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Archive for the ‘Greg Jackson’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TORO Y MOI-Tiny Desk Concert #845 (April 29, 2019).

I have been hearing about Toro Y Moi for quite some time and yet I never got a sense what he (they) were like.  I also always assumed it was a duo (which apparently it is not).

Chaz Bear, who performs as Toro y Moi, is going to do what he feels. In preparation for his Tiny Desk concert, we were given two possible sound scenarios: aim to recreate the heavily electronic and lustrous aura that birthed his latest LP, Outer Peace or strip away the bells and whistles for an acoustic performance. The game-time decision was the latter and fans were treated to brand new iterations of these songs.

I had assumed that the music was dancey, so this acoustic rendition was a surprise.  Reading that blurb makes more sense.

Toro y Moi’s discography conveys that same unpredictability and showcases his affinity for a wide span of genres. While largely known as an early pioneer of chillwave, Outer Peace is anything but. It’s hard-hitting, funky and directly to the point, as is this Tiny Desk concert.

It’s true.  “Laws of the Universe” is as funky as anything (that bass!–Patrick Jeffords) with the stabs of piano (Tony Ferraro) really bring the melody home.  The drums (Andy Woodward) snap and pop and bring the song to life.  And I love the nod to LCD Soundsystem: “James Murphy is playing in My house.” (we should have all replied “my house”).

Stripping down such heavily produced songs could risk revealing weaknesses. In this case, the rhythms move just the same. Removing the Auto-Tune, synths and effects make way for some insightful songwriting that’s often hard to hear in the recorded version.

Like in “New House” which is “about wanting that gold.”  It comes across as such a simple song with simple but relatable lyrics.

I want a brand new house
Something I can not buy, something I can afford
I ain’t even make it off the jetway now
Phone’s been on blast like all day (Ring)
Why you gotta do this? Try to test me now
Right when I touchdown got anxiety (Fuck)
Follow signs out of the terminal now
JFK is a different animal now
Damn baggage claim is like a warzone now
Glad I packed light clothes, I’m on my own

He has a simple, quite vocal delivery here in this mellow song.

“Freelance” returns that funk in the bass with more nice piano punctuation of melody.  I love this verse:

No more shoes and socks, I only rock sandals
I can’t tell if I’m hip or getting old
I can’t hear you, maybe you could change your tone

For the final song they brought out a special guest (who I didn’t know).

With shaker in tow, Bear sat front and center at a stool to deliver four of my favorites from Outer Peace, including “Ordinary Pleasure,” with bongo assistance from Foots of Foot and Coles.

There is definitely a sameness to the set (are they all in the same chord?)  His quiet delivery and the spare piano are all there.  But each song has a moment that lets it stand out.

Like the funky bass and the insanely catchy chorus of “Ordinary Pleasure.”  The bass and ooohs have a very disco feel to it as you dance along to “Maximize all the pleasure, even with all this weather, nothing can make it better, maximize all the pleasure.”

I have since listened to all four songs and I found the Tiny Desk versions to be more enjoyable each time–except for “Ordinary Pleasure” because the disco is ramped up on the album and it’s impossible not to shake to it.

[READ: April 29, 2019] “Poetry”

There is so much going on in this story, that it’s amazing it keeps its coherence.

James and Celeste are on vacation near a volcano.  Possible rain suggested that Celeste would not enjoy the hike but, “so, frankly, did Celeste’s dislike of hikes.”  But the volcano was there and so they had to climb it.  Celeste could sit out out, of course, but “there was the looming question of marriage and children, after all and of the deeper compatibility of our interests.”

She had once told an acquaintance that he needed harrowing ordeals to prove he’s not on the road to death.

The hike was tough–straight up, it felt–and it did rain.  He hoped they would both hold on to the idea that suffering underwrote a deeper pleasure.  He promised it would be over soon and they would enjoy the taste of prune de Cythère.  (Even though neither one knew what it actually was). (more…)

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july21SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS 2014-With a Little Help from My Fwends (2014).

fwendsAnd speaking of covers.

Probably the least anticipated album of 2014 was the Flaming Lips’ cover of Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Although the biggest surprise (mostly in a bad way, it seemed) was Wayne Coyne’s embrace (metaphorical, we hope) of Miley Cyrus.  The fact that Cyrus appears on this record at all totally overshadowed the fact that so many other people and bands appeared here as well.  I literally had no idea at the names that contributed to this electronic psychedelic re-imagining of a very psychedelic album.

The biggest overall difference between the two is that the Beatles’ psychedelia was conveyed through organic instruments–strings, horns, sitar, piano–while The Fwends version is almost entirely electronic.  This of course means that the album sounds very different from the original.  But what I think makes the album a success overall is that the various artists involved all bring a slightly different vision to the proceedings.  This makes it less of a Flaming Lips record and more of a Friends of Lips-style psychedelia collection.  I’m not even sure why it’s a Flaming Lips record, except that they are credited with playing on a bunch of songs (and presumably produced it–which explains some of the excess noise on the record).

Obviously, they are not trying to improve on the original.  And obviously, die-hard Beatles fans are appalled at this travesty.  But anyone who knows the Beatles knows that they were all about experimenting themselves.  Rather than getting mad about this, perhaps listeners should see that  they are having fun with the originals–sometimes staying faithful, sometimes exploring other ways to do songs, and sometimes just throwing everything out the window for a chance to jam.  And some versions you may even like.

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” featuring My Morning Jacket, Fever the Ghost & J Mascis
The song starts out with a goofy falsetto rendition of the song which makes it seem like the whole album is going to be a big joke (I assume this is Fever the Ghost whom I don’t know).  But I loved the way the “record” slows down to let MMJ take over with a great noisy, respectful chorus.  The song could certainly use more MMJ.  When “Billy Shears” is introduced, it turns out be J Masics playing a totally song-inappropriate wailing guitar solo.
“With a Little Help from My Friends” featuring The Flaming Lips, Black Pus & Autumn Defense
I love that Wayne sings this verse (about being out of tune) with an auto tune on his voice.  He sings it really quite lovely.  I even enjoy that the response verses are done in a kind of out of tune crazy way.  But the problem is that they are too much–it turns the song into too much of a joke (which is to be expected form a band called Black Pus, I suppose).  It’s a shame because the idea could work really well if it didn’t sound like someone crashing a party.  Autumn Defense is a side project from the bassist for Wilco, and I assume he does the lovely harmony vocals.
“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” featuring The Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus & Moby
Miley so overshadows everyone on this song that I didn’t even realize Moby was on it.  Miley sounds really quite good in this version–not all that dissimilar to John’s falsetto voice on the original.  The removal of the big drum before the chorus is distressing, although I do like the replacement, the echoed “gone” part.  I like that they are having fun with the song (the repeat of “Marshmallow Pie” is cute) I just wish the chorus wasn’t mixed so loud that it is so distorted.  I hate that about recent Lips releases, why do they do it?
“Getting Better” featuring Dr. Dog, Chuck Inglish & Morgan Delt
Dr Dog sounds great in this version, although I find Inglish’s recitation (in which he can’t seem to hit any notes on the few times when he  “sings” to be rather unsettling).  I don’t know Morgan Delt, but I find his trippy vocals to work quite well.
“Fixing a Hole” featuring Electric Würms
Electric Würms are the side project of Flaming Lip Steven Drozd.  This is claustrophobic but quite appropriate for the song (I wish it were a little cleaner though).
“She’s Leaving Home” featuring Phantogram, Julianna Barwick & Spaceface
This is a great, delicate version of this with Phantogram and Barwick sharing lead vocals duties.  It’s quite lovely.
“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” featuring The Flaming Lips, Maynard James Keenan, Puscifer & Sunbears!
Maynard does a great job reciting the song.  The song is not necessarily more trippy than the original (which is pretty trippy, it’s just a lot more electronic-sounding.  It’s a weird but cool rendition of the song.
“Within You Without You” featuring The Flaming Lips, Birdflower & Morgan Delt
I don’t Birdflower, but she does a great job in a higher register with the Indian melody (it’s all electronic and not traditional Indian instrumentation but it sounds cool).  Delt sings alternate leads and is a good counterpoint.
“When I’m Sixty-Four” featuring The Flaming Lips, Def Rain & Pitchwafuzz
I don’t know Def Rain or Pitchwafuzz, but I think Def Rain is doing the voice.  The robotic voice that sings this song is kind of fun–a little too much at times, but overall fun.
“Lovely Rita” featuring Tegan and Sara & Stardeath and White Dwarfs
Tegan and Sara have fun with this song while the noise from Stardeath is much darker than the original.
“Good Morning Good Morning” featuring Zorch, Grace Potter & Treasure Mammal
This song is a little wild (although so is the original).  I don’t know any of the artists involved in it.
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” featuring Foxygen & Ben Goldwasser
Foxygen takes this one minute reprise and turns it into a five minute jam session. It has nothing at all to do with the original and it is a weird way to delay the final song.  I don’t know what Goldwasser contributes.  If you can get past the fact that it sound nothing like the original, it’s an interesting noisy jam.
“A Day in the Life” featuring The Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus & New Fumes
Wayne and Miley duet on this, with again, Wayne taking the vocals seriously.  Wayne does the “John” verses.  The switch to Miley’s take on the “Paul” verses is a pretty big shock the way it sounds so stark and electronic.  There’s a few too many echoes on her part, but again, Miley does pretty well with a detached reading.  And because they are difficult, the end just gets cut off before the final famous crescendo.

So is this a great record that people will listen to a lot? Nope.  Is it an interesting twist on a famous record?  Sure.  Is it enjoyable?  For the most part.  As long a you don’t think of it is a definitive re-make, and accept it as a way to raise money for a charity.

[READ: January 28, 2015] “Wagner in the Desert”

This story reminded me in spirit of both Less than Zero and Generation X, but perhaps for Generation Y.

It’s about a bunch of friends getting ready to ring in the New Year in Palm Springs with a lot of drugs.

The narrator and friends were vacationing some friends from whom he had drifted.  Marta and Eli were trying to have a baby and were looking to do one more sort of wild night before it all became to real: “The Baby Bucket List they were calling it.”  So they all headed to Palm Springs, a group of “modern hustlers: filmmakers, ad writers (screen, Web, magazine), who periodically worked as narrative consultants on ad campaigns, sustainability experts, P.R. lifers, designers, or design consultants, social entrepreneurs and that strange species of human beings who has invented an app.”

Unlike the coke heads of the 80s, though: “We thought we were not bad people.  Not the best, a bit spoiled, maybe, but pleasant, inconstant, decent.”

The group were all paired off except for the narrator and Lily, who was pretty and neurotic, an executive in training.  And he soon filled the role of her gofer because “she needed a lot of things.” He had hoped to have sex with her–his only goal for the vacation.  But as of day three, they had only made out a bit. (more…)

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