Archive for the ‘Amanda Palmer’ Category

SOUNDTRACKAMANDA PALMER-“The Ride” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next few shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

This show is the most interesting visually because Palmer is sitting at her piano and the camera is at all angles–so you can see the crowd and how close they are to the performers.

The blurb is also interesting because I had no idea the performers only played for about 15 minutes.

When Amanda Palmer heard she’d have around 15 minutes for her Tiny Desk Family Hour performance, she assumed there wouldn’t be time for most of the songs on her new album, There Will Be No Intermission, a sprawling masterwork with epic tracks clocking in at 10 minutes or more. So, she showed up with just her ukulele in hand, prepared for a stripped-down, abbreviated set. But when we wheeled out a grand piano just for her – and after I gushed to the crowd about Palmer’s brilliant new opus on the nature of humanity called “The Ride” – she decided she had to play it.

Like many of the tracks on There Will Be No Intermission, “The Ride” is a deep, existential dive into fear, death, loneliness and grief, with the tiniest glimmer of hope or comfort at the end. This is Palmer’s first album in seven years and it documents all she’s been through in that time. It’s also an album she says wouldn’t have been possible if she hadn’t decided to make it on her own, with crowdfunding support from fans. “It’s a very intense record. It’s been a very intense seven years of my life since I put out my last one,” she told the crowd at Austin’s Central Presbyterian Church. And without having a label to answer to, she said she was able to “write an entire album with songs that are really long and about miscarriage and abortion and about the kind of stuff I don’t want to take up to ‘Steve’ in marketing to try to explain why this record should exist.”

It’s a powerful song–simple and mostly unchanging–where the focus is on the words.  But those few times when the vocal melody changes or she adds that circus melody it’s a jarring change from the story she’s presenting.

Though she’s played abbreviated versions of “The Ride” in past shows, this is one of her earliest performances of the full, album-length song. Two days after her Tiny Desk Family Hour set, Palmer returned to the Central Presbyterian Church for an epic, two-and-a-half hour concert with just her ukulele and piano.

[READ: February 2019] Future Home of the Living God

I’m not sure what drew me to this book. I have read (and enjoyed) many short stories by Erdrich, so I assume her name stood out.  The title is also pretty cool.

But I really had no idea what was coming.  I also didn’t know that Erdrich is Turtle Mountain Chippewa, which obviously lends weight to her Native American depictions.

This story is about Cedar Hawk Songmaker, an adult woman who was adopted by “Minnesota liberals” as a baby.  When she went to find her Ojibwe parents, she learned that she was born Mary Potts.

The book is written as Cedar’s diary.  It begins August 7 (year unstated).  The book is set in the future.  A cataclysmic event has happened and I absolutely love that since this book is written from Cedar’s point of view, she doesn’t know what happened.  She will never learn what happened, and neither will we.  It is just understood that evolution as we know it has stopped.  People seem to be devolving. Or more specifically babies are being born in a state of devolution.  Again, no more details are given. (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: AMANDA PALMER AND THE GRAND THEFT ORCHESTRA-Tiny Desk Concert #240 (September 17, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

amandaAmanda Palmer is a fascinating person and performer.  I’ve enjoyed her live shows and her TED talk. And I love that she created one of the first hugely successful Kickstarter projects.

For this Tiny Desk Concert, she performs music from that Kickstarter-made album.  And she has the backing of the Grand Theft Orchestra which consists of a bass guitar, a banjo and percussion.  The percussion includes Palmer banging on all kinds of things around the office and the drummer playing frying pan, bucket, pipe, coffee filter and spoon.).

They play three songs.  I love the circular nature of “The Killing Type” which has several parts that circle back on themselves (with some great backing vocals and chants).

“Want It Back” starts with just the banjo.  The drummer conducts the audience to clap when necessary, to silence when needed and to JUMP!  Toward the end of the song they all shout “bass solo” for what isn’t exactly bass solo but it allows Amanda to take off her boot and use it as percussion.

For the final song the band departs–clattering as they go.  She asks if she can say “Fuck,” and Bob says, “You just did.”  Amanda sings “Ukulele Anthem” solo with, yes her ukulele.  It’s a remarkably long and breathless song about being yourself, about creating, about the ukulele and just about everything else.  It’s rather fun and quite inspirational (and it’s nearly 6 minutes long!).

[READ: December 17, 2016] “I Hate You”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

I haven’t actually read much by Daniel Handler when he is not writing as Lemony Snicket.  So I don’t know what his more grown-up stories are usually like.

This one was rather dark.  I found it amusing in one way but rather disturbing in another.

This is the story of Brad.  He has moved to a new location (Oakland, I gather), and is currently an apprentice to a sculptor.  The sculptor is not very good and Brad assumes he will lose funding soon.  The work that Brad is doing for him is dusty and unsatisfying.

In a nutshell, he hates the guy. (more…)

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information_cover_FINAL_webSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Vertigo, Victoria British Columbia, (January 21, 2000).

21Jan2000I recently learned that the Rheostatics Live website has added dozens of new (old) shows.  It has been almost exactly a year since I last did a tour of some of these live shows, so it was time to move into 2000 (with one new show added since I last looked).

As of 2000, the band is still touring the Harmelodia album, and the set has a lot of songs from that album.  I recently relistened to the album (something I don’t listen to all that much).  I was surprised to hear how many songs had narration–which pretty much precludes them from playing them live.  So that explains why they focus on just a few songs live.

Lucky’s notes for this show state: The Rheos were on a short west-coast swing and they played in Whistler the night before this show. In fact, the inspiration for ‘Satan Is The Whistler’ (from their following album) came from this trip, as Martin remarked something along the lines of ‘They are a bunch of Fascists in Whistler!’.

This is a really good set.  The sound quality is excellent and the band is in very good form.  There’s some great harmonies on “Loving Arms” and Martin really rocks the guitar on “I Fab Thee.”  “Junction Foil Ball” sounds awesome here–a good breakdown in the middle.  And it’s a rare sighting of “Oneilly’s Strange Dream” and a replay of “Good Canadian.”

It’s always fun when the band is feeling chatty.  In this show they joke about the Crash Test Dummies and even sing, “Superman never made any money saving the world from Crash Test Dummies.”  They also have fun with “My First Rock Show” with talk of blood on the seats.

The band has some technical failures, and they play a Stompin’ Tom song (“Bud the Spud”) while they get fixed.  But it doesn’t mess them up as they play a killer version of “Stolen Car” with a great solo.

Luke Doucet (now of Whitehorse, then of opening act Veal) plays during “Legal Age Life” and the band jokes about the Vealostatics.

The whole show ran for nearly two hours.  It’s a great set and the first of two nights at Vertigo.

[READ: February 10, 2015] Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free

This short book is Doctorow’s plea for Copyright common sense, Net Neutrality and internet freedoms (among other things).  Of course Net Neutrality just passed–hurrah!– which makes this book less urgent but no less spot on and worth remembering while going forward.

Doctorow starts each section by stating his three laws:

  • “Anytime someone puts a lock on something you own, against your wishes, and doesn’t give you the key, they’re not doing it for your benefit.”
  • “Fame Won’t Make You Rich, But Yo Can’t Get Paid Without It”  (or as Tim O’Reilly said “The problem for most artists isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.”)
  • “Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, People Do.”


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CV1_TNY_08_05_13Cuneo.inddSOUNDTRACK: AMANDA PALMER-Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele (EP) (2010).

palmerradioAmanda Palmer made an album of Radiohead covers ,as the title says, on her magical ukulele.

I love the retro cover (and the way Radiohead is written).  It looks like a kitschy piece of nonsense.  And yet, contrary to appearance, it is actually a very respectful and very enjoyable collection of covers.  Despite the title, the album is not simply her on a ukulele, but the uke is the main instrument on most of the tracks, and it works surprisingly well to convey Radiohead’s particular brand of angst.  And one nice thing is that I now know a lot more words to the songs.

“Fake Plastic Trees” is done entirely on ukulele, which works well as the original is quite stripped down.  The ukulele gives it the appropriate kind of mournful angst.  “High and Dry” adds a piano—just a simple one note backing sound in the beginning, but which contributes greatly to the song.  Palmer sounds a lot like Aimee Mann here—understated and untheatrical–she has a lovely voice.

“No Surprises” is a song that starts simply so the ukuleles is well suited to it.  As with the original , the song builds, but much more simply here, with a pretty piano melody.  And her overdubbed voice works very well at the end.

“Idioteque” is absolutely great—she really captures the angst of the song and the ukulele in no way makes it a novelty—probably because the song is full of piano and great percussion.  The fact that the original is so techie and her version is so analog and yet it sounds this good is really a testament to Palmer’s transcribing skills.

“Creep” is done only on ukulele but the real instrument is her voice—where she manhandles the melody and whips it to all her needs—it’s a bravura  performance.  “Creep” live (a bonus digital version) is a bit more dynamic than the studio version as she plays off the audience.  And man she really shows off her voice at the end.

“Exit Music for a Film” opens on piano.  And adds strings. And adds more and more (allowing Palmer to exhibit her inner showwoman to really wail on the song).  Indeed, despite the title of the album, there is no ukulele on this track at all.  And while that may be cheating, this version really sounds great.

Palmer continues to impress me, although as I said last time, I’m still not sure what her real music sounds like.

[READ: August 7, 2013] “O.K., Glass”

Gary Shteyngart was one of the first 100 New Yorkers to get to test drive Google Glass (you had to tweet why you wanted it and then pay $1,500).  I was interested to read this because I like Shteyngart anyhow, but when I saw the reason why he wanted Glass—because his novel Super Sad True Love Story deals with people using a similar technology and he wanted to have a sense of what it would be like to use one for the upcoming movie version—I was even more intrigued.  (I read an excerpt in The New Yorker and I remember that funny device—the äppärät being mind-bogglingly futuristic.  I really need to read the novel before it becomes even less mind bending.

So he wears it out into New York.  (He was supposed to wear it only about an hour a day but he was totally hooked and wore them all the time).  And mostly he talks about how weird it is to have people (young people) approach him to talk about Glass.  People are even taking pictures of him!  He’s like a celebrity!

And of course he gets down to details—you twitch your head (what I imagine as the clicking of a mouse with your temple) to activate windows.  There’s a scroll bar type thing on the temple of the glasses.  But mostly you interact with it by saying “O.K., Glass” and then telling it what you want to do. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_07_01_13Brunetti.inddSOUNDTRACK: AMANDA PALMER–Live at Newport Folk Festival (2013).

palmernewAmanda Palmer has been in the news a lot lately, although more for her actions than for her music.  First she crowdsourced for her album (earning praise and vilification), she gave a TED talk about the experience and recently made the British tabloids because her nipple popped out at the Glastonbury Festival.  (Of course, unlike another famous incident like that. Palmer handled it wonderfully, criticizing not only the Daily Mail but also the entire media industry for caring so much about (female) nudity).  I’ve gained a lot of respect for Palmer in the last year or so and yet I (still) didn’t know all that much about her music.

So there she is at the Newport Folk Festival.  I don’t really know what her “normal” music sounds like, but nearly this whole set was performed on a ukulele (as befits a folk festival).  She plays a few songs on piano and also has some surprise guests–her dad (duetting on Leonard Cohen’s “One of Us Cannot be Wrong” and Neil Gaiman (her husband) coming out to sing the very disturbing song “Psycho”).  She also did a Billy Bragg cover (which was actually a cover of a cover, but Bragg’s version is more well known) of “The World Turned Upside Down.”

The rest of the set included, as I said, mostly ukulele songs (with an occasional foray into piano).  Some highlights include “Map of Tasmania” (a very funny song based on Australian slang) and “Coin-Operated Boy” a Weill-ian song (which is very vulgar).  The rest of the songs are long(ish) meanderings about Palmer and her reactions to life.  Her songs are interesting in their story-telling sensibilities.   Like, “The Bed Song” and “In My Mind” and “Bigger on the Inside” (which is her response to things around her and a fan’s questions to her–it’s very long and rather samey, but lyrically it’s quite effective).   Her delivery is a bit over the top (in perfect theatricality that some will hate).  Her melodies are quite nice (although it must be admitted the piano based song “The Bed Song” has some of the prettiest music)–you can’t really do a lot with melody on the ukulele.

My favorite song is “Ukulele Anthem” a funny song about rocking the ukulele.  I think it speaks to Palmer’s strengths–stream of consciousness, funny and sardonic lyrics set to a simple melody.  It’s a fun song to listen to and see how it evolves.

So overall I enjoyed this set quite a lot.  Although interestingly I still don’t really know what her music normally sounds like.  I assume she doesn’t often play the ukulele, but who knows.  This was an interesting set and Palmer is proving to be a fascinating person.

NPR had this show online although I don’t see it anymore.

[READ: July 30, 2013] “Mastiff”

I read this story the day after I read “Stars,” and while I know there’s no connection between the two, this story also features a woman walking in the woods.  She is also something of a misanthropist (“Sometimes, in the midst of buoyant social occasions, something seemed to switch off.   She could feel a deadness seeping into her, a chilly indifference…and the coldness in her would respond, I don’t give a damn if I ever see any of you again).  And there is a big dog (never described like a wolf but it is about as a big).  That’s a bit too much coincidence for me.   In fact, JCO is so prolific I wouldn’t be surprised if she read McGuane’s story on Monday and wrote her response to it for the following issue.

This story begins with a man and a woman on a trail.  They see a huge mastiff pulling a youngish guy up the trail.  The woman is terrified of the beast (and is embarrassed to have shown that to her boyfriend), but she has a huge sense of relief when the dog and the young man take a different trail.

Her companion makes a joke about the woman’s unease.  They have been dating for a short period and she hated her role in their relationship (she also hated that she was petite which tended to keep her submissive, anyhow).  She resents his comments but says nothing.  They continue hiking.

The man loved to hike and he asked her on this hike as a special treat.  He had told her to pack accordingly but she didn’t listen—no backpack, no extra layer, not even a water bottle.  This seemed to upset him (and made him patronize her).   [We have a third person narrator who is mostly with the woman but occasionally seems to peek into the man’s head—I found this a little disconcerting].  After a few minutes when they reached a plateau (and she was ready to leave), he took out his camera and started taking pictures—more or less ignoring her.

While the man is taking pictures she muses about him and her bad relationships in the past.   She as popular among her fiends, but she was insecure especially around men.  After the dog incident, she had made a point of being friendly to other dog owners (there were a lot on the trail)—just to show him, you know, that she wasn’t afraid.  She also spoke to the strangers, although he wondered, “What’s the point of talking to people you’ll never see again.”

As happens in a story named “Mastiff.” they run into the dog again.  There’s a part earlier in the story where we learn that she was attacked unprovoked by a German Shepard.  Once again, we have an unprovoked dog attack–the mastiff charges at her growling and snarling [although the breed is not known for this].  But then the man jumps in to save her—absorbing much of the abuse himself.

And suddenly the story goes in another direction, with the woman accompanying the man to the hospital, going through his things to find his cards and suddenly feeling much closer to him than she felt that far—being rescued will do that.

There were some wonderful turns of phrase that I liked: “Naked and horizontal, the man seemed much larger than he did clothed and vertical.”  Although I had to take issue with this character owning an art gallery—that easiest of cliche professions—although it wasn’t really relevant to the story.  But aside from that, this was an enjoyable fast paced story.  It explored people’s darker moments and used the dog as a catalyst for human interactions.

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makegoodartSOUNDTRACK: AMANDA PALMER: The Art of Asking (TED Talk, February 2013).

palmerAmanda Palmer is Neil Gaiman’s wife.  She was the singer in The Dresden Dolls and has a solo career.  I actually don’t know that much about her music.

But I linked to this TED speech after reading Gaiman’s book.

In this talk, Palmer talks about asking for things and how it’s hard to ask, to beg., but how it makes for a real connection, especially between musicians and fans.

And she talks about crowdfunding–she’s going to give away all of her music but she’s asking for help from fans along the way.

It’s a pretty inspirational talk–how asking for things helps you connect with people.  It also made me feel a lot better about Palmer, who I’d heard negative things about.

Check it out here.

[READ: June 5, 2013] Make Good Art

As with David Foster Wallace’s This is Water, this book is a short speech padded out to 80 some pages. The difference is that while This is Water is a rather boring-looking book, this title was designed by Chip Kidd, fabulous designer extraordinaire.  So every page looks interesting.  It’s not so much illustration as design—with shapes and text twirling and twisting upside down and what have you.

As with most inspirational works, this book is indeed inspirational.  But it is especially so if you are an artist or an aspiring artist.  Because this speech was given to the graduating class of Philadelphia’s University of the Arts in May 2012.  You can watch the whole speech here as well.  http://vimeo.com/42372767

Gaiman explains how he never went to college and never even really had a career, he just had a list of  things that he wanted to do: write an adult novel, a children’s novel, a comic, a movie record an audiobook, write an episode of Doctor Who.  And how he set about achieving these things is pretty great.

So some advice from Gaiman:

1. It’s better not to know the rules so that you’re not afraid to go beyond them.  If you don’t know something is impossible, it’s easier to do. (more…)

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