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Archive for the ‘Neurotics’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TIM DARCY-Tiny Desk Concert #619 (May 15, 2017).

I really like Darcy’s band Ought, but I don’t really like this solo concert.  In Ought, I find his voice contrasts nicely with the punky music (and his arch delivery of the kind-of-spoken-words if entertaining to me).  But here he’s singing some pretty straightforward songs and I find his affected delivery to be kind of annoying.  The blurb name checks Roy Orbison and I’ve never liked Orbison’s voice either.  So I guess that makes sense

Darcy plays four songs–he’s on guitar for three of them.

“Still Waking Up” is first. He says that “Joan Pt. 1, 2” is more of a rocker on the record but he’s taking it down–wonder if I’d like it more as a rocker?  Musically I like the way it switches gears for Part 2 and I like his voice a lot more for this second part.  “Sledgehammer And The Rose” is a new one.  I like the slinky guitar lines at the end of each verse. For the final song, “What’d You Release?” Toronto songwriter Charlotte Cornfield plays piano (with no guitar).  His voice is a bit deeper on this one and it works pretty well with the slowness of the piano.

But I gather I’d prefer him with his band.

[READ: March 22 2017] “Herman Melville, Volume 1”

The previous Lodato story that I read concerned a young meth addict.  This one concerns a twenty year old homeless girl.

She remains unnamed throughout the story and we learn snippets of her past.  Her father apparently committed suicide recently and she has nobody else.  Her only thought about him is that she hopes someone is watering the grapefruit tree in his backyard.

She had been experimenting with running away–she gathered a lot of her stuff and some money and would head to the Greyhound station.  She would hang out there for a while and then ultimately go home. Then one day Evan was there.  He smiled at her and commented on her skateboard and banjo.  She began to cry and he held her and they have been togetehr for the past seven months.  He has even proposed to her (although nether one has mentioned in since, so who knows if it meant anything).

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SAMPHA-Tiny Desk Concert #605 (March 21, 2017).

The name Sampha sounded sorta familiar.  I see that he is a producer to the stars (Kayne, Drake).  He’s also a musician in his own right.  The blurb says “Sampha’s music is more feel everything than feel good, which is why his fans hold him so close to their hearts.”

Sampha plays three songs:

The vulnerability on his debut, Process, isn’t hard to dissect, but can be downright agonizing to digest; his immediate family has been riddled with disease and ailments, with both his parents succumbing to cancer. Process finds Sampha interpreting this complicated emotional prism — and confronting his own mortality through it.

Sampha stopped by the NPR offices to perform 3 tracks from Process. The result is a Tiny Desk Concert as intimate as it gets (and that’s saying something). It’s just him, a piano and these heart-wrenching songs that we reckon double as coping mechanisms.

“Plastic 100°C” is played on the keyboard with all kinds of trippy sounds introducing the main song.  I like the main riff, which is full of interesting minor key notes.  I’m not really sold on his voice though, which is kind of nebulous here.  I’m not sure what his recording sounds like, but the starkness of this song makes me surprised that it is popular.  It’s quite long as well–almost 7 minutes.

The final two songs are on piano

“(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” is an ode to the piano and his reflecting on how important his mother was in his life.  “Blood On Me” is an intense song with some intense singing.  Neither one strikes me as being particularly poppy or marketable, but he clearly has found his audience.

[READ: January 20, 2017] “Quarantine”

The story was so interesting, both in content and pacing.  I really enjoyed it a lot…until the end.

The story follows Bridget.  As it opens, we learn that she lived in Barcelona fora year.  She stayed with college friends, then she sublet from a guy named Marco.  She slept with Bernadette and her roommate Laurie–but not at the same time–although the thing with Laurie upset Bernadette happy.  Then she did something stupid in Marco’s apartment and got kicked out of there as well.  She moved to a cheap hotel until her co-worker Angela rescued her.

Angela was from Vancouver, “and some dewy freshness that Bridget associated with the West Coast seemed to cling to her always, even when she was sleep-deprived or drunk.”  Bridget is also from Canada. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SAN FERMIN-Tiny Desk Concert #315 (October 28, 2013).

When I first heard San Fermin I was immediately grabbed by the female lead voice (the song was “Sonsick”).  It was so powerful and gripping. I didn’t realize then that the female leads were the lead singers of Lucius (who I also didn’t know at the time).  San Fermin is the creation of Ellis Ludwig-Leone.

Since then I have enjoyed other songs by them as well, although I find that the songs sung by Allen Tate to be somewhat less exciting to me– I feel like his voice could one day hit me as amazing but it’s almost a little to understated for me.  And yet musically I love the orchestration and chamber poppiness.  As Bob writes:

San Fermin’s music bursts with ambition, talent and extreme joy. Its self-titled debut is charged with great storytelling and amazing vocals by both Allen Tate and Lucius singers Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe. Then there are the arrangements: little gems that turn these songs into cinematic vignettes using trumpet, sax, keyboard, violin, guitar and drums.

San Fermin is the musical vision of Ellis Ludwig-Leone, who wrote these songs with Tate’s dark, rich voice in mind. Here at the Tiny Desk, Rae Cassidy makes the album’s female vocal parts her own.

So it’s interesting that the songs were meant for Tate.  I want just some more oomph from him.  especially here in this set.  And that’s because Rae Cassidy absolutely rules this set.

“Oh Darling” begins with a gentle piano and Cassidy’s pretty, delicate voice.  After a verse from her, Tate’s voice comes in and it’s almost comically low and formal (and actually perhaps a bit too quiet).  But when they all come in and sing it is just beautiful–the women in particular.

For “Sonsick” Cassidy sings lead with just drums.  As the song builds there’s a great chorus where the backing vocals (including Tate) sing in falsetto.  This version is quite stripped down compared to the recorded version and it really allows Cassidy’s voice to shine.  When she hits those incredibly high notes with such power, it gives me chills.

In the final song, “Renaissance!” Tate sings lead over a slow piano and violin.  The women sing backing vocals.  I like the way that the song builds in intensity with more instruments, but his voice is a little too flat for me–although he does kick in extra at the end.

There’s a really stunning version of the first two songs with the band singing live in a street and cafe and France.

Incidentally, Cassidy has since left the band and gone solo, and I wish her much success.

[READ: December 28, 2016] Humans of New York Stories

Sarah got me this book for Christmas.  I knew of Humans of New York, of course, but I wasn’t a follower of it.  So while I knew of it I didn’t really know that much about it.

There’s a brief introduction to this book (which is his second HONY book) in which he explains that HONY grew from five years of experimenting.  It evolved from a photography blog to a storytelling blog.  His original inspiration was to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers.  But then he decided to start including quotes from some of them.

He started interviewing people and found their stories became the real heart of the blog.  Of course, he thanks the community of readers and participants, because without them, he has nothing.

The rest of the book–425 pages–collects the photos and the stories. (more…)

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may5SOUNDTRACK: THE FAMILY CREST-Tiny Desk Concert #379 (August 4, 2014).

familycerstI first heard The Family Crest on this Tiny Desk Concert back in 2014 and I immediately fell in love with them.  I received their album for Christmas, and it’s quite fantastic.

The band plays a wonderful mix of over the top chamber prog rock mixed with healthy doses of jazz.

There are seven people in the band, which is centered around guitarist and (amazing) vocalist Liam McCormick.  Their instruments include violin, cello, upright bass, flute, trombone, drums, and guitar but this band rocks hard (and McCormick can wail like the best of them).

The set begins with the jaw dropping “Beneath The Brine” which opens with a great cello riff and is quickly accompanied by violin and flute.  When the full band kicks in, grace notes are added to the riffs to really fill out he song (from the flute and the drums) and it builds until Liam starts singing.  His voice is powerful and strong with a great sense of melody.  The drums, by the way are playing wonderful jazzy patterns and accents.  But it’s around 2:30 that Liam shows just what he can do with his voice as he hits some amazingly powerful high notes.  As the song romps to an end, you can hear all of the instruments adding to the music before the final quite coda.  It’s fantastic.

“Howl” is inspired by jazz.  Liam was trained in opera (which explains a lot) and the band is full of classical fans, so he was excited to add Charlie the jazz drummer “hey man wanna listen to Miles David and drink whiskey?”  The song opens with a big trombone riff before settling into a snappy jazz song.  This song has a number of loud and quiet moments that work well together.  It’s even got a great “ba ba ba ba ba ba” section that is fun to sing along with.

 They ask “one more?”  And Bob says “or stay all day.”  So they play the final song, “Make Me a Boat.”  If you can forgive the little GoPro ad, it’s neat that this relatively unknown band has been embraced by the camera company.  “Make Me a Boat” doesn’t seem like the most obvious choice for a video since the beginning is kind of slow, bit the middle section is really pretty and has a great flowing feel that would work well with a video.  And in this live version Liam does some great improv singing of powerful high notes that really flesh out the melody which the rest of the is playing (no wonder he’s so sweaty by the end).

The album fleshes out the orchestral sense of the band with a 30 piece orchestra which makes these songs even more grand.  The Family Crest was a great find.

[READ: February 22, 2016] “Letting Go”

Sedaris is one of the funniest writers when the topic is smoking.  He is (or was, I suppose) and inveterate smoker.

And I love that he starts the essay with this paragraph:

When I was in fourth grade, my class took a field trip to the American Tobacco plant in nearby Durham, NC.  There we witnessed the making of cigarettes and were given free packs to take home to our parents. I tell people this and they ask me how old I am, thinking, I guess, that I went to the world’s first elementary school.

He starts this essay talking about how much he hated smoking when he was a kid.  His mother smoked all her life and he just hated it.  Not the smoke so much but the smell–he found it depressing “the scent of neglect.”

Of course then he started smoking himself.  He talks about trying to decide which brand to use–the brand you chose was a statement back then.  He chose Viceroy.  And he started smoking them when he was in Vancouver. (more…)

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2015-05SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-Ted’s Wrecking Yard Toronto, ON (May 30, 2001).

twyFor this final show with Don Kerr, the band played for what seems like ever.  Darrin says he edited out any quiet bits so the show could fit on two discs, which it does.  And even at that it’s still about 2 and a half hours long.

Only five songs are repeated from the previous night (and they are all from the new album, except “Stolen Car,” which Martin sings on this night) and “Take Me in Your Hand” which is pretty awesome.  There’s also no Kevin on this night, so the set is full of a few of the more rocking songs (as opposed to the Harmelodia stuff).

 After a rocking “Fat” they play two rarely played songs “Remain Calm” and “The Idiot.”  But the set list is just a perfect collection of the songs that I love most: “Aliens,” “King of the Past,” “Saskatchewan,” “California Dreamline,” “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson” and “Horses.”  Wow.

Some notes: “There’s an awkward introduction to “The Idiot” which they hadn’t played in a long time.  The “Aliens”/”King of the Past ” pair is great.  I also loved the way they run right into “Mumbletypeg” while Martin is still feed backing the previous song.  “Horses” has an angry chant from Dave (the “facts” chant) and you can really hear DB wailing on the acoustic guitar at the end of “Stolen Car.”

Don gives a nice thanks (he says he’s about to cry) and they open “Take Me in Your Hand” with a jaunty “Ob La Di” riff and lyrics about Don.

There’s a lot of banter, including an Ed the Sock joke (“Don Kerr fired by Ed the Sock.”)  It’s a wonderful ending to a wonderfully time with Don Kerr.  Incidentally, Ted’s closed in 2001 as well, and the band, who played many multinight sets there moved their Green Sprouts Week to The Horsehoe.

This is a great show, and the sound is outstanding.  And since Don is leaving to play with Ron Sexsmith, here’s a story by Jill Sexsmith (presumably unrelated).

[READ: April 25, 2015] “Airplanes Couldn’t Be Happier in Turbulence”

I enjoyed the way this story began with some very down to earth information and then ends in a preposterous and yet still strangely believable situation.  It’s about exasperation and the need to do something, anything, when everything feels out of control.

Madison (it’s hard to believe that there are grown women with that name) has wanted to scale the Empire State Building ever since she watched King Kong as a kid.  Her husband, Frank, is a grounded individual, an actuary who is full of facts and statistics.  When she says she want to go there, he says “There’s a 0.28 percent chance of getting pistol whipped” in New York City.  He also quips, I suppose you want a  pony, too.  She jokes that she does, although she is afraid of horses–especially ponies, the “kneecap biting form of the horse” (I can attest to this, having been bitten on the kneecap by my neighbors supposedly nice pony).

Madison has never taken a vacation from her job.  She is anxious at the thought of empty days in front of her.  Her boss and coworkers keep trying to get her to go.  This year for her birthday she and Frank are going to New York City.  Her boss throws a going away party even though two of the four days are on the weekend. (more…)

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922SOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-Tales from the Punchbowl (1995).

punchbowlTales from the Punchbowl is the final album to feature Tim Alexander on drums (until he came back a decade or so later).  It was never a favorite although it has some really good songs on it.  I feel like their songs were getting a bit too long and kind of dull at this point–all of the songs weren’t fun.

“Professor Nuttbutter’s House of Treats” the opening song, is over 7 minutes long.  It starts off with cheering and what I think of as circus music.  Then the bass comes rumbling in.  After about a minute the proper bass riff begins and the heavy heavy guitar crunching follows.  It’s a surprisingly heavy opening song.  By around 3 minutes, Ler plays a crazy solo and then the song slows down into a jam band sounding song–a bass solo and a normal guitar solo. Around 5 minutes the song turns into something else–a fast bass line with Ler’s repeated solo and Les (I guess) talking over something although it’s kind of inaudible.  It’s a weird way to start the album.  “Mrs Blaileen” is a quietly sung song with a groovy bass and drums.

The two biggest hits on the album were “Wynona’s Big Brown beaver” and “Southbound Pachyderm,.”  I forgot just what a great song “Wynona” is. Anytime Primus does a fun bouncy song you know it’s going to be good.  And between the bass and the guitar this song is just instantly catchy (but because MTV thought it was vulgar they only played it after midnight, so it never became quite the hit it could have).  “Southbound” is a slower song with a smooth bass punctuated by a dissonant riff that is strangely compelling.  At 6 minutes it an unexpected hit, but Primus has been doing the unexpected for ages now.

“Space Farm” is a 2 minute piece of weirdness with a South Park type bass riff and the sounds of, yes, farm animals in space.  I find that I can’t get into “Year of the Parrot” that much.  Not sure why.  I think I don’t like the songs that feature Les’s slow vocals and rhythms, I like the faster more upbeat tracks.  “Hellbound 17 1/2” is called a “theme” and it could feel like a theme song, although the South Park theme is better.

I don’t mention Tim’s drums enough in these songs, but they are great starting point to “Glass Sandwich” which follows up the opening cool drum sequence with a bowed bass.  It’s a little slow as well.  But a song like “Del Davis Tree Farm” brings the excitement back with the weird and unexpectedly poppy chorus.  The next song is “De Anza Jig.”  I love Primus’ goofy song like this one, big wet bass and Ler’s banjo tells a funny story in Les’s cartoon voice.  “On the Tweek Again” is a dark song with a big bass sound and Ler’s effects filled guitars.  The disc ends with “Over the Electric Grapevine” is a great 6 minute song (sometimes when they are long they are really good).  It opens with Les’ bass sounding middle eastern again. The solo in the middle is full of interesting noises (I’m not sure who is making what sound).

There are some great songs on this disc, but I find I don’t listen to it all the way through like I do with their earlier discs.

[READ: January 7, 2015] “Jack, July”

I have enjoyed most of the stories that I’ve read in my recent run through of New Yorker stories.  But I really did not like this one.  I’d say the first reason is because Jack is a meth head and I could not get sympathy for him, especially with the chaotic way the story opened.

I will say that there were a lot of funny moments, in which Jack, while coming down from the meth seems genuinely confused by what’s going on around him.  The crazy mistakes he makes are quite amusing, but considering the whole first part of the story was just Jack trying to get to a house presumably to score more meth was very disappointing.

So Jack walks through the baking Arizona sun.  First he arrives at his “girlfriend” Rhonda’s house.  She tells him he can’t be there [“Jack, who was clearly there, only smiled”].  He walks on to his mother’s house.  But there’ a woman living there (whom he calls Yoga Tights because that is what she is wearing).  She immediately gives him a hard time and calls the cops on him (could be because he climbed in through her window and his pants got caught and were pulled off as he climbed through).  So he runs off with some supplies from her house (“she liked all stores that ended with Mart”). (more…)

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freedomSOUNDTRACK: CRASH TEST DUMMIES-Jingle all the way… (2002).

ctdEven though the Crash Test Dummies are often seen as a joke band or a one hit wonder (which I guess they are), I’ve liked them for a while (their earlier stuff a lot more than their later stuff, admittedly).  But it seemed like they’d have a fun take on Christmas music.

And it starts out in a comical sort of way with Brad Robert’s deeper-than-ever voice reciting about his life in Los Angeles, where it is warm and sunny at Christmas time.  I like that he rhymes 24th with up north.  The spoken section is quite loud in the mix (it sounds like he is right in your ear).  Unfortunately, that is the case when he starts singing too–he is uncomfortably loud in the mix and it sounds like he is holding back because of it–he doesn’t sound great and his voice sounds more comical than interesting.  Which is a shame because the music (with cheesey keyboards) is great.

Roberts sings lead on about half of the songs.  Ellen Reid sings lead on the other half except for a couple where they split lead duties.

The rest of Robert’s songs include: “Jingle Bells” (which is certainly comical–it sounds like a chain gang song with the “Hey!s” sounding almost like a prison chant).  It’s weird and cool though (even if his voice is once again too loud in the mix).  “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” has his voice mixed much better–he seems to be really singing.  And this version–a loungey/jazzy rendition is much great fun.  “God King Wenceslas” sounds proper (with Reid’s close backing vocals).  It has a pretty penny whistle keeping the song going.

Ellen Reid has a great voice and I love hearing her sing.  But in the first two songs she sings lead on in this disc she sounds like she is singing too slowly.  “O Little Town of Bethlehem” especially sounds like the music is going to pass her up at any minute.  I also don’t like the country vibe of the song.  “In the Bleak Midwinter” is also (intentionally) slow, which I don’t like.  Perhaps I just don’t like this song (although I do think the melody is lovely).  “The Little Drummer Boy” is beautiful and Robert’s bass backing vocals are perfect.  “Silent Night” is done in a countryish style, but I like this version.  Although normally this song can make me cry, this version absolutely does not–too honky tonkish.

The final song, “The Huron Carol” is quite formal and proper–just Reid and a piano opening the song.  It sounds very holy, very pretty.  When Robert’s bass backing vocals come in, it adds more depth to the song.  And it’s a lovely way to end.

[READ: October 30, 2014] Freedom

I read this a couple months ago and then got so caught up in reading other things that I never got around to posting about it.  And that’s a bummer because I really liked the book a lot and I fear that I won’t remember everything I wanted to say about it.

I had read a couple of excerpts from the book in the New Yorker (quite some time ago).  They were helpful in grounding the story for me, but they didn’t prepare me for the breadth of the story.  It follows one family, the Berglunds, through several decades, focusing on each of them in great detail as they navigate through the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and a smidge of the Obama years.

The Berglunds are a liberal family.  They were among the first white families to move onto their urban street in St. Paul, Minnesota (after white flight to the burbs).  Patty is a charming (some say smug) homemaker and Walter is a lawyer (public defendant, naturally).  They have two kids, Jessica and Joey.  Patty dotes on Joey to an embarrassing degree (Joey is embarrassed by it, Jessica is infuriated by it and even Patty is kind of embarrassed when she really thinks about it).  At the same time she is rather neglectful of Jessica.  Naturally, Jessica becomes quite the success (loves reading, committed to the environment), while Joey rebels and finds all kinds of ways to disappoint them and make money.  (This isn’t a bad thing, but the family has plenty of money and Joey doesn’t need to (especially not the way he goes about it).  Not to mention Walter and Patty are not into the money for money’s sake thing.

The book opens that there was some “news” about Walter. He and Patty had moved to Washington DC two years earlier.  He clearly did something bad (we won’t find out until much later).  But that serves as an introduction to the Berglunds.  And then we go back to see them, years earlier, settling into St Paul. (more…)

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