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Archive for the ‘Haruki Murakami’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: Y LA BAMBA-Tiny Desk Concert #892 (September 20, 2019).

It used to be that no one was invited back to play a Tiny Desk Concert.  The rules have been relaxed somewhat as of late (I would have thought that maybe they’d wait until 1000 shows).

The blurb explains why they (she) was invited back though.

Luz Elena Mendoza has such a far-reaching creative spirit that it’s almost impossible to confine her to a single musical identity. Which is why she’s one of just a handful of artists who’ve been invited back to the Tiny Desk to offer a revised musical vision.

Y La Bamba was on back in 2011 and they played a more acoustic style of music–accordion, percussion, guitar and lot of singers.  For this show, lead Bamba, Luz Elena Mendoza looks quite different.  In 2011, her hair was black and long, here it is silver and short–the neck tattoo is the same, though.

When she was here last with the band Y La Bamba, it was a vocal-heavy, folk outfit. The band’s sound has always been about vocals and her music has become even more so over the years.

Back in May, Y La Bamba played Non-Comm and Mendoza was pretty confrontational.  She is less so here, allowing the music to speak for her.

And the music is quite different.  It’s almost all in Spanish this time.  There’s a second guitarist (Ryan Oxford), a bass (Zachary Teran), and a drummer (Miguel Jimenez-Cruz).  She also has two backing singers, Julia Mendiolea who also plays keyboard and Isabeau Waia’u Walker.

I knew that Y La Bamba was the project of Mendoza, but i didn’t realize she did everything herself:

Y La Bamba’s albums are meticulously crafted sonic treats with her vocals layered like a choir made with a single voice. But in our offices, she called on vocalist Isabeau Waia’u Walker to replicate their distinct sound.

There’s a great variety of styles in this Tiny Desk.

“Paloma Negra” (“Black Pigeon”) [also played at Non-Comm] benefits from the voices of the entire band in a high-energy mediation on rhythm and voice.

It’s got a groovy, funky bassline and some cool echoing guitars.  There’s a tension in the verses that is totally relieved in the super catchy chorus.

This song segues into “Rios Sueltos” which is a kind of rap–but sung.  It’s bouncy and catchy but I sense is probably not a happy song, despite the catchy “hey ey ey heys” in the middle.

The song ends with a rumbling from Mendoza’s guitar as she starts up “Bruja de Brujas” [also played at Non-Comm].

There is a bruja energy and spirit to their performance, and not in the negative connotation that is the Spanish word for “witch.” In Luz Elena Mendoza’s hands a brujeria spirit is all about conjuring the kind of magic that took place on this video.

The song opens with a cool bass line and a somewhat menacing feel.  It starts quietly, but when all three vocalists sing together it’s really lovely.

At the end of the song she sinks to the ground to play with her effects as the song fades out with trippy sounds.   She jokes, “And aliens came down.:

Then she realizes, “we forgot to do one more.  Sorry the aliens did come down… and took my brain.”

The final song is the fantastic “Cuatro Crazy” [also played at Non-Comm].  It is sweet and pretty and has echoing guitars and a vocal style not unlike a Cocteau Twins song.  It even ends with a lot of “dah dah dah dahs.”

I really enjoy their music quite a lot and should really look into their stuff more.

[READ: October 6, 2019] “Abandoning a Cat”

This essay is, indeed, about abandoning a cat.  The cat story has a happy ending (although another one might not).  But mostly the essay is about how mundane events trigger memories of our parents.

He says that when he was little, his family had an older cat and they needed to get rid of it.  “Getting rid of cats back then was a common occurrence, not something that anyone would criticize you for.  The idea of neutering cats never crossed anyone’s mind.”

His father took the bike and he sat on the back with the cat in a box.  They rode to the beach about 2 km from their house, put the box down, and headed back.

When they returned home, they opened the door and there was the cat “greeting us with a friendly meow, its tail standing tall.”  His father’s expression of blank amazement “changed to one of admiration and, finally, to an expression of relief.  And the cat went back to being out pet.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NEW ORDER-“Ceremony” (live) (1981).

Recently, Peter Hook was in Philly to play some New Order music with his band The Light.  I wonder how much different that show sounded from this one.

New Order formed out of the ashes of Joy Division in 1980.

Their first single, “Ceremony,” was actually written with Joy Division prior to Curtis’ suicide. It popped up as a single in advance of New Order’s 1981 debut album, Movement, which is about to receive the deluxe-reissue treatment; to commemorate the occasion, the band is circulating a little-seen performance of “Ceremony,” recorded live at Manchester’s CoManCHE Student Union.

Imagine having been at that show in 1981?

The music sounds amazing here–the guitar sound is perfect, the bass and drums are spot on.  But the vocals are terrible.  Practically inaudible.  I realize that he’s mostly speak/singing at this time, but you really can’t really hear him at all on the first verse.  It’s a little better on the second verse, but it’s the instrumental break that’s the real high point.

You can read about the re-release here.

[READ: January 23, 2019] “Cream”

The first line of this story sounds like it could describe most of Murakami’s stories:

So I’m telling a friend of mine about a strange incident that took place back when I was eighteen.  I don’t recall exactly why I brought it up.  It just happened to come up as we were talking.

Murakami is all about the strange incident.

He gives some details about himself at the time–finished high school, not yet in college–when he received an invitation to a piano recital.  The invitation came from a girl who was a year behind him in school but who went to the same piano teacher. They once played a piece together but she was clearly much better.  He’d stopped playing and obviously she had gone on to give a recital .

The recital hall was at the top of a mountain in Kobe.  He took a train and then a bus and then had a short walk to get to the venue.  It was a weird, inconvenient place for a concert venue.  He brought flowers to show his appreciation. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE McCRARY SISTERS AND THE FAIRFIELD FOUR-“Rock My Soul” (Field Recordings, September 20, 2015).

Hearing these eight voices intertwine so beautifully is wonderful (I especially love the bass voice).  Knowing how the voices are connected is pretty cool, too.

The original Fairfield Four was founded nearly 95 years ago in Nashville, and has remained relevant into the present day; many current listeners know the group from its appearance in the Coen Brothers’ 2000 film O, Brother, Where Art Thou? The McCrary Sisters are the daughters of the now-deceased longtime Fairfield Four lead voice, Samuel McCrary; together, they’ve made a major impact as that rare thing in a mostly masculine preserve, a female gospel quartet. To hear these voices perform “Rock My Soul” together is to feel the power of living history and the timelessness of family connection.

“Rock My Soul,” powered by their persistent clapping is just wonderful.  Their voices sound amazing, their harmonies are wonderful. It’s a joyful three minutes.

[READ: August 29, 2018] “The Wind Cave”

This is a somber story from Murakami.

It concerns a boy and the death of his younger sister when she was 12.  She was born with a malfunctioning heart valve and although she was never robust, it was still a surprise that she died so young.

His parents told him to watch over her, to look after her because she was so delicate.  The fact hat he couldn’t save her from death (no one could) has hung over him.

He hated seeing her in the coffin and he grew claustrophobic even thinking about her in that tiny box.  The symptoms didn’t start right away but occurred after he had been locked in a box truck.  He was working a part time job and was accidentally locked into the back of the truck when people wanted to leave early.  (Frankly I would think that might trigger claustrophobia more than anything having to do with his sister).

But now he can no longer ride in elevators or watch movies about submarines. (more…)

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pinballSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSFall Nationals The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto, ON. Night 5 of 13 (November 14, 2003).

This was the 5th night of the Rheostatics 13 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Rheostatics Live has recordings of nights 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7.

It’s Big R night (see below).

There’s an introduction by J.C. who says he used to be the owner of the legendary Horseshoe Tavern “but as of tonight I am the owner of the R club.”  As he’s saying there’s a burst of “It’s Not the End of the World from Super Furry Animals–probably a mistake).

“Last night this band was here and they didn’t sing a single lead vocal the entire night.”  J.C. also mentions upcoming shows at the Horseshoe: Skydiggers will be doing an annual residency, Luther Wright, The Sadies, Royal City, Northern Pikes and the last two Watchmen shows ever.”

Then back to Rheos: “Next Wed will be the wheel of fortune–all requests by spinning the great wheel and next Thursday is all covers night.”  I’d love to see the set lists from these nights.

One of the greatest legendary Canadian bands:

“Power Ballad for Ozzy” is fairly mellow with lots of acoustic guitars.  It segues right into “PIN” where Martin recites “In the dirty boulevard” during the end chords.

“Aliens” brings a bit more loudness.  In the middle of the song, someone starts playing the melody for “When Winter Comes.”  The band starts grooving it but Martin will not be hijacked and he finishes “Aliens.”

A funky, percussion-heavy version of “Marginalized” is followed by a sweet “Loving Arms.”

As Dave starts playing the opening jazzy guitar to “I Dig Music,” Martin sings “The bed’s to big without you” (which fits pretty well).

Then you hear Dave say, “please sir don’t touch the setlist.”
Mike: “It’s still drying.  It’s like an infomercial for inverted reading.”
Dave: “Did it feel good to touch?”

“The Tarleks” has a really raucous guitar ending with lots of noisy loud chords.

Dave explains that “Tonight is giant R night.  The giant R was in Martin’s parents basement for the last 13 years–Otobicoke cultural prison–since the “Aliens” video.”  And since they’re returning to the olden says they’ll do an old song: Woodstuck.”  There’s a false start, wrong temp, but then they play a solid version.  Martin repeats “Hippie child” and Dave says “little protest song there.”

Then we learn that Dave is now playing drums.
Tim: “All because Michael showed up late for practice one day.” [rim shot].
Dave: “Anyone else want a rim shot–it’s not what you think–it’s the first thing they teach you in amateur drummer school.”

Tim sings “Here comes the Image” with MPW on keys with a great solo.

Someone shouts “Bad Time to Be Poor” which is followed by someone else shouting “Yeah! ‘Bad Time to be Poor!”

But they play a ripping version of “Fishtailin'” which Dave says they recorded in the Bahamas.  Someone growls and Dave says it’s about a giant cat–the mascot of the Bahamas.

The first surprise comes when Tim starts playing the then there the bassline that can only be a cover of “Teenage FBI” (!) by Guided By Voice.  They play a respectable version of the song with Tom on lead vocals.

Dave: “Yup, Guided By Voices.  Since we can’t be there we figured we’d simulate the experience.”  (GBV were at the Opera House in Toronto that night).  Were doing a covers night next Thursday so were working through a few tonight.  From then on someone keeps shouting “Horses” but they will not hear that song.  Next song is “From that up and coming Greenwich Village folk duo Simon & Garfunkel.  It ends with someone loudly going “doh duh duh doh duh duh doh duh duh doh…as  wrote.”

Someone yells do you plan to do any Rush covers?  Martin says, “If we had enough time I so wanted to do “Closer to the Heart” or “Red Barchetta.”  Mike says they might have time.  And Dave says, “No but we’ll do about four I Mother Earth tunes.  Mike says, “Why because that’s the equivalence weight?”

One more scream for “Bad Time to be Poor” Martin says, “Okay, we know.”
Mike asks if anyone knows what a ballyhoo is: When they sweep the lights over the audience like at the beginning of a game show.  He says the stars are doing that tonight–whatever he’s talking about.

Then Martin says to Dave: “I see you’re selling hockey cards of yourself”
Dave: Sold out!  Just get a picture of yourself, charge 50 cents, people will buy anything.
Martin: “Dirty player… you see how mean he looks on that card.”
Dave: But off the ice, the meanest are the most loving and good to their fellow citizens.”
Mike: “When you play you’re not a goon, right?”
Dave: “Just a dirty suck.”
Martin: “You told me you’re a fun loving player.  You jab people, but its friendly.”
Dave: “A gentle tickle.”
Martin: “Some of them don’t have a sense of humor.  Some of them should try harder to get a sense of humor.
Dave: Kenny Linesman was called “the rat.”  Me I’m more of a monkey. I’ll bite you, but I’m a monkey.  I’m not all bad.”

They finally play “Bad Time to Be Poor” and then a rocking “CCYPA.”  And then after a wild and rocking intro to “Song of the Garden.” the song rocks too.

Then Martin says, “Gonna slow burn on this one.”  It’s one of the best versions of “Stolen Car” I’ve heard–the climactic section is so intense.  I love the way Martin sings “drive a…  way!” at the end.

Before “RDA” Dave says, “Send this one out to Bono, coz he’s the man.”  Martin says “Rock Death America starts with R.”  Dave has a wild middle section in which he starts yelling thing like:
“Gonna be in a big fucking band with big fucking people playing for big fucking people, big beautiful guns, big beautiful hockey pucks made of fudge.  It’s a silly war, it’s an insidious war, it’s a stupid war.”  At the end, Mike says, “Good rocking, Dave.”

Staying political, Dave says, “Congratulation to the Liberal dynasty, the Liberal monopoly, the Liberal empire of Canada.  Don’t fucking get it wrong.  “We’re gonna gave to retire this song because it was written about a bunch of assholes in the past.  We’ll have to put it behind us.”  Sadly People in the States need to bring it back for Betsy DeVos and her own shitty people.  “Hands Off Our Schools” is an outtake from 2067 : “Hands off our schools politician scum.”  At the end of the song Tim says , “you lose.  ha ha.”

Tim says, “We’re going try to put music back in the schools.  Next Tuesday we’re raising money for an alternative public school for their music program.”

After the encore Dave says, “We’d like to thank The Imponderables for playing before us.  Up and coming young funnymen.”  Then

Dave: We have T-shirts Fall Nationals T-shirts. Martin’s two solo records and 2 of my books and most of our CDs.  Hockey cards sold out.  We have mugs too so if you don’t like us buy a mug and throw it as us.  Nothing says I hate you like a mug to the head.
Martin: nothing says you’ve made it more than having a cup of coffee with your band’s name on it in the morning.  You know, Chapters won’t stock my album [Operation Infinite Joy] because they think the image on the front might offend some people. [Boos].
Dave: “We were supposed to do an in store there but we got bumped for Lady Di’s butler.  Double lame.”

Anybody here from the prairers?  Really?  All of them!  A rocking excellent version of Saskatchewan that segues into “The Mayor of Simpleton” with MPW on drums and vocals. It’s pretty good although his vocals are too quiet and he forgets some words and he seems winded by the end.  A quiet “Little Bird” is followed by a moody and intense “Shaved Head.”

Dave thanks George Stroumboulopoulos for nominating Whale Music for Best Canadian album for the CBC.

During the second encore break, Serena Ryder comes out  and yells at the crowd to get the band back up there.  Then she sings a cool, spooky version of “Digital Beach.”  It’s followed by a fun bouncy version of “Mumbletypeg.”

There’s some discussion and you hear Mike say “So many songs.  There’s a bullion of them and you just cant think of one, sometimes.”  Not sure what they were talking about playing but they settle on “In This Town” and then a wild version of “Me and Stupid.”  They play a verse and MPW stops the song.  Dave says “Sounded pretty good to me MPW Dot Com.  Dave starts talking about the fish in the song: “when those pike start going when they start thrashing you can hear them a mile away.”

For the final song, they thank Canadians and Americans “we’re gonna do a Ron Koop song.”  Koop sang “Introducing Happiness” the night before.
As they head out they announce, “Tomorrow night, Tim Vebron and Rheostar.  You don’t wanna miss it.”

Tim Vebron and Rheostar were the Rheostatics dressing up in crazy outfits playing synth songs.  You can see some pictures here.  Wish there wad a recording of it.

 

[READ: December 30, 2016] Pinball 1973

In the introduction of this book. Murakami devotes a page to Pinball and says he wrote a sequel the following year.  He was still running the jazz bar.  Soon after finishing this he decide to stop writing at his kitchen table and then wrote his first full length A Wild Sheep Chase which “I consider to be the true beginning my career as a novelist.”

He describes the text as “a novel about pinball,” but also explores themes of loneliness and companionship, purposelessness, and destiny. As with the other books in the “Trilogy of the Rat” series, three of the characters include the protagonist, a nameless first-person narrator, his friend The Rat, and J, the owner of the bar where they often spend time.

The plot is sort of beside the point although it is more present than in Hear the Wind.

Before the story starts properly we get this little introduction in which the narrator says the story is about “me” but also about a guy called “Rat.” That autumn the two of them were living four hundred miles apart.  This novel begins in 1973.

The story begins with Pinball and Raymond Moloney.  In 1931 Moloney made the very first pinball machine (this is true). (more…)

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pinballSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSFall Nationals The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto, ON. Night 4 of 13 (November 13, 2003).

This was the 4th night of the Rheostatics 13 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Rheostatics Live has recordings of nights 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7.  It was guest vocalists night with this lineup: Reid Jamieson, Mike Bell, Andy Maize, Dennis Ellsworth, Justin Rutledge, Jen Foster, Ron Koop, Kurt Swinghammer,  Donna Orchard, Serena Ryder, Matthew Crowley, Paul Linklater, Leslie Stanwyck, Ford Pier, Dylan Hudecki, Jonathan Seet, Selena Martin, Amer Diab,  Jason Plumb, Jose Contreras, Silas White, Greg Smith Sounds, Paul MacLeod.

The show opens with the instrumental introduction of “Four Little Songs” which turns into a lovely version of “Song of Flight.”

The rest of the show sounds very different from other shows.  Obviously because of the different singers, but the band is quite restrained.  Not phoning it in, but holding back, allowing the singers to really stand out.  Songs are slower, fills are quieter and the band does feel more like a backing band (without the songs suffering).

And then the guest vocalists come in.  Reid Jamieson sings “PIN.” He has the same tone as Martin.  It’s a nice version.  As he gets off the stage he says. “I’m naming my first child Rheostatics.”  Someone warns him: “think of the school grounds.”

Mike Bell (from Dunville, Ontario and the post-hardcore band Chore) says “I just did a big shot of Buckley’s so bear with me.”  He sings “King of the Past” but has rather flat vocals.  The pace is slower too.

Dave tells the audience that it’s all guest vocalists and they are flattered that this could happen.  And then there’s Andy.  Andy Maize of Skydiggers sings “We Went West,” and says, “I lent my teleprompter to Mr Chretien for his farewell address, so I apologize for all my reading.”  He sings raspy and great and I think adds some gravitas to the song.

Dennis Ellsworth sings “Northern Wish.”  Dave asks him, “Do you favor the Melville version of the song?”  “I do.”  He has some gentle singing that works well with this song.  When it’s over, Dave announces, “Ladies and gentleman Ward MacLaurin Cornell [a Canadian broadcaster noted for hosting Hockey Night in Canada] because of Dennis’ jacket I guess.

Justin Rutledge sings “Feed Yourself.”  Dave says it’s not the first time he has fronted the group.  “The first time was 4 days after I turned 19 (that would be 1998) at the Rivoli.  He has a gravelly voice that sort of works with the song although he’s a little slow, maybe.  But he really gets into it.

Next up, “Here’s Jen Foster everybody.”  She sings the new song “The Tarleks” and adds an interesting spin to it with hr voice and delivery. There’s some fun wild guitar at the end.

Then Dave says, “Uh oh here’s the big money.”  Ron Koop of Tim Mech’s Peepshow sings “Introducing Happiness” but first he asks, “Is this Star Search?  I feel under-dressed.”  Dave says, “I want to know is there a name for your beard?”  “Dudley?” “Gunther?”  Dave says just “The Koop.”   He says, “I’m a backup singer I don’t know what to do without a bass in front of me.”  Dave notes air bass didn’t really take of like air guitar did.  Koop says he loves this song, and while not really lead vocal quality, he does a really fun job with it.

Kurt Swinghammer is a Canadian singer-songwriter and visual artist.  He and Dave have a chat about a club owner named Jimmy Scopas, it’s pretty funny.  While singing “It’s Easy To Be With You,” there’s a bunch of ad libs in the middle of the song.

Donna Orchard sings a kind of operatic “Jesus Was Once A Teenager, Too” which works nicely for the high notes.

Serena Ryder “The stage hog… can’t keep you away.  How’d your set go tonight?  “Really fun. I really enjoyed it a lot.”  Dave: “You guys like it?”  “That’s what they call popular acclaim.”  She does a cool trippy rendition of “Digital Beach.”

Matthew Crowley is a mumbly singer of this mumbly song, “Earth/Monstrous Hummingbirds.”  It’s a hard song and this version is a little disappointing.

Paul Linklater comes up to sing “California Dreamline.”  Dave shouts “Hey, Link, those dirty Toronto winters will get you every time.”   “You’re the bridge the half way point.”  This version is echoey and trippy and sounds very different, Linklater gets a little crazy carried away by the end.

Leslie Stanwyck from The Pursuit of Happiness and Universal Honey is gonna do a song [“Claire”] that appeared on two records…
Tim: “Is it not on the live record?”
Dave: “I don’t think so?” [It is]
Martin: “We like this one a lot.”
Dave to Leslie: “Are you familiar with the Howl Brothers version or the Rheostatics?”  Rheostatics!  Her version sounds great.

Ford Pier comes out and they tell him he’s got a lot of nerve going back into the archives.  Ford: “Entirely my own idea.”  They play “Chemical World,” a song from 1986, from “our second demo tape ever.”  They do a good job with it too.

Dylan Hudecki wonders, “How can I beat that?  This is so awesome.  I feel privileged.”  Tim describes the night as “Karaoke with a capital K.”  Hudecki says this a song [“Satan is the Whistler”] for all the people who went to Whistler and wondered what went wrong.  There’s lots of fun vocal nonsense at he end Martin even gets out his mechanical robotic voice.

Jonathan Seet does a sweet version of “Take Me in Your Hand,” and then Selena Martin comes out: “The word is dazzling.”

Selena says, “Pretty fuckin 70s, eh?”  Dave: “Look at you in your 70s outfit.  Any particular reason you chose “Dope Fiends?”  She says a friend made her a mixtape and “then I heard this fuckin’ song.   The rest is history.”  I wonder if it’s in a odd key—no one seems to be able to hit the notes.

Amer Diab gets the beloved “Horses.”  And he does a good job, but not as angry as Dave does it.

Jason Forrest Plumb was the lead singer and front man of the Waltons.  Dave asks how things are in Saskatchewan.  “Cold, snowy and the ‘Riders aren’t making it to the cup this year.   Bad calls all day that day.”  They play a slow and moody “Shaved Head.”

Jose Contreras, frontman for By Divine Right, José Contreras says, “Rheostatics changed my life.”  Dave: “for the better I hope.”  Jose: “For the better.   They taught me and a lot of other people a great lesson to dare to be glorious.”  He notes that this [“Triangles on the Wall”] is an autobiographical [he can’t get the word out] song.  “Am I singing this in the first person?  It’s kind of waltz in the key of D.”  He gets really into it with a bunch of ad-libbed jokes and whatnot.

Silas White does a good version of “Queer.”  In the end of the song Dave asks twice, Silas do you miss British Columbia?”  But we never hear the answer.

Dave says he’ll pay acoustic for this one.  Greg Smith the bassist Weakerthans, makes “Self Serve” sound a bit more twangy–“what went wrong with martin?  Is he on some kinda drug or something?”  As the song ends, they introduce Paul MacLeod also of Skydiggers (he sounds just like Martin at beginning of “Record Body Count.”  The song starts chaotic and fun and it’s a great ending to the main set.

Dave says they sent out an email about a week ago but since there are a lot of luddites among us, some people didn’t respond to the request to come up here.  So,”we will invite as may people as can fit on stage.  Don’t be shy.  Purple shirt guy be the first.  Lots of room, folks.”  They wonder if they can get the entire bar on stage.

The whole club sings “Legal Age Life,” with occasional singers stepping up to the mic.  And Dave shouting in the last verse: “Eagleson ripped off Bobby Orr.”

[READ: December 30, 2016] Hear the Wind Sing

After reading the Madras Press Murakami Slow Reader issue.  I decided it was time to read some more from the man himself.

So I decided to start with his first book–which I’d read about in the New Yorke essay.  Incidentally, the New Yorker essay that talks about his writing style is expanded on in the introduction to this version of the book (which is technically called Wind/Pinball and is a collection of the first two stories).

The essay is called “The Birth of My Kitchen-Table Fiction.”  While the New Yorker essay covers a lot of his life, this essay focuses on his early days–and gives more detail to some of the ideas he mentioned.  He says he hated the idea of working for a company so he opened a jazz club (it cost a lot less to do this back in 1974).  He shares details of the club and talks about how hard he worked.

Then he talks about the baseball game that inspired him to write.  In that previous essay he mentioned the game, but in this essay we get a lot more detail. He went to the Central League season opener: the Yakult Swallows vs the Hiroshima Carp (he was a Swallows fan, despite their perennially poor record).  He says he stretched out on the lawn with a beer and when he heard the crack of a bat, “for no reason and based on no grounds whatsoever, it suddenly struck me: I think I can write a novel.” (more…)

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oct28SOUNDTRACK: JASON LYTLE-Tiny Desk Concert #249 (November 5, 2012).

sonJason Lytle was Grandaddy.  Sure there were other people in the band, but it was pretty much all him.  And then he dissolved Grandaddy and started recording discs under his own name.

I loved Granddaddy, but didn’t listen to any of his solo stuff.  So I don’t really know how different it sounds.  For this Tiny Desk Concert, he plays two songs from his 2012 solo album Dept. of Disappearance and one Grandaddy track.

“Willow Wand Willow Wand” is a catchy song with just him and a drum machine playing a backing beat.  He sounds like the guy from Grandaddy but slightly different….

Introducing “Get Up and Go,” he explains that he’s been really enjoying playing his songs in this stripped down format.  He really likes making records that are big and produced.  And now he likes not feeling pressure to do them in concert that way.  He’s happy to not try to pull off all of the bells and whistles in a live environment.  “Get Up and Go” is a “happy and peppy song and this isn’t a happy and peppy version of it.”

This song is quite slow.  Again its him on guitar but at the appropriate moments in the chorus he hits a key on the keyboard and a little melody (very Granddaddy) plays briefly.

After this song you can hear Stephen Thompson ask “Robin, you like this?” to much laughter.

He says he finished an hour long session at Sirius XM.  He was completely by himself and he was really comfortable.  But playing music in front of people makes him nervous—you’d think he had it down by now.  But he tells us “if you’ve never done it before as weird as you imagine it being… it’s that weird.”

The final song is a request for Grandaddy’s “Jed the Humanoid” and that’s when I realized why he sounds different.  He sings slightly more falsetto in Granddaddy than on the solo songs.  It’s very subtle, but I can hear it.  The original of this song is very synthy, so hearing it on acoustic guitar (with the lyrics very clear) really changes the feel of the song.

After a verse, he turns a knob on the keyboard and this weird frog-like sound bubbles under the song (similar to the one on the record, which is neat).

And as he leaves the Desk, you can hear Robin say “the saddest song in the world.”

[READ: July 20, 2016] “Samsa in Love”

Basing a story on another story can be risky, especially when the story you base yours on is incredibly famous with a first line that many people can quote without looking.

But Murakami does something very interesting with Gregor Samsa in this story.  “He woke to discover that he had undergone a metamorphosis and become Gregor Samsa.”  We don’t know who or what “he” was before this and neither does he.  He’s not even sure exactly what he is–but he knows his name.

The first few paragraphs are all about him getting used to even being human–scoffing at his body, wondering why he was so cold and what that gnawing pain was in his stomach–hunger, it turns out.  He spends several paragraphs just trying to learn how to walk on two legs.  It’s all somewhat comical although not exactly funny.

Finally he gets downstairs–the table has been set for a meal but no one is there. Everything is still warm and yet the house appears empty. No matter, he tucks into the food wand eats everything.  Then he sets about trying to cover himself.  He looks out the window and sees everyone dressed, but he’s not willing to even attempt to put clothes on so he grabs a dressing gown and slips into that. (more…)

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6916SOUNDTRACK: MARGARET GLASPY-Tiny Desk Concert #560 (August 22, 2016).

margaretI really love Glaspy’s 2016 album Emotions & Math.  Her lyrics are sharp, her voice is unusual and mesmerizing and her guitar licks are simple but just chock full of hooks.  What’s not to like?

This Tiny Desk sees her playing songs from that album. Her band is just a bassist, a drummer and her on guitar and voice.

“Emotions & Math” starts off quietly with just bass and drums while she sings in that unique way of hers.  Then the guitar comes in–it’s nothing fancy, but it plays off the bass notes in a very cool way.  And it’s super catchy too.

“Love Like This” opens with a cool bass and drums rhythm–bouncy and tribal.  And when her guitar comes in, it’s with a ripping couple of chords before disappearing again.  Once again, the bass is rumbling along with her chords accenting in a neat way.

“You and I” bounces along with some low chords and bass and Glaspy’s most growly vocals. This song features the first “solo” which is really just the notes of the chords played, but it really stands out among the deep notes.  And once again, the whole business is really catchy.

“Somebody to Anybody” is just her singing and playing guitar.  Although it feels a little quiet without the rhythm section, she fills in more guitar parts on this song and it feels quite full.  And the chorus is, that word again, very catchy.

It was this Tiny Desk that sold me on getting her album, and I’m glad I did.

[READ: March 17, 2016] “The Running Novelist”

This essay appeared in the Summer Fiction issue of the New Yorker.  Since I really like Murakami, and hope to read more of him one of the days, I’m going to include this essay because it is as surprising as some of his fiction.

This is the story of how he became a runner and how he became a novelist.

He had been the owner of a small jazz club (which I feel he has written about in one of his stories).  It stayed open late and was a novelty in Tokyo at the time.  He had a niche audience and while many people didn’t like the place, he had a steady clientele.

His friends said it would never work, but he didn’t listen and he became quietly successful.  He was there in the morning and worked late at night.  And once he made a profit he hired people to help him out. (more…)

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