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Archive for the ‘Broken Social Scene’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LA FORCE-Live at Massey Hall (June 15, 2018).

I’d never heard of La Force.  Turns out La Force is Ariel Engle, vocalist and newest member of Broken Social Scene.  In her pre-show interview she says something that concludes with “life’s a bitch and then you die,” which didn’t bode well, but her sound is interesting (if maybe too much saxophone).

The show starts with “Upside Down Wolf.”  I love the weird square guitar she plays (and the cool sound that comes from it).  There’s also an acoustic guitar, sax and drums.  The drums from Evan Tighe are really dynamic with some great unexpected rhythms (and electronics).

The blurb describes “You Amaze Me” as infectious.  It’s a more dancey song with lots of drum-triggered sounds.  The sax from David French works pretty well here because it adds to the swells of music that are triggered by the drums.  And when the sax does add a solo, it;s a nice deep sax, which is a nice change of sound.

“Lucky One” opens slowly with a great guitar sound–a slow intro that is accented wonderfully by the acoustic guitar (there seems to be a cool echo on Warren Spicer’s sliding his hand up and down the strings).

“The Tide” swings faster.  Both guitarists add some cool sounds while the drums shuffle quickly.  Before the next song she explains she got the name La Force from a tarot card.  The La Force card had a picture of a woman opening a lion’s mouth and she loved the idea of the power that represented.

“Can’t Take” is a moody, slow piece, with some cool lead guitar from Spicer while Engle plays a very pretty minor key melody.

“TBT” opens with a simple two note guitar riff (that’s quite infectious) and a cool tribal drum beat.  The end of the song is a wonderful jam of the guitar, sax and drums totally rocking out.  It’s my favorite moment of the show and a great end.

[READ: January 20, 2019] Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter

I get the feeling that this book may have been initially intended for an older audience and then they brought it down to be more family friendly.  Or maybe it feels more like a pilot episode than a confident story.  It just didn’t feel natural.

I enjoyed a lot of the book, but it felt forced in places.  Especially because Scarlett says all kinds of exclamations that seem odd–Leaping Lizards! or Gaskets! or Piston Heads!  I mean, she’s not a car person, so why would she scream car epithets?

I also didn’t love the darkness of the story.  I realize times are bleak, but the art doesn’t have to be.

The premise is that Scarlett Hart is a monster hunter (duh).  But by law, she is too young to fight monsters (not sure how old she is or what the age of consent is, but she is younger than it).  This seems like a strange law, but many laws are strange.  She has help, though, from her butler Napoleon White and his wife.  They also helped her parents fight monsters.

But her parents were killed several years ago while on the job.  She can’t get revenge against the monsters that killed them but she can become the best monster hunter she can be. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: EMILY HAINES AND THE SOFT SKELETON-Live at Massey Hall (December 5, 2017).

I really like Metric a lot.  They hit all the poppy sweet spots that I like with enough rough edges to keep them interesting.

I had heard a song from Haines’ Soft Skeleton album and really liked it–the bass line outstanding.  When this tour came to Philly I conisdered going but ultimately didn’t.  So I’m glad I get to see an abbreviated version of it here from Massey Hall.

This is also the final show (I assume) of the fifth season of Live at Massey Hall as the historic venue now undergoes two years of renovations!

Haines says that Massey Hall is the place that when you’re growing up on Neil Young that you dream of playing someday. She did two nights with metric in 2010 and now to do it solo is an incredible honor.

The show starts with chirping birds and Emily walking around the stage which looks made up like a bedroom.  She takes off her coat, puts on a dressing gown and a sleep mask and lays down on a “bed.”

An alarm goes off and when she shuts it off, a piano melody starts with backing vocals.  It’s the song “Planets,” and she lays down on the bed and sings the lyrics.  The pretty piano melody and swelling backing voices are lovely.  Then she brushes her teeth and a voice (hers?) starts talking to her.  What are you doing here?  Did you sleep at all?

What revelation are you after?  Do you want to go back or are you scared you never left?  This is an introduction to “Nihilist Abyss.”  For this song, she plays the piano and sings.  As the song ends the voice returns, calling “Emily” (echoing) “come back now its time to come back.  You’ve got to get dressed, you have to play a show tonight.  You booked a tour for some reason and you’re on it now….”

“Put on your jacket…”  She stomps around the stage as the rest of the band comes out–Jimmy Shaw, guitar; Sam Goldberg, bass; Justin Peroff, drums (all of whom were in Broken Social Scene, which Haines performed in as well).  She sits at the piano and a robotic voice introduces “Emily Haines and The Soft Skeleton.”

“Our Hell” has  thumping drums and bass as washes of guitars flood in while Haines plays piano and sings.   It’s a dramatic change from the first songs, but not as immediate or poppy as Metric.

“Detective Daughter” is interrupted by her saying that this record and band are a different state of mind than metric–challenging in a different way.  The music and her role is to push herself to the threshold of emotion without cracking.  “It’s raw strong and real.”  There’s more intense guitar from Shaw (who has worked with her on nearly everything she’s done).

“Minefield of Memory” has a scratchy guitar playing a rhythm with the drums, while “Legend of the Wild Horse” has the biggest chorus yet.

“Doctor Blind” has a woozy da da da da middle section along with the echoing distorted guitars.

The set ends with “Fatal Gift,” the song that I love from this album. It starts with a slow piano but after a few minutes the song gets bigger and louder and that bass line is just a knockout.  I don’t rally like the that she repeats over and over “you own it and it owns you,” as it takes away from the music.  But this section of the song is so good the music is intense and wonderful.

I’m not disappointed that i didn’t see this live, although it sounds like an interesting theatrical experience (the venue is usually standing but for this show seats were being sold).

Over the credits she comments that now “because of technology people can use algorithms to pander and give the people what they want a feeling of pandering.  But what I have to offer is a glimpse of someone attempting to access their authentic self.”

[READ: April 15, 2016] “The Five Wounds”

This story surprised me right from the outset with the line “This year Amadeo Padilla is Jesus.”  There’s a few ways that could be taken and I was wrong about all of them.  The closest I came was thinking that Amadeo was a boy in a school play.

But no, Amadeo is a 33 year old man and being Jesus is very real.

People in the village are saying that Amadeo is the best Jesus they’ve had in years.  People are lining up to peek through the chain link fence and watch Amadeo.  He has build his cross out of heavy oak, not pine, and he’s even thinking of adding more nails to make it heavier.

But whats so surpring is that Amdeo is pockmarked and bad-toothed and worse.  If you name the sin, he’s done it: gluttony, sloth, fucked a second cousin on the dark bleachers at the high school.

Amadeo is working so hard at his cross that he is sweating–typically he only ever sweats when he eats and drinks too much. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ZEUS-Live at Massey Hall (September 11, 2015).

I had never heard of the Canadian band Zeus.  They seem pretty well-known (and have since become the backing band for Jason Collett when he’s not doing Broken Social Scene).

The band has been active for nearly a decade, but have only released a couple of albums (it is mentioned during the set that they are working on new material, but that was three years ago).

They talk about the amazing sound in Massey Hall.

Massey Hall is the furthest from a giant gnarly arena you can get.  We’ve played places with similar capacity and similar sound but there is something different here.  It sound really good and clean.  Maybe I would be intimidated if I played on this stage but you remember that not just anybody gets to pay here–you get asked to play here. This takes some of the onus off of being intimidated–you feel important in here.

Carlin says, “You never wanna say you had a shitty show at Massey Hall.  But you can hear yourself really well here, maybe that’s why they are all so good.  There’s always legendary shows there.

Everyone in the band switches instruments throughout.  It’s hard to keep track of what everyone is doing.  The only one who doesn’t move is Mr Robert Anthony Drake on the drums.

“Come Home” starts with a Carlin Nicholson on bass and Mike O’Brien on the electric guitar.  They share a microphone and the harmonies.  Neil Quinn is on acoustic guitar off to the side. adding a third voice.  It’s a surprisingly short song.

“Where is My Love” has Neil, still on acoustic, singing lead with his deep voice and an occasional falsetto on certain notes.  This song is quiet for the beginning with just the acoustic guitar and keys before the rest of the band kicks in.  The song shifts gear and musically sounds like a slower Sloan song (whom they were paired with that night) but the vocals are quite different.  Mike has shifted to keys with Carlin still on bass.  Jason Haberman is also playing multiple instruments–he’s on guitar for this one.

“Miss My Friends” has a kind of funky, almost disco rhythm.  Carlin has switched to keyboards and Mike O’Brien is on bass where he sings lead vocals.  Neil Quinn plays electric guitar and c Habermans has switched to electronic percussion.

Carlin introduces the next song, “This goes back to the very first Zeus record, “I Know.”  It’s got Carlin on keys and lead vocals. Neil on bass, Mike on guitar and Haberman on acoustic guitar.  Carlin invited people to sing is they know it but I can’t hear of anyone does.

Neil shifts to a pretty melody on the keys with a gorgeous intertwining melody from Mike.  It’s a great opening to “Heavy on Me.”  There’s cool 70’s sounding keyboards and a great bass rumble.  There’s a lot of quieter moments where the bass is all there is and the riff is cool and slinky.  The song ends with great jamming session with a noisy rocking guitar solo and heavy drums.

After the applause, Neil says, “Thank you.  This is just what this band needs right now–a house fill of love like this.”

“Air I Walk” has a shuffling beat with (questionable) electronic percussion hits.  Carlin back  bass with Neil on acoustic guitars and lead vocals.  It sound kind of mid 8os Dire Straits

“Throwdown” doesn’t sound like a throw down as it opens.  There’s quiet guitars and gentle vocals from Mike.  But it gets really big by the middle and sounds like a non-synthy 80s classic rock songs.

The show ends with “Are You Gonna Waste My Time.”  Just like the opening, Neil is on guitar and vocals, Mike plays a great lead guitar and Carlin is on bass.

I really enjoyed this set quite a lot.  Zeus is a little soft rock for my tastes, but their musicianship and songwriting is top notch.

[READ: May 21, 2018] “Seven Years of Identity Theft”

Rick Moody had his identity stolen.  We all hear about this happening, but he really shows you how much of a real pain in the ass it is.  It’s not just a matter of getting new credit cards.

This essay is written as a series of letters.

The first letter is to the Most Honorable President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari.  He writes of leaving his bank card in an ATM in Macon, Georgia and that’s when he assumes it all started–the theft of his identity–back in 2011.

A week later his replacement card was rejected and ultimately deactivated due to fraudulent transactions. (more…)

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dtmaxSOUNDTRACK: TOM WAITS & KEITH RICHARDS-“Shenandoah” (2013).

roguesgallery-f8be47f3887d51de57ea842a129f0a722e53ef74-s1This tune comes from the album Son Of Rogues Gallery.  The album is, of all things, a sequel to the album Rogues Gallery.  The full title is Son Of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys.  The first album was a kind of novelty–I can’t even say novelty hit as I don;t know if it was.  But it must have had some success because here’s a second one (and there’s no Pirates of the Caribbean movie to tie it to).

The album has 36 songs (!) by a delightful collection of artists, including: Shane MacGowan, Nick Cave, Macy Gray, Broken Social Scene, Richard Thompson, Michael Gira and Mary Margaret O’Hara (among many others).  I enjoyed the first one, but I think the line up on this one is even better.

“Shenandoah” is not a song that I particulalry like.  Because it is traditional, I have a few people doing versions of it, but I don’t gravitate twoards it–it’s a little slow and meandering (like the river I guess) for me. And this version is not much different.  What it does have going for it is Waits’ crazed warbling along with even crazier backing viclas from Keith Richards (there;s no guitar on the track).

[READ: January 7, 2012] Every Love Story is a Ghost Story

I had mixed feelings about reading this biography.  I’m a huge fan of David Foster Wallace, but I often find it simply disappointing to read about people you like.  And yet, DFW was such an interesting mind, that it seemed worthwhile to find out more about him. Plus, I’ve read everything by the guy, and a lot of things about him…realistically it’s not like I wasn’t going to read this.  I think I was afraid of being seriously bummed out.  So Sarah got me this for Christmas and I really really enjoyed reading it.

Now I didn’t know a ton about DFW going into this book–I knew basics and I had read a ton of interviews, but he never talked a lot about himself, it was predominantly about his work.  So if I say that Max is correct and did his research, I say it from the point of someone full of ignorance and because it seems comprehensive.  I’m not claiming that he was right just that he was convincing.  And Max is very convincing.  And he really did his research.

It’s also convenient that DFW wrote a lot of letters–Max has a ton of letters to quote from.  And DFW wrote to all kinds of people–friends, fellow authors  girlfriends, colleagues….  Aside from old friends, his two main correspondents were Don DeLillo, whom he thought of as a kind of mentor, and Jonathan Franzen, whom he considered one of his best friends and rivals.  I guess we can also be thankful that these recipients held on to the letters. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ESMERINE-La Lechuza [CST080] (2011).

This album is a wonderful surprise.  I had not heard of Esmerine before this CD (they have put out two previous records on a different label).  All I knew about them was that violinist Becky Foon (who is all over the Montreal scene and who is really good) was one of the founders of this band.  So I expected some epic instrumentals ala all of the Constellation Recordings bands that she has played with (Godspeed, Silver Mt Zion, etc).

I was delighted by the opening fast marimba notes of “A Dog River”.  I’m not sure if the marimba can play minor key notes, but the melody that co-founder Bruce Cawdron plays is uplifting and mesmerizing.  When Becky adds her strings, it takes on a new element–a kind of wistfulness.  Then at nearly 3/4 of the way in, some loud guitars come in to give the whole song a feeling of urgency.  And all the while it is very filmic.  It’s a wonderful opening.  “Walking Through Mist” is a much slower piece, and the marimba adds contextual pacing–they’re still not minor key or sad marimba notes, but they are not as uplifting as on the first track.  “Last Waltz” introduces a vibrato’s piano as the primary instrument.  It is at once unsettling.   It’s also the first of three songs with vocals.  The vocals work well on this song–they fit the mood perfectly–especially the wordless singing at around 4 minutes.  But I have to admit that I like the instrumentals better.  The same can be said for “Snow Day for Lhasa” (another song with vocals) which I find a little too slow to be impactful (it actually reminds me of a very slow version of Broken Social Scene’s “Lover’s Spit”).

“Trampolin” introduces a harp and some vibrant percussion.  It’s uplifting and feels like a perfect song for a theatrical dance company to perform to.  “Sprouts” is an uplifting new-agey sounding track.  By itself it might veer uncomfortably into the new age scene, but amidst the songs of the album it works very well.  “Little Streams Make Big Rivers” returns to that slower sound from earlier.  But this song is short and feels like a slow building march.  By the half way mark when the drums kick in, the song is unstoppable.  The album proper ends with “Au Crépuscule, Sans Laisse” a slow filmic song that returns the album to the quiet sound it was toying with earlier.

I mentioned Lhasa earlier.  Lhasa was a Canadian singer who had international fame (from my own experience, I know that X-Files creator Chris Carter wanted to go see her live–I know this because I was friends with his assistant and she told me the tale of trying to find tickets for this show).  I checked out her stuff but it wasn’t for me.  Anyhow, Beckie and Bruce were supposed to tour with Lhasa for her 2010 album, but sadly, she died of breast cancer (at 37, Jesus), right after the album came out.  So this album is dedicated to her.  The final song “Fish on Land” is a previously unreleased version of a Lhasa song that was made with Bruce and Beckie.  I wish I liked it more, but as I said, she’s not my thing.

I absolutely love the instrumentals on this album and I’m going to have to check out their earlier releases, too.

[READ: May 24, 2012] “Referential”

This story is like a kick to the stomach.  When you’re lying on the floor.  After you’ve thrown up.  And I mean that as very high praise indeed.

You know you’re in for trouble when the story opens: “For the third time in three years, they talked about what would be a suitable gift for her deranged son.”  We quickly learn that the woman’s son was fine until he was about twelve years old when he stopped brushing his teeth and began muttering to himself.  By then Pete had been dating the woman for about six years.

Pete and the woman had been coping with her son’s placement in the institution for over three years now.  There were so many rules they had to follow when visiting the boy–almost nothing could be brought in for fear of its being used as a weapon–even the homemade jam was taken because it was in glass.  Similarly, the woman has stopped wearing accessories, as a kind of solidarity–she would just have to remove them anyway.  She is now aging naturally and (she fears/admits) not very prettily.  An amazing slap in the face comes at the end of the first section with this amazing sentence:  “‘To me, you always look so beautiful,’ Pete no longer said.”  [Ouch!].

Pete has lost his job and is clearly unable to handle the strain of her son any longer (there’s a wonderfully painful scene where the boy asks Pete why he hasn’t come to visit lately). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE-“Complications” from Score! 20 Years of Merge Records: The Covers (2009).

I liked Broken Social Scene’s first album quite a lot.  This is their cover of a song by The Clean.  I know of The Clean from the Topless Women Talk about Their Lives soundtrack although not this particular song.  (What’s with all these New Zealand bands being on Merge?)  I found the original song online.  Interestingly, the original version is only 2 minutes long.  But Broken Social Scene always does things by double, so their version is 4 minutes long.

The cover version opens with a young person saying “This song was written before ‘Born to Run,'” although as far as I can tell “Complications” was written in 2001. So who knows.

The cover is a fuzzy, ramshackle mess of a song, which is not to say that it isn’t good (the original is kind of ramshackle, too).  The prominent melody doesn’t exactly remind me of “Born to Run” but I can see the connection.  The big question is, what does BSS do with the extra two minutes?  Well, mostly they jam, with some wild soloing–but it’s all mixed just under the fuzz of the noise.

This is another strangely faithful cover (5 in a row so far) for this covers album.  And once again, I think I like the cover a little better.

[READ: April 1, 2012] “Once an Empire”

Clearly I wasn’t reading every story that came in Harper’s back in 2010, because I know I skipped this one.  But now that I’m quite fond of Rivka Galchen, I decided it was time to go back and check it out.

How can you not like a story that starts out: “I’m a pretty normal woman, maybe even an extremely normal one.”  You know that normal things will not be afoot by the end of the story, right?  And so it is, by the second paragraph: “I never thought I’d be the victim of an especially unusual crime.  Or of any crime, really.”

You’re totally hooked, right? Me too!

The narrator takes her wonderfully sweet time getting to the crime: dithering over whether or not it was Tuesday night (“Every Tuesday night I go and see whatever is playing at the movie theater nearby.  I’m not choosy.  I’m happy to see what everyone else is going to see.”) or Wednesday morning. Talking about the giant clock/thermometer on the Jehovah’s Witness Watchtower that keeps her company.  And then describing her walk home.

She notices that her windows are dark–she always leaves her lights on.  And then, she notices that some thing–not something, some thing–is emerging from one of her windows.  And as she focuses, she realizes it is her ironing board. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE-World Cafe March 2, 2006 (2006).

Broken Social Scene played at the World Cafe not long after their release of Broken Social Scene (their 3rd album).  This download is primarily an interview between World Cafe’s David Dye and BSS’s Kevin Drew & Brendan Canning, but there’s also three songs that the band played for the session (it’s impossible to know how many songs they played in total, because the songs were recorded prior to the interview–I’m not even sure how many members played live as they were never introduced.)

The songs sound interesting in this recording.  I haven’t listened to the album in a long time, so I don’t recall if these versions sound like the disc; however, these three tracks are fascinating for how quiet they seem to be, despite the fact that there are so many people in the session.  “Something for the Holidays” has at least one violin, a horn section, guitars and several vocalists, and yet it’s rather quiet.  Not mixed quiet mind you, but like everybody is whispering (even the horns).  It makes for an amazingly intimate session.

“Major Label Debut” is a bit more stripped down, but there are clearly a lot of people playing.  The final track, “Ibi Dreams of Pavement” really sounds like a Pavement song in the beginning.  The slightly out of tune violins work perfectly, and whoever is singing has a Stephen Malkmus thing down quite well.

The interview is fascinating (and quite lengthy).  They discuss the origins of the band, how fifteen people can play and tour together and the amazing success that so many of the individuals of the band have had (Feist, Metric etc).  There’s also an explanation about the origin of the title and the sounds of “Ibi Dreams of Pavement.”

It’s a good session and is certainly going to get me to listen to their discs again.

[READ: April 4, 2011] “The Counterpart”

This bizarre story can certainly be called Kafkaesque, if for no other reason than that the narrator, Aleksey, wakes up from a night of drinking to find out that his nose is gone.  Not torn off, not bloody, not broken, just gone.  His face is now flat with two holes for breathing.

This bizarre incident no doubt stems from his childhood hatred of his large Semitic nose (despite his being a Christian) and the years of abuse he received about it.  First he thinks his lover, Tatiana, is somehow responsible.  But when she comes over she is just as surprised as he.  Nevertheless, she is insistent that he must carry on as normal, for he must improve his lot (and thereby hers).

Because Aleksey is not faring so well (nose aside).  He has not been given tenure, his wife and child have left him and he is stuck translating poor Russian works into English.  Tatiana has set up a job interview for him and the interview is today.  But how can he go with no nose? (more…)

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