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Archive for the ‘Death’ Category

Terry Jones [1942-2020]

Terry Jones died last night at age 77 because of complications from a rare form of dementia.

I was a huge Monty Python fan back in the day.  I’ve seen all the episodes (even the German ones) and the movies.  I have the records and the books and just about everything they’ve done.  They influenced me terrifically.

Terry Jones was a founder of Monty Python and while I tended to not think of him as my favorite on screen person, thinking about all of the amazing characters he played over the years, I think I’ve unfairly put him too low.  Especially as I think of some of the most quotable lines and how he either said them or was in the skit that spawned it (wafer-thin, anyone?).  Not to mention he did some of the best women’s voices in the series.

Most of the Pythons have been slowing down as of late, which is to be expected.  I was supposed to see John Cleese live recently but my plans fell through. Terry Gilliam is making some unfortunate comments in the media lately.  Eric Idle seems to always be about.  Michael Palin has been doing fantastic work travelling and writing no-fiction. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RADIOHEAD PUBLIC LIBRARY (2020).

Today, Radiohead changed their website to the Radiohead Public Library.  About which they state:

Radiohead.com has always been a) infuriatingly uninformative and b) surprising. The most surprising thing to do next, therefore, is to suddenly become incredibly informative. So that is what we have done. We present: the RADIOHEAD PUBLIC LIBRARY, an online resource containing videos, music, artwork, websites, merchandise, and assorted ephemera.

As a librarian, I love that this is what they are calling the site, and I love the idea that they will single handedly get the word library into many many search engines.

So what is it?

Well, really it’s kind of a tumbler page, meaning it is weird and chaotic and hard to find things (very much unlike a library).  But there is a vaguely chronological format (color coded).

But like at a library, you can find links to work that has been historically tough to find online.

You can also register for a library card.  The card is a downloadable image file where you can attach a photo of yourself (and then laminate it, of course).  I was kind of bummed that my number was so high (I’m in the 102,000 range), but I didn’t look at the site until late in the day. And actually I’m pretty thrilled that at least 100,000 people had visited the site before me.  Unless these numbers are randomized, of course.

The library contains he band’s albums, B-sides, non-LP tracks, behind-the-scenes photos, TV appearances, promotional performances, webcasts, full-length concerts (2006 and 2012 Bonnaroo) , a store with newly reissued T-shirts and lots of Stanley Donwood’s artwork.

I suppose most Radiohead die hard fans have all of this stuff already, but it sounds like they have updated the quality of a lot of the works.  Plus, it’s fun having it all in one place.

Also, Colin Greenwood, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Philip Selway, and Thom Yorke will each serve as a “librarian” for a day.

Get your library card now!

[READ: January 14, 2020] “Visitor”

The narrator explains that a visitor showed up in his doorstep about a month after his father’s funeral. He had flown in from Kingston, Jamaica.  He told the narrator that he was the narrator’s father’s lover.

The narrator said no way but agreed to let the man in.

The visitor was Asian (lots of Chinese in Jamaica, he said).  His boots were too big, his pants were too tight.  The visitor began to tell him things about his father that checked out.  He hated reggae, couldn’t cook and didn’t have a favoirte color.  Eventually he said “your father and I were just kids.  Lasted five years, on and off.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RADIOHEAD-Drill EP (1992).

Radiohead recently released a bunch of their stuff to streaming platforms.  One of those releases was Drill, their debut EP that came out a year or so before Pablo Honey.  Most of the tracks appear to be demos.  And yet, they are very well recorded demos.–they sound quite good.

Three of the four songs were rerecorded for Pablo Honey.  The only one not on the album is “Stupid Car” a quiet ballad.

“Prove Yourself” and “You” sound a lot like the album versions.  The biggest difference is the sound quality and the “Prove Yourself” guitar solo which is much louder and more piercing on Pablo Honey.  “You” sounds pretty identical, right down to Thom Yorke’s powerful scream mid song

The biggest difference comes with ‘Thinking About You”  On Pablo Honey it is a slow acoustic ballad.  But here it is a fast-paced almost punk rocker.  It’s got racing guitars and fast drums.  Honestly I prefer this to the album version.

The impressive thing is just how good these songs sound.  Not only because they were basically demos.  But because this was their first release and while Radiohead has changed drastically over the years, these original songs are still really good.

Fans tend to disregard Pablo Honey, but the compositions, while nothing like the newer work, are solid, well-crafted alt rock songs.  Don’t dismiss this EP, this band is going somewhere.

[READ December 29, 2019] Out of the Cage

Every now and then I get a short play at my desk.  This one looked pretty interesting.

Inspired by the munition women of Silvertown, London during the First World War, this tells the story of women’s courage, dignity and hope, fired in the crucible of war.

During the War, women worked in munition plants (munitionettes, they were called).  Despite their hard work in dangerous places, they were given far less credit and pay than their male counterparts.  (Sound familiar?). Could they possibly stand up for themselves or would they forever be seen as second class citizens.

There are eight major characters in the play

  • Jane Byass: 40’s 4 kids, hard but fair
  • Nancy LongdonL Late 20s upper-class, committed to the cause
  • Dee Jessop: 40s, sick and dying, vengeful
  • Nelly Jonson: 30s forceful and sharp, the only Irishwoman there
  • Annie Castledine: early 20a vibrant and funny
  • Carrie Sefton: Early 20s, tough and engaging
  • Ol’ Mim: 50’s nurturing, tough
  • Lil’ Ginny: early teens, naive

The play opens in Jane’s apartment.  The women are meeting there to discuss what to do about he unfair working conditions.  The first to arrive is Nancy.  The others are mistrustful of her because she is upper class, but she is dedicated to women’s rights.

Dee arrives next, she is bitter and sarcastic, she has been breathing in the toxic fumes in the furnace room.  Her breath is a short as her temper and she is not doing well at all.  Nelly arrives next.  She is the most cynical about Nancy because of the Irish vs. English class wars.  The women descend into bickering but Jane settles them down. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TORRES-“Dressing America” (2020).

I’ve really enjoyed Torres’ music over the years.  I have seen her in concert twice and her live set is riveting.

Her earlier music was very intense and it seems as though her newer music is a bit more poppy.  This new song has a wonderfully catchy melody and her voice sounds fantastic.

Over a gentle guitar, she sings quietly in her lower register.  The song slowly builds up with keyboard swells and a quiet drum.

As the song heads into the chorus, she hits a lovely falsetto “to you” before the sweet chorus

I tend to sleep with my boots on
should I need to gallop over dark waters
to you
on short notice

The chorus has a fantastic delay between the falsetto “to you” (like in the bridge) and the “on short notice” that adds some nice drama.

It’s remarkably catchy (and the video is really sweet too).  I’m looking forward to the album and to seeing her live this Spring.

[READ: January 15, 2019] “The Sail and the Scupper”

This story begins with an epigram from The Canadian Press:

Massive numbers of dead starfish, clams, lobsters, and mussels have washed up on a western Nova Scotia beach, compounding the mysterious deaths of tens of thousands of herring in the area.

Ohm takes this idea and makes an unexpected story out of it.

The story is set in a bar.  A lobster named Homer enters and the bartender (a clam named Lewis) tells him he missed happy hour.

This sounds like the set up to a joke, but it is not.  Lewis looks around his empty bar that only last summer was brimming with herring–slapping fins, endlessly chattering.  The herring were always hanging around the newspaper reporters (like Homer) who were always stationed in this bar.  They were always trying to get scraps of information about what was happening to the water.

Soon enough they were itching for Direct Action. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NEIL PEART-September 12, 1952-January 7, 2020.

When I was in high school, Rush was my favorite band, hands down.  I listened to them all the time.  I made tapes of all of their songs in alphabetical order and would listen to them straight through.

I still loved them in college, but a little less so as my tastes broadened.  But every new release was something special.

It’s frankly astonishing that I didn’t seem them live until 1990.  There were shows somewhat nearby when I was in college, but I never wanted to travel too far on a school night (nerd!).

For a band I loved so much, it’s also odd that I’ve only seen them live 5 times.  However, their live shows are pretty consistent.  They play the same set every night of a tour (as I found out when I saw them two nights apart), and there wasn’t much that set each show apart–although They did start making their shows more and more fun as the years went on, though).

One constant was always Neil Peart’s drum solo. It too was similar every night.  Although I suspect that there was a lot more going on than I was a ware of.  It was also easy to forget just how incredible these solos were.  Sure it was fun when he started adding synth pads and playing music instead of just drums, but even before that his drumming was, of course, amazing.

It was easy to lose sight of that because I had always taken it for granted.

I am happy to have seen Rush on their final tour.  I am sad to hear of Neil’s passing.  I would have been devastated had it happened twenty years ago, but now I am more devastated for his family.

So here’s two (of dozens) memorials.  The first one is from the CBC.  They included a mashup of some of Neil’s best drum solos:

But what better way to remember the drum master than with a supercut of his drum solos? From a 2004 performance of “Der Trommler” in Frankfurt, Germany, to a 2011 performance on The Late Show With David Letterman, to his first-ever recorded drum solo (in 1974 in Cleveland, Ohio), dive into nearly five minutes of Peart’s epic drum solos, below.

The best Neil Peart drum solos of all time.

I was only going to include this link, because it was a good summary, then I saw that Pitchfork ranked five of Neil’s best drum solos (an impossible task, really).  But it is nice to have them all in one place.

You can find that link here.

Starting in the 1980s Neil’s solos were given a name (which shows that they were pretty much the same every night).  Although as I understand it, the framework was the same but the actual hits were improvised each night.

Even after all of these years and hearing these drum solos hundreds of times, watching them still blows my mind.

  • “The Rhythm Method”
  • “O Baterista”
  • “Der Trommler”
  • “De Slagwerker,”
  • “Moto Perpetuo”
  • “Here It Is!”, “Drumbastica,” “The Percussor – (I) Binary Love Theme / (II) Steambanger’s Ball”

[READ: January 2020] Canada 1867-2017

In this book, Paul Taillefer looks at the most historically significant event from each tear of Canadian history.  And he tries to convey that event in about a page.  Can you imagine learning the history of your country and trying to condense every year into three paragraphs?

And then do it again in French?  For this book is also bilingual.

I can’t read French, but i can tell that the French is not a direct translation of the English (or vice versa).

For instance in 1869, the final sentence is:

This, in turn, signaled the start of the Red River Rebellion which would not end until the Battle of Batoche in 1885.

Neither Batoche nor 1885 appears in the entire French write up.  So that’s interesting, I suppose.  I wonder if the content is very different for French-reading audiences. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SPANGLISH FLY-Tiny Desk Concert #931 (December 31, 2019.

Spanglish Fly is a pretty funny name for a band

Spanglish Fly [is] one of the true pioneers of the boogaloo revival scene happening on the East Coast. For about sixteen minutes, our little corner of the building was the hottest Latin dance club in D.C..

The band (eleven members at the Tiny Desk) combine two styles of music to create a great deal of dancing fun in these three songs.

There is something absolutely infectious about combining the deep groove of an Afro Cuban tumbao bass line with a conga marcha, while the horns answer a call-and-response with the vocalists, all in a confined space.

The first song “Bugalú Pa Mi Abuela” opens with some clapping and that familiar conga style of piano from Kenny Bruno.  It’s cool how the music jumps between this style and the grooving bass (including some cool bass slides) from Rich Robles.  This song gets you moving right away and has a trombone solo from Ric Becker.

The second song slows things down and is a bit more serious.  “Los Niños En La Frontera” has a slow burn of social consciousness.  It means “children at the border.”  And although the song is more somber, the musical is style rich and vibrant.  It opens with shakers from Paula Winter and cymbals and timbales from Arei Sekiguchi.  Then the piano jumps in with a call and response from the horns.  In addition to a lead baritone saxophone line from Stefan Zeniuk, there’s also Matt Thomas on tenor saxophone and Jonathan Goldman on trumpet.

I haven’t mentioned the vocals yet because it’s in this song that both singers really demonstrate their power.  Jessenia Cuesta sings lead first but in the end Mariella Price takes over and sings a different, faster more intense style.  Their voices work together really well.  And as the song ends, Jessenia holds an impressively long note.

The final song is “a song about shoes.”

The horn ensemble work that drives “Boogaloo Shoes” is worthy of the song’s title, a name taken from the classic dance form that drove East Coast teens crazy in the 1960s. The percussion immediately causes hips to sway.

This song is sung in English and features some more of that great piano and even some yips and yells from the singers.  The chorus has a couple of really fun moments when Dylan Blanchard on the congas and Arei do fast drum fills.  Matt Thomas takes a pretty lengthy solo on tenor sax and the end features a spoken word in which Mariella tells us that they are putting the “you” in zapata boogaloo.  Jessenia Cuesta ends the song with one more great vocal turn.

It’s a really fun set and if your body is not moving during it, you must be dead.

[READ: January 6, 2020] “The Strangeness of Grief”

Recently, Michael Chabon wrote an essay about his somewhat ambivalent feelings about the death of his father.  Now it is V.S Naipaul’s turn to discuss this as well.

Naipaul’s father was forty-five or forty-six when he had a heart attack.  He was working for the Trinidad Guardian while V.S. was at school in Oxford.

Although his father was to receive half pay, he seemed unconcerned about the state of the family finances.  Indeed, the episode seemed to leave him with a lightness of spirit.  So he began writing comic short stories.  They were quite successful.  The BBC even asked V.S to read one of the stories in the “Caribbean Voices” program.  The amount they were going to pay him would be the amount it would cost for him to get to London from Oxford.  But when he told his father about the expense, his father decided to buy him a gift to show his appreciation. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Bob Boilen’s Favorite Tiny Desk Concerts of 2019.

For 2020, I intend to put more albums in my Soundtrack section.  But it’s amazing how time consuming that can be.

Nevertheless, I’ll always be posting about Tiny Desk Concerts because I watch all of them.  So I’ll start 2020 with Bob Boilen’s favorite Tiny Desk Concerts of 2019.

It amuses me that Bob Boilen and I often share very similar tastes in music, but our favorite things are usually quite different.

When we first started filming musicians playing behind the Tiny Desk in April 2008, the beauty was in the intimacy and simplicity of these concerts. Now into our 11th year, after more than 900 Tiny Desks, the other treasure I find in these concerts is the variety. I remember having the cast of Sesame Street here in May, with NPR parents and their children seated on the floor watching the Muppets. The following Monday we had the blood red-faced raging of Idles, climbing all over the desk and singing “I’m Scum.” The scope of music is invigorating, especially considering a world of listening where we can not only get comfortable with what we love, but where the quantity of music from any particular genre could keep us happy all year. Tiny Desk concerts are here to shake up your tastes a little and help you stretch your ears and discover something you never knew existed or convert you to something you never thought you’d like. Here are 10 great examples of that magic from 2019.

I don’t have a list of favoirtes, but I will make some observations about Bob’s.

Bob seems to really like bands who put their names in all caps.  Also bands who have a number (specifically 47) attached to their letters.

Quinn was the Tiny Desk Contest winner.  Sesame Street is pretty iconic.  Taylor Swift is something of a surprise, but was clearly the biggest name they’ve ever had.  And yet, Lizzo’s Tiny Desk has twice as many views as Taylor Swift’s (5 million to 2.5 million!).

Looking forward to their 1,000th show later this year.  I wonder who it will be.

[READ: January 6, 2020] “Playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain”

This was a great short story about playing a video game.

For decades, the video game industry has been releasing video games in which a protagonist kills people from other countries.  Since I don’t play these games, I never really thought about what it would be like to be from that country and to play those games.

Surely people from all around the world like to play video games, and they probably want to play the popular ones as well.

In this story an an Afghani-American kid, Zoya, who works at Taco Bell has saved up all of his money (the money that he doesn’t give to his out of work father) to buy the final game in the Metal Gear series.  He has been playing this series which has becomes “so fundamentally a part of your childhood that often, when you hear the Irish Gaelic chorus from “The Best is Yet to Come” you cannot help weeping softly into your keyboard.” (more…)

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