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Archive for the ‘John Grant’ Category

sweater SOUNDTRACK: ÁSGEIR-Tiny Desk Concert #397 (October 18, 2014).

asgeirÁsgeir Trausti Einarsson is an Icelandic singer songwriter.  He has a beautiful soft soaring voice.  He released his debut album Dýrð í dauðaþögn in Icelandic (it became the biggest-selling debit in Icelandic music history).  A year later he reissued it in English (with translation help from John Grant who was living in Iceland) as In the Silence and finally (the version I have, as a 3 disc set with the Icelandic and English discs as well as a selection of bonus songs.

“On That Day” is a pretty, guitar based song (Ásgeir plays the main melody line and has guitar accompaniment (and backing vocals) from his childhood friend Julius Róbertsson.

For the final two songs, Ásgeir switches to piano.  “Torrent” has gorgeous vocal harmonies. It’s interesting how much more deliberate this song feels–not quite staccato, but the piano chords don’t really ring out, letting each note stand on its own.

For this Tiny Desk, he stripped down the songs, getting to their core.  They’re not flashy, they’re just lovely.

The final song he plays, “Higher” is the first song on the record (interestingly “On that Day” is the final song on the record).  It has a very slow, delicate piano melody and is also soothing and beautiful.

And in a cool synchronicity at the end of the show Bob tells Ásgeir  that he’s playing at the same piano that John Grant played on a few months earlier.

[READ: July 2, 2016] Sweaterweather

Back in 2003, Sara Varon published her first book called Sweaterweather.  This collection includes all of the original 8 stories as well as a few more.  Each story gets a brief introduction from Varon which makes me like her even more (she’s quite funny).

Most of the stories are short(2-3 p[ages) and most don’t seem to have a title.  The contents page is actually thumbnails from each story.

When I first saw Varon’s style, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  It is so innocent and childlike.  And I have really grown to love it–especially when these sweet animals characters (they’re pretty much all animals) tackle some intense feelings. (more…)

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2008_03_10-400SOUNDTRACK: JOHN GRANT-Tiny Desk Concert #372 (July 13, 2014).

grantI know and like John Grant from his albums after this one.  These three songs perfectly encapsulate Grant’s pop sensibility with his acerbic wit.  His later albums are also a bit more dancey, so it’s interesting hearing these as straight up piano and guitar songs.

On “Where Dreams Go to Die,” he plays piano in a very dramatic fashion and sings in his slow sometimes whispered baritone voice.  The song is pretty and then the lyrics come in: “I’m willing to do anything to get attention from you dear.”  But it’s not until the chorus (with acoustic guitar added) that the melody gros even more catchy and the lyrics grow even more dark:  “Baby…. you’re where dreams go to die and I regret the day your lovely carcass caught my eye.”  There’s  great bass riff on the piano that he plays during the end of the song which ups the drama even further.  It’s quite a song.

In introducing “Sigourney Weaver,” he says that when he was 12 he moved from Michigan to Colorado and he hoped the move would erase his homosexual feelings.  He changed his mind about that “when he got the hang of it.”  The song doesn’t have anything to do with Weaver except as simile: “I feel just like Sigourney Weaver when she had to kill those aliens.”  Although I think the follow-up simile is even better: “I feel just like Winona Ryder in that move about vampires and she couldn’t get that accent right and neither could that other guy.”

“It Doesn’t Matter to Him” is about the inability to deal with the sudden absence of love.  It features the great lyrics: “I am no longer as awkward as I was when I was younger I guess I’m one of those guys who gets better looking as I age.”

Grant is a marvel and his songs, while caustic, are quite fun.

[READ: February 15, 2016] “Raj, Bohemian”

I really enjoyed this story a lot.

I enjoyed the way the story began with a bunch of wealthy city kids doing all kinds of debauched things with no repercussions.  None of them worked, but somehow they were trendsetters.  “We went dancing whenever we felt like it and watched illegal pre-releases of Hollywood blockbusters… By the time the world caught up we usually got bored and moved on.”

They are smug asses, but they aren’t obnoxious about it–“we despised trendies–fashion kids who tried to hard,”

And then we met the narrator’s friend Sunita who throws the best parties.   She had a gorgeous apartment and lived there rent free (for complex reasons).  For this latest party, which promised to be her best, she cryptically said “dress sincerely.” (more…)

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jun9SOUNDTRACK: JOHN GRANT-“GMF” (live on The Late Show with David Letterman) (2014).

grantI was introduced to John Grant with this song.  And since the G stands for Greatest and the MF stands for what you think it does, I was really surprised to hear that he played this live on Letterman (Grant’s network TV debut, no less).

He sounds great live (his voice is rather gentle for such a song title).  He has a full band but the song is primarily acoustic guitar with swells of keys.  The backing vocals on the later verses really flesh out the song.  And it is immensely catchy.  I’ve been singing it to myself for days.

But the best part of course are the lyrics.

In the first chorus of this version he dares to sing the dreaded MF words, which get silenced (sophisticated recording keeps the music playing though).  The rest of the choruses he changes it to “I am the greatest living creature” which I find funny and possibly even better.  I also love the way the percentage of laughing you could be doing decreasing as the song ends.

They edited down the song (the original over 5 minutes), removing a middle section that adds dimension to the song, but is not missed in this version.

Even Letterman enjoyed it, saying those same bleeped words at the end of the song.  It’s a great live performance

[READ: September 17, 2014] “You Can Find Love Now”

This year’s Summer Fiction issue of the New Yorker was subtitled Love Stories.  In addition to all of the shorter pieces that were included in this issue, there were also four fiction contributions.

Interestingly, this one was very short as well (possibly shorter than some of the essays).

This story actually reads like a Shouts & Murmurs piece.  It is a funny conceit dragged to its logical ends.  In this case, the story pokes fun at online dating.

The story opens with a pitch from the dating company saying that after creating a profile, within 24 hours “you’ll be on your way to eternal happiness.”  The first joke comes when the profile creator writes, “Find me at cyclops15.  Cyclops 1-14 were taken.”  Then in his second typed section we learn that, indeed, he is really a cyclops: “I am eight feel tall and I have one giant eye.” (more…)

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