Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Free Speech’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SAN FERMIN-Tiny Desk Concert #315 (October 28, 2013).

When I first heard San Fermin I was immediately grabbed by the female lead voice (the song was “Sonsick”).  It was so powerful and gripping. I didn’t realize then that the female leads were the lead singers of Lucius (who I also didn’t know at the time).  San Fermin is the creation of Ellis Ludwig-Leone.

Since then I have enjoyed other songs by them as well, although I find that the songs sung by Allen Tate to be somewhat less exciting to me– I feel like his voice could one day hit me as amazing but it’s almost a little to understated for me.  And yet musically I love the orchestration and chamber poppiness.  As Bob writes:

San Fermin’s music bursts with ambition, talent and extreme joy. Its self-titled debut is charged with great storytelling and amazing vocals by both Allen Tate and Lucius singers Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe. Then there are the arrangements: little gems that turn these songs into cinematic vignettes using trumpet, sax, keyboard, violin, guitar and drums.

San Fermin is the musical vision of Ellis Ludwig-Leone, who wrote these songs with Tate’s dark, rich voice in mind. Here at the Tiny Desk, Rae Cassidy makes the album’s female vocal parts her own.

So it’s interesting that the songs were meant for Tate.  I want just some more oomph from him.  especially here in this set.  And that’s because Rae Cassidy absolutely rules this set.

“Oh Darling” begins with a gentle piano and Cassidy’s pretty, delicate voice.  After a verse from her, Tate’s voice comes in and it’s almost comically low and formal (and actually perhaps a bit too quiet).  But when they all come in and sing it is just beautiful–the women in particular.

For “Sonsick” Cassidy sings lead with just drums.  As the song builds there’s a great chorus where the backing vocals (including Tate) sing in falsetto.  This version is quite stripped down compared to the recorded version and it really allows Cassidy’s voice to shine.  When she hits those incredibly high notes with such power, it gives me chills.

In the final song, “Renaissance!” Tate sings lead over a slow piano and violin.  The women sing backing vocals.  I like the way that the song builds in intensity with more instruments, but his voice is a little too flat for me–although he does kick in extra at the end.

There’s a really stunning version of the first two songs with the band singing live in a street and cafe and France.

Incidentally, Cassidy has since left the band and gone solo, and I wish her much success.

[READ: December 28, 2016] Humans of New York Stories

Sarah got me this book for Christmas.  I knew of Humans of New York, of course, but I wasn’t a follower of it.  So while I knew of it I didn’t really know that much about it.

There’s a brief introduction to this book (which is his second HONY book) in which he explains that HONY grew from five years of experimenting.  It evolved from a photography blog to a storytelling blog.  His original inspiration was to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers.  But then he decided to start including quotes from some of them.

He started interviewing people and found their stories became the real heart of the blog.  Of course, he thanks the community of readers and participants, because without them, he has nothing.

The rest of the book–425 pages–collects the photos and the stories. (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

americusSOUNDTRACK: FLY PAN AM-Sédatif en fréquences et sillons EP [CST011] (2000).

330px-SedatifsEnFrequencesCover This is an EP that works as a kind of remixes and deconstructs further the debut. There are three songs, the first is fourteen minutes, the second is 11 and the final is 4.  As the Constellation site describes the disc:

This 3-song EP of fractured, tape-infested experiments is an intransigent slab of self-referential auto-criticism. The band was sticking to its agenda of acutely self-conscious musical manipulations, re-working its own materials and assumptions to yield new compositions of uncompromising formalism. Side A is a medley of sorts, consisting of phrases and fragments reconfigured and replayed from their self-titled debut (Fly Pan Am). Various melodies are reassembled and played off of one another, creating an extended live remix with blissful passages of layered guitars, drones, sampled backing vocal lines, and the requisite incidental noise break in the middle of the piece. The result is something like a ‘Stars On 45’-style musical encapsulation of the entire debut record.

“De cercle en cercle, ressasser et se perdre dans l’illusion née de la production de distractions et multiplier la statique environnante!” (“From Circle to Circle, Rehash and Get Lost in the Illusion Born of Production and Increase the Static Distractions Surrounding!”) opens with the sounds of machinery rumbling and then slowing to a stop. The song proper opens with a rapid bass line and squalls of feedback.   Some beautiful guitars play over the noise. More guitars come in along with all kinds of crazy noises—scrapes and scratches, radios and distortion.

The propulsive music stops around 3 and half minutes in and the noise takes over. There’s loud noises and static and all kinds of things. Then the noise shifts to what sounds like someone emptying a bag of ball bearings onto a metal table.  And then maybe making microwave popcorn.  About five minutes later (seriously) a drum starts playing in the background and then a guitar line that references the debut album starts up.  It sounds a bit like the two note guitar from “Dans ses cheveux soixante circuits” with the voices from “Nice est en feu!” thrown on top.  And then at 11:20 that two note half-tone thing from “Dans ses cheveux soixante circuits” resumes, but it’s only for 20 or so seconds before different sounds come to take away the repetitiveness (although the guitars do continue that until the end of the song).  It seems like the band wanted to revisit their debut but also wanted to make sure that it was properly buried under chaos as well.

The second song “Éfférant/Afférant” (“Unrelated / Related”) (11 minutes long) is described as “somnambulist clockwork repetition.” The bass and drums are kinda funky with some simple guitar chords playing in the background. While things do change somewhat throughout song (including notes that seem inappropriate at times), the main source of change is the weird electronic sounds that play over the top. The noise starts to grow louder and louder around 9 minutes and just when it gets unbearable it fades out to the end of the song.

“Micro Sillons” (“LPs”) is only 4 minutes long and it opens with static and noises—different ones in each ear.  After about three minutes of that, the noise mutates into a kind of machine-like hum.

This is definitely a challenging listen.  There are rewards to be had, and it s amazing what good songwriters these guys are, if they’d ever let their songs stay unmolested.

[READ: December 17, 2015] Americus

I didn’t really have any idea what this book was about–the title Americus evokes many different things.

So imagine my surprise to find out that this First Second graphic novel [go First Second!, #10yearof01] tackles the idea of banning books in schools.  It looks at religion, freedom of speech and middle school.

The story is about Neil Barton, an unpopular kid who loves fantasy and books, especially the Apathea Ravenchilde series (such a great name). Neil and his friend Danny race to library after school because the latest volume is out.  Neil is bummed that his library could only afford one copy of the book (budget cuts!) and Danny gets it first.  And as he starts reading, the artistic style switches to the Ravenchilde world (I loved that).

Then we meet Neil’s and Danny’s families.  Neil’s parents are divorced.  He lives with his mom who is harried and exhausted.  Danny’s family is an intact nuclear family, with two younger siblings.  And we learn soon enough that his mother (and father to a degree) are very Christian. (more…)

Read Full Post »

academiaSOUNDTRACK: MARTIN TIELLI-“We didn’t even suspect that he was the poppy salesman.” (2001).

popptI wrote about this album once before, and while I made notes about it after listening to it again, I found out that they were pretty much exactly what I thought of the record four years ago.  So I’m going to simply repost the review here, but I’m going to add some new notes seamlessly intermingled.

Martin Tielli’s first solo disc is a proper solo release: it’s almost all him on acoustic guitar and his gorgeous alto voice.  I hadn’t listened to this disc in a while and I was delighted by how much of the disc I knew so well.

The opening track, “I’ll Never Tear Your Apart” is deceptively simple: beautiful harmonic’d guitars and his gentle voice.  There’s a great video to go with it here.  That is followed by the wonderful “My Sweet Relief” which sounds like a great Neil Young folk song: great verses an a strong chorus.  Lyrically, though, it is all Tielli.  “Double X” highlights Tielli’s beautiful acoustic guitar work.  It’s another great story song, this one about a destitute person hanging under a superstore with a K and an M.

“Voices in the Wilderness” is a simply beautiful song, a lovely guitar melody and Tielli’s high voice singing along.. I also love that the lyric  (mis)quotes Rush very nicely: “‘If you choose not to be free you still have made a choice,’ said a high and squeaky voice.”

“Farmer in the City” is the only track that Tielli didn’t write.  It’s a nearly 8-minute song by Scott Walker.  I had never listened to the original, but having now done so, I find the Walker version to be far superior.  Walker’s voice is so eccentric and wonderful.  So even though I love Martin’s voice, he just can’t compare to the original.   Also find Martin’s version to be just a little spare (the Walker version has lovely strings. Kevin Hearn plays celeste and Selina Martin plays wine glasses on the track.

It’s followed by the delightful “World in a Wall” which uses mice in the wall as a metaphor for a broken relationship (with wonderful detailed lines like: She’s like a mouse, I know she’s around It’s a gnawing sound. Leaves little brown poohs from a little pink bum.”

This is followed by “That’s How They Do It in Warsaw” which is the first really rocking song (it has bass and drums) and a voiceover in Polish by Kasia Zaton.

It’s coupled with a slightly less rocky but still loud track “How Can You Sleep?” (which makes another fun musical allusion, this time about Guided by Voices). It has a co-songwriting credit from Dave Bidini and has a kind of vocal allusion to Bob Dylan, although I doubt it is about him.

“She Said ‘We’re On Our Way Down’” is a song that I really want to enjoy more.  But It is so spare and Martin’s vocal line is so abstract, that I can never really get int it. But the guitar riff is really powerful and cool.  And yet, the song seems to eschew melody but then a gorgeous guitar or vocal line shines through and really sounds brilliant.  “From the Reel” is a beautiful, aching acoustic ballad.

The disc ends with the odd, seven minute “Wetbrain/Your War.”  The first part (wet brain) is kind of slow but it builds into a beautiful dark song about addiction.

This is a really beautiful album, although there are moments when I fell like Martin gets too delicate, it’s amazing to hear just what he can do when he’s on his own.

[READ: October 19, 2015] Academia Waltz

Way back a long time ago I was pretty excited to read all of the Bloom County reissue books.  Somehow I only got through Books 1 and 2, although I see now that five volumes were released in total.

Presumably at the end of that run, (which technically ended in 2011) comes this volume.  Academia Waltz is the strip that Breathed wrote back in college.  This book collects some (but apparently not all) of the strips.  It’s odd to not collect them all since there is also an art gallery with all kinds of original pieces (complete with edits and scribbled notes) that duplicate many of the earlier strips.

The first part collects pieces from Academia Waltz the 1979 collection.  The second part comes from Bowing Out, the 1980 Collection. (more…)

Read Full Post »

vonlastintSOUNDTRACKSURFER BLOOD-“Demon Dance” (Live at SXSW, March 27, 2013).

surfer blood

I’ve liked Surfer Blood since I first heard them.  They write catchy, mostly short, poppy songs.  And usually after a few listens, the hooks really grab you.  The strange thing about the band is that the hooks aren’t always readily apparent, which makes their songs sound kind of samey sometimes.

Of course, samey isn’t a bad thing, necessarily.  Surfer Blood is quite distinctive and I tend to enjoy everything they do.  This new song sounds like their other stuff, which is fine.  But the most distinctive thing about the band of probably their singer who sounds like a less-affected Morrissey.

Having also listened to the song from the album I can say that the singer is far harder to understand live, so maybe live is not the best way to hear a new song from them, but for an old favorite, Surfer Blood has a great energy live.

Watch the show here and hear the studio version here.

[READ: March 27, 2013] The Last Interview and Other Conversations

Melville House has published a number of these “Last Interview” books, and as a completist I feel compelled to read them.  I have read criticisms of the series primarily because what the books are are collections of interviews including the last interview that the writer gave.  They don’t have anything new or proprietary.  The last interview just happens to be the last one he gave.   So it seems a little disingenuous, but is not technically wrong.

There’s so far five books in the series, and I figured I’d read at least three (Vonnegut, David Foster Wallace and Roberto Bolaño–the other two turned out to be Jorge Luis Borges–who I would be interested in reading about and Jacques Derrida (!) who I have always loved–I guess this series was tailor made for me).

At any rate, these interviews are from various times and locations in Vonnegut’s career.  There are six in total.  I don’t know if the titles they give here were the titles in the original publications but here’s what’s inside:

  • “Kurt Vonnegut: The Art of Fiction” from The Paris Review, Spring 1977 (by David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, Richard Rhodes)
  • “There Must be More to Love Than Death” from The Nation, August 1980 (by Robert K. Musil)
  • “The Joe & Kurt Show” from Playboy, May 1982 (by Joseph Heller and Carole Mallory)
  • “The Melancholia of Everything Completed” from Stop Smiling, August 2006 (by J.C. Gabel)
  • “God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut” from U.S. Airways Magazine (!!!), June 2007 (by J. Rentilly)
  • “The Last Interview” from In These Times May 9, 2007 (by Heather Augustyn) (more…)

Read Full Post »

stringer SOUNDTRACK: HAIM-“Falling” (Live at SXSW, March 17, 2013).

haim

Haim are three sisters and a drummer.  The sisters play guitar and sing, play bass and percussion and play keyboards.  And yes, they look a lot alike (an a lot like Alanis Morrissette).  But they sound very classic rock–kind of like Heart, with a more modern, noisy twist.

I didn’t really care much for the sound of this song–it seems kind of anemic to me.  The sisters are all quite talented and when the lead singer/guitarist started wailing they were really good.  But the overall feel of the song seemed more high school than rock show–like they couldn’t get the mix right, like the keyboards (which were little bopping notes, rather than waves of music) were the main force behind the song–which I don’t think is true.

Maybe they’d sound better on record, or if they had a better mix on stage.

[READ: March 26, 2013] Like Shaking Hands with God

I had been reading a lot of Vonnegut, but I got a little burnt out by him.  However, when I was checking his bibliography all those months ago, I found that Princeton University had a book that I couldn’t find anywhere else.  Well, given my new employment situation, it was time to take advantage of that connection.  So I went to the Firestone library and grabbed this book (and a few others that I didn’t see elsewhere).

It’s a lot of fuss over an 80 page book, but I’m glad I read it and it did get me back in the mood to read more Vonnegut (I have five books of his left to read, although I believe more posthumous stuff seems to come out all the time).

This book is essentially a transcription of two conversations that Vonnegut had (one public and one private) with the author Lee Stringer and the moderator Ross Klavan.  The first conversation occurred on October 1, 1998 at a bookstore in Manhattan.  The second was a private affair in January 1999  (which was of course, recorded), in which they followed up on some of the same ideas.

Stringer had written one book (Grand Central Winter) when the first conversation took place (he has written two more since).  Stringer says he always admired Vonnegut and Vonnegut talks about how much he liked Grand Central Winter (which Vonnegut wrote a forward to).  GCW is nothing like Vonnegut’s books, it is a serious book about being homeless (Stringer himself was homeless for a long time) and it is real and gritty.  It sounds good, although maybe a little too gritty and real for me. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Live Bait Vol 3 (2010).

This selection of free Phish songs is notable because of a couple of items.

  1. All of the songs were recorded at the Worcester Centrum in Worcester, MA.  Although the first three songs were recorded in 1993, the fourth song was recorded in 1997 and the final track was recorded in 1991.
  2. The first three songs were recorded on New Year’s Eve–technically on New Year’s Day.  The first track actually counts down the seconds until midnight, when the band bursts into Auld Lang Syne
  3. Probably the biggest deal of all: the band plays a version of “Runaway Jim” that lasts 58 minutes and 48 seconds.  That’s right, nearly an hour on one song.  I think if I went to see them live and they did that I’d be pissed, but it sounds great on this recording.  “Runaway Jim” is not one of my favorite songs, but this extended jam is really good–they break into several different sections and it doesn’t feel like a long version of this song so much as a bunch of different jams thrown together.  At one point it almost seems like the band thought they began with “Weekapaug Groove,” but they push back against that.  I’m very curious to know what happened after that song was over, but the end of the disc takes on an early recording of “Llama, ” a song I like quite a lot.

This is yet another great addition to the free Live Phish pantheon of music–I mean, an hour version of one song, how cool!

[READ: August 1, 2012] “Volumes of Knowledge”

Encyclopedias date back thousands of years–Pliny the elder tried to write everything he knew in Historia Naturalis and a Chinese emperor created a similar book Emperor’s Mirror in 220 A.D.  But the art and craft of creating books that contain all the world’s knowledge flourished in the 1700s.  Increased wealth and education in the French bourgeois, a flood of information and a decline of interest in religion all led to the desire to learn more.  The printing press helped to disseminate the information.

It was Denis Diderot, a French enlightenment polymath who best explained the concept of the encyclopedia:

the purpose of an encyclopedia is to collect knowledge disseminated around the globe; to set forth its general system to the men with whom we live, and transmit it to those who will come after us, so that the work of preceding centuries will not become useless to the centuries to come; and so that our offspring, becoming better instructed, will at the same time become more virtuous and happy, and that we should not die without having rendered a service to the human race in the future years to come.

But Diderot recognized the limits of a one-author encyclopedia: “I do not believe it is given to a single man to known all that can be known.”   From 1751 to 1772 he and his assistants edited more than 70,000 articles from 140 authors to create his first Encyclopedie.  Of course having many authors had drawbacks–differences in style, length and quality.  But Diderot shied away from nothing and in many locations the book was banned.  Some of the ideas in the book shook the very foundation of accepted ideas.  And many of the authors hoped to change the world.  Diderot himself even hoped to usurp religion with his knowledge: “It is not enough for us to know more than Christians, we must show them we are better.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: JAPANDROIDS-“Fire’s Highway” (2012).

I regret dismissing the suggestions of the NPR folks the other day.  As the more I dig into their suggestions, the more I like–seems their selections are better than their descriptions of said selections.  Take this description of the Japandoids’ album: “snarling punk meets the fist-in-the-air anthemics of Born to Run-era Springsteen and his modern-day equivalents in The Gaslight Anthem.”  I’ve never really liked Springsteen (I know, a Jersey boy, too).  I think it’s more about production (and saxophone) than anything else.  So, comparing bands to him is never a sell for me (even if it may be true).  To me, this sounds much more like a low-key Arcade Fire (with literally no pretensions to anything–I mean, there’s only 2 Japandroids).  Granted, Arcade Fire owe a lot to Springsteen too, but they do something different with his sound, which is why I like them.  [I’m not going to be able to argue my way out of this].

Anyhow, this song is a four minutes of punky guitars and a stupidly catchy chorus.  The fact that it’s only two guys makes it all the more remarkable that it sounds like a full band.  And perhaps, the biggest difference for me is the singer’s voice which feels very early 90s alt rock/punk.  Whatever it is, I’m a fan and will certainly be listening to more of this album.

[READ: June 14, 2012] “The Clockwork Condition”

Like most young men of a certain bent, I loved A Clockwork Orange.  I’ve watched it dozens of times and I’ve read the book.  What I especially like about the story is that my feelings about it change as I get older—which, while not the point exactly, is certainly a theme in the story–how age makes things seem different.  The most important thing I learned from this article is that there was an epilogue in the British version of the book that was not available in the American version (or the film).  And it seems to be pretty important.  What a strange thing to leave out.

Incidentally, Burgess wrote the book in 1962 and the film came out in 1973, which is why he was wrote this in 1973.  He says he was asked about Issues that arose from the film.  And he talks a lot about them.

But he also gives a lot of background.  The title of the book comes from the expression “as queer as a clockwork orange” which is Cockney slang for something so weird it subverts nature.  It was a perfect title for an idea he was going to write about—how people suggested using aversion therapy to change juvenile delinquent behavior.

So this article goes on for a pretty long time, raising all kinds of questions.  It’s really articulate and fascinating and really makes me want to re-read the anti-authoritarian novels I read in high school: 1984, It Can’t Happen Here, Brave New World.   He even talks about B.F. Skinner, who proposed that aversion therapy (which is what Alex gets in the book/movie) was wrong and that positive reinforcement was always more effective.  Skinner worked with animals (Burgess jokes about that) and the whole “you get more flies with honey” attitude works better for training animals he says.  The same is true for people.  Besides, aversion therapy removes freewill. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »