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Archive for the ‘Consumerism’ Category

Frank Conniff–Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever (2016)

tvfrankSOUNDTRACK: TA-KU & WAFIA-Tiny Desk Concert #576 (November 6, 2016).

Ta-ku & Wafia are Australian, and I knew nothing else about them.  So:

The chemistry between Australian singer-producer Ta-ku and his fellow Aussie singer-songwriter Wafia becomes apparent the instant you hear their voices intertwined in song. On their first collaborative EP, (m)edian, they draw on their individual experiences to touch on subjects like compromise in relationships as they trade verses and harmonize over hollow melodies.  With production characterized by weary low-end rumbles and resonant keys, the two float above the music, playing off each other’s harmonies.

Although the blurb mentions a few bands that the duo sounds like I couldn’t help thinking they sound The xx (although a bit poppier).

“Treading Water” especially sounds like The xx.  Both of their voices sound really close to that band (although Wafia’s high notes and r&b inclinations do impact that somewhat).  It’s funny that they are just sitting there with their eyes closed, hands folded singing gently.

“Me in the Middle” is another pretty, simple keyboard song with depth in the lyrics and vocals.

Introducing, “Love Somebody,” she says its their favorite on their EP and he interjects Go but it now, which makes her giggle.  Her voice is really quite lovely.  I could see them hitting big both in pop circles and in some alternative circles if they market themselves well.

[READ: November 10, 2016] 25 MST3K Films that Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever

As you might guess from the title, Frank Conniff was involved with MST3K.  He was TV’s Frank and, as we learn from this book, he was the guy who was forced to watch every movie first and decide whether it could be used for the show.  This “job” was created because they had watched a bit of Sidehackers and decided it would be fun to use.  So Comedy Central bought the rights (“They paid in the high two figures”) and then discovered that there was a brutal rape scene (“don’t know why I need to cal it a ‘brutal’ rape scene any kind of rape ,loud or quiet, violent or Cosby-style, is brutal”) that would sure be hard to joke about (they edited it out for the show which “had a minimal effect on the overall mediocrity of the project.”

The book opens with an FBI warning like the videotapes except for this book it stands for Federal Bureau of Incoherence because the document contains “many pop culture references that are obscure, out of date, annoying and of no practical use to anyone.”   So each chapter goes through and explains these obscure references for us all. (more…)

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dfwreadSOUNDTRACK: CHRISTIAN SCOTT aTUNDE ADJUAH-Tiny Desk Concert #477 (October 9, 2015).

aacsChristian Scott aTunde Adjuah and his septet play what he calls stretch music: “the particular type of jazz fusion he’s up to: something more seamless than a simple collision of genre signifiers.”

They note that even his appearance stretches traditional jazz: “You may note that he showed up in a Joy Division sleeveless T-shirt and gold chain.” It’s sleek and clearly modern, awash in guitar riffs, but also bold and emotionally naked.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (not sure how to abbreviate that) is a trumpeter and he can hit some loud powerful and long –held notes.   It’s funny that when he bends over the trumpet grows quieter—those ic really are direction-based.

For the first song “TWIN” he does some impressive soloing over a simple and cool beat—piano and delicate guitar riffs (there’s also an upright bass and drummer).   After his lengthy solo there’s a flute solo that also works perfectly (if less dramatically) with the background music.  (Christian plays tambourine during her solo).  He says that this song is about being a twin.  His brother, Kyle Scott is a film director and for whom Christians scores the music.  Christian also explains that he comes from an African-American and Native-American background and that this song has rhythms as a sort of history of his family that touches on Mali, Senegal Gambia and The Ivory Coast and makes its way to the Caribbean, Cuba and into New Orleans.

He’s pleased to play the Tiny Desk Concert for an audience that appreciates “Music that has nutritional value.”

For the second song, “West of the West” he brings on a young alto-saxophonist who plays with his drummer in a different band. The song opens with a rocking electric guitar solo and then the jazzy band kicks in behind it.  The instrumental features a couple of solos by the saxophonist, the pianist and the bassist.

“K.K.P.D.” is a dramatic song for which he gives a lengthy back story.  Many years ago in his home of New Orleans, he was stopped by New Orleans police late at night for no reason other than to harass and intimidate him.  he was coming back from a gig.  He resisted and was in a serious situation and was seriously threatened—the story is long and very affecting, especially given how articulate (I know, terrible word, but true) and calm he is about retelling this horrifying story.  His pride almost made him do something ill-advised, but instead he channeled that pent-up frustration into a piece of music whose long-form title is “Ku Klux Police Department.”

He adds that we see things on TV about inner cities or the ninth ward and we believe them to be true.  Like that the neighborhood is happy that the police are clearing out the youth there.  We begin to think that the narrative is true, although the people who live there can tell you otherwise.  Despite the title and the origin, the is song is designed to reach a consensus to move forward –not to build derision or hate.  He says that we have to start working on that now, because if it doesn’t start now then our children will continue to inherit this situation.

It opens with a noisy guitar wash and fast drums.  It’s quite noisy and chaotic although it resolves very nicely into an almost sweet piano-based song with slow horns.  The middle of the song ramps up with some intense soloing from Christian.  I love how that segues into a very different section with an electronic drum and delicate piano.  Chritsian’s next solo is much more optimistic.  The final section is just wonderfully catchy.

When he introduces the band, he points out just how young some of his newest members are: Drummer Corey Fonville (another new member) used a djembe as a bass drum, and also brought a MIDI pad so he could emulate the sound of a drum machine; Lawrence Fields, piano; Kris Funn, bass; Dominic Minix , guitar (21 years old); Braxton Cook, saxophone (24 years-old) and Elena Pinderhughes, flute: 20 years old!

I don’t listen to a ton of jazz, but I really liked this Tiny Desk Concert a lot.

[READ: July-October 2016] The David Foster Wallace Reader

I’ve had this book since Sarah bought it for me for Christmas in 2014.  I haven’t been in a huge hurry to read it because I have read almost everything in it already.  And some of that I have even read recently.  But this summer I decided to read some of my bigger books, so this was a good time as any.

One of the fascinating things about reading this book is the excerpting in the fiction section.  I have never really read excerpts from DFWs longer books before.  And once you decontextualize the parts, you can really appreciate them for themselves rather than as a means to the end of the story.  This is especially true of the excerpts from Broom of the System and Infinite Jest.  But also just reading some of these sections as a short story makes for an interesting experience.

It was also very interesting to read the non-fiction all together like that.  These pieces come from difference anthologies, but they have thematic similarities  So, placing them together like that allows for really comparing the stories.

And of course, the selling point for most DFW fans is the teaching materials in the center of the book–an opportunity to look into the man’s mind at work shaping younger minds.

I have written about virtually everything in this book already (title links refer back to previous posts), so mostly these are thoughts about the pieces themselves and not a part of a whole. (more…)

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may5SOUNDTRACK: THE FAMILY CREST-Tiny Desk Concert #379 (August 4, 2014).

familycerstI first heard The Family Crest on this Tiny Desk Concert back in 2014 and I immediately fell in love with them.  I received their album for Christmas, and it’s quite fantastic.

The band plays a wonderful mix of over the top chamber prog rock mixed with healthy doses of jazz.

There are seven people in the band, which is centered around guitarist and (amazing) vocalist Liam McCormick.  Their instruments include violin, cello, upright bass, flute, trombone, drums, and guitar but this band rocks hard (and McCormick can wail like the best of them).

The set begins with the jaw dropping “Beneath The Brine” which opens with a great cello riff and is quickly accompanied by violin and flute.  When the full band kicks in, grace notes are added to the riffs to really fill out he song (from the flute and the drums) and it builds until Liam starts singing.  His voice is powerful and strong with a great sense of melody.  The drums, by the way are playing wonderful jazzy patterns and accents.  But it’s around 2:30 that Liam shows just what he can do with his voice as he hits some amazingly powerful high notes.  As the song romps to an end, you can hear all of the instruments adding to the music before the final quite coda.  It’s fantastic.

“Howl” is inspired by jazz.  Liam was trained in opera (which explains a lot) and the band is full of classical fans, so he was excited to add Charlie the jazz drummer “hey man wanna listen to Miles David and drink whiskey?”  The song opens with a big trombone riff before settling into a snappy jazz song.  This song has a number of loud and quiet moments that work well together.  It’s even got a great “ba ba ba ba ba ba” section that is fun to sing along with.

 They ask “one more?”  And Bob says “or stay all day.”  So they play the final song, “Make Me a Boat.”  If you can forgive the little GoPro ad, it’s neat that this relatively unknown band has been embraced by the camera company.  “Make Me a Boat” doesn’t seem like the most obvious choice for a video since the beginning is kind of slow, bit the middle section is really pretty and has a great flowing feel that would work well with a video.  And in this live version Liam does some great improv singing of powerful high notes that really flesh out the melody which the rest of the is playing (no wonder he’s so sweaty by the end).

The album fleshes out the orchestral sense of the band with a 30 piece orchestra which makes these songs even more grand.  The Family Crest was a great find.

[READ: February 22, 2016] “Letting Go”

Sedaris is one of the funniest writers when the topic is smoking.  He is (or was, I suppose) and inveterate smoker.

And I love that he starts the essay with this paragraph:

When I was in fourth grade, my class took a field trip to the American Tobacco plant in nearby Durham, NC.  There we witnessed the making of cigarettes and were given free packs to take home to our parents. I tell people this and they ask me how old I am, thinking, I guess, that I went to the world’s first elementary school.

He starts this essay talking about how much he hated smoking when he was a kid.  His mother smoked all her life and he just hated it.  Not the smoke so much but the smell–he found it depressing “the scent of neglect.”

Of course then he started smoking himself.  He talks about trying to decide which brand to use–the brand you chose was a statement back then.  He chose Viceroy.  And he started smoking them when he was in Vancouver. (more…)

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2008_03_10-400SOUNDTRACK: JOHN GRANT-Tiny Desk Concert #372 (July 13, 2014).

grantI know and like John Grant from his albums after this one.  These three songs perfectly encapsulate Grant’s pop sensibility with his acerbic wit.  His later albums are also a bit more dancey, so it’s interesting hearing these as straight up piano and guitar songs.

On “Where Dreams Go to Die,” he plays piano in a very dramatic fashion and sings in his slow sometimes whispered baritone voice.  The song is pretty and then the lyrics come in: “I’m willing to do anything to get attention from you dear.”  But it’s not until the chorus (with acoustic guitar added) that the melody gros even more catchy and the lyrics grow even more dark:  “Baby…. you’re where dreams go to die and I regret the day your lovely carcass caught my eye.”  There’s  great bass riff on the piano that he plays during the end of the song which ups the drama even further.  It’s quite a song.

In introducing “Sigourney Weaver,” he says that when he was 12 he moved from Michigan to Colorado and he hoped the move would erase his homosexual feelings.  He changed his mind about that “when he got the hang of it.”  The song doesn’t have anything to do with Weaver except as simile: “I feel just like Sigourney Weaver when she had to kill those aliens.”  Although I think the follow-up simile is even better: “I feel just like Winona Ryder in that move about vampires and she couldn’t get that accent right and neither could that other guy.”

“It Doesn’t Matter to Him” is about the inability to deal with the sudden absence of love.  It features the great lyrics: “I am no longer as awkward as I was when I was younger I guess I’m one of those guys who gets better looking as I age.”

Grant is a marvel and his songs, while caustic, are quite fun.

[READ: February 15, 2016] “Raj, Bohemian”

I really enjoyed this story a lot.

I enjoyed the way the story began with a bunch of wealthy city kids doing all kinds of debauched things with no repercussions.  None of them worked, but somehow they were trendsetters.  “We went dancing whenever we felt like it and watched illegal pre-releases of Hollywood blockbusters… By the time the world caught up we usually got bored and moved on.”

They are smug asses, but they aren’t obnoxious about it–“we despised trendies–fashion kids who tried to hard,”

And then we met the narrator’s friend Sunita who throws the best parties.   She had a gorgeous apartment and lived there rent free (for complex reasons).  For this latest party, which promised to be her best, she cryptically said “dress sincerely.” (more…)

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CoverStory-KadirNelson-ADayattheBeach3-879x1200-1467305948SOUNDTRACK: LYDIA LOVELESS-Tiny Desk Concert #369 (July 1, 2014).

lovelssI want Lydia Loveless to be a punk singer–Her name is like a combination of Lydia Lunch and a last name that conjures up an asskicking punk.

But not the country singer that Loveless is (even if she is ass-kicking herself). Loveless is a new breed of alt-country which is pretty explicit with noticeably rocking guitar solos.  But her voice is so twangy it’s hard to not call it country (and in fact it’s a bit too much for me to take sometimes).

“Head” features this rather memorable chorus “Don’t stop getting undressed /Don’t stop giving me head.”  It seems especially surprising since Loveless looks like she’s about 12 (she was 23 at the time of this recording).  The buzzy solo is lengthy and more or less runs throughout the song.  Although at some point when Loveless takes her own solo the whole sound seems to fade out and get a little anemic.

Her band is fun with her bassist being very tall and having very long hair playing a very tall upright bass.  And then there’s another guy playing guitar and lap steel.

“Verlaine Shot Rimbaud” has a title that begs for an awesome song.  It’s not an epic masterpiece or anything.  In fact its closer to a pop song, The slide guitar and Loveless’ heavy accent on the chorus place it firmly in the country camp.

“Mile High” has a fun folk riff.  It sounds a lot like The Byrds and the chorus is super catchy.  If I could get her to sing less twangy I would love this song much like I love the punk country of X, or at least the Knitters.

[READ: December 29, 2010] “Who are All These Trump Supporters”

[This essay in the New Yorker also came under the heading “Trump Days.”]

So the title of the essay is a question I myself have been asking as I watch the hatred and vitriol bubble over during the convention.

If there was anyone I wanted to write this piece it would be George Saunders and he is actually the only reason I read it in the first place (I plan to read all of his contributions to the New Yorker eventually, but I’m glad to have read this one when it was timely–I hope it will be utterly irrelevant by the time I get to the rest of his works).  He self identifies as a liberal (although he was a conservative who loved Ayn Rand way back in the Reagan era).  He is a thoughtful and not prone to anger–a perfect foil for the crowd.  And he’s got a great way with words.

So great in fact that I’m just going to be quoting him a lot.  I could have pulled more excellent quotes from the essay, but really you should read the whole thing. (more…)

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dq25SOUNDTRACK: ARCHER PREWITT-“O, KY” (2005).

wikldernessArcher Prewitt formed The Coctails (a kitschy lounge act) in the early 90s, several years before the lounge revival.  Then he joined The Sea and Cake and has been making amazing music with them.  And he has also released several solo albums.

He has also published some comics (Sof’ Boy) with Drawn & Quarterly.

This song comes from his album Wilderness.  The title of the song is clever, too.

It’s upbeat and folky with a little psychedlia and rock thrown in.  I like Prewitt’s voice quite a bit–it’s simple but really strong.  But the selling point on this song (and others from this album that I have listened to) is the composition and arrangement of these songs.

I like the way this one goes from simple guitar to orchestration (although presumably not a real orchestra) for the chorus.  And how post chorus there are flutes and other instruments to pick up the momentum which adds a vaguely psychedelic feel to it.

At four minutes (the song is five) it changes direction entirely and turns into a nearly new song with big guitars and drums. And it rather rocks.

And just to make Archer the all around dude that he is.  He also drew the cover art.  Jeez.  He’s probably super nice and friendly, too.

[READ: January 3, 2016] Drawn and Quarterly: Twenty Five Years 

I have liked a lot of D+Q books for a long time, although I never really considered a comprehensive look at their publishing house.  This book–about 775 pages long–is about as comprehensive as it gets.

This book contains a few previously published cartoons and excerpts as well as a whole slew of previously unpublished pieces.  There are essays and histories and reminiscences and love love love for the little Montreal graphic novel publisher.

I didn’t know much about the history of D+Q–that Chris Oliveros started the publisher in 1989 out of his house.  That he was the only employee for years.  And that he was essential in getting the term “graphic novel” used by everyone–including the library of congress!

He weathered distribution problems, he weathered the rise and fall of indie comics in the late 90s and he has come through with some of the most beautiful books published.  D+Q has also brought attention to foreign artists as well as out of print artists.

Really, if you have any respect for graphic novels (that aren’t superhero-based) you owe thanks to D+Q. (more…)

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eggersSOUNDTRACK: NICK BUZZ-Circo (1996).

nickbuzzMartin Tielli has been prolific both as a solo artist and with his “side project” Nick Buzz (named after his love of smokes).

Nick Buzz’ first album came out in 1996 (during a time when the Rheos had just wrapped up their album The Blue Hysteria) and was ignored.  It was reissued in 2002 to a bit more fanfare.  I reviewed it once before and while I thought I was more dismissive of it then, it turns out that I wasn’t.  That I enjoyed it and felt mostly the same as I do now.

“Spilling The Wonderful” starting out with a mellow piano intro, the song jars into a noisy/drunken waltz melody and a violin solo before returning to the cabaret/waltz style that opened the song. It is deliriously catchy. The song ends with some tape manipulation before seguing into “That’s What You Get For Having Fun.” This song opens with some slapped and scratchy guitar sounds with a refrain of “there’s a monkey in my underwear.”  There’s a super catchy guitar riff that is sung along to—this song really shines live.

“Just Because” mellows things down a lot, with a jazzy sounding guitar and Martin’s delicate vocals.  The music for his one was written by pianist Jon Goldsmith which might explain the mellowness. It’s a sweet ballad.  Although the segue after this song is some clips from the radio (possibly sung by Tielli?) which are distant and crackling.   There’s a saxophone playing as well.   This merges into an announcer introducing the band for their (live) cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River.” It’s a beautiful, delicate version with Hugh Marsh’s electric violin solo swirling around.

Some dissonant sax segues into Sane So Sane which is actually a pretty gentle piano song. They play with the recording sound as the drums get muffled and dense and there’s more backing vocals thrown over the top.  But it remains largely conventional.  “Hymn to the Situation” is a creaky somewhat creepy song that Martin described as being about a self-centered jerk. who says things like “I’d suicide for you.” There’s a canned crowd cheering at a particularly funny line and even a cow mooing as the song ends

“Fornica Tango” is a wild weird song.  It is tango (Tielli speaks Italian), but the rhythm is kept by a squeaky sound (which is likely Marsh’s violin).  The song is interrupted throughout by a crying baby or, even stranger, a screeching chimpanzee (fornica translates as ant). The song ends with some crazy sounds from Marsh’s electronic violin.  The highlight of the record is “Love Streams’ a beautiful ballad based largely around a piano melody and Marsh’ keening violin. It’s followed by “Aliens break a heat” which is more tape manipulation and all kinds of weird effects (backward vocals I believe) for 2 minutes. Until it’s replaced by sounds of traffic (European) and horns honking.

The final song is the amusing “The Italian Singer/Just Because I’m Nick The Buzz” It starts slowly with some plucked strings and Tielli’s voice. There’s some spoken sections and lots of staccato music until the gentle ending which resumes the melody from “Just Because.”

It’s a peculiar album but one that gets better with each listen (and hearing him play some of these songs live has really introduced new aspects of them to me.

[READ: October 10, 2015] The Circle

I put this book off for a while but with no real reason for doing so.  And I’m sorry I waited so long because the book is really good–it’s thought-provoking and questions a lot of established ideas but is also really kind of fun and utopian.

What’s most impressive to me about the way the book is written is that the story itself is really quite simple.  It is a gradual building up of intensity.  At the end of which the main character has to make a decision which proves to be very important both for her and everyone else.

The story is about Mae.  Mae had been working at a dull and dispiriting job in civil service at her home town.  The job was dull, the people were dull, there was zero energy in the place and even her boss was depressing.  It sucked.  She had been there for 18 months and when her boss joked about her getting a promotion, she’d about had it.

She contacted her friend Annie.  Annie was her college roommate and boon companion for a few years.  And Annie worked at The Circle, the coolest most awesome place in the country to work at–think google, but better).  Was there any way that Annie could help out Mae?  Indeed there was.  Annie got Mae a job at The Circle, just like that.  Annie was one of the Top 40, the influential crowd at The Circle and Mae was in (her first day is hilarious, because Annie plays a wonderful prank on her). (more…)

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