Archive for the ‘Reunion’ Category

923SOUNDTRACK: BERLIN-Information (1980).

berlWho knew that Berlin made an album without Terri Nunn?  Back in 1980, Terri Nunn had sung with Berlin and had even released a couple of singles with them.  Then she decided to try out acting.  The replaced her with Virginia Macolino.

This debut album is very new wave with a mild punk edge.  Their music is all synth but with a lot of jagged edges.

Terri Nunn’s voice is pretty distinctive, but Macolino sings in that same range.  She adds in a squeaky falsetto and an occasional Valley Girl twang.

Given the really smooth, polished sound of their later albums (“Take My Breath Away”), this album is really jagged feeling.  The synth sounds they chose are often weird and mechanical.  And Macolino sings in a distinctive robotic way.  There’s also a lot of processed vocals (the men I assume) adding even more of a technological bent.

It would be interesting to see where they would have gone with this style in mind.  But they went a bit more poppy a bit slicker and they brought Terri Nunn back.  The rest is 80s history.

[READ: September 20, 2019] “Wide Spot”

I really enjoyed the way this brief story unfolded.

The narrator is a local politician.  He tours local small towns to make sure he gets people to vote.  He stops in at Wide Spot, which was the county seat.  It was once a slightly less run down place.

When he was younger, the narrator had been in a band called the Daft.  They always ended their little tours in Wide Spot.  He wasn’t a very good keyboard player and the lead singer of the band, Calum had gone to L.A. to seek his fortunes solo.

He was in Wide Spot looking for Cornel Bowen, a donor who he wanted to touch base with.  Although Cornel proves to be less than helpful, he does reveal that Calum is still in town. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TASHA COBBS LEONARD-Tiny Desk Concert #860 (June 24, 2019).

Tasha Cobbs Leonard tells the crowd we’re gonna do some worship songs–gonna go to church some.  Everyone is wearing blue except Tasha who is in a very colorful outfit.  She is “regarded as one of the best gospel singers performing today — she’s won numerous awards, including a Grammy.”

“Break Every Chain” has the opening lyrics: There is power in the name of Jesus.”  It opens with David Williams II playing keys and after a verse or two Wellington “Boo” Britt adds some simple drums.

Her backing vocalists Kennya Miller, Breona Lawrence, and Emoni Robinson sound fantastic–adding a wonderful chorus.

After the first chorus Archie “Snoop” Pearson adds some bass and the whole song feels full.

Her Tiny Desk set started out with one of her favorite songs and her most popular tune, “Break Every Chain,” an anthem that reminds many of us that “there is power in the name of Jesus.”

Tasha gives a little preach about God’s plan for everyone before the next song

“You Know My Name,” is one Cobbs Leonard wrote a few years ago with South African musician and friend, Brenton Brown.

This songs starts out as a ballad with just guitar from Benjamin Forehand and voices.

I like the way Tasha was brought to the Tiny Desk:

I first saw Tasha Cobbs Leonard sing live in my church’s 4,000-seat sanctuary. Her voice easily powered-over the PA system and I was amazed by how well I could hear its beautiful resonance and clarity.

The final song is “The River of the Lord,”

a country-influenced tune, written by her husband, musical director and producer, Kenneth Leonard, along with some of their friends. Originally from Jesup, Georgia, Cobbs Leonard explained that “where I’m from, this is called a hand-clapping, foot-stomping, church song. We’re going to clap a little bit, put a smile on our faces and celebrate the river and the joy of the Lord.”

I grew up listening to religious music that was pretty bland and people who didn’t seem to like singing it.  But I can see why people get into gospel music.  Music that’s this fun–even religious music–is really enjoyable..

[READ: July 1, 2019] “First Powwow”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1983: Waubgeshig and his family traveled more than 300 kilometers from Wasauksing to Mississaugas for his first powwow.

He doesn’t remember the journey or arriving.  He really only remembers the sound of the big drum.

The beat echoed in his chest and he was thrilled at the colors of the people dancing around the drum. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KHALID-Tiny Desk Concert #756 (June 18, 2018).

I feel like I know who Khalid is, like maybe he has collaborated with someone I know, but I assumed he was a rapper.

But nothing could be further from the truth.  For this Tiny Desk it’s Khalid and his acoustic guitarist Jef Villaluna.  Khalid sings and his voice is accented (Jamaican?) even though his speaking voice is not.  But all of that is somewhat dwarfed by some biographical details.

Before Khalid performed “Location,” his debut single that’s now four-times platinum, at the Tiny Desk, he told the audience the story of how he wrote the track during his senior year of high school not knowing where music would take him. (FYI: He graduated in the Class of 2016. Feel old yet?)

He looks much more than 20 years old as he sings “Young Dumb & Broke” which I actually like a lot more than “Location.”  But he seems like such a nice kid that I was instantly won over by him.

About “Location” he says he wrote it geared toward his senior prom (!) and it was only the sixth song he’d ever written.

And before singing “Saved,” Khalid explained that this was one of the first songs he ever wrote and remembers that when he put it up on SoundCloud, a rude commenter tried to diminish his talent.

He talked about how much the guy hated the song and really trashed it.  Khalid said he could confront the guy but that guy didn’t deserve his attention.  So he wrote another song and another song…  “‘I honestly couldn’t tell you what that guy is doing with his life but he’s not doing this,'” Khalid said with a contagious laugh.”

Khalid finished his set with a mini bow and a peace sign to the audience, but made sure to squeeze in time for some of the diehard fans in the crowd of NPR employees and their guests — many of whom were gleeful teens, some just as awkward, angsty and wide-eyed as he when penning his first songs in high school. He understood.

I’m not sure what his fully formed music sounds like–I can; imagine that these acoustic rendition would gather 4 million fans, but I imagine if you’re a fan of his originals, these stripped down versions are a real treat.

[READ: July 22, 2016] “Upside Down Cake”

This story seems like a fairly typical story of a family dinner which is doomed from the start.  But Theroux masterfully inserts a conflict which isn’t fully revealed until the end of the story.

The story begins with the narrator, Jay, talking about how visiting an aged parent always feels like it has an air of farewell to it.  He is thinking this because he is going to his mother’s 90th birthday.  He and his six siblings and their spouses will gather together and have a party that’s meant to note feel like a funeral.

Much of the story is this sibling’s perspective on the party–watching his siblings and their spouses act poorly in their own ways.  It’s not outrageously funny or anything, but there is a lot of smug smiling to be had at the way people behave around family.

There was even a dead sibling–a girl whom their mother never forgot about–and for whom a place was reserved at every meal.  Then there was Franny and Marvin (ill at ease out of his security guard uniform), Fred’s wife Erma (sighing and snatching at her hair), Rose’s husband Walter (playing with his camera as a way of ignoring everyone) Jonty’s little girl Jilly was there–she was the center of attention. There was Floyd in his black fedora (if you’re strong enough to scream, it can’t hurt that much, was it you who said that mother?)  They were till waiting for Hubby and his wife Moneen and Gilbert.

The last time they had all gathered like that was at their father’s funeral seven years ago.  Now, they all looked “bigger and droopier.”

The talk is full of teasing–gentle and otherwise and a lot of abuse hurled at mother’s cooking –although done in such a way that she assumed it was a complement.

And it seems like the story is just going to be this–an awkward dinner that people can’t wait to leave,  But then half way through the meal, Charlie and Julie come in with their son Patrick.  It seems that jay is the only one who knows him and he introduces the family to everyone, “their presence delighted me.”  He goes to grab Angela’s chair but everyone stops him.  He asks if she is in the bathroom and Mother says she’s in heaven.

After the party they all called each other to talk and complain.  Jay knew that if no one was saying anything to him directly then they were complaining behind his back.  Even mother complained that Jay had invited Charlie and his family to this dinner.

So just who is this Charlie who has everyone so upset?

There were so many possibilities and yet I never would have guessed the answer.  And the way it was presented was terrific.

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reunionSOUNDTRACK: KATE TEMPEST-Tiny Desk Concert #456 (July 21, 2015).

kateKate Tempest is a British poet/rapper (and darling of NPR).  She raps with a really heavy South London accent and raps about the “everyday.”  But because she is a poet, her lyrics are really incisive.  And, when she sings, she throws in some really catchy choruses as well.  Her song “Lonely Daze” surprises when the big catchy chorus come in.

Although she doesn’t do that for this Tiny Desk.

Rather, she opens with an incredibly moving poem called “Ballad of a Hero.”  It is an anti-war poem that takes an amazingly personal look at soldiers and the sons of soldiers.  The NPR blurb says “Kate Tempest will connect you with your emotions and the cold, callous world around you. You may cry.”  When I first started listening to her Tiny Desk, I wasn’t really paying attention to the words of this poem, but by the end, I was totally hooked, and yes, I did cry.

The final lines:

I don’t support the war my son.
I don’t believe it’s right,
but I do support the soldiers
that go off to war to fight.

Troops just like your daddy, son;
soldiers through and through.
Who wear their uniform with pride
and do what they’re told to do

When you’re grown my sweet, my love
Please don’t go fighting wars.
But fight the men that start them
or fight a cause that’s yours.

It seems so full of honour, yes,
So valiant, so bold,
But the men that send the armies in.
Send them in for gold.

Or they send them in for oil,
And they tell us it’s for Britain
but the men come home like Daddy
and spend their days just drinking.

Despite the intensity of the poem (and her other lyrics), it’s fun to watch her rap because she always seems to be smiling.  And on the two songs she does “The Beigeness” and “Truth” she is so into it.  Her hand gestures and emphasis really complete the song.  And there’s also the matter of her accent–so noticeable and strangely musical.

I don’t know what the original music of these songs is like.  I gather from the official titles (“The Beigeness (KwAkE BASS remix)” and “The Truth (KwAkE BASS remix)”) that they must sound different on the record.  And KwAkE BASS plays around with her voice, adding echoes and interesting effects that add to the music).

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve heard from Tempest, I’m just not entirely sure I would listen to a whole album of hers.

[READ: July 23, 2015] Reunion

When I saw this book by Girard in the library I immediately flashed back to reading his other book.   I recognized his style (the self-portrait of the main character Pascal made him look much older and more frumpy than he actually was.  But what I’d forgotten was just how much of a dick everyone in the book was.

And it’s even more so in the this book.

It’s clear that Girard has a style and that his humor comes from everyone in the book (including the protagonist) being jut awful.  Last time I wasn’t sure if it was just the way Helge Dascher translated the book (and again, it may be her since she does this one too) but I now think that Girard may just have a very poor opinion of people.

This book culminates in a ten-year reunion. And all of Pascal’s actions leads up to it. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_10_14_13McCall.inddSOUNDTRACK: GRIPE-In His Image (2014).

gripeinhisimageWith the new year, I was excited to see what albums NPR would be streaming.  Imagine my surprise when the prominent album was by a grindcore band called Gripe.  I’d never heard of Gripe before.  But Lars, the guy who posted the album, said that they’ve released two albums and two singles (most of which you can download for free at Grindcore Karaoke).

I downloaded their album Pig Servant and their split single with Chulo (all 15 songs fit in under 13 minutes).  And now I’m giving this one a listen.

So grindcore is a fair name for the sound of the music–take hardcore but make it sound like it is grinding against something.  On Pig Servant, the longest song was 1:47, and that included a lengthy sample.  I have to assume it took longer to draw the elaborate cover than to record the album.  It sounds fast and noisy and chaotic and like it was recorded on a boombox.  I was surprised that there was a liner note with the download because I didn’t believe that the noise he was making was actually lyrics, but if you follow along you can kind of tell that he’s screaming actual words.

In his Image is a more sophisticated sound.  The drums don’t sound like tin plates, there’s an actual bass sound and one of the songs is over 3 minutes long.  You still can’t understand any words. But song titles like “7 Billion Reasons Not to Reproduce,” “Assisted Genocide” “Stuff Your Wretched Face” and “Nothing Left But Hate” give you some idea of what you’re in for.  I was surprised by how articulate the words from  Pig Servant were–not poetry mind you, but articulate at least.  There’s no lyrics sheet for this so I have no idea what to make of the words here.

This album is 23 minutes, which is a bit long for grindcore (and may be longer than all of their existent recorded output).  I just like the idea that you can listen to this on NPR.  If you dare, check it out.

By the way, this recording has literally nothing t do with this story.  Nothing.

[READ: January 8, 2014] “Katania”

Wow, I really liked this story a lot. It is fairly simple and the end may be a bit obvious and/or gimmicky, but Vapnyar earned it.

It opens with the narrator, Katya,  reflecting back to when she was a little girl living in Russia.  She did not have a lot but compared to some, her family was comfortable (they had a three room apartment).  But the thing that held her interest and love was her doll family.  They lived in a shoebox.  It was painted to look like a house.  It also had furniture and even some animals–a cow, a pig and a very large chicken.

As for the doll people there were only girls.  One became a mother, one became the daughter (or herself) and a hedgehog head on a human body was the grandma.  But there was no father.

Katya suggests that this was not uncommon for the time and location–there seemed to be no fathers around.  Her own father had died, but many other fathers had simply run off.  Like the neighbor’s father who shouted “I’m sick of all of you” and then left.

Then her uncle brought her a father doll.  He was perfect–he fit in with the family and had a beautiful smile.  He did have a disjointed leg, but the narrator didn’t mind.  Until Tania made fun of it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DR. DOG-Tiny Desk Concert #7 (October 20, 2008).


I have been hearing a lot about Dr. Dog lately (they are from Philly and the radio station we listen to is from Philly, so that makes sense).  But I had assumed they were a new band.  So imagine my surprise to see that they were the 7th Tiny Desk Concert and the first full band to play the Tiny Desk.  (Their first album came out in 2005!).

It’s fun to watch a five piece band squeeze into the Tiny Desk (the drummer is playing a small pink suitcase) and the fifth member of the band is playing some various percussions (I wonder if he does more in the band).  It’s also funny when one of the guitars breaks a string and the singer says “son of a bitch.”

Dr. Dog proves to be quite interesting.  Their first song is “The Beach.”  It’s a rocking awesome track–the guitar is great and bassist Toby Leaman’s move is raspy and powerful.  I really like this song a lot.  The second song is quite different, it’s a bouncy boppy song that sounds a bit like a more rocking Grateful Dead (that bass).  This song has a different singer–Scott McMicken, who plays lead guitar on “The Beach,” but acoustic guitar here.  (The other guitarist, Frank McElroy  played acoustic on The Beach and electric on this one).

After a lengthy discussion they play the third song (in a different version from the record) “How Dare.”  This song opens with their great harmonies (a wonderful feature of the band).  It also has a jam band quality (Toby’s back on vocals but less raspy and powerful, and more bluesy)/on this track.

The band seemed to think they were only to play two songs, and frankly it’s a shame they only play 3. At 12 minutes it one of the shorter Tiny Desk concerts.  But I am a convert to Dr. Dog, and I need to hear more from them.

[READ: November 10, 2013] “Reunion”

After listening to Richard Ford in yesterday’s podcast, I decided I wanted to read his take on the Cheever story “Reunion.”  And while I can definitely see that it was inspired by a kernel of an idea in Cheever’s story, I probably never would have put the two together had I not known.

Ford’s story opens the same way as Cheever’s with someone waiting in Grand Central Station.  It turns out that the person is Mack Bolger.  Bolger is waiting intently for someone.  We quickly learn that the narrator who spies Bolger had had an affair with Bolger’s wife, Beth about a  year and a half prior to this meeting.  It ended abruptly when Mack confronted them in their hotel room (in St. Louis).  Mack (who is a large man) boxed the narrator’s ears a bit and sent him running from the room in varying stages of dress (and without a precious scarf which his mother had given him).

He had not seen Mack again, although he did see Beth on one final instance–a sort of final closure.  They met in a bar and tied up loose ends, and that was that.

So when the narrator sees Mack he gets this sudden urge to speak to him:

just as you might speak to anyone you casually knew and had unexpectedly but not unhappily encountered. And not to impart anything, or to set in motion any particular action (to clarify history, for instance, or make amends), but just to speak and create an event where before there was none.  (more…)

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CV1_TNY_02_25_13Ulriksen.inddSOUNDTRACK: THE KNIFE-Shaking the Habitual (2013).

theknife2Since I reviewed the 19 minute song from this album yesterday I thought I’d check out the rest of the disc (still a handful).  I kept bearing in mind that The Knife are pretty much a dance duo.  So this departure is not only radical, it pretty much undercuts the kind of music they make.  The progress is probably exciting but I imagine fans would turn away in droves.  I wonder how this record will play out for them in the long run.  Incidentally, I wasn’t a fan before, so I don’t really have a horse in this race.

“A Tooth for an Eye” opens the record with an interesting percussion sound an a pulsing keyboard melody.  The keening vocals come in sounding weird and distant and more than a little eerie.  “Full of Fire” is a 9-minute song with a weird skittery “melody” that seems to float above the battered mechanical “drum.”  The whispered vocals are strained and also a little creepy.  The middle section has the skittery music jump around while the vocals get even more processed—making it simultaneously more friendly and less so.  It’s probably the coolest weird song on the disc, with parts that are catchy and interesting and parts that are just peculiar.  This is the single, by the way.

“A Cherry on Top” is 8 minutes of reasonable quietude, with the second half introducing an autoharp.  It’s certainly the most mellow thing on the disc.  Although it’s not exactly relaxing.  “Without You My Life Would Be Boring” seems like it should be the single—it is propulsive and while the vocals are certainly odd, they are the most conventional thing on the album.  “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” has big electronic pulsing drums and whispered vocals.  It’s a fairly normal sounding song (at least for this album), and could easily play in a goth club.

“Crake” is 55 second of squalling feedback.  The album also has “Oryx” which is 37 second of wailing noise.  In between is the 10 minute “Raging Lung” which is not available on Spotify.  “Networking” a skittering beat with a second beat that may just be a sample of a person making noise in his or her throat.  The “voices” get stranger throughout the song, keening, twisting and spinning, reminiscent of The Art of Noise.

“Stay Out Here” is a ten minute song.  It starts with a fairly standard electronic drumbeat.  Whispered vocals come in giving it a kind of Nine Inch Nails vibe, until the female vocals come in (and are quickly manipulated to sound kind of male).  The switch from male and female vocals is interesting, giving it an almost modern sounding Dead Can Dance feel.

“Fracking Fluid Injection” has sounds like scraping, rusted gates as the beat with sampled voices overlaid.  Again, this is nearly 10 minute long.  The problem with things like this, aside from their relative tediousness, is that they aren’t all that original.  Now originality is nothing to hold a band to, we all know, but if you’re going to do non-form sounds that are echoed with little else to it, it would be more interesting if there was something original to pin to it.  “Ready to Lose” ends the album with a steady beat and a pretty standard vocal line (even if the voices are processed).

So this album us a pretty radical departure for the band and it’s a pretty radical departure for dance music as a whole.  I’m curious to see if this will lead to a anything or if this will be their one weird album.

[READ: April 15, 2013] “The Furies”

The story opens with a rather creepy man stating at his wedding reception that he is in an exclusive club: “There are not too many men who can say that they’re older than their father-in-law.” Ew.  He was fifty-eight, his new wife 31.  His father-in-law is 56.  The father-in-law seems okay with this, but really how could he be?

Ray is a dentist and his new wife, Shelly, had been his hygienist for years.  When Shelly told him she was thinking of getting a new job, he professed his love for her, and informed his wife, Angie that he was in love with Shelly.  Angie took it badly, but he was surprised when she seemed mad that he didn’t do this years earlier while she still had a chance to meet someone (rather than being distraught that he was leaving her).  As a parting shot she says that she wishes him ill.  And she hope he suffers with the woman who took him from her.

But they had no children, just assets, and things were divided evenly and cleanly.  And he thanked his lucky starts to be with a new woman, someone who was fun and so different from his first wife. (more…)

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