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Archive for the ‘John L’Heureux’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ST. VINCENT-Masseduction (2018).

St. Vincent’s latest album seemed like a radical departure for Annie Clark.  It seemed to be all synth–a transgression from her guitar prowess.  But in fact it was a continuation of the sound that Clark generates with her guitar.

Her albums have always used synths.  And her albums have always used effects on her guitars to create different sounds.  They have just moved further along on this album.

“Hang on Me” opens the disc with drums and sound effects.  The guitar comes in but it sounds like synths (like most of the album).  Her voice is up front  (It would have been very cool if it sounded like she was whispering in your ears).  The song builds with more and more sounds.  The processed guitar still sounds nothing like a guitar but you can tell from the way it is played that it is a guitar–which is pretty cool.

“Pills” is almost all dance–lots of drums and synth sounds (which may be guitar, who can tell).  It’s the chorus, (the repeated pills pills pills) that really grabs you.  The guitars that come through have a very Prince-like feel (and the sexual connection–pills to fuck) even when the roaring fuzzed out guitar solo comes blasting through it’s not unlike something Prince would have done.  When the second part of the song comes in–absolutely quiet compared to the chaos that came before (S. assumed it was a different song) it has a beautiful melody and really showcases Annie’s voice nicely.  The two parts are so very different and yet both are really catchy in their own way.

“Masseduction” is the most poppy song on the record (and probably of her career).  It starts again with drums and Annie’s whispered vocal (again mixing her right in your ears would have been very intense).  Then comes there’s the big chorus of echoed vocals singing “mass seduction” with roaring guitars underscoring everything (even though this album feels very un-guitar there are noisy guitars galore on it, they’re just buried underneath everything).

Chanted vocals and programmed synth open up the fast-moving “Sugarboy.”  I love that the riff from “Los Ageless” is presented her in much faster and more staccato and mechanical way.  This song has a great, catchy chorus.

“Los Ageless” was the second single off the album and the dancey beat and synth sounds were quite a shock when the song came out.  For this one, her voice is mixed right in the middle of your head, which is very cool.  But it’s the “how can anybody have you” part that is so incredibly catchy and wonderful.  There’s not a lot of guitar on this song until the third verse in which all the synths drop out and you get a nasty guitar playing behind the verse–once again so inorganic but so interesting.

“Happy Birthday Johnny” is a beautiful piano ballad that showcases a great melody and lovely vocal from Annie.

“Savior” features a slinky guitar line with bits of wah-wah on it (slighty porn-y to be sure, especially given the topic of the song).  The bridge picks things up and with each subsequent verse more and more is added (backing vocals, big drums and sound effects).  It’s when the song gets to the third part, the ‘pleeeease” that it totally soars.

“New York” is another piano song, this one with more dance beats in it and the rather graphic “you’re the only motherfucker in the city who can stand me” for a chorus (odd choice for first single).  The bridge “I have lost a hero” just soars out of the piano section in a very cool way–the juxtaposition is outstanding.

After the quite ending of New York the noise and electronica of “Fear the Future” comes as quite a shock.  It’s practically a wall of noise before and abrupt ending

“Young Lover” is quieter and sounds a lot more like early St. Vincent songs.  The music is spare–thumping drums and washes of music.  But that first chorus grows very loud–crashing electronic drums and soaring vocals.  The amazing part comes toward the end as Annie hits some incredibly high notes and then caps it off with a high note that gives me chills every time I hear it.  The fact that she duplicated it live was just staggering.

“Dancing with a Ghost” is 46 seconds of waves of synths (or guitars) that I never quite realized was its own song.  It almost segues into “Slow Disco” which is a quiet song with strings and Annie singing.  When the harmony vocals come in it builds the song nicely.   Then someone (Annie?) sings a recurring motif of “don’t it beat a slow dance to death.”  It’s my least favorite song on the album and the one she has now made two (slower) remixes of.

That feels like it should end the album, but there is one more song, the dramatic “Smoking Section.”  With a husky voice Annie sings of getting stomped out and screaming “let it happen, let it happen, let it happen.”  The strings build dramatically until a loud three note riff introduces the second part of the song.

This album is pretty polarizing, even though it is St. Vincent through and through.

[READ: October 3, 2018] “The Rise and Rise of Annie Clark”

The previous story that I read by John L’Heureux was also about the Catholic church.  That one was the story of Jesuit Priesthood, circa 1954, and a man trying to join.

This one is also based around the Catholic church circa 1950.  The subject is very different, but with the same questioning attitude.

Annie Clark is a middle-aged woman in the 1950’s .  I’m unclear where this is set.  At first I thought France, but that is unlikely. so somewhere in the States, but I have no idea where.

Since the end of WWII, Annie knows that women were the real winners–women are taking charge of their lives.

But Annie is Catholic and must proceed slowly. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PARTNER-Tiny Desk Concert #744 (May 18, 2018).

I know of Partner from the All Songs Considered podcast.  Their song “Everybody Knows” (about being high) is pop-punk catchy and really funny.

That’s the only song I knew from them, but I assumed this Tiny Desk would be of a rollicking hilarious similar vein.

Imagine my surprise to hear them do pretty much everything but pop-punk.  There’s a theme song, a country song, a song for Céline Dion and a song that makes the lead singer cry:

This is one of the sweetest, funniest and most endearing Tiny Desk performances I’ve seen. From the moment they began playing, it was clear best friends Lucy Niles and Josée Caron, who perform as the Canadian rock band Partner, were there to leave their mark and have a whole lot of fun doing it.

Known for their sense of humor, joyful spirit and screaming riff rock, Partner opened their Tiny Desk not with their guitars plugged in, but with kazoos and a goofy little piano piece they dubbed the “Tiny Desk Theme.” Dressed like she was in an ugly sweater contest, Caron bounced along behind the keys with a beaming smile while the group (including drummer Brendan Allison, Kevin Brasier on keys and Daniel Legere on guitar) sang, “It’s the best Tiny Desk!”

The theme song is but a minute long and will hopefully be used for every future Tiny Desk endeavor.  It comes complete with bopping piano, kazoo and cowbell.

The impish left turns didn’t stop there. Immediately following the makeshift theme, Caron peeled off her sweater (revealing a Tegan and Sara T-shirt) and grabbed an acoustic guitar as the band broke into “Tell You Off” its first-ever country song, a track they’d premiered at a live show just days earlier.

Lucy Niles picks up the bass and plays a simple riff.  The rest of the band joins in (with Legere playing a very country guitar solo).

They could barely contain their laughter while singing “Tell You Off,” a boom-chicka story song about giving a good tongue-lashing to anyone who gets in your way:

“I heard what you said about my dog / that he shit on your lawn / well that’s not my fault / say it to my face or I’ll be pissed off / I’ll come over to your house and tell you off.

The third song is the one that Caron hope Céline Dion will sing.  She says it was inspired by a poem that her boss wrote.  “It’s a bad ass poem about going to down to hell to face your greatest fears and to reclaim a peaceful life for yourself.  The life that you deserve.”

In addition to playing a great rocking solo, Caron sings the final verse in French (for Céline to sample).

Partner closed out its set with a surprisingly emotional version of “Creature In The Sun,” a reflection on appreciating the gift of just being alive.

Caron plays a cool intro riff with a guitar slide.  And the song is the most rocking of the bunch.  And then

About halfway through the song, Caron took a moment to tell the audience why it was so special to them. Choking back tears, she said she wrote it about freeing the mind of desire. “It’s a very healing place… And you can just experience the fullness of life. I just wanted to… remind everyone that that stuff is right there with you all the time.”

It’s surprisingly emotional and Caron is clearly embarrassed at her emotional outpouring, but the audience is receptive and she still manages to play that great slide guitar apart tat the end.

And, to break some of the emotional tension the drummer hits a nice cowbell sound at the end.

This is a very surprising set, and one that I imagine is unique in their live performances.

[READ: May 21, 2018] “The Long Black Line”

This is the story of Jesuit Priesthood, circa 1954, and a man trying to join.

Finn is described this way: “priests were still thought to be holy, and Finn…Well…”

When Finn is close to completing his term of study one of the Brothers, Brother Reilly who is manuductor (he who leads by the hand) seems to think poorly of Finn.  Reilly wrote in his diary that Finn seemed self-important.  And then Brother Reilly went to confess these thoughts.  Brother Reilly’s superiors felt that Reilly was not suited to the role of manuductor and therefore it was useful for him to be given the task.

Father Superior told them: “feelings are always to be distrusted.  The good Jesuit may feel excited or depressed, but–remember–he never shows it.  He is never singular. He disappears into the long black line [of priests]….  If you feel sad, smile.  If you feel elated, exercise self-restraint.  If you dislike someone, pray for him.” (more…)

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592016 SOUNDTRACK: PETER FRAMPTON-Tiny Desk Concert #526 (April 27, 2016).

framptonI’ve never been a big fan of Frampton.  Never disliked him, just never got into him.  It always made me laugh that Frampton Comes Alive was so huge and yet I only ever knew two songs from it.  And in my head the only thing he was known for was that voice guitar thing.

So it’s interesting to see him now, considerably older with much less hair. Indeed he changes the lyrics to the first song “All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)” to “I don’t care now that I’ve…lost some hair.”  For this song it’s just him playing an acoustic guitar and singing–no effects.  (This is all in tour of his new Acoustic Classics album).  It’s interesting to hear him playing such a folkie song (which sounds a bit like Eric Clapton).  But the more important thing is that his voice sounds great.  Many singers his age simply don’t have the voice anymore, but he certainly does.  He hasn’t lost anything.

For the second song, “Lines On My Face,” he is joined by Gordon Kennedy.  Kennedy has been his writing partner for decades.  Together they wrote some of Frampton’s classics as well as a song for Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitts’ new single “Gypsy in Me.”  He says that this song is something he wrote a long time ago and it’s still a favorite.  While Kenendy plays acoustic backing chords, Frampton plays some good solos on that acoustic guitar.

For being Peter Frampton, he was actually very humble and self-effacing and rather funny.  There’s a good moment when he says he didn’t expect quite this many people.  “You hear like “clap clap clap….”

Of course, I know “Baby, I Love Your Way.”  I’m not exactly sick of it, but I don’t go out of my way to listen to it.  However, in this new acoustic format I really got to listen to the song anew.  It’s really quite a nice song.  And when the crowd spontaneously chimes in and sings along he seems genuinely pleased and it makes the song t hat much better.

This Tiny Desk made me appreciate Peter Frampton in a way I never thought I would.

[READ: June 10, 2016] “Three Short Moments in a Long Life”

I enjoy when a story has Parts.  This one has three and they all connect, which is even better than three discrete parts.  But this story, which covers a man’s life from childhood to old age is really quite a downer.  It speaks volumes about the futility of life without actually ever saying anything about it.

Part 1 is called The Spy (although I’m not entirely sure why).  In it, the narrator talks about Beverly LaPlante.  He and Beverly were in second grade together.  She was very shy and cried a lot.  They both hated recess and he was afraid to get lumped in with–the kids made fun of her a lot.  Midway through the year she left the school and that was that.

Third grade meant a new teacher and he had a crush on her.  Then one day during dodge ball he noticed that there was a new girl.  And her name was Beverly LaPlante.  But there was no way she was the same girl, right?  She wasn’t shy at all, in fact, she ended the dodgeball game by cursing out some of the losers.  He was upset that he sweet teacher didn’t yell at her.  When she finally said something to the girl, Beverly shouted “Jesus Christ and shit, piss, fuck!”

The narrator prayed that night–he prayed that Beverly would die.  He immediately took it back but it was too late.

Part 2 is called The Writer.

In this brief part the boy is grown up.  He is a writer, and has written several books which no one cared about.  While he was thinking about writing, there was a knock at the door.  He opened it and there was Jesus: “he had long blond hair and those eyes that follow you around the room.”  Except of course it wasn’t Jesus, right?  It was a just a guy looking for work or change.

Part 3 is called The Substance of Things Hoped For.

As the section opens the man is now eighty–lying on his bed unable to move.  We learn that he has Parkinson’s and is being taken to the hospital for pneumonia.

He has felt like a burden to his wife and some time ago tried to kill himself. It failed obviously but she told him if he ever did that again she’d kill him herself: “She’s a genuine saint, the real thing, without any pious crap, so she’s not always easy to live with.”

He is in the hospital for a while, marveling at the attendants and how young they seem.  He wonders if and when he is going to die.

This last part seemed really extraneous and not very meaningful.  I realize that it was meant to wrap everything up but I would have preferred to have the two parts together and let me imagine the third.

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