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Archive for the ‘Hillary Clinton’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: 1910 FRUITGUM COMPANY-“Goody Goody Gumdrops” (1968).

19101910 Fruitgum Company has a great, bizarre name.  Especially for a band that released such poppy songs.

I thought I knew most of the bubblegum hits just from casual awareness of them.  I was quite surprised how many of these chart-hitting songs I’ve never heard before.

I don’t think I knew this one before, and I quite like it.

The opening verses are quiet, almost dark, with just a chugging guitar and a stomping drumbeat.

It segues into a chorus that is really catchy (of course).  I really like the chord change from “goody goody gumdrops, my heart is doing flip flops” to “gee what love can do.”  It feels like perhaps a minor chord introduction.  There’s even some mildly interesting drum patterns in the middle.

The return of the opening verse brings back a slightly darker mood before the return of the joyful chorus.

It feels like it slightly defies the conventions of the pure bubblegum song.  Maybe that’s why it only got to #37.

[READ: June 15, 2020] Bubblegum Week 6

Over at the Infinite Zombies site, there was talk of doing a Quarantine book read.  After debating a few books, we decided to write about a new book, not a book that everyone (or some people) had read already.  This new book would be Bubblegum by Adam Levin.  Many of us had read Levin’s massive The Instructions which was not especially challenging, although it was a complex meta-fictional story of books within books.  It was kind of disturbing, but also rather funny and very entertaining.

So I’ll be posting weekly ideas on this schedule

Date Through Page
May 11 81
May 18 176
May 25 282
June 1 377
June 8 476
June 15 583
June 22 660
June 29 767

Coffee with Honey

Part IV of the book is called Compound. In it, Belt visits the Jonboat housing compound (they took over most of a cul-de-sac).

There’s a few interesting revelations here, and a remarkably lengthy discussion of a sexual practice that I don’t think I’ve ever seen discussed–certainly not at length–in a book before.  But overall this section does what I like best about this book–have lengthy passages that don’t move the plot along but make me laugh at the ideas and the extent to which Levin is willing to stretch out an idea.

Part IV Section 1 is called “New Modes of Fascination.”

As Belt wakes up his pillow is talking to him.  This is new.  Or, not new exactly, but unusual.  Indeed, the pillow is mad because Belt hasn’t talked to it at least six years (and it’s grumpy because of it).  There’s not much more with inans in this section (aside from a false interaction with a bracelet at the compound), but it’s probably important not to forget about them.

One interesting idea that the pillow suggests is that it can talk with books.  Belt wonders why he never talked with books.  Or had he?  Was the book reading the words to him as he held it or did books have other things to say besides the words on the page?  That idea must be tabled for now.

Belt runs into his dad who is standing in the kitchen acting like he’s had a stroke. He’s acting very strangely, frying up a huge pack of bacon and getting grease on a Jonboat shirt.  There’s a nice call back to Belt smashing the frame that held the Jonboat Says t-shirt.  For this is the shirt that Clyde has.  Clyde essentially believes that he blacked out and smashed the frame but doesn’t remember doing it.  he finds this disturbing because he distinctly remembers why he wanted to do it, but is concerned that he blacked out and doesn’t remember that part.  Belt does not put his mind at ease with the truth.

Belt also learns that his father never really liked Jonboat–he wasn’t rubbing it in by buying that T-short–rather it was … overcompensation because he felt bad that he didn’t like belt’s new friend.  This made Belt feel very good about his dad and they even shared a lengthy, sincere hug.

This week’s reading had several sections that I just loved.  The don’t advance the plot.  They are long-winded, almost set-pieces.  And each one delights me.

Like when Belt decides to sweeten his coffee with honey. (more…)

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92000SOUNDTRACK: U.N.K.L.E.-“Ar.Mour” (2019).

armourHaving learned that U.N.K.L.E. had not only been making music all of these years but even put out a new album this year, I thought I’d listen to something new and see what it was like.

I chose “Ar.Mour” because James Lavelle described it as a sci-fi beat jam.  It features vocals from Elliott Power and Miink.

A pulsing beat opens this five minute song.  Some deep echoing drums come in and slowly add tension and then after about a minute the slow trip-hop drum beat begins. Then a simple guitar line comes in and around two minutes voices swirl up from underneath.  There is definite sci-fi feel to the song.

The song seems to fade out around 2 and half minutes before picking up again and just when you think the whole song is an instrumental the vocals come in.  There’s a deep voice followed by a repeating higher voice.  Then there’s a rap.  All of the voices are enveloped in a soft echo, making the words hard to hear.

The end of the song has a catchy vocal melody as the whole song builds with all of the parts melding together.

[READ: September 1, 2019] “Nelson and Annabelle” (Part 2)

I’m still not sure if this is a two-part, long short story or if it is an excerpt from a novel.

What was kind of strange was that this whole story was utterly chock full of details as if it were a novel, and yet the ending just sped through and finished up with a kind of epilogue tacked on.

This part starts at Thanksgiving dinner.  Nelson has invited Annabelle to his mother’s house for dinner with the family.  The family includes his mother’s new(ish) husband Ronnie and a bunch of Ronnie’s closest relations.

The conversation is cordial until they start talking politics.  Everybody hates Clinton and they are angry that Hillary might run for office in New York.  It was not enjoyable rehashing the political arguments from twenty years ago, but I was fascinated at how much the things they said about him could easily be applied to trump and I wondered if these fictional people were now pro- or anti- trump.

…he lied to us, the American people.  He said it right out on television….

…he’s a draft dodger.  If I were a soldier I’d tell him to stuff his orders….

He makes me ashamed of being an American he makes America look ridiculous.  Drowning us in sleaze and then flying around all over the world as if nothing whatsoever has happened. Its so brazen.

He makes Nixon look like a saint.  At least Nixon had the decency to get out of our faces.  He could feel shame.

Its the sleaze. What are children supposed to think.  What do you tell the Boy Scouts?

As people get drunker, Ronnie, who has been against Annabelle since she showed up tells her to her face that “You’re your mother’s daughter alright… She’d fuck anybody…  It must feel funny being the illegitimate daughter of hooer and a bum.”

Nelson takes Annabelle and leaves the house and swears he will never set foot in it again.

Next we met one of Nelson’s oldest friends, Billy.  Billy is now an oral surgeon and very rich.  He calls up Nelson and invites him out for dinner to catch up. They have a nice time so when New Year’s Eve comes around–the Y2K New Years–Nelson invites Billy out with him and Annabelle.

Also in town are Nelson’s ex-wife, Pru, and their son.  Their daughter, who is 20, decided to go somewhere else with her boyfriend.  Nelson is bummed about the visit.  He wanted to see his daughter and he imagined that they would all stay with him.

Pru is pleased that he finally moved out of his parents house (the two of them lived in his parents’ house when they were married), but she doesn’t want to stay in his new cramped place.

For New Years Eve, Nelson Pru and Billy plan to go out.  Nelson invites Annabelle to come with them–what else is she doing?

They go for dinner (Billy uses his pull as a n oral surgeon to get them a seat at a crowded restaurant) and a movie.  They see American Beauty and have lots to say about it–it’s fascinating how racist and homophobic these men are.

Annabelle and Billy hit it off.  Nelson didn’t intend for that to happen, but it did.  In fact, in the car, it sounds like maybe he can hear the zipper of her dress being undone a little.

They decide to spend the last minutes of 1999 at a club.  But as they head downtown, the streetlights go out.  Is it a terrorist attack (in central Pennsylvania?)

With the traffic lights out, Nelson thinks people will take turns through the intersection.  But when a jerk in an SUV tries to cut him off, Nelson guns it, making the SUV screech to a halt.

For the first time all night Pru is really nice to him, “Oh honey, that was great, the way you made that asshole chicken out.  I think I wet my pants.”  As they drive further Pru whispers that she might stay at his place tonight after all.

The epilogue is satisfying, if you care about these characters.  Which I kind of do.  I definitely wonder if there’s more to their story or if this was just Updike’s way of capping off the full Rabbit saga

 

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Polygondwannaland (2017).

KGATLW continued to amaze in 2017 with their fourth record of the year.  This record was given away for free in November–it was released under an open source licence—meaning the band did not sell copies of the album, but uploaded the master tapes online, encouraging fans to make their own copies and bootlegs of the album. They wrote:

Make tapes, make CD’s, make records.  Ever wanted to start your own record label? GO for it! Employ your mates, press wax, pack boxes. We do not own this record. You do. Go forth, share, enjoy.  P.S. If u wanna make cassettes I don’t really know what you would do.  Be creative. We did it once but it sounded really shit.

As of 2019, Louder tells us

They put the master tapes and artwork online, and indie labels all over the world filled their boots. According to Discogs there are currently 246 different versions of the album, coming in all sorts of shapes and sizes. There’s the label who released a triple vinyl 8″ lathe-cut edition of 101 copies. Australian label Rhubarb Recordings released an edition of 500 housed in a reflective silver foil laminated gatefold sleeve with psychedelic UV printing. Pocket Cat Records released a run of 20 with the grooves cut into blank laserdiscs. Aural Pleasure Records used a Kickstarter campaign to fund their edition of five “Glitter Lizard” LPs, with transparent blue and yellow vinyl featuring embedded glitter and “lizards.” It all got a bit crazy out there.

Conventional wisdom would say that obviously if they’re giving it away, it must not be very good.  But that’s the surprise (or not, given the quality out put of these guys)–this album is just as good as their others, and in many places better.  They really seem to have unified their sound for the bulk of this album, incorporating so many aspects of previous albums, but successfully merging them into a coherent whole.  There’s an epic song, a whole bunch of songs that segue into other songs, songs that refer to other songs, loud vocals, quiet vocals, flutes, harmonica, and it’s all wrapped up in an early Pink Floyd-era synth sound. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DERMOT KENNEDY-Tiny Desk Concert #779 (August 24, 2018).

NPR likes Dermot Kennedy (they made him one of their Slingshot artists for 2018).  The thing that they seem to like about him is what I didn’t.

He has a powerful raspy voice–he could sing for miles.  A voice that works wonderfully with a style of music (folk or rock, primarily).  But the songs I’d heard from him were tinged with hip-hop.  And, frankly, it’s hard to work a powerful singing voice and hip-hop into the same verse.  So to me, it didn’t work, it was like the worst of both worlds.

But at the Tiny Desk, he removes all of that with a live band and, as the blurb says, a gospel choir.

Kennedy took this assignment seriously. The Dublin singer-songwriter wasn’t content with merely re-creating his songs as they sound in the studio, or stripping lavish productions down to simple acoustic arrangements. So he got himself a gospel choir.

More specifically, Kennedy and his band flew in from Ireland a day ahead of time to meet and rehearse with members of Washington, D.C.’s Howard Gospel Choir (Keila Mumphord, Taylor Nevels, Chamille Boyd, Jazmine Thomas). Every arrangement was painstakingly plotted ahead of time, so that every note would be perfect.

Two of the songs Kennedy performs here (“Moments Passed” and “An Evening I Will Not Forget”) pop up on an EP he released this year with hip-hop producer Mike Dean, and both sound radically different in this performance. They’re still forceful — and still centered on the singer’s elastic, bombastic voice — but also looser, warmer, more open.

And I suspect that’s why I like them much more.   Without all of that trapping, he sounds, yes, like Hozier or Glen Hansard.  And of course he was a busker.

They open with “Moments Passed.”  It was weird that the song and concert opens the way it does with the choir and Kennedy singing at the same time.  His voice is the centerpiece of the music and it was obscured not only by four other voices but also but a disconcerting echo effect (from Kieran Jones on keys).  But as soon as that ends, his voice works very well with the piano (Jonny Coote) and drums (Micheál Quinn).

And so when the chorus comes in and he songs his only lines while the choir sings, it works very well.  You can also hear his accent a lot more than other Irish singers, it seems.

“An Evening I Will Not Forget” has more of a hip hop delivery style, at least the way he sings, but he doesn’t try to cram it all in, he lets his voice and melody flow over the dense lyrics.  The song is one of regret and it works perfectly as just piano and his powerful voice.

After the song he jokingly asks for a towel and he laughs when he gets one (and gives it to Jones, “you;re a sweaty guy”).

For the final song, “Glory” he plays guitar on this it’s a pretty melody.  The drums are weirdly electronic and big and I like the big boom but not the ticky ticky electronics.  However, the high female voice in the chorus more than makes up for it.  The way all of the music swells together on this track is really terrific.

Sometimes you need to hear a musician live to really appreciate him.

[READ: January 3, 2017] “Gender Studies”

Sarah loves Curtis Sittenfeld, although I had never read her work before this.

I really enjoyed this short story both for its story and for its politics.

The plot is quite simple.  Nell is an almost divorced woman (she was with Henry for years with the intention of getting married, then he up and left her for a younger woman).  I really enjoyed this self-description of her and Henry “because of the kind of people they were (insufferable people, Nell thinks now).”  She is a professor of gender studies and is going to a convention in Kansas City.  Though she lives in Wisconsin, she has never been to Kansas City or even to Missouri.

The shuttle driver starts talking to her about donald trump.  He says “He’s not afraid to speak his mind, huh?”  And I love this description of her reply:

Nell makes a nonverbal sound to acknowledge that, in the most literal sense, she heard the comment.

Despite her obvious discomfort talking to him (when he calls Hillary “Shrillary” you know she is fuming), she can’t be bothered to say anything more than “There’s no way that donald trump will be the Republican nominee for President” (this was written after he was, of course). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: O.C.-Tiny Desk Concert #732 (April 18, 2018).

This is where I get to complain again that The Breeders had three songs when O.C. [Omar “O.C.” Credle], whom I have never heard of (although he is apparently a classic) gets five songs in nearly 19 minutes.  Bogus.

As a member of Brooklyn rap collective Diggin’ In The Crates, Omar Credle, aka O.C., helped shape what was known as the golden age of 1990s rap. Marked by loops sourced from jazz recordings and lyrics rooted in one-upmanship, O.C’s two ’90s albums made him a rapper’s rapper, an underground star.

I’ve never heard of him but he is sure confident in his crew’s impact (which seems about right I guess.  It’s interesting that they were known for sampling, but they have a live band.  The band sounds fantastic by the way.

O.C. was joined at his Tiny Desk by Soul’D U Out, a jazz ensemble led by Grammy-winning trumpeter Maurice “Mobetta” Brown. The live instrumentation replicated the sample-heavy original recordings perfectly.

They mostly play old songs, but they start with a new one: “New Day,” from O.C.’s 2017 album which features young R&B singer Tay Bell on the hook.  Bell’s vocals are quite high-pitched.  I thought he was a woman at first (just hearing him, not seeing him).  But his voice adds a great fullness to the song.  That live trumpet is amazing, as is the quiet fuzzy guitar from Marcus Machado that runs throughout the song.

He says he wants to get into the old stuff.  He asks, “How many over 45?”  A woman replied, “Oh, that’s wrong.”  He laughs and says, “I’m only 23.”

The rest of the set was vintage cuts from O.C.’s heyday. “Day One,” a D.I.T.C. posse cut, featured emcee and producer Lord Finesse.

Robert “Lord Finesse” Hall gets a verse, which he delivers with a great style I actually like his more than O.C.).  I also love the vibes even if they are only on keys (by Chris Robs).,  He says that the song is about “20 years of history.”  Referring to other rappers, he says, “we birthed a lot of them, they might not say it, but I will. without D.I.T.C, there’d be no digging n the record crates. ”  I seriously doubt that statement, but whatever.

Then O.C. treated the crowd to a version of “Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers” (the one and only song by him, Jeru The Damaja and Chubb Rock).

I was more impressed by the trumpet than anything else.  The sounds he gets at the end are amazing.

He had to fit in his seminal banger and arguably most popular song, “Time’s Up,” from Word…Life.

He says “I hated this record when I made it but people convinced me to do it.”  Huh.  I like the cool bass from Parker McAllister that runs through the song.

The finale got personal when O.C. relayed the importance of the song “Born 2 Live.” “This is dedicated to a friend of mine who got killed down in Baltimore,” he said. “Every time I do this record, it’s somber. … But it’s a celebration at the same time. So I’m a just party it out and have a good time with it.” With a little help from Soul’D U Out, we did, too.

I’m only a little disappointed that the drummer (Camau “Klutch” Bernstine, whose hair is awesome) didn’t get to show off a bit more. He was really solid but there was nothing fancy.

I’m not bummed that he got 20 minutes, because I enjoyed his set, but let some other folks go over time too!

[READ: April 17, 2018] “A Flawless Silence”

Yiyun Li is perhaps the most consistently enjoyable New Yorker author for me.  I love the pacing of her stories and I love the way she tackles large and small personal issues sometimes at the same time.

This story is about a woman, Min.  She grew up in China but moved to America when her now husband proposed to her. As the story begins, she is with her twin daughters in the car.  They are fighting , of course, until one of them says that Kevin, a boy in their class is a Republican.

How do they know?  Because the teacher instructed them to write to either presidential candidate and while everyone class wrote to Hilary Clinton, he chose to write a supportive letter to the male candidate (Yiyun Li uses his name but I don’t feel compelled to). (more…)

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1978SOUNDTRACK: LAND LINES-Tiny Desk Concert #494 (December 11, 2015).

landLand Lines are a trio from Denver.  They have a drummer, a synth player and a cellist/lead singer.  Although their music is pretty spare and simple, I find them really compelling.

On “Wreckage,” Martina Grbac plays the cello with her fingers, strumming chords on the neck of the instruments in a way I’ve not seen anyone play before.   Grbac sings quietly and her voice–echoing and effects-laden–reminds me of someone from the 1990s, although I can’t exactly pinpoint it (maybe a Cocteau Twins vibe?  but not quite). James Han plays really interesting chords and textures on the keyboard.  Sometimes he adds melody lines, and other times, like at the end of this song, growing washes of sounds.  Ross Harada’s percussion is also fun for the complex and different sounds he adds to the songs.

“Anniversary” has a similar vibe withe that cello chord playing.  The opening keys play simple echoing notes which add a nice atmosphere to the acoustic chords and percussion.

For the final song, “Fall or Fall,” Grbac plays a rapidly bowed cello (which has such a different sound than the other songs).  The bass is provided by the synth (a good sounding bass).   I love the way her voice contrasts the keyboard chords.  The chord progressions throughout the song are interesting and I really like the unexpected sounds that close out the song.

I’d never heard of Land Lines, but I liked this show enough to listen to it a bunch of times.  I’ll have to check out their other songs as well.

[READ: July 9, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1977-1978

I feel like this era is when I would have read Peanuts the most, although I have no recollection of any of these strips.

The covers of the books don’t necessarily depict who will be prominent in the collection, but Peppermint Patty on the front does equal a lot of Patty inside.  While Peppermint Patty continues to do very poorly in school, she does get some witty remarks like “What was the author’s purpose in writing this story?  Maybe he needed the money.”

We see a return of Truffles in January which also introduces Sally calling Linus her Sweet Babboo for the first time.  “I’m not your Sweet Babboo!”  Truffles is very excited to see Linus and vice versa but it kind of ends with unanswered questions because, in one of the first times this surreal gag was introduced, Snoopy flies in as a helicopter–a joke used many more times in the future–to sort of interrupt the whole saga.

Snoopy also pretends to be the Cheshire Cat a few times.

It has been a while since Linus has built anything outstanding (something he used to do a lot as a precocious child).  Well, in Feb 1977 he builds a snowman of Washington crossing the Delaware (to show up Lucy’s George Washington snowman with a little sword). (more…)

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c28SOUNDTRACK: HISS TRACKS-Shortwave Nights [CST104] (2014).

hissThe Hiss Tracks album begins with a rumbling roiling and yes a kind of hissing sound.  There was a moment of concern that this would be literally 40 minutes of static . But no, there are some interesting electronic blips and phrases amidst he roiling rumble.

Some context about this band from the Constellation site:

Hiss Tracts is an ongoing collaboration between “sound sculptors” David Bryant and Kevin Doria. Both players are known for their work within various strains of drone-inflected and experimental music: Bryant as a member of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Set Fire To Flames, Doria as a member of Growing and for his solo work as Total Life.

Hiss Tracts opens new collaborative, procedural and narrative pathways for these fine musicians to continue exploring soundscape-based composition and production. Both are guitar players, and the electric guitar figures as both recognizable and unrecognizable source instrument on Shortwave Nights, but the deployment of a wide range of additional analog sources and signals ensures that there is no confusing this for a guitar-based drone, noise or post-rock record.

So there you have it.  Once the rumble of that first song, ‘…shortwave nights,” dissipates there are some ringing guitar sounds quietly repeating amid a low static and other sounds.   The song ends with some dissonant guitar notes.  It’s eight minutes in total and has the feeling of an ambient soundtrack, but not a relaxing one or of background music.

“half-speed addict starts with broken wollensak” does indeed begin slowly, at about half-speed, with more rumbling sounds.  The song speeds up at the end, with muffled sounds keeping a very fast pace and a keyboard note rings out as the song finishes.  “slowed rugs” has a kind of one note drone while some vibrating drones continue over it—it’s a gentle electronic sound manipulation.   The oscillating notes fold in on themselves and mutate into some thing else.  As the song nears its end, a repeated series of unusual notes seems to rise from the din.

“drake motel / “9 gold cadillacs”” is a one minute interstitial that opens and closes with someone playing a harmonica.  The player offers it to someone else and then the rest is a series of statements from an unnamed person:

I would never put my mouth on something that you had put your mouth on.
The more you love people the worse they treat you I am so tired of it.
My daddy spent million of dollars trying to by a friend and he died without one.
You can give a sumbitch a million dollars cash tax-free and tomorrow they wouldn’t give you a cracker if you were starving to death.  That is a bible prophecy.

“windpipe gtrs.” sounds like a bunch of didgeridoos trying to overtake each other.  “halo getters” is an ominous piece, with more of that rumbling static and some portentous chords over the top.  The five-minute song doesn’t change much although about a minute in some guitars ring out sounding very outer spacey.  The song repeats and eventually warbles to and end which somehow feels warmer than the rest, like little explosions of quiet sound which almost sound like car horns.

“for the transient projectionist” opens with ringing bells/gongs.  After a few minutes of this peaceful sound, some music bubbles up—waves of warm keyboards and washes of mild static.  It seems to have a natural progression before ending.

“ahhh-weee dictaphone” is a 41 second interstitial of what sounds like vocal goofing around.  “test recording at trembling city” has mechanical ringing tones coming on in waves.  The song builds in intensity as it sounds almost like a high-speed-something about to crash, or a siren going off.  It is rather unsettling.  “beijing bullhorn / dopplered light” is mostly staticy radio and voices muttering under some gentle washes of chords.   It is a relatively pretty ending to a somewhat unsettling disc.

The instruments included on the disc include: guitar, tape machine, piano, mellotron, portasound, bowls, field recordings, oscillators, sampler, synthesizer

This is a pretty esoteric disc that many people won’t enjoy, but if you like experimental ambient textures, it’s worth a listen.

[READ: March 10, 2016]  “Undecided”

After last night’s debate, in which evidently there are some 36% of the population undecided about whom to vote for, here’s a political piece from the 2008 election.  What I especially loved about this one was just how relevant it all seemed 8 years later.  The “undecided” voters aren’t getting as much airtime yet, but one wonders how poll numbers can shift when the candidates are so radially different.  I recall in the 2008 election how people seemed genuinely undecided about the two candidates and Sedaris (and myself and many others) just ask: HUH?.

Sedaris notes how the undecideds get interviewed about being undecided and they all look “very happy to be on TV.” And oh dear, they just can’t make up their minds.

“I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist.  Are they professional actors? I wonder or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention?”

And then he says to imagine their perspective as if you were on an airplane.  The attendant brings the food cart over and in what may have been the most apt analogy:

Can I interest you in the chicken? she asks.  Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?

To follow through he says that being undecided is to “pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.” (more…)

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CoverStory-KadirNelson-ADayattheBeach3-879x1200-1467305948SOUNDTRACK: LYDIA LOVELESS-Tiny Desk Concert #369 (July 1, 2014).

lovelssI want Lydia Loveless to be a punk singer–Her name is like a combination of Lydia Lunch and a last name that conjures up an asskicking punk.

But not the country singer that Loveless is (even if she is ass-kicking herself). Loveless is a new breed of alt-country which is pretty explicit with noticeably rocking guitar solos.  But her voice is so twangy it’s hard to not call it country (and in fact it’s a bit too much for me to take sometimes).

“Head” features this rather memorable chorus “Don’t stop getting undressed /Don’t stop giving me head.”  It seems especially surprising since Loveless looks like she’s about 12 (she was 23 at the time of this recording).  The buzzy solo is lengthy and more or less runs throughout the song.  Although at some point when Loveless takes her own solo the whole sound seems to fade out and get a little anemic.

Her band is fun with her bassist being very tall and having very long hair playing a very tall upright bass.  And then there’s another guy playing guitar and lap steel.

“Verlaine Shot Rimbaud” has a title that begs for an awesome song.  It’s not an epic masterpiece or anything.  In fact its closer to a pop song, The slide guitar and Loveless’ heavy accent on the chorus place it firmly in the country camp.

“Mile High” has a fun folk riff.  It sounds a lot like The Byrds and the chorus is super catchy.  If I could get her to sing less twangy I would love this song much like I love the punk country of X, or at least the Knitters.

[READ: December 29, 2010] “Who are All These Trump Supporters”

[This essay in the New Yorker also came under the heading “Trump Days.”]

So the title of the essay is a question I myself have been asking as I watch the hatred and vitriol bubble over during the convention.

If there was anyone I wanted to write this piece it would be George Saunders and he is actually the only reason I read it in the first place (I plan to read all of his contributions to the New Yorker eventually, but I’m glad to have read this one when it was timely–I hope it will be utterly irrelevant by the time I get to the rest of his works).  He self identifies as a liberal (although he was a conservative who loved Ayn Rand way back in the Reagan era).  He is a thoughtful and not prone to anger–a perfect foil for the crowd.  And he’s got a great way with words.

So great in fact that I’m just going to be quoting him a lot.  I could have pulled more excellent quotes from the essay, but really you should read the whole thing. (more…)

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may16 SOUNDTRACK: SUZANNE VEGA-Tiny Desk Concert #336 (February 10, 2014).

vegaSuzanne Vega is practically a one hit wonder except that she has released a half-dozen great albums that are full of wonderful songs.  I stopped listening to her some time in the mid 90’s, so I missed her 2000s comeback, but this four-song show from 2014 has her two most famous songs and two songs from her then about t o be released album Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles.

As the Concert opens, she asks “for real?” and the hits the Tiny Desk gong (with quite a flourish).

Then she launches into “Luka.”  She plays acoustic guitar and sings.  Her voice sounds pretty much exactly as it did twenty years ago.  In part, sure, it’s because her singing voice is practically a whisper, but it’s amazing how good she sounds.  She has a second guitarist, Gerry Leonard, with her (on electric guitar) who plays a great sounding solo in the middle of the song.

The first new song is “Crack in the Wall.”  She says that it  describes when a crack appears allowing you to see into the spiritual world.  In this version (I don’t know the studio version), it sounds a lot like an old song–stripped down and simple, with Vega’s interesting gentle acoustic guitar chords and voice.  There’s also a cool echoed electric guitar solo.

For “I Never Wear White” she takes off the acoustic guitar.  It’s just her singing and Leonard playing.  And his guitar his rough and distorted.  It is pretty shocking for a Vega song, but it works really well with her voice.  I really like this song a lot.

She ends with “Tom’s Diner.”  She was going to say the one and only, but says they’ve done so many different versions of it.  So this is their latest.  She sings parts a capella but the guitar plays some wonderful washes of sounds (looped) with different parts layered.  He also plays a percussive sound that makes the song kind of danceable.  And when she mentions the bells of the cathedral, Gerry plays some cool harmonic notes that are echoed and sound like clock chimes.  It’s very cool.

Vega’s speaking voice sound a little like Hillary Clinton’s (especially during the thank yous at the end).  But it’s nice that her singing voice still sounds the same and that 2014 album seems like it might be interesting.

[READ: July 6, 2016] “High Maintenance”

The May 16, 2016 issue of the New Yorker had a series called “Univent This” in which six authors imagine something that they could make go away. Since I knew many of them, I decided to write about them all.  I have to wonder how much these writers had to think about their answers, or if they’d imagined this all along.

I’ve never read Mary Karr, I only know her peripherally as connected with David Foster Wallace.  This may not have been the best introduction to her, although since she mostly writes memoirs, maybe this is the perfect introduction.

Mary Karr would like to uninvent high heels.  And while she does speak of this with some humor, the entire article just reeks of vanity and foolishness.  (The fact that she even mentions she can still squeeze into a size 4 should tell you all you need to know about this essay). (more…)

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314SOUNDTRACK: ANE BRUN-Tiny Desk Concert #518 (April 1, 2016).

aneAne Brun is a Norwegian singer who is currently based in Sweden.  She plays piano and guitar and has a pretty voice which reaches high notes but maintains a kind of rough rasp.  She says she had a terrible cold and this is her first day of singing.  She doesn’t trust her voice yet and she thanks everyone for being so quiet.

The three songs she sings are slow (a little too slow for my tastes).  The blurb says that these are the three slower songs on the album, so maybe I’d like them a bit more amid the other songs  This is not to say the songs are bad, just a little too mellow.

Having said that, the melody and vocal lines of “Still Waters’ are beautiful.  This is the one song she plays on the piano and it does sound rather different from the other two.

For “All We Want is Love” (which she describes as the ultimate love song, kind of), she plays a pretty, picked melody on the acoustic guitar.  But its clear that her voice is the main instrument here–and she hits some lovely notes in the repeated refrain of “All we want is love.”

“Signing Off” is the last track on the album.  It is a slow guitar song. The melody isn’t as immediate as the previous song, but her voice really does carry the tune nicely.  I wonder if her voice normally sounds like this or if the cold impacted her singing.

[READ: March 14, 2016] “For the Best”

I wasn’t that inspired by the previous story of Beattie’s that I read.  And I didn’t really love this one either.  I found it very slow going.

The story is about a man named Gerald, an older divorced man, who gets invited to a party.  His ex-wife, whom he has not seen in some thirty years will also be invited.

But the way this was revealed was kind of circuitous, I thought.

the Clavells weren’t the sort to play pranks, so the printed invitation to their annual Christmas party arrived after what Gerald and Charlotte’s son, Timothy, would call a “heads-up,” sent by e-mail, letting them know that both were invited to the event, at the Clavells’ apartment, on West Fifty-sixth Street. Gerald hadn’t seen Charlotte since their divorce, thirty-one years before, and this was the first time he’d seen her e-mail address. Whether she was on any social media he wouldn’t know, as he was not.

I enjoyed some of the oddly phrased ways the story was revealed (like that last sentence), but it took me a few tries to puzzle out if Gerald was the recipient or the sender oft he invite.  It’s a long first sentence, I guess.

I also enjoyed this follow-up sentence: “It was a rather jaunty message from the Clavells, who were not jaunty people.”  But I think that reading so much of the story like this is exhausting. (more…)

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