Archive for the ‘Dentists’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: OVERCOATS-Tiny Desk Concert #607 (March 27, 2017).

Overcoats is Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell.  They sing beautiful duets–sometimes in harmony, sometimes in unison–but always perfectly together.  And they seem to have an incredible affection for each other–notice the way they hug each other at the end of the show.

I was intrigued by the blurb that says:

Behind those rich voices lies a spare electronic backdrop that feels spacious and refreshing. Not long ago, these songs would likely be backed by a nylon-stringed guitar, but their healthy energy feels more urgent with an underpinning drone and Joao Gonzalez’s drumming.

And it’s true.  As the songs progress, you do rather expect to hear more folk sounds, but instead the songs are almost dancey, certainly soulful.  At times they are dancey, as the duo do some really fun dances too.

“23” opens with Elion’s guitar and slightly higher voice.  She and Mitchell switch off lead vocals until Mitchell pays some keyboards which broadens the sound…slightly.  As the song nears its end Mitchell puts some synths on a loop, the women sing a round of Ahhs until a great delicate moment at the and as Elion slides her hand up the neck of her guitar ringing out that chord higher and higher until the end.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people smile so much and be so happy about what they are doing and who they are with.

JJ introduces “Leave the Light On” by saying “Hana has a life long dream to do a Tiny Desk.  She’s actually retiring after this show.”  This song is much more dancey.  They both sing the line “leave the light on for myself when I come home” and then the Gonzalez samples it ( I assume) and loops it.  There’s not a lot to the song, but it’s quite infectious, especially as they dance wildly between verses, swinging their arms and smiling at each other.  They even put their arms around each other while they sing .

“Hold Me Close” is a pretty ballad that’s slower and more poignant.  And they do hold each other close as they sing.  When they sing the last few words to each other you can feel the love between them.  It’s really something.

I didn’t mention the fact that they are wearing identical white tunics, because no one else did. I don’t know if that’s how they dress on stage, but it really makes a visual statement.  I also can’t imagine them singing in a larger space than the Tiny Desk.  The performance is so intimate what would they do with a bigger stage?

[READ: January 25, 2017] “You Never Really Know”

This comic piece goes from funny to very funny to fairly insane in a matter of a few paragraphs.

The story begins with a strange misunderstanding.  The narrator saw a homeless man holding out a cup and begging for change. But as he got closer her realized the man was not homeless and that the cup was actually full of coffee!

Then he notes that his fiancée would probably step over a guy like that without a second thought.

He cites some other examples of how the world is full of surprises: The C.E.O. of a Fortune 500 company could turn out the be the greatest basketball player. And, his mother, a nurse, could be speaking to that man’s fiancée behind his back.

You never know what’s going on.  Until you hire a lawyer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SAN FERMIN-Tiny Desk Concert #315 (October 28, 2013).

When I first heard San Fermin I was immediately grabbed by the female lead voice (the song was “Sonsick”).  It was so powerful and gripping. I didn’t realize then that the female leads were the lead singers of Lucius (who I also didn’t know at the time).  San Fermin is the creation of Ellis Ludwig-Leone.

Since then I have enjoyed other songs by them as well, although I find that the songs sung by Allen Tate to be somewhat less exciting to me– I feel like his voice could one day hit me as amazing but it’s almost a little to understated for me.  And yet musically I love the orchestration and chamber poppiness.  As Bob writes:

San Fermin’s music bursts with ambition, talent and extreme joy. Its self-titled debut is charged with great storytelling and amazing vocals by both Allen Tate and Lucius singers Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe. Then there are the arrangements: little gems that turn these songs into cinematic vignettes using trumpet, sax, keyboard, violin, guitar and drums.

San Fermin is the musical vision of Ellis Ludwig-Leone, who wrote these songs with Tate’s dark, rich voice in mind. Here at the Tiny Desk, Rae Cassidy makes the album’s female vocal parts her own.

So it’s interesting that the songs were meant for Tate.  I want just some more oomph from him.  especially here in this set.  And that’s because Rae Cassidy absolutely rules this set.

“Oh Darling” begins with a gentle piano and Cassidy’s pretty, delicate voice.  After a verse from her, Tate’s voice comes in and it’s almost comically low and formal (and actually perhaps a bit too quiet).  But when they all come in and sing it is just beautiful–the women in particular.

For “Sonsick” Cassidy sings lead with just drums.  As the song builds there’s a great chorus where the backing vocals (including Tate) sing in falsetto.  This version is quite stripped down compared to the recorded version and it really allows Cassidy’s voice to shine.  When she hits those incredibly high notes with such power, it gives me chills.

In the final song, “Renaissance!” Tate sings lead over a slow piano and violin.  The women sing backing vocals.  I like the way that the song builds in intensity with more instruments, but his voice is a little too flat for me–although he does kick in extra at the end.

There’s a really stunning version of the first two songs with the band singing live in a street and cafe and France.

Incidentally, Cassidy has since left the band and gone solo, and I wish her much success.

[READ: December 28, 2016] Humans of New York Stories

Sarah got me this book for Christmas.  I knew of Humans of New York, of course, but I wasn’t a follower of it.  So while I knew of it I didn’t really know that much about it.

There’s a brief introduction to this book (which is his second HONY book) in which he explains that HONY grew from five years of experimenting.  It evolved from a photography blog to a storytelling blog.  His original inspiration was to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers.  But then he decided to start including quotes from some of them.

He started interviewing people and found their stories became the real heart of the blog.  Of course, he thanks the community of readers and participants, because without them, he has nothing.

The rest of the book–425 pages–collects the photos and the stories. (more…)

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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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