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Archive for the ‘Danica Novgorodoff’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE LEMON TWIGS-Tiny Desk Concert #694 (January 17, 2018).

I first heard The Lemon Twigs on All Songs Considered and found their albums to be quite a lot of retro pop fun.

So it’s no surprise they wound up  at a Tiny Desk Concert, although this one is in support of an EP which I haven;t heard yet.

Bob Boilen notes: It’s as if brothers Brian (20) and Michael (18) D’Addario fell from the sky, victims of a transporter beam gone awry in 1971, and landed here at my desk with guitars in hand.  It was almost eerie seeing two young adults at my desk who look an awful lot like I and many of my friends did back around 1970. It’s uncanny, almost as if Brian and Michael have been somehow shielded from the 21st century

I really loved the production excess on The Lemon Twigs’ album, so I was a bit taken back at this stripped down version (no drums!).

At this Tiny Desk Concert, the layers of sound found in The Lemon Twigs’ recordings are stripped away, which makes the lyrics more noticeable, words that at times feel destined for a Broadway stage.  It’s fair to say that the strength of The Lemon Twigs is in the songwriting and the way they layer their recordings with their multi-instrumental talents. I love what they do, not as nostalgia but for its explorations of melody, harmony and lyrics that are memorable. Even stripped down, they are a whole lot of fun.

After the surprise of the stripped down sound wore off, I really started to like these songs for what they are.  Amusingly all three songs were written by Brian, which Michael is somewhat snarky about.

“Beautiful” is a delicate ballad with Brain singing and playing acoustic guitar.  The addition of simple electric guitar licks and backing harmony vocals really elevates the song.  Despite the pretty melody, the lyrics are rather dark

He concludes that it all is a dream
Can’t accept that sometimes a life is just destined for pain
I can’t do anything
I am nothing
Our lives are meaningless
Swim in the sunshine

But there’s a surprise twist at the end: I am nothing / I’m no one / It is wonderful

“Why Didn’t You Say That” is far more upbeat with bouncing piano.  It sound s bit fuller with the piano chords and a full electric guitar (chords and a solo).  The addition of some minor chords adds a dramatic twist to this mostly happy sounding song.  I enjoyed him sliding his pick up the strings at the end for an extra bit of noise.

Because their album is called Do Hollywood, I had it in my head that they were from California.  But hearing Michael talk, they are clearly from Long Island.  Especially when he jokes that they’re doing another one of Brian’s songs.  Brian says, “you’re the spokesperson.”  Michael says, “You’re so quiet.  Is something wrong?”  Brain brightly responds, “everything’s right!”  After some silence, Michael says, “No, I’m fine” to much chuckling.

“Light and Love” ends the set back on the acoustic guitar with some nice falsetto vocals.  The ending is a bit sloppy, but in a charming way.

Evidently when they play live, they do have a full band.  I’d be interested in seeing them live, but not as a stripped down project–I like their production too much.

[READ: October 5, 2017] “September All Year Long”

I have enjoyed many stories from Etgar Keret.  This is the first one I’ve seen illustrated.

And to have it illustrated by Novgorodoff  is pretty great too.   She uses her watercolor and pen style to create a feeling of lightness within heaviness.

The story talks about NW: nice weather, the status symbol for wealthy families.  As the ads say:

If you lived in Arctic Greenland and the snow and grayness were driving you crazy, swipe your credit card and they’ll set you up with ‘a perfect autumn day in Cannes’ on your balcony every day of the year

Novgorodoff illustrates this with a man drinking an umbrella drink on his balcony–a ray of sunshine beaming down on him while a blustery cold wind is blowing in the gray night sky. (more…)

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sweater SOUNDTRACK: ÁSGEIR-Tiny Desk Concert #397 (October 18, 2014).

asgeirÁsgeir Trausti Einarsson is an Icelandic singer songwriter.  He has a beautiful soft soaring voice.  He released his debut album Dýrð í dauðaþögn in Icelandic (it became the biggest-selling debit in Icelandic music history).  A year later he reissued it in English (with translation help from John Grant who was living in Iceland) as In the Silence and finally (the version I have, as a 3 disc set with the Icelandic and English discs as well as a selection of bonus songs.

“On That Day” is a pretty, guitar based song (Ásgeir plays the main melody line and has guitar accompaniment (and backing vocals) from his childhood friend Julius Róbertsson.

For the final two songs, Ásgeir switches to piano.  “Torrent” has gorgeous vocal harmonies. It’s interesting how much more deliberate this song feels–not quite staccato, but the piano chords don’t really ring out, letting each note stand on its own.

For this Tiny Desk, he stripped down the songs, getting to their core.  They’re not flashy, they’re just lovely.

The final song he plays, “Higher” is the first song on the record (interestingly “On that Day” is the final song on the record).  It has a very slow, delicate piano melody and is also soothing and beautiful.

And in a cool synchronicity at the end of the show Bob tells Ásgeir  that he’s playing at the same piano that John Grant played on a few months earlier.

[READ: July 2, 2016] Sweaterweather

Back in 2003, Sara Varon published her first book called Sweaterweather.  This collection includes all of the original 8 stories as well as a few more.  Each story gets a brief introduction from Varon which makes me like her even more (she’s quite funny).

Most of the stories are short(2-3 p[ages) and most don’t seem to have a title.  The contents page is actually thumbnails from each story.

When I first saw Varon’s style, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  It is so innocent and childlike.  And I have really grown to love it–especially when these sweet animals characters (they’re pretty much all animals) tackle some intense feelings. (more…)

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aboveSOUNDTRACK: DO MAKE SAY THINK-& Yet & Yet [CST020] (2002).

DmstandyetandyetAfter the previous album, keyboardist Jason McKenzie departed the band.  I’m not entirely sure how this impacted the band, but this album is warmer and a little more delicate feeling.  It’s also their first album that was recorded all in the same place (in band member Justin Small’s house).

The disc opens with static and effects before a jazzy drumbeat comes in.   “Clasic Noodlanding” is mellow with a complex (for them) riff on the guitar and nice washes of keyboards.  It is primarily atmospheric until about two minutes in when it suddenly changes with the introduction of a great bass line.  And then this atmospheric song turns really catchy. The five and a half-minutes feel too short in this song.

“End of Music” opens with jazzy drums and keyboards.  It’s a slow piece that stretches to nearly 7 minutes.  About half way through the song, the drums come crashing in and a brighter, noisier melody takes over.  This end section is really catchy with some great chords and excellent drumming.

“White Light Of” opens with a cool slow bass line and drum pattern.  As the song grows in complexity I like the new bass rumble that is added and the way the guitar lines seem to intertwine. About half way through horns get added to the mix, quietly at first and then they slowly take over the song. About five minutes in the song comes to abrupt halt with some interesting echoed effects on the drums. It resumes again with a stranger version of the song—it feels unsettled and really interesting, with a nice riff interspersed with one that feels off somewhat.

“Chinatown” opens unlike any DMST song.  The bass sounds electronic and skittery with some interesting keyboard sounds over the top (it actually sounds a bit like later period Radiohead).  The song is slow and moody for all of its 5 and half minutes with keyboard washes and skittery guitars.  There are quotes thrown in throughout the song but I can’t tell what they are saying.  This song was features in the film Syriana.

“Reitschule” is one of two songs that are 9 minutes long. It opens with a slow meandering guitar line interspersed with another guitar playing an interesting counterpoint.  A cool bassline comes in around 2:30 which takes the song in a new direction.  Horns propel the song along until about 4 minutes when a jangly guitar takes over the song. It builds with some abrasive guitar chords until everything washes away except the bass.  And then it rebuilds as something else.  Distant horns play in the back as the guitars play overlapping lines.  It’s an epic song that demonstrates how much this band can do.

“Soul and Onward” has a pretty conventional melody line. It’s warm and friendly It also features wordless vocals by Tamara Williamson. I love the little tiny guitar lick that works as a bridge between the two sections.  This is my favorite song on this record.

“Anything for Now” is the other 9 minute song. It is slow and pastoral to start with a beautiful multi-guitar piece with gentle drums. At around 4:30 all the instrument vanish except for a single organ note. It plays for a bout a minute and it seems like the disc will end that way but then the chords build up again from the drone.  An acoustic guitar lick begins around 7 minutes in and runs through the end of the song.

Overall this album is more mellow than their previous discs, and there are some amazingly beautiful sections of music on this album.

[READ: February 8, 2016] Above the Dreamless Dead

I’m continuing with books that I wouldn’t normally read, to celebrate First Second’s #10yearsof01 challenge and to read something out of my comfort range.

This is a collection of poetry about World War I, written before during and just after the war.  Each of the poems is illustrated by a different contemporary artist.

As you can imagine, the book is pretty gloomy.  But the poetry is pretty spectacular and the illustrations were really interesting.  Obviously this book is not going to be a happy one.  But some of the artists do add a more positive spin on the poems (while some are just brutally violent as well). (more…)

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how you dieSOUNDTRACK: DIARRHEA PLANET-“Lite Dream” Live on KEXP (2014).

dpHow to pass up a band with a name like this?  Well, it’s pretty easy, actually.  Who would even want to say their name?

The name conjures images, no, let’s not go there.  The name conjures music that is just abrasive and rude–ten second punks songs.  But in reality, their music is pretty traditional old school heavy metal.  They have 4 lead guitarists after all! (There’s 6 guys in the band altogether, surprisingly, there’s no women).   One of the lead guitarists even plays with his teeth (for a few seconds).

This song is about heavy metal, although I’m not sure what about it.  There’s some big riffs, solos galore.  There’s even a classic 80s style dual lead guitar solo.  There’s big loud drums.  There’s feedback.  It’s everything you think of as heavy metal, with a seeming wink and nod thrown in.

This is basically a goofy feel good band, playing fast heavy metal.  Shame about the band name, though, really.

Watch it all here.

[READ: spring and summer 2014] This is How You Die

It is quite disconcerting to open a Christmas present from your wife and have the first thing you see be the words “This is How You Die.”  To then look at her confusedly and try to interpret the look of excited delight on her face as she wonders why you’re not excited.  Then she explains that it is a sequel to the interesting collection Machine of Death that you both had read several years ago (but which I evidently never posted about).  Sighs of relief and then Christmas can proceed with more merriment.

So over the course of the new year I read these stories and I enjoyed most of them quite a lot.

The premise of the book is that there is a Machine of Death.  This machine states how you will die, but it does not give you a time, place or real definition of what it means by hope you will die.  Statements seem obvious but may in fact be different in some twisted way.  As it says on the back of the book, OLD AGE could mean either dying of natural causes or being shot by an elderly bedridden man in a botched home invasion.  The book revels in the irony that you can know how it’s going to happen , but you’ll still be surprised when it does.

The way the machine works is that you insert your finger, it takes a blood sample and gives you a card with the way you die printed on it.  No matter how many times you do it you will get the same result.  These are the guidelines, and each author made a story with just that set up.

Pretty cool right?  The first collection was really great.  And so is this collection, done by writers and cartoonists that I had never heard of before.  There are 34 stories and 12 comic strips (it’s a hefty collection).  Because each story is basically about how a person dies, I had to think about how best to review the book–without giving away any twists.  So I think the title and a very brief plot will have to suffice.

There’s even a funny promo video for the book (at the end of the post). (more…)

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