme” of the movie is by Aska & The Lost Trees.  The Lost Trees are a factious band made up for the film.  Aska wrote the song (and there’s sheet music for it in the book).  She has a second song called “Y.O.U.” later on the soundtrack.  It’s a synthy dreamy song.

Gui Borrato’s “Beautiful Life” is an 8 minute techno song.  It seems like an instrumental, but there are eventually lyrics.  And it is rather catchy.

Then there’s a number of bands who I have heard of but don’t know these songs: Sleigh Bells: “A/B Machines” (which is on their debut Treats–a loudly mixed, increasingly noisier and noisier dance track, which is strangely addictive); Animal Collective: “Did You See The Worlds” (which is on Feels and gets better with each listen); Girls: “Hellhole Ratrace” (which is on their debut Album and which sounds like a distortion-free Jesus and Mary Chain) and Of Montreal who remixed “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” from Hissing Fauna… so that The Lost Trees could “cover” it in the film.  I don’t know the original but this has punky abandon and distortion and rocks pretty hard.

The final two tracks are by Sam Spiegel: “Lonesome Robot Theme” and “There Are Many of Us (Electric Dream Reprise).”  They are both slow keyboard washes–delicate songs that close the disc nicely.

It’s an enjoyable soundtrack, a little heavy on the electronics–which makes sense for a movie  about robots, right?

[READ: September 2, 2010] There Are Many of Us

[UPDATE: September 6, 2010] Just watched the film….  Reading the book first will definitely lessen the emotional impact of the film.  So, be sure to watch the DVD, then read the  book.

This book came the other day in the mail as part of my McSweeney’s Book Club.  It’s funny to get a book that is a companion piece to a film you’ve never heard of and which you will likely never see.  And that’s why it’s great that the book includes the film on DVD!  (Along with several bonus features).

I really enjoy short films. And that’s why I like the Wholphin Series as well as the DVDs of Academy Award winning shorts.  I only wish there was more access to them.   I mean, frankly, where would I ever be able to see this film but here?

As I write this I haven’t had the chance to watch the film, so maybe it’s awful.  But I have liked everything that Spike Jonze has done, so I don’t expect to be disappointed.

The stills in the book are fantastic, and the robots look incredibly lifelike.  I’m not sure if it’s better to read the book or watch the film first.  The book doesn’t really give much away about the story (except that it says that the film is inspired by The Giving Tree).  And whether or not I should have watched the film first, the book has me really excited to watch the film soon. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The Believer June/July 2007 Music Issue Compilation CD: Cue the Bugle Turbulent (2007).

The 2007 Believer disc smashes the mold of folkie songs that they have established with the previous discs in the series.  The theme for this disc is that there’s no theme, although the liner notes give this amusing story:

one decaffeinated copy editor (“the new guy”) made a suggestion: “The Believer CD should be composed of eight a.m. music/breakfast-substitute jams, like that commercial from a while back with the guy who gets out of bed over and over again while ELO plays over his morning routine. You should tell all of the bands to write/contribute songs worth listening to within three minutes of waking up.”

So, without a theme, they just asked artists for some great songs.  There’s one or two tracks written especially for the disc (Sufjan Stevens, Lightning Bolt).  There’s a couple B-sides.  There are some wildly noisy raucous songs: and three of them come from duos!  No Age offers a very noisy blast of feedback.  Magik Markers play a super-fast distortion-fueled rocker, and Lightning Bolt play 5 minutes of noise noise noise.  Oh, and there’s even a rap (Aesop Rock)!

Tracks 3-7 are just about the 5 best songs in a row on any compilation.  Oxford Collapse plays a catchy and wonderfully angular song with “Please Visit Your National Parks.”  It’s followed by a song from Sufjan Stevens that sounds NOTHING like Sufjan Stevens, it’s a noisy distorted guitar blast of indie punk.  I’m from Barcelona follows with a supremely catchy horn driven song that would be huge on any college campus.  Aesop Rock comes next with a fantastic song.  I’d heard a lot about Aesop Rock but had never heard him before, and he raps the kind of rap that I like: cerebral and bouncy.  This is followed by Reykjavik! with a crazy, noisy surf-guitar type of song.  It reminds me of some great college rock from the early 90s.

Of Montreal, a band I’ve been hearing about a lot but who I’ve never heard (and didn’t think sounded like this) plays a wonderfully catchy two minute love song that sounds ironic, but which likely isn’t.  The melody is straight out of the Moody Blues’ “Wildest Dreams,” and yet it is still fun and quirky.

There’s a couple instrumentals as well: The Clogs do a cool, mellow instrumental and Explosions in the Sky do one of their typically fantastic emotional tracks.  Also on the disc, The Blow contribute a delightfully witty song and Bill Fox, a singer I’d never heard of (but who has a great article about him in the magazine), really impressed me with his Bob Dylan meets Nico delivery.  The disc ends with an alternate version of a song by Grizzly Bear.

This is definitely my favorite Believer disc thus far.  See the full track listing here.

[READ: Throughout 2009] Schott’s Miscellany 2008

This year’s edition of Schott’s Miscellany is very much like last year’s edition (see that review here).  I mean, it is an almanac after all.  However, it is a wondrous testament to Schott that even though I read every word of the 2008 edition, I was able to read every word of the 2009 edition and not feel like I was duplicating myself very much.

Obviously the news, facts and events of 2008-09 are different from last year.  And since Schott’s writing style is breezy and fun with a hint of sarcasm and amusement thrown in, you don’t get just a list of facts, you get sentences with subtle commentary on the facts.  And it’s a fun way to re-live the past year.  Plus, the Sci, Tech, Net section discusses science stories that sounded really impressive and important which I can’t believe I didn’t hear about at the time. (more…)

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