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Archive for the ‘Gaelynn Lea’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GAELYNN LEA-“I Wait” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next few shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

If you’re going to put together the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour — an epic night of Tiny Desk-style concerts, held at the wonderful Central Presbyterian Church in Austin during SXSW Tuesday night — you might as well kick things off with a core member of the Tiny Desk Family. Gaelynn Lea won 2016’s second annual Tiny Desk Contest with the barest of ingredients: a few swooping violin strokes, a loop pedal and her fragile-but-forceful voice.

At the Tiny Desk Family Hour, Lea performed in that same spare configuration. She closed with a powerful song called “I Wait,” which addresses the way people with disabilities — Lea herself has brittle bone disease, and works as a motivational speaker and teacher as well as a musician — are frequently left out of social justice movements. It’s Lea at her best, as her warm, intense, hauntingly beautiful voice is shot through with a clear sense of purpose.

This song is wonderful.  The looping is simple but effective–the notes are menacing and effective, while the unlooped pizzicato notes add just the right amount of rhythm to this otherwise sparse song.  For this song is all about the lyrics.  Lea details what it’s like to be handicapped–not in the world at large, but within protest movements which supposedly have her best intentions at heart.

So when you hear them
Make claims of progress
Take a good look
And see who isn’t there
We need a seat now
At the table
So please invite us
Or don’t pretend to care.

When Lea brought “I’ll Wait” to an abrupt close, the audience’s soft collective gasp gave way to the night’s first standing ovation.

It’s a stunning ending.

[READ: February 12, 2019] The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo #2

I really enjoyed the first book in this series and I’m happy to see the follow-up.

It opens with a recap from Charles Thompson, a future reporter (who uses a tiny reporter’s pad to write down his thoughts).  He talks about how he met Margo Maloo, the “Monster Mediator” and how with her help, he was able to locate and deal with a troll in his house.  And by “deal with” he means befriend.  For although Margo is a mediator between monsters and humans, she is mostly interested in the safety of the monsters.

Thompson has dozens of readers, he thinks, and maybe this is why Margo wants his help.

She will not be getting any help from Charles’ friend Kevin, who wants nothing to do with any monsters (unless they come in toy-form, like the Battle Beanz). (more…)

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augSOUNDTRACK: GAELYNN LEA-Tiny Desk Concert #514 (March 11, 2016).

graeGaelynn Lea won the Tiny Desk Contest and within a few days she was ready to appear for her formal Tiny Desk Concert.

She began her set with the prize winner, “Someday We’ll Linger In The Sun.”  The song was beautiful and haunting in the video, and it sounded just as good live.  She joked that with a loop pedal you have to be perfect, and it was.  Watching her play these notes is even more interesting than hearing them.

Gaelynn is clearly a little nervous, but she is still charming as she tells us how she got started in the music world.  She started fiddling because she had a crush on a boy who fiddled.  Simple as that.  She had been in a number of bands in Minnesota.  Then someone gave her a looping pedal and that changed everything for her.

She says that she began experimenting with the old and the new, and that the looping pedal allowed her to do things like play “Southwind.”  The song is 100 years old.  She loops a beautiful melody and then plays an excellent solo over the top it.  I think there’s something about the way she plays–her bowing seems to make her violin sound more like a cello or something–that makes her notes sound more haunting than another violinist might.

After the first two songs, Bob comes out to introduce Gaelynn.  He explains that she is a violin teacher and she has been playing for years and years.  And then he explains that she’s going to have accompaniment for the next two songs–Alan Sparhawk from Low!

Here’s how they met.  Gaelynn was playing at a farmer’s market with a guitar player.  Alan Sparhwawk who is also based in Duluth, MN, heard her playing.  Some time later, he called her (while she was at a wedding) and asked if she’d want to work on a project with him.  They made musis for a silent film and then formed the band The Murder of Crows.

And so Alan joins her for the last two songs.

“Bird” is an upbeat song with a lively lopped violin riff.  Alan plays slow guitars which flesh out the low end.  And then Gaelynn sings as the violin loops and Alan plays low notes.  Alan takes the second verse and then Gaelynn sings a round over the top of his voice.  It’s quite lovely.

She says she never wrote any songs until she met him, and she’s very grateful.

The final song is “Moment of Bliss.”  I really like the melody and vocal line of this song.  And again, the lyrics are really thoughtful.  Sparhawk’s slow guitar and low harmony voice really add depth to this lovely five minute song.  When she plays a looped solo at the end, it’s really beautiful.

[READ: January 25, 2016] “Leap Day”

I don’t think I’ve read too many stories where the plot of a movie is as instrumental to the story as it was in this one.

And when I say that that movie is Brokeback Mountain, it gives you a ton of context clues.

The story is a simple one.  Ernie Boettner is climbing up a grain silo in February.  And then we find out why.

Ernie is a farmer.  The townspeople of Park City, Illinois noticed that he seemed to get a lot of visits from the veterinarian Chester Bradbury.  There was nothing wrong with that per se, but it seemed like sometimes the vet’s truck was there over night.  Which seemed unusual. (more…)

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may2015SOUNDTRACK: GAELYNN LEA-“Someday We’ll Linger In The Sun” (TINY DESK CONTEST WINNER 2016).

gaelynnYou never know what is going to win the Tiny Desk Contest–there are so many genres represented.  Will it big a big rocking band, a scrappy bluesy band, will it be a sweet lullaby, or, unexpectedly, will it be a haunting song by a woman with a fiddle.

Gaelynn Lea plays a violin which she loops.

As the song opens, the first violin notes are slow and haunting, almost hesitating.  Then she plays harmony notes over those (the spareness here reminds me of Gavin Bryars’ “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet.”  Then she plays some pizzicato notes over the top of these.  It’s a beautiful, haunting melody.

After a minute her voice comes in.  It is unexpected.  It sounds slightly off, and yet somehow even more hauntingly beautiful for it.  Especially when she gets to the simple “chorus” of “and I love you.”  The melody doesn’t change through the song, that constant repeating riff, those slow pulls on the bow, the intermittent pizzicato notes and Lea’s voice continue as lyrics flow over you.

And what lyrics:

Our love’s a complex vintage wine
All rotted leaves and lemon rind
I’d spit you out but now you’re mine

Don’t tell me we’ve got time
The subtle thief of life
It slips away when we pay no mind

We pulled the weeds out til the dawn
Nearly too tired to carry on
Someday we’ll linger in the sun

Man.

After a few verses, she plays a solo over the top of it all.  It is as aching as the rest of the song.  Try not to cry while listening to it.

You can watch the video here.

[READ: January 8, 2015] “From the Palo Alto Sessions”

This is an excerpt from Cohen’s Book of Numbers.  I vaguely know Cohen (his first book Witz, was 800 pages and BoN is almost 600), but I don’t really know his writing.

This excerpt (I don’t know where it comes from the book) is a bit hard to get into: “Toward the end D-Unit had been working on the touchscreen.  Do not interrupt, we do not digress.”  Turns out that D-Unit is a person and the narrator is plural (or the royal we).  The story follows as “we” investigate D-Unit’s house and computer supplies.

There’ s a ton of tech speak, as well as what appears to be slang (I never figured out what “cur” meant in this book).

The language just piles up with sentences that build and stop and resume in another way.  I enjoyed this: “This career vegan who after his wife left him for a woman stuffed his freezer with enough cuts of venison to make 1.33 deer.” (more…)

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