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Archive for the ‘Twin Peaks’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN-Tiny Desk Concert #898 (October 7, 2019).

It was Sharon Van Etten’s 2010 Tiny Desk Concert that introduced me to her.  I was blown away by the songs from Epic.

When Sharon Van Etten made her Tiny Desk debut back in the fall of 2010 [with about fifteen people in the audience], her voice exuded fragile, gentle grace. Performing songs from that year’s Epic, she huddled around a single acoustic guitar with backup singer Cat Martino to perform a set of tender and evocative folk-pop songs.

Sharon released a couple more albums and then took some time away from music.  She returned this year with the appropriately named comeback single “Comeback Kid.”  The big difference was that now there were synths!

Cut to nearly a decade later. One of only a handful of artists to get a repeat headlining engagement at the Tiny Desk [that handful is getting bigger and bigger it seems]. Van Etten has spent the last few years purging her bucket list: She’s become an actress (appearing as a guest star on The OA), released a string of increasingly aggressive albums (the latest of which is this year’s synth-driven Remind Me Tomorrow), toured the world, performed on Twin Peaks, written music for films, become a mom, gone back to school and popped up in collaborations with everyone from Land of Talk to Jeff Goldblum.

I had no idea that these things happened.  So good for her, I guess.

It’s only natural that this Tiny Desk concert feels different; you can hear it before Van Etten and her band even show up onscreen. Its pace set by the ticking beat of a drum machine, “Comeback Kid” is in full bloom here, with a swaying arrangement that fills the room before Van Etten opens her mouth.

“Comeback Kid” is super catchy.  It sounds similar to the recorded version although a little smaller, perhaps.  There’s also a few extra keyboard flourishes from Heather Woods Broderick (who played the Tiny Desk as a member of Horse Feathers way back in 2009).  Charley Damski plays the synth washes that fill the room.  Sharon plays acoustic guitar and sings with serious intensity.

“You Shadow” starts with bass (Devin Hoff) and a drum machine (Jorge Balbi).  There’s no guitar on this track, but Sharon’s voice sounds great:

 the singer performs with considerable intensity here, seething through “You Shadow.”

She quietly thanks everyone and introduces the band.  This moment of thanks and appreciation in no way prepares you for the intensity in which she sings the set-closing “Seventeen.”

The song also starts with synth and bass.  Sharon sings but doesn’t start playing acoustic guitar until after the first verse.  Everyone adds gorgeous backing vocals for the chorus.  Then Sharon starts getting intense while singing.  Normally “la la las” are kind of upbeat, but she comes out of them with a fire as she sings “with a scream that slashes through the office air.”

Her voice almost breaks and she seems to be quite moved by the performance.  It’s really tremendous.

I admit that I like her earlier stuff better–the way she sang, the way her backing singers complimented her and the intensity of her music.  But after seeing her live this summer and now watching this, her intensity is still there–it’s just used more sparingly and appropriately.

The only downside to this Tiny Desk is that Heather Woods Broderick–who is an amazing backing vocalist–is pretty subdued here.  It’s appropriately subdued in this setting, but it’s a shame to not hear her in full.

Here (left) is a picture from Sharon’s first Tiny Desk Concert.

[READ: November 7, 2019] “The Flier”

This story was very cool.

I really loved the way the entire story totally downplayed “one of the most wondrous occurrences in the history of humankind.”

It begins with the narrator explaining that his wife Viki had invited their friends Pam and Becky over: “short notice–but there’s something we’d like to talk over with you.”

As he describes the meal he’s made, in quite a lot of detail, Pam and Becky arrive.  The narrator hears them talk about him and he acknowledges that his illness has made him small and light.

After the pleasantries are over, Viki says matter-of-factly that the narrator “has developed the ability to fly.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PALEHOUND-A Place I’ll Always Go (2017).

Ellen Kempner’s voice is a bit louder in the mix so you can really hear the words despite the fact that she is still singing mostly in a whisper.

It’s a logical step from her previous album and every thing sounds a bit bigger and a bit better.

“Hunter’s Gun” is slow and a little creepy with the echo on her vocals and her whispered lyrics.  There’s also some great weird effects floating around in the background–especially by the end as the echo more or less takes over.

“Carnations” starts simply enough with a quiet chugging riff.  But the chorus is a wonderful–louder guitar with the guitar and vocals doing the same catchy melody.  It also has some great lyrics

They’re still in love with their ex
And I’m not feeling my best
This is a bad combination

‘Cause I’ve been dreaming I might
Just up and bail on this plight
And maybe go on vacation

Pack up my shit in the dark
And if the car doesn’t start
It spares us both conversations

“Room” is slower more acoustic-feeling.  It’s a sweetly romantic song with the lovely chorus line “She keeps me…  at night.”

“If You Met Her” starts out kind of sinister musically, but it has a really catchy chorus as well  It’s a wonderful song about breakup and new love perfectly summed up with this ending line

I’m with someone new
And I know that you would love her if you met her

The set up of rocker followed by slower song continues with  “Silver Toaster,” a loose, acoustic song that reminds of a snarky/simple Nirvana song (with a banjo solo!)

“Turning 21” has a big shoegaze guitar sound and a wonderfully catchy melody in the bridge.

“Flowing Over” mixes some good guitar lines and a rocking mid bridge section but its the oh oh oh oh section and the way it changes throughout the song that is the major hook.

“Backseat” opens with pulsing keys.  It’s a dark mediation that segues into the beautiful guitar of “Feeling Fruit, ” a pedestrian-seeming lyric that is much deeper and quite moving.

“At Night I’m Alright With You.” is a quiet moody song with a real Twin Peaks vibe.

These two releases are great but to really get to see how amazing Ellen is, check her out live.

[READ: January 23, 2018] “A Change in Fashion”

When I read this recently it sounded really familiar.  Clearly I had read it back in 2006 and it was so striking that I remembered it 12 years later.

And indeed, it is a memorable story, even if it’s not especially profound or funny–it’s mildly amusing and thoughtful.

Basically, this is an account of the way fashions changed after the Age of Revelation.  Girls and women were happily showing off their thongs but it was as if, after a half a century of reckless exposure, a weariness had overcome women…a disenchantment to invite a bold male gaze.

At first girls were opposed to it–it reminded them of old photographs in boring albums.  But soon it became stylish to wear dresses that brushed the floor–wearing lambskin gloves and rising collars. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 31, 2018] Phoebe Bridgers

I was supposed to see Phoebe Bridgers back in February at World Cafe Live.  En route to the show I got really sick and had to bail.  I was pretty bummed.  But how exciting that she came back to the area just a few months later!

The opener for that show was Soccer Mommy, who I’d still like to see (although Angelica Garcia was terrific).

Phoebe Bridgers isn’t really someone I should like–she sings slow, kinda depressing songs.  In fact the first song I heard from her, “Smoke Signals” was an interesting litmus test for me.  I loved the sound of the song (it’s so Twin Peaks).  The lyrics were great (referencing Motorhead and David Bowie) and I really liked the melody.  But I found the pacing kind of slow and the song felt really long.

Then I heard “Motion Sickness” and I completely loved it.  I love the lyric

I have emotional motion sickness
Somebody roll the windows down
There are no words in the English language
I could scream to drown you out

I find her voice to be very beautiful but also a little peculiar.  There’s something about her delivery/enunciation that I don’t understand.  It’s not an accent (she doesn’t have one when she speaks), but it’s the way she enunciates certain vowels….maybe.

Anyway, I assumed that it would be her with her guitar.  But she had a whole band (and how awesome is that drum head logo for a folk singer?).  She and bassist Anna Butterss (who has wonderful backing vocals) wore black suits with ties, which was cool and was nicely set off by their very blonde hair (Phoebe explained that her hair has been many different colors over the years and she likes this one).

They opened with “Smoke Signals” and it’s evident that I underestimated how good this song is, the way it stretches out.  I loved the little noises and effects that drummer Marshall Vore added to the song.  About two seconds into the song, the woman in front of me took a picture of Bridgers and instantly posted it online with a text overlay that said “an angel from heaven.”

It was followed by one of the saddest songs I know: “Funeral.”

I’m singing at a funeral tomorrow
For a kid a year older than me
And I’ve been talking to his dad; it makes me so sad
When I think too much about it I can’t breathe

….

And last night I blacked out in my car
And I woke up in my childhood bed
Wishing I was someone else, feeling sorry for myself
When I remembered someone’s kid is dead

And yet as you can see by many of these pictures, she smiled and laughed a lot between songs.  In an interview she said of her lyrics, “I don’t consider myself a miserable person, but that’s the place I write from.”

This is totally not my type of lyric, but man she sings it so beautifully.  Most of her song mix that emotion with some humor (this one wisely doesn’t).  An example of her humor comes in the title of her album Stranger in the Alps which is taken from the edited-for-TV version of The Big Lebowski in which Walter’s “Do you see what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass” is changed to “Do you see what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps?”

The show slowly picked up tempo and volume.  “Georgia” sailed along with Harrison Whitford’s slide guitar echoing.  And for “Would You Rather,” Whitford sang the backing vocals.  She told us the song is about her brother.  And she told us he long story which was pretty shockingly sad.  But she assured us that all parties were fine now.

Bridgers mostly played acoustic guitar but for “Chelsea” she brought out her “cheap but cool looking” sparkly electric guitar.

She told us at some point that yes, indeed, she and Angelica went to school together.  They were friends and even played in a band together back in school.

After a few more songs, she and drummer Marshall Vore duetted on Gilliam Welch’s song “Everything is Free.”  I didn’t know the song but it was great and their voices sounded wonderful together.

Then she said that since she was in Asbury Park she had to play a Bruce Springsteen song.  Her band left and as the crowd cheered, she played “I’m on Fire.”  She’s the second performer I’ve seen cover this song recently.  I wonder why they chose this particular song which I think is one of his lamer (and sexist) lyrics.

The crowd was pretty hyped for that, but we were even more psyched to hear “Motion Sickness.”

Introducing “Scott Street” she noted about this song, “they’re all sad, but this one’s especially sad.”  It turns out that many of the songs are about her ex-boyfriend and current drummer Vore.

Keyboardist Nick White added some nice flourishes here and there, especially on the quieter moments.

And then Phoebe left for an encore break.  I was pretty sure the set wouldn’t be very long.  She has only the one album out and it’s only got 10 songs on it, after all.

She came out for the encore and played a gorgeous version of “You Missed My Heart” a cover of a song by Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle that is as powerful and poignant as the songs she writes.   I assumed it was her own song on the record.  Midway through the song she sat down in front of the drums and sang plaintively

I asked him one more time, this time pulled out my shiv
Struck him in the back and I pulled it out slow
And I watched him fall down, and as the morning sun rose
He looked at me and said
“You missed my heart, you missed my heart
You got me good; I knew you would
But you missed my heart, you missed my heart”

I really love the way the lyrics twist that title phrase in the next verses:

I chased her up the stairs and I pinned her to the ground
And underneath her whimpering I could hear the sirens sound
I rattled off a list of all the things I missed
Like going to the movies with her and the way she kissed me

Driving into downtown Wheeling, showing her off
Backyard barbecues and reunions in the park
I said I missed her skin and when she started laughing
And while I clenched down on her wrist, she said “that’s quite a list
But there’s one thing you missed
“You missed my heart, you missed my heart
That’s quite a list, but what you really missed
You missed my heart, you missed my heart

That song meant she’d played everything off of her album.  But the crowd was still buzzing and the woman in front of me kept nudging her fella hoping Phoebe would play the next song which was a romping cover of Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy.”

It was the kind of lighthearted but earnest ending, almost a joke given how dark her songs were, that perfectly capped off the show.  A show full of powerfully personal songs with a lyrical twist (and charming crowd interactions)  that kept the show from being maudlin.

And of course, Bridgers’ voice sounded amazing.  You could hear every whisper and breath in that quiet bowling alley.

It was crazy going from the noise of My Bloody Valentine last night to the chill folk of Phoebe Bridgers.

I’m so glad I got to see her before she really takes off.

 

  1. Smoke Signals *
  2. Funeral *
  3. Georgia *
  4. Would You Rather *
  5. Chelsea *
  6. Demi Moore *
  7. Killer *
  8. Steamroller
  9. Everything Is Free (Gillian Welch)
  10. I’m on Fire (Bruce Springsteen)
  11. Motion Sickness *
  12. Scott Street *
  13. encore
  14. You Missed My Heart (Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle) *
  15. If It Makes You Happy (Sheryl Crow)

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SOUNDTRACK: JENN GRANT-Live at Massey Hall (June 23, 2017).

I don’t know Jenn Grant, although her music sounds somewhat familiar.  She’s from PEI originally but her family moved to Nova Scotia when she was ten.  She recently moved back to Nova Scotia with her husband, where they live by the ocean and the woods.

For this show, she is joined by Daniel Ledwell, Michael Belyea and Tavo Dies de Bonilla.  On a couple of songs, she has Julie Fader and Kim Harris for backing vocals (this is Fader’s second appearance in the series).

Years ago shed opened for BNL at Massey Hall, but she wasn’t present. This time she’s very aware of things like the large but intimate feeling of the place.  During soundcheck she felt she never sounded better

“Paradise” is a slow keyboard song with electronic drums.  It’s moody in a Twin Peaks kind of way.  Although it picks up for the chorus.  The drum sounds in the middle of the song sound like when my phone speaker is over powered, it’s unsettling.

“I am a River” is interrupted by her speaking about her new record.  It’s interesting that her music is quite electronic since she is so inspired by nature.  Although this song does have more organic elements like piano and such.

She introduces “The Fighter” by saying “This is a song from an album that we made once.”  She plays electric guitar and that creates more drama and texture in the song.  This has a great overall sound.

“I’ve Got Your Fire” starts with piano.  This song sounds familiar–I wonder if I know it or if it just sounds like a Jane Siberry song.  It’s very pretty.

“No One’s Gonna Love You (Quite Like I Do)” is mellow song, also quite pretty.  “Galaxies” is a bit higher energy and she says it’s “fun to perform for an audience.”  It’s got a cool retro keyboard sound.  Dreamer ends he show quietly with delightful backing vocals.  I like the way the song slowly builds.

[READ: January 25, 2018] “Fourteen Feet of Water in My House”

This story sets everything up right from the get go:

My hometown flooded.  Prediction, as usual, failed us.

And so, when the narrator wakes up with a river in his house, he is quite pleased to see that his boat, kept in the backyard, was banging on his second storey window.  He is barely awake but he jumps into the boat headfirst.

“This is real… Dad’s house is ruined…. Boat seems fine though…. People probably stranded … ”

The rest of the story is his adventure saving people. (more…)

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[WATCHED: October 10, 2012] Close Personal Friend

While I was browsing Coupland’s bibliography on Wikipedia I saw this movie: Douglas Coupland: Close Personal Friend.  There is no information on Coupland’s site about it and there is precious little information about it anywhere else, frankly.  However, it has been uploaded to YouTube!

It’s a 24 minute film made for commercial TV.  It was made in 1996 and is very much of that time.  I’m not sure if Coupland was working on Girlfriend in a Coma at the time, but ideas in the film inform that book as well.

Basically it has Coupland, looking very clean-cut and smart–suit, skinny tie, hair parted hard–sitting in a white chair (a rounded chair that swivels–very “futuristic” looking).  He is sitting in front of  a white  background so his chair disappears from time to time (I’m willing to accept that that could just be the effect of a poor video transfer though).

There is an interviewer who asks him puffball questions, because it’s basically a chance for Coupland to talk about the his views of the late nineties and the future.  For instance: Do you consider yourself a citizen of the late 20th century?  (That’s just a weird question).  She asks him what the two dominant activities will be 20 years from now (which would be 2016).  His answer? Going shopping and going to jail.   Not too far off.

Coupland has always been concerned with the future (or more specifically, the millennium–I’m not sure how he has wrapped his head around the 21st century).  As I mentioned about his short story yesterday, he is very like-minded with Vonnegut about the state of humanity as we reach the millennium.   So he talks about lot of different topics including: individuality (and how we have lost it–he talks about a flock of birds seeing a group of people and finding them indistinguishable); the idea of not having a life–this was interesting, because as he points out even 20 years ago (1976), that expression would have been meaningless; consumerism; the uselessness of pop culture (how reading about Burt and Loni uses brain cells that could have been used to cure cancer).  And how technology can dehumanize us. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ARMY OF LOVERS-Massive Luxury Overdose (1991).

The only way that I, and I suspect any American, knows this band is because they were  mocked on Beavis and Butthead for their video “Crucified.”  In the video, which I have thoughtfully tacked on at the end here,  the three members of the  band are dressed up like extras from a  Duran Duran by way of Adam and the Ants music video (and maybe that’s not over the top enough).  This, by the way, seems to be their regular costumery (a French-seeming design despite their Swedish origins).

Beavis and Butthead cheer for the (impressive) cleavage and then gag at the lead singer’s  largely naked hairy body dancing in a bathtub.  It’s  pretty confusing.  But it’s also super catchy in a really over the top Europop way.

I have learned over the years that while I don’t really like pop music, I like Europpop a lot more than Ameripop.   It’s much crazier and outlandish, hence: Army of Lovers.

“Crucified” is a really fun, over the top bit of nonsense.  The chorus is incredibly catchy with a wonderful choral voice singing, and the verses are catchy too, they are spoken and in part French.   It’s good campy fun.

Having said that, the rest of the album is a mix of songs that aren’t quite as good as “Crucified” and songs that are just really bad.

The opening of “Candyman Messiah” is dreadful.  “Obsession” features a very mousey-voiced guy singing.  It’s a change and an interesting one, although like a lot of Europop, there’s not a lot of substance to it.

But it’s clear that the Army are not taking themselves seriously, “Dynasty of Planet Chromada” anyone.  The band has some really catchy choruses and I’ll bet it ‘s a hell of a lot of fun to dance to.  Especially if you have a pencil thin mustache.

Believe it or not, Army of Lovers were not just a one-hit wonder .  They released four albums.  And although their website seems to be updated often, I’m fairly certain the band broke up in 1995.  Well, why should that stop anyone?

[READ: Week of March 5, 2012] Gravity’s Rainbow Sections 1.19-2.3

I postulated that Section 1 (called Beyond the Zero) was a mostly expository set up (in one way or another).  And that seems to have been true.  Yes there was some plot development, but it was a lot of setting up new people.  New people are introduced in Section 2, but it is primarily about Slothrop (so far).  These first three sections don’t do a lot to advance the “plot” (I don’t really know what the plot is exactly but it must have something t o do with the war, right?)  Section 2 zooms in on Slothrop.  And while we do learn about the monitoring that goes on with him, for me, Section 2 is all about providing character depth and sympathy for Slothrop.

I found this week’s read to be the easiest so far, with only a few moments of stream of consciousness or reverie to get lost in.   And there were a lot of farcical moments–moments that were practically like a sitcom, which were fun to read and enjoyably insubstantial.

Towards the end of the reading, when Katje ultimately leaves Slothrop, she uses a metaphor comparing the rockets to sex.  And I wondered if maybe that’s why there is so much sex in the book–is it a physical manifestation of the theoretical idea?  Or does he just like using the word cock?

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACKS. CAREY-Live at Sasquatch Music Festival, May 29, 2011 (2011).

I learned about S. Carey through NPR.  S. Carey is the drummer for Bon Iver and he set out on his own playing these cool, atmospheric songs.  What I like best about them is that they feature the vibes.

The whole set has a cool, chilled out sound.  The vocals are slow and dream-like (I’m sure there are lyrics, but I don’t know them) and at times he sounds not unlike Dallas Green from City and Colour.

When Sean (he is the S.) Carey banters with the crowd, he’s very friendly and relaxed.  I especially like the anecdote about going to the Twin Peaks Cafe and hearing Audrey’s music from the show (which the band then plays).  The Twin Peaks sounds melds perfectly with their own sound, which should give you an idea of what the band sounds like.

The songs are about 4 or five minutes except for “Mothers” which tops out at over 8 minutes and actually gets pretty raucous by the end.  For this band it’s a wild song ending.  It’s a good set.  And the surprise cover of Björk’s “Unravel,” which melds perfectly with “All We Grow” is a nice treat.

I don’t know if I’d want to see them live (I like my shows a bit more uptempo) but it’s a great relaxing set.  Of course, having said that, the final track, “Leave” is the most conventional-sounding with a really catchy chorus and a somewhat faster pace.  It’s my favorite song of theirs.

[READ: July 13, 2011] “Homage to Hemingway”

Like the students in this story, I was initially put off by the title of this book because I have grown to dislike Hemingway (probably unfairly, more of a decades-long, knee-jerk reaction to him). But I’m glad I read it because of a couple of things.  One: it was a good story.  Two: it is actually an homage to one of Hemingway’s stories (called “Homage to Switzerland”) so it’s doubly meta-.

In “Homage to Switzerland,” there are three brief stories.  In each one an American man waits for a train in a Swiss station.  Each man follows the same basic trajectory in the story, meeting a waitress but having no real resolution.  Perhaps the men, even though they had different names, were maybe the same person.

Barnes’ story also has three parts, although it is pretty clear that the man is the same in each part, despite their different section titles.  In 1. The Novelist in the Countryside he helps students with their fiction (I rather like reading stories about fiction writing classes, as odd as that sounds). (more…)

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