Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Old Age’ Category

julyaugust200SOUNDTRACK: LITTLE DRAGON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #35 (June 18, 2020).

As I was looking at concert listings, I kept seeing an upcoming show for Little Dragon.  I’d never heard of them but the promo made it sound like I should have (they have been around since 1996!).

Indeed, this Tiny Desk blurb says as much.

The group’s latest album, New Me, Same Us, is their grooviest, most concentrated in years, and I was eager to hear these songs as Little Dragon’s music is best experienced: live on stage. “Some of you might know that we were supposed to be on tour in the states, but due to these crazy times it got canceled,” lead singer Yukimi Nagano says.

So I was interested to check out this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert.  Unfortunately, I was was rather unimpressed by this set, because it seemed to be a lot more “Little” than “Dragon.”  However, the blurb indicates that this is not what they might normally be like:

these stripped-down iterations from the band’s home studio in Sweden move me but in a different way. I find myself focusing on the songwriting and how all the instruments come together for these numbers, proving just how strong the tracks from New Me… are.

Little Dragon is a four piece.  In this home concert they are (maybe) socially distanced–maybe they live together.

The first song “Rush” features prominent bass from Fredrik Wallin, trippy keys from Håkan Wirenstrand, gentle drums from Erik Bodin and very soft vocals from Yukimi Nagano.  Nagano plays the wood blocks or whatever they are and then loops them-which is neat.  Midway through the song during a lengthy, chill an instrumental break, Wallin switches to acoustic guitar as Nagano, oohs.  Then he’s back to the bass for the funky end.

“Where You Belong” ratchets up the fuzz on the bass.  This song doesn’t sound all that different, although that bass is pretty great sounding,

Then as a bonus, Little Dragon played an oldie, “Forever,” which is still my favorite track from this genre-bending band.

“Forever” is the first song they ever wrote together.  It comes from their first album from 2007.  It’s a bit bouncier and funkier and sounds like they may have been a bit more dancey back in the day.

They end the set with “Every Rain” which returns to the trippier sound of the first two songs–echoing keys and Nagano’s soft croon.  Although this set doesn’t make me want to see them live.  I am curious to hear what they sound like when they are not stripped down.

[READ: June 23, 2020] “The Ones We Carry With Us”

This month’s issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue and features two pieces of fiction, one memoir and three poems.

The third piece is fiction although it reads a lot like a memoir.

It starts with the fascinating sentence: ” A few years ago, I accidentally midwifed a death.”

This could literally mean many things, although figuratively it makes sense for what she actually means.

The narrator then goes on to tell us about three women whose lives have impacted her.

The woman who died was Agatha. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: KIRILL GERSTEIN-Tiny Desk Concert #958 (March 11, 2020).

I can’t really keep track of classical pianists. There are so many who are truly amazing.  But I love hearing them.  I also like it when they have a good sense of humor, which most of them seem to have.

The last time pianist Kirill Gerstein was at NPR we gave him a full-size, grand piano to play in a big recording studio. But for this Tiny Desk performance, we scaled him down to our trusty upright. “What will you ask me to play the next time,” he quipped, “a toy piano?”

Even if we had handed him a pint-sized instrument, I’m sure Gerstein could make it sing. Just listen to how Chopin’s lyrical melodies, built from rippling notes and flamboyant runs, flow like a song without words in Gerstein’s agile hands.

What sets Gerstein apart?  Perhaps its his connection to jazz.

The 40-year-old pianist, born in Voronezh, Russia, taught himself to play jazz by listening to his parents’ record collection. A chance meeting with vibraphonist Gary Burton landed him a scholarship to study jazz at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. At age 14, Gerstein was the youngest to enroll at the institution.

He opens the set with Chopin: “Waltz in A-flat, Op. 42.”  It is fast and amazing with some slow, jaunty parts.  Near the end, wow, doe he pound out those bass chords.

Before the second piece he says that it hasn’t been heard on a recording yet–it’s a newly written piece by Thomas Adès.  Two lovers want to hide in the closet and … sleep with each other.  They emerge dead in the morning, so its lascivious and morbid and a very beautiful piece.

The Berceuse for solo piano was written for Gerstein by Thomas Adès, adapted from his 2016 opera The Exterminating Angel. The work, both brooding and beautiful, receives its premiere recording at the Tiny Desk.

It is slow and beautiful, full of sadness and longing.  Until the end when the bass comes pounding and rumbling, full of ominous threat and dread.  And listen to how long he lets those last bass notes ring out!

Up next is a piece by Liszt who I am particularity fond of (even if I only know a few of his pieces).  Gerstein says that Liszt is perhaps the greatest composer that ever touched the instrument.  There are several hundred not famous pieces.  This is a late piece called “A quick Hungarian march.”  Technically it’s called “Ungarischer Geschwindsmarsch”

Gerstein follows by dusting off a truly neglected – and quirky – Hungarian March by Franz Liszt. To my knowledge it’s been recorded only once.

It is jaunty and spirited until the middle where it goes back and forth between fast runs and bouncy melodies.

Since I hadn’t read about his jazz background the first time I listened to this concert I was really surprised when he said he’d be playing the Gershwin-Earl Wild standard “Embraceable You” which he says is for dessert at this lunchtime concert.

Gerstein’s jazz background is still close to his heart. Which brings us to his lovely-rendered closer: Gershwin’s “Embraceable You,” arranged by the American pianist Earl Wild.

Like all master performers, Gerstein gives you the illusion that he’s making it all up as he goes along, even though the virtuosic transcription is intricately mapped out. And somehow, he makes that upright piano sound nine feet long.

It really does sound like he is working on the fly–playing beautiful runs. It’s hard to imagine transcribing and learning all of those notes instead of just improvising them, but that’s what make a great pianist, I guess.

[READ: November 2019] The Abyss

I saw this book at work and thought, a turn of the 20th century Russian author writing about the Abyss?  What’s not to like?

I had not heard of Leonid Andreyev, perhaps because much of his work has not been translated into English.  He died in 1919 and is considered “the leading exponent of the Silver Age of Russian literature.”

This book was translated by Hugh Aplin and it is remarkable how contemporary these stories sound (aside from obviously nineteenth and twentieth century details).

Bargamot and Garaska (1898)
Bargamot was a policeman–a big, thick-headed policeman.  His superiors called him numskull.  But the people on the streets he looked after were quite fond of him because he knew the area and what he knew he knew very well.  This story is set on Easter Saturday night.  People would soon be going to church.  But he was on duty until three o’ clock and he wouldn’t be able to eat until then. The day was going smoothly and he would soon be home until he saw Garaksa, clearly drunk, heading his way: “Where he had managed to get sozzled before daylight constituted his secret, but that he had got sozzled was beyond all doubt.”  Bargamot threatened to send Garaska to the station, but Garaska talked to him about the festivities of the day and was about to present to him an egg (a Russian custom).  But Bargamot’s rough handling smashed the egg.  This story turns surprisingly tender and sad, with a rather touching final line.

A Grand Slam (1899)
This has nothing to do with baseball.  It is about a card game called Vint, which is similar to bridge.  For six years these four people have been playing it: fat hot-tempered Maslennikov (whose name is Nikolai Dmitriyevich, we find out about five pages in) paired with old man Yakov Ivanovich and Yevpraksia Vasilyevna paired with her gloomy brother Prokopy Vailyevich.  Dmitriyevich desperately wanted a grand slam but he had been paired with Yakov Ivanovich who never took risks. Ivanovich was very conservative and never bet more than four–even when he ran an entire trick, he never bet more than four–you never know what might happen. They speak of news and local happenings (like the Dreyfus Affair), but Dmitriyevich stays focused on the game because his cards are lining up for a Grand Slam.  As he goes for that last card, he falls out of his chair, presumably dead.

Silence (1900)
This story is divided into sections.  Fr. Ignaty and his wife need to speak with their daughter Vera. They have a fight and Fr. Ignaty refuses to speak to her any more.  Soon enough she goes out and throws herself under a train [I would hate to be a train conductor in Russia].  In Part II silence has fallen over the house.  In Part III he tries to talk to his wife about his feelings and his sadness over their daughter, but she remains silent.  In the final part, Fr Ignaty finally breaks down.  But is it the silence that has gotten to him?

Once Upon a Time There Lived (1901)
Laventy Petrovich was a large man. He went to Moscow for someone in the city to look at his unusual illness.  He was a silent and morose man and he specifically asked for no visitors.  The hospital assigned Fr. Deacon to him.  Fr. Deacon was another patient, unfailingly positive.  He and Petrovich were at opposite sides of the spectrum.  But even as it became clear that Fr. Deacon was deathly ill, he remained positive.  Until Petrovich told him that the doctors said that Fr. Deacon has a week to live.  There was also a young student who was daily visited by the girl he loved.  They liked Fr deacon and did not like Petrovich. I’m not sure if the ending is a surprise, but it is certainly sudden with happiness doled out in very specific ways.

A Robbery in the Offing (1902)
That night there was to be a robbery and maybe a murder.  A man, alone with his thought is scared by nearly everything–he is very jumpy because he is the one about to do the robbery.  The man was frightened by a noise until he saw it was a little puppy.  The puppy was shivering and the man tried to frighten him to get him to go home. But the puppy seemed too ignore him.  So began the battle of wits between a big strong man and a tiny freezing puppy.  Imagine a man with a robbery in the offing worrying about a little puppy.

The Abyss (1902)
Two young lovers went for a walk.  Zinochka was 17 and very much in love.  Nemovetsky was 21 and similarly in love.  They wandered into an area they didn’t recognize and happened upon three men.  The men punched Nemovetsky and knocked him out then they chased Zinochka . When he came to, he found her body, naked but still alive.  This was a hard story to read.

Ben Tobit (1903)
This was one of the first stories in the book that I really really liked.  It is set on the day of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.  On that day, Jerusalem merchant Ben Tobit had a terrible toothache.  Ben was a kind man and did not like injustice, but it was hard to be kind with this much pain.  His wife tried to help by giving him various medicines (like purified rat droppings). She then tried to distract him when the thieves came trudging past on their way to the crucifixion site.  It distracted him somewhat but mostly didn’t interest him.  She said, “They say he healed the blind.”  He replied, “If only he’d cure this toothache of mine!.”  The next day he felt better and they walked to the site to see what they missed.

Phantoms (1904)
Yegor Timofeyevich had gone mad so his relatives collected money to send him to a clinic.  He knew he was in a madhouse but also knew that he could make himself incorporeal and walk wherever he wanted.  He was exceedingly happy. There was a patient who would continually knock on any locked door.  He would walk through all the unlocked doors but when he got to a locked one he would knock and knock and knock.

There was a doctor’s assistant the hospital named Maria Astafeevna, whom Yegor was certain liked him.  He thought very highly of her.  But another man Petrov could say nothing nice about her.  He felt that she was like all women: debauched deceitful and mocking. This attitude upset Yegor tremendously.  Maria was actually in love with Dr Shevyrov. But she hated that he went to Babylon–where he drank three bottles of champagne each night until 5 AM.  She imagined that one day she would ask to be his wife bit only if he stopped going there.

The man Petrov was also terrified of his mother, believing that she had bribed officials to lock him up. He would become hysterical when she would visit.  It was only Yegor’s assurances to her that her son was a decent man that made her feel okay.

Most days things went on exactly the same, the same faces, the same conversation and the same knocking.

The Thief (1904)
Fyodor Yurasov was a thrice-convicted thief.  While on the train, even though he had plenty of money, he stole a gentleman;s purse.  As he tried to blend in, he imagined everyone thought he was an honest, young German (he came up with the name Heinrich Walter).  But when he tried to be civil, everyone ignored him.  Some were downright rude to him.  Later when he hears that the gendarme are looking for someone, he assumed it is he.

Lazarus (1906)
This story looks at what Lazarus’ life was like after he came back–appearing a few days dead and with a shorter temper.  People understood and forgave him, but still.  Soon, however, people began to avoid him and claimed that all of the madmen in the village were people whom Lazarus had looked upon.   It’s such an interesting (if exceeding dark) tale that no one bothered to investigate before.

A Son of Man (1909)
As Fr. Ivan Bogoyavlensky grew older he grew more disatisfied with his role in life.  He wanted to remove his surname and replace it with a five-digit number (The church elders assumed he’d gone mad).  He then bought a gramophone and listened only to stories of Jewish and Armenian life.  His wife hated it and it drove their puppy mad (?!).  Indeed he kept trying to get the puppies to listen to the gramophone and they consistently went crazy and eventually died.  The church sent a deacon to help Fr Ivan through this but he the deacon and Fr Ivan butted heads immediately.  Fr Ivan began mocked everything about their religion.

Incaution (1910)
A priest arrived at a railway station and saw a steam engine for the first time. There was no one around, so he climbed aboard.  It wouldn’t be dangerous to flick some switches and pull some levers.  Would it?

Peace (1911)
A dignitary was dying and an devil–an ordinary devil–came to his bedside offering him eternal life in hell.  The man didn’t want to suffer but the devil said that suffering was terrible until you got used to it and then it was nothing.  The devil makes a stronger and stronger case if only the man would take this pen and sign.

Ipatov (1911)
Nikolai Ipatov was a rich merchant who went bankrupt. Soon he became silent and despondent.  The local priest chastised him saying that the house of god was a house of joy.  He refused to let the merchant back in until he grew happy again.  Which he didn’t.  Eventually his children took over the situation and and put his house up for sale.  But when someone came to look at the house, they heard Ipatov’s moaning and grew existential realizing that a man without guilt could still be afflicted this way.

The Return (1913)
The narrator had been in a cell n St Peterburg for three years because of a political incident.  His wife, who was supposed to be waiting for him in a hotel room had stepped out with another man.  He hired a cab to follow them.  They kept driving around and around, some streets seeming to stretch on endlessly.  Then the cab driver told him that they had been at the same intersection many times.  He finally arrived at the gate and when he banged on it, who should open the gate but his prison guard.

The Flight (1914)
Yury Mikhailovich was an experienced pilot.  Twenty eight flights and no troubles.   He always felt, “If I crash, I crash, nothing to be done about it.”  Despite everything he had on earth, he longed to be up ion the sky…possibly forever.  It’s incredible that Andreyev wrote a story like this in 1914!

 

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: CHAI-Tiny Desk Concert #905 (October 23, 2019).

What sounds like circus music plays as four women dressed in hoods with colorful bangles run out behind the desk and start dancing.

The lyrics begin: C-H-A-I.  CHAI.  We are CHAI.

The choreography continues for about a minute and a half when they take off their robes to reveal the four of them wearing matching pink and orange outfits.

The quartet made its grand entrance wearing hooded pom-pom outfits, with loosely choreographed dance moves, while the band’s song “This Is CHAI” played boombox style. It felt adorable. But once the hoodies came off, revealing their matching pink, crop top uniforms, the serious fun began.

In yet another example of how the best Tiny Desk Concerts are unfairly short, this super fun and adorable set is not even 11 minutes long.

Although CHAI does manage to play 4 songs in that time.

My face hurt from smiling so much! That’s what I remember most about CHAI’s Tiny Desk. CHAI is a sweet, colorful blanket of joy. These four women from Japan — twin sisters Mana and Kana, along with Yuna and Yuuki — are on a mission to expand the conventional notion of what we think of as “cute” or “kawaii” as it’s called in Japan.

They open with “Hi Hi Baby.”  Yuna plays drums while Mana and Kana start singing.  Then Yuuki starts playing the bass–a fast rumble while Mana and Kana keep singing (and doing choreographed arm gestures).

Their voices are high and they are decked out in pink.

CHAI’s music leans punkish, and the outfits quite pinkish. The songs played at the Tiny Desk come from both the band’s 2017 album Pink and the 2019 album appropriately named Punk. The group’s lyrics bounce back and forth from Japanese to English, often in the same sentence.

For “N.E.O.” Yuna sits at the drum kit and plays a cool, complex pattern while Yuuki’s bass brings in a great low funky riff.  Kana adds some guitar licks as they sing in a kind of staccato style (in harmony).

The song ends and the three of them raise their arms and say We are CHAI!

“Fashionista” is one of these songs where you can tell it’s Japanese and English.  There’s big thumping bass as the vocals kinds of whisper the lyrics.  I don’t know what they’re saying–except the chorus “we are fashionista.”  There’s some cool chunky guitar and a great sliding bass (their bass sound is terrific).  Mid-song Kana plays guitar by itself while singing before the band jumps back in together.

Before the last song.  They introduce themselves:

I’m Mana and I’m Kana and we are twins!   Same face!  Same face!
I’m Yuna and I’m Yukki.  We are … not twins.

CHAI chose “Future” for the final song, with more lyrics to brighten my smile and the smile of those around me.

“This is just my FUTURE!
This song about us forever!
Are you ready?
Never seen before!
It’s just what I imagined!
Come on!”

For “Future” Kana plays a futuristic synth sound while Yuuki plays a slow, low bass and Yuna hits the drums and percussion with her hands.

I’ve been looking forward to this Tiny Desk and it did not disappoint.

[READ: March 1, 2020] “Unbuttoned”

This is a another essay about Sedaris’ father.  Sedaris’ father is 96 and quite frail.

David himself was in the hospital about to undergo “a pretty disgusting procedure: in a few hours’ time, a doctor was scheduled to snake a multipurpose device up the hole in my penis” when his sister called to say that their father was dying.

The urologist said the device had a camera that showed what was going on inside: There’s your sphincter!

He says his previous exam like this involved his prostate

I’m fairly certain it involved forcing a Golden Globe Award up my ass.  I didn’t cry or hit anyone, though.  Thus it annoyed me to see what he English radiologist who’d performed the test had written in the comment section of his report: “Patient tolerated the trans-rectal probe poorly.”

They bought next-day plane tickets for the U.S.  En route DAvid learned that his father had been taken out of intensive care and sent back to his Assisted Living Facility.

When his father woke up, David said “I figured you’d rally as soon as I spent a fortune on last-minute tickets.”  He said he knew “that if the situation were reversed he’d gave stayed put, at least until a discount could be worked out.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN-“Radio Cure” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

Sharon Van Etten continues down her more ambient and mellow style with this cover of “Radio Cure.”

She plays everything–keys and piano–hushed and echoed while her voice soars around the song.  About a third of the way in, the drums kick in, giving it a but of oomph.

I really like the original of this song and I don’t quite like the direction she went with this cover.

[READ: February 17, 2020] “With the Beatles”

I have realized that I really enjoy reading Murakami’s words.  I don’t always understand what’s happening.  I don’t often understand why one part of a story is put with another part. And often when I’m done I’m not entirely sure what happened.  But I really enjoy the journey.

This was one where some parts seemed mysteriously tucked into the story.  It kind of all works thematically, but it’s still a bit disjointed.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading the whole thing.

The narrator starts by saying that he doesn’t mind getting older, it’s seeing other people who have gotten older that is so weird.  Really it forces him to admit that his youthful dreams are gone.

He will never forget a girl (a woman who used to be a girl) whom he didn’t actually know.  It was 1964 and this girl was hurrying down the hallway of their school, skirt aflutter, clutching the LP of With the Beatles–the original British version.  Their black and white faces were facing out as she ran.  He has turned this memory into a beautiful moment–he thinks he remembers the way she smelled even (if that is possible).  The moment was thrilling.

But he never saw her again in two more years at school.

He has met many women over the yeas and always tried to recreate that moment to no avail. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: RYLEY WALKER-“Love is Everywhere (Beware)” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

It’s interesting that Walker chose the band’s brand new (at the time) single to cover.  I don’t think the album was even out yet when they released this issue.

I saw Walker live last month and his set was a forty-five minute wild improv guitar session.  So I’m even more surprised at how beautiful and tender this cover is.

There are some great percussive effects from Ryan Jewell which I wouldn’t have really noticed if I hadn’t seen him do similar things live.  Walker didn’t sing at all when I saw him, and his voice here is soft and whispery.  It works perfectly with the muted tone of the song–guitar harmonics, a shuffling beat and gentle bass from Calexico’s Scott Colberg.

The song grows gradually louder, mostly from Jewell’s drums until with about a minute left, Walker goes absolutely berserk with a wild electric guitar solo–largely noise and chaos, while the rest of the song continues as before.  Very Wilco.

[READ: February 15, 2020] Snippets of Serbia

This book came across my desk at work.  The book is entirely in English and yet the cataloging information (the CIP page) is in Russian, primarily. It was published in Beograd by Komshe Publishing.

That’s all fascinating because Emma Fick is an American artist.  She is of Serbian descent and went there to teach English.  She brought her sketch book because she always does.  While there she drew pictures and then earned a grant to travel to Serbia to draw more.

The introduction to the book gives a good summary of Serbia and its inability to be pigeonholed.

Serbia is fascinating and baffling, captivating and frustrating, vibrant and confounding.  There is no singularity to Serbian culture, and its historical, religious, cultural, culinary, and philosophical narratives are knots that must be carefully detangled.

Illustration was her way of absorbing Serbia.

She knows the book is flawed and incomplete.  She knows there are mistakes in it and she knows that her experience of Serbia is not what Serbia is,  But boy did it ever make me want to go there–a country I have never given a second thought to.

The book is roughly 200 pages of watercolor sketches of people, places, customs, and especially the food of Serbia: Belgrade, North, South, East and West. (more…)

Read Full Post »

  SOUNDTRACK: THE-DREAM-Tiny Desk Concert #886 (August 30, 2019).

I had never heard of The-Dream and couldn’t imagine why the name was hyphenated.  Turns out The-Dream is an R&B singer with a kind of gentle falsetto (not too high, but higher than expected).  The blurb says: “The-Dream delivered his lyrics with that signature high-pitched whisper, just shy of a falsetto..”

He’s also written hits

for the likes of Beyoncé (“Single Ladies”) and Rihanna (“Umbrella”).

and apparently he is a big deal.

R&B hasn’t sounded the same since The-Dream changed the game. Maybe growing up off Bankhead on Atlanta’s west side gifted him with a hip-hop swag native to the soil. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that he preceded the current era of melodic, sing-songy rappers who disregard traditional lyricism for raw, heart-rending delivery.

All three songs here are about getting into the bedroom as one might guess from the title of his album: Ménage à Trois: Sextape Vol. 1, 2, 3.

The first song “Bedroom” (calling all bodies to the bedroom) is soft and steamy.  It’s also got some humor

All ladies read before 11
So you got all day to get your mother-n’ nails done
I know you soak that thing ’round 7
And it’s already 4, go get your mother-n’ hair done
Ooh, you look so sexy
Come and bless me

[I found out later that these lyrics are cleaned up for Tiny Desk].

There’s gentle horns from DeAndre Shaifer and Theljon Allen (trumpet) and Elijah Jamal Balbed (saxophone) and a smooth bass line from Justin Raines.

He is also amusing at the end of the song:

“It’s kinda hard to sing like that with the daylight out,” The-Dream said after finishing the first number in a steamy set of songs more appropriate for the bedroom than the sunlit cubicles of NPR.

“Back In Love” has more simple echoing synths (from Carlos McKinney) and spare drums (from Larone “Skeeter” McMillian) and with some clever rhyming:

I miss that body in the hallway
I used to meet that body in the foyer
If you were right here, we’d have to skip the foreplay

and

I was mad at you, you was mad at me
C’est la vie, arrivederci
Still, all I loved was you

“I Luv Your Girl” is a less of a sexy song and more of a stealing-your-shawtie kind of song.

I hate the adenoidal “ahhhhh.” that apparently indicate sex, but the lyrics are pretty funny nonetheless.  Actually in looking at the actual lyrics I see that he has really made himself more PG-13 than X-Rated on these songs.

And she runnin’ Fingers through her hair, tryin ta call her over there but she like, Na Na Na Na!
She drop it down to the floor, I’m sayin shorty you should go, and she like Na Na Na Na!

Those na na’s are an amusingly safe version of the actual lyrics.  And after listening to the actual song, I found even the original to be kind of funny-while he’s stealing your woman.

As with a lot of R&B I prefer the Tiny Desk version because it’s much less produced.  Of course I still don’t know why there’s a hyphen in his name.

[READ: October 14, 2019] “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”

This is a dark story (very Joyce Carol Oates) about the environment and how you can no longer flee to the country to get away from pollution–or worse.

It begins enigmatically with

“This matter of the mask for instance.”

Luce sometimes wears the mask–a half mask, green gauze mask–but never outside of the home.  She wore it any time the wind “smelled funny,” “smelled wrong.”  Especially from the industrial cities to the South.

She removes it if Andrew comes home. When he sees her he claims she is “catastrophizing” (Is that even a word?). (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: EX HEX-NonCOMM (May 15, 2019).

I really liked Mary Timony’s band Helium.  I’ve followed her over the years and now she has this relatively new band called Ex Hex.

Punk rock veteran Timony is known for her work in 90’s bands Helium and Autoclave, plus supergroup Wild Flag, while her co-frontperson in Ex Hex, Betsy Wright, also plays in Bat Fangs. The trio is rounded out by drummer Laura Harris, also of The Aquarium, and although they played tonight as a four-piece, they retained their effortless sense of cool.

Ex Hex is the most commercial sounding music she’s made and I found their first album a little boring.  They were kind of straight ahead punk pop songs that might have been revolutionary in the 90s but are kind of staid now.

The newer songs, however, are more a little more complex and more interesting as a result.

“Don’t Wanna Lose” comes from their first album. It’s got reverbed guitars and a simple melody.  It sounds a bit like Sleater-Kinney, which isn’t too surprising since Timony was in Wild Flag with Carrie Brownstein before forming Ex Hex.

“Tough Enough” is slower and a bit more classic rock sounding.  In fact, all of the songs here feel more big riff classic rock than the simple punk of the first album.  “Rainbow Shiner” has a big metal riff.  It’s complicated and cool and makes you want to raise your fist in the air.

I don’t know if Timony is the only person doing guitar solos (it looks like Betsy Wright is also playing guitar). But “Good Times” opens with a lengthy guitar solo, which I assume is all Timony.

“Radiate” is a bouncy song with twin guitars and a quiet middle part.  They end the set with my favorite track, “Cosmic Cave.”  This one specializes in lots of reverb an echo with spacey flanging sounds at the end.

This set make me want to bust out rips again and see if I was missing something.  But also to get It’s Real where most of these songs come from, because I liked what I hear.

[READ: May 20, 2019] “Chemistry”

A policeman told a crowd he was Looking for a retired chemist.  His daughter had dropped the man off at the cinema but when the movie was over he was no where to be found.

The crowd was in the Road House which stood next to the cinema.

I enjoyed the way the characters were set up.  The cook, Keith Lyon, felt mystified at his life.  He was in his forties and spent all day filling plates and having empty plates return.

It was as if a joke had been played on his life, thought he could see the humor of it and it hadn’t made him bitter.

A customer in the restaurant suggested the man got bored and left the movie early, “I might do that.”

“What you might do is beside the point,” said the policeman. “As you’re not missing.”

No one was a suspect in the Road House, the policeman was looking for volunteers to comb the nearby forest where they think the man went. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: KLESEY LU-NonCOMM 2019 (May 15, 2019).

I had just listened to a few songs from Lu’s album Blood and now here she is at NonComm.

It’s hard to guess what the crowd was expecting when they saw Kelsey Lu‘s six-piece band waiting for her on stage. Or when they saw her, with flowing black, red, and orange hair, and ring laden gloves. Despite what they assumed she would sound like, she dazed everyone with her ethereal four song set this evening on the NPR stage.

According to the blurb, she started with a song that’s not on the player.

Lu started, just her and her keyboardist, with the title track of her debut album Blood, which was released in April via Columbia records. The song is a touching tribute to the love that permeates all. She delivered it with such conviction, as did her band, who gradually all joined in.

From “Blood” she swerved straight into the glitter of “Due West” and got the crowd moving along with her.  “Due West” starts quietly with strings but the song adds a  super catchy melody as it bridges into the chorus which brings an even catchier hook.  The recorded version is very poppy, but live, the pop elements have been stripped out somewhat.

Lu is most known for her work as a cellist.  Tonight however, Lu did not touch a cello once. The focus was on her mind bending and majestic voice. She mostly sang with her eyes closed, showing that regardless of the fact that she performs them every night, these songs still affect her as much as they do her audiences. The cello was not entirely absent, as one of her band members impressively played an electric one. Another demonstrated expertise of the violin, especially during the dramatic and sultry “Foreign Car.”

“Foreign Car” opens with wavering synth stabs and creepy strings.  It has a catchy fluttery chorus which I rather like.  I also really like the interesting electronic sounds that are added.

The last song of the set, the shimmering “Poor Fake,” Lu introduced as her ode to disco and dance.

She said “I don’t know if any of you grew up around the disco era.”  The crowd mutters.  She is the most animated of the night when she says, C’mon I know some of you did.  I didn’t, but I’m a big fan.  This was an opportunity to have an ode to disco.”

The somber strings that start the track then caught the crowd off guard. Once the beat kicked in, all doubts and confusion were whisked away.

The bass and drums are pure disco and her voice seems to reach back to Donna Summer.

As Lu’s voice did acrobatics, her hair put on a show of its own. She tossed it back and forth, making her floor-length orange braid whip ferociously, matching the melodrama of the song.

Who would he ever guessed she could hit such impressive high notes based on the quiet of the other songs.

Lu’s record is interesting, but it sounds like her live show is where it’s at.

[READ: May 20, 2019] “Personal Archeology”

It’s coincidental that the story I read for yesterday was about old photos and a person’s history.  This story is also about history, but it is the history of a place.

I really enjoyed this personal archaeology because I have had a similar experience finding old things on our property.

Fritz Martin was older now–his golfing buddies had died or were not playing as much.  So he had a lot of free time. He spent it looking for the traces that the previous owners of his house had left behind.

He imagined there were four eras of the house’s history. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THE CALIDORE STRING QUARTET-Tiny Desk Concert #843 (April 22, 2019).

Whenever I hear a wonderful string quartet, I yell at myself for not listening to more classical music.  I’m not sure why I don’t–I just like my rock too much I guess.  But these 18 minutes of strings are really fantastic.  And I’m adding The Calidore String Quartet [Jeffrey Myers, violin; Ryan Meehan, violin; Jeremy Berry, viola; Estelle Choi, cello] to the list of quartets I particularly admire.

The blurb is great for unpacking what’s going on, so I’ll let it do just that.

The [string quartet] genre was born some 250 years ago and pioneered by Joseph Haydn, but composers today are still tinkering with its possibilities. Consider Caroline Shaw. The young, Pulitzer-winning composer wrote the opening work in this set, First Essay: Nimrod, especially for the Calidore String Quartet [back in 2016].

Over a span of eight minutes, the supple theme that opens this extraordinary work takes a circuitous adventure. It unfolds into a song for the cello, is sliced into melodic shards, gets bathed in soft light, becomes gritty and aggressive and disguises itself in accents of the old master composers. Midway through, the piece erupts in spasms that slowly dissolve back into the theme.

I love the pizzicato on the cello–there’s so much of it, from deep bass notes to very high notes.  Including the final note.

Their new album explores composers in conflict.  In the case of of the next song, loveless marriage.

The Calidore players also chose music by the quirky Czech composer, Leoš Janáček who, in 1913, set one of his operas on the moon. He wrote only two string quartets but they are dazzling. The opening Adagio, from “String Quartet No. 1, ‘Adagio'”, is typical Janáček, with hairpin turns that veer from passionate romance to prickly anxiety.

This piece is much more dramatic with powerful aching chords ringing out.

Reaching back farther, the ensemble closes the set with an early quartet by Beethoven, who took what Haydn threw down and ran with it. The final movement from Beethoven’s “String Quartet Op. 18, No. 4, Allegro – Prestissimo” both looks back at Haydn’s elegance and implies the rambunctious, even violent, risks his music would soon take.

2020 is the 250th anniversary of his birth.  They are celebrating by playing all of his string quartets in various cities.  He says that this piece is the most exiting part.

I love the trills that each instrument runs through in the middle of the song.

All of these pieces sound amazing.

[READ: April 22, 2019] “Cut”

This story started out is such an amusing way:

There’s no good way to say it–Peggy woke up most mornings oddly sore, sore in the general region of her asshole.

But it’s not an amusing scene at all.  It burns when she uses the toilet and she finds blood in her pajamas.

She could see a cut but only when using a hand mirror while she was crouched at the right angle.  But even so, her groin “was that of a middle-aged woman and not as strictly delineated as it once had been.”  Nevertheless, whenever she looked for it she always “paused to appreciate the inert drapery of her labia.”

The cut was there, but it seemed to migrate.   She tried to look it up online, but only found porn.  Adding Web MD brought back porn in doctor’s offices.  And adding Mayo Clinic introduced her to people with a fetish for mayonnaise. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: KAIA KATER-Tiny Desk Concert #832 (March 13, 2019).

This Tiny Desk Concert was posted under a different category than the others and so does not appear on the Tiny Desk page (yet).  In order to find it you need this link.

The expectation upon seeing a banjo hanging is one of rollicking rowdiness, but when Kaia Kater began to strum her five-string, the mood in the office turned plaintive and a bit mournful. The Afro-Caribbean-Canadian singer and songwriter, who studied Appalachian music at West Virginia’s Davis & Elkins College, often references the Black Lives Matter movement, within a music form that doesn’t exactly snap to mind as being in dialogue with modern issues.

“Nine Pin” is, indeed, a slow, plaintive song with great lyrics.  After a couple of verses, the band (it wasn’t obvious she had one) adds some very sparse accompaniment–low upright bass notes, gentle guitar chords and brushed drums.

These days, Kaia Kater records for Smithsonian Folkways, and some of the songs she brought to the Tiny Desk come from her recent recording Grenades, a record she worked on while exploring her father’s home country of Grenada.

The song feels old, except for the lyrics.

These clothes you gave me don’t fit right
The belt is loose and the noose is tight

and I love the chorus which seems like it should be sung quickly but in the way she sings it it’s meaningful

I’ll be your nine pin, eight ball, seventh day, six pound, diamond quarter girl

Before she gets to “Canyonland” she introduces her band: Andrew Ryan: bass; Brad Kilpatrick: drums; Daniel Rougeau: electric guitar, lap steel guitar.

She says this is from her new album and begins a much faster, but still quiet, banjo picking.  The bowed bass adds a new kind of tension.  The lap steel guitar brings a different kind of tension, especially when the song speeds up for the second half of the song.  This song is compelling in a different way.

I find it interesting that she seems to have a more Canadian delivery (based on the Canadian country/Americana that I know of) which I rather like.

Before the final song she speaks about Grenada and how it impacted the title of her album Grenades.

It’s a country that has “experienced a lot of political turmoil,” she says. “My father left when he was 16 years old and he came to Canada as a refugee, on his own. It’s a story I ran away from for a long time, where I didn’t want to reconcile with myself being this kind of hyphenated Canadian.”

For this final song she doesn’t play an instrument.  She just sings (in a lovely torch song vocal).  Without the banjo, the entire tone of the song is different.  The guitars, bass and drums make this song far more jazzy than folkie.  But it works well once again with those lyrics in which

Kaiatries to come to terms with that history “Rain heavy like carpet bombs, sweetgrass, and lemonade / Fold the memory into your arms and whisper it away.”

There’s much power in her understated style.

[READ: March 21, 2019] “Dandelion”

I rarely think much about how old an author is.  For the most part it’s not relevant unless the story identifies intensely with someone of a certain age.  So this story begins, in a surprisingly clumsy opening that you need to unpack:

That Henry James, when he got old, rewrote his early work was my excuse for revisiting , at ninety, a story I had written in my twenties.

Segal is 91 so this is not a far-fetched claim, although it is a bit odd to include within the story itself.

The original story (unnamed in this story, if it exists at all) is about a hike that she and her father took up a mountain.  She had wished her mother had come too, but her mother had had a migraine. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »