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Archive for the ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GORDI-Tiny Desk Concert #740 (May 7, 2018).

I had an idea of what Gordi sounded like (a much more rocking band, who was I thinking of?)  Rather, Gordi is Sophie Payten a woman with a piano (and a harmonium and a guitar).  Gordi has a lovely deep voice (dusky and evocative) that is not afraid to break.

The blurb says her voice

usually gets enshrouded somehow: It often sounds like it’s echoing down a stairwell, or else she’s bathed it in vocal effects a la Imogen Heap or Gordi’s occasional tourmate, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. But Payten’s voice is an expressive and powerful instrument on its own, as her debut appearance behind the Tiny Desk demonstrates.

Aside from a bit of looping — in the strangely infectious notes that open “Heaven I Know,” from last year’s terrific Reservoir — Gordi here keeps her voice both unadorned and centered within warm, cool arrangements that include piano, acoustic guitar, pedal steel, a harmonium named Barbara, a saxophone played by Yellow Ostrich’s Alex Schaaf, and more. The effect here is rawer than on Reservoir, but that’s part of the point: These songs stand up to being stripped down, every time.

“Heaven I Know” is really pretty with a staggering sense of loss.  She met her backing badn while they were playing with The Tallest Man on Earth.  She plays piano, there an electric guitar and some kind of synths in the back.  And the drums (played by Zach Hanson) crescendo as needed.  The song runs a little long but it’s quite pretty.

For “Can We Work It Out” guitarist Alex Schaaf switches to saxophone.  Gordi pulls out the harmonium.  She says she bought the harmonium on the Australian version of Craigslist called Gumtree.  She bought it from an Indian lady named Barbara so the harmonium’s now called Barbara.

For the final song, “On My Side” she’s on guitar and Ben Les switches from keys to pedal steel.  The song is a little faster with some great harmonies from the drummer.

This is really lovely stuff.

[READ: October 10, 2017] Death of the Pugilist

Okay, so this is a boxing story.  That means that there is going to be a fight and the guy he is writing about is either going to win or lose.

That’s the attitude I took when I started this story–I don’t care for sports stories in general and feel that they have to work very hard to be more than just win or lose.

This story is a little different because each section starts with a question.

Who was Burke? His beginnings. (more…)

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herecoverSOUNDTRACK: CHRISTOPHER PAUL STELLING-Tiny Desk Concert #453 (July 6, 2015).

cpsSomehow after 450 some Tiny Desk Concerts I feel like I’ll know anyone that comes along.  But here’s yet another performer who I’d never heard of.  Christopher Paul Stelling plays an old beat up guitar (it ha a hole in it from where it has been worn down.  According to the NPR site:  That guitar, bought in Asheville, looks like a well-worn friend, with its dark bruised wood and his initials hand-carved into its body. Stelling marked the instrument a year after he bought it, when he made New York City his home in 2007.

Stelling plays some amazing fingerpicking and he backs it up with some catchy songs and interesting lyrics.  His voice is rough and reminds me a but of The Tallest Man on Earth.

He plays four songs.  The first “Castle,” is a really enjoyably folky song. His guitar work is amazing and almost as interesting as his lyrics (there’s some nice little twists i the words he sings). I was also amazed at how good the guitar sounded with the holes and carvings and all.

“Scarecrow” is more mellow, a bit sadder.  And when he tunes it up you can hear the resistance in the tuning pegs–that guitar has been through a lot.

“Horse” is a much faster completely intense song.  As the NPR site describes it: “Watch him lean in as if he’s about to lunge, his eyes bugged out, sometimes rolled back in his head revealing just the whites, skin blood-red, voice like a preacher on fire.”  The song is majorly intense, althouhg he kind of reminds me a bit of Chris Pratt’s character on P&R (but not in a funny way).  After the song he he says you see why I didn’t play that first

“Warm Enemy” reminds me of the guitar style of RT. A wild picking song, with some great runs throughout the piece.

It’s always cool to hear of a new artist who is really impressive.

[READ: May 10, 2015] Here

I read about this book when Five Dials devoted an entire issue to it.  And I’m so glad they did, because I probably wouldn’t have heard it about it elsewhere.  And it is fantastic.

In the Five Dials issue they talked about how McGuire had first created a version of this book many years ago–it was 8 pages and ran in Raw Magazine.  Now in 2014, he has redesigned and thoroughly expanded the book, adding color and a ton more information.  And it is really astonishing.

The book itself is quite simple.  We see a scene in a house.  It is a living room.  There is a window to the left, a fireplace to the right and various pieces of furniture.

The first page in the upper left corner says 2014.  There is a couch and little else.  Then there is a bookshelf.  And then the scene jumps back to 1957.  Same location, same angle, but (nearly) everything is different.  The furniture is chanced, there is wallpaper on the walls, there is a playpen in the center of the room.  Then the next page jumps back to 1942: the color scheme is maroon.

here3After a few pages it heads back to 1957 and we see our first person.  A woman saying “Now why did I come in here again?”  And then, the first break with the style–in the bottom right is a tiny box that says 1999 and there’s a cat in it.  And then the next page plays with things even more.  The woman from 1957 is still there as is the cat (who is licking her paw now), but the background is 1623 and the “house” is simply the woods.

The next page shows a scene from 1989 and in 1999 the cat leaves the room.

here2I’m not going to tell every page, obviously, but suffice to say that the next page goes all the way back to 8,000 BCE (while leaving the scene from 1989 in the book).

We see shots from 1763 (a lumberjack) and 1764 (a house being built).  And then in 1775 a colonial scene with, I believe, Ben Franklin.

here5Occasionally, there are a series of frames that show time passing in sequence like the children sitting on the couch in 1959, 1962, 1964, 1969, 1979 and 1983.  Or the one that shows Halloween parties from several years all on one page

The book also goes into the future with a small box showing 2017 and then 2050 with some interesting technology.  And then later forward to 10,175 with a strange creature in a wasteland,

The book is really amazing.  So much fun to look at and imagine the lives that were in this house.

For there is no plot. There is virtually no dialogue.  It is just snapshot after snapshot of a place and what people and creatures have done to it throughout history.  It is such an interesting idea (the original was quite revolutionary at least according to cartoonists) and while similar pieces have been made they don’t compare to the scope of this one.

Incidentally, the house is in Perth Amboy, New Jersey (and I believe is his childhood home).  It offers actual historical data as well as imagined information.  But he based many of his designs on photos from his family’s albums.

I’m so happy I got to look at the book.  And when I read it again, I’m going to try and read it in a vaguely sequential style just to see if there is a “story” to it.

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CV1_TNY_11_18_13Tomine.inddSOUNDTRACK: TALLEST MAN ON EARTH-Tiny Desk Concert #26 (September 14, 2009).

tmoeI was not aware of The Tallest Man on Earth before hearing him on All Songs Considered.  And then WXPN started playing one of his songs, so he became somewhat familiar to me.  I have since listened to some of his concerts and this Tiny Desk Concert and I really like him a lot.

So the Tallest Man on Earth is Kristian Matsson, a Swedish folksinger with a great guitar picking style and a deep powerful gritty voice.  He plays three songs in this set.  “I Won’t Be Found” has wonderful fast guitar picking that contrasts wonderfully with his simple singing melody.  It’s a great song.  As is “The Gardener” which sounds very different.  This one is largely strummed–a bouncy, jaunty strum. It seems to contain the origin of his unusual stage name (or perhaps it just a fun allusion to it).

“Pistol Dreams” has more great finger picking (and reminds me a little of Richard Thompson).  It’s a sweet song, and his gruff voice once again provides excellent contrast.

I hope to hear more from The Tallest Man on Earth.  Check it out.

READ: “Find the Bad Guy”

This story was surprisingly dark (I don’t think of Eugenides as quite so dark).  It starts out with the narrator talking about the house that he and his wife have owned for 12 years.  And yet they still haven’t gotten the smell of the previous owners completely out of it.  (There’s a nice payoff to this idea later in the story).

But that’s not the point.  The point is that he has recently been kicked out of his house—given a restraining order, in fact.  But since he knows the plans of his house he knows that he can stand right where he is—just inside the front fence—and know that he’s not too close.

The story has trappings of being current—he plays Words with Friends with his daughter (her name is mrsbieber), which I found to be just slightly out of touch.  But that’s irrelevant.

The narrator is Charlie Daniels (not that one—he goes by Charlie D to avoid confusion, especially since he works in music).  He met his wife at a radio station.  She worked at a country station, although she didn’t like country music.  Johanna was from Germany (her name was Lübeck, but everyone pronounced it Lubbock).  But the thing about her was that she was very tall (not that tall in Germany, she said).  And Charlie D was suave, so he asked her clever things like how the weather was up there and if she ever played basketball.  She didn’t fall for this, of course, but then one day she asked if they could get married so she could get a green card.  He said sure. (more…)

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misswyomingSOUNDTRACK: THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH-Live at KEXP (September 8, 2012).

tmoeThe Tallest Man on Earth is Kristian Matsson a Swedish singer songwriter.  His albums have a very full sound, but when he plays live, it’s just him and his guitar.  And man, is he a compelling performer.  His guitar playing (primarily classical-sounding but often heavy and mostly rocking) is gorgeous–fast and pretty.  And his voice is gravelly and powerful.  I’ve enjoyed the studio songs I’ve heard, but he is transcendent live.

This set opens with a buzzy guitar that sounds like the show is not recorded well.  But that quickly goes away and the songs shine.  Matsson is a charming and self depreciating performer and when he has a malfunction as in “Love is All”and at the end he says “that was kind of embarrassing.”  But he not bothered by it and plays on with a great, short set.

The set includes some (then) new songs and a few older ones as well: “A Field of Birds,” “King of Spain”, “Tangle in This Trampled Wheat,” “Thrown Right at Me,” “The Gardener” and “Like a Wheel.”  It’s a great introduction to the guy and his amazing voice. which you can enjoy at KEXP.

 [READ: August 20, 2013] Miss Wyoming

I first read the book during my trip to Vancouver on the eve of Y2K (the best flight I’ve ever had—mostly empty and we were given champagne).  I started reading it on the plane and then in the second chapter the heroine is in a plane crash.  So I stopped reading.  I’m sure I finished it later, although I didn’t remember much of anything about it.

I read it again now and I was a little disappointed when I started reading it.  The first few chapters are so full of similes it is insane.  The word “like” is tossed around at an incredulous pace.  Like:

  • John’s teeth were big and white, like pearls of baby corn
  • …his skin like brown leather.
  • His eyes looked like those of somebody who’s lost big.
  • They crossed San Vicente Blvd, passing buildings and roads that once held stories for each of them, but which now seemed transient and disconnected from their lives, like window displays.
  • Susan was wrapped in a pale light fabric, cool and comfortable, like a pageant winner’s sash.
  • John was sweating like a lemonade pitcher,
  • …his jeans, gingham shirt and black hair soaking up heat like desert stones.
  • John felt as close to Susan as paint is to a wall.
  • Staring at the pavement, like Prince William behind his mother’s coffin.
  • This man with sad pale yes, like snowy TV sets

That’s all in the first chapter!

Now, I have come to see that the story is cyclical and it’s about people looking for their real selves.  So it’s possible that the simile heavy beginning is meant to reflect the fact that the protagonists are looking for themselves—they have no substance so they can only be compared to other things.  But man, it is hard going with that many comparisons.

The other major problem I had with the story was the really aggressive use of coincidence.  Susan and John both end up eating out of fast food dumpsters; just as Susan’s mother wants to sell their house, a pile of garbage from an airplane falls on it.  Right after we learn of a guy hoarding gasoline, the house explodes.  Again there are arguments for why these things might happen in this story (numerology is an important aspect of the book), but it seems too…easy.

But once the story starts moving the actual plot is really interesting and compelling. (more…)

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