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Archive for the ‘Marriage Trouble’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“The Hamilton Polka” (2016). 

Lin-Manuel Miranda has declared his love and respect for “Weird Al” on many occasions.  So it makes perfect sense that he would ask Al to contribute to the online Hamilton project known as HamilDrops.  The Decemberists’ “Ben Franklin’s Song” is amazing too.

But seriously, how could Al parody a more or less biographical story of a historical figure (that’s two hours long)?.  By not parodying it at all.

Rather, he makes one of his polka mashups which he’s been doing hilariously since his second album.  They are often a highlight of each new album.  This song compresses (almost) the entire musical into 5 minutes.

“The Hamilton Polka,” provides what’s essentially a CliffsNotes-style run-through of the musical’s hooks and highlights — just enough to get the entire musical stuck in your head all over again.

I love the way in the original, the third sister, poor Peggy, is sort of musically dissed whereas Al is just explicit about it.  And of course, how could he refuse to include some actual gun shots for “Not Throwing Away My Shot?”

So they cram in 

Alexander Hamilton
Wait For It
The Schuyler Sisters
Yorktown
You’ll Be Back
The Room Where It Happens
Guns and Ships
Washington On Your Side
Non-Stop
History Has Its Eyes On You
My Shot

And Al can really sing and rap some of those lyrics quickly.  It’s a really fun mashup.

[READ: January 11, 2018] Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of an American Founding Father

Before the musical, most people’s familiarity with Alexander Hamilton probably came from this (awesome) commercial (even if none of us could remember what it was ultimately for).

Actually, my father worked for (and owned for a time) Alexander Hamilton Printing in Paterson, NJ, so Alexander Hamilton has always been a part of my life.  Although I had no idea why.  Not really.

There’s a new reason why people know about Alexander Hamilton (can you even say his name without singing it?).

And I’m sure that reason has something to do with the creation and publication of this book.  But Hennessey is not just jumping on the Hamilton bandwagon.  Well, maybe he is, but he has two other historical graphic novels out already: The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation (2008) and The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation (2012).  He also has books called The Comic Book Story of Beer, and The Comic Book Story of Video Games so he’s not all stuffy.

The musical is far more catchy than this book–far more steamy.  But this book is really chock full of details that the musical skips (for various reasons, obviously).  The book is a lot less interested in the romantic dalliances of the founding father, although it certainly does acknowledge them.

Indeed, the book is 176 fully illustrated pages jam-packed with information.  It reads a little, if not dull, then certainly more academic.  That’s because there’s a lot of text and a lot of history. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: O.C.-Tiny Desk Concert #732 (April 18, 2018).

This is where I get to complain again that The Breeders had three songs when O.C. [Omar “O.C.” Credle], whom I have never heard of (although he is apparently a classic) gets five songs in nearly 19 minutes.  Bogus.

As a member of Brooklyn rap collective Diggin’ In The Crates, Omar Credle, aka O.C., helped shape what was known as the golden age of 1990s rap. Marked by loops sourced from jazz recordings and lyrics rooted in one-upmanship, O.C’s two ’90s albums made him a rapper’s rapper, an underground star.

I’ve never heard of him but he is sure confident in his crew’s impact (which seems about right I guess.  It’s interesting that they were known for sampling, but they have a live band.  The band sounds fantastic by the way.

O.C. was joined at his Tiny Desk by Soul’D U Out, a jazz ensemble led by Grammy-winning trumpeter Maurice “Mobetta” Brown. The live instrumentation replicated the sample-heavy original recordings perfectly.

They mostly play old songs, but they start with a new one: “New Day,” from O.C.’s 2017 album which features young R&B singer Tay Bell on the hook.  Bell’s vocals are quite high-pitched.  I thought he was a woman at first (just hearing him, not seeing him).  But his voice adds a great fullness to the song.  That live trumpet is amazing, as is the quiet fuzzy guitar from Marcus Machado that runs throughout the song.

He says he wants to get into the old stuff.  He asks, “How many over 45?”  A woman replied, “Oh, that’s wrong.”  He laughs and says, “I’m only 23.”

The rest of the set was vintage cuts from O.C.’s heyday. “Day One,” a D.I.T.C. posse cut, featured emcee and producer Lord Finesse.

Robert “Lord Finesse” Hall gets a verse, which he delivers with a great style I actually like his more than O.C.).  I also love the vibes even if they are only on keys (by Chris Robs).,  He says that the song is about “20 years of history.”  Referring to other rappers, he says, “we birthed a lot of them, they might not say it, but I will. without D.I.T.C, there’d be no digging n the record crates. ”  I seriously doubt that statement, but whatever.

Then O.C. treated the crowd to a version of “Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers” (the one and only song by him, Jeru The Damaja and Chubb Rock).

I was more impressed by the trumpet than anything else.  The sounds he gets at the end are amazing.

He had to fit in his seminal banger and arguably most popular song, “Time’s Up,” from Word…Life.

He says “I hated this record when I made it but people convinced me to do it.”  Huh.  I like the cool bass from Parker McAllister that runs through the song.

The finale got personal when O.C. relayed the importance of the song “Born 2 Live.” “This is dedicated to a friend of mine who got killed down in Baltimore,” he said. “Every time I do this record, it’s somber. … But it’s a celebration at the same time. So I’m a just party it out and have a good time with it.” With a little help from Soul’D U Out, we did, too.

I’m only a little disappointed that the drummer (Camau “Klutch” Bernstine, whose hair is awesome) didn’t get to show off a bit more. He was really solid but there was nothing fancy.

I’m not bummed that he got 20 minutes, because I enjoyed his set, but let some other folks go over time too!

[READ: April 17, 2018] “A Flawless Silence”

Yiyun Li is perhaps the most consistently enjoyable New Yorker author for me.  I love the pacing of her stories and I love the way she tackles large and small personal issues sometimes at the same time.

This story is about a woman, Min.  She grew up in China but moved to America when her now husband proposed to her. As the story begins, she is with her twin daughters in the car.  They are fighting , of course, until one of them says that Kevin, a boy in their class is a Republican.

How do they know?  Because the teacher instructed them to write to either presidential candidate and while everyone class wrote to Hilary Clinton, he chose to write a supportive letter to the male candidate (Yiyun Li uses his name but I don’t feel compelled to). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING CRIMSON-The Elements Of King Crimson – 2017 Tour Box (2017).

The (so far) final Tour Box (although the band is still touring in 2018) is notable for having what might be the definitive collection of live “Lark’s Tongue in Aspic” recordings–Parts I to IV (and more) from different eras.

But that’s disc two.  Disc one continues with the sampling of the band’s career.

Disc 1 opens with “Wind.”  Although each “Wind” extract seems a tad different.  This one is all talking, no wind.”   (extract)  talking no wind.

Next comes an a capella first verse of “21st Century Schizoid Man.”  It’s just Greg Lake singing really loud before seguing into the rest of the song, this time from 2015.  It’s a great version.

Continuing like the other boxes, there’s an instrumental edit of “In The Wake Of Poseidon,” which is quite lovely.

This disc has a number of Mel Collins flute improvs taken from various Lark’s Tongue recordings in 2016.  Each one is wonderful and I could listen to his flute all day.

Another recording of “Peace,” this time with in a rehearsal that ends with Jakko cracking up because of something that Gavin has done (with lots of bad words bleeped out).

It’s followed by a stellar recording of “Cirkus” from 2016.  This is the first time played since 1972 and it sounds much more intense and complex than the version on the previous box.

It’s followed by an abridged instrumental recording of “Islands” and a 2015 live recording of “Easy Money” (complete with sound effects–I loved hearing this live the first time.

“Suitable Grounds For The Blues” is a 2015 rehearsals that ends when someone calmly says “It was Harrison, sir.  He made me laugh, sir.  He did the drum fill out of Hawaii 5-0 twice.

“The Great Deceiver” from 1974 sounds tremendous and I hope this means they might be busting it out for the 2018/19 tour.

“Asbury Park” is a live recording. It’s a fast and rollicking instrumental edited down to fit nicely with a terrific 2016 recording of “One More Red Nightmare.”

There’s a 2015 rehearsal of “Meltdown” and then a jump to an alternate (instrumental) mix of  “Thela Hun Ginjeet.”  I normally love these instrumental mixes, but i find that this song really uses the words wonderfully and I miss them.

The only other track from this era is a 1982 recording of “Heartbeat” which is insanely catchy and I can;t believe wasn’t a hit.  The disc ends with a 2008 performance of 1984’s “Sleepless” which sounds really 80s (the bass in particular) even though it was recorded in 2008.  I’ve often thought that Adrian Belew makes King Crimson sound like The Talking Heads, and that seems to be true with this song.

The disc ends with the intermission and photography announcement from 2016 concerts.

Disc 2 is the Lark’s Tongue disc, but it doesn’t start with it.  It opens with 2004’s “Form No. 1” with strings guitars and a Tony Levin groove.  Then there’s a version of “THRAK ” from the Thrak sessions.

The disc has several tracks called “Keep That One Nick” which are some early recordings and dialogue.  Each one is about 4 minutes long of guitars or drums or the whole band recording primarily parts of LTIA.

When the series starts, we’ve got a

2015 recording of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part I” followed by a
1974 recording of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part II.”

after a Nick recording of percussion (in which the drums sound like child’s toys and like Bruford is hitting everything in the studio, they continue the series with a

1984 recording of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part III.”  This is my least favorite Part–I can;t get over how much I’m disliking the 1980s recordings, especially since  Discipline is one of my favorite KC albums.

after a recording jam of Part II (keep that one, Nick) there’s a

1999 recording of “Larks’ IV ConstruKction” where you can see the connection to the LTIA series in this song.  Then comes a

2003 recording of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part IV” which sounds great once again.

It’s followed by a 2016 recording of “Level Five” which is sort of an unofficial Part 5 to LTIA.

Presumably these are Fripp’s favorite versions of the series. So there.

The disc and set ends with a radio advert for the Larks’ Tongues In Aspic album because who even knew they made radio adverts for albums.  It’s a great piece of history.

I imagine there will be a 2018 box, as the band has taken a few months off and is getting ready to start touring Europe and Japan through the end of the year.  And who knows, one more trip back to the U.S. in 2019?  Yea, I’d be ready to see them once more time by then.

[READ: February 1, 2017] Multiple Choice

I have really enjoyed Zambra’s stories a lot.  As with most of Zambra’s work, this one was translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell and I thought it was terrific.

As it turns out almost half of this book has been previously published: “Reading Comprehension: Text No. 1” (New Yorker, July 6 & 13, 2015) and “Reading Comprehension: Text No. 3” (Harper’s, July 2016).  In total, there are three Reading Comprehension texts in the book, as well as a few other types of “test questions.”

The original of this book was called Facsímil, and it uses “the structure and questions of the Chilean Academic Aptitude Test as its organizing principle. Called both a work of parody and poetry, Multiple Choice examines the role of the education system and standardized testing in promoting compliance to authoritarian rule.”

Since this book is set up like test there are 5 parts to work through.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING CRIMSON-The Elements Of King Crimson – 2016 Tour Box (2016).

This was the third Tour Box containing material that is similar in spirit, but different in fact to the previous two.

As always, it starts with the Wind extract, the sound of Fripp’s mellotron warming up and a voice saying “I prefer the early ones.”  It segues into a beautiful instrumental of “Moonchild.”  Once again, the lyrics are interesting in the song, but it sounds great without them.

The music stays in somewhat chronological order of release, but often with contemporary versions.  Like the 2015 recording of 1970’s “Peace” (which is okay) and “Pictures Of A City” (which is great).

“Prince Rupert’s Lament” is a two and half-minute guitar solo which has the Toronto crowd from the previous track overlaid, making this recording sound like a live one, when it is in fact an except from the recording session of Lizard.  There’s a rehearsal of the full 10 minute “Islands” from 1971 or so.

Then a “new” song, the two and a half-minute 2014 “Threshold Soundscape” which segues into the 2014 live version of “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part I” which is quite bass heavy.  Up next is a recording session of “Easy Money” without all the bells and whistles.

Then comes two live recordings from 1974.  “Improv I” which is full of gongs and guitars and chaos and segues into “Doctor Diamond.”  This is a song I had never heard before.  It never had an official release and this version seems like they’re just trying it out, like they weren’t really sure about the words, especially.  It’s heavy and  more than a little odd.

After a 30 second clip “From the Drummer’s Stool” which is the a drummer playing the intense “21st Century Schizoid Man” drums, the full song is played from 1974, sounding quite old in the mix.

The second disc continues with all manner of things in no particular order.

There’s more extracts from Lizard, this time a very pretty solo piano version of “Prince Rupert Awakes.”

And them it’s on to a non-Crimson album.  “The Other Man” is an alternate early version of the song from the Jakszyk, Fripp, Collins album A Scarcity of Miracles which I don’t know at all.

Next comes “Making Of Discipline,” it’s clips from bulk of the album spliced together into one song.  It’s very nifty.  There’s a demo instrumental of “Walking on Air” and then a three-minute live track called “Radical Action (to Unseat The Hold of Monkey Mind).”

There’s a demo of “Meltdown” (with guide vocals) and then a 40 second clip “From the Drummers’ Stools I” and a 20 second clip “From The Guitarist’s Stool I” which is part of the 21CSM solo.

Then comes some heavy stuff.  “The ConstruKction Of Light” live from 2014 with no vocal tag at the end followed by the bizarre Beatles mashup “Tomorrow Never Knew/Thela” live from 2000.

There another sample “From the Drummers’ Stools II” this one from “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic I” which is followed by “Nuages” (which I read as Nu-ages.  It’s trippy with bouncy bass

There’s a 2014 recording of the slow, jazzy “The Light Of Day” also originally from Scarcity of Miracles. It’s followed by a Lizard excerpt “From The Guitarist’s Stool II” and then a fast complicated 40 second 2014 soundcheck for “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic I.”

Moving away from that classic business, we jump to a new mix of “Dinosaur” from THRAK.  It’s followed by a final 45 second “From The Drummers’ Stools III” and then concluding with a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes.”  This version is from 2000 and I find it kind of weak, especially compared to the powerhouse versions they would unleash later.

Overall there’s some cool stuff on this box, but I feel like there’s a bunch of stuff that’s not quite my Crimson taste.

[READ: January 12, 2018] The Nix

The Nix received some pretty positive reviews and I was quite interested to read it–even though I had no idea what it was really about.  It’s not until nearly page 100 that we find out what the title even means.

The Nix (in the story, not the novel itself) is a ghost story from Norway.  The protagonists’s mother heard about The Nix from her Norwegian father.  The Nix was a horse.  It encouraged you to ride it.  When you did, it never stopped running until it ran off a cliff with you on it.  In modern terms, The Nix is a person–usually someone you think you love. Someone who will leave you.

Summarizing the book is either really easy or something of a challenge depending on how many aspects you want to include.

The book more or less follows one man–starting with his failing writing career and then flashing back to how he got where he is.  That sounds pretty dull, but the book is set on the backdrop of contemporary America–from the rebellions of hippie parents to the rebellions of the 99%ers.

There’s also these wonderful subplots that prop up the main story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER-Tiny Desk Concert #725 (April 2, 2018).

It’s fascinating to read about singers who have been around for a long time about whose names I have never heard before.

Dee Dee Bridgewtaer is such a singer.  Sadly, this blurb, while very informative, doesn’t say anything about her career.  So I don’t know how long she has been singing or what she actually sings.  Although it does say what her new record is about.

When she was just three years old, her family moved from Memphis, Tennessee, to Flint, Michigan. Years later, Bridgewater could still hear the soul sounds of Memphis on WDIA, the first radio station in America programmed entirely by African-Americans for African-Americans. She recalled, “I could catch it when I was in Flint as a teenager and I would listen to it after 11:00 at night, because that was the only time I could get it — when all the other stations were off the air. I know it was real, ’cause I went through it and these were all songs I heard on WDIA.”

Bridgewater, now 67, brought three of these songs to the Tiny Desk: First, is the celebrated blues hit, “Hound Dog,” first recorded by not by Elvis Presley but by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton in 1952. What makes this presentation special is not only Bridgewater’s sultry and soulful interpretation, but her adorable Daisy, perhaps the cutest “Hound Dog” to ever bless this song.

Bridgewater’s version is great and really puts a different spin on the song if you’re used to the Elvis version.  It’s much more sassy and gives you a sense of what the song was really about a lot more than the standard version.  There’s a cool slide guitar solo too.

Before the next song, she says, “I’ve watched the Tiny Desk before but I’ve never seen this many people.”

Then she explains what this song is about:

The first lines of the next tune will quite actually send chills down your spine. Bridgewater and backup singers Sharisse Norman and Shontelle Norman-Beatty’s close harmonic voicings add a spiritual dimension to the already hallowed song. “Why (Am I Treated So Bad)?” was written by Roebuck “Pops” Staples in response to the harassment of the Little Rock Nine, brave students who decided they had the right to attend an all-white Arkansas high school in 1957.

Their version is excellent and powerful.  The backing vocalists add so much to this song.  There’s also a cool keyboard solo that’s kind of under-documented.

Last here is “B.A.B.Y.” Bridgewater recorded this song and the entire album in Memphis’ historic Royal Studios and told NPR this story, “I stepped outside of the studio right after they started mixing ‘B.A.B.Y.’ and I said a prayer. I said, ‘God I need a sign, that I’m moving in the right direction because I am stepping completely away from jazz music.'” Before Bridgewater could get back into the studio to record the next track she got a surprise visit from Carla Thomas, the Memphis soul queen herself and daughter of Rufus Thomas, influential entertainer, singer-songwriter and former WDIA radio DJ. It was a true return to her Memphis roots, a memorable and beautiful moment for Bridgewater.

The song has a sweet soul sound with the addition of horns.  Bridgewater’s voice is perfect for this song and the other songs, too.  I don’t know what Bridgewater’s other songs sound like but she seems perfectly suited to these.

[READ: April 12, 2016] “Visitation”

This is the story of a man, Loomis, who has made many bad relationship choices and who is now stuck realizing that he is not only not a great father but also stuck in a horrible situation with regard to his son.

Loomis and his wife separated and she moved with their son to Southern California.  Since then, he’d flown out (it doesn’t say from where) every three weeks.  He would go for three to five days and stay in the same hotel each time.  He hated the crappy hotel but his son liked it, so he continued to go there, even as he noticed it got worse with each visit.

His wife and son lived in the basement of an ex-marine’s house.  The marine hated him even though they had never been introduced.  Whenever he would visit, his wife would be sure to not be around.

Their hotel stay is pretty bad.  The boy watches anime while Loomis fixes himself a drink. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VÄSEN-Tiny Desk Concert #720 (March 23, 2018).

Back in 2012 I had my first exposure to the nyckelharpa at Scanfest.  And now, nearly six years later Väsen (who did not play at Scanfest that year) have brought the nyckelharpa to Tiny Desk (and the blurb’s description is hilarious).

Väsen came to the Tiny Desk with just three instruments, but all together it was a 30-string sonic blast of 12-string guitar, viola and nyckelharpa (a fiddle with keys — think 15th century keytar).  Guitarist Roger Tallroth, violist Mikael Marin and nyckelharpist Olov Johansson have been a touring troupe for more than 25 years with 18 albums filled with adventure, amusement and virtuosity. They span the wide emotional range of Swedish folk music, equally haunting and celebratory. There are some similarities to Irish jigs, reels and waltzes that I’m more familiar with, but this music is more ear-bending, with more surprises than I’m used to in traditional string band folk music.

The band plays three instrumentals (all of their songs are instrumental) from their new album Brewed.

It’s fascinating how much these songs sound like Irish jigs and reels (fiddle and guitar after all).  There’s a looseness to them that makes them fun and enjoyable–perfect for drinking and dancing.  Especially a song called “IPA-Gubben” which means, “The old IPA man.”  On introducsing the song Olov points to Mikael and says “this is the old IPA man, he brought this tune as a birthday present when he turned 50.”

It’s possible that the nyckelharpa is quieter than the viol as it’s not always unique sounding amid the music.  But there are a few times when the nyckelharpa is playing a melody that stands out and you can really watch and hear Johansson shine–I had no idea the instrument could be played that quickly either.

Not to take anything away form the other two.  The viol plays some incredibly fast runs and melodies and the guitar while primarily used for chords, also adds in some fast runs.

“Väsenvalsen” was composed by Mikael.  It is the first ever Väsen waltz.  The song starts slowly and then dramatically takes off with some wonderfully fast (and very Irish-sounding lead lines on both viol and nyckelharpa.  I love in the middle when the nyckelharpa plays a harmony melody over the top of the viol so you can hear both instruments clearly.  It has a lovely ending with the nyckelharpa playing high notes to end the song.

“Sommarpolska” means “summer polka.”  It was written by Roger and has a  lovely melody that grows and subsides as the instruments ebb and flow.  It’s a joyful dance song and a wonderful concluding piece.

[READ: January 31, 2018] “Two Women”

In typical Amos Oz fashion, this was a rather short story.  It was translated by Sondra Silverston.

Osnat wakes before her alarm and passes the apartment occupied by Boaz and Ariella.  She thinks about what happened two months ago as if it had happened to strangers many years ago.

But it was only two months ago Boaz told Osnat he’d been having an affair with Ariella.  So he’s leaving her and moving in with Ariella (who lives in the same building).  Their affair began one day when Boaz came to fix a broken tap.  Boaz prepared for a huge confrontation, but as he started to ramp up his argument, she cut him off: “Go.  Just go.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKSOCCER MOMMY-“Wildflowers” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 26, 2018).

I was supposed to see Soccer mommy open for Phoebe Bridgers.  But I got sick on the way to the show and missed the whole thing.  Boo!  Since then I’ve been hearing more and more about Soccer Mommy.

This song, “Wildflowers” reminds me a lot of folkie alt songs from the 1990s.  There’s something about the kind of slackerish delivery of her vocals.

Our South X Lullaby with Soccer Mommy took us … to my favorite store in all of Austin, Texas: Uncommon Objects, a self-described “one-of-a-kind emporium of transcendent junk” or “your eccentric uncle’s attic on steroids.”

The song from the Switzerland-born, Nashville-raised artist’s album Clean which was released earlier this month is, as I hear it, about finding your place in the world — to discover who you are and to blossom.

“Wildflowers don’t grow in the city
I dreamt the sidewalk broke in two
The earth was calling to me”

I also like the way her chords are largely unexpected.  She plays a lot of chords high on the neck (but without a capo).  The melody that she plays (while playing the chords, which is cool) is also nicely compelling.

I don;t know if she is all folkie, but I’d like to check out more by her and now I’m even more bummed that I didn’t make the show.

There are 24 different antique sellers under the single, Uncommon Objects roof, and for Sophie Allison, aka Soccer Mommy, we found the perfect setting for her song “Wildflowers.” It was, in fact, filled with objects related to blooming flowers.

[READ: January 9, 2018] “The Year of the Frog”

This story was by turns confusing, infuriating, too long and then really interesting.

It begins with the narrator, a young girl, describing their horse, Sweet Macho.  The horse was a former racehorse who carried himself with ceremony.  Their mother’s boyfriend, known inexplicably as The Frog, is delighted.  Horses?  Why didn’t you say you had horses?  The narrator chuckles because the other animal, Gert, isn’t really a horse, she’s a Shetland Pony.

They had a real father but all they knew about him was “he’d been a son of a bitch, he’d worked in the fields and he’d once screamed like a woman when a bee got in the house.”

Their mother was an excellent horsewoman.  However, she had no time for the horses because she took care of three rich widows–she kept their gloomy houses clean.  Thus, neither creature had been ridden in years.  When he asks to ride, she says forget it Sweet Macho would throw you in a second. (more…)

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