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Archive for the ‘The xx’ Category

lastman2 SOUNDTRACK: THE xx-Tiny Desk Concert #265 (February 11, 2013).

xxI have really come to like The xx quite a lot.  And this Tiny Desk Concert is easily one of the best instances of them.  It is just the two of them, singer-guitarist Romy Madley Croft and singer-bassist Oliver Sim She [No beats from member Jamie Smith, who opted to hang back at the hotel].  She sings and plays a very echoing guitar and he plays a very spare bass (also echoed).  Her voice on “Angels” is whispered but not quiet—she sounds amazing. Everything about the performance is clear and beautiful

The only bad thing about the Concert is that they only play 2 songs (and for less that 7 minutes total!)

The blurb says that one of the things that makes this show especially great is that “the setting and band configuration robs them of cover.  [There is] no shroud of darkness or bright lights pointed outward to blunt the crowd’s stares. Throughout their characteristically compact seven-minute performance, Croft and Sim avoid eye contact, as they visibly try to ignore the huge throng and cameras positioned maybe 10 feet away from them.”

When Oliver sings the middle verse on “Sunset” it is a wonderful, stark (and sexy) moment.   When she starts playing the guitar again after the brief bass interlude, it sounds magical.  And their duet at the end is amazingly powerful (especially for something so quiet).

[READ: December 17, 2016] LastMan 2

This book was originally written in French (and called Lastman there as well).  These editions were translated by Alexis Siegel.

The art is black and white (and grayscale) and the characters are what I can only describe as very French looking. The faces are very minimal, with some of them looking almost bleached out but for eyes and a mouth.  Some of the men are rather grotesque-looking while the one woman is a knockout.  (Unlike the first book, this one is slightly more explicit–nothing actually shown, but Richard runs through the town naked and he and a woman are in bed together).

This book picks up where the previous one left off.  Adrian takes on Gregorio.  And Adrian is able to knock him out of the ring.  Adrian wins!  This means he must now fight Elorna, his friend.  Gregorio is humiliated at losing and he is rather mean to Elorna.  And during the match, Elorna bursts into tears and flees the ring, forfeiting and letting Adrian and Richard go to the semifinals.

They are up against Alyssa and Haldes (Haldes is preposterously large and Alyssa is covered by a scarf on her face).  Things get weird in this one when Alyssa recognizes Richard (I won’t say from where).  I’m not exactly sure what happens to her, but she is eventually dragged out of the ring by Haldes–more or less forfeiting as well.

So our heroes are going to the final. (more…)

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lostscrapSOUNDTRACK: THE XX-Coexist (2012).

coexGiven my proclivities towards noisy fast rock, there is no reason that I should like The XX, and yet I like Coexist quite a lot. It is such a spare album, but Romy’s voice is fantastic—so sensuous and breathy–that she can totally handle a song that is nearly a capella. So a song like “Angels” whose music consists pretty much entirely of a beautiful echoey guitar (and virtually nothing else except for some occasional soft percussion) is engrossingly intimate and not at all boring. In fact when that simple percussion eventually comes in, it’s like a revelation of sound accompanying her.

What also keeps the album interesting is that she is not the only singer (so there’s something for everyone). “Chained” has Oliver’s breathy, sexy voice as he more or less whisper/sings the lyrics. It has slightly more complex arrangements (meaning the drum is constant and there are quiet waves of synths). “Fiction” slowly builds with an ominous muted guitar motif and echoed chords. But when the chorus kicks in, that muted guitar grows loud and it’s almost overpowering (relatively, of course).   “Try” brings in a spooky kind of keyboards that is slightly unsettling under their mellow hushed duet of vocals.

The diversity of simple sounds that Jamie xx adds to each song are revelatory.  Even though each song is quiet and intimate, the sounds that he uses are so very different within that limited palate.  So “Reunion” sounds like a steel drums, before adding pulsing bass beats. “Sunset” has a slinky guitar and “Missing” introduces as drumbeat that is like a heart beat.  “Tides” has one of the loudest drum beats on the record, alternating with a delicate guitar line.

The simple bass line adds a really funky quality to “Swept Away.”  And when the claps and keyboard hits come in it feels almost like a dance song.

This is a great album for quiet nights and headphones.  Even if the songs seem to be mostly about lost love, it has a calming effect that is really enjoyable.  I’ll have to check out their debut as well.

[READ: September 30, 2014] The Lost Scrapbook

Some fans of David Foster Wallace speak well of Evan Dara (at least that’s how I’ve heard of  him).  I was unfamiliar with him and the fascinating story he has built around himself.  Evan Dara appears to be a pseudonym.  As one writer put it: “Hell, we don’t even now who Evan Dara is. Apparently, he is a male American in his 30s living in Paris.”  This, his debut novel, has attracted attention not only for being really weird, but for being really good.

What was fun about reading this was that I knew there were strange things afoot in the book, but I didn’t know what exactly (I really like to go into a book completely blind if I can).  So when the book started out with a conversation in which no character names were given (or even how many there were), I was prepared.  And while I didn’t really know what the subject they were talking about was, I figured that would be fine as well.  Then when four pages in the all caps word YIELD seemed to signal a change of narrator/perspective/something, I thought, okay this is what I’m in for.

Then I noticed that every paragraph which wasn’t conversation (with an em dash) was preceded by three ellipses (and ended with same).  A few pages later there’s an all caps TOW-AWAY ZONE which introduces another shift.

And somewhere around page 14 a sort of plot begins to form (although it’s unclear whether or not any of the earlier sections have anything to do with this one).  A man is shot…or not?  But then after the KEEP DOOR CLOSED section break, a new story develops.  A man with a Walkman (I was trying to decide if this was deliberately retro or intentionally set in the 80s, but that was unclear to me) is driving along to meet a man named Dave (at last a name!).  Dave is a filmographer who has been collecting fireflies for a video project.  And just as we near a kind of resolution of this section, it morphs, unannounced, mind you, into something else entirely–a discussion of music, specifically Beethoven and his decision to rework limited material into multiple variations.  It is fascinating and engaging and very well-considered, but it too ends before anything can be “resolved.” (more…)

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