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Archive for the ‘Donuts’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: NICK LOWE AND LOS STRAITJACKETS-“Christmas at the Airport” (2014/2013).

I probably like Nick Lowe a lot more than I realize.  I know I like his songwriting more than I realize.  And I love Los Straightjackets.  A perfect pairing.

This is not a moving, treacly holiday song.  And yet neither is it a bitter, what-has-the-season-come-to song.  It’s just one of those things that happens, and he’ll take in (humorous) stride.

It wasn’t until celebrated songsmith Nick Lowe’s 2013 curio, “Christmas at the Airport,” that someone expressed in song what it was like to watch the hopes of holiday cheer fade right before our eyes, on a snow-covered runway in late December. Recorded live in 2014, at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club, backed by Nashville’s neo-surf band Los Straitjackets, Lowe takes us through all the stages of Christmas-time travel grief, one verse at a time.

Stage One: Bemusement. Gazing out the window of his cab upon arrival at the airport, Lowe notices that the place is beginning to look more like the front of a Christmas card than an international travel hub. But even as the tarmac takes on ever-increasing layers of soft, white, wintry down, the full gravity of the situation hasn’t yet sunk in enough to truly unnerve him yet.

Stage Two: Realization. The cold, hard reality of the protagonist’s circumstances suddenly hits home. The fickle finger of fate is pointing at everyone in the airport as if to say, “Nobody’s going anywhere this Christmas. Have you seen that snow outside?” Tempers flaring all around him, Lowe sneaks into a secluded spot for a catnap, maybe hoping things will somehow look better when he awakes.

Stage Three: Transcendence. We’ve all had to buck up sooner or later in this kind of situation, find a way to make a homebound holiday fun. For Lowe, that process entails playing with the TSA equipment in the agents’ absence, turning the baggage carousel into an amusement-park ride, and even scrounging some fast food from the refuse.

And all set to a chipper, surf rock tune.

[READ: December 24, 2018] “Christmas Eve, 1944”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection, although this song is an NPR curio.

At first I was concerned because this is a Christmas war story (and those really only go one of two ways).  But in fact it turned out to be awesome.  One of the most moving stories I have read in a long time. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 7, 2018] Phish

Having enjoyed two Phish shows at Madison Square Garden, and really seeing what it’s like to go to multiple shows by the same band when they mix up the setlists so much, I was pretty psyched to hear that Phish were coming back to NJ for two shows on a short summer tour.

After the immense spectacle of the Baker’s Dozen, in which they repeated no over thirteen shows (thereby messing up every statistic-driven fan who likes to recount the last time a song was played, this tour was shaping up to be a more traditional fan favorites (or not) package.  This was actually perfect for me because as I start keeping tracks of the songs I need to see live, I realize that I need a lot of the staples to fill out my chart. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, ON (December 11 1996).

This is the final show on Rheostatics Live in which the band is opening for The Tragically Hip.

For this show, the intro music is also from The Wizard of Oz, but this time it’s Judy singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  It’s just one verse before fading out and then guitars fading in for Martin to play “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”

Turns out that this setlist is similar to the one from Buffalo with a lot of new songs.  Although there are a few older/more popular songs in places.

The new songs include “Fat” which sounds great of course.  I gather they are maybe sharing a microphone because at the end Dave says “See you in the next song, Martin.”  “Okay, Dave.”  This leads into a perfect version of “All the Same Eyes.”

Martin says “We are the Rheostatics.”  Dave says “We are the Rheostatics, not to be confused with The Howell Brothers (?).  They couldn’t make it but we got their jackets.  It’s nice of you to come out early.  We’re playing selections from our new record. Get it before it’s reduced to clear.”  (You can hear someone laugh on tape).

This is a segue into the single “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  It’s followed by another Tim song, “Claire” with the acoustic guitar opening in place.  There’s another lengthy guitar solo, although it’s not quiet as exciting as some of the other ones.  But Martin was saving up for a spirited version of “California Dreamline.”

They end their set with a rough rocking “Feed Yourself.”  During the spoken part, they slow things down to just a bass and washes of guitar.  It’s a pretty intense ending and a good preparation for The Tragically Hip.

[READ: June 25, 2017] The Story of Canada in 150 Objects

In celebration of Canada’s 150th year, Canadian Geographic and The Walrus created this special issue–a fun way to describe many elements of Canadian culture through “objects.”

The objects are grouped in vague categories.  Some have just a few words written about them while others get a few pages.  Some are humorous, some are more serious.  Most are happy or amusing, some not so much.  And all of it together paints a diverse and complex portrait of the country–as well as teaching this person from South of the border a number of things I did not know.

It’s with comic pride and humility that the first object is politeness (which is not an object at all, of course).  The amusing thing about this article about “politeness” is that while the author of it is very pleased to be so polite, he also can’t wait for his fellow Canucks to forget to be polite so he can rub it in with a extra smarmy “You’re Welcome.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 21, 2017] Phish [I’ll be attaching some video clips later]

I had imagined going to all 13 shows at MSG.  I knew it would never happen (maybe if I was single and lived closer to NYC).  I saw a number of people who did go to all 13 shows.  Some looked pretty good.  Others looked pretty beat.   Last night I sat next to a guy who went to 10 and a woman who went to 8–she looked much better than he did.

Each night on this run has been pretty spectacular.  The sets have been great, the band has sounded fantastic and their energy never flagged.  There were several shows in the run that in retrospect I would have loved to have been at.  But I assumed first and last night would be a fun way to go.

As soon as I saw that they weren’t repeating any songs, I decided to keep track of what had been played to see what was left.  I don’t normally like to “know” what a band is going to play so I wasn’t trying to guess the setlist, but I wanted to make sure that I was going to get some songs that I wanted to hear.  I joked that if they kept playing my “top rated” songs, the show would be a 45 minute “Minkin” with dips into “No2” and “Riker’s Mailbox” [Phish jokes… nevermind]. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 21, 2017] Phish

I really enjoyed the Phish concert I saw last summer.  I knew I wanted to see the guys again, and I was really surprised to hear that they were doing a 13 night residency at Madison Square Garden.  I briefly thought…could I do all 13?…and then reality came crashing down on me.  I took a chance on 4 shows in the Phish lottery and amazingly I got all 4.  But I decided to sell 2 and just go to the first and last nights (making that two shows three weeks apart).

One of my tickets was being delivered to a buyer before the show and I was running late, so I had to hasten to MSG and managed to get to my seat by 7:25 for the promised 7:30 start.  Well, I was kind of annoyed that they didn’t start until 8.  I mean, start at 8, that’s fine, but don’t say you’ll start at 7:30, especially given how stressed you made me.

At any rate, I knew the theme of the show was coconuts, but since it was the first night, I didn’t really know what that meant.  It turned out that they were going to play a few songs that had a coconut theme (and have continued that for each night so far). (more…)

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homesSOUNDTRACK: LULLABYE ARKESTRA-Ampgrave [CST044] (2006).

ampgraveI’m not sure what’s up with the spelling of Arkestra (Sun Ra tribute, perhaps?), but “Lullabye” is certainly a misnomer.  “Ampgrave” on the other hand is a pretty good summary of the music on this record.

The band is basically a drum and bass duo.  And yet, they are so much more.  The bass runs the show, with the bass lines being loud and furious.  There are also several guests who provide horns, organ, violin and my favorite addition: “screaming.”  This complete package makes for a loud, bruising, soulful unholy mess.  And it’s really fun.

The disc won’t appeal to everyone. The opening track “Unite!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” is where the “screaming” really comes to the fore, and will certainly scare off the weak-hearted.  Which is a shame, as track 2 mellows out with some good soulful tunes (albeit utterly distorted, let’s not forget). There’s some other weird and wonderful tracks.  “Y’Make Me Shake” is a great rocking track with excellent horns to provide nice moments of melody.

The disc ends with a great one-two punch of “Bulldozer of Love” and the wonderfully titled “Ass Worship” two noisy, chaotic tracks that find a killer melody under all that distortion.

I hate to use the White Stripes as a frame of reference because it’s kind of lazy, but they are a two-piece playing soulful, distorted rock.  But the White Stripes are practically bubblegum pop when it compares to the racket these guys make.  It’s a lot of fun, if you like your fun noisy.

[READ: March 31, 2009] This Book Will Save Your Life

While it didn’t save my life, I enjoyed this book very very much.

This book follows the life of Richard Novak.  As the book starts, Richard seems like a type A workaholic who is too consumed with his work and routine to really enjoy anything.  When he gets an inexplicable yet frightening pain, he calls 911 and is taken to the hospital.   And this rather mundane opening leads to a hugely complicated back-story and a hugely complicated fore-story (?) in which all aspects of Richard’s life meet in a house in Malibu.

For, you see, Richard was something of an asshole.  Richard’s ex-wife, is another Type A personality who is as absorbed in her work as he is in his.  When he is offered a job in California, requiring him to leave New York, his wife said, go if you want to.  And he did, leaving his wife and his son Ben (seven at the time) with minimal contact and, eventually, little participation in his son’s life. (more…)

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thanksSOUNDTRACK: YES-90125 (1983).

90125We had a snow day Monday, and since we were all home, I thought it would be fun to bust out some old records.  As soon as the opening chords of “Owner of a Lonely Heart” crashed out, Sarah gave me a “What made you think of playing this?” look and then said “What made you think of playing this?”

And there is no answer.  I saw it and figured it would be fun to hear. And it was.

Now, as an olde Yes fan, I should probably not like this album.  My favorite Yes album is Relayer, so really I have no business liking this.  First, it has no really long songs, second, it’s totally poppy, and third, it tries so hard to create hit singles.  And yet, I loved it then, and I still enjoyed now.   What’s interesting about it is that even though it was rather state of the art at the time, it doesn’t sound dated now.  Probably because, for instance, the orchestral hit in “Owner” has been sampled so much, it still sounds contemporary.

And so side one (for so it was at the time) has three songs that were hit singles: “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” “It Can Happen,” and “Changes” (which is probably the most “Yes” sounding of the bunch).  Even “Hold On” while not a single, gets recognition for being on the popular side one of the disc.

Side two features another great hit song, “Leave It” (with vocal sampling galore).  Although I think by the end, the disc loses some steam, and “Hearts” is a bit of a drag.

I knew that Trevor Horn was involved with this disc.  But since there have been multiple members in Yes, including two Trevors (!), I’d never really kept it all straight.  So, Trevor Horn was responsible for The Buggles (“Video Killed the Radio Star”) as well as The Art of Noise.  Their song “Close (to the Edit)” was a great video staple on MTV back in the 80s.  It features three gentlemen in suits and a very disturbing little girl smashing the hell out of musical instruments.  This song, which came out the same year as 90125 samples “Owner of a Lonely Heart” so the circle is complete.

Trevor Horn clearly had a big impact on the band and on 80s music in general, which is probably why the disc sounds so good all these years later.

[READ: February 27, 2009] Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country

I couldn’t recall the exact title of this book, so when I typed on Amazon.com “letters obama” I was surprised (although I shouldn’t have been) to see TWO books that fit this description already.  I suppose it makes sense that such compilations are being made (in fact, it seems that Obama could reignite the economy through merchandising of himself alone).  The second book isn’t due out till April, so I guess McSweeney’s have expediency on their side. (more…)

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