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Archive for the ‘Noelle Stevenson’ Category

lumberjanes-3 SOUNDTRACK: YOUTH LAGOON-Tiny Desk Concert #490 (November 23, 2015).

youthI thought I knew who Youth Lagoon was, but this Tiny Desk surprised me.  Lead singer/keyboardist Trevor Powers sings passionately.  But I was surprised that his voice is quite the falsetto (and at times sounds a bit like Pee Wee Herman).

At first I found this distracting, but after listening for a while I started to enjoy his voice, especially for what it did for the music.  They play three songs.  Two are new and one is older.

“Kerry” is a pretty song with a simple keyboard melody that is nicely duplicates on the guitar at times.  In fact, even though the keyboard is the main instrument, I love the various riffs and melodies that the guitar plays to accompany him.  There are some absolutely gorgeous musical passages in this song and Powers’ fragile voice is perfect for them.  In the middle, when the guitar plays a great solo section, it’s quite something.

“July,” is a wistful reflection on youth and regret from the band’s debut.  It’s a much more spare song with just voice and keys starting for the first minute or so.  About half way through, the rest of the band adds some real beauty to the melody as he sings more intensely.  I particularly like when the bass comes in at the end with a cool pattern of high notes.

“Rotten Human,” is a meditation on the passage of time and search for purpose in life.  I like this lyric: “I’d rather die than piss way my time.” It’s a slow song but once the drums come in the song builds.  I love the melody just before the next part which he sings with much more passion.  The “No I won’t” section sees his voice getting more ragged and angry-sounding–quite a change from the other parts of the songs.  Again there’s some great bass lines near the end of the song.

It took me a couple of listens to warm up to Youth Lagoon, but I really liked them by the end.

[READ: July 18, 2016] Lumberjanes 3

This is the third volume in the Lumberjanes series and I liked it a lot more than the second one.  This book collects issues 9-12.

The focus in the middle chapter on Mal and Molly was a nice change of pace.  And I thought it was very very funny that the girls tried to spend a chapter collecting “boring badges” for a change of pace.

There were lots of different illustrators in this book, because in the first chapter each the girls tells a story and each has her own illustrator. (more…)

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lumberhjanes2 SOUNDTRACK: DIANE COFFEE-Tiny Desk Concert #483 (November 2, 2015).

dianeI first heard of Diane Coffee from NPR.  The band’s song “Spring Breathes” is bizarre and wonderful–simultaneously difficult and catchy.  I was especially excited to see them play at XPNFest, but sadly we arrived just as they finished up and I missed my opportunity to see singer Shaun Fleming all glammed up (in a sailor suit).

This Tiny Desk Concert is a bit more mellow (and acoustic), but it is hardly Tiny as there is a string trio, a drummer and a guitarist.  As well as a bassist and keyboardist in addition to Shaun Fleming with acoustic guitar and vocals (and blue eye shadow).  Fleming was the drummer in Foxygen and does a lot of voice over work.

“Spring Breathes” is not as dramatic as on the record (which has some cool electronic drops and changes of tempo). But it sounds great with the strings (I love the pizzicato parts).  This version also has a very glam-era David Bowie feel.  Fleming’s voice is great–powerful and full, completely unaffected and spot on (the part where he sings the descending riff near the end of the song is fabulous).  And the harmonies are all perfect, very 1970s.  The song retains its several parts (I love when the song shifts to a quick funky bass section) and the band handles it perfectly.

“Not That Easy” is a mellow song with Fleming singing primarily in a gentle falsetto.  It’s a fairly simple song but the joint guitar solos are really beautiful.

For something a little more upbeat, they play “Mayflower.”  Fleming doesn’t play guitar on this one, but he dances around (rather like Mick Jagger).  He is wonderfully flamboyant both in motion and in singing (he’s got a cool raspy 1970s singing style for this song). And again the harmonies are great.

He is quite out of breath after this song, which is funny. They are going to play one from their first album, a song called “Green.”   His voice sounds particularly familiar on this one–I’m thinking like when Jon Bon Jovi really belts out his lyrics–and it’s just perfect for the song.

Fleming has a charming persona.  I really enjoyed this acoustic version and I’m glad to hear that he can convert the studio magic into a live setting.

[READ: March 22, 2016] Lumberjanes 2

I love the premise behind Lumberjanes.  The Lumberjanes are a kind of Girl Scout/Wilderness Adventure group.  They have been around for a long time and the Janes must follow the manual to achieve their various badges.  I love the way the book is set up around an “actual” field manual from 1984 (tenth edition) which has been:

Prepared for the Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for [written in] HARDCORE LADY-TYPES.

I was really excited to read this second volume since I loved the first one so much.  But I was a little disappointed by this one.

I feel like we could have used a short reminder of who all the girls were–there were a couple who I couldn’t tell apart [I know if you’re reading the issues as they come out that’s not a problem, but how much work can it be for collected volumes?].

What I didn’t like was the way the story went in a totally unexpected direction.

It started promising enough with the girls’ counselor being shocked and afraid after the recent supernatural events. She wants them to just stay around the cabins and make friendship bracelets to get the Friendship to the Craft badge. (more…)

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lumberSOUNDTRACK: BUILT TO SPILL-Keep It Like a Secret (1999).

keepitThis was the first Built to Spill album I ever bought and from the opening notes of the “The Plan” I was immediately hooked on the song, the album and the band. Doug’s voice is high and strong and it has a great ringing guitar riff and big chords to open the song.  Then comes the excellent third section that seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the song but which sounds great. And then it’s capped off with the crazy guitar solo that is wild noises and seemingly out of tune notes that all gels together.

Like many Built to Spill albums, the whole disc works like this. The sound is a bit more open and ringing, dare I say orchestral than the previous album (which always felt a bit claustrophobic sounding to me). And most of the songs have multiple distinct parts.  But also unlike the previous record, the songs are mostly much shorter (with “Center of the Universe”) turning in at under 3 minutes even.

“Carry the Zero” was the first song I heard by them, and it was the real impetus for me becoming a huge fan (I have put this song on so many mix tapes/CDs).  “Sidewalk” continues with another fantastic, surprisingly catchy song.

“Time Trap” stars off with wild and crazy guitars and then mellows out for the verses.  And I love that the super catchy chorus comes more than 3 minutes into the 5 minute song.  I have about 6 or 7 favorite songs on this record, although “You Were Wrong” tops them all, with its lyrics of clichés from other songs: “You were right when you said all that glitters isn’t gold; you were right when you said all we are is dust in the wind.”  Hilarious, but also right on (and amazing musically too)

“Broken Chairs” is the only long song on the disc running almost 9 minutes long. It even includes a section with a whistle solo.  It’s cool that on a relatively poppy album full of super catchy songs, Doug wasn’t afraid to jam out a little bit (the song is amazing live).

[READ: October 1, 2015] Lumberjanes

I love the premise behind Lumberjanes.  The Lumberjanes are a kind of Girl Scout/Wilderness Adventure group.  They have been around for a long time and the Janes must follow the manual to achieve their various badges.  I love the way the book is set up around an “actual” field manual from 1984 (tenth edition) which has been

Prepared for the Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for [written in] HARDCORE LADY-TYPES.

This graphic novel has received glowing reviews so I was pretty excited to read it.  And for the most part I really enjoyed it.  The story was funny and adventurous.  And, of course it’s cool that all the lead characters are girls.  My daughter (age 7) loved the book and couldn’t wait to show me the last page and wondered when the next book was out.  Since she loved it I guess my opinion is irrelevant, but I didn’t love it as much as that. There were some quibbles I had with the book, but that’s mostly because I wanted it to be awesome!

The first one came on the first page.  The book feels like you’ve missed a whole bunch of pages.  I know all about starting in medias res and all that but it never really catches us up to the action. There’s not really a fair introduction to the story.  And while you don’t really need an introduction necessarily, I feel like a great opportunity was lost in not having one. (more…)

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