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Archive for the ‘Kurt Vile’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KURT VILE-“Passenger Side” (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.

Kurt Vile is a pretty obvious and delightful choice to cover this loping song about drinking and not driving.

It’s a full band recording (even though it’s only two people playing).  Kurt plays some delightful meandering guitar throughout the song while Adam Langellotti plays bass, drums and keys.

It’s a fun cover and Vile’s delivery is perfect.

[READ: February 9, 2020] By Night

I am so taken with Giant Days, that I’ll pretty much read anything by John Allison.  This three-book series has a pretty uninspired title, but the story inside is trippy and very cool.

The story opens “in a commercial lab in Spectrum, South Dakota.”  We are looking at Jane Langstaff who has a masters in chemistry.  As the exposition continues Jane turns to us and says “Stop narrating my life, Barney.”  She sighs and says that she’s basically a restaurant dish washer but with biohazard.  Her best friend is now the autoclave.

As she walks outside she sees “ghost lady” and as she is looking at her she almost stumbles over Heather sitting on the stairs.  Heather has been waiting for Jane.  Jane lies and says she didn’t know that Heather was back in Spectrum.  They quickly catch up.  Heather is no longer with Shawn–who cut his hair and got a law degree.  Jane is shocked: “he cut his hair?” (with an accompanying picture of his gorgeous locks).  Heather reacts: “Of those two things that’s not the one that should blow your mind.”  Heather invites her for drinks.  Jane agrees but instantly regrets it.

Later Heather tells her that she wants to tear it up which means going to a local bar.  It is dark and depressing and no one is tearing up anything.  In fact, Heather’s s dad Chip is there drinking.

Chip reveals that he was terminated today.  He has worked at the Charleswood Estate for his entire life.  Heather realizes that this means that the Charleswood Estate is unguarded (he was the only guard left at the Estate).  With some sleight of hand, Heather steals her fathers’ keys and tells Jane they are going to sneak in.

After some persuading, Jane agrees to go.  They both know Charleswood Estate because every year the school would take them there for a class trip because Chet Charles more or less created the town.  When they sneak in the first thing they do is watching the old welcome video that they’ve seen so many times before.

They sneak into Charles’ private office, where he has a projector and a comfy looking chair.  They are pretty delighted with this find.  but when moonlight hits the projector it turns on and projects a hole in the wall which Heather and Jane walk through … into another world. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 13, 2019] Crown Lands

Crown Lands are a duo from Canada.  As with a lot of rocking duos, they play riff-heavy rock.  But they change things around a bit.  In their bio they say they are huge fans of Rush, and while they don’t do anything as complex as Rush, you can hear the Rush influence all over their songs.  The size of Cody Bowles’ drum set, the little high hat fills, and some of the percussion.  And Guitarist Kevin Comeau plays a doubleneck Rickenbacker and some of the chord progressions are distinctly Rush-ian.  And yet you would never hear them and think you were listening to Rush.

Comeau plays guitar and bass pedals which add a really full sound to their live show.  Bowles has a really powerful voice with a truly remarkable range.  He can do Robert Plant/Geddy Lee high screams, he also has a lower register for the body of most songs.  And their stage presence is pretty great too.

The have two EPS out and are planning a finishing up a full length now.  Most of the songs from this set came from their unreleased record, and these songs are great. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KURT VILE-Tiny Desk Concert #822 (February 6, 2019).

I love Kurt Vile.  I love his sense of humor, I love his attitude and I love most of his music–I love the way his songs are often circular with catchy parts.  I wish I liked his music a lot more-but some of his stuff is a little too meandering for me.

Having said that, he was dynamite live.  And this Tiny Desk is a delightful distillation of his live show.

For this show Kurt plays acoustic guitar and he’s joined by guitarist Rob Laakso and a drum machine.

“Bassackwards” is a wonderful song–and really highlights everything I love about Kurt.  It’s a mellow song with chill out lyrics, a beautiful melody and a circular style in which the song never really seems to go anywhere and yet even at over 6 minutes, it never gets dull.

I love that Kurt does most of the musical heavy lifting even on the acoustic, with Lassko providing the rhythm.

He’s very funny between songs.  This son is from my new album as well.  It’s called “A Working Class HEro is Something to Be” but, uh, also “Loading Zone.”

“Loading Zones” is a faster song which feels like it’s going to overtake itself at some point.  The totally relaxed harmonica (I’ll give John Popper a run for his money…as usual)and his laconic delivery of I park for free is a wonderful contrast.

For the final song “Tomboy” his switches guitar and jokes, “this song’s about John Popper.’  I love this song with its beautiful guitar lines and his halting vocal delivery.  Again, a wonderful juxtaposition of styles, which the blurb addresses:

Kurt Vile exudes a casualness at the Tiny Desk in his style and body language that is so unlike most anxious artists who come to play behind my desk. …The way he plays guitar, he seems distracted, yet the complex guitar lines he so nonchalantly plays, along with his musical mate Rob Laakso, are effortlessly beautiful and lyrical.

On the surface, it all can seem just chill. But there’s a lot of rumination in these songs — and even when he’s gazing into the overhead office lights, I think he got his mind on the stars and the world at large.

Imagine how good he is live when he switches between seven or eight guitars (and banjo).

[READ: February 4, 2019] “Asleep at the Wheel”

I really hope this is an excerpt because I want to read a lot more.  Plus there’s a lot going on, not all of which is resolved.

Set in the not too distant future (I fear), technology has taken over more than it has now.  Cindy is driving a self-driving, cognizant vehicle named Carly.  It not only tells her which way will be fastest, it also reminds her about a purse she wanted to pick up (which is now on sale).

In fact, there are no non-automated vehicles anymore–except in race tracks and in the desert.  There are ad-driven free cars called Ridz that take you to your destination after stopping by a few of the stores you like to shop at first.  Some daredevils even try to hop on automated cars –they ride on the roof–despite the dangers–and go as far as they can.

One such daredevil is Cindy’s son.  While he is riding on top of a car he sees his mom in the car next to him.  He is sure he’s busted until he sees that she is napping. (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: October 23, 2018] Courtney Barnett

S. and I saw Courtney Barnett back in May when her latest album Tell Me How You Really Feel just came out.  She did a few shows where she played the whole album in its entirety.  Our show sold out very quickly and I was lucky to get tickets.

This time around she played the larger Fillmore and did not sell out the venue.  Is it better to play a small club and sell out, or a larger one and not sell out?  I’m still not sure why this one didn’t.

So why would we go to see someone five months after we had just seen her?

Well, primarily because I thought that this show would be different–bigger, longer and a bit more fun. Not that the first wasn’t fun–it was.  But at that show, she had a mission to play that album and make us like it.  This time, we already had the album and we liked it, we just wanted to hear it again!

And man was this show terrific.

I assumed she would not play the album straight through again.  But I shouldn’t have been surprised that she opened with the first two songs.  The stage was bathed in red (terrible for pictures so I didn’t bother trying to get any).  However, I love watching her play guitar–her technique is so bizarre to me and yet it sounds wonderful.  It must hurt like the dickens.  You can see her playing with no pick very clearly in this clip from “City Looks Pretty.”  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STEVE GUNN-Plays Between the Ties of an Abandoned Railroad (Field Recordings, October 12, 2016).

I don’t know Steve Gunn and I am surprised to see that he has released fourteen albums and has worked with Kurt Vile.

For this Field Recording, Gunn headed out to the woods to play three beautiful songs.

 In Forest Park, Queens, N.Y., an old relic suits Gunn’s sound. The Long Island Railroad’s Rockaway Beach Branch used to run through the park. It’s been abandoned for over a half-century, and trees have grown between the ties, skewing the rails and jarring the lines. Late this past summer, Gunn stood on the tracks of this worn American symbol and sang three songs off his latest album — songs about meandering, home and the crooked paths that take us wherever we’re meant to be.

Once again I am really impressed by the quality of the sound.  His guitar is absolutely clear and his voice is perfectly mic’d, but you can also hear ambient sounds–birds and such–making this recording unique.

Gunn has a pretty picking style (using thumb and fingers independently to get strums and picked notes simultaneously).  This enables him to keep the song moving forward while he plays the pretty guitar melodies.

“Full Moon Tide” has a great melody and a delightful chorus.

He walks further into the woods to play “Night Wander.”  It has a kind of circular feel in which the chorus feels like a part of the verse.  I’d say that Gunn’s voice is nothing special, but I like the deeper resonances he gets on this song.

For the final song, “Ark” he walks further down the tracks to a bridge.  Whether it is having the surface above him or just the style of his playing, this song feels warmer, and quite different from the others.

It’s a great introduction to this excellent guitarist.

[READ: January 9, 2017] “The Apartment”

This story is a fascinating look at a woman convincing herself that something must be true.

The apartment across from hers has been vacant for sometime–since the woman living there died.  But recently there was movement inside.  The person’s last name was Jahani.

Louise knew a man named Jahani when she was studying at Stockholm University.  Arman Jahani was the second man she’d slept with (her husband Martin was the first).  Martin, did not know about Arman.

While she is having lunch (sushi) with her adult son Jonas, she intersperses his conversation with memories of Arman.  The two most resonating thoughts are that he died in the early nineties and was survived by a son and a daughter.  Or so she believed.

She tells Jonas that the vacant apartment has been filled.  Jonas hasn’t lived at home for quite some time.  He wasn’t there when the woman died.  “You can;t imagine the smell” she tells him.  It was actually her husband who discovered her and was shocked that no one has mentioned the smell. (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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