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Archive for the ‘Declan McKenna’ Category

jan2017SOUNDTRACK: DECLAN McKENNA-Tiny Desk Concert #589 (January 3, 2017).

declanI only know Declan McKenna from NPR’s coverage of SXSW last year.  He played a SOUTH X Lullaby of the third song in this set.

And although he looks a little different, his singing style hasn’t changed.  He has an interesting delivery–with notes that sound like they crack as he sings.  But he is in total control.

The blurb notes:

It’d be easy to look and listen to this young English singer and think he’s just another sensitive songwriter with a guitar, singing about his troubles. But Declan McKenna writes about a much bigger world than you or I might expect from a singer who only recently turned 18. He came to NPR this past summer, a bit nervous but passionate. He stripped down three of his songs to their musical essence, and the power of their words eclipsed the hooks for which they’re equally known. “Bethlehem” tackles religion:

Because I’m in Bethlehem
I’ve got a seat in heaven
And though I’m heaven sent
I can do as I want and you don’t have the right to choose

McKenna’s most famous tune, “Brazil,” is a song about football, money and poverty that also touches on religion.

But even without the blurb, his music pretty well speaks for itself.  “Bethlehem” begins slowly, with him singing in a deeper voice but when he gets to the chorus his voice starts to break in his trademark way.  And as the song moves on he shows off a strong falsetto as well.  He opens “Brazil” with a little guitar flub which makes him laugh before he starts again.  The song sounds very much like other versions I’ve heard—his vocal style is all deliberate.  The chorus is so catchy (whatever it’s about):

I heard he lives down a river somewhere
With 6 cars and a grizzly bear
He got eyes, but he can’t see
Well, he talks like an angel
but he looks like me.

And I love how after all of this catchy stuff, he throws in a third section that is even catchier than the rest:

I wanna play the beautiful game while I’m in Brazil
Cause everybody plays the beautiful game while in Brazil
It’s all you’ve ever wanted, and it’s all that you want still
Don’t you wanna play the beautiful game out in Brazil?.

It’s practically a different song.  But so good.

This is the first I’ve heard “Isombard” (which I looked up afterward and is much more synthy).  He says he’s never done this acoustic before. He describes the song as being “somewhere between baroque pop and riff rock so it doesn’t translate easily.”  It’s got a very pretty melody and his slower singing style.  The song is also catchy and I’m surprised he hasn’t caught on a bit more yet.

[READ: January 17, 2017] “A Window to the World”

The narrator tells us that there were two writes at the Yiddish Writers’ Club in Warsaw.  Each of these men had talent and earned a reputation but then seem to have been silenced forever.

The two men were Menahem Roshbom (who had written three novels before he was 30) and the other was Zimel Hesheles (who had written one long poem at the ages of 23).  Since then, nothing–Roshbom was now in his 50s and Hesheles in his late 40s.  The two played chess and although Roshbom was a better player, he would always lose patience near the end which would cost him the match.

Roshbom had taken to journalism.  He was a chain-smoker and he carried on with women, mostly from the Yiddish theater.  He had divorced three times and was currently with another man’s wife.  By contrast Hesheles was small, reserved and silent.  He was poor but came to the club every day at noon and left at 2 when others came for lunch. (more…)

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augSOUNDTRACK: DECLAN McKENNA-“Brazil” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 22, 2016).

mckennaDeclan McKenna is 17 and recently won the Glastonbury Contest with this song.  I’ve never heard the original, although it is described as more rocking than this version.

This is just McKenna and his acoustic guitar.  The melody is great and his guitar playing is good too.  His singing voice reminds me a lot of the guy from the Arctic Monkeys.  Although there’s moments in this version where he really seems to be straining/affecting his voice, which would probably work in a rocking song but which sound kind of rough in this little lullaby version—especially since his normal singing voice is really nice.

I was really surprised when the song switched to the third part (the Brazil part).  It switches the tone of the song quite a bit and he does some nice falsettos too.  “Playing the beautiful game in Brazil” is quite different from “The guy who lives down the river with six cars and a grizzly bear.”

Okay I just listened to the proper song–it’s much poppier with all kinds of harmonies.  The song is much hookier this way.  His vocals  work better, although I’m not sure I’m sold on them entirely.  In fact, when I was watching the video of the song, one of the comments (NEVER READ THE COMMENTS!) says, “Settle down McLovin” and, yes, that’s it, he sounds like Christopher Mintz-Plasse straining, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to unthink that.  And now, neither will you.

[READ: February 10, 2016] “On Being a Stepparent”

The August 2015 Harper’s had a “forum” called How to Be a Parent.  Sometimes these forums are dialogues between unlikely participants and sometimes, like in this case, each author contributes an essay on the topic.  There are ten contributors to this Forum: A. Balkan, Emma Donoghue, Pamela Druckerman, Rivka Galchen, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Ben Lerner, Sarah Manguso, Claire Messud, Ellen Rosenbush and Michelle Tea.  Since I have read pieces from most of these authors I’ll write about each person’s contribution.

I don’t know Ellen Rosenbush’s work (she is an editor of Harper’s so I don’t know how much else she has “written.”  Rosenbush talks about the pros and cons of being a stepparent. (more…)

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