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Archive for the ‘Short Story’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: FLOCK OF DIMES-Tiny Desk Concert #246 (August 10, 2021).

Flock of Dimes is a fun band name.  It’s the solo project of Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner (I thought Wye Oak was a solo project as well–no, it’s a duo).  [Gee, why wasn’t Andy Stack invited to this sing along?]

For this Home Concert, the solo project turns huge with nine people sitting around having a big ol’ sing along (I’ll assume they are all vaccinated and that this was filmed before Delta took off).

The setup is pretty simple: three guitars (I love that the guys on the couch are lefty (Michael Libramento, baritone guitar) and righty (Alan Good Parker, tenor guitar) so it looks appealingly symmetrical). some percussion and a lot of voices (the men on the right of the screen seems somewhat less invested).

The friends who are singing along include the three singers from Mountain Man: Amelia Randall Meath, Molly Sarlé and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig.  Meath is also in Sylvan Esso and her bandmate Nick Sanborn is also present (he’s one of the less invested men).  The set is filmed at Sylvan Esso’s new studio in Durham, N.C., called Betty’s.

“Two” is a bouncy number with lots of percussion.  I like the way the backing singers join in from time to time, but not constantly–it introduces new voices throughout.

One of the invested men is percussionist Matthew McCaughan from Bon Iver–he’s got a full complement of instruments at hand.  Joe Westerland (from Megafaun) is the other percussionist, he’s just a bit more subtle in his actions, but you can see him gently tapping through “Two.”

“Price of Blue” is a little slower but it has a wonderful melody.  The harmonies really standout on this song.

I don’t know the originals of these songs, but I have to assume the blurb is correct

These acoustic performances actually shed new light, thanks to radiant and radically different arrangements, while fully capturing the warmth we look for from Tiny Desk concerts.

Whatever the case, the backing vocals are tremendous.  You can really hear Molly Sarlé’s gorgeous harmony vocals.

“Awake For The Sunrise” feels like an old fashioned fire side sing along.  I’ve enjoyed Wye Oak’s music but I don’t know it very well.  I rather like Wassner’s delivery here–but i feel like these songs might not be as good without these harmonies!

[READ: August 12, 2021] New Teeth

I’m guessing that Simon Rich had a baby.

This collection of stories is loaded with stories about little kids.  And that’s all right because he has a very funny take on being a parent.

The other stories tackle the corporate environment and are full of fish-out-of-water stories.

“Learning the Ropes” is about being a new parent.  But it is written from the point of view of two pirates. And hilarity ensues.

What’s odd to me is that in his first books, his stories were really short, but I feel like lately his stories have gotten much longer–sometimes too long.  This one in particular kind of dragged at times, because it’s pretty much a one-note joke: what? pirates raising a little girl?!  One pirate is a concerned parent which means he wants them both to care about the child.  It’s got a few very funny moments, and of course, when the pirates who speak in pirate style (“The only man I trust is me first mate”) say things like “Arr… it be called ‘limit testing.’ She be acting out because she be craving discipline,” well, that’s classic Simon Rich right there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK BEN HOWARD-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #245 (August 9, 2021).

I don’t really know who Ben Howard is.  he is not one of “The Bens” (that was Ben Folds, Ben Kweller and Ben Lee).  For this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert it’s just him and his guitars.  But the blurb suggests the album these songs are from is quite different.

Having spent time with Collections from the Whiteout, Ben Howard’s sonically adventurous fourth album, I was curious to see how he would adapt these songs to the Tiny Desk (home) concert format. So when the opening shot shows Ben in a room alone, an acoustic guitar in hand, it was both an “oh yeah!” and an “uh-oh” moment. Gone were all those textures that he, Aaron Dessner, and a load of talented musicians had worked on, but front and center was that delicate, reflective voice that I love. It’s a voice that, in the recent past, was often swarming in effects and buried in reverb.

Ben plays four songs.  The first, “Follies Fixtures” is on acoustic guitar.

So as Ben Howard opens his Tiny Desk with the album’s opening track, I found myself zeroing in on the oblique and painterly images of “Follies Fixtures”: “Walk with me to the burning spire. / We can count the dеad on Ender’s pyre. / The dusty towns whеre the number’s found / Don’t quite match the missing.”

This song reminds me of Jose Gonzales in this format.

Howard then switches to electric guitar for the rest of the songs.  He adds drum machine for “Far Out.”

“Thanks for having me and allowing me to play the slight variations of songs that I’m forced to settle with at the moment,” Ben says, and with that he kicks on the drum machine …. Watch those fingers on the guitar and hear that tone. “Far Out,” indeed.

His guitar playing is really something in this song, with soft chords and lot so harmonics as well as great use of the low note riffage in between.

“I I Forget Where We Were” is a moody song–he creates soft chords that swell as he sings.

He later premieres a new tune, “Oldest Trick In The Book.”

He laughs saying he just spent the last ten minutes tuning his guitar so we’ll be happy to know he’s in tune.

This song is the slowest with some really deep resonating bass notes (and no drum machine).  It’s fun watching hi play a solo and low notes at the same time with his finger picking style.

[READ: July 15, 2021] “Bear Meat”

This very short story was translated from the Italian by Alessandra Bastagli.

It begins with the comment that spending evenings in a mountain hut after a four- five- or six hour climb is pretty wonderful. The people you find there don’t speak much.  But these clumbers should not be confused with the ones who do speak a lot–hot shot clumbers, extreme climbers.  The adventurers may be worthy but this story is not about them.

The narrator arrived and there were several men there–eating and drinking.  Once the wine began flowing (at that altitude and temperature it is a metabolic necessity) they began talking about their initiation into serious climbing. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SILJA SOL-Verftet Online Music Festival 2020 (April 5, 2020).

In April 2020, Norway’s Verftet Music Festival streamed an online concert:

Get ready for Verftet Online Music Festival, Bergen’s largest virtual concert festival, where we can enjoy great music together. We want to turn despair and frustration into innovation and positivity, and invite everyone to a digital festival experience out of the ordinary – right home in your own living room.

Sadly, most of the performances are unavailable, but this one from Siljia Sol (who is also Aurora’s backing vocalist) is streaming.

She plays ten songs in about 40 minutes, singing entirely in Norwegian.

“Kometen” is a two minute opener.  It has trippy synths and feels like an introductory lullaby.  Silja has an amazing voice, with quite a range.  Here it is soft and childlike.  But “Superkresen” turns into a fully 80s dance song.  It fits perfectly with the totally80s visuals of her set.

“Hatten” continues the bounciness.  This song feels poppier with a quietly soaring chorus.  “Hultertilbult” is more guitar-based and feels more organic.  As does “Ni Liv” which has a more prominent bass line.  This song has nice soaring backing vocals from her guitarist.

I don’t know the originals of these songs at all, but this feels like a restrained rendition.  Not quite unplugged, but perhaps more suitable for watching on your couch.

For “Stemning” she moves to the piano and plays a quiet ballad–her voice is lovely here.

The dancing returns for “Løgneren.”  Throughout these songs, Silja’s voice reminds me of Aurora’s, probably because her voice is essential to all live Aurora songs (and because they are both Norwegian).  With Aurora Silja hits incredibly high soaring notes and she really doesn’t do that in her own songs.  Although she does hit some high notes here.

“Semmenemme” has a more rhythmic approach–with almost a rapping vibe.  “Eventyr” cranks up the guitar more with a nice groove behind it.

“Dyrene” ends the set with the most catchy song of the bunch.  It is more subtle but features some nice soaring high vocals in the chorus.

It’s fascinating listening to ten songs and having no idea (at all) what they are about.  I’m very curious to hear if her recorded output has a more or less 80s vibe going on.

You can stream the set here.

[READ: July 10, 2021] “Curving Time in Krems”

This story was really cerebral and metaphysical. as such it took a really long time to get to the point.  It was also an incredibly long story for what amounts to: boy calls girls he had a crush on and wished he had done so sooner.

The main character is an academic invited to a dinner party in Krems, a city that “resembles Vineta, the city submerged by waters.”  Snow had fallen making the oblivious old town even more deserted.

A woman at the dinner insists that her cousin attended classes with him and spoke about him recently.  He tells her this is impossible as he did not have female classmates.

He figures out that the woman is talking about Nori S.  But Nori was a grade ahead of him and there’s no way she would remember him.

For a seventeen-year-old boy, a beguiling eighteen-year-old girl is more inaccessible than a Hollywood diva is to a professor [that’s a weird simile, there].

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AURORA-“Cure for Me” (2021).

Aurora seems to be a lot more prolific these days.  Or, at least, she’s more visible–releasing playlists and lots of other online items.  She has also released this new single.  I was delighted to hear it get some airplay on SiriusXM’s Alt Nation.

Starting with a slinky synth sound and a pulsing beat, Aurora sings in a whispery voice.

I run from the liars, the fuel on the fire
I know I created myself

As the bridge comes in she sings an uncharacteristic deep note (accentuating her accent a bit) and then after 45 second the super catchy chorus bursts forth

It’s the most dancey song she’s done so far (even more so than the dancey “Queendom”) and it’s positive and self-affirming:

I don’t need a cure for me
I don’t need it

If you don’t feel like moving to this song, you need to listen again–it’ll get you.

About this song she writes (from NME):

Like always, I got inspired by a really huge, dark and horrible thing that happens in the world. The first seed of inspiration came from thinking about the countries where it’s still legal to do conversion therapy for gay people and lesbians. I just thought that’s so pointless. The first idea was me saying, ‘I don’t need a cure for me – just let me live, man!’”

She continued: “Why is it so difficult for people to just let others be themselves? Then I thought that it could mean many other things. People tend to believe quite quickly that something is wrong with them if they’re not like the people they see in front of them. It’s so sad that it doesn’t take much for us to really doubt ourselves.”

Right on.

[READ: July 20, 2021] “Wealth of Memory”

This story comes from a book called Alien Stories.  This title has multiple meanings, obviously.

I love the way the story is set up:

One of the things he found most fascinating about America was that there were memory Stores on almost every street corner.  A person could simply walk into any of the stores and sell heir memories for money.

What a wonderfully succinct introduction to this world.

There were other things he liked about America–twist off beer bottles!–but he was most intrigued by the Memory Stores. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DRY CLEANING-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #232 (July 6, 2021).

I thought I was familiar with Dry Cleaning, but I’m thinking I heard them discussed on an All Song Considered episode and maybe even heard the song they played.  But that was almost nine months ago, and things were quite different then.  So it’s interesting to hear that their music doesn’t typically sound like the way this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert sounds.  [I really like the sound of this].

Up until now, Dry Cleaning’s post-Brexit post-punk relied on a robust dynamism of jagged, thudding lushness and a speak-song voice. It’s music that coos and quizzes at once. How energizing to hear Dry Cleaning recontextualize its established sound for a relatively subdued Tiny Desk performance from World of Echo, a record store in East London beloved to the British band.

Tom Dowse trades his effects pedals and electric guitar for an acoustic; its weird bends and weirder chords surprisingly complement the atmospheric keyboards and minimal beats of Nick Buxton, who’s normally on drums. Lewis Maynard’s bass doesn’t throttle at this volume, but still grooves.

It’s actually Maynard’s bass that you notice right away once “Her Hippo” opens.  After a grooving riff, Florence Shaw starts speaking (not even really speak-singing, just reciting).

The house is just twelve years old
Soft landscaping in the garden
An electrician stuck his finger in the plug hole
And shouted “Yabba”

The acoustic guitars sound great in contrast here–soft and ringing–while Shaw sneers

The last thing I looked at in this hand mirror
Was a human asshole

Between songs they joke around a bit (which belies their more serious sounding music).  Buxton plays some dancey music between songs as they get set up for the next track.

Brash and unusual (for an acoustic guitar anyway) chords open “Unsmart Lady” before the rumbling bass keeps the rhythm.  This time Florence speaks even more quietly

Fat podgy
Non make-up
Unsmart lady

The middle portion is a terrific juxtaposition of unusual chords and rumbling bass.

Florence Shaw’s voice [is] an instrument of resolute deadpan…. Some might call her delivery wry, even disaffected — her lyrics non-sequitur — but here a sly inquisitiveness inclines a smile (“I’d like to run away with you on a plane, but don’t bring those loafers”) and burns a harsh memory (“Never talk about your ex / Never, never, never, never, never slag them off / Because then they know”).

For “Leafy” Dowse puts away his guitar and heads behind the keyboard for washes of synths.  After a verse or so, the slow bass comes in adding rhythm to Shaw’s lyrics:

What are the things that you have to clear out?
Baking powder, big jar of mayonnaise
What about all the uneaten sausages?
Clean the fat out of the grill pan
This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, now
Trying not to think about all the memories
Remember when you had to take these pills

Dowse returns to his guitar for “Viking Hair” (from an earlier EP).  This song has something of a main riff and Shaw actually seems to be humming before the lyrics begin.

Stick up for me, do what you’re told
But sometimes tell me what to do as well
I just want to sexually experiment in a nice, safe pair of hands
Don’t judge me, just hold still

A lot of times, especially with pop bands, I like the way a band sounds in their Tiny Desk and don’t like their recorded output.  But the blub makes me think I’d enjoy their original recordings even more.  So I’ll have to check that out.

[READ: July 10, 2021] “Bravado”

(This story is about reprobates in Ireland.

It begins on Sunderland Avenue, where an Indian shop keeper is concerned about the group of five teens who approached the store.  He is closing up and they give him a hard time. The three boys are nasty but the girls are silent (this is unusual–usually the girls are drunk and terrible).  The shopkeeper pretends to be talking to the cops on the phone.

There were another two boys who had just left a club, they’d seen the band Big City.  And even though the had a mile walk home, they didn’t mind because the show was so good.

The fivesome included Manning and his girlfriend Aisling.  The other two boys, Kilroy and Donovan, were Manning’s mates. Ailsing found them harder and less enjoyable than Manning, but he hung out with them and she was stuck doing so as well. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAHANI TEAVE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #228 (June 24, 2021).

Who knew there was a thriving musical scene on Easter Island?  But what I found more interesting in this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert was the ecological work that was done there.  When Teave gives a tour of the building, it is inspired–such great use of six years of recycled resources wit ha technique called “Earthship Biotecture”

Tiny Desk (home) concerts have visited many faraway places – from Lang Lang in China to Mdou Moctar in Niger – but none as far-flung as Easter Island. The 63-square-mile isle, called Rapa Nui by its residents, is located some 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile.

And yes, classical music thrives there – thanks largely to Mahani Teave, the pianist who offers this engaging performance from the music school she co-founded. As a child, Teave saw the first piano brought to the island in 1992 and dreamed of becoming a world-class concert pianist. It was a dream she fulfilled, but just as she was poised to launch her international career, an even stronger dream tugged at her heart.

In 2014, she broke ground on the Toki School of Music, aiming to teach traditional and classical music to Easter Island’s children. Constructed from over 2,500 used tires and 60,000 cans and bottles, the building, with its cisterns and solar power, is a testament to Teave’s vision for sustainability.

Teave plays three pieces.

She begins with a sparkling Allemande by Handel,

George Frideric Handel: “Suite No. 5 in E, II. Allemande” is a beautiful piece that really shows off her musical chops.

followed by a beguiling performance of a Chopin Nocturne.

This sounds lovely and serene.  It’s amazing to watch her long fingers play these keys so elegantly.  This song is much longer than the first piece and goes through several modes of intensity.

Teave closes with an ancestral song, featuring sisters Eva and Tama Tucki Dreyer. The story follows Rapa Nui’s first king, whose reign coincided with a natural disaster. It’s a metaphor, Teave says, for our planet, to “leave this place a little bit better than how we found it.” With her fine playing and her music school, Teave has done exactly that.

The girls sing the oprning of “I hē a Hotumatu’a e hura nei” while Teave plays.  After a verse, they move off camera and Teave plays a lengthy instrumental that begins mildly but really shows off some impressive fingerwork by the end.   The girls come back in to end the song.

[READ: July 10, 2021] “Featherweight”

This was the first story I’ve read by HolyWhiteMountain.  I really enjoyed the intimate look at Native families.  And HolyWhiteMountain’s writing style was really engaging.  But eventually, the story got bogged down in reveling in sex and it got a little boring.

He says that he had been off the res for about a year when he first met his love.  They were both going to school at U. Clarkson and he felt that he had already been acculturated.  He was happy with this acculturation because he wanted to know what the rest of America was all about.  He lists all of the white women he dated including Barbara who called him her “favorite Indian toy.”  He called her Barbie, they had “two- or three- or four-times-in-a-night nights”  But they broke up when she said “I always wanted to be Native American.”

But it was tough dating Native American girls because his Granma and aunts always said she could be so-and-so’s daughter.  But they also didn’t want any half-breed babies.

A lot of indians belong to the Church of Latter-Day Eugenicists… Brown-skin supremacists. That’s just how they are.

Then he found a woman–Allie–from a “tribe his tribe used to kill,” so it was okay to get her number.   Allie was a pretty interesting character.  She was smart and academic–writing papers about racism in America and giving presentations about her work. (more…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[READ: July 9, 2021] “Heirs”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SOUNDTRACK: MEN I TRUST-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #224 (June 16, 2021).

I hadn’t heard of Men I Trust, one of the more interesting new band names out there, but I really like their sound.  It’s a kind of gentle synth pop that seems to flow so effortlessly from French-speaking singers (even when they sing in English).

Men I Trust was initially the duo of high school friends Dragos Chiriac (keyboards) and Jessy Caron (guitars), before adding vocalist Emma Proulx in 2015 and recording the group’s debut album, Headroom. (They expanded to a quintet for this performance, with Cedric Martel handling bass and Eric Maillet on drums.)

The band straddle the line between interesting indie rock and 70s soft rock.  In fact even the setting straddles that line.

From a rustic and retro-looking cabin on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, the band Men I Trust seized the essence of the Tiny Desk almost to a tee. The controlled, yet layered four-song set, bookended by tracks from 2019’s Oncle Jazz would almost certainly make for a plug-and-play situation had it been behind Bob Boilen’s desk.

“Show Me How” leans away from the soft rock with a pretty guitar intro and some nice bass work.  Proulx’s voice has that softness that lures you in.  The shift to the chorus is a really nice chord change too.

The band’s style sways between rubbery upbeat electro-pop and the muddy pace evident on last year’s “Lucky Sue,” but generally hits that sweet spot for anybody looking to be cradled and carried by a vibe-y groove

“Lucky Sue” opens with a wah-wah guitar intro that sounds like synth.  Caron also makes some really cool chords on his guitar–he gets some really interesting sounds from it.

 The song “Humming Man,” was its first official single as a trio and they never looked back from there.

“Humming Man” opens with thumping drums and a soft synth chord progression.  Again Caron play a wah wah filled riff but also gets some really interesting guitar sounds–almost like a reverse wall of chords that he stretches out to a lengthy solo for the end of the song.

I’m fascinated to read that

The overdubs and reverb on Emma’s vocals are stripped away here, leaving a deceptively endearing quality to her voice.

Her voice here isn’t full of reverb, but I can’t imagine doing much processing to her delicate voice.  “All Night” sounds very nice–whispery and inviting even if this song veers a little too far into soft rock territory.  Caron’s solo takes up more than half of this song, and I found myself missing Proulx’s voice by the end.

[READ: July 1, 2021] “Private Hands”

This month’s issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue and features three pieces of fiction and three poems.

The fifth piece is a short story about provenance and ownership.

The narrator works as a (poorly) paid assistant to Harvey, a wealthy collector.  Harvey had made his money in pesticides and was worth about $200 million.  Harvey bought things with the intent of upselling them.  Disney merch always sold well.  But Harvey had a few things that were hard to sell, like Jimi Hendrix’ 1963 Fender Strat.

Paul was a buyer.  Harvey tried to sell him the Hendrix for $500,000 but he wasn’t biting.  Normally Harvey would haggle, but he had overpaid for this, and wouldn’t budge.

Harvey had a few other interesting items (a test pressing of Led Zeppelin III), but Paul really wanted guitars.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE HOLD STEADY-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #219 (June 23, 20210).

sudan

I have never seen The Hold Steady, but I have seen Craig Finn solo (which seems like the same thing to me).  I never really liked them all that much, although he was great live.  It’s the spoken/sung delivery (that sounds a little too much like Bruce Springsteen) that makes all the songs sound the same to me.  I feel like there’s a story in each song and his delivery makes me tune out of the words.  Oops.

But for its first-ever full-band Tiny Desk appearance, the group squeezed behind a cramped backstage corner of the Brooklyn Bowl, COVID mask protocol in place.  Illuminated by string lights, the band ran through tracks from its latest album, Open Door Policy, kicking off with “Heavy Covenant” as a swell of clarinets and trumpets round out the sound

“Heavy Covenant” opens with an accordion from Franz Nicolay with Craig Finn singing.  After a verse or two Stephen Selvidge and Tad Kubler bring in the guitars.  Halfway through, The Horn Steady add clarinet (Stuart Bogie and Peter Hess) and trumpet (Jordan McLean).

Though the lineup consisted of its current supersized iteration – featuring both Steve Selvidge on guitar and multi-instrumentalist Franz Nicolay back on accordion – the band scaled back its swagger for the space. Here, the recurring “Woos!” on the recorded version of “Unpleasant Breakfast” become softer and more subtle;

For “Unpleasant Breakfast” Bobby Drake starts the song with some hi hat claps before Tad Kubler adds in chords and Stephen Selvidge adds in solo notes.  You can hear Galen Polivka’s bass pretty clearly (even if he is hidden behind Finn).  Normally I don’t like the addition of horns on songs, but these gentle additions (maybe its the clarinet sound) add perfects accents.  After what felt like three minutes of the same melody the song changes gears and gets really big and swaying–and I started paying attention again.

The surf sounds of “Riptown” still rolick, but with restraint that suits the setting.

Finn says “Riptown” is a fictitious place that they should now visit.  The claps are a nice addition as are the horns (once again).

“Parade Days” is a bonus song (it didn’t make the vinyl).  I like the drama of the opening guitars and the accordion build up.

[READ: July 1, 2021] “Dream Fragment”

This month’s issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue and features three pieces of fiction and three poems.

The second piece is a poem. It is about the winter, which is a little odd for a summer reading issue.

This story, about many things, but focusing on the moment children are taken from their parents, is a tough read.

The story is also not set at a specific time or place.  Some clues are given.  The parents are called Amma and Appa but those words are used in both Korean and Tamil.  The opening line asks, How do you find sweet syrup at the end of the world?

Things were bad.  The family would soon head into the basement and then “see if there was still an upstairs.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RINA SAWAYAMA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert (April 19, 2021).

Rina Sawayama had one of the most compelling album covers of last year (see below).  I expected her music to be out of this world.  The little I heard was a little disappointingly poppy.  But this Tiny Desk Home Concert perks things up a bit

Rina Sawayama is back in the office, clad in a periwinkle blazer with waist cut-outs and a high ponytail cleaner than the view of the city skyline. Make no mistake: even in fluorescent lighting, the Japanese British pop star performs with the same tenacity and drama you hear in her 2020 debut album, SAWAYAMA, a lustrous pop epic peppered with early aughts R&B, nu-metal and classic rock.

She starts with “Dynasty” which has some deep keyboard bass from Geordan Reid-Campbell and strings from the string quartet (Braimah Kanneh-Mason: violin; Ayla Sahin: violin; Didier Osindero: viola; Jonah Spindel: cello).  Then Vic Jamieson adds a quiet sense of distortion with the electric guitar.

Tears calcify in “Dynasty,” a song like a salve to wounds inherited from generations past. The heaviness of the music never overshadows her voice, which ascends heroically. “Won’t you break the chain with me?” she belts out.

Heavy drums from Simone Odaranile shifts the song to a more rocking orchestral sound.  Backing vocalists Phebe Edwards and Desrinea Ramus add some lovely additions.  Jamieson solos and then the song gets big and intense with some impressively powerful vocals.

She says she’s been dying to play this.  She was meant to go on tour last year–this is the first time we’ve played “Dynasty” live.

As if turning the other cheek, Sawayama swiftly moves into the sweet, cha-ching pop of “XS.”

I would never describe this song as sweet or cha-ching.  “XS”  opens with deceptively quiet strings and Jamieson on the acoustic guitar.  She speaks quietly and the song jumps to the main heavy descending powerful riff.  The chorus is stop and start and full of hooks.  It’s a pretty great song.

She ends the set with “Chosen Family.”  She says that the song is dedicated to people who are not accepted by their parents for who they are: their sexual orientation or gender identity or anything else–and this is a pure and honest love song to my friend (my chosen family) who have gone through this.  Then amazingly she says she got a call from Elton John who said he wanted to work on the song with her!

the soft-hearted ballad “Chosen Family,” rendered in the style of her 2021 collaboration with Elton John. The song was reborn, in part, because of John’s admiration for Sawayama and her ability to cross-pollinate genres, but also because the two held “Chosen Family,” both the song and concept, dearly.

It’s a beautiful straightforward ballad.  And if you’re at all human, it will easily tug at your heart strings.

[READ: May 9, 2021] “Future Selves”

This story opens with a young married couple looking for an apartment to buy.  They had been renting but were looking to upgrade–get a real kitchen, a bathroom without chipped tiles.

They looked at smaller, impeccably restored places, but they seemed too small; they looked at a loft ion factory building–it was spacious and allowed for lots of privacy for each of them but there was no community around it–no café for them to sit in and talk .

It was a tough decision.

Around the same time, she had gone to visit her cousin at college.  Tara was fully enjoying herself and had lots of friends–boys and girls (one of whom she had a crush on). There was also Simon, a kind of hanger-on. He was soft spoken and friendly, but a step behind everyone else.

When she returned home, Tara had posted some pictures of them together.  Tara said that when they finally settled on a place, she’d love to stay with them. (more…)

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