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Archive for the ‘Gabriel Kahane’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LANDYLADY-Tiny Desk Concert #657 (October 6, 2017).

As I started watching this video I said to myself, Is that Son Lux’s drummer (Ian Chang)?  Look at the way he is drumming, it must be him.  And it is!

I had never heard of Landlady but I was instantly intrigued that Chang was playing with them.

The Brooklyn-based band’s songs are the initial creation of leader Adam Schatz, who observes the world with fresh, almost alien eyes.  Landlady is also a band of brilliant musicians who carefully craft their playing to serve the songs. Each player on their own might seem to be making quirky sounds or playing odd rhythms, but together they create head-turning tunes.

The opening track for Landlady’s Tiny Desk performance, “Cadaver,” has its origins in a friend of Schatz’s who went to medical school, and the years she spent examining a single cadaver over and over and even more specifically about a tattoo on that cadaver’s buttocks.

“Cadaver” opens with prepared piano sounds although the song quickly resolves itself into a kind of quirky Steely Dan vibe.  I love that Chang is using big soft bright blue brushes on the drums and that he even plays the desk and everything else around him during the slightly noisy middle section.

After the song, Schatz is very funny.  “Thanks for coming to work today I think a lot of us are actually very impressed by people who actually go to work.  Afterwards we’ll have all sorts of questions.  So know that while you’re looking at us wondering how do they do it.  Know that we’re looking back at you… wondering how do we do it.”

“Solid Brass” opens with some lovely guitars.  This song feels like something Gabriel Kahane might have constructed.  The chorus begins with just the piano and him singing “My voice is lower in the morning” over and over.  And then the whole band joins in on that simple sentiment.  That chorus melody is repeated but with other different simple ideas: “your legs are shorter in the evening.”  After that chorus, the guitarist Will Graefe plays some wildly distorted noises while the piano has stopped and only Ryan Dugre on the bass is there to keep it going.

For their Tiny Desk Concert they came in as a foursome but also recruited the Washington D.C. string quartet, Rogue Collective to flesh-out their sound on the third song, “Electric Abdomen.” That cut, which seems to be about being uncomfortable in your own skin, sounds like it came from a long-lost tape from The Beatles during a session for Abbey Road, full of wonder and, like this Tiny Desk performance, worth digging deep into.

Schatz introduces the quartet: “These are our new friends Rogue Collective.”  [Alexa Cantalupo (violin); Livia Amoruso (violin); Deanna Said (viola); Natalie Spehar (cello)].  One of them jokes: “Not Rouge Collective.”  Schatz quickly replies: “That’s us.”

He tells us:  “They learned all the music.  That was very nice of them.  This is hard.   You get nervous when you’re not used to being nervous.  So I thought I’d say that out loud.  A lot of people come here and they don’t seem nervous.  Top artists of today…  Who are some of the….  Like John Philip Sousa.  Guys like them they act all macho and they think they can just nail it.  But its hard and it puts us in a vulnerable place and I think that’s the point of this.

“So I want to say ‘Thank you, Bob and everyone for putting us in this compromising position.’

“I’d like to dedicate this last song to one of the most important pieces of Public Radio that was ever produced.  A program that changed the world and you can’t imagine the world before it existed.  So I’d like to dedicate this song and the rest of our lives to Car Talk, which basically raised me.  They were like to extra parents.”

“Electric Abdomen” opens with the sound of vibes and prickly guitar.  Then the strings fill in and the guitar sounds great and.  And, yes, it has s decidedly Abbey Road feel to it–the guitar sound especially.

I enjoyed this set immensely and watched it many times.   And I was only saddened to discover that Landlady (and Okkervil River) played a show in Philly the night before I watched this video.  Sigh.  That’s a lovely pairing.

[READ: January 24, 2017] “My Guilty Pleasures”

Many times in short New Yorker pieces, the jokes are topical, which means they don’t always hold up well.  And, sometimes, they get stuck in one thing and don’t really move beyond that.

George Saunders is usually pretty good at getting his topical jokes to move beyond whatever he is spoofing.

But he also likes to really hammer home one idea for a while.  Like this one, in which his guilty pleasure is watching reality shows (all based around The Bachelor). (more…)

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june10SOUNDTRACK: GABRIEL KAHANE-Tiny Desk Concert #178 (November 26, 2011).

kahaneWhen I saw Kahane a few months ago, he looked very different from the fellow here.  (More hair and a beard will do that).

I found Kahane’s music to be really enjoyable even if it was never really that catchy.  His songs are complex and thought-inducing, with many layers.  Although I found that after listening to his songs a number of times, I could really find the hooks in there.

His voice has a kind of soft quality to it–not quiet, but very much not harsh, which allows his enunciations to be heard quite easily.

For “Charming Disease,” Kahane plays keyboards.  He’s accompanied by strings and a guitar (I love the coloration of the guitar).  Since he also writes classical music, his pop songs have a distinctly classical feel (even without the string quartet to back him up). So the piano lines that he plays are simple chords, they are full lines.  And there are times when the guitar plays beautiful counterpoint to his chords.  This song is about an alcoholic (“I took you home and took away your keys”), but you’d never know the darkness of the lyrics from the melody which is bright and cheerful.  I love the middle section of the song–the chord progressions during the “Wine Dark Sea” are, in my mind anyway, very Kahane, and they’re what I love about his music.

For “Where Are the Arms” he switches to acoustic guitar.  You know the song isn’t going to be simple when he counts of “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6”  I love that he plays a continuing picked section while the guitar and strings play chords behind him, really fleshing out the song.

As they prepare for the final song, one of the violinists knocks over her music stand and he jokes, how did you fit an 11 piece band back her but we can’t get a string quartet.  Someone shouts that it’s the strings–the bows.  Kahane says, yes, “One string is two humans–ego and otherwise.”  To groans from the band.

For “Last Dance” I love that he sings his vocal melody along with the guitar melody (something Frank Zappa used to do–it’s complex and interesting).   And while there is certainly a melody there, he really complicates it with all of the single notes.  The strings come in and the song modifies somewhat until his voice seems to resume the complex singing style.  But then in the middle of the song (“she begins to sing”) it switches to a very catchy section with a refrain of “sex and cigarettes.”  It’s the most immediate thing in the show and shows how poppy Kahane can be.  even if the ending is quite abrupt.

He really deserves repeated and close listening.

[READ: February 5, 2016] “Learning to Look at L.A.”

I know Gabriel Kahane from when he opened for Punch Brothers this past summer.  I really enjoyed his set and found his album charming and eccentric but very literary.

Turns out that at the time of the release of The Ambassador he wrote this piece for the New Yorker as well.  It explores the themes that he delved into for his album, especially architecture in L.A.   He even opens with a discussion of Die Hard.  Like his song “Villains (4616 Dundee Dr.)” which contains the lyric:

I’ve been thinking a lot
About action movies of the 1980’s
Particularly Die Hard,
Which seems to illustrate
So many of the anxieties
Central to a time + place:
Japanese capital
The waning of the cold war
Pride in a downtown
What did they build it for?

He says that his “affection for this film is one hundred-percent unironic.” (more…)

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