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Archive for the ‘Lucius’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: NPR: The All Songs Considered Holiday Cruise 2018 (December 19, 2018).

Every year Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton “try to do something special for the holiday and it never works out.”  This year’s Christmas special sees them taking a cruise to Bermuda.  What could go wrong?

Every year I have loved the Christmas special–the fun music, the silly story, the guests. But this year’s was my least favorite so far.  And this is mostly because of the music and the guests.  The story was absurd and funny which I liked, but they really didn’t have any artists I was excited about.

Robin is of course unimpressed and concerned (given that they are sailing on Calamity Cruises) and Bob is as ever a gleeful optimist.  And there’s a strange recurring joke about rooms and cabins.

The show opens with a nice (unattributed) version of “Christmas on Christmas Island.”

There were some fun guests for sure, though.  They arrive at their cabin and find Mickey Dolenz (whose Paypal joke is quite funny, but he laughs a bit much at himself).  Most of the artists have a Christmas album out.  The Monkees-“What Would Santa Do” is a fun little ditty and it was written by Rivers Cuomo, so you can hear the Weezer in it.

Things kind of go south as soon as they look at the newspaper and see that William Shatner is lost at sea.

They meet Aloe Blacc on deck who says he created an album of new Christmas songs which were fun and dancey.  The song “Tell Your Mama” is okay.  Nothing special.  It is a little dancey, but maybe it’s not the best track on the disc.  I don’t know.

Robin goes on a journey and meets Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers.  “The Strangest Christmas Yet” is a fun song, but it came out in September so it’s not new or anything (which is what I tend to think this show is about).  But it’s enjoyable to hear Steve tell the crazy story.

Then Bob & Robin zipline along the ship where they run into Lucius.  They play the Lucius version of “Christmastime is Here,” which is pretty as most of their songs are but not very festive.  The story by Holly afterwards about hearing actual jingle bells is a highlight of the show.

Rodney Crowell also tells a funny story about playing basketball on the road.  Although his album is pretty dark, he says his album is about being Scrooge and looking for redemption.  They play “Let’s Skip Christmas This Year,” a bluesy romp that’s more fun than the title lets on.

The guys find themselves caught in the Bermuda Triangle and Shatner makes his appearance, “singing” “Blue Christmas” with Brad Paisley.  Shatner can’t overpower Paisley’s twang.

Up next is John Legend.  What I like about this is they try to talk to him about being lost and Legend is talking about his Christmas album–a funny spliced interview.  They play John Legend singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” with Esperanza Spalding. It’s pretty good but they do too much vocal acrobatics at the end.

As the show ends, the final joke is revealed thanks to a grant (great joke).  Although the show ends with another Shatner song, an over the top “Feliz Navidad.”

So no one terribly exciting for this journey, but there are a few good Christmas songs to add to your favorites.

[READ: December 21, 2018] “The One Who Is”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection, although today’s soundtrack is an NPR special.

This story shows the conflict between native culture and white culture.  It’s unclear when it is set, but at least the white doctor does sterilize his instruments.

Nona is about to give birth and she is having a very hard time. Her water broke, but she has been pushing for days with no luck–the baby is breached. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TWEEDY-“High As Hello” (Field Recordings, August 7, 2014).

This Field Recording [Tweedy And Son Take To The Tunnels, Friends In Tow] is another one from the 2014 Newport Folk Festival.  Much like with the Jazz Festival, it was raining during the folk festival.  This means the musicians had to play in a that by now familiar tunnel–away from the elements.

These musicians were NPR favorite Jeff Tweedy and his then new project, Tweedy.  The project features Jeff’s then 18 year-old son Spencer on drums.  Jeff and Spencer are accompanied by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig from Lucius (who don’t get to really show off their pipes, but do provide great backing vocals).

With the rain, it was not possible to shuffle drums, so

Spencer Tweedy’s drums are made from found trash and objects lying around the fort, including a cardboard box and some boxes of gum. Still, magic happened.

I can’t help but remark (again) on the wonderful sound equipment.  The band sounds terrific and you can hear all of the guitars (a full band list isn’t given).  Somehow Spencer’s drums don’t sound like cardboard boxes.

This recording is from 4 years ago either before Jeff started wearing the ubiquitous cowboy hat or he didn’t want to wear it in a tunnel.

“High as Hello” is a slow song with great backing vocals and solos from at least one of the three guitars.

[READ: September 18, 2018] “Poor Girl”

This story was translated by Anna Friedrich and is about a woman trapped in a situation she hates.

What’s interesting is that it’s unclear if the title refers to the young mother or her daughter (as they are both poor in different ways).

The opening line is quite surprising:

The wretched mother could easily have lost her sanity watching her husband love their daughter….

What an odd thing to be upset about.  Until…

the way he stroked the child when she was falling asleep or waking up, his blissful expression when they touched, the fact that he bathed her himself, believing it to be his right and his responsibility.

So, the woman, Irina, raises some red flags, although it’s not always clear if she is being reasonable about them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LUCIUS-Live at the Newport Folk Festival (July 27, 2018).

I was considering going to see Lucius at Union Transfer on July 25.  Something came up and I wound up not getting tickets.

While hearing a stream of them isn’t quite as good as seeing them live (especially since their look is so arresting), it was great to hear what I missed.

For this tour, Lucius was unplugged–acoustic versions of their songs and some covers.

It sounds like there may have been more going on at Newport (as there always is)

Accompanied by members of yMusic, students from the Berklee College of Music on strings and J. Blynn, along with Lucius regulars Jess Wolfe, Holly Laessig, Dan Molad, and Peter Lalish. The group also incorporated choreography into the set, with the dancers known as The Seaweed Sisters.

Songs included favorites new and old, like “Woman” and Turn It Around.” Tears were shed as they movingly tributed the recently departed producer and musician Richard Swift. Lucius performed Swift’s song “The Most of What I Know” (from his 2006 album Dressed Up for the Letdown) and, in typical Newport fashion, were joined by Brandi Carlile and the Twins, Nicole AtkinsSharon Van Etten and Bedouine.

Go Home” is my favorite song of theirs.  They opened with it.  I could have gone home happy.  “Right Down the Line” is a song I didn’t know by Gerry Rafferty.  It sounds pretty 70s–slick and poppy.  “Something About You”  featured the Seaweed Sisters doing choreography.

“Feels Like a Curse” is a slower number with strings.  It’s quite pretty.

“Turn It Around” is another favorite of mine, with big claps and a wonderfully catchy chorus (yes, I would have stayed for this!)  I love the power behind the chorus: “She’s looking through the wrong end of the telescope ha!”

Brandi Carlisle joins them for “Dusty Trails” and when they sing the “we’ll be alright” at the end, it is really transportive.

Next up

“They movingly tributed the recently departed producer and musician Richard Swift. Lucius performed Swift’s song “The Most of What I Know” (which I don;t know) and, in typical Newport fashion, were joined by Brandi Carlile and the Twins, Nicole Atkins, Sharon Van Etten and Bedouine.

“How Loud Your Heart Gets” is a little too overwhelmed by strings to really appreciate their vocals (which is crazy since they sing loud!).  “Woman” also sounds great and is a stunning set closer. The “encore” (sort of) is “A Dream Is A Wish” a lovely a capella version.

Below is the set list from Newport and what i would have seen had I gone to Union Transfer.

SET LIST:

  • “Go Home”
  • “Right Down The Line” (Gerry Rafferty)
  • “Something About You”
  • “Feels Like A Curse”
  • “Turn It Around”
  • “Madness”
  • “Dusty Trails”
  • “Most Of What I Know” (Richard Swift) [did not play at UT]
  • “Two of Us On The Run”
  • “How Loud Your Heart Gets”
  • “Woman”
  • “A Dream Is A Wish” (Daniel Bedingfield-Disney Song)

UNION TRANSFER SETLIST (duplicated songs in bold)

  1. Go Home
  2. Tempest
  3. Right Down the Line (Gerry Rafferty)
  4. Something About You
  5. Neighbors
  6. Feels Like a Curse
  7. Until We Get There
  8. Sweet and Tender Romance (The McKinleys)
  9. Turn It Around
  10. Madness
  11. True Love Will Find You in the End (Daniel Johnston)
  12. Two of Us on the Run
  13. How Loud Your Heart Gets
  14. Woman
  15. Dusty Trails
  16. Strangers (The Kinks)
  17. A Dream Is A Wish (Daniel Bedingfield-Disney Song)

[READ: August 6, 2018] “Displaced”

I enjoyed this story but it seemed to take forever.  I attribute this to Ford’s writing style although there’s nothing I could point to about it that makes me feel this way.

This is a story about a recently turned 16 year old boy, Henry, whose father died unexpectedly.  Henry’s main sadness about the is that if his father had lived longer, his mother would have divorced him and Henry could have gone o military school.

He is now alone, with his mother, in the South.  His fellow students have placed him in a strange limbo because of his father;s death .  He doesn’t like it.

In their neighborhood is a house for “transients.”  Out front is a sign that says DIAL 33377 (that’s all) and everyone referred to it as the DIAL house.  Secretaries and waitresses lived there.   Young married couples.  Even two men living together.  Henry realizes now that he and his mother were transients too, they just didn’t call themselves that. (more…)

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jf SOUNDTRACK: JOSEPH-Tiny Desk Concert #575 (October 28, 2016).

josephI have been hearing “White Flag” quite a bit on the radio. I had a hard time keeping track of who sang it (it doesn’t help that this trio of women is called Joseph).  But I have really grown to love the “ooh ooh” part and the screamed chorus.

So it’s interesting to see Bob Boilen’s blurb in which he says

My first experience seeing Joseph was in 2014 as an opening act in New York City. It was just the twins Meegan and Allison Closner and their older sister, Natalie Closner, and it was clear then they had something special. Over these two years, Joseph’s sound has grown beyond the Closners’ harmonies. Now, you’re likely to see them with a band or hear songs from their latest record, which is filled with sounds far beyond voice and acoustic guitar.  It’s been a treat to witness Joseph’s journey, but I was also fairly thrilled that for their Tiny Desk the sisters stripped it down to their original setup: three voices and one guitar.

They play “White Flag” first.  I was a bit disappointed at first because even though Bob loves the stripped down sound, I like the recorded version a lot.  But by the end I was loving how great their voices work together.  Plus I was able to hear the word a little better: “I’d rather be dead than live a lie…burn the white flag.”  Natalie sings lead on this one, while Meegan and Allison do the great oooh oohs.

When the song is over Natalie tells us why she wrote the song: a response to everything going on in the world and how it wants to push you back into your home and stop you from going out and living your life and deciding no thank you I’m going to do that anyway.

 Meegan introduces “I Don’t Mind” by saying it’s about sadness… and it was something she wanted someone to say to her about her sadness.  But she realized she had to say it to herself before she could receive it from anyone else.  She sings lead and it builds slowly with some harmonies coming in. I love how big it gets from such a small opening.  The final chorus reminds me a bit of Lucius–big bold singing in close harmony.

I was delighted by how different the three songs sounded.  “Canyon” sounds nothing like the other two–the chorus is powerful and hypnotic with the repeated sounds.  It also has an incredible moment in the middle of the song where the twins are singing backing vocals and Natalie is singing a lead line and the three of them all end on a really long note together.  It’s mesmerizing.

So even if I really like the album version, these versions are pretty spectacular.

[READ: February 27, 2017] “An Occurrence on the Beach of Varosha”

This is an excerpt from a novel called The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep and I’m glad I knew that going in because the story mentions some previous incidents and also ends rather dramatically but in an unfinished way.

Set in October 2012, Elias is on the beach at Varosha in Northern Cyprus, marveling at the size and number of the hotels that line the barbed wired fence on the beach.   Elias’s aunt and uncle currently live on the Greek Cypriot side of the Green Line, but they were among the first to build a hotel there.  However, there’s was just three  stories with twenty-four room.

Elias is there ostensibly to check out he property to see if it is still standing during the conflict.   He is capable of doing this because he is Canadian and has a foreign passport.  Thus, he can cross the Green Line without trouble. (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: LUCIUS-Tiny Desk Concert #261 (January 7, 2013).

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.

luciusThis Tiny Desk Concert has a wonderful blurb:

We brought Lucius to the Tiny Desk because I fell in love with one joyous, catchy song: “Don’t Just Sit There.” That’s all I had to go on — I’d never seen the group live — and though I expected fun, we also got fabulous. Not only are Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig a winning singing duo, but their charisma and charm helps turn good pop songwriting into an endearing performance.

The two singers are dressed identically–although they don’t really look much alike, they appear almost identical up there (and I’m not sure who is who).  The three men in the band: Danny Molad, Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri fill out the group with guitars and drums and are also dressed identically–in crisp white shirts and suspenders.

“Go Home” starts out slow with a rattling slide guitar and simple percussion.  The two women sing slowly over the bassline.  It’s a pretty, nice song.  And then the chorus kicks in and while the song doesn’t really get all that much bigger, their voices soar incredibly, in close harmony. It is a remarkable change in texture in the song and they instantly won me over.

It segues into “Don’t Just Sit There” which is a beautiful song with a slightly faster quiet section.  But again, the chorus “did you find love” just soars with their great harmonies.  I can see why Bob fell for them.

“Turn It Around” starts out with an “aha ha” and claps and a more poppy singing style.  And I find that while I like Lucius overall there are parts that I really don’t.  Like the beginning to this.  And yet, once again, when they get to that chorus “looking through the wrong end,” the song is super catchy and wonderful and I find myself singing that part a lot.  Even with the minimal backing guitar and drums, it sounds great.

After the third song, they get high-fives and Bob asks if they want to do another.  Usually, they edit out this type of thing, but it’s really fun to watch the band discuss what song they should play as they sort their percussion parts out.  I loved watching them go through Bob’s box of interesting percussion instruments until they found good ones.

When they finally get around to the song, “Genevieve,” it is a bouncy percussion-filled fun song.  Of the four, it’s my least favorite but that’s because it doesn’t really soar like the other ones do.  But it’s still fun.

[READ: December 21, 2016] “Circumstances Of Hatred”

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.

There’s a fantastic plot point in this story that I don’t want to spoil.  And that makes it really hard to talk about the story.

But I really enjoyed it a lot.  And I can reveal the basic setup.

It had been 17 years since Nicholas was in his grandfather’s house.  And now that his grandfather was dead, Nicholas was willed the man’s property.  So he and his new wife Ann leave their current place in Victoria and head out to Halifax to make a new life in their new house.

Ann hated Halifax–the cold, the gray, the wilted produce.  And she hated the house. (more…)

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augSOUNDTRACK: TIMMY THOMAS-“Dizzy Dizzy World” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 21, 2016).

timmyTimmy Thomas wrote many many hits in the 1970s and 1980s.  His name is on credits that just about everyone has sung at some point.

Of course, I’d never heard of him.  Thomas is 71 and was playing at SXSW, so they grabbed him for a Lullaby.  And his voice sounds really fantastic–rich and full–you’d never guess he was over 70.

He sang a song from his 1973 album Why Can’t We Live Together called “Dizzy Dizzy World.”  What’s so interesting to me about this song is that it sounds like it came from the 1970s.  Not because of the instrumentation, which for this is just keyboards, acoustic guitar and upright bass.  And it’s not exactly the lyrics (although they are earnest and slightly dated–but also still appropriate).  There’s something about the feel of the song–it sounds like an anthem from the 70s for fighting against the craziness of the world.

It’s mellow and quite lovely.  They just don’t write songs like this anymore.  Well, maybe Thomas does, I don’t know.

[READ: February 10, 2016] “The Donor”

The August 2015 Harper’s had a “forum” called How to Be a Parent.  Sometimes these forums are dialogues between unlikely participants and sometimes, like in this case, each author contributes an essay on the topic.  There are ten contributors to this Forum: A. Balkan, Emma Donoghue, Pamela Druckerman, Rivka Galchen, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Ben Lerner, Sarah Manguso, Claire Messud, Ellen Rosenbush and Michelle Tea.  Since I have read pieces from most of these authors I’ll write about each person’s contribution.

I read Emma Donoghue’s first novel Stir Fry back in 1994.  She was an unknown author and I liked the book quite a bit.  Since then she has taken off with her book Room, which I have not read.

Donoghue’s essay is about how she tells her children that they were both conceived through a sperm donor.  She and her partner chose to go with a donor from a sperm bank rather than a known person.  They refused to pay extra for the “premium collection of men with PhDs” since she and her partner both have PhDs “so we know what a feeble guarantee of intelligence they are.” (more…)

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augSOUNDTRACK: LUCIUS-“Dusty Trails” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 15, 2016).

luciusI’m kind of mixed on Lucius. I love the vocals of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, they are genuinely amazing.  But their music is often a little too poppy, too dancey for me.  So this stripped down version is just perfect.  It’s probably my favorite song of theirs now, (I haven’t even heard the original, yet).

The visuals of this lullaby are pretty awesome too.  The guitar players in the background, Jess and Holly stand on a bridge in electric blue body suits and shocks of red hair.  The image of party and dance is so contrary to the lovely music that they play.

The song starts as a kind of folkie, almost country song. The two guitars play nicely together.  And the women sing kind of gently, but with those harmonies intact.  Once they get to the chorus, though, Jess and Holly start belting out their song with their power and harmony.

And when they get to the middle section of “We’ll be alright,” the vocals are just amazing–powerful and loud and right on key.

The guitars drop out for a near a capella section–just a low drum keeping time–and they keep it up beautifully.  This song is a little too loud and intense to be a lullaby, but it’s great nevertheless.

[READ: February 10, 2016] “The Grand Shattering”

The August 2015 Harper’s had a “forum” called How to Be a Parent.  Sometimes these forums are dialogues between unlikely participants and sometimes, like in this case, each author contributes an essay on the topic.  There are ten contributors to this Forum: A. Balkan, Emma Donoghue, Pamela Druckerman, Rivka Galchen, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Ben Lerner, Sarah Manguso, Claire Messud, Ellen Rosenbush and Michelle Tea.  Since I have read pieces from most of these authors I’ll write about each person’s contribution.

I especially appreciated that the introduction which says “This forum…is not prescriptive but descriptive: not ‘how you should’ but ‘how we have.'”  Which is probably the best kind of advice a mother or father could give.”

I have enjoyed Sarah Manguso’s works.  Her last book talked a lot about her becoming a parent so this essay seemed right up her alley.

She begins by saying she never wanted to be a mother.  To her “mother” was a giving up of your self.  You couldn’t be a writer and a mother. And those writers who were mothers, she was sure that they gave up more of their writer-hood to have more motherhood. She says her fantasy at 23 when her friends were getting married was that she’d move upstate with them and seduce their neighbor’s children. (more…)

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