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Archive for the ‘Fun.’ Category

SOUNDTRACKHOLIDAYS RULE (2012).

This collection is fairly new (a second volume has just come out this year).  It was curated by Chris Funk from The Decemberists.  It’s a nice mix of contemporary bands and classic songs.  The disc is mostly fun–it gets a little bogged down in the middle–and upbeat.

FUN-“Sleigh Ride”
The first time I heard this  had no idea who it was (I didn’t look at the disc).  I actually thought it was a female pop singer.  After listening a few times I’m mixed but favorable on it.  I love the sound effects in the background.  It’s fun, even with the autotune.

THE SHINS-“Wonderful Christmastime”
This is one of my least favorite Christmas songs, but I like this version better than Pauls’s.  It doesn’t sound especially like The Shins to me though.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT AND SHARON VAN ETTEN-“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
I love Rufus’ distinctive voice–he does louche so well.  Sharon is somewhat indistinct here but she is well-matched with him.

PAUL McCARTNEY-“The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)”
This might be the only disc I have where someone covers a song by an artist on the disc.  His version of this is way too slow.  But I am intrigued that he says “some holly and some mistletoe” (Because he’s vegetarian).

BLACK PRAIRIE featuring SALLIE FORD-“(Everybody’s Waitin’ for) The Man with the Bag”
I typically don’t care for this song, but I love this bluegrassy version.  It’s stomping and fun (and Chris Funk plays on it).

THE CIVIL WARS-“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”
The Civil Wars are downbeat folk artists but, man, their voices together are so lovely.  Their harmonies make this song essential despite the less than upbeat rhythms.

CALEXICO-“Green Grows the Holly”
This song sounds so wonderfully Calexico.  I love it and would even have assumed it was an original of theirs if I didn’t know better,

AGESANDAGES-“We Need A Little Christmas”
I’m torn about this song.  They modify the delivery and I think I like it.  It’s also pretty infrequently played so it gets extra points.  But it feels like a real downer when you can hear the lyrics so clearly.

HOLLY GOLIGHTLY-“That’s What I Want for Christmas”
I don’t know who this is. And I don’t really care for this song which is kind of slow and ponderous even if the message is a good one.

IRMA THOMAS WITH PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND-“May Ev’ry Day be Christmas”
This is big brassy version of the song which sounds like it could be quite old with Thomas’ husky voice.

HEARTLESS BASTARDS-“Blue Christmas”
I dislike this song to begin with, so making a countryish version certainly doesn’t help.

ELEANOR FRIEDBERGER-“Santa, Bring My Baby Back to Me”
So this song is interesting with its strange chord choices and themes.  And it would be great if it were like 2 minutes long.  It seems to end quite naturally at that time, but then some vibes come in and the song gets all slinky.  That would be fine except it just repeats the same line and vibes section for 3 minutes!  WTF Eleanor?

FRUIT BATS-“It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas”
It drives me nuts the way this guys says Creeesmas.  Why does he say it like that?  It’s crazy.  And I can’t get past it because he says it a bunch.

Y LA BAMBA-“Señor Santa”
This song is more or less “Mister Sandman” but sung with the lyrics of Mister Santa.  There’s a wheezy accordion and the great accented voice of the lead singer Luz Elena Mendoza.  I love this and more artists should invent songs like this for the holidays.

PUNCH BROTHERS-“O come, O come, Emmanuel”
The Punch Brothers are awesome and this version of this song terrific.  Chris Thile sings wonderfully as he gets that mandolin worked up.  I love that they turn it into an opportunity to stretch out some, too.

THE HEAD AND THE HEART-“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”
A terrific duet with the unmistakable voice of Charity Rose Thielen.  This is a sprightly and fun song and they do a great job.  I love the way she sings “maybe I’m crazy” and the vamping at the end is fantastic.

ANDREW BIRD-“Auld Lang Syne”
Andrew plays some high-spirited violin and sings briskly.  There’s a kind of countryish feel to it, which is quite different for this song.

Overall this is a good collection to add.  Nothing offensive or off-putting and maybe just one or two duds.

[READ: December 21, 2017] “The First Day of Winter”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLEACHERS-Tiny Desk Concert #648 (September 12, 2017).

I didn’t realize that Jack Antonoff, lead singer of Bleachers, was the lead guitarist (but not singer) for the band fun.

I really don’t like the lead sax by Evan Smith on two of the songs.

I particularly don’t like the sound of the sax on “Everybody Lost Somebody.”  When the sax is gone, the song which is otherwise just piano (Mikey Hart) sounds pretty great.  Antonoff’s delivery is quite interesting on this song, it reminds me of The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle–an almost-speaking, somewhat arch style..

After the song ends, Antonoff asks, “How often you guys do this?”
Bob says, “We got another one in an hour.”
Then he continues, talking about how NPR seems like a nice place to work.

For the second song, “Don’t Take The Money,” Antonoff says: “If you ever see Bleachers live, it’s two drum sets and it’s big and it’s kinda like this big statement that I could hide behind the tears with this big rock show. But the songs are written like this.”

This is kind of funny since the drums are played on a boombox and are quite loud.  The synths really fill the room, too.  Oddly the song segues into the chorus of Queen’s “Radio Gaga.”  Of the threes songs this is my favorite.  There’s no sax and Smith is playing along on a second set of synths to really make a full sound.

My favorite part of the song is at the end when he tries to get the boom box to stop.  He hits the button (trying to get a percussive sound), but it doesn’t turn off.  He and the pianist turn it into a cool improvised ending.

He says, “that’s cool we’ve never played that song like that.  That’s how it’s meant to be.  In some ways.  That’s what I love about playing live is to trick people–trick them into getting really sweaty and then going home and having weepy moments.”

After the song, Antonoff talks about the live show.  The blurb helps out:

“My manager says, ‘When you play for 1,000 people, don’t talk to one person. It’s only cool for them,'” Antonoff said. It was offered as an apology — he had just finished aiming a monologue about the link between dancing and crying at a single NPR staffer in the audience — but it was also a perfect encapsulation of the connection Antonoff’s songs create. Bleachers makes truly conversational pop, songs that sound expansive but retain a sense of intimacy, even when aimed at the masses.

This final song is called “Foreign Girls” and he tells the band, “I guess we’ll do it… like we talked.”  The sax is back and is almost obscured by him “la la la’ing” but it does peek through.

It’s interesting hearing them like this, but I don’t know what they sound like all big and dancey, so I can’t really compare.

[READ: October 1, 2016] Ms Marvel: Super Famous

Confusingly, this book collects issues 1-6, but they are definitely not the first issues one to six.  This is a whole new story line which follows the previous books and is listed as Volume 5.  The book has three artists: Takeshi Miyazawa (issues 1-3) , Adrian Alphona (part of issue 1), and Nico Leon (issues 4-6).  And it starts off almost where the last series ended.  Except it’s 8 months later and a few things have happened.

Like Ms Marvel has officially become an Avengers (there’s a cool two page spread of them coming down the alley (although I don’t recognize some of them, actually).  And Ms Marvel is doing pretty well.  However, Kamala, the girl who is Ms. Marvel is having a hard time keeping up with schoolwork, friends and family while fighting crime at night.

Oh and somehow in the last 8 months, her best friend/crush Bruno has started dating a wicked cool girl named Mike.  How did she not notice this romance blooming?  And can she take it out on Bruno?  Well, she can until she looks up and sees her image (well Ms Marvel’s image) on a billboard.  And this has her fighting mad, even more so when she finds out who is responsible for the billboard.

Turns out it is a bunch of developers creating Hope Yards–a plan to clean up Jersey City by making it unaffordable for undesirables.  And what’s worse is that the people protesting the unannounced building of Hope Yards are naturally associating her with the project. (more…)

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lauraSOUNDTRACK: FUN.-Some Nights (2012).

funI didn’t realize that this wasn’t Fun.’s debut album. I hadn’t heard of them until, well, until they got pretty big.  Sarah got this for me for Christmas in 2012 on the recommendation of an NPR list.  Of course, my biggest surprise was playing it Christmas morning and hearing the word fuck twice in the first song.  Merry Christmas, kids!

I read recently that the band really liked Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy so much that they hired the same producer to get that sound.  And that makes a ton of sense on the style and final product here–big grandiose sounds that are layered and layered and dense. The difference of course is that Fun. writes more catchy/poppy songs with a pop rock sheen.  And the Queen comparisons are unavoidable.  But with auto-tune.

“Some Nights (intro)” opens the disc with a quiet piano intro that builds to what you’re really going to get here–dramatic, theatrical, anthemic over the top pop rock.  Because after a minute when the backing vocals come in, it sounds pretty much like an updated modern day Queen.  While lead singer does bellow like Freddy Mercury the Queenisms come more from the backing vocals and the orchestrations.

The first song proper, “Some Nights” has a more polished, more poppy sheen to it.  And like the rest of the album, it has a huge sing along chorus with whoa hos and everything.  It’s nearly inevitable that they would become huge because of this album.

And yet, despite all the pop, I like this record a lot.  The artsy, theatricality is so over the top.  And really each song is like a mini showstopper.  “We Are Young” has the title of an anthem and thus the song is an anthem.  It starts with just drums but after some clever lyrics, it shifts to a slow building chorus that the world can sing along to.  The same is true for “Carry On,” a slow piano ballad that builds in a big anthemic chorus.  “It Gets Better” is a bit more electronic and fast paced from the start.  “Why Am I the One” slows things down again, this time with guitars.  But again each one has a big sing-along chorus.

“All Alone” is a bit more electronic (with harpsichords!) and a little more drum heavy, while “All Alright” stays anthemic throughout.

What’s surprising really is the lyrical content–he sings a lot about loving his parents (there’s a few shout outs to his mom).  I admit I don’t entirely know what’s happening on the album–I haven’t looked at the lyrics too carefully, but it seems far more introspective and personal than big anthemic pop hooks would suggest.

“One Foot” is the first song that diverges a bit from the formula–it’s still a big stomping song, but the way the main riff is played on orchestral hits rather than more conventional instruments points to the more Top 40 elements of the band.  And the final song, “Stars” really tips the balance. This is the one song that I don’t really care for.  It’s 7 minutes long and the melody is more pop than artsy.  The song builds in a less dramatic and more poppy way.  This song has the most mom intensive lyrics: “Most nights I stay straight and think about my mom–oh god I miss her so much.”  By 2 minutes it devolves into an auto-tuned ballad where the Kanye influence really rears its head.  For the last 3 minutes or so it is a string filled ballad with crazy auto-tuned vocals (especially when they harmonize!).  It’s a bit much even for me, although I think it works pretty great as an album ender.

The strange thing about that is that there is one song after it. It turns out that it’s a bonus track, which i didn’t realize until recently.  I couldn’t imagine why you’d put a song after that autotuned nonsense.  So it makes sense as a bonus track, although after “Stars,” I’m done with the album.  The song, “Out on the Town” brings back the guitars but the “oh oh oh oh” in the beginning is really boy band like.  And I fear the whole set up is more commercial than theater. So, no real bonus for me.

Basically, the album sounds quite the same throughout (in that it is big and theatrical, although there are some differences that distinguish the songs enough).  And if you don’t like one of the songs there’s not going to be much here for you.  But if you like your theatricality over the top, you could do worse than Fun.  Just get ready to sing along.

[READ: October 1, 2014] The Original of Laura

naboI have had Nabokov on my list of authors to read for a long time.  I have read and enjoyed a few of his books and planned to read his oeuvre at some point, just not quite yet.  And then, as serendipity would have it, I stumbled on a book of his novellas (the Penguin classic edition) and decided to read them.  Because they aren’t really meant to be taken as one item, I’m going to mention them individually.

The Original of Laura is a controversial release because of its history.  And it seems that more words have been written about the history of the book than the actual content of it.  So I will summarize the history by saying that Vladimir said that if he didn’t finish the book that it should be destroyed.  Vladimir’s wife did not destroy the book and some thirty years later his son Dmitri decided to publish it [cue cat fights and gnashing of teeth].

The interesting way the book was published was as a series of index cards.  Nabokov wrote all of his stories on index cards.  The book version is on heavy card stock in which all of the index cards were reproduced and the words were typed below (errors and cross outs and all).  And all the pages are perforated for, in theory, the reader’s ability to mix and match the pages as apparently Nabokov did.

This seems like a cool idea except that most of the index cards are numbered, so it’s not like there is any doubt as to what order they should go in.  The final cards are not numbered, but again, they are pretty much sequential–there’s not a lot of play at play here. (more…)

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