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SOUNDTRACK: GRACIE AND RACHEL-Tiny Desk Concert #666 (November 1, 2017).

Who are Gracie and Rachel?

They are Gracie Coates the primary singer and keyboard player and Rachel Ruggles on a violin processed through various pedals.  The two Berkeley California high school friends are now New York loft-mates. Together with percussionist Richard Watts, a huge bass drum, and electronic drum pads, the group mixes classical training with pop hooks, and curiosity with uncertainty.

The complex tunes they beautifully reproduced in this thrilling Tiny Desk performance are from the group’s debut, self-titled album released back in June of this year.

All three of the songs have the same basic style and tone–rather intense–somber piano with soaring strings and Gracie’s interestingly delivered vocals.

“Only A Child” stars with a simple piano riff that has a real sense of uncertainty, almost menace.  I can’t decide what she’s doing with her vocal style but it’s certainly unique.  There’s some backing vocals although I can’t quite tell where they’re coming from (live or prerecorded) and they add a really creepy tone.    And then there’s the lyrics:  “I’m moving my mouth but I don’t say a word/My ears are open but nothing is heard/I’m only a child, only a child.”  But really the way the violin plays that descending mellow is absolutely captivating.

“Go” features the big bass drum which I didn’t even see at first.  This one has ringing piano notes and pizzicato strings.  The violin is primarily fast notes until the middle when she slows things down and it takes on a very different tone.  The middle features just a simple piano note repeated along with the women’s voices.

Before the last song she says, “I really wanted this moment to say something fun but I realized that our music isn’t very funny.”

And she’s right.  The music is sharp and inquisitive.  It’s not fun, but it’s very good.

“Don’t Know” has the pointed lyric: “And when did it become alright for you to take our rights and when did we decide to give away the life that we live today?”  There’s more sinister piano but there’s these interesting trills on the violin (and backing vocals) that float above the music.  It’s really some great and enticing music.

[READ: February 15, 2016] Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish

I really enjoyed the other two books in this series, and the tagline “Yet another 11-Year old time-travelling Orthodox Jewish babysitter” let me know I’d be in for more of the same fun.

Mirka is the 11-year-old orthodox girl.  Her mother died when she was young and her father remarried.  She has a brother and two step-sisters.  Her step mother is tough but fair (sometimes).  And they live very distinctly Orthodox life–Non Orthodox Jews are called moderns.  We learn a bit about Orthodox culture–there are lots of Jewish phrases with translations at the bottom, and little cartoon which show that unmarried women keep their hair long, while married women cut it short or shave it and wear a wig called a snood.

Right now the crisis in Mirka’s life is her six-year old step-sister Layele.  Mirka is going to babysit Layele for a couple of days.  Just as the adults leave, Fruma mentions having seen something in the woods–but stops herself before she can reveal anything.  This of course only sets Mirka’s mind in motion and she immediately defies orders and goes into the woods with Layele. (more…)

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