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Archive for the ‘Nico’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ALDOUS HARDING-Tiny Desk Concert #640 (July 28, 2017).

Aldous Harding is a singer from New Zealand.  Her second album, Party, is full of deeply personal songs with memorable melodies and spare instrumentation.  Aldous Harding’s musical partner for the Tiny Desk is Jared Samuel Elioseff .

I was mesmerized by her performance right from the start.  Her voice is deep and sultry like Nico’s, and I imagined that she was French the way she enunciated.  There’s something about her face–she seems to be filled with what…? disdain? emotion?  as she sings these song.  She grits her teeth, protrudes her lower jaw, makes fascinating expressions all to convey her meanings.

The first song she performs,”Imagining My Man,” is about what she calls the “tender and frightening thoughts that come with being in love,” and what you witness while watching her are often painful, pensive expressions that are as important to the song as the notes being played.

I really like this song a lot–the simple melody, the fascinating delivery and the wonderful touch of a strange little zip sound after each singing of “all my life….”  The way she sings “if you get down” introduces yet another strange expression and an even stranger vocal delivery.  It all borders on comical, but she is not funny she is baring emotion.

In introducing “Blend” she gives Jared the guitar and says “I’m really sorry for what you’re about to see me do, but it’s all for the good of the song.”  And I genuinely can’t tell what she’s talking about.  She doesn’t do anything expect change the drum sound on the keyboard.  This song is whispered and the guitar plays gentle picked notes.

For the final song, “Horizon,” she takes away the guitar, stands up and says “thanks for watching” with a smile.  She stands singing the final song which I think is my favorite.  The expressions she uses as she delivers the first few lines is really intense–almost like a verbal threat:

I broke my neck dancing to the edge of the world, babe
my mouth is wet, don’t you forget it, don’t you lose me

The fact that she stands straight, dressed all in white–unmoving except for some hand gestures–just adds to the subtle intensity of her performance.

[READ: August 1, 2017] “Eric Duncan”

Philip Roth retired from writing in 2012, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t get more new material from him (although this isn’t exactly new, since it is from 2008).  This excerpt comes from remarks he gave at his 75th birthday celebration and will be collected in a forthcoming volume.

This is his recollection of the first things he ever wrote on his mothers Underwood typewriter.  In 1943, Philip’s mother was teaching him to type–white keys with black letters and number which “constituted all the apparatus necessary to write in English.”

He says that as soon as he mastered touch typing, he wrote his first title: “Storm Off Hatteras.”  But he says that instead of writing his own name, he wrote by Eric Duncan: “There’s little that can bestow more confidence and lend more authority than a name with two hard c’s in it.” (more…)

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guibertSOUNDTRACK: JACKSON BROWNE-Tiny Desk Concert #394 (October 6, 2014).

jbI don’t really think much of Jackson Browne.  He’s always been a staple of classic rock radio, but I never especially sought him out. His voice is unique and recognizable although if pressed I can’t think of the names of any of his songs (but I’d know them immediately if I heard them).

Bob Boilen talked with Browne in his book and that’s where I learned that Browne dated Nico from The Velvet Underground fame and even wrote songs for her.  I also learned that he is quite the activist.  And that he plays a lot in California with various performers (the blurb says “he’s largely free of obligations”–that’s a nice phrasing).

He plays three songs here.  I assume they’re all new as I don’t recognize them.  And they all sound very much like Jackson Browne.  He voice is largely the same although it does crack and break a few times (could that be the setting or the time of day or does he just accept that he’s getting older?).

It’s also interesting that Browne plays the rhythm guitar for most of the songs–allowing Val McCallum to play the lead guitar and Greg Leisz to play “all manner of stringed things” (including the slide guitar solos).

The three songs are “Call It A Loan,” “The Barricades Of Heaven” and “Long Way Around.”  I’m surprised at just how long these three songs are (the whole set comes in around 20 minutes).

Before “Long Way Around” (which is quite political), he says that they’re “Lucky to play for such an informed group.”  Bob says they stopped the news–there’s no news being made–so that Browne could play.

Some of the lines in “Long Way Around” are: “It’s hard to say which did more ill, Citizen United or the gulf oil spill” and “It’s never been that hard to buy a gun, now they’ll sell a Glock 19 to just about anyone.”

The songs are nicely accentuated by the backing vocals of Jeff Young who also plays keyboards for them but which they couldn’t bring.

This is a delightful, mellow (and thoughtful) set of music (with a huge crowd watching).  And there’s a funny moment at the end where someone triggers a James Brown doll and Browne does a pretty good “hit me!”

[READ: March 2, 2016] How the World Was

I was intrigued to read this book by Emmanuel Guibert because I’ve really enjoyed his work lately.  But how was I to know that How the World Was is a prequel of sorts to Alan’s War?  It was also translated by Kathryn Pulver.

This book is a”loving, immersive portrait of Alan Cope.”  Cope was born in 1925 when California was still the frontier and life was simpler and harsher.  And Guibert felt that it was a gift for Cope “in the last moments of his life” (unlike in Alan’s War there’s no word on whether Cope saw this book).

So this book is indeed all about Cope’s childhood.  And while he did have some pretty interesting things happen to him, his childhood was in no way extraordinary.   This is just a simple portrait of growing up in Californians in the 1920 s and 1930s as seen from one man’s eyes. (more…)

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colony3SOUNDTRACK: LULUC-Tiny Desk Concert #390 (September 15, 2014).

luklucBob Boilen has loved Luluc for a while.  I never really appreciated them as much as I do on this Tiny Desk Concert.  The duo is from Australia (and now Brooklyn), and I’d always felt that their songs were nice but nothing special.  But you can really hear what’s going on in them.  Zoë Randell’s voice sounds like a revitalized Nico and Steve Hassett’s accompaniments are really interesting.

“Small Window” starts with Zoë strumming a small acoustic guitar and singing.  Steve accompanies on electric guitar.  It’s a pretty song with a nice melody. And his solos accentuate the song.  But when the song shifts gears to the “crystal waters” section and an unexpected chord change it becomes much more than a simple folk song.

For the second song “Without A Face,” Steve switches to bass.  When Zoë talks, her speaking voice is gentle and somewhat high-pitched so when she begins singing she sounds even more shockingly like Nico.  And the bass is wonderful on this song.  He throws in a lot of little fills that really add a lot to the verses.  And the “oh oh” section in the middle is wonderful with some great harmonies from each of them.

Zoë says they used to play with just two guitars and mics and they have added a lot more gear lately, but that they’ve they’ve stripped down for this show.  For “Reverie On Norfolk Street” he plays electric guitar (cooly vibrato’d) and his gentle backing vocals on this song are a nice almost bass addition to the song.  There’s even a guitar solo which after the song he says is “the quietest guitar solo in existence.”

Luluc really surprised me with this session and I may have to give their studio tracks another listen.

[READ: July 23, 2016] The Lost Colony 3

Book 3 ramps up the excitement quite a bit,  and also a had a lot of flashbacks that fill in some story lines.

Like the other two, it also begins with someone lost saying “Dear God where the %$!* am I?”  But this time he is a beautiful hunk of a man with gorgeous blond locks.  He is Buck Swagger and he is transported to the island on the ferry because of a letter from Olympia Snodgrass (the Mayor’s wife and Birdy’s mom).
(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The Believer June/July 2007 Music Issue Compilation CD: Cue the Bugle Turbulent (2007).

The 2007 Believer disc smashes the mold of folkie songs that they have established with the previous discs in the series.  The theme for this disc is that there’s no theme, although the liner notes give this amusing story:

one decaffeinated copy editor (“the new guy”) made a suggestion: “The Believer CD should be composed of eight a.m. music/breakfast-substitute jams, like that commercial from a while back with the guy who gets out of bed over and over again while ELO plays over his morning routine. You should tell all of the bands to write/contribute songs worth listening to within three minutes of waking up.”

So, without a theme, they just asked artists for some great songs.  There’s one or two tracks written especially for the disc (Sufjan Stevens, Lightning Bolt).  There’s a couple B-sides.  There are some wildly noisy raucous songs: and three of them come from duos!  No Age offers a very noisy blast of feedback.  Magik Markers play a super-fast distortion-fueled rocker, and Lightning Bolt play 5 minutes of noise noise noise.  Oh, and there’s even a rap (Aesop Rock)!

Tracks 3-7 are just about the 5 best songs in a row on any compilation.  Oxford Collapse plays a catchy and wonderfully angular song with “Please Visit Your National Parks.”  It’s followed by a song from Sufjan Stevens that sounds NOTHING like Sufjan Stevens, it’s a noisy distorted guitar blast of indie punk.  I’m from Barcelona follows with a supremely catchy horn driven song that would be huge on any college campus.  Aesop Rock comes next with a fantastic song.  I’d heard a lot about Aesop Rock but had never heard him before, and he raps the kind of rap that I like: cerebral and bouncy.  This is followed by Reykjavik! with a crazy, noisy surf-guitar type of song.  It reminds me of some great college rock from the early 90s.

Of Montreal, a band I’ve been hearing about a lot but who I’ve never heard (and didn’t think sounded like this) plays a wonderfully catchy two minute love song that sounds ironic, but which likely isn’t.  The melody is straight out of the Moody Blues’ “Wildest Dreams,” and yet it is still fun and quirky.

There’s a couple instrumentals as well: The Clogs do a cool, mellow instrumental and Explosions in the Sky do one of their typically fantastic emotional tracks.  Also on the disc, The Blow contribute a delightfully witty song and Bill Fox, a singer I’d never heard of (but who has a great article about him in the magazine), really impressed me with his Bob Dylan meets Nico delivery.  The disc ends with an alternate version of a song by Grizzly Bear.

This is definitely my favorite Believer disc thus far.  See the full track listing here.

[READ: Throughout 2009] Schott’s Miscellany 2008

This year’s edition of Schott’s Miscellany is very much like last year’s edition (see that review here).  I mean, it is an almanac after all.  However, it is a wondrous testament to Schott that even though I read every word of the 2008 edition, I was able to read every word of the 2009 edition and not feel like I was duplicating myself very much.

Obviously the news, facts and events of 2008-09 are different from last year.  And since Schott’s writing style is breezy and fun with a hint of sarcasm and amusement thrown in, you don’t get just a list of facts, you get sentences with subtle commentary on the facts.  And it’s a fun way to re-live the past year.  Plus, the Sci, Tech, Net section discusses science stories that sounded really impressive and important which I can’t believe I didn’t hear about at the time. (more…)

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