Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Irish Writer’ Category

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…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACKPEACHES-Live at Massey Hall (August 4, 2016).

Peaches is afraid of no one.  She bears it all, lyrically, visually, sexually (sample lyric: “Can’t talk right now this chick’s dick is in my mouth”).

She stands center stage, all by herself atop a small pyramid.  She programs some beats at the back of the pyramid and then begins singing the lyrics to “Rub.”  She demonstrates quite exaggeratedly where the rubbing out to take place

Tell on my pussy
Whistle blow my clit
Watch it open up
Cause it can’t keep a secret

What’s great about Peaches is that she was 49 at the time of this performance and she held nothing back–doing a very impressive split at the top of “Operate.”

She began the show with an oversized cape and what looks like a catcher’s chest protector with the outline of abs on it.  When she takes those off she reveals a body suit with hands all over it–grabbing her.

Next up is “Vaginoplasty.”  She introduces the song that it “is not about a big dick or big tits it’s about my big fucking vagina.”  Its at this point that her two dancers (Jess Daly and Agent Cleave) come out wearing gigantic vagina body suits.

In addition to being about her vagina though, she also addresses transgender issues

If you’re born as a man
But know you’re a woman
I understand
Gotta get it, get it girl

About this song she later said:

I think “Vaginoplasty” is about an important subject, but I also think it’s hilarious. The song is about a big vag, but then you have to think, Why does that gross me out?

Her voice is terrific on this song as well, she hits some really powerful notes.

“Mean Something” features a duet with “Feist.”  Feist sings the eerily compelling chorus.  It’s a great song without being explicit.

During an interview she talks about going to Berlin where she was appreciated before returning home to make her album.

After an onstage costume change, Peaches wears a fabulous outfit that’s a giant vagina and she walks out into the audience, walking across the backs of the chairs until she stops and says, “These are my parents!” (their reaction is..amusing).

“How You Like My Cut” is more of a rap–incredibly sparse with lyrics that are not terribly eloquent

How you like my cut
How you like my cut what
How you like my cut

But it seems more about the mood than the words.  Words are suitably important for “Fuck the Pain Away” (now that is something you did think you’d be singing at Massey Hall).  Both songs feature her dancers in minimal bondage gear.

The chorus that gets the crowd chanting is

S I S I U D, stay in school cause it’s the best

With repetition, the lines eventually sound like “SIS, stay in school cause it’s the best IUD.” Peaches thus ties the education of women directly to birth control and reproductive autonomy.

For the final two songs, she has one more outfit change (which leaves her topless, but with pasties on).  “Dumb Fuck” has an incredibly catchy chorus of “dumb fuck, you dumb fuck, you dumb fuck” which is certainly cathartic.

The final song is “Close Up” and is a duet with Joel Gibb from The Hidden Cameras.  They have a lot of fun with the song.

[READ: January 9, 2017] “The Bog Girl” 

Some stories are so weird that you have to keep reading.  And when they get even weirder and even more compelling, you sort of marvel at the way it unfolds.

This story was one of those.

Cillian is a fifteen year old boy working in the peatlands in an island off of Ireland on the archipelago known as the Four Horsemen.  He is working illegally, but his boss hired him because his house abutted the peatlands.

The story gives a brief history of peat–how it is created and used for fuel and explains that the lack of oxygen allows things to decompose there–so there are all kinds of dead animals in the peat.  But no one notices because it is now industrially harvested.

Then one day, as he is digging up the peat, Cillian sees a hand.  It proves to be the hand of a girl.  When she is exhumed, her body comes out intact.  She is cute with a sweet smile.  The police determine that she is not a recent murder, that she is probably 2,000 years old.  Well, Cillian is lucky that he lives on a remote island. (more…)

Read Full Post »

CV1_TNY_06_08_15_09.indd

SOUNDTRACK: MAX RICHTER-“Dream 3 (In The Midst Of My Life)” from Sleep– NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 17, 2018).

This piece is remarkable.  And the except provided here (all 8 minutes of it) is but a teeny fraction of the entire 8 hour work.

I had heard about this piece on Echoes a few months ago and was very interested in it, but figured there was no way I’d hear it.  I never imagined anyone would hear it quite like this:

Right at the start of the 2018 SXSW Music Festival, Max Richter’s eight-hour composition Sleep was performed overnight to an audience tucked into 150 beds. They — the audience, not the tireless group of musicians who performed the piece — slept, dreamed and sometimes snored through this trance-inducing experience.

Richter has described this piece: “Really, what I wanted to do is provide a landscape or a musical place where people could fall asleep.”

In the video here, you’ll see Richter himself on keyboards and electronics, along with the ACME string ensemble and soprano vocalist Grace Davidson.

What I loved about the story of this piece is not that it is a piece to sleep to exactly but that it is based around the neuroscience of sleep.  He says, “Sleep is an attempt to see how that space when your conscious mind is on holiday can be a place for music to live.”

It’s wonderful and I would love to sleep to it some night.

[READ: April 13, 2016] “Old Wounds”

I thought that I had read more by Edna O’Brien but it appears that I’ve read hardly anything by her.

This story was an interesting look at Irish stubborness and the way families can hate each other over small things (or even big things).

The narrator explains that her family had a falling out and for several years there was no communication at all between them.  Even when they attended funerals they did not acknowledge each other.

Finally all of the older people had died off and it was just her and her cousin Edward (both past middle age) they met and put aside the hostilities. They even visited the family graveyard together.  The graveyard was on an island a short boat ride from Edward’s house. (more…)

Read Full Post »

15 SOUNDTRACK: SPIRIT FAMILY REUNION-Tiny Desk Concert #244  (October 8, 2012).

sruI first heard Spirit Family Reunion when NPR covered their show at Newport Folk Festival in 2012 (a few months before they played the Tiny Desk).  I really enjoyed their set which was vibrant and fun.  And clearly Bob Boilen did too.

Spirit Family Reunion was my favorite find at this year’s Newport Folk Festival. The group makes music I’d call “new old-timey,” but which its members call “open-door gospel” — gospel music that’s not tied to any particular religious denomination.

There are 6 0f them plating–an upright bass, banjo, guitar, fiddle washboard (!) and drums.  And they play three songs.

“Leave Your Troubles At The Gate” opens largely a capella and then just takes off with some wild fiddling and fast strumming from everyone else.  For this song, the guitarist sings lead and the fiddler sings a higher pitched backing vocal—his voice is powerful and at an unexpected pitch.   They finish up and he says, “first song of the day… that’s a way to wake up.”

For the second song, “Green Rocky Road,” the violinist sings this one.  It changes the tone of the band since his voice is so different—strained and intense sounding.  When the song ends, he says, I hope you like singing….  we need help on this one.”

Throughout “I’ll Find A Way” he tries to encourage everyone to sing along (it’s hard to hear if they do): “Its fun, don’t be bashful.”   It is a simple song with an easy to repeat refrain.  And it is indeed uplifting: “When we’re singing together we’re shining a light on the dark places between us.”

[READ: July 10, 2016] “Foster”

This is a story set in Ireland.  It’s about young girl whose Ma is about to have another baby.  The girl is being shipped out to a friend for the summer so that her mom and dad can have the baby in peace.

The story is about the girl, but it is also about the couple who have fostered her.  They are much better off than the girl’s family–a far more successful farm with a much nicer house.  But something about them seems a little off to the girl.

I enjoyed the story although I was unclear when it was set.  The setting is quite rural, and there is talk of an outhouse and a chamber pot.  But there is also a television and plastic washing up on the shore, so it’s not as old as I thought. (more…)

Read Full Post »

dec15SOUNDTRACK: CAVEMAN-Tiny Desk Concert #207 (April 10, 2012).

caveman Bob Boilen really likes Caveman.  He picked their 2011 album as one of his favorites of the year.

I find their music to be absolutely fine.  But I feel like I’m missing the pop hooks–perhaps it’s different in this stripped down session.  Two guitars bass keys and drums.  The band plays four songs.  “My Time” is a poppy bouncy song.  “Easy Water” is moody with lots of shimmering guitars.

It turns out that the guitarist Jimmy Carbonetti has a shop in the East Village called Cobra Guitars. He made all of the band’s guitars.  Each one is built one at a time.  So there’s a nice plug for the shop.

“Old Vampire” has ringing guitars.  It’s a fun instrumental jam with the singer playing drums along with the drummer.  This song segues into “Old Friend,” another shimmering echoing song.

I really like the sounds the band has–their gentle echoing guitars sound great.  And the singer’s voice fits quite well.  The song even have some catchy spots, but there’s nothing dynamic about them for me to really latch onto.

[READ: March 16, 2016] “The Woman of the House”

The thing that I didn’t like about this story at first proved to be one of its strongest assets by the time I reached the end.

I found the writing to be stiff and rather unwelcoming. It was almost as if the author was trying to keep you out.  I didn’t care for that, but I see how well it worked for the underlying theme of the story.

The plot is pretty straightforward.  It opens on an old man in a wheelchair.  To younger men have come to his house and have offered to paint it.  He haggles with them–gives them a hard time–but they remain stone-faced and silent until he finally agrees.  He asks if they are Polish (the story is set in Ireland) and they nod.

They are not Polish, but it doesn’t matter, they can be if it will serve them.  The man knows that Polacks are good Catholics, which is why he agrees to their work. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »