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Archive for the ‘Drinking’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PATTY GRIFFIN-Tiny Desk Concert #282 (June 24, 2013).

I have Patty Griffin’s first two albums—I like her folkie sensibilities and her voice which I tend to think of as a little unusual.  And yet it’s not unusual here at all.  She sings powerfully and beautifully.

For this Tiny Desk Concert she’s playing some from her then new release:

she takes care to balance the exquisite mourning of “Faithful Son” — and the sweetly somber “That Kind of Lonely,” which Griffin describes as “a song about finally letting go of your delayed adolescence” — by closing her set with the playfully bawdy, kindly celebratory “Get Ready Marie.” Inspired by a favorite photo of her grandparents, the song finds Griffin viewing two complicated lives with the generous, hopeful eye she’s been casting on her subjects for three fruitful decades now.

She opens with “Faithful Son.” I love how the middle of this has a cool section where the two acoustic guitars (played by Griffin and Dave Pulkingham) face each other and strum hard for a bit.  The problem for me with this song is that the baritone guitar (played by Craig Ross) is either out of tune or the Ross hits a few wrong notes.  Since it resonates a bit louder than anything else, it’s really noticeable.  The accordion (played by John Deaderick) isn’t loud enough either.

“That Kind Of Lonely” is, as noted, a song about finally letting go of your delayed adolescence.  It’s a pretty, quiet number.  A good contrast to “Get Ready Marie.”  She says she is always picking on her family for stories.  She says she got this idea from a photograph of her grandparents taken just after they wed in the 1920s.  Her grandmother is looking at the camera like maybe she made the biggest mistake of her life and her grandfather (who looks really handsome) looks like he can’t wait to get his hands on her. They had a wild relationship—plates were lying.  This is a comic bawdy song that sounds like a traditional drinking song with some great lyrics:

No this isn’t the end of our story
No our marriage stuck like a habit
But I had a good hunch, when she kissed me a bunch
She could do other things like a rabbit

It’s in ¾ time and the accordion is louder here and it all sounds terrific.  It’s hard to believe that she’s been playing for 30 years, but she sure sounds like a pro.

[READ: March 26, 2016] Persepolis 2

I found Persepolis to be an amazing book.  A peek inside a regime that was sort of mythically wicked during my childhood. Marjane’s personal story was interesting of course, but I enjoyed seeing just what was happening in this world that seemed so mysterious when I was growing up.

This sequel is a little less exciting because it is more or less about a lonely teenager in Europe.  I think if the first book wasn’t so groundbreaking, this one wouldn’t feel as disappointing.  Her story is interesting and her experiences are story-worthy, but compared to the first book this one is the awkward teenage years.

We see that Marjane’s being sent to Europe didn’t go quite as planned.  She stayed with her mom’s friend.  But the friend fought with her husband all the time and their house was not a happy one. They felt that they couldn’t look after Marjane so they sent her to boarding school in Vienna–Marjane didn’t speak German. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BILLY BRAGG-Tiny Desk Concert #281 (June 17, 2013).

I really like Billy Bragg.  Not necessarily all of his music, but I like a lot of it and I certainly love what he stands for.  If you like his instantly recognizable voice (which I do), then just about anything he does sounds good.  But no doubt some songs are catchier than others.

Bragg played a Tiny Desk Concert in 2016 with someone else as part of a duo.  I’d listened to that one first, but I liked this one more.

For this one he is accompanied on the first two songs by dobro player C.J. Hillman.

Bragg talks a lot–he has many lengthy stories between songs–and he’s pretty much always funny or thoughtful.  He introduces the first song by saying that moving into a new building always has troubles–you’ll always need someone to fix things up.  With that, his first song is called “Handyman Blues.”

It’s a great story song.  I especially like this line:

Don’t be expecting me to put up shelves or build a garden shed / but I can write a song about how much I love you instead.

It’s amusing that in the next song workers actually interrupt his song.  They were “met with lot of hammering on our rooftop by some real handymen as they put the finishing touches on NPR’s new home.”

For the second song they

channeled the spirit of legendary American folksinger Woody Guthrie, with whom Bragg collaborated — albeit posthumously, in Guthrie’s case — when he took Guthrie’s unsung words and set them to song with the help of Wilco. Here, he takes a song Guthrie himself co-opted and altered: a gospel tune (“This World Is Not My Home”) he’d turned into an anthem against inaction.

Bragg introduces this song as saying he took it over when the U.S. was having the debate about universal health care.  He says that people still face all the same problems that this classic song talks about–people losing homes to banks or families struggling to make ends meet.  But the middle verse is about a wife who dies on the floor for want of proper health care.  Bragg says that that doesn’t happen in his country anymore and it’s hard for people in his country to imagine that a generous country like the US still hasn’t resolved that issue (and five years later things are even worse with Trumpcare–#ITMFA #RESIST).

Guthrie called the song “I Ain’t Got No Home (In This World Anymore”).  After he sings a verse, the hammering starts and they pause the song to wait for the work to finish before he re-starts the song.  In the meantime they talk about what his band should do in Washington.  Someone says the National Archives and he jokes the Nashville Archive?  He says that they really enjoyed Nashville.  Then he mentions the National Archive to CJ and says

We can find out how the Americans started the war of 1812.  (chuckles).  I just played Annapolis, they’re still sore about it over there.  Never mind who won the war but who started it.

It’s another nice story song.  The dobro works perfectly with it.

“Sexuality” is the only song on this set that I knew.  It’s an old favorite that is serious and funny as well (and very progressive for when it was written).  It sounds terrific and is super catchy.  Although he comments that the acoustics aren’t that great in this new building–there’s not much bounce back off the walls “for those of us who technically aren’t great singers.  But for those of us who are buskers like myself, it’s not bad.”

Introducing the final song, “No One Knows Nothing Anymore” he says he read an article on the BBC about a kid who proved that economics professors were wrong and the article commented that “the trouble with economics is that no one knows nothing anymore.”  He says that had just written a song with that same name, so he’s with the zeitgeist.

He also interjects that there will be pedants–“and there are one or two who listen to NPR, I’m sure” who will write in to say it should be ‘no one knows anything any more.’  But the first thing they teach you at songwriting school is that alliteration trumps grammar.

And then he starts strumming “Sexuality “and says “Oh, I’ve just played that.”

“No One Knows Nothing Anymore” is a nice folkie, very-Billy Bragg song–good melody and really good lyrics.

At the end, as the camera fades to black he says “Chris, pass the hat around.”

I’m so happy that Billy Bragg is still making music.

[READ: March 26, 2016] Persepolis

This graphic novel is legendary, and I’m embarrassed it has taken me 13 years to read it.

Persepolis is a memoir of a young girl growing up in Iran during the 70s and 80s.  I appreciated the contextualizing introduction in which she explains the history of the country.

The introduction lays out a basic outline of the history of Iran and the Middle East (that goes all the way back to B.C years).  She explains that Iran has always been a rich nation and has constantly been under attack.  When oil was discovered, the West came calling.  Great Britain wielded a powerful influence over Iranian economy.  During WWII, Iran remained neutral but then was invaded by the west.

The Prime Minister of Iran (not the Shah) nationalized the oil industry in 1951 which led to an embargo and a coup organized by the CIA.  The leader, Reza Shah was succeeded by his son, Mohammad Reza Shah–known simply as the Shah of Iran.  The Shah stayed in power until 1979 when he fled to escape the Islamic Revolution.

She says that since the Islamic revolution Iran has been associated with fundamentalism, fanaticism and terrorism, but she knows that this is far from the truth.  And that’s what inspired her to writ this book.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAURA MVULA-Tiny Desk Concert #284 (July 1, 2013).

I don’t know Mvula’s music (I know her because her name is unmistakable and I feel surprised that her debut came out only 4 years ago).  The blurb talks about her big powerhouse soulful pop.  But that is not in evidence here at all.  As they say:

with the help of a small string section, she forgoes some of her flashier songs (“Like the Morning Dew,” “Green Garden”) in favor of Sing to the Moon‘s most brooding ballads.

“Father, Father” is almost entirely her singing and playing a very spare keyboard–with just a few seconds of string help near the end.  Her voice is quite lovely in what is practically an a cappella setting.

She introduces the second song by saying: “If we had the bigger band we’d do the more upbeat things.  I usually write in six-part harmony.  But it’s just the three of us so I’m going to do another more intimate one called ‘Diamonds.'”  There’s more strings on this song, which add to the song (the keyboard is quite thin, I fear).

The set ends with “She,” a song with a bit more complex keyboard parts which I rather like.  This song is my favorite, probably because it sounds the fullest.

The whole set is a little too mellow for my tastes, but I am curious to hear what her big poppy six-part-harmony songs sound like!

[READ: April 21, 2016] The Right Here Right Now Thing

I found this graphic novel at work. What was so funny about it is that the title is in English but the publisher is German.  I flipped through the book and saw the English dialogue so I decided to read it.  Imagine my surprise then that the first few and the last few pages are in German!

Google Translate is a good thing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do as well with idiom and vulgar phrases, and there are a few in this book.  But I got the gist.

Plus, quite a lot of it is wordless, too.

The story begins with hands putting drugs (I assume cocaine and pot from later sections) into a condom.  And then we see our heroine on the toilet…doing something.  Her plane ticket says Frankfurt-Krakau.  She says goodbye to the guy lying in bed and she heads to the airport. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_05_24_10.inddSOUNDTRACK: PASSION PIT-Tiny Desk Concert #248 (Ocobert 29, 2012).

passionPassion Pit surprised the heck out of me with this Tiny Desk Concert.  The album that two of these songs come from is full of loud, brash synthy anthems.  But they totally dial everything back with just two performers–a synth and a guitar.

The blurb notes that

Michael Angelakos is a fussy sonic craftsman: A keyboardist and singer who started out working solo on his laptop, he now makes fizzily catchy electro-pop that orbits around monster hooks.  Angelakos clearly saw an opportunity in bare-bones arrangements of his best-known songs — his 2008 breakthrough single “Sleepyhead” and two hits from this year’s Gossamer, “Take a Walk” and “Carried Away” — that he couldn’t explore with a full band.  With only his own falsetto, an electric piano, and simple guitar lines from Passion Pit’s Ian Hultquist, Angelakos gets to direct listeners toward his words, which blossom under scrutiny.

“Talk a Walk” is a poppy happy synth song.  An almost gleeful song about taking a walk.  Well, in this version, with everything stripped away, you get to hear just what a depressing song this actually is.  And when you hear this, you’ll never be able to hear that bubbly anthem the same way again.   It’s a rich, thoughtful sketch of an immigrant family’s experiences, expectations, dreams and disappointments.

Once my mother-in-law came
Just to stay a couple nights
Then decided she would stay the rest of her life
I watch my little children, play some board game in the kitchen
And I sit and pray they never feel my strife

“Sleepyhead” is from their 2008 album—their first hit, although I didn’t know it.  The keys are quiet and simple on this while the guitar plays the main riff.  It too is quite catchy.

“Carried Away” is also from Gossamer, and it’s another big, boppy sugary single.  This understated version does the same as the first song—you can really hear the words, but the melodies and catchiness remain, just much more quietly.

Even though these version are interesting and enjoyable.  I was mostly attracted to the sound of Gossamer, so I’ll stick with the originals.

[READ: January 25, 2017] “Your New College Graduate: A Parents’ Guide”

This piece is designed as a FAQ for parents on how to deal with their college graduate, once the commencement ceremony is over and “your child will be ready to move back into your house for a period of several years.”

This helpful guide answers questions about things like feeding:

Most college graduates are vegetarians and will become cranky or upset if offered meat. They also have irregular eating habits. Most prefer to skip family meals.

Or drinking:

Most require six to eight beers per night, plus occasional “shots” throughout the week.

(more…)

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2014_11_10SOUNDTRACK: LORD HURON-Tiny Desk Concert #247 (October 25, 2012).

lordhironLord Huron is one of those bands that I hear of a lot, but whom I don’t really know much about. I also think they are someone I like, but listening to this Tiny Desk Concert, it’s clear they are not any of the bands I think they are.

As far as this Tiny Desk Concert goes, Lord Huron proves t be a five piece folk outfit.  They have lovely harmonies

“She Lit A Fire” is a pretty standard folk song.  Although I like the way the song shifts gears to a faster guitar style.  I really like the way the one guy’s guitar sounds like mandolin, too.  “Time To Run” is a bit faster and catchier.  In fact, when the oh oh oh oh part comes in, it’s hard not to want to sing along.  And the middle part where it’s just guitar and bongos is pretty hard not to enjoy.

“Lonesome Dreams” opens with some echoed bass notes. It’s got some really catchy parts although I don’t really love the yodeling voice that he puts on.  The band does four songs (practically unheard of).  “Ends of the Earth” opens with that same yodeling voice, but once the harmonies kick in it sounds great.

I didn’t realize that Lord Huron had only released their first album in 2012.  They have really made a name for themselves.

[READ: July 20, 2016] “Primum Non Nocere”

I enjoyed this whole story except for the very end which seemed to turn the story into something else.  In retrospect that something else is also pretty interesting and it throws a whole new light on the story, but I enjoyed the story so much as it was that the twist really impacted the way I enjoyed the rest of the story.

The title translates as “first, do no harm” and the story is about a youngish girl and her mother–who is a psychotherapist. 

I loved the way the story began.  Jewel is totally embarrassed that her mother asks her patients if they are “Cell phoning.”  She says it all the time.  How lame.  Until she realizes that her mom is actually asking if they are “self-harming.”

Her mother was brutally honest about a lot of things and was, of course, right about everything.  One thing that her mother always said was “that no one ever gets beyond high school. It’s all high school for the rest of your life.” Not true, Jewel knew, yet also true.

Her patients loved her for that unconventional understanding. She stood up for them; she visited their homes and talked to their problematic relatives, went to the store with them, walked them along the river, allowed them to bring their pets to their therapy sessions. She came to her children’s defense, too, with teachers or friends or the parents of those friends. She was brutally honest, blunt.

(more…)

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manualSOUNDTRACK: LUCY DACUS-Tiny Desk Concert #552 (July 29, 2016).

lucyI didn’t realize that I knew Dacus, but I’ve heard and loved her song “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” for months (I just never knew she sang it).

In this Tiny Desk Concert, the songs have a really gentle feel (she plays electric guitar without a pick, using her fingers to gently pick out the melodies.  Although on record, the songs are a bit sharper.  But it’s her that is so intriguing.  A lazy comparison is Sharon Van Etten, but she has that kind of tone and delivery.

“I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” has a super catchy vocal melody and simple steady rhythm.  But it’s the way the electric guitar swirls around and her voice sounds dry and disinterested (and yet it clearly isn’t).  She’s not posing as a cynical youth, she is full of regret.  The last line is “That funny girl doesn’t want to smile anymore.”  When the song is done she says, “I always tend to smile after that line.”

Before the second song she asks if anyone else’s biggest fear is having a runny nose on Tiny Desk?  She says she woke up with a runny nose, but its fine now.

I like the way “Direct Address” opens with her gentle strumming which gets really fast as she ramps up to a quick vocal delivery on each verse.   But even when she sings fast, her voice is almost like a deep intense whisper.  Once again, the last line is great: “I don’t believe in love at first sight / maybe I would if you looked at me right.”  The song ends with some cool swirling guitars.

Before the final song she tells everyone there that the NPR workers kind of have the coolest job ever and she envies them all–a little bit.

“Green Eyes, Red Face” is a slower song with an interesting, subtle melody.  Another great lyric: “I see the seat next to yours is unoccupied and I was wondering if you’d let me come and sit by your side.”  I love the way the guitar kind of bursts forth for the solo by Jacob Blizard.  This song is the most like SVE here, although you’d never mistake one for the other.  The middle of the song has some really great riffs juxtaposed with the bass.

I like how this lyric quite a bit: “With your green eyes on my red face” and I get a kick out of how she plays her last chord.  And as it rings out she rests her hands on top of her guitar patiently waiting for the song to fade out.

I’m really entranced by her voice.  But one of the most telling things is at the end of the show just as it fades out.  When talking about their show that night, she says “we’ll be a lot louder.”

I’d be interested to hear that.

[READ: November 21, 2016] A Manual for Sons

Back in 2014, I ordered all 16 books from Madras Press. Unfortunately, after publishing the 16 books they seem to have gone out of business (actually they are switching to non-fiction, it seems). They still have a web presence where you can buy remaining copies of books.  But what a great business idea this is/was

Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors.  The format of our books provides readers with the opportunity to experience stories on their own, with no advertisements or miscellaneous stuff surrounding them.

The format is a 5″ x 5″ square books that easily fit into a pocket.

Proceeds from Barthelme’s book go to the The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Okay I’ll say it.

I don’t really get Donald Barthelme.  I know that’s sort of the point of his writing–it is all anti-writing, a reaction against the novel.  But I also don’t get things like this “story.”  (It turns out it is an excerpt from a larger novel, but that still doesn’t really help).

So this “manual” is designed for sons to learn all about the different kinds of fathers there are and how to deal with them.  It states that it was translated from the English by Peter Scatterpatter.

The manual lists the different kinds of fathers: Mad fathers, fathers as teachers, falling fathers, etc.

And it’s not really helpful and it’s not really funny, and I have to wonder what keeps things like this from just ending.  How does Barthelme know when his bizarre list of things is actually done?

Some examples:

Mad fathers stalk up and down the boulevard, shouting.  Avoid then or embrace them or tell them your deepest thought–it makes no difference.

Fine, that’s good.  But then he says to notice if their dress is  covered in sewn-in tin cans or if they are simply barking (no tin cans).  If they are barking

Go up to them and, stilling their wooden clappers by putting your left hand between the hinged parts, say you’re sorry.  If the barking ceases, this does not mean that they have heard you, it only means they are experiencing erotic thoughts of abominable lustre.

What the hell?

And what to make of this “some fathers are goats, some are milk, some teach Spanish in cloisters.”

Or this: “The best way to approach a father is from behind, thus is he chooses to hurl his javelin at you he will probably miss.”

There’s an alphabetical list of fathers names which all start with  A and end with Albert.  (And the list is pretty unexpected with names like: Aariel, Aban, Abiou, Aeon and Af.

The most successful section to me was the “Sample Voice” part.  It gave three examples of a crappy dad–abusive and unsympathetic and very masculine.

The “colors of fathers” was presumably modified from a book about horses as each color is a horse color.

There’s a disturbing section about incest and then about the penises of fathers.  And finally a discouragement to patricide.

I just don’t get it.

Rick Moody provides some answers in his Afterword.  He gives some context for this story and some of his favorite bit of this manual (which was originally published in a dark book called The Dead Father.  He says he really related to this story because one of the sections opens “If your father is named Hiram or Saul” (and his father had one of those names).

He puts Barthelme in context with Gaddis and describes this manual as hilarious.

Guess you had to be there.

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thrilignSOUNDTRACK: ADIA VICTORIA-Tiny Desk Concert #544 (June 30, 2016).

adiaAdia Victoria has a rough, raw voice that goes well with her simple, exposed guitar sound.  The blurb says her music “carries the singular perspective of a Southern black woman with a Seventh Day Adventist upbringing, who never felt like she’d fit in.”

She sings three song, mostly in a great, raspy voice.  For “Stuck in the South” she actually seems to be gritting her teeth as she sings: “I don’t know nothing ’bout Southern belles / but I can tell you something ’bout Southern hell.”  When the first verse ends, and her band kicks in, it adds such interesting textures.  a distorted bass and a lead guitar playing quietly distorted sounds.  This song is really captivating.

“And Then You Die” with its swirling sounds and keyboards has a very distinctly Nick Cave feel–gothic in the Southern sense of the word.  Indeed, the first verse is spoken in a delivery that would make Nick proud. This is no to say she cribbed from Cave but it would work very well as a companion song  I really like the way it builds, but the ending is so abrupt–I could have used some more verses.

After the second song the band heads away and Bob says “They’re all leaving you.”  She looks at them and growls, “Get off the stage!” to much laughter.

She sings the final song “Heathen” with just her on acoustic guitar.  It is a simple two chord song.  It’s less interesting than the others, but again, it’s the lyrics that stand out: “I guess that makes me a heathen, something lower than dirt / I hear them calling me heathen, ooh like they think it hurts.”

I’m curious to hear just what Adia would do with these songs when she’s not in this Tiny format.  I imagine she can be really powerful.

[READ: November 23, 2016] McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales

For some reason or another I have put off reading this McSweeney’s volume for many years.  This is technically McSweeney’s #10, although it was also released in this printing from a  major publisher. Sadly for me, my McSweeney’s subscription had expired sometime around here so I’ve never actually seen the “official” Volume 10 which I understand has the exact same content but a slightly different cover.

One of the reasons I’ve put off reading this was the small print and pulpy paper–I don’t like pulpy paper.  And it was pretty long, too.

But I think the big reason is that I don’t really like genre fiction.  But I think that’s the point of this issue.  To give people who read non-genre fiction some exposure to genre stuff.

Interestingly I think I’ve learned that I do enjoy some genre fiction after all.  And yet, a lot of the stories here really weren’t very genre-y.  Or very thrilling.  They seemed to have trappings of genre ideas–mystery, horror–but all the while remaining internal stories rather than action-packed.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy anything here. I enjoyed a bunch of the stories quite a bit, especially if I didn’t think of them as genre stories.  Although there were a couple of less than exiting stories here, too. (more…)

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