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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TIX-“Fallen Angel” (Norway, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us.  It’s hard to really follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online

I tend to think of Eurovision as over the top and campy.

And, yep, I’d say this falls into that category.  It’s an over the top ballad–a remarkably simple melody and very straightforward lyrics (you’re an angel, I’m a fallen angel, will you ever notice me?).

The over the topness comes because as he sings this song he is wearing massive white angel wings and he is surrounded by half a dozen demons dressed in black with giant horns.

Upon hearing the song my daughter commented that his English was very good.  This is not surprising, him coming from Norway, but you can’t hear a hint of an accent.  And his lyrics are sung so clearly you can make out every word.

The whole thing is really quite mockable and yet it is so sincere it’s hard to hate.

Especially when you learn that Tix is called Tix because he suffers from Tourette’s syndrome and as a child he was bullied and called “tics,” which he has since embraced.

UPDATE: This judges were not moved by his story as this song came in 18th.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Let It Snow”

I found a stash of old David Sedaris pieces and since they’re all pretty old, they’re quite funny.

This short piece is very funny and, obviously, it’s about snow.

He says that winters were always mild in North Carolina when he was a kid.  But one year there was a snowfall that lasted for a few days–which meant the kids were home from school.

They quickly got on their mother’s nerves and were thrown out of the house.

They pounded on the door and rang the bells demanding to be let back in, but she just pulled the drapes and enjoyed her solitude (which meant wine, mostly):

Drinking didn’t count if you followed a glass of wine with a cup of coffee, and so she had a goblet and mug positioned before her on the countertop.

They decided the best revenge would be if one of them got hit by a car–“It was really the perfect solution.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DECEMBERISTS 20th Anniversary Celebration Streaming Shows (April 11, 2021).

Even though I love live shows, I don’t really like streaming shows.  It’s not that there’s anything wrong with them, it’s just that I don’t tend to watch live music much at home.  And, most of the time i tend to forget the show until the stream is over.

But since Sarah and I were supposed to see The Decemberists and our shows were cancelled, I though I’d treat her to these shows for her birthday.

The first show was pretty great–a deep dive into lots of old songs.

As they start, Colin says this is the first time we’ve played….ever together as a live band.

They open this set with Don’t Carry It All from The King is Dead.  Colin plays harmonica and I was really surprised to realize that drummer John Moen is singing the higher backing vocals (I’d always assumed it was keyboardist Jenny Conlee).

They stick with King for “All Arise” where you can really see Jenny’s massive keyboard array!

There’s a little extended jam at the end, which Colin calls “a proper honky tonk.”

They move to What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World album for “Wrong Year” which Colin says is emblematic of the previous year.  Colin plays the acoustic 12 string and Chris Funk is on the electric 12 string.

Jenny claps: “since there’s no audience we have to support ourselves.  Should we clap for ourselves?”

Colin says the tour (that was recently cancelled) would have been their 20th anniversary tour.  These song would have made up the set list.

This next song is early mid period that John Moen: he was just laying around being a man about town a the time.  “On the Bus Mall” [from Picaresque] sounds great with Nate Query getting a great deep sound on the upright bass.

Colin has as sip of wine and mentions that someone has made a supercut of every time he drinks a sip of wine and goes mmm.  “It’s normal to go mmm after a drink of wine.  it heightens the experience.”  And yet when you put hem all together….

Up next is a song about dead children and this is the first of many.  “Leslie Anne Levine” (from Castaways and Cutouts) sounds great with the 12 string, the accordion and bowed upright bass.

Colin jokes that it wouldn’t be an authentic Decemberists experience without him forgetting lot of words–so far I’m doing alright.

Up next is a glorious “The Crane Wife Parts 1, 2 & 3,” always fun to heae these together.  Nate’s bowed bass sounds deep and resonant but the song gets even bigger when he switches to electric bass.  Jenny is playing organ and glockenspiel.  There’s a seamless transition to part 2 with Chris Funk on pedal steel.  As they switch to Part 3, Jenny keeps the song going on organ while Colin gets an 8 string acoustic guitar.

It’s followed immediately by “The Island” which sounds so good I really hope to see this song live one day.  I love the intensity of Jenny’s keys and the great riffing and they even switch it up in the middle as John takes over keys, Jenny plays accordion, Chris is on pedal steel and Nate’s on the bowed bass.  The end is magnificent.  As they wrap up Colin jokes, “those were some jazz chords you were playing, there, Johnny.”

Colin states that they went through strict COVID protocol so they could do the next song.  “Raincoat Song” is a deep cut==a pretty acoustic song with both of them singing into the same mic.  (“I haven’t been so close to another man in many months.”  “Only harmonize into one microphone with you pod.”)

As they get ready for the next song, Colin says this is an epic jam set, apologies of epic jams are not your thing.  Jenny says that if they were on stage during this delay they’d either jam out or tell dad jokes: Nate: “How do you make an octopus laugh?  Tentickles.”

As Chris starts warming u his new guitar Colin says “John Carpenter on guitar.”  That’s the biggest complement you can give him.

Then we are off to a mystical land with “Rusalka, Rusalka” a new song I don’t know very well.  I really enjoyed the sound of it and need to check out the later cuts on I’ll be Your Girl.  The song has Chris on mandolin and harp samples from Jenny.

Colin gets a guitar but changes his mind as asks for The Reverend instead.  Jenny plays circus/instrument changing music.

The new guitar sounds great, and indeed the whole of “Make You Better” sounds fantastic.

Before introducing the final song, Colin says “Stay safe out there.  We’re nearing the end of this thing.  If you can get your vaccine, get it; mask up, stay socially distanced.”  “Not a very sexy PSA for a rock n roll show.”

But anyhow, this is about people who drowned, so things could be ….worse.

They end with a rocking “Hazard of Love (Part 4)” with Chris Funk on pedal steel.

It was weird hearing these live, quite rocking songs and there being no audience to cheer. Even if I hate noisy crowds, the silence is worse.

[READ: November 20, 2020] “How to Practice”

This was Ann Patchett’s second long form non-fiction essay in six months in the New Yorker.

This one is all about getting rid of your stuff.

In my family, we treasure heirlooms and even things that have only minor sentimental value.  We’re not hoarders but we have a lot of stuff.

Patchett opens this essay by talking about a friend’s father who died.  He had amassed all kinds of things.  Each new stage of his life brought on a new interest or hobby–and the accoutrement that went with it.  Getting rid of things proved to be a burden to his children.

Because Patchett grew up with them and her friend’s father considered her like a daughter, he wanted her to get something meaningful.   For instance, a particular painting.  She liked it but “either you have a place for that sort of thing or you don’t.”

But after allocating the important stuff there was so much more

How had one man acquired so many extension cords, so many batteries and rosary beads? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEMI LOVATO-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #191 (April 14, 2021). 

I’ve never given much thought to Demi Lovato.  All I knew about her was that she also sang a version of “Let It Go” on the Frozen soundtrack and that I liked her version a LOT LESS than the one by Idina Menzel.

But aside from that I didn’t even know if she was all that popular.

Recorded on a sunny spring day in her Los Angeles backyard, Lovato begins with a moving rendition of “Tell Me You Love Me” from her 2017 record of the same name, accompanied by subtle, sparse keys.

Given how over the top “Let It Go” is, I did expect a lot more over-the-topness here.  But it is quite subtle.  Well, musically it’s subtle.  Steven “Styles” Rodriguez plays quiet keys throughout the set.  But Lovato is anything but subtle.

She continues her set with the title tracks from her recently-released studio album, Dancing With The Devil…The Art Of Starting Over. On both tracks, Lovato’s voice feels stabilizing and grounding; there’s a sense of clarity and purpose in its power.

The blurb suggests she’s gone through some rough times, but I don’t know about them.  I do know that she has managed to feed a squirrel from her hand, so that’s something.

Through it all, her voice is something to behold.  Wow, can she ever she hits some really amazing notes–long and lasting and powerful.  I like the deep keys that “Styles” adds to the chorus of “Dancing With The Devil,” it adds some nice drama.

[READ: May 3, 2021] A Wiser Girl

Different things can attract a person to a book.  In this case, it was the author’s name.  I’m not sure why the name Moya Roddy appealed to me, but it did.  I’d never heard of her and this short book seemed like an interesting way to get to know her work.

This is the story of Jo (Josephine) Nowd, a Dublin girl who had to escape Dublin and flee to Italy in 1975.  The reason that she fled Ireland is twofold, although the primary reason is to escape her ex, a man named Eamonn.  The other is because she wants to be an artist and feels that an artistic life is more likely in the land of art than in Dublin.

Jo is a mostly engaging narrator.  She has a pretty strong personality.  Part of it is directed inward–she has some insecurities brought on by growing up as a poor Irish Catholic girl.  But she is also very opinionated, especially about art.  For her art is all about the supernatural–primarily the divine–but mostly she doesn’t like art that represents reality, she wants art to transcend reality.

She also has a (justifiable) hatred of the rich.  She feels that the poor get the shaft while the rich (especially the English rich) are oblivious to all that they have and all they step on while they get it.

And yet, for all of her insecurities, it’s pretty daring to up and leave your country to move to a place where you do not speak the language and have hardly any money. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NATHANIEL RATELIFF-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #190 (April 12, 2021). 

Nathaniel Rateliff treads a fine line between country and rock.  But between this album and his work with the Night sweats, I tend to prefer him to others like him.

The Mercury Café is one of the first places Nathaniel frequented when he moved to Denver in 1998, hearing jazz, dancing, and eventually playing many shows there. For his Tiny Desk (home) concert, he’s assembled a dozen players including a string section, backing singers, and some of his oldest friends: Joseph Pope III on bass, Mark Shusterman on keys, Luke Mossman on guitar and Patrick Meese on drums.

On the opening song and the title track to his 2020 album, And It’s Still Alright, they’re restrained as Nathaniel sings about loss, “I’ll be damned if this old man / Don’t start to counting his losses / But it’s still alright.”

This song is so darned catchy, despite how sad it is.  Mossman plays lead guitar and Shusterman keeps the keys going throughout. The addition of strings (Chris Jusell: violin, Joy Adams: cello, Adrienne Short: violin and Rachel Sliker: viola) add a new component that sounds great.

“All Or Nothing” has an interestingly picked guitar with lots of bouncy bass from Joseph Pope III.  Midway through, the song starts rocking out with two drummers.

But restraint lets loose on the chorus of “Redemption,” a song about breaking free of the past and written for Apple original film Palmer.

“Redemption” is a powerful song that has a simple but big chorus “Just set me free.”  The backing vocals from Larea Edwards, Chrissy Grant and Kinnie Maveryck sound fantastic.

The ender, a tune called “Mavis,” truly is a grand finale, a song that conjures up images of The Band singing Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” — and what a fabulous release it is.

Half way through the song builds to a really full sound.  Rateliff sounds great and so do his songs.

[READ: May 7, 2021] “The Shape of a Teardrop”

I really love the diversity of style and subject matter that T. Coraghessan Boyle brings to his stories.

This one is told from two different points of view.

We open on Justin, a belligerent person, angry that his parents have kicked him out of his room. It took three final straws–dropping him from the family cell phone plan; putting a lock on the fridge and the final final straw was the eviction notice on his door.

Alternating sections are are supplied by the first narrator’s mother. She says how much they loved their son and tried to give him everything they could.  They had tried so hard to have children, including expensive in vitro.  And then one day their miracle was born.

Their son doesn’t have a car (it’s on blocks in the driveway) and doesn’t have any motivation to get a job.  But he does have very expensive salt water fish and a bar that he likes to go to (he enjoys the bartender whose name is apparently Ti-Gress. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE & THE MELTING PARAISO U.F.O.-Pink Lady Lemonade ~ You’re From Inner Space (2011).

This album is something like the fortieth AMT album and somewhere in the middle of the band’s tenure with this lineup:

Tsuyama Atsushi: monster bass, voice, cosmic joker
Higashi Hiroshi: synthesizer, dancin’ king
Shimura Koji: drums, latino cool
Kawabata Makoto: guitar, guitar synthesizer, speed guru

The album consists of one song, the title track, broken into 4 parts all based around a simple, but rather lovely guitar melody

 “Part 1” is 32 minutes long.  It begins with the opening guitar melody which plays along with some trippy sounds.  Tsuyama is reciting the words (in Japanese?  English?  Gibberish?) and occasionally you hear the words “Pink lady Lemonade.”  At around 12 minutes drums and bass are added.  Once the bass starts meandering through some catchy riffs, Kawabata starts soloing.  It’s pretty far down in the mix (the main melody continues throughout).  Then around 22 minutes Tsuyama starts adding the monster bass–wild riffs that go up and down the fretboard.  With about 5 minutes left Kawabata starts playing s louder solo–louder than the rest of the music–and you can really hear him wailing away.   Part 1 fades out completely before jumping into Part 2.

“Part 2” is only 5 minutes, but it is utter chaos, with everyone making a big pile of noise–keyboard banging, sliding bass, thumping drums and wild, seemingly uncontrollable guitars.  It ends five minutes later with some warbling keys

Then comes “Part 3,” which runs just over the minutes.  It’s a faster chord version of the same guitar intro with slow bass notes and a big guitar solo.  It changes shape and adds some discoey bass lines.  About midway through the synths take over and while there is music in the background the song becomes mostly washes of sounds.

“Part 4” ends the disc at just over 18 minutes.  It picks up with the original guitar melody once more.  This time, it’s only a minute until the drums and bass kick in and the soling begins.  At five and a half minutes the guitar solo gets really loud and takes over.  The soloing is wild for over ten minutes and then around 13 minutes the song grows very quiet with only the lead guitar and the heavily echoed main riff playing.

There’s on online version here that has this entire record but adds six minutes at the end of the last part which is mostly the introductory melody and some washes of keys over the top.  i rather like this extra 6 minutes and it feels like a really nice ending.

 

[READ: May 1, 2021] “My First Passport”

This essay was translated from the Turkish by Maureen Feely.

Pamuk talks about people travelling from Turkey when he was young.  First it was his father, who left the country when Orhan was seven.  No one heard a word from him for several weeks when he turned up in Paris.  He was writing notebooks and regularly saw John-Paul Sartre.   He had become one of the penniless and miserable Turkish intellectuals who had been walking the streets of Paris.  Initially Orhan’s grandmother sent Orhan’s father money but eventually she stopped subsidizing her bohemian son in Paris.

When he ran out of money he got a job with I.B.M. and was transferred to Geneva.  Soon after Orhan’s mother joined his father but left Orhan and his brother with the grandparents.  They would follow when school was done.

Orhan sat for his first passport photo (included in the essay).  Thirty years later he realized that they had put the wrong eye color down–“a passport is not a document that tells us who were are but a document that shows what other people think of us.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Fishing for Fishies (2019).

The first of two albums released by KGATLW in 2019, Fishing for Fishies is a bluesy, boogie-filled record.

It opens with with two false starts.  There’s the briefest sound of a sound like they’d recorded over another track but left it, then there’s a drum beat that hits a few and stops only to resume a few seconds later and starts the title song.  “Fishing for Fishies” is a soft shuffling song with delicately whispered vocals and a bouncy melody.  It’s super catchy and is followed by “Boogieman Sam” with its bouncy staccato guitar and then Ambrose’s wailing harmonica.

“The Bird Song” is a favorite on the record.  Fun gently whispered lyrics and a remarkably catchy jazzy song.  “Plastic Boogie” is loose blues song with a lot of people talking throughout, giving the whole thing a party atmosphere.

“Cruel Millennial” is sung by Ambrose.  It’s a swinging boogie with a catchy chorus and some wailing harmonica soloing at the end.  “Real’s Not Real” starts as a potentially heavy rocker but as the song proper starts, it shifts abruptly to a kind of mellow Beatles-y piano-pop song.

“This Thing” is a harmonica-fueled blues song with great big bouncy bass line.  “Acarine” is an unusual song on the disc.  It’s slower and moodier slow moody with whispered vocals and piercing harmonica.  Although the last two and a half minutes are an instrumental jam with  looping synths that sound like a sci-fi soundtrack.

“Cyboogie” ends the disc.  It was the first singe off the album and it’s as catchy as anything.  Who knew it was so much fun singing “boogie, boogie, boogie, boogie, boogie, boogie, boogie.”  The buzzy bouncing synth is a great sound for this song and the cyber voice prompts a return of Han-Tyumi who pops in after murdering the universe.

[READ: April 29, 2021] Manopause

I have no idea who Bernard O’Shea is.  Well, he’s an Irish comedian, but I don’t know what kind.  He could be Ireland’s Jeff Foxworthy for all I know.  I doubt that he’s Ireland’s Dave Chapelle, anyway.

I read O’Shea’s first book when it came across my desk at work.  When this one appeared a few days ago I thought it was the same guy.  A little research confirmed it, and since I mostly enjoyed the first book, I thought I would read this one as well.

It’s tough playing the mid-life crisis card, especially for a successful male.  And, honestly, for a bunch of the book I did think “oh, moan moan moan.”  The key though is if you can make the moaning funny.  O’Shea manages to do that for a time but then, unexpectedly, the book gets serious.  O’Shea looks seriously into changing is life and he explores several ways to do so.

Manopause is a funny enough term, but I appreciate that O’Shea had the sensibility to include his mother’s comment about him using the word.

He told his mother he was going through “the manopause…the male menopause.”  To which she replied

If you had any idea what the menopause was like, Bernard, believe me, you wouldn’t go through it.  Sweating, hot flashes, no sleep–at times it feels like you are going mad….  You wouldn’t survive 30 seconds of it.  No man would survive it.  Jesus, if ye did go through it, we’d never hear the end of it.  And if you went through it, you’d hospitalise yourself.

That might be the funniest thing in the book.

We met Bernard’s long-suffering wife Lorna in the first book.  She is longer-suffering still.

In chapter one, Lorna gives him an amazing birthday present.  She takes herself and their three kids away to her mother’s for five days.  He has five days to himself, to do whatever he wants. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Infest the Rat’s Nest (2019).

One of the (many) fascinating things about King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard is that if you don’t like something they’ve done, you need to just wait a little bit and they’ll do something else.  They released five albums of very different styles of music in 2017.

Then in 2019 they released Fishin for Fishies, a kind of blues and roots album.  They followed that four months later with this album, a tribute of sorts to some of the heaviest, thrashiest heavy metal from the 1980s.

It deals with climate change (Australia bore the brunt of a lot of climate abuse that year), destruction of the environment and human resettlement to other planets.

The album is a clear tribute to thrash pioneers, with double bass drums, brutally fast guitars, killer piercing riffs and growling vocals–it’s almost hard to tell it’s singer Stu singing these songs.

Unlike other albums, there’s not a ton of diversity in these songs.  And that’s by design.  The songs are short and heavy.  “Planet B” has wailing guitars, some cool basslines and a ton of double bass drum.  “Mars for the Rich” features a middle bass “solo” (same note but only bass and drums) before raw guitars return.

“Organ Farmer” has a kind of false start with a slow drum intro before the song takes off into pure heaviness with screaming guitar solos and licks.  “Super Bug” is one of the most growly songs with a middle section that’s just voice and drum.  Most of the songs are three minutes, but this one jams out to almost 7 and feels like an old school Black Sabbath song with loping bass and a slow thoughtful guitar solo.

“Venusian 1” is a heavy song with pummeling blasts of guitar and drums and a ripping guitar riff.  “Perihelion” has a catchy chorus and then a middle part that sounds nothing like the rest of the album.  “Venusian 2” is a big chugger of a song with some great riffage.  It’s just under 3 minutes of heavy speed metal.

“Self-Immolate” sounds like a classic Slayer riff and even has some pretty wild drumming a la Dave Lombardo.

The album ends 9at just over 35 minutes) with “Hell,” which chugs along with double bass drums.  After an extended feedback moment the song plays a microtonal version of itself and then pummels to the finale which ends with the album title lyric.

I encourage anyone to checkout any of KGATLW’s albums because there’s bound to be something you like.  but this album is singular of purpose and if you don’t like classic thrash metal, it’s not for you.  Surprisingly, you hate to wait over a year for their next album K.G., which sounds absolutely nothing like this one.

[READ: April 25, 2021] “Good-Looking”

The narrator’s dad was a fit 38 year-old man who worked at the gym.  He didn’t wear a wedding ring because he said it was good for business–he was encouraged to flirt with the customers.

Most of the gym’s members were women and women were more likely to bring friends.

Men were the worst customers.  They did free classes, came alone, and didn’t clean the equipment when they were done.

The narrator’s mom didn’t like that his dad didn’t wear a wedding ring.   And she had reason to be concerned. The two of them met when he was married to someone else.  She was 17 at the time.  He had married his high school sweetheart and gotten her pregnant when she was 17.  He divorced this first woman and was now married a new 17 year old–he got older, they seemed to stay the same age.

It seemed that every ten years he got bored.  That’s why his mother was concerned, they’d had three kids over the last ten years.

The story zooms in on a woman that his dad took a interest in–a professor at the local university.  She came to the gym a lot and he paid attention to her.

Now, I love Dad and I hate to say this, but no way would a man like him ever get to meet a smart woman like her outside o the gym.

One day after class she asked him out.  It was courageous of her and made the other women jealous.

He didn’t drink so she asked him for coffee.  He agreed. When it was time to meet he took the narrator along.

She seemed surprised and confused.  He then proceeded to talk a lot about his wife and how jealous she gets.

But he also flirted the whole time–talking about books to make himself seem smarter.  The narrator even feels a little bad for him.

He talked about how much he liked being in love.  She finally asked him how he knew love would happen again.

This question came from a woman who believed in magic and romance, in second chances.  Dad, the brute that he was, said, “That’s life,” and shrugged, like love was a thing that could happen to you over and over again.

As they left the cafe, the narrator looked back at the woman.  He watched her wipe something from her face before she turned and walked away.  He never saw he again but he fell in love with her that night.

His dad started wearing his wedding ring after that night.

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SOUNDTRACK-XAVIER OMÄR-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #181 (March 15, 2021).

Xavier Omär has a fantastic voice–one that I thought was rather unexpected given his appearance.  He’s a pretty big guy and seems like he’d have a deep resonant voice, but his voice is really soft and high.  And powerful.

He’s also had a pretty interesting career.

Omär’s career began in Christian music under the moniker SPZRKT, before he moved into secular R&B and hip-hop. Through his first couple of projects and work with Seattle DJ and producer, Sango, the 27-year-old singer’s heart-on-sleeve approach quickly created a buzz.

He says that the whole band is from San Antonio Texas.

Xavier Omär decided to turn his Tiny Desk home concert into a whole Texas affair. Initially, Omär wanted to recreate the look of the Desk: “I wanted to kind of bring the feeling of Tiny Desk back, so I had booked a library,” he said. Ultimately the library didn’t work out, but Rosella Coffee and Wine in his home base of San Antonio proved to be a great match for his sound–spacious and airy.

“Like I Feel” opens with some grooving bass from Korey Davison and wailing sax from Kevin Davison.  Josh Greene adds some big drums fills and guitarist Billy Ray Blunt Jr. plays some wailing leads.  Xavier trades off lead vocals duties with Talyce Hays whose voice is also terrific.

During “Blind Man” he throws in some rapping–a softer cadence, but to good effect.  There’s some response backing vocals from Jay Wile while Alana Holmes and Hays fill in the backing vocals.   Lyrically the song is kinda lame (sweet, but lame), but there’s some cool musical moments–splashes of four notes and more than a few tempo changes.

For good measure, he plays the song that put him on the map, 2016’s “Blind Man.” This is undoubtedly Xavier Omär’s best live performance on record.

I had no idea that this was his breakthrough song.

He tells a quick story (it’s amusing) about how he wishes he was at the beach.  But even if he can’t get there he can think of the the rhythm of the waves and the “SURF.”  He says he could enjoy the surf because his woman has that “splah” (?).  Its’s a pretty ripping song with, again, surprising tempo changes.  The song has moments that I would say come from Frank Zappa’s oddball melodies.  Ands once again, the drums are massive.

He says “So Much More” is the wedding song of the year.  It features Justin Crawford on keys and is a much more mellow song than the other.  It also allows Xavier to really show off his voice.

The Alamo City resident and his cohorts orchestrated a charismatic and vocally rich show. The set list perfectly depicts the emotional arch of if You Feel. He’s on a clear path to greatness in R&B music.

It was probably a smart move to go secular.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “A Man in the Kitchen”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Donald Antrim starts this rather sad memory with an amusing story.

His father learned how to cook when his mother served “hot tuna-and-mayonnaise casserole with potato chops as a decorative garnish.”

This story had become Received History in the family: “Baked mayonnaise! I had to take action!”

Soon cooking had become his father’s second full time job.  He taught literature at the University of Virginia and then he would drive around buying all of the food stuffs for their meals.  He would travel to different markets for different foods and he was an early adopter of the Cuisinart. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKKIRK FRANKLIN-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #175 (February 25, 2021).

Religion is inextricably linked to gospel music, which I think is rather a shame became gospel music can be a lot of fun, regardless of the lyrics.

If I wanted religion in my music I would call on Kirk Franklin in a heartbeat.  His songs are super catchy and inspirational and he is a great band leader.

For nearly 30 years, Franklin has been widely regarded for revolutionizing gospel. He incorporated secular music, particularly hip-hop, while preserving the message and integrity of traditional gospel. Here, he and his powerhouse choir pace through a decades-long, sixteen Grammy award winning discography of faith, praise and encouragement while cracking plenty of jokes. I cannot recall a more moving Tiny Desk home performance.

The set begins with “Love Theory.”  Franklin doesn’t even sing on this one, leaving it up to the rest of his singers [from left to right Darian Elliot, Eboni Ellerson , Michael Bethany, Deon Yancey, Melodie Pace,  Tia Rudd] to croon the melodies.

He gets up and claps his hands.  He even does some dancing behind the keys.  His energy is undeniable.   And actually, this one could be secular: “I don’t love nobody but you.”  By the end of the song, he tells everyone to make it bounce y’all and the funky bass from Matthew Ramsey kicks in heavy.

Kirk Franklin, set up with his band and choir in a corner of Uncle Jessie’s Kitchen, makes a declaration. “I know you’re at home right now, in your draws, listening to some Jesus music. It’s ok. Jesus loves you in your draws!”  Those are your draws!  He blessed you with those draws.

“Silver and Gold” slows things down old school.  Franklin plays the piano but it’s all about the harmonies that the singers include.  They keep building on the word “gold” getting bigger and bigger to a huge, outstanding peak.

The Arlington, Texas studio, named after a long time close friend, features a large photo of the iconic “I AM A MAN” protest signs from the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike on the wall. The jubilant energy that Franklin and company emit, juxtaposed with a visual reminder of the strife that Black people have endured is illustrative of the importance of gospel music in the Black community.

He continues “If you still haven’t put any clothes on yet we gonna groove a little bit more. You in one sock, I see you with just one sock with a flip flop or a house shoe.  I see you.  You look crazy but Jesus loves you still.

“Melodies From Heaven” has a quieter intro, but it builds bigger and then Franklin gets up and dances around the room while Shaun Martin plays the keyboard and Terry Baker plays some crashing drums–But its all about that wild bass.

The song ends abruptly.  He says that’s all you gonna get now … but after the pandemic I’m coming to your house and I’m bringing everybody and we gonna do this in your living room, your living room–everybody gets a concert.

For the final song “I Smile” he gives this positive intro:

All you gotta do, no matter what you face, even if you don’t have all your teeth, even if you got one good tooth all you gotta do is smile.

It’s a fun, boppy song with some more terrific drums at the end.

If all church was like this, more people might go.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Sixty-Nine Cents”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Gary Shteyngart’s family moved to the United States when he was young and by the time he was fourteen, his accent was mostly gone.

He now had three goals: to go to Florida and Disneyworld, to have a girl say she liked him and to eat at McDonald’s.

His parents did not believe in spending money–they bought clothes “by weight on Orchard Street.”  Despite their frugality, their parents agreed on a trip to Disney.  The tickets were free after a timeshare presentation.
“You’re from Russia?
“Leningrad … please Disney tickets now.”

They drove to Florida and stayed in cheap motels along the way. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RICK ROSS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #169 (February 16, 2021).

I’ve heard Rick Ross’ name a lot although I don’t remember why–do people love him or hate him?  I can’t remember.

This Tiny Desk is fascinating because Ross is clearly in charge (he sits in the golden throne for some of the set), but the stars of this set are really Ross’s backing singers.  Elijah Blake (with the pink hair and muscles) and Troy Tyler have fantastic voices–singing backing and lead for most of the tracks.  And, actually I’m even more fond of his hype man DJ Sam Sneak, who is saying all kinds of things in the background in a kind of growl.  I’d love to hear his vocal track without Ross’ to really get all the things he’s shouting.

He starts with “Super High.”

This Tiny Desk marks just the second time Ross has performed with a live band. On “Super High,” from his Teflon Don album, drummer Rashid Williams and bassist Thaddaeus Tribbett lay down the foundation for Ross’ smooth cadence and signature nonchalance. Background singer and Ne-Yo protege Troy Tyler projects the lead vocal lines originally sung by his mentor.

I really like the intensity of the music in “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast).”  The heavy bass works well.  Sam Sneak is going to town with the responses.  Meanwhile, Elijah sings along accenting everything Ross raps. The live drums from Rashid Williams are great for this with heavy thumps and cymbals at the end of each line.

Blake sings lead on “Aston Martin Music.”  He has an impressive, delicate falsetto.

Monty Reynolds drops in with the sparse, yet catchy key melody that made it the contagious hit single it was in 2010.

Then Ross pauses.

At one point, Ross pauses between songs to speak on his inspirations. “So many inspired the Boss,” he says. “I could look at any brother on the street and get some inspiration from them, regardless of how many followers you got on social media, regardless of what you’re riding in. I could learn something from you. I ain’t scared to. Let’s make sure we keep building.”

“I’m Not A Star” is my favorite track–it’s got great intensity and it’s fun to watch everyone bouncing to the song.

“F*ckwithmeyouknowigotit” opens with samples from the DJ then adds low bass and sprinkled keys.  Ross says, “If you remember the Blockbuster days right now you’d be recording this with your VHS.  And I know you was one of them who never rewinded your shit after you watched it it and they charged you that extra $3 at Blockbuster.”

“Tears of Joy” ends the set with nice use of floor toms by Williams.  Dj Sam Sneak is hyping behind him.  And Troy sings backing on this one.  He’s really impressive.  The song ends as Ross rests in his chair while Elijah takes us out accompanied by grooving bass work.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Rationed”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Aleksander Hemon starts his essay talking about his family routine when he and his sister were adolescents.  His parents returned from work at 3:45PM.  They ate their dinner at 4PM.  [Four PM?  That is so early!]  Did they go to bed at 6?

They listened to the news on the radio, their parents asked them endless questions about school and the whole thing was done at 4:30 after the “you must be silent” for the four twenty-five weather report.

It was like a horrible oppression.  The childrens’ ideal meal would involve Bosnian fast food, comic books, television and no parents.

Then he was conscripted into the Yugolsav People’s Army. (more…)

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