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Archive for the ‘Butterflies’ Category


SOUNDTRACK
: BATHS-Tiny Desk Concert 300 (September 4, 2013).

I was unfamiliar with Baths and I am impressed by their busy-ness in this set.  There are only two guys playing, both play with various computer gadgets and then switch to keyboards and guitars.  They layer more and more music on this fairly dancey and very electronic sound.

Baths, a.k.a. Will Wiesenfeld, plays mysterious and textured electronic music. When Wiesenfeld came to the Tiny Desk, I expected contemplative tones and a laid-back performance; he does, after all, call his project Baths. But what sets him apart from the vast majority of like-minded performers is that his music doesn’t get buried behind the buttons or lost in a hypnotic glaze.

Wiesenfeld is an extrovert live, and at the Tiny Desk, he sounds vibrant and compelling as he performs songs from this year’s Obsidian. His partner Morgan Greenwood, an accomplished music-maker in his own right, keeps the music dense but frees up Wiesenfeld to sing with few distractions; there’s a mind-meld between the two that’s undeniable. They’re not accustomed to playing in the light of day, but they enchant in this perfect introduction to their work.

Wisenfeld’s vocals are a lot of wordless sounds (ba ba ba, na na na) that get looped and mixed around.  He sings in a rather high register, especially when making the looped sounds.

“Miasma Sky” builds with layers upon layers of sounds and vocals.  The sounds are manipulated in great ways with those little knobs and sliders. And just as you think it’s going to end with a series of delicate synth and guitar notes, he begins looping them which create the building blocks for the rest of the song.   It’s primarily keyboards and glitchy drums until the end.

“Phaedra” begins with some heavy drums and them playing around with all their gadgets.  This is a fast, pumping, dancing song.  Greenwood sings backing vocals in an equally high register.

“Ocean Death” has deep thumping drums and an opening with lots of na na nas and la la las in a textually rich soundscape.  It all fades down o just drums before building back up again.

[READ: July 9, 2016] Ruins

Seven years ago I read a book called Diario de Oaxaca, a sketchbook by Peter Kuper that I really enjoyed.  When I grabbed this book of the shelf the other day I didn’t realize it was the same guy.  But I can see that that sketchbook informed this excellent graphic novel.

The Diario covered his two-year stay in Oaxaca where he drew a lot, studied insects (and saw the monarch butterflies) and experienced both chaos and contentment.

This fictionalized account of the story places two characters into a situation that sounds similar to what he experienced, but with enough difference to keep it purely fictional. (more…)

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1993-1994 SOUNDTRACK: LEON BRIDGES-Tiny Desk Concert #469 (September 8, 2015).

leonLeon Bridges has a great old soul voice.  Indeed, I had no idea he was so young until he started speaking after the third song and all manner of young person chat came out of his mouth: “Thanks to my main man, you all looking beautiful man.”  His voice is pure and clean and hearkens back to 1960s soul singers like Sam Cooke.

The way he sings “baby baby baby” in “Coming Home” is classic soul.  And his enunciation of “mouth” is just gorgeous.  This song features the backing vocals of his sister Jesse.

“Smooth Sailin'” features a sax solo and Bridges on guitar.  Since there are 2 guitarists already Bridges’ guitar doesn’t  add much, but for me it’s all about his voice anyhow.

“Twistin’ & Groovin'” is about how his grandparents met.  He says the first time he saw her at a party the thing he noticed first about her was her long legs.

“River” is just him on acoustic guitar with Jesse singing backing vocals.

It’s a solid set and Bridges’ star has continued to rise since this show.

[READ: September 18, 2016]  The Complete Peanuts: 1993-1994

I didn’t like the previous book all that much, but this one picked things up a bit.

The year starts with Snoopy taking a test in school and acing the true false part–the only one to do so!

1993 has Schulz’ first celebration of MLK day.  Patty mentions the “I have a dream speech” but I love that she just mentions it without making it a big deal, it quickly changes to an unfair lunch swap between a carrot stick and french fry.  Speaking of old words, Lucy begins insulting Linus with: blockhead airhead, noodleneck but then finds that these older words work better: puzzlewit, dimbulb.

In pop culture notes, April 1993 sees Snoopy as Joe Grunge and in May 1993 Sally asks why is Barney purple? (more…)

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1987  SOUNDTRACK: GINA CHAVEZ-Tiny Desk Concert #472 (September 22, 2015 ).

ginaChavez’ voice is poppy but a little deep, almost muscular which I rather like. Or perhaps its just confidence, the blurb notes “the intense openness and warmth of her performances.”

“Fire Water” is primarily a capella and percussion (with interesting clicks and shakers and even a guy whispering “ahhh.”  A few bass notes enter near the end, but other wise it I a very stark song.

“Miles Da Millas” is dedicated to a fiend of a friend who died recently.  He loved Tony Desk Concerts.  Whenever someone mentioned a new band he would say “But do they have a Tiny Desk?”  So this make Gina feel like she’s made it  This song, a cumbia, is bilingual with the chorus in Spanish.  And her voice is just as strong if not more so in Spanish.   It’s fun when the percussionist yells and whoops and overall its a nice groovy song.  It’s a little weird that she hums a trumpet (quite well, admittedly) when there is an actual trumpet player in the band.  They take turns so I guess it’s kind of duet.

When introducing the final song, she says spent 8 months in El Salvador doing mission work teaching English in an all girls’ school.  Things are really bad down there, so she started a college scholarship fund called Niñas Arriba.  This song “Siete-D” is about a wild ride on the 7D bus from Soyapongo to San Salvador.  Soyapongo is the home of the MS13 gang, the place where guide books tell you not to go.

It’s a fun song (sung entirely in Spanish) with a cool “Sube! Hey! ho!” chant.  It’s a bouncy song with some great trumpet work.  There’s even a rap in Spanish

[READ: September 9, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1987-1988

I felt like after the major highs of the last few books, this one fell into a bit of a repetitive pattern.  This is not to say there weren’t memorable moments in the book, but there were a lot of variations on a similar jokes (especially with Spike in the desert–how many different ways can you make a joke about a cactus looking like a person with his arms up?  About fifty, I guess).

But perhaps it seems like things have changed because On 1-11 1987, that heading that has been there for so long–the hand-drawn looking “Peanuts featuring Good Ol’ Charlie Brown” had been replaced by a computer-generated font that just says “Peanuts.”  It also felt like the drawings looked different somehow–thicker lines, somewhat less polished?  And in July of 1988 it seems like Snoopy looks rather different. His ears are much smaller for one thing.  That seems to go away though.  But it’s some time round here or maybe even in a previous book that Schulz started drawing circles for eyes on Snoopy from time to time–mostly to express distress or angry.  But Snoopy is meant to have dots or sixes for eyes–the circles always look weird.  And sometime they look poorly drawn, if I may say so.   Especially on October 12 1988 (he’s supposed to look aggrieved, but they still look sloppy for Schulz).

And then, a huge shock to the system!  The daily strips go from 4 panels to 3.  Three panels!  What gives?  Is it because many of his fourth panels didn’t really have a punchline so much as a commentary on the punchline?  It’s mind blowing!  After thirty some years, he is finally messing with the format! (more…)

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1981 SOUNDTRACK: SON LITTLE-Tiny Desk Concert #495 (December 18, 2015).

sonlittleI know of Son Little, although only vaguely.  WXPN has played his song “The River” quite a lot, although I don’t think I’ve heard anything else.

For this Tiny Desk Concert, he’s really stripped down–just his acoustic guitar, a percussionist (Jabari Exum playing a djembe with accoutrements) and a backing vocalist, his sister Megan Livingston.  His playing is even pretty stripped down–his chords are minimal, almost more like accents for most of the songs (although he does play louder from time to time).

As such, this really celebrates his voice which is strong and almost gospel-like.

He plays three songs. “Lay Down,” is a quiet soulful song with perfectly spare accompaniment.  When it ends, everyone seems adorably shy with Little saying, “just mildly awkward enough.”

“Your Love Will Blow Me Away When My Heart Aches” is a bit bigger–Little sings a bit louder and plays louder chords, but it is still quite minimal.

He ends with “The River” which is certainly stripped down from the radio version.  It opens with some claps and he encourages everyone to clap along although “If you’re like clap challenged then maybe… don’t–you know who you are.”  The song has that bluesy rock feel even in this understated form.  And while I like the original better, this is a great version–that quiet clapping and percussion is really nice.

[READ: July 26, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1981-1982

So far the 1980s see Schulz settling into a few consistent themes in his strips–regular motifs that he mines over and over again.  Although it’s interesting to see how they have morphed over the decades.

Patty is constantly falling asleep in school (and getting D minuses), Snoopy continues to write funny/bad jokes and gets rejection letters about his books (this is usually pretty funny but it’s also surprising as Snoopy is usually the “successful” one); Snoopy also plays a lawyer a lot in these strips.

1981 begins where 1980 left off with Patty loving the story of Hans Brinker.  1981 also has a lengthy section about Valentines Day (a subject that gets more emphasis in some years than others), although this year Sally is the major protagonist (and her Sweet Babboo her object).  1982 also has a Valentine’s Day with Sally–she gets her hand stuck in the Valentine’s Day cards box.

Schulz used to do bible instruction which is why he quotes it so much.  And he occasionally peppers his strips with religious commentary.  There’s a joke about school prayer–Patty has to go up to the board and when her teacher falls ill she shouts “school prayer works, Marcie.”  There’s an amusing joke that Snoopy used to teach Sunday School at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm.

Although the running jokes are funny, I love when he gets a new idea.  Like the a fun twist on the dog ate my homework joke when Snoopy as the WWI pilot steals Sally’s homework claiming it is the enemy’s secret papers and he eats them.

Sometimes Schulz gives a one-off joke that’s just silly and funny like when Woodstock “poofs” a dandelion and it “poofs” him back. (more…)

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feb20156SOUNDTRACK: ANTHONY HAMILTON-Tiny Desk Concert #516 (March 28, 2016).

anthamI don’t know Anthony Hamilton, probably because he is a soul singer and I don’t listen to soul music.  He’s won Grammy’s and everything!  He and this band The Hamiltones (nice) had just played for the Obamas, and they came to the NPR offices afterward.

The first song, “Amen,” is new and he says was his attempt to write an R. Kelly song.  The other three songs are apparently the ones that have made him famous.  The songs are “Best of Me,” “Cool” and “Charlene.”

I love his American Flag jacket/sweater or whatever it is.  And his voice and the voices of The Hamiltones are pretty sweet.  No doubt if I listened to soul music, I’d have a lot of Hamilton’s discs.

[READ: January 26, 2016] “Family Business”

This essay was an interesting mash-up of two writers that I’d like to read more of.  I am a fan of Nabokov’s although I have read but a smattering of his work.  And I have enjoyed what I’ve read by Lipsky, although I have yet to delve into his fiction.

This is a book review of the recent publication of Vladimir Nabokov’s letters to his wife Vera throughout the length of their mostly happy fifty-two year marriage.  Sadly, Vera’s letters were destroyed (by her), although as it turns out, she didn’t write very much back to him anyway.

This is the kind of book review that I find exceedingly enjoyable. It sums up what the book has to say and then lets me know that while I might enjoy reading it, I don’t actually have to.  Not that he gives away spoilers–are their spoilers if you know what their life is like already?  But he really gets the gist of the letters and their life. And frankly, I don’t need to be that intimate with the writer, even if I do enjoy his works. (more…)

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1959SOUNDTRACK: TOM TOM CLUB-Tiny Desk Concert #82 (October 6, 2010).

tomtom Tom Tom Club were a side project of the rhythm section of the Talking Heads.  They had a hit with their song “Genius of Love” (you’d know the melody instantly).  I’ll be honest–I thought they only had one album out, but I see they had quite a few out and had recently re-formed and put out new records.

This set contains three songs.  “Wordy Rappington” which was on their debut, but which I’d never heard of.  I am shocked to see that it was a double A side with “Genius of Love.”  The song is a kind of amusing rap with a chorus of the children’s song “A Ram Sam Sam.” It is very kid friendly.

I will also be honest that I didn’t like The Tom Tom Club when they came out.  So even though I know the melody of “Genius of Love” I don’t know the song very well.  It’s kind of amusing though in that it name checks all kinds of musicians.  At one point they repeat “James Brown” over and over and then climax with “hit me!”

The music is surprisingly spare: an acoustic guitar or two, some bongos and an accordion (which plays the “Genius of Love” melody).

“Only the Strong Survive” is a cover of song by zydeco band The Franks.  Lead vocals and washboard are supplied by Mystic Bowie.

The band is having a ton of fun.  Considering Talking Heads were always kind of serious it’s nice to see Chris and Tina being silly..

[READ: September 29, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1959-1960

This book marks more or less the ten-year anniversary of the first Peanuts strip.  Even though Patty (not Peppermint Patty) is on the cover, she gets very little time in the book.

The big news in this book is the arrival of Charlie’s little sister Sally!  In May of 1959 Charlie’s mom goes to the hospital for a few days.  And then Charlie is a proud big brother.  For a time, Snoopy is jealous and acts like a “fuzzy baby.”  However much Charlie talks about Sally, we don’t actually see her until August!  On a random Sunday Charlie is seen pushing her in her stroller (and missing out on baseball because of it).  There’s no really babyness for Sally.  She has a bottle, but while we saw a lot of baby time for Linus, there’s hardly any for Sally.  In fact, in October Snoopy gets her to dance.  And much later she gives Schroeder a hard time when he won’t play a lullaby for her.

She doesn’t really come into the picture all that much.  But by August of 1960, Sally thinks (still no speaking) that Linus is the cutest thing and has hearts floating around her when she sees him.  Charlie even has to wonder what’s going on here.  But Linus says, “I’m almost five years older than she.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KISS-Destroyer (1976).

Although this is not the first Kiss album I heard (that would be Love Gun) it was probably the one I listened to most (it had “Beth” on it after all).  It is also full of some of the most over the top theatrical music of any heavy metal band at the time (is it any wonder that I also enjoy Meat Loaf and other over the top bands if I was raised on this?)  Kiss has always been about theater, and how much more theatrical do you need? (How about a cartoon of the band standing on a pile of ruins?).  But this album is such a classic, it’s hard to even think critically of it

“Detroit Rock City” is, well, it’s “Detroit Rock City.”  An amazing, iconic (albeit simple) guitar solo, great effects in the beginning (with Paul (I always assumed) singing along to other Kiss hits on the radio) and an awesome crash at the end.  Fill it out with an amazing riff and great work from the whole band.  What more need be said?  How about the way it leads perfectly into “King of the Night Time World.”  This song is overlooked despite its greatness.  It opens so loud and full then the verses get awesomely tinny until the galloping chorus kicks back in (Petter Criss plays drum rolls mid-song like no one else).  It also has great riffs and a memorable solo.  Oh and then a little song called “God of Thunder.”  Awesome bombast, creepy kids’ voices (I remember some kind of rumors about who the kids were and how they were held captive by the band or something).  It’s a wonderfully memorable song.

“Great Expectations” slows things down but adds the bombast.  I’ve always enjoyed this egocentric song, even as a kid singing along in a mirror.  Although the extra musical notes (keyboards and such) are kind of wimpy.  But it’s followed by the electrifying “Flaming Youth,” a hard-edged guitar song that is pretty simple, but pretty potent.  Again, the keyboard bits undermine the heaviness, but the repeated “higher and higher and higher” is pretty bad ass.

“Sweet Pain” is a great dark Gene-sung song (evidently about S&M, although I never knew that quite so specifically–I never understood the first two lines until I looked them up just now: “My leathers fit tight around me/My whip is always beside me”).  “Shout It Out Loud” is one of the great Kiss anthems.  I actually prefer it to “Rock and Roll All Nite” although that could be just because of the over exposure of “RaRAN.”  Of course, “Beth” is next and it is impossible for any Kiss fan to say anything about “Beth”.  This was the first song I ever memorized the lyrics to, and I sang it to my no doubt confused grandmother when I was 9 years old–my first and only live performance until college.

I always liked “Do You Love Me” (I think these Kiss fantasy songs were pretty big for me).  I was always confused by the tinny voice in the final verse of the song.  It was very strange to my young mind, but it really stands out in the song–as does Paul’s ending rant.  The overall sentiment of the song  is kind of funny coming from the guys who would soon be singing “Love Em Leave Em” but it is nice that they feel insecure once in a while too.

My LP of this album (or maybe it was an 8 track?) did not have the “bonus” track, which is just 90 seconds of a crazily processed version of “Great Expectations” with some lifted vocals of Paul in concert.  Apparently even though it is untitled, it is called “Rock and Roll Party” by most fans.  It appears to be a joke about all of the backwards masking that was supposedly on Kiss records.  Huh.

This is still one of my favorite albums of all time.

[READ: September 30, 2011] “The Russian professor

Nabokov did not secure the teaching position at Wellesley where he had been creative writing professor the year before (Lolita would not come out for a nother 13 years, so he was working via his Russian book reputation).  So instead, he went on a several-month speaking tour of Unites States colleges, many of them in the South.  These (excerpts from) letters to his wife detail some of the indignities that he suffered and reiterate his love for her and his son.

On his way to Coker University in South Carolina, his train car was double booked, his taxi didn’t show up and he wound up going to the wrong hotel.  When he finally was picked up: “Feeling that I wouldn’t have time to shave before the lecture…I went in search of a barber” [what kind of time management is that??].  Nabokov writes of the shave:

He shaved me horribly, leaving my Adam’s apple all bristly, and since in the next chair a wildly screaming five-year-old child was grappling with the barber who was trying to touch up the back of his head with the clippers, the old man shaving me was nervous, hushed the child, and finally cut me slightly under the nose.

(more…)

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