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Archive for the ‘ZZ Packer’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE NATIONAL-NonCOMM Free at Noon (May 16, 2019).

The National are an interesting band.  They tend to write songs that feel ponderous–sometimes slow and, with Matt Berninger’s deep voice, very intense.  And yet their lyrics can sometimes be inscrutable [“I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees”] and they have done cover songs for Bob’s Burgers on more than one occasion (“Bad Things Happen in the Bathroom”).

So this concert is a bit of a revelation because of how poppy and almost dancey some of these songs are.  Berninger’s voice is nowhere near as deep as I imagined (his speaking voice is deeper than his singing voice) and the songs have a lot of variety to them.

Perhaps it’s the new album, I am Easy to Find.

Expanded to a ten-piece band, The National showcased ten of the album’s sixteen tracks, demonstrating the beauty and strength of the project. Vocalist Matt Berninger led the group’s vast array of instruments and vocalists, and kept everything from sounding overwhelming. The resulting set was a glorious display of emotion and expansive sound.

They opened with “You Had Your Soul With You”,  The track shows their musical horizons starting to expand. Vocalists Kate Stables (This Is The Kit) and Pauline de Lassus (Mina Tindle), joined Berninger on stage, adding a new dimension to the band’s sound. They sung throughout the show, representing the inclusion of female voices and perspectives across the record.

Like many of their songs, it is pretty and invites you to lean in to listen to the lyrics.

Berninger introduced the next song “Oblivions” by emphasizing the “s” “There’s a bunch of them. They keep coming.  Together.”  This song sounded very different, with a synthy, almost dancey vibe.

Stables and de Lassus opened “The Pull of You” before Berninger joined them.  This song has some interesting drum work as many of them do. Midway through, Berninger has a spoken word section that makes it sound like Tindersticks.

He tells us that his wife wrote “Hey Rosy.” He deadpans, “I thought it was about me.”  There’s a quiet piano intro and I love the very-The National delivery of the chorus “Hey Ro / zee I  / think I know just what the / feeling is.”

“Quiet Light” is a gentle, shuffling song.  The warm horn solos that closed the track were a wonderful touch.

Aaron Dessner spoke before they played the tender “I Am Easy To Find” and dedicated it to his friend, Adia Victoria, who played the same stage yesterday and was watching the set from the balcony.

The song is a duet of female and male vocals.  I love the fast delivery of this chorus as well.  Once again, very The National: “there’s a million little battles that I’m never gonna win / anyway.”

The band contrasted the solemness of these tracks with the brightness of “Where Is Her Head.”

Berninger says, “Mike Mills wrote the lyrics to this one… well, most of them… so he gets all of the publishing.  So now you know whey were doing it.”

Sung mostly by Stables and de Lassus, the track replaced the grey aura that filled the room with glittering oranges and pinks.

The song features a quiet looping of the lyrics as Berninger sings solo vocal runs over their chorus.

“Rylan” continued the upbeat-streak. The song, which declared that “everyone loves a quiet child,” showed The National playing with their volume. Towards the end they repeatedly built up their sound, only to swiftly quiet it.

Easy To Find‘s closing track, “Light Years,” was the simplest and most moving they played. With its heartbreaking lyrics and one of the saddest basslines ever played, the track left the crowd awestruck.

It opens with a gentle piano and Berninger’s deeper, quieter vocals. When the women sang back up with him, it was really lovely.

They could have stopped there, with tears quietly building in everyone’s eyes, but they continued with “Not In Kansas.”

Berninger says. We have one more song. This one’s 25 minutes long.  It was.  Then Mike Mills made it like  6 minutes long.  Whatever.  He was in charge.  Everything that’s bad about the record we always blame on Mike and we take credit for all the good stuff.” He paused “there’s some good stuff.”

It has a lovely quiet guitar intro.

While its lyrics focused on the craziness plaguing the world, the track felt small and insular. In closing with it, The National went out with a polite wave, rather than with a bang.

My friend Armando told me that The National puts on some of the best shows he’s ever been to.  I hope to see them some day.

[READ: June 1, 2019] “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere”

I did not like the narrator of this story at all.  She is hiding behind so much. In fairness, she has a lot to get over, but she closes herself off so much that she’s hard for people to get to know (and also hard for a reader to like).

Dina is at Yale orientation.  She does not have to do the trust fall because she “shouldn’t have to fit into any white, patriarchal systems.”

In the next game she had to say what inanimate object she wanted to be.  She said “revolver,” which got her put on psychiatric watch for the entire year and a solo room.

She also saw a therapist whom she wasn’t interested in talking to but who seemed to see right through her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHAD-“The Old Prince Still Lives at Home”(2007).

Canadian rapper.  Oxymoron?  Not at all.  I had heard about Shad from CBC Radio 3.  The single, “Yaa I Get It” is fantastic.  And I have ordered his new CD TSOL based on it.  (No idea what TSOL stands for).

CBC Radio 3 contains a whole bunch of tracks from his first two discs.  His music is kind of slow and loping, but it’s his lyrics that are really fantastic.  He’s clever, funny and very thoughtful.  “Yaa I Get It” has this opening couplet: “Maybe I’m not big, coz I don’t blog or twitter, heh, not that I’m bitter.”  Or this amusing couplet from “I Don’t Like to”  “I don’t really like to start verses with I you  know, but… iTunes eyepatch, I’m in the same boat where the pirates be”

This earlier album sounds a bit more R&B to me, but there’s a few really great tracks on it.  “The Old Prince Still Lives at Home” reminds me of the Fresh Prince’s style (a comical look at the waste of time that is the dentist).  But he takes it a step further when, midway through the song the music stops.  Shad explains that he couldn’t afford the whole beat.  And they just “have to vibe with it” until the end.

It’s a bit gimmicky, but he’s right, the track is really strong.

[READ: July 4, 2010] “Dayward”

The photo opposite this story is of a terrifying Rottweiler bearing its fangs.  I mention this because it is so striking (the other stories mostly had drawings to accompany them.  This photo is also scarily appropriate for the story, which is about two young slaves escaping from their master.  The kicker is that slavery has already been outlawed, but who says the masters have to let them go peacefully?

When Lazarus told his mistress that he and his sister were going to reunite with their family in New Orleans, she told them that they would have half a day’s start and then she’d release the dogs on them.  Evidently she wasn’t joking. (more…)

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This week’s New Yorker contains a list of the 20 authors under age 40 that they predict we’ll be talking about for years to come.  Their criteria:

did we want to choose the writers who had already proved themselves or those whom we expected to excel in years to come? A good list, we came to think, should include both.

They have published eight of these authors in the current issue and are publishing the remaining 12 over the next 12 weeks.  I’m particularly excited that they chose to do this now.  Since I’m currently involved in two big book projects, it’s convenient to be able to read a whole bunch of short stories to intersperse between big posts.

I’ve read half of the authors already (likely in The New Yorker and McSweeney‘s).  And have heard of many of the others.   The list is below: (more…)

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bookpeopleSOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-Vs. (1993).

vsTen was a solid record, and although it had diversity within it, overall the sound was pretty consistent.  On Vs., Pearl Jam mixed it up sonically and otherwise.

It opens with “Go,” a track that rocks harder than anything on Ten but which retains a great Pearl Jam chorus.  “Animal” is also loud, with Eddie’s voice sounding incredibly rough and raw.

It’s on the 3rd track that PJ begin to really mix it up with their first ballad: “Daughter,” their first acoustic track.  It’s catchy, and really works with Eddie’s voice.  I can never listen to the next track “Glorified G” without thinking of my college roommate who spoiled it for me.  And I’ll spoil it for you because every time you hear the chorus you will now think “glorified version of a pelican.”  It’s not my favorite song anyway, as the chorus is kind of weird, but the verses are really strong and do redeem this track.

“Dissident” and “Blood” continue the great rocking vein.  Although they are quite different from each other, (“Blood” being much harder) they both showcase Pearl Jam’s excellent rock aesthetic.

The track between them, “W.M.A.” is the other track on the disc that shows Pearl Jam’s experimental side.  It’s percussion heavy and seems like a rambling track…it works much better live, actually.

“Rearviewmirror” on the other hand is PJ at their best, a fantastic rocking (but not too heavy) song with a great chorus, and excellent vocals by Eddie.   Its complement is “Elderly Woman…” which highlights the other end of PJ’s spectrum: a sort of ballad that rocks more than you might think.

“Rats” and “Leash” are two rough, almost punk songs that continue to mix up the tempo and tenor of the disc.  “Rats” seems to get ignored a lot even though its chorus is a good one, and “Leash” is another angry song that’s, again, enjoyable live.

“Indifference” ends the disc and it’s a song that I wasn’t all that excited about initially.  However, again, after hearing the live versions, I gained a much better appreciation for the song and now I really enjoy it.   All in all Vs, is a great step forward for Pearl Jam, strangely enough pulling them away from arena anthems and into more intimate areas.

[READ: April 16, 2009] The Book of Other People

I discovered this book by searching for A.M. Homes in our catalog.  I was surprised I had never heard of it.  The premise of this collection, put out by McSweeneys and benefiting 826 is that each author was asked to make up a character.  The requirement was that the story would be named after the character.  There were no other rules.  And as such, you get a wide variety of stories about all different characters: people and otherwise.  In fact, it’s surprising what a diverse collection of stories have arisen from this rather simple concept.

bookpeople2Zadie Smith is the editor and she wrote the introduction.  I like to cover all of the written pieces in the book, but there’s not much to say about the introduction except that it fills you in on the details of the collection.  She thanks Sarah Vowell for the idea but I gather that the rest of the work was done by her.

I’m not grousing about the different covers this time, I’m just showing the UK one.  It has the same basic set up, including pictures by Daniel Clowes, but as you can see, it’s slightly different.

And check out this roster of talent that has written (or drawn) a story: it’s like a who’s who of contemporary young writers. (more…)

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