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Archive for the ‘Bon Iver’ Category

margoSOUNDTRACK: COLIN STETSON-New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light [CST092] (2013).

stetson3 After the raucous wildness of Stetson’s Vol. 2, I wasn’t expecting the first song to be so gentle.  Justin Vernon sings (with many layers of processing) the rather pretty opening track.  When I first heard it I didn’t like it—I wanted Stetson to do Stetson and it seemed like the track was all voice (nad very different from Stetson).  But Stetson is there, and he plays his normal unceasing melodies behind the voices.  The track seems especially light since it is followed by the aggressive “Hunted” which prominently features Stetson’s “voice” (he has a microphone on his throat or something to pick up his grunts), making an almost growling noise as he plays.   It’s worth repeating that Stetson does circular breathing, is able to play nonstop and can somehow to play different things at the same time (no overdubs) as well as vocalize in interesting ways.  You can also hear him taking breaths while he platys—the breaths are part of the percussive nature of his playing. It’s pretty amazing.  About four minutes in, the tone changes a bit, becoming a little sharper which seems to make the growl even more pronounced.

“High Above A Grey Green Sea” is a quieter song with more vocalizing, but this one feels mournful and lonely as opposed to intense and scary.  “In Mirrors” opens with a deep breath as he plays a slow quiet 90 second song full of unexpected high notes.

“Brute” is appropriately named as it sounds like he is forcing the song out of his sax.  He places mics on his sax so you can hear the clacking of the keys.  And that is readily apparent on this song which is full of clacking and clicking and grunting all the way.  After about a minute, a discordant melody comes in and establishes a tone that plays or a few bars until Justin Vernon returns, but this time with growled words.  It’s a pretty intense and rather scary track—and nothing like Bon Iver at all.

“Among The Sef (Righteous II)” is a brighter song—higher notes played in a very fast style.  There are some vocalized melodies as well.  But the main song is a rolling series of high notes.  “Who The Waves Are Roaring For (Hunted II)” opens with an interesting vocalized melody—he is really using that technique a lot on this record.  It also featured Justin Vernon.  “To See More Light” opens with slow echoed notes as he begins to build a melody out of a four note string.  He starts adding more and more notes.  The melody grows faster and faster until about five minutes when it starts to really slow down—dramatically so.  Around 7 minutes in, the song slows to a crawl, almost drunkenly it seems.  And the song feels like it has ended.  But Stetson has more on his mind.  The notes are held longer and shift more slowly.   Then the song starts to build up again with a different 4-note pattern that adds some squeaky feedback notes and then a catchy melody.  All 15 minute of this song done nonstop, pretty impressive.

“What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?” begins with voices from Vernon (in a softer voice than we’ve come to expect) as he sings a verse before the sax comes in.  “Bed” features some loud key clacking a great rhythmic pattern and some quiet notes from both the sax and his voice.

The final song is “Part Of Me Apart From You.” It really emphasize his “singing” the melody in his throat while playing the repeating lines on the sax.   The song seems to emphasize the lower notes in this song even as he “sings” higher notes.

[READ:October 20, 2016] The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo

The title of this book implies that it is a series, and I rather hope it is.  I loved the premise of this book.  Most of the characters were interesting and the mystery behind Margo herself was really cool.

I didn’t love Weing’s drawing style, though.  It really never resonated with me at all, and at times I found it off-putting.  Which is a shame since the story is so fun.

Charles is moving to Echo City and he hates it.  His mom tries to convince him that big cities are fun.  Plus, his dad is fixing up a big old hotel and they get to live there for free (suspension of disbelief there).  There are already some people living there, too.

Charles’ dad is hip and cool (he is seen with Dead Kennedys and Black Flag logo tattoos).  All of the things that Charles finds creepy about the place, his dad calls “character.”   Like the giant chandelier that was in a closet.  Whatever his dad says, Charles’s comment is simply, “This place is definitely haunted.” (more…)

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boilenSOUNDTRACK: ANGEL OLSEN-Tiny Desk Concert #333 (January 27, 2014).

angelBob Boilen has liked Angel Olsen for some time, so when she did her Tiny Desk and most of us had never heard of her, he was already a fan.

Olsen plays a long set but with four songs.

She sits very still, strumming with her thumb and singing kind of low–not unlike Sharon van Etten.  The first song, “Unfucktheworld” is only two ans a half minutes.  The second song, “Iota,” is a little longer.  She sings in an affected almost falsetto style, although the guitar remains very spare.

Between these songs, she is coy about the title of the new record although she is quick to say the first word of the title “burn.”  Later she admits that the final song contains the title of the album, if we wanted to spend time figuring it out.

I marvelled at how high the chords were that she played on “Enemy,”  She seems to eschew any bass for this song.  This one is five and a half minutes long and is just as slow as the others.

Before the final song they talk about whether this is the most awkward show she has done.  She says everyone is very alert–and indeed you can hear utter silence between songs.  But then they talk about the storm outside (and potential tornado) and how this show may never air if the storm is really bad.

“White Fire” is an 8 minute story song.  She does use the whole guitar for this one, which has many many verses.   Since I don’t really know Olsen’s stuff that well, I don’t know if this was a good example of her show or a fun treat to hear her in such an intimate way.

[READ: May 10, 2016] Your Song Changed My Life

This site is all about music and books, but you may be surprised to know that I don’t really like books about music all that much.  I have read a number of them—biographies, autobiography or whatever, and I don’t love them wholesale. Some are fine, but in general musicians aren’t really as interesting as they may seem.

What I do like however, is hearing a decent interview with musicians to find out some details about them–something that will flesh out my interest in them or perhaps make me interested in someone I previously wasn’t.  Not a whole book, maybe just an article, I guess.

I also really like Bob Boilen. I think he’s a great advocate of music and new bands.  I have been listening to his shows on NPR for years and obvious I have been talking about hundreds of the Tiny Desk Concerts that he originated.  I also really like his taste in music.  So I was pretty psyched when Sarah got me this book for my birthday.

I read it really quickly–just devoured the whole thing.  And it was really enjoyable. (more…)

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moomin5  SOUNDTRACK: JAMES VINCENT McMORROW-Tiny Desk Concert #151 (August 25, 2011).

mcmorrowI don’t know McMorrow. He is an Irish singer who plays acoustic guitar.  His singing voice switches between a kind of raspy voice and a keening falsetto.

He plays four songs and his style and voice reminds me a lot of Bon Iver.

I don’t find any of his song especially compelling. They’re all nice–the humming part of “This Old Dark Machine” is pretty memorable.  As the part in the middle where he seems to get pretty intense.

“Sparrow And The Wolf” has some nice chord changes.  I think my favorite song is “Follow You Down To The Red Oak Tree,” which opens a little differently.

I have to say it’s a little awkward watching him up close as he does some pretty unusual things with his face when he sings.

The final song, “Red Dust” really shows off his falsetto.  I found his songs to be entirely pleasant and think they would sound great in a coffeeshop on a Sunday afternoon.

[READ: February 3, 2015] Moomin Volume 5

Moomin Book 5 is composed entirely of strips written by Lars and drawn by Tove.  These are the final strips that she contributed to.  And, as such, there are only three chapters in the book.  As with the others these stories originally ran in the Evening News, London 1953-1959.

The chapters are called “Moomin Winter” “Moomin Under Sail” and “Fuddler’s Courtship”

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SARAH SISKIND-Tiny Desk Concert #23 (July 27, 2009).

sarahsI don’t know much about Sarah Siskind.  She is a country-ish singer who seems to have gained some fame once Bon Iver started covering her song “Lovin’s for Fools.”  She tells a pretty interesting story about how he came to learn her song (by looping it–thereby missing out on the words to the second chorus.  And yes she did wonder why he didn’t play that chorus).

She plays three songs in this Concert. I like her guitar work, especially on the first song, “Falling Stars.”  But there’s something about either her voice or her delivery that I just don’t really like. I’ve listened a few times ow and I have grown to appreciate her style, but it’s just a matter of personal taste that I don’t really care for her.

Listen for yourself.

[READ: January 17, 2014] “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”

One thing that I like so much about Alice Munro is that her stories are so timeless.  This story was originally published in 1999 (wonder why they didn’t re-publish that first story which I wrote about yesterday), but there are no real indicators of when it was written.  (There are some clues to the time frame of the story, but it was clearly not set in the late 90s).

This is a straightforward but fairly complex story, with a lot of emotional heft.  A married couple, Grant and Fiona, have been together for a long time.  Fiona had always written notes to herself, but Grant sensed recently that the notes were becoming somewhat alarming.  Instead of books to read or appointments to keep, she was writing “cutlery” on the kitchen drawers. Then she started forgetting normal things–like how to drive home or that something which she thought had happened last year had actually happened 12 years ago. Not major problems, but causes for concern.

And so, Fiona was sent, at first temporarily, to Meadowlake.  And Grant was not to show up for the first month–they found that patients settled in better if they were not reminded of their house and old life.  After a month of wondering about her and thinking about her, Grant goes to Meadowlake, excited to see Fiona.  But when he arrives she is not in her room–the touching reuniting scene will not be enacted as he pictured.  And the nurse seems rather impatient with him when he asks where she is. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MR. DREAM-“Holy Name” (2011).

The cool site Bob Dylan Wrote Protest Songs created a Top 20 list of 2011 albums.  It was an interesting mix of stuff other people liked (PJ Harvey, St. Vincent, Bon Iver) and a whole bunch of stuff that I’d never heard of (like this band).

BDWPS explains that the two guys in Mr. Dream met in college and are music critics (with Pitchfork in common among their employers).  And we all reflexively gag at the thought of music critics making music. 

This song opens as a direct rip off of Nirvana’s “Lithium.”  I mean, it’s unavoidable–same quiet guitar playing virtually the same chords.  It infuritaed me.

But on a second listen, I heard the differences.  They are the same chords as “Lithium” except that the final chord in the sequence goes in a different direction, as does the rest of the song.  It’s rawer than Nirvana (at least than Nevermind), but it has the same feel and attitude.  Maybe with a hint of Slint thrown in. 

I was prepared to write this off as a Nirvana rip off, but of course, Nevermind is twenty years old.  I think their music is just part of punk consciousness now.  And it’s nice that Mr. Dream makes good use of it.  Raw and angry.  Very nice.  I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album.

[READ: December 30, 2011] “Max reviews the classics”

May-Kate and Ashley Olsen are a really really easy target, and I’m a little embarassed for Max that he went after them with this review, but it is still pretty funny (and it’s not like they can’t take it).  The “review” is not as fish-in-a-barrel as it might be. 

The introduction is funny: “Last night I took a break from re-reading Cryptonomicon to pick up a book roughly as long as one of its paragraphs: Sealed with a Kiss” (with links provided for each).

He is clearly setting out to mock the book, I mean how could he not.  But the things he points out are interesting not so much from a Kate and Ashley standpoint as from a book standpoint.  Indeed, he spends a lot of time on just the first sentence: “‘We’re going home to Chicago for only two weeks!’ Mary-Kate Burker told her sister Ashley.”  Max points out, “who, exactly reads the 20th book in the Mary-Kate and Ashley series without realizing they’re sisters?  …If you’re worried about readers that stupid, you probably need to point out that they’re twins too.”  That’s a little harsh to the series as, yes, it is obvious, but the series is clearly written for young kids, and frankly in terms of exposition, that’s pretty brief.

A more salient (and funnier observation): “I can’t help but wonder what percentage of Mary-Kate and Ashley books contain an excalamtion point in the first sentence.  I haven’t checked, but I get the feeling it’s a high number.”  Hilarious. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKS. CAREY-Live at Sasquatch Music Festival, May 29, 2011 (2011).

I learned about S. Carey through NPR.  S. Carey is the drummer for Bon Iver and he set out on his own playing these cool, atmospheric songs.  What I like best about them is that they feature the vibes.

The whole set has a cool, chilled out sound.  The vocals are slow and dream-like (I’m sure there are lyrics, but I don’t know them) and at times he sounds not unlike Dallas Green from City and Colour.

When Sean (he is the S.) Carey banters with the crowd, he’s very friendly and relaxed.  I especially like the anecdote about going to the Twin Peaks Cafe and hearing Audrey’s music from the show (which the band then plays).  The Twin Peaks sounds melds perfectly with their own sound, which should give you an idea of what the band sounds like.

The songs are about 4 or five minutes except for “Mothers” which tops out at over 8 minutes and actually gets pretty raucous by the end.  For this band it’s a wild song ending.  It’s a good set.  And the surprise cover of Björk’s “Unravel,” which melds perfectly with “All We Grow” is a nice treat.

I don’t know if I’d want to see them live (I like my shows a bit more uptempo) but it’s a great relaxing set.  Of course, having said that, the final track, “Leave” is the most conventional-sounding with a really catchy chorus and a somewhat faster pace.  It’s my favorite song of theirs.

[READ: July 13, 2011] “Homage to Hemingway”

Like the students in this story, I was initially put off by the title of this book because I have grown to dislike Hemingway (probably unfairly, more of a decades-long, knee-jerk reaction to him). But I’m glad I read it because of a couple of things.  One: it was a good story.  Two: it is actually an homage to one of Hemingway’s stories (called “Homage to Switzerland”) so it’s doubly meta-.

In “Homage to Switzerland,” there are three brief stories.  In each one an American man waits for a train in a Swiss station.  Each man follows the same basic trajectory in the story, meeting a waitress but having no real resolution.  Perhaps the men, even though they had different names, were maybe the same person.

Barnes’ story also has three parts, although it is pretty clear that the man is the same in each part, despite their different section titles.  In 1. The Novelist in the Countryside he helps students with their fiction (I rather like reading stories about fiction writing classes, as odd as that sounds). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KANYE WEST-My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010).

Before buying this album I really only knew of Kanye West as a loudmouthed guy who tweeted a lot and told off George Bush.  But then everyone was raving about this album (Pitchfork gave it a 10 out of 10!).  So I decided to check it out.  And I can’t get over how great an album it is.

Now I’m going to start this review by mentioning a few things I dislike about rap as a genre.  1) I dislike all of the “guests” that appear on a record–I bought the album because for you, not your friends.  2) I dislike excessive use of “unh” and “yeah” at the beginning of a track; when you have nothing to say–let the backing music flow, save your voice for actual words.  3) Rap is still terribly misogynist and vulgar–I’ve nothing against vulgarity per se (I do have something against misogyny) but excessive use is lazy, and it stands out much more in a rap song since you’re saying the words not singing them.

The Kanye West album is guilty of all three of these things, and yet I still think it’s fantastic.  The first reason is because it goes beyond a lot of rap by introducing real musical content into the songs.  This is not an “all rap is just a beatbox” dismissal of rap, it’s an observation that rap tends to be more about the lyrics and the musical accompaniment can get kind of lazy.  West’s songs have (beautiful) choruses, strings, and samples that augment the rest of the song, as opposed to samples that ARE the song.  And Kanye West’s voice is great.  His delivery is weird and twisted, a little cocky but more funny, with a twisted attitude that is really cool–and to my rather limited palate of rappers, it’s original.

The opening of the disc “Dark Fantasy” has a chorus singing “Can we get much higher” which is catchy and cool (and is used in the promo for The Hangover 2).  The switch from this opening to the rapping works well (aside from the FOUR “yea”s).  Although I don’t love the yeahs, I love his delivery, and that he occasionally ends lines with these weird “hunh” sounds, that are wonderfully emphatic.

The guests start showing up on track 2, but even the guests can’t detract from the excellent guitars of the song (and the cool solo). And I’ll say about the guests that I like some of them, but for the most part I’d rather hear Kanye.

“Power” samples King Crimson’s, “21st Century Schizoid Man”; anyone who samples King Crimson is alright with me.  But to use it so perfectly, to make it part of your song is real genius.  It works musically as well as within the overall concept of the album.

“All of the Lights” (with the pretty piano intro) features scads of guests including John Legend, The-Dream, Elly Jackson, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Elton John (!), and Rihanna.  I can hear some of these people but not Elton John (why would he agree to be on a track where you can’t even hear him?).  It is a beautiful pop track nevertheless.

“Monster” is a monster of tracks with yet more guests (I like that some of these guests break with the typical guest, like Bon Iver (!)).  And I really like Nicki Minaj’s verse.  [I’m not familiar with her work at all (in fact I keep wanting to say Minja instead of Minaj) but her verse with the wonderfully crazy vocal styling she displays is weird and cool and very powerful–I would like to check out her solo album, but the samples I heard weren’t that interesting].  It also has a great repeated chorus of being a “motherfucking monster.”

It’s followed by the even more catchy “So Appalled” (with FIVE guest rappers–some of whom I’ve never heard of but who do a good job.  I love Cyhi da Prince’s lyrics: “I am so outrageous, I wear my pride on my sleeve like a bracelet, if God had an iPod, I’d be on his playlist”  or  “So call my lady Rosa Parks/I am nothing like them niggas baby those are marks/I met this girl on Valentine’s Day/fucked her in May/she found out about April so she chose to March” or this line, “y’all just some major haters and some math minors.”

“Devil in a New Dress” opens with a bunch of “unhs” (which I dislike) but this is nice ballad in the midst of all of the noise (and it has some clever lyrics).  It morphs right into “Runaway” one of the more audacious singles I can think of.  The piano melody is so simple (a single note to start) and the lyrics show Kanye as a loser in relationships.  It’s a surprisingly thoughtful song for a song with a chorus that goes: “Lets have a toast for the douchebags, let’s have a toast for the asshole; a toast for the scumbags every one of them that I know.  You been putting up with my shit for way too long…runaway fast as you can.”  It gets even more audacious when you realize the last 4 minutes of the song are a solo with distorted voice.  And the video…the video is 35 minutes long!

The sentiment of that song is erased by the next one, “Hell of  a Life”.  It opens with a great distorted guitar riff and lyrics about sex with a porn star.   “Blame Game” is a surprisingly honest song about being nasty to your girlfriend (“I’d rather argue with you than be with someone else”).  It features a sample of Aphex Twin’s (!) “Avril 14th”.  And it’s quite a sad but lovely track.  It ends with a very long skit by Chris Rock.  I like Chris Rock, but this dialogue is kind of creepy because the woman who Rock is talking to (about the great sex she gave him) seems to be a robotic sample–why not have an actual woman talk to him?

The final track, “Lost in the World” has a lengthy intro by an auto-tuned Bon Iver.  It’s one of my favorite tracks on the disc, especially the end, where the processed vocals get even weirder but accent the beat wonderfully.  This track morphs into what is the actual final track, “Who Will Survive in America” which is basically a long recitation from Gil-Scot Heron.  It works great as an album closer.

So, despite several things I don’t like about the disc, overall, it’s really an amazing release.  And I can overlook the few things I dislike because the rest is so solid.  I can’t decide if it’s worth looking for his earlier releases.  How can they live up to this one?

[READ: May 6, 2011] McSweeney’s #37

This is the first McSweeney’s book where I’ve had to complain about the binding.  The glue peeled off pretty quickly from the center cover.  Fortunately, the back cover held up well.  I’m guessing it’s because there’s an extra book tucked into the front cover which prevents the book from closing nicely when it’s removed.

But aside from that, the design of the cover is very cool.  It is meant to look like a book (duh), but actually like a 3-D book, so the bottom right and top left corners are cut on diagonals (this makes for a very disconcerting-looking book inside–with triangles cut across the top).  The artwork inside is also cool.  In keeping with this appearance, each two page spread looks like a book with a spine drawing in the gutter of the pages).  And the bottom of each page has lines making it look like the bottom of a book.  (The illustrated margins are by SOPHIA CARA FRYDMAN and HENRY JAMES and there are interior paintings by JONATHAN RUNCIO).

The front matter is wonderful.  Although it gives the usual publishing information, the bulk of this small print section is devoted to counteracting all the claims that the book is dead.  It offers plenty of statistics to show that not only are the public reading, they are reading more than ever.  The introduction also goes a long way towards arguing against the idea that people are reading less now than in the past.  When was this “golden age” of readers?  There’s also the wonderfully encouraging news that 98% of American are considered literate.

This issue opens with letters. (more…)

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