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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

SOUNDTRACKMARILYN MANSON-“This is Halloween” (2006).

Thirteen years after The Nightmare Before Christmas, Marilyn Manson covered this song for the Nightmare Revisited project.

He’s the obvious choice to cover this song.  Manson is a cartoon character himself and he was, at one time, feared, perhaps, by some.

Manson has proven himself over and over to be a chameleon with looks and voices, and that attribute makes his version work pretty well.

His version uses crunchy metal guitars instead of Elfman’s synths.  But I think the synths and strings are scarier.

There is also something far more sinister about the voices in the original.  Manson may be able to “do” voices, but they are for all intents and purposes, him. The wonderful range of voices on display in the original are entirely more creepy.

Having said all that if the original wasn’t as good, this version would be pretty cool too.

[READ: October 20, 2018] “The Watcher”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SEVYN STREETER-“It Won’t Stop” (Field Recordings, August 6, 2014).

The blurb for this song totally cracks me up (especially 4 years removed) because not only did this song not seep into my collective consciousness, I’ve never heard of it. Nor have I heard of Sevyn Streeter.

Although it is funny that just last week my wife and I were utterly mocking people who name their child a number–what else did George Costanza tell them to do? And how misspelling it like this is even worse.

Anyhow, here’s the blurb:

In the spring of 2013, songwriter and R&B singer Sevyn Streeter released a song called “It Won’t Stop,” which she’s called her “baby.” Over the year and change that’s followed, the song has sunk into our collective consciousness through commercial radio play and a music video viewed more than 35 million times, and on the recommendation of a growing group of critics and fans. The lyrics are vernacular, warm, unpretentious, while the performance demanded by the music is not for the meek. Away from a studio — and air conditioning — in a New Orleans boxing gym, Streeter executed with muscle and grace.

Having mocked the blurb, the song itself is pretty.  I’ve no idea what the original sounds like, but this version is done with just two acoustic guitars–one of whom seems to be playing some bass melodies from time to time.  Streeter sings and warbles all over the song and does those R&B quivering notes that I hate, but she does have a nice voice.

But damn is this song long.  Why is a pop song five minutes long?

It’s neat that they filmed this Field Recording [Sevyn Streeter Knocks Us Out] in a boxing gym–how on earth were they able to eliminate all of the ambient noise?  It almost seems like it’s not live.

[READ: February 8, 2018] “Microstories”

This is a collection of flash fiction pieces which may or may not be connected.

Rain
Never ending rain seemed to be the truth until the day he was born.  While everyone was delighted for him that he never had to experience it, he lived with regret that he would never have the chance.

Divorce
He is dressing for his grown up daughter  What a strange thing to have to do–how infrequently he sees her, how should he look.  No idea what happened at the end of it though?  An earthquake? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JUANES AND MON LAFERTE-Tiny Desk Concert #746 (May 23, 2018).

Juanes did a solo Tiny Desk Concert back in 2011.  Amusingly, seven years ago the blurb said: The blurb says that “he usually plays arenas and large venues, so it’s a treat to see him up close like this,” (see the third quoted paragraph below).

Colombian pop star Juanes and Chilean singer Mon Laferte recently wrapped up a sold-out tour of the United States, which (lucky for us) included a stop at the Tiny Desk.

Laferte began the concert solo with the torch song “Pa’ Dónde Se Fue” (Where Did You Go?). She sang the break-up story with a smirk that belied the heartache hiding in her poignant lyrics. Then… Juanes joined her to perform the duo’s sultry single, “Amárrame” (Tie Me Up).

It’s rare to see Juanes in such an intimate setting. After almost two decades of performing solo, the Latin pop star is more of a stadium and arena kind of guy. It’s a treat to hear his voice unencumbered by loud speakers or crowd noise, and to see his facial expressions as he sings lyrics that many of us know by heart. This marked a return to the intimacy that fueled his earliest days and that’s still present in the personal lyrics that have sold millions of records.

That intimacy was heightened by the presence of Laferte. The duo performed a PG-13 version of “Amárrame,” a passionate pop song with lyrics reminiscent of 50 Shades Of Grey. You can sense an obvious chemistry between the two during that song, as well as on the Juanes classic “Fotografia” (which originally featured Nelly Furtado).

Juanes closed out the concert solo with a stripped-down version of “Es Tarde” from his last album, Mis Planes Son AmarteThe performance demonstrates why Juanes and Laferte’s duet tour sold out across the U.S. this year. There is a magic here that makes for repeated viewing. It’s that much fun to watch.

SET LIST

  • “Pa’ Dónde Se Fue” (Where Did You Go?) by Mon Laferte. She sings and plays guitar and has a beautiful, powerful voice.
  • “Amárrame {Tie Me Up} [feat. Juanes]” by Mon Laferte.  An additional guitarist plays the cool funky riff while Mon Laferte sings (and rolls her r’s beautifully).  Juanes sings (and makes some asides, “Mon Dios!”) the (beautiful, soaring) chorus and alternating verses.  They sound fantastic together, with his voice being particularly sultry and steamy.
  • “Fotografía [feat. Mon Laferte]” by Juanes.  This is a sweet ballad, with again both singers playing off of each other and joking with each other (there’s a phone gag that is pretty funny).  It’s delightful.  And their voices meld perfectly once again.
  • “Es Tarde” by Juanes.  It’s just him singing on this one (with the guitarist on accompaniment).  His voice has a slight gravel to it but is mostly smooth and delightful.  The middle of the song has a kind of whispered spoken word.  It’s quite obvious why he is a megastar.

[READ: January 22, 2017] “The End of the End of the World”

This is an essay about birding in the Antarctic and the death of Franzen’s Uncle Walt.  Both of these stories were fascinating.

Two year earlier, Franzen’s Uncle Walt died and left hims $78,000.  Wow.  (My uncle left me a pitchfork and sheep shears).  He wasn’t expecting it, so he decided to do something special with it in honor of his Uncle.  He had been planning a big vacation with his longtime girlfriend, so this seemed like the thing to us it for.  When he suggested a deluxe cruise to Antarctica, she was puzzled but agreed.

After booking the cruise, he was filled with reservations, and so was she.  Her concerns were more serious–an ailing parent–and his were just nerves.

He intersperses this trip with memories of his Uncle.  Like in August of 1976 when he found out that Walt’s daughter had died in a car crash.  Walt and his wife Irma were his godparents, although his mother couldn’t stand Irma (Franzen’s father’s sister).  She said that Irma had been spoiled at the expense of his father.  Walt was far more likable anyhow. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: A DIFFERENT KIND OF CHRISTMAS (1994).

This is one of the first alternative Christmas albums I bought.  I don’t listen to it that much because I tend to think it’s not that good (the cover is pretty uninspired).  But there’s actually quite a lot of good stuff on this.

SYD STRAW-“The Christmas Twist”
I’m happy to report that the “twist” is not some dark storyline, but an actual dance of The Twist.  Syd has written a Twist and it’s fun and dancey with plenty of Christmas lines to sing along to.  It’s a great opening track.

SHONEN KNIFE-“Space Christmas”
Shonen Knife does what they do best–short fast punky pop songs.  This one about a space Christmas, of course.

NRBQ-“A Christmas Wish”
I know this from the She & Him version.  I didn’t realize I had the original.  It’s sweet and cute with a really catchy and lovely melody in the “people all over the world” line.

BRUCE COCKBURN-“Mary Had A Baby”
This is one of those call and response songs that is very repetitive and goes on for too long.  If it was shorter it would be fun.

The dB’s-“Home For The Holidays”
This is kind of a stomping country song. It’s got a cool stomp stomp in the middle.  At under 3 minutes it’s just right.

SHELLYAN ORPHAN-“Ice” [NSFC]
I love the vocals and the song is quite pretty.  But this song is a downer (I don’t like Christmas anymore) and at over 5 minutes is not really good Christmas party music.

FISHBONE-“It’s A Wonderful Life”
Man I love this song.  It’s a super fun and dancey ska song that cites It’s a Wonderful Life and is just full of fun and pep.

POI DOG PONDERING-“Mele Kalikimaka”
It’s funny to hear this Hawaiian song done in this New Orleans brass style.  It’s a fun song regardless of who is doing it.

T-BONE BURNETT-“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”
This opens as a pretty instrumental version of this song on acoustic guitar and violin.  Lovely.  The vocals are fine, but I’d have preferred it with no words–the instrumentation was really striking,

TIMBUK 3-“All I Want For Christmas” [NSFC]
I really disliked Timbuk 3 back in the 1980s.  But I find their strange deliver to be reminiscent of X and I’m quite attracted to their style.  I like this song a lot. Although I can’t endorse a Christmas song about WWIII.  And I suppose lyrically, it’s a bit naive.  But the music is fantastic.

DAVE EDMUNDS-“Run, Rudolph Run”
I don;t know that anyone can get me to enjoy this song. Certainly not this vert standard version of it.

SHAWN COLVIN-“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
Shawn has a lovely voice and this song is delightful.  It’s a simple piano version with some gentle accompaniment.  Interestingly, this does not appear on her own Christmas album (see the 24th), probably because it might be too upbeat–she does get a bit carried away, vocally, by the end.

So there’s nothing stellar on this disc (except Fishbone), but it’s a solid collection of alternative versions of songs and a few solid originals.

[READ: October 19, 2017] Pashmina

I wanted to love this book so much.  It has so many awesome elements.  The black and white to color juxtapositions are wonderful.  The colors are gorgeous and Chanani’s drawing style is simple but charming and effective.

And I think wanting to like this book as much as I did is why I wound up not enjoying it as much as I wanted.

And that’s because it feel like there’s a lot left out of the book–I wanted it to be twice as long.

This story is about Priyanka, a young Indian-American girl.  She is raised by her mother (and knows literally nothing about her father–her mother won’t say a word about him). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 4 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 11, 2005).

This series contains the final Rheostatics live shows that are left to write about.  This was the 4th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe–(All ages Sunday afternoon set). Ford Pier was on keyboards.  And once again Dave’s daughter Cece sings a song.

Recording starts at the end of Home Again – not sure what was played prior.  Given the length and set list they probably didn’t play much before “Home Again” but we only hear the end of it anyway.

All ages shows are typically shorter. But with having no beginning, this one is really short at just over an hour and a quarter.

“It’s Easy To Be With You” starts with an unexpected bluesy riff underneath the song before it starts properly.  It’s followed by a nice “Loving Arms.”

Then you hear Cece ask, “Dad, is it my turn, yet?” “No.”  “Awwwwww.  How many more song?”  “4 more.”

“Aliens (Christmas 1988)” (not kid friendly, actually).  But mid-song Dave starts playing the “When Winter Comes” during the quiet part, but they never leave the song.

Then Dave says, “We have to do this next one because we’re playing it at guest vocalist night.”  “Many words.”  Martin: “Good luck, Timmy.”  Mike counts out 7 but nobody follows through.  Tim: “So far, not so good.”  They make it through “The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos” and Tim says, “I can’t believe all those words are in my head.  It’s a weird feeling.”  Dave: “Yea, you said you wouldn’t remember the second verse and you did.”  Martin: “Here’s a request for “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  “Shhhhhhh”  Tim: “Speaking of many words in your head.”  Dave: “And that request will go unfulfilled.”  Mike: “If anyone is going to make that request they have to make cue cards.”  Dave says, “We did it well at The Boot.”  Mike: “I had a fever, I can’t remember.  101 a rock n roll fever.  Dave: “I think the rock n’ roll fever is 102.  I’m just quoting Foreigner.”  Mike: “It’s 103 with Foreigner.  Check it and see / got a fever of 102?  I don’t think so, Dave.”  “103 that’s like malaria.”

We’re going to do a new song of Tim’s that we have been learning in advance of a record that we hope will some day get made.  After we rest on our laurels for the next 8 months.  Whatever laurels are.  Tim: “they’re like chaise lounges?”  Martin: “Or are they like haunches?”

Tim starts “Sunshine At Night” then stops.  “Ford is building something back there.  Ford: ” No I’ll catch up.”  Dave: Ford is just finishing his Chinese food from last night.”  Martin: “And building an amplifier.”  Mike: “What can’t he do?”

After the sweet “Sunshine” they play a cool “Christopher.”  The middle sections slows down quite a bit and then bursts forth loudly with the drums (I hope they had earplugs for the kids).  It’s followed by a lovely “Little Bird, Little Bird.”

Then Dave lays out the schedule for the next few days:

A wonderful week planned:
Tuesday its free.  That’s wonderful for you and… okay… for us.
Wednesday is the Whale Music album with many guests
Thursday is guest vocalist night with about 14 people singing–we give about 43 percent.  That’s not free.
And then the weekend is the last two licks so we all go crazy.  Paint our faces (not really).
And we have a hockey game on Thursday at 4 o’clock.   4 bucks to play.  Sticks and skates.  There’s a sign up card.

Then Cece asks, “Dad, is it my turn?”  After a sweet “Making Progress” it is finally Cece’s turn.

She is quite excited and yells “Perfect!” right into the mic.  She calls all the kids up on stage and then says you sing the song with me…that’d be even better.  You hear someone says “I wanna sing in the microphone.”  She says “After me!”  And then she sings a great “Everyday People.”  The whole song is fun.  And at the end Dave says, “we gotta teach you to throw to the guitar solo.”

Dave starts “Bread, Meat, Peas and Rice” and then realizes, “Hey, the same chords as ‘Everyday People,’ only faster.  At the end he notes, “Everybody has fun when the bongos come out and then half an hour later nobody’s having fun.  It’s the overstay-its-welcome instrument.”  Mike asks if they were expensive and Dave says they are the real things, I think they were like $150.

Martin says “next is a song about being lost in the wilderness.  And it’s called “Personal Identification Number” for some reason.  Dave asks if it was supposed to be a longer title and Martin says, “My publicist said the name was too long so I shortened it.”  Then he says, “This is a tenor guitar.  It’s got 4 strings.”  He starts singing “my guts, my guts, my ooey gooey guts” which Mike picks up on and sing “The ones in the back and the ones in the front.”

Martin finishes with a really fast solo.  He says, “that was very 2112.  But small.”  Dave:  “like point 2112.”  Mike: “It tastes like Rush but doesn’t get you drunk.”

They move on to “Four Little Songs.”  Dave asks if Max is here, but he has left. When they get to the third section, Dave says it’s traditional for Ford or someone else to do that slot.  But he wants to know if there’s anyone out there who has a song that must be sung?  At the back of the room?  It’s the wallflowers who have the most significant musical contribution.”  Mike; “It’s a die Fledermaus moment.”

They call Max over, not sure who Max is or if he even comes, but they play a jam, with Dave saying “it’s Max, ‘it’s not Max.”  When they get to the end Dave says, “Hold on, we need a new ending.  We have three: By Mennen, the two yells, and the Yes!”  Mike says “by Mennen is usually editorializing”  and that he’s been with the band for almost five years and he;s never done “Yes!”  So they demonstrate. Mike says, “this is like a DVD where you can choose the ending.”  Dave says, the new ending is the discussion of the ending.

And then Ford suggests that the new ending could be “like a zinger on The Muppet Show (wah wah).”  Cookie Monster ate all the cookies.  Bert will you ever win?

Dave says, “A couple more songs.” Martin: “and then the clowns.”

So Dave tells a story “When I was in Moscow there as an Americana diner and there was a security guard who looked like Captain Kangaroo expect he carried a gun.  Every Wednesday he was to dress like a clown.  So they have clown security in the American diner which tells you everything you need to know about the coming together of the United States and Russia.  Then Ford says, “And Australia…kangaroo.”

Dave: “Captain Kangaroo had never been within 15,000 miles of a kangaroo in his life.”

They play two final songs.  Dave: “Remember kids, only steal a car if you really have to.  And be careful when you invest in the Steinberger product, it’s hit and miss.”

They play a terrific “Stolen Car” and then surprisingly, given that this is an all-ages show, end with “Horses.”  “Horses” opens with a very different intro than usual, it sounds pretty cool.  The song rocks, but Dave doesn’t do any crazy ranting.  At the end, Martin does the horse sound with his guitar and some one says “whoah woah, horsey.”

[READ: July 9, 2017] The Big Bad Fox

First Second continues to publish first class French graphic novels and children’s books (this one translated by Joe Johnson).

This is a children’s book, but it is quite long.  It’s not hard to read by any means, but it’s a not a quicky 32 page picture book.

It’s possible that this was originally released as a series–there does seem to be a kind of punch line every few pages, but the story is consistent and quite funny (even if it’s not all that original). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAVID GREILSAMMER-Tiny Desk Concert #676 (November 24, 2017).

It has been quite a while since there has been a classical pianist on Tiny Desk.  I’m unfamiliar with the Israeli pianist David Greilsammer, but his playing is wonderful and his selections are quite fun and diverse.

For this Tiny Desk appearance, Greilsammer begins with his muse Domenico Scarlatti, the 18th-century Italian whose 500-some keyboard sonatas are compelling, colorful snapshots of his decades-long service to Spanish royalty. In the “Sonata in E, K. 380” you can hear a little street band processing along with trumpet fanfares.

Greilsammer describes the piece as sounding very contemporary.  Scarlatti lived 300 years ago and his music sounds ahead of its time.  He says it’s almost jazzy or pop-like harmonies.  He says it feels like he is playing a Beatles song.

Greilsammer follows by jumping ahead 175 years to the eccentric Frenchman Erik Satie, who not only owned seven identical gray velvet suits but, with a freewheeling spaciousness and humor in his music, is often thought of as the precursor to everything from minimalism to new age. His series of mysterious pieces called Gnossiennes strike a particularly sedate mood, capable of neutralizing any source of anxiety.

Greilsammer plays “Gnossienne No. 3” which he describes as full of pop and jazz and colors and harmonies.  He was writing these strange short pieces that at the time people in Paris didn’t understand.  Everybody loves Satie now but just over 100 years ago he was completely misunderstood.

I absolutely love the way the final notes ring out in this room–they are quite haunting

Lastly, Greilsammer takes a left turn to Leoš Janáček, the idiosyncratic Czech composer from the early 20th century, acclaimed for his operas. He set one of them on the moon; another, the dramatically taut and emotionally wrenching Jenůfa, is perhaps the most undervalued opera of a generation. But Janáček also wrote in smaller forms. His piano cycle On An Overgrown Path plays out like a diary of musings, nervous tics, simple pleasures and mysteries. Within the claustrophobic tension that pervades “The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away,” you can hear the rustling of wings and the repeated four-note bird call.

Greilsammer says that Janáček lived in the Romantic period and all of his music is enigmatic, with many secretive things.  He wrote things related to dreams and wild scenes with things obsessively haunting him.  In “The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away” (from On An Overgrown Path) the theme of the owl comes back many times.  Every time you try to get away from it, it comes back.

For Greilsammer, who recently performed in a working crypt in Harlem, threading these disparate musical fabrics together comes as naturally as, well, playing behind a desk in an office building.

These are some really beautiful and nicely unexpected pieces.

[READ: May 31, 2017] Audubon

I have really enjoyed most of the French graphic novels that come across my desk.  This book, translated by Etienne Gilfillan, is no exception.

It is a biographical sketch of John James Audubon (born Jean-Jacques Audubon in Haiti in 1785).  His story, aside from the whole birding aspect, is quite fascinating in itself. He was an illegitimate child (his father has seduced a servant) who was eventuality adopted by his father (!) and called Forgèére (which means fern).  His father wanted him to escape military conscription, so the boy was sent to Mill Grove in he United States in 1803.  He became a US citizen and there met his wife Lucy Bakewell.

The book actually begins in 1820 with Audubon and two other men sailing on the Mississippi river.  They hit bad weather but all he cares about are his drawings.

Then we jump back to 1812 in Kentucky.  Audubon climbs into a tree to study the swallows who are living in it–some 9,000. He took home more than 100 birds to study them.  And then he tagged some others to study their migratory patterns.

As the end of the book points out, Audubon was one of the world’s greatest naturalists who did a lot for birding. Except he was also responsible for the death of thousands of birds.  There’s a section where he kills two ivory billed woodpeckers.  He is so excited at his luck because they are becoming a rarity. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PINEGROVE-“Intrepid” (2017).

Pinegrove frontman Evan Stephens Hall just announced that, because of indiscretions, he was cancelling the band’s winter tour.  I had tickets to two of these shows, so that’s certainly a bummer.

I can only hope that whatever the details of his trouble, he can work it out amiably, get the help he needs and get back on the road in a better place.

Before this all happened, the band released their first new single since Cardinal took off.  “Intrepid” opens with a quietly strummed guitar and Hall singing quietly, including an unexpected falsetto note.  The song threatens to get big and loud but then seems like it might just end.

But after a minute and a half the rocking guitars and backing vocals come in and the song lifts off.  It strikes me as far less catchy than anything they’ve done so far, but it feels a lot more complex, as well.

The end of the song drops in volume, with one more little rocking guitar part before it fades out quietly with the same part that sounded like the end earlier.

It’s really well crafted.

[READ: May 7, 2017] Dark Shadows

This fourth book is once again Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin.  It also has an introduction by J.J. the search and rescue dog whose current civilian job is to look after the Chicken Squad.  I would love to see what the humans think of these chickens acting this way, I think that would be a very funny insight.  But maybe it’s best if it’s left unknown.

The family, including J.J. and the chickens are in the car going to a farm to “See things you’ve never seen before.”  Sugar says she has seen everything there is to see.  J.J. counters that she has never been out of the backyard.

Their mom, Moosh, explains that this will be a family reunion–they’ll meet all of their aunts, uncle and cousins.  And when they arrives there are hundreds and everyone expects them to lean all of their cousins’ names. (more…)

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