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Archive for the ‘The Free Nationals’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RAE KHALIL-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #171 (February 18, 2021).

Rae Khalil was a contestant on Netflix’s music competition show, Rhythm + Flow.  I distrust anyone who wins a music TV show, but I really liked Khalil’s music.

She is recording in Harun Coffee in the historic Leimert Park neighborhood of South Los Angeles.  Khalil’s set is a colorful explosion of talent, perfectly complimenting the funky patchwork and textures of her attire.

She calls her band The ill, and they are pretty great, in particular the fantastic bass work from both Dominick Cruz and special guest Kelsey Gonzalez of The Free Nationals (they switch mid set).

“Way Down” opens with retro keys from Elyzr and grooving bass (from Gonzalez) and a fiddly guitar solo from Takoda Barraza (on a nifty green Steinberger guitar).  Khalil has a great delivery throughout–quiet, understated and yet powerful too.  Drummer Nico Vasquez sets a killer rhythm throughout, too.

“Tiny Desk! Happy Black History Month!,” rapper, singer and songwriter Rae Khalil exclaims before gliding into “FATHER,” from her LP Fortheworld.

“FATHER” has a lengthy jazzy keyboard intro from Elyzr.  When Khalil sings, her delivery is understated on this one as well, although she occasionally lifts her voice into a kind of croon.  Dominick Cruz plays a jazzy guitar solo.

Sticking to the “inspiration” theme of our Black History Month celebration, she recites an excerpt from Langston Hughes’s “Let America Be America Again.” The 86-year-old words still read painfully relevant for many Black people in this country today.

Her reading of this poem is really good.  I wasn’t familiar with it and I can’t believe it is 86 years old.  I thought it was quite possible she had just written it, it felt so disturbingly contemporary.

The Torrance, California native’s musical theater background shines through here; she exudes an array of emotions in a span of minutes on tracks like “UP LATE” and “MARIA,” making it impossible to look away.

“UP LATE” has an outSTANDING bass line from Dominick Cruz.  Rae starts the song singing softly , but with speedy delivery.  Then she takes off!  Dramatically singing/rapping/laughing/pausing and then on a drop of a hat, “MARIA” shifts tones and she starts scatting along to the gentle jazzy music.

Vasquez get a few mini drum solos in the middle before the song takes off again and then ends with a jazzy bass solo from Cruz.  It’s fun watching her dance in he big bell bottoms.

This was a really great Tiny Desk and while it won’t get me to watch any reality music programs, I will acknowledge the success of this performer (although she didn’t even come in the top 8, so the heck with that).

[READ: March 30, 2021] Charlie Thorne and the Lost Island

This is the second book in the Charlie Thorne series.  I had not read the first one but S. told me that I would love it and that the first book wasn’t necessary for the enjoyment of this book.  And that was absolutely true.  This story does follow that one, but it is wholly independent and anything that needs to be filled in from the previous adventure is dealt with pretty handily.

So who is Charlie Thorne?  She is a genius.  She is a fugitive.  She is not yet thirteen.

I have not read any Stuart Gibbs before (except for one short story), but I understand his Spy School is a great series.  I have to hand it to him right away for writing such a cool and compelling protagonist for this series.  And also for having a story with so much fascinating information included.

As the book opens, Charlie is surfing off a small island near the equator.  She chose this location because it is very remote.  She needs to be remote because of what happened in the previous book (she has a piece of information that everyone from the CIA to a dozen other international cartels would kill for).

She assumed she was safe, but knew she wouldn’t be for very long–nowhere was totally hidden.  But while she’s here, she’s going to learn to surf.

Gibbs using surfing to show off Charlie’s brain power.  She has never surfed before but because she is so smart–so good at using numbers to read nature–she never misses a wave and never wipes out.  The locals think she might be a demon.  I enjoyed the way he uses her skill at figuring out angles and pacing and such in several later scenarios. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FREE NATIONALS-Tiny Desk Concert #969 (April 20, 2020).

The full name of this concert is The Free Nationals Feat. Anderson .Paak, Chronixx & India Shawn, but that’s too many “featurings” for a headline.

Whenever you look for Tiny Desk Concerts, the top picture is always from the Anderson .Paak show (which was pretty great).  I never really gave it much thought as to why that picture is up there.  But the blurb here says that “Anderson .Paak’s Tiny Desk concert with The Free Nationals, filmed in 2016, is the most popular in the history of the series.”  Who knew?

It was a special return when The Free Nationals arrived in the nation’s capital to showcase their new tunes on March 4, before the coronavirus crisis had set in. Lots of NPR staffers showed up in the hopes that a surprise guest might be in store.

They play four songs.  First is “Beauty & Essex” It opens with opens with Ron Tnava Avant using a voice box on the keys: “Ron Avant invoked Roger Troutman of Zapp on the talk box”, followed by  some slow funky bass lines from Kelsey González.  India Shawn, radiant in a red jump suit, crooned Daniel Caesar’s “Beauty & Essex” in a sultry register.  Midway through, José Rios plays afully distroetd (but slow and very Prince-like) guitar solo.

India, formerly a background singer for .Paak and now an emerging solo artist, also sang lead on the second song,”On Sight” which is about catching the fade (punch across the face).  The end of this song features and even faster ripping guitar solo with some walloping drums from,  Callum Connor.  As the solo ends, Rios says, “It’s crazy to play so quiet.  I want to jump on this table.”

Then “Cheeky Andy,” aka Anderson .Paak, surprised the audience with his signature smile and spunky energy.  I like him a lot–he always has a mischievous smile.  He tells everyone

We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on big budget videos just to have our biggest video be in front of a Tiny Desk.

I don’t know Anderson .Paak much aside from his Tiny Desk, but i can tell it’s him instantly by his drum beat, his drumming style is quite unique.  . “Gidget” is “a song with a groove so catchy that it makes you want to two-step in your living room.”  This song’s about another one of Rios’ exes (see the last concert for the setup to this joke).  Rios asks, “Whys it always got to be about me?” .Paak sings the song and then Avant plays a wicked talk box solo.

.Paak wasn’t the only special guest. Jamaican roots reggae singer Chronixx returned to the Desk to perform his “Eternal Light,” a song he recorded with The Free Nationals on their album.  Btu first Anderson .Paak runs out “you got my phone man?”  Connor passes it to Rios who pretends to throw it.

Chronixx seemed stunned at the number of fans in the audience this time,  “last time I was here there was like five people.”

This song has a reggae feel about positive vibes.  It’s a the most chill song for sure.

It’s fascinating to have seen this band take off from four years ago.

[READ: May 3, 2020] “The Wish for a Good Country Doctor”

This was a totally gripping story.  One that I was not expecting to hear probably as much as the narrator was not expecting to hear it.

It starts with an unusual sentence

Most kids lose or beak their toys.  I curated mine.

In 1976, the narrator was at the University of Iowa in an America Studies program.  Every month, the narrator and “some other hippie Ivy graduates” blanketed the state to find “existing folk manifestations.” They traveled to thrift shops, junk stores and Salvation Armys for tools and dolls and then wrote over-interpretive essays about the items.

They were given $100 a month to purchase things and they set off on a Friday full of caffeine.  On this particular Friday the narrator had gotten a rural mailbox made in 1946 shaped like three Scottish terriers.  And an ironic iconic Find of the Week “a handsomely lettered five-foot-long sign explaining, ‘You’ve Got to Be a Football Hero to Get Along with the Beautiful Girls.  THEREFORE, GO TECH!'” (more…)

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