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SOUNDTRACK: MEREBA-Tiny Desk Concert #916 (November 27, 2019).

Who the heck is Mereba?

Very few artists get to return to the Tiny Desk, and fewer still return twice in the same year. But after contributing background vocals behind the desk for Dreamville artist Bas in early 2019, we invited Mereba back for a solo set that puts her eclectic, major-label debut The Jungle Is The Only Way Out into sharp focus.

As with many singers I’ve never heard of, I’m not sure if these songs sound like this on the record or if they are more dancey.  I do quite like the simple, organic sounds that accompany these songs.

The stripped-down soundscape Mereba achieves live with her four-piece band is equally dreamlike here, drawing from influences as wide-ranging as the many places she’s called home (Alabama, Philly, North Carolina, Atlanta, Ethiopia). As she pulls from genres as seemingly disparate as folk, rap and spoken word, her set reflects the years she spent perfecting her craft on live stages in Atlanta cafes and clubs, where she attracted the attention of the indie creative collective Spillage Village  before joining them in 2014.

She sings three songs and recites a poem (all on the album).

When “Black Truck” started I thought she sounded exactly like Alanis Morissette.  The way she says “and I said world would you please have some mercy on me” sounds very uncannily like her.  The song is a quiet, mellow piece that starts with a simple bass line (including some harmonics) from Chris James and guitar washes that turn into a nice picked melody from Sam Hoffman.  After a minute or so, Aisha Gaillard plays a simple drum beat and the song kicks into higher gear.

Through all of this, the backing vocals from Olivia Walker were just beautiful.  The end of the song turns into a kind of rap as the guitar and bass fade out.  I say kind of a rap because Mereba is also a poet and she has more of a poet’s delivery than a rapper’s delivery.

For “Stay Tru” the guys switch instruments and the bass takes on a slightly more lead role.  But this song is also very mellow.  Mereba’s vocals sound a bit more Jamaican in his song.  Midway through, James switches to violin and Mereba plays keys which adds a whole new texture.  I didn’t like this song as much because the chorus is kinda lame with a lot of repeating of “cut the bullshit, this time” sung in a sweet voice.  It also seems to drag on for a really long time (although it is very pretty).

“Dodging The Devil” is a poem she wrote when things just didn’t seem to be going right.  After a couple of verses, a quiet guitar line fills in the background.

On the last song, “Kinfolk,” Mereba plays the main guitar line while Sam plays single soaring notes.  The song kicks into gear with a simple guitar riff and some prominent bass.

I really enjoyed this set.  I thought the music was beautifully restrained and her voice distinct enough in each song to show such a range of sounds.  It’s always nice to be surprised by a new musician.

[READ: November 15, 2019] Cursed

I saw this book in the new YA section at the library.  I was attracted by the cover and fascinated by the “soon to be a Netflix Original Series” sticker.

I have known of Frank Miller for years.  I’m sure I’ve read graphic novels by him, although I don’t know if I’ve read Sin City (maybe a long time ago?).  Mostly he drew superhero comics which is not my thing.  Turns out I really don’t like his artistic style in this book (at least for the way he draws the heroine–I rather like the way the bad guys are drawn).  If the series was in any way designed to look like the art in the book I don’t think I’d watch it.

But the story itself is petty darn good.  It took me a while to read it for some reason. I guess maybe the opening was a little slow because there’s so much going on it takes awhile to really get settled in this universe.

But the description of the story is pretty intriguing: Whosoever wields the sword of power shall be the one true king.  But what if the sword has chosen a queen?

For this is a story of Arthurian legend with many many twists.  My knowledge of Arthurian legend is surprisingly minimal.  I love the story and I know the main participants, but there is a lot of information in here that I didn’t know about–or even how much Wheeler is making up. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TOBE NWIGWE-Tiny Desk Concert #881 (August 19, 2019).

Tobe Nwigwe is the leader, but he shares the spotlight with his backing vocalists all of whom take lead vocal spots at some point.

The thing I like best about this set is that they are all wearing T shirts that say “My First Tiny Desk.”

There’s a wide array of sounds on this Tiny Desk too, from delicate R&B to some abrasive rapping.  I like the abrasive rapping a lot more–he has terrific delivery in that part.

Tobe’s performance was a five-song medley sandwiched effortlessly into a 15-minute block. Launching with “Houston Tribute,” he used clever and evocative wordplay to rap about coming of age in the South. Accented almost hypnotically by a trio of harmonies provided by background vocalists Luke Whitney, David Michael Wyatt and Madeline Edwards, Tobe’s mindful words are like a life hack for those seeking guidance.

The song has a gentle melody with delicate keys from Nic Humes.  The song is a rap, but a soft one.  He speaks quickly but the rhymes are positive and amusing.

My flow a monastery for them extra poor people
That don’t get commentary and get honored rarely
For the guava jelly they produce even though they get thrown fecal
Matter on a platter made by they oppressor
I shatter all the chatter that seem to make us lesser

After about two minutes Lucius Hoskins kicks in some guitar licks.  Then Devin Caldwell throws in some cool deep bass sounds making the song sound very full.

Tobe’s wife, Fat, known for her striking beauty and lead role in the magnificently directed music videos that have paved the way to Tobe’s rapid growth on Instagram. And through it all, young Baby Fat sat silently in her mom’s arms, absorbing the spiritual energy of her dad’s music.

After the song he says, “That’s how you do it June 24” (So it took two months for this to air).  Then he says “Lets teach ’em why the caged bird sings.  “Caged Bird” opens with Aldarian Mayes playing some simple drum thumping before Tobe starts rapping.

LaNell “NELL” Grant gets a lead rap mid song then after another chorus, Luke Whitney takes a high falsetto verse followed by an even higher falsetto from David Michael Wyatt.

Up next is “Against the Grain.”  Madeline Edwards takes the first lead vocal, but Ii love this song for the great raw sound of the bass and guitar and Tobe’s growling rapping delivery.

Aight, I feel like the masses on melatonin when it come to melanin
I grew up melancholy ’cause I ain’t realize that the hemoglobin in my skin
Was connected to a lineage that never ever had to penny pinch

That sound is unlike anything else in the set, although it does segue into “Shine” with more lead vocals from Madeleine.

Throughout the set he offered pleas for listeners to look past inherent hardships and evil and to keep their eyes on the prize, while he reflected on his own decision to go against his Nigerian roots and parental expectations to pursue his dreams of being a rapper.

He is very funny and says, “I’m Nigerian I know a lot of y’all though I was regular black”  For Nigerian parents, if their children haven’t done one of three things they’ve wasted their lives: become a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer.  So you can imagine when I told my mom that I wanted to be a rapper. She said (in maternal Nigerian accent) Tobe, why are you such a parasite to my life?  Tobe, why do you love poverty so much? Tobe, why re you trying to kill me?

Legends like Dave Chapelle and Erykah Badu were telling me I was dope which is what  “I’m Dope” is about.  David Michael Wyatt sings an impressive falsetto and the song actually does mention that Chapelle and Badu said he was dope.

The credits also cite Igbo Masquerade: art.  I’m not sure what that’s a reference to.

[READ: September 1, 2019] Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Comic

I couldn’t imagine how this comic book would work with the premise of Mystery Science Theater 3000’s movie riffing.  But Joel Hodgson had an idea and it works wonderfully.

The Mads up on the dark side of the moon are still tormenting a guy up on the Satellite of Love.

This book is Netflix-era, so the Mads are now represented by Kinga, Synthia, TV’s Son of TV’s Frank (Max) and the Boneheads.  And joining Crow, Tom Servo and Gypsy on the SOL are Jonah and two small robot creatures that I didn’t recognize (I haven’t watches the Netflix episodes).

I absolutely hate the way Todd Nauck draws the host segments. I can’t stand the mouth designs on anyone, especially Kinga.  They all look like the Joker (is that because this is from Dark Knight comics?) and are horrifying.

But once you get past the art design of the host segments, the premise is pretty great.  Synthia has designed a machine The Bubbulat-r which allows a person to enter a comic book.  They test it out on Max and his favorite book Funny Animals.  Max jumps in as a rabbit can talk to the other characters.

The book explains that there’s a little bubble at the bottom of the word balloon to indicate a line that has been added and is not a line from the actual book.

But when Max comes back he tells us that the cute little bunny is in fact four feet tall with powerful sinewy limbs and reeks of a bizarre musk.

But the key point is that that Kinga has invented a way to do movie riffing from inside the comic.  So Kinga sends them comics and our heroes are inserted into different books. (more…)

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