Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Yiyun Li’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: O.C.-Tiny Desk Concert #732 (April 18, 2018).

This is where I get to complain again that The Breeders had three songs when O.C. [Omar “O.C.” Credle], whom I have never heard of (although he is apparently a classic) gets five songs in nearly 19 minutes.  Bogus.

As a member of Brooklyn rap collective Diggin’ In The Crates, Omar Credle, aka O.C., helped shape what was known as the golden age of 1990s rap. Marked by loops sourced from jazz recordings and lyrics rooted in one-upmanship, O.C’s two ’90s albums made him a rapper’s rapper, an underground star.

I’ve never heard of him but he is sure confident in his crew’s impact (which seems about right I guess.  It’s interesting that they were known for sampling, but they have a live band.  The band sounds fantastic by the way.

O.C. was joined at his Tiny Desk by Soul’D U Out, a jazz ensemble led by Grammy-winning trumpeter Maurice “Mobetta” Brown. The live instrumentation replicated the sample-heavy original recordings perfectly.

They mostly play old songs, but they start with a new one: “New Day,” from O.C.’s 2017 album which features young R&B singer Tay Bell on the hook.  Bell’s vocals are quite high-pitched.  I thought he was a woman at first (just hearing him, not seeing him).  But his voice adds a great fullness to the song.  That live trumpet is amazing, as is the quiet fuzzy guitar from Marcus Machado that runs throughout the song.

He says he wants to get into the old stuff.  He asks, “How many over 45?”  A woman replied, “Oh, that’s wrong.”  He laughs and says, “I’m only 23.”

The rest of the set was vintage cuts from O.C.’s heyday. “Day One,” a D.I.T.C. posse cut, featured emcee and producer Lord Finesse.

Robert “Lord Finesse” Hall gets a verse, which he delivers with a great style I actually like his more than O.C.).  I also love the vibes even if they are only on keys (by Chris Robs).,  He says that the song is about “20 years of history.”  Referring to other rappers, he says, “we birthed a lot of them, they might not say it, but I will. without D.I.T.C, there’d be no digging n the record crates. ”  I seriously doubt that statement, but whatever.

Then O.C. treated the crowd to a version of “Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers” (the one and only song by him, Jeru The Damaja and Chubb Rock).

I was more impressed by the trumpet than anything else.  The sounds he gets at the end are amazing.

He had to fit in his seminal banger and arguably most popular song, “Time’s Up,” from Word…Life.

He says “I hated this record when I made it but people convinced me to do it.”  Huh.  I like the cool bass from Parker McAllister that runs through the song.

The finale got personal when O.C. relayed the importance of the song “Born 2 Live.” “This is dedicated to a friend of mine who got killed down in Baltimore,” he said. “Every time I do this record, it’s somber. … But it’s a celebration at the same time. So I’m a just party it out and have a good time with it.” With a little help from Soul’D U Out, we did, too.

I’m only a little disappointed that the drummer (Camau “Klutch” Bernstine, whose hair is awesome) didn’t get to show off a bit more. He was really solid but there was nothing fancy.

I’m not bummed that he got 20 minutes, because I enjoyed his set, but let some other folks go over time too!

[READ: April 17, 2018] “A Flawless Silence”

Yiyun Li is perhaps the most consistently enjoyable New Yorker author for me.  I love the pacing of her stories and I love the way she tackles large and small personal issues sometimes at the same time.

This story is about a woman, Min.  She grew up in China but moved to America when her now husband proposed to her. As the story begins, she is with her twin daughters in the car.  They are fighting , of course, until one of them says that Kevin, a boy in their class is a Republican.

How do they know?  Because the teacher instructed them to write to either presidential candidate and while everyone class wrote to Hilary Clinton, he chose to write a supportive letter to the male candidate (Yiyun Li uses his name but I don’t feel compelled to). (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

CV1_TNY_06_08_15_09.inddSOUNDTRACK: SOUNDTRACKSTELLA DONNELLY-“Talking” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 19, 2018).

The South X Lullaby is a really fun way to get to know a new (or familiar, but mostly new) artist in an intimate live setting.  I had heard one of Stella Donnelly’s songs before, but this Lullaby presented her by herself (with a very cool backdrop) with an amazingly clear recording of her voice and guitar.

Stella Donnelly has only one EP to her name, but that’s been enough to make her sharp wit come through in sweet, quiet songs that rage loudly. The Australian singer-songwriter’s Thrush Metal EP was recently reissued in the U.S. with a bonus track, “Talking,” which she performs here surrounded by video of wires, a weaving machine and woolen yarns.

Her voice is clear with big open vowels (you can kind of hear the Australian accent, but it’s somewhat indeterminate).  Despite it being just her electric guitar, she plays a in a couple of slightly different styles throughout the song which adds a lot of texture to the piece.

For the end of the song she really unleashes her voice even as the guitar doesn’t alter all that much.  It’s pretty intense.

I wish you could see the art installation a bit more (I realize this is a video for her, but the installation is pretty neat).  At least they hold the pull-back screen at the end a little long so you can see what’s going on.

Donnelly played “Talking” in Conductors and Resistance, an art installation by the Israeli artist Ronen Sharabani that’s on display as part of the SXSW Art Program. Like Donnelly’s direct and feminist folk songs, Sharabani confronts the viewer to increase action in areas of high resistance, the only way to ensure a strong reaction.

[READ: April 13, 2016] “A Soldier Home”

Back in June of 2009, The New Yorker had their annual summer fiction issue.  Included in that issue were three short essays under the heading of “Summer Reading.”  I knew all three authors, so I decided to include them here.

This essay was about Yiyun Li’s growing up in China.

And I was astonished by the first line: “The summer after my year of involuntary service in the Chinese army….”  I didn’t know that women were made to be in it.  She says that after that summer, she read Hemingway compulsively. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: VIOLENTS & MONICA MARTIN-Tiny Desk Concert #626 (June 5, 2017).

I don’t really understand why Jeremy Larson chose the name Violents.  His music is anything but–pretty piano melodies with (in this show) really nice string arrangements.  I love the way the strings really dramatize the pop song elements.

About the strings, (who go by the Rootstock Republic),he says “they saved our lives this week–because even though a solo vocal performance with her would be amazing…,”

“Equal Powers” has such beautiful melodies.   I really like the way Martin’s voice plays off of the piano.  The chorus melody line is perfect and the high notes “I know I know” are like a perfect icing topper.  I like this lyrical construct:

lean in, let me feel your breath on my skin/I know, I know
lean in, liquor on your breath/ I’m tasting, I know, I know

Her voice has a lovely delicate straining to it that is really pretty.

So who is Martin?  The last time we saw singer Monica Martin at the Tiny Desk she was singing with Phox, her folky, poppy band based in Madison, Wisconsin. But, while that band is on hiatus, Martin took time to walk into the world of Violents, the project of pianist, string arranger and songwriter Jeremy Larson. Larson and Martin make a lovely pair and have created a subtle, soulful record — Awake And Pretty Much Sober — that benefits greatly from Larson’s classical training.  It’s the first full-length Jeremy Larson has released as Violents, a project that, generally, sees him joined by a different singer each outing, resulting in an EP.

“Unraveling” has a pretty, slow piano melody.  It’s more of a ballad.  Once again the chorus is gorgeous–especially the way Martin hits some of those notes in the ooooh section.

and again her voice hits some lovely notes and her ooohs are delightful against the strings.

Before introducing “Spark” he says playing the Tiny Desk is “a bucket list kind of thing.”  He says they’re gonna do one more song.  We were supposed to do a different one but this one’s a bit more appropriate for a smaller setting its called “Spark.”  It has a simpler melody and is certainly a ballad.  It is not as powerful but it’s still quite lovely.

The Rootstock Republic is Juliette Jones (violin); Jessica McJunkins (violin); Kristine Kruta (cello); Jarvis Benson (viola).

 [READ: May 3, 2017] “On the Street Where You Live”

I have really enjoyed Yiyun Li’s stories of late, although i didn’t fully enjoy this one.  I found the location of it a little hard to follow and then it seemed to be about something but was then about something else.

It begins in China, with Bella and Peter walking down the street.  Bella and Peter are friends and have been for 25 years.  They met in Boston.

Bella is Chinese by birth but moved to the USA to study.  They are in China because Bella and Peter always talked of going there.  And it turns out that Peter’s boyfriend Adrian is doing research on his ancestors from China.  So they decided to use it as a chance to travel together.

This was kind of mistake.  (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: NINET-Tiny Desk Concert #602 (March 3, 2017).

One of the things I’d hoped to do this year was to finish posting about all of the Tiny Desk Concerts.  I didn’t know how I’d do it, but at some point I just decided to plow through them all.  And as of today, I have posted about all of the Concerts from the first one through March of this year.  There’s about 25 newer ones left.  It’s a pretty good feeling to accomplish arbitrary goals.

Ninet is the first of the newest Concerts.  Ninet Tayeb is an Israeli singer but she doesn’t sing any kind of “ethnic” or “world” music.  Rather, she and her band simply rock out.

As the first song, “Child” opens, the band sings in great harmony.  I love that the drummer (Yotam Weiss) is using a box drum but also a small hand drum (tapping with his fingers) and a cymbal (playing with his hands perfectly).  Ninet herself plays acoustic guitar and I love that you can hear her strumming and scratching on the guitar even with everyone else playing.  After a few verses, the whole band starts to rock out.  The great guitar sounds come from the electric guitarist (and main backing vocalist)–Joseph E-Shine Mizrahi.  I loved watching his guitar solo and the way he was occasionally hitting all of the strings to make them ring them out as he soloed.

I love the melody of Elinor–the way the guitars and bass (Matt McJunkins) play the same thing but in different tones.   The song takes off and runs nonstop with some great riffing in the middle and Ninet’s angry, snarling but catchy voice rising over it all.  I also love the great use of snyths (Doron Kochli) to play divergent and dark swells underneath the main riffs.

The song rocks to an end and they laugh as the guitarist picks some things up off the floor and says sorry Bob.  To which he says “what did you break now?”  That remains unresolved–I’m not even sure when it happened.

“Superstar,” the final song has the same snarling coolness as the previous two.  But it adds an interesting middle Eastern vibe from the keys as well as during the vocal lines near the end.  It sounds amazing.

The blurb has this to say:

“[Ninet is] one of the most famous entertainers in Israel today.”  She has recently settled in the States.  She has released five albums, “and their most recent, Paper Parachute, is the home of the songs she brought to us. It’s filled with a her husky-toned voice and guitar lines straight out of stateside ’70s rock, with a Middle Eastern lean. It’s a winning sound, performed by an unrestrained talent.”

I really enjoyed this set–her voice is really captivating and the riffs are wonderful.  As the song ends, Bob says “and that was the stripped down version,”  I’d like to hear the full on rocking version too!

[READ: January 12, 2017] “On the Street Where You Live”

Just the other day I learned that Yiyun Li would be joining Princeton University’s Creative Writing team.  That’s pretty exciting. If I was a groupie it would be even more exciting.  It would certainly be awkward to go to her office and thank her for all of the great fiction she’s written.  But how cool would it be to walk down the hall and see her and Jeffrey Eugenides, A.M. Homes, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Joyce Carol Oates chatting by the literary water cooler?

This is the story of Becky.  Becky’s son, Jude has autism and is being seen by two specialists.

She is in the remodeled San Francisco museum, talking to a man who says he hates museums–he hates sharing art with others.  The man is wearing a red tie that reminds her of Spongebob Squarepants.  She will write about him in her journal (mentioning only the red tie).  Her journal is comprised solely of descriptions of people.  She imagines that one day Jude will read it and be appreciative for all of her words. (more…)

Read Full Post »

2008_10_13SOUNDTRACK: HALEY BONAR-Tiny Desk Concert #570 (October 11, 2016).

Haley Bonar was born in Canada but raised in the U.S.  She haleyis a folksinger with a country leaning (but without the twang).   For this Tiny Desk, Haley plays acoustic guitar and sings lead.  She had a keyboardist who sings great harmonies.  And behind them there’s a guy playing electric guitar (with great echoed effect), a bassist and a drummer.

“Hometown” has a great catchy chorus (well, and verse too).  It’s upbeat but melancholy at the same time.  There’s a very cool echoed slide guitar solo in the middle of the song.

Bonar doesn’t speak much, expect to joke about the appropriateness of the second song.  “Jealous Girls” is slower and moodier.  (“Jealous girls don’t have no fun unless they’re sure they’re the only one).  The middle section of this song is really cool, the way it changes the mood.  She doesn’t play guitar on this one, but there’s some great lyrics at the end of the song:

And you turn up your guitar
In another shitty bar in another shitty town
And you wonder when you’ll wake up
Yeah you wonder when you’ll wake up
From this long distance daydream of
Playing while girls scream
Alone in a hotel
Like piss in your ice cream

I love that the way this end part is sung and played it seems like it’s going to transition to another part.  But that’s just the end.

“Called You Queen” is a fast folkie song.  I really like her delivery on the verses. The chords for the chorus are fairly obvious but are really catchy anyway.  It’s a really good song.  The abrupt ending (with a hint of echo on the guitar) is spectacular

I didn’t know Bonar before this set, but i really liked it.

[READ: March 9, 2016] “Gold Boy Emerald Girl”

Yiyun Lee had a story in a 2008 May issue of the New Yorker as well.  I have enjoyed pretty much all of her stories. This one was quite different from the others in that the whole story has a feeling of inevitability to it.  And yet it was a kind of gentle inevitability that almost didn’t seem to be there.  Or something.

The story is about two adults, Siyu, 38 and Hanfeng 44.  The opening paragraph tells us that she was raised by her father and he was raised by his mother.

Siyu knew Hanfeng’s mother because she was a Professor and Siyu worked for her a while ago.  But the Professor is now retired and Hanfeng has moved back home after a stint in America to live with her.

And we see now that the Professor has set the two up on a date.

The story is told in a very gentle, unhurried way, as befits the story of these two who have taken their time with thee lives. (more…)

Read Full Post »

2008_05_12SOUNDTRACK: QUETZAL-Tiny Desk Concert #378 (August 2, 2014).

tzalQuetzal are a band from Southern California who have been performing in the Chicano scene for about 20 years.

Guitarist Quetzal Flores plays the Mexican jarana for both rhythm and melody, violinist Rocio Marron adds blues licks into Mexican folk runs and bassist Juan Perez provides a nimble and melodic bottom end.  And then there’s lead singer Martha Gonzalez who has a great voice and is quite the activist.

The first song, “Palomo Vagabundo” is pretty and sad.  The song means vagabond Pigeon and is a story about a beaten up pigeon who still tries to find love.  Quetzal says the whole album is about life of urban animals and how we relate to them.

They introduce the second song “Tragafuegor” which is about a fire breather they saw in Mexico.  He was putting himself in harm’s way to make some change but also shining light on reality.  This is a faster, livelier song with Gonzalez dancing on a box–like Saintseneca.  The dancing rhythms, the great violin and the cool robust bass really make this song stand out.  About the stomp box, this is a tarica from Veracruz, Mexico.  Quetzal explains that Martha is a percussionist by trade as well as a professor as Scripps College in Pomona.

The final song, “Todo Lo Que Tengo” is a beautiful ballad.  Again Martha’s voice soars above the music.

It’s always fascinating to “discover” a band who has been around for 20 years.

[READ: February 23, 2016] “A Man Like Him”

This is in unusual story in that the main character is a man who is obsessed with a story in a magazine.  Teacher Fei is an older man, unmarried and now living with his elderly mother.  She needs his care and he doesn’t mind giving it to her.

The story that he has become fixated on is about a nineteen year old girl who is set out to publicly humiliate her father.  The girl’s mother and father divorced three years ago.  And once the girl turned eighteen she sued her father, suspecting that another woman had seduced hm away from her mother.  She said that he should be punished for abandoning his family and for the immoral act of taking a mistress.

She had also created a website to humiliate the man.  She wanted him to lose his job, his freedom and his mistress. And this angered Teacher Fei (who didn’t know any of them) to distraction. (more…)

Read Full Post »

CV1_TNY_03_10_14Steininger.inddSOUNDTRACK: FEDERICO AUBELE-Tiny Desk Concert #350 (April 21, 2014).

faFederico Aubele is an Argentinian singer-songwriter.  He sings in both Spanish and English. And in this Tiny Desk Concert, he plays pretty guitar solos between songs which makes the three songs all seem like one long piece.

His guitar playing is clean and beautiful on the nylon string guitar.  He plays in the quintessential “South American”/”classical” style [some might even call this Flamenco, Paul].  And his voice is low and deep but also expressive.

The three songs here are “Laberinto Del Ayer,” “This Song,” and “Somewhere Else.”  They are each quite pretty and melancholy.  And when he starts speaking in Spanish at the end of the third song, his voice is definitely enticing.

[READ: June 10, 2014] “A Sheltered Woman”

In this story, the second or third I’ve read by Yiyun Li, the main character is an older women who goes by the name of Auntie Mei.  Auntie Mei is a first month nanny–she stays for only the first month, to make sure that the mother is breastfeeding correctly and that everyone is prepared to move on–her skills are very specific to the first month.  And she is in very high demand among Chinese immigrants.

She has worked for 126 families in the last eleven years.  And she never gets attached to any of the families–calling each mother Ma and each child The Baby.

With this new mother who, like all the other mothers is Chinese (but who wants to be called Chanel), Auntie Mei is having a bit of a hard time.  The mother is disinterested in her baby, claims to have postpartum depression (Auntie Mei says “Don’t speak nonsense”) and even had a dream that she drowned her baby in the toilet.  Mostly, Chanel is angry that her husband is not around–he has been away on business since the baby was born.  We later learn about the strange details of their marriage.

Auntie Mei tries not to get involved.  She keeps telling Chanel (and others in the story not to tell her details).  She feeds Chanel a thick soup (designed for breastfeeding) and massages her breasts when she does not produce milk.  But after a few days Chanel says she quits and leaves the baby entirely in Auntie Mei’s charge.  Auntie Mei protests but she can’t allow the baby to die so she takes over.  Chanel simply watches TV and complains–she won’t even go buy groceries. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »