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Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 7 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 14, 2005).

This was the 7th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe, Whale Music night.

On this night the Rheostatics were made up of 7 people, the usual suspects, plus Ford Pier on Keys, legendary pedal steel player Lewis Melville, and what Whale Music would be complete without Dave Clark. For those keeping track that’s 2 drummers in the band for this show! There were a few other guests as well, Brother Rick on “Guns” and Tannis Slimmon on “Palomar”. At the end of “Legal Age Life” Dave C got up from the drums and pulled a slide whistle out of his pocket and proceeded to solo on it, Martin, not one to be shown up, ran off stage and grabbed a flute and came back to duel with Dave. On Claire some of the band switched things up, Tim, Dave C, Lewis,and Martin kept to their normal rolls but Dave B played Drums, Mike played tambourine and Ford played bass. Dave Clark’s mic wasn’t working until “The Headless One”. Edmund Fitzgerald was played in complete darkness for most of the song which added a nice ambiance, towards the end blue lights were turned on. And if that wasn’t a great way to end the show they played a fiery rendition of Horses.

No Whale Music night would be complete without mentioning Paul Quarrington.  Dave talks about the inspiration of the book and then says, “we thought it was only right to bring Paul Quarrington to open the show.”  You can hear someone on the tape gasp and then you hear, He was right beside you!”  “Oh my God!”

Paul reads an except from when Desmond is talking about making whale music and seeing Claire sunbathing.  It’s weird with no context, but most people fans surely read it.  The audio quality isn’t great at the start but by the end of the excerpt it sounds great and so does the rest of the show.

They open the show with a ripping “Self Serve Gas Station.”  Tim says that there never used to be an outro.  Dave started strumming the chords again while they were recording it and the other guys joined in.  Dave: “What is this classic albums or something?  Yeah I guess it is.”  “I believe I was wearing a purple shirt….” It segues into a fantastic “California Dreamline.”  It ends with the clapping intro for “Rain Rain Rain.”  They have some cool warbly backing vocals during the “feeling pretty down” part in the second half.  There’s a great bass “solo” underneath the quieter vocals and then the band has crazy fun during the last verse with jazzy chords followed by big rocking chords.

Dave starts “Queer” but Ford starts playing “Everyday People” (no doubt a nod to Cece singing it the other night).  Despite Dave’s starting the words to “Queer,” Ford just starts singing “Everyday People” and the whole band joins in (Ford has a great high voice for the chorus).  When “Queer” starts, everyone sounds fantastic.  Ford gets a little piano solo before the end.  And then came Lewis Melville on the guitar.

Dave: “Here’s another song from, jeez, Whale Music.  Playing the whole album makes banter inconsequential.”

“King Of The Past” sounds good, but someone messes up the chorus–I think Tim is too early both times.  But no one stops.  Musically it sounds fine–especially the bass.  During the outro solo, Dave shouts, “give birth to that horse, Martin.”  Martin’s solo and wild and punky noises from the keys work as a segue into a blistering “RDA” with lots of screaming.   Dave sings a few choruses of “They don’t give a fuck about anybody else.”  At the end Mike notes, “we brought a drill (there’s a drill on the record for this song) but left it in the dressing room.

Dave notes that “Don Kerr will be with us tomorrow night.  We’ll have the full complement.”

Several times they’ve asked for more of Dave Clark’s voice in the monitor.  It’s possible that he wasn’t audible to anyone.  Dave says, “You had a Gil Moore moment.”  Dave notes: “Mike Levine was the first rock star to live on the Danforth.”  Ford: Mike Levine’s dad was the President of [inaudible].  What a squarehead.  Bean counter.”

“The Headless One” doesn’t get played much (Mike say first time in about 15 years) and it sounds good–again the bass sounds really great.

For some reason, Martin says, “We got mild, medium and no hot sauce at all.”  “Legal Age Life At Variety Store” features Lewis Melville on the pedal steel.  It’s followed by a slide whistle solo from Dace Clark.  Dave: “Bring it, Vesely, bring it. (Tim is on drums).  Oh don’t stop there, man, I can hear those Irish fjords calling me.”  Then Martin grabs the penny whistle to compete with Dave.  Mike: “That’s one sharp trap drumming by Tim Vesely there.”

Martin says, “I’ve only counted three mistakes so far.”  And then Tim busts out the accordion for a great “What’s Going On Around Here?”

For “Shaved Head,” Tim says, “I think we recorded this song in the dark.  Martin was in the hallway.  There were candles–a major fire hazard, but we’re all about flouting the law.  Was there grappa.  Grappa was Melville.  Mike: “We’ve matured since then… it was fine scotch.”  Martin: Does anyone know why booze explodes?  Answer: “When you don;t drink, it explodes.

Ford says, “Whats next?  At this part of the record I get up and get a snack.”  Mike says, “This is the part of the record that I think of Tannis Slimmon.  She is such a beautiful person.  One of the kindest and most gentle people I’ve ever met.  And on top of that and she sings like a bird) and we happen to have her here.”  It’s a lovely version of “Palomar.”

Tim says one of his favorite Canadian albums of all time is The Bird Sisters She, She & She.

I believe that Dave Clark gets up: “Ladies and gentlemen, Neil Peart” (not really).  “The motorcycling has done wonders for his physique.”

Clark: “Friends, is everybody being kind to each other?  I thought so.”  Clark does “Guns” and has updated his beat poetry.  He gets a chant going, “What don’t we need?”  “Guns!”  “We need more peace.”    He has the audience make some drum sounds and then Bidini plays the bongos and he sings “getting it on the circuits.”

There’s more accordion for “Sickening Song.”  It sounds great although at the end, Dave says we used to sound a lot more Italian.  Tim says I think I found my new calling–no more lugging around heavy bass amplifiers.  He continues to play the accordion until the start of “Soul Glue.”  In the middle, Dave shouts, “How about a pedal steel guitar solo?” Then Dave shouts, “how about a rock n roll guitar solo?”  “Ford Pier keyboard solo?”  Tim, “May I ask for a bass solo?”

They need to practice the opening vocal harmony, but they nail it for “Beerbash,” Hey everybody Dave is gonna sing a song right now for all you kids.  There’s a pretty slide guitar solo.

And then Tim says, “This album never ends.”  Dave: “This album isn’t over is what Tim means to say.  We have two more.”

They talk a bit about Reaction Studios where they recorded Melville and Whale Music.  It closed down the day before. And somewhere along the lines some major music company bought the rights [to Whale Music] and we have no connection to the thing.  (But you can get it in zunior).

Up next is “Who?”  The whole song sounds good until the final two notes.  Martin cringes and then says, “we have never played that with you, Michael?  Nope, never.”

The album ends with “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds.”  It sounds terrific and they even thrown in a full version of “Alomar” for fun.

After having played the album, they take a break and then come back to play “Claire.”  The bass sounds a little off on this song–slightly out of tune?  The song sounds good although in the middle section someone hits a terrible chord, but hey come out of that okay and finish strong.

Something happens on stage and Martin says “A request” and then plays jazzy number:  “mild hot or medium.”  There are no standards for spicy.  He then asks, “What are we doing now, Dave?  Are we gonna do all of 2112?”  He starts playing “Song of Flight” and Ford starts singing, “We are the priests!”

While Martin plays, “Song Of Flight” Tim sings “around the rainbow three times” in tune.

Dave asks them to shut off the stage lights completely.  There are some ominous chords and some shushing.  Then Tim starts singing “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.”  They do a great job and they throw in the “I wish I was back home in Derry” part.  It segues into a scorching “Horses.”  During it they “give the drummer some.”  Not sure who gets to solo or is it both or them?  It’s a good solo.  And then one more solo from Mr Louis Melville.

They turn that fifty minute album into an excellent two and a half hour show.

[READ: July 17, 2017] Pigs Might Fly

I really enjoyed Abadzis’ book Laika.  I thought it was factually interesting and cleverly written.  And I think my joy at that book impacted why I disliked this book so much.

This is a fairly simple story (although it is made rather complicated).

A girl, Lily, is a good airplane creator.  Her father is supposed to be the airplane creator.  He refuses to use magic in his creations believing that only science can keep a plane in the air.  But when the neighboring town starts attacking with their own airplanes, Lily takes it upon herself to fight them.

Okay, fine.

But here’s the thing.  This story is all about pigs.  And I don’t know why.  Aside from the title that allows for the joke of pigs flying, there’s no “reason” to have made these characters pigs.  Well, also because Abadzis wanted to stuff this book full of awful pig/hog puns. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 5 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 12, 2005).

This series of shows contains the final Rheostatics live shows that are left to write about–except for their “final shows” and their “reunion shows.  This was the 5th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe. Ford Pier was on keyboards.

This show is just under 2 hours. The site notes: “The entire audio had a major sound issue part way through “The Land Is Wild” and into “Superdifficult.” I used a Mark Slogget Soundboard mixed track to bridge the glitch. Better than just cutting it out.”  I can’t even tell.

As the show opens, Martin says “Hi there.  Shhhh.”  And then plays a delicate “Digital Beach” which segues into a rather quiet “Earth/Monstrous Hummingbirds.”  After which Martin says, ” I see what you mean by curveball night, Dave.”

Dave says that this is the Winter Nationals, the Traditional Monday Night Free for All.  If we play any of these songs too well, you can always request a refund.  This set will definitely feature excessive keyboard solos (it doesn’t really).

After an almost expectedly sloppy “Soul Glue,” Dave talks of playing a song from 1987, “Woodstuck” that they recorded on their first trip to Vancouver.  I wonder whatever became of that recording.  Ford talks about Ceez English (sp?) who produced that record and then became a porn mogul.

Introducing “P.I.N.” Martin says he has three chords, literally and the truth and a standup drummer and the Thundergod Tim Vesely.

Introducing “I Dig Music,” Dave says, “Were’ gonna fuck this up real good.”  M.P.W. forgets the words to his part and then seems to make up some comical ones “Seymour Slime.”  When it’s over Dave says,”Okay we know that now, let’s do it again.” Mike notes: “the long list of ‘Oh yeah, right.'”  Dave then says that Martin will be starring in the biopic of Seymour Stein.”  Martin is upset:  “What?  What are you saying about me in front of my friends?”  “It’s the leather vest.” Much chatter about vests in general.

They move on to the most rocking version of “Sunshine at Night” that I’ve heard.  There’s some really loud ripping guitars.

Dave says, “Here’s a hockey song.  I vowed I would never write another hockey song, having written two books and a bunch of songs already.  I’m a hacker.  A hacker in everything I do.”  The keyboards sound great on “The Land is Wild,”  they add nice effects and accents.

Ford mentions that every night so far he has peed in the same urinal.  So tonight he peed in the one with the picture of Garth Brooks. “Didn’t care for it.”  Martin jokes: “It’s the tight tight tight jeans.  Garth is th e puking stall.”  Dave: “I saw on the TV that he got married to Trisha Yearwood.”  Mike: “Trisha Urinal?”  Martin: “She Pro-tools country, right?  Autotune country.  Robocountry.”

They play a quick and pretty “Superdifficult,” ironically (or not) with Martin’s robotic voice

Dave talks about the upcoming shows and promises that guest vocalist night will be the best one yet.  And I’m not just blowing smoke out my ass or up your ass.  Martin: “Do you have to be so vulgar?”  Dave: ” It’s refreshing swearing at someone other than my children.”

They play a lovely “Try To Praise This Mutilated World.”  I really love when they come out of the poem (you can really hear the poem on this recording).  Martin agrees that he loves that song.

They play a slow and rather shambolic version of “Record Body Count.”  At the end, Martin plays a groovy chord and Mike notes: “Sounds like he died in Reno.”  Martin agrees, although he says Rio.  “You can always count on that triangular A chord to make you sound jazzy.”

This leads to a really long “Desert Island Discs” with these picks:
Dave: Ramones-Rocket to Russia; Sly and the Fmaily Stone; Tom Waits-Heartattack and Vine.
Ford: Violet Archers-End of Part One; Martin Tielli-Operation Infinite Joy; (Mike: brown nosing) and the book on tape of Dave Bidini’s last book and Faceless Forces of Bigness DVD.  Hey, I know who is signing the paychecks.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Ron Koop: Miles Davis-In a silent way; that new album by Pete Eccles-Party of One’  (Tim: remember you’re on a desert island by yourself for all of eternity. ) Can I change my choice?  (Mike: no food, try and get albums that have food in them)  Led Zeppelin 2.
Tim: Bob Marley-Survival; Ry Cooder-Paradise & Lunch; Vic Chesnutt–Is the Actor Happy?
Audience member: Rush-Moving Pictures; Rheostatics-Harmelodia; Elliott Smith-XO
Mike: Deep Purple-Machine Head; Gentle Giant live record from 1978; Steve Reich-Music for a Large Ensemble (Tim: definitely sounds like a party of one).
Martin: I don’t listen to music.  Dave: “You’re more of a ring tone guy, right?”  Mike: “What’s your favorite movie that you own.”  Dave: “Hold on that’s different music.”  They play a ripping fast song.  Martin: “Local Hero, anything by John Cassavetes.  I like movies, not music.  Movies got it all.  Music, pictures, sound, light and (ha ha) great acting.
Dave ends the song properly with the E minor chord and Martin says “I remember when you discovered how menacing the E minor chord is.”  Dave: “That’s right, if my kids won’t eat, E minor.”

What’s on the platter next?

The French song?  Tim doesn’t want to do the French song.  Dave’s not going to remember the words to some song, he’ll do it tomorrow?

After “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne” Dave says, “That’s Roger Lord on the keyboard.  I mean Jon Lord.”  Then Selina Martin comes out to sing “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds.”  It’s followed by “Self Serve Gas Station” which ends with Martin playing a really rocking version of the song and then the band filling in while he solos.

They start “When Winter Comes” which turns into a with all kinds of things: a quick run through “Song Of Flight” (with some really heavy guitars) and then onto what sounds like Martin trying to play the “Four Little Songs” ending and then finally getting it where they jam it out.  And then Dave begins the lyrics to the second section of “When Winter Comes” (in the blue Canadian winter).  Dave ends there and says thanks, but Martin and Mike play a rocking ending to the show before they take an encore break.

Dave comes out to play “Song Ain’t Any Good” on solo acoustic.    3:37  Someone shouts out for “Holy Macinaw, Joe”  Dave says that song is called “Horses” which makes people cheer, but he says, “this song’s not gonna come within 100 feet of that song.”  At the end of the songs, Dave says, Tim we missed your bad drumming.  Your good bad drumming you know what I mean.

Dave says “We have many Americans who come up to see us during Fall Nationals.  This is Rich and Greg from For Wayne, IN.  This is their big 5.”  They ask for a picture of the band and then one of them all giving him the finger.”  Mike notes that Taylor from Planet of the Apes And M*A*S*H’s Frank Burns are both from Fort Wayne, IN,. Rich and Greg sing “Take Me in Your Hand.”  They’re okay, one of them is a little flat.

Dave then says, we’re going to do one and a half songs. And remember tomorrow is totally free.  We’re playing with Kat Burns and Leeroy Stagger (and we’re gonna suck).  Mike: Leroy Stagger? Really?  He’s Caroline Mark’s hairdresser.”  They play “Song of the Garden” and end the whole show with the ending of “When Winter Comes” (the warm Victoria ending).

It’s a solid show and almost 2 hours long.

[READ: July 12, 2017] Shattered Warrior

I haven’t read anything by Sharon Shinn, but I did recognize her name (and Ostertag’s as well).

The story is set in a village (presumably on Earth).  Collen Cavanaugh’s home world was conquered by the Derechets, an alien race who are large and smart and have super strong technology.  They are using this planet’s resources for fuel and weapons.  And they take no guff from anyone–stepping out of line gets you work detail that will likely kill you.

Coleen’s family was very rich (they have a large house called Avon), but that couldn’t save them from being killed in the war (this is really dark story).  So Colleen is by herself in a remote house.  However, she must travel to the city every day to work (she has very little left).

One of the Derechet is nice to Colleen but the main boss Corvo is really nasty.

This was a pretty enjoyable story, but I had a few complaints about it.  The first one I’ll start with right away. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE KLEZMER CONSERVATORY BAND-Oy Chanukah! (1987).

For the first day of Hanukkah, it’s time for a Chanukah album.

This is a collection of traditional Chanukah songs interspersed with brief stories and a history of the holiday.

It works as a musical collection, although the dialogue does obviously stop the flow every couple of minutes.

Klezmer music is fun (provided you like the clarinet), but it really can’t be dissociated from the stories behind it.

The first narrator talks about the Maccabees and the Festival of Lights.  There’s the tales of Judith and Hannah and memories of klezmorim coming to the shtetl.  There’s even a recipe for latkes and the story of the dreydl.

Some of the songs have words (sung in Yiddish) but just as many are instrumentalist.  The majority of the songs are traditional, of course, but my favorite is “Klezzified,” which is written by one of the band.

This disc is a good introduction to Chanukah music.

[READ: December 12, 2017] “Souterrain”

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

This story was really powerful and it revealed all of the details and connections in a slow and excruciating way–once you realized what was happening.

There are several characters in the story which takes place primarily in France.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN ZORN’s A Dreamer’s Christmas (2011).

You can never say with certainty what kind of music you will get with a John Zorn record.  It could be beautiful; it could be scary.  It could be chaotic; it could be traditional.  There’s could be death metal or gentle jazz.  There could be vocals or not.

Some time in 2008, Zorn started yet another project.  This one was called The Dreamers and it proved to be on the mellow, jazzy side of his spectrum.

The members have been Cyro Baptista − percussion; Joey Baron − drums; Trevor Dunn − acoustic and electric Bass; Marc Ribot − guitars; Jamie Saft − keyboards and Kenny Wollesen − vibes, chimes, glockenspiel.  For A Dreamer’s Christmas, Mike Patton (notorious for making a racket) sings some delightful vocals on 2 songs.

The album contains eight tracks: six traditional and two original Zorn compositions.

“Winter Wonderland” is played on vibes.  There’s a cool repeating bass signature that bounces the song along and a groovy jazzy keyboard background before the electric guitar comes in to play the main riff.

“Snowfall” is just lovely with more vibes and a delicate guitar and twinkling piano.  There’s even some hand drums to add some cool percussive effects.  the songs is primarily a lovely piano instrumental.  I don’t understand why I don’t know this song.  Why isn’t it on other Christmas albums?  It’s lovely.

“Christmastime is Here” is, indeed, the song from The Peanuts movie.  The main melody is guitar and vibes and this version is possibly more entertaining than the original.

“Santa’s Workshop” is a John Zorn composition.  It’s faster and a bit more upbeat than the others, but with a really groovy riff and some fun vibes to match it.  There’s also a fun keyboard solo.  This song first in perfectly with the others.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”  begins with a quiet and somber piano playing the melody.  It’s a lovely piece with some fun piano noodling.

“Let It Snow” starts with a bell and a rather funky bass line.  After a minute or so the guitar takes over to play the main melody.  There’s some weird and wacky 70s keys playing around in the background that you don’t really notice right away.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is the first odd-sounding track on the disc.  The guitar is plucked and the percussion seems to be all kinds of small wooden things clattering around.  I assume someone is playing the rims of glasses as well.  That goes on for a minute before the piano comes in and it gets very jazzy (with an upright bass).  It sounds a lot like the kind of piano playing featured in Charlie Brown.  The end of the song features a kind of whispered, slightly sinister take on the lyric by Patton.

“Magical Sleigh Ride” is the second Zorn original.  It is a swift-moving treat–fluid bass, repeated guitar licks and solos, and a fast percussion beat before the melody kicks in.  After about 2 minutes there’s a pretty wild and rollicking guitar solo.  It’s the most intense thing on the record (which isn’t very intense really) but all along the jazzy pianos and percussion remains.  Its followed by a similarly exuberant vibes solo.  It’s another great Christmas song and fits in perfectly with the others.

“The Christmas Song” returns to the traditional with a lovely, quiet piano rendition of the song and a nice vocal delivery from Mike Patton.  Patton is in perfectly deep-voiced crooner mode and it suits everything perfectly.  There’s a lengthy piano solo in the middle and then Patton finishes the song.

The disc ends with everyone wishing us a Merry Christmas.

It is a surprising and wonderful Christmas album worthy of addition to everyone’s collection.

[READ: November 26, 2017] The Crown of Fire

This is the fourth and final book in the Copernicus series.  There is no third or fourth mini book (I wonder why there wasn’t at least at third one).

I found this book to be exhausting and depressing.   And that’s because for the most part that’s how the characters felt–exhausted and depressed.  I also felt more exhausted by the series than I apparently felt after book three.  I thought I had stopped because I was burnt out on the series, but that’s not the impression I get from reading my post.  But this book did get very dark for most of its 500+ pages.

Lily and Darrell are together by themselves and they are fleeing once again.  They eventually find someone who will help them leave the country in a cargo ship–two weeks in a tiny hold by themselves.  Even Darrell who is still crazy about Lily finds it a bit much.

Back in the other part of the world, Becca Wade and Sara have just gotten a message from Roald.  But it turns out to be a trap. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TED LEO-Tiny Desk Concert #678 (December 4, 2017).

Up until now, I have more or less missed Ted Leo and all of his phases.  The blurb notes:

How you listen to Leo depends on when his work came into your life. If you’re a back-in-the-day type you might rep for Chisel, his ’90s punk outfit born on the Notre Dame campus and bred in Washington, D.C. If you’re just tuning in, you may have witnessed his understated comedy chops in arenas like The Best Show on WFMU and a highly enjoyable Twitter feed. At the center of this bell curve are those who found Leo at the dawn of the 2000s — when, at the helm of what’s most commonly called Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (shout-out to the typographical variants still mucking up iTunes libraries), he kicked off a run of five stellar albums in just under 10 years, each one urgently attuned to its political context and yet defiant in its ideas of what punk could sound like and whose stories it could aim to tell. Fans will tell you the songs about eating disorders and missing old ska bands felt just as vital to their moment as those that explicitly took on Sept. 11 and the Iraq War.

I know Ted Leo from when he played with Aimee Mann as The Both (they did a Tiny Desk show) and I am aware of Ted Leo + Pharmacists (the above mentioned typographical variant), but I somehow never really heard him/them.  I didn’t even know he was a Jersey guy.  (My friend Al is a big fan, I recently learned).

Recently, WXPN has been playing his new song “Can’t Go Back” which is wonderfully poppy and catchy and which I sing along to each morning.  Leaning more about him (and how funny he is in the Tiny Desk show) makes me want to see what I’ve been missing.

I obviously had no idea about his punk past, so I was pretty surprised to hear the feedback and heavy guitar of the first song here “Moon Out of Phase.”  Leo sings pretty hard on this song, too.  It’s fairly simple musically, but there’s a bunch going on lyrically that’s fun to pick out.

[After] the bone-rattling slow burn “Moon Out of Phase,” he smiled and explained the song was perhaps “a little heavy for noon — but, practically speaking, it helps me get the cobwebs out.”

“Can’t Go Back” couldn’t be more different. It’s catchy and not at all heavy.  It has backing vocals (provided by Leo himself) and just swings along.

 It’s a bit faster than on record, and as the blurb notes:

By the time he hit the first chorus of “Can’t Go Back,” a danceable bop about accepting that the life you have isn’t quite the one you planned for, any remaining cobwebs had been scattered to the wind.

Interestingly for being such a guitar based guy, there;s no solos on the songs (and yet they’re not short either, the first and third songs are about 4 minutes long).  Rather than a solo on “Can’t Get Back,” there’s a cool guitar chord progression.

He seems unsure of the quality of that song (not sure why–because he doesn’t hit those high notes perfectly?)  But then says he’ll finish off with a request.  “I’m a Ghost” is an old song that he doesn’t usually play solo, but figured he would because of the time of year (guess this was recorded around Halloween).

He tells an amusing story about someone asking about the first line: “I’m ghost and I wanted you to know its taking all of my strength to make this toast.”  The person asked if the toast was “a toast” or a ghost pressing the lever down on a toaster and “the hand of the frosty apparition is just going through the thing.”  He says it was originally “a toast” but now it is absolutely about the toaster, that’s the greatest metaphor for so many things.”

It’s really about “alienation from the political process.” It’s more rocking, like the first song, but with a catchy chorus like the second song.  This is a fun set and a good, long-overdue introduction to Ted Leo.

[READ: April 6, 2017] The Golden Vendetta

This is the third full-sized book in the Copernicus series.  It follows the mini-book about Becca.

I enjoyed this book more than the second one.  I enjoy the sections where they have some downtime and aren’t just running around.  And there was more downtime in this book.  I was also really intrigued by the way it began.

The families had been reunited and them separated.  So Darrell and Wade and the adults Kaplans were living in a hotel under an assumed name.  And Lily and Becca were also together under assumed names–but they were not allowed to contact the boys.  This went on for two months.

In that time Galina Krause had been inactive.  We learn that she had been in a coma, but the good guys never find that out, they’re just in the dark for months.

Until Galina wakes up and is on the move again.  And then everyone is on the move.

The families travel under assumed names but are still followed relentlessly by the bad guys. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WALTER MARTIN-Tiny Desk Concert #677 (December 1, 2017).

Walter Martin’s name didn’t sound familiar.  So this blurb helped:

Best known as a singer and multi-instrumentalist with the band The Walkmen, Martin has spent his solo career making unabashedly joyful, sweetly innocent and playful music perfectly suited for quirky four-part harmonies.

I sort of know The Walkmen; I know them more as an outlet for Hamilton Leithauser.  But after watching this, I find Martin to be a more satisfying performer.

I really enjoy his easy singing style and the every loose way he has with his guitar and with the songs in general.

Only Walter Martin would bring a barbershop quartet to the Tiny Desk.   The barbershop quartet is known as The Glen Echoes, a group of singers he found online and met for rehearsals the day before coming to NPR. It works particularly well on the song with which he opens this performance, “I Went Alone On A Solo Australian Tour,” a brilliant and comical call-and-response story-song about, well, going alone on a solo Australian tour.

“I Went Alone On A Solo Australian Tour,” is indeed really enjoyable.  Martin is casual and I love how the quartet starts out singing with him, then questioning him and then just acting like casual acquaintances–he asks them questions, too and they sing the responses.  All without losing the pacing.

It’s funny but also thoughtful.

The second song, the equally charming if slightly more wistful “Me And McAlevey,” is about a dear friend who lives in Maine.  It’s about friendship and loyalty and life as a middle-aged father.

The song is relatively simple and straightforward, but the guitar picking is delightfully complex and pretty.  I really like his vocal delivery and the way he ends his verses.

Martin closes with “Sing To Me,” his best-known song, thanks in no small part to its appearance in an Apple ad.

He describes it as the romantic centerpiece of his children’s album.  It is a pretty song once again, with lovely sentiments.  The pianist switches to electric guitar for a rather different sound.

The whole Tiny Desk Concert is delightful and makes me want to check out more of his stuff.  There’s no mention of who play what, but the mudsicians were:  Josh Kaufman; Jamie Krents; Brian Kantor; Richard Cook; Ken Sleeman; Mike Holmes and  Al Blount.

[READ: March 28, 2017] Becca and the Prisoner’s Cross

This is the second (and final) novella in the series.  It comes between books 2 and 3.  And, as the title suggests it is all about Becca.

The end of book 2 had Becca “materialize” on a boat in the past–right next to Nicolaus Copernicus.  It was a weird ending for a book that while sometimes magical, seemed to follow some kind of reality.  But this was different.  What could it mean?

Well, this novella explains it all (sort of).  We suspect that Becca’s proximity to the Kronos device when it went off triggered something.  (I keep wondering if it has something to do with her hurt arm which, frankly, shouldn’t hurt anymore, it has been two weeks, right?).

Anyhow, what we determine is that Becca is sort of passing out at home and her mind is travelling to Copernicus.  No time passes at home, but she is able to spend time with the scientist.  The best reveal comes early in the book when Copernicus senses that someone is there as well. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Maybe This Christmas (2010).

This is one of my favorite Christmas discs.  There’s not a lot of traditional Christmas music on it, but the originals are all either spot-on Christmas songs or at least work nicely for this time of year.  The only song that doesn’t fit is Ben Folds’ which is funny and vulgar.  It is not safe for Christmas and should be skipped in a family setting and saved for the drunken debauchery part of the night.

PHANTOM PLANET-“Winter Wonderland” Back in 2010, Phantom Planet was a kind of buzzy, talked about band (you’ll have to look up why).  But this is a great version of the song, I especially love that it’s kind of rocky and slightly dissonant but still really pretty.

RON SEXSMITH-Maybe This Christmas.
It’s a shame that this series of records is named after this song, which is so forgettable.  I usually like Sexsmith’s stuff, but I can’t keep this song in my head at all.

COLDPLAY-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Unlike Phantom Planet which was all buzzy when this was recorded, Coldplay had yet to take off and had a small hit with “Yellow.”  It’s interesting to hear this spare version (just Chris Martin singing and playing piano) and how he modifies the words in small ways.

VANESSA CARLTON-“Greensleeves”  This is a lovely version of this song, even if Carlton’s voice is a bit affected (and its technically not a Christmas song in this lyrical version).

BRIGHT EYES-Blue Christmas
This is a nice version of this song, mellow and catchy.

SENSE FIELD-“Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” The more I listen to this song, the more I think it’s really weird.  “The yellow and red ones” (?).

JIMMY EAT WORLD-“12/23/95”
This is a very catchy Jimmy Eat World song (once again, before they got huge for a time).  It’s hard to realize its Christmas-related until late in the song when they mention the holiday.

JACK JOHNSON-“Rudolph”
I love this version of “Rudolph” so much because Johnson tacks on an ending where the other reindeer feel bad of making fun of Rudolph.  And Johnson’s vibe is just always so mellow and chill.

BARENAKED LADIES & SARAH McLACHLAN-“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
This recording is quite old–from 1996.  The artists work very well together and Sarah’s voice sounds great.

BEN FOLDS-“Bizarre Christmas Incident” [NSFC]
Ben played all of the parts himself on this song.  I love Ben and I love when he is funny and vulgar.  But this song which is very vulgar and mildly funny is so out of place on this disc.  You can’t play this for the kids, whereas everything else is totally fine. I might like it on a vulgar CD collection bu I dislike it a lot here.

DAN WILSON-“What a Year for a New Year”
Dan Wilson always writes pretty, catchy songs.  This is a lovely song that seems (possibly) even more appropriate in 2017 than it did in 2002 when he wrote it.

NEIL FINN-“Sweet Secret Peace”
This is a very pretty, delicate song with a wonderful chorus.  It’s not necessarily a Christmas song, but it works at this time of year.

LOREENA MCKENNIT-“Snow”
McKennit’s voice is amazing, and this song is hauntingly beautiful.  It’s a stark and lovely ending to this disc.

[READ: December 14, 2017] “Lady with Invisible Dog”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This story was pretty bizarre and really wonderful.

There’s so much going on.  And much of it is pretty weird.  The story is set in 1995.  The narrator, Edwin, has had a run-in with a man called “The Narrator.”  And that has set all of the action of the story in motion. (more…)

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