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Archive for the ‘Tucker Nichols’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BAS-Tiny Desk Concert #875 (August 5, 2019).

I’ve never heard of Bas, but he performs a surprisingly upbeat-sounding set of songs for lyrics with so many curses.

Bas, the Paris-born, Queens-bred MC delivered an energetic and comical set.  Just like his lyrically impressive and sometimes dance-inducing Tiny Desk — peep his headbanging and seated sambas throughout — Bas always balances his bravado with a relatable sense of humility.

The four songs are from his third studio album, Milky Way.

“Barack Obama Special” starts with this fascinating lyric:
This one is dedicated to
My bitch ass neighbors, haha, yeah
‘Cause I’m living better now, better now
Bitch I’m living better now
Yeah
I had to move ’cause neighbors so racist

But he makes sure to clarify

“My new neighbor’s mad cool. So shout out to Peggy.  Peggy be picking up my mail when I’m on tour.  I don’t want her to watch and be like I thought you was such a nice young man.”

The song segued into “Purge” which starts with a simple but cool sounding guitar riff from Nathan Foley.  Sweet keys are sprinkled over the top.  Mereba and Justin Jackson provide gentle backing vocals.  Ron Gilmore adds some very cool bass lines from the keys throughout all the songs.

“Designer” has some cool off tempo synth lines and ends with a ripping distorted Prince-like guitar solo.

The song finishes with a bouncy instrumental section and Bas says, “I feel like I just won the whole circuit in Mario Kart.  Where’d you get that music from?  Don’t get me sued.  Nintendo coming for us.”

Ron Gilmore then plays a fun little circus music riff and Bas says, “Nintendo cut the check!”

Throughout the set, Johnathon Lee Lucas on drums is a lot of fun to watch as he’s got a whole array of drums and pads to play.

They are having so much fun they almost forget to play the last song “Tribe.”  This one ends with another nice instrumental jam which Bas says went on for much longer than they rehearsed–that was cool.

[READ: August 1, 2019] This Bridge Will Not Be Gray

Dave Eggers has written all kinds of books through his career.  This was his first children’s book (with cut-out art by Tucker Nichols).

Eggers is from San Francisco and he loves his home city.  This book is a love letter to the Golden Gate Bridge and the area that inspired it.

I honestly had no idea about any of the information in this book, so it was educational for me as well.

For instance, I did not realize that the passageway between the bay and the ocean was called The Golden Gate.  Thus, that’s why the Bridge is named that, not because it was supposed to be gold. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAMBCHOP- “2B2” (2012).

I don’t have much exposure to Lambchop.  I know of  them mostly as a slow, country-type band.  And that’s why I haven’t listened to them much.  So I picked one song from their latest album, Mr. M, to talk about (because they are associated with Five Dials, see below).

And, indeed, they are slow.  I wouldn’t say country so much as roots, maybe, traditional folk or something.  It’s certainly slow.  This song reminds me in someways of Tindersticks, although a very stripped down Tindertsicks.  Of course, what I like about Tindertsicks is that they are not stripped down.  So this song kind of leaves me a little flat.  I like it, but I’ve already got music that’s like this ti listen to.

I’ll bet though, that it would make great background music to an engaging story (see below).  I wonder what song they chose to remix.  It’s be crazy if I picked it.

[READ: May 3, 2012] Five Dials 23

Five Dials 23 was recently released with quite little fanfare.  That may be because it is like an appetizer for the soon to be released Issue 24 which promises to be very large.

Five Dials 23 contains only one piece (and an Letter from the Editor).  The piece is by Javier Marías, whom I’ve read and enjoyed and have put on my list of authors to explore more.

CRAIG TAYLOR-“On That Fiction Feeling and Lambchop”

Craig Taylor’s introduction wonderfully encapsulates why I prefer to read fiction to non-fiction.  I have friends who say they only like to read non-fiction because at least they’re learning something (or some variant of that).  And while it’s compelling to argue that you learn stuff from fiction too, it’s not always easy to prove.  So Taylor’s Letter from the Editor is where I can point people in the future:

I remember it happened when I read part of Runaway by Alice Munro, specifically the three linked short stories ‘Chance’, ‘Soon’ and ‘Silence’. I remember the names of the North London streets I was compelled to walk – from Messina Avenue to Woodchurch Road to Greencroft Gardens – just to free myself from the sensation that had blossomed within me after I set down the book. During that walk, the neighbourhood seemed raw and responsive. I was unsettled, but in the best possible way; I was in the midst of experiencing the kind of sadness that can only be induced by fiction, which is more potent sadness than most. Also in this jumble of sensation brought on by Munro was a vow to live better, to somehow dodge the mistakes of her characters. There was a bit of a ‘what the hell am I doing with my life?’; a bit of a ‘pay attention to the details’; a bit of an ‘appreciate life more’. In short, the great inner churning that comes at the end of a few extraordinary pieces of fiction.

The details aren’t relevant, it’s the overall mood and idea that he conjures that is.  Although he mentioned Munro, he begins to talk about The Leopard by Tomasi di Lampedusa.  How this debut (and only) novel has left a strong impact not only on him and many more who have read it but also on Marías.  And that that it was Marías’ essay is about: The Leopard.

The second half of his introduction talks about the next issue and that a 10″ vinyl album will be released with it.  It will feature a double A side with author Hollis Hampton-Jones reading from her novel Comes the Night, while backed by Lambchop.  The other side features a remix of a song by Lambchop from their Mr. M album.  The end of the Letter from the Editot is given over to Hampton-Jones and her remembrance of the recording session.  (It’s very cool).

EMILY ROBERTSON and TUCKER NICHOLS drew the cool pictures of leopards.

JAVIER MARÍAS-“Hating The Leopard

This essay, translated by Margaret Jull Costa,talks about the novel The Leopard and how as a novelist, Marías hates it, even though as a reader, he loves it.

I love the surprising way he opens this: There is no such thing as the indispensable author or novel.”  Because even if the best novelist in the world never wrote, the world woul dnot be different.  I also love this insight, which I actually used recently when talking about Ulysses to someone (yes, I’m that guy) that books which “aspired to being ‘modern’ or ‘original’… leads inevitably to an early senescence or, as others might say, they become ‘dated.’  …. They can sometimes seem slightly old-fashioned or, if you prefer, dated, precisely because they were so innovative, bold, confident, original and ambitious.”  But he quickly points out that The Leopard does not fall into this dated category.

Before explaining why The Leopard has stayed with him, he gives some basic background about its publication and near lack of publication.  Indeed, Tomasi di Lampedusa (how do you say that last name?) died before it was published (but not before receiving several rejection letters).  What’s especially surprising is why he wrote the novel in the first place: “the relative late success of his cousin, the poet Lucio Piccolo…led Lampedusa to make the following comment in a letter: ‘Being absolutely certain that I was no more of a fool than he, I sat down at my desk and wrote a novel.'”  Nothing inspires like jealousy!  He also wrote because he was a solitary person.  He was married, but he seems to spend a lot of time alone.  He wanted the book published but not at the expense of his heirs (that’s nice).

Marías talks a bit about why he finds the book so extraordinary (although he says that so much has been written about the novel that he is reluctant to add more).  But one thing that impressed upon him was how the book is about preparing for death, but how, “Death stalks the book not in any insistent way, but tenuously, respectfully, modestly, almost as part of life and not necessarily the most important part either.”  As far as hating the book, Marías feels that perhaps some novelists have earned the right to hate it.

I always enjoy Five Dials.  I can only hope that my posting about it here can get more people to check it out.  Now to see why my library doesn’t have a  copy of The Leopard.

For ease of searching I include: Javier Marias.

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SOUNDTRACK: NEIL YOUNG-Trans (1982).

By most standards this Neil Young album is a disaster.  It’s so bad that despite updating his entire catalog and releasing all kinds of bootleg concerts, he has never issued this disc on CD in the States.  So, just what’s so awful about this disc?

Well, mostly it’s awful as a Neil Young disc.  Meaning, if you like Neil Young (either flavor: country/folk or hard rock/grunge) this disc is a big fat HUH??  Neil Young has gone all synthy?  And not just synth but computerized synthy–sometimes his voice is utterly like a computer.  It’s a travesty, it’s a shame, it’s an incredible surprise.  Unless you listen to it without thinking of it as a Neil Young record.

But after all that introduction, the biggest surprise is the first song.  You’ve been prepped for this weird album full of computer nonsense and you get the fairly standard (if a little dull) rockabilly type music of “A Little Thing Called Love.”  It’s a pretty standard Neil Young song for the time.  Hmm, maybe the album isn’t that weird.

Well, then comes “Computer Age” and the keyboards kick in.  Interestingly, to me anyhow, this is the year that Rush released Signals.  Signals was the album where Rush fans said Woah, what’s with the keyboards guys.  Similarly, “Computer Age” makes you say, geez, was there a sale on keyboards in Canada?  The keyboards are kind of thin and wheedly, but the real surprise comes in the processed vocals (Rush never went that far).  The vocals are basically the 1980s equivalent of auto-tune (no idea how they did this back then).  Because the song is all about the computer age it kind of makes sense that he would use this weird robotic voice.  Sometimes it’s the only voice, although he also uses the computer voice as a high-pitched harmony over his normal singing voice.

“We R in Control” sounds like it might be a heavy rocker (anemic production notwithstanding) until we get more computer vocals.  Again, conceptually it works (its all about the dominance of CCTV), but it is pretty weird as a Neil Young song.

And then comes yet another shock, “Transformer Man.”  Yes, THAT “Transformer Man,” except not.  This original version of the song is sung entirely in a processed super high pitched computer voice that is almost hard to understand).  The only “normal’ part of the song is the occasional chorus and the “do do do dos.”  It sounds like a weird cover.  Sarah, who loves Neil Young, practically ran out of the room when she heard this version.

“Computer Cowboy (aka Syscrusher)” continues in that same vein.  Musically it’s a bit more experimental (and the computer vocals are in a much lower register).  Although I think it’s probably the least interesting of these songs.

Just to confuse the listener further, “Hold On to Your Love” is a conventional poppy song–no computer anything (aside from occasional keyboard notes).  Then comes the 8 minute “Sample and Hold” the most computerized song of the bunch and one of the weirder, cooler songs on the disc.  It really feels like a complete song–all vocodered out with multiple layers of vocals, not thin and lacking substance like some of the tracks.  It opens with personal stats (hair: blonde, eyes: blue) and proceeds through a litany of repeated “new design, new design” motifs.

This is followed by a remake of “Mr Soul” previously only on Decade.  This is a new vocodered-harmonies version of the song.

The biggest failure of the disc to me is “Like an Inca” it’s nine minutes of virtually the same guitar riff.  The chorus is pretty wonderful, but it’s a very minor part of the song itself.  It is fairly traditional Neil song, I just wish it were much shorter.

So, this travesty of a disc is actually pretty interesting and, for me, pretty enjoyable.  Most of these synthy songs sound kind of weak but I think that has more to do with the production of the time. I’d love to hear newly recorded versions of these songs (with or without the vocoder) to see what he could do with a great production team behind him.

Trans is not a Neil Young disc in any conventional sense, but as an experiment, as a document of early 80s synth music, it not only holds up, it actually pushes a lot of envelopes.   I’m not saying he was trying to out Kraftwerk Kraftwerk or anything like that, but for a folk/rock singer to take chances like this was pretty admirable.  Shame everybody hated it.

[READ: July 5, 2011] Five Dials 19

Five Dials 19 is the Parenting Issue.  But rather than offering parenting advice, the writers simply talk about what it’s like to be a parent, or to have a parent.  It was one of the most enjoyable Five Dials issues I have read so far.

CRAIG TAYLOR & DIEDRE DOLAN-On Foreign Bureuas and Parenting Issues
I enjoyed Taylor’s introduction, in which he explains that he is not very useful for a parenting issue   That most of the duties will be taken on by Diedre Dolan in NYC.  They are currently in her house working while her daughter plays in the next room.  His ending comment was hilarious:

Also, as is traditional at most newsweeklies, someone just put a plastic tiara on my head and then ran away laughing at me.

I resist Parenting magazines, from Parents to Parenting to Fretful Mother, they all offer some sound advice but only after they offer heaps and heaps of guilt and impossible standards.  So I was delighted to see that Five Dials would take an approach to parenting that I fully approve of.  Dolan writes:

Nobody knows what works. Most people just make some choices and defend them for the next 18 to 50 years – claiming nurture (good manners) or nature (crippling shyness) when it suits them best.

And indeed, the magazine made me feel a lot better about my skills (or lack) as a parent. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THERAPY?–One Cure Fits All (2006).

I’ve always liked Therapy?’s brand of aggro-alt metal/whatever you call it.  Their earlier stuff was harsh and dark. During their middle years they grew surprisingly commercial (although they’ve always had a bit of a commercial side to them, even at their harshest).

The last album I got from them was 2003’s High Anxiety (the first in a series of grotesque and unpalatable CD covers which culminates with this horrorshow).  I think the band must have lost any kind of distribution deal in the States, because it is still very hard to find these later discs (without paying way too much for them).

I was delighted to find this one on Lala.  And it stands as a pretty solid Therapy? disc.  They have always had guitars that sounded very sharp, almost electronic, which I thought really exemplified their take on angry literate metal.  And this disc opens up with it (after the 30 second “Outro”)

Their earlier tracks (like the awesome “Teethgrinder”) employed sonic tricks that really propelled the songs onto genius territory.  These songs are a bit more conventional, and yet they’re hardly commercial.  The most likely single would be the “ballad” (which also rocks pretty hard near the end) “Dopamine, Seratonin, Adrenaline.”

The back half of the disc is more melodic and catchy (a sort of reversion back to their middle period?). The only song that veers too far into pop territory is the closer, “Walk Through Darkness.”  It’s almost a bit cheesey, especially after all the heaviness of the earlier tracks.

It’s a fun disc, and a shame that it (and those BBC Sessions, which I am drooling about!) have yet to get a proper release in the states.

[READ: April 28, 2010] “Austerity Program”

In one of the letters to The Believer this month a reader suggests that they start printing fiction.  No reply is given to the letter.  At the same time, here is a piece that is certainly fiction.  There is no comment or explanation attached (which is surprising as The Believer usually tells us everything that’s going on in the magazine.

So, I’m going to treat this as a short story.  Tucker Nichols is responsible for the art direction, while David Khoury wrote it.  It is printed as a series of letters on official letterhead (with a logo but no name) stationary.

Much like with the novel Ella Minnow Pea, the “austerity” is a cost saving measure in which letters are removed from general use. (more…)

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