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Archive for the ‘Death Cab For Cutie’ Category

manner SOUNDTRACK: BEN GIBBARD-Tiny Desk Concert #251 (November 19, 2012).

benBen Gibbard is the voice of Death Cab for Cutie.  His voice is instantly recognizable and his melodies are surprisingly catchy.

This Tiny Desk Concert (they say it’s number 250, but I count 251) is just him and his acoustic guitar.  I didn’t know he did solo work, but apparently he does (in addition to being in The Postal Service and All-Time Quarterback).

Gibbard just released a solo album, Former Lives, which he’s said is a repository for material that didn’t work as Death Cab for Cutie songs; from that record, only “Teardrop Windows” pops up in his Tiny Desk Concert. For the rest, he draws from Death Cab’s most recent album (“St. Peter’s Cathedral,” from Codes and Keys) and, of all places, last year’s Arthur soundtrack (“When the Sun Goes Down on Your Street”).

As mentioned he plays three songs and his voice is so warm and familiar I felt like I knew these songs even if I didn’t.

I knew “St. Peter’s Cathedral.” It is a lovely song with very little in the way of chord changes.  But the melody is gentle and pretty.  And the song appears to be entirely about this church.  Which is interesting because the second song is also about a building in Seattle.  “Teardrop Windows” is a surprisingly sad song about an inanimate object.  It’s written from the building’s point of view as he mourns that no one uses him anymore.  And such beautiful lyrics too:

Once built in boast as the tallest on the coast he was once the city’s only toast / In old postcards was positioned as the star, he was looked up to with fond regard / But in 1962 the Needle made its big debut and everybody forgot what it outgrew

The final song “When the Sun Goes Down on Your Street” was indeed for the Russel Brand movie Arthur.  Somehow I can’t picture those two together.  It’s a lovely song, too.

I prefer Gibbard’s more upbeat and fleshed out music, but it’s great to hear him stripped down as well.

[READ: January 2017] “My Writing Education: A Time Line,” “The Bravery of E.L. Doctorow,” “Remembering Updike,” and “Offloading for Mrs. Schwartz” 

I had been planning to have my entire month of February dedicated to children’s books.  I have a whole bunch that I read last year and never had an opportunity to post them.  So I thought why not make February all about children’s books.  But there is just too much bullshit going on in our country right now–so much hatred and ugliness–that I felt like I had to get this post full of good vibes out there before I fall completely into bad feelings myself. It;s important to show that adults can be kind and loving, despite what our leaders demonstrate.  Fortunately most children’s books are all about that too, so the them holds for February.

George Saunders is a wonderful writer, but he is also a very kind human being.  Despite his oftentimes funny, sarcastic humor, he is a great humanitarian and is always very generous with praise where it is warranted.

The other day I mentioned an interview with Saunders at the New York Times.  Amid a lot of talk with and about Saunders, there is this gem:

Junot Díaz described the Saunders’s effect to me this way: “There’s no one who has a better eye for the absurd and dehumanizing parameters of our current culture of capital. But then the other side is how the cool rigor of his fiction is counterbalanced by this enormous compassion. Just how capacious his moral vision is sometimes gets lost, because few people cut as hard or deep as Saunders does.”

These first three pieces are all examples of his love and respect for other writers–both for their skill and for their generosity.

“My Writing Education: A Time Line”

“My Writing Education” comes from a book called A Manner of Being: Writers on Their Mentors.  Saunders’ mentor was Tobias Wolff.  And for this essay, his admiration takes the form of a diary.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 26, 20162016-10-26-19-47-23] The Monkees

Like most people of my age I used to watch The Monkees on TV.  I was never a huge fan, but I liked the show a bunch and used to sing the theme (and pretend to be The Monkees when at the beach).  But I never really gave them much thought as a musical act (especially when I got older and learned that *gasp* they didn’t even play on the songs!).

Then I learned that there are some people who really really like The Monkees.  My college roommate was a huge fan, and a fellow I’ve met through another friend is an even bigger one–Craig, good luck on that book, man!  I also found out that Sarah and her fried Joanna used to watch the show all the time and were mega Monkees fans (without the album buying).

So when the band announced their 50th (FIFTIETH!) Anniversary tour, I thought it would be fun to go and thought Sarah would really enjoy it.  Sarah saw them on a previous anniversary tour (25, maybe?), where Peter, Micky and Davy were presence (Mike doesn’t typically do this sort of thing).  Of course, with Davy passed on, we wondered just how much of a Monkees show this would be.

Well, I never realized that Mickey sang most of the songs.  It makes sense now that I think of it, he is the voice of the Monkees after all, but I’d assumed it was a bit more democratic.  So as long as Mickey’s there it is still a Monkees gig.  Having Peter there lends it some credibility (Mike did perform a couple of shows when the tour went through California). (more…)

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silentSOUNDTRACK: HOSPITAL SHIPS-Tiny Desk Concert #177 (November 23, 2011).

hospital shipsHospital Ships is a band created by Jordan Geiger, who was in the band Shearwater, among others. In 2011 he released his second album as Hospital Ships.  The blurb describes the album as “packed with poppy folk songs and brash rockers enhanced with instrumental flourishes and bursts of guitar feedback,” but for this recording, they strip everything down to the basics: a guitar, banjo, ukulele and a drum with a towel over it to muffle the sound.

Geiger has a rather high-pitched, delicate, almost talking-singing voice and his songs are rather pretty.  The band plays 3 songs in just over ten minutes.  The first one, “Phantom Limb,” (once my lover, now my friend, you are my phantom limb) has a recurring motif of them saying/singing “ha ha” which is rather catchy.

“Carry On,” features a four-letter word (technically a seven letter word), which might be one of the first times on a Tiny Desk Concert that such a word is uttered.  It’s especially funny given how sweet the band sounds.  The sentiment of the song is nice though: “To all the women I’ve loved, When I was with you I would say I was better off….  And when I’m gone, carry on, carry on.”  There were harmonies in the first song, but they are more prominent in this one (three part) and are quite nice.  The banjo player also does a whistling solo.

“Let Me In” made me laugh because he uses the word baby a lot (which Ben Folds said in his Tiny Desk that he has never said in real life, so why would he put in it a song?).  But this song is very gentle and sweet–just Geiger on his guitar singing “baby, let me in.”

Geiger’s voice reminds me of a few different people–Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie especially on the final track; perhaps the Mountain Goats or the Weakerthans.  And his songwriting is very good.

[READ: December 26, 2015] Silent But Deadly

I really enjoyed the first Liō collection, and was pretty excited that I could find the second collection so quickly (my library doesn’t have any more collections for some reason, so I’ll have to track the rest down elsewhere).  This book collects the strips from February 25, 2007 – December 2, 2007.

Not much has changed from that book to this one, but I think Tatulli’s comic chops have gotten even better.

The strip won me over immediately with the first one in the book. Lio draws a monster and it comes to life.  He looks at the marker and it says “magic marker” and he gets a big grin and goes back to work.  So simple yet so funny.

It is that big grin–wide open-mouthed just unfettered mischievous delight that occurs in nearly every strip. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 10, 2015] Real Estate

2015-06-10 20.21.42We ordered tickets for Belle and Sebastian months and months ago (probably back in April before Sarah’s birthday).  We had no idea a) they would be playing in Philly as well and b) who the opening act would be.

In Philly the opener was Lucius, a band I like a bit, and who are quite dancey.  But at Radio City, the opener was Real Estate, a jangly pop band who I like better.

Real Estate’s previous album was selected on many 2011 best of lists.  Their new album I think may not be quite as catchy, but it has the same summery vibe.  (And the cover of the new album, Atlas, features Stefan Knapp’s mural that was on Alexander’s department store in Paramus–Real Estate are from Ridgewood, New Jersey, you see). (more…)

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5dials32SOUNDTRACK: DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE-Tiny Desk Concert #430 (April 6, 2015).

dcfcIt’s hard for me to believe that Death Cab for Cutie had not been on a Tiny Desk Concert before.  But they are here at last.  Well, three of them anyhow.  It’s simply Ben Gibbard (of course) on vocals, Nick Harmer on bass, and Zac Rae on piano (now that Chris Walla has left).  And what makes this concert so special is that all 4 songs are played on piano–there’s no guitar at all.  It gives all of these songs (familiar and new) a much starker feel.  Not better, but very different.

There are two new song from Kintsugi, “Black Sun,” and “No Room In Frame” which sound so much like Death Cab for Cutie (probably because of Gibbard’s voice), that they fit in perfectly with the other two songs. “Your Heart Is An Empty Room” from Plans and “Passenger Seat” from Transatlanticism.

It’s a little uncomfortable watching Gibbard sing close ups with his eyes closed, but he sounds right on.  He says some nice words about NPR (a station they actually listen to for news) and he gets a nice round of applause when they say they’ll do a fourth song.  And Gibbard can even hit those high notes in this quiet setting.  This is a must hear for any fan of the band.

[READ: April 2, 2015] Five Dials 32

Issue Number 32 is a thematic one–based around the Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts.  And so many of the writers and artists are from New Zealand.  There are dozens of paintings by Francis Upritchard: colorful watercolors of monkeys, monocolor paintings of people and colorful masks.  They all look incredibly simple–like first drafts–yet are quite effective in their displays.

A Letter from the Editor:  On New Zealand Issues
Craig Taylor didn’t have a letter last issue.  This time he talks about the issue and about issues in New Zealand. He talks a bit sadly about how the New Zealand writer most often find a home in London even if the writers mostly think about national (New Zealand) issues. (more…)

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walrusdec SOUNDTRACK: THE BEATLES-Magical Mystery Tour (1967).

I have never remmtally thought of Magical Mystery Tour as a real album.  And it turns out I had good reason to feel that way.  It was originally released as a double EP in Britain (with the first six songs).  The rest of the tracks only ever appeared on the American release.  Those five songs were released as singles before this album In Britain and the U.S.), which means that this was the only place you could get these songs unless you bought the singles (eventually they were put out on the “blue album”).

So the first six songs are from the soundtrack to the TV movie Magical Mystery Tour (which was a flop as a film, but a hit as a soundtrack).  And the last five songs were released in different ways.

I’ve always liked “Magical Mystery Tour” it’s bouncy and fun with good harmonies.  I never much cared for “The Fool on the Hill” I tend to not like Paul’s piano ballads that much (they remind me too much of his solo and Wings material), although I do enjoy the way he wails the vocals later in the song.  The slide whistle solo is quite a treat and I also like the bass harmonica (my new favorite weird instrument).

This album also features two songs that I don’t know well at all (and I assumed I knew every Beatles song).  “Flying” is a weird fun little instrumental with “La La Las” at the end I really like it, and if I still made mix tapes I would often find a place for it on them.  And “Blue Jay Way” a song I don’t know at all.  It’s another George Harrison vaguely Indian song, although this one has more guitars than his other songs.  I find I can’t really get into it.  “Your Mother Should Know” is one of those songs that I like but I don’t love and don’t really think about too much.

But then there’s”I am the Walrus (“No you’re not, “said Little Nicola).”  It’s a cliché to really like this song but I really do.  It’s weird and goofy and the music is just fantastic.  I love all the elements (and didn’t realize that the spoken section at the end is King Lear).  I feel like The Beatles must have been huge to make a such a weird song become such a big hit.

And then came a bunch of singles: “Hello Goodbye” which I think hearkens back to the earlier Beatles, songs but which has a bit of the psychedelic elements form later Beatles thrown on top (including Paul’s shouting vocals in the background).

“Strawberry Fields Forever” was intended to be included on Sgt Peppers‘ but they needed a single to release during in the lengthy amount of time it was taking them to record the album (a whole nine months!).  This song holds up really well, with some really interesting chord progressions and mild dissonance.  And the middle of the song is fascinatingly split in the stereo version so that it’s all drums and sound effects in the left ear.  It was released as a double A side with “Penny Lane.”  Although I said I don’t really like Paul’ piano songs, I do like “Penny Lane” quite a lot, I find it very satisfying.

“Baby You’re A Rich Man” was the B-side to “All You Need is Love.” I always felt the song was kind of weird and it turns out that the two parts were two different songs (Lennon: verses; McCartney: chorus) that they just stuck together.  It’s a weird mic of fun sing along rocking chorus and peculiar Eastern melody in the verses.  “All You Need is Love” was first performed on Our World, the first live global television link watched by over 400 million in 25 countries.  The BBC had commissioned the Beatles to write a song for the United Kingdom’s contribution.  They apparently wrote a song that was simple enough for it to be universal, and man, were they right.

So, there’s all of these fabulous songs sort of tacked on to the end of this soundtrack.  Beatles releases were sure weird.

Incidentally, the film also used “Death Cab for Cutie” performed by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band in its soundtrack which you can see here.  Obviously, this is where Death Cab for Cutie got their band name, but also, Neil from thee Bonzos was involved in The Rutles, who did such great parodies of Beatles songs.

[READ: January 15, 2015] “The Red Dog”

This was a sad holiday story about an eight year old girl with learning disabilities.  She evidently lives away from her family for most of the year but is allowed to come home for Christmas and the summer vacation.  It’s clear that Katie is a handful.  She tends to lash out easily, but she also seems to be able to control herself as well.

There’s some weird aspects of the story that I didn’t fully understand.  Like the fact that while her family ii shopping they tell her to stay outside because they’re afraid she will damage things in the store.  But her family leaves her outside for at least a half an hour, just standing in front of the store (“don’t move an inch”).  And she behaves, even though it is rather difficult.  But really, they leave her standing outside of a store for over half an hour? (more…)

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hardluckSOUNDTRACK: LUCKY DIAZ AND THE FAMILY JAM BAND-“Thingamajig” (2013).

luckyThis song made the XPN Kid’s Corner Top ten.   When the played it on the radio, I was surprised at how ..quiet it was.  Even now listening to it, it just seems like all of the sounds are at the same level, it all kind of blends together, which is a shame because the song is really kind of fun.

Now that I’ve listened a few times I like it more.  It actually has a kind of Death Cab for Cutie feel.  The bass is particularly nice, but of course the fun part is the lyrics (a thingamajig, a whatchamacallit, who what where why).

So a couple of listens and I’m won over by the song.  I wish it was a bit more dynamic in the production, but it’s a catchy little number.  And I’m curious to hear what the rest of the album sounds like.

[READ: December 27, 2013] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck

Clark was so excited for this book!  This is the first one that he knew about before I did.  We decided to save it for a Christmas present, and man was he chomping at the bit.  He even borrowed it from a friend (because there were 100 people on the waiting list a the library).  And yet, even though he had already read it, when it arrived on Christmas, he was still really excited.  And has already read it four times.

And what was sweeter was that he really wanted me to read it.  He thought it was the best one yet.

I was surprised by this as the whole first section is about how lost Greg feels now that Rowley has a girlfriend, Abigail.  I can’t really imagine how he related to that as it’s not an issue for an 8-year-old (in fact the whole series is skewed a little old for an 8-year-old, but he still loves it).  Mostly Greg isn’t so much jealous that Rowley has a girlfriend so much as he is jealous that she is keeping Rowley from being Greg’s slave, I mean, friend.  Normally, Rowley walks in front of Greg to look out for the (newly added, I think) Mingo kids who threaten anyone who comes close to their wood (which is on their way to school) or for dog land mines–the scene where the dog figures out how the electric fence works is so funny.  And speaking of dogs, Clark absolutely cracked up about the joke with the little dog Sweetie who sniffs herself if you make a raspberry sound near her. (more…)

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