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Archive for the ‘Short Story’ Category

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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SOUNDTRACK: PALM-Ostrich Vacation (2015).

Palm has recently reissued this record on cassette.  I don’t like cassettes, so I won’t be getting this.   But it is available streaming so you can check out this early, peculiar release from this peculiar band.

Palm is an unusual band and these four talented musicians (Eve Alpert (gtr/vox), Gerasimos Livitsanos (bass), Kasra Kurt (gtr/vox) and Hugo Stanley (drums)) have found their ideal bandmates because they play off of each others ideas perfectly.

The digital release is treated like a cassette, with two tracks and multiple parts.

Side A is Dime / Drift / Communication / Trust / Small Mouth (11:54).

There’s 30 seconds of a funky bass (that seems like it’s not them) before “Dime” starts.  It’s a slow almost shoegazey song with all kinds of angular chords thrown on top.  And then after a minute and fifteen they do what they do best–dissonant notes played often enough that they become melodic together.

There’s a few seconds of a grooving song on a tape that gets sped up before “Drift” opens with a series of unexpected notes and complex drum pattern–in other words, typical Palm.  Their exploration of atypical melody is really fantastic.

“Communication” opens with the two guitars playing different dissonant sounds–weird angular chords against a three note melody that seems … wrong, like screaming solo notes.  The impressive things are the way the drums and bass ground this exercise in experimentation and that it turns surprisingly danceable by the middle.

“Trust” starts out with some slow chords and echoing voices–it’s all vaguely out of tune sounding and then “Small Mouth” jumps in with a lurching melody and some percussive drumming (nice wood block).  The vocals are soft and shoegazey despite the overall noisiness of the song.  It’s certainly the prettiest track here.  The track ends with 30 seconds of sped up version of a live album.  I suppose it could be determined who the band is if one were so inclined.

Side two is longer with fewer songs: Ostrich Vacation / Is Everything Okay / Tomorrow the World (14:29).

“Ostrich Vacation” opens with a fast single chords that sounds like “Helter Skelter” but it lasts for some 45 seconds before the drums kick in and the song shifts into a different beast.  This song feels fairly conventional despite the odd chords.  Until it gets Palmed at 1:34 when things slow down and the two guitars start throwing around unconventional guitar melodies and noisy chords.  It starts jumping back and forth between these three parts until around 3 minutes when it turns into a total guitar freak out with both guitars making wild noise for twenty seconds until the drums kick in and the song lurches into a new melody.  This new melody is mostly conventional (sounding a bit like some early SST bands).  Then at around 6 minutes it changes again, this time a fast full on melody that lasts all of 30 seconds before the song ends

“Is Everything OK” starts with some jagged chords that ring out while an interesting and unusual bassline runs underneath. The chord stays the same while the bass explores different melodies.  Then the drums kick in with some jazzy almost improvised-sounding beats.  The second guitar stats throwing in weird shapes and feedback, while quiet vocals whisper around the edges and a clarinet (!) squawking around.  After some jamming the song comes to a crashing end with some echoing and looped drum riots.

“Tomorrow the World” is literally two guitars tuning and detuning for five minutes.  It really stretches the boundaries of what a song is–and what someone might want to listen to.

Their later albums are more complicated and supremely cool.

[READ: May 11, 2021] “Something Like Happy”

I rather enjoyed this simple story.

The narrator is a bank teller–it’s her first job and she’s pleased to have it.

Arthur McKechnie came in to deposit a bunch of checks.  He seemed like a nice guy, but he seemed to be living mostly in his own head.  It wasn’t until he signed over the checks that she saw his name McKechnie, and knew who he was.

The McKechnies were bad news, but then narrator knew of them because her sister Marie was dating the worst of them–Stan McKechnie.  Of course the more people told Marie that Stan was no good, the tighter she clung to him.

he always returns to her when he deposits his checks and he seems to be flirting with her–in odd ways.  She didn’t know what to say though and the transactions ended. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NATHANIEL RATELIFF-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #190 (April 12, 2021). 

Nathaniel Rateliff treads a fine line between country and rock.  But between this album and his work with the Night sweats, I tend to prefer him to others like him.

The Mercury Café is one of the first places Nathaniel frequented when he moved to Denver in 1998, hearing jazz, dancing, and eventually playing many shows there. For his Tiny Desk (home) concert, he’s assembled a dozen players including a string section, backing singers, and some of his oldest friends: Joseph Pope III on bass, Mark Shusterman on keys, Luke Mossman on guitar and Patrick Meese on drums.

On the opening song and the title track to his 2020 album, And It’s Still Alright, they’re restrained as Nathaniel sings about loss, “I’ll be damned if this old man / Don’t start to counting his losses / But it’s still alright.”

This song is so darned catchy, despite how sad it is.  Mossman plays lead guitar and Shusterman keeps the keys going throughout. The addition of strings (Chris Jusell: violin, Joy Adams: cello, Adrienne Short: violin and Rachel Sliker: viola) add a new component that sounds great.

“All Or Nothing” has an interestingly picked guitar with lots of bouncy bass from Joseph Pope III.  Midway through, the song starts rocking out with two drummers.

But restraint lets loose on the chorus of “Redemption,” a song about breaking free of the past and written for Apple original film Palmer.

“Redemption” is a powerful song that has a simple but big chorus “Just set me free.”  The backing vocals from Larea Edwards, Chrissy Grant and Kinnie Maveryck sound fantastic.

The ender, a tune called “Mavis,” truly is a grand finale, a song that conjures up images of The Band singing Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” — and what a fabulous release it is.

Half way through the song builds to a really full sound.  Rateliff sounds great and so do his songs.

[READ: May 7, 2021] “The Shape of a Teardrop”

I really love the diversity of style and subject matter that T. Coraghessan Boyle brings to his stories.

This one is told from two different points of view.

We open on Justin, a belligerent person, angry that his parents have kicked him out of his room. It took three final straws–dropping him from the family cell phone plan; putting a lock on the fridge and the final final straw was the eviction notice on his door.

Alternating sections are are supplied by the first narrator’s mother. She says how much they loved their son and tried to give him everything they could.  They had tried so hard to have children, including expensive in vitro.  And then one day their miracle was born.

Their son doesn’t have a car (it’s on blocks in the driveway) and doesn’t have any motivation to get a job.  But he does have very expensive salt water fish and a bar that he likes to go to (he enjoys the bartender whose name is apparently Ti-Gress. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKACID MOTHERS TEMPLE & THE MELTING PARAISO U.F.O.-Lord of the Underground: Vishnu and the Magic Elixir (2009).

A lot of AMT music sounds vaguely similar with Kawabata’s wild guitar noodling (and because they always play “Pink Lady Lemonade”) but this album really changes things up because Kawabata plays the bouzouki, saz and sitar which adds a Middle Eastern flavor to the proceedings.

There’s three songs on this album, one really short one, one really long one and one really really really long one.  The lineup is the same as other albums from this period, although the instrumentation has changed a bit:

  • Tsuyama Atsushi: monster bass, voice, acoustic guitar, alto recorder, flute, toy trumpet, kazoo, cosmic joker
  • Higashi Hiroshi: synthesizer, dancin’king
  • Shimura Koji: drums, latino cool
  • Kawabata Makoto: electric guitar, bouzouki, saz, sitar, organ, percussion, speed guru

“Eleking the Clay” is fourteen minutes long.  Kawabata plays a simple, fast, rocking riff on the bouzouki while Tsuyama Atsushi sings along.  At around five minutes Kawabata starts a wild solo while the rest of the band continues chugging along.  Near the end the keys take over and the bass starts going predictably wild.  It’s interesting to hear the familiar mixed with the new here.

“Sorcerer’s Stone of the Magi” is a short guitar piece at just under 4 minutes.  Acoustic guitar chords and a lead sitar play a bouncing melody while the singer sings along.  The track is full of bird song and chatter in the background.  A lovely pastoral piece.

“Vishnu and the Magic Elixir” is the monster song on this album at over 25 minutes long.  It starts off slowly with single notes on the sitar but the echoing notes almost give it a Western feel at the same time.  The trippy synth sounds make the song sound like Middle East meets the Old West in outer space.

Tsuyama starts adding in pig snorts and mocking laughter after and around 6 minutes some growling and singing are followed by the kazoo (!).  By around ten minutes the song starts to pick up the tempo with the bass really taking the lead and meandering around.  Kawabata’s solo starts to get intense around this time as well.  Then Tsuyama throws in some toy trumpet.  Things build and build and by 17 minutes it’s a full on wild freak out that lasts almost until the end of the song.  Although by 25 minutes the song stats to fade with echoing notes giving the song a proper ending.

And, yes, I don’t really know the difference between a bouzouki and a saz, so I could be wrong about what he’s playing.

[READ: May 1, 2021] “A Tranquil Star”

This very short story was translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein.

The story concerns a star and its observer.  The star was a peaceful star and it was very big and very hot.  But words are meaningless on this scale, right?  Australia is very far, an elephant is very big, I can have a hot bath.

The thing was though, that the star was not so tranquil.  It was just hard to observe from earth.   Arab and Chinese astronomers were aware of the star, but Europeans were too busy with earthly pursuits to notice.  The Arab watched it for 30 years and watched how it performed differently at different times.

But when he died, the star took no notice. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE PEELS-“Juanita Banana” (1966).

I heard this song today on WXPN’s “Worst Song in the World” segment.  And as soon as it started, I understood why it was on there.

The person who submitted the song said she just wanted to know…  why? Why would someone make this?  And this is a good question.  More amazingly why would they make a Part 2?  (They did).

The song opens with a kind of Mexican guitar intro and spoken word story of Juanita–a banana grower’s daughter.  She wanted to sing at the opera, so she left the banana fields and went to the city.  And as the chorus comes in Juanita sings an incredibly high pitched (and way out of context) note that turns into the melody of “Caro Nome” from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto.

What?

Then the band sings the “Juanita Banana” chorus in a kind of Mexican accent complete with horns.

What?

Her melody comes one more time and just when you think that the operatic vocals are enough, Juanita’s father burns down the trees, moves to the city and sings in a deep voice the same melody.

They even duet at the end!

It is so bizarre, so potentially offensive, and yet so catchy (that Rigoletto part is wonderful) that it could only be a mid 60’s novelty song.

The DJ explained that it was a novelty song but it was actually a minor hit in 1966.  He said a little more about it, but sadly I  didn’t catch the whole story.

And yet I can’t get that scream melody out of my head.

[READ: May 3, 2021] “The Case for and Against Love Potions”

This story opens with an older, married man talking to a younger, single man.  The younger man asks what one should do if the person he loves does not love him back.  The older man is pleased that the younger man recognized that the older man is “the most sagacious man in this part of the country.”

I rather enjoyed the tone of the story and the amusing way the sagacious man spoke:

As you know, there are a million and three solutions to this problem.. .I imagine you tried at least twenty-eight of them before coming to see me today.

The best advice the man can give is simple: love potions. (more…)

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