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Archive for the ‘Money’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE 1975-Tiny Desk Concert #302 (September 10, 2013).

I sort of know The 1975 but I can’t decide if I like them or not.  It seems like every song sounds different.  But I did really like this stripped down Tiny Desk Concert.

The blurb notes the distinction:

The 1975 knows its way around bigness, [with songs of full of brash-but-winsome, electronics-tinged pop-rock]. But, when asked to strip his band’s sound down to fit the intimate confines of the Tiny Desk, Healy didn’t hesitate to transform both his songs and himself. Performing solo with a guitar — he even goes fully acoustic for his two hits — he’s reborn as an earnest troubadour, while his songs now register as melancholy musings. They’re remarkably sturdy in any form, as this bit of left-field sweetness amply demonstrates.

This performance is just Matthew Healy singing and playing guitar.  And he turns these songs into little folkie ballads, with Healy’s cracking and accented voice (you can really hear his accent when he sings) making the songs sound more earning and aching.

The original of “Sex” is pretty rocking, with a middle section that strums pretty hard.  This version slows it down dramatically, making it much more poignant.

“Chocolate” is a bouncy electronic song with an angular sound, radically different from this stripped down acoustic ballad (I much prefer this version).  He introduces this song by saying “I’ve only done this twice so I apologize if I mess it up.”  I’m not sure what he means by that.  Surely he has played this song more than twice.  Anyhow, it too has a yearning quality and his whispered vocals work perfectly with his gentle playing.

He finishes that by saying “Those two songs are like our singles.  I didn’t know what else to play so this song is called “Woman.”  It’s about that prostitute… but she was lovely [chuckles from the audience] and I was far too young–so nothing happened.

He switches to a gently echoed electric guitar.  It doesn’t vary too much from the original–a plaintive yearning song about sex.

[READ: July 31, 2016] Sex Criminals Volume 3

Book three of the series seems to have polarized some readers.  There’s not a lot of plot advancement,which upsets many, and there’s a lot of meta-jokes which also upsets many.  Of course, I really like that sort of thing and happen to think that this book was outstanding.  So pffft.

The book opens with someone we’ve never seen before.  He takes care of his mom, he works in an old folks home.  He’s a pretty decent guy.  But he has a secret.  It’s related to the whole time-stoppage thing (although it proves to be a bit different).

And there’s a few amusing panels.  Like when Matt states that Chip would being drawing all kinds of funny Pan-Asian jokes in the Pan-Asian supermarket.  The panels would be full of double entendre puns.  But rather than making him do all of that hard work, we’ll jut have to imagine them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DISMEMBERMENT PLAN-Tiny Desk Concert #323 (December 2, 2013).

I always think that The Dismemberment Plan is a loud punk band (understandably with that name).  But this Tiny Desk Concert sees the band with acoustic guitar, keyboards and brushes on the drums.  What I didn’t realize was that the band had broken up and reunited and had made a new album in 2013:

When the newly re-formed band finally did make its way to our offices — on the heels of Uncanney Valley, its first album in 12 years — it unsurprisingly made for an odd fit.  According to the group, these particular arrangements of songs from Uncanney Valley were sorted out just a day before this Tiny Desk Concert.

“Let’s Just Go To The Dogs Tonight” is a fun bouncy song full of mildly amusing wordplay and naughtiness.  There’s a call and response section: “when I say ‘Outta’ you say ‘Luck’ and when I say ‘Cluster you’ say ‘Fuck'” (singer Travis Morrison flubbed the call-and-response portion of “Let’s Just Go to the Dogs Tonight,” he professed nervousness at making the NPR staff holler F-bombs. (No one seemed to mind)).   I like the simplicity of the guitar chords, but I really like the fun bass line–not funky exactly, but just meandering around in a really tuneful way.

“Lookin'” is a slow ballad with a simple guitar melody.  It’s a plaintive song that’s lightened by a bouncy bass line and some cool synth sounds near the end.

For the final song, “Daddy was a Real Good Dancer,” Morrison switches to keys and the keyboardist switches to guitar.  They say that the guitar is brand new for the show–“we went to Guitar Center for you guys.”  Bob says they need to break a string to break it in.  This song is lighthearted and a bit goofy, about a dad who used to dance until he had him.  Once again, the bass line really makes the song (and the drums are pretty great, too.

It’s a lighthearted and fun concert–surprisingly so for a band with dismember in their name.

[READ: June 6, 2016] Sex Criminals Volume 2

I really enjoyed Volume One of this series.  I was shocked to see that it had been almost two years since I’d read it.  And I was thrilled to see Volume 2 in the library.

The only problem with Volume 2 is that it assumes you have just finished volume 1, so there’s no playing catch up if you read it two years ago.

Especially since Book 6 opens with Suzie saying “So I’ve been digging in to pull off a fundraiser to make up the difference and keep the place open, so uh… The end?”  But of course it is not the end.  And when Jon tells us that things aren’t over, he pulls down his pants to show that he has nothing there–he’s like a Ken doll.  What happened?  In book 1 these two were going at it like rabbits.

It turns out that the Sex Police had a kind of tracking device–a Cumpass–that monitored everyone who had an orgasm and entered The Quiet (see book 1 review to figure out what the hell I’m talking about).  Things get really stressed out for Jon over the next few days and he begins seeing symptoms of something–which he looks up online and decides is canceraids (it isn’t). (more…)

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dec15SOUNDTRACK: CAVEMAN-Tiny Desk Concert #207 (April 10, 2012).

caveman Bob Boilen really likes Caveman.  He picked their 2011 album as one of his favorites of the year.

I find their music to be absolutely fine.  But I feel like I’m missing the pop hooks–perhaps it’s different in this stripped down session.  Two guitars bass keys and drums.  The band plays four songs.  “My Time” is a poppy bouncy song.  “Easy Water” is moody with lots of shimmering guitars.

It turns out that the guitarist Jimmy Carbonetti has a shop in the East Village called Cobra Guitars. He made all of the band’s guitars.  Each one is built one at a time.  So there’s a nice plug for the shop.

“Old Vampire” has ringing guitars.  It’s a fun instrumental jam with the singer playing drums along with the drummer.  This song segues into “Old Friend,” another shimmering echoing song.

I really like the sounds the band has–their gentle echoing guitars sound great.  And the singer’s voice fits quite well.  The song even have some catchy spots, but there’s nothing dynamic about them for me to really latch onto.

[READ: March 16, 2016] “The Woman of the House”

The thing that I didn’t like about this story at first proved to be one of its strongest assets by the time I reached the end.

I found the writing to be stiff and rather unwelcoming. It was almost as if the author was trying to keep you out.  I didn’t care for that, but I see how well it worked for the underlying theme of the story.

The plot is pretty straightforward.  It opens on an old man in a wheelchair.  To younger men have come to his house and have offered to paint it.  He haggles with them–gives them a hard time–but they remain stone-faced and silent until he finally agrees.  He asks if they are Polish (the story is set in Ireland) and they nod.

They are not Polish, but it doesn’t matter, they can be if it will serve them.  The man knows that Polacks are good Catholics, which is why he agrees to their work. (more…)

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harpaugSOUNDTRACK: LAND OF KUSH-The Big Mango [CST097] (2013).

mangoOsama Shalibi is how Sam Shaibi is credited on this album.  He is the composer and creator of The Big Mango, although he does not appear on it.

Some background that may or may not be useful.  This comes from Popmatters:

“Big Mango” is the nickname for Cairo and The Big Mango is a love letter from composer Osama (Sam) Shalabi to his new home, Cairo, and all of its tumults and contradictions…. Reveling in free-jazz noise, rock rhythms, and the radical propulsion that Shalabi encountered on trips to Dakar, Senegal, the album weaves the divine spirit unleashed through fury and joy and dance into an utterly fascinating whole…  This pinging between controlled pandemonium and something beautiful, strident, transcendent, is not accidental. Shalabi is tackling the nature of change and the place of women in Arab culture on Big Mango, and by so clearly blurring the strange and the celebratory, he suggests that even sweeping, radical change need not be a revolution, but perhaps a way of life, movement as vital force in the universe.

With an introduction like that it’s hard not to want to love this record.  But a with everything Shalibi does, he is always trying to push boundaries and attitudes.  And so, this album has some songs that are really fun ad/or pretty and some songs that feel like (but apparently are not) wild improvisations that test the limit of your patience for experimentation.

As I mentioned, Shalibi doesn’t play on this –I would have loved to hear his oud, but instead we hear all kinds of interesting Western and Eastern instruments: setar (is a Persian version of the sitar), flutes, saxophones, piano, balafon (a wooden xylophone), hand drums: riqq (a type of tambourine), darbuka (goblet drum), and tablas (like bongos) and of course, guitars and bass.

“Faint Praise” opens the disc with 3 and a half minutes of Middle Eastern music quietly played with a rather free form vocal over the top.  The vocals are a series of wails and cries (and almost animalistic yips).  It sounds like an orchestra warming up, and indeed, the Constellation blurb says:

These opening six minutes are an inimitable destabilizing strategy of Shalabi’s – his lysergic take on an orchestra ‘warming up’ – that serves to introduce most of the instrumental voices and the montage of genres that will form the rest of the work

It comes abruptly to a halt with “Second Skin,”  a much more formal piano piece—structured notes that end after a few minutes only to be joined by a saxophone solo that turns noisy and skronking and nearly earsplitting.

After some dramatic keyboard sounds, “The Pit (Part 1)” becomes the first song with vocals (and the first song that is really catchy).  It begins with a jolly sax line which is accompanied by another sax and a flute before the whole band kicks in with a refreshingly catchy melody.  For all that Shalibi likes exploration, he has a real gift for melody as well.  The lovely lead vocals on this track are by Ariel Engle.  It’s very catchy, with a somewhat middle eastern setar riff and those voices.  When the song stops and it’s just voices, it’s really beautiful.  The song is 7 minutes long and I love the way the last 30 seconds shift gears entirely to a more dramatic, slower section.  This section is so great, I wish it lasted longer.

“The Pit (Part 2)” is only two minutes long.  It’s a quiet coda of piano and flute.  After about a minute, a low saxophone melody kicks in, it is slowly joined by other instruments and Engle’s voice.  Unfortunately I can’t really tell what she’s singing, but it sounds very nice.

“Sharm El Bango” is a jazzy song with hand drums and all kinds of space age samples spinning around the song.  I really like when the flute melody takes over and the song become quite trippy.

“Mobil Ni” is the second song with vocals.  It begins with some strings instruments and hand drums over a slow bass line.  Then Katie  Moore;s voice come s in with a gentle lovely vibrato.  Her voice is a little smoother than Engle’s.  The song ends with a mellow section.  And then there’s a trumpet blast that signals the beginning of “St. Stefano.”  The trumpet gives way to brief explorations off free-jazz type before turning giving way to a bowed section with resonating bass notes.

“Drift Beguine” returns to catchy territory with a full Middle Eastern musical phrase and Elizabeth Anka Vajagic’s lovely voice raging from high to scratchy and breathy.  Around 4 minutes when the pace picks up, it’s really quite fun.

The final track is the only one that really rocks.  “The Big Mango” has a big catchy guitar riff and hand drums filled in by Molly Sweeney’s rock vocals.  The song ends the disc as a kind of fun celebration.

As with most of Shalibi’s releases, it’s not for everyone.  But there’s a lot of great stuff hear, if you’re willing to experiment.

[READ: August 25, 2016] “Don the Realtor”

I hate to contribute anymore attention to Trump.  But it’s hard to pass up a chance to read Martin Amis, especially when he eviscerate his targets so eloquently.  Hopefully Trump’s voice will soon disappear from the airways and we can go back to forgetting about him.

Ostensibly this is a review of “two books by Donald Trump,” The Art of the Deal (1987) and Crippled America (2015).

Amis begins, as he usually does, by getting to the point: “Not many facets of the Trump apparition have so far gone unexamined, but I can think of a significant loose end.  I mean his sanity: What is the prognosis for his mental healthy given the challenges that lie ahead?”

Some basic questions come up about Trump: “Is his lying merely compulsive, or is he an outright mythomaniac, constitutionally unable to distinguish non-truth from truth.  Amis adds that “Politifact has ascertained that Donald’s mendacity rate is just over 90 percent, so the man who is forever saying he ‘tells it lie it is’ turns out to be nearly always telling it like it isn’t.”

But the Trump lying machine has grown from the rubble of the G.O.P. which “has more or less adopted the quasi slogan ‘there is no downside to lying.'” (more…)

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1985SOUNDTRACK: KING CREOSOTE AND JON HOPKINS-Tiny Desk Concert #154 (September 4, 2011).

creosoteI’d heard of King Creosote but didn’t know anything about him.  He’s a Scottish folk singer.  And Jon Hopkins is an English producer and multi-instrumentalist who is better known for his room-filling electronic works–although here he only plays the…yes, harmonium and keyboards.

“John Taylor’s Month Away” is a somewhat upbeat song–although the King’s voice is somber and mellow on every song.  I like watching him thump on his guitar to keep the beat while he’s not strumming.  And when he comes back in with the guitar again it sounds all the bigger for it.

The chord structure and delivery of “Bubble” sounds like a 1960s British folk song.  It’s quite lovely.  And when Hopkins switches to piano, it really brings out a lot more in the song.

These two songs came from Creosote’s album Diamond Mine, which the blurb says was everyone’s favorite album in 2011 (although I don’t recall hearing anything about it back then).  Stephen Thompson writes: “To immerse yourself in Diamond Mine is to be transported to a small, calm town in the Scottish countryside: For all of [Kenny] Anderson’s [King Creosote’s real name] reflective ruminations on aging and regret, he and Hopkins know how to make listeners feel at peace; to make the faraway seem everyday. “

“Cockle Shell” is not from Diamond Mine, although Jon did work on it, he says.  The guitar is a played differently–more picking, less strumming.  And the piano sounds lovely again. Creosote sings a bit bigger on this song.  The way he sings the preposterously upbeat music behind the lyrics “choke me, blind me, cut off my hands,” reminds me a lot of Frightened Rabbit.

For the final song, Hopkins switches back to harmonium.  It’s a short song, lovely and sweet.  And I’m sure if I followed the lyrics a bit more closely it would be rather sad too, as the final line is “while they were alive.”

I enjoyed Creosote’s music, although I feel like I’d have to be in a certain mind frame to put it on intentionally.  I will have to give a listen to Diamond Mine in total though.

[READ: January 26, 2016] “Three Thousand Dollars”

After reading the Lipsky articles in Harper’s I thought I’d see if he had written anything in the New Yorker.  I only found this one item, a short story from his collection.

I was intrigued from the start by this story because of the duplicitous nature of the college-aged narrator.  This was especially interesting to read after reading Lipsky’s Harper’s article about slackers.

The story begins with the statement that the narrator’s mother doesn’t know he owes his father $3,000.  It transpires that his parents are divorced and his father–who has a ton of money–is going to pay for his college after they get financial aid based on his mother’s lower income.  The balance–$3000 is what his dad will pay.

But when the $3000 check came in, the narrator spent it on other things instead. (more…)

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