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Archive for the ‘Shannon Hale’ Category

81HkprYowjLSOUNDTRACK: SNOH AALEGRA-Tiny Desk Concert #947 (February 18, 2020).

maxresdefault (2)In what seems to be a new trend at the Tiny Desk, here’s another artist whom I’ve never heard of somehow and who manages to cram five songs into 16 minutes.  (I won’t complain about the length of this show because it’s not that long, but everyone knows you get three songs).

The most fascinating things about Snoh is that she is Iranian-Swedish.  And that her band is enormous.  And that they all have great names like: O’Neil “Doctor O” Palmer on keys, George “Spanky” McCurdy on drums and Thaddaeus Tribbett on bass.  There’s also Jef Villaluna on guitar whose name isn’t that crazy,

Unfortunately her songs and albums have terrible names.

Her new album is called Ugh, those feels again and her previous album is called Feels. (and she’s not even millennial).  And then the third song is called “Whoa.”  Good grief,

“Whoa” is a sweet love song that is detailed but not explicit.  Except the chorus which is “you make me feel like, whoa.”

The rest of her songs have a very delicate soft-rock vibe.  Especially with the string section of Ashley Parham on violin, Johnny Walker, Jr. on cello, Asali McIntyre on violin and Brandon Lewis on viola.

But apparently that’s not what her music typically sounds like.

On this day in particular, Aalegra’s tracks were stripped of their punchier, album-version kick drums and trap echoes. In their absence, it’s Aalegra’s delicate vocal runs and chemistry with her supporting singers that resonated most. “I Want You Around” and “Whoa,” which usually rest on a bed of glitchy, spiraling production, felt lighter thanks to the dreamy string section.

All of the songs featured her backing vocalists Ron Poindexter and Porsha Clay,  but they were especially prominent on “Fool For You” which ran all of two minutes.

Snoh seemed a little too cool up there, which did not endear me to her.  Her voice is certainly pretty though, even if I didn’t like her songs.

[READ: March 15, 2020] Best Friends

This book is a sequel of sorts to Real Friends.

It continues the story of young Shannon in sixth grade and how she deals with the minefields that middle school can present.

The same cast is back–the good and bad friends, the girls and boys and all of the insecurities that are practically a character in themselves.

As the book opens, Shannon realizes that she and her friends are not really in sync. She can’t keep up with the pop songs that they like–how do they always know the newest cool song (her family doesn’t listen to pop music so she is way out of the loop).

But aside form that, things seem good.  Shannon is best friends with Jen, the most popular girl in their class.  And since they are the oldest grade in school, Jen is therefore the most popular girl in school.

But the girls are always sniping at each other or trying to get Shannon so say nasty things about one of the other girls behind her back (while the girl was listening).  Shannon never did, though, because she is really a good person.  Something the other girls could use some help with, (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 8 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 18, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 18, 2004. This was the 8th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Featuring a crazy 17 minute medley followed by Neil Young’s Powderfinger.

Kevin Hearn played keyboards for much of the show and they played a number of songs from the Group of 7 disc and Harmelodia.  The show ran for 2 and a half hours.  There’s only one recording of this show, and it sounds great.

The show opens some what mellow-ish with “Digital Beach.”  It’s a pretty version of this unexpected song and it’s followed by an awesome “Boxcar Song” with Kevin Hearn on keys.

“P.I.N.” sounds lovely.  Midway through, you can hear bongos playing and Martin sings “I’m in the snow / playing bongos.”  He’s quite growly through the song.  After the song, you hear people shouting: “Come on let Martin sing!” Dave: “I think he is for hire, sir.”  Mike: “But only as a mohel.”

Kevin Hearn is on the organ for “It’s Easy To Be With You” and he sings on “Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun.”  Actually everyone seems to take a verse on this song (but I think they’re making them up as they go along).  At the end, Tim says, “We started off with no keyboard players and now we have two.”

Mike asks if he can get more of Kevin’s sampler?  Dave: “Careful what you wish for–he’s got some Buddy Hackett in there.”

It’s followed by three more from Harmelodia: a sweet “Loving Arms,” a fun “Home Again” and a romping “I Am Drumstein.”  Tim says he is disappointed because he missed a perfect bongo opportunity in that last song.

After an introduction of Chris Stringer on “the organ and effects and other stuff,” they move toward 2067 with “Marginalized.”  There’s a sweeping, trippy keyboard solo in the middle.  And then some guys start shouting “Whale Music” and other things.  Dave says “Loud guy crowd.  Every Fall Nationals there’s a loud guy crowd.”

Introducing “The Tarleks” Dave says, “Dr. Johnny fever was here last night in the flesh, it was rather exciting.”  (Did they really not mention Howard Hessman the night before?).

Over the entire run there’s been constant requests for monitor sound level changes, especially by Mike.  Mike says he could use less of Martin’s vocal (groans from the audience) and says he can’t hear Martin’s guitar.  Martin asks if his guitar sounds okay out front.  There is much applause.  Mike: “you’re just fishing for a compliment.”

Before “Pornography,” someone asks where the bongos are.  They are put to good use in the song.  After saying how proud they are of the new album the  opening of  “Shack In The Cornfields” sounds a little off.  But it is quickly righted and off they go.  The song ends with what sounds like a skipping record and very quiet percussion playing as the s song slowly segues into “Try To Praise This Mutilated World.”  Martin says, “I like that song.  Dave wrote it.  We’re the Rheosatics.  Are you having a good night?”  Someone shouts something and Martin snarks: “You wanna hear our older, funnier stuff?”

They go old, but stay mellow.  Tim is “gonna serenade you with a song.”  “All the Same Eyes” is one “we don’t do anymore.  And now one we just started doing, ‘Here Comes the Image.'”  Tim introduces it by saying “This is a lesson for all you drummers out there.  Never be late for a rehearsal or you will be banish-ed to the keyboard.  Because everyone else wants to play those drums, including me and Dave.  This next song takes place in 2067, so best of luck to you all.”  It’s followed by another mellow song “Who Is Than Man, And Why Is He Laughing?” with Jen Foster on accordion.  After the song, Dave says, “I don’t know if I was dying back there or if someone is cooking but I smelled pancakes.  Kevin, you got a griddle back there?”  Mike also says, “Shameless plug.  Jennifer has her CD for sale at the merch booth.”  Tim: “It’s called Shameless Plug.”

Dave notes that they are “just entering the ‘shang’ part of the evening, folks.”  Whatever that means, the first song is a rollicking “Stolen Car.”  It feels a bit shambolic, but never out of control.  There’s some cool keyboard sound effects during the middle jam.  There’s a pretty “Little Bird, Little Bird”and then a powerful “California Dreamline.”  It segues somewhat oddly into a grooving “Horses” (the only time they’ll play the song during the nine nights).   Kevin gets a wild keyboard solo in the middle of the song.

Dave says there are here the next two nights and the Loud Guy says “we’re coming tomorrow.”  Dave: “Thanks for the warning.”  Dave seems a bit tired of the bozos.  But he does seem to like the fans up front: “You guys have great looking twin shirts there.  I can’t read what’s on the second bus though.  Nowhere and Boredom.”   Mike says he’d choose Nowhere over Boredom, but Dave’s not so sure.  “Boredom gives you something to work with.”

Tim says, “Bear with us while we do this song for our friend Ron Koop.  He is having a hard time right now and hopefully he draws something from this.”  It’s a lovely version of “Making Progress” which is followed by an upbeat and rather silly “Monkeybird.”

And then comes the above mentioned 17 minute medley.  I’m glad Darrin wrote all the songs down, because it’s hard to keep track:

The Horseshoe Medley (The Pooby Song / The Hockey Song / Devil Town / The Ballad Of Wendel Clark Part II / Bees / Folsom Prison Blues / Ring Of Fire / Old Vancouver Town / War Pigs / Human Highway / Rockaway Beach / Walk On The Wild Side / So Long Farewell / Who Stole The Kishka / Let’s Go Skiing In The Morning).

It begins with Dave playing the acoustic guitar and singing “The Pooby Song.”  “Take one, Kevin” and Kevin gets a simplistic guitar solo.  Dave shouts “take it to C” and they start Stompin’ Tom’s “Hockey Song.”  After the “second period” Dave notes: “last game of the lock out season that didn’t exist.  Doesn’t matter, we got enough hockey stored up in our heads that we’re skating all the time anyway.”  The songs ends, but that isn’t the key from the first tune, we gotta go back to the first tune.  Tim: “Take it to B flat.  I love B flat.  Now, back to D.  You got any chords you like?”  Kevin starts singing Daniel Johnston’s “Devil Town.”  Up to E sharp (or F, whatever you want to call it).  Back down to D take it to C.  They start “Wendel.”  Kevin’s got one.  “‘There are bees, there are bees, everywhere’  you know this one, right?”  Tim: “Does this take place in the devilish town?”  Take it to C, for Dave to sing Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” then Kevin switches it to “Ring of Fire.”  Tim picks up with Stompin’ Tom’s “Bridge Came Tumbling Down.”  Kevin resumes with a hilariously upbeat and folksy “War Pigs” with Martin doing some suitably metal guitars sounds.  They even try to do the heavy staccato part before resuming the bluesy part.  “Go to G.”  Dave sings Neil Young’s “Human Highway” but messes it all up, “Okay, never mind go back to E again.”  Tim: “Take it up to A” for “Rockaway Beach.”  Then it’s Kevin with an amusingly upbeat take on “Walk on the Wild Side.”  Mike jumps in with a goofy stab at “So Long, Farewell” and then Dave takes over with “Who Stole the Kishka.”  Tim is yelling “someone call the motherfucking cops.”  The medley should end there but someone keeps it going “a two-step nightmare.”  Dave sings Frankie Yankovic’s “Let’s Go Skiing” while about three other songs go simultaneous.  Someone chants “four more years” and then Dave starts “Powderfinger” in the medley.  He kind of screws it up and as it fades, Martin asks, “What’s the next verse?”  “Something about hunting” and then Martin takes it over for real. He knows some of the words, and they kind of salvage it.”

At the end Dave even says “Thanks, I think.”

But after 8 days in a row, you’re allowed a bit of a fun meltdown.

As they walk off, Martin asks, “Hey Dave what’s a kishka? A sausage type thing?”  A fans shouts, “a small donut.”  Dave: “It’s not a small donut.  But that’s funnier.”  It’s a great and funny end to a wild show.

[READ: July 11, 2017] Real Friends

I’ve enjoyed Shannon Hale a lot recently, so I was pretty happy to read a new book by her.  Sarah had told me that it was a really excellent portrayal of girl friendship in grammar school.  It is also biographical and makes me think that it’s pretty amazing that Hale made it through to high school at all.

The book is divided into sections with friends’ names, and each of these sections is basically how she met these friends.

Shannon was the middle child between a pair of older girls and a pair of younger siblings.  She was kind of alone and was very clingy to her mom.  But on her first day of kindergarten, despite being nervous and sad, she made friends with Adrienne.

They were soon inseparable.  Shannon made up games for them in which they fought off bad guys (boys who just seemed to want them in whatever capacity a five year-old girls thinks boys might want them).  I love that their game was utterly feminist and yet they were portraying Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders because that’s who was popular and everyone wanted to be one.  And yet these cheerleaders had pet saber toothed tigers and sharks and they beat up ghastly boys. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-Sugar, Victoria BC (November 17, 2005).

Lucky’s Notes: [Lucky recorded this show and gets a song dedicated to him]:
This was to be the last time the Rheos played in Victoria, though we had no idea at the time. We will all really miss you guys out here!!

Given that information, it’s particularly sad when they say, “we’ll see you hopefully in the spring.”  But despite that future sadness, the show itself is great.  It begins with a wonderful “Easy to Be with You” which sounds terrific: the “do da” part is really rich in harmonies.

It’s followed by a quite raw “CCYPA” and then a fun, romping “Garden” which ends with: “Hugh Syme’s dance party for your pleasure”–Martin making an electronic racket with his guitar.

“Fat” has some interesting echo on Dave’s voice that I wonder if it could be bouncing off the room or not.  The “don’t even know who you are” is pretty wild with many different vocal from the guys.  It’s a great version overall–the bands is really into it.  Having more fun with “PIN” Dave seems to be really enjoying himself with the backing vocal nonsense.

Dave says, “It’s great to be here in Victoria, the Queen’s city, once again.”  When they start the poppy and delightful “Mumbletypeg,” Martin acknowledges “the amazing rhythm guitar playing of Dave Bidini.  Very rhythmic.”

“We’d like to thank Shane Koyczan for opening tonight–one of the sexiest men in Canada–another Neruda.”

“Marginalized” sounds great–dark and angry with a lot of echo on Tim’s voice.  That sounds weird but cool.  There’s a quiet middle section where Dave is playing a gentle acoustic and Tim is keeping that bassline.  It goes on and then the final verse is sung quietly with little accompaniment.

Someone in the crowd shouts “Record Body Count,” and Dave says “yes we got records, what about it?”

But Tim says, “we’ll do another apocalyptic number for you.”  They play “Here Comes the Image” with lots of great synth from MPW including an awesome solo.  Some really cool backing vocal from Martin make this one of the best versions I’ve heard.  Then MPW sits back at the drums: “good now I can relax.”

“Christopher” starts with an interesting guitar chord structure intro before they get to the song proper.  There’s an intense soloing section and a terrific quiet ending.  It’s followed by “King of the Past.”  It’s not my favorite version of it but there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in it.  It’s followed by a wild “Rock Death America.”

When they get to “Satan is the Whistler” Dave says they’re going to try this one “coz we hope to play it [well] in two days in Vancouver.”  Martin sings some verses pretty slowly and then later he plays the fast part much more slowly and sloppily than usual.

He also adds to these lines:

bouncers came and snuffed the fucking fire out / there’s no smoking in the parking lot / “I hate this fucking place” / some punks in the windy peaks

After the song Dave concurs: “You gotta keep those parking lots clean.  For parking.  And loitering.  Gas huffing [Martin: “pathetic addicts”] nefarious activities.”

“Claire” is a little sloppy from everyone, even Tim’s singing is a bit mumbly.   But there’s a great long solo from Martin.  Martin continues the solid work on “California Dreamline which is slow and trippy with lovely weird keyboards.  While singing, he whoops after “sand in my tequila” and rolls his r’s after the “escondido” part.

The song segues into what sounds like “Horses” with Tim chanting “do it do it do it do it ; do it do it don’t you do it” but then Martin plays a rocking guitar for the intro of “Feed Yourself.”  It is noisy and aggressive and amazing, perhaps the best version of this song I’ve heard.  They play a riff of “Hey Hey, My My”  then Dave starts getting really intense: “what’s in his head?”  he starts screaming “open it up.  “Look inside.”  (The loudest screaming I’ve heard him do).  The intensity is undermined somewhat by Tim’s ending backing vocal of “trunk trunk… what ‘cha gonna do with all that junk / all that junk inside that trunk.”

They go for an encore break and Dave says, At this point in the gig Martin usually has a cigarette, so I felt required to write a smoking song.  It’s a new song about Martin smoking.  It’s called “Smoking Song,” but how on earth is it about Martin smoking when he references Joseph Stalin and Hitler?  he doesn’t say, but when it’s over, he says, “uh oh looks like a 2 smoke break.  He might never come out.” so they play “My First Rock Show.”  During the first verse, Dave stops and asks, “What’s so funny sir?  That must have been the laughter of pure joy.”  You can’t hear what they’re talking about, but Dave mentions NoMeanasNo and agrees that “they sent a lot of us on the wrong road.  In the best way.”

When Martin arrives, Mike asks, “Where to, lads?”  After some mumbling, you hear Mike say “boogers?”  Dave says “vetoed! songwriter gets veto.”  He then says they “support the locked out Telus workers.  Telus is the shittiest service. They just got so big and fat there sitting on themselves.”  More quiet discussion then Mike says “that’s good, Martin you had a smoke and now you’re asserting yourself.”

Perhaps they agreed to the earlier request, because they play “Record Body Count” which sounds great.  When the song is more or less over, Martin starts playing a riff and begins singing “I’ve Been Thinking of You” and the crowd cheers.  They jam that song and afterwards, Martin says “What was that song we did in the middle was it April Wine or something?”  No one knows.  It was a band called Harlequin.

Dave says, “We were in Nanaimo last night.  Home to two of the greatest record stores.”  Someone shouts: “Home of the Nanaimo Bar.” To which Dave replies: “Home of the Naniamo Bear.  That bear likes them dead salmon.”

They play “Making Progress” which opens with a buzzy staticky guitar and big echo on Tim’s voice.  When they get to the synth part it’s all messed up and someone apologizes, saying “don’t let me near that thing again.”  Then it gets fixed and the synth is back on.

They end the show with “Dope Fiends.”  There’s a big echo on Martin’s voice.  Someone else sings some great falsetto along with him.  During the slow part, Dave stars singing “Legal Age Life” but the music doesn’t change–it’s rather disconcerting but cool.  The melody starts playing a keyboard that sounds like “Norwegian Wood” and at the end Tim does backing humming to “Norwegian Wood” before Martin’s loud and wild guitar ending.

Despite the odd echo, it’s a really great show.  The band sounds in great form and they are having a really good time.  It’s hard to believe they broke up so soon after this.

[READ: February 15, 2017] The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Sarah and I have really enjoyed the Squirrel Girl graphic novels.  She was really excited to see this actual novel about Squirrel girl from Shannon Hale.

This book is part of the Marvel Universe.  And what I’ve learned recently is that while I enjoy the Marvel Universe, I far more enjoy the peripheral characters of the Marvel Universe–like those of S.H.I.E.L.D. (even if I don’t watch the show anymore–it got a little crazy).  So I find myself enjoying Ms Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy and now Squirrel Girl–characters who reference The Avengers but are not actually part of the team.

There’s some thing so much more enjoyable about these characters where the stories can have fun of the major Marvel figures.  And this one has a ton of fun with that conceit. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAMES MERCER-Live on KEXP, February 10, 2012 (2012).

James Mercer came to KEXP to play a few songs solo with his acoustic guitar (the set is billed as The Shins, but it’s only Mercer).  DJ Cheryl Waters talks to him about what he’s been up to in the last five years since the previous Shins record (they don’t discuss that the rest of the band is basically gone).  She asks him about working with Danger Mouse and his foray into acting.  But mostly this set is about the music.

Mercer’s voice sounds great and the songs sound wonderful in this acoustic setting.  He explains the origins of the title Port of Morrow (it’s a real place).  He plays “Australia” from Wincing the Night Away and “September” “Simple Song” and “It’s Only Life” from Port of Morrow.

While I prefer the full album versions, this acoustic setting is quite nice and shows what great songs they are as well as how strong Mercer’s voice is (and that he was really the driving force behind The Shins all along)..

[READ: October 31, 2012] Calamity Jack

And they did.  Two years later.  This book is a kind of sequel to Rapunzel’s Revenge as well as Jack’s backstory before he met Rapunzel.

Jack was a petty thief. He and the pixie Pru (who loves hats) began with small scams (apples and whatnot), and slowly built up to larger ones.  In their defense they initially only tried to rob people who “deserved” it, but they were caught on more than one occasion and Jack’s mother had had enough of him.

Then Jack happens upon a score that he can’t pass up.  And he does it (without telling Pru about it).  Jack climbs into the tower of the evil giant Blunderboar.  Blunderboar is an industrial bigwig with a Jabberwock as a guard of his gigantic tower.  As with Rapunzel’s Revenge, the setting is a mix of fairy tale and contemporary real world(ish).  Blunderboar has a lot of money (including a media empire) and he is responsible for all of the troubles in Jack’s village of Shyport.

But the problem is that the beanstalk (there is a beanstalk, but there’s no cow, there’s magic beans and a pawn shop) destroys his mother’s bakery.  And she realizes that he is responsible.  Jack flees the town both because of his mother and because of the giant (who is understandably incensed). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GRANT LEE PHILLIPS-Live on KEXP, January 21, 2010 (2010).

I really liked Grant Lee Buffalo back in the day.  I think Grant Lee Philip’s voice is amazing–soulful, expressive, beautiful.  He was also a troubadour on Gilmore Girls!

Since Buffalo broke up, Phillips has released a few solo albums.  I have found that I don’t enjoy his solo music as much as I did the band music.  His voice is still amazing, but the solo stuff is a little too slow and meandering for me.

This set comprises four songs from his album Little Moon.  “Strangest Thing” is my favorite song from the set, it’s upbeat and beautiful.  And “Little Moon” is correctly described by the DJ as moody an intoxicating.  It’s not my favorite of his songs but the description is totally correct.

This is an enjoyable mellow set.  The DJ and Grant Lee are relaxed and comfortable and the between song chats are informative and interesting.  You can listen here.

[READ: October 30, 2012] Rapunzel’s Revenge

This story is a wonderful extrapolation of the Rapunzel story which has been moved to the Wild West.  Yup, that’s right.  Rapunzel is a cowgirl.

Well, in the beginning, the story is pretty faithful to the original.  Many elements of the fairy tale are present–Rapunzel was kidnapped from her parents (or traded for some lettuce) and raised by the enchanted witch.  This story fleshes out the politics of the witch somewhat–she has cursed the surrounding lands and made them barren–all of the fertile ground is within her walls and the peasants must pay tribute to her from their meager earnings.  And Rapunzel is a rather rebellious and outgoing girl who wants to leave her stepmother’s walled fortress and explore the world beyond.

When Rapunzel tries to climb the wall just to see what’s out there (the wall is like 70 feet tall), she is grabbed by the witch’s guard, Brute, an over-sized man who is very grouchy.  But when she learns that her real mother is still alive (and is a suffering peasant) she tries to escape for good.  Brute catches her again, and the witch locks her up (the re imagined prison is a very cool twist).  I loved that she escapes with no help from anyone (just her hair).  And that as she’s running off she meets a prince who was coming to rescue her meets her; she sends him on a wild goose chase.  This Rapunzel needs no prince. (more…)

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