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Archive for the ‘Huh?’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-LivePhish 12.01.95 Hersheypark Arnea, Hershey, PA (2006).

Speaking of 12.01.95 (see yesterday’s post), this show is the proper release from the soundchecks for the 11.14.95 disc set.

In addition to formal live releases and a series of 20 full show LivePhish releases (which were packaged in some horrible goo and have subsequently been ruined), Phish has also released some shows a but more formally as LivePhish archival “releases.”  I don’t know if there is any specific reason for the release of any of them, but they seem to out out two or so a year.

There’s a pretty thorough review and essay (with photos) by Kevin Shapiro about the show here.  And it provides a lot more context and Phish lore than I can, but I will quote him below.

The set opens with a fast rollicking version of “Buried Alive” (only 3 minutes long) which segues neatly into an intense “Down with Disease.” The seven minute song ends with Fish playing just high hats for a bit before seguing into “Theme form the Bottom” which is from Billy Breathes out the following year.

When that song ends they play into a fun fast version of “Poor Heart” which segues into “Wolfman’s Brother.”  The staccato ending sequences nicely into a 7 minute “Chalk Dust Torture.”

Then comes the wonderful surprise of “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent.”  As the song segues into “Fly Famous Mockingbird,” Trey takes some time to chat.  He tells the audience a brief history of the planet.  In the time of the ancient Greeks, philosophy, science and religion were all one thing.  Science and religion split off.  The Eastern style stated that everything is one.  Western style focused on matter vs spirit and gave rise to modern concepts of religion.  It seems like he’s getting very serious.  Then he talks about how eastern religious led to cows which led to milk which led to milk chocolate.  Chocolate.   The Mystical Land of Chocolate.  Then he says there is only one place where science religion and philosophy are one thing—Gamehendge.   And then he talks about the Rhombus which can be found in King of Prussia.  Find Wilson Dr.  (Although presumably this gives the truth behind the rhombus).  There’s parts near the end where the song fades in and out in a very cool way.

Then they play a fairly dark version of “Stash” and a rocking version of “Cavern” to end the set.  It’s interesting that “Chalk Dust,” “Stash” and “Cavern” were also on the 11.14.95 set).

Stash followed with a formidable jam that stretched out instrumentally, locking into a dissonant theme that ignited the highest improvisation of the set. The whole band linked up beautifully for this jam, evoking a Dave’s Energy Guide-ish vibe and at points recalling the expectation-smashing heights of the Orlando Stash weeks before. After Stash returned to terra firma, Cavern closed the set, leaving “15 minutes” of recovery and preparation before the even sweeter second set that defined this show.

Set two opens with a chess move from an 11-year-old boy (who is now in his thirties (!!!).  They begin the music with an a capella (doo-wop) version of “Halley s Comet.”  It ends with a cool segue into “Mike’s Song,” a 20 minute jam with a really long piano solo from Page ans a nice end that rumbles into “Weekapaug Groove.”  [Read Shapiro’s eloquent discussion about this transition].  There’s a quiet solo in the middle of the song with a brief clap-along.  But it pulls out of that to get noisy and chaotic by the end.  Things mellow out with “Mango Song” but the crowd erupts for a short (5 minute) fast version of “Wilson.”

Things get a little silly with Fish singing “Suspicious Minds.”  (I just found a video for this—Fish comes out weaving an Elvis Cape and a big glasses.  It ends with a fast “Hold Your Head Up” keyboard romp (with Trey on drums).

When things settle down Fish starts playing the high hats for “David Bowie,” but before the song begins, Trey sings “Catapult.”  And then before the song can begin again, in the trippy intro Trey starts moaning “Chocolate.”  There’s a brief Simpsons riff and a Do’h and then they launch into the song proper (about 2:30 into the song).  There is a long middle with lot so solos and then a fast, tidy ending.

The encore is a romping 7 minute “Suzy Greenberg.” It’s another great show.

Even if it is a bit shorter than the previous one–that personalized chocolate section and the Colonel Forbin’s is pretty great.

[READ: November 25, 2016] Eating Fish Alone/Country Cooking from Central France

I really enjoy Lydia Davis’ stories.  I always find them a little weird since most of the time they feel more like little diary entries rather than stories.  Each narrator seems to be pretty clearly her, and each story seems like a gripe she has about something that happened.

And yet, it is like the best diary entry you’ve ever read.   Most of her stories are a couple of paragraphs long.  I find I don’t really like the longer ones as much, which is kind of ironic given that the short ones seem so short.

So this is a collection of a few of her stories.

“The Mice” is a page and a half about how the mice in their house never go into their kitchen.  Their kitchen is sloppy and full of food–why wouldn’t the mice go there?

“Meat, My Husband” starts with the narrator saying that her husband really loves meat.  His favorite chidhood food was corned beef.  But she, being a healthy person (and perhaps a bit obsessive) hardly makes meat (or uses butter).  But her husband really enjoys a dessert–which he helps to make.

“Happiest Moment” is only one paragraph and is an interesting twist on happiness.

“Kafka Cooks Dinner” is much longer than the others and it gets a little repetitive.  It is told from the point of view of a man looking to make a meal for his dear Milena.  He puzzles over several different options.  He wonders if he should serve the same to her as he did to Felice.

“Eating Fish Alone” is a story all about the neurotic narrator trying to figure out when and what fish she can eat. She says she pretty much only eats it alone because of the smell  But she also a has a list of which fish she can eat–some is safe and others are not.  She often asks the waiters about the fish, even though they don’t know much about the food.  The end sees her eating a marlin steak.

Continuing with the food theme of this book, the other half of the book (flip it) is fully called Country Cooking from Central France Roast Boned Rolled Stuffed Shoulder of Lamb (Farce Double)

This is one of those stories that I never understand why they are written.  Lengthy and very detailed all creating something that is possibly funny, but I’m not sure if it is–making a story out of something that is just a goofy recipe.

It is a 24 page recipe for Farce Double–the specialty of La Tour Lambert.  It is an elaborate (beyond all reason) recipe that might make no sense to a foreigner.

You must marinade the giant lamb parts–in Paris they might use a bidet, you can use a bathtub.  After extensive details you get sentences like: at some previous moment, you will have made the stuffing for the quenelles.

There are clay pots and giant pits and marinating for days and all of that.

The only thing that interrupts the recipe is the song that is sung during a break in the roasting.  This song is about a blacksmith’s son who goes in search of his lost mother.  He finds several women who take care of him, making him believe that each is his mother until she “does for him what mother a never did for her son.”

The feast of farce double is a moment for friendships to be renewed, for enemies to forgive one another, for lovers to embrace.

Serves thirteen.

Uh huh.

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kelly-linkSOUNDTRACK: THE DUDE OF LIFE & PHISH-Crimes of the Mind (1994).

Crimes of the Mind is the debut album from The Dude of Life, Steve Pollak, a childhood friend of Trey Anastasio and a lyrical contributor to many of Phish’s early songs. Phish is the backing band for the entire album.

The album was recorded in 1991 but wasn’t released until 1994. The Dude of Life performed several of these songs in a live setting with Phish on a number of occasions.

Of all of the “Phish” albums, this is the one I listen to the least.

The main riff of “Chalkdust Torture” was used in the song “Self” on this album.

Dude

“Dahlia” is a kind of sloppy rock song—it certainly has a Phish feel to it, but as soon as the vocals come in, you know it’s going to be different.  Lyrically, however, it sounds a lot like crazy early Phish—a song about a girl who is a little nuts and a really catchy melody.  The song has a weird climax with the sucking Cherry Charms Blow Pops line.

“Family Picture” opens with a watery bass, it has a kind of silly Phish-iness to it—you wouldn’t be surprised if Phish played it but again, although Dude’s voice makes it much sillier.  Once again there’s a fun chorus and a rather silly guitar solo.  “Self” is a wonderfully selfish song (“I don’t care about anyone but myself”).  I also like that he rhymes “bluer” with “sewer.”  Once the song starts rocking, it features the main riff as “Chalkdust Torture” and then it really takes off.

“Crimes of the Mind” is a simple song with a catchy chorus.  “She’s Bitchin’ Again” has a very cool guitar riff and motif, and while the lyrics are funny, the addition of the woman bitchin’ at him is a bit much (especially since her voice is quite unpleasant and isn’t quite singing).  “TV Show” is the first thing that’s close to a ballad.  It starts slowly but after the sound of keyboards building and ramping up, the song kicks into high gear with the chorus of “life is a TV show that should have been canceled long ago.”  “Trials and Tribulations” is a funny/weird romantic song about the Swiss Miss, Captain Crunch and Mr Clean, with a cute melody for the guitar riff.

“Lucy in the Subway” is of course a kind of follow up/piss take on “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”  It sounds nothing like The Beatles’ song, being a simple, rather than psychedelic song, but that befits the tone about a girl down on her luck–she is “with daffodils” if you were wondering about the D).   “Ordinary Day” is the kind of simple song—singing about nothing happening—that makes you wonder how people write them.  “Revolution’s Over” is as close to punk as this line up will get—fast drums, fast tinny guitar and a quick riff.  The middle has some funky weird jam stuff

“King of Nothing” is a slow, almost ponderous song (except that Dude’s voice is more goofy than deep).

Since Pollak contributed much to Phish’s early silliness it’s not surprising that these songs are rather silly too.  But the band plays really well and holds it all together.

[READ: November 14, 2016] Stone Animals

Back in 2014, I ordered all 16 books from Madras Press. believing that I’d been told about a cool gem of a publisher.  And I had been. Unfortunately, after publishing the 16 books they seem to have gone out of business or so. They still have a web presence where you can buy remaining copies of books.  But what a great business idea this is/was

Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors.  The format of our books provides readers with the opportunity to experience stories on their own, with no advertisements or miscellaneous stuff surrounding them.

The format is a 5″ x 5″ square books that easily fit into a pocket.

Proceeds from Link’s book go to The Fistula Foundation.

Many of the books from Madras Press have been unusual–some of them downright surreal.  And this book, which finished up series 3, is no exception.

I started to read this when I was on a camping trip–I was tired and exhausted from a long day, and I genuinely thought I was having lack of concentration issues because this story didn’t really seem logical.  When I read it again in the light of day, it still didn’t exactly seem logical, but I was able to follow it a little better.

The story follows a family–husband and wife and two kids.  They are moving from New York City to the suburbs.  The house that they are purchasing has two giant stone rabbits on the front porch.  The children’s don’t want to leave the city exactly but the adults are pleased with the house. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE NATIONAL-First Listen Live: The National, ‘Sleep Well Beast’ (September 5, 2017).

On August 17, Union Transfer sent out a message that World Café and NPR Music present a First Listen Live with The National on September 5 at that very club.  I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant–was the audience going to sit there and listen to the record together?  Was the band going to be there?  I assumed they would play it live, but who knew.  I also didn’t really love The National enough to find out.  I like them sure, but I don’t know that I would have gone to see them anyhow.

I have since grown to really love “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” and while I probably couldn’t have gone to the show anyway (busy night) and it sold out pretty quickly anyhow, I was pretty glad that NPR has the show available for stream (right here).  The album sounds great and I was really delighted with how lighthearted singer Matt Berninger was and how good the band sounds.

I was also surprised by how piano-based these songs are.  Not that the band doesn’t have pianos in their songs, but I think of them as more guitar driven, while nearly every one of these songs is led by piano.  Since I don’t know all that much about the band, I also didn’t realize that in addition to Berninger, the rest of the band is two sets of brothers: guitar dueling by twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner and brothers Scott and Bryan Devendorf on bass and drums.

Since I wasn’t there, I’ll reply on Bob Boilen’s description of the show:

The concert began with a sharply dressed Matt Berninger comically mixing up his own lyrics as he sang, “You said we’re not so tied together, what did you mean? Meet me in the bathroom in a second, for a glass of gin,” instead of “meet me in the stairwell.”  It foreshadowed Matt’s frenetic performance throughout the night as he cast off that sport coat, rolled up his sleeves and led the band in a fun and inspired performance of these new songs. The show ended with Matt pitching his plastic cup full of clear liquid into the crowd in a frenzy of strobe light mania.

The group was joined throughout the night by Arone Dyer of Buke and Gase (who also sings on the new record), along with Ben Lanz on trombone and keyboard (and everything else), Kyle Resnick on trumpet, keys and backing vocals (and everything else).

Unlike recent record release parties that didn’t really feel like record release parties, this show was what I expected the other ones to be like–a band playing their new album front to back (in fairness the other three shows of this ilk were more indie in nature (and weren’t on the radio) so they could do what they wanted).  So indeed, the band played the album front to back (and went on around 8PM, sop they were done by 9:30, I’d guess).

As the show began, Berninger came out and in his deep voice said, “Hows it going,  hello.”  Someone shouted, “Play ‘Karen.'”  Berninger laughed and said, “it’s pronounced Kuh-RIN, come on.  How many time do I have to…”  (“Karen” is a song on their earlier album Alligator and “Carin at the Liquor Store” is a new song).

The album feels quite spare with minimal instrumentation, but the spaces are full of interesting music.  There’s a lot of piano on “Nobody Else Will Be There.”  At the end, as it says above he says, “I screwed up the first verse.  The first verse was wrong.  [mock angry] Do it again. [Laughs and says in a mock pissy voice] “We’re going to do everything again until it’s right.”

“Day I Die” has squeaky guitars and a funky bass.  Berninger after the song: Oops can I get a towel [pronounced towl].  Thanks a lot.  Next is ‘Walk It Back.’  Is there a towel anywhere?  I kind of walked it back into my drink.  Thanks, Ev.  Evan Middlesworth!  [cheers]  That’s all he does.  [singsong] Evan, you missed a spot.  [chuckles].  The song is spare with piano and a rather complex drum pattern.  The l vocals are almost recited.

Arone Dyer from Buke and Gass helped a lot on this record.  This is the person you hear at the beginning of this song. This is “The System Only Dreams [cheers] Wait!  I’m not done with the title yet [laughs].  This may be one of my favorite songs this year.  It sounds a bit different here–not bad, just live.  But by the end it totally rocks out.

“Born to Beg” is a slow ballad with some lovely backing vocals from Dyer.  After the song Berninger announces “Johnny Brenda’s tonight at 11: Buke and Gass.”  Now that;s a show I would have really liked to see.  Had I gotten tickets to The National, I would have hung around town and gone to Buke and Gass for sure.  Berninger mentions their symbiotic partnership: “punch the glove, touch the glove, you know what that means? hand in glove? Nevermind.”

“Turtleneck” roars out with 2 scorching guitars.  Berninger is practically screaming (as are the backing singers).  he is normally such a sedate singer that this comes across really powerfully.

“Empire Line” returns to that more moody style.  The song kind of smooths along on a rumbling guitar line.”

Berninger introduces the next song: “This is called ‘I’ll Still Destroy You’ … Did somebody boo?  The record’s not even out yet.  Someone went ‘oooo.'”  The song has a cool, complex drum rhythm with some nifty quiet parts and buzzy keys.  But the end gets bigger and louder with really powerful drums.

I love the glitchy opening sounds of “Guilty Party.”  The rest of the song is gentle piano and e-bow but the end builds with different instruments playing different spare sections around each other.  There’s also a cool guitar solo at the end.

One of the other guys in the band says “Thanks to NPR for doing this and thank you guys for coming out.  This is a good way for us to learn these songs… live on the radio.”  Berninger dedicates “Carin at the Liquor Store”:  “This is for Yoko.”  I wonder of that has to do with the chorus: “blame it on me. I really don’t care.  It’s a foregone conclusion.”

After the song he says: “Sorry, Scott, I fucked up your mic.  Hold on I gotta fix Scott’s microphone.  This is called ‘Dark Side of the Gym.’  A gymnasium in America is a multipurpose room where proms take place. In Europe they keep thinking it’s the dark side of the fitness club.  Some corner of the locker room Dark side of Equinox or something.”  This is a slower song with more piano.  “Arone Dyer is back.  Buke and Gass tonight, 11, Johnny Brenda’s.”  He sings the line “Hand in Glove” then says “Uh, never mind I almost told a story.”

The final song is “Sleep Well Beast” with more interesting electronic percussion and wavery synths.

The whole album sounds really good.  Mostly spare, but a few really rocking songs.  I’m now curious to hear if the album sounds like it.

It sounds like there’s an encore break.

When they come back: “Were going to play a few songs that are ten years old.  This is from Boxer.”  Introducing “Green Gloves” whoever is talking says “this is kind of a creepy song.”  Berninger agrees: “Don’t do any of the stuff in this song.”  There’s much more guitar.  It’s quite moody and sounds great.

“Apartment Story” is a bit more upbeat with fuzzy guitars that build and build over staccato drums.

Presumably that same guy from the beginning shouts, “Play Karen, please.”  But no, they play “Fake Empire” instead (I don’t think they heard him).  This is a piano-based song, but it builds and build and builds to a rocking climax.

The final song comes from High Violet.  “Terrible Love” totally rocks with big noisy guitars and drums crashing to an ending.  They practically scream “It takes an ocean not to… BREAK!” and the show ends with a crazy and wonderfully chaotic conclusion.

There audio just ends–no goodbyes or anything.  I assume the band didn’t hang around afterwards–there wer 1200 people there, after all .

On WXPN after the show, they played an interview: World Cafe host Talia Schlanger and I recently talked with Matt Berninger about how he and the band created their new album. Listen to that full interview here.

 

[READ: June 25, 2017] “Beneficence”

I am quite saddened to read that this is the final Lucky Peach issue that will see the light of day.  The magazine is going to retain an online presence, but there will be no more oversized, thick-papered profanely delicious quarterlies.  [Technically not true, there was one more final issue after this].

I am equally disappointed that the final story printed in this final issue is so irritating.

This story seems like it is a take on John Cheever’s “The Swimmer.”  That’s the overall vibe I get from the story.  If you don’t know that terrific story, a man drinks alcohol and swims through neighborhood backyard pools–and learns something along the way.

This had that same backyard neighborhood drinking feel to it.  But it was so overwhelmed by the phrase “A white person” that I was totally lost and distracted from any actually story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-A Live One (1995).

Phish has released virtually every show that they have played in some recorded format (not to mention all of the shows that have circulated as tapes).  But before all of that, it took them five studio albums before the released their first official live record.  And while it is not one show, it is a great collection of their more popular live songs.  There’s some really long jams (30 minutes for “Tweezer”) but also some normal length songs (several under 5 minutes).

If you ever want to know anything about Phish, they are probably the most well-documented bands around.  Their fan base is encyclopedic (if they didn’t follow Phish, they would be really into sports stats, clearly).

So a cursory search will tell you

Each track on the album was recorded at a different live show in the United States during Phish’s 1994 summer and fall tours. Several of the songs have never appeared on studio albums and the track “Montana” is not really a song, but actually a two-minute excerpt from the longform improvisation that followed “Tweezer” during the band’s show in Bozeman, Montana.  On A Live One, “Montana” serves as a prelude to the epic “You Enjoy Myself”, one of the most well-known versions of that song.

“Bouncing Around the Room” is light and fun, a great start to a show.  I was really happy when I finally got to see it live.  It segues into a a rather quiet “Stash.”  There’s a lot going on in the solo with the chorus repeating and then a solo resuming.  It’s followed by a slow Gumbo with The Giant Country Horns: Peter Apfelbaum – tenor saxophone; Carl Gerhard – trumpet; Dave Grippo – alto saxophone; James Harvey – trombone; Michael Ray – trumpet.

“Montana Jam” is a short instrumental segue into “You Enjoy Myself.”  As stated above, this is a killer version of “YEM.”  There’s a funky bass solo, there’s many elements to the jam including a section where they chant “ahhh way um way um.”  After 15 minutes, the end is a five-minute “voice jam” with them making crazy sounds.  It devolves into a lot of clicking and other weird noises.  “YEM” would normally end a set but this one it’s followed by a rousing “Chalk Dust Torture” (a song that I really wanted to see).  The disc ends with a really rocking “Slave to the Traffic Light,” that has a mellow solo until everyone builds it up hugely at the end.

Disc two opens with “Wilson” (I was really excited to see that one live).  The “Tweezer” on this one is a much darker version—with lots of weird solos and crazy sounds including keyboard sirens.  The song kind of thuds and lumbers along and then turns into what sounds like a heavy metal riff—distorted guitars and bass–until it eventually returns to a rocking jam.  They start doing the “Tweezer” riff again but it segues into a new jam with noisy guitar and funky keys.  There’s a whole lot more going on in these 30 minutes).

“Simple” is rocking fun and ends with them singing in a whisper.  This version of “Harry Hood” sounds great with all three parts connected by lengthy jams.  The drums are quite prominent in this song with Fish doing all manner of drums fills.  The disc ends with Squirming Coil which is primarily a long and pretty jam, with some really nice solos.

Since it’s a well curated live album, it’s really a great place to start exploring their love shows.  And the sound is fantastic.

Some people care about this sort of thing, so these songs come from:

  • “Stash,” July 8, 1994, Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts, Mansfield, MA
  • “The Squirming Coil,” October 9, 1994, A. J. Palumbo Center, Pittsburgh, PA
  • “Harry Hood” October 23, 1994, Band Shell, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
  • “Tweezer,” November 2, 1994, Bangor Auditorium, Bangor, ME
  • “Chalk Dust Torture,” November 16, 1994, Hill Auditorium, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
  • “Slave to the Traffic Light,” November 26, 1994, Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis, MN
  • “Montana,” November 28, 1994, Field House, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
  • “Gumbo,” December 2, 1994, Recreation Hall, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA
  • “You Enjoy Myself,” December 7, 1994, Spreckels Theater Building, San Diego, CA
  • “Simple,” December 10, 1994, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA
  • “Wilson,” December 30, 1994, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
  • “Bouncing Around the Room,” December 31, 1994, Boston Garden, Boston, MA

[READ: March 10, 2017] “Jack and Jim Who Lived by the River”

I tend to not really like the stories in Lucky Peach.  That’s not entirely fair, because some of them are quite good.  But many of them, like this one, are just kind of weird an unsatisfying.

Jim doesn’t like to each much fish in the morning, but Jack sure does. He eats fish because “we are Jack and Jim who live by the river, and we are excellent fisherman.”

Jack smokes his fish while he drinks a beer and then he goes over to see Jim who has just woken up. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RARE ESSENCE-Tiny Desk Concert #636 (July 19, 2017).

I have learned of go-go music exclusively from Tiny Desk Concerts:

Dominated by drive and momentum, heavy on percussion and bass, go-go music is all about the beat. Live, “songs” can continue on for half an hour, as the percussion continues to simmer and punctuate between and across different pieces. “That’s why we call it go-go, because it goes on and goes on and goes on,” as guitarist Andre Johnson put it in a documentary film.

This visit by Rare Essence perfectly encapsulated the genre’s incomparable meld of soul, R&B and, most importantly, funk (with a dash of Afro-Cuban influence).

So that’s go-go.  What about this band?

Rare Essence emerged not long after go-go itself did, beginning as a group in 1976 in Washington D.C. Ever since the group has kept a steady schedule playing around town and around the world.

The band plays seven–SEVEN–songs in sixteen minutes.  Many of them are just riffs that go on for a minute or so like “Down for My Niggas.”  Whereas “Rock This Party” is a bit more of a call and response piece–with some good congas.  “Freaky Deak” is pretty much a riff or two before they start talking to the audience.

They thank Suraya for arranging the show and there’s a lot of shouts outs and hand waving.  And then they start with one of their favorites, “One on One.”

All of the songs more or less flow into each other as one long jam.  There are multiple lead singers and everyone participates in the responses.

After a spell of their name (R-A-R, Double E, S-S-E-N, C-E) the lead guitarist sings lead on “Bad Bad” (he’s the oldest looking guy but he still has the power in his voice).

As they segue into “Lock It,” We apologize we could play this song for ever but I know everyone got to go back to work.  We’re gonna play the short version  We could play this for at least an hour.  They keys plays a nice Cuban sounding melody–almost like xylophones.

“After three minutes, he says this ant even the first part of the song–we still got about fifty more minutes.” Then they segue into “Overnight Scenario” which everyone sings along t o.

Anthony Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson (guitar, vocals); James “Funk” Thomas (vocals); Charles “Shorty Corleone” Garris (vocals); Leroy “RB” Battle, Jr. (keyboards); Calvin “Killer Cal” Henry (vocals); Michael Baker (bass); Kenneth “Quick” Gross (drums); Samuel “Smoke” Dews (congas); Kym Clarke (trumpet); Derryle Valentine (sax, flute)

[READ: July 23, 2017] “Bonebreaker”

I find Nell Zink’s stories to be weird but compelling.  She writes about strange things in unusual ways.  The people are often peculiar but compelling.

But this story was especially odd to me because the two characters seem really stupid

Both Jed and Laurie are fleeing the States.  As the story begins they go to the airport with a lot of cash.  But they knew that the TSA would be suspicious of that.  So when they see the “money sniffing” dogs, they know the TSA is on to them.  They leave their stuff at the airport and return home–which puts them on the no-fly list.

After a few more aborted attempts, they decide to take a barge–a real refugee situation. Not only do they not get where they are going, they lose a lot of money and are mostly miserable.

Why are they fleeing? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TUXEDO-Tiny Desk Concert #635 (July 17, 2017).

tuxedoI have never heard of Tuxedo, although I have heard of its main singer Mayer Hawthorne.  But I realized that I don’t know why I know Hawthorne.

So the blurb fills me in

Seattle-based producer Jake One [keyboards and occasional backing voice] has a who’s-who client list, from Rick Ross to 21 Savage — while DJ, singer-songwriter and producer Mayer Hawthorne [lead vocals and piano] is a renaissance soul man from Ann Arbor, Michigan. They stealthily debuted three tracks on SoundCloud in 2013 with only a black square stamped “Tuxedo” as the cover art, leaving fans wondering where this new funk was coming from.

When Tuxedo arrived at NPR and Mayer Hawthorne spied a small ‘Ho!’ button sitting on Bob Boilen’s desk, he immediately beamed. “We use a big ‘Ho!’ button on tour,” he said. They didn’t bring a drummer, opting for a boombox — yes, a real boombox playing a real cassette tape, kids — and it was nostalgic delight from the start of the cassette’s hiss. The band was tight as ever, while their ace in the hole, Gavin Turek [with incredibly big hair] provided dance moves and the sweetest harmonies. Tuxedo set things off with a fan favorite from their first album, along with two from their latest, before closing it out with a red light special.

I am surprised to hear the music described as funk, because to me this is all pretty simple disco dance music, fun and catchy and instantly forgettable.

My favorite thing about “Do It” is the fun, watery, almost farty synth sound.  Hawthorne has a pleasant voice and it all works fine.  The song segues seamlessly in to “Second Time Around.”  Same basic beat, a change in synth sounds but otherwise it’s not that different.

Sam Wish plays keys and then switches to piano, but One plays the main riffs.  Christian Wunderlich plays very discoey guitars.

Before the final song Hawthorne introduces them and says they are from the West Coast (which elicits mild applause) and it makes him say Ain’t no party like a West Coast party.

For “July” he says they’re going to slow it down and get romantic–they need the disco ball on. It is certainly slower, but it also doesn’t sound all that different.

I could see this being a lot of fun to dance to, but then not remembering what it was you were dancing to.

[READ: July 24, 2017] “An Encounter in the Bronx”

This is a story from Jaeggy’s new collection translated by Gini Alhadeff.  I found it rather puzzling to say the least.

It begins as one thing and turns into something else entirely all in the span of a few paragraphs.

The first line says that the narrator is in a restaurant with Oliver.  The story ends in the restaurant as well.  So far so good.

But before the restaurant they went to his freezing home.  Oliver loathes the heat.  She was surprised by how much he hated it.  The narrator is the opposite.  She covers up from any cold.  There is much detail about his she gets cold–her neck, her hands.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAY SOM-Tiny Desk Concert #633 (July 10, 2017).

I’d heard Jay Som’s “The Bus Song” and one other song from a few years back.  There was much I liked about the song.  I like the way the whole band chants “but I like the bus” during the second verse but more impressive is the way the chorus soars to great high notes (even more unexpected is the high notes that come from drummer Zachary Elsasser.

But aside from that I didn’t know much about Jay Som

Jay Som is the project of 23-year-old Melina Duterte, who has been creating music for the past 10 years or so on a multitude of instruments, from guitar to trumpet. Though she played every instrument on her newest record Everybody Works, her touring band here at the Tiny Desk gave a rougher edge to some of the more premeditated sounds on her wonderful album.

I know “The Bus Song” from All Songs Considered and that’s because:

Of the three songs they chose to bring to the Tiny Desk, one was a personal favorite from Everybody Works: “The Bus Song,” which is a perfect swirl of stream-of-consciousness:

Take your time
Won’t be long till our car breaks down
Your hands in mine
Feel like a firefighter when I take off your shoes

Before concluding with a thoughtful nod to her partner:

Take time to figure it out
I’ll be the one who sticks around
And I just want you to lead me
And I just want you to need me

It’s lyrics like this, alongside the comfy, no-frills directness of Duterte’s delivery, which make Jay Som feel so welcoming and refreshing.

Even though Melina is the leader of the band I was surprised to hear that the lead guitar work comes from Oliver Pinnell–she adds some great, interesting rhythm chords.   But mostly she focuses on singing. Her voice isn’t amazing or noteworthy, it’s just very nice and gentle (and tuneful).

“Baybee” opens with some fast high bass notes from Dylan Allard and then a soaring guitar line from Pinnell that sounds kind of like a synth.  Melina plays interesting chords to support him.  There’s cool moment when everything kind of slows down and grows woozy before resuming again.  The song is a little slick, but I like it.  She and Oliver play little solos off each other at the end.

Before the final song she says she’ll “wet my whistle,” and then says “well, it’s the end of the road. This is the last song ever.  We’re going to be gone forever.”

Oliver then chimes in, “I’m picturing the You Tube comments now, just like uhhh.” [I have no idea where he’s going with that].  Melina jokes, “Why are the so sweaty?”

Opening “I Think You’re Alright” she plays a chord, Oliver plays the same chord and then Dylan plays it.  It’s a smooth almost sultry song–again not what I expected from her.  Oliver sings high backing vocals.  The song feels like its coming to and end with Dylan scratching along the bass strings and then she and Oliver plays some slow chords that sure sounds like it’s going to end. And then she sings the slow final verse which ultimately ends pretty abruptly.

The set is pretty surprising given that the other song I know from her “1 Billion Dogs” is really fuzzy and almost shoegazey.  I’m curious to hear more from her.

[READ: May 10, 2017] “The Guide Dog of Hermosilla”

This is a fascinatingly told story translated by Martina Broner.

A man on his regular route sees a homeless man under a bridge.  The man has a dog.  The man doesn’t beg or really do anything.  And the dog seems to have infinite patience (the narrator is impressed with the dog–“his understated style was interesting.”

Then there’s this sentence:

One day, things were going well–I wasn’t getting laid off, not yet–and I wanted to show that I was grateful.

It’s the “not yet” part that I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be forecasting or concern.  But it hangs over the story like a cloud. (more…)

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