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Archive for the ‘The Walkmen’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: WALTER MARTIN-Tiny Desk Concert #679 (December 1, 2017).

Walter Martin’s name didn’t sound familiar.  So this blurb helped:

Best known as a singer and multi-instrumentalist with the band The Walkmen, Martin has spent his solo career making unabashedly joyful, sweetly innocent and playful music perfectly suited for quirky four-part harmonies.

I sort of know The Walkmen; I know them more as an outlet for Hamilton Leithauser.  But after watching this, I find Martin to be a more satisfying performer.

I really enjoy his easy singing style and the every loose way he has with his guitar and with the songs in general.

Only Walter Martin would bring a barbershop quartet to the Tiny Desk.   The barbershop quartet is known as The Glen Echoes, a group of singers he found online and met for rehearsals the day before coming to NPR. It works particularly well on the song with which he opens this performance, “I Went Alone On A Solo Australian Tour,” a brilliant and comical call-and-response story-song about, well, going alone on a solo Australian tour.

“I Went Alone On A Solo Australian Tour,” is indeed really enjoyable.  Martin is casual and I love how the quartet starts out singing with him, then questioning him and then just acting like casual acquaintances–he asks them questions, too and they sing the responses.  All without losing the pacing.

It’s funny but also thoughtful.

The second song, the equally charming if slightly more wistful “Me And McAlevey,” is about a dear friend who lives in Maine.  It’s about friendship and loyalty and life as a middle-aged father.

The song is relatively simple and straightforward, but the guitar picking is delightfully complex and pretty.  I really like his vocal delivery and the way he ends his verses.

Martin closes with “Sing To Me,” his best-known song, thanks in no small part to its appearance in an Apple ad.

He describes it as the romantic centerpiece of his children’s album.  It is a pretty song once again, with lovely sentiments.  The pianist switches to electric guitar for a rather different sound.

The whole Tiny Desk Concert is delightful and makes me want to check out more of his stuff.  There’s no mention of who play what, but the mudsicians were:  Josh Kaufman; Jamie Krents; Brian Kantor; Richard Cook; Ken Sleeman; Mike Holmes and  Al Blount.

[READ: March 28, 2017] Becca and the Prisoner’s Cross

This is the second (and final) novella in the series.  It comes between books 2 and 3.  And, as the title suggests it is all about Becca.

The end of book 2 had Becca “materialize” on a boat in the past–right next to Nicolaus Copernicus.  It was a weird ending for a book that while sometimes magical, seemed to follow some kind of reality.  But this was different.  What could it mean?

Well, this novella explains it all (sort of).  We suspect that Becca’s proximity to the Kronos device when it went off triggered something.  (I keep wondering if it has something to do with her hurt arm which, frankly, shouldn’t hurt anymore, it has been two weeks, right?).

Anyhow, what we determine is that Becca is sort of passing out at home and her mind is travelling to Copernicus.  No time passes at home, but she is able to spend time with the scientist.  The best reveal comes early in the book when Copernicus senses that someone is there as well. (more…)

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2011-07-11-18-ulriksen-birdsSOUNDTRACK: THE WALKMEN-Tiny Desk Concert #234 (July 29, 2012).

The Walkmen perform a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR headquarters in Washington, DC on Tuesday, June 26, 2012.

I know Hamilton Leithauser, the singer of The Walkmen, more than the band itself.  He has gone solo since 2012 and released some songs that have gotten a lot of attention.  Leithauser has a very powerful voice.  Form the blurb I gather that The Walkmen used to be a bit louder/punkier.  But for this set, Leithauser plays an acoustic guitar so this band isn’t getting too abrasive, that’s for sure.

The first song “Heaven” has a swirling guitar and bass motif that reminds me instantly of some 1990s songs.   The song is really catchy and Leithauser never lets up with his powerful singing.  The blurb comments on his voice, that it gives the songs “grit and grace, not to mention hair-raising intensity that feels a little jarring coming from a bunch of guys in crisp button-up shirts.”

“We Can’t Be Beat” begins as a slow verse with just acoustic guitar and singing.  Then the electric guitar plays some ringing notes as the drums play delicate percussion along with it.   About half way through the song, he holds a really long note (“so looooong” and then the whole band picks up the song with a loping sound that propels the song very nicely.

“Love Is Luck” has a nice beat and some great guitar sounds. It’s another catchy song from the band.

I enjoyed this set quite a bit, although I found that after listening a few times I got a little tired of Leithauser “woah oh ing” so much.

[READ: July 21, 2016] “Aphrodisiac”

The aphrodisiac at the heart of this story is interesting and subtle–it doesn’t even exactly seem like a part of the story until the end.

But I found the bulk of the story a little too long and unrelated to the aphrodisiac to be really enjoyable.

The story is about Kishen, a university graduate who had big plans to write a novel about India–to be really sunk into the Indian experience.  He had gone to school in Cambridge, but was now living back home in New Delhi with his mother and older brother Shiv.  Shiv had recently gotten married and Kishen was meeting the bride for the first time.  Her name was Naina.

Kishen found her to be kind of stupid.  However because of his own hang ups, she was the only person he felt comfortable talking to.  She seemed to accept him and even made him part of her circle of girlfriends–they all seemed to be amused by him. (more…)

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TNY 4.14.08 cvr.indd SOUNDTRACK: HAMILTON LEITHAUSER-Tiny Desk Concert #375 (July 21, 2014).

hamleitHamilton Leithause was the lead singer of The Walkmen.  When they went on hiatus, the guys in the band made solo records.  For this set, Leithauser is accompanied by The Walkmen’s Paul Maroon on guitar and Hugh McIntosh, who played drums in Leithauser’s old band The Recoys.

Leithauser has a big voice and these songs allow him to really wail (in a restrained and tasteful way).  “11 O’Clock Friday Night” has a very folkie feel to it with a big chorus of “you and me and everybody else.”

“Alexandra” is a bit more uptempo and rocking with a cool rumbling bass line provided by the electric guitar (he really gets to belt out the chorus and the bridge in this song).

“5AM” is a moody ballad which shows he can play mellow as well as big.

Incidentally perhaps it was back in 2014, but Leithauser was doing some kind of concert in Philly and they must have advertised it ten times a day for months.  I was rather tired of hearing his name (I didn’t know who he was at the time). I had to look him up and he was fine.  About the same as I felt during this show.

[READ: February 18, 2016] “The Lie”

I have really been enjoying Boyle’s stories.  He has a way of making his protagonists unlikable and yet somehow sympathetic.  But this time, I felt like his protagonist was just too much of an asshole.  He went too far.

Lonnie is a new dad.  He’s a young guy who has married a woman whose nighttime sleepwear is a Cramps shirt and nothing else.  Her name is Clover, but she hates that her hippie parents named her that and wants to change it to Cloris.  He says that Cloris sounds like a detergent and she hates him for that.

Anyway, he wakes up and doesn’t feel like going to his editing job (I may have been more sympathetic if the job were harder).  He is tired of hearing the same people recite the same dialogue every day.  He says he’s not rally an editor, he’s a logger. (more…)

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nyrbSOUNDTRACK: ALEC OUNSWORTH-Tiny Desk Concert #48 (February 22, 2010).

alecI didn’t recognize the name Alec Ounsworth.  But I see that he is the singer from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, a band I don’t know at all.  He has created some other music outside of Clap Your Hands, like the band Flashy Python, which features members of Dr. Dog, The Walkmen and Man Man.  And in the fall of 2009, he released a solo record called Mo’ Beauty.

In this Tiny Desk it is just him and guitarist Matt Sutton.  They play three songs from Mo’ Beauty (on guitar and harmonica): “Modern Girl (…With Scissors),” “Holy, Holy, Holy Moses (Song for New Orleans)” and “When You’ve No Eyes.”

Since I don’t really know CYHSY, I can’t compare this to that band.  The songs are pleasant and a little catchy.  I feel like perhaps the wordplay is what draws you in (he refrains “all this useless beauty” in the first song).  His voice is distinctive and takes a little getting used to, but I warmed up to it by the end of the set.

After the set he says that the other three guys from the touring band were waiting in the van.  As the show fades you hear Bob Boilen mutter, “it was okay to invite them up.”

[READ: May 11, 2015] “Argentina: The Brothels Behind the Graveyard” 

Roberto Bolaño talked about this article in The Secret of Evil.  I was curious to read it and was happy to find it quite easily and for free online from The New York Review of Books.

I don’t really know Naipaul at all, although Bolaño spoke very highly of him.

This article looks at Argentina.  I don’t know how much time he spent there, but it sounds like NYRoB sent him there to write and essay or two..

He begins by talking about the death of Perón (in July of 1974).  Perón was in the ninth month of his third presidency and his legend had lasted for thirty years.  He was overthrown in 1955 and was exiled for seventeen years.  He had a triumphant return the previous year and a resounding failure shortly after. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The Believer June 2004 Music Issue CD (2004).

Every year since 2004, The Believer magazine has published a Music Issue which comes with a CD.

I recently received the 2009 CD, but I thought it might be fun to go back through the previous ones and see what kind of music they put on them since the beginning.  I was delighted to see how many bands I like now that I was either introduced to or SHOULD have been introduced to by these discs.

The inaugural issue was a fantastic collection of then-underground alt-rock (the issue also featured interviews with a few of the artists–you can see the Colin Meloy interview here).

The collection contains all previously released songs (I think).  But for me it was a great introduction to a number of bands that I didn’t know: The Walkmen, The Mountain Goats, Ted Leo + Pharmacists.  It also contained a new release by a band I did know, The Constantines.   And, this was my introduction to a band that turned out to be one of my new favorites: Death Cab for Cutie.

There’s a lot of great songs on here, and it would make a great hanging-out-at-a-party-with-friends soundtrack.  There’s not a lot of diversity on the disc which is a bit of  a bummer (although it’s good for a mellow party).  However, the 19 second blast of “You Got the Right” by the Tiny Hawks does break things up a bit.

But with a great collection of songs it would be wrong to complain.  For a complete listing (and another review) check out this page.

[READ: December 9, 2009] “The Use of Poetry”

Ian McEwan writes fantastically engaging stories about relatively simple things, oftentimes relationships.  And he has these relationships so well sussed out that a simple six-page story like this can pack in a ton of humanity.

In a post some time ago I wrote about how World War II affected Britain much more than it affected the U.S.  And, how artists of a certain age have found great drama from the war.  This story is no exception.  Except that the war veteran is not the main character.  But I loved this summary of the main character’s dad, the typical “stoic British man.”

Like many men of his generation, he did not speak of his experiences and he relished the ordinariness of postwar life, its tranquil routines, its tidiness and rising material well-being, and above all, its lack of danger–everything that would later appear stifling to those born in the first years of the peace.

That’s an amazing encapsulation of a generation of men.  And it rings very true to me.  But what’s more amazing is that that description is not even about the main character Michael, it’s about his dad, Henry. (more…)

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