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Archive for the ‘Tiny Desk Family Hour’ Category

SOUNDTRACKLEIKELI47-“Money” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

This was the final show recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

Leikeli47 was the ninth and final Tiny Desk Family Hour act to take the stage at Austin’s Central Presbyterian Church during SXSW last week. So naturally, the charismatic, genre-smashing masked rapper closed NPR Music’s big night with as much intensity, joy and free-wheeling fervor as the moment required.

I hadn’t heard of Leikeli47 until recently when she did a Tiny Desk Concert.  I don’t know much about her except that she wears a bandanna over her face (with eye and mouth holes–it’s pretty impressive how well it stays on), because she’s about the music, not the cult of personality.

This song is fun and bouncy but the lyrics are so blah–money, money money.  I think the music is great, though–the TSA band jams nicely.  And Leikeli47 herself is full of fun and verve.

Backed by the four costumed players who make up The TSA Band (Timmy Manson Jr: drums; Justus West: guitar; Simba Scott: bass; Portier: piano, vocals). Leikeli47 exhorted the crowd to dance, sway, sing and snap along through a five-song set that just kept getting lighter and more infectiously sweet-natured. The budding star softened some of her saltier material in deference to the setting — “The Lord knows my heart,” she said through a visible smile — and closed out the night with “Money,” a springy and appropriately titled banger.

I don’t think the song is enough of a banger, frankly.

[READ: March 22, 2019] “Run Me to Earth”

It is 1977 after 7 years in prison, Vang and Prany were finally released after pledging loyalty to the country.  Their re-education was complete.

When they are released the guard explains that they are lucky to live where they do.  They will have jobs that will make them work hard–under the old regime we were not working hard enough…corrupted by the Japanese, the French, the Americans.

They are to be self-sufficient–providing for their village which will provide for the country.

When they were arrested–the guard wondered why they resisted so long–they both had their fingers broken.  Vang recovered but Prany lost the use of his left hand.  Now Prany was twenty-five.  Vang was almost 40. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKFRAGILE ROCK-“Smile More” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next two shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

It’s hard to talk seriously about Fragile Rock since they are a band of puppets.  Literally.

To say that Fragile Rock sent the evening hurtling sideways would be an understatement, as the band unleashed a torrent of faux-grim hilarity and chaos when it wasn’t urging the audience to shout out its prescribed antidepressants or berating fans for grinning along. (“We don’t appreciate your smiles,” seethed Brently Heilbron, in the persona of wounded frontpuppet Milo S. “You wouldn’t do that to Conor Oberst.”

And yet they are a good punk band and their lyrics have become even more pointed.  Especially this one.  They explain:

This is a song that Nick and I wrote reflecting on the #metoo and #timesup movements (that’s right lady in the back snapping your fingers you are correct).

This is a great punk blast and frankly it’s nice to hear a song sung by the female vocalists instead of the Fred Schneider-sounding male lead singer.

For “Smile More,” the spotlight shifted to Emily Cawood (performing as Briex Cocteau) and Megan Thornton (aka Nic Hole), who spent two minutes savaging the patriarchy. “Don’t tell me to smile more, don’t tell me what my mouth is for, from a man who started every war,” Thornton and her puppet shouted in unison. And, see, here’s the secret to Fragile Rock’s raucous, ridiculous charm: Subtract the puppets, the stage antics and the silliness of all, and you’re still left with some pretty damned good songs.

And nice succinct lyrics:

You could have had it all
You blew it didn’t you
I’m gonna watch you fall and
Never ever pity you
You’re purposeless
Your license is expired
Your services are no longer required

Your time has come and gone….time’s up!

All in two minutes.

[READ: March 14, 2019] Florida

When I started reading this book, I instantly remembered reading “Ghosts and Empties” in the New Yorker.  I assumed and was pleased that this was a full novel built out of that story.  Why?  Because nowhere on this book does it say that these are short stories.   Not on the cover, not on the front page, nor the back page.  It’s somewhere on the fly leaf, but since Groff also writes novels, it’s a bit of an oddity to not say “stories” somewhere on it.  I looked at the Table of Contents, obviously, but just assumed those where chapter headings.

I was exited to read the fuller story of the woman who walks at night.  And then I found out that the next “chapter” was a new story.  It turned out to be a fantastic story.  So that’s all good.  I don’t mind reading short stories at all, it was just a surprise.

It also turned out that I have read five of these short stores before (she is often printed in the New Yorker–the other stories were in different journals which I put in brackets after each title).

“Ghosts and Empties” (New Yorker, July 20, 2015)
I see now that I didn’t really enjoy this story the first time I read it (and yet it stayed with me all these years).  But I did enjoy it more this time (I still find it unsatisfying that the opening parental freakout part is never really addressed).  But basically this is a story in which woman walks around her neighborhood every night and observes things changing–for better or worse.  Old nuns dying, new houses being built, neighbors changing.  All in the heat of Florida. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKAMANDA PALMER-“The Ride” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next few shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

This show is the most interesting visually because Palmer is sitting at her piano and the camera is at all angles–so you can see the crowd and how close they are to the performers.

The blurb is also interesting because I had no idea the performers only played for about 15 minutes.

When Amanda Palmer heard she’d have around 15 minutes for her Tiny Desk Family Hour performance, she assumed there wouldn’t be time for most of the songs on her new album, There Will Be No Intermission, a sprawling masterwork with epic tracks clocking in at 10 minutes or more. So, she showed up with just her ukulele in hand, prepared for a stripped-down, abbreviated set. But when we wheeled out a grand piano just for her – and after I gushed to the crowd about Palmer’s brilliant new opus on the nature of humanity called “The Ride” – she decided she had to play it.

Like many of the tracks on There Will Be No Intermission, “The Ride” is a deep, existential dive into fear, death, loneliness and grief, with the tiniest glimmer of hope or comfort at the end. This is Palmer’s first album in seven years and it documents all she’s been through in that time. It’s also an album she says wouldn’t have been possible if she hadn’t decided to make it on her own, with crowdfunding support from fans. “It’s a very intense record. It’s been a very intense seven years of my life since I put out my last one,” she told the crowd at Austin’s Central Presbyterian Church. And without having a label to answer to, she said she was able to “write an entire album with songs that are really long and about miscarriage and abortion and about the kind of stuff I don’t want to take up to ‘Steve’ in marketing to try to explain why this record should exist.”

It’s a powerful song–simple and mostly unchanging–where the focus is on the words.  But those few times when the vocal melody changes or she adds that circus melody it’s a jarring change from the story she’s presenting.

Though she’s played abbreviated versions of “The Ride” in past shows, this is one of her earliest performances of the full, album-length song. Two days after her Tiny Desk Family Hour set, Palmer returned to the Central Presbyterian Church for an epic, two-and-a-half hour concert with just her ukulele and piano.

[READ: February 2019] Future Home of the Living God

I’m not sure what drew me to this book. I have read (and enjoyed) many short stories by Erdrich, so I assume her name stood out.  The title is also pretty cool.

But I really had no idea what was coming.  I also didn’t know that Erdrich is Turtle Mountain Chippewa, which obviously lends weight to her Native American depictions.

This story is about Cedar Hawk Songmaker, an adult woman who was adopted by “Minnesota liberals” as a baby.  When she went to find her Ojibwe parents, she learned that she was born Mary Potts.

The book is written as Cedar’s diary.  It begins August 7 (year unstated).  The book is set in the future.  A cataclysmic event has happened and I absolutely love that since this book is written from Cedar’s point of view, she doesn’t know what happened.  She will never learn what happened, and neither will we.  It is just understood that evolution as we know it has stopped.  People seem to be devolving. Or more specifically babies are being born in a state of devolution.  Again, no more details are given. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKGINA CHAVEZ-“The Sweet Sound of Your Name,” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next few shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

NPR’s Felix Contreras writes:

Years ago, Chavez was a SXSW discovery: I’d tracked her down at some unofficial showcase and was immediately mesmerized by the Austin singer-songwriter. Since then, many good things have come her way, and she’s developed into a major artist. On this Tiny Desk Family Hour video…Chavez’s voice floated into the sacred space during “The Sweet Sound of Your Name,” a 2014 song about another kind of devotion. She’d just performed a deeply emotional pair of songs, barely holding her emotions in check. And like the eight other acts to perform in this special lineup, she tapped into the communal intimacy of the setting, finding magic along the way.

Gina played a Tiny Desk Concert a few years ago and I really liked her.  She had power and passion and a wonderful voice.  She also sang in English and Spanish which was pretty cool.

This song is a delicate gentle jazzy song.  And while her voice is lovely and it’s appropriate for the setting, it just feels like a bit of letdown from what else I know by her.

The song is quite nice, bit it feels too much like lite jazz.  Gina is on her guitar and sings a very delicate verse with lovely backing vocals.  There’s a sweet Spanish line and then after the first verse the jazzy music kicks in–jazzy drums, and jazzy keyboard stabs–delicate and soft.  A jazzy trumpet solo comes in the middle.

There’s no question that she has a lovely voice, but this song, pretty as it may be, just doesn’t excite me that much.  It may be a situation of having just enough information to wish it was something else.

Although reading the blurb from Contreras makes it more apparent why she seems so wracked by the end.

  And I’m sure seeing it in person was much more dramatic.

[READ: March 21, 2019] Monsters Beware

I had really enjoyed the first two books in this series but for some reason I was hesitant to jump into this one.  It may be because the titles are so similar it’s hard to know how the books can be any different.  I needn’t have worried as this book was just as good–if not a lot weirder–than the first two.

In the second book, Claudette talked of a great sword called Breaker (which they eventually found).  We also saw the evil wizard Grombach get locked in amber forever.

This story uses those two aspects of the previous stories but adds a new twist–a young warrior competition!

Claudette is super excited about it–but the king says there is no way he will let her participate.  Worse yet (well, not for her exactly), her brother Gaston has had his magical gelato stall shut down (no magic is allowed during the competition) and after the competition, her best friend Marie (the king and queen’s daughter) is being sent away to finishing school. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKWYCLEF JEAN-“Maria Maria Medley” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next few shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

So this was Wyclef Jean, who I feel has been keeping a low profile but who apparently is always busy,

At this point in his life and career, Wyclef Jean can do just about whatever he wants. He’s sold millions in many configurations: as a leader of The Fugees, as a solo artist, as a featured guest on Shakira’s eternal “Hips Don’t Lie,” as a producer and collaborator on Santana’s Grammy-winning 1999 blockbuster Supernatural and more.

His latest project is an endearing exercise in torch-passing called Wyclef Goes Back to School, an album in which he collaborates with college students he’d scouted in a talent search.  Jean showed up with an electric guitar and a pair of young mentees: Jazzy Amra and Jeremy Torres, the latter of whom joined him for a loose and appropriately smooth take on “Maria Maria.”

As polished as the result sounds once it gets rolling, the performance’s improvisational nature gets stated right upfront for the audience to see: “So Jeremy, what I’m gonna do is, I’m just gonna vibe. And just keep up. OK? Keep up with Uncle Wyclef.”

Jeremy starts playing and Jean says, “Don’t do that, let me go first.”   Jean plays the song simply on the guitar and Jeremy sings some occasional backing notes.  Mid song, Jean starts singing some nonsense sounds and then stops and says, ” Now that’s what you call mumble rap.”

Midway through the song Jeremy takes over and strums and sings his  lyrics “Dominicana, she looks like Rhianna” and turns the song into an ode to a “mujer de Cuba.”  He has a good voice, although it’s a bit whiny to me.

There’s a lot to be said for this project even if I didn’t love the song.

[READ: March 19, 2019] Dear Sister

This story was so cute and so sweet and made me cry a whole bunch.  Which is pretty good for a graphics-heavy Tween book that you can read in twenty minutes.

The brother in the book is a few years older than his new baby sister.  The first page says “Dear Sister, They told me to draw a picture of you for your baby book.”  And on the bottom half of the page is a screaming baby with stuffed animals plugging their ears.

The illustrations by Bluhm are outstanding.

The next page:

Dear Sister,

They told me to write yo ua Three Months Old note for your baby book.

Here you go.

From, Brother

P.S. The reason I signed it from is because I am not sure I love you yet.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN PAUL WHITE-“The Long Way Home,” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next few shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

I have recently been re-listening to The Civil Wars and re-remembered how great John Paul White is.  He’s playing near me in a few weeks, but I can’t go see him.  I do hope he comes back.

John Paul White is a Tiny Desk veteran two times over: He’s performed once as a solo artist and once as half of the decorated and now-defunct Americana duo The Civil Wars. So he was a natural to take the stage for NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Family Hour.  The room felt at once packed and cavernous, with White perfectly suited to the setting. He’s got a voice made for high ceilings.

White is up on stage with just his guitar and his voice.  He plays a song that is about his love/hate relationship about the music business.

White introduced the song with a boast any artistically inclined parent will understand: “I want to do a song for you now that I’m really happy to say makes my kids cry.  It’s not easy. My kids are hard. I immediately felt guilty but knew I was going to record it for the next record. But “The Long Way Home” taps into greater universal truths than that, capturing the way even our most ambitious pursuits can feel like a mere stepping stone to the comfort of the everyday.

It’s a bouncy minor key song and you know it’s going to be a gut-wrencher.  The chorus: “I ain’t leaving, I’m just taking the long way home to you.”

Yikes, if all of White’s songs are as emotionally charged as this, maybe I don’t want to see him in person.  But his voice sounds fantastic.

[READ: March 3, 2019] “Sweet”

This was one-page and thoroughly confusing.

It begins: “Gregory Speen learns to not doubt himself and Mike Brenlan supports him wholeheartedly.”

Then we get small sections about Speen.

Speen can tell that a woman is cruel. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CAUTIOUS CLAY-“Sidewinder” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next few shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

Cautious Clay is the “far-reaching and breezily soulful project of singer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Karpeh.”  I love his stage name, but I wasn’t that crazy about his music–it was a little too soft and flat for my liking.

And yet I really enjoyed this song.

The song is remarkably simple–a rubbery bassline (that never changes throughout the song) and simple slightly jazzy drum beat.  Karpeh sings in his gentle voice and strums occasional delicate chords.  The chords, while gentle, bring in some nice sharp high notes to the otherwise bass-filled song.

But the real joy comes when, after a couple of verses, Karpeh puts down his guitar and picks up his…flute.  He plays a wonderful flute solo and it totally makes the song shine.

[READ: March 17, 2019] Toast on Toast

I have never seen the BBC show Toast of London, but I love Matt Berry and assumed this would be a very funny read.  I see that this also came as an audio book and I assume it would 10 times funnier if it was read by Berry instead of by me.

So this book is an autobiography and “helpful guide to acting” from Steven Toast.  Since I haven’t seen the show I genuinely don’t know if Steven Toast is any good at acting or not.  I can tell from the book that he is a pompous ass (which is 3/4 of the humor), but I don’t know if he is justified by behaving that way.

I’m also unfamiliar with BBC practices and with British stage actors in general.  So, while I assume that most of the names are made up (the more outrageous ones, surely), there may be a few who are real which might make the jokes even funnier.

Best of all, the book is fairly short, so while there are plenty of laughs, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GAELYNN LEA-“I Wait” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next few shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

If you’re going to put together the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour — an epic night of Tiny Desk-style concerts, held at the wonderful Central Presbyterian Church in Austin during SXSW Tuesday night — you might as well kick things off with a core member of the Tiny Desk Family. Gaelynn Lea won 2016’s second annual Tiny Desk Contest with the barest of ingredients: a few swooping violin strokes, a loop pedal and her fragile-but-forceful voice.

At the Tiny Desk Family Hour, Lea performed in that same spare configuration. She closed with a powerful song called “I Wait,” which addresses the way people with disabilities — Lea herself has brittle bone disease, and works as a motivational speaker and teacher as well as a musician — are frequently left out of social justice movements. It’s Lea at her best, as her warm, intense, hauntingly beautiful voice is shot through with a clear sense of purpose.

This song is wonderful.  The looping is simple but effective–the notes are menacing and effective, while the unlooped pizzicato notes add just the right amount of rhythm to this otherwise sparse song.  For this song is all about the lyrics.  Lea details what it’s like to be handicapped–not in the world at large, but within protest movements which supposedly have her best intentions at heart.

So when you hear them
Make claims of progress
Take a good look
And see who isn’t there
We need a seat now
At the table
So please invite us
Or don’t pretend to care.

When Lea brought “I’ll Wait” to an abrupt close, the audience’s soft collective gasp gave way to the night’s first standing ovation.

It’s a stunning ending.

[READ: February 12, 2019] The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo #2

I really enjoyed the first book in this series and I’m happy to see the follow-up.

It opens with a recap from Charles Thompson, a future reporter (who uses a tiny reporter’s pad to write down his thoughts).  He talks about how he met Margo Maloo, the “Monster Mediator” and how with her help, he was able to locate and deal with a troll in his house.  And by “deal with” he means befriend.  For although Margo is a mediator between monsters and humans, she is mostly interested in the safety of the monsters.

Thompson has dozens of readers, he thinks, and maybe this is why Margo wants his help.

She will not be getting any help from Charles’ friend Kevin, who wants nothing to do with any monsters (unless they come in toy-form, like the Battle Beanz). (more…)

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