Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JAKE BUGG-“How Soon the Dawn” (2017).

Back in 2012 I recall Jake Bugg kind of buzzing around with his debut album.  One of my co-workers at the time was really into him as well.

He basically fell off of my radar entirely until I saw him mentioned in this volume of Giant Days, which is why I looked him up.  He has put out a couple of albums since 2012 with his latest being a 2017 acoustic album produced by Dan Auerbach.

This song has such an incredible 70s vibe both in the sound of his guitar and his vocal delivery.  His voice is soft and clear and the chorus is really catchy.  Really any song that has a “tooo” that you can turn into a lengthy “oooooh” section is going to be super catchy.  It’s just acoustic guitar and a very minimal accompaniment and it suits him rather well.

His Wikipedia entry says that in 2018 he signed to a new label “in a bid to relaunch his career.”  I guess that hasn’t happened yet.  Shame, because this is a really pretty song.

Incidentally, in the book, he is mentioned when the girls are at a musical festival. Daisy says “Is ‘Jake Bugg’ good music?” and Esther says “No.”

Ouch.

[READ: January 20, 2020] Giant Days Vol. 5

In 2017 I wrote

I love this series so much.  I can’t believe I have to wait forever for volume 5 to come out.

Turns out I took that forever more literally than I needed to.  This book came out in 2017, but it took me until 2020 to read it.  The only consolation is that I now have about 6 books to read right in a row!

Max Sarin’s drawings are still over-the-top cartoony which I rather like. Even though the story lines are realistic(ish), giving them a cartoony vibe allows the over-the-topness to feel natural.

This book focuses on the end of their first year of school (can it really be over so soon?).

Chapter 17 starts a mini thread with Daisy going on an archaeology dig.  Susan’s comment that “You’d have thought we’d dug up all the Romans by now is interesting since just a few weeks ago (in the real world) even more remains were recently discovered.  Daisy’s dig is a disaster because Professor Bradford (you mean bad-ford) is in charge and he criticizes everything Daisy does.  “You’re doing it wrong” is a constant refrain.  He is so mean because on his very first dig he sat on a mummified form and was basically never invited on another dig.

Susan is distracted by McGraw’s new lady whom Ed Gemmell describes as “she speaks better English than we do but in an accent that means I understand one word in three.”  Susan refers to her as an Andalusian Succubus.

Ed reveals that he has been making spare change helping his roommate Dean with a translating project.  Dean pays 25 pence for every three word phrase they translate.   Like, “philosophical ideas about” becomes “recondite notions of,” and “brutally powerful world” becomes “mean planetoid.”  It soon dawns of Esther though that making money this easily can’t be on the up and up and that’s when they realize that Dean is basically selling plagiarized papers (with very bad phrases included).

Chapter 18 sees Esther and Ed being so concerned that they will get in trouble for Dean’s work–there’s a Paypal trail–that they visit a 24 hour lawyer.

But the more concerning news (really) is that their beloved home, Catterick Hall is going to be torn down at the end of school.

There’s a delightful running joke about Daisy being an unwitting pool shark.  She’s so good that McGraw, in his spare time, made her her own cue, which she calls a “pool pole.”

At the Farewell ball, Ed reconnects with Jenny.  Jenny broke the story on Dean’s plagiarism ring but described the lower tier workers as “Mr. Hair and Vampiella” (hee hee).  After a night of dancing, Ed Gemmell has fallen in love.  Even if he and McGraw aren’t sure what  they ‘re going to do if their roommate is in jail.

Chapter 19 is a delightful side trip to A Music Festival!  Esther is all in, Daisy is quite nervous and Susan just doesn’t care.  She has been smoking a lot more and when it comes time to set up her tent, she just lays it on the ground.  She’s in a sleeping bag anyway, this is just another layer–“double bagged like in an American supermarket.”  [Is that a uniquely American thing?].

Esther has a crush on the singer for Poison Nebula and wants to get right up close to hear their topical song “You’re my Napster you’re my wifi.”  Esther followed the band to their bus (Daisy: “Don’t go into buses with strange men!”).  It turns out Poison Nebula is really into…calligraphy: “Quill work on rag-edge parchment.”  There a hilarious moment later on when Shinobi the drummer tries to barter one of his quills for food but the philistines don’t appreciate the quality of the tool.

Daisy is horrified by this spectacle and is looking for something with the majesty of Enya combined with the mystery of Enya, “You’re just jealous of her success.  Everyone is.”  But she soon finds herself loving the world music stage which means Susan can explore on her own.

Susan meets up with The Cowboy who drugs her drink and has her spinning and flying through the festival–not in a good way.

This is all just to much for daisy who needs to find a space to meditate.  Which she does just as the sky opens up a downpour on them all.   The only consolation is that Susan’s unpegged-tent is there to save the day.

Chapter 20 opens with two guys throwing a rager in a unfamiliar house.  The furniture looks utterly destroyed.  We find out the at this is the place the girls are living in this year.  Amazingly it all looks beautiful.  Until Susan sits on the couch and finds that it is all held together with school glue and tape.  This can only mean one thing: a trip to IKEA!

Esther has never been to one (The deGroots fled the Netherlands to escape the jackboot march of flat-packed furniture) but she is instantly convinced of its awesomeness. The next page shows them sitting on all kinds of furniture with IKEA sounding-names (the note at the bottom translates” Orkan/Hat/Slukhål as hurricane/hatred/sinkhole.

Esther is allowed to buy one puppet and they have come in under budget which means meatballs!  Susan explains that they are “made of the national meat of Sweden: swan.”

Then reality sets in–they have to transport all of those flat boxes home.  AND put it all together.  Susan refuses to let Daisy ask McGraw for help, but Daisy sneaks out to ask him for tools: “is one size of junior hacksaw enough?”   “For 99% of the human race, probably.”

McGraw and Ed move into their new place.  Ed has spent a fortune on a cappuccino maker which he says will save them a ton of money over the year.  When they come back from their evening out, Dean has returned and has immediately destroyed the coffee maker by stuffing bananas into it and saying the smoothie maker is broken.

It’s going to be that kind of year.

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: JOYCE DiDONATO-Tiny Desk Concert #936 (January 15, 2020).

I was sure that Joyce DiDonato had performed a Tiny Desk Concert before, but I actually knew her from a gorgeous NPR Field Recording from 2015.

the last time we filmed the down-to-earth diva, she insisted on singing an opera aria at the Stonewall Inn, the iconic gay tavern in Greenwich Village.

DiDonato is an opera singer and her voice is amazing–she can soar and growl and everything in between.  But this Tiny Desk is not what you’d expect.  For although DiDonato sings in her beautiful operatic voice, the music the band is playing is anything but.

When opera star Joyce DiDonato told us she wanted to sing centuries-old Italian love songs at the Tiny Desk we weren’t surprised. But when she said she was bringing a jazz band to back her up, we did a double take. But that’s Joyce, always taking risks.  On paper, the idea of jazzing up old classical songs seems iffy. At the least it could come across as mannered and at worst, an anachronistic muddle. But DiDonato somehow makes it all sound indispensable, with her blend of rigor, wit and a sense of spontaneity.

The first song is by Alessandro Parisotti.  “Se tu m’ami” sets the stage for what this show is going to be like.  Gorgeous jazz with DiDonato’s impressive voice.

The musical formula for these unorthodox arrangements makes room for typical jazz solos while DiDonato molds her phrases to the flexible rhythms and inserts old-school trills and flamboyant roulades.

A cool trumpet solo from Charlie Porter takes a cool trumpet solo while DiDonato admires his skill.

After three minutes they segue seamlessly into Salvator Rosa’s “Star vicino.”  This one features a piano solo from Craig Terry which he begins with a line from “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”  The song also features a muted trumpet solo with a few drum breaks for Jason Haaheim

My favorite moment in the set comes just before 6 minutes where she sings a beautiful lilting melody and then hits a growly note that I was sure was the trumpet until Porter played the same note on his muted trumpet.  It was very cool and kind funny.  Especially when she says

there’s no soprano in the world who could get away with that

Less than a minute later she runs through her enormous vocal range from low to very high to soaring.  It’s amazing.

She says that in the classical world, the standard is perfection–rarely achieved.  Young singers try so hard to get it perfect that they lose the “grease” as the jazz players say.  So this project was designed to put the swing back in these old love songs.

The third song she says is by anonymous, but it is credited to Giuseppe Torelli. “Tu lo sai” is a love song that says, “you have no idea how much I love you.  No matter how much you scorn me, I still love you,”  She says they giving this the Chet Baker treatment.  I’m not exactly sure what that means, but there is some wonderful trumpet work in this song.

It has a slow opening with piano and voice.  The other instruments slowly come in and there is a wonderful moment during Porter’s trumpet solo where she picks up the note from him and runs with it.

Bassist Chuck Israels (who has played with everyone from Billie Holiday to the Kronos Quartet) never solos but he keeps the whole enterprise running perfectly.

For the final song Francesco Conti’s “Quella fiamma” they bring out Antoine Plante on the bandoneon.  She says, “Yea we’re going to South America in a minute.”

Porter uses a different kind of mute which creates a unique sound.  Then the bandoneon comes in and the South American flair is complete.  There’s an incredible moment at the end of the song where Joyce just trills away–showcasing so much of what she can do.

As the blurb says, despite how great the band is

the star of the show is the continually amazing DiDonato, whose voice is certainly one of the great wonders of her generation. The flexibility of the instrument, the colors she conjures and her fine-tuned dynamic range are a few of the reasons she’s still at the peak of her powers. She looks and sounds like she’s having the time of her life.

I see that she sings in Princeton pretty often.  Next time she;s in town I will make sure to check her out.

[READ: December 20, 2019] The Raven’s Children

This story was fascinating in the way it started as a very real story, suddenly added magical realism and then turned into an utterly fantastical story.  And yet it all works perfectly well as an allegory of the oppressive regime under Stalin.

Not bad for a book with talking animals.

This book was translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp and she brings this story to life.

Shura is a young boy living in Leningrad.  He lives with his mama and papa as well as his older sister and a little brother.  They live in an apartment building and he and his sister are lucky enough to have a room to themselves.  The amusing set up is that they have to walk through a wardrobe that their father set up to separate the rooms (he removed the back but you can’t tell from the front).  This weird construction actually saves them later in the story.

Shura’s friend is named Valya.  His parents don’t want him hanging out with Valya, but they like to do the same things, so he disobeys.  Today they are putting pennies on a railroad track.  They had been doing this for long enough that they can tell how heavy a train is by the way the resulting items come out.

On this occasion the train that went by seemed to be full of people.  People crammed into each car.  As it sailed past, a piece of paper sailed out.  Valya grabbed it. Neither of the boys could read very well but they could see some numbers on it.  Shura was sure that the paper was important and he desperately wanted it. But he didn’t know how to get it from Valya without making him want it more.

They walked home and by the time they got to Shura’s place, they were physically fighting.  Shura manged to snatch the paper and Valya threw a rock at him.  The rock smashed a window of an older lady’s apartment in their building.  Shura knew he was in trouble for the window.  But it was Valya’s fault.  Of course, he wasn’t supposed to be playing with Valya. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: RADIOHEAD PUBLIC LIBRARY (2020).

Today, Radiohead changed their website to the Radiohead Public Library.  About which they state:

Radiohead.com has always been a) infuriatingly uninformative and b) surprising. The most surprising thing to do next, therefore, is to suddenly become incredibly informative. So that is what we have done. We present: the RADIOHEAD PUBLIC LIBRARY, an online resource containing videos, music, artwork, websites, merchandise, and assorted ephemera.

As a librarian, I love that this is what they are calling the site, and I love the idea that they will single handedly get the word library into many many search engines.

So what is it?

Well, really it’s kind of a tumbler page, meaning it is weird and chaotic and hard to find things (very much unlike a library).  But there is a vaguely chronological format (color coded).

But like at a library, you can find links to work that has been historically tough to find online.

You can also register for a library card.  The card is a downloadable image file where you can attach a photo of yourself (and then laminate it, of course).  I was kind of bummed that my number was so high (I’m in the 102,000 range), but I didn’t look at the site until late in the day. And actually I’m pretty thrilled that at least 100,000 people had visited the site before me.  Unless these numbers are randomized, of course.

The library contains he band’s albums, B-sides, non-LP tracks, behind-the-scenes photos, TV appearances, promotional performances, webcasts, full-length concerts (2006 and 2012 Bonnaroo) , a store with newly reissued T-shirts and lots of Stanley Donwood’s artwork.

I suppose most Radiohead die hard fans have all of this stuff already, but it sounds like they have updated the quality of a lot of the works.  Plus, it’s fun having it all in one place.

Also, Colin Greenwood, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Philip Selway, and Thom Yorke will each serve as a “librarian” for a day.

Get your library card now!

[READ: January 14, 2020] “Visitor”

The narrator explains that a visitor showed up in his doorstep about a month after his father’s funeral. He had flown in from Kingston, Jamaica.  He told the narrator that he was the narrator’s father’s lover.

The narrator said no way but agreed to let the man in.

The visitor was Asian (lots of Chinese in Jamaica, he said).  His boots were too big, his pants were too tight.  The visitor began to tell him things about his father that checked out.  He hated reggae, couldn’t cook and didn’t have a favoirte color.  Eventually he said “your father and I were just kids.  Lasted five years, on and off.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: RADIOHEAD-Drill EP (1992).

Radiohead recently released a bunch of their stuff to streaming platforms.  One of those releases was Drill, their debut EP that came out a year or so before Pablo Honey.  Most of the tracks appear to be demos.  And yet, they are very well recorded demos.–they sound quite good.

Three of the four songs were rerecorded for Pablo Honey.  The only one not on the album is “Stupid Car” a quiet ballad.

“Prove Yourself” and “You” sound a lot like the album versions.  The biggest difference is the sound quality and the “Prove Yourself” guitar solo which is much louder and more piercing on Pablo Honey.  “You” sounds pretty identical, right down to Thom Yorke’s powerful scream mid song

The biggest difference comes with ‘Thinking About You”  On Pablo Honey it is a slow acoustic ballad.  But here it is a fast-paced almost punk rocker.  It’s got racing guitars and fast drums.  Honestly I prefer this to the album version.

The impressive thing is just how good these songs sound.  Not only because they were basically demos.  But because this was their first release and while Radiohead has changed drastically over the years, these original songs are still really good.

Fans tend to disregard Pablo Honey, but the compositions, while nothing like the newer work, are solid, well-crafted alt rock songs.  Don’t dismiss this EP, this band is going somewhere.

[READ December 29, 2019] Out of the Cage

Every now and then I get a short play at my desk.  This one looked pretty interesting.

Inspired by the munition women of Silvertown, London during the First World War, this tells the story of women’s courage, dignity and hope, fired in the crucible of war.

During the War, women worked in munition plants (munitionettes, they were called).  Despite their hard work in dangerous places, they were given far less credit and pay than their male counterparts.  (Sound familiar?). Could they possibly stand up for themselves or would they forever be seen as second class citizens.

There are eight major characters in the play

  • Jane Byass: 40’s 4 kids, hard but fair
  • Nancy LongdonL Late 20s upper-class, committed to the cause
  • Dee Jessop: 40s, sick and dying, vengeful
  • Nelly Jonson: 30s forceful and sharp, the only Irishwoman there
  • Annie Castledine: early 20a vibrant and funny
  • Carrie Sefton: Early 20s, tough and engaging
  • Ol’ Mim: 50’s nurturing, tough
  • Lil’ Ginny: early teens, naive

The play opens in Jane’s apartment.  The women are meeting there to discuss what to do about he unfair working conditions.  The first to arrive is Nancy.  The others are mistrustful of her because she is upper class, but she is dedicated to women’s rights.

Dee arrives next, she is bitter and sarcastic, she has been breathing in the toxic fumes in the furnace room.  Her breath is a short as her temper and she is not doing well at all.  Nelly arrives next.  She is the most cynical about Nancy because of the Irish vs. English class wars.  The women descend into bickering but Jane settles them down. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: JORDAN RAKEI-Tiny Desk Concert #935 (January 13. 2020).

I’ve never heard of Jordan Rakei.  I didn’t enjoy the first song of this Tint Desk, but that probably because I don’t really like “soulful R&B artists.”  But the other songs are a bit more jazzy and fluid and I enjoyed them more.

It also seems like Tiny Desk sets that I don’t enjoy are longer than the ones I like.  This one is four songs in 17 minutes–how do artists I’ve never heard of get more screen time than artists that Bob and Robin love?

The blurb is really glowing about the band and musically they are really tight.

The band opened with “Say Something,” from the group’s 2019 album, Origin. It’s a song that encourages people to take action and speak up for themselves.

It’s got a simple riff on the bass (Jonathan Harvey) and the guitar (Imraan Paleker).  The main feature of this song seems to be the backing vocalists: Linda Diaz, Sam Wills and Opal Hoyt who dominate the song.  I think this song just overstays its welcome since the “say something” refrain is sung about a hundred times.

They followed with “Mind’s Eye,” a commentary on technology that questions whether advancements are always a good idea.

I enjoyed the opening looping synth riffage (presumably from Jordan).  Then it kicks in with a vaguely Latin rhythm with percussion from Ernesto Marichales and a cool drum pattern of rim shots from Jim Macrae.  I liked this song a lot more.  bothe because of the really interesting middle section with cool bass lines and swirling synths and guitar as Rakei switches to piano.

This song is jazzy and it segues into the even jazzier “Talk To Me,” from the group’s 2016 debut album, Cloak.  I guess I prefer the clean piano sound and more sparing backing vocals on these two middle songs.   The end is fun with just about everyone playing some kind of percussion instrument.  Jordan sings something although i don’t know if it’s in another language or is just interesting sounds.

The final song “Speak,” was inspired by the TV show The Handmaid’s Tale, it imagines a world where nuclear war has left half the women infertile, as technology runs amok.

For this track it’s just him on piano.  I thought i would enjoy him solo a bit more than with the band, but I don’t find this song all that interesting, so bring the percussion back!

[READ: January 18, 2020] “Protocol”

This was a strange story and I didn’t really understand what was happening for the most part.

The coolest part of the story is that it was a translation and translator David Short managed to write passages with a heavy British accent even though it was originally written in Czech.  I can’t imagine what was happening in the original that would give a sentence like

An’ on top o’ that being a purveyor of love, ‘aving everyone ‘ang on till his death…

Of course, I have no idea why the character would have a heavy accent–it was never alluded to.  In fact, I don’t know why any of this story was the way it was. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BEST COAST-“Everything Has Changed” (2020).

I’ve enjoyed most of the Best Coast songs I’ve heard–simple power pop songs from Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno that can be surprisingly dark.

Although Best Coast is a duo, this song is multi tracked with all kinds of overdubs–lots of backing vocals and guitar solos.  It sounds bigger than anything they’ve done before with loud crunchy guitars and a really simple riff.  And it is catchy as anything.

I like this couple of lines

I used to cry myself to sleep/ Reading all the names they called me,
….
Did they think? No, of course they didn’t.

After the big chorus she talks about what has changed

Now I’m walking a little dog on a leash
Now I live in a big pink house
I escape to witch mountain every day

I honestly don’t know if that’s a positive or sarcastic change.  But the chorus “everything has changed and I like it this way” certainly sounds positive.

One thing I particularly like about this song is that while it is all pretty simple verse/chorus, there is a third part that changes the tone and sound of the song, if only briefly, before returning to the catchy riffage.

I have plans to see them this spring and I’m looking forward to hearing this new record live.

[READ: January 15, 2019] “Who is She?”

In this brief story a woman has an existential crisis and her public reaction to it causes others to suggest ways to help her.

She says a long time ago someone told her that it was important to “locate and deploy” your own story.  This theory is put into question when she starts seeing graffiti around that says in white paint WHO IS SHE?

She saw it in a number of places and couldn’t get the idea out of her mind.   As she was crossing a boulevard, she decided to lie down on the grass in the median strip.

It was early on a Sunday and therefore very quiet but soon enough cars began passing.  Across the street from her was a gym and there were people working out with ruthless, glistening intensity,  And then (I rather enjoyed this), (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THUNDERCAT-“Black Squalls” (2020).

I really liked Thundercat’s album “Drunk.”  At first I wasn’t sure about it because it tends into some smooth R&B which I don’t really like.  But his musicianship and lyrics were just too good, that he won me over.  And when he gets his bass fingers moving, it’s a marvel.

Thundercat is touring around here soon and I’m thinking about getting a ticket.  I didn’t realize he’d be releasing a new album.  This song “Black Squalls” comes from it.

“Black Squalls” marries the two parts of Thundercat’s work with a great opening funky fat bass line and Thundercat’s falsetto vocals.

A wavery synth line introduces the catchy chorus

‘Cause there’s no more livin’ in fear
No more livin’ in fear
If we don’t talk about it on the web

I love Thundercat’s falsetto backing vocals while Steve Lacy and Steve Arrington sing the post-chorus.

The juxtaposition of smooth and thumping bass is fantastic.  This is the single edit of the song.  The album version will have a contribution from Childish Gambino.  Now THAT should be cool.

[READ: January 15, 2020] “Saturday Project”

I really enjoyed this story and its divergent plot lines.

I also enjoyed the somewhat confusing way it started.  Geoff and his wife Laura had discussed “cutting the cord” and I couldn’t quite picture what that meant.

Then the UPS man brought some boxes which made the reality come home.

Soon enough it becomes clear that they are cutting the cable cord and switching to a satellite dish.  Laura is concerned, can they still watch local news? He assured her it was a good idea.  And yet those boxes stayed unopened in his workroom for months. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »