Archive for the ‘Torres’ Category

[POSTPONED: November 14, 2020] Torres / Sarah Jaffe [rescheduled from May 19; moved to October 18, 2021]

indexTorres is a wonderful musician who I feel has really gotten the brunt of the industry and now the coronavirus.  She really counts on shows and it’s a real shame that her shows keep getting postponed.

I have seen Torres in a small, intimate show (which was amazing) and then in a slightly larger venue (which was excellent in a different way).

I didn’t think I ‘d need to see her again, but I follow her on Instagram and was really interested in seeing her new show (especially in a different venue).  I haven’t heard all of the new album, but I did like the first single.

Sarah Jaffe is a singer from Texas.  She seems to play a lot of different styles, from folkie (“Clementine”) to more pop rocking (“Glorified High”). I enjoyed the few tracks I listened to and imagine she’d be a fun live performer.

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[POSTPONED: May 19, 2020] Torres / Sarah Jaffe [moved to November 14]

indexI have seen Torres in a small, intimate show (which was amazing) and then in a slightly larger venue (which was excellent in a different way).

I didn’t think I ‘d need to see her again, but I follow her on Instagram and was really interested in seeing her new show (especially in a different venue).  I haven’t heard all of the new album, but I did like the first single.

Sarah Jaffe is a singer from Texas.  She seems to play a lot of different styles, from folkie (“Clementine”) to more pop rocking (“Glorified High”). I enjoyed the few tracks I listened to and imagine she’d be a fun live performer.

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SOUNDTRACK: TORRES-“Dressing America” (2020).

I’ve really enjoyed Torres’ music over the years.  I have seen her in concert twice and her live set is riveting.

Her earlier music was very intense and it seems as though her newer music is a bit more poppy.  This new song has a wonderfully catchy melody and her voice sounds fantastic.

Over a gentle guitar, she sings quietly in her lower register.  The song slowly builds up with keyboard swells and a quiet drum.

As the song heads into the chorus, she hits a lovely falsetto “to you” before the sweet chorus

I tend to sleep with my boots on
should I need to gallop over dark waters
to you
on short notice

The chorus has a fantastic delay between the falsetto “to you” (like in the bridge) and the “on short notice” that adds some nice drama.

It’s remarkably catchy (and the video is really sweet too).  I’m looking forward to the album and to seeing her live this Spring.

[READ: January 15, 2019] “The Sail and the Scupper”

This story begins with an epigram from The Canadian Press:

Massive numbers of dead starfish, clams, lobsters, and mussels have washed up on a western Nova Scotia beach, compounding the mysterious deaths of tens of thousands of herring in the area.

Ohm takes this idea and makes an unexpected story out of it.

The story is set in a bar.  A lobster named Homer enters and the bartender (a clam named Lewis) tells him he missed happy hour.

This sounds like the set up to a joke, but it is not.  Lewis looks around his empty bar that only last summer was brimming with herring–slapping fins, endlessly chattering.  The herring were always hanging around the newspaper reporters (like Homer) who were always stationed in this bar.  They were always trying to get scraps of information about what was happening to the water.

Soon enough they were itching for Direct Action. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 28, 2017] Torres

I saw Torres play Union Transfer about four months ago.  She opened for Frightened Rabbit and I really enjoyed her set.  So I was pretty excited to see her at Boot & Saddle, where she was headlining.

I didn’t realize it was the first night of the tour for her new album Three Futures–she claimed to be very nervous.

It was quite a different show and Torres herself, Mackenzie Scott, was quite different.  At Union Transfer, she seemed kind of distant and aloof.  And it was a really effective persona–she really wowed the crowd who may not have been there to see her.  But at this show some of that veneer dropped away–there were some jokes and some smiles.

Torres’ previous album, Sprinter has some great noisy guitar stuff.  The new one has more synth and a much more spare, but interesting, guitar. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 28, 2017] Aphra

Up until about a week before this show, there was no support act listed for Torres.  And then a few days before the show, it was announced that The Dove & The Wolf, a Philadelphia band, would be the support.  I’ve heard rumblings about this band, and I was looking forward to seeing them for myself.

Then I saw that they were starting the tour on her second night, not our night.  A day or so later it was revealed that our opening act was another Philly musician named Aphra.

My night was surprisingly hectic getting to the show, so I walked in a few songs into Aphra’s set.

She had an electric guitar and was singing along to it.  The volume didn’t balance well for some reason and I didn’t really like the song all that much.

But after she took off the guitar she switched to a more electronic sound and for those last two or three songs, she sounded great. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 1, 2017] Torres

I really liked Torres’ album Sprinter and Bob Boilen had said that she was  great live performer so I was pretty excited to see her live on this tour.  I wasn’t exactly expecting a lot of power because while her music has a distinct intensity it never seemed like it would be huge.  But man, Mackenzie Scott has an amazing presence, and her band was fantastic.

The biggest surprise for me came as the show began because Torres has new music out and it’s quite different from the songs I know.  It’s much more synth heavy, with a very different vibe.  The songs on Sprinter bubble under with intensity, but the new ones have a kind of sinister keyboard layer over the top.  She also sings a bit more quietly on these songs.

What was interesting was that the newer music allowed her to do some interesting things on stage that reminded me of the choreography of St. Vincent (albeit much more subtle).  She made small movements with her hips or shoulders.  She really absorbed the attention of the audience.  I loved that at times she just stood with her back to us, shadowed by lights as she waited for the songs to build.

I guess she played around nine song (there’s no setlist online).  She played a couple of new songs and then a bunch off of Sprinter.

She didn’t speak much but she did say at one point I’m pleased to be here in front of you as Torres.  For this music is not all about her.

Guitarist Cameron Kapoor stood in the back playing all kinds of great noises.  While it was hard to take my eyes off of Scott, Kapoor was great to watch–he had a bank of keyboards and effects and his squealed and squalled some noises all the way through.  Sometimes loud, sometimes just quiet textures, he really gave the songs a great sonic landscape.   Erin Manning played keyboards and sang backing vocals.  Her sound seemed much more notable on the new songs where Scot played only solos.

Drummer Dominic Cipolla play a mix of electronic and analog drums that perfectly fleshed out the rest of the songs.

As far as the setlist, there were two new songs including her new single “Skim.”  I really enjoyed the sounds she squeezed out of her guitar between verses.

Then there was the dramatic change in sound for Sprinter’sNew Skin,” and that’s when it really kicked in just how powerful she was live.  Her new songs may not employ the same techniques, but she hasn’t lost any of that intensity.  And she plays her guitar sparingly but effectively: (I love watching her fingers in the dim light here).

Her deep powerful (sometimes vulnerable) voice really came out.  By the time she got to “Sprinter,” the intensity level was through the roof.

But the song I’d been waiting to see was “Strange Hellos.”  This is the first song I’d heard by her and I loved the way it started so small and simple and turned into a huge raging song.  And live it’s even better.

She has the audacity to slow down that first section even further.  It’s amazing to hear the lengthy pauses between notes as she just stares at the audience daring us to interrupt.   And then the song proper starts and it rocks.  Her voice is strained to breaking as she sings along.  But it’s the end of the song–and the show–that was utterly memorable.

The show was great and I’ve just gotten a ticket for her show a the more intimate Boot & Saddle later his year so I can get another full dose of her intensity.


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CoverStory-2-22-16-879x1200-1455509711 SOUNDTRACK: JULIEN BAKER-Tiny Desk Concert #513 (March 7, 2016).

julienI had never heard of Julien Baker before this Tiny Desk Concert.  Indeed, she looks young enough that perhaps this is her first concert (it isn’t).

Baker plays a lovely, slightly echoey, but otherwise very clear electric guitar.  Her tone is so clear and quiet.  And her voice is also incredibly delicate.  Watching her play and sing it’s amazing you can hear anything at all, and yet she does not wilt in any way–her music is delicate but not whispered.

As with many players these days, she uses a looping pedal to great effect.  For the first song, “Sprained Ankle” she loops the lovely harmonics at the beginning of the song and then allows for the multiple layers to play.  Her vocals are as gentle as the harmonics, and yet, again, not whispery.  At barely 2 minutes, the song leaves you wanting more.

She talks about doing a new song for them called “Sad Song #11” since “I already have ten sad songs.”  She thanks everyone for their “courteous laughter.”  And then plays another beautiful song now officially titled, “Funeral Pyre.”  She has a very nice way with words: “Ash for a decorative urn you keep on your mantelpiece like a trophy for everything.”  There’s a beautiful layered guitar solo at the end too.

The introductory guitar lines from “Something” are really lovely–her sound is just so clear–and once again, the song is beautiful and haunting with her repeated lyrics sounding more powerful with each go around.

The blurb about the show references Torres, and I totally see the deference.  They don’t sound anything alike in that Torres is brash and loud, but they have that same up-close and intimate vibe.  For Baker, it makes you want to lean is as she sings.

[READ: February 17, 2016] “sine cosine tangent”

I have always meant to read more from DeLillo, I just never do.

And while I have enjoyed all of the things I have read by him, I didn’t love this story so much.  Okay, I’ve since found out that this is an excerpt, which changes things.  I’ll keep my review the same but with bracketed realizations pertaining to the novel.

This is the story of a young man (his age in the story is unclear to me, and I’m not sure how much distance separates the present from the past [presumably this is covered in the novel]) and his relationship with his father.  His father is a successful businessman but the son says that he “shaved a strip of hair along the middle of my head, front to back, I was his personal Antichrist.”

His father left when he was 13, although he never found out why.  Years later, he sees his father, Mr Ross Lockhart on the TV, discussing the ecology of unemployment in Geneva. (more…)

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olymmp SOUNDTRACK: TORRES-Tiny Desk Concert #461 (August 10, 2015).

torresI’ve really enjoyed a lot about Torres’ music this year.  Mackenzie Scott has an interesting delivery which reminds me of certain aspects of PJ Harvey, and her songs are angry but measured.

Her songs seem to have a lot of low-end in them (without being bass heavy exactly–in fact in this Tiny Desk, there is no bassist).  And her singing voice is often rather low (and sometimes growly).  There’s a moment in the first song “New Skin” in which the music drops out and then Mackenzie Scott starts playing her guitar anew and it’s a sound unlike any in the song before (even though she has been playing all along).

Guitarist Cameron Kapoor adds cool sounds to what I think is her best song, “A Proper Polish Welcome.”  Erin Manning provides wonderful harmony vocals along with keyboards on this song which is as powerful as it is understated.  The song gives me chills.

“The Harshest Light” is a slow song that has glimpses of light as she sings slightly higher notes in the chorus.  And when her voice breaks near the end, you can hear the intensity in her singing.

It’s a great three song set that only leaves you wanting more.

I had resisted getting this album, but realizing just how good these songs are might tip the tables to a purchase.

[READ: Summer 2015] Olympians 1-6

While I imagined that I might read all of the First Second books this year, I paused about mid way through (more for me next year).  But one of the last things I read from First Second was this series of outstanding mythologies about the Greek Olympians.  It also turned out that a few years back I got these books for C., not realizing they were under the First Second imprint.  I was intrigued by them then, but I’m really glad that I read them now.

George O’Connor is a massive geek and Greek scholar.  He has done lots of research for these books, including going to Greece and visiting sites and antiquities as well as comparing all manner of ancient stories to compile the most interesting pieces. He explains that since these stories were orally passed down, they were modified over the years.  He doesn’t change the myths, he merely picks the story lines that are most interesting to him.  And then he adds a lot of humorous modern touches (and dialogue) which keep it from being at all stuffy.

O Connor’s drawing style is also inspired by superhero comics, so his stories are presented in a way that seems much more like a super hero than a classical hero, which is also kind of fun.

Each book ends with an author’s note which is hugely informative and gives plenty of context.  It also has a bibliography, but more importantly, it has a list of notes about certain panels.  Do not skip these notes!  In addition to providing a lot of insight into the myths of the characters themselves, there are a lot of funny comments like “Greeks raced in the nude (point and laugh)” which really bring new depths to the stories. (more…)

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dec2014SOUNDTRACK: TORRES-“A Proper Polish Welcome” NPR Lullaby SXSW (March 21, 2015).

torresFrom March 17-March 21, the SXSW festival raged on. And my friends at NPR Music were there so I didn’t have to be. In past years they have had a nightly recap of their favorite shows of the day. This year they upped the ante by inviting a musician to sing a lullaby.  Most of these lullabies occurred in some unexpected outdoor location at 2 or so A.M. after a long day of music.

The final lullaby comes from new to me singer Torres. She has one of my favorite songs from the NPR Austin 100 “Strange Hellos.” It starts slow and builds and builds.  This is not that song (which would never work as a lullaby).

This is the only lullaby to feature an electric guitar.  And even though it is played quietly you can hear her fingers sliding up and down the strings squealing away.  This is a song from her new album Sprinter.  And it’s quite lovely.  I’m looking forward to hearing the full album when it comes out.

Check it out here.

[READ: March 23, 2015] “Hammer Island”

This issue of Harper’s featured five essays (well, four essays and one short story) about “Growing Up: five coming of age stories.”  Since I knew a few of these authors already, it seemed like a good time to devote an entire week to growing up.  There are two introductions, one by Christine Smallwood (who talks about Bob Seger) and one by Joshua Cohen who talks about the coming of age narrative.

I’m not sure why Wells Tower submitted fiction rather than an essay (he comfortably does both), but I’m glad he included this story as I think it’s a really interesting one.  And yes it does cover growing up–and may even be based on fact, who knows.

This is written from the point of view of a seventeen year old girl, Maxine.  She has been invited to Hammer Island (of the coast of Maine) for the summer to watch the (frankly wicked) daughter of famed film producer Morris Walls.  Walls terrifies people in Hollywood, but when he comes to Hammer Island he is treated like everyone else.  I loved this example:

Morris flicked a cigarette butt over the boardwalk rail. A teenage boy walking behind us retrieved it. He jogged up to Morris, tapped him on the shoulder, and slipped the cigarette butt into his palm. “No littering,” said the boy. “I know you’re new here, but we take it pretty seriously. Technically, there’s a three-hundred-dollar fine. I’m not going to report you, but just so you know, most people would.”  In California or New York, threatening Morris Walls and handing him garbage would have been a sure way to get sworn at, slapped, doused with hot coffee. But Morris understood that attacking the boy would be pointless. The boy was of the island, and he spoke with the full authority of the place behind him.

And I loved the general pretension of the island:

Whenever anybody walked by, you had to call, “Hello! Come up, come up! We’re picking crabs!” Or you had to say that if you owned the house and the person passing by owned a house on Hammer, too. If you had been coming to Hammer Island for thirty summers, renting the same house for $4,000 a week, you did not get summoned to a porch for crab picking. You were still looked upon as an interloper and a thug.

Interestingly, this is all just set up for the real story which has little to do with Walls and nothing exactly to do with the island.  For this story is about Maxine and a teenaged boy, Todd Greene.  When Maxine is able to get a way from Lola (the brief story about Lola is hilarious), she would watch Todd play tennis.  He was masterful.  And after his matches he would talk with her.  And soon enough he invited her onto his boat.

When she arrived at the dock, a short, dwarfish man was polishing the boat and Todd was nowhere to be seen.  The man seemed to have nothing but admiration for Todd, talking about what a good sailor he was and making the boat perfect for the young man.  When Todd finally arrives, he takes the keys, says nothing to the man and he and Maxine head out to open waters, where “Todd talked me out of some but not all of my clothes.”

Two days later, Maxine was invited to the Greene’s house where she discovered that the “dwarf” was actually Todd’s father.  Todd’s mother and brother are, like Todd, gorgeous, and she can’t figure out the father’s place.  But it seems that his place is simply to serve everyone.   And when he makes a mistake with dinner, the whole family reams him out.  But this time, having had enough, the father storms out and is not seen on the island again that summer.

Maxine is surprised that Todd keeps in touch over the year with quarterly updates on his exploits.  And they both plan to return to Hammer Island next summer.  When they do return Todd’s father is there waiting (and he has a plan).  The end of the story is exciting and emotionally complicated.  It’s a very satisfying story indeed.

I’m looking forward to more fiction from Tower.

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