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Archive for the ‘Short Story’ Category


SOUNDTRACK: RODDY RICCH-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #47 (July 8, 2020).

Here’s another rapper I hadn’t heard of, but who is apparently huge.  (Huge enough to have Ty Dolla $ign join him).  The blurb assures us

This was slated to be Roddy Ricch’s summer. He was having the breakout moment that I’ve seen from so many other Compton emcees before him… including the biggest song in the world in “The Box,” which spent 11 weeks at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 and will probably go down as the last pre-COVID club anthem.

Richh raps in front of a fantastic band.  They have a fantastic groove and really jam fantastically.

Backed by the juggernaut musical collective 1500 or Nothin’, this set exhibits the many dimensions of his [suddenly prophetic] debut album title — Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial.

Christopher “Brody” Brown brings a fantastic bass sound throughout the set.  You can hear it right from the first song “Perfect Time” which showcases the band and Richh’s rapping skills.  Richh even plays keys at the end of the song.

It segues perfectly into “Bacc Seat.”  The band tightly and seamlessly shifts gears from that rocker to this slower song.  The song features a cool guitar riff from Charles “Uncle Chucc” Hamilton and a guest appearance from Ty Dolla $ign who sings and plays guitar!

The backing vocalists are great; however, they are not social distancing at all.  Shaunise R. Harris, Garren Edwards, and Tayler L. Green are all shoulder to shoulder back there, which makes Richh’s shirt “that’s an awful lot of cough syrup” seem more ominous than funny.  T

But the band is on fire and there’s some serious drums from Nick Smith at the end of the song.

Gentle keys from Lamar Edwards open “High Fashion.”  Edwards has a few banks of keys getting all kinds of interesting sounds.  Richh says this song is about the type of relationship he like to be in–high fashion: “I like to be fly, like shorties be fly.”

Once again, this song ends with some great drums from Smith and percussionist Larrance Dopson.

Richh is pretty young so it’s surprising to hear him say that he doesn’t spend a lot of time on the internet: I don’t like to be bothered” (which jibes with the Anitisocial title).

The final song “War Baby” opens with a quiet, lovely piano. But the song builds to a big jam by the end with some great guitar soloing from Uncle Chucc interspersed with some fantastic drum soloing from both Smith and Dopson.

I’m not all that impressed with what Richh is rapping about–lots of vulgarities so i started tuning out–but the band is fantastic.

[READ: July 8, 2020] “The Canal”

With a title like this I didn’t expect this story to be about World War II.  Although it is set at a party several years later.

Two couple are drinking and talking.  Lew and Betty Miller are bored out of their minds listening to Tom Brace tell yet another war story from his days in Germany.  Tom’s wife Nancy couldn’t have been prouder, listening to him go on and on.

At some point, something that Tom says reminds Betty of something that Lew told her about the way.  She asks if Lew was in the same place as Tom.  Lew says no, although he grudgingly admits that he was in the same area at the same time. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE SLITS-Cut (1978).

This album is mentioned in this story.  It’s interesting to me how this band is so associated with the punk scene when musically they are very far from what most people consider punk (and from what the band in this story sounds like).

The Slits went from being unable to play their instruments, to playing an interesting bass heavy, guitar-slashing style.  It’s reggae and dub inspired but sounds nothing like reggae. Ari Up’s vocals are defiant and brash but in addition to screaming and shrieking, she can also sing quite nicely.

The rest of the band are fully invested–chanting along and fleshing out this, at times, bizarre album.

The bass sound (from Tessa Pollitt) on the album is fat and round–it’s a great sonic feeling and is a perfect low end for the detached guitar style (from Viv Albertine) in the songs.  Founding member and drummer Palmolive left the band apparently because she didn’t want to do the cover shoot.  She was replaced by eventual Siouxsie and the Banshees drummer Budgie.

“Instant Hit” is anything but.  With clanging guitars playing opposite a slow grooving bass as all three sing. The drums are complex with a lot of percussion.  When the verse starts the guitar chords are unconventional for sure.  You can sense a melody in all of the sounds, but it is buried.  The album takes off a bit with “So Tough” a much faster song with bass lines that run up the neck, fast drumming and Ari Up’s vocals hitting a higher register for “You can’t take anymore now you’re getting weak / So tough /
Don’t start playing hide and seek.”

“Spend Spend Spend” pairs nicely with “Shopifting.”  “Spend” is a slow loping song as the lyrics (sung in a sometime off-key mocking warble) mock consumerism:

Going home, into bed when I’ve treated myself
I’ve been quite hard, after a hard day’s work
I have found a hundred ways to get rid of all my worries

“Shoplifting” is the antidote.  “Spend” is 3 minutes while “Shoplifting is barely 90 seconds.  The bass line on this song is fast and feels like it’s running as much as the chorus: do a runner

A kind of reggae slash of guitar:

Put the cheddar in the pocket
Put the rest under the jacket
Talk to the cashier, he won’t suspect
And if he does…  And if he does…

Shouted by all of them:  Do a runner! Do a runner! Do a runner! Do a runner!

Ten quid for the lot
We pay fuck all
Babylonian won’t lose much
And we’ll have dinner tonight
Do a runner!

After the third verse She screams “Run!” like a banshee as the chords ascend in speed and notes.

“FM” is a twist on the radio band: I’m waiting to hear what program is next.  What program is next? (FM) Frequent Mutilation transmits over the air. This slow song has one of the catchier upfront melodies.  Up next is the longest song on the disc.  At over four minutes long, it is the antithesis of punk.  A slow echoing guitar-just scratches on the strings as the bass meanders around the clattering percussion.   After a minute and a half though it gets catchy with a funky bass and some reggae chords that play through to the end.

“Love und Romance” is a fast pulsing song with quick bass and guitar chord stabs.  And, I’m guessing an ironic look at love:

I’m so HAPPY!
You’re so NICE!
Kiss kiss kiss!
Fun fun LIFE!
Fun fun fun I’m having fun
Hee hee hee!
It’s such a love
Hee hee hee!
Now we’re one
Life’s a gas all the time
You’re so lovely, you’re so fine!
(She wants you, she wants you)
Are you ready for this?
Are you ready for this?
Gimmee a great big kiss

“Typical Girls” has a two note bass line and …piano!  The whole song is sort of chanted along while the chorus has a jazzy bassline and noisy guitars.

My favorite song is the final one, Adventures Close to Home,” which is surely one of the more unusual songs on an unusual album.  A funky bass opens with some quiet almost out of tune sounding guitars.  The vocals intertwine and sound almost mocking withe the different singers interrupting each other as she sings follow love follow (hate).  It’s as if all of the parts are doing different things but they all fall together in a fascinating way that I can’t stop listening to.

The album comes with a jagged and rather fun version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” which is a pretty good introduction to the band if you’re looking for a familiar song to explore their sound.

[READ: July 6, 2020] “A Transparent Woman”

This is a dark story about (former) East Germany.

Monika doesn’t want to be like the horrible sows living in the socialist “future” apartment blocks.  She moves out of her parents house and into a hostel.  She gets a terrible job (it is illegal not to have a job) but refuses to join the Free German Youth.  Life sucks until she sees a group of punks in Alexanderplatz.  Then her world opens up.

She shaves her head, puts food coloring in whats left and starts hanging out with the kids with spiked hair and dog collars.  She went to a punk show and it was exhilarating.  She met two girls there who wanted to start a band and they asked her to join them on drums.  She didn’t play drums.  They didn’t care.  Katja was the lead singer and lyricist.  Ellie played guitar.  They were terrible  It was wonderful.  They called themselves Die Gläsernen Frauen [The Transparent Women].

Punk was pretty much illegal in East Germany–a sign of the decadent West.  Wherever punks sat, they were moved along within ten minutes.  And bands like D.G.F. were definitely illegal in the G.D.R.  Only properly approved bands were allowed to play out, so every show was a real danger.

After one of the shows a man approached her at work the next day.  He was attractive but had an air of malice.  He offered her a cigarette and then gave her a copy of The Slits’ album Cut.  She knew they were good, but the semi-nude cover felt wrong coming from him.   She tried to blow him off but he insisted that she meet with him next week.

Instead of meeting with him, she went on a tour with the band.  They went to some big cities and played small shows.  They were tired and scared and every D.G.F. show had a threat of violence.

But the real trouble was when she got back home. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TRUPA TRUPA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #44 (July 3, 3030).

Trupa Trupa is a band from Poland who play some really great indie rock.  They were supposed to be touring the U.S. and doing a Tiny Desk, but instead they are home.

In a little dirty rehearsal room basement in Gdańsk, we find Poland’s great rock band Trupa Trupa on lockdown. Had it not been for COVID-19, this band would have been behind my desk this week, but as it is, they’ve settled into their rehearsal space.

Their songs are pretty intense, but this Home Tiny Desk features lighter versions of the songs.

They open their set with “Another Day,” from the 2019 record Of The Sun.  It has a great throbbing bassline Wojciech Juchniewicz while singer Grzegorz Kwiatkowski plays acuostic guitar.  He says its the first time he’s played the acoustic guitar in a really long time.

There’s a cool theremin-type sound that is coming from Rafał Wojczal.  The credits say the instrument is called an ondes Martenot, but this is a homemade device–and it sounds pretty cool.

I’ve seen them perform this; it’s always had an apocalyptic feel, but now the words “another day, waiting for another,” prompts Grzegorz to mention how this has turned into a quarantine song.  Grzegorz tells us that life in Poland has been difficult in this young democracy, but they are staying optimistic and playing music.  There’s darkness in the basement, yet their music is a bright beacon.

“Dream About” starts with a snappy drum from Tomasz Pawluczuk.  Kwiatkowski plays as scratchy rhythm on the guitar before  Juchniewicz plays a great rolling bassline that runs throughout the song until it abruptly stops for a some single notes.  Then it resumes again.  Wojczal adds some guitar before bringing that Martenot back.

“None of Us” is slow and deep basslines.  Initial vocals come from Juchniewicz who has switched to guitar.  The acoustic guitar is more prominent on this song.  And Juchniewicz’  fuzzy electric guitar sound is deep and menacing.

Their U.S. Tour was cancelled, but they weren’t going to play near me.  Maybe when they come back they can squeeze in a Philadelphia date.

[READ: June 20, 2020] Bagombo Snuff Box

This is a short story collection that I read when it came out.  When I read all of Vonnegut’s books a few years ago, I decided to re-read this collection.  It has only taken me several years to get to it.

But what a great bunch of short stories.

The Preface explains that these stories were written in the 1940s and printed in magazines before he had written his first big novels.  After the War, there were many magazines that featured fiction, so Kurt was able to make some good money on the side while he worked at General Electric.  He left the company in 1950.

Vonnegut has an introduction as well.  He talks about the beneficial effect short stories can have on a person.  He also says he generally feels good about these stories although he feels a bit badly for the way some (many) of the women are treated–not that Vonnegut specifically treated them badly, but that was sort of the way it was then. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: M. WARD-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #39 (June 25, 2020).

I don’t really know all that much about M. Ward. I was supposed to see him live on many occasions that never panned out (I think at least three shows were either cancelled or I couldn’t go).  But then I did get to see him live at the She & Him Christmas show.  I was really impressed with his guitar playing in that set.  And I’m even more impressed in this set.

He opens here with two beautiful finger-picked songs.  The first is “just” an “Instrumental Intro.”  I don’t know if it’s an actual song or just an improv, but it’s terrific (with nice harmonics).  It segues seamlessly into “Duet for Guitars #3.”  I’m not sure how you play a duet with just one guitar but it, too, sounds wonderful.

His tuning is nonstandard for all of these songs, which somehow makes them more chill and pretty.  His playing is effortless and really fun to watch.

For me, M. Ward would be the perfect artist to sit next to while he played his songs, perhaps on a couch in a small room. And that’s pretty much what you get with this Tiny Desk (home) concert. We see M. Ward in the lounge of BOCCE, a recording studio in Vancouver, Wash.

I didn’t really know his singing voice, but the blurb sums it up nicely:

That tender wispy-rasp in his voice and flowing acoustic guitar make M. Ward a musician I’d want to hear up close.

He explains that he took requests from various social media for this set.  He plays four requests and one new song.

Ward’s delivery reminds me of Sandro Perri, although a little more conventional.  “Chinese Translation” and “Requiem” are softly strummed songs and his vocals are mostly deeper with an occasional high note added in.

In between the requests he plays a new song.

Those songs fit so well with music on his new record, Migration Stories, from which he plays “Coyote Mary’s Traveling Show.”

This song sounds a little different in style–a more traditional bluesy style, I guess.  Then it’s on to

 comforting and memorable older tunes like “Poison Cup” (2006)

for which he switches to a different guitar–this one smaller (and presumably tuned differently).

Then it’s back to the first guitar for “Voice at the End of the Line” (2003). There’s some really lovely guitar work in this song.  I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to see him live but maybe one of these opening gigs will actually happen someday.

[READ: June 22, 2020] “Grief”

This story is about genocide and how to cope with it–especially if you are far away from when it happened to your family.

The narrator found it worse that no one would say the word genocide, just wry observations like “weird stuff goes on in your country.”  She had not given up hope that he mother, father, brother, sisters, her whole family back in Rwanda might still be alive.

In her homeland, the word was

gutsembatsemba, a verb, used when talking about parasites or mad dogs, things that had to be eradicated, and about Tutsis, also known as inyenzi—cockroaches—something else to be wiped out.

A Hutu classmate once told her he  had asked his mother who those Tutsi people were that he’d heard about and his mother said, they were nothing–just stories.

The narrator tried to get in touch with her family but heard nothing.

Finally, she called her older brother in Canada.  He told her that he was now the head of the family.  She received a formal letter in June confirming the deaths.  Why didn’t she have a photo of any of them? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MADAME GANDHI-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #38 (June 24, 2020).

I have never heard of Madame Gandhi.  That’s a constant theme with these Home Tiny Desks–they seem even more geared toward introducing lesser known artists to the world.

Madame Gandhi’s is surrounded by her yellow bongos and congas, a yellow desk from her youth and a yellow nightstand, her Tiny Desk (home) concert lighting nods to the lavender-lemon artwork of her 2019 Visions EP.

Her music is mostly prerecorded.  The live elements are her vocals (soft and gentle with a lot of nonsense syllables amid the good vibe lyrics) and her wonderful hand drums.

Her music is inspired by her South Indian heritage and she lights a stick of palo santo.

For the first two songs she plays the damaru (I think).  “Waiting For Me” is about returning to the earth–returning to nature.  I enjoyed the way it began:

Wake up in the morning / hit space bar and start recording

She plays cool-sounding drums–she has wonderfully diverse sounds from that tiny hand drum.  And they seem to be modified in some way, too.

Before “Moon in the Sky,” she says “I don’t want our identities defined according to how oppressed we are.”

She’s intentional with everything she does, including activism that focuses primarily on gender liberation. She uses music to help elevate and celebrate female voices, from working with primarily queer women BIPOC on tour and video sets, to writing socially-conscious lyrics that challenge the white male-dominated music industry.

She continues, “if we are not brave enough to tell our stories end to end, somebody else will.  And they will get it wrong.

on tour and video sets, to writing socially-conscious lyrics that challenge the white male-dominated music industry.. Madame Gandhi’s clear, soft voice and swells of percussion give you the necessary space to meditate on her message of inclusion and equality.

She says her music is Indian trap.  The music has fun beats and a downplayed vocal delivery. I rather like it.

For the final song, “Bad Habits,” she stands up and plays the bongos: “put your phone down and stand with me.”  The catchy chorus of the song is “all my bad habits have got to got to go.”

Her parting words are that each person’s contribution is unique and valuable and can be of service to my community and my family.

This has been a great introduction to a new form of music for me.

[READ: June 28, 2020] “The Rescue Will Begin In Its Own Time”

I really don’t understand what was going on with these previously unpublished stories by Kafka (translated by Michael Hofmann). There are four flash fiction pieces and they seem much more like story ideas than stories.

In the first section he talks about the four ways the Prometheus legend can be viewed.  After the fourth, it ends, “The real riddle was the mountains.”

In the second part, there is a large load of bread which the Father of the family cannot cut.  The Father is not surprised, “Isn’t it more surprising if something succeeds than if it fails?”  When the children woke the next morning he had been up all night but had not managed to cut it. (more…)

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julyaugust200SOUNDTRACK: HAMILTON LEITHAUSER-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #37 (June 21, 2020).

hammyHamilton Leithauser seems to always be on the periphery of my listening experience. I hear his name a lot and hear his songs a bunch, but I’ve never actually looked for him.

And yet, I like him and his music.  And, indeed, as this blurb says,

This is the most adorable thing you may see all day.

Known best as the The Walkmen singer, Hamilton Leithauser is the singer of The Walkmen, although I know him better for his solo work.

Here he plays songs from his 2020 solo album, The Loves of Your Life.

Leithauser’s voice is a solid folk-singer voice and he hits a lot of high notes (with a deliberate straining style).  “In a Black Out” features his father Mark Leithauser on harmonica.  It’s a very touching Father’s Day moment.

But it’s made even more magical when for “The Garbage Men” he calls out his band: his daughters Georgiana and Frederika Leithauser and his nieces May and Lucy McIntosh.  The kids sing backing ahhs (quite well) and they all enjoy singing “till the garbage men go by!”  They also do the quiet “oohs” very nicely as well.  And they dance on haystacks.

“Here They Come” is about a friend who would go to the movies and sneak into film after film to avoid going home.  The kids sing the lyrics (pretty well) and dance even more adorably for this rocking song.  It’s important not to forget his wife, Anna Stumpf on congas and percussion way in the back for the middle three songs.

His daughter makes fun of him introducing the tiny desk “Dad you sound so stupid” and Hamilton laughs at the mocking.  They also show that they have a tinier tiny desk from the Calico Critters.

Then he introduces “The Stars of Tomorrow” by saying he and his girls met a Polish woman on the beach.  The woman told them her life story (they’d hadn’t asked).  It had a lot of drama and a lot of contradictions.  Everything in the story is true from what he can remember she told him, “but I can’t vouch for her story.”

The final song “Isabella” is, to me, the most Leithauser of the five songs.  A real folks song slow and passionate.  The girls do a fantastic job singing the “they all go riding home” responses in the chorus.  I’m very impressed with how well they sing.

There have been a lot of cute and sweet Tiny Desk’s but none have been as adorable.

[READ: June 23, 2020] “Lottery Poetry”

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

The fifth piece is fiction and it is very timely.

Maisy Wu learned fortune-telling from her mah-mah who’d read faces and palms in a stall in Hong Kong.  Maisy had been doing fortunes at college parties and eventually decided to quit her job at the Vancouver Public Library and go public with her talents.

She read palms and offered her own variation on Kau chim or lottery poetry.

Then the pandemic hit. At first people still came–they wanted her reassurances.  But when she was declared nonessential, she was financially hit hard.

She decided to go mobile with her skills, inspired by take out drivers.  She called it Curbside Divinations.  She received some likes on social media but no calls.  She imagined them saying, “If you’re so good at predicting the future, why did you book a  trip to Mexico in March?”

Then she had a request from a man named Pete.   He was a white man in sweats somewhere between forty-five and sixty-five.

She almost lefty when he asked “If you Chinese were so good at predicting the future, how’d you all get us into this in the first place?”

But as she turned to leave, he said he’d already paid.  And she needed the money.  (more…)

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julyaugust200SOUNDTRACK: LITTLE DRAGON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #35 (June 18, 2020).

As I was looking at concert listings, I kept seeing an upcoming show for Little Dragon.  I’d never heard of them but the promo made it sound like I should have (they have been around since 1996!).

Indeed, this Tiny Desk blurb says as much.

The group’s latest album, New Me, Same Us, is their grooviest, most concentrated in years, and I was eager to hear these songs as Little Dragon’s music is best experienced: live on stage. “Some of you might know that we were supposed to be on tour in the states, but due to these crazy times it got canceled,” lead singer Yukimi Nagano says.

So I was interested to check out this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert.  Unfortunately, I was was rather unimpressed by this set, because it seemed to be a lot more “Little” than “Dragon.”  However, the blurb indicates that this is not what they might normally be like:

these stripped-down iterations from the band’s home studio in Sweden move me but in a different way. I find myself focusing on the songwriting and how all the instruments come together for these numbers, proving just how strong the tracks from New Me… are.

Little Dragon is a four piece.  In this home concert they are (maybe) socially distanced–maybe they live together.

The first song “Rush” features prominent bass from Fredrik Wallin, trippy keys from Håkan Wirenstrand, gentle drums from Erik Bodin and very soft vocals from Yukimi Nagano.  Nagano plays the wood blocks or whatever they are and then loops them-which is neat.  Midway through the song during a lengthy, chill an instrumental break, Wallin switches to acoustic guitar as Nagano, oohs.  Then he’s back to the bass for the funky end.

“Where You Belong” ratchets up the fuzz on the bass.  This song doesn’t sound all that different, although that bass is pretty great sounding,

Then as a bonus, Little Dragon played an oldie, “Forever,” which is still my favorite track from this genre-bending band.

“Forever” is the first song they ever wrote together.  It comes from their first album from 2007.  It’s a bit bouncier and funkier and sounds like they may have been a bit more dancey back in the day.

They end the set with “Every Rain” which returns to the trippier sound of the first two songs–echoing keys and Nagano’s soft croon.  Although this set doesn’t make me want to see them live.  I am curious to hear what they sound like when they are not stripped down.

[READ: June 23, 2020] “The Ones We Carry With Us”

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

The third piece is fiction although it reads a lot like a memoir.

It starts with the fascinating sentence: ” A few years ago, I accidentally midwifed a death.”

This could literally mean many things, although figuratively it makes sense for what she actually means.

The narrator then goes on to tell us about three women whose lives have impacted her.

The woman who died was Agatha. (more…)

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ja1SOUNDTRACK: HAIM-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #34 (June 17, 2020).

haimWhen Haim first came on the scene they were marketed as a kind of hard rocking sister act.  So when I heard them I was really disappointed because they are anything but hard rock.  In fact this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert shows just how nicely their music works as  kind of poppy folk songs.

I haven’t really liked most of their songs, but I do like first and third in this set (I was unfamiliar with the middle song).

“The Steps” is like a classic rock song that’s been around for ever.  “The sunny, take-no-prisoners assertion of independence of “The Steps” recalls the soft rock jams of their earlier albums.”  The very cool sounding lead guitar riff that opens the song is definitely missed in this version, but the song itself is really solid and their harmonies are lovely.  The bass is mixed too loudly in this song, which is a bit of a shame since the rest sounds so good.

Strangely, it’s only Danielle who speaks and introduces only herself.  So you need the blurb to tell you that on her left is her sister Este Haim (bass, keyboard, drum pad, vocals) and on her right is her sister Alana Haim: (guitar, vocals, bongos).

The second song is “the muted techno glimmer of ‘I Know Alone.'”  Este switches to keys, Danielle switches to a rhythm machine and keys and whole Alana keeps the acoustic guitar she is also playing keys.  I think she keeps the guitar for one dramatic harmonic moment..  This song is kind of bland–not much really happens in it.

In comes Henry Solomon (the screen splits into four) to add saxophone for the final song “Summer Girl,”

a song that wavers like a heat mirage reflected off New York’s summer sidewalks, thanks to Henry Solomon’s whisper-toned sax.

I had no idea this song was HAIM  I recognized that saxophone melody immediately and have hear it many times on the radio.   Once again the bass is too loud, which is a bummer since this song is so chill. This song also feels like it has been around forever–there’s a real timeless quality to it.

HAIM recorded its Tiny Desk set before the death of George Floyd, and released “Summer Girl” last year. The world has changed a lot in that time. With its opening line — “LA on my mind, I can’t breathe” — “Summer Girl” becomes another piece of music that takes on a parallel meaning in the evolving social and political landscape of 2020.

I didn’t enjoy Haim’s early stuff, but I have come around on this album.

[READ: June 19, 2020] “Free”

This was a short story about who love ages.

Henry was married to Irene, but he was having an affair with Lila, who was married to Pete.

Irene was stuffy, very proper.  Lila, by contrast, once stripped off all her clothes and skinny dipped into a cold lake in front of him–“her bottom a sudden white heart split down the middle, in his vision.”  Lila lived in the now and gave herself to him completely.  But Henry “was no good at adultery…because he could not give himself, entirely, to the moment.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BABY ROSE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #31 (June).

I had not heard of Baby Rose until her recent Tiny Desk Concert.  Now here she is at home and her voice is once again remarkable.  With all of the music stripped back, she sounds even more like Billie Holiday.

The depths of sorrow and passion the D.C. native digs into with such conviction has come to be reliably awe-inspiring. It’s the reason her Tiny Desk concert earlier this year stopped us in our tracks. And it’s the reason we’ve invited her back to bring the heat once again, albeit from a safe and secure distance.

Even though Baby Rose’s pianist Timothy Maxey is in the same room with her, he is sitting pretty far away.

The set opens with “Pressure,” a song that accentuates her voice.  Up next is a new song, “Marmot,” which “she hadn’t performed live until this Tiny Desk (home) concert.”

The final song is one that has been getting some airplay.

Earnest intention is the reason Baby Rose’s music has found a place on HBO’s hit series Insecure. In this bedroom mini-show, Rose performs “Show You” (which was used to underscore this season’s most dramatic romantic plot twist).

I don’t have HBO; I’ve never even heard of the show,so I can’t comment on that.  It sounds an awful lot like the other two songs.  But somehow I’m fascinated that she can sing like that while seated.

[READ: June 18, 2020] “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

In a post about Bubblegum recently, Jeff mentioned this story which I had not heard of.  Indeed, I have read very little Ursula Le Guin–not for any reason, I just haven’t.

He described is as short but sad, and I wanted to see how it tied to Bubblegum (it does, but I can’t say how without giving anything away).  It’s also wonderfully written.

My first observation is I can’t believe it was written in 1973 because it fees very contemporary.  The details are vague enough that it could be anywher at any time, which is pretty genius.  Although that vagueness actually made it a little bit hard for me to get into the story at first.

But about half way through the vagueness fades and the details come in and are excruciating. (more…)

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indexSOUNDTRACK: LARA DOWNES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #29 (May 30, 2020).

laraI don’t know Lara Downes, although from the picture you can see that she is a pianist, obviously.  But she also works in communities with young people–something she has been unable to do since the coronavirus took over.

This Tiny Home Desk is visually more interesting than most of the others, because she has a mobile cameraman, her son Simon, who walks around and zooms in on her fingers and elsewhere.

She plays three songs

all from her recent album Some of These Days… They are strong statements that resonate in new ways. From Margaret Bonds, one of the first celebrated African-American women composers, there’s “Troubled Water,” a poignant riff on the spiritual “Wade in the Water” that Downes says takes a “journey from classical virtuosity to gospel, jazz, blues and back again.”

It has a very fluid feel but is also quite dark.

The next piece surprised me not because of the song but because of the arranger.  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, yes the author, created this arrangement of “Deep River.”  I’m surprised that there is nothing else said about him.  I had no idea he was musical as well.

She says there are many interpretations of the river in this song.  For some, it is crossing over into the afterlife.  In the time of slavery, it meant crossing to freedom.  For Downes it represents “crossing over” the coronavirus crisis, to something better.

She is looking to raise money for FeedingAmerica.  If you go to her site and donate you can get a signed copy of her new album.

The final song is Florence Price’s “Some of These Days,” which she sees as a vision of better times ahead.  It is a beautiful slow piece.

The set ends with a jump edit to her snuggling her beloved pooch, Kona.

[READ: May 31, 2020] “Two Nurses, Smoking”

This story is broken up into titled paragraphs.  The title often works as the first part of the first sentence.  At first I didn’t understand this technique, but by the end it made a lot of sense.

The story is indeed about two nurses smoking.

Gracie grew up living in a motel that people paid for week by week.  A high school counselor encouraged her to go to nursing school.  Marlon grew up on the Shoshone reservation then his mother moved East and married a man who drank as much as she did.  He had been in the war and has a scar from an IED. (more…)

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