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Archive for the ‘Samantha Hunt’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MASEGO-Tiny Desk Concert #870 (July 24, 2019).

Naturally when I saw this guy’s name, I assumed Massive Ego.  And he does seem to have a massive ego.  But he totally earns it.  And I’ll agree with this allusion:

Imagine for a moment if Cab Calloway, the Cotton Club’s exuberant bandleader, was reincarnated in the 21st Century. Now imagine if he was dropped in the middle of the music world of today. He’d no doubt be a tall and slender, silky-wearing goof ball with a moisturized braid-out, instruments inscribed as knuckle tattoos and a penchant for genre-blending. Yes, the spirit of Cab lives on in Masego, the singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist who surprised NPR’s Tiny Desk audience with a zany sense of showmanship and a demonstration of his own genre, TrapHouseJazz.

Masego gets five songs (and over 20 minutes…come on!), but the whole set is fun and flows really nicely with Masego acting as the great frontman he is.

First, before opening with the jazzy “Tadow,” Sego pulled off a quick, mini-prank by sending his friend, comedian Lorenzo Cromwell, up to the mic before stepping forth himself.

Cromwell wears a Michael Jackson glove and plays a fake saxophone (the credits state: comedic saxophone).  But Masego plays a proper saxophone, smooth and jazzy.  Then he starts singing and he has a nice smooth voice too.  Lex Nelson adds some nice call and response backing vocals.

Throughout the song, Maxwell Hunter plays some excellent grooving sliding five string bass.

This next song, “Nayhoo” he says “white people love it.”  It opens with some fantastic guitar work from Melanie Faye–she plays amazing guitar licks throughout the show.

Next, Sego tossed up 100 dollar bills with his face on it and beckoned the crowd into a call-and-response of “hi-di-hi-di-hi-di-ho.”  (There’s the Cab Calloway).

Up next, is “Queen Tings.”  He points to Jon Curry and says “You.  Show me that junk you showed me yesterday.”  Curry stars playing a nice beat.  Masego says, “Now gimme that shoulder” and Curry starts swaying his shoulder into it.

Midway through the song Masego plays a saxophone solo.  Then keyboardist Dan Foster picks up a saxophone and plays a solo as well.  Then the two play together and it sounds fantastic.

Before the fourth song he says, “there’s black people here, I got a song called ‘Black Love.'” Then he points to the keyboards.  “You.  Play some keys for me.  This is Dan Foster.  He has a flower tattoo.”  The melody of this sounds a lot like the melody for “Careless Whisper.”

All these instruments you see here are tattoos on my knuckles because I can play them all.  That’s why he wrote this song, “I Do Everything.”  This song is pretty good but the best part is when he introduces Melanie Fay and she plays a ripping guitar solo.  I wonder what else she’s been in.

Finally, to have a few more moments of fun after “I Do Everything” — and to prove he really does do everything — Sego juggled water bottles to the rhythm of the luscious music his band providing.

Masego is a lot of fun and I enjoyed his set a lot more than I expected to.

[READ: July 31, 2019] “Three Days”

I enjoyed the way this story started but hated the way it ended.  I hope it’s an excerpt, because there’s so much more that could be done with all of this and yet so much was wasted on a dead horse.

Beatrice is walking to her mother’s house from the bus station.  The house is actually a farm, but not a working farm. It is the only remaining farm in the area, since all the other farms sold out to to the box stores.

The farm is in disrepair.  I like this detail:

There are some withered Duane Reade Easter decorations–a hip-high bunny rabbit and a bright-green egg–wired to the front porch.  It is Thanksgiving.

Her parents weren’t farmers and as soon as they both agreed they didn’t want to farm, they gave up and got proper jobs.  Beatrice’s mother loved her work.  She was employed by “Mythologic Development, which turned myths and sometimes history into marketable packages used for making new products and ideas more digestible to the consumer public.”

I love this idea and want to learn more about it. Although the examples her mother gives about Atlantis and Montezuma are disappointing. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TIGERS JAW-Tiny Desk Concert #629 (June 19, 2017).

I was in a sub shop the other day and saw a poster for Tigers Jaw playing (somewhat) locally.  That was pretty neat as I had just seen that they played a Tiny Desk Concert.  I hadn’t heard of them, but I was pretty excited to think that bands are willing to put up fliers around here.

The blurb says that the band “at one point, made yelping and earnest pop-punk before finding its way to intricate, and melancholy, pop.”

After the lineup shake-up three years ago, Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins both step into larger roles as the primary songwriters and singers, here playing songs from spin [their debut] stripped down to an acoustic guitar and keyboard.

They play three songs.

On “Guardian” the melodies are fantastic.  I love the simple but powerful keys that occasionally play over Ben’s strummed guitars.  And his chord choices are really interesting and unconventional.  He has a really good voice and when she sings her harmonies during the chorus it’s really very lovely.

On “June,” Brianna takes over lead vocals and there’s some more prominent piano in the verse as swell.  Her lead vocal voice sounds like a whole bunch of 1990’s female singers that I love and this song feels like it could easily have come from that era–Ben’s deeper harmonies are a nice addition.

“Window” has as simple but pretty piano.  They sing a duet and sound great together.

There’s nothing new or outrageous about this band.  They just play pretty music and sound great doing it.

[READ: December 15, 2010] “The Yellow”

I really enjoy a character who is judgmental and insecure.  And that’s what we get here.

The story begins with coyotes and babies, but it’s really about a woman, a recent mother, who is concerned about her marriage.  And a whole lot more.

She states:

Every real thing started life as an idea.  I’ve imagined objects and moments into existence. I’ve made humans.  I tip taxi-drivers ten, twenty dollars every time they don’t rape me.

But what has been keeping her up at night is that it has been 8 months since she and her husband had sex.  She quips, “I had great hopes that the threat of Lyme disease would revitalize our sex life: will you check me for ticks.”  But sadly for her, Lyme disease never really took off in California as it did on the West Coast. (more…)

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[WATCHED: December 16, 2012] McSweeney’s #11

11

THE DVD that came with Issue #11 was listed as a “Deleted Scenes” bonus feature for this issue.  The colophon of the book explains in great detail what they wanted to do and how they went about doing it all.  And that’s all quite amusing in itself.

Now, of course, there are no “deleted scenes” up front.  The DVD is, at first glance, authors reading from the works in the book.  But as you scroll down the menu, there are some deleted scenes, as well as behind the scenes features and audio commentary.  All in all there’s about two hours worth of stuff crammed in here and some of it is quite interesting.

DELETED SCENES

This is where the authors read from their works.  They each read between 3 and 6 minutes, with some of them reading different sections (Samantha Hunt), but most of them reading a chunk.   (more…)

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11SOUNDTRACK: THE ANTLERS-Live at the Black Cat, Washington DC, May 11, 2009 (2009).

antlersI mentioned that I was uncertain about my appreciation of this band.  And I wondered how they would hold up to a longer show.  The answer is surprisingly well.  The sound quality of this set isn’t great–the levels seem way too loud (not sure if that’s the band or the recording) and I really can’t understand the words, but the music is very moody and evocative and I like it quite a lot.

This set comes from the album Hospice, which is a concept album about a person dying of bone cancer (with lyrics like “they told me that there was no saving you” and song titles like “Kettering”).  Earlier descriptions made me think the album was a major drag to listen to– I mean the subject alone is exhausting–but musically it’s a different story.  There’s lush strings and interesting guitars.  And, at least live, the band can make a holy racket.

I’m a little surprised by the number of keyboard errors in “Atrophy.”  I mean an occasional bum note is fine, but there’s a bunch in that track.  It’s very weird.  But that is made up for by the vocals which are angsty and impassioned, especially on the final song “Cold War.”  The NPR site has three tracks available for viewing and I must say that watching the band is more exciting than just listening to them.  But I have really gained an appreciation for The Antlers.

Check out the show here.

[READ: December 16, 2012] McSweeney’s #11

This crazy title for this Issue/Post comes because the cover and spine of the book are all text.  Indeed, the book is gorgeously bound in black leather(ish) with shiny gold print.  Each author gets a summary of his or her work and a note that he or she is free (see each story below).

I did not read Issue #10 yet because it came out as a thrilling paperback, and I’ve been putting it off for a reason even I can’t quite fathom.  I anticipate reading that one last.  Again, no idea why.  In some ways, Issue #11 picks up where Issue #9 left off.  There’s lots of text on the cover, there’s letters and everything else that makes it look like McSweeney’s.  But as I said this one seems more somehow.  It’s the hardcover.  And, it’s also the DVD that accompanies the book.  I have a hard time believing I’ve owned this book for almost ten years and never watched the DVD but I finally got around to it.  More on that soon.

This issue contains letters, fiction, non-fiction and a play that picks up from Issue #9 (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OKX: A Tribute to Ok Computer (2010).

OK Computer is one of the best records of the 90s.  Every time I listen to it I hear something new and interesting.  So, why on earth would anyone want to cover the whole thing?  And how could you possibly do justice to this multi-layered masterpiece?

I can’t answer the first question, but the second question is more or less answered by this tribute which was orchestrated by Stereogum.

The answer is by stripping down the music to its bare essentials.  When I first listened to the songs I was really puzzled by how you could take a such a complex album and make Doveman’s version of “Airbag,” which is sort of drums and pianos.  Or gosh, where would you even begin to tackle “Paranoid Android?”  Well Slaraffenland create a bizarre symphonic version that excises many things–in fact half of the lyrics are missing–and yet keeps elements that touch on the original.  But it’s an interesting version of the song and shows  a bizarre sense of creativity.  And that is more or less what this tribute does–it makes new versions of these songs.

Mobius Band make a kind of Police-sounding version of “Subterranean Homesick Alien.”  Again, it radically changes the song, making it a fast and driving song (although I don’t care for the repeated “Uptights” and “Outsides” during the verses).

Vampire Weekend, one of the few bands that I actually knew in this collection (and whom I really like) do a very interesting, stripped down version of “Exit Music, for a Film.  The “film” they make is a haunted one, with eerie keyboards.  Again, it is clearly that song, but it sounds very different (and quite different from what Vampire Weekend usually sound like).

“Let Down” (by David Bazan’s Black Cloud) and “Karma Police” (by John Vanderslice) work on a similar principle: more vocals and less music.  The music is very stripped down, but the vocals harmonize interestingly.  Perhaps the only track that is more interesting than the original is “Fitter Happier” by Samson Delonga.  The original is a processed computer voice, but this version is a real person, intoning the directives in a fun, impassioned way.  There’s also good sound effects.

Cold War Kids take the riotous “Electioneering” and simplify it, with drums and vocals only to start.  It’s hard to listen to this song without the utter noise of the original.  “Climbing Up the Walls” is one of the more manic songs on this collection, with some interesting vocals from The Twilight Sad.

There are two versions of “No Surprises” in this collection.  Interestingly, they are both by women-fronted bands, and both treat the song as a very delicate ballad.  Both versions are rather successful.  Marissa Nadler’s version (the one included in sequence) is a little slower and more yearning, while Northern State’s version (which is listed as a B-Side) is a little fuller and I think better for it.  My Brightest Diamond cover “Lucky.”  They do an interesting orchestral version–very spooky.

Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble (a side project of Chris Funk from The Decemberists) do a very weird electronic version of the song (with almost no lyrics).  It’s very processed and rather creepy (and the accompanying notes make it even more intriguing when you know what’s he doing).

The final B-side is “Polyethylene (Part 1 & 2),”  It’s a track from the Airbag single and it’s done by Chris Walla.  I don’t know this song very well (since it’s not on OK Computer), but it’s a weird one, that’s for sure.  This version is probably the most traditional sounding song of this collection: full guitars, normal sounding drums and only a slightly clipped singing voice (I don’t know what Walla normally sounds like).

So, In many ways this is a successful tribute album.  Nobody tries to duplicate the original and really no one tries to out-do it either.  These are all new versions taking aspects of the songs and running with them.  Obviously, I like the original better, but these are interesting covers.

[READ: November 5, 2011]  McSweeney’s #8

I had been reading all of the McSweeney’s issue starting from the beginning, but I had to take a breather.  I just resumed (and I have about ten left to go before I’ve read all of them).  This issue feels, retroactively like the final issue before McSweeney’s changed–one is tempted to say it has something to do with September 11th, but again, this is all retroactive speculation.  Of course, the introduction states that most of the work on this Issue was done between April and June of 2001, so  even though the publication date is 2002, it does stand as a pre 9/11 document.

But this issue is a wild creation–full of hoaxes and fakery and discussions of hoaxes and fakery but also with some seriousness thrown in–which makes for a fairly confusing issue and one that is rife with a kind of insider humor.

But there’s also a lot of non-fiction and interviews.  (The Believer’s first issue came out in March 2003, so it seems like maybe this was the last time they wanted to really inundate their books with anything other than fiction (Issue #9 has some non-fiction, but it’s by fiction writers).

This issue was also guest edited by Paul Maliszewski.  He offers a brief(ish) note to open the book, talking about his editing process and selection and about his black polydactyl cat.  Then he mentions finding a coupon in the phonebook for a painting class  which advertised “Learn to Paint Like the Old Masters” and he wonders which Old Masters people ask to be able to paint like–and there’s a fun little internal monologue about that.

The introduction then goes on to list the 100 stores that are the best places to find McSweeney’s.  There are many stores that I have heard of (I wonder what percentage still exist).  Sadly none were in New Jersey.

This issue also features lots of little cartoons from Marcel Dzama, of Canada. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPHISH-LivePhish 10.21.95 Lincoln, Nebraska (2007).

This Phish show is pretty unusual, even for a band whose live sets are by definition unusual.  It opens with a reprise (“Tweezer Reprise”) which is basically the end of a song.  There’s also a song that is not itself unusual but it’s one that I’ve never heard before:  an all acoustic guitar song called “Acoustic Army.”

But aside from those minor oddities, it also features the craziness of “Kung” which is more or less just nonsensical screaming.  Then Set One ends with a great cover of “Good Times Bad Times.”

Set Two is where the madness comes full bore.  After some great versions of “David Bowie” and Lifeboy” we get a 24 minute version of “You Enjoy Myself.”  After about twenty minutes the song devolves into a vocal extravaganza, with each of the four guys trying to outdo themselves with weird noises and vocals sound effects for 5 minutes.  And just when you think the nonsense is over, the band covers Prince’s “Purple Rain.”  Fish, the drummer, sings the song (rather poorly, it must be said), but the “highlight” is his vacuum cleaner solo.  Yes, vacuum cleaner solo.

I have included a video from this portion of the show to see just how odd this concert must have been (although I believe that other concerts featured similar nonsense too).  If you get bored by the noise in the beginning of the video, remember that it’s out of context and not really representative of the rest of the  show, but do fast forward to when the guy in the dress pulls out the vacuum cleaner and tell me that that’s not the best damn vacuum cleaner solo you’ve ever heard.

The set ends with Trey noodling the riff from “Beat It,” although they never play the full song.   Then there’s an encore cover of “Highway to Hell” (which rocks).  The disc comes with a bonus track, a twenty some minute soundcheck where you can hear the band experimenting with sounds and ideas for the show.  Not essential but interesting.

Lest you think this whole show is weird, there’s some great renditions of “Chalk Dust Torture” and “Guelah Papyrus.”

[READ: December 15, 2010] “The Yellow”

This story opens with a forty-something year old guy who has moved home with his parents.  To the consternation of his father (“have you turned faggot?”), he paints his attic bedroom yellow.  Who would have guessed that this (four-page) story about a sad middle-aged man would end with casual sex and zombies?

Roy is frustrated with his life (obviously).  He gets out of his parent’s house and goes for a drive.  While scanning the classic rock stations looking for the next great thing, he feels a thump and realizes that he has hit an animal.  He’s fairly certain it’s a dog. (more…)

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