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Archive for the ‘Sharon Van Etten’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN-“Radio Cure” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

Sharon Van Etten continues down her more ambient and mellow style with this cover of “Radio Cure.”

She plays everything–keys and piano–hushed and echoed while her voice soars around the song.  About a third of the way in, the drums kick in, giving it a but of oomph.

I really like the original of this song and I don’t quite like the direction she went with this cover.

[READ: February 17, 2020] “With the Beatles”

I have realized that I really enjoy reading Murakami’s words.  I don’t always understand what’s happening.  I don’t often understand why one part of a story is put with another part. And often when I’m done I’m not entirely sure what happened.  But I really enjoy the journey.

This was one where some parts seemed mysteriously tucked into the story.  It kind of all works thematically, but it’s still a bit disjointed.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading the whole thing.

The narrator starts by saying that he doesn’t mind getting older, it’s seeing other people who have gotten older that is so weird.  Really it forces him to admit that his youthful dreams are gone.

He will never forget a girl (a woman who used to be a girl) whom he didn’t actually know.  It was 1964 and this girl was hurrying down the hallway of their school, skirt aflutter, clutching the LP of With the Beatles–the original British version.  Their black and white faces were facing out as she ran.  He has turned this memory into a beautiful moment–he thinks he remembers the way she smelled even (if that is possible).  The moment was thrilling.

But he never saw her again in two more years at school.

He has met many women over the yeas and always tried to recreate that moment to no avail. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN-“Silent Night” (2009).

There’s been quite a lot of songs coming out for Amazon Soundtracks lately.  This Christmas song comes from Eric Paschal Johnson’s short film The Letter.

There have been probably hundreds of recordings of “Silent Night,” one of the few Christmas songs that I feel should not be tampered with. It’s a beautiful song and if done right can be incredibly moving.

Sharon’s version is really fascinating to me.  It’s not especially traditional.  Indeed, it feels very contemporary.  The music is a kind of throbbing bass note, almost like a slow, dance song.  It pulses and changes pitch, but all quite slowly.

And yet, the song doesn’t feel like a dance song.  Sharon doesn’t sing it like a pop song at all.  Rather, she sings gently in a deep register–very earnestly.  After a verse, a second vocalist comes in and adds some dreamy backing vocals.

For the third verse, a simple drum rhythm is added.  The song is now much fuller than when it started and yet it’s not all that different.

It’s really quite a lovely update to the song and an all around excellent version.

[READ: December 14, 2019] “Natural Light”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story played around with linear reality in a number of ways.

It opens with the narrator telling us her mother is dead, but that she keeps getting emails from her.

She wanted me to know that a small penis size was not an indictment against my future happiness….  She needed some money for an emergency that had unfolded, totally beyond her control, somewhere at an airport in Nigeria.

The narrator could not bring herself to flag the spam.

She also continued to wear her wedding ring even though they had been divorced for a year.  Her husband had said more than once “I can’t imagine t he man who would have an easy time living with you.”  There are a few instances where the ex-husband comes up in the story which really flesh out what’s happening.  The ring wasn’t a hope for reconciliation.  Rather, it was a reminder that her unhappiness was not only a chemical dysfunction. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN-Tiny Desk Concert #899 (October 7, 2019).

It was Sharon Van Etten’s 2010 Tiny Desk Concert that introduced me to her.  I was blown away by the songs from Epic.

When Sharon Van Etten made her Tiny Desk debut back in the fall of 2010 [with about fifteen people in the audience], her voice exuded fragile, gentle grace. Performing songs from that year’s Epic, she huddled around a single acoustic guitar with backup singer Cat Martino to perform a set of tender and evocative folk-pop songs.

Sharon released a couple more albums and then took some time away from music.  She returned this year with the appropriately named comeback single “Comeback Kid.”  The big difference was that now there were synths!

Cut to nearly a decade later. One of only a handful of artists to get a repeat headlining engagement at the Tiny Desk [that handful is getting bigger and bigger it seems]. Van Etten has spent the last few years purging her bucket list: She’s become an actress (appearing as a guest star on The OA), released a string of increasingly aggressive albums (the latest of which is this year’s synth-driven Remind Me Tomorrow), toured the world, performed on Twin Peaks, written music for films, become a mom, gone back to school and popped up in collaborations with everyone from Land of Talk to Jeff Goldblum.

I had no idea that these things happened.  So good for her, I guess.

It’s only natural that this Tiny Desk concert feels different; you can hear it before Van Etten and her band even show up onscreen. Its pace set by the ticking beat of a drum machine, “Comeback Kid” is in full bloom here, with a swaying arrangement that fills the room before Van Etten opens her mouth.

“Comeback Kid” is super catchy.  It sounds similar to the recorded version although a little smaller, perhaps.  There’s also a few extra keyboard flourishes from Heather Woods Broderick (who played the Tiny Desk as a member of Horse Feathers way back in 2009).  Charley Damski plays the synth washes that fill the room.  Sharon plays acoustic guitar and sings with serious intensity.

“You Shadow” starts with bass (Devin Hoff) and a drum machine (Jorge Balbi).  There’s no guitar on this track, but Sharon’s voice sounds great:

 the singer performs with considerable intensity here, seething through “You Shadow.”

She quietly thanks everyone and introduces the band.  This moment of thanks and appreciation in no way prepares you for the intensity in which she sings the set-closing “Seventeen.”

The song also starts with synth and bass.  Sharon sings but doesn’t start playing acoustic guitar until after the first verse.  Everyone adds gorgeous backing vocals for the chorus.  Then Sharon starts getting intense while singing.  Normally “la la las” are kind of upbeat, but she comes out of them with a fire as she sings “with a scream that slashes through the office air.”

Her voice almost breaks and she seems to be quite moved by the performance.  It’s really tremendous.

I admit that I like her earlier stuff better–the way she sang, the way her backing singers complimented her and the intensity of her music.  But after seeing her live this summer and now watching this, her intensity is still there–it’s just used more sparingly and appropriately.

The only downside to this Tiny Desk is that Heather Woods Broderick–who is an amazing backing vocalist–is pretty subdued here.  It’s appropriately subdued in this setting, but it’s a shame to not hear her in full.

Here (left) is a picture from Sharon’s first Tiny Desk Concert.

[READ: November 7, 2019] “The Flier”

This story was very cool.

I really loved the way the entire story totally downplayed “one of the most wondrous occurrences in the history of humankind.”

It begins with the narrator explaining that his wife Viki had invited their friends Pam and Becky over: “short notice–but there’s something we’d like to talk over with you.”

As he describes the meal he’s made, in quite a lot of detail, Pam and Becky arrive.  The narrator hears them talk about him and he acknowledges that his illness has made him small and light.

After the pleasantries are over, Viki says matter-of-factly that the narrator “has developed the ability to fly.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN–“Do You Realize??” (2019).

Here’s yet another cover of a great song by an artist I like a lot.

Sharon Van Etten covered the Flaming Lips’ song for the final episode of the Amazon Series Gortimer Gibbon’s Life On Normal Street.  This show is quite outstanding.  It’s a kid’s show but it has a lot of really great ideas.  T. watched most of it although I think maybe she stopped before the end.

Sharon’s take on the song was

When I was asked to cover a Flaming Lips song for Gortimer Gibbons, I was really nervous. But when I watched the scene and heard from the people involved in the music, they really wanted to hear my interpretation of both the scene and the song.  The show is sweet and smart and family oriented—and that is really important to me.

I can’t exactly imagine how this song, which is simultaneously uplifting and depressing, fits into this show.   I imagine it’s a sad scene, but again I haven’t seen it.

The original of this grows bigger and bigger as the verses continue.  There’s backing vocals, swelling strings/keyboards and a really epic feel.

Sharon’s version pulls all of that back.

It opens with keyboards, but they are quiet and soft, almost like a harmonium or accordion.  As she sings she strums along on the acoustic guitar.  She sings the song mostly faithfully to the original, although she does occasionally alter the melody line a bit.  Just before the chorus, a quiet drum beat enters but that’s really it for changes in the song.

It’s really understated and lovely.  And although I prefer the original because it’s just so darn good, this is a beautiful cover which brings new elements to the song.

[READ: September 25, 2019] Glitch

Scholastic Graphix is pretty consistently one of my favorite publishers for really good children’s graphic novels.  The stories are for kids, for sure, but they are gripping and entertaining for adults as well.

Glitch has a great look and an even better story.

We open with two girls, Izzy and Eric, drooling over a new video game: Dungeon City.  Izzy’s copy of the game is arriving this weekend which means VIDEO GAME SLEEPOVER!  Better yet, Izzy’s parents are not at home, so it will be snacks and games and pizza all night long.

When Izzy gets home, her game is waiting for her.  And while she knows she should wait for the weekend, it couldn’t hurt to see what it looks like.  The graphics are amazing and within seconds, she is sucked into the TV and into the game.  Literally.  After orienting herself, she is greeted by a robot (which is, strangely, missing an eye).  The robot offers to rescue her and Izzy rightly points out that she doesn’t need rescuing.  However, she will accept guidance from the robot who is named Rae.  But when Rae asks to hold Izzy’s hand, Izzy refuses that as well. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NILÜFER YANYA-Tiny Desk Concert #892 (September 18, 2019).

I saw Nilüfer Yanya open for Sharon Van Etten.  I was pretty excited to see her because of all the buzz that I was hearing about her.  Her set was good, although I feel like she seemed a bit nervous (maybe not, who knows).

This past summer, I was happy to see she was playing at Newport Folk Festival, but we arrived too late to see her (bummer).

This Tiny Desk Concert doesn’t really make her music quieter–it’s pretty quiet to begin with.  Maybe not quiet, exactly, but restrained.

There’s a hush to the music of Nilüfer Yanya that made the Tiny Desk the perfect stage for her sound. On a hot summer day, the British singer and her band — made up of Jazzi Bobbi primarily on sax, Lucy Lu on bass, Ellis Dupuy on drums and Nilüfer on guitar and vocals — performed their three-song set with restraint and subtlety. At moments, the music felt like an eruption waiting to happen, though the suave, refined sound left an indelible vibe in the room.

Yanya plays three songs (all from her album Miss Universe.)  Only one of those song had I heard live.  And surprisingly to me, she didn’t play what I think of as her biggest hit (and the one I like most), “In My Head.”

The set starts with “Baby Luv,” her first single.  I like the staccato feel of everything in this song–from the guitars to her vocal style.  I also really like the gentle synth notes from Jazzi Bobbi.  Bob Boilen seems to really like the lyrics, although I don’t really get it:

“Do you like pain?
Again, again, again, again
Again, oh, again
Do you like pain?”

I thin what’s most interesting (and polariziang I guess) is her vocal delivery: “thickly accented, laid-back vocals”

I don’t know anyone who sings like Nilüfer, but I’m reminded of Astrud Gilberto singing bossa nova. There’s a sophisticated sensibility rough enough around the edges that I find captivating.

 

I really like the chord progression of “The Unordained.”  There’s a lot more jaggedness in the middle section with some cymbal crashes and loud chords.  Jazzi Bobbi plays a quiet sax solo over the end.

For “Angels” Lucy Lu moves to synth while Jazzi Bobbi intros with a jazzi solo.  This song builds the most and is the least spare of her songs.  The end of the song includes some nice backing vocals and more of Jazzi’s quiet sax.

[READ: October 6, 2019] “Shape-Ups at Delilah’s”

This is a story about a barber.  A lady barber!

It starts with the barber, Tiny, giving her boyfriend Jerome a haircut.  Jerome’s brother was beaten up and hospitalized and Jerome bawled his eyes out.  Tiny made him sit on a stool and while he cried, she sheared his knotty beads for two hours.  His hair looked great.  And they were both spent.

He looked in the mirror and his eyes said Where in the hell did a woman, a W-O-M-A-N, learn to cut like that? (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 20, 2019] Emma Ruth Rundle

The night after Animals as Leaders, I was excited to check out Mono, primarily because I assumed it wouldn’t be all that crowded.  In fact, I didn’t even have a ticket ahead of time (risky if you’re driving over an hour, but it worked out fine).

My friends Liz and Eleanor had given me a Union Transfer gift card for my birthday and you can only use it at the box office, so I figured it was a nice time try it out.

The stage was pushed far forward to lessen the floor space (which is a cool thing they can do at UT).  I rather like when the stage is pushed forward as it makes the show intimate without being crowded.

I hadn’t heard of Emma Ruth Rundle and didn’t know anything about her.   I had no idea that she had a following (she has released three albums and plays in some other bands). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 7, 2019] Sharon Van Etten

I really loved Sharon’s Epic and Tramp albums.  After her 2014 release she kind of disappeared from the music scene, focusing on some TV work and on her family.

Then last year she came back with the single “Comeback Kid” and the album Remind me Tomorrow, which sounded very different from her guitar-based earlier work.

I had been told that she puts on a great show, so I grabbed tickets the day they were announced, assuming she’d sell out.  She did but only on t he night of the show.

I’d only listened to Remind Me Tomorrow once through before seeing this show.  In fact, I have more or less stopped listening to artists before I got to see them so that I’m not disappointed if they don’t play a song I really want to hear.  This served me very well tonight as she played the entire new album and just a few other songs.

Before she started, a guy next to me was talking to his lady friend.  In addition to spouting off about how he was the only one not looking at his phone and how he was kind of over his phone, he also said that she would never open with “Comeback Kid” because everyone would leave right after the song.

So it amused me that after the intense opening song “Jupiter 4,” (which opens with washes of synth that Sharon walked out to) she played “Comeback Kid” and the lady friend asked if they should leave now.  No one left. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 7, 2019] Nilüfer Yanya

I had heard a little buzz about Nilüfer Yanya (and NPR had featured her at a SXSW show).  I found her music peculiar.   Nearly everything she does has a staccato feel–guitar lines, melodies and especially her vocal delivery.  I find that her vocal style is either love or hate–sometimes even within a song itself.

Her music is sort of jazzy, but with definite rock angles.  Her guitar playing style was pretty delicate with some really excellent-looking chords (all over the neck of her guitar). She played delicately most of the time, with the loud angles handled by drums and bass.  She also had a saxophonist/keyboardist who handled a lot of the accents and sound effects.

But most of the focus has to be on her voice. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LUCIUS-Live at the Newport Folk Festival (July 27, 2018).

I was considering going to see Lucius at Union Transfer on July 25.  Something came up and I wound up not getting tickets.

While hearing a stream of them isn’t quite as good as seeing them live (especially since their look is so arresting), it was great to hear what I missed.

For this tour, Lucius was unplugged–acoustic versions of their songs and some covers.

It sounds like there may have been more going on at Newport (as there always is)

Accompanied by members of yMusic, students from the Berklee College of Music on strings and J. Blynn, along with Lucius regulars Jess Wolfe, Holly Laessig, Dan Molad, and Peter Lalish. The group also incorporated choreography into the set, with the dancers known as The Seaweed Sisters.

Songs included favorites new and old, like “Woman” and Turn It Around.” Tears were shed as they movingly tributed the recently departed producer and musician Richard Swift. Lucius performed Swift’s song “The Most of What I Know” (from his 2006 album Dressed Up for the Letdown) and, in typical Newport fashion, were joined by Brandi Carlile and the Twins, Nicole AtkinsSharon Van Etten and Bedouine.

Go Home” is my favorite song of theirs.  They opened with it.  I could have gone home happy.  “Right Down the Line” is a song I didn’t know by Gerry Rafferty.  It sounds pretty 70s–slick and poppy.  “Something About You”  featured the Seaweed Sisters doing choreography.

“Feels Like a Curse” is a slower number with strings.  It’s quite pretty.

“Turn It Around” is another favorite of mine, with big claps and a wonderfully catchy chorus (yes, I would have stayed for this!)  I love the power behind the chorus: “She’s looking through the wrong end of the telescope ha!”

Brandi Carlisle joins them for “Dusty Trails” and when they sing the “we’ll be alright” at the end, it is really transportive.

Next up

“They movingly tributed the recently departed producer and musician Richard Swift. Lucius performed Swift’s song “The Most of What I Know” (which I don;t know) and, in typical Newport fashion, were joined by Brandi Carlile and the Twins, Nicole Atkins, Sharon Van Etten and Bedouine.

“How Loud Your Heart Gets” is a little too overwhelmed by strings to really appreciate their vocals (which is crazy since they sing loud!).  “Woman” also sounds great and is a stunning set closer. The “encore” (sort of) is “A Dream Is A Wish” a lovely a capella version.

Below is the set list from Newport and what i would have seen had I gone to Union Transfer.

SET LIST:

  • “Go Home”
  • “Right Down The Line” (Gerry Rafferty)
  • “Something About You”
  • “Feels Like A Curse”
  • “Turn It Around”
  • “Madness”
  • “Dusty Trails”
  • “Most Of What I Know” (Richard Swift) [did not play at UT]
  • “Two of Us On The Run”
  • “How Loud Your Heart Gets”
  • “Woman”
  • “A Dream Is A Wish” (Daniel Bedingfield-Disney Song)

UNION TRANSFER SETLIST (duplicated songs in bold)

  1. Go Home
  2. Tempest
  3. Right Down the Line (Gerry Rafferty)
  4. Something About You
  5. Neighbors
  6. Feels Like a Curse
  7. Until We Get There
  8. Sweet and Tender Romance (The McKinleys)
  9. Turn It Around
  10. Madness
  11. True Love Will Find You in the End (Daniel Johnston)
  12. Two of Us on the Run
  13. How Loud Your Heart Gets
  14. Woman
  15. Dusty Trails
  16. Strangers (The Kinks)
  17. A Dream Is A Wish (Daniel Bedingfield-Disney Song)

[READ: August 6, 2018] “Displaced”

I enjoyed this story but it seemed to take forever.  I attribute this to Ford’s writing style although there’s nothing I could point to about it that makes me feel this way.

This is a story about a recently turned 16 year old boy, Henry, whose father died unexpectedly.  Henry’s main sadness about the is that if his father had lived longer, his mother would have divorced him and Henry could have gone o military school.

He is now alone, with his mother, in the South.  His fellow students have placed him in a strange limbo because of his father;s death .  He doesn’t like it.

In their neighborhood is a house for “transients.”  Out front is a sign that says DIAL 33377 (that’s all) and everyone referred to it as the DIAL house.  Secretaries and waitresses lived there.   Young married couples.  Even two men living together.  Henry realizes now that he and his mother were transients too, they just didn’t call themselves that. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKHOLIDAYS RULE (2012).

This collection is fairly new (a second volume has just come out this year).  It was curated by Chris Funk from The Decemberists.  It’s a nice mix of contemporary bands and classic songs.  The disc is mostly fun–it gets a little bogged down in the middle–and upbeat.

FUN-“Sleigh Ride”
The first time I heard this  had no idea who it was (I didn’t look at the disc).  I actually thought it was a female pop singer.  After listening a few times I’m mixed but favorable on it.  I love the sound effects in the background.  It’s fun, even with the autotune.

THE SHINS-“Wonderful Christmastime”
This is one of my least favorite Christmas songs, but I like this version better than Pauls’s.  It doesn’t sound especially like The Shins to me though.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT AND SHARON VAN ETTEN-“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
I love Rufus’ distinctive voice–he does louche so well.  Sharon is somewhat indistinct here but she is well-matched with him.

PAUL McCARTNEY-“The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)”
This might be the only disc I have where someone covers a song by an artist on the disc.  His version of this is way too slow.  But I am intrigued that he says “some holly and some mistletoe” (Because he’s vegetarian).

BLACK PRAIRIE featuring SALLIE FORD-“(Everybody’s Waitin’ for) The Man with the Bag”
I typically don’t care for this song, but I love this bluegrassy version.  It’s stomping and fun (and Chris Funk plays on it).

THE CIVIL WARS-“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”
The Civil Wars are downbeat folk artists but, man, their voices together are so lovely.  Their harmonies make this song essential despite the less than upbeat rhythms.

CALEXICO-“Green Grows the Holly”
This song sounds so wonderfully Calexico.  I love it and would even have assumed it was an original of theirs if I didn’t know better,

AGESANDAGES-“We Need A Little Christmas”
I’m torn about this song.  They modify the delivery and I think I like it.  It’s also pretty infrequently played so it gets extra points.  But it feels like a real downer when you can hear the lyrics so clearly.

HOLLY GOLIGHTLY-“That’s What I Want for Christmas”
I don’t know who this is. And I don’t really care for this song which is kind of slow and ponderous even if the message is a good one.

IRMA THOMAS WITH PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND-“May Ev’ry Day be Christmas”
This is big brassy version of the song which sounds like it could be quite old with Thomas’ husky voice.

HEARTLESS BASTARDS-“Blue Christmas”
I dislike this song to begin with, so making a countryish version certainly doesn’t help.

ELEANOR FRIEDBERGER-“Santa, Bring My Baby Back to Me”
So this song is interesting with its strange chord choices and themes.  And it would be great if it were like 2 minutes long.  It seems to end quite naturally at that time, but then some vibes come in and the song gets all slinky.  That would be fine except it just repeats the same line and vibes section for 3 minutes!  WTF Eleanor?

FRUIT BATS-“It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas”
It drives me nuts the way this guys says Creeesmas.  Why does he say it like that?  It’s crazy.  And I can’t get past it because he says it a bunch.

Y LA BAMBA-“Señor Santa”
This song is more or less “Mister Sandman” but sung with the lyrics of Mister Santa.  There’s a wheezy accordion and the great accented voice of the lead singer Luz Elena Mendoza.  I love this and more artists should invent songs like this for the holidays.

PUNCH BROTHERS-“O come, O come, Emmanuel”
The Punch Brothers are awesome and this version of this song terrific.  Chris Thile sings wonderfully as he gets that mandolin worked up.  I love that they turn it into an opportunity to stretch out some, too.

THE HEAD AND THE HEART-“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”
A terrific duet with the unmistakable voice of Charity Rose Thielen.  This is a sprightly and fun song and they do a great job.  I love the way she sings “maybe I’m crazy” and the vamping at the end is fantastic.

ANDREW BIRD-“Auld Lang Syne”
Andrew plays some high-spirited violin and sings briskly.  There’s a kind of countryish feel to it, which is quite different for this song.

Overall this is a good collection to add.  Nothing offensive or off-putting and maybe just one or two duds.

[READ: December 21, 2017] “The First Day of Winter”

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. (more…)

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