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Archive for the ‘Jim Shepard’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DEVONTÉ HYNES interviews PHILIP GLASS (Field Recordings, September 21, 2017).

This is the final video under the “Field Recordings” headline [‘When You Gonna Get A Real Job?’: Philip Glass And Devonté Hynes Compare Notes].  Unlike the other videos I have watched, this one is actually an interview, not a song.

I was unfamiliar with Devonté Hynes.  He is a 31-year-old British producer and songwriter who performs under the name Blood Orange,  He has made many hit records with the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen.  And Philip Glass was at the time of this interview, 80 years old (and calls the cast of Hamilton hipster, instead of hip-hop, but he did rave about the show (which Hynes was unable to get tickets to!).

Walk into Hynes’ third floor loft in New York’s Chinatown and you’ll find a photo of Glass on his piano. He discovered Glass’ music by chance as a London teenager, when he bought the 1982 album Glassworks on the strength of its crystalline cover image alone. What he heard after he brought it home transfixed him. Today, he says Glass’ influence “seeps” into his music.

This spring, Hynes invited Glass to his apartment where they sat at a piano, compared chords and traded stories. Ninety minutes later, their wide-ranging conversation had touched on the pulse of New York City, the pains of striking out on your own as a musician, what role the arts play in society today and Hamilton. Plus about a hundred other ideas.

This clip is only 6 minutes, and they don’t touch on all that much.  We learn that Glass grew up in Baltimore and worked in his father’s record store.  His father knew nothing about music but loved it and soon enough young Philip was the store’s record buyer.

Glass moved to New York in 1957.  His mother told him that being a musician would be a terrible life of travel and hotels.  And he thought that sounded wonderful.  He worked day jobs loading trucks and moving furniture–he never took a job he couldn’t get out off if he had the opportunity to play.

He says that Einstein on the Beach was a hit but he knew nothing about money and they actually lost money on the deal.

For his part, Devonté came from London to New York ten years ago.  he says you can hear Glass’ jobs in his music, like the sounds of the city as he drove his taxi around.

Glass concludes, “When bad things happen in the country the artists become the voice.  Without the arts our society would be a prison.”

[READ: January 17, 2018] “Sans Farine”

I really couldn’t believe how long this story felt.  Even with enjoying most of it, it seemed like it was 50 pages not 9.

The narrator, Charles Henri Sanson is an executioner in France around the time of the revolution.  He was a real person.  I didn’t know that while reading this but it doesn’t really impact my take on the story.

His father and his six brothers were also executioners.  There is quite a stigma to the job–most people are not allowed to even communicate with them, much less marry them.  And yet ask any soldier what his profession entails  He’ll answer that he kills men.  No one flees his company for that reason.

There’s a lot of detail about his life, both before and after the revolution,  He and his family have negotiated the revolution well and he still works,no killing the royals,

He talks about Joseph Guillotin reinventing the penal code–a less barbaric, swifter execution for all condemned. (more…)

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44SOUNDTRACK: WNYC SOUNDCHECK GIG ALERTS (2009-).

soundcheck There are so many places to listen to free music.  But i prefer places where you can (legally) download free music.  So here’s a place I’ve just discovered: WNYC Radio’s website which features a section called “Gig Alerts.”  The feature talks about a different interesting band playing that night (in New York).  After a small blurb, there is (almost always) a free downloadable track.   There’s twenty listings per page and 86 pages.  Do the math and that’s a lot of songs.

The feature covers virtually every genre, although there is a preponderance of alt- and indie- rock (mostly lesser known bands).  If you are interested in new (to you) music and in exploring different artists, this is a great resource for a ton of free music.  So, check out Gig Alerts here.

[READ: May 20, 2014] McSweeney’s #44

I was pretty pleased with myself when I got caught up on the McSweeney’s issues.  But I remember wanting to take a break when this one came in.  I now see it has been almost a year since I read the last issue.  So the break was too long and now I have three issues to catch up on again.  Sigh.  But this one proved to be a great issue to return on.

This is a pretty quintessential issue of McSweeney’s.  It’s got letters, some fiction, a special section dedicated to Lawrence Weschler (which includes a lot of art), and a cool, interesting section of plates with full color art.  It’s also got an interestingly designed hardcover with a kind of raw cardboard in the back, a slightly raised colorful section for the spine and then a further raised section for the giant 44 on the front cover.

LETTERS (more…)

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14

SOUNDTRACK: DEFTONES-Diamond Eyes (2010).

diamondBefore releasing Diamond Eyes, Deftones had two band crises. The first was that they didn’t really seem to like each other anymore.  The previous album was fraught with tension and they barely toured.  After deciding that they wanted to remain as a band, they were invigorated and made an album called Eros.  But during the recording, bassist Chi Cheng was in a car accident and was in a coma.  As of yet he has not fully recovered.  So they shelved Eros, hired a temporary bass player Sergio Vega and set about recording Diamond Eyes.  And for whatever reason, it proved to be one of their best releases so far.

“Diamond Eyes” opens with a heavy down-tuned guitar–very abrasive–until the chorus come in and it’s their most beautiful ones yet–with soaring keyboards and  harmonies.  And then the heavy guitars come back–it’s what Deftones do so well–beauty and ugly together.  Stephen Carpenter really shines, as always.  “Royal” is a fast song with a great harmonizing chorus.  “Cmnd/Ctrl” has a shocking low riff that explodes into a  bright chorus.  “You’ve Seen the Butcher” has guitars that seem almost untuned as the song starts.  But it morphs into a kind of sexy butt-shaking chorus.  And Abe Cunningham’s drums are, of course, fantastic.

“Beauty School” is the first that doesn’t really start out heavy, it’s a got a gentle guitar intro and the first song where Vega’s bass is really prominent as a separate instrument and it creates a beautiful alternative song–great vocals throughout.  “Prince” brings in a lot of new textures to the album, including a clanging guitar sound and a great screamed chorus. “Rocket Skates” is one of my favorite songs on the record, it has a classic metal riff and the great screamed-beyond-comprehension chorus of Guns, Razors Knives and a weird little whoooo that ends the chorus.

“Sextape” is a surprisingly gentle song, opening with an echoed guitar riff and one of Chino’s most gentle choruses.  “976-Evil” has an echoey guitar and voices not unlike the Cocteau Twins.  “This Place is Death” has another great alt rock feel–a big song with bright guitars and dark lyrics.  I haven’t really mentioned Frank Delgado on keyboards and samples.  He’s been with the band since White Pony, and I feel like his presence was made notable on a few songs here and there.  But it seems like on this disc he really comes to the fore, adding new textures and sounds to the album which really fill it out.

[READ: March 12, 2013] McSweeney’s #14

After the colorful extravaganza of the Comics Issue of McSweeney’s #13, this book settles down into something more somber  The book is softcover and all white.  The cover depicts a cartoon of George Bush with both legs blown off and the caption, “I Am So, So Sorry.”  On the spine in small print: “We’re praying as fast as we can.”  It is the most context-full cover they’ve done yet and, nearly a decade away it seems like a rather mean cover, but if I remember correctly at the time it seemed apt and delicious, especially in light of the upcoming election.

Yet despite the overtly political cover, the content inside is not political or even thematic (although it is pretty dark stuff).  Nevertheless, the table of contents gives us a small joke when it says “To help you know which stories to read first, we have indicated with either a * or a † those that deserve special consideration from you, the reader.  If you see either a * or a †, do not miss that story.”  Of course every story has either a * or a † but they cleverly did not put any kind of pattern to the symbols.

The colophon explains that when they were in Ireland, they met an actual Timothy McSweeney.  He had been given a copy of Issue #3 and then promptly forgot about the magazine.  But when McSweeney’s was in Galway to do a reading at the Galway Arts Festival, Timothy (Ted) McSweeney traveled from Dublin to check it out (not a short trip).  This also resulted in a letter from Mr McSweeney which is actually quite funny.

There are also illustrations in the book, although they are small illustrations and are placed on the title of each piece in the book.  All of the illustrations are old, mostly coming from the 1800s, although one dates back to 1670.  They illustrations are all technical scientific ones and don’t have anything to do with the stories. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PATTI SMITH: “You Light Up My Life” (Live on Kids Are People Too) (1979).

While browsing YouTube, I found a bunch of fun videos from the kids’ programs Wonderama and Kids Are People Too.  And that’s where I found this video of Patti Smith, of all people, singing this dainty pop confection.

Her introduction to the kids is weirdly wonderful (she says she wanted to be a missionary).  And the kids ask some pretty good questions (I would think she was too scary to be on this show back then, but no one says anything remotely risqué).  And she seems to genuinely want to inspire the kids.  It’s really quite cool.

I listened to the original just now for the first time since the 70s, I’m sure.   Although the first verse doesn’t sound drastically different from Patti’s version, once the chorus kicks in, Patti transforms this song into an angst-filled song of loss.  And man, can Patti sing.

Check it out here.

[READ: November 7, 2010] “Boys Town”

When I first saw this author’s name I thought it was Jean Shepherd author of In God We Trust…All Others Pay Cash (otherwise known as A Christmas Story).  And  I thought that maybe it was going to be a quaint look at growing up.

It isn’t. (more…)

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32SOUNDTRACK: TINDERSTICKS-Tindersticks [the red one] (1993).

tsTindersticks are a fascinating band.  The first distinctive thing about them is Stuart Staples’ voice: a deep rich bass that he uses almost like a whisper.  The second thing you notice is the music.  It’s an orchestral/chamber pop collection of dark rockers with fantastic moodiness to it.  And then you notice the lyrics: dark songs of lost (and decayed) love.

Yet despite the description of chamber pop, the nad is really much darker than chamber pop suggests.  The band has a very noir sound: organs that penetrate through walls of sound, tinkling pianos suring hushed moments.  The horns and strings add dark atmospherics (strings zing like a Hitchcock movie).  And the minor key chords are rich and loud.

You also get a song like “Whisky and Water” which genuinely rocks hard (loud guitars are featured).  Or a simple acoustic guitar driven song like “Blood.”  Throughout the disk you get these fantastic melodies that play off of Staples’ voice and the twisted lyrics.  “City Sickness” and “Patchwork” are just two of the tracks that are very catchy.

And then there’s the fantastic “Jism” with its awesome noir organ.  Or “Raindrops” with its accents of vibes and the beautiful piano trilling at the end (and the detailed and emotional lyrics: What we got here is a lazy love / It mooches around the house / Can’t wait to go out / What it needs, it just grabs / It never asks / We sit and watch the divide widen / We sit and listen to our hearts crumble”).  “Her” follows up with a wonderfully flamenco-infused spaghetti western number.

And lets not forget “Drunk Tank” a propulsive song that is as sinister as it is catchy.  Oh heck, I could just keep raving.  But there’s 22 songs!   Four songs are about a minute each, and the disc is about 75 minutes (not bad for a debut!).  And the disc never loses momentum or its sense of purpose.

What really distinguishes this disk is the mood of the music.  Like the best soundtracks, you can feel the emotions and imagery with the music alone, but when you add Staples’ evocative lyrics and powerful voice, it’s a deadly potent combination.

The disc was reissued a few years ago with a bonus disc of demo tracks.  The demos are surprisingly rich (they’re not at-home recordings or done without accompaniment) so they don’t differ that dramatically from the originals.  But they have a slightly less polished feel, which doesn’t hurt the band at all. There’s also a demo of the fantastic “For Those…” which doesn’t appear on the original disc.

I have to thank my friend Lar for getting me into this band. (Thanks Lar).

[READ: October 19, 2009] McSweeney’s #32

The concept for this issue is this: McSweeney’s asked several authors to “travel somewhere in the world–Budapest, Cape Town, Houston, any sleepy or sleepless outpost they could find–and send back a story set in that spot fifteen years from now, in the year 2024.”

And so, all of the stories are vaguely sci-fi-ish in that they are future related, but they are all grounded very heavily in reality, in particular, the reality of individuals trying to live in this future world. (more…)

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