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Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: INDIGO SPARKE-Tiny Desk Concert #950 (February 26, 2020).

I was sure that I had heard of Indigo Sparke before–in some kind of NPR context.  But I can’t find any evidence of that.

The only thing I can figure is that I must have listened to this Tiny Desk Concert when it was first published, because I remembered her telling the story about driving a car (before the second song).

Indigo Sparke is an Australian singer-songwriter.  She sings quietly and plays an electric guitar almost without amplification (aside from occasionally loud drone sounds).  Bob says,

I asked everyone to gather a little closer than usual around my desk for this one.

“Colourblind” starts the set off as she quietly strums and sings.

Up next is “the day i drove the car around the block.”  She introduces the song by telling about

trying to learn how to drive on the other side of the road while in Los Angeles, with a huge vehicle and a stick shift.

After that introduction, you might think the song was amusing.  But it is not

It is a tale of defeat and solace:

“Take off all my clothes, kiss me where the bruises are,” …
“Love is the drug, and you are in my blood now.”

Sparke sings a little too slowly for my liking–the kind of stretched out vocals that make it hard for me to follow the thread of the song (or maybe that you need a few listens to fully appreciate).

Before the final song, she invites her partner, Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief up to play guitar with her.  She tells us that the song is so new it has no title–if you think of one while she’s playing it, let Bob know.  It has since been named “Burn.”

Lenker’s addition of chords (and lovely harmonics) add a nice extra layer to the song.

[READ: March 21, 2020] Paradox Girl: First Cycle

Who doesn’t love a story that begins: “Do you know what happens when you violate causality?”

Paradox Girl is a time-traveler who has changed her past so many times she doesn’t know what he truth is.  She also lives with about a hundred copies of herself.

Her partner in crime-fighting is Axiom Man.

This book had so much that I love in a superhero story–strong female characters, wild humor and all kinds of time-travel paradoxes.  It even had fantastic artwork from Yishan Li–I love the light purple lines that indicate some time travel magic.

But I guess I learned that this is something of a one-note premise.  Which means that most of the stories are variants on the one idea that she can appear anywhere at anytime and that her other selves will be there as well.

Often this works pretty well, but I guess reading six comics in a row gets a bit samey. (more…)

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81HkprYowjLSOUNDTRACK: SNOH AALEGRA-Tiny Desk Concert #946 (February 18, 2020).

maxresdefault (2)In what seems to be a new trend at the Tiny Desk, here’s another artist whom I’ve never heard of somehow and who manages to cram five songs into 16 minutes.  (I won’t complain about the length of this show because it’s not that long, but everyone knows you get three songs).

The most fascinating things about Snoh is that she is Iranian-Swedish.  And that her band is enormous.  And that they all have great names like: O’Neil “Doctor O” Palmer on keys, George “Spanky” McCurdy on drums and Thaddaeus Tribbett on bass.  There’s also Jef Villaluna on guitar whose name isn’t that crazy,

Unfortunately her songs and albums have terrible names.

Her new album is called Ugh, those feels again and her previous album is called Feels. (and she’s not even millennial).  And then the third song is called “Whoa.”  Good grief,

“Whoa” is a sweet love song that is detailed but not explicit.  Except the chorus which is “you make me feel like, whoa.”

The rest of her songs have a very delicate soft-rock vibe.  Especially with the string section of Ashley Parham on violin, Johnny Walker, Jr. on cello, Asali McIntyre on violin and Brandon Lewis on viola.

But apparently that’s not what her music typically sounds like.

On this day in particular, Aalegra’s tracks were stripped of their punchier, album-version kick drums and trap echoes. In their absence, it’s Aalegra’s delicate vocal runs and chemistry with her supporting singers that resonated most. “I Want You Around” and “Whoa,” which usually rest on a bed of glitchy, spiraling production, felt lighter thanks to the dreamy string section.

All of the songs featured her backing vocalists Ron Poindexter and Porsha Clay,  but they were especially prominent on “Fool For You” which ran all of two minutes.

Snoh seemed a little too cool up there, which did not endear me to her.  Her voice is certainly pretty though, even if I didn’t like her songs.

[READ: March 15, 2020] Best Friends

This book is a sequel of sorts to Real Friends.

It continues the story of young Shannon in sixth grade and how she deals with the minefields that middle school can present.

The same cast is back–the good and bad friends, the girls and boys and all of the insecurities that are practically a character in themselves.

As the book opens, Shannon realizes that she and her friends are not really in sync. She can’t keep up with the pop songs that they like–how do they always know the newest cool song (her family doesn’t listen to pop music so she is way out of the loop).

But aside form that, things seem good.  Shannon is best friends with Jen, the most popular girl in their class.  And since they are the oldest grade in school, Jen is therefore the most popular girl in school.

But the girls are always sniping at each other or trying to get Shannon so say nasty things about one of the other girls behind her back (while the girl was listening).  Shannon never did, though, because she is really a good person.  Something the other girls could use some help with, (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MEGAN THEE STALLION-Tiny Desk Concert #917/Tiny Desk Fest October 28, 2019 (December 2, 2019).

This Tiny Desk concert was part of Tiny Desk Fest, a four-night series of extended concerts performed in front of a live audience and streamed live on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Back in October, NPR allowed fans to come watch some Tiny Desk Concerts live.  October 28th was rap night featuring Mega Thee Stallion.

I’ve heard a lot about Megan Thee Stallion and how she is raunchy and sexually explicit and how what she’s doing is revolutionary.

And I’m for her bragging the way men brag and showcasing women’s needs and desires.  I think it’s fantastic.

Megan’s lyrical content lies in subverting established sexual dynamics, and no matter the level of raunch she deploys, empowering women remains the artist’s manifesto.

But wow, I found that by the middle of the first song I was overwhelmed by the language.  Now, I’m not prudish by any means, and I listen to songs with all kinds of language.  But the barrage of four-, five- and six- letter words was just nonstop.  Honestly it just seemed to lose any impact and seemed pretty monotonous by the third or fourth song.

But clearly I don’t know what I’m talking about because

the brilliant and bodacious rapper has ascended to major festival stages, become one of the most sought-after features on other stars’ songs and electrified late-night television audiences.

I will say that she comes across as really fun and joyful while she’s bantering

Of course, most of her bantering was bragging about which of her songs have gone gold or platinum.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing to me is that this was her first performance with a backing band.  Because I found her band was everything in this set.  I couldn’t imagine seeing her yell

I keep it realer than real
Fuck all the critics and fuck how they feel
I’m getting money, it is what it is
They wanna know how I did what I did
Don’t worry ’bout why I do what I do (bitch)
‘Cause I ain’t worried bout you (bitch)
Nah, I don’t wanna be cool (bitch)
Still hanging with the same crew (ay)

without a live band to back her up.  I mean, jeez, that would just be somebody standing on a corner ranting.  I got tired of men singing things like that years ago, so even if it’s cool for her to turn it on its masculine head, it’s still just yelling and bragging.

Her band is Phony Ppl, who played a Tiny Desk Concert last March and who I liked quite a bit.  The band is Elbee Thrie on vocals (and genral hype), Elijah Rawk on guitar, Maffyuu on drums, Aja Grant on keys, Bari Bass on bass.  I’m unclear if Ebony Joi is with Ppl or Megan, but she sings some lovely backing vocals.

And I totally agree with this idea (although I won’t compare her without the band)

From “Hot Girl Summer” to the platinum-selling “Cash S***,” Hot Girl Meg’s raunchy hits took on new life thanks to a live backing band, Brooklyn’s Phony Ppl, who seamlessly blend jazz, R&B and hip-hop.

I liked the horror-movie sounding music of “Realer.”  I was amused that she described “Big Ole Freak” as more chill but it’s still raunchy.

Elbee Thrie sings the chorus on “Hot Girl Summer” (and I can’t believe she doesn’t have him singing along all the time).

Midway through the spirited set, Megan and Phony Ppl surprised the audience by premiering an unreleased collaboration, a bouncy banger titled “F*****’ Around.” After the first verse/chorus, the adoring crowd was singing along as if they’d known the song for years.

Thrie sings the lyrics and it really doesn’t seem like Megan does all that much, so I’m nit sure how much of a collaboration it is.  Although she likely wrote the lyrics, since she says “We don’t condone that shit, but sometimes….”

The final song is about how much money she’s got.  There’s some cool guitar licks on it.

So, despite all the raves for Megan Thee Stallion, I won’t be buying any of her mixtapes.  But then I am clearly not the target audience.

[READ: February 28, 2020] Fight Like a Girl Vol. 1

Never has my desire to like a story been so undermined by its execution.

This book was advertised in Princeless and, since it was also by Action Lab Comics and was clearly a feminist story, I was all over it.

But oh, the execution.

The book opens in a kind of black and white chamber.  It looks like a courtroom with the characters are talking to the heroine.

The characters are: Tartarus, Chronos, Apollo, Loki, Mercury, Fortuna, Fulla.  I can’t decide of this Pantheon of gods is meant to be multicultural or if it’s weird that the first four are Greek, Mercury and Fortuna are Roman, and Loki and Fulla are Norse,

And it’s in these pages that the typos begin. So many typos!  Which is weird since I suspect the book is hand lettered.

There’s some missing periods, an errant comma and then this line “and more importantly has the chance to be the next, artisan. [sic].”

But back to the plot, the judges have decided that Amaroso’s wish is acceptable and she will return in five days to enter the wishing well.

Then we flashback. Amarosa is talking to her boyfriend Kaiden saying that her brother is dying.  She has tried everything and her last resort is the wishing well.  Kaiden is concerned about what will happen if she fails but he convinces himself and her that she won’t fail.  She can’t.

Next, Amarosa is in the wishing well with nine trails to attempt.

But the real typo problems come with the fairy that is assisting her on her trials.  From awkward phrasings like “your nine trials awaits [sic] your grand arrival” to “let me run you down with [sic] the rules.”

Typos aside, the rules are simple.  Amarosa chooses a door and fights what is inside.  If she defeats the creature, a new door appears and she moves on through the nine trials. If she loses. Well, you know. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SiR-Tiny Desk Concert #940 (February 3, 2020).

I had never heard of SiR, the R&B singer from Inglewood, CA.  That’s not surprising since I don’t listen to R&B.

But as I often say I’m always surprised to read that someone is very successful and yet I have never heard of them.

Since signing to hip-hop juggernaut Top Dawg Entertainment in 2017, Sir Darryl Farris has been the most consistent, most reliable player on the roster outside of its original four.  His output has further solidified the label’s stake in spaces outside of just rap music.

He sings four songs, all ballads.  His voice is somewhere between speaking and singing with an interesting raspy quality.

The songs come from his latest LP, Chasing Summer.

Themes of regret loom throughout the album and he’s never shied away from writing about personal flaws. His depiction of misdirected desires and heartbreak on “John Redcorn” and “The Recipe” reveal a cruel honesty that couples grapple with at times.

“The Recipe” has some really nice backing vocals from Davion Farris, Jacquelyn Farris and Zyah Belle.

“New Sky” has a pretty piano melody from Ledaris “L.J.” Jones with some nice fat bass from Samuel Davis.   I quite like like the vocals on the chorus.

When he introduces the band he reveals that Davion Farris is his older brother and Jacquelyn Farris is his mom.

The set was also a family affair with his mother and older brother offering support as two of the three background vocalists. We get a glimpse of his upbringing in the gospel choir once those harmonies open up.

The set proves to be unexpectedly emotional

About halfway through the performance, SiR revealed that he’d lost his infant godson a few days prior and dedicated the performance to him. “We’re doing this for him. I didn’t want to come… It took a lot for me to be here today …but we’re gonna get through this.”

He plays the spare “Wires in the Way.”  It’s just his voice with some quiet jazzy guitar from Terrall Whitehead.  Midway through some lovely jazzy piano is added.  Throughout, you can see how emotional SiR is while singing the song and then he needs a moment at the end before they start the last song.

Woah.

He is able to bring the happiness back for the last song.  He says “It’s my favorite song off the album.  Hope you like this last one.”

“John Redcorn” feels like a culmination of the other songs, with everyone playing or singing to make this song very full.  I especially like the way Roger “Jooseondrums” Benford makes the cymbals sound like they are filling up the room.

Many Tiny Desk Concerts are emotional and you;d have to be stone cold not to be moved by this one.

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Raven Book 3

Book Two ended with a cliffhanger–would Raven be able to save Ximena?  She needs to take Ximena for medical care, but she knows that she can’t go anywhere on the island, since her brothers rule everything there.

Katie looks at the maps that Ximena has been making and sees that there’s an island not too far off.  It’s a spa for people who are really injured.  They set sail immediately and Katie is put in charge while Raven stays with Ximena.  Raven reveals that she is in love with Ximena (which most of the crew guessed anyway).

Raven is told that Ximena needs to hear her voice if she is to recover and so Raven tells the story of how her mother and father met.  It’s a pretty wonderful story and is beautifully drawn by Sorah Suhng.

All this time, Sunshine has been listening at the door.  It turns out she’s quite jealous of Ximena because she has a major thing for Raven.  So when Raven asks Sunshine to tell Ximena a story, Sunshine is really torn.  But she knows how important it is so she tells the story of how her parents met–that a human and an elf could conceive.  It’s a pretty great story drawn in a very different style by Jason Strutz. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RISING APPALACHIA-Tiny Desk Concert #939 (January 31, 2020).

I feel like I have heard of Rising Appalachia, but I’m not sure that I have.  If I had, I certainly didn’t know anything by them.  But I think I had a pretty safe guess.

Rising Appalachia’s Tiny Desk Concert is charged with the roots music that sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith learned in fiddle camps as kids. Growing up in urban Atlanta and beyond, they also heard rhythms from a wider world, and their music grew to reflect new sounds and their activism. When they came to NPR, their van was packed with a bodhrán (Irish drum), an ngoni (West African harp) a huge gourd, a cello, a baritone guitar and more, including the other musicians who make up this wandering, Atlanta-based band: David Brown, Biko Casini, Arouna Diarra and Duncan Wickel.

And so, with this band you get traditional-sounding folk music but with world music instruments and influences.  It melds beautiful.  And their lyrics are great, too.

“Resilient” starts the set with just the two of them.  Chloe Smith is on banjo while Leah Song is on bodhrán.  Their voices are great together as they sing a fantastic protest song. There’s so many great lyrics to choose from, but I’ll pick just this one

My voice feels tiny I’m sure so does yours / put em all together make a mighty roar.

There’s also a really catchy “who ho ho” in the chorus, which is a fun treat.

After the song, Leah says they are reviving the voice of the people.  Then, introducing the next song, “Medicine”  she says this is for all of our ancestors and all the medicine keepers.

Chloe switches to acoustic guitar.  The song begins with a a bowed, then plucked cello from Duncan Wickel.  Biko Casini plays a high hat with a big circular gourd for a bass and percussive sound.

There’s a very nice bowed cello solo.  Leah sings lead and Chloe adds some terrific harmonies.  Midway through the song you can really hear Arouna Diarra on the ngoni, playing some high notes, but it’s his solo at the end of the song that is so cool.  I’m fascinated by this instrument.

Before the final song, they joke that they wanted Leah to jump on the desk and that they might crowd surf.

Leah says she was going to shave I Love Bob Boilen into her hair.  Or maybe NPR, but if you mess that up it could just go wrong.

They end the set with a song Leah and Chloe “learned from our mama, an old boot-stompin’ Appalachian folk tune” called “Cuckoo.”  They aim to bring old music into a new format.

“Cuckoo” is a song I know from Kristin Hersh and, coincidentally, she played it when I saw her recently.

For this song, Leah plays the banjo and Chloe plays the violin (as does Duncan Wickel).   Their take is rather different from Kristin’s–not in the melody or lyrics but the way they sing the words.  Kristin has a very different vocal style.

The end features a njongi solo along with the baritone guitar solo from David Brown followed by a fiddle solo

And after a minute or so of soloing there’s split second pause before everyone rocks out a bit.  You can really hear the baritone guitar and its bass notes here.

I really enjoyed this set and I’m very curious about this band.

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Raven Book 2

Book One of this series was pretty intense.  And book two doesn’t really let up.

Well, the first chapter lets up some as we meet the crew and the women get used to the ship.  There are some rope climbing contests, everyone also wants to take a turn steering.  And Ximena and Raven are arguing already.

It’s a cool way to meet some of the new cast.  Dezzy would rather sunbathe than work.  Helena is very strong, Cid is deaf–which we find out because Jayla is yelling at her (to no avail obviously) and is getting frustrated and petulant–she’s a terrible character.  And powerful Sunshine is incredibly seasick.

Then they get into some sword practice. Raven addresses her crew calling them bilge rats. But Katie interrupts, “The insulting thing, is that something we have to do?”

Raven says she never thought of it.  That’s just how pirates speak. But Raven decides the ship will be a democracy (except in battle when her word is law).  She asks who finds insults to be a motivator?  No one raises her hand.  Raven hereby abolishes “name-calling, back-biting, under-cutting, insulting and sarcastic undermining” from her ship. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KIKAGAKU MOYO-“Gypsy Davey”/”Mushi No Uta” (2020).

Japanese psych rock band Kikagaku Moyo (who are amazing live) were picked for the new Sub Pop 7″ singles cub release.  I’m not part of that club, but the tracks are available to stream.  Here’s what the band says:

This is a limited release as a part of the Sub Pop Singles Club Vol. 4, and physical copies will only be available to subscribers of the series. As such, it won’t be available at our shows or in stores…but you can listen now on streaming sites.

The first song, “Gypsy Davey,” is a reworking of the traditional British folk song by the same name. We referenced Sandy Denny’s arrangement from the 1971 album Fotheringay for our performance.  We recorded the track in London with guest vocalist Kandice Holmes, aka Bells @be__lls.

The second song, “Mushi No Uta,” was written by Tomo and Go and recorded last summer in their living room.

Both of these were recorded in brief windows during our touring in 2019. We are very happy with opportunity hope you enjoy the songs.

I love the way they have taken this old English folk song “Gypsy Davey” and added some great psychedelic elements.  First off it starts with drums and some very cool sitar work.  The guitars are slow and echoing.  Then after the first verse, the full band joins in with a slow 70’s sounding folk rock (with electric guitars) song.  By the third verses, the two guitars are doing different things and it all works together very nicely.

I had never heard of Kandic Holmes (aka Bells) but her voice is perfect, sounding old school and like she has heard this song a million times and can’t wait to sing it again.

The middle of the song has a wonderful, slow sitar solo.  I love that they have taken folk and made it international folk.

“Mushi No Uta” is a slow ballad. It does sound a bit like a home made recording (or else it is recorded deliberately close-sounding).  The vocals are whispered and the guitars intertwine nicely.  After a minute and a half, expansive, echoing guitar chords come rumbling through totally changing the atmosphere.  The second guitar plays some wild lines.  After about a minute, it all fades out and the original sound returns–gentle folk acoustic guitar and falsetto vocals.

It’s a nice single and shows a different side of the band.

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Raven Book 1

I really enjoyed Book 3 of the Princeless series in which Adrienne encountered Raven locked up in a castle.

I thought Raven was a pretty awesome character and I was really happy to see that Jeremy Whitley had created a series just for her.

This series is a lot less light-hearted than the Princeless series and definitely skews a bit older than Princeless.  It’s also not quite as funny (by design, I assume).  However, it features a wonderfully diverse crew of women and all of the great feminism that Princeless is known for.

As this book opens, we see Raven’s father showing her how to shoot an arrow–how she came to be known as Black Arrow and how fearsome she was even as a child.

The story of the excitement she had as a child on her father’s ship is contrasted to the drudgery of the present–fixing up the ship that she has commandeered from her brother’s mates.  She realizes that if she is going to get revenge on her brothers for locking her up, she needs a crew.  So she heads into town where she bumps into (literally) a woman who barely speaks English and is down on her luck.  She says she ate today, but has no money left.  Raven gives her some coins and the woman replies, “You give me to have these?”  She gives Raven a huge kiss and walks off.  That’s when Raven realizes the woman stole her purse.

The rest of the chapter shows some excellently drawn chase scenes from Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt in which the thief (who we will learn is a half-Elf named Sunshine) is impressed by Raven’s tenacity and in which Raven is impressed by Sunshine’s physical abilities.  Sunshine runs into a bar and as Raven is about to tackle her, the bar owner points a crossbow at her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TWIN PEAKS-“Spiders (Kidsmoke)” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

This was the last song on this compilation and it’s my favorite.

There’s a lot of Wilco songs that I like and “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” is way at the top.  The song is really long and doesn’t change a lot but the changes are fantastic.  One of the great things about the song is Nels Cline’s insane guitar work throughout–noisy and seemingly uncontrolled, but somehow fitting in perfectly with the 1-2-3- bass line.

This version by Twin Peaks is as good, if not slightly better than the original.  I say that because the band sounds a little fuller during the verses which I like (although it does make the change to the noisier section less dramatic).  And Nels Cline;s guitar work is more interesting than the Twin Peaks version–although they do some cool things too.

I think Twin Peaks has a bit more of the heavy alternative sound the I like.  The vocals are great, the guitars are great.  I’ve now listened to both versions back to back and I like them both!

This cover actually made me investigate Twin Peaks more and I was bummed to find out that they had just played a show in our area after I had listened to this song.

Next time!

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Volume 5

This book opens with Adrienne and Bedelia enjoying a cleansing bath in a lake (I assume).  While they are getting clean, Adrienne mourns the state of her hair.  How often she has tried to straighten and control the knotty curls on her head.  And after some serious thought, she has Bedelia shave it all off.  I love that when she pops out of the water newly shorn, she looks gorgeous–well done Emily Martin.  On a less great note, there’s a scene in the water where Bedelia, who is a strong and rugged half-dwarf lets not forget, is drawn with a waist that would be about 10 inches across in real life–bad form Emily Martin.

In book two, Devin and Kira are trotting along (with the tough Kira getting nauseous on the back of a horse).  When suddenly Kira smells… an elf.  And it is her duty to kill it.  Kira dives on the elf’s travelling companion, who is Prince Wilcome.  The elf, named Tempest, quickly disarms Devin and takes his sword.  They are at an impasse.

Next we jump to the dwarf kingdom.  There are two male guards out front discussing music and almost come to blows during their argument, calling each other girlie and arguing which one is the real man.  But when another dwarf comes along shouting Dragon, we find out that the dwarf dragon slayers are all women.  They prep themselves and get ready to make dragon stew.  After a kiss between Benna and Gretta they fling the dwarfs through the air from a catapult. (more…)

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