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Archive for the ‘Set at School’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PINO PALLADINO + BLAKE MILLS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #225 (June 17, 2021).

This is a mellow, jazzy set with four musicians all playing at equal strength.  I’ve only heard of Blake Mills (although I might be getting him mixed up with Buck Meek or James Blake or Mike Mills).  But apparently I should know more of them.

 Pino Palladino is a prolific bassist whose sound you’re already intimately acquainted with (even if you don’t know it). Blake Mills, a guitarist and two-time Grammy nominee for producer of the year, has an impressive catalog of his own. Together, in the studio, the topshelf sidemen are in their element, distilling the sonic creativity that is the first release under Palladino’s name, Notes With Attachments.

“Just Wrong” opens the set

Eight pulsing calls from saxophonist Sam Gendel usher us into Just Wrong a melodic meditation that unfolds like a blossom in timelapse. Guitar, bass, sax and Abe Rounds’ colorful dustings of percussion in this song are magical; we soar with the musicians through varied repetitions of the melody before they gently set us back on our feet.

All three musicians slowly play one note to start.  Then Pino Palladino meanders up the neck of his fretless bass while Blake Mills plays higher and higher chords on the guitar.  Then he switches to an interesting picked note melody while Abe Rounds adds gentle percussive bells.  Sam Gendel on the sax plays the main lead while Paladino adds gentle harmonics. Eventually the drums get louder and Mills and Gendel seems to be responding to each other with leads.   Gendel’s sax sounds like it’s processed in interesting ways, making unusual sounds.

“Ekuté,” is a tune that explores traditional West African music, jazz and rock influences with a few modern touches of technology.

A soft shaker opens the song as Palladino plays a fretted bass melody as a lead.  Gendel starts adding in some swirling sax melodies before Mills throws in some cool wah wah guitar forms.  As the song takes off it’s like a conversation between guitar and bass, both more or less playing lead.  Gendel lays some random skronking sax notes over the bed the guitars lay down.  Eventually the song settles into a nice groove while Mills plays a fascinatingly complex solo.

“Djurkel” the final offering in this set, is also experimental in nature. Palladino’s trademark bass sound lies in the cut, the fertile ground on which Mills, Gendel and Rounds dance dreamily around each other.

This one opens with sax and guitar washes before Palladino takes over with a cool lead bass line.  Mills is playing a fretless guitar on this songs, allowing him to create a really interesting mix of sounds.

I really enjoyed the diverse amount of sounds and the mellow exploration that this set provided.

[READ: June 27, 2021] Heartstopper 3

I’ve really enjoyed this series so far and I’m quite pleased to see that there’s going to be another book after this.

This book centers around a school trip to Paris.  Both Charlie and Nick had signed up already.

After Charlies’ mom signs the permission, he bashfully says he has something to tell them.  His dad jokingly says “Are you trying to come out again, because we already know.”  Charlie laughs and then tells them about Nick and his parents are very happy because they saw how much he liked him.  But Nick is definitely banned from sleepovers forever now.  (Dad, stop saying “hanky panky.”)

When Nick sees Charlie at school the next day, Nick tells him that he came out to his mum last night and she was really supportive, too. They share a kiss and Nick jokes tat kissing at school is still a terrible idea.

In a later scene Nick’s friends Christian, Sai and Otis apologize to Nick for what happened that night when Nick got into the fight with Harry–they admit that they should have told Harry to fuck off. They all agree that they like Charlie and the four are friends again.  When Nick walks away one of them says what was I supposed to say we know you and Charlie are a thing and that’s fine??

Later, after the rugby coach sees the two of them kissing, she calls Nick into her office  After offering him the position of captain, she says that she met her wife at university.

People gave us a lot of shit.  Things are a little better now but you never know.

It’s a nice moment.

Followed by an unpleasant one, when Nick’s brother has come home from university. He says to Nick that he is talking to Charlie to meet the guy who turned his brother gay.  It turns ugly with Charlie lamenting why does being out have to be so complicated.

But there’s the Paris trip, which is definitely going to be cool. The chaperones say…no rooming between boys and girls which gets groans from everyone except for Tara and Darcy and Charlie and Nick. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ACID MOTHERS GONG-Live Tokyo (2006).

Gong is a band that started in Paris in 1967 by Daevid Allen.  The band is still active and has seen many many lineup changes over the years.  From 2003-2004 the band included members of Acid Mothers Temple.  They released a weird (well, all Gong albums are pretty weird) album called Acid Motherhood.  And then released this live document in 2006.

The line up was Daevid Allen – guitar gliss, vocals/fx; Gilli Smyth  – space whisperer; Josh Pollack – guitar, megaphone; Kawabata Makoto – guitar, voices; Cotton Casino – synth, voices; Hiroshi Higashi – synth, voices; Yoshida Tatsuya – drums, sampler; Tsuyama Atsushi – bass, whistle, vocals.

Gong used a sped up vocal technique a lot, which you can hear in the opening 40 second song called “Gnome.”  Gnome introduces Acid Mother Gong and  segues into “Ooom Ba wAH!” which is improvised processed sped up vocal nonsense.

“Crazy Invisible She” is a nearly 4 minute spoken piece by Gilli that segues into “The Unkilling Of Octave Docteur DA 4J.”  This is a nine minute jam with trippy chords and a two note riff.  There’s wild soloing and trippy space keys.  “Avahoot Klaxon Diamond Language Ritual” has more nonsensical spoken word with wild drums and guitars.  The guitar turns into a siren as chanting begins and segues into “Rituel: Umbrage Demon Stirfry & Its Upcum,” a three minute fast chanted piece with distorted voices and rocking chords.

“Jesu Ali Om Cruci-Fiction” is a ninety second swirling feedback segue into “Ze Teapot Zat Exploded” (“Flying Teapot” alternate title) a nine minute song that feels like a proper song.  It starts with a riff and then the whole band jumps in.  About halfway through someone starts singing (in English!).

“Eating Colonel Saunders Upside Down” sounds like a 7 minute transmission from outer space with a slow beat then turns into a kind of tribal chanting and ends with a high pitched voice singing a wild melody.  “Vital Info That Should Never Be Spoken” is a spoken word piece in which the sound regularly cuts out making it very hard to understand this vital info.

“Parallel Tales Of Fred Circumspex” is a five minute recited piece about Frederick in English and possibly translated into Japanese as they go?  Or is it something else?  By the end he is chanting how everyone is nude.  I guess the nude people then go to “The Isle Of Underwear.” I’m not sure why its called this as it is “Pink Lady Lemonade.”  Aafter 8 minutes someone gently sings the words of “Pink Lady Lemonade.”

“Ohm Riff Voltage 245″is 8 minutes of faster and faster chanting with lots of drums.  Then it turns into slow jamming until the end.  It segues into “Totalatonal Farewell To The Innocents” which is full of soaring sounds and deep sing song chanting that turns into a bouncy jam. By the end, the gnome voice is back.  And the show ends.

You have to be in a very specific headspace to really get into this.

[READ: June 20, 2021] Heartstopper 2

I enjoyed Heartstopper Volume 1 so much I couldn’t wait for Volume 2.  The story is so sweet and kind, I was happy that volume 2 kept up that level of joy.

I also enjoyed that Iseman opened the book with a little drama, but that it was resolved pretty quickly.

In Volume 1 we meet Charlie, who is gay.  He befriends a boy named Nick who is straight.  Charlie is unlike anyone who Nick has hung out with–he usually hangs out with jocks. Charlie is so much the opposite it’s a breath of fresh a air for Nick.  And suddenly, Nick realizes that he is falling for Charlie.

At the end of Volume 1 they kissed…

But as Volume 2 opens we see Charlie’s diary and he is very upset because Nick ran off and didn’t text or anything.  He thinks he ruined everything.  Then we see Nick trying to type his feelings in a text.  He’s sorry for running off, he really likes Charlie, he was just scared.  But he decides it would be better to say something in person.

The next morning, Charlie wakes to the doorbell.  He is in his PJs and with behead and Nick is standing there.  Nick explains everything and suddenly they are having a wonderful day together.

I love the way Iseman draws them–so sweet and loving. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BROTHERS OSBORNE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #215 (May 26, 2021).

If Brothers Osborne were an instrumental band I’d really like them. Lead guitarist John Osborne is an amazing player whose riffs are amazing and even though they sound pretty country, he’s amazing to watch.

But when T.J. Osborne starts singing, you understand why they wear cowboy hats.

For their Tiny Desk (home) concert… Brothers Osborne–a country duo that’s long challenged the conventions of country and still managed to top the charts–scale to fit the setting – John’s wood-panelled Nashville living room furnished with plenty of guitars and a tiny desk featuring a Maryland flag mug – but refuse to dial down the intensity.

They open with “Muskrat Greene,” the instrumental that is so impressive.  T.J.’s guitar licks are flying, Adam Box’s drums keep a tight martial pace (and the drum sound is fantastic) and the song never lets up.  I love the backwards guitar part in the middle along with some cool keyboard soloing from Gabe Dixon.

Opening with the explosive instrumental track “Muskrat Greene,” Brothers Osborne and their collaborators use their set to showcase the very best of Skeletons. As on the record, they transition immediately into “Dead Man’s Curve,” a track that’s the ideal interplay between John’s fiery guitar and T.J.’s singular vocal stylings.

After two and a half minutes they segue into “Dead Man’s Curve” which sounds like a pretty great rockin’ roots song.  The main riff after the chorus is spectacular and T.J.’s solo smokes.  I’d like to hear it with different vocals.

“I’m Not for Everyone” is where the set falters for me.  It is such a standard country song–anthemic and familiar–I’m sure it sounds exactly like some other country song.  I might enjoy it more as a cover because the lyrics are pretty funny (country music self-deprecation).  The addition of “local legend” Matt Heasley on accordion is a nice touch.

“Skeletons” opens with some muted acoustic guitar from T.J. and some nice slide guitar work from Jason Graumlich.  Once again, if this song didn’t feel so “country” I would really like it.  Musically it’s solid (John gets another great solo) and lyrically it’s quite clever.  I just don’t like the vocal style.  When I imagine Richard Thompson singing it, I like it a lot better.

“Hatin’ Somebody” (never got nobody nowhere) ends the set with more clever lyrics.  This time John uses the slide for some more great guitar work.  The song has a fun riff and Pete Sternberg’s bass keeps the low end solid.  But the song is just too country for me.

I do appreciate how much fun they are having though.

[READ: June 1, 2021] Spy School

I read Gibbs’ Charlie Thorne books recently and really enjoyed them, so I thought it would be fun to check out his earlier series Spy School (which C. had read a few years ago and really liked).

This story had the same kind of clever wit as the Charlie Thorne books, which I greatly appreciated.  It was also a pretty exciting story.

It starts in the middle of nowhere.  Well, actually in the middle of Ben Ripley’s house.  Where, out of nowhere, a Federal agent has just told him that he has been accepted into spy school.  They’ve had their eyes on him for a while. He did wonderfully on the STIQ exams.  What are they?  He doesn’t remember taking them.

Standardized Test Inserted Questions.  The CIA places them in every standardized test to asses potential espionage aptitude.  You’ve gotten every one right since third grade.

So that’s pretty wild.  Of course everything about Spy school is secret so he can’t even tell his parents or his best friend. They al think he’s going to a super brainy nerdy math school (Ben is a super brainy math nerd after all).

The agent, Alexander Hale, is so cool, Ben can’t wait to hang out with him.  But when Alexander drops him off at school things are not good.  The whole school is under red alert–there seems to have been a security breach.  And Ben is now a target.  Why? because even the enemy has heard about him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BUZZY LEE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #218 (June 2, 2021).

Everybody sounds better in the bathroom, right?

There’s a comfort to be found singing in a bathroom; we all sound better with our voices bouncing off the tiles. For Sasha Spielberg, a.k.a. Buzzy Lee, she took it a step further, recording her Tiny Desk (home) concert in her childhood bathroom, which her parents decorated with images of fairytales.  … “I’d spend hours on end in here dreaming of singing in front of people. It’s also where I wrote my first song, age 5, ‘You’re Just Like Pie Crust.’ It was a pop song. Huge hit.”

Buzzy Lee’s Home Tiny Desk is filmed in her bathroom.  The show opens with her sitting on the edge of her tub playing the keys and gently singing “Strange Town.”  After 43 seconds, she adds a bass note with a second keyboard and the song fleshes out.  But when the camera pulls back you can see Adam Gunther sitting in the bathtub playing modular synth and modular bass (it sounds really good later in the song).

After a minute and a half the song changes from soft washes to a super catchy synth riff and Jorge Balbi Castellano who has been sitting on the toilet all this time, starts adding electronic drums.  Once the riff kicks in the song is really catchy and Spielberg’s voice proves to have a lot of different sounds (including a really cool mic that is like an echo chamber unto itself).

For the rest of the four song set

we hear songs and tales with different themes: obsession, love, attachment, and self-doubt, all filled with playful wordplay and her passionate voice.

It’s weird to hear her ask Gunther to “pull up the file for ‘Coolhand.'”  But it’s all smiles as he “types” in to the keyboard on the tiniest Tiny Desk yet.  This song is poppy and bouncy with some really fun singing in the verses.

When the song ends, she says “We’re going to play ‘Spoiled Love,'” and hands Jorge a newspaper.  He puts down his sticks to read while sitting on the trouble.  This song is a gentle ballad (with no drums).  I love the use of that crazy echoing microphone.

To start the final song, “What Has A Man Done,” she reaches over and “starts” the computer.  Her keyboard has a really soulful sound as she sings this slow, moody piece.  I love the way her voice goes from deep to a really high falsetto as it shifts from verse to chorus.

[READ: June 1, 2021] Heartstopper 1

Sometimes a simple love story which is told very well, can be a real joy to read.  It’s even better when there are wonderful illustrations.

The story opens on Charlie (a quiet boy) and Ben (a much louder boy) kissing in the library at school.  But the bell rings and class starts–and Ben seems a little jerky.

Charlie has a note that says he’s in a new class with kids from all four grades in it.  Charlie is in grade ten and he is placed with Nicholas Nelson an 11th grader.  As their eyes meet, the title–Heartstopper–flashes across the page

Nick is a big strong guy–a rugby player–and although he is very nice to Charlie, Charlie assumes that Nick is messing with him.  Charlie doesn’t trust the jocks–and with good reason.  When it got out that Charlie was gay (in an all boys school) news travelled fast and people weren’t nice to him.  But he seems to be pretty well accepted now–at least by some. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MDOU MOCTAR-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #213 (May 24, 2021).

Mdou Moctar has been getting some well deserved recognition lately.  It’s pretty great to see a Nigerian performer, who plays distinctly Nigerian style music making an impression on American audiences.

Of course, since I’m contrary, I’m more attracted to Moctar’s drummer who is playing a calabash–in this case red object that looks like a turtle shell and makes a remarkable range of sounds.  But really the focus should be on Moctar’s guitar playing.

Get ready for some fiery desert guitar-shredding, Saharan style, with the music of Mdou Moctar. Producer and American bassist Mikey Coltun told me that “the concert was filmed outside of the house we were all staying at in Niamey, Niger, in November/December 2020.” He continued, “As with any sort of musical happenings in the region, once some music is blasted, that’s an invitation for anyone to come join, sing, clap, dance, and just come together as a community. We wanted to present the Tiny Desk exactly like this, from when we started playing to finally the energy growing with fans crowded around filming on their cell phones and passing around Tuareg tea.”

And so, the four musicians, seated on a blanket (designed with oversized roses) with amps on either side, start playing with no fanfare.

The (home) concert starts off with Mahamadou Souleymane, a.k.a. Mdou Moctar, playing a melodic line on acoustic guitar, with Ahmoudou Madassane on rhythm guitar, Souleymane Ibrahim playing percussion on a calabash, and Mikey Coulton on his Fender Mustang bass on the song “Ya Habibti” from the album Afrique Victime. It’s an album of songs dealing with intense subjects close to Mdou Moctar’s heart: colonialism, exploitation, inequality, but also love.

The song almost feels like a drone because the bass and rhythm pretty much never change throughout.  The drumming is muted–effective but never sharp.  And Moctar’s voice and lead guitar work is subtle.  I’m sure since I don’t understand what he’s singing (which sounds pretty intense), I find his voice very soothing.

“Tala Tannam” follows in the same pattern–except the bass is even less mobile and the way Moctar sings it feels like a lullaby.  The best part is watching Ibrahim and Coltun clearly enjoying themselves–smiling to each other and even hugging at one point.  It’s hard to know how long these songs are as they seems to just go until they stop, but this one does have a deliberate ending.  It’s when he puts down his acoustic and grabs the electric guitar.

You can hear the real musical fire on the last song, the roughly 7-minute psych-rock title track to Afrique Victime. “Africa is a victim of so many crimes,” Mdou Moctar sings in French. “If we stay silent, it will be the end of us.” Silence is not something in Mdou Moctar’s vocabulary.

Moctar’s soloing was subtle on the other songs, but you can really here it standing out with this sharp electric guitar sound.  It’s nice to watch his fingers fly around the neck. There’s some guitar god moments in the soloing–including some finger tapping–but having him seated and equal with everyone else, the solos never seem showoffy.  I also like the way the song speeds up incrementally as it goes–mostly notable by how fast Ibrahim is suddenly hitting the calabash.

[READ: June 10, 2021] Losing the Girl

This final book of the trilogy was a little disappointing for me.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but I feel like there wasn’t enough resolution for anyone.

The book opens on Nigel.  Claudia has shown up to tutor him in math.  He is so smitten he writes a poem that he submits for class.  He calls it “Teacher” and his teacher assumes it is about her.  I can’t even believe that he would submit a poem with the line “teach me how to make puppy love turn into doggy style”  (Nigel is so clueless).

Next we see Brett at his mother’s funeral.  Johanna tries to comfort him but he blows her off demanding to know why she didn’t tell him about her and Paula.  They smooth things over and she asks if his father knows that his mother died.  He says no, he hasn’t talked to his father in a long time.  Jo says her mother might know how to get in touch with him.

The next section is about Darren.  He is by himself remembering how his father hurt his mother and how he doesn’t want to repeat the cycle. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAURIE ANDERSON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #212 (May 20, 2021).

Anyone who likes original or avant garde music knows Laurie Anderson.  Even forty years later, her music is unlike most other music out there.  Her music still sounds futuristic.

Which doesn’t mean it’s always enjoyable.  But some of it is quite good and it’s all pretty fascinating.  It’s also fascinating that you know instantly that it’s Laurie Anderson.  Her voice hasn’t changed in years–true she doesn’t sing, but it’s still the same.

She begins this set, which feels incredibly minimal with her keyboardist (and so much more–she played on and produced Big Science with Laurie Anderson in 1982) Roma Baron playing a simple clicking beat track.  She speaks (with her voice processed):

I met this guy and he looked like he might have been a hat check clerk at an ice ring.  Which in fact he turned out to be.  And I said oh boy, right again.

And Rubin Kodheli on the cello is playing gentle strings, including high notes sliding down the fretboard.

Is the song a story?  Does it have a narrative?  Or is it just stream of consciousness?  I’m not sure.

Laurie Anderson is a revolutionary artist who has mixed storytelling, music and technology for the past four decades plus. This Tiny Desk (home) concert celebrates the truly breathtaking breakthrough album she put out in 1982, Big Science. On that record, she used a few different voice processors; one of them was a Vocoder. By singing into a microphone attached to a keyboard, you can hear how it effectively adds harmony to her voice on “Let x=x.”

Laurie Anderson’s music seems so serious, so it’s delightful to hear her be so loose and chatty (and funny) between songs.

She introduces Rubin Kodheli, her favorite musician, with whom she plays all the time.  They create what’s listed here as “Violin Cello Improv.”  It’s about a minute of vaguely dissonant string music.

Then comes the big song, the one that people know Laurie Anderson for.  If it wasn’t a hit, it was certainly popular.

Laurie Anderson also used that [Vocoder] effect, creating what I think of as ‘the voice of authority’ in her storytelling, on “O Superman,” a song unlike anything music I’d heard when it came out in 1981. She made use of a vocal loop, something ever-present these days in sampling, but here she uses an Eventide Harmonizer, looping the single syllable “ha” as the rhythm of the song. It’s a song about dealing with the technological revolution, about compassion; if it’s your first time hearing it, take it in and see what strikes you.

The song has always felt very mechanical to me (it must be the looping and the synthesized voice), but it’s really interesting to hear how it changes live. Not drastically, but it feels like a living breathing song, which is pretty neat.  As is Bob Boilen’s story:

On a personal note, I was a lover of Laurie’s music back in those days; they were also the days I played synthesizer in my band Tiny Desk Unit. We opened for Laurie Anderson in 1981, and Laurie joined us onstage for a song. I bring this up because the Tiny Desk name (created by our guitarist Michael Barron) was familiar to Laurie long before this NPR series existed. At the end of her home concert, Laurie, I assume, mistakenly, thanks Tiny Desk Unit for having her. It made me smile and sparked so many memories. Thank you, Laurie.

Laurie Anderson is 74 and she seems as vibrant as ever.

[READ: June 10, 2021] Gravity’s Pull

I really enjoyed everything about Book 1 of this series and I was delighted to see that Volumes 2 and 3 were already out.

Volume 2 follows the same characters and is laid out in the same way (with each section following one of the characters but having the timeline stay linear.  MariNaomi also seems to be having even more fun with her drawings,

The first part is about Nigel Q. Jones (just like in the last book).  He’s in class when his teacher announces that the girl who was missing in book one (Claudia Jones–no relation) has suddenly returned and is coming back to school.  The teacher asks that everyone just give her space.

We realize it has been four months since the last book so Claudia has been gone along time.

Meanwhile Nigel still thinks about Emily (who has a cool new haircut–when a friend said she finally has good hair, the insult is not unnoticed) but realizes it’s time for him to move on.  As he’s thinking this Claudia Jones walks into the building and Nigel falls instantly in love with her.  How does she suddenly look so beautiful?  Almost otherworldly.  Here’s where MariNaomi has fun with the illustrations, making Nigel’s dreadlocks look like a kind of glove the way she draws his head. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATHLEEN EDWARDS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #211 (May 19, 2021).

Kathleen Edwards is a wonderful songwriter with a fantastic voice.  I discovered her from her 2008 album Asking For Flowers.

She put out one more record and then disappeared.

Struggling with depression, Kathleen Edwards opened a coffee shop called Quitters Coffee and lived a very different life.  A handful of years later, in 2017, she was invited to Nashville by Maren Morris to write some songs. That Nashville visit sparked a new beginning and eventually the 2020 album Total Freedom, which birthed the four songs you hear in this Tiny Desk concert.

So Kathleen Edwards is back with a wonderful new album.

On this Tiny desk she is joined by Todd Lombardo and Justin Schipper on dobro (that slide guitar looking thing).

Kathleen’s voice sounds great and on “Glenfern.”

From a house in East Nashville, Kathleen Edwards sings about how thankful she is for those early aughts when she was praised with awards, television appearances, touring to packed venues — even if the tour bus with the bed in back was “total crap.” As she continues to sing “Glenfern,” the opening track to her first album in eight years as well as this Tiny Desk (home) concert, she remembers her former husband and collaborator.

After the first song she introduces the band and says I can’t sing through a mask so after this we’re going straight to to the COVID clinic.

Kathleen Edwards seems happy playing these new songs.  They can be songs of sadness, sometimes filled with seething, such as “Ashes to Ashes,” but she’s also grateful for her everlasting love for a four-legged creature and the little catalpa tree where it’s buried.

There’s some beautiful interplay of guitars in this song.  It’s amazing how great her voice sounds with no accompaniment, no effects.  And afterwards she tells a delightful story about catalpa trees–I just passed one on a dog walk yesterday and absolutely want to try to grow my own this year.

“Hard On Everyone” is the song that’s been getting some airplay around here.  It’s so catchy, I love it.  And the lyrics are pointed and spot on.  when the song is over she and Todd bump elbows and their guitars bump for a nice resounding thump.

I would love to see Kathleen Edwards live.  She played one of her first shows after retiring at XPN Fest, unfortunately that was the year we went to Newport Folk Festival.  Now I see she’s coming around again, but she’s opening for Jason Isbell, and I don’t want to see him, so I’ll have to hope she finds a smaller club to headline.

[READ: June 10, 2021] Losing the Girl

T. brought this book home from school and I though the cover looked pretty neat.  When I looked inside I really liked the crazy drawing style(s) of it (S. did not like it at all).

The book opens on Nigel Jones, a boy with dreadlocks (his profile is always great, and MariNaomi uses these dreadlocks to express Nigels’ mood in clever ways).  The book also uses simple things like arrows to convey movement in a panel, which I liked.  One of the early ones shows a city block.  We just saw Nigel get off a bus and the arrows and a tiny figure on a skateboard show which way he is going.  This effect is used very well at a party later as we see the crowd move about the room in a static picture.

It’s through Nigel that we learn that nobody’s phones are working–this is a steady concern and a minor (or major) irritant throughout the story.   We also learn that a girl, Claudia Jones, (no relation) has been missing for three days.  Everyone has speculations about what happened to her.

Nigel lives with his mom (his dad has moved out) and Nigel is not too happy about the new arrangements–just because your parents separate doesn’t mean they fight less.  In school the next day Nigel tells a joke to Emily.  I found it very funny but Emily doesn’t seem to.  She asks if that’s his way of flirting with her.  A lightbulb goes off and he says yes (he’s had a crush on her for years).  She agrees to meet him at the bleachers later. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CARM-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #192 (April 15, 2021).

CJ Camerieri is a co-founder of yMusic, which is how I know him (I saw him perform with Ben Folds).

This is his new project, CARM.  Camerieri is also a member of Paul Simon’s band, a collaborator with Bon Iver and a Tiny Desk alum. (You can hear his French horn with The Tallest Man On Earth from their 2019 Tiny Desk Concert.)

“Soft Night” is the first track and introduces us to what CARM is about.  He plays trumpet while Trever Hagen plays electronics and sets up the melody and drums.  Then Camerieri switches to French horn while Hagen plays some trumpet.  Then in a fun moment, Camerieri picks up the trumpet with his right whole still holding the French horn in his left.  He plays the trumpet melody and then puts down the trumpet and starts on the French horn.  For the rest of this five-minute instrumental, the two jump back and forth playing trumpet riffs and leads as the electronics build satisfyingly.

For CJ Camerieri … home is where the art is. He performed his concert at the Pablo Center in Eau Claire, Wisc., where [he] conceived and recorded all the songs for his 2021 debut solo album, CARM. “This particular community has been a really big part of my musical life for 10 years,” CJ says after playing the calming tune “Soft Night,” “so it seems like the perfect place to be doing this.”

He made “Song of Trouble” with Sufjan Stevens.  They wrote it before the pandemic but the lyrics have taken on new meaning.  S. Carey plays piano and sings.  This is another mellow song with some lovely muted trumpet and simple electronics backing the song.

“Nowhere” is a little stranger.  It opens with jittery trumpet and skittery and loud electronics.  The juxtaposition of the organic horns and the electronic instruments is very cool.

“Slantwise” opens with some rapid and wild drum loops.  Then Camerieri loops the French horn and trumpet giving the song a rather majestic feel.

[READ: May 11, 2021] A Complicated Love Story Set in Space

The librarian in West Windsor recommended this book to my son.  He didn’t read it, but I loved the title and was really interested in reading it.

And wow, did I enjoy it.

I have not read anything by Hutchinson before, so I’m not sure how this compares to his other books, but this was, indeed, a very complicated love story.  In the acknowledgments Hutchinson says that originally the story was called Gays in Space.  And while that is a fun title, I think the final title is wonderfully compelling.

The story opens on Noa.  Noa is a normal teenager from Seattle.  But he has just woken up and he finds himself in a spacesuit, floating outside of a spaceship.  He has no recollection of how he got there.  There’s a note that says “You are in space floating outside a ship called Qriosity.  There is no reason to panic.”

Well, thank goodness for that.

After getting his bearings, a voice speaks to him.  The voice is from a teenaged boy named DJ.  DJ is from Florida and he is aboard the Qriosity.  He also has no idea how he got there.

They are each tasked with a pressing problem and if they don’t fix them immediately, the ship will explode.  Noa panics (as he tends to do) but DJ calms him and talks to him as they work together to fix the ship.  Which they do.  But as Noa is heading to the airlock, his tether is not attached and he is flung from the ship.  He has nowhere near enough oxygen and soon enough, he is dead.

That’s a rough start for the protagonist of the story. (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: MILEY CYRUS–Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #161 (January 28, 2021).

I’m quite torn about Miley Cyrus.  I respect her individuality and her desire to push boundaries (and her Happy Hippie Foundation [created to rally young people to fight injustice facing homeless youth, LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable populations] is pretty great).  But sometimes I don’t always love her choices.

In all that time I’ve never given much attention to her music.  She was a pop singer (or worse, a country singer) and that was that.

Now, after getting mixed up with The Flaming Lips, who even knows what she’s up to.

For her Tiny Desk Concert (I can’t believe it’s barely over 11 minutes when so many other have done them over 20) she has built a tiny room, complete with a bed and a window and posters on the wall.  The room itself is probably three feet high and Miley, bedecked in a fascinating array (fake, one assumes) furs an leopard skin pants and a big hat and glasses.

The blurb gives rather an extensive narrative to Cyrus’ video

Here, the scene opens with Cyrus, dressed head to toe in rock-star faux fur, in what looks like a teenage girl’s bedroom. But the perspective in this pink-and-purple space feels a little … odd.  As Cyrus sings, it becomes clear that this is her Wonderland – like Alice full of magical cake, she’s grown to exceed her surroundings. By the end of this three-song set, Cyrus reveals that it’s the adolescent enclave that grew too small for her, not the other way around.

That give a lot of credit to a little video.  But whatever.  First she lounges on her bed and sings a pretty intense version of Mazzy Star’s “Fade into You.”

The original was pretty chill (and maybe a little boring) and Miley inject some powerful screams in the middle and her voice gets all raw.  It adds some drama to an otherwise chill song.  Or as the blurb says

a hazy psychedelic anthem that she infuses with just the edge of the next day’s hangover.

Up next are two songs from her latest album.

The two songs from Plastic Hearts that follow are her own bids at classic-rock timelessness.

In “Golden G-String” Cyrus assesses her own life in the spotlight with Leonard Cohen-esque charm.

She takes off her coat and hat (the video ifs filmed from different angles and there’s some overlapping edits.

This song is really quite catchy.  I think Id like to hear the album version.

And “Prisoner” is the power ballad that lets Cyrus really break out – as she leaves the tiny room — just a box, it turns out, on a soundstage – and joins her band,

Her poor band is never really on camera. It pans around a little before prisoner–you see some hands and some hair of Stacy Jones: drums; Mike Schmid: keys; Max Bernstein: guitar; Jamie Arentzen: guitar and Joe Ayoub: bass.

“Prisoner” sounds like a classic rock song-maybe from Heart or Fleetwood Mac.  This album is getting some good accolades and I might just have to check it out.

[READ: March 18, 2021] I Text Dead People

We brought this book home from the library for my daughter, but I found myself reading and (sort of) enjoying it.

Annabel Craven and her mother have just moved from Sacramento to this small town.  They moved because Annabel’s Uncle died and left his house to them.  Since they lived in a tiny apartment in Sacramento, her mom figured it was a step up.  Except that their new house is actually a creepy old “haunted” house that is adjacent to a cemetery.

On her first day of school, Annabel took a shortcut through the cemetery where she found a phone.  She had recently broken her phone and her mother was trying to teach her the value of things by making her save up for a new one.

Obviously, she will return this found phone to its owner, but until then, it might be nice to be able to communicate with people  Sadly, the phone has no power so she couldn’t locate its owner anyhow. (more…)

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