The big sound of Milagres is built from small, simple elements: the boom of the kick drum, the clack of the claves, the repetitive tap-tap-tapping of a piano. This is a band of selective minimalism — which, in the end, somehow gets me thinking about the big sounds Phil Spector made. It’s all about attention to detail, and Milagres is a band that cares.
And yet for this Tiny Desk:
Frankly, I worried more when the band’s list of gear didn’t include a single amp and its members said they didn’t need to use our keyboard. They came armed with a red toy piano, an autoharp, a shaker egg, a melodica, a glockenspiel, a few acoustic guitars and not much else.
But in the end, that same attention to detail made this a great Tiny Desk Concert. In spite of the tiny sound, the songs were big and strong — delicately built, yet sturdy enough for the emotive sounds of Kyle Wilson’s voice.
Wilson’s voice is kind of loud whisper, but the band, with all of their funny gear sounds really full and the elements come together very nicely.
“Hard to Stay” starts out nicely, but when the band adds the lovely “ooohs” during the first verse it sounds amazing. And you can hear all of the instruments perfectly balanced—the authoharp, the melodica and then the xylophone. Couple that with some lovely lyrics
All the leaves are glowing green / as the seasons rage all the birds seem to sing in the key of A
“Halfway” opens with a toy piano—which doesn’t sound cheesy. Wilson hits lots of delicate falsetto notes that work perfectly with the piano and xylophone. The chorus “Halfway, halfway, I could be halfway” is all sung in gentle falsetto. And then add more of those beautiful ooohs during the second verse. I also really like at the end when he keeps playing his chords higher and higher up the neck–getting kind of noisy–until it all abruptly stops
“Glowing Mouth” opens with shaker and melodica and again, the sound is nice not cheesy. he sings wonderful falsetto “haaas” in the middle and the autoharp returns with the great sound. He play a simple but pretty riff on the acoustic guitar as the song ends (its fun to watch his fingers playing it close up).
The band really won me over with their sound here and now I’m very curious to hear what they’re “supposed” to sound like.
[READ: January 27, 2017] “Y’all Torture Me Home”
I am astonished that this essay had to be written at all back in 2008. But I am even more upset that now, 8 years later, issues of torture are being considered again. Really the only word that should be coming up regularly is impeachment.
When I was in college I wrote a humorous piece for my college newspaper that was all about Deconstruction. There had been a debate going back and forth about it (seriously), with the people who were opposed to it saying that it led to a belief that nothing had meaning–which could cause a spiritual crisis. (Ah, the 90s).
Since no one was winning this argument, I jumped in with my piece which was all about “de construction” at “da University” (our school was expanding and there was orange construction fencing everywhere). It was hailed and enjoyed (at least by one of the professors in the philosophy department).
I bring this up only because Saunders takes a similar mis-understanding approach in the essay, which, sadly, is timely once again. His piece begins:
I was overjoyed that Congress refused to override President Bush’s veto of a bill outlawing the washboarding of prisoners, a technique that some have described as torture—a ridiculous notion if I’ve ever heard one.
[After you unpack the negatives, the ruling was that “washboarding” can continue]
And thus begins Saunders detailed account of his own experience with being washboarded.
I used to live downstairs from an oldtime jug band. And, believe me, it was not torture. It was torturous, yes—especially at three in the morning, what with the banjo and the jug and the high, whiny singing and (horror of horrors) the occasional harmonica—but torture?
Please. Was it annoying? Yes, it was. Was it maddening? It was to me. Did it disgust with its ostentatious “embracing” of the faux nostalgic? Oh, big-time. But was it torture?
No. The point is
it is essential, in a free society that finds itself threatened by a ruthless enemy, to distinguish between torture and something pretty irritating.
He posits some very funny examples of annoying things:
Are we going to ask the President to ban the act of singing to oneself in a high, tuneless quaver from the next cubicle over? (Hi, Maureen!) Are we going to prohibit people from screaming such things into their cell phones as “WE JUST LANDED! IN THE PLANE! ON THE RUNWAY!” or “PRESS DOWN HARD ON THE VEIN AND SEE IF HIS EYE POPS OUT!” or “I CAN GET IT ABOUT HALFWAY UP THERE AND THEN I USUALLY JUST COMPLETELY LOSE CONSCIOUSNESS!”
So that’s all funny and good. But what sets this essay apart from others (like mine) is that he is not just going to joke about jugband music. Because he throws in this awesome paragraph:
Are these people terrorists or not? Or, I should say, is it possible that these people might be terrorists? Or, rather, has someone (possibly us, possibly someone other than us, such as, for example, someone they knew back in their home country, with whom they have possibly been having, say, a blood feud) alleged that they were possible terrorists?
So he asks if all of that banjo picking and washboarding and the fake Southern accents affected by the kids from Rutgers who made up Tennessee Overland Conveyance Company, Ltd., could possibly be considered torture. And he says no. But he’s going to try to think of something that could be torture. Of course,
It’s hard for me, as an American, to think up cool tortures, because thinking up tortures is not something we really do. It makes us too sick. Japs/Krauts in Second World War movies think up tortures, really attractive serial killers on “CSI” think up tortures, the nemeses of superheroes think up tortures, people on “Alias” and “24” and “Lost” think up tortures—O.K., yes, so some of us Americans do think up tortures. Screenwriters, for example, do a lot of thinking up of tortures.
But then he ponders, willing to sully his purity to imagine something that would be considered torture:
Well, O.K., here’s one: Hold someone underwater for a really long time, until their nostrils fill with water and they feel convinced they’re drowning and begin to thrash desperately around and maybe even shit or piss themselves. Then briefly let them up for air, saying something like “You have anything you want to tell us, pretty boy?” or “Does the little bird want to sing?” or “Hey, Cochise, look at my badass dog, he’s a German shepherd, want to pet him, his name is Klaus, his favorite meal is dripping-wet terrorist,” and, as the guy looks at you, fearful and desperate, possibly crying out for his mother, eyes pleading for mercy—whammo!
Time for another little swim.
See—now, that would be torture. Obviously.
Obviously. How in god’s name is You Know Who even considering bringing this back.
Saunders is truly amazing at the way he mixes the funny with the horrific with the humane all in just a few paragraphs. I find myself quoting him all the time lately. And the fact that he wrote these things years ago just make it all the sadder that I have to.