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Archive for the ‘Carrie Brownstein’ Category

[ATTENDED: October 27, 2019] Sleater-Kinney

I saw Sleater-Kinney in New York City in 1999 and 2000.

Back in those days I didn’t try to get up close to the stage and I have one or two pictures of them from far away.

When S-K made their reunion album in 2015, I didn’t feel compelled to see the tour because I had seen them twice already.  I now regret it because it was at Union Transfer and that would have been an amazing place to see them.  Although looking at that setlist, aside from songs of that new album, I didn’t miss a whole lot that wasn’t played at my show, so my regret is now low.

There were some weird things going on with this tour before it even began.  People didn’t like the new record.  Then, amazing drummer Janet Weiss abruptly quit a few weeks before the tour started (I saw that people actually asked online about getting a refund (!)).  And my show had the weird detail of being listed at two venues.  Was it at the main room of the Fillmore?  Or was it in the tiny Foundry (as their site listed).  Now The Foundry would have been an insanely wonderful place to see them, and I wondered if the new album wasn’t selling or that without Janet, maybe they could only fill The Foundry.

But clearly that was a mistake because the Fillmore was well crowded (but not packed).  I have been really down on the Fillmore as of late because super crowded shows there really suck.  But I managed to get a good spot around nicer people and was close enough that I wasn’t in the halo of the bar, so it was all good.  And the sound in the Fillmore is outstanding, of course. (more…)

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may16SOUNDTRACK: MARISA ANDERSON-Tiny Desk Concert #374 (July 19, 2014).

marisaMarisa Anderson may be the most unassuming guitar wizard I’ve ever seen.  There’s nothing flashy about her or her look, but man can she make those guitars sound great.  And she plays an old-timey bluegrass style of guitar with slides and lots of picking.

For this set she plays 5 songs (on four different guitars).  She doesn’t sing, she just lets the music do all the work.

“Hard Times Come Again No More” is done on a hollow-bodied electric guitar.  It’s noisy, and fuzzy.  She plays finger-picks the main melody in the high notes and then in the middle of the song she plays big open string chords–buzzy and noisy–while still playing the melody.  She says the song “gets stuck in my head if I’m driving through snow.”

“Sinks and Rises” is about a swimming hole in Kentucky.  She went there in a car, but she wasn’t driving and she’s never been there since but it was the best swimming day of her life.  For this song she plays a lap steel guitar that looks to be made of ivory.  It’s so much fun to watch her slowly moving that slide up and down the neck (sometimes only playing one note) while her picking hand goes like crazy.

For the third song she plays a different hollow body guitar.  “Hesitation Theme and Variation Blues” was inspired by her favorite guitar player Rev. Gary Davis.  She says this is a deconstruction of his “Hesitation Blues.”  She doesn’t sing so she took it apart and put it back together.  It begins with an almost classical theme before launching into a very cool blues.

Then she switches back to guitar #1.  She says she plays in settings didn’t allow cover songs, she didn’t want to do just originals so she played songs from public domain–like the national parks if we don’t use them we’ll lose them.  In 2013, she released an album that was all songs in the public domain.  “Canaan’s Land Medley” is a medley of three gospel songs.  She plays the melodies with her fingers and a slide on her pinky–which adds some cool textures to the song.

For the final song, “Galax,” she brings out guitar #4, a Fender Strat (or knock off). She says she went to a bluegrass festival and was overwhelmed by all of the good songs being played in the parking lot–she’s not even sure if she got to the show.  This song is about all those songs being played at once.  There’s some really fast guitar playing and slide at the same time.  It sounds great and is even more fun to watch.

Anderson is really a marvel–totally soft-spoken and seemingly shy, but main is she amazing to listen to.

[READ: July 13, 2016] “Call Me Crazy”

The May 16, 2016 issue of the New Yorker had a series called “Univent This” in which six authors imagine something that they could make go away. Since I knew many of them, I decided to write about them all.  I have to wonder how much these writers had to think about their answers, or if they’d imagined this all along.

Of the six articles, Brownstein’s was certainly the funniest.  It’s also the most contemporary and almost the most obvious thing to complain about.  But it suits her comic style very well.

She wants to uninvent the conference call.  She assumes that we all agree that the conference call is a bad idea, but in case we need convincing she offers this example. (more…)

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carrieSOUNDTRACK: CATE LE BON-Tiny Desk Concert #337 (February 18, 2014).

cateCate Le Bon has a very interesting style of singing–it reminds me of Grace Slick in her enunciation, but also like someone whose speaking accent is very strong and is somewhat masked by her singing (like the way she sings “reason” as “ree-sun” as opposed to “reezun”).

The blurb explains that her “phrasing is completely tied to her Welsh dialect — in fact, her first record was in Welsh…. The enunciation is completely tied to the loneliness and the questioning.”

 For this concert it is just her and her fellow guitarist H. Hawkline (both wearing super cozy sweaters).  They share the guitar licks very nicely–it’s not always clear who is playing what–with her sometimes finishing his lines (I believe).

“Are You With Me Now?” has a very catchy chorus (with an “ah ha ha ha ha” part that makes it sound like an olde English ballad).

“No God” plays with very simple guitar lines (chords played very high on the neck of her guitar and a simple accompanying riff).  Hawkline plays keys (and sings some great falsetto backing vocals) to flesh out this song.  Everything is so clean you can hear each note from the guitar and her voice.

“Duke” opens with some interesting slightly off sounding from Cate while Hawkline plays a simple chord pattern (his fingers are enormous, by the way).  Hawkline’s falsetto is almost as engaging as the vocal lines that match the guitar line which Cate plays.  And when she says “I’ll see you here” in that unexpected pronunciation, it’s totally captivating.

I like Le Bon a lot and want to hear what she wounds like on record.

[READ: May 18, 2016] Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

After finishing Bob Boilen’s book and thinking about how I don’t really love music-based books, I immediately read Carrie Brownstein’s book.  Carrie Brownstein is one of the two guitarists in Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag.  She is also one of the leads (writer and actor) on Portlandia.  And she wrote for NPR for a while, too.  Basically, Carrie is the shit.

One thing I took away from this book is that I’ve read a few musician memoirs (Mötley Crüe and Marilyn Manson to name a few) and this is the first one I’ve read that was filled with so much sadness.  Not “I was stoned and regret sleeping with that person with an STD sadness,” but like, real family problems and even a dead pet.  And, as Carrie herself jokes, her stories of being on tour and ending up in the hospital are not based on drugs or other debauchery, but on anxiety and even worse, shingles.

The beginning of the book starts in 2006, around the initial break up (hiatus) of Sleater-Kinney.  Carrie is in pain–emotional and physical–and she can’t take much more.  She starts punching herself hard in the face. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLUE ÖYSTER CULT-compilations and live releases (1978-2010).

For a band that had basically two hits (“Don’t Fear the Reaper” and “Burnin’ for You”) and maybe a half a dozen other songs that people might have heard of, BOC has an astonishing number of “greatest hits” collections.

Starting in 1987 we got Career of Evil: The Metal Years (1987), Don’t Fear the Reaper (1989), On Flame with Rock n’ Roll (1990), Cult Classic (which is actually the band re-recording their old tracks (!)) (1994), and the two cd collection Workshop of the Telescopes (1995).  There’s even Singles Collection, (2005) which is a collection of their European singles & Bsides.

This doesn’t include any of the “budget price” collections: E.T.I. Revisited, Tattoo Vampire, Super Hits, Then and Now, The Essential, Are You Ready To Rock?, Shooting Shark, Best of, and the 2010 release: Playlist: The Very Best of).

The lesson is that you evidently won’t lose money making a BOC collection.

I don’t know that any of these collections are any better than the others.

The 2 CD one is for completists, but for the most part you’re going to get the same basic tracks on all of them.

And, although none of them have “Monsters” for the average person looking for some BOC, any disc is a good one.

Regardless of the number of hits they had, BOC was tremendous live.  And, as a result, there have also been a ton of live records released.  Initially the band (like Rush) released a live album after every three studio albums. On Your Feet or On Your Knees (1975) Some Enchanted Evening (1978) and Extraterrestrial Live (1982) were the “real releases.”

Then, in 1994 we got Live 1976 as both CD and DVD (which spares us nothing, including Eric Bloom’s lengthy harangue about the unfairness of…the speed limit).  It’s the most raw and unpolished on live sets.  2002 saw the release of A Long Day’s Night, a recording of a 2002 concert (also on DVD) which had Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma an Allan Lanier reunited.

They also have a number of might-be real live releases (fans debate the legitimacy of many of these).  Picking a concert disc is tough if only because it depends on the era you like.  ETLive is regarded as the best “real” live disc, although the reissued double disc set of Some Enchanted Evening is hard to pass up.  Likewise, the 2002 recording is a good overview of their career, and includes some of their more recent work.

If you consider live albums best of’s (which many people do) I think it’s far to say that BOC has more best of’s than original discs.  Fascinating.  Many BOC fans believe that if they buy all the best of discs, it will convince Columbia to finally reissue the rest of the original discs (and there are a number of worthy contenders!) in deluxe packages.  I don’t know if it will work, but I applaud the effort.

[READ: October 2009-February 2010] State By State

This is a big book. And, since it’s a collection essays, it’s not really the kind of big book that you read straight through.  It’s a perfect dip in book.  And that’s why it took me so long to get through.

I would love to spend a huge amount of time devoting a post to each essay in the book.  But, well, there’s 51 (including D.C.) and quite a few of them I read so long ago I couldn’t say anything meaningful about.  But I will summarize or at least give a sentence about each essay, because they’re all so different.

I’ll also say that I read the Introduction and Preface last (which may have been a mistake, but whatever).  The Preface reveals that what I took to be a flaw in the book was actually intentional.  But let me back up and set up the book better.

The catalyst for the book is the WPA American Guide Series and sort of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.  The WPA Guides were written in the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration.  48 guide books were written, one for each state.  Some famous writers wrote the books, but they were ultimately edited (and many say watered down) by a committee.  I haven’t read any of them, but am quite interested in them (and am looking to get the New Jersey one).  Each guide was multiple hundreds of pages (the New Jersey one is over 800).

State By State is written in the spirit of that series, except the whole book is 500 pages (which is about 10 pages per state, give or take).  And, once again, famous writers were asked to contribute (no committee edited this book, though).  I’ve included the entire list of authors at the end of the post, for quick access.

So I started the book with New Jersey, of course.  I didn’t realize who Anthony Bourdain was until I looked him up in the contributor’s list (I’m sure he is thrilled to hear that).  And his contribution was simultaneously exciting and disappointing,.  Exciting because he and I had quite similar upbringings: he grew up in North Jersey (although in the wealitheir county next to mine) and had similar (although, again, more wealthy) experiences. The disappointing thing for me was that Bourdain fled the state  for New York City (and, as I now know, untold wealth and fame (except by me))  I felt that his fleeing the state, while something many people aspire to, is not really representative of the residents of the state as a whole.

And that dissatisfaction is what I thought of as the flaw of the book (until I read the Preface).  In the Preface, Matt Weiland explains that they asked all different authors to write about states.  They asked some natives, they asked some moved-ins, they asked some temporary residents and they asked a couple of people to go to a state for the first time.  In reality, this decision makes for a very diverse and highly entertaining reading.  In my idealized world, I feel like it’s disingenuous to have people who just stop in to give their impression of an area.  But hey, that’s not the kind of book they wanted to compile, and I did enjoy what they gave us, so idealism be damned.

For most of the book, whenever I read an essay by someone who wasn’t a native or a resident of a state, I assumed that there weren’t any famous writers from that state.  I’ve no idea if that played into anything or not.  From what I gather, they had a list of authors, and a list of states (I was delighted to read that three people wanted to write about New Jersey-if the other two writers ever decided to put 1,000 words  to paper, I’d love to read them (hey editors, how about State by State Bonus Features online, including any extra essays that people may have wanted to write).

From New Jersey, I proceeded alphabetically.  And, I have to say that I’m a little glad I did.  I say this because the first few states in the book come across as rather negative and kind of unpleasant.  Alabama (written by George Packer) comes across as downtrodden, like a place you’d really have to love to live there.  Even Alaska, which ended up being a very cool story, felt like a veil of oppression resided over the state (or at  least the part of the state that Paul Greenberg wrote bout.)  But what I liked about this essay and the book in general was that the authors often focused on unexpected or little known aspects of each state.  So the Alaska essay focused on Native fisherman and the salmon industry.  Obviously it doesn’t do justice to the rest of that enormous state,  but that’s not what the book is about.

The book is meant to be a personal account of the author’s experiences in the state. (more…)

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