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   SOUNDTRACK: WAXAHATCHEE-Tiny Desk Concert #321 (November 23, 2013).

Waxahatchee is pretty much Katie Crutchfield.  The band recently played a show near me and I wondered if it was a band or just her.

This might be as intimate as hearing Katie Crutchfield sing in her basement. That’s where she and her sister would play guitar, write and sing songs 10 years ago, when she was 14. Katie and Allison Crutchfield had a band back in Birmingham together, The Ackleys; these days, Katie performs as Waxahatchee, while Allison’s band is called Swearin’.

The songs Waxahatchee brought to the NPR Music offices aren’t just stripped down for this Tiny Desk Concert, this is Katie Crutchfield as Waxahatchee, spare and exposed; this is what she does. Sometimes there’s a drummer (her sister’s boyfriend Kyle Gilbride) and at other times another guitarist, her boyfriend Keith Spencer (both play in Swearin’), but even on Waxahatchee’s second album, Cerulean Salt, there are plenty of bare-boned songs. This is intimate music for an intimate setting, as we got to stand in careful silence, listening intently and capturing this frail and powerful performance.

And all of that is true.   These are pretty, quiet folk songs.  They are so quiet it almost seems like she doesn’t have her amp on—you can hear her pick striking against the strings.

To me the power of these songs is in the lyrics, and yet the music isn’t boring or simple either.  Her chords are always, if not interesting, then certainly spot on.  But I keep coming back to the lyrics.  Like the end of “I Think I Love You”

I want you so bad it’s devouring me / and I think I love you but you’ll never find out.

Her speaking voice is quiet too, and after the first song she admits, “This is one of the coolest things I have ever gotten to do.”

“Bathtub” has this wonderfully intense line:

And I tell you not to love me
But I still kiss you when I want to
And I lament, you’re innocent
But somehow the object of my discontent
And it’s fucked up, I let you in
Even though I’ve seen what can happen

The entire Tiny Desk Concert is only 9 minutes–which is simply too short.  I know that the Tiny Desk Concerts usually have bands play 3 songs, but when they are mostly short ones like “Tangled Envisioning” (not even 3 minutes), they could tack on an extra one or two.

[READ: August 30, 2016] Science: Ruining Everything Since 1543

Zach Weinersmith writes the daily webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.  I supported the Kickstarter project for this book because it looked frankly hilarious.  The one thing I have to say off the bat is that I don’t love his drawing style.  There’s something about it that I simply can’t get into.  Even after two full books of these drawings, it just never gels for me.  But that’s fine. because I’m here for the jokes.  And they are awesome.

The book is comprised of the best religion-themes comic from the 13 years that SMBC has been around.  There’s also a whole slew of comics that are exclusive to this book.

We are greeted with this: “For these drawings, the part of God is played by a giant yellow disc.” (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: DAUGHTER-Tiny Desk Concert #313 (October 21, 2013).

Daughter is a quiet folk band (at least in this Tiny Desk Concert) in which two acoustic guitars (Elena Tonra and Igor Haefeli) and one drum (Remi Aguilella) play behind Tonra’s gorgeous, angsty vocals.

For all three of these songs, she sings delicate whispered vocals that are quite lovely, but also quite dark.

Like this line from “Youth” “Most of us are bitter over someone / setting fire to our insides for fun.”  I love the way Haefeli’s guitar harmonics sound like keyboards and how powerful the martial drumming sounds when it comes in.

“Landfill” opens with thudding drums (Mallets instead of sticks) which are louder and bigger and yet still feel gentle.  And yet, as the blurb says: The song is “achingly pretty and melancholy, the track builds to an absolute gut-punch of a line — “I want you so much, but I hate your guts” — that conjures a pitch-perfect mix of gloom, desire and hostility.”

They put out an EP and in 2013 released an album:

the lovely If You Leave, but Daughter was kind enough to resuscitate “Landfill” for this stripped-down performance at the Tiny Desk. As you’ll see and hear, that aforementioned gut-punch is a recurring specialty for the band: In all three of these sad, searing songs, singer Elena Tonra showcases a remarkable gift for coolly but approachably dishing out weary words that resonate and devastate.

Between these two songs, Bob asks if this is an awkward place to play, and she responds, “No, we’re just awkward people.”

For “Tomorrow” there is a beautiful ascending guitar melody and loud drums.  I really like the way the guitars play off of each other–even though they are both acoustic, they sound very different and complement each other nicely.  Like in the wonderful melody at the end.  Despite how pretty the song was, apparently she was unhappy with it saying “a bit ropey, that one.”  I hadn’t heard that before, but evidently it means “unwell…usually alcohol related” so that’s pretty funny.

[READ: August 30, 2016] Science: Ruining Everything Since 1543

Zach Weinersmith writes the daily webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.  I supported the Kickstarter project for his book Religion: Ruining Everything Since 4004 BC and this book was part of my funding level.

I was more interested in the religious comics, but I am tickled by how funny the Science comics are.  Weinersmith knows a lot of science (or at least scientists) and make some really funny jokes about the subject.

The one thing I have to say off the bat is that I don’t love his drawing style.  There’s something about it that I simply can’t get into.  Even after two full books of these drawings, it just never gels for me.  But that’s fine. because I’m here for the jokes.  And they are awesome. (more…)

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feschukSOUNDTRACK: THE ART OF TIME ENSEMBLE with MARTIN TIELLI–Korngold: Source & Inspiration (Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, ON, January 30, 2009).

aotimeAfter seeing The Art of Time Ensemble yesterday, it was quite serendipitous that I would have a show from them (featuring Martin Tielli) to post about on the following day.

This concert is the third in the Art of Time’s “Source & Inspiration” series. Two years earlier the first concert focused on composer Franz Schubert.  The previous year’s concert focused on Robert Schumann. This time the spotlight was on the 20th century Jewish composer Erich Korngold–a composer of European pedigree who became well known for his wonderful Hollywood film scores.

This concert featured Korngold’s Suite for Two Violins, Cello and Piano as the ‘source’ as well as new songs inspired by this work from Martin Tielli, Danny Michel and John Southworth.

This recording is only 8 minutes long because there’s only two Martin Tielli songs. “Lied Two” (the German word for song is lied (pronounced leed) so Martin called his “Lied Two.” And “Moglich” which translates into “possible.”  Both pieces are played with by the orchestra.  Martins sings.

The more dramatic of the two would be “Moglich” with his loud whispered “Relaxxxxx at the end.”  For more information about the show, you can click on this link.

Full Program & Repertoire:
Suite Op. 23 for 2 Violins, Cello and Piano Left-hand
Erich Korngold
i.Praeludium und Fuge
ii.Walzer
iii.Groteske
iv.Lied
v.Rondo-Finale

INTERMISSION
Athabasca
Adventures of Erich Korngold
—John Southworth
The Sailor Song
Island

—Danny Michel
Lied 2
Moglich
—Martin Tielli

Performers
Andrew Burashko, piano
Danny Michel, singer
Erika Raum, violin
Stephen Sitarski, violin
John Southworth, singer
Martin Tielli, singer
Winona Zelenka, cello

[READ: November 22, 2015] The Future and Why We Should Avoid It

The title of this book made me laugh so I set it aside to read it.  Little did I know that it would be so very funny that I put aside other things so I could finish it.

I hadn’t heard of Feschuk before.  He has written two previous books (How Not to Completely Suck as a New Parent sounds pretty good) and writes mostly for MacLean’s magazine.

As you might guess from the title, this book looks at the future, and Feschuk’s predictions are uncanny.  For instance, I brought the book home and decided to look at it in the bathroom.  And the introduction states quite clearly:

By now, life should be awesome and leisurely and you should be wearing a spacesuit and high-fiving your wisecracking robot sidekick.  Except instead your dishwasher is broken, your god-damn iTunes won’t sync up and right now you’re reading this book on a toilet in your bathroom instead of where you should be reading it–on a toilet in your hover car.

Too right, too right. (more…)

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june2014SOUNDTRACK: BATTLES-Glass Drop (2011).

220px-BattlesGlossDropI didn’t know anything about Battles before I heard the single, “Ice Cream.”  Battles are an experimental band comprised of the guitarist from Don Caballero (one of my favorite post-rock bands) and the drummer from Helmet.   And they write music that is very angular, with lots of stops and starts and direction changes.  There’s some story about their first album (which I have not heard) having a singer who left just before the recording of this album.  And the remaining trio’s solution was to have outside singers sing on certain songs.  And it all works very well.

The majority of the album is instrumental though.  And the songs feature a very distinctive sound that I feel is close to a steel drum, but which I know is actually a keyboard–but that echoing sound is so drumlike, that when the drummer’s pounding is added, the whole album feels like a percussive explosion.

“Africastle” opens the disc with ringing guitars and a melody that uses those steel drum sounds.  After about 2 minutes of slow intro, when the ferocious drums kick in, the song rockets to life in a frenzy of activity and counterpoints.  It’s really quite something.

“Ice Cream” is the song that introduced me to this album.  The guitars are modified to once again a steel drum sound, but the melody and rhythm are so fast staccato that it removes any sense of steel drum especially when the notes are clearly electronic. This song features vocals (no idea what they are saying) by Matias Aguayo.  They compliment the sound of the music.  Despite all the overlapping disparate elements the song winds up being strangely catchy. The way the chaos ends with a simple Dum duh duh dum dum… is very cool.

“Futura” continues in that staccato style but it features an aggressively catchy melody.  “Inchworm” has a fun almost reggae feel amid the staccato noises.  “Wall Street” brings the drums to the fore again as it propels the jumpy melody along.  “My Machines” has a guest vocal from Gary Numan. I have never liked Gary Numan (I need to never hear “Cars” again) but his voice (he actually sings…sort of) works well with this cacophony.

“Dominican Fade” adds some heavier bass and wild percussion notes to this 2 minute track. It even has hand claps and cowbells at the end.  “Sweetie and Shag,” has vocals from  Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino.  She adds a whole new element to the album with her high pitched yet breathy vocals.  A definite highlight.

“Toddler” is a 1 minute sng that feels like a transition into the manic and bouncy “Rolls Bayce” (which Dave Konopka describes as almost wholly an experiment).

“White Electric” start slow with some echoed notes. Then a martial beat keeps time as the notes seems to swirl around. The song builds and builds with more layers until it crashes apart at around 5 minutes.  At which point the song slowly rebuilds itself into a pretty coda.

The final song sounds like a reggae singer but it is actually Yamataka Eye from The Boredoms.  Konopka says that Eye sent vocals and told them to do whatever they wanted with the track.  The band thought “he was speaking Japanese, but he’s just making up his own stuff and he’s repeating stuff that he’s making up.”  The backing noises sound like a whale song.

Despite the weirdness of the album, there’s a lot of poppiness to it, and I think it is a great release.  It also is a great headphones release, if you like that sort of thing.  I need to check out their debut as well.

[READ: October 15, 2014] “Who Will Water the Wallflowers?”

I don’t quite know what to make of this story.  It seemed to me to be full of individual incidents that were all wiped away by the flood that is mentioned in the very first line.

I enjoyed the details of the story quite a lot.  In it, the girl (unnamed) looks after her neighbor’s cat Cha-Cha while Ms Feliz is away.  Cha-Cha is a a Turkish angora, a delicate breed.  And there is an interesting description of the cat after he has gotten wet in the rain.  Sometime the girl sleeps at Ms Feliz’ house (her mom doesn’t mind since they live across the street).

The girl finds sanctuary in Ms Feliz’s house.  Except for Mr Bradley.  Mr Bradley is an enigmatic neighbor–he seems to be home all the time, dressed in work clothes and slippers. It is clear that the girl is uncomfortable around him, but he seems to always be around.  He seems pleasant enough.  He sees her almost every day and always asks “learning something?” to which she doesn’t know what to say.  She tries to avoid him by looking for Cha-Cha, but he doesn’t leave (and Cha-Cha doesn’t show up).  She tells him that she watched a film about geysers .

He replies, “I know a joke about geysers….it probably wouldn’t be appropriate.” (more…)

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CV1_TNY_02_10_14Hanuka.inddSOUNDTRACK: AGES AND AGES-“Divisionary (Do the Right Thing)” (2014).

agesagesI’ve enjoyed this song in a couple of formats so far–studio version and Tiny Desk version.  Now here’s another one. Here’s how it was set up according to front man Tim Perry:

“We surrounded ourselves with friends, family (my mom is one of the violinists), and all of our favorite musicians from all of our favorite Portland bands,” says Perry. “We reached out to people who’d inspired us over the years: other artists, activists, organizers. We reached out to Northwest Children’s Choir. We reached out to PHAME, a choir of adults with disabilities. We reached out to a lot of other people we didn’t know but wish we did. It was all over and done in four short hours. And it was one of the best days of my life.”

If the song was inspirational before, it’s crazy emotion-inducing now.

[READ: June 10, 2014] “Moonlit Landscape with Bridge”

This title is surprisingly calm and pretty for what the story is really about.  The previous story of hers that I read was set in a kind of dystopian land.  And this one is set in an unnamed country after a life-altering storm.  Either she is writing a post apocalyptic type of novel, or she is exploring very dark themes indeed.

As this story opens we see the Minister of the Interior packing his things.  Slowly it is revealed that the country has been decimated.  He thinks to himself that he was prepared for crippling winds, but not for the water that came with the winds.  Consequently, most of the country is apparently underwater (the details of the storm and the details of the aftermath are incredibly vague).

There is no more Ministry, so his title is superfluous, but because of his title he is given an opportunity to flee the country in a government jet (all other airplanes have been grounded).  On his way to the airport, he sees people struggling, crying, looking for… anything.  They crowd his car and he longs to help them.  His driver, Ari, tells him to ignore them, there’s nothing that he can do for all of them.  But the Minister insists that they pull over so he can dole out the bottles of water he has in the trunk. (more…)

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feb2003SOUNDTRACK: LAURA GIBSON-Tiny Desk Concert #1 (April 22, 2008).

gibsonI have enjoyed many of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts over the years.  And while I was listening to an All Songs Considered show, it was mentioned that there have been over 200 shows (I believe it is now over 300).  And I realized that I had missed dozens of good ones.  So, being the kind of person I am, I decided to start watching/listening to them all.  I don’t typically watch most of them as they’re usually not very visually interesting–they’re fun to watch for a minute or so, but most of the artists are there to sing, not to do visual entertainment.  So usually I just listen while doing something else.

I toyed with the idea of writing about one a day until I was done.  But the logistics of that made my head hurt.  So instead, I will write about them all over the course of however long it takes.  (And since they don’t post one every day, I will catch up eventually).

Laura Gibson had the first ever Tiny Desk show, and there’s some notable things about the show itself.  First, look how empty Bob’s shelves are!   And the camera work is a little wonky, I think.  I also enjoy how they introduce this performance without a clue as to whether there would be more of them!

I had never heard of Laura Gibson before listening to this.  She plays simple but beautiful guitar (I enjoyed watching how confidently she played the chords and individual strings).  But the big selling point is her voice.  Her voice is very quiet (this was the impetus for the Tiny Desk concept–they saw her in a club and the crowd was too loud for them to enjoy her so they invited her up to their office).  But her voice is also slightly peculiar (in a very engaging way), which you can especially hear on “A Good Word, An Honest Man,” where she is practically a capella.

She sings four songs: “Hands in Pockets,” “A Good Word, An Honest Man,” “Come by Storm,” “Night Watch.”  The sing-along at the end of the last song is really pretty–shame the audience wasn’t mic’d.  All four songs are beautiful and slightly haunting–her delivery is so spare you kind of lean in to hear more.  She currently has three albums out, and I’d like to investigate her music further.

[READ: October 31, 2013] “A Comet’s Tale”

Despite the fact that this article talks about and more or less guarantees the end of the world by asteroid or comet it was incredibly enjoyable and staggeringly informative.

Bissell begins by talking about the Biblical Apocalypse and how in 1862 Premillennial Dispensationalism (premillennialism is the belief that Christ will return before setting up his millennial kingdom and dispensationalism divides up the Bible and human history into various eras or dispensations, based on how God deals with humanity) was smuggled into the Americas and it has never left.  Fully 59% of Americans now believe that Revelations will come to pass (although what that could possibly literally mean is another question).  [Incidentally the book is not called Revelations, it is Revelation or more specifically Revelation to John.  And all of that numerology (666) must mean something right?  Well, yes, it means that the Ancient world was obsessed with numerology. The bible makes great use of the trick of predicting the future by describing the past.

Bissell pulls back from the bible to look at planet Earth “the most ambitious mass murderer in the galaxy.”  He then lists all the atrocities that have happened from natural causes to all species in the history of the planet.  But even recent tragedies (which seem to only happen to people in far off countries says the westerner) are only by happenstance happening there.  Between overpopulation and global warming we are preparing for our own apocalypse.  Although we also mustn’t look too crazy like in The Late Great Planet Earth (which still sells around 10,00 copies a year).  In that book Hal Lindsey predicted the end of the world but also the rise of a single world religion, a Soviet Ethiopian invasion of Israel and the obliteration of Tokyo, London and New York.  But astonishingly, Lindsey also worked for the Reagan administration, much like Tim LeHaye (famed “author” of the Left Behind series) was co-chairman of Jack Kemp’s 1988 presidential campaign.  Apocalyptos have way too much power in this country.

But even if we weren’t preparing for our own doom, there would still be space items to do it for us. Like 1950DA an asteroid that has near-missed the earth fifteen times and may just not miss us in the future. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JACKYL-“The Lumberjack” (1992).

Does anyone remember this band?  Their gimmick was that the lead singer performed a chainsaw solo.  As I cut down trees that fell in my yard I kept thinking about this band, although I couldn’t remember any of their songs (which is just as well).  I had to Google this one.

It’s a stupid gimmick, but a hard one to forget.  My favorite coincidence to this song was when my friend Garry and I went to a party on a New Year’s Eve in like 1999 or so and the party house had a framed gold album of the debut album on the wall.  I never found out why.

Oh, and holy cow, they are STILL putting albums out!

Here’s the song in all of its nonsensicality:

Incidentally, if you don’t wear ear coverings when using a chainsaw, your ears will ring for about an hour after cutting down trees.

[EXPERIENCED: October 29, 2012] Hurricane Sandy

I considered live blogging the hurricane.  It would have gone like this:

October 29: 1-7PM: Wind picking up, not too much rain.

October 29: 8:15PM: Lights flickered and went out.

November 2: power restored.

November 5: Internet restored.

Gripping, eh? (more…)

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