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Archive for the ‘Unfunny’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-The End of Domancy EP (2020).

Voivod has released a new EP for 2020.  The metal band were invited to play the 2019 Montreal Jazz Fest.

To do something special, guitarist Chewy created some orchestration for a song hey had not played live before.  This EP has the live version of the song as well as a newly recorded studio version.  There’s an extra live song from the Festival as well.

The newly recorded studio version of the song is now called The End Of Dormancy (Metal Section). It has  brass quintet comprising saxophone, trombone and trumpet.  It works quite well because of how cinematic their music (and especially their newest album The Wake) is.  I mean the military drum march in the middle of the song could come from any terrific sci-fi movie. The horns add a very interesting cinematic quality and do not detract from the heaviness of the original.  Even though the horns do a lot of the dramatic rising and falling parts there is still plenty of room for Chewy’s guitar soloing.  But that high note trumpet at the end is pretty spectacular.

The live version runs about a minute longer because even though Voivod is tight AF and very meticulous, they allow for an improvised saxophone solo.  The audience is pretty thrilled by it.  I love the way the band is quiet at the beginning of the solo and then builds in intensity to the end of the solo.  And that ending trumpet high note is even more impressive live.

The third song is a live version of The Unknown Knows, a fantastic song from Nothingface.  Voivod plays incredibly complicated an intricate music and the fact that they can pull it off live–and have it sound even better–is a testament to how great they are.  And also how great Chewy is as a replacement for Piggy.

[READ: September 10, 2020] Do You Mind If I Cancel?

I had no idea who Gary Janetti was before reading this book.  S. brought it home and thought I’d enjoy reading it.  With a title like that I thought it would be kind of funny.

Turns out that Gary Janetti is a TV writer for a few different comedies (although none that I watch).  And his writing is a lot like that of David Sedaris.  By that I mean he is lauded as being a hilarious writer.  But in fact, while some of his piece are funny, there is a lot of sadness and despair in some of these essays.  I mean, the last essay is about the many men who died of AIDS in the 80s.  To call this book “laugh-out-loud funny” is slightly off base.

I hate to lump Janetti in with Sedaris, because it’s not really fair.  They are both gay men, no longer young, with a great eye for details and a snarky attitude.  But the difference is in perspective.  Janetti is ten years younger (which isn’t that big of a deal, but given the time frame they are talking about, it was quite a change in gay culture).  More importantly, whereas Sedaris is from North Carolina, Janetti is from Long Island. So he has has much greater proximity to a big (gay) city.  His family also seems to be much less antagonistic with each other–so Janetti’s comedy doesn’t stem from familial wars.

Janetti lived much of his twenties in New York City as a single guy working in a fancy hotel where rich, fabulous people showed up regularly. He has many stories of Broadway, and disappointing encounters famous people and the like.   Amusingly he also has a lot of stories about how he watched a lot of TV–typically not the most exciting thing to write about–but his essays about this are quite funny.

There are eighteen essays in total. (more…)

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download (59)SOUNDTRACK: TOM ADAMS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #53 (July 21, 2020).

download (60)I had heard of Tom Adams from Bob Boilen, but I guess I hadn’t actually heard him before.  This performance is otherworldly. It reminds me in some ways of Sigur Rós, although only in the ethereal moments.

Tom’s 2017 album Silence features Tom singing and playing minimal piano.  But here

what we have is Tom Adams at his home in Cornwall, England, playing four brand-new songs with minimal electric guitar and an enthralling mix of tech-altered sounds.

For the basis of this performance Adams is playing a subdued and lovely electric guitar (finger-picked).   He sings some fairly simple folk melodies, but it’s when he starts “oohing” and crooning high notes that things transcend the familiar.  Because even though his singing voice is fairly deep, he has an amazing falsetto.   And it’ s that falsetto that he manipulates in fascinating way.

That box with all the wires in the foreground is a Eurorack modular synthesizer which, in real time, processes his majestic voice in ways unpredictable even to Tom. He wrote to tell me that, “Once the system is set in motion, you never know exactly what will happen next… I like to think of it as being a bit like the waves on the beach; to some extent, they are all predictable, yet each wave is still unique.”

“The Turning Of The Year” is a delightful folk ballad with delightful lyrics

What a day / What a day / to share with these good friends
We sing the songs we always sing until / we’ve sung them all
and through the evening our voices ring / in the rafters of the hall.

But when the Eurorack takes over, that simple trip with friends feels very different.

“A Flower Disappearing” is a slower song with a deeper guitar sound.  It’s easy to forget about his falsetto and the electronics until he throws them briefly in after the verses.

I wondered though if all of the songs would be manipulated–would his regular voice hav a chance to shine?  It does on “If My Love Was A Guitar.”  He sings some delightful ooohing without any electronics.  His songs and vocal style reminds of Nick Drake, and this song in particular fits that bill (except for the falsetto, of course).

If my love was a guitar / it wouldn’t matter where you are
you could just take me in your arms / and hear the music in my heart
…playing gently

And if I was a melody / then you could take me when you leave
and anytime you felt a need / you could just sing along with me
…in perfect harmony

His amusing reaction at being out of tune is a nice moment of levity in this otherwise mellow performance.  “Postcards From The Road” features an entire section in beautiful unaltered falsetto.

all the friends you still miss / you kept in touch but cast adrift / you walked away but now you’re looking back

all the stories left behind / but when you read the final lines / turn a page and start to write something new

because all the choices that you make / these are not regrets to take / with you they’re just postcards from the road.

I love the cool effects that the Eurorack provides, but it’s great to hear him sing without it as well–his voice is really great.

[READ: July 24, 2020] “The Ethicist”

This is a Shouts and Murmurs piece that is a series of questions.  Typically I think this style works better than trying o stretch out a joke to a full page.

So in this one, people are writing in to The Ethicist with their problems.  The Ethicist is a real column in The New York Times Magazine and people write in with serious ethical issues.  Some people really like reading this column.  It was started in 1999 by a humorist, Randy Cohen, who did take the ethical questions seriously.  he stepped down in 2011 and others have run the column in his stead.

So this piece was written after the column had been around for two years or so.

Martin is his delightfully absurd self with his questions: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DIANA GORDON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #51 (July 15, 2020).

I was immediately attracted to this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert because I (still) have the exact same neon green iBook.  I don’t know how old Gordon is, but I have to wonder if it’s original.

I don’t know anything about Diana Gordon.  That’s probably logical since although she’s been in the music world for a while, it was mostly a s songwriter and under a different name.

After years of writing hits for others and releasing music under the moniker Wynter Gordon, the Queens, N.Y., native has awakened new aspects of her artistry in recent years that she’s finally ready to share under her given name.

So if she wrote hits, her music must be poppy, right?  Not exactly

But while her earlier work routed through the pop and dance worlds, Wasted Youth balances influences of Whitney Houston, Alanis Morissette and The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan.

I actually hear a lot of Natalie Merchant in her quieter singing–especially with the gorgeous acoustic guitar of her masked-up guitarist, Davin Givhan.

Like the workplace props that flank her, [folders, boxes and a Curb Your Enthusiasm mug and check out that phone!] Gordon’s latest EP, 2020’s Wasted Youth, feels so fitting for these unprecedented times.

Starting with “Rollin,” you can hear “Gordon’s nihilistic invincibility” in a song that name checks Nirvana.  It starts with a great deep guitar riff (it even sounds bad ass on the acoustic guitar).  She adds a raspy vocal intro before singing with a cool (dis)affected 90’s alt rock vocal style.  I really dig it (the record version has a more thumping bass sound making it more danceable but also more distorted).

When the song is over she demonstrates a yodeling sound that underpins her singing in “Rollin.”

“Wolverine” is a quiet ballad that showcases her “forlorn lilting yodel.” It’s a more traditional song with her Natalie Merchant-esque delivery.  This is a pretty song from one of her earlier EPs.

The blurb describes “Wasted Youth” as “a sonic eyeroll-shrug,” but I feel it’s more of an intense song of pain.  Although not to be prudish but I wish there wasn’t quite so much cursing in it.  I mean every instance if the phrase “wasted youth” (several times per chorus) is preceded by “fuckin.”  It would be effective once, but just gets worn out for an entire song.  It’s a really good song otherwise.

“Once A Friend” is another ballad. This one features her “tear-jerking honesty.”  The record version sounds much the same–acoustic guitar, straightforward vocals and a gut punch of a lyric–all in less than two minutes.

I’m definitely going to have to listen to her some more.

[READ: July 20, 2020] “The American Persuasion”

This was a New Yorker Shouts & Murmurs.  These pieces are usually one page, but this one was three.   It’s also labelled “Part 1: The Scent of Liberty.”  I can’t decide if that means there are actually more parts or if that is part of the joke (there’s no part two in a future issue).

The premise of this piece is amusing, it is even more amusing reading it after Hamilton has come out because it also deals with the founding fathers in an unusual way.

The piece starts with George Washington trying to impress the Marquis–the man who would “be known as the noble Lafayette.”  Washington is a dandy, admiring himself in the mirror with fragrance dabbed behind his ears.  He “understood the power of his beauty, and he was not above using it now.”  Lafayette finds him hard to resist.

Washington was assisted in his Revolutionary quest by “noted voluptuaries and lovers of pleasure” Paul Revere, John Hancock and the Adamses. (more…)

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30SOUNDTRACK: KAWABATA MAKOTO [河端一]-INUI 4 (2007).

a2911123677_16Kawabata Makoto [河端一] is the guitarist and mastermind behind Acid Mothers Temple. The band is hugely prolific. But he still had time to record solo albums. Often times without any guitar.

This was Kawabata’s fourth solo LP, now available on bandcamp

NUI 4 is the fourth volume in Makoto’s series of occasional solo releases for VHF. While widely and rightly known for ear-splitting Deep Purple style guitar demolition with Acid Mothers Temple, Gong, etc, Kawabata’s INUI works are highly personal and introspective, with lots of room given to cosmic atmosphere and acoustic instruments. INUI 4 is a single 68 minute track, a slow building and evolving multi-layered swath of acoustic & electric guitars, electronics, and hurdy gurdy. The final 20 minutes of the track features prominent “glissando” guitar, ala Daevid Allen, a very fine sound to be lost in.

This album consists of 1 hour-long song called RYO (01:07:51).

A piercing high note lingers throughout the track as a beautiful bouzouki melody plays and trippy space sounds swirl around.  The piercing note seems to fade into the background as soaring swirling sounds begin around 5 minutes with a kind of high whistling melody running through from about 8 minutes.

AS the song  continues, new sounds continue to enter.  At 15 minutes, warping and buzzing sound swirl in.  At 23 minutes, deep moaning sounds cycle through.  At 30 minutes swirling spaceship sounds float in.

Around 35 minutes a melody seems to come through the hazy distance (possibly from the hurdy gurdy).  Around 40 minutes a “beat” (made of possible reversed guitar chords) starts to come in.  This adds a kind of quiet propulsion to the sound as the soloing in the distance gets more intense (yet still quite).

Then at 46 minutes it shifts dramatically.  All the drones drop away and the song starts fresh with gentle swirling guitars.  Everything feels like it is ringing and chiming and it stays in this beautiful glissando style for the next 20 minutes.

Not a bad way to spend an hour.

[READ: September 13, 2019] “On a Bad Day You Can See Forever”

This story seems mostly like an opportunity for Woody Allen to throw in as many fifty-cent words as he can.  Which is kind of funny since it is about overpaying for renovations.

You’d never quite guess that’s where this story is going from the opening.  As it opens the narrator is at the gym and has just thrown out his back (“my spine suddenly assumed the shape of a Möbius strip”) trying to “tickle pink the almond-eyed fox” doing push ups near him.  Given Allen’s history, this is unfortunate to say the least.  Not the least of which is because this character is married.

But whatever, it’s a comic story, right? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAVID CROSBY & THE LIGHTHOUSE BAND-Tiny Desk #876 (August 7, 2019).

I had more or less assumed that David Crosby was done with music.  He seemed more of a punchline than anything else lately.  He hadn’t put out much in the way of music in the last decade or so.  But the new Lighthouse album was getting some positive reviews.

It seems odd that he’s never been on a Tiny Desk before, but then again, he hasn’t done much lately to warrant it.  Nevertheless, here he and his band are.

Moments before the first note at the Tiny Desk, David Crosby needed the mics rearranged: He asked that his microphone be positioned evenly with the rest of his band mates, rather than in front of them, explaining that while his name is the one on the marquee, The Lighthouse Band has no hierarchy.

That band is an inter-generational ensemble, featuring Snarky Puppy bandleader and bassist Michael League, as well as guitarist Becca Stevens and keyboardist Michelle Willis, both accomplished singers and songwriters in their own right. They all first came together while the members were collaboratively writing and recording for Crosby’s 2016 album Lighthouse. Everybody sings in this band, trading lead vocals for harmonies and vice-versa in just about every combination.

The Lighthouse Band sounds fantastic and Crosby really does take a back seat to the younger musicians.

“What Are Their Names” is a political song sung in a capella style.  It is short and smart

I wonder who they are
The men who really run this land
And I wonder why they run it
With such a thoughtless hand
What are their names
And on what streets do they live
I’d like to ride right over
This afternoon and give
Them a piece of my mind
About peace for mankind
Peace is not an awful lot to ask

Crosby sings lead on “Looks In Their Eyes.”  His voice still sounds pretty good–although he’s not pushing too hard.  Becca Stevens has a wonderful high voice.

Before “Other Half Rule” Crosby says that this is a song about asking women to take over the world–you couldn’t possibly do any worse.  Michael League sings lead (his voice is much better than Crosby’s).  Becca and Michelle sing the second verse and sound terrific together.  The design of this song is very CSN&Y and you can certainly hear their voices in the harmonies.  I also really like the part where Becca plays a lead riff on the electric 12-string in between strums from Michael.

Then they play the classic “Woodstock” with a new arrangement but still wonderful harmonies.  This is a fantastic song in any version and this version is pretty great.

[READ: August 2019] Snotgirl Vol. 1

I loved Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim books.  The whole story was funny and the artwork was great.

This series is written by O’Malley, so it has a lot of the really funny moments like Scott Pilgrim did.  But it is drawn by leslie Hung, so the style is very different.

Hung’s drawing style is quite pretty, which befits the character-a fashion blogger.  Now, Scott Pilgim took O’Malley’s style and made the humor exaggerated.  Hung’s more pretty style is a contrast to O’Malley’s content.  It kind of works, although it almost deemphasizes the humor.

So what we have is a story about a vapid LA fashion blogger and, honestly, its not that interesting.  Scott Pilgrim was a loser, but his story was funny and interesting.  But Lottie might be too vapid to be interesting. Lottie’s biggest problem is that she has allergies (hence Snotgirl).

Is it possible to build a story around that?  Possibly not.

It starts with O’Malley’s humor as he introduces the characters.  Each woman gets a tag:

Lottie Person; Fashion Blogger; Style: effortlessly chic; Age: 25 3/4

Then her two best friends:
Megan Foster “Normgirl”; Style: boring, normie; Age 23? 27? don’t care
Misty Sutton “Cutegirl” Fashion blogger; Style: too cute; Age ???

She has to give everyone a nickname because she can’t keep anyone straight otherwise.

Then we see the first crisis of Lottie’s life.  Her ex-boyfriend Sunny Day is now dating her former intern, Charlene.  Charlene is younger, but thankfully not cuter.

While Lottie is freaking out about this she meets a pretty woman, Caroline, who orders the same weird coffee as her.  Lottie calls her “Coolgirl.”  Coolgirl knows of Lottie and follows her blog.  Coolgirl is an aspiring fashion blogger herself (good grief how many are there?).

Coolgirl is so cool, she forgot her phone and she’s living her life anyway.  Who does that?

Lottie goes to her allergist, but it’s a new fellow, a hot young guy who gives her a new experimental drug.

That night she meets Coolgirl at the bar (Lottie doesn’t normally go out). She has an allergy attack and runs to the restroom to hide her snot and take her new pills.  But Coolgirl barges in on her to se that she’s okay.  She laughs and calls Lottie “Snottie.”  Lottie seems to black out and when she wakes up, Coolgirl is dead on the floor.

But the next day (Lottie has no memory of getting home) there is no word of a dead girl anywhere in the news.  She;s pretty freaked out until her new intern, Esther Dumont (Style: my intern; Age unpaid) arrives to make all of Lottie’s problems go away.  [It’s staggering to think that Lottie would have an intern].

Lottie goes out for coffee with her “friends,” the haters club.  Charlene works at this coffee shop.  [I love that Charlene looks like Heather my favorite character from AP Bio, although this is from 2017, so its clearly a coincidence].  Charlene puts Lottie milk in her coffee (Lottie is lactose intolerant, of course) and that’s the last straw.

Then there’s a new character introduced, a detective.  His name is John Cho (no relation to the beloved actor).  Hes 27, and rising star with the LAPD. Now that he’s been made a detective he can unleash his greatest skill: Fashion!  This is such a wonderful O’Malley joke and delivery, that I wish it paid off more.  Cho is a huge fan of Lottie’s blog and believes her to be perfect in real life.  Their paths will cross later.

Later that night at a party Charlene and Sunny Day are there. Charlene is wearing one of Lottie’s old dresses (Esther the intern sold it to her).  Lottie gets right in her face and yells “Take everything. Take my dress, take Sunny, you’re nothing but a stalker and worse than that, you’re a fake!”

But when Charlene says she saw Lotte go into the bathroom with the pretty girl and she knows what Lottie did, well Lottie can’t deal and she pushes Charlene into the pool.

And yet just as things seem their worst, Lottie gets a text from Cool girl.  She is at the party too.  She’s not dead.

On New Year’s Eve, Lottie goes out.  Charlene is there and she drunkenly pulls up her dress at Lottie and says, “I’m wearing your panties!”  There is a buzz around the room until Lottie has to tell everyone that they are not hers, she designed them.

Moments later, Lottie is talking to Charlene on the roof.  Charlene is in tears and Lottie feels like she wants to help this crazy girl.  But as the new year chimes in Coolgirl sees the two of them and jealously pushes Charlene off the roof.

What kind of story is this?

I found this book really hard to read.  Not because of the text girl speak (although that was annoying) but because the characters are so unpleasant and dull.  The first few chapters were meant as exposition I guess, but they were expository of characters that were hard to distinguish and seem ultimately irrelevant.

And again, the concept that Lottie’s biggest concern is allergies is hard to imagine as the basis for a story.

I’m not dying to read the other two books, but I want to give O’Malley the benefit of the doubt.

 

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SOUNDTRACK: UraShimaSakataSen (浦島坂田船)-Shoutër (2016).

When I looked up “Shouter” I found this song (I love the umlaut).

I’ve never heard of UraShimaSakataSen (浦島坂田船), or USSS for short.  But I love that this is their description:

USSS is a 4-unit indie pop boy group consisting of Uratanuki (Green), Shima (Purple), Sakata (Red) and Senra (Yellow).

I didn’t spend a lot of time researching this band, but every image of them seems to be manga.  And the video for this song is entirely manga (hilariously only four still images recycled).  Each singer is a color and each singer has a background of that color.  And each time that singer sings the screen turns that color.

I particularly like that Green has a cuddle creature on his shoulder implying some kind of fascinating back story, I’m sure.

Most of the lyrics are in Japanese, but there is an occasional English section like the one that mentions the title:

浦)Unlimited,
島)Success,
坂田)Shining,
船)Shoutër,

For a pop band, this song doesn’t quite sound as poppy as I’d have thought.

It starts with a flute and loud electronic drums as the soft vocals come in.  The flute returns and it segues to heavy guitars and kind of rapped section as the song bounces along.

The chorus has heavy guitars and a grungey stomp before all four sing whatever it is the chorus is.

The melding of heavy metal guitars, traditional sounding flute, dance drums and pop melody and fast singing is (at least for 2016) so uniquely Japanese.

Babymetal has released their first album two year earlier.  While this is in no way a heavy metal song (and sounds nothing like Babymetal), the use of the really heavy guitars in this song has to be attributed to Babymetal’s success.

Then I had to check out the lyrics.  Someone has spelled out the English lyrics online.  Holy cow this is a really dark song.  And, how many pop songs name check Joan of Arc, Aristotle and Nietzche?  Is UraShimaSakataSen some kind of existential anime boy band?  The plot thickens.

Maybe we cry while we’re born
And smile when we die because we’re happy
All our words pile up
Our voices continue to reach its limits as we search for the meaning of shouting
Input, Verify, Accept, Start.
Being raised in a made-up and empty pitch black world
I play alone
A little light shines from the window like a lamp
One or two texts stand out
I wonder what I should play tonight.
Should I talk, dance, or draw…
Walk out to spaces and change
Going back and forth from reality and delusions
All ya flags throw away; struggle through it.
After spending extra time eating dinner and taking a bath
I say the magic words.
Listen to my voice
What should we shout in an empty world?
The people who “encourage” us, like a gallant figure Jeanne d’Arc
What should we shout in an empty world?
We chase after people who cause “conflict”, and want to be like Einstein…
Shout! Yeah Yeah Yeah
Until our voices continues to reach its limits
Stopped, Reload, Reenter, Restart.
I see. It’s because I wasn’t taught to be a good loser?
I only keep on losing my way
So I wonder what I should do with my future?
Right hand, left hand, you, and a survey
Let’s talk more; it’s prolonging the battle
Really, thank you for everything.
Shocking sound and tonight; you’re the guest of honor
Here, so to say, is the electronic secret base
Enjoy tour and travel; I’m the guide
It’s the era for minority groups and puffing out your chest.
These are words to destroy weapons
Listen to my voice
What should we shout in an empty world?
We “petition” to understand people, like the unfortunate Alan Turing.
Comforting people in lamentation about Friedrich Nietzsche…
Shout! Yeah Yeah Yeah
Until our voices continue to reach its limits
If the us that cry while we’re born
Smile when we die,
Then, y’know
I’ll make noise with you all every night
Until our voices reach its limits.
That’s the answer I got from shouting daily.
The empty world disappears and returns to normal.
Each person lives together and waits for reality in a faraway place
In an empty world, I wonder what’s left?
I want to play here one more time.
Please listen to my voice
What should we shout in an empty world?
“Confessions” tie people to the truthful Aristotle.
What should we shout in an empty world?
“Promises” tempt people like Shakespeare…
Shout! Yeah Yeah Yeah
Until your voice reaches its limit

[READ: June 20, 2019] “Shouters”

I think it’s fascinating the way that Shouts & Murmurs tends to make funny people… less funny.  Is it the nature of the New Yorker, that the comedy is such that it’s at a different wavelength?  (Not higher or lower, just different).

Or maybe these pieces aren’t really supposed to be all that funny.

Steve Martin is one of the funniest people ever and yet this idea is so blandly unfunny, that I don’t understand why he wrote it.

I enjoyed the opening… (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GRAHAM COXON-The End Of The F***ing World (Original Songs and Score) (2018).

When I saw Graham Coxon live, he played a bunch of songs from this soundtrack.

I assumed that the soundtrack would be one song and a bunch of moody instrumentals, so I never really looked into it. But recently I read that it was really good.

And it is.

There’s 16 songs on the record.  Most are full songs and the few instrumental pieces are just as interesting.

“Walking All Day” is the catchy song that he played live that did interest me in the soundtrack.  It’s a bouncy folk song with a buzzy acoustic guitar solo.  He sings in a quiet whispery voice which sounds different from his usual singing voice.  The lyrics are sweet, if not odd:

Walking all day with my mouth on fire
trying to get talking to you.

“Angry Me” has a punky strum on acoustic guitar.  It sounds like a bratty Blur song from the album that “Song 2” came from.  [He played this].

“Flashback” is 16 seconds of heavy metal noise with saxophones and pummeling drums.  It’s very disconcerting between these two songs, and I feel like it should come later for better sequencing.  But it is only 16 seconds.

“In My Room” is a quiet acoustic song.  It starts with just the guitar.  Then the bass and drums come in as Coxon slowly sings about those outside of his room:

Outside the window they’re singing
Inside the doorway there’s me
Endlessly thinking and working

“Bus Stop” is five minutes long.  There’s a two-minute super catchy instrumental section which is followed by a bouncy verse with rather shoegaze feel.

Then there’s a few really short songs all around two minutes.  “The Beach” starts with a rumbling slide guitar solo and adds picked guitar notes.  It’s got a very Western feeling.  “Saturday Night” is a quiet mournful ballad of acoustic guitar and piano.  He played this live (without the piano).

“On the Prowl” is a garage rock song with a very fifties feel.

“It’s All Blue” is another delicate folk song that Graham played live.  It features his more innocent vocal lines.

“The Snare” is a heavily reverbed noir kind of song with that familiar detective bass line and echoing guitar (very David Lynch).  The last minute or so totally rocks out with a distortion filled solo.

“Lucifer’s Behind Me” is a fast song with bongos and more vibrato guitar lines.  It’s kind of upbeat despite the feeling of pursuit in the lyrics.

“Field” is a lovely instrumental.  A 90 second acoustic guitar piece that is rather relaxing.  A nice contrast to “She Left the Light On– a stark and sinister acoustic song with a lead whistle!  The middle is catchy.  He played this one live.

“Roaming Star” is a 2 minute gentle acoustic piece with soft vocals  About half way through there’s some very old-fashioned sounding horns.  He played this one.

“Sleuth” is a two minute instrumental.  It has a chugging electric guitar with some looping guitar solo work over the top.

“There’s Something in the Way that You Cry” is a slow mournful ballad that he played live.  It’s a pretty sad ending to a soundtrack album that holds together really well and isn’t only instrumental pieces.

I now wish I had heard them before the show so I could have really appreciated them live.

[UPDATE: I watched the show in May 2020 and the soundtrack works really well.  The show is very very dark, as you might guess from the title].

[READ: June 20, 2019] “Superstring Theory for Dummies”

Zev Borow is associated with Dave Eggers.  He worked on their magazine Might and also on McSweeney’s ( I don’t think they work together anymore, but they might).  Since then, has written for just about every publication out there.  He also wrote episodes of and became a prominent story editor in the show Chuck.

This is the first piece of his I’ve read in the New Yorker and, as with so many Shouts & Murmurs, it’s mildly funny.

The bit starts with a quote from the Times in which the author tried to describe superstring theory which looks beyond the three dimensions of space.  Imagine that you are in the book Flatland.  You can move forward and back, left and right but not up or down.

So Borow expands on that.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAN AUERBACH-Tiny Desk Concert #726 (April 4, 2018).

Everybody loves Dan Auerbach, but I’m just lukewarm on him.  I could never get into The Black Keys and the Arcs were okay.  I will say that I absolutely love the final song they play here today and didn’t realize it was him.  But I think I dislike the style of music he makes not the quality of the songs.

Dan brings his Easy Eye Sound Revue to the Tiny Desk. It’s an abundance of gifted musicians who have all played with a long, long list of legends, including Elvis, Don Williams and John Prine. …  The small band for this stripped-down version of the “Revue” is fleshed with Dante Schwebel on guitar and Russ Pahl’s resonator guitar sounds.

Midway through the four-song set (that includes tunes from his 2017 album Waiting on a Song), Dan introduces a powerhouse: the seasoned but relatively unknown blues-and-soul singer Robert Finley. The husky voiced gentleman, with a giant smile and magical charisma, is heart-winning and heart-warming. It’s remarkable that this legally blind singer is only now getting the attention he deserves….  Robert Finley and Dan Auerbach released [an album] at the end of 2017 called Goin’ Platinum.

In the recent Tiny Desk Concert from fellow Nashville musician John Prine, [he told a tale] of writing songs with Pat McLaughlin in the morning, going to town for some meatloaf and then recording the song by day’s end. Well that’s Pat on the mandolin here in this Tiny Desk set. His playing is both astonishing and low-key.

The Review plays four songs

“Waiting On a Song” is a folk song with a country feel and a slide guitar solo on that resonator guitar.

“Never In My Wildest Dreams” feels like an old cowboy song complete with what is almost cowboy yodelling from Schwebel.

“Get It While You Can” features Robert Finley on vocals.  It is the traditional song and Finley does a great job, singing with gusto and making clear some lyrics that I never heard before.  His voice is pretty great too.

“Shine On Me”  This song is irresistible even if it sounds exactly like a Travelling Wilbury song.

It’s just a matter of time before he hits on a genre that I really like, I’m sure.

[READ: January 5, 2018] Haynes Explains Americans

This book came across my desk and it looked pretty funny.

There was no author name on the cover, but inside it mentions that it is written by Boris Starling.  I’d never heard of him, but I looked him up and found that he has written seven crime novels and that his first, Messiah, was notable for its fast pace and high levels of gore.  He has written a bunch of other stuff too, including several (at least 12) of the popular ‘Haynes Explains’ series of tongue-in-cheek mini-manuals.

So this is written as a manual (based on a stripdown and rebuild).

It is written very much like a car manual: “the aim of this manual is to help you get the best value from the American.”  It includes lots of pictures of car parts with labels for other things.  It’s a good mockery of the manuals .

Normally I enjoy a good mockery of Americanisms.  We are ripe for parody.  But this book feels just too easy. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 1 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 8, 2005).

This series of ten concerts contains the final Rheostatics live shows that are left to write about–except for their “final shows” and their “reunion shows” (which I really hope to see some day). This was the 1st night of their last 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe. Ford Pier was on keyboards.

These shows seem significantly shorter that the 2004 Fall Nationals.  This show is under 2 hours–practically unheard of in a Fall Nationals.  Unlike the 2004 Fall Nationals, however, they are not promoting an album, so there is a lot more diversity of songs.

This recording is from the audience, so there’s a (shocking) amount of chatter from fans.  You also can’t hear everything that’s said into the mics, so you have to listen close if you want to hear audience interaction.

The show opens with them talking to fans from San Diego (Mike: “that means Saint Diego”).  Dave asks how long they’re here. He says well, we have three chances, then.

“Loving Arms” is a sweet opening from Tim.  Then Martin starts announcing in a smarmy voice “I’m a member.  Hi there.”  It’s a launch into “CCYPA” (Miek: “in an election year, imagine that”).  Tim follows with a quick “Song Of The Garden.”

Then Dave starts playing the opening to “Fat” to much applause.  “That’s Ford Pier on the keyboards.  That’s Tim Vesely on the keyboards.  That’s Martin Tielli on the keyboards.”  During the end jam section, there’s some loud, unusual backing vocals which I assume are from Ford Pier.

Martin: “What’s the first note of the next song, Dave?  I’m feeling a little shaky.  But that’s what this song [‘Fish Tailin”]is about so it should lend itself to this current number.  After this comes “Mumbletypeg” Martin: “That is David Augustino Bidini.  Dave wrote this song.  All by himself!”  It romps along nicely.

Next is the first of a couple new songs.  “Sunshine At Night” is actually a song hat Tim would release on his 2008 Violet Archers disc Sunshine at Night (where it is mostly the same but more fleshed out and better-sounding).

Martin is having fun with the “Hi there” smarmy voice as an intro to “The Tarleks.”  It’s followed by “Marginalized” which has a rather lengthy and dramatic piano solo in the middle.

Martin: “That was by Timothy Warren Vesely.”  Ford: “Stop shouting everyone’s middle names, Jesus.”  Dave:  “Martin is obsessed with middle names, whenever he meets someone new he says ‘What’s your middle name?”  Mike: “Yeah right but whats your middle name.”  Ford continues, “A friend of mine was engaged to a woman from Slovenia.  When she came to visit she was astonished to hear that everyone had a middle name–are you all rich?  It was a difficult thing to explain to her.  She associated middle named with wealth?  Middle names were not a concept that came to her block in Ljubljana.  Tim: “Ford tried to convince her it had something to do with wealth.”

Then came a song, “The Land Is Wild.”  This would eventually be released on Bidiniband’s 2009 album The Land is Wild.  It’s pretty much the same although this earlier version has a few lines that are not in the final.  A line about him being in his own head and listening to Metallica, Ozzy or Queen.  There’s another line about tickling the net and being lost in his head.  Both of these lines are left off in the final.  Interestingly, the final verse about fishing with his old man and his death were added later.

Martin says that for “Here Comes the Image,” Augustine is going to play the drums and Dimitrius is going to play the keyboard.”

As they start, “It’s Easy To Be With You,” Dave says, “My friend this is no time to be talking on your phone, there’s some serious rock n roll happening up here.  Take a picture with your mind.”

It’s followed by a beautiful “Stolen Car.”  Martin’s vocals are just so good.  After the song ends, properly, there’s an extra acoustic strumming section that soon becomes “Nowhere Man” sung by Selina Martin.

Dave notes that it has been 25 years since John Lennon was killed.  The world has gotten a lot shittier.

Ford then says, “You know who was really burned on that score? Darby Crash, lead singer of The Germs.  He committed suicide with an intentional heroin overdose the same day.  Five years earlier David Bowie said they only have five years left.  So he told his band mates hat five years from now he was going to off himself.  They ignored him, but he did.  And then three hours later the Walrus gets blown away.”
Dave’s takeaway: “Never take advice from David Bowie.  He told me to buy a wool suit.  Well actually Springsteen told me, but Bowie told him.”
Tim once ate some hot soup with David Bowie.

We’ll do a couple more for you seeing as how it’s Thursday.  Tim: “Can you do a little pretty intro for me that you sometimes do?”  Dave does and “Making Progress ” sounds big and more rocking than usual (the keys help).  Martin plays  a more rocking guitar solo before settling in to the pretty ending.  When it’s over you can hear Dave says “we can call him Timmy, I’m not sure you can call him…  Well, I guess you just did.  Is this your third straight year?  Fourth?  You’ve earned the right to call him Timmy.”

Thanks to the Creaking Tree String Quartet they were beyond awesome.  I can’t wait to see them again tomorrow night.  The set ends with a lovely version of “Self Serve Gas Station” with some great piano additions.  The song ends in a long jam with trippy keys a fun solo from Martin.  As he walks off Martin says, “I smoke Gaulioses Blue cigarettes, since they can’t advertise.  The flavor!  And so did John Lennon and Bruce Cockburn.”

After the encore, Dave sings and acoustic “Last Good Cigarette.”  When Martin comes back out they play a surprising encore song of “Song Of Flight” which segues into a mellow intro for “In This Town.”  By by the end it picks up steam and rocks to the end.

It was a fairly short first show, of the Fall Nationals, but they played a lot of interesting stuff.

[READ: April 20, 2017] Friends is Friends

This book had a lot going against it.  The title is virtually impossible to find in a catalog (3 words long, 2 words repeat, the other word is “is” and the one main word is incredibly common in children’s books, ugh).  On top of that, no libraries near me carried it.  And then its got that creepy-ass cover.

Reviews of the book weren’t very positive either.  So my hopes weren’t very high.

And even with low hopes, I was still pretty disappointed. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THUNDERCAT-Tiny Desk Concert #660 (October 18, 2017).

I had never heard of Thundercat.  Except I probably have:

Thundercat, born Stephen Bruner, is willing and able to shape-shift to fit into just about any box you show him — he just won’t stay in there for long. Whether fusing his talent for jazz while a bassist with punk legacy act Suicidal Tendencies or as a member of Snoop Dogg’s band — maybe running a little too far with a solo here and there — the focus seems to eventually drift his way.

After releasing two brilliant solo albums, he was plucked to work on what eventually became one of the most important works of art released this decade: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Capitalizing off of the new exposure, he quickly released the EP The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam. That was followed about two years later by Drunk, his most solid project to date.

I didn’t know what to expect in the days leading to the performance, but I was hoping to get what I thought a Thundercat experience would be like. All boxes ended up checked: He arrived wearing a neon pink hoodie with his signature logo plastered about, kickboxing shorts, white chancletas, playing a Nintendo portable gaming console. He and his bandmates Dennis Hamm (keys) Justin Brown (drums) and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (violin), all master musicians in their own right, polished off some bacon croissant sandwiches and proceeded to give us three of the best of what Drunk has to offer.

Overall, Bruner sings with gentle falsetto.  Most of the lyrics are pretty funny, with some pointed lyrics.  But the really impressive thing is that he is playing a six string bass and getting all kinds of great sounds out of it.

I love love love the bass sound that he gets on all of the songs.  And I love that he throws in some fascinating solo moments where he does these incredible runs up and down the fretboard.

The bass is sort of watery on the first track “Lava Lamp.”  It opens with him picking out the melody on chords and some delightful backing ooohs.  The violin is electric and plays these really trippy synthy sounds.

The second song “Friend Zone” opens with watery rubbery chords from the bass and then a great funky bass line while the keys play.  The lyrics are really quite funny:

I’m your biggest fan but I guess that’s just not good enough /
is it because i wear my hair weird or because I like to play Diablo

The next time you call me / I’m just gonna sit and stare at the screen /waiting for the call to end.

If you’re not bringing tacos / you should just turn and walk away.

There’s some really cool squeaking violin notes that add a wonderful texture to overall piece.  And of course, there’s some great fat bass riffs

The chorus goes: “no one wants to be in the friend zone.”  As the song ends, he chuckles.

The final song “Them Changes” has even cooler sounds from the bass.  There’s echo and flange and it sounds like three people playing.  It’s really great, particularly the amazing bass runs.  The violin also has a really trippy echo on it.

Bruner’s bass is tremendous.  And I’m really curious to check out more from this guy.  (In fact, just listening to a few songs from the album, it’s pretty wild).

[READ: January 27, 2017] “‘Borat’: The Memo”

George Saunders is not afraid to attack injustice.  Sometimes he does it with humor.  Sometimes he does it very subtly.  And sometimes he does it in an incredibly unsubtle fashion (but still with humor).

It is clear that Saunders was completely offended by the movie Borat (this is not a timely posting about this piece I know).  But he wasn’t upset simply because Sasha Baron Cohen did rude things or was a little offensive.  He was offended at the very essence of what this movie did.

Disclosure: Sarah and I think the scene where Borat asks a stock boy what this is and the answer is “Cheese” over and over is absolutely hilarious.

So, how does Saunders deal with this movie?  By offering some suggestions for the DVD extras. (more…)

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