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Archive for the ‘The Head and the Heart’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TXT (투모로우바이투게더) ‘Cat & Dog’ (2019).

Because this book is about cats and dogs, I was going to put “Cats & Dogs” from The Head and The Heart as this song.  Bit when I searched for “Cats & Dogs” the first video was for this song.  And any band whose name is in a language I can’t read will certainly get posted here.

In fact, I didn’t even realize they were called “TXT” I thought it was something to do with text messaging.

Turns out TXT stands for Tomorrow X Together.  Of course.

The video starts with five cute boys running to the a window and looking out on a cartoon world.  It seemed like The Monkees.

So I was quite surprised when the song started with heavy bass and auto-tuned and I realized that duh, this must be a K-pop band.

I assumed I’d heard of all of the popular K-Pop bands by now (how many could there be?), but here’s one I’d not heard of.  Nevertheless. this song has over 47 million views.

I really don’t know how to talk about K-Pop.

The five of them are adorable and pretty much identical (hair color being the distinguishing factor).  They all seem to dance well (in the heavily edited sequences).  All of their voices are auto-tuned so who knows if they can sing.  They are also singing in at least two languages, so who knows what they are singing.

I assume the language I can’t understand is Korean, although it sounded to me like Spanish at one point (which seems very unlikely).

There’s a repeated refrain of someone gong “brrrp brrrp brrrp” which is a weird but catchy hook for all languages.  I assume that none of the boys’ voices can possibly go deep enough t make that sound.

Apparently, this song has something to do with cats and dogs because there are meows and barks in the song (and in the video they do lots of synchronized cat and dog ear movements).

I’m kind of curious what the chorus actually says–are they saying the word “Pet” or is a Korean word?

At the end he sings I just wanna be your dog, but not in any way like Iggy Pop.

Sometimes it’s fun to dive into music you don’t ever experience.

[READ: February 6, 2020] Kitten Construction Company: A Bridge Too Fur

I really enjoyed the first Kitten Construction Company book.  I loved the premise–not that the kittens were good at building things–but that no one took them seriously because they were so cute.  It allowed for a lot of funny frustrations from our feline friends.

Well, now the city of Mewberg has fully accepted the Kitten Construction Company. They have built a new stadium with updated energy efficiencies and plumbing.

There’s a nice joke that while accepting the adulation for this stadium, architect Marmalade can’t help but knock the microphone stand off the podium.  I only wish that Green had drawn it to look more deliberate–that would have been a lot funnier.  Instead it almost seems like an accident. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 27, 2020] Illiterate Light

S. and I saw Illiterate Light open for The Head and the Heart back in October.  We were really impressed by them–their power (especially for just two people), their intensity, and their overall sense of fun.  In fact, because of annoying crowd people around me, I enjoyed Illiterate Light more than TH&TH.

I knew that they would be really great to see when they were the headline act, so when they announced a show at Johnny Brenda’s, I quickly got us both a ticket.

The band is a duo with Jeff Gorman on guitar and bass pedals (and what a huge difference those bass pedals make) and Jake Cochran on drums (and dancing).  The dancing is important because unlike most drummers, Cochran plays his drum kit standing up.  This allows him a lot of mobility–he wanders the stage, hangs out with Gorman and hits cymbals from all angles.

We couldn’t help but notice that there were several camera dudes all around the stage.  They told us that they’d be filming this show for some kind of upcoming something or other.  I’m looking forward to seeing it (we’re bound to be in it).  Although there was SO MUCH FOG (which is why my pictures are so hazy) that I have to wonder how good their video will be.

The guys came out and set up their gear (I was amused at how much more stuff Cochran had–I guess since his floor tom is removable?).  Although when Gorman brought in his foot pedals (a cool Moog device) he raised it over his head to much applause. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 8, 2019] The Head and the Heart

After being really impressed by Of Monsters and Men last month, I had pretty high hopes for being impressed by The Head and The Heart as well (because I get the two bands mixed up even though I like them both).

It was the same venue, although this time we had seats instead of the GA section.

It was nice to not worry about your location between acts.  But holy crap, the people around me sucked so bad that they ruined the whole night.  I am writing this ten days after the show and I hate to say that I am still annoyed by them all.

The people next to me came and went and came and went and came and went all while we were seated.

The guy in front of me was an old man (older than me even).  During Illiterate Light we thought it was cute that he and his wife (I assume) were videoing things and being adorable together.  Then during The Head and The Heart he stood up.  And was a freaking giant.  Worse yet, the people next to them didn’t come to the show, so they had a lot of room, which meant he spread out and stood right in front of me (and here I was excited about having empty seats in front of me).  He also filmed nearly every song, but rather than being discrete or considerate of the people behind him, he held yup his camera to his face which meant elbows out thereby blocking even more of my view.  His wife also filmed a lot but she apparently didn’t realize that phone cameras come with a flash, because it was on every time she took videos.  How it took the people in front of them six songs to actually say something (and they were very polite about it) I can’t imagine.

But the worst were the people behind us.  A loud row of eight loud talking, loud boasting, loud everything.  The craziest thing about them is that they were all huge fans of the band, they knew every word, knew when they played a “rare” song and sang along to just about every lyric. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 8, 2019] Illiterate Light

I had heard of Illiterate Light from NPR, but didn’t really know them.  They played at Newport Folk Festival but were early on Saturday and we arrived after them.

Traffic getting to this show was terrible and I was annoyed that we’d miss Illiterate Light (or part of their set anyhow).  S. said she didn’t mind missing the opening act as long as we made it for The Head and the Heart.

We walked in just as Illiterate Light took the stage and we got seated around the middle of the first song.  And I couldn’t get over how loud they were (particularly opening for a not-especially-loud band like The Head and the Heart).  They had big rocking guitar and crashing drums.

Then I looked up and realized that there were only two of them on stage. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 10, 2019] Of Monsters and Men

Back at Christmas 2011, S. bought me the debut albums by Of Monsters and Men and The Head and the Heart.  I instantly fell in love with both bands (and sometimes can’t tell who is who when I hear one of their songs).  This concert might help me distinguish but we’re also seeing The Head and the Heart in the same venue in a month.

But maybe the spectacle of this show will help me distinguish them.

Because it was a wonderful spectacle.

I love thinking about how this band of six or seven musicians from Iceland somehow conquered the world with their singalong anthems.  It’s also fascinating to me that they only released their third album this year.

I really like the new album.  It sounds a bit different (more synthy, poppy) but it remains very OMAM.

They played a lot from the new album which was fine. In fact, they played 19 songs in total, spanning all of their records, but focusing mainly on their first and third releases. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OF MONSTERS AND MEN-“Mountain Sound” (Field Recordings, June 13, 2012).

When this song first came out I was instantly smitten by it.  The combination of male and female vocals, the big chorus and interesting instrumentation were just terrific.  And the song is catchy as anything.

And then the rest of the world thought the same and this song became inescapable.

Around the same time I heard Of Monsters and Men, I also heard The Head and the Heart who had a similar aesthetic.  And I still have a hard time telling them apart (even if OMAM is from Iceland and THATH is from Seattle).

This Field Recording [Of Monsters And Men Brings Out The Sun] was filmed on the first day of the Sasquatch! Music Festival.

We managed to get backstage of the Gorge Amphitheater to capture a live session with one of the hottest new bands to hit the festival circuit, Of Monsters and Men. No strangers to natural beauty, the Icelanders were nevertheless stunned by the picturesque backdrop of the Gorge as they performed “Mountain Sound,” one of the new songs added to the American release of their debut album.

“We sleep until the sun goes down,” they sang repeatedly while the sun instead broke through the clouds as if called out by the song’s radiant optimism. The band will continue to thrill fans in larger and larger venues, but it’s private moments like this when Of Monsters and Men best displays its natural charm.

This is a wonderfully low-key take on the song with just a couple of guitars, and accordion and a trumpet (and a big plastic drum as the percussion).

I’ve heard this song so many times that it’s nice to hear it in such an unadorned fashion.  To actually hear the two lead vocals–how unusual they sound.  And to see how much fun the band is having playing at the Sasquatch Festival (yes, in Seattle).

[READ: November 12, 2018] “Show Recent Some Love”

I love Sam Lipsyte’s stories.  I love the tone and breeziness he showcases, even in stories with serious undertones.

This story ( I assume it is an excerpt) is unofficially set during the #metoo movement.  Mike Maltby was recently fired from his own company: “Only an ogre could defend Mike Maltby.”  Isaac, the protagonist, was not an ogre–maybe a jerk–said Nina his life partner.

But Isaac agreed that Mike’s ouster was for the best–Mike had done all kinds of heinous things in executives suites, “because it wasn’t about sex.  It was about power.  And sex.  And probably a few other things.”

But Isaac felt a twinge of remorse because Maltby had hired him and “had also been, weirdly enough for a brief time, his stepfather.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KUINKA-Tiny Desk Concert #716 (March 9, 2018).

Kuinka are a happy band.  Smiles are on all four members’ faces as they play their three songs.

Miranda Zickler says that they spend all of their time in the van listening to NPR, so this is pretty exciting for them.

The blurb says:

Last year I came across Kuinka (coo-WINK-uh), a band from Seattle… Kuinka’s live performance knocked me out even more than the creative video they’d submitted for the contest.

Since then, Brothers Zach (guitar) and Nathan (mandolin) Hamer, along with Miranda Zickler (keys) and Jillian Walker (cello), have come to D.C. for an official performance at the Tiny Desk, bringing with them their great harmonies and unique blend of energetic, string-band music with a dose of synth.

I’m not sure what the band sounds like normally–if they typically play electronic drums or what, but as the blurb notes

The songs are performed here on relatively tiny instruments, including a ukulele, a drum pad, a small synth, a mandolin and a banjo, along with an electric guitar. But the performance is fleshed out beautifully with rousing vocal harmonies.

All three tracks performed here are from Kuinka’s 2017 EP Stay Up Late, and each one has its own charm.

“Curious Hands” has lead vocals by Miranda.  There’s a cello, keys and Nathan playing a small acoustic six string guitar (or ukulele?).  He gets a pretty big (largely percussive) sound out of that little thing.  But it’s the harmonies that are really spectacular.  I feel like the electronic drums are a little too electronic for this largely folk band but whatever.

For “Spaces,” Zach switches from electronic drums to electric guitar.  He also sings lead with an unexpected twang.  Nathan has switched to mandolin which gives the whole song a kind of Americana vibe.  The electronic drums sound they chose is awful, but there’s a really cool synth sound between verses that prevents this from being overtly in one genre.

Miranda “explains” the name of the band: Kuinka is like kuinka-dink but it doesn’t have anything to do with that, it’s just a coincidence [that’s our ‘bit’].

The blurb’s recommendation to stay until “Mistakenly Brave” is a good one as it is the most rousing song.  They revert back to previous instruments, although Miranda plays banjo.  The harmonies are terrific (much better than the solo vocals, honestly).  It’s got that whole The Head and the Heart vibe going on.  Big soaring vocals and a cool break that leads to a rollicking coda.  Mid way through, Zach switches back to electric guitar to add some oomph.

[READ: April 20, 2016] Endpoint

John Updike died in January 2009 after decades of writing for the New Yorker and elsewhere.  As the news settled in the magazine ran this tribute to him in the March 16 issue.

Rather than running a story, they published a ten-poem sequence called “Endpoint,” (I didn’t even know he wrote poetry).  Most of these poems were written in 2008, while presumably, he knew he was dying from lung cancer.

Endpoint (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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SOUNDTRACK: THE HEAD AND THE HEART-Sasquatch Music Festival, May 28, 2011 (2011).

This is the fourth live recording from The Head and the Heart that NPR offers.  Not bad for a band with only one album out.  This set finds the band even more confident and relaxed (despite their genuine excitement at playing the festival).  The band sounds fantastic and I’ve really grown to appreciate the female harmonies on most of the songs now (I’ve not always liked them on every song).

This set has two as yet unrecorded songs in it (one of them was listed as untitled).  There’s some banter between the band and the fans (the band is nothing if not jovial) including a great story about how someone in the band went to Sasquatch the year before and swore he wouldn’t remove his backstage pass wrist band until The Head and The Heart band played Sasquatch.  I like to imagine there was ceremonial wrist band cutting ceremony on stage, but that is lost in the audio version.  Of course the story would be better if it was two or three years later, but it’s still a pretty good one. [See the Five Dials review below for a similar story!]

I found the sound quality of the show to be less than perfect.  The sounds are a bit muddied.  I don’t blame the band.  The Sasquatch venue may be beautiful (so many performers comment on it, I’d love to see the view) but I suspect that maybe the audio was less than stellar.

Nonetheless, The Head and the Heart continue to amaze in a live setting.

[READ: July 3, 3011] Five Dials Number 14

If Five Dials 13, The Festival Issue, was a double live CD, jam-packed with photos and stories and all kinds of wonderment, Five Dials Number 14 is an EP.  Even though it contains only one item, it’s more than a single, because the item is long and a lot is packed into it.  And that ends my metaphor.

One of the fun things about Five Dials is that it can be whatever length it wants to be. Many magazines offer double issues, but they never offer tiny issues afterwards.  And sometimes it’s nice to have a short issue that you can enjoy leisurely, without having to sift through filler.

So this issue consists of exactly two items: Craig Taylor’s introduction and the nobel prize acceptance speech by Orhan Pamuk. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE KOPECKY FAMILY BAND-Tiny Desk Concert #131 (June 6, 2011).

I’d never heard of The Kopecky Family Band, but the write-up about them was pretty interesting, so I decided to give the Tiny Desk concert a listen.  The band (all 7 of them) play a great collective of music: two guitars (acoustic & electic) bass, cello, violin, drums and keyboard.  They play a sort of traditional folk with a very full sound.

Indeed, they remind me an awful lot of The Head and the Heart (the singer’s voice in particular), although they are from different edges of the continent and have been playing music about as long as each other (indeed, The Kopecky Family Band released an EP in 2008 whereas Head and the Heart formed in 2009).

And the Kopecky website offers lots of free music (which is very cool).

“Howlin’ at the Moon” is a full acoustic sounding track.  “Birds” has a simply gorgeous whistle/xylophone melody that is as beautiful as it is catchy.  “Disaster” is a tender ballad with wonderful harmonies.  And “Red Devil” is a somewhat more rocking song, which really helps to demonstrate the bands’ diversity.

And the band is charming.  Keyboardist/singer Kelsey admits to having left a trinket of some kind of the office bookshelves (which are littered with things).  It’s a wonderful set, and because of it, I downloaded the band’s first EP from their site.

[READ: June 5, 2011] Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love

Shaffer was signing books at BEA this year.  My coworker told me that he was very funny and that he signed her book in an amusing way.  He happened to be signing at the table next to the line I was on. Sadly, he finished before I was able to get to him.  But I was pretty close to the beginning of the line, so I asked if I could grab a copy of his book, which I did (although no autograph for me).

This is a silly book of nonfiction.  It looks at thirty-seven philosopher or thinkers and their utter failure at love.  Each man (and occasional woman) has had some distinguishing characteristic that made them pretty lousy in the emotional range.

The title of the book is funny and is meant to be kind of surprising: these smart folks were terrible at love.  Of course, spending a minute or two thinking about who these people were and what they did, it’s not surprising that they were lousy at love.  These were intellectuals, people who spend most of their time in their own mind.  Of course they couldn’t have a serious relationship.

Nevertheless, these stories are all more or less amusing (Louis Althusser accidentally strangled his wife to death(!) which isn’t amusing per se, but the story of it is, kind of).  Shaffer does a great job at keeping each entry brief but really retaining the salient points of the thinker’s philosophy and a cogent example of his or her lousiness at love.  He also throws in some amusingly snarky comments of his own as he goes along.

I was delighted that the book order was done alphabetically rather than chronologically.  A chronological list would have been a little too samey in terms of each person’s context.  The alphabetical list allows for jumping around from say Plato to Ayn Rand which keeps the stories interesting and fresh.

At the end of each person’s piece, there’s an “In His Own Words” which offers a quote that details his or her written philosophy regarding love.

Dare I say that this is an ideal bathroom book?   It certainly is. And it makes you feel a little better about yourself (if you haven’t for instance, adopted your mistress as your daughter (Sartre)).

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