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Archive for the ‘Destroyer’ Category

[ATTENDED: March 8, 2020] Destroyer

I really enjoy Dan Bejar’s work with New Pornographers.  I haven’t loved all of his Destroyer albums, but Destroyer’s Rubies is fantastic and Kaputt is a lot of fun.

When New Pornographers toured recently, Bejar was not a part of the group.  So when I saw that Destroyer was touring a few months afterward, I thought it would be a good way to complete the set.

I had read that the Destroyer live show was pretty terrific, but I had also read that Bejar felt the best shows were when he faced the band rather than the audience.  So who knew what might happen.

The crowd around me was pretty excited to be sure.  A guy behind me was practically vibrating and he yelled “I love you Dan” at several points.  It may have been the only time that a singer has not acknowledged such a declaration, even in a cursory way.

This show was also the first time I went out while we were under the looming threat of the Coronavirus.  Things had not gotten serious yet, but it was coming.  I even brought a tube of hand sanitizer (this was before they were all sold out).  I was very aware of the fact that I was not touching anyone or anything and I’ve never seen the line for the bathroom be so long because people were washing their hands!

I also never would have guessed that this would be my last concert for … who knows how long (at least two months, by my estimate).

So Dan and the band came out.  There were six musicians with him. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 14, 2019] Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band

I have seen Kevin Devine twice.  The first time was in 2017 when he opened for Frightened Rabbit.  The second time was earlier this year when he did a brief solo tour with John K. Samson.  The second show was so good–he was so full of energy as a headliner, that I knew I’d see him again.  But I really wanted to see him with The Goddamn Band (hilarious name).

When it was announced that Kevin and the Goddamn Band would be playing a short tour celebrating the tenth anniversary of the 2009 album Brother’s Blood, I bought tickets immediately.  I didn’t even know the album, I just wanted to see the whole band.  And holy cow was it a great choice.

Kevin has a fantastic stage presence–he bonds with the crowd instantly (even when I first saw him as an opening act and had no idea who he was, he just owned the stage).  He invites the audience to sing and the audience does.

And with the whole band, that interaction was even greater.  Kevin joked with the band members, soloed off of them and made the whole show like a party.

The crowd was totally into it–singing along to nearly every song.

It was a fantastic show.

I have since listened to the album a bunch and the songs are really great–but this live show was something amazing.  The band feeds off of each other, making every song bigger, richer, with more noise and jamming.  They clearly love playing with each other and were having a fantastic time. It was wonderful. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 8, 2019] The New Pornographers

Back in 2000, The New Pornographers sprang out of Vancouver and I didn’t know anything about them.  Especially that the band was made up of all manner of Canadian musicians from other groups.  I only knew that the first single “Letter From an Occupant” was awesome and I listened to it all the time.

Over the last twenty years, The New Pornographers have released reliably excellent albums.  It often seemed like out of the blue, suddenly there was another amazingly catchy song from the band.  I’m not really sure why I never thought to see them live before.  I think missing the Neko Case show in January was an impetus to get me to the show if only to see her.  (Sometimes Neko doesn’t tour with them, so I’m pretty psyched she was here on this tour).

As often happens, when a band tours they have a new album out.  Somehow I had missed this new one entirely.  Of course, I needn’t have worried that it would be good, because of course it was.  I was just worried that I wouldn’t be familiar enough with the songs when they played them.

The lineup has remained remarkably consistent for a band made up of people who all have other bands that tour.  They’ve had a couple of drummers, but otherwise, no changes.  Except for one rather large one.  Dan Bejar, the fantastic lyricist and singer of the band Destroyer more or less officially left the band a couple of years ago. Although he is currently described as a former and possibly future member of the band. So no hard feelings. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DESTROYER-Live at Massey Hall (July 10, 2014).

Destroyer is Daniel Behar (who is also part of New Pornographers and other bands).  Usually, Behar is surrounded by a lot of other people when he plays.  His music tends toward the symphonic.

But for this show (his first time at Massey Hall), it is just him with his acoustic guitar.

In the introduction he says that he gave up playing the guitar a long time ago, but he couldn’t just do a set with him signing a capella so….  He observes that he’s been playing with an 8 piece band–they solo forever and I’m barely singing anymore.  So this is quite something.

He seriously downplays the show saying he doesn’t even really like “guy with guitar” music, he’s more into Sinatra or the Stones.  “This is an anti-advertisement for the show I’m about to play.”

He plays songs from throughout his catalog.

“Foam Hands” is not that different, although I do prefer the recorded version.  In this version, though, I like the way he plays the end chords loudly and dramatically and the way the song abruptly.

“Chinatown” is a much bigger song on record with backing vocals and a rather cheesy sax throughout.  So I like this version better.

He introduces “Streets on Fire” this way: “Here’s a song I wrote 20 years ago.  Showing off because lots of you couldn’t write songs twenty years ago because you didn’t know how to say anything.  Couldn’t play guitar.  Didn’t know the chords didn’t know words.  Pathetic.

The song is from his debut when it was just him and a guitar.  This version sounds 100 times better.

“European Oils”  I love this song from Rubies and I especially love the orchestration of it.  So while I enjoy this stripped down version I’ll take the record.

The original of “Your Blood” is a romping fun song (also from Rubies).  This is slowed down but still nice.  And of course I enjoy that my daughter is mentioned; “Tabitha takes another step.”

“Savage Night at the Opera” has a great bass sound in the original, although this stripped down is very nice.

“Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Sea of Tears)” is a quiet song (the original has drums and piano but’s not that different from what’s here).  It’s quite pretty as is the whole set.  A real treat for fans of Destroyer.

[READ: May 3, 2018] “The Boarder”

This story was translated from the Yiddish by the author.  Singer died in 1991, so I’m not sure if this is a recently found story or an old one that has just been published..

This is a simple story about a pious man and a non-believer.

Reb Berish is the pious man.  He eats only twice a day; he prays for many hours a day.  He had recently retired from his business in fabric remains and had little to do.  Over the last forty years, his wife had died, his son had died and his daughter had married a gentile in California.

He didn’t want to live alone so he took in a border, Morris Melnik. Melnik paid $15 a month, but that wasn’t the point.  Berish was taking pity on the man who had literally nothing left in his life–no family, no job, no God.  Melnik was a heretic; a nonbeliever.

He mocked Berish for praying “to the God who made Hitler and gave him the strength to kill six million Jews.  Or perhaps to the God who created Stalin and let him liquidate another ten million victims.”

It sounds like the premise for a sitcom, but this story does not do that. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DESTROYER-Live on KEXP, March 19, 2011 (2011).

I enjoyed Destroyer’s Rubies album quite a bit.  And when Kaputt came out it was heralded as a masterpiece.  But I have to admit it’s a little two smooth jazz for my tastes.  The DJ in this interview describes it as being like George Michael (well, really, Wham), but George Michael knew howto write pop hits which made the smoothness more palatable.  This is kind of like extended jams of smooth jazz, which is…disconcerting.

They play two songs from Kaputt, “Downtown,” and “Song for America.” “Downtown” has a ton of cheesey sounding sax (and instrument I am growing to dislike more and more).  “Song for America” eschews much of the sax and is catchy with its pulsing bass line.  They also play “Certain Things You Ought to Know,” from Your Blues, an album I don’t know very well.  The song is kind of slow, but it tones down the cheese somewhat.  And “Painter in Your Pocket” from Rubies, a song I like very much gets a new treatment here.  It’s much more sparse, and I think I like it a little less.  Maybe Destroyer should just remain one album for me.

You can hear it here.

[READ: November 15, 2012] “Chore List of Champions”

Even though I said I was going to put off Vonnegut for a little while (there was certainly some burn out by the end), this letter appeared in Harper’s (and is in his newly released book Letters).

As the intro explains, this is a contract that Vonnegut signed with his then pregnant wife Jane, in 1947.

I think of marriage contracts these days as being crazily offensive and mercenary, as being things that would embarrass right-thinking people.  And geez, in 1947, what could he possibly have been asking.

Well, Vonnegut proves that he was a cool dude all along.  And all of the points in the contract are things that he pledges that will do, couched in his own hilarious manner.

Some examples: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAVENDER DIAMOND-“New Ways of Living” from Score! 20 Years of Merge Records: The Covers (2009).

This song plays around with the Destroyer original a little bit more than some of the other covers have.  Lavender Diamond’s lead vocalist is a woman, Becky Stark, so her voice is different from Dan Bejar’s.  Of course, Bejar’s voice is kind of high-pitched so it’s not that different.  The original also has a female backing vocal on all of the Lie-Dee-Dies, which Lavender Diamond supplies by herself.

The Destroyer version is softer, a bit more delicate (especially the ending section which is washes of strings and gentle keyboards).  Lavender Diamond’s version is primarily piano, and that starkness somehow makes the song more intense.  So yes,  I find myself enjoying the Lavender Diamond version a wee bit more.  I hadn’t heard much by Lavender Diamond before (I knew that Becky Stark was on the Decemeberists’ Hazards of Love album).  But I think it’s time to investigate her stuff a little bit more.

[READ: April 5, 2012] “Train”

I had put off reading this story for a little while because it was pretty long (12 pages in Harper’s which is quite long for a Harper’s story).  Not only was it justifiably long, it was thoroughly enjoyable.

The story was set up in an unexpected way (especially for Munro whose stories tend to be pretty straightforward).  It opens with a man jumping off a train (I also tend to think of Munro as writing about women, so a male protagonist is also something of a surprise).

So Jackson hops off of a train.  It was going slow, but it hurt more than he expected.  After he gets his bearings, he realizes that he is closer to civilization than he realized–indeed, there’s a woman out milking a cow.  The woman turns out to be Belle (the cow is Margaret Rose).

After years of reading different kinds of stories, there were so many different ways this meeting could have gone (most of them badly).  But Munro tends to not write about physical violence, so this meeting goes pretty well–it’s not even all that awkward because Belle is a sweet, almost naive, woman.

Belle lives by herself, although that is a recently development.  Her mother passed away a few months ago after decades of needing a lot of physical help.  Her father has been dead for many years–he was hit by a train.  He used to take care of Belle’s mother, but once he died, the responsibility was all hers.

She was also more or less supported by the Mennonites who live up the road.  The introduction of them is wonderful, as it is how Jackson sees them: “Over the hill came a box on wheels, being pulled by two quiet small horses….  And in the box sat half a dozen or so little men.   All dressed in black with proper black hats on their heads.”

Of course, these little men are the Mennonite children who look after her.  Jackson pities Belle, although she neither seeks it nor really deserves it.  She seems quite content with her situation.  He decides to stick around and fix up her house for her (which is in bad need of repair).  He imagines that he can work for her for a few months and then maybe help the Mennonites a bit and then continue on his way. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NEW PORNOGRAPHERS-Together (2010).

I enjoyed The New Pornographers’ debut album Mass Romantic, but I didn’t bother getting their later discs.  In the ensuing years, I’ve grown appreciative of both Neko Case solo and Dan Bejar’s Destroyer.  And, while I intend to get the NP’s middle discs, in the meantime, I am totally enamored of this one.

Their first disc sounded like a group of great songwriters doing their own thing.  This disc (their fifth) sounds like a group of great songwriters working together.  The album sounds cohesive and, frankly, wonderful.  It’s hard for me to pick a favorite song, because when the disc is over I find myself singing bits and pieces from so many of them.

The songs work well together, with different vocalists coming to the fore.  But there’s an overall cohesiveness to the disc.  Even the Dan Bejar songs (three on this disc), which sound very distinctly Bejar, act like a change of pace but retain the album’s style, rather than sounding like Bejar solo songs.

And I like the Bejar songs quite a lot (“Silver Jenny Dollar” is always in my head), but it’s the Newman songs (those sung by Neko Case and otherwise) which rise into the pop stratosphere.  The gorgeous delayed chorus of “Up in the Dark,” the beautiful cello of “Moves.”  Even a song like “Valkyrie in the Roller Disco” which opens a little quietly compared to the rest of the disc, pulls out a stunning chorus.

“A Bite Out of My Bed” is weird and wonderful and, of course, those first 6 songs are amazing.  “My Shepherd” is a stunning song and “Your Hands (Together)” is a catchy rocker which should have been a huge single.  Just when you think that “As a Rule” couldn’t possibly get any catchier, along comes a whistle solo.  Fabulous. And the album closer, “We End Up Together” has great group vocals and a nice return to those catchy strings from the opening.  It’s a great release from start to finish.

[READ: January 24, 2011] Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

I loved Doctorow’s Little Brother.  And when I recently said I would be going to Disney, an astute reader said I should read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (which I’d never heard of).

Knowing what I know about Doctorow (this and all of his books are published under a Creative Commons license and if you go to his site, you can download the entire book for free), I expected that this book might bash Disney (the main source for our current copyright extension laws–see The Copyright Extension Act also known as The Mickey Mouse Protection Act).  The title also hinted at is as well.  But in fact, this book does not bash Disney World in any way.

Rather, it embraces the Magic Kingdom as a sort of traditional refuge, something that should be immune to technological update.  Of course, since it is a science fiction novel, it is also futuristic, full of bizarre technologies and lots and lots of behavior control.

The book opens in the undetermined future (although later in the book we learn that it’s probably sometime around 2069).  The Prologue is full of words that won’t be defined until later in the book (if at all):  “Deadhead” as a verb, “Bitchun Society,” and this whole sentence: “I took a moment to conjure a HUD with his Whuffie score on it.”

So, we know that this is not a typical story.  And it stays atypical.  Chapter One opens:

My girlfriend was 15 percent of my age, and I was old-fashioned enough that it bugged me. Her name was Lil, and she was second-generation Disney World, her parents being among the original ad-hocracy that took over the management of Liberty Square and Tom Sawyer Island. She was, quite literally, raised in Walt Disney World and it showed.

The story is set in Disney World.  Julius, the narrator who is 100+ years old but has been rebooted several times and appears 40, is dating Lil, who was 19 or so when they met.  And despite her youth and apparent airheadedness, they really hit it off.

As stated, her parents were more in less in charge of portions of Disney.  So, when they decide to deadhead, it puts Lil (and by proxy Julius) in charge.  Lil’s domain is the Hall of Presidents (and there’s fun insider knowledge about the Hall, and Lil is often seen with her head inside Abraham Lincoln).  Julius, meanwhile, loves loves loves The Haunted Mansion (and the story of his first time(s) there is really great).  And he works behind the scenes there now, constantly trying to make it better (shave a few seconds off here, make this part a little scarier, etc).

And all is great until Julius is killed. (more…)

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