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Archive for the ‘Glen Hansard’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DERMOT KENNEDY-Tiny Desk Concert #779 (August 24, 2018).

NPR likes Dermot Kennedy (they made him one of their Slingshot artists for 2018).  The thing that they seem to like about him is what I didn’t.

He has a powerful raspy voice–he could sing for miles.  A voice that works wonderfully with a style of music (folk or rock, primarily).  But the songs I’d heard from him were tinged with hip-hop.  And, frankly, it’s hard to work a powerful singing voice and hip-hop into the same verse.  So to me, it didn’t work, it was like the worst of both worlds.

But at the Tiny Desk, he removes all of that with a live band and, as the blurb says, a gospel choir.

Kennedy took this assignment seriously. The Dublin singer-songwriter wasn’t content with merely re-creating his songs as they sound in the studio, or stripping lavish productions down to simple acoustic arrangements. So he got himself a gospel choir.

More specifically, Kennedy and his band flew in from Ireland a day ahead of time to meet and rehearse with members of Washington, D.C.’s Howard Gospel Choir (Keila Mumphord, Taylor Nevels, Chamille Boyd, Jazmine Thomas). Every arrangement was painstakingly plotted ahead of time, so that every note would be perfect.

Two of the songs Kennedy performs here (“Moments Passed” and “An Evening I Will Not Forget”) pop up on an EP he released this year with hip-hop producer Mike Dean, and both sound radically different in this performance. They’re still forceful — and still centered on the singer’s elastic, bombastic voice — but also looser, warmer, more open.

And I suspect that’s why I like them much more.   Without all of that trapping, he sounds, yes, like Hozier or Glen Hansard.  And of course he was a busker.

They open with “Moments Passed.”  It was weird that the song and concert opens the way it does with the choir and Kennedy singing at the same time.  His voice is the centerpiece of the music and it was obscured not only by four other voices but also but a disconcerting echo effect (from Kieran Jones on keys).  But as soon as that ends, his voice works very well with the piano (Jonny Coote) and drums (Micheál Quinn).

And so when the chorus comes in and he songs his only lines while the choir sings, it works very well.  You can also hear his accent a lot more than other Irish singers, it seems.

“An Evening I Will Not Forget” has more of a hip hop delivery style, at least the way he sings, but he doesn’t try to cram it all in, he lets his voice and melody flow over the dense lyrics.  The song is one of regret and it works perfectly as just piano and his powerful voice.

After the song he jokingly asks for a towel and he laughs when he gets one (and gives it to Jones, “you;re a sweaty guy”).

For the final song, “Glory” he plays guitar on this it’s a pretty melody.  The drums are weirdly electronic and big and I like the big boom but not the ticky ticky electronics.  However, the high female voice in the chorus more than makes up for it.  The way all of the music swells together on this track is really terrific.

Sometimes you need to hear a musician live to really appreciate him.

[READ: January 3, 2017] “Gender Studies”

Sarah loves Curtis Sittenfeld, although I had never read her work before this.

I really enjoyed this short story both for its story and for its politics.

The plot is quite simple.  Nell is an almost divorced woman (she was with Henry for years with the intention of getting married, then he up and left her for a younger woman).  I really enjoyed this self-description of her and Henry “because of the kind of people they were (insufferable people, Nell thinks now).”  She is a professor of gender studies and is going to a convention in Kansas City.  Though she lives in Wisconsin, she has never been to Kansas City or even to Missouri.

The shuttle driver starts talking to her about donald trump.  He says “He’s not afraid to speak his mind, huh?”  And I love this description of her reply:

Nell makes a nonverbal sound to acknowledge that, in the most literal sense, she heard the comment.

Despite her obvious discomfort talking to him (when he calls Hillary “Shrillary” you know she is fuming), she can’t be bothered to say anything more than “There’s no way that donald trump will be the Republican nominee for President” (this was written after he was, of course). (more…)

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6616 SOUNDTRACK: GLEN HANSARD-Tiny Desk Concert #225  (June 17, 2012).

glenWhat can I say about Glen Hansard that I haven’t said already—he’s a powerful singer and a great storyteller.  This is his second appearance on Tiny Desk (although his first solo) and his fourth or fifth concert on NPR.

With The Swell Season, they played for 34 minutes (a Tiny Desk Record).  And this Concert is no shortie either at nearly 22 minutes.

He’s playing songs from his solo album (on that same beat up guitar).   Although he is distinctly himself, without the band(s), he sounds a bit like Cat Stevens and sometimes like Van Morrison (and he looks like Gordon Lightfoot).

He sings rather quietly and then impressively loudly–powerful and passionate.  He is clearly into what he does.

“Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” is rocking folk song (he throws a coda of RESPECT at the end) in which he really belts out a few parts.  He’s got a delightful “La la la” middle section, and the overall melody is great.

“Bird of Sorrow” is  much more mellow song.  It builds through some verses and allows him to belt out a few lines near the end.

“Come Way to the Water” has him on a 4 string tenor guitar.  Although it is quite clearly a Glen Hansard song, the guitar is much more timid sounding compared to his voice.  And it really does give the song a very different (darker) feeling.  In fact when it’s over, he says, “that was kind of depressing wasn’t it?”

“Lucia” is a “song he hasn’t finished yet” but he’s going to play it because “it’s a little bit happier.”  Although the lyrics are “Lucia, you’re letting me down again / Lucia, your heart’s not in it babe…. And if your heart’s not in it, then your heart’s not in it, babe.”  Not exactly a happy song.  But very pretty.

“The Song of Good Hope” is slower with no big powerful singing, but it’s really heartfelt and intense.

And as always, he is unfailingly polite and thanks everyone for listening.

My friend Jonathan says that he will always try to see Hansard live, and it seems like I should be doing the same next time he comes around.

[READ: January 12, 2017] “At Home in the Past”

The June 6 & 13, 2016 issue of the New Yorker was the Fiction Issue.  It also contained five one page reflections about “Childhood Reading.” 

As soon as I started reading this, I knew that Sarah would want to read it as well.  For although I have not, Sarah has read The Secret Garden, which is what Tessa Hadley is writing about here.

Tessa says that she didn’t own many books as a child–mostly she borrowed from the library.  But the ones she did own she read over and over and “some of them soaked in deep under my skin, composing my private mythology and shaping my mind.”

She says she had a Puffin paperback of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden.  The cover picture of a dark-haired girl in a white coat standing among thorny bare rose bushes looks just like Mary Lennox is described in the book.

Although it was published in 1911, she felt no separation from the Edwardians.  She felt at home in the past and often preferred it to modernity, which seemed somehow inferior. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE SWELL SEASON-Live at the Newport Folk Festival, August 1, 2010 (2010).

This is the second show by the Swell Season that I downloaded from NPR (even though it is not chronologically second).  The Newport Folk Festival proves to be an excellent venue for Glen Hansard and The Frames.  For yes, in this show, The Frames play with them.  A (very brief) history: Glen Hansard was the red-haired dude from The Commitments (yes, seriously).  After that movie, he started The Frames and they were HUGE (in Ireland and Czechoslovakia).  They even released a record with a few songs that appear in the film Once.  Then Glen met Marketa and formed The Swell Season, which was really just the two of them.  And they recorded a couple of those Frames songs for their debut album.  And then they made Once, and they rerecorded some of those songs for the Soundtrack.  So you can get quite a few versions of a couple of these songs.  The Swell Season was originally just the two of them.  But as of late they’ve been playing with the Frames as well.  So it’s like a full circle, sort of.

The big opens space of Newport, combined with a rowdy but appreciative crowd prove a perfect venue for them.  Glen is in wonderful storytelling mode, regaling the crowd with funny introductions to songs (that was Elijah!) and dealing with an overzealous fan (who I believe calls Glen a red-headed bastard–out of love: Hansard replies “I liked you for about two comments…I’ve been wanting to play here forever, you’re kind of wrecking my day….  I’m kidding”).

But it’s the music that is so good.  I’ve thought that he sounds not unlike Van Morrison, and this version of “Low Rising” that opens the set brings out the Van.  Its’ really outstanding.  The really makes some of the songs rock out, too, like when he burst into a chorus of “Love Reign O’er Me” during the otherwise mellow “Back Broke.”  Also, the full band version of “When Your Mind’s Made Up” is tremendous–when the band is rocking out and then stops on a dime for that final “So” I am blown away every time.  And yet, despite the presence of the band, some of their solo songs are the most striking.  Marketa’s, “If You Want Me” holds the crowd rapt.  And Glen’s emotionally gut wrenching “Leave” is stunning–and a little hair-raising.

Interestingly, when you download the show (by subscribing to NPR podcasts), you only get 43 minutes, rather than the entire 62 minutes of the show.  I assume they didn’t have the rights to give us the covers that the band played.  They open the set with Tim Buckley’s “Buzzin’ Fly,” and he plays Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” while they tune some strings and they rock out Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” (this furthers my assertion that there’s a Van Morrison connection here, although I didn’t know this was played live until I streamed the concert.

The Swell Season seems like an awesome band to see live.

[READ: August 21, 2011] Level Up.

Gene Luen Yang is also a wonderful storyteller.  His book American Born Chinese is fantastic.  This is another slice of life story, although I suspect it can’t be true about himself (well, I mean there are angels that do his laundry so obviously it isn’t true).  But I don’t know a thing about him personally so maybe he is a video game champion and a gastroenterologist as well as a novel writer.

Anyhow, the story is a fairly simple one: When Dennis is six years old, he sees a Pac Man video game console and he is instantly hooked.  The problem is that his parents want him to be a successful student–specifically, they want him to become a doctor–so there’s no fooling around with video games.  He gets good grades in school.  But when his father dies, he finally feels free to get a video game console and he finds himself playing more video games than studying.  And by the time he gets to university he actually flunks out.

His mother doesn’t learn about this disgrace because before he can do anything more drastic, the aforementioned angels threaten the dean of admissions until she lets him back into school.  They angels (who came to life from a card his father had given him) then monitor him carefully, doing all of his chores for him while ensuring that he studies his brains out.  Which he does.

And he gets into med school! (more…)

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tny 11.3.08 cvr.inddSOUNDTRACK: Once Motion Picture Soundtrack (2007).

onceSarah and I saw a preview for this film a long time ago and promptly forgot about it.  Then, she remembered it was called One or The One or something….  Luckily Netflix set us straight, and we rented Once.  We were amazed at how much we liked it.  It’s clearly a labor of love for the creators.  You can tell it didn’t cost a lot of money to make, but the performances are top notch.  What was particularly cool about the movie (aside from the music) was that it starts like a typical romance of boy meets girl: they play music together and he falls in love.  But it very quickly deviates from that path and turns into a much more complex storyline.  It’s not hard to follow, but it’s a lot more complex than you’d at first think.  But clearly the movie is a showcase for these songs.

We were also delighted that about a week after we watched the film. “Falling Slowly” won the Academy Award for Best Song.  That was nice synchronicity for us.

“Falling Slowly” is a beautiful song, as are just about all of the songs on this soundtrack.  Glen Hansard (the redhead in the Commitments, currently of The Frames–who I’ve not heard aside from this disc, but who I’m led to understand are quite good) has a great, strong, rough voice that sounds a bit like Cat Stevens mixed with some Van Morrison.  Marketa Irglova (about whom more in a moment) is a Czech singer with a really heavenly voice.  Together, their harmonies are really something.  His, rough and strong, hers soft and delicate.

One of the strongest songs on the disc, and in my opinion better than “Falling,” is “When Your Mind’s Made Up.”  The movie shows the band recording this song in full in the studio.  I was happy that the scene wasn’t one of those where the band screws up and they do take after take.  Rather, they play it through solidly and it sounds great. It really makes the song stand out in the movie.  And, there’s something about the way that Hansard screams the chorus as it builds to an impossible crescendo that is really breathtaking.

The rest of the disc features more songs from the movie (there’s a special version of the disc with extra tracks but we didn’t feel compelled to get it).  And the selection is fairly diverse within the strictures of his acoustic guitar and her piano.  She has a ballad of her own, and they do many duets.

As for Marketa Irglova, I didn’t know this until I just looked her up, but apparently, she was “discovered’ by Hansard when she was 13, and she toured the Czech Republic and Ireland with the Frames.  Evidently she and Hansard started dating sometime around the filming of the movie.  I’m not really prudish but there’s something about the 38 year old Hansard dating the 19 year old Irglova that’s a little creepy.  Nevertheless, the music they make together is pretty great.

[READ: November 6, 2008] “The Fat Man’s Race”

The author’s name sounded familiar so I thought I’d give this a read.  Then when I saw it was about a page and a half long, how could I refuse?

Recently I’ve read a number of stories that seemed like the weren’t finished.  I am happy to say that despite its length, this story was clearly done.  (more…)

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