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Archive for the ‘Cars’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: CLOUD CULT-“That Man Jumped Out the Window” (Field Recordings, September 12, 2012).

I feel like I know the name Cloud Cult, but this song sounded entirely alien to me.  This was an other Field Recording [Cloud Cult: A Moment Of Serenity] set backstage at Sasquatch! Music Festival.

I love the drama that they set up with this blurb

We were about to call it. The band was running late, our phone service wasn’t working well backstage in the remoteness of the Sasquatch Music Festival in rural Washington state, and the next band was about to begin on the main stage nearby — thus making the prospect of a Field Recording impossible. Then, suddenly, a white van rolled up, straight from the main gate, and out popped six musicians with stringed and brass instruments. Within minutes, they’d set up, sound-checked and performed a jaw-dropping rendition of “That Man Jumped Out the Window” (from 2005’s Advice From the Happy Hippopotamus) with no practice whatsoever.

I enjoy the orchestral nature of this song–reminding me of many other bigger bands that I like quite a lot.

It took me a couple of listens to “get” this song–there’s a lot of different vocal parts, almost as responses to the main part.

It opens with an acoustic guitar and is accompanied by strings and a French horn.  But the main verse is all acoustic guitar and cello (with stark backing vocals–the vocals are not really pretty exactly (they’re not un-pretty either), just powerful).

I’m not sure that this song is all that memorable for me, but I love reading this about the band:

More a family than a band, the Minneapolis collective does everything with purpose, talent and conviction, from its environmentally conscious lifestyle — in which it self-produces and releases albums from its geothermal-powered organic farm — to its charitable efforts to its emotive, even cathartic songwriting.

The song is quite pretty–although I wonder if it would be more so in a fuller setting.  But as It ended, I found myself enjoying it and wanting to hear it again.  Someone asks if they should do another take.

Then, just as the song ended and the band members finally had a chance to view the majestic natural scenery around them — and as we prepared to record another take, just in case — the festival roared back to life. But for those few minutes, we were able to stop, breathe and take in the emotional significance of a moment of serenity. At which point Cloud Cult piled back into the van and rode off to its next gig.

[READ: April 7, 2016] “Indianapolis (Highway 74)”

This story was published in the New Yorker just eight weeks after the previous Sam Shepard story.  I had to look him up and it is the same Shepard who has been writing since forever.  But he is not especially known for his noir books.  His style has changed over the years although he does often write about rootless characters and absurdist ideas.

So this story is about a rootless character, “I’ve been crisscrossing the country again, without much reason.”  This character drives all over the place for long stretches of time.  On this particular night with a blizzard heading into town, he pulls into a Holiday Inn (more for its familiar green logo and predictability than anything else).

But when he asks for a room, they are booked.  There is some kind of hot rod convention in town–which he thinks is odd for the winter, but whatever.

The concierge tells him that there is one room that might be available–the people haven’t shown up and are going to call to confirm whether the weather will prevent them from showing up.

So he waits. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FILASTINE-“Btalla” and “Dance of the Garbagemen.” (Field Recordings, April 4, 2012).

When I first saw the title of this Field Recording, [Filastine And The Cathedral Of Junk], I assumed it was going to be all found sounds.  So I was surpirsed that there was so much electronic music.

“Btalla” starts with some electronic drums and noises and Grey Filastine playing the hand drum–a very nice organic component. Its also surprising that the other musician is a cellist. She is almost lost in the din, but you can hear her slow notes throughout the piece–until he starts manipulating her sounds in very cool ways.

He’d say he was a radical before he’d say he was a musician — a laptop artist with a love of grit and noise. Grey Filastine, once based in Seattle but now a nomad loosely based in Barcelona, is a creative soul. He seems to also love a good party, a beat and a shopping cart wired for sound.

For the second piece, “Dance of the Garbagemen.”, it’s just him manipulating sounds and then using a shopping cart for added percussion.

With that in mind, we asked Filastine to perform at a junkyard in Austin — not just any junkyard, either, but a place called “The Cathedral of Junk.” It’s a home for more than 60 tons of unwanted consumer has-been items, transformed into art installations by Vince Hannemann.

With a song title like that and the location he’s in, it feels like something of a lost opportunity that he doesn’t use a lot more junk.  But it is fun to see him make music from and amid refuse (and art).

[READ: November 15, 2017] “Riddle”

This was yet another story that I felt was just kind of a big, What?  There’s a lot of action, but the story seems to stay in the mind of the protagonist who has other things to think about.

The whole story is told in this haze of confusion: “I must have been renting a place on H Street.”  “I was an architect.”  He talks about the area being slowly abandoned and his upstairs neighbor walking up a rickety outdoor staircase.  But all of these details seem irrelevant to the story.

He says he went drinking and came out of the bar only to see a “crippled old cowboy” walking the street.  He had seen the man before and he thought there weren’t many people like him left in town.  But then he heard a young boy, an urchin call out Hey Jack!  They seemed to experience pure joy talking to each other.  The narrator was quite taken with it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANTHONY ROTH COSTANZO-Tiny Desk Concert #789 (September 21, 2018).

The first thing you see when you look at this Tiny Desk Concert is the amazing harpsichord–large and decorated like an old-fashioned leather-bound book.  It is stunning.

But you’re only likely to notice it if you haven’t first heard Costanzo’s voice and then had a look at him.

A word about Costanzo’s voice. He is a countertenor, a man who sings in the range of a female alto. The roots of the tradition date way back to the 1500s, when young male singers, called “castrati,” were castrated in order to preserve their high, flexible voices.

“I’ve managed to do it without castration,” Costanzo joked to the audience of NPR staffers. These days, countertenors sing in falsetto, and while as recently as 30 years ago it was considered something of an androgynous novelty, now countertenors are part and parcel of the opera world.

The music is exceptional and is wonderfully modern with that classical feel that opera naturally seems to add.

Costanzo performs songs from his new album, which pairs music by George Frideric Handel with Philip Glass. Strange bedfellows perhaps, and born more than 250 years apart, but somehow Glass’ repetitive, staccato beats and Handel’s long, flowing melodies manage to shake hands across the centuries.

The first piece is by Philip Glass.  And the music sounds like perfect chamber pop.  The flute plays the Glassian up and down melody while the bassoon plays the wonderful, peculiar bass notes.

One obvious common thread is the arrangements, by Nicholas DeMaison, that Costanzo commissioned expressly for this performance, featuring harpsichordist Bryan Wagorn (playing a beautiful double-manual French-styled instrument built by Thomas and Barbara Wolf), along with flutist Alice Teyssier and bassoonist Rebekah Heller.

Glass’ “Liquid Days,” begins with a recitative introduction, similar to a Handel aria. But the lyrics, by David Byrne, depict love, in all its quotidian splendor.

It is somewhat strange to hear a countertenor (or even if he were a female singing alto) singing lyrics in English.  His voice is truly amazing.

It is even more peculiar to hear the word “television.”  But Byrne’s lyrics are pretty awesome:

We are old friends
I offer love a beer
Love watches television

Love needs a bath
Love could use a shave
Love rolls out of the chair and wiggles on the floor
Jumps up
I’m laughing at love
I’m laughing at love

And all the while Costanzo’s voice sounds operatic, serious, significant.

Costanzo’s agile voice, with its polished tone and patrician phrasing, is a singular reminder that we live in a golden age of countertenors – guys who sing high in music both ancient and modern.

Up next is Handel’s “Pena tiranna” (From ‘Amadigi di Gaula’) which means, I have a tyrannous pain in my heart and I can never hope to find peace.  It opens with harpsichord and bassoon, a wonderful combination.  The flute then enters to play a harmony with his voice.

“Pena tiranna,” from Handel’s undervalued Amadigi di Gaula, is a compelling example of how well the composer can spin a gorgeous melody to evoke the deepest anguish.

The final piece is from Glass: “In the Arc of Your Mallet” (from ‘Monsters of Grace’)” which has a text by the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi.  It speaks of longing in sexy undertones.  He says that in this translation brings out the strange, layered longing–sometimes dirty–meaning under the surface.

Anthony Roth Costanzo is a feisty performer who knows a thing or two about busting down barriers in classical music. After all, opera singers don’t normally belt out arias behind office desks, and they don’t insist on lugging harpsichords with them. They also don’t routinely sing in Bronx middle school classrooms and get students talking about emotions. But Costanzo is fearless. (And after seeing this amazing Tiny Desk performance, watch him melt the hearts of distracted sixth-graders.)

[READ: January 9, 2017] “The Driver”

I never anticipated where this story was going.  And the direction it took to get there was really interesting.

It begins with the story of Mrs Quantrill, a respectable woman who managed to get their house listed on the Nation Register of Historic Places.  She and her husband were philanthropists and they threw legendary parties.

There’s an aside that says when their son Spencer inherited the house, he demolished it and replaced it with storage units.

But at the time of this story Spencer is 9 years old.  And Mrs Quantrill has been called into the principal’s office because Spencer is struggling.  Spencer is nervous and doesn’t know what to do with his, feet, his eyes or his hands. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JESSE BOYKINS III-“4 U 2 B Free” (Field Recordings, October 8, 2014).

This Field Recording [Jesse Boykins III Breaks It Down] starts with a lot of ambient noise–a giant overhead fan–which I thought might be an interesting component to the song.  But once Boykins starts singing, it’s just his voice. And that’s all–it’s a lovely a capella performance.

The day after playing a set at the Superdome during the Essence Music Festival this summer, eclectic R&B singer Jesse Boykins III wandered into Mardi Gras World — an expansive, airy warehouse packed wall to wall with floats used in New Orleans’ infamous parades. The floats are built from the ground up in-house, so Boykins found himself surrounded by unfinished works and spare parts.

It’s creepy and unsettling to see these giant heads–eyeballs at eyeball height, but just a head–staring at you.  It’s also surreal with the various colors and shapes and the head of Abraham Lincoln looking on as Jesse sings.

He sang one of the most emotional tracks from his latest album a cappella. While singing “4 U 2 B Free,” Boykins pulled back the layers of his own creation, matching his performance to the exposed, oddly vulnerable characters surrounding him.

But Boykins’ performance is really powerful especially at the end as his wonderful high notes as if no no one is watching.

[READ: October 4, 2017] “Enter the Ford: Lost Chapters from A Death in the Family”

I knew nothing about this book, so I had to look it up.

The first chapter sees a young by, Rufus, waking up wearily with his dad.  The boy is very excited and the father seems pretty delighted to be awake with his son so early.  They try their best not to wake the baby girl or the mom.  Of course the mom wakes up and asks for the dad to do some things before he leaves.  The dad makes breakfast–with stern admonitions to the boy not get burnt by the coffee pot, bacon or stove–and then he helps the boy with the difficult buttons.

We don’t know too much about the dad yet, but this exchange is interesting:

“You’re getting pretty good, buttoning yourself.” he said.  Rufus said nothing.
His father thought damn fool thing to tell a child; dumb as a fish.

In the second chapter they head out to Chilhowee Park and the entire chapter is given over to the most exquisite descriptions of this amusement park through the eyes of Rufus.  Everything is amazing and wonderful and the language is of a person taking everything in–from the color of the lake to the swans on the water to the roller coaster and the fairy’s wheel.

And then came the merry-go-round.  We learn how first Rufus rode only on the bench.  And then was allowed to ride the horses that did not go up and down.  And then on the up and down horses only if his dad was holding on.  And finally, today, to ride the up and down one by himself.  The amount of detail about the merry-go round is wonderful.

The only thing more wonderful than the merry-go-round was the little train.  We hear his father’s kind words about how amazing the train is.

Then things go sour a little because there’s also the arcades–where adults play games of chance.  There’s games that one never won–like the seventeen jewel watch.  But the worst was a place where there was “a darky with his head through a hole.”  And the people were meant to, as the carny said, “hit the nigger in the head and you get a cigar.”

Rufus’ mom hated this game.  And Jay wasn’t too keen on it either.  The one time they were there, Jay conceded that the man’s got to make money some way.  Jay tried to ease his wife’s concerns by showing her that the ball wasn’t that hard.  He lifted it up but she refused to even touch it.  The carny got mad at him for touching the ball. And Jay got huffy back.  She calmed him and he walked away.

But on this visit, he did not back down. the carny did. And that made Jay’s day even better.

Chapter 3

This chapter opens with Jay and his wife, Laura, talking about something extravagant.  She wants it, he doesn’t seem to want it and he seems to twist her words against her.

It comes out that he wants to get a car so that they can visit the in-laws once in a while.  She is nervous that cars are dangerous.  He admits they are but sometimes living in a house is dangerous.  But he says that having a wife and kids means he will be even more careful than everyone else out there who has nothing to be careful about.

She agrees to the car.  But in the middle of the night she has a premonition of something bad happening to the family in the car.  He says that they won’t get one.  Then later she gets over the premonition and agrees that they should go ahead and get one.

Chapter Four.

And then daddy drove home in a gas buggy–a new ford  Rufus is thrilled.  Laura can’t believe he drove it there all by himself.  And the neighbors all come out to gawk.

“Course they got an awful name for breaking down… But where Ford’s ahead, he supplies you the parts.”

They go for a before-dinner ride.  Jay drives very well and everyone is enjoying themselves.  Laura is nervous and says so, but he is careful and considerate of them.  He pulls over when another car comes by and he is very cautious around a horse and buggy–the horse is not spooked at all.  But their joy ridge is somewhat ruined by a speed demon who comes buzzing by them scaring them all half to death.

As the excerpt ends, Jay and Rufus take the car out for a spin and Jay really lets the speed fly.  They almost have an accident but Jay is able to handle it and he confides in the boy that they must never tell their mom that they went fast.  He agrees.

I don’t actually know much else about this story.  Between the title and what kind of tension a scene like this builds I expected something bad to happen.  It never did (hooray), but i assume it does),

The writing in this story was exceptional.

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SOUNDTRACK: GUSTER-Keep It Together Live from The Beacon Theatre (2014).

In 2014, Guster released three CDs of them playing their early CDs live in their entirety (excluding for some reason their second disc Goldfly).  This is their fourth CD ‘Keep It Together’ recorded live in concert at The Beacon Theatre on November 30, 2013, ten years after its release.

As the disc opens, Ryan shouts, “Keep It Together starts now.”  This makes me think that they played other songs before it?  It would be great to hear an album in its entirety but not if that’s all they played.

After the first song, “Diane,” Ryan jokes,  “I guess there no real surprises in the setlist from here on out.”

Midway through the show, he comments that as an active band making new music, you want to be careful not to trade in nostalgia.  But he also knows that if one of his favorite bands played one of his favorite albums…it would be magical.

The band sounds great.  And, fortunately, it’s one of those shows where the live recording sounds at times even better than the original.

The only real divergence from the album is that after “Homecoming “King” they play “Chariots of Fire” on piano and strings.  I’m not sure why, but it’s fun.

One of the great moments of any Guster concert is when they play “Come Downstairs and Say Hello” and the Thundergod plays the bongos and smashes the cymbals with his hands.  It’s more fun to see it, but it’s great in this case to hear it.

“Red Oyster Cult” sounds great with the horns as an addition and Ben Kweller comes out and sings lead on the first verse of “I Hope Tomorrow is Like Today” (I had no idea he co-wrote it!).  They even leave a slight pause for the “hidden track” of “Two at a Time.”

This is a great version of this album, and well worth the listen.

[READ: June 2, 2018] “Fungus”

This is a story about carrying on after the unthinkable. But not just carrying on, carrying on with the mundane things that you can’t live without but remind you of exactly what happened.

The story opens with an insurance check and talk of geckos.  But the tone is not lighthearted like Geico commercials.  Andrew has access to Ingrid and Ron’s car, but really, he can only borrow it for so long.  It is time to buy a new one.

So Andrew and his daughter Willa go to the Subaru dealer.

These two scenes are simple enough, but they are fraught with meaning–with the undertone of what happened and how Andrew is allowed and allowing himself to deal with it.   There’s darkly funny thoughts (he’d like a homemade sign around his next that says “I don’t know”).  But the reality is that he has to go on for Willa’s sake, if not his own.

And then there’s this idea which is perfect for the story but works wonders in everyday life: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ILL CAMILLE-Tiny Desk Concert #746 (May 25, 2018).

I don’t know if Ill Camille’s style is West Coast, but it definitely differs from a lot of rappers.  Her style is smooth, almost gentle.  “Her voice is like a cool drink on a summer’s day: smooth, clear and replenishing.”

But her lyrics are powerful and thoughtful:

Her refreshing self-awareness and raw honesty are inherent in each song, pairing nicely with the jazzy, melodic rhythms provided by her close knit crew of musicians.

Ill Camille strays a bit from the hip-hop zeitgeist. She raps about love and family serving as the source of her strength, the importance of self-worth as a woman, and the necessity to nurture oneself from within. That core keeps her secure even when confronted by the despair of poverty and the difficult grind of a young artist. And you can hear all that front and center in her music.

She plays 4 songs with a live band.

The first two songs, “Spider’s Jam” and “Live it Up,” feature long time collaborators of Camille’s, Iman Omari on keys and drummer Greg Paul of Inglewood collective The Katalyst.

“Spider’s Jam” is about her uncle.  She sounds almost casual in her delivery, like she;s just speaking not rapping (which is why it’s so cool that it works so well).  The chorus of “handed it down” is pretty cool–very different from pop hip hop.

On “Live It Up,” Greg Paul plays a kind of lite jazz drums style.  Camille says, “This is my version of trap.”  Iman Omari on keys sings the chorus and adds a Jamaican flair to the song.

“Fight On” features guest vocals from emcee Damani Nkosi, who’s been rocking with Camille since her debut album.

Aneesa Strings, a bassist from the Bay Area, provided the low end foundation while also lending her rich vocals to “Fight On.”

I like the shout outs to everyone to fight on.

 “Again,” is an ode to happiness and self-actualization.  It’s got a cool funky bass line.  The break it down section is pretty great and when it comes back out to that great bass line, the song is very cool.

[READ: May 22, 2018] “Stay Down and Take It”

This is a story about an older couple fleeing a storm and something else.

James is home early and he says “goddammit we seriously need to pack.”  They are to “pack light and pack smart.”  Despite the clear skies, something mean and serious is barreling down on them.

James is very stressed and prefers that she not speak on the phone while they are evacuating.  She is annoyed by this but also realizes she is the passenger and the driver should not be stressed out–for her own sake.

She admits “I guess I want James to die.  I don’t want this actively.  Or with malice.  But in a dim and distant way I gently root for James’ absence so that I can proceed to the other side of the years I have left.”

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Vegas 96 (2007).

This show was recorded at the Aladdin Theatre in Las Vegas, Nevada, on December 6, 1996.  The set also includes a DVD.

The show has a great amount of classic songs, a few big rarities, some cool covers and a whole lot of surprises.

Wilson has a really rocking beginning (everyone is going nuts during the can you still have any fun) until just before the “blap boom” part when it slows to a halt with about 20 seconds of squalling feedback.  Then they launch into an excellent non-jamming version of Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia.”  It is followed by a fast romp through “Poor Heart”—one of the fastest I’ve heard.  It ends really noisily and then segues into a funky jam that’s mostly keyboard.  After 5 minutes it resolves into “2001,” which also ends noisily with scratchy guitars that segue into a very fast “Llama.”

This has been a simply rip-roaring show thus far.  And then they settle down for a 26-minute “You Enjoy Myself.”  The “Boy Man” section is very funky and the following jam stays funky with a lot of high-pitched bass soloing from Mike and a lot of percussion thrown in as well.  The song ends with a vocal jam but instead of doing weird sounds and screams, trey starts singing “doh doh doh donuts, I like donuts.”

I tend to think of “YEM” as set-enders (since that’s my experience with them), but this is still mid-set and they follow up with a synth and piano version of “Cars Trucks Buses” which seems like it’s going to morph into “Kung” but instead it becomes a loud, brash “Down with Disease.”  The set ends with a rocking “Frankenstein.”  I tend to thing they play this and “YEM” a lot because they seem to be on a ton of official live recordings.

Set 2 opens with a funky “Julius” (a song I always assume is a cover but which isn’t), and a nice version of “Sparkle” (with a super fast “laughing laughing” section at the end).  “Mike’s Song” runs about 10 minutes with a really noisy middle section and then segues into “Simple.”  There’s a lengthy piano section that turns into a rocking jam that goes on for quite a while (the whole song is over 18 minutes).  It winds down eventually and returns to a lot of piano.  It is followed by a noisy and raucous “Harry Hood” that feel really raw.  The song is 15 minutes and there’s a long solo before the “you can feel good” part.

Then comes a big, 11 minute “Weekapaug Groove.”  About midway through the jam the whole band stops dramatically and perfectly. They run through a bit again and stop perfectly again (except for an extra snare hit).  It’s amazing how tight they are.  The end grows very quiet as the band prepares for a quiet a capella “Sweet Adeline” (it’s so quiet all you hear is the crowd shushing everyone–this is the major downside to them doing these barbershop songs).  They come out of that with a set-ending, totally rocking cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times,” with Fish singing the “I know what it means to be alone” part.

The encore proves to be about 35 minutes long.  There are lots of guests and surprises.  And the band walks through a version of the “Harpua” story.  Ler and Les from Primus come out to start the song.  The chorus is done in half time—which is rather unsettling.  The story leads to Les singing Don Bowman’s “Wildwood Weed.”  I had assumed he made up but he obviously didn’t.  Then it’s back to “Harpua.”   In this version of the story, Jimmy walks to Vegas with his cat Poster Nutbag (Trey tells everyone to put all their money on 17).  As they get “closer to Vegas” they hear voices singing “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” (a song by Patsy Montana).  It is sung by the Yodeling Cowgirls.  (There’s some “Happy Trails” in there as well).  Then there’s more of the “Harpua” story and as they approach Las Vegas they see Four Elvises.  Which leads to a singoff of “Suspicious Minds.”  This contest was between four Elvis impersonators with Fish joining in at the end.  Unmentioned (as far as I can tell) are John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (on backing vocals) and actor Courtney Gains (on percussion). And then everyone launches into a wild “Suzy Greenberg” including the Elvises.  During the jam at the end, one of the Elvises turns the song into “Susie Q.”

This is one of my favorite shows.  The inclusion of the Primus guys and the crazy version of “Harpua” is just spectacular.  And by the end, everyone is having a great time.

[READ: April 1, 2017] “Las Gaviotas”

I enjoyed the way this story seemed really unsettled, just like its protagonist.

Finley is a in a relationship with Neil.  But she is currently hanging out at Brace’s apartment.  Brace is Neil’s old roommate.  Neil is in the other room with Brace’s girlfriend Alice.  They are all pretty drunk.

Brace is everything that Neil is not: he is big–not fat, just big–with a voice and presence to match.  And while Finley loves Neil–she keeps telling us that–there’s something about Brace (that name!) that she is drawn to.  She also hates Brace’s girlfriend Alice who has “otherworldly beauty.” (more…)

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