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Archive for the ‘Craig Taylor’ Category

5dials32SOUNDTRACK: DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE-Tiny Desk Concert #430 (April 6, 2015).

dcfcIt’s hard for me to believe that Death Cab for Cutie had not been on a Tiny Desk Concert before.  But they are here at last.  Well, three of them anyhow.  It’s simply Ben Gibbard (of course) on vocals, Nick Harmer on bass, and Zac Rae on piano (now that Chris Walla has left).  And what makes this concert so special is that all 4 songs are played on piano–there’s no guitar at all.  It gives all of these songs (familiar and new) a much starker feel.  Not better, but very different.

There are two new song from Kintsugi, “Black Sun,” and “No Room In Frame” which sound so much like Death Cab for Cutie (probably because of Gibbard’s voice), that they fit in perfectly with the other two songs. “Your Heart Is An Empty Room” from Plans and “Passenger Seat” from Transatlanticism.

It’s a little uncomfortable watching Gibbard sing close ups with his eyes closed, but he sounds right on.  He says some nice words about NPR (a station they actually listen to for news) and he gets a nice round of applause when they say they’ll do a fourth song.  And Gibbard can even hit those high notes in this quiet setting.  This is a must hear for any fan of the band.

[READ: April 2, 2015] Five Dials 32

Issue Number 32 is a thematic one–based around the Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts.  And so many of the writers and artists are from New Zealand.  There are dozens of paintings by Francis Upritchard: colorful watercolors of monkeys, monocolor paintings of people and colorful masks.  They all look incredibly simple–like first drafts–yet are quite effective in their displays.

A Letter from the Editor:  On New Zealand Issues
Craig Taylor didn’t have a letter last issue.  This time he talks about the issue and about issues in New Zealand. He talks a bit sadly about how the New Zealand writer most often find a home in London even if the writers mostly think about national (New Zealand) issues. (more…)

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fivedials_no30SOUNDTRACK: Random songs at the roller rink (December 29, 2013)

skateWe went rollerskating on Sunday and they played all kinds of pop hits.  They played “Dancing Queen” and “YMCA,” sure, but they also played a lot of recent big hits.  And I said to myself either I have grown more tolerant of pop songs or pop songs are simply better than they were in the 80s and 90s.

Because I thoroughly enjoyed hearing “Gangnam Style” (perhaps a pop song where you don’t know the words is really the way to go) and “What Does the Fox Say?” (or perhaps when the words are so preposterous).  “Blurred Lines” is incredibly catchy (although it would be better without the offensive lyrics).  I also enjoyed “Call Me Maybe” which is treacly sure, but the melody is super catchy and “Rolling in the Deep” because Adele kicks ass.

Of course when I looked at the list of #1 hits for 2013, I literally didn’t know any of them (except “Blurred Lines” and “Royals,”) so maybe pop is not what I think it is.  Maybe I just like YouTube sensations.

Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!  Happy New Year.

[READ: December 27, 2013] Five Dials #30

I was surprised to get this issue of Five Dials just as I was reading the other recent ones.  It allowed me to finish up Five Dials and the year at around the same time.  This issue introduces a new graphics editor: Antonio de Luca and he really changes the look of the magazine.  (He also used to work for The Walrus).  Rather than pictures being centered in the page, they spread from one page to another (which works well online but less so if you print it out).  The illustrations are also much bolder.

This is a short issue (which I appreciated).  And it does what I especially like about Five Dials–focusing tightly on one thing, in this case Albert Camus, who I like but who I have not read much.  It’s his centenary and many things have been said about him, so what else is there to say?  They find two things worth saying.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On Tony, On Dean, On Camus, On Algiers
Taylor talks about the illustrations of the issue–they were spray painted on walls by an Algerian-French collective known as the Zoo Project.  The new editor took photos and then Photoshopped away the extraneous stuff to leave us with just the graphics–giving them a permanence that they would normally not have.  Taylor also says goodbye to Dean Allen, the outgoing art director.  Then he gets to the heart of this issue: Albert Camus and Algiers (where Camus is from).  Curtis Gillespie decided to go to Algiers to find out how much the people there know and love Camus (and he found it to be a much more difficult trip than he imagined). (more…)

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fivedials_no29SOUNDTRACK: BOB & DOUG McKENZIE-“The 12 Days of Christmas” (1981).

bob & dougThis is my preferred old school version of “The 12 Days of Christmas.”  It was one of the first parodies of the song that I had heard (and I was big in parodies back in 1981).

I loved how stupid they were (on the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…a beer).  I loved trying to figure out what a two-four was, and it cracked me up that they skipped a whole bunch of days.

I also enjoyed how they continued to snipe at each other throughout the song.  Not comedy gold perhaps (that would be “Take Off” recorded with Geddy Lee, but a nice way to start, or end, the season on these “mystery days.”

Evidently, decades after SCTV went off the air, Bob & Doug got an animated TV show (without Rick Moranis).  And they made a video of the song. Hosers.

[youtube-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2oPio60mK4]

[READ: December 3, 2013] Five Dials #29

Five Dials Number 29 was the first issue I had read in a while.  (I read this before going back to 26-28).  And it really reminded me of how great Five Dials is.  I don’t know why this isn’t Part 2 after Number 28’s Part 1 (there was no 28b either), but that’s irrelevant.  This is an independent collection of great writing.  I was instantly surprised and delighted to see that César Aria was included in this issue (I didn’t even know he had made inroads in England).

CRAIG TAYLOR-Letter from the Editor: In Swedes and Open Letters
Taylor’s usually chipper introduction is saddened by the contents of this one.  The discussion centers on Sweden and the city of Malmo, where integration is proving to be tougher than they’d hoped.  Black skinned people are profiled pretty explicitly.  Taylor talks about meeting the writer Jonas Hassen Khemiri (who they subsequently published in issue 21) who deals with issues of race.  In March of 2013, Khemiri wrote an open letter to Swedish Minister for Justice Beatrice Ask after she brushed off concerns about racial profiling. The letter went viral including getting translated into 15 languages.  So I guess there is some positivity after all. (more…)

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fivedials_no28SOUNDTRACK: PHINEAS AND FERB-The Twelve Days of Christmas (2010).

phineasWhile The Bird and the Bee has become my new favorite serious version of The Twelve Days of Christmas, this Phineas and Ferb version is my new favorite silly version of the song.  Sure it’s especially funny for fans of the show but, as anyone who has seen the show knows, Dr. Doofenshmirtz is comedy gold and so his wishes for Christmas and his updates and concessions (and the fact that he is a traditionalist) absolutely make this worthy of repeat listens.

[READ: December 19, 2013] Five Dials Number 28

Five Dials #28 is vaguely thematic–about heroes.  Some items are literal (the writers-as-heroines drawing), some are speculative (my favorite conceit–the stories of quickly killed side characters in movies), and some are unrelated at all–the guy who helped out Will Self.  This issue was launched from Sydney, Australia.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On Heroes and Convicts
Taylor talks about everything mentioned above and then talks about Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore and his primer on modern art: The Shock of the New (which has an accompanying documentary series). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE BIRD AND THE BEE-12 Days of Christmas (2008).

The+Bird+and+the+Bee++la+classeI first heard a bit of this song in a Sephora a few years ago.  Then they played it on New Girl (in two separate Christmas episodes).  But I never knew who the artist was. Then some kind soul pointed me to the band and lo, I found the track.

I don’t know much else about the Bird and the Bee, but this is hands down my favorite rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas.  In addition to the great, groovy sound (which reminds me of the Cocteau Twins), I just loved how…different the song sounded.  Turns out, according to their soundcloud page, “we changed the song so that every repeat is a completely different progression.”  I love it.

The song never gets boring and her voice is simply gorgeous.  I only wish it was available for sale or download or something.

[READ: December 16, 2013] Five Dials #27

I was a little harsh on Five Dials Number 26, but overall, it still kept up the greatness that has been Five Dials.  And #27 keeps up the excellence.  Since Five Dials likes globetrotting, this issue is based in and around Greece, the county that is in tumult.

This one also has letters from Our Glorious Readers.  One of the readers sensibly comments that the Berlin issue would keep her busy throughout the winter.  Wish I had doled mine out better.  I feel that Toronto gets a little knock from the editors who seem to think it is not as cool as Berlin.  I also enjoyed the reader’s description of Peter Stamm’s writing as being like skiing.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On Timelines and Greek Photographs
Taylor talks about the timelines that tend to appear in newspapers, most of which seem to talk about the collapse of something or other (like the Greek economy).  After visiting Athens, Five Dials felt it was time to bring some Greek writing to English readers. The letter talks about the contents within and gives good context to Dimitris Tsoumblekas’ photos which are quite good but are even better when you know what they are doing–especially the one about his father. (more…)

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fivedials_no26SOUNDTRACK: BOB DYLAN-Christmas in the Heart (2009).

220px-Bob_Dylan_-_Christmas_in_the_HeartI have been a dabbler in Dylan over the years.  I like his hits, I like some of his albums, but I’ve never been a huge huge fan.  So the biggest surprise to me was that Bob Dylan now sounds like Tom Waits.  His voice is so crazily gravelly, it’s almost (almost) unrecognizable as Dylan.

That said, on some of the tracks it works very well–like he’s had too much to drink and is enjoying the revelry of these traditional songs.  I imagine him as a benevolent uncle trying to get the family to sing along.  And sing along they do.  He has a group of backing singers who sound like they are straight out of the forties and fifties (on some songs the women sing incredibly high especially compared to Dylan’s growl).  I’m not always sure it works, but when it does it’s quite something.

The first three songs are a lot of fun. However, when he gets to “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” it really sounds like he has hurt himself.  He seems to really strain on some of those notes–note the way he pronounces “herald” (heeerald).

The more secular songs fare better with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” sounding especially Waitsian and being all the better for it.  Although I feel that perhaps he made up some lyrics–“presents on the tree?”  It’s interesting that in “O Come, All Ye Faithful” he sings the first verse in Latin (I don’t know that I’ve heard any other pop singers do that) and it works quite well.

A less successful song is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in which the music just seems to be too slow for him.  His verses end early and it seems like the backing singers are just out in the middle of nowhere.  Perhaps the best song is “Must Be Santa.”  I love this arrangement (by Brave Combo) and Dylan has a ton of fun with it (and the video is weirdly wonderful too).

“Christmas Blues” is a bit of a downer (as the title might suggest).  I’d never heard this song before and Dylan is well suited to it.  Dylan’s version of “The Little Drummer Boy” is also very good–he croons gently and his voice sounds really good.  I was surprised to hear him do “Christmas Island,” a song I have come to love this year–his version is quite fun as well, with the backing singer doing Aloha-ays.

Finally, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is pitched a wee bit high for him (and the Waits voice is more scary than avuncular here).

So overall it’s a weird collection (to say nothing of the artwork–both the cover and the inside cover), but I think it’s well suited to the day after the festivities.

[READ: December 15, 2013] Five Dials #26

I was shocked to realize who many Five Dials issued I had put off reading (and that this one came out over a year ago!).  I knew 26 was a large issue, so I put it off.  And then put it off.  And then put it off, until Issue 29 came out.  (I read 29 before this one, which got me to jump back and tackle this large one).

I have to admit I did not enjoy this one as much as previous Five Dials.  The bulk of the issue was taken up with German short stories, and I don’t know if it was the choices of the editors, but (a few) of the stories just didn’t grab me at all.  Having said that, there were one or two that I thought were very good.  But with this being such a large issue, perhaps it deserved to be spaced out a little better–Weltanschauung fatigue, no doubt.

This issue starts with Letters from Our Glorious readers and other sources.
I feel like this is a new feature for Five Dials (although again, it has been a while).  There is applause for the Bears (From Issue #24) and the acknowledgement of Zsuzsi Gartner’s first adoptees of her story ideas (Issue #25 Pt 1).  There’s also the amusing story of a guy who got nailed at work for printing the color issue (something I used to do at my old job as well) and a refraining of answering spam.

CRAIG TAYLOR-On Ewen and German
Taylor doesn’t say much in this intro, since the “heavy lifting” is done by Anna Kelly.  He does mention Paul Ewen (and his food writing) and the first Five Dials questionnaire (which I assume it is too late (and too far away) for me to submit for that free HH book).

ANNA KELLY
She explains about wanting to know secrets, and how when she was little, learning Pig Latin was a such a huge boon to her secretive life.  Then her sister started studying German, and Anna herself was hooked.  She says that reading German works in German is like flying.  And she wants to share German language writers with us.  Of course, we won’t be reading them in German, so there will be no flying.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ELFIN SADDLE-Wurld (2010).

Yesterday I mentioned the Wurld DVD.  Today I wanted to talk about the music.

There are three songs that come on the audio extras portion of he DVD: “Wurld Soundtrack (abridged),” “A River of Horses” and “A Tree in Dark Water/A Sinking Celebration.”  The “Wurld Soundtrack” is indeed the music from the film.  The abridged version is about 15 minutes long, while the movie is about 23.  I’m not sure what got cut or why it needed to get cut, but it’s a good reference to the movie–dark, a little creepy with moments of beautiful melody.

“A River of Horses” is dominated by a xylophone melody and a cool piano riff.  It has a loping quality that I really like.  It’s instrumental (and serves as one of the main themes of the DVD).  “A Tree in Dark Water” is a slower dirge-like piece which features Honda’s “Da Da Dee Da” vocals.  It more or less morphs into “A Sinking Celebration” which has a sound not unlike a carnival, but a very slow, almost sad carnival.  Both of these songs work as backing music for other aspects of the DVD–I’m not sure if they were songs first that they decided to use for the DVD or vice versa.

For the full Elfin Saddle experience, though, it’s worth watching the live show that comes on the DVD.  The show is a 7 song set that they performed before the opening of the Wurld exhibit in Montreal.  So yes, this show was performed Live at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art.  Nearly all of the songs come from their debut album Ringing for the Begin Again.

The band plays a kind of droney world music. And it has a very homemade feel–cobbled together, but brilliantly.  There’s an accordion, a bowed saw and a bunch of other percussive items–things that look like found metal.  There are two singers, Jordan McKenzie does most of the singing and he sings in a deep voice and sometimes in a higher voice that has a middle eastern feel.  Emi Honda is Japanese and that’s evident in her intonations, whether she is singing backing or lead vocals.  The band is also utterly multi-instrumental. McKenzie sings, plays accordion and xylophone at the same time (must be seen to be believed) while Honda switches from saw to ukulele to drums all in one song.  She also later bows cymbals for a very eerie sound.  Although they make most of the noise themselves, they are accompanied by a cellist and a double bass (which acts as a percussive time keeper).  Once they add a tuba, the song sounds much more klezmerish (although there are elements of klezmer throughout).

In the background of the show, on the projection screen, is the spinning wurld from their art exhibit.  The whole show is mesmerizing.  Songs include: “The Bringer,” “Sakura,” ” Muskeg Parade,” “Wind Songs,” “Garden,” ” The Procession,” ” The Ocean.”

[READ: October 15, 2012] Five Dials #25B

The issue continues the theme of the short story and Frank O’Connor.  It features a hugely long story by Nathan Englander and a couple more unusual short stories as well.  I enjoyed Part 2 of the Cork Issue more than Part I.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On Englander and Lists
In addition to introducing us to Nathan Englander and wondering if we’ve all read his award-winning book What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, Taylor talks about lists.  The staff was pooled for their opinions with the intent to make it seem like the staff was an individual with specific tastes in Books, Music, Movies, Food, etc. (more…)

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