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Archive for the ‘O. Henry’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: HANSON FOR THE HOLIDAYS-Tiny Desk Concert #686 (December 18, 2017).

The Hanson Tiny Desk Concert back in October ended with them saying “See you for Christmas everybody.”  And, lo, here they are.

But it turns out that Christmas was in October this year.

During the break, the NPR crew set up the Tiny Desk to look like Christmas.  Two of the three (why not all three?) brothers even wear Christmas sweaters.

They play three Christmas songs.  Two originals and one “traditional” medley.

The two originals are rocking, very piano heavy (the pianist does a LOT of sliding down the keyboard as they rock n toll out).

“Finally, It’s Christmas” is fun and bouncy song that I imagine we’ll hear a lot next year.

“To New Year’s Night” is a very conventional rock n roll song about a North Pole Party.  The guitarist with his gruffer voice (and no sweater) sings this song about needing a toddy for hid body (since I think of Hasnon as being 8-12 years old (although they obviously aren’t), it’s weird to hear them singing about drinking.  It’s a pretty standard rocker, they even quote “da do ron ron.”  After rocking out, they comment “Can anyone saw ‘sweat”ers.”  Since it is obviously not Christmastime.

It has been 20 years since their first Christmas record.  So they decided it was time to do a new one.  While they are talking Bob starts blowing snow all over them.  This leads to them singing “Joy to the Mountain” an a capella mash up of “Joy to the World” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain.”  They sin the melody in a non traditional way.  Their harmonies are really good even if I don’t care for their delivery.

2017 has been a pretty strange (mostly bad) year.  I never would have guessed I’d be watching two Tiny Desk Concerts with Hanson (and more or less enjoying both of them).

[READ: December 25, 2017] “A Chaparral Christmas Gift”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection. (more…)

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henrySOUNDTRACK: THEE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA-Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything [CST099] (2014).

99Aside from the dance remix single of “Hang on to Each Other,” this is the latest Silver Mt. Zion record to be released.  For those keeping score, GYBE has released an album more recently than SMtZ.  This album is full of punk piss and vinegar (as if the title didn’t give it away).  It’s mostly represented by a heavily fuzzed out guitar that runs underneath nearly all of the songs.

The album begins with a child saying, “We live on the island of Montreal … and we make a lot of noise … because we love each other.”

This first song is called “Fuck Off Get Free (For the Island of Montreal)” and the music starts with scratching noisy guitars and everyone else playing a simple ascending and descending riff.  The vocals kick in right away and it feels like the whole group is singing along too–everyone is involved in this noisy song.  It works great.  Even when the song shifts to a more singable part it retains the intensity of the pacing.  Around 4 minutes we get a return to the chanted vocals that lead into a kind of hurricane of a solo section.  And when they come out of that the chorus sings the chanted title.  The biggest change comes at 6 and a half minutes when the whole song shifts and a slower, heavier and deeper guitar chord (unlike any they have played before–it feels unearthly) drives the remainder of the song.  As I’ve noted in other songs, I love when the choir sings by itself (the female singers in this case singing “pull me under”), and they all sound much more “professional” than the kind of loose choir they were a few albums ago.  This choir sings to the end of the song as the instruments all drop off leaving only voices.  It’s pretty fantastic.

“Austerity Blues” is 14 minutes long and opens with a flat sounding scratched acoustic guitar and sing along vocals.  While the scratching  guitar is going on a cool bass line begins.  Things quiet down which leads to a noisy one-note distorted guitar that adds a layer of noise to the melody line.  The song shifts to a louder section with scratchy violins and big pounding drums (David Payant has really added a lot to these songs with his powerful drumming).  Around 6 minutes in, a distorted echoing guitar plays a kind of Middle Eastern-sounding guitar solo.  When the solo settles down a new faster section begins–lots of drums and group singing.  By ten minutes, the song feels like it’s fading out as the music gets quieter.  But a new set of vocals resume more quietly this time, and they sing their melodies quietly until the end.

“Take Away These Early Grave Blues” opens with a girl with a very thick British accent wondering why “people think like that” as a noisy violin kicks in with a see-saw riff and shouted vocals.  This song sounds like a pretty standard SMtZ song with the big exception being the really noisy drums that dominate the track (Payant again).  At around 2 minutes, the music drops away leaving just a buzzy bass introducing a noisy drum and guitar solo.  When the vocals resume the music becomes a fast pounding drum fill and more distorted violins and guitars.  The song is intense and while only about 7 minutes long, it really packs a lot in.  It ends with a fast riff (that’s almost an Irish jig) followed by crashing drums and chanting lyrics: “Love each other that’s all.”

“Little Ones Run” is only two and half minutes long.  That’s unusual in itself for the band.  But even more unusual is that the song is like a lullaby.  It’s a quiet piano melody and lyrics sung by the female members of the band.  It hearkens back to their first albums which were all piano, but this is a much updated version of that early sound.

“What We Loved Was Not Enough” opens with quiet violins and deep bass notes.  The relative quiet is shattered by Efrim singing (this is the first instance on this album where his polarizing voice stands out–on the rest of the album it’s pretty well mixed in with everything else.  But I think he’s won us over by this time and we can accept it, especially since the musical melody is so pretty.  There’s also a lovely violin solo that runs through the middle of the song.  In fact, the whole song would be really quite pretty except for the distortion that permeates it–a noisy guitar underpins the whole thing.  But at 6 minutes, everything drops out except for the pretty violin and the vocals,  “And the day has come when we no longer feel.”  That refrain is picked up by the beautiful choir voices (they really sound great).  As they repeat this section, Efrim sings a harsh lead vocal (he sounds a bit like Larry Kirwan from Black 47).  There’s an instrumental section that scorches with noisy guitars for about a minute and then at 9 minutes the song returns to that beautiful chorus (with male voices added) and that delicate violin.  It goes on like this until the end.  It’s really lovely.

The final song “Rains Thru the Roof at Thee Grande Ballroom (For Capital Steez)” is also rather different for the band.  It is “introduced” by an interview (in English and translated into French) from an unnamed musician who is talking about how being in a band is more than a part time gig … it’s what you devote your life to.  When the music comes in it’s floor toms and an unsettling distorted and scratchy strings or keyboards or sampled voices and keyboard which slowly growing louder.  There’s stabs of piano and vocals which are far back in the mix.  The melody is nice but mournful and it continues for all of the four minutes.  [Capital Steez was a rapper from Brooklyn who committed suicide in 2012.  I honestly can’t tell what this song has to do with him].

I’m not sure which band we can expect to hear from next, but both GYBE and SMtZ have released really strong records in the last few years.

For this album, the lineup stays the same as on the previous album (and the band name has remained the same, too).

Thierry Amar: Upright bass, electric bass, plucked piano, vocals
Efrim Menuck: Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mellotron, vocals
Jessica Moss: Violin, plucked piano, vocals
Sophie Trudeau: Violin, plucked piano, vocals
and David Payant has taken over for Eric Craven on drums, organ, piano and vocals

[READ: March 15, 2016] “Confessions of a Humorist”

I only found out about this story from reading The Fate of the Artist.  I have always vaguely liked O. Henry, but can’t say that I’ve read much by him.  I found this story to be simple and fairly obvious, although perhaps it was obvious because he introduced this style of storytelling to the world one hundred years ago.

The narrator is a bookkeeper in a hardware firm.  We learn a bit more about him and his family.  This line delighted me for some reason, “Naturally, we lived in a vine-covered cottage.”

On the occasion of the senior partner’s 50th birthday, he was selected to give a speech.  And it was a hit.  People laughed and suddenly his reputation as humorist was established. (more…)

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fateart SOUNDTRACK: THEE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA-Kollaps Tradixionales [CST063] (2010).

kollaspThis album was released as a CD and as double 10″ vinyl.  Each “side” is about 15 minutes long.  And, interestingly, each side has a kind of theme, I guess.  It also includes the shortest song the band has recorded.

“There Is a Light” is one of my favorite songs they’ve done.  The guitar and strings play off each other perfectly and the song ebbs and flows very nicely.  Efrim sounds pretty drunk in his vocals, which gives the whole thing a shambolic quality that contrasts nicely with the elegance of the music.  Of all of their songs, I think this one really captures the intensity that these band can generate with the swelling strings and pounding drums.  At 6 minutes, the whole thing slows to a halt but is then resumed with a new, even more interesting section.  Over reverbed guitars, a series of horns and backing vocals singing “la las” flesh out the lead vocals.  I really enjoy the way the strings swirl around the vocals only pausing to let the words “One Step Two step” come out in staccato vocals.  But the main strings riff that follows these verses is so pretty, I could listen too just that.  This all ends around 9 minutes, when the final part begins with slow guitar and horns.  The vocals come in singing the title “there is a light.”  It starts quiet but soon enough the full choir of voices joins in as the music swells.  After a few round of verses, the song ends with the female choir singing, “Tell me there is a light.”

The second “side” is the “metal bird” side.  It stars with “I Built Myself a Metal Bird” which opens with rocking guitar chords and fast drums–the most overtly rock song they’ve done so far.  The vocals are screamed and staccato.  Things never really let up for the whole six minutes–there’s a concurrent violin solo while the lyrics are sung.  The second half of the song changes things a bit–with more dramatic strings playing.  In the last thirty seconds the tone changes a bit and things do mellow out for the conclusion.  That leads into the second bird song

“I Fed My Metal Bird the Wings of Other Metal Birds” is quite different from the first.  It opens with slow electric guitars and quiet strings.  There’s noisy guitars and other strange atmospheric sounds for the first three and a half minutes when it finally settles into an uptempo string song with more great violin riffs.  At fiver minutes (of 6) the bowed bass takes over the main line and the accompanying strings help to move things along.  There’s only about 30 seconds left when the vocals come in and they are nearly drowned out by the music.

The third side is the “Kollpas” side with three songs.

For “Kollapz Tradixional (Thee Olde Dirty Flag)” the piano comes back with quiet chords and gentle strings accompanying quiet vocals. .  The song stays quiet as different instruments come to the fore.  At around 5 minutes (of 6 in total) a guitar solo winds its way to the end of the song.

After this there is a 1 and half-minute song “Collapse Traditional (For Darling).”  It’s a gentle ballad played on strings with layered vocals.

“Kollaps Tradicional (Bury 3 Dynamos)” opens with pizzicato strings and a fuzzy meandering guitar.  About 2 minutes in, the loud chords strike and the drums kick in with a fairly complex rhythm.  About half way in, one guitars start playing in each speaker and the vocals begin.  Two voices begin singing against each other keeping an interesting rhythm with their staccato phrasing and the thumping drums,.  The last two minutes feature a guitar solo and vocals following a similar pattern as the guitar.

The final side has one 14 minute song “‘Piphany Rambler.”  The song begins with distant guitars and plucked strings.  The vocals are quiet, nearly whispered.  A refrain of “don’t sleep” surfaces from the quiet.  At around 5 minutes the guitars and strings grow louder and the song properly starts.  But even this section is fairly slow, as if preparing to build up to something else.   It’s the strings and their insistent three note melody that really unites the song.  About midway through things slow down even further (with some cool retro organs sounds amidst the strings).  And the song turns into a very catchy string filled section with the vocals working very nicely with the melody.  This section grows louder and more raucous as it heads to the conclusion.

SMtZ has made many diverse styles of albums over the years, and this combination of rocking songs and delicate strings is probably my favorite.  For this one, the lineup has shrunk to a five piece of

Thierry Amar: Upright bass, electric bass, plucked piano, vocals
Efrim Menuck: Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mellotron, vocals
Jessica Moss: Violin, plucked piano, vocals
Sophie Trudeau: Violin, plucked piano, vocals
and David Payant has taken over for Eric Craven on drums, organ, piano and vocals

[READ: March 15, 2016] The Fate of the Artist

I didn’t love Eddie Campbell’s Black Diamond Detective Agency, and that was manly been because of the art.  That didn’t really bode well for this story.

But Campbell does an incredible thing with this book.  He mixes text and many different kinds of pictures–including comic strips and photographs, to create a fascinating story of his own disappearance.

The story begins “One day the artist wakes up with the disquieting feeling that it has all gone wrong….  It is difficult to obtain sympathy for this condition.”

And then the Artist disappears and all that is left is a picture.  “Most people would leave a note.” “Yes, well he left a picture.” (more…)

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