Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MARCO BENEVENTO-Me Not Me (2009).

This album (Benevento’s second) with the confusing title is actually a (mostly) covers album.  Marco takes some familiar (to me) and some unfamiliar (to me) songs and turns them into instrumental versions using piano (and more), bass (from Reed Mathis) and drums.

The first song is My Morning Jacket’s “Golden.”  The melody is instantly recognizable and bouncy and fun.  Matt Chamberlain provides drums, which are skittery and complicated but never loud. Until the end when the songs starts to float away with trippy synths and some wild drumming.

“Now They’re Writing Music” is an original piece that switches between synth and piano and features Chamberlain and Andrew Barr on drums.

“Seems So Long Ago, Nancy” is a Leonard Cohen song.  It’s produced as if it’s on an old scratchy record with echoing bass and drums over the scratchy piano.  Barr is on drums.

“Mephisto” is an original, a slow jazzy number with a hummable melody and Chamberlain on drums.

“Twin Killers” is a Deerhoof song.  Appropriately, it has some riotous drums (from Barr who is on the next two songs as well).  It’s longer than the original because it features a cacophonies middle section that is just insane.  But Benevento’s faithful reproduction of the melody line makes this really catchy.

“Call Home” is a pretty lullaby.  It’s an original with soft keys and a baby cooing.

“Heartbeats” is the Jose Gonzales/The Knife song.  The main low riff sounds like its on the bass and then Marco plays the familiar lead melody with all kinds of fuzz thrown over the song.

“Sing It Again” is a mellow song from Beck off of Mutations.  I don’t really know it that well but this version is very pretty and simple.

A highlight of the album is this really fun version of Led Zeppelin’s “Friends.”  It’s immediately recognizable and yet different somehow.  Its full of raucous paying from all three especially when Benevento ads the sinister synths near the end.  Chamberlain plays up a storm on the drums.

The final song is George Harrison’s “Run of the Mill.”  I don’t know the original, but this is a jazzy song with lot of piano runs from Marco and some restrained drumming from Chamberlain.

This is a pretty solid introduction to Benevento’s music, although his albums definitely get better once he starts writing his own songs with words.

[READ: March 14, 2021] “Surrounded by Sleep”

Ajay was ten years old.  His family lived in Queens (having moved from India two years earlier).  He and his older brother, Amam, were in Virginia visiting his aunt and uncle.  One morning Aman was swimming in the pool.  He dove in and hit his head on the cement bottom.  He was on the bottom of the pool for several minutes before anyone noticed.

His parents were not terribly religious, but as Amar lay in a coma in the hospital, his mother began to pray regularly.  She also prostrated herself and fasted.

At first Ajay thought “her attempts to sway God were not so different from Ajay’s performing somersaults to amuse his aunt.”  Then Ajay knelt before the altar and drew in the carpet an Om, a crucifix, a Star of David and the Superman logo.

When his mother saw him praying, she asked what he prayed for.  He told her for a 100 on his math test. His mother said “What if God said you can have he math grade but then Aman will have to be sick a little while longer? …   When I was sick as a girl, your Uncle walked seven times around the temple and asked God to let him fail his exams just as long as I got better.”

Ajay replied, quite rightly, “If I failed the math test and told you that story you’d slap me and ask what one has to do with the other.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Jasper Heritage Folk Festival-Day Set (August 3 2001).

Rheostatics played two sets at the Jasper heritage Folk Festival in 2001.  They did a day set to promote their new children’s album Harmelodia and then later an evening set full of hits.

This is a fantastic sounding show … the afternoon set at the Jasper Heritage Folk Festival and is unique in that it is an almost complete run through of the entire Harmelodia album including Dave reading parts of the book. One of the earliest shows with Michael Wojewoda on drums.

In the intro Dave explains that they’re playing the entire Story of Harmelodia album, borrowing a page out of Luther Wright and the Wrongs’ book and do a concept program.  [I wonder what that was].  We’re going to read a little bit and play a few songs.

The Intro music is kind of like the more we get together, the happier we’ll be.  Dave narrates and the music sounds really good.

He tells everyone that the album is available for only $25 over there, easy.  How much you got?  $15?  We’ll take $15.  And your hat and your glasses.

Tim sings “Monkeybird” which is, admittedly, not as good as Kevin Hearn’s version, but which is still fine (they have a really hard time with the high note of the “we love the sound.”

“Invisible Stairs” is a twist on the “Twinkle Twinkle” melody–a pretty 2 minute interlude.

During “Popopolis/Drumstein” Martin makes a cool humpback whale sound.

They take a small break, “a little interlude then the program will resume.”  Then he says “hurry hurry come on up,” and some girls wish Chrissy Way a happy birthday.  Dave jokes Chrissy’s 37.

Tim says that Dot wrote “Loving Arms,” but ripped off The Beatles.  Dave replies, “it’s make believe Tim, there’s no copyright in make believe land.”

They don’t do “Father’s Sad Song” (because Gord Downie wrote it?).

The bass is suddenly too loud but otherwise it sounds great.  You can compare the concert setlist to the album at the bottom of the post.

[READ: February 21, 2021] “Paris Diary (1992)”

I’m not sure who Mavis Gallant is, but she had the third of three “Memory” sections in this issue of the New Yorker, so here it is.  It is indeed a few samples of her 1992 diary.  The first few entries are from January.

She writes about three prisoners released from solitary confinement after eighteen years.  Two of them are shrunken and need a wheelchair.  The third has his daughter to look after him.  She imagines what it must be like to get your father back after so long.

Gallant was young when her father died and yet she could not accept the truth.  She always imagined he would return.  Like how Isaac Babel’s daughter wrote, “Every time a car stopped in front of the door, I expected to see my father step out of it.”  But of course, he never did.

Then she recalls Josée de Chambrun (her father ran the Vichy government in 1942 and was tried for treason).  She has just died.  Mavis and Catherine (whoever that is) saw her in a gallery, eyes full of defiance.  After the war, the French either stood behind her or despised her.

The next entry (February) concerns her friend at dinner.  She smoked through the meal, juggling fork, knife and cigarette.  No one seemed to mind. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: JAZMINE SULLIVAN-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #132 (January 8, 2021).

I know Jazmine Sullivan from a previous NPR set from 2014.  I hadn’t heard anything from her since then.  The blurb says

We don’t see or hear much from Jazmine Sullivan until she has something to get off her chest. She drops a body of work every five years or so, shakes up the world of R&B with each offering, then quietly goes back to minding her own business.

That’s pretty awesome.

Her latest project, Heaux Tales, is a bold and timely conversation piece addressing truths regarding relationships, sex, social norms, self-worth and a myriad of other topics that women grapple with. Each song is masterfully connected to another through unique yet familiar testimonies by women from all walks of life.

Sullivan’s set is five songs in nearly twenty minutes.

The singer-songwriter, draped in a trench coat while her band sports all black, are nestled in the corner of a dimly lit space resembling a cabaret.

She starts her Tiny Desk (home) concert with three extended and reworked selections from Heaux Tales,

“Bodies (Intro)” is jazzy an old-fashioned sounding with prominent piano from Eric Wortham and gently echoed guitars from Simon Martinez.  But it’s got very non-old-fashioned lyrics.  The end even has her scatting and crooning and there’s some wild drum fills from Dave Watson.

“The Other Side” features prominent bass from Jermaine Blandford and piano open this set.  It’s got a really nice catchy chorus.  The backing singers (Alisa Joe, Natalie Curtis and Ayana George vocals arranged according to height) add really nice harmonies and at the end they do a nice vocal fugue.   The song ends with a smooth bass riff.

“Lost One” is the first single from this project although I think the other two songs are much catchier.

“Let It Burn” a blast from the past and

thee fan favorite from 2015’s Reality Show,

For the last song, “Girl Like Me, she invites Tiny Desk alum H.E.R. to the stage to close.  H.E.R. plays a delicate acoustic guitar.  The song is just guitar and bass until about half way through when the rest of the band joins in.  I liked this song least because there was a lot of vocals acrobatics that i did not care for–something that it seems like Sullivan doesn’t do much.  The graphic lyrics with the gentle acoustic guitar was a nice contrast though.

[READ: February 21, 2021] “My Mother”

Like Nadine Gordimer, Amy Tan had a “memory” in this issue as well.

Unlike Nadine, this memory was concrete and very poignant.

She says that when she was sixteen she said some hateful things to her mother, including “I hate you, I wish I were dead.”  Her mother replied, “Okay maybe I die, then I no longer be your mother.”

They would not speak to each other for days after fights like this.

A Couple of years ago when Amy was 47 and she was already a successful writer, she was writing a story about a girl and her mother when the phone rang. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: TH1RT3EN-Tiny Desk (Home Concert) #146 (January 18, 2021).

I had never heard of TH1RT3EN before this Tiny Desk Concert. But I was hooked from the beginning.  I liked everything about them.  The fuzzy distorted guitar from Marcus Machado, the excellent delivery of Pharoahe Monch and especially the fascinating drumming and drum style of Daru Jones (look at the way his drums are set up!).

Both the moniker TH1RT3EN and supergroup were born out of a frustration with the veneer of American society that underestimates the darkness of white supremacy.

“I knew 5 years ago where we headed,” Monch shared over the phone. “Sure, we’ve always done socially and politically aware music, but I’m tired of this “love will win” nonsense. Love may be the most powerful vibrating force, but consciousness is spreading and it’s impossible not to be more aware of the evil that has kept the world in complete darkness. TH1RT3EN is the musical personification of me and my comrades at combat.”

“The Magician” is based around the riff from Yes’ “Roundabout.”  Machado plays the riff throughout which I find much more interesting than if it was sampled.  Monch’s lyrics are smart and pointed.  There’s an incredibly fast rapping middle section with some amazing drumming.  I really like his delivery.

Moinch says that that song is about a student who was bullied and grew up to be a school shooter.  Ironically there hasn’t been any school shootings because we’re in the middle of a pandemic–a pandemic that has taken the lives of 250,000 Americans.  And yet Americans reman more afraid of Black Lives Matter than of COVID 19.

TH1RT3EN recorded this set in August 2020, as evidenced by Monch’s interlude, this four-song set still channels the discontent outside our windows today.  Shot in a padded “panic” room, this Tiny Desk (home) concert reflects the rage felt by this three-man battalion.

Monch continues “We are in need of cleansing and an exorcism.  “Cult 45” opens with a sample of a horn riff.  It’s quieter musically so it’s mostly vocals.  When the guitar joins in it’s mostly to add free jazz noises along with some wild drumming.

“Scarecrow” returns to the slow dirgy, aggressive guitar sound behind some fast rapping.

He says he started the band because he wanted a bit more authentic aggression by finding these two musicians.  And the set ends with “Fight” which has a nice big riff and crashing drums.

How’s this for an aptly aggressive verse

Burn a cross, water hose, dogs and nightsticks
Yeah, that’s what it used to be, see, they would usually
Just hang a nigga, fuck ’em
Now they don’t have the time to decorate the trees so they buck ’em

I’m going to have to check out this album.

[READ: February 28, 2021] You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey.

Amber Ruffin is a writer and comedian, most notably from “Amber Says What” on Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Amber Ruffin Show on Peacock.  Amber is hilarious.

But Amber is also righteously angry about the way Black people are treated in America.  Somehow she manages to take the most horrible things you can imagine and report about them with enough humor to make you listen and laugh and still get outraged.

This book is a collection of stories of racist things that happened to her sister Lacey.   Lacey lives in Omaha, Nebraska, where they grew up.  I don’t know anything about Nebraska or Omaha.  Apparently Omaha is a big city and has sections that have a lot of Black folks.  White people who are not from the city find the thought of going to Omaha scary.  It also means that when Lacey gets jobs outside of Omaha she is typically the only Black person in the building.

Which seems to make all of the white people there think it is okay to say whatever crazy racist shit they want to say.  But even outside of work, it seems like Lacey is a magnet for racist comments.  Is it because she is tiny and good natured?  Maybe.  But she is a also a bodybuilder, so watch out.

About this book Amber says:

When you hear these stories and think, None of these stories are okay, you are right.  And when you hear these stories and think, Dang, that’s hilarious, you are right.  They’re both.

There are going to be a lot of time while you’re reading this book when you think There is no motivation for this action. It seems like this story is missing a part because people just aren’t this nonsensically cruel.  But where you see no motivation, you understand racism a little more.  It’s this weird, unprovoked lashing-out, and it never makes any sense. It’s why it’s so easy for people to believe the police when hey beat someone up–because no one would be that cruel just because the person was Black.  But the are!  So as you read this book, when you see there’s no motivation, know that there is: racism.

The Preface has an anecdote that really sets the tone for the rest of the book.  Lacey paid at a store with a check. The checks had Black heroes on them.  Lacey paid with one with Harriet Tubman on it.  The cashier who had been very nice up to that point said “Wow you have checks with your picture on ’em.”  There is then a hilarious juxtaposition of the check with Tubman and one with Lacey’s photo.

Amber contrasts her life in New Yorke City.

Everyone I work with is stark raving normal. We don’t have any crazy bigots (dumb enough to run up) and I’m no one’s first Black friend.  Now I’m not saying no one ever says anything crazy to me–I’m still a Black woman in America–it’s just that we all know there are consequences for talking to me as if you’ve lost your mind.

But in the Midwest it is an unchecked tsunami of dumb questions and comments.  People think it your job to answer “Why can’t I (insert the most nonsense shit you’ve ever head)?”

Lacey chimes in (in a different font) from time to time with things like that she’s happy her little sister is successful in New York:

where someone would get fired for out-and-out racism.  I love that that really happens.  Never seen it, but I love it.  Like Santa Claus.

Amber ends the preface by saying

Hopefully the white reader is gonna read this, feel sad, think a little about it, feel like an ally, come to greater understanding of the DEPTH of this type of shit, and maybe walk away wit a different point of view of what it’s like to be a Black American in the twenty-first century.

And I did.  Boy did I ever. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-3rd Annual Green Sprouts Music Week Night 4 (Ultrasound Showbar, Toronto Ontario September 21 1995).

Darrin at Rheostatics Live added a number of new shows in the last eight months.  Like this full week of shows from the Third Green Sprouts Music Week

Fourth night of the third annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar September 18-23 1995. Never Forget makes its live debut and Farm Fresh and Tyler Stewart of Barenaked Ladies joins the band for Soul Glue. The 16 minute Digital Beach/Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald/You Are Very Star ending is amazing. The band also talks about “Raise A Little Elf” which would be noted on The Blue Hysteria and several other albums.

This is the first of the shows in which the audience is really obnoxious.  It gets worse later on.  I’m not sure why they get picked up so clearly on the mic, but it ruins some of the songs.

Many of the shows opens quietly, but this one opens with a raw “Feed Yourself” with some different words.  The guys are still figuring out the ending.

There’s a really noisy guy who shouts “sit down!” [This is a big thing tonight].  Tim: I’m not getting involved in that.

They play “All the Same Eyes” which I wouldn’t call the most rocking song in their catalog, but Martin says “we’re not normally this rock n rolly.”  Dave: Only on Thursday.  Only on St. Swithin’s day.  Only on my grandpa’s birthday.

They play “an old song,” it’s “Fishtailin'” and the crowd is stupidly loud during the quiet parts.

Up next is “Four Little Songs.”  There’s a long intro, but they get it right.  During Dave’s part he asks them to play the intro twice and he says Bono’s (?) kitchen.  But by the end, they can’t get the counting part right so they ask the audience to help and they do great.

These songs are “aged like sharp cheese which is what Rheostatics means in Latin.”

Dave finally addresses the shouters: you’re not gonna shout out sit down still are you?  They’re obviously not going to sit down and stuff.  Don: They’re talking to you, Dave, they want you to sit down.

Dave says his “day band” The Medicores” playing tomorrow at Lee’s Palace.  It’s a food bank benefit  Don will be at a benefit on Sunday with the coolest band in the area, Don’t Talk, Dance (a group with Tyler Stewart and others).

Last night was a weird night–felt the ghost of Trooper.  We even broke into “Raise a Little Elf.”  The story behind that is that when Andrew was very young he thought that the Trooper song “Raise a Little Hell” was “raise a little elf.”  He didn’t find out until …1992!  So naive.  He’s Mennonite.  Mennonites believe in elves.

Up next is Tim’s new song “Connecting Flights,” which Martin says is called “Two Flights of Stairs.”

You hear the guy shout “sit down asshole.” Thankfully before the song starts.

Presumably to damp down the jerks, they play their happy theme song (“Introducing Happiness”).  He says they plan to play it at the Grey Cup and the Governor Generals Inauguration (cheers). You like the Governor General? Weird crowd.

Up next is “Claire,” the only time they played it this week.  This time it features a guitar “duel” between Martin and Tim.  Tim obviously loses.  he even messes up his simple part and has to play it twice.  Dave says that the song is from the movie Whale Music which is coming out in the States on October 6 at a place in Santa Monica.

Next up is a brand new, never performed song sung by Don kerr called “Never Forget.”  There’s so much talking during it I can’t believe it.

Dave tells a funny, lengthy story about riding his bike and getting honked at by girls in a van.  He tells them Mississauga’s that way (a burn on Don Kerr).  The punch line is them telling him to “go back to England.”  You know what happens when Italians are mistaken for English….

Don says that if you’re riding a bike in Mississauga, you’ve got to  watch for people in vans with baseball bats.  Their TVs break and they have nothing to do.

A great sounding “Fat” has a rocking ending (Dave reveals that the gum that’s tough to chew was Dubble Bubble).  Farm Fresh gets the shout out in “Fan Letter” And then Martin introduces the next song which is “about working in a gas station.”  Dave: It’s not the ‘Summer of ’69’ is it?  But seriously, who talks through “Self Service Gas Station?”

Then there is clapping for the “contest winner.”  The “play drums on your birthday with the Rheostatics” contest.  It’s Tyler Stewart.  Give him a shot at the big time.

Dave asks about an “eat Kraft dinner with BNL contest” in which the bnl were too busy to eat with th eguys and so there were cardboard cutouts.  Tyler: is that some sorta CHOP?

They got to eat with Tyler’s double: Tarzan Dan.
Tim’s double is Henry Rollins
Dave’s double is Telly Savalas
Martin’s double is Starsky Michael Paul Glaser
Don’s double (courtesy of Janet Morassutti) Richard Manual from The Band.
The guitar tech’s double is William Baldwin–at least you didn’t say Ed Begley, Jnr.

Tyler plays a beat for Farm Fresh.  It’s a wild introduction to “Soul Glue.”  There’s so much cursing!  Whaddya think of Farm Fresh/Rheostatics/Barenaked Ladies  “They suck!”  Tyler also does a rap and then describes “Soul Glue” as a “song about LSD.”  It’s a bit slower, but sounds cool.  When Tim sings the “reapt that mistake” Tyler shots “sorry!” and after the “in the ground” Tyler adds “in the ground, in the ground, in the muthafuckin ground.”

Dave encourages everyone to join the Green Sprouts Music Club if you can.

The encore is “Digital Beach.”  There’s some shushing as Martin starts.  It segues into a slow, powerful “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  The song is fantastic–the loud parts are really overwhelming. Then as the song ends and Tim reprises the slow part some some jackass shouts out “Gordon Lightfoot!” which totally ruins the moment.  Jesus.  Dave threw in an “I wish I was back home in Derry” which I thought was something he did much later.

After atmospheric jamming at the end of the song, it ends with a lovely (uninterrupted) “You Are Very Star.”

I hate that these drunken people can ruin quiet moments because otherwise this show is fantastic.

[READ: February 20, 2021] School for Extraterrestrial Girls

The title of this book sounded pretty good and when I saw that it was written by Jeremy Whitley who did the wonderful Princeless I was ready to read it.  I don’t know Jamie Noguchi but he has illustrated Erfworld.

Princeless was a YA book and this series is aimed a little younger.  It starts with Tara Smith, a normal girl going to a normal school.  Well, not that normal.  She doesn’t really have any friends. She just puts her head down and gets good grades.  Her parents are pretty intense.  And they are very busy.  So much so that she never really sees them in the morning.  They give her her daily meds (she has serious allergies) and trust that she will catch the bus (which she always does).

When she gets home they go over her homework, make her do everything that she got wrong over and over again and then tell her to study for tomorrow.   The only free time she has is when she takes out the garbage.

Then one morning she wakes up late. A power failure has messed up her alarm.  In her haste to get to school, she drops her meds and breaks a special bracelet that her parents gave her.  Today she can’t take the mean kids on the bus.  She yells at them and her eyes glow red, which gets everyone to back up.  Later in class, as she is writing on the board, her hand catches fire.  And then her whole body does. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BORIS with MERZBOW-Gensho (Disc One: Boris) (2016).

In 2016, Boris teamed with Merzbow to create Gensho, a 2 CD package that was designed to have both CDs played at the same time.  Not the easiest thing for many people, but with the advent of digital recordings it’s now pretty easy to play both discs at the same time (this release is on Spotify).

Disc 1 was all Boris.  Disc 2 was all Merzbow.

Boris’ album is unusual in that it is re-recordings of some of the bands music as well as a couple of new tracks and a cover.  The unusual part is that there are no drums.  There are percussive elements, especially on one track, but there’s no regular drum beat to any of these tracks.

“Farewell” (from Pink) is a simple two note guitar melody with washes of sound behind it.  New notes expand that repeating motif. After two minutes a roaring chord comes in and holds while the vocals sing an uplifting melody.  The chord progression is very very slow with chords that drone. When the melody shifts to a higher note it feels like the whole song is elevated.  There’s a pretty little guitar solo in the middle and even a gong hit.  It’s one of Boris’ prettier songs and it fades softly into the noise that is “Huge.”

“Huge” (from Amplifier Worship) is two feedbacking guitars introducing distorted chords and lots of gong hits.  They’re followed by a ponderous drone-fueled six chord progression.  At around five minutes the vocals–a growl really–starts up.  At 8 minutes a new pattern emerges.  Two chugging chords and then a roaring low note–practically trademark Boris.

“Resonance” was a new song for Boris.  It is only echoed percussion–randomly and slowly hit.  The title makes sense as these sounds echo and resonate for a long time after they are sounded.  It’s not particularly interesting by itself but it works well with the Merzbow track tacked on.

“Rainbow” comes from the album Rainbow, a collaboration with Michio Kurihara.  I don’t know this record, but if this is any indication of that release, it sounds like a string record.  This is a quiet, pretty song–a sliding bass and a quietly echoing guitar riff as the song whispers along.  Then Wata starts singing quietly as the bass slinks around.  After three minutes a fuzzy guitar solo comes in drawing all attention to itself.  It rips through and ends in a wall of noise before the vocals start again.  This sounds very much like a Sonic Youth song.

Pulsing electronic noses open up “Sometimes” (a My Bloody Valentine cover).  After a minute, feedback and chords come in.  The vocals are nicely buried an you can clearly hear this is Boris’ take on MBV.  It’s a slow drone wall rather than a wall of different sounds.

It segues into “Heavy Rain” (from Noise) which opens as just a series of electronic rumbles and feedback jamming until a pretty echoing chord comes in and Wata sings very quietly.   After a minute and a half big droning chords ring out.  Then its back to the quiet–whispered vocals and gentle echoing notes over a slow meandering bass.   It soars quietly like this until the last 44 seconds which returns to the noise of the opening.

“Akuma No Uta” (from Akuma No Uta) is full of washes of notes, drones and gongs.  Over the course of the 11 and a half minutes of this song, it morphs into loud distorted chords drones ending with a slow heavy two note riff that fades with gongs.

“Akirame Flower” (originally from Golden Dance Classics a split EP with 9dw that I don’t know) opens with watery noises and electronic beat before raw guitar and vocals come in.  This is a softer drone with a pretty guitar solo on top of the fuzz.  The last note rings out and segues into the distorted bent chords of “Vomitself.”

“Vomitself” is the heaviest thing here–heavily distorted chords pummel along while growled vocals creak though.  It’s remarkable how heavy it is with no drums.

[READ: February 5, 2021] “Jamaica”

In this story, a man who is not allowed to go to his wife’s book club, finds a way to be a part of it

Everett is the narrator and he tells us about his family.  His daughter Theresa is dating a man much older than her (of whom Everett disapproves highly); Thomas his son who was born blind.  TJ their dachshund is as much a part of the story as anyone else.  His wife, Jillian, hosts the The Gorgon Book Club.

The attendees are Theresa, Dorry Smith a semi-professional archer–right down to carrying a bow and arrow with her wherever she goes, Luce Winningham who has “a Peter Pan haircut and a perky disdain for wearing a brassiere.”  There’s also Gwen Kirkle who loves animals more than anything (and often brings conversations to a halt when she talks about them).  The final attendee is Abigail Van Roost.

Everett and Abigail dated in high school. Then she had a terrible accident.  Everett (out of cowardice) broke up with her and started dating Jillian.  Amazingly, Abby (who is in a wheelchair) is fine with the arrangement,  She is happily married herself now and treats young Thomas like a prince. (more…)

Read Full Post »

 SOUNDTRACKTINDERSTICKS-“City Sickness” (1993).

In Stuart David’s book, In The All-Night Café, he lists the songs on a mixtape that Stuart Murdoch gave to him when they first met.

Although I’ve been a fan of Belle & Sebastian for a long time, I knew almost none of the songs on this mixtape.  So, much like Stuart David, I’m listening to them for the first time trying to see how they inspire Stuart Murdoch.

In the book, David writes how much he does not like “rock,” especially music based around bluesy rock.  Most of these songs, accordingly, do not do that.  In fact, most of these songs are (unsurprisingly) soft and delicate.

I don’t recall when I first heard the Tindersticks, but I was immediately a fan.  The camber pop was lovely, the strings gorgeous and Stuart Staples’ voice was deep and robust.  Yes, his lyrics are dark or at least sad (or they always seem like they are even when they aren’t), but his voice makes you want to listen to everything he has to say.

This song has a simple melody and a gentle sweeping chorus complete with strings and glockenspiel all underpinned with an almost pop melody.  The big surprise comes during the instrumental break which features a… guitar, violin(?) mixed really low in the background, playing a kind of noise/screeching sound that you almost don’t notice until it stops.

Tindersticks would go on to write many more great albums over the years and are still going.

[READ: February 3, 2021] “A Challenge You Have Overcome”

This is about a couple, Steve and Andrea, who were from a long line of long marriages (on Steve’s side).  They had been married 25 years, which Steve’s mother Jeanne must have been pleased by given Andrea’s family’s history.

Things weren’t perfect:

You might sleep in separate bedrooms and wash dishes in a fury.  You might find a moldy peach in the refrigerator and leave it on the counter for three days as evidence of some private trial–but you would never leave.

Steve and Andrea had endured all kinds of struggles and difficulties, including Andrea losing her job and Steev hating his own job.  Steve works in academic publishing and his small press is slowly going digital–something eh was definitely not interested in.  Andrea had recently begun counselling high school students about getting into college.

Surely Jeanne would approve.   Jeanne had lost patience with everyone toward the end of her life and was not afraid of direct honesty.  Jeanne had brought Andrea to tears many times–she had no filter. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THE BLUE AEROPLANES-“Veils of Colour” (1987).

In Stuart David’s book, In The All-Night Café, he lists the songs on a mixtape that Stuart Murdoch gave to him when they first met.

Although I’ve been a fan of Belle & Sebastian for a long time, I knew almost none of the songs on this mixtape.  So, much like Stuart David, I’m listening to them for the first time trying to see how they inspire Stuart Murdoch.

In the book, David writes how much he does not like “rock,” especially music based around bluesy rock.  Most of these songs, accordingly, do not do that.  In fact, most of these songs are (unsurprisingly) soft and delicate.

The Blue Aeroplanes have been around forever, forming in 1981 and releasing their most recent album in 2017.  I feel like I’ve heard of them, but I’m not sure now.  I guess I’ve never actually heard them as this didn’t sound familiar at all.   Nor does the core lineup: the mainstays are Gerard Langley, brother John Langley, and dancer Wojtek Dmochowski.  Their wikipedia pages lists about 90 other people who have played on their records.

“Veils of Colour” opens with a quiet guitar riff that, surprisingly, progresses rather than repeats.  It’s a quiet song and when the lyrics come in, they’re mostly spoken in an almost excitable whisper.  You can certainly see why they appealed to Stuart Murdoch.

The chorus is almost sung, but the addition of horns makes the it swell beyond what you’d expect from the verses.  Indeed, the song has a kind of understated urgency, but never gets very intense.

[READ: January 24 2021] “Hansa and Gretyl and Piece of Shit”

This story was peculiar for many reasons.  Obviously the title shows that this is a twist on a familiar story.  But, wow, does it veer off form what you might expect (just as the title does).

Gretyl is a girl in high school.  She wakes with terrible stomach cramps–not the “normal” cramps a girl might feel, but something far worse.  Her mother believes she is faking because she feels like a loser at school.

She walks to school and sees a man at the bottom of the hill.  His car seems to be constantly broken and he regularly asks Gretyl for help–a scrunchie to fix his carburetor, a paper clip to connect his fan belt (she gave him one from her paper, and her teacher changed her grade from an A to a B- because it had no fastener).  Today he asks her to steer while he pushes.  When his car is free, he gives her a whistle. If you need help, blow it, maybe we’ll come.

Gretyl’s family is strapped for cash. Although her father has a yacht and her mother has expensive jewelry–they don’t seem to have money to buy new things.

Gretyl’s mother resents her: Gestating you destroyed my metabolism.  Now I can’t practice medicine (she does not mention that the mother bore Gretyl at forty). (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS-“Salad Days” (1980).

In Stuart David’s book, In The All-Night Café, he lists the songs on a mixtape that Stuart Murdoch gave to him when they first met.

Although I’ve been a fan of Belle & Sebastian for a long time, I knew almost none of the songs on this mixtape.  So, much like Stuart David, I’m listening to them for the first time trying to see how they inspire Stuart Murdoch.

In the book, David writes how much he does not like “rock,” especially music based around bluesy rock.  Most of these songs, accordingly, do not do that.  In fact, most of these songs are (unsurprisingly) soft and delicate.

I’ve been aware of the Young Marble Giants forever, and yet I apparently knew nothing about them.  Like that they only put out one album (how are the so influential?) or that they were from Wales.

Young Marble Giants were a trio: Philip Moxham on bass, Stuart Moxham on guitar and organ, Alison Statton on vocals.  Yup no drums.

The songs on the record are short and seem to focus around the basslines primarily.  It’s really quite an unusual presentation–quite lo-fi and very engaging.

This song (the 12th of 15 on the album) is 2 minutes long.  It features a simple guitar riff, with a some extra detailed notes sprinkled at the end of the main riff.  Then comes a four note bass riff, with a little hammer on at the end of the riff.  After a minute, Alison quietly sings along with the melody:

Think of salad days
They were folly and fun
They were good, they were young

She sings for 15 seconds and then it’s all music until the end.  The bass drops out with 30 seconds left and the guitar plays that same melody with a few picked notes to the end.

It’s simple and delightful.  And as the start of a mix tape, it speaks volumes.

[READ: January 21, 2021] “Find and Replace” 

This story is written as a true story.  But there are plenty of little comments in the story that show how easy it is to change something in a story–maybe make it untrue?

The narrator, Ann, says her father died in hospice on Christmas Day–the day that she had left the country.  Her family was not the kind who communicated every day.

Her mother was not demanding.  She was a friendly person and had a million friends (she still wrote cards to a maid who cleaned their hotel room fifteen years ago).

Ann flew to Florida, rented a car and drove to her mother’s house.  Her mother showed her letters that she hoped Ann would help her make decisions about.  The last one was from a neighbor named Drake who asked her to move in with him.

Ann assumed it was a joke.  Then assumed her mother would laugh it off.  But indeed, she had said yes.  They might even move to Tucson. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACKDakhaBrakha-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #133/141 (January 11, 2021).

DakhaBrakhaGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The final band on the first night is DakhaBrakha.  I have wanted to see DakhaBrakha live for years–ever since I saw them ona Tiny Desk Concert.  It’s wonderful to see them again, this time with new songs.

Tonight marks DakhaBrakha’s return to globalFEST and Tiny Desk. The Ukranian band’s first globalFEST performance was in 2014, and their 2015 Tiny Desk concert remains a favorite. We’ve had them in our spaces, so it’s a real treat to see them in theirs, the Dakh Theater in Kiev. Coming together, their performance maintains the energy and joy that define their music, bouncing off each other musically and emotionally. DakhaBrakha aims to keep Ukraine’s musical and storytelling tradition alive by making it more accessible to a younger, international audience, a kind of self-proclaimed “ethno-chaos.” They craft stunning sonic worlds for traditional songs, reinventing their heritage with a keen ear for contemporary resonances.

I was initially disappointed that they only played two songs, but these are long complex and varied song.  And they are both great.

“Komora” is a new song.  It opens with Nina Garenetska singing while slowly bowing the cello. Keyboardist Iryna Kovalenko and drummer Olena Tsybulskajoin join in on backing vocals with great harmony and sweeping high notes.  Then Nina starts playing a bass line on the cello and accordion player Marko Halanevych and the other ladies seem to be having a conversation of sounds.  Iryna takes over on lead vocals.  Marko adds some accordion while Olena plays soft drums.  Nina is back to bowing then it returns to cello/bass line and lots of oohing from all the singers.

Then Marko sings a lead line and the women seem to be answering him.  The song starts getting faster and faster as they call to each other leading to a spectacular ending.

“Vynnaya ya” is from their latest album.  It opens with Iryna and Olena clappin a rhythm and Nina plucking the cello.  Marko sings lead and they sing back in a call and response.  Nina takes over on vocals to mostly drum and cello accompaniment.  Then Marko plays a “horn” solo using just his hands.  It sounds like a duck call or muted trumpet and is weird and wonderful.

Olena sings the next verse and then Iryna sings the final verse.  When her verse is done, Marko puts down the accordion, stands up and plays another “trumpet” solo with his hands.  Then the whole band kicks up the tempo to nearly double speed as they race to a wild conclusion.

I can’t wait to see them in person!

[READ: November 15, 2020] Starlite Memories

I had never heard of Dov Fedler.  The title of this book made me look at it twice and then I skimmed the back cover blurb.

Beloved political cartoonist Dov Fedler had the opportunity in the 1990s to make a lifelong dream come true: Directing a movie. …  A laugh-out loud story of pitfalls follows.

Turns out he was a political cartoonist for The Star for over 50 years.

Then I saw that Fedler is from South Africa.  I’d never read anything by anyone from South Africa before this, I don’t think.  So I was curious to see what a comedy from South Africa was like.

Somewhere along the line I completely missed that this was a memoir.

So I spent the first 2/3 of the book believing that this was based on something that really happened but that he was making up names and other details to protect the innocent.  Especially since in the beginning the note to the reader says writing is always about the story.

There are times when a writer may have to embellish, obfuscate, conflate and conjure to keep the thing alive.

Again, somehow I glossed right over that word memoir (actually I thought it was a the main character talking about writing a memoir or something).

None of that really changed the way I would have read this.  I had no idea who he was or any of thing the things he did, so it might as well have been fictional.  But I think it’s funnier that it really happened.

This memoir proved to be mostly funny with a lot of thoughtfulness thrown in for good measure.  It is written by a political cartoonist who has always loved movies.  He is a Jewish man in South Africa.  There are not very many Jewish families in South Africa, but there are enough to have a small cultural center there.

Each chapter of the memoir is titled after a film.  He then summarizes the film in a few words.  The chapter is tangentially tied to either what happens in that film or to the title of the film.

Dov explains that he was hired to directed the film Timer Joe Part 3.  This crazy film title is a real film–the third after two popular movies.  But this one is clearly made simply to ash in on the popularity of the other two.  The film is basically the brainchild of his producer Moe Mankowitz.  Moe says, “I make films for black audiences.  Black people like the same moveis we do, but they like them with black people.”  Timer Joe 1 and 2 were a success, so he wants Dov to write the script for 3.  What’s it about?  All he knows is that it’s a comedy. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »