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Archive for the ‘LGBTQ’ Category

SOUNDTRACKMIKE SCHIFLET-“00:00:00:00” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

Mike Schiflet released a 24 hour drone composition this year called Tetracosa.  This is the opening movement from it.  It is fifteen and a half minutes of slightly disconcerting drone composed of “effervescent guitar, blasted noise and electro-acoustic detritus.”

The drone is surprisingly “fast-paced” if that can be said of something without a beat.  The sounds and textures change and undulate at a pretty good clip.  At times it feels soothing, but then it throws in a note that pushes things a little off-kilter.  At times it is soothing but then comes zapping electronics which would certainly make for restless sleep.

I cannot imagine listening to this for 24 hours, although it would be a fascinating day if you did.

[READ: January 4, 2019] “Philosophy of the Foot”

This is the first story of the year and Soomro’s first published story.

It is set in Karachi and there is a boatload of subtext in this story.  As well, of course, as a lot of cultural information that I don’t understand.

Amer is an adult male (the younger boy calls him “uncle”) who stops to talk to the shoe repair boy. The boy has a cart and equipment and he takes great care of the shoes he has.   He is very knowledgeable.

Amer goes into his apartment and talks to his mother asking if they have anything for the shoe boy.  The ayah (a native maid or nursemaid employed by Europeans in India) suggests that Amer’s father had a trunk full of shoes which they could have sold.  Instead, Amer takes an old pair of his father’s shoes to be repaired.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: dvsn-Tiny Desk Concert #806 (November 19, 2018).

I love when an artist appears on a Tiny Desk and the blurb is going crazy with excitement and yet I have never heard of them.  When I saw the name dvsn I assumed it was a techno band.  But I couldn’t have been more wrong:

With a four-piece band and three pristine backup vocalists for support, singer Daniel Daley flexed his falsetto pipes and a shiny gold grill, running through a sampler of fan-favorites about breaking up, making up and trying to move on. The short-and-sweet set is an example of the kind of audible acrobatics you don’t often hear at contemporary R&B shows anymore. … Though it’s easy to mistake dvsn as simply the stage moniker of Daley, the act is really a Toronto-based duo comprised of the singer and Grammy Award-winning producer Nineteen85, the (almost) secret weapon behind the boards.

The band has only released two albums, so they’re not especially long-lived, but clearly they have fan-favorites.  And they’ve been playing live for a number of years”

When dvsn visited NPR for this Tiny Desk concert, it reminded me of the first time I saw them two years ago in New York City. They decided to wash the desk in vibrant blue, purple and orange lighting, brought in by dvsn’s team to make the space feel like a concert hall. And while the audience at NPR was almost as densely packed as that NYC venue, it felt much like my live introduction to the group — grandiose in presentation, but at the same time, deliberately intimate in delivery.

They play three songs, “Too Deep” “Body Smile” and “Mood.”  Daniel Daley has an amazing falsetto–hitting crazy high notes almost randomly.  And thee lights are certainly a cool effect.  But these three songs are indistinguishable from countless cheesy-sounding R&B songs.

Of the three, “Body Smile” has the least amount of cheese–his voice sounds good and real and not smoove.

My favorite part of the Concert is actually after he says thank you and walks off because the band jams for an extra minute and they are great.  The guitarist plays a sick solo and then the band plays a gentle little jam to close out the show.

[READ: January 29, 2017] “Happyland”

This story behind this story is pretty fascinating.  Essentially he was inspired by the life of the American Girls creator Pleasant Rowland.  Although as he puts it in the introduction to the eventually-published book in 2013 (he wrote it in 2003), “I didn’t mean to write anything remotely controversial. A former doll and children’s book mogul started buying up property in a small town and the town got mad.  Wouldn’t this make a good novel, people kept asking me?”

He had friends who lived in the town that Pleasant was buying property in and told them not to send him any information about the story.  He didn’t want to write the story of Pleasant, he wanted to take that idea and write the story of Happy Masters a woman with a similar career but clearly a very different woman altogether.  He says, “To this day I know nothing of the real [doll mogul] that I didn’t learn over the phone, from lawyers.”

The original publisher, fearing imaginary unthreatened lawsuits, dropped the book.  As for the mogul herself she had no intention to sue. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SOUTH PARK-Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics (1999).

When this came out in 1999, I was a huge South Park fan and I didn’t celebrate Christmas very much.  So this was a wonderful anti-Christmas celebration.

Now, 19 years later (holy cow), this album is a fun holiday treat–one that can’t be played in front of the kids.  So it has become an adult-only holiday treat when S. and I are driving.  Most of the songs are still hilariously offensive and hold up really well.

“Mr. Hankey The Christmas Poo” by Cowboy Timmy is an intro, nothing special.  But things pick up hugely with song two, “Merry Fucking Christmas” sung by Mr. Garrison.  Hearing it sung in his voice is hilarious and it is so profane.  Thank you, Mr. Hat.  It’s a seasonal highlight.  As is Cartman’s “O Holy Night.”  He gets all the words right in this one and he has a choir behind him.  Even 19 years later, Cartman’s voice is still funny, especially singing this beautiful song.

The next song, “Dead, Dead, Dead” by Juan Schwartz and the South Park Children’s Choir is meant to darkly comic I guess (“someday you’ll be dead”) but really it’s just kind of dull and it feels endless even though it’s barely 2 minutes long.  But Mr. Mackey picks things up with his hilarious rendition of “Carol of the Bells”  Mmmkay.

Kyle’s “The Lonely Jew on Christmas” is pretty funny “And what the f*ck is up with lighting all these f*cking candles, someone tell me please” which is made even better with the appearance of Neil Diamond!  Shelley’s “I Saw Three Ships” is a one-note joke (she has braces and can’t say the letter S).  It feels too long at a minute, although “Shut up, turds!” could become a holiday catchphrase.

I didn’t know that “It Happened in Sun Valley” (sung adorably by Stan and Wendy) was a real song.  I didn’t know why it was funny.  I still don’t know if it is funny (Stan throws up when he talks to her which is kind of funny, but doesn’t really work in a song that is largely solid and enjoyable anyhow).  We like it and just ignore the barf.  Eww.

The next little skit is so offensive as to be utterly  hilarious.  It begins with Hitler singing “O Tannenbaum” and then Satan trying to make him feel better by singing about it being “Christmas Time in Hell.”  We often wonder why the guys chose the celebrities that they did to put in hell.  Did they particularly dislike the named people or were they just trying to upset as many people as possible.

Chef only gets one song on this CD, but his hilarious take on “What Child is This” (called “What the Hell Child is This?”) is amazing.  It’s white so it cannot be mine.

The skit “Santa Claus is on His Way” sung by Mr Hankey is weird because it is taken from the episode and relies on a visual joke that doesn’t translate to the CD.  But again, Cartman is back to redeem everything with the ultimate Christmas song, an ode to Grandma and the “Swiss Colony Beef Log.”

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is, I assume a rip on Peanuts with the kids of thee “South Park Children’s Choir” all singing it (badly).

Parker and Stone showed their amazing musical genius (ultimately put on display with Book of Mormon) with “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” sung by The Broflofskis with Eric Cartman and Stan Marsh.  Basing the melody around the Dreidel song, they add four or five people singing at the same time and it sounds fantastic.  Cartman’s lyric is stunningly perfect “I have a little drediel, I made it out of clay, but I’m not gonna play with it cause dreidel’s fucking gay”) fits so perfectly rhythmically that its uncanny.  Stan’s dad’s love for Courtney Cox which you hear clearly at the end is in fact the only thing he sings throughout the song which is also genius.

“The Most Offensive Song Ever” is pretty offensive.  Perhaps it’s after 19 years of listening, but it seems more and more obvious what all of Kenny’s mumbled words are.  Mary!

I don’t understand the joke with “We Three Kings” by Mr. Ose. Is it just that he’s Chinese?  It’s less than a minute but is pretty irritating.  The disc’s closing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sung by Mr. Hankey with Stan, Kyle and Cartman is a fun ending but it only helps you realize how short the disc actually is (especially if you skip those three or four lame tracks).

Merry Christmas everyone.  When you’re old enough.

[READ: December 2, 2018] “Sunflowers”

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.

I typically dislike war stories.  They’re probably great for soldiers, but not for me.  Both because I think war is awful and because soldier stories are usually all the same: lots of boredom (for them) and then something horrible happens. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MICACHU & THE SHAPES-“Love or Leave” (Field Recordings, September 19, 2012).

This Field Recording [Micachu & The Shapes: Weeds In The Forest] gets back to the style of the ones I first saw–a band wandering through the woods.  In this case, the three members of Micachu & The Shapes plod through the woods to sit on a tree stump.

Mica plays a very simple melody on a very simple (but surprisingly loud) guitar (held around her neck with a piece of rope tied around the body of the guitar).  I love that she is able to bend a note during his chord (not hard, but cool).

As it opens, backing singer Raisa Khan says “I saw a deer.” Mica asks, “Did you?”

The three of them sing so wonderfully together–the ahhs and oohs fill in the music perfectly with her voice.  The middle section is also a lot of fun when they all sing together in almost deadpan British accent “Cannot wait for my holiday / I’ve had my work cut out for me.”

Why have I never heard of Micachu before?  I don’t know.

Experimental musician Mica Levi, a.k.a. Micachu, doesn’t exactly fit comfortably into her surroundings: She cuts a vaguely otherworldly, not-so-vaguely androgynous figure, and sings strangely pretty, jagged little songs with the aid of odd tunings and a tiny guitar, which dangles from crudely tied twine. She identifies herself as a pop singer, but while her songs are catchy enough, they’re no one’s idea of pop-radio fodder.

But I love this song and I need to hear more.

Taking Micachu on a hike into the sun-dappled woods of Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park makes as much sense as it would to surround her with modern everyday life. So we sat her on a log in the open air, where she sang “Holiday” — from her new album Never — while flanked by Raisa Khan and Marc Pell from her band The Shapes. Together, the three musicians complement the majesty of their surroundings with everything that makes their music work: disarmingly plainspoken charm, ragged beauty, and uniqueness that blooms as naturally as the trees themselves.

I can’t wait to lean more about her.

[READ: November 20, 2018] “The Frog King”

The previous story I read by Greenwell was also about an American teacher living in Sofia, Bulgaria.  That story also dealt with the difficulty of being homosexual, or at least the perception of it in this country.

In this one, however, there is at least some consummation.

This story is quite simple in terms of plot.  In fact, there really isn’t much of one.  Rather, this is a story all about passion and the intensity of first love.

The narrator, an American teacher, has been living with a student, R., for a couple of weeks during the holiday break.  It’s unclear if they are teacher and student themselves or not, but that’s not relevant. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ELI KESZLER & SO PERCUSSION-“Archway” (Field Recordings, July 12, 2013).

This Field Recording [Eli Keszler & So Percussion: Making The Manhattan Bridge Roar And Sing] takes place under the Manhattan Bridge. Installation artist and drummer Eli Keszler wonders, When does an instrument become a sculpture?  Or can it become something architectural?

I didn’t know Eli, but I know his partners Percussion [Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski and Jason Treuting] from a fantastic Tiny Desk Concert.  But this was my first exposure to them in the real world.  Their combination of crotales and big strings is at once bizarre, otherworldly, interminable and very cool.

There is magic in pure sound. And few know that truth as well as the quartet called So Percussion and the installation artist and drummer Eli Keszler — artists who, before this spring, had never met. We thought that they might find kindred spirits in each other.  So as a matter of artistic matchmaking, we at NPR Music decided to invite them to meet and collaborate on a new work that would have its world premiere at Make Music New York, the annual summer-greeting festival of free outdoor concerts across the city. And along the way to creating a world premiere, they brought a New York landmark in as a sixth instrumental partner: the Manhattan Bridge. They named their piece Archway.

So Percussion says that they wrote this piece just for the installation.  The drummers are present at their drums, but what about the rest?

Using a scissor lift, Keszler and an assistant began the long process of fastening piano wires attached to two large weighted boxes to the tops of lampposts near the DUMBO Archway beneath the bridge. More wires stretched from one of the lampposts up to the Manhattan Bridge itself.

The piece juxtaposes light otherworldly rings and deep resonating, almost mechanical lows.   Complete with occasional drum smacks.

By the time that their performance rolled around at 6:30 PM, Keszler and So Percussion created fascinating layers of sound. The shimmering, nearly melodic lines produced by bowing small cymbals called crotales offset sharply articulated snare drums and the grunting roars, squonks and groans of the piano wire installation. It was urbane and thoroughly urban music for a signature city setting.

And so for about 11 minutes you get a combination of low grunting sounds–the engines or the wires?–and chiming crotales.  Occasional snare hits punctuate the sound.

It starts with the mechanical sounds and the sounds of the crotales reverberating.  About 3 minutes into the piece a snare drum and rhythm is added, but very minimally and only for a instant.   Around 4 minutes the drummers start adding more percussive and less tonal sounds, but that is brief and soon enough everyone is doing his own thing, while Keszler plays a very jazzy style of drum on the drum and crotales.  Others are hitting snares and sides of drums.

But by the 10 minute mark it is a full-on drum solo with the gentlest/flimsiest drum sticks around–making little taping sounds (but a lot of them).

I feel like not enough is made of the piano wires –I would love to hear more from them.  I assume that in a live setting all of the cool sounds (ones that become more audible around the 10 minute mark are just reverberating around and around the arch–something that even the best mic’s can;t pick up adequately.

It’s still neat to watch, though.

[READ: January 28, 2008] “The Only Sane Man in a Nuthouse”

This is an excerpt from And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, a novel he wrote with Jack Kerouac.  They alternated chapters.  It was written in 1945 but unpublished until 2008.

On a Wednesday night, he went out with Al, Ryko and Phillips.  Agnes didn’t want to join them–she was broke–some people have some pride.  He joked at Philip that he was an artist so he didn’t believe in decency, honesty or gratitude.

They went to diner and a movie and then went to MacDonald’s Tavern, which is a queer place and it was packed with fags all screaming and swishing around.

The rest of the story is a tale of an older gay men checking out the younger men, straight men howling for women, and men hitting on anyone that moves. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BILL CALLAHAN-“Small Plane” (Field Recordings, November 11, 2013).

Many episodes in the Field Recordings series travel far and wide to exotic locations.  For this Field Recording [Bill Callahan Sings ‘Small Plane’ In A Serene City] Bill Callahan travel to exotic downtown New York City.

When we first approached Bill Callahan to do a Field Recording in New York City, we asked him if he had any special place in mind. His reply surprised me: “A community garden.” I guess I’d stereotyped him in my head, because after all those years of dark, thoughtful songwriting — first as Smog and then on the pensive records he’s made under his own name — I’d imagined a library, someplace quiet and dark.

The video starts with the hustle and bustle of the city and then slowly moves into a quiet, peaceful garden, complete with a pond (and turtles jumping into it), birds, tomatoes, and a microphone.

As it turned out, the brightly lit 6th & B Community Garden, with its lush greenery and mellow wildlife, provided just the right setting. The noise of cabs, buses, trucks and the occasional siren wound up punctuating Callahan’s calm, deep baritone, but he makes it easy to ignore.

He sings about being a lucky man flying this small plane.  And he setting compliments his contentment.  It’s just him and his quiet electric guitar and all is well.

[READ: October 26, 2018] “Waugh”

Last week’s New Yorker story was called “Flaubert Again.”  This week’s is called “Waugh.”  The last one was tangentially about Flaubert but this one is (as far as I can tell) not about Evelyn Waugh at all.

This was one of those fascinating stories that was very simple but in which all of the details about the story were so vague that I couldn’t figure anything about it for many many pages.

This is a story of five unrelated boys who live together–they all pull tricks to make rent.  Rod was their defacto leader–not their pimp exactly, because he tricked too, but more like an elder watchmen.  He was tough and very strict.  You could be kicked out of the house for many infractions, and at the first sign of Sickness.

I assumed that this story was set in the 1970s in San Francisco.

Then one of the boys is named Google, so clearly it can’t be set in the 70s. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SMIF-N-WESSUN-Tiny Desk Concert #787 (September 17, 2018).

As this Concert opens, you hear Steele or Tek, the duo who make up Smif-n-Wessun say, “Very mysterious as you can see.  I’ve been his partner for 20 plus years, so it’s alright.”   The other replies “I’m not gonna do nothing crazy, I promise.”

And with that yet another old school hip-hop act whom I’ve never heard of gets their 15 minutes of Tiny Desk time.  And once again, they are pretty great.

And the blurb seems to really love them:

Brooklyn-bred hip-hop duo Smif-N-Wessun – consisting of partners in rhyme, Steele and Tek – illuminated the Tiny Desk with their signature, 80-proof poetry: straight, no chaser. Their music, inspired by their gritty and pre-gentrified Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville neighborhoods, offers the vocabulary of veterans who survived the grimy streets. The[y] represent quintessential ’90s true-school hip-hop from the bedrock, when Timberland boots were standard issue.

Backing Steele and Tek is D.C.’s own Black Alley band.  The Black Alley Band played (and were awesome) with Nick Grant some shows ago.  About the band I wrote

I really like the live band, Black Alley.  The percussionist (Walter Clark) is particularly interesting with his congas and an electronic “plate” that plays all kinds of effects.  The bass (Joshua Cameron) is also great and the guitarist (Andrew White) plays a lot of interesting sounds.  I also like how muscular the keyboardist is playing simple chords.  And the drummer is pretty bad ass too.

For this show, they were more subdued and there were only four of them, but their live music was great for the duo and made the whole thing sound great.

Steele says, “It’s always different for us to perform with a live band.  If I look a little sweaty it’s because I’m catching the holy ghost, alright.”

Smif-N-Wessun set things off with their classic debut single “Bucktown,” an ode to their native Brooklyn, which uses their love for lyrical clapbacks as an allegory for overcoming the violence-ridden reality of their wonder years.

Tek says “This was the first single from our first album.  Came out in ’92 that’s probably older than most of you all in the room.”

Throughout the performance, the two emcees dance, share easy banter and express their spiritual connection to the music they’ve created over the years.

Things climax when the two perform “Stand Strong,” another favorite from their debut album Dah Shinin’. Anchored by the mantra, “I never ran / never will,” … the music decries the struggles of late-stage capitalism and the plight of the disenfranchised. It’s a revelation of love, life, and brotherhood in an era when the antiheroes were really just the ones cunning enough to avoid becoming victims.

Steele says this goes out to our street soldiers.  Then says he says Rest in Peace Anthony Bordain, Rest on Peace Todd Banger.  Stay Alive, people!

That survivor’s drive is personified when Steele lets his guard down during the performance and gifts the audience a little boogie, “You can dance to Smif-N-Wessun music too, y’all.

The set concludes with an exclusive premier of their new single, “One Time,” from their forthcoming album, The All, produced by 9th Wonder & The Soul Council.

Steele says “I’m nervous about the next one, this next song has never before been performed.  It’s fresh off our yet to be released (maybe by the time you see this the album will be out).  Hope you enjoy it because we definitely don’t know what we’re gonna do.  I know these guys sound amazing so just listen to them.”

The song is smooth and cool and again the live band (this is the first time they’ve played with Black Alley) sound fantastic.

[READ: January 6, 2017]  “A Modest Proposal”

I don’t always get to read Sedaris’ pieces in order (if they are even published in order).  But this one follows up on a piece he wrote a while back about him picking up trash by the side of the road.

If memory serves he was picking up trash as a way to get extra exercise.  Anyhow, he states that he is still doing this. And while it doesn’t actually impact the story directly, it’s great to see the continuity.

It’s also hilarious to see that while he usually find candy wrappers and the like, on one outing he found a three-inch dildo: “You’d think that if someone wanted a sex toy she’d go for the gold-size-wise.  But this was just the bare minimum, like getting AAA breast implants.” (more…)

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