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Archive for the ‘Jen Cloher’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JEN CLOHER-“Impossible Germany” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

Cloher takes on of my favorite Wilco songs and transforms it in a way that I quite like.  The song opens with some cool buzzing guitar sounds before the main melody resolves with some plinking guitars and keys.

When Cloher starts singing in her quiet, whispering voice, the song builds up a bit and grows really catchy (with cool sound effects swirling around).  The song is really mellow and catchy until the guitar solo in the middle which has a great echo on it as the song ramps up the speed.

I love that the song has picked up the pace and Cloher has vocally as well, although her delivery remains much the same–understated and cool.

It’s a great version.

[READ: February 15, 2020] The Witch Boy

My daughter has had this book for quite some time and she and S. both encouraged me to read it.  I didn’t put it off for any reason, it’s just that there were other things around first.

But boy did I love this story.

I love that it plays with gender roles but in the inverse of a lot of stories.  In this one the boy wants to do what the girls normally do.  And I liked that it’s not that the boys think what the girls do is too girly, it’s just that that is how it has always been done–boys do one thing and girls do another.  So it’s a nice twist on the gender role reversal story.  Plus the story is unyieldingly positive.

We open on a group of young girls learning witchcraft.  I love that they are speaking in runes and that (I assume) Osterberg made up all the symbols?  Or maybe they are classic witchcraft symbols?

Then we see that Aster is in the tree above them eavesdropping.  He is yelled at and told the girls are leaning secrets that he is not privy to.  His mother tries to calm him by saying the magic is not for him, but he insists that he wants to learn it.  But his role, like all the boys, is to learn to shapeshift (I’m glad they each have a cool skill, at least).  But he’s not interested in shapeshifting.  He wants to cast spells.

Then we learn why the gender roles are separated.  Aster’s grandmother had a twin, Mikasi.  Mikasi wanted to learn magic and he eavesdropped as well.  But the spells poisoned him and he lost control.  A darkness came over him, people were hurt and he was cast out. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JEN CLOHER-Live at Newport Folk Festival (July 29, 2018).

Even though it was half a year ago, NPR is still posting some shows from the Newport Folk Festival Festival.  This one is kind of hard to find, since it’s not with the other Newport Folk Festival shows, so here’s the link.

Jen Cloher is a great Australian singer-songwriter/punk.  I have seen her live twice. Once opening for Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile and once on her own.  She is dynamic and brash, funny and clever and a great frontwoman.

When she opened for Kurt & Courtney, she was a solo artist, but when I saw her headline, she had a full band (the same line-up as Newport).  And her set rocked.

The setlist she played for Newport was a truncated version of the full set list she played for us.  But she also played two different songs.  The first was “David Bowie Eyes” and “Toothless Tiger.”

She opened both sets with “Regional Echo” and “Forgot Myself” (oh god, oh god, oh god).  The album is really good, but her lives show packs more punch.  Her band is great: Jen’s wife, Courtney Barnett, on electric guitar and Bones Sloane from Courtney’s band on bass plus the amazing kick ass drummer Jen Sholakis.

The “new song” is actually an old song, “David Bowie Eyes” which she says is “for anyone who likes Patti Smith..”  It’s a sweet poppy number with (of course) interesting lyrics:

She got David Bowie eyes
One is green and one is blue
I’m sure one of his is brown
But what can I do?
Come on say you’ll be
Mapplethorpe to my Patti
Just kids living on a shoestring dream

It’s followed by “Sensory Memory” one of my favorite songs of hers.  The melody is wonderful and the lyrics are so bittersweet.  After “Shoegazers” which has some great noisy soloing from Courtney, comes “Toothless Tiger” the other “new” song (which is also old, both of those songs are from her 2013 record).  It’s more on the snarky side, with some backing vocals from Courtney.

I love “Analysis Paralysis” for the lyrics (of course)–kangaroos in the pool–but also for Courtney’s wailing guitar solo.

When we saw Kurt & Courtney, they played Jen’s “Fear is Like a Forest” and it was fun to hear it live.  When I saw Jen, like in this version, it was a very different, rocking song and Courtney takes a verse or two.  The set ends with Cloher’s awesome anthem “Strong Woman,” a great song for these times and for all times.

Cloher may get over shadowed by her famous bandmate, but she is an amazing songwriter/performer herself with all kinds of charisma.

SET LIST:

  • “Regional Echo”
  • “Forgot Myself”
  • “David Bowie Eyes” *
  • “Sensory Memory”
  • “Shoegazers”
  • “Toothless Tiger” *
  • “Analysis Paralysis”
  • “Fear Is Like A Forest”
  • “Strong Woman”

*not played at my show–the songs below were played at my show.

  1. Mount Beauty**
  2. Stone Age Brain **
  3. Great Australian Bite**
  4. Name in Lights**

[READ: January 19, 2019] The League of Lasers

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Star Scouts (it had been almost two years since I read it).

It helps to have read book 1 to get the full understanding of this story, but this one stands on its own pretty well, too.

The book opens with a one-eyed creature in a cloak firing a blast at earth.  A blast directed at Avani Patel (the hero f book 1).  Avani and her Star Scouts (all aliens except for Avani’s friend Jen) are rocking out in their terrible rock band.  After the song, we see that Mabel the alien is still sniping with earthling Jen (Mabel made friends with Avani and was shocked to learn that Avani had friends back home).  The explosion hits earth, but it’s not a missile, it is a messenger.

The messenger is for Avani.  The handwritten (on lined school paper) note invites her to join the The League of Lasers–a special squadron of the Star Scouts.  How can she say no? (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 16, 2018] Kurt Vile & The Violators

I have seen Kurt Vile three times.  Once with Courtney Barnett on their Lotta Sea Lice tour.  Then when Jen Cloher played Philly and Courtney Barnett was on lead guitar, Kurt was in the audience.  I was surprised they didn’t pull him up to play.  Then when Courtney came back through Philly to tour her new album, Kurt came out for an encore.

But I wanted to see him play his own songs.  So I was happy when he announced a summer tour with The violators.

I arrived at White Eagle Hall fairly early (the last time Sarah and I went there, the line was really long), so I wound up rather close to the stage, which meant I was able to watch Kurt do his thing (and the sound was still good, too). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 16, 2018] Courtney Barnett

 I’ve enjoyed Courtney Barnett since I first heard her a few years ago.  I had also heard that her lives shows were fantastic and put her high on my list of artists to see.

So when she and Kurt Vile did a tour together Sarah and I were right there.

But that was a different thing altogether.  The Kurt and Courtney show was pretty laid back and folkie.  Whereas Courtney’s solo music tends to be loud and confrontational.

So when she set out to tour for her upcoming album (which came out two days after we saw her), I grabbed tickets right away (they sold out by the end of the day). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 31, 2018] Jen Cloher

Sarah and I saw Jen Cloher open for Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile.  But because of traffic and parking, we saw barely two songs by her.  Her set (like Barnett & Vile’s) was acoustic.  She announced that she would be playing at Johnny Brenda’s in January and that her set would be much more rocking.  She also teased out that Courtney would be playing lead guitar for her.  Those two details made me want to see the show.  And I’m really glad I went.

I hadn’t been to Johnny Brenda’s before.  I heard it was small and sight lines could be tough if you got there late.  This show was sold out but I must have gotten there early because I was almost right in front of the stage (I was behind a woman who basically took up three spots with how often she moved around).

After being pretty far from Courtney at the previous set I made sure to set up on her side of the stage.  And it was pretty electric when she came out to tune up he guitar.  I saw that Kurt Vile was hanging around off to the side of the stage too, although he didn’t come out or anything. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 31, 2018] Mia Dyson

I had never heard of Mia Dyson before this show.  She is a fellow Australian and old friend of Jen Cloher’s.  I arrived just after her set was underway (amazingly, this was my first time at Johnny Brenda’s, I haven’t quite sussed out parking there, yet).

Mia’s set was really enjoyable.  She has a kind of Bonnie Raitt/rootsy vibe.  As she was singing her songs and I was impressed with her vocal power, her guitar playing and the cool bass and drums parts these songs had.

I don’t really love roots music typically, but her set worked great live.  And the audience responded appropriately.  She even said that she had played Philly and never had a good show here, until this one. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 3, 2017] Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile

I have been a fan of Courtney Barnett’s since I first saw her on a Tiny Desk Concert about 3 years ago.  Bob and Robin from All Songs Considered have raved about her and her live show.  I was really bummed to have found out about her last Philly show a little too late.

So she has been high on my list of artists to see.

I really like a bunch of Kurt Vile songs, although I don’t listen to him all that much (but “Pretty Pimpin'” is amazing).  When they got together for this album/tour, it kind of made sense.  Although I found that I was a little disappointed that Courtney played more like Kurt than Kurt played like Courtney.  The album is kind of slacker folkie and not indie rocking.  Although the good spirit and fun that they clearly had quickly won me over.

I knew the backing band was the Sea Lice, with a somewhat revolving cast.  I was hoping to get Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney on drums, but instead we had Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint, who was terrific, Rob Laakso (from Kurt’s Violators) on bass and Katie Harkin (Sky Larkin) on keyboards (with wonderful backing vocals). (more…)

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