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Archive for the ‘Corporate skewering’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 5 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 15, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 14, 2004. This was the 5th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.

Most of the shows they played a lot of the same songs, but this one has a lot of unique shows for this Fall Nationals.  About four or five that are only played tonight (and maybe on guest vocalist night).

The show begins with the only instance of “Onilley’s Strange Dream,” a long mellow jamming intro with Tim playing bass and Dave strumming while Martin plays some melodies and then begins the song properly.  Its slow and quite pretty and it’s nice to hear.  It’s followed by the crazy squealing guitar melody intro of “When Winter Come.”  Martin has to play the whole intro three times as it seems like they’re messing with him.  Mike says “that’s a big matzo ball hanging out there.”  The band sounds great playing this (although lyrics are certainly messed up).  Martin: “That was a memory test.”  Dave: “Indeed, a middling grade.”  Then Mike jokes: “That’s a nice shirt, Martin, did you and Selina go shopping at the same time?”  You can hear them talking about Valu Village “There’s an umlaut over the U at the one in Yorkville.”

Then they play the only version of “Superdifficult.”  It sounds great because Tim is certainly reliable.  As evidenced by the greatness of “Marginalized,” too.  “Polar Bears and Trees” is rocking and fun.  And then he introduces the opening track from our new album, “Shack in the Cornfields.”  As with many of these longer songs, each night’s show makes the song sound even better.

Even though I tend to like the sound quality of the Clarkson download, you can hear a lot of chatter in the background during the quiet parts.  You also can’t hear the poem during “Try To Praise This Mutilated World.”

For “Pornography,” Dave plays a different opening, which is nice.  And Chris Stringer is on the tambourine.  Dave says that Chris should take a solo next time.  On the tambourine?  No the guitar.   There’s some strange whooping in the crowd and Mike acknowledges the “pack of bonobo monkeys.”  Then comes
“Who Is This Man, And Why Is He Laughing?” written by “Michael Alexander Wojewoda “a direct descendant of Czar Nicolas” and Jennifer Eveline Foster on the accordion.  The song sounds wonderful with the accordion.  You can hear Mike talking in Polish.  It’s followed by the mellow “Here Comes The Image” with two keyboard solos full of synth trippiness.

For “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne” they are going to play the intro this time.  They sing it–Dave says he hasn’t sung it in so long.  “I think you sing it higher.”  They futz their way through it and then get to the main song.

Dave starts talking to the crowd after the song: “No I haven’t smoked weed in a long time.  A little bit of hash every now and again.”  Mike: “It’s like your shift from beer to Fine Scotch.”  Dave: “But formerly lots of dope.”  The crowd goes crazy.  Dave: “oh, you like me, now.”

You can really hear the lyrics on “In This Town,” which gets two plays during the series, as does Christopher.  You can hear Martin say “we haven’t played Christopher.”  So they do.  It’s kind of slow but Martin is really into it and  he plays a cool echo-filled solo.

After yesterday’s karate discussion, there is no trouble during “Little Bird, Little Bird” and only one hoo and one ha.  But the song is surprisingly intense for such a mellow piece.  Dave thanks everyone for coming out on a Monday night.  He talks merch an Martin gets mad because he sang the song with Dave’s book title, but he forgot to plug it.  Dave says from now on he could sing “On a cold road {by Dave Bidini} somewhere in the south of Ontario.”  Someone in the audience shouts, “Dave, your books are great.” Dave: “Thank you, ma’am, should not everybody have a copy?”  Mike: “Shameless.”  Martin: “I read your new book too.  It was way more ambitious than I thought.  You said it was just teaching kids how to play music.”  Dave says he just pulled it out of his ass.  Mike: “you just pulled that out of your ass?  You’ve got a great ass!”  Dave: “All the girls in Vancouver wanted to touch my bum.  I wanted to ask Claudia if that was a trend.  The band starts playing a jazzy riff: “Merch music!”  It’s not like its going to be half off on Friday or Saturday because we want to get rid of it,  It’s already half off.  You know that place in Yorkville, Value Village with the umlaut over the u?  It’s way better than that.

They finally get to “Fat” which has a lot so synth in the intro with staticky washes.

They leave for an encore break that’s about 2 and a half minutes of Martin’s guitar echoing.

When they come back Dave plays Memorial Day.  Dave says they’re going to do a Rheostatics song from a long time ago that he was thinking about.  We have people from America and we’ll play this for our American visitors.  Someone shouts “Kill George Bush.”  “Me?  I’m not the man for that job.”

You hear people shouting requests.  Dave says, “You’re not just reading song titles off the CDs over there?”  The guy retorts, “Don’t make me say ‘Claire.'”

Then comes the only “Shaved Head” of the run.  It’s suitably slow and intense.   The slow twinkling guitar at the end segues perfectly into “One More Colour” which totally rocks.  There’s no coda ending on it, it’s just done and so are they.

The End.

[READ: April 14, 2017] Decelerate Blue

The only other story I know from Adam Rapp was a violent one called Ball Peen Hammer.  The art in that story was really dark and violent.

This book is very different from that one.  There’s a different artist first of all–Mike Cavallaro whose style is great: really sharp black and white images with a lot of expression in the faces.  But the story is very different as well, and I thought it was great.

Set in the not too distant future when speed is everything.  People read abridged versions of stories, they sleep standing up (it’s more efficient) and they say “Go” at the end of their sentences.

The story starts out with people putting go on the end of their sentences, which is puzzling.  But it really works–it lets people know that you are done talking and it is their turn to speak. (more…)

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diaSOUNDTRACK: JAPANESE BREAKFAST-Tiny Desk Concert #662 (October 25, 2017).

I had it in my head that Japanese Breakfast was a weird band–psychedelic or wacky indie or something.   And maybe they are.  But certainly not here.

For this concert, the band is all acoustic (except for the electric bass).  For the first two songs there is a sting section.  Interestingly, the string section is Rogue Collective who also performed with Landlady on a recent Tiny Desk.   [Landlady’s Adam Schatz told Zauner that the Rogue Collective make pretty great Tiny Desk partners].

So the blurb corrects me about the band, describing their music as having “gauzy, astral synths.”  Those are clearly not present here.

As Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner writes sparkling, opulent dream pop about grief and love (and, occasionally, robots). After releasing its debut album, Psychopomp last year, the band returned with this year’s stunning Soft Sounds From Another Planet. Where Psychopomp, written in the immediate aftermath of the death of Zauner’s mother, zeroed in on the experience of Zauner’s grief, Soft Sounds widens her aperture, featuring paeans to her coping mechanisms, ruminations on crooked relationship dynamics and said sci-fi robot fantasy.

“Boyish” aches with sadness (“your boyish reassurance is not reassuring”).  The melody (her guitar and Deven Craige’s bass to start) is lovely and heartbreaking.  Then the strings really punctuate the sentiment of these great lines.  And there’s some great backing vocals from drummer Craig Hendrix.

If you go to her don’t expect to come home to me.
I can’t get you off my mind /I can’t get you off in general
I want you and you want something more beautiful
I can’t get you off my mind / you can’t get yours off the hostess

I love the opening lines to ‘Till Death,’ which really sums up the end of 2016:

all our celebrities keep dying / while the cruel men continue to win.

She says the song is about marriage (and then chuckles).  The blurb says she sings “as she often does, in a way that strains her voice to the crackling, taut edge of heartbreak.”  This song is really lovely–the melody is a knockout.  The piano and bass start the song.  After the first verse the strings come in and Hendrix adds more backing vocals.

I love a song that ends with this final line:

PTSD, anxiety, genetic disease, thanataphobia

Everybody leaves for the final song, “This House.”  Except Hendrix moves from drums to piano.

Another great lyric opens the song:

This house is full of women
playing guitar cooking breakfast
sharing trauma doing dishes
and where are you

The song describes moments in love that are more fearful labor than bliss, the hazy space where commitment, confusion and longing intersect. Like much of Japanese Breakfast’s music, the performance shows Zauner looking unblinkingly at fear and pain, daring us to do the same.

Interestingly, for this concert, Rogue Collective has a different lineup.  They are a trio: Alexa Cantalupo (violin) and Natalie Spehar (cello) are back but Kaitlin Moreno (violin) is there while Livia Amoruso (violin) and Deanna Said (viola) are not.

In a cool footnote, the blurb says “The Collective practiced with Japanese Breakfast the day before the Tiny Desk, and was a featured guest later that night at the band’s D.C. show.”

I enjoyed this Concert a lot and will have to give a closer listen to their new album.

[READ: March 1, 2017] El Dia Mas Largo del Futur

This book came across my desk at work and I loved the look of it right away.  I can stumble through some Spanish books, but imagine my delight to see that this one had no words at all!  It is a wordless graphic novel (novela gráfica).

I especially liked the look of it because it reminded me in some ways of Chris Ware–very detailed, incredibly crisp lines, and really pleasing shapes.  It is also very dark, like Ware’s work.

But the comparison ends there.  This story is set in a dystopian future where violence is the norm, where robots can be easily programmed to kill and where love seems an unlikely prospect.

And NOW, after having read it, I have just learned the total history of this book.  It was originally written in French as Le Jour Le Plus Long du Futur.  Varela is from Argentina.  It has also been published in English as The Longest Day Of The Future by Fantagraphics books.  So even though I felt proud about “reading” the book in Spanish, I could have just found it in English too.  Well, I’m keeping with my original post, so….

You can see more details of the book from the publisher website.

But here’s what the site says (in Google-translated English, no the irony is not lost on me): (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PARAMORE-Tiny Desk Concert #655 (October 2, 2017).

I had always thought that Paramore was someone else (although I don’t know who).  I thought they were a pop punk band.  And maybe they were.

But this six-piece incarnation of the band is not pop punk at all.

Indeed, the blurb says, Paramore

captures the moment between rapture and its comedown, the glitter wiped away, left with skin rubbed raw. It’s a record, more than a decade into the band’s career, that not only exposes the sparkling pop that’s always lit Paramore’s songs, but also deals with the ache of growing up and growing apart.

The first song “Hard Times” opens with a keyboard line that sounds vaguely like steel drums.  It makes me smile that Logan MacKenzie’s keyboard is about six inches long. There’s slices of jagged guitar, but the chorus is pure pop.  The drums (Zac Farro’s drum machine) have an Afro-pop texture and Joseph Howard’s bass plays a few sliding moments that seem very dancey.  Although I do like that the song ends with another jagged guitar chord.

Singer Hayley Williams has a really lovely voice.   Before the next song,  “26,” she say that the new songs are dancey and happy but this song is the most transparent in not covering up the emotions of the record.  Hope we don’t bum you out too much.

The song is simply a gentle echoed guitar from Taylor York and William’s exposed voice.  And the blurb assures us that Paramore’s quieter songs have never quite shown this depth of understated devastation and determination.

Bummed or not she does encourage everyone in the office to sing and dance along, unless that’s awkward.

The final song, “Fake Happy” has synth drums and more of those steel drum keyboard sounds.  The blurb says it’s a soaring anthem to expressing your truest self (and calling out those playing pretend).  There’s a groovy bass line and minimal dancey nods.  There’s some interesting guitar sounds from both Taylor and Justin York.  I like this song, although she tends to fall into some vocal pop trappings that I don’t like, especially in the middle section.

[READ: February 2, 2017] CivilWarLand in Bad Decline

I have been really enjoying George Saunders.  I had considered reading all of his published pieces in the New Yorker.  And then I realized that they were probably all collected in his books, right?  Well, yes, most of his pieces have been collected.  Although for this book, his first, there was only one New Yorker story, “Offloading for Mrs Schwartz.”

When I read In Persuasion Nation many years ago, I remembered thinking that Saunders is supposed to be very funny but that his stories really aren’t.  And now, after reading so many things about his generosity and kind spirit, I was expecting to get more of that from these stories too.  But in both cases, I feel like Saunders was a very different writer.  While there is certainly humor in these stories, it is very dark humor and is often surrounded by characters who are incredibly cruel.  It makes these stories rather hard to bear sometimes. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: April 2016] The Scarecrow and His Servant 

I was looking for a story that Clark and I could listen to in the mornings when I drove him to school.  I didn’t want it to be too long (our commute was only 15 minutes), but I wanted it to be really enjoyable.

I know Pullman from the His Dark Materials series which I loved.  But I didn’t know much else by him.  This story seemed unusual, to say the least, but it was a perfect length–about 3 hours–for morning drives.

The audio book was read by Graeme Malcolm, and he did an amazing job–he had a great variety of voices at his disposal and he really made the story come to life.

The story is really quite unusual.  It begins with the history of the titular scarecrow.  How a man made him–and gave him a lovely turnip for a head–dressed him smartly and tucked a piece of paper, to show ownership, into his jacket pocket.  Pretty much straightaway, he is stolen, and then stolen again and then one more time until he is very far from home standing in a field.

And then he is struck by lightning and comes to life! (more…)

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clarkSOUNDTRACK: JOHN CONGLETON AND THE NIGHTY NITE-Tiny Desk Concert #550 (July 22, 2016).

congleton John Congleton is a music producer (and a really good one at that–he’s had his hands on great albums both obscure and really poplar). But he is also a musician.  And a pretty weird one at that.  Here, as the blurb says, “he creates haunting tension with just acoustic guitar, brilliant electronics from Jordan Geiger, and words passionately sung.”

These songs are interesting because Congleton plays a very traditional sounding acoustic guitar.  His songs are typical folk chords.  But the lyrics are pretty dark and confrontational and those keyboards are often really creepy or disturbing (appropriate for the lyrics)

The first song, “Just Lay Still” is a rollicking  track with the guitar playing quickly and the keyboards playing off-kilter and deliberately creepy chords.   Lyrically, the song is about the subject that Congleton seems to be exploring on all of these songs–what it is like to be human.  “I love you like a lion loves its kill / I will touch you like a doctor, just lay still.  Let the implements molest you in your sleep / You belong to me…  We’ve got you surrounded (creepy chord).  We’ve got you surrounded.”

Congleton says “Your Temporary Custodian” is a devotional song about indifference.” It opens with crazy siren-like sounds over Congleton’s acoustic guitar. The blurb notes that the song addresses “what it means to face the fact that we are flesh-and-blood ‘temporary custodians’ in vessels that will inevitably return to the earth and decay.”  It’s got lyrics like:  “You phenomenal nominal nominal nominal nothing” and “we will not be saved / we went looking for the sublime / we found only the inane”  and “what an extraordinary thing it is to be this ordinary thing.”

Before the final song he thanks everyone (he’s very polite given his lyrics) and then jokes, as taxpayers we expect a full tour [of the NPR building].  “Animal Rites” is also a fast song with more great lyrics: “I’d love to hold you but I need to hold my own.”   Or “Biology kicks virtues’ ass every time” or my favorite: “When you’re crazy at 20 you’re sex to be had / when you’re crazy at 50 you’re not sexy, you’re sad.”  And then the crux of the matter: “You’re with an animal / you’re with a warm body, carbon contents, atoms and proteins.”  This song is much longer than the other two.  It has two parts separated by a solo is a bunch of noise and mayhem from the keyboards.  The second half slows down but eventually comes back to the main thrust of the song.

These songs were definitely unusual, and strangely catchy.  I’m curious to hear what this album sounds like (assuming he produced it himself–I expect impeccable work.

[READ: November 30, 2016] Clark

One of the things that I admire about Brendan Connell as an author is the astonishing depth and detail work he puts into his books.  Connell is an amazing polymath, with books that fully bring to life such diverse topics as food, religion, philosophy, violence, sex and now, Italian cinema.

Clark is the story of Eric Clark a devoted actor who rarely refused a role.  We watch his introduction to the world of film, his embrace of said world (and its embrace of him) and his subsequent decline.  This book also shows an amazing amount of detail about the Italian film industry–a topic I know nothing about.  Now I realize that Clark and his films are made up, but I have to assume that everything else that Connell says about the industry, its ability to make movies quickly and for 10% of the price of American films is all correct.  And if it isn’t, then he’s done an even more remarkable job of making it all up. (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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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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