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Archive for the ‘John Darnielle’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BLEACHERS-Tiny Desk Concert #648 (September 12, 2017).

I didn’t realize that Jack Antonoff, lead singer of Bleachers, was the lead guitarist (but not singer) for the band fun.

I really don’t like the lead sax by Evan Smith on two of the songs.

I particularly don’t like the sound of the sax on “Everybody Lost Somebody.”  When the sax is gone, the song which is otherwise just piano (Mikey Hart) sounds pretty great.  Antonoff’s delivery is quite interesting on this song, it reminds me of The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle–an almost-speaking, somewhat arch style..

After the song ends, Antonoff asks, “How often you guys do this?”
Bob says, “We got another one in an hour.”
Then he continues, talking about how NPR seems like a nice place to work.

For the second song, “Don’t Take The Money,” Antonoff says: “If you ever see Bleachers live, it’s two drum sets and it’s big and it’s kinda like this big statement that I could hide behind the tears with this big rock show. But the songs are written like this.”

This is kind of funny since the drums are played on a boombox and are quite loud.  The synths really fill the room, too.  Oddly the song segues into the chorus of Queen’s “Radio Gaga.”  Of the threes songs this is my favorite.  There’s no sax and Smith is playing along on a second set of synths to really make a full sound.

My favorite part of the song is at the end when he tries to get the boom box to stop.  He hits the button (trying to get a percussive sound), but it doesn’t turn off.  He and the pianist turn it into a cool improvised ending.

He says, “that’s cool we’ve never played that song like that.  That’s how it’s meant to be.  In some ways.  That’s what I love about playing live is to trick people–trick them into getting really sweaty and then going home and having weepy moments.”

After the song, Antonoff talks about the live show.  The blurb helps out:

“My manager says, ‘When you play for 1,000 people, don’t talk to one person. It’s only cool for them,'” Antonoff said. It was offered as an apology — he had just finished aiming a monologue about the link between dancing and crying at a single NPR staffer in the audience — but it was also a perfect encapsulation of the connection Antonoff’s songs create. Bleachers makes truly conversational pop, songs that sound expansive but retain a sense of intimacy, even when aimed at the masses.

This final song is called “Foreign Girls” and he tells the band, “I guess we’ll do it… like we talked.”  The sax is back and is almost obscured by him “la la la’ing” but it does peek through.

It’s interesting hearing them like this, but I don’t know what they sound like all big and dancey, so I can’t really compare.

[READ: October 1, 2016] Ms Marvel: Super Famous

Confusingly, this book collects issues 1-6, but they are definitely not the first issues one to six.  This is a whole new story line which follows the previous books and is listed as Volume 5.  The book has three artists: Takeshi Miyazawa (issues 1-3) , Adrian Alphona (part of issue 1), and Nico Leon (issues 4-6).  And it starts off almost where the last series ended.  Except it’s 8 months later and a few things have happened.

Like Ms Marvel has officially become an Avengers (there’s a cool two page spread of them coming down the alley (although I don’t recognize some of them, actually).  And Ms Marvel is doing pretty well.  However, Kamala, the girl who is Ms. Marvel is having a hard time keeping up with schoolwork, friends and family while fighting crime at night.

Oh and somehow in the last 8 months, her best friend/crush Bruno has started dating a wicked cool girl named Mike.  How did she not notice this romance blooming?  And can she take it out on Bruno?  Well, she can until she looks up and sees her image (well Ms Marvel’s image) on a billboard.  And this has her fighting mad, even more so when she finds out who is responsible for the billboard.

Turns out it is a bunch of developers creating Hope Yards–a plan to clean up Jersey City by making it unaffordable for undesirables.  And what’s worse is that the people protesting the unannounced building of Hope Yards are naturally associating her with the project. (more…)

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jan2016SOUNDTRACK: CHRIS THILE & MICHAEL DAVES-Tiny Desk Concert #133 (June 13, 2011).

After seeing Avi Avital play an amazing show last week, it seemed only thilefitting to mention a show with an other amazing mandolin player. Chris Thile does some incredible work on that tiny instrument.  I’d love to see a duel between the two of them—it would be mind blowing.

Thile has played with many many different musicians, both in bands (Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek) and as duos and trios.  And this duet with guitarist Michael Daves is fantastic.

Daves plays a folkie electric guitar and sings.  They share lead and harmony vocal duties (with Thile usually going higher).  And while Thile’s mandolin solos are incredible, Daves is no slouch on the guitar either–his fingering may be just as fast as Thile’s.

The two have a great rapport (and play a super long set!).  The duo met and were going to record one song, but it turned into more than a dozen.  And they play 6 of them during this show.

“Sleep With One Eye Open” feature Daves on lead vocal.  It’s upbeat and bouncy folk with a country twang attached.  (I love that Thile’s mandolin is just as loud as Dave’s guitar).  And I love watching Thile bounce around while playing.

They duet on vocals for “Rabbit in the Log” which is about the inherent cuteness and tastiness of rabbits.  Thile’s fingerwork is mind blowing until you hear the solo that Daves does.  And how does a song that’s so fast end so sweetly?

“Bury Me Beneath The Willow” is slower song with Thile on lead vocals.  it shows that their whole act isn’t about speed.

“Billy In The Lowground”  Thile says that Billy, “through no fault of his own ended up in the lowground.”  It’s an instrumental so we just have to imagine what Billy did.  It’s another place for them to show off their skills.

“It Takes One to Know One” is a more bluesy than bluegrass song with Daves on lead vocals.  It’s alike a slow blues song with Daves’ country twang vocals.  Thile’s slide solo is amazing—never seen anything quite like that on the mandolin (well, until Avi did something similar).

When their set should be over, Thile says they’ll do “one more for good measure.”  “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” is an incredibly fast song.  They duet on vocals but Daves really shines on the super fast guitar solos.

The more I see Chris Thile the more I’m impressed by him.  I can’t wait to see who he teams up with next.

[READ: February 23, 2016] “There are Other Forces at Work”

John Darnielle, singer and guitarist for the Mountain Goats is also a fiction writer.  And here is a great essay about John Cage.

Darnielle opens the essay by saying that on the day that Nixon resigned, Darnielle was 7, but he cheered anyone since he was taught that Nixon was the bad guy.  And on that day, John Cage gave the first public reading of “Empty Word” a piece of unaccompanied voice in which he read from Thoreau’s journals and reduced the journals first to single words then to syllables and eventually to letters–drawing them out slower and slower.

This piece caused riots.

Then Darnielle gets to the meat of the matter.  He has gone to Halberstadt because The John Cage Project has been performing Cages’ “ORGAN2/ASLSP” there since 2000.  And it plans to run until 2640.  Perhaps you have heard of this piece and its preposterous length.

There is a piano version of ASLSP (which stands for As Slow as Possible).  Darnielle tries to imagine playing each note on a piano until it rang its length out (about 30 seconds). But an organ can play for as long a performer can hold the note.   The only instruction Cage gave for the piece: “all eight pieces are to be played.  However, any one of them may be repeated, though not necessarily, and as in ASLSP, the repetition may be placed anywhere in the series.”   In other words you can play it for as long as you like

Here’s a 4 minute version

It is being performed in Halberstadt because the modern twelve note keyboard was in vented in Halberstadt in 1361.  That was 639 years before 2000 and thus the entire piece will last until 2640 which is 639 years from 2000 (there’s nice symmetry for an asymmetrical piece).  As such, since they were mathematical about it, they determined that one of the 8 parts would last 71 years.  That’s 71 years of an organ playing a single note.

When Darnielle arrives it is for one of the changing of the chords.  This discordant chord had been playing since 2012.  Before he arrived, he tried to imagine what it would be like, and he is both underwhelmed but also moved by the simplicity of it.  He says its not pretty or unpretty, it’s just sort of there–a kind of background drone.  It’s also much quieter than he imagined.  The chord is being played by sandbags–there is no keyboard.

The note change (and Darnielle’s visit) was on October 5, 2013.  The next change is in 7 years.  Here’s a list of planned chord changes (note they do not go until 2640)

The piece started with a 17-month rest on September 5, 2001, Cage’s 89th birthday. The first sound appeared on February 5, 2003. Subsequent dates for note changes include:

  • July 5, 2004
  • July 5, 2005
  • January 5, 2006
  • May 5, 2006
  • July 5, 2008
  • November 5, 2008
  • February 5, 2009
  • July 5, 2010
  • February 5, 2011
  • August 5, 2011
  • July 5, 2012
  • October 5, 2013
  • September 5, 2020

Beyond the sound of the chord there are things to see.  An engraved metal panel attached to an iron rail at eye level–these were paid for by people as a funding for this project and they were allowed to write what they liked.

Darnielle was quite moved by the thing although he is concerned because they play the notes of the new chord one at a time–one note builds on the others.  He says the piece is supposed to be just the one chord and that’s it.  (Realistically it allowed the three people who were invited to begin the chord to each have a moment in the spotlight).  Then he realizes that in the course of 639 years (if you were to compress it to a reasonable length) that will seem like a blip or a grave note.

Darnielle notes that Cage can still cause people’s ire to rise, just if you look at all of the YouTube comments on his piece “4’33′”(the silence piece).  People are outraged by it, still.

I really enjoyed Darnielle’s look at this fascinating event.  I really like Cage for his daring.

Here’s a person’s recording of the event

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SOUNDTRACK: BLACK SABBATH-Master of Reality.

I recently reviewed this album.  And in light of this book I investigated some of the things that Darnielle’s character mentions.

First: according to Wikipedia, the US release of the LP/cassette DID have “extra” tracks on it.  When you listen on CD, and see the time settings of the songs, it’s kind of understandable what they are.

I have no idea what “The Elegy” is supposed to be (as part of “After Forever”) (unless it’s the intro part…no time is given in Wikipedia).  But “The Haunting” after “Children of the Grave” times perfectly to the “Ch Ch Children” part at the end of the song.

“Step Up” which, as he mentions, is a ridiculous name for a Sabbath song can be seen as the 30 second intro riff to “Lord of This World” as it is very different from that song.

The most unlikely “extra song”  is “Death Mask” as part of “Into the Void.”  The timing claims that it is the first half of the song.  The song changes at the 3 minute mark but it also reverts back to the original, so this “song” is specious at best.

But I do appreciate the book for giving some insight into the songs that I hadn’t considered before.

[READ: August 31, 2010] Master of Reality

When my friend Andrew told me about this book (and the series), I assumed it was writers (or musicians) writing about their favorite albums.  I had no idea it would be like this (and, I don’t know if they are all like this).

Darnielle has created a fiction (I assume) about a young man in a psych ward in 1985.  As part of his time there he is told to write in his diary every day.  After the first or second day (in which he just writes Fuck You!) he learns that Gary, the man in charge of him, is reading the diary.  And soon, he begins to use his diary as a way to get his Walkman and cassettes back (they were taken from him when he entered the ward).

Specifically, he wants Master of Reality back.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLACK SABBATH-Master of Reality (1971).

This album seems to have directly inspired more bands than any other Sabbath record.  There’s the band Masters of Reality (who I’ve never heard) and there’s the 1,000 Homo DJ’s EP and blistering cover for “Supernaut.”

This is one of my favorite Sabbath discs, even though, or maybe because there aren’t as many hits on it.  The story goes that since Tony Iommi had his fingertips cut off (!) he had to downtune his guitar so the strings would be looser and therefore less painful to play.  As such, this disc introduces a sort of “classic” Sabbath sludgy sound.  But even though this album doesn’t get a the airplay of Paranoid any metal fan knows a few of these songs.  “Sweet Leaf,” for instance, is quite well known.  It also makes me laugh because it is so clearly pro-drug (after all those anti-drug songs on the first two discs).  And of course, it opens with that great echoing cough (which I now assume is from someone toking up).

“After Forever” is one of those great Sabbath songs where Geezer Butler’s bass fills stand out throughout the bridges.  It also features one of Tony Iommi’s strangely “happy” sounding opening chords  The song itself is pretty dark but the chords are so upbeat!  The song has a lyric that I found shocking as a kid: “would you like to see the Pope on the end of a rope, do you think he’s a fool?”  And of course, the guitar solo flies wildly around your head from one speaker to the other.

“Embryo” is a strange middle eastern sounding 30 second instrumental that segues into the awesome “Children of the Grave.”  It’s one of those Sabbath songs that sounds menacing all the way through.  There’s a weird clicking sound in the verses that I assume is Geezer Butler’s de-tuned, incredibly loose bass strings slapping the fretboard.  And, of course, it ends with a wonderfully warped ghostly guitar feedback sounds and the whispered “Ch ch ch ch children.”

The second half of the disc is quite different from the first.  “Orchid” is a delightful 90 second acoustic guitar workout.  And it segues into “Lord of This World” a real rock and roll sounding song (featuring some great Ozzy screaming).  “Solitude” is like “Planet Caravan” from Paranoid, in that it’s a slow, trippy psychedelic sense (is it possible that Sabbath didn’t know that they were a metal band?).

Finally comes “Into the Void.”  This was one of the first songs I’d ever learned on guitar.  My guitar teacher liked the down-tuned low E string aspect of it, and I still enjoy playing it today.

As my friend Andrew pointed out the other day, John Darnielle from the Mountain Goats has written a 33 1/3 book about Master of Reality.  While I haven’t read it yet, Darnielle is pretty cool, so I assume it’s a great read if you like this disc.

[READ: November 30, 2009] “Loggerheads”

Not every David Sedaris piece is funny.  We know he’s not a comedian, per se, although he is certainly a humorous writer.  We also know that some Sedaris pieces are kind of disgusting.  He tends to delight in the grotesque.  However, in this piece he combines the disgusting with the non-humorous to create a very unsatisfying piece. (more…)

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