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Archive for the ‘George Eliot’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JAZMINE SULLIVAN-“Stupid Girls” (Field Recordings, August 12, 2014).

NPR and Jazmine Sullivan were in New Orleans’for the Essence Music Festival.

I’m intrigued that this Field Recording [Jazmine Sullivan Fades A New Orleans Barber Shop] is the second one set in a barbershop (technically, this is the first one as I have been watching them in backwards order).

This barbershop, Claer-Vue, is just a few blocks from the Superdome, just off Canal Street. It has been in business since 1948.  It is a men’s barbership and I know that a barbershop is part of the culture but nearly every man waiting to get their hair cut has really short hair already–like closely buzzed.  Are they hanging out or do they get it cut daily?

I had never heard of Jazmine, but she was apparently known to at least some of the patrons

When she walked in, patrons and barbers alike were wary. But they knew who she was, from hit songs like “Bust Your Windows” and “Holding You Down (Goin’ in Circles).” And when she began to sing, wearing her powerhouse instrument lightly, everyone ceded her a floor that had been previously occupied by a heated debate about college football.

With just an acoustic guitar accompanying her, she sings her beautiful song.  Her voice is clear and pretty and devoid of all the trills and filigree of pop singers.

To a roomful of captivated men, she sang a brand new song, “Stupid Girls,” that warns women to be careful with their hearts.

You can see most of the men nodding along. Most are deferential, with side-eyed glances.   There’s polite applause ta the end, but Jazmine is pretty pleased with herself–as she should be.

[READ: September 14, 2018] “Cecilia Awakened”

Tessa Hadley continues to make wonderful stories where nothing seems to happen, but there is a lot going on internally.

Like the way this one starts:

Cecilia awakened from her childhood while she was on holiday in Italy, the summer she turned fifteen.  It was not a sexual awakening, or not exactly–rather, an intellectual or imaginative one.

Cecilia is described as an odd child, but one who fit in perfectly with the oddity of her parents.  Her father worked at a university library and her mother, Angela, wrote historical novels.  Most of all they both loved the past.  When they had Cecilia–late in their lives–they did not feel any need to conform to society any more than they already did.  (more…)

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aug2013SOUNDTRACK: JIM GUTHRIE-Tiny Desk Concert #294 (August 10, 2013).

jimgI was unfamiliar with Guthrie before this set and I almost didn’t play it because of his mustache–he just looks so country to me.  But then I read that he and his band drove 9 hours from Ontario just to do the show (which is 11 minutes long, so that’s pretty crazy).  But the set is really good.

The three songs come from Guthrie’s new album Takes Time (his first solo album in ten years).  And I was hooked…not right from the start, but 15 seconds into “The Difference a Day makes” when the guitar plays the chorus riff.  There is something so… Canadian about the melody line.  It reminds me of Neil Young, Sloan, Rheostatics, even Kathleen Edwards, all of these great Canadian songwriters who play with slightly different melodies.  The fact that he sings “doubt” and “out” with an Ontario accent solidifies it.  It’s one of my favorite mellow songs of the year.  “Before & After” sounds a bit like  Barenaked Ladies mellow song, like something  written by Kevin Hearn.  I tend to not like the Hearn songs, but I thin kit’s that I don’t like Hearn’s voice, because I like this song quite a lot.

Guthrie has a delicate but strong voice–I can’t imagine him screaming, but he conveys a lot.  Especially in the final song, the more mellow (and minor key) “Like a Lake.”  I’ve heard Tiny Desk shows that go on for five or six songs.  I wish that Bob and Robin had let them play for ten more minutes. Now I’m off to find his records.  Check it out.

[READ: September 10, 2013] 3 book reviews

Tom Bissell reviewed three new books in the August 2013 issue of Harper’s.  I like Bissell in general and since I’ll probably wind up writing about these when they get collected anyway, why not jump the gun here.  Especially when there’s three good-sounding books like these.

sagamoreThe first is Peter Orner’s Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge.  I know Orner from McSweeney’s mostly, where I’ve read a few of his things  But one of the stories that Bissell mentions from this short story collection sounds familiar and yet it doesn’t seem to be something I’ve read.  Hmmm.  Well anyhow, he says that Orner’s previous book (with a title that Bissell assumes he had to fight to keep–The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo) was a great piece of fiction about Africa, and that his previous collection Esther Stories was also very solid.

This book is a little stranger—bundled into 4 sections, it includes more than fifty “stories” and is all of 200 pages.  (Sounds like just the kind of thing I can get into).  Bissell suggests that the stories have a layer of remove, like someone telling a story about someone telling a story.  Or, if they were about a bank robbery, the story would actually be about someone describing having once met the guy who sold the robbers their ski masks.  But the real selling point for me was this pithy description of the collection: imagine Brief Interviews with Hideous Men written by Alice Munro.   That sounds hard to pass up. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ULVER-A Quick Fix of Melancholy (2005).

This EP came two years after Teachings in Silence (with a movie soundtrack and “greatest hits” collection in between).  This first track, “Little Blue Bird” is a simple soundscape with echoey keyboards.  When Garm starts singing, his most emotional side comes through (even if I really can’t understand him most of the time).

“Doom Sticks” belies its name and the EP title by being somewhat upbeat.  There are kind of squeaky keyboards that pulsate through the track.  After about a minute and a half, distorted drums keep a martial beat.  But it quickly morphs into a twinkly section that makes me think of the Nutcracker or some other kind of Christmas special.

“Vowels” is similarly upbeat (the music on both of these two tracks has a vaguely Christmastime feel somewhere in there–not that anyone would think these were in any way Christmas songs, or maybe it’s because I’m listening in mid-December).  For this, we get a return of Garm’s choral voice: deep, resonant and hard to understand (although I undertsand the lyrics are from a poem by Christian Bok).   But the poem quickly makes way for some dramatic staccato strings. 

“Eitttlane” begins with some menacing keybaords and staccato notes, creating a feel of a noir movie.  But when the vocal choir comes in, it gets even more sinister.

These Ulver EPs are really true EPs–stopgap recordings for fans.  Their larger works tend to be more substantial, but these EPs allow them to play around with different styles.

[READ: December 1, 2011] “Laureate of Terror”

Two authors I admire in one article, how about that!  In this book review, Martin Amis reviews Don DeLillo’s first collection of short stories and gives a summary of DeLillo’s work.

Amis opens the article by undermining my plans for this blog.  He states point blank than when we say we love an author’s works, we “really mean…that we love about half of it.”  He gives an example of how people who love Joyce pretty much only love Ulysses, that George Eliot gave us one readable book and that “every page of Dickens contains a paragraph to warm to and a paragraph to veer back from.”  Also, Janeites will “never admit that three of the six novels are comparative weaklings (Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park and Persusaion).  [I still hope to read all of the books by the authors I like].

Amis says he loves DeLillo (by which he means, End Zone, Running Dog, White Noise, Libra, Mao II and the first and last section of Underworld).  And he also seems to really like The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories,(well, much of it anyway), DeLillo’s first (!) short story collection

His main assement is that these pieces are a vital addition to DeLillo’s corpus.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKMOGWAI-No Education = No Future (Fuck the Curfew) (1998).

This is a 3 song EP. The opener “Xmas Stripes” is one of my favorite early Mogwai songs.  The opening melody is really great, with a cool interesting bass and a nice guitar over the top.  At about 3:30 the song grows from a silent track to a menacing, growing beast until the drums start and the song and the main riff begins.  By 5 minutes it’s all out rock noise.  By 6 minutes the song is scaled back for the violin solo.  The remaining 7 (!) minutes are a denouement for the song.  Even though I love the track, I mostly love the first 8 or 9 minutes.  The ending tends to drag a bit.

But for all of their noise, Mogwai’s early releases were really quieter instrumentals, meditative songs that were really quite pretty.  “Rollerball” is a beautiful, sad three-minute track.

The last song “Small Children in the Background” continues in this quieter vein.  At nearly 7 minutes, it allows for a noisy middle section.  This noisy section is indeed mostly noise.  And yet the pretty melody of the rest of the track is just as loud throughout the mix, making for a very cool and very brief explosion mid-song.

Not all EPs are essential, but this one is pretty fantastic.  And I have Lar to thank for getting it for me.

[READ: March 10, 2011] Changing My Mind

It’s funny to me when that when I get into an author, I seem to wind up not reading the books that people most talk about until much later.  Take Zadie Smith.  Her debut, White Teeth, is something of a touchstone for many readers.  I missed it when it came out, but I loved On Beauty and figured I’d go back and read it.  That was almost a year ago.  And in that time I have read lots of little things by her and now this collection of essays.

Regardless, this collection of essays is a wonderful look in to the nonfiction world of a writer whom I admire.  And it was quite a treat.  Zadie is an intellectual, and that comes across in all of these paces.  Whether it’s the subjects she’s writing about, the footnotes she uses or just the acknowledgment that she likes art films and not blockbusters, we know where she’s speaking from.  And, of course, I’m right there with her.  The funny thing about this book then is how few of the subjects I know.

The book is broken down into five sections: Reading, Being, Seeing, Feeling and Remembering.  The Reading section is basically book reviews.  The Being section is about her experiences.  The Seeing section is about films.  The Feeling section is about her father and the Remembering section is about David Foster Wallace. (more…)

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