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Archive for the ‘Hospitals’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: HEATHER LEIGH-“Soft Season” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

Opening with a kind os squealing feedback and heavy bass and drums, it is pretty hard to believe that Heather Leigh is playing the pedal steel guitar but Lars assures us that’s what’s happening

Heather Leigh is among a group of artists who are reshaping the sound of the pedal steel guitar. [Her new] solo album stretches her noise/improv background into songwriting territory. With an elastic sense of time and a beguiling voice, Heather Leigh hears a new world drenched in aqueous echo.

After a brief opening Leigh starts singing–a kind of high operatic voice that works well with the feedbacking style of guitar she’s playing–like she’s almost singing along to the guitar melody, but not exactly.  The middle is quieter, more mellow, a “prettier more conventional sound.”  The song cycles through the original noisy sound, and back to the quieter music before ending on that feedback opening.  That powerful music crescendoes and then the song closes out with an a capella couple of lines.

You can her it and a couple other songs on her bandcamp site.

[READ: January 3, 2019] “Come In, Come In”

This story concerns a woman and her contractor, Louie.  He came highly recommended but he is taking forever.  Every time she assumes he will finish a project in her bathroom, he seems to have messed something up and needs to replace it.

The tiles were askew.  Even the tub was askew. He apologized and fixed it of course, but come on.

And if that weren’t bad enough, he had just sent her a text love letter.  “Lady Joanna, the more I see you the more I want to see you.”

She was annoyed at the absurdity “single woman + contractor = absurd.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VANILLA FUDGE-Vanilla Fudge (1967).

I’m still puzzled by the existence of Vanilla Fudge.  By 1967 I wouldn’t think that a band who existed primarily on covers would be viable.  I also wouldn’t think that an album that is all covers would have been marketable.  But I guess the fascinating sound of Vanilla Fudge–lots of organ, screamed vocals and a heavy rhythm section covering recent hits at a drastically reduced speed was a sensation.

Evidently they influenced everyone (Led Zeppelin opened for them and Richie Blackmore and Jon Lord loved the organ sound and wanted it for Deep Purple) and are considered a link between psychedelia and heavy metal.

The first song is a cover of The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” of all songs. The Beatles released it in 1965 and two years later the Fudge put heir spin on it.  It is pretty much unrecognizable until they get to the lyrics.  Singer Max Stein takes the lyrics smooth and slow until he starts screaming like a heavy metal song (I can hear an Ian Gillan precedent).   After the “Ri-ii-iide,” in the chorus there’s a little guitar riff that stands out amid all of the organ.

“People Get Ready” (also originally from 1965) also starts unrecognizable until 90 seconds in when there’s a nod to the main riff and then a lot of harmony vocals. By nearly 2 minutes, the main melody of the song is played slowly on a church style organ and they sing the chorus in a kind of church choir.  The whole song is pretty much all organ and Stein crooning.

“She’s Not There” (recorded by The Zombies in 1964) is organ heavy with a build up for each line The song feels really psychedelic with Stein’s screamed vocals, and Appice’s drumming.  I really rather like the backing vocals.

“Bang Bang” (1966) was written by Sonny Bono is noisy with crashing drums and intermittent guitar surrounded by the Hammond organ.  About 2 minutes in, he sings in a childlike voice “Ring Around The Rosy” and “A Tisket a Tasket.”  I don;t know the original at all, but can;t imagine how it went.

After an introduction called “Illusions of My Childhood, Pt. 1” which is basically 20 seconds of keys, they get into their first hit a cool, slow cover of “You Keep Me Hanging On.”  I find that with the Vanilla Fudge, it’s the songs I don’t know as well that I enjoy their treatment of more.

“Take Me for a Little While” is less than 3:30 after the introductory “Illusions of My Childhood, Pt. 2.”  It ends with a melody of the Farmer in the Dell before the martial beat introduces us to the next song.

After the 25 seconds of “Illusions of My Childhood, Pt. 3” the official cover of “Eleanor Rigby” begins completely unlike any version of the song.  It’s just keys and such until about 3 minutes when they start singing “oh, look at all the lonely people” in a kind of choir.  When the actual lyrics come in, they are sing quietly or in a group chorale.  They end the song by chanting “they do, they do.”  It’s a complete reinvention of the songs.

The record ends with them singing a denouement of “nothing is real, nothing to get hung about.”

There really is nothing else like this band.  But they seem far more like a novelty than a foundation of a musical style.  And they’re still touring today.

[READ: February 1, 2016] “The Actual Hollister”

I really like Dave Eggers’ writing style. It always seems casual yet dedicated.  Like he might not really care that much about what he’s going to tell you but that he paid a lot of attention while he was getting ready to bring it to you.  That attitude kind of helps especially when reading something that you yourself don’t really have a care about (to start with).

This story is about Hollister, California.  Eggers says he was inspired to go there because he had been seeing those sweatshirts that say Hollister on them.  [At this point I have t confess that I have seen them, but don’t really register them and didn’t know it had anything to do with Abercrombie and Fitch].

And thus the story bifurcates into the story of the brand and the story of the town.  And never shall they meet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TIMBER TIMBRE-Live at Massey Hall (July 8, 2014).

I’ve known about Timber Timbre for years but I seem to always get them mixed up with someone else .  I think of them as a dark synthy pop band, which is entirely false.  Their sound has been described as having “an aesthetic rooted in swampy, ragged blues” and “beautifully restrained blues from an alternate universe.”

Their music is cinematic and kind of spooky and their’s is the first of the Massey hall videos in which the stage is very dark.  It seems barely lit at all.

Taylor Kirk seems to be the main voice of the band (he sings as well).  He says he used to take the train to Massey Hall.  And says there is something that affords a big audience and intimacy at the same time.  He wonders what the band could possibly do after this.  He thinks it’s impossible that they sold it out.

“Grand Canyon” comes alive with washes of guitars and synths (Mathieu Charbonneau) and thumping drums (Olivier Fairfield) before Kirk speaks the lyrics:

From the Phoenix liftoff
Somewhere over Blackfoot reserve
High above Drumheller
Sky hostess starts to serve
Cloud shadows on the mountain
And our shadow on the mountainside
After Salt Lake City
I have time to close my eyes

The music is a soundscape with washes of atmosphere and some noisy feedbacking guitar from Simon Trotter.

Kirk says, “Welcome to the most exciting night of my entire life.”  He asks “Are you ready for this shit?” as the woozy echoing guitar chords open “Hot Dreams,” with the peculiar lyrics

I wanna dance, I wanna dance
I wanna dance with a black woman
It’s peculiar because it never returns to that idea in any way throughout the song
I wanna still, I wanna still
I wanna still my mind
And I wanna chance, I wanna chance
I want another chance
To distill
To distill that time
And I wanna write, I wanna write
I wanna write to someone so true
I wanna wake, I wanna wake
I wanna wake from hot dreams
Hot dreams of you
Oh hot dreams

There s a kind of Nick Cave vibe in his storytelling singing style the song stays pretty quiet until the guitar solo rings out.

“Bad Ritual” opens with moody guitars, a simple drum beat and noir piano and echoing guitars.  I love the way he sing/speaks the lyrics and the single piano note that echoes throughout the end of the song.

“Creep On Creepin’ On” sounds like an old 50 songs the way it starts, but with a more sinister keyboard spiking moments.  The lyrics are suitably disarming:

Oh, I buried my head in my hands
I buried my heart there in the sand
I was cocked, blocked, cured and charmed
I was ferociously put upon until it was clear
I should not keep on, I’ll just creep on creepin’ on

“Trouble Comes Knocking” ends the show with a slow, menacing riff with echoing synths sitting on top.  That jittery vibrating synth is there through all of the splashes of noise and menace that the echoing guitars provide.

It’s a pretty great set.  The band is really transportive live.

[READ: March 1, 2018] Otherworld

Segel and Miller’s first trilogy, Nightmares!, was terrific.  It was funny and exciting.  Frightening and yet safe enough for kids.  I absolutely loved the audiobook of it (and my daughter listens to it all the time).

I had forgotten that they were writing a new series and then I saw this book at the library.  I was curious if there was an audio book version, but I was so intrigued to read it that I didn’t even bother to look for one.  I also feel that I have Segel’s voice in my head pretty well at this point (and yet I still want to hear what he does with this collection–maybe I’ll listen to this book when the next book comes out).

In an interview with Segel and Miller they said that the biggest difference between writing a kids book and a YA book was that they didn’t have to censor themselves as much. That’s true here.  The language isn’t over the top, but there are a few four letter words thrown in.  The biggest difference is that since the main characters are teenagers, they talk about sex (a little) and the violence they experience is a bit more gruesome.  But otherwise it reads a lot like Nightmares did–a great combination of fast plotting and intriguing ideas mixed with some (dark) humor. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE BREEDERS-Tiny Desk Concert #731 (April 16, 2018).

Gah!  The Breeders do a Tiny Desk Concert and you only get 3 songs in 11 minutes?

I understand that three songs is accepted for the Tiny Desk, but come on!  Other bands have been eking out nearly 20 minutes, you’ve got Kim Deal and the original line up in front of recording devices having a grand old time and you don’t ask for a fourth song. Well, perhaps they just didn’t want to.

The Breeders play three songs. Two new ones and one old one (which comes not from one of the albums with this original line up, but from Title TK).

What’s most notable about this Tiny Desk is just how goofy they all (especially Kim who is laughing almost throughout the whole show), it seems.

“MetaGoth” seems to open in the middle of the song, like they just started recording while they were jamming.  Josephine Wiggs is on lead guitar, Kim Deal is on bass and Kelley Deal is making some fascinating noises on her guitar (this is especially true later in the song when she seem to be simply scratching up and down the strings with her blue gloves).  Kim and Josephine are duetting lead vocals with Josephine speaking and Kim delicately singing over her.  About midway through the song we cam see that drummer Jim MacPherson is hitting heir roadie in the head with his brushes and the roadie is going “chhhh” to be a cymbal.  The song is weird and cool and very Breeders.

As they set up for “All Nerve” Josephine switches to bass, Kim takes acoustic guitar. Kelley stays on electric guitar but takes over as the spoken vocal  underneath Kim’s quiet leads.   Kelley’s voice is echoed pretty heavily and almost creepily.  It’s got a very cool sound, but is quite short.

“Off You” is a nearly 6 minute delicate, surf rock-feeling song.  The song begins with “Kim Deal’s faux-exasperation at Josephine Wiggs for starting a wind-up toy just before a song.”  Kelley says “you guys can sing along if you know the words.”  Kim chides, “no they’ll be out of pitch, Shut up Kelley.”  They start the song, “1, 2, here we go. fuck, shit, 1, 2, here we go” (Kim apparently messed up but it’s unclear to me what she did.  For this song Kelley switches to bass (and is apparently reading the sheet music).  She has taken off the blue wrist guards she had on.  Kim is on electric guitar and is playing it in a fascinating way–holding it almost vertically and strumming gently on the neck–laughing as she sings the vocals.  Jim doesn;t have anything to do and Josephine isn’t doing much for the first minute or so.  She is sitting up front on a desk but when the time comes she plays bass as well–doing some lead bass lines.  The roadie who was the cymbal is now playing the more lead guitar parts while Kim strums.  There’s a lot going on for such a quiet song.

As the Concert ends, Kim apparently stands at attention just repeating thank you, thank you.  Maybe they didn’t want to do four songs after all.

[READ: April 12, 2018] “How Did We Come to Know You?”

This was a fascinating story that went more or less around the world to talk about family.

Arkady left the Soviet Union with his mother and brother when he was 4.  He now finds himself back in Moscow looking after his elderly grandmother, who is nearly ninety.  As the story opens, he has grown a little tired of “babysitting” her and has let her go out by herself–where she falls on the stairs and needs a hospital.  The ambulance takes her nearly an hour away to a national hospital.

When they left the Soviet Union, Arkady’s brother Dima was 16.  Dima remained Russian in outlook and when the Soviet Union collapsed, he returned to Moscow.  Dima lived with his grandmother and was involved in all kinds of businesses.  He called Arkady to look after their grandmother because he was going to London for (no doubt questionable) business and he didn’t want anything to happen to his grandmother (or her apartment) while he was gone.

As it turns out, Arkady was happy to get out of New York for a time as well. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KUINKA-Tiny Desk Concert #716 (March 9, 2018).

Kuinka are a happy band.  Smiles are on all four members’ faces as they play their three songs.

Miranda Zickler says that they spend all of their time in the van listening to NPR, so this is pretty exciting for them.

The blurb says:

Last year I came across Kuinka (coo-WINK-uh), a band from Seattle… Kuinka’s live performance knocked me out even more than the creative video they’d submitted for the contest.

Since then, Brothers Zach (guitar) and Nathan (mandolin) Hamer, along with Miranda Zickler (keys) and Jillian Walker (cello), have come to D.C. for an official performance at the Tiny Desk, bringing with them their great harmonies and unique blend of energetic, string-band music with a dose of synth.

I’m not sure what the band sounds like normally–if they typically play electronic drums or what, but as the blurb notes

The songs are performed here on relatively tiny instruments, including a ukulele, a drum pad, a small synth, a mandolin and a banjo, along with an electric guitar. But the performance is fleshed out beautifully with rousing vocal harmonies.

All three tracks performed here are from Kuinka’s 2017 EP Stay Up Late, and each one has its own charm.

“Curious Hands” has lead vocals by Miranda.  There’s a cello, keys and Nathan playing a small acoustic six string guitar (or ukulele?).  He gets a pretty big (largely percussive) sound out of that little thing.  But it’s the harmonies that are really spectacular.  I feel like the electronic drums are a little too electronic for this largely folk band but whatever.

For “Spaces,” Zach switches from electronic drums to electric guitar.  He also sings lead with an unexpected twang.  Nathan has switched to mandolin which gives the whole song a kind of Americana vibe.  The electronic drums sound they chose is awful, but there’s a really cool synth sound between verses that prevents this from being overtly in one genre.

Miranda “explains” the name of the band: Kuinka is like kuinka-dink but it doesn’t have anything to do with that, it’s just a coincidence [that’s our ‘bit’].

The blurb’s recommendation to stay until “Mistakenly Brave” is a good one as it is the most rousing song.  They revert back to previous instruments, although Miranda plays banjo.  The harmonies are terrific (much better than the solo vocals, honestly).  It’s got that whole The Head and the Heart vibe going on.  Big soaring vocals and a cool break that leads to a rollicking coda.  Mid way through, Zach switches back to electric guitar to add some oomph.

[READ: April 20, 2016] Endpoint

John Updike died in January 2009 after decades of writing for the New Yorker and elsewhere.  As the news settled in the magazine ran this tribute to him in the March 16 issue.

Rather than running a story, they published a ten-poem sequence called “Endpoint,” (I didn’t even know he wrote poetry).  Most of these poems were written in 2008, while presumably, he knew he was dying from lung cancer.

Endpoint (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FIRST AID KIT-Drunken Trees EP (2008).

First Aid Kit is a band made of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg.  When they released this debut EP, Johanna was 18 and Klara was 15.  It was produced by their dad and made a big splash in Sweden.  When they uploaded a video of their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” (included on the reissue of this disc) Fleet Foxes linked to it and raved about it and that brought them more attention.

This album feels homemade in the best way.  It feels quiet and cozy–like a family sitting around a fireplace playing guitar and autoharp (their dad was in a band as well, and he plays on the album too).

“Little Moon” opens with a lengthy spoken section (over a pretty melody).  The sisters start singing in harmony after a minute and the song is cute (the ra ra ra ra section is a little jarring).  “You’re Not Coming Home Tonight” has a surprisingly grown up sentiment:
Yeah you cooked his dinners
You raised his children
Still he’s not satisfied
He says “I’d rather switch with you
You don’t know how hard it is
To work from 9 to 5”

But the heroine of the story leaves the man and sets off on a new life.  “Tangerine” is a bit less empowering–and it sure seems like there was some kind of domestic trouble at home (although there doesn’t seem to have been): “I’m not going to beg just say please, please, please / Be good to me.”

“Jagadamba, You Might” this is a darker, slower song, and like the first song they sing “Jagadamba” as a kind of syllabic sound which is strangely jarring.

“Our Own Pretty Ways” is the fullest sounding song with a flute and a prominent two-step.  “Pervigilo” features an organ and runs over 5 minutes.  It’s a pretty song and while never striking, it doesn’t overstay its welcome either.  “Cross Oceans” has a loud (for them) bass and drum rumble.  It hints at a direction they would explore more but ultimately deviate from.

The addition of “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” is a treat as their harmonies are really striking in the chorus–the way they know when to harmonize and when to keep the harmonies a bit more distant.  It’s really striking.

The album is a strong beginning.  They are certainly still finding their way, but it’s a pretty and fun recording.

[READ: January 8, 2018] “Whoever Is There Come on Through”

My brief exposure to Colin Barrett suggests that he writes about Ireland and drugs.  This story is about Ireland and drugs.

Eileen is waiting for her friend Murt at the bus depot.  He has just gotten out of rehab.  The first thing he asked was who won the U.S. election.  “Whoa,” he said flatly.

They have been friends–very close, but never more than friends–for a dozen years. When they were sixteen, he confessed to having a crush on her, but she said they should just be friends.  A few weeks later he we into the hospital for the first time.  She naturally blamed herself, but he assured her that she was just one of a bunch of causes.

When he arrived at her car he asked her to take him to his Uncle Nugent’s.  He talked a bit about his current state and then asked to go to McDonald’s.  He ordered two Happy Meals and then wondered if they ever ask adults who order Happy Meals if there is a child with them.  Murt says he is tired, which automatically raises red flags for Eileen, but she didn’t want to be too pushy with him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STARBUCKS Hi-Fidelity Holiday (1998).

This is one of my favorite Holiday CDs.  Say what you will about Starbucks (and I know you will), they know their audience (even if I don’t drink coffee).  Almost the entire CD is excellent, or at least in that groovy Hi-Fi style.  There are a few songs that don’t quite fit with the others, but overall, this is a keeper.

ESQUIVEL-“Jingle Bells”
I love Esquivel, and this space age jingle Bells is just the most fun.  You look ravishing tonight.

KEB’ MO’-“Jingle Bell Jamboree”
Keb’ Mo’ is a great performer, but this song doesn’t quite fit on this CD.  Especially after Esquivel.  Maybe if it was a little later in the sequence?  But the song itself is great and should be heard more at Christmas time.

COCTEAU TWINS-“Winter Wonderland”
I have loved Cocteau Twins for decades.  This version of “Winter Wonderland” has been a perennial favorite.  I love what they do with the song and how they keep it faithful but make it their own.  This should have followed Esquivel.

DEAN MARTIN-“Baby It’s Cold Outside”
This song is problematic for many reasons.  But if you can get past the creepiness, Dean’s version is fun.  It’s interesting that the female singers are practically a chorus of voices.

COMBUSTIBLE EDISON-“Sleigh Ride”
I’ve pretty much forgotten about Combustible Edison, but I love this swinging instrumental version of this song.  It’s totally terrific.

LEONARD COHEN-“Hallelujah”
This is not a Christmas song.  At all. It is also so over played that I never really want to hear it again.

XTC-“Thanks for Christmas”
I love this song.  It’s bright and happy and the XTC voices and guitars are just perfect.

EL VEZ-“Christmas Wish”
I have a soft spot for El Vez, but man I don’t care for this version of this song.  It’s not bad, but I kept thinking it was some B list actor form a 1950s rock n roll film (like Arch Hall).  I suppose if it was more in the El Vez spirit I’d enjoy it more.

JAMES BROWN-“Merry Christmas, Baby”
I like this song except it always bugs me that there’s a line about not being drunk but being all lit up like a Christmas Tree.  James seems a little not into this recording, to be honest.

THE ALARM-“Happy Christmas (War is Over)”
This song bugs me.  I think it’s the obnoxious (but well meaning) idea that war can be over if we want it.  But whatever.  This version is kind of flat, which is springing given The Alarm is all stadiumed out most of the time.

THE TEMPTATIONS-“Little Drummer Boy”
This song is tough to pull off.  The Temptations were a little flat at first I thought, but they pulled through to the end and won me over.

PEGGY LEE-“I Like a Sleighride (Jingle Bells)”
This song is weird and fun.  The “I like a sleighride” chorus is weird and kind of creepy, but it’s got a real fun feel overall.

ROBBIE ROBERTSON-“Christmas Must Be Tonight”
So I listened to this song and had literally no recollection of ever hearing it before–even though I have listened to this disc every year for a decade.  And even now, I have no recollection of it either.

THE BLUE HAWAIIANS-“We Four Kings (Little Drummer Boy)”
Is it because I have heard every Christmas song a million times that I gravitate to the oddball recording?  Probably.  I love this surf guitar instrumental version of “We Three Kings,” it brightens my day.

BOBBY DARIN-“Christmas Auld Lang Syne”
This is a classic.  It used to bug me that he goes so over the top with the LOOOOOOORD business at he end, but it doesn’t bug me much anymore–its makes me smile.  I really like the melody and the way the songs are conflated.

Overall this is a great collection of songs.  It’s not all as groovy and space-age as it appears, but it’s still good holiday fun.

[READ: December 1, 2017] “Skinks”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This story is told by a little boy, Wendell, who wants to be called Dilly.  He tells us that Jesse doesn’t like it when he calls him Dad.  Jesse always says “Two things.”  Like “One, your dad left a long time ago and two, although you don’t want to say he’s your dad, he still is.  I’m not.  Clear?

Clear.  Clear as mud, he says.

Jesse is now in the hospital and the boy has been talking to his mom a lot.

When he goes into Jesse’s room the pastor is in there.  “He thinks all the answers are in that book,” his mother says to him.  She then says to the pastor, “I know it’s serious, but that was years ago when you both loved getting into trouble.  He’s different now.”

The pastor bristles at this and says “some of us know better than to get into fights over things people say.”

There’s a lot of observations from the boy about his mother (and what both she and Jesse say about women in general)

And sometimes he just goes in and talks to Jesse, which he thinks is weird, but he does it anyway.  When he heard there was skink in the hospital he knew Jesse would want to see it. “It’s a weird word but I like it.”

But mom and a police officer enter and Dilly hears the officer say, “I’m sorry, but things have changed.”  Before he can leave the room he sees that Jesse is now restrained.

The pastor comes out while Dilly is outside and asks Dilly what he’s doing.  When Dilly mentions the skink, the pastor gives him some suggestions about bait and ways to catch them.   During this brief conversation, a lot of truths come out.  About Jesse, about Dilly’s father and about the pastor.

But I feel a little too much like Dilly in this story–like everyone is talking around me.  There’ a few too many gaps that I can’t fill in to fully get what happened.

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