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Archive for the ‘Crabs’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: NATALIE PRASS-Tiny Desk Concert #827 (February 25, 2019).

I know Natalie Prass because “Short Court Style” was absolutely ubiquitous.  WXPN overplayed this song to death this summer.  At first I didn’t think much of it and then it clicked and I loved it.  The bassline is fantastic and the vocals are just amazing.  I was genuinely surprised to find out that Natalie Prass was white, because she sounded so soulful.

I genuinely had no idea who she was, so I was surprised that the accolades were so effusive and people spoke of her as if she were a legend.  Well, this is only her second album, but it really struck a nerve.

Full disclosure: We here at NPR Music have decreed Natalie Prass something of a patron saint for roséwave — our groove-laden, pink drink-soaked soundtrack for the summer. So, when the Richmond, Va. artist arrived at the Tiny Desk, it was a cause for celebration, especially amid the January blues that seemed to permeate the NPR Music office. Decked out in matching, cobalt blue outfits (with a matching keyboard stand to boot), Prass and her backing band, comprised of Eric Slick: drums; Alan Parker: guitar; Jacob Ungerleider: keys; and Brandon Lane: bass, seemed to bring a warm breeze in with them.

“Oh My” opens with a thumping bass.  When the picture appears, everyone is wearing electric blue.  The song is very funky and Natalie does a great job with her little interjections of “No,” “hey,” “oh ho ho ho” and the titular “Oh My.”  There’s a funky bass solo midsong.  And throughout, Natalie is just so cool.

I didn’t really get a sense of the lyrics so I was surprised to read this:

There’s a sly political bent to Prass’ 2018 album, The Future and the Past. Ahead of its release, she said she actually had a different album nearly finished, but scrapped a huge chunk of it after [trump’s] election, which in turn led her to make this album instead. She highlights this mission statement on the album opener — and first song she performed at the desk — “Oh My.” It’s a track that speaks pointedly about the abject feeling of horror and exhaustion that seeps in when you tune into the news cycle, with bleak lyrics set against bright, dance-y music.

For “Short Court Style” (I always assumed it was called “Round and Round”), she brings out her backing singers, Angelica Garcia and Kenneka Cook: vocals.  Everything sounds fantastic here live.  She seems so free and easy singing this song, it’s a delight to watch her.  And those funky bass lines are great.

Before closing with “Hot for the Mountain,” Prass tells the NPR office that “the song’s a little off the beaten path, but, I don’t know, it’s my favorite.” “We’ll take you on / We can take you on,” Prass, Garcia and Cook sing in unison, a refrain that resounds emphatically. Her vision was clear: If you want to overcome the times, find strength in numbers.

I don’t see what’s so odd about it.  It doesn’t have a big hook like the other two songs, but there is a sing along chorus.

[READ: January 31, 2019] Cucumber Quest 3

Book three opens as our heroes arrive at Trebleopolis which is celebrating its birthday (clowns are everywhere).  And no one celebrates louder than Queen Cymbal.  She reveals that Princess Piano is going to perform a concert.  All our heroes want is the Princess’ signature on their sword (she has signed weirder things), but they are told they have to wait until after the show.  (It’s 110 minutes long…that’s like MORE than an hour).

But as the curtain opens, it’s not Princess Piano, but Noisemaker who comes out.  Noisemaster is a hiphop DJ who is not only annoying but quite evil.  For he is one of Nightmare Knight’s Disaster Masters and our heroes’ next conquest.  Nightmare Knight makes an early appearance and is not playin’ with Noisemaster’s shtick: “I cannot believe you are still acting like this…  I am being exceedingly ‘real’ Noisematser.”   He ends, I will allow you this chance to prove yourself  Do not waste it.

Noisemaster’s plan is to destroy the whole city if the noise machine hits 100%.  And with Piano’s loud voice that should be no problem.

We learn that the Melody Kingdom was divided by two kings King Treble and King Bass. They fought and had to be separated by a wall which the Oracle created.   The two sides have not seen each other in decades.  The wall, named Mezzo is very chill and tells them exactly the kind of convoluted quest they need to go on to get the key to open the doors in the wall.  Of course Almond and Carrot are right on that quest and they take off. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RODRIGO Y GABRIELA-“Echoes” (2019).

Rodrigo y Gabriela are amazing guitarists.  Rod plays amazing solos wile Gab plays an astonishing rhythmic counterpoint (both on acoustic).  Although they do play classical and Spanish styles (and so much more) they often mix heavy metal elements into their songs.  I have seen them twice live and they blew me away each time.

They are back with their first album in five years.  And they have just released a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” an 18 minute song that I just love.

And their version is utterly fascinating.  How do two guitarists plan to cover Pink Floyd?  Well, the beginning of the song is a great, recognizable riff, so they play that and Rod plays the vocal line when that comes around.

The middle of the original gets really trippy and kind of dark, with all kinds of synth sounds.  So what do Rod y Gab do?  They embrace what they do best–with Gab playing an incredible rhythm, Rod takes an opportunity to shuffle around in a solo (there’s certainly some looping overdubbing here).  The middle quiets down to them just scraping strings and pounding the guitar and splaying single echoing notes.  It’s not as dark as the original, but it’s still a weird and somewhat unsettling passage.

The song comes out of the middle darkness with  a rollicking solo and a huge buildup from both guitars.

It resumes the song and finishes much like the original in about 18 minutes.  It’s spectacular.

Learn more about it and watch the video here.

[READ: January 25, 2019] Cucumber Quest 2

It has been a while since I read Cucumber Quest 1, so details were a little fuzzy, but the humor of the book is still awesome (especially the way it undercuts hero tropes.

Cucumber wakes up on an island and as he is calling for his friends, he steps on a cell phone.  As he goes to use it, someone shouts NOOO!

It is a young female bunny creature arguing with a crab.  The crab (and all of the crabs) are crabby.  They doubt that she is Princess Nautilus even if she claims she is.  Cucumber takes out his magic wand and it actually works!   He saves her.  Woah.

She says he can call her Nautilus.  He suggests “How about Nautie for sh–” and then realizes what he said. (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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