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Archive for the ‘Tegan and Sara’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TEGAN AND SARA-Tiny Desk Concert #581 (November 21, 2016).

This particular Tiny Desk Concert is very painful to watch.  Not because of the music, but because it was recorded the day before the 2016 election, when the world was good and positive and happy.  Tegan and Sara are fun and optimistic about making history and about drunk tweeting the results.  And their mood is infectious.  People actually believed that goodness would win.

Sigh.

So, horrors aside, Tegan and Sara play a four song set–they say that they  couldn’t decide on just three songs.  They play three from their new album and one older song.

And the blurb notes:  It’s hard to believe Tegan and Sara have been making music for 17 years.  ….  Contrary to the poppy sound of 2016’s Love You To Death, the two insisted on performing their Tiny Desk concert acoustically — stripping down highly produced songs while hearkening back to their early recordings. Without the distraction of production, we’re left with the gorgeous sound of roughly identical voices blending. Plus, their endearing banter and jovial sibling rivalry left us defenseless against their charm.

I wondered if they did four songs so that they could each sing lead on two.

Tegan sings lead on “Stop Desire” (with lovely harmonies from Sara).  There’s a bass (by Eva Gardner) and drum, but this song is mostly a simple, pretty piano melody.  It sounds like it was meant to be poppier (at least compared to their earlier stuff), but it still sounds very nice.

When the song is over, Tegan says her instinct is she wants to banter …  “if i had known this many people were going to come, I would have applied a little more attention and focus to the application of makeup and clothing” (although she looks very good already).

Sara sings “Boyfriend,” her voice is noticeably huskier.  The lyrics of this song are great, in which a lesbian relationship might not appear that way at first listen.

You call me up like you want your best friend
You turn me on like you want your boyfriend
But I don’t want to be your secret anymore.

Then Sara talks about Ryan Adams confronting bad reviewers and how she was thinking that that was an approach they could take since they got many bad reviews.  But now she enjoys ignoring bad reviews, saying the best you can do is ignore it and then they only get three retweets or 3 hearts on Twitter and you’re like “I hope you enjoyed writing that bad review for 3 people.”  She pauses and says, “that makes me sound mean spirited…but I guess I am.  I guess deep down inside I might be a Donald Trump person.”  This elicits groans from many including Tegan.  Sara jokes, “Too soon?  We’re Canadian and we can’t wait for your election to be over too.”  That’s when Sara said the thing about making history and she apologizes that she brought the room down.

Sara sings “100x”  which has a “di-di-didnt you” chorus.  Again this hints at the poppier format, but I like the song in the stripped down version–it’s piano only (from Gabrial McNair).  Tegan gets the lead in the middle section, which is quite a change in style.  It’ s cool song overall.

When Tegan says that they couldn’t decide on three songs, the crowd applauds and she jokes, “Thank yo for your enthusiastic response.”  Then   Tegan asks if everyone else is hot, to which Sara jokes, “Honest to God, Tegan has talked about her heat issues for the last 5 years. I am so afraid when menopause hits.”

Tegan sings lead on Closer, their single from Hearthrob and it is quite pretty. The whole band is back on this one–and their voices work so well together.  I also love that Brendan Buckley is using one of those box drums for the bass drum.

I really enjoy this set a lot, if only their prediction about the elections was better.

[READ: December 1, 2016] American Born Chinese

I have mentioned this book a lot.  But I only recently realized that I never posted about the book itself.   I read it a long time ago and it is the reason I fell in love with First Second graphic novels (and why I have more or less read all of their books by now).

It had been long enough since I’d read it that I didn’t remember just how fantastic it was.

This book is three seemingly unrelated stories–about a monkey god, a teenaged boy, and a sitcom with an incredibly offensive Chinese character.  The way he stitches these stories together is amazing. (more…)

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july21SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS 2014-With a Little Help from My Fwends (2014).

fwendsAnd speaking of covers.

Probably the least anticipated album of 2014 was the Flaming Lips’ cover of Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Although the biggest surprise (mostly in a bad way, it seemed) was Wayne Coyne’s embrace (metaphorical, we hope) of Miley Cyrus.  The fact that Cyrus appears on this record at all totally overshadowed the fact that so many other people and bands appeared here as well.  I literally had no idea at the names that contributed to this electronic psychedelic re-imagining of a very psychedelic album.

The biggest overall difference between the two is that the Beatles’ psychedelia was conveyed through organic instruments–strings, horns, sitar, piano–while The Fwends version is almost entirely electronic.  This of course means that the album sounds very different from the original.  But what I think makes the album a success overall is that the various artists involved all bring a slightly different vision to the proceedings.  This makes it less of a Flaming Lips record and more of a Friends of Lips-style psychedelia collection.  I’m not even sure why it’s a Flaming Lips record, except that they are credited with playing on a bunch of songs (and presumably produced it–which explains some of the excess noise on the record).

Obviously, they are not trying to improve on the original.  And obviously, die-hard Beatles fans are appalled at this travesty.  But anyone who knows the Beatles knows that they were all about experimenting themselves.  Rather than getting mad about this, perhaps listeners should see that  they are having fun with the originals–sometimes staying faithful, sometimes exploring other ways to do songs, and sometimes just throwing everything out the window for a chance to jam.  And some versions you may even like.

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” featuring My Morning Jacket, Fever the Ghost & J Mascis
The song starts out with a goofy falsetto rendition of the song which makes it seem like the whole album is going to be a big joke (I assume this is Fever the Ghost whom I don’t know).  But I loved the way the “record” slows down to let MMJ take over with a great noisy, respectful chorus.  The song could certainly use more MMJ.  When “Billy Shears” is introduced, it turns out be J Masics playing a totally song-inappropriate wailing guitar solo.
“With a Little Help from My Friends” featuring The Flaming Lips, Black Pus & Autumn Defense
I love that Wayne sings this verse (about being out of tune) with an auto tune on his voice.  He sings it really quite lovely.  I even enjoy that the response verses are done in a kind of out of tune crazy way.  But the problem is that they are too much–it turns the song into too much of a joke (which is to be expected form a band called Black Pus, I suppose).  It’s a shame because the idea could work really well if it didn’t sound like someone crashing a party.  Autumn Defense is a side project from the bassist for Wilco, and I assume he does the lovely harmony vocals.
“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” featuring The Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus & Moby
Miley so overshadows everyone on this song that I didn’t even realize Moby was on it.  Miley sounds really quite good in this version–not all that dissimilar to John’s falsetto voice on the original.  The removal of the big drum before the chorus is distressing, although I do like the replacement, the echoed “gone” part.  I like that they are having fun with the song (the repeat of “Marshmallow Pie” is cute) I just wish the chorus wasn’t mixed so loud that it is so distorted.  I hate that about recent Lips releases, why do they do it?
“Getting Better” featuring Dr. Dog, Chuck Inglish & Morgan Delt
Dr Dog sounds great in this version, although I find Inglish’s recitation (in which he can’t seem to hit any notes on the few times when he  “sings” to be rather unsettling).  I don’t know Morgan Delt, but I find his trippy vocals to work quite well.
“Fixing a Hole” featuring Electric Würms
Electric Würms are the side project of Flaming Lip Steven Drozd.  This is claustrophobic but quite appropriate for the song (I wish it were a little cleaner though).
“She’s Leaving Home” featuring Phantogram, Julianna Barwick & Spaceface
This is a great, delicate version of this with Phantogram and Barwick sharing lead vocals duties.  It’s quite lovely.
“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” featuring The Flaming Lips, Maynard James Keenan, Puscifer & Sunbears!
Maynard does a great job reciting the song.  The song is not necessarily more trippy than the original (which is pretty trippy, it’s just a lot more electronic-sounding.  It’s a weird but cool rendition of the song.
“Within You Without You” featuring The Flaming Lips, Birdflower & Morgan Delt
I don’t Birdflower, but she does a great job in a higher register with the Indian melody (it’s all electronic and not traditional Indian instrumentation but it sounds cool).  Delt sings alternate leads and is a good counterpoint.
“When I’m Sixty-Four” featuring The Flaming Lips, Def Rain & Pitchwafuzz
I don’t know Def Rain or Pitchwafuzz, but I think Def Rain is doing the voice.  The robotic voice that sings this song is kind of fun–a little too much at times, but overall fun.
“Lovely Rita” featuring Tegan and Sara & Stardeath and White Dwarfs
Tegan and Sara have fun with this song while the noise from Stardeath is much darker than the original.
“Good Morning Good Morning” featuring Zorch, Grace Potter & Treasure Mammal
This song is a little wild (although so is the original).  I don’t know any of the artists involved in it.
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” featuring Foxygen & Ben Goldwasser
Foxygen takes this one minute reprise and turns it into a five minute jam session. It has nothing at all to do with the original and it is a weird way to delay the final song.  I don’t know what Goldwasser contributes.  If you can get past the fact that it sound nothing like the original, it’s an interesting noisy jam.
“A Day in the Life” featuring The Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus & New Fumes
Wayne and Miley duet on this, with again, Wayne taking the vocals seriously.  Wayne does the “John” verses.  The switch to Miley’s take on the “Paul” verses is a pretty big shock the way it sounds so stark and electronic.  There’s a few too many echoes on her part, but again, Miley does pretty well with a detached reading.  And because they are difficult, the end just gets cut off before the final famous crescendo.

So is this a great record that people will listen to a lot? Nope.  Is it an interesting twist on a famous record?  Sure.  Is it enjoyable?  For the most part.  As long a you don’t think of it is a definitive re-make, and accept it as a way to raise money for a charity.

[READ: January 28, 2015] “Wagner in the Desert”

This story reminded me in spirit of both Less than Zero and Generation X, but perhaps for Generation Y.

It’s about a bunch of friends getting ready to ring in the New Year in Palm Springs with a lot of drugs.

The narrator and friends were vacationing some friends from whom he had drifted.  Marta and Eli were trying to have a baby and were looking to do one more sort of wild night before it all became to real: “The Baby Bucket List they were calling it.”  So they all headed to Palm Springs, a group of “modern hustlers: filmmakers, ad writers (screen, Web, magazine), who periodically worked as narrative consultants on ad campaigns, sustainability experts, P.R. lifers, designers, or design consultants, social entrepreneurs and that strange species of human beings who has invented an app.”

Unlike the coke heads of the 80s, though: “We thought we were not bad people.  Not the best, a bit spoiled, maybe, but pleasant, inconstant, decent.”

The group were all paired off except for the narrator and Lily, who was pretty and neurotic, an executive in training.  And he soon filled the role of her gofer because “she needed a lot of things.” He had hoped to have sex with her–his only goal for the vacation.  But as of day three, they had only made out a bit. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_10_13Schossow.inddSOUNDTRACK: TEGAN AND SARA-“Closer” (2013).

Tegan and Sara have teganandsarabeen making interesting folkie pop music for years.  While they’ve toiled in indie-land for years, their last album had a couple of songs that fell squarely into the pop world.

Well, “Closer” says, hey pop world, here we are.  It’s got everything that Tegan and Sara do well–catchy melodies and great harmonies–and it adds all manner of treacly delights to it.  There’s little keyboardy sound effects that sprinkle around the song.  There’s a big swirling keyboard chorus, and the song even slows down briefly so that it can build back up.

It’s frankly hard to swallow.  Aalthough I can appreciate just how well written it is.  And I hope they can make some cash off  of it.

[READ: June 17, 2013] “The Crime of Our Life”

Roger Angell’s True Crimes story talks about crime in New York City in the 70s and 80s.  I recall growing up and being afraid of the City (and for all that we complain that it has been Disney-fied and cleaned up, it is nice to not be worried about getting mugged on every dark street).  And Angell, who lived through it, has some less than cheery anecdotes to relate.But he opens with the good news: burglaries and street robberies are down 80% since 1990!  And, as he puts it, “even lifelong Manhattanites like me have almost forgotten the mixture of anxiety and scary anecdote we all shared back in the seventies and eighties.”

He gives some examples: leaving any place at night and immediately walking in the street if you saw someone even remotely suspicious on the sidewalk.  The friend of his who heard “Sorry, Mister, you’re going down” just before he did go down.  The friend who took karate lessons–and then wound up in the E.R.  And the other friend who took to carrying a sword/umbrella and had a chance to use it (with much success it turns out–“Yow–a fuckin’ sword”).  Even the Angells were broken into (their door taken off the hinges and leaned against the wall. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TEGAN AND SARA-“Alligator” on CDC Kids’ Mamma Yamma (2010).

Tegan and Sara take a slightly different approach than the other artists on Mamma Yamma.  Rather than creating a new song, they took their hit “Alligator” and made new words for it (much like many artists have done on Sesame Street).

The melody is exactly the same (which is good, as it’s a really catchy song). But rather than being about a failed relationship, it’s about alligators.

Old lyrics: Run around on me, I’d sooner die without

New lyrics: Run around a tree, skip and jump about

It’s a cute version and the band sounds very good.

I really enjoy these introductions to interesting musicians on kids shows.  I wonder if kids actually like seeing grown up musicians like this.

You can watch it here:

[READ: April 20, 2012] Vespers Rising

I finished The 39 Clues series last year. Or so I thought!  After completing books 1-10, I found out that they were planning a whole new series.  And they began with this transitional book, which they called #11 and which was co-written by four of the prominent authors.

Vespers Rising is actually four short stories that trace the history of the Cahill family and their feud with the Vesper family.  The Vespers were not a part of the first series at all.  In the first series, the 39 Clues were a kind of Amazing Race for Cahill family members.  (I’ll get to some details about the family in a moment).  It was a kind of private race for the prize–which was a life-enhancing serum.  But this book introduces a new villain to the story and explains that the villain has been there all along, just lurking.

Rick Riordan wrote the first story in this book takes us back to the beginning.  In 1507, off the coast of Ireland, Gideon Cahill invented this serum.  He was and alchemist, seeking an antidote for the Black Death which was ravaging Europe.  He was working for Lord Damien Vesper, a man bent on power.  Vesper wasn’t interested in helping people with the Black Death–he had no real value for life–however, he was interested in the results that Gideon might discover. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AGAINST ME!-New Wave (2007).

I’m not sure why I never listened to these guys before. I’m not crazy about the band’s name: it makes sense, but it’s awkward to work with. And I think I lumped them in with the whole emo scene, which I was pretty well done with. Anyhow, I read a review of New Wave recently and decided they might be worth checking out.

New Wave is an astonishingly refreshing and heartfelt album. It’s fairly short, as the songs are fairly short, and they pack a lot of punch. In fact, I’ve been singing this great, catchy chorus all morning: “Protest Songs in a response to Military Aggression. Protest songs to try and stop the soldier’s gun.”

The songs are great: really diverse for what is essentially a punk album. And the topics are protestations that I haven’t heard in a while (at least not in such a catchy style): Lack of originality in the mainstream. (“New Wave” & “Up the Cuts”), Drug Addiction (“Thrash Unreal,” the latest single that I’ve heard). “Stop” is a change of pace mid-album, with a catchy chorus and an almost dance feel. “Piss and Vinegar” is a plea for honesty. And possibly the strangest item on the disc: the song “The Ocean.” One doesn’t expect a punk band’s verse to start like this: ” If I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman. My mother once told me she would have named me Laura” and it continues on in that vein. What a shockingly honest (presumably) lyric in a song.

The only thing I don’t like about the album is…the singer’s voice. I just can’t get past it, and I’m not sure what it is I don’t like about it. He sings on key, his voice is strong and impassioned. There’s just something about it I don’t like. Of course, I also don’t like the singer from Social Distortion either. I guess I’m more of a high, whiny voice than a gruff aggro voice. Despite this, whenever the band does harmonies, they sound great! All of the choruses have nice harmonies somewhere in them, and they really make the songs. Plus, there’s a song called “Borne on the FM, Waves of the Heart” which is a duet with Tegan from Tegan and Sara, and it’s really fantastic. They are a perfect match for each other. Normally, not liking the singer would make you not like a band. (How many people can’t get into Rush because of Geddy Lee’s voice?). And yet, I still think the album is great. I’m certainly going to check out some past records as well. I’m especially intrigued by this album title: Reinventing Axl Rose.

[READ: June 25, 2008] Special Topics in Calamity Physics.

I heard about this book when I was scanning the NPR stations and there was a story about authors/publishers making great websites to accompany books. Two of the ones they mentioned sounded pretty interesting, so I jotted them down and checked them out. This was the first one, Special Topics in Calamity Physics. The site was pretty neat, but I didn’t spend much time there, as I was at work. I checked that we had the book and took it out that day. (more…)

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