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Archive for the ‘Supernatural’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JOSEPH KECKLER-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #223 (June 14, 2021).

I saw Joseph Keckler open for Sleater-Kinney.  I’d never heard of him and had no idea what to expect.

He had videos and sang funny lyrics.  And then, POW, he had the most amazing operatic bass voice I’d ever heard.

You can hear that about two minutes into the first song here.

“My love called me many names,” Joseph Keckler sings in “GPS Song,” which opens his Tiny Desk (home) concert. He proceeds to list them: “Baby animal. Little baby animal. Big baby animal. Black chicken.” (It goes on like this for some time.)

“GPS Song” — which is sung partly in a made-up language and evolves to feature the titular navigation system droning in the background of a breakup — is one of Keckler’s hallmark absurdist arias, which he performs with a commanding presence and a winking, deadpan delivery. While their content is quirky (another features the narrator’s relapse into a teenage goth identity), it’s not quite right to call them strictly funny; they’re infused with a kind of intimate, observational detail that makes them simultaneously comedic and affecting. (“It was the most heartbreaking moment of my life,” Keckler once said of the situation that inspired “GPS Song,” “yet it was also so ridiculous to have this disrupting automaton, breaking our silence to misdirect us at every moment.” This performance captures that ridiculousness and heartbreak equally.)

The music is wonderful.  Gorgeous piano from Matthew Dean Marsh.  Michael Hanf bows his guitar for rumbling low chords.  Two minutes in Lavinia Pavlish joins on violin and Keckler shows just how amazing his voice is.  Even if the lyrics are comic.

Is it funny?  Yes.  Baby potato?  Yes.  And also when he finds his love’s text messages (in operatic Italian) to “Baby Zebra” and when he sings “Google translate: ‘god is a bicycle, ride slow’ nothing made sense.”  Or when in the middle of the operatic intensity the GPS says (in English) recalculating, recalculating, recalculating.

But not everything is funny.

“City” has a bouncy piano with lovely violin from.  because of the slow operatic way he sings this song (in English) it’s a little hard to follow the words.  But again musically, it’s so interesting.  In the middle, there’s a cool soaring moment when both violin and Michael Hanf play a high scratchy descending note.

So who is this guy?

A classically trained singer, performance artist and writer whose work spans styles and genres, Keckler turns his Tiny Desk (home) concert, shot in Brooklyn, into a showcase of his dynamism as a performer.

For “Goth Song” he sits at the piano and says, “I used to work in a music library but one day…” That is not idle banter, it is the introduction to the song–the story of his descent into a teenage goth.  It’s very funny hearing him singing these things in his amazingly deep operatic German.

He ends with “Appearances” another song sung in English.  Michael Hanf swipes a bow across his guitar to generate an echoing chord.  Hanf also plays the low bass on the synth (and even a cymbal midway through).  Again, this song is not comic, but it really shows off his voice nicely.

[READ: July 1, 2021] “Giganto”

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

The third piece is a short story.

It’s an interesting look at infighting in an under-funded and under-appreciated university department.

There are four people in the truck, a truck that’s off-roading until they have to start using the ATVs.  Dr. Krentz is head of the department.  The narrator, Melinda, is Dr. Krentz’ (poorly) paid assistant.  She intends to hang on to this job until Krentz retires and then take it over herself.  Camryn is Dr Krentz’ intern.  Camryn is Dr Krentz’ intern.  Melinda fears that Camryn, who is young (pretty) and full of energy, is looking to steal her own job.  And then there’s Nigel.  Nigel was some rando who “appreciated the doctor’s work.”  He was hoping to interview Dr. Krentz for his upcoming book on megafauna in North America.   Krentz was flattered and Nigel was a pain in the ass. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MANIC STREET PREACHERS-“Die in the Summertime” (1994).

I really liked the Manic Street Preachers in the late 90s.  Perhaps ironically, I learned about them after the strange disappearance of lyricist and guitarist Richey Edwards, and really liked the first few albums that they put out without him.  I went back and listened to their older stuff later, but I still prefer Everything Must Go.

Nevertheless, The Holy Bible (where this song comes from) is a pretty great album.  And “Die in the Summertime” is really cool.  It opens with tribal drums and a nifty almost Middle Eastern sounding guitar riff.  When it kicks in after a brief intro, it’s more raw and heavy than their later stuff–was that Edwards’ influence?

I listened to this song a few times and will clearly have to dig out The Holy Bible for another listen.

Obviously Edwards looms over the band and clearly looms over this story.

The guitarist vanished on 1 February 1995 and is widely presumed to have taken his own life, but a body was never found and there is no definitive proof that he died by suicide.

[READ: May 31, 2021] The Forevers

This was a fairly simple (and familiar) story, but it was told in a very interesting way.

Ten years ago seven friends (or maybe not friends exactly) made a pact. They performed a ritual asking for fame and fortune.  And it worked.  They have all become very successful.

Each chapter has a title from a song.  The first is “Die in the Summertime” (3:07) [by Manic Street Preachers].

Ten years later we cut to Jamie Ashby–a strung out superstar singer (who looks an awful lot like the Irish guy from Lost, who was also a strung out rock star).  He is in a bad way.

Then we meet Daisy Cates.  She is a successful model,  But the person who takes her home does not have good intentions for her.

I liked the way their two stories paralleled on the same page with a different background wash of color.

Jamie does a show and when an old geezer says he’s washed up, he punches the guy and makes tabloid headlines,  We find out in the next chapter that the geezer was Robert Plant–ha!

Chapter 2 is “The Drugs Don’t Work”  (5:05) [by The Verve]. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAKE STREET DIVE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #199 (April 27, 2021)

I feel like I was meant to like Lake Street Dive.  They seemed to get heavily promoted in the same breath as bands that I like.  And yet I really don’t like them.  I particularly don’t like this deep dive into “blue-eyed soul” as they call it.

Having said that, though the first song, “Hypothetically” is a very catchy song.  The blurb mentions the addition of the new keyboardist and I was going go say that his keyboard solo is the one thing I don’t like in the song.

Lake Street Dive filmed its Tiny Desk (home) concert where the band is most at home: on stage at the “biggest little venue in NYC,” Pete’s Candy Store. All five band members managed to squeeze onto a stage no larger than the actual Tiny Desk to shine a spotlight on the Save Our Stages Act. Congress passed the $15 billion grant program last December as part of the $900 billion coronavirus relief bill.

I was starting to like “Same Old News” until the new guy started singing.  So that’s two strikes against keyboard and vocalist Akie Bermiss.   Although the keyboard sound he picked for the solo in this song is much better–and his backing vocals are a nice addition.

In the middle of the home concert, bassist Bridget Kearney recalls driving to the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn for a gig at Pete’s, then driving back to Boston the very same night, long before they ever sold out Radio City Music Hall on the other side of the East River.

I don’t really care for Rachel Price’s voice either, but I really like Kearney’s speaking voice.  She plays a great upright bass, but I think I might like them if she sang instead.

“Anymore” is slow just keys and rim shots from Mike Calabrese to open.  I’m quite intrigued by guitarist Mike “McDuck” Olson who stands there quietly playing and looking at his guitar neck the whole show.

“Making Do” ends the set and I found that I liked it best.  It’s a little faster, more upbeat and while I don’t like the verses that much I like the way the song bounces into the chorus melody which is pretty tasty,

So I guess there will be a few songs from them that I like.  And that’s okay.

[READ: February 15, 2021] Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo

I didn’t love Book 1 of this series, but I had Book 2 already.  And when I heard it’s supposed to be a trilogy, I figured, oh why not finish it.

The first book doesn’t really come into play so much–mostly via some amusing cameos.  Rather, our heroes are on the road, continuing their quest for Epoli and Rickety’s identity.  But as it starts out we see them caught in a tree trap, hanging upside down. How does a goo get caught in a rope trap?  No idea.

They fail to escape and then the Bogril junkman from book one happens upon them.  Rickety is excited, but the Bogril doesn’t remember them at all.  Nonetheless he is wiling to trade for their freedom.  They try to follow him, but he is too fast and soon Rickety is captured by The Kobold Witch of Murbletoad Marsh.

She wants to use parts of him to bring her beloved pet back to life.  But Shnookles comes back as a much bigger and scarier creature than she intended.  And now he speaks for the Gloom King, telling Rickety that the Gloom King will come for him soon enough.

Since Rickety was taken apart, he attached other bones that were lying around to himself.  Turns out the arm he attached is a master digger. This comes in handy in a few places later. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ChocoQuibTown-Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK: #204/196 (May 2, 2021).

Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK was the opening event of AFROPUNK’s “Black Spring” festival. The virtual celebration, hosted by Jorge “Gitoo” Wright, highlighted outstanding talent in Afro-Latin and Afro-Caribbean music across the globe. Our showcase featured four artists who honored their homes and celebrated the art their heritage has inspired.

 ChocQuibTown–named after the coastal area the trio hails from–is a family affair comprised of siblings Miguel “Slow” Martinez and Gloria “Goyo” Martinez, the latter of which is married to Carlos “Tostao” Valencia. In 2000, the trio formed to promote their neglected corner of Colombia’s culture; today, ChocQuibTown’s music blends the traditionality of Afro-Latin jazz with the modernity of hip-hop to create a singular, yet versatile sound.

They play what I assume is a medley of six songs in fifteen minutes.

“Somos Pacífico” has grooving bass from Braulio Fernández and little horn blasts from José González.

“De Donde Vengo Yo” shifts gears when Tostao starts singing lead the repeated “ah has” from Eignar Renteria and Yaima Saurez are very fun.  Goyo raps and then Slow raps.  Rapping in Spanish has a really nice flow.

“¡Tú sabes!” Carlos “Tostao” Valencia exclaims after Colombian hip-hop trio ChocQuibTown performs its second song, the energetic “De Donde Vengo Yo.” “ChocQuibTown, straight from Colombia, from the Pacific coast,” he says. “We call it Africa inside Colombia, we got the flavor, we got the flow.”

The rest of the songs are much quieter.  “Pa Olvidarte” has soft acoustic guitar from Alejandro García and keys from Daniel Rodríguez “Noize.”  They sing softly in nice harmony.

“Qué Lástima” is another slow ballad, this one sung by Slow, with gentle percussion from Carlos Palm.  “Lo Que Quieras Tú” segues smoothly into “Cuando Te Veo” which is a little bouncier and fun to start but it slows down for Goyo’s vocals.  As the send the song out, Tostao does some sound effects scratching and singing Tiny Desk and blapping.

[READ May 30, 2021] Red Sonja and Vampirella Meet Betty and Veronica

I don’t understand crossovers.  Well, I understand some, when they make sense.  It’s ones like this that I don’t understand.  Did someone just say, Wouldn’t it be cool if Red Sonja and Vampirella teamed up and went to Riverdale?  I guess so.  And sometimes the most ridiculous crossovers make the best stories.

Amy Chu wrote this story with Alexander Chang’s assistance on book 5.

Now, I don’t watch Riverdale, but I know the show.  So obviously this isn’t old school Betty and Veronica.  But neither, I don’t think, is it Riverdale-based either (or maybe it is).  I’ve also never read Red Sonja or Vampirella books.  So really this crossover event is not for me.

And yet, I did enjoy it.

The book opens with a teacher getting killed and then a shot of Red Sonja and Vampirella in the woods.  Now, I realize that these two characters were created by men, and that’s why they are dressed as they are.   Red Sonja could not be dressed more impractically for fighting as she is wearing a hooded cape and a chain mail bikini.  I mean, the absurdity of dressing like that for combat is monumental.  The cape alone would cause her no end of grief.  Vampirella is at least wearing clothes–a cleavage enhancing skin tight tank top and super low cut off jeans.  But hey, she’s a seductress, right?

I guess I was surprised that Amy and artist Maria Laura Sanapo would keep these costumes. But they do need to establish the characters traditionally first, right?  It was a nice surprise when a few pages later, Betty & Veronica (who aren’t at all disturbed by a woman in a chain mail bikini with a large sword) invite them over and dress them in regular clothes (still sexy) so they blend in. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD plays Nothingface (streamed May 31, 2021).

When I saw Voivod a few years ago, I was delighted with how good they sounded.  I only wished they’d played a few more songs from my favorite album of theirs, Nothingface.

Well, here it is, mid lockdown and the Voivod guys have answered my request.  They are going to play the entire Nothingface album live.

Over two days in May they recorded the entire album live–an album that all four of them had to learn all over again.  Some songs they had never played live.  And, of course two of the guys were not in the ban when Nothingface came out.   Indeed, bassist Rocky was only 15 and guitarist Chewy was only 13 when the album was released.  [It’s not that weird, singer Snake was about 25 at the time].

It could have been a disaster (but they wouldn’t have aired it, I’m sure).  But if you’re going to replace a unique composer like Piggy, who better to use than the kid who has been a fan of Piggy since he was 13?  Chewy gets Piggy and has even written tab books for all of Voivod’s albums–showing all of the complex and bizarre stuff that Piggy created.  Rocky actually acknowledged Chewy’s books as what helped him to learn the songs (even though he played the album every day for a year when it came out).

They did not play this in front of people.  Rather, they played in a studio.  But director Catherine Deslauriers designed the studio to project images behind the band as they played. It doesn’t feel quite like a Voivod show since they interact with the audience so much, but it feels very live.

From the opening chord of “The Unknown Knows,” this show was amazing.  The sound was fantastic–I was especially impressed with how great the drums sounded.  I don’t think I ever realized what a beast Away was on the kit.  Rocky’s bass sounded awesome and Chewy’s guitar parts were spot on.  Snake’s vocals sound pretty good too considering he’s thirty years older.  His voice is unique in metal–that thick accent and slight growl–and it’s all in place.  When Chewy hit that screaming bent note and the song paused then jumped into the next part, it was magical.  And when Chewy played those crazy chords in the section after it I knew the whole thing would be great.  Oh, and Rocky’s bass sound during the end part was perfect.

The only thing was that they didn’t play the coda to the song, but really, that’s quite alright.  They had to move on to “Nothingface.”  The jump from the angular sharp parts to the catchy “lapse of time/syncho-freeze” is just so good.  An I really enjoyed watched Snake sing the “Cold cold choke cold” part.

Before “Astronomy Domine, there was a brief interview with Snake.  He talks about how he didn’t want to do a cover, especially someone as big a Pink Floyd.  He also jokes about how hard it was to learn the harmonies–it was like Spinal Tap. But Piggy knew what he was doing.

And the harmonies with the new guys sound perfect.  They had been playing this on the tour that I saw them, but my show was a little shorter because it was three bands so they didn’t play it.

It segues perfectly in the opening bass notes of “Missing Sequence.”  It’s a cool slow moody intro before snake shouts NOW!  The harmonies on this song are so good and the way it jumps from this chugging heavy part to the staccato “down down, far underground” is tremendous.  Away’s alternating double bass is a great component.  There’s another great place for Rocky’s bass to sound fantastic.

Rocky speaks before “X-Ray Mirror.”  He speaks only in French and talks about seeing the Nothingface tour when he was 15 and just loving it.  He even took a promotional poster and had Snake sign it years later when they met.

I love the jazzy riff in the middle of the song and the thrashing double bass drum–Away’s drumming is just outstanding in this song.  Followed by the resolutely King Crimson chords  and the great fast thrashing section with the funky bass line and the wild solo

“Inner Combustion” has a striking ascending guitar riff that leads to the heavier section of the song. The distinctive snare blasts between each verse is such a distinctive aspect.

Chewy interviews before “Pre-Ignition” and he talks about how the album was the soundtrack to his teenage years.  He was 13 for this, his first show.  He was shorter than everyone but pushed forward and stood by the speakers until he got pushed back by the mosh pit.  he also mentions a launch party that aired on Solidrock.

Chewy studied contemporary composers in a course.  He was listening to a song and said “woah Stravinsky stole something from Voivod.”  Strange chords and time changes.  There’s even middle eastern harmonic minors.   Those orchestral guitar parts are so cool and very dramatic.  There’s really harsh chords and Away going nuts on the drums.   I always like the vaguely Middle Eastern part “ground and rock and sand come crumbling tumbling down.”

Away introduces “Into My Hypercube.”  He says whenever we go on tour I like to buy scientific magazines to read on the road.  In the 80s it was Omni and Discover.  He came upon an article about scientists representing visually a cube in 9 dimensions.  He and Snake had a chat trying to imagine living in a hypercube in a 9 dimensional building and he wrote these lyrics.

Away says that this song reminds him of “Remember Tomorrow” from Iron Maiden–his favorite metal album.

You can hear that in the slow echoing bass opening.   I love the way it goes angular and harsh and segues perfectly into the more catchy mosh part followed by a really heavy pounding section before a ripping guitar solo.  And once again Rocky’s great bass sound ends the song.

The show ends with “Sub-Effect” a song that builds dramatically into a pounding bridge and has a complicated riff that jumps into the “too late for SOS” funky bass and unusual guitar melody.  The show fades to black on yet another of Piggy’s bizarre but wonderful chords.

In a couple of weeks they are playing all of Dimension Hatross, and album I don’t know as well.  Bu I have time to learn it.

[READ: May 30, 2021] Redfork

I had just read a couple of violent and bloody graphic novels when I picked up this one.  The cover alone is pretty gruesome.  And I thought, what is it with stories that need to be so gory?  I don’t have an answer for that.

Then the story opens on a couple of hicks trying to steal drugs from the doctor’s office.  I have little time for stories of meth addicts, so that combined with the gore, meant that this story had a long way to go to engage me.

And yet it did.

Because it went places I never would have expected.

When the two boys were stealing drugs, the doctor walked in on them and one of the boys got scared and killed him.  The story jumps to six years later when Noah is getting out of prison.  He is huge–been working out the whole time, clearly.  His best friend D-Ray is there to pick him up.

I don’t know who storyboarded this book.  Maybe it artist Nil Vendrell, but he did some really cool things.  I love on one of the early pages as they are driving back home, the car stays in the middle of the frame but the scenes change around it and in the white borders there’s random townsfolk–showing everything Noah sees.  It’s very effective.

As is a later page that runs clockwise–counter to all graphic novel reading.  But it’s done with such a great purpose and effectively conveys a moment of two people at a distance from each other. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKBARTEES STRANGE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #172 (February 22, 2021). 

WXPN has been playing the song “Boomer” a lot.  I really like it–it’s super catchy and fun.  I hadn’t heard anything else by him, so I was delighted to see he had a Tiny Desk Concert.

Bartees Strange and his band are in a basement, surrounded by electrical wiring and DIY sound-proofing, but also green plants that no doubt have names. In Falls Church, Va., the indie rocker is a stone’s throw from the much-missed Tiny Desk space in D.C., yet offers a set just as cozy and crammed.

And he starts it right off with “Boomer” which is just so catchy, with that slinky bass line from John Daise and that outrageously catchy chorus.  Dan Kleederman plays the guitar leads throughout while keyboardist Graham Richman plays rhythm.

The rest of his set proves that musically he is open to anything:

hip-hop bombast meets sprawling indie-rock riffs and mind-numbing electronic beats. “Sonically it doesn’t make sense,” Bartees Strange told NPR Music, “but it makes sense because it’s me and I think that’s like an important part of music – the person.”

For “Mustang” Richman hands Bartees his guitar and plays keyboard instead.  He says that Mustang is about where he grew up–Mustang, Oklahoma.  This time Bartees plays the pretty guitar riffs and Kleeederman adds slide guitar.

For his Tiny Desk, Bartees Strange keeps the bluesy rock and roll bravado of “Boomer” and the loping smooveness of “Mustang,” stripping down the drum kit to include a sheet music stand as an extra cymbal.

He answers the question of what has inspired him this year by saying he has been trying not not to pay too much attention to the transition, so he’s been focusing on music.  He loves Yves Tumor’s Heaven for a Tortured Mind. And Aaron Dessner for being the Indie rock Michael Jordan.

It’s in the back half where Bartees Strange does the switch-up, as “In A Cab” flows seamlessly into “Flagey God.” On record, these are louder and noisier songs that explore very different sides of his 20-sided die, but here, they become laid-back jazz club jams, deceptive in their ease, but beautifully ornate as the arrangements open up to his world.

“In A Cab” opens with a quiet but cool drum pattern from Carter Zumtobel and a sweet combination of guitar lines.  It segues quietly into “Flagey God” a more mellow song that has a great catchy guitar riff.

I’m going to have to check out the whole album.

[READ: April 15, 2021] Under the Pendulum Sun

I’m not sure how I heard about this book, but I saw a rave review and it inspired me to actually buy the book, sight unseen.  I didn’t realize the book was put out by Angry Robot, a publisher I have been recently introduced to and which publishes esoteric and unusual fiction, that seems to have a religious aspect.

So this fit right in.

This is a long book and it is written in an old style–slightly formal with lots of biblical components.  The writing at times felt stiff, but not unreadable.  And, this is the weirdest part, I simultaneously felt like the book was moving too slow and yet I felt like I was flying through the chapters.

Each chapter opens with an epigram.  Most of them are fictitious but there are some from real authors and these may or may not be real quotes.

The book opens with Catherine Helstone talking about how she and her brother Laon (how in the heck do you say that?  It plagued me for the whole book) grew up fantasizing about new worlds.  But neither one of the ever fantasized about Arcadia, the land of the Fae.

Now that they are older, her brother has left for Arcadia to become a Christian missionary–to convert the souls of the Fae–if they can even be converted.  Several years later, Catherine has now set off to find him.  She has a ship and his compass in hand. But the key to reaching Arcadia is to get hopelessly lost and then the entrance will appear.

Neat. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GIVĒON–Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #166 (January 28, 2021).

GIVĒON is a pretty classic R&B crooner.  He seems pretty grateful to have gotten where he is.

“Just bear with me while I just enjoy this and soak in it,” GIVĒON admits with a laugh.

He plays three songs.

“The Beach” opens with gentle guitar chords from James Murray and a slow bass line from Ivan Chatman.  Then GIVĒON and RaVaughn Brown sing together.

After the song, he says he’s pretty excited to play in February.

“Any moment to do this would be special,” he says between songs, “but I think Black History Month … just celebrating Black culture for this month, I’m really excited to get to do this on this platform.”

He also notes that he is a Pisces.  “Pisces are emotional, maybe that’s why I make songs like this.”  “Like I Want You” opens with a simple drum intro from Andre Montgomery and a slow bass line.  Deondre Ellis plays a keyboard melody that matches the vocal melody at the beginning each line–it’s a nice touch.  Murray plays a pretty ripping guitar solo, too.

Before the final song, “Stuck on You,” he says, “I can’t wait to watch this with my mom and see what she thinks because she likes to nitpick sometimes.”  It’s a bit of a faster song and when there’s about a minute left, GIVĒON walks off to let the band jam out the set.  The mark of an old school singer already.

[READ: February 20, 2021] Goliath

The final book of this trilogy was as exciting as the rest of the series.

Everyone is back aboard the Leviathan and they are heading toward the Arctic.  They have an exciting and dangerous mission up ahead–they are going to lower Leviathan as low as she can go so that they can retrieve some cargo from the back of a polar bear beastie.

Deryn and Newkirk are on a small platform swinging madly through the air as they try to secure this very large parcel from the back of a moving bear.  It’s something that’s been done before, but never with something this large (usually just mail bags).  This is a massive time saver, but if they miss, it means a several hours before they can turn around an try again.

The package is a huge amount of supplies both for the Leviathan and for the special guest who they are going to meet in the Wilderness. Things don’t go as smoothly as promised because the package weighs more than was promised–the danger is pretty great and the scene is very exciting.

When they open up the packages in the ships hold, they discover that in addition to the various supplies there is a massive Clanker gadget that needs assembling.  It is good that Alek and his men are on board to help assemble the Clanker contraption.  He’s also happy to have gainful employ for a time–it’s the happiest he’s been in a while.

The device proves to be a portable metal detector–a powerful one designed to be used almost like a giant magnet. But there’s no explanation for why it’s here.

The ship continues on its mission further up towards Greenland.  Then the watchman sends a message: Trees All Down Ahead.  It doesn’t make sense until they see a clearing up ahead and indeed all of the trees are destroyed–knocked over as of by the world’s largest hurricane. Worse yet, there are gigantic bones littering the place–as if a whale beastie was eaten. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKFUTURE ISLANDS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #158 (January 25, 2021).

I’m not a huge fan of Future Islands.  I like some of their songs, and I think singer Sam Herring’s voice is really interesting.  The biggest thing I remember about them is NPR’s fascination with singer Sam herring’s dancing.  Herring does some dancing here, but saves most of it until the final song.

Future Islands’ four members are gathered not too far from their Baltimore base in Carroll Baldwin Memorial Hall, sans desk. “We lost the desk,” singer Sam Herring tells us with a smile. With drummer Michael Lowry on the tiny stage, the rest of the band — including bassist William Cashion and Gerrit Welmers on electronics — took to the floor, allowing Sam Herring to make his moves and sing his heart out. This music is clearly for the head and the feet.

The first three songs are from

their sixth and very recent album, As Long As You Are. 

“Hit the Coast” is an upbeat song musically.  The notable thing about Future Islands is that their music is primarily keyboard based, but there’s something about having a bassist that brings an organic element to the music.

Along with themes of loneliness and love, we also hear songs about race, which is most evident in “The Painter,” a song about how we can all look at the same thing and see it so differently.

He continues, “Art is subjective but they way we think about people and the way we treat human lives shouldn’t be.”

My favorite part of this very precise song comes mid-song when Cashion scratches up the strings a bit to add some chaotic distortion.

“Thrill” is set in Greenville NC on the banks of the great greasy Tar River.  It’s about feeling isolated in your society, about self-isolating through substance abuse and about continuing to push forward as all the seething bubbles up inside of you like the great river.  It is a slow and moody song and yo can tell that its very personal to Herring.

We end with a song that came out shortly after visiting NPR in 2011 [Oh man, I miss my hair] called “Balance.” It’s one of those tunes that feels repurposed for the 2020s: “This is a song for anybody who’s struggling through their lives,” Sam Herring says, “and I know there are a lot of you all out there, just trying to get by, but it’s going to take a little bit more time.”

This is a fun dance song–the kind of earlier, faster song that I like from them.  Herring lets his dance shoes lose, with some impressive and wild moves.

[READ: March 1, 2021] Behemoth

Book two of this series was longer and more dangerous–as a sequel should be.

As this book opens, everyone is on board the Leviathan having just sailed to safety.   Alek is showing Deryn how to fence.  She is impatient and has no technical skill.  But it’s nice for her to be with Alek (who Deryn has admitted to herself that she fancies) and it’s nicer that he is saying things like “we” when he talks about the Leviathan.

But soon they see some enemy ships.  The ships look in bad shape and the Leviathan looks poised to destroy them.  Until one of them fires up what they learn is a Tesla tower–a generator that can shoot lightning across great distances.  No one has ever seen one before.  But Alek’s men piece together what it is.  Since they are the only ones who know how to fly Clanker engines, they are in charge of propulsion.  And they disobey orders by bringing the ship to a halt.  The Leviathan, being sentient, also senses what’s going on and starts to concur with the decision.

But disobeying orders is mutiny (except that Alek’s men aren’t technically part of the crew so they can’t be punished).

The Tesla cannon fires and grazes the Leviathan.  It doesn’t puncture the ship (it could literally blow it up if it got to any of the hydrogen), but it does mess with everything electrical.  It also leaves one of the men stranded on a Huxley–essentially electrocuted.

Deryn takes it into her hands to save her mate in an exciting an daring rescue. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKNORA BROWN-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #136/148 (January 14, 2021).

Nora BrownGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The third artist of the fourth and final night is fifteen year old banjo player Nora Brown.  Nora was born and bred in Brooklyn, but she has a huge affinity for Appalachian banjo music.

30 feet below the surface in Brooklyn, 10th grader Nora Brown brings incredible, surprising depth to the Appalachian music she plays. Over the course of her Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST concert, surrounded by innumerable globes and instruments, she infuses new life and energy into the traditional songs of Addie Graham, Virgil Anderson and Fred Cockerham. Nora weaves together songs and storytelling, speaking of the great history of the music that came before her and at which she excels.

Nor plays three songs. “The Very Day I’m Gone” is an Addie Graham song.  Graham was a singer from eastern Kentucky.  It is a slow piece that is primarily a bass riff with some high notes and very soft singing.

Her dad made the banjo she is playing.  As the song ends you can hear the shuttle train that runs back and forth about every seven minutes.

Nora has her school stuff on her tiny desk, since she’s been doing remote school learning.  And she’s a high school student which means she ends her sentences with, “So yeah”

“Miner’s Dream” is a Virgil Anderson tune.  He is from the Kentucky/Tennessee border and brought a bluesy touch to his banjo playing.  This one is a faster instrumental played on a snake head Gibson banjo, the bowl of which is over 100 years old.

“Little Satchel” is by Fred Cockerham.  The banjo she is playing is from John Cohen’s of the New Lost City Ramblers.   Roscoe Halcomb would use it when touring with John.  John recently passed away and the banjo is on its way to the Library of Congress.   The song has fast playing with a cool lyrical melody.  It’s my favorite of the three.

[READ: February 10, 2021] 5 Worlds Book 4

I had actually forgotten about this series, and was quite happy to see this book at the library.  This is book 4 of 5 (5 due out in May).

The book does a nice job of bringing us back up to speed in the first few pages–reintroducing everyone and reminding us what is going on.

Of all the books, this one was the most straightforward.  There’s not a lot of travels and we understand most of what’s going on by now.

Oona, Jax, An Tzu and Ram Sam Sam land on planet Ambrine in the town of Salassanra (where Ram Sam Sam is from).  They receive a mixed welcome.  Since they have lit 3 beacons things have not been great on all the worlds.  (The task is not completed, and the process is a little rocky).  Oona is met with some hostility although the planet people love her (she brought water to them after all).

But this task (to light the fourth (amber) beacon) seems pretty easy. The beacon is in a pyramid.  It’s right in front of them and they meet little resistance.  As Oona begins to dance she realizes this beacon is encrusted in indestructible amber.  She can’t break it, but old runes pop up and most likely lead to a clue. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-3rd Annual Green Sprouts Music Week Night 4 (Ultrasound Showbar, Toronto Ontario September 21 1995).

Darrin at Rheostatics Live added a number of new shows in the last eight months.  Like this full week of shows from the Third Green Sprouts Music Week

Fourth night of the third annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar September 18-23 1995. Never Forget makes its live debut and Farm Fresh and Tyler Stewart of Barenaked Ladies joins the band for Soul Glue. The 16 minute Digital Beach/Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald/You Are Very Star ending is amazing. The band also talks about “Raise A Little Elf” which would be noted on The Blue Hysteria and several other albums.

This is the first of the shows in which the audience is really obnoxious.  It gets worse later on.  I’m not sure why they get picked up so clearly on the mic, but it ruins some of the songs.

Many of the shows opens quietly, but this one opens with a raw “Feed Yourself” with some different words.  The guys are still figuring out the ending.

There’s a really noisy guy who shouts “sit down!” [This is a big thing tonight].  Tim: I’m not getting involved in that.

They play “All the Same Eyes” which I wouldn’t call the most rocking song in their catalog, but Martin says “we’re not normally this rock n rolly.”  Dave: Only on Thursday.  Only on St. Swithin’s day.  Only on my grandpa’s birthday.

They play “an old song,” it’s “Fishtailin'” and the crowd is stupidly loud during the quiet parts.

Up next is “Four Little Songs.”  There’s a long intro, but they get it right.  During Dave’s part he asks them to play the intro twice and he says Bono’s (?) kitchen.  But by the end, they can’t get the counting part right so they ask the audience to help and they do great.

These songs are “aged like sharp cheese which is what Rheostatics means in Latin.”

Dave finally addresses the shouters: you’re not gonna shout out sit down still are you?  They’re obviously not going to sit down and stuff.  Don: They’re talking to you, Dave, they want you to sit down.

Dave says his “day band” The Medicores” playing tomorrow at Lee’s Palace.  It’s a food bank benefit  Don will be at a benefit on Sunday with the coolest band in the area, Don’t Talk, Dance (a group with Tyler Stewart and others).

Last night was a weird night–felt the ghost of Trooper.  We even broke into “Raise a Little Elf.”  The story behind that is that when Andrew was very young he thought that the Trooper song “Raise a Little Hell” was “raise a little elf.”  He didn’t find out until …1992!  So naive.  He’s Mennonite.  Mennonites believe in elves.

Up next is Tim’s new song “Connecting Flights,” which Martin says is called “Two Flights of Stairs.”

You hear the guy shout “sit down asshole.” Thankfully before the song starts.

Presumably to damp down the jerks, they play their happy theme song (“Introducing Happiness”).  He says they plan to play it at the Grey Cup and the Governor Generals Inauguration (cheers). You like the Governor General? Weird crowd.

Up next is “Claire,” the only time they played it this week.  This time it features a guitar “duel” between Martin and Tim.  Tim obviously loses.  he even messes up his simple part and has to play it twice.  Dave says that the song is from the movie Whale Music which is coming out in the States on October 6 at a place in Santa Monica.

Next up is a brand new, never performed song sung by Don kerr called “Never Forget.”  There’s so much talking during it I can’t believe it.

Dave tells a funny, lengthy story about riding his bike and getting honked at by girls in a van.  He tells them Mississauga’s that way (a burn on Don Kerr).  The punch line is them telling him to “go back to England.”  You know what happens when Italians are mistaken for English….

Don says that if you’re riding a bike in Mississauga, you’ve got to  watch for people in vans with baseball bats.  Their TVs break and they have nothing to do.

A great sounding “Fat” has a rocking ending (Dave reveals that the gum that’s tough to chew was Dubble Bubble).  Farm Fresh gets the shout out in “Fan Letter” And then Martin introduces the next song which is “about working in a gas station.”  Dave: It’s not the ‘Summer of ’69’ is it?  But seriously, who talks through “Self Service Gas Station?”

Then there is clapping for the “contest winner.”  The “play drums on your birthday with the Rheostatics” contest.  It’s Tyler Stewart.  Give him a shot at the big time.

Dave asks about an “eat Kraft dinner with BNL contest” in which the bnl were too busy to eat with th eguys and so there were cardboard cutouts.  Tyler: is that some sorta CHOP?

They got to eat with Tyler’s double: Tarzan Dan.
Tim’s double is Henry Rollins
Dave’s double is Telly Savalas
Martin’s double is Starsky Michael Paul Glaser
Don’s double (courtesy of Janet Morassutti) Richard Manual from The Band.
The guitar tech’s double is William Baldwin–at least you didn’t say Ed Begley, Jnr.

Tyler plays a beat for Farm Fresh.  It’s a wild introduction to “Soul Glue.”  There’s so much cursing!  Whaddya think of Farm Fresh/Rheostatics/Barenaked Ladies  “They suck!”  Tyler also does a rap and then describes “Soul Glue” as a “song about LSD.”  It’s a bit slower, but sounds cool.  When Tim sings the “reapt that mistake” Tyler shots “sorry!” and after the “in the ground” Tyler adds “in the ground, in the ground, in the muthafuckin ground.”

Dave encourages everyone to join the Green Sprouts Music Club if you can.

The encore is “Digital Beach.”  There’s some shushing as Martin starts.  It segues into a slow, powerful “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  The song is fantastic–the loud parts are really overwhelming. Then as the song ends and Tim reprises the slow part some some jackass shouts out “Gordon Lightfoot!” which totally ruins the moment.  Jesus.  Dave threw in an “I wish I was back home in Derry” which I thought was something he did much later.

After atmospheric jamming at the end of the song, it ends with a lovely (uninterrupted) “You Are Very Star.”

I hate that these drunken people can ruin quiet moments because otherwise this show is fantastic.

[READ: February 20, 2021] School for Extraterrestrial Girls

The title of this book sounded pretty good and when I saw that it was written by Jeremy Whitley who did the wonderful Princeless I was ready to read it.  I don’t know Jamie Noguchi but he has illustrated Erfworld.

Princeless was a YA book and this series is aimed a little younger.  It starts with Tara Smith, a normal girl going to a normal school.  Well, not that normal.  She doesn’t really have any friends. She just puts her head down and gets good grades.  Her parents are pretty intense.  And they are very busy.  So much so that she never really sees them in the morning.  They give her her daily meds (she has serious allergies) and trust that she will catch the bus (which she always does).

When she gets home they go over her homework, make her do everything that she got wrong over and over again and then tell her to study for tomorrow.   The only free time she has is when she takes out the garbage.

Then one morning she wakes up late. A power failure has messed up her alarm.  In her haste to get to school, she drops her meds and breaks a special bracelet that her parents gave her.  Today she can’t take the mean kids on the bus.  She yells at them and her eyes glow red, which gets everyone to back up.  Later in class, as she is writing on the board, her hand catches fire.  And then her whole body does. (more…)

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