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Archive for the ‘Depression’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BRIAN BLADE AND THE FELLOWSHIP BAND-“Landmarks” (Field Recordings, August 14, 2014).

Here’s yet another Field Recording at the Newport Jazz Festival [Chorale For Horns And iPad App, In The Pouring Rain].

The 2014 Festival must have been a rainy one, because some of the other Recordings seem wet as well.  The blurb explains

We had hoped to get the great drummer Brian Blade to give us a little private exhibition after his set at the Newport Jazz Festival this year. The weather, however, was proving much less generous than he and his band were. Early that morning, a steady all-day rain settled in over coastal Rhode Island, making it difficult to transport dry instruments anywhere. On top of that, a last-minute change to travel plans meant that Blade needed to get out of town quickly — to an airport over four hours away.

But he and the Fellowship Band — the group of guys Blade has been making music with for the better part of two decades or more — were game to figure out something for us. So we herded them into the shelter of a quiet tunnel in Fort Adams State Park.

Despite Blade being a drummer, they are unable to use drums or even bass.  So they decide to play a composition of the keyboardist.  Chris Thomas, the bassist, suggests that he could do an interpretive dance (but he does not).

As they get set up, Jon Cowherd starts tinkering on his iPad.  He gets a synth up and starts playing the opening to Van Halen;s “Jump” which gets everyone excited.  Then he starts playing a cool keyboard sound on the app and the two horns join in on the serene melody.

First Myron Walden starts playing the bass clarinet.  Then he is joined beautifully by Melvin Butler on soprano sax.  The song unfolds simply.  I love the way it just seems to grow and grow–slowly revealing more and more of itself.  But it’s over pretty quickly, with the notes fading in the tunnel.

So even though the featured performer, Brian Blades is not playing–and I still have never heard his drums, this was a nifty little piece.

[READ: April 17, 2016] “Land of the Living”

I had it in my head that Sam Shepard was a noir writer from the 1950s.

Well this story (and the surprising fact that the New Yorker published a second of his stories just a few weeks later) led to something entirely different.  This story is about a man who is going on vacation with his family.

It begins with a very funny exchange between the man and his wife,  She tells him, “It’s just amazing how friendly you become when you’re on Xanax”  And he agrees, “I feel this friendly person coming out in me and I wonder if maybe that’s my real nature.”

The family is currently waiting on a customs line in Cancun.  The heat is unbearable, especially since they have just come from Minnesota.

Their conversation is full of things that he says which she is surprised by: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GUSTER-Parachute Live from Brooklyn Bowl (2013).

In 2014, Guster released three CDs of them playing their early CDs live in their entirety (excluding for some reason their second disc Goldfly).  So this is a recording of their first album ‘Parachute’ performed and recorded live in concert at Brooklyn Bowl on December 1, 2013.

This album sounds quite different from the other Guster albums.  I don’t really understand what the difference is.  It sounds like Guster, but not exactly.  Is it that they both sing in harmony through most of the songs?  Is it that Ryan sings “better?”  Are the songs just more folkie?

Whatever the case, even after several albums that don’t sound like this album and nearly twenty years, the band jumps right back into it (the harmonies on “Window” are perfect, for example).

They aren’t the same three-piece they were back in 1994 (they have drums now for instance), but it all works very well.  They also aren’t terribly funny between songs.  Usually Ryan is pretty silly in a show, but they seemed to take it more or less seriously.

After “Dissolve” Ryan says, “we’re playing in a bowling alley I just realized.  Cool.”  You can hear someone in the crowd shout “steeerike.”

I know the guys have made jokes about their song “Happy Frappy” a few times when I’ve seen them, so it’s no surprise that before the song, Ryan shouts, “Alright its ‘Happy Frappy’ time, stoners.”  Although I have no idea what the song is actually about.

When the disc is over Ryan shouts, “Parachute the album–19 and a half years old!”

I think it sounds even better than the original.

[READ: June 2, 2018] “Orange World”

I love when a title gives you an idea but it is totally not the idea of what  the story means–and the new idea is even better than what you had imagined.

“Orange World” conjured up many things to me, but not the devil, not a woman nursing the devil and not a woman nursing the devil every night because the evil saved her baby’s life.

When Rae was pregnant she was worried about a lot of things: ABNORMAL RESULT, HIGH RISK, CLINICAL OUTCOME UNKNOWN.  When the third test came back, she started begging for anything to save her baby from the unknown.

Between 4 and 5 A.M. one night something answered and it promised the baby would be okay.

So what does this have to do worth orange world?  Well, “Orange World is where most of us live.”  It is a nest of tangled electric cords and open drawers filled with steak knives.  It’s a used crib  It’s compromises that could hurt the safety of your baby.  You take a shower with your baby and suddenly….

“Green World” is a fantasy realm of soft corners and infinite attention. The Educator say that Green World is ideal but Orange World is the reality.  Next week’s class is “Red World” and Rae doesn’t want to think about it.

Rae takes the baby doll.  Its head falls off and she steps on the blanket.  Sneaker bacteria: Orange World; decapitation: Red World.  The educator encourages her to go to new moms group. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN PRINE-Tiny Desk Concert #717 (March 12, 2018).

For all of the legendary status of John Prine, I don’t really know that much about him.  I also think I don’t really know much of his music.  I didn’t know any of the four songs he played here.

I enjoyed all four songs.  The melodies were great, the lyrics were thoughtful and his voice, although wizened, convey the sentiments perfectly.

The blurb sums up things really well

An American treasure came to the Tiny Desk and even premiered a new song. John Prine is a truly legendary songwriter. For more than 45 years the 71-year-old artist has written some of the most powerful lyrics in the American music canon, including “Sam Stone,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “Hello In There” and countless others.

John Prine’s new songs are equally powerful and he opens this Tiny Desk concert with “Caravan of Fools,” a track he wrote with Pat McLaughlin and Dan Auerbach. Prine adds a disclaimer to the song saying, “any likeness to the current administration is purely accidental.”

I thought the song was great (albeit short) with these pointed lyrics:

The dark and distant drumming
The pounding of the hooves
The silence of everything that moves
Late in night you see them
Decked out in shiny jewels
The coming of the caravan of fools

That song, and his second tune, the sweet tearjerker “Summer’s End,” are from John Prine’s first album of new songs in 13 years, The Tree of Forgiveness.

He introduces this song by saying that.  This one is a pretty song.  It might drive you to tears.  He wrote this with Pat McLaughlin.  We usually write on Tuesdays in Nashville because that’s the day they serve meatloaf.  I love meatloaf.  We try to write a song before they serve the meatloaf.  And then eat it and record it.

For this Tiny Desk Concert John Prine also reaches back to his great “kiss-off” song from 1991 [“an old song from the 90s (whoo)…  a song from the school of kiss off 101”] called “All the Best,” and then plays “Souvenirs,” a song intended for his debut full-length but released the following year on his 1972 album Diamonds in the Rough. It’s just one of the many sentimental ballads Prine has gifted us.

He says he wrote it in 1968…when he was about 3.

Over the years, his voice has become gruffer and deeper, due in part to his battle with squamous cell cancer on the right side of his neck, all of which makes this song about memories slipping by feel all the more powerful and sad.

“Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That’s why last night and this mornin’
Always look the same to me
I hate reading old love letters
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my sweetheart’s souvenirs”

The musicians include John Prine, Jason Wilber, David Jacques and Kenneth Blevins.

 

[READ: December 11, 2017] X

I really enjoyed Klosterman’s last essay book, although I found pretty much every section was a little too long.  So this book, which is a collection of essays is perfect because the pieces have already been edited for length.

I wasn’t even aware of this book when my brother-in-law Ben sent it to me with a comment about how much he enjoyed the Nickelback essay.

Because I had been reading Grantland and a few other sources, I have actually read a number of these pieces already, but most of them were far off enough that I enjoyed reading them again.

This book is primarily a look at popular culture.  But narrowly defined by sports and music (and some movies).  I have never read any of Klosterman’s fiction, but I love his entertainment essays. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VOIRVOIR-The Free-P (2016).

I got this Free Ep at a VoirVoir (not Voir Voir) show in Bethlehem.  This EP contains four songs.

Two of them are new and two are re-recordings of songs from their debut album.

“Quit It All” is a bit poppier than their debut album.  The 90s synth is a nice touch to this song which, make no mistake, still rocks.   The middle noise section (skronking guitar solo and great drums) is a highlight as are the catchy verses.  The band even submitted a video for the Tiny Desk Contest (I had no idea).

“Sides” is perhaps one of the best catchy alt rock songs I’ve heard in years and I am bummed that they didn’t get recognized for it.  It’s got a great 90s alt-rock sound and wonderful harmonies in the backing vocals.  There’s a video for this song as well.  You can also stream the song on bandcamp.

The other two songs, “Stupid for Now” and “There are No Good Goodbyes” were recorded at WDIY (Lehigh Valley’s Community NPR Station) in a stripped down format.  You can stream the songs here.  It’s interesting to hear them without the fuzz and drums.  The songs are solid and work very well although I do like the originals better.  The show also includes an interview with the three members who play the stripped down show.  The DJ asks their influences and while main singer guitarist Matt Molchany demurs,  April Smith says Built to Spill) and Josh Maskornick says Primus and Superchunk.

And if you can’t get enough (since they haven’t released that much) here’s a live show from Shards.

[READ: January 10, 2016 & January 10, 2018] Goldfish Memory

For some reason, I read this book back in 2016 and then didn’t post about it–I felt like I needed to read it again, and so I waited almost exactly two years and re-read it and enjoyed it even more this second time.  Almost like actual goldfish memory.

The back of this book made the stories sound really compelling:  “what does it mean to have a connection with someone? This is the question these brilliant short stories try to answer.”  The note said that this was the first translation of Monique Schwitter’s form-breaking work.  The translation was by Eluned Gramich.

I’m not sure how form-breaking these stories are, but they are certainly interesting.  They remind me in some ways of Julie Hecht–a narrator who is connected to people but very distantly.  But while Hecht’s narrators are critical and dismissive of everyone, Schwitter’s narrators just seem to be incapable of connecting properly.  You can feel the longing in the distance between them.  I also like how these missed connections cover all kinds of relationships–familial, sexual, friendship, professional, even passing acquaintances.

Few of the characters seem to be able to tell anyone else how they really feel–even when they are dying.  There is sadness at loss, but a kind of c’est la vie about it as well.  And all along, Schwitter’s writing is consistently excellent and the stories are really enjoyable. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Christmas on Mars (2008).

Title aside, and despite the Lips’ love of Christmas, there is nothing Christmassey about this recording.

It’s a soundtrack to their film and it is composed of 12 instrumental pieces.  The disc (which is short) sounds like interstitial Flaming Lips pieces–songs that might appear at the end of or in between songs.

The tracks run the gamut from spooky outerspacey dirges to pretty choral numbers.  But the overall tone of the soundtrack is dark and foreboding (the movie isn’t very happy after all).

Some of the tracks (3 and 4 in particular) are prettier than other–with pretty harps and tubular bells.  But do not put this in your Christmas music rotation unless you really dislike Christmas music.

[READ: June 21, 2017] Adios, Cowboy

Hot on the heels of the depressing Sorry to Disrupt the Peace come this depressing story by Olja Savičević Ivančević (her full name according to Goodreads) translated from Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth.  In Peace, the narrator’s brother killed himself and the narrator wants to find out why.  In Adios, Cowboy, the narrator’s brother kills himself and she want to find out why.

The difference is that this book is set in Croatia, has multiple characters, multiple stories and a huge amount of confusion.

Dada (the narrator) lives in Zagreb, but she is called home to Old Settlement by her sister to help with their aging mother.  She is intrigued at the thought of going home  again after so many years.  But when she gets there, her mother has been taking all kinds of pills, her sister has pretty much given up as evidenced by her chain-smoking, their long-dead father’s shoes still lined up on the steps, and their dead younger brother’s cowboy posters of are still on the walls.  (The dead brother’s name is Daniel.  The fact that one of the characters in the previous book also about the suicide was also named Daniel really didn’t help this much). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: IMAGENE PEISE-Atlas Eets Christmas (2014).

This is a terrific lost album created by Iraqi jazz piano prodigy Image Peise.  The record states that most of what is known [about Peise] is shrouded in clouds of legend and smoke of myth.”  She is “rumored to have committed suicide in 1978.”

She is playing mostly traditional Christmas songs, with a couple of originals added on to the mix.  She is accompanied by:

Imagene Peise – Piano
Ominog Bangh – Laughing/Crying Glider Synthesizer
Shineyu Bhupal – Drones, Sitar, and Baritone Tambura

The album has a consistent feel throughout.  Lots of jazzy piano and then some interesting Middle Eastern and/or psychedelic sounds that are sprinkled on top (primarily from the sitar and the glider synth).  Whether she is messing with the beauty or just manipulating it is up to the listener.

“Winter Wonderland” opens with a crackling record sound and some interesting Middle Eastern instruments and drones.  And then the lovely traditional jazzy piano version of the classic.  The trippy synth thing comes back up from time to time.

“Silver Bells” opens with a middle eastern synth that sounds nothing like the song.  But once again when the piano comes in it’s really lovely and traditional with hints of psychedelia.

“Christmas Laughing Waltz (Jingle Bells)” has some laughing-like sounds from the voice/synth thing.  Midway through the song, which has been mostly trippy, it resolves itself into “Jingle Bells” on piano with some cool sounds added.

“Silent Night” opens in a not at all peaceful way with some crazy sounds.  It’s a little disconcerting if you know what song it is supposed to be.  But the piano eventually finds the melody and plays it straight and nice.

The first original peace is the delightful if mournful, “Atlas Eets Christmas.”  It’s a series of washes and piano chords until finally a solitary piano melody plays  its mournful melody.  There’ s vocal line where you hear the pronunciation “At last it’s Christmas.”  The voice is pretty far in the background making it kind of hard to hear.  It fits in with the record but stands out because of the voice.  But the sentiment is quite nice.

“Do You Hear What I Hear” is the first really dissonant sounds on the disc.  They come in the form of echoed piano chords.  It feels sinister and kind of kills the mood of the song. The vocal melody is played on that glider thing with dissonant piano behind it.  It feels kind of wobbly and unsettled.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” returns to the more traditional style and once again, it’s very pretty.

“White Christmas” has a real feel of longing to it.  After a bout 2 minute it kind of builds with drums and upright bass but it never really gets into a more traditional feel.  It sort of hints at the song until the very end where the melody is more pronounced.

“Frosteeeee”is of course, “Frosty the Snowman.”  It opens with melody played on the piano.  But then it switches off melody lines with that voice/synth thing.  It’s sort of a duet between the two instruments.

“Christmas Kindness Song” is the other original.  It sounds like the other in spirit but this one has highly processed vocals.  Presumably they are by Steven Drodz, but I’m not sure if he sis supposed to sound like an Iraqi woman (how far is the ‘joke’ gong?), but he clearly doesn’t.

“The Christmas Song” returns to the jazzy traditional song with some sprinkling so psychedelia on top.

Depending on your tolerance for oddity, this is either a great, fun addition to a Christmas collection (it will make people prick up their ears to hear whats going on), or it’s just too disruptive to the holiday spirit.

And yes, in the “Christmas Kindness Song” I mentioned Stephen Drodz because this is an album by The Flaming Lips.  I gather that the music was created by Steven Drodz and the mythology of Imagene was created by Wayne Coyne.

Oh and the disc ends with some 30 minutes of what sounds like an album clicking at the end of locked groove.

[READ: June 21, 2017] Sorry to Disrupt the Peace

This is one of a new(ish) batch of McSweeney’s books.  I was intrigued by the title and the cover  and some snippets of reviews sounded promising.

There were things I liked about he story but overall I was mixed on it.

The story is about Helen Moran.  She is a 32-year-old Korean woman.  She was adopted by white parents when she was a baby. As was her adoptive brother (who is also Korean but is not related to her).  Throughout the story she refers to her parents as “my adoptive parents” and her brother as “my adoptive brother” easily 100 times each.  I realize that that is a true statement and description, and it is important to her to keep this distinction, but it makes for irritating reading.  It makes your main character seem really ungrateful.

And maybe that’s it.  Helen is a pretty unlikable character.  She works with at risk youth but does some pretty risky things with them.  She’s even currently under investigation at her work for doing suspicious things.  She says she is called Sister Reliability but its unclear to me if they are doing it to mock her, if they are not doing it at all or if they are actually doing it because she is reliable (which I doubt).  She has also written a pamphlet called How to Survive in New York City on Little to Nothing which she handed out to people.  She wears garbage and discarded clothes and eats whatever–and that’s her advice to the poor.

But that’s not what the story is about.  The story is about what happens after she hears from her uncle that her adoptive brother is dead.  For reasons we never find out her adoptive parents do not make the call, it is done by her uncle.  Weird. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PARAMORE-Tiny Desk Concert #656 (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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