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Archive for the ‘Humiliation’ Category

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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SOUNDTRACK: YUJA WANG-“Toccata in D minor, Op. 11” (Field Recordings, February 19, 2014).

I have never given much thought to the physical creation of a piano.  This Field Recording [On A Chilly Factory Floor, Yuja Wang’s Piano Sizzles] is set on the factory floor of Steinway & Sons.  As it opens you can see the craftsmen putting some touches on a piano, which really makes you think about how these machines are created.

This episode also introduced me to Chinese-born pianist Yuja Wang.

She is a [at the time] “27-year-old ultra-glam artist” who came to the factory in

one of her trademark dresses, significant stiletto booties and a Gucci fur stole, as well as some wrist warmers as a concession to the temperature.

The piece she played was also one I was unfamiliar with, played a piece that would chop shrinking violets to mulch: Prokofiev’s “Toccata in D minor, Op. 11.”

The blurb calls the piece “blisteringly difficult” and I totally agree.  It is nonstop notes for nearly five minutes.  Wang is up and down the keyboard, banging out notes in a nearly atonal piece (how she even remembered it much less played it is amazing).  And to see her pressing pedals in stilettos is pretty amusing too.

On a third listen, it’s not so much atonal as just very busy.  The melody is in there, it is just surrounded by so much else.  And watching the blurs that are Wang’s hands is jaw-dropping.

[READ: January 6, 2017] “Cold Little Bird”

I feel like Ben Marcus stories resist me, somewhat.  But this one was fantastic.

Martin and Rachel have two boys: a ten-year old-and a six-year-old.  As the story opens, Jonah, the ten-year-old says he doesn’t want to big hugged anymore. That he doesn’t like it.  He hopes that they will respect his decision about this.  He tells them that they can always cuddle with Lester, the six-year-old.

The parents shrug this off and think it is a phase.  Even when Jonah flatly says “I don’t love you.”

His parents tried to respect his wishes even as it went on for several weeks.  Martin was getting more and more exasperated, but Rachel seemed to be okay with it–telling him to back off and give the boy some space.

Soon enough, Jonah started playing with Lester–being very chummy and lovely with him.  And yet he did not warm up to his parents. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIG BOI-Tiny Desk Concert #793 (October 9, 2018).

Like everyone is America, I loved OutKast’s “Hey Ya” when it came out (still do).  And that album was pretty great (if a little long).  And then they kind of imploded.

I was always more of a fan of Andre 3000’s trippy side than Big Boi’s pop side.  And yet for this Tiny Desk, Big Boi is  aton of fun and the songs are really catchy.

These guys helped redefine the sound and style of hip-hop in the ’90s, incorporating funk and psychedelia while transcending genre boundaries. As half of OutKast — still the only rap group ever to take home Album of the Year at the Grammys —

The energy in the room was buoyant and vibrant from the moment they walked in the door. OutKast star Big Boi, Sleepy Brown of the prolific Atlanta production collective Organized Noize, and their eight-member backing band have been working together for 20-plus years, and their chemistry is instantaneous and undeniable.

And Big Boi is hilarious from the get go:

We have come from the planet of Stankonia to give y’all three big songs behind a tiny-ass desk.

The set starts with OutKast’s: “So Fresh, So Clean.”  It sounds as good as it did in 2000, and possibly a little better live.  Big Boi’s voice instantly sounds like it does on the record (the way he echoes clean).  The bass (Preston Crump) sound great running through the song and the gently echoing guitar (David Brown) sounds great.

The backing vocals (Keisha Williams and Terrance “Scar” Smith) are spot on.  Perhaps the biggest surprise comes from the trumpets (Jason Freeman and Jerry Freeman).  It didn’t occur to me that he’d use them, but they really make the track.

After the track, he cracks up the room by saying “the Tiny Desk needs a Tiny fan” (of course they are all wearing matching hoodies that say TRAP HOUSE (in the style of WAFFLE HOUSE).

Big Boi continues to thrive as a solo act, riding the charts with last year’s Boomiverse and its hit single “All Night.”

He describes the song as a “current pop smash hit with L.A. Reid–the first hit to launch that label.”  It opens with a super catchy and fun piano riff (very old-school sounding). The piano is a sample which DJ Cutmaster Swift plays on his Mac and then scratches it on the turntable.

Holy cow is that song catchy.  I love at the end when Big Boi and his rapping partner Sleepy Brown mime the piano part perfectly.

The final song is “The Way You Move” from 2003’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.  He describes it in a hilariously casual way as “one of the biggest things we’ve ever done.”  It opens with some great scratching and the snappy drums from Omar Phillips.  This is a song that was a little too poppy for me on the record, but man it’s an undeniable track.

It’s a terrific set and one that I wish was ten minutes longer.

[READ: October 14, 2018] “The Coast of Leitrim”

This story seems like a simple case of a loser-ish guy trying desperately to woo a woman.

Seamus Ferris is thirty-five.  He lives alone in an inherited house and he has fallen hard for a Polish woman who works in a cafe down in Carrick.  He has no mortgage, which is a plus, but he’s not especially exciting, generally speaking.

He feels that the situation is like a vast love affair, although he has never spoken to her–more than ordering anyway.  But he knew that she was sensitive, with a “dreamy distracted air” and she was “at a remove from the other mullockers who worked in the cafe.”  She was pretty but no supermodel–Seamus admitted he himself was not hideous.

Using some sly detective work–he peeked at the work schedule while using the toilet, he learned her name and then did some research on Instagram.  Her full name Katharine Zeileinski was unique enough for him to be able to narrow down the account quickly.  She didn’t post much, but what she did suggested she was single. That’s all he wanted. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: D.D DUMBO-“Walrus,” “Tropical Oceans” (Field Recordings, May 15, 2014).

I don’t know when people started looping drums and guitar to make fuller sounds.  I guess it’s been a decade or so.  But this recording from 2014 seems positively ancient.  And yet D.D Dumbo uses the technology perfectly.  And in this Field Recording [D.D Dumbo: Looping Sounds In An Austin Alleyway] this one guy sounds huge!

Mystery seems to swirl around D.D Dumbo. We’d heard all sorts of crazy rumors about this solo musician; namely, that Dumbo is a modern-day nomad whose only worldly possessions are his guitar and some crazy customized pedals. But once he arrived for one of our SXSW Backyard Sessions, here’s what we discovered: Dumbo was born outside of Melbourne, Australia (birth name: Oliver Hugh Perry). He performs with a 12-string electric guitar, a simple drum set-up and some loop pedals. And he prefers to let his eclectic, drone-filled music speak for itself — so, alas, no comment on the nomad rumors.

As “Walrus” opens, he plays a nifty guitar riff that is part sliding notes and part harmonics.  These are looped.  He adds some vocal “ahhs” and “eeehs” and then puts in a very simple drum beat.  When the song properly starts, his style of playing reminds me of the West African guitarists I’ve heard on Tiny Desk.  It’s slinky and repetitive, almost turning into a droning rhythm.  He sings, but I’m not even sure if there are actual words.

The song builds and shrinks as he adds previously looped parts and it stops perfectly when he needs to do a quick guitar section before it starts again.

If you listen closely to his music, though, one thing is certain: It’s hard to nail down Dumbo’s influences. As he performed for a curious crowd at Austin’s Friends & Neighbors during SXSW, we heard numerous global destinations in his music — including stops in North African deserts, as well as a jaunt to the American South for a touch of the blues. Here, D.D Dumbo showcases two uniquely minimal songs: an unreleased song called “Walrus,” and “Tropical Oceans,” from his recent self-titled EP.

“Tropical Oceans,” starts with some scratched guitar strings as a percussive sound.  He builds t he ambiance by tapping his guitar body to create waves of sounds.  After the drum beats, he begins playing and singing the song proper.

[READ: June 26, 2014] “Usl at the Stadium”

So Usl is the name of a character in this story.  It’s a strange name and kind of distracts from the story somewhat because why would anyone be named that?

This story actually has nothing to do with his name, so it could have been something else and we wouldn’t even think about his name.

This story is about Usl at a Yankee game.  The Sunday game started at 2PM and Usl had gone. He had fallen asleep and was featured on the Jumbotron intermittently between 4:02 and 4:09.  Usl became an internet sensation because the announcers had talked about him while he was on screen.

So he was getting calls from newspapers and other places for “celebrities.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SERGIO MENDOZA Y LA ORKESTRA-Backyard Show (Field Recordings, June 4, 2014).

This Field Recording [Coffee And Mambo With Sergio Mendoza Y La Orkesta] differs from other ones because it is actually a mini-concert.  Almost like a Tiny Desk Concert outside.

Sergio Mendoza and his band La Orkesta are from Arizona and they play three songs in this backyard party.

They mix myriad Latin styles — what Mendoza calls “indie mambo,” salted with generous handfuls of cumbia, merengue and ranchera — and then feed all that through a psychedelic prism. They perform their songs with charm and panache, set off by the fireworks of the group’s resident showman, the multi-talented Salvador Duran.

While NPR Music was in Austin for SXSW this year, we coaxed Mendoza and his crew into a three-song backyard party after a little local coffee. But they didn’t really need the caffeine to get everyone’s blood pumping.

“Traicionera” (Treasons) has a great pedal steel guitar part running through it.  Duran is dancing and stomping on the stomp box and then he takes a great vocal run with his deep resonant voice.

“La Cucharita” (Little Spoon) Sergio sings thee main verses, but when the chorus comes in, Duran takes lead and Mendoza sings backups.  There’s an appropriate trumpet solo as well as a rocking guitar solo from the slide guitarist.

The final song “La Rienda” (The Reins) opens with a wah wah’d slide guitar–it sounds otherworldly.  Throughout the song he plays some very cool slide guitar sounds.  Duran sings lead and I love his gritty but beautiful voice.  As the song nears the end, during a relatively quiet part, you can hear a bird chirping as it quickly flies past–a nice bit of proof that it’s live and outside.

[READ: January 4, 2017] “Deer Season”

The title of this story confused me somewhat because while the story may be set in deer season, the story is actually about a seventeen-year-old girl.  The girl was “almost 18 and determined to have a fuck before it.”

She lives out near the woods and has her sites set on a country man who she has seen around.

She sat out under a tree–knowing he would pass by–reading a novel by Roberto Bolaño.

She was worried that the book might be too much for him, but he seemed interested. Then he told her that he had to burn half of his books last winter to stay warm.  They shared pleasantries and go their ways.

She has about a week to go before her 18th birthday.  And she is planning accordingly. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALYSON GREENFIELD-“Mama Said Knock You Out” (2011).

I found this song about 4 years ago and meant to post about it but never did.  I just saw it in my notes and decided to check it out again.

Alyson Greenfield is a pianist.  She sings (and plays) a bit like earlier Tori Amos.  And, like Tori, she takes an unlikley song to make an interesting cover.

The basis of this song is a wonderfully busy and complicated piano.  She doesn’t rap the verses exactly, but she does recite them quite quickly.

She is verbally dexterous, all while she’s playing a complex and beautiful arrangement on the piano.

The second chorus quiets down completely with a gentle piano melody and her singing softly but not un-menacingly.

It’s a fairly radical reinterpretation of the song.  There is no music in the original–just a sample of a simple musical motif), so everything that she plays is rather interesting and inspired.

I honestly don’t remember how I found this song.  But I have just looked her up and I see that it comes from an EP of covers of this ilk. The other songs include “Bad Boys” (a song I never had to hear again, even in her version).  “All That She Wants” which aside from being on piano instead of dance doesn’t sound all that different.  “Milkshake,” which I ‘d never heard of and “Gangsta’s Paradise” played on glockenspiel.

None of these covers is especially interesting because they lack the awesome musicality of “Mama.”

Since putting out that EP she released a one-off goof song called ‘Michael Cera C​*​ckblocked Me at SXSW,” and a song called “Uncharted Places,” which is kind of interesting–dancey but with toy instruments.  Her voice certainly sounds good in a poppy way.

But that was four years ago.  I’ve no idea what she’s up to.

[READ: January 5, 2018] “Blueprint for St. Louis”

I printed out this story from the web.  But apparently I missed the first page.  I was delighted that the story started with no introduction. I thought it was really cool that the first line was just:

What consumed them both right now was the situation in St. Louis.

What a wild opening.

It was said that in St. Louis there were thirty dead souls, but everyone knew that that number was low.  By a couple of decimal points. There had been a bombing and it was big.  It emerged that the explosives had been buried in the foundation of the building when it was being built two years earlier.

Terrorism wasn’t really the term anymore.  “Tax” seemed more like it.  This time it was levied on St Louis.  It was New Orleans the previous year.  Tuscon three years ago.  A tax on comfort and safety.  You learned not to be surprised.

It was Roy and Ida’s job to honor the site, honor the dead.  They designed large public graves where people could gather and maybe cool food trucks would park. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HOBO JOHNSON AND THE LOVEMAKERS-Tiny Desk Concert #785 (September 12, 2018).

Hobo Johnson and the Lovemakers are an incredibly fun and spontaneous-seeming band.  With lots and lots of shouting

“Romeo & Juliet” opens with some quiet piano and the band screaming: “Oh shit!  Godammit!  Fuck!  With Hobo continuing…Oh, that’s my shit right there!”

This song is a remarkably insightful look into a failing relationship.  It follows so many different avenues as Hobo John (Frank Lopes) speak/raps/sings lyrics that seem very personal.

We’re just Romeo and Juliet
But getting drunk and eating Percocets
But just to ease the stress
But soft what light, thru yonder window breaks
It is the east, but Juliet just puked off the balcony
How romantic

And if Romeo & Juliet continued to be married
Thens there’s half of a chance
That their kids would get embarrassed
When all the kids at school all talk about their parents
And Romeo Jr. has to say they’re not together
And Junior will dream of the day when he’s a man
And what he’ll do to avoid that 50% chance
Of his kids feeling the way he feels
He’ll probably just stick with Netflix and Chill

It ends with an a capella poem that details the breakup of parents–the sound of people falling out of love.

This is a band always on the verge of emotional explosions, all while Frank Lopes, aka Hobo Johnson, is quoting Shakespeare and making references to Jay-Z, The Front Bottoms song “Twin Size Mattress” and so much more.

“Sex in the City” opens with a pretty, quiet piano melody.  Hobo Johnson recites all of concerns about sex and love.  Lines like (“I got a duvet the other day – how do you wash a blanket? In a washer? That’s what I found out”)

So I’m not a babymaker-looker
But maybe I am
To a woman who really loves me
for who I am or maybe who I’m not
Either way it’s getting bothered and hot — GROSS!

If I looked like Brad Pitt mixed with a bit of Jake Gyllenhaal
in a bowl of David Hasselhoff.
I wouldn’t be here at all, I’d been in Los Angeles.
Or at your mom’s house eating all those sandwiches –DAMN I LOVE THOSE SANDWICHES.

It’s a terrific song.

Then Bob brings some peach scones our for the band–scones that he made himself.  (He got up at quarter to 7.  Hobo: That’s pretty early.  I will eat all these my self [grumbling] We’ll share them as a band).

The band

accomplished something remarkable this year with their Tiny Desk Contest entry. They made a simple backyard video – a single camera shoot – that’s now been seen almost 10 million times on YouTube. And the song they played, “Peach Scone,” has unlocked a door to a dream – to play a Tiny Desk Concert and be heard. The song is a tale of one-sided love – a tale of kindness in the face of loneliness and depression. Now, “a couple of kids – five I guess” as its lyrics go, get to bring their creative, urgent and somewhat nervous energy from Sacramento, Calif. to play “Peach Scone” and more to millions of other listeners.

They start “Scones” and Hobo messes up the words and laughs.  “How does this work when you mes at Tiny Desk?”  Bob: “Just start again.”  “Really?” “And we play the embarrassing part, too.”  “Really?  That’s awesome.”

For this song the pianist plays drums and there’s lots more shouting.  Despite the aforementioned kindness.  It’s terrific and slightly different from their video.

At times it’s as much a storytelling session or personal confession than a musical performance, and for me it conjures feelings of empathy and understanding and compassion.

The final song “Creve Coeur 1” is quieter.  It starts with a sad piano melody and although it has moments that are louder, the ending feels very personal: “Sorry Frank, You’re much too late.”

I hope I get to see them as they make the rounds touring.

[READ: September 20, 2017]  “As You Would Have Told It to Me (Sort of) If We Had Known Each Other Before You Died”

I really enjoyed this story.  Even if by the end I had no idea exactly what was happening.  And even after thinking about I’m not sure I even understand the internal logic of the title, much less the story.

It begins, “I remember that it was fall.”

Then the narrator tells the memory in past tense but with a sense of surprise as everything unfolds.

First, the police ring his doorbell.  The narrator thinks it is Katja.  He hadn’t spoken to her in three days, but things were like that between them sometimes. (more…)

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