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Archive for the ‘Jealousy’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: OK Go-Tiny Desk Concert #278 (June 3, 2013).

I love OK Go’s music videos.  They are stupendous. I have watched all of them several times.  And yet I can’t remember a single song.  But that doesn’t diminish my appreciation for them.

When NPR was moving offices, they made a “Tiny Desk Concert” of the band proceeding from their old location to the new one.  And in OK Go fashion, they made a great video to go with it.  The music is live (I believe), even though they must have shot the footage hundreds of times.  It’s sort of a stop motion video, except that it’s not single frames but short 2 second clips spliced together.

You can watch as the old office is dismantled, as they walk through the halls to the moving truck.   As they play on the truck in the streets of D.C. and then as they enter the new building.  There are cameos from NPR colleagues: Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, David Greene, Guy Raz, Scott Simon, Alix Spiegel, Susan Stamberg and more.  There’s a hilarious moment with Karl Kassel who gives them a dirty look.  And then they march through the offices, the news room and into the new Tiny Desk location where they finish the song.

The song is fun and catchy and even has new lyrics that reference the NPR move.  It has to be seen to be appreciated.

And if you like figures here are some details from the shoot:

  • Number of video takes: 223
  • Number of seconds Carl Kasell spent in the elevator with OK Go: 98
  • Number of times Ari Shapiro played the tubular bells: 15
  • Number of days it took to shoot: 2
  • Number of cameras: 1

Incidentally, NPR and I are out of sync with our counting of Tiny Desk Concerts.  I can’t figure out what happened.  The reason mine is correct is because I have written down every concert and numbered them.  So I feel that for them one doesn’t count?  They say this was number 277.  Someday they’ll read this and we’ll get to the  bottom of everything.

[READ: April 1, 2016] No Mercy Vol. 1

Because of the way books are being handled at my work now, I don’t get to see as many books as I used to. So i was pretty delighted to get this graphic novel on my desk.  Even if I didn’t quite know what it was about, I wanted to read it.  And boy did I enjoy it.

I had no idea that the cast was a group of aspiring Princeton University students on a per-freshman trip to an underprivileged county (I like the t-shirts that say Building Bridges Helping Hands with a kinda Princeton P on the front.

We meet the cast in a cool way–each one steeping forward a bit in the crowd and giving a bit of information about themselves…mostly through text messages. Oh and I loved the way the opening colophon pages looked just like Facebook (or whatever) with a timeline photo and then on the right side–sponsored images with drawings of the author and the illustrators and an ad for an other Image comic by Alex de Campi called Valentine–genius layout idea.

There’s also a comment under the photo which says “OMG how sad, they were also young.”  So you know something bad is going to happen these poor kids. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MATT ULERY’S LOOM-Tiny Desk Concert #312 (October 19, 2013).

When a jazz band (or really any band) is named after a person, it’s always fun to try to guess who that person is in the band.  The first song “Coriander”  starts out with some trumpet notes and a kind of intro melody that’s played by both the sax and the trumpet.  And then about a minute and a half in, the keyboards take over, with a great cool 70s jazz/funk sound (the keys sound is my favorite part of this band).  And then of course behind all of this is the constancy of the drummer and the upright bass.  So, which one is Ulery?

I never would have guessed that he’s he bassist.  For his job in this band is basically to hold everything together.  The horns are doing their own thing, the drummer is doing all kinds of cool syncopated jazz beats. And the keys are just soloing like mad.  I don’t know if it’s because the bass isn’t very loud in the mix (it’s really isn’t), but his presence is almost not really there.  At the 4 minute mark of “Coriander,” the whole band drops away and the keys pick up a cool riff and then the horns chime in and eventually the bass comes back in.  I think he’s just not loud enough because watching him, it sure looks like he’s doing a lot more than what I hear.  And yet he’s never flashy.  As I say, he’s the ground, not the star.

When he speaks he’s rather quiet as well.  He says he loves NPR and gives a shout-out to his local Chicago station WBEZ.

Then they launch into the second song “My Favorite Stranger”  in which the keyboardist has now switched to accordion (a pretty pearly white and red affair).  I really like when the bass clarinet takes over the melody for a bit.  The accordion acts like drone with the trumpet taking most of the leads (although I love when the bass clarinet gets to run those same leads as well).

And for some background on Ulery:

The Chicago bassist Matt Ulery writes beautiful music in an unpretentious way. It’s intricate stuff, with interlocking parts and segmented structures. It often borrows from Eastern European scales, orchestral tone colors, folky textures. (On his backpack, he sports a SXSW patch from when he toured with a rock band called In Tall Buildings.) But it doesn’t sound like calculus class, as in some other ambitious works of modern jazz. It never seems to stray too far away from pretty melody over undulating rhythms, and that deceptive simplicity sets it apart.

Last year Ulery put out a grand two-disc set of music you might call “chamber jazz.” By A Little Light had strings, orchestral horns and singers — the whole nine yards. But he has also long done lavish on a smaller scale with a band called Loom. A rejiggered quintet lineup (note: Matt Ulery, bass; Marquis Hill, trumpet; Geof Bradfield, bass clarinet; Rob Clearfield, keyboards/accordion; Jon Dietemyer, drums) produced this year’s Wake An Echo, which the band brought to our office during a brief summer tour.

[READ: December 14, 2014] Tetris

I really enjoyed Box Brown’s take on Andre the Giant.  I really wasn’t sure what a book about Tetris could contain.  I mean, I love the game, but what’s there to say about it?  Well, it turns out, quite a lot–250 pages worth, in fact.

Beyond the game itself, Brown talks a bit about the history of video game development, including a bit of the history of Nintendo. But then he gets into what happened when people started to get addicted to those little falling blocks.  Who knew that Tetris had such a convoluted history?

The book starts off (in Brown’s wonderfully simple drawing style) with a picture of Alexey Pajitnov, the creator of Tetris and his friend Vladimir Pokhilo.  Alexey says he has been thinking about the pentomino puzzle. (more…)

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pipSOUNDTRACK: DANIEL BACHMAN-Tiny Desk Concert #256 (December 9, 2012).

dan-bach Lars Gotrich, an NPR music dude, loves metal and weird music but also amazing Americana folk guitarists.  Daniel Bachman was an early-twentysomething when he recorded this Tiny Desk Concert.  And he is very impressive indeed.  Lars explains:

His approach to the American Primitive style of acoustic guitar — a sonically vivid fingerpicking technique developed by John Fahey and expanded by the likes of Robbie Basho and, later, Jack Rose and Glenn Jones — is conversational and uplifting, much like the man himself. After a rousing performance of “Honeysuckle Reel” from a forthcoming seven-inch single, however, Bachman turned beet-red in the NPR Music office and said, “I’m not going to lie. I’m pretty nervous.”

He only plays two songs, although each one is about 7 minutes long.  Lars says, “Strap on a pair of heavy boots and “Honeysuckle Reel” becomes an ecstatic dance tune or, at the very least, a foot-stomping good time.”  And he’s right.  It’s really amazing to watch him playing.  He uses a thumb pick and the low notes are constantly going–an incredibly fast rhythm, in contrast to the slower melody he’s playing on the higher strings while finger picking.  It’s a very pretty melody.

The second piece, “Seven Pines,” is slower and more reflective.  It comes from one of two albums he put out in 2012). The simple melody “dives in and out of low-string chord crashes and tumultuous swirls of dizzying fingerpicking.”

The sound he gets from his guitar is really fantastic and while I don’t tend to listen to guitar music like this, I really enjoyed this a lot and would like to hear more from him.

[READ: February 3, 2016] Ava and Pip

Since Tabby and I loved Ava and Tacoocat so much, we knew we had to read the prequel Ava and Pip as well.

This book is set up exactly as Tacocat is (I know that this book came first but since I read the other one first I’m comparing things backwards).

There are diary entries and it starts with Ava on her first day of school.  When she gets home she says that she is the only Ava in her class (which is frankly shocking as there are about 5 in my daughter’s grade).  Then we learn all about the Wren family and their love of palindromes.

Bob and Anna Wren had two daughters named Pip Hannah and Ava Elle.  And her diary entries wind up being chock full of spelled out palindromes (some obvious, others not). (more…)

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tacocaoSOUNDTRACK: CANADIAN BRASS-Tiny Desk Concert #220 (May 26, 2012).

brass I hadn’t realized that Canadian Brass part of the institution of Canadian Brass.  They’re not only part of it, they are it.  Indeed Canadian Brass

led by its avuncular tuba master (and sole original member) Chuck Daellenbach, essentially put the idea of the brass quintet on the map.  Then there are the recordings — more than 100 of them, selling more than two million albums total.  Daellenbach and his fresh-faced players, each with red-striped sneakers and matching outfits, strolled into the NPR Music offices, took their places behind Bob Boilen’s desk and started blowing as if they’d played this peculiar gig a hundred times.

They began with a version of J.S. Bach’s intricately woven “Little Fugue in G minor,” an impressive staple that stretches back to the band’s first recording. In those days, precious little was available for brass quintet (two trumpets, horn, trombone and tuba), so the band relied on making arrangements of existing music. Since then, Canadian Brass has transcribed and commissioned more than 200 works, including “Tuba Tiger Rag,” Luther Henderson’s lighthearted tribute to Dixieland jazz. It’s a showpiece for Daellenbach, who twirls his tuba (while playing) and lands on a final note of such subterranean depth that you feel it more than hear it.

The players closed with another favorite, Rimsky-Korsakov’s dizzying “Flight of the Bumblebee,” in an arrangement by Canadian Brass trumpeter Brandon Ridenour. Although the music buzzes past in less than two minutes, players get plenty of opportunities to shine — as in the lightning-fast runs negotiated by trombonist Achilles Liarmakopoulos, the newest member of the group.

The band consists of   Christopher Coletti, trumpet; Brandon Ridenour, trumpet; Eric Reed, French horn; Achilles Liarmakopoulos, trombone and Chuck Daellenbach, tuba.

The band sounds amazing playing these familiar songs in a way that is–unexpected–but still right on.

J.S. Bach: “Little Fugue In G minor” is probably one of my favorite classical pieces.  I really enjoy Bach’s fugues a lot and this one is just perfect–and the arrangement here is great–everyone gets a chance to explore the phrasing.  It starts with the tuba and then the trombone and then the horn and finally the tuba.

Luther Henderson: “Tuba Tiger Rag”  Introducing this piece he says that in Bach everyone is equal, but he felt they needed a tuba song.  He says that while this song might be low art for other instruments it is high art for a tuba.  And yes he does spin it around while playing it. He uses that instrument to make roaring sounds and incredibly deep notes.  This is a medley, I think, because while the trombone and tuba play, the other three sing “hold that tiger / tuba tiger.”  How on earth does he reach that super low note?

Before the final song Bob says that his tuba doesn’t look brass.  And Chuck replies that there’s an old joke: “How old do you have to be to play the tuba and the answer is old enough to be able to carry it but young enough to still want to.”  He still wants to so he’s been  so he;s lightening the horn with carbon fiber.

For the final song Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: “Flight Of The Bumblebee” he tells us that the two trumpets play very fast–it must be easy for them. But the trombonist Achilles didn’t know what was coming when they had him play along.  Chuck says you’ll never see anyone play this song this fast on this instrument.

And it is amazing.  The song flies past–a blurry of fingers.  And I love that at the end, one of the trumpets sings the triumphant final high note.

You wouldn’t expect a band as old and legendary as Canadian Brass to be so funny and good-natured, but they sure are.  And that makes these familiar songs even more fun.

[READ: February 7, 2016] Ava and Tacocat

Sarah brought this book home, in part because Clark’s reading group called themselves tacocat which is a palindrome.  Turns out that Clark wasn’t interested in the book, so Tabby and I got to read it together, which was really fun.

The whole book is a language lovers’ dream, chock full of big spelling words and all kinds of palindromes littered throughout.

It was a few chapters into the book before we realized that this is actually the second book of a series (the first one is called Ava and Pip) and that this book references things that happened in book one without exactly explaining what happened.  That’s a little annoying for us, but it certainly made us want to read the first book.

The book is set up in diary form with Ava writing in it on most days.  I like that she loves palinromes so much (S-E-N-I-L-E-F-E-L-I-N-E-S) and every time she mentions one in the book, they spell it out like that. (more…)

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crocs SOUNDTRACKRED BARAAT-Tiny Desk #194 (February 14, 2012).

redbaraatBob Boilen opens his blurb about this band with high praise indeed:

Red Baraat is the best party band I’ve seen in years. The group plays rollicking funk music steeped in Northern India’s wedding celebrations, with a dash of D.C. go-go beats and hip-hop. It’s all driven by Sunny Jain’s dhol, a double-sided barrel drum that hangs down low around his body.

But the music is not all about drumming

If the drum is the messenger, the brass is the message. Uplifting melodies emanate from baritone and soprano saxophones, bass trumpet, trombone and sousaphone. This is a band that jazz lovers can appreciate and rock fans can dance to.

They play three songs.  And the musicians are quite diverse.  Its fun to see a trumpeter (who totally wails) wearing a Sikh turban.

“Chaal Baby”  is really dancey with a simple, bouncy horn melody and all that percussion. In addition to the snare and the dhol, there’ s a percussionist making some great sounds, too.  And all through the song–which really swings–people are shouting “hey ho.” It’s a lot of fun.

“Shruggy Ji” opens slowly but after a few second the whole band kicks in with a kind of minor key feel (and a very Indian sound on the saxophone.  There’s some chanting–although I can’t tell what they’re saying.  The two note melody is great for shaking your hips to.  In the middle of the song there’s a call and response of “oh my may” and then he raps—he’s a little hard to hear (because he’s unmic’d and the rest of the band is so loud) but the gist is there and it’s fun (I believe he name checks Biz Markee).  As this song ends you hear Stephen Thomson shout “can you guys hear in the back?”

On “Dhol ‘n’ Brass” the guy with the dhol opens this song with a fast chanted opening that sounds a lot like the rhythm of the drums.  When the rest of the band jumps in, the song is really fast and a lot of fun

This is indeed a great party band and there’s plenty of diversity in the music to keep it really interesting and unexpected.

[READ: February 1, 2016] The Croc Ate My Homework

I knew of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine but had never read it before.

This book was published by the same folks who introduced me to Liō and I thought it might be funny.

From what I gather, this collection is actually a collection of the most kid-friendly strips from this series.  This I find very strange indeed, but I see that the actual strip is fairly adult and has been controversial on my occasions (although it is published in newspapers, so it’s never too dark).

I got a kick out of this collection, although I didn’t think it was all that great.  Of course, knowing that these strips are the somewhat watered down strips does make me want to read the real thing to see if these strips ware funnier in context.

The strip centers around a bunch of animals Rat (who is mean–unnecessarily mean, I felt, in this book, but again, without context), Pig who is a good-natured but naive. The Crocs (who are incredibly dumb–and very funny) and the Zebra who outsmarts the crocs–although that’s not very hard. (more…)

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2011-07-11-18-ulriksen-birdsSOUNDTRACK: THE WALKMEN-Tiny Desk Concert #234 (July 29, 2012).

The Walkmen perform a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR headquarters in Washington, DC on Tuesday, June 26, 2012.

I know Hamilton Leithauser, the singer of The Walkmen, more than the band itself.  He has gone solo since 2012 and released some songs that have gotten a lot of attention.  Leithauser has a very powerful voice.  Form the blurb I gather that The Walkmen used to be a bit louder/punkier.  But for this set, Leithauser plays an acoustic guitar so this band isn’t getting too abrasive, that’s for sure.

The first song “Heaven” has a swirling guitar and bass motif that reminds me instantly of some 1990s songs.   The song is really catchy and Leithauser never lets up with his powerful singing.  The blurb comments on his voice, that it gives the songs “grit and grace, not to mention hair-raising intensity that feels a little jarring coming from a bunch of guys in crisp button-up shirts.”

“We Can’t Be Beat” begins as a slow verse with just acoustic guitar and singing.  Then the electric guitar plays some ringing notes as the drums play delicate percussion along with it.   About half way through the song, he holds a really long note (“so looooong” and then the whole band picks up the song with a loping sound that propels the song very nicely.

“Love Is Luck” has a nice beat and some great guitar sounds. It’s another catchy song from the band.

I enjoyed this set quite a bit, although I found that after listening a few times I got a little tired of Leithauser “woah oh ing” so much.

[READ: July 21, 2016] “Aphrodisiac”

The aphrodisiac at the heart of this story is interesting and subtle–it doesn’t even exactly seem like a part of the story until the end.

But I found the bulk of the story a little too long and unrelated to the aphrodisiac to be really enjoyable.

The story is about Kishen, a university graduate who had big plans to write a novel about India–to be really sunk into the Indian experience.  He had gone to school in Cambridge, but was now living back home in New Delhi with his mother and older brother Shiv.  Shiv had recently gotten married and Kishen was meeting the bride for the first time.  Her name was Naina.

Kishen found her to be kind of stupid.  However because of his own hang ups, she was the only person he felt comfortable talking to.  She seemed to accept him and even made him part of her circle of girlfriends–they all seemed to be amused by him. (more…)

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nydec blind-piotSOUNDTRACK: BLIND PILOT-Tiny Desk Concert #572 (October 21, 2016).

I really only know Blind Pilot because of NPR–they are favorites of a few of the hosts of All Songs Considered.

I don’t know their music well, but I remember enjoying what I’ve heard.  But I was still surprised by this Tiny Desk Concert because in addition to guitar and drums, there’s an upright bass (bowed and plucked), a ukulele, the ubiquitous Tiny Desk harmonium and a set of vibes!

Evidently since 2008 the band has expanded from a duo to a sextet.

The band plays four songs.  They are lovely folk song.  The vibes add a cool touch to some otherwise simple melodies.  “Umpqua Rushing” is a pretty song with a very catchy bridge.

Introducing “Packed Powder,” Israel Nebeker explains that it stems from when he was a teenager and they used to modify legal fireworks to make them more interesting.  This is my favorite of the four songs primarily because of the wonderful backing vocals during the chorus–when everybody sings “I want to see how the POWDER BURNS!”  It’s a great moment (or three) in the song.

“Don’t Doubt” is a mellow song, quite pretty, with some more lovely harmonies.

They planned to play three songs, but when Israel asks how many they should play, someone on the staff says “…four.”  So someone in the band then says, should we play, “Hot for Teacher” or “Jingle Bells.”  They decide to play “Joik #3.”  Israel explains that it was his first  attempt to write a song called “Joik.”  “I could tell you what that is, but you have Google…and an amazing team of researchers here.”

He says that before the album came out, Ari Shapiro aired it on NPR.  It’s a pretty song and Israel’s voice sounds especially powerful on it.  And, again, when the band sings the loud harmonies, it sounds terrific.

[READ: March 15, 2016] “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders”

Many authors seemed to get two stories in the New Yorker in 2008, but this has to be the closest gap between stories–Sept 15 to Dec 1.

Like the previous Mueenuddin story, the actual story part is pretty simple to recap.  And the sizable length of the story is mostly taken up with details and interior feelings.

And like the previous story, this one is set in Pakistan and looks at someone who might be able to move up a level of class, but who knows that it is a hard road.

The story begins simply enough. Husna needed a job. (more…)

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