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Archive for the ‘Gary Shteyngart’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GOLDLINK-Tiny Desk Concert #753 (June 13, 2018).

GoldLink is a D.C. rapper.  The blurb tells us he

acted as if his Tiny Desk performance was a family reunion and took the opportunity to invite everybody and their cousin in as his guests.  To mark the moment, Link wore a crisp T-shirt reading ‘I Told You So’ — a nod to the haters, no doubt — and jumped around his discography to perform cuts from each of his three projects: “Bedtime Story” from 2014’s The God Complex, “Dark Skin Women” from 2015’s And After That, We Didn’t Talk and finally “Some Girl” and “Pray Everyday (Survivor’s Guilt)” from 2017’s At What Cost.

I’ve never heard of GoldLink, so I have no idea what he normally sounds like, but the blurb continues:

instead of the usual Steve Lacy or Kaytranada-aided beats, Link delivered his verses accompanied by a smooth six-piece band and two velvet-voiced singers. (Link’s longtime producer Louie Lastic plays bass for the entire set.)

 I like the fast rapping and 70s vibes of “Bedtime Story”–the strings are a nice touch, too.  As with certain rappers, the repetition of words drives me nuts, especially if they are just spoken.  So “Dark Skin Women”s repetition of “you’re a star come and dance baby” drives me a little nutty.  The backing vocals are pretty, though.

I enjoyed the self-deprecating intro of “Some Girl” I wrote this about an ex … stupid.  But these lyrics, good grief

I met her in the summer, started with a kiss
But she fucked her so good that I had to flood her wrist

Flood her wrist?

The final song “Pray Everyday (Survivor’s Guilt)” begins with a woman stating a prayer:

Lord I pray for wealth and power over all these motherfuckers
For the DMV to reign for many moons
Fuck these rappers, fuck these labels
Fuck these bitches, fuck these bitches, you hear me
They killed my nigga and I pray for revenge
Control me and use me the way you would allow me to
Amen

The DMV?

And then there’s just really bland sex boasting

All my life been addicted to the pussy that’s my vice, yeah
Drinkin’ drinkin’ drinkin’ all my problems
I don’t need nobody, I just need my bottle that’s for certain
Put the pussy on the pedestal

So, yeah, I could take or leave GoldLink.  There’s certainly some good sounds, but it sucks when a rapper’s rhymes are so lame.  Here’s who made it:

D’Anthony Carlos (GoldLink), Kiara Brown (Kelow) (Poet), Elliot Skinner (Vocals), Grace Weber (Vocals), Billy Davis (Musical Director/Keyboardist), Alex Ben-Abdallah (Louie Lastic) (Bassist), Danny McKinnon (Guitarist), Darren Hanible (Lil Dream) (Drummer), Burt Jackson (Trumpet), Marvill Martin (Violinist).

[READ: July 1, 2018] “The Luck of Kokura”

This is an excerpt from Shteyngart’s new novel Lake Success (due out in Sept).

Barry wakes up on a bed, not knowing where he is.  He had fled New York and the hedge fund he worked at.  He has fled his wife and son (and the boy’s autism).

It was the hedge fund (This Side of Capital) that was causing him his troubles. He says he hadn’t done anything wrong–he had shorted GastroLux a new GERD medication that was going to do wonders for yuppies.  He was also a major shareholder in Valupro which had almost bought GastroLux .  Everyone else had piled onto the trade, so why should he have not?

He fled New York with $600 in his pocket and his Rollaboard of expensive watches–his only pride..  He had fled to Atlanta on a Greyhound and crashed at his former coworker Jeff Park’s condo.  The condo was amazing–tastefully decorated and really expensive (even for Atlanta). (more…)

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CV1_TNY_08_05_13Cuneo.inddSOUNDTRACK: AMANDA PALMER-Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele (EP) (2010).

palmerradioAmanda Palmer made an album of Radiohead covers ,as the title says, on her magical ukulele.

I love the retro cover (and the way Radiohead is written).  It looks like a kitschy piece of nonsense.  And yet, contrary to appearance, it is actually a very respectful and very enjoyable collection of covers.  Despite the title, the album is not simply her on a ukulele, but the uke is the main instrument on most of the tracks, and it works surprisingly well to convey Radiohead’s particular brand of angst.  And one nice thing is that I now know a lot more words to the songs.

“Fake Plastic Trees” is done entirely on ukulele, which works well as the original is quite stripped down.  The ukulele gives it the appropriate kind of mournful angst.  “High and Dry” adds a piano—just a simple one note backing sound in the beginning, but which contributes greatly to the song.  Palmer sounds a lot like Aimee Mann here—understated and untheatrical–she has a lovely voice.

“No Surprises” is a song that starts simply so the ukuleles is well suited to it.  As with the original , the song builds, but much more simply here, with a pretty piano melody.  And her overdubbed voice works very well at the end.

“Idioteque” is absolutely great—she really captures the angst of the song and the ukulele in no way makes it a novelty—probably because the song is full of piano and great percussion.  The fact that the original is so techie and her version is so analog and yet it sounds this good is really a testament to Palmer’s transcribing skills.

“Creep” is done only on ukulele but the real instrument is her voice—where she manhandles the melody and whips it to all her needs—it’s a bravura  performance.  “Creep” live (a bonus digital version) is a bit more dynamic than the studio version as she plays off the audience.  And man she really shows off her voice at the end.

“Exit Music for a Film” opens on piano.  And adds strings. And adds more and more (allowing Palmer to exhibit her inner showwoman to really wail on the song).  Indeed, despite the title of the album, there is no ukulele on this track at all.  And while that may be cheating, this version really sounds great.

Palmer continues to impress me, although as I said last time, I’m still not sure what her real music sounds like.

[READ: August 7, 2013] “O.K., Glass”

Gary Shteyngart was one of the first 100 New Yorkers to get to test drive Google Glass (you had to tweet why you wanted it and then pay $1,500).  I was interested to read this because I like Shteyngart anyhow, but when I saw the reason why he wanted Glass—because his novel Super Sad True Love Story deals with people using a similar technology and he wanted to have a sense of what it would be like to use one for the upcoming movie version—I was even more intrigued.  (I read an excerpt in The New Yorker and I remember that funny device—the äppärät being mind-bogglingly futuristic.  I really need to read the novel before it becomes even less mind bending.

So he wears it out into New York.  (He was supposed to wear it only about an hour a day but he was totally hooked and wore them all the time).  And mostly he talks about how weird it is to have people (young people) approach him to talk about Glass.  People are even taking pictures of him!  He’s like a celebrity!

And of course he gets down to details—you twitch your head (what I imagine as the clicking of a mouse with your temple) to activate windows.  There’s a scroll bar type thing on the temple of the glasses.  But mostly you interact with it by saying “O.K., Glass” and then telling it what you want to do. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_10_13Schossow.inddSOUNDTRACK: SHIGETO-“Ringleader” (2013).

shigeto-0caa8a419820269d8ca02d9c5e6508d195563bba-s1The cover of this album gives you an idea of what lies within–and yet the complexity in this one song alone makes me wonder just how much is hidden by those clouds.

The song opens with delicate bells and a persistent pinging metronome.  Then come a series of complex notes—seemingly rando…but not.  Add to this some watery sounds.  And then some buzzing percussion.  That’s the first minute of this six-minute instrumental.

The song begins with a  very delicate vibe, and yet once the tribal drums come to the fore the song takes on a very different feel.

By the middle of the song that original sound is more or less gone, replaced by a more classic “new age” sound.  But again, things change around 3:45 when the song quiets down a bit, allowing new percussion to enter and giving it a kind of world music feel.

I enjoy how at the end, when the drums stop it actually sounds like real drumsticks clattering together—as if the whole song were played by a drummer and not a machine.

[READ: June 17, 2013] “From the Diaries of Pussy-Cake”

This is labelled as a memoir, so I assume it is true (and I wonder if he is writing his memoirs, or if this is just an amusing story for this issue).  Gary talks about his life a teen when he was in love with a girl named Pamela (not her real name).  She was an urban hermit and an unreformed shoplifter.

She was totally in control of the relationship because he was utterly smitten. He sums up their relationship with a typo that he sent her.  He left out the “at” and wrote: “I am your disposal.” (HA).  And so their relationship was very much like that.

She had an ex-boyfriend whom she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) finish it up with–his parents loved her and she wanted to keep up pretenses, so she would be with him quite often.  Although the rest of the time she was with Gary, and that’s because she was always in charge with when she was with him.  I loved this description: (more…)

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42SOUNDTRACK: IRON MAIDEN-Iron Maiden (1980).

Steve Harris was on That Metal Show recently.  Harris is the baimssist and primary songwriter for Iron Maiden and has been since their first album in 1980.  When I was in high school Iron Maiden was my favorite band hands down.  I had all their albums, I had all their singles, all their hard to find British vinyl 12 inch singles, even a few pictures discs.  Wonder if they’re valuable?

Every album was an epic event for me–I even played “Rime of the Ancient Mariner “off of Powerslave to my English class (not telling anyone it was 13 minutes long).

And then, after Somewhere in Time, I just stopped listening to them. Almost full stop.  I did manage to get the first four albums on CD, but the break was pretty striking.  I actually didn’t know that they’d had personnel changes in the ensuing years.  I’d vaguely heard that Bruce Dickinson  left, and that others followed, but I don’t think I quite realized that they were back to their big lineup these days.

Anyhow, Harris was so earnest and cool that I had to go check out some of their new stuff. Which was okay.  I’d need more time to digest, but then I had to listen to the first albums again.

And wow I had forgotten how much the first Iron Maiden album melds punk and prog rock into a wild metal hybrid.  There’s so much rawness in the sound and Paul Di’Anno’s vocals, not to mention the speed of some of the tracks.  And yet there’s also some epic time changes and starts and stops and the elaborate multipart Phantom of the Opera….  Wow.

The opening chords of “Prowler” are brutal.  But what’s surprising is how the second song “Remember Tomorrow” is a lengthy song that has many ballad-like qualities, some very slow moody sections–although of course each chorus rages with a great heavy riff and a blistering solo.  On the first two albums Paul Di’Anno was the singer.  He had a fine voice (it was no Bruce Dickinson, but it was fine).  What’s funny is that Bruce does the screams in “Remember Tomorrow” so much better in the live version that I forgot Paul’s vocals were a little anemic here.

However, Paul sounds perfect for the rawness of “Running Free” a wonderfully propulsive song with classic Harris bass and very simple metal chugga chugga riffs.  And this has one of the first real dual guitar solos–with both players doing almost the same riff (and later Harris joining in on bass).

“Phantom of the Opera” is the band’s first attempt at an epic multi-secton kinda-prog song.  It opens with a memorable, if slightly idiosyncratic riff and some wonderfully fast guitars/bass.  There’s a great slow bit that morphs into an awesome instrumental soloing section with bass and twin guitars playing a wonderful melody.

“Transylvania” is an instrumental that is challenging but probably not one of the best metal instrumentals out there, although again when Dennis Stratton and Dave Murray play in synch solos it’s awesome.  This track segues into “Strange World” a surprisingly trippy song (with effects that seem like keyboards but which aren’t).  It’s slow in a “War Pigs” kind of way, but it doesn’t entirely break up the album, because there are other slow bits on the disc.  It is a little out of place though.

Especially when “Sanctuary” blasts forth.  True, it wasn’t originally on the album (in the UK), but man, blistering punk or what!  “Charlotte the Harlot” was always one of my favorite songs (it taught me what a harlot was after all), it’s quite proggy, with a lot of stuttered guitar work and a middle section that features some loud and complex bass.  The disc ends with the by now almost immortal “Iron Maiden.”   A great raw riff opens the song, a harmony guitar partners it and the band blasts forth.  Who even knows what the lyrics area about, the song just moves and moves–There’s even a great chaotic bass/drum break in the middle.  And listening to the guitar noises in the solos at the end.  Amazing.  It’s quite the debut.

[READ: June 7, 2013] McSweeney’s #42

I have made it a point of (possibly misguided) pride that I have read every word in every McSweeney’s issue.  But this issue has brought that to an end.  As the title states, there are twelve stories in the book.  But there are also sixty-one authors writing in eighteen languages.  And there’s the rub.  One of my greatest (possibly misguided) shames is that I don’t speak any other languages.  Well, I studied Spanish and German, I know a few dozen words in French and I can read the Greek alphabet, but none of these would help me read any of these stories.  So, at least half of this book I didn’t read.

But that’s kind of the point.  The purpose of this book is to make a “telephone” type game out of these stories.  Stories are translated from one language to another and then re-translated back into English.  The translators were mostly writers rather than translators and while some of them knew the second language, many of them resorted to Google Translate or other resources to “read” the story.  Some people read the story once and then rewrote it entirely, other people tried to be as faithful as possible to the original.  And so what you get are twelve stories, some told three times in English.  Some versions are very similar and others are wildly divergent.

I normally write about the stories in the issues, but that seems sort of beside the point as the original stories were already published and were selected for various reasons (and we don’t even see any of the original stories).  The point here is the translation(s).  So, in a far less thorough than usual way, I’ll list the contents below. (more…)

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5.20SOUNDTRACK: IGGY AND THE STOOGES-“Job” (2013).

iggyNickelodeon’s favorite dad has just released a new album.  In the lead up to this song on NPR, Bob Boilen said that the live show that NPR streamed from Iggy and the Stooges was a matinée and there were kids as  well as adults there.  Who takes a kid to see Iggy Pop? Even if he was on The Adventures of Pete and Pete?

So this song is a dopey punk song and I love the guitars as the song starts–just classic punk sound and riffage. And then Iggy’s unmistakable voice “I gotta job…but it don’t pay shit.  I gotta job… and I’m sick of it.”  Is there any sentiment less authentic than Iggy Pop singing this?  Probably not.  And yet it’s a fun song for any working class guy to sing along to

And it’s frankly amazing that Iggy and the Stooges are still putting records out.

[READ: May 16, 2013] “Just Drive”

The five brief pieces in this week’s New Yorker are labeled as “Imagined Inventions.”  And in each one, the author is tasked with inventing something.

Shteyngart’s is clearly the most practical and is based on something the he knows already exists. He explains that he is unabashedly a terrible driver: “My greatest failure in life has been my inability to drive a car safely between two locations.”  This is despite the fact that he has always loved cars.  Right from the day that his father bought their first car and he saved up to buy a similar matchbox car (more similar when they painted it the same color), he has loved t he freedom that cars represented.  And I loved the idea that he and his family felt that although America was a large country, the road atlas made it seem like you could drive anywhere.

But Shteyngart’s driving problem seem to be more fundamental—an inability to tell left from right (the way his father tried to teach him is quite funny… if misguided).  And now that Shteyngart lives in the country, he needs to drive more than ever. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE SALTEENS-“Frequency” (2010).

I immediately enjoyed the poppy sensibilities of The Salteens. And I knew I’d want to listen to them on CBC Radio 3 again.  There are quite a few tracks available online there.

This one comes from their new EP, Moths.  A little research shows that they’ve actually been around for quite awhile and even appeared on Yo Gabba Gabba! (early 21st century’s badge of coolness).  It is very poppy, features male/female duet vocals and is immensely catchy.

It’s so catchy, in fact that I played their CBC radio songs over and over.  While I liked some better than others (I wasn’t too keen on “Sunnyside Street”), their twee pop was so joyful that I found myself singing along.  They are definitely twee, but not treacly, and in that respect that are very indie sounding (like a less bummed out Death Cab for Cutie or an early Cardigans).

Their arrangements are always pretty simple, but they range from guitars to keyboard to horns (“Nice Day” is almost all drums with the simplest piano and occasional horns).  And it contains the humorous couplet: “I know you think that I’m gay, but I just play the part”

[READ: July 5, 2010] “Lenny Hearts Eunice”

I’ve really enjoyed Shteyngart’s novels, so I was pleased to see him included in 20 Under 40.  This short story is set in another of his future dystopia, complete with a shlubby main character.

It opens with the obvious (yet very satisfying in this case) technique of a diary entry.  This works really well because the narrator is so strong (not physically) and quirky.  Lenny begins this diary because he is in love with Eunice Park, a young Korean woman with whom he shared a moment (and later an intimacy).  And he intends to win her over.

Lenny is a Research Coordinator of the Post-Human Services Division of the Staatling-Wapachung Corporation, a corporation bent on making everyone (especially its employees) immortal.  Of course, since Lenny is an older, out of shape nebbish, who has just spent a year in Rome gorging on carbs, his future looks bleak.  Rome is where he met Eunice by the way. (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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