Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Barenaked Ladies’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: WHITEHORSE-Live at Massey Hall (December 8, 2017).

I saw Whitehorse open for Barenaked Ladies a few years ago and they blew me away.  I really want to see them again.

When I saw them it was just the two of them and the magic of their interplay was what really impressed me the most.  For this special Massey Hall show, they have a full band.  But as Melissa McClelland explains:

This is the first time playing the Massey stage with a full band.  We wanted to … finally invite some friends on stage with us and play music.

Those friends include John Obereian on drums, Ryan Gavel on bass, guitar and backing vocals and on keys and bongos and guitar, the second best singer in this band Gregory MacDonald.  He replies, “Thanks to the second best guitar player in the band.”  I have seen MacDonald on tour with Sloan a bunch of times and he is awesome.

As to why they are a duo, she says

we knew that Whitehorse was always going to be just the two of us and that everyone would know that we are equal partners in the band.  But we didn’t want it to be a folk duo so we started brainstorming and bought looping pedals and a kick drum and a stomp box and we  found new arrangements and once we got it we were like Yeah!

The show opens with hand clapping from the band and the audience and then Melissa’s slinky bass intro to “Baby Whats Wrong.  Then comes Luke Doucet’s echoing Western guitar. Their voices are wonderful together and I love when Doucet sings in that weird telephone microphone.  He also plays a ripping guitar solo.

Luke introduces “Tame as the Wild Ones” by saying they needed to write a sexy song so “Melissa kicked me out and said she’d do it alone.  I go to the bar to get drunk and when I come home, she plays me this song.  And nine months later our son Jimmy was born.”  I love the way the bridge (or is it a chorus) builds and settles–that melody is just gorgeous.

“Pink Kimono” has a simple rocking riff and the two singers singing at the same time.   Doucet’s soloing is on fire in this song.

“Die Alone” is a showstopper.  A slow moody piece in which Melissa sings over a wash of synths.  The music so much build as just unfold as first Luke sings with her and then the band kicks in.  Wow can Melissa belt out a song.

“Downtown” is a celebration of how you can put hundreds of thousands of people in a city and for the most part everyone gets along.  It s got a great throbbing bass and some cool guitar scratching and riffs from Doucet.  It’s a bummer that they interrupt the awesome middle solo section with an interview, even if it is quite interesting.

After Melissa lays out how they wanted the band to sound, Luke says that when people ask him about what it’s like to do Whitehorse, he says

we were solo artists first but we had been involved with each others albums as singer or producer  or touring musician.

So in order to be successful

you have to hang out together for five or six years and play in each others bands and make eight albums together and then you have to go on tour as freelance/hired gun musicians working for Blue Rodeo or Sarah McLachlan and then you have to live together for five or six years and listen to music together and fight and then you have to get married and once you’ve done all these things and listened to 10,000 hours of music and dissected Tom Waits entire catalog and argued about which is the best Beatles record and had fights on stage about who is speeding up or slowing down and once you’ve done all those things together then start a band.

It certainly worked for them.  The only bad thing about this show is that it’s only 30 minutes.

[READ: January 24, 2019] Hits & Misses

It has been a while since Simon Rich published a collection of his stories.  This one was pretty enjoyable.  Overall, not as much fun as some of his previous collections, but still a lot to laugh at.  Rich tends to write what he knows, which is often a very good sign.  However, sometimes what he knows is limited to writing and filming, which tends to miss the everyman silliness of his earlier pieces.

Having said that there are still some hilarious pieces that anyone can enjoy and some pieces about writers that are very funny.

A few of these pieces appeared in the New Yorker, and I indicate as much, with a link to my longer review.

“The Baby.”  This was a highlight.  A sonogram reveals that their baby is holding a pen–he is going to be a writer!  But when word gets out that the baby is already getting a reputation AND representation, well, that baby’s writer father is pretty damned jealous.  Wonderful absurdity based on reality taken to its extremes. (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-Barenaked for the Holidays (2004).

Barenaked for the Holidays is one of my favorite Christmas albums of all time.  It is by turns silly, serious, religious (Jewish and Christian) and secular.  It is pro Christmas and anti Christmas and many things in between.  There are cheesy instrumentals, impressive a capella rounds and even a Batman joke.  It’s everything people love (hate) about BNL.

The disc opens with Jingle Bells.  It opens quietly with a somber piano as Steven Page sings the lyrics.  It’s quite lovely.  After a minute and a half, insanity sets in with a wild continuation, as Steven goes bananas.  There’s a drum-only verse and even a verse of Jungle Bells Batman Smells.  It encapsulates all of Christmas in just a few minutes.

“Green Christmas” is a poppy, funny anti-Christmas song that’s super catchy.  It’s sung by Ed Robertson and is one of his latter style concoctions.  I have several versions of this song om various releases.  This is my favorite because when the carolers sing and he shuts the door on them you can hear their voices change.

“I Saw Three Ships” is done on a mandolin and sung first by Kevin Hearn.  Then a rotating cast of the band joins in.

“Hanukkah Blessing” is a wonderful original song by Steven.  It’s incredibly catchy with a nice telling of the Hanukkah story.  It even has a verse in Hebrew.

“O Holy Night” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” are done in a kind of ice rink keyboard–cheesey but a lot of fun cheesey.

I sort of like “Elf’s Lament” because it’s pretty funny, but it’s really rather dark–maybe too dark?   I don’t think I ever realized that the voice I don’t recognize i Michael Bublé, which is pretty insane.

“Snowman” is an original song about how much of a bummer it is being a snowman.

“Do They Know Its Christmas?” I hate the original of this song but I do like this version which takes some of the schmaltz and cheese out of it.  I also like that they mock “thank god it’s them instead do of you!”

“Hanukkah o Hanukkah”  Accordion and guitar play this wonderfully traditional song.

“God rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings” was recorded in 1996 with Sarah McLachlan.  It’s quite nice but feels out of place–like they should have re-recorded it.

“Carol of the Bells” is a trippy synth version with lots of voice-sounds from Steven.

“Footprints” is a slower Ed song–pretty and kind of somber.

“Deck the Stills” is just a genius version of “Deck the Halls.”   How did they every figure out that you could perfectly fit the words “Crosby Stills Nash and Young” into that musical pattern?  I’d love to hear the process for making this one.

“Christmas Time (Oh Yeah)” This is a Kevin song which means its sweet and kind of quiet, but there’s also some wonderful backing vocals (oooohhh yeah).

“Sleigh Ride” is zany scatting version that lasts less than a minute.

“Christmas Pics” is a Jim song with lots of upright bass.  It’s a typically funny and sweet song by Jim.

“I Have a Little Dreidel” is a little goofy sounding on banjo–it seems more hoe-down than Jewish.  But it’s a hoot.

“Wonderful Christmastime” is an instrumental with drum machine and keys but a very funny wah-wah type of keyboard sound that sort of mocks the original.  It ends with them singing happy birthday to Jesus.

“Auld Lang Syne: ends the disc.  It’s a beautiful version with great harmonies, really showcasing that this is a great band who likes to have fun too.

[READ: December 13, 2018] “Every One of My Answers was a Disappointment”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This is the story of an artist, Amelia, who has flown from Vancouver to Toronto to live for a few months.  She was almost forty, recently separated and had just had a major art showing (she sold everything and was basically set for a long time).  She sublets a place from her younger brother’s best friend Sab–neither her brother nor Sab knew about the separation. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, ON (December 9, 2017).

Final of three shows for the Horseshoe Tavern’s 70th anniversary celebrations. Kindly recorded and provided by Mark Sloggett and Matt Kositsky. Kevin was playing Massey Hall with Barenaked Ladies but showed up for the encore and played Accordion.  Ensign Broderick opened.

The show opens with a beautiful two shot of Martin-sung songs.  A lovely Stolen Car which starts out quietly and beautifully is followed by a soaring “Northern Wish” which starts and ends quietly but had a nice fast loud section in the middle.

After Clark starts inexplicably singing “Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana,” the band plays a quiet intro to “Michael Jackson.”  There’s some great crazy sounds, I assume from Hugh Marsh, that add an interesting texture to the verses.  The band really fills out the middle with some great soloing from Martin and Hugh and the vocals from Martin and Tim are great too.  The end totally rocks. It’s an awesome version.

It segues into “AC/DC on My Stereo” which is a little sloppy but more fun than other versions.  After a few technical difficulties, there’s two in a row from Tim.  First the mellow “Music is the Message” with great violin from Hugh and then a terrific “Claire.”  DB intros it by asking “How many people have read the novel Whale Music?  Oh not nearly enough, that’s a Christmas order.  Go to your beautiful local library and read it and we’ll talk in like four months.  Deal?”  The sound on this version is crisp and everyone’s instruments sound so clear.

DB: We’ll play longer than usual since its Saturday and no one has to do anything tomorrow.  If you do just give me the number of your boss and Martin will call your boss and pretend he’s you.  Martin: I’ll be up first thing in the morning.  Not hungover.  The Clark and Martin have a pretty darn funny pretend conversation in which Martin quits the company.

This is no a segue into a wonderful “Christopher” that has a terrific Martin and Hugh duo–they try to match each other in sound and scope and it’s just amazing–I would have loved to see that.

Then DB is coming out front to sing “Mountains and the Sea.”  Clark: he’s not Neil Sedaka, he’s not Neil Diamond, uh oh.  Tim: Dave’s fundraising again.  DB: Tim, I put the fun in fundraising.  DB: Anybody got a stool?  Martin: Ah extra casual.  Dave, make sure you’re not flying low.  It’s a lovely quiet version of the song with a fun and funny solo by Hugh.

Clark starts chanting 6-11-11-18.  DB: we’re doing new songs that require counting.  We’re playing them for you tonight because you are elastic and rubbery and forgiving:  Possible names 6-11-11-18 (Tim: that’s way better than 2067), could be called Swipe Right.  Then Martin demonstrates the noise and nonsense that they will be doing for 90 minutes (feedback and slide whistle).

Martin: I’m a temperamental artist.
Clark: I thought you said tempura artist, you work wish sushi.
Martin: I play tantrum rock.
Clark: You’re like Sting, you can go all night long.
Martin: Except mine is just unpleasantness and anger.

This is a set up to Martin’s complicated “Albatross.”  It sounds great and very dramatic.  This is followed by a beautiful acoustic rendition of “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  It winds up being just Tim and Hugh and it’s very pretty.

DB: You’re much more composed than last night’s crowd.  Martin: who were a bunch of louts.  DB: Lout-ish.  Well, one guy was a lout.  And congratulations to the Toronto Football Club for winning the MLS football cup.

Up next is “Supercollider,” with an unusually long and trippy opening from Hugh.  Clark says: “I’d like to dedicate this to my oldest friend on the planet Karen Lindhart and my sister, who are here tonight.  We listened to a lot of music together when we were kids.  Take us into space, Hugh.  A wondrous soaring violin solo ensues before the cool song begins.

DB: Okay, now we’re entering “shank” portion of the concert.  This one features Tim Vesely on … air.  This is an obvious dance party starter, but what the fuck.  Dave starts chanting post-Ptolemaic and when he asks Tim if he;s like to say anything about the Ptolemaic universe, Tim says he wasn’t paying attention.  It’s a wild and somewhat shambolic version of “Legal Age Life.”  But things settle down nicely for Tim’s “Soul Glue: which has some lovely violin as an intro.

They start out a beautiful “California Dreamline” and when it gets to “questionable things like” just before the song takes off, something happens (not sure what) and it crashes to a halt.  Tim says, “that was so fucking close.  I thought the intro was pretty awesome.”  They try to pick it up from where they left off, but it fails.  Martin: Okay lets drop this song, we’ve only played it 14,000 times.  Clark: let’s do a quick palette cleanser.  Which turns out to be a bouncy “Alomar.”  Mid song Martin says “your call will be answered shortly.”  They jump back into “California” and after a few false starts, they play it through with no more hiccups (although a lot of sloppy guitars).  When they get to “All the naked ladies,” Tim interjects, “they’re at Massey Hall tonight.”

DB: This is the birthday of the Horseshoe–70 years ago today.  We (Me, Tim, Dave, and James Gray [of Blue Rodeo]) first played here Halloween in 1982 (or 1983) opening for The Government.  I don’t even know how many years that is.  Audience: “35” DB: “Wow. Thanks… math nerd.”

That kindly story segues into a harsh and rocking version of “Feed Yourself.”  The middle instrumental section where Dave B gets really intense screaming and repeating lyrics is fleshed out even further by some great work from Hugh Marsh.  It’s probably the most intense version of the song I’ve heard.  I wish Martin’s guitar was a little quieter in the mix.  And I wish more than ever that I’d managed to get to see this show.

DB: We have one more song.  Then we’ll go back stage and we’ll have an internal review and you can have an external review.  If you deem it worthy of continuation, perhaps you’ll show some sign of support.  Tim: However if you disapproved of tonight’s show please remain silent.  It would confuse us other otherwise.

Then Tim looks in the audience and asks, “Is that a bumble T-shirt?  Sorry I thought you were promoting your dating website.”

They begin “Shaved Head” and Clark says he wants to play brushes, dammit.  Which he does for the quiet opening.  It’s an amazing song and a great ending to the set.

For the encore, Clark says Kevin is going to come up and play accordion.  Then he sings an a capella (until Tim starts playing the drums) rendition of “My Mind Is On Fire” (“I wanna communicate with you about love… right now” are the whole of the lyrics).

Kevin starts the accordion for a sloppy wild “Who Stole the Kishka” which seems in the wrong key the whole time.  When it’s over: DB: They don’t write any good fucking kisha songs anymore.  Audience guy: “Taking Care of Business.”  DB: “We fucking just took care of business right there.” Audience guy: “There’s something about you guys I really hate.”  DB: “Know what I hate about our audience?  Too many Italians.”

Tim: “Alright, Dim the lights, chill the ham.  Turn the lights way down.  As in off.  Even the wiener roaster, turn that one off.”  And so starts a slow, brooding version of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  By the end, the song has gotten huge, including the by-now obligatory “I wish I was back home in Derry” shout outs.

[READ: November 28, 2018] Ambient Comics

I love working in a place where I can see German comics (especially if they are wordless like this one), which I can fully enjoy.

This collection by German artist Nadine Redlich is wonderful.  The introduction by Mahler talks about the urgent question in the study of sequential art: “What lies between the panels” and how this book makes it easy to answer the question.  He says that that which lies between the panels is already within the panels, which explains “why there is so little room in between.”

Each of the pages of this book hosts a six panel cartoon in which literally almost nothing happens. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: September 24, 2018] Steven Page Trio

I’ve seen Barenaked Ladies countless times.  I saw them when Steven Page was with them.  I’ve seen them after he left.  BNL is always fun even without Steven.

But Steven Page’s voice is awesome and he is definitely missed in the band (even though his solo albums are better than recent BNL albums).

This is actually the third time I have seen him since he left BNL and all were within the last three years.

The first time (also with Craig Northey) was when they and the Art of Time Ensemble performed Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band.  The second was earlier this year when Steven did his Songbook–singing (mostly) other people’s songs.

These were both great but, man, I wanted to hear him sing his own songs.  So I was psyched when he announced a new tour with a trio playing his own music (and a new album).

The trio included Craig Northey on guitar and Kevin Fox on cello.  And it was awesome. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: JENN GRANT-Live at Massey Hall (June 23, 2017).

I don’t know Jenn Grant, although her music sounds somewhat familiar.  She’s from PEI originally but her family moved to Nova Scotia when she was ten.  She recently moved back to Nova Scotia with her husband, where they live by the ocean and the woods.

For this show, she is joined by Daniel Ledwell, Michael Belyea and Tavo Dies de Bonilla.  On a couple of songs, she has Julie Fader and Kim Harris for backing vocals (this is Fader’s second appearance in the series).

Years ago shed opened for BNL at Massey Hall, but she wasn’t present. This time she’s very aware of things like the large but intimate feeling of the place.  During soundcheck she felt she never sounded better

“Paradise” is a slow keyboard song with electronic drums.  It’s moody in a Twin Peaks kind of way.  Although it picks up for the chorus.  The drum sounds in the middle of the song sound like when my phone speaker is over powered, it’s unsettling.

“I am a River” is interrupted by her speaking about her new record.  It’s interesting that her music is quite electronic since she is so inspired by nature.  Although this song does have more organic elements like piano and such.

She introduces “The Fighter” by saying “This is a song from an album that we made once.”  She plays electric guitar and that creates more drama and texture in the song.  This has a great overall sound.

“I’ve Got Your Fire” starts with piano.  This song sounds familiar–I wonder if I know it or if it just sounds like a Jane Siberry song.  It’s very pretty.

“No One’s Gonna Love You (Quite Like I Do)” is mellow song, also quite pretty.  “Galaxies” is a bit higher energy and she says it’s “fun to perform for an audience.”  It’s got a cool retro keyboard sound.  Dreamer ends he show quietly with delightful backing vocals.  I like the way the song slowly builds.

[READ: January 25, 2018] “Fourteen Feet of Water in My House”

This story sets everything up right from the get go:

My hometown flooded.  Prediction, as usual, failed us.

And so, when the narrator wakes up with a river in his house, he is quite pleased to see that his boat, kept in the backyard, was banging on his second storey window.  He is barely awake but he jumps into the boat headfirst.

“This is real… Dad’s house is ruined…. Boat seems fine though…. People probably stranded … ”

The rest of the story is his adventure saving people. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: February 2, 2018] Steven Page

I was thrilled to see Steven Page play with Art of Time Ensemble back in 2015.  When I saw that he was playing (somewhat) locally again, I was really excited to get tickets.  It wasn’t until much later that I realized that he was doing a Songbook tour with the Art of Time Ensemble and not playing songs from his (excellent) solo albums.

That was fine, because I loved his Songbook release with AoT, but as always, I’d much rather see someone sing his or her own songs than covers. But Page had picked great songs for his album with AoT and he picked an even better selection for this show.

The ensemble came out on stage followed shortly after by Page.  Steven explained that the purpose of the evening was that these songs were designed to have their vocal melodies remain largely unchanged but for the arrangers to push the boundaries of what  these songs could sound like.  To go as far as possible without going too far.  He thought many people wouldn’t a lot of the songs but that this might inspire them to check out the originals. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: STEVEN PAGE-Heal Thyself Pt. 1 : Instinct (2016).

This is Steven Page’s second solo album since leaving Barenaked Ladies.  This one features his voice sounding utterly fantastic amid a large variety of styles of music.

“There’s a Melody” opens with a tiny harmonium sound.  It’s a one minute song that has this fascinating lyric:

There’s a melody somewhere inside of me,
I can hear it but can’t get it out of me,
In my head it soaring but when it comes out it is all the same note

Ironically it is sung to a terrific melody and it will be revisited later in the Reprise which builds and builds with full orchestra.

On Page’s previous album he played around with dance sounds and that continues on this record with “The Work at Hand.”  It opens with crazy electronic noises and then shifts to a soaring dance number.   The chorus sounds a bit like Pet Shop Boys (although not in the vocals).

“Here’s What It Takes” is a fast shuffle with prominent trumpets in the melody.  It’s catchy and was the first single.  But I’m more focused on the lyrics again.  For such a peppy song the lyrics are really dark:

An 8-ball of coke / You’re angry and broke / My Mother misspoke / by telling me the truth
Here’s what it takes to believe  / Drink down the Drano ’til the demons all leave
The fridge door was open again / There’s leftover blame / You’re eating your shame / and choking on the truth

What was funny was that I heard this couplet first and thought it was an amusing song before digging deeper:

What we once kept hidden from our parents / Now we keep it hidden from our kids

That’s a great line and it’s even darker with the above verses.

“I Can See My House From Here”  is a funny/dark song about Jesus, or at least a self-identified messiah.

Jesus came to me last night
To tell me everything will be alright
He said, “Thank you for rolling the stone,
but you’re gonna have to go it alone”

Hey, have you heard the Good News?
We’re gonna make you King of the Jew

But it’s also chock full of nods to the Beatles.  Both in the backing vocals (the Hallelujah and Hare Krishna below) but also in unexpected ways

[Hallelujah] Mother Mary
[Heal Thyself] You had me
[Hare Krishna] And no religion
[Hope that helps] So Let It Be

As he sings this section, it plays with the melody of “My Sweet Lord”

And if you can’t then you know it’s a lie
Goodbye my Lord, goodbye my Lord

and he even sings the next line “I really want to…” as if it were part of “My Sweet Lord” before jumping back to the melody of the song.

It end with the guitar melody of The Beatles’ “The Two of Us” and him singing “we’re on our way home.”

The best song around is “Manchild” which features Page’s soaring vocals and terrific self-deprecating lyrics that morph over the song

Darling, you’re talking to a man now / You’re talking to a man, now, child /
Speak slowly, speak slowly
Darling, you’re talking to a manchild / You’re talking to a manchild now /
Speak slowly, speak slowly

But the album is not all big powerful songs, “If That’s Your Way” (“If that’s your way of saying you’re sorry – I don’t mind”) and “Hole In the Moonlight” are both ballads with piano and strings.

“Mama” is a kind of almost reggae romp with some excellent snark in the lyrics.  And “Surprise Surprise” was the lead single and does a great job rhyming

I was feeling shamed / you were feeling stupid
because I knew what was wrong with me / long before you did

“Linda Ronstadt In the 70s” has a harpsichord and a chamber pop feel with an emphasis on pop.  I had no idea of the origin of the song.  It was apparently written because Colin Meloy requested people write songs about Linda Ronstadt.  You can see the original acoustic version here.

“No Song Left to Save Me” ends the disc with the unmistakable bass line of “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” but the song quickly changes tempo and direction with swinging horns and big old catchy Steven Page chorus.

This is an excellent, fun disc and really shows the range that Page is willing to experiment with.  I wish Barenaked Ladies would take more chances like this, too.  But I am especially excited to see Page next month with the Art of Time Ensemble.

[READ: March 25, 2016] “My Holocaust Memoir”

You don’t expect something funny to have a title like this.  Of course once you see that the first line is “Dear Ms Winfrey,” you can expect to not take this seriously,

Greenman begins his letter to Ms Winfrey by saying how much he admires the show, although he doesn’t watch every day).  He says he was watching “Best Life Week ” (is that really the name of segment?) in which guests discussed the challenges they’ve overcome.  He says that he has had some challenges–which he is currently putting into book form.  And he would like her to take a look at them.

It begins: (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »