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Archive for the ‘Humiliation’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BÉGAYER-“L’image du manque” (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.

I certainly didn’t know Bégayer before hearing them here.  Bégayer is a trio from the south of France that howls in French and Arabic, bangs on homemade instruments and leaves a path of delirious distortion in its wake.

Lars describes them as a combination of Animal Collective, Malian desert rock and Eugene Chadbourne thrown off a cliff.

This song starts with a kind of unsure-sounding opening foray into a guitar riff (very Malian in style), after twenty seconds, the high-pitched guitar notes resolve into a furious frenzy–an almost amelodious riff that flies around at breakneck speed.   The super fast drums help to propel the chaos along.

After a minute or so the vocals kick in–they are sparse and peculiar–more keening than singing at times and I have no idea what he is singing.  On a few occasions, the guitar seems to almost have a breakdown while he is singing although by the end he starts to sound like Jeff Buckley having a bit of breakdown himself. It’s bizarre and eerily compelling.

The whole album plays around with these sounds for a different experience with each song.

[READ: December 29, 2018] “Feast of the Epiphany”

This surreal story was published in 2016 in Gronzi’s collection Claustrophobias.

It begins with this bizarre, hilarious opening

It must’ve been either my thirty-third or my thirty-ninth birthday, if one is to believe the numerological charts, and there must’ve been some kind of adult arrangement involving children or else I would’ve never agreed to show myself in public in the company of three or four diversely aged creatures whose cumulative understanding of metaphysics was equivalent to the curiosity of a wart on the nose of a Rajasthani kaan-saaf wallah cleaning people’s ears in the streets of Paharganj.

This dinner becomes farcical with the introduction of the waiter:

Unable to appreciate the animated performance of the waiter who insisted on joining his forefingers over his head and doing a little dance every time he mentioned the rabbit in orange and thyme sauce, I finished the rather cheerless ten-year-old Hermitage before I even read the menu.

Before the appetizer is even over, the narrator makes his excuses and heads for the restroom. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ERASURE-Snow Globe (2013).

Rather than making a straight up Christmas album, Erasure created a hybrid of original songs and traditional songs for the holidays.  I’m not even sure if some of the original songs can be considered holiday songs at all.  What’s interesting is that while the songs are clearly Erasure (Andy Bell’s voice is unmistakable), they don’t exactly sound like Erasure.  Musician Vince Clarke said, “Everything about Christmas has been written already. We thought it would be more interesting to look into the darker side of the season. For a lot of people, Christmas is not a happy time.”  So a lot of the songs feel stripped down or perhaps eerie.

The first song “Bells of Love (Isabelle’s of Love)” is a song of hope.  It has an Erasure feel (especially in the chorus), but it’s definitely not as full as a typical song from them.  It may not be especially Christmasey what with these lyrics:

I don’t believe in your religion
I only know what I can see
So many sad, so many lonely
It’s only love that sets us free

But the sentiment is what’s at the heart of Christmas sprint

What we want
What we need
Is a touch of the healing hand
With a little emotion
Can you hear the bells of love?
One day they’ll be loud enough

“Gaudete” is absolutely wonderful.  It’s a 16th century Christmas Carol (which means “rejoice”).  Erasure could easily make an album doing this with traditional songs and it would be amazing.  They stick to the traditional melody, but it just feel so powerful.  The backing vocals, thee Latin, the bells and subtle bass.  Everything about this song is very cool.  It doesn’t really scream Christmas, but clearly it is a Christmas song.

“Make It Wonderful” has a cool synth riff after the chorus and a somewhat poppy feel.

“Sleep Quietly” is a by Ruth Heller (originally called “Sleep Quietly My Jesus”) who I can find no information about.  This version feels eerie for sure with the synth choices and the nearly whispered vocals by Bell.  These songs about Jesus seem odd for Erasure, since their song “Bells of Love” specifically mentions not believing.

“Silent Night” is a beautiful song and they do a lovely job with it–layered synths and Bell’s gently echoed vocals.  It’s lovely.  “Loving Man” feels most like an Erasure song–bouncy synths and clacking drums.

“The Christmas Song” is one of the most unsettling songs on the disc because Bell sings the song fairly traditionally, but the music sounds like an 8-bit video game.  That is until the chorus which sort of takes off in a dance direction.

Next up is a delicate take on “In the Bleak Midwinter.”  It is pretty and gentle and as with many of these songs I love the attention to care that they band put into the backing vocals and production.

“Blood on the Snow” hardly seems like a Christmas song, but it is about the snow.  It’s quite sinister, especially that powerful five-note bass line and those eerie mechanical synths sounds.  The lyrics make it seem like a take on the three wise men story, but with a darker twist

Star don’t lose your shine
Be sure to light the way
Your essence is divine
For these three gifts we bring
It’s only a small offering of time

“There’ll Be No Tomorrow” is a pure Erasure dance song.  It doesn’t feel bleak like the other songs because its got that whole “party like there’ll be no tomorrow vibe,” and yet lyrically that’s a pretty bleak thought:

All bets are off, the party’s on
So let’s away and drown out our sorrows
So don’t be late and celebrate
And party like there’ll be no tomorrow

“Midnight Clear” is the traditional song. Bells’ vocals are lovely.  The music is a little weird–deep almost ghostly backing vocals and a very cool, but unexpected, melody between verses.

“White Christmas” is definitely eerie.  And since the song is actually quite a sad song, it makes sense.  The vocals are distant and almost sound like they are over the phone.  In fact, with the intro and outro sound effects, it seems like maybe it’s meant to be sung on a train.  And again, there’s that spare mechanical music accompanying.

“Silver Bells” is a simple, pretty take on the song.  It’s softer than the other more mechanical songs, with some sweet backing vocals.  A slightly happy ending to a rather sad Christmas album.

[READ: December 17, 2018] “Deer Season”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This is the second story I have previously read in the New Yorker.   I assume that since I read it before I read it differently because I feel like I got more out of it this time.  On the original read it seemed like a guy writing a story about a girl who wants to have sex.  What I found interesting on this read was realizing that a young girl having sex in a small town can have consequences–and not the typical ones (she doesn’t get pregnant). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: dvsn-Tiny Desk Concert #806 (November 19, 2018).

I love when an artist appears on a Tiny Desk and the blurb is going crazy with excitement and yet I have never heard of them.  When I saw the name dvsn I assumed it was a techno band.  But I couldn’t have been more wrong:

With a four-piece band and three pristine backup vocalists for support, singer Daniel Daley flexed his falsetto pipes and a shiny gold grill, running through a sampler of fan-favorites about breaking up, making up and trying to move on. The short-and-sweet set is an example of the kind of audible acrobatics you don’t often hear at contemporary R&B shows anymore. … Though it’s easy to mistake dvsn as simply the stage moniker of Daley, the act is really a Toronto-based duo comprised of the singer and Grammy Award-winning producer Nineteen85, the (almost) secret weapon behind the boards.

The band has only released two albums, so they’re not especially long-lived, but clearly they have fan-favorites.  And they’ve been playing live for a number of years”

When dvsn visited NPR for this Tiny Desk concert, it reminded me of the first time I saw them two years ago in New York City. They decided to wash the desk in vibrant blue, purple and orange lighting, brought in by dvsn’s team to make the space feel like a concert hall. And while the audience at NPR was almost as densely packed as that NYC venue, it felt much like my live introduction to the group — grandiose in presentation, but at the same time, deliberately intimate in delivery.

They play three songs, “Too Deep” “Body Smile” and “Mood.”  Daniel Daley has an amazing falsetto–hitting crazy high notes almost randomly.  And thee lights are certainly a cool effect.  But these three songs are indistinguishable from countless cheesy-sounding R&B songs.

Of the three, “Body Smile” has the least amount of cheese–his voice sounds good and real and not smoove.

My favorite part of the Concert is actually after he says thank you and walks off because the band jams for an extra minute and they are great.  The guitarist plays a sick solo and then the band plays a gentle little jam to close out the show.

[READ: January 29, 2017] “Happyland”

This story behind this story is pretty fascinating.  Essentially he was inspired by the life of the American Girls creator Pleasant Rowland.  Although as he puts it in the introduction to the eventually-published book in 2013 (he wrote it in 2003), “I didn’t mean to write anything remotely controversial. A former doll and children’s book mogul started buying up property in a small town and the town got mad.  Wouldn’t this make a good novel, people kept asking me?”

He had friends who lived in the town that Pleasant was buying property in and told them not to send him any information about the story.  He didn’t want to write the story of Pleasant, he wanted to take that idea and write the story of Happy Masters a woman with a similar career but clearly a very different woman altogether.  He says, “To this day I know nothing of the real [doll mogul] that I didn’t learn over the phone, from lawyers.”

The original publisher, fearing imaginary unthreatened lawsuits, dropped the book.  As for the mogul herself she had no intention to sue. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GORDI-“Can We Work It Out” (Night Owl, November 20, 2018).

I wanted to finish out November with one more live recording.  Turns out NPR was there to help out.  They have a new feature called Night Owl.

Every so often, late at night over the past couple years, a team of NPR Music video producers has been toting approximately 80 pounds of audio/video equipment and a statue of a golden owl to the far reaches of American cities. The owl is our Night Owl, and it’s the totem that has presided over nearly every episode of a show that goes by the same name. Night Owl is our chance to get out into the field, put some of our musicians somewhere unexpected and see what magic may arise.

They have released a bunch of these videos on YouTube.

I picked one from an artist I didn’t know yet, Gordi.

I’ve heard of her, of course, but I think this was my first exposure to her.  She has a lovely (slightly rough) voice as she sits at the piano singing this pretty, ache-filled song.

[READ: February 8, 2018] “Wars in Distant Lands”

This story was translated from the Arabic by Raymond Stock.

At first I really enjoyed this, it felt very contemporary and compelling.   And then it just got weird and war-based.

The narrator pulled Teresa’s postcard from the mailbox.  She was arriving on a train at 7PM on June 16.  The end said, this is being mailed from Havana and will probably arrive the same day as her, which it did. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SAUTI SOL-“Love or Leave” (Field Recordings, May 30, 2012).

Here is another Field Recording [A Morning Walk With Sauti Sol] filmed at SXSW.  But this one is on a bridge. The four members of Sauti Sol are up at dawn (one even sings “good morning.”  As a guy runs past them, they realize “We didn’t have our morning job, today” so two of them run around the other two, to much laughter.

Their happy mood is clearly reflected in their wonderfully colorful jackets (and amazing harmonies.

“Love or Leave” is terrific, with a great riff.   There’s only the one acoustic guitar and their voices fill in everything else.

I don’t know anything about Sauti Sol.  So the blurb says:

In spite of the early hour and chilly air, Sauti Sol arrived at the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge in Austin, Texas, in good spirits — not to mention colorful jackets that provided a welcome contrast to the cloudy sky. There, the Afro-fusion quartet from Nairobi greeted the morning birds and joggers with a version of its recent single, “Love or Leave.” The song amply demonstrates the group’s signature acoustic sound, which is anchored by the guitar of Polycarp Otieno and vocal harmonies of Bien-Aime Baraza, Willis Chimano and Delvin Mudigi.

There’s some pop elements including a kind of choreographed dance but the way the minor key hits in the chorus is outstanding.

It’s great that bands from Nairobi come to SXSW, and it’s even cooler that we get to hear them.

[READ: January 31, 2018] “On Not Growing Up”

I don’t really understand what this is supposed to be.  It is listed as fiction according to Harper’s.  It is written as an interview but neither party is introduced.

The first question is “How long have you been a child?”   The answer is “seventy-one years.”

The second question puzzles me even more and I think I’m thrown off from there.  “Who did you work with?”

Meyerowits for the first phase: colic, teething, walking, talking. He taught me how to produce false prodigy markers and developmental reversals, to test the power in the room without speaking.  I was encouraged to look beyond the tantrum and drastic mood migrations that depended on the environment, and if you know my work you have an idea what resulted. The rest is a hodgepodge

The interviewee says that the term adult is problematic.  It’s too easy to say that his childwork is directly divisive to Matures. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: REIGNWOLF-“In the Dark” (Field Recordings, June 29, 2012).

This is another Field Recording set at Sasquatch! Music Festival [Reignwolf: A One-Man Rock Show].

I’d never heard of Reignwolf and I’m still not sure if Reignwold is typically a solo project–like here or a band.  “In the Dark” is a simple blues rock song–like Led Zep via the White Stripes.

Jordan Cook plays a noisy, distorted guitar with a metal slide so that there’s pretty much always something coming out of the amp.  After some pretty simple verses he plays a wild, sloppy (broken stringed) solo.

The way he was tearing it up during an impromptu set at the Sasquatch Music Festival, you’d barely notice that Jordan Cook, a.k.a. Reignwolf, broke a string midway through his fiery rendition of “In the Dark” — that is, until you saw the mangled remnants of his guitar, smoldering on the ground after he’d wrenched every wailing chord from its guts.

The song works best when he plays the kick drum.  It adds just enough oomph to make it not seem like a guy playing a guitar.

The Saskatoon native and recent Seattle transplant never misses a beat — literally. When he’s not with a band, he accompanies himself on kick drum and makes enough noise to match a dozen metalheads. In this video, recorded at the artist campground between sets at the festival, Reignwolf causes a ruckus beside his RV and rousts a crowd of sleepy campers into dancing and cheering.

The soloing goes on for a while and the people around him seem to like it.  Although the soloing behind his head is a bit much, but hey, if you can do it, then go ahead!

[READ: February 1, 2017] “The Sightseers”

I really liked a main aspect of this story, and so many of the details.

The story begins with an overprivileged New York family.  They have a maid/cook/gofer named Kiki from Tibet and the husband marvels at Kiki and “their calm, those people.”

The father, Robert, is happy that they no longer go to North East Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving–the round nephews and the piles and piles of food.  For their Thanksgiving they would be having salmon as Robert was training five times a week with a Navy Seal.

When the salmon turns out to be halibut, the son says that wasn’t on the menu (the menus were designed ahead of time to limit daily stress by preparing the children for their dinners ahead of time–there would be no surprises.  The son asks if the next time they have halibut it will be salmon.  The father thinks that’s an excellent suggestion. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAVID WAX MUSEUM-“Born With a Broken Heart” (Field Recordings, January 12, 2012).

This was the third Field Recording in the series [David Wax Museum: Folk Among The Ruins] and it seems to have started a trend of recording musicians in the ruins at the Newport Folk Festival

The video opens with the band climbing through a broken down house.  Then the music starts with David playing the charango and Suz Slezak clapping.  It’s a catchy fun song with handclaps, wonderful vocal harmonies and oohs.

Two minutes into the song a tenor horn adds some depth and bass to the music, making it sound much bigger.  Around three minutes the whole horn section is playing along with a kind of mariachi feel..

At the end of the song you can hear cheering–presumably for the festival itself and not them, but it seems apt as well.

[READ: November 15, 2017] “The Hotel”

I feel like this is an excerpt.  If it’s not an excerpt than I don’t know what.

It’s basically about a woman who lands at an airport.  She is discombobulated from all of the flights and transfers (which seems unlikely but whatever).  The story starts with no explanation at all as to why the woman has flown from Dublin to New York to Milan.  She is now at a layover in Germany or Switzerland or Austria (the signs are all in German).

She can’t read the signs.  It’s very late. The airport seems to be closing down.  Her next flight is leaving in 5 hours.  She figures she will need to be back at the airport in four.  So instead of camping out at Gate 19, she decides to go to look for a hotel.  By the time she checked in , she would get max three hours sleep.  It’s just not worth it in my opinion, but whatever. (more…)

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