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Archive for the ‘Superchunk’ Category

[ATTENDED: April 16, 2018] Waxahatchee

I really enjoyed the newest Waxahatchee album and I was keen on seeing them/her.  Waxahatchee is more or less the work of Katie Crutchfield.

It amused me that I had purchased a ticket for this show and then a few weeks later I got a ticket for Superchunk and their opening band was Swearin’.  One of the lead singers in Swearin’ is Allison Crutchfield, Katie’s sister.  So I’d be seeing both Crutchfield sisters in less than a month.

I also learned recently that Allison usually performs with Katie in Waxahatchee when they tour.  And she did.  So I have seen and heard Allison Crutchfield quite a lot in the last month or so.

They played for an hour and ten minutes.  How do I know this?  Because the guy in front of me filmed the entire show on his phone and I could see the timer at the top.  And not just standing still and filing, he was swooping and angling, zooming in and trying to get every scene.  It was a little creepy to be behind him, I must admit.

Both Katie and Allison called Philadelphia home for a while, so this was a homecoming for them.  Katie said that she wrote most of the new album while in Philly.   (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 4, 2018] Superchunk

I’ve been a fan of Superchunk for what seems like ever.  Their music is reliably punky and poppy.  Fun, sometimes funny, with clever lyrics and always a big hook.

I’ll admit that their music sounds pretty samey, but there is something to be said about that.  After they put out their 2001 album Here’s to Shutting Up, they didn’t exactly go on hiatus, they just kept a low profile for a half a dozen years or so, releasing limited edition records and such.  When they returned in 2007 I realized just how much I’d missed them.

When I saw that they were playing Philly I knew it was time to go see them.

It was really cool that the band was the (nearly) original members: Mac McCaughan of course, Jim Wilbur on guitar (he joined after their first album) and Jon Wurster on drums (he joined after the third album)–they’re both bonafides!  The only one missing was bassist Laura Ballance.  She plays on the albums but because of her hyperacusis, she no longer tours.  So, on bass we had Jason Narducy who has played with anybody who is anybody. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 4, 2018] Swearin’

I was so excited to see Superchunk, I didn’t really care who opened for them.  But I was rather excited to see that Allison Crutchfield’s band Swearin’ was reuniting for this tour.

I didn’t know the band, but in the past year or so I have heard (and liked) more and more from Allison Crutchfield and her sister Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee).  It’s not fair to lump them together, but they were in a band together at one point and Allison has toured with Katie’s band, so I think it’s fair to discuss them in the same paragraph.

But this show was all about Allisson (and Swearin’ co-founder Kyle Gilbride, who might be overshadowed somewhat in the Crutchfield love).  On drums was original drummer Jeff Bolt and on bass was their friend Amanda Bartley (of the band All Dogs). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VOIRVOIR-The Free-P (2016).

I got this Free Ep at a VoirVoir (not Voir Voir) show in Bethlehem.  This EP contains four songs.

Two of them are new and two are re-recordings of songs from their debut album.

“Quit It All” is a bit poppier than their debut album.  The 90s synth is a nice touch to this song which, make no mistake, still rocks.   The middle noise section (skronking guitar solo and great drums) is a highlight as are the catchy verses.  The band even submitted a video for the Tiny Desk Contest (I had no idea).

“Sides” is perhaps one of the best catchy alt rock songs I’ve heard in years and I am bummed that they didn’t get recognized for it.  It’s got a great 90s alt-rock sound and wonderful harmonies in the backing vocals.  There’s a video for this song as well.  You can also stream the song on bandcamp.

The other two songs, “Stupid for Now” and “There are No Good Goodbyes” were recorded at WDIY (Lehigh Valley’s Community NPR Station) in a stripped down format.  You can stream the songs here.  It’s interesting to hear them without the fuzz and drums.  The songs are solid and work very well although I do like the originals better.  The show also includes an interview with the three members who play the stripped down show.  The DJ asks their influences and while main singer guitarist Matt Molchany demurs,  April Smith says Built to Spill) and Josh Maskornick says Primus and Superchunk.

And if you can’t get enough (since they haven’t released that much) here’s a live show from Shards.

[READ: January 10, 2016 & January 10, 2018] Goldfish Memory

For some reason, I read this book back in 2016 and then didn’t post about it–I felt like I needed to read it again, and so I waited almost exactly two years and re-read it and enjoyed it even more this second time.  Almost like actual goldfish memory.

The back of this book made the stories sound really compelling:  “what does it mean to have a connection with someone? This is the question these brilliant short stories try to answer.”  The note said that this was the first translation of Monique Schwitter’s form-breaking work.  The translation was by Eluned Gramich.

I’m not sure how form-breaking these stories are, but they are certainly interesting.  They remind me in some ways of Julie Hecht–a narrator who is connected to people but very distantly.  But while Hecht’s narrators are critical and dismissive of everyone, Schwitter’s narrators just seem to be incapable of connecting properly.  You can feel the longing in the distance between them.  I also like how these missed connections cover all kinds of relationships–familial, sexual, friendship, professional, even passing acquaintances.

Few of the characters seem to be able to tell anyone else how they really feel–even when they are dying.  There is sadness at loss, but a kind of c’est la vie about it as well.  And all along, Schwitter’s writing is consistently excellent and the stories are really enjoyable. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SUPERCHUNK-Tiny Desk Concert #309 (October 7, 2013).

I’ve been a fan of Superchunk for years and I was excited to hear this Tiny Desk Concert.  Superchunk is a band full of manic energy.  Sorta punk, sorta poppy but mostly just fast, catchy songs.  So I was a little surprised to see them play an acoustic set for this concert.

I appreciated some context for this show from the blurb:

 The North Carolina band got its start in 1989, and here it is in 2013, with a new record called I Hate Music that demonstrates an undying passion for punk-fueled story songs with catchy phrasing. The band recorded its 10th album with a lineup that has held for most of its history: Mac McCaughan on guitar and vocals, Laura Ballance on bass, Jim Wilbur on guitar and Jon Wurster on drums.

At the Tiny Desk and on tour, it’s a shame not to have Ballance in the fold — her hearing problem worsens on tour and in loud venues — though Jason Narducy fills in admirably here. This set in the NPR Music offices includes songs from I Hate Music and 2010’s Majesty Shredding, but the group also digs deep to perform a song from 1995’s Here’s Where the Strings Come In. All in all, it’s a joy to have Superchunk translate its electric sound to acoustic instruments in such an intimate way.

It’s fascinating to see Mac sing so close up—you’d never expect that voice to come from him.  “Out Of The Sun” is so mellow.  I have I Hate Music, but I don’t actually know the original very well.  “Digging For Something”  I know this song well. I like the original of this so much that I find the slower acoustic version a little less fun than the original rocking version.  And yet it is still supercatchy and fun.  I love that the drummer has his wallet on the drum head—muffling the snare?  “Animated Airplanes Over Germany” is a great fun old song, I was really surprised when they started playing it and it sounds great regardless of the speed.  “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo” is a fun catchy song from their news album and it is well served acoustically.  Although the song title is pretty odd and I never could figure it out.

I’ve never seen Superchunk live and I assume I never will, so while this is a good look at the band, it probably doesn’t really capture their full live show experience.

[READ: July 8, 2016] Chew: Volume Nine

Man do I like this series.  It is so gross and yet so compelling.  Book Nine covers issues 41-45.  And it features a lot of Poyo!

I hate reading these books so far apart because it takes me at least an issue to get up to speed and by the time I’m flowing with the story again, it ends!

Chapter 1 opens with The morning after in Las Vegas.  And as Tony Chu is being woken with news of an emergency, we see that he and Amelia are in the honeymoon suite having just gotten married.  Then we flash back to the day before at the FDA convention.  Chu is being hailed as a hero, except by Director Applebee (who still hates Chu).

And then we flash to a bar in which Tony & Amelia are drinking together and Applebee and Colby are drinking together.

Tony answers the phone and hopes to not have to go on assignment.  Why not send in Poyo! (he is on special assignment–double splash pages–vs Unisaurus Rex).

Tony is called downstairs where everyone is covered in deadly fudge.  And we meet Professor Anazani, the FDA’s lead Armavictologist–he deals with weaponized food.  But this attack is not from the egg cultists, it is from the Collector.  Tony quickly solves that case and is even more of a hero much to Applebee’s eternal consternation.  The final page ends with a hilarious surprise. (more…)

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azyoumeSOUNDTRACK: VoirVoir-There are No Good Goodbyes (2015).

voiroivrVoirVoir eluded me at Musikfest this year.  I was supposed to see them open for the Flaming Lips but my shuttle arrived late.  And they played THREE TIMES on the following Saturday, but we couldn’t coordinate getting to a stage where they were playing.  Which is  shame because after missing their set the first night, I bought their CD and really liked it a lot.

My copy of the CD looks like the one at the right except that someone in the band hand cut out two irregular shapes in the cover so you can see through to the back, which is a cool touch.

The album itself is mostly punky and fast with vocals not unlike Superchunk or more accurately Built to Spill. Not that they copy either band, but you get that comfortable rocking feeling from these songs.

“I Wanna” is such a great opening statement. After the fast punky verse there’s a slower chorus which is just as catchy as the verses.  I could listen to this song all day.  “Make Your Bed” also has a wonderfully catchy chorus—the way it shifts into such an upbeat song after the buzzy and feedback filled verse is wonderful. “Stupid for Now” reminds me a lot of Built to Spill—there’s no guitar solos or anything, but in the catchiness and slow build of the verses and the much slower but still catchy chorus. It’s a great song.  And I love that there is a  glockenspiel as well as the guitars in the mix. “His Last Sound” continues in this vein with another great chorus.

Track five opens with a surprise when a new vocalist enters the mix.  My copy of the CD has precious little information about the band–just a list of names.  But I’ve pieced together some details to determine that the main vocalist is Matt Malchany and the female vocalist is (I assume) April Smith.  So “Be Your Machine” opens with Smith singing and her voice is great–hushed and deep–a stark contrast to Malchany’s voice, which takes over after the first verse.  She (or perhaps both women, guitarist Emily Meixell is also in the band) provide backing vocals to the more delicate chorus.

“Let’s Not” plays with the loud/quiet, male/female dynamic more as the verse is brash and loud and sung by Matt and the bridge is quiet and sung by April.  Then they mix it up further with a later quieter section sung by Matt.

“There are No Good Goodbyes” is a gentle song sung by April.  It has really interesting swirling guitar noises that are almost ominous.   I love the way she sings the chorus slowly as the music builds and builds faster and faster.  “If Miles Were Years” has some interesting dissonance as well, especially the closing ringing notes.  And once again, there’s a catchy chorus. I also really enjoy how much attention is paid to the percussion at the end of this song and many others (nice job Josh Maskornick).  And lest I forget bassist Matt Juknevic who keeps the rhythm steady throughout the variations of tone.

“Down Together” slows things down with a martial beat and a duet of vocals. It has couple of moments of loudness that build and drop off only to return to the delicate sound of the beginning.  The final song, “This is a Drag” is indeed a bit of a drag. It’s slow and repeats that chorus in a kind of monotonous voice.  It doesn’t really play well with the rest of the album, even if the end does build (and yes maybe by the you’re enjoying singing “this is a drag” along with them).  I can imagine it might be fun live if they can let it build and build and jam on it for a while, but the rest of the album is so up and fun that this closer is kind of a drag (especially since it’s the longest track on the record).

But despite that, I absolutely love this album.  And I love the way I discovered it, and I love that are from Bethlehem, PA, which means I’ll be able to see them live one of these days, surely.

Check out VoirVoir at their bandcamp site and order their album!  We need to hear more from them.

[READ: July 27, 2015] The A to Z of You and Me

I admit that I am a sucker for stories that work along a kind of theme (or gimmick).  But only if the book is done well.  And when this book had the subtitle of A comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Small Mistakes, it seemed interesting enough to dive in.

When I say that this book is narrated by a man in hospice, you can be sure that that information would normally be enough for me to stop reading.  The last thing I need to do is read a book by someone who is dying–especially if he is only 43.

But the way the story is told is really intriguing and it unfolds the plot in such a great way.  The A to Z part is something that the hospice nurse has told the narrator, Ivo, to do to keep his mind active.  Think of a body part for each letter of the alphabet and then think of the most interesting thing that has happened to that body part.  And so page one starts with Adam’s Apple.  And while he doesn’t exactly think back to his own, he does remember a teacher’s Adam’s apple from grade school and how it left quite an impression on his young life.

The book is written in first person but is mostly directed towards “you.”  And “you” is the woman that he was dating whom he is no longer dating. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SPARE THE ROCK, SPOIL THE CHILD PODCAST (2005-present).

Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child started as a small radio show in Massachusetts and is now syndicated to whomever wants it.

In browsing their playlists, I see a wonderful selection of tunes for kids (and adults).  There is a definite They Might Be Giants connection (I gather they did the theme song).  But in between bands like Deedle Deedle Dees, Trout Fishing in America and Wee Hairy Beasties, they also play Superchunk (“Hyper Enough”), NoMeansNo (“Joy”) The Beastie Boys (“Intergalactic”) and Firewater (!) (“Ponzi’s Revenge).  These are songs that any kid would love and the fit in very well with some of the more energetic music featured in the rest of the show.

You can see their blog site here.  You can listen to the archives (and subscribe) here.

[READ: November 5, 2012] The Flying Beaver Brothers and The Evil Penguin Plan 

I stumbled upon this book at the library.  I’m always looking for books for the kids, and this graphic novel seemed great for Clark to read before bed.  It turned out that Sarah really liked it and so did Tabitha and now so did I.

Maxwell Eaton III has written several different children’s books, like The Adventures of Max and Pinky which we loved, and Two Dumb Ducks, which was okay.  But we loved The Flying Beaver Brothers.  The brothers are Ace and Bub.  Ace loves adventure!  (The opening sequence is awesome!).  You can see his surfboard by the door and everything.  Bub, on the other hand, would much rather simply nap.  But it is time for the annual island surfing contest and Ace stands a good chance of winning, that is, if the huge beaver, Bruce, doesn’t get in their way (he wouldn’t be plotting something nefarious would he?). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE HIVE DWELLERS-“My Noise” from Score! 20 Years of Merge Records: The Covers (2009).

The Score! collection finally produced a cover I do not like.  I don’t know anything about The Hive Dwellers, but this feels more like a joke than a cover.  The voice is the voice I make when I’m making fun of a song.  And the instrumentation is a series of strange keyboard notes and random drum noises.  I might like it if it weren’t a cover–and I guess I do respect them for going so different from the original.  But man there’s not much to recommend here.

Go for the Superchunk original, without a doubt.

[READ: April 27, 2012] “case notes of a medical student, east harlem, psychiatric ER, winter 2002”

I try not to have the same author two days in a row, but I included this to show what a fascinating career Galchen has had and how incredibly different her published works can be.  So, yesterday it was an article about Borges.  Today it’s about her work in a psychiatric ward.

Triple Canopy is an online journal of some kind–I’ve actually never heard of it before.  It’s graphically interesting with lots of pictures and a cool interface.

This article is about nine slides long.  It printed on one page with very small type.  Galchen offers an introduction as to just what she was doing in the ER (exhaustion from three years of medical school and an opportunity to stop touching people for a month).  Although she admits her heart wasn’t in it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE-“Kicked In” from Score! 20 Years of Merge Records: The Covers (2009).

Death Cab for Cutie are immediately recognizable here.  And they take this Superchunk song and make it sound like a Death Cab for Cutie song.

This cover is the rare cover in which the band takes a song and makes it clearly their own, and yet they don’t alter it all that much from the original.  The Superchunk version is slow (for Superchunk), with buzzing, distorted guitars and Mac’s vocals riding over the top.  The DCFC version features Ben Gibbard’s voice riding over the top as well.  But DCFC make the song a bit cleaner.  Rather than distorted guitars, we get chiming guitars and simple notes.  Instead of being a kind of grungy anthem, it feels somewhat uplifting.  And in true DCFC style, the uplifting sounding song really disguises something darker.

Even though the DCFC version feels slower, it’s not any longer than the original, and I think the pacing is pretty much the same.  It’s a neat trick.  I like both versions equally.

[READ: May, 2, 2012] “Men Against Violence”

This story came in third place in the Narrative Magazine Fall 2011 short story content.  It had a very different feel from second place winner.  It is set in college.  It feels contemporary and it reads young.  This, of course, means that I liked the style immediately.  I admit I was a little confused by the opening—I felt the exposition was  little convoluted and relationships were not established effectively.  But once it got moving, the story was really engrossing.

This is a reasonably simple story.  Kyle has a Hennessey scholarship—he received hundreds of thousands of dollars over his four years of college.  As the story opens he is attending the dinner which announces the newest scholarship grant, and introduces Kyle to the latest scholarship winner, whose name is (in all lower case letters) madison pepper.

The guest speaker at the banquet is Brooke Hennessey.  She is the granddaughter of Dorothy Hennessey and is currently is Kyle’s class at the college.  She speaks eloquently about her family’s donation (of the Hennessey Art Museum).   What she doesn’t say is that she ran away at 15, spent two years living in a car in Portland and that she accepts no money from her family (and has a mountain of debt).  She also doesn’t say that she is currently dating Kyle.

Kyle has problems of his own.  He recently got into a fight with a Trevor, a fairly important person on campus and he is now on a kind of probation—if he fights again, he loses the scholarship and has to back all the money.  This is why he joined Men Against Violence.  There’s a funny (but not really) insight into the existence of MAV on the campus, which leads to many unanswered questions about gender relations.  And the subject of gender relations is all over this story.  That delicate subject is handled very well. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BARBARA MANNING-“Though with People” from Score! 20 Years of Merge Records: The Covers (2009).

I have a Barbara Manning disc, although I don’t remember it very well.  In this song, Manning’s voice is strong and good, but not terribly memorable–perhaps a less distinctive Neko Case?  It’s a catchy cover–a good 90’s era rocker.

The original is also a 90s era rocker. The song is by Portatstic, which is a side project from Superchunk’s Mac.  It doesn’t sound all that different from Superchunk (a little less manic, but Macs voice is distinctive enough that perhaps this just sounds like a slower version of their song).

I like Manning’s cover enough to go dig out 1212 to see what I haven’t listened to in a while.

[READ: April 13, 2012] “Stretch Out Your Hand”

This story came in second place in the Fall 2012 Narrative Magazine writing contest. I read this one first because it was much shorter than the other two stories and I needed a shorter piece for today !

I was disposed against the story from the start because of my own prejudices—I don’t really like stories set in the rural South from the early 20th century.  It’s a combination of my inability to relate and to my overexposure to clichés about the time, where everyone says “Momma” and everything sucks.

And so, when in the first few paragraphs, a young girl named Ruth has finally broken a fever and the father calls the mother “Momma” and the mother can’t stop thanking Jesus, I was not excited to keep on.

But then I started paying attention to the writing.  It was wonderful.  Ruth’s brother starts watching his sister’s fever evaporate and lift into the room.  Then he gives us this observation: “And which of these things is more miraculous: the incandescent movement of my sister’s fever, or the way my father held her.  I can’t say.  There is a place in me where these things go.”

The narrator does not conform to the stereotype of rural Southerners, which makes this transcend a story of sickness and grief. (more…)

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