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Archive for the ‘Gods’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ANGELICA GARCIA-Tiny Desk Concert #968 (April 15, 2020).

I saw Angelica Garcia open for Phoebe Bridgers.  Her show started off okay but she totally won me over by the end.  She played guitar, she looped her voice and synths and was really impressive.  She also sang some songs in Spanish.

Well, two years later, Angelica Garcia is very different.

The biggest change is the amount of color she has added (when I saw her she was in a black floral print dress).  She is also embracing her heritage a bit more than when I saw her.  It was present then, but it is way out in front here.

Angelica Garcia decorated the Tiny Desk with colorful fabrics, orange flowers, a fuchsia dress, and a great deal of pride in what she calls her “Salva-Mex-American” heritage. Her song “Orange Flower” got my attention back in 2016, but I thought of her only as a Virginia rock and roller. Not anymore. Angelica Garcia’s music in the 2020s embraces her heritage, her life growing up in Los Angeles, and the ranchero music she heard from her family.

The show opens with a sample of a high pitched voice (presumably hers) saying “I wanna be like her.”  It works as a repeated sample in “Guadalupe.”  In this song

Angelica expresses respect for La Virgen de Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, singing “I wanna be like her.” Guadalupe inspires her to declare that “power isn’t defined by your physique.”

But power comes from the loud rocking guitars from John Sizemore (what a great raw sound).  Josh McCormick plays big electronic drums, including some electronic cowbells.  In between the power chords, the melody is provided by a quiet and interesting keyboard sound from Ryan Jones

And let’s not overlook Garcia’s impressive voice.  She has power and a lot of diversity in her delivery.  She might even sound better than she did when I saw her.

The middle of the song has a breakdown where she and percussionist Kenneka Cook sing together a kind of scat.  Anchoring all of this is really great bass sound from Chrissie Lozano.

For “Valentina in the Moonlight” Angelica plays the quieter guitar melody (she’s really good).

This song is slower and quieter, a love song.  When the whole band kicks in, the song gets really full, with quiet guitar chords from Sizemore, while Garcia plays the main melody.  You can clearly hear Lozano’s nice bass sound in this song.

Angelica moved to Virginia at age seventeen. The songs she sings at the Tiny Desk, all from her album Cha Cha Palace, reflect the way she was seen, or more to the point, not seen, in her new home. “Jícama” captures that feeling of invisibility:

“Jícama” starts out with cha cha sounds.  Angelica sings with a pronounced accent.  I really like the splash cymbal sounds that accent her song.  When the whole band kicks in there’s a real Tex-Mex vibe  which feels like a children’s song melody, perhaps the best way to get the message across

“I see you, but you don’t see me
Jícama, jícama, guava tree
I been trying to tell ya but you just don’t see
Like you, I was born in this country.”

Angelica Garcia has definitely changed.  And for the better.

[READ: May 2, 2020] Strong Female Protagonist

Strong Female Protagonist is a webcomic which is on hiatus (although I don’t know for how long).

We’ve had this book floating around the house for a while and I’ve been meaning to read it.  I loved the title–so simple, so terrific.  I finally grabbed it off the shelf and decided today was the day.

I didn’t really know what the story was about and I found myself very surprised.  This proved to be a superhero story with a difference–a huge difference.  Both the origin story of the superpowers and the exploration of the ethics of superpowers are handled in a very different way.

One oft he big differences right up front was the language–these people say bad words… a lot.  It’s while reading this book that you realize you’ve never heard Superman or Spiderman say “fuck.”  But then these superheroes are not superheroes in the conventional sense. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MEGAN THEE STALLION-Tiny Desk Concert #918/Tiny Desk Fest October 28, 2019 (December 2, 2019).

This Tiny Desk concert was part of Tiny Desk Fest, a four-night series of extended concerts performed in front of a live audience and streamed live on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Back in October, NPR allowed fans to come watch some Tiny Desk Concerts live.  October 28th was rap night featuring Mega Thee Stallion.

I’ve heard a lot about Megan Thee Stallion and how she is raunchy and sexually explicit and how what she’s doing is revolutionary.

And I’m for her bragging the way men brag and showcasing women’s needs and desires.  I think it’s fantastic.

Megan’s lyrical content lies in subverting established sexual dynamics, and no matter the level of raunch she deploys, empowering women remains the artist’s manifesto.

But wow, I found that by the middle of the first song I was overwhelmed by the language.  Now, I’m not prudish by any means, and I listen to songs with all kinds of language.  But the barrage of four-, five- and six- letter words was just nonstop.  Honestly it just seemed to lose any impact and seemed pretty monotonous by the third or fourth song.

But clearly I don’t know what I’m talking about because

the brilliant and bodacious rapper has ascended to major festival stages, become one of the most sought-after features on other stars’ songs and electrified late-night television audiences.

I will say that she comes across as really fun and joyful while she’s bantering

Of course, most of her bantering was bragging about which of her songs have gone gold or platinum.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing to me is that this was her first performance with a backing band.  Because I found her band was everything in this set.  I couldn’t imagine seeing her yell

I keep it realer than real
Fuck all the critics and fuck how they feel
I’m getting money, it is what it is
They wanna know how I did what I did
Don’t worry ’bout why I do what I do (bitch)
‘Cause I ain’t worried bout you (bitch)
Nah, I don’t wanna be cool (bitch)
Still hanging with the same crew (ay)

without a live band to back her up.  I mean, jeez, that would just be somebody standing on a corner ranting.  I got tired of men singing things like that years ago, so even if it’s cool for her to turn it on its masculine head, it’s still just yelling and bragging.

Her band is Phony Ppl, who played a Tiny Desk Concert last March and who I liked quite a bit.  The band is Elbee Thrie on vocals (and genral hype), Elijah Rawk on guitar, Maffyuu on drums, Aja Grant on keys, Bari Bass on bass.  I’m unclear if Ebony Joi is with Ppl or Megan, but she sings some lovely backing vocals.

And I totally agree with this idea (although I won’t compare her without the band)

From “Hot Girl Summer” to the platinum-selling “Cash S***,” Hot Girl Meg’s raunchy hits took on new life thanks to a live backing band, Brooklyn’s Phony Ppl, who seamlessly blend jazz, R&B and hip-hop.

I liked the horror-movie sounding music of “Realer.”  I was amused that she described “Big Ole Freak” as more chill but it’s still raunchy.

Elbee Thrie sings the chorus on “Hot Girl Summer” (and I can’t believe she doesn’t have him singing along all the time).

Midway through the spirited set, Megan and Phony Ppl surprised the audience by premiering an unreleased collaboration, a bouncy banger titled “F*****’ Around.” After the first verse/chorus, the adoring crowd was singing along as if they’d known the song for years.

Thrie sings the lyrics and it really doesn’t seem like Megan does all that much, so I’m nit sure how much of a collaboration it is.  Although she likely wrote the lyrics, since she says “We don’t condone that shit, but sometimes….”

The final song is about how much money she’s got.  There’s some cool guitar licks on it.

So, despite all the raves for Megan Thee Stallion, I won’t be buying any of her mixtapes.  But then I am clearly not the target audience.

[READ: February 28, 2020] Fight Like a Girl Vol. 1

Never has my desire to like a story been so undermined by its execution.

This book was advertised in Princeless and, since it was also by Action Lab Comics and was clearly a feminist story, I was all over it.

But oh, the execution.

The book opens in a kind of black and white chamber.  It looks like a courtroom with the characters are talking to the heroine.

The characters are: Tartarus, Chronos, Apollo, Loki, Mercury, Fortuna, Fulla.  I can’t decide of this Pantheon of gods is meant to be multicultural or if it’s weird that the first four are Greek, Mercury and Fortuna are Roman, and Loki and Fulla are Norse,

And it’s in these pages that the typos begin. So many typos!  Which is weird since I suspect the book is hand lettered.

There’s some missing periods, an errant comma and then this line “and more importantly has the chance to be the next, artisan. [sic].”

But back to the plot, the judges have decided that Amaroso’s wish is acceptable and she will return in five days to enter the wishing well.

Then we flashback. Amarosa is talking to her boyfriend Kaiden saying that her brother is dying.  She has tried everything and her last resort is the wishing well.  Kaiden is concerned about what will happen if she fails but he convinces himself and her that she won’t fail.  She can’t.

Next, Amarosa is in the wishing well with nine trails to attempt.

But the real typo problems come with the fairy that is assisting her on her trials.  From awkward phrasings like “your nine trials awaits [sic] your grand arrival” to “let me run you down with [sic] the rules.”

Typos aside, the rules are simple.  Amarosa chooses a door and fights what is inside.  If she defeats the creature, a new door appears and she moves on through the nine trials. If she loses. Well, you know. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AMONG AUTHORS-Tiny Desk Contest # 878 (August 9, 2019)

A lot of the time when I say I haven’t heard of a band, tons of other people have.

But I’m expected to say I don’t know who Among Authors is because as of this performance they are unsigned and self-managed.

They make a kind of artful indie prog rock. Two lead guitars, a simple drum kit, and piano.  All centered around pianist Ian Ketterer’s amazing voice.

Out of more than 6,000 entries to our 2018 Tiny Desk Contest, Among Authors was one of the most original bands I’d seen — so much so that we invited the group to perform as part of our Tiny Desk Contest tour in Seattle. I was even more impressed by Among Authors’ songwriting and keen, spare musicianship at that KEXP-sponsored event, so I invited them to play a Tiny Desk concert. By the time their big day came, nearly a year later, they were ready — nervous, but ready.

They play three songs, each one longer than the last.

“Radio Signals” opens with just piano and Ian Ketterer’s soaring falsetto–he sounds a bit like Ryan Lott from Son Lux.  After a minute and a half Patrick Brockwell adds some gentle brushed drums and both guitarists play different intertwining melodies.

Ian Ketterer sat behind our upright piano, partially hidden by his hair and hoodie. Patrick Brockwell’s clean look provided a stark contrast, and his no-frills, perfectly placed rhythms matched his appearance. The two guitarists, Jon Livingston and Jason Ketterer (Ian’s brother), played intertwining melodies, often lifting the songs from their dimness while embracing the mystery in the lyrics.

“The Overture” opens with all of them singing oohs–they have great voices.  The guitar parts are not unlike the slower parts of Explosions in the Sky–fast high notes in repeated melodies that interweave and sound amazing.

The blurb says that these songs aren’t catchy. And that’s true.  These aren’t earworm pop songs.  Yhey are intense and inviting.  I’ve listened to this Tony Desk more than many others.  It’s impressive when Brockwell hits his low drums (floor tom, I assume) how deep it is–there’s not a lot of bass in these songs so the low notes really stand out.  And Ian’s voice is really quite amazing–he gives this his all.

“Lure” opens with lovely intertwining guitar lines.  When the main part of the song kicks in, the thumping drums and fast piano really propel the song along.  It’s fantastic.  The song runs about 8 minutes with an extended instrumental outro that is dynamite.

Just to add some even more fascinating detail to this band

Nearly a dozen years ago, at 23, bandleader Ian Ketterer had open-heart surgery. Born without a thumb on his right hand and deaf in his right ear, he plays piano and sings.

I don’t know how hard it was to overcome any of that, but he (and the rest of the band) certainly did.  I’m going to have to look for this CD.

[READ: August 2019] Exorsisters Vol. 1

I saw this book in the store during an Image comic book sale.  I loved the title and was blown away by the art.  The whole premise seemed like a lot of fun.

I love the way the story doesn’t explain the set up for several chapters, it just jumps right in at a wedding.

As a pretty redhead is about to marry a handsome blond, dude, chains comes out of the ground and pull the man into hell.

Everyone in the audience believes that she was stood up, but she saw him get grabbed by a demon.

Then we meet twin sisters Cate and Kate.  Cate is prim and Kate is a rocker.  Lagacé’s artwork is perfect from the start.  They are distinct but similar.  Her whole style is almost like an Archie comic, but less sweet.  I love it.

The girls promise to investigate.

Meanwhile, we see a woman who proves to be their mom.  She bets a guy in a bar that she has done something worse than he has. We don’t hear what she has done, but she clearly beat his horrible tale. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto (February 17, 2001).

It’s hard to believe these shows were 18 years ago!

This was night 4 of 4 of the Horseshoe Tavern’s 53rd Birthday bash.  It was the final night and one of the longest shows I can recall at almost 3h in length. The Chickens opened the show.

It was hard to find information about The Chickens.  What I learned was that they were originally a band called U.I.C. which was first an acronym for Unemployment Insurance Commission but was later changed to Up in Canada.  They broke up and then years later reformed but as a different band.  From Now Toronto:

Not only do the Chickens boast the propulsive rhythm section of former U.I.C. drummer Murray Heywood and bassist Dan Preszcator along with the devastating firepower of U.I.C. guitarist Fred Robinson, but they also have the megacity’s most exciting microphone mauler, U.I.C.’s Dave Robinson, fronting the band.  That’s right, Exeter’s answer to the Stooges have clawed their way back from obscurity to kick ass with a vengeance. So why the name change? Well, despite the fashion-world dictate, the 80s are over and the Chickens aren’t a nostalgia act.  The songwriting savvy of former El Speedo guitarist Ken Mikalauskas has added a sharper pop edge to the compositions, as can be heard on the Chickens’ cranking new Prepare To Plug In (Egg-cellent) album.  “We went through about a million names and even contemplated going back to U.I.C., but it didn’t click. Ken has contributed so much to our sound that this really feels like a new group. Besides, none of us really liked the name U.I.C. anyway.”

So that’s the opening act.

For the main act, the band plays for nearly three hours.  They played almost all of Night of the Shooting Stars (songs are in bold–excluding “Remain Calm” or “Satan”).  There was a nice intro by Jeff Cohen (which states that The Horsehoe was originally a country club, which makes sense.)

And then they jumped n with six new songs.

“The Fire” which Martin says is “a new song Dave and i are working on.”  There’s some great harmonizing between the two of them at the end–they don’t duet enough.  It’s followed by some short, poppy song: “It’s Easy To Be With You” and “Superdifficult.”  Martin speaks the title through his robotic voice in low and high register and Tim says that thing was in my dreams last night.  It’s such a great but far too short song.

“The Reward” has such a great slinky guitar riff.  It’s another satisfying new song.  As is “Mumbletypeg” although they can’t seem to synch up on the intro to this song.  Dave yells “all together now” and they get going.  The new stuff ends with “Song Of The Garden” which Tim dedicates to Sarah Harmer’s new album.

Then it’s back to older songs.  There’s a soaring “Self Serve Gas Station” which segues into a screaming “RDA.”  They throw in some tags to The Clash’s “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.” with DB shouting: “I’m so bored with the U.S.A.  I’m so angry at the U.S.A.  I don’t give  a fuck about the U.S.A.”  When the song is over, Dave says,  “We almost sounded like The Chickens there.”

There’s a discussion of music and hockey and The Chickens should be called The Gas Station Island Five since the starting line is the entire chickens band–they’re amazing on the ice.  One of them says “We’re gonna kick The Morningstars ass (Bidini’s team) at the Exclaim Cup.  DB notes: “Different division.  They can’t put us in the same division because there’s always a big terrible beautiful brawl when we play each other.  The Exclaim Cup.  April 13-15–it’s free.  It surprises you that it’s free to watch these guys play hockey?

Tim says they’re going “way back for” “Torque, Torque” which was fun to hear.  Especially since the follow-up the new song “In It Now” has a similar guitar sound.  I love the guitar riff and melody of this song.

They tale a small break to talk about the celebrities they’ve spotted on the last couple of nights, including Dave Reid, from Centennial High, where they performed Harmleodia.

Someone shouts “I’m looking for some fun” (the opening of Fish Tailin’)  DB: “Hey Martin that guy wants to talk to you.”  Martin says they’re playing something else.  When the guy shouts again, DB says, “Perhaps you would like to try another club if you’re still looking  Because we’re cooking.”

They play a great “Junction Foil Ball” during which a fire alarm goes off.  After the song Tim checks, “that wasn’t a real fire, right?  It was just Dave’s riff was too hot.”

They play a long “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds” with a wild drum solo in the middle and loud and roaring ending.   Then they play “Me and Stupid” and Dave forgets the words in the first verse (perhaps the first time I’ve heard him forget a lyric) but he is undaunted and they do fine until the end.  Mid song, Don quotes a poem “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. “and done a hundred things/You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung.”  Then Dave quotes Wilderness Gothic by Steven J. Gibson “something is about to happen / two shores away a man hammering in the sky.”   [Both poems are printed in their entirety at the end of the post].


 

Martin’s been nominated for a Juno award for original art work–they’re never nominated for a musical category–the art has always been better anyway.  The Story of Harmelodia is being produced by the One Yellow Rabbit theater company in Calgary.  So up next is “The Sky Dreamed” on which Don Kerr takes lead vocals.

 

Don says he’d like to thank Maureen for “giving me an official Canadian tartan jacket, which means I am now an official Rheostatic.  Martin says Canadian tartan used to be our uniform.  Tim: and our bedding.

 

“Baby I Love You” a goof track from Nightlines Session is requested many times.  Tim says they considered it for Valentine’s Day, but it’s too complicated and doesn’t work without a Fender Rhodes.

 

For “Loving Arms” they are joined by Carmen from a fine band called Check (I guess). She sings backing vocals which sounds very pretty.  I never noticed that the ending melody sound like the guitar for “Here Comes the Sun.”  It’s followed by one more new song–a great version of “P.I.N.

 

Dave says they played Sydney, Cape Breton where they don’t get a lot of bands and they go crazy.  Somebody sent up shots of tequila and we stopped a song and played “Tequila.”  We kept shouting tequila but nobody was sending up any more shots.  And then all of a sudden there were 48 of them.  We’ve never been the same.

 

Then the bust out a surprise: “The Ballad Of Wendel Clark Part 1 and 2.”  During the song, Dave B talks to Dave of the chickens about what it would be like playing against Wendell.

 

Then it’s time for two Stompin’ Tom songs.  “Horseshoe Hotel” which they learned just for this occasion.  Tom wrote it in 1971 about this hotel where people drank a lot.  Tim follows with “The Ketchup Song.”  people requests “Bud the Spud”, but they have a two song Tom quota.  Plus, no more than one song about potatoes you don’t wanna get to filled up on potato songs.

 

Then comes an amazing trip of a set ender.  A simply beautiful version of “Stolen Car” followed by an intense “Horses.”  The version includes Dave chanting the Talking Heads’ lines from “Crosseyed and Painless” and Martin reciting the Tragically Hip’s “Blow at High Dough” through his computer voice.  The noisy outro of Horses segues into a lovely quiet intro of “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” and the crowd goes nuts.

 

It’s an amazing set ender that should satisfy anyone, but the Rheos are not done.  After a fairly long break they’re going to play for about 40 more minutes.  Someone shouts “Saskatchewan” and Dave says, yes, we were gonna do that but we ran out of time.

 

So instead, it’s “Legal Age Life At Variety Store” which features Tim Mech on guitar.  As they start the chords, Dave says, “you’re writing something in your notebook but how do you know which song were doing?  We could be doing “Rockin My Life Away” by Jerry Lee Lewis or “The Swimming Song” by Loudon Wainwright III.  But of course it’s “Legal Age Life” and everyone gets solos: Freddy and Davey from The Chickens and Timmy (Mech) who does a weird solo.   Tim Dave and Fred–the triple threat!

 

Somebody shots “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” but Dave says they can’t do it without The Bourbons and the guy shouts “I take it back!”

 

Two more new songs include a rockin “CCYPA” and “We Went West” which seems a weird song for an encore (it’s pretty slow), but it sounds good.  It’s followed by another surprise, their version of Jane Siberry’s “One More Colour.”  Dave says that they have a song on the (incredibly diverse) compilation box set Oh What a Feeling 2.  Proceeds go to charity.  They are on it after Jane Siberry.

 

Then they leave, but they’re not done.  JC comes out and announces that it’s 2:30 in the morning (!).  Do you want to hear any more? No rules tonight.

 

The guys play “Northern Wish” in the crowd acoustic and unmic’d.  The recording is pretty good and the crowd really sings along–great fun there.

 

Everyone assumes they are done, but they’ve got room for one more, a rocking, late night version of “Introducing Happiness,” which sounds like it’s 2:45 in the morning but is pretty awesome, nonetheless.

 

What a show.

 

They played 63 different songs over the four nights.  There were 30 songs that were played more than once.

[READ: February 14, 2019] Mythical Irish Beasts This book is a fun illustrated collection of the historical origins of Irish beasts. Joyce does a lot of research (there’s footnotes!) and mentions many original documents to explain where these myths came from, but it is still a very simple introduction to these stories–a way to pique your interest. He also illustrates every beast in his striking but unusual artistic style.  I really like the look of his beasts, but they are certainly unconventional.  They’re very modern looking, which is interesting for these ancient creatures. There does not appear to be a reason for the order, but I’m going to list all of the creatures just because it’s fun to have some many weird words in print. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_11_18_13Tomine.inddSOUNDTRACK: GoGo PENGUIN-Tiny Desk Concert #786 (September 14, 2018).

I’d never heard of GoGo Penguin before, but I was blown away by this Tiny Desk Concert.

The band is a trio: piano, upright bass, and drums.  They play jazz, I suppose.  But there are elements that are prog-rockish and avant garde (none of which makes it not jazz, I realize) such that their music, while instrumental, is genre defying.

GoGo Penguin models closely the leaderless jazz power trio set in motion by forbearers in The Bad Plus, but you can also hear the drippings of electronica groups like Bonobo, and drum-and-bass foundations akin to Roni Size with a bit more acoustic rattle (Turner even fashions his own prepared drum accessories from rope, duct tape, and metal rings, which you can see resting atop his ride cymbal and snare. He tells me he usually has more, but he hasn’t made new ones in a while).

This trio found a way to wedge themselves in the middle of the Venn diagram that overlaps musicians and music heads. Among my colleagues at NPR, I witnessed expressions ranging from studious squints to closed-eye meditation, those in the room experiencing GoGo Penguin’s tunes like they would a collage: the fine details as valuable as the larger shape.

It’s true that Nick Blacka’s fretless bass maintains a very jazz sound and Chris Illingworth has the fluidity of a jazz master on piano.  But it’s pointless to try to define it when you could just enjoy it.

“Raven” was inspired by a dream Chris had of playing chess with a raven.  It opens with ringing piano notes and a bowed double bass.  Then Blacka switches to plucked high notes while Turner plays the cymbals. After about a minute the song kicks into high gear.  The piano hasn’t change, but the bass is pulsing quickly and the drums are playing a fast but quiet rhythm on primarily the snare, but with flourishes left and right.  And it’s all really catchy too.  The rhythm section anchors Chris’ melodic piano lead as the song careens to a close that hearkens back to the opening.

The next one is called “Bardo.”

During his setup, GoGo Penguin’s pianist Chris Illingworth asked if he could remove our piano cover to “access the inside” and, after a few rotations of a screwdriver, he soon handed me a long plank of black painted maple, which has no convenient place to rest in the NPR Music office. If you look closely at the piano innards during “Bardo,” you can see a strip of black tape stretched over a few strings, opposite Illingworth’s bobbing head. It mutes a group of strings, turning them into percussive jabs and dividing the instrument into more explicit rhythmic and melodic sections. What you can’t see: GoGo Penguin’s audio engineer a few feet to the left of frame, dialing-in reverb effects on the piano, which we heard in the room. These two elements, in tandem with bassist Nick Blacka’s precise canvasing and drummer Rob Turner’s charged and delicate pulse, have heavily contributed to the sonic identity of this trio – a signal to jazz jukebox listeners that, “Ah yes, that’s a GoGo Penguin tune.”

It is so neat watching him the piano but making distinctly not piano sounds.  I would have argued that it was a synth making those sounds (which I guess it sort of is).  But the fact that he can do that while also playing a pretty piano melody is great.  I love the way Blacka repeats a simple high note–sliding up the neck of the bass before returning to that incredibly low note that really grounds the song.  All the way through this, Turner is playing some great drum parts–great off kilter rhythms that marry the snare with the toms in complex patterns. And then ending the song by sliding his stick across the top of the cymbals to create a high-pitched squeak.

The final song “Window” opens with a kind of contemporary classical piano melody.  The drums and bass starts playing a great counterpoint and the song just takes off from there.  There’s a false ending where everything stops, just briefly before resuming once more. It’s never clear who to pay attention to during any of these songs, there’s all so fun to watch.

[READ: January 4, 2017] “The Book of Simon”

Simon Rich continues to write very funny, rather blasphemous stories.

This one begins with the story of Job, the righteous Hebrew in the land of Uz.  He had more faith in God than anyone.  Satan made a wager with God that Job would not be so faithful if his life was hard.  And so Satan made Job’s life miserable but still Job praised God.

Four thousand years later however, the Hebrews had become less religious.  Oh there were still bar mitzvahs, but the themes were about Broadway or sports and the parents would hire dancers to come and teach the children dances, may of which were sexually suggestive.

So Satan started gloating.

And by the 21st century he would lean in and say “What’s yup now?  Or even more aggressively, ‘Sup now?” And this put God’s self-esteem at an all time low. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CLOUD NOTHINGS-Live at Massey Hall (October 4, 2017).

Cloud Nothings are, to my knowledge, the first non-Canadian band to be featured on this Live at Massey Hall series.  The band (which was at one time the solo project of Dylan Baldi) is from Cleveland.

Baldi talks about growing up in Cleveland, Rush and cover band and then putting music online and getting found out.

“Pattern Walks” opens with a great rumbling loud bassline from TJ Duke. This is without a doubt the loudest show of the series (so far).  Baldi has a great rock singing voice that falls somewhere between Kurt Cobain and Paul Westerberg..  The music for this song is fast and loud with some great ringing out guitars from one of the guitarist while the other plays some melodic sections.  The backing vocals (from Duke) just help to bring the melody forward.  The nonstop pounding drums (from the utterly remarkable Jauson Gerycz) keep up the relentlessness.  I love that both guitarists (Baldi and Gris Brown) play a squalling feedback solo at the same time but also independent of each other.

The end of the song is kind of feedback jam which Baldi describes (they intercut his interview) as “lots of parts that are sort of free-form…live we can just go off into more self-indulgent occasionally boring things.  And that’s what I like.  Hopefully it’s not too much.  That kind of stuff is more fun for me than playing the same song every night.”

Psychic Trauma is a bit more poppy/Replacements-sounding.  Even when it thumps in double time for the chorus, it’s still petty clean.

“Modern Act” is the catchiest so far.  Midway through the song Brown plays a solo and its fun to watch him manipulate the sound by playing with the dials on his pedals.

Duke says to the crowd that Neil Young Live at Massey Hall 1971 is one of my favorite records of all time so I’m a little freaked to be here.  Thank you all.

“Fall In” is a thumping pounding track with a whaling guitar solo.  Once again Gerycz is just a flurry of activity.  While “I’m Not Part of Me” is really catchy.  The middle has a fun section that sounds like a great lost Replacements bridge.

“Wasted Days” is the last song.  It opens with both guitarists playing different thing until the drums pounds in.  And once again the drums are amazing throughout.  The song lasts about 3 minutes when it slows down to a slapping drum and Baldi manipulation effects pedals while he continues to solo.  Brown plays with high notes.  The propulsion during this jam seems to be controlled by the drummer who is going fast and slow intermittently until he exhausts himself.  Meanwhile, Duke plays a steady two-note bass over and over.  After two minutes of that the band jumps aback up and starts again.   After nearly ten minutes incredible minutes, the final chorus returns.

It’s an amazing show.

[READ: February 1, 2018] “The Clockmaker”

I had a really hard time following this story at first.  Partially because I didn’t know what an animacula was–and whose fault is that?

A carafe filled with water has been sitting on a table for a week.  The animacula (microbial creatures) “had attained a great antiquity.”

These creatures delighted in astronomy and philosophy.  They based the theory of their world on everything they saw around them–light from the windows and of course the giant clock that sat across from them.  One philosopher thought of a clock maker theory of the world–a giant anilaculum of unheard of bigness who did something to the clock every day.

This version was widely accepted as the truth.  They identified the giant man with the sun and began to think of him as the Clockmaker. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ESQUIVEL-Merry X-mas From the Space-Age Bachelor Pad (1996).

Esquivel was a master of the Space-Age Lounge/jazz music.  He combined groovy chill lounge music but he added zipping steel guitar sounds and backing vocals like “Zoo zoop!  Pow!”

And of course, his records were mixed as stereo masterpieces for kick ass hi-fi equipment.  He flourished in the late 50s but had a resurgence in the 1990s, when this collection was released.  All of these songs were recorded in the late 1950s.

Esquivel himself doesn’t sing on these tracks (he does provide the spoken intro (with music by Combustible Edison)) on a terrific “Jingle Bells” (zoo zoo zwee).  The rest of the songs feel delightfully loungey with fun accents from the insturmets and vocals.  Xylophones, keybaords and great use of strings.

It feels cheesey, and it kind of is, but the musicianship and experimentation are very cool.  This is great addition to anyone’s Christmas collection.  Sprinkle a few of these songs into a mix and see if people zu zu zoom along.

Jingle Bells
White Christmas
Here Comes Santa Claus
Parade of the Wooden Soldiers
The Christmas Song
Frosty the Snowman
Snowfall
Sun Valley Ski Run
Blue Christmas
Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
Auld Lang Syne (Adios from Esquivel!)

[READ: December 19, 2017] “The Friend”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection. (more…)

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