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Archive for the ‘Joni Mitchell’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE WEATHER STATION-Tiny Desk Concert #687 (January 8, 2017).

The Weather Station played a show in Philly a while back.  I knew that Bob Boilen really liked the album, and I thought about checking them out live.  But things came up and I didn’t.  And now here they are at a Tiny Desk.

It was the first song here, that Bob especially liked:

It’s called “Thirty” and in less than four minutes and nearly 400 words, singer Tamara Lindeman paints images of joy intertwined with the awaking jolt of turning thirty.

The dollar was down
But my friends opened businesses
There were new children
And again, I didn’t get married
I wasn’t close to my family
And my dad was raising a child in Nairobi
She was three now, he told me

The song is a pretty, shuffling song (spare drums from Ian Kehoewith a speedy rhythm guitar (from Lindeman), a roaming bassline (Ben Whiteleyand some cool guitar licks (William Kidman) over the top (both of which are really lovely).

The musicians in The Weather Station underpin these words with delicate playing and by sitting quietly but poignantly under Tamara Lindeman’s beautiful voice. Her soft voice shifts pitch with a rapid flow in a Joni Mitchell-sort of way, never coming up in volume more than a quiet, table conversation level.

There’s a great (relatively) wailing solo that really pushes the song forward and which ends perfectly when Tamara starts singing again.

“You and I (On the Other Side of the World)” has a slow slinkiness that I rather like.  There’s also some nice, understated backing vocals (deep male voices under Tamara’s higher register).  I love the bass work at the end of the song, too.

Tamara’s voice sounds very much like someone else or maybe a number of people: I hear Laura Marling and yes, Joni Mitchell, but maybe Margo Timmins as well.  In other words, all good benchmarks.

In fact, the final song, “Free” has a real Cowboy Junkies feel with the big slow echoing rhythm guitar that opens it.

On “Free,” there’s some great lead guitar work once again as well as a wonderful bass line.

a song Lindeman describes as about being both free and not free at the same time, there’s restraint in the voice and a release in the powerful guitar chords. That tension and release is an essential element to The Weather Station’s sound and one of the joys I’ve found listening to their enchanting music.

Initially I wasn’t blown away by this concert, but I found myself hitting replay over and over, enjoying it more each time.

[READ: August 20, 2017] Fierce Kingdom

I read about this story on Skimm, a daily news digest that I have since read is geared to women (and according to some criticism, treats women like they are dumb.  I have recently stopped subscribing to it because I do find it rather dumb and subtly right-wing (how could a site for women not be pissed that Hillary lost? #RESIST).  But whatever, the book sounded interesting so I put it on hold.

The premise is fairly simple: a woman and her young child (4 perhaps), are in a zoo.  Right around closing time two gunmen enter the zoo and start killing people.  What will she do?

For some reason, the blurbs didn’t reveal that there were gunmen, just that “something” happened. Well, honestly what else could it have been but gunmen. So, perhaps I spoiled that part but it came out pretty early anyway.

The story begins with a time stamp 4:55 PM. The zoo closes at 5:30 and Joan and her boy Lincoln are sitting in their favorite spot waiting to leave the zoo.  As they head toward the exit around 5:30, she notices bodies on the ground.  She had heard explosions earlier but didn’t think much of it,  But when she sees the bodies, she quickly puts things together and takes off.

Now the blurb for the book on the inside cover says “an electrifying novel about the primal and unyielding bond between a mother and her son, and the lengths she’ll go to protect him.”  That’s not wrong exactly but I feel like that puts a weird focus on it being about mother hood instead of survival.  Must be some kind of marketing thing.  I didn’t get the sense in the book that it has anything to do with motherhood–I mean frankly any parent would do that for his or her child and I’m sure any person would do the same for anyone they loved.  The fact that the child is younger and doesn’t have the same cognitive skills make the story more compelling.

Because, frankly, as she hides in an abandoned animal enclosure, there’s no reason she would ever have to leave such an enclosure–she can’t be seen, she is well protected, and it is dark.  She even has her cell phone and she talks to her husband (I find it a bit hard to believe that the police wouldn’t listen to him if he has a text from his wife in the zoo, but that’s what happens).  The bad guys even come into where she is and don’t see her.

So, end of story right?  At least I couldn’t imagine why there would be more story when she is safe and the police are coming. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND-Call the Office, London, ON (April 18, 2008).

Dave Bidini played some solo shows in 2007 but by 2008 he had cobbled together a band: Bidiniband.  The band includes Dave, Paul Linklater, on lead guitar, former Rheo Don Kerr on drums and Doug Friesen on bass.

I’m not sure when they started playing together, but this is the first live show at Rheostatics Live.  The set list hasn’t changed much since his solo shows, but the songs sound really different with the full band.

Some of Dave’s solo work is about telling real life stories of unsung people.  They

re usually really interesting the first one or two times you hear them, but they kind of lose their power after multiple listens.  So “Zeke Roberts” and “The Land is Wild” (except for the fantastic chorus) wear out their welcome a bit.  But again, it’s a nice change to hear them with the full band.

“Fat” is interesting to hear with other musicians.  The ending isn’t quite as wild as with the band but these guys chant the “everyone’s a robot” with great energy.  After the song Dave says “Good  night everybody” to much laughter.  For the next song he says, “This is basically the same song but with a more ironic joke.  The irony is not in the tuning or lack thereof.”

Someone says, “You guys and your new strings. I haven’t changed my strings in like two years.”  “I thought t would be cool, you know, on a new tour.”

“This Song Ain’t Any Good” has a very different delivery than the folksier style that I’m used to.  He asks the band, “You want to do it sad, what did you mean?” They do the chorus in a kind of repeated downbeat “singalong.”

Thanks to Andy and The Two Minute Miracles for playing tonight.  We’re gonna do another song based in our country: “The Moncton Hellraisers.”  It has a rather country flair to it.

Someone shouts, “Do a hockey song.”  Dave says, “I think you’re out of luck tonight  Oh, no there’s a longer one later tonight….we’re making you wait for it.”

I love the jazzy opening of “Memorial Day.”  But even better is the full band rock of “Terrorize Me Now.”  Who ever in the band is screaming “And then we killed again,” is totally intense.

Dave asks, “Could anyone deliver a water to the stage, or I could put my guitar down…  From off stage: “only whiskey and cold coffee!”  “cold cuts?”

This next song is gonna feature Dog Paul’s on double bass for a song about cannibalism and Canadian rock.  “Desert Island Poem” features the line   “Rheostatics eat their drummer who would cook and season the body?”

Dave once described the song: “Yeah, and that’s sort of a true story in a way. I mean not the cannibalism part. But one time the Rheos were stranded in Drumheller [Alberta] and we were listening to the radio and we heard this story about that plane that crashed in Alaska. And we began to wonder what would happen to us if we never got out of Drumheller.”

For “The List”, the replaced Zack Warner with Sass Jordan (a Canadian singer) which features the line “you say I suck but it’s that suckdom of which I’m proud.”  Some one shouts, “that’s a fucking song that needed to be written.”  Dave says he has one more verse but he can’t remember who its about.

“The Continuing Story of Canadiana and Canadiandy” has a cool slide guitar solo in the middle of the folk.  Dave, “That’s from back in the day where all the Canadian folk singers looked like Jesus.  Those nice sweaters on, a nice beard.”  Mitsou?  “When I think of Canadian folk I think of Mitsou too, ironically.”

Someone in the band proposes the “Top five Canadian folk albums: Summer Side of Life, Old Dan’s Records,”  Dave notes: “That’s two from Gordon Lightfoot are you allowed to pick two from the same artist?” “And The Way I Feel.” Dave: “You’re just doing Gordon Lightfoot.”  “That’s what I’m trying to say, dude. “I’m getting your drift that you like the Gord.”  “Gordon never looked like Jesus did.” “No, he looked more like Bruno Gerussi.”

“Is everybody ready for a long death ballad?  You look like the kind of crowd who would like a long death ballad.”  Someone in the crowd shouts: “kill us, kill us Dave.”

We haven’t performed this song successfully ever life.  “Zeke” sounds better with the guitar sliding up and down and in the middle when there’s a few complex moments  and the band really takes off.  But there’s all kinds of flubs at the end.  Dave says, “you’re too kind.  That was the best first half we’ve done for sure.”

They play “My First Rock Show” at a slower pace.  “A bit of banjo for this, Paul?”  After the swan dive, there’s some crazy feedback and effects manipulation and then Dave starts singing “Happy Jack.”

They finish “Rock Show” and then begin with “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and then Slade’s “Run Run Away.” (did that song have a chorus?).  And then it shifts to Bidini’s “Pornography.”

“Rock Intro?  Is it a rock intro nigh?” “Progtro.”  Someone says something about YouTube.  Dave says “Whats YouTube. They’re an Irish rock band, right?”  There’s great noisy opening to “The Land is Wild.”  It quiets down but sounds great with the full band.  I like the lead guitar line that runs through the song.  During the slow part, the person who mentioned Gordon Lightfoot sings “Ode to Big Blue” as the song gets bigger and noisier.

It segues into a really fast version of Rheostatics’ “Earth.”  Its rocks.  “Don Kerr on the drums everybody.”  And then a romping “Horses.”  Midway through the song he starts reciting the lines to “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads and then some of “Another Brick in the Wall. Pt 2.”  He also throws n the “facts” portion of Talking Heads’ “Cross-eyed and Painless.”

This all segues into a stomping, guitar-light version of “Life During Wartime.”  Dave starts singing lines from “One Thing Leads to Another” (“one gun leads to another”), “Relax Don’t Do It”  then “When Two Tribes go to war, war is something you can’t ignore.”

As the song ends Dave thanks everyone for coming: “a small but mighty crowd for a small but mighty band.”  Then he introduces the band: Douglas Friesen from Manitoba, Paul Linklater from Manitoba, Dave born and raised in Etobicoke, Ontario.  Donald S. Kerr from Mississauga, Ontario.

As they finish, the crowd is screaming screaming for an encore with one guy even telling him not to put their instruments down.  But there is no encore.

[READ: April 15, 2017] Writing Gordon Lightfoot

The title of this book is unusual–it’s hard to even figure out what it means (until you read the book), but it’s also deceptive.

The title means writing to Gordon Lightfoot.  Bidini is basically writing Lightfoot a series of letters. But it is far more than that.  In fact the scope of the book is really the Mariposa musical festival that took place in Toronto in 1972.  Lightfoot appeared (along with many other folk luminaries).  Interspersed with his documentation oft he festival (he was too young to go so it’s all research) are his letters to Lightfoot.

The reason he is writing letters to Lightfoot in a book is because Bidini believes that Lightfoot won’t speak to him.

His band Rheostatics, recorded a cover of his “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  It was one of their big songs when they were first starting out.  And then, as a brash young kid, Bidini once said that it was actually based on an old Irish melody and that it really wasn’t Lightfoot’s song anyway.  Yipes.

So, assuming that Lightfoot will never talk to him (I wonder if he actually tried), he decides to write letters.  But the letters aren’t “hi how are you” letters, they are a biography of Lightfoot’s life as written by a fellow musician.  He bases most of his notes on things that were in other biographies and he says he makes a lot of it up too.

So it’s an unusual book in many ways. (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: BETH ORTON-Tiny Desk Concert #235 (August 6, 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.

ortonI loved Beth Orton’s album Trailer Park.  The acoustic / electronic sound was new and interesting.  I haven’t heard much from Orton since then, although I gather she has released a bunch and has been producing as well.

But I understand that she has more or less given up on the electronic sounds and focused mainly on acoustic guitar songwriting.  So here she plays four songs.  Three are new and sound quite different from the fourth one which is older.

Her voice is really raspy and raw on those first three songs, inclduing “Candles.”  I actually don’t really remember what she sounded like on those earlier songs, but this sounds different to me.  Very 70s folksinger (like Joni Mitchell, perhaps).

It’s very funny to hear her speak because her speaking voice is so different from her singing voice—so accented!  She seems nervous introducing “Dawn Chorus” a song that she has barely played even for the band.  It’s a lovely song and her voice sounds great on it  I love the strumming style she employs for this song too.

“Poison Tree returns” to that 70s folksinger style again.  The music is very pretty but I don’t care for the rawness of her voice in this setting.

She ends the set with an older song.  She says he wants to tune her guitar for “prosperity  and all.”  Cute how nervous she is.  She plays  “Sweetest Decline,” a familiar song from her second album.

[READ: December 15, 2016] “Minus, His Heart”

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.

This was the first story in the collection that was just a huge puzzle to me.  It was confusing from the start (which is fine), but it never really cleared itself up (which isn’t).

There’s a boy.  His proxy father, Interminable Richard, is sitting on an electric voice box seeking a frequency to soothe his old wound.

The bell rings and it is Minus, the Neighborhood Wassailer, who comes inside and grabs the boy, calling his a thief.  The boy says that Minus had fallen asleep on the escalator, so he, the boy, was going to steal his duffel.  But someone had already stolen it.

The Wassailer inspects himself and says “You ejected my tape.”

The boy says he did steal Minus’ tape and he gave it to his sweet number. And so off they go in search of his sweet number.

They get to the playground and see Winsome Jenny at the leatherball court.  Jenny is mad at him, I gather, and threatens to drop the stick. She says that she was his bona fide sweet number, so he still gets a lastly, but she gave the tape to Zooman Jubal, who is her sweet number now.

Minus drags the boy to the zoo where they meet Jubal.  They take a boat ride and Minus says he will shoot Jubal if he won’t parley.  Even stranger things happen and the boat goes over the waterfall.

This fever dream of a story has a final chapter which seems to tie things up, but never is any detail explained.

I have no idea if this is part of something else or if I’m supposed to find profound metaphor in this crazy story, but suffice it to say I didn’t.  Unless it is simply a romance set in some kind of alternate universe?

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eggersSOUNDTRACK: NICK BUZZ-Circo (1996).

nickbuzzMartin Tielli has been prolific both as a solo artist and with his “side project” Nick Buzz (named after his love of smokes).

Nick Buzz’ first album came out in 1996 (during a time when the Rheos had just wrapped up their album The Blue Hysteria) and was ignored.  It was reissued in 2002 to a bit more fanfare.  I reviewed it once before and while I thought I was more dismissive of it then, it turns out that I wasn’t.  That I enjoyed it and felt mostly the same as I do now.

“Spilling The Wonderful” starting out with a mellow piano intro, the song jars into a noisy/drunken waltz melody and a violin solo before returning to the cabaret/waltz style that opened the song. It is deliriously catchy. The song ends with some tape manipulation before seguing into “That’s What You Get For Having Fun.” This song opens with some slapped and scratchy guitar sounds with a refrain of “there’s a monkey in my underwear.”  There’s a super catchy guitar riff that is sung along to—this song really shines live.

“Just Because” mellows things down a lot, with a jazzy sounding guitar and Martin’s delicate vocals.  The music for his one was written by pianist Jon Goldsmith which might explain the mellowness. It’s a sweet ballad.  Although the segue after this song is some clips from the radio (possibly sung by Tielli?) which are distant and crackling.   There’s a saxophone playing as well.   This merges into an announcer introducing the band for their (live) cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River.” It’s a beautiful, delicate version with Hugh Marsh’s electric violin solo swirling around.

Some dissonant sax segues into Sane So Sane which is actually a pretty gentle piano song. They play with the recording sound as the drums get muffled and dense and there’s more backing vocals thrown over the top.  But it remains largely conventional.  “Hymn to the Situation” is a creaky somewhat creepy song that Martin described as being about a self-centered jerk. who says things like “I’d suicide for you.” There’s a canned crowd cheering at a particularly funny line and even a cow mooing as the song ends

“Fornica Tango” is a wild weird song.  It is tango (Tielli speaks Italian), but the rhythm is kept by a squeaky sound (which is likely Marsh’s violin).  The song is interrupted throughout by a crying baby or, even stranger, a screeching chimpanzee (fornica translates as ant). The song ends with some crazy sounds from Marsh’s electronic violin.  The highlight of the record is “Love Streams’ a beautiful ballad based largely around a piano melody and Marsh’ keening violin. It’s followed by “Aliens break a heat” which is more tape manipulation and all kinds of weird effects (backward vocals I believe) for 2 minutes. Until it’s replaced by sounds of traffic (European) and horns honking.

The final song is the amusing “The Italian Singer/Just Because I’m Nick The Buzz” It starts slowly with some plucked strings and Tielli’s voice. There’s some spoken sections and lots of staccato music until the gentle ending which resumes the melody from “Just Because.”

It’s a peculiar album but one that gets better with each listen (and hearing him play some of these songs live has really introduced new aspects of them to me.

[READ: October 10, 2015] The Circle

I put this book off for a while but with no real reason for doing so.  And I’m sorry I waited so long because the book is really good–it’s thought-provoking and questions a lot of established ideas but is also really kind of fun and utopian.

What’s most impressive to me about the way the book is written is that the story itself is really quite simple.  It is a gradual building up of intensity.  At the end of which the main character has to make a decision which proves to be very important both for her and everyone else.

The story is about Mae.  Mae had been working at a dull and dispiriting job in civil service at her home town.  The job was dull, the people were dull, there was zero energy in the place and even her boss was depressing.  It sucked.  She had been there for 18 months and when her boss joked about her getting a promotion, she’d about had it.

She contacted her friend Annie.  Annie was her college roommate and boon companion for a few years.  And Annie worked at The Circle, the coolest most awesome place in the country to work at–think google, but better).  Was there any way that Annie could help out Mae?  Indeed there was.  Annie got Mae a job at The Circle, just like that.  Annie was one of the Top 40, the influential crowd at The Circle and Mae was in (her first day is hilarious, because Annie plays a wonderful prank on her). (more…)

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rainbowSOUNDTRACK: MARTIN TIELLI-Steamers, Victoria BC (September 1, 1999).

steamersOf all of the three main Rheostatics, Martin Tielli has released the most music outside of the band.  He had a band called Nick Buzz who has released three albums and then he has released three solo albums under his own name. His first came out in 2001.  And this tour was something of a preview for that album.

He called “Farmer in the City” (a song with this title, originally sung by Scott Walker was released on the 2001 album).  This was the second night of the tour (Torfino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island was the first date).

What is most amazing about this show (aside from the fact that the audio quality is outstanding) is that there are a number of songs here that never made it onto any albums.

Also interesting is that even though the show sounds great, Martin was having trouble with his monitor all night. He keeps asking if the crowd can hear him, and saying that he could barely hear himself at all.  And yet his voice sounds fantastic.

The show begins with an intro loop—Martin playing his guitar in waves and crescendos. It’s interesting and unexpected.  “Farmer in the City” is probably my least favorite Martin song—and I find it interminably slow and spare on the record.  Although each live rendition reveals something new in it.

The songs that are heard only on this bootleg include:  “Elkdog” (a description of horses as seen by people for the first time) it’s a rocking and fairly conventional song.  The next is “Indian Arrow” which is as song about his dad being killed by an arrow. It’s a simple rock song (and I just learned was actually recorded very early on a Rheos demo).  “Dear Darling” is a slow song with lots of dramatic singing—very Tielli.  “Redwing Blackbird” is another fairly conventional song but with great harmonies.

“Don’t You Forget It” is a loud, vulgar, sexual song which is dedicated to Vivian (happy birthday).  It’s even got a kind of funk metal middle section.  And “All My Life” is a funky song too.

Although Martin is not very chatty, his band is.  The rest of the band includes Mike Keith on guitar Andrew Routledge on bass and Max Arnason on drums (Mike introduces them as Bob Loblaw on bass and Basic Max on drums).  He also says that during their three days in Torfino, Andrew became a certified surfboard mechanic to which Andrew replies that Mike became a driftwood sculptor (len Tukwila).

There are a number of covers as well-Joni Mitchell’s “River” (which is on the Nick Buzz album, too) Three Bruce Cockburn songs, the mellow “Thoughts n a Rainy Afternoon” (I prefer the original) and then a blistering take on his “Arrows of Light” (I love this version a lot) which segues into “Joy will Find a Way.”

They even do a cover of the Suzanne Vega song “Tombstone.”  Actually, the backing band plays it while Martin goes for a smoke.  It sounds nothing like the original, as their version is loud and rocking.  When Martin comes back from his smoke break he says it didn’t sound like a Suzanne Vega song (I had to look it up by the lyrics).  The other cover is Neil Young’s “Barstool Blues,” which is a rather unusual Neil Young cover I would think.

After a few songs Mike the guitarist says that they were eating some tasty spicy black bean chips which he’s going to pass around for everyone to share… But don’t take them all ”you guys with the hat you take everything.”

They also do a Nick Buzz song “That’s What You Get for Having Fun,” which is a rocking song that sounds great.

He throws in some Rheos songs too.  Their versions of “Digital Beach” and “California Dreamlne” sound great. Martin is in fine voice and although it is somehow different than with the Rheos it still sounds fantastic.  “Shaved Head,” is more dramatic.  A quieter take on the song with no guitar solo.

But when he plays “Record Body Count” he messes up the lyrics so bad that he stops and says “I fucked up my own song.” He refuses to play the end and when someone says he’s being pretentious, he says he’s not he just can’t play it.

The final two songs are just him on his guitar.  He plays “Self Serve Gas Station” which sounds great.  After this he says he doesn’t know what to play.  Someone shouts out “Claire” and he says that he didn’t write that (of course he didn’t write the other covers either, but that’s a funny answer).  For the final song he plays “Christopher” which is truly fantastic.

This is a fantastic show, with lots of dramatic songs, a bunch of real rockers and some rare treats.  It’s a great starting point to listen to Martin solo, and a must listen for any Rheos fan and you can get it (and all these live shows) from the Rheostaticslive site.

[READ: July 27, 2015] Inside the Rainbow

I grabbed this book because I am intrigued by Russian and Soviet art.  I don’t always like it, but I find it utterly fascinating (I wish I could read Cyrillic too, which I think is such a cool looking language).  This book collects illustrations–covers and interior pages from Russian children’s books.

The Soviet Union was formed in 1922 and Joseph Stalin was head of the Union.  A nutshell history of the titular terrible times is: Stalin launched a period of industrialization and collectivization that resulted in the rapid transformation of the USSR from an agrarian society into an industrial power. However, the economic changes coincided with the imprisonment of millions of people in Gulag labor camps.  The initial upheaval in agriculture disrupted food production and contributed to the catastrophic Soviet famine of 1932–33, known as the Holodomor in Ukraine.

The images in this book do not date to the Socialist propaganda style (the striking graphic images of red black and white), rather, these are a more pastoral style.  All of the images come from the Raduga (Rainbow) publishing house. (more…)

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momentSOUNDTRACK: NICK BUZZ-Circo (1996).

nickbuzzNick Buzz is a side project of Rheostatics singer/lead guitarist Martin Tielli.  This album was reissued in 2002, when I bought it  But it came out in 1996, right around the time of the concerts I’ve been posting about.  Martin says that this album is pure pop, and that he is genuinely surprised that people don’t see this.  Of course, when your album has screeching monkeys, cars honking and circus music, pop is not the first thing that comes to mind.  There are certainly pretty songs on here, but it is an album that resists easy entrance.  There are short manic pieces, slow, languorous, almost lounge music pieces, and an improved cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River.” And then there’s the instrumentation: piano, violin, guitar, voice (no drums, although there is percussion on some tracks) and other weird sound effects.

“Step Inside” opens the disc.  It seems like a normal, mellow song (with slightly falsettoed vocals).  But 34 seconds in the circus music starts—a deviant and unsettling circus that pushes its way into the song briefly then vacating and allowing the pretty melody to return.  It’s like a mild form of Mr Bungle (with more actual circus).  It’s unsettling at first but then strangely catchy after a few listens.  There is fanfare as the song ends, interrupted by the sound of a tape speeding up (or going backwards) until song two bursts in.

“That’s What You et for having Fun” is less than three minutes and while weird, it is certainly accessible and funny.  The guitar sounds like he is slapping the strings rather than strumming them.  The refrain of “there’s a monkey in my underwear” gives a sense of the absurdity (especially when the President of Canada (sic) says he has one too).  “Just Because” mellows things out a lot—simple guitar with a kind of lullaby feel (it’s a bout wishing on stars).  It’s so slow after the craziness of the first two songs.  After  3 minutes of a lounge type song, it ends with a distant radio sound of an even more loungey song which melds into the live version of “River.”

The mellow “River” is followed by a raucous bass clarinet solo and wild guitar solo that is interrupted by the long (nearly 6 minutes) “Sane, So Sane.”  This is the most conventional song on the record—a simple piano melody with repeated lyrics (conventional aside from the weird distant music in the background of course).  Although it does gone on a bit long.  “A Hymn to the Situation” is an eerie two-minute wobbly song.

“Fornica Tango” is indeed a tango presumably sung in Italian. This song features a crying baby, an interesting sounding “Italian” chorus and the screeching monkey at the end.  “Love Streams” is a pretty, slow ballad.  “Aliens Break a Heart” is another pretty song.  Although this is the song that ends with traffic sounds.  “The Italian Singer/Just Because I’m Nick the Buzz” has a kind of Kurt Weill atmosphere to it with spoken words and falsettos.

It took me several listens before I could really find purchase with these songs.  I find that I really enjoy most of them now–some of those slow ones are a little too meandering for my liking.  But it seems like a fun outlet for Tielli’s songcraft.

[READ: October & November 2013] A Moment in the Sun

I read this book last year…finished it just before Thanksgiving, in fact (I was proud of my pacing).  But it was so huge that I didn’t want to write about it until I had a good amount of time.  And now here it is four months later and I probably have forgotten more details than I should have and the post will be nowhere near as in depth as I was saving time for in the first place.  Bah.

When people see this book, they say, “That’s a big book.”  And it is a big book.  It’s 955 pages (and they are thick pages, so the book itself is nearly three inches thick–see the bottom of this post for an “actual size” photo); it’s got three “books” and dozens of characters whose stories we read about in full.  It is about the United States, racism, The Gold Rush, the assassination of a President, the Spanish American War, a World’s Fair and even the exploration of moving pictures.  This is a fairly comprehensive look at the Unites States from the 1890s to the early 1900s.  And, man was it good.

John Sayles is known more for his movies than his books (18 films directed, nearly as many different ones written and only 4 novels), but the cinematic quality that is clearly in his blood comes through in this book as well. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_12_17_12Sorel.inddSOUNDTRACK: JONI MITCHELL-“The River” (2002).

joniMuch like Zadie Smith in the article, I was never much of a Joni Mitchell fan.  We may be one of the only houses in America without a copy of Blue somewhere.  Much of my ignorance about her comes from simply not being exposed to her.  Which also seems absurd and yet it is true.

I know her from covers, which should establish her as a great songwriter, if nothing else.  And by now I know a number of her songs, like this one.  This is kind of a Christmas song (it has the word Christmas in it), although it’s not very Christmassy.  I have a hard time believing that Zadie Smith’s husband never noticed that she is quoting the music from Jingle Bells in the beginning of the song though, as it’s really quite obvious.

It’s a  pretty song, and hey maybe it’s time to see what else is on Blue.

[READ: December 20, 2012] “Some Notes on Attunement”

I love hearing about Zadie Smith’s family–her hip black mother and her dorky white father.  I love that she embraces both sides of her life.  And when she writes about it, she presents it so fully.  So growing up her parents listened to Burning Spear and Chaka Khan and Duke Ellington and James Taylor and Bob Dylan and yet somehow never Joni Mitchell.  And she wonders how they didn’t know or perhaps why they didn’t like her.  [My parents were to old for folk music, so that’s my excuse].

She talks about the first time she heard Joni, at a college party (it was Blue, of course) and frowned at it.  Her friends, both black and white said, “You don’t like Joni?”  But, she explains, “Aged twenty, I listened to Joni Mitchell–a singer whom millions enjoy, who does not, after all, make an especially unusual or esoteric sound–and found he incomprehensible.”

And then at 33 she had another experience–listening to Joni Mitchell in a car with her husband on the way to Wales.  Which is where we hear her saying “And that bit’s just Jingle Bells.”  She says she didn’t expect to get much out of that line “and was surprised to see my husband smile, and pause for a moment to listen intently: “Actually that but is Jingle Bells–I never noticed that before.  It’s a song about winter…makes sense.”  Wait, how could he not hear that before??? (more…)

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