Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Suicide’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto (February 16, 2001).

This was night 3 of 4 of the Horseshoe Tavern’s 53rd Birthday bash. This show was webcasted by a company called virtuecast which was pretty ambitious for 2001. The Chickens opened the show.

They play seven song from the forthcoming Night of the Shooting Stars but otherwise they continue to mix things up a lot.

After a lengthy, effusive intro yesterday, Jeff Cohen is more concise tonight, which is good because this show goes super late.

This show is one of my favorites.  The opening bunch of songs are just phenomenal.

“Fat” absolutely rocks and is a great way to open the show.

Martin is excited to see everyone: “Its hot in here.  What a rock thing to say.”
Tim: “It’s the humidity.  That’s not a rock thing to say.”
Dave: “Yeah but it’s a dry heat.”
Tim: “Dry humidity.” “It’s those damn Chickens they just warm things up way too much.
Don: “It’s like a damn incubator up here.”

Someone shouts for “Californication” and Dave replies that the Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band is down the street.

The second song is an amazing “Sweet, Rich, Beautiful, Mine.”  Martin is totally into it–screaming and wailing vocally and on guitar.  Martin is fully animated on “Soul Glue” as well with fantastic backing vocals.

Someone shouts for “Jessie’s Girl.”  Dave replies, “There’s been a trend in people calling out bad songs asking us to play them.   But it would only make it worse if we played them because you don’t really want to hear them.  Rheos do Rick Springfield would be a very bad thing–a lot of bad energy.”

Two new songs, a ripping “CCYPA” (I’m a member!” and one of the best live versions of “We Went West” that I can recall.  It’s really sharp and alive and Martin’s guitar solo sounds great.

Martin’s a little sloppy with the lyrics of “Northern Wish,” but it’s got great energy.

They haven’t done “When Winter Comes” in a while, but it sounds really good.  The crazy noisy guitar intro is cool and Don says they could send that out to The Chickens.  There’s a great dual guitar solo like Thin Lizzy and Dave sings about “greasepaint on VH1” instead of Video hits.  There’s a wild sloppy ending and lot of jamming.

It’s followed by a tidy “PIN” and then Martin rips through “I Fab Thee.”  It’s funny  that they talk about it being from a children’s album, while Martin loves to throw in that line about masturbating.  Dave says One Yello Rabbit is going to do a stage production of Harmelodia in 2002.

“Here To There To You” is Dave’s sweet acoustic song.  It leads to “Take Me In Your Hands” which Tim says “you might want to burn this next one in a CD.”

They invite Alun Piggins on stage and he sings his song “Heading Out West.”  It has a kind of country feel with gentle harmonica.

Martin says this next song (“Palomar”) takes place in Sowthern California (the same way the Japandroids pronounce Southern).  Dave sasys, “I really love the way you say southern its one of the things I love about you that extra bit of style.”  Martin doesn’t quite hear the difference but then says “English ain’t my first language.”

Dave loves a guy’s shirt which he shows off, but we never hear what it says.  Bummer.  Martin starts whistling the “We Are Very Star” melody so maybe it’s something about that.

“Legal Age Life At Variety Store” is wild and stomping.  Dave from The Chickens comes up and sings “I Wanna Be Sedated” (very well).  Dave introduces him as “Joey Ramone from The Chickens.”

They talk about The County Killers whom they met in 1986 at the Rivoli with Margaret Atwood and Ben Kerr (a Canadian author, broadcaster, musician and perennial candidate, who was most famous as one of Toronto, Ontario’s quirky street performers) on the bill.  They started the musical hockey night and this is the 14th year of music and hocket where bands lace up the skates and play.

Martin says “Satan Is The Whistler” is a funny song. They fly through it–sloppy with the fast parts and the ending which Martin comments as flub flub flub.   Don notes: “we’ve made it our policy to mess up the ending of every song tonight because this is all going to be webcast and we can’t have proper versions floating around.”

“Claire” is beautiful and then Dave says, “we’re gonna leave you with a dance number.”  It hasn’t been a dancing crowd but we hope to turn things around.  “Song Of The Garden” as a rocking ending with that wild guitar nonsense formation.

After the encore, Dave dedicates “Mumbletypeg” to Janet and baby Cecilia (aw, she’s at least 18 now).

The audience shouts for all kinds of songs, but Dave says how about “The Idiot” and it’s a solid version that segues into a strong, intense version of “Shaved Head.”

They start playing house music, but the band comes back after 2 minutes (which must have been a surprise).

Martin: “We’ve got a plan”
Don: “The plan is to keep on rocking until tomorrow.”
Someone: “Unfortunately I’ve been informed it already is tomorrow”
Tim: “That’s right, so see ya later.”  Then he notes: “Burn this one on your CD.”  It’s a rocking “Four Little Songs/PROD/Four Little Songs.”  Dave comments throughout the song: “Meanwhile in France” before Tim’s part and “can’t go wrong …can’t go wrong… unless its Don” (before Don’s part).  After a ripping PROD, they return to “four” with a completely nonsensical rambling jam.  It sounds terrible but fun (Tim: hey this is easy).

They end the night with “Don’t Say Goodnight,” a sweet folk song.  It’s a lovely ending to the night.  And people don’t want to leave, but JC says, “Sorry, it’s really late thanks for coming out an celebrating The Horsehoe.”

It’s an amazing show.

[READ: February 13, 2019] “Split Tooth”

This was a great story from an amazing talent.  I’ve seen her perform live and she is amazing.  But I didn’t know he could write so well.

This story begins with a girl in grade eight growing up in the North.

“It’s pitch black outside.  Dead winter.  We have not seen the sun in weeks.”  The door has frozen shut but “school has not been cancelled: it’s not cold enough outside. It has to be at least minus fifty with the wind chill to merit a day off.”

The cold has scared the blood out of her toes but Kamiit (mukluks) help feet navigate the snow and ice.

School sucks.  She has a cold sore and will likely be called “soresees” until it is gone.  The nicknames are never kind but are strangely amusing like “nibble-a-cock” given to the girl who “gave a blowjob to that hotdog on a dare.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: SHAKEY GRAVES-Live at Newport Folk Festival (July 28, 2018).

I really only know Shakey Graves (Alejandro Rose-Garcia) from NPR Music.  I enjoyed his Tiny Desk and have thought he’d be a fun folk rocker to see live.  He’s got a raspy voice and is not afraid to go loud as needed.  He says that with this show, he has now played all four stages at Newport.

He’s going to “Kick this off with a waltz that I wrote years ago that has sadly become more relevant every year I’ve played it.  It’s about not listening to people and listening to people at the same time.  What?  How’s that possible?  It’s called ‘Word of Mouth.'”

This song is just him on his guitar with a kick drum and tambourine (not sure if he’s doing the percussion, but I assume he is).  Midway through, he kicks in the distortion for a loud middle section.  The song is long, about 7 minutes, and in the middle, he says, “And if you can’t handle shit here in the United States you better get the fuck out.  That’s terrible advice, honestly.  You gotta stand your ground and hear yourself out.”

The ending feedback segues into “Foot of Your Bed.”  A full band has evidently joined him as there is now a pedal steel guitar, drums, and a harp (?!).  It’s a quiet song which they segue into the much louder “Cops and Robbers.”

“The Perfect Parts” opens with a complex drum part and then a stomping clap-along with a big dah dah dah dah chorus (that he gets everyone to sing along with).

“Big Bad Wolf” opens with some cool guitar sounds before turning into a song that builds nicely.  “Mansion Door” is my favorite song of the set.  It builds wonderfully with Graves’ rough voice totally soaring. It’s followed by “Can’t Wake Up” which he says is about a “sleepy person, oh so sleepy.  No, it’s about changing things that you’re capable of changing even if they bring you distress.”

“Dining Alone” is the theme song of this fake person Garth Nazarth (all of his songs are about this fictional guy).  Garth hates his job, but all he does is fantasize instead of changing any aspect of it.”  Continuing with the downer aspect is “Counting Sheep.”  He says that the whole new album is about suicide “oh my gosh, not that.”  He says he was never suicidal, but he has gotten letters from people who have mentioned some intense feelings.  So he encoded “don’t die” messages throughout the record.  “Counting Sheep” is “a straightforward ‘don’t die’ song.  If you need a hug, come find me, I’ll give you a hug.”

The band leaves after the rocking “Excuses.”  It’s another great song from this show.

The final two songs are solo renditions of “Bully’s Lament” and “Roll the Bones.”  There’s some great rocking guitar on “Roll the Bones.”  I feel like the energy that Graves creates is what really makes his live shows special.  I hope he plays the Festival this year.

SET LIST:

  • “Word Of Mouth”
  • “Foot Of Your Bed”
  • “Cops And Robbers”
  • “The Perfect Parts”
  • “Big Bad Wolf”
  • “Mansion Door”
  • “Dining Alone”
  • “Counting Sheep”
  • “Excuses”
  • “Bully’s Lament”
  • “Roll The Bones”.

[READ: January 19, 2019] “Do Not Stop”

For some reason I thought that Salvator Scibona was an author I really liked and I was puzzled that I didn’t like this story very much.  Then I figured out that Scibona is not who I was thinking of at all, and that the last story I read by him I didn’t really enjoy that much either.

The first sentence sums up the story pretty well: “Okinawa was a fever dream of mosquitoes and Falstaff beer.”

The whole story, which is a Vietnam war story, is also a confusing fever dream that seems endless.

Vollie is getting shitfaced, but the Marine Corp rule was that they couldn’t put Vollie on the plane to deploy if he was too drunk to walk unassisted.  As he leaves the bar he is assaulted by people selling things, and advertising jingles just compound the alcohol in his head. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: LEE FIELDS-“Still Hanging On” (Field Recordings, April 18, 2012).

This was another Field Recording from SXSW filmed on the patio of Joe’s Crab Shack [Lee Fields: Early Morning Soul].

Lee Fields is soul singer who I don’t know.  Evidently he toured in the 1970 sand resurfaced in the ’90s.  He’s got a great powerful voice, but you can tell he’s a bit wiped out.

It was Friday morning during South by Southwest, and Lee Fields was gassed. The veteran soul singer told us he’d given his all in a concert the night before, and you could tell that our early appointment at Joe’s Crab Shack in Austin, Texas, had left his voice gravelly and raw.

He has steadily put out funk-tinged blues and gospel records, crooning love songs and belting world-weary anthems with an expressive voice full of swagger and regret.

So on that March morning, Lee Fields reached deep, fought off the morning fog and gave a passionate, stripped-down performance of “Still Hanging On” with the help of guitarist Vince John. It was a rare peek at a legendary, impossibly gracious singer who proved that, after all these years and even with little sleep, he’s still got it.

Somehow the rawness and weariness of his voice makes it all the more poignant and impressive.

[READ: January 8, 2017] “The Weir”

This was a fascinating story that went in a few different directions.

It begins with a fifty-something year old man throwing tennis balls to his dogs.  He is on a large swath of land that abuts a river.  He is using this time with his dogs to think about his family.  His wife left him six weeks ago and he feels he is coping well (the dogs help).

But his son was the real problem.  He was gone missing.  For years.  His wife had even said that it would be better if he were dead.

While in his thoughts, he sees a young woman hugging the cliffs on the edge of the river.  As he watches her he realizes that she is going to jump in (the river is extremely fast and dangerous).  He rushes to try to stop her, but she can’t hear anything with the noise of the river.

Without even realizing he did it, his jacket and shoes were off and he was jumping in.  The river is crazy and violent and he is tossed around.  Finally he catches up to her, but she is attacking him–whether on purpose or not he doesn’t know.  Eventually he is able to drag her to the shore.  The water was really cold.  The air is cold.  She is cold and he is cold.  She is breathing but not responsive.

He hauls her back to the car and wraps the dogs’ rug around her. The only thing she says is “not the hospital.”  So he brings her to his house.

It’s all really exciting. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: ALISA WEILERSTEIN-“Prelude from Bach’s Suite No. 5” (Field Recordings, February 16, 2012).

One thing I love about the Field Recordings series is the wonderfully unexpected places they have the performers play.  Like this Field Recording [Alisa Weilerstein: Playing Bach With The Fishes] which is set at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

Strategically positioned above a tank full of stingrays, Weilerstein unpacked her cello to serenade the sea creatures — and dozens of pleasantly surprised aquarium visitors — with music by Johann Sebastian Bach. She chose the Prelude from Bach’s Suite No. 5 for unaccompanied cello. The music’s tranquil power and meandering melodies became an extraordinary soundtrack to the majestic rays as they roamed through the water, rising occasionally to catch a note or two.

The music is sublime–sad and powerful but ever so fluid.  And the setting is just perfect–you can almost see the fish appreciate it.

[READ: February 2, 2018] “Four Fictions”

Breytenbach confounds me with his stories.  This is a collection of four really short pieces and while I enjoyed parts of some of them, overall they were a big huh?

Race
This appears to be a race through the sea?  On foot?  A tractor charges into the waves and a Jeep follows. The route will take them through the sea to Germany and back to Stockholm.  Their friend Sven is running in the race (he’s from Lapland).  When the race is over he still has to run through the house to the balcony.  When they gather for the results , how many drowned, etc, the story ends with another man removing his top hat and his hair looking sunken and dry.

What? (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: NICHOLAS PHAN-3 by Britten (Field Recordings, November 20, 2013).

This was 2013’s last Field Recording [Britten Goes Back To Brooklyn With Nicholas Phan].

In addition to providing some powerful vocals and introducing many (including me) to Benjamin Britten’s more down to earth songs, this Field Recording also provides a lot of historical information.

Composer Benjamin Britten, whose 100th birth anniversary falls on Nov. 22nd [2013], is so deeply associated with his native England that he’s on a new 50-pence coin issued by the Royal Mint. This British cultural icon felt so strongly his music should be of a particular place that he set down roots in the seaside town of Aldeburgh, England and stayed there for nearly 30 years until his death in 1976. But he had a surprising two-year sojourn living far from home — in a boisterous, bohemian group house in Brooklyn.

Coaxed to the borough in 1939 by a friend, poet W.H. Auden, Britten and his longtime partner, tenor Peter Pears, moved into 7 Middaugh Street in Brooklyn Heights (an address long claimed by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway). Their housing situation there could only fairly be described as bohemian. Along with Auden, the house’s revolving cast of residents included novelist Carson McCullers, composer and writer Paul Bowles, and burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee.

So in hopes of evoking something of that 1930s Brooklyn boho vibe, we invited an extremely fine young American tenor Nicholas Phan (pronounced “paan”), who’s become a champion of Britten’s vocal music, to return to Brooklyn on Britten’s behalf, accompanied by harpist Sivan Magen. We shot this Field Recording at 70 Fox House, a communal house in the Fort Greene neighborhood not all that far from where Britten and Pears lived and made their own art.

Amazingly Britten was still writing in the 1970s, and he made arrangements for these in 1976.

Witty and surprising, these songs are full of odd — but beautifully moving — harmonies and textures. It’s a perfect match for Britten and Brooklyn.

The first, “Lord! I married me a wife” is as funny as the title suggests.  Phan sings with great passion and exasperation: “I married a wife, she made me work in the cod rain and snow.”

“She’s like the swallow” is a prettier song with lovely harp playing to accompany it

“Bird Scarer’s Song” is a very different piece, with fast plucked harp that sounds more like piano than a harp and Phan singing aggressively and, yes, frighteningly.  With a big “Ha!” at the end.

[READ: November 5, 2018] “Backpack”

I have enjoyed several of Tony Earley’s stories, but I see that he hasn’t had a piece published in the New Yorker in several years.

Well, this one was great.

It is set up with something specific in mind.  John goes to various stores, buys several slightly questionable items, pays cash, and then heads home.

John is a professor, happily married for decades with a daughter just out of college.  But it is clear he is up to something.

From the items you can kind of imagine what he has planned. It is clear he is going to do harm to someone–either himself or someone else.  And when his wife leaves for the day, John shaves his head and shaves his beard (except for a Fu Manchu mustache), puts on sunglasses and a pirate bandanna and assumes the identity of Jimmy Ray Gallup. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: WILD BEASTS-A Simple Beautiful Truth” (Field Recordings, October 23, 2014).

I don’t know if there was an initial mission statement for Field Recordings, but I feel like this one fits my model of Field Recordings perfectly.  For this Field Recording [A ‘Beautiful Truth’ In A Beautiful Bar], NPR brought a band into Grand Central Station to play a song.

Of course, they can’t have the band play in the middle of Grand Central Station (well they could and that would be awesome–but not if they want a lush version of the song, which they do).  So they had them play in The Cambell Apartment, a bar tucked into Grand Central Station. What?

You can be 10 feet from The Campbell Apartment, a bar tucked into the corner of New York’s Grand Central Station, and not have any idea it’s there. The office of a member of the New York Central Railroad’s Board Of Directors in the 1920s (and later a storage closet and a jail), the room is intimate in spite of its 25-foot ceilings and the enormous leaded-glass window that faces Vanderbilt Avenue.

The band Wild Beasts does not in any way live up to their name.  There’s hardly anything wild or beastly about them.  They play a kind of new wave, almost old-time music (Roxy Music-ish): “The band’s sound — from the street-urchin-inspired lyrics of its early songs to the new-wave synths woven through its latest album, Present Tense — arrived fully intact via time machine.”

“A Simple Beautiful Truth” has a delicate synth line and loud electronic drums.  It wouldn’t make sense in Grand Central Station.  I’m not entirely sure it make seen here, but the band’s overall vibe does make sense in this old-timey bar.

[READ: October 10, 2017] “A Report on Our Recent Troubles”

This story is indeed written as a report.  The recent troubles are a euphemism for the rampant suicide that has struck a village.

But because the story is written as a report, it has a formal, detached tone that really allows for much thinking about suicide.  The suicide is so rampant that families have moved away, leaving those who remain to deal with their shattered existence.

The town was once pleasant–connected to the city and culture and yet with a rural sensibility.

They the undersigned are reluctant to look for one thing that changed everything but they can’t help but note that when Richard And Suzanne Lory killed themselves, things seemed to change.  Each in their early fifties, happily married and with lots of friends.  They killed themselves and left no note. An investigation turned up no scandal.

Two weeks later a 74-year-old retired high school math teacher killed himself.  He had been diagnosed with cancer of the liver.  This was less scandalous and almost understandable. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: CHRIS WALLA AND J. ROBBINS-Create ‘Mercury’ (Project Song: October 12, 2009).

Project Song was a nifty little show that NPR Music created.  The premise was that NPR would give a musician some prompts and a recording studio.  They then had two days to write and record a song.  I don’t know how much of the process was to be filmed, but presumably most of it. Then it would be edited down to a fifteen minute show.  The results are pretty cool and it’s a shame they only made five of them.

The fourth one they did was over a year and a half after the previous one.  This Project was offered to Chris Walla (of Death Cab for Cutie) and a performer he’d admired, J. Robbins (of Jawbox and Burning Airlines).

What made this project especially difficult was that the two had never even met before they stepped into NPR’s performance studio.

I supplied some inspiration for their song: photo collages created by artist Tom Chambers [The picture are really, really cool]. They chose a photograph of a house in a canyon filled with water, tilted and flooded. Not far from the house is a dog on a boat, floating either toward or away from the house. I also supplied a series of words. They selected the word “cerebral” and promised when they wrote the song not to be too cerebral about it.

Unlike the pairing from Georgie James, this pair is instantly excited at the possibilities–changes and ideas.

Robbins says he will not write any lyrics, it takes him a month and a half to hone them,

But it didn’t take long for Robbins to pick up his bass guitar, for Walla to pick up a guitar, and for the two to begin their musical friendship.

They were inspired by JG Ballard and his drowned world series. In these books there are people who know the world is dying but they embrace it as a forward movement into the unknown

J. get a great bass line right away (its sounds very Death Cab, interestingly).  Bob asks about the music and J. says the music sounds like a dog on a boat heading towards a half-submerged house.  And Walla is singing the word “mercury.”

Walla and Robbins were joined by Robbins’ friend, drummer Darren Zentek.

He adds a wonderful beat and the song sounds great.  They get excited filling out the possibilities–end on the bridge!

Walla goes off by himself to write lyrics.  And Robbins works on a piano part.  And then things really come together when Walla picks up the 12 string.

The song they created, “Mercury,” takes its subject matter from that photograph, which is a bit of a cataclysmic scenario turned into a song about the climate crisis.

The result has a definite Death Cab feel, but with Robbins and Walla alternating lead vocals it is a different, wonderful thing.

[READ: July 23, 2018] “I Walk Between the Raindrops”

This story centers around Valentine’s Day.  But it’s a T.C. Boyle story so there’s always something else to look forward to.

I love the way this story opens with Brandon the narrator telling us.

This past Valentine’s Day, I was in Kingman, Arizona, with my wife, Nola, staying in the Motel 6 there, just off the I-40. You might not think of Kingman as a prime location for a romantic getaway (who would?), but Nola and I have been married for fifteen years now, and romance is just part of the continuum….  Were we slumming?  Yes, sure.  We could have stayed anywhere we liked…and if it’s not ideal, at least it’s different.

They were there because Nola’s father lives nearby and they decided to pay a visit and to let Nola search for antiques.  They went to Denny’s (the only place her father will eat), and after eating, Nola went antiquing and Brandon went to a bar to wait for her.

It’s not unfriendly (despite some graffiti like “fuck you, liberal pussies” (which he chooses to take as ironic), but he doesn’t order a Pinot Noir or anything.  (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: PARTNER-Tiny Desk Concert #744 (May 18, 2018).

I know of Partner from the All Songs Considered podcast.  Their song “Everybody Knows” (about being high) is pop-punk catchy and really funny.

That’s the only song I knew from them, but I assumed this Tiny Desk would be of a rollicking hilarious similar vein.

Imagine my surprise to hear them do pretty much everything but pop-punk.  There’s a theme song, a country song, a song for Céline Dion and a song that makes the lead singer cry:

This is one of the sweetest, funniest and most endearing Tiny Desk performances I’ve seen. From the moment they began playing, it was clear best friends Lucy Niles and Josée Caron, who perform as the Canadian rock band Partner, were there to leave their mark and have a whole lot of fun doing it.

Known for their sense of humor, joyful spirit and screaming riff rock, Partner opened their Tiny Desk not with their guitars plugged in, but with kazoos and a goofy little piano piece they dubbed the “Tiny Desk Theme.” Dressed like she was in an ugly sweater contest, Caron bounced along behind the keys with a beaming smile while the group (including drummer Brendan Allison, Kevin Brasier on keys and Daniel Legere on guitar) sang, “It’s the best Tiny Desk!”

The theme song is but a minute long and will hopefully be used for every future Tiny Desk endeavor.  It comes complete with bopping piano, kazoo and cowbell.

The impish left turns didn’t stop there. Immediately following the makeshift theme, Caron peeled off her sweater (revealing a Tegan and Sara T-shirt) and grabbed an acoustic guitar as the band broke into “Tell You Off” its first-ever country song, a track they’d premiered at a live show just days earlier.

Lucy Niles picks up the bass and plays a simple riff.  The rest of the band joins in (with Legere playing a very country guitar solo).

They could barely contain their laughter while singing “Tell You Off,” a boom-chicka story song about giving a good tongue-lashing to anyone who gets in your way:

“I heard what you said about my dog / that he shit on your lawn / well that’s not my fault / say it to my face or I’ll be pissed off / I’ll come over to your house and tell you off.

The third song is the one that Caron hope Céline Dion will sing.  She says it was inspired by a poem that her boss wrote.  “It’s a bad ass poem about going to down to hell to face your greatest fears and to reclaim a peaceful life for yourself.  The life that you deserve.”

In addition to playing a great rocking solo, Caron sings the final verse in French (for Céline to sample).

Partner closed out its set with a surprisingly emotional version of “Creature In The Sun,” a reflection on appreciating the gift of just being alive.

Caron plays a cool intro riff with a guitar slide.  And the song is the most rocking of the bunch.  And then

About halfway through the song, Caron took a moment to tell the audience why it was so special to them. Choking back tears, she said she wrote it about freeing the mind of desire. “It’s a very healing place… And you can just experience the fullness of life. I just wanted to… remind everyone that that stuff is right there with you all the time.”

It’s surprisingly emotional and Caron is clearly embarrassed at her emotional outpouring, but the audience is receptive and she still manages to play that great slide guitar apart tat the end.

And, to break some of the emotional tension the drummer hits a nice cowbell sound at the end.

This is a very surprising set, and one that I imagine is unique in their live performances.

[READ: May 21, 2018] “The Long Black Line”

This is the story of Jesuit Priesthood, circa 1954, and a man trying to join.

Finn is described this way: “priests were still thought to be holy, and Finn…Well…”

When Finn is close to completing his term of study one of the Brothers, Brother Reilly who is manuductor (he who leads by the hand) seems to think poorly of Finn.  Reilly wrote in his diary that Finn seemed self-important.  And then Brother Reilly went to confess these thoughts.  Brother Reilly’s superiors felt that Reilly was not suited to the role of manuductor and therefore it was useful for him to be given the task.

Father Superior told them: “feelings are always to be distrusted.  The good Jesuit may feel excited or depressed, but–remember–he never shows it.  He is never singular. He disappears into the long black line [of priests]….  If you feel sad, smile.  If you feel elated, exercise self-restraint.  If you dislike someone, pray for him.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: CORNELIUS-Tiny Desk Concert #718 (March 19, 2018).

I was familiar with an artist known as Cornelius, but I guess I didn’t really know anything about him, because this blurb came as a total surprise:

As Cornelius, Keigo Oyamada has stretched his vision across frenzied indie rock, lush ’60s-style pop, psychedelic funk and glitched electronics, all deconstructed and reassembled like a neon cubist-pop sculpture. After a little more than two decades, no one can really imitate his complex cool.

Sporting a pair of sunglasses (always), Oyamada recently brought his band from Japan to the Tiny Desk on a rare U.S. tour, including his longtime collaborator and Pizzicato Five session musician Hiroshisa Horie, drummer Yuko Araki (Mi-Gu, Cibo Mato’s live band) and synthesist Yumiko Matsumura (Buffalo Daughter). They’re all musicians who tease and poke at music’s fringe territory, but still know how to make a song buzz and pop with gleeful curiosity.

So I guess I know Cornelius from Pizzicato Five.  But I was not prepared for the trippy synthy music that this band created.

Cornelius performs three very different songs from last year’s Mellow Waves. There’s the robotic groove of “Helix/Spiral,” which repeats and mutates the same phrase and melodic fragments in a delicate and strange dance.

“Helix/Spiral” is all synth with his vocals auto-tuned into robotic sounds.  The lyrics are mostly him speaking those two words over and over (which I thought was saying Alex Spy-lo, but that is clearly me not understanding his accent.  The synths are great.  One is doing cool trippy backing sounds while the main riff is a disjointed melody that begins confusing and ends as an earworm.

“In a Dream” is a star-swept landscape that invites the subconscious to search for meaning, its keyboard flourishes and light acoustic strums so breezy you could almost call it a kind of retro-futuristic yacht rock.

I love the full synth sound (and swirling bass of “In a Dream”).  I believe he is singing in Japanese.  The chorus of the song is so incredibly catchy in an almost light folk sort of way.

But set closer “If You’re Here” is the real marvel to behold live, as the band performs at different tempos, gradually solving a polyrhythmic puzzle of a slow jam. The song also features one of my favorite guitar solos in recent memory — it’s unflashy, but twists, spits and resolves in the most unexpected ways.

“If You’re Here” is a longer song–nearly 7 minutes–with a kind of slow building feel.  Those electric guitar solos from Cornelius himself are very cool indeed.  There’s a lengthy instrumental coda at the end which is very trippy and cool.

I really enjoyed this set and every new listen brought in something new.

[READ: January 9, 2018] “The Send-Off”

This is an excerpt from a novel called Inhumaines which has just come out in English (translated by Camille Bromley).

The previous piece that I read from Claudel was pretty surreal.  This one is as well.

It begins

Last night, Roger Turpon, from dispatching, invited us to his suicide.  There were twenty of us.  Family and friends only.

Turpon has been talking about killing himself for a while now, but boy “A suicidal person is tiresome.”

Finally Dupond helped him out by calling him a coward, saying he won’t do it.  They stood in the parking lot in mid-autumn with leaves blowing all around them.  “It was lovely.”

Three days later they received the invitation: Mr and Mrs Turpon are delighted to invite you to Roger’s suicide this Saturday. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: CIGARETTES AFTER SEX-Tiny Desk Concert #684 (December 13, 2017).

I only know of Cigarettes After Sex from when NPR played a song of theirs and Bob asked us to guess whether the singer was a man or a woman.

Greg Gonzalez has one of those wonderful voices that is deep and husky and sounds feminine (although his speaking voice is very deep).

This Tiny Desk Concert is very quiet (like The XX).  It is just Gonzalez on heavily echoed guitar and vocals and his unmoving, emotion-free longtime bandmate Phillip Tubbs on spare keyboards.

Although there’s not a lot to these songs, the melodies are truly terrific.

The three songs sound very similar–unmistakably them.

“K.,” the opening track to this Tiny Desk Concert – and the opening cut to the band’s eight year-long awaited debut album – is especially memorable. The lyrics are simple and easy to remember: “Kristen, come right back/I’ve been waiting for you to slip back in bed/When you light the candle.”

Amazingly, for almost half of each song, there are no keyboards, just the guitar.  So that extra, gentle wash of music sounds huge.  “Apocalypse” has the lovely swooning chorus of “you’ve been locked in here forever and you just can’t say goodbye” and “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” follows that same pretty structure (although it’s my least favorite of the three).  With the minimalism:

each note and each word seems to count for more  …  and the office environment of the Tiny Desk Concert [may work better] than in a club, where just the chatter of a crowd can drown out this gentle music.

[READ: November 1, 2017] The Hunting Accident

I loved this book. Everything about it was utterly fantastic.  The story, the way it was told, and the amazing drawings of Landis Blair

The book opens on a snowy day in Chicago in 1959.  A boy whose mother has just died has moved from sunny California to miserable Chicago to live with his blind father, Matt.   The boy had lived with his mother since he was four (his mother’s mother thought that his father was a trouble and that they needed to get away from him).  So he barely knew his father.  And now it was time to find out everything about the man.  Like, first off, how he became blind.

The father told the boy all about the hunting accident.  He and his friends were screwing around, playing by the train tracks.  They were having fun scaring each other.  All the kids were afraid of real life bogeymen Leopold & Loeb local murderers.  The boys even believed they found the pipe in which Leopold & Loeb stuffed their victim.

There’s even little reminder of the crime:

In 1924, two wealthy educated men kidnapped and brutally murdered Bobby Franks, a 14-year-old neighbor…just for the thrill of it… to see if they could commit “the perfect crime.”

Anyhow, the boys had a shotgun and heard a deer.  When one of those boys shot at the deer he missed and his Charlie’s father right in the face.

Soon Charlie must learn what it is like to live with a blind man–how everything must be in the exact same place.

Charlie’s father writes all the time (on a braille machine).  He writes about morality and poetry.  He quotes Dante.  And soon, Charlie’s dad was having Charlie help with the writing–by proofing and checking things (Charlie learned a lot at the same time).

Charlie’s grandmother also said that Chicago was dangerous, but not for Charlie.  He got along fine. He even made friends with Steve Garza–the coolest kid in the neighborhood.    Garza was so cool he bummed cigarettes off of Charlie (from his dad–even though Matt, counted them and got mad about it).

Charlie also began getting involved in extracurricular activities–he loved tap dancing and tried the cello–two things his father appreciated. But soon Steve and his buddy started pressuring Charlie.  He “left” his tap shoes at the park, he stopped playing cello and he got involved in some ugly things.

Garza wanted to join the JPs–a local mob related gang.  But he was too young so he started the Junior JPs and soon enough that involved theft.  And since they were dumb, they were easily caught.

And that’s when the truth comes out.

I was already hooked into the story and then I was blown away.  Charlie’s dad did not lose his sight in a hunting accident.  Charlie is furious that his dad lied to him.

Garza convinces Charlie to head for Canada to avoid the cops.  (The third guy has already gotten there and is at a free-love commune or something).  Charlie is prepared to drive them both (he’s the one with the car after all).  And then his dad tells him the whole truth, which gets Charlie to pause.

The rest of the book cover’s Matt’s story.

He was poor in 193os Chicago and got mixed up with the wrong crowd.  His did go blind from a gun shot, but it was a very different setting–and it led to prison.

On the day he got to prison, the same prison that Leopold and Loeb were in, Richard Loeb was killed in the shower.  This left Leopold alone.

Charlie asks if he met Leopold.   And Charlie’s dad says that Nathan Leopold is the reason for his divorce.  What?

Turns out hat not only did Charlie’s dad know Nathan Leopold. He was Leopold’s cell mate.  Since Loeb was killed there was concern that Leopold might be next.  And since Matt was blind, they were put together under watch.

After Matt was out of prison, Leopold sent him a letter (in braille) which the grandmother intercepted.  Matt had never told anyone he was in jail, and that made Matt a Liar.

Matt was miserable in jail.  He couldn’t see, his father was disappointed in him and he had nothing to live for.  He just wanted to die, but that was pretty hard to do under constant supervision. We see daily life for a blind man in jail–food stolen all the time and knocking his cellmate’s things over.

Leopold was angry and bitter and wanted nothing to do with a blind man.  But soon, Leopold began talking to Matt about the life of the mind–something he realized that Matt lived all the time.  Because he couldn’t see everything was in his mind. Leopold used to hold educational lessons in the library at the jail.  He also showed Matt how to make a Glim Box (a way to use a spinning coin to light a fire to light cigarettes).

Matt tells Leopold that he has no family.  Meanwhile, Leopold’s dad visits every two weeks (the visits are awkward and uncomfortable but are a way for Leopold to get things from the outside).

Soon, Leopold is trying to convince Matt to learn Braille.  Why?  well, this gave opportunity for Leopold to learn it to and thereafter he could read after lights out.  (Leopold was a master of many languages and picked up braille easily).

And that’s when Leopold persuaded Matt to read Dante’s Inferno.

The story of Matt’s imprisonment jumps back to the present where Charlie is still annoyed with his father, but is really interested in the story. Especially when he leans that his father almost committed suicide there.

I loved the philosophical ideas in the story–they way the book interprets both Plato and Dante for the everyman .  I loved that Matt’s story runs throughout the book and I loved the whole idea of a blind man helping one of the most notorious criminals of he 20th century.

This story is thought-provoking and exciting at the same time.

The only thing that I feel was left out–did Charlie wind up going to jail or not?  It’s never addressed.

The end of the story and that final two-page spread are just breathtaking.

I also love that David L. Carlson more or less found out about this amazing true story by accident.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »