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Archive for August, 2015

chloeSOUNDTRACK: ROGER McGUINN with THE ROCK BOTTOM REMAINDERS-Tiny Desk Concert #62 (June 1, 2010).

mcguinn There are many unusual Tiny Desk Concerts, but this may be the strangest.  Ostensibly, the show is from The Rock Bottom Remainders, an informal and revolving assortment of good-natured authors who masquerade as a rock band for charity.  In this incarnation, they are Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, Roy Blount Jr., Kathy Kamen Goldmark and Sam Barry, none of whom brought any instruments.  But leading them is Roger McGuinn, who brought his guitar and the chords to two songs.

The authors (mostly Dave Barry) are funny and self-deprecating, “We’re gonna attempt a song involving actual singing now,”

So McGuinn leads them in a rendition of “Sloop John B.” which they and the audience sing in a fun, campfire sorta way.  On the second song “May The Road Rise To Meet You” the backing singers mostly just sit and watch McGuinn.  And McGuinn seems fine with that.

He of course has a lovely voice.  And at the end, he does  neat little guitar solo.  And they all applaud.

[READ: July 29, 2015] Chloë Sevigny

I saw this book at work and decided to flip through it.  It has an introduction by Kim Gordon and an Afterword by Natasha Lyonne, so that seemed interesting enough.  The rest of the book is photos of Sevigny.  And nothing else.  Although Gordon says that “this book allows us a peek into her teenage bedroom and evokes the visceral thrill of getting dressed.”

I don’t really have an opinion of Sevigny.  Although I noticed that she tends to appear in things that I like–she’s like the cool guest star that appears on fun shows (like Portlandia).  But I don’t really know anything about her.

And I still don’t. (more…)

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mercurySOUNDTRACK: MOBY & KELLI STARR-Tiny Desk Concert #58 (May 4, 2010).

moby This is the first of a few Tiny Desk Concerts that break with the format we’ve come to know.

For unclear reasons, there is a video for only one song from this show.  Although there is a full audio feed in which you can hear all of the songs that Moby and Kelli play.  This video is also filmed at night, which is quite different from their usual mid-morning showcase.  It is very dark outside and in the studio, which is also unusual.

The song that they play is “Gone to Sleep,” a song they created for Project Song.  The premise behind Project Song is to write, record and complete a song in 48 hours.  As inspiration, they used the word Sunday and a picture of a man in the woods with clouds for a head (Moby describes him as a pedophile from another dimension).

It’s quite a good song with a really catchy, very Moby chorus.  And the dark video is interesting to watch.

There’s audio where you can learn a bit more about Project Song and how they created their song.  But there’s also audio from the rest of their set, which features covers and Moby originals all done on acoustic guitar.

They play a fun, surprisingly light version of “Ring of Fire” (with audience participation on “trumpet solo”).  Then the do Moby’s “Pale Horses” which is quite nice in this stripped down version.  Their next cover is “Take a Walk on the Wild Side.”  They do an interesting take–it’s almost upbeat and folky, which is unusual.  He switches from “and the colored girls say” to “and everybody here says.”  He also tells a funny story about campaigning for John Kerry and playing that song and seeing Kerry’s wife act horrified and maybe a little turned on by the lyrics.

The final song is CSN&Y’s “Helpless.”  It’s a pretty, very different version from the original.  It’s a good set, especially for those who think of Moby as a more dancey artist.

[READ: June 21, 2015] Mercury

I really enjoyed this book by Hope Larson, one of my consistently favorite graphic novelists.

And this book may be one of her best.  The book drifts back and forth between two timelines in Nova Scotia.  The older timeline is 1859.  We meet the Fraser family living in a house on French hill.  They have just had a visitor, Asa Curry and he seems taken with their daughter Josey.

The modern timeline is set 150 years in the future.  The Fraser family until recently still lived on the property at French Hill.  A few years ago it burnt down and the survivors had to move.

The 1859 story has a black border while the contemporary story has a white one, it a subtle but very cool way of distinguishing the timelines. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: August 2015] The Organist

organistThe final 10 episodes of The Organist’s second season were of the same caliber of podcast.  I was surprised to see that it ended in March.  And, in a recent Kickstarter from McSweeney’s, the talk about getting funding to make more episodes.  I’d be bummed if they ran out of money to make more of these. Even if I have griped about the repeating, the quality of each episode is really quite good.

Episode 40: Cosmo’s Factory (December 30, 2014)
I was fascinated by this piece because I found the drumming in the song to be nothing special.  I never would have noticed all of the nuances that he fixated on.  And the song really isn’t that interesting.  Drummer Neal Morgan, who has supported Joanna Newsom, Bill Callahan, Robin Pecknold, and others, sat down with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Doug Clifford to dive into ecstatic detail on the arrangement of “Long as I Can See The Light.”

Episode 41: A Funeral for Everyone I Knew (January 6, 2015)
This week they finally get around to the Greta Gerwig piece they mentioned in Episode 38.  It is Funeral for Everyone I Knew, a new radio play by novelist Jesse Ball.  Starring Greta Gerwig and Whip Hubley, the play follows the dark machinations of a dying man, and his elaborate plans for his own funeral.  Frankly it wasn’t really worth the wait, and Gerwig isn’t in it enough. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: August 2015] The Organist

organistFor the second season of The Organist, they switched formats from the once a month 45-55 minute long amalgam of stories of last year to a one story an episode, once a week format.  The length hovers around 20 minutes now with some shows being much longer and others being much shorter.  It doesn’t make too much of a difference if you listen all at once as I did, but I can see that if you’re listening when they come out that a weekly podcast would be more satisfying.

However, they have also opted to have an “encore” episode every fourth episode in which they take one of the segments from an earlier episode and play it on its own.  How disappointing would it be to tune in and get a repeat?  And why on earth would they repeat things if all of the previous episodes are available online?  It’s very strange and frankly rather disappointing.  I mean, sure, it’s nice to have the new introductions, but it’s not like you’re getting some kind of special version when they repeat it.  It’s exactly the same.  And, boy, they tend to repeat some of my least favorite pieces.

Also the website now gives a pretty detailed summary of the contents of each episode, so you get a good sense of what’s going to happen. (more…)

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porkSOUNDTRACK: THE FRONT BOTTOMS-“Mountain” (2011).

fb The Front Bottoms have a new album coming out.  I’ve liked a lot of their songs and decided to dig a bit deeper in their catalog, and that’s when I discovered this song which led me to realize that they are from New Jersey (Woodcliff Lake, in fact).  As a New Jersey band they clearly grew up eating Taylor Ham sandwiches.  And so they get the honor of being attached to this book.

The Front Bottoms are a fun lightly punk pop band.  The singer Brian Sella sings slightly off kilter and sometimes is speaking more than singing. And their music is energetic and sorta sloppy (but not actually sloppy at all) and it all stems from a great ball of fun that the band seems to be having.  The songs are largely guitar and drum, although they have added keyboards and the occasional trumpet to flesh out these simple ditties.

This particular song has some rollicking drums, an introductory trumpet and simple strummed guitars.  It also features this perfect lyric:

“I bought fireworks, a big bag in Pennsylvania, I’m gonna light ’em up when I get home to Jersey.  They’ll probably arrest me they’ll probably ruin my whole summer.”

Their new album is coming out in a few weeks and features the super catchy song “Laugh Til i Cry.”

[READ: August 22, 2015] The Pork Roll Cookbook

I saw this book at the library and had to check it out.  I love pork roll, it’s a treat that my father loved and which my family simply doesn’t eat often enough.  Of course, since we’re from North Jersey we called it Taylor Ham.

I wasn’t really interested in pork roll recipes because, well, you really only ever need to eat it with egg and cheese on a roll (or bagel).

But the beginning of the book gives a fascinating history of this local delicacy which barely makes it beyond the New Jersey border. (more…)

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fish SOUNDTRACK: CHAPPO-Future Former Self (2015).

chappoCHAPPO opened for The Flaming Lips, and I enjoyed them enough to get their CD. Since I bought it, I have listened to it nonstop.  While I enjoyed their live show, I never expected the subtle nuances that were present on the disc.  It’s entirely possible that the band’s sound got lost somewhat in the huge open-air stadium that they played in.  They also rocked pretty hard live, so I was surprised by the more psychedelic sound they achieved on disc.

I feel like they achieved an interesting mix of psychedelia and Britpop, which I would never expect.  The album opens with “Hello” a gentle psychedelic song with whistling and a jaunty melody.  I like the unexpected riff that comes in the verse before returning to the really catchy opening melody again.  About half way through the song changes into something bigger—a very cool switch which turns the seemingly simple ditty into something even more interesting.

“Hang On” is wonderfully catchy single. Opening with washes of keyboards and a cool guitar riff, the vocals are gentle and then the bridge comes in and the song lifts to a new level. And then the chorus comes in and things get even bigger. It’s wonderfully crafted.  I saw this song live and while it was good live, and it was definitely fun.  After a quiet moment (with interesting processed vocals), the big chorus returns and you can’t help but sing along.

“I’m Not Ready” switches gears pretty radically, with a chugging riff and 70s synths thrown over the top. The chorus is much more guitar heavy but is not heavy itself–sort of the way the Cars sound.  “I Don’t Need the Sun” shifts gears again with more interesting keyboard sounds sprinkled over the sunny guitar lines.  The lyrics to this one get stuck in my head all the time.

“Run Me Into the Ground” opens with seemingly contradictory keyboard notes and guitar riff. They come together nicely into a pretty verse which all melds into a huge grabbing chorus.  “Mad Magic” opens with a kind of disco/reggae guitar line and Alex Chappo’s falsetto for certain notes.  I love the lyrics to this one too: “My wife is indispensable she will succeed because she has to she will succeed with magic.”  A multilayered chorus really complements the opening riffs and the lines “we’ll be floating while they are coasting” is very cool.

“Hey-O” has a simple catchy gesture with a group singing Hey-O Hey-O that reminds me a bit of Of Monsters and Men.  “Something’s Ringing” is a delicate ballad with a lot of falsetto (and I find Alex’s to me unusual pronunciation of some of the words strangely compelling). I like the way the odd helicopter sound ends the song as it takes off.

“Orange Afternoon” has a sleazy guitar sound and vocal that reminds me a bit of Suede. But the chorus changes direction entirely getting  brighter and brighter.  But moments of that sleaze come back and intersperse interestingly with the bright guitars.

“Ghetto Weekend” is a trippy song to end with.  There’s talking going on, and also a languid guitar.  But it’s interfused with guitar soloing which is echoed and at times seems to not stop. But the switch to the bridge is a great change of pace from the mellow opening—it a great trick, the kind that CHAPPO does so well.

I can’t think of another band that I saw live without knowing their music and was subsequently even more blown away by their album which of course makes me want to see them again in a  more intimate venue.

[READ; June 22, 2015] Fish in the Dark

I’m not sure if I would have known this play was by Larry David just by reading it, but since I knew it was by him, I could tell unmistakably that it was David’s writing (and voice) while I was cracking up.

One wonders why David chose to write a play as a opposes to a screenplay, but then, by doing this it allowed him to get away from his normal characters (even if these ones act just like the characters in anything else he has done).

This is the story of a family.  Norman (played by Larry David) is a put upon husband.  His wife doesn’t want to sleep with him anymore (she has a very funny rejoinder to him in the first scene).  His mother is overbearing (and hates his wife).  His brother, Arthur, is wealthy, recently divorced and is living it up thinking only about himself.  And he just received a phone call that his father is one the verge of death. (more…)

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sticiceSOUNDTRACK: NEIL INNES-Tiny Desk Concert #127 (May 11, 2011).

innesNeil Innes is one of the musical voices of Monty Python and The Rutles.  He is also the creator of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.  I was delighted to see that he did a Tiny Desk concert.

In addition to creating clever songs, he is big into wordplay.  So, he has some great statements before starting:

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen here and viewer.”

“It’s wonderful to be.”

“You know, not so long ago and its been very lucky for me.”

He plays his perhaps most well-known song, “I’m the Urban Spaceman” on guitar.  It is wonderfully surreal (at the end he describes it as a medley of hit).

For “Democracy” he play a tiny ukulele.  This song is not funny (well a little).  It is political, straightforward and pointed.

For the final song, he play The Rutles’ “I Must Be In Love” (with appropriate accent).  He tries to get everyone to sing the really high Ooooh note and then gives up.

And then he’s gone.  It’s delightful.

[READ: August 10 2015] Stick Dog Dreams of Ice Cream

By this point (the fourth book) the Stick Dog series has gotten a little predictable.  I mean, basically the dogs want to get food right?  But Watson still manages to keep the stories funny.  I see that for this book the illustrations are “by Ethan Long based on original sketches by Tom Watson”  I have a hard time believing that Watson was too busy to draw these very simple figures, but whatever.

I also find it hard to believe that these dogs have never tasted ice cream before–surely they have scavenged a wrapper somewhere.  But best not to think too carefully, right?

because it is summer time and it is very hot.  The dogs are all looking for something to cool them off.  They go out in search of a nice cool water source.

But the best parts of the story are when the dogs get distracted.  On the way for water, Poo-Poo smells something.  They hope it is hot dogs or pizza, but it is…a squirrel.  Stick Dog is afraid of this because Poo-Poo will be not let the squirrel go.  But Stick Dog convinces him to leave it.  And they are off. (more…)

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