Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Van Morrison’ Category

[ATTENDED: March 23, 2019] Guster

Back in January, Guster postponed their Philadelphia concert because they were going to be on Late Night with Seth Myers.  They rescheduled it for mid-March and decided that it would be a 20th Anniversary celebration of their 1999 album Lost and Gone Forever.  So although the date change sucked at the time, the new show promised to be freakin amazing.

And, as it turned out, this was the best and the worst Guster concert that S. and I have seen together (number 7 for both of us).

Why the worst?  The worst because we arrived later than we intended and wound up further back than we wanted to.  Which is not the end of the world.  But, when you’re in the back in the Fillmore, you are near the bar and all the people talking.  A lot.  Even people who claimed to love the band, even people who commented on how good they sounded (they did), even people who would sing along loudly to parts of songs, all of these people also talked through huge swaths of the show.

One woman shouted to her friends during a quiet part and I had to say something.  It was really dreadful.  I though that during the intermission, people would pile out to get drinks and we could move closer, but nope, it was jam packed.

So aside from the worst crowd I’ve ever experienced, the show was great.  The band was in amazing form, they sounded great–and the venue helped them to sound great.  It was definitely one of the best sounding shows I’ve seen from them. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND-The Carleton, Halifax, NS (February 13, 2015).

This is the most current solo show from anybody on the RheostaticsLive webpage.

Bidiniband’s third album came out in 2014 and this show chooses from it pretty heavily.

The show starts (Dave sounds either like he has a bit of a cold or he’s just worn out) with Dave saying “We’re going to start with a song about the cold, because it is.  Fucking snow, eh  Wow.”  “The Grey Wave” has great chord changes in the chorus.  It is a slow folkie song about cold and snow.  I like that he whispers “let’s go” before the buzzy but quiet solo.  The chorus comes out of that fairly rocking (a least for this set).

Dave continues, “I have some news.  Last night I was offered cocaine in the bathroom of the Alehouse.”  (Don, on drums, whispers, “in exchange for what?”).  Dave: “I think the guy just wanted to be my friend.  He was a bit of an asshole.  Cocaine is the one drug I think where when people offer it to you and when you say no, they apologize for having assumed you wanted any.”

Someone else notes: “I like that we’re the rock band from Toronto and we’re the ones shocked by all the drugs everyone is doing.  We were in BC and we were shocked at the big jug of MDMA being passed around.”

“Everyday Superstar” is a rocking, swinging song.  I love that the chorus is “I’m an animal out of control” but it’s kind of slow and mellow and at one point he says “its true.” And there’s this lyric: “When it’s hot, I’m gonna be Bon Scott you be Lita Ford.”  At the end of the song, someone asks, “Does everybody in the house know what bass face is?  You never know when Haddon is going to a picture of you with that face.”  Dave tells a story that Haddon Strong had a subscription to a magazine and it was addressed to Hardon Strong.

Introducing “My First Rock Concert” he says, “this is a song about music.  I bet you think it’s ‘Proud Mary’ but it’s not.  That was done last night.”  He sings it kind of whispering/spoken.   In the middle, Paul plays the riff to “Brown Eyed Girl” while Dave is singing “you’re either a mouse or Steven Page.”

“Take A Wild Ride” is s short song that segues at the same fast tempo into “The List” which is, again, almost spoken.  He throws in some other people who have made the list.  Jian Ghomeshi and Joel Plaskett (he was in Thrush Hermit) and at the end he says, “only kidding about Joel.”

“Big Men Go Fast On The Water” is a great-sounding song–in this version, the guitar riffs between verses sound like Boston.  They played this song last night at “Stolen from a Hockey Card” at the Spats Theater.  Dave was disappointed there were no spats there.  He says, “If I’ve over pattering, just tell me.”

We wrote this song “Bad Really Bad” about the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Three chords and the truth.

“In The Rock Hall” is about the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland from a poem written by Paul Quarrington  Once again he almost whispers, “C’mon Halifax, let’s rock.”   About “Ladies of Montreal,” he says, “I didn’t think there were enough songs in indie rock well, elderly indie rock, independent seniors, about beautiful women… boobs, you know.  It came in a dream.  I had to write it.”  Dave says it is sexist although I don’t exactly know what he’s saying with the French words.

Getting ready to play “The Motherland Part 1,” he asks, “Jerry you brought your flute, did you?  Oh fuck’s sake.  It’s okay. I think I told you last night but we were both pretty hammered.”  “The Fatherland” is “a heavy metal political song…political metal… politometal.”  It totally rocks and at the end Dave says “I don’t understand, the dancing girl left and we’re playing our most uptempo tunes.”  Before they complete the trilogy with “The Motherland Part 2” someone in the band asks, have you got the cocaine?–its pure MDMA.  Don rehashes the story about him throwing up at a party in the closet because of hot knives.  The middle of Part 2 really rocks.

“Last Of The Dead Wrong Things” is quieter for sure but the chorus and backing vocals are great.  Where there’s usually a drum solo there’s a kind of quiet freak out.

He says, “we’re going to do one more” (boo) …well how many more do you deserve?  Seventeen, eh, you have a very inflated view of yourself.”

“We’ll do ‘Fat,’ (a song “by Rheostatics band”), it has similar chord shapes don’t hold that against us.  Did I tell you we were playing this one?”  “Would it matter?” Let’s have a round of applause for Kevin Lacroix on the bass and Don Kerr on the drums.  Paul Linklater on guitar.

“We played with Corb Lund yesterday, from Alberta.  He’s very handsome and very accomplished.  “Really really handsome.”  Kevin: “I made out with him.”  Dave: “I made out with a guy who I thought was Corb but who was really the cleaning guy for the hotel….  Last night on this very stage he intoned, he evoked the name of Washboard Hank Fisher….  You’re not going are you, it’s going to be a good song.”  They have Lots of fun with “The Midnight Ride Of Red Dog Ray”  with over the top backing vocals.  And in the solo, we get Paul Linklater, one more time pickin’ and grinnin.’

Before the next song Dave says, “What are you guys laughing at?  I can see you in the mirror, you know.  This is my favorite club coz I can watch my rock moves, they’re top ranked.”  Don:  “That’s actually Dave’s mirror, he brings it to every club and says that.  It’s embarrassing.”  Dave mentions a famous story (doesn’t know who it’s about) about a heavy metal singer who was hammered and he saw the guy in the mirror and thought he was mocking him.  So he challenged him to a fight.  That’s rock n roll.”

“You got a weak bladder Jerry?  I’ve got a weak bladder, too.  I’ve peed myself twice during this set.”

This is an album by Bidiniband called The Motherland.  It’s a delicious record and I’d like you to buy it.  All of you.  It’s only $10.  Produced in Toronto in a studio  … by professionals.  Trained professional sounds.  Nothing like what you’re hearing tonight.

There’s a great buzzy bass sound on “Desert Island Poem” which is “a funny song about cannibalism.”  Dave gets pretty crazy at the end.

It segues into a wonderful surprise of them playing”Queer.”  And then a terrific version of “I Wanna Go To Yemen” with a fun wild sliding solo.

He wishes everyone a good night and they leave for a few seconds.  “If we take a break we probably won’t play anymore.  But that was break…  We probably should have taken a longer break and milked it more… but we didn’t.”

“Do people who come to lean along the bar are they into the music?”  Kevin: “Those are some of the best people in Halifax…but the creme d la creme starts right here.”

Jerry didn’t find his flute did he?  Dave asks for a hand for the opening act, Communism Music, look them up

The first encore is the hilariously offensive song “Take A Bath Hippie.”   Sample verses:  “This ain’t the 1960s / These are brand new modern times / everyone is equal and everyone is doing fine,”  “Your revolution ended the day Trudeau retired.  A land of Stephen Harper… we got the country we desired.”   He asks, “You guys got hippies out here?  Probably not. You got Buddhists.  That’s just as bad.  They lie around in their robes  eating flowers.  Shaving each other’s heads.  Sacrificing a goat here and there.”

 We’re all getting G&Ts?  Thank you people of the night.  Kevin: “Treating us all equally?  Like my parents.  My parents would bring us all something she wouldn’t bring me a G&T without bringing one to my sister.”  Dave: They were saints.

FYI, tomorrow, there is Hockey Day in Canada–a ton of games on and footage from the concert last night with Theoren Fleury, Rich Aucoin, Buck 65, Miranda Mulholland, and the ever handsome Corb “The Boner” Lund and The Barra MacNeils.  Dave did a short movie about John Brophy, that’s gonna be on.  “Fuck, it’s Saturday… just sit at home and watch hockey.  It’s what we are supposed to do.  If you don’t, Stephen Harper will have your ass.  But I’ll save you because I’m the hockey guardian.  No I’m not, I’m just tired.”

We’ll try to do one last song.  Have we done “Take a Bath Hippie?”  We’ll save it for next time.  I’m trying to not do a typical show closer tune.

Last gig Kevin played with this band he was playing drums.   I guess it didn’t go well because he’s been demoted to bass. (ha ha).  Dave: “You’ve got the best bass player joke about what happened to Gordie Johnson.”  Kevin: “oh no that’s just nasty.”  Dave “You’re right, its for later in the washroom when were doing coke.”

They play a surprising “Stolen Car.”  It’s so weird to hear Dave sing this song (which he wrote)–he whisper sings it (and can’t really hit the notes).  It segues into a folkie
“Legal Age Life -> Do You Wanna Dance -> Legal Age Life” with them singing, “Oh yeah music is fun.  Friends are fun.  Rock n roll is fun.  Sloppy and fun.”  They end with a Johnny Cash line get rhythm when you get the blues.

Who would have guessed that just seven months later Rheostatics would reunite?

[READ: November, December 2017 & January 2018] West End Phoenix

West End Phoenix is a newly created newspaper.  It was inspired by Dave Bidini.

I have loved just about all of the music that Bidini has created (with Rheostatics and Bigdiniband) and I have loved just about all of the books he has written.  So why wouldn’t I love a newspaper created by him?  Well, possibly because it serves a community that I do not live in and have very likely never visited.  That’s right, this is a community newspaper for a community that isn’t even in my country.

And it is terrific.

But why on earth would I want to read it?  Can I really like Bidini that much? (more…)

Read Full Post »

6616 SOUNDTRACK: GLEN HANSARD-Tiny Desk Concert #225  (June 17, 2012).

glenWhat can I say about Glen Hansard that I haven’t said already—he’s a powerful singer and a great storyteller.  This is his second appearance on Tiny Desk (although his first solo) and his fourth or fifth concert on NPR.

With The Swell Season, they played for 34 minutes (a Tiny Desk Record).  And this Concert is no shortie either at nearly 22 minutes.

He’s playing songs from his solo album (on that same beat up guitar).   Although he is distinctly himself, without the band(s), he sounds a bit like Cat Stevens and sometimes like Van Morrison (and he looks like Gordon Lightfoot).

He sings rather quietly and then impressively loudly–powerful and passionate.  He is clearly into what he does.

“Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” is rocking folk song (he throws a coda of RESPECT at the end) in which he really belts out a few parts.  He’s got a delightful “La la la” middle section, and the overall melody is great.

“Bird of Sorrow” is  much more mellow song.  It builds through some verses and allows him to belt out a few lines near the end.

“Come Way to the Water” has him on a 4 string tenor guitar.  Although it is quite clearly a Glen Hansard song, the guitar is much more timid sounding compared to his voice.  And it really does give the song a very different (darker) feeling.  In fact when it’s over, he says, “that was kind of depressing wasn’t it?”

“Lucia” is a “song he hasn’t finished yet” but he’s going to play it because “it’s a little bit happier.”  Although the lyrics are “Lucia, you’re letting me down again / Lucia, your heart’s not in it babe…. And if your heart’s not in it, then your heart’s not in it, babe.”  Not exactly a happy song.  But very pretty.

“The Song of Good Hope” is slower with no big powerful singing, but it’s really heartfelt and intense.

And as always, he is unfailingly polite and thanks everyone for listening.

My friend Jonathan says that he will always try to see Hansard live, and it seems like I should be doing the same next time he comes around.

[READ: January 12, 2017] “At Home in the Past”

The June 6 & 13, 2016 issue of the New Yorker was the Fiction Issue.  It also contained five one page reflections about “Childhood Reading.” 

As soon as I started reading this, I knew that Sarah would want to read it as well.  For although I have not, Sarah has read The Secret Garden, which is what Tessa Hadley is writing about here.

Tessa says that she didn’t own many books as a child–mostly she borrowed from the library.  But the ones she did own she read over and over and “some of them soaked in deep under my skin, composing my private mythology and shaping my mind.”

She says she had a Puffin paperback of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden.  The cover picture of a dark-haired girl in a white coat standing among thorny bare rose bushes looks just like Mary Lennox is described in the book.

Although it was published in 1911, she felt no separation from the Edwardians.  She felt at home in the past and often preferred it to modernity, which seemed somehow inferior. (more…)

Read Full Post »

giant-daysSOUNDTRACK: NATHANIEL RATELIFF & THE NIGHT SWEATS-Tiny Desk Concert #488 (November 17, 2015).

nateNathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats get a ton of airplay on WXPN–perhaps a bit too much airplay.  And yet I can’t deny the supreme catchiness of his music which owes a lot to Van Morrison’s brand of soul music.

Rateliff was (and perhaps still is) a folk singer.  But in 2015, he released this album with the band The Night Sweats and has had huge success with this more rocking soulfulness.

“I Need Never Get Old” sounds so much like a Van Morrison song that it’s hard to deny how catchy it is (especially the chorus).  “Look It Here” has a similar vibe with the kind of loudly mumbled vocals that sit nicely with backing vocals and horns.  The middle of the song picks up in intensity and changes the overall tone in a good way that segues nicely back into the main melody.

“I’ve Been Failing You” features more piano up front.  It’s a little more bluesy than soulful so I like it a bit less.  Although the backing vocals in the quiet section (Don’t you weep and don’t you worry) are very cool.

Typically a band does three songs, but Bob walks up and shakes his hand and asks if he wants to do another.  Nathaniel asks, do another or do that one over?  But Bob says, no another song if they want to.

The band agrees they can’t really do “Shake,” so instead they play “Mellow Out.”  Rateliff says, “Same key different song.”  And everyone laughs until he realized, “wait it’s actually a different key.  What do I know?”

“Mellow Out” which opens with some very Van Morrison “do do do dos.”   It sounds very much like the other songs–catchy and swinging with horns in all the right places.  When the song ends Bob says it sounded great and someone comments that they had an extra late night last night before the audio turns off.

I am genuinely surprised that they didn’t play “S.O.B.,” their first single (a song used in a Lipton commercial–although not any part that sings “son of a bitch, I might add).  But since I don’t really like that song, I’m glad they played the other ones.

[READ: June 15, 2016] Giant Days Vol. 1

Giant Days was excerpted in the back of a Lumberjanes book and I loved the excerpt–very funny with a great drawing style. Then as I am wont to do, I forgot all about it.  But in the library the other day, the librarian recommended the book and I was delighted to be reminded about it.

This series is set in a British college.  Susan, Esther, and Daisy are roommates.  Susan is the sensible one–a little angry at men and unwilling to take crap from anyone.  Esther is a goth hottie.  She dresses outlandishly and has a (literal?) forcefield of bad luck around her.  And Daisy was home schooled–she is very sweet and rather naive.

I loved right from the start when the three girls head out to campus.  Susan bets Esther that she can’t go three days without some kind of drama happening around her.  But as soon as they get outside, Susan see McGraw.  And she is furious.  McGraw has floppy hair and a big ol’ mustache.  And they launch into each other with cold pleasantries.

When the girls  force Susan to tell the story, there’s a very funny moment when the other two start chanting Flash-Back Flash-Back but we get a brief, intentionally unsatisfying one. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THE SWELL SEASON-Live at the Newport Folk Festival, August 1, 2010 (2010).

This is the second show by the Swell Season that I downloaded from NPR (even though it is not chronologically second).  The Newport Folk Festival proves to be an excellent venue for Glen Hansard and The Frames.  For yes, in this show, The Frames play with them.  A (very brief) history: Glen Hansard was the red-haired dude from The Commitments (yes, seriously).  After that movie, he started The Frames and they were HUGE (in Ireland and Czechoslovakia).  They even released a record with a few songs that appear in the film Once.  Then Glen met Marketa and formed The Swell Season, which was really just the two of them.  And they recorded a couple of those Frames songs for their debut album.  And then they made Once, and they rerecorded some of those songs for the Soundtrack.  So you can get quite a few versions of a couple of these songs.  The Swell Season was originally just the two of them.  But as of late they’ve been playing with the Frames as well.  So it’s like a full circle, sort of.

The big opens space of Newport, combined with a rowdy but appreciative crowd prove a perfect venue for them.  Glen is in wonderful storytelling mode, regaling the crowd with funny introductions to songs (that was Elijah!) and dealing with an overzealous fan (who I believe calls Glen a red-headed bastard–out of love: Hansard replies “I liked you for about two comments…I’ve been wanting to play here forever, you’re kind of wrecking my day….  I’m kidding”).

But it’s the music that is so good.  I’ve thought that he sounds not unlike Van Morrison, and this version of “Low Rising” that opens the set brings out the Van.  Its’ really outstanding.  The really makes some of the songs rock out, too, like when he burst into a chorus of “Love Reign O’er Me” during the otherwise mellow “Back Broke.”  Also, the full band version of “When Your Mind’s Made Up” is tremendous–when the band is rocking out and then stops on a dime for that final “So” I am blown away every time.  And yet, despite the presence of the band, some of their solo songs are the most striking.  Marketa’s, “If You Want Me” holds the crowd rapt.  And Glen’s emotionally gut wrenching “Leave” is stunning–and a little hair-raising.

Interestingly, when you download the show (by subscribing to NPR podcasts), you only get 43 minutes, rather than the entire 62 minutes of the show.  I assume they didn’t have the rights to give us the covers that the band played.  They open the set with Tim Buckley’s “Buzzin’ Fly,” and he plays Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” while they tune some strings and they rock out Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” (this furthers my assertion that there’s a Van Morrison connection here, although I didn’t know this was played live until I streamed the concert.

The Swell Season seems like an awesome band to see live.

[READ: August 21, 2011] Level Up.

Gene Luen Yang is also a wonderful storyteller.  His book American Born Chinese is fantastic.  This is another slice of life story, although I suspect it can’t be true about himself (well, I mean there are angels that do his laundry so obviously it isn’t true).  But I don’t know a thing about him personally so maybe he is a video game champion and a gastroenterologist as well as a novel writer.

Anyhow, the story is a fairly simple one: When Dennis is six years old, he sees a Pac Man video game console and he is instantly hooked.  The problem is that his parents want him to be a successful student–specifically, they want him to become a doctor–so there’s no fooling around with video games.  He gets good grades in school.  But when his father dies, he finally feels free to get a video game console and he finds himself playing more video games than studying.  And by the time he gets to university he actually flunks out.

His mother doesn’t learn about this disgrace because before he can do anything more drastic, the aforementioned angels threaten the dean of admissions until she lets him back into school.  They angels (who came to life from a card his father had given him) then monitor him carefully, doing all of his chores for him while ensuring that he studies his brains out.  Which he does.

And he gets into med school! (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: KANYE WEST-My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010).

Before buying this album I really only knew of Kanye West as a loudmouthed guy who tweeted a lot and told off George Bush.  But then everyone was raving about this album (Pitchfork gave it a 10 out of 10!).  So I decided to check it out.  And I can’t get over how great an album it is.

Now I’m going to start this review by mentioning a few things I dislike about rap as a genre.  1) I dislike all of the “guests” that appear on a record–I bought the album because for you, not your friends.  2) I dislike excessive use of “unh” and “yeah” at the beginning of a track; when you have nothing to say–let the backing music flow, save your voice for actual words.  3) Rap is still terribly misogynist and vulgar–I’ve nothing against vulgarity per se (I do have something against misogyny) but excessive use is lazy, and it stands out much more in a rap song since you’re saying the words not singing them.

The Kanye West album is guilty of all three of these things, and yet I still think it’s fantastic.  The first reason is because it goes beyond a lot of rap by introducing real musical content into the songs.  This is not an “all rap is just a beatbox” dismissal of rap, it’s an observation that rap tends to be more about the lyrics and the musical accompaniment can get kind of lazy.  West’s songs have (beautiful) choruses, strings, and samples that augment the rest of the song, as opposed to samples that ARE the song.  And Kanye West’s voice is great.  His delivery is weird and twisted, a little cocky but more funny, with a twisted attitude that is really cool–and to my rather limited palate of rappers, it’s original.

The opening of the disc “Dark Fantasy” has a chorus singing “Can we get much higher” which is catchy and cool (and is used in the promo for The Hangover 2).  The switch from this opening to the rapping works well (aside from the FOUR “yea”s).  Although I don’t love the yeahs, I love his delivery, and that he occasionally ends lines with these weird “hunh” sounds, that are wonderfully emphatic.

The guests start showing up on track 2, but even the guests can’t detract from the excellent guitars of the song (and the cool solo). And I’ll say about the guests that I like some of them, but for the most part I’d rather hear Kanye.

“Power” samples King Crimson’s, “21st Century Schizoid Man”; anyone who samples King Crimson is alright with me.  But to use it so perfectly, to make it part of your song is real genius.  It works musically as well as within the overall concept of the album.

“All of the Lights” (with the pretty piano intro) features scads of guests including John Legend, The-Dream, Elly Jackson, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Elton John (!), and Rihanna.  I can hear some of these people but not Elton John (why would he agree to be on a track where you can’t even hear him?).  It is a beautiful pop track nevertheless.

“Monster” is a monster of tracks with yet more guests (I like that some of these guests break with the typical guest, like Bon Iver (!)).  And I really like Nicki Minaj’s verse.  [I’m not familiar with her work at all (in fact I keep wanting to say Minja instead of Minaj) but her verse with the wonderfully crazy vocal styling she displays is weird and cool and very powerful–I would like to check out her solo album, but the samples I heard weren’t that interesting].  It also has a great repeated chorus of being a “motherfucking monster.”

It’s followed by the even more catchy “So Appalled” (with FIVE guest rappers–some of whom I’ve never heard of but who do a good job.  I love Cyhi da Prince’s lyrics: “I am so outrageous, I wear my pride on my sleeve like a bracelet, if God had an iPod, I’d be on his playlist”  or  “So call my lady Rosa Parks/I am nothing like them niggas baby those are marks/I met this girl on Valentine’s Day/fucked her in May/she found out about April so she chose to March” or this line, “y’all just some major haters and some math minors.”

“Devil in a New Dress” opens with a bunch of “unhs” (which I dislike) but this is nice ballad in the midst of all of the noise (and it has some clever lyrics).  It morphs right into “Runaway” one of the more audacious singles I can think of.  The piano melody is so simple (a single note to start) and the lyrics show Kanye as a loser in relationships.  It’s a surprisingly thoughtful song for a song with a chorus that goes: “Lets have a toast for the douchebags, let’s have a toast for the asshole; a toast for the scumbags every one of them that I know.  You been putting up with my shit for way too long…runaway fast as you can.”  It gets even more audacious when you realize the last 4 minutes of the song are a solo with distorted voice.  And the video…the video is 35 minutes long!

The sentiment of that song is erased by the next one, “Hell of  a Life”.  It opens with a great distorted guitar riff and lyrics about sex with a porn star.   “Blame Game” is a surprisingly honest song about being nasty to your girlfriend (“I’d rather argue with you than be with someone else”).  It features a sample of Aphex Twin’s (!) “Avril 14th”.  And it’s quite a sad but lovely track.  It ends with a very long skit by Chris Rock.  I like Chris Rock, but this dialogue is kind of creepy because the woman who Rock is talking to (about the great sex she gave him) seems to be a robotic sample–why not have an actual woman talk to him?

The final track, “Lost in the World” has a lengthy intro by an auto-tuned Bon Iver.  It’s one of my favorite tracks on the disc, especially the end, where the processed vocals get even weirder but accent the beat wonderfully.  This track morphs into what is the actual final track, “Who Will Survive in America” which is basically a long recitation from Gil-Scot Heron.  It works great as an album closer.

So, despite several things I don’t like about the disc, overall, it’s really an amazing release.  And I can overlook the few things I dislike because the rest is so solid.  I can’t decide if it’s worth looking for his earlier releases.  How can they live up to this one?

[READ: May 6, 2011] McSweeney’s #37

This is the first McSweeney’s book where I’ve had to complain about the binding.  The glue peeled off pretty quickly from the center cover.  Fortunately, the back cover held up well.  I’m guessing it’s because there’s an extra book tucked into the front cover which prevents the book from closing nicely when it’s removed.

But aside from that, the design of the cover is very cool.  It is meant to look like a book (duh), but actually like a 3-D book, so the bottom right and top left corners are cut on diagonals (this makes for a very disconcerting-looking book inside–with triangles cut across the top).  The artwork inside is also cool.  In keeping with this appearance, each two page spread looks like a book with a spine drawing in the gutter of the pages).  And the bottom of each page has lines making it look like the bottom of a book.  (The illustrated margins are by SOPHIA CARA FRYDMAN and HENRY JAMES and there are interior paintings by JONATHAN RUNCIO).

The front matter is wonderful.  Although it gives the usual publishing information, the bulk of this small print section is devoted to counteracting all the claims that the book is dead.  It offers plenty of statistics to show that not only are the public reading, they are reading more than ever.  The introduction also goes a long way towards arguing against the idea that people are reading less now than in the past.  When was this “golden age” of readers?  There’s also the wonderfully encouraging news that 98% of American are considered literate.

This issue opens with letters. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: A CAMP-Colonia (2009).

This is the second album from the side project of The Cardigan’s Nina Persson.  This disc was created with her husband Nathan Larson from Shudder to Think.  Their first album had a country flair to it, but this one eschews that entirely for a pop feel that is entirely different from The Cardigans’ two main styles: the “cheesy” happy pop of “Lovefool” and the bitter guitar pop of their later discs.

Although like the Cardigans, Nina uses her beautiful, almost angelic voice to mask the critical, often bitter lyrics that fuel this disc.  The music is kind of sparse, which really allows for Nina’s voice to shine through. “Stronger Than Jesus” is a wonderful song about, of all things, love.  While “Bear on the Beach” opens with a delicate twinkling piano. And “Love Has Left the Room” has soaring vocals and a wonderfully catchy melody line.

The best track is probably “Golden Teeth and Silver Medals” a cool duet with a tongue-twisting chorus.

They also have a bit of fun with genres, so “Here Are Many Wild Animals” opens like a doo-wop song, but swerves into a cool minor key masterpiece.  Even the album closer, the slow, meandering “The Weed Had Got There First” works nicely with Nina’s voice (although I wouldn’t want a whole album like this).

Anyone who misses the Cardigans would do well to track down this disc; or, if you find the Cardigans too treacly, this is a great representation of the true side of Nina’s character.  I just can’t decide if the A in the band name is the indefinite article or the letter A.

[READ: March 3, 2010] “By Song, Not Album”

My friend and coworker Anna loaned me this issue of The Sun saying that she thought I would enjoy it.  I’d never heard of it before, but I’m always up for new things, so I decided to check it out.  I really enjoyed the Photo Essay “With Eyes Shut.”  And I read two of the longer pieces as well.

This first one, is, I believe non-fiction.  And if it is non-fiction, it is the least believable non-fiction piece I may have ever read.  I was interested to read it because of the title, which seemed an interesting conceit for a story.  And while that does come into play, the story is really about a young woman who is studying abroad in France who is suffering from a severe depression.

The only one who can pull her through is her father, who is similarly afflicted with depression.  He flies over to assist her and they wind up spending several days together.

What I found unbelievable, was the way her father behaves.   (more…)

Read Full Post »

tny 11.3.08 cvr.inddSOUNDTRACK: Once Motion Picture Soundtrack (2007).

onceSarah and I saw a preview for this film a long time ago and promptly forgot about it.  Then, she remembered it was called One or The One or something….  Luckily Netflix set us straight, and we rented Once.  We were amazed at how much we liked it.  It’s clearly a labor of love for the creators.  You can tell it didn’t cost a lot of money to make, but the performances are top notch.  What was particularly cool about the movie (aside from the music) was that it starts like a typical romance of boy meets girl: they play music together and he falls in love.  But it very quickly deviates from that path and turns into a much more complex storyline.  It’s not hard to follow, but it’s a lot more complex than you’d at first think.  But clearly the movie is a showcase for these songs.

We were also delighted that about a week after we watched the film. “Falling Slowly” won the Academy Award for Best Song.  That was nice synchronicity for us.

“Falling Slowly” is a beautiful song, as are just about all of the songs on this soundtrack.  Glen Hansard (the redhead in the Commitments, currently of The Frames–who I’ve not heard aside from this disc, but who I’m led to understand are quite good) has a great, strong, rough voice that sounds a bit like Cat Stevens mixed with some Van Morrison.  Marketa Irglova (about whom more in a moment) is a Czech singer with a really heavenly voice.  Together, their harmonies are really something.  His, rough and strong, hers soft and delicate.

One of the strongest songs on the disc, and in my opinion better than “Falling,” is “When Your Mind’s Made Up.”  The movie shows the band recording this song in full in the studio.  I was happy that the scene wasn’t one of those where the band screws up and they do take after take.  Rather, they play it through solidly and it sounds great. It really makes the song stand out in the movie.  And, there’s something about the way that Hansard screams the chorus as it builds to an impossible crescendo that is really breathtaking.

The rest of the disc features more songs from the movie (there’s a special version of the disc with extra tracks but we didn’t feel compelled to get it).  And the selection is fairly diverse within the strictures of his acoustic guitar and her piano.  She has a ballad of her own, and they do many duets.

As for Marketa Irglova, I didn’t know this until I just looked her up, but apparently, she was “discovered’ by Hansard when she was 13, and she toured the Czech Republic and Ireland with the Frames.  Evidently she and Hansard started dating sometime around the filming of the movie.  I’m not really prudish but there’s something about the 38 year old Hansard dating the 19 year old Irglova that’s a little creepy.  Nevertheless, the music they make together is pretty great.

[READ: November 6, 2008] “The Fat Man’s Race”

The author’s name sounded familiar so I thought I’d give this a read.  Then when I saw it was about a page and a half long, how could I refuse?

Recently I’ve read a number of stories that seemed like the weren’t finished.  I am happy to say that despite its length, this story was clearly done.  (more…)

Read Full Post »