Archive for the ‘Colin Barrett’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: FIRST AID KIT-Drunken Trees EP (2008).

First Aid Kit is a band made of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg.  When they released this debut EP, Johanna was 18 and Klara was 15.  It was produced by their dad and made a big splash in Sweden.  When they uploaded a video of their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” (included on the reissue of this disc) Fleet Foxes linked to it and raved about it and that brought them more attention.

This album feels homemade in the best way.  It feels quiet and cozy–like a family sitting around a fireplace playing guitar and autoharp (their dad was in a band as well, and he plays on the album too).

“Little Moon” opens with a lengthy spoken section (over a pretty melody).  The sisters start singing in harmony after a minute and the song is cute (the ra ra ra ra section is a little jarring).  “You’re Not Coming Home Tonight” has a surprisingly grown up sentiment:
Yeah you cooked his dinners
You raised his children
Still he’s not satisfied
He says “I’d rather switch with you
You don’t know how hard it is
To work from 9 to 5”

But the heroine of the story leaves the man and sets off on a new life.  “Tangerine” is a bit less empowering–and it sure seems like there was some kind of domestic trouble at home (although there doesn’t seem to have been): “I’m not going to beg just say please, please, please / Be good to me.”

“Jagadamba, You Might” this is a darker, slower song, and like the first song they sing “Jagadamba” as a kind of syllabic sound which is strangely jarring.

“Our Own Pretty Ways” is the fullest sounding song with a flute and a prominent two-step.  “Pervigilo” features an organ and runs over 5 minutes.  It’s a pretty song and while never striking, it doesn’t overstay its welcome either.  “Cross Oceans” has a loud (for them) bass and drum rumble.  It hints at a direction they would explore more but ultimately deviate from.

The addition of “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” is a treat as their harmonies are really striking in the chorus–the way they know when to harmonize and when to keep the harmonies a bit more distant.  It’s really striking.

The album is a strong beginning.  They are certainly still finding their way, but it’s a pretty and fun recording.

[READ: January 8, 2018] “Whoever Is There Come on Through”

My brief exposure to Colin Barrett suggests that he writes about Ireland and drugs.  This story is about Ireland and drugs.

Eileen is waiting for her friend Murt at the bus depot.  He has just gotten out of rehab.  The first thing he asked was who won the U.S. election.  “Whoa,” he said flatly.

They have been friends–very close, but never more than friends–for a dozen years. When they were sixteen, he confessed to having a crush on her, but she said they should just be friends.  A few weeks later he we into the hospital for the first time.  She naturally blamed herself, but he assured her that she was just one of a bunch of causes.

When he arrived at her car he asked her to take him to his Uncle Nugent’s.  He talked a bit about his current state and then asked to go to McDonald’s.  He ordered two Happy Meals and then wondered if they ever ask adults who order Happy Meals if there is a child with them.  Murt says he is tired, which automatically raises red flags for Eileen, but she didn’t want to be too pushy with him. (more…)


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418SOUNDTRACK: BENJAMIN CLEMENTINE-Tiny Desk Concert #523 (April 18, 2016).

benjI have literally never seen or heard anyone like Benjamin Clementine.  He sits very tall with the piano keys quite low for him.  And he has such an effortless almost careless way of playing and yet his notes are precise and perfect.  He also faces away from the piano and sings more or less to the audience–as if his voice and hands were two different creatures.  And what a voice!

As the first song, “Condolence,” opens he plays the melody with his left hand, leaving his right hand on his lap as he sings with an intense operatic style.  But not operatic exactly, it’s more like a theatrical voice—like he is performing a dramatic recitation. But also singing these intense, powerful notes (with a vibrato that almost seems comical but is definitely not).  He sprinkles in some high piano notes almost as an afterthought, the way he casually places his hands on the keys.  And all this time, he is sitting on a stool and more or less facing the audience.  The song is five minutes long.  It doesn’t exactly seem to have a chorus–there are lyrical parts that are repeated, but it feels less like a conventional song and more like a story set to music.

When the song is over and he speaks.  He seems so shy and quiet, “Hello America.”  He has a very thick British accent (but now lives in France).

For “Gone” his hands seem to dwarf the piano.  The melody is simple and pretty and then he begins singing with just one word, a low “I” held for five seconds with vibrato.  After that, the lyrics are more or less spoken with his thick middle class accent.  He sings the middle section (with the higher piano notes) and seems to be singing in an upper class accent.  After hitting a long note, he speaks a few lines before singing the last word: “gone” with some beautiful piano notes to accompany.

“Adios” is a much more frenetic musically, but it also feels theatrical.  It is 7 minutes long.

After an intense first section about regrets and bad decisions, there is a spoken section in which he talks of angels and then he switches to a high tenor voice singing an operatic section (like the angels).  As the angelic section ends, he says, “I don’t understand them but as always, they come, they sing to me and they leave eventually.”  The intro music is so catchy and the angelic part so unexpected.  The song is unique.  Definitely not for everyone, but really impressive.

[READ: June 6, 2016] “Anhedonia, Here I Come”

This is the second or third story of Barrett’s that I’ve read.  And like previous stories it took me a while to realize it was set in Ireland.  This is of course my own bias as if I lived in Ireland I’d probably assume it was set there.  But I didn’t.

And frankly the location is irrelevant because this story is about a poet and his attempts at coping with the un-understanding world.

Bobby Tallis is a skinny twenty-something.  He lives in an old housing estate that is populated mostly by old people.  He had nothing to do with them.  Really all he does is walk six miles every day so he can buy weed from a schoolgirl (see, this could be anywhere). (more…)

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5dials34SOUNDTRACK: MATT HAIMOVITZ & CHRISTOPHER O’RILEY-Tiny Desk Concert #426 (March 14, 2015).

matthThere’s no introduction or fanfare for cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley’s Tiny Desk set.  They just start right in with a romping Beethoven piece.   I don’t know these two, but the notes say the duo has a new album out called Shuffle.Play.Listen., in which music by Stravinsky and Astor Piazzolla mingles with Cocteau Twins and Arcade Fire.  There’s no contemporary music in this set, but it’s very cool nonetheless.

The Beethoven piece sounds alive and wild and very modern.  The Glass piece is slow and beautiful  The final piece is lively and playful (with hints of darkness).  It introduced as reminding O’Riley of a scene in The Unbearable Lightness of Being when Daniel Day-Lewis gets a quickie.

It’s especially fun to watch how animated Haimovitz is.  The set list:

  • Beethoven: Cello Sonata No. 4 in C – IV. Allegro vivace
  • Philip Glass/Foday Musa Suso: The Orchard
  • Leoš Janáček: Pohádka – II. Con moto

[READ: April 6, 2015] Five Dials 33 Part II

After several themed issues of Five Dials we get back to the ones that I really like–random things thrown together under a tenuous idea.  It’s got some great authors and a surprising amount of large scale doodles–full page scribbles and some drawings that go from one page to the next (which works better online than in print).  Some of the giant illustrations also are fun–they are of jokey images like a memory stick that states I have only memories.  The art was done by JODY BARTON.

As with a previous issue there is a page of contributors and “The Unable to Contribute Page.”  These are journalists unfairly imprisoned (see more at cpr.org).  The Table of Contents is back, along with the FAQ: (more…)

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jan5SOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS–They Can’t All Be Zingers (2006).

zingersIt’s funny to think of Primus having a greatest hits album, although they did in fact have some hits.

I always think it’s interesting to see what albums are most represented on Greatest Hits collections–did a band become popular later in their career or did their success fade after a time?  In this case, the early stuff is very well represented.

There’s nothing from Suck on This, which isn’t too surprising since pretty much everything has been re-recorded, but you get three tracks from Frizzle Fry (a great album that I would think would be hard to choose three songs from), three from Sailing the Seas of Cheese and three from Pork Soda.  You even get three from Tales from the Punchbowl (I wouldn’t have thought “Electric Grapevine” would make it).

As the end of the first part of their career came into view, we get only two songs from The Brown Album.  There’s only one song from the hated (by Les) Antipop and I feel like a conciliatory nod to the reunion EP with “Mary the Ice Cube.”  I would have rather them put “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” on the disc as their cover of that song is only available as a video on any official release.

Perhaps the most fun thing about this release is the packaging, which, yes, looks like processed cheese.

[READ: January 23, 2015] “The Ways”

This was a strange story to me.  It is about three older teens who appear to be living on their own in what I gather is rural Ireland.  The oldest brother (Nick) is out of school and is currently working, the two younger siblings are still in school, although the youngest brother (Gerry) is always getting in trouble and the sister (Pell) basically just stopped going to school once their father died.

As the story opens, Pell gets a call that Gerry has been fighting and has been suspended.  She hitchhikes and then takes the bus into the city (which is a dozen or so miles away) to pick him up.  On the bus some of Gerry’s friends recognize her and give a her a bit of hard time, but she gives back just enough–asking why those guys are not in class–they say they were off messing about for the morning.  It’s clear that Pell takes no guff.

The next section shifts to Nick while he’s on a cigarette break at work.  There’ a funny bit about his coworker, a Chinaman named Sean.  When Pell and Gerry show up at the restaurant, he gives them so free food and tells them to hold on.  He tells Pell that the next time, the school should call him at work.  When Pell says she tried to call him when the school called their house, but that he didn’t answer, he says that he won’t answer when they call him either, but at least Pell won’t have to deal with it. (more…)

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