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moomin5  SOUNDTRACK: JAMES VINCENT McMORROW-Tiny Desk Concert#151 (August 25, 2011).

mcmorrowI don’t know McMorrow. He is an Irish singer who plays acoustic guitar.  His singing voice switches between a kind of raspy voice and a keening falsetto.

He plays four songs and his style and voice reminds me a lot of Bon Iver.

I don’t find any of his song especially compelling. They’re all nice–the humming part of “This Old Dark Machine” is pretty memorable.  As the part in the middle where he seems to get pretty intense.

“Sparrow And The Wolf” has some nice chord changes.  I think my favorite song is “Follow You Down To The Red Oak Tree,” which opens a little differently.

I have to say it’s a little awkward watching him up close as he does some pretty unusual things with his face when he sings.

The final song, “Red Dust” really shows off his falsetto.  I found his songs to be entirely pleasant and think they would sound great in a coffeeshop on a Sunday afternoon.

[READ: February 3, 2015] Moomin Volume 5

Moomin Book 5 is composed entirely of strips written by Lars and drawn by Tove.  These are the final strips that she contributed to.  And, as such, there are only three chapters in the book.  As with the others these stories originally ran in the Evening News, London 1953-1959.

The chapters are called “Moomin Winter” “Moomin Under Sail” and “Fuddler’s Courtship”

Continue Reading »

primatesSOUNDTRACK: OTIS TAYLOR-Tiny Desk Concert #120 (April 13, 2011).

otisOtis Taylor is a big, burly, bearded man who plays the banjo. His band consists of fiddle, drums and electric guitar and bass.

The songs are bluesy without being like the blues, and they are folky without really being like folk music.  And the way he plays the banjo is unlike any typical banjo song I’d heard before.

The blurb explains what makes his songs sound so different:  He plays a style of music he calls trance blues.

Taylor’s music is trance-inducing, and he achieves that effect by playing songs that are modal: Sometimes, they sit on one chord for the entire song. Taylor says that by doing that, by eliminating chord changes, you also eliminate reference points, so songs can run as long as 10 or even 15 minutes in length.

And it’s true.  The basic melody of he first song, “Ten Million Slaves” (which is only 4 minutes) stays the same throughout the song.  It’s the fiddle (played by Anne Harris) that throws the new notes and riffs into the song that keep it so interesting,

He does throw in a simple but affecting solo at the end of “Ten Million Slaves” but it’s more fun to watch him rock out the end of the song.  That song also appeared in Public Enemies, the Michael Mann movie.

He calls his music trance blues music, came from Mali and Mississippi Hill Country.

The main riff of “Ran So Hard The Sun Went Down” is instantly familiar and a little dark.  I love the middle jam section where it just seems to gets bigger and bigger (I guess that’s the trance).

For the third song, “Talking About It Blues,” Taylor switches to acoustic guitar.  This is a fairly simple blues song, but I love the guitar riff that punctuates the verses.  The verse is simple enough “my daddy cut down a tree, make a guitar for me.”  This song features a lengthy solo by J.P. Johnson.

The drums (by Larry Thompson “Bryant Gumball of the drummers,”) and bass (by new bassist Todd Edmunds) are really simple but they sound great and really punctuate the song.

It’s a short song that segues into the final song, “Think I Won’t” which has a heavy five note riff to open with.  I love that it takes him forver to end this song.  Saying one more time even though they do more than one more time.

I don’t really like blues songs that much.  But this band is really tight and the addition of the fiddle really makes these songs stand out. Plus after those cool droning blues songs I was hooked.

[READ: December 15, 2015] Primates

I had been planning to post magazine stories this week.  Then I learned that it is First Second’s ten-year anniversary and they are trying to promote it with the cool hashtag #10yearsof01.   Since I’ve read a bunch of First Second books in the last couple of months, I’m going to give them a deserved shout out by posting a few in a row and including that hashtag.

This is a non-fiction graphic novel from First Second and it is outstanding.  In a wonderfully kid-friendly style, it talks about the incredible work done by Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas.  And the man behind their success, Leonard Leakey.

The story opens on Jane Goodall.  After visiting a friend in Kenya, she spoke to Dr Leakey (who tells of his childhood growing up in Kenya).  Through their meeting, Leakey gained funding and sent Goodall to Gombe to study chimpanzees in 1957.  She soon discovered them using tools and eating meat.   Her work caused them to, as the book puts it, “redefine tools, redefine Man or accept chimpanzees as human.”

Then she went further and learned so much more about chimpanzees, using techniques that were not exactly scientifically approved (sifting through dung, setting up places for them to eat) but wound up being amazingly effective.

Jane married Hugo, her photographer and then they were visited by Dian Fossey. Continue Reading »

aug24SOUNDTRACK: IVAN & ALYOSHA-Tiny Desk concert #109 (February 7, 2011).

ivanIvan & Alyosha are a five piece (no one is named Ivan or Aloysha) consisting of Tim Wilson (lead vocals) Ryan Carbary (guitars) Pete Wilson, (Tim’s brother), Tim Kim (acoustic and electric guitars) and drummer Cole Mauro).  They play bouncy folk (I assume that their non-Tiny Desk sound is bigger than two acoustic guitars and a tambourine).

“Beautiful Lie” is the first song.  The lead singer has a gentle falsetto and the other guys add nice harmonies (especially during the oooooooohs).

As they introduce “Easy to Love” Wilson says they recorded it at 2AM in their last half hour at the studio.  And it wound up being the song people like most.  It’s easy to like, with a fun clap-along and a simple electric guitar solo.  Again, I assume the actual song is bigger than this.

“I Was Born To Love Her” is a good jam (their words).  It completes that folks sound with two guitars and lovely harmonies.  They’d be a great opener for Band of Horses.  I’d see that tour.

Incidentally, the band name comes from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

[READ: February 3, 2016] “These Short, Dark Days”

I was planning on saving this story to put it sequentially with the other New Yorker stories that I’ll be posting in the weeks to come.  But this story is set on February 3, so why not post it on that short, dark day, since it is that day, anyhow.

This story begins with a suicide.  A man sees his wife out the door, then covers the windows and door gaps, pulls the gas hose off the stove and brings it with him into the bedroom (who knew the hose would be that long).

The next section of the story jumps to much later as we see a nun, Sister St. Savior, walking down the street.  She is tired and aching from begging all day. But she smells the smell of an extinguished fire and she knows in her heart that she must go there and help.  I love that when she arrives, everyone defers to her.  One of the men even acts as if he has sent for her, when clearly she came of her own design. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: January 31, 2016] Muse

2016-01-31 19.03.02I have liked Muse since their debut album, although I really got into them with Origin of Symmetry.  Given their over the top sound and Radiohead meets Queen meets really heavy metal I am astonished that they are as popular as they are.

I wished that I had seen their previous tour because I really liked their last album, and while I enjoyed Drones, it was a bit more basic than the over the top sound of The 2nd Law.  Nevertheless, I was pretty excited to see them live, especially when my friend Joe said they were the best show he has ever seen.

And I have to concur with him.  This show was outstanding.  There was nothing disappointing about this show at all.  Even before the show started, they had a Drone Processing Entrance for anyone with general admission seats (I didn’t know there was such a thing, but they all got to stand on the floor inches from the band, which is pretty cool).  2016-01-31 19.23.49The stage setup itself was spectacular–a circular stage with two catwalks extending out to either side–like a bow tie–which guitarist/singer/superathlete Matthew Bellamy and bassist (and growler) Chris Wolstenholme ran to throughout the show.

2016-01-31 20.15.57Just before the band came out, a dozen stormtrooper-looking guys with batons and blue glowing lights came out to “patrol” the perimeter while they played “Straight Outta Compton.”  And then the lights went out.

The giant orbs lit and up descended from the rafters while the prerecorded “Drones” played.  These drone balloons had lights on the bottom which scoped out the audience.

And then the band came out and launched into “Dead Inside” while the drones floated around above them.  It was cool to see Wolstenholme’s bass with the led lights on the fretboard.  And before I forget, drummer Dominic Howard is a monster.  His set was right in the center of the stage anchoring the whole business. And his drums were loud and impressive and super fast when needed.  I also liked that at the end of the show, he ran to both sides of the bow tie stage to wave to fans. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: January 31, 2016] X Ambassadors

2016-01-31 19.33.02I have had a great string of luck with opening acts in the last year.  But that more or less came to an end with X Ambassadors (the first half of the tour had Phantogram as the opening act, whom I would have been pretty psyched to see).  I didn’t know X Ambassadors at all before seeing this show (although I understand that they have a number of singles out).

It’s not that X Ambassadors were bad, because they weren’t.  It’s not even that they didn’t fit with Muse, although really they don’t.  There was just something flat about them.  And that is really surprising because they sure looked and acted like they were ready to be huge.

They played the center circular stage.  Noah Feldshuh on guitar was at 9:00 as I looked at the stage.  Keyboardist Casey Harris was at 6:00 and drummer Adam Levin was at 3:00.  Lead singer Sam Harris was all over the place.  He ran around, jumped and bounced and really got the crowd into it.  I assume they were into it.

Sam Harris has a great voice–he can wail, he can hit high notes, he can croon, he can do it all.  He might as well be a star on a TV music show.  And I think that’s where the problem with the band is for me. They are playing a show with Muse and they have a sound that is kind of heavy.  But I think they’d be better suited with a less “alternative” rock sound.  I think an RnB vibe would suit his voice better. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: January 30, 2016] Indigo Girls

2016-01-30 22.57.42When I was a radio DJ in college, I received a promo disc by a band called the Indigo Girls, which I listened to because Michael Stipe sang on one of the songs.  I really enjoyed the sampler.  The Girls’ harmonies were outstanding and the lyrics were clever and funny and very very smart.

And I’ve enjoyed them intermittently for twenty some years.  I even saw them at Newport Folk Festival back in 1998 when they put on a fantastic show.

Sarah has been a fan of the band for a long time as well.  She saw them at an even more unusual venue–at the American Library Association Convention in 2002.

Neither one of us had seen them in a “proper” venue and thought it would be cool to see them in this small theater in Montclair.

And man, did they sound fantastic.  Their first album came on in 1989 and their voices sound exactly the same.  Emily can hit the high notes and Amy still has that great gravelly sound (despite claiming to be ill and on steroids to get her voice to actually work–I never would have guessed).  And their harmonies are still perfect together. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: January 30, 2016] Jill Hennessy

2016-01-30 20.26.55Jill Hennessy is an actress who was on Law & Order  from 1993-1996 and then starred on Crossing Jordan.  She is one of the reasons I watched L&O for the couple seasons that I did.  I pretty much stopped once she left, although I never watched Jordan).

I genuinely didn’t think that this was the same Jill Hennessy.  It’s been twenty years and all, but she looks so different (ans still so young) and the name didn’t seem that uncommon.  But nope.  It’s her.  She started playing music a long time ago.  She was busking in the subway in New York before getting a big Broadway gig.  And in fact, she appeared with the Indigo Girls in a Mountain Stage concert back in 2009 (it’s on NPR here).  Hennessy’s voice suits the Indigo Girls very well, she even sounds a bit like Amy Ray if you don’t think too hard about it.

clairehennesyyBefore the concert, I looked her up online and saw her bio–she’s from Edmonton, Alberta–and has been acting for ages.  She was even a candidate to be Scully on The X-Files.

Then I found a few songs and really liked what I heard–she’s sorta country but more in line with the style of the Indigo Girls.  So I was looking forward to hearing her.

We may have missed a song or two, I can’t find setlists online anywhere, but she played a fairly long and solid set.  Continue Reading »

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