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Archive for the ‘Harlan Ellison’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BRITTANY HOWARD-Tiny Desk Concert #900 (October 15, 2019).

I don’t really like Alabama Shakes because I don’t really like blues rock.

But I have really enjoyed a lot of the Brittany Howard solo songs that I’ve heard (which might make me appreciate the Shakes’ music a bit more).

This Tiny Desk Concert is pretty outstanding and Howard is a terrific frontwoman full of passion and fire.

From the moment Brittany Howard walked into the NPR offices, I could sense her intense commitment and passion. Her eight-piece backing band, all decked out in red and black, played with a soulful subtlety that bolstered Brittany Howard’s tender songs about her family — stories of a mixed-race child growing up in Alabama.

She plays four songs.

All the songs performed at the Tiny Desk come from Jaime, an album Brittany Howard dedicated to her sister who died at the age of 13 from a rare form of eye cancer, the same disease that has left Brittany Howard partially blind in one eye.

I have heard a few songs form this album, but the one I know the best is “Stay High.”  This pretty song starts with Lloyd Buchanan playing a kind of bell melody on the keys.  There’s also gentle acoustic guitars from Alex Chakour (whom she calls the crown jewel).  As the image fades in, some simple bass from Zac Cockrell is added and then some drums from the amazing Nate Smith.  And then it’s all about Brittany.  She lives these songs as she sings them.  When you add in the pretty backing vocals from Shanay Johnson and Karita Law the songs sounds even more amazing than on the record.

On these songs (and in particular at this Tiny Desk Concert), there is more nuance than I’ve heard in Brittany’s past projects, including her work with Alabama Shakes and Thunderbitch.

It’s this more complex music that I find so appealing about these new songs.  But also that Howard seems to be having a really good time singing them.

After the first song she says, To all them people on YouTube I’ll let you know its hot in here.  All the bands about to go on… know to dress light.

Up next is “Georgia.”  The blurb says:

The music has a sense of wonder and playfulness, even when the subject is heavy, as in “Georgia.” She tells the audience that it’s a tale of “a little young, black, gay girl having a crush on an older black girl and not knowing what to say and how I was feeling.”

This is a song where it’s nice that Nate Smith is visible because his playing is dynamic, including the rumbling crashes he adds (electronically) throughout the verses.  Buchanan plays church-sounding organ while washes of keys from Paul Horton (Brittany’s cousin) fill in behind the song.  There’s also a buzzing guitar solo from Brad Allen Williams as the song builds and builds.  This is a powerful song that really brings you right into the words.

Britanny says she’s wanted to write songs like this since she picked up a guitar when she was 11 years old.

Brittany Howard knows how to tell a story, to foster empathy and understanding and, in this intimate setting, the songs feel at home. The connection with the audience felt visceral … even a small child in the arms of their parent screamed at the appropriate moment during the climax of Brittany’s song, “Baby.” It gave us all a good laugh just when the weight of the words felt the heaviest.

She introduces “Baby” as “a love song.  Love.  Doesn’t it just give you chills.  But sometimes love is not 100%.  Sometimes you got that 80/20 split and you’re on the bad side.”  This song starts quietly but builds and builds to a huge moment as Brittany and the backing vocalists sing “Baby!”  The song hits a full pause and you hear a child scream.  She points at the child, smiles and says “Now pick that shit back up” as the band rocks out some more.  As the song nears the end, she says, “Fool me once.  Fool me twice.  Fool three times?  (the band plays two hits) not three times (hit hit) as the song ends.

She says, “Thanks to the little one for hitting the right notes at the right time–I gave him a record before we came out.”

The final song is “Goat Head” a shocking song of growing up as an interracial child.   It’s amazing she can dance to it when there are lyrics like:

See, tomatoes are green
And cotton is white
My heroes are black
So why God got blue eyes?
My daddy, he stayed
My grandmama’s a maid
My mama was brave
To take me outside
‘Cause mama is white
And daddy is black
When I first got made
Guess I made these folks mad
See, I know my colors, see
But what I wanna know is
Who slashed my dad’s tires and put a goat head in the back?
I guess I wasn’t supposed to know that, too bad
I guess I’m not supposed to mind ’cause I’m brown, I’m not black
But who said that?
See, I’m black, I’m not white
But I’m that, nah, nah, I’m this, right?
I’m one drop of three-fifths, right?

But the introductory guitar riff is really catchy.  When the main verse starts the music is menacing and pretty at the same time.

It’s a short song bt very powerful.  And its a fantastic ending to this Concert.

[READ: November 16, 2019] “The Final Frontier”

I haven’t read a lot by Michael Chabon, but what I have read, I have enjoyed.

This is an essay about his dying father and their connection through Star Trek.  Specifically, he tells his father, “I love Mr. Spock because he reminds me of you.”

Although this essay was lovely and heart-felt, perhaps the most mind-blowing (or mind-melding) moment for me was learning that Chabon is a  writer, producer and showrunner of the upcoming Star Trek: Picard.  Since I’m a TNG fan more than an Original Series fan, I’m pretty exited about this.

As a kid Chabon had written stories that were like Sherlock Holmes or Robert E. Howard  or Larry Niven or even Edgar Rice Burroughs.  But never Trek.  He didn’t have the means or the chutzpah to do it until now. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MUDHONEY-“Halloween” (1988).

Mudhoney recorded a cover of Sonic Youth’s “Halloween” just two years after the original was released.

Mudhoney, a deliberately noisy and abrasive band recorded a deliberately noisy and abrasive version of this song.  And yet at the same time, it doesn’t hold a candle to Sonic Youth;s version for deliberate noise and chaos.

On the other hand, in many respects the Mudhoney version is better.  It feels more like a “real song” with the guitar, bass and drums all playing along fairly conventionally.  It follows the same musical patterns as the original, with that same cool riff, but it just feels…more.

Mark Arm sing/speaks the lyrics more aggressively and less sensuously than Kim Gordon did.  In some way it helps to understand the original song a little more, as if they translated it from Sonic Youth-land into a somewhat more mainstream version.  Although it is hardly mainstream what with the noise and fuzz, the cursing and the fact that it lasts 6 minutes.

It feels like Mark emphasizes these lyrics more than the others although it may just be that the songs builds more naturally to them:

And you’re fucking me
Yeah, you’re fucking with me
You’re fucking with me
As you slither up, slither up to me
Your lips are slipping, twisting up my insides
Sing along and just a swinging man
Singing your song
Now I don’t know what you want
But you’re looking at me
And you’re falling on the ground
And you’re twisting around
Fucking with my, my mind
And I don’t know what’s going on

Happy Halloween

[READ: October 24, 2018] “From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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thrilignSOUNDTRACK: ADIA VICTORIA-Tiny Desk Concert #545(June 30, 2016).

adiaAdia Victoria has a rough, raw voice that goes well with her simple, exposed guitar sound.  The blurb says her music “carries the singular perspective of a Southern black woman with a Seventh Day Adventist upbringing, who never felt like she’d fit in.”

She sings three song, mostly in a great, raspy voice.  For “Stuck in the South” she actually seems to be gritting her teeth as she sings: “I don’t know nothing ’bout Southern belles / but I can tell you something ’bout Southern hell.”  When the first verse ends, and her band kicks in, it adds such interesting textures.  a distorted bass and a lead guitar playing quietly distorted sounds.  This song is really captivating.

“And Then You Die” with its swirling sounds and keyboards has a very distinctly Nick Cave feel–gothic in the Southern sense of the word.  Indeed, the first verse is spoken in a delivery that would make Nick proud. This is no to say she cribbed from Cave but it would work very well as a companion song  I really like the way it builds, but the ending is so abrupt–I could have used some more verses.

After the second song the band heads away and Bob says “They’re all leaving you.”  She looks at them and growls, “Get off the stage!” to much laughter.

She sings the final song “Heathen” with just her on acoustic guitar.  It is a simple two chord song.  It’s less interesting than the others, but again, it’s the lyrics that stand out: “I guess that makes me a heathen, something lower than dirt / I hear them calling me heathen, ooh like they think it hurts.”

I’m curious to hear just what Adia would do with these songs when she’s not in this Tiny format.  I imagine she can be really powerful.

[READ: November 23, 2016] McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales

For some reason or another I have put off reading this McSweeney’s volume for many years.  This is technically McSweeney’s #10, although it was also released in this printing from a  major publisher. Sadly for me, my McSweeney’s subscription had expired sometime around here so I’ve never actually seen the “official” Volume 10 which I understand has the exact same content but a slightly different cover.

One of the reasons I’ve put off reading this was the small print and pulpy paper–I don’t like pulpy paper.  And it was pretty long, too.

But I think the big reason is that I don’t really like genre fiction.  But I think that’s the point of this issue.  To give people who read non-genre fiction some exposure to genre stuff.

Interestingly I think I’ve learned that I do enjoy some genre fiction after all.  And yet, a lot of the stories here really weren’t very genre-y.  Or very thrilling.  They seemed to have trappings of genre ideas–mystery, horror–but all the while remaining internal stories rather than action-packed.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy anything here. I enjoyed a bunch of the stories quite a bit, especially if I didn’t think of them as genre stories.  Although there were a couple of less than exiting stories here, too. (more…)

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