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Archive for the ‘Dreams’ Category

2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: ARBOREA-Tiny Desk Concert #218 (May 17, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

arboreaArborea is a totally captivating band.

The band consists of Shanti and Buck Curran.  They play three songs and each one is really different, but all with in a spooky, mellow Appalachian feel.

“Song for Obol” features Buck playing an electric guitar with an e-bow and a slide—creating single-note sirens that roar and fade.  The sounds are magical.  But they’re not the most interesting part of this song.  Because Shanti is playing the Ban-Jammer–“a sweet little hybrid that’s part banjo, part mountain dulcimer.” Shanti also sings and her voice is high and delicate—sometimes almost a whisper.  The Ban-Jammer is such an interesting and compelling sound and those washes of electric guitar so enticing that I didn’t want this song to end—even if I never really paid attention to what she was singing about.

For the second song Bob Boilen himself goes behind his desk to play harmonium with them.  Shanti plays acoustic guitar and tells us that the harmonium is

Inspired by the tales in Maine about fishing boats that were lost to the ocean—this song is about a woman who loses her lover to the sea—the harmonium is the ocean and the wind.

The harmonium isn’t very loud, but it keeps constant background while Buck pays the electric guitar (with slide, but no e-bow) and Shanti picks out the acoustic guitar melody.

The final song “A Little Time” is played on an acoustic tenor guitar.  Both Shanti and Buck sing for this track.  At first I wasn’t crazy about his voice accompanying hers, but he really gets the same tone very nice;y.  And her oh-hoos are beautifully haunting.

I’d really like to hear more from these guys.  And it is pretty fun to actually see Bob behind his Tiny Desk.

[READ: December 6, 2016] “Dream Girl”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived (a few days late for advent, but that was my fault for ordering so late) I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

I wasn’t aware of Katie Coyle before reading this story.  Perhaps the only reason I might have known about her is because she is a YA author from New Jersey.

But I’d like to know more about her because this story was wonderful.  The point of view of the story was fantastic and the whole concept was weird and cool.

The narrator is never revealed, but I love this beginning:

This all started when Winston’s girlfriend Sheila dumped him at his high-school graduation party.  Or maybe it started when Sheila began to notice that Winston didn’t understand her.  Certainly it never would’ve happened had she not turned to Winston in their Modern Conflicts class nine months earlier and said, “It’s Winston, right?”

Such intrigue! (more…)

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robotSOUNDTRACK: THE BOTS-Tiny Desk Concert #396 (October 14, 2014).

botsThe Bots are a duo–guitar and drums–who play noisy garage rock.  They are brothers Mikaiah Lei (21) on guitar and vocals and Anaiah Lei (17) on drums.  The Bots put out their first album 6 years earlier (do the math).  You can hear a lot of more famous rock duos in their sound, (fill in the blank with prominent two person rock bands) but despite their rocking noisy sound Mikaiah’s voice sets them apart for being kind of sweet and smooth rather than angular and yelling.

The first song is “All of Them (Wide Awake).”  It has a simple rocking riff interspersed with delicate verses.  The middle section has a wild and raucous solo.  There’s some fun moments in that solo–stops and starts as well as a wall of noise.

Before starting the second song, they chat and say they “didn’t know people were actually here when you watch the videos online–there’s somebody at a desk right there.”  Mikaiah then says, “I’m incredibly chill right now.”

“Blinded” has a great, slow, stomping riff and some backing bluesy keyboards–the drummer (I love that he is using a stick and a mallet) has a synth type of contraption next to him.  The solo is interesting with no other music behind it but the drums.  The chorus of “I I I I I  want to know” is super catchy.

He says “All I Really Want” is an ‘alternative’ version of their song.  Although it’s not really acoustic since he’ll be using distortion.  It opens with a wild synth riff from the synth machine but the song proper is very fast and heavy with a big riff and fast verses.  The chorus gets even more punky with a great riff and vocals.  Mikaiah plays a cool echoing solo and then it’s all over.  11 minutes of great rock.

As the camera fades, Mikaiah says that he’s wanted to play Tiny Desk fora  while and now this was something he could cross off his list.  Bob asks what else is on his list.  He thinks for a minute and then quietly he says “Playing softball with Mariah Carey.”

[READ: May 2, 2016] Robot Dreams

This largely wordless comic is both funny and sad–not bad for a book about a dog who builds a robot.

Varon’s drawing style (which is delightfully unique) complements the sweet but slightly odd contents of the plot.

As the book opens, a dog receives a box which says Tin Robot Kit Build It Yourself.  The dog does so and then he has a new friend.  The two do everything together: take naps, go to the library and then go to the beach. They go in the water and splash around and have a great time.  But after lying on the beach, the robot suddenly can’t move.  He has rusted!

The dog feels embarrassed about it but goes home, leaving the robot on the beach (!). (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: December 18, 2015] A Christmas Carol

gaimanchristmasJust like two years ago when we saw A Christmas Carol, a few days later I listened to the audio book.  This year, I found a different reading of it by Neil Gaiman.  This one comes from the New York Public Library podcast, and is available on Soundcloud and iTunes.

What makes this reading unique (and now different from Patrick Stewart’s awesome reading and from the McCarter production (which is different from the book as well) is that the version Gaiman read was hand-edited by Dickens for his own performances.  What?

Yes, evidently Dickens performed this story live a few times.  As the NYPL site explians:

Charles Dickens could not only write a crackling good story, he could perform it. And so in 1853, he took his Christmas Carol show on the road, first in Britain and then in the United States. Audiences loved it. Dickens didn’t simply read from his book. He transformed it into a stageworthy script—cutting, pasting together pages of excised passages, adding stage cues for himself, rewriting, then cutting some more…. Indeed, there is only one such copy of A Christmas Carol, created by Dickens himself, and The New York Public Library has it.

Gaiman read the “as the great author intended, following edits and prompts Dickens wrote in his own hand for his unique readings 150 years ago.” (more…)

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nymarc22SOUNDTRACK: YES-Tormato (1978).

TormatoTormato might be Yes’ most hated album (I think people grudgingly respect Topographic, but they hate Tormato).  I mean the cover is weird and, well, weird.  The songs are not bad but they sound so far from Yes of old, that it could possibly not be the same band.  And then there’s those lyrics.  I find myself blaming Jon Anderson for this middling period style of Yes music.  It seems like he was the impetus behind topographic and he has a number of songs that he wrote on the last two albums.  If Anderson is the flighty stratosphere, Squire and White are the ground.  And the ground is sorely lacking on the last two albums.

There’s no Roger Dean on this album either (more Hipgnosis with a giant tomato spill (get it, Tormato?  No I don’t really either.)  Wikipedia sheds some light, kind of:

Howe pitched the album’s original title of Yes Tor, referring to the highest point on Dartmoor, an area of moorland in Devon, England. Wakeman claimed to have thrown a tomato at the pictures taken for the album as he was disappointed with its design. The album’s title and cover was changed accordingly. Howe said it was someone at Hipgnosis who threw the tomato on purpose, something that he felt insulted about.  According to White, the band “couldn’t decide on the cover. I think Po … put a picture of a guy with divining sticks on the front.  He took it home one night and decided it wasn’t working. So he threw a tomato at it”. 

I always thought it was drumsticks not divining sticks.  Oh well.  So there that in no way clears up the tomato business.

So what about the music?Even though Squire shows up a bit more here, the overall sound of the album is really tinny—a problem that to me plagued Yes throughout this period—there’s just no low end to speak of, even when Squire does some rumbling lines.

“Future Times/Rejoice” opens with an interesting riff and some cool bass lines from Squire.  The song itself is bouncy and jaunty, moving along briskly with some wild riffs from Howe.  It’s kind of refreshing.  At 3 minutes the song slows down with some counting and replies from Anderson. The next section has a pretty classic Yes build up and then a return to the beginning of the song. There’s a very 70s sounding keyboard solo from Wakeman as the song reaches the end—which is a coda called Rejoice (starting at 5:44), which is mostly harmony voices until the repeat of musical themes from earlier.

Next comes the divisive “Don’t Kill the Whale” This is one of those major heart-on-your-sleeve songs.  Musically it’s pretty interesting with some wild soloing from Howe, but those lyrics: “don’t kill the whale, dig it.” It’s hard not to agree with the sentiment but it’s hard to sing along to at the same time. The synth solo is also astonishingly dated and kind of nauseating at the end.

“Madrigal” is a ballad played on a harpsichord with vocals from Anderson. By the end some classical guitar is played with it. It’s a pretty piece.

“Release/Release” is probably the most interesting track on the disc. It’s got a great riff from Howe and although (some of) the synths feel dated it rocks along like a good mid 70s rocker should. I like the audacity of having a “live” drum solo tacked into the middle of the song. It reminds me in style of a King Crimson track with the staccato voices, although it is not produced anywhere as well.

“Arriving UFO” is, indeed, about seeing UFOs.  The narrator is incredulous about them at the beginning of the song (which comes with very “eerier” keyboard notes) but I believe is a believer by the end. I do like the way the music builds for the bridge, although the chorus is bit much (as is the dreadful synth middle section). The solo section has some really bizarre sounds that I take to be “alien” conversation. Whether its made by guitar synth or voice I cannot say.

“Circus of Heaven” might just be the worst Yes song ever. It is all high notes (even the bass is high notes). Around 2 and a half minutes in the song shifts from its whimsical circus feel to a slightly more serious tone that hearkens back to better Yes moments, but it does not remain there.  Rather, the narrator asks his son what he thought of the circus of heaven and then Anderson’s actual son tells him that he’s not impressed. It’s hard to listen to I have to say.

There’s more high notes in “Onward” which is more orchestral washes and Anderson’s vocals over the top. It’s not really much of a song, frankly, even with the string arrangement.

“On the Silent Wings of Freedom” is nearly 8 minutes long.  It tries to hearken back to longer classic Yes songs but it never quite makes it.  It opens with some loud basslines, some fiddly Howe guitar bits and a lot of synths. But none of it sounds as interesting as previous long song intros. Even the wah wah bass sound isn’t as interesting as the early 70s bass sound. Anderson comes in almost 3 minutes in and around 3:30 the song picks up speed and the elements gel in a really good way. Around 4:45 the song slows down to an interesting instrumental section with bass and percussion.   After a return to vocals the fast part picks up again, although with a synth solo that is less than stellar.  There’s a lot of “la la las” in the song and a mention of “celestial seasons” which I hope came out before the tea brand.  The song isn’t bad, and if Yes didn’t have such a great catalog behind them I might actually say it ‘s quite good, but like the rest of the album it pales with their peak.

And that’s probably why Wakeman left again and, shocking, Jon Anderson split from the band too (which i find surprising since I feel like the past two albums were all about him).

Since almost every Yes album had different personnel, I’m going to keep a running tally here.   With the middling success of Going for the One, this line up stayed in place for a second album!

Chris Squire-bass
Jon Anderson-vocals
Alan White (#2)-drums
Rick Wakeman (#2)-keybaords
Steve Howe (#2)-guitar

[READ: March 22, 2015] “Sleep”

This story was written in direct address, from an “I” narrator to a “you” subject.  It really personalized the story and was interesting to watch as the story that started as one thing was able to travel to another thing entirely.

It begins with the narrator, an older man, talking in his mind to his young lover.  The younger man’s parents are concerned that the narrator is older, but they do like him.  I loved the way it was constructed with him reminiscing about how they met and about how the world allowed them to be together: “Germany, Ireland, the Internet, gay rights, Judaism, Catholicism, they have all brought us here.”  The beginning of the story really stresses their differences, which he finds charming:

“Like a good American you wear a T-shirt and boxers in bed.  I am wearing pajamas like a good Irishman.”

They have been sharing living space for a while, but the younger man is concerned that the older man’s dreams are plagued by nightmares.  The nightmares are so strong that the older man often screams out loud –but does not wake up. (more…)

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harp septSOUNDTRACK: DIEGO EL CIGALA-Tiny Desk Concert #437 (May 1, 2015).

diegoDiego El Cigala has a beautiful voice which sounds to my ear like the strained/aching style of the Gipsy Kings’ singer.  It is just him and his accompanist (Jaime Calabuch) on piano–which sounds very clear and pretty.

It amuses me that through the whole show he keeps playing with his long beard—an almost nonchalant reaction for someone who seems to be singing so passionately.

In the write up Felix Contreras says that El Cigala (Spanish for ‘Norway Lobster’),  is a game changer in the world of flamenco music.  I have literally no experience with this and can’t comment on it.  But Contreras says that he uses his voice for boleros, copla, tangos, jazz and combinations of the above.  I can hear all that in the music he has chosen, I just can’t comment on why it’s a game changer.

The three songs he sings are “Soledad,” “Vete de Mi” and ”Voda Loca.”  And they all sound really beautiful.

[READ: April 15, 2015] “They Were Awake

This brief story is an interesting one.  Nothing actually happens in it–a group of ladies eat a potluk and share their dreams (actual dreams, not pie in the sky dreams).  Then they head home.

Nothing’s worse than hearing someone else’s dreams, but since this is a story, the dreams are interesting.  And indeed, they are quite telling.

They each talk about how their dreams have been anxious as of late.

Becca says she dreamed she owed money to the gas company.

Emma says she dreamed her ex-lover demanded that she appraise his art and he locked her in his flat until she did so.  When they ask if she was raped, she says, “Of course not.” (more…)

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aprilSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto (February 16, 2001).

horseshoeThere are seven live shows from 2001 on the Rheostatics Live website.  In this block, I’m going to talk about the first four shows because the final two of the four are drummer Don Kerr’s final shows with the band.

There is a lovely introduction by the club owner, who thanks the Rheostatics for playing there so much.  The sound quality is great and the crowd is really into it.  At one point someone shouts out “Californication” (which is a line from “California Dreamline”) and Martin says that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are playing down the street.  Another funny line is when someone shouts out “Jessie’s Girl” and Dave says that there’s a trend in shouting out bad songs.  Nobody wants to hear the “Rheos do Rick Springfield.”  That’s just bad energy.

“Fat” sounds great and it’s quite a long version.  The vocals for the next few songs are fun.  Martin is crazy on “CCYPA.”  “When Winter Comes” has a great and fun intro.

The notes say that song 12 is “We Went West” but it is actually a cover of a Celtic Blue song  “Heading Out West” with Alun Piggins (from Celtic Blue) on harmonica.  It works well with them.

“California Dreamline” has some funny banter.  Dave says he loves the way Martin says “Sowthern” California.  Martin says English is not his first language.  But that he is wearing an amazing shirt.

They have a lot of fun with “Legal Age Life” which they open with a “pa pa ooh mow mow” refrain and in the middle they throw in some “I Wanna Be Sedated.”  This show also has one of the best versions of “Claire” that I’ve heard.

This is the first version of “Mumbletypeg” that I’ve heard where it includes the spoken word part (like on the record).  And I love that they throw in “PROD” into the end of “Four Little Songs.”

This show was simulcast online (which is pretty high tech for 2001, no?).  You can also watch the simulcast on the Rheostatics live site.

[READ: April 20, 2015] “If You Cannot Go to Sleep” 

I enjoyed that this story was pretty much a fictionalized version of many people’s insomnia.  It opens, “First she tries counting.”  As it progresses through a series of nights, we encounter her fears, both reasonable and excessive.

But interestingly, before it even gets into her dream fears, she has a long unsleeping thought about the difference between working at a discount store and an upscale store–the discount store must be depressing, but the upscale store must be full of insufferable people–what would be worse?.

Then we learn a bit about her life.  She studied French and even lived in Paris for a time. Now she works translating technical manuals and she hates it.  Her husband finally quit the job that he hates–something she hoped he would do for years.  But now that he did that he has moved to France–without her. (more…)

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dumbSOUNDTRACK: WALT DISNEY-Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House (1964).

hauntedJust in time for Halloween, I link to Disney’s 1964 LP Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House.

I was unfamiliar with this record, but I gather a lot of people grew up being frightened by this.  The premise is simple–the narrator talks to you, yes you, as you are prepared to be scared by, well, everything you can imagine.  For 26 minutes, various sound effects are designed to scare you.

You go into a haunted house…and never come back.  Although despite the title, that’s all there is of a haunted house.  For there are more things to scare you….

There’s screams and creaks.  Gunpowder and dogs barking. A trip to Mars.

Tree limbs falling, cats going crazy.  A racist Chinese segment.

The back half of the disc is sound effects–I have no idea what that’s supposed to be around 20:49, though.

Basically every fear a kid could have (Disney was quite the sadist, huh?)

I imagine that if you were a kid (in 1964) this could be pretty darn scary.  Enjoy the whole thing…if you dare!

[READ: October 25, 2014] The Dumbest Idea Ever

I was pretty excited to see this book from Jimmy Gownley, creator of Amelia Rules, one of my favorite kids comic books.  I see that the books have been reissued, and that some new ones have been published since I last checked, so I’ll have to look for those.  He also has a new comic strip called Gracieland.

Anyhow, this book is a memoir about Jimmy growing up as a kid obsessed with comic books in a world where comic books were not appreciated (specifically: Catholic School).

It opens with young Jimmy being interviewed on TV–a seeming fantasy for any writer.  But this happens to be true (it’s local TV coverage of this young boy who has self published a comic book).  But before we get ahead of ourselves, we jump back two years earlier.

Jimmy lives in Girardville, PA.  He’s a great basketball player, an excellent student and a budding artist.  Sadly Girardville, PA is not the place for an artist–there’s not even a half way decent art store.  So, Jimmy relies on the few stores that carry comic books as his sole outlet for creative fun.  Even a good student can’t convince his teachers that a comic books is appropriate in school.  He even volunteers to do an oral report on the value of comic books.  He gets an A on the report but is still forbidden from having them in school. (more…)

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