Archive for the ‘Jhumpa Lahiri’ Category


This album was also produced by Mike Mogis, who did The Lion’s Roar.  And with each new album, the “duo” of Klara and Johanna Söderberg grows bigger and bigger.  This album adds a full string section as well as a mellotron, vibraphone and lap dulcimer (these last three all thanks to Mogis.

“My Silver Lining” is an incredibly catchy, swinging song.  In addition to the cool strings and the lovely oooh melody, it’s that big bold “Woah oh” that really sells the song.  I also love the whispered vocals at the end the “try to keep on keeping on” is really cool and a very different sound for them.

“Master Pretender” has some interesting instrumentation–a bass clarinet in the first verse, fiddles and pedal steel in the second verse and striking lap dulcimer in the chorus.  It’s also the first instance of them cursing I think, “I always thought that you’d be here / But shit gets fucked up and people just disappear.”

“Stay Gold” a beautiful chorus sets this song apart, the melody is really great.  “Cedar Lane” is a slower song that focuses on the sisters’ harmonies in the beginning but the chorus inspires with those soaring falsetto notes.  But the biggest and best surprise of this song comes nearly 4 minutes in when the song shifts to an intense refrain of “how could I break away from you?”

“Shattered & Hollow” is a slower, more mellow song with an interesting percussion.  “The Bell” has some unexpected melody lines but soaring vocals, but it all coalesces wonderfully in the last minute “Can you hear the bell?” in great harmony.

“Waitress Song” is so wonderfully down to earth (if not depressing):

I could move to a small town / And become a waitress / Say my name was Stacy / And I was figuring things out / See, my baby, he left me / And I don’t feel like staying here tonight

I also love the way they sing this line in the folky style of the song despite referencing a very different type of song:

I remember the music / From the down stair’s bar: Girls, they just want to have fun

The way the ending of this song redeems itself with the cool lap steel and their ooohs as well as an uplifting ending makes this a surprisingly powerful track:

I could drive out to the ocean / And just stare in awe / I could walk across the beaches / And sleep under the stars / Our love would seem trivial and obscure / Now and never feel lost anymore

“Fleeting One” This song moves along really nicely with some amazing high notes in harmony.  “Heaven Knows” is their by-now familiar autoharp song.  Except that it also combines the rocking elements of the previous albums’ “King of the World” a shuffling guitar, stomping drums and great good fun. And while the last album had them shout FIRE! in the middle of Conor Oberst’s verse, this time they up the ante further by slowing things down and sing

Tell me what’s your story / do you think it’ll ever sell / and what’ll you do if it comes down to it / and it all goes…. STRAIGHT TO HELL!

“A Long Time Ago” ends the album as a dramatic piano ballad.  It sounds really quite different for them.

So this album builds on everything they’ve been working on, adding more and more sounds and getting their voices to sound somehow even better.

[READ: January 30, 2018] “The Boundary”

This story is from the point of view of a young girl whose family looks after a small cottage.  The cottage is in the Italian countryside.  Her family is not Italian (they are from very far away), and when they moved to Italy they first lived in the city.  The countryside is about as alien to them as they can imagine  And they don’t especially like it.

Every Saturday a new family comes to stay in the cottage.  And those people love the countryside, can’t stop talking about how great it is.

The girl who looks after the cottage is familiar with the routine.

There’s usually four of them–two parents two kids. The girl shows them around, shows them the mouse poison and tells them to kill the flies at night because their buzzing will wake them up in the morning.

As the guests settle in, she pretends to ignore them, but she always watches–especially when they leave the screen doors open.  Since the cottage is so close, she can hear everything the family says. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NINET-Tiny Desk Concert #602 (March 3, 2017).

One of the things I’d hoped to do this year was to finish posting about all of the Tiny Desk Concerts.  I didn’t know how I’d do it, but at some point I just decided to plow through them all.  And as of today, I have posted about all of the Concerts from the first one through March of this year.  There’s about 25 newer ones left.  It’s a pretty good feeling to accomplish arbitrary goals.

Ninet is the first of the newest Concerts.  Ninet Tayeb is an Israeli singer but she doesn’t sing any kind of “ethnic” or “world” music.  Rather, she and her band simply rock out.

As the first song, “Child” opens, the band sings in great harmony.  I love that the drummer (Yotam Weiss) is using a box drum but also a small hand drum (tapping with his fingers) and a cymbal (playing with his hands perfectly).  Ninet herself plays acoustic guitar and I love that you can hear her strumming and scratching on the guitar even with everyone else playing.  After a few verses, the whole band starts to rock out.  The great guitar sounds come from the electric guitarist (and main backing vocalist)–Joseph E-Shine Mizrahi.  I loved watching his guitar solo and the way he was occasionally hitting all of the strings to make them ring them out as he soloed.

I love the melody of Elinor–the way the guitars and bass (Matt McJunkins) play the same thing but in different tones.   The song takes off and runs nonstop with some great riffing in the middle and Ninet’s angry, snarling but catchy voice rising over it all.  I also love the great use of snyths (Doron Kochli) to play divergent and dark swells underneath the main riffs.

The song rocks to an end and they laugh as the guitarist picks some things up off the floor and says sorry Bob.  To which he says “what did you break now?”  That remains unresolved–I’m not even sure when it happened.

“Superstar,” the final song has the same snarling coolness as the previous two.  But it adds an interesting middle Eastern vibe from the keys as well as during the vocal lines near the end.  It sounds amazing.

The blurb has this to say:

“[Ninet is] one of the most famous entertainers in Israel today.”  She has recently settled in the States.  She has released five albums, “and their most recent, Paper Parachute, is the home of the songs she brought to us. It’s filled with a her husky-toned voice and guitar lines straight out of stateside ’70s rock, with a Middle Eastern lean. It’s a winning sound, performed by an unrestrained talent.”

I really enjoyed this set–her voice is really captivating and the riffs are wonderful.  As the song ends, Bob says “and that was the stripped down version,”  I’d like to hear the full on rocking version too!

[READ: January 12, 2017] “On the Street Where You Live”

Just the other day I learned that Yiyun Li would be joining Princeton University’s Creative Writing team.  That’s pretty exciting. If I was a groupie it would be even more exciting.  It would certainly be awkward to go to her office and thank her for all of the great fiction she’s written.  But how cool would it be to walk down the hall and see her and Jeffrey Eugenides, A.M. Homes, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Joyce Carol Oates chatting by the literary water cooler?

This is the story of Becky.  Becky’s son, Jude has autism and is being seen by two specialists.

She is in the remodeled San Francisco museum, talking to a man who says he hates museums–he hates sharing art with others.  The man is wearing a red tie that reminds her of Spongebob Squarepants.  She will write about him in her journal (mentioning only the red tie).  Her journal is comprised solely of descriptions of people.  She imagines that one day Jude will read it and be appreciative for all of her words. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_10_13Schossow.inddSOUNDTRACKDRUG CHURCH-“Deconstructing Snapcase” (2013).

drugchurchYesterday I commented about another Drug Church song by saying I liked this one better.  What’s interesting is that this one is thirty seconds longer but seems shorter.

The song opens with big loud aggressive guitars (kind of early Soundgarden), but the vocals, which are screamed, are brighter that their other song, providing a  nice contrast.  But the thing that made me like this song more than “YouTube” is the fast bright guitar bridge, in which the guitars ring out in contrast to the heavy opening chords–it gives the song a lot of dynamics.

There’s a guitar solo, which surprised me for some reason, but it breaks up the song and reintroduces some of the earlier riffs.  It’s a good heavy song.

[READ: June 18, 2013] “Brotherly Love”

Lahiri has the last and longest story in this New Yorker issue that’s chock full of stories.  This one is some fifteen pages and is part of a novel.

I was gripped instantly by the story.  But I am glad that it is part of a novel as I feel there were parts of the beginning that seemed extraneous without more story to follow.  Or should I say, if it was just a short story, it could have been shorter.  The story is about two brothers, Subhash and Udayan.  Subhash is older by fifteen months but Udayan is the far more daring one.  Subhash is cautious and does everything his parents say, while Udayan flouts the rules at every opportunity.

The first transgression we see is when they climb the wall into the country club, where locals are pretty much excluded.  They were told they could get golf balls, so they hopped the fence and took what they could.  They also marveled at the manicured lawns and the beauty around them.  They returned regularly until they were caught–but luckily for them they were not turned in. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  MY MORNING JACKET-“Touch Me, I’m Going to Scream (Part 2)” (From the Basement) (2009).

As I mentioned, My Morning Jacket is one of the few bands that has two videos up on the From the Basement site.  So here is Part 2 of the song from yesterday.  While Part 1 is a beautiful, smooth, folkie kind of song, Part 2 delves into a more electronic sound.  It starts with some keyboard noodlings, morphs into a loud rocker and then ends with more keyboards noodlings. 

I enjoyed watching this because Jim James is playing the keyboardy parts on a very small contraption the size of an iPad.  It’s one of those new fangled instruments that make me show my age.  I gather it’s a sampler, but even looking at the buttons I have no idea what he’s doing with it.  About midway through the song, James puts down the keyboard object and pulls on the Flying V guitar for some good loud guitars. 

Again, the harmonies are fantastic and it’s cool to see the whole band sing along.  I also enjoyed watching the other guitarist play the slide on his guitar.  

By the end of the video, it’s amusing to see them all sink lower and lower to the ground as the music fades and regresses into tiny quiet twinklings.  Until, that is, the surprising (and unannounced) addition of the 6 second “Good Intentions.”

Jim James does not wear a cape during this song, by the way.

[READ: September 1, 2011] “Trading Stories”

I have still yet to read much Lahiri, a woman whom I know I should be reading.  And now that I just learned she won a Pulitzer, it seems even more egregious that I haven’t. 

This personal history is about growing up without books.  Her father was a librarian so they borrowed a lot of books; however, but she never really owned any.  [My wife and I are not that kind of librarian–books litter our house]. 

The story reveals Jhumpa as a child writing stories with a friend in school (even during recess).  They were immensely creative and inventive and they loved it.  But she slowly began losing interest in writing.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CITY AND COLOUR Live at the Sasquatch Festival, May 29, 2011 (2011).

City and Colour have a new album coming out soon.  So it’s kind of surprising that this seven-song show is three songs from their previous album, two from their first album, a cover, and only one new track (“Fragile Bird”).

This is the first time I’ve heard City and Colour live with a band (most of the recordings I have by them are just Dallas Green solo).  It’s nice to hear how powerfully they work together (giving some of those songs an extra push).

Despite the brevity of the set (and the amusing banter about airport etiquette) you get a pretty good sense of what the “pretty-voiced guy” from Alexisonfire can do on his own.   I found the cover, Low’s “Murderer,” to be a really perfect choice–one that suits the band and their slightly-off harmonies, rather well.

I’m looking forward to their new release–“Fragile Bird” is another beautiful song.  But in the meantime, this is a good place to hear what they’ve been up to.

[READ: early June 2011] 2011 Fiction Issues

Five Dials seems to always generate coincidences with what I read. Right after reading the “”Summer’ Fiction” issue from Five Dials, I received the Fiction Issue from the New Yorker.  A few days later, I received the Summer Reading Issue from The Walrus.

I’m doing a separate post here because, although I am going to post about the specific fictions, I wanted to mention the poetry that comes in The Walrus’ issue.  I have no plan to write separate posts about poetry (I can barely write a full sentence about most poetry) so I’ll mention them in this post.

The main reason I’m drawing attention to these poems at all is because of the set-up of The Walrus’ Summer Fiction issue.  As the intro states: “We asked five celebrated writers to devise five guidelines for composing a short story or poem. They all traded lists–and played by the rules.”  I am so very intrigued at this idea of artificial rules imposed by an outsider.  So much so that I feel that it would be somewhat easier to write a story having these strictures put on you.  Although I imagine it would be harder to write a poem.

The two poets are Michael Lista and Damian Rogers.  I wasn’t blown away by either poem, but then I don’t love a lot of poetry.  So I’m going to mention the rules they had to follow. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TRACY BONHAM-Live on Mountain Stage, September 29, 2010 (2010).

I loved Tracy Bonham when she first came out.  Her EP and first LP were amazing explorations of controlled anger with great bursts of violin.

As with many angry songwriters from the 90s, Bonham seems to have become, shall we say, happier.  She has a new album out this year called Masts of Manhatta.

I haven’t heard the album, so I don’t know if this Mountain Stage performance represents it well or not.  I’m guessing that the Mountain Stage setting has made it somewhat more mellow than the original (steel guitars and fiddle solos?), but that may not be the case.

Regardless of the tone of the album, the songwriting tricks that Bonham has always employed are still in evidence here.  In fact, even though I’d never heard these songs before, the chord progressions (and of course, her voice) make these songs sound distinctly hers.  And lyrically she’s still clever as anything–witness most of the lyrics to “We Moved Our City to the Country”  which also features a very conventional fiddle (no, not violin) solo.

It seems like Bonham has grown as an artist and is exploring lots of different styles. And although I really love her early rocking stuff, and I was a little concerned that she had gone soft, it’s clear she’s just channeled her hardness in a different direction.  She’s also got great stage presence.

Manhatta here I come.  The show is available here.

[READ: October 12, 2010] “The Third and Final Continent”

Jhumpa Lahiri was the final writer in the 1999 New Yorker 20 Under 4o issue.

I have heard such wonderful things about Jhumpa Lahiri, and I have been intending to read her novels and short story collections for quite some time.  I’m a bit saddened that this is the first fiction by her that I’ve read.  But it was an excellent place to start.

The story is a masterful telling of what, even the main character admits, is “quite ordinary.”  And yet it is touching and moving and a wholly realized experience.  [DIGRESSION: I have been listening to old interviews with David Foster Wallace and in most of his interviews he argues that good writing should be “real” as opposed to ironic and sarcastic.  He worries that hipster irony has eroded people’s ability to tell real stories.]  Well, this is a very real story.  It is simple and honest and wholly believable–just what the doctor ordered].

The story opens with an Indian man leaving India for London in 1964.  In 1969 he gets a job offer to work in the library at M.I.T.  Before leaving though, he confirms his arranged marriage, meets his bride and officially weds.  But days later he has left for America with the intention of her following in about six weeks.  He lands in Massachusetts on the day of the moon landing.

After staying at the YMCA, and adjusting to American life, he finds an apartment at an old woman’s house.  He tells the old woman that he is married bit she is insistent  that he has no female visitors.  The old lady is strict and a little crazy (she makes him marvel about the moon landing on a nightly basis).  And yet, despite herself, it is clear that she approves of this polite man. (I was a little surprised that she would be so approving of a foreigner, but maybe she was more progressive than I give her credit).

And the bulk of the story is made up of his life in this small apartment with this ever-present landlady who he feels somewhat indebted to, even though all he really owes her is $8 a week. (more…)

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While I was looking around for Jonathan Franzen pieces in the New Yorker, I stumbled upon the first 20 Under 40 collection from 1999.  Since I had received so much enjoyment from the 2010 version, I decided to read all of the 1999 stories as well.  It was interesting to see how many of the authors I knew (and knew well), how many I had heard of but hadn’t read, and how many were completely off my radar.

I initially thought that they had published all 20 authors in this one issue, but there are five stories (including Franzen’s) that were just excerpted rather than published in full.  And I will track down and read those five in their entirety.  But otherwise, that’s a lot of fiction in one magazine (a few of the stories were quite short).  And it features a cover by Chris Ware!

So here’s the list from 1999.

**George Saunders-“I Can Speak™”
**David Foster Wallace-“Asset”
*Sherman Alexie-“The Toughest Indian in the World”
*Rick Moody-
“Hawaiian Night”
*A.M. Homes-
“Raft in Water, Floating”
Allegra Goodman-
“The Local Production of Cinderella”
*William T. Vollmann-
“The Saviors”
Antonya Nelson
-“Party of One”
Chang-rae Lee-
“The Volunteers”
*Michael Chabon-
“The Hofzinser Club” [excerpt]
Ethan Canin-
“Vins Fins” [excerpt]
*Donald Antrim-
“An Actor Prepares”
Tony Earley-
“The Wide Sea”
*Jeffrey Eugenides-
“The Oracular Vulva”
*Junot Diaz-
“Otra Vida, Otra Vez”
*Jonathan Franzen-
“The Failure” [excerpt]
***Edwidge Danticat-
“The Book of the Dead”
*Jhumpa Lahiri-
“The Third and Final Continent”
*Nathan Englander-
“Peep Show” [excerpt]
Matthew Klam-
“Issues I Dealt with in Therapy” [excerpt] (more…)

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