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Archive for the ‘Unreliable narrator’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: CLAIRO-“Bags” (2019).

It seems like 2019 is the year of lo-fi women.  There’s a lot of great songs but great artists mining the same field of guitar-based, quietly sung catchy songs.

Clairo’s “Bags” is the latest of this style of song.

There’s a shoegaze vibe to the song both in the woozy guitars and Clairo’s distant vocals.  The melody is catchy but the big hook comes from what I assumed was a whispery, vibratoed synth line, but which a live video tells me is actually a guitar line.  It’s 11 notes long and meanders in a rather compelling way.

I’m curious what the rest of the album will sound like.

[READ: August 2019] The Fifty Year Sword

I’ve really enjoyed Mark Z. Danielewski’s meta fictional books. He makes the book itself, not just the words, part of the story.

This book is a novella.  Even though it’s nearly 300 pages, most of the right pages are blank and the left pages are mostly written in a poem-fashion with lots of white space.

(It’s a huge waste of paper, because the book would still work of text was on left and right, but whatever).

Neverthless, the design is really pretty.

This story has a design element that means there are a lot of colors in the book.

The conceit is that there are five orphans telling this story. Each is designated by a different colored quotation mark.  The orphans interrupt each other constantly (which is what gives the pages the look of poetry). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:공중도둑 (MID-AIR THIEF)쇠사슬 (Ahhhh, These Chains!)” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

공중도둑 (Mid-Air Thief) is from Korea (obviously).  Beyond that, virtually nothing is known about him (Lars confirms that it is a he, even if many of the vocals are by Summer Soul–she is his guest singer).

Mid-Air Thief makes beautiful but weird, glitchy folk music.  Every time something really lovely seems to come along, there’s always some kind of twist to make it not what you think.  This, of course, keeps everything interesting and fun.  But despite that, the whole album is bright and cheerful.  There’s feelings of Dungen and Beck and even some Kishi Bashi.  There’s even a sense of the more psychedelic Flaming Lips songs (but without the over-loud low end).

It’s really great.

“쇠사슬,” which translates into the delightfully odd “Ahhhh, These Chains!” opens with a pretty, fast-picked guitar and delicate voices.  The song builds as electronic sounds are placed throughout adding tension but never overriding the pleasantness of the guitar and soft voices.  After a slight break into a “chorus” the song resumes almost doubled in sounds and power, but never losing that sweetness.

I love how the song seems like it’s going to end after around four minutes but it still has a bashing coda to show off before it finally ends at five minutes.

Bob Boilen has sent out a plea to Mid-Air Thief to do a Tiny Desk Concert, and boy I hope that happens.

Plus how great is Mid-Air Thief’s avatar (on the left).

[READ: January 6, 2019] “It’s All Over Now”

This story is about a young woman, living alone and fearful in a sketchy part of Mexico.

Tina Reyes is the single woman.  She boards a bus to visit her friend Rosa.  She hopes Rosa is all right–Rosa had looked tired last week. Tina thinks about Rosa with her husband and children and she grows rather sad and melancholy thinking about her own life and how she will never have anything like that.

Is her status a self-fulfilling prophecy or is she just sensible about the word around her?

As soon as she gets off the bus a man approaches her.  She is freaked out by his request:

Pardon me senorita, may I walk with you? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKMIKE SCHIFLET-“00:00:00:00” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

Mike Schiflet released a 24 hour drone composition this year called Tetracosa.  This is the opening movement from it.  It is fifteen and a half minutes of slightly disconcerting drone composed of “effervescent guitar, blasted noise and electro-acoustic detritus.”

The drone is surprisingly “fast-paced” if that can be said of something without a beat.  The sounds and textures change and undulate at a pretty good clip.  At times it feels soothing, but then it throws in a note that pushes things a little off-kilter.  At times it is soothing but then comes zapping electronics which would certainly make for restless sleep.

I cannot imagine listening to this for 24 hours, although it would be a fascinating day if you did.

[READ: January 4, 2019] “Philosophy of the Foot”

This is the first story of the year and Soomro’s first published story.

It is set in Karachi and there is a boatload of subtext in this story.  As well, of course, as a lot of cultural information that I don’t understand.

Amer is an adult male (the younger boy calls him “uncle”) who stops to talk to the shoe repair boy. The boy has a cart and equipment and he takes great care of the shoes he has.   He is very knowledgeable.

Amer goes into his apartment and talks to his mother asking if they have anything for the shoe boy.  The ayah (a native maid or nursemaid employed by Europeans in India) suggests that Amer’s father had a trunk full of shoes which they could have sold.  Instead, Amer takes an old pair of his father’s shoes to be repaired.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHRISTMAS AT DOWNTON ABBEY (2014).

We enjoyed Downton Abbey quite a lot, so it seemed natural to get the Christmas CD collection.  Well, it turns out you don’t need to have any appreciation of the TV show to enjoy this CD.

Aside from the opening Downton theme, everything else on the disc is a traditional British Christmas carol–secular and non-secular.

But it’s not an awkward cast recording.  There are a couple of cast members who sing, but they were known for the singing already:

Julian Ovenden who played Charles Blake sings a lot of songs.  Ovenden has sung musical theater with many orchestras.  His voice is great.  Elizabeth McGovern, who played Cora, has also had a singing career.  Between them, they sing six songs–all classic carols.

The rest of the album features The King’s College Choir Of Cambridge on fourteen songs and Kiri Te Kanawa who sings 6 songs.  There is more classical instrumental (and not) music that fills out this 2 CD set (45 tracks in all).

It’s not to say that there is no connection to the show.  Jim Carter (Mr Carson) recites ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas over some music.  It’s quite lovely and he has a great voice for recitation.

As far as tie-ins to TV shows go, this one is fantastic.

But if you like old-fashioned Christmas carols, this is a great album for Christmas.

[READ: December 18, 2018] “Strategies Against Sleeping”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

I loved the way that this story (translated from the Spanish by Miranda France) started as one thing and slowly turned into something else entirely.

Señora Eloísa was in a car getting driven back home.  She was very tired from her travels and wished to just close her eyes and let the soothing engine noise take her away.  She was on the verge of sleep several times, but the driver of the car kept pressing her to stay awake.

She felt compelled to make small talk with the driver, but regretted it instantly.  She felt she had given away too much information.  So when he asked if he could smoke, she allowed allowed it as an act of consiliation.  She regretted not taking the coach.

The driver kept saying how happy he was to have someone to talk to.  He himself was quite tired having not slept very well the night before and he felt that she was keeping him awake.  “Please talk to me” he said.

She talked about the rain and then about an essay she wrote once.  It had to do with beggars–about which she clearly knew very little.  She wrote in her essay that rain was a blessing for beggars–since they live under a blazing sun all day long, they must love the rain.

Even with this, whenever she paused she heard “Please talk to me.”  Annoyed, she pressed on.

She told the story of a woman, possibly a beggar but possibly not–she did have on nice clothes, anyone could see.  The woman was standing in the middle of a traffic jam in the heat.  Señora Eloísa’s husband didn’t see the woman but Señora Eloísa couldn’t take her eyes off of her standing in the street with that heavy baby .

She hadn’t mention the baby at first and the driver was puzzled. She snapped that of course she had mentioned the baby.  She then proceeded to admonish the driver and her (absent) husband for not understanding how hard it is to carry a heavy baby in the heat.

As the driver trues to change the subject, she quickly pulls it back to the heavy baby and the story suddenly changes into something else entirely.

This was a strange story to be sure, and there’s a lot there for one to unpack.

To learn more about this piece, here’s a Q&A with Liliana Heker.

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SOUNDTRACK: THE HARRY SIMEONE CHORALE-The Little Drummer Boy: A Christmas Festival (1973 or 1959).

This is a simply beautiful chorale.  The vocalists are top-notch and the instrumentation is subtle and apt.  S. grew up listening to it and was delighted that we could find it online.  I had never heard of Harry Simeone, and had no idea he was from New Jersey (in fact the 1973 recording of the album was done in Linden, NJ).  But here’s a Wikipedia summary of the guy who co-wrote The Little Drummer Boy!

Simeone was born in Newark, New Jersey. He grew up listening to stars performing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, not far from his native Newark. Initiated and inspired by this childhood passion, he sought a career as a concert pianist. To this end, he enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music, which he attended for three years, but when he was offered work at CBS as an arranger for bandleader Fred Waring, he dropped out of Juilliard to accept it.

When the Twentieth-Century Fox Records label contracted Simeone to make a Christmas album in 1958, he assembled a group he called “The Harry Simeone Chorale” and searched for recording material. After being introduced to an obscure song by friend and credited song co-author Henry Onorati, titled “Carol of the Drum,” Simeone changed the title to “The Little Drummer Boy” and recorded it under that title for his album Sing We Now of Christmas. He received joint authorship-and-composition credit for the album, although he did not actually write or compose the song. The single “The Little Drummer Boy” quickly became extremely popular and scored on the U.S. music charts from 1958 to 1962.

Turns out this recording The Little Drummer Boy: A Christmas Festival is a repackaging of Sing We Now of Christmas but renamed to tie in The Little Drummer Boy’s success.

The music is great with a broad range of voices and often minimal orchestration (lots of French horns and sousaphone)

“Sing we now of Christmas/Angels we have heard on high/Away in a manger/What Child is This?/Joy to the World”  Lots of bells, with the women singing alternately in rounds.  It’s a great opening.  Almost threatening music comes in with the intro of “And this shall be a sign to you” spoken/sung to introduce “Away in a Manger.”  “What Child” is done with a harp–lovely.  I tend to forget that “Joy to the World” is a Christmas song.  It’s so upbeat and happy and could be much longer.

“Go Tell It On the Mountain”  a very deep voice sings this one, and it swings a bit.

“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear/Good King Wenceslas/We Three Kings/Villancico/Hark, The Hearld Angels Sing” is quieter again.  A gentle vocal turn is followed by a spoken word introduction to “We Three Kings.”  Before “Villancico” there’s some “do de doo doo” bass singing from the men while the women sing.  “Hark” is wonderful with bells and horns.

The segues between sections aren’t really clean or anything and its unclear why some things are a medley and others not.  Maybe it was easier than making a ton of short tracks?  It matters not.

“Bring A Torch, Isabella / Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming”  I’ve never heard of either of these and they are delightful.  A kind of folk song, I guess with Isabelle bringing a torch to see the baby.  Rose is a lot bigger and more olde-movie-chorus-sounding

“Deck The Halls/ Christian Men Rejoice /Master’s In The Hall /O’ Tannenbaum”
“Deck” is quite fast, but the voices are great and then after the first verse it turns really jazzy with a hi-hat jazz and a swinging style.  The rest of the tracks feel more formal, concluding with a lovely “Tannenbaum.”

“O Holy Night” starts out in a way I’ve never heard with a kind of introductory verse.  The deep-voiced man singing “blessed are you among women and blessed if the fruit of your womb” makes me uncomfortable.  But the lead soloist is fabulous.

“The Little Drummer Boy” is really great with the deep “rumm”-ing from the men and the high female voices.

“Coventry Carol / Rise Up Shepherds / God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen O’ Little Town Of Bethlehem / O’ Come Little Children
Carol” sounds a bit like a European spy movie with the xylophones and the accordion.  It’s very cool.  The deep voiced guy comes back for “Rise Up.” But its the impressive big horns and the repeated rounds that come in for “God Rest” which sound great.  “Town” is beautiful and quiet and it’s possible that children sing “Children.”

“Ding Dong / While Shepherds Watched Their Flock By Night / The First Noel / The Friendly Beasts”
This begins with the spoken word about the angels said unto them… which leads to a spritely “Ding dong.”  I don’t know Shepeherds” but the vocal is lovely and operatic.  “Noel” is similarly lovely with a very high note and some nice horn accompaniment at the end.   “Beasts” brings in a nice change with harpsichord and chorus.

The final medley is “Silent Night / Adeste Fideles / A Christmas Greeting”
“Silent Bight is beautiful, with a lovely solo.  “Adeste” is quiet, sung gently by men.  And the “Greeting” is like a card from the chorale wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

It’s a wonderful record and I see that many other people grew up with it.  I wish I had too.

[READ: December 14, 2018] “Will Evans Save the World”    

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

I haven’t read much Ben Greenman lately, so it was nice to see his name again.  Greenman writes such a variety of things that you never know what kind of story you’re going to get.  And you don’t know exactly what kind of story this is until the end, either. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHEF-Chocolate Salty Balls (single) (1998).

This single itself is not a Christmas song (obviously).  But “Chocolate Salty Balls” is really catchy (with great organ) and is pretty funny.

The Christmas songs are the other two that are included with the disc.

They both come from South Park commercials or interstitials or something that was aired on TV back in the heyday.

The third (and weaker) song is Ned Gerblansky and Uncle Jimbo singing “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.”  Ned is using his “cancer kazoo” to drone his way through the song.  It’s kind of funny.  But the real joke is that his batteries die and the whole song is less than a minute long.

The real treat is Cartman singing “O Holy Night.”  There is a second version that comes on the South Park Christmas album and it is also wonderful.  I have a hard time choosing which one of these I like more because that one is done well (but is still funny) and even has backing singers..  In this one, Kyle is given a cattle prod and is allowed to shock Cartman every time he messes up.  Which he does a lot.  Like, “Jesus was born and so we give presents, thank you Jesus for being born.”  This leads to a lot of cursing and screaming and a hilarious moment where he sings a beautiful operatic “divine.”  “Damn, Cartman.”

It cracks me up every time.

[READ: December 4, 2018] “Counselling”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This story is about a woman making questionable decisions. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE–“Briel” (Field Recordings, March 26, 2014).

There have been many fun Field Recordings, but this one [Welcome to Yo-Yo’s Playhouse] is surely the most fun. The countless members of Silk Road Ensemble were taken to ACME Studio, a theatrical props warehouse in Brooklyn.  They were given pretty much free reign to put on costumes, to bring out mannequins, to do whatever they wanted and that makes this session seem even bigger than it already is (and it’s already pretty big).

That’s all not to mention that the Silk Road Ensemble is a pretty amazing group of musicians:

cellist Yo-Yo Ma and some of the world’s premiere instrumentalists and composers, including members of Brooklyn Rider, Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man, Iranian kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor, Spanish bagpiper Cristina Pato, American percussionist Shane Shanahan and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh from Syria.

As we’ve had the opportunity to forge those bonds over time [many of these performers have done Tiny Desk Concerts], we’ve gotten to know the warm, generous-spirited personalities that come along with these immense talents. We thought that setting them loose in a props house, where they could pick and choose among the curiosities for little elements to bring into the camera frame, would bring those aspects of their personalities into sharper focus. What we wound up with was a magical afternoon of play in all senses of the word — not just having the chance to record these virtuosos and their instruments in a spirited performance of John Zorn’s Briel, here arranged by Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, but also to capture them (and us) having an immense amount of fun.

I had no idea this was a John Zorn piece.  It sounded like a Hebrew composition and now I understand why.  But in the best world music tradition, this piece is arranged for musicians from all over the world–percussion, strings, brass and reed.  There’s a bagpipe solo, a kamancheh solo and a field of percussion.  The song is just way too short.

But to watch Yo-Yo Ma play the cello while holding a mannequin that looks like George Harrison is just one of the many highlights.

[READ: April 2018] Loner

Everything about the look of this book appealed to me.  The title, the crappy cover, the backwards type, the size, it all just seemed like a light, funny story.

Perhaps something about it should have read “creepy” too.

David Federman is a New Jersey native.  He went to Garret Hobart High School (named for New Jersey’s only vice president) He’s smart (he was accepted in to Harvard) but dull and, as we get to know him, pretty unlikable.  He imagines that Harvard will be a place where he (and other geeks like him) will flourish and kick ass.

He’s not wrong in thinking that–everyone he meets  seems to want to change.  But no one wants to change by hanging out with David.

David winds up in a freshman group that he hates–the Matthews Marauders (who are anything but).  In fact, nothing is going very well until he sees Veronica Wells.  She is everything he desires–a sophisticated New Yorker with money, intelligence and beauty. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HOBO JOHNSON AND THE LOVEMAKERS-Tiny Desk Concert #785 (September 12, 2018).

Hobo Johnson and the Lovemakers are an incredibly fun and spontaneous-seeming band.  With lots and lots of shouting

“Romeo & Juliet” opens with some quiet piano and the band screaming: “Oh shit!  Godammit!  Fuck!  With Hobo continuing…Oh, that’s my shit right there!”

This song is a remarkably insightful look into a failing relationship.  It follows so many different avenues as Hobo John (Frank Lopes) speak/raps/sings lyrics that seem very personal.

We’re just Romeo and Juliet
But getting drunk and eating Percocets
But just to ease the stress
But soft what light, thru yonder window breaks
It is the east, but Juliet just puked off the balcony
How romantic

And if Romeo & Juliet continued to be married
Thens there’s half of a chance
That their kids would get embarrassed
When all the kids at school all talk about their parents
And Romeo Jr. has to say they’re not together
And Junior will dream of the day when he’s a man
And what he’ll do to avoid that 50% chance
Of his kids feeling the way he feels
He’ll probably just stick with Netflix and Chill

It ends with an a capella poem that details the breakup of parents–the sound of people falling out of love.

This is a band always on the verge of emotional explosions, all while Frank Lopes, aka Hobo Johnson, is quoting Shakespeare and making references to Jay-Z, The Front Bottoms song “Twin Size Mattress” and so much more.

“Sex in the City” opens with a pretty, quiet piano melody.  Hobo Johnson recites all of concerns about sex and love.  Lines like (“I got a duvet the other day – how do you wash a blanket? In a washer? That’s what I found out”)

So I’m not a babymaker-looker
But maybe I am
To a woman who really loves me
for who I am or maybe who I’m not
Either way it’s getting bothered and hot — GROSS!

If I looked like Brad Pitt mixed with a bit of Jake Gyllenhaal
in a bowl of David Hasselhoff.
I wouldn’t be here at all, I’d been in Los Angeles.
Or at your mom’s house eating all those sandwiches –DAMN I LOVE THOSE SANDWICHES.

It’s a terrific song.

Then Bob brings some peach scones our for the band–scones that he made himself.  (He got up at quarter to 7.  Hobo: That’s pretty early.  I will eat all these my self [grumbling] We’ll share them as a band).

The band

accomplished something remarkable this year with their Tiny Desk Contest entry. They made a simple backyard video – a single camera shoot – that’s now been seen almost 10 million times on YouTube. And the song they played, “Peach Scone,” has unlocked a door to a dream – to play a Tiny Desk Concert and be heard. The song is a tale of one-sided love – a tale of kindness in the face of loneliness and depression. Now, “a couple of kids – five I guess” as its lyrics go, get to bring their creative, urgent and somewhat nervous energy from Sacramento, Calif. to play “Peach Scone” and more to millions of other listeners.

They start “Scones” and Hobo messes up the words and laughs.  “How does this work when you mes at Tiny Desk?”  Bob: “Just start again.”  “Really?” “And we play the embarrassing part, too.”  “Really?  That’s awesome.”

For this song the pianist plays drums and there’s lots more shouting.  Despite the aforementioned kindness.  It’s terrific and slightly different from their video.

At times it’s as much a storytelling session or personal confession than a musical performance, and for me it conjures feelings of empathy and understanding and compassion.

The final song “Creve Coeur 1” is quieter.  It starts with a sad piano melody and although it has moments that are louder, the ending feels very personal: “Sorry Frank, You’re much too late.”

I hope I get to see them as they make the rounds touring.

[READ: September 20, 2017]  “As You Would Have Told It to Me (Sort of) If We Had Known Each Other Before You Died”

I really enjoyed this story.  Even if by the end I had no idea exactly what was happening.  And even after thinking about I’m not sure I even understand the internal logic of the title, much less the story.

It begins, “I remember that it was fall.”

Then the narrator tells the memory in past tense but with a sense of surprise as everything unfolds.

First, the police ring his doorbell.  The narrator thinks it is Katja.  He hadn’t spoken to her in three days, but things were like that between them sometimes. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DARLINGSIDE-Pilot Machines (2012).

The first Darlingside EP had no information about the band.  It was almost a blank slate.  This, their first full album at least gives us this:

Darlingside consists of David Senft, vocals and guitar; Harris Paseltiner, cello, guitar and vocals; Auyon Mukharji, mandolin, violin and vocals; Don Mitchell, guitar and vocals; and Sam Kapala, drums and vocals.

Yes, drums.  This is the final Darlingside album with drums and the final Darlingside album with a sound that is not their current sound.  At this time Darlingside was more of an indie folk rock band who sang with great harmonies and had some unusual instruments.  But they still rocked in a fairly conventional way (in fact the drums are often front and center).

“Still” bursts forth with harmonies (ahhhs) and loud drums. They play with a loud/quiet dynamic within the verses.  It sounds like Darlingside if you squint your ears.  The lyrics are pretty funny, (and now a message from our sponsor) and it’s really catchy too.  But those drums really modify everything.

“The Woods” opens with the kind of harmonies that Darlingside would become known for.  But this song has a propulsive drum moves things forward.  It also highlights some great wild violin and a short spaced-out outro with some heavily processed vocals.  “The Woods” and “Ava,” both have really big loud moments.  Ava starts with a thumping bass and picking guitars but it builds nicely with some great tension between the vocals and guitars.

“Drowning Elvis,” has a very spaced-out drum groove, lots of strings and a clean guitar sound.  “The Company We Keep” features mandolin and high voices.  It’s a pretty, folkie song.

“Blow the House Down” is familiar to fans because they have re-recorded it and play it live consistently.  “The Ancestor” was also recorded without the drums for their next album.  This version has a kind of low thrum underneath the song but the drums are just a kick drum.  It sounds pretty close to the familiar version.

I’d actually like to hear this whole album re-recorded in their current style (no disrespect to their drummer), but the rock band format changes the whole sound of the songs and it would be interesting to hear how they differ.

Having said that, this rock band format also makes some great songs.  “Only Echoes” starts as a slower, moodier piece but midway through it dramatically shifts gears and grows really loud with a buzzy bass and distorted guitar and smashing drums.  It’s the most un-Darlingside song I can imagine, but it’s really great.

“When Fortune Comes” and “My Love” are quieter songs.  “Fortune” focuses on their harmonies (there’s no drums).  While “My Love” has shuffling drums and an upright bass.  The lyrics are also a bit rougher than expected: “You weren’t the first to call me….an arrogant son of a bitch but…”

“Terrible Things” opens with snapping drums a rocking staccato guitar line.  The singers do a series of single note “coo” sounds that’s pretty neat.  The vocal harmonies are really cool and a little spooky, too.  It’s a neat song.

“Sweet an Low” has a very smooth sound (and an extra vocalist–Caitlyn Canty).  The final two minute are kind of an extended jam with this little electronic device.

When I first listened to this after falling in love with Darlingside’s current sound, I didn’t like this very much.  But having listened a few times, I really like these songs.  They’re very well crafted with some excellent details.

[READ: February 5, 2018] “Fletcher Knowles”

This excerpt is from a then novel-in-progress and it is a doozy.  It’s very funny and very meta and once again I can’t imagine where the story is going to go from here.

The story begins with the character saying that his name is Fletcher Knowles.  And he is going to tell his story.  He says that he is going to tell everything from memory and that you should never doubt your own memory.  Nor should you trust anyone who says that they doubt their own memory.

So he is going to tell his story exactly as he wants to.  Which means he is not going to: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE BAND’S VISIT-Tiny Desk Concert #745 (May 21, 2018).

After nearly 800 Tiny Desk concerts, The Band’s Visit is the first Broadway musical ever to play the series.

The show opens with four men in powder blue uniforms (the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra–Garo Yellin-cello; Sam Sadigursky-clarinet; Harvey Valdes-oud; Ossama Farouk-darbouka) playing “Soraya,” a lively instrumental.

From the first note strummed on the oud, Yazbek’s nominated score transports the Tiny Desk to the Middle East with traditional instrumentation and melodies, and weaves in beautiful theatrical ballads.

The Band’s Visit insists that it’s OK, even essential, to get “stuck” with strangers who have different perspectives. It serves as a poignant reminder that our common connection to music can rise above the noise of intolerance

The composer David Yazbek comes out to explain the scene:

The story of The Band’s Visit,  told the Tiny Desk audience, “is about hope and faith and silence and music.” It tells the tale of Egyptian musicians stranded in a small Israeli village. The townspeople have no choice but to take them in. Eventually, the love of music allows the characters to see past their differences and form an unlikely bond in a single night. The musical was adapted from the 2007 film and has been nominated for 11 Tony Awards.

He introduces Katrina Lenk (nominated for a Tony Award).  For this song, she is reminiscing about her childhood growing up in the middle of nowhere in Israel.  The main cultural delight was through her mothers radio and TV via Arabic music and movie stars like Umm Kulthum and Omar Sharif.

“Omar Sharif” is a beautiful song with a wonderful really compelling melody.  It’s noy musical-like at all.  It is very passionate with one big moment but never over the top.  Her accent as she sings is wonderful.  I love the lyric

honey in my ears / spice in my mouth

The song features Andrea Grody on piano and Alexandra Eckhart on bass.

Although it’s a Broadway smash hit, it lacks the opulent, bring-down-the-house song and dance numbers. It’s a more intimate show with some universal messages that fit the up, close and personal space of the Tiny Desk.

Dina interacts with Tewfiq the leader of the orchestra, “the swarthy, handsome Tony Award nominated Tony Shaloub.”

She asks him to sing something and he offers an Arabic poem (a capella).

Yazbek’s poem Itgara’a, translated here from Arabic and sung a cappella by Tony Shalhoub, sums up the show’s philosophy:

When you drink, drink deeply / Drink deeply of the moonlight / drink deeply of the dark / of the loneliness / of the joy.
You will never drain the moonlight / you can never end the dark. /  In your eyes, the flash of joy / in your mouth, the sweet shock of honey.
You are the joy / you are the loneliness. / Drink deep.

It’s followed by a wild and fun instrumental “Haj-Butrus” with pizzicato violin, some wild oud work and an amazing darbouka solo.

For the final song he tells us about a character.  The telephone guy.  He’s off at the side of the stage at a pay phone waiting for it to ring–for… days? weeks?  He’s waiting for his girlfriend to call.  The last song is a culmination of everyone yearning for human connection and something deeper.

“Answer Me” features “telephone guy” who is Adam Kantor.  Kristen Sieh (who plays Iris) representing the cast of thousands and George Abud who plays Camal (and the violin solo earlier) plays some oud in this song.

Kantor has a lovely high voice.  After a brief instrumental break, Lenk sings and then with the backing players as a chorus Shaloub joins in as well.  Although of all of the songs played, this is my least favorite.

The crew from the show, which opened last November at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, descended on NPR at 8:30 a.m. — seven musicians, five actors, a wardrobe department, a make-up artist, a publicist, a music director, the composer and even a vlogger. We started early so they could hustle back to Manhattan for a 7 p.m. curtain.

The musical sounds wonderful and I’d like to hear the rest of the soundtrack.

[READ: July 7, 2016] “The Midnight Zone”

I found this story to be mostly good but there was something that didn’t resonate with me.  The whole story is told in a very detached, first-person style.

The story opens with a family staying in an old hunting camp.  They are told that a Florida panther was seen in the camp a few days earlier, but things were pretty quiet for them.

“we had lunch, then the elder boy tried to make a fire by rubbing sticks together, his little brother attending solemnly….  Then dinner, singing songs, a bath in the galvanized-steel horse trough…and that was it for the day.”

The father/husband gets a call that he has to return home for an emergency.  He said he’d be back in two days.  And so it was just the wife and her two (very) young sons. (more…)

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