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Archive for the ‘Nina Diaz’ Category

SOUNDTRACK:  NINA DIAZ & Y LA BAMBA’s LUZ ELENA MENDOZA-“January 9th” & “Living Room” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 20, 2017).

I was intrigued by this pairing because Luz Elena Mendoza has a shirt buttoned up to her neck and, from the angle of the first song, it appears that she has her long sleeves down, while Nina Diaz (originally from Girlfriend in a Coma) is wearing a sleeveless T-shirt with tattoos showing up and down her arms.  They seem somewhat mismatched.  Until they sing.  (And also during the second song when it becomes obvious that Luz Elena’s arms are covered in tattoos as well).

The two have never played together, but after NPR Music paired them in the courtyard of St. David’s Episcopal Church for a late evening performance, we’re beginning to wonder why not. They’ve both played the Tiny Desk (Diaz twice, once with Girl In A Coma) and both navigate complex emotions and notions of identity in their music. Also, they just sing beautifully together, Mendoza’s yodel swirling in Diaz’s gritty croon.

Luz Elena’s song “Living Room” is first.  She plays guitar and sings. It’s a short song with Nina’s nice high harmonies over Luz Elena’s deeper voice.  The blurb also notes: Mendoza shares a brand-new song here, “Living Room.” When the two harmonize its confession — “I feel like I’ve been undressing all my thoughts in front of you” — it is, in tandem, starkly intimate and separate.

Nina Diaz’ song “January 9th” is a bit more fun (partially because I know it from her Tiny Desk Concert, but also because it’s a bit more upbeat).  I like Diaz’ singing quite a bit.  Mendoza’s backing vocals add nicely to the “bad one/sad one” part of the chorus.  The blurb adds: “It’s a bluesy ballad with a through line of ’60s pop, a tribute to her late grandmother, cooed and howled into a warm Austin evening.”

Future collaborations should be called for.

[READ: June 27, 2016] Explorer: The Lost Islands

This is the second in series of graphic novel short stories edited by Kazu Kibuishi, the creator of Amulet.

The three books are not related to each other (aside from thematic) so it doesn’t matter what order you read them in.

This first one is all about “lost islands.”  What was neat about this book was that since the premise of an island is so broad, the stories were all very different. (more…)

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6916SOUNDTRACK: GIRL IN A COMA-Tiny Desk Concert #190 (January 30, 2012).

girlcoma I was planning on writing only about recent Tiny Desk Concerts for a while, but Nina Diaz’s (Aug 2016) Concert informed me that she was the singer of the band Girl in a Coma who are presently on a hiatus while Nina tours some solo material.

So I went back and watched this Tiny Desk to see the origins of Diaz’s music.

Girl in a Coma is a three-piece with Nina Diaz on guitar and vocals, her sister Phanie Diaz on drums and Jenn Alva on bass.  The blurb suggests that the band plays punk–typically loud crunchy guitars (although I listened to the recorded version of “Smart” and it doesn’t really sound very different from this version).  So I didn’t get that.

At any rate, the trio sounds great in this setting.  The percussion is simply tambourine and a shaker.  And Alva’s bass is really melodic and lovely playing more than just the same notes as the guitar.

“Smart” is really catchy (although Diaz does some weird things with her voice late in the song).  “Knocking At Your Door” has a fast, almost metal sounding guitar (albeit acoustic here).  But it’s the bass (which is not doing anything crazy) that takes center stage with the melodies she plays.

Before the final song Nina says it feels like show and tell or something.  And while she’s saying this, the other two switch places, with the drummer coming up front and the bass sitting in the back.

“So” has a pretty traditional folk song structure.  The reason for the switch of seats comes in the second verse when Phanie plays the melodica.  It’s a pretty song and Diaz’s voice is really nice.

I really can’t imagine them being a punk band at all, frankly.

I’m also going to point out what Diaz looks like here for contrast of what she looks like in her solo show four and a half years later.  In 2012, she’s wearing dark jeans and a v neck sweater (stripes in the purple family).  Her hair has bangs and a long braid on the side.  And she has no obvious makeup on.  Keep that in mind for the next post

[READ: November 1, 2008] “Tits-Up in a Ditch”

I read this story back in November 2008 and just couldn’t get into it.  I tried several times and could not penetrate the barrier that I felt Proulx was creating.  Well, here it is 8 years later and I tried it again, and not only did I finish it, I sort of enjoyed it.  Even though it, like everything else I seem to have read from Proulx was incredibly depressing.

The story is about Dakotah.  Dakotah’s mother abandoned her when she was a baby and left her own parents to take care of her.  They resented their daughter and Dakotah from the start.  They were harsh and uncaring towards her (although it could be prairie love, I suppose).  The grandparents are named Verl and Bonita Lister (Proulx has fun with names in her stories).

Verl and Bonita are hardscrabble, religious folks who don’t have a lot of joy.  Well, Verl had moments of happiness but probably no joy–he rode hard and then injured himself.  But he was stuck because during the 1980s in Wyoming oil companies came in and took away all the workers.

Verl gives us the title of the story when he says “Had me some luck today.  Goddam cow got herself tits-up in the ditch couple days ago.  Dead, time I found her.”  See, charming people. (more…)

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7_28_08-640SOUNDTRACK: NINA DIAZ-Tiny Desk Concert #561 (August 26, 2016).

nina And here it is four and a half years later.  Nina Diaz has gone from wearing dark jeans and a v neck sweater (stripes in the purple family) to wearing a Sonic Youth T-shirt with the neck collar torn off and the sleeves removed.  Her arms are covered in tattoos.  Her hair is long and down and she’s got pink eye shadow on.  girlcoma2Here’s a comparison photo.

Her voice sounds much more powerful as well.

I’m fascinated by her bassist who is playing a seven string bass (and has crazy hair).  And I’m intrigued that there’s a dedicated melodica player in this show.

As she sings “January 9th” you can see how much more confident she is (not that she was nervous in 2012).   She sings her songs with real power and sway in her body.  The song opens with some cool bass lines (he really uses all of the 7 strings, which I like).  And as the song moves along the backup band sings harmonies which sound very good.

“Dig” has a bunch of cool things going on.  There’s an interesting, somewhat sinister main guitar melody, a cool bass line and a slide guitar from the second guitarist.  I really like the way she delivers the lines in the middle of the song–a kind of accent that works great with the lyrics.

As she opens “For You” she says she’d like to “hopefully have it on in the background when someone’s losing their virginity.”  And with a lyric like “For you I’ll go all the way.  I scream your name,” it seems pretty likely.  It begins with just her voice and acoustic guitar (with the other guitarist playing some melodies too).  The song is a sweet tender ballad and when she asks at the end if we can picture someone losing their virginity to it, the answer is certainly yes.

[READ: March 1, 2016] “The Teacher”

This story goes in some interesting directions.  It begins with the narrator (I) talking about the “girls” Betty and Maeve.  They are good girls, who do whatever they can to help people out.  In their apartment, they have taken in pregnant teens, boys caught stealing and even, once, a suspected sex offender (which didn’t make the town happy).

Maeve types documents and Betty reads manuscripts for a publisher.  And that’s how they met Dr. Chacko.

Betty received Chacko’s manuscript.  It was really long and handwritten. So Maeve copied it out on the computer and they both fell in love with the content.  When they tried to explain the book to the narrator they couldn’t do it in any way that made sense to her.  They also failed to describe him to her as well. (more…)

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