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Archive for the ‘College’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: OK GO-Tiny Desk Concert #278 (June 3, 2013).

I love OK Go’s music videos.  They are stupendous. I have watched all of them several times.  And yet I can’t remember a single song.  But that doesn’t diminish my appreciation for them.

When NPR was moving offices, they made a “Tiny Desk Concert” of the band proceeding from their old location to the new one.  And in OK Go fashion, they made a great video to go with it.  The music is live (I believe), even though they must have shot the footage hundreds of times.  It’s sort of a stop motion video, except that it’s not single frames but short 2 second clips spliced together.

You can watch as the old office is dismantled, as they walk through the halls to the moving truck.   As they play on the truck in the streets of D.C. and then as they enter the new building.  There are cameos from NPR colleagues: Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, David Greene, Guy Raz, Scott Simon, Alix Spiegel, Susan Stamberg and more.  There’s a hilarious moment with Karl Kassel who gives them a dirty look.  And then they march through the offices, the news room and into the new Tiny Desk location where they finish the song.

The song is fun and catchy and even has new lyrics that reference the NPR move.  It has to be seen to be appreciated.

And if you like figures here are some details from the shoot:

  • Number of video takes: 223
  • Number of seconds Carl Kasell spent in the elevator with OK Go: 98
  • Number of times Ari Shapiro played the tubular bells: 15
  • Number of days it took to shoot: 2
  • Number of cameras: 1

Incidentally, NPR and I are out of sync with our counting of Tiny Desk Concerts.  I can’t figure out what happened.  The reason mine is correct is because I have written down every concert and numbered them.  So I feel that for them one doesn’t count?  They say this was number 277.  Someday they’ll read this and we’ll get to the  bottom of everything.

[READ: April 1, 2016] No Mercy Vol. 1

Because of the way books are being handled at my work now, I don’t get to see as many books as I used to. So i was pretty delighted to get this graphic novel on my desk.  Even if I didn’t quite know what it was about, I wanted to read it.  And boy did I enjoy it.

I had no idea that the cast was a group of aspiring Princeton University students on a per-freshman trip to an underprivileged county (I like the t-shirts that say Building Bridges Helping Hands with a kinda Princeton P on the front.

We meet the cast in a cool way–each one steeping forward a bit in the crowd and giving a bit of information about themselves…mostly through text messages. Oh and I loved the way the opening colophon pages looked just like Facebook (or whatever) with a timeline photo and then on the right side–sponsored images with drawings of the author and the illustrators and an ad for an other Image comic by Alex de Campi called Valentine–genius layout idea.

There’s also a comment under the photo which says “OMG how sad, they were also young.”  So you know something bad is going to happen these poor kids. (more…)

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kalfusSOUNDTRACK: XENIA RUBINOS-Tiny Desk Concert #551 (July 25, 2016).

xeniaI am fascinated by the music of Xenia Rubinos.  Every song in this Tiny Desk Concert has something interesting going on.  But for two of the songs, I can’t stand her voice.  Rubinos seems to sing in a free form jazzy / R&B/ improvised manner.  And it bugs me.  No matter how fun she is to watch (and she is), I just don’t like the way she sings (except on the second song).

But the music!  I love the way “Lonely Lover” opens with some interesting drumming and occasional weirdo samples. But the main melody is created by two bassists! (no guitars or anything else).  It’s such a great melody, slinky and smart, with each bassist playing a different aspect of the melody.  It’s super catchy (and when she sings actual words it works well).  It’s just the moaning and groaning that I can’t stand.

Between the first and second song she takes a dance break.  Then “Mexican Chef” open with a cool staggered bass line that is echoed by the guitar (the guitar (not the riff) sounds kind of 80’s punk) and some funky drums.  The lyrics of this song are right on, too.  It’s  a ruthless critique of the way brown people are treate.  It’s sung in a kind of rap style, with no room for soaring vocals.  It’s a really great song:

French bistro, Dominican chef/Italian restaurant, Boricua chef/Chinese takeout, Mexican chef …. Brown walks your baby/Brown walks your dog/Brown raised America /Brown cleans the house/Brown takes the trash/Brown even wipes your granddaddy’s ass …  Brown breaks his back // Brown takes the flack / Brown gets cut coz his papers are wack. … Brown has not / Brown get shot brown gets what he deserves coz he fought.

Right on.

For the final song, “Laugh Clown,” Rubinos plays solo bass and sings.  The bass is just occasional notes as Rubinos scat/sings.  It’s less interesting than the other two songs, but it makes for a  nice change of pace.

Once I got past her vocal delivery, I found I really liked these songs a lot.

[READ: November 18, 2016] Three Stories

Back in 2014, I ordered all 16 books from Madras Press. Unfortunately, after publishing the 16 books they seem to have gone out of business (actually they are switching to non-fiction, it seems). They still have a web presence where you can buy remaining copies of books.  But what a great business idea this is/was

Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors.  The format of our books provides readers with the opportunity to experience stories on their own, with no advertisements or miscellaneous stuff surrounding them.

The format is a 5″ x 5″ square books that easily fit into a pocket.

Proceeds from Kalfus’ book go to the Free Library of Philadelphia.

As the title suggests, there are three stories in this book. (more…)

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giants-days-2 SOUNDTRACK: THE OH HELLOS-Tiny Desk Concert #493 (December 8, 2015).

ohhelloThe Oh Hellos are technically a duo of Tyler and Maggie Heath.  But live (and here) they play chamber pop with nine members in the band.  They have an accordion, a violin, a banjo, guitars and great harmonies.

“Hello My Old Heart” starts with a quiet acoustic feel–slow and mellow.  But it picks up after a verse and grows in intensity.  The song has a few different parts that keep returning to the “ba dum ba, ba dum bah” melody.  I love the way the song builds to a rousing (and abrupt) end.  There’s so much going on in the song its hard to believe its only 4 minutes long.

The band members are all rather sick–they all have colds and there’s much talk of how bad they feel and how much they are coughing and sneezing (with a revolting/hilarious image of confetti).

“Like the Dawn” also opens with some lovely acoustic guitar.  This time Maggie is on lead vocals and Tyler’s harmonies sound really good with her.  Maggie’s lead soars (even while sick) and I love the way the song builds to a big folk rock explosion by the end.

Before the final song they joke about everyone being sick and how they are ready to be done with the tour.  They start talking about laundry and underwear and get very silly.  It’s pretty impressive the way Tyler can go from chastising them for being gross and then singing the first delicate falsetto note of “Exeunt” so perfectly.  Its fun watching the band (especially the guitarist and violinist) really get into the big chords in the middle of the song (jumping up and down as they rock out.  The song has an amazing ending as it builds and everybody sings “I have set my mind and my will” before all voices drop out and he gently sings, “I am leaving.”

It’s a pretty great ending although he notes that “The end of that one is a little more impressive with the full set up but you get the idea.”

The Oh Hellos are a great addition to the chamber pop world, and I look forward to hearing more from them.

[READ: June 16, 2016] Giant Days 2

What’s interesting but a little disappointing about his series is that continuity doesn’t seem to be a high priority between the stories.  The characters never change their behavior, which is good, but it feels like these stories are episodic rather than continual, and yet there is certainly meant to be a building upon previous stories.

Except for Chapter 5 which picks up right after the previous book with the men and women shopping for formal attire for the Hall Ball.   Esther convinces the women to buy secondhand dresses and then says that her brother can fix them–an excellent joke at the end of the page.

Meanwhile Ed and McGraw are trying on suits.  Ed says he hopes that Esther will be into him someday and McGraw looks to the heavens and saying “The maintenance, Ed.”

The dance proves to be successful for some (well, Esther) until one of the men says that there’s a bet a the dance to see who can hook up with her.  Well, that ends Esther’s fun.

And then some unexpected (or maybe not) pairings occur.  Each person is a bit ashamed (at least in front of the others).  And in classic “friend” scenario, Esther tells Ed that anyone who would not go out with him is an idiot.

And then everyone heads home for Christmas holidays.

Chapter six shows an emergency visit to Northampton and Susan’s home. We all know that Susan is prone to aggressive outbursts.  Well that was true in her past as well.  The girls show up to rescue Susan, but she doesn’t appear at the train stations.  How will they find her?  (There’s a very funny joke about all smokers knowing each other).  I also love the continuity of the amusing joke that McGraw really loves keys.

The crux of this chapter is that some time ago, Susan greatly upset the daughter of the richest family in Northampton.  And now that she is back, revenge is to be served.  This chapter is very funny but mostly centered on its own plot rather than advancing the college story.  As it ends, Esther realizes that exams are common up and she hasn’t been to a lecture since November.

Chapter Seven opens and things are…different. There is a new illustrator (Max Sarin) for the next two books and I have to say I really don’t like the new style.   Even though Cogar still does the colors, everything in this book feels much brighter–in part it’s because Max’s lines are thinner, but also because almost everything he draws is softer and rounder.  It take a lot of the edge off of the book and make s the whole thing a lot “cuter.” Which is disappointing.

The story is pretty solid though.  Esther is freaking out about exams-she thought her exam about the New Testament would be really easy.  To prepare for this exam she decides to go out dressed in whiteface to see Necrotising Swamp–a band that is satanic in a fun way.  On the way out of the show, while protesters are trying to make her feel guilty for being there, she decides to go to “the source” and in a joke that I love, she decides to ask a priest for help in her theology class.

In an act of desperation, Esther finds one more person who might be able to help her…which turns into something more.  At the same time Daisy discovers that Susan and McGraw have been “sexing.”

As Chapter 8 opens all of the couples are together.  Susan and McGraw, Esther and her new guy and Ed and Daisy (although not as a couple).  And this meeting is for Esther to introduce her new man to her friends. And conversely for him to introduce her to his friends (which could go better) and his parents (which could definitely go better–until she decides to really be herself).

When pressed she admits that she has a weakness for milquetoast handsome.  And while their backs were turned, Daisy became addicted to Friday Night Lights.  And while Ed has been trying to figure out how he could take his mind off of Esther and her new guy, he wound up joining the newspaper–what will that produce?

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giant-daysSOUNDTRACK: NATHANIEL RATELIFF & THE NIGHT SWEATS-Tiny Desk Concert #488 (November 17, 2015).

nateNathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats get a ton of airplay on WXPN–perhaps a bit too much airplay.  And yet I can’t deny the supreme catchiness of his music which owes a lot to Van Morrison’s brand of soul music.

Rateliff was (and perhaps still is) a folk singer.  But in 2015, he released this album with the band The Night Sweats and has had huge success with this more rocking soulfulness.

“I Need Never Get Old” sounds so much like a Van Morrison song that it’s hard to deny how catchy it is (especially the chorus).  “Look It Here” has a similar vibe with the kind of loudly mumbled vocals that sit nicely with backing vocals and horns.  The middle of the song picks up in intensity and changes the overall tone in a good way that segues nicely back into the main melody.

“I’ve Been Failing You” features more piano up front.  It’s a little more bluesy than soulful so I like it a bit less.  Although the backing vocals in the quiet section (Don’t you weep and don’t you worry) are very cool.

Typically a band does three songs, but Bob walks up and shakes his hand and asks if he wants to do another.  Nathaniel asks, do another or do that one over?  But Bob says, no another song if they want to.

The band agrees they can’t really do “Shake,” so instead they play “Mellow Out.”  Rateliff says, “Same key different song.”  And everyone laughs until he realized, “wait it’s actually a different key.  What do I know?”

“Mellow Out” which opens with some very Van Morrison “do do do dos.”   It sounds very much like the other songs–catchy and swinging with horns in all the right places.  When the song ends Bob says it sounded great and someone comments that they had an extra late night last night before the audio turns off.

I am genuinely surprised that they didn’t play “S.O.B.,” their first single (a song used in a Lipton commercial–although not any part that sings “son of a bitch, I might add).  But since I don’t really like that song, I’m glad they played the other ones.

[READ: June 15, 2016] Giant Days Vol. 1

Giant Days was excerpted in the back of a Lumberjanes book and I loved the excerpt–very funny with a great drawing style. Then as I am wont to do, I forgot all about it.  But in the library the other day, the librarian recommended the book and I was delighted to be reminded about it.

This series is set in a British college.  Susan, Esther, and Daisy are roommates.  Susan is the sensible one–a little angry at men and unwilling to take crap from anyone.  Esther is a goth hottie.  She dresses outlandishly and has a (literal?) forcefield of bad luck around her.  And Daisy was home schooled–she is very sweet and rather naive.

I loved right from the start when the three girls head out to campus.  Susan bets Esther that she can’t go three days without some kind of drama happening around her.  But as soon as they get outside, Susan see McGraw.  And she is furious.  McGraw has floppy hair and a big ol’ mustache.  And they launch into each other with cold pleasantries.

When the girls  force Susan to tell the story, there’s a very funny moment when the other two start chanting Flash-Back Flash-Back but we get a brief, intentionally unsatisfying one. (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: ARBOREA-Tiny Desk Concert #218 (May 17, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

arboreaArborea is a totally captivating band.

The band consists of Shanti and Buck Curran.  They play three songs and each one is really different, but all with in a spooky, mellow Appalachian feel.

“Song for Obol” features Buck playing an electric guitar with an e-bow and a slide—creating single-note sirens that roar and fade.  The sounds are magical.  But they’re not the most interesting part of this song.  Because Shanti is playing the Ban-Jammer–“a sweet little hybrid that’s part banjo, part mountain dulcimer.” Shanti also sings and her voice is high and delicate—sometimes almost a whisper.  The Ban-Jammer is such an interesting and compelling sound and those washes of electric guitar so enticing that I didn’t want this song to end—even if I never really paid attention to what she was singing about.

For the second song Bob Boilen himself goes behind his desk to play harmonium with them.  Shanti plays acoustic guitar and tells us that the harmonium is

Inspired by the tales in Maine about fishing boats that were lost to the ocean—this song is about a woman who loses her lover to the sea—the harmonium is the ocean and the wind.

The harmonium isn’t very loud, but it keeps constant background while Buck pays the electric guitar (with slide, but no e-bow) and Shanti picks out the acoustic guitar melody.

The final song “A Little Time” is played on an acoustic tenor guitar.  Both Shanti and Buck sing for this track.  At first I wasn’t crazy about his voice accompanying hers, but he really gets the same tone very nice;y.  And her oh-hoos are beautifully haunting.

I’d really like to hear more from these guys.  And it is pretty fun to actually see Bob behind his Tiny Desk.

[READ: December 6, 2016] “Dream Girl”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived (a few days late for advent, but that was my fault for ordering so late) I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

I wasn’t aware of Katie Coyle before reading this story.  Perhaps the only reason I might have known about her is because she is a YA author from New Jersey.

But I’d like to know more about her because this story was wonderful.  The point of view of the story was fantastic and the whole concept was weird and cool.

The narrator is never revealed, but I love this beginning:

This all started when Winston’s girlfriend Sheila dumped him at his high-school graduation party.  Or maybe it started when Sheila began to notice that Winston didn’t understand her.  Certainly it never would’ve happened had she not turned to Winston in their Modern Conflicts class nine months earlier and said, “It’s Winston, right?”

Such intrigue! (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: SCREAMING FEMALES-Tiny Desk Concert #186 (January 17, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

scremfemScreaming Females are a band from New Brunswick, NJ.  They’re a trio who has been around for about ten years and they play (as their name suggests) loud punk.  The band is fronted by Marissa Paternoster who sings and shreds guitar solos like nobody’s business.

The band is typically pretty loud, but in this tiny desk not only are they quieter, they look rather small—all crowded in behind the desk–standing inches away from each other.  Although I understand they play in all kinds of tiny basement clubs in New Brunswick, so this is probably nothing new.

What I really liked about “It All Means Nothing” is that bassist King Mike plays chords while Paternoster is shredding so it doesn’t sound spare.  And while she is playing some simple chords, he’s wandering the fret board playing some interesting riffs as well.  There’s not too much to say about drummer Jarrett Dougherty because he is reduced to a floor tom and rims shots.

Paternoster has an unusual vocal delivery—very pronounced vowels–in her singing.  It’s especially noticeable in this quieter setting.

It’s interesting that she sings loudly and brashly and plays a great solo (with some cool basswork accompanying) at the end of the song; however, when Bob asks her who the picture is on her strap, she seems so quiet and insecure.  It’s hard to believe that she can front this band, but seems so nervous about talking.

“Little Anne” is a quieter song that’s predominantly a guitar melody and drums.  She sings along with this lovely melody for a few verses.  And just as the bass comes in and it seems the song will take off, it abruptly ends.

The final song they play is “I Don’t Mind It.”  It seems like this song might normally blast, but in this set, they hold back. It still sounds great.

I was given their most recent album (the one that came out a couple of years after this set) and I really liked it.  I’m going to have to go back and explore their more brash earlier songs.

[READ: December 6, 2016] “Hunger Strike”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived (a few days late for advent, but that was my fault for ordering so late) I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

I wish I had gotten this collection on time (it arrived on the 5th). I especially wish that because this story was a great way to start the calendar.

I know a lot of contemporary stories are rather downers.  Well this had just the right amount of humor in a futile situation that I really enjoyed.

Even the premise is pretty funny.  A college professor has been fired for looking at porn on his computer.  And four of his students are outraged–who did it hurt if he did that?  What was the big deal?  And even worse, his replacement has turned their class Pop Culture in the Late 20th Century from comic books and summer blockbusters into photojournalism in the late 19th and early 20th century.  Outrage!

And so these four freshmen decide to go on a hunger strike until the teacher is rehired.  (more…)

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bream SOUNDTRACK: THE INTERNET-Tiny Desk Concert #474 (September 29, 2015).

internetThe Internet are an offshoot of Odd Future.  This is an R&B group fronted by Syd the Kid, and the music is really delicate–almost easy-listening-sounding keys and a ropey bass line.

Syd’s voice is beautiful and soulful and she raps and sing delicately.  Which is why it’s surprising that the first words of the first song are “now she wanna fuck with me / live a life of luxury.”  But after the surprise of these lyrics the chill music is kind of soothing: “roll up an L and light it.” And I love her falsetto for the chorus”

“She blowin up my phone.  All I hear is wha wha, wha wha (Band: wha wha).”

“Under Control” is a song dedicated to her band:  she promises she’ll be there for all of them “when I’m a legend baby and we’re all rich”

Her confidence and casualness is totally infectious. And I love the the wah-wahs effects on the keys as the song nears the end.

The last song is called “Dontcha” which gets a “yes!” from the crowd when she says she’s going to play it.  (That makes her very happy).  She says she’s never done an acoustic version before.  I gather it’s a single, although I enjoyed the other two songs a bit more.

The veering into R&B territory is not my thing, but it’s cool to hear her branch into different genres in one song.

[READ: May 15, 2016] Bream Gives Me Hiccups and Other Stories.

I’ve really enjoyed the comic pieces that I’ve read by Eisenberg–he writes a lot for the New Yorker.  In fact, I had recently decided that I would read and post about all of Eisenberg’s New Yorker pieces at some point in the future.  Well, it turns out that nearly every one of those New Yorker pieces has turned up in this book (there’s three that didn’t).  So that saved some time.

What that means is that most of these pieces are quite short.  And that very few of them are stories in the conventional sense.  They tend to be a few pages long, or sometimes longer pieces done as diary entries.

What is most interesting about Eisenberg’s writing is that most of these stories are funny–some are very funny–but there is also a lot of pathos and sadness in them.  Many of the characters come from broken homes and many of the situations are rather bleak.  And yet he manages to make them funny. (more…)

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