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Archive for the ‘Humiliation’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: FEDE GRAÑA Y LOS PROLIJOS-“”El Gigante” (Field Recordings, May 5, 2015).

Fede Graña Y Los Prolijos are from Uruguay and play a stomping bluegrass (which is why this is called A Bluegrass Ditty By Way Of Uruguay).

Every year SXSW hosts a night of music from Uruguay.

Nestled between Argentina and Brazil way down on the southern tip of the Americas, Uruguay spends way too much time in the shadows of its better-known neighbors.

But a closer listen reveals something for just about everyone: rockeros, sure, but also fans of hip-hop, folk-influenced downtempo music and singer-songwriters with distinct voices and stories to tell.

With an electric bass and a small hand drum laying down the thumping rhythm and an accordion adding to the flair, the fascination comes from the very American-sounding guitar solo that introduces the song.  But once you comfortably know that this is bluegrass, it’s even more surprising when they all sing in Spanish.

After a couple of verses, there’s an accordion solo followed by an acoustic guitar solo (from the other guitarist).  There’s a slow down that seems like an ending but it’s a fake out as the song takes off once more,.

There’s some great guitar fingerwork by he singer as the song races to an end

What a fun song, although I never heard the word “Gigante” once..

[READ: January 5, 2017] “Chicken Hill”

Joy Williams’ stories never do what I expect them to do–for better and worse.

This is the story of Ruth.

It begins with Ruth going to a memorial fundrasier at the Barbed Wire, a biker bar “in a somewhat alarming part of town.”  She had donated $30 to the memorial of a boy, Hector, who has been run over by a sheriff’s deputy.

Ruth was pleased that the father was suing the sheriff–then she found out it was the boy’s fault–he had run in to traffic against the light.

The transition is a strange one: “It was probably just a coincidence that a child appeared not long after that.”  This was a girl who lived in a house nearby.  She was the daughter of a doctor and rather than introducing herself she said to Ruth “I would like to draw you in plein air.” (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: August 2018] Tuck Everlasting

Normally when we go on long car rides we listen to many audio books.  This summer, we drove to Chicago (12 hours each way) and listened to only two!  Two!  And this one was only three discs long.

I actually didn’t know anything about this story when we started it (somehow this classic children’s book written during my childhood totally escaped me).

What’s fascinating about this story is how little there is to it.  This is not a criticism.  It’s a remarkably compact plot.  Although there is an awful lot of description.  And while Peter Thomas did a great job with the action of the story, the descriptions tended to drag on a bit (you could blame Babbitt or Thomas I suppose).

The story focuses on the Tuck family.  Tuck, whose first name is a rarely used but is Angus, is the father.  Mae is his wife.  They have two children, Jesse who is 17 or so and Miles is 22 or so.

There is also Winnie Foster, a ten-year old girl.  Her family is the oldest family in Treegap, New Hampshire. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LUCIUS-Live at the Newport Folk Festival (July 27, 2018).

I was considering going to see Lucius at Union Transfer on July 25.  Something came up and I wound up not getting tickets.

While hearing a stream of them isn’t quite as good as seeing them live (especially since their look is so arresting), it was great to hear what I missed.

For this tour, Lucius was unplugged–acoustic versions of their songs and some covers.

It sounds like there may have been more going on at Newport (as there always is)

Accompanied by members of yMusic, students from the Berklee College of Music on strings and J. Blynn, along with Lucius regulars Jess Wolfe, Holly Laessig, Dan Molad, and Peter Lalish. The group also incorporated choreography into the set, with the dancers known as The Seaweed Sisters.

Songs included favorites new and old, like “Woman” and Turn It Around.” Tears were shed as they movingly tributed the recently departed producer and musician Richard Swift. Lucius performed Swift’s song “The Most of What I Know” (from his 2006 album Dressed Up for the Letdown) and, in typical Newport fashion, were joined by Brandi Carlile and the Twins, Nicole AtkinsSharon Van Etten and Bedouine.

Go Home” is my favorite song of theirs.  They opened with it.  I could have gone home happy.  “Right Down the Line” is a song I didn’t know by Gerry Rafferty.  It sounds pretty 70s–slick and poppy.  “Something About You”  featured the Seaweed Sisters doing choreography.

“Feels Like a Curse” is a slower number with strings.  It’s quite pretty.

“Turn It Around” is another favorite of mine, with big claps and a wonderfully catchy chorus (yes, I would have stayed for this!)  I love the power behind the chorus: “She’s looking through the wrong end of the telescope ha!”

Brandi Carlisle joins them for “Dusty Trails” and when they sing the “we’ll be alright” at the end, it is really transportive.

Next up

“They movingly tributed the recently departed producer and musician Richard Swift. Lucius performed Swift’s song “The Most of What I Know” (which I don;t know) and, in typical Newport fashion, were joined by Brandi Carlile and the Twins, Nicole Atkins, Sharon Van Etten and Bedouine.

“How Loud Your Heart Gets” is a little too overwhelmed by strings to really appreciate their vocals (which is crazy since they sing loud!).  “Woman” also sounds great and is a stunning set closer. The “encore” (sort of) is “A Dream Is A Wish” a lovely a capella version.

Below is the set list from Newport and what i would have seen had I gone to Union Transfer.

SET LIST:

  • “Go Home”
  • “Right Down The Line” (Gerry Rafferty)
  • “Something About You”
  • “Feels Like A Curse”
  • “Turn It Around”
  • “Madness”
  • “Dusty Trails”
  • “Most Of What I Know” (Richard Swift) [did not play at UT]
  • “Two of Us On The Run”
  • “How Loud Your Heart Gets”
  • “Woman”
  • “A Dream Is A Wish” (Daniel Bedingfield-Disney Song)

UNION TRANSFER SETLIST (duplicated songs in bold)

  1. Go Home
  2. Tempest
  3. Right Down the Line (Gerry Rafferty)
  4. Something About You
  5. Neighbors
  6. Feels Like a Curse
  7. Until We Get There
  8. Sweet and Tender Romance (The McKinleys)
  9. Turn It Around
  10. Madness
  11. True Love Will Find You in the End (Daniel Johnston)
  12. Two of Us on the Run
  13. How Loud Your Heart Gets
  14. Woman
  15. Dusty Trails
  16. Strangers (The Kinks)
  17. A Dream Is A Wish (Daniel Bedingfield-Disney Song)

[READ: August 6, 2018] “Displaced”

I enjoyed this story but it seemed to take forever.  I attribute this to Ford’s writing style although there’s nothing I could point to about it that makes me feel this way.

This is a story about a recently turned 16 year old boy, Henry, whose father died unexpectedly.  Henry’s main sadness about the is that if his father had lived longer, his mother would have divorced him and Henry could have gone o military school.

He is now alone, with his mother, in the South.  His fellow students have placed him in a strange limbo because of his father;s death .  He doesn’t like it.

In their neighborhood is a house for “transients.”  Out front is a sign that says DIAL 33377 (that’s all) and everyone referred to it as the DIAL house.  Secretaries and waitresses lived there.   Young married couples.  Even two men living together.  Henry realizes now that he and his mother were transients too, they just didn’t call themselves that. (more…)

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nyoct20

SOUNDTRACK: MOBY-One Song, Two Days, Three Versions (Project Song: May 4, 2010).

Project Song was a nifty little show that NPR Music created.  The premise was that NPR would give a musician some prompts and a recording studio.  They then had two days to write and record a song.  I don’t know how much of the process was to be filmed, but presumably most of it. Then it would be edited down to a fifteen minute show.  The results are pretty cool and it’s a shame they only made five of them.

The fifth and (presumably) final one they did was about six months after the previous one.  This Project was offered to Moby.

Moby generally works alone in his New York apartment, but for Project Song, we asked him to bring along a collaborator. He picked Kelli Scarr, a Brooklyn-based singer and songwriter with a breathtaking voice. They arrived at NPR, a bit nervous and eager.

It takes weeks, even years, to write a song. NPR Music’s Project Song challenges musicians to do it in just two days. And every Project Song participant has worked right up to the last-minute — that is, until Moby.

He and collaborator Kelli Scarr finished their song in a little more than a single day. In fact, they had so much time left over, they recorded a second version of the song. And after that, they gave a small concert for the staff at NPR.

I kicked off the songwriting process by showing them a series of photographs and words. The surreal images came from New York artist Phil Toledano; you can see more of his work at NPR’s Picture Show blog. Moby and Scarr are both drawn to an image of a man in the woods wearing a trenchcoat. [Moby: “A disconcerting loneliness that I really like”].  There’s a brown briefcase on the earthen floor beside him, and his head looks like a glowing storm cloud.

Next, I gave them a series of words to choose from. Moby picked the word “flight.” Scarr chose “Sunday,” which Moby calls “the most depressing day of the week.”

Not too long after, Moby puts the card with the word “Sunday” printed on it, along with the photograph, on a nearby chair. He picks up a bass guitar and immediately starts playing a riff in the key of E. Turns out, this hastily played bass line would become the bedrock for their new song.

Just six hours later, the first of three versions of “Gone to Sleep” was recorded.

When he arrives he says he thought about cheating with chords ahead of time, but he likes the idea of jumping headlong into a project.  And as the blurb says, within minutes he’s got a bass line, some synths and drums.  Then a guitar line and more keyboard sounds.

Then they work on lyrics.  Moby says, “My favorite type of unsettling art is art that isn’t immediately unsettling.”  he cites the classic example of “Mack the Knife.”  You first hear it and it’s happy and then you listen to the lyrics and its terrifying.

The end of the video clip plays the whole song, guitar and piano and atmospheric.  Then over the closing credits they play a somewhat less atmospheric, gentler version of the song.  And then there’s the Tiny Desk which is altogether different.

It’s like Moby broke Project Song by making it seem too easy.

[READ: July 27, 2017] “Christina the Astonishing (1150-1224)”

I’ve read a few things by Vladez Quade, but this one is quite different from anything else.  It’s actually quite different form anything else I’ve read, period.  The closest author this reminded me of would be Brendan Connell, who likes to thoroughly investigate a historical character (real or imagined).

But this story is based on an actual; person:

St. Christina the Astonishing has been recognized as a saint since the 12th century. She was placed in the calendar of the saints by at least two bishops of the Catholic Church in two different centuries (17th & 19th) that also recognized her life in a religious order and preservation of her relics.

The story tells of her life from the point of view of her older sister and is written in a rather formal, almost canonical, style with section headings in an old style: “How She was Led Forth from the Body and How She Lived Again.”

The narrator, Mara, tells us that Christina lay dead in her coffin, a grave awaiting her.  Mara is sad, she loved Christina, “I see this now.  She was difficult, unknowable but I loved her.”

But at the same time she says that perhaps if they had hastened, outrun the melody.  If we’d only got those last words out, “He might have spared us our miracle.”

For indeed, the dead Christina not only rose bodily from her coffin, she levitated to the rafters. The narrator and her sister Gertrude clutched each other in fear. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKGEORGIE JAMES-Builds ‘Monument’ In Two Days (Project Song: December 17, 2007).

Project Song was a nifty little show that NPR Music created.  The premise was that NPR would give a musician some prompts and a recording studio.  They then had two days to write and record a song.  I don’t know how much of the process was to be filmed, but presumably most of it. Then it would be edited down to a fifteen minute show.  The results are pretty cool and it’s a shame they only made five of them.

The second one they did was with Georgie James

Georgie James is a band on the rise [Note: they broke up on August 4, 2008]. The duo makes smart, infectious pop with tight harmonies and jangling guitars — an upbeat and innocent sound that’s made its debut album (Places, 2007) a sleeper success.  Georgie James got its start when drummer John Davis’ former band, Q and Not U, disbanded in 2005.  Davis turned to his singer-songwriter friend, Burhenn, to forge something new.

At first, the two seemed like an unlikely pair. Davis had spent the past seven years releasing records with his bandmates on the legendary D.C. punk label Dischord and touring the world. Burhenn, on the other hand, had been releasing solo projects on her own label, Laboratory Records, and playing smaller venues on the east and west coast.

They eventually settled on a stark but serene image by New York photographer Phil Toledano, depicting a bare room with a large pile of books stacked in the middle. For the phrase, the band chose “Something Joyful.”

Their process seems tense to me.  But maybe that’s just how they bounce ideas off of each other.

He chose the words “something joyful.”  She chose David Bowie and 45.
She likes the pile of books in empty room–she sees it youthful and he sees it as disuse, disrepair, neglect.  They decide to use that picture and the phrase “something joyful.”

She plays piano melody banging out ideas for the tune on the first day. There’s lots of discussion and back and forth–very different from Merritt’s solitary style.

“It’s really difficult when you have two people who are trying to meet in the middle,” Burhenn says. “We each had a different vision of where this was going to go, and to try to very quickly throw that together is a difficult thing.”

They change styles.  She suggests maybe a Talking Heads’ vibe.  She sings it in a David Byrne-ish drawl but he doesn’t like it.  She says this is turning into a nightmare and fears the song sounds like John Cougar Mellencamp or Rod Stewart.

But in the final hour they pulled it out.

Davis added drums, bass and guitar. The two layered the sound with multiple harmonies and hand-claps.

Two days later, they had a song they called “Monument.” It’s a three-and-a-half-minute pop gem that marries the contrasting loneliness of the photograph with the spirit of “something joyful.”

As they walk out she says, “I think it’s awesome.”  And it’s very catchy.

[READ: February 2, 2018] “All That Glass”

This is a peculiar story that starts out seemingly reasonable and then just goes off the rails.

A man says his wife no longer wants to sleep in the bedroom anymore.  He took it as an attack against him and wondered what he did.  But she ignores that and says she wants to move into the conservatory.  He agrees but says that “All that glass, it gets cold in there at night.”

She moves some basics into the conservatory.  He thought it was odd, but it gave the conservatory a good spring cleaning.

It was cold in there at night  She wore extra clothes though, and that was that. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DIVINE COMEDY-Loose Canon: Live in Europe 2016-2017 (2018).

I loved The Divine Comedy at the turn of the century (the fin de siècle, if you will).  They were one of my favorite bands.

Since then Neil Hannon (the man behind the band) has released a few albums which I have liked–but none as much as those early records.

This recording is primarily his latter songs, and as such isn’t as exciting to me.  (Although setlists from the tour shows that he played a lot of older songs as well, so this disc is mostly a latter period recording).

The first three songs are from the newest album Foreverland: “How Can You Leave Me On My Own,” “Napoleon Complex” and “Catherine the Great.”  And among the next few songs are “To the Rescue” and “Funny Peculiar.”   So that’s five in all from that album.

The previous album Bang Goes the Knighthood accounts for five more songs “The Complete Banker,” “Bang Goes The Knighthood,” “At The Indie Disco,” “Assume The Perpendicular” and “I Like.”

So that’s ten of seventeen from the two latest albums.

After listening to it a few times I have come to appreciate his newer music even more and to see that it is equally as cleverly crafted.  He’s just a different person now with different lyrical and musical ideas.  I will certainly give a re-listen to the last decade;s worth of music.

“How Can” is fun a bouncy, “Napoleon” is snarky and witty.  “Funny Peculiar” is a duet with  guest vocals from Lisa O’Neill.  She has a fascinating singing style which is kind of peculiar in its own way.

“The Complete Banker” is wonderfully sarcastic and catchy and “I Like” is so simple and delightful.  “Assume the Perpendicular” is an other fun uptempo song, but of this batch its “Indie Disco” that is the real highlight (this includes an excerpt from New Order’s Blue Monday”).

It also sounds like this was a fun souvenir for anyone who saw the tour (he dressed up as Napoleon and others, and apparently “Indie Disco” was really fun live).  I have always wanted to see them and hold them high on my list of bands to see.  But he hasn’t been to the States in almost ten years, so I don’t have high hopes to experience them live.

The band for The Divine Comedy’s live shows has changed over the years, sometimes large and orchestral or, like this tour, a simpler five-piece.  They sound good although they do underplay the orchestral quality of the music.

Going back there’s one from Victory for the Comic Muse “A Lady Of A Certain Age” and one from Absent Friends “Our Mutual Friend.”  These two songs are lovely and quite poignant, especially “Lady.”  They are a far cry from the raucous songs of old.

The first older song is from 2001’s Regenertaion with a wild and fun rendition of “Bad Ambassador.”  His voice doesn;t sound great on this song.  I’m not sure if he ever sounded great live, but he certainly underplays some of the bigger moments in the song.

The crowd really gets pumping for Fin de Siècle‘s “Generation Sex” and “National Express.”  These two songs are a lot of fun and I imagine mus t be really rousing live.  Once again he doesn’t sound great. Not that he has lost his voice but almost like he;s not trying all that hard.

The disc is collected from shows all over Europe, so its interesting if they picked songs where he doesn’t sound that great.

It’s not until the encores that he brings out two really old songs 1994’s “A Drinking Song” and “Tonight We Fly.”

I’m sure they picked this particular version of “A Drinking Song” because he admits to being quite drunk himself.  And there’s a funny moment where he gets a hair caught in his throat.  “Is it yours?”  Indeed, his banter with the audience is a highlight.  He is clearly a good showman, and perhaps that makes up for some of the shortcomings of the disc.  This song is a good example.  His voice is much louder than the instruments and, frankly, he doesn’t sound that great as what is mostly a capella–but the overall presentation is fun.

The ending “Tonight We Fly” is a treat as well.  Again, he doesn’t sound perfect, but he sounds like he’s having fun.

I feel like this makes me want to see them a little less–except that it sounds like the performance is great even if his voice isn’t anymore.  Regardless, is he ever comes back to the States, I’ll be there for sure.

[READ: January 19, 2018] “The People Who Kept Everything”

I read this novel 7 years ago.  But since I’ve been going back through old Harper’s and found this excerpt I thought it would be worth reading (the excerpt) again.  And I really enjoyed it, I had forgotten about this scene until the end of the piece.

The narrator says that on the night before he left for college his father gave him a Spanish dueling knife and told him to keep it and never lose it.

When the narrator asks his father where he got it he says he’d better not say–he could tell him he won it in a card game in El Paso or a cathouse in Brownsville.

He kept the knife in a drawer and it moved with him to every location her went–dorm rooms, apartments.  Often it was in the kitchen with the cutlery, ignored by everyone except the new girlfriend who wanted to cook something. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GOLDLINK-Tiny Desk Concert #753 (June 13, 2018).

GoldLink is a D.C. rapper.  The blurb tells us he

acted as if his Tiny Desk performance was a family reunion and took the opportunity to invite everybody and their cousin in as his guests.  To mark the moment, Link wore a crisp T-shirt reading ‘I Told You So’ — a nod to the haters, no doubt — and jumped around his discography to perform cuts from each of his three projects: “Bedtime Story” from 2014’s The God Complex, “Dark Skin Women” from 2015’s And After That, We Didn’t Talk and finally “Some Girl” and “Pray Everyday (Survivor’s Guilt)” from 2017’s At What Cost.

I’ve never heard of GoldLink, so I have no idea what he normally sounds like, but the blurb continues:

instead of the usual Steve Lacy or Kaytranada-aided beats, Link delivered his verses accompanied by a smooth six-piece band and two velvet-voiced singers. (Link’s longtime producer Louie Lastic plays bass for the entire set.)

 I like the fast rapping and 70s vibes of “Bedtime Story”–the strings are a nice touch, too.  As with certain rappers, the repetition of words drives me nuts, especially if they are just spoken.  So “Dark Skin Women”s repetition of “you’re a star come and dance baby” drives me a little nutty.  The backing vocals are pretty, though.

I enjoyed the self-deprecating intro of “Some Girl” I wrote this about an ex … stupid.  But these lyrics, good grief

I met her in the summer, started with a kiss
But she fucked her so good that I had to flood her wrist

Flood her wrist?

The final song “Pray Everyday (Survivor’s Guilt)” begins with a woman stating a prayer:

Lord I pray for wealth and power over all these motherfuckers
For the DMV to reign for many moons
Fuck these rappers, fuck these labels
Fuck these bitches, fuck these bitches, you hear me
They killed my nigga and I pray for revenge
Control me and use me the way you would allow me to
Amen

The DMV?

And then there’s just really bland sex boasting

All my life been addicted to the pussy that’s my vice, yeah
Drinkin’ drinkin’ drinkin’ all my problems
I don’t need nobody, I just need my bottle that’s for certain
Put the pussy on the pedestal

So, yeah, I could take or leave GoldLink.  There’s certainly some good sounds, but it sucks when a rapper’s rhymes are so lame.  Here’s who made it:

D’Anthony Carlos (GoldLink), Kiara Brown (Kelow) (Poet), Elliot Skinner (Vocals), Grace Weber (Vocals), Billy Davis (Musical Director/Keyboardist), Alex Ben-Abdallah (Louie Lastic) (Bassist), Danny McKinnon (Guitarist), Darren Hanible (Lil Dream) (Drummer), Burt Jackson (Trumpet), Marvill Martin (Violinist).

[READ: July 1, 2018] “The Luck of Kokura”

This is an excerpt from Shteyngart’s new novel Lake Success (due out in Sept).

Barry wakes up on a bed, not knowing where he is.  He had fled New York and the hedge fund he worked at.  He has fled his wife and son (and the boy’s autism).

It was the hedge fund (This Side of Capital) that was causing him his troubles. He says he hadn’t done anything wrong–he had shorted GastroLux a new GERD medication that was going to do wonders for yuppies.  He was also a major shareholder in Valupro which had almost bought GastroLux .  Everyone else had piled onto the trade, so why should he have not?

He fled New York with $600 in his pocket and his Rollaboard of expensive watches–his only pride..  He had fled to Atlanta on a Greyhound and crashed at his former coworker Jeff Park’s condo.  The condo was amazing–tastefully decorated and really expensive (even for Atlanta). (more…)

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