Archive for the ‘Heather Woods Broderick’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN-Tiny Desk Concert #898 (October 7, 2019).

It was Sharon Van Etten’s 2010 Tiny Desk Concert that introduced me to her.  I was blown away by the songs from Epic.

When Sharon Van Etten made her Tiny Desk debut back in the fall of 2010 [with about fifteen people in the audience], her voice exuded fragile, gentle grace. Performing songs from that year’s Epic, she huddled around a single acoustic guitar with backup singer Cat Martino to perform a set of tender and evocative folk-pop songs.

Sharon released a couple more albums and then took some time away from music.  She returned this year with the appropriately named comeback single “Comeback Kid.”  The big difference was that now there were synths!

Cut to nearly a decade later. One of only a handful of artists to get a repeat headlining engagement at the Tiny Desk [that handful is getting bigger and bigger it seems]. Van Etten has spent the last few years purging her bucket list: She’s become an actress (appearing as a guest star on The OA), released a string of increasingly aggressive albums (the latest of which is this year’s synth-driven Remind Me Tomorrow), toured the world, performed on Twin Peaks, written music for films, become a mom, gone back to school and popped up in collaborations with everyone from Land of Talk to Jeff Goldblum.

I had no idea that these things happened.  So good for her, I guess.

It’s only natural that this Tiny Desk concert feels different; you can hear it before Van Etten and her band even show up onscreen. Its pace set by the ticking beat of a drum machine, “Comeback Kid” is in full bloom here, with a swaying arrangement that fills the room before Van Etten opens her mouth.

“Comeback Kid” is super catchy.  It sounds similar to the recorded version although a little smaller, perhaps.  There’s also a few extra keyboard flourishes from Heather Woods Broderick (who played the Tiny Desk as a member of Horse Feathers way back in 2009).  Charley Damski plays the synth washes that fill the room.  Sharon plays acoustic guitar and sings with serious intensity.

“You Shadow” starts with bass (Devin Hoff) and a drum machine (Jorge Balbi).  There’s no guitar on this track, but Sharon’s voice sounds great:

 the singer performs with considerable intensity here, seething through “You Shadow.”

She quietly thanks everyone and introduces the band.  This moment of thanks and appreciation in no way prepares you for the intensity in which she sings the set-closing “Seventeen.”

The song also starts with synth and bass.  Sharon sings but doesn’t start playing acoustic guitar until after the first verse.  Everyone adds gorgeous backing vocals for the chorus.  Then Sharon starts getting intense while singing.  Normally “la la las” are kind of upbeat, but she comes out of them with a fire as she sings “with a scream that slashes through the office air.”

Her voice almost breaks and she seems to be quite moved by the performance.  It’s really tremendous.

I admit that I like her earlier stuff better–the way she sang, the way her backing singers complimented her and the intensity of her music.  But after seeing her live this summer and now watching this, her intensity is still there–it’s just used more sparingly and appropriately.

The only downside to this Tiny Desk is that Heather Woods Broderick–who is an amazing backing vocalist–is pretty subdued here.  It’s appropriately subdued in this setting, but it’s a shame to not hear her in full.

Here (left) is a picture from Sharon’s first Tiny Desk Concert.

[READ: November 7, 2019] “The Flier”

This story was very cool.

I really loved the way the entire story totally downplayed “one of the most wondrous occurrences in the history of humankind.”

It begins with the narrator explaining that his wife Viki had invited their friends Pam and Becky over: “short notice–but there’s something we’d like to talk over with you.”

As he describes the meal he’s made, in quite a lot of detail, Pam and Becky arrive.  The narrator hears them talk about him and he acknowledges that his illness has made him small and light.

After the pleasantries are over, Viki says matter-of-factly that the narrator “has developed the ability to fly.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN-Tiny Desk Concert #91 (November 14, 2010).

I was introduced to Sharon Van Etten via NPR’s All Songs Considered, so it’s no surprise that they would have her on a Tiny Desk Concert as well.  I loved her song, “Save Yourself” more than I could imagine.  There was something about the way the intensity built and built that really blew me away.  The rest of her album is really enjoyable, but it has less intensity. It’s almost like an acoustic album.

So it’s funny that I find her Tiny Desk show mildly disappointing because it is also an acoustic set. In fact, it is just her and her guitar (and her singing partner who sings wonderful harmonies).

Okay, I shouldn’t really say disappointed because the set is quote good.  Her guitar laying is fine and her voice, he unique and slightly unsettling voice is in fine form here.  There’s just something about the stripped down nature that takes away that extra sparkle that I really love about the disc.  I imagine that if I hadn’t heard the whole CD first, I would have been blown away by this live recording.

The four songs (“Peace Signs,” “Save Yourself,” “One Day,” “For You”) are all from Epic, and they’re all really good.  It’s a nice accompaniment to the album, but I think the album is a bit better.

[READ: December 13, 2010] I Live Real Close to Where You Used to Live

Back in early 2009, McSweeney’s published Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country: Kids’ Letters to President Obama as a friendly kick off to the President’s new term. We’re now at the end of the second year of that term and the “Have Fun” part seems to be rather unlikely.  But just in time for the rise of Boehner, McSweeney’s has published this companion piece, letters to the rest of the Obama family.  And it is just as sweet, clever and at times odd as the first.

The kids from 826 National in several cities were asked to write letters to the first family.  It’s interesting to see how the different regions ask different questions, but perhaps more interesting is how some things seem to resonate no matter where the kids are from.  Two kids ask about Pokémon Black and White (this must be the hot new game).  Several kids ask how many rooms there are in the White House.  Naturally, several ask about her garden (what she has in it or what kind of fruits and veggies she likes).

But the most fun is the advice the kids give.  My favorite is the girl who says that her aunt thinks Mrs Obama should have one more child (but only if she wants to).

Sadder are the children who are clearly having a rough time.  One child talks about her parents’ separation, and another’s entire letter is: “Can you help my family? We’re about to lose our house. Make the world a better place. What is your favorite food?”  It must be tough to be a prominent person who clearly wants to help yet who is for the most part, impotent to do anything.

And for me that has to be the hardest part about writing to the first lady.  She has no clear “role.”  She’s a public figure and she advocates for good, but she can’t really “do” anything.  And that has to be hard to grasp.  Although judging by what the kids say, maybe they have no problem with it. (more…)

Read Full Post »