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Archive for the ‘Bears’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DAMIAN ‘JR. GONG’ MARLEY: Tiny Desk Concert #889 (September 8, 2019).

I’m not sure if everyone with the last name Marley becomes a singer, but it sure seems like it.

I had not heard of Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley before, but of all of the Marleys, I think I like his music best (he is Bob’s son).  I had no idea where the “Jr. Gong” came from, but the blurb helpfully says “Jr. Gong” is after his father’s nickname of “Tuff Gong.”

Even though the blurb describes the music as reggae, this set is pretty far from what I consider reggae.  Some components of reggae are there, but it’s mostly in his delivery (and accent) and the backing female vocals–from Roselyn Williams and Sherieta Lewis.

But the main element of reggae–the beat/rhythm/staccato guitar–is completely absent.

“Slave Mill” starts with delicate keys from Sean “Pow” Diedrick.  The song is catchy with great lyrics.  I really like the percussion from Courtney “Bam” Diedrick.  I assume those are brothers known as Bam and Pow, which is great.

I like that the blurb addresses the issue of Bob Marley and yet I feel like Damian is his own musician, with a distinct (if slightly familiar) voice.

Damian’s father cast a giant, magnificent shadow on the world and it can’t be easy to follow in those footsteps as a songwriter and musician.  Damian seems to be undaunted by that legacy and instead draws on it for inspiration and guidance. Not to mention there is more than a hint of his father’s unmistakable singing voice that so often preached the same messages of self-identity and self-determination that his youngest son is now doing so successfully.

He says the second song “So A Child May Follow” is one of his favorite tracks on the album.  He thinks about his nephews and nieces who are young adults now.  The song:

addresses the troubles youth confront around the globe and how to persevere to succeed.

It’s an acoustic ballad.  I like watching Bam play, because after each piano melody, he stops and pounds his fists in the air as the song pauses and resumes.  The main verses features a gentle acoustic guitar from Elton “Elly B” Brown.  It’s a lovely song of optimism in the face of trouble.

They end the set with “Speak Life” which “sums up the message of his music: live a life that will enable us to survive life’s slings and arrows with dignity and love.”

speak life and lead a humble and meek life.

All three songs feature great bass work by Shiah Coore.  I also really love the backing “woah ohs” in the song.

Damian says that they made a video of this song which was shot in Ethiopia and is subtitled in Amharic.  He says that as Rastas, Ethiopia is very close to their hearts.

The end of the blurb makes me wonder if I would enjoy the recorded versions less, since that what I enjoyed so much:

But what makes his music stand out on this session is the prominence of the acoustic guitar and piano in the arrangements, which makes the familiar sound somewhat new.

But he is very charming and funny and he ends the set talking about boxing Babylon vs Natty Dreadlocks.  Then he shouts, “We did it boys.  In the big leagues baby!”

[READ: July 21, 2019] This Was Our Pact

I really enjoyed this graphic novel.  S. had told me about it and told me I’d really like it.  She was right!

The pact of the title is simple.  There are two rules: No one turns for home and No one looks back.

The narrator is Ben.  He is one of five young boys who have made this pact.  The pact revolves around the Equinox Festival, in which the townsfolk send hundreds of lanterns down the river.  Every year a group of kids hopped on their bikes to follow the lanterns.  Usually everyone petered out.  But this year they were going to go all the way. The wondered, “Did they really journey far into the stars, like the old song sang?”

The boys set out following the lanterns.  As soon as they head out, they are followed by, “nerd alert!” Nathaniel.  None of the boys (except Ben) is friendly with him.  Even when Nathaniel says his mom made Rice Krispie treats, they don’t turn around and let him join.

The imagery of the book is beautiful.  It’s largely in blues because the story takes place at night.  The lanterns are little white spots in the blue and black rivers. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAZY GRACE-“You Don’t Know How Much” (Moose: The Compilation, 1991).

Back in the 1990s, it was common to buy a compilation or soundtrack or even a band’s album based on one song.  Only to then find that you didn’t really like anything else on it.

Maybe that single sounded like nothing else on the album.  Maybe the movie was almost entirely one genre, but they had that one song that you liked over the credits.  Or maybe the compilation was for something but a song you really wanted was on it, too.

With streaming music that need not happen anymore.  Except in this case.

I bought this compilation, used, recently exclusively for one song, Rheostatics’ “Woodstuck.”  It’s a goofy song and this is the only place you can get the studio version.  The actual compilation was not well documented, so I didn’t know what the other bands on it might sound like.  It turns out to be a compilation for Ontario based Moose Records which specialized in Rock, Folk, World & Country.  They put out another compilation in 1992 and that’s all I can find out about them.

Here’s another traditional song performed very slowly.  This feels like a blues song only played with a more country style with violin as the lead instrument.  The two women singing have good harmonies, but it feels so downcast that I don’t want to listen to it again.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Poem #8–Beetle”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue. This year’s issue had two short stories, a memoir, three poems and a fifteen year reflection about a novel as special features.

I assume this poem is part of a series, although I don’t know for certain

This is a poem about nature.

It is set at a lake in the woods of the eastern slope of the Rockies. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LADAMA-Tiny Desk Concert #853 (May 30, 2019).

There’s a lot to like in this Tiny Desk, but I am immediately drawn to Mafer Bandola’s  bandola llanera.  Is it see through?  Is it hollow?  I have so many questions.

Some of which are answered in the blurb.

But what might be even more interesting than the instruments is the international makeup of the band.

During the course of their performance behind the desk, the four core members of LADAMA — Lara Klaus, Daniela Serna, Mafer Bandola and Sara Lucas — had a chance to display their individual cultural and musical roots as part of an engaging and mesmerizing whole. Represented in glorious musical virtuosity are Brazil (Lara Klaus), Colombia (Daniela Serna) and Venezuela (Mafer Bandola), with a dash of New York City (Sara Lucas and bassist Pat Swoboda) thrown in just to make it interesting.

Not to mention all four of them sing lead.

“Sin Ataduras” opens with great sounds from the bandola llanera and some really great bass work Pat Swoboda.  Daniela Serna sings, almost raps, the lead vocals.  The song is catchy with a middle parts that’s all rim shots from Lara Klaus and clap alongs.  Then Sara Lucas adds a little guitar work, but it’s Mafer Bandola’s solo that’s really fantastic.

For the second song, “Elo” Lara Klaus plays the pandeiro and it’s amazing how much sound a little tambourine-looking drum can make.  She also sings lead–a very different vocal style.  Daniela Serna moved over to the congas and the tambor alegre.  Mafer Bandola switches to a more traditional-looking bandola llanera but still plays some amazing leads.

Throughout the songs, Sara Lucas plays quiet electric guitar that acts a foundation to lead bandola.  Incidentally, Mafer Bandola is a stage name (I assume Mafer is her first names put together).  Her real name is Maria Fernanda Gonzalez.

“Tierra Tiembla” is a much slower ballad.  Sarah Lucas sings lead (in Spanish).  Has a slow, smooth rhythm with nice echoing sounds form the bandola.  Sara Lucas sings lead on this one.  Lara Klaus is back on the kit, so with her and Daniela on congas, there’s a lot of percussion.   Mafer plays some nice lead lines and everyone sings delicate backing vocals.

The final song is “Inmigrante”  this song is for everybody–para todos inmigrantes–we are all immigrants.

It’s the fiery “Inmigrante” that finally raised the BPM meter and got hips swaying in our corner of NPR’s HQ, with its call-and-response back-and-forth and a very enthusiastic audience. T

Mafer Bandola sings this last song.  The bandola is a echoed and very cool sounding as she plays an excellent riff.  The drums are mostly hi-hat while the congas supply most of the percussion.  Sara Lucas puts down her guitar to play the raspa.

The song ends with a clap along and some fast and furious congas from Daniela.

This is yet another great Spanish-language band that enjoyed quite a lot.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “A Love Story”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1992: This is the story of tree planting and romance.  Claudia and her friend drove to the planting location with dreams of getting rich.

I have heard about tree planters from many different sources (it seems a very Canadian thing to do–I’m not even sure if people do there).  All sources suggest it is very hard, physically exhausting and pays little.  No matter how romantic the idea sounds, it’s not a fun job.

Claudia adds to this idea and includes that they slept in tents and were sleeping in an area where bears traveled.  They could hear the bears every night but the experience planters assured them they were safe (how does anyone do this long enough to become experienced?). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LARAAJI-Tiny Desk Concert #846 (May 2, 2019).

Who is Laraaji?

I had no idea, and yet, it seems like I should.

40 years ago … Brian Eno produced an ambient album of his music called Ambient 3: Day of Radiance as part of a series of ambient records from Eno that began with 1978’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports. Edward Larry Gordon, now known as Laraaji, was a comedian as well as a musician. I suppose that explains the laughter as part of his meditative and therapeutic music. Laraaji is now in his mid-70s, has released over 50 recordings as well as an abundance of sound-healing sessions.

Laraaji and his musical partner Arji “OceAnanda” Cakouros (“draped in loose-fitted, saffron-tinted clothes, with a table draped in a similar orange fabric — almost the tones of a setting sun”) play an uninterrupted 15 minutes of chillout, which they call “12345678…”

It begins with a small bell, a set of tiny wind chimes and a plucked, angelic zither sounding much like a harp.

Laraaji plays the electric autoharp/zither and has a cool swirling echoing effect on it.  Meanwhile OceAnanda has all manner of percussion at her disposal, including, chimes, shakers, and most surprising, and iPad synth (but that comes later).

The opening is incredibly soothing with just chimes and the autoharp  Laraaji uses a pick and his fingers to create notes and chords.  With the delay on it, it is incredibly chill.

After about two minutes OceAnanda plays some notes on the iPad.  Then around 3 and a half minutes Laraaji picks up drum stick brushes and begins gentle tapping the autoharp.  OceAnanda plays the kalimba, which is a little too loud, but still works nicely.

Then Laraaji began to laugh. I smiled. (His laugh is infectious). Then more of us in the office smiled as he brushed rhythms on his zither and processed the sounds to add delay and intensify the hypnotic pulse.

I agree that his laugh is infectious, but I found it so jarring that his laughter turned into him singing.  Rather than it being fifteen minutes of blissful chill out, it was now a song with words–even if the words were meaningless, or very familiar.  He sang “12345678” and “lum lum lum lum lumalum la”

But since the majority of the song has him singing over it, I soon got used to it and allowed it to wash over me as well.  But, really his voice definitely brings you out of the headspace you’ve created for yourself.  Even if his laugh is indeed infectious.

At seven and a half minutes OceAnanda starts playing a violin melody on the iPad and it works very nicely–slow and pretty with a melody that works, even if it is random.  After a couple minutes she changes the sound of the violin to a more synthy sound, which fits in even better.

With a few minutes left, OceAnanda switches to a shaker which works its own hypnotizing momentum.  And then for the end, she plays a bit more of  that violin iPad while Laraaji sings the words from “this little light of mine.”

And then it all fades and you come back to reality.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Bacon Fat”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1974: This is a short story about the summer that Michael’s family wanted to build a log cabin on a piece of land in Newfoundland.  It was a popular place and they had next door neighbors at the lake who built a log cabin in what seemed like a weekend.

His parents were from England. But his dad always wanted to be a cowboy and his mom always wanted to live in New York City.  So they settled on Newfoundland. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THEODORE-Tiny Desk Concert #842 (April 17, 2019).

I recall NPR’s SXSW coverage last year in which they raved about Theodore (and then ran into him walking the street while they were recording their nightly dispatch) and his beguiling music.

Theodore is a Greek composer/performer who is fairly difficult to search for online.  I was really surprised but quite intrigued to see that he now had a Tiny Desk Concert.  And what a Concert!

He plays three songs that last nearly 19 minutes and they are full of twists and turns with great instrumental passages and incredible sounds from all of the instruments.  Whether it is thanks to Theodore’s own set up or the Tiny Desk crew, the sound quality is amazing.

He began with “Disorientation” which

explores the complete loss of inner direction as Theodore examines his inner dualities in search of clarity and, perhaps, new ways to look at the world.

“Disorientation” begins with a terrific throbbing bass from Nikolas Papachronopoulos and occasional guitar notes from Emmanouil Kourkoulis or Ioannis Lefas (not sure who is who).  Theodore starts singing in his husky voice.  After a verse he adds some keys and then just as suddenly the whole band kicks in–drums and soaring guitars which all drop away just as suddenly.

A minor shift occurs at around 1:20 and then at 1:45 the whole song slows down into gentle washes and piano trills with (again) some gorgeous bass notes (the bass sound is phenomenal).  The song feels like it’s going to end but it sound jumps back with the dramatic entry of a pick slid along guitar strings and then back it’s to the delicate moments.  Bob Boilen says the songs have the “spare elegance you can hear in Sigur Rós or Pink Floyd,” and you can clearly hear echoes of mid 70s Pink Floyd with splashes of Sigur Rós for drama.  At 3:45 it jumps again, with some great drumming and more cool basswork.  Then at 4:46 Theodore starts “oohing” in the microphone, his voice is processed and echoing and the whole thing feels like it is drifting off into space

It is spectacular.

“For a While” starts quietly with two notes repeated quietly on the guitar  Theodore adds piano as washes of guitar follow shortly.  The guitar and piano resolve into intertwining pretty melodies.  After the bass and drums come in Theodore starts singing.  He has a very European kind of croon, a bit like latter Morrissey or Guy Garvey from Elbow.  The song builds to a cool moody and then settles down delicately to washes of guitar and single piano notes.

“Naive” ends the set with another great bass sound and intense guitars .  Theodore sings while Ashley Hallinan adds some nifty rim hitting on the snare.  Midway through the song some instrument gets all kinds of processed adding a kind of fat synth sound as the rest of the band builds the song.   Great guitar effects from both guitarists flesh out the moody wild middle section.

This Concert was spectacular and I would love to see him in person.  He only comes to the US for SXSW, so maybe this Tiny Desk will bring him to a wider audience.

[READ: April 15, 2019] “Lobster Night”

Russell Banks is the kind of author I have known about for a long time and am incredibly familiar with the covers of many of his books and whom I’ve considered reading again and again and yet I never seem to.

He is also one of the reasons why I chose to read Esquire fiction in general.  There are many excellent writers who write for Esquire and not all of them write stories about men killing other men.

Well, maybe all the stories don’t have someone or something killed, but this one does.

Stacy is a former potential Olympian.  She used to ski until a bad fall left her with a broken thigh bone.  She can still ski but she has lost her edge so she teaches in the winter.  But during the warmer months she has to waitress or bartend.  She has recently gotten a job at Noonan’s Family Restaurant. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AARON LEE TASJAN-Tiny Desk Concert #817 (January 15, 2019).

Aaron Lee Tasjan and his band play wonderful retro-fueled jangle pop.  There’s terrific gentle harmonies, a chiming 12 string and a dual guitar solo.  He even looks the part

Aaron Lee Tasjan arrived at the Tiny Desk in his fashionable ascot and mustard-colored shirt, sporting reflective, red, rounded sunglasses and mutton chops. As he warmed up, the sound of the middle-and-late 1960s came through his seagreen, Gorsuch 12-string guitar while his voice felt both familiar and fresh.

Aaron Lee Tasjan’s love for this older sound infuses Karma For Cheap, his recent album, with an optimistic THC-veiled sentiment — one that can be heard on “Songbird,” his opening number here at the Tiny Desk. “There’s a songbird singing, I’m laying on the floor. Something feels right that has never felt right before.”

“Songbird” sounds familiar yet new, and wonderfully catchy.

He’s also got a good joke: “My name is Aaron Lee Tasjan. I hope I’m saying that right.”

For the next song he says the band will “boogaloo till they puke.”  It opens with a synth sound. more jangly guitars and even bigger harmonies.  It segues perfectly into the stomp of “Set You Free.”

These are songs of encouragement, and the final tune in this Tiny set, “Set You Free,” invokes that sentiment in plain-spoken language: “You gotta change your mind, you gotta plant the seed and let it set you free.”  All the while, drummer Seth Earnest, guitarist Brian Wright and bassist Tommy Scifres seemingly channeled their love of David Bowie’s 1972 song, “The Jean Genie” (a song mixed in Nashville), in its rhythms and vibes.

You can definitely hear “The Jean Genie” in the song, but never does it sound like he’s stealing from Bowie, just alluding to him–and that three-part harmony makes it all his own.  I love that both guitars play the solo at the end–atop even more harmonies.

This was such a delightful Tiny Desk that I need to find out more about this guy.

[READ: January 18, 2018] Peter & Ernesto

This is an adorable book, the first in a series, I believe, about Peter & Ernesto.  As the subtitle indicates, they are sloths.

The book opens with the pair sitting in a tree watching the clouds go by and naming the shapes.  When Ernesto sees a bear, Peter responds “Scary!” and then goes back to eating his hibiscus.

It is generally believed that sloths are lazy, but Ernesto points out that they are not lazy, just content.  Until, that is, Peter sings about how “We always see what we always see!  Nothing ever changes for you and me!”  And then Ernesto feels discontented.

Ernesto says he likes their piece of sky, but he wants to see all of the sky.  So he must take a trip.  Peter freaks out–there could be bears out there!  It’s too dangerous!  When Ernesto asks if Peter has ever been out there and Peter says no.  Ernesto points out, how would he know? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 1 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 8, 2005).

This series of ten concerts contains the final Rheostatics live shows that are left to write about–except for their “final shows” and their “reunion shows” (which I really hope to see some day). This was the 1st night of their last 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe. Ford Pier was on keyboards.

These shows seem significantly shorter that the 2004 Fall Nationals.  This show is under 2 hours–practically unheard of in a Fall Nationals.  Unlike the 2004 Fall Nationals, however, they are not promoting an album, so there is a lot more diversity of songs.

This recording is from the audience, so there’s a (shocking) amount of chatter from fans.  You also can’t hear everything that’s said into the mics, so you have to listen close if you want to hear audience interaction.

The show opens with them talking to fans from San Diego (Mike: “that means Saint Diego”).  Dave asks how long they’re here. He says well, we have three chances, then.

“Loving Arms” is a sweet opening from Tim.  Then Martin starts announcing in a smarmy voice “I’m a member.  Hi there.”  It’s a launch into “CCYPA” (Miek: “in an election year, imagine that”).  Tim follows with a quick “Song Of The Garden.”

Then Dave starts playing the opening to “Fat” to much applause.  “That’s Ford Pier on the keyboards.  That’s Tim Vesely on the keyboards.  That’s Martin Tielli on the keyboards.”  During the end jam section, there’s some loud, unusual backing vocals which I assume are from Ford Pier.

Martin: “What’s the first note of the next song, Dave?  I’m feeling a little shaky.  But that’s what this song [‘Fish Tailin”]is about so it should lend itself to this current number.  After this comes “Mumbletypeg” Martin: “That is David Augustino Bidini.  Dave wrote this song.  All by himself!”  It romps along nicely.

Next is the first of a couple new songs.  “Sunshine At Night” is actually a song hat Tim would release on his 2008 Violet Archers disc Sunshine at Night (where it is mostly the same but more fleshed out and better-sounding).

Martin is having fun with the “Hi there” smarmy voice as an intro to “The Tarleks.”  It’s followed by “Marginalized” which has a rather lengthy and dramatic piano solo in the middle.

Martin: “That was by Timothy Warren Vesely.”  Ford: “Stop shouting everyone’s middle names, Jesus.”  Dave:  “Martin is obsessed with middle names, whenever he meets someone new he says ‘What’s your middle name?”  Mike: “Yeah right but whats your middle name.”  Ford continues, “A friend of mine was engaged to a woman from Slovenia.  When she came to visit she was astonished to hear that everyone had a middle name–are you all rich?  It was a difficult thing to explain to her.  She associated middle named with wealth?  Middle names were not a concept that came to her block in Ljubljana.  Tim: “Ford tried to convince her it had something to do with wealth.”

Then came a song, “The Land Is Wild.”  This would eventually be released on Bidiniband’s 2009 album The Land is Wild.  It’s pretty much the same although this earlier version has a few lines that are not in the final.  A line about him being in his own head and listening to Metallica, Ozzy or Queen.  There’s another line about tickling the net and being lost in his head.  Both of these lines are left off in the final.  Interestingly, the final verse about fishing with his old man and his death were added later.

Martin says that for “Here Comes the Image,” Augustine is going to play the drums and Dimitrius is going to play the keyboard.”

As they start, “It’s Easy To Be With You,” Dave says, “My friend this is no time to be talking on your phone, there’s some serious rock n roll happening up here.  Take a picture with your mind.”

It’s followed by a beautiful “Stolen Car.”  Martin’s vocals are just so good.  After the song ends, properly, there’s an extra acoustic strumming section that soon becomes “Nowhere Man” sung by Selina Martin.

Dave notes that it has been 25 years since John Lennon was killed.  The world has gotten a lot shittier.

Ford then says, “You know who was really burned on that score? Darby Crash, lead singer of The Germs.  He committed suicide with an intentional heroin overdose the same day.  Five years earlier David Bowie said they only have five years left.  So he told his band mates hat five years from now he was going to off himself.  They ignored him, but he did.  And then three hours later the Walrus gets blown away.”
Dave’s takeaway: “Never take advice from David Bowie.  He told me to buy a wool suit.  Well actually Springsteen told me, but Bowie told him.”
Tim once ate some hot soup with David Bowie.

We’ll do a couple more for you seeing as how it’s Thursday.  Tim: “Can you do a little pretty intro for me that you sometimes do?”  Dave does and “Making Progress ” sounds big and more rocking than usual (the keys help).  Martin plays  a more rocking guitar solo before settling in to the pretty ending.  When it’s over you can hear Dave says “we can call him Timmy, I’m not sure you can call him…  Well, I guess you just did.  Is this your third straight year?  Fourth?  You’ve earned the right to call him Timmy.”

Thanks to the Creaking Tree String Quartet they were beyond awesome.  I can’t wait to see them again tomorrow night.  The set ends with a lovely version of “Self Serve Gas Station” with some great piano additions.  The song ends in a long jam with trippy keys a fun solo from Martin.  As he walks off Martin says, “I smoke Gaulioses Blue cigarettes, since they can’t advertise.  The flavor!  And so did John Lennon and Bruce Cockburn.”

After the encore, Dave sings and acoustic “Last Good Cigarette.”  When Martin comes back out they play a surprising encore song of “Song Of Flight” which segues into a mellow intro for “In This Town.”  By by the end it picks up steam and rocks to the end.

It was a fairly short first show, of the Fall Nationals, but they played a lot of interesting stuff.

[READ: April 20, 2017] Friends is Friends

This book had a lot going against it.  The title is virtually impossible to find in a catalog (3 words long, 2 words repeat, the other word is “is” and the one main word is incredibly common in children’s books, ugh).  On top of that, no libraries near me carried it.  And then its got that creepy-ass cover.

Reviews of the book weren’t very positive either.  So my hopes weren’t very high.

And even with low hopes, I was still pretty disappointed. (more…)

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