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Archive for the ‘Jesse Eisenberg’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: NAIA IZUMI-Tiny Desk Concert #742 (May 14, 2018).

Naia Izumi won the Tiny Desk Contest and here he is with his full Tiny Desk Concert (note to those who submit–you’ll need to have more than one song handy if you win).

He and his band play three songs.

Naia Izumi won us over with his mind-boggling and unique style of guitar playing — a combination of tapping on the fingerboards and soul-filled whammy bar-note bending. And his multi-octave singing range blended so eloquently with his guitar stylings.

Naia is often a one-man band playing on the streets with a drum machine. But for his Tiny Desk Concert he brought bassist Adam Matijasevic and drummer Kynwyn Sterling. He’d met Kynwyn after submitting one of his songs to a math rock Facebook group. And that’s the thing: Naia’s music draws from so many spheres of sound. There’s that punctual, rhythmic, mathematical pulse to what he does, but there’s also a fluid, almost African Kalimba sound in there as well. They’re two sounds I wouldn’t often think of as coexisting.

“Soft Spoken” (the song that won the contest) starts off with him beat boxing and then playing that astonishing finger-tapping riff.  He seems very relaxed and comfortable playing the song in this setting.  And the addition of the bass and guitar really flesh out the sound nicely.  I particularly like the few extra bass fills.  And of course a live drummer is always superior to the machine (even if she looks a little disinterested).   The guitar solo is really pretty, too.

It’s a song, as I hear it, that speaks to the power inherent in the gentle and quieter voices that are often drowned out by the outspoken and boisterous ones. Its title was originally “Soft Spoken Woman” and, as we later learned, Naia had identified as a woman for nearly seven years. More recently, as he said in an interview with Washingtonian Magazine, “I’m not into that anymore because I just want to relax with biology and be comfortable with what I have.”

The other two songs are new to even Contest watchers.  Can he do it two more times? Indeed he can.

“As It Comes” features some very cool guitar seconds (lots of chords with vibrato).  It’s pretty neat to watch his hands fly up and down the neck of his guitar.  He does some more finger-tapping in the middle of the song and what I love about it is that he’s not showing off or trying to impress (although it is impressive).  It’s all in service of the song (especially if he was playing by himself).

But it’s Izumi’s vocals that really deliver on this song.  He sings the bridge with a wonderfully delicate whisper that soars into his high falsetto.

There seems to be a synth on this track although I can’t place it.

The final song is “Soul Gaze” and it sounds huge.  There’s something about the guitar effects that he uses on the chords that make this song explode  with a Jimi Hendrix kind of texture.  And his vocal delivery soars into Jeff Buckley territory.  I love that those two things drew my attention more than the finger-tapping (which also sounds great).

It’s a tremendous song and Izumi seems a more than worthy winner.

[READ: May 8, 2018] “You Never Really Know”

This piece is fairly slightly Eisenberg is always able to pull the funny out of seemingly slight premises.

As the title suggests, Jesse knows a lot about the N.B.A.  And that knowledge does come in handy in unexpected places.

Like with his prospective father-in-law.  The man is unimpressed with Jesse–no stable employment, no car or house as well as being emotionally unavailable,

Jesse doesn’t disagree with the man, in fact he confirms it and notes that this must be how the Detroit Pistons’ manager felt after drafting the disappointing Darko Miličić instead of Carmelo Anthony in 2003.

This catches the father’s interest: “You know the tertiary details of the Darko Miličić saga?”

In a second example, Jesse was speeding –going ninety-one miles an hour in a sixty-five zone.  The difference is 26 mile per hour.

Jesse acknowledges his mistake and points out that 26 is also Kyle Korver’s jersey.

The officer is stunned that this guy knows the jersey number of the rotation player for the Cleveland Cavaliers.  But he explains he’s no savant, he reads about basketball all the time.

He stopped reading novels because it makes him feel competitive with other writers, whereas when he reads about basketball he knows there is no competition.

The office is sorry that he is plagues by this self-doubt and borderline hubris.

Finally, he is talking to the N.B.A Commissioner who wants to offer him a job “as a superstar player.”  Because what matters in a clutch situation?  Not quick reflexes but “an ability to name the assistant coaching staff of the Oklahoma City Thunder.”

Fun fact:

Michael Jordan an Scottie Pippen quizzed each other using flash cards.

Eisenberg always brings a smile to my face.

For ease of searching, I include: Darko Milicic.

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SOUNDTRACK: JEFF TWEEDY-Live at NPR Music’s 10 year Anniversary Concert (December 2, 2017).

I’m going to be seeing Jeff Tweedy live tomorrow night.  So I prepped for the show by watching this 20 minute session from NPR Music’s 10th anniversary.

There were a lot of performers at this Concert but for me Tweedy’s 20 minutes was the highlight.  He stood on stage with his white jacket and white cowboy hat and he effortlessly played five songs that spanned nearly 25 years. (There’s a terrific version of “Born Alone” which Tweedy sings with Kronos Quartet here).

His guitar playing is simple but effective and works as a perfect backdrop for his the focus of his voice and lyrics.

Thankfully for us and the audience at our 10th anniversary concert on Dec. 2 at the 9:30 Club, Tweedy’s set managed to run the gamut of [his] celebrated career. From his beginnings as a slack, alt-country rocker (playing Uncle Tupelo’s “We’ve Been Had”) and A.M.-era Wilco (with “Passenger Side”) to his recent turn as Mavis Staples’ producer and songwriter (on “Jesus Wept”) and later, Nels Cline-era Wilco (“Locator”).

The constant in all this experimenting is Tweedy’s voice as a singer and songwriter — one that invites a deep trust, even when it courts darkness. Performing solo with an acoustic guitar, his voice was once again at the center of it all.

The first song, “Bombs Away,” was previously unreleased.  The lyrics were thoughtful and stark

“I leave behind a trail of songs / from the darkest gloom to the brightest sun,
I’ve lost my way, but it’s hard to say / what I’ve been through should matter to you.”

When he starts Uncle Tupelo’s “We’ve Been Had” the smoke machine sends wafts across his face.  “Is something on fire?  …  I am cooking!”  The song soars and is one of the more upbeat songs he plays.

He follows with “Locator” from Schmilco.  It’s certainly odd on the record, but this acoustic version lets you see the foundation of the song before all of the cool effects are added.

He plays the pretty but rather downbeat “Jesus Wept” which is something that he worked on with Mavis Staples for their collaborative album.  I don’t know her version, but his is delightful.  When it’s over he says, “I thought I’d pull that one out because it’s such a big celebration….  It’s a fun song.  Can anyone think of a song I should play that’s celebratory?”  [audience shouts out].  Jeff continues, “so you don’t know any of my songs, that’s cool.”

Someone shouted out “Passenger Side” and he plays that.

He ends with “I’m The Man Who Loves You” which gets lots of applause.  He has some fun with fast guitar playing, and he is clearly having a grand time.

I can’t wait to see what he does with a full set.

 

[READ: January 25, 2017] “I Didn’t Win Any Pulitzer Prizes This Year”

This piece was not in the magazine.  It was in the Daily Shouts section online.  I am refraining from writing about these online-only posts in general, but this one slipped past my print-only radar.

Just how do you stretch out a premise like this for an entire essay?

He explains that this egregious omission continues his twenty-nine year streak of not receiving even one of these prizes.

Overlooked in nonfiction: an email with the subject line “Re: (No Subject).”  The Prize committee did not conclude that the email was informative “but its brevity was what pushed it over the edge.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KINGS OF SPADE-Kings of Spade (2014).

This follow up to Kings of Spade’s debut album.  They describe it as

High energy, shameless dancing, foot-stomping Rock’n’Roll! Dedicated to all the freaks, queers, strange birds, rule breakers and all who dare to be different.

That’s pretty accurate.  The band seems to have really found their groove.  There’s fewer experiments but the ones they employ are solid and the whole album is pretty great from start to finish.

“This Child” opens with a cool echoing riff and  big power chords as Kasi Nunes sings the catchy chorus:

yes you buy me dresses
but i play with guns
swing for the fences
aint gonna tame this child

There’s some interesting electronic sounds swirling around but they are more for texture than actual song creation.  “San Antonie” is a classic-rock-sounding/blues riffing song.  It’s funny to think of someone from Hawaii singing about taking a train to San Antoine.

“Bottoms Up” is a heavier riff-based song with echoed vocals. Kasi’s delivery is a bit more rap-like but nothing as deliberate as on the previous album.  And she still wails.  The song includes scratch artistry by DJ PACKO.  As with the other songs, there’s a really scorching guitar solo from Jessie Savio.

“Sweet” is a slower song with kind of sultry vocals from Kasi.  “Lost” returns to that power-blues style but the second half of the song gets into a really fast riffing–it’s practically a second song.

“Take Me” is a nearly 7 minute workout.  It’s almost a disco bass line from Tim Corker but then around four minutes it slows down into a kind of bluesy solo section with Kasi really showing off her vocal chops.  “Way She Goes’ is a great song–a story song about Kasi trying to pick someone up.  But it’s the distorted falsetto of the chorus that really hooks the song–that and the terrific riff in the chorus.  Half way through the song slows down to a kind of reggae vibe–just keeping things interesting.

“Ronda Rousey” is dedicated to the fighter.  The night I saw them live Ronda was playing the next night (she lost).  Regardless of Rousey herself, this song kicks major ass.  It’s heavy and stomping and the chorus is awesome:

now you’re here cross my corner and i warned ya
and im giving you the fight of my life
no escape from what your feelin
i got an itch to get inside
come on let’s get it on

The way it shifts gear during the repeating of “come on, let’s go it on” is pretty cool.

“Strange Bird” is their best song and one of my favorite songs in recent times.  The opening riff–guitar and bass) is pretty simple but it works and when the song pulls back to let Kasi sing her pre-chours (which is terrific) and then leads to the powerful chorus, it’s all a perfectly executed rock song.

Even if the chorus of “rocking to the beat of my own drum” is not original, it works, and that pre-chorus is pure Kasi with her pink mohawk:

strange bird how many colors in your hair
how many people love to stare
strange bird here comes another .

There’s some great drums work on this song by Matt Kato.

It feels like the album should end with that song, it’s such a great climax.  But the final song, “Mess of Me” is no slouch.  It’s a pretty classic blues rocker with some great guitar and Kasi’s soaring vocals.  I would have put it before “Strange Bird,” myself, but it’s still a rocking song.

It’s been almost four years since they put this record out.  I know they’ve been touring the world with King’s X for a pretty long time.  I hope they keep up the great work.

[READ: January 25, 2017] “Why I Broke Up with the Little Mermaid”

Sometimes a very simple premise can be taken too far.  Other times, a simple premise can be cleverly stretched out into variations of the same joke that are all very funny.

This piece is pretty much all stated in the title.  But the reasons why are presented as a dialogue between him and Ariel  . And, the best part is that much of Ariel’s dialogue is quoted from the movie.

So:

Ariel: Look at this stuff! Isn’t it neat?

Me: Not really. What is it?

Ariel: They’re whozamawhats, silly! I got them from a yard sale. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OVERCOATS-Tiny Desk Concert #608 (March 27, 2017).

Overcoats is Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell.  They sing beautiful duets–sometimes in harmony, sometimes in unison–but always perfectly together.  And they seem to have an incredible affection for each other–notice the way they hug each other at the end of the show.

I was intrigued by the blurb that says:

Behind those rich voices lies a spare electronic backdrop that feels spacious and refreshing. Not long ago, these songs would likely be backed by a nylon-stringed guitar, but their healthy energy feels more urgent with an underpinning drone and Joao Gonzalez’s drumming.

And it’s true.  As the songs progress, you do rather expect to hear more folk sounds, but instead the songs are almost dancey, certainly soulful.  At times they are dancey, as the duo do some really fun dances too.

“23” opens with Elion’s guitar and slightly higher voice.  She and Mitchell switch off lead vocals until Mitchell pays some keyboards which broadens the sound…slightly.  As the song nears its end Mitchell puts some synths on a loop, the women sing a round of Ahhs until a great delicate moment at the and as Elion slides her hand up the neck of her guitar ringing out that chord higher and higher until the end.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people smile so much and be so happy about what they are doing and who they are with.

JJ introduces “Leave the Light On” by saying “Hana has a life long dream to do a Tiny Desk.  She’s actually retiring after this show.”  This song is much more dancey.  They both sing the line “leave the light on for myself when I come home” and then the Gonzalez samples it ( I assume) and loops it.  There’s not a lot to the song, but it’s quite infectious, especially as they dance wildly between verses, swinging their arms and smiling at each other.  They even put their arms around each other while they sing .

“Hold Me Close” is a pretty ballad that’s slower and more poignant.  And they do hold each other close as they sing.  When they sing the last few words to each other you can feel the love between them.  It’s really something.

I didn’t mention the fact that they are wearing identical white tunics, because no one else did. I don’t know if that’s how they dress on stage, but it really makes a visual statement.  I also can’t imagine them singing in a larger space than the Tiny Desk.  The performance is so intimate what would they do with a bigger stage?

[READ: January 25, 2017] “You Never Really Know”

This comic piece goes from funny to very funny to fairly insane in a matter of a few paragraphs.

The story begins with a strange misunderstanding.  The narrator saw a homeless man holding out a cup and begging for change. But as he got closer her realized the man was not homeless and that the cup was actually full of coffee!

Then he notes that his fiancée would probably step over a guy like that without a second thought.

He cites some other examples of how the world is full of surprises: The C.E.O. of a Fortune 500 company could turn out the be the greatest basketball player. And, his mother, a nurse, could be speaking to that man’s fiancée behind his back.

You never know what’s going on.  Until you hire a lawyer. (more…)

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bream SOUNDTRACK: THE INTERNET-Tiny Desk Concert #474 (September 29, 2015).

internetThe Internet are an offshoot of Odd Future.  This is an R&B group fronted by Syd the Kid, and the music is really delicate–almost easy-listening-sounding keys and a ropey bass line.

Syd’s voice is beautiful and soulful and she raps and sing delicately.  Which is why it’s surprising that the first words of the first song are “now she wanna fuck with me / live a life of luxury.”  But after the surprise of these lyrics the chill music is kind of soothing: “roll up an L and light it.” And I love her falsetto for the chorus”

“She blowin up my phone.  All I hear is wha wha, wha wha (Band: wha wha).”

“Under Control” is a song dedicated to her band:  she promises she’ll be there for all of them “when I’m a legend baby and we’re all rich”

Her confidence and casualness is totally infectious. And I love the the wah-wahs effects on the keys as the song nears the end.

The last song is called “Dontcha” which gets a “yes!” from the crowd when she says she’s going to play it.  (That makes her very happy).  She says she’s never done an acoustic version before.  I gather it’s a single, although I enjoyed the other two songs a bit more.

The veering into R&B territory is not my thing, but it’s cool to hear her branch into different genres in one song.

[READ: May 15, 2016] Bream Gives Me Hiccups and Other Stories.

I’ve really enjoyed the comic pieces that I’ve read by Eisenberg–he writes a lot for the New Yorker.  In fact, I had recently decided that I would read and post about all of Eisenberg’s New Yorker pieces at some point in the future.  Well, it turns out that nearly every one of those New Yorker pieces has turned up in this book (there’s three that didn’t).  So that saved some time.

What that means is that most of these pieces are quite short.  And that very few of them are stories in the conventional sense.  They tend to be a few pages long, or sometimes longer pieces done as diary entries.

What is most interesting about Eisenberg’s writing is that most of these stories are funny–some are very funny–but there is also a lot of pathos and sadness in them.  Many of the characters come from broken homes and many of the situations are rather bleak.  And yet he manages to make them funny. (more…)

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