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Archive for the ‘Sleater-Kinney’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-“Santa Cruz” (1993).

On December 2, Pearl Jam announced that their fan club holiday singles will be released to streaming services.  Their first holiday single was released back in 1991.  It was “Let Me Sleep (Christmas Time).” They are rolling out the songs one at a time under the banner 12 Days of Pearl Jam.

These releases are coming out as a daily surprise.

Pearl Jam released a song called “Santa God” the other day. This song also has Santa in the title, but it is not about Santa Claus.  It is indeed about Santa Cruz.

This song appeared on the b side of the band’s terrific take on the John Doe song “Golden State” (co-sung with Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney).

This song also has a folkie feel–acoustic guitars and multi-tracked vocals from Eddie.  It even opens with a harmonica!

It’s a delightful road song abut travelling to Santa Cruz:

Heading South a compass reads
Look at our speed, we’re going sixty-three
Look out the window as the trees go green
I look at them and they look at me
Got Neil Young on the stereo
He comes along whenever i go

It’s a really pretty song and deserves to get more airplay.  Frankly if Santa Cruz hasn’t used it their official anthem, the town leaders are fools.

[READ: December 9, 2019] “The Snow Man”

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, written over a hundred years ago, felt rather timeless.  Aside from a few word choices and spelling, this story could have been written this year.

It’s also amusing that it is a Christmas story but is actually about a thief doing a job on Christmas Eve.

He starts the remembrance saying that he has both good and bad reasons for remembering Christmas of 189-.  He’d had his eye on Wharton manor “as a crib worth the cracking” (being ahead of MTV Cribs by over 100 years).  This particular job ended his thieving career and set him on the path to good.

The narrator assures us he was never the mere midnight marauder who is supposed to “lurk under the bed until the family is asleep.”  He fancied himself better than that.  He never carried a weapon and trusted fortune to be his guide:

if i were dolt enough to walk into a trap or let another man’s wits outwit mine…I ought to yield him the palm like a gentleman.

The manor was well protected–a large wall and a winding drive kept it hidden from sight.  The wall was there more as a protection from the precipitous drop on the other side of it than to keep people out.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 27, 2019] Sleater-Kinney

I saw Sleater-Kinney in New York City in 1999 and 2000.

Back in those days I didn’t try to get up close to the stage and I have one or two pictures of them from far away.

When S-K made their reunion album in 2015, I didn’t feel compelled to see the tour because I had seen them twice already.  I now regret it because it was at Union Transfer and that would have been an amazing place to see them.  Although looking at that setlist, aside from songs of that new album, I didn’t miss a whole lot that wasn’t played at my show, so my regret is now low.

There were some weird things going on with this tour before it even began.  People didn’t like the new record.  Then, amazing drummer Janet Weiss abruptly quit a few weeks before the tour started (I saw that people actually asked online about getting a refund (!)).  And my show had the weird detail of being listed at two venues.  Was it at the main room of the Fillmore?  Or was it in the tiny Foundry (as their site listed).  Now The Foundry would have been an insanely wonderful place to see them, and I wondered if the new album wasn’t selling or that without Janet, maybe they could only fill The Foundry.

But clearly that was a mistake because the Fillmore was well crowded (but not packed).  I have been really down on the Fillmore as of late because super crowded shows there really suck.  But I managed to get a good spot around nicer people and was close enough that I wasn’t in the halo of the bar, so it was all good.  And the sound in the Fillmore is outstanding, of course. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 27, 2019] Joseph Keckler

When I bought tickets for Sleater-Kinney ages ago, I don’t think they’d announced an opening act.

Then the opening act was supposed to be Shamir whom I’d seen on a Tiny Desk Concert and enjoyed.  His dance music seemed very different from S-K, but the S-K album is pretty different itself.  Then Shamir dropped out and I didn’t hear about the new opener until a few nights ago.

I looked up Joseph Keckler and I kept seeing this review from the New York Times which called him a “major vocal talent” which I thought was a weird phrasing.  As if they didn’t really know what noun to use to describe him.  I looked for a song briefly and found him to be rather operatic, but didn’t really pursue it very much for whatever reason.

So I had no idea what to expect when he came out on stage.  But wow, he blew me away. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 3, 2019] Team Dresch

Back in the mid 90s (when things were pretty great), as I was exploring more and more indie music, I was drawn to the Pacific Northwest scene.  There were a lot of great bands fronted by or comprised entirely of women–it was like discovering a gold mine of new sounds and voices.

This led to discoveries like Sleater-Kinney and Team Dresch.

This also led to exploring the Candy Ass record label (run by Team Dresch singer/bassist Jody Bleyle) and the amazing Free to Fight compilation.  As well as the Chainsaw records label (run by Donna Dresch).  They shared a lot of bands.

Team Dresch is one of the great queercore bands and they opened my eyes to a lot of avenues of queer culture that I didn’t know about.  I’ve become a huge LGBTQ+ advocate over the years and I attribute much of that to discovering Team Dresch and all that they stand for. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 18, 2018] Pearl Jam

Two summers ago Sarah and I took the kids to Boston.  It was a vacation that was centered around we adults seeing Pearl Jam at Fenway Park.  When Pearl Jam announced that they were doing a short summer tour, I thought it would be fun to try to get tickets to the Wrigley Field Shows.

I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I used to enjoy baseball and always wanted to see Wrigley Field.  So when the tickets were announced I took a chance and scored two tickets to each night of their dates.  And so we built another vacation out of travelling to see Pearl Jam.

Ironically we’ve never seen them in our home state.

Sarah wrote a great post about all we did in Chicago (a city I had never been to before).  But in sum, in the five days we were there, we went to Navy Pier, The Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park (and saw The Bean), Portillos, The Sears Tower, an architecture cruise, Shedd Aquarium, The Museum of Science and Industry, a wade into Lake Michigan (that’s 4 of 5 Great Lakes for me), and Nuts on Clark.  And of course, Wrigley Field. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 7, 2016] Pearl Jam

2016-08-07 18.26.10After the excitement of seeing Pearl Jam at the Wells Fargo Center, we were psyched out of our minds to go to Fenway.  I didn’t realize that Fenway has a regular concert series.  I’d assumed that Pearl Jam were the first band to play there–they weren’t–but that didn’t detract in any way from the coolness of the venue.

Neither of us are baseball fans, although when I lived in Boston two decades ago, I did attend a couple of games at Fenway because it is a landmark (and when I was a kid I loved baseball, so duh).  But we knew that the venue would make the show even more special.

We’d have loved to have gone to both shows, but unlike some people, we couldn’t get tickets for both nights.  However, through a small piece of luck, I won tickets to a screening of Friday night’s show on Saturday night.  What?  Well, each night is filmed.  So the film crew filmed Friday night, then edited the footage together and had it ready on the next night as a really nicely edited package at the House of Blues (across the street from Fenway) on Saturday night.

It seemed kind of dumb to go to a music venue to watch a movie.  And Sarah and I were skeptical about going.  But we did and we had a  great time.  I’ve watched live DVDs and it’s always an okay thing to do–fun, but never like you were really there. But this was different. Having a group of some 600 people in a club–with bars and good lighting and excellent sound–it made it feel (almost) like a real concert.  And even though we laughed at the people who were clapping and cheering (as if the band were actually there), and taking videos of the screen (my battery died or I would have grabbed a few screen shots too), we were caught up in the excitement on several occasions as well. (more…)

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carrieSOUNDTRACK: CATE LE BON-Tiny Desk Concert #337 (February 18, 2014).

cateCate Le Bon has a very interesting style of singing–it reminds me of Grace Slick in her enunciation, but also like someone whose speaking accent is very strong and is somewhat masked by her singing (like the way she sings “reason” as “ree-sun” as opposed to “reezun”).

The blurb explains that her “phrasing is completely tied to her Welsh dialect — in fact, her first record was in Welsh…. The enunciation is completely tied to the loneliness and the questioning.”

 For this concert it is just her and her fellow guitarist H. Hawkline (both wearing super cozy sweaters).  They share the guitar licks very nicely–it’s not always clear who is playing what–with her sometimes finishing his lines (I believe).

“Are You With Me Now?” has a very catchy chorus (with an “ah ha ha ha ha” part that makes it sound like an olde English ballad).

“No God” plays with very simple guitar lines (chords played very high on the neck of her guitar and a simple accompanying riff).  Hawkline plays keys (and sings some great falsetto backing vocals) to flesh out this song.  Everything is so clean you can hear each note from the guitar and her voice.

“Duke” opens with some interesting slightly off sounding from Cate while Hawkline plays a simple chord pattern (his fingers are enormous, by the way).  Hawkline’s falsetto is almost as engaging as the vocal lines that match the guitar line which Cate plays.  And when she says “I’ll see you here” in that unexpected pronunciation, it’s totally captivating.

I like Le Bon a lot and want to hear what she wounds like on record.

[READ: May 18, 2016] Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

After finishing Bob Boilen’s book and thinking about how I don’t really love music-based books, I immediately read Carrie Brownstein’s book.  Carrie Brownstein is one of the two guitarists in Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag.  She is also one of the leads (writer and actor) on Portlandia.  And she wrote for NPR for a while, too.  Basically, Carrie is the shit.

One thing I took away from this book is that I’ve read a few musician memoirs (Mötley Crüe and Marilyn Manson to name a few) and this is the first one I’ve read that was filled with so much sadness.  Not “I was stoned and regret sleeping with that person with an STD sadness,” but like, real family problems and even a dead pet.  And, as Carrie herself jokes, her stories of being on tour and ending up in the hospital are not based on drugs or other debauchery, but on anxiety and even worse, shingles.

The beginning of the book starts in 2006, around the initial break up (hiatus) of Sleater-Kinney.  Carrie is in pain–emotional and physical–and she can’t take much more.  She starts punching herself hard in the face. (more…)

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lumpenSOUNDTRACK: WE ARRIVE ALIVE-“Walls” (2011).

wallsI discovered We Arrive Alive from the Girl Band bandcamp site (it says the bands are friends).  They are from County Wicklow and play very cool post rock instrumentals.  They have three EPs, all of which are available for free on their bandcamp site.

Their first is called Walls.  The opening song “Walls” has fast guitar with a slinky Sleater-Kinney kind of guitar progression. Unlike S-K, there is bass and no vocals. The middle section feels like any number of post-rock instrumentalists like Explosions in the Sky.  But it’s not derivative–it’s expansive and beautiful.  “Save Me from the Morning” is a much faster song with a more intricate bassline underneath the guitar riffs. The structure of the song makes it seem more like a conventional song (ie one with words). But there are no words, and the guitars fill in very nicely for where vocals might appear. But 90 seconds in, the songs switches gears and becomes a bit more jazzy.  Then around 3 minutes the bass takes over with big loud notes—it’s a great transition. There’s yet another part, a quiet section, that ends the song.  That’s a lot of music packed into 6 and a half minutes.

“This is a City” is the final song.  A seven minute slow building instrumental. It starts quietly and the intertwining guitars get louder as they echo more.  I love the way at around 5 minutes the song shifts gears entirely to a sort of electronic feel with pinging notes.  It ends with a  fantastic closing riff.

I’m glad to have discovered these guys, I love a good collection of instrumentals.

[READ: March 17, 2015] A Little Lumpen Novelita

This may be the final extant untranslated book by Roberto Bolaño.  Although I have yet to read The Secret of Evil (that fell right off my radar), as far as I can tell, the only things left untranslated are:

  • Diorama (this book is unpublished at all, so it’s unlikely to be translated anytime soon)  AND
  • Consejos de un discípulo de Morrisona un fanático de Joyce, 1984  [Advice from a Morrison Disciple to a Joyce Fanatic] which has yet to be translated and I don’t know why, so I assume it never will be.

I don’t fully understand the use of the word “Lumpen” in the title, but don’t let that odd word (which is in the Spanish title, so we can’t blame excellent translator Natasha Wimmer) keep you from reading this breezy and entertaining (if not a bit dark) book.

As with many books by Bolaño, there’s not a lot of plot, per se.  In this book, a young woman (Bianca) and her brother have been orphaned at a young age.  Their parents died in a car crash in Italy (which is where they live).  They try to cope as best they can, but they ultimately decide to drop out of school and do nothing except watch a movie a day.  Bianca tells her brother that they can’t afford that lifestyle (especially since he just seems to get X-Rated films), but he continues to do so anyway.

They realize that they will need money of course, so Bianca gets a job as a hair washer at a salon.  Her brother gets a job cleaning floors at a gym.  It seems to be enough for the time being. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WILD FLAG-Wild Flag (2011).

For reasons unclear to me now, I wasn’t psyched when I heard about this band.  Despite the fact that it was 2/3 of Sleater-Kinney and the force behind Helium joining together, I didn’t jump for joy.  But now that I have listened to the album a million times, I can say that it is one of the best albums not only of that year, but of many years.  Man is it good.

Sleater-Kinney was a great band, they were melodic and tuneful but also abrasive and occasionally off-putting.  Who knew that the majority of the adhesiveness came from Corinne Tucker (well, she was the screamer, admittedly).  It’s pretty clear that Carrie Brownstein is bringing a ton of melody (and a wee bit of amativeness) to the mix.  Mary Timony always included trippy imagery and a weird kind of whispered/loud singing voice.  The tunes are so catchy so strong, so singalongable.

There’s little moments in each song that are amazing.  The backing vocals (and the pitch shift in the chorus) in “Romance”.  The way “Something Came Over Me” sounds so different from “Romance” (and is clearly a Timony-sung song).  I absolutely love the guitar “solo” that begins each verse and how it stands out but fits in so nicely as a baritone guitar sound (I assume from Carrie?)  “Boom” is just a full-on rocker with some great guitar pyrotechnics and Carrie’s more extreme vocals.  And man is it catchy.

“Glass Tambourine” is a cool trippy psychedelic workout  that’s still catchy and interesting.  “Endless Talk” has a strange British retro vibe.  (Carrie seems to be singing with a kind of punk British voice).  And there’s lot of keyboards.  It’s great that the album has so many different sounds, but still sounds cohesive.  “Short Version” has some great guitar soloing in the front and back.  “Electric Band” is like a perfect pop song–great backing vocals, great poppy solos and a cool video to boot.  “Future Crimes” is another amazing tune, with a keyboard solo!

“Racehorse” is probably my least favorite song on the disc.  It’s got some cool parts and some interesting swagger (and I like the live versions where they really jam) but the album version feels a little dragged out (although the chorus is really hot).  The disc ends with the wonderful “Black Tiles” which could easily be a Helium song, but which still sounds very Wild Flag.

And, I can’t say it enough, Janet Weiss is amazing on drums.  I feel badly because I tend to leave out the keyboardist–because I don’t know who she is or the band that she came from.  But her keyboards play an essential role in the music.  They fill out the spaces that the two guitars don;t always fill.  They even introduce the opening of the album.

If you go back through previous posts you’ll see I’ve mentioned them 3 times already because they have special bond with NPR and three of their concerts are available there.  I can’t wait for more from them.

[READ: May 8, 2012] Grantland 2

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Grantland #1.  So I was pretty excited to get Grantland #2.  #2 has all of the elements that I loved about #1–non-sports articles about entertainment (video games, music, TV), and sports articles that are short and digestible for a non-sports fan.  This issue also features a number of really long articles about basketball.  I like basketball fine, but I can’t say I paid any attention to the lockout.  Thus, much of this was lost on me. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t know any sports people either.

I may have said this last time, but I will reiterate for Issue #3–for those of us who don’t follow sports, or those of us who may not remember back to September when most of these articles were written, or heck, for people who are going to read this in ten years’ time:  For certain articles, can you give us an epilogue about what happened after the article was written.  If you speculate about  the lockout. Have an epilogue to say about how the lockout turned out.  If you talk about a game 5 of a series and the series didn’t end, have an epilogue that tells us how the series ended.  It doesn’t have to even fit the style of the article, just a few words: so and so ended like this. It can show how prescient the writers were.  And it can help us complete the stories.

So, despite a few articles that I thought were too long, (although probably aren’t if you love basketball) I really enjoyed this issue of Grantland, too. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WILD FLAG-SXSW April 1, 2011 (2011).

Wild Flag has released one of the best albums of 2011.  I can’t stop listening to it.  So, it’s funny that this show has been sitting on NPR’s download page for months without me checking it out because I didn’t know who the band was until the album came out.  Wild Flag is Carrie Brownstein, Mary Timony and Janet Weiss (and a keyboardist who I will never remember because I never heard of the band she was originally in). 

This show at SXSW is one of their earlier shows.  It’s so early that one of the songs in the setlist appears on the album with a different title.  And the band is full of raw energy and passion. 

Although research shows that they’d been touring since November, Mary Timony seems somewhat hesitant in a few songs.  But Carrie Brownstein seems fired up to be playing again, and she rages and jumps around the stage, her voice as aggressive and fun as it was in Sleater-Kinney.  Janet Weiss, as ever, kicks massive ass on the drum kit.  man can she wail–she is a vastly underrated drummer. 

The band has great cohesion and they seem like they’re really enjoying themselves. 

 In many respects this band sounds like Sleater-Kinney (2/3 of the band are here).  But the addition of Timony’s lyrics and more gentle voice bring a cool change.  And the keyboards flesh out the songs in wonderful ways as well–for a band with no bassist, it’s funny that the most pronounced keyboards riffs are at the high end of the register.

There’s a few flubs during the set, in one of the more pronounced keyboard riffs, there’s a pretty major gaffe.  And sometimes it seems like they don’t know exactly how they should be harmonizing with each other (not true on the record at all).  And during the extended soloing of “Glass Tambourine” (6 minutes), I’m not really sure what Mary is up to.  But that’s okay.  The band is all about rawness, so that can be forgiven. 

While the album is better, this live show is a good introduction to the band. 

Since Carrie Brownstein worked for NPR I almost expect all of their shows to be available here.  But for now, watch the whole show here.

[READ: January 17, 2012] “Old Mrs. J”

Stephen Snyder translated this story that was originally written in Japanese.  It’s interesting to me when a work is translated from another culture.  Does the translator intend to keep the other culture obvious or does the translator try to make the story, in this case, more European or American.  There’s some inevitability in that, since the language is changed, and yet the sensibility of the original often remains.

I bring this up because I tend to think of Japanese writing as being very distinctive.  And yet this story didn’t really “read” very Japanese to me (Kiwi fruit aside).  It did read a little bizarre, but that was the fun part.

The story starts out simply enough: a young writer (who is a woman, although you don’t find that out until very late in the story unless, unlike me, you assume the main character is a woman because the author’s name is Yoko).  The author works late and sleeps in til noon or so.  It’s a quiet, peaceful place.  The landlady is older and somewhat feeble.  Until, that is, she gets into her garden and then she seems possessed by a fire. 

The landlady hasn’t really talked to the writer.  Then one day the writer hears the landlady in the garden cursing at a stray cat.  The landlady hates cats and curses them up and down.  Finally the writer tells her to put pine needles down, that cats hate prickly things on their feet.  This I did not know.

And they strike up a friendship.  The landlady reveals that her husband was no good and that he left her.  She also reveals that she gives massages.  And she begins leaving the writer vegetables from her garden.  Then one day, the landlady brings her a strange carrot with 5 “fingers” coming off of the central stalk.  The carrots are quite special.  And she keeps them a secret until sure enough, she begins growing lots and lots of them.  Even the newspaper comes to take a picture.

This idyllic story is interrupted in the last few paragraphs.  First by what seems like metaphorical scariness and then, ultimately, with reality.  It is a wonderfully realized story, wonderfully told and with enough hints of magical realism throughout that the ending isn’t totally unbelievable–even if it is quite unexpected.

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