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Archive for the ‘First Second :01’ Category

SOUNDTRACKJENNY LEWIS-Tiny Desk Concert #949 (February 24, 2020).

I was lucky enough to see Jenny Lewis open for Death Cab for Cutie.  I really enjoyed her set and how much fun they all seemed to be having.  Although I guess my version of her show paled in comparison to her headlining show:

Having seen Jenny Lewis’ recent concert spectacle, with its Las Vegas sparkle — complete with a multi-level stage — I loved the contrast her Tiny Desk Concert provided.

There was certainly spectacle, but maybe it was the venue (darker than it should have been) that made it less Las Vegas and more Atlantic City.  But either way, it’s obvious that this Tiny Desk is very different from that set.

Jenny arrived at NPR with just her acoustic guitar and bandmates Emily Elbert, who sang and played guitar, and Anna Butterss on upright bass and vocals. Stripped of all the glitz, it was the words that found their way to my heart. A consummate storyteller, going as far back to her days with her band Rilo Kiley, Jenny’s words have comforted and inspired so many.

She sings two of her three Tiny Desk songs from her fourth solo record, On the Line. These are tough breakup songs, though she redirects all the pain into thoughtful fun.

Jenny plays guitar on “Rabbit Hole” and that upright bass adds some great low notes to Jenny’s high vocals.

She even turned “Rabbit Hole” into an NPR sing-along

The crowd very willingly sings along–except for one person who looks defiantly at the camera instead.

For “Do Si Do” Jenny puts down her guitar and picks up a tambourine.  The low bass notes that start the song are almost shockingly loud and rumbling.  There’s a few very high backing vocals in the song which are all provided by Emily Elbert (I especially like the Ooh ooh ooh and wonder if she does them on record as well).

The blurb also includes this line

and [she] gave us all a Hot Pockets surprise. You’ll have to watch for that one.

That comes when she messes up “Just One Of The Guys.” (or J-O-O–T-G).  I’ve thought that that song sounded really familiar, but never in the way she suggests.

They (thankfully) start the song from the top.  It’s my favorite song of hers and I’m glad to get it all the way through.

The original of this song is super catchy and this quieter version (no electric guitar melodies mid-song) is just as catchy.  Elbert also does a nifty solo (very high up the neck) on the acoustic guitar.

This is another wonderful Tiny Desk Concert that once again I am going to complain is waaay too short.  One of these days, artists I’ve heard of will get more than fifteen minutes.

[READ: March 15, 2020] Investigators

I have loved everything that John Patrick Green has done–Hippopotamister, Kitten Construction Company and now Investigators.  His humor is excellent and his artwork is so clean and enjoyable.

The premise of this book is pretty much based upon the fact that Gators is the last sound in Investigators.  What I mean is that this book is chock full of word play–some of it clever, some of it really dumb and all of it very very funny.

Mango and Brash are the top agents and they are on the case (Brash: “Hey get offa my case!” while Mango stands on Brash’s suitcase).  The case contains a mustache and chef hats.  Turns out that chef Gustavo Mustachio is missing.  Gustavo is the guy on all the pizza boxes and is the chef behind some of the best cupcakes.

There’s a giant creature who has taken him and is demanding that Gustavo cook something perfect. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHRIS DAVE AND THE DRUMHEDZ-Tiny Desk Concert #948 (February 21, 2020).

I was pretty intrigued by the introduction that Chris Dave said before this Tiny Desk Concert

“If you’ve never been to a Drumhedz show… …we’re gonna take you on a quick journey as if you’re going through a record store,” Chris Dave told the NPR Music offices at the top of his set, “picking up different genres of music and putting it in your bag.”

So I was a little disappointed that this Tiny Desk proved to be pretty much a rap showcase.  Although musically they do explore a lot of different sounds and tones.

I love that they open with flute from Kebbi Williams (who is introduced as a “this insane dude”).  It’s some great flute sounds with a cool 70s vibe.

The set snuck in with a serpentine flute line that any ’70s heist flick would be proud to have. Sonic smash-cuts between the musical ideas whisk away the misconception you’re in control of the ride you’re about to take.

There’s very cool sound effects from the keys and guitars as Chris Dave gives his introduction.  I’ve never heard of him, but the blurb says

Chris Dave is reasonably described as your favorite drummer’s favorite drummer, or better yet, your favorite musician’s favorite drummer. … The Houston native leads the Drumhedz behind a trap set, with his unorthodox, stacked crash cymbals and percussive toys.

That cymbal set up is very cool.  One of Chris Dave’s cymbals seems like a bent piece of metal which makes a neat clanging sound.

Out comes vocalist and new Drumhedz member, Aaron Camper who raps over “Black Hole.”  There’s some great wild bass from Thaddaeus Tribbett, who coincidentally recently performed a Tiny Desk Concert with Snoh Allegra.

For the next three songs, Elzhi, formerly of Slum Village, surprised the room with an unannounced cameo, on “Whatever” and inciting the crowd to nod along as the Drumhedz segued into “Tainted,” Slum Village’s turn-of-the-millennium jam.

There’s high-pitched slinky guitars from Isaiah Sharkey and guitar stabs from Tom Ford.  But the most fun person to watch is definitely Frank Moka on percussion.  He’s in a pair of overalls with no shirt on and he seems to have limitless piles of cool percussion instruments back there from shakers and congas to unseen things that make cool sounds.

“Clear View,” is my favorite song of the bunch because Camper sings and he has a fantastic groovy singing style.  The song has a more psychedelic sound with both guitarists playing wah wah chords that rise and fall.  And yes, it’s fun to watch Chris Dave smack all of those cymbals.  The end of the song has a wicked instrumental section while Moki goes crazy on the congas and Thad plays some fast and frenetic rumblings on the bass.

The set ends with a song of gratitude and love of family called “Job Well Done” which he Camper dedicates to his mother.

I did enjoy the musical diversity of this set, although I guess having a guest rapper would necessitate that the set was predominately rap.

[READ: March 15, 2020] Last Pick

This book is the first in a series.  When I saw the thumbnail cover, I assumed it was going to be about unpopular kids who were not picked for teams at school.  Zooming in on the cover, however, will reveal big scary aliens.  And that’s what this story is about!

Recently aliens landed on our planet and took away most of the people between the ages of 16 and 65 (it’s a bit of a scary time to be reading this actually).  Everybody outside of those age groups and those who were sick or “useless” in some way were left behind.

The main characters are Sam and Wyatt, twins who are on the cusp of turning 16.  Sam has always been outgoing and charming, but she also has a temper.  Wyatt is presumably on the autism spectrum.  He is very smart but is socially awkward. It was hard for Sam growing up but she has come to appreciate him over the years.  Especially now that the aliens have taken their parents and they need his brains to survive. (more…)

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81HkprYowjLSOUNDTRACK: SNOH AALEGRA-Tiny Desk Concert #946 (February 18, 2020).

maxresdefault (2)In what seems to be a new trend at the Tiny Desk, here’s another artist whom I’ve never heard of somehow and who manages to cram five songs into 16 minutes.  (I won’t complain about the length of this show because it’s not that long, but everyone knows you get three songs).

The most fascinating things about Snoh is that she is Iranian-Swedish.  And that her band is enormous.  And that they all have great names like: O’Neil “Doctor O” Palmer on keys, George “Spanky” McCurdy on drums and Thaddaeus Tribbett on bass.  There’s also Jef Villaluna on guitar whose name isn’t that crazy,

Unfortunately her songs and albums have terrible names.

Her new album is called Ugh, those feels again and her previous album is called Feels. (and she’s not even millennial).  And then the third song is called “Whoa.”  Good grief,

“Whoa” is a sweet love song that is detailed but not explicit.  Except the chorus which is “you make me feel like, whoa.”

The rest of her songs have a very delicate soft-rock vibe.  Especially with the string section of Ashley Parham on violin, Johnny Walker, Jr. on cello, Asali McIntyre on violin and Brandon Lewis on viola.

But apparently that’s not what her music typically sounds like.

On this day in particular, Aalegra’s tracks were stripped of their punchier, album-version kick drums and trap echoes. In their absence, it’s Aalegra’s delicate vocal runs and chemistry with her supporting singers that resonated most. “I Want You Around” and “Whoa,” which usually rest on a bed of glitchy, spiraling production, felt lighter thanks to the dreamy string section.

All of the songs featured her backing vocalists Ron Poindexter and Porsha Clay,  but they were especially prominent on “Fool For You” which ran all of two minutes.

Snoh seemed a little too cool up there, which did not endear me to her.  Her voice is certainly pretty though, even if I didn’t like her songs.

[READ: March 15, 2020] Best Friends

This book is a sequel of sorts to Real Friends.

It continues the story of young Shannon in sixth grade and how she deals with the minefields that middle school can present.

The same cast is back–the good and bad friends, the girls and boys and all of the insecurities that are practically a character in themselves.

As the book opens, Shannon realizes that she and her friends are not really in sync. She can’t keep up with the pop songs that they like–how do they always know the newest cool song (her family doesn’t listen to pop music so she is way out of the loop).

But aside form that, things seem good.  Shannon is best friends with Jen, the most popular girl in their class.  And since they are the oldest grade in school, Jen is therefore the most popular girl in school.

But the girls are always sniping at each other or trying to get Shannon so say nasty things about one of the other girls behind her back (while the girl was listening).  Shannon never did, though, because she is really a good person.  Something the other girls could use some help with, (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOUNTAIN MAN-“You and I” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

Mountain Man is a trio of three women with beautiful voices.  They often sing a capella or with one guitar accompaniment.  There music is quiet, designed for you to lean in to hear better.

The original song is a gentle folk song (with some gently rocking moments).  Mountain Man make it even more gentle.  The original has a vocal harmony from Feist.  Having a two harmony voices makes this version even more special.

Alexandra Sauser-Moning plays guitar (and maybe sings lead?) while Amelia Meath and Molly Sarle sing gorgeous harmonies.

As with everything Mountain Man does, it’s delicate and lovely.

[READ: February 11, 2020] The Time Museum: Vol. 2

Volume 2 opens up with very little explanation about what happened before.  In fact, it jumps right in the middle of a chase.  A purple creature with four tentacles is running away from Delia in an amusement park.  The purple creature is a kid and he doesn’t know why he’s being chased.  Delia communicates through her wrist watch that the kid has the Icono de Prestigo.

The rest of the beginning of the book has Delia’s Epoch Team chasing this (very fast) kid as he flees with the Icono.  The kid finally settles in the middle of an exhibit for Monstro the Terrible.  They freak out and don’t want to see the kid hurt, but he says his dad works there and the exhibit has been empty for years.  Which proves to be false as immediately Monstro (who looks a lot like the monsters in Stranger Things) awakens and swallows the kid.

Through some brave and disgusting techniques the kid and the icono are rescued.

After all of that, the kid hands over the icono and says its probably all melted anyway.  What?  Then they see him walk by with another one–the icono is actually a container for an ice cream sundae.  The Team was hundreds of years too late to save the actual relic.  When they return they are given a reprimand. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TXT (투모로우바이투게더) ‘Cat & Dog’ (2019).

Because this book is about cats and dogs, I was going to put “Cats & Dogs” from The Head and The Heart as this song.  Bit when I searched for “Cats & Dogs” the first video was for this song.  And any band whose name is in a language I can’t read will certainly get posted here.

In fact, I didn’t even realize they were called “TXT” I thought it was something to do with text messaging.

Turns out TXT stands for Tomorrow X Together.  Of course.

The video starts with five cute boys running to the a window and looking out on a cartoon world.  It seemed like The Monkees.

So I was quite surprised when the song started with heavy bass and auto-tuned and I realized that duh, this must be a K-pop band.

I assumed I’d heard of all of the popular K-Pop bands by now (how many could there be?), but here’s one I’d not heard of.  Nevertheless. this song has over 47 million views.

I really don’t know how to talk about K-Pop.

The five of them are adorable and pretty much identical (hair color being the distinguishing factor).  They all seem to dance well (in the heavily edited sequences).  All of their voices are auto-tuned so who knows if they can sing.  They are also singing in at least two languages, so who knows what they are singing.

I assume the language I can’t understand is Korean, although it sounded to me like Spanish at one point (which seems very unlikely).

There’s a repeated refrain of someone gong “brrrp brrrp brrrp” which is a weird but catchy hook for all languages.  I assume that none of the boys’ voices can possibly go deep enough t make that sound.

Apparently, this song has something to do with cats and dogs because there are meows and barks in the song (and in the video they do lots of synchronized cat and dog ear movements).

I’m kind of curious what the chorus actually says–are they saying the word “Pet” or is a Korean word?

At the end he sings I just wanna be your dog, but not in any way like Iggy Pop.

Sometimes it’s fun to dive into music you don’t ever experience.

[READ: February 6, 2020] Kitten Construction Company: A Bridge Too Fur

I really enjoyed the first Kitten Construction Company book.  I loved the premise–not that the kittens were good at building things–but that no one took them seriously because they were so cute.  It allowed for a lot of funny frustrations from our feline friends.

Well, now the city of Mewberg has fully accepted the Kitten Construction Company. They have built a new stadium with updated energy efficiencies and plumbing.

There’s a nice joke that while accepting the adulation for this stadium, architect Marmalade can’t help but knock the microphone stand off the podium.  I only wish that Green had drawn it to look more deliberate–that would have been a lot funnier.  Instead it almost seems like an accident. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: XTC-“The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead” (1992).

XTC is a wonderfully poppy and often quite subversive band.

This song is subversive in overall meaning, but pretty straightforward lyrically.

It’s also got some great guitar sounds.

The song starts with those guitars, a ripping harmonica and some big loud drums.

And then the lyrics mostly follow the idea that if Jesus came around preaching his ideas today, he’d be considered an enemy of everyone.

Peter Pumpkinhead came to town
Spreading wisdom and cash around
Fed the starving and housed the poor
Showed the Vatican what gold’s for
But he made too many enemies
Of the people who would keep us on our knees
Hooray for Peter Pumpkin

Peter Pumpkinhead fooled them all
Emptied churches and shopping malls
When he spoke, it would raise the roof
Peter Pumpkinhead told the truth

Andy Partridge’s delivery is pretty great, too.  The way he sings “slur his name” in the third verse is nicely dark.

There’s some nice pauses before the ringing guitar chords–especially in the final verse–which really emphasize those moments.

The final verse shows his ultimate fate:

Peter Pumpkinhead was too good
Had him nailed to a chunk of wood
He died grinning on live TV
Hanging there he looked a lot like you
And an awful lot like me!

Not a happy ending, but a really catchy song nonetheless.

[READ: October 15, 2019] Pumpkinheads

I haven’t read anything by Rainbow Rowell, but she is the author of Eleanor & Park which I am familiar with.  The art in this book is from Faith Erin Hicks, who I do know and like very much.

This book is set in the most magical autumnal playground that one can imagine: DeKnock’s World Famous Pumpkin Patch & Autumn Jamboree.  By my house we have farms that have corn mazes and pick your own pumpkins and hayrides.  But this place is almost like a Renaissance Faire devoted to autumn.  Although I suppose really, all of the special booths are food related: Pumpkin Bomb Stand; Kettle Corn Kettle; Chili Fries Stand; Poppy’s Apples; Fudge Shoppe; Freeto Pie Stop; S’Mores Pit and the Succotash Hut.

The Hut is where the two main characters Josiah and Deja work.  We learn that Josiah has been the patch’s MVP almost every month for the three years he’s worked there.  But tonight is their last night working at DeKnock’s.  Josiah frets it might be his last time ever seeing the place again!  He truly loves working there–the sights, the sounds, the smells and his autumn friend Deja.  Deja calms him: “we’re going to college, not to Mars.”  But Josiah know it won’t be the same when they come back.  So Deja sets out for them to have the most amazing Halloween ever. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAMIAN ‘JR. GONG’ MARLEY: Tiny Desk Concert #888 (September 8, 2019).

I’m not sure if everyone with the last name Marley becomes a singer, but it sure seems like it.

I had not heard of Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley before, but of all of the Marleys, I think I like his music best (he is Bob’s son).  I had no idea where the “Jr. Gong” came from, but the blurb helpfully says “Jr. Gong” is after his father’s nickname of “Tuff Gong.”

Even though the blurb describes the music as reggae, this set is pretty far from what I consider reggae.  Some components of reggae are there, but it’s mostly in his delivery (and accent) and the backing female vocals–from Roselyn Williams and Sherieta Lewis.

But the main element of reggae–the beat/rhythm/staccato guitar–is completely absent.

“Slave Mill” starts with delicate keys from Sean “Pow” Diedrick.  The song is catchy with great lyrics.  I really like the percussion from Courtney “Bam” Diedrick.  I assume those are brothers known as Bam and Pow, which is great.

I like that the blurb addresses the issue of Bob Marley and yet I feel like Damian is his own musician, with a distinct (if slightly familiar) voice.

Damian’s father cast a giant, magnificent shadow on the world and it can’t be easy to follow in those footsteps as a songwriter and musician.  Damian seems to be undaunted by that legacy and instead draws on it for inspiration and guidance. Not to mention there is more than a hint of his father’s unmistakable singing voice that so often preached the same messages of self-identity and self-determination that his youngest son is now doing so successfully.

He says the second song “So A Child May Follow” is one of his favorite tracks on the album.  He thinks about his nephews and nieces who are young adults now.  The song:

addresses the troubles youth confront around the globe and how to persevere to succeed.

It’s an acoustic ballad.  I like watching Bam play, because after each piano melody, he stops and pounds his fists in the air as the song pauses and resumes.  The main verses features a gentle acoustic guitar from Elton “Elly B” Brown.  It’s a lovely song of optimism in the face of trouble.

They end the set with “Speak Life” which “sums up the message of his music: live a life that will enable us to survive life’s slings and arrows with dignity and love.”

speak life and lead a humble and meek life.

All three songs feature great bass work by Shiah Coore.  I also really love the backing “woah ohs” in the song.

Damian says that they made a video of this song which was shot in Ethiopia and is subtitled in Amharic.  He says that as Rastas, Ethiopia is very close to their hearts.

The end of the blurb makes me wonder if I would enjoy the recorded versions less, since that what I enjoyed so much:

But what makes his music stand out on this session is the prominence of the acoustic guitar and piano in the arrangements, which makes the familiar sound somewhat new.

But he is very charming and funny and he ends the set talking about boxing Babylon vs Natty Dreadlocks.  Then he shouts, “We did it boys.  In the big leagues baby!”

[READ: July 21, 2019] This Was Our Pact

I really enjoyed this graphic novel.  S. had told me about it and told me I’d really like it.  She was right!

The pact of the title is simple.  There are two rules: No one turns for home and No one looks back.

The narrator is Ben.  He is one of five young boys who have made this pact.  The pact revolves around the Equinox Festival, in which the townsfolk send hundreds of lanterns down the river.  Every year a group of kids hopped on their bikes to follow the lanterns.  Usually everyone petered out.  But this year they were going to go all the way. The wondered, “Did they really journey far into the stars, like the old song sang?”

The boys set out following the lanterns.  As soon as they head out, they are followed by, “nerd alert!” Nathaniel.  None of the boys (except Ben) is friendly with him.  Even when Nathaniel says his mom made Rice Krispie treats, they don’t turn around and let him join.

The imagery of the book is beautiful.  It’s largely in blues because the story takes place at night.  The lanterns are little white spots in the blue and black rivers. (more…)

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