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Archive for the ‘Funny (strange)’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE SHINS-Tiny Desk Concert #638 (July 24, 2017).

Although this is billed as The Shins, it is actually James Mercer solo (although really The Shins are more or less Mercer’s solo gig anyway).

Mercer plays three songs with just his voice and acoustic guitar: two new tracks and one that reached back to 2003 from the album Chutes Too Narrow.

The first two are slow and very folky–I don’t know the new album yet.

“Mildenhall” has a country flare and is something of an autobiography.  “I thought my flattop was so new wave until it melted away.”  The chorus is nice: A kid in class passed me a tape a later chorus reveals: “a band called Jesus and Mary Chain.”     Started playing his dads guitar and that’s how we get to where we are now.”  I love the unexpected ending chord.

“The Fear” is a delicate, simple song that fits perfectly with his voice.  It’s also quite sad.

“Young Pilgrims” is the recognizable song from Chutes to Narrow (the song even mentions that phrase).  It doesn’t sound that different in this stripped down format–there’ some missing extra guitars bit other wise the acoustic format fits it well. The biggest difference is that he seems to be singing in lower register here.

In fact none of the songs sounded like him exactly and I think that’s why– he usually sings in more of a kind of higher pitch, so it’s interesting to hear it slower and lower.

[READ: June 29, 2017] “The Mustache in 2010”

I really enjoyed the story.  I loved the strange way it was constructed and that even though it didn’t seem to start as a story, it certainly was one.

It begins

Social historians will record that in the early twenty-first century, the fashion for a clean-shaven face lost its dominance in metropolitan North American Bourgeoisie society.

After some lengthy discussion about the merits of various facial hair construction ,we meet Alex, a youngish (36 is youngish in New York City) businessman.  He availed himself of this trend by shaving only every third Monday.  His growth was dense and black.

One morning he realizes that he had left large sideburns, which amused him.  Thereafter he “subtracted facial hair so as to create an amusing residue.”  He never wore the stylized looks outside, they were private jokes for him and his wife.  Although there was always a scream of horror because he would sneak up on her.

This all l leads to some more details about Alex.  He was Québécois living in New York.  His English was fine but “fell just short of the level required for wittiness.”  This left him with an unjustly wooden personality.  So his wife was always looking for nonverbal diversion for him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Ultrasound Showbar [2nd GSMW Matinee Day 3] (February 27, 1994).

Second annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar Feb 25-March 1 1994. Setlists for all shows were fairly similar in content focusing mainly on the 25-30 songs that they would use for consideration on Introducing Happiness which began recording the following week. Rare performances of Green Xmas, Floating and one of the earliest Desert Island Discs. This is the all ages Sunday afternoon show 3/5.

Sadly there was to be no celebratory party for the Canadian hockey team who lost the final match and took silver (they’d have to wait until 2002).

They’re going to play a lot of new songs and some old songs.  So they start with “Crescent Moon” from Greatest Hits (it’s so synthy!).  Midway through they seem to mess up and Dave says, “We know the new ones well we just don’t know the old ones very well.”

As the start “Green Xmas,” Dave Clark says, “I love Christmas Time so much so that I love playing this song even though it’s not Christmas.”  When the song is over there’s lots of talk about gum–I assume someone had some in the audience: Black Cat, Ton o Gum or Bubbalicious.  He asks what kind and they start talking about Dubble Bubble and how so many bad things happened to Pud (He could never win).  He contends that Ziggy ripped him off.

They get an organized snap going for Fishtailin’.  They play a verse and then hold it, Dave says “We usually play this song in A, Martin.”  However we will employ “capo technology.”

Clark says he enjoys playing that song because it reminds him of …Dave.  And all the good times they had…before the bad stuff happened (ha).  Clark describes how he met Dave when they were kids.  Bidini says he doesn’t remember the meeting and jokes “did you steal something off of me?”  Clark says Bidini’s aunt and uncle got the first in ground pool in the area and that’s where they met.  Bidini asks what he thought of him.  After shouting “Doofus,” Clark says, I thought “he would become a well kempt perhaps overspoken person.”  Bidini says he remembers being in his Delta 88 going for a drivers test in 1981 and picking up Clark and thinking “he has lips as big as mine–we can be square together.”

It’s a good segue into “Me and Stupid” (which they make family-friendly by singing “messed up” instead of fucked up).  For the fish chant at the end “pike, trout, bass, smelt,” Dave says they are the “four fish of the apocalypse.”

Dave apologizes that he “spit on you from afar but luckily I hit one of the Wooden Stars and I think that will bring me good luck in 1994.”  The Wooden Stars are the band that’s playing during the break.

Once again Tim says that “Introducing Happiness” is about having cats–not birthing cats, just discovering them.”

Clark says that they are “one of the laziest bands in rock.”  Bidini says they have inherited the mantle from Valdy.  Then he says I thought you meant “laid back.”   Clark says “I didn’t say lamest.”  But Bidini says that Valdy once paid The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos $1500 to open for them at the Port Credit Arena.  Clark says he wasn’t talking about Valdy, he wrote the Four Seasons.  Tim says he also sells really cheap groceries (I assume he’s joking about Aldi).

For “In This Town,” Martin asks for “Lots of reverb on the intro.”  Bidini says it’s like they’re in a cave.  Then there’s a great “Michael Jackson, ” followed by a rocking “RDA.”  A sloppy intro to “Soul Glue” is fixed and then the song starts for good.  Midway through Bidini tells them to do it nice and breezy, like Valdy would do it, and they make it very smooth.  “Zero angst, Tim.”  The gentle ending segues nicely into “Self Serve Gas Station.”

Clark tries to wax eloquent about the loss of sun, but he can’t get the words out.  So they encourage the kids to dance, which it sounds like they do.

They play the mellow “Row,” which features a really great solo from Martin in the middle.  After a discussion of new wave, they play the rapid, rather odd “The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos.”   They play “Floating” again–one of those songs that has never gotten official release.  It’s pretty cool with a few different parts that complicate the song.

They ask, “Any teenagers in the audience?  I heard that teenagers don’t like to be called teenagers what do they like to be called?”  Someone shouts “Young adults.”  They play “Jesus Was Once a Teenager Too.”

They ask that the lights to go up and they play a song/game called “Desert Island Picks.”  You say three albums you’d take with you if you were stranded on a desert island (in this case New Providence Island).  They walk around singing the folk song and then some people come up: it is really fun and very funny, a great good time is had by all.  They even bring up a little kid and he sings his three favorite things in the world.  When they ask another kid what school she goes to, she says  “uh…what?”  And someone shouts “Must be U of T!”

Someone had picked three Beatles albums, and Martin says “This is from our next album Let It Be…”  He sings “Jo Jo was a…” before beginning “Take Me in Your Hand” properly.  Then they play a lovely version of “Claire” and then a noisy messy sloppy verse of Neil Young’s “Farmer John,” which morphs into the crazy trilogy “Artenings Made of Gold/Cephallus Worm/Uncle Henry.”

Clark asks if they should play longer or shorter, and longer wins.  But he must take a five-minute bathroom break.  So Martin plays a gentle acoustic version of “Record Body Count,” which the crowd loves.   Then, “Oneilly’s Strange Dream” is introduced as “Saskatchewan Part 2”.  And then (despite some apparent crying from children) they play “Horses” (the moaning child actually sounds like a pretty good fit for this intense song).  There’s even a kid who sings the “Holy Mackinaw, Joe” part.  At the end, there’s kids doing the whole ending with them.

And then it’s a couple of covers: Jane Siberry’s “One More Colour” and a rocking rendition of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.”  They leave the stage and there is a truly wild and rowdy encore cheer (banging things and lots of screaming).

Dave gives away a prize–nightgowns (?) from Sire Records–which Clark says he doesn’t want because he’s ashamed of being on a major label.  I’d love to see those.

It leads to a cool trippy version of “Dope Fiends,” and the end guitar section segues perfectly in to “Earth Monstrous Hummingbirds,” a version which doesn’t ever get really weird but which still sounds fantastic.

I can’t get over how cool it is that Rheostatics played matinee shows like this.  The show lasted over 2 hours, tickets were $6 and it was all kind-friendly.  That’s pretty awesome.

[READ: January 17, 2017] “The Curse”

This is an excerpt from Marías’ recent nonfiction book To Begin at the Beginning. It is a reflection on the art of writing fiction.

This brief section looks at how he writes; he doesn’t know how things are going to turn out when he begins–that would be boring for him.  And if he was bored, it would reflect in his writing and then his readers would be bored.

Just as we do what we do when we’re twenty without knowing that when we reach forty we may wish we had done something else, and just as when we’re forty we have no alternative but to abide by what we did when we were twenty, we can’t erase or amend anything, so I write what I write on page 5 of a novel with no idea if this will prove to have been a good idea when I reach page 200, and far from writing a second or third version, adapting page 5 to what I later find out will appear on page 200, I don’t change a word, I stand by what I wrote at the very beginning — tentatively and intuitively, accidentally or capriciously. Except that, unlike life — which is why life tends to be such a bad novelist — I try to ensure that what had no meaning at the beginning does have meaning at the end. I force myself to make necessary what was random and even superfluous, so that ultimately it’s neither random nor superfluous.

He cites an example.  When Marías’ Cuban great-grandfather was still a young man, he refused to help a beggar. The beggar put a curse on him: “You and your eldest son will both die before you are fifty, far from your homeland and without a grave.”  He wrote about this curse in his book Dark Back of Time. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: December 2016] The League of Beastly Dreadfuls

beastlyI was looking for an audio book to listen to with the kids and I found this one.  I didn’t know anything about it, but the title was interesting.

I never suspected just what a peculiar story this turned out to be.

It is the tale of Anastasia McCrumpet, an otherwise normal 11-year-old girl who suffers from flatulence and a mum who does little more than yell from her bed all day.  Her father is a loving man, but as of a few years ago he has been quite obsessed with vacuum cleaners.  She also has a guinea pig who is quite ill-tempered; when it feels crossed by someone, it takes revenge by pooping in their slippers.

On this particular morning, they were having a funeral.  A funeral for her father’s plant (they wound up tossing it out the window).  And then her father made them his famous waffles (which her mother screamed for upstairs).

But Anastasia was running late for school that morning because of the funeral and she ran out of the house wearing a most unusual outfit (part of a Halloween costume, which was top on the laundry pile). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HOLLY MACVE-Tiny Desk Concert #629 (June 23, 2017).

If you were to ask me to pick all of the things I dislike about country music and put them into one artist it would be Holly Macve.

Her songs are slow, really slow (her three songs last sixteen minutes and she’s not chatty between them).  She sings with a thick country accent (which is especially strange since she is from England (!).  She’s got a yodeling quality to her singing which I also don’t care for.

I don’t like to bring appearance into a music criticism, but in this video, I can also say that it bugs me that he hair never moves and her mouth barely opens, which I find very disconcerting.

So she sings three songs.  On “No One Has The Answers,” and “The Corner Of My Mind” she plays guitar and sings.  “Corner” also features a slide guitar. For “Golden Eagle” she plays on piano which gives it a slightly different tone–more gospel than country, but good lord it was endless. I thought it was over and saw there were three more minutes left in the song.

She sang a South X Lullaby for NPR a few years back and I was on the fence but favorable.  But I said she might be too country for me.  And I was right.

The band: Holly Macve (vocals, guitar, piano); Tommy Ashby (guitar); Michael Blackwell (bass); David Dyson (drums)

[READ: June 26, 2017] “The Size of Things”

I really enjoyed this story although I found it surprisingly sad.

This is translated from the Spanish by one of my favorite translators Megan McDowell, but I’m not exactly sure where it is set.

The story is from the point of view of a toy shop owner.  He says that he knew Enrique Duvel had inherited a lot of money but also that he still lived with his mother.  He would often drive around in his convertible looking self-absorbed.  But then one night the narrator caught Duvel peeking into the toy store.

Eventually Duvel did come in the store and he bought a model plane kit.  Then he proceeded to come back every few days to buy another kit.  After some more time, Duvel appeared at the door as the narrator was closing up and, looking at he narrator, he said, “It’s best if I stay here.”  Duvel said his mother doesn’t want to see him again and repeated “I’d best stay here.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TIGERS JAW-Tiny Desk Concert #628 (June 19, 2017).

I was in a sub shop the other day and saw a poster for Tigers Jaw playing (somewhat) locally.  That was pretty neat as I had just seen that they played a Tiny Desk Concert.  I hadn’t heard of them, but I was pretty excited to think that bands are willing to put up fliers around here.

The blurb says that the band “at one point, made yelping and earnest pop-punk before finding its way to intricate, and melancholy, pop.”

After the lineup shake-up three years ago, Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins both step into larger roles as the primary songwriters and singers, here playing songs from spin [their debut] stripped down to an acoustic guitar and keyboard.

They play three songs.

On “Guardian” the melodies are fantastic.  I love the simple but powerful keys that occasionally play over Ben’s strummed guitars.  And his chord choices are really interesting and unconventional.  He has a really good voice and when she sings her harmonies during the chorus it’s really very lovely.

On “June,” Brianna takes over lead vocals and there’s some more prominent piano in the verse as swell.  Her lead vocal voice sounds like a whole bunch of 1990’s female singers that I love and this song feels like it could easily have come from that era–Ben’s deeper harmonies are a nice addition.

“Window” has as simple but pretty piano.  They sing a duet and sound great together.

There’s nothing new or outrageous about this band.  They just play pretty music and sound great doing it.

[READ: December 15, 2010] “The Yellow”

I really enjoy a character who is judgmental and insecure.  And that’s what we get here.

The story begins with coyotes and babies, but it’s really about a woman, a recent mother, who is concerned about her marriage.  And a whole lot more.

She states:

Every real thing started life as an idea.  I’ve imagined objects and moments into existence. I’ve made humans.  I tip taxi-drivers ten, twenty dollars every time they don’t rape me.

But what has been keeping her up at night is that it has been 8 months since she and her husband had sex.  She quips, “I had great hopes that the threat of Lyme disease would revitalize our sex life: will you check me for ticks.”  But sadly for her, Lyme disease never really took off in California as it did on the West Coast. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TROKER-Tiny Desk Concert #620 May 19, 2017).

Troker has instantly jumped to being my favorite jazz band.  And why is that?  because they have a turntablist and he is outstanding.  He adds sound effects, solos and all kinds of great additions to their jazzy fare and elevates it to someplace exciting.

Which is not to stay that their jazz is poor, because it’s not at  all.  There’s a groovy keyboard sound, a sax, a trumpet and a fantastic bassist

“Principe Charro” begins with some fun keys (from Christian Jimenez) and a high bass line (from Samo Gonzalez) before the band enter the main horn riffs (all with a groovy bass line underneath).  But it’s those turntables (from DJ Sonicko) that really stand out.  I feel like in many songs you can’t always tell when a turntable is active, but it’s really apparent in this set.  Check out around the 1:15 mark while there’s a solo and the turntable is doing a solo of its own–or adding effects to the end of the solos.   And there’s a great moment around 2:30 where the turntable and trumpeter (Chay Flores) have a duel–all with a very cool, deep bassline underneath.  There’s a sensational break with a great cheer before the song starts again–with the crowd fully behind them now.

“One Thousand Million Eyes” is normally an instrumental song (as most of their songs are), but they have a vocalist Solange Prat to sing lyrics.  It’s interesting that the lyrics are in English since the band is from Guadalajara, Mexico and they speak only in Spanish (with subtitles!).   There’s some outstanding turntable  effects on this song–cool spacey sounds and what not.  I like Prat’s voice, but I’m digging the instrumental side more.

I love the way the music starts out with some cool sounds from the turntable.  And that thumping bass.

“Chapala Blues” is about a lake that’s near where they live.  It’s got a great bass riff to open–slow and loping-with some great atmospheric sounds from the turntable.  There’s even whale songs.  The middle of the song has a great drum “solo” (from Frankie Mares) which isn’t really a solo, just the drummer having a ball while the horns are playing quieter music.   Midway through, it gets very atmospheric with some cool synth sounds and a lone sax (from Chay Flores).

“Tequila Death” begins with some ticking clock sounds and a somewhat menacing, but then funky, bass line with a cool fuzzy effect on it).  Like the other songs it is fun and dancabale.  During the breaks they sample (on the turntable) the “one, two, tres, quatro” from “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs.  It’s a great set and I really hope I can see them live sometime.

 

[READ: April 3, 2017] “Signal

I enjoyed Lanchester’s previous story which was also about a very rich person in London.  In this story it’s not the protagonist who is rich, rather it is his old, dear friend. Although, “Michael wasn’t my oldest friend and he wasn’t my closest friend, but he was older than any of the ones who were closer and closer than any of the ones who were older, so he had a special status, as part of the furniture of my life, the kind of friend who when you’re asked how you met you have to think for a while to remember.”  I love that.

But the crux was that Michael was his richest friend–by a long shot.  The story begins with the narrator telling his children “You aren’t allowed to ask for the Wi-Fi password before you say hello,”  The kids point out that Uncle Mike is nice and won’t care.  And the dad says, “that that is true, it’s just not what you do.”  “You chat for a bit, and then you ask for the Wi-Fi password.  It’s just one of the rules.”

I love also that the narrator doesn’t exactly seem to know why Michael is so rich.  “He’d drifted through Cambridge doing something scientific–engineering or maths, I think it was.”  And then after “going off to try something a bit different…he had ascended to some new stratosphere of international wealth.”

And, since he and his family were genuine friends of Michael, they reaped the rewards of that lifestyle whenever they hung out. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NONAME-Tiny Desk Concert #608 (April 3, 2017).

Noname (born Fatimah Warner) is a wrapper and crooner.  her voice is pretty and her demeanor is infectiously upbeat.  Although I don’t really love her songs, I find her attitude infectious.

The blurb says

It’s in the way she’s able to muster a smile while performing a heartbreaking tale of abortion. It’s those sometimes bleak, melancholy lyrics over brilliant, colorful production.

“Diddy Bop” is a strange mix of gentle music (delicate guitar lines from Brian Sanborn meld with synthesized flutes) and rather vulgar lines:  There’s a line “you about to get your ass beat” and lots of “my niggas” thrown around.  Phoelix (bass) sings a verse as well.  The song is only two minutes long.

After it she says she has watched many Tiny Desk Concerts and she “Just wants to be as good as T-Pain.”

The second song is actually a medley.  It begins with “Reality Check” and then segues into “Casket Pretty,” and “Bye Bye Baby.”

She says “Reality Check” is her most straightforward song, but “it would be shitty if you were like ‘damn that made no sense either.'”  I normally speak “in like, scramble-think, so hopefully you guys follow it.” “Scramble-think” refers to the clever metaphors she weaves in detailing the many ways she’s dodged destiny.

Akenya Seymour (keys, vox) takes a verse in this song and Phoelix gets some backing vocals.

“Casket Pretty” is quite an evocative expression but she repeats the lyric an awful lot during the song.  The drums by Connor Baker are interesting throughout the set, but especially in this song.

She says that “Yesterday” is her favorite song on the tape.  It’s the first song she made.  It’s vulnerable and honest and she was surprised how much people liked it so she decided she had more sadness and vulnerability for her album.

[READ: January 20, 2017] “Constructed Worlds”

I enjoyed this story very much.  It is the story of a girl who is off to Harvard.  The story is set in the early 1990s–in the time of Discman and the beginning of e-mail.  It even opens with the fascinating line:

I didn’t know what e-mail was until I got to college. I had heard of e-mail, and knew that in some sense I would “have” it. “You’ll be so fancy,” said my mother’s sister, who had married a computer scientist, “sending your e-mails.”

The girl, Selin, has been hearing all about the World Wide Web from her father. He described that he was in the Met and one second later he was in Anitkabir in Ankara. (more…)

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