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Archive for the ‘Virginia Woolf’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BOB WEIR AND WOLF BROS.-Tiny Desk Concert #953 (March 2, 2020).

Bob Weir is, obviously, a founding member of Grateful Dead.

This set goes on much longer than a typical one (and they’re not rappers or R&B singers).  I got a kick out of this comment in the blurb:

When I produce a Tiny Desk Concert, one of my most important jobs is to make sure they run on time and that the performance sticks to our set time limit (roughly 15-minutes). So when Bob Weir and Wolf Bros achieved lift-off during a pre-show sound-check, it was my unthinkable responsibility to tell the guy who practically invented the jam band to… stop jamming.

It also fell to me to keep looking at my watch during the performance, even as I realized that my favorite “Dark Star” jams alone lasted well beyond our fifteen-minute performance window.

I’ve never been a big fan of the Dead (despite how much I enjoy jam bands).  Their music is a bit too slow for my tastes.  But in the right mood (like a rainy Sunday), they can be right on.

These songs are slow and expansive and allow for a lot of jamming.  There’s not a lot of opportunity for jamming here as this is just a trio, but Weir is very comfortable stretching things out.

The trio make an interesting look with drummer Jay Lane in a tie-dyed shirt and upright bassist Don Was in all black.  Weir stand between them in a gray T-shirt and his gray hair.

The first song

“Only a River,” from Weir’s 2016 solo album Blue Mountain, feels like a memorial to Jerry Garcia, with a reference to the Shenandoah River, a body of water Garcia famously made reference to on the song, “A Shenandoah Lullaby.” Weir turns the chorus into a mantra and seems to evoke the spirit of his fallen bandmate.

This song references the melody of “Shenandoah” pretty directly n the middle, but the “hey hey hey” let’s you know that this is a very different song.

Before the second song, he says they just got clearance to play it.  I didn’t realize that “When I Paint My Masterpiece” was a Bob Dylan song, but I guess maybe I should have.

And what would a Grateful Dead-related performance be without a Bob Dylan song? The intimacy of the Tiny Desk turns Weir into a sage Master Storyteller during a version of “When I Paint My Masterpiece” with its reference to Botticelli and a lonely Roman hotel room.

The set really comes to life when special guest, Mikaela Davis comes out to play harp.

The harp is always a magical-sounding instrument and amid the quietness of this trio, it really shines.  Davis basically takes the lead on “Bird Song” including bending strings (I’ve never seen a harpist do that before).

Midway through the song, Weir waves his hand and allows Davis to take a solo while Weir puts down his acoustic guitar.

When Weir switches to electric guitar midway during “Bird Song,” I looked at my watch because I knew we were in for some time travel. And the band didn’t disappoint as the rhythmic interplay between Weir and Davis showed off his singular rhythm guitar style, honed from more than thirty years of playing alongside one the most idiosyncratic lead guitarists in modern music.

Davis does some more note bending in her solo, which is so interesting.  When Weir joins in, their music melds really beautifully.

They jam the song out for 8 minutes and as the music fades Bob says, I’m pretty sure we’re over our time limit.

He says they were slated for 20 minutes and they’re at forty now (sadly we only get to see 26 minutes).  Someone shouts “keep going” and they do one more.

They play “Ripple” Grateful Dead’s fifty-year-old sing-along from their album American Beauty.  It demonstrates

the song’s celebration of hope and optimism, found in the spirit of all of the band’s music. Bob Weir continues to evoke that spirit every time he picks up a guitar; and as we all sang along at the end, we evoked that spirit too: “Let there be songs, to fill the air.”

I suppose it’s never too late to start enjoying a band, right?

[READ: March 25, 2020] “In the Cards”

This is exactly the kind of story I don’t like.  It seemed to go nowhere and in an oblique fashion. Plus the narrator was really hard to relate to.

The point of the story seems to be the last line: “You’re crazy when you’re a good writer.”

It starts with a discussion of playing cards and moves on to tarot cards.  Her friend Michel gave her a deck and she felt ill at ease just reading the directions.  But what most disturbed her was the image of The Fool.

The narrator says she is unfamiliar with playing cards and yet later she says when she was a child they played Mistigri which is a card game.  So go figure.  (more…)

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woolfSOUNDTRACK: SHAMIR-Tiny Desk Concert #458 (July 31, 2015).

shamirShamir has an amazing voice–a high countertenor that is unsettling and pretty at the same time. He usually creates dance music, but in this Tiny Desk it’s just him and his guitar (on a stool).

The notes say that they asked the interns and staff to sit around him like at a campfire since he looked so alone up there by himself (and after the first song he says he is quite nervous).

He sings three songs. I don’t know the originals (I only know the one dance song from his record “On the Regular” which he doesn’t play here). But these versions are so different from that one that it’s quite shocking.

“In for the Kill” has a lot of intensity in his delivery and the chord structure (even if he plays he guitar rather softly).

The story of his writing “Demons” is very funny.  He was at work at Ross’ and he ran to the changing room when this melody came to him to write it down.  So he was hiding tin the dressing room plinking out notes and humming to himself while trying to get it down before he forgot.  I really like the twist in a song about demons: “If I’m a demon, you’re the beast that made me.”

I’m not sure I’d ever get his record, but I enjoyed hearing this acoustic version of such a dancey singer.

[READ: June 4, 2015] Virginia Woolf

This book comes from a series called Life Portraits.

This is a very brief (128 pages, but mostly one sentence per page) biography of Virginia Woolf.  But the real “selling” point of the book are the beautiful illustrations/paintings by Nina Cosford.  They are lovely watercolors that do a great job illustrating whatever detail is listed on the page.

Although the biography is short it is still quite comprehensive–skimming over many details in her life to get to the heart of the matter.

We get basic birth details–born Virginia Stephen on 25th January 1882.  We learn about her parents (ferociously intellectual father and philanthropic mother).  There’s even an illustrated family tree.

Then we learn that death followed her everywhere.  Her mother died when Virginia was young.  And that a few years later her half-sister and her father also died.  She remained with her sister Vanessa and her brother Thoby as companions. (more…)

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SlexOUNDTRACK: FRANK TURNER & THE SLEEPING SOULS Live at the Newport Folk Festival (2013).

frakWhenever NPR streams and saves festivals shows, I like to check out the bands I love (of course), but I also check out some of the bands I’d never heard of before.  And sometimes it leads to a fantastic discovery.  Like Frank Turner.  I had no idea who he was, but he was described as folk-punk which is quite accurate.  He reminds me of Billy Bragg in his younger, harder days.  Turner is British, he has a very thick accent when he sings and while he is nowhere near as political as Bragg, he treads in that same line of folkiness.

His lead off track, “Four Simple Words” (the words are “I Want to Dance”) begins as a folkie song, but it quickly morphs into a rollicking stomper (louder than most bands at Newport, he theorizes).  But a song like “Try This at Home” seems to speak to his overall ethos—music for the people by the people:

Because there’s no such thing as rock stars There’s just people who play music
And some of them are just like us And some of them are dicks
So quick, turn off your stereo Pick up that pen and paper
Yeah, you could do much better Than some skinny half-arsed English country singer

There are a few more specifically pointed messages like “Glory Hallelujah,” whose chorus goes “There is no-o-o God, so clap your hands together.”  As well as a funny (but not really) song which he introduces as being written because he read Gene Simmons’ autobiography.  Simmons says he slept with 4,600 some women which he knows because he has taken a Polaroid of each one.  Turner is appalled “what an ass” and wrote “Wherefore Art Thou, Gene Simmons” as a response.

But the majority of songs are about love and life, going home again and playing music.  And, in this live setting Turner is fantastic—getting the crowd to sing along, having great banter and being a wonderful showman.

The final song is a great sing-along with the simple but effective chorus of: “I won’t sit down and I won’t shut up.  And most of all I will not grow up.”  I’m totally enjoying Turner’s music and now I’m going to have to check out his actual releases (he has four or five).  See more about him at his website.

[READ: July 20, 2013] Lexicon.

Virginia Woolf has gotten a hold of a word which has caused untold destruction in a small town in Australia.  W.B. Yeats has sent T.S. Eliot and a non-poet named Wil to get the word back and, if possible to kill Virginia Woolf.

Intrigued?  Yeah me too.

I saw this book in Barnes & Noble and was really excited that Barry had a new book out.  And when I pointed it out to Sarah she said , “I already have a hold on it.”  So, when it came in I took it from her pile and now it has to go back before she gets a chance to read it.

Imprinted in the crazy cover image are a series of odd characters and amid them it says 4 why did you do it.  I was trying to figure out if there was more to this secret message, but there isn’t.  However, it is a clue to what lies inside.

I guess in the grand scheme of things, the story is pretty simple (if not a little confusing).  What I laid out above is the skeletal outline; however, Barry interweaves the story with past and future (and a whole lot of mind control) and he begins the book right in the middle of utter chaos. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SQUAREPUSHER-“Dark Steering” (2012).

Hot on the heels of a review of LMFAO I get to the other side of the spectrum in electronic music—Squarepusher.   There’s no big choruses, heck there’s no words, but this music shares something with LMFAO.  Well, actually it really doesn’t—except maybe keyboards.

Squarepusher play dark angular music. It’s very electronic and alien (and sounds like it may have been used in the background of Skinny Puppy songs back in the day). It’s abrasive and the sounds are otherworldly and yet in this song, there’s a melody to it.  I have but one Squarepusher CD—that’s probably enough for me.  But I am always interested to hear new music by him.  It’s impressive the way he can take a song that starts out so noisy and get it to sound like real music by the end.  It like the science fiction of music.

[READ: June 5, 2012] “Forward Thinking”

I have read only one book by China Miéville—Perdido Street Station.  I found it to be quite challenging for a bunch of reasons and figured I wouldn’t read more by him.  And yet I find that images from that book stay with me to this day (at least ten years on).  So maybe it’s time to give him another shot.  But where to start?

This entry in the New Yorker’s Sci-Fi issue is written as an “E-mail sent back in time to a young science-fiction fan.”  And I loved it.  I enjoyed how it started (with the author knowing that E-mail doesn’t exist at the time the recipient will get this—so who will it show up?)  And I loved the central question: “How did you get into this stuff?”  The sender knows that the kid will get asked this a lot, but the question should be turned around: “How did you get out of it?”  Because all kids love sci-fi concepts.  It’s just that some move away from it as they get older.

Miéville includes a few key moments in (his) sci-fi history: Page 40 of “The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher” by Beatrix Potter.  What?  Indeed, for this is the first time that (you) will be ware of knowing something the protagonist doesn’t—that there’s  fish coming up to get him.

Next is Chapter 13 of Golem100 by Alfred Bester.  I have never heard of this book.  Although Miéville does warn us about it—he read it far too young and there’s some sadistic violence in it, what attracted him (and me, now) is the disrespect for text—part of the story is a musical score, another is a picture.  It sounds cool.  And of course it is long out of print. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HELIUM-The Dirt of Luck (1995).

Mary Timony fronted Helium for a few years.  In that time she was recognized as something of a guitar wizard–not in her speed and flash, but in the weird sounds she conjured from the instrument.

She also had very peculiar musical sensibilities (these songs are quite odd) and a cool feminist attitude.  This album features the amazing song “Superball” (one of the best songs of the mid 90s–check out the video and watch the guitarist playing the strings with a screwdriver!  Man I miss the 90s) as well as a number of unpolished gems like “Medusa” and “Pat’s Trick” (the dual vocals are very cool and the dispassionate “oh oh oh” is very interesting, plus I love the lyric about “long-ass curly hair”).

Her singing style is often quite slacker-y, like in the opening of “Medusa”–she’s not always audible, and she often seems like a kind of buzzy sound more than a voice.   She sounds like she’s singing from very far away–seemingly powerful and yet quiet at the same time.

But combine that with the cool scratchy/noisy guitar sounds she gets and she’s pulling off a very cool combination (think Dino Jr without the hooks and killer solos).

Like “Baby’s Going Underground” features some crazy shoegazer guitar washes for most of its 6 minutes which really changes the pacing of the record.  There’s also the great “Skeleton,” a riff so cool that Sonic Youth used it for “Sunday.”

She also has a way with haunting melodies as on the piano  instrumental “Comet #9” and on “All the X’s Have Wings” which sounds very medieval. I think of Timony as a guitarist and yet there is there are lots of keyboards on the album too–mystical keyboards that are fascinating and seem out of character with the guitars, but actually work quite well.   But the prettiest song is “Honeycomb.’  It’s a sweet song with a wonderful melody.  It is followed by the ender “Flower of the Apocalypse” a guitar-based instrumental that is mostly feedback but is also surprisingly melodic.

Helium had mild accolades back in the 90s.  They released a couple of albums and then Mary Timony went solo.  It’s nice to have her playing now with Wild Flag.

[READ: November 11, 2011] Five Dials Number 21

This is the first issue of Five Dials that I was ready to read when it was sent to me (I’ve been all caught up for a while now).  So that’s pretty exciting!

I was tempted to say that i enjoyed this issue more than other issues, but I have enjoyed most Five Dials issues equally.  But this one is definitely a favorite.

CRAIG TAYLOR–A Letter from the Editor: On Turning 21 and Thinking About Rock Stars and Greece.
The magazine introduction jokes about them now being legal to drink in the U.S. and also about now being old enough to run for M.P. in England.  He also tells us about their “new” section Our Town, which has vastly expanded in this issue.  He also explains that there are many rock stars on hand to give the magazine tutelage (authors that the rock stars enjoy) and three short stories.  He ends with a notice that they have gone to Greece where they are gathering material for Issue 22. (more…)

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31SOUNDTRACK: THE REPLACEMENTS-Hootenanny (1983).

hootThis is the second full length from The Replacements.  For a band that just released two punk albums (one’s an EP), naming your new one Hootenanny is pretty ballsy.  As is the fact that the first track sounds like, well, a hootenanny (even if it is making fun of hootenannies.)

However, the rest of the album doesn’t sound like hootenannies at all.  In fact, the rest of the album is all over the place.  I don’t want to read into album covers too much, but the design has all 16 titles in separate boxes in different colors.  It suggests a little bit of stylistic diversity inside.

Just see for yourself:  “Run It” is a one minute blast of some of the punkiest stuff they’ve done. (It’s about running a red light).  Meanwhile, “Color Me Impressed” marks the second great alt-rock anthem (after “Go”) that Westerberg has put on record.  “Willpower” is a sort of spooky ambient meandering piece that, at over 4 minutes is their longest piece yet.  “Take Me to The Hospital” is a punky/sloppy guitar song.  “Mr Whirly” is sort of an update of the Beatles’ “Oh Darlin.'”  “Within Your Reach” is technically the longest Replacements song to date.  It starts with a cool flangy guitar sound that swirls around a fairly mellow vocal track (this song was featured in the end of Say Anything.  John Cusack cranks the song up past the red line).  “Buck Hill” is an (almost) instrumental.  “Lovelines” is a spoken word reading of personals ads over a bluesy backing track.  “You Lose” is the first song that sounds like another one…a sort of hardcore song.  “Hayday” is a fast rocker like their first album.  And it ends with “Treatment Bound” a sloppy acoustic number that sounds like it was recorded in a tin can.

As you can see, this album is all over the place, and almost every song sounds like they may not make it through to the end.  Yet, despite all of the genres represented, the band sounds cohesive.  The disc just sounds like a band playing all the kinds of music that they like, and the fact that there are a couple of really lasting songs on the disc makes it sound like more than just a bar band.

I feel as though not too many people even know of this disc (it was the last one I bought by them, as I couldn’t find it for the longest time).  But in reading reviews, I see that people seem to really love this disc.  I enjoyed it, and, like other ‘Mats discs, it’s certainly fun, but I don’t listen to it all that often.

[READ: June 9, 2009] McSweeney’s #31

The latest issue of McSweeney’s has a totally new concept (for this journal, anyhow):  They resurrect old, defunct writing styles and ask contemporary writers to try their hands at them. I had heard of only two of these defunct styles, so it was interesting to see how many forms of writing there were that had, more or less, disappeared.

Physically, the issue looks like a high school yearbook.  It’s that same shape, with the gilded cover and the name of the (school) on the spine.

Attached to the inside back cover is McSweeney’s Summertime Sampler. As far as I know this is the first time they have included a sampler of multiple upcoming works.  There are three books sampled in the booklet: Bill Cotter’s Fever Chart; Jessica Anthony’s The Convalescent & James Hannaham’s God Says No. I enjoyed all three of the pieces.  Fever Chart has stayed with me the most so far.  I can still feel how cold that apartment was.  The Convalescent begin a little slow, but I was hooked by the end of the excerpt. And God Says No has me very uncomfortable; I’m looking forward to finishing that one.

As for #31 itself:

The Fugitive Genres Recaptured (or Old Forms Unearthed) include: pantoums, biji, whore dialogues, Graustarkian romances, nivolas, senryū, Socratic dialogues, consuetudinaries, and legendary sagas.  Each genre has an excerpt of an original writing in that style.  Following the sample is the modern take on it.  And, in the margins are notes in red giving context for what the author is doing.  I assume these notes are written by the author of the piece, but it doesn’t say.

I’m going to give a brief synopsis of the genre, but I’m not going to critique either the old piece or whether the new piece fits into the genre exactly (suffice it to say that they all do their job very well). (more…)

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