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Archive for the ‘Grantland’ Category

grant12SOUNDTRACK: BELA FLECK, EDGAR MEYER, ZAKIR HUSSAIN-Tiny Desk Concert #70 (July 26, 2010).

belaBela Fleck is a rather legendary musician, and yet I realized I don’t really know that much about him.  And somehow I never knew he was a banjo player (that’s a pretty serious omission on my part).  I had never heard of the other two musicians, although they are apparently world-class masters of the bass fiddle and the tabla.

I also didn’t expect this Tiny Desk Concert to be so interestingly world-musicy.

This set is only two songs but each is about 7 minutes long and they are both very cool (and from the album The Melody of Rhythm).

Fleck’s playing is amazing, with a tone that is often unlike a standard banjo sound.  And I absolutely love the tabla–I am fascinated by this instrument.  The first song, “Bubbles” is an amazing demonstration of Fleck’s banjo.  About midway through he is playing in a decidedly middle eastern style (which works great with the tabla).  And when the bass starts getting bowed around 1:50, it adds an amazing richness to this already cool song.   There’s a cool bass solo (I love that the tabla pauses a few times during the solo).  The ending is just wonderful.

Before the second song, “Bahar” (which means “springtime”) they talk about being nervous, which is pretty funny.  This song opens with the bass fiddle’s bowed notes (including a very very high note).  This one seems to be a more solo-centered, with some elaborate work from Fleck after the introduction. And the tabla solo, while brief, is really cool to watch.  I prefer the first song, but the more traditional nature of the second song is a nice counterpart to the first.

[READ: August 24, 2015] Grantland #12

I enjoyed this issue as well.  This was mostly the spring and summer of 2014, which sounds so long ago, and yet so many things seem so current.

CHUCK KLOSTERMAN-“The Life and Times of Kiss”
I love this article about Kiss.  And I wrote about it back here.

WESLEY MORRIS-“Poison Candy”
This is about the disastrous state of female comedies.  It focuses on the movie The Other Woman which is ostensibly a female centered comedy but is entirely other.

BILL SIMMONS-“Sterling’s Fold”
A drumming down of Donald Sterling.  It’s hard for me to believe that this happened over a year ago.

ZACH LOWE-“Building the Brow”
An article about Anthony Davis of the Pelicans, who is proving to be better than anyone imagined. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: August 2015] The Organist Season 1

organistGiven my love of the McSweeney’s empire, it seems logical that I would have listened to The Organist sooner than this.  But I didn’t.  It has been on for a couple of years, so i assumed I’d never catch up.  But then I saw that there were only 50 episodes and most of them were quite short.  So it was time to see what it was all about.

And, since it is more or less in conjunction with The Believer, it should come as no surprise that it is sort of an aural equivalent to that magazine–longish pieces about esoteric subject, but geared specifically to “radio.”

The Organists first season was done as a monthly podcast starting on Feb 1.  Each episode was about 50 minutes long and covered a variety of subjects with fun guests and other ephemera.

Episode 1: (February 1, 2013)
The inaugural episode kicks off with Nick Offerman spouting some hilarious nonsense about podcasts.  The rest of the show includes an interview with George Saunders talking about the voices of his fiction; Greil Marcus discusses the impact of the first Bikini Kill EP now that it is reissued.  Perhaps the most unusual and interesting piece is when Amber Scorah tells the story of her defection from the Jehovah’s Witnesses while working as a missionary in Shanghai; In short pieces, Brandon Stosuy editor of Pitchfork, presents five five-word record reviews of interesting new guitar rock and then musicians Matmos take a song from their new album apart, piece by piece, revealing its brilliant, pulsating innards.  Basically they used thought control to get people to “create” a song for them.  It’s a really neat process even if the final result doesn’t really sound like the sum of its parts. (more…)

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11SOUNDTRACK: BASIA BULAT-“Tall Tall Shadow” and “It Can’t Be You” live at Polaris Music Prize (2014).

basiaSwinging to the other side of the musical world from Tanya Tagaq, Basia Bulat also performed at the 2014 Polaris.  I like Bulat a lot, she comes across as a sweet singer (no idea if she is actually sweet).  And I love that she can make really complex songs out of such random instruments (she plays autoharp, hammered dulcimer and others).

In this performance, she is fairly traditional for “Tall Tall Shadow” on the piano (although the french horn accompaniment is a nice twist), but “It Can’t Be You” on charango really highlights just what you can do with, essentially, a souped up ukulele.

“Shadow” highlights her voice which she holds for some quite long notes.  The song is really pretty with a great chorus.  “It Can’t Be You” is just her and the charango (which looks like a ten string ukulele but is Andean in origin).  It’s quite a song–her voice and that instrument are lovely.

[READ: February 4, 2015] Grantland #11

I enjoyed this issue quite a lot, even if I didn’t know who half of the people profiled were (and won’t remember them in two days time).

I am very curious why Grantland is just so obsessed with basketball than other sports.  It’s a little crazy how one sided these books tend to be.  They obviously love all sports but the preponderance of NBA articles is really staggering.

I do wish there’d be a bit more about TV and movies (and even more about the shows that I watch), but it is a fun way to learn about shows I would never watch.  And maybe that’s why I like these books so much, it’s my chance to vicariously enjoy sports without having to care about any of it (especially since it is all a year old, I never know if anything they talk about actually came to fruition or not).

This issue covers January-March 2014 (it’s fun reading about things almost exactly a year apart–to read about Oscars and Super Bowl stuff but have it be last year’s Super Bowl (especially since it too had the Seahawks) was very trippy indeed).

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10SOUNDTRACK: FATHER JOHN MISTY-Fear Fun (2012).

fjmI can’t get over how much I’ve been enjoying this album for the last two years.  Father John Misty is J Tillman from Fleet Foxes.

This disc is a gentle folk album with vaguely country leanings.  The arrangements are spare and yet the verses and choruses are so great to sing along to. “Funtimes in Babylon” has this infectious chorus: “I would like to abuse my lungs, smoke everything in sight with every girl I’ve ever loved.  Ride around the wreckage on a horse knee deep in mud.  Look out, Hollywood, here I come.”  “Nancy from Now On” has a great propulsive chorus with oohs and tinkling bells and pianos and Misty’s engaging falsetto.

I was introduced to this album by “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” which opens with the super catchy line, “Jeeeeesus Christ, girl.”  I love the big crashing drum sound he has here.  “I’m Writing a Novel” is a fun romp, with the great line “I’m writing a novel because it’s never been done before.”  “O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me” introduces a great organ sound.  It’s a full song at only 2 and a half minutes.

“Misty’s Nightmares 1 & 2” opens with a slide guitar and turns into a stomping song with more Ooohs and a great chorus.  “Only Son of the Ladiesman” has a great chorus with the fun couple: “I’m a steady hand, I’m a Dodgers fan.”  “This is Sally Hatchet” has cool guitar blasts and a great bridge.

“Well You Can Do It Without Me” is a countrified 2 minute stomper.  “Tee Pees 1-12” is a big stompin’ honkey tonk song with fiddles and slide guitar.  The disc ends with “Everyman Needs a Companion” a slow ballad with a great piano melody and a fun to sing along with verse and chorus.

I love the lyrics on this album, especially the song “Now I’m Learning to Love the War” a slow ballad with a great story:

Try not to think so much about
The truly staggering amount of oil that it takes to make a record
All the shipping, the vinyl, the cellophane lining, the high gloss
The tape and the gear

Try not to become too consumed
With what’s a criminal volume of oil that it takes to paint a portrait
The acrylic, the varnish, aluminum tubes filled with latex
The solvents and dye

Lets just call this what it is
The gentler side of mankind’s death wish
When it’s my time to go
Gonna leave behind things that won’t decompose

In addition to all of the great music on here, the CD packaging is fantastic with that great cover, done in a cardboard gatefold sleeve including two huge books full of words and drawings and lyrics and everything.  I’m really looking forward to his next release.

[READ: September 14, 2014] Grantland #10

Despite my being in the middle of reading several other things, I was looking for a short article to read the other night and grabbed my Grantland 10.  And, of course, once I started, I couldn’t stop. I put everything else on hold and blasted through this issue.

And so all of my loves and hates are the same with this issue.  I never know how anything they talk about nearly a year ago turned out, which stinks.  And yet I get so wrapped up in the writing that I don’t care.  I’m not sure what it is about the writing for Grantland that i enjoy so much.  It is casual but knowledgeable.  Often funny but not obnoxiously silly. And I suppose that now I feel like I’m in on all of the secret stuff they talk about so I’m part of the club.  I fear that if I were to ever go to the website I would get sucked into a black hole and never emerge.

I often wonder how they choose what goes into the book.  This issue has some new writers and the surprising absence of some regulars.  I wonder what went on there.  And as always, the book could use some editing and maybe actually listing the urls of the links that were once in the online version.  But I think I’m talking to deaf ears on that one.

This issue covers October-December 2013 (that’s ten-twelve months ago!  Some of this stuff feels ancient!)

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kissSOUNDTRACK: WICKED LESTER-The Original Wicked Lester Sessions (1972).

wicked Wicked Lester was the band that Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley started before they created Kiss. They recorded, but never released, an album (given Gene’s money grubbing needs, I can’t believe he hasn’t released this yet).  This demo version which floats around the internet may or may not be the album.  I’d be surprised if it were because there are four cover songs.  But whatever.

It’s a fun archive.  It has a very 70s vibe (including flutes and keyboards) and is much less heavy than what they would be releasing in just a year’s time.  Two of the songs from the demo made it onto Kiss records (strangely, one not until their third release).

“Love Her All I Can” sounds not too different from the Kiss version.  Paul’s voice is much deeper. The solo is lame and it’s funny to hear “do dooo” backing vocals (and a keyboard section).  “Sweet Ophelia” has a groovy 70s vibe and a feeling that is not too dissimilar to the sound of The Elder.  I love “Keep Me Waiting” has a what, tuba sound? for the riff.  The song also has an entirely new middle section, which is very early Kiss–they liked showing off creative chops back then.  I love this song.   “Simple Type” (the version I heard is lousy qality) is a rock and roll number with (I think) Gene on vocals.  It’s got a lot less of the psychedelic elements that the other songs have.  “She” (one of my favorite Kiss songs) has a wonderfully weird vibe here, (not to mention a flue solo which is very Jethro Tull).

“Too Many Mondays” has Gene on vocals and it is a very delicate song with gentle backing oohs.  It is probably the least Kiss sounding song of the bunch because they didn’t write it.  This is the first of several covers.   “What Happens in the Darkness” has a kind of disco sound (in the backing vocals) and Paul’s lead vocals have an interesting edge to them.  It’s fairly psychedelic, including the middle section sung by Gene and the slide guitar solo.  A band called Griffin has also recorded it (and their version is better).  “When the Bell Rings” is another cover.  Gene seems to be straining a lot on falsetto vocals.  “Molly” is a gentle acoustic ballad by Paul with falsetto and everything,  “Wanna Shout It Out Loud” is another Gene falsetto song.  It’s a cover of the Hollies song and not the “Shout It Out Loud” that Kiss would later record.

I can see them not wanting this released during their heyday or during their heavier moments, but it’s not an embarrassing collection by any means.  Definitely of its time, but some interesting stuff nevertheless.  Check it out:

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=busyMPHjKMA&list=PL2B518729242D8887]

[READ: April 9, 2014] “The Definitive, One-Size-Fits- All, Accept-No Substitutes, Massively Comprehensive Guide to the Life and Times of Kiss”

I’ve liked most of Klosterman’s writing.  I especially like his writing about music (although I have never read any of his books–some day).  But imagine my delight when Klosterman decided to write a huge article defending Kiss for all of the right reasons while at the same time loathing them for all the right reasons, too.

Kiss are very easy to dislike if you don’t know them–they are silly, they were costumes, they sing dopey pop metal about sex, and they just keep going even though they are ancient.  Kiss are even easier to dislike if you do know them–Gene Simmons is a greedy bastard who is intent upon taking as much money from his fans as he can (and is proud of that).  They keep releasing greatest hits albums with an extra song or two, they even keep making albums that are nowhere near as good as their best stuff.  As Klosterman puts it:

They inoculate themselves from every avenue of revisionism, forever undercutting anything that could be reimagined as charming. They economically punish the people who care about them most: In the course of my lifetime, I’ve purchased commercial recordings of the song “Rock and Roll All Nite” at least 15 times.

And yet…  And yet… (more…)

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  9SOUNDTRACK: UNIVORE-“Vampire” (2013).

univoreI never watch the ads that come before Youtube videos.  But this came on as an ad and I was utterly mesmerized by it.

I didn’t even know what it was for.  Turns out that Univore is a band and “Vampire” is one of their songs.  The 1 minute ad video was actually the whole thing.

It’s got a simple buzzy synthesized riff, backing vocalists singing “Oh yea” when appropriate and an occasional deep voiced man saying “vampire.”  The video is of an older gentleman (who a little research suggests is Marco Casale) dressed like a vampire running around a small green space on a campus.  The whole video looks like it took 15 minutes to film.  It is weird and wonderful.

I still know nothing about Univore, which may be for the better, but I did enjoy this video.

[READ: April 6, 2014] Grantland #9

I’m surprised that there aren’t better cover images online for these books.  For #8 i had to use one with a big flash in the middle of it and this one is the illustration from the Grantland website.  The books are quite pretty so why uses these pale imitations?

So this issue proved to be a lot better about weird typos and “we just took this from the web and pasted it and never bothered to check to see if there was anything weird” problems.  So thanks for at least running it through Spellcheck.  The only other thing left is to either remove the lines that talk about attached links/images if they are not there or to include the url or make up a tiny url (but that would be actual work!).  Oh, and please make sure all of the footnotes are included.

I have given up on ever finding out how these things turned out several months after the fact–I’ll just happily live in ignorance of reality there.

This issue was taken from during basketball’s downtime which was a nice change (even though the still managed to talk about basketball).  There was more pop culture and some wonderful articles about team nicknames and mascots–something I absolutely love.  So this is one of my favorite issues overall.  (more…)

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  grantland8SOUNDTRACK: RALPH STANLEY-Tiny Desk Concert #31 (October 13, 2009).

ralpRalph Stanley is apparently a living bluegrass legend, although I’ve never heard of him.  He plays a clawhammer banjo (and apparently has for 63 years).

The concert lasted only 6 minutes, but in that time he sang three a capella songs: “Gloryland,” “Turn Back, Turn Back” and “Amazing Grace.”

It’s hard to assess a legend based on this performance.  I’ve no idea how good his voice was back in the day.  He sounds fine here, albeit understandably quite old.  I’d have liked to hear his banjo.

[READ: January 3, 2014] Grantland #8

It is becoming apparent to me that Grantland loves basketball.  Like, a lot more than any other sport.  This issue had a ton of basketball in it.  And, I have to admit I was a little tired of it by the end–there was a lot less pop culture stuff, too.  So, it felt especially basketball heavy.  I realize of course that the time frame covered was the playoffs, but still.

BILL SIMMONS-“Searching for a Superman”
A lengthy article about Dwight Howard, discussing the pros and cons of signing him again.

MARK TITUS-“How Did He Get So Good?”
A look at Paul George and Danny Green doing better than expected in the NCAA playoffs.

CHARLES P. PIERCE-“A Dark Day in Boston
Pierce wonders about Boston after the Boston Marathon bombing–he says the city will come back stronger. (more…)

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