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Archive for the ‘Barenaked Ladies’ Category

[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…)

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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…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAYBE THIS CHRISTMAS TOO? (2003).

This second installment of this Nettwerk Christmas series is much darker than the first.  Perhaps this is indicated by the tree being on fire.  In fact, of the three it’s the one I listen to the least, despite the fact that it has a couple of my favorite Christmas songs on it.  The downer songs are labelled [NSFC] Not Safe for Christmas.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT-“Spotlight on Christmas”  I love this song.  It’s actually quite sad and stands up for poor little rich people at Christmas, but the chorus is so pretty.  And i really love Rufus’ voice.

EISLEY-“The Winter Song”
I’ve never heard of this band outside of this song (they are still active).  The song is terrific and their voices and harmonies are really wonderful.

AVRIL LAVIGNRE & CHANTAL KREVIAZUK-“O Holy Night”
This version of the song has stuck with me for years.  I simply cannot decide if Avril has the most pure and unmodified voice when singing his song or if she is just totally flat (which I don’t think she is).  I find her delivery is haunting in a very strange way.  Krevizauk, on the other hand has and absolutely incredible voice and her parts are amazing.

RILO KILEY-“Xmas Cake” [NSFC]
This is the first of many depressing songs.  Five and a half minutes of bad news and sad tidings.  Good grief.  The melody is nice and maybe in another context it would be powerful, but holy crap, no one want to hear this at Christmas.

DAMIEN RICE & LISA HANNIGAN-“Silent Night” [NSFC]
This is a really dark song that turns Silent Night from a song of hope to one of despair.

GUSTER-“Donde Esta Santa Claus?”
This is perhaps my favorite Christmas song, ever.  It’s fun and lighthearted and super catchy.  I can’t believe it is wedged in between these really dark songs that I always skip.

THE BE GOOD TANYAS-“Rudy” [NSFC]
This is a sweet, catchy song until you hear the words and that its about a red-nosed wino who dies.  Good grief.

DAVE MATTHEWS BAND-“Christmas Song” [NSFC]
This song has a pretty decent melody but Matthews sings it really quietly and, man, it just never goes anywhere. It’s five and a half minutes long and has no energy.  Gah.

OH SUSANNA-“Go Tell It on the Mountain”
I always forget that this is a Christmas song, but it certainly is.  It’s full of gospel tinges, as it should be.  Apparently new lyrics have been added but I don’t know all the words so it was news to me.

BARENAKED LADIES-“Green Christmas”
BNL has recorded three versions of this song.  It was written for the 2000 film How the Grinch Stole Christmas and appeared on the soundtrack.  It also appears on Barenaked for the Holidays.  Each of those versions is different and they both differ from this one.  It’s a bit of a downer but only as much as BNL can be downers.

MARTINA SORBARA-“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” [NSFC]
Never has anything wonderful felt so sad and mopey.  This bluesy version is kind of interesting but man is it ever at odds with the meaning of the song.

BADLY DRAWN BOY-“Donna & Blitzen”
This is another terrific song.  Its got a  great melody, some terrific piano and a super catchy chorus.  Its not exactly Christmas although it sort of is and certainly works for the Christmas season

THE FLAMING LIPS-“White Chritsmas” [NSFC]
Despite my love for the Lips I really don’t like this version of the song at all.  It’s subtitled that it is a demo for Tom Waits which might explain why it is sung in such a crazy way, but Waits would do it so much better.  He just sounds mocking all the way through.

SIXPENCE NONE THE RICHER-“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”
This band used to be pretty huge back in the day.  This song is very pretty–played on a kind of Spanish-sounding guitar with some neat and kind of spooky keys playing single notes at the end of each verse.  It’s a really cool version and ends the disc on a good note.

[READ: December 12, 2017] “Kings”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

This is a story about D.H. Lawrence and his life in Kandy, Ceylon in 1922.  I don’t know anything about Lawrence, so I assume this is all based on research.  As with most fictionalizations of real people’s lives, I don’t get why it was written.  But it was quite interesting and enjoyable, so maybe that’s why.

He and his German wife had exiled themselves from England immediately after the war.  They met an American, Brewster, who invited them to Kandy, nicknamed Little England.  But it was a sad trick, that name, for it was all jungle.  Lawrence suffered from tuberculosis and the jungle heat did not help. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAYBE THIS CHRISTMAS (2010).

This is one of my favorite Christmas discs.  There’s not a lot of traditional Christmas music on it, but the originals are all either spot-on Christmas songs or at least work nicely for this time of year.  The only song that doesn’t fit is Ben Folds’ which is funny and vulgar.  It is not safe for Christmas and should be skipped in a family setting and saved for the drunken debauchery part of the night.

PHANTOM PLANET-“Winter Wonderland” Back in 2010, Phantom Planet was a kind of buzzy, talked about band (you’ll have to look up why).  But this is a great version of the song, I especially love that it’s kind of rocky and slightly dissonant but still really pretty.

RON SEXSMITH-Maybe This Christmas.
It’s a shame that this series of records is named after this song, which is so forgettable.  I usually like Sexsmith’s stuff, but I can’t keep this song in my head at all.

COLDPLAY-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Unlike Phantom Planet which was all buzzy when this was recorded, Coldplay had yet to take off and had a small hit with “Yellow.”  It’s interesting to hear this spare version (just Chris Martin singing and playing piano) and how he modifies the words in small ways.

VANESSA CARLTON-“Greensleeves”  This is a lovely version of this song, even if Carlton’s voice is a bit affected (and its technically not a Christmas song in this lyrical version).

BRIGHT EYES-Blue Christmas
This is a nice version of this song, mellow and catchy.

SENSE FIELD-“Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” The more I listen to this song, the more I think it’s really weird.  “The yellow and red ones” (?).

JIMMY EAT WORLD-“12/23/95”
This is a very catchy Jimmy Eat World song (once again, before they got huge for a time).  It’s hard to realize its Christmas-related until late in the song when they mention the holiday.

JACK JOHNSON-“Rudolph”
I love this version of “Rudolph” so much because Johnson tacks on an ending where the other reindeer feel bad of making fun of Rudolph.  And Johnson’s vibe is just always so mellow and chill.

BARENAKED LADIES & SARAH McLACHLAN-“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
This recording is quite old–from 1996.  The artists work very well together and Sarah’s voice sounds great.

BEN FOLDS-“Bizarre Christmas Incident” [NSFC]
Ben played all of the parts himself on this song.  I love Ben and I love when he is funny and vulgar.  But this song which is very vulgar and mildly funny is so out of place on this disc.  You can’t play this for the kids, whereas everything else is totally fine. I might like it on a vulgar CD collection bu I dislike it a lot here.

DAN WILSON-“What a Year for a New Year”
Dan Wilson always writes pretty, catchy songs.  This is a lovely song that seems (possibly) even more appropriate in 2017 than it did in 2002 when he wrote it.

NEIL FINN-“Sweet Secret Peace”
This is a very pretty, delicate song with a wonderful chorus.  It’s not necessarily a Christmas song, but it works at this time of year.

LOREENA MCKENNIT-“Snow”
McKennit’s voice is amazing, and this song is hauntingly beautiful.  It’s a stark and lovely ending to this disc.

[READ: December 14, 2017] “Lady with Invisible Dog”

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.

This story was pretty bizarre and really wonderful.

There’s so much going on.  And much of it is pretty weird.  The story is set in 1995.  The narrator, Edwin, has had a run-in with a man called “The Narrator.”  And that has set all of the action of the story in motion. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 14, 2017] Marc Scibilia

I hadn’t heard of Marc Scibilia before this show.  He did perhaps the most intelligent think I’ve seen an opening folkie act do.  He had a kick drum with his name on it.  He never played the drum, it was just there as a simple advertisement (my name is hard to spell, he explained).

When the show started (exactly on time), he came out on stage, walked up to the keyboard and started playing a song.  He didn’t say what it was, but possibly “Out of Style.”

It was good.  Kinda of dancey, but definitely rocking.  When the song was over he picked up an acoustic guitar and started playing a different song.  As he started playing he stomped on an electronic drum (it wasn’t the kick drum, because he was too far away and the drum head never vibrated–it was just one of those stomp drum things.  And that simple addition really made the folkie songs a lot more rocking.

And then he spoke to us. (more…)

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spowerSOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-Stan Rogers Folk Festival, Canso, NS (July 3, 2005).

stanBack in 2005, the Rheostatics played two days at the Stan Rogers Folk Festival. The first day’s show was a kind of mash up of the Rheostatics and other bands.  Indeed, the recording includes some other artists along with the Rheos.

This second day it was apparently raining.  But it’s just the Rheos doing their best folk band impression, but not being afraid to totally rock out.

The recording opens very echoey and with a woman who is having a different kind of fun screaming quite a bit really nearby.  But after a minute or two, I assume the recording device is moved because you can no longer hear her. It’s jut Martin singing “California Dreamline.”

“Fan Letter to Michael Jackson” is particularly rocking, especially the “Michael!” part.  It’s a great version of the song, with lots of interesting bass work from Tim.  The whole band seems really into it.

Dave says, “The first European settlers stopped at Guysboro so we feel honored to do the same.  I went to the cairn…. I read the cairn.”

Mike: “Was the plaque about golfing?”

Dave: “No, it was about settling by the Mi’kmaq.”

They play a terrific, rocking “Marginalized,” a song that they seem to always play great.  It’s followed by a grooving intro to “Horses.”  Dave is really into it and the song ends really really loud and aggressive for a folk festival–Dave is screaming.

It’s followed by a terrific “Stolen Car.”  The “Kill a cop” line is really intense with a big drum roll.  And Martin is in great form throughout, especially that ending “drive away” section.

Mike: Thanks, we’ve got one more for you
Martin: Thanks, we’ve got one more for you
Dave: As a great man once said, Thanks, we’ve have one more for you

After all of that intensity, they end with a slow, pretty “Making Progress.”  Martin says, the composer of this next number in the middle: Timothy Rabbit Warren Vesely.  So that’s two songs by each singer.  As the song ends, Martin plays some interesting echoing guitar lines as the other guys leave.

The announcer says: “Rheostastics.  These guys were nominated for 3 Junos and one Genie and the Barnenaked Ladies and The Tragically Hip are constantly singing their praises and we got to hear them tonight.

[READ: April 25, 2017] The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Power

This is the reboot of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.  This edition collects issues 1-4 and a special comic from Marvel Super Heroes #8.

For the reboot, Erica Henderson has re-imagined the appearance of Squirrel Girl from the rankly really creepy and ugly early version (as seen in the Marvel issue included) into a new much cooler looking hero.  Although I find her face really distractingly strange-looking.  I suppose it’s meant to invoke a squirrel somewhat, but since I read the Shannon Hale book first, I imagined her looking less odd.  But I have since gotten over that and I find her personality is too great to care.

There are several things I love about this story line.  It is so very funny.  Every bit and piece is great.  I also love that she is, as her name suggests, unbeatable.  This is not a spoiler exactly, but she really can’t be beaten–it’s pretty great.  I also love that there is running commentary along the bottom of the page (essentially the footnotes).  Sadly in some issues it is really hard for these old eyes to read, but if you can read them, they are worth it.

But really it’s the tone that I love,  It’s so lighthearted and fun.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN PAUL WHITE-Live at the Newport Folk Festival (July 29, 2017).

I don’t really know all that much about John Paul White, except that he was in the fabulous duo The Civil Wars, and that he writes intelligent but downbeat folk music.

For indeed, his songs are not cheery by any stretch.  But they are very pretty.

I know the first song, “Black Leaf,” from his Tiny Desk Concert.  I loved it then and I love it now. After the song, he asks, “How are you?  Are you well?  You should be well.  No one should be complaining, least of all me in this black suit.”

And, despite his tone, he is not above making jokes with his audience.  Like when he introduces the second song, “Martyr,” he says, “We’ll be doing  while lot of death metal covers. I figured this would be the place. This song is by a band called Sepultura.”  [Nervous titters from the crowd before he starts playing a pretty JPW song that sounds not unlike a contemporary Barenaked Ladies song, especially his delivery of it].

“The Once and Future Queen,” is a slow, quiet song with a big chorus full of pretty harmonies.  When it ends, he says:

I guess it’s probably my duty to warn you….  You came to a folk festival so you probably weren’t looking for happy songs anyway…  If you came to this set looking to be cheered up, you’re screwed.  Let’s get that out of the way.

I loved “Hate the Way You Love Me,” during the Tiny Desk Concert, but when the backing singers accompany him on the chorus and the gorgeous fiddle from Kelli Jones fills the song, it’s really wonderful.

He jokes, “Glad you’re enjoying the death metal.  I didn’t think it would go over as well as it has.”  But he then plays “Fight for You,” a fairly rocking song–with some rocking distortion on his guitar and a snarl in his voice (and a pretty heavy chorus).

I tend to think of JPW as kind of a mellow singer with a great voice, but he really lets loose in the middle of “Hope I Die.”  In addition to a really powerful singing section, there’s a pretty wild solo going on (violin or guitar or both).  He introduces Adam Morrow over here on the guitar, so I assume he had something to do with it.

He says, “I’m not gonna pretend that all of you have any idea who I am.” [cheers]  He jokes, “That’s called fishing for a compliment.”  But he continues,

To those of you who do I apologize.  It’s been awhile.  it took a lot to get me out of the house.  I was incredibly happy sleeping in my bed and going to dance recitals and football games and the lot. And then these melodies started coming back in my head.  And if I gave into it I’d be back out here doing this.  I and I didn’t want that at all.  No.  No offense, but I didn’t want of see any of your faces.  But once I wrote these songs I wondered if people would connect with them…  and I still doesn’t know why I did that.  So thank you.

In introducing the slow ballad “I’ve Been Over This Before,” he says “This is one of the first songs that came to me. I was obviously listening to a lot of old country music, because that’s where it all starts for me.”

He continues, “I promise you I won’t bore you with song meanings because most of the time I have no idea what they mean most of the time.  But this one is personal for me.”  He says “Simple Song” is indicative of the folk spirit of telling stories and passing them down to further generations.

This came from my grandmother.  When my grandfather passed away he was battling many demons that everyone was having to battle alongside him.  She was raising 14 kids because of those demons.  So… I thought he was perfect, I though that he was always happy, but that was not true and when he passes away, she didn’t cry.  I asked her why  and she said ‘I cried so much for your grandfather when he was on this earth, there’s no way I’m gonna cry for him now that he’s better off.’  And so I thought, ‘Number 1, I want to punch you  in the face.  And then 2 much later in life, that that is a song waiting to happen.’  So this will also cheer you up.

The song and sentiment are beautiful with plaintive lap steel guitar: “I will remember I will remember I will remember you… but I will cry for you no more.”

He continues, “So it’s said that festival crowds… this quiet does not happen.  This is beautiful I really do appreciate it.  I’m a very dynamic performer and I need this kind of environment so…  Festivals scare the shit out of me.  I have to thank you from the bottom of my heart.  This is an unbelievable atmosphere to play in.

before the final song, the rocking “What’s So,” which I also know from Tiny Desk, he says “This is the first time Newport for all of my band so they’re geeking out pretty hard.”  In addition to Jones and Morrow, there’s Reed Watson on drums and Matt Green on bass.

“I need more band members so I have time to tune.”

“What’s So” has an aching descending chorus line that is just terrific.

I really like John Paul White’s music and I’d love to see him live in a quiet sit down club..

[READ: June 24, 2017] “It’s a Summer Day”

I know Andrew Sean Greer from a few McSweeney’s books.

This was a simple story but told in a really cool style.  It concerns Arthur Less, a writer, who has been called to an international conference where he is in the running to win a prize.  But the prize is minor and no one–not he nor his agent–thinks he has a chance.  In fact, the only reason he went was to get out of going to a wedding of an old flame, Freddy.

Freddy had once given him advice about international flights: “They serve you dinner, you take your sleeping pill, they serve you breakfast, you’re there.”

I love the narrator’s voice in this story.

He had been to Italy before. Once when he was 12.  And the second time with Robert Brownburn (Yes, that Robert Brownburn, the famous poet).  They had been dating for a while and were at a good point in their relationship.

He did as instructed with the pills, but woke up in the middle of the night–only two hours having passed!  He takes out another pill and then it’s time for breakfast.  He is in a fog and the first few pages are an amusing comedy of him possibly going the wrong way.  He barely makes his local flight (and is shocked to see ashtrays in the airplane seats–charming or frightening?) And then… was it a mistake to get in the car marked for Sr. Ess?  The driver speaks no English and it sure looks like he is heading in the wrong direction. (more…)

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