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Archive for the ‘Sylvan Esso’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: CLEM SNIDE AND SCOT AVETT-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #26 (May 23, 2020).

I’ve never given a thought to Clem Snide.  Well, my thought is that he was a country guy that I didn’t want to listen to  Turns out, Clem is not a guy but a band founded by Eef Barzelay, who had a solo Tiny Desk back in 2010.

I do know Scott Avett from The Avett Brothers (although I never really know which brother is which).

Barzelay and Avett not only maintained social distancing throughout their set, but also rigorously enforced it with the aid of a visible tape measure.

This is my favorite Tiny Desk Home concert so far since it is done in a barn–and the sound is great!

Recording a Tiny Desk concert at home naturally subtracts a lot of familiar elements…. But when Clem Snide (the three-decade-old project of singer-songwriter Eef Barzelay) and special guest Scott Avett (the Avett Brothers co-founder who produced and performs on Clem Snide’s latest album, Forever Just Beyond) performed together in Avett’s barn, they added a few new features you’ve never gotten to hear at the Tiny Desk — most notably a noisy flock of birds and the unmistakable cries of a nearby rooster.

We’ve had a few disruptive animals at the Tiny Desk over the years, from the occasional dog to Bob Boilen himself, but this had to be our first rooster.

Their voices blended warmly as they tackled three spiritually searching songs from the (great) new record, Forever Just Beyond.

For the “The Stuff of Us” they both play guitar.  Eef’s is a full size while Scott’s is a smaller one (I can’t tell how many strings).  Avett sings the rather impressive high notes.

After encouraging everyone to brew their own fermented ginger beer for the immune system.

He introduces “Jews for Jesus Blues” by saying “A doubtless faith is a dead faith.”  The song from Clem Snide’s 2005 album End of Love, is a bouncy folk number.  Avett plays banjo.  The lyrics are interesting: “Now that I’m found, I wish I was lost” and “now that I’m saved, I wish I was dead.”  When the song’s over, Eef says, “not too offensive.”

Before “Some Ghost” the roosters start crowing.  Clem jokes, tell them chicken to shut the hell up.  Avett plays a full sized guitar and even sings some lead vocals.  Their harmonies are wonderful, too.  As the song ends, the rooster crows: “chicken go it right that time.”

Clem picks up a different,smaller, guitar for “Roger Ebert,” a song based on Ebert’s actual dying words: “This is all an elaborate hoax.”  Avett provides only percussion and vocals on this lovely song.

[READ: May 22, 2020] Five Years #8

Terry Moore seems like a very nice guy.  He draws people in love so wonderfully.  He draws adorable children and he specializes in a mischievous grin.

It’s easy to forget that he can be incredibly violent.  Well, I don’t know about him personally, but his art sure can be.

This issue has two violent deaths in it.  One is bloody, the other is not.

The one that is not is Stephanie.  The woman who wrapped Katchoo up in the mystery.  In several pages of wordless panels, Stephanie breaks into a secure building. She walks through a series of rooms activating secret panels.

She gets what she came for and heads out.  But when she steps outside, an unkindness of ravens swarms on her.

She drops her satchel and one of the ravens picks it up and flies off. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SYLVAN ESSO-Tiny Desk (home) Concert #24 (May 21, 2020).

Is it possible to make dance music while sitting on a couch?  Is it possible also to dance to that music while sitting on a couch?

These pressing questions are answered in this Tiny Desk Home Concert

Sylvan Esso, the Durham, N.C., couple of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn gives us three songs from their home couch using modular synths, a rhythm machine and Amelia’s heartfelt vocals.

Sanborn sits in front of box with all kind of wires patched into it. It’s an unholy mess and he manages to make the melody by pushing the buttons between those wires.

Meath sits in front of another box and supplies most of the beats. It’s neat watching her sing verses and then push a button as the drums enter or leave “Die Young,” a fun dancey song.  She answers one of the above questions in the middle of this song which has a “dance break” as Meath waves her arms and gently bounces on the couch.

“Rewind” is a slower song.  Sanborn walks off camera while Meath starts the simple drum rhythm.  I assume he’s playing a synth, although midway he picks up a guitar (how frustrating that he’s off camera–c’mon Esso!).

In keeping with Tiny Desk tradition, bands I actually like–like this one–do a set that is less than 15 minutes, while artists I’ve never heard of or don’t especially like ramble on for over 20.

So they have only one more song.  But before playing it, they plug their new release

This home concert stands in sharp contrast to Sylvan Esso’s remarkable new film, WITH, which features a host of their dear friends reshaping and reimagining their brilliant catalog of songs during the duo’s 2019 tour. Add that to your list of things to do while sitting on your couch, hopefully with someone you like.

After some technical troubles (the sound is totally wrong), they start “Radio” a very familiar dance song.  There’s more couch dancing and even some dancing from Sanborn as his finger move all over that cluttered machine.

[READ: May 20, 2020] Five Years #6

This issue makes everything seem like things are going according to plan, there’s even a lot of levity.

We see Rachel in Russia. The morgue attendant, Yana, has brought her home.  They speak Russian, although Rachel’s Russian “sounds ancient, like something she only heard at university once or twice.”  Yana wonders why she is not dead.

Rachel doesn’t die.

Then some short scenes: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOUNTAIN MAN-Tiny Desk Concert #824 (February 13, 2019).

I had only heard of Mountain Man from an earlier Field Recordings Session on NPR–back in 2012!  Since then the individuals have all gone to different successes but they have reconvened for a new album and this Tiny Desk Concert.  We’ll also be seeing them at Newport Folk Festival this summer.

Mountain Man is endearing.  And they are so quiet.

Mountain Man is the perfect band for a Tiny Desk concert. These three women make the most intimate music; and behind the desk, the voices of Amelia Meath, Molly Erin Sarlé and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig were the stars. Adorned by only light, rhythmic acoustic guitar, they sing songs that conjure a simpler life: dogs, friends, moonlight, sunlight, skinny dipping, beach towels and sand.

These dear friends have known each other for more than ten years, since their college days in Vermont. They released their first album in 2010 called Made The Harbor and only recently had a follow-up with the pleasantly surprising, 2018 fall release of Magic Ship.

They play three songs.  “Rang Tang Ring Toon” has a two note guitar melody from Alexandra Sauser-Monnig.  While she plays, she sings the first verse.  Then the other two join in (that’s Molly Sarlé on the really high notes).  It’s a very simple guitar melody–so simple that when she plays a kind of solo (also very simple) it really jolts you out of the gentle melody.

There’s a true kinship that happens in this trio. Things get quiet, sometimes funny and playful or, at moments, awkward, especially when they talk about “savory oatmeal.”

It’s Alexandra who talks about the savory oatmeal (with wild mushrooms, fried garlic, poached egg and chives).  It was delicious–although Molly says, “I had a different thing.”

For “Moon,” Molly plays guitar.  Her playing is more strumming.  She sings very high and the others join in.  One fascinating thing about most of these songs is the nonsense syllables they sing.  Obviously the first song (just the title alone), but even this one has a refrain of:  “Dai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai.”

For the last song Amelia Meath (yes, of Sylan Esso) sings a capella.  Before the song she says she’d like to dedicate it to “all my NPR crushes–anyone who works at NPR who has looked me in the eye and asked me questions about myself.” The song starts with all of them humming.  Then Amelia sings and they accompany her with their hums until they all sing amazing harmonies.  It’s all so quiet and sweet, you just want to lean in to hear them better.

In the eight years between Mountain Man records, Amelia Meath went on to create Sylvan Esso with Nick Sanborn. Molly Sarlé, meanwhile, was in a meditation center in California — at a cliffside trailer in Big Sur — and worked on her own, beautiful solo album, which is due out soon. And Alexandra Sauser-Monnig worked with Hiss Golden Messenger, released her own music under the name ASM and has a new record coming as well.  There’s a tour about to happen, and hopefully they won’t vanish after that for another eight years. There’s no other band like them.

[READ: February 12, 2019] “The Confession”

The confession in this story is a rape.

The narrator is the rapist.  He can’t reveal his name or the rural village where it happened because his father is a feared and respected man and he doens’t want to bring shame on him.

The summer this happened, the boy says his father didn’t want him to be idle, so he was sent to the countryside for hard work with the villagers.  The villagers were illiterate and there was no electricity.  He was bored out of his mind.  The only entertainment was the story that the boys all told about a girl from the area who had been rejected by her clan because of her sexual behavior.

One afternoon he went with one of the older men to the plains to gather grass for the animals.  The man treated the boy with deference because of the boys father, but he did show him how to do the work efficiently.

Then they both saw off in the distance, a young woman crossing the plains.  They both imagined it was the girl from the stories.  So immediately the man ran up to the girl.  She didn’t react to the man–she was too tried to resigned to her fate,  He threatened to hit the her if she screamed and then he tore of the girl’s harem pants.  He then presented the girl to the boy like a gift. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOUNTAIN MAN-“Sewee Sewee” (Field Recordings, February 2, 2012).

Until recently, had I posted this I would have said that Mountain Man features Amelia Meath from Sylvan Esso.  Now I can say that and I can say that Mountain Man, of whom Id never heard, has a new album out.  How about that.

I don’t know much about Mountain Man, but this song is quite pretty.  It opens with someone snarkily commenting “Mountain Man live from the dungeon, take one.”

The song is a beautiful two-minute ballad with wonderful harmonies sand quiet acoustic guitar.  But all focus is on their voices as they intertwine beautifully.

Amelia Meath is the only person I know from this band and I know of her as somewhat goofy, so it’s amazing to see her (looking so young) being very intense while she sings her parts.

The Vermont trio Mountain Man fit an awful lot of moony harmonies into this all-too-brief performance of “Sewee Sewee.” Mountain Man’s three members — Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Randall Meath — sang and stared sweetly into each other’s faces.

Then as soon as the song is over Amelia gets very silly again.  I assume it’s her who starts rapping Li’l Mama’s “My Lip Gloss” (“my lipgloss is popping, my lipgloss is cool”) as the camera goes dark.

This Field Recording [Mountain Man: A Choir of Angels] was the second one done at the Newport Folk Festival, and it’s clear they are having fun exploring the abandoned grounds.

As a gaggle of videographers, musicians, industry types and hangers-on stepped gingerly through tall brush to enter a dilapidated section of Fort Adams in Newport, R.I., you couldn’t blame us for feeling like unwitting participants in a horror movie. Standing amid hundred-year-old rubble as the 2011 Newport Folk Festival clattered merrily in the distance, we were either going to capture two breathtaking minutes of music or get eviscerated by maniacs as part of The Newport Witch Project. Thankfully, we made it out with the footage you see above.   If the scene above once seemed destined to devolve into a grisly horror movie, at least we had a choir of angels on hand to escort us into the afterlife.

I haven’t heard their new album but I wonder if their voices still sound amazing together after 8 years apart.

[READ: January 7, 2017] “Honey Bunny”

This is a story about a girl who has left (fled?) Colombia and is now doing and possibly selling cocaine in America.

She is apparently buying her supply from a guy named Paco.  Inexplicably, the coke is cut with all kinds of weird things–plant leaves, bug wings, rabbit fur?

All along she keeps eyeing an orange suitcase in her apartment. (more…)

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5dials32bSOUNDTRACK: SYLVAN ESSO-Tiny Desk Concert #429 (March 30, 2015).

sylvanI haven’t really gotten into Sylvan Esso (NPR loves them), although there was something about the show that made these songs, which I’d heard before, gel for me.  Perhaps it was seeing Amelia Meath dance (or make that hilarious face).  Or her commenting about how quiet the room is and that maybe everyone could “move like the seaweed in Ursula’s cave.”  Maybe it was the preposterous shoes she is wearing.  Or maybe it was watching Nick Sanborn play around with this new to him equipment.

Or maybe it was just time for me to “get” them.  They have a  great chemistry in this setting, and Meath’s voice is really pure and beautiful.  I love that she often sings without moving the microphone to her face.

They play three songs: “Coffee,” “H.S.K.T.,” and “Come Down.”

It’s also hilarious that her dad sends her texts messages during the show (which she reads to us while Sanborn is trying to fix the equipment).

This is a great set and funny banter from this charming band whom I should listen to more.

[READ: April 3, 2015] Five Dials 32b

The email that accompanied this issue explains what those words in the title mean.

In Maori, there’s a word for the extra bit of time added at the end of a game, perhaps after the final minutes of a rugby match. Wā tāpiri is the noun. We’ve decided to make this our wā tāpiri issue. At the beginning of June we released an issue dedicated to new New Zealand writing.  Our wā tāpiri issue offers extra time for you to read some of the wonderful Janet Frame’s correspondence and look at a few untamed paintings from Shane Cotton. We’re pleased to be able to include them in our extended New Zealand special.

So there’s only two things in this extra issue.  Some letters and some art.  I enjoy these little extra issues, and this one is especially cool.

JANET FRAME-Correspondence: Camping in Our House
This is a series of letters passed between New Zealand author Janet Frame and poet Charles Brasch.  In 1963 and 1964, they share some nice compliments.  And then in 1969 they talk about what home (New Zealand) is like, while she is away at Yaddo.  First off, it’s interesting to hear that a) Yaddo was around in 1969, b) just how many famous people were in residence and c) the interesting details of residence there.  We also learn about some troubles in New Zealand but how they pale in comparison to the troubles in the States where “West Virginia has just passed a law which reads ‘police or mayors shall be guiltless if anyone is killed or wounded in an attempt to put down a campus disturbance even if this victim is only a spectator'” (Jesus!).  Meanwhile she is happily staying for free in Yaddo and getting a lot of work done.   There is also a facsimile typed letter from 1967 (which is fun to read and to see that people made mistakes back then and just fixed them with pen) in which she talks about first going to Yaddo.

JUSTIN PATON-“Shane Cotton’s The Haymaker Series”
Paton introduces Cotton’s Haymaker series which is indeed 5 panels on the wall of a gallery (each piece is presented in this issue too).  He describes how the New Zealand artist references other artists well as his own previous works in these panels.  He references the carved heads from his Tradition History & Incidents (from 2009), in addition to many other.  But this is not a retrospective piece.  This introduction really gives some great context for the works (which I talk about below before having read this introduction).

SHANE COTTON-The Haymaker Series
From Page 10 is the Haymaker series, mechanical and geometric prints in front of a gray foreboding background which looks like a storm.

The final page shows some photos from the launch of issue 32, including a link to a video by Lail Arad who was at the launch.  It’s a quirky video for her song “Everyone is Moving to Berlin.

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