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Archive for the ‘Beck’ Category

SOUNDTRACK:공중도둑 (MID-AIR THIEF)쇠사슬 (Ahhhh, These Chains!)” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

공중도둑 (Mid-Air Thief) is from Korea (obviously).  Beyond that, virtually nothing is known about him (Lars confirms that it is a he, even if many of the vocals are by Summer Soul–she is his guest singer).

Mid-Air Thief makes beautiful but weird, glitchy folk music.  Every time something really lovely seems to come along, there’s always some kind of twist to make it not what you think.  This, of course, keeps everything interesting and fun.  But despite that, the whole album is bright and cheerful.  There’s feelings of Dungen and Beck and even some Kishi Bashi.  There’s even a sense of the more psychedelic Flaming Lips songs (but without the over-loud low end).

It’s really great.

“쇠사슬,” which translates into the delightfully odd “Ahhhh, These Chains!” opens with a pretty, fast-picked guitar and delicate voices.  The song builds as electronic sounds are placed throughout adding tension but never overriding the pleasantness of the guitar and soft voices.  After a slight break into a “chorus” the song resumes almost doubled in sounds and power, but never losing that sweetness.

I love how the song seems like it’s going to end after around four minutes but it still has a bashing coda to show off before it finally ends at five minutes.

Bob Boilen has sent out a plea to Mid-Air Thief to do a Tiny Desk Concert, and boy I hope that happens.

Plus how great is Mid-Air Thief’s avatar (on the left).

[READ: January 6, 2019] “It’s All Over Now”

This story is about a young woman, living alone and fearful in a sketchy part of Mexico.

Tina Reyes is the single woman.  She boards a bus to visit her friend Rosa.  She hopes Rosa is all right–Rosa had looked tired last week. Tina thinks about Rosa with her husband and children and she grows rather sad and melancholy thinking about her own life and how she will never have anything like that.

Is her status a self-fulfilling prophecy or is she just sensible about the word around her?

As soon as she gets off the bus a man approaches her.  She is freaked out by his request:

Pardon me senorita, may I walk with you? (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 7, 2018] Strand of Oaks

In 2016, Timothy Showalter played his second Strand of Oaks Winter Classic at Boot and Saddle.  I had a really great time.  Then I saw him and his full band later the next year at a bigger venue.  I more or less felt that I didn’t need to go to the winter classic again this year.  But thinking of how much fun it was (and the fact that Carl Broemel was opening) was a huge incentive.  Now I’ve been to one night of his second and fourth Winter Classics.

Showalter came up on stage and Broemel came with him.   Showalter is such a warm and gregarious person and you can see that he is genuinely happy to be there.  He was smiling pretty much for the whole show.

Although I like Strand of Oaks newer album Hard Love, I really like the previous album Heal.  So it was pretty awesome that he played the majority of songs from Heal. In fact. the first three songs were from that album

For a few songs Broemel played lead guitar while Showalter played rhythm and sang.  And the two guitarists took the opportunity to do some great jamming together.  Broemel also played pedal steel (which was really cool) for a couple of songs. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKJUST SAY NOËL: A Gift for You from Geffen Records (1996).

This is a weird mix of songs.  I purchased this all those years ago because I loved the Sire Records Just Say series, and this seemed like a fine addition.  But this album really pushes what might have been anticipated in a Christmas collection.

Look at the names!  Beck! Sonic Youth! (when they were riding high), Elastica! But man, this is just a crazy mix of stuff.

BECK-“The Little Drum Machine Boy” (NSFC)
This is like 7 minutes of drum machine nonsense from Beck.  There’s mention of the Hanukkah robot funk.  Gonna drop some Hanukkah science.  And then 7 minutes of Beck’s nonsense lyrics.

AIMEE MANN with MICHAEL PENN-“Christmastime” (NSFC)
This is a little mopey because Aimee is always a little mopey.  The Michael Penn parts are a bit more upbeat.  They sound great together, but “all alone at Christmastime” isn’t really much for holiday cheer.

SONIC YOUTH-“Santa Doesn’t Cop Out On Dope” (NSFC)
I had no idea that this was a cover.  Martin Mull recorded this back in 1973.  That explains the spoken word part that doesn’t sound like something Sonic Youth would construct.  But after the spoken intro, they turn the end into 2 minutes of utter noise.  Thurston sings the actual song almost a capella with strange noises in the background and twinkling bells.  The last 40 seconds are just squelching noise.  And they end with Thurston saying “Merry Christmas, David Geffen.”

THE POSIES-“Christmas” (NSFC)
This song is downbeat and sad (“you made me for the last time.  That’s okay Christmas means little to me”).  The chorus is kind of pretty though.

THE ROOTS-“Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa” (NSFC)
I had no idea that this was a cover.  And never would have guessed it was originally by The Roots.  It is shockingly about incest. The Roots version is even darker (and the recording features an echoed voice making it even harder to hear the words).

SOUTHERN CULTURE ON THE SKIDS-“Merry Christmas Baby” (NSFC)
This version is bluesy and slightly funky in a very white way.

REMY ZERO-“Christmas” (NSFC)
This is muted and mopey and I have literally no idea what its about.

ELASTICA-“Gloria” (NSFC)
This is without a doubt the best song on this record.  Although as far as I can tell aside from chanting (and playing) the melody from the Christmas song “Gloria In Excelsis Deo” there is no connection to Christmas whatsoever.

WILD COLONIALS-“Christmas Is Quiet” (NSFC)
This is six-minute mellow folk dirge.  Her voice is pretty, but good lord, six minutes?  Even a build up and backing vocals doing la las can’t rescue this.

XTC-“Thanks For Christmas”
Obviously, I love this song as I have mentioned elsewhere.

THE MUSICAL CAST OF TOYS FEATURING WENDY & LISA -“The Closing Of The Year”
The Toys song is such a weird inclusion–clearly it’s only here because they own the rights.  But it’s a really pretty song and it should be played more at the closing of the year, for being a lovely optimistic song.  Even though I like this version, I’d like to hear a cover from someone else with a strong voice (and not necessarily Seal, or whoever that is, joining in).  I’ll bet it could be done really well.

TED HAWKINS-“Amazing Grace”
Hawkins has a low gravelly voice.  This is a lovely cover of just him and his guitar.

So overall, this is a disappointing collection of songs.  Most of them can’t be played in a festive way.  But there are a few rocking standouts.

[READ: December 12, 2017] “Announcements”

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 was a fun, light-hearted look at Wedding announcements.  And of course, as with any fun, light-hearted look at something, there were undercurrents of seriousness that made the story even better. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOSES SUMNEY-Tiny Desk Concert #678 (November 29, 2017).

I had never heard of Moses Sumney before this show.  And the blurb seems to anticipate this:

If you don’t know this Los-Angeles-based force of nature, and haven’t heard him on tour with James Blake or Sufjan Stevens or perhaps on albums by Beck or Solange, then this is your chance to watch one of the most thoughtful talents of today as he makes music that is outside the box but easy to relate and connect to.

I’m very curious to know what he did with Beck.

I found Moses’ voice to be mesmerizing–a gorgeous soaring falsetto that he seemed to effortless get to rise higher and higher.  But beyond that, the blurb talks about his lyrics:

Moses Sumney puts a great deal of thought into the heartfelt music he creates. On his debut album, Aromanticism, he was inspired by everything from the works of Plato and Aristophanes’ account of the origin of humanity to the Bible, particularly Genesis and the story of creation. It’s all in an attempt to understand human relationships and the sorts of couplings we tend to be drawn to.

He plays 3 songs in the 20 minute time frame.  I wanted to describe the first song, but Bob’s description is too good:

The concert opens up with Moses not behind my desk, but at the piano we keep in our office. As his team of sax, harp and guitar players set up, Moses sat at the piano and began to play “Doomed.” He had instructed the band, which had already perched behind my desk 40 or so feet away, to create a transition for him to walk from piano to desk, continuing one of the most inspired 8-minute stretches I’ve witnessed here at the Tiny Desk.

So he plays the pretty piano melody and sings with those gorgeous falsetto vocals for about a minute and a half.  Then he strolls (in his cape) to the desk.  He activates some looping pedals.  He plays a beat on the microphone and then Sam Gendel plays a cool modified sax solo.  After 2 minutes of set up, he sings again.  The beats are in full and Brandee Younger is playing some simple gorgeous harp and Mike Haldeman has some echoed guitar on top.  Meanwhile, Sam has switched to a synth and Moses is also playing some kind of synth.  The song builds beautifully and he sings in a  higher and higher register.  It starts to sound otherworldly with the harp and his voice and the loops going faster and faster.  And then the wall of noise abruptly ends and the final minute is delicate and lovely.

He introduces the band and then says “we’re going to keep making noise.”  And then “hopefully no one’s printer goes off” (wonder if that happened).

“Quarrel” opens with him looping his own voice and then playing it faster and faster so it sound like a skipping CD.  Sam has picked up a guitar to pluck out notes (the head of his guitar is fascinating and I want to see it better).  Throughout the song Moses hits that looped vocal section for one or two seconds to add texture–it’s pretty cool.  The mix of that harsh(ish) electronic sound and the angelic harp is wonderful.

For the final song, “Plastic,” he removes his cape.  Everybody else leaves and he says “I want to make more room… for me!”  He picks up a guitar and says, “This is the end.  The bitter end.  Although for some of you, it will be sweet because it’s ending.”  It’s interesting how self-deprecating he is when his voice is so gorgeous.

This final song is much more jazzy with him playing interesting chords and singing to the guitar.  Overall it’s a bit less exciting than the other songs possibly because the last minute or so is just him repeating the line “my wings are made of plastic.”

But overall, Moses Sumney really impressed me with this set.  Right up to the end where he sinks slowly below the desk, to much laughter.

[READ: March 6, 2017] Wade and the Scorpion’s Claw

The Copernicus Legacy is a four book series.  But, in an interesting diversion, there are also two “extra” books inserted between the first two.  They are smaller and do not exactly affect the continuity of the main story, but they seem to delve into one character a little further (and there is some plot advancement).

Interestingly, Book One of the main series ends with Kaplans and their friends leaving Guam for New York.  The second book of the series opens with them in New York.  But this book, the first of the The Copernicus Archives, takes place between Guam and New York.  The big difference is that unlike the main books, this is told entirely from Wade’s Point of view.

En route to New York, the family has to stop in Hawaii.  They are in the airport for a while and they trust no one.  They are waiting for the flight to San Francisco when there are two notable people in the airport around them.  There’s a German man (you can tell by his shoes, Lily whispers) in a leather coat.  The kids don’t trust him and call him Leathercoat.  And then there’s a Chinese man doing acrobatics and other tricks to amuse some children while they wait. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 31, 2017] Parquet Courts

2017-01-31-21-54-46I was under the impression that Parquet Courts had been around for a while (they have 4 LPs and 3 EPS out), but they formed in 2010 and their first album to gain notice was released in 2012.  They’re just really prolific.

When I heard they were playing Philly I grabbed tickets right away assuming it would sell out.  I don’t think it did, but that didn’t stop it from being a really enjoyable, if brief, first concert of 2017.

I thought of Parquet Courts as a pretty  punky band–some of their songs are quite noisy and fast (and short).  But just the other night I watched them play, “Human Performance” on TV and I was quite surprised to see how kinda dorky they all looked–Oxford shirts and sweaters and the like–not stereotypical punks at all.  Which was cool.

I had arrived plenty early and was only one person from the stage when they started (not always great for sound but great for pictures).  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 28, 2016] Mike Gordon

mgfall_insta-768x567I saw Phish for the first time this summer.  But I’ve been a fan of the band (especially their live stuff) for years. And while Trey Anastasio is the defacto leader of the band, I’ve always loved Mike–his bass playing is funky, his songs are a catchy and he seems like  a generally fun guy.

2016-11-28-23-38-12So when I saw that he was playing a small club tour, I grabbed tickets right away.  With Phish I could never get anywhere near the stage, but here at Union Transfer I could have been literally up against the stage.  I was frankly surprised at how uncrowded the show was–where were all the Phish-heads?

I really like Mike’s album Overstep (from 2014), and was happy to see he’d be playing songs from that album as well as covers and new songs.

But aside from that I didn’t really know exactly what to expect.  I wasn’t sure if the point of this band was to be different from Phish–short structured songs–or just a chance to play with different people or what. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 24, 2016] Band of Horses

2016-09-24-22-06-57This is our third time seeing Band of Horses in three years.  Sarah and I loved their first three albums a lot, so in 2004 when XPNFest announced they were opening for Beck, we knew it was an amazing pairing.  They were great and we decided we needed to see them as the headliners.  The following year, they came back although this time opening for Neil Young.  We were going to see Neil anyway, so it was even better that BoH was opening.  But that set was shorter than the first!  We needed the full experience.

One year later, the busiest weekend we’ve had in a long time, and BoH was squeezed right into the middle of it.

We love The Fillmore in Philly, it’s a great venue with really good sound (and nice parking).  So it was a great place to hear the soaring vocals of Ben Bridwell.and the rest of the band.

The show was an outstanding mix of songs from four of their albums (turns out that their previous album Mirage Rock has been largely dismissed by the band and they don’t play much from it anymore).  And that’s fine because the four albums are awesome. (more…)

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