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Archive for the ‘Threats’ Category

SOUNDTRACKMINYU CRUSADERS-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #134/142 (January 12, 2021).

Minyo CrusadersGlobalFEST 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 first band on the second night is Minyo Crusaders from Japan.

Min’yō folk music was originally sung by Japanese fishermen, coal miners and sumo wrestlers hundreds of years ago, and the Minyo Crusaders are on a mission to make these songs relevant to an international audience. For their performance, the Crusaders found a unique take for their desk: a “kotatsu,” which is a heated Japanese table traditionally used for gathering in the winter months.

The diversity of music melding together here is quite impressive.

They open with “Hohai Bushi” (The album credits the style of this song as “afro”).

It starts with high notes like a theremin then quietly jangly guitars.  Cumbia-sounding horns (sax and trumpet) and complicated percussion (shakers and cowbells) flesh out the song.  Once everybody is established, a groovy bassline underpins the whole thing.  The male singing starts singing and the female adds some nice high backing oohs with it. Sadly, band member names are not given so I can’t credit anyone.

When the song is in full swing the guitars play loud and the keys play a retro sound including a retro fuzzed out keyboard solo.  Toward the end, a bass line slowly builds and the drums add intensity as they sing “ho hai ho hai.”

The guitarist speaks between songs.  He says his English is very poor but he does a fine job.

The second song “Yasugi Bushi” (bolero) is much more chill.  The male singer sits aside and the female singer takes lead.  There’s some nice basslines that repeat although for this song it’s really the saxophone that takes the lead with a lot of soloing.

The guitarist says these songs are old work songs and festival songs: “Minyo is dead in Japan but they are trying to bring it back.”

They end with “Aizu Bandaisan” (latin).  This song is much more dancey.  Lots of Latin horns, groovy bass and congas.  The lyrics are in Japanese (of course) but there’s a fun part where it sounds like they are singing “soy soy.”  As the song jams toward the end, there is lots of whooping and yelping and a wild trumpet solo.

This is a super fun set.

[READ: January 14, 2021] The Inugami Curse

Seishi Yokomizo was a hugely prolific writer.  He created Japan’s most famous detective (comparable to Sherlock Holmes in scope), Kosuke Kindaichi, who featured in seventy-seven books!  The Inugami Curse is apparently one of the best known of the stories and has been adapted into film and TV.

There are only two of his novels translated into English, this one (translated by Yumiko Yamazaki) and The Honjin Murders (1946) (translated by Louise Heal Kawai).

This book was an absolutely fantastic, complicated mystery.  There were many twists and turns.  And the way the story was plotted was perfect.

Sahei Imugami was a wealthy man.  He was called the Silk King of Japan and his business provided work for many many people.  He was a local celebrity to be sure and even had a biography written about him.

Sahei never married, but he did have three daughters with three different women.  The book opens with a character list which is quite helpful.

DAUGHTERS: Matsuko; Takeko; Umeko
GRANDONS:     Kiyo;       Také;    Tomo

There are some husbands involved as well.

There is also Tamayo Nonomiya, the granddaughter of a married couple who took Sahei in when he was just starting out.  He thinks of them as family, so when Tamayo was orphaned, he took her in. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SPILLAGE VILLAGE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #101 (October 23, 2020).

I never imagined that a video filmed in a church would have an explicit language warning at the beginning of it.  But such is Spillage Village.

The Atlanta collective consists of Dreamville records standouts J.I.D and EARTHGANG along with Jurdan Bryant, Hollywood JB, Benji and Tiny Desk alumnus Mereba. R&B star 6lack, also a member of the group, was unable to make it to the shoot due to travel restrictions.

There’s 12 people in the church (let’s hope they are all tested since they are not social distancing). And seven of them are rapper/singers.  The rest is a live band, and they are tight.  They sound great.  It’s amazing how much a live band can add to a rap concert.

Musically, “End of Daze” is very cool with funky bass from Benji and lots of grooving wah wah solos from the guitarist on the back.  The verses are rapped and everyone gets a turn.  What I especially liked was the diversity of voices and styles.

WowGr8 goes first.  He has a cool accent and delivery.  JID has a fantastic style–his voice is higher than the others and very distinctive.  Mereba has one of the best verses–referencing Nipsey Hustle’s murder.  Jurdan has the most conventional-sounding delivery.  Hollywood JB seems a but more lighthearted in his delivery.  Then OLU (dressed in a fantastic suit) sings his verse.  He has a great singing voice.  While he sings his verse and the song fades sprinkling keys twinkle.  They all sing the super catchy chorus. The backing band is apparently all related but someone is playing the keys and the credits don’t say who: Justin Barnett: guitar; Jerramy Barnett: bass; Nick Barnett: guitar; Dj Barnett: drums.

Christo the DJ starts out “Baptize” with a sample.  OLU raps.  I love his delivery–.his verse is choppy and funky.  JID takes the next verse, and I like him even more.  The song has a fun sing along chorus which seems strangely raunchy for a song about baptism.  WOWGr8 takes another verse and shows off some really fast rapping.

Before the next song, someone’s phone rings and one of them says “turn off your phone in church.”  Mereba sings this next song, which she says is called “Hapi.”  After she says this, someone sings “because I’m happy…) very quietly.  The song proves to be a full on gospel type song.  Mereba has a kind of spoken word section and then OLU croons beautifully.

“Jupiter” ends the set.  Mereba grabs an acoustic guitar and the whole group sings an almost campfire singalong.  The church does feel like an appropriate setting for these last two songs.

I’m really impressed by this group.

[READ: November 15, 2020] Where Are We Now?

Glenn Patterson is from Belfast, Northern Ireland.  This novel is a small (in scope) story about life in Belfast.  I don’t know that I’ve ever read a story that focused in such detail on the daily life in Belfast, post-Troubles.  The Troubles don’t really enter into the story–except that there are ever present reminders of them.

This is the story of Herbie.  Herbie is a middle-aged man.  I initially assumed he was older middle aged, then I thought he might be younger middle-aged.  I don’t believe it is ever stated.

I had a remarkably difficult time reading this book because there was so much I simply didn’t know.  Stuff that the average Belfastian person probably knows very well and with no problem.

It started pretty early on when someone says that a person had dumped a Portakabin on one of the roads running up to the hills on the far west of the city.

Okay so first, you have to find out what a Portakabin is (a mobile home of some sort). Then there’s a lengthy talk about who might do such a thing.  And I really didn’t understand much of what they were talking about.  Although I did like that they conclude that whoever did it could be summed up as The Ungivers of Fuck. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Mowat Collegiate Late (1982).

This Rheostatics show dates all the way back to 1982, when the band was very very different.

This is the second oldest show I have been provided with to date… (based on the fact that Chemical World is introduced as a new song and it isn’t played on the other Mowat show on the site). From Mowat Collegiate in Scarborough it is slightly later in the year and has much clearer sound.

These old shows confuse me because I can’t tell who is singing.  To me it sounds like Tim singing lead on all the songs, but I didn’t think he was the main singer back then.  Or is it that Dave Bidini’s voice is so much different because they were all just babies?  I assume it’s Bidini doing the talking, and his voice is sure different (not Tom Waits different, but still).  I’m also not sure who is playing what.  I assume Tim is on bass, but he doesn’t usually play bass when he sings.  Dave Clark is also very quiet (he is usually full of jokes and poetry and whatnot).  I’m assuming that’s David Crosby (not that David Crosby) on lead guitar.

And somebody is playing with a high pitched oscillator type sound for the first few songs.  I wonder who is doing that while apparently playing their actual instruments. 

This set starts out with “National Pride.”  A funky, bass-slapping, bass-sliding song that shows that the early Rheos were far more into funk than anything else. 

The set (actually I guess it is two sets) is full of covers.  But each one is done in their new wave-ish ska-ish, not sounding anything like the original, style

The Kinks’ “Well Respected Man About Town” is almost unrecognizable with the bouncy bass in the verses and the entirely un-Kinks-like quality to the rest of the song.

“Chemical World” is described as new song (it’s one of the few from this era that has survived a little).  It starts out with Dave Clark on drums. It’s all new wave guitar and a lolloping bass.

“Girl in My Magazine” is a full-on ska song with bouncy guitars and a big fat bass.

Then they run through “Louie Louie” which sounds like the original in some ways–melodically–but it’s still got that big funky bass sound going on. 

Dave (or Tim) keeps encouraging everyone to come up and dance.

Up next is the “single which we’ll be handing out after our next set (we’re playing twice) called “Satellite dancing.”  It’s got the same basic sound but with a kind of blues riff underpinning the ska guitars.

As the song ends, someone says, stay tuned for Mark Malibu & the funky Wasagas.  Interestingly Mark Malibu & the Wasagas broke up in 1982, but reformed with all the original members in 2014 and have released three albums.

Presumably after a break and they are back with a new set of different songs.

This set opens with a lengthy bass intro and echoing reggae guitars which turns into a lengthy drum solo.  It’s called “Reggae Trenchtown Jam” and it’s basically just a nine minute jam.  In the middle of the song while encouraging people to dance, someone says, In Missouri and Kentucky they’ve outlawed… [can’t hear the rest].

Up next is “My Generation,” which is “on that record.”  This is , like The Kinks’ cover, a very unusual new wave version of the song–again almost unrecognizable.  Despite the prominent bass in this set, there’s no wailing bass solos like ion the original.  There is a wailing guitar solo though and the song jams out about five minutes.   

Up next is the shortest song of the night.  “Man of Action” is under three minutes with more of those reggae guitars.

Then comes a song by Sly and the Family Stone.  “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” sounds like one of their own songs, they have so taken it over.  Surprisingly, given their funk, this sounds nothing at all like the original.  Even the super catchy chorus is done in a very different way.  They are indeed being Mice Elf.  There’s a jamming section at the end with some serious slap bass.

Up next is “an old ska song” called “The Suburb Shuffle.”  I can’t find anything about this song.  Although the introduction says “I’m sure everyone in Scarborough can relate to it.  It’s about green houses and black driveways and well-cut lawns and flowers in the sidewalks.   It has nothing to do with Martha and the Muffins.”  It is indeed a suburban ska song.

They end the set with “Shake Your Body Thang” and “we want everyone up on stage, especially Mark Malibu.”  I think this one musty be Tim singing.  The jam this one out for nearly nine minutes.  Mid way through, they invite people on stage.  There’s a break down when it’s just drums and vocals.  It’s got everything a 1982 collegiate rock band should have.

It’s impossible to believe that these are the same guys.

[READ: October 22, 2020] Lightfall Book 1

This is an enchanting first book in a new series. Tim Probert’s illustrations are wonderful–a fantastic soft palette and delightfully unusual characters.

Set in the land if Irpa, we first meet Bea and her cat Nimm. Bea is somewhat nervous by nature. Especially when it comes to a small jar with a flame in it which she is meant to be guarding.

Bea lives with her adoptive grandfather named Alfrid the Pig Wizard. Alfrid is, as the name suggests, a pig and a wizard and he makes potions for people. But he is also very forgetful. He leaves reminders for himself, but they don’t always help.

Bea ventures out to get some ingredients for a potion. She is in a tree, when the branch breaks. As she hangs on for dear life, a tall froglike creature walks past (on two legs), and as she falls out of the tree he catches her. The creature is Cadwaller, known as Cad. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: YOLA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #70 (August 25, 2020).

Yola is a Britiish singer with an amazing voice.  She is quarantining in Nashville and for this Home Concert, she is playig in a lovely backyard in Nashville with guitarist Jordan Tice.

Yola has one album out (and an EP) and her songs are full of soul and energy.  And that voice!

These four songs are stripped to just acoustic guitar (Tice plays lead on some of the tracks).  They are

 beautiful interpretations of songs from her 2019 album Walk Through Fire and her 2016 EP Orphan Offering that pull back the intensity I associate with Yola’s music, but are still passionate and fervent.

I’ve enjoyed hearing the recorded versions of these songs but hearing them stripped down to just melody and her voice, the sound even better.

“Faraway Look” is a gorgeous song with a terrific melody.  It sounds really quite different with the acoustic guitar but her voice is perfectly suited to it regardless of what kind of music backs it up.  And the way she can hold those notes is really stunning.

“Dead And Gone” feels more relevant now than when she wrote it for her 2016 EP.  This song is a little darker with some nice soloing notes from Tice.

“Love Is Light” is a beautiful ballad with a fantastic vocal melody.

I love the final song, “It Ain’t Easier.”  It’s got two great vocal lines back to back in the chorus.  I could listen to her sing it all night long.  And those little grace notes at the end are pretty awesome.

[READ: August 23, 2020] Malamander

I don’t often pick out children’s books to read.  Although I’m rarely disappointed when I find one that looks good.  My daughter and I were in Barnes & Noble and I saw this book.  The title, cover and description sounded really fun.  So I decided to buy it.  And I’m glad I did.  It was a fast, engaging read and the start of a promising series.

The book is set in Eerie-on-Sea.  Eerie-on-Sea is a wonderful place to vacation in the summer (when it is known as Cheerie-on-Sea).  But nobody wants to be there in the winter.  Sometimes not even the people who live there want to be there.  It’s bleak. It’s cold.  It’s windy.  And there is the legend of the fearsome Malamander.

When people visit they stay in The Grand Nautilus Hotel.  The Hotel’s Lost-and-Founder is 12 year old Herbie Lemon.  Perhaps you’ve never heard of a Lost-and-Founder, but you should have–who else is in charge of making sure everyone gets their lost items back?

Herbie is very good at his job.  But a big surprise happens when a girl climbs through the window of his office and asks him to hide her.  He does as she asks–who wouldn’t–just as two men come to Herbie’s door.  One is Mr. Mollusc, the manger of the Hotel who dislikes Herbie and dislikes the whole idea of the Lost-and Founder.  Fortunately for Herbie, Mr Mollusc is not the owner.  The owner, Lady Kraken, LOVES having a Lost -and Founder, she finds it essentially to running a good hotel.  The other man is large and scary with a hook for a hand.  Herbie and the girl, Violet, call him Boat Hook Man.

The girl is Violet Parma.  Her parents went missing from the hotel 12 years ago, when Violet was a baby  Violet was orphaned and raised by her Aunt.  She has now come all the way back to Eerie-on-Sea by herself to find out what she she can about her missing parents (she is sure they are not dead).  Coincidentally, Herb is also an orphan.  He was found by Lady Kraken and that’s how he got the job. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKTHE FLAMING LIPS-“My Religion is You” (2020).

download (75)This is another new single from The Flaming Lips’ new, more mellow album American Head.

This song starts as a piano ballad about various religions.

It’s not the most profound song but it’s chill

Yeah, Buddha’s cool
And you’re no fool
To believe anything
You need to believe in
If Hare Krishna
Maybe it’s the
Thing for you
Hey, that’s cool

The chorus kicks in with big fat synth notes that almost feel sinister, but really aren’t.  Wayne explains that he doesn’t need religions, because his religion “is you.”

I don’t need no religion
You’re all I need
You’re the thing I believe in
Nothing else is true
My religion is you

There’s a pretty guitar solo and the end of the song is an interesting mix of scattered drums and quite synth noises.  It’s not their best song for sure, but it grows on you.

[READ: June 2020] That’s Not How You Wash a Squirrel

David Thorne is an Australian smart ass.  This is his fifth collection of previously unreleased emails and essays.

The foreword of this book is written by Holly Thorne, David’s wife.  And it is hilarious.  The Foreforeword is him arguing with her about whether she will write the Foreword–but only if she doesn’t say something mean about him.

So she writes things like

Davis does have a stressful job but let’s be honest, he’s not clearing landmines.  Even on my worst days I’m not half the diva David is.

After writing some more hilarious paragraphs, you see in a different font:

David is very brave, I once saw him flick a snake off the patio furniture with a stick.

In the Postforeword, he complains about her foreword.  That he comes off like a fuckwit and that there is no mention of the snake.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKKING PRINCESS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #6 (April 8, 2020).

I’ve heard a lot of buzz around King Princess–that she’s fun and puts on a wild show.

This home Tiny Desk is not wild in any way.

“Welcome to the quarantine shed!” King Princess exclaims. She’s in jogging pants and sitting on a fluffy white chair, with two guitars, an amp and a tiny keyboard at her side. “I’m in Hawaii and brought as much gear in the carry-on of my plane ride as possible.”

She calls herself KP, which I rather like.  These songs are really quiet. She plays “the three songs from her late 2019 album, Cheap Queen, in ways I never would have imagined.”

“Isabel’s Moment” is played on a quiet keyboard.  She says it’s an homage to people experiencing quarantine thirstiness–texting their exes and ex friends and everyone.  It’s my least favorite of the three because I don’t like the keyboard sound she chose.  But her voice is excellent.

“Prophet” is played on one of her guitars (with lots of echo and slightly out of tune she admits).  The chorus turns surprisingly bright. She says it’s about the entertainment business and it is now more relevant than ever.  We’re all out of jobs right now.

She says this is back to making music in my room, trying to find that creative spark we had as children, when I could sit in my room and make things for hours.

“Homegirl” is also on that guitar and sounds really pretty, too.  I really like her singing voice quite a lot. It holds up well in this quiet setting–so if Bob says that it’s very different from what he’s used to, I’m very curious about what her live show is like.

But I really don’t like her speaking voice, I must admit.

[READ: February 2020] Burning Bridges to Light the Way

Evidently I asked S. for a book by David Thorne a few years ago.  I don’t know what book it was, I don’t recognize any of his titles and I didn’t even recognize his name when I saw this book.  She didn’t get me the book then, but she did get me one this past Christmas.

Turns out that David Thorne is an Australian smart ass.

As the foreword from Peter Goers puts it, this book is full of “barely coherent rants about friends, family, and colleagues.”  He continues,

David isn’t a dreadful human being all the time.  He has to sleep and I know he cares a lot about squirrels.  There are parts of this book that even hint at a certain degree of empathy for other human beings.  Some human beings, not all of them, maybe three.

I’m not sure who Peter Goers is, but his introduction is very funny.  Don’t skip it:

I once asked David if he’s autistic and he replied, “It’s pronounced artistic and no, not really, I can draw a cat though.”  I assume he was joking but it’s hard to tell with David.

In the first essay, David says that every year when he releases a new book friends and associates say that they are going to sue him if he says anything derogatory about them in his book.  But he’s not worried. Nobody he knows has enough money to hire a lawyer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JESCA HOOP-Tiny Desk Concert #965 (April 3, 2020).

I really liked the Tiny Desk Concert that features Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop.  So much so that I bought the CD and it made me want to see both of them live.

Jesca Hoop last appeared at the Tiny Desk as a duet with Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) in the spring of 2016. They sang songs from their collaborative record Love Letters For Fire.

This time it is just Jesca and I have realized that I liked her more as an accompanist rather than a lead singer.  Actually, that’s not exactly right.  Her voice is lovely.  I just find the songs a little meandering.

This time around, Jesca Hoop came to the Tiny Desk with just her guitars, her lovely voice, and brilliant poetic songs. She has a magical way with words, and she opened her set with “Pegasi,” a beautiful song about the wild ride that is love, from her 2017 album Memories Are Now.

“Pegasi” is nice to watch her play the fairly complex guitar melodies–she uses all of the neck.  The utterly amazing thing about “Pegasi” though comes at the end of the song when she sings an amazing note (high and long) that represents a dying star.

She wanted to sing it today so it could live on Tiny Desk.

The two songs that follow are from her latest album, Stonechild, the album that captured my heart in 2019, and the reason I reached out to invite her to perform at my desk.

“All Time Low” is a song, she says, for the “existential underdog.”  She switches guitars (to an electric) and once again, most of the melody takes place on the high notes of the guitar.  Her melodies are fascinating.  And the lyrics are interesting too:

“Michael on the outside, always looking in
A dog in the fight but his dog never wins
If he works that much harder, his ship might come in
He gives it the old heave-ho.”

After the song, she says, I’m going to tune my guitar, but I’m not going to talk so it doesn’t take as long. If you were at my show, I’d be talking the whole time and it would take a long time.

And for her final tune, she plays “Shoulder Charge.” It’s a song that features a word that Jesca stumbled upon online: “sonder,” which you won’t find in the dictionary. She tells the NPR crowd “sonder” is the realization “that every person that you come across is living a life as rich and complex as your own.” And that realization takes you out of the center of things, something that is at the heart of “Shoulder Charge” and quite a potent moment in this deeply reflective and personal Tiny Desk concert.

This word, sonder, came to my attention back in 2016 when Kishi Bashi first discovered it and named his album Sonderlust for it.

The song is like the others, slow and quite with a pretty melody that doesn’t really go anywhere.

I found that after three listens, I started to enjoy the songs more, so maybe she just writes songs that you need to hear a few times to really appreciate.

[READ: March 2020] Ducks, Newburyport

I heard about this book because the folks on the David Foster Wallace newsgroup were discussing it.  I knew nothing about it but when I read someone describe the book like this:

1 Woman’s internal monologue.  8 Sentences. 1040 pages

I was instantly intrigued.

Then my friend Daryl said that he was really enjoying it, so I knew I had to check it out.

That one line  is technically (almost) accurate but not really accurate.

The story (well, 95% of it) is told through one woman’s stream of consciousness interior monologue.  She is a mother living in Ohio.  She has four children and she is overwhelmed by them.  Actually she is overwhelmed by a lot and she can’t stop thinking about these things.

She used to teach at a small college but felt that the job was terrible and that she was not cut out for it.  So now she bakes at home and sells her goods locally.  She specializes in tarte tatin.  This is why she spends so much time with her thoughts–she works alone at home.  Her husband travels for work.  Whether she is actually making money for the family is a valid but moot question.

So for most of the book not much happens, exactly.  We just see her mind as she thinks of all the things going on around her.  I assume she’s reading the internet (news items come and go in a flash).  She is quite funny in her assessment of the world (how much she hates trump).  While I was reading this and more and more stupid things happened in the real world, I couldn’t help but imagine her reaction to them).  She’s not a total liberal (she didn’t trust Hillary), but she is no conservative either (having lived in Massachusetts and New York).  In fact, she feels she does not fit in locally at all. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ARTHUR MOON-Tiny Desk Concert #962 (March 20, 2020).

Arthur Moon is exactly the kind of weirdo band that I never would have heard of if not for Tiny Desk Concerts. I’m so happy that Bob Boilen enjoys the offbeat, because there’s no other way I would have heard of these guys.

This band, the project of singer Lora-Faye Åshuvud has the quirky freshness I first heard from New York artists such as Laurie Anderson and Talking Heads in the late 1970s and more recently with Dirty Projectors. It comes off in the starkness of the sound, a spaciousness that leaves room for me to hear the storytelling in the songs, but always surprising me with aural delights.

They play three songs (here’s another Tiny Desk I wish was twice as long).

All three songs in this performance come from their brilliant self-titled 2019 album, an album too many missed, in my opinion. And this band pulls off these odd, unpredictable twists and turns with simplicity and charm.

The first song, “Homornormo” starts with an lopsided five-note acoustic guitar riff from Martin D. Fowler and hugely processed vocals Lora-Faye Åshuvud (I guess it’s a vocoder).  There’s backing vocals and hocketing from keyboardist Cale Hawkins and Aviva Jaye (who is credited with “toys” and vocals).  There’s a guitar solo form Åshuvud which is as weird and abstract as the rest of the song.  The only thing vaguely conventional about the song are the drums from Dave Palazola because the rhythm has to be consistent when every thing else is chaotic.  But even his sounds are oddball, like the reverse snare drum sound he plays at the end.

I haven’t even mentioned the lyrics:

The opening song at the Desk, “Homonormo,” begins with a kiss-off to the very city that birthed their sound, and a search for something normal, yet twisted.

“Hello
Send my kindest regards to New York
I’m gone, woo
I think I want to settle down
But weirder”

Even the end of the song is unconventional.  It ends with a series of claps: 4, 5, 6 and then a few random numbers that they all know perfectly.  It’s like getting people to clap for you.

“Reverse Conversion Therapy” opens with the mini Mellotron from  Cale Hawkins, who was last at the Tiny Desk with Raveena.  This song is slower, with Moog bass sounds from Fowler.  When the chorus kicks in the guitars launch out like a St. Vincent song, but it quickly settles back down.  The middle turns down nearly all the music as Ashuvud sings while others provide ooohs for backing vocals.  It ends with some awesome hocketing from all three vocalists.

There’s anxiety in these songs, even when the chorus is “I Feel Better,” but there’s a creative spirit in this anxiety, and then, of course too, there’s the tin foil.

“I Feel Better” opens with drums and a sprinkling of sounds as she sings.  Then comes the chanted chorus of “I feel better” that everyone sings. Aviva Jaye (who brought a table of toys) gets a brief lead vocal line before everyone else joins in again.

The song ends with a pretty piano solo and Åshuvud pulling out a roll of aluminium foil )I only wish I could see what she was doing with it).

[READ: May 6, 2016] Hilo: Book 3

At the end of book two, Gina was sucked into a portal and DJ and Hilo were surrounded by army tanks.  How would they ever get out of this?  In the most hilarious way ever (by acting like the little kids they appear to be).  I love that there is a recurring joke that dogs love Hilo and even they get in on the act.

Hilo takes advantage of being in the military base to hack into the computer system to learn about possible portals that he can open to get Gina back.  They were also given an orb by Polly which causes everyone on earth to forget the last two days–an outstandingly easy way to get everyone to forget everything. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HARRY STYLES-Tiny Desk Concert #960 (March 16, 2020).

Harry Styles was in One Direction.  I couldn’t tell you a thing about One Direction (but I assume most other people could).

When he released his debut album in 2017, I was surprised how much I liked the (goofy) song “Carolina.”  It was a groovy, boppy trifle of fun.  I didn’t listen to anything else on it, but I was pleased to enjoy the Britpop chorus and lalalas.

Basically it taught me that Harry Styles has a good sense of humor.  And that’s on display in this Tiny Desk Concert.

Styles might not necessarily be the first name that comes to mind when you think of public radio’s only working, desk-music-discovery platform. After all, he’s got a wildly devoted fanbase that’s followed his every move since his One Direction days. In fact, before soundcheck had even started, a crowd of fans had begun to gather outside NPR HQ. They rightly suspected he would be playing a Tiny Desk concert after word got out that the former One Directioner was spotted in D.C. with no tour date on his public schedule.

But beyond the headlines, Styles has proven to be an artist who takes his songcraft and aesthetic seriously, interested in subverting expectations of what a pop star can and should sound like in 2020. That sense of unpretentious creativity is exactly what he brought to his Tiny Desk performance – and it definitely earned him some new adoring public radio fans in the process.

Styles performed four songs from his latest solo album, Fine Line.

“Cherry” starts with pretty a capella harmony vocals from the three women in his touring band (drums, piano and guitar). Then he starts the acoustic guitar and sings while Mitch Rowland plays a nifty slide guitar solo.  Midway through, Adam Prendergast adds a nice low bass  and Sarah Jones adds thumping drums.  It’s got a slow folk feel.

Between tracks, he talked about the process of writing these songs: From the day off in Nashville that led to “Watermelon Sugar,”

The song had been around for a long time.  He liked it, then he hated it and now it’s back.  he got the title from a Richard Brautigan book.

“Watermelon Sugar” is a faster song.  Charlotte Clark switches to the Wurlitzer which adds a nice tone to the song.  Jones plays some electronic percussion and Rowland has a nice wah wah lead on the acoustic guitar.

After the song he says, “I have to come into NPR more often… It’s nice here.”

He then says, it’s very hot.  “I am wearing a badly chosen jumper.”  It’s light blue wit a chick hatching out of an egg.  It says “mon petit.”

Before the next song he says thanks to that group who is like moving back there–“I’m getting my vibe from you … shame on the rest of you.”

He talks about his friend and collaborator Mitch Rowland doesn’t doesn’t speak a lot. Then he’ll call and say I have an idea and it was the whole song of “To Be So Lonely”

He admits that it’s a shame that when he sings the line about being an arrogant son of a bitch that that’s the line people sing back the loudest.

It’s a quieter song.  Backing vocalist Ny Oh normally plays guitar but on this one she just claps.  Harry has no guitar either.  Charlotte is on piano and Mitch plays a very cool guitar part.

Before the final song “Adore You” he talks about how weird this is, “It just feels like you’re in the way.”

He says “Adore You” is “about a fish… I just really liked it.”  There’s great backing vocals from Ny Oh.  He sings more intensely in this song which seems like it would be a big hit.

It’s always interesting when pop stars branch out, and I think Styles has done a good job of it.

[READ: March 31, 2020] Hilo: Book 2

Three years ago I read the first Hilo book and loved it.  And as often happens with series like this, I forgot all about it.  Well, S. brought home books 2-5 to read during our quarantine and I was thrilled that book 2 is as good, if not better, than the first one.

Judd Winick’s sense of humor is just dynamite. He has impeccable comic timing, a fantastic gift for drawing expressions and a great sense of family/children’s jokes.  I laughed out loud a lot during this book with lines like “I smell like gorilla armpit…. and not in a good way.”

After an introduction to earth kids DJ and his best friend Gina, we learn about Hilo (he loves telling that knock knock joke).  The first crisis occurs at the bowling alley.  A metal robot crashes into the alley and starts fighting with Hilo.

As Hilo fights he discovers new powers.  Like ice breath.  The puff he makes is about a foot wide “That’s not as impressive as I thought it’d be).  As the fight concludes, Hilo says a new decree: “no more hurting robots, starting now.”  He can stop bad machines without destroying them: “Nobody gets hurt. Not one.” (more…)

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516ZKjM2CqL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_ (1) SOUNDTRACK: ELISAPIE-Tiny Desk Concert #948 (February 20, 2020).

downloadElisapie (I have no idea how to pronounce that) is a First Nations singer from Salluit, on the Northern tip of Quebec.

She sings in Inuktitut (as well as in English and French).  And her voice is absolutely intense.

Her songs are very personal–she sings of

her life as an adopted child and of meeting her biological mother. Now, as a mother herself, she sings about what it must have meant to her own mother to give up her child.

Elisapie left her birth-village, Salluit, as a teenager and headed to Montreal, leaving her community and her sick mom. The songs she sings, here all come from her album, The Ballad of the Runaway Girl and deal with the consequences of her leaving.

These songs are definitely rock, but with a different overall sound.  Jason Sharp’s bass saxophone is fantastic–creating deep low rumbles and otherworldly squawks.

“Arnaq” opens with some chugging guitar riffs (I can’t tell if the guitar is acoustic or electric) from Joe Grass and after a verse or so, some great noisy electric guitars from Josh Toal, who punctuates the song with little solos.  There’s no bass guitar because the bass saxophone covers all of the low ends.

The song, even though it is in Inuktitut is rally catchy with a chorus of “ahhhhhh, I, yi, I” (or something).

The middle section is full of great noises as both guitars and the sax all play some wild solos.

All of this is held together by “the tasteful drumming of Evan Tighe.”

She says the second song, “Una” is the most painful yet the most freeing song.  It is  written to her biological mother.  In Inuktitut the word for mother means “our little bag” because they carried us.

It opens with slow staccato guitar chords and a near a capella vocal before the quiet electric guitar from Josh Toal joins in.  The spareness of the beginning of this song is a great counterpoint to the end of the song when everyone joins in–vocals, guitars, sax and some complex drumming.

Before the final song, she looks around and smiles and says Lizzo was here!  My daughter is very excited.

The final song “Darkness Bring The Light” opens with some great weird sounds from everyone.  Tighe makes scraping metallic sounds as he slides his drum sticks around the cymbals.  Toal plays a synth intro as Grass bows his guitar and Sharp makes waves of gentle sounds to underpin the melody

This one is in English.  She sings a melody that rides over the sounds.  After 2 minutes the drums kick in and after a run through of the chorus, the guitarists join in

Bob Boilen concludes

This is an extraordinary Tiny Desk from an artist with something meaningful to say.

He is absolutely correct.  This set is fantastic.

[READ: March 10, 2020] Gunnerkrigg Court 4 [32-41]

I really enjoyed the first three books of this series and then promptly forgot about it.  I happened to see this book at the library and was excited to see that I hadn’t read it.  Can it really have been three years since I last read about these characters?

Being away for so long made some of this a little confusing.  I will have to read the whole story again some time.

Chapter 32 shows Antimony returning from the forest and there is a warm welcome with Renard. But Katarina’s welcome is cool–“you kinda make it hard to be your friend.” Antimony tries very hard to make Kat like her again…too hard.  She creates scary situations in which she can “save” Kat,  It doesn’t exactly work, although Kat isn’t really mad anymore, just annoyed.  But then a gigantic creepy monster thing comes out of the water.  Kat is impressed by Annie’s conjuring until Annie says she didn’t do it.  They run out.

Only to learn that this is Lindsey–the creature who helped design most of everything at the court–a giant crablike creature.

All this time Kat has been working on the idea of growing a robot.  Well, not exactly, but kind of.  She imagines using a muscular frame to build a robot body around.  Or something.  She is able to use the smarts of one of the existing robots to give her a hand.  The code they provide is actually a small white cube with no writing on it.  Amazingly Kat is able to read parts of it. (more…)

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