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Archive for the ‘Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi’ Category

CV1_TNY_03_18_13Kalman.indd SOUNDTRACK: THE MILK CARTON KIDS-Tiny Desk Concert #232 (July 16, 2012).

milk-cartonI was unfamiliar with the Milk Carton Kids before seeing them on NPR.  I had always assumed they were a punk band with a name like that. Well, nothing could be further from the truth.  The Milk Carton kids are a delightful folk duo.  And they give the origin of their band name a little later in the Concert.

Joey Ryan sings lead and plays rhythm acoustic guitar.  Kenneth Pattengale plays lead guitar and sings beautiful harmonies.  It’s his guitar work that is so disarming because he plays leads throughout the songs, so rather than having the two guitars doing the same thing, his guitar is all over the place–playing beautiful trills and lines while Ryan is singing.

The first song they play is “Michigan.”  I love how in the middle of the song between the melodies and the harmonies it sounds like about three different bands—there’s a kind of Simon & Garfunkel vibe, a Jayhawks vibe, and maybe even a CS&N vibe–and yet it retains their original sound.  There’s some beautiful melodies in the vocals and the lyrics are really good (but sad).

After the song, Bob asks about the neckerchief on Kenneth’s guitar.  he says, “well it looks good.”

Then he explains that in a technical way, “This guitar is a bit crummy.”  When they play higher chords the strings buzz, so the neckerchief keeps that from happening: “It’s practical and it’s alluring—this is what got Stephen to stop at our concert to listen.”

Kenneth then says that Joey usually talks more than this “I don’t know why he’s so demure today.”  Joey deadpans, “I don’t know what demure means, but I’m, sorry if that’s how I’m behaving.”

Before the next song, Joey deadpans, “This is something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time.  Hence our palpable excitement.”

They’re very happy to be behind this desk so “We’ll play you a love song to the desk.  This song is called ‘To the Desk.'”  The song is actually called “Stealing Romance.”  They sing a duet with Ken taking the high notes.   It’s a slow ballad.  During the song you can hear all kinds of sirens going past the offices.  When it ends, Ken says, “I think Joe Biden drove down the street during that one.”  Joey reacts: “Who’s that?”

Then Joey explains the origins of their band name Milk Carton Kids.  The name comes from one of their songs “Milk Carton Kid.”  The song itself is named after a lyric in the song.  He says it’s an attempt to answer the question that’s one everyone’s mind with a completely unsatisfactory answer.  Then he says they’re not going to play that song.

Rather, they play “their happy song” “I Still Want A Little More”which proves to be really fast and uptempo—a real surprise after the other two songs.  Ken is wailing away on his guitar while they sing in great harmony.  There’s some rollicking guitars and singing.  This is my favorite song of the three.

I don’t love their slower songs. Although as far as slow songs go, their setup is great–the harmonies, the interesting guitar.  But I really like the two of them.  They are great performers and excellent storytellers.

[READ: July 20, 2016] “Checking Out”

This story is bookended with a man planning on marrying woman.

Obinze is African, and he is in London on a work visa.  He is arranging a sham marriage to be able to stay in the country.  The arrangement has been set up by some Angolans. They claim that he is a friend of a friend and they’re doing him a favor, but they are keeping lot of the money that is meant to go to his bride.

When he met Cleotilde, he was surprised to see that she was young and pretty.  And it seemed that she was pleased with him when she saw him as well-0ff.  I guess expectations are pretty low in this situation.  He was kind to her from the start, making sure that she was okay doing this. And she said she was–she really needs the money for her family.

Obinzne and Cleo meet up a few times to get their details straight, and he finds that he is really falling for her–although he knows he can’t really act on it until after the marriage. (more…)

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ny13SOUNDTRACK: YES-Drama (1980).

dramaAfter a few albums that seemed to lack the oomph of previous Yes outings, they stormed back with Drama.  And you know it’s proper yes because Roger Dean drew the cover!

It opens with a great dark riff and some big heavy bass—where has that been? And then the vocals come in—band harmonies like Yes has always done, but something is…different.  And around 3 minutes in, you realize what it is, so you check the liner notes (remember those?) and… woah Jon Anderson, the voice of Yes, has defected! And in his place is singer Trevor Horn from…The Buggles?  Trevor and Geoff Downes the creators of The Buggles were fans of Yes and when Anderson and Wakeman (yup, he’s gone too) left, the rest of the gang asked the Buggles to join in.  It seems that they had a few songs already written and the Buggles guys wrote a couple songs and there it is.

Horn’s voice is surprisingly close to Anderson’s (although he can’t reach the high notes.  But he has a lot more bass resonance so when he belts out notes he sounds really powerful.

And it turns out that Drama is very high on my list of Yes albums, even without Anderson  The band seems really interested in making big loud rock again, which I’d rather missed.

“Machine Messiah”  is over 10 minutes long.  There’s some great riffs and time changes and a big soaring guitar solo (Steve Howe is still on board).  There’s a slow middle section about 6 minutes in with acoustic guitar and simple vocals. The final solo repeats the same melody but it seems to swing more.  Near the end they revisit the slow section with new wave keyboard sounds that I imagine Wakeman would never have agreed to play (although he did play some weird sounds on Tormato).  Especially with the group vocals, it’s easy to imagine that this is indeed classic Yes.  A ten minute song with no wasted moments

“White Car” is a 90 second throwaway track.  It feels like they invited the new guys to fill some space. It’s not bad, it’s just a jingle with inscrutable words.  His voice soars similar to Anderson’s but not quite.

“Does it Really Happen?” has a big bass rumbling sound and bright keyboard chords. It goes through several sections before settling into a pretty typical Yes riff.  It really highlights the harmony vocals again. At the end of the song—a complete full stop, a new keyboard riff comes in with a repeat of the rumbling bass. It lasts only for a minute or so and then fades out. But it’s nice that Squire get a chance to wail

“Into the Lens” is a great song that opens side two.  The opening bass and counterpoint keys of is pure Yes, which is why it’s surprising to find out that the main section of the song is pure Buggles.  Indeed, the “I am a Camera” section of the song was written by Trevor and Geoff and they even recorded it with out all the complicated intro on the second Buggles album (it’s called “I am a Camera.”  There’s a cool bass section that may actually be piano? It’s got a cool end section with staccato riff repeated three times and an odd pause signature.  The opening and closing sections (the Yes parts) work really well with the catchy middle part (which really doesn’t sound like Yes at all, but still works and is super catchy).

“Run Through the Light” has fretless bass!  And that bass was played by…Trevor Horn.  What?  Chris Squire is either a total pushover or the most generous founding member of a band ever.  It says Squire played piano on this track, although for the life of me I can’t hear any piano at all.  It’s a decent song but probably the least interesting on the disc.

And them comes the best Yes riff since the early 70s–the wild bass line of “Tempus Fugit.” The song opens with some keyboard phrases that don’t at all suggest there’s going to be something spectacular coming next, but in true Yes fashion, the boppy opening mutates into a super fast bass line with appropriate synth blasts.  While not as great as say Roundabout, it soars over just about everything since then, and is an overlooked Yes gem.

I noticed on 9012live that Squire plays the “Tempus Fugit” riff riff in a bass solo—evidently, Anderson (who returned after this record) refused to sing any sings from Drama.  Which is shame because there’s some good stuff there.

Since almost every Yes album had different personnel, I’m going to keep a running tally here.  This is a biggie, look who has left!

Chris Squire-bass
Trevor Horn (#2, replaced Jon Anderson) vocals
Alan White (#2)-drums
Geoff Downes #4 (replaced Rick Wakeman #2)-keyboards
Steve Howe (#2)-guitar

[READ: April 12, 2015] “Apollo”

This story has two parts, a part set in the present and then a flashback which takes up most of the rest of the story.

As it opens, the narrator is visiting his parents in Enugu.  He says that his parents have changed since they retired.  They used to be critical thinkers (professors both of them).  They often challenged each other in intellectual ways–even seeing who could publish more papers.  But since they have retired, they have become almost comically gullible.  They would often call things “nonsense” but now they believed just about everything they read in the paper.

And on this occasion they are telling the narrator about a robbery that occurred in town.  This is nothing unusual.  But when they say that the leader of the gang was Raphael, it gives the narrator pause.

His parents don’t think he remembers Raphael, but he does.  Raphael was one of the house boys who worked for his parents.  There were a number of them, but this one made an impact. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SUPERCHUNK-The Question is How Fast (1992).

With a new CD out, and–even more impressive–an appearance on NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me, I thought it would be fun to revisit Superchunk’s output (starting with their EPs).

This is the earliest Superchunk EP that I own.  The title track is a bracing four minute blast of speedy alt-rock.  It has a poppy structure but the guitar is distorted enough to keep the song interesting over repeated listens.  Of course, it’s the catchy chorus that sells the song.  And it sets the tone for future Superchunk tracks: high pitched vocals sung loud and with unimpeachable pop sensibility.

The second track is “Forged It” a more punk-sounding track that, when the chord changes come in, makes it sound like it’s moving even faster.  A blistering guitar solo muscles its way into the song, too.  The final track is “100,000 Fireflies” a cover of The Magnetic Fields song (and one that they play quite often, it seems).  It’s given suitable bratty treatment from the band.

[READ: October 2, 2010] “Birdsong”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the second to last 20 Under 40 author from the New Yorker. This story has the delightful exoticism of being set in Lagos.

And yet, the basic premise is quite simple: a wealthy married man falls for a woman and they begin an affair.  It’s a fairly typical story of illicit love and jealous.  However, some details are rather different: he allows her to move into his “work” house (he bought it to turn it into condos, but he liked it so much he kept it as an office).  And she lives with him in this way for around 18 months.

Her office mate, a judgmental woman who she would never be friendly with if they didn’t work together is very disapproving of this affair, and always calls him, “your man” knowing fully well that he is actually someone else’s man.

And that, in addition to the love he clearly shows to his wife eats away at her.  So, in many ways, this is a fairly conventional story. (more…)

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This week’s New Yorker contains a list of the 20 authors under age 40 that they predict we’ll be talking about for years to come.  Their criteria:

did we want to choose the writers who had already proved themselves or those whom we expected to excel in years to come? A good list, we came to think, should include both.

They have published eight of these authors in the current issue and are publishing the remaining 12 over the next 12 weeks.  I’m particularly excited that they chose to do this now.  Since I’m currently involved in two big book projects, it’s convenient to be able to read a whole bunch of short stories to intersperse between big posts.

I’ve read half of the authors already (likely in The New Yorker and McSweeney‘s).  And have heard of many of the others.   The list is below: (more…)

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