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Archive for the ‘Indigo Girls’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JOSEPH-Live at the Newport Folk Festival (July 29, 2017).

 Every year, NPR goes to the Newport Folk Festival so we don’t have to.  A little while afterwards, they post some streams of the shows (you used to be able to download them, but now it’s just a stream).  Here’s a link to the Joseph set; stream it while it’s still active.

Joseph is a band of three sisters and their sound is a little like Indigo Girls–if there were three of them.

When Natalie, Meegan and Allison Closner shout together to the heavens, accompanied only by Natalie’s acoustic guitar, it’s a joyful noise that intrinsically celebrates their bond.

So yes, Joseph is all about harmonies.  They play six songs from their recent album I’m Okay, No You’re Not which is a pretty great release (with a few songs that go a little too commercial).  For the most part, it is just one guitar and three voices.

Their first song “Stay Awake” starts off quietly with one of the sisters (Natalie, I assume) singing and plucking a spare melody on the guitar.  And then about a minute and fifteen second in, all three sisters sing and suddenly the song is magical.

 “Canyon” has a number of amazing moments, but especially when they sing along with one of the sisters taking lead and the other two doing some great harmonies.  When the lead sings “I wanna feel it,” all three singers soar to the rafters in a gorgeous harmony (around 7:25 of this set).

They get applause for “S.O.S.” before playing it.  This is their poppiest song and the one that verges closest to a sound I don’t like (especially for them).  But it’s hard to deny it when they sound so good live.

For “Planets” they ask if anybody wants to sing and they give the audience a mildly complicated melody to sing.  I can’t really tell if the audience is any good at it, but the sisters seem to like it.  And “I Don’t Mind” has a terrific melody even without the harmonies, but when they come in it’s even better.

They describe “Sweet Dreams” as like a lullaby that they used to say to their mom ” Sweet dreams, I love you, good night.”  But this song is anything but a lullaby.  The melody is sophisticated and their voices are powerful.  It’s quite something,.

They have time for two more.  We’ll sing one from our old record and…maybe our single.  That single, “White Flag” finds a stellar balance of pop and folk.  It hits just the right edges of pop to make the song insanely catchy but with an almost aggressive folksiness that is undeniable.  And live it’s almost breathtaking.

Their voices are just amazing.

[READ: June 20, 2017] “I Have Fallen in Love with American Names”

Earlier this month I posted a piece from Roth about names.  I assume that this excerpt comes from the same source.

Roth’s parents were born in New Jersey at the start of the twentieth century.  They were at home in America even though “they had no delusions and knew themselves to be socially stigmatized and regarded as repellent alien outsiders.”  And that is the culture that Philip grew up in.

Butt the writers who shaped his sense of country were born in America some thirty to sixty years before him.  They were mostly small town Midwesterners and Southerners.  None were Jews.

What shaped those writers was not mass immigration from the Old Country and the threat of anti-Semetic violence, but the overtaking of farms and villages  values by business culture.

He says what attracted him to writers like Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, Ring Lardner, Sinclair Lewis, Thomas Wolfe and Erskine Caldwell was his own ignorance of everything North South and West of Newark, New Jersey.  And the way that America from 1941 to 1945 was unified: (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: BRANDI CARLILE-Tiny Desk Concert #229 (July 9, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

brandiBrandi Carlile has been making a lot of noise on WXPN this last year.  She has a few song that I really like.  But I didn’t realize that her background was in country music—it’s slightly apparent on her more recent music.  But in this Tiny Desk, her whole country style really comes out.  Well, I guess she’s more alternative country—it’s strange that she has a country twang in her voice since she is from Washington.

“Raise Hell” is a romping stomping ass kicking song.  The riffing and power of the song is undeniable.  And it’s lyrically fun.  She actually sounds a bit like one of the Indigo Girls (I can never remember which one is which) on this song, with a notable but not pronounced accent.

Her backing band is great—two guitars a cello and a violin.  And they sing some great “ooohs” always right on pitch and sometimes quite high.

She asks if they should do a guitar version of “That Wasn’t Me.”  This is straightforward folk song with some more great “oooh” backing vocals.  But when the strings kick in about half way through, it really elevates the song.  Bob jokes about how often they’ve played the song in that way and she says, “That arrangement is about 5 minutes old.”

For the final song she wants to feature the strings.  “Promise to Keep” is a pretty , slow song with great strings and backing vocals.   Her voice is strong and powerful throughout all the songs and she hist some really high falsettos in this one.

I am glad she is moving more towards folk, although some of that stomping country would be fun to see live.

[READ: December 11, 2016] “Crazy Life”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

Most of the stories so far have been somewhat hopeful, but this one really removes all hope from the characters’ lives.

The story is told in first person by Dulcie.  Dulcie is dating Chuey, a gang member who has been picked up by the cops in the past.  She gives him grief but then realizes that this time it is far more serious.

She went downtown and there were all the town’s reporters there.  There was talk of capturing an important gang member.  I love that Dulcie walks through one reporter’s take because she doesn’t care about the media.

Dulcie knows she has to lie about who she is–they’d never let a girlfriend in to see a perpetrator.  So she pretends to be Chuiey’s wife.

After some hurdles, she gets to see him and he reveals that they think he was the shooter, but he swears he was just the driver.

(more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 30, 2016] Indigo Girls

2016-01-30 22.57.42When I was a radio DJ in college, I received a promo disc by a band called the Indigo Girls, which I listened to because Michael Stipe sang on one of the songs.  I really enjoyed the sampler.  The Girls’ harmonies were outstanding and the lyrics were clever and funny and very very smart.

And I’ve enjoyed them intermittently for twenty some years.  I even saw them at Newport Folk Festival back in 1998 when they put on a fantastic show.

Sarah has been a fan of the band for a long time as well.  She saw them at an even more unusual venue–at the American Library Association Convention in 2002.

Neither one of us had seen them in a “proper” venue and thought it would be cool to see them in this small theater in Montclair.

And man, did they sound fantastic.  Their first album came on in 1989 and their voices sound exactly the same.  Emily can hit the high notes and Amy still has that great gravelly sound (despite claiming to be ill and on steroids to get her voice to actually work–I never would have guessed).  And their harmonies are still perfect together. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 30, 2016] Jill Hennessy

2016-01-30 20.26.55Jill Hennessy is an actress who was on Law & Order  from 1993-1996 and then starred on Crossing Jordan.  She is one of the reasons I watched L&O for the couple seasons that I did.  I pretty much stopped once she left, although I never watched Jordan).

I genuinely didn’t think that this was the same Jill Hennessy.  It’s been twenty years and all, but she looks so different (ans still so young) and the name didn’t seem that uncommon.  But nope.  It’s her.  She started playing music a long time ago.  She was busking in the subway in New York before getting a big Broadway gig.  And in fact, she appeared with the Indigo Girls in a Mountain Stage concert back in 2009 (it’s on NPR here).  Hennessy’s voice suits the Indigo Girls very well, she even sounds a bit like Amy Ray if you don’t think too hard about it.

clairehennesyyBefore the concert, I looked her up online and saw her bio–she’s from Edmonton, Alberta–and has been acting for ages.  She was even a candidate to be Scully on The X-Files.

Then I found a few songs and really liked what I heard–she’s sorta country but more in line with the style of the Indigo Girls.  So I was looking forward to hearing her.

We may have missed a song or two, I can’t find setlists online anywhere, but she played a fairly long and solid set.  (more…)

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tibSOUNDTRACK: INDIGO GIRLS-Holly Happy Days (2010).

hollyhappyI know I bought this for Sarah for Christmas a few years ago (I like that it looks like a present).  Sarah and I have both been fans of the Indigo Girls (and we’ve both seen them, but at different events).  This seemed like an obvious fun record for the holidays.  But we both felt a little let down by it.

I’m not exactly sure what’s not quite right, but after listening  again, I think the record is just too much of a downer for Christmas.  I mean even the Indigo Girls’ more serious songs counterbalance with lively singing, but much of this album feels very dirge-like to me.

The main unexpected thing for me is that the record is largely bluegrass-inflected–not something I expect from the Indigo Girls–or Christmas music.

But that’s just how it opens–banjos and fiddle and whooping on “I Feel the Christmas Spirit” a song I didn’t know before.  It’s fun, just unexpected.  “It Really is (a Wonderful Life)” reminds of Barenaked Ladies for some reason (not their voices obviously). It’s folky and is another a song I didn’t know.  I like it–it’s fun having new Christmas songs.
“O Holy Night” has a very weird quality to it.  I usually love this song, but I don’t really care for the way they did this one–it feels flat or something.  Or maybe it’s the violins and folk trappings?  Actually, the middle part (with their great harmonies) sounds really good–I guess it’s just the opening I don’t like.

“Your Holiday Song” sounds more like  a”real” Indigo Girls song–great harmonies, cool chord progressions.  (This one was written by Emily Saliers, so that makes sense).  It’s the first song I really like on the disc.

It’s the middle of the disc that really loses any steam it had.  “I’ll be Home for Christmas” is certainly a sad kind of song, but their version is practically suicidal.  Oh it’s such a downer with that slow violin solo.  Who would want to listen to this version of this song?
“Mistletoe” is an Amy Ray original.  Coming right after the downer of “I’ll be Home” this one is also slow and a downer.  I find that Ray’s voice also sounds really different on this song–I would never have guessed this was her.
“Peace Child” is the third downer in a row, and you just want to give up on your festive mood after this one.

But it picks up with a rollicking bluegrass “The Wonder Song” (written by Amy Ray).  It’s the most fun song on the disc and while it doesn’t scream Christmas, it is a holiday song.

Obviously no one is making “In the Bleak Midwinter” into an upbeat poppy song.  Their version is quite pretty, and their harmonies are wonderful.

Perhaps the strangest song is their cover of Woody Guthrie’s “Happy Joyous Hanukkah.”  It feels very Guthrie, which means it should be done in a folk style (which it is).  The surprise is the full bluegrass rendition of a Hanukkah song (how many Hanukkah songs have whooping in them?  It’s fun, though.

“Angels We Have Heard on High” sounds great with their harmonies.  Although the mandolin solo kind of brings the song down to earth in a weird way.

The disc ends as it middled, with a slow, mournful song,”There’s Still My Joy.”  While I know that not everyone is happy at Christmastime, this record goes a bit too far into the darkness for my liking.

[READ: December 2, 2014] Tib and Tum Tum

Here is another translated comic.  It is done with great flair by Carol Klio Burrel who also did Nola’s World.  This story is aimed more at kids though (but is not existential at all–see yesterday’;s post about translated stories).  The biggest surprise for me with this is that it is actually a series of one page strips rather than a long graphic novel (I think).  Well, there is a long story arc, but every page seems to have a “punchline” as if the story was sequential rather than continuous.

It’s a very simple premise. The book is set in caveman days.  Tib is a small boy with a giant birthmark on his face.  The other kids make fun of him for this.  His mother is overprotective (the joke about him always being safe is very funny) and his father is an oblivious storyteller (whoppers of tales, I must say).  In that first strip, Tib runs into Tum Tum, a baby dinosaur.  He is adorable (and a little scary too, of course).  And Tib decides that this red guy is pretty cool.  Tum Tum spends most of his time chasing (an eating) butterflies.

When Tib tells the elders about the dinosaur they tell him of course that dinosaurs are extinct.  (I love that the story is set in caveman times but that they talk in a more or less contemporary way (no grunting) and are knowledgeable (there’s a sewing joke which is very funny).  When he tries to show Tum Tum to them, the dinosaur hides so no one can see him.  Eventually his mom thinks he has an imaginary friend. (more…)

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tcoop-realmanSOUNDTRACK: REAL MAN ADVENTURES: A Collection of (Mostly) Original Songs by (Entirely) Original Artists–All Inspired by the Book. (An Album! A Book! A Shark!) (2012).

realcdThis soundtrack came with my copy of the book, although it can be ordered separately as well.  It is a varied collection of music in many different genres.  The one thread is that many of the performers are either transgendered or are openly gay or some variation in between.  And lyrically the songs are based on chapters from the book (some literal and others use the book as a jumping off point).  No one can be expected to enjoy the whole disc (the musical styles are just too different), but there’s some really enjoyable and interesting music here.

 OUR LADY J. “Picture of a Man” (live)
I’d never heard of Our Lady J., but she is a transgendered classical singer and has worked with some of the greats in theater. The song opens with a piano solo for one minute.  It acts as an introduction to this theatrical piece (with big backing vocals) about what a man “really” looks like. I love the diversity in this song. It gets really big and quite over the top.

RICK MOODY-“The Closest I Ever Came to Writing a Poem”
Yes, writer Rick Moody wrote this thoughtful song. The music is simple, stark piano with Moody singing gently. It’s quite pretty.

SOCE, THE ELEMENTAL WIZARD-“He Will”
This is a rap song (in the style of Eminem), which addresses Cooper’s troubles with  getting a passport (the lyrics are taken mostly from the book). The rapper has fast flow and the lyrics are complex and interesting, although I don’t really like his delivery that much.  Still, it’s a great lyrical song. Soce is one of the few openly gay rappers.

T. COOPER & PEG HAMBRIGHT-“Interlude: high School”
A 34 second piano, well, interlude with words from the book.

HEM-“The Beautiful Sea”
This is a pretty song, reminiscent of Sarah McLachlan. Hem have a bit more oomph than Sarah, but are equally as pretty. This song was way too short.

THUNDEREGG-“The Guest Star of the Rest Stop”
This is a country(ish) song, with a vaguely out of tune guitar and slow droning vocals. I’d not heard of them before but I see they have dozens of records out. At 5 minutes, I found this one a little long.

T. COOPER & PEG HAMBRIGHT-“Interlude: College”
Another simple piano melody with words from the book.

SCOTT MILLER & THE COMMONWEALTH-“12th Man”
Another country song, this one about (not) playing football (always being the 12th man). It’s a sweet and sad song. Miller also has a number of albums out even though I’ve not heard of him either.

GEO WYETH-“Target Practice”
This song starts as a weird electronic track with sampled voices and then it morphs into a spare keyboard track with Wyeth’s kind of high vocals. It reminds me a bit of the Mountain Moats, but with keyboards instead of guitar. And I don’t like it as much.

CHRIS PUREKA-“Old Photographs”
Pureka has a lot of albums out too (and I thought I knew music). She is a delicate folksinger (until she really starts belting out the words at the end) reminding me of one half of the Indigo Girls. This was a really good, rather dark song.

DYNASTY HANDBAG-“One Man”
This is a sinister electronic/rap song detailing the fears of violence in the trans community.  Dynasty Handbag seems to be a loose cannon with some very interesting videos out there.  Definitely check her out.

T. COOPER & PEG HAMBRIGHT-“Interlude: My 20s”
This interlude is done on accordion.

THE JULIE RUIN “Girls Like Us” (Vag Vocal Version).
This is Kathleen Hannah’s band The Julie Ruin with special guest Vaginal Crème Davis (possibly not her given name) on vocals. Davis’ vocals are way over the top, but surprisingly not that different from the originals’ mocking tone (and cheesy synths).

SCOTT McCLOUD-“On My Darker Days”
McCloud is in Girls Against Boys.  This song is dark electric guitar (very processed) with virtually no percussion. The vocals are whispered as well.  I enjoyed the beginning but then felt it was a little samey and felt a little long even though it’s only 3 minutes.

ROCCO KATASTROPHE-“F.E.A.R.”
Katastrophe is a rapper (one of the first openly transgendered). His flow is strong and his lyrics are great. I don’t care for his backing music that much.  For although it is appropriately ominous, it feels a bit anemic.

MARTY COOPER WITH THE RIFTERS-“May You Always Ride in the Sunlight”
This sounds like an old timey cowboy song (I can’t find much else about Marty Cooper).  It’s a sweet song that would fit well at the end of any mix cd of good feeling songs. Even if you don’t like the genre, it’s hard not to like this song.

So this proves to be an interesting mix of songs, with a lot of ne (to me) artists.

[READ: May 1, 2014] Real Man Adventures

I didn’t know T. Cooper before receiving this book from McSweeney’s.  Cooper has written several novels although I didn’t recognize any of them when I looked them up (Lipshitz 6 sounds familiar though).  This book is a memoir.

What’s interesting is that Cooper talks about trying very hard to avoid reviewers referencing his past, and yet with this memoir he has completely outed himself.  I was going to try to not write about his past out of deference to his preferences, but since this memoir is all about his past it’s impossible not to.

So, if you know T. Cooper’s writing and you don’t want to know anything about his past, stop reading this and don’t read the book.

I know that I’ve made that enticing, which I didn’t mean to do.  And who knows, maybe fans of his writing already know this. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FIRST AID KIT-Live on KEXP, April 1 2012 (2012).

I’d never heard of First Aid Kit before listening to this set.  They are primarily comprised of two Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg– although there are other musicians on the album and live here.  And they’re quite a formidable band. They play a kind of folkie alt-country, but when the two sisters harmonize (one with a slightly disconcerting low voice) is sends chills up my spine   The chorus of  “The Lion’s Roar”: “I’m a god damned coward but then again so are you” makes the hairs on my next stand up.  “Emmylou” really highlights their songwriting skills.  They talk about this song in the chat with the DJ, and she admits that she wasn’t sure if the metaphor worked, but the DJ and I agree it does.

The harmonies on “Blue” are just spectacular and the subtle application strings and glockenspiel really flesh out the sound.   I’m thinking of them as a maybe a more dynamic/indie sounding Indigo Girls.

They DJ also mentions their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” which has garnered the attention of Fleet Foxes (and millions of views).  You can add to that number :

You can also hear their set.

[READ: October 16, 2012] “Fischer vs. Spassky”

This story opens with the unusual note that Marina cried for a long time after her husband died–she would bite her arm in grief, leaving marks that looked like “irregular postage stamps.”  Her husband died 30 years ago and she can still feel the marks tingle.

I say that note was unusual because the story is a flashback that is brought on by the death of Bobby Fischer.  Marina remembers back to  the monumental chess match between American Bobby Fischer and Russian Boris Spassky.  Although most of Soviet Russia supported Spassky, many Russian Jews supported Fischer because of the freedom he represented.

Indeed, Marina and her husband followed the match very closely and her husband even made a pact that if Fisher won, they would flee Russian for America.  Marina didn’t believe that he was serious, so she went about her daily life as any practical person would. (more…)

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