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Archive for the ‘Lobster’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THEODORE-Tiny Desk Concert #842 (April 17, 2019).

I recall NPR’s SXSW coverage last year in which they raved about Theodore (and then ran into him walking the street while they were recording their nightly dispatch) and his beguiling music.

Theodore is a Greek composer/performer who is fairly difficult to search for online.  I was really surprised but quite intrigued to see that he now had a Tiny Desk Concert.  And what a Concert!

He plays three songs that last nearly 19 minutes and they are full of twists and turns with great instrumental passages and incredible sounds from all of the instruments.  Whether it is thanks to Theodore’s own set up or the Tiny Desk crew, the sound quality is amazing.

He began with “Disorientation” which

explores the complete loss of inner direction as Theodore examines his inner dualities in search of clarity and, perhaps, new ways to look at the world.

“Disorientation” begins with a terrific throbbing bass from Nikolas Papachronopoulos and occasional guitar notes from Emmanouil Kourkoulis or Ioannis Lefas (not sure who is who).  Theodore starts singing in his husky voice.  After a verse he adds some keys and then just as suddenly the whole band kicks in–drums and soaring guitars which all drop away just as suddenly.

A minor shift occurs at around 1:20 and then at 1:45 the whole song slows down into gentle washes and piano trills with (again) some gorgeous bass notes (the bass sound is phenomenal).  The song feels like it’s going to end but it sound jumps back with the dramatic entry of a pick slid along guitar strings and then back it’s to the delicate moments.  Bob Boilen says the songs have the “spare elegance you can hear in Sigur Rós or Pink Floyd,” and you can clearly hear echoes of mid 70s Pink Floyd with splashes of Sigur Rós for drama.  At 3:45 it jumps again, with some great drumming and more cool basswork.  Then at 4:46 Theodore starts “oohing” in the microphone, his voice is processed and echoing and the whole thing feels like it is drifting off into space

It is spectacular.

“For a While” starts quietly with two notes repeated quietly on the guitar  Theodore adds piano as washes of guitar follow shortly.  The guitar and piano resolve into intertwining pretty melodies.  After the bass and drums come in Theodore starts singing.  He has a very European kind of croon, a bit like latter Morrissey or Guy Garvey from Elbow.  The song builds to a cool moody and then settles down delicately to washes of guitar and single piano notes.

“Naive” ends the set with another great bass sound and intense guitars .  Theodore sings while Ashley Hallinan adds some nifty rim hitting on the snare.  Midway through the song some instrument gets all kinds of processed adding a kind of fat synth sound as the rest of the band builds the song.   Great guitar effects from both guitarists flesh out the moody wild middle section.

This Concert was spectacular and I would love to see him in person.  He only comes to the US for SXSW, so maybe this Tiny Desk will bring him to a wider audience.

[READ: April 15, 2019] “Lobster Night”

Russell Banks is the kind of author I have known about for a long time and am incredibly familiar with the covers of many of his books and whom I’ve considered reading again and again and yet I never seem to.

He is also one of the reasons why I chose to read Esquire fiction in general.  There are many excellent writers who write for Esquire and not all of them write stories about men killing other men.

Well, maybe all the stories don’t have someone or something killed, but this one does.

Stacy is a former potential Olympian.  She used to ski until a bad fall left her with a broken thigh bone.  She can still ski but she has lost her edge so she teaches in the winter.  But during the warmer months she has to waitress or bartend.  She has recently gotten a job at Noonan’s Family Restaurant. (more…)

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extremeSOUNDTRACK: QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE-…Like Clockwork (2013).

qotsa I have loved the earlier QOTSA albums, but I just couldn’t get into this one when it came out.  Perhaps it was too…subtle?  I put it aside, heard everyone rave about it and kind of forgot about it.  Well, I recently rediscovered it and now I get it.  It is just as good and complex as everyone said–I think I was just missing the subtleties, yes.

It’s still very QOTSA–Josh Homme is Josh Homme after all, but there are added elements–pianos, strings (!) and slower sections that add depth and bring really interesting sonic textures to their sound that make this album far more complex but no less sleazy fun.

The roaring sounds that are the guitars of “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” (accompanied by that bottom heavy bass are just fantastic.  “I Sat By the Ocean” has a chorus that goes from good to great when it builds to a second set of chords–it’s really irresistible.  I recall being surprised by the ballad “The Vampyre of Time and Memory.” Okay not a ballad exactly but a piano intro that turns into a classic rocker (complete with lengthy guitar solo).

“If I Had a Tail” is a wonderfully sleazy track with a great riff and a great sound.  It’s also got some of the more unusual lyrics I’ve heard–“If I had a tail, I’d own the place.  If I had a tail I’d swat the flies.”  It’s followed by “My God is the Sun” another great riff-based song where Homme’s falsetto is just another catchy element of the song.  It also has another great chorus (why didn’t I like this album last year?).

“Kalopsia” slows the disc down quite a lot–it’s a pretty, gentle song.  Until you get used to it being a mellow song and then it turns into a real rocker (and back again).  “Fairweather Friends” has another great riff and a funny ending with Homme cutting off his chorus and saying “I don’t give a shit about them anyway.”  “Smooth Sailing” reintroduces that sleazy falsetto.  It has a (another) great chorus and an amazing guitar riff that is slowly manipulated into sounding really alien.  It’s very cool.

Most of the songs are pretty standard length, but the final two songs really stretch out.  “I Appear Missing” pushes 6 minutes and has some slower elements, and a great guitar section that connects them all.  The five and a half-minute “Like Clockwork” also starts with a lengthy piano intro and then morphs into another classic rock soloing type song.

It’s one of the best albums of 2013 that I didn’t realize until 2014.  I do wish they lyrics sheet was included as I’m not really sure what he’s saying half the time, and I’m not sure if my guesses make any more or less sense than the actual words.

[READ: September 2014] The Extreme Life of the Sea

I saw this book when I took a tour of the Princeton University Press building.  I loved the cover and thought it seemed like a really interesting topic.  I was later pretty delighted to see it on display in my local library, where I grabbed this copy.

The book is small, but I was a little daunted by the tiny print size (old age or laziness?).  Nevertheless, I was quite interested in the subject, so I pressed on.

Interestingly, a lot of the information that I read in the book, my nine-year old son also knew about–he loves this kind of scary undersea information.  The difference here is that the Palumbis (a father and son team–Stephen is a Professor of Biology, Anthony is a science writer and novelist) write for adults and include a lot of the scientific information to support and explain all the stuff that my son knows–although he knew a surprising amount of detail as well.

And the writing was really enjoyable too.  Anthony knows how to tell a story.  The Prologue itself–about the battle between sperm whale and giant squid–is quite compellingly told.  And whenever an actual creature is involved–he engages us with the creature’s life cycle. (more…)

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peach SOUNDTRACK: FOALS-Holy Fire (2012).

I foalsloved Foals’ debut album Antidotes, it was a modern rock/prog rock/dancable mashup with angular guitars and all kinds of weird time signatures.  Then Foals returned with a new album which I haven’t heard anything of, except to have heard that it was very different.  Then I heard “Inhaler” from this album and I loved it.  It was easily in my top ten songs of 2012.

But it was so different from the Foals of Antidotes that I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  And in fact, that Foals, with all of their angularity, has been replaced by this much dancier version of the band.

“Prelude” is like an extended intro to “Inhaler.” It’s 4 minutes of intro music with chatter and noises.  Then comes “Inhaler,” a slow building song that rises and falls, rises again then falls again and then bursts into a big rocking chorus.  It’s fantastic, it feels louder than is possible for such a song.  “My Number” introduces some of that unusual staccato song style but in a far more dancey framework. The synths are louder and bolder.  I really like this song.   “Bad Habit” is a far slower song, but it’s a nice tempo changer.  And the chorus is still catchy.

“Everytime” brings in more shoegaze elements (so let’s see, there’s angular punk, shoegaze and dance music here).  This song even has a discoey chorus.  “Late Night” and “Out of the Woods” feel even more dancey than the earlier tracks–with a kind of earlier 80s British alt rock flavor–spiky guitars and exotic percussion.  I hear some of the guitar sounds of early U2 as well, especially on the intro of “Milk & Black Spiders” (the rest of the song sounds nothing like U2.

“Providence” brings back some of that louder guitar, coupled nicely with a combination of shoegaze and screamy vocals.  The heavy guitar plays a very nice counterpoint to the picking of the second guitar.  It’s the last great song on the record.  “Stepson” is a slow song, the slowest on the disc, and I fear that it rather runs out of steam.  “Moon” continues the slow drifting sense of the end of the album.  It’s pretty song, but it feels so far removed from “Inhaler” that it seems to be from a different record.

So I’m not entirely sure what to make of this record.  It has a few great songs, and then a number of songs that seem to want to go in a different direction, but what direction that might be remains unclear.

[READ: September 6, 2014] “The Happy Valley”

Lucky Peach 10 is “The Street Food Issue,” and it is a fun issue with all kinds of interesting food you can buy on the street (and recipes to try them at home).

Like food in tubes.  Take “Sausage Quest” (what the locals do with their various sausages all around the world), or “I Went to Thailand and All I Got was a Sausage Stuffed in My Mouth” (I can’t wait to make sausage blossoms).  Beyond sausages there’s a list of the most compelling street foods around the world from New York to Naples to Tunisia. We look at street food vendors in Malaysia and South East Asia.  And then we meet the Lucha Doughnut Man of East LA (Mexican donna vendor by day and masked wrestler by night).

Then there’s some articles that are not about food.  Like the surprising article about the microbiology of used cigarette butts (no butts were eaten).  Or the very interesting history of charcoal (which dates back to Henry Ford).  I had no idea charcoal came from trees.   There’s an essay about rapper Jibbs and his song “Chain Hang Low” which was apparently ubiquitous in 2006 although I don’t know it).  The essay discusses how it used “Turkey in the Straw” as a motif.  Most likely, he took it from the ice cream trucks that he heard as a kid, but there is a whole history of racism packed in to that song, let me tell you.

I enjoyed the idea (throughout the issue) that if you’re in a new place, sometimes you can’t always trust reviews for what’s good, you just have to trust your gut (and your nose).

Then there’s several articles about corn.  Making tortillas or masa–the whole process of nixtamilization.  (more…)

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lp11SOUNDTRACK: AMASON-“Älgen” (2014).

amasonI was delighted when I heard this song on NPR because of the unexpectedness of it.  It starts out fairly simply with a fast shuffle drum and swirling guitars.  Then comes in a deep, very synthy sounding keyboard playing a simple and straightforward riff.   All of this instrumental section lasts nearly a minute and a half (of a 4 minute song).  Then the vocals come in.  A very deep (and wholly unexpected) voice sings a few words and is quickly followed up by a female voice singing quicker vocal lines, almost speeding up the song.

Amason is a Swedish band (with members connected to nearly every Swedish alt rock band you’ve ever heard of).  And like a lot of Swedish music, it is super catchy but somehow just a little different, which keeps it interesting.  I want to hear more from them (although when you search them, you have to keep saying, no I am not looking for “Amazon”).

[READ: September 6, 2014] “Lobsters”

Lucky Peach 11 was the “All You Can Eat” Issue. So the issue focused a lot on buffets (don’t feel compelled to get your money’s worth, you’ll only get sick). But there was also some interesting twists about all the things you could eat if you were so inclined.

My favorite article was from Mark Ibold, about Pennsylvania Dutch cooking and the amazing buffets you can find in Lancaster. He recommends the popular but for worth it Dienner’s on Lincoln Highway East (next to a fake revolving windmill!). Lisa Hanawalt’s illustrated stories have also become a favorite. This one is set in Las Vegas, with all that that implies.

There’s a tremendous article on Quebec and the stunning foods of the French Canadians, and a very funny article called “Decision Fatigue Related Eating” how as you get tired your food choices suffer as well (WINGS Fri-DAAAAY!”). There’s a lengthy article about crashing weddings in the country of Georgia (where you will likely be invited to a wedding even if it’s your first day there).

There’s several recipes with the main ingredient of celery. Peter Meehan opens with a very funny set up “There are things one can never seem to buy in appropriate quantities at the grocery store…. Celery’s natural packaging comes in one size: more than you can eat…. It’s cheap and it last forever so you buy a whole head…. be honest: isn’t there always a nearly complete head of celery heading toward middle age in the crisper?” This is followed by some possibly good celery recipes. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PJ HARVEY-Rid of Me (1993).

For Rid of Me, PJ Harvey jumped to the big leagues (relatively) by enlisting maniac Steve Albini as a producer.  And he takes the rawness of Dry one step further into a sound that is both raw and sharp.  He really highlights the differences between the highs and lows, the louds and quiets.  And man, when this came out I loved it.

Like NIN’s “March of the Pigs,” the opening of “Rid Of Me” is so quiet that you have to crank up the song really loud.  And then it simply blasts out of the speakers after two quiet verses.

“Legs” turns Harvey’s moan into a voice of distress, really accentuating the hurt in her voice.  And Harvey hasn’t lightened up her attitudes since Dry, especially in the song “Dry” which has the wonderfully disparaging chorus: “You leave me dry.”

“Rub Til It Bleeds” is a simple song that opens with a few guitars and drums but in true Albini fashion it turns into a noisy rocker.  “Man Size Quartet” is a creepy string version of the later song “Man Size” (I’ll bet the two together would sound great).  And the wonderful “Me Jane” is a great mix of rocking guitars and crazy guitar skronk.   Albini really highlights the high-pitched (male) backing vocals, which add an element of creepiness that is very cool.

For me the highlight is “50 Foot Queenie”.  It just absolutely rocks the house from start to finish.  The song is amazing, from the powerful…well…everything including the amazing guitar solo.  “Snake” is a fast rocker (all of 90 seconds long) and “Ecstasy” is a song that feels wrung out, stretched to capacity, like they’ve got nothing left.

It’s not an easy record by any means, but it is very rewarding.  This is a CD that really calls for reamastering.  Because it is too quiet by half, and could really use–not a change in production–just an aural boost.

[READ: end of February and beginning of March] A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

This is a collection of 7 essays that DFW wrote from 1990-1996.  Three were published in Harper’s, two in academic journals, one in Esquire and the last in Premiere.  I devoured this book when it came out (I had adored “Shipping Out” when it was published in Harper’s) and even saw DFW read in Boston (where he signed my copy!).

click to see larger

[Does anyone who was at the reading in Harvard Square…in the Brattle Theater I THINK…remember what excerpts he read?]

The epigram about these articles states: “The following essays have appeared previously (in somewhat different [and sometimes way shorter] forms:)”  It was the “way shorter” that intrigued me enough to check out the originals and compare them to the book versions.  Next week, I’ll be writing a post that compares the two versions, especially focusing on things that are in the articles but NOT in the book (WHA??).

But today I’m just taking about the book itself. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: November 18, 2010] Consider the Lobster

This was the final audio book that DFW read.  As with Brief Interviews, this is a collection of selected, unedited essays [actually it says “Text slightly edited for audio, with changes approved by the author.”  I don’t know these essays verbatim, but it seems like the changes simply acknowledge that this an audio essay and not a written one].

The only problem with the entire package is how few essays were selected.

I don’t know if it’s because this collection was recorded later and DFW felt more comfortable reading or because DFW had more fun reading these essays or that these essays lend themselves to more animated reading, but this collection is absolutely stellar.

The audio book includes

  • Consider the Lobster
  • The View from Mrs. Thompson’s
  • Big Red Son
  • How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart

and, sadly, that’s it.

Not included are (more…)

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