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Archive for the ‘Savages’ Category

 SOUNDTRACKLONELY LEARY-“Flaneur” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

One of the things that I love about Lars, and this list is a great example, is how effortlessly multicultural he is.  He doesn’t listen to music because it’s from somewhere, he listens to music wherever it;s from because he likes it.  So this band, with the decidedly English-sounding name Lonely Leary is actually from China.  Lars says that the

The excellent label Maybe Mars documents the current Chinese underground music scene, from the psych-rock of Chui Wan and surfy shoegaze of Dear Eloise to P.K. 14, Beijing’s experimental rock pioneers.

Lonely Leary is a post-punk band which sounds like they would fit right in with Protomartyr or even The Fall, Sonic Youth or Joy Division.  The fact that they are from China and sing in Chinese doesn’t affect the tone and overall feel of the music, it somehow makes it more intense (to my ears).

Lars describes their debut album as one “where noise needles into perversely kitschy surf riffs and hoarsely barked punctuation marks.”  Although I hear less kitschy and more Dead Kennedy’s guitar and feedback noise.

The sounds they achieve throughout the album are great.  “Flaneur” opens the disc with a screaming feedback followed by a rumbling bass.  There’s some great guitar lines from Song Ang (which remind me of Savages) and then Qiu Chi barks his dissatisfaction through to a satisfyingly Dead Kennedys-ish chorus.  There’s even some Savages-esque chanting as the song squeals to and end.

This is great stuff.

[READ: January 4, 2019]  “Father”

Here is a new year and a new essay from Sedaris that perfectly mixes emotional sadness and hilarious light-heartedness.

The night before his fathers 95th birthday, his father turned in the kitchen and fell.  David’s sister and brother-in-law discovered him the next day and brought him to the hospital.  They felt the most disturbing thing was his disorientation, including getting mad at the doctor: “you’re sure asking a lot of questions.”  He was lucid the following day, but he was quite weak.

David was in Princeton on the night his father fell [at a show that I could have been at–we opted not to go this year].   He called his father and said that he needed him to be alive long enough to see trump impeached.

A few months later, his father moved into a retirement home.  David and Hugh visited and at first he seemed out of it, but hr recognized both of them instantly.  The thing was that he was no injured.  He had tried to move his grandfather clock (one of the prized possessions he brought to the home) and it fell on him (for real).  Many family members called the clock Father Time, so David said to Hugh “When you’re 95 and Father Time literally knocks you to the ground, don’t you think he’s maybe trying to tell you something?” (more…)

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castle SOUNDTRACK: TINDERSTICKS-The Waiting Room (2016).

tinderstIt had been four years since the previous Tindersticks album.  And this one was not released on Constellation Records, but rather on Lucky Dog.  Whether or not that had anything to do with the sound of this record I don’t know, but I really like this album a lot.

“Follow Me” is a slow broody melancholy instrumental with a high accordion playing a lovely melody.  It’s completely evocative.  “Second Chance Man” has a kind of unsettling vibrato on Staples’ voice.  But the melody (sparsely played initially on keyboards) is really catchy.  The rest of the band fleshes out the sound after a verse and chorus.  I love that it builds in the middle and then again at the end with horns lifting the gloom off the song.  “Were We Once Lovers” has a thumping bass line and an uptempo feel as Staples’ sings in a kind of falsetto.  I love the way all of the parts form together in the chorus that’s introduced by a simple but effective guitar: “How can I care if it’s the caring that’s killing me.”

“Help Yourself” opens with some soulful horn blasts and Staples’ whispered vocals.  The bass keeps the song going as occasional horn blasts accent this strangely catchy song.  Staples also sings in an uncharacteristically angsty style in this song, which is strangely unsettling as well.  I love the way the song keeps circling round and then almost surprising the chorus when it comes back.

Whenever Tindersticks use a female guest vocalist, they really seem to step up their game.  “Hey Lucinda” is an incredibly catchy song, starting with simple bells and an accordion playing a great melody.   When Staples’ deep voice is balanced by the exotic voice of Lhasa, it makes for a great pairing.  It’s unusual for a catchy song to be so spare, but the simple accordion accents really hold the song together before it takes off near the end.

“This fear of Emptiness” is another gentle instrumental with bass and acoustic guitar accompanied by accordion sections (sometimes dissonant near the end).  “How He Entered” is another spare song with mostly bass and keys and an occasionally scratching sound as an ascent.  But it’s still a very catchy melody.

“The Waiting Room” has that same echo on his voice as he slowly sings over a keyboard melody.  His anguished singing of “don’t let me suffer” totally makes the song.  “Planting Holes” is a short delicate instrumental with a sweet but melancholy keyboard riff running through it.

Perhaps the most dynamic song on the disc is “We Are Dreamers!”  It’s the angriest song I can think of from Tindersticks, with rumbling keyboards and tribal beats as Staples sings bursts of vocals.  But it’s when Savages’ singer Jehnny Beth adds her voice that the song turns really aggressive.  They sing the chorus “This is not us/ We are dreamers!”  And as Beth takes over the chorus, shifting pitch and intensity, Staples is commenting including lines like “You can rob us/ You can trick us/ Peer over our shoulders and steal our ideas”

The final song is “Like Only Lovers Can.”  The delicate and pretty keyboards belie the sadness in the lyrics: “We can only hurt each other the way lovers can.”  The quiet keyboards end the disc.

[READ: March 15, 2016] Castle Waiting Volume 2

I loved Castle Waiting.   And I couldn’t wait to read Volume II.

And I loved it even more.  Linda Medley is such an engaging storyteller.  Her characters feel utterly real and funny and charming.  I could read more and more and more from her.  Which is why I am so bummed that the series ends here (with rumors that she is doing more).

This volume is a bit more playful.  The characters are well-established and settling into their lives at the castle.

As in the previous volume, there are a lot of flashbacks to Jain’s childhood.

But there’s also a lot of wonderfully meandering stories in the present. The man who looks like a horse (literally) has injured his hoof, so he is hobbling around and is not as useful as he might be (and is cranky about it).

But the main story centers around the arrival of two dwarves, I mean hammerlings–only racists would say dwarves.  They are the relatives of Henry, the quiet blacksmith (who is actually human, but was adopted by the dwarves).  Henry is super excited to see them (as excited as his monosyllabic grunts allow him to be).  Actually, we finally learn why he is so standoffish and quiet most of the time.

They are here for a very specific an(and embarrassing) purpose.  They need women’s clothes for the human who works with them back home.

Their presence enlivens everyone in the Castle. They are fun and interesting–enjoying hard work and being very playful. It is with their help that the Castle dwellers do some remodeling, find a booby trap and even learn how to play nine pin bowling.  The older women who still live in the castle take some bets about who will win–with much merriment.  I love that there a whole chapter about them bowling.

There’s a subplot about Jain’s son Pindar being a leshie–a species we learn a bit about, although we also learn that they are extinct.  This plot line is never concluded properly, though.

We also finally learn about Doctor and his crazy mask (it was a sort of gas mask for the plague).  They are all worried about his sanity, especially when he starts walking around wishing everyone a happy Yule (the Christmas stocking subplot is outstanding).

Speaking of Jain, she has decided to move into the Castle (where there is indeed a ghost).  But her kindness appeases the ghost somewhat.  Especially when she teaches Simon to read (I love the scene where he learns to read and then sits at the table reading instead of eating–just like in my house).

There’s a hilarious thread about a very stubborn goat (whom Simon can outsmart).  And a multi-chapter thread about Sister trying to get a cross for Jain’s room.  We finally get to the bottom of the house sprites (they are adorable when we finally find out what they want).  Finishhtory!  Finit!  Reetoomee.

I am so attached to these characters, that I need to hear more about them.

As in the previous book,Medley’s art is simply gorgeous.  She does realism like no one I know and her characters have an awesome blend of realism and hyper-realism that makes them so enjoyable to look at (and unbelievably detailed as well).

There have been a number of graphic novels that I have gotten completely attached to, but none like this.  It was so bittersweet to finish this, knowing there’d be no more–but holding out hope for a surprise some day.

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5.20SOUNDTRACK: SAVAGES-Live at KEXP (May 16, 2013).

savagesI heard some songs from the Savages album, and I loved them–that combination of 80’s punk and goth all wrapped up in current technologies and attitude.  A couple of their songs are some of my favorite of the year so far.  I’d also heard that they were even better live.  So here are four songs played live in the studio from KEXP.  And while the audio is awesome, they are a lot of fun to watch.

In fact, the more I watch the less I know who I am most impressed by–the amazing guitarist?  the great unaffected bassist?  the wild drummer?  They’re all a pleasure to watch.

But it also sounds great.  There’s some great soaring guitar sounds on “City’s Full” which really has a Patti Smith meets Siouxsie vibe.  And there’s that whole goth feel–the bass up front and dominant but with really big guitar chords and cool riffs.  And the drums, man she rocks out in the whole first half of “City’s Full.”   Then listen to the fabulous bass line that runs through “Shut Up.”   I love the way the low bass plays off the high guitars  (and the vocals sound very Siouxsie there).    And the drummer is amazing at the end of the song.

A great 80s echoey riff opens “She Will.”  I love when the song almost stops and it’s all fast cymbals and faster guitar (which is really cool in and of itself) until it builds back up.  And just look at her drumming at 10:20.  Wow. 

And the closer, Husbands” just gets more and more intense.  Like the crazy noisy cymbals.  And the way her voice soars and soars until it just stops.  Wow.

[READ: May 23, 2013] “The Dark Arts”

Julian is sick. Very sick.  So sick, in fact, that American doctors can’t seem to help him, can’t even seem to effectively diagnose him.  So he and his girlfriend Hayley have traveled to Europe for new medicines that the AMA hasn’t approved yet.  They travel to a few places first as a kind of romantic vacation and their ultimate destination is Düsseldorf.  It’s there where Julian will have his bone marrow drawn out, then boiled and tinkered with and then injected back into him.

Ouch.

But there’s been a snag.  On their way to Düsseldorf, they had a fight and Hayley stayed behind.  So Julian went to Düsseldorf to a hostel.  Every day he goes to the train station hoping to see Hayley show up.  He imagines what he must look like to the locals–a skeletal American wearing what must look like a death shroud.  He barely eats, he barely does anything.  In fact, he has more or less given up.

But his father and Hayley, they believe in him, they believe that these cures can help.  Indeed, his father has been so great through all this offering him anything he needs–money they don’t really have and unwavering support.

And then the story gets even more interesting–we find out that American doctors not only couldn’t diagnose him, but actually believed that there as nothing wrong with him. (more…)

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walrusmaySOUNDTRACK: SAVAGES-“She Will” (2013).

I fsavages-2013-382952pc8ound this song in heavy rotation on NPR.  I had never heard of Savages before (this is from their debut album coming out this week), but they seemed interesting.  And the description was intriguing–saying they sounded like Siouxsie and the Banshees.  And that is right on, from the shimmery 80s punk guitars that open the song to that strange goth-y wail that Siouxsie possessed, to the rumbling basslines, this song hearkens back to a darker, wonderful era.

It’s a really great sound–evocative without mimicking.  It’s certainly an uncool sound that Savages are pulling for (in the 2010s) and I like them all the more because of it.  I’m curious to hear what else they do.

And that ending note is a killer.  I want to hear this whole album.

[READ: April 30, 2013] “Oh, My Darling”

The “teaser” for this short story says “I am so close you could touch me.”  And with this piece of information in mind, this story is dark and creepy right from the start.

The story begins as a letter: “Hello, Vanessa.”  And the letter continues to compliment Vanessa on her name, those three satiny syllables (the letter writer won’t deign to use that silly “Nessa” that others do).

The narrator pushes back to some months ago when Vanessa’s husband says he believes that he has Aboriginal bloodlines (despite his blue eyes and Scandinavian features).  Vanessa knew immediately it was because of the case he was working on—an Aboriginal case, obviously—with… Connie, a student of Haida birth.  She replies to it with a funny (to me) comment: “What part do you think is Aboriginal? I hope it’s something simple, like your foot.”  This comment from Vanessa’s husband, intimating infidelity is compounded by their daughter’s insolence: “You are a cruel fucking cow.”  (Vanessa has weight issues which makes this hurt even more).  Vanessa knows this is just how teenagers are, but it still hurts. (more…)

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