Archive for the ‘Regina Spektor’ Category

SOUNDTRACKCŒUR DE PIRATE-Live at Massey Hall (July 8, 2014).

I known of Cœur de Pirate more from reputation than her music.  But everything I’ve heard I’ve enjoyed.  Cœur de Pirate is Beatrice Martin a Francophone singer from Montreal who sings almost entirely in French.  And yet despite that, she sells out to Anglophone audiences because her music is so darn catchy.

In the opening she notes that it’s crazy that she’s a French-speaking artists singing in french selling out a venue like Massey Hall.  She feels special and can’t wait to hear what it sounds like.

The first song is “Le Long du Large.”  She is playing piano with a great band behind her.  The song grooves along smoothly–it has a great catchy chorus with terrific backing vocals.  There’s an acoustic guitar (Renaud Bastien), a lead guitar (Emmanuel Éthier), bass (Alexandre Gauthier) and drums (Julien Blais).

On “Francis” it’s just her on piano.  The song has a very Regina Spektor vibe in her playing style and singing delivery.

“Ensemble” is bouncy and upbeat, just super fun.

Golden Baby” opens with a melody like “Come on Eileen” but as soon as the electric guitar soars over, it is a very different song.   I love that she sounds like she smiling throughout.

It surprised me that she did an encore so soon in the show, but there’s clearly a reason for that.

Before the encore, she plays “Adieu”  our “last song.”  Shes off the piano on this one, only singing.  It’s got a heavy rocking beat and guitar and it’s really great.

When she comes back for the encore she sits at the piano and asks “More songs?”

“Place de la République” starts as solo piano and it sounds lovely.  After a verse or so, they add a bowed bass and strummed acoustic guitar  which builds the songs nicely.  Half way through, drums come in to give it even more power.  It’s a terrific song.

She is quite sweet saying that “it makes no sense that a French Canadian girl could sell out Massey Hall…. just got to hold it together.”

She invites everyone to sing along. If you don’t know French, just pretend.  It works too.  This is the last song.  Make it fun make it magical.  She says that the song, “Comme des enfants” is being taught in French classes.  It was a huge hit and the audience sings part the last verse.  It’s a wonderful moment and always cool to see an artist overwhelmed by her fans base.

[READ: March 28, 2018] Cici’s Journal

The book (there are two books in this volume) opens with Cici talking about her journal.  We meet Cici and her mom.  We learn that Cici hangs out a lot with the neighbor Mrs Flores, a writer.  Her mom doesn’t love that she hangs out with am older lady, but Mrs Flores is pretty cool.

Cici’s two best friends are Lena and Erica  The pair knew each other since they were babies;  Cici moved to the neighborhood when they were all little.  They have been best friends ever since.

I give Carol Klio Burrell a real thumbs up on this translation. I didn’t realize that it was a translation until well into the second book.  But I didn’t love a few aspects of the story.  The problem here I think comes with the friends.  Lena is sweet and has the soul of an artist.  Meanwhile, Erica “complains constantly, but she has a good heart.”  That’s not a very complex or desirably character trait.  And that aspect of her comes out a lot in the second book, which is kind of annoying. (more…)

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[ATTENDED:November 13, 2017] Regina Spektor

I have really enjoyed a lot of Regina Spektor’s music.  I have never seen her play, so this show at the nearby State Theatre seemed like a great opportunity.  I don’t know what she normally tours like, but this show was advertised as just her, playing solo.  And that was fine with me.

She came out on stage to thunderous applause and whispered “thanks” into the microphone.  She then proceeded to sings songs and drink water (a lot of) water.  Turns out that she had bronchitis.  And amazingly, she sounded freaking terrific.  Her voice was outstanding (and her piano playing was pretty fab as well).

The show was listed as being an hour and forty-five minutes and in that time she told stories, played different instruments and sang twenty-five songs.

It turns out that I really love the middle stuff (her fifth and sixth albums).  I don’t know her really early stuff and I somehow missed the new album.  So when I heard that this tour was going to be a lot of old stuff and rarities, I figured that I wasn’t going to know much, but I’d still enjoy it.  Sarah said she actually didn’t know any of the songs (but she loved her voice).  I knew about six songs. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 14, 2016] Ben Folds with yMusic

2016-07-14 22.42.16This was the third time that Sarah and I have seen Ben Folds and he never fails to put on a great show.

Both of the previous times had been as an opening act (and both times were with Guster, interestingly).  So it was great to see him headlining.  I didn’t know a lot about yMusic before the show, but I enjoyed his disc with them So There.  It promised to be a great show.

And since, as I mentioned with Gracie Folds, we were literally three people from the stage, we knew the show would be special. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 14, 2016] Gracie Folds

2016-07-14 19.36.50The Levitt Pavilion Steelstacks in Bethlehem is one of my favorite venues.  Last year I saw Modest Mouse there and this year it was Ben Folds.  I raved to Sarah about the venue last time but I don’t think she realized just how great it would be until we walked onto the grass and walked up to the stage where there were only two people in front of us.  And, if we were pushier, we could have easily gotten up to the fence.

So, yes, we were about three people from the stage.  And just to make it better, the forecast predicted massive thunderstorms all night long, but by the time of the show, the clouds had parted and a cool breeze came in through the field.

As the show started a young girl walked out and sat at her keyboard and told us her name was Gracie.  Anyone who is a fan of Ben Folds knows he has a daughter named Gracie.  But those of us who have no concept of time passing still assume she is like 6 years old.  Well, she is 17 and she opened for her dad.  And that’s pretty awesome. (more…)

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425 SOUNDTRACK: JULIA HOLTER-Tiny Desk Concert #524 (April 22, 2016).

Jjuliahulia Holter also has a theatrical style although her touchstone would be someone more like Regina Spektor (I found a similar style in their delivery).

“Sea Calls me Home” has a cabaret style in her delivery and songs structure.  She plays piano with a small band of upright bass, violin and drum.  I really like the sound (and solo) of the violin later on in the song.

“In the Green Wild” has a very jazzy feel with the upright bass playing a jazz line and the drums playing a jazzy rushed sound.  The violin plays some random high almost dissonant notes that work very well.  For the beginning, Julia doesn’t play piano, she sing-speaks kind of like Laurie Anderson—including the unusual intonation and emphases.  The rest of the band sings backing vocals that are higher and ethereal.  About half way in, she begins playing piano and the song settles sown a bit. The way she sings is unusual and a little unsettling—she looks up at the ceiling more or less the whole time.  Her piano notes are simple and I like the way she plays without looking at the keys.

After that song she speaks briefly.  Her personality is pretty nonexistent–she doesn’t smile or even seem to look at anyone. She sounds rather bored as she says okay we’ll play another song.  Thanks for listening.  That turned me off of her music a bit.

The final song, “Betsy on the Roof,” is the longest, about six minutes long.  It sounds similar to the first one–theatrical and somewhat operatic.  There’s a story in the song, but my favorite part is the middle where she sings a scale up to the roof and then the band rocks out.  The end of the song is fascinating as she sings her nice melody and plays atonal tones on the piano.  I enjoyed t he theatricality of this music a lot, but I would have preferred not to see her performance.

[READ: June 10, 2016] “Waiting for the Miracle”

This is the story of Vadik and his arrival in New York from Moscow.  It was a snowy day as he landed at J.F.K.  Despite the snow blanketing the skyline, it was still exciting. as he descended.  He had just received his work Visa authorizing his stay in the U.S. for three years.  He was staring work in Avenel, NJ.

His friend Sergey, who lives in Staten Island, came to pick him up.  All that Vadik wanted to do was explore the city–walk aimlessly and see what happened, but Sergey wanted to take him to his house.  And Sergey’s wife Vica wanted to see him too–in their past Vadik and Vica had been an item although and Sergey stole her away.  Vica made dinner for him and so he agreed to go to the Island.

On the way to the house, the most improbable thing is that Sergey is listening to a Leonard Cohen CD and singing along.  (Vadik likes Sergey and admits that he is still handsome, but his voice is terrible and has always been terrible.  And it’s especially bad especially for Leonard Cohen.  I say this is improbable because Cohen’s music appears later in the story  too. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 9, 2016] Alyssa Garcia

alyssaWhen I heard that the Crash Test Dummies were playing at Sellersville Theater, I was pretty excited to go.  I’d really liked them years ago (God Shuffled His Feet is an amazing album still).  But I also knew that Brad Roberts was a kind of vulgarian.  So I was really surprised to see a family with two small kids sitting in the row in front of ours.

I didn’t know the opening act (her name was actually misspelled on the bill, sadly).

Well, it turns out there was good reasons I didn’t know her.  She is 16 and recently won the 2015 Philadelphia Songwriters Project Final Showcase.  Turns out the young kids in front of us were her family.

Alyssa had amazing stage presence (I want to say “for someone so young” after just about every sentence, but I’ll refrain, because she was simply good regardless of her age).  She chatted with the audience, told us about her life, sold merch at the back table and, most importantly, she played five or six beautiful songs.

The melodies were fairly simple–I actually expected a little more showoffy flair for a person who has been playing piano since she was 5, but that clearly wasn’t her goal.  She was writing pretty songs to get her words across.  And it was her voice that was so captivating. (more…)

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1953SOUNDTRACK:CŒUR DE PIRATE-Cœur de pirate (2008).

Coeur-de-pirate-albumCœur de Pirate is the band name of Béatrice Martin, a Québécois singer and piano prodigy.  She was 19 when she released this album (and was accepted into conservatory school in Montreal when she was nine).

Given her musical background, one might expect more elaborately created music–more chamber pop, perhaps.  But this debut album is delightfully sweet and spare indie pop.  It is primarily simple piano songs with occasional extra accompaniment.

Most of the songs are simple, with unfussy arrangements and Martin’s beautiful voice.  The songs verge from charming piano melody to simple waltz to piano instrumental and a few upbeat almost dancey songs.  There’s even a guitar based song that adds a folk feel to the album.

There are 12 songs and the album runs only to 30 minutes.  It is charming and delightful.  The only thing I didn’t like so much was when Jimmy Hunt duets with her on “Pour un infidèle.” It’s not that I disliked his voice (which I did grow to appreciate after a few listens) it’s that his voice removes you from the insular little world that Martin has created.  When I am in it I don’t want any distractions.

The album definitely has a Francophone feel to it (her songs were described as “bringing la chanson française to a whole new generation of Quebec youth”) although she does remind me a bit of Regina Spektor’s later songs, too.

She also had a fluke hit with “Ensemble” when it was used with a funny baby based YouTube video that went viral (I’ve posted that at the bottom of the page).

You can listen to the whole album below

[READ: September 17, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1953-1954

Moving on to volume 2 of the Complete Peanuts.  As 1953 opened, the characters remained in that older style–Snoopy still looks a lot like a dog, and Charlie’s head is still much bigger (or actually I guess his face is still smaller).  By the end of the book, they have morphed a little closer to the Peanuts most of us are familiar with, but they still look “different.”

I enjoy the way the Schulz celebrates the holidays with a simple but nice sentiment (Schroeder playing his piano with the music staff reading “Happy New Year”).  Indeed, Schulz celebrates most holidays.  Valentine’s Day, Income Tax Day (!) and of course, he has lots of fun with Hallowen (no great pumpkin yet though).

This volume seems to be a lot about Lucy (which may be why she is on the cover).  In the first few strips she gets expelled from nursery school.  Later on she quits nursery school because they didn’t teach how to be a nurse.  Lucy also tends to have a regular punchline, with regard to Schroeder of “I’ll probably never get married.”  Lucy also begins in earnest her counting career–trying to count all the stars (and getting exhausted) or all the raindrops, or the amount she jumps rope.  And she is still a fussbudget, with a joke at the end of 1954 having Schroeder compose the “Fuddbudget Sonata” for her.

Linus, who is still a baby, has taken to “shooting” people with his finger  (he struggles to crawl for a ball only to have Snoopy walk up and take it away, so he looks at Snoopy and says “bang”).  He is still crawling and toddling for much of the year, although by the end he seems to be growing up.  Nevertheless, Lucy is still giving him a hard time–constantly shouting at him when he is not looking and then commenting that “he’s awfully nervous.”

There’s a lot of baseball jokes as they move into spring (how did he keep coming up with original baseball jokes after all those years?) inducing jokes about sponsorship.  And then Lucy starts taking up golf (and is very good at it).

Schroeder continues to play beautifully (and to get upset by everyone who bothers him, especially Lucy and Snoopy.  He has a crisis of conscience when he says “sometimes I thin I like Brahms even better than Beethoven.”

Schulz included some occasionally topical material.  So there’s a joke about the popularity of “Doggie in the Window”  (It went to number 1 in April of 1953 and stayed there for 8 weeks).  Snoopy has been listening to it all day.

And of course there is a ton about Snoopy too.  he still looks like a dog and still does a lot of doggie things (and Schulz is always spot on with them).  I really like the joke where Snoopy eats a moth and then coughs up the dryness.  Or when he falls asleep under a tree and wakes up covered in leaves.  There are even a few jokes in which Snoopy hates being patted on the head.  And of course, Snoopy just loves zooming around (especially through croquet hoops).  This is mostly like Snoopy giving everyone a hard time, especially Charlie Brown (with the constant refrain of “You drive me crazy”).

One thing that I like about these early strips is that even though Charlie Brown has a lot of angst, he also has a great deal of self-confidence.  Like when he is mad at Violet and the punch line is “but I know you don’t think I’m Perfect)  There’s even a funny joke (or series of jokes) about graffiti on a fence (!).  In one, it says “Charlie Brown loves all the girls” (in another it says “Charlie Brown loves Charlie Brown”).

The TV jokes continue (I especially like the one with Shermy watching and the screen clears up to say Why Aren’t You in School?).  Most of them are variations on people sitting on front of each other. and blocking the view.

In June of 1954, Schulz uses the word security to refer to Linus’ blanket (evidently coining the phrase “security blanket”), which continues in one form or another throughout the book.  Linus starts to become really smart–outwitting Charlie Brown at houses of cards and magic tricks and the wonderful punchline of him blowing up a square balloon.

The biggest change comes in July 1954 with the addition of Pig Pen or ‘Pig Pen’ as he was first called. He doesn’t do a lot but it leads to a lot of jokes about being dirty.

And in December 1954, a new short-lived character named Charlotte Braun (or Good Ol’ Charlotte Braun) enters the strip.  She has wild curly hair and talks very loudly.  She is something of a foil to Charlie, but she is never really developed.

The book has a Foreword by Walter Cronkite.  He says that he was supposed to interview Schulz, but on the day they were scheduled, he took ill.  So Cronkite never got to meet with Schulz.  This is shame although I have to say that Schulz and Cronkite were such huge figures that they certainly should have met many times over the years.

Cronkite reveals a bit more about the Schulz’ Sparky nickname–that he was given the nickname by an uncle who was referencing the horse Spark Plug in the Barney Google strip.  I like Cronkite’ summary:

Now here you have a confluence of coincidences that would never be accepted even by the producers of a Hollywood pot-boiler.  A baby nicknamed after a cartoon characters growing up to be one of the greatest and most popular cartoonist of all time!

Cronkite also praises Schulz’ economy of dialogue and illustration and likewise keeps his own foreword brief as well.

I’m really excited about continuing through the years with these books.

For ease of searching I include Coeur de Pirate, Beatrice Martin, Quebecois, francaise

And here’s that (very funny) viral video that used the Cœur de pirate song:


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