Archive for the ‘Isabel Fargo Cole’ Category

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


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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june2015 SOUNDTRACK: WOLF ALICE-Tiny Desk Concert #503 (January 22, 2016).

wolfaliceI have been really enjoying Wolf Alice’s album My Love is Cool. It has many familiar elements of shoegaze and grunge but it’s played in different and unexpected combinations.  The album is moody and at times abrasive. But there are some lovely melodies underneath these songs.  (They were originally a folkie band before going electric).

So this Tiny Desk Concert plays to their origins (all of five years ago).  And they really change their songs for this set.

“Fluffy” on the original has noisy guitars and some great stop starts and big screams.  They really, really slow it down for the set.  They remove the abrasiveness, sing delicately (with the drummer providing backing vocals), and for the chorus of “sixteen, so sweet” they actually whisper it.

On record, “Turn to Dust” is pretty and soaring and very moody.  This version is quite folky.  I prefer the original but I really like this version especially the way you can really hear the interesting lyrics. Also, Ellie’s voice is quite lovely with no effects on it.  They even hit Bob’s gong at the end.

The recorded version of “Bros” is upbeat and somewhat poppy.  This acoustic version takes on a similarly upbeat feel but in a very different style.  It feels like a real folk song and works surprisingly well in this context.  I love the ending that they take onto it which make it even prettier.

I enjoyed this set a lot, even if it took me two listens to recognize two of the songs.  But I didn’t really enjoy the band members all that much.  I’m going to assume they were nervous rather than disaffected.

After the first song the bassist casually asks, “How’s everyone doin?  Good?” and when everyone chuckles, he says, “That’s the end of that banter,” which is pretty funny (and makes Bob laugh out loud), but it proves to be true.  And it takes Bob to break the silence (while the guitarist tunes).  Bob tried to barter with the drummer for his shirt, which gets them to admire the strange things around the office.  Also singer Ellie Roswell seems really strangely uncomfortable looking at he ceiling quite often, which seems very unlike the cocky persona she puts on in her videos.  But the music is great, so that’s okay.

[READ: January 10, 2016] “Lip Service”

“Lip Service” is an excerpt from Hilbig’s book I which was translated from the German by Isabel Fargo Cole.

This was a strange story which is all about perception.

It starts “Most of W’s perceptions were acquired by looking from outside into the interior of lighted dwellings.”

He would watch people talking but he could barely hear them.  And so he learned how to perceive what was going on and how unimportant the actual words that people said could be.

And he really enjoyed the non-gratification this afforded–the idea of being a voyeur who never completes his quest. (more…)

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