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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JAMBINAI-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #234 (July 09, 2021).

Why oh why oh why do all the best Tiny Desk Concerts have to be so short?

This show is AMAZING and it’s only 12 minutes long.  Meanwhile, some other bands have dragged theirs out for almost twice as long.  Alas.

I was introduced to JAMBINAI (like many others I’m sure) at the 2018 winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Korea.  Their set was spectacular and it blew me away.  In reality, the band is much smaller than that spectacle produced, but their sound is still huge and intense.

I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “fierce” to describe a Tiny Desk, but that’s precisely what JAMBINAI has created in this (home) concert. The show begins in front of a massive recreation of my desk and what happens next … well, no spoilers here. Filmed in an immersive media art museum created by an organization known as d’strict on Jeju Island, this Korean band contains multitudes.

JAMBINAI plays traditional Korean instruments, but adds rock guitars and bass.

At its heart, JAMBINAI’s music mixes elements of metal, noise and Korean tradition. There’s full-on distorted guitar, bass and drums, but also a haegeum (a fiddle-like instrument), a piri (a type of flute), a taepyeongso (a reed instrument) and a most appropriately named instrument, a geomungo (a giant Korean zither). We also hear some delicate vocals in the mix.

The two pieces performed here include 2015’s “Time of Extinction” and the more recent and epic “ONDA.”

“Time Of Extinction” is the song they played at the Olympic and while it’s only three minutes long it feels epic and really encompasses their sound.  It opens with a plucked geomungo creating the simple riff.  After 20 second Ilwoo Lee plays a feedbacking guitar note and then Jaehyuk Choi comes crashing in on the drums.  At the same time, the visuals blow your mind.

The basis of the song is Eunyong Sim’ geomungo rhythm and Bomi Kim’s keening haegeum solo.  The guitars add a terrific tension to the basic melody.  In the middle of the song when it’s just drum and Byeongkoo Yu’s bass playing, the thumping is broken by the fully distorted guitar You don’t expect Ilwoo Lee to bust out a taepyeongso and play a traditional and rather discordant horn solo on top.  Just when it seems the song is about to launch to a new direction it’s over.  Just like that.

There is something so unearthly about the geomungo–it’s percussive and stringed and you can feel it rumble and thump ta the same time

“ONDA” is 8 minutes long and opens with Ilwoo Lee playing a saenghwang an amazing looking wind instrument that I cant quite fathom.  He plays a terrific sounding melody with it –almost patronal. Except for the low electronic chords underneath it

Then comes the rumble–the thundering drums and bass and a fast repetition from the geomungo.

Then Bomi Kim sings a gentle, calming echoing vocal line that sound magical under the rumble. After a verse of so Ilwoo Lee joins in on harmony vocals and they sound terrific together.

The song builds in intensity, as lwoo Lee adds the guitar, then it pulls back as Lee plays a piri solo that becomes a call and response with the haegeum.

There’s a wild jamming solo section that grows super intense.  The way it builds to a climax and is followed by huge crashing chords (and great visuals) is monumental.  Everyone joins in singing for the last minute as the melody soars and soars.

Maybe 12 minutes is all we can handle.

[READ: July 1, 2021] The Whispering Wars

This book is related to The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone in that it is set in the same land (The Land of Kingdoms and Empires).  But it is set some thirty years before the adventures of that book.  Through some magic (this is a magical land), we do see Bronte briefly. but if she ever starts to give way anything about the future, she is instantly sent back to where she came from.

In the first book we are aware of the Whispering Wars as being a big event in the past.  This book explains how they started.

This book is told by two (sometimes three) alternating narrators.  There is Finlay, who lives at the orphanage and Honey Bee who lives at the fancy Brathelthwaite school.

How they wind up alternating chapters isn’t explained until much later, which I rather enjoyed (both the delay and the explanation).

As the book opens, Finlay explains that it is time for the annual Spindrift (the town where they live) tournament.  The kids at the orphanage looks forward to this event because they can show up the rich kids.  Finlay is a super fast runner, as is his friend Glim.  The twins Eli and Taya aren’t super fast but they are very strong and good with their hands (and can multitask like nobody’s business).  There’s also Jaskafar, a tiny boy who sleeps on top of the wardrobe–his storyline is very funny until he is the first Orphan to be taken. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LIZ PHAIR-Tiny Desk Concert #227 (June 23, 2021).

I loved Liz Phair’s first two or three albums.  Then I got a little bored by her.  And then she went really aggressively commercial (to not so great effect).  This new single “Spanish Doors” sounds a lot like old school Phair but retains some pop sensibility in the super catchy bridge.

Liz Phair’s music was always meant to fill arenas. After a clever sleight-of-hand at the top of this Tiny Desk (home) performance, where it briefly seems we’ve returned to in-person sets behind Bob Boilen’s desk, Phair and her backing band do their best to recreate the kind of set you’d see in a much larger space; everyone plugs-in, turns it up and rocks with an impressive light show.

Phair plays three tracks from Soberish, her first new album in more than a decade.

She starts with “Spanish Doors,” a heartbreaking but hooky portrait of a marriage nearing its end.

It rocks a bit harder here with three guitars (Phair, Connor Sullivan), with lead solos from Cody Perrin.  Liz seems surprisingly nervous here–or maybe her patter is rusty.

She follows with a song against loneliness called “In There.”

It’s a mellow song with snapping drums (Neal Daniels) and rumbling bass (Ben Sturley).  It’s almost sounds like Liz Phair of old but is missing something.

followed by “The Game,” a meditation on the mind games that sabotage troubled relationships.

Liz switches to acoustic guitar for this one–and her guitar sounds wonderful.  There’s some terrific harmonies on this corner which really does sound like old school Liz.

Phair still finds joy and a playful sense of humor in her earliest work, closing her Tiny Desk with a generous version of “Never Said,” from Exile.

I loved Exile in Guyville and listened to it all the time.  It’s great to hear “Never Said” live like this.  When she played a few years ago, I didn’t feel the need to go, but if she played more of these older song (and the newer ones), I’m sure it would be an enjoyable show.

[READ: July 9, 2021] “Heirs”

This was an unusual story in which reality is never fully explained.

A man, Aryeh Zelnik, is resting on a hammock on his porch.  A second man pulls up in a car and heads to the porch.

The story goes into remarkably great detail about the man with his car–how he looks, what he does, even how he smells (not great).

We also learn a lot about the man on the porch.  His wife has left him and now lives in America (the story is set in Israel).  He has moved back in with his mother and is more or less waiting for her to die so that house can revert to him.

The man who arrives in the car, though, begins talking about legal issues.  At first he is very circumspect about what he really wants.

Would it be more comfortable for you if we were to chat awhile longer about [the loveliness of the land here]? Or will you allow me to go straight, without any circumlocution, to our little agenda?

Aryeh Zelnik is suspicious if not downright annoyed by this man who claims to have official business but who keeps avoiding details and calling him Zelkin. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CARRTOONS, KAELIN ELLIS, KIEFER AND THE KOUNT-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #229 (June 28, 2021).

This is one of the more unusual Tiny Desk Concerts that I’ve seen.  Essentially the NPR team asked these musicians to make remixes of NPR theme music.  I haven’t heard of any of the musicians before, but I gather they are well known and regarded.

Over the past year and some change, beatmakers Carrtoons, Kaelin Ellis, Kiefer, and The Kount took to social media individually and often collaboratively to cook up productions, often resulting in viral moments and never-seen-before glimpses into their creative process.  As we continue to celebrate 50 years of NPR, Tiny Desk was determined to take part. To honor the iconic themes from our news programs, we asked these four producers to come up with their own spin on the All Things Considered theme (written by Don Voegeli) the Morning Edition theme and the theme for Weekend Edition (both written by B.J. Leiderman).

The blurb describes them as beatmakers. I don’t know what that means exactly (in my mind it has nothing to do with instruments), but for this set, each guy plays an instrument or two.  Clockwise from the bottom left Kaelin Ellis: drums, The Kount: percussion, Kiefer: piano, keyboards and Carrtoons: bass.

Most of the themes are under 30 seconds, so it’s interesting to hear them stretched out.  It’s also interesting that they didn’t simply play the theme and them jam it.  each one uses a part of the theme, but the songs go in very different directions.  The addition of bass and drums certainly changes the sound, as does their new jazzier feel.

“All Things Considered (Remix by Carrtoons)” Kiefer plays a variant of the original (quite similar) and then plays a kind of staccato piano like the news urgency music.  I like the way those original eight notes keep returning.   This new song is all of 1 minute long.

“Morning Edition (Remix by Kaelin Ellis)”  This one sounds really different with an intro (lots of bass and drums).  It’s not until the middle that the jazzy chords reveal themselves as the Morning Edition melody.  I feel like you can’t hear all that much percussion on these tracks although the bongos are audible here.  and I like the little cymbals near the end.  This song is about two minutes,

“Weekend Edition (Remix by Kiefer)” I like that this one opens with that iconic ascending melody, but dissipates smoothly.  It’s also interesting that the middle melody is still there, only stretched out. Kaelin’s drums are pretty great on this track and Carrtoons’ bass is pivotal throughout.

[READ: June 1, 2021] The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone

S. read book three in this series, not realizing it was book 3.  She then read the books in reverse order, ending with this one.

Well, I decided to read them in the correct order.  And while I haven’t read 2 or 3 yet, book 1 was fantastic.   I loved everything about this book–the plot, the illustrations and especially the writing style

Jaclyn Moriarty has created a hilarious and thoughtful young narrator and the ways in which she has to deal with adults makes for some very funny scenes indeed.

The premise is that Bronte Mettlestone is ten years old and has just found out that her parents were killed by pirates. She’s not really that upset though because she never knew them.  They abandoned her at the doorstep of an aunt when she was just a baby.  They were adventurers and couldn’t be tied down by a child.

The humor comes right away, with the announcement that Bronte’s parents were killed.  They receive a telegram which says that they were “taken out by cannon fire.” Aunt Isabelle is furious about that phrase.  Could they not have chosen a less flippant turn of phrase?

So Bronte was raised by her aunt Isabelle with help from The Butler.  They see that her parents will says that Bronte must take a series of trips, by herself to visit all of her other aunts and give them each a present (the present is included with the will).  The details of the trip are spelled out in very specific detail–how long she is to stay with each Aunt and how to get from one to the next.  To make things worse, the will has been sealed wit faery stitching, which means if she doesn’t do what the will says, there will be terrible consequences.  Essentially Bronte must follow these rules exactly or OR PEOPLE COULD DIE!

So obviously this is world where magic exists, although Bronte herself has had little exposure to magic.  She says the only thing she knows about magic comes from the book The History of the Kingdoms and Empires.

There are two types of magic that are worked by thread.  There was bright thread which was used by True Mages like Faeries and elves and water sprites.  Then there was shadow thread used by dark Mages like witches and Sterling Silver Foxes.  The third kind was binding thread which Spellbinders used to stop Shadow Magic from doing its work. Initially the thread was real, but now they can do their magic with imaginary thread.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KAROL G-Tiny Desk (Home) Conert #216 (May 27, 2021).

I’m always amazed when a musician is described as a superstar but I’ve never heard of her.  Well, Karol G. is a reggaeton superstar and it makes sense that I’ve never heard of her since I’m not even really sure what reggeton is.  This set doesn’t really clarify that for me because this just sounds like great pop music and indeed: 

Colombian reggaetonera Karol G floats between styles on this wistful Miami set with the breeziness of a pop star who knows no boundaries – or maybe it’s the calculus of an artist who has built a career on subverting them. Her personal, unapologetic flourish has allowed her to top the Billboard charts of a genre with limited female participation, and even less superstardom.

It was pretty cool to see that Karol G.’s band was all women (even if some of them look like they’re still in high school, they are all great).  

Her signature bichota energy is subtle, yet pervasive in her stripped-down Tiny Desk (home) concert. Flanked by an illuminated all-women band, Karol G’s authentic command of the intimate moment and its intended audience is unmistakable. 

She plays three (or four) songs. 

She deftly moves from a ballad-like rendition of urbano mash-up “Créeme/A Ella.”

She has a lovely voice with wonderful flow.  Then Guillana Merello starts thumping the floor toms to kick the song off and then she looks so very happy once he main part starts.  Sus Vazquez plays interesting chord shapes high up the neck while Anastasiia Zaichenko plays a bouncy bass. Sus plays a series of pretty chords and things slow down as the song shifts to “A Ella” with soft keyboard washes from Bryan Bliska.

to a soulful performance of trap corrido “200 COPAS” (her proclaimed favorite song at the moment) with Mexican Regional cariño Danny Felix.

Felix plays some great acoustic melodies on the 12 string and the song has a very Mexican/Puerto Rican feel.

She speaks a lot between songs although I have no idea what she’s saying.

Closing with a first-ever live performance of the dreamy duet “CONTIGO VOY A MUERTE,” she marks the end of the concert with a nod to her roots. Intertwined with fellow Colombiano Camilo, Karol G expresses gratitude and pride.

You have to check out Camilo’s mustache!  And the fact that his voice is actually higher than hers.  The songs tarts with some gentle guitars and keys as Camilo sings.

[READ: June 19, 2021] My Mommy Medicine

I’ve read a lot of short stories by Edwidge Danticat, but I had no idea she wrote a children’s book (with lovely illustrations from Shannon Wright).

The story is pretty simple.  In the author’s note, she says that she is a mom to two daughters and whenever they were sick she would lavish them with “mommy medicine.”

In the book there’s one little girl and she knows she can count on her Mommy medicine. (more…)

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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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