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Archive for the ‘André Leon Talley’ Category

may16 SOUNDTRACK: SUZANNE VEGA-Tiny Desk Concert #336 (February 10, 2014).

vegaSuzanne Vega is practically a one hit wonder except that she has released a half-dozen great albums that are full of wonderful songs.  I stopped listening to her some time in the mid 90’s, so I missed her 2000s comeback, but this four-song show from 2014 has her two most famous songs and two songs from her then about t o be released album Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles.

As the Concert opens, she asks “for real?” and the hits the Tiny Desk gong (with quite a flourish).

Then she launches into “Luka.”  She plays acoustic guitar and sings.  Her voice sounds pretty much exactly as it did twenty years ago.  In part, sure, it’s because her singing voice is practically a whisper, but it’s amazing how good she sounds.  She has a second guitarist, Gerry Leonard, with her (on electric guitar) who plays a great sounding solo in the middle of the song.

The first new song is “Crack in the Wall.”  She says that it  describes when a crack appears allowing you to see into the spiritual world.  In this version (I don’t know the studio version), it sounds a lot like an old song–stripped down and simple, with Vega’s interesting gentle acoustic guitar chords and voice.  There’s also a cool echoed electric guitar solo.

For “I Never Wear White” she takes off the acoustic guitar.  It’s just her singing and Leonard playing.  And his guitar his rough and distorted.  It is pretty shocking for a Vega song, but it works really well with her voice.  I really like this song a lot.

She ends with “Tom’s Diner.”  She was going to say the one and only, but says they’ve done so many different versions of it.  So this is their latest.  She sings parts a capella but the guitar plays some wonderful washes of sounds (looped) with different parts layered.  He also plays a percussive sound that makes the song kind of danceable.  And when she mentions the bells of the cathedral, Gerry plays some cool harmonic notes that are echoed and sound like clock chimes.  It’s very cool.

Vega’s speaking voice sound a little like Hillary Clinton’s (especially during the thank yous at the end).  But it’s nice that her singing voice still sounds the same and that 2014 album seems like it might be interesting.

[READ: July 6, 2016] “High Maintenance”

The May 16, 2016 issue of the New Yorker had a series called “Univent This” in which six authors imagine something that they could make go away. Since I knew many of them, I decided to write about them all.  I have to wonder how much these writers had to think about their answers, or if they’d imagined this all along.

I’ve never read Mary Karr, I only know her peripherally as connected with David Foster Wallace.  This may not have been the best introduction to her, although since she mostly writes memoirs, maybe this is the perfect introduction.

Mary Karr would like to uninvent high heels.  And while she does speak of this with some humor, the entire article just reeks of vanity and foolishness.  (The fact that she even mentions she can still squeeze into a size 4 should tell you all you need to know about this essay). (more…)

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hiltonSOUNDTRACK: BECK/RECORD CLUB-SKIP SPENCE: Oar (2010).

skipOf the four Record Club discs, this is the only one I don’t own.  Although I do have a different covers collection called More Oar (which Beck also appears on). I may have never heard any of the original songs on this disc, so I can’t even compare them.

For those who don’t know (as I didn’t), Skip Spence was one of the founders of Moby Grape, a band who was vaguely successful in the late 60s and then sort of fell apart (especially when Spence tried to kill his bandmates and was put in an asylum for a year).

Beck doesn’t have anything special to say about why they picked this album.  But he must have been very excited that Wilco and Feist were around to play on it.  He says

This one took place last June when Wilco was in town for the release of their new eponymous album. They came by after a long day filming a TV appearance and still managed to put down 8 songs with us. Jamie Lidell was in the studio with me working on his new record. Leslie Feist happened to be in town editing her documentary and heard we were all getting together. Recording took place at Sunset Sound Studios in the room where the Stones did a lot of Exile On Main Street (and looking at the records on the walls it appeared that the Doobie Brothers recorded most of their output there too). Sitting in on drums, we had James Gadson, who’s played on most of the Bill Withers records and on songs like ‘Express Yourself’ and ‘I Will Survive.’ Jeff Tweedy’s son Spencer played played additional drums. Also, Brian Lebarton, from the last two Record Club sessions is back.

And if you don’t know what Record Club is, see the summary on yesterday’s post.

Wilco plays on 8 tracks (of 12) and they sound great.  Indeed, overall this is the most “professional” sounding recording.  Which is not to say that they don’t have fun. It sure sounds like they do.

Little Hands (2:59).  This has a traditional folk band sound.  It’s a great recording.
Cripple Creek (4:14).  This is not THAT “Cripple Creek,” by the way.  “Jamie takes the lead and Gadson gets behind the kit, while Beck and Brian back them.”  There’s a funky drum breakdown in the middle.
Diana (3:48).  Another good sounding song.
Margaret/Tiger Rug (2:27). This song is a little boppy and slightly silly sounding, but not really that silly.
Weighted Down (The Prison Song) (4:58) “Feist takes the lead this week with Nels Cline arpeggiating some ridiculous 64th notes on a toy guitar.”  Feist adds some beautiful vocals to this song.
War In Peace (5:04).  This begins a little slow and shambolic but it soon builds into a full band that gets even crazier when they start playing “Sunshine of Your Love.”  It was fun to hear them let loose.
Broken Heart (3:39).  This sounds like a traditional song.  A little drunken and fun–a nice duet with Feist.
All Come To Meet Her (2:02).  This is a simply beautiful harmonized a capella rendition.
Books Of Moses (7:21) “Gadson lays down the heaviest RC beat ever, while Jamie loops his voice into a voice army and Brian plays some kind of octagon shaped synth.”  This had a kind of Primus-y weird synth opening.  But as Jamie loops his voice over and over it sounds really good, although it is too long.
Dixie Peach Promenade (Yin For Yang) (3:56).  This is a synthy bouncy song.  It’s a little silly, especially with th Ace of Base coda at the end.  But it sounds good.
Lawrence of Euphoria (5:17).  The lyrics of this song are very silly. This version has a fake cowbell and  funky bass but is otherwise just electronic drums and vocals.
Grey/Afro (7:35).  This has echoed vocals and noisy bass.  It’s hard to figure out what’s going on here, especially at the chaotic ending. But it’s nice to hear them all let loose a bit.

As I said, I don’t know how this compares to the original, but I really enjoyed it.

[READ: March 23, 2014] White Girls

This book was madly hyped and I was pretty excited to read it (even though to be honest I didn’t know if it was fiction or non-fiction–and wasn’t even entirely sure as much as half way through the first piece).  I knew Als’ name from the New Yorker, although I wasn’t really conscious of having read anything by him.  It turns out I read one of these essays in McSweeney’s 35 about four years ago.  The fact that I didn’t remember reading that essay does not speak all that well about it.  But overall I enjoyed most of the essays in the book quite a lot; however, the two longest ones I found, well, way too long.  And I honestly don’t understand the title.

Overall the book is a collection of essays (often told from an interesting perspective, like from the dead person’s first point of view).  The problem with pretty much every essay in the book at least for me was that Als presupposes a base knowledge of these people.  Without that, the essays can be frustratingly vague and unclear.  But again, these people are all famous enough that it seems likely that one would have that base knowledge (even if I don’t).  I do wish there was a small bio or even a photo with these essays (as there was with the Truman Capote one) as I feel that grounded me nicely.

I was a lot more confused by his essays that were more personal.  I didn’t really understand the context for what he was talking about, since i know very little about him.  And as you’ll see from the first essay, he covered a lot in a very un-straight way. (more…)

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