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Archive for the ‘Marriage Trouble’ Category

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…)

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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…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BAND OF HORSES-Live at Newport Folk Festival (July 25, 2014).

 I was checking out some of the Newport Folk Festival archives at NPR and found this show from 2014.  This was Band of Horses’ first time at Newport and they sound great and have fun with the set up, by slowly building to a full band.

They start “quietly” with Ben Bridwell singing “St. Augustine” solo on acoustic guitar.

For “Part One,” the bring out Ryan Monroe and Tyler Ramsey to sing along.  You can hear a heckler shout “you need more beard.”

Then they bring out Bill Reynolds to play upright bass on “Weed Party.”  This song sound so very different from the album version–it’s a much more country, don home version, rather than the soaring record.  There’s even a middle break with room for a bass “solo.”

Finally, out comes Creighton Barrett behind the drums for “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone,” their then newest song and the only one from their 2012 album that they play.

The rest of the set is primarily from the first two albums, and the songs sound great.  Ben’s voice is in good form and the band is tight.  “Great Alt Lake” rocks and “Is There a Ghost” even gives Ben the opportunity to shout 1,2,3,4 mid song as they bust out the rocking section.  Ben even screams in the intro to “Laredo.”

Things slow down for “No One’s Gonna Love You.”  When he plays that opening chord everyone cheers, but he says, “that’s the wrong thing, though. that’s not right.” and then he gets himself sorted (with a pitch pipe?) and they play a gorgeous version of it.  The rest of the set sounds equally good, including a rousing “The Funeral.”

They end the set with a cover of a classic blues song “Am I a Good Man?”  Each band member gets a little solo and they even act out some soul with a “Newport are you ready? “One time!” [pow] “two times!” [pow pow] “half a time [tss].

It’s a great show and a precursor of future great shows that I’ve seen from them.

  • “St. Augustine” *
  • “Part One” *
  • “Weed Party” *
  • “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone” ****
  • “The Great Salt Lake” *
  • “Is There A Ghost” **
  • “Laredo” ***
  • “No One’s Gonna Love You” **
  • “Islands On The Coast” **
  • “The General Specific” **
  • “Ode To LRC” **
  • “The Funeral” *
  • “Am I A Good Man?” [cover]

[READ: August 17, 2017] “The Itch”

The story begins that after his divorce, the narrator felt an odd physical and mental numbness although over time he began to talk more to people.

But the most persistent thing is the itch.  Sometimes the left wrist.  Although at home in the evening, it was the upper arms.  Thighs and shins at night.  He began to think of it as “sense data from the exterior.”  Although he didn’t really believe that,.

The only person he has told about the itch is his friend and co-worker, Joel.  Joel told him that he should contextualize the itch–look for a famous statesman with the same problem or perhaps something biblical.  He capitalized The Itch.

He had been seeing a woman whose name was Ana.  He liked that it was spelled that way but when he asked if there was a reason for it–family tradition, a European novel?  She disappointed him and said no.  Just a name spelled a certain way.   He hadn’t told her about The Itch.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Live Bait Vol. 13 [Baker’s Dozen Edition] (2017).

Live Bait 13 was a special release to tie in with the Baker’s Dozen shows at Madison Square Garden.  It’s a little strange that 11 of the 13 songs are from MSG and not all of them, but whatever.  The MSG recordings date from 1994-2016, and the additional two songs are a relativity recent song from Chicago and a 1993 track from Pittsburgh.

The set starts with a 14 minute “The Wedge” (7/20/14 FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, Chicago, IL).  It seems to be a little stiff and almost “formal” to start with although by around 9 minutes it loosens up and gets funky with some cool drum breaks.  By 11 minutes it turns into a loos jam of chords that sounds familiar like an other song, but I can’t place it.

The “Run Like An Antelope” is from 1993 (7/18/93 I.C. Light Amphitheater, Pittsburgh, PA) and it opens fun with woodblocks and a dramatically dissonant chord.  Trey launches into Led Zep’s “Heartbreaker” riff while the band keeps going.  The middle slows down and gets noisy before ending.

The rest of the tracks are from Madison Square Garden.

“Tube” (12/29/97) starts off quite angular and harsh but grows funky with a cool keyboard sound and solo from Page.   Moving back to (12/30/95) they play a spirited “It’s Ice” which segues into a rather mellow “Kung.”  Most of the nonsense from “Kung” is spoken, including the runaway gold cart marathon. But then they start screaming “Stand up!  STAND UP!”

I love that “It’s Ice” has the kind of vocals that are done in something of a round or a fugue.  It’s followed by “Piper” (12/30/11) that also has that kind of vocals in the round.  Its a nice pairing.  This version is pretty grooving and eventually gets really rocking.  Although the last five minutes are trippy and chill.

There’s a surprise (to me) “Icculus” from 2013. (12/31/13).  Trey has a lot of fun with the story of the helping friendly book.  He talks about how when they first started playing they had a message to impart.

Some of you are not getting the message and it’s pissing us off.  We’re here tonight in the middle of Madison Square Garden to give to the fucking message!  I’m looking around and I’m thinking a lot of you haven’t read the fucking book.  Up next is the fun segue of “Mike’s Song > Swept Away > Steep > Weekapaug Groove” from 1996 (10/22/96) is a large 20 minute block. There’s a good jam that lasts almost ten minutes before “Swept Away” comes in quietly for a minute. It stays quiet through “Sleep” until they launch onto the “Groove.”

The next song is from 2016 (12/30/16) , I think the most recent Live Bait.  “Light” sounds “mature” until the jam plays on for a while and its drifts all over the place until Fish pulls it back around 16 minutes to a wholly unexpected “Party Time.”

I love this version of “Carini” (12/28/98).  It is dark and angular with a really dark and moody jam.  At 8 minutes its gets kind of trippy but by 12 Page takes it into a dark place with synth sounds> Wolfman’s Brother (12/28/98 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY) 37:23

Ghost (12/31/10( is groovy with a half time solo while “Tweezer” (12/30/94) is fast and peppy for nearly the whole 20 minutes. The “Ebenezer” part comes at around 4 minutes with a lot of prolonged nonsense after the word.  “You Enjoy Myself (12/4/09) is a full 20 minutes as well and they seem to stretch it out with the second part coming at 3 minutes and the lyrics starting around 6 minutes in  there’s some great solos by Page and Trey as well.  There’s a funky watery bass solo around 17 minutes before the final vocal jam which is mostly a series of rising and falling yells until they grow quiet by the end.

“No Men In No Man’s Land” is a newer song and they play it nice–stretching it out with a grooving sound and jam.  By 10 minutes it chills down, but it picks up again by 11:30.  At 15 minutes it gets angular and dark and around 20 minutes they start the countdown to Auld Lang Syne.  They come out of ALS with a wonderful “Blaze On,” a fun welcome to the new year.

Nothing could prepare anyone for Phish playing a no repeat 13 night series, but this was certainly a fun reminder of the great shows they’ve played at MSG.

[READ: February 7, 2018] “August”

This story is a slice of life at a lake in August.

The family went to the lake for five seasons over he years.

The narrator says he primary memory is of his father reading intently.  He could read for hours without moving.  Sometimes he would pick up a drink and there was the possibility that he would not drink it before getting to the bottom of the page and then simply put it down, forgotten.

His mother would not read until she picked up a book and then would read intently for a couple of days and then seem to just give up.

It was the second season that his father shot the dog.  Yup, its one of those stories, but not as bad as all that. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKGEORGIE JAMES-Builds ‘Monument’ In Two Days (Project Song: December 17, 2007).

Project Song was a nifty little show that NPR Music created.  The premise was that NPR would give a musician some prompts and a recording studio.  They then had two days to write and record a song.  I don’t know how much of the process was to be filmed, but presumably most of it. Then it would be edited down to a fifteen minute show.  The results are pretty cool and it’s a shame they only made five of them.

The second one they did was with Georgie James

Georgie James is a band on the rise [Note: they broke up on August 4, 2008]. The duo makes smart, infectious pop with tight harmonies and jangling guitars — an upbeat and innocent sound that’s made its debut album (Places, 2007) a sleeper success.  Georgie James got its start when drummer John Davis’ former band, Q and Not U, disbanded in 2005.  Davis turned to his singer-songwriter friend, Burhenn, to forge something new.

At first, the two seemed like an unlikely pair. Davis had spent the past seven years releasing records with his bandmates on the legendary D.C. punk label Dischord and touring the world. Burhenn, on the other hand, had been releasing solo projects on her own label, Laboratory Records, and playing smaller venues on the east and west coast.

They eventually settled on a stark but serene image by New York photographer Phil Toledano, depicting a bare room with a large pile of books stacked in the middle. For the phrase, the band chose “Something Joyful.”

Their process seems tense to me.  But maybe that’s just how they bounce ideas off of each other.

He chose the words “something joyful.”  She chose David Bowie and 45.
She likes the pile of books in empty room–she sees it youthful and he sees it as disuse, disrepair, neglect.  They decide to use that picture and the phrase “something joyful.”

She plays piano melody banging out ideas for the tune on the first day. There’s lots of discussion and back and forth–very different from Merritt’s solitary style.

“It’s really difficult when you have two people who are trying to meet in the middle,” Burhenn says. “We each had a different vision of where this was going to go, and to try to very quickly throw that together is a difficult thing.”

They change styles.  She suggests maybe a Talking Heads’ vibe.  She sings it in a David Byrne-ish drawl but he doesn’t like it.  She says this is turning into a nightmare and fears the song sounds like John Cougar Mellencamp or Rod Stewart.

But in the final hour they pulled it out.

Davis added drums, bass and guitar. The two layered the sound with multiple harmonies and hand-claps.

Two days later, they had a song they called “Monument.” It’s a three-and-a-half-minute pop gem that marries the contrasting loneliness of the photograph with the spirit of “something joyful.”

As they walk out she says, “I think it’s awesome.”  And it’s very catchy.

[READ: February 2, 2018] “All That Glass”

This is a peculiar story that starts out seemingly reasonable and then just goes off the rails.

A man says his wife no longer wants to sleep in the bedroom anymore.  He took it as an attack against him and wondered what he did.  But she ignores that and says she wants to move into the conservatory.  He agrees but says that “All that glass, it gets cold in there at night.”

She moves some basics into the conservatory.  He thought it was odd, but it gave the conservatory a good spring cleaning.

It was cold in there at night  She wore extra clothes though, and that was that. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STEPHIN MERRITT: Two Days, ‘A Million Faces’ (Project Song: November 4, 2007).

Project Song was a nifty little show that NPR Music created.  The premise was that NPR would give a musician some prompts and a recording studio.  They then had two days to write and record a song.  I don’t know how much of the process was to be filmed, but presumably most of it. Then it would be edited down to a fifteen minute show.  The results are pretty cool and it’s a shame they only made five of them.

The first one they did was with Magnetic Field’s singer/songwriter/wizard Stephin Meritt.

Merritt is quite prolific so this seemed like it would be no big challenge.  They showed him six images and six words.  He had to choose one picture and one word.  He chose a picture and the word 1974.

Merritt does most of his writing sitting in a bar, with throbbing music in the background.

“Some recording artists write in the studio,” he tells All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen. “I think they’re crazy.”

So for the first installment of a new multimedia experiment called Project Song, All Songs Consideredset up a bar for Merritt in NPR’s Studio 4A, an expansive wood-floored room with plenty of space for a creative artist to spread out and experiment. We supplied him with a grand piano, an assortment of other keyboards (including a ’70s MOOG synthesizer), drums and guitars — even a sampler, from which Merritt extracted the sound of a vintage Mellotron.

The photograph he chose, by artist Phil Toledano, is an incredible image of a man covered head to toe in what looks like a bodysuit made of baby dolls.

In Merritt’s imagination the man shape shifts as a criminal.

For the music, he chose a “Shepherd tone” which is the illusion of ever ascending pitches.

And then we watch Merritt recording instruments and vocals and talking to the recording engineer.

It is very cool to see how this song evolves with bass, guitar, synth and more added in.

The final two minutes wrap up his take on.  He says he would normally work a lot longer.  There is only one section to the song. (It’s verse no chorus?) Yes.   The song is based on a loop because he finished the song sooner than he might have.  “But I write lots of fairly simple songs, and I like this one.”

[READ: Feb 3, 2016] “Silk Brocade”

Once again Tessa Hadley easily transports me to another time and place.

In this story, we meet Ann Gallagher, a talented seamstress who has started a small business with her gregarious friend Kit.  They are going to make couture dresses and more.

Unfortunately, old friends of theirs have come a-calling.  And today, Nola Higgins straight from Fishponds, has come asking a favor.

Turns out that Nola is getting married to nobility and she hopes that Ann can make a dress from some gorgeous old silk brocade that was in his house.  Ann is fully intending to turn her away–saying that Nola will never be able to afford their work–until she learns about the money. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DIVINE COMEDY-Loose Canon: Live in Europe 2016-2017 (2018).

I loved The Divine Comedy at the turn of the century (the fin de siècle, if you will).  They were one of my favorite bands.

Since then Neil Hannon (the man behind the band) has released a few albums which I have liked–but none as much as those early records.

This recording is primarily his latter songs, and as such isn’t as exciting to me.  (Although setlists from the tour shows that he played a lot of older songs as well, so this disc is mostly a latter period recording).

The first three songs are from the newest album Foreverland: “How Can You Leave Me On My Own,” “Napoleon Complex” and “Catherine the Great.”  And among the next few songs are “To the Rescue” and “Funny Peculiar.”   So that’s five in all from that album.

The previous album Bang Goes the Knighthood accounts for five more songs “The Complete Banker,” “Bang Goes The Knighthood,” “At The Indie Disco,” “Assume The Perpendicular” and “I Like.”

So that’s ten of seventeen from the two latest albums.

After listening to it a few times I have come to appreciate his newer music even more and to see that it is equally as cleverly crafted.  He’s just a different person now with different lyrical and musical ideas.  I will certainly give a re-listen to the last decade;s worth of music.

“How Can” is fun a bouncy, “Napoleon” is snarky and witty.  “Funny Peculiar” is a duet with  guest vocals from Lisa O’Neill.  She has a fascinating singing style which is kind of peculiar in its own way.

“The Complete Banker” is wonderfully sarcastic and catchy and “I Like” is so simple and delightful.  “Assume the Perpendicular” is an other fun uptempo song, but of this batch its “Indie Disco” that is the real highlight (this includes an excerpt from New Order’s Blue Monday”).

It also sounds like this was a fun souvenir for anyone who saw the tour (he dressed up as Napoleon and others, and apparently “Indie Disco” was really fun live).  I have always wanted to see them and hold them high on my list of bands to see.  But he hasn’t been to the States in almost ten years, so I don’t have high hopes to experience them live.

The band for The Divine Comedy’s live shows has changed over the years, sometimes large and orchestral or, like this tour, a simpler five-piece.  They sound good although they do underplay the orchestral quality of the music.

Going back there’s one from Victory for the Comic Muse “A Lady Of A Certain Age” and one from Absent Friends “Our Mutual Friend.”  These two songs are lovely and quite poignant, especially “Lady.”  They are a far cry from the raucous songs of old.

The first older song is from 2001’s Regenertaion with a wild and fun rendition of “Bad Ambassador.”  His voice doesn;t sound great on this song.  I’m not sure if he ever sounded great live, but he certainly underplays some of the bigger moments in the song.

The crowd really gets pumping for Fin de Siècle‘s “Generation Sex” and “National Express.”  These two songs are a lot of fun and I imagine mus t be really rousing live.  Once again he doesn’t sound great. Not that he has lost his voice but almost like he;s not trying all that hard.

The disc is collected from shows all over Europe, so its interesting if they picked songs where he doesn’t sound that great.

It’s not until the encores that he brings out two really old songs 1994’s “A Drinking Song” and “Tonight We Fly.”

I’m sure they picked this particular version of “A Drinking Song” because he admits to being quite drunk himself.  And there’s a funny moment where he gets a hair caught in his throat.  “Is it yours?”  Indeed, his banter with the audience is a highlight.  He is clearly a good showman, and perhaps that makes up for some of the shortcomings of the disc.  This song is a good example.  His voice is much louder than the instruments and, frankly, he doesn’t sound that great as what is mostly a capella–but the overall presentation is fun.

The ending “Tonight We Fly” is a treat as well.  Again, he doesn’t sound perfect, but he sounds like he’s having fun.

I feel like this makes me want to see them a little less–except that it sounds like the performance is great even if his voice isn’t anymore.  Regardless, is he ever comes back to the States, I’ll be there for sure.

[READ: January 19, 2018] “The People Who Kept Everything”

I read this novel 7 years ago.  But since I’ve been going back through old Harper’s and found this excerpt I thought it would be worth reading (the excerpt) again.  And I really enjoyed it, I had forgotten about this scene until the end of the piece.

The narrator says that on the night before he left for college his father gave him a Spanish dueling knife and told him to keep it and never lose it.

When the narrator asks his father where he got it he says he’d better not say–he could tell him he won it in a card game in El Paso or a cathouse in Brownsville.

He kept the knife in a drawer and it moved with him to every location her went–dorm rooms, apartments.  Often it was in the kitchen with the cutlery, ignored by everyone except the new girlfriend who wanted to cook something. (more…)

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