Archive for the ‘Tori Amos’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: YOU sleigh ME: Twelve songs from Twelve Atlantic artists for the twelve days of Christmas (1995).

This is one of the first “alternative” Christmas albums I bought.  At the time, I bought it for Tori Amos and Juliana Hatfield.  But this disc has not held up very well and collections have gotten so much better.

Between the poor song choices and the rather bland recordings, the whole things is kind of tedious.

MARY KARLZEN-“Run Rudolph Run”
I’ve said before that I don’t really like this song.  This version chugs along just fine.  The one thing it really has going for it is that she plays with the genders of the kids so that it’s the girl who wants the electric guitar. That’s cool.

COLLECTIVE SOUL-“Blue Christmas”
I don’t really love this song either, although surprisingly this is probably one of my favorite versions so of it.  The rhythm is a weird shuffle, almost like the hand-jive but I like the heavy guitars at the end of each verse.  Weird that his delivery is almost like Elvis though.

TORI AMOS-“Little Drummer Boy”
I can’t imagine when she would actually have sung this live (for it is a live recording). Typical Tori, her voice sounds great and it’s before she started singing in a weird style.

DONNA LEWIS-“Christmas Lights”
No idea who Donna Lewis is.  This song is a mild, inoffensive Christmas song that I can’t say much more about.

BILLY PILGRIM-“The First Noel”
I have no idea if this band is still around or even who was in them, but this version of the song is quite nice.  There’s pretty folk guitar and some great harmonies.  I can nit-pick about the No-ell-ell part but overall this one’s a keeper.

As I said, I bought this disc for Tori and Juliana.  This song is pretty, but it was used in My So-Called Life so it’s not special at all.  Boo.

JILL SOBULE-“Merry Christmas from the Family” (NSFC)
I’d always assumed that Jill wrote this song, although I see now that it was written by Robert Earl Keen.  This song is hilarious and mostly inappropriate.  And yet it also has a lovely sentiment (if you can get past the drunks and family problems).  It’s my favorite on this disc to be sure.

DANIEL JOHNSTON-“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
I just don’t understand why people listen to Johnston.  His voice is not compelling, and this sounds like someone making fun of the song.

DILLON FENCE-“Christmas”
This is a slick song that is about Christmas in some way.  It’s sort of blandly inoffensive jangle pop.

JAMES CARTER-“White Christmas”
This is an interminable 8 minute jazz sax solo version of the song.  Wow, it never ends.

VICTORIA WILLIAMS-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Victoria Williams also has a take-it-or-leave-it voice.  I used to like her more than I do now, bu that could change any minute.  This song is faithful to the original and pretty if you like her singing.

Another bland folky song.  The chorus is catchy, but I can’t be bothered to figure out what it has to do with Christmas.

Overall this is a disappointing disc and there are far better options.


[READ: December 17, 2017] “Last Woman”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

I enjoyed this piece for the way it juxtaposed a woman living by herself with the last woman left alive in a video game. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 14, 2016] Gracie Folds

2016-07-14 19.36.50The Levitt Pavilion Steelstacks in Bethlehem is one of my favorite venues.  Last year I saw Modest Mouse there and this year it was Ben Folds.  I raved to Sarah about the venue last time but I don’t think she realized just how great it would be until we walked onto the grass and walked up to the stage where there were only two people in front of us.  And, if we were pushier, we could have easily gotten up to the fence.

So, yes, we were about three people from the stage.  And just to make it better, the forecast predicted massive thunderstorms all night long, but by the time of the show, the clouds had parted and a cool breeze came in through the field.

As the show started a young girl walked out and sat at her keyboard and told us her name was Gracie.  Anyone who is a fan of Ben Folds knows he has a daughter named Gracie.  But those of us who have no concept of time passing still assume she is like 6 years old.  Well, she is 17 and she opened for her dad.  And that’s pretty awesome. (more…)

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ageSOUNDTRACK: GENEVIEVE-Tiny Desk Concert #446 (June 1, 2015).

genevieveI enjoy that the opening of this Tiny Desk Concert shows Genevieve “creating” her backup singers.  So that when she gets to the chorus and taps that loop pedal her harmonies really shine.

Genevieve is a poppy singer with a sometimes raspy but often really clean singing style.  She has a great voice and vibrant personality (and hair color).  Even though she is from Chicago, I hear some tinges of Bjõrk and maybe even Tori Amos in her voice.

Evidently she normally plays with a full band, but for this concert, she is accompanied only by Chris Faller who “plays all of the instruments.”

The first song “Colors” is played only with keyboards (and feels like it could use a little but more music–although her voice is powerful enough and that chorus is super catchy as is).  “The Enemy” is accompanied by an acoustic guitar and is a suitably mellower–a kind of sad ballad–which shows how powerful her voice is even in this more quiet setting (she has a lovely range).

The final song “Authority” feels like it might be a big raver (she adds hand claps that seem like the kind that might get the crowd going, but the claps are quiet and subtle here).  The chorus is big with lots of long-held notes and is super catchy.

Genevieve would probably be too pop for me in general, but the Tiny Desk Concerts tend to remove a lot of gloss and leave the heart of the musician.

[READ: May 15, 2015] An Age of License

I enjoyed Knisley’s Relish, so when I saw this in the library I decided to check it out.

Unlike Relish, which was about food, this book is about her travels outside of the country.  But like Relish, this book is another memoir/journal/autobiography.

Since I have been having a major Norway kick (thanks to Karl Ove Knausgaard and some great sites on Instagram) I was pretty excited to see that her travels began in Norway.  Her itinerary is short but very busy.  Fly into Iceland than immediately to Norway (for the Raptus Comics Fest in Bergen).  Then it’s off to Sweden (to visit a guy she knows in Stockholm).  Then to Berlin to join her friends on their honeymoon (which is not as tacky as it sounds). Then it’s off to France to visit her friend in Beaune, and then to hang out with her mom and her friends on Royan.  Finally a day in Paris before flying back home.  I’m exhausted just writing it all.

Knisley also has the headache of dealing with a breakup (to the nice guy who has been in her previous books) although he is kind enough  to babysit her cat while she is gone.

Every few pages has colored (watercolor I assume) drawings which add a nice touch to the otherwise black and white story.

Starting Sept 8th, she arrives in Norway.  We see the flight and other people on the flight.  We see a nice meal that she eats (Pinnekjott–someday I hope to get to the Scandinavian countries and eat food that I cannot pronounce).  Norway is fun–she goes to the Fest (where she gets to draw with Ethan Nicolle of “Axe Cop” (presumably his five-year old brother stayed home).  She shows students how to draw (her friend is a teacher), although she declines to eat Lutefisk (which she illustrates as Fish + Lye.  Lye??).  She also mentions that she was not only stalked, but that the boys who stalked her then made and published (and had it available at the following year’s Raptus Fest) a comic about stalking her–creepy! (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 24, 2015] Guster

2015-04-24 23.01.50I’ve seen Guster a few times as openers (Tori Amos, Ben Folds, Barenaked Ladies) but never as the headliner.  And it was amazing how different the band was for this show–in which the crowd was totally there for them.

Singer Ryan Miller commented on how they haven’t played the Theatre of Living Arts in  a long time–and that the fans were with them on the way up and now again on their way down (it’s unclear if he was serious or not).  The band’s “stage design” for this tour was afghans.  As you can see in the pictures, the band has afghans draped all over everything.  Ryan said that the band’s fans supplied them with all of the afghans.  They decided to totally embrace the theme and even put an afghan on one of co-singer Adam Gardner’s guitar.  I did not get a good photo of it, but there’s a great photo on Instagram of it.

Midway through the show the band mentioned that they’d been together for 24 years.  Which is pretty impressive.  The three main guys (Ryan, Adam and “Thundergod” Brian Rosenworcel on bongoes and other drums (most of which he plays with no sticks–seriously, he smashes drums and cymbals with his hands–ouch)) are sill there.  For touring they’ve added an instrumentalist Luke Reynolds and a friend of the band on drums and percussion for some songs. (more…)

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 locke4SOUNDTRACK: TORI AMOS-Midwinter Graces (2009).

midwinterI had loved Tori Amos for many years, but I got bored with her mid 2000s works, they were too adult contemporary for my liking.  So I wasn’t that excited to hear this Christmas album.  But Sarah bought it for me that year anyhow, and I have really grown to like it a lot.  At the same time there are a few things about it that drive me insane–particularly the crazy and I’ll say it, stupid way she pronounces words in her songs.

If Tori were not a native English speaker I would forgive her (I love a lot of non native English speakers as singers).  But she was born in the US and now lives in England and none of the weird things she does reflect any “accent” nor do they reflect the way she speaks.  She has a very distinctive way of mispronouncing certain words (which she seems to have developed late in her career) which is maddening and often makes the words unintelligible. Why would one do that?

That aside, the melodies and (most) vocals are really lovely.  For this album Tori takes some bits of traditional carols and tinkers with them. The accompanying DVD has an interview in which she explains her inspiration. But without knowing this, some of these versions can be very upsetting.  The first time I heard the first song I just did not understand what was happening–it’s just so wrong.  And while I’m not saying I “get” it now, but I enjoy it more because it uses the carols as a jumping off point..

“What Child, Nowell” is very disconcerting because the song changes so many different things at once.  It has a string section opening and then lyrics to What Child is This (in a very different melody). When she switches the vocal line in the “this this” part, you know something’s up, and when it jumps to the Nowell section (which is also done differently), well, who knows what’s happening.  It’s an unusual track but lovely. “Star of Wonder” has a very cool middle eastern lick. It opens with the we three kings line, but is immediately changed into something different (lyrics and melodies). I just love the chorus of this which modifies “star of wonder” in a cool way.   “A Silent Night with You” is a romantic song (her voice sounds a little funny) But the melody is very pretty.   “Candle” Coventry Carol” I don’t recognize the melody of the Candle part but the Coventry Carol party has a wonderful Victorian melody (it could do with more olde instruments, I think).

“Holly Ivy an Rose” has a pretty piano melody.  I love the melody even more when the chorus comes in.  But I genuinely don’t like when Tash’s voice kicks in—it feels flat to me. I appreciate her using her daughter (and I feel bad criticizing a nine-year old), but I think Tori’s voice sounds so magical that her daughter’s voice just can’t match.  “Harps of Gold” I didn’t realiy like the musical opening of this (the guitars sound really pale compared to the rest of the disc, but I love the drums –simple but so effective). This song is the one where I really noticed how weird Tori emphasizes words now. I was sure that she she was singing “Napoleon” (Nah ha poh ho lee un) which I know made literally no sense for the song.  In fact she is singing “Gloria” (Gluh hoe hoe Ree uh). That speaks volumes about how weirdly she has been emphasizing words on the last few albums.  Despite that weirdness, I really like this song and I will continue to sing “Napoleon.”

“Snow Angel” is a bit adult contemporary for me, but I find myself singing it a lot, so I must like it.  “Jeanette, Isabella” is a pretty song with a lovely melody but for some reason it’s not very catchy.   “Pink and Glitter” is a big band type swing number.  It comes as quite a shock after the mellow song before it). I love the chorus—Tori’s voice works very well with this style of music.  But again, what’s with the weird emphasis. “honorable mention” is sung strangely:  “men she un.”  And worse yet, the song ends with the word “pink” and yet she sings it without the final k so I was sure she was singing “shower the world with pain.”  What gives?

“Emmanuel” begins with the “O come O come” lines. It’s a little too slow.  This is another song where she mispronounces words on purpose–the way she says Israel is crazy.  But as soon as it switches to her own song, it becomes quite lovely.  “Winter’s Carol” is actually from her musical ‘The Light Princess.”  It reminds me a bit of her song Marianne and it’s really quite nice musically, but again, the way the words are sung is insane: “first song oov the robin, i koh through the land” Its a shame her pronunciation is so awful because the song is quite lovely (and the lyrics are good too).  I love the backing vocals–her niece sings them and she is quite fabulous.  The disc proper ends with “Our New Year,” it is a pretty song with nice string arrangements but a rather sad sentiment and kind of a downer way to end the record.

My copy has two bonus tracks: “Comfort and Joy”  It plays on the lyrics of “let nothing you dismay” and “glad tidings.”  It’s a totally different with a slow angsty ballad.  “Silent Night” is a mostly straight but with some different lyrics in the later verses.  But why does she say “pierce” instead of “peace?”

[READ: December 23, 2014] Locke & Key 4

This book opens with a tribute to Bill Watterson, in which all of the scenes in Bode’s head resemble Calvin and Hobbes (somewhat).  Bode is ostracized in school because he’s pretty weird.  His mom wants him to have friends, but he doesn’t seem to be able to make any.  But when he finds the animal key (which Scout used to transform into a wolf), Bode transforms into a…sparrow?  He is bummed until he realizes the power of a group.  And when he and his bird friends are able to take on the wolf, that’s pretty awesome (this is, sadly the bloodiest section so far in the book).

Chapter Two introduces us to the color key, in which Kinsley is able to turn into a black girl.  She does this when she realizes that the woman who wrote her name next to her father’s in that underwater cave is in the nearby madhouse.  The woman, Erin Voss, is black.  And racism is rampant in this section of town (and in the asylum).  Of course, when she screams the word white, it’s not because Kinsey is white, but because of something that Scout has done to her.

Chapter Three is set up in an interesting way.  Each day of the month is represented by some event (with very little in the way of context).  So there’s an embarrassing hockey loss for Ty, a breakup between Kinsey and Zack, and on the weekends they fight shadowy evils.  They also find some more keys, one appears to be for a cupboard filled of all kinds of things, another is a Hercules key.  There’s a lot of tears (and bloodshed) in February. (more…)

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toriSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Boo Radley’s Guelph ON (December 3 1999).

booLike the previous show, this one is also a shortened set because of technical problems in the recording.  We don’t hear the technical problems–the bad songs were just left out.  There’s some static on the first song, but otherwise the sound quality is very good.

Dave tells everyone that Harmelodia is coming out on Tuesday.  They play a lot of songs from the album and some that are not, like “Used to It” and “Superdifficult” (which would eventually come out on Shooting Stars.

There’s some wonderfully crazy nonsense in “Four Little Songs.”  It’s practically Phish-like with the silliness they throw into it, and it ends with a great dig new wave sequence.  “Stolen Car” has been getting some great renditions in the last few shows, and this ne is no exception. There’s an excellent solo and an interesting ending which is basically a cappella.

This is another great show that nearly closes out 1999.

I have found real evidence that Boo Radley’s existed as a club as late as 2002, but amazingly there are no pictures of the place.  Someone needs to make a book out of small clubs across Canada.

[READ: March 6, 2014] The Light Princess

I had no idea that Tori Amos was involved in a musical.  I saw this book at work and was really intrigued.  Evidently it has been in the works for many years and was even supposed have been finished in 2012, but these things take time.  The book was a little vague about the history of the musical, but after a little searching I discovered that the story is based on a 19th-century Scottish fairytale (see a summary of the Fairy Tale from Wikipedia).  This version has music and lyrics by Tori Amos and a book and lyrics by Samuel Adamson.  They have morphed the story quite a bit but it definitely retains some of the original elements.

As it turns out those original elements were the things I liked best about it–maybe i should just watch the children’s version of the story that i saw on YouTube.  In this version the princess, whose name is now Althea,’ was the only person in her village not to cry when her mother died when she was 6.  This makes her lighter than air and she can only remain on the ground if she is tethered.  I liked this idea a lot and I was hoping for an interesting fantastical world to enter.

There are two countries which are at war, Althea’s country of Lagobel (which is rich in gold, but has no water) and Sealand (which has water, but no gold)–there is a dangerous Wilderness (full of dragons) that separates the two countries.  They are at war for resources (although we know that Lagobel is better because it is Sealand that starts the fight).  Sealand attacks Lagobel effectively destroying its military.  The King of Sealand believes that by killing Althea (the last in line to the throne), he will have all the gold to himself.  So the king sends his son Prince Digby to kill Althea.  (There’s a lot more backstory and deaths of family members which sets up this challenge). (more…)

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After the poppy, polished joy of Far, I went back and decided to check out the one other Regina Spektor album I knew of–Soviet Kitsch.  This album has always stuck with me as an interesting title.  I ordered it from Amazon and was bummed to get a little cardboard sleeve rather than an entire disc (her artwork is really nice).  So I was a little biased against this disc from the start.  The music also doesn’t have any of the polish and sleekness of Far.  So it took a while for me to see the beauty within.

This album is largely simple piano (with strings and other addition), but it’s a much more raw album (akin to something like Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes).

“Ode to Divorce” is a quiet piano song with some catchy moments.  “Poor Little Rich Boy” has some interesting percussion to accompany the piano.  And in this song you know that she’s in a slightly different territory than Tori Amos, which is good–the feeling is similar but the end result is unique.  Lyrically the album explores different ideas and on this song the repeated refrain of “you’re so young you’re so god damn young” is a little unsettling.  “Carbon Monoxide” introduces a more full sound (bass and drums).  And Regina shows off yet another side of her personality–playful, flirtatious and now almost childish (“C’mon, daddy.”)

“The Flowers” introduces another new aspect to the disc–more aggressive/borderline classical piano playing (rapid, loud notes).  It suits her style quite well and this song is  a definite highlight.  The end of the song has a very Russian-style nonsense syllable sing along which is very fun.   “Us” adds strings to the song and some great sing along parts.  “Sailor Song” is a funny song from a sailors perspective with the sing-along shanty chorus “Mary Anne’s a bitch” (complete with broken glass sounds).

The next song “****” is a whispered little conversation in which a young girl asks Regina when the next song is coming.  It makes the next song, “Your Honor” even more loud.  It really stands out on this disc because it is a full on punk song with screamed vocals and band work from Kill Kenada (who I don’t know anything about).  The song is about getting in a fight to defend a woman’s honor.  The slow piano middle section features the amusing question “gargle with peroxide a steak for your eye but I’m a vegetarian so it’s a frozen pizza pie…you fight for my honor but I just don’t know why.:”

“Ghost of Corporate Future” has a kind of lullaby feel and some amusing lyrics, ” When he gets to the crowded subway platform/He takes off both of his shoes/He steps right into somebody’s fat loogie/And everyone who sees him says “ew”/Everyone who sees him says “ew”/But he doesn’t care/Cause last night he got a visit/From the ghost of corporate future/The ghost said take off both your shoes/Whatever chances you get/Especially when they’re wet.”  It’s all sung in a manic style over a quiet piano melody.

“Chemo Limo” is certainly the highlight of the disc.  It’s 6 minutes long and is quite dramatic.  The basic premise is that dying from cancer sucks, so she’s going to live instead: “I couldn’t afford chemo like I couldn’t afford a limo/And on any given day I’d rather ride a limousine.”  There are several sections in the song–allowing Regina to show off her dynamic and dramatic vocal range (serious falsettos) and very impassioned sections, “Oh my God Barbara she looks just like my mom”  She even does some (very mild) beatboxing at the end of the song.  “Somedays” is a pretty, simple ballad, with some great vocals although it kind of gets lost at the end of the disc.  Although I was not that into this record when I first got it, repeated listens revealed wonderful surprises inside.

[READ: July 15, 2012] Canary in a Cat House

This is Kurt Vonnegut’s first collection of short stories.  It is currently out of print.  That’s not a big deal because almost all of the stories were later collected in Welcome to the Monkeyhouse.  But I thought it would be fun to read them in the original book.  When it came in from the library I was surprised at how tiny it was.  But what was really surprising was how small the print and how small the margins were.  They really crammed stories into collections back then!

These stories were all written in the 1950s and what was also surprising to me was how serious and unfunny some of those first stories were.  I realize that these were some of his first works, but the Vonnegut voice is so distinctive–a misanthropy tempered by jokes and absurdity, that I was surprised that some of these stories were not only serious but seriously emotional as well.  It’s been clear from all of his stories that WWII impacted his life tremendously (as one would expect), but in these early stories he talks very deliberately about violence and the cold war and the aftermath of WWII.  It’s pretty intense.  By the end of the book the more typical Vonnegut voice surfaces–sci-fi kinds of stories with dark humor involved.  It’s quite a collection. (more…)

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