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Archive for the ‘Ghosts’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GAELYNN LEA-“I Wait” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next few shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

If you’re going to put together the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour — an epic night of Tiny Desk-style concerts, held at the wonderful Central Presbyterian Church in Austin during SXSW Tuesday night — you might as well kick things off with a core member of the Tiny Desk Family. Gaelynn Lea won 2016’s second annual Tiny Desk Contest with the barest of ingredients: a few swooping violin strokes, a loop pedal and her fragile-but-forceful voice.

At the Tiny Desk Family Hour, Lea performed in that same spare configuration. She closed with a powerful song called “I Wait,” which addresses the way people with disabilities — Lea herself has brittle bone disease, and works as a motivational speaker and teacher as well as a musician — are frequently left out of social justice movements. It’s Lea at her best, as her warm, intense, hauntingly beautiful voice is shot through with a clear sense of purpose.

This song is wonderful.  The looping is simple but effective–the notes are menacing and effective, while the unlooped pizzicato notes add just the right amount of rhythm to this otherwise sparse song.  For this song is all about the lyrics.  Lea details what it’s like to be handicapped–not in the world at large, but within protest movements which supposedly have her best intentions at heart.

So when you hear them
Make claims of progress
Take a good look
And see who isn’t there
We need a seat now
At the table
So please invite us
Or don’t pretend to care.

When Lea brought “I’ll Wait” to an abrupt close, the audience’s soft collective gasp gave way to the night’s first standing ovation.

It’s a stunning ending.

[READ: February 12, 2019] The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo #2

I really enjoyed the first book in this series and I’m happy to see the follow-up.

It opens with a recap from Charles Thompson, a future reporter (who uses a tiny reporter’s pad to write down his thoughts).  He talks about how he met Margo Maloo, the “Monster Mediator” and how with her help, he was able to locate and deal with a troll in his house.  And by “deal with” he means befriend.  For although Margo is a mediator between monsters and humans, she is mostly interested in the safety of the monsters.

Thompson has dozens of readers, he thinks, and maybe this is why Margo wants his help.

She will not be getting any help from Charles’ friend Kevin, who wants nothing to do with any monsters (unless they come in toy-form, like the Battle Beanz). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-Barenaked for the Holidays (2004).

Barenaked for the Holidays is one of my favorite Christmas albums of all time.  It is by turns silly, serious, religious (Jewish and Christian) and secular.  It is pro Christmas and anti Christmas and many things in between.  There are cheesy instrumentals, impressive a capella rounds and even a Batman joke.  It’s everything people love (hate) about BNL.

The disc opens with Jingle Bells.  It opens quietly with a somber piano as Steven Page sings the lyrics.  It’s quite lovely.  After a minute and a half, insanity sets in with a wild continuation, as Steven goes bananas.  There’s a drum-only verse and even a verse of Jungle Bells Batman Smells.  It encapsulates all of Christmas in just a few minutes.

“Green Christmas” is a poppy, funny anti-Christmas song that’s super catchy.  It’s sung by Ed Robertson and is one of his latter style concoctions.  I have several versions of this song om various releases.  This is my favorite because when the carolers sing and he shuts the door on them you can hear their voices change.

“I Saw Three Ships” is done on a mandolin and sung first by Kevin Hearn.  Then a rotating cast of the band joins in.

“Hanukkah Blessing” is a wonderful original song by Steven.  It’s incredibly catchy with a nice telling of the Hanukkah story.  It even has a verse in Hebrew.

“O Holy Night” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” are done in a kind of ice rink keyboard–cheesey but a lot of fun cheesey.

I sort of like “Elf’s Lament” because it’s pretty funny, but it’s really rather dark–maybe too dark?   I don’t think I ever realized that the voice I don’t recognize i Michael Bublé, which is pretty insane.

“Snowman” is an original song about how much of a bummer it is being a snowman.

“Do They Know Its Christmas?” I hate the original of this song but I do like this version which takes some of the schmaltz and cheese out of it.  I also like that they mock “thank god it’s them instead do of you!”

“Hanukkah o Hanukkah”  Accordion and guitar play this wonderfully traditional song.

“God rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings” was recorded in 1996 with Sarah McLachlan.  It’s quite nice but feels out of place–like they should have re-recorded it.

“Carol of the Bells” is a trippy synth version with lots of voice-sounds from Steven.

“Footprints” is a slower Ed song–pretty and kind of somber.

“Deck the Stills” is just a genius version of “Deck the Halls.”   How did they every figure out that you could perfectly fit the words “Crosby Stills Nash and Young” into that musical pattern?  I’d love to hear the process for making this one.

“Christmas Time (Oh Yeah)” This is a Kevin song which means its sweet and kind of quiet, but there’s also some wonderful backing vocals (oooohhh yeah).

“Sleigh Ride” is zany scatting version that lasts less than a minute.

“Christmas Pics” is a Jim song with lots of upright bass.  It’s a typically funny and sweet song by Jim.

“I Have a Little Dreidel” is a little goofy sounding on banjo–it seems more hoe-down than Jewish.  But it’s a hoot.

“Wonderful Christmastime” is an instrumental with drum machine and keys but a very funny wah-wah type of keyboard sound that sort of mocks the original.  It ends with them singing happy birthday to Jesus.

“Auld Lang Syne: ends the disc.  It’s a beautiful version with great harmonies, really showcasing that this is a great band who likes to have fun too.

[READ: December 13, 2018] “Every One of My Answers was a Disappointment”

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.

This is the story of an artist, Amelia, who has flown from Vancouver to Toronto to live for a few months.  She was almost forty, recently separated and had just had a major art showing (she sold everything and was basically set for a long time).  She sublets a place from her younger brother’s best friend Sab–neither her brother nor Sab knew about the separation. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN CARPENTER-“Halloween-Main Title” (1979).

This song is so wonderfully creepy.  Even some 40 years after it was made, it still can give you shivers.

It opens with that piano melody in 10/8 time.  It adds minor key synth chords.  And it keeps going–morphing, changing slowly but never straying far from the original.  It adds intense strings as it progresses.  And all along it has this ticking metronome that is going very fast–much faster than anything else in the song, like a ticking time bomb.

Somewhere in the middle of the song a drum beat is added.  But it’s not so much a drum beat as it is a footstep.  It’s subtle at first–you kind of feel it in there.  You don’t really notice it.  But when the music all drops away at 2:30 to just the piano and the ticking, that footstep is there with you.

Don’t settle for covers or samples.  Don’t accept the version that has the thumping drum right from the start.

Take that late-1970s recording, that old quality, the weird drum footstep sound, it’s all perfect.

It’s the original or nothing.

[READ: October 31, 2018] “The Pale Man”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BAUHAUS-“Bela Lugosi’s Dead” (1979).

This was Bauhaus’ first single–a nine minute ode to being undead.  It’s considered the foundation of Goth music.

“Bela Lugosi’s Dead” starts with noises and feedback–echoing guitar scratches and atmospherics.

After about a minute and a half the simple three note bass line begins–slow and menacing.

Another minute later the vocals begin–Peter Murphy’s low voice reciting the lyrics.

White on white translucent black capes
Back on the rack
Bela Lugosi’s dead
The bats have left the bell tower
The victims have been bled
Red velvet lines the black box
Bela Lugosi’s dead
Undead undead undead

The guitars are primarily high notes as the chords change and for a brief moment in the chorus, the three-note melody goes up in stead of down.

The remainder of the lyrics:

The virginal brides file past his tomb
Strewn with time’s dead flowers
Bereft in deathly bloom
Alone in a darkened room
The count
Bela Lugosi’s dead
Undead undead undead

Around five-minutes the song quiets down to just drums and echoing scratched guitars.  Around seven minutes, Murphy starts wailing “Bela’s undead.”  The last minute or so returns to the beginning with echoed guitars sounds and scratches.

Lo-fi creepiness.

[READ: October 29, 2018] “Uncle Tuggs”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS “Halloween Eyes” (?).

This song is somewhat legendary among Rheostatics stories.  I’m not really sure when they wrote it (a long time ago).  I’m not even sure if there’s more to it than this verse.  Every time I’ve heard it played it has lasted about a minute.

It’s a simple guitar riff with some quite ridiculous lyrics

Don’t look at me with your Halloween eyes Awhoooo
Don’t hit me with your pumpkin pies Awhoooo
Devil’s got horns, devil’s got a tail–666, gonna fuck you up
Some people say that he got scales—666, you’re a sitting duck
Awhooo Awhoo etc etc.

They play it live from time to time (as recently as 2017) and each time they play it they seem to add to the mythology

“These guys really were stoned when they wrote that.”

Is it scary?  Nope.  Is it safe to add to a party playlist?  Nope.  Is it dumb?  Yup.  Do they know that?  Yup.  Is it fun anyway?  Yup.  Sounds like Halloween to me.

[READ: October 20, 2018] “Gray Matter”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MUDHONEY-“Halloween” (1988).

Mudhoney recorded a cover of Sonic Youth’s “Halloween” just two years after the original was released.

Mudhoney, a deliberately noisy and abrasive band recorded a deliberately noisy and abrasive version of this song.  And yet at the same time, it doesn’t hold a candle to Sonic Youth;s version for deliberate noise and chaos.

On the other hand, in many respects the Mudhoney version is better.  It feels more like a “real song” with the guitar, bass and drums all playing along fairly conventionally.  It follows the same musical patterns as the original, with that same cool riff, but it just feels…more.

Mark Arm sing/speaks the lyrics more aggressively and less sensuously than Kim Gordon did.  In some way it helps to understand the original song a little more, as if they translated it from Sonic Youth-land into a somewhat more mainstream version.  Although it is hardly mainstream what with the noise and fuzz, the cursing and the fact that it lasts 6 minutes.

It feels like Mark emphasizes these lyrics more than the others although it may just be that the songs builds more naturally to them:

And you’re fucking me
Yeah, you’re fucking with me
You’re fucking with me
As you slither up, slither up to me
Your lips are slipping, twisting up my insides
Sing along and just a swinging man
Singing your song
Now I don’t know what you want
But you’re looking at me
And you’re falling on the ground
And you’re twisting around
Fucking with my, my mind
And I don’t know what’s going on

Happy Halloween

[READ: October 24, 2018] “From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MINISTRY-“(Every Day Is) Halloween” (1984).

Ministry is now known for being/industrial band.  But before the first album of that ilk, he played a kind of industrial dance music.  Even though I love Ministry’s heavier noisier stuff, I have a huge soft spot for this song and all of the music from Chicago’s WaxTrax records.

I also love that this song get regular airplay (especially at Halloween) and makes all kinds of Halloween Top Ten song lists (who knew such things existed).

In addition to the song being incredibly catchy and surprisingly dancey, there’s a really fun “scratching” solo in the middle of the song.

Al Jorgensen may not like this song anymore, but it’s a favorite for me.

[READ: October 22, 2018] “The Striding Place”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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