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Archive for the ‘Nazis’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DESTROYER-Live at Massey Hall (July 10, 2014).

Destroyer is Daniel Behar (who is also part of New Pornographers and other bands).  Usually, Behar is surrounded by a lot of other people when he plays.  His music tends toward the symphonic.

But for this show (his first time at Massey Hall), it is just him with his acoustic guitar.

In the introduction he says that he gave up playing the guitar a long time ago, but he couldn’t just do a set with him signing a capella so….  He observes that he’s been playing with an 8 piece band–they solo forever and I’m barely singing anymore.  So this is quite something.

He seriously downplays the show saying he doesn’t even really like “guy with guitar” music, he’s more into Sinatra or the Stones.  “This is an anti-advertisement for the show I’m about to play.”

He plays songs from throughout his catalog.

“Foam Hands” is not that different, although I do prefer the recorded version.  In this version, though, I like the way he plays the end chords loudly and dramatically and the way the song abruptly.

“Chinatown” is a much bigger song on record with backing vocals and a rather cheesy sax throughout.  So I like this version better.

He introduces “Streets on Fire” this way: “Here’s a song I wrote 20 years ago.  Showing off because lots of you couldn’t write songs twenty years ago because you didn’t know how to say anything.  Couldn’t play guitar.  Didn’t know the chords didn’t know words.  Pathetic.

The song is from his debut when it was just him and a guitar.  This version sounds 100 times better.

“European Oils”  I love this song from Rubies and I especially love the orchestration of it.  So while I enjoy this stripped down version I’ll take the record.

The original of “Your Blood” is a romping fun song (also from Rubies).  This is slowed down but still nice.  And of course I enjoy that my daughter is mentioned; “Tabitha takes another step.”

“Savage Night at the Opera” has a great bass sound in the original, although this stripped down is very nice.

“Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Sea of Tears)” is a quiet song (the original has drums and piano but’s not that different from what’s here).  It’s quite pretty as is the whole set.  A real treat for fans of Destroyer.

[READ: May 3, 2018] “The Boarder”

This story was translated from the Yiddish by the author.  Singer died in 1991, so I’m not sure if this is a recently found story or an old one that has just been published..

This is a simple story about a pious man and a non-believer.

Reb Berish is the pious man.  He eats only twice a day; he prays for many hours a day.  He had recently retired from his business in fabric remains and had little to do.  Over the last forty years, his wife had died, his son had died and his daughter had married a gentile in California.

He didn’t want to live alone so he took in a border, Morris Melnik. Melnik paid $15 a month, but that wasn’t the point.  Berish was taking pity on the man who had literally nothing left in his life–no family, no job, no God.  Melnik was a heretic; a nonbeliever.

He mocked Berish for praying “to the God who made Hitler and gave him the strength to kill six million Jews.  Or perhaps to the God who created Stalin and let him liquidate another ten million victims.”

It sounds like the premise for a sitcom, but this story does not do that. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STEVEN PAGE-Heal Thyself Pt. 1 : Instinct (2016).

This is Steven Page’s second solo album since leaving Barenaked Ladies.  This one features his voice sounding utterly fantastic amid a large variety of styles of music.

“There’s a Melody” opens with a tiny harmonium sound.  It’s a one minute song that has this fascinating lyric:

There’s a melody somewhere inside of me,
I can hear it but can’t get it out of me,
In my head it soaring but when it comes out it is all the same note

Ironically it is sung to a terrific melody and it will be revisited later in the Reprise which builds and builds with full orchestra.

On Page’s previous album he played around with dance sounds and that continues on this record with “The Work at Hand.”  It opens with crazy electronic noises and then shifts to a soaring dance number.   The chorus sounds a bit like Pet Shop Boys (although not in the vocals).

“Here’s What It Takes” is a fast shuffle with prominent trumpets in the melody.  It’s catchy and was the first single.  But I’m more focused on the lyrics again.  For such a peppy song the lyrics are really dark:

An 8-ball of coke / You’re angry and broke / My Mother misspoke / by telling me the truth
Here’s what it takes to believe  / Drink down the Drano ’til the demons all leave
The fridge door was open again / There’s leftover blame / You’re eating your shame / and choking on the truth

What was funny was that I heard this couplet first and thought it was an amusing song before digging deeper:

What we once kept hidden from our parents / Now we keep it hidden from our kids

That’s a great line and it’s even darker with the above verses.

“I Can See My House From Here”  is a funny/dark song about Jesus, or at least a self-identified messiah.

Jesus came to me last night
To tell me everything will be alright
He said, “Thank you for rolling the stone,
but you’re gonna have to go it alone”

Hey, have you heard the Good News?
We’re gonna make you King of the Jew

But it’s also chock full of nods to the Beatles.  Both in the backing vocals (the Hallelujah and Hare Krishna below) but also in unexpected ways

[Hallelujah] Mother Mary
[Heal Thyself] You had me
[Hare Krishna] And no religion
[Hope that helps] So Let It Be

As he sings this section, it plays with the melody of “My Sweet Lord”

And if you can’t then you know it’s a lie
Goodbye my Lord, goodbye my Lord

and he even sings the next line “I really want to…” as if it were part of “My Sweet Lord” before jumping back to the melody of the song.

It end with the guitar melody of The Beatles’ “The Two of Us” and him singing “we’re on our way home.”

The best song around is “Manchild” which features Page’s soaring vocals and terrific self-deprecating lyrics that morph over the song

Darling, you’re talking to a man now / You’re talking to a man, now, child /
Speak slowly, speak slowly
Darling, you’re talking to a manchild / You’re talking to a manchild now /
Speak slowly, speak slowly

But the album is not all big powerful songs, “If That’s Your Way” (“If that’s your way of saying you’re sorry – I don’t mind”) and “Hole In the Moonlight” are both ballads with piano and strings.

“Mama” is a kind of almost reggae romp with some excellent snark in the lyrics.  And “Surprise Surprise” was the lead single and does a great job rhyming

I was feeling shamed / you were feeling stupid
because I knew what was wrong with me / long before you did

“Linda Ronstadt In the 70s” has a harpsichord and a chamber pop feel with an emphasis on pop.  I had no idea of the origin of the song.  It was apparently written because Colin Meloy requested people write songs about Linda Ronstadt.  You can see the original acoustic version here.

“No Song Left to Save Me” ends the disc with the unmistakable bass line of “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” but the song quickly changes tempo and direction with swinging horns and big old catchy Steven Page chorus.

This is an excellent, fun disc and really shows the range that Page is willing to experiment with.  I wish Barenaked Ladies would take more chances like this, too.  But I am especially excited to see Page next month with the Art of Time Ensemble.

[READ: March 25, 2016] “My Holocaust Memoir”

You don’t expect something funny to have a title like this.  Of course once you see that the first line is “Dear Ms Winfrey,” you can expect to not take this seriously,

Greenman begins his letter to Ms Winfrey by saying how much he admires the show, although he doesn’t watch every day).  He says he was watching “Best Life Week ” (is that really the name of segment?) in which guests discussed the challenges they’ve overcome.  He says that he has had some challenges–which he is currently putting into book form.  And he would like her to take a look at them.

It begins: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE KLEZMER CONSERVATORY BAND-Oy Chanukah! (1987).

For the first day of Hanukkah, it’s time for a Chanukah album.

This is a collection of traditional Chanukah songs interspersed with brief stories and a history of the holiday.

It works as a musical collection, although the dialogue does obviously stop the flow every couple of minutes.

Klezmer music is fun (provided you like the clarinet), but it really can’t be dissociated from the stories behind it.

The first narrator talks about the Maccabees and the Festival of Lights.  There’s the tales of Judith and Hannah and memories of klezmorim coming to the shtetl.  There’s even a recipe for latkes and the story of the dreydl.

Some of the songs have words (sung in Yiddish) but just as many are instrumentalist.  The majority of the songs are traditional, of course, but my favorite is “Klezzified,” which is written by one of the band.

This disc is a good introduction to Chanukah music.

[READ: December 12, 2017] “Souterrain”

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

This story was really powerful and it revealed all of the details and connections in a slow and excruciating way–once you realized what was happening.

There are several characters in the story which takes place primarily in France.   (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: September 13, 2017] Believe Me

When I saw that Eddie Izzard had a book out I was pretty interested to read it.  I have loved his stand-up since 1997 or 1998 and I was lucky enough to see him on his Circle Tour (on the date they recorded it!).  I have been keeping up with his career and trying to see him in whatever he does (although I like my comedy more than drama and he has certainly made the shift towards drama in recent years).

I thought an autobiography or memoir by him would be pretty interesting (even if he claims to be boring).  But when I saw that he read the audiobook, I knew I had to give it a listen (even if it was 12 discs)!

Amusingly, there was a long delay at the library.  The lady at the counter (who is not the librarian–we librarians know the difference) said if I knew his voice, I could just read the book to myself in his voice.  It was an amusing thought, and I possibly could do that, ….yes, but Eddie’s voice is just so fantastic that it never would have worked properly.  Plus, he throws in easily an extra hours worth of footnotes and rambles that aren’t in the print book!  That’s right, an extra hour’s worth of nonsense if you do the audio.   True you don;t get to see the pictures, but it’s a fair trade-off.

Well the book finally came in and I had plenty of driving time to make short work of this 12 hours behemoth.  And I laughed and laughed.  And cried and cried.

Because while Eddie Izzard is an action transvestite (transgender, now) and one of the best stand-ups around, he is also an extremely warm and thoughtful person. He worked very hard to become the success he is.  And he has used his fame to do some absolutely wonderful things for humanity–including raising millions of dollars.  Not bad for an atheist who is sometimes in girl mode and sometimes in boy mode. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALDOUS HARDING-Tiny Desk Concert #640 (July 28, 2017).

Aldous Harding is a singer from New Zealand.  Her second album, Party, is full of deeply personal songs with memorable melodies and spare instrumentation.  Aldous Harding’s musical partner for the Tiny Desk is Jared Samuel Elioseff .

I was mesmerized by her performance right from the start.  Her voice is deep and sultry like Nico’s, and I imagined that she was French the way she enunciated.  There’s something about her face–she seems to be filled with what…? disdain? emotion?  as she sings these song.  She grits her teeth, protrudes her lower jaw, makes fascinating expressions all to convey her meanings.

The first song she performs,”Imagining My Man,” is about what she calls the “tender and frightening thoughts that come with being in love,” and what you witness while watching her are often painful, pensive expressions that are as important to the song as the notes being played.

I really like this song a lot–the simple melody, the fascinating delivery and the wonderful touch of a strange little zip sound after each singing of “all my life….”  The way she sings “if you get down” introduces yet another strange expression and an even stranger vocal delivery.  It all borders on comical, but she is not funny she is baring emotion.

In introducing “Blend” she gives Jared the guitar and says “I’m really sorry for what you’re about to see me do, but it’s all for the good of the song.”  And I genuinely can’t tell what she’s talking about.  She doesn’t do anything expect change the drum sound on the keyboard.  This song is whispered and the guitar plays gentle picked notes.

For the final song, “Horizon,” she takes away the guitar, stands up and says “thanks for watching” with a smile.  She stands singing the final song which I think is my favorite.  The expressions she uses as she delivers the first few lines is really intense–almost like a verbal threat:

I broke my neck dancing to the edge of the world, babe
my mouth is wet, don’t you forget it, don’t you lose me

The fact that she stands straight, dressed all in white–unmoving except for some hand gestures–just adds to the subtle intensity of her performance.

[READ: August 1, 2017] “Eric Duncan”

Philip Roth retired from writing in 2012, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t get more new material from him (although this isn’t exactly new, since it is from 2008).  This excerpt comes from remarks he gave at his 75th birthday celebration and will be collected in a forthcoming volume.

This is his recollection of the first things he ever wrote on his mothers Underwood typewriter.  In 1943, Philip’s mother was teaching him to type–white keys with black letters and number which “constituted all the apparatus necessary to write in English.”

He says that as soon as he mastered touch typing, he wrote his first title: “Storm Off Hatteras.”  But he says that instead of writing his own name, he wrote by Eric Duncan: “There’s little that can bestow more confidence and lend more authority than a name with two hard c’s in it.” (more…)

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thrilignSOUNDTRACK: ADIA VICTORIA-Tiny Desk Concert #545(June 30, 2016).

adiaAdia Victoria has a rough, raw voice that goes well with her simple, exposed guitar sound.  The blurb says her music “carries the singular perspective of a Southern black woman with a Seventh Day Adventist upbringing, who never felt like she’d fit in.”

She sings three song, mostly in a great, raspy voice.  For “Stuck in the South” she actually seems to be gritting her teeth as she sings: “I don’t know nothing ’bout Southern belles / but I can tell you something ’bout Southern hell.”  When the first verse ends, and her band kicks in, it adds such interesting textures.  a distorted bass and a lead guitar playing quietly distorted sounds.  This song is really captivating.

“And Then You Die” with its swirling sounds and keyboards has a very distinctly Nick Cave feel–gothic in the Southern sense of the word.  Indeed, the first verse is spoken in a delivery that would make Nick proud. This is no to say she cribbed from Cave but it would work very well as a companion song  I really like the way it builds, but the ending is so abrupt–I could have used some more verses.

After the second song the band heads away and Bob says “They’re all leaving you.”  She looks at them and growls, “Get off the stage!” to much laughter.

She sings the final song “Heathen” with just her on acoustic guitar.  It is a simple two chord song.  It’s less interesting than the others, but again, it’s the lyrics that stand out: “I guess that makes me a heathen, something lower than dirt / I hear them calling me heathen, ooh like they think it hurts.”

I’m curious to hear just what Adia would do with these songs when she’s not in this Tiny format.  I imagine she can be really powerful.

[READ: November 23, 2016] McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales

For some reason or another I have put off reading this McSweeney’s volume for many years.  This is technically McSweeney’s #10, although it was also released in this printing from a  major publisher. Sadly for me, my McSweeney’s subscription had expired sometime around here so I’ve never actually seen the “official” Volume 10 which I understand has the exact same content but a slightly different cover.

One of the reasons I’ve put off reading this was the small print and pulpy paper–I don’t like pulpy paper.  And it was pretty long, too.

But I think the big reason is that I don’t really like genre fiction.  But I think that’s the point of this issue.  To give people who read non-genre fiction some exposure to genre stuff.

Interestingly I think I’ve learned that I do enjoy some genre fiction after all.  And yet, a lot of the stories here really weren’t very genre-y.  Or very thrilling.  They seemed to have trappings of genre ideas–mystery, horror–but all the while remaining internal stories rather than action-packed.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy anything here. I enjoyed a bunch of the stories quite a bit, especially if I didn’t think of them as genre stories.  Although there were a couple of less than exiting stories here, too. (more…)

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resist3SOUNDTRACK: CHARLIE SIEM-Tiny Desk Concert #134 (June 15, 2011).

siemWhen he was 3 years old, Charlie Siem heard violinist Yehudi Menuhin play Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. That was all it took to inspire him to pursue the violin. Siem studied at Eton and the Royal College of Music, and now he plays one of Menuhin’s old violins—a stunning 1735 Guarneri del Gesu.  Upon describing this centuries old instrument he says “it helps me a lot when I’m doing my… little thing.”  He is also greatly amused when NPR’s Stephen Thompson asks if he can borrow it.

Siem recently discovered that he’s related to the 19th-century Norwegian violin virtuoso and composer Ole Bull. So he started off his Tiny Desk show with Bull’s bucolic Cantabile.  His introduction is great.  He says that Bull was a precursor to Paganini, who emigrated to the States and set up a colony on Pennsylvania.  He calls him a “really crazy guy.”  It’s a beautiful piece with occasional really high notes.  This violin seems to have an unreal sound to it, bringing it what sounds like harmonic notes or something.

Paganini’s Introduction and Variations on Paisiello’s “Nel Cor Piu”  (an aria from a now-forgotten Paisiello opera), contains a grab bag full of violin special effects.  This is just incredible.  His fingers move faster than can be believed.  There are trills all up and down the neck, there’s pizzicato plucking with his left hand (how?).  In a section of “harmonics” he even whistles the final note.  It’s amazing to watch.

Leopold Godowsky: Alt Wien (“Old Vienna”) (arr. Heifetz)  This is a lovely piece with lots of high keening notes in an arrangement by the incomparable Jascha Heifetz.

It’s amazing that Siem can be so good and yet somehow I’d never heard of him.  His kind of virtuosity is amazing.  And, as it turns out he’s a total hunk with a deep resonating actor’s voice as the pages of Italian Men’s Vogue magazine.  He’s also the 2011 spokesman for Dunhill, the men’s fashion house.  The write up says that for his Tiny Desk Concert appearance, you could say Siem dressed “casual, but with an understated elegance,” right down to his left-hand pinky, with its pink-painted fingernail.

I definitely need to hear more from him.

[READ: December 8, 2015] Victory

This final book in the trilogy sees the culmination of French Resistance against the Nazis.

We learn in the introduction that it has been four years since the occupation began and although victory seems within sight, things have been getting worse.  There’s hardly any food or resources and the Nazis are growing even more angry and vicious.  On June 6, 1944 the Allies landed in Normandy.  But they had a lot of fighting to do before they could liberate Vichy.

As this book opens we see Paul called into the prison because of his drawings.  He looks older now (a great detail on the drawing) and he finds it much easier to lie to the guards.  After an interrogation, Lucie’s father–the policeman we saw in the previous book who seemed to turn a blind eye to Paul’s activity–accuses him of sneaking around to see Lucie.  Paul catches on quickly that the man is helping him and when they are free together, Paul learns that there are people on his side who he never suspected. (more…)

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