Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Marriage (Happy)’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PHOEBE BRIDGERS-Live at Newport Folk Festival (July 28, 2018).

I saw Phoebe Bridgers three days after this set at Newport Folk Festival (I had no idea).  She plays five more songs at my show than here (yay, me).

The size of the crowd does’t seem to intimate her in any way and she sounds just as great (and intimate) as she did in the small club where I saw her.

A few songs into her sun-drenched Saturday Newport Folk set, Phoebe Bridgers paused and proclaimed, “I am a puddle of sweat.” It was a one-liner that primed those huddled at the Harbor Stage for the 2018 Slingshot artist’s catalog: details delivered with specificity and a subtle sense of humor.

I will say the one thing about this recording is that I don;t think you can hear all of the percussion as clearly as I could at Asbury Lanes.

The show started much the same as mine did with a beautiful languid version of “Smoke Signals” and a try-to-hold-back-the-tears reading of “Funeral.”

For the next song, “Georgia,” she brought out songwriter Christian Lee Hutson who is “going to help me sing harmonies.”  Whether it was the song itself of Hutson’s addition, but Bridgers’ voice really soars on this song.

Even Bridgers’ stage banter reflected her striking style, mixing straightforward address and astute observation. “This song is about how every time I smoke weed, I remember why I don’t smoke weed,” she said of the plainspoken plea “Demi Moore.”

She continued: “I face plant and my brain is erased for many hours and I think I’m thinking too loud.”

There’s some gorgeous harmonies on the darkly sweet song, “Killer.”  Then she played “Steamroller” solo on the acoustic guitar.

Later, she called “Steamroller,” a devastatingly candid cut from her 2015 EP, Killer, “another dark love song, thanks.”

Introducing Gillian Welch’s song “Everything Is Free” she said. “This is my friend Marshall.  We’re going to sing my favorite song about music streaming ever written.”  I loved hearing this live and it sounds just as solid here.

Up next was a song she did not play at my show.  She welcomed Christian Lee Hutson (playing guitar with Jenny Lewis) and Sharon Silva (from The Wild Reeds) played bass with me for exactly one week and I waited for a really bassist…Emily.  Chris wrote this song for me.”  The chorus goes “”lets get the old band back together again, and there’s even a line, “with Emily on bass, it doesn’t feel the same.”

The crowd reacts strongly, as they should to her awesome song “Motion Sickness.”

Despite its venom, it’s a song that unspools with a sonic ease that feel refreshing, even for an overheated festival audience.

The songs sounds great live and she holds a 17-second note just for kicks.  The sets ends (as did ours) with “Scott Street.”  She says “This is about L.A. where we live;  where it’s hot all the time.”  It’s a quiet song, sounds and represents her music pretty perfectly–quiet, sad, with clever lyrics.

At our show, we got two encores after this, so again, yay for us.  But this is a great example of her live show.

[READ: April 22, 2016] “Playing with Dynamite”

Back in February of 2017, I posted about an essay by George Saunders from 2009 in which he remembers John Updike “Remembering Updike“.  He says that back in 1992:

 It was going to be in Tina Brown’s first issue and they marked this occasion by running two stories contrasting the new writers (Saunders) with the established.  Of course the establishment writer was going to be Updike.  Saunders said he was chagrined because he knew the contrast would go something like this:

Wonderful, established, powerful representative of the Old Guard kicks the butt of the flaky, superficial, crass poseurish New Guy.  Saunders’ story was “Offloading for Mrs. Schwartz.”

I can see why they paired the George Saunders story with this particular Updike story.  Both stories deal with grief and memory loss, although Updike’s does so in a very different way.  On the other hand, their writing styles are so very different that it’s nearly impossible to compare the two stories.

The story begins with an interesting image from childhood: “one aspect of childhood Fanshawe had not expected to return in old age was the mutability of things–the willingness of a chair, say, to become a leggy animal in the corner of his vision.”  But living now “in death’s immediate neighborhood” he allowed that things like that might happen and it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

There is then an episode in Fanshawe’s day when his wife, who was younger and more spry than he, passed him going down the stairs.  She caught her heel on her dress and fell down the stairs.  It was only after all the guests had left that she said to him, “Wasn’t I good, not to tell everybody how you pushed me me?” (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: JAZMINE SULLIVAN-“Stupid Girls” (Field Recordings, August 12, 204).

NPR and Jazmine Sullivan were in New Orleans’for the Essence Music Festival.

I’m intrigued that this Field Recording [Jazmine Sullivan Fades A New Orleans Barber Shop] is the second one set in a barbershop (technically, this is the first one as I have been watching them in backwards order).

This barbershop, Claer-Vue, is just a few blocks from the Superdome, just off Canal Street. It has been in business since 1948.  It is a men’s barbership and I know that a barbershop is part of the culture but nearly every man waiting to get their hair cut has really short hair already–like closely buzzed.  Are they hanging out or do they get it cut daily?

I had never heard of Jazmine, but she was apparently known to at least some of the patrons

When she walked in, patrons and barbers alike were wary. But they knew who she was, from hit songs like “Bust Your Windows” and “Holding You Down (Goin’ in Circles).” And when she began to sing, wearing her powerhouse instrument lightly, everyone ceded her a floor that had been previously occupied by a heated debate about college football.

With just an acoustic guitar accompanying her, she sings her beautiful song.  Her voice is clear and pretty and devoid of all the trills and filigree of pop singers.

To a roomful of captivated men, she sang a brand new song, “Stupid Girls,” that warns women to be careful with their hearts.

You can see most of the men nodding along. Most are deferential, with side-eyed glances.   There’s polite applause ta the end, but Jazmine is pretty pleased with herself–as she should be.

[READ: September 14, 2018] “Cecilia Awakened”

Tessa Hadley continues to make wonderful stories where nothing seems to happen, but there is a lot going on internally.

Like the way this one starts:

Cecilia awakened from her childhood while she was on holiday in Italy, the summer she turned fifteen.  It was not a sexual awakening, or not exactly–rather, an intellectual or imaginative one.

Cecilia is described as an odd child, but one who fit in perfectly with the oddity of her parents.  Her father worked at a university library and her mother, Angela, wrote historical novels.  Most of all they both loved the past.  When they had Cecilia–late in their lives–they did not feel any need to conform to society any more than they already did.  (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: MAC MILLER-Tiny Desk Concert #773 (August 6, 2018).

Man, I hate Mac Miller’s delivery on “Smaaaaaall Worlds.”  The way he drags out those words, the fact that his mouth i full of gauze,  The way he pauses from time to time which makes it seem like he forgot the words.  Although as with a lot of rappers at Tiny Desk, the live band including Alexander “Justus” West (Guitar) and Kendall Lewis (Drums) really make the music sound good.

The best part is when Thundercat comes over decked out ion his colorful regalia and plays the shaker midway through the song.  And when Mac acknowledges Thundercat on the shaker–why is Mac’s speaking voice so much clearer than his rapping voice?

Mac real name Malcolm James Meyers McCormick is pretty funny when he’s just talking, too.  I was wondering how a young guy I’d never heard of could be so cocky at this Tiny Desk, then I saw

With nearly a decade under his belt at 26 years old, these words ring like an artist twice his age.  We were introduced to Mac Miller via 2011’s XXL Freshman Class, which featured a special crop of MCs such as Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill and YG, all of whom are now considered in the upper echelon of hip-hop. After his big splash, he’s been able to find a groove and consistently release quality rap records, ultimately keeping his name in the conversation with the other young greats. These consecutive triumphs amassed plenty of fame, fortune and insurmountable obstacles, causing a stumble here and there. Throughout the years, however, Mac has brushed himself off and put it in the music.

The real star of “What’s the Use” is Thundercat on bass.  I don’t even follow the words I’m so focused on Thundercat’s amazing six string bass work.  And when Thundercat sings “I Just Wanna Fly” and takes a credit, it wins over the room.

The other bassist Joseph Cleveland is also great, when Thundercat trades off for the final song.

For the final song, “2009” he says he wanted to have strings on this song but they couldn’t travel with strings.  So they sent the music to these guys (Robin Fay-Massie (Violin), YaShauna Swan (2nd Violin), Lelia Walker (Viola), Melanie Hsu (Cello)).  They just played it for the first time 20 minutes ago.  The strings are lovely with the piano (Javad Day).  The music deserves better than his lame drawl for a vocal line.  Even if the lyrics are introspective and “mature.”

[READ: November 11, 2018] “The Poor Girl”

F. Scott Fitzgerald kept a notebook for stories ideas.  This story comes from idea he never wrote about.  Nunez and other authors wrote stories from these ideas for McSweeney’s 22.  I didn’t write about individual stories in that post, so I get to here.

Nunez chose”Girl marries a dissipated man and keeps him in healthy seclusion.  She meanwhile grows restless and raises hell on the side.”

And she conveys it well, with some delicious details.

This is told by a third party, a friend of the dissipated man.  He explains that Calvin Trent had been a writer, now well into his decline, when he met the girl (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: SLOWDIVE-“Sugar for the Pill” (Field Recordings, June 13, 2017).

It has been nearly a year since NPR Music broadcast its last Field Recording.  From 2012-2017, these were fun, interesting opportunities to put a band in an unlikely setting and have them play a song live,

There are 80 some of these recordings (see the whole shebang here), and I’ve decided to focus on “Slowdive Fills A Shuffleboard Parlor With Shimmering Sound.”

Before a month-and-change ago, Slowdive hadn’t released an album in 22 years. So you’d be forgiven for watching the band perform “Sugar For The Pill” and struggling to pin down what era you’re in — especially since NPR Music plopped the group in a playfully retro Brooklyn shuffleboard parlor for the occasion.

This live recording might be stripped down (I’m not sure), but it sounds great. Neil Halstead plays a pretty, shimmering guitar and sings with his distinctive whispered vocals.  Rachel Goswell is there to provide her delicate harmonies as well.  With them are Nick Chaplin (I assume) on bass.  The bass sounds terrific.  The low end is really good and moves the song along perfectly.  Simon Scott is there to add electronic drums.

A patient mid-tempo gem that’s as hooky as it is hypnotic, “Sugar For The Pill” is a particular highlight, so it’s a joy to watch the reconstituted band trot it out for this Field Recording, filmed at Royal Palms Shuffleboard in Brooklyn.

I don;t understand how this song sounds so good in a shuffleboard facility, but it does.  It sounds great.

[READ: January 4, 2017] “Dido’s Lament”

I really love Hadley’s stories.  I love that she is able to write compellingly about small moments–moments that aren’t going to end a person’s life, but will certainly impact it.

This story starts with Lynette.  She is shopping in a John Lewis–and is quite embarrassed about it.  She is described as “tall, anxious, original, in her late thirties…her hair was shaved above her ears and the rest of it, dyed bronze and pink, was piled up in a striking bird’s nest mess.” It’s the way she throws in that word “original” that I love.

A man pushes though the crowd and knocks her over.  She stumbles and hurts her ankle while trying not to trip over a stroller.

There is no way she is going to let this guy do that and not apologize or acknowledge what he did.  So she runs after him.  She is determined not to hobble or let anyone see her in pain, so she deals with the pain and goes in pursuit of the coat that she knows he is wearing.

She finally catches him on a subway platform.  She taps him on the shoulder ready to yell at him  But when he turns around, she realizes that not only does she know him, she used to be married to him.  She and Toby had separated nine years earlier.  He seems bigger now, but more confident in his ways.  Rather than yell at him, she was struck mute until he turned and was so excited to see her! (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACKOWEN PALLETT–Live at Massey Hall (December 1, 2015).

Owen Pallett founded the band Final Fantasy (which was pretty much him anyhow).  Since 2010 he has been recording under his own name.  His music is orchestral and complex, but also distinctly weird.  He loves to explore sounds, but he also knows hot to throw in some catchy melodies as well.

He says he has plays Massey Hall before but this is the first time as a solo performer. He wants to take advantage of the beautiful-sounding room and comfortable seats.

The songs he plays are a mix of new ones and Final Fantasy songs as well.

On “That’s When the Audience Died” (Final Fantasy), he picks out a complicated pizzicato on the violin and loops it (he mutters, I hope that worked) and then he launches a great melody over the top.  He has a great singing voice as well.  The lyrics are consistently clever and interesting.  The end of the song is amazing with the sounds he ekes out of his violin.

He says he took violin lessons but wasn’t it to it because the violin leaves a mark on your neck.  He quit it because it ruined all his “sexual dreams,” and he switched to guitar and piano.  He was always really into composing–he loved Béla Bartók and György Sándor Ligeti–he wanted to make music you see in Stanley Kubrick film.

There’s beautiful looping with the pizzicato as he play’s the solos live.

“This Lambs Sells Condos” (Final Fantasy) is really quite funny if you know the story behind it, which I didn’t.  But here it is

This song is a comic interpretation of Brad J. Lamb, a figure in the Canadian real estate business (who used to live in the same building as Owen Pallett’s boyfriend), with allusions to elements of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game:

This snarky look at Lamb:

When he was a young man, he conjured up a firemare
Burnt off both his eyebrows and half a head of hair
And then as an apprentice, he took a drowish mistress
Who bestowed upon his youthfulness a sense of champagne chic
His seduction, his seduction to the world of construction
Now his mind will start to wander when he’s not at his computer
And his massive genitals refuse to cooperate
No amount of therapy can hope to save his marriage

Before he did Final Fantasy he played bad country music in bad country bars–because he had a violin.

“Tryst with Mephistopheles” rocks with a band (Matthew Smith and Robbie Gordon) and even some synths.  The drums really propel the song forward.

When he created Final Fantasy he had a guitar, a violin, a bed and some books.  He borrowed a looping pedal and got good with it.  He wanted to be the best violin looper.

“The Riverbed” is with a string quartet and has a fast ripping opening melody–dark and very cool.

He says now that he’s making a record in which he’s not thinking about how to play it live.  He’s just trying to make sounds–not thinking about performance or how to tour it.

So he’s playing new songs in traditional formal.  He conducts the orchestra and sings “On a Path.”  if t his is the “traditional format,” I’m very curious to hear what the non-traditional way is.  It has a fantastic vocal melody and is incredibly catchy.

The final song is “This is the Dream of Win and Regine” (yes of Arcade Fire).  It’s an older Final Fantasy song and has some great references to Montreal:

Montreal might eat its young, but Montreal wont break us.

There’s some great thumping beats throughout until the great dramatic ending.

Pallett had been on my radar, but I’m sold after seeing this show.

[READ: July 3, 2018] “The First World”

This story is bookended in an interesting way.  It starts with the narrator saying that his marriage had come to an end.  An unexpected consequence was that a series of men confided in him about their marriages past or present–not old friends, they stayed quiet, but people he’d had at arm’s length.  A contractor, the dermatologist etc.  People felt free to say wheat they wanted.

And then it was over, the men disappeared for about a decade during which time the narrator remarried.  And then Arty resurfaced.

Arty ran into him on Ninth Avenue and insisted they grab a drink.   He said there was something he’d like the narrator’s opinion on.

Arty had to talk about Gladys, the former nanny of his two girls. Gladys was is nanny for seven years, gave the girls all kinds of love and then left when the kids were old enough not to need her anymore. She got a new job in Chelsea for a younger child.

It was while working for this new family that Gladys lost her husband, Roy.  He had died while in the hospital and they were billing her for one hundred and ten grand.  She didn’t want to fight it because she was waiting for her green card.

Arty’s wife had cut off ties with Gladys (and didn’t want to talk to Arty either).   Not long after the divorce, Gladys rang him up and asked for $500, explaining what had happened to Roy.

She had agreed to a payment plan for the $110,000, but times had been tough.  She asked Arty for $500.

The bulk of the story is Arty’s impassioned telling of Gladys’ story.  How everything seemed to go wrong for her.  She moved back to Trinidad bit was not welcomed with opened arms.  She tried to find work but was unable.  And so regularly, she asked Arty for another loan, a loan that he knew he would never see.

She has even stayed with Arty when he pays for her ticket to visit her grown up son.

The narrator wants to get out of the conversation, but Arty has bought yet another round. The narrator has an amusing aside about how he lost his wallet and paid for his round with cash from his back pocket.

The story is bookended with the narrator returning home. The way the whole piece ends with him imagining his wallet being returned shows how differently two people can live and ponders what their attitudes have to do with it.

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: PARTNER-Tiny Desk Concert #744 (May 18, 2018).

I know of Partner from the All Songs Considered podcast.  Their song “Everybody Knows” (about being high) is pop-punk catchy and really funny.

That’s the only song I knew from them, but I assumed this Tiny Desk would be of a rollicking hilarious similar vein.

Imagine my surprise to hear them do pretty much everything but pop-punk.  There’s a theme song, a country song, a song for Céline Dion and a song that makes the lead singer cry:

This is one of the sweetest, funniest and most endearing Tiny Desk performances I’ve seen. From the moment they began playing, it was clear best friends Lucy Niles and Josée Caron, who perform as the Canadian rock band Partner, were there to leave their mark and have a whole lot of fun doing it.

Known for their sense of humor, joyful spirit and screaming riff rock, Partner opened their Tiny Desk not with their guitars plugged in, but with kazoos and a goofy little piano piece they dubbed the “Tiny Desk Theme.” Dressed like she was in an ugly sweater contest, Caron bounced along behind the keys with a beaming smile while the group (including drummer Brendan Allison, Kevin Brasier on keys and Daniel Legere on guitar) sang, “It’s the best Tiny Desk!”

The theme song is but a minute long and will hopefully be used for every future Tiny Desk endeavor.  It comes complete with bopping piano, kazoo and cowbell.

The impish left turns didn’t stop there. Immediately following the makeshift theme, Caron peeled off her sweater (revealing a Tegan and Sara T-shirt) and grabbed an acoustic guitar as the band broke into “Tell You Off” its first-ever country song, a track they’d premiered at a live show just days earlier.

Lucy Niles picks up the bass and plays a simple riff.  The rest of the band joins in (with Legere playing a very country guitar solo).

They could barely contain their laughter while singing “Tell You Off,” a boom-chicka story song about giving a good tongue-lashing to anyone who gets in your way:

“I heard what you said about my dog / that he shit on your lawn / well that’s not my fault / say it to my face or I’ll be pissed off / I’ll come over to your house and tell you off.

The third song is the one that Caron hope Céline Dion will sing.  She says it was inspired by a poem that her boss wrote.  “It’s a bad ass poem about going to down to hell to face your greatest fears and to reclaim a peaceful life for yourself.  The life that you deserve.”

In addition to playing a great rocking solo, Caron sings the final verse in French (for Céline to sample).

Partner closed out its set with a surprisingly emotional version of “Creature In The Sun,” a reflection on appreciating the gift of just being alive.

Caron plays a cool intro riff with a guitar slide.  And the song is the most rocking of the bunch.  And then

About halfway through the song, Caron took a moment to tell the audience why it was so special to them. Choking back tears, she said she wrote it about freeing the mind of desire. “It’s a very healing place… And you can just experience the fullness of life. I just wanted to… remind everyone that that stuff is right there with you all the time.”

It’s surprisingly emotional and Caron is clearly embarrassed at her emotional outpouring, but the audience is receptive and she still manages to play that great slide guitar apart tat the end.

And, to break some of the emotional tension the drummer hits a nice cowbell sound at the end.

This is a very surprising set, and one that I imagine is unique in their live performances.

[READ: May 21, 2018] “The Long Black Line”

This is the story of Jesuit Priesthood, circa 1954, and a man trying to join.

Finn is described this way: “priests were still thought to be holy, and Finn…Well…”

When Finn is close to completing his term of study one of the Brothers, Brother Reilly who is manuductor (he who leads by the hand) seems to think poorly of Finn.  Reilly wrote in his diary that Finn seemed self-important.  And then Brother Reilly went to confess these thoughts.  Brother Reilly’s superiors felt that Reilly was not suited to the role of manuductor and therefore it was useful for him to be given the task.

Father Superior told them: “feelings are always to be distrusted.  The good Jesuit may feel excited or depressed, but–remember–he never shows it.  He is never singular. He disappears into the long black line [of priests]….  If you feel sad, smile.  If you feel elated, exercise self-restraint.  If you dislike someone, pray for him.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »