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Archive for the ‘Biking’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DAMIAN ‘JR. GONG’ MARLEY: Tiny Desk Concert #888 (September 8, 2019).

I’m not sure if everyone with the last name Marley becomes a singer, but it sure seems like it.

I had not heard of Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley before, but of all of the Marleys, I think I like his music best (he is Bob’s son).  I had no idea where the “Jr. Gong” came from, but the blurb helpfully says “Jr. Gong” is after his father’s nickname of “Tuff Gong.”

Even though the blurb describes the music as reggae, this set is pretty far from what I consider reggae.  Some components of reggae are there, but it’s mostly in his delivery (and accent) and the backing female vocals–from Roselyn Williams and Sherieta Lewis.

But the main element of reggae–the beat/rhythm/staccato guitar–is completely absent.

“Slave Mill” starts with delicate keys from Sean “Pow” Diedrick.  The song is catchy with great lyrics.  I really like the percussion from Courtney “Bam” Diedrick.  I assume those are brothers known as Bam and Pow, which is great.

I like that the blurb addresses the issue of Bob Marley and yet I feel like Damian is his own musician, with a distinct (if slightly familiar) voice.

Damian’s father cast a giant, magnificent shadow on the world and it can’t be easy to follow in those footsteps as a songwriter and musician.  Damian seems to be undaunted by that legacy and instead draws on it for inspiration and guidance. Not to mention there is more than a hint of his father’s unmistakable singing voice that so often preached the same messages of self-identity and self-determination that his youngest son is now doing so successfully.

He says the second song “So A Child May Follow” is one of his favorite tracks on the album.  He thinks about his nephews and nieces who are young adults now.  The song:

addresses the troubles youth confront around the globe and how to persevere to succeed.

It’s an acoustic ballad.  I like watching Bam play, because after each piano melody, he stops and pounds his fists in the air as the song pauses and resumes.  The main verses features a gentle acoustic guitar from Elton “Elly B” Brown.  It’s a lovely song of optimism in the face of trouble.

They end the set with “Speak Life” which “sums up the message of his music: live a life that will enable us to survive life’s slings and arrows with dignity and love.”

speak life and lead a humble and meek life.

All three songs feature great bass work by Shiah Coore.  I also really love the backing “woah ohs” in the song.

Damian says that they made a video of this song which was shot in Ethiopia and is subtitled in Amharic.  He says that as Rastas, Ethiopia is very close to their hearts.

The end of the blurb makes me wonder if I would enjoy the recorded versions less, since that what I enjoyed so much:

But what makes his music stand out on this session is the prominence of the acoustic guitar and piano in the arrangements, which makes the familiar sound somewhat new.

But he is very charming and funny and he ends the set talking about boxing Babylon vs Natty Dreadlocks.  Then he shouts, “We did it boys.  In the big leagues baby!”

[READ: July 21, 2019] This Was Our Pact

I really enjoyed this graphic novel.  S. had told me about it and told me I’d really like it.  She was right!

The pact of the title is simple.  There are two rules: No one turns for home and No one looks back.

The narrator is Ben.  He is one of five young boys who have made this pact.  The pact revolves around the Equinox Festival, in which the townsfolk send hundreds of lanterns down the river.  Every year a group of kids hopped on their bikes to follow the lanterns.  Usually everyone petered out.  But this year they were going to go all the way. The wondered, “Did they really journey far into the stars, like the old song sang?”

The boys set out following the lanterns.  As soon as they head out, they are followed by, “nerd alert!” Nathaniel.  None of the boys (except Ben) is friendly with him.  Even when Nathaniel says his mom made Rice Krispie treats, they don’t turn around and let him join.

The imagery of the book is beautiful.  It’s largely in blues because the story takes place at night.  The lanterns are little white spots in the blue and black rivers. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DONNY McCASLIN-Tiny Desk Concert #590 (January 9, 2017).

Donny McCaslin’s band was responsible for the jazzy music that propelled David Bowie’s final album.  As the Tiny Desk blurb says:

David Bowie had long wanted to make a record with a jazz band, and on Jan. 8 of last year, he realized his dream with the release of Blackstar. Two days later, he was gone. Donny McCaslin’s band helped him make that record, and now, a year later, we pay tribute to Bowie and Blackstar by bringing McCaslin’s band

As a bandleader and sax player, [McCaslin’s] put out a dozen albums, the most recent of which is Beyond Now, with musicians Tim Lefebvre on bass, drummer Mark Guiliana and keyboardist Jason Lindner.

Beyond Now was recorded after Blackstar, features a few Bowie covers and stretches the band’s own usual boundaries. For this Tiny Desk concert, you can hear an extraordinary group playing extraordinary music — including an instrumental version of “Lazarus,” from Blackstar.

The band plays three pieces.  “Shake Loose” is 7 and a half minutes.  The music is great behind the sax—dramatic and interesting.  I think I just don’t care for the sound of saxophones as much these days, because I love the bass thumping and the great sounds from the keys but the soloing doesn’t excite me.  I love in the middle of the song that there are really cool spacey sound on the keys.   And the whole middle section where it’s the keys playing weirdo stuff and the drums keeping a groovy jazz beat–that’s awesome.

So I may be the only person in America who has not heard the whole of Blackstar.  I actually don’t even really like the one song I did hear (I don’t care for the jazzy parts).  So I can’t compare this six-minute instrumental version to the original of “Lazarus.”  I love that the keyboard is playing a very convincing grungy guitar sound.  I’m not sure if the sax is doing a vocal line or just playing around, but I love the music for this song a lot.

“Glory” is about the glory of the creation of the beautiful world that we live in “that will hopefully be intact as we move forward.”  This is an 11 minute song with all kinds of great swirling keyboard sounds.  I really like this song—the bass and keys together are great.  And either I’ve grown more used to the sax or its mixed a little lower, but it works so much better with the music.  About three minutes in there’s a lengthy trippy mid-70s Pink Floyd echoing synth solo.  Which is pretty cool.  So overall, I really enjoyed this set.  And maybe I need to go give Blackstar a listen.

[READ: March 25, 2016] Around

I really enjoyed Phelan’s Bluffton.  The story was interesting and I really enjoyed Phelan’s artwork–subtle with delicate coloring and very thin, expressive lines.

This book also contains Phelan’ wonderful artwork and the story (or stories) are also really interesting.  For this is a book about three remarkable journeys around the world.

Phelan gives a fictionalized (but accurate) history of the adventures of Thomas Stevens (Wheelman in 1884), Nellie Bly (Girl Reporter 1889) and Joshua Slocum (Mariner 1895).

I hadn’t heard of the two men and I found their stories quiet fascinating.  I knew of Bly’s journey but I didn’t know all of the details and I found it equally interesting. (more…)

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  grant7SOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-The Outer Limits (1993).

voivodouterAfter Angel Rat, original bassist Blacky left the band.  That’s never a good sign.  After the tour for this album, original singer Snake left the band.  That’s an even worse sign.  I still can’t quite figure out exactly why Snake left (personal problems) but he went on to form the band Union Made.  For a very detailed history of the band, check out this very cool timeline at Voivod dot net.

The Outer Limits got a pretty big release.  I have an original copy that came with 3D glasses and all of the illustrations in 3D. But i was a little disappointed in Angel Rat and I don’t think I gave The Outer Limits much of a chance.  It was no Nothingface.  But the band was always morphing.  Since Angel rat went very commercial, this album brought things back into the prog realm (with a 17(!) minute song) but also had a lot of commercial songs.

The album opens with “Fix My Heart” which starts out much heavier than anything on Angel Rat. It’s also got some metal guitar pyrotechnics (squeaks and harmonics).  Snake’s voice isn’t quite as pretty as on Angel Rat either—he growls a bit, but maintains his nicer voice overall.  Nevertheless, “Fix My Heart” is a pretty commercial enterprise (as the title might even suggest).  There’s some good “spacey guitars sounds which bode will for the sci-fi angle of the album (and there’s some cool effects that reward headphone use).  “Moonbeam Rider” starts with a very classic rock sounding riff and then morphs into a kind of pretty, mellow verse.  But the interstitial guitar is all speed.  It’s a nice mix of fast and slow.  This song features some interesting bass work—nothing fancy but for the slow parts it is actually keeping the beat instead of the drums.  The bassist was a studio musician for this album.  There’s also what sounds like a bong during the pre-guitar solo section (the solo is fairly traditional).  “Le Pont Noir” is a mellow, slow guitar song with a very cool delay effect and Snake’s whispered vocals.  The bridge gets heavy with a wonderfully weird Piggy guitar riff.   It’s one of my favorite songs on the album.

Then the band’s second Pink Floyd cover appears. This time it’s the even more obscure “The Nile Song.”  They have rather heavied this one up with crunching guitars and Snake’s distance screaming filling in the void (although in fairness the original vocals are also screamed). It’s not as dynamic or exciting as “Astronomy Domine,” but it’s s till a cool cover.  “The Lost Machine” starts off heavy with Away’s double cymbal work (a noisy splash and a fast ride cymbal). Then Piggy’s guitars have a slight delay on them which makes the opening chords sound especially odd.  The bridge is a place for Piggy to show off some more weird spacey chords and some very cool guitar riffs. There’s even a spoken word narrator in the middle of the song that explains the “mission” “Time Warp” opens with a very bright and up beat sounding verse.  But it quickly disintegrates into (intentional) musical chaos as the narrator gets lost in space.

This all leads up to the 17 minute “Jack Luminous.”  If anyone doubted their prog rock leanings, this should dispel that immediate.  17 minutes, multiple parts, a sci-fi epic, it is prog (but heavy prog) at its finest.  There are some incredibly catchy parts as well as some less catchy parts, and sections seem to change every two minutes or so.  The slow down at 10 minutes is very cool—different guitar effects and the suspenseful bass line.  There’s repeated sections as well, which means if you like some guitar line (the spacey part near the end) it comes back!  It’s not quite as dynamic as say 2112, but it’s a very successful sci-fi epic.

“Wrong Way Street” returns to the normal and more conventional.  The bass that opens the song sounds great and the chords are fairly conventional –the chorus is even really catchy.  “We Are Not Alone” is a break-neck metal song, The drums are super fast, the guitars are relentless and the chorus even has an echoed “Hey!” that gets you to sing along.  The song also features a cool slow, almost jazzy bass and drum section that lets Piggy throw some soloing in before returning to the fast paced verses.

There’s lots of theories about what happened to Voivod after this album.  The success they had achieved earlier was now gone and the band seemed like they couldn’t decide to be metal or prog or is they should go for more pop music.  The problem of course is that they were too weird to get mainstream acceptance anyway.

So Snake left and then there were only two original members.  The next step would be a drastic one.

[READ: July 9, 2013] Grantland #7

This issue seemed to come hot on the heels of #6.  But I enjoyed it just as much.  A few notes: no Jeremy Lin in this issue.  Lots of LeBron James, three articles about soccer!  And a few pop culture moments that I had forgotten about.

REMBERT BROWNE AND DUSTIN PARKER-“The Jeopardy! Teen Tournament JUST. GOT. REAL.
Leonard Cooper didn’t know the final Jeopardy answer but he still won and he made a hilarious joke at the end (in cartoon format);

BILL SIMMONS-“Daring to Ask the PED Question”
Simmons talks a lot about PED’s in this forum.  Of course, to me PED is my initials.  For him (and sports fans) it is performance enhancing drugs.  He asks why sports doesn’t do more about it.  There are so many people who do it that every time we see someone who might be doing it or who suddenly has a good season, we assume they are doing them too.  It would be a service to the players and the fans to have rigorous testing or none at all.

CHRIS RYAN AND ROBERT MAYS-“The NFL Coaches Family Portrait By the Numbers”
A silly analysis of a photo of NFL coaches.

WESLEY MORRIS-“Jodie Foster’s Big Night”
What exactly did Jodie Foster say at the Golden Globes? (This was in January and everybody talked about it and now it’s September and I’ve completely forgotten about it—funny ephemera of pop culture).

JONATHAN ABRAMS-“Out of Africa”
A serious look at trying to bring basketball to Africa. How the culture and language problems make it very difficult to establish any real cohesion in the diverse country.  But there are a few examples of boys coming from Africa and benefiting from host families and then heading back to help those who love basketball back home.  The main focus is on a 15-year-old Alexis Wangmene who came to the States (and left his family!) to try to gain an education and basketball skills.  It’s a heartfelt story.

MOLLY LAMBERT-“Modern Love”
About the show Catfish which just goes to show we can sink even lower as a culture.

CHUCK KLOSTERMAN-“Mental Health Protocol”
About Royce White again.  Last time there was a lengthy look at him.  Now we get to hear that he thinks that everyone has some kind of mental health issue.

ANDY GREENWALD-“Eat Bray Love”
How cooking shows have gone from educational to crazy and annoying. He dislikes Top Chef and the new Anthony Bourdain show The Taste (which he says is awful) but he likes a decent show called Chopped.

ZACH LOWE-“The Fragile Science of Basketball Chemistry”
Sure the Heat were great this year, but it’s the way they evolved as a team, creating chemistry, that is so impressive.

RAFE BARTHOLOMEW-“The Pariah”
Timothy Bradley beat Manny Pacquiao in a disputed judges call.  Instead of rising to fame, he has been avoided like the plague.

BILL SIMMONS-“The All-Manti Te’o Mailbag
Remember that crazy story about the football guy with the dead girlfriend who turned out to be fake?  I never really understood the story and while they spend a lot of time talking and theorizing about it I still don’t get it.  Did they ever find out the truth about it?

CHRIS BROWN-“Speak My Language”
When you play for the Patriots, you learn their way of doing things—it is simple and efficient, a streamlined version of what other coaches try to do.

KIRK GOLDSBERRY-“The Evolution of LeBron James”
Using diagrams, we see how much of a different player James is in just the last few years with The Heat.  This article has made me want to watch James in a game while he is at his peak.  So, Heat vs Bulls at the end of October, you’re on my schedule.

SEAN McINDOE-“The Non-Hater’s Guide to the NHL”
Even people who hate everyone in the NHL (which is everyone) can agree that there are some players who are universally admired: Martin Brodeur, Pavel Satsyuk. Teemu Selanne, Jarome Iginla, Jonathan Toews, Martin St. Louis, Gabriel Landeskog, Patrick Elias (Devils get two!), Ryan Smyth, Steve Sullivan, Saku Koivu, Henrik Lundqvist.

ALEX PAPPADEMAS-“God Needs a Hobby”
A look at Dan Harmon and his podcast Harmontown.  Harmon seems like he might be a crazy alcoholic, but he’s also pretty darn funny.

MARK TITUS-“Duke’s Ignominious Son”
Everybody hates Christian Laettner, but that’s only because he’s pretty and he made The Shot

MARK LISANTI-“Three Days in Austin”
Dealing with the craziness of the South by Southwest film festival.  Sounds awful.

HUA HSU-“The Alien Has Landed”
Soccer legend Ronaldo returns to Old Trafford

BILL SIMMONS-“The Greatest Action Franchise That Ever Was”
Live blogging the Fast and Furious 6 trailer.  I admit I may have to see these films after reading this.

ZACH LOWE-“Lights, Camera, Revolution”
There’s some kind of new technology that will change the NBA forever.  I pretty much don’t care.

TESS LYNCH-“Nostalgia Bites”
Watching old Real World episodes shows how much things have changed in reality TV, but also how much certain behaviors are not new.

BRIAN PHILLIPS-“Maradona, Then and Now”
Maradona was an amazing kid—at 15 he was remarkable at his ball control.  Now at 52 he’s a crazy loon. What exactly happened in between?

ANDY GREENWALD-“From Big to Small, From Movie to TV”
Why not make Men in Black into a TV show—with some other film recommendations.

AMOS BARSHAD-“How Soccer Explains Israel”
I didn’t expect to enjoy this but I found it very interesting.  An Israeli soccer team has signed two Muslim players and it has caused incredible animosity and even arson.  How this look at a team is like a microcosm of the whole Israeli situation.

LOUISA THOMS-“Back to School”
Missy Franklin won a  ton of medals in the Olympics.  And then she went back to high school.  What’s it like to be on her team at Regis Jesuit?

WESLEY MORRIS-“Run, Frank, Run”
Frank Ocean apparently wasn’t as huge as I thought he was.

MALCOLM GLADWELL AND CHUCK KLOSTERMAN–“The Lies He Told”
More about Manti Te’o. This discussion was a bit more helpful about what happened and how crazy it is.

CHRIS RYAN AND REMBERT BROWNE-“A List of Possible Reasons for Rob Gronkowski’s Arm Infection”
Hypothetical humor.

JORDAN CONN-“The Invisible Man”
Marc Gasol is extremely respected by scouts and agents, but the fans all think of him as Pau Gasol’s chubby little brother.

REMBERT BROWNE-“French Quarter Lessons”
While in New Orleans for the Super Bowl, Browne decided to go to a bunch of used bookstores.  This is very funny and enjoyable.

JAY CASPIAN KANG-“Fiercely Disputed”
Mike Tyson’s one man show is weird and strangely affecting.

KATIE BAKER-“Do Svidanya to All That”
Several NHL players went to Russia’s KHL during the lockout.  And some don’t want to come back.

CHRIS RYAN-“The All-Star Circus”
NBA All-Star weekend is a crazy circus (and sounds worse than the above SXSW festival).

CHUCK KLOSETRMAN AND ALEX PAPPADEMAS-“The Nobituary”
There was a serious rumor that David Bowie was on death’s door.  Klosterman and Pappademas imagine writing his obituary.

DAVID SHOEMAKER-“Glenn Beck vs. WWE”
The WWE has always had racists as part of the act.  What happens when some goons start acting like the Tea Party?

DAVID JACOBY-“The Pure Heart Meets The Bachelor
Jacoby’s grandmother watches The Bachelor and he feels badly for her.

STEVEN HYDEN-“Is This It?”
The Strokes’ fifth album had just come out [really?].  It could be their last, but Hyden thinks their last two have been quite good.

BILL SIMMONS-“The Heat in Hindsight”
The Miami Heat came close to breaking the longest winning streak in the NBA.  Simmons looks at the fallout and who “wins” and “loses” in the effort.

CHARLES P. PIERCE-“Bleu, Blanc et Rouge
I had no idea that Charlie Pierce was a Canadiens fan!

KATIE BAKER-“The Ethics of a Family Plan”
Is it ethical to pretend that you are married to your roommate to get a family discount a ta gym?  Hell yes.

EMILY YOSHIDA-“A Dark Force”
J.J. Abrams is going to direct the next Star Wars films.  Why, when sci-fi is so multifaceted and so different is everything coming down to J.J. Abrams?

SEAN FENNESSEY-“The Case Against Justin Timberlake”
Timberlakes’s previous album was amazing.  Then he took years off to make (bad) film and (good) TV.  His star would only continue to rise if he stopped making music and only hinted that he would make another album.  But the release of his new album (which isn’t that good) can only hurt him.

BRYAN CURTIS-“Waiting for Bettman”
While many New Yorker’s didn’t care about the NHL strike, Canadian writers camped out waiting for Bettman to announce the strike was over.

WESLEY MORRIS-“30 Rock Landed on Us”
30 Rock was many things, but it dealt with racial issues (at least between blacks and whites) better than any show.

RANY JAZAYERLI-“Fall of the Evil Empire”
The New York Yankees look like they won’t make the playoff this year (this was written in March and as of my writing this they have a slim chance at getting the wild card slot).  It will be the firs time in a while, perhaps, just perhaps, it’s the start of a new drought for the Evil Empire.

BILL BARNWELL-“The Master Raven”
Ozzie Davis knows how to pick players for the Baltimore Ravens.

REMBERT BROWNE AND DUSTIN PARKER-The Best Chappelle’s Show Sketches of All Time”
Done as a series of cartoons (by Parker); Browne picks his eight favorites:

  1. Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories: Prince
  2. Wayne Brady’s Show
  3. Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories: Rick James
  4. Black Bush (especially now that Obama is president)
  5. Clayton Bigsby: Black White Supremacist
  6. Making the Band (P. Diddy)
  7. The Racial Draft (Tiger Woods Now 100% Black)
  8. The Niggar Family (uncomfortable and hilarious no matter how many times you watch it).

Once again, there’s another great issue of Grantland.  Once again, I wish they would follow up on some of their speculative stories.  But it’s fun to have a time capsule of events that occurred just a few months ago and yet which I have totally forgotten about.

And here’s the cover of The Outer Limits in non 3D style (which I haven’t see before)

voivodouter2

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grantldnSOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-Killing Technology (1987).

killingAs I said, this album’s art looks much better.  And you can hear from the first notes that this album is better produced and is going to be a lot more interesting than the previous two.  It’s hard to know just how much of a leap this is from Rrröööaaarrr because that album was so muddy–maybe there were gems of guitar chords under all that noise.  Like the previous openings, there’s a sort of prologue to the album.  But unlike the previous album’s swirls, this one is beeping with a computer voice announcing “we are connected”

The opening chords are heavy, but man they sound clear—like they weren’t recorded underground.  You can also hear all of Piggy’s weird higher notes—he’s playing complicated chords, not just solo notes.  And when the chorus of “Killing Technology” rolls around, it offers stop and start rhythms and Snake’s voice even goes up an octave at the end.  But the first real indication that Piggy is on to something new comes in the bridge. Underneath the robotic voice, Piggy is playing some really strange-sounding chords.  The story is that he had been admiring Robert Fripp’s guitar work and so he added some of those King Crimson-y angular weird chords to his repertoire.  And he melds them perfectly with the heavy thrash that the band had been playing.

Lyrically also, this album has moved away from killing and headaches.  “Killing Technology” while having “killing” in the title is a very different subject:

The star wars have started up
The new invention is coming out
Making a spider web over the atmosphere
To make them sure that we can’t get out of here

Computers controlling your functions
Seems like we got electronic alienation
Trading children for a new kind of robot
Waiting for the old people to disappear

Quite a departure from Rrröööaaarr’s “Fuck Off and Die”

Stand up, right now, kill

No pleasure, the pain comes down here
No return, don’t look back, there’s no tomorrow
And if you’re a fucker and don’t believe it
I’d say fuck off and die, fuck off and die

“Overreaction” leans more towards the heavier side—Snake screams a bit more—but the subject (nuclear disaster) is thoughtful.  Then comes their first truly amazing song: “Tornado.”  Not only building like a tornado, this song allows them to talk about violent imagery without resorting to bloodshed. It’s even scientific:

Cumulonimbus storms arrive
Lightning flashes a hundred miles around
Electrical collision course
Creates the elephant trunk

But the best part is the chorus—it’s simple enough (just the word Tornado repeated) but it’s completely catchy and sing-alongable with bright major key chords.

“Forgotten in Space” features some great drumming from Away—he’s really quite underrated both in speed and technique—which explands even more on later albums.  “Ravenous Medicine” is another highlight—an interesting series of uncomfortable chords opens this track about scientific research.  It’s a pretty fast, heavy song.  Although not too complicated except for the occasional breaks as the story progresses.

“Order of the Blackguards” is another fast song, but this one has so many parts that if you don’t like one, just wait a few seconds for the next one.  “This is Not an Exercise” ends the disc proper.  The middle section has a great heavy riff.  But it’s the beginning of the ending sequence which is so perfectly sci-fi that really sets the tone of the album and looks towards the next one.  It’s cool to think of Piggy playing these spacey chords on his guitar.  And when Blacky’s bass rumbles in to resume the song, it’s quintessential Voivod.

By th way, this disc is a concept album as well.  There’s a “Killing Side” (the first three songs) and a “Ravenous Side.”  The strange thing about the CD though is that they have added two tracks from their Cockroaches EP which is nicockroachesce.  But they put one song at track 4 (the end of side one).  How odd to put a bonus track in the middle of a sequenced album.

The EP came out before the album and it has a slightly different feel from the album proper.  Although as a step towards Killing Technology it’s perfectly in sync.  “Too Scared to Scream” is heavy and has some interesting time changes—I love the way the song feels like it is crashing to a halt around 3:30.   “Cockroaches” feels like more traditional metal.  It opens with drums and Piggy playing a typical sounding metal solo.  Then the riffing starts and it’s very heavy indeed. Even the staggered section near the end sounds like a mosh section more than the prog time changes that Voivod uses on the album proper.  The song ends with Snake screaming as the cockroaches are coming.  A good ending to the EP and a pretty good ending to the disc.

The whole album has a very mechanical and robotic feel—the chords that Piggy plays just sound like mechanical failure, it’s very well constructed and foreshadows the music of their future.

[READ: July 9, 2013] Grantland #6

Grantland #6 covers from Sept 2012-Dec 2012.  Despite the short time frame, this is the largest issue yet.  And it maintains all the quality that I’ve come to expect from the book/magazine thing.  Which means, I love the writing (especially about people/sports I’m not that interested in).  And it also means that the editing is typically crap.  In this issue the editing was crap more because they simply forgot to remove mention of hyperlinks.  At least I assume that’s why sentences like “See here for ____” are included in any given article.  But yes, there are some very simple typos that Word would correct pretty easily.

But beyond that, I really enjoyed this issue.  And I’m finding it amusing how much certain people and shows crop up in a given time frame.  So this is a four month period and Kobe Bryant still dominates (there will never be an issue without at least one Kobe article).  But this time Homeland is the big show (since Breaking Bad has been on hiatus I gather).  Basketball remains the favorite sport here (even though they speak of football as being the most popular sport).

Chuck Klosertman and Charlie Pierce continue to write thoughtful (sometimes funny) articles.  And I like how there is still talk of Jeremy Lin even if Linsanity has gone away somewhat. (more…)

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grantlandSOUNDTRACK: The xx–Live at KEXP (July 25, 2012).

I xxkexphave casually seen The xx on a few shows and I’m intrigued by them.  I’ve never really given their albums any time though, so I can’t say anything much about them.

However, I really enjoy the sound they get live (which is funny since in the article below they talk about how much of a perfectionist Jamie, the studio tech guy, is about the recordings).

This set from KEXP (KEXP always has great audio quality) contains four songs “Fiction” “Reunion” “Sunset” and “Angels.”  And I have to say the band sounds amazing.  So close, so clean, so intimate.  Oliver’s voice is right there, whispering in your ears, and Romy’s guitars sound gorgeous–gentle vibrato, chiming chords; her voice is also beautiful.

The thing that throws me about The xx is how spare their music is.  Sometimes it’s almost like there’s no music at all. And I keep thinking of reasons why I wouldn’t enjoy such simple music (it’s usually not my thing). Or that it should only be experienced in a dark room by yourself.  But the melodies are so beautiful that I think they’ve made a convert of me.  I really adore these songs.  And I must have heard “Angels” somewhere because it is completely familiar.

I wonder if they sound this good on record.  You can watch the show here:

[READ: July 9, 2013] Grantland #5

Grantland continues to impress me with articles about sports that I don’t care about.  They style that the writers have (and the humor they impart) is wonderful.  And it goes to show that if you are passionate about something you can make it interesting to anyone.  So, even if I don’t know who some of the people who they’re talking about are, I can still enjoy what they say about them.  Plus, their entertainment coverage is really fun, too.

BILL SIMMONS-“Battle of the Olympic Heavyweights”
I really enjoyed this article which compares Olympic swimming and gymnastics to see which one “wins” in this battle for TV coverage and the hearts of Olympic fans (hint: it’s gymnastics, but Simmon’s categories are very good).

BRIAN PHILLIPS-“The Death’s Head of Wimbledon”
Phillips tries to cover Wimbledon and finds it very difficult to manage because it is all designed for TV, not in person coverage.

REMBERT BROWNE-“I Feel Like a Free Man”
The amazing decision of Frank Ocean to come out and how little it impacted his career. (more…)

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grantladn4SOUNDTRACK: PUBLIC IMAGE LTD-“Poptones” and “Careering” on American Bandstand (1980).

abThe Dick Clark article below alerted me to this bizarre gem–PiL “playing” on American Bandstand.   The article talks about John Lydon ignoring the lip synch, climbing into the audience and generally disregarding the show’s script. The video suggests something sightly less sinister (although maybe for 1980 it was outrageous–do you really cross Dick Clark?).

Dick Clark himself announces the band nicely, and then the crazy off-kilter bass and simple guitar of “Poptones” kick in.   Lydon runs into the bleachers with the kids (most of whom are dressed in New Wave finery not unlike Lydon).  They shriek with glee when he comes nearby (do any of them know who he is?  I have no idea).  When Lydon’s spoken rambling come in a little later you can’t help but wonder what the hell they are doing on AB.

Then, Lydon starts grabbing people from the audience and pushing them towards the stage–something I believe was unheard of on AB.  The fans dance around to the impossible-to-dance-to “Poptones.”  The song ends and Dick asks John if he wants the kids out there for song two.  Yes, song Two!  He does and John faux lip synchs through “Careering,” avoiding cameras at all costs and dancing with the kids–one of the most egalitarian performances I can think of from Lydon.

And listen for Dick asking Jah Wobble his name (reply THE Jah Wobble) and him saying, nice to meet you Wobble.  What a surreal moment–wonder what Dick thought of it.

Enjoy it here:

 

[READ: December 28, 2012] Grantland 4

Grantland continues to impress me with these books (and no, I have not yet visited the website).  My subscription ran out with this issue and I have resubscribed–although I take major issue with the $20 shipping and handling fee.  I even wrote to them to complain and they wrote back saying that the books are heavy.  Which is true, but not $5/bk heavy.  The good news is that they sent me a $10 off coupon so the shipping is only half as painful now.

This issue’s endpages were “hypothetical baseball wheel-guides created by JASON OBERG–they were pretty cool and a fun idea.  They look very retro, but use contemporary batters, pitchers and catchers.  I’d like to see them for real.

Each issue makes me like sports a little bit more, but not enough to actually watch  them.

(more…)

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After enjoying yet another article from Outside, I figured it was time to subscribe, you know, give the magazine makers some money for their work.

I decided to wait for three issues to offer a verdict because the first two were really disappointing.  Subscriptions run $2 an issue with a list price of $7.  I haven’t really talked about subscription prices of other magazines before but this one is quite high.  It’s staggeringly high for the amount of ads that are in the magazine, too.  They have a half a dozen advertorials which look like articles (which I hate) and all those personals in the back.  Plus the mag is littered with ads for gear (which I know gear people love but still  it should impact the price of the magazine.  Sheesh).

So the articles I’ve enjoyed in the past were personal stories (from the likes of Wells Tower, etc).  They are extended pieces by reasonably famous authors and they have a great voice.  In the issues I’ve received so far, the feature stories have been the 50 Best Jobs and Are You Tough Enough?  That Jobs one seems like a fun article and indeed the places they chose were interesting.   Although this was more of a fluff piece than a real article–no one is getting a job looking at these companies–certainly not just because they read about it here.  Also, note that none of the companies are East of the Mississippi.  There’s also later article on adventure seeking entrepreneurs.  Yawn.  I gather that the Are You Tough enough type of article is the real meat and potatoes of the magazine, with headlines like “Eat Like a Champion” and “Surfing Monster Waves,” the actual target audience for this magazine must be slim indeed.  I know it’s not me. (more…)

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