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Archive for the ‘Regina Spektor’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: Æ MAK-“We Have It Right Here” (2020).

Æ MAK is Aoife McCann.  She creates a fascinating tapestry of music.  It feels classical and operatic and yet also feels very electronic and oddly poppy.

This song begins with muted xylophones -sounding electronic tones playing a pretty melody (which reminds me of Björk).

McCann’s voice comes in and lilts and flutters almost bird-like. She sings in English but with interesting emphases on words.

Her vocal delivery and melodies conjure Regina Spektor.

About halfway through the, until now entirely electronic song, adds some soft acoustic guitar and gentle bells.

The second chorus is almost all voice with simple percussion and a kind of Kate Bush vocal trill.

The electronics come back in and suddenly start getting fuller and louder–filling up your headspace with sounds as her voice echoes itself and adds other lines before building to a remarkably catchy ending.

There’s so much going on in this song even though it often feels very minimal.

And wait until you see her on stage.

[READ: September 21, 2020] On Contemporary Art

I have enjoyed Aira’s novels and was intrigued by this short essay about Contemporary Art.

The entire book is 60 pages and it includes and Foreword and an Afterword.  That jibes with the premise of the imprint itself.  Ekphrasis Press reprints works about visual art that are not meant to be academic in nature–but compelling as prose.

In the Foreword Will Chancellor, talks about how language can throw you off.  He recalls bring a child and seeing the Objects in the Mirror are Closer Than They Appear warning.  He wondered how objects and their appearances could diverge.  He continues that Aira suggests this gap between appearance and reality might be the origin of cotemporary art.

~~~

The main body of the book is Aira’s essay, translated by Katherine Silver.

He starts by saying he is a writer who looks for inspiration in painting.  He says that cave painters painted facts, but it took a person relating the adventure, the storyteller, to make the episode come alive.

As a lover of art, he subscribes to many art magazines, namechecking Artforum, Art in America, Flash Art, Frieze, art press and more.  He says the magazines look better every year but that their ability to convey art gets worse every year–they cannot properly convey what an art piece looks like.  You have to read the texts to see what is happening.

His essay concerns the Enemy of Contemporary Art who says that today’s

frauds who pretend to be artists depend on a justifying discourse to validate the nonsense they produce.

They say that contemporary art doesn’t speak for itself–that it needs critics to explain it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKCŒUR DE PIRATE-Live at Massey Hall (July 8, 2014).

I known of Cœur de Pirate more from reputation than her music.  But everything I’ve heard I’ve enjoyed.  Cœur de Pirate is Beatrice Martin a Francophone singer from Montreal who sings almost entirely in French.  And yet despite that, she sells out to Anglophone audiences because her music is so darn catchy.

In the opening she notes that it’s crazy that she’s a French-speaking artists singing in french selling out a venue like Massey Hall.  She feels special and can’t wait to hear what it sounds like.

The first song is “Le Long du Large.”  She is playing piano with a great band behind her.  The song grooves along smoothly–it has a great catchy chorus with terrific backing vocals.  There’s an acoustic guitar (Renaud Bastien), a lead guitar (Emmanuel Éthier), bass (Alexandre Gauthier) and drums (Julien Blais).

On “Francis” it’s just her on piano.  The song has a very Regina Spektor vibe in her playing style and singing delivery.

“Ensemble” is bouncy and upbeat, just super fun.

Golden Baby” opens with a melody like “Come on Eileen” but as soon as the electric guitar soars over, it is a very different song.   I love that she sounds like she smiling throughout.

It surprised me that she did an encore so soon in the show, but there’s clearly a reason for that.

Before the encore, she plays “Adieu”  our “last song.”  Shes off the piano on this one, only singing.  It’s got a heavy rocking beat and guitar and it’s really great.

When she comes back for the encore she sits at the piano and asks “More songs?”

“Place de la République” starts as solo piano and it sounds lovely.  After a verse or so, they add a bowed bass and strummed acoustic guitar  which builds the songs nicely.  Half way through, drums come in to give it even more power.  It’s a terrific song.

She is quite sweet saying that “it makes no sense that a French Canadian girl could sell out Massey Hall…. just got to hold it together.”

She invites everyone to sing along. If you don’t know French, just pretend.  It works too.  This is the last song.  Make it fun make it magical.  She says that the song, “Comme des enfants” is being taught in French classes.  It was a huge hit and the audience sings part the last verse.  It’s a wonderful moment and always cool to see an artist overwhelmed by her fans base.

[READ: March 28, 2018] Cici’s Journal

The book (there are two books in this volume) opens with Cici talking about her journal.  We meet Cici and her mom.  We learn that Cici hangs out a lot with the neighbor Mrs Flores, a writer.  Her mom doesn’t love that she hangs out with am older lady, but Mrs Flores is pretty cool.

Cici’s two best friends are Lena and Erica  The pair knew each other since they were babies;  Cici moved to the neighborhood when they were all little.  They have been best friends ever since.

I give Carol Klio Burrell a real thumbs up on this translation. I didn’t realize that it was a translation until well into the second book.  But I didn’t love a few aspects of the story.  The problem here I think comes with the friends.  Lena is sweet and has the soul of an artist.  Meanwhile, Erica “complains constantly, but she has a good heart.”  That’s not a very complex or desirably character trait.  And that aspect of her comes out a lot in the second book, which is kind of annoying. (more…)

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[ATTENDED:November 13, 2017] Regina Spektor

I have really enjoyed a lot of Regina Spektor’s music.  I have never seen her play, so this show at the nearby State Theatre seemed like a great opportunity.  I don’t know what she normally tours like, but this show was advertised as just her, playing solo.  And that was fine with me.

She came out on stage to thunderous applause and whispered “thanks” into the microphone.  She then proceeded to sings songs and drink water (a lot of) water.  Turns out that she had bronchitis.  And amazingly, she sounded freaking terrific.  Her voice was outstanding (and her piano playing was pretty fab as well).

The show was listed as being an hour and forty-five minutes and in that time she told stories, played different instruments and sang twenty-five songs.

It turns out that I really love the middle stuff (her fifth and sixth albums).  I don’t know her really early stuff and I somehow missed the new album.  So when I heard that this tour was going to be a lot of old stuff and rarities, I figured that I wasn’t going to know much, but I’d still enjoy it.  Sarah said she actually didn’t know any of the songs (but she loved her voice).  I knew about six songs. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 14, 2016] Ben Folds with yMusic

2016-07-14 22.42.16This was the third time that Sarah and I have seen Ben Folds and he never fails to put on a great show.

Both of the previous times had been as an opening act (and both times were with Guster, interestingly).  So it was great to see him headlining.  I didn’t know a lot about yMusic before the show, but I enjoyed his disc with them So There.  It promised to be a great show.

And since, as I mentioned with Gracie Folds, we were literally three people from the stage, we knew the show would be special. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 14, 2016] Gracie Folds

2016-07-14 19.36.50The Levitt Pavilion Steelstacks in Bethlehem is one of my favorite venues.  Last year I saw Modest Mouse there and this year it was Ben Folds.  I raved to Sarah about the venue last time but I don’t think she realized just how great it would be until we walked onto the grass and walked up to the stage where there were only two people in front of us.  And, if we were pushier, we could have easily gotten up to the fence.

So, yes, we were about three people from the stage.  And just to make it better, the forecast predicted massive thunderstorms all night long, but by the time of the show, the clouds had parted and a cool breeze came in through the field.

As the show started a young girl walked out and sat at her keyboard and told us her name was Gracie.  Anyone who is a fan of Ben Folds knows he has a daughter named Gracie.  But those of us who have no concept of time passing still assume she is like 6 years old.  Well, she is 17 and she opened for her dad.  And that’s pretty awesome. (more…)

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425 SOUNDTRACK: JULIA HOLTER-Tiny Desk Concert #524 (April 22, 2016).

Jjuliahulia Holter also has a theatrical style although her touchstone would be someone more like Regina Spektor (I found a similar style in their delivery).

“Sea Calls me Home” has a cabaret style in her delivery and songs structure.  She plays piano with a small band of upright bass, violin and drum.  I really like the sound (and solo) of the violin later on in the song.

“In the Green Wild” has a very jazzy feel with the upright bass playing a jazz line and the drums playing a jazzy rushed sound.  The violin plays some random high almost dissonant notes that work very well.  For the beginning, Julia doesn’t play piano, she sing-speaks kind of like Laurie Anderson—including the unusual intonation and emphases.  The rest of the band sings backing vocals that are higher and ethereal.  About half way in, she begins playing piano and the song settles sown a bit. The way she sings is unusual and a little unsettling—she looks up at the ceiling more or less the whole time.  Her piano notes are simple and I like the way she plays without looking at the keys.

After that song she speaks briefly.  Her personality is pretty nonexistent–she doesn’t smile or even seem to look at anyone. She sounds rather bored as she says okay we’ll play another song.  Thanks for listening.  That turned me off of her music a bit.

The final song, “Betsy on the Roof,” is the longest, about six minutes long.  It sounds similar to the first one–theatrical and somewhat operatic.  There’s a story in the song, but my favorite part is the middle where she sings a scale up to the roof and then the band rocks out.  The end of the song is fascinating as she sings her nice melody and plays atonal tones on the piano.  I enjoyed t he theatricality of this music a lot, but I would have preferred not to see her performance.

[READ: June 10, 2016] “Waiting for the Miracle”

This is the story of Vadik and his arrival in New York from Moscow.  It was a snowy day as he landed at J.F.K.  Despite the snow blanketing the skyline, it was still exciting. as he descended.  He had just received his work Visa authorizing his stay in the U.S. for three years.  He was staring work in Avenel, NJ.

His friend Sergey, who lives in Staten Island, came to pick him up.  All that Vadik wanted to do was explore the city–walk aimlessly and see what happened, but Sergey wanted to take him to his house.  And Sergey’s wife Vica wanted to see him too–in their past Vadik and Vica had been an item although and Sergey stole her away.  Vica made dinner for him and so he agreed to go to the Island.

On the way to the house, the most improbable thing is that Sergey is listening to a Leonard Cohen CD and singing along.  (Vadik likes Sergey and admits that he is still handsome, but his voice is terrible and has always been terrible.  And it’s especially bad especially for Leonard Cohen.  I say this is improbable because Cohen’s music appears later in the story  too. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 9, 2016] Alyssa Garcia

alyssaWhen I heard that the Crash Test Dummies were playing at Sellersville Theater, I was pretty excited to go.  I’d really liked them years ago (God Shuffled His Feet is an amazing album still).  But I also knew that Brad Roberts was a kind of vulgarian.  So I was really surprised to see a family with two small kids sitting in the row in front of ours.

I didn’t know the opening act (her name was actually misspelled on the bill, sadly).

Well, it turns out there was good reasons I didn’t know her.  She is 16 and recently won the 2015 Philadelphia Songwriters Project Final Showcase.  Turns out the young kids in front of us were her family.

Alyssa had amazing stage presence (I want to say “for someone so young” after just about every sentence, but I’ll refrain, because she was simply good regardless of her age).  She chatted with the audience, told us about her life, sold merch at the back table and, most importantly, she played five or six beautiful songs.

The melodies were fairly simple–I actually expected a little more showoffy flair for a person who has been playing piano since she was 5, but that clearly wasn’t her goal.  She was writing pretty songs to get her words across.  And it was her voice that was so captivating. (more…)

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1953SOUNDTRACK:CŒUR DE PIRATE-Cœur de pirate (2008).

Coeur-de-pirate-albumCœur de Pirate is the band name of Béatrice Martin, a Québécois singer and piano prodigy.  She was 19 when she released this album (and was accepted into conservatory school in Montreal when she was nine).

Given her musical background, one might expect more elaborately created music–more chamber pop, perhaps.  But this debut album is delightfully sweet and spare indie pop.  It is primarily simple piano songs with occasional extra accompaniment.

Most of the songs are simple, with unfussy arrangements and Martin’s beautiful voice.  The songs verge from charming piano melody to simple waltz to piano instrumental and a few upbeat almost dancey songs.  There’s even a guitar based song that adds a folk feel to the album.

There are 12 songs and the album runs only to 30 minutes.  It is charming and delightful.  The only thing I didn’t like so much was when Jimmy Hunt duets with her on “Pour un infidèle.” It’s not that I disliked his voice (which I did grow to appreciate after a few listens) it’s that his voice removes you from the insular little world that Martin has created.  When I am in it I don’t want any distractions.

The album definitely has a Francophone feel to it (her songs were described as “bringing la chanson française to a whole new generation of Quebec youth”) although she does remind me a bit of Regina Spektor’s later songs, too.

She also had a fluke hit with “Ensemble” when it was used with a funny baby based YouTube video that went viral (I’ve posted that at the bottom of the page).

You can listen to the whole album below

[READ: September 17, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1953-1954

Moving on to volume 2 of the Complete Peanuts.  As 1953 opened, the characters remained in that older style–Snoopy still looks a lot like a dog, and Charlie’s head is still much bigger (or actually I guess his face is still smaller).  By the end of the book, they have morphed a little closer to the Peanuts most of us are familiar with, but they still look “different.”

I enjoy the way the Schulz celebrates the holidays with a simple but nice sentiment (Schroeder playing his piano with the music staff reading “Happy New Year”).  Indeed, Schulz celebrates most holidays.  Valentine’s Day, Income Tax Day (!) and of course, he has lots of fun with Hallowen (no great pumpkin yet though).

This volume seems to be a lot about Lucy (which may be why she is on the cover).  In the first few strips she gets expelled from nursery school.  Later on she quits nursery school because they didn’t teach how to be a nurse.  Lucy also tends to have a regular punchline, with regard to Schroeder of “I’ll probably never get married.”  Lucy also begins in earnest her counting career–trying to count all the stars (and getting exhausted) or all the raindrops, or the amount she jumps rope.  And she is still a fussbudget, with a joke at the end of 1954 having Schroeder compose the “Fuddbudget Sonata” for her.

Linus, who is still a baby, has taken to “shooting” people with his finger  (he struggles to crawl for a ball only to have Snoopy walk up and take it away, so he looks at Snoopy and says “bang”).  He is still crawling and toddling for much of the year, although by the end he seems to be growing up.  Nevertheless, Lucy is still giving him a hard time–constantly shouting at him when he is not looking and then commenting that “he’s awfully nervous.”

There’s a lot of baseball jokes as they move into spring (how did he keep coming up with original baseball jokes after all those years?) inducing jokes about sponsorship.  And then Lucy starts taking up golf (and is very good at it).

Schroeder continues to play beautifully (and to get upset by everyone who bothers him, especially Lucy and Snoopy.  He has a crisis of conscience when he says “sometimes I thin I like Brahms even better than Beethoven.”

Schulz included some occasionally topical material.  So there’s a joke about the popularity of “Doggie in the Window”  (It went to number 1 in April of 1953 and stayed there for 8 weeks).  Snoopy has been listening to it all day.

And of course there is a ton about Snoopy too.  he still looks like a dog and still does a lot of doggie things (and Schulz is always spot on with them).  I really like the joke where Snoopy eats a moth and then coughs up the dryness.  Or when he falls asleep under a tree and wakes up covered in leaves.  There are even a few jokes in which Snoopy hates being patted on the head.  And of course, Snoopy just loves zooming around (especially through croquet hoops).  This is mostly like Snoopy giving everyone a hard time, especially Charlie Brown (with the constant refrain of “You drive me crazy”).

One thing that I like about these early strips is that even though Charlie Brown has a lot of angst, he also has a great deal of self-confidence.  Like when he is mad at Violet and the punch line is “but I know you don’t think I’m Perfect)  There’s even a funny joke (or series of jokes) about graffiti on a fence (!).  In one, it says “Charlie Brown loves all the girls” (in another it says “Charlie Brown loves Charlie Brown”).

The TV jokes continue (I especially like the one with Shermy watching and the screen clears up to say Why Aren’t You in School?).  Most of them are variations on people sitting on front of each other. and blocking the view.

In June of 1954, Schulz uses the word security to refer to Linus’ blanket (evidently coining the phrase “security blanket”), which continues in one form or another throughout the book.  Linus starts to become really smart–outwitting Charlie Brown at houses of cards and magic tricks and the wonderful punchline of him blowing up a square balloon.

The biggest change comes in July 1954 with the addition of Pig Pen or ‘Pig Pen’ as he was first called. He doesn’t do a lot but it leads to a lot of jokes about being dirty.

And in December 1954, a new short-lived character named Charlotte Braun (or Good Ol’ Charlotte Braun) enters the strip.  She has wild curly hair and talks very loudly.  She is something of a foil to Charlie, but she is never really developed.

The book has a Foreword by Walter Cronkite.  He says that he was supposed to interview Schulz, but on the day they were scheduled, he took ill.  So Cronkite never got to meet with Schulz.  This is shame although I have to say that Schulz and Cronkite were such huge figures that they certainly should have met many times over the years.

Cronkite reveals a bit more about the Schulz’ Sparky nickname–that he was given the nickname by an uncle who was referencing the horse Spark Plug in the Barney Google strip.  I like Cronkite’ summary:

Now here you have a confluence of coincidences that would never be accepted even by the producers of a Hollywood pot-boiler.  A baby nicknamed after a cartoon characters growing up to be one of the greatest and most popular cartoonist of all time!

Cronkite also praises Schulz’ economy of dialogue and illustration and likewise keeps his own foreword brief as well.

I’m really excited about continuing through the years with these books.

For ease of searching I include Coeur de Pirate, Beatrice Martin, Quebecois, francaise

And here’s that (very funny) viral video that used the Cœur de pirate song:

[youtube-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vNxjwt2AqY]

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CV1_TNY_01_21_13Blitt.inddSOUNDTRACK: REGINA SPEKTOR-What We Saw from the Cheap Seats (2012).

spektorRegina Spektor’s latest album has gotten rave reviews this past year and deservedly so.  It’s catchy and more than a little weird.  The songs could be huge but they don’t have the gloss that makes for big sellers.  Which is fine, because Spektor’s niche is perfect with her in it.

Amidst the quirk, there are some wonderful piano pop songs with unexpected lyrics.  There’s a great phrase in the opener “Small Town Moon,” “Today we’re younger than we’re ever gonna be.”  But after the pretty piano intro, Regina’s full band kicks in for some rocking verses.  “Firewood” is a gorgeous piano ballad dealing with a common theme in her songs: death (but with jaunty piano lines and a beautiful instrumental section).  And “Open” falls into this category as well–achingly beautiful (and a touch Ben Foldsy in the piano).  Although there’s some really crazy sounds on “Open” too, like Spektor dramatically gasping for breath after lines of verse.

The album is full of electronic “drum” sounds that are what I assume is really Spektor going “doo doo” and then electronically manipulated.  You can hear them on one of the weirder songs, “Oh Marcello” which has Spektor singing in a crazy Italian accent and has a chorus of “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good”–but not in the manner in which it was originally sung).  This drum sound is really prevalent of “All the Rowboats” a fascinating song that seems to offer pity for paintings in museums.

“How” is also filled with theatricality–and Spektor’s gorgeous soaring voice.  “The Party” is another big blockbuster number–lots of instruments and a big soaring vocal.  Wonderful.

“Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)” has one of the catchiest choruses that I have no idea what is being said (because it’s in French).  It also has great orchestration giving it a very worldly feel.  “Patron Saint” is another pretty song, with lovely strings.  The disc ends with an acoustic guitar/piano tune.  A simple song to “Jessica.”  This album is gorgeous and deserves a wider audience.

[READ: January 16, 2013] “Experience”

Tessa Hadley had a story in the New Yorker back in June (she seems to be a favorite of theirs.  I liked that one, and I like this one as well.  Hadley creates interesting scenarios for her stories, scenarios that I can’t really imagine happening (unless things are different in England).  But I feel like that scenario’s set up is neither here nor there for the point of the story.  So in this one, a woman who has very recently divorced from her husband is looking for a place to stay.   A friend of a friend who is going to America for a few months agrees to let her live in her house rent-free.  Now I’m not saying that that kind of thing can’t happen, indeed there is a lot of fiction based on the idea of staying in someone’s house while they are away, but I’ve never heard of it happening in real life.  And despite my saying this, I don’t have a problem with it.  I’m willing to believe it happens all the time.

So the narrator, Laura,  makes herself at home in Hana’s house.   She doesn’t have a ton of money so she is more or less subsisting on what’s around the house until she has to get a job.  She checks out all the rooms and enjoys the comforts of Hana’s well-off lifestyle.  Then one day she finds a key to a locked attic room.  She decides to explore the room and see what kinds of secrets it hides.  It contains largely the ephemera of a successful woman: porn videos, a wetsuit, coffee table books and a number of paintings (Laura believes Hana made her money in the art world).  But then she finds a box that contains more personal effects.  Including a diary.

The diary reveals that Hana had been having an affair with a man named Julian.  Hana describes Julian, who is married, as rough and as someone who hurts her, but that the s*x is great.  I found it charming that Hana wouldn’t curse in her own diary  writing “f****d in the shower” and “Then X and you know what.”  The last words in the diary were “He makes me so happy.”

Reading this makes Laura feel despondent–she has never had any experience like that–she married young, was dutiful and is now divorced.  Her husband was smart and gentle and rather boring–even when they split up it was reasonable.  This causes Laura to mope around a bit.  Until one day Julian knocks on the door. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: REGINA SPEKTOR-Soviet Kitsch (2004).

After the poppy, polished joy of Far, I went back and decided to check out the one other Regina Spektor album I knew of–Soviet Kitsch.  This album has always stuck with me as an interesting title.  I ordered it from Amazon and was bummed to get a little cardboard sleeve rather than an entire disc (her artwork is really nice).  So I was a little biased against this disc from the start.  The music also doesn’t have any of the polish and sleekness of Far.  So it took a while for me to see the beauty within.

This album is largely simple piano (with strings and other addition), but it’s a much more raw album (akin to something like Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes).

“Ode to Divorce” is a quiet piano song with some catchy moments.  “Poor Little Rich Boy” has some interesting percussion to accompany the piano.  And in this song you know that she’s in a slightly different territory than Tori Amos, which is good–the feeling is similar but the end result is unique.  Lyrically the album explores different ideas and on this song the repeated refrain of “you’re so young you’re so god damn young” is a little unsettling.  “Carbon Monoxide” introduces a more full sound (bass and drums).  And Regina shows off yet another side of her personality–playful, flirtatious and now almost childish (“C’mon, daddy.”)

“The Flowers” introduces another new aspect to the disc–more aggressive/borderline classical piano playing (rapid, loud notes).  It suits her style quite well and this song is  a definite highlight.  The end of the song has a very Russian-style nonsense syllable sing along which is very fun.   “Us” adds strings to the song and some great sing along parts.  “Sailor Song” is a funny song from a sailors perspective with the sing-along shanty chorus “Mary Anne’s a bitch” (complete with broken glass sounds).

The next song “****” is a whispered little conversation in which a young girl asks Regina when the next song is coming.  It makes the next song, “Your Honor” even more loud.  It really stands out on this disc because it is a full on punk song with screamed vocals and band work from Kill Kenada (who I don’t know anything about).  The song is about getting in a fight to defend a woman’s honor.  The slow piano middle section features the amusing question “gargle with peroxide a steak for your eye but I’m a vegetarian so it’s a frozen pizza pie…you fight for my honor but I just don’t know why.:”

“Ghost of Corporate Future” has a kind of lullaby feel and some amusing lyrics, ” When he gets to the crowded subway platform/He takes off both of his shoes/He steps right into somebody’s fat loogie/And everyone who sees him says “ew”/Everyone who sees him says “ew”/But he doesn’t care/Cause last night he got a visit/From the ghost of corporate future/The ghost said take off both your shoes/Whatever chances you get/Especially when they’re wet.”  It’s all sung in a manic style over a quiet piano melody.

“Chemo Limo” is certainly the highlight of the disc.  It’s 6 minutes long and is quite dramatic.  The basic premise is that dying from cancer sucks, so she’s going to live instead: “I couldn’t afford chemo like I couldn’t afford a limo/And on any given day I’d rather ride a limousine.”  There are several sections in the song–allowing Regina to show off her dynamic and dramatic vocal range (serious falsettos) and very impassioned sections, “Oh my God Barbara she looks just like my mom”  She even does some (very mild) beatboxing at the end of the song.  “Somedays” is a pretty, simple ballad, with some great vocals although it kind of gets lost at the end of the disc.  Although I was not that into this record when I first got it, repeated listens revealed wonderful surprises inside.

[READ: July 15, 2012] Canary in a Cat House

This is Kurt Vonnegut’s first collection of short stories.  It is currently out of print.  That’s not a big deal because almost all of the stories were later collected in Welcome to the Monkeyhouse.  But I thought it would be fun to read them in the original book.  When it came in from the library I was surprised at how tiny it was.  But what was really surprising was how small the print and how small the margins were.  They really crammed stories into collections back then!

These stories were all written in the 1950s and what was also surprising to me was how serious and unfunny some of those first stories were.  I realize that these were some of his first works, but the Vonnegut voice is so distinctive–a misanthropy tempered by jokes and absurdity, that I was surprised that some of these stories were not only serious but seriously emotional as well.  It’s been clear from all of his stories that WWII impacted his life tremendously (as one would expect), but in these early stories he talks very deliberately about violence and the cold war and the aftermath of WWII.  It’s pretty intense.  By the end of the book the more typical Vonnegut voice surfaces–sci-fi kinds of stories with dark humor involved.  It’s quite a collection. (more…)

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