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SOUNDTRACK: LA SANTA CECILIA-Tiny Desk Concert #327 (December 16, 2013).

santaAs this disastrous presidency continues to dismantle all the goodness in our country, and as the liar who current resides in the White House continues to claim that those who disagree with him are enemies of the people (I mean COME ON), I wanted to share magazine covers that show that a majority of people (both inside and outside of our country) think that Trump is the real enemy.

Originally I planned to just run these covers with no comment.  Then I heard this band La Santa Cecilia and decided that they needed to be put with these images.

La Santa Cecilia are from Los Angeles, California.  “Some of us were born here some of us were brought here and we have a passion for traditional Latin American music; but we also love to rock n roll.  We love blues and jazz.  And we love to celebrate that diversity.  And we love to celebrate where we come from and where we are.”

And unlike the hatred that we are inundated with: “La Santa Cecilia spreads joy every time its members plug in to do a show. They do it one dance step at a time, with cumbias, corridos, elegant mambos and plain old rock ‘n’ roll.”

La Santa Cecilia plays a traditional Latin American sounding music, although there is definitely a twist–lots of rock leanings.   “Falling” is sung in English and it is beautiful and heartfelt.  It’s also got a great guitar solo (and a cool little bass solo).

Introducing the next song, she says: “We’re proud to be from immigrant parents, to have been able to come to this country and to travel the world and share what this music is all about and that it is from the United States.  And we just need immigration reform so we can all be able to travel.  This is for all of the people who are out working in the kitchens in the beautiful strawberry fields.”

The song, “El Hielo (ICE)” is sung in Spanish.  But in the middle she recites a passage in English that has become more relevant now.  “Ice like snowmen in the wintertime; like ice cream under the summertime sun.  Happiness.  ICE: immigrations customs enforcement… and we never know when it will get… us.”

The final song returns to the joy.  “Monedita” is happy song.  “It’s Friday, lets dance.”  It’s got a wonderfully upbeat melody from the button accordion.

This push to ban immigrants is short-sighted and ignorant.  We are all from immigrants and immigrants have so much to offer.  Even if it is music and happiness.

So RESIST.

3068356-inline-i-1-nyt-one-side-effect-of-trump-seriously-great-cover-art

RESIST!

RESIST!

and more importantly

IMPEACH (and preferably IMPRISON) the racist hate mongerer.  #ITMFA

It is not normal for our country’s president to be so despised, especially by our allies.  It is not normal for our country to be humiliated by a man who spends more time on Twitter and then has the temerity to say ‘Nobody Knew Health Care Could Be So Complicated.’  Idiot.

So Democrats, Clinton earned 3 million more popular votes–do not cave to this White Power endorsing man who cares nothing for the citizens of this country.

And Republicans, stop putting your personal gains ahead of what is good and just.  Supporting neo-Nazis, bigots, polluters, dismantlers of the foundations of our country will certainly come back to bite you on the ass. (more…)

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manner SOUNDTRACK: BEN GIBBARD-Tiny Desk Concert #251 (November 19, 2012).

benBen Gibbard is the voice of Death Cab for Cutie.  His voice is instantly recognizable and his melodies are surprisingly catchy.

This Tiny Desk Concert (they say it’s number 250, but I count 251) is just him and his acoustic guitar.  I didn’t know he did solo work, but apparently he does (in addition to being in The Postal Service and All-Time Quarterback).

Gibbard just released a solo album, Former Lives, which he’s said is a repository for material that didn’t work as Death Cab for Cutie songs; from that record, only “Teardrop Windows” pops up in his Tiny Desk Concert. For the rest, he draws from Death Cab’s most recent album (“St. Peter’s Cathedral,” from Codes and Keys) and, of all places, last year’s Arthur soundtrack (“When the Sun Goes Down on Your Street”).

As mentioned he plays three songs and his voice is so warm and familiar I felt like I knew these songs even if I didn’t.

I knew “St. Peter’s Cathedral.” It is a lovely song with very little in the way of chord changes.  But the melody is gentle and pretty.  And the song appears to be entirely about this church.  Which is interesting because the second song is also about a building in Seattle.  “Teardrop Windows” is a surprisingly sad song about an inanimate object.  It’s written from the building’s point of view as he mourns that no one uses him anymore.  And such beautiful lyrics too:

Once built in boast as the tallest on the coast he was once the city’s only toast / In old postcards was positioned as the star, he was looked up to with fond regard / But in 1962 the Needle made its big debut and everybody forgot what it outgrew

The final song “When the Sun Goes Down on Your Street” was indeed for the Russel Brand movie Arthur.  Somehow I can’t picture those two together.  It’s a lovely song, too.

I prefer Gibbard’s more upbeat and fleshed out music, but it’s great to hear him stripped down as well.

[READ: January 2017] “My Writing Education: A Time Line,” “The Bravery of E.L. Doctorow,” “Remembering Updike,” and “Offloading for Mrs. Schwartz” 

I had been planning to have my entire month of February dedicated to children’s books.  I have a whole bunch that I read last year and never had an opportunity to post them.  So I thought why not make February all about children’s books.  But there is just too much bullshit going on in our country right now–so much hatred and ugliness–that I felt like I had to get this post full of good vibes out there before I fall completely into bad feelings myself. It;s important to show that adults can be kind and loving, despite what our leaders demonstrate.  Fortunately most children’s books are all about that too, so the them holds for February.

George Saunders is a wonderful writer, but he is also a very kind human being.  Despite his oftentimes funny, sarcastic humor, he is a great humanitarian and is always very generous with praise where it is warranted.

The other day I mentioned an interview with Saunders at the New York Times.  Amid a lot of talk with and about Saunders, there is this gem:

Junot Díaz described the Saunders’s effect to me this way: “There’s no one who has a better eye for the absurd and dehumanizing parameters of our current culture of capital. But then the other side is how the cool rigor of his fiction is counterbalanced by this enormous compassion. Just how capacious his moral vision is sometimes gets lost, because few people cut as hard or deep as Saunders does.”

These first three pieces are all examples of his love and respect for other writers–both for their skill and for their generosity.

“My Writing Education: A Time Line”

“My Writing Education” comes from a book called A Manner of Being: Writers on Their Mentors.  Saunders’ mentor was Tobias Wolff.  And for this essay, his admiration takes the form of a diary.  (more…)

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1999 SOUNDTRACK: JANE BUNNETT AND MAQUEQUE-Tiny Desk Concert #547 (July 12, 2016).

bunnettJane Bunnett is a soprano saxophonist and flautist from Toronto who performs largely with Cuban musicians.  She has been traveling there for about 30 years and has performed with all kinds of musicians.  For this Tiny Desk and her current she is playing with the women from Cuba in a band called Maqueque (they won a Juno award last year).

And they sound great together.  It’s interesting that Bunnett takes something of a back seat (or position anyhow) to singer Melvis Santa (who seems to mostly sing sounds (ah ah ahs, bop bop bah dah dahs, as opposed to words) .  But when it’s time to shine, Bunnett is there to impress everyone with her skill.

Felix Contreras says “If you want to hear what Cuba sounds like today, then be sure to listen.”

“Little Feet” features Bunnett playing a cool solo on her sax and Santa singing notes along with her.  But for this song Bunnett really wails.  (she’s quite winded by the end).

Of the three songs, the ten minute “Maqueque” is my favorite.  That’s in part because I don’t really like the sound of the soprano sax (she plays flute on this one) but also because the band membranes really get to show off their chops.  It starts with a simple piano melody and pretty vocals.  Then Bunnett plays the melody on the flute as Santa sings along.   When Bunnett gets her solo on, you can hear her vocalising a bit as she plays the flute.

After the song Bunnett says that women in Cuba don’t get the exposure they deserve, so she picked these woman to let the world hear them.

About 4 minutes in Dánae Olano plays an amazing 2 minute piano solo–fun to listen to and to watch as she is all over the keys–she plays  some great trills and riffs.  She’s very impressive.  About 8 minutes in Yissy Garcia (who Dave Matthews has said plays drums like Jesus) plays a great drum solo.  On the drum kit she is using her palms and fingers to play all of the drums and cymbals–she switches to sticks at the end. The percussionist Magdelys Savigne accompanies her, and while not actually soloing, she is keeping rhythm as well.

Celia Jiménez plays bass.  She doesn’t get to do anything fancy–no solos, but she keeps the rhythm perfect.

bunnett2“25 New Moves” has Bunnett back on sax with Santa singing along to her melody.  It’s a short (4 minute) catchy piece with another cool fast solo from piano and a few cool bass lines as well.

It’s a pretty great set with lot of cool jazzy Cuban melody and rhythms.  I enjoyed this set quite a lot.

[READ: November 3, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1999-2000

This is the final volume of Peanuts strips. After 50 years, it finally came to and end.

Schulz was diagnosed with cancer in 1999.  He died in February of 2000.

I was hoping that this book would be shockingly good–full of great “I’m finishing the trip” closure.  But as I understand it, he wasn’t ready to finish the strip, so things move on more as less as normal.

In fact, I found the first few weeks of 1999 to be kind of dull.  The punchlines just didn’t make me smile as much.  Of course there is something to be said for the consistency of the strip.  Linus still has his blanket, Rerun is still coloring (he has become a dominant force in the strip), Patty is still getting things wrong and Sally still doesn’t want to do anything. (more…)

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1979SOUNDTRACK: HAPPYNESS-Tiny Desk Concert #468 (September 4, 2015).

happynessHappyness are a trio from London: Benji Compston (guitar), Jonny Allan (bass) and Ash Cooper Drums).  They play mellow Britpop with rather clever lyrics.

The first song “Montreal Rock Band Somewhere” opens with a steady bass line and smatterings of guitar chords.  And when the guys  sing, Benji sings into a normal mic in a kind of deep whisper and the Jonny sings into a processed mic to make his voice sound kind of tinny (in harmony).  And the lyrics are great.  I like when the second chorus comes in and the processed vocals go up an octave for a really cool harmony effect.  And I mentioned the lyrics.  Here’s an interesting verse:

I’m wearing Win Butler’s hair / There’s a scalpless singer of a Montreal rock band somewhere / And he’s all right

Before the second song starts, they have a bit of fun while Benji tunes his guitar.  Everyone is standing around awkwardly and Benji tells Jonny to tell his whale joke.  Jonny says no and that it’s not his whale joke he took it off the internet and would like to put it back.

For the second song, “It’s On You” the guys switch places (it  was suave, kind of Bob Fosse-ish).  Benji sings into the processed microphone. The song also has some busy basslines but the guitar is more pronounced.  Hearing him sing in that processed tinny voice is really interesting.  More interesting lyrics: “You said I’m an anarchist, communist, feminist phlebotomist.”

Before the final song, they switch places again.  Benji says he’s “not the most flexible boy in this collection of people.”  “Who is?”  “Definitely [the bassist].”  Bob asks, “Who tells the best jokes?”  “Unintentionally [the drummer]  Jonny says to the drummer: “You could do the whale joke… don’t do the whale joke.”

The final song, “Weird Little Birthday Girl” is nearly 8 minutes long.  It opens with a cool bass riff and some lovely overlapping guitars.  There’s a nearly three-minute instrumental opening and when Jonny starts singing it has a distinctly Wilco quality (partly because oft he processing on his voice but also his delicate singing).  There’s a nice shout out to Prefab Sprout in the lyrics:

Its so easy to replace it / some things hurt more much more than cars and girls / an evening in an iron maiden / a morning in your funny little world.

I really enjoyed this set a lot and I’m intrigued that their album (on bandcamp) has some really short songs too.   I wonder if their sound is different on the record.  Guess I’ll have to give it a listen.

[READ: July 12, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1979-1980

I foolishly thought that this book would play up the idea of moving into a new decade. But as I should have learned from years past, Schulz doesn’t really care about when it is.  His strip is mostly timeless.  There are of course references to time passing, but they are very minor.  So, on New Years when it  turns 1980, the strip heading says 1980, but there’s no other mention of it.

It’s also interesting how some things that he’s talked about in the past cycle again–many many years later.  In January 1979 Peppermint Patty is on a quest for a library card (we saw Sally get one like 5 years ago).  She says that once she gets one she wont leave home without it.  Marcie says Karl Malden will be happy to hear it. This is a reference to a an American Express card commercial that I remember hearing all the time when I was a kid (although I had o idea it was Malden doing it).  She also get a very funny line about junk food: “Life is more than carrot sticks, Marcie…what is a stomach that’s expecting a chocolate bar going to say when it gets a carrot stick?”

The World War I Flying Ace never really went away, but it seems to be making a resurgence in this year, with Snoopy wandering around speaking French and then later German to all the young ladies. (more…)

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moomin9SOUNDTRACK: LILY & MADELEINE-Tiny Desk Concert #330 (January 7, 2014).

lilmadLily & Madeleine are a duo (surprise!).  But for a real surprise, they are sisters and at the time of the recording Lily was 16 and Madeleine was 18.  They sing beautiful folkie rock with fantastic harmonies.

That’s Lily on guitar and Madeleine on keys (and higher harmonies).

They play threes songs.  The first one, “Devil We Know” is amazing.  Their harmonies start off the song and it’s a beauty.  It’s an uptempo song that has a gorgeous verse.

“Paradise” features each sister singing an individual verse before the other chimes in with a harmony.  And while their individual voices are nice, when they harmonize it’s really something.

“You Got Out” sounds like a folk song from long ago–with the chord structure and harmony “ooohs.”

The duo is really great and they have just released a new record this year.

[READ: March 19, 2016] Moomin Volume 9

Moomin Book 9 and every subsequent book is made entirely of strips written and drawn by Lars Jansson.  These stories originally ran in the Evening News, London 1960-1975.  I have more or less caught up with the Moomin series at this point.  Book Ten has been released but my library does not have it yet.

This book tends to veer away from the Moomin family a little bit.  Of course they are still present, they just aren’t always the focus, as you might be able to tell by the chapter titles:  “Damsel in Distress” “Fuddle and Married Life” “Sniff’s Sports Shop” “Mymble’s Diamonds.”

(more…)

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moomin8SOUNDTRACK: VAN-ANH VANESSA VO-Tiny Desk Concert #329 (January 4, 2014).

voOne of the things I love about the Tiny Desk Concerts is that they expose listeners to artists that we’d never encounter anywhere else.  As a person who loves rock, there’s no way I’d encounter this artist who plays traditional Vietnamese music.  Even though I think she;s amazing, I’d have no exposure to her otherwise.  So this is a wonderful treat–even more so to see her play in such a small space.

Van-Anh Vanessa Vo is a Vietnamese born musician living in America.  Typically the field of Vietnamese traditional music is dominated by men, but she fought to learn and here she demonstrates her skill on three very different instruments.

The first song “Three-Mountain Pass” is played on the Hang.  The Hang is like a steel drum with different sounds at all of the flattened indentations.  There’s also a tone in the middle which resonates nicely.   It is played with the fingers rather than mallets.  It’s a cool instrument to be sure.  For this song she also sings a Vietnamese song that is very breathy.

For the second song, she has taken Erik Satie’s Gnossienne No. 3 and arranged it for dan Bau, the traditional 9th century Vietnamese monocord. The instrument (“invented by beggers on the street”) has a single string, but by bending it with a kind of whammy bar made from a water buffalo horn.  Despite having one string the bar allows her to go 5 steps up and 1 and a n half octaves down.  She plays a backing track of a while playing the main melody line on the dan Bau.  Watching her play this one string and get ting so many interesting sounds out of it is very cool.

“Go Hunting” is an original composition played on the dan T’rung, a bamboo xylophone from Vietnam’s south highlands. This instrument, which looks a bit like a skeleton, is struck with double-headed mallets.  She says on the album she has a taiko drum, but there is no drum here.  But she doesn’t need it as the song begins slowly but grows faster and faster with the crowd offering some extra percussion.  She plays some amazingly fast melodies as the song reaches its climax.

[READ: March 19, 2016] Moomin Volume 8

Moomin Book 8 and every subsequent book is made entirely of strips written and drawn by Lars Jansson.  These stories originally ran in the Evening News, London 1960-1975.

The story is much more reflective of Lars now.  His art is slightly different is subtle ways, but you can see him using his sown style rather than trying to exactly mimic Tove’s.

The chapters are “Moomin Family Robinson,” “Artists in Moominvalley,” “Sniff’s Holiday Camp” and “The Inspector Nephew” (more…)

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  karlove5SOUNDTRACK: RAGA ROCKERS-“Slakt” [“Slaughter”] (1988), “Hun er Fri” [“She is Free”] (1988) and “Noen å hate” [“Someone to hate”] (1990).

ragaKarl Ove mentions many bands in his books.  Raga Rockers appeared twice in this one.  I can’t find a ton about them online, because they never really made it beyond Norway, but the Google translated version of their website says:

Raga Rockers is an ingenious rock ‘n roll band that has existed since 1982.

Today the band consists of: Michael Krohn (vocals, lyrics), Hugo Alvar Stein (keyboards / guitar), Eivind Staxrud (guitar), Arne Sæther (keys), Livio Aiello (bass) and Jan Kristiansen (drums).

The band came out of the punk community in the early eighties, but became such a “poppy” large parts of the Norwegian people have founded acquaintance with them.  Songs like “She is free” and “Someone to hate” is almost singalong classics! Their greatest triumph came perhaps in 1999 when they played for thousands of ecstatic Norwegians at the yellow stage at Roskilde Festival. (Reviews of the show by Dagbladet (which Karl Ove wrote for) and Dagsavisen–both are in English.

Despite their punk roots and the rather violent song titles, the songs are almost poppy–heavy guitars but simple chords and a singer who doesn’t sound angry at all.  In fact, if I didn’t read about their punk roots, I’d swear these songs are kinda goofy.

“Slakt” is a simple song, opening with a 4/4 drum and splashes of guitar.  The middle is a bluesy riff with a chorus of “ah ha ha”  The lead singer’s voice is mostly kind of deep–not quite what I expected from the heavy guitars.

“Hun Er Fri” is quite different from the others songs.  It’s only 90 seconds long and features a piano.  The chords are still simple the piano may be playing single notes in fact).  The lyrics are pretty much nonstop and kind of fast.  It seems like a silly pop trifle and I can see why it’s popular among their fans.  The first time I listened to it, I was surprised it ended when it did.  This bootleg live version is certainly fun.

rocknrollThese two songs came from their 1988 album Forbudte følelser [Prohibited feelings]

“Noen å hate” has a bit more of a metal sound, but is essentially the same kind of heavy rock with simple chord progressions.  There’s a good solo at the end.  A black metal band called Vreid has done a cover of this song (which really only sounds different because the Vreid singer is more growly).

This song comes from their 1990 album Rock n’ Roll Party.

And yes, they are still around.  They took a hiatus in the 2000s but came back with three albums 2007’s Übermensch, 2010’s Shit Happens and 2013’s Faktor X.

[READ: May 1, 2016] My Struggle Book Five

karlove 5ukI realized as I read this fifth book that I should have been keeping a vague sense of the timeline of these books.  Specifically, because he opens this book with this: “The fourteen years I lived in Bergen from 1988 to 2002 are long gone.”  So if he was born in 1968, this book covers roughly ages 19-33.

So my general outline for the other volumes:
Book Five: 1988-2002 (19-33)
Book Four: 1987 (18)
Book Three: 1968-1981  (1-13)
Book Two: 2008 (40) (with flashbacks to meeting his second wife in 2003 or so)
Book One: 2008 (40) (with flashbacks to his father’s death in 1998 or so)

What era could Book Six possibly be about?

We’ll find out next year in what is said to be the 1,200 page final volume.

So as I mentioned above, Karl Ove talks about the fourteen years he lived in Bergen.  And it made me laugh that he says:

The fourteen years I lived in Bergen, from 1988 to 2002, are long gone, no traces of them are left, other than as incidents a few people might remember, a flash of recollection here, a flash of recollection there, and of course whatever exists in my own memory of that time.  But there is surprisingly little.

And then he proceeds to write 600+ pages about that time. (more…)

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