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Archive for the ‘Steven Heighton’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TACOCAT-NONCOMM 2019 (May 14, 2019).

Tacocat are from Seattle and they are very happy to be here.

It sounds like that was another set that would have been a lot of fun to see:

An indie-punk four-piece from Seattle [singer Emily Nokes, drummer Lelah Maupin, bassist Bree McKenna and guitarist Eric Randall] walked onto World Cafe Live’s upstairs stage glowing—literally. Covered head-to-toe in bright colors and sparkles. The band brought an unwavering burst of energy to the first night of NonCOMM, performing a handful of songs from each of their three albums.

Tacocat wasted no time getting started as they jumped right into “Hologram” from their latest album This Mess Is a Place. Lead singer Emily Nokes started dancing with a tambourine in her hand and didn’t quit until the set was complete (minus breaks between songs to sip some tea—we hope she’s feeling okay).

“Hologram” puts a slight political spin (I assume) on their poppy punk songs.  Indeed, their identity seems to be one of snark and surf-pop, but with thoughtful questions underneath

Not so long ago, I used to feel like
I was too sensitive to be alive
But maybe now it’s the opposite
Too much to say
So I don’t say anything
Is numb even a feeling?
I just wonder how anyone falls for this anymore

“Bridge to Hawaii” is about seasonal depression–wouldn’t it be nice to build a bridge from rainy Seattle to beautiful Hawaii so that you could just walk there?  While “New World” wonders what it would be like to build a new world–like in sci-fi movies.

New world, new planet
No ugly buildings in my eyes
No paperwork, no jerks, no parking tickets
No beak to feed, no nine-to-five

“The Joke of Life” is about “when when things are too hard to make fun of anymore because they’re already making fun of themselves.”   Randall chimed in, “the death of satire.”  The song contains the chorus: “The jokes is that the joke is already a joke.”  This one features backup vocals from Randall and McKenna which perfectly complement Nokes’s raspy lead vocal.

At the end of the song drummer Lelah Maupin [who was sporting a checkered onesie and a toothy smile throughout all 7 songs the band played] said, “my whole life as a drummer has been building up to playing that song.”

“Grains of Salt” changes their sound a bit with some synthy solos.  It’s more poppy than punky but doesn’t feel too far away from their sound.

Randall says that they needed t pick a single for their album and “Crystal Ball” just didn’t make the cut.  “But we love it.  We love all our children equally.”

The final song, “I Hate the Weekend” is which is dedicated to everyone who ever worked in the service industry…  like you.  Let’s all be nice.  Let’s all tip well.  Let’s not throw up in the sink.”  It’s a ripping fast song with this nice section

Homogenized and oh so bleak
Got a hall pass from your job
Just to act like a fucking slob

before the chippy clap-along chorus.

I missed Tacocat when they came around, but I hope they open for someone I see real soon.  Stream this show on the media player.

[READ: May 3, 2019] “Fake News”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue.  This year’s issue had three short stories and three poems as special features.

I don’t normally write about poems.  Certainly not ones that appear in magazines (this blog would be all poetry if  did that).  But for a summer reading issue that features three poets, I thought I’d make an exception.

Especially for this one, which is subtitled “An American bodyguard forsees his death.”

How’s this for an opening line

Do I love my country less  than I pledged,
since I haven’t yet brought the tent top down
on this circus?  Head clown, I and the men

code call him, in small font, or else imPOTUS–

But if some fanatic
does attempt to off him (snipe him, stab him,

body bomb him), my Navy SEAL-trained nerves
will trigger a textbook-expert tackle–

block bullets with my skull, spine, sacrum

I have often wondered if we would ever see a day when a bodyguard would turn on him–for love of country since he is wrecking our so badly.  I assume not.  I can’t imagine what would have to happen to a person’s mind to act that way.

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jf SOUNDTRACK: JOSEPH-Tiny Desk Concert #575 (October 28, 2016).

josephI have been hearing “White Flag” quite a bit on the radio. I had a hard time keeping track of who sang it (it doesn’t help that this trio of women is called Joseph).  But I have really grown to love the “ooh ooh” part and the screamed chorus.

So it’s interesting to see Bob Boilen’s blurb in which he says

My first experience seeing Joseph was in 2014 as an opening act in New York City. It was just the twins Meegan and Allison Closner and their older sister, Natalie Closner, and it was clear then they had something special. Over these two years, Joseph’s sound has grown beyond the Closners’ harmonies. Now, you’re likely to see them with a band or hear songs from their latest record, which is filled with sounds far beyond voice and acoustic guitar.  It’s been a treat to witness Joseph’s journey, but I was also fairly thrilled that for their Tiny Desk the sisters stripped it down to their original setup: three voices and one guitar.

They play “White Flag” first.  I was a bit disappointed at first because even though Bob loves the stripped down sound, I like the recorded version a lot.  But by the end I was loving how great their voices work together.  Plus I was able to hear the word a little better: “I’d rather be dead than live a lie…burn the white flag.”  Natalie sings lead on this one, while Meegan and Allison do the great oooh oohs.

When the song is over Natalie tells us why she wrote the song: a response to everything going on in the world and how it wants to push you back into your home and stop you from going out and living your life and deciding no thank you I’m going to do that anyway.

 Meegan introduces “I Don’t Mind” by saying it’s about sadness… and it was something she wanted someone to say to her about her sadness.  But she realized she had to say it to herself before she could receive it from anyone else.  She sings lead and it builds slowly with some harmonies coming in. I love how big it gets from such a small opening.  The final chorus reminds me a bit of Lucius–big bold singing in close harmony.

I was delighted by how different the three songs sounded.  “Canyon” sounds nothing like the other two–the chorus is powerful and hypnotic with the repeated sounds.  It also has an incredible moment in the middle of the song where the twins are singing backing vocals and Natalie is singing a lead line and the three of them all end on a really long note together.  It’s mesmerizing.

So even if I really like the album version, these versions are pretty spectacular.

[READ: February 27, 2017] “An Occurrence on the Beach of Varosha”

This is an excerpt from a novel called The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep and I’m glad I knew that going in because the story mentions some previous incidents and also ends rather dramatically but in an unfinished way.

Set in October 2012, Elias is on the beach at Varosha in Northern Cyprus, marveling at the size and number of the hotels that line the barbed wired fence on the beach.   Elias’s aunt and uncle currently live on the Greek Cypriot side of the Green Line, but they were among the first to build a hotel there.  However, there’s was just three  stories with twenty-four room.

Elias is there ostensibly to check out he property to see if it is still standing during the conflict.   He is capable of doing this because he is Canadian and has a foreign passport.  Thus, he can cross the Green Line without trouble. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG-KEXP in studio May 11, 2010 (2010).

Charlotte Gainsbourg is a fascinating individual.  Between her acting and her singing, she’s had quite a life.  And even moreso since she had a near fatal accident.

That accident formed the nexus of her album IRM.  And this interview and performance is done in support of that disc.  IRM was made with Beck.  Beck’s not here, and the songs are more stripped down, but they sound really good in this format.

Gainsbourg sings the Beck-sung-on-IRM “Heaven Can Wait” and really makes it her own.  The other three songs here work very well in this more acoustic setting.  “Me and Jane Doe” is practically acoustic already and “Time of the Assassins” and “Trick Pony” are reworked very well.  And Charlotte is a charming interviewee as well.

It’s another excellent in-studio performance from KEXP.

[READ: March 31, 2011] “The Dead Are More Visible”

I read all of The Walrus stories when I received the magazines.  I wondered when I would completely recognize a story when re-reading them now.  Well, this was the first one that I remembered parts of vividly.  And why not–there’s a search for a missing eye on an ice hockey rink.  That’s hard to forget.  However, I didn’t remember the ending and in fact, my memory added many more details than actually occurred in the story.

The beginning of the story, which is very different from what I just described, was less memorable but perhaps more interesting.  The story opens with a woman reflecting about her graveyard shift job.  In this case the job is literally a graveyard shift, because the park she works in has a graveyard within it. However, her job is not really scary–she is there to make the ice for the upcoming skating season.  It takes several nights of very cold weather and she must go out in all her gear and fill up the rink, several tousand litres of water at a time.

While the ice settles, her time is her own–to listen to music and read. She gets a few hundred pages read a night (dream job!)  She prefers romance and horror novels.  The introduction of horror novels into the story foreshadows a bit about the scene ewith the eye later on, although for this is not a horror story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Big 4 Thrash Tour (2010).

During my recent trip down metal memory lane, I learned that the Big 4 Thrash bands may be touring together.  The Big 4 would be: Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer.

When I was a young metal dude, these were definitely my big 4.  I own the first 5 or so albums by all of these bands.  Megadeth was the first to fall out of favor (around 1990), then Anthrax (around 1993), then Slayer (around 1994) (although they came back nicely in the last few years) and the Metallica (around 1997 although really they’ve drifted the furthest from the thrash world, and probably I should’ve stopped sooner).

I haven’t really listened to any of these guys’ newer releases (although I did get Slayer’s 2001 release, God Hates Us All–and I wanted to add this wonderful quote from Araya, who sings of ever so much death and destruction: “when you see someone and if you’re a human being you respect them and treat them as human beings”), so I can’t say that I’m the target audience for this tour.  However, I am delighted that these 4 bands, whose music I loved while growing up, are still together and still touring.

I wonder what the audience make up for this show is?  Is it old fogeys like me (who are still younger than the band members, at least) who would have wet themselves for this tour back in 1989, or is it a new generation of thrash kids who would mosh the crap out of me?

Either way, I won’t be going to this concert (in Poland or in Greece for that matter) but nor will I be going should it come to a theater near me.  But I’ll be delighted to hear how it goes.

[READ: March 29, 2010] “Bystanders”

I was prepared not to like this story (actually an excerpt from a novel).  It is set on a mountainside on the border of China and Tibet.  And it was about mountain climbing, a subject about which I care very little.  And as it started  feared it was going to be another story about battling with the elements on top of a mountain, blah blah.

But rather, the story went in a different direction entirely.  While the young protagonist is watching the sun set on the mountains she hears gun shots.  Ad i the distance, she sees a man fall.  The guides come over to offer her a hand but she refuses.  They force her down behind the rocks as they call for her father.  Then she flashes back to another time when her father selflessly came to someone’s rescue.

There were many cool ideas in this story.  I loved the idea that she was sitting in two countries at the same time.  I loved even more the later idea that the glacier has moved the border between the to countries and that soldiers had to remeasure and replace the flag.  But really, it was the final line, “that by making his care, his very life and limb, equally available to all, he deprived [his family] of an exclusivity they had a right to expect” that was incredibly moving.

I don’t know that I’ll track down the novel Every Lost Country, but I did enjoy this excerpt quite a lot.

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SOUNDTRACK:KATE BUSH-The Sensual World (2009).

It was three years between The Dreaming and Hounds of Love.  And this time it took four years for The Sensual World to come out.  This was the first Kate disc that I bought as it came out.  And I was such a huge fan of Hounds, that I was really quite excited about this release.

Kate has always been fairly forthcoming about sex/sensuality on her songs (even if it was metaphorical, the metaphors weren’t really labored).  So, the fact that she’s putting it all out there is not much of a surprise.  And yet, to me this seems like a much more explicit work than her earlier ones  (an older songwriter perhaps?).

The other thing that strikes me about the album is just how accessible it is.  Unlike her previous discs which featured flourishes and howls, headphone tricks and other show offy tactics (which I totally love), this disc comes across as a songwriter who is more confident in her songs so she doesn’t have to put frills on them.

I have a fndeness for this disc because it was the first one I bought as a fan, but I don’t listen to it all that much.  When I played it again, I had forgotten how much I liked it.  And, yes, I miss all the tricks and cool studio fun on this disc, but the songwriting makes up for it.

The opener “The Sensual World” is, yes, a very sensual song (with the “Mmmmmyessses” every line or so).  The second track, “Love and Anger” is a great, freewheeling Kate track.  The younger Kate would have had crazy wild fun with it, but the more mature Kate plays it fairly straight.  And it really showcases what a great song it is.

As “The Fog” opens, she says, “I’m all grown up now” (and there’s no headphone tricks accompanying it).  That seems to be a statement about the disc itself.  But, just so you know it’s npt a totally safe disc, “The Fog” has a wonderful otherworldly violin running through it.

The one thing that stand out on the disc, though is how rocking it is (relative to Kate, of course).   The guitars on about half of the songs quite loud and raucous.  And Kate is clearly having a lot of fun with the songs.

But there are some mellow songs as well.  “Reaching Out” begins as a delicate piano ballad (although it is full of some wild ethereal backing vocals) but it also builds to a louder chorus and finish.  “Deeper Understanding” is an interesting song in which she sings about a computer (which I thought would sound really dated twenty years later but which doesn’t).

“Never BE Mine” sounds like Kate of old (ah, fretless bass).  While “Rocket’s Tail” showcases the gorgeous sounds of the Bulgarian Choir, who would assist her on many future tracks as well.  The choir seems to take on a lot of the strange vocals that Kate herself used to perform. But they have an oddness of inflection that makes it sound otherworldly.  It also has the unmistakable sounds of a David Gilmour guitar solo.

The highlight has to be “This Woman’s Work.”  When all is said and done, Kate’s voice is what any fan comes back for.  This song is a simple piano based ballad.  Kate’s voice is clean and pure and rather magical.  And the emotional release as the song nears its end is phenomenal.

The Sensual World is an overlooked disc (its regular price on Amazon is $7).  And while it doesn’t have all of the flair and magic of Kate at her wildest records, the stripped down version of Kate is pretty wonderful too.

[READ: November 15, 2009] “Noughts and Crosses”

It took me a few paragraphs to realize what was going on in this story and then I liked it even more.

The story opens with an email.  Several of the words are in bold.  The email, from j to n, is a break-up letter.  It’s sort of generic and doesn’t really reveal all that much.  But the rest of the story is a reply to each of the bolded words of the email.

As n replies (presumably in her head, although it could also be written even if it is never sent) we learn more and more about the two of them and their relationship. The parties involved, the promises told and the little giveaways that show that the relationship was over long before this email (a breakup by email!) was sent. (more…)

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