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Archive for the ‘Glee’ Category

[LISTENED TO: August 2015] The Organist Season 1

organistGiven my love of the McSweeney’s empire, it seems logical that I would have listened to The Organist sooner than this.  But I didn’t.  It has been on for a couple of years, so i assumed I’d never catch up.  But then I saw that there were only 50 episodes and most of them were quite short.  So it was time to see what it was all about.

And, since it is more or less in conjunction with The Believer, it should come as no surprise that it is sort of an aural equivalent to that magazine–longish pieces about esoteric subject, but geared specifically to “radio.”

The Organists first season was done as a monthly podcast starting on Feb 1.  Each episode was about 50 minutes long and covered a variety of subjects with fun guests and other ephemera.

Episode 1: (February 1, 2013)
The inaugural episode kicks off with Nick Offerman spouting some hilarious nonsense about podcasts.  The rest of the show includes an interview with George Saunders talking about the voices of his fiction; Greil Marcus discusses the impact of the first Bikini Kill EP now that it is reissued.  Perhaps the most unusual and interesting piece is when Amber Scorah tells the story of her defection from the Jehovah’s Witnesses while working as a missionary in Shanghai; In short pieces, Brandon Stosuy editor of Pitchfork, presents five five-word record reviews of interesting new guitar rock and then musicians Matmos take a song from their new album apart, piece by piece, revealing its brilliant, pulsating innards.  Basically they used thought control to get people to “create” a song for them.  It’s a really neat process even if the final result doesn’t really sound like the sum of its parts. (more…)

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5dails33SOUNDTRACK: ANONYMOUS 4 and BRUCE MOLSKY-Tiny Desk Concert #428 (March 28, 2015).

anon4I first heard about Anonymous 4 way back in 1990 when they started.  I even have their debut album of lovely classical a capella.  Now, twenty-five years and twenty-one albums later they are calling it quits.

Their final album is 1865, released to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. and containing songs from that era.

They sing three songs and, unusual as far as I’m concerned, they accompanied by Bruce Molsky, who plays banjo and violin and sings on “Hard Times.”  His voice mixes very well with their higher register–and they can hit some really high notes.

It’s unexpected to hear these singers whom I associate with classical music, singing these “traditional” songs.  But they do a wonderful job.

  • Listen to the Mocking Bird (Richard Milburn, Alice Hawthorne)
  • Hard Times Come Again No More (Stephen Foster)
  • Home, Sweet Home/Polly Put The Kettle On (Henry Bishop, John Howard Payne/Trad.)

As the site explains, the group is original members Ruth Cunningham, Marsha Genensky and Susan Hellauer, plus Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek along with singer, banjo player and fiddler Bruce Molsky, who also appears on the album.

You can watch it here.

[READ: April 4, 2015] Five Dials 33 part I

This issue celebrates the Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall and features illustrations by: Cari Vander Yacht.  They are cool colorful colored pencil drawings sprinkled throughout the issue.  Most of them are vaguely alien creatures sitting around, shopping, doing a head stand (or break dancing).  You know, as aliens do.

Rather than a letter from the editor, we get a link entitled What’s this issue all about?  It is a link to a Guardian article about #readwomen2014 asking Will #readwomen2014 change our sexist reading habits?  Of course, it is now 2015 and I missed the whole thing.  I wonder if it did. (more…)

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tobo3SOUNDTRACK: iMOGEN HEAP-Speak for Yourself (2005).

heapI really liked Heap’s first album i Megaphone, but I didn’t really think to much about her after that.  Sometime last year I heard a track she was in with Frou Frou, which I liked.  So I thought I’d get this album which was highly regarded.

The problem with it is that I have listened to it a bunch of times, often several times in a row and it really just never sticks with me.  I keep relistening to see if it ever does but it’s just a kind of nebulous dancey pop.  Heap has an interesting voice–she can hit major highs, but she can also do a raspy voice that is unusual and intriguing.  But I suppose the problem is that there’s so much going on that she is effectively lost in the sound.

The standout track is “Hide and Seek” but that’s because her voice is manipulated by a vocoder, making her sound like a machine. It’s a very cool effect, especially when she hits a very high note, but it can’t really be a good sign that the most memorable track on the album is the one where you sound like a machine.

This is not to say that the album is bad–there are a number of interesting moments on it, unfortunately there aren’t a lot of great songs.  When I was looking this disc up to see other comments about it, I see that it was very highly regarded in the dance genre.  And maybe given those parameters I should revise somewhat as well.  As dance music this is more interesting than your average four on the floor stuff.  I can see how it led to the duet of Frou Frou.  And yet, compared to i Megaphone, I fear that it’s a lot less exciting.

[READ: January 12, 2013] The Dangerous Animals Club

I don’t often read autobiographies or memoirs.  I really never even look for them.  But I was waiting online at the library and this book jumped out at me.  I don’t really know why.  The title is kind of interesting and catchy.  And the author’s named seemed, if not familiar, then at least compelling in a very-long-and-Polish-or-Russian way.  So I started flipping through it.  And it sounded interesting.

But who the hell is Stephen Tobolowsky?  Well, if you have seen just about any movie or TV show, you have seen him.  He has been in a ton of things.  He was in Groundhog Day, he was in Heroes, he is in Glee, he was in The Mindy Project briefly.  Community? yup.  The New Adventures of Old Christine?  you bet.  Deadwood for a lot of the show.  That 70’s Show for one episode.  He was in the unaired pilot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  He was even in a 1976 movie called Keep My Grave Open!

So who is he?   (more…)

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This season signals the end of a lot of shows, shows that have been with us for a long time.  This season also promised a slew of new comedies that were going to be amazing (I know they promise that every year, but some of them got really strong praise from objective sources).  And yet, here we are, half way through the season (Grimm is taking a Mid-Winter break or some such thing) and I didn’t really like anything new.

Next season is shaping up to be rather a wasteland. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Retro songs for teen audiences (ie. Glee) (2012).

I’m not really going to talk about Glee here.  I’m using it as a springboard for a question that the show has raised for me.  And this question pops up a little in Queen Bee as well.  I know that retro things are always cool.  Full stop.  And I know that the retro coolness shifts accordingly to be always 20/25 years in the past.  But in my experience, the retro craze pretty much applies to fashion, not necessarily to music.

So given that, it makes me wonder about the premise of some of the music on Glee.  Now, I know, Glee is about as far from reality as anything on the Syfy Channel.  I accept that.  I accept that the universe in which the show is set is more or less not even our own.  But when they have nods to actual history, I’m curious.  And this leads me to ask:  Do kids in high school really care about Michael Jackson?  Or, more to the point, about Whitney Houston?  I mean, sure if you’re in glee club, you’ve probably had to sing “I Will Always Love You” a million times.  But were high school kids really upset when she died?  I mean, sure she released an album in 2009 (that I didn’t even know about) and it went to #1 (really?), but in terms of actual pop relevance, she’s been on the down low since the 90s.

I don’t know any high school kids well enough to ask them about this, but I knew some middle school kids when I worked at the library, and they were all about whoever the flavor of the minute was.  Again, musically talented kids may be different, but it seems really odd to me that even on Glee, the kids seemed to love some retro songs and then of course were arbitrarily against some other ones.  [That’s a good subtitle for the writing of the show: “Glee:  It’s All Arbitrary”].  I think back to my high school years, and I didn’t like anything retro, in fact I thought all old music sucked.  (Of course I listened pretty much only to heavy metal, so I’m not a good sample audience).  But aside from some Simon & Garfunkel, I don’t recall there being a lot of folkie kids in my high school.  The cool kids listened to 80s pop and the alt-kids listened to college music.

This brings to Queen Bee.  The song that she chooses to sing (see below) is The Go-Go’s “We Got the Beat.”  A classic of 80s pop music, undoubtedly.  And yet, I have to wonder how many kids in her middle school class even knew the song.  A bit of research shows that it has been used in films and such, but would that have garnered any real recognition/excitement?  Aside from the fact that it’s catchy as anything and the drumming is awesome, of course.  [I also realize that that isn’t the point of her using the song in the story, I’m moving beyond the text here].

I know this is all fiction and I just need to relax.  But I’m mostly curious.  Aside from getting stuck listening to their parents iPods, do kids actually listen to older music?  When I was little my parents listened only to big band music.  And I hated it.  Until I got to college and realized it was pretty cool.  But still, in my teen years, I was all about the present.  Isn’t that the point?

[READ: June 5, 2012] Queen Bee

I have enjoyed most of Chynna Clugston’s books (Blue Monday and Scooter Girl in particular).  I love her style of drawing (anime, but with a twist) and her pop culture sensibilities.  I had no idea that this book existed until I saw it in the children’s comics section at the library!

I also assumed that this was an earlier work by her (what’s she doing writing for Scholastic?).  But no, this book came out many years after the books I love so well.  It’s kind of funny that she went from alt rock hipness to middle school (and then moved to Legion of Super Heroes).  But wait, she hasn’t done anything in five years?  Gasp.  Actually I see she has a new blog and a new husband–so she’s clearly busy.

Anyhow, back to the book.

This book is set in middle school.  It features a young woman named Haley Madison (that must be a joke about over-common names).  She is a geek and a loser.   But when her mom gets a new job at the hippest and coolest teen magazine, Haley gets to move to a new school.  Which means fresh start!  And she plans on becoming the queen bee at JFK intermediate.  She is introduced to a nice girl named Trini.  Trini shows her around and introduces her to her cool friends (who are super nice to her).  But when Trini shows her the Hive–five girls who are super duper popular, Haley has a goal in front of her. (more…)

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I was planning to wait until the season finales before writing about our spring/summer TV watching.  But then this week, NBC announced that they would be either not renewing or renewing in a very limited capacity 30 Rock, Community and Parks and Recreation.  Wow, talk about throwing a bomb on your programming.  Thursday night NBC has been a powerhouse for the last few years with 5 shows, (yes, five, with their crazy programming flip flops) that were strong.  Interestingly, The Office, the only show not chopped, has been the weakest of the bunch.  I wanted the season with Michael Scott to be good but it really wasn’t.

Since I first wrote that some more details have emerged and it seems that all three shows have been picked up for 13 episodes–with, as I gather, room to expand if the new shows that NBC tries to fill their shoes with suck.  If you want a positive spin on this, read the A.V. Club dude’s take on it (at the bottom of the post, final bullet point, although the whole post will tell you why it is such a good show if you’re not watching it.).

When I posted about TV last, Karen left a comment that we watch a lot of TV and that has stuck with me. I still don’t feel like we do…  We watch a lot of shows, but we don’t channel surf, we don’t just have the TV on.  We have appointment TV, is how I like to think of it.  And, of course, while there a lot of titles, many drop off the list (by us or the networks) and quite a few are only 13 episodes long.  But man, there has been a serious drop off in numbers after this season.

So let’s see what has been removed from the last post: (more…)

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The TV Season scheduling continues to confuse me.  It’s February and two shows are done already.  And new shows are starting this week.  I actually appreciate this rolling schedule because it means new shows instead of repeats.

So hey, networks, why not go all the way and just let the shows run for twenty weeks and then end.  Stop showing reruns (or better yet, rerun them at like 2 in the morning so we can watch them if we miss them) and the introduce a new show for the next half a year.  We wouldn’t have this six weeks off nonsense of Community and Glee or three weeks of repeats of other shows.

I’m picking this week to write this simply because of the ending of the two shows.  We haven’t had a look at the new ones yet, so it’s a clean slate.

Somehow we don’t even have time to watch movies anymore, so the TV shows must be very good. (more…)

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