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Archive for the ‘Patti Smith’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: K.T. TUNSTALL-NonComm (May 16, 2019).

Most artists at NonCOMM get about 20 minutes.  The headliners get about 40 minutes.

When I saw K.T. Tunstall was playing, I assumed she would get 20 minutes–how could she be a headliner? Didn’t she have one hit like a decade ago with “Suddenly I See.”

But there she was with a 45 minute set.  I wondered why.  Possibly because she was playing World Cafe Live again the next night for a full show.  Or possibly because she had a huge hit that I didn’t realize was hers.

Tunstall was by herself on stage.  She had a guitar, a drum machine of some sort, a looping pedal and a kazoo.  Having a lengthy set also allowed for a looser, more talkative set.  She is very funny, bold, foul-mouthed (in the best Scottish way) and smart.

As the last night at NON-COMM was winding down, K.T. Tunstall was able to give the crowd one last hoorah. Tunstall’s set mixed the old and the new nicely, playing anything from covers and mashups to her most recognizable hits.

Tunstall started the set with “Little Red Thread,” the opener to her most recent release Wax. The tune was carried by Tunstall’s percussive guitar tapping and tambourine playing, and it sure got the crowd going.

It had a four note heavy riff with some echoey chords that propel the song.  After two verses she messes something up and says, “that’s a really shitty way to start,” but jumps right back in.

She liked playing the new song but then says, “Let’s trustfall into something familiar.”   She asked if anyone had a long-distance relationship.  “It’s a really fucking bad idea.  It’s good sex; it’s just not regular.”  This was an introduction to the quieter “Other Side of the World” off of her 2004 debut Eye to the Telescope.  The song opens with looping quiet percussion and her raspy voice singing over a gentle acoustic guitar.

“Backlash & Vinegar” is about someone trying to keep you down.  It stays quiet with just her guitar and voice.

She recalled going to a karaoke bar drunk with friends and looking for “Faith” by George Michael which they didn’t have.  WTF?!  The friend she was with said there was a song there that she knew all the words to.  It was her song!  What song was it?  There’s a bit more story.

When she first came to the States she performed her first shows inside Barnes & Noble stores. They close at 8 so you have to play at 7.  There were multiple hot women dressed like Jane Fonda.  Finally she asked a woman why she looked like Lydia from Fame.  She replied (in Tunstall’s great “American” accent: “Honey.  You don’t know? You’re huge in Jazzercise.”

So she plays her jazzercise hit “Black Horse And A Cherry Tree.”  This was the massive hit (and it was a massive hit because I’d heard it everywhere) that I had no idea was by her.  It starts immediately recognizably with the looped “who-hoo / whoo-hoo” and if that doesn’t remind you of the song, the chorus is “No no / no no no no / no no / you’re not the one for me.” It sounded sport on.

She ends the song with a kazoo (!) rendition of White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” which she looped in the backgroud of the end of her song.

Up next is “The River” which is about taking a spiritual shower and washing the world from our brains.  It’s a catchy folk song that could easily have been a Starbucks hit (and maybe it was).

She then teaches everyone a Scottish word: “jobby” it means “shit.”  It’s like the name of the poo emoji.  She wrote this song as an antidote to when you have a nice pair of white high tops and just out of nowhere you step in a really big jobby.  It’s the kind you cant get off with a stick and you have to go into a meeting with the jobby–it’s a metaphor for life.  You can smell it, other people can smell it.  And what you need is a song to get you through.

This is the intro to “Feel It All,” a catchy simple guitar riff and a quiet vocal line.   I don’t know what these songs sound like on records but they translate into pretty folks songs here.

She felt like with everything going on (a lot of abortion bans being proposed), she needed a cover by a master.

Tunstall banged away as she sang a fantastic cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” mixing in percussive elements with her thrilling vocals once again.
a rocking raw version

She said she likes to be a purveyor of joy but she needs to speak up.  She dedicates this song to all the women who have achieved incredible things in their lives.  And one of the reasons they’ve been able to achieve it is because they and their partners have had reproductive rights .   This song is meant to give strength to any woman who might have it taken away.

And there was the song I knew from her: “Suddenly I See.”  She started the song, a shuffling rocker, and said, “Every songwriter is like a juicer. You put a few things in and you hope it doesn’t come out brown and weird. This is what happened when I listened to Patti Smith and Bo Diddley on the same day.”

I never would have thought that on my own, but I sure hear it this time.  The song sounds just like I remember it.  Her shockingly un-Scottish-sounding vocals and a super catchy chorus.

I’m glad she got a 45 minute set, it was a great re-introduction to someone I liked a while ago.

[READ: June 1, 2019] “The Smoker”

I don’t understand the title of this story, but I really enjoyed it’s odd revelations.

Douglas Kerchek is a teacher of 12th grade A.P. English at a prestigious all-girls Catholic school in New York City.

Nicole Bonner was a standout student.  He had already written her a recommendation for Princeton.

She read an entire novel every night and retained what she read.  When he proposed a pop quiz, instead of answering the questions, she wrote the entire first page of Moby Dick verbatim.

Although at the end of a recent essay, she had attached a note saying she had noticed the bruise on his ankle and wondered what he had banged it on. (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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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: MARTHA WAINWRIGHT-Tiny Desk Concert #252 (November 26, 2012).

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.

marthaI have been a fan of Loudon Wainwright III for many years.  He has a very musical family and Martha Wainwright is his daughter.  Kate McGarrigle is also her mom, so that’s some lineage.

I’ve enjoyed some of Martha’s earlier songs.  I especially enjoyed her song “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” which “was inspired by her father. She wrote the track as a response to her father’s way of writing songs about his family, rather than tending to them.”  Ouch.

But that was almost ten years earlier than this show.  Nevertheless, as the blurb says: “Martha Wainwright’s songs examine uncomfortable moments and life experiences gone wrong, but as she acknowledges in between songs at this Tiny Desk Concert, she often has to fudge her own life story to make the details more unsettling.”

I’ve always wanted to like Martha more, but I find her music to be simply … okay.

She begins with “Some People.”  From what I recall of her earlier songs, she seems more singer-ish and tuneful on this song, as if her voice has gotten more powerful.  She holds some really long notes, too.  As I listened to this song I kept imagining Patti Smith—in voice and attitude.

About the second song, “Can You Believe It?” she says “we are referring to it as the single which is always very funny.”  As an introduction, she says her husband is the punching bag for this album.  Anybody else would have left me by now.  But he has an “understanding of the power and importance of freedom of expression in art and also exaggeration.”  This song has her frank lyrics: “I really like the make up sex it’s the only kind I ever get.”  I can see why this would be marketed as a single–even if there’s a line about “a storm of shit,” it is one of the catchier things she’s written.

She explains that right as her mother, the great Kate McGarrigle, died her son was born.  This is her first song about motherhood–she assumes her son will want it to be her last as well.  What’s strange about “Everything Wrong” is that between the chord structure and her “ay ay ays”at the end of the lines, this song sounds  lot like Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks.”

So I find that I feel the same about Martha as I did before.

[READ: December 19, 2016] “Baby’s On Fire”

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.

This may have been my favorite story of the book so far.

Marston’s protagonist is a forty-nine year old woman, Margaret.  When we first see her, she is climbing to her seat with two glasses of wine in her hands.  She’s trying to take off her coat–but she can’t put down her wine.  Her husband, Amos, is next to her but is not really helping.  I love that he “is shifting from buttock to buttock…as if by going through the motions of helping her in his mind he might actually help her.”

The two are at a concert.  She plans to rock out with her husband and then after the show go to a hotel and have wild sex–something they haven’t done in a long time.  I loved also that she imagined them falling right onto the bed when they got to the hotel.  “(OK maybe they would just fall asleep–it had been a long day–and do it in the morning).” (more…)

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june10SOUNDTRACK: GABRIEL KAHANE-Tiny Desk Concert #178 (November 26, 2011).

kahaneWhen I saw Kahane a few months ago, he looked very different from the fellow here.  (More hair and a beard will do that).

I found Kahane’s music to be really enjoyable even if it was never really that catchy.  His songs are complex and thought-inducing, with many layers.  Although I found that after listening to his songs a number of times, I could really find the hooks in there.

His voice has a kind of soft quality to it–not quiet, but very much not harsh, which allows his enunciations to be heard quite easily.

For “Charming Disease,” Kahane plays keyboards.  He’s accompanied by strings and a guitar (I love the coloration of the guitar).  Since he also writes classical music, his pop songs have a distinctly classical feel (even without the string quartet to back him up). So the piano lines that he plays are simple chords, they are full lines.  And there are times when the guitar plays beautiful counterpoint to his chords.  This song is about an alcoholic (“I took you home and took away your keys”), but you’d never know the darkness of the lyrics from the melody which is bright and cheerful.  I love the middle section of the song–the chord progressions during the “Wine Dark Sea” are, in my mind anyway, very Kahane, and they’re what I love about his music.

For “Where Are the Arms” he switches to acoustic guitar.  You know the song isn’t going to be simple when he counts of “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6”  I love that he plays a continuing picked section while the guitar and strings play chords behind him, really fleshing out the song.

As they prepare for the final song, one of the violinists knocks over her music stand and he jokes, how did you fit an 11 piece band back her but we can’t get a string quartet.  Someone shouts that it’s the strings–the bows.  Kahane says, yes, “One string is two humans–ego and otherwise.”  To groans from the band.

For “Last Dance” I love that he sings his vocal melody along with the guitar melody (something Frank Zappa used to do–it’s complex and interesting).   And while there is certainly a melody there, he really complicates it with all of the single notes.  The strings come in and the song modifies somewhat until his voice seems to resume the complex singing style.  But then in the middle of the song (“she begins to sing”) it switches to a very catchy section with a refrain of “sex and cigarettes.”  It’s the most immediate thing in the show and shows how poppy Kahane can be.  even if the ending is quite abrupt.

He really deserves repeated and close listening.

[READ: February 5, 2016] “Learning to Look at L.A.”

I know Gabriel Kahane from when he opened for Punch Brothers this past summer.  I really enjoyed his set and found his album charming and eccentric but very literary.

Turns out that at the time of the release of The Ambassador he wrote this piece for the New Yorker as well.  It explores the themes that he delved into for his album, especially architecture in L.A.   He even opens with a discussion of Die Hard.  Like his song “Villains (4616 Dundee Dr.)” which contains the lyric:

I’ve been thinking a lot
About action movies of the 1980’s
Particularly Die Hard,
Which seems to illustrate
So many of the anxieties
Central to a time + place:
Japanese capital
The waning of the cold war
Pride in a downtown
What did they build it for?

He says that his “affection for this film is one hundred-percent unironic.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 15, 2016] Blue Öyster Cult

2016-01-16 23.20.39I first got into Blue Öyster Cult in 1981 with “Burnin’ for You” (yep, I knew that before “Don’t Fear the Reaper”).  Fire of Unknown Origin was my favorite album for years.  When I got to college, I met my friend Nick when I drew the Blue Öyster Cult logo on my notebook and he saw it.  And then I found out that my neighbor Glen was the biggest Blue Öyster Cult fan, possibly ever.

He has seen them play a bunch of times, but for some reason I never went.  And that is my one major regret after seeing them–I wish I had seen them before when the whole band was together and when they were 20 years younger.  For while they did not disappoint, they weren’t quite up to the standards I had imagined.

The week before the show I listened to their whole catalog and imagined an ideal setlist–deep cuts and weird songs.  But honestly, they could have played any of their songs and it would have been great.

And I loved that they played a sampling of songs from throughout their career. (more…)

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elmer SOUNDTRACK: R.E.M.-Collapse into Now (2011).

R.E.M._-_Collapse_into_Now“Discoverer” opens this disc with ringing guitars–not exact R.E.M. replicants, but familiar.  And then Stipe comes in and the refresher course in R.E.M. begins.  Collapse Into Now proved to be R.E.M.’s final album, and while some of their latter albums weren’t great, Collapse seems to revisit everything that was great about R.E.M. and tries to spread it all over this album.

The blueprints for classic R.E.M. songs form the structure of a lot of these songs, with chiming guitars, and Stipe’s recognizable vocals.  “All the Best” sounds like classic R.E.M. (although Stipe’s delivery is more current sounding).  It also fits in well with the faster songs from Accelerate and is only 2:46.  But it’s “Überlin” that really sounds like a classic R.E.M. song.  That notable guitar style with Stipe’s very specific delivery style.  And then come Peter Buck’s harmonies.  It sounds like a good outtake from, say, Automatic for the People.

Stipe tends to do a lot of his sing-speaking on this album (and i think the one thing I don’t like that much about the album is that early R.E.M. seemed to obscure Stipe’s vocals and lyrics a little bit, giving them an air of mystery.  Whereas the newer records are all pretty well laid bare).  So “Oh My Heart” has Stipe almost speaking his poetry.  It’s got mandolin and Buck’s mildly annoying backing vocals (I’ve never thought that about his backing vocals before).

An Eddie Vedder cameo is utterly wasted on “It Happened Today,” you can barely hear him as all he does is backing crooning near the end of the song (and frankly the “hip hip hooray” chorus is lame).  “Every Day is Yours to Win” is a pretty slow song.  It doesn’t amount to much but the melody is really beautiful.  “Mine Smell Like Honey” is a crazy bad title, but it’s a great rocking song, really hearkening back to classic R.E.M.–ringing guitars and Stipe’s vaguely disguised voice.  “Walk it Back” is another slow ballady type song and is really pretty.  While “Alliagtor_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter” is a rocker with Peaches singing and speaking backing vocals.  “That Someone is You” follows up with another speedy track.

I tend to dislike the really slow R.E.M. songs, so “Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I” doesn’t do much for me.  The disc ender, “Blue” reminds me of Out of Time‘s “Country Feedback” (I keep waiting for him to say “I need this”).  And the Patti Smith backing vocals recall “E-Bow the Letter.”  “Blue” is meandering and unfocused but Buck’s atmospheric guitars are quite effective, even if the song itself is nothing special.  I don’t quite get the coda of tacking the opening chords of the album on to the end, but whatever.

So basically this album feels like some mostly great outtakes from earlier R.E.M. albums. And there’s really nothing wrong with that (well there would be if R.E.M. was still trying to release a lot of new music).  But since the band was ready to call it quits anyway, it’s a nice recap of their career.  True, I’d rather listen to their earlier records, but you could definitely throw most of these songs into a mix with the earlier ones and they would sound perfect.

[READ: October 25, 2014] Elmer

Elmer has a  chicken on the cover.  It also features this quote at the top of the book: “It’s the Great Filipino Novel, with chickens.”  What to expect from this book?  Well, chickens, obviously, but I never would have guessed what this book contained.  Indeed, this book is pretty mind-blowing (in a good way).

It has a simple premise, which seems comical but is actually taken very seriously: what if chickens became “aware” and learned to speak?  It sounds funny, right, but Alanguilan really explores this issue seriously–if a species of animal that we normally eat suddenly talked to us en masse, how quickly would we deal with this, and what would humanity’s reaction be?  It tackles issues of slavery and racism and pushes them further.  And while the “change” takes place in 1979, it addresses contemporary society with an inquisitive glare.

While there is some humor in it, this is a serious book.

Jake Gallo is a modern chicken (the book is set in 2003–two decades after chickens became “human”).  He has just been rejected for a job, and he pulls the race card (this would be the hilarious reveal that our main character is a chicken).  While he’s feeling sorry for himself, he gets word that his father, Elmer, is dying and he returns home to be with his mother and family.  On the way home he runs into Farmer Ben, the farmer who helped to raise Elmer’s family.  And he is genuinely glad to see Jake.  Jake seems somewhat put off by Farmer Ben and declines his offer of a ride. (more…)

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eaveptotterSOUNDTRACK: ELIZABETH ANKA VAJAGIC-Nostalgia/Pain EP [CST035] (2005).

This album is considered an EP, probably because it runs about 33 minutes. And yet with 3 songs and one of them nearly 20 minutes long, it feels like a much bigger release.

The first song, “Nostalgia” is 17 minutes long and begins with three minutes of scratchy violin “warm up” sounds.  Around 3 minutes guitars start playing some simple chords which gives the violin some direction.  Around 4 minutes’ Vajagic voice comes in, throaty and raw like a wounded PJ Harvey crossed with Patti Smith.  The song doesn’t vary all that much in the 17 minutes, but it’s her voice that carries the anguish and pain of the song along.  The interesting touch of the scratching guitars on the edges gives more angst to the song.  Starting around 12 minutes, the song kind of devolves into a series of noises –clicking drums, scratching violins.  A kind of free-form exploration like the beginning was.

So although the song is 17 minutes, it’s really only about nine of actual song.  The rest is sort of an experimental jam, with the volume down quite low in comparison.

Song 2, “Pain” is 12 minutes and opens with a slow guitar melody.  But the real focus is Vajagic’s voice because the instrumentation is basically a guideline.  Until, that is, the 4 minute mark comes around, when the guitar turns electric and more powerful and EAV’s voice goes away for about 3 minutes.  The melody is simple but has a good yearning and building quality with an interesting slow guitar solo meandering around.  Around 8 minutes she begins singing again, repeating the original vocal melody but now with screaming guitars behind her–it’s quite a change and a cathartic introduction of new sounds.  The ending kind of drifts away without ever really letting go.

The final sing is only 4 minutes.  It opens with cracking sounds and a music box.  When the song proper starts there’s more quiet guitars and EAV’s voice and that’s all the song is–like a microcosm of the longer songs and somewhat more powerful for its condensed nature.   Although I do prefer the louder more angsty music she makes, this is a nice showcase for her restraint.

This is the last record that I’m aware of her releasing.

[READ: April 26, 2014] Lord Tottering: An English Gentleman

I saw this comic strip book at work and decided it was interesting looking and might be fun to read.  The title made me laugh as did the Registered Trademark “Tottering-By-Gently” and is a kind of compendium of Lord Tottering comic strips.

Never heard of Lord Tottering?  Me either, but it has been appearing weekly in the magazine Country Life since 1993 and is “phenomenally successful” according to the introduction.  Which also states that Annie Tempest is one of the top cartoonists working in the UK.  (I’ve never heard of her either, but again, that doesn’t mean much).

The cast consists of Daffy Tottering, who reflects “the problems facing women in their everyday life” (if you are rich and British, and live in “their stately home in the fictional county of North Pimmshire).  She also spends time (and I feel compelled to put all of this in here because it is an amusingly long list):

“reflecting on the intergenerational tensions and the differing perspectives of men and women, as well as dieting, ageing, gardening, fashion, food, field sports, convention and much more.” [She must be exhausted].

Her husband is Dicky.  He is basically a retired rich Englishman who hunts and fishes and goes to the kind of club that is mocked endlessly in Snuff Box.

I mock this cartoon a little bit because it is pretty mockable–wealthy aristocrats suffering white people’s problems.  Think of it almost like Cathy for Rich Britons.  And yet, despite all the mocking, I got a chuckle out of a lot of the strips, and I’m sure it brings a smile to many people. (more…)

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