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Archive for the ‘Benjamin Percy’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SHAKEY GRAVES-Tiny Desk Concert #495 (December 14, 2015).

I thought I had posted about every Tiny Desk Concert, but on double checking I found that I had missed this one.  I had heard of Shakey Graves and I assumed he was a country/folkie singer.  Which he is, although really his style is to mix country, blues and rock ‘n’ roll.  I also had no idea his real name is Alejandro Rose-Garcia.

This set sees Graves on acoustic guitar (with a strap with his name on it) accompanied by another acoustic guitar (which seems rather small) and a mandolin.

“To Cure What Ails” is a pretty, slow folk song. It’s simple enough with nice high mandolin notes and a good guitar line between verses.  Shakey has a nice voice and the song feels compelling like a story, although I don’t think it is.  He’s also charming and funny in little ways–he makes a lot of funny faces and chuckles.  But his music is really solid and the harmony at he end of the song is really great.

For “The Perfect Parts” the mandolin switches to bass and they have a little discussion n how to play it.  Shakey tells the drummer how to play the beat and then says they’re going to make it us as they go along.  This song is darker and has a cool sinister vibe.  He sings in kind of deep mumble for this song which works well for this song.  The song gets a little intense for a few lines.  And by the end it builds pretty loud with some good whoa ho ho backing vocals.  So much so that for the last chord, “he attempted a stage dive at the Tiny Desk.”

For the last song, “Only Son,” he:

breaks out his guitar and suitcase kick drum/hi-hat, [and] a palpable rush of swooning adrenaline hits the room. I felt that at the Americana Festival in Nashville, at the Newport Folk Festival and here at the Tiny Desk.

He says it is soon to be the last of the suitcase kick drums (this is his third).  He dreamed about having an object that he could cart around with him and still make a lot of noise.  The drum is actually behind him and he stomps the pedals with his heels (I can;t believe the camera never zoomed in on it).

He says the song is about “the moment in your life when you realize you’re not alone… there’s an aha! moment where you’re like ‘not just me?’  The drummer plays bass, the mandolin player has the mandolin back and Shakey has the kick drum suitcase.  There’s some terrific harmonies (and chuckling ) throughout the song, and I love the way it stops and starts.

[READ: Late 2016 and early 2017] McSweeney’s #45

The premise of this collection was just too juicy to pass up.  Although it did take me a while to read it.  Eggers’ introduction talks about the contents of this issue.

DAVE EGGERS-Introduction
Eggers says he came across a collection of stories edited by Hitchcock. He really liked it and then learned that Hitchcock had edited 60 volumes over the course of 35 years.  He was excited to read literary genre fiction.  But he was more impressed that theses stories did what literary fiction often forgets: having something happen.  He then bought a cheap book edited by Bradbury (Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow) and he liked it too.  He was surprised that there were so many canonical writers (Steinbeck, Kafka, Cheever) in a Bradbury collection.

So, why not make a new collection in which we can compare the two genres.

Despite this looking like a pulpy paperback, there were still Letters.

LETTERS

CORY DOCTOROW
Doctorow says that Science fiction is not, indeed, predictive.  That any genre which deals with so many potential future events is bound to get some things right.

JAMIE QUATRO
Quatro says she was asked to write a letter for this genre issue, but Quatro doesn’t do genre, so she was about to pass.  Then her son, from the backseat, asks what bulwark means.  Then inimical.  Then miasma.  He is reading a book called Deathwatch about soldiers whose brains are removed so they no longer fear. Suddenly, when she compares this idea to her essay on Barthelme, she sees that maybe McSweeney’s was on to something after all.

BENAJMIN PERCY
In fifth grade Percy (who has a story below) gave his teacher a jar full of ectoplasm.  He has always been different.  He proposes the Exploding Helicopter clause: if a story does not contain an exploding helicopter (or giant sharks, or robots with lasers for eyes or demons, sexy vampires. et al), they won’t publish it.

ANTHONY MARRA
Marra discusses Michael Crichton and how something doesn’t have to be Good to be good.  He says Crichton was a starting point for him as an adult reader.  And what can be wrong with that? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  grouse

Since this article is a complaint, what better soundtrack than a grouse.

Although for cool grouse movies I prefer this one.

[READ: August 18, 2010] “The Complaint: Roberto Bolaño”

In a few short paragraphs, Benjamin Percy tries to undermine the literary value of Roberto Bolaño.  He complains about yet another posthumous release from him.  [Now, of course, anyone doing just a few minutes of research would know that these “posthumous” works are actually not posthumous, just posthumously translated, so it’s not like they’re pulling these works out of drawers of unpublished stories].

Percy is entitled to his opinion.  He doesn’t like Bolaño.  And that’s fine.  He finds him “affected and exhausting.”  (In a previous Esquire, Percy lauds Stephen King, so perhaps he just doesn’t like difficult books).  In fact, he cements his feelings with the argument that Bolaño’s stories are “weighed down with intellectual references.”  Oh no, not intellectual references!  Heaven fordbid his stories aren’t all about killing people, like Percy’s (oh wait, most of them are they are). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PAN SONIC & KEIJI HAINO @ Volksbühne Berlin 15.11.2007 (2007).

My friend Lar wrote an awesome review of the Pan Sonic & Keiji Haino live album (with the greatest title ever) Should I Download a Black Hole and Offer It To You? Read it here.

In the post he embedded the clip that is the soundtrack (which you can see here).  I don’t really know either of these artists, but I know they play extreme music (a new genre, I am told).  This is a wonderfully noisy track.  Keiji Haino plays a squalling noisy feedback filled whirl of a guitar solo.  After a few minutes the noisemakers Pan Sonic seem to manipulate the noise that Keiji was making, adding all manner of more noise to it.  (And a very large green square behind them).

The biggest surprise is how in tune his guitar is at the end of the track.

I can’t even imagine how intense of a live show this must’ve been.  And I think I’m afraid to listen to Black Hole.  Although I am very curious to hear Track 8.

[READ: August 19, 2010] “Keep Doing What You Are Doing, James Franco”

This issue of Esquire features James Franco on the cover.  There are five ways of viewing Franco presented in the feature story (online there are 8).  The trange thing is that the interview with him is actually quite short, with these other things taking up a lot more real estate.

I have not enjoyed Percy’s stories in the past, but I like Franco so I of course read this one.  It starts out amusingly enough with Franco watching himself on TV (a not unreasonable assumption).

Percy pushes the story to its illogical extreme in which everyone in the world is James Franco.  And that’s pretty much it.  (Thankfully it is short). (more…)

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rerefreshSOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-Sister (1987).

sister

It’s surprising how catchy Sister starts.  “Schizophrenia” is wonderfully sing-songy.  And “Catholic Block,” while noisy, is certainly single-worthy (and would likley be one if it were released today).  Kim has two tracks, “Beauty Lies in the Eye” which is a spoken word piece ala “Shadow of a Doubt.”  While “Pacific Coast Highway” is one of her scarier/noisier pieces.

Track #5, “Pipeline/Kill Time” is Lee’s first entry on the disc.  It starts as an instrumental and continues into a raucous Lee track.  “Kotton Krown” is a mellow mantra-like piece, while “White Cross” returns the band to its noisier roots.  The disc ends with “Master-Dik.” It’s a noise fueled riotous song.  It starts in something of a rap style (hard to call it actual rap).  It features a Kiss sample (from “Strutter”) as well as some of the first references to Ciccone Youth.

Overall it’s a rocking, great album, and it contains everything from poppy singles to outright noise.  It’s  an excellent middle piece to the great triumvirate of EVOL, Sister and Daydream Nation.

[READ: July 20, 2009] Refresh, Refresh

Sarah received a copy of this book, and since it came from the very cool comics press First Second, I was very excited to read it.

I have to say right up front, the content of this book is just not my thing.  It concerns teenaged boys whose fathers are in the Iraq war.  Violence is all they know, and violence is what they do.  I just don’t read this kind of book at all.

However, the story was very gripping.  First, of course, because it could very well be real, but second because it is told so well.

The three boys of the story have started a fight club of sorts to toughen each other up.  And despite the possibility of that being an overused premise, you can almost assume that the boys aren’t trying to copy the movie Fight Club.  They are Oregon youths with virtually nothing to do.  They’re not trying to be hip and cool like Brad Pitt, they’re just bored.  And they’re angry. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TANAKH-Tanakh (2004) & Ardent Fevers (2006).

Tanakh are part of the whole Montreal subculture that I really like. Even though Jesse Poe, the founder lives and records in Virginia, somehow he got involved with the Quebeckers. They release CDs on the venerable Constellation and Alien8Records labels. They also released two CDs in relatively quick succession. The reason I didn’t give any prelude about the band as a whole is because these two discs are so different that it wouldn’t be worth it.

Tanakh. This is a two disc set. It contains 2 songs. One is about 58 minutes the other is about 28 minutes. Each song is a long (obviously) improvisational piece. There’s about ten people involved in the recording, and while there are some clear traditional instruments involved: guitar, bass, drums) there are also scores and scores of ambient noises, non ambient noises (at one point I’m pretty sure you can hear duct tape being pulled off the roll). And on and on. Whether or not this type of thing is your cup of tea will determine your tolerance for it.

The 58 minute piece starts with a two note motif that fades away and returns. It reminds me in some ways of the early 70’s Pink Floyd side-long pieces which start off as songs and then have freak outs in the middle and then return to the motif. The big difference of course is that Tanakh’s freak outs are more noise than music. The 28 minute song had less of that wild improv in the middle, and I think is the more satisfying of the two. Of course, it’s pretty hard for me to listen to a 58 minute song straight through, as my commute is only 30 minutes, so some of the momentum gets lost.

In the past, Tanakh records were a little less willful, and, as it turns out, so they are in the future.

Ardent Fevers. This record is a stunningly beautiful collection of songs. It is so radically different from the self titled album that it’s hard to believe the same people were responsible. The liner notes for this album are from a fan who says he listened to this album and this album alone for several weeks on a long trip, and I can totally see that. I had listened to it a number of times and really enjoyed it. When I re-listened to it the other day I couldn’t believe how good it all sounded. It was as if it had aged well while put away. The melodies seemed stronger, the pieces more catchy, everything about it is great.

But what does it sound like, you ask. Despite the darker nature of the songs, they exude a calming effect somehow. They contain, usually, a nice strong riff, sometimes accompanied by horns, often with a repeated and hard to ignore motif. The songs build and build, yet never reach a fury or even a major crescendo. And despite this, the songs never feel like they are unfinished. They just build in strength until they stop.

Jesse Poe’s voice is a soft, low, almost-speak. Comparisons are not too useful–although he sounds so much like one singer who I just cannot place–but perhaps, like a sweeter Tom Waits, or a less depressed Tindersticks. The overall feeling of the album is kind of dark, yet there are all of these uplifting moments (like the horns or a great surge of acoustic guitars) that lift you out of the gloom. I hate to sound so fawning about this record, and yet I think it’s a really great piece. (more…)

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esquire.jpgSOUNDTRACK: THE CARS-Greatest Hits (2002).

cars.jpgFor the longest time I didn’t like The Cars. I got really sick of them, especially around the time of “You Might Think.” I guess I was watching a lot of MTV, because I just couldn’t seem to get Rik Ocasek’s face out of my head (your sympathy is appreciated). Anyhow, Sarah had said something about getting their Greatest Hits; so we did. And I’m glad.

The first ten or so songs on this thing are really great, it’s practically their entire first album, and it’s a bounty of new-wave delights from just before they got really commercial. Of course, the commercial songs are also here, but after all of these years, the commercial songs sound pretty good too. For me the best thing about the record is that it conatins “Moving in Stereo” the song that will make any red blooded young lad of around my age immediately envision Phoebe Cates climbing out of a swimming pool and…. Doesn’t anybody fucking knock anymore?

[READ: October 10, 2007] “So Far from Anything.”

This story has a gimmick. Although it is a publishing gimmick and not a story gimmick. The gimmick according to Esquire is this: The story is such a page turner, that we are going to print it along the bottom of every page of the magazine (about fifteen words per page). (more…)

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