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Archive for the ‘The Velvet Underground’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JOHN PRINE-Tiny Desk Concert #717 (March 12, 2018).

For all of the legendary status of John Prine, I don’t really know that much about him.  I also think I don’t really know much of his music.  I didn’t know any of the four songs he played here.

I enjoyed all four songs.  The melodies were great, the lyrics were thoughtful and his voice, although wizened, convey the sentiments perfectly.

The blurb sums up things really well

An American treasure came to the Tiny Desk and even premiered a new song. John Prine is a truly legendary songwriter. For more than 45 years the 71-year-old artist has written some of the most powerful lyrics in the American music canon, including “Sam Stone,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “Hello In There” and countless others.

John Prine’s new songs are equally powerful and he opens this Tiny Desk concert with “Caravan of Fools,” a track he wrote with Pat McLaughlin and Dan Auerbach. Prine adds a disclaimer to the song saying, “any likeness to the current administration is purely accidental.”

I thought the song was great (albeit short) with these pointed lyrics:

The dark and distant drumming
The pounding of the hooves
The silence of everything that moves
Late in night you see them
Decked out in shiny jewels
The coming of the caravan of fools

That song, and his second tune, the sweet tearjerker “Summer’s End,” are from John Prine’s first album of new songs in 13 years, The Tree of Forgiveness.

He introduces this song by saying that.  This one is a pretty song.  It might drive you to tears.  He wrote this with Pat McLaughlin.  We usually write on Tuesdays in Nashville because that’s the day they serve meatloaf.  I love meatloaf.  We try to write a song before they serve the meatloaf.  And then eat it and record it.

For this Tiny Desk Concert John Prine also reaches back to his great “kiss-off” song from 1991 [“an old song from the 90s (whoo)…  a song from the school of kiss off 101”] called “All the Best,” and then plays “Souvenirs,” a song intended for his debut full-length but released the following year on his 1972 album Diamonds in the Rough. It’s just one of the many sentimental ballads Prine has gifted us.

He says he wrote it in 1968…when he was about 3.

Over the years, his voice has become gruffer and deeper, due in part to his battle with squamous cell cancer on the right side of his neck, all of which makes this song about memories slipping by feel all the more powerful and sad.

“Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That’s why last night and this mornin’
Always look the same to me
I hate reading old love letters
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my sweetheart’s souvenirs”

The musicians include John Prine, Jason Wilber, David Jacques and Kenneth Blevins.

 

[READ: December 11, 2017] X

I really enjoyed Klosterman’s last essay book, although I found pretty much every section was a little too long.  So this book, which is a collection of essays is perfect because the pieces have already been edited for length.

I wasn’t even aware of this book when my brother-in-law Ben sent it to me with a comment about how much he enjoyed the Nickelback essay.

Because I had been reading Grantland and a few other sources, I have actually read a number of these pieces already, but most of them were far off enough that I enjoyed reading them again.

This book is primarily a look at popular culture.  But narrowly defined by sports and music (and some movies).  I have never read any of Klosterman’s fiction, but I love his entertainment essays. (more…)

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815SOUNDTRACK: NAP EYES-Thought Rock Fish Scale (2016).

Nap Eyes’ second full album doesn’t deviate too much from their first, although the songwriting has gotten stronger and the band branches out in small ways.

I love the simple but effective bass throb that runs though “Mixer.”  The lead guitar isn’t quite as noisy as on the previous, but the song doesn’t suffer from the lack.  Overall the song, and the album, feels more immediate, which is a good thing.

“Stargazer” is catchy right from the get go–a simple but cool guitar riff and some nice rumbling bass.  And after the first verse, the second guitar plays a nice harmony of that immediately catchy riff.  Plus, the lyrics feel even more pointed:

I have seen people go by me with such
Determination that it’s sick
I’d like to go the places they don’t know how to get to
But I can’t remember the trick
So I wait around and venomously crown myself
Serpent king of my sins
But if I go down I’m not taking you with me
It’s only myself in the end

“Lion in Chains” has a very Velvet Underground feel, in the best way–Nigel’s voice is closer and clearer and the it’s great the way deadpan chorus soars as he tries to keep it tethered.  I also love the interesting/mundane way he songs about things: “here at the arcade I spent about 45,000 dimes.”

“Don’t Be Right” changes the tone quite a bit–a loud plucked guitar and smooth bass push the song along quite briskly until the chorus slows things down with the wry observation: “Don’t be right – it isn’t good for you / You may not realize it, but it’s not / When you’re right, you barely know what to do / Just sit around thinking and cry a lot.”

“Click Clack” has a smooth opening which shifts after two verses into a loud jangling chord with a Lou Reed via Morrissey delivery:

Sometimes drinking I feel so happy / but then I can’t remember why / I feel sad all over again // sometimes drinking I don’t know my best friend for my best friend

and then it resumes with the most Lou Reed delivery yet

The longest song on the album is “Alaskan Shake.”  It has an almost country feel–a one-two bass line and a lead guitar played with a slide.  Around four minutes the song shifts directions briefly with some loud chords but then it shifts back with that loud slide guitar.

“Roll It” is a faster song, although the tempo slow down half way through is really striking.  It’s even more so when it seems to double down on that tempo change after another verse.  You almost don’t want the song to resume the fats tempo, but I like that way it wraps back up on itself to end.

The album (shorter than the first) ends with the two and a half-minute “Trust.”  Even though this album is shorter, it explores a lot more terrain and is a wonderful step from the first.

The band has a new album coming out next month.  I’m really curious to see what direction they go in especially since the new album cover looks very different from these first two.

[READ: July 21, 2015] “The Course of Happiness”

This was the 2015 New Yorker fiction issue.  It featured several stories and several one-page essays from writers I like.  The subject this time was “Time Travel.”

Erdrich takes time travel in an entirely unexpected way.  She says that being from the midwest she should probably  imagine all the good she could do if she could time travel–vaccinating people against old-world diseases or killing a young Hitler, but she says that all of that is too much to consider. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKNAP EYES-Whine of the Mystic (2015).

Nap Eyes opened for Alvvays and although we only caught half of their set, I really enjoyed it.  Lead singer Nigel Chapman, had a kind of deadpan Lou Reed spoken delivery (with an extra affectation–perhaps something to do with being from Halifax?).  The drums were thumping and spare and the guitar played a mixture of pretty melodies and squalling feedback.

The songs are pretty minimal musically.   Bassist Josh Salter and drummer Seamus Dalton keep the rhythm steady with occasional grace notes from Salter.  It’s really the work of guitarist Brad Loughead that stands out–in addition to Chapman’s lyrics of course.

A comment on the lyrics from the bandcamp site:

Throughout the record, workaday details punctuate (and puncture) cosmic concerns, as Nigel wrestles with air and angels, struggling (and often failing) to reconcile the Romantic rifts, both real and imagined, that define our lives: between chaos and order (or wilderness and paradise, as in “Tribal Thoughts”); solipsism and fellowship (“Dreaming Solo” vs. “Oh My Friends”); the anxiety of social (dis)orders both big and small (“The Night of the First Show”; “No Man Needs to Care”); and the various intersections and oppositions of religion, art, and science (“Dark Creedence” and “Make Something.”) 

This first album (after several EPs with great song titles) pretty much plays that template right out of the gate–the guitars do squall with feedback,but it is kind of low on the mix–disturbing the silence but not overwhelming it.

“Dark Credence” is pretty much the same thing repeated for four minutes but the way it builds with more intense drumming and ever noisier guitar feedback is great.  “Make Something” is a slower song that adds some interesting lead guitar notes as the song nears its end.

“Tribal Thoughts” is the first song that really stands out.  It’s faster paced, with a spirited, plucked melody.  Chapman is a bit more emotive and by the end the lead guitar has really taken off.  There’s some interesting lyrics in this song too, imagine singing slowly in deadpan: “I hear the beat against the slow lines / The lines i wrote / I never write them down anymore / fuck iiiiiiiiiiiiiiitttttttttt

“Delirium and Persecution Paranoia” is a 7 minute drone of a song that really doesn’t change much.  It makes you focus on the impenetrable words:

Round the inner core rocks / the outer core flows / but while the outer core cools / the inner core grows / the loaded sun sends out heat and light and deadly magnetic radiation  /  What you gonna do / the human race / when the solar wind through the magnetosphere is breaking  / Most of us down here lying down for years / sleeping the night away / some of us try but never survive /  stay up whole night and day  //  My friend once told me about a rare insomniac’s condition / sleeps not one minute a day but feels 20 minutes of pain and blurry vision.

And I just love the amusingly desperate end:

Oh baby, all I need is another second chance
Oh baby, all I need is another twenty-five second chance
Oh baby, all I need is another two-hundred and fifty-second chance
Oh baby, all I need is another two-hundred and fifty thousand second chance

“No Man Needs to Care” is a faster song with a nice circular guitar riff.  What does no man need to care about? “No man needs to care about another man’s hair.”

“Dreaming Solo” slows things down again, and then there’s two shorter somewhat poppier (but still angsty) songs.  “The Night of the First Show” is a delightful dark (lyrically) but perky (musically) take about what I gather was the first Nap Eyes show.  “Oh My Friends” is another slow, short song.  The short ones are so different from the droning quality of the longer ones.  Like the album closer “No Fear of Hellfire,” another 7-minute song.  It opens with ringing guitars and propulsive bass.  “Sunday morning only comes around once, these days.”  And the chorus: No feel of hellfire makes me feel good.”

[READ: November 15, 2017] “Chasing Waterfalls”

This is the second story I’ve read by Krasznahorkai (this Hungarian story was translated by John Batki).

Of his previous story I wrote:

This is the kind of story that makes me wonder why someone would write about the things they do.  Not because it’s bad or not worth writing about, I just can’t imagine where the idea came from.

This was a challenging story for me to read because there are no paragraph breaks (and I love my paragraph breaks).  It is just an endless stream of prose.

This one isn’t quite as out-of-thin-air, but it’s a pretty peculiar story nonetheless. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 6, 2017] Nap Eyes

Sarah and I were excited to see Alvvays again.  We saw them open for The Decemberists and it is always great to see a band as a headliner–especially when you can get up nice and close.

We hadn’t heard of Nap Eyes but we wanted to make sure we arrived early to get a good spot.  And I’m so glad we did.  Nap Eyes is a four piece from Halifax, Nova Scotia consisting of vocalist Nigel Chapman, guitarist Brad Loughead, bassist Josh Salter and drummer Seamus Dalton.

Between the tone of the band and Chapman’s vocal delivery, there was a distinct Velvet Underground vibe.   But II joked it was like they had given up the heroin.  Because the songs had a faster tempo, a number of time changes, and some rocking guitar solos. (more…)

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booksSOUNDTRACK: YO LA TENGO-Tiny Desk Concert #271 (April 15, 2013).

y-o-la-tenI’ve enjoyed Yo La Tengo’s music for years and years.  I have many of their records, although I’d never consider them a favorite band. They’re just a reliable band I like.   This Tiny Desk Concert sees the venerable band in acoustic format (with no drums!).  Ira Kaplan sings and plays guitar, drummer Georgia Hubley sings backup and bassist James McNew plays an acoustic 12-string guitar.

Yo La Tengo has a lot of diversity in their records.  And even here, their songs sound quite different.  I had never before considered that on “Is That Enough” Kaplan sounds like someone out of A Mighty Wind (Harry Shearer perhaps?)  I also never considered how much they sound like The Velvet Underground (which I guess others have, but I especially noticed when Hurley sings her slow song).  McNew also adds some lovely high-pitched harmony vocals (compared to Georgia’s deeper harmonies).

After the first song, Kaplan says, “You in the back will never hear this one”  They start “Tears Are In Your Eyes” from their 2000 album (and I can’t help but hing that McNew’s 12 sting is out of tune).  Georgia sings and sounds incredibly like Nico on this song.

It’s strange how Ira keeps whispering to Georgia (you can kind of hear him) throughout the song–the microphone is really sensitive.

“Ohm” is one of my favorite songs from their album Fade. Its simple, but with some great harmonies and I love the way the song–which is fairly straightforward–goes up an octave during the “say goodnight “ part.  That little melody shift really makes this song wonderful.  And it sounds terrific here.   I also love how the end is a repeating of the same chord and chanting vocals while Ira plays a wild (but acoustic) guitar solo.

I’ve never really considered seeing Yo La Tengo live (they tour all the time), but maybe I should.

[READ: January 23, 2017] “Don’t Be Evil”

Before Simon Rich started writing longer pieces for the New Yorker, his Shouts & Murmurs pieces were usually pretty short–and he crammed a lot of funny into that short space.

This piece is all about Google.  It’s kind of one-note, but it’s still pretty funny.  And its brevity prevents it from wearing out its welcome.

So it begins with him saying how much he loves the Google Dictionary feature.  It’s really convenient, but sometimes the results can be strange.  Then he gives some examples: (more…)

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varmintsSOUNDTRACK: HANGEDUP & TONY CONRAD-Transit of Venus [091] (2016).

conradHangedUp & Tony Conrad have the third of three discs released as part of Constellation’s Musique Fragile 02 set. From the Constellation site: Transit Of Venus documents this fertile collaboration and includes some enormous slabs of drone rock alongside more decomposed pieces and gorgeously gritty string duos.  [[The performers] recently plunged back into the archives and started shaping an album from the various 2-track and live-mixed [improvisations and] multi-track source material.

“Flying Fast n Furious” has clattering percussion and squeaky violins.  There’s some fast drumming and violin playing in the middle with a great wobbly low bass around.   About 4 minutes in the sounds are almost otherworldly/underwatery.  “Transit Of Venus” has the return of that low wobbly bass—big round fat bass notes that just seem to linger as the drums clatter away.  The sawing violin is a little less interesting than I’d like, however.  “Principles” features a buzzy violin that scratches over the interesting drum pattern.  After a minute or so some strange sounds percolate under the drone.  The sounds are mechanical, organic, (balloons?) digital—unclear.  It’s 8 minutes long and there’s a few moments when the big bass notes come in that are very cool.  In the last minute or so a new violin solo comes out of the din but it doesn’t alter the tone of the song all that much

“Bright Arc Of Light” is 4 minutes of slow bowed and plucked violins.  It’s quite minimal.  “Gentil The Unlucky Astronomer ” is 11 minutes long and it starts with multi layered violins.  It sounds a bit like The Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” and after 2 minute the slow drums come in.  Once the drums enter, the song stays mostly the same—sawing violins and a steady drums with some other occasional percussion.  It’s very droney.  Around 6 minutes things change slightly and the song becomes more insistent.  It continues like this for most of the rest of the song and then ends with some solo violins.  The final track is “Panorama From Maxwell Montes” which opens with some dissonant scratchy violins.  The drums come in and start playing an intersection complex rhythm making this a good album closer.

fragileMusique Fragile Volume 02 is the second in our series of limited-edition, artwork-intensive box sets featuring three full-length albums by three different artists, available on heavyweight vinyl and as a digital bundle. The vinyl set will be limited to 500 hand-numbered copies, lovingly designed and hand-assembled.

[READ: November 1, 2016] Varmints

I really enjoyed the drawing style in this book.  The main characters were cute and cartoony and yet the backgrounds were reasonably realistic looking.  It really conveyed the setting (the old west, I guess) effectively.

However, I had a huge problem with the story.  The book felt like it was part 2, but to the best of my knowledge it isn’t.  There just seemed to be huge gaps in the story that were never filled in.  Not to mention, this is supposed to be a children’s story, but we find out (very late in the story) that the childrens’ mother was killed in cold blood–more or less on a whim.  It’s a shocking piece of violence which I suppose little kids can handle but, woah, what the hell, dude?

The story begins with Opie and Ned in a saloon.  They are young kids, Opie is Ned’s older sister–a joke is made about Opie being a weird name for a girl, but sadly, nothing more comes of that.  Opie is holding her own in a game of cards but Ned is bored and keeps interrupting the game as annoying little brother will do.

Ned says he wants a hat, and since no one will give him one, he climbs a mountain of a man (he’s so tall we can’t see his face and he is wearing a full-sized bear as a cloak of some sort) and takes the hat off of him.  Chaos ensues, the hat flies off (and gets two holes in it) and the kids wind up stealing the giant man’s horse and taking off. (more…)

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assclassSOUNDTRACK: OUGHT-More Than Any Other Day [CST103] (2014).

oughtmoreOught might just be the most straightforward band every released by Constellation Records. They are a rock/punk band with some spoken word singing that sound at times like Mark E. Smith.  However, the music is a bit catchier than The Fall’s with fast moments and really slow almost ambient stretches.

“Pleasant Heart” opens with a raw echoing guitar riff and chords that sound like nothing else on the album.   The song lurches through some great sounds and Beeler’s unusual chanting style of singing.  There’s also a cool bass line rumbling throughout the song built with lots of drum fills and chaos.

About half way through this six-minute song the bass and drums drop out leaving just a squeaky violin and harmonic guitar (this squeaky violin is possibly the only thing that makes this record sound like a Constellation release).  The bass comes back in slowly.  But it’s not until almost two minutes of this instrumental that the song resumes with a crunch and the lurching melody and verses continue until the end.

“Today More Than Any Other Day” was the first Ought song that really grabbed me.  It starts out slowly with some spare drums and meandering bass.  It doesn’t really feel like its going to resolve into anything.  By a minute and a half it’s finally starting to sound like something–a slow meandering song perhaps.  Around 2 minutes Beeler starts whispering “we’re sinking deeper, and sinking deeper.”  And then the song starts building and turning into something else .  We’re now half way through this 5 minutes song when the guitar starts chiming and he states “The name of this song is ‘Today more than any other day Parts 4-43.  So open up your textbooks … or any kind of reading material.”  And as the guitar plays the verses he recites various things that have happened today more than any other day (making a “decision between 2% and whole milk.”  A cool bass line starts playing as else drops away and he starts chanting a rather laconic “dah dah dah dah dah” following the bass.  It reminds me, strangely enough of the Dead Milkmen as its kind of not exactly out of tune but almost as if  not really caring.  But when the song resumes, it’s all right on again.  It’s a weird and wonderful, strangely catchy song.

“Habit” opens with a nice slow bass riff and chiming guitars.  It brings the intensity of the previous song down some.  And the vocals sound a little different, especially in the chorus, where the whole song take on a kind of Talking Heads vibe (the falsetto singing in particular).  It slows down toward the end with some scraping violins. The song is quite pretty in an alt-sorta way.

I love “The Weather Song” from the opening harmonics and intriguing bass line to the way the song suddenly ramps up for the chorus.  In addition to the catchy spoken opening there’s a great chorus of “I …. just wanna revel in your lies.”

“Forgiveness” is a relatively short 4 and a half minutes and opens with almost an organ sound.  A scraping violin sound joins the drones. After 2 minutes he sings in a very slow drawl “forgiveness is a drug that you take with a shrug.”  It has echoes of the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” although it never changes tempo or intensity.

“Around Again” has a very 1980s guitar riff and whispered vocals until the whole band kicks in and it grows in intensity.  And then the whispered “go slow” returns the song to the beginning.  After 3 minutes, the song builds and then drops out with a spoken: “It’s coming. Why is it you can’t stand under the sun but you can stick your head into a bucket of water and breathe in deep” and then a whole new sound of dissonant guitar and thudded bass and drums “we have reached the intermission.”  But it’s not an intermission it goes through to the end of the song like this.

“Clarity!” opens with what sound to me like “Love Will Tear Us Apart” but with guitar chunks played over the top.  Slow harmonics and whispered vocals move the song forward.  After 2 minutes it rocks out, with a returning ringing high note and interesting sound effects.  And by the end the song comes to a plunging conclusion

“Gemini” opens with some low rumbling notes and then a sprinkling of keyboards.  There’s some scratchy guitars and a rumbling bass.  After 2 and a half minutes, the song’s punky parts take over with jagged guitars and screamed vocals.  The end of the song is mostly just two-note thumping while he screams “you wanted … wanted … wanted … wanted.”

I really like this album a lot.

I noticed that the lead singer changes his name on each release.  So, to help keep it straight:

PERSONNEL
Matt May: Keys
Ben Stidworthy: Bass
Tim Keen: Drums, Violin
Tim Beeler: Vocals, Guitar

[READ: September 20, 2016] Assassination Classroom 1

Assassination Classroom has a very strange and unsettling premise–the students of this classroom are being taught to assassinate their teacher.  Given the current climate of guns in the US, that’s probably not a comfortable position to take.  However, Matsui alters the premise to make it more palatable, and frankly more fun. The students’ teacher is actually an alien (or maybe not, but it is certainly not human).  He (I guess) is a multi-tentacled creature who can move at Mach 20, is exceptionally perceptive and can’t be harmed by most conventional weapons.  But wait, there’s more.  The students are sent to assassinate this particular creature because he blew a huge chunk out of the moon (it’s now a permanent crescent) and is planning to do the same to the earth in a year’s time.  But wait, there’s more.  One of his conditions for not blowing up the Earth sooner is that he be allowed to teach this particular classroom.  Although no one is sure why yet.

The class is 3-E, the lowest of the low, the worst students in the very prestigious Kunugigaoka Junior High.  The 3-E class are misfits–they were smart enough to get into the school, but they have done something wrong and they are treated very poorly because of it.  In fact, 3-E is used as a kind of cautionary tale for the other students–act up and you could wind up like them.  (Why they don’t just leave the school is not addressed).

The kids call the creature Koro Sensi (which is a pun on the Japanese “Koro senai” which means “can’t kill”), and it turns out he is actually a pretty great teacher.  He really seems to care about the kids.  So why would they want to kill him?  Well, aside from the destruction of the planet, there is also a ten billion yen reward (the amount seems to change some in the book, but it’s roughly 100 million dollars).  Of course, as the name implies, this guy is really hard to kill.  And when they try to kill him in a way he finds beneath them (they are training to be great assassins after all), his own revenge will be swift.  At the same time, he heartily encourages them to try their best to kill him–and he applauds their most creative efforts. (more…)

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