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Archive for the ‘Humiliation’ Category

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: LESLIE ODOM, JR.-Tiny Desk Concert #908 (December 2, 2019).

I knew I had heard of Leslie Odom Jr. but I couldn’t remember from what.  Apparently I have heard of him from….everything.

A Tony- and Grammy-winning star, Odom has added a slew of achievements to his portfolio since 2016, when he left his role playing Aaron Burr in Broadway’s Hamilton. He’s continued his work in television and film, written a book and released jazz and Christmas albums. He co-wrote most of the songs on his latest project, Mr; out earlier this month, it’s his first album of original material.

Dang.

His singing voice is fantastic and these songs that he wrote are really wonderful.

“Cold” is a hopeful ballad with a beautiful melody and a hint of contemporary musical theater.  It opens with a lovely acoustic guitar from Jeremy Ting and piano from Tommy King.  Odom’s voice is powerful and strong and he hits some nice falsetto notes.  This is all accented by rim shots and cymbal taps from Garrison “G-Beats” Brown.

His backing vocalists, Christine Noel Smit, Nicolette Robinson (Odom’s wife) and Astyn Turr add some nice calla and response and then harmony voices. There’s a pretty acoustic guitar solo as well.

And all the while Odom’s voice and lyrics are fantastic.

When it’s finished he says, “you are the second group of people to hear that song.”

Then he

recalled advice he’d received from a friend: “You have to get used to it — you are part of a cultural phenomenon in New York City,” Odom said, before quipping, “I feel so blessed to be a part of … Law & Order: SVU for three magnificent seasons.”

Up next is “Foggy,” which he says is the most personal song on the album.  It’s much more spare, a love song filled with the regret of failed good intentions.  It’s almost entirely just he and the piano.  Although half way through some xylophone notes add a cool echoing sound.  As the song nears its end, Astyn Turr sings along with him.

Introducing the final song, “Hummingbird,” he says “This song is admittedly… I think it’s a bop, but it’s an odd little bop.  But it has been tested by my 2 year old and it is her favorite song on the album.  For this song Tommy King and Theron “Neff-U” Feemster switch places so “Neff-U” (who worked with him to make the record) is now playing piano.

The song features some wonderful violin from Andrew Joslyn.  It’s a fun boppy song and I love that everyone raucously sings the “you’re my hummingbird” line.

I really didn’t know what to expect from this set, but Odom has a fantastic voice and his songs are really very beautiful.

[READ: August 2019] Gods Without Men

I had read a review of this book by Douglas Coupland on two occasions and each time it made me want to read the book.  So I decided to read the book.  And what a book.

Coupland had warned, in a sense, that there were UFOs and aliens–but not to be put off by them.  And he’s right.  The book centers around aliens and such, but there are no “little green men.”

Rather, the book looks more at a location and the spiritual power it has had on people throughout history.

The book bounces back and forth between various eras and the present.  In most summaries of the book, the present takes prominence–and it is the most often visited timeline in the book.  But at times I found the story in the present to be less interesting than those in the past.

The book begin in 1947 with a man named Schmidt.  Schmidt drove out to the Pinnacles “three column of rock that shot up like the tentacles of some ancient creature, weathered feelers probing the sky.”  He used his diving rods and sensed the power here.  He paid $800 to a woman who owned the property and then settled in.  Schmidt built an underground structure to live in.  He bought an Airstream trailer and set it up as a diner.  Then he put in an airstrip and a fuel tank.  Soon enough pilots were stopping in for fuel as they sailed across the desert.  Schmidt is an interesting character (with a reprehensible past).  He also, every night, lit up the lights on top of his property that said WELCOME.

One night a ship descended from the sky. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RIO MARA-Tiny Desk Concert #905 (October 25, 2019).

Rio Mara sings (and speaks) entirely in Spanish for this Tiny Desk.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this if you don’t know Spanish.  The musical is wonderful–full of percussion and a wonderfully vibrant wooden marimba that feels utterly tropical.

Rio Mira takes its name from a river that separates Ecuador and Colombia and empties into the Pacific Ocean.

For just about fifteen minutes, the members of Rio Mira created a living and very melodic connection to Africa. Set behind a large marimba — and drums that are unique to their corner of the world — the members of the band performed music that is the legacy of enslaved people who were in both Ecuador and Colombia.

Rio Mira’s three songs in this performance are dominated by the marimba and accompanied by drums from both Europe and Africa. “La Pepa de Tangaré” references the culinary joys of life and, like the rest of their set, celebrates life along the river: soft breezes, loving friends, the embrace of Africa and, of course, lots of festejando (partying)!

Karla Kanora sings lead vocals, while Esteban Copete plays the amazing marimba.

Introducing the band (and the instruments) we meet Carlos Loboa on the cununos (a hand drum that looks like a conga).  Tito Ponguillo on the bombo hembra (a two headed drum that you wear on a strap), while Sergio Ramírez plays the bombo macho (the “male” version of the two headed drum). Fernando Hurtado plays the shaker and sings.

Benjamín Vanegas sings lead on “Román Román” with a fun and enjoyable style.  The chorus is really catchy. The middle has an extended spoken part.

If you’re a little rusty on your college Spanish classes, the extended narration in “Román Román” tells the tale of a village man who has healing powers and challenges death.

For the final song “Mi Buenaventura” Fernando Hurtado sings.  It is a fast song with the marimba going wild.  I really appreciate how very different each singer’s style is amid all of this fun percussive music.

[READ: March 1, 2020] “Kid Positive”

I really enjoyed Adam Levin’s massive book The Instructions.

This story is the first thing I’ve read by him since that, and while I love his writing style I hated the content of this story.

Each section of the story shows a year in Adam’s childhood with a title to accompany it.  Like Shitty Little Tevye, Big Brother, 1980.

In this flashback, we see a young Adam enjoying it when his parents had friends over to dinner.  He would crawl through their legs to get to the bathroom and they would joke…  Is there a dog in here?  On one occasion, he came back from the bathroom singing what he thought was his father’s favorite song “If I Were a Rich Man.”  (It wasn’t his favorite song).  Adam sang it and the adults all thought it was cute except for his father, who said “Okay.”  But he didn’t mean it, it wasn’t okay.  Adam climbed back under the table and continued to sing and his father said “he’s acting like an idiot, a real fucking idiot.”

In Puppet, 1981 a puppet that Adam enjoyed watching on TV said “I think therefore I am.”  This existential phrase upset Adam and he worried that if the puppet thought he was real, how did he know if anyone was real.  Maybe his mother was a puppet too.

The Rabbits, 1982 section is a terrible part about baby bunnies dying.

In Turtle and Sensei, 1984, there;s a story about a dying (probably) turtle and how he wanted to name it Mergatroid.   The other part is a bit funnier–about his family going to see a sensei perform a demonstration. His father did not believe it–saying the board was perforated.

Adam told people about this event and then made up that at the end of the demonstration his father went to shake the sensei’s hand but then pulled him close and whispered in his ear.  When he let go, the sensei looked afraid.

In The Frost and the Frogs, 1985-86 he talks about throwing his cat.  What the hell is wrong with this story. They also kill a snake.

In Hum, 1988, all of the kids push Giles Crowley because when they do he would said “Hum.”  So they would shove him to see how many Hums he would say.  If they shoved him harder and he stumbled four steps, he would say “Hum um um um.”  It’s possible he enjoyed the attention.

Throughout, the narrator says things like

Had you asked me if I thought Giles Crowley had feelings, I would probably have told you that I had feelings because that would have addressed what I would have thought you were secretly trying to get at with your question and I’d have wanted you to know that I was smarter than you.

The story ends with Splash Pad, 2015.

Adam is grown up and married.  They are hanging out with friends who have kids at a Splash Pad–a giant fountain for kids to frolic in. The kids have a great time. The pleasure is contagious and Adam realizes that he is positive about kids–he is kid positive.

Adam was so pleased with the way the kids played so nicely that he told his friends that kids now played so much nicer than they did when they were kids.  He hoped these good childhood memories would foster

deep with them greater capacities for kindness and decency than the people of our generation possessed and that, down the line, these greater capacities for kindness and decency would grant these kids the strength they’d need to neutralize and overcome what would otherwise be our generation’s malforming influence and eventually turn the whole country, perhaps even the whole world, into a safer and friendlier place.

Are you making fun of our children, they asked.

Its nice to see that a seeming sociopath like that kid actually turned out okay.  But I’m still not a fan of this story.

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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: TOOL-“Some Days It’s Dark” (2007).

I recently learned that Tool performed this cover of a song from The Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy live.

In the movie Bruce McCullough’s character Grivo’s band Death Lurks plays this very heavy song (written by Craig Northey and performed by Odds).  Lyrically it’s amusingly Dark

Some days it’s dark
Some days I work
I work alone
I walk aloooooooone.

Tool is considered to be one of the most intense metal bands out there with fans taking them very Seriously.  So the fact that they covered this song (in Toronto) is fantastic.

The cover is great (of course).  They get the sound of the original right on, especially when the big heavy part kicks in.  The only problem I would say is Maynard’s delivery.  It’s a little too deadpan,  I’d like it to be a but more over the top.  But maybe that wouldn’t be Maynard’s way.

You can hear it (no video) here.

There’s no word on if they also played “Happiness Pie.”

[READ: January 27, 2020] Extra Credit

When a beloved (and award winning) series nears its end, it is time to put out early and special features collections.  Usually they come once the series has ended, but this one has come early.  Whereas Early Registration was a good collection of early material, this collection is a bit more haphazard.

It collects some Christmas specials and some early “comic strips” from Allison.  Given this seeming completest nature of this collection, I can’t imagine that there’s another volume planned.

The first story is called “What Would Have Happened if Esther, Daisy and Susan Hadn’t Become Friends (and it was Christmas).”  It’s the 2016 Holiday issue drawn by Lissa Treiman.

We zoom in on DAY-ZEE on “the edge of the boundless sweep of space” as she zooms in one the title question.  [It’s important to read Early Registration first as this story references that story].

Esther didn’t help Daisy move in on that first day.  Esther was immediately grabbed by the popular girls.  They are sitting under a tree playing music on their phones which wakes up Susan who curses them out. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ENYA-“Echoes in the Rain” (2015).

One of the running jokes in this series is that Daisy’s favorite musician is Enya.

So why not add an Enya song to the soundtrack here?

Enya has released eight albums over the last twenty years.  Her sound is instantly recognizable and distinctive.  The impressive thing about her is that if you give some time to her songs you can see just how much diversity there is in these songs that sound vaguely the same.

This song, from her latest album features those same synthy strings, layered and soft as they pulse through the melody.  And of course, he layered soft voice running through the melody.

The biggest surprise to me in this song is that the chorus is simply Alleluia repeated over and over (with a kind of weird 80s repeat on her voice on one of them).  I’ve never known her to have overtly religious lyric in her songs (of course I don’t know her music that well, so maybe she has lots of them).  The verse is also a bit less soothing than usual–like the words are very distinctive and clear and make you think more about what she is saying rather than the feeling the song evokes.

There’s also a piano solo (sort of) in the middle of the song.  This intrusion of an acoustic instrument (not soft and echoed like everything else) is kind of jarring.

All in all, it’s a lovely song fitting in with her other songs pretty well, although I tend to prefer her earlier singles for a total chillout.

[READ: January 21, 2020] Giant Days Vol. 6

Book six covers the Fall semester in the students’ second year at school.  It takes us up through Christmas and a few new (sort of) characters get a lot of story time (to very good effect).

It is also a time of tempestuous love and solitary death (not one of the main characters).

But the honeymoon of Esther, Susan and Daisy’s brand new flat doesn’t last long because…

Chapter 21
They are robbed! After an instinctual freaking out, they deal things in their own way–Esther attacks the room with her karate, Susan crafts a weapon out of a broom and knives, and Daisy tells the robber they can work it out–no harm no foul. Of course the robber is long gone, but at least we have that established. There is humor to be had though, Esther says that whoever stole Susan’s laptop is likely to catch typhoid from her keyboard. But Daisy is the most upset because the only items she had left from her parents–some pieces of jewelry–were also stolen.

The police come and Susan assures them they have reset their passwords “some of our new security questions answers aren’t even true” (I love this series). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAKE BUGG-“How Soon the Dawn” (2017).

Back in 2012 I recall Jake Bugg kind of buzzing around with his debut album.  One of my co-workers at the time was really into him as well.

He basically fell off of my radar entirely until I saw him mentioned in this volume of Giant Days, which is why I looked him up.  He has put out a couple of albums since 2012 with his latest being a 2017 acoustic album produced by Dan Auerbach.

This song has such an incredible 70s vibe both in the sound of his guitar and his vocal delivery.  His voice is soft and clear and the chorus is really catchy.  Really any song that has a “tooo” that you can turn into a lengthy “oooooh” section is going to be super catchy.  It’s just acoustic guitar and a very minimal accompaniment and it suits him rather well.

His Wikipedia entry says that in 2018 he signed to a new label “in a bid to relaunch his career.”  I guess that hasn’t happened yet.  Shame, because this is a really pretty song.

Incidentally, in the book, he is mentioned when the girls are at a musical festival. Daisy says “Is ‘Jake Bugg’ good music?” and Esther says “No.”

Ouch.

[READ: January 20, 2020] Giant Days Vol. 5

In 2017 I wrote

I love this series so much.  I can’t believe I have to wait forever for volume 5 to come out.

Turns out I took that forever more literally than I needed to.  This book came out in 2017, but it took me until 2020 to read it.  The only consolation is that I now have about 6 books to read right in a row!

Max Sarin’s drawings are still over-the-top cartoony which I rather like. Even though the story lines are realistic(ish), giving them a cartoony vibe allows the over-the-topness to feel natural.

This book focuses on the end of their first year of school (can it really be over so soon?).

Chapter 17 starts a mini thread with Daisy going on an archaeology dig.  Susan’s comment that “You’d have thought we’d dug up all the Romans by now is interesting since just a few weeks ago (in the real world) even more remains were recently discovered.  Daisy’s dig is a disaster because Professor Bradford (you mean bad-ford) is in charge and he criticizes everything Daisy does.  “You’re doing it wrong” is a constant refrain.  He is so mean because on his very first dig he sat on a mummified form and was basically never invited on another dig.

Susan is distracted by McGraw’s new lady whom Ed Gemmell describes as “she speaks better English than we do but in an accent that means I understand one word in three.”  Susan refers to her as an Andalusian Succubus.

Ed reveals that he has been making spare change helping his roommate Dean with a translating project.  Dean pays 25 pence for every three word phrase they translate.   Like, “philosophical ideas about” becomes “recondite notions of,” and “brutally powerful world” becomes “mean planetoid.”  It soon dawns of Esther though that making money this easily can’t be on the up and up and that’s when they realize that Dean is basically selling plagiarized papers (with very bad phrases included).

Chapter 18 sees Esther and Ed being so concerned that they will get in trouble for Dean’s work–there’s a Paypal trail–that they visit a 24 hour lawyer.

But the more concerning news (really) is that their beloved home, Catterick Hall is going to be torn down at the end of school.

There’s a delightful running joke about Daisy being an unwitting pool shark.  She’s so good that McGraw, in his spare time, made her her own cue, which she calls a “pool pole.”

At the Farewell ball, Ed reconnects with Jenny.  Jenny broke the story on Dean’s plagiarism ring but described the lower tier workers as “Mr. Hair and Vampiella” (hee hee).  After a night of dancing, Ed Gemmell has fallen in love.  Even if he and McGraw aren’t sure what  they ‘re going to do if their roommate is in jail.

Chapter 19 is a delightful side trip to A Music Festival!  Esther is all in, Daisy is quite nervous and Susan just doesn’t care.  She has been smoking a lot more and when it comes time to set up her tent, she just lays it on the ground.  She’s in a sleeping bag anyway, this is just another layer–“double bagged like in an American supermarket.”  [Is that a uniquely American thing?].

Esther has a crush on the singer for Poison Nebula and wants to get right up close to hear their topical song “You’re my Napster you’re my wifi.”  Esther followed the band to their bus (Daisy: “Don’t go into buses with strange men!”).  It turns out Poison Nebula is really into…calligraphy: “Quill work on rag-edge parchment.”  There a hilarious moment later on when Shinobi the drummer tries to barter one of his quills for food but the philistines don’t appreciate the quality of the tool.

Daisy is horrified by this spectacle and is looking for something with the majesty of Enya combined with the mystery of Enya, “You’re just jealous of her success.  Everyone is.”  But she soon finds herself loving the world music stage which means Susan can explore on her own.

Susan meets up with The Cowboy who drugs her drink and has her spinning and flying through the festival–not in a good way.

This is all just to much for daisy who needs to find a space to meditate.  Which she does just as the sky opens up a downpour on them all.   The only consolation is that Susan’s unpegged-tent is there to save the day.

Chapter 20 opens with two guys throwing a rager in a unfamiliar house.  The furniture looks utterly destroyed.  We find out the at this is the place the girls are living in this year.  Amazingly it all looks beautiful.  Until Susan sits on the couch and finds that it is all held together with school glue and tape.  This can only mean one thing: a trip to IKEA!

Esther has never been to one (The deGroots fled the Netherlands to escape the jackboot march of flat-packed furniture) but she is instantly convinced of its awesomeness. The next page shows them sitting on all kinds of furniture with IKEA sounding-names (the note at the bottom translates” Orkan/Hat/Slukhål as hurricane/hatred/sinkhole.

Esther is allowed to buy one puppet and they have come in under budget which means meatballs!  Susan explains that they are “made of the national meat of Sweden: swan.”

Then reality sets in–they have to transport all of those flat boxes home.  AND put it all together.  Susan refuses to let Daisy ask McGraw for help, but Daisy sneaks out to ask him for tools: “is one size of junior hacksaw enough?”   “For 99% of the human race, probably.”

McGraw and Ed move into their new place.  Ed has spent a fortune on a cappuccino maker which he says will save them a ton of money over the year.  When they come back from their evening out, Dean has returned and has immediately destroyed the coffee maker by stuffing bananas into it and saying the smoothie maker is broken.

It’s going to be that kind of year.

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