Archive for the ‘Dentists’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ALPINE-Tiny Desk Concert #295 (August 12, 2013).

I was unfamiliar with Alpine before this show, so the blurb helpfully notes:

The Australian sextet crafts busily impeccable pop music with a danceable sway, prominent synths and the charming shared lead vocals of Phoebe Baker and Lou James. That’s a lot of ingredients to strip down to a semi-acoustic set in the NPR Music offices; there’s virtually no margin for error.  Thankfully, the two women at the band’s heart possess gorgeously interlocking, harmony-intensive voices that require no sweeteners.

Each of the women is fascinating in her own way.  I can’t not mention that Lou James, the dark-haired singer’s outfit is light blue two piece with the top and bottom attached by crossing strands of fabric (so technically it’s a one piece).  While the blonde-haired singer, Phoebe Baker is wearing a flowery dress over a long-sleeved shirt.  Her hair looks like if she unclipped it, it would be a huge nimbus around her head.  But appearances aside, their voices work perfectly together.  They do a lot of singing one note in a pretty staccato fashion (almost like horns).  Their voices meld beautifully, whether singing in harmony or chorus.

I love the little fiddly, interesting guitar chords of the first song, “Gasoline.”  The song doesn’t deviate that much from the beginning—it’s bouncy and catchy–because all of the focus is on the two singers.  It’s really a fun song that I can’t stop listening to.

the second song, “Villages,” opens with a gentle acoustic guitar.  It’s interesting that Baker’s voice is noticeably accented in this song.  Like when she sings “Why don’t you come,” or in the really groovy middle part when James is singing, “I can’t believe I’ve seen this love,” Baker sings “Ah Oh” but you can actually hear her accent in these single notes.

They mention that they were walking around D.C. but it was way too hot.  They saw the White House and the Lincoln memorial.  The guitarist went to the Air and Space Museum (but he’s English) and the drummer is jealous.

I really like the way the third song, “Hands” opens with the vocals singing in an enchanting staccato, “It’s okay to feel the rain on my hand my love.”  And again once the verses start the vocals are very Björk-like

The final song, “Softsides,” is one they’ve never done acoustically before.  It’s also the first time their drummer has played keyboards live.  Once again the vocals are fascinating and really engaging, with each singer doing little pieces of the delicate vocal line.

[READ: July 19, 2016] Dan vs. Nature

I judged this book by its cover and title and deemed it worthy of a read.

I loved the idea of “vs. nature” and didn’t really have any sense of what the book would be a bout but the blurb “an outrageously funny and wicked raunchy romp in the woods” sounded promising.

So I was very surprised that the book began with Dan getting beaten up by jocks (the scene was funny if not a little violent) and then going home to have dinner with his mom and the man he is meeting for the first time–who his mom says just asked her to marry him.

The reason he is getting beaten up by jocks is because of his best friend Charlie.  They have been friends forever and Charlie is super smart.  He’s also a major germaphobe and has been reading everything science-related since he was little.  Charlie is also the school photographer and when he tries to get the jocks to pose for a picture he calls them uriniferous homunculi. They don’t know what that means, but Charlie explains it to them.  So Charlie and Dan both get beat up for it. The gym teacher hears the ruckus and comes out and tells them to save their fighting for the wrestling meet.  Ugh. (more…)

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2008_03_03-400SOUNDTRACK: FOREIGN EXCHANGE-Tiny Desk Concert #370 (July 5, 2014).

FeIt’s amusing how “religious” lead singer Phonte Coleman comes across in this set given how profane his language is.  He begins the set by telling us what a “church clap” is: a church clap is when you clap for someone when they sing in church but they suck.  It’s a slow clap that says keep trying, baby.

Foreign Exchange is Phonte on vocals, guitarist Nicolay, keyboardist Zo! and percussionist Boogie.  Their music (in this setting anyhow) is a kind of mellow stripped down soul pop.

“On A Day Like Today” is a kind of acoustic r&b with acoustic guitar and gentle keyboards. Phonte is an engaging and fun performer enticing people to clap and singing that he’s gonna wipe the sweat off his face as he does so.

He says he’s “sweating like a preacher here.”  After the first song he hits the gong ans says “when you hear this sound, that means turn the motherfuckin’ page.”   he describes the second song, “Listen to the Rain” as when you need to wind down and things ain’t going right.  It is a delicate ballad full of nice percussion.

Before the final song he says, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression so I hope this is a good motherfuckin impression.”  Then as he is ramping up the song, he tells everyone to turn to your neighbor and say “‘Neighbor, put home in your heart,’ goddamn right.” “Call It Home” is a pretty, smooth rocker.  Phonte has a good solid voice and these songs are all pretty enjoyable.

Phonte is a great front man having fun right up to the end as he jokes about how he “felt it” and was overcome during the final song.

[READ: January 29, 2016] “Leaving for Kenosha”

Richard Ford is a famous writer whom I have never read.  I think of him as writing very large books, so I’m surprised to see this short story here.

I have this image of what Ford writes, but I was rather surprised that this was set in New Orleans soon after the flood.  Interestingly, the main character is not the one leaving for Kenosha.

Walter Hobbes (which is the name of the dad in Elf, by the way) is a lawyer.  He is picking up his daughter from school before taking her to the dentist.  His daughter, Louise, is thirteen and trying to be independent.

I really enjoyed the way the Ford set up the family dysfunction–Louise needs a sleep guard to keep her from grinding her teeth–which she has only started doing since her parents got divorced.  There’s some back story about Walter’s wife leaving him and the fact that she still lives in town.  (more…)

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CV1_TNY_02_25_13Ulriksen.inddSOUNDTRACK: THE KNIFE-Shaking the Habitual (2013).

theknife2Since I reviewed the 19 minute song from this album yesterday I thought I’d check out the rest of the disc (still a handful).  I kept bearing in mind that The Knife are pretty much a dance duo.  So this departure is not only radical, it pretty much undercuts the kind of music they make.  The progress is probably exciting but I imagine fans would turn away in droves.  I wonder how this record will play out for them in the long run.  Incidentally, I wasn’t a fan before, so I don’t really have a horse in this race.

“A Tooth for an Eye” opens the record with an interesting percussion sound an a pulsing keyboard melody.  The keening vocals come in sounding weird and distant and more than a little eerie.  “Full of Fire” is a 9-minute song with a weird skittery “melody” that seems to float above the battered mechanical “drum.”  The whispered vocals are strained and also a little creepy.  The middle section has the skittery music jump around while the vocals get even more processed—making it simultaneously more friendly and less so.  It’s probably the coolest weird song on the disc, with parts that are catchy and interesting and parts that are just peculiar.  This is the single, by the way.

“A Cherry on Top” is 8 minutes of reasonable quietude, with the second half introducing an autoharp.  It’s certainly the most mellow thing on the disc.  Although it’s not exactly relaxing.  “Without You My Life Would Be Boring” seems like it should be the single—it is propulsive and while the vocals are certainly odd, they are the most conventional thing on the album.  “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” has big electronic pulsing drums and whispered vocals.  It’s a fairly normal sounding song (at least for this album), and could easily play in a goth club.

“Crake” is 55 second of squalling feedback.  The album also has “Oryx” which is 37 second of wailing noise.  In between is the 10 minute “Raging Lung” which is not available on Spotify.  “Networking” a skittering beat with a second beat that may just be a sample of a person making noise in his or her throat.  The “voices” get stranger throughout the song, keening, twisting and spinning, reminiscent of The Art of Noise.

“Stay Out Here” is a ten minute song.  It starts with a fairly standard electronic drumbeat.  Whispered vocals come in giving it a kind of Nine Inch Nails vibe, until the female vocals come in (and are quickly manipulated to sound kind of male).  The switch from male and female vocals is interesting, giving it an almost modern sounding Dead Can Dance feel.

“Fracking Fluid Injection” has sounds like scraping, rusted gates as the beat with sampled voices overlaid.  Again, this is nearly 10 minute long.  The problem with things like this, aside from their relative tediousness, is that they aren’t all that original.  Now originality is nothing to hold a band to, we all know, but if you’re going to do non-form sounds that are echoed with little else to it, it would be more interesting if there was something original to pin to it.  “Ready to Lose” ends the album with a steady beat and a pretty standard vocal line (even if the voices are processed).

So this album us a pretty radical departure for the band and it’s a pretty radical departure for dance music as a whole.  I’m curious to see if this will lead to a anything or if this will be their one weird album.

[READ: April 15, 2013] “The Furies”

The story opens with a rather creepy man stating at his wedding reception that he is in an exclusive club: “There are not too many men who can say that they’re older than their father-in-law.” Ew.  He was fifty-eight, his new wife 31.  His father-in-law is 56.  The father-in-law seems okay with this, but really how could he be?

Ray is a dentist and his new wife, Shelly, had been his hygienist for years.  When Shelly told him she was thinking of getting a new job, he professed his love for her, and informed his wife, Angie that he was in love with Shelly.  Angie took it badly, but he was surprised when she seemed mad that he didn’t do this years earlier while she still had a chance to meet someone (rather than being distraught that he was leaving her).  As a parting shot she says that she wishes him ill.  And she hope he suffers with the woman who took him from her.

But they had no children, just assets, and things were divided evenly and cleanly.  And he thanked his lucky starts to be with a new woman, someone who was fun and so different from his first wife. (more…)

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bernSOUNDTRACK: GARBAGE-Garbage (1995).

garbageWhen the debut Garbage album came out I was totally hooked.  I was initially skeptical of the album–the sneaky release of “Vow” with no hype (but hype), the Butch Vig connection.  But I heard it and wow.  Then the rest of the album did not disappoint.  I listened to this album so much it’s hard for me to even be objective about it.  For a time this was my favorite album.  My biggest celebrity bummer was when I found out that they were appearing at a Newbury Comics and I went to the wrong one.  By the time I got across town to the real location, the line was huge and the clerk cut off the line about four people in front of me.  Ugh.

I’m not sure what it was about this album–it’s slick, it’s technically overproduced (three producers who spent countless months tinkering with it) but it doesn’t really sound overproduced. It’s an interesting pastiche of pop, grunge, electronic and goth.  It’s a dark album for sure, but it has pop tones all over it.  It’s also musically interesting, like the way the disc opens.  The opening riff of “Supervixen” is a few notes and then just stops                            and then resumes.  It’s weird and off-putting for the opening of an album and it immediately grabs you.

Then you get the sultry goth-lite of “Queer.”  Overtly sexual, dark and sneaky it’s a perfectly naughty radio friendly alt rock song.  This was released during a time when women were ruling alt-rock, so it wasn’t singular in any way, but it certainly led the way for more women fronted gothy bands.  And so did “Only Happy When it Rains” –the surprise mope rock hit.

“As Heaven is Wide” is a really dark song, understandably not a hit, but really sexy and groovy.  “Not My Idea” brings in some of the first non minor key chords–where Manson sings in her sweeter voice until the raucous chorus.  “Vow” seems like such an unlikey first single–the stuttering guitar the nonsinging vocals, it really doesn’t showcase Shirley’s voice all that well.  But as a middle of the album song it’s nice and hard hitting.  “Stupid Girl” was also pretty huge–it’s got some wonderfully raw sounds to keep it from being too treacly (well and the lyrics do too, of course).

“Dog New Tricks” has a lot going on musically underneath Manson’s voice that I still find it really compelling–like the staggered guitars that don’t seem to fit, but do.  “My Lover’s Box” (which I always assumed was called “Send Me An Angel”) is another slow sultry number although the guitar riff is way too reminiscent of Aldo Nova’s one hit (“Fantasy).  “Fix Me Now” is one final loud, oddly upbeat song, followed by the wonderful gothy closer “Milk” which emphasizes keyboards in a way that the rest of the album doesn’t.

It’s a great debut, an album that I still regard very highly even if I don’t listen to it all that often anymore.

[READ: February 3, 2013] Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Sarah brought this book home and said I would like it.  And I was able to read a few pages when she ran into a store and it was very funny so I couldn’t wait to read the whole thing (despite the rather stupid cover).  Maria Semple was a writer for Arrested Development among other shows and recently turned her pen to novels (this is her second book).

One of the delights of this book was having literally no idea where it was going.  Meaning that by the end of Part Two (there are six parts), I really had no idea where it would end.  By the time it ends it all makes sense, but it wasn’t telegraphed, which is pretty cool.  This book also ties nicely to Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore.  In Penumbra, much of the action took place at and around Google.  In Bernadette, much of the action takes place in and around Microsoft.  Based on these two fictionalizations, it sounds like Google is a more enjoyable place to work as Google gave you free food made to your specifications whereas in Microsoft all they had was free candy machines (and lots of layoffs and jealousy that they can’t use an iPhone).

The story is narrated by Bee, and eighth grader who scores all S’s on her private school report card (S is the highest you can get, since they don’t believe in grades).  The note accompanying the report card raves about Bee’s intelligence, generosity and helpfulness around the school).  That night at the dinner table, Bee tells her parents what she wants for getting such a great report card (she had always wanted a pony, but has changed her mind): She wants to go to Antarctica on a cruise with the family.

This presents a problem for Bee’s mother Bernadette because she pretty much never leaves the house.  Well, she does, but only to drive Bee to school.  She has recently started outsourcing her life to a woman in India (for 75 cents an hour). The woman does literally everything for her, including making reservations at a restaurant 1/2 a mile from Bernadette’s house.  But Bernadette wasn’t always like this.  Indeed, she was once a future star in the architecture field until the tragic event that changed everything for her.

That change inspired a move with her husband, Elgie, to Seattle (a city which she now loathes–in great detail) where he found a job at Microsoft.  He thrived there and soon was put in charge of the Samantha 2 project–a program that allows you to interact with all your devices using only your mind (his TED talk is the fourth most viewed ever!). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SURFER BLOOD-Live on KEXP, December 1, 2009 (2009).

This performance takes place before Surfer Blood’s debut album came out.  The DJ is amazed at the size of their following (which is indeed quite huge for a band with no record yet).  The band is young and fun and they engage her with stories and joke. They’re a treat to listen to.

And so is the music. “Floating Vibes,” sounds great and it flows seamlessly into “Swim” (their “hit”), which also sounds fantastic here live.

“Catholic Pagans” is a brief rocker which melds into “Anchorage,”  a 7-minute slow burner that ends with a noisy workout.  It’s always great to hear a new band who sounds awesome live.  Here’s where you can listen to them.

[READ: November 13, 2012] “Extinct Anatomies”

Daniel Alarcón is an author whom I feel has been around for a very long time, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.  He was listed as a New Yorker 20 under 30 just two years ago, so he can’t be that old either.  (Indeed, he has released only a collection of short stories and a novel at this point).

Anyhow, this short fiction was really interesting.  The writing style was delightfully straightforward and compelling, despite the rather banal subject matter.  An uninsured musician is in Lima visiting his cousin.  Since he has no insurance in the States, and his cousin is a dentist, he decides to have extensive dental work done by his relative (he had broken his front teeth).  This cousin lived with them in Alabama when they were kids but they haven’t really seen each other much since then.

Back in Alabama, the cousin, who was older, was chasing after girls when the narrative was but 8 years old.  The narrator didn’t understand the flirting that the cousin did on the phone (“Oh, your hair”) and the cousin seemed exasperated about what American women might want.

But again, this somewhat banal story is filled with deception and intrigue.  He tells a lie to his cousin about how he teeth were broken.  And his cousin “ordered X-rays, as if to confirm my story.”   The cousin’s dental assistant is very nice and gentle but is always hidden behind a mask.  So the narrator imagines her as very beautiful.  And after a few sessions he has fantasies about her to take his mind of the procedure. (more…)

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