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Archive for the ‘Fiona McFarlane’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: D SMOKE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert (May 29, 2020).

The lineup of musicians for the Tiny Desk Home Concerts has been a fascinating mix of known and unknown folks.

I have never heard of D Smoke.  Apparently it’s not surprising that I don’t know who D Smoke is because

last year, the rapper and pianist, born Daniel Farris, rose to national acclaim when he won Netflix’s MC battle show Rhythm + Flow.

Winning allowed him to quit teaching and produce music full-time.  He plays four songs.

D Smoke’s songs here — taken from his latest album Black Habits, out earlier this year — acknowledge the disparities impacting the black experience that are simultaneously personal and universal. The opening selection, “No Commas,” is a heart-wrenching lament on injustice and inequality. The gentle touch of D’s fingers moving across the keys complement the song’s poignant lyrics, which he raps in English and Spanish.

I am really quite amazed at what rap sounds like without a beat, with no percussion of any kind.  These songs are performed with just the piano.  Stark and powerful.

I enjoyed the lyrics to “No Commas”

I told ’em I’m the one for the job, no commas
And I’m serious, period, no commas
Wanna enjoy my family and my friends with no drama

The song segues into “Closer to God” which has a more jazzy/lounge vibe.  He sings the chorus and has a lovely voice.

This is his first time playing and rapping “Seasons Pass.”  Although he is rapping, his is very musical about it, kind of singing more than straight ahead rapping.  But when he gets rapping, his flow is fast and impressive.

He also performed “Black Habits II,” the affecting finale to Black Habits, for the first time in a live setting.

The album is about his upbringing growing up, for the first nine years, with a single mother and then his pops coming home [from being incarcerated] and being a good role model.

He cautions us that it’s his first time playing it live so, “If I stumble a bit we gonna pick it back up.”  He does stumble a bit but it sounds great.

[READ: May 25, 2020] “Demolition”

It’s always interesting to read a story set in a different country.  I guess one always imagines a story is set somewhere familiar unless you are told otherwise.  It wasn’t until about half way through the story before I realized it was not set in the States.  And I think it was very close to the end that I realized it was set in Australia.

But the setting doesn’t matter so much because the story is about the house across the street which is being torn down today.

Eva lives across the street and is sad that the Biga house is being torn down.  Her husband, Gerald, is happy to see the eyesore go.  As they looked through the blinds, they watched people come and take souvenirs from the place.

Then came the media. (more…)

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march7SOUNDTRACK: NOAH AND THE WHALE-Tiny Desk Concert #147 (August 10, 2011).

noahI know Noah and the Whale a little.  I don’t think I realized they were from England, especially since the lead singer/guitarist looks so much like Ben Stiller (with a big fro).  I’ve enjoyed what I’ve heard from them, although I can’t say I know that much about them (although  see that Laura Marling was briefly in the band).  For this Tiny Desk, there are just two men (one Noah, the other the Whale, perhaps?  No, Charlie Fink (vocals, guitar), and Tom Hobden (violin, vocals).

Evidently they had a drummer but he left the band to pursue academic success so they enlisted a dreaded drum machine.  (In the blurb, Stephen Thompson talks about how shocked everyone as to hear it).  The one bad thing about the machine of course is that it limits then from playing anything spontaneously.  But they sound very good even with the machine.

There’s a sort of Tom Petty/Bob Dylan vibe to the first song with the super catchy spelled out chorus of “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.”  When the violinist sings harmonies, the  song sounds especially good.

He ends the first song by saying, “It’s most peculiar, this event.”

“Blue Skies” does not have the drum machine.  It is a mellow, pretty song with Fink’s delicate voice singing a breakup song.

“Waiting for My Chance to Come” is a upbeat song (with drum machine).  Fink switches to acoustic guitar giving this a bigger more vibrant folk sound.  It’s really catchy and fun to sing along to.

I remember the last time I listened to Noah and the Whale (from an NPR show covering the Newport Folk Festival), I wanted to hear more from them.  And once again I do, although perhaps with a full band (and yes, they have broken up).

[READ: March 3, 2016] “Buttony”

I re-read what I had written about McFalane’s previous story which I read in 2013. I enjoyed the first section (which was very short) but felt a little less grand about the second half.

This story (although it was much shorter) had a similar quality.

The story is only two pages and the first part is so charming.  It is set in a school.  The teacher allows her students to go outside to play “buttony.”

The game is a simple one, but it has some kind of near magical significance for the kids. (more…)

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2013_05_13_p139SOUNDTRACK: ELEANOR FRIEDBERG-“Stare at the Sun” (2013).

efI don’t know Eleanor Friedberg, who is part of the Fiery Furnaces.  This song is fast and bright.  It’s a pretty standard rock song with bright guitars, and there is definitely folk feel to it.

The real selling point of the song is Friedberg’s voice.  She sounds a bit like a 60’s-era male with a high voice (indeed, she reminds me a little of Russel Mael from Sparks).  Maybe I’ll think of her as a mix of Kirsty MacColl and Sparks.

I like this song.  It’s not amazing, but it has a real bouncy summer feel.  An enjoyable romp that bears repeated listens.

[READ: May 21, 2013] “Art Appreciation”

I read this story in two parts.  And when I finished the first part (about four pages in–the paragraph that ended “and he kissed her there for the first time”), I thought it was a delightful story.  A sweet story of young romance.  True, the main character is a bit of a douche: “Henry Taylor had always known he would have money one day, and this confidence was vindicated when his mother won the lottery.”  But I thought that maybe Eleanor, Ellie, would somehow make him a better person.  And that sweet kiss seemed like a wonderful start.

The year is 1961, the place is Australia (it took me a little time to figure that out).  Henry is a gambler–but a mostly winning gambler–he goes to the dog tracks on Friday nights, the horses on Saturday.  But Henry, who is 28,  is also a working man–a mid-level employee at an insurance firm.  And even after his mother won the lottery he didn’t quit his job (it was of course douchey to assume that his mother would somehow give him the money but that’s what he thought).  Despite his confidence about the money, he also didn’t want to show off about it.

Ellie had recently started working in Henry’s office. She was very attractive and he thought that “now that he had money, he would marry her” (geez, he gets douchier by the minute).  Soon enough he has asked her out.  And she happily accepts.  Ellie is 20.

Finally one Sunday Henry’s mother says that she is moving to Victoria with her sister and giving him the house–she wants to see him settled.  He imagined selling the house and buying something closer to the city.

That night he visited Kath.  Kath is his un-serious girlfriend.  He tells her that their fun is over, that he is dating Ellie now so this will be their last fling.  He also has the douchiness to tell her that he has won the lottery.

Soon we learn what the title refers to, Ellie goes to art appreciation classes on Friday nights.  She asks Henry to walk her to class, which he does.  Henry stays for this one and doesn’t like it.  He sits with another bloke who asks if he was dragged there, too.  But she is so excited by the class, art is her passion.  They have a nice dinner together and they kiss for the first time.

And I thought that was nice.

But there’s more. (more…)

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