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Archive for the ‘Low’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LOW-“War on War” (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.

This is a slow, spacey, trippy cover with gently echoing synth, big echoing drums and a processed echoing voice.  I really like the original of this song and I find this cover to be a little too slow for my liking.

However, the overall sound of the song is very cool, especially the chaotic ending.

[READ: February 2, 2020] Princeless, Vol. 3

This book said Book 3 on the label but it seemed like it was starting form the very beginning.  It wasn’t until after I finished it that I read that this is in fact book 3 but it is a kind of spin off of sorts.  The main character of this story, Raven Xingtao, is actually not the main character of the series.  I did wonder why the two other characters on the cover, Adrienne and Bedelia, are not really introduced here–they are introduced in the first two books, obviously.

So this story starts with a story.  We learn of Ming Two-Tails the fiercest pirate to ride the sea. Her ship was called The Just Wind because she and her crew were so silent sailors thought it was just wind they heard.

The man who is telling the story ends with “And that’s what you’ll be like someday, my little Raven.”

Turns out Ming was Raven’s great-grandmother and Raven was so inspired that even as a little girl she was ready to fight.  She asked her dad to show her how to use a bow.  Her dad smiled and said she will not be a helpless princess.

Cut to the next scene and Raven is in a tower.  She had been there 90 days with no one looking for her.  Until a pink dragon flown by Adrienne Ashe and Bedelia Smith flies in.  They ask if Raven needs help. She does. So Adrienne lands and looks for a fight. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: XFM-It’s a Cool Cool Christmas (2000).

This is a long Christmas collection (about 72 minutes).  So it’s a bit hit and miss.  But the hits are pretty great.  The problem really is that the disc gets a little bogged down and slow in the back half.  The first half is bright and fun.  Either re-sequnce or add in some peppier songs!  There are a couple that just don’t belong on a Christmas collection.  Remove them, and you’ve got a good one.

GRANDADDY-“Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland”
I’ve loved this version of this song ever since I heard it here.  By making the simple substitution of Alan Parsons for Parson Brown (which doesn’t make any sense, really), they are able to make all kinds of weirdo jokes and musical changes to an otherwise completely faithful version of the song.  It’s terrific.

THE DANDY WARHOLS-“Little Drummer Boy”
Generally I don’t like this song.  It’s a little too ponderous and repetitive, but The Dandy Warhols totally rock it out.  It’s not crazy or anything, it’s just super catchy with a cool synth riff and great backing vocals on the “bum bum bum bums.”

THE WEBB BROTHERS-“Every Day is Christmas”
I feel like this compilation is the first I’d heard of this song, but since then I see that others have done it as well.  This version anyway is slow although it’s catchy–particularly the chorus.  I’m not sure I get exactly what the chorus is saying though: “every day is Christmas, if only tonight,”  What does that mean>

EELS-“Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas”
This is a poppy punky track that’s upbeat and fun.  Just before the solo E (the singer) even mutters, “Baby Jesus, born to rock.”

El VEZ-“Feliz Navi-nada”
One of my favorite Christmas songs–rocking and silly but with the spirit still in tact.

MORGAN-“Christmas In Waikiki” [NSFC]
This track opens with a Merry Christmas to the soldiers, in what sounds like Marilyn Monroe’s voice.  It then turns into a keyboard-heavy, almost reggae march through a wah wah instrumental.  Then there’s a quote from, I assume Richard Pryor, who jokes about a 300 pound honky.  This f-bomb dropping joke makes this not safe for Christmas.

DRUGSTORE-“Maybe At Christmas Time”
This a slow song filled with hope for Christmas.

BELLE AND SEBASTIAN-“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
I have always been puzzled at the way they change the melody of the song–they sing the “and random captive” part without a pause, so the first line runs right through.  It feels rushed, but is anything but.  Once you get past that though the music sounds lovely with those gentle guitars and voices.”

GIANT SAND-“Thank You Dreaded Black Ice, Thank You” [NSFC]
This is kind of a dark song, spooky and whispered vocals.  Even if there is a happy message, it’s not really a very festive song.

THE FLAMING LIPS-“White Christmas” [NSFC]
Despite my love for The Lips, I never cared for this version.

SAINT ETIENNE-“My Christmas Prayer” [NSFC]
A pretty, moody piece of longing.  Not really anything I want to hear on Christmas.

DEPARTURE LOUNGE-“Christmas Downer” [NSFC]
This is surprisingly catchy for such a downer.  But it is indeed a downer.

SIX BY SEVEN-“I Believe In Father Christmas”
Things pick up with this version of the dark, but wonderful Greg Lake song.

SNOW PATROL-“When I Get Home For Christmas”
This seems like its kind of dark and mopey, bu the sentiment is actually quite nice.  Sounds a bit like Sebadoh.

TITÁN-“Spiritual Guidance” [NSFC]
Titán are a Mexican electronic band.  This instrumental samples a movie which has a guy telling a young woman to remove her panties.  It’s a shame it gets dark like that because the disco Jingle Bells in the middle is good fun.

BIG BOSS MAN-“Christmas Boogaloo”
This is a groovy, funky instrumental with random chants about Christmas.  Its good fun indeed.

TEENAGE FANCLUB-“Christmas Eve”
This is a beautiful guitar based mostly instrumental.  It’s a lovely piece and far too short at only 2 minutes.

CALEXICO-“Gift X-change”
Despite Calexico’s usually bright sound, this song is pretty sad, musically and lyrically.

GORKY’S ZYGOTIC MYNCI-“Hwiangerdd Mair”
This is a very pretty song which, if Google Translate is to be believed actually means Mary’s Halloween in Welsh.  But whatever.  Gorky’s always has a great way with a melody.

LOW-“Just Like Christmas”
I actually thought this was Aimee Mann singing. Despite Low’s penchant for slow, broody songs, this one is upbeat, even if it wasn’t just like Christmas at all.  But the big thumping drums keep it moving along nicely.

LAUREN LAVERNE-“In The Bleak Midwinter”
This sounds like a children’s choir very far away.  I’d never heard of her before and I have learned: Lauren Cecilia Fisher, known professionally as Lauren Laverne, is an English radio DJ, model, television presenter, author, singer and comedian.  Wow.  This is pretty neat but could use a bit more oomph.

[READ: December 15, 2017] “The Copy Chief”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

I had to play catch up with these earlier stories because this collection arrived late (my fault, not theirs).  I put this one off because it was so long, and yet it turned out to be one of my favorite stories in the collection so far.

Not because of anything flashy or exciting, just because of good writing and compelling characters. (more…)

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augSOUNDTRACK: GAELYNN LEA-Tiny Desk Concert #514 (March 11, 2016).

graeGaelynn Lea won the Tiny Desk Contest and within a few days she was ready to appear for her formal Tiny Desk Concert.

She began her set with the prize winner, “Someday We’ll Linger In The Sun.”  The song was beautiful and haunting in the video, and it sounded just as good live.  She joked that with a loop pedal you have to be perfect, and it was.  Watching her play these notes is even more interesting than hearing them.

Gaelynn is clearly a little nervous, but she is still charming as she tells us how she got started in the music world.  She started fiddling because she had a crush on a boy who fiddled.  Simple as that.  She had been in a number of bands in Minnesota.  Then someone gave her a looping pedal and that changed everything for her.

She says that she began experimenting with the old and the new, and that the looping pedal allowed her to do things like play “Southwind.”  The song is 100 years old.  She loops a beautiful melody and then plays an excellent solo over the top it.  I think there’s something about the way she plays–her bowing seems to make her violin sound more like a cello or something–that makes her notes sound more haunting than another violinist might.

After the first two songs, Bob comes out to introduce Gaelynn.  He explains that she is a violin teacher and she has been playing for years and years.  And then he explains that she’s going to have accompaniment for the next two songs–Alan Sparhawk from Low!

Here’s how they met.  Gaelynn was playing at a farmer’s market with a guitar player.  Alan Sparhwawk who is also based in Duluth, MN, heard her playing.  Some time later, he called her (while she was at a wedding) and asked if she’d want to work on a project with him.  They made musis for a silent film and then formed the band The Murder of Crows.

And so Alan joins her for the last two songs.

“Bird” is an upbeat song with a lively lopped violin riff.  Alan plays slow guitars which flesh out the low end.  And then Gaelynn sings as the violin loops and Alan plays low notes.  Alan takes the second verse and then Gaelynn sings a round over the top of his voice.  It’s quite lovely.

She says she never wrote any songs until she met him, and she’s very grateful.

The final song is “Moment of Bliss.”  I really like the melody and vocal line of this song.  And again, the lyrics are really thoughtful.  Sparhawk’s slow guitar and low harmony voice really add depth to this lovely five minute song.  When she plays a looped solo at the end, it’s really beautiful.

[READ: January 25, 2016] “Leap Day”

I don’t think I’ve read too many stories where the plot of a movie is as instrumental to the story as it was in this one.

And when I say that that movie is Brokeback Mountain, it gives you a ton of context clues.

The story is a simple one.  Ernie Boettner is climbing up a grain silo in February.  And then we find out why.

Ernie is a farmer.  The townspeople of Park City, Illinois noticed that he seemed to get a lot of visits from the veterinarian Chester Bradbury.  There was nothing wrong with that per se, but it seemed like sometimes the vet’s truck was there over night.  Which seemed unusual. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LOW-Tiny Desk Concert #129 (May 22, 2011).

In March, I reviewed (and loved) Low’s new single, “Try to Sleep.”  That song and two others are presented here in this Tiny Desk concert.

The band for this gig is just Alan Sparhawk on guitar and vocals and his wife Mimi Parker on backing vocals (and thigh slaps).  It’s a very stripped down sound, but it really suits these songs (I don’t know the originals of the other two–“Nightingale” and “Something’s Turning Over”) which all come from their new album C’mon.

Their harmonies are wonderful (they are quite striking on “Something’s Turning Over” where I thought she was playing a keyboard, but it is her voice!) and the melodies are pretty terrific too.   As I said last time, I’ve never really listened to Low very much (I’ve been sort of turned off at the idea of their being spare and depressing).  Strangely, this session which is just the two of them is the opposite of spare.  I don’t know if this is a good introduction to the band, but it’s a wonderful introduction to this album.   And it’s a surprisingly catchy collection of songs from a bunch of ol’ mopesters.

Although, perhaps the biggest surprise comes at the end of the show when, before leaving, Sparhawk starts playing “Sweet Home Alabama” and Parker even gets the “turn it up” part right.

I wasn’t expecting to listen to this more than once or twice, but I’m really entranced by this session.

[READ: May 10, 2011] Emily of New Moon

Sarah loves the Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon book series.  She still has the books from when she was a kid (the copy I read has her signature and phone number (several area code changes ago) written on the inside front cover).  After reading the L.M. Montgomery biography, I figured it was time to look into these books. I was going to start with Anne, but we watched the movie not too long ago so I decided that I’d start fresh with an unknown subject.

Emily is a 12-year-old girl whose mother has died and whose father is deathly ill.  Indeed, within a chapter or two, Emily finds herself an orphan.  I don’t know a thing about 100 year old adoption laws in Canada, but the upshot is that someone from Emily’ mother’s family, the Murrays, will take care of her until she is old enough to do so on her own.  However Emily’s mother ran off with a boy when she was very young (which was a disgrace to the family name), and Emily herself is a willful and strong child.  Frankly, no one wants her.  So, with Emily eavesdropping, the Murray clan discusses her future and decides to make her draw straws for her fate. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LOW-“Try to Sleep” (2011)

This was NPR’s song of the day for March 2.  I don’t really know Low all that well.  I know they play very slow music (which I’m typically not a fan of –slow music, not Low specifically).

I think I have been kind of frightened off of Low as being so soporific that it would make me sad.  But this song is a delight.  It’s not particularly slow and there’s a very cheery bell motif that pecks out the gorgeous melody.

The vocals are very nice harmony between the male voice (which reminds me a bit of lower register Damon Albarn–in fact the song gives of kind of an Albarn vibe) and the high-register female vocals.   It’s a really beautiful song.

In fact, this song has really changed my opinion of Low, and I may have to check out more by them.

[READ: March 2, 2011] “Backbone”

This is an excerpt from DFW’s forthcoming posthumous novel The Pale King.  Wallaceheads have already heard and/or read a variant on this piece which DFW read aloud at the Lannan Foundation.

I was reluctant to read this piece for a couple of reasons:  The Pale King is coming out in a little over a month.  I have read/listened to this particular piece not terribly long ago.  And, I didn’t love it all that much.

Well, it turns out that much like any draft or work in progress, with a bit of tweaking and editing, the passage can be made very strong and quite enjoyable.  This finalized version also intercuts a lot more information about other characters than was in the original version, making it a far more compelling piece of fiction in toto. (more…)

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