Archive for the ‘Wolf Parade’ Category

CV1_TNY_09_02_13Viva.inddSOUNDTRACK: TYPHOON-“Artificial Light” (2013).

typhoonartSince I mentioned “Artificial Light” the other day, I thought I’d link to it today.

The song opens with a pretty guitar melody punctuated by horns.  The singer’s vocal style is dramatic and often unexpected–especially the way he gets louder mid sentence and then drops to a whisper at other times (reminds me a bit of Wolf Parade or perhaps even Modest Mouse).

There are very pretty moments in the song (especially when the orchestration fills in).  But the horns also give it a kind of Spanish feel, which rides on top of the heavier guitars in the verses.

At about two and a half minutes, the song drops out completely.  It is picked up by some gentle guitar and horns as it builds back up.  By the end the chorus of voices builds the song to new heights and widths.

It’s interesting what you can do with so many band members in five and a half minutes.  This song really runs a breadth of ideas but remains quite pretty throughout.

[READ: September 12, 2013] “The Colonel’s Daughter”

The Kids in the Hall once made a sketch in which there was no beginning or ending, just a middle.

In the sketch, a man in a tutu slaps a man in a scuba diving suit saying.  “Stop it. stop it. I’ve got to stop you and your revolutionaries from taking over this country.”

This story is like the inverse of that sketch.  It has a beginning and an end but no middle.  Interestingly, since it is also about revolutionaries taking over a country, I now just insert that sketch into the story (I’m sure that makes Coover very happy.  I wonder if anyone else mentions this sketch in the review of this story).

I have mixed feeling about Coover’s work in general.  It often feels more style over substance.  And I fear that this one may have been playing with that somewhat. Interestingly as well, there is a lot of substance, but it is played in such as way as to make it almost seem meaningless—unless you are willing to really unpack it (which I wasn’t).

So, the Colonel is intent on overthrowing the President (the country is unnamed).  He has chosen the group of men sitting in the room with him.  Some of them know each other but not all do.  They look around and size each other up.  Indeed, 5/6 of the story is the men sizing each other up.  To me, the men are interchangeable.  I don’t know if that is lazy reading on my part or if it is indeed on purpose.

Each man gets a brief biography—the Deputy Minister, the Police Chief, the biplane pilot, the business man, the professor, the doctor and possibly someone else.

We learn a little about each man and why the Colonel would have chosen him.  We learn about his fears about the mission and who he mistrusts the most.  We also learn that one of the men is a double agent, working for the President.  Like a game of Clue, pieces of information are given that would let you know who the man is, but again, I didn’t feel like doing the work to figure it out.  I am curious to know if you can tell who it is from the story, but not curious enough to do the work (so I should not be rewarded). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DIVINE FITS-“Would That Not Be Nice” (2012).

This song was KCRW’s Today’s Top Tune on August 13, 2012.  Divine Fits are a supergroup of sorts with Spoon’s Britt Daniels, New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brown and Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs member Dan Boeckner.  When I heard who was in the band, I was pretty excited to hear the track.  But I have to say that this sounds kind of like a over-polished Spoon song with keyboards.  Daniels’ voice and musical style are individual enough that he pretty much dominates whatever he does.  But at the same time, I feel like the jagged edges that make Spoon so interesting have been removed.

I assume that Boeckner is responsible for the keyboards and the interesting echo effect on the vocals.  They add an interesting balance to Daniels, but this doesn’t excite me the way Spoon does.

[READ: August 10, 2012] “Signs and Symbols”

I discovered this story because in my post of Lorrie Moore’s “Referential” someone commented that her story was plagiarized from this one.  I had intended to read this Nabokov story immediately so Moore’s would be fresh and I could lay down the “J’accuse.”  It’s been a couple of months but I can say that while her story is obviously inspired by this Nabokov–to the point where she uses elements from this story in her own, it’s a different take on the same idea.

But before we do any comparison, let’s look at this story.  The story begins by stating that for the fourth time in as many years, a young man’s parents don’t know what to take him for his birthday.  The problem is that he is in an institution and many things are forbidden.  And also, for their son man-made objects are either hives of evil or gross comforts–more on that shortly.  They knew they couldn’t get him a gadget of any kind, so they settled on a basket with a set of colorful jellies.  When they travel to him with the gift, everything goes wrong–the train breaks down, there are no busses, and when they finally get there, the nurses inform them that there has been an incident and he cannot see them now.  So they return home with the jellies.

The story describes what is wrong with their son as referential mania.  It’s an interesting situation, and an article about him had appeared in a scientific monthly.  It says that the patient believes that everything happening around him is somehow related to himself.  So clouds transmit details about him, trees talk about him, etc.  And this was driving him crazy (obviously).  He had even tried to kill himself via, what the doctor described as “a masterpiece of inventiveness.” (more…)

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Wolf Parade is a strange band, no doubt. Both singers can craft super catchy songs, but they like to layer them with odd sounds and lots of song parts making the songs more challenging (and better in the long run).

“Cloud Shadow on the Mountain” starts the disc off with drums and an eccentric voice.  And the lyrics? “I was asleep in a hammock/I was dreaming that I was a web/I was a dream-catcher hanging in the window of a minivan/Parked by the water’s edge./I’d say that I was all alone.”

The song has some loud guitars, some great guitars riffs and (the most notable feature on the album) retro sounding keyboards.  On this song the keys play an alternate melody that compliments the song very well.  There’s some heavy rocking sections and a slowed down drums and vocals section.  It’s fairly exhausting how much is in this one song.  By the end, he’s repeating “you will never be born as a scorpion.”

“Palm Road” is a more straightforward and catchy song, although it’s certainly offbeat.  “What Did My Lover Say” opens with a cool guitar riff an counterpointed keyboards.  As with most of the songs on this record headphones or at least good stereo speakers really make a difference.  The rest of the album is hard to speak of in different terms because each song is unusual with angular guitars and interesting vocals.  The keyboards also provide unsettling atmospherics.   None of the songs are easy to sing along to, until one day the shifts in melody and phrasing sink in and it all sounds wonderful.

What I find notable about these songs is that they are all long (most are around 5 minutes) and they feel long–not in a dragging out way (although maybe “In the Direction of the Moon” drags) but in a–so much has been going on, this song must be really long kind of way.

Some other highlights include “Ghost Pressure” with its great keyboard riff (that feels not unlike The Cars).  Speaking of The Cars, the keyboards on “Oh You, Old Thing” have the great spacey Cars sound from the 80s.  “Pobody’s Nerfect” melds the catchiness that the guys are capable of with just the right mix of unexpectedness.  And the closing song “Cave-O-Sapien” seems to combine all of the best qualities of the above songs in to one–a great riff, catchy “oh oh ohs,” and bizarre lyrics, “I had a dream of a gorilla.”

This album is definitely not for everyone, but multiple listen reap big rewards.

[READ: July 8, 2012] Happy Birthday, Wanda June

I have been chugging along nicely through Kurt Vonnegut’s oeuvre.  My plan was to read all of his novels and then read his short stories.  And then maybe read his plays (I wasn’t sure about that last bit).  But as I mentioned yesterday, reading a simple play can be a delight (and can be a very quick read, too).

Vonnegut opens the book with a prologue about how and when he wrote the book.  It was originally a play called Penelope, and he thought it was terrible.  Fifteen years later he kept the basic idea and rewrote it as Happy Birthday, Wanda June.  And the idea is straight out of Homer.  In the Odyssey, Penelope is Ulysses’ long-suffering wife.  When Ulysses came home from his travels some twenty years later, he was feted as a hero and the world (well, his world) rejoiced (except for Penelope’s suitors, of course).

So in this play, Harold Ryan is a loud, manly hunter and soldier, ready and happy to kill anything in his way.  He has been on an expedition for eight years–his plane went down and he  is presumed dead–even Mutual of Omaha thinks so.  His wife, Penelope Ryan believes him to be dead and has been entertaining two suitors–Dr Norbert Woodly, a pacifistic doctor and Herb Shuttle, a vacuum cleaner salesman.  The only person who doesn’t presume him dead is their son Paul Ryan, who bristles not only at the thought of his father being dead, but even more so at these wimpy suitors.  Although Paul is too young to ever have rally known his father (he’s 12), he keeps hopes alive that his father will return one day.

What I like about the play is that it maintains Vonnegut’s voice right from the start.  It opens with a speech from Penelope:

My name is Penelope Ryan.  This is a simple-minded play about men who enjoy killing–and those who don’t. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The Believer June 2005 Music Issue CD (2005).

The second annual Believer CD ups the ante from the first by featuring all previously unreleased songs. And, just to put more of a twist on things, the artists were asked to do covers of songs that they have been listening to lately. There was only one song that I knew the original of (The Constantines’ track), so I can’t say a thing about how well the covers were covered.

This becomes something of a fun rarities mix CD. As with the previous one, there’s not a huge amount of diversity in the musicians, but given the target audience of The Believer, it all seems to make sense.

We get The Decemberists (actually Colin Meloy solo) covering Joanna Newsom (who I don’t know but whose song I liked quite a bit). The most interesting track to me was by a band called CocoRosie who I’m totally unfamiliar with. The song is recorded as if it they were using a 19th century recording machine. It sounds so far away and yet it feels modern at the same time. I have no idea what they normally sound like, but I’m certainly intrigued.

There’s a few parings that are practically predestined: The Mountain Goats cover The Silver Jews, The Shins cover The Postal Service and Devandra Banhart covers Antony & the Johnsons. There’s also a track from Wolf Parade, a band I have recently gotten into. Only two bands perform and are covered on the disc: Ida and The Constantines.

It’s an interesting assortment of songs. As with any cover, it’s hard to know if you would like the original artist or if you just enjoy the new artist’s’ interpretation. But a song like “Surprise, AZ” by Richard Buckner is so well written that I don’t think it matters what Cynthia G. Mason’s cover sounds like (which is quite good).

The disc is largely folky/alt-rock, but once again, it’s a good distillation of the genre, and a very enjoyable collection.  The track listing is available here.

[READ: December 10, 2009] “Kawabata”

This story had the (in my estimation) fascinating attribute of reading as if it were written a long time ago. The writing was very formal. It also centered around a man and a woman who meet at a bed and breakfast and do little more than walk around town. Since no real clues as to the time it is set are ever given, I could imagine them dressed in nearly turn of the (20th) century garb.

A few things do dispel this fantasy: the use of the word “tits” for one, and the fact that no married woman would have been seen out with a widower while her husband was away. But despite that, I enjoyed the formality of the story. (more…)

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benedictSOUNDTRACK: WOLF PARADE-At Mount Zoomer (2008).

zoomerThis album made many best of lists of 2008.  It is considered a side project of both Spencer Krug (of Sunset Rubdown) and Dan Boeckner (of Handsome Furs).  I’d not heard of either band, but I was very intrigued by this disc and I’m so glad I got it.

Every track has something outstanding about it, be it a cool guitar break (“Soldier’s Grin”)  or a cool keyboard break (“Language City”–which builds to a rollicking climax).  While “Bang Your Drum” has multiple parts, each one weird and wonderful.

“California Dreamer” has  wonderfully sinister soundtrack, with a great rocking chorus. And it’s followed by a surprisingly upbeat “The Grey Estates” (keyboard pop at its best).

The albums ends with the epic “Kissing the Beehive”: a ten minute track with several parts to it.  The first seven minutes just fly by, and then the song breaks down into a quieter feel.

It seems rare that an album comes out of nowhere to me (even if the album didn’t come out of nowhere for people who loved their first release (which I also have not heard) or the two main songwriter’s OTHER projects, but I’m very glad I found this one.  Its frenetic pacing and overall quality made it one of my favorite releases of 2008.

[READ: March 9, 2009] The Mysterious Benedict Society

While you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, you can certainly check it out because of it. I saw this book on our shelves and brought it home calling it The Decemberists’ book.  It was only later on that I realized that the cover (and interior) art is by Carson Ellis, who is, indeed, the primary artist for the Decemberists.

The second selling point was the blurb on the back cover: “Are You a Gifted Child Looking for Special Opportunities?”  How can you not say, “Why, yes, I think I am.” This blurb appears in the book in a newspaper and is the catalyst for the young children (orphans and runaways mostly) who will show up for the challenging test that comprises the beginning of the book. (more…)

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