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Archive for the ‘Queer’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ODDISEE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #83 (September 22, 2020).

I feel like I just watched (and enjoyed) Oddissee’s Tiny Desk Concert recently, but apparently it was back in 2015.

In 2015, Oddisee visited the Tiny Desk with a drummer and a keyboardist. For his Tiny Desk (home) concert, he assembled his full band, Good Company, for the first time since the global pandemic cancelled their tour last spring. They rehearsed the day before this capture at Assorted Studios in York, Penn., the midway point between the members’ hometowns of Philadelphia, New York City and Washington D.C. They picked this facility because it felt more like a living room than a studio. And to make it feel as cozy as possible, they brought memorabilia from their own homes. Bass player Dennis Turner brought family photos, Ralph Real (on the Fender Rhodes) brought his son’s toy drum set, and Oddisee brought tribal statues from Sudan.

Oddisee has eleven albums out (!), but all of the songs here come from his new EP Odd Cure which was

“a record I didn’t want to write but needed to,” Oddisee said in July. He wrote it in eight weeks, between March and May, while in self-isolation. He had just returned from a performance in Thailand and wanted to protect his family. Oddisee says these songs were inspired by the deluge of news, social media, misinformation and conspiracy theories generated during the first weeks of the pandemic. Relevant and inspiring, his music and its message addresses the uncertainty and anxiety we all live with today.

“The Cure” has some great funky bass from Dennis Turner and some excellent twinkling on the Rhodes keyboard from Ralph Real.  Before the verses start, drummer Jon Laine gets the drums to make a really neat sound and then plays a wonderfully complex rhythm–complete with rim shots.  Oddisee raps speedily and clearly.  Half way through the song a little window opens up and Olivier St. Louis (all the way from Berlin) plays some cool guitar soloing.  But the star of this song is definitely Turner, with some amazing bass work throughout the song.  The song also has a really funky chorus.

“Shoot Your Shot” is full of slow thumping before the funkiness starts.  An integral part of the band is DJ Unown playing the MPC.  I really don’t know exactly what sounds he’s making, but I can see him playing all throughout the songs and I’m sure the music would lose something without him.  The middle takes off with another wicked solo from St. Louis.

“I Thought You Were Fate” is a slower song that opens with guitar from Sainte Ezekiel.  This song has a slower r&b crooning chorus.  But I love the way it speeds up after the  chorus and shifts the song into higher gear.  Ezekiel get a jazzy solo mid song.

“Still Strange” shifts the tempo much slower and features a lead vocal (via Oddisee’s phone) of Priya Ragu.  Sainte Ezekiel plays some beautiful understated guitar throughout.

“Go To Mars” returns the funk and Oddisee raps in a very cool style of short, abrupt lines.   It’s got a really fun chorus of longing: “I wanna go to Mars; live among the stars ; be the one who got away from it all.”

There very little social distancing here–Oddisee even has the guys scooch over (although I think Turner is wearing a mask).

[READ: September 24, 2020] Introduction

During the COVID Quarantine, venerable publisher Hingston & Olsen created, under the editorship of Rebecca Romney, a gorgeous box of 12 stories.  It has a die-cut opening to allow the top book’s central image to show through (each book’s center is different).  You can get a copy here.

This is a collection of science fiction stories written from 1836 to 1998.  Each story imagines the future–some further into the future than others.

As it says on the back of the box

Their future.  Our present.  From social reforms to climate change, video chat to the new face of fascism, Projections is a collection of 12 sci-fi stories that anticipated life in the present day.

I don’t know anything about Rebecca Romney, but I love her introduction to this collection and I want to look into her work a little more. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LENNY KRAVITZ-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #52 (July 20, 2020).

Few people are as cool as Lenny Kravitz.  Look at how amazing this room in the Bahamas looks.  Listen to how good his voice sounds (both when he’s singing and when he’s speaking).  When he speaks between songs he sounds otherworldly.

This Brooklyn-raised bohemian rock icon brings us to his home and tropical paradise in Eleuthera in the Bahamas for this visually alluring Tiny Desk (home) concert.

The set begins with the wonderful “Thinking Of You.”  The guitar sound(s) of this song are just amazing. Between Craig Ross’s acoustic echoing notes and Lenny’s strums the room fills with warm echoing guitars.  Midway through the song Bahamian native Yianni Giannakopoulos plays a chill lead guitar with expressive wah wah.  I hadn’t heard this song before, and it’s really terrific.

After wrapping an evocative rendition of “Thinking of You,” a touching song he penned in 1998 about his late mother, Lenny Kravitz imparts what’s really weighing on him during this historic time. “In the midst of all that’s transpiring on our planet right now,” he says, “it’s a blessed time for introspection, more importantly action. … What side of history are you standing on?”

For “What Did I Do With My Life?”, Lenny and Craig step outside (under palm trees) to play this questioning ballad.  Ross gets a really good electric guitar sound out of his acoustic guitar.  Over the course of the song as Lenny asks the title question, it grows more intense with him searching for an answer.

And it’s only fitting that he ended with “We Can Get It All Together,” a message about the power of unity and oneness.

For this final song, all three players are back, this time in front of an expansive (stormy?) sky. Once again Craig’s acoustic guitar sounds huge.  And this time Yianni’s electric guitar has a Middle Eastern twang to it.

I often forget how much I like Lenny’s music.  This was a great reminder.

[READ: July 20, 2020] How to be an Antiracist 

This book has been on the top of everyone’s recommended lists for being proactive about understanding systemic racism.

There’s a lot of reasons people might have for not reading this book.  I’m not talking about people who are racist and simply would never read a book like this, but about decent people who think they are doing their part.  Maybe they’re afraid of being preached at or of being told they’re doing things wrong.  Or maybe they feel that they can’t handle a book that seems especially intense.

I had some of these concerns myself before reading this book.  But I can say that if you have those fears or concerns about reading this book, put them aside and jump in.

Ibram X. Kendi is not writing this to make you feel bad about yourself.  He is not here to tell you that you are bad and should be ashamed of yourself.

He is writing to tell his story–his realization that racism is a cancer that is eating away at the country and that we can all work together to change things.

He is also writing to talk about antiracism.  Antiracism is a fairly simple idea, but it is very hard to achieve.  Indeed, his first point is to undo accepted ideas of racism. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANTONIO CORA-“The Cellar” (from The Blair Witch Project) (1999).

A lot of the music I listen to is weird and probably creepy to other people, but I don’t necessarily think of songs as appropriate for Halloween or not.  So for this year’s Ghost Box stories, I consulted an “expert”: The Esquire list of Halloween songs you’ll play all year long.  The list has 45 songs–most of which I do not like.  So I picked 11 of them to post about.

I was getting bored of the Esquire list so I found this fun little tidbit of spookiness.

The Blair Witch Project was a low budget, DIY-looking movie.  The soundtrack is a compilation with songs on it (Josh Blair’s Witch Mix), but this track is from the actual movie soundtrack.  I couldn’t exactly tell if there was a release of the actual movie soundtrack, but the last track on the disc is similar to a video I found online for the “end credits theme.”

Excluding the intro, which has 30 seconds of dialogue from the film (“Heather’s Apology”), this track is a five-minute DIY, nightmarish ambient score.

It is largely quiet with rattling, echoing sounds.  An online thread (therefore of dubious truth) says that the score was made with the sound of sticks breaking and being thrown into a culvert (or some such) then slowed down dramatically.

There’s some kind of droning sound throughout (maybe a synth, but who knows).  It seems to slowly percolate while things scrape and bang.  There’s a few louder noises that really stand out, but there’s no momentum or narrative to the soundtrack.  It’s just a sort of endless low grade scare.

Don’t listen at bedtime.

[READ: October 27, 2019] “Last Call for the Sons of Shock”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. and Ghost Box II. comes Ghost Box III.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

Oh god, it’s right behind me, isn’t it? There’s no use trying to run from Ghost Box III, the terrifying conclusion to our series of limited-edition horror box sets edited and introduced by Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, I’m going to read in the order they were stacked.

This story was the most genuinely scary and horrifying in the box because it was the most real.

It was powerful, painful and horrible.  But it was written so well, I couldn’t look away. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 3, 2019] Team Dresch

Back in the mid 90s (when things were pretty great), as I was exploring more and more indie music, I was drawn to the Pacific Northwest scene.  There were a lot of great bands fronted by or comprised entirely of women–it was like discovering a gold mine of new sounds and voices.

This led to discoveries like Sleater-Kinney and Team Dresch.

This also led to exploring the Candy Ass record label (run by Team Dresch singer/bassist Jody Bleyle) and the amazing Free to Fight compilation.  As well as the Chainsaw records label (run by Donna Dresch).  They shared a lot of bands.

Team Dresch is one of the great queercore bands and they opened my eyes to a lot of avenues of queer culture that I didn’t know about.  I’ve become a huge LGBTQ+ advocate over the years and I attribute much of that to discovering Team Dresch and all that they stand for. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE NATIONAL-NonCOMM Free at Noon (May 16, 2019).

The National are an interesting band.  They tend to write songs that feel ponderous–sometimes slow and, with Matt Berninger’s deep voice, very intense.  And yet their lyrics can sometimes be inscrutable [“I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees”] and they have done cover songs for Bob’s Burgers on more than one occasion (“Bad Things Happen in the Bathroom”).

So this concert is a bit of a revelation because of how poppy and almost dancey some of these songs are.  Berninger’s voice is nowhere near as deep as I imagined (his speaking voice is deeper than his singing voice) and the songs have a lot of variety to them.

Perhaps it’s the new album, I am Easy to Find.

Expanded to a ten-piece band, The National showcased ten of the album’s sixteen tracks, demonstrating the beauty and strength of the project. Vocalist Matt Berninger led the group’s vast array of instruments and vocalists, and kept everything from sounding overwhelming. The resulting set was a glorious display of emotion and expansive sound.

They opened with “You Had Your Soul With You”,  The track shows their musical horizons starting to expand. Vocalists Kate Stables (This Is The Kit) and Pauline de Lassus (Mina Tindle), joined Berninger on stage, adding a new dimension to the band’s sound. They sung throughout the show, representing the inclusion of female voices and perspectives across the record.

Like many of their songs, it is pretty and invites you to lean in to listen to the lyrics.

Berninger introduced the next song “Oblivions” by emphasizing the “s” “There’s a bunch of them. They keep coming.  Together.”  This song sounded very different, with a synthy, almost dancey vibe.

Stables and de Lassus opened “The Pull of You” before Berninger joined them.  This song has some interesting drum work as many of them do. Midway through, Berninger has a spoken word section that makes it sound like Tindersticks.

He tells us that his wife wrote “Hey Rosy.” He deadpans, “I thought it was about me.”  There’s a quiet piano intro and I love the very-The National delivery of the chorus “Hey Ro / zee I  / think I know just what the / feeling is.”

“Quiet Light” is a gentle, shuffling song.  The warm horn solos that closed the track were a wonderful touch.

Aaron Dessner spoke before they played the tender “I Am Easy To Find” and dedicated it to his friend, Adia Victoria, who played the same stage yesterday and was watching the set from the balcony.

The song is a duet of female and male vocals.  I love the fast delivery of this chorus as well.  Once again, very The National: “there’s a million little battles that I’m never gonna win / anyway.”

The band contrasted the solemness of these tracks with the brightness of “Where Is Her Head.”

Berninger says, “Mike Mills wrote the lyrics to this one… well, most of them… so he gets all of the publishing.  So now you know whey were doing it.”

Sung mostly by Stables and de Lassus, the track replaced the grey aura that filled the room with glittering oranges and pinks.

The song features a quiet looping of the lyrics as Berninger sings solo vocal runs over their chorus.

“Rylan” continued the upbeat-streak. The song, which declared that “everyone loves a quiet child,” showed The National playing with their volume. Towards the end they repeatedly built up their sound, only to swiftly quiet it.

Easy To Find‘s closing track, “Light Years,” was the simplest and most moving they played. With its heartbreaking lyrics and one of the saddest basslines ever played, the track left the crowd awestruck.

It opens with a gentle piano and Berninger’s deeper, quieter vocals. When the women sang back up with him, it was really lovely.

They could have stopped there, with tears quietly building in everyone’s eyes, but they continued with “Not In Kansas.”

Berninger says. We have one more song. This one’s 25 minutes long.  It was.  Then Mike Mills made it like  6 minutes long.  Whatever.  He was in charge.  Everything that’s bad about the record we always blame on Mike and we take credit for all the good stuff.” He paused “there’s some good stuff.”

It has a lovely quiet guitar intro.

While its lyrics focused on the craziness plaguing the world, the track felt small and insular. In closing with it, The National went out with a polite wave, rather than with a bang.

My friend Armando told me that The National puts on some of the best shows he’s ever been to.  I hope to see them some day.

[READ: June 1, 2019] “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere”

I did not like the narrator of this story at all.  She is hiding behind so much. In fairness, she has a lot to get over, but she closes herself off so much that she’s hard for people to get to know (and also hard for a reader to like).

Dina is at Yale orientation.  She does not have to do the trust fall because she “shouldn’t have to fit into any white, patriarchal systems.”

In the next game she had to say what inanimate object she wanted to be.  She said “revolver,” which got her put on psychiatric watch for the entire year and a solo room.

She also saw a therapist whom she wasn’t interested in talking to but who seemed to see right through her. (more…)

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