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Archive for the ‘Sharks’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MAGOS HERRERA AND BROOKLYN RIDER-Tiny Desk Concert #849 (May 15, 2019).

Brooklyn Rider was on a Tiny Desk nearly a decade ago.  My main take away was how poorly it was lit.  I enjoyed them for their multicultural take on classical music.  For this Tiny Desk, they team up with Mexican singer Magos Herrera (whom I’ve never heard of).

When the intrepid string quartet known as Brooklyn Rider first visited the Tiny Desk nine years ago, no one knew what the musicians might play. They’re as likely to trot out an Asian folk tune as they are a string quartet by Beethoven, or one of their own compositions.

For this visit though, we knew exactly what was on tap. The band, fronted by the smoky-voiced Magos Herrera and backed by percussionist Mathias Kunzli, performed three songs from the album Dreamers, a collection steeped in Latin American traditions.

The versatile Mexican singer, who has never sounded more expressive, notes that these songs emerge from struggle.

She says, “Although there is a lot of light and usually I don’t sing that early, my heart is warm and expanding.”

The first song, Gilberto Gil’s bossa nova-inspired “Eu vim da Bahia” is “a tribute to his home state. He released it in 1965 as Brazil’s military dictatorship took charge.”  I love that between the heart-felt words, there is a gorgeous instrumental passage from the quartet (Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen: violins; Nicholas Cords: viola; Michael Nicolas: cello).

She says the songs transcend dark times with the values of their words.  Gil wrote the tune a year before the dictatorship was installed in Brazil

The atmospheric, flamenco-tinged “La Aurora de Nueva York,” composed by Vicente Amigo, has lyrics from a poem written by Federico García Lorca, the Spanish poet who wrote it while he was in residence in New York in the 1920s.  She says “A Poet in New York is my favorite book” and this poem is the most iconic poem from the book.  Her voice is smoky and impassioned.  There’s some wonderful pizzicato from the quartet.  There’s some lovely solo moments from the violins and some spectacular percussion sounds from Mathias Kunzli.

García Lorca, who fell to assassins during the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

The final track “Balderrama,” by the Argentine folk legend Gustavo Leguizamón, ruminates on a café which served as a safe haven for artists to talk about their work.

One of the members of Brooklyn Rider says that when they talked about this project, they wondered which songs to do.  Which would best represent beauty in the face of difficult circumstances–an antidote to cynicism.  What is most precious and beautiful to a culture.

This song and all of them certainly do that.

[READ: May 16, 2019] “The Presentation on Egypt”

I have enjoyed everything I’ve read by Bordas.  And I really enjoyed this one.  A story would have to be good if the apparent main character has your name and–before committing suicide–has to pull the plug on a brain-dead man with your son’s name.  [That was painful to read].

The story opens with Paul telling the wife of the brain-dead man that he is completely brain-dead.  Unlike on TV, he wasn’t going to magically snap out of it.  When the wife finally agreed to pull the plug and the main died, Paul went home, had a cigarette, and hanged himself.

Paul had a wife and a daughter (if either one had my wife or daughter’s name, I would have had to give Bordas a call).  Paul hanged himself in the laundry room, perhaps knowing that his daughter would never go in there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Harbour Station, Saint John, NB (December 08, 1996).

This is the 20th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.

This show opens with a Stompin’ Tom recording of “Bud the Spud.”  Then there’s some tuning up and some cool noises from Martin as they prepare to soar with “Song of Flight.”

They follow it with “Fat” and after the line, “I drank pop, ate Pez, laid down and played dumb” Dave explains, “I wasn’t really sick.”  They whole song is fun and they tack on a melody of “Artenings Made of Gold” at the end.

“All the Same Eyes” rocks a much faster than usual.  At the end, Tim says, “Get well soon, Willow.”  Wonder who that was.

Dave thanks St. John and describes the show as “a little matinee affair.  It’s like going to see a movie on a Sunday.”  He continues, “We’re from Toronto.  Actually we’re from Etobicoke.  We went to Vancouver, all the way to St John and now we’re crossing back.”

A fun “Motorino” is followed by “Four Little Songs” which Dave promises is “Four songs in One.  Honest.”  Tim: “What a deal.”

After the song Dave asks, “What was that last bit of shouting?  For “Record Body Count?”  We see we have some Green Sprouts in the audience.  They’re standing.  See them over there.  What are your names?  Rob is the leader I can tell because I heard his name.”

Instead of “RBC” they play “Bad Time to Be Poor” which segues into a nice “Self Serve Gas Station” in which Martin asks, “What went wrong with Nimrod?”  The ending has Martin playing a lengthy series of notes that just bumps abruptly into a ripping “RDA.”  Tim says “Bye,” at the end of the song but they jump into “Dope Fiends” instead.  Tim’s backing vocals sound particularly excellent during the end part.

After the roaring ending, the rhythm guitar picks out a lovely melody while Martin soars away.   Its a nifty denouement.

[READ: April 29, 2019 Science Comics: Sharks

Joe Flood has drawn many of the Science Comics books and this time he writes and draws it.  This one is all about sharks.  And what I found fascinating about this book is that there’s a bunch I didn’t know about sharks, but there’s not a lot to know about them overall.

The book opens with an introduction from David Shiffman a marine conservation biologist.  Then Flood gets right into it by talking about how the movie Jaws has unfairly harmed the reputation of sharks.  We must never forget that the sharks were here first (for millions of years–their ancestors go back 420 million years) and we are trespassing on their turf.

Like most of these Science Comics, there’s a narrative.  And the “story” of this book is of a stupid ship’s captain in the hunt for a shark.  He;s an ignorant and rather unpleasant guy but our guide is here to set him and us straight,.

We are also helped by out friend Red Snapper who is justifiably afraid of sharks. (more…)

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sahrakSOUNDTRACK: NO BS! BRASS BAND-Tiny Desk Concert #280 (June 15, 2013).

nobsWith a name like No BS! Brass Band, you think you know what you’re getting: brass and lots of it.  And while that is true, the Band goes way beyond what I anticipated a brass band would sound like (nothing like the far more traditional Canadian Brass for instance).

The blurb states:

Funky and danceable, the NO BS! Brass Band takes after the full black-music continuum you hear in groups like Rebirth or the Hot 8. But it’s also proggy, and a bit brutalizing, and full of pride in a different Southern outpost. The group’s new album is called RVA All Day, after all.  [I don’t know what that last line refers to].

Recently, Koehler, Pace and nine other musicians piled into a bus and journeyed up the freeway to NPR Music’s Tiny Desk in Washington, D.C. They blasted us with songs from the new album — it was so loud, you could hear the music on the other side of the building, a floor down.

The band includes:  Lance Koehler, drums ; Reggie Pace, trombone ; Bryan Hooten, trombone/vocals ; John Hulley, trombone ; Dillard Watt, bass trombone ; David Hood, alto saxophone ; Marcus Tenney, trumpet ; Sam Koff, trumpet ; Ben Court, trumpet ; Taylor Barnett, trumpet and Stefan Demetriadis, tuba.  And they play three super high energy largely instrumental songs that are obviously jazzy but which also have elements of the most fun marching band you’ve ever heard along with some rapping, some chanting and lots and lots of clapping.

The first song is all about “RVA All Day.”  And yet since that’s all they chant, I still don’t know what it means.   While the whole band plays loudly and powerfully, there’s a few solo moments as well.  First a trombone solo followed by a sax solo, then a trumpet and a super wild trombone solo (he gets some truly great, crazy sounds from that thing).  And then a huge surprise, midway through the song is a rap through a megaphone.

“Run Around” has a sing along to begin the song (and again, vocals through the megaphone).  It is also lively and a lot of fun.  The final song, “Infamous”sounds a lot more jazzy/big band.  It’s got a really nice groove.  The middle has a section with just tuba and trumpet where the rest of the band claps and shouts “Ho!” and it sounds great.  It’s also interesting watching how the different players “store” their instruments in different ways while clapping.

No BS! Brass band will totally make you wiggle your hips.

[READ: August 20, 2016] Shark Life

C. had to pick a book for summer reading and he chose this one.  He enjoyed it so much, that he encouraged me to read it too.  And I’m really glad I did.  Although it wasn’t until writing this that I realized that this book was adapted for young people by Karen Wojtyla.  And yet I can’t find any mention of a grown up version of this book anywhere.  So who knows.

Anyhow,  Peter Benchley (who died in 2006) is the author of Jaws, and this book is full of stories of his life in and on the sea.  For, in addition to being an author, Benchley was a diver and explorer.  And his tales are both exciting and full of conservationist ideas.

The book opens in 1974. After the success of Jaws, Benchley had been invited to Australia to be on The American Sportsman.  He was going to be swimming in a cage with sharks feeding around him.  They put him in the cage, strapped all kinds of good food to it and left him there (okay they were close by).  But a few things went awry and suddenly things weren’t quite as safe as they could be. The shark got caught in Benchley’s air line and then panicked.  And a panicking shark is never a good thing. (more…)

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coralSOUNDTRACK: SACKVILLE-These Last Songs (1997).

lastsiongs Sackville released two full length albums.  This was the first. They’d added a second guitar which gave their songs a bit more texture.  But they still had a kind of gritty folk music sound.  I saw the term “urban country” used to describe them, which is strangely apt.

“Sydney Mines” is a slow folk song with a quiet slow guitar motif.  I love the descriptive lyrics: “In the dead of winter in Sydney Mines they take their cars out on the ice.” The song is accented by a slow, scratchy violin that comes in after the first verse.  But the chorus gets rocking and kind of fun/sloppy with the drums really taking over.  The vocals don’t really change the laconic style but they do get noticeably louder.  “Clothesline” retains that slowness although the verses have a bit more sing-song quality.  And once again the chorus bursts into life with a raw violin and loud drums.

The excellent guitar riff that opens “Good Citizen” is quite a change—the song picks up speed (and the vocals sound very different–clipped and quick).  It’s a great alt folk song.  The chorus is lurching and interesting as well.  “Upstate” has an early 1990s guitar line and pounding chords at the end of each verse.  The juxtaposition of his voice with this electric song works nicely.  “Tie Back Yr Hair” returns to the slow style of the earlier songs although this melody is mostly led by the violin.  “Lines and Barriers” is a slow ballad, mostly guitar—it reminds me of Syd Barrett.

“The Frame-Up’ has more loud drums and quiet creaking violins.  Nearly four minutes in, the violin takes over with a staccato refrain that gets the song sounding more intense.  “Bender” adds a pleasant surprise with guest vocalist Genevieve Heistek taking lead vocals.  The music is much the same but her voice changes the overall style of the music quite a bit.  The addition of fuzzy static at the end adds an alt-rock touch.  “Invisible Ink” has the prettiest violin melody yet, an unscratchy ascending melody that complements the slow guitars.  And just as it seems to be another slow ballad, the 3rd minute ramps up the electric guitar and the song soars for about 20 seconds before returning to that main melody.

“Her Ghost Will One Day Rise Again” has the most country feel of the album—the violin is much more fiddle than violin and the simple melody is very catchy, but in a drunken hillbilly kind of way rather than a country song proper (which means a I like it better).  On “Border Towns” he sounds the most like the lead singer from Social Distortion.  This is a lurching kinda punk y song, although it’s the chorus that really has that Social D feel—a slow catchy chorus in which his delivery is uncanny.  “Pioneers” ends the disc with a downbeat song with really catchy lyrics: “It’s hard to be a pioneer” in the keening voice of the 12-year-old protagonist.

Given the popularity of alt-country, Sackville was sadly ignored.

[READ: June 10, 2016] Coral Reefs

Wicks created the Human Body Theater graphic novel (also from First Second), which I absolutely loved.  This book is part of First Second’s new Science Comics series, in which they take a good hard look at scientific things and present a ton of information in a fun cartoony format–easily digestible chunks with awesome pictures that convey a lot of information.

I loved the dinosaurs one for just how much new information I’d learned from it.

This book has a really inspirational forward about scuba diving which I thought was by wicks (and I wondered how she was so scholarly AND an artist), but it was actually by Randi Rotjan from the New England Aquarium (and is still inspirational).

I didn’t know a ton about coral reefs going into this book and man, is it full of information about them: how they grow and form (yes, they are animals), who lives among them and what we can do to protect them. (more…)

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extremeSOUNDTRACK: QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE-…Like Clockwork (2013).

qotsa I have loved the earlier QOTSA albums, but I just couldn’t get into this one when it came out.  Perhaps it was too…subtle?  I put it aside, heard everyone rave about it and kind of forgot about it.  Well, I recently rediscovered it and now I get it.  It is just as good and complex as everyone said–I think I was just missing the subtleties, yes.

It’s still very QOTSA–Josh Homme is Josh Homme after all, but there are added elements–pianos, strings (!) and slower sections that add depth and bring really interesting sonic textures to their sound that make this album far more complex but no less sleazy fun.

The roaring sounds that are the guitars of “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” (accompanied by that bottom heavy bass are just fantastic.  “I Sat By the Ocean” has a chorus that goes from good to great when it builds to a second set of chords–it’s really irresistible.  I recall being surprised by the ballad “The Vampyre of Time and Memory.” Okay not a ballad exactly but a piano intro that turns into a classic rocker (complete with lengthy guitar solo).

“If I Had a Tail” is a wonderfully sleazy track with a great riff and a great sound.  It’s also got some of the more unusual lyrics I’ve heard–“If I had a tail, I’d own the place.  If I had a tail I’d swat the flies.”  It’s followed by “My God is the Sun” another great riff-based song where Homme’s falsetto is just another catchy element of the song.  It also has another great chorus (why didn’t I like this album last year?).

“Kalopsia” slows the disc down quite a lot–it’s a pretty, gentle song.  Until you get used to it being a mellow song and then it turns into a real rocker (and back again).  “Fairweather Friends” has another great riff and a funny ending with Homme cutting off his chorus and saying “I don’t give a shit about them anyway.”  “Smooth Sailing” reintroduces that sleazy falsetto.  It has a (another) great chorus and an amazing guitar riff that is slowly manipulated into sounding really alien.  It’s very cool.

Most of the songs are pretty standard length, but the final two songs really stretch out.  “I Appear Missing” pushes 6 minutes and has some slower elements, and a great guitar section that connects them all.  The five and a half-minute “Like Clockwork” also starts with a lengthy piano intro and then morphs into another classic rock soloing type song.

It’s one of the best albums of 2013 that I didn’t realize until 2014.  I do wish they lyrics sheet was included as I’m not really sure what he’s saying half the time, and I’m not sure if my guesses make any more or less sense than the actual words.

[READ: September 2014] The Extreme Life of the Sea

I saw this book when I took a tour of the Princeton University Press building.  I loved the cover and thought it seemed like a really interesting topic.  I was later pretty delighted to see it on display in my local library, where I grabbed this copy.

The book is small, but I was a little daunted by the tiny print size (old age or laziness?).  Nevertheless, I was quite interested in the subject, so I pressed on.

Interestingly, a lot of the information that I read in the book, my nine-year old son also knew about–he loves this kind of scary undersea information.  The difference here is that the Palumbis (a father and son team–Stephen is a Professor of Biology, Anthony is a science writer and novelist) write for adults and include a lot of the scientific information to support and explain all the stuff that my son knows–although he knew a surprising amount of detail as well.

And the writing was really enjoyable too.  Anthony knows how to tell a story.  The Prologue itself–about the battle between sperm whale and giant squid–is quite compellingly told.  And whenever an actual creature is involved–he engages us with the creature’s life cycle. (more…)

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waterSOUNDTRACK: TRACY SILVERMAN-Tiny Desk Concert #368 (June 28, 2014).

Ttracyracy Silverman is an electronic violinist. In addition to playing the violin, he uses loops to build his sound (I love how many people are using loops these days).  Not only that, he has created his own violin–a six string with frets on the three low strings.  (It’s also shaped more like a guitar than a violin). He gets an incredible breadth of sound out of it (and he is an amazing violinist as well).

He plays three tracks. The first is “Matisse: La Danse,” which really shows off the breadth of his instrument and the effects that he uses.

The second piece he introduces by saying how much he loves listening to NPR and composer BJ Liederman.  So for the second song, which he calls “Sonata No. 4, Opus 37 “All Notes Considered”” he uses pieces of the themes from All Things Considered and Morning Edition.  It’s at once familiar and new, and it’s quite pretty.  He then takes a video of the studio for his Facebook feed.

The final song “Axis And Orbits/Mojo Perpetuo” opens with a trippy pizzicato section, which sounds echoey and almost underwater.  As that section loops, he plays slow, long bowed notes that seems to bring you into outer space.  By the end, after some interesting scratchy guitar-like sounds, he moves into a much faster solo section which really shows of his chops.

I’d never heard of Silverman before but I was pretty impressed with his technique and technology.  It’s a pretty wild ride of music–such diversity and unexpected sounds our of a simple (or not) violin.

[READ: July 5, 2014] Water Baby

I recognized the art from Ross Campbell immediately.  He writes and draws Wet Moon and I find his style (he draws women who are very powerful and very sexual) arresting and confrontational.  This book almost seems like it doesn’t belong at Minx, which tended to skew a little younger.  Even though these girls prove to be younger than I thought, their dress (or lack of—there’s a lot of underwear and tight shirts) is quite risqué (although it proves to be less explicit that Wet Moon).

The story itself was rather unexpected as well.  Brody is a surfer girl. She has cool punky hair and a rocking bod.  But in the first few pages, she is out on the water when she is attacked by a shark and loses a leg.  When she wakes up her best friend Louisa is there, taking care of her.  Since Brody’s mom is working full time, she asks if she can stay with Louisa —the answer is yes, and Louisa becomes an essential part of Brody’s life.  Many of Campbell’s stories focus on the young people, rather than the parents.

Brody soon learns to use a prosthetic leg (and crutches when necessary), but she can’t stop dreaming about the shark (which gets bigger in her dreams and sometimes has legs or comes through walls—it’s pretty terrifying).

Brody gets a call from Jake, and old boyfriend.  Brody hates Jake now and even says she’s off of boys for good.  But he shows up anyhow—he’s blond and hot and maybe a little stupid.  Stupid or not he is a total mooch and he asks to crash with them for a few days.  Jake is clearly crushing on Brody, but he is also making moves on Louisa (who has bigger boobs and tighter shirts).  He even brings a third girl over to fool around with (which freaks out everyone else in the house). But it’s not until the girls wake up one morning to see that Jake has thrown up all over their house that they evict him—which means an immediate drive to Rochester NY. (more…)

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