Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Lorrie Moore’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-“Angel” (1993).

On December 2, Pearl Jam announced that their fan club holiday singles will be released to streaming services.  Their first holiday single was released back in 1991.  It was “Let Me Sleep (Christmas Time).” They are rolling out the songs one at a time under the banner 12 Days of Pearl Jam.

These releases are coming out as a daily surprise.

This song goes back to 1993 and has the logo from Vs.

It’s not a Christmas song (not every year end 7″ was Christmas themed).  Rather this sounds like an outtake from Vitalogy more than Vs.  Interestingly, they played it at the Fenway Park show that S. and I went to in 2016 (August 7), although I obviously didn’t know it.  I’m secretly impressed that I was there when they played this song–only  the sixth time they’ve ever played it.

It’s a quiet acoustic guitar-based song.  The chords sound a little off–a little unsettled.

The song opens with the first section, the “like an angel” section.  When the second part comes next, a second guitar is added in along with some backing vocals, (especially on the word “tortured”) giving the song an eerier harmony.  The guitar on this part is consistent until the 80 second mark when it suddenly shifts to a pretty melody.

There’s upbeat chords with some lovely backing vocals as Eddie sings lyrics he can’t seem to get out fast enough and some surprisingly high notes.

It’s certainly an oddball song–three minutes with no chorus and some certainly odd chords.  But the sentiment is quite nice.

[READ: December 5, 2019] “Acknowledgements”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story was fantastic.  I loved everything about it–tone, content, style, humor.  This had it all.

It is about a young writer who named his writer-protagonists after himself and wrote about how underappreciated he was as a writer.  The acknowledgements that the title refers to are in his debut novel which was just published.  It is called The Canon According to D. M. Murphy by D. M. Murphy.

But before getting to the people who impacted this novel, he gives us some extensive background about himself–birthday, birth method, etc.  He reveals his name is Daniel Manitou Murphy.  He liked the “Manitou” part although why his parents would name him after the islands in Lake Michigan (whose legend is that they were the Great Spirit’s memorial to her dead cubs) was always confusing to him.  He thought about going by D. Manitou, but he feared that it would be seen as appropriation.  And then of course there are the awkward years: “I had somewhere entered that phase of bourgeoisie adulthood in which one uses brunch as a verb.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

harperjanSOUNDTRACK: BECK-“Gimme” (2013).

gimmeThis was the final of the three singles that Beck released in 2013.

It is by far the weirdest of the three, and seems the most experimental.

The song is only 2 and a half minutes long.  It starts with vibraphone-like sounds. The vocals are layered and processed with random voices shouting “Gimme” throughout the track.  I have no idea what the lyrics are.

It is noisy and cluttered, although there is a melody under all of that.  And then it ends just as suddenly as it began.  This song may some end of the year lists, but it’s certainly not easy listening.

[READ: April 1, 2014] “Subject to Search”

Sarah recently brought home a copy of Lorrie Moore’s Bark, and I’ve put it on my to-read list (somewhere near the top).  So browsing through this back issue of Harper’s I saw this story and figured it was probably in Bark (it is), but I decided to read it anyhow.

The story begins with an amusing exchange.  A man sits down and says “I have to leave.”  He and the woman are in a restaurant and she wonders if he has time to eat.  He tells her to order lamb couscous and she worries about her pronunciation.  It turns out they are in France and her French is passable at best.  She worries that there is a distinction between lamb to eat and lamb as a pet (like between pork and pig) in French and that she may end up with something totally unacceptable.

When the man returns he explains to her that he has to fly back to the States, and to us that he is in “the intelligence game.”

As the story unfold we learn more about him from the way she has perceived him (she assumed he was a drug runner from his story about driving cars in Holland).  He escaped from Iran just before the hostage situation broke out in the 70s.  And he paid for everything in cash.  But we also learn that she has known him for years. (more…)

Read Full Post »

aug2013SOUNDTRACK: DAVID LYNCH-“Crazy Clown Time” (2012).

lynchIt’s hard for me to divorce this song from the video, because the video is so…David Lynch.  Even though it pictures the lyrics literally, there’s so many weird little Lynchisms that it’s an art unto itself.  Imagine David Lynch directing a rocking music video, but of a song he wrote.  Wow.  But I’m not going to talk about the video.

Musically, his song is a fairly simple construction–it’s primarily drums with some echoing guitars (with no real melody) and other crazy noises.  Over the rhythmic cacophony, we get David Lynch’s bizarre falsetto/spoken words.  Lyrically the song seems to be describing a party that gets pretty out of hand (and the video certainly shows that).

Lyrics include: Paulie he had a red shirt; Suzy, she ripped her shirt off completely; Petey set his hair on fire. And then the chorus: It was crazy clown time.  It was real fun.

Lynch’s voice sounds like an excited child (or demonic clown) as he talks about certain details of this party.  This is definitely a song that people will ask you “what are you listening to?”  There’s very few who will want to listen to this, although I’ve found that after three listens, it makes a kind of twisted sense.

If you dare, watch the NSFW video

[READ: September 10, 2013] Animal Instincts

I very rarely talk about reviews of TV shows–that’s a slipper slope if ever there was.  But I like Lorrie Moore and I like Jane Campion and I hadn’t heard about Campion’s show called Top of the Lake  Moore suggests is the best show on TV.  It aired on the Sundance Channel but was originally a BBC production.  Like Campions’ other works, it is set in New Zealand and the location and cinematography are part Deliverance, Road Warrior, Winter’s Bone and Hobbit.

The show sound very dark, but as soon as Moore started describing it I couldn’t help but think of Twin Peaks.  And indeed, there is a David Lynch nod within the show (girls say they are reading Blue Velvet for their book club). (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: DIVINE FITS-“Would That Not Be Nice” (2012).

This song was KCRW’s Today’s Top Tune on August 13, 2012.  Divine Fits are a supergroup of sorts with Spoon’s Britt Daniels, New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brown and Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs member Dan Boeckner.  When I heard who was in the band, I was pretty excited to hear the track.  But I have to say that this sounds kind of like a over-polished Spoon song with keyboards.  Daniels’ voice and musical style are individual enough that he pretty much dominates whatever he does.  But at the same time, I feel like the jagged edges that make Spoon so interesting have been removed.

I assume that Boeckner is responsible for the keyboards and the interesting echo effect on the vocals.  They add an interesting balance to Daniels, but this doesn’t excite me the way Spoon does.

[READ: August 10, 2012] “Signs and Symbols”

I discovered this story because in my post of Lorrie Moore’s “Referential” someone commented that her story was plagiarized from this one.  I had intended to read this Nabokov story immediately so Moore’s would be fresh and I could lay down the “J’accuse.”  It’s been a couple of months but I can say that while her story is obviously inspired by this Nabokov–to the point where she uses elements from this story in her own, it’s a different take on the same idea.

But before we do any comparison, let’s look at this story.  The story begins by stating that for the fourth time in as many years, a young man’s parents don’t know what to take him for his birthday.  The problem is that he is in an institution and many things are forbidden.  And also, for their son man-made objects are either hives of evil or gross comforts–more on that shortly.  They knew they couldn’t get him a gadget of any kind, so they settled on a basket with a set of colorful jellies.  When they travel to him with the gift, everything goes wrong–the train breaks down, there are no busses, and when they finally get there, the nurses inform them that there has been an incident and he cannot see them now.  So they return home with the jellies.

The story describes what is wrong with their son as referential mania.  It’s an interesting situation, and an article about him had appeared in a scientific monthly.  It says that the patient believes that everything happening around him is somehow related to himself.  So clouds transmit details about him, trees talk about him, etc.  And this was driving him crazy (obviously).  He had even tried to kill himself via, what the doctor described as “a masterpiece of inventiveness.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: ESMERINE-La Lechuza [CST080] (2011).

This album is a wonderful surprise.  I had not heard of Esmerine before this CD (they have put out two previous records on a different label).  All I knew about them was that violinist Becky Foon (who is all over the Montreal scene and who is really good) was one of the founders of this band.  So I expected some epic instrumentals ala all of the Constellation Recordings bands that she has played with (Godspeed, Silver Mt Zion, etc).

I was delighted by the opening fast marimba notes of “A Dog River”.  I’m not sure if the marimba can play minor key notes, but the melody that co-founder Bruce Cawdron plays is uplifting and mesmerizing.  When Becky adds her strings, it takes on a new element–a kind of wistfulness.  Then at nearly 3/4 of the way in, some loud guitars come in to give the whole song a feeling of urgency.  And all the while it is very filmic.  It’s a wonderful opening.  “Walking Through Mist” is a much slower piece, and the marimba adds contextual pacing–they’re still not minor key or sad marimba notes, but they are not as uplifting as on the first track.  “Last Waltz” introduces a vibrato’s piano as the primary instrument.  It is at once unsettling.   It’s also the first of three songs with vocals.  The vocals work well on this song–they fit the mood perfectly–especially the wordless singing at around 4 minutes.  But I have to admit that I like the instrumentals better.  The same can be said for “Snow Day for Lhasa” (another song with vocals) which I find a little too slow to be impactful (it actually reminds me of a very slow version of Broken Social Scene’s “Lover’s Spit”).

“Trampolin” introduces a harp and some vibrant percussion.  It’s uplifting and feels like a perfect song for a theatrical dance company to perform to.  “Sprouts” is an uplifting new-agey sounding track.  By itself it might veer uncomfortably into the new age scene, but amidst the songs of the album it works very well.  “Little Streams Make Big Rivers” returns to that slower sound from earlier.  But this song is short and feels like a slow building march.  By the half way mark when the drums kick in, the song is unstoppable.  The album proper ends with “Au Crépuscule, Sans Laisse” a slow filmic song that returns the album to the quiet sound it was toying with earlier.

I mentioned Lhasa earlier.  Lhasa was a Canadian singer who had international fame (from my own experience, I know that X-Files creator Chris Carter wanted to go see her live–I know this because I was friends with his assistant and she told me the tale of trying to find tickets for this show).  I checked out her stuff but it wasn’t for me.  Anyhow, Beckie and Bruce were supposed to tour with Lhasa for her 2010 album, but sadly, she died of breast cancer (at 37, Jesus), right after the album came out.  So this album is dedicated to her.  The final song “Fish on Land” is a previously unreleased version of a Lhasa song that was made with Bruce and Beckie.  I wish I liked it more, but as I said, she’s not my thing.

I absolutely love the instrumentals on this album and I’m going to have to check out their earlier releases, too.

[READ: May 24, 2012] “Referential”

This story is like a kick to the stomach.  When you’re lying on the floor.  After you’ve thrown up.  And I mean that as very high praise indeed.

You know you’re in for trouble when the story opens: “For the third time in three years, they talked about what would be a suitable gift for her deranged son.”  We quickly learn that the woman’s son was fine until he was about twelve years old when he stopped brushing his teeth and began muttering to himself.  By then Pete had been dating the woman for about six years.

Pete and the woman had been coping with her son’s placement in the institution for over three years now.  There were so many rules they had to follow when visiting the boy–almost nothing could be brought in for fear of its being used as a weapon–even the homemade jam was taken because it was in glass.  Similarly, the woman has stopped wearing accessories, as a kind of solidarity–she would just have to remove them anyway.  She is now aging naturally and (she fears/admits) not very prettily.  An amazing slap in the face comes at the end of the first section with this amazing sentence:  “‘To me, you always look so beautiful,’ Pete no longer said.”  [Ouch!].

Pete has lost his job and is clearly unable to handle the strain of her son any longer (there’s a wonderfully painful scene where the boy asks Pete why he hasn’t come to visit lately). (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY-Take Care, Take Care, Take Care (2011).

I found out about Explosions in the Sky because of the events of 9/11.  Back when everyone was looking for albums to point fingers at in some kind of hysteria (that’s also how I found out about I am the World Trade Center who are not as exciting as Explosions…).

EITS make beautiful epic instrumental music (as well as the soundtrack for Friday Night Lights).  They play music in a similar vein to Mogwai, but they take their epic instrumentals in a different direction.  And this album is perhaps their most commercial to date (as commercial as you can be when you write 10 minute instrumentals).  And while “commercial” is not usually an adjective that I give as praise, for this album it is indeed.

Take Care, Take Care Take Care is a terrific album.  It ‘s not as visceral as past releases; rather, it seems like a more experienced band playing with their sound and tweaking it in subtle ways to make it less obviously dramatic but somehow more powerful.

On “Last Known Surroundings,” there are soaring guitars that give way to simple, pretty guitar riffs.  Martial drums propel the songs forward, even if they lead to unexpected places.  It’s soundtrack music that’s not background music.

Perhaps the biggest difference with this album and previous ones is that this album doesn’t quite live up to the band’s name.  There’s no major explosive crescendos.  There are noisy bits but they’re not climactic per se.   “Human Qualities” slows to a quiet drum beat and while you’d expect to come out of that with a cacophonous explosion, it doesn’t.  The explosion does come later, but only after it has worked up to it again.

“Trembling Hands” features “voices.”  Or maybe just one voice.  It’s on a loop that becomes more of a sound than a voice.  The song is only 3 minutes long, but it’s an intense 3 minutes–more great drum work on this one.

“Be Comfortable, Creature” has a beautiful delicate guitar opening that drifts into a kind of solo.  After 3 minutes it settles into the main riff, a winding guitar line that send you on a journey.  “Postcard from 1952” is a great song. It begins as quiet intertwining guitars and slowly builds and builds into a gorgeous rocking conclusion.  7 minutes of steady growth with a nice epilogue at the end.

The final song, “Let Me Back In” also has kind of spooky voices that appears throughout the song (distorted and repeated).  But you know this song is a winner from the get go (even if the opening chord structure is a bit like Duran Duran’s “Come Undone.”)  It’s a slow builder, a cool, moody ten minute piece.  When you get to the beautiful descending guitar riff that shoots out after about 2 minutes, it’s an ecstatic moment–air guitars are mandatory.

And let’s talk packaging.  The album comes in a gate-fold type of cardboard.  If you open it up all the way it can be folded into a little house (with windows and a door and a chimney).  That’s pretty cool, guys.

If I have one compliant about the album it’s that the quiets are really quiet and he louds are really loud.  That makes this a very difficult album to listen to say, at work, or basically anywhere where other people will be blown away by your speakers.  The middle of “Human Qualities” for instance, is really quiet, you feel like you need to turn it up to hear the drum beat–there’s too much volume fiddling (listening in the car by yourself negates any reason for this complaint, of course).

Keep it up, guys.

More “controversy” from the band

[READ: September 10, 2011] New Yorker essays

Ten years ago, The New Yorker published several short essays by famous and (to me anyway) not so famous writers.  They were all written directly in the aftermath of the attacks and they were moving and powerful.  I was going to wait until today to re-read them and post about them, but for various reasons, I decided to do it on May 12.

Now, ten years later, The New Yorker has published several more essays by famous and (to me anyway) not so famous writers.  I note that none of the authors are the same (that might have been interesting) although Zadie Smith does quote from John Updike’s piece of ten years ago.

The strange thing to me about these pieces is that ten years seems to have hindered the writers’ ability to focus on the incident and to talk about What It Means.  In this collection of essays, we have a few that talk about an individual and how his life has changed since 9/11.  These are pretty powerful, although it’s odd that they would talk about another person and not themselves. We have a couple of essays that talk about the writer him or herself, but these seem kind of unfocused.  And then we have ones that talk about the state oft he world; honestly, what can you say about that.

It’s possible that I’m jaded or in a bad mood and that’s why I didn’t appreciate these essays.  Or perhaps I’m just facing the futility of things.

This is not to say that I think that writing about 9/11 is easy (you’ll notice I’m not doing it).  Indeed, I think talking about it in any kind of meaningful, non-strident, non-cliched way is nigh impossible.

But these writers do give it a try.  And I am grateful for that. (more…)

Read Full Post »

reviewSOUNDTRACK: FIONA APPLE-When the Pawn… (1999).

when the pawnI learned about Fiona Apple from CMJ New Music Monthly before her debut came out.  I was convinced she was just another pretty thing with little talent. But then I heard “Shadowboxer” and I was really impressed by the depth of her voice.  When I got the album, I was pretty much blown away.

When When the Pawn came out it was mocked for its absurdly long title.  (Even Janine Garofalo got in on the mocking, for which, shame on her because even if Fiona made some bad decisions, she was still a young woman who was fighting for the causes of good).

But looking beyond the title, For When the Pawn, shows Fiona’s voice getting stronger and more subtle, and her songwriting is truly amazing.  She used the assistance of Jon Brion, multi-instrumentalist and all around dabbler in fun sounds.  And he creates a soundscape of weird instruments, crazy sounds and an enveloping sounds that keep the album an item unto itself.

I haven’t listened to the disc in quite a while, but playing it again, i was impressed by the audacity of some of the musical choices, especially for a “pretty young thing” with a successful (and disturbing) video on the charts (“Criminal“).

The crazy noises that start off the disc (carnival-like keyboards, electronic squeals) sound a mile away from the jazzy sounds of “Shadowboxer” but Fiona’s voice comes in and you know that she’s still her, and her voice sounds even richer.  There’s a wild disconnect on “To Your Love” with the delicate vibes (!) that fill the bridge and the rough sounds in the chorus (not to mention the crazy wordplay: “My derring-do allows me to dance the rigadoon Around you But by the time I’m close to you, I lose my desideratum and now you”‘).  And then “Limp,” an amazing musical concoction:  more delicate jazzy openings followed by a raucous chorus with the wonderful put down: “So call me crazy, hold me down / Make me cry; get off now, baby- / It wont be long till you’ll be / Lying limp in your own hand.”

And that’s just the first three songs.  The rest of the disc sways between mellow jazzy numbers, beautiful ballads, and rocking scorchers, but it is always fueled by a dissonance that counters Apple’s voice perfectly.

Another can’t miss track is “Fast as You Can,” a wonderfully propelled track that bounces along jauntily until it hits an amazingly fast syncopated chorus.  And the production is so clean, the drum clap before the bridge is striking.  The disc ends with a couple of delicate songs.  “Get Gone” is  delightful jazzy song (complete with brushed drums).  It remains pretty mellow until Fiona breaks from a pause with a brutal “fucking go!”  And finally, the delicate ending of “I Know” brings the disc to a close.

Ten years later, this disc is still a gem.  One can only hope it gets rediscovered so a new legion of fans can enjoy its masterful music.  And for the full title of the disc, check the bottom the post….

[READ: October 16, 2009] “Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young”

This article opens with a note that Evan Martin found this article but noticed that it wasn’t online.  It was mentioned in Steven Moore’s essay “The First Draft Version of Infinite Jest.”  So he retyped it and it is now hosted on theknowe.net.  Here’s the write-up & link from The Howling Fantods:

“Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young”. The Review of Contemporary Fiction Vol. 8, No. 3, 1988. [NOTES: Read it here.]

This is a fascinating article in which DFW looks at the state of fiction circa 1987.  Specifically, he is responding to criticisms that the popular authors of the day, collectively Conspicuously Young, all fall into three very basic and uninspired cliche-filled boxes:

  • Neiman-Marcus Nihilism
  • Catatonic Realism
  • Workshop Hermeticism (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »