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Archive for the ‘Cats’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TXT (투모로우바이투게더) ‘Cat & Dog’ (2019).

Because this book is about cats and dogs, I was going to put “Cats & Dogs” from The Head and The Heart as this song.  Bit when I searched for “Cats & Dogs” the first video was for this song.  And any band whose name is in a language I can’t read will certainly get posted here.

In fact, I didn’t even realize they were called “TXT” I thought it was something to do with text messaging.

Turns out TXT stands for Tomorrow X Together.  Of course.

The video starts with five cute boys running to the a window and looking out on a cartoon world.  It seemed like The Monkees.

So I was quite surprised when the song started with heavy bass and auto-tuned and I realized that duh, this must be a K-pop band.

I assumed I’d heard of all of the popular K-Pop bands by now (how many could there be?), but here’s one I’d not heard of.  Nevertheless. this song has over 47 million views.

I really don’t know how to talk about K-Pop.

The five of them are adorable and pretty much identical (hair color being the distinguishing factor).  They all seem to dance well (in the heavily edited sequences).  All of their voices are auto-tuned so who knows if they can sing.  They are also singing in at least two languages, so who knows what they are singing.

I assume the language I can’t understand is Korean, although it sounded to me like Spanish at one point (which seems very unlikely).

There’s a repeated refrain of someone gong “brrrp brrrp brrrp” which is a weird but catchy hook for all languages.  I assume that none of the boys’ voices can possibly go deep enough t make that sound.

Apparently, this song has something to do with cats and dogs because there are meows and barks in the song (and in the video they do lots of synchronized cat and dog ear movements).

I’m kind of curious what the chorus actually says–are they saying the word “Pet” or is a Korean word?

At the end he sings I just wanna be your dog, but not in any way like Iggy Pop.

Sometimes it’s fun to dive into music you don’t ever experience.

[READ: February 6, 2020] Kitten Construction Company: A Bridge Too Fur

I really enjoyed the first Kitten Construction Company book.  I loved the premise–not that the kittens were good at building things–but that no one took them seriously because they were so cute.  It allowed for a lot of funny frustrations from our feline friends.

Well, now the city of Mewberg has fully accepted the Kitten Construction Company. They have built a new stadium with updated energy efficiencies and plumbing.

There’s a nice joke that while accepting the adulation for this stadium, architect Marmalade can’t help but knock the microphone stand off the podium.  I only wish that Green had drawn it to look more deliberate–that would have been a lot funnier.  Instead it almost seems like an accident. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: J.S. ONDARA-Tiny Desk Concert #936 (January 24, 2020).

WXPN has been playing J.S. Ondara quite a lot since his album came out.  And while the DJs would often give some details about his life story, he gives a bit more here.

J.S. Ondara’s journey to the Tiny Desk is a fascinating one. From his home in Nairobi, he listened on his sister’s radio to American artists, including Nirvana, Jeff Buckley, Death Cab For Cutie and, most importantly, Bob Dylan. He wanted to be a folk singer, so he moved to Minnesota, Dylan’s home state.

In between songs he narrates his life in a wonderfully comically understated style.

Ondara told us his story. “I remember, at one point, someone told me about this contest that you guys do called ‘the Tiny Desk Contest.’ And I was, at the time, desperately trying to be a folk singer. And I’m not quite. I’m not a big fan of contests, but I like NPR. So I figured I’d give it a shot. And I’d just written that song, ‘Lebanon.’ So I made a video of me playing that song, and I submitted it. And I suppose that things didn’t go quite in my favor. So I figured I’d find a bit of a roundabout way to get here, which involved making a record and touring it relentlessly and stalking Bob [Boilen] all around South by Southwest. (I actually didn’t do that part.) I was thinking about it. And now I’m here. The journey would have been a lot shorter had I just won the bloody contest. It’s on me, not you, I suppose, I should have written a better song.  But in the very wise words of Miley Cyrus, ‘it’s not about how fast you get there, it’s about the climb.’  I can’t stop quoting that song, it’s one of those words even when I don’t want to.”

“Lebanon” is a slow ballad with Ondara’s unique singing style (S. and I genuinely didn’t know if Ondara was a man or a woman upon hearing his song “Saying Goodbye” because his voice is so multivaried.  I really like the passion of the lyrics and how it is countered with the slowness of the music.

In the water, fire
I’ll go wherever you go
In the valley, in the canyon
I’ll go wherever you go
Hey, love, I’m ready now
Can’t you see this riot
Inside of my veins
Hey love, I’m overcome
By desire
How must I wait?
Up next is “Days of Insanity” with this fascinating lyric

There is a bear at the airport, waiting on a plane
There is a cow at the funeral, bidding farewell
There is a goat at the terminal, boarding the C-train
There is a horse at the hospital, dancing with the hare
Somebody call the doctor, from the university
Somebody call upon the witch and the wizardry
Somebody call the rabbi, the pastor and the sheikh
Coz we are coming on the days of insanity
The days of insanity.

In talking about this song he says it is such a rich time to be a folk singer in America.  He wrote the song while making the record.  He was watching videos of kittens and puppies as he does every night before bed and the video suggested watching Stephen Colbert with John Mulaney.  Mulaney took a trip to Japan and described things in America as being like seeing a horse loose in a hospital.  It’s like something no one’s ever seen before.  Ondara encourages us to watch the clip and he is right–it is hilarious!

“Saying Goodbye” is the song that’s been getting the airplay.  It’s passionate and powerful and when he sings in the higher register it really is otherworldly.

This live version is quite a revelation.  His delivery is different–much more slow and deliberate.  But he can still hit that glorious high notes..

Amazingly, Tales of America was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Americana Album (not bad for a guy from Kenya).  Sadly it didn’t win.

[READ: June 2, 2018] Cleopatra in Space Book Five

It took Maihack seventeen months to make this book!  He says that sixteen of those months were spent growing the bear on his author picture.

This story is action-packed with some fascinating twists and turns.  Consequently, seventeen months is a long time to go between books.  Fortunately, Maihack’s quality of illustration and storytelling has maintained its high standards.

The book opens with a flashback to the moment when Cleo first disappeared from Gozi while they were having target practice (back in book 1).

The actual story has followed Cleo on her adventures.  But now we see what happened to Gozi.  He was attacked by … someone … and imprisoned.  Gozi believes that whatever happened to Cleo–it was her choice not to return and help him.

I have to admit I was more than a little confused as to just what happened next, [Gozi explains things later on].  IN the montage of events, there’s a spaceship and lots of cats (I suspect that if I had read the other books more recently this would be more clear).  In whatever happened, Gozi is badly burned and the pain never goes away.  He was wrapped in bandages but that didn’t really help at all.  Then we see exactly what happened to make Gozi tun into Octavian and to agree to use the Lion’s plasma to carry out the ruin of the galaxy. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SPANGLISH FLY-Tiny Desk Concert #927 (December 31, 2019.

Spanglish Fly is a pretty funny name for a band

Spanglish Fly [is] one of the true pioneers of the boogaloo revival scene happening on the East Coast. For about sixteen minutes, our little corner of the building was the hottest Latin dance club in D.C..

The band (eleven members at the Tiny Desk) combine two styles of music to create a great deal of dancing fun in these three songs.

There is something absolutely infectious about combining the deep groove of an Afro Cuban tumbao bass line with a conga marcha, while the horns answer a call-and-response with the vocalists, all in a confined space.

The first song “Bugalú Pa Mi Abuela” opens with some clapping and that familiar conga style of piano from Kenny Bruno.  It’s cool how the music jumps between this style and the grooving bass (including some cool bass slides) from Rich Robles.  This song gets you moving right away and has a trombone solo from Ric Becker.

The second song slows things down and is a bit more serious.  “Los Niños En La Frontera” has a slow burn of social consciousness.  It means “children at the border.”  And although the song is more somber, the musical is style rich and vibrant.  It opens with shakers from Paula Winter and cymbals and timbales from Arei Sekiguchi.  Then the piano jumps in with a call and response from the horns.  In addition to a lead baritone saxophone line from Stefan Zeniuk, there’s also Matt Thomas on tenor saxophone and Jonathan Goldman on trumpet.

I haven’t mentioned the vocals yet because it’s in this song that both singers really demonstrate their power.  Jessenia Cuesta sings lead first but in the end Mariella Price takes over and sings a different, faster more intense style.  Their voices work together really well.  And as the song ends, Jessenia holds an impressively long note.

The final song is “a song about shoes.”

The horn ensemble work that drives “Boogaloo Shoes” is worthy of the song’s title, a name taken from the classic dance form that drove East Coast teens crazy in the 1960s. The percussion immediately causes hips to sway.

This song is sung in English and features some more of that great piano and even some yips and yells from the singers.  The chorus has a couple of really fun moments when Dylan Blanchard on the congas and Arei do fast drum fills.  Matt Thomas takes a pretty lengthy solo on tenor sax and the end features a spoken word in which Mariella tells us that they are putting the “you” in zapata boogaloo.  Jessenia Cuesta ends the song with one more great vocal turn.

It’s a really fun set and if your body is not moving during it, you must be dead.

[READ: January 6, 2020] “The Strangeness of Grief”

Recently, Michael Chabon wrote an essay about his somewhat ambivalent feelings about the death of his father.  Now it is V.S Naipaul’s turn to discuss this as well.

Naipaul’s father was forty-five or forty-six when he had a heart attack.  He was working for the Trinidad Guardian while V.S. was at school in Oxford.

Although his father was to receive half pay, he seemed unconcerned about the state of the family finances.  Indeed, the episode seemed to leave him with a lightness of spirit.  So he began writing comic short stories.  They were quite successful.  The BBC even asked V.S to read one of the stories in the “Caribbean Voices” program.  The amount they were going to pay him would be the amount it would cost for him to get to London from Oxford.  But when he told his father about the expense, his father decided to buy him a gift to show his appreciation. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TRENT REZNOR & ATTICUS ROSS-“John Carpenter’s Halloween” (2017).

A lot of the music I listen to is weird and probably creepy to other people, but I don’t necessarily think of songs as appropriate for Halloween or not.  So for this year’s Ghost Box stories, I consulted an “expert”: The Esquire list of Halloween songs you’ll play all year long.  The list has 45 songs–most of which I do not like.  So I picked 11 of them to post about.

I didn’t actually know this version of the Halloween theme song and I was pretty excited to be super creeped out.

It turns out that this version is decidedly less creepy than the original.  But then again, nothing can outdo the starkness of that original piano score.

This version takes a while to get going (about 45 seconds of buildup) before a little keyboard riff that sounds a lot like the “spooky” riff in The Brady Bunch in Hawaii episode pops up.  Then some original piano comes in along with building synths and what sounds like distorted voices growling in the background.  This lasts until almost 2 minutes.  And I have to say it’s creepier than the actual familiar melody.

When the plinking piano comes in, it’s a little muted and the synth chords are louder.  As the song progresses you can hear–whispered voices (?), distorted rumblings (?) a choir from hell (?).  It’s that background soundscape that is seriously creepy.

Around five minutes, the music drops out and there’s just echoing, clacking sounds and possibly breathing.  Yeah, that’s nicely spooky.

Then the main melody returns.  It builds and turns into a rock song–with a drumbeat and everything.  But it being a song is a lot less creepy than the original solo piano playing in the middle of a an abandoned asylum.

Don’t get me wrong, this has some serious creep appeal, but the original wins hands down.

[READ: October 24, 2019] “The Psychologist Who Wouldn’t Do Awful Things to Rats”

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

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:

Oh god, it’s right behind me, isn’t it? There’s no use trying to run from Ghost Box III, the terrifying conclusion to our series of limited-edition horror box sets edited and introduced by Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, I’m going to read in the order they were stacked.

Even Patton Oswalt agrees that many people might not finish (or even start) this story.  I had the misfortune of reading it during breakfast.

James Tiptree Jr. was the pseudonym for Alice Bradley Sheldon (her real name was not revealed until 1977! (she died in 1987).

As I was reading it, I had no idea this story was so old.  It seemed like a current take on animal rights and animal welfare.  Although I did think the conditions in the lab were worse than I believe they actually are now (but what do I know?) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Y LA BAMBA-Tiny Desk Concert #892 (September 20, 2019).

It used to be that no one was invited back to play a Tiny Desk Concert.  The rules have been relaxed somewhat as of late (I would have thought that maybe they’d wait until 1000 shows).

The blurb explains why they (she) was invited back though.

Luz Elena Mendoza has such a far-reaching creative spirit that it’s almost impossible to confine her to a single musical identity. Which is why she’s one of just a handful of artists who’ve been invited back to the Tiny Desk to offer a revised musical vision.

Y La Bamba was on back in 2011 and they played a more acoustic style of music–accordion, percussion, guitar and lot of singers.  For this show, lead Bamba, Luz Elena Mendoza looks quite different.  In 2011, her hair was black and long, here it is silver and short–the neck tattoo is the same, though.

When she was here last with the band Y La Bamba, it was a vocal-heavy, folk outfit. The band’s sound has always been about vocals and her music has become even more so over the years.

Back in May, Y La Bamba played Non-Comm and Mendoza was pretty confrontational.  She is less so here, allowing the music to speak for her.

And the music is quite different.  It’s almost all in Spanish this time.  There’s a second guitarist (Ryan Oxford), a bass (Zachary Teran), and a drummer (Miguel Jimenez-Cruz).  She also has two backing singers, Julia Mendiolea who also plays keyboard and Isabeau Waia’u Walker.

I knew that Y La Bamba was the project of Mendoza, but i didn’t realize she did everything herself:

Y La Bamba’s albums are meticulously crafted sonic treats with her vocals layered like a choir made with a single voice. But in our offices, she called on vocalist Isabeau Waia’u Walker to replicate their distinct sound.

There’s a great variety of styles in this Tiny Desk.

“Paloma Negra” (“Black Pigeon”) [also played at Non-Comm] benefits from the voices of the entire band in a high-energy mediation on rhythm and voice.

It’s got a groovy, funky bassline and some cool echoing guitars.  There’s a tension in the verses that is totally relieved in the super catchy chorus.

This song segues into “Rios Sueltos” which is a kind of rap–but sung.  It’s bouncy and catchy but I sense is probably not a happy song, despite the catchy “hey ey ey heys” in the middle.

The song ends with a rumbling from Mendoza’s guitar as she starts up “Bruja de Brujas” [also played at Non-Comm].

There is a bruja energy and spirit to their performance, and not in the negative connotation that is the Spanish word for “witch.” In Luz Elena Mendoza’s hands a brujeria spirit is all about conjuring the kind of magic that took place on this video.

The song opens with a cool bass line and a somewhat menacing feel.  It starts quietly, but when all three vocalists sing together it’s really lovely.

At the end of the song she sinks to the ground to play with her effects as the song fades out with trippy sounds.   She jokes, “And aliens came down.:

Then she realizes, “we forgot to do one more.  Sorry the aliens did come down… and took my brain.”

The final song is the fantastic “Cuatro Crazy” [also played at Non-Comm].  It is sweet and pretty and has echoing guitars and a vocal style not unlike a Cocteau Twins song.  It even ends with a lot of “dah dah dah dahs.”

I really enjoy their music quite a lot and should really look into their stuff more.

[READ: October 6, 2019] “Abandoning a Cat”

This essay is, indeed, about abandoning a cat.  The cat story has a happy ending (although another one might not).  But mostly the essay is about how mundane events trigger memories of our parents.

He says that when he was little, his family had an older cat and they needed to get rid of it.  “Getting rid of cats back then was a common occurrence, not something that anyone would criticize you for.  The idea of neutering cats never crossed anyone’s mind.”

His father took the bike and he sat on the back with the cat in a box.  They rode to the beach about 2 km from their house, put the box down, and headed back.

When they returned home, they opened the door and there was the cat “greeting us with a friendly meow, its tail standing tall.”  His father’s expression of blank amazement “changed to one of admiration and, finally, to an expression of relief.  And the cat went back to being out pet.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LILY & MADELEINE-Free at Noon, World Cafe Live (February 22, 2019).

I was pretty happy to be at my desk for this Free at Noon show today.  After seeing Lily & Madeleine Wednesday night, I was keen to hear them live again.

I was also happy that a lot more people showed up for this show than my bad-weather event.

They played a truncated version of the show that I saw–nine of the fourteen songs.  Can their real set only be five more songs?  They focused entirely on new songs, except their encore, and wound up playing all but two of the new songs.(Circles and Bruises).

The sisters aren’t the most dynamic performers.  They are quiet and somewhat subdued–look to guitarist/cellist Shannon Hayden for the action.  But they more than make up for it with their voices.  Once again Lily & Madeleine sounded great and their harmonies were transcendent.

Their new songs are really great live–the addition of the cello really fleshes out their music beautifully.  And their drummer (who goes by one name and which once again I didn’t understand (Coffee?)) was fantastic.

They played the first three songs as my show.  They skipped the older songs and went right to Analog Love.  I was surprised they played “Supernatural Sadness” right after “Analog Love” because they are very different.  Analog is, as the chorus states, “slow and sweet” whereas “Supernatural” has a much more dancey, almost disco attitude,

They ended the set with “Pachinko” and then the band left so the could play “Go” with just the two of them.

After Helen Leicht came out to thank the band for coming, they did one more song, an encore of “Blue Blades.”  This song sounded amazing when I saw them both because of their voices but also because of the awesomely echoed cello.  And she had that same effect on the song here–it just sounds massive and almost otherworldly.  It’s amazing.

Definitely check them out, they are terrific live (this will no doubt be posted soon enough).

  1. Self Care
  2. Just Do It
  3. Canterbury Girls
  4. Analog Love
  5. Supernatural Sadness
  6. Can’t Help the Way I Feel
  7. Pachinko Song
  8. Go
    encore
  9. Blue Blades

[READ: February 20, 2019] Kitten Construction Company

I loved Green’s previous book Hippopotamister and I was pretty delighted with the premise of Kitten Construction Company.  But I had no idea how funny it would be.

The city of Mewburg (I only wish it was Mewlinburg) is preparing to build a new mayor’s mansion.  The city planner is looking at excellent design plans for the mansion.  As he talks about how wonderful the designs are, he pulls back the paper to reveal Marmalade, an adorable kitten.  He stops what he is doing to marvel at her cuteness.  Marmalade is upset by this.

Even more so when the city planner says they can’t have a cute kitten as an architect–“you’re just too adorable to be taken seriously.”

Marmalade stomps off (cutely) muttering that she went to school and she has a degree.   While she is trying to drown her sorrows in milk, she meets Sampson. a dishwasher who is actually an electrical engineer.  They are sick of not being taken seriously so they decide to start their own firm.  But first Sampson has to finish his shift (which is adorable and hilarious). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAC DEMARCO-“No Other Heart” (Field Recordings, August 10, 2015).

Mac Demarco is pretty famous now and seems to be pretty much everywhere.  And yet I actually don;t think I’d ever heard him before this recording.

I’m not even sure if it is in any way representative of his music.  But I love that you can hear the waves lapping.

For this song, Demarco says he bought a boat for his birthday.  It’s a small rowboat, which he rowed out into a bay in Queens “Take A Sunset Cruise With Mac DeMarco”) and began playing his song on a little keyboard. The music has an intentional weird vibrato on it but the recording sound is quite magnificent.

For the charismatic 26-year-old songwriter who grew up in the landlocked plains of Canada, the water still holds an exotic appeal. Plus, the area’s laid-back feel is a perfect match for his laconic delivery and perpetually chill personality.

He sounds a little goofy singing it–presumably intentionally–given the other clips of him goofing off on his boat.

DeMarco moved to this house [by the bay in Far Rockaway, Queens] last fall, after touring behind last year’s excellent Salad Days — just in time for the long, bleak East Coast winter — with the intention of playing his instruments loud and writing new music in isolation [the wistful, melodic mini-album Another One].  A shaggy and surfy collection of love songs, it’s suited for a lazy summer backyard barbecue or taking your second-hand rowboat out for a dusk cruise.

As the show ends, he goofs around singing “Don’t Rock the Boat” as the camerawoman walks up to him in waist deep water.

Behind him, sun-dappled waves are chopped up by freighter boats and the occasional jet ski passing by. Across the water sits JFK airport, with its distant engine hum of planes taking off and landing at a steady, rhythmic clip. The crisp, salty sea breeze mingles with wafts of stagnant water, decaying debris and dead horseshoe crabs that wash ashore.

[READ: June 2, 2018] Cleopatra in Space Book Four

T. brought this book home and I couldn’t believe that book four was out already (had it really been a year?).

This book opens with a reflection on the previous book and Octavian yelling at his soldier cat for not killing the girl.  He is provided with a bounty hunter–a dog-headed man who will stop at nothing to make sure that the Golden Lion is destroyed.

Octavian is shocked.   If they possessed the Golden Lion, they could firmly defeat P.Y.R.A.M.I.D.

Back at P.Y.R.A.M.I.D. at Yasiro Academy, we see Cleo doing battle against a whole bunch of robots in a simulator  Akira comes to take her to class but before they can go they are summoned before he Council.  When they arrive in front of the cat Council, Akira’s parents are there (they call her KiKi much to her annoyance).  They are happy to see her and very happy to meet Cleopatra for they have been studying her life and the prophecy for years. (more…)

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