Alt-J is a peculiar band—lead singer Joe Newman’s voice is really unusual—and quit divisive as I understand. But even the music is peculiar: “The band’s songs are wrapped in enigmatic textures, with swift shifts in arrangements inside every song and an oddness to the drums…that curious rhythm at the foundation of the songs reveals not a hint of cymbals.”
I can’t say I noticed that they were necessarily more spare at the Tiny Desk concert, but the blurb notes, “[Drummer] Thom Green plays mostly with a mounted tambourine and cowbell for the sorts of things a hi-hat would accomplish — that tick tick sound, with the snap of the sound coming from a small-bodied 10″ snare called a popcorn snare. The sparseness that happens in the absence of crashing cymbals leaves a lot of space in the music.”
I happen to really like the music behind this voice and I also find his voice… intriguing. At first I wasn’t sure, but I feel like once I got sucked into the music, I enjoyed it all the more.
“Tessellate” has some great basslines and interesting keyboards. Newman sings and plays an electric guitar in the most delicate way imaginable. After the first song, there’s some amusement as he asks someone in the audience for the guitar (we don’t see it but there’s some chuckles about the person missing her big chance).
Newman switches to acoustic for “Something Good” (which I think of as the Matador song). He plays this guitar a lot louder than the electric. But once again the melody is quite unusual–very catchy and unexpected (and he can sing in quite a deep voice compared to his rather high normal singing voice. And speaking of high voices the keyboardist does some really impressive falsetto notes in this and the first song.
Then they pass the bass over and the audience member gets “another chance.” Bob jokes that they may ask her to play it next. For the final song “Matilda,” the bassist switches to guitar and Newman is back on the electric. His voice is so strange on this song. It’s almost like he is singing internally to himself rather than externally to the room. I love the drum rhythms that play under the song.
I didn’t realize there were no cymbals, but that does make a lot of sense as there are no “exclamations” to the rhythm, just a steady, interesting beat. When their album came out in 2012 I wasn’t sure about them, but I think they’ve won me over.
As the Concert ends, they are very gracious. When Bob says “Thanks for doing this,” he replies, “Thanks for having us. It’s the first time we’ve really played in an office.” Which is a funny thing to say out loud.
[READ: January 23, 2017] “Who is Alex Trebek?”
I was looking through all of the pieces that Simon Rich has published in the New Yorker. Most of them have been collected in his various books, but there were a couple that hadn’t. This is one of them.
In his book Last Girlfriend on Earth, he has a short piece called “When Alex Trebek’s Ex-Wife Appeared on Jeopardy!” This story is written in the same style–consider it a companion piece.
The focus this time is on Trebek himself. And I really like the amusing way Rich sets it up:
Last month, Alex Trebek, the host of Jeopardy! celebrated his seventieth birthday. It didn’t get much acknowledgement, and I’m worried that his feelings were a little hurt. Here are some clues that he read on last night’s show.
Category: TV Game Show Hosts. And then five answers in increasingly value.
Some of the Answers:
This game-show host has been on Jeopardy! for twenty-six years and yet he never gets even the tiniest shred of respect from anyone.
A lot of people think that this game-show host doesn’t know the answers to any of the questions and would be lost without his cards. But that’s not true. He knows a lot of the answers—he just can’t say them, obviously, because he’s the host and that would ruin the game for everyone.
The Double Jeopardy section has this category: TV Game Show Hosts II.
Someone wrote on a blog that this game-show host is a “pompous jerk.” Would a pompous jerk volunteer for World Vision, a charity that raises money for Third World countries? Because that’s what this host does.
Another person wrote on a blog that this game-show host “tries to speak in a British accent, to look smarter,” but what they don’t understand is that this host is from Canada and that’s just naturally how he talks. Can a man help where he was born?
There’s no big wallop of a punchline, but Rich’s style is always amusing in thee little pieces.