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Archive for the ‘Excerpt’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LALAH HATHAWAY-Tiny Desk Concert #769 (July 25, 2018).

I have no idea who Lalah Hathaway is.  The blurb doesn’t really help, giving her familiar lineage but not much more.

Lalah Hathaway comes from royalty: Her late father Donny Hathaway’s … set the bar for inspired, old-school soul singing. But living in that kind of shadow can also be a burden, robbing the offspring of an identity apart from that of the famous parent.

This was by my estimation, the most boring Tiny Desk Concert I’ve seen.  The blurb raves about her once but I found it dull and flat.  Her lyrics were uninspired and the music was spare to the point of nothingness.

I always watch a Tiny Desk twice to see if I miss anything the first time.  This one was painful to watch twice. At least it was only 11 minutes.

The younger Hathaway’s appearance behind the Tiny Desk pulls back the curtain a bit for a close-up encounter with her powerfully expressive voice  [powerfully expressive?]

In “Change Ya Life,” Hathaway’s dusky contralto paints an exciting portrait of blissful cohabitation — but on her terms. “I’m going to teach you how to treat me like I deserve,” she sings, adding, “I’ll give you the world.” She draws on a tradition of romance and sensuality in the best soul music, but with a feminist twist that eschews old-school, male-centric lyrics and attitudes.

I like the feminist twist, but when a song has twinkling keys (Lynnette Williams) and a cheesy bass line (Eric Smith) the line “I can fuck around and change your life” just doesn’t seem to fit.

“Boston,” her ode to her second home (she’s from Chicago), is a meditation on self-discovery and longing. The band perfectly straddles slow-jam R&B and a jazz-ballad sensibility.

She was signed in college and told to move to L.A. because Arsenio is there (did she work with him?).  She wrote this song about Boston .  It’s a slow torch song type of song (tikki tikki drums) that name checks tons of Boston area locations (Charles River, Cambridge, Downtown Crossing)

So much of the most powerful music from the Civil Rights Era wasn’t about literal accounting of injustices; many of those songs enshrouded morality plays in the guise of romantic longing. Hathaway introduces the set-closing title track of her new album Honestly as an explicit reflection “of my country at this time.” If you heard it for the first time without the introduction, it comes across as a lover’s lament. But Hathaway’s soaring vocals infuse it with the passion of resistance to bring her set to a close on a hopeful, joyous note.

I love the premise of this song and how it was written.  But even a cool, angry song like this is so tepid.  She asks the audience to sing along to these great lines:   “I don’t even want you no more.  You can walk out that door.”  And you can barely hear them (and the audience is certainly loud between songs).  She does a little of that R&B vocal gymnastics that I dislike at the end just to cap it off.

Not my thing, I guess.

[READ: January 15, 2018] “Family Means Nothing to Me”

This is an except from a story called “Family Means Nothing to Me and I Dislike Children.” I can’t really imagine what the context of the rest of the piece is, but this is  a funny/honest appraisal of the narrator’s self.

She says she finds her nephews and nieces odious.

She has had pets in the past but when she breaks up with a boyfriend she makes him keep the pet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE MIDNIGHT HOUR-Tiny Desk Concert #766 (July 18, 2018).

After a countdown of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, Adrian Younge, with an undone satin bow tie, plays a cool melody on the keys.

Then the strings (Stephanie Yu (violin), Bryan Hernandez-Luch) ring out, followed by the bass notes from Ali Shaheed Muhammad in a blue pinstriped suit and deep violet Fender guitar.

Drummer David Henderson (in a rose satin shirt) adds some beats before the sax (Jordan Pettay) and trumpet (DeAndre Shaifer) add o the “sultry jazz fusion.”  That’s how “Black Beacon,” an instrumental with a great 70s vibe starts out.  I love it.

So who is The Midnight Hour?

After years of produced releases and jam sessions, A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and composer Adrian Younge formed The Midnight Hour in 2018 and released a 20-track album of hip-hop, R&B and jazz.

Younge says that “In creating The Midnight Hour we selected singers we love.”  This leads to Loren Oden and Saudia Mills singing “There is No Greater Love.”  Again with an 8 point countdown, this song has a cool funky bass but the vocals have an authentic lite-FM 1970s vibe that I don’t care for, although the accuracy is right on. It’s also really short.

Next up was 16-year-old Angela Muñoz.  Younge says she reached out to them on Instagram and said “hey guys, I make music” and there was something about this girl that was real.   She wrote  a song and we wanted it to be a part of the album.  She plays “Bitches Do Voodoo” her vocals are great but terribly affected–she’s been listening to way too much pop music with a delivery like that.  The song is short and there are a lot of repeats of the lyrics “Don’t let her get your heart, shes doing voodoo in the dark.”  The problem for me is that ‘dark’ is pronounced: “dah-eye-ah-eye-ark”

The group ended with the hopeful and key-heavy “Mission.”  It opens with a cool bass line and rumbling drums.  And a quick shoutout to guitarist Jack Waterson.

I prefer the instrumentals on this album, they write some tasty music.  A final thought o the way out:

“You know what the best time to listen to this is?”

[READ: January 28, 2018] “Crepuscule with Mickey”

This is an excerpt from a longer story.  The narrator of this story is a “wise guy,” with accent and mannerisms to go along with it.  It feels crazy and over the top.  I found it a little annoying at first but I started to enjoy him by the end.

The popular press says he is an heir to the gambling empire of Bugsy (which nobody called him anything but Ben), Siegel, which I do not care to dispute because it would involve splitting hair.

They all say Mickey Cohen lives extravagantly. Well, he sees no point in personal discomfort.

Kids, as they say, is a pain in the tuchis by trade, and while those belonging to others is something I ordinarily do no care to become involved with and generally speaking I am….

greatly opposed to guys who stick their nose into the business of other families, as I grow older I find it a pleasure to extend my authoritativeness on account of longevity into realms I might have
avoided in my youth.

Two people have come to see him, they are desperate.  He is using his best manners–picking the couple up at the airport in a Fleetwood–a limousine being unsociable. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DUA LIPA-“Thinking ‘Bout You” (Field Recordings, August 31, 2016). 

The title “Field Recordings” seems to be a catchall for videos that they’re not really sure what to do with.  This video clip is from a show called Noteworthy (which ran all of ten episodes from July 2016-September 2016).

Dua does sing from the balcony [Watch Dua Lipa Perform ‘Thinking Bout You’ On A Balcony In New York City] and the sound is pretty great (I like t hat you can hear sirens at one point).   But the video is apparently clips from the documentary because there’s scenes of her walking around the city.

A day after performing “Hotter Than Hell” on The Tonight Show, rising pop star Dua Lipa performed another one of her songs, “Thinking Bout You,” for a much smaller audience: our Noteworthy video crew. Enjoy this extra from our Noteworthy documentary on Dua Lipa and be sure to watch the entire documentary here.

I can’t imagine why this particular singer whom I have never heard of in any other place has a documentary made about her.

Her voice is fine, a rough edged pop singer. And the song is pleasant enough.

[READ: January 31, 2018] “The Revisionist”

This is an excerpt from Mellis’ novel The Revisionist. And boy what a gloomy depressing book this sounds like.

The narrator’s last assignment was to conduct surveillance of the weather and report that everything was fine.  She was set up outside of the city in a lighthouse. She was tempted to take her own observations, so she did.

Now how about this for a paragraph

I saw a family driving to the country on vacation. Behind them, a bomb went off. Through my headphones, I noted the rushing sound of radiation cruising low across the land. The father, who was driving, saw the mushroom cloud in his rearview mirror. The others didn’t turn around, so they never noticed.

What? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BAND OF HORSES-Live at Newport Folk Festival (July 25, 2014).

 I was checking out some of the Newport Folk Festival archives at NPR and found this show from 2014.  This was Band of Horses’ first time at Newport and they sound great and have fun with the set up, by slowly building to a full band.

They start “quietly” with Ben Bridwell singing “St. Augustine” solo on acoustic guitar.

For “Part One,” the bring out Ryan Monroe and Tyler Ramsey to sing along.  You can hear a heckler shout “you need more beard.”

Then they bring out Bill Reynolds to play upright bass on “Weed Party.”  This song sound so very different from the album version–it’s a much more country, don home version, rather than the soaring record.  There’s even a middle break with room for a bass “solo.”

Finally, out comes Creighton Barrett behind the drums for “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone,” their then newest song and the only one from their 2012 album that they play.

The rest of the set is primarily from the first two albums, and the songs sound great.  Ben’s voice is in good form and the band is tight.  “Great Alt Lake” rocks and “Is There a Ghost” even gives Ben the opportunity to shout 1,2,3,4 mid song as they bust out the rocking section.  Ben even screams in the intro to “Laredo.”

Things slow down for “No One’s Gonna Love You.”  When he plays that opening chord everyone cheers, but he says, “that’s the wrong thing, though. that’s not right.” and then he gets himself sorted (with a pitch pipe?) and they play a gorgeous version of it.  The rest of the set sounds equally good, including a rousing “The Funeral.”

They end the set with a cover of a classic blues song “Am I a Good Man?”  Each band member gets a little solo and they even act out some soul with a “Newport are you ready? “One time!” [pow] “two times!” [pow pow] “half a time [tss].

It’s a great show and a precursor of future great shows that I’ve seen from them.

  • “St. Augustine” *
  • “Part One” *
  • “Weed Party” *
  • “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone” ****
  • “The Great Salt Lake” *
  • “Is There A Ghost” **
  • “Laredo” ***
  • “No One’s Gonna Love You” **
  • “Islands On The Coast” **
  • “The General Specific” **
  • “Ode To LRC” **
  • “The Funeral” *
  • “Am I A Good Man?” [cover]

[READ: August 17, 2017] “The Itch”

The story begins that after his divorce, the narrator felt an odd physical and mental numbness although over time he began to talk more to people.

But the most persistent thing is the itch.  Sometimes the left wrist.  Although at home in the evening, it was the upper arms.  Thighs and shins at night.  He began to think of it as “sense data from the exterior.”  Although he didn’t really believe that,.

The only person he has told about the itch is his friend and co-worker, Joel.  Joel told him that he should contextualize the itch–look for a famous statesman with the same problem or perhaps something biblical.  He capitalized The Itch.

He had been seeing a woman whose name was Ana.  He liked that it was spelled that way but when he asked if there was a reason for it–family tradition, a European novel?  She disappointed him and said no.  Just a name spelled a certain way.   He hadn’t told her about The Itch.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORN RUFFIANS-Live at Massey Hall (October 14, 2017).

Born Ruffians are a trio who plays fairly punky music but with a surprisingly high-pitched singer Luke Lalonde.

When the show opens, he says I don’t think I ever considered that I would play here–it wasn’t even something …it seemed out of the realm of possibility.  Look at all the people who have played here (waves at pictures) Bassist Mitch Derosier says that these are employees of the month.  And t here is silence.  Drummer Steve Hamelin says do we have to laugh for that?  Mitch: I wanted someone to.

Lalonde says “it feels cool as hell when you’re on that stage.”  Hamelin: “hopefully it is the first of more.”

“Ocean’s Deep” has a loping bass and mostly high chords until the chorus when they burst forth more.  Lalonde’s guitar is almost rockabilly sounding (because it is a hollowed body?)  The drums totally pound (and Hamelin is up front facing the other two).

“Don’t Live Up” has an interesting guitar melody with rather unexpected notes

“& On & On & On” has a cool bass line and a catchy oh oh oh oh oh oh verse melody.  Then he tells the crowd that they just recorded a record and its out soon so they’re going to play some songs off it. (Which this last song was but he next song isn’t).

“Fade to Black” has punchy drums and a fast punky bass. The chanted backing vocals give it a real punk edge.”  After the song someone shouts, “you guys fucking rock, man,” to which Mitch responds: “that was my mom.”

“Miss You” has a great call and response punk feel “with your head held high–with your head  held high” it sounds great.

“Love Too Soon” opens with gentle echoed guitars a weird-sounding whistle from Luke–echoed or processed and rather eerie, but very compelling.

“Forget Me” is a song about dying.  It starts acoustically followed by a kick drum with Hamelin encouraging everyone t clap along with him.  The song dramatically changes pace midway through–slowing down with big thumps until it slowly speeds up again.

Lalonde switches to electric guitar with a heavy echo for “Needle”.  This was my favorite song and I wondered if I’d heard it before, the vocal melody was very familiar and catchy.

The final song, We Made It” has some cool fast plucked guitar chords (from bass and guitar) and some great triplets on the drums.  It’s a powerful punky thrasher with a big, loud, crashing (very satisfying) false ending.

[READ: February 2, 2018] “Patrols”

I really enjoyed the way this story began.

Marty Mason was staying at a place which housed a dog, Murphy.  Each night the dog left his owner’s room, snuffled around and came to settle by Marty.  He would settle by Marty’s bed, alert, for the night.  If Marty looked at the dog, it would slap its tail against the floor.  If he tried to lock the dog out it would scratch and whine.

This prevented Marty from sleeping, but also prevented him from getting up.

Then the story flashes back to a military scene and I kind of lost focus. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DIVINE COMEDY-Loose Canon: Live in Europe 2016-2017 (2018).

I loved The Divine Comedy at the turn of the century (the fin de siècle, if you will).  They were one of my favorite bands.

Since then Neil Hannon (the man behind the band) has released a few albums which I have liked–but none as much as those early records.

This recording is primarily his latter songs, and as such isn’t as exciting to me.  (Although setlists from the tour shows that he played a lot of older songs as well, so this disc is mostly a latter period recording).

The first three songs are from the newest album Foreverland: “How Can You Leave Me On My Own,” “Napoleon Complex” and “Catherine the Great.”  And among the next few songs are “To the Rescue” and “Funny Peculiar.”   So that’s five in all from that album.

The previous album Bang Goes the Knighthood accounts for five more songs “The Complete Banker,” “Bang Goes The Knighthood,” “At The Indie Disco,” “Assume The Perpendicular” and “I Like.”

So that’s ten of seventeen from the two latest albums.

After listening to it a few times I have come to appreciate his newer music even more and to see that it is equally as cleverly crafted.  He’s just a different person now with different lyrical and musical ideas.  I will certainly give a re-listen to the last decade;s worth of music.

“How Can” is fun a bouncy, “Napoleon” is snarky and witty.  “Funny Peculiar” is a duet with  guest vocals from Lisa O’Neill.  She has a fascinating singing style which is kind of peculiar in its own way.

“The Complete Banker” is wonderfully sarcastic and catchy and “I Like” is so simple and delightful.  “Assume the Perpendicular” is an other fun uptempo song, but of this batch its “Indie Disco” that is the real highlight (this includes an excerpt from New Order’s Blue Monday”).

It also sounds like this was a fun souvenir for anyone who saw the tour (he dressed up as Napoleon and others, and apparently “Indie Disco” was really fun live).  I have always wanted to see them and hold them high on my list of bands to see.  But he hasn’t been to the States in almost ten years, so I don’t have high hopes to experience them live.

The band for The Divine Comedy’s live shows has changed over the years, sometimes large and orchestral or, like this tour, a simpler five-piece.  They sound good although they do underplay the orchestral quality of the music.

Going back there’s one from Victory for the Comic Muse “A Lady Of A Certain Age” and one from Absent Friends “Our Mutual Friend.”  These two songs are lovely and quite poignant, especially “Lady.”  They are a far cry from the raucous songs of old.

The first older song is from 2001’s Regenertaion with a wild and fun rendition of “Bad Ambassador.”  His voice doesn;t sound great on this song.  I’m not sure if he ever sounded great live, but he certainly underplays some of the bigger moments in the song.

The crowd really gets pumping for Fin de Siècle‘s “Generation Sex” and “National Express.”  These two songs are a lot of fun and I imagine mus t be really rousing live.  Once again he doesn’t sound great. Not that he has lost his voice but almost like he;s not trying all that hard.

The disc is collected from shows all over Europe, so its interesting if they picked songs where he doesn’t sound that great.

It’s not until the encores that he brings out two really old songs 1994’s “A Drinking Song” and “Tonight We Fly.”

I’m sure they picked this particular version of “A Drinking Song” because he admits to being quite drunk himself.  And there’s a funny moment where he gets a hair caught in his throat.  “Is it yours?”  Indeed, his banter with the audience is a highlight.  He is clearly a good showman, and perhaps that makes up for some of the shortcomings of the disc.  This song is a good example.  His voice is much louder than the instruments and, frankly, he doesn’t sound that great as what is mostly a capella–but the overall presentation is fun.

The ending “Tonight We Fly” is a treat as well.  Again, he doesn’t sound perfect, but he sounds like he’s having fun.

I feel like this makes me want to see them a little less–except that it sounds like the performance is great even if his voice isn’t anymore.  Regardless, is he ever comes back to the States, I’ll be there for sure.

[READ: January 19, 2018] “The People Who Kept Everything”

I read this novel 7 years ago.  But since I’ve been going back through old Harper’s and found this excerpt I thought it would be worth reading (the excerpt) again.  And I really enjoyed it, I had forgotten about this scene until the end of the piece.

The narrator says that on the night before he left for college his father gave him a Spanish dueling knife and told him to keep it and never lose it.

When the narrator asks his father where he got it he says he’d better not say–he could tell him he won it in a card game in El Paso or a cathouse in Brownsville.

He kept the knife in a drawer and it moved with him to every location her went–dorm rooms, apartments.  Often it was in the kitchen with the cutlery, ignored by everyone except the new girlfriend who wanted to cook something. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BILL & JOEL PLASKETT-Live at Massey Hall (April 8, 2017).

I thought I had heard of the name Joel Plaskett before this, but I know I’d never heard of Bill Plaskett.

Sharing the spotlight with his earliest musical influence- his father, the JUNO Award-winning Canadian songwriter, Joel Plaskett performs a powerful collection of songs from both his own catalogue and from Solidarity, the musical collaboration between father and son, live at Massey Hall.

They talk about the prestige and history of Massey Hall as well as how it is a large venue but it still has intimacy.  There’s a big stage, but it projects–you feel like you can touch the audience.

“Dragonfly” opens with just him Joel on acoustic guitar.  After a few verses, the lights come on and the full band kicks in loudly and powerully–Benj Rowland (banjo, bass, accordion, guitar); Shannon Quinn (fiddle) and Josh Fewings (drums).

“Blank Cheque” starts lower and sounds a bit darker.  I love the lyrics: “oh honey, you can’t eat money–it’s gonna take more than luck just to save your neck.”

“Jim Jones” is sung by Bill.  It’s an olde ballad about prisoners and pirates and the goal in Australia.  Bill says it’s a British folk song from the time when convicts were transported to Australia for minor offenses like stealing rabbits from the Lord’s domain.  It’s a song of revenge.  Jim Jones was fictional but Jack Donoguhe had escaped from Botany Bay penal colony.

“Nowhere With You” is a song about all of Joel’s travels with big sing-alongs

“Heartless Heartless Heartless” is darker and quieter–there’s a wonderful moody feeling to the song.  Unlike “Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin'” which is stompin and stompin.  People get up and start dancing and clapping.  Wow, there’s a lot of cowboy hats in the audience.  There’s a pretty fiddle that runs through this catchy sing-along song.

They talk about the magic in the collective energy of playing shows.  How the audience sends it back to you and you can feel it build over the course of a show.  It’s an awesome feeling.  Bill says it’s wonderful to play with his son in front of so many young people.

“Wishful Thinking” ends the show in a big rock n roll way.  “You can get on your feet again it feels good when you are.”  After some stomping around he starts improvising:

Don’t sing that song in A, sing it in B.
They shift to B and start singing and when they get to “it’s a long, long way to Winnipeg” the singers their notes forever–his dad longer than everyone else.  Joel: “That’s some circular breathing right there.”

The end is funny:

You’re hauling a lot of stuff, you’re taxing the vehicle.  Get rid of some guitars.
What are you talking about?  We need them for the show.
Well, figure something out.
So…

CDs for sale in the back of the hall
Buy one buy em all
Couple bucks cheaper than they are at the mall
Thanks very much we’ll be back in the fall.

It seems like he tries to end the song a few times, but they keep going and the guys from Elliott BROOD come out to sing a few ahhs at the end.

one more thing dude/
thank you Elliott Brood

[READ: February 6, 2018] “Darkness at Seven”

This is the opening scene from Eno’s play Tragedy: A Tragedy.

I really enjoyed this piece although I can’t imagine how it could be made any longer or in exactly what kind of direction it could go next.

Essentially this opening scene makes fun of all tragedy reporting and the generic platitudes that such coverage creates.   There’s Frank in the Studio, John in the Field, Constance at the Home, Michael the Legal Adviser and The Witness.

Frank sets the scene-a location in America, the once familiar sun has set.

John tells us that it’s the worst world in the world tonight.  People are looking, feeling, hoping and believing that they might learn something.

Frank wants to know if the sense of tragedy is palpable.  It is. (more…)

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