Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Anachronisms’ Category

   SOUNDTRACK: WAXAHATCHEE-Tiny Desk Concert #321 (November 23, 2013).

Waxahatchee is pretty much Katie Crutchfield.  The band recently played a show near me and I wondered if it was a band or just her.

This might be as intimate as hearing Katie Crutchfield sing in her basement. That’s where she and her sister would play guitar, write and sing songs 10 years ago, when she was 14. Katie and Allison Crutchfield had a band back in Birmingham together, The Ackleys; these days, Katie performs as Waxahatchee, while Allison’s band is called Swearin’.

The songs Waxahatchee brought to the NPR Music offices aren’t just stripped down for this Tiny Desk Concert, this is Katie Crutchfield as Waxahatchee, spare and exposed; this is what she does. Sometimes there’s a drummer (her sister’s boyfriend Kyle Gilbride) and at other times another guitarist, her boyfriend Keith Spencer (both play in Swearin’), but even on Waxahatchee’s second album, Cerulean Salt, there are plenty of bare-boned songs. This is intimate music for an intimate setting, as we got to stand in careful silence, listening intently and capturing this frail and powerful performance.

And all of that is true.   These are pretty, quiet folk songs.  They are so quiet it almost seems like she doesn’t have her amp on—you can hear her pick striking against the strings.

To me the power of these songs is in the lyrics, and yet the music isn’t boring or simple either.  Her chords are always, if not interesting, then certainly spot on.  But I keep coming back to the lyrics.  Like the end of “I Think I Love You”

I want you so bad it’s devouring me / and I think I love you but you’ll never find out.

Her speaking voice is quiet too, and after the first song she admits, “This is one of the coolest things I have ever gotten to do.”

“Bathtub” has this wonderfully intense line:

And I tell you not to love me
But I still kiss you when I want to
And I lament, you’re innocent
But somehow the object of my discontent
And it’s fucked up, I let you in
Even though I’ve seen what can happen

The entire Tiny Desk Concert is only 9 minutes–which is simply too short.  I know that the Tiny Desk Concerts usually have bands play 3 songs, but when they are mostly short ones like “Tangled Envisioning” (not even 3 minutes), they could tack on an extra one or two.

[READ: August 30, 2016] Science: Ruining Everything Since 1543

Zach Weinersmith writes the daily webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.  I supported the Kickstarter project for this book because it looked frankly hilarious.  The one thing I have to say off the bat is that I don’t love his drawing style.  There’s something about it that I simply can’t get into.  Even after two full books of these drawings, it just never gels for me.  But that’s fine. because I’m here for the jokes.  And they are awesome.

The book is comprised of the best religion-themes comic from the 13 years that SMBC has been around.  There’s also a whole slew of comics that are exclusive to this book.

We are greeted with this: “For these drawings, the part of God is played by a giant yellow disc.” (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

  SOUNDTRACK: DAUGHTER-Tiny Desk Concert #313 (October 21, 2013).

Daughter is a quiet folk band (at least in this Tiny Desk Concert) in which two acoustic guitars (Elena Tonra and Igor Haefeli) and one drum (Remi Aguilella) play behind Tonra’s gorgeous, angsty vocals.

For all three of these songs, she sings delicate whispered vocals that are quite lovely, but also quite dark.

Like this line from “Youth” “Most of us are bitter over someone / setting fire to our insides for fun.”  I love the way Haefeli’s guitar harmonics sound like keyboards and how powerful the martial drumming sounds when it comes in.

“Landfill” opens with thudding drums (Mallets instead of sticks) which are louder and bigger and yet still feel gentle.  And yet, as the blurb says: The song is “achingly pretty and melancholy, the track builds to an absolute gut-punch of a line — “I want you so much, but I hate your guts” — that conjures a pitch-perfect mix of gloom, desire and hostility.”

They put out an EP and in 2013 released an album:

the lovely If You Leave, but Daughter was kind enough to resuscitate “Landfill” for this stripped-down performance at the Tiny Desk. As you’ll see and hear, that aforementioned gut-punch is a recurring specialty for the band: In all three of these sad, searing songs, singer Elena Tonra showcases a remarkable gift for coolly but approachably dishing out weary words that resonate and devastate.

Between these two songs, Bob asks if this is an awkward place to play, and she responds, “No, we’re just awkward people.”

For “Tomorrow” there is a beautiful ascending guitar melody and loud drums.  I really like the way the guitars play off of each other–even though they are both acoustic, they sound very different and complement each other nicely.  Like in the wonderful melody at the end.  Despite how pretty the song was, apparently she was unhappy with it saying “a bit ropey, that one.”  I hadn’t heard that before, but evidently it means “unwell…usually alcohol related” so that’s pretty funny.

[READ: August 30, 2016] Science: Ruining Everything Since 1543

Zach Weinersmith writes the daily webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.  I supported the Kickstarter project for his book Religion: Ruining Everything Since 4004 BC and this book was part of my funding level.

I was more interested in the religious comics, but I am tickled by how funny the Science comics are.  Weinersmith knows a lot of science (or at least scientists) and make some really funny jokes about the subject.

The one thing I have to say off the bat is that I don’t love his drawing style.  There’s something about it that I simply can’t get into.  Even after two full books of these drawings, it just never gels for me.  But that’s fine. because I’m here for the jokes.  And they are awesome. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Frank Conniff–Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever (2016)

tvfrankSOUNDTRACK: TA-KU & WAFIA-Tiny Desk Concert #576 (November 6, 2016).

Ta-ku & Wafia are Australian, and I knew nothing else about them.  So:

The chemistry between Australian singer-producer Ta-ku and his fellow Aussie singer-songwriter Wafia becomes apparent the instant you hear their voices intertwined in song. On their first collaborative EP, (m)edian, they draw on their individual experiences to touch on subjects like compromise in relationships as they trade verses and harmonize over hollow melodies.  With production characterized by weary low-end rumbles and resonant keys, the two float above the music, playing off each other’s harmonies.

Although the blurb mentions a few bands that the duo sounds like I couldn’t help thinking they sound The xx (although a bit poppier).

“Treading Water” especially sounds like The xx.  Both of their voices sound really close to that band (although Wafia’s high notes and r&b inclinations do impact that somewhat).  It’s funny that they are just sitting there with their eyes closed, hands folded singing gently.

“Me in the Middle” is another pretty, simple keyboard song with depth in the lyrics and vocals.

Introducing, “Love Somebody,” she says its their favorite on their EP and he interjects Go but it now, which makes her giggle.  Her voice is really quite lovely.  I could see them hitting big both in pop circles and in some alternative circles if they market themselves well.

[READ: November 10, 2016] 25 MST3K Films that Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever

As you might guess from the title, Frank Conniff was involved with MST3K.  He was TV’s Frank and, as we learn from this book, he was the guy who was forced to watch every movie first and decide whether it could be used for the show.  This “job” was created because they had watched a bit of Sidehackers and decided it would be fun to use.  So Comedy Central bought the rights (“They paid in the high two figures”) and then discovered that there was a brutal rape scene (“don’t know why I need to cal it a ‘brutal’ rape scene any kind of rape ,loud or quiet, violent or Cosby-style, is brutal”) that would sure be hard to joke about (they edited it out for the show which “had a minimal effect on the overall mediocrity of the project.”

The book opens with an FBI warning like the videotapes except for this book it stands for Federal Bureau of Incoherence because the document contains “many pop culture references that are obscure, out of date, annoying and of no practical use to anyone.”   So each chapter goes through and explains these obscure references for us all. (more…)

Read Full Post »

mc mcSOUNDTRACK: CHEYENNE MIZE-Tiny Desk Concert #289 (July 20, 2013).

Cheyenne Mize is yet another musician I’d never heard of performing behind the Tiny Desk.  The blurb tells us:

Behind Bob Boilen’s desk at the NPR Music offices, Mize — a multi-talented singer, instrumentalist and music therapist — reduces her band to a duo for three songs from Among the Grey. Naturally, this entailed showcasing some of the album’s quieter, moodier moments (the slinky “Raymaker,” the dreamy “Whole Heart”) before closing with the more forceful “Wait for It.” But along the way, Mize’s voice rings out assertively in every style and setting.

As it turns out, her voice was the problem for me and I can’t really place why.  I like her voice and I like her music I just feel like they don’t go together somehow.

For “Raymaker,” it’s just her on a 4 string guitar and her partner on a box drum.  I really love the sound she gets out of that little four string guitar and he gets some great sounds out of the box drum.  I can’t decide if maybe with a fuller musical sound I’d like her singing more.

For “Whole Heart” she plays a hollow-bodied electric guitar and the drummer plays an electric guitar.  The song is quieter (presumably because of no drums).  I like this song a bit more–the chorus is especially nice–and I feel like her voice works a bit better here.  The guitar interplay in the middle is really delightful as well.

For the final song, “Wait for It,” she switches to violin.  She says it’s both a blessing and a curse I’ve never been able to decide which instrument to play.  “Sometimes it’s helpful and sometimes it just means I have to carry a lot of instruments around.”   She gets a great raw scratchy sound out of the violin.   The drummer stays on the same guitar and adds little background notes.  This song has a great rocking vibe.  And again, the chorus is a neat chord change.  And yes I think her voice works good here too, so it must have been that first song.

And yet for all that I really like the sounds her instruments make more than anything else .

[READ: April 27, 2016] A True Story Based on Lies!

I was unfamiliar with the artists McDermott & McGough.  But I really liked the cover and title of this piece.  I have since learned from Wikipedia that

David McDermott and Peter McGough are best known for using alternative historical processes in their photography, particularly the 19th century techniques of cyanotype, gum bichromate, platinum and palladium. Among the subjects they approach are popular art and culture, religion, medicine, advertising, fashion and sexual behavior.

This particular collection plays around with time–they create works that seems like they are older than they actually are.  And in fact, this is something the artists did in their daily life as well:

From 1980 through 1995, McDermott & McGough dressed, lived, and worked as artists and “men about town”, circa 1900-1928: they wore top hats and detachable collars, and converted a townhouse on Avenue C in New York City’s East Village, which was lit only by candlelight, to its authentic mid-19th century ideal. “We were experimenting in time,” says McDermott, “trying to build an environment and a fantasy we could live and work in.”

This collection looks at advertising from the 1950s and updates it with contemporary additions.  I assume that they are actually painting and re-creating the earlier ads and not simply using the originals.  In their titles they indicate the date that the painting could have been created and then the date that it was created. (more…)

Read Full Post »

592016SOUNDTRACK: FLORIST-Tiny Desk Concert #526 (April 29, 2016).

floristFlorist is a quiet band–they remind me a bit of Kimya Dawson from the Juno soundtrack.  There are four members of the band–lead singer/guitarist Emily Sprague and a drummer who has only one drum and plays very sparsely. And then there are two guys who switch between bass/guitar and keyboards.  In this Tiny arrangement, the keys are right next to the guys which makes it very easy for them to switch back and forth–I wonder if it works so well on a bigger stage.

I knew the first song, “Vacation” from an earlier All Songs Considered show and this live version sounds pretty much like the recorded version.  Sprague has a very gentle voice–almost a whipser (but not mumbling or anything).  And her guitar playing is really pretty.  I remember Bob Boilen talking about how much he liked her lyrics like:

Like when I used to ride roller coasters with my dad / When a swimming pool in a hotel / Was a gift from God / Like, love, we’re like a family / I don’t know how to be

The song is mostly just her singing until the end when the bassist sings (also very quietly) a duet with her

At least I know that my house wont burn down down to the ground / or maybe it will / if I’ve been in love before and I’m pretty sure I have / I’m pretty sure that my house could burn down down to the ground tomorrow.

 Between the first and second song the bassist/keyboardist holds down some notes while the others tune and get ready to play.  They’re the most un rock n roll looking band I’ve seen, with them dresses in cozy clothes as they calmly prepare for the second song.

“Cool and Refreshing” sounds that way.  The melody is really pretty once again.  And Sprague’s vocal line is quite lovely.  And the lyrics:

Think of me by the creek in cutoff jeans holding onto / Something that has meaning to me / I don’t really think my life will ever make me / As happy as Kaaterskill Creek

I like the middle of the song when everything drops away except for the lone synth note.

The notes ring out after the second song when Emily finally looks up and says “Thanks everybody” before looking sown and starting the third song, “1914.”  This vocals are a duet, and musically it is just the two guitars.  It’s a very simple song, sparsely conveying the idea of a farewell letter from 100 years ago:

Please remember to feed the cat.  Please remember that I’m never coming back.  I was born in 1994 / I as born in the 70s / I was born in 1823 and you were born right next to me.

Florist was touring recently.  I imagine it must be the quietest show you could ever go to.  But also a very pretty show.

[READ: December 13, 2012] “The Foosball Championship of the Whole Entire Universe”

The premise of this piece is very simple–it is indeed the foosball championship of the whole entire universe.  And the players are eleven-year old Nathaniel Rich and seven-year old Simon Rich.

This “joke” more or less tells itself, but Rich is able to add wonderful details to the story of it to make it much funnier than just the title.  Nathaniel’s Blue team has won all 83 matches, but this game–the last of the summer vacation–is for all the marbles.

Rich has broken the “story” down into analyses of Keys to the Game.

Like Coaching, in which we learn all about Coach Simon’s style (as told by the “players”): “Coach cries a lot” or “the last time we lost, coach attacked us.  It was scary because even though he’s just a boy, he’s also a giant–fifty to sixty times our height.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

blueblue SOUNDTRACK: NICK BUZZ-A Quiet Evening at Home (2013).

quietIt seemed like Martin Tielli was done making music after his (so far) final solo album in 2009.  He has been focusing on (gorgeous) visual arts since then.  But then in 2013, Tielli along with Jonathan Goldsmith, Hugh Marsh and Rob Piltch recorded another Nick Buzz album (cover painting by Tielli)–possibly their last as well, but who knows.

This album is almost entirely mellow, with beautiful slow pieces and delicate singing and instrumentation–with some exceptions.  The biggest exception is the first song and single (with video) “The Hens Lay Everyday.”  It is unlike anything else on the album.  It is a weird, electronic fast song with pulsing beats and funny lyrics (and a crazy video).  It’s kind of a shame that it’s on this album because I want more music like that.  But the rest of the album is also wonderful in a very different way.  This song just doesn’t fit.

Beginning with the second song, the album is a beautiful album of wonderful ballads.

“This is Not My World” is a delicate guitar song with simple keyboard washes.  Martin’s voice even sounds different on the song–I almost didn’t recognize him until the last few verses.  “Milchig” opens with a buzzy violin (that sounds almost like a fly).  Tielli did this song with The Art of Time Ensemble (it was called “Moglich”).  It has a gentle guitar and Tielli’s keening voice and spoken word–“he had given me ‘the relax.'”  There’s several sections in this song, and I especially like the slowly lurching middle section.

“Sea Monkeys” opens with some delicate chimes and underwatery sounds.  And once again, Tielli’s voice sounds different.  I love this peculiar song about ordering and “growing” sea monkeys.  He says he only wanted plankton or krill but during that evening, the sea monkeys started building their city, and after 4 and a half minutes, the song turns somewhat more sinister with a section about the Crustacean Monkey Queen.  The delicate music grows harsher and more mechanical sounding.  It’s pretty intense.  And it coincidentally relates to the book below.

“If You Go Away” has a vaguely Spanish guitar feel to it.  It’s a very delicate, slow ballad (I should have realized it was an old song written by Jacques Brel) with strummed guitar and gentle percussion.  It has a lounge feel as well (the romantic lyrics aid in that style).  It was recorded live with audience clapping at the end.

The mood picks up a little with the next song, “The Happy Matador.”  It’s played on acoustic guitar with flamenco-esque runs.  It’s a delightful song even if lyrically it’s a little dark.  “Eliza” is a darkly comic song with a kind of circusy feel.  It opens with accordion, adds a violin and basically makes fun of a woman named Eliza, with the great last line: “The only incredible thing about Eliza is the terrible terrible music she inspires.”

“A Quiet Evening at Home” opens with some strange noises like Circo did, but this is an older, more mellow album and they quickly give way to some pretty, delicate guitar chords.  About two and a half minutes of gentle chords are disrupted by a noisy saxophone and some manipulated spoken words.  This process repeats itself for about six minutes of mellow, slightly weird, but really enjoyable music.

“Uncle Bumbo’s Christmas” continues in that delicate vein, but this time with actual words.  It has gentle echoed guitar and some occasional strings.  It’s not exactly a Christmas song although the lyric “I love everything about Christmas, except Christmas” is decidedly ambiguous.  There’s beautiful overlays of vocals and guitar for the middle two minutes of the song before it resumes with a slightly more uptempo and much more catchy end section.  This song gets better with each listen.

“The House with the Laughing Windows” opens with a tinkling piano melody.  It hovers between ominous and dreamy.  I like the way the song gently, almost imperceptibly, builds over the course of its 4 and a half minutes.  And I love the way the guitars start playing louder as if the song is going to build to something bigger but it never quite does.  John Tielli plays theremin on this track.

“Aluminum Flies” is a slightly louder song which is much more meandering and ends with what I believe is the sound of windshield wipers.  The final song is the lovely “Birds of Lanark County.”  It opens with chickadees chirping and a beautiful delicate acoustic guitar melody from Martin.  Michele Williams sings lovely backing vocals.

It’s amazing how different this album is from Circo–same band members but an entirely different style, and a simply gorgeous collection of songs.

[READ: November 25, 2015] Blue on Blue

I had never heard of Quentin S. Crisp before (he’s not to be confused with Quentin Crisp, the British raconteur who died in 1999).  Except that I knew he contributed lyrics to the most recent Kodagain album.  But I received an advance copy of this book with Brendan Connell’s latest book (its publication date is December 15 (from Snuggly Books)).

This story was fantastic (in both senses of the word).

The story is told in 5 parts.  And what I loved about it was that the central part of the story is a fairly conventional story about love and loss, and yet the other four parts frame the story with an other-worldliness that is almost familiar, but not quite.

The story begins with the statement “I am a citizen of the ASAF, the Alternative State of the American Fifties.”  There’s a footnote attached which explains that the ASAF “ia an artificial history zone ‘reclaimed’ from sunken parallel time.”  This is a potentially worrisome beginning to a book to be sure, and yet the book does not go through any rabbit- or worm- hole, this is simply the set up for the story. (more…)

Read Full Post »

skin SOUNDTRACK: LOS LOBOS-Tiny Desk Concert #90 (November 10, 2010).

loslobosI don’t really know all that much about Los Lobos.  I frankly got sick of them because of “La Bamba” (which came out 20 years ago!) and I don’t think I’d ever heard much else by them.  So I wound up enjoying this Tiny Desk much more than I anticipated.

The one big problem with this tiny desk is that the drummer is playing one of those plastic mail bins and it sounds awful.  Especially on the first song.  I think anything would have had a better drum sound than that.

I really enjoyed the first song “Burn It Down.”  It has a propulsive minor key structure and an excellent bass line.  I would never have guessed it was Los Lobos, but that may be because it’s not the singer I most associate with them (he sings on the next two songs).

“Yo Canto” is a cumbia, sung by a different guy (in Spanish) who also plays lead guitar.  The mail bin sounds better on this song because of the placement (and use of) a cowbell.  The singer sounds amazing.  I rather like the riff that underlines the song.

Those two songs are from their then latest album.  And the band sounds really good all these years on.

The final song is “Don’t Worry Baby.”  It has the same singer as the middle song (this time in English) although it is a pretty standard blues song that I found just okay.  It also features a bunch of saxophone.  I didn’t realize that it was from their major label debut in 1984! and is something of a classic.

So three songs, all of them enjoyable, from a band I didn’t really think I’d enjoy.  The funniest part is just before the show stops and someone asks, “Okay, where’s the beer?”

[READ: October 1, 2015] How to Skin a Lion

This book sounded awesome–I love outdated things that we can laugh about now (because I’m a superior git, of course).

But this book proved to be not all that funny.  The outmoded advice wasn’t treated comically exactly (well, some was), rather it was looked at rather seriously–some as good advice that still stands, some as crazy advice that is way outmoded and a few things that are, yes, just comical.

Cock-Starkey (insert joke here) says that this is a collection of materials from the vast archives of the British Library.  It culls from medieval manuscripts, Victorian manuals and self-help guides from the early 20th century.  She explains that the book aims to reveal the secrets of lost arts, remind us of how modern conveniences have changed our lives, recall the complexities of etiquette, highlight changing attitudes and beliefs and furnish us with still useful tips and guidance.

Although she also points out that readers should be advised that some pieces of advice contained herein have stood the test of time better than others. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »