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Archive for the ‘Virginity (Loss of)’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: COURTNEY MARIE ANDREWS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #68 (August 20, 2020).

Courtney Marie Andrews annoys me because she is not Courtney Barnett.  So whenever a DJ says Courtney, I hope it’s Barnett.  Sometimes it is and sometimes it’s this country singer.

Courtney Marie Andrews seems like a nice enough person but her music is on the wrong side of country for me.

She opens this set with “Burlap String.”  Paul Defiglia plays upright bass and Mat Davidson (aka Twain) adds pedal steel.  In this song

Andrews sings about the fear of love. “I’ve grown cautious, I’ve grown up / I’m a skeptic of love / Don’t wanna lose what I might find.” Yet, “Burlap String” is also a song about how love’s memory lingers, and how the mind rekindles its beauty.

Defiglia leaves after the song.

The blurb says that Andrews is only 29 and she’s been playing for ten years.  She has a new album and WXPN has been playing “It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault” a bunch.  It’s a bouncy song that seems to be full of sadness.

For “If I Told,” which she calls a modern day love song, Davidson switches to the Wurlizer.  Andrews sings a bit of yodel in the chorus.  It’s a catchy moment.

The set ends with Courtney alone at the Wurlitzer, singing “Ships in the Night” the final song on her seventh album, Old Flowers.  It is about lost love and hoping for closure with fondness.

Courtney Marie’s voice is powerful but it’s not my thing.

[READ: August 1, 2020] Kill the Farm Boy

I saw a review for the second book in this series (which has just come out) and it sounded pretty great.  So I looked up the first one only to find out that Dawson and Hearne are both authors with other series to their names.  Dawson has written The Shadow Series (as Lila Bowen), The Hit Series and The Blud Series.  Meanwhile, Hearne has written The Iron Druid Series and Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries.  They’ve also written single volumes of things too.  So they are well known in the fantasy realm.

The acknowledgments say that they met up in the Dallas Fort Worth airport at the barbecue joint (I have eaten there and it was tremendous).  They waited for their flight and discussed killing the farm boy, or in other words, making fun of white male power fantasies that usually involve a kid in a rural area rising to power in the empire after he loses his parents.  They found that skewering topics was fun and decided to write the book together.

So in the land of Pell we meet a farm boy named Worstley.  He cleaned up the goats.  And one goat, Gus, was especially ornery.  One night while Worstley was mucking out the area, a fairy entered the room.  She was haggard and dressed crazily with one sock on and her pants falling off. But the fairly quickly corrected any thoughts about her being a proper fairy by saying she was a pixie and her name was Staph.  She was there to anoint the chosen One.

To prove her magic she pointed at Gus and magicked him into talking.  The first thing Gus said was that his name was Gustave and he called Worstley “Pooboy.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NICK HAKIM-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #12 (April 22, 2020).

I had a mixed reaction to Nick Hakim”s Tony Desk, although the blurb writer says he loved it.

Whenever I’m asked to name my favorite Tiny Desk concerts, Nick Hakim’s 2018 performance sits near the very top. He and his four bandmates reset the bar for intimacy at the Desk with their hushed groove.

Hakim plays three songs from his upcoming album WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD

from the corner of his dark bedroom with a keyboard, guitar and stacks of audio components.

His vocals on all three tracks are quiet and echoing, as if he is whispering down a long hall.  In fact all of the music sounds muted and soft, with a feeling of hazy smoke floating around,.

“QADIR,” is a haunting dedication to a fallen friend.  He plays guitar–mostly slow muted echoing guitar chords.  When the song ends, he activates a mini applause effect box which is pretty funny.

He takes a few loud slurps from his drink and gives a big “ahhh,” before starting the next song. For “GODS DIRTY WORK” he switches to the keys.  His singing style is exactly the same, although the song may be a little slower.

He adds a little more fake applause and then a somewhat creepy echoing laughter as he switches the drum beat for “CRUMPY.”

Honestly, all three songs sound a lot alike and seems really slow and hazy. It’s weird how upbeat and smiling he is, in contrast to the music.  I wonder how he makes everything seem so quiet.

[READ: April 15, 2020] Nicotine

I really enjoyed Nell Zink’s two other novels, but somehow I missed this one entirely when it came out.  I couldn’t imagine what it was about with that title and boy I never expected it to go where it did.

I actually had a slightly hard time getting into the book. That may have been because it was Quarantine and it was hard to ficus or it was because the opening of the book was so puzzling.  And yet by the end I was totally hooked.  But the beginning:

A thirteen year old girl stands in a landscape made almost entirely of garbage, screaming at a common domestic sow.

Then a white man comes and takes the girl away.  Her name is Amalia. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OHMME-“Jing-a-Ling, Jing-a-Ling” (2019).

OHMME provided gorgeous backing vocals on the previous two Christmas songs that I posted about.  Well, they also have their own song on the JNR Holiday Party, Vol. 2 compilation and it is not quite as beautiful as you might think.

However, what it lacks in conventionality, it more than make up for in coolness.

OHMME is a two-piece band made up of Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart.  They both play guitar and sing (there’s other instruments going on as well).

Their voices are gorgeous together, but their music also features some interesting guitar sounds.

“Jing-a-Ling, Jing-a-Ling” is a manic song originally sung by The Andrews Sisters.  There are two parts, a super fast chorus (the “jing, jing a ling” part) and then a middle part that is slower and, in the OHMME version, a bit creepy, maybe.  OHMME is known for their amazing use of hocketing.  [In the medieval practice of hocketing, a single melody is shared between two (or occasionally more) voices such that alternately one voice sounds while the other rests].  It’s a mesmerizing sound that they do perfectly.

This version opens with noisy guitars and the two voices rapidly singing the chorus.

Jing jing a ling jing a ling jing a ling
I love to hear our laughter mingle
Hah hah
Ho ho

But when the ha ha ho ho part comes in, OHMME performs some amazing hocketing to make the sound just stunning.

The slower middle part is played on a deep low guitar with a second guitar playing scraping noises as the two voices sing in close harmony.

It’s over quickly and after a guitar solo the manic chorus resumes.

Everywhere-man Thor Harris is also on this track.   I’m not sure what he’s doing, but I assume the drums and maybe whatever those other weird ringing sounds are (or are those from the guitar?  who knows).

As the song comes to an end, the two voices sing separate ho ho and ha ha and then they ho ho slightly out sync until they return in perfect tuning for the end note.

And if you listen closely at the very end of the track you can hear someone say, “Yeah!  Fucking awesome.”

It’s a really stunning song in just over 2 minutes.

I played it last night for my family and my 12 year old daughter loved it while my 14 year old son did not: “just because it’s weird doesn’t make it good.”

[READ: December 18, 2019] “Amaranth”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

I read this story in Lucky Peach back in 2013.  In that review I gave away a little more than I was planning to this time, so avoid if you want fewer details (but no real spoilers).  I am also surprised at my reaction to the story six years ago.  I thought it was unduly harsh and a little hard to read (the content, not the quality of the story).

Here it is now, six years later with so much badness going on in the world and I found the revenge rather impressive and it gives a little bit of hope for those waiting for a long payback. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JON BENJAMIN JAZZ DAREDEVIL–Well, I Should Have…* *Learned How To Play Piano (2015).

In 2015, H. Jon Benjamin released a jazz album on which he played piano.  He did this despite not knowing how to play piano.

This album should be a trainwreck.  However, he has employed the talents of Scott Kreitzer (saxophone), David Finck (bass), and Jonathan Peretz (drums) to assist him.  And they are really good.

It’s hard to believe that Benjamin has never played at all before, because while he’s not good by any definition, he certainly knows how to press the keys on the piano in a reasonable way.  Meaning, when he plays a solo he is at least trying to sound like he’s playing a solo.  It’s not like cats on a piano playing utterly random crap.  He’s certainly bad, but he’s bad within the ballpark, which makes this amusing to listen to and not intolerable.

Obviously, part of the joke is that Benjamin hates jazz and this pretty much mocks improv piano.  And yes, his playing sometimes sounds like an improv pianist deliberately plying wrong notes until the right ones come back into focus (although Benjamin’s never do come back in to focus).

The disc is quite short.  It’s under 30 minutes.  It includes a skit at the front called “Deal with the Devil.”  It is a really funny introduction in which H. Jon tries to sell his soul to the devil.  Kristen Schaal as the secretary get a very funny joke or two, but the devil (Aziz Ansari) explains that usually selling your soul is a last resort, not a first step.  There’s a vulgar joke (which I found really funny), but which makes the track unplayable for family gatherings (if you were to do such a thing).

There are four main pieces on the disc “I Can’t Play Piano” Parts 1-4.

“I Can’t Play Piano Part 1” (3:39) starts off with a rollicking sax solo and some bouncing jazz and then Jon’s tinkling at the high end of the piano.  The band even pauses a few times to give him a proper solo or four.  All of the solos are horribly inept and pretty funny.  Midway through the song, bassist David Finck takes a cool upright bass solo and you can hear Jon shout “play it Joe” or something like it.

Part 2 (3:09) has a riff that Jon tries to follow and fails to play spectacularly.  There’s less “soloing” in this one and more “playing with the band.”  At times you almost don’t quite realize that he’s playing with everyone else–something just seems slightly off.  There’s also some nice drum soloing from Jonathan Peretz.

There’s a hilarious skit [not on this record] by Paul F. Tompkins in which he talks about jazz as “a genre of music that is defying you to like it.”  He talks about going to a jazz show (by accident or because you lost a bet) and just at the point when you’re almost asleep, you think the bass player is going to play [blanhr] but instead he plays [blownhr].  And next.. this is the worst thing that jazz guys do.  The other guys on stage start laughing like it was the funniest thing they ever did see.  And you’re sitting in the audience thinking “I don’t get the jazz joke Why is that note so hilarious?  You’ve played many notes this evening, none of them particularly side splitting.”

This album is pretty much a musical rendition of that joke.

“It Had to Be You,” is a pretty conventional cover of the song (at least for the saxophone).  Jon clearly knows how the song goes, he just doesn’t know how to play it or which notes should even be in the song.  The middle of the song is a saxophone solo (no piano) and once again, you are kind of lulled into thinking the song is pretty straightforward, and then Jon comes back for a solo.  It’s a slow solo so at first it doesn’t seem so bad, but once he starts going, you realize how bad he really is.

“Soft Jazzercise” is a skit. Jon talks over a slow piano piece (presumably not by Jon as it is actually melodic).  Jon says that his soft jazzercise is very very very very very very very low impact.  You have to do it slow.  Like a turtle slow, like an opiated panda slow.

Back to the improv with “I Can’t Play Piano, Pt. 3” (4:57).  The song starts as a kind of call and response between the saxophone and the piano (hilariously bad every time).  Jon also gets a solo in the beginning.  He even slides his hand up and down the keys a few times–almost convincingly.  In the middle of the song you can hear Jon really getting into it shouting almost audible encouragement and saying “here we go!” and “dig this!” then the saxophone starts playing a response to what Jon is playing–can he even play that badly?  Jon even says “you can do better” at one point.  The sax almost plays “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” twice before the riffing ends.

The final improv piece “I Can’t Play Piano, Pt. 4 – (Trill Baby Trill)” (5:25) starts with Jon’s piano and the rest of the band apparently trying to follow or keep up.  Once again it’s not as horrible as you might expect.  It’s not good, but it almost seems like it could be a serious improv.  There’s a lengthy bass solo (no funny notes that I can hear).   Then, after the drum solo when the sax takes the lead again, you kind of forget that Jon is even playing.

The final track is a funky/rap about anal sex.

The five instrumentals would be hilarious to mix into any dinner party to see what people thought or if they even notices.  The other three tracks are definitely NSFW.

[READ: June 1, 2018] Failure is an Option

I love H. Jon Benjamin.  Or, more specifically I love his voice.  He has voiced some of my favorite characters over the years including Archer and Bob Belcher.

But I have found that when I watch things that he has created, I don’t enjoy them quite as much.

So, which way would this ode to failure go?

It’s a mixed bag but overall it’s quite funny.

It has an introduction with this appropriate line:

I am writing this at the dawn of the Trump presidency, particularly apropos of failure being an option.  A very horrible and dangerous option in the case of a entire country’s future.

The opening talks, as many of these memoirs do, about how exhausting it is to write a memoir (“when I was saddled with the task of writing a book”). (more…)

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amazSOUNDTRACK: KAWABATA MAKOTO [河端一]-INUI 2 (2000).

a1729275931_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 second solo LP, now available on bandcamp

INUI 2 was the first widely available solo CD by this prolific Japanese guitarist/composer/bearded guru. Known primarily for his recent work with oddballs Acid Mothers Temple, Kawabata’s career actually goes back to the late ’70s and spans many styles, including solo guitar improv, electronics, folk, and, of course, the deranged acid mayhem associated with the PSF scene. Performed entirely solo on violin, kemenje, zurna, electronics, sarangi, taiko, gong, water, bouzouki, cello, vibes, organ, and sitar, the four tracks that make up INUI 2 are perfectly executed dream-music, equal parts delicately floating and heavily droning. There’s also one all-too-short modal essay for bouzouki that is amazingly beautiful.

“Mou” (9:56) has a drone underpinning the song as he plays a quiet keyboard melody over the top.  About half way through the zurna comes in playing its somewhat harsh melody (although it is less harsh here).  This is a pretty cool chill out song.  [Instruments: Violin, kemenje, zurna, electronics].

“Meii” (11:02) is composed of slowly plucked sarangi strings.  They ring out loud and are accompanied by thumps on the taiko and occasional crashes of the gong. There is also a high pitched feedback/electronic sound that rings out form time to time.   About midway through the bowing become s a little wild and improvisational until it settles back down again.  [Instruments: Sarangi, taiko, gong, water].

“Shi” (3:47) is the ‘all too short” piece and I agree that it is too short.  It features a quietly plucked string melody on the bouzouki that is very pretty.  It has mild drones behind it.  About half way through the melody changes, a faster more deliberate style but still quiet and pleasing.  I could listen to this one for much much longer.  [Instruments: bouzouki, cello, vibe, organ].

“Kan” (14:18) starts as harsh electronic drone with occasional blips of hi frequency sounds.   It’s the first unpleasant sound on the disc.  Although after 2 and a half minutes, the string drones enter and smooth things over.  At some point a pulsing possibly, backwards recorded series of notes comes in to give the drone some drive.  [Instruments: bowed sitar, violin, electric sitar, electronics].

[READ: September 10, 2019] “Ranch Girl”

This brief story was collected in Meloy’s Half in Love.

It starts with the fatalistic sentence:

If you’re white and you’re not rich or poor but somewhere in the middle it’s hard to have worse luck than to be born a girl on a ranch.

The unnamed protagonist grew up the daughter of the foreman of the Ted Haskell Running H Ranch.  Haskell’s brand was a slanted H–she had seen it all her life and didn’t know an H was supposed to be upright until she went to school. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH-“I’m a Stranger Now” (2019).

I’ve enjoyed The Tallest Man on Earth and I’ve been looking forward to seeing him live for a while.  I’ve actually had really back luck with his tours.  One time something came up on the night I was supposed to see him.  Another time he had to cancel his tour.  But, with luck, I will get to see Kristian Matsson live.

The Tallest Man on Earth sings simple folk songs.  The greatness of his songs comes from his voice and delivery.  There’s something about his voice and his style that is steeped in American folk, but the fact that he’s from Sweden changes his outlook and his accent.

This song from his album I Love You, It’s a Fever Dream follows in the style he is known for–spare, simple melodies and his often wordy lyrics.

Starting with fast acoustic chords (played high on the neck), Kristian begins singing in his familiar but unique style.  The bridge ends with a fast vocal melody that is a pure hook that leads to the singalong titular chorus.

After three minutes, the song slows down to a quiet guitar melody and near-whispered vocals.

[READ: May 1, 2019] The Man on Platform 5

I know Robert Llewellyn from the show Red Dwarf, of which I am a huge fan.

In fact, I didn’t know anything about this story, but I figured if Kryten wrote it, it must be good.  I had read his memoir, the wonderfully titled Thin He Was and Filthy Haired, and I was sure I had read this at the time as well.  But evidently not, because when I started flipping through it I realized I didn’t know a thing about this story.  I also see that he has written quite a lot more in the last two decades.

It seems fairly obvious from the get go that this story is a gender reversing story of Pygmalion or My Fair Lady.  Instead of a man trying to improve a woman, in this story, a woman is trying to “improve” a man.  In some ways it’s very modern and progressive and in other ways it’s pretty stuck in gender stereotypes.  But hey it was the 90’s, before writers were enlightened.

The man who needs bettering is Ian Ringfold.  He is a trainspotter!  (I love that Llewellyn made that his hobby as I have heard of it but never knew exactly what it entailed).  He loves obscure facts, dry goods (he works in a supermarket) and being incredibly dorky.  He is deeply into what he likes and genuinely can’t understand why other people wouldn’t like those things.

Enter Gresham and Eupheme.  They are half-sisters and have spent pretty much their entire lives squabbling.  Their train breaks down on the same platform that Ian is currently trainspotting.  Eupheme, the more humane one of the two, bets Gresham that she can turn this sad “anorak” into a “useful member of society.”  Gresham says it cannot be done.  Eupheme (who is short on funds) says that if she can turn this loser into someone that Gresham would fancy that Gresham would pay her a tidy sum.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING CRIMSON-The Elements Of King Crimson – 2016 Tour Box (2016).

This was the third Tour Box containing material that is similar in spirit, but different in fact to the previous two.

As always, it starts with the Wind extract, the sound of Fripp’s mellotron warming up and a voice saying “I prefer the early ones.”  It segues into a beautiful instrumental of “Moonchild.”  Once again, the lyrics are interesting in the song, but it sounds great without them.

The music stays in somewhat chronological order of release, but often with contemporary versions.  Like the 2015 recording of 1970’s “Peace” (which is okay) and “Pictures Of A City” (which is great).

“Prince Rupert’s Lament” is a two and half-minute guitar solo which has the Toronto crowd from the previous track overlaid, making this recording sound like a live one, when it is in fact an except from the recording session of Lizard.  There’s a rehearsal of the full 10 minute “Islands” from 1971 or so.

Then a “new” song, the two and a half-minute 2014 “Threshold Soundscape” which segues into the 2014 live version of “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part I” which is quite bass heavy.  Up next is a recording session of “Easy Money” without all the bells and whistles.

Then comes two live recordings from 1974.  “Improv I” which is full of gongs and guitars and chaos and segues into “Doctor Diamond.”  This is a song I had never heard before.  It never had an official release and this version seems like they’re just trying it out, like they weren’t really sure about the words, especially.  It’s heavy and  more than a little odd.

After a 30 second clip “From the Drummer’s Stool” which is the a drummer playing the intense “21st Century Schizoid Man” drums, the full song is played from 1974, sounding quite old in the mix.

The second disc continues with all manner of things in no particular order.

There’s more extracts from Lizard, this time a very pretty solo piano version of “Prince Rupert Awakes.”

And them it’s on to a non-Crimson album.  “The Other Man” is an alternate early version of the song from the Jakszyk, Fripp, Collins album A Scarcity of Miracles which I don’t know at all.

Next comes “Making Of Discipline,” it’s clips from bulk of the album spliced together into one song.  It’s very nifty.  There’s a demo instrumental of “Walking on Air” and then a three-minute live track called “Radical Action (to Unseat The Hold of Monkey Mind).”

There’s a demo of “Meltdown” (with guide vocals) and then a 40 second clip “From the Drummers’ Stools I” and a 20 second clip “From The Guitarist’s Stool I” which is part of the 21CSM solo.

Then comes some heavy stuff.  “The ConstruKction Of Light” live from 2014 with no vocal tag at the end followed by the bizarre Beatles mashup “Tomorrow Never Knew/Thela” live from 2000.

There another sample “From the Drummers’ Stools II” this one from “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic I” which is followed by “Nuages” (which I read as Nu-ages.  It’s trippy with bouncy bass

There’s a 2014 recording of the slow, jazzy “The Light Of Day” also originally from Scarcity of Miracles. It’s followed by a Lizard excerpt “From The Guitarist’s Stool II” and then a fast complicated 40 second 2014 soundcheck for “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic I.”

Moving away from that classic business, we jump to a new mix of “Dinosaur” from THRAK.  It’s followed by a final 45 second “From The Drummers’ Stools III” and then concluding with a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes.”  This version is from 2000 and I find it kind of weak, especially compared to the powerhouse versions they would unleash later.

Overall there’s some cool stuff on this box, but I feel like there’s a bunch of stuff that’s not quite my Crimson taste.

[READ: January 12, 2018] The Nix

The Nix received some pretty positive reviews and I was quite interested to read it–even though I had no idea what it was really about.  It’s not until nearly page 100 that we find out what the title even means.

The Nix (in the story, not the novel itself) is a ghost story from Norway.  The protagonists’s mother heard about The Nix from her Norwegian father.  The Nix was a horse.  It encouraged you to ride it.  When you did, it never stopped running until it ran off a cliff with you on it.  In modern terms, The Nix is a person–usually someone you think you love. Someone who will leave you.

Summarizing the book is either really easy or something of a challenge depending on how many aspects you want to include.

The book more or less follows one man–starting with his failing writing career and then flashing back to how he got where he is.  That sounds pretty dull, but the book is set on the backdrop of contemporary America–from the rebellions of hippie parents to the rebellions of the 99%ers.

There’s also these wonderful subplots that prop up the main story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GEORGE CLINTON & THE P-FUNK ALL STARS-Tiny Desk Concert #697 (January 24, 2018).

George Clinton is famous for being from outer space and for bringing the funk.  That was a pretty long time ago.  He’s now 77, but he still has the energy and the passion, although it is weird to see him looking so…normal.

He’s just got on a cool coat–no colored dreadlocks, no dresses or sequins.  But he still holds a room’s attention.

P-Funk’s lineage runs 50-plus years. From The Parliaments to Funkadelic to Parliament Funkadelic to the P-Funk All Stars, George Clinton has conducted the mothership as a reliable father figure. When he commands you to “put a glide in your stride and a dip in your hip, and come on up to the Mothership,” he’s presenting to you the first law of Funktonian physics. We at NPR pledged our groovellegiance when he and his P-Funk All Stars touched down to bless the Tiny Desk.

I love that Clinton has kept the spirit and familial nature of P-Funk alive all these years:

Clinton has brought his own bloodline into the most recent lineup of P-Funk: His grandchildren are the newest backup singers, while another grandchild serves as tour manager. Though this was a much smaller outfit than their traditional stage shows — no horn section, no dancers, no Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk — the extended family was also in full effect. Garrett Shider on rhythm guitar, filling in for his late father, Garry Shider, aka Starchild. Even original trumpeter Bennie Cowan, who still tours with the group but didn’t make it to the Tiny Desk, typically plays alongside his son Benzel on drums. Blackbyrd McKnight and Lige Curry cement the foundation as elder statesmen who’ve been rocking with Clinton since 1978.

They play three songs.  I don’t know how much Clinton sang back in the day–was he the lead singer or just a bringer of the funk?  But in “Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On” most of the vocals are chanted and sung by the backing vocalists (Tonysha Nelson, Patavian Lewis, and Tairee Parks).  Clinton is more like the hype man–getting everyone worked up, clapping and making noise.  Rhythm guitarist Garrett Shider takes a lead vocal, keeping the funk going.  The song is big and the riff is great and the funk is entirely in the house.  Dwayne Blackbyrd McKnight plays an awesome funky guitar throughout the Concert.

“One Nation Under A Groove” is a more mellow (relatively), smoother song.  I love the guitar sound, and there’s some suitably funky and retro-sounding keyboards from Danny Bedrosian.

“Give up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)” is the real classic.  Clinton is really into this one–dancing and clapping and the bass by Lige Curry and drums by Benzel Cowan are terrific.

He may not have the interstellar look, but Clinton still has the funk.

[READ: October 25, 2017] Birthright: Volume Five

This is the first Birthright volume that I didn’t love.  There was a lot of demon head ripping off and tentacles and splatters.  Fire and blood and gore, but not a lot of coherent action.

It started out quite good with Rya’s back story. We see her as a baby on a battlefield being rescued by, of all creaturs…an orc.  He told her of the prophecy to defeat Lore.  And then she met young Mikey and “knew that the prophecy was a load of razorbeast dung.”

Then we see Mikey quickly develop into the man he is–and then disappear.  It was rumored he was killed but then Kallista gave away that he was still alive.  That made Rya really mad. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS (1987).

I remember when this album came out.  I think it was one of the first Christmas albums in which a lot of very popular musicians contributed to it. Of course proceeds went to charity.  By now, 30 years later, many of these songs are deemed classic enough that you will hear them regularly at Christmas.

Suffice it to say I hated this when it came out.  Now, I have grown to appreciate (some of it) it more.

THE POINTER SISTERS-“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”
I really didn’t like this song back then.  I think it has grown on me enough that I just don’t mind it any more and it is certainly a staple.

EURYHTMICS-“Winter Wonderland”
I really like Annie Lennox’s own Christmas album.  This song is fine, it’s a little too 80s sounding, but over all its enjoyable.

WHITNEY HOUSTON-“Do You Hear What I Hear?”
People really like to overdo this song.  This version is okay.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND THE E. STREET BAND-“Merry Christmas Baby”
This is a classic Christmas song by this point, but boy do I dislike the sax.

PRETENDERS-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
This version I don;t thin I hear too much.  Probably because it’s understated and quite nice.

JOHN COUGAR MELLENCAMP-“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”
I don’t particularly like this song.  I love the musical style that JCM plays, although I don’t like the way he sings it.

STING-“Gabriel’s Message”
I don’t know this at all, I guess everyone skips it.  It’s rather pretty if you can get past the fact that it’s Sting at his more pretentious.

RUN-D.M.C.-“Christmas in Hollis”
This is an all time favorite.  The song is fantastic and must be heard every year.  I live that I write a Christmas card that goes to someone in Hollis.

U2-“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
I’ve heard this a million times.  I don’t particularly like this song, but I do like this version.

MADONNA-“Santa Baby”
My most hated Christmas song, done by Madonna at her most grating.  Ugh.

BOB SEGER & THE SILVER BULLET BAND-“The Little Drummer Boy”
Can Bob Seger ever do anything that doesn’t sound like him?  I don’t really like this song, but this version is kind of fun given how over the top it is.

BRYAN ADAMS-“Run Rudolph Run”
Never liked this song either.  It’s a lame lyrics to make into a rock n roll Christmas song.  All versions sound basically the same to me.

BON JOVI-“Back Door Santa”
I do not know this song at all.  Is it always skipped because it’s so bad?  Man the synths are awful.  Although it makes me realize just how unfair it was to both Bon Jovi and heavy metal that they were lumped into the same category.

ALISON MOYET-“The Coventry Carol”
I think Alison Moyet is the only artist here who most people probably don’t know today.  Her voice is really great though and this song is very cool.  Not exactly my favorite here, but certainly the most interesting.

STEVIE NICKS-“Silent Night”
It’s entirely possible that Stevie Nicks forgot how to sing on this song.  She seems really flat and then doesn’t even do most of the lead vocals half way through the song.  The “grace notes” are appalling too.

So it seems that the songs that were pretty good have stayed with us, the rest have faded away.  And there are a couple that need to be brought into rotation again.

[READ: December 23, 2017] “How to Be a Slut”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PARAMORE-Tiny Desk Concert #656 (October 2, 2017).

I had always thought that Paramore was someone else (although I don’t know who).  I thought they were a pop punk band.  And maybe they were.

But this six-piece incarnation of the band is not pop punk at all.

Indeed, the blurb says, Paramore

captures the moment between rapture and its comedown, the glitter wiped away, left with skin rubbed raw. It’s a record, more than a decade into the band’s career, that not only exposes the sparkling pop that’s always lit Paramore’s songs, but also deals with the ache of growing up and growing apart.

The first song “Hard Times” opens with a keyboard line that sounds vaguely like steel drums.  It makes me smile that Logan MacKenzie’s keyboard is about six inches long. There’s slices of jagged guitar, but the chorus is pure pop.  The drums (Zac Farro’s drum machine) have an Afro-pop texture and Joseph Howard’s bass plays a few sliding moments that seem very dancey.  Although I do like that the song ends with another jagged guitar chord.

Singer Hayley Williams has a really lovely voice.   Before the next song,  “26,” she say that the new songs are dancey and happy but this song is the most transparent in not covering up the emotions of the record.  Hope we don’t bum you out too much.

The song is simply a gentle echoed guitar from Taylor York and William’s exposed voice.  And the blurb assures us that Paramore’s quieter songs have never quite shown this depth of understated devastation and determination.

Bummed or not she does encourage everyone in the office to sing and dance along, unless that’s awkward.

The final song, “Fake Happy” has synth drums and more of those steel drum keyboard sounds.  The blurb says it’s a soaring anthem to expressing your truest self (and calling out those playing pretend).  There’s a groovy bass line and minimal dancey nods.  There’s some interesting guitar sounds from both Taylor and Justin York.  I like this song, although she tends to fall into some vocal pop trappings that I don’t like, especially in the middle section.

[READ: February 2, 2017] CivilWarLand in Bad Decline

I have been really enjoying George Saunders.  I had considered reading all of his published pieces in the New Yorker.  And then I realized that they were probably all collected in his books, right?  Well, yes, most of his pieces have been collected.  Although for this book, his first, there was only one New Yorker story, “Offloading for Mrs Schwartz.”

When I read In Persuasion Nation many years ago, I remembered thinking that Saunders is supposed to be very funny but that his stories really aren’t.  And now, after reading so many things about his generosity and kind spirit, I was expecting to get more of that from these stories too.  But in both cases, I feel like Saunders was a very different writer.  While there is certainly humor in these stories, it is very dark humor and is often surrounded by characters who are incredibly cruel.  It makes these stories rather hard to bear sometimes. (more…)

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