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Archive for the ‘David Bowie’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PHOEBE BRIDGERS-“Smoke Signals” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 22, 2017).

Bridgers’ “Smoke Signals” is a beautiful haunting song that reminds me a little of Liz Phair in her delivery.  I had heard this song before and really liked it–I especially loved the arrangement, which had echoing guitars that reminded me of Twin Peaks.

“For this Tiny Desk, Bridgers and percussionist Marshall Vore came to Bob Boilen’s hotel room just before midnight to play the striking ‘Smoke Signals.'”  The music is great with Bridgers’ open chords, and Vore’s suitcase percussion, children’s toy bells and vocal harmony.  The cho and vibe are removed in this version which means you must really listen to the words–which are pretty intense.

I like how she talks about musicians in such an interesting way:

Singing ‘Ace of Spades’ when Lemmy died / nothing’s changed LA’s alright

and then later

Its been on my mind since Bowie died/ just checking out to hide from life

The toy bells and harmonies are a really nice touch, but again, it’s those lyrics:

I went with you up to
The place you grew up in
We spent a week in the cold
Just long enough to
“Walden” it with you
Any longer, it would have got old

This song is a little too slow for my preferences, but it’s very beautiful. I’d like to hear more from her.

[READ: February 5, 2016] The Good Neighbors: Kin

This book was on the new shelf at my library.  And since I like Black and Naifeh I was grabbed it.  Then I saw that it actually came out in 2008. Whatever.

It also turns out that my library has book two of this trilogy but neither had book 3 (which came out in 2010).  What gives?

Holly Black is best known (by me anyway) as having written The Spiderwick Chronicles.

This story is actually a YA graphic novel and it definitely skews older.  But like Spiderwick, it deals with a normally unseen world coming into contact with out own. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DONNY McCASLIN-Tiny Desk Concert #589 (January 9, 2017).

Donny McCaslin’s band was responsible for the jazzy music that propelled David Bowie’s final album.  As the Tiny Desk blurb says:

David Bowie had long wanted to make a record with a jazz band, and on Jan. 8 of last year, he realized his dream with the release of Blackstar. Two days later, he was gone. Donny McCaslin’s band helped him make that record, and now, a year later, we pay tribute to Bowie and Blackstar by bringing McCaslin’s band

As a bandleader and sax player, [McCaslin’s] put out a dozen albums, the most recent of which is Beyond Now, with musicians Tim Lefebvre on bass, drummer Mark Guiliana and keyboardist Jason Lindner.

Beyond Now was recorded after Blackstar, features a few Bowie covers and stretches the band’s own usual boundaries. For this Tiny Desk concert, you can hear an extraordinary group playing extraordinary music — including an instrumental version of “Lazarus,” from Blackstar.

The band plays three pieces.  “Shake Loose” is 7 and a half minutes.  The music is great behind the sax—dramatic and interesting.  I think I just don’t care for the sound of saxophones as much these days, because I love the bass thumping and the great sounds from the keys but the soloing doesn’t excite me.  I love in the middle of the song that there are really cool spacey sound on the keys.   And the whole middle section where it’s the keys playing weirdo stuff and the drums keeping a groovy jazz beat–that’s awesome.

So I may be the only person in America who has not heard the whole of Blackstar.  I actually don’t even really like the one song I did hear (I don’t care for the jazzy parts).  So I can’t compare this six-minute instrumental version to the original of “Lazarus.”  I love that the keyboard is playing a very convincing grungy guitar sound.  I’m not sure if the sax is doing a vocal line or just playing around, but I love the music for this song a lot.

“Glory” is about the glory of the creation of the beautiful world that we live in “that will hopefully be intact as we move forward.”  This is an 11 minute song with all kinds of great swirling keyboard sounds.  I really like this song—the bass and keys together are great.  And either I’ve grown more used to the sax or its mixed a little lower, but it works so much better with the music.  About three minutes in there’s a lengthy trippy mid-70s Pink Floyd echoing synth solo.  Which is pretty cool.  So overall, I really enjoyed this set.  And maybe I need to go give Blackstar a listen.

[READ: March 25, 2016] Around

I really enjoyed Phelan’s Bluffton.  The story was interesting and I really enjoyed Phelan’s artwork–subtle with delicate coloring and very thin, expressive lines.

This book also contains Phelan’ wonderful artwork and the story (or stories) are also really interesting.  For this is a book about three remarkable journeys around the world.

Phelan gives a fictionalized (but accurate) history of the adventures of Thomas Stevens (Wheelman in 1884), Nellie Bly (Girl Reporter 1889) and Joshua Slocum (Mariner 1895).

I hadn’t heard of the two men and I found their stories quiet fascinating.  I knew of Bly’s journey but I didn’t know all of the details and I found it equally interesting. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 4, 2017] The Flaming Lips

I saw The Flaming Lips back in 2015 and I was thrilled at how much bigger their show had become since 2000 when I saw them the first time.  When I saw they were touring again for their new album and were playing The Fillmore, I knew that I had to see them again, and this time I needed Sarah to experience the show with me.  She doesn’t know their music very well (she liked a couple of songs and actively disliked a number of them (mostly their noisy covers)–but I knew they wouldn’t play those).  I couldn’t stop talking about that previous show, so I think her expectations were pretty high.  And she told me they did not disappoint.

Having clipping. as the opening band was unusual because if there was ever a show I couldn’t imagine Sarah at it would be a loud, screechy vulgar hip hop band.  But it served as a palate cleanser for The Flaming Lips.

I noticed that they added even more stuff to the previous set, but it was weird that they have all of this great stuff on stage, but then they tend to obscure it as well.  Between the lights in front of the stage (how weird to see all those lights dangling in front of the performers) and the fog machines, sometimes you couldn’t even see the cool stuff going on.  But it was all part of the sensory overload of the show.

Before the show started, Wayne and some of the other guys came out and checked some things. Its was funny to see Wayne walk out on stage and wave to us.  He even shot some hand-held confetti cannons at us.  But then they went back stage and it took another fifteen or so minutes for them to start.

In front of the stage were all of the strands hanging down.  It was impossible to know what they were, until the music started and we saw that they were light strands.  And as the music swelled, Wayne conducted the lights and the music.  It was very cool. (more…)

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lumberhjanes2 SOUNDTRACK: DIANE COFFEE-Tiny Desk Concert #483 (November 2, 2015).

dianeI first heard of Diane Coffee from NPR.  The band’s song “Spring Breathes” is bizarre and wonderful–simultaneously difficult and catchy.  I was especially excited to see them play at XPNFest, but sadly we arrived just as they finished up and I missed my opportunity to see singer Shaun Fleming all glammed up (in a sailor suit).

This Tiny Desk Concert is a bit more mellow (and acoustic), but it is hardly Tiny as there is a string trio, a drummer and a guitarist.  As well as a bassist and keyboardist in addition to Shaun Fleming with acoustic guitar and vocals (and blue eye shadow).  Fleming was the drummer in Foxygen and does a lot of voice over work.

“Spring Breathes” is not as dramatic as on the record (which has some cool electronic drops and changes of tempo). But it sounds great with the strings (I love the pizzicato parts).  This version also has a very glam-era David Bowie feel.  Fleming’s voice is great–powerful and full, completely unaffected and spot on (the part where he sings the descending riff near the end of the song is fabulous).  And the harmonies are all perfect, very 1970s.  The song retains its several parts (I love when the song shifts to a quick funky bass section) and the band handles it perfectly.

“Not That Easy” is a mellow song with Fleming singing primarily in a gentle falsetto.  It’s a fairly simple song but the joint guitar solos are really beautiful.

For something a little more upbeat, they play “Mayflower.”  Fleming doesn’t play guitar on this one, but he dances around (rather like Mick Jagger).  He is wonderfully flamboyant both in motion and in singing (he’s got a cool raspy 1970s singing style for this song). And again the harmonies are great.

He is quite out of breath after this song, which is funny. They are going to play one from their first album, a song called “Green.”   His voice sounds particularly familiar on this one–I’m thinking like when Jon Bon Jovi really belts out his lyrics–and it’s just perfect for the song.

Fleming has a charming persona.  I really enjoyed this acoustic version and I’m glad to hear that he can convert the studio magic into a live setting.

[READ: March 22, 2016] Lumberjanes 2

I love the premise behind Lumberjanes.  The Lumberjanes are a kind of Girl Scout/Wilderness Adventure group.  They have been around for a long time and the Janes must follow the manual to achieve their various badges.  I love the way the book is set up around an “actual” field manual from 1984 (tenth edition) which has been:

Prepared for the Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for [written in] HARDCORE LADY-TYPES.

I was really excited to read this second volume since I loved the first one so much.  But I was a little disappointed by this one.

I feel like we could have used a short reminder of who all the girls were–there were a couple who I couldn’t tell apart [I know if you’re reading the issues as they come out that’s not a problem, but how much work can it be for collected volumes?].

What I didn’t like was the way the story went in a totally unexpected direction.

It started promising enough with the girls’ counselor being shocked and afraid after the recent supernatural events. She wants them to just stay around the cabins and make friendship bracelets to get the Friendship to the Craft badge. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 16, 2016] Jane’s Addiction

2016-07-16 21.49.18When Jane’s Addiction came out back in the late 1980s, I loved them.  Nothing’s Shocking was my favorite album for a few years and Ritual de lo Habitual was a close second.  There was something about their sense of sleazy and weirdly catchy songs that I totally gravitated towards. I probably should have gone to Lollapalloza that year, but I didn’t.

But then I moved past them.  When they released Strays back in 2003, I didn’t even give it a listen.  Same with The Great Escape Artist in 2011.  I just didn’t care all that much.  I’d also gotten a little overexposed to Dave Navarro and his exploits over the next decade.

And while I was interested in seeing them–especially since they were doing Ritual in its entirety, I was much more excited to see Dinosaur Jr.

But wow, was I impressed by their show.  The most impressive thing for me was the sound quality.  Whether that is chalked up to the venue (I doubt it–outdoor venues aren’t usually that good) or the way they mixed it (more likely), I couldn’t get over how great the band fit together–it sounded like the album (not like it was prerecorded or anything, just really full).  And most of the applause goes to Navarro. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 15, 2016] Blue Öyster Cult

2016-01-16 23.20.39I first got into Blue Öyster Cult in 1981 with “Burnin’ for You” (yep, I knew that before “Don’t Fear the Reaper”).  Fire of Unknown Origin was my favorite album for years.  When I got to college, I met my friend Nick when I drew the Blue Öyster Cult logo on my notebook and he saw it.  And then I found out that my neighbor Glen was the biggest Blue Öyster Cult fan, possibly ever.

He has seen them play a bunch of times, but for some reason I never went.  And that is my one major regret after seeing them–I wish I had seen them before when the whole band was together and when they were 20 years younger.  For while they did not disappoint, they weren’t quite up to the standards I had imagined.

The week before the show I listened to their whole catalog and imagined an ideal setlist–deep cuts and weird songs.  But honestly, they could have played any of their songs and it would have been great.

And I loved that they played a sampling of songs from throughout their career. (more…)

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borgesSOUNDTRACK: SEU JORGE-Tiny Desk Concert #79 (September 13, 2010).

seuSeu Jorge was the melancholy singer in Wes Anderson’s movie The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. He sang the David Bowie songs and was amazingly soulful and brought a completely unexpected quality to the Bowie songs.

He plays these five songs with his band Almaz.  For reasons unclear to me only one of the songs is on the video, but the other four are available in audio format.

He sings three songs in Portuguese, and his voice is husky and passionate, so even if you don’t know what he’s singing about, you can feel the emotion.

The first song in English “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” has a cool trippy 70s vibe, with some cool keyboards.  Although I don’t love his version of “Rock with You” which I imagine was super fun to sing, but it’s so different from the Michael Jackson version that it’s hard to reconcile the tow.

  • Cirandar” (Audio Only)
  • “Saudosa Bahia” (Audio Only)
  • “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” (Audio Only)
  • “Pai Joao”
  • “Rock With You” (Audio Only)

[READ: October 19, 2015] The Last Interview and Other Conversations

I have never really read any Borges (a piece here and there sure, but I have his Collected Fictions waiting for me and just haven’t gotten to it. However, when I saw this book at work I decided to give it a read. I have very much enjoyed the other books in The Last Interview series (there are ten and I have read four) so I thought I’d like this too, and I did.

Borges is a fascinating individual. He was legally blind from a youngish age and was completely blind by the time of the last interview. He was humble (but not exactly humble—he genuinely didn’t think he was that great of an author). He was a pacifist (remaining neutral even in WWII) and basically spent his whole life immersed in books.

This book contains three interviews

“Original Mythology” by Richard Burgin (from Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges, 1968)

“Borges and I” by Daniel Bourne, Stephen Cape, Charles Silver (Artful Dodger 1980)

“The Last Interview” by Gloria Lopez Lecube (La Isla FM Radio, Argentina, 1985) [translated by Kit Maude] (more…)

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