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Archive for the ‘The Bible’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ZAKI IBRAHIM-Live at Massey Hall (March 27, 2015).

I had never heard of Zaki Ibrahim before this and from the pictures, I rather thought she would be kind of an opera singer.  She is pretty much everything but.

Born in British Columbia to a father from South Africa and a mother from the United Kingdom, Ibrahim spent her childhood as what she describes as a “citizen of the world”, living at different times in Canada.

This show starts out differently than the others–no interview just her getting her make up done and warming up with her backing singers.

Then she comes out to the theater and sings…in French!  I believe it is the song “Lost in You” (for some reason they don’t show the names of the songs for her).  It’s moody and quite lovely.  After some vocals scatting big drums propel the song half way through to really rock out.

She talks about feeling vulnerable on stage and how important that is for the energy exchange between fans and artist.

The next song is on piano with quiet drums, the singers repeat “I Just Need You Here.”

After this song, the band plays around with some sounds, manipulating it with gadgets and slides and whatnot and there are some vocals by Waleed Abdulhamid.  While that is going on, she comes out in  new outfit and as “Something in the Water” starts she is playing the theremin! and an electronic drum pad.  They seem to be singing “We Fly Home.”

It’s great that these Massey Hall shows have picked so many good artists to showcase.

[READ: June 2, 2018] “Anyone Can Milk a Rubber Glove”

This issue of the New Yorker had a section entitled “Parenting.”  Five authors tell a story about their own parents.  Since each author had a very different upbringing the comparison and contrasting of the stories is really interesting.

Jeanette Winterson describes milking a rubber glove: fill it with warm water, put your index finger and thumb two inches above the teat. The other three fingers squeeze the udder firmly but placidly–it’s like playing the recorder.

Why would anyone do this?  Well she did it for training how to milk a goat.  She was nine or ten when they got the goat.  The goat was named Gracie Fields (after a war-time music hall star).  The war had been over for twenty-five years but her parents still talked about it.

Her mother was deeply religious and read the Bible front to back and started over again.  S also liked singing and believed the goat milked better is you sang to her.  The songs had to be the right kind of downer hymns because goats don’t like to be too cheerful. Unlike sheep, goats are thinkers, but goats are going to Hell while sheep are going with Jesus.

Jeanette’s first time milking Gracie didn’t go very well.  Even with her mother singing “Have You Any Room for Jesus?”

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SOUNDTRACK: KING CRIMSON-The Elements Of King Crimson – 2014 Tour Box (2014).

When King Crimson reunited in 2013, they prepared to tour as a seven piece behemoth the following year.  There would be three drummers, two guitarists, bass and horns.

And they were totally reinvigorated.

To celebrate this tour, Fripp and his minions created this Elements Tour Box, a 2 -disc set dedicated to displaying the elements that made up the band from the beginning until now.  It was made up of alternate takes, excerpt (lots of excerpts), live recordings and rehearsals from the entirety of the Crimson canon, including some of the 2014 shows.

It is a treasure trove for Crimson fanatics.  But it is also an excellent resource for anyone looking to explore the Crimson underworld without buying $150 boxsets.

The discs follow a vaguely chronological overview, starting in 1969 and moving on through 2008.  But there are 2014 takes of old songs thrown in as well–some sound better than others, but overall the quality is quite good.

The first disc covers 1969-1974.  It opens with
“Wind Extract,” which is the sound of Fripp’s mellotron being turned on back in 1969.
“I Talk To The Wind” is an instrumental version of the second song on ITCOTCK.  Purists will be able to tell how many things are different between this version and the actually-released product, but in a nutshell, this is the album version with no vocals.  It’s really interesting to focus just on the music and not the words for a change.  The song is quite pretty, with lots of flute.

“Cadence and Cascade” is from In the Wake of Poseidon and no one involved in the recording remembered Greg Lake singing a version of it.  Guest vocalist Gordon Haskell sang the album version.  Then someone recently found this “guide vocal” version of Lake singing it for apparently the first and only time.

The boxes often contain brief excerpts like this one–fifteen seconds of Fripp’s classical sounding guitars from “Cirkus.”  This is kind of an acoustic bridge before we hear the full song recorded in 1971 on the Lizard tour.  This song in particular sounds very dated live and the middle “circus sounds” sections are 70s crazy.
“Hoodoo (extract)” is a 2014 rehearsal that’s all of 20 seconds which segues into a raucous recording of Fripp playing a wild guitar solo for “Sailor’s Tale.”  It’s wild and really shows Fripp throwing everything he can at the song.
“The Talking Drum” is an early alternate mix which sounds great to me.  It gets really crazy by the end.

The “Lark’s Tongues in Aspect I” excerpt is from 2014 and is just Mel’s flute for 2 minutes.  It’s followed by a 1972 extract that’s just violin and dulcimer and harp.

This turns into a great new mix of the 11 minute “Fracture.”
After a minute of gorgeous harmonics by Fripp from “Fallen Angel,” we get a full, gorgeous 6-minute instrumental version of the song.  Because Crimson songs are so complicated and so carefully constructed, they are one of the few bands whose songs can have lyrics removed without them falling flat.
There’s a weird-sounding version of “21st Century Schizoid Man” from 1974, which sounds so very mid-70s in the recording style.  It seems somewhat slapdash compared to the utter tightness of the 2014 band.  The disc ends with Mark Charig’s cornet recording for the end of “Starless.”  On the proper release they use Mel Collin’s saxophone, but the cornet sounds delightful.

Disc two covers 1981-2008.

  This is pretty much the Adrian Belew era.  Belew was not invited back for the new incarnation, so that’s a little awkward.

It begins with an alternate take of the instrumental “Discipline.”  After a 45 second drum intermission, there’s a track called “Manhattan (Neurotica)” which is an instrumental version of “Neurotica.”  I love that the opening guitar sounds like sirens and car horns.
A minute and a half of the middle of “Neal and Jack and Me” is followed by the Steven Wilson mix of “Sleepless (Bearsville)” with an incredibly 80’s sounding slap bass from Tony Levin.

Then there’s a recording session of “Sex, Sleep, Eat, Drink, Dream.”  We hear lots of stops and starts, bass only, guitar parts and someone repeating “this is tough, tough shit.”
There’s a live version of “THRAK” followed by a minute of Fripp soloing around “Larks Tongue” called “Venturing Into Joy.”

This is followed by two tracks from Fripp’s side ProjeKcts,  “The Deception of the Thrush” is performed live by ProjeKct Four in 1998 with big thumping almost splatting-sounding drums.  Then there’s a trippy and ambient early version of “Heaven & Earth” by ProjeKct X.

After a scorching “Level Five” from 2008, there’s a minute long drum solo which would ultimately morph more fully into “The Hell-Hounds of Krim” and then two tracks from A Scarcity of Miracles.  “Separation” is an edited version of the bonus track (the disc label calls it something else).  And there’s an alternate take of “A Scarcity Of Miracles”–still long and a little too jazz-lite for me.

This is a really solid collection of all eras and styles of Crimson.  And it also showcases the various parts coming together.  A great production all along.

[READ: January 19, 2018] Monsters of the Ivy League

This book collects a series of Ivy League graduates and puts them in context with a they have a lot of support for all of their declarations.  Each entry gives a brief (biased) biography that highlights their flaws, outrages and downright unforgivable behavior.

So, rather than rewrite summaries of these assholes, I’ll present a grid with the shortcut (and some choice tidbits).  You can find the book and read the details for why our Ivy leagues have bred so many shitheads, including current miscreants:

Samuel Alito, Ben Carson, Ann Coulter, Ted Cruz, Laura Ingraham, Henry Kissinger, Dr. Oz, trump, and many more.

The introduction says that the term Ivy League refers to a bunch of football teams. (That’s why it says “league”).  The League was formed in 1954 to formalize the sporting relationship between eight teams: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Univ of Penn, Princeton and Yale.

Of course, no one goes to these schools for sports, they go to find the best future contacts for your budding careers.

But read this book and remember:

An ivy education doesn’t force you to become a hideous person, but it doesn’t necessarily prevent it, either.

What follows is a smart-shopper warning to those applying, a count-your-blessings consolation to those who have been rejected and a watch-your-back caution to those already attending.

(more…)

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[LISTENED TO: September 13, 2017] Believe Me

When I saw that Eddie Izzard had a book out I was pretty interested to read it.  I have loved his stand-up since 1997 or 1998 and I was lucky enough to see him on his Circle Tour (on the date they recorded it!).  I have been keeping up with his career and trying to see him in whatever he does (although I like my comedy more than drama and he has certainly made the shift towards drama in recent years).

I thought an autobiography or memoir by him would be pretty interesting (even if he claims to be boring).  But when I saw that he read the audiobook, I knew I had to give it a listen (even if it was 12 discs)!

Amusingly, there was a long delay at the library.  The lady at the counter (who is not the librarian–we librarians know the difference) said if I knew his voice, I could just read the book to myself in his voice.  It was an amusing thought, and I possibly could do that, ….yes, but Eddie’s voice is just so fantastic that it never would have worked properly.  Plus, he throws in easily an extra hours worth of footnotes and rambles that aren’t in the print book!  That’s right, an extra hour’s worth of nonsense if you do the audio.   True you don;t get to see the pictures, but it’s a fair trade-off.

Well the book finally came in and I had plenty of driving time to make short work of this 12 hours behemoth.  And I laughed and laughed.  And cried and cried.

Because while Eddie Izzard is an action transvestite (transgender, now) and one of the best stand-ups around, he is also an extremely warm and thoughtful person. He worked very hard to become the success he is.  And he has used his fame to do some absolutely wonderful things for humanity–including raising millions of dollars.  Not bad for an atheist who is sometimes in girl mode and sometimes in boy mode. (more…)

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instruct SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Record Body Rheos Day#6, Toronto, ON (November 12, 2001).

Sometimes you would go see Rheos and they would play a show packed with rarely played songs. This is one of those shows – The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos, SRBM, Onilley’s, Jesus Was Once A Teenager Too, Public Square, Halloween Eyes, Satan Is The Whistler, PROD, Martin’s First Day Of School, Home Again…a treasure trove for hardcore fans. This was night 6 of Winter Nationals 2001 aka Record Body Rheos.

This is the only show remaining in 2001.  It is also only the second show of this run available on RheostaticsLive.

The recording of this show is spectacular—loud and very clear soundboard recording.  It features Michael Phillip Wojewoda on drums–the band’s final drummer before their dissolution in 2007.

Dave as always is very chatty: “Is it the first night for a lot of you folks here?  Oh you’ve been here before?  Cool.  We mixed it up for you tonight.  We got a lot of stuff we haven’t played over the last 4 or 5 nights.

Mike says, “A lot of stuff I haven’t played.”  Apropos of nothing Martin says, “We’re going to play a new song called ‘Couscous.'”  [They don’t].

The show starts with “The Midnight Ride Of Red Dog Ray.”  I’d always assumed this song was by Stompin’ Tom, but in fact it was by Washboard Hank Fisher.  The songs sounds sounds big and full–much louder than other versions of this song.  Tim has lots of backing vocals: “riiiiide” “Raaaaaay.”  Dave rolls his rs in the last chorus.  It ends and Dave asks “That wasn’t too hard was it, Mike?”

Dave says, “we’ll stay in Ontario for this next number.”  It’s a nice, spare version of “Christopher.”  I like when Martin is singing “we used to take trips,” he plays the melody on the guitar the same notes.  And when he “setters” ‘trips’ a second time he plays the guitar note as well.  They have a really hard time with “The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos.”  They play it twice way too fast for Tim to sing.  The guitar in the beginning feels way too fast even if you don’t know the song.  Tim says, “Hey this is way too fast.”  Martin agrees: “Bit of a wrist twister.”  Tim: “I only go so fat.”  They try again, Martin slows down but the drums are the problem.  It’s pretty much the same tempo.  Then MPW gets it right and Tim does a good job—it’s still a pretty fast song.   During the end part they mess up that final riff, but they do manage it after another try.

Martin jokes: “The woods are full of caca” (chukcle).

Tim says, “Speaking of that band, Gordon Cummings’ new band Precious Little is playing with us this week.”  He asks when and Dave says “It’s in the paper, Tim.”  Tim: “‘I don’t subscribe to such things.”

A fan says something and Dave replies, “I’m not smoking.  My playing is pretty hot, but I’m not smoking, sir.”  He then tells a story about playing hockey at 2PM at the Annual Green Sprouts Game.  He says he normally wears full pads, but this time he wore pants and water got all over him–it looked like I peed myself.  Tim: “remember that gig in Victoria when you actually peed yourself?”  Dave says something about a toilet and then says “And you were drawing it in your sketchbook.”

Martin has his new robotic voice synthesizer and speaks “SUPERdifficult.”  It’s fun to hear this song after so much time in the mid-1990s.

Dave: “I sense that you are a loud crowd.  Sometimes smaller bodies of people should be louder”
Martin: “The example of the Belizian howler monkey–small body, loud sound.”
Dave: “Any howler monkeys here tonight?”

They thank the opening acts: Some Guy with a Guitar (is that the guy’s name or are they joking about who it is?  I can’t find anyone with that name).  And The Keep On Keepin’ Ons  they should lose that Dave Love guy he’s gonna destroy them if he doesn’t destroy himself.  [Can’t find anything out about him either].

Martin introduces “PIN”:  “This is a song about stuff that goes like this.”  But for “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine” Dave says, it’s a song from The Blue Hysteria which we recorded in 1996.”
Martin: “Really eh?  This is song about probiscis monkeys and how good they are at sweeming…swimming.”
When they start there’s a terrible flat note on bass.
Martin says, “No, no, its not gong to be that interesting.”
Dave: “I mean how many fucking songs do we have to have about proboscis monkeys who swim?  Shit.”
Tim: “Martin, can you stretch a little?”
Martin: “All my songs are about apes.”  Fan: “What about ‘That’s How They Do It in Warsaw’?”  Martin: “Polish apes.  It’s about a zoo I visited there in the elate 60s.  Zoos at the at the time, ooh la la.
Before this gets out of han Dave says “Let’s go capo monkey.”
When Martin gets to the “sweetest ass” part he chimes in: “all red and blue and such.”

When the song ends, Martin says “Archie” in Edith’s voice (why he is talking about All in the Family I have no idea).  Dave says, “All I could think of the tragedy in the towers.  (this show is just a couple months after 9/11) Archie Bunker lived in Queens and when they showed the footage of the plane wreckage all the houses looked like Archie Bunker’s house.”  Martin: “704 Hauser Street.”  Dave: “Alright Tim [Mech], atta boy.  Pretty good to have a guy feeding you lines in the wings.”
Tim: “No more monkey jokes, Tim.”
Martin: “Yeah, cool it on the ape shit.”

While they’re bantering, someone says, “That last song was really fucking good.  Dave: “Thank you, sir.”

This next song [“Mumbletypeg”] is dedicated to Tim’s tie.  Dave says that Night of the Shooting Stars is out in a couple weeks.  The album cover is a cross between Spinal Tap, Charlie’s Angel’s and Metallica’s black album.  And it sounds like a cross between those three things.
Martin: “Precisely.  With nothing else.”
Mike: “As a total marketing move the last night of our run here is the night of the shooting stars.  So everyone should go up north and watch the Leonids
Martin: “When does the meteor shower start, Mike?”
Mike: “Well 4 in the morning. Until the 18th”
Dave: “We should probably end the night with a processional chant of LEE-OH-NiD.”
Mike: “With flutes and a bus.”
Martin: “The flute bus!”
Dave: “The flute bus, I think The Medieval Babes have it.  They did beautiful older music but they added a sexy edge to it.”

They play another song from NotSS called “Reward”: “We’re gonna do a song we did last night but it didn’t turn out to good, so we’re going to try it again for you. No, No, for us.  For the greater good. We are true artists.”

“Oneilly’s Strange Dream” sounds so much like “Saskatchewan” in parts.   Those three harmonica notes before the solo are just like in “Claire.”  Dave seems to fill in on some of the words if Martin forgets them.  The end of the song has a really noisy section of chaotic chords and drums.  Martin ends the song with the lyrics from the first verse instead of the final verse.  Dave rescues the song and Martin finishes it.

Tim: All we did was smoke pot in the Bahamas when we recorded that album.  Sorry about that.

Dave tells a very long story about he Bahamas that is very funny (drinking, missing planes, throwing up).

This leads to a mellow, almost acoustic “Jesus.”  Martin messes up a lyric and Dave feeds him a line, so he continues.

Dave: “Pretty great fun for a Monday night for us.  We’re usually at home watching Golden Girls by this time.

They go all the way back to their debut album for “Public Square,” a song they didn’t even play that much back then.

Someone shouts “Halloween Eyes.”  Dave: Halloween has passed, ma’am.”  But they play it anyhow. Really goofy.  They don’t play it much at all: “Don’t look at me with your Halloween eyes.  Don’t hit me with your pumpkin pies.  Devils got horns devils got a tail.  666 gonna fuck you up.  Some even say that he’s got scales. 666 you’re a sitting duck.”  Dave: “They actually really were stones when they wrote that.”

This next song [Bad Time to be Poor] is dedicated to the retirement of Mike Harris [Harris was the 22nd Premier of Ontario from June 26, 1995 to April 14, 2002. He is most noted for the “Common Sense Revolution”, his Progressive Conservative government’s program of deficit reduction in combination with lower taxes and cuts to government spending].

“Satan is the Whistler” is sloppy but rocking with more of that robotic voice “he is the whistler.”

There’s an interesting surf guitar like opening to “Four Little Songs.”  The whole thing is crazy fun.  For Tim’s: “Lets go to France, beautiful France.”
I’m not sure who is singing Don’s part, but they stop “we should get these guy to sing that one.”

Huge creatures prowl the streets tonight
Moon and antlers set the sky alight

Martin: “These beast have antlers, perhaps they’re just moose.”  After the first attempt, Dave chides, “Wait that’s really terrible, hold on.”   They resume the middle part and then the audience sings along pretty well.  During the Neil Young part there’s some gentle jamming with funky bass from Tim.  Whoever sings it has a crazy voice.  They slow things down at the end for “and my brain goes….”  The sound goes slow and woozy.
When they stop that, Martin says, “This is the morning after” and they resume properly, except Dave sings “We drank all our beer and ate all our pizza.” at the end.  And then he introduces, “Drunk guy.  Drunk guy.  Thanks, Justin.”  Mike says, “Dave, I love it we your son gets up to sing with us.”

On his way out Martin says, “Rush never sleeps.”

Thanks to The Keep on Keepin’ Ons and the Poppy Salesman (this makes me think the guy with a guitar was Martin).

The encore starts with “CCYPA.”  Dave says this is the lead off track or the emphasis track about Canadian politics.  As the song ends, Martin says, “Pleased to meet ya.  Dave Love of Love Your Stuff Records.”

It’s followed by a wild “PROD.”  Dave: “Tim’s got the urge, we got the urge”  ….Tim gets a small bass solo.  Then “Let’s give the drums some space.” (a small solo).  And then they say goodbye.

They come back and Tim asks Martin for a few bars of “Martin’s First Day of School.”  “I’ve always liked that song.”  Martin: “The last time we played that was in 1992.”  Dave: “Not even.”

Martin: “Before the world changed.   Before the horrible events of Dave’s birthday.”  Dave’s birthday is September 11.  He said people were calling him up saying, “Dave, happy birthday.  What a tragic day, terrible day, your birthday.”

They end with “Home Again” from Harmelodia and then “Song of the Garden” which they re-recorded fro NotSS.

As they head out, Dave reminds everyone: Tomorrow’s free, so you got no excuse.  Tomorrow night: Precious Little at 9:30.  John Ford at 10: 25 and  Rheostatics later on.

[READ: June 30, 2016] The Instructions

I put off reading this book for six years.  And I see that I started to write about this over a year ago.

The book is massive!  (Category Thirteen even created a web page comparing the size of the book to other things).

It has been a major conversation piece.  I was reading it at the mechanics and an elderly lady and I wound up talking about books for 20 minutes because of it (she was reading Michael Chabon).

I had heard that even though it was big, it was not particularly challenging to read.  So while it is physically bigger than Infinite Jest (see the link above), it has about 40 fewer pages (and while it does have footnotes, there are not very many).

This story is all about Guiron ben-Jusah Maccabee, a ten-year old Israelite who may just be the next Messiah.

The book itself looks like a Bible (from the sheer size) and, indeed, as it opened we see that The Instructions were written by Guiron and translated and re-translated from the Hebrew and the English by Eliyahu of Brooklyn and Emmanuel Liebman.

Then there is a note from the publisher in 2013 (the book came out in 2010) saying that Guiron received no fanciable remuneration for his work, but money will go to the Scholars Fund.  Whether the U.S. Government “convicts, acquits, or fails to prosecute him for crimes relating to “The Damage Proper,” “the 11/17 Miracle,”: or any other event pertaining to “The Guironic War,” note that the Scholars Fund “in neither a terrorist organization nor a sponsor of terrorist organizations.”

That’s a pretty intense introduction.

The whole 1000 page book takes place in just a few days Starting November 14, 2006 (between second and third period).
Although the book is about Guiron, there are dozens of characters in the book–those who are “faithful” to Guiron and those who are not.

Benji Nakamook and Vincie Portite are his two closest allies.  They go to school with him at Aptakisic Junior High.  And they are all in The Cage.  The Cage is sort of a detention class–a high-security education experiment–the kids have all of their classes in this one room that has more security than any other room.

Guiron has been expelled from two other Jewish day schools.  In both instances he was considered brilliant and a genuine scholar but he was removed from both because of his violent tendencies.  And those violent tendencies are right up front.  As the book opens, Benji, Vince and Guiron are trying to waterboard each other. (more…)

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   SOUNDTRACK: WAXAHATCHEE-Tiny Desk Concert #321 (November 23, 2013).

Waxahatchee is pretty much Katie Crutchfield.  The band recently played a show near me and I wondered if it was a band or just her.

This might be as intimate as hearing Katie Crutchfield sing in her basement. That’s where she and her sister would play guitar, write and sing songs 10 years ago, when she was 14. Katie and Allison Crutchfield had a band back in Birmingham together, The Ackleys; these days, Katie performs as Waxahatchee, while Allison’s band is called Swearin’.

The songs Waxahatchee brought to the NPR Music offices aren’t just stripped down for this Tiny Desk Concert, this is Katie Crutchfield as Waxahatchee, spare and exposed; this is what she does. Sometimes there’s a drummer (her sister’s boyfriend Kyle Gilbride) and at other times another guitarist, her boyfriend Keith Spencer (both play in Swearin’), but even on Waxahatchee’s second album, Cerulean Salt, there are plenty of bare-boned songs. This is intimate music for an intimate setting, as we got to stand in careful silence, listening intently and capturing this frail and powerful performance.

And all of that is true.   These are pretty, quiet folk songs.  They are so quiet it almost seems like she doesn’t have her amp on—you can hear her pick striking against the strings.

To me the power of these songs is in the lyrics, and yet the music isn’t boring or simple either.  Her chords are always, if not interesting, then certainly spot on.  But I keep coming back to the lyrics.  Like the end of “I Think I Love You”

I want you so bad it’s devouring me / and I think I love you but you’ll never find out.

Her speaking voice is quiet too, and after the first song she admits, “This is one of the coolest things I have ever gotten to do.”

“Bathtub” has this wonderfully intense line:

And I tell you not to love me
But I still kiss you when I want to
And I lament, you’re innocent
But somehow the object of my discontent
And it’s fucked up, I let you in
Even though I’ve seen what can happen

The entire Tiny Desk Concert is only 9 minutes–which is simply too short.  I know that the Tiny Desk Concerts usually have bands play 3 songs, but when they are mostly short ones like “Tangled Envisioning” (not even 3 minutes), they could tack on an extra one or two.

[READ: August 30, 2016] Science: Ruining Everything Since 1543

Zach Weinersmith writes the daily webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.  I supported the Kickstarter project for this book because it looked frankly hilarious.  The one thing I have to say off the bat is that I don’t love his drawing style.  There’s something about it that I simply can’t get into.  Even after two full books of these drawings, it just never gels for me.  But that’s fine. because I’m here for the jokes.  And they are awesome.

The book is comprised of the best religion-themes comic from the 13 years that SMBC has been around.  There’s also a whole slew of comics that are exclusive to this book.

We are greeted with this: “For these drawings, the part of God is played by a giant yellow disc.” (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: DAUGHTER-Tiny Desk Concert #313 (October 21, 2013).

Daughter is a quiet folk band (at least in this Tiny Desk Concert) in which two acoustic guitars (Elena Tonra and Igor Haefeli) and one drum (Remi Aguilella) play behind Tonra’s gorgeous, angsty vocals.

For all three of these songs, she sings delicate whispered vocals that are quite lovely, but also quite dark.

Like this line from “Youth” “Most of us are bitter over someone / setting fire to our insides for fun.”  I love the way Haefeli’s guitar harmonics sound like keyboards and how powerful the martial drumming sounds when it comes in.

“Landfill” opens with thudding drums (Mallets instead of sticks) which are louder and bigger and yet still feel gentle.  And yet, as the blurb says: The song is “achingly pretty and melancholy, the track builds to an absolute gut-punch of a line — “I want you so much, but I hate your guts” — that conjures a pitch-perfect mix of gloom, desire and hostility.”

They put out an EP and in 2013 released an album:

the lovely If You Leave, but Daughter was kind enough to resuscitate “Landfill” for this stripped-down performance at the Tiny Desk. As you’ll see and hear, that aforementioned gut-punch is a recurring specialty for the band: In all three of these sad, searing songs, singer Elena Tonra showcases a remarkable gift for coolly but approachably dishing out weary words that resonate and devastate.

Between these two songs, Bob asks if this is an awkward place to play, and she responds, “No, we’re just awkward people.”

For “Tomorrow” there is a beautiful ascending guitar melody and loud drums.  I really like the way the guitars play off of each other–even though they are both acoustic, they sound very different and complement each other nicely.  Like in the wonderful melody at the end.  Despite how pretty the song was, apparently she was unhappy with it saying “a bit ropey, that one.”  I hadn’t heard that before, but evidently it means “unwell…usually alcohol related” so that’s pretty funny.

[READ: August 30, 2016] Science: Ruining Everything Since 1543

Zach Weinersmith writes the daily webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.  I supported the Kickstarter project for his book Religion: Ruining Everything Since 4004 BC and this book was part of my funding level.

I was more interested in the religious comics, but I am tickled by how funny the Science comics are.  Weinersmith knows a lot of science (or at least scientists) and make some really funny jokes about the subject.

The one thing I have to say off the bat is that I don’t love his drawing style.  There’s something about it that I simply can’t get into.  Even after two full books of these drawings, it just never gels for me.  But that’s fine. because I’m here for the jokes.  And they are awesome. (more…)

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harpers-magazine-march-2017-4 SOUNDTRACK: GUCCI MANE-Tiny Desk Concert #586 (December 12, 2016).

gucci

Usually when someone is popular I have heard of him or her.  So I’m always surprised when someone gets a Tiny Desk Concert and I don’t know them (especially given his story).

Gucci Mane sounds kind of familiar, but I don’t think I’d ever heard of him before.  So what does the blurb say:

Gucci Mane’s smile makes you feel like there’s still some good in the world. He’s really earned it, and that thing is infectious. We asked him to come to NPR because we wanted to be a part of the victory tour he’s been on this year: In the past six months or so, Gucci Mane was released early from the federal penitentiary; he proposed to his girlfriend on the kiss cam at a Hawks game, and she said yes; he’s releasing a total of three albums, all over which he celebrates his newly committed sobriety; he and Courtney Love look like they get along; and he remade “Jingle Bells.”

In this Tiny Desk concert, Gucci Mane performed with just his longtime producer and friend, Zaytoven, on piano. Their version of stripped-down is a minimal backing track and plenty of church-groomed trills. They performed with the understanding that everyone in the room knew their songs — one from 2009 and two from this year — and knew that this performance would represent a surreal dip into a parallel universe where ingenuity is rewarded, snobbery is gone and love is real. Gucci Mane agreed to this unlikely set as a gesture to those people — for remembering his work while he was away, and for cheering on his resurgence, his health, his charm and his singular nature.

Gucci does the three songs, “First Day Out,” “Waybach,” and “Last Time,” all accompanied by Zaytoven, easily my favorite stage name and the absolute highlight of this show for me.

Gucci Mane’s flow is a kind of slow drawl.  It’s kind of charming and engaging.  I find it really strange that he’s rapping over himself (I guess).  But it’s so stripped down that it’s weird to hear his backing track so clearly.  But that live piano totally make the show fantastic–Zaytoven has some amazing chops.

[READ: February 21, 2017] “Sinking Ships and Sea Dramas”

The introduction to this story was pretty fascinating.  This piece is an except from a manuscript in progress inspired “in part by lines from the work of Ben Lerner, the poetry editor of Harper’s

This was translated from the German by Isabel Fargo Cole.

I’m not sure what Lerner wrote that inspired this, but this “cycle” consists of 6 ruminations on death and the sea. (more…)

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peanuts-1995SOUNDTRACK: TINARIWEN-Tiny Desk Concert #184 (January 5, 2012).

tinariwenTinariwen are a band from northern Mali, whose members met in the training camps of Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Much has been written about them and their story, which is pretty amazing.  I’m only going to talk about this Tint Desk Concert.

Typically, they play an interesting electric guitar kind of trance music.  But for this one they were all acoustic.  As Bob Boilen notes, they are his “favorite electric-guitar-based band on the planet.”  But he says he was:

“initially worried and disappointed when I learned that it was coming to play the Tiny Desk as a trio carrying acoustic guitars. My heart sank a bit more when the three Tuareg musicians from the Sahara arrived in jeans and polo shirts instead of the beautiful, flowing robes I’d seen them wear on stage so many times.

But they switched clothes and they do not disappoint on acoustic guitar.

I don’t know their music all that well, but it feels like the acoustic nature of this show is even more soothing and trance inducing.  The two acoustic guitars interweave–one playing lead (which is mostly hammered notes–not a “solo” per se) and the other strumming.  The percussion is the sound of two hands rubbing, clacking (with a cigarette lighter) and pounding (for bass drum) a large gourd.

The songs tend to be almost looping.  Like they could go on forever.  There’s no real verse chorus structure that I can tell.  It’s more of a meditative sound.

All of the vocals are in Tamashek and I have no idea what the songs are about.

On “Adounia” both guitarists sing and the voices sound very traditional, almost atonal. “Takkest Tamidaret” opens with a more conventional sounding guitar lick, but it’s all so quiet in the mix, that you can’t tell how much his fingers are moving.  The lyrics are a bit slower, but still in that droning style.  I love the way “Tenhert”  has a a cool riff from the lead guitar–one that probably sounds more intense on electric guitar.  He sing/speaks incredibly quickly.  “Tahlamoyt” is a much slower song with the lyrics pretty much all spoken word.

The “Mali sound” is pretty distinctive and Tinariwen are great proponents of it, spreading it around the world for all to hear.

[READ: June 8, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1995-1996

I was under the impression that these last few volumes of books would show a serious drop in quality.  I had assumed that with the amount of product the Peanuts characters were sponsoring that these strips would be more cute.  But that is far from true.  I enjoyed this book as much if mot more than some of the other recent volumes.

I was also surprised to discover that I really enjoyed the Sunday cartoons more than the dailies.  In the past I haven’t really gotten big laughs form the Sundays–it seemed like the big stories and jokes were in the dailies and the Sundays were unrelated one offs with varying degrees of punch.  But I enjoyed a dozen or so in this book.

One of the major additions in this book is the inclusion of a slightly older Rerun.  He is now mobile and even heading to kindergarten (I love that he is aging while the others aren’t).  But rather than using Rerun for obvious cute child jokes (he’s no longer riding the back of his mom’s bike) Rerun is now making funny “outsider” observations about the world of Peanuts–he is constantly disenchanted with the way  things are going and with the belief that people are always lying to him.  There are also a ton of strips of him trying to shoot a basketball and failing miserably.  Schulz has always tended to take an idea and run and run and run with it, but this one is pretty good for the number that he uses it. (more…)

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1993-1994 SOUNDTRACK: LEON BRIDGES-Tiny Desk Concert #469 (September 8, 2015).

leonLeon Bridges has a great old soul voice.  Indeed, I had no idea he was so young until he started speaking after the third song and all manner of young person chat came out of his mouth: “Thanks to my main man, you all looking beautiful man.”  His voice is pure and clean and hearkens back to 1960s soul singers like Sam Cooke.

The way he sings “baby baby baby” in “Coming Home” is classic soul.  And his enunciation of “mouth” is just gorgeous.  This song features the backing vocals of his sister Jesse.

“Smooth Sailin'” features a sax solo and Bridges on guitar.  Since there are 2 guitarists already Bridges’ guitar doesn’t  add much, but for me it’s all about his voice anyhow.

“Twistin’ & Groovin'” is about how his grandparents met.  He says the first time he saw her at a party the thing he noticed first about her was her long legs.

“River” is just him on acoustic guitar with Jesse singing backing vocals.

It’s a solid set and Bridges’ star has continued to rise since this show.

[READ: September 18, 2016]  The Complete Peanuts: 1993-1994

I didn’t like the previous book all that much, but this one picked things up a bit.

The year starts with Snoopy taking a test in school and acing the true false part–the only one to do so!

1993 has Schulz’ first celebration of MLK day.  Patty mentions the “I have a dream speech” but I love that she just mentions it without making it a big deal, it quickly changes to an unfair lunch swap between a carrot stick and french fry.  Speaking of old words, Lucy begins insulting Linus with: blockhead airhead, noodleneck but then finds that these older words work better: puzzlewit, dimbulb.

In pop culture notes, April 1993 sees Snoopy as Joe Grunge and in May 1993 Sally asks why is Barney purple? (more…)

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peanuts-10991SOUNDTRACK: CHRIS STAPLETON-Tiny Desk Concert #484 (November 5, 2015).

chrisChris Stapleton is a big dude with a big beard and long hair.  He could be a heavy metal guy, but put a cowboy hat on him and you know exactly what his music is going to sound like–slow with an almost mumbling drawl (although his lyrics are quite clear).

The blurb says that his songs are timeless and in a way they are–I wouldn’t know if these songs were old country songs or new country songs, but that’s probably because I don’t much like country songs anyway.

“More of You” is a slow song in which he is joined by his wife Morgane on harmony vocals.  The song is fine.  But I was surprised by how funny he was when it was over and he asked, “When did DC turn into Louisiana?  It’s hot!”

“When The Stars Come Out” was cowritten with Dan Wilson but it doesn’t quite have Wilson’s super catchiness.

He is playing a beat up guitar that he says is 12 years old.  He doesn’t know where it came from, but he says he thinks someone has even used it as a canoe paddle and it has mud in it.  He says he has lots of guitars and his wife says Lots and Lots.

“Whiskey and You” is a song about, big surprise, drinking.  Lyrically it’s kind of funny, despite its intentional sadness.

[READ: September 14, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1991-1992

I was trying to figure out when the last original Peanuts strip I’d ever read was written.  I stopped reading newspapers in college.  But I’m sure I came across Peanuts once in a while.  My dad also used to get the papers, and I might have browsed through the comics.  But I have to assume it was sometime around 1992 or 1993 that I stopped looking altogether.

I wonder if Sparky started golfing again as there are a lot of golfing comics this year, including one on April 21 1991 where Snoopy is trying to hit it over a tidal wave.  This is one of those rare Sunday comic that he started doing with what was basically a full-page comic as opposed to several panels.

I also felt that 1991 was not a particularly great year for Peanuts.  We all know that Snoopy loves to be in different characters–and has recently been a surgeon.  Well, in January 1991, Snoopy pretends to be a road flagman.  Not very aspirational.

I loved the Peggy Jean story line from last year.  She finally gets a mentions again in March, but she has moved away. Which means he’s back to pining for the red-haired girl.  I know that the red-haired girl is classic Peanuts, but I really liked Peggy Jean.

But there are some great strips and themes.

I did enjoy that Sally after being steady rebuffed by her sweet Babboo calls herself his Sweet Babbooette.  Later, Sally comes up with a new philosophy.  “I’ve decided to put everything off until the last-minute and to learn everything in life the hard way.”  When Charlie says, “Good luck,” Sally says, “That’s what my teacher said.”

Sally asks Linus what happens if she doesn’t go to school and he tells her the sheriff comes and throws you in a dungeon with no food or water for ten years.  She hates that idea, but then thinks, “if we go to school for 12 years….”

Harriet’s famous recipe for seven minute frosting makes a return in April 1991 with all the birds talking about it.  Man, I should find out what this is.

And there’s a lot of scenes with Snoopy wrangling with Linus’ blankets which I always like.

Joe Garagiola gets some more abuse in May when he makes it into the hall of fame and Lucy says, “It means there’s still hope for us all.”

One thing I have never mentioned is the amount of times Schulz draws or mentions zambonis (and even calls them zucchinis).  I assume someone has collected this information, but he must have really loved the zamboni because boy does it ever make a lot of appearances.  Often times once a week for several weeks.

For something new Sally and Charlie are asked to teach a Bible class to kids, which is kind of fun.  The boy wish they’d gotten a “cute chick” instead of an “old lady” like sally.  And one of the boys keeps talking about the Great Gatsby, “Gatsby stood by the sea of Galilee and picked out the green light at the end of day’s dock.”  The series ends with the kid waving goodbye to her and Snoopy saying “So long, old sport.”

Way back in a previous book Billie Jean King says that whenever Sparky put her name in a strip it meant she should call him.  So in August Snoopy says “I’ve always wanted to call Billie Jean King.”

I enjoy this attitude from Patty: “Hey Marcie its a beautiful summer day  C’mon out and we’ll waste it away doing nothing. Then we can look back upon it and regret it for the rest of our lives.”

When I was a kid I believe I had the same seasonal beliefs as Patty does in Sept 1991: “the four seasons are baseball, football basketball and hockey.”

The football gag in 1991 shows Lucy waving a book about holding the football.  But when she pulls the ball away she tells him that she wrote the book.

Later in the year, Lucy speculates that the Great Pumpkin might be a she  “Never occurred to you, did it?”

As the year ends, Marcie and Patty give Charlie an ultimatum to decide who he likes best.  Of course he hesitates and they walk away.

In January 1992, Spike says that if he had an earache his dad would blow cigar smoke in his ear.  I’d never heard of this, but it is indeed an old wives tale.

Schulz loved having his Peanuts‘ kids read really big books.  And sometimes they were used a lot as punchlines.  But I enjoyed Patty saying A  Tale of Two Cites was written by “Charlie Dickens.  Chuck  Chaz?”  And then when she gives here report she begins “St. Paul and Minneapolis are…” and then we see her sitting next to Marcie who says “One of the great tries of all time, sir.”

Sally continues to be one of my favorite snarky characters.  “Sometimes I worry about you big brother.  Often?  No not often, just sometimes.  Like maybe seldom.  That’s it, seldom!”

Charlie is still being very loving and missing Snoopy.  He tries to get out of school a lot so he can sit with the dog and even worries when it rains.  When he goes away he calls over to where Snoopy is staying and talks on the phone (he says “Woof”) and Snoopy says “Woof? what does that mean?”

Another full-page Sunday strip came on April 19, 1990.  This may be the weirdest, most context-free strip of them all.  Snoopy is looking at a map and the whole page is covered with a gorge and the caption says “Every year thousand of tourists visit Victoria Falls in Zambia.”  Huh?

There are still more Tiny Tots Concerts, Patty still hates to be called a Tiny Tot.  Although she gets excited in May of 1992 because she thinks the new song is called “Hey dude” when it is actually “Etude.”

Pop culture references: in August 1991 someone described being suspended from the bungee cord of life Fried Green Tomatoes is mentioned in April 1992.  Spike does Velcro jumping in July 1992.  After playing some football, Marcie says she could be another Joe Iowa (Montana).

And Sally changed her philosophy from “who cares?” to “what do I care?”

In Summer 1992, Charlie goes to camp and helps out a kid named Cormac, although we don’t see him much after that.

In 1992, Charlie believes that Lucy in sincere about holding the ball.  When he misses, Sally says “You’re not in love with Lucy, are you big brother?”  When he says No, she says, “I should Hope not,  I’ve discovered that love makes us do strange things.  So does stupidity.”

In 1992, Marcie decides to help spread the word about the Great Pumpkin but she calls it the Great Grape.  When she realizes her mistake she says, “I guess it would be hard to carve a scary face in a  grape, wouldn’t it?”

Over the years there have been hundred of jokes about Schroeder’s musical staff and Snoopy either sleeping on it or breaking it or so many other possibilities.  They’ve all been mildly amusing.  I liked in December 1992, when Snoopy takes the notes and uses them as the sound of his bell when he is Santa Claus ringing bells on the street.  Because yes, for the last two years Snoopy has dressed up like Santa Claus on a street corner ringing bells.   I like the one later when Charlie brings snoopy his dinner and a girl says “Hey look, Ma, Santa Claus is eating out of dog dish.”

There’s two Sundays in a row with Sally writing a letter to Samantha Claus.  In the first one, Charlie asks if she goes Ho Ho Ho or just smiles daintily, but the following week we find out that Sally talked about her in school and was roundly mocked.

Spikes Christmases have been pretty sad, but I did get a kick out of this one. “Last year I exchanged a gift with a rock, I think he liked what I bought him…he still wearing it.”  And there’ s funny sequence where Spike puts lights on his tree then walks all the way to Needles to plug it in at the chamber of commerce.  There’s even a news story the next say, “Someone sneaked into the chamber of commerce building last night and plugged in an extension cord.  The cord led out of town somewhere into the dessert.  Everyone is puzzled as to who or why someone would do such a thing.”

Although perhaps the best Christmas joke ever comes in 1992 when Sally is writing her thank you note: “Dear Grandma, Thank you for the money you sent me for Christmas.  I am going to save it for my college education.”  Then she says “It’s hard to write with a straight face.”  And Charlie says, “I never said a word.”

1992 ends with a New Years Eve party at Snoopy’s and he says “What do you mean we’re all out of hors d’oeuvres.

So overall, it’s not a bad two years, there’s just not a ton of noteworthy jokes.

The introduction is by Tom Tomorrow.  He says his influences were Mad magazine, Garry Trudeau and Matt Groening but his earliest inspiration was Charles Schulz.

He says that in the 1960s he hit the perfect sweet spot with Peanuts:  old enough to understand the humor, young enough to truly appreciate the whimsy. When he was a child, he loved the Christmas Special, and he was excited that his parents bought their first color TV in time for its annual airing.  He had also been given a Snoopy astronaut in the year he became the unofficial mascot of Apollo 10.

He describes Peanuts as “a strip that spun heartbreak into wry humor.  A cartoon about childhood anxiety that veered frequently into the realm of magical realism.”

He loves things like that the doghouse was bigger on the inside than the outside (although that aspect has been downplayed in recent years).

When he was a young cartoonist, he wrote to Charles Schulz.  And Schulz invited him over for lunch. Schulz was very generous with his time. “We ate at the cafe adjacent to the skating rink he’d built. The table was always reserved for him and on which you will still find a reserved sign to this day.”

Tomorrow says he wrote the only obituary comic he’d ever done for Schulz and he quotes Schulz: “If I were a better artist, I’d be a painter. And if I were a  better writer, I’d write books.  But I’m not so I draw cartoons.”

Tomorrow addresses his change from the strict four panel strips of his whole career, which I noted with concern and excitement.  Evidently, Schulz always wanted to experiment with the panels, but he was unsure if the Syndicate would allow it.  Tomorrow jokes that at this point in his career, he probably could have demanded a solid gold table and a full complement of chorus girls to entertain him while he worked.

He concludes his introduction by saying that Schulz gave him an original strip–which is the middle strip on page 71 in this book (dated June 14), and what a nice one it is:

“It’s nice to be able to do something for someone once in a while that’s appreciated.”

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