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Archive for the ‘Nostalgia’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JOYCE DIDONATO-“When I am Laid in Earth’ (Dido’s Lament)” (Field Recordings, February 4, 2015).

Joyce DiDonato is an opera singer with a wonderful voice.  She is also an outspoken LGBT+ advocate.

DiDonato, 45, straight and a native Kansan, is outspoken on LGBT issues and one of today’s most sought-after opera stars. At London’s popular Proms concerts she capped off the 2013 festival with “Over the Rainbow,” saying it was devoted to LGBT voices silenced by Russia’s anti-gay laws. At the Santa Fe Opera, she dedicated a performance to a gay New Mexican teen who took his life after being bullied.

For this particular performance, she was drawing attention to Mark Carson, a gay man fatally shot almost two years prior. The city’s police commissioner stated Carson’s death was clearly a hate crime.

The murder happened just blocks away from the famous Stonewall Inn, a historic gay bar.  And that is where she chose to perform this piece [Joyce DiDonato Takes A Stand At Stonewall].

“The idea of a murder happening blocks away from the Stonewall Inn is incomprehensible to me,” DiDonato says. “It shouldn’t happen anywhere. It tells me that we’re not done talking, and we are not done working for people to comprehend what equality is about and why it is important.”

On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village. A riot broke out, sparking successive nights of protest and, many say, the emergence of the modern gay rights movement.

LGBT rights have come a long way since that summer night 46 years ago, when there were still laws criminalizing homosexuality. But mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato believes there’s still work to be done, so she chose the Stonewall to gather a few friends, talk about equality and sing a centuries-old song that still resonates.

For this memorial she chose to perform a piece from Henry Purcell’s 17th-century opera Dido and Aeneas. The piece is called “When I am Laid in Earth” also known as “Dido’s Lament.”  She explains the piece: “‘Dido’s Lament’ is about a woman who is dying and she asks for absolution.  When I am in the earth, I hope that I haven’t created any trouble.  Remember me but don’t remember my fate.”

The aria unfolds slowly yet purposefully, with a refrain that seems to predict the mournful strains of an African-American spiritual.

The piece is beautiful and mournful.  And the musical accompaniment (students from Juilliard415) is understated and lovely.  The inclusion of the viola de gamba and the therobo is inspired.  Musicians:  Francis Liu and Tatiana Daubek, violins; Bryony Gibson-Cornish, viola; Arnie Tanimoto, viola da gamba; Paul Morton, theorbo.

[READ: April 15, 2016] “The Lower River”

This story looks at a man from Medford.  As the story opens its says the man, whose names is Altman, always imagined he’d one day return to Africa, to the Lower River.  He had loved it there when he volunteered in a village called Malabo.  He stayed for four years (longer than anybody else had).  He helped to build a school and taught at it.  He felt a real connection with the people there.

And now, some forty years later, as he was getting tired of Medford, as his clothing store was failing, as his marriage was failing, as he had very little left for himself in Medford, he decided, why not.  Why not go back to Africa and see if people remembered him at all.

The Lower River is the southernmost region of the southern province of Malawi, the poorest part of a poor country.  It is also the home of the Sen people.  They were a neglected tribe and rather despised by those who didn’t know them.  They were associated with squalor, credulity and incompetence.  And indeed, when he went there the first time people, were afraid to take him as far as the Lower River.

Now, Malawai is something of a vacation destination where rich people are pampered by the poor locals.  But when Altman arrives and asks for transport to the Lower River, people are hesitant to take him, there, making sure he knows where he is going.    Even after his driver drops him off he speeds away without any concern for formalities. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LOCAL NATIVES-“Fountain of Youth” (Field Recordings, October 5, 2016). 

I know and like Local Natives, although I didn’t know this song.

In 2010, Local Natives came clattering into the indie firmament with the U.S. release of Gorilla Manor, an irresistible blend of in-vogue sonic signifiers like Afropop guitars, rich harmonies and the hint of a folk sensibility. In 2016, the band’s run has continued with the synth-heavy Sunlit Youth.

For their Field Recording, Local Natives played one of the singles off that album, “Fountain of Youth.” Though the recorded version is lush and electronic, Local Natives stripped the song to a driving core. The band played, and then it was off again — guitars in hand, headed for the evening’s show elsewhere in Brooklyn.

They sound great stripped to just two guitars and a tambourine standing on the water’s edge. [Local Natives Strips Down Its Sound For A Riverside Show].  I love this introduction:

The East River Ferry is a very fast boat. Local Natives came hurtling toward our crew up the river one overcast evening this summer, shouting three-part harmonies over roaring engines for a surprised clutch of fans. When the ferry docked, three of the band’s members hurried over to our pier off WNYC Transmitter Park to play this Field Recording.

I’m not sure which of the five Natives these are, but they harmonize wonderfully. And I really like that the main singer is playing his guitar while the second guitar is silent until later in the song when his higher notes are used as an excellent accent.

[READ: January 15, 2018] “Kinderscenen”

This was a fascinating story because of how much detail was given and how little plot there was.

This is the story of a boy, Toby.  It is written in a kind of childish third person, almost by a benevolent guardian.

Sentences like:

What he does know is how Daddy’s cigarette looks in the evening when sitting on a wicker chair with the other grown-ups softly talking in a row, he flips it away its red star tracing lopsided loops before shattering into sparks on the bricks.

In his heart he knows that this is the best town in the world.

In the story, Toby helps his mother garden (by lifting the prickery bushes “holding up the bushes’ skirts” which has a naughty sound that nevertheless doesn’t make it fun. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SLOWDIVE-“Sugar for the Pill” (Field Recordings, June 13, 2017).

It has been nearly a year since NPR Music broadcast its last Field Recording.  From 2012-2017, these were fun, interesting opportunities to put a band in an unlikely setting and have them play a song live,

There are 80 some of these recordings (see the whole shebang here), and I’ve decided to focus on “Slowdive Fills A Shuffleboard Parlor With Shimmering Sound.”

Before a month-and-change ago, Slowdive hadn’t released an album in 22 years. So you’d be forgiven for watching the band perform “Sugar For The Pill” and struggling to pin down what era you’re in — especially since NPR Music plopped the group in a playfully retro Brooklyn shuffleboard parlor for the occasion.

This live recording might be stripped down (I’m not sure), but it sounds great. Neil Halstead plays a pretty, shimmering guitar and sings with his distinctive whispered vocals.  Rachel Goswell is there to provide her delicate harmonies as well.  With them are Nick Chaplin (I assume) on bass.  The bass sounds terrific.  The low end is really good and moves the song along perfectly.  Simon Scott is there to add electronic drums.

A patient mid-tempo gem that’s as hooky as it is hypnotic, “Sugar For The Pill” is a particular highlight, so it’s a joy to watch the reconstituted band trot it out for this Field Recording, filmed at Royal Palms Shuffleboard in Brooklyn.

I don;t understand how this song sounds so good in a shuffleboard facility, but it does.  It sounds great.

[READ: January 4, 2017] “Dido’s Lament”

I really love Hadley’s stories.  I love that she is able to write compellingly about small moments–moments that aren’t going to end a person’s life, but will certainly impact it.

This story starts with Lynette.  She is shopping in a John Lewis–and is quite embarrassed about it.  She is described as “tall, anxious, original, in her late thirties…her hair was shaved above her ears and the rest of it, dyed bronze and pink, was piled up in a striking bird’s nest mess.” It’s the way she throws in that word “original” that I love.

A man pushes though the crowd and knocks her over.  She stumbles and hurts her ankle while trying not to trip over a stroller.

There is no way she is going to let this guy do that and not apologize or acknowledge what he did.  So she runs after him.  She is determined not to hobble or let anyone see her in pain, so she deals with the pain and goes in pursuit of the coat that she knows he is wearing.

She finally catches him on a subway platform.  She taps him on the shoulder ready to yell at him  But when he turns around, she realizes that not only does she know him, she used to be married to him.  She and Toby had separated nine years earlier.  He seems bigger now, but more confident in his ways.  Rather than yell at him, she was struck mute until he turned and was so excited to see her! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CONSTANTINES-Live at Massey Hall (May 27, 2015).

From the clips I’ve seen, Constantines are (were?) an incredible live band.  They have so much intensity.

In the opening, they are asked  Are you guys nervous?  They don’t seem to be although they concede that “Nervous is good, it keeps you on your toes.”

At some point we decided to run the band where we would play anywhere with a three-pronged outlet.  It led to playing a lot of amazing spaces…non-performance spaces like skate shops and basements and art galleries.  This feels like an incredible extension of that to play Massey Hall… a historic venue.

“Draw Us Lines” opens the show with thunderous drums and squalling feedback as the band gets the audience clapping along to a simple rhythm while Bry Webb sings in his deep raspy voice.  I love how much noise the keyboardist makes just pounding on keys–at times leaning on the machine with his whole arm.

“Our Age” has martial beats and an interesting low riff that runs through the verses–but the choruses burst forth really catchy.  “On to You” was a single I believe.  It has loud verses and a quiet, understated chorus.  I love how much they raise their guitars–the bassist even plays with the instrument raised over his head

“Young Offenders” rocks as hard as anything else they play, but it adds the surprising lyric: “young hearts be free tonight … time is on your side,” before launching into the heady section with the crowd shouting “Can I get a witness.”

“Nighttime/Anytime {It’s Alright)” has a great slinky guitar intro and sounds very familiar–as if it’s quoting another song, but I can’t figure out what.

More thumping drums (the drummer must be exhausted) and some distortion and feedback introduce “Young Lions” which starts as kind of catchy rocks song but features wonderful noise section in which everyone plays with feedback and the keyboardist actually sits on the keys before returning to that really catchy section.

The show ends with “National Hum,” a blistering loud track with discordant chords and intense vocals.  The drums just seem to go faster and faster as the song goes on.

They play this show like it’s the most important show they’ve ever played.  And the crowd responds accordingly.  It’s unclear to me if Constantines are broken up or not, but if they ever come around, they are a must-see show.

[READ: June 2, 2018] “What is Possible”

This issue of the New Yorker had a section entitled “Parenting.”  Five authors tell a story about their own parents.  Since each author had a very different upbringing the comparison and contrasting of the stories is really interesting.

I love the opening of this essay in which Mohsin says that his mom worked an entry-level job at what would now be considered a Silicon Valley tech business.  They made audiocassettes.

His father made peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches and picked Mohsin up from school on his bike.  His dad had a mustache and sideburns but no hair.  They went to the university where his father was studying.  Or they went home to watch cartoons on the small black and white TV.

Mohsin says he always saw colors on it “though I was told by friends that this wasn’t possible.”  I relate to this because I had a black and white TV in my room growing up and I was sure it was color until one day when I went to my parents TV and compared sided by side and saw just how colorful their TV was. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TOM MISCH-Tiny Desk Concert #749 (June 1, 2018).

Tom Misch sings music that I would classify as boring.  It’s kind of lite-jazz.

Misch has said before that he isn’t a jazz purist intrinsically, but the way he opens up a guitar solo or jams with saxophonist Braxton Cook, jazz music certainly runs through him.

His voice is interesting but “that soothing timbre of his voice” is more soporific than anything else.

The blurb certainly raves about him:

I first caught wind of this UK wunderkind in 2014. Crafting his own instrumental projects and remixing tracks by artists ranging from Busta Rhymes to Lianne La Havas, Misch steadily garnered a dedicated following on SoundCloud. From there, he collaborated with other London artists and released EPs of original music on the platform. Misch’s style doesn’t revel in what’s going on in pop music today; like a handful of other artists from the UK, his interpretation of hip-hop and R&B is a continuation of what the greats who came before him started.  In 2016, Misch — still just 21 years old at the time — decided to dabble more in songwriting.

He plays three songs (totaling 17 minutes) and I genuinely thought the second song was the same as the first.

“It Runs Through Me” has an enjoyable guitar solo and a long sax solo (Braxton Cook).  Although “I Wish” sounds like the first song at first, there is an interesting moment  midway through the song where they thrown in a riff and change the tempo a bit.  There’s also a long wah wah solo which is neat.

The final song “Movie” is a total smoky nightclub jazz song.  There’s a piano solo (the pianist (Joseph Price) even has a jazz hat on).  It’s got all the elements.  But I would never go into a smokey jazzy nightclub.

The rest of the band includes: Tobias Tripp (guitar/violin/vocals), James Creswick (bass), and Jamie Houghton (drums).

[READ: February 7, 2018] “Borscht”

Sergey has been living in the US for about a year.  His plan was to go to the States to work for a year and send money home to his wife.  But it had been a year and she felt that maybe he should stay longer and make more money.  They had enough for a house, but they’d need more for furnishings and the like.

He was sick of installing carpets.  He hated the feel and the smell and the stupid names of colors for ugly carpets : Morning Fog, Bay Fog, Autumn Leaves, he decided they should be called Moldy Bread or a A Pile Of Cow Dung On A Warm Day

He woke one morning with an erection and a headache.  He looked at the picture of his wife–he had only the one.  She didn’t look happy, and he no longer remembered what she looked like aside from the picture.

His roommate Pavel had a woman over.  She wasn’t Sergey’s type, but she was wearing next to nothing and she smelled good.

He found the paper under the couch and in the back were personal ads.  There was one that caught his eye : “A warm, sexy woman will tend to your needs. Affordable.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN PRINE-Tiny Desk Concert #717 (March 12, 2018).

For all of the legendary status of John Prine, I don’t really know that much about him.  I also think I don’t really know much of his music.  I didn’t know any of the four songs he played here.

I enjoyed all four songs.  The melodies were great, the lyrics were thoughtful and his voice, although wizened, convey the sentiments perfectly.

The blurb sums up things really well

An American treasure came to the Tiny Desk and even premiered a new song. John Prine is a truly legendary songwriter. For more than 45 years the 71-year-old artist has written some of the most powerful lyrics in the American music canon, including “Sam Stone,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “Hello In There” and countless others.

John Prine’s new songs are equally powerful and he opens this Tiny Desk concert with “Caravan of Fools,” a track he wrote with Pat McLaughlin and Dan Auerbach. Prine adds a disclaimer to the song saying, “any likeness to the current administration is purely accidental.”

I thought the song was great (albeit short) with these pointed lyrics:

The dark and distant drumming
The pounding of the hooves
The silence of everything that moves
Late in night you see them
Decked out in shiny jewels
The coming of the caravan of fools

That song, and his second tune, the sweet tearjerker “Summer’s End,” are from John Prine’s first album of new songs in 13 years, The Tree of Forgiveness.

He introduces this song by saying that.  This one is a pretty song.  It might drive you to tears.  He wrote this with Pat McLaughlin.  We usually write on Tuesdays in Nashville because that’s the day they serve meatloaf.  I love meatloaf.  We try to write a song before they serve the meatloaf.  And then eat it and record it.

For this Tiny Desk Concert John Prine also reaches back to his great “kiss-off” song from 1991 [“an old song from the 90s (whoo)…  a song from the school of kiss off 101”] called “All the Best,” and then plays “Souvenirs,” a song intended for his debut full-length but released the following year on his 1972 album Diamonds in the Rough. It’s just one of the many sentimental ballads Prine has gifted us.

He says he wrote it in 1968…when he was about 3.

Over the years, his voice has become gruffer and deeper, due in part to his battle with squamous cell cancer on the right side of his neck, all of which makes this song about memories slipping by feel all the more powerful and sad.

“Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That’s why last night and this mornin’
Always look the same to me
I hate reading old love letters
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my sweetheart’s souvenirs”

The musicians include John Prine, Jason Wilber, David Jacques and Kenneth Blevins.

 

[READ: December 11, 2017] X

I really enjoyed Klosterman’s last essay book, although I found pretty much every section was a little too long.  So this book, which is a collection of essays is perfect because the pieces have already been edited for length.

I wasn’t even aware of this book when my brother-in-law Ben sent it to me with a comment about how much he enjoyed the Nickelback essay.

Because I had been reading Grantland and a few other sources, I have actually read a number of these pieces already, but most of them were far off enough that I enjoyed reading them again.

This book is primarily a look at popular culture.  But narrowly defined by sports and music (and some movies).  I have never read any of Klosterman’s fiction, but I love his entertainment essays. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WOLF ALICE-Visions of a Life (2017).

Wolf Alice’s second album explores a great deal of diversity.  Nearly every song is in a different style–and yet none of them sound out of place.  It just sounds like Wolf Alice pushing their sound in many different directions and seeing what sticks (and most of hit sticks quite nicely).

It opens a lot noisier than the first album, but the shoegaze element is still prominent.  “Heavenward” is all distorted guitars and soaring melodies before settling down into a quieter verse and then a really catchy, bouncy chorus.  It’s followed by the loudest craziest song they’ve recorded thus far.  The 2 minute “Yuk Foo” is a solid blast of aggressive punk with a thumping bassline, squealing feedbacking guitars and Ellie Roswell screaming and cursing like a fiend.   Catharsis in 2 minutes.

It’s followed by “Beautifully Unconventional,” yet another terrific and, for them, a rather different style of song.  A staggered guitar phrase and a cool staccato chorus.  It’s wonderfully catchy.

“Don’t Delete The Kisses” is a surprisingly sweet pop song. The hook of the shouted singular words is undeniable.  “What if it’s not meant for me? love” with a happy ending “Me and you were meant to be in love”  “Planet Hunter” slows things down a bit with a quiet guitar and Roswell’s voice out front, but it leads into a full and really catchy chorus and a great ending section with a loud bass that takes the song to the end.

A lot of the band’s songs feature Roswell whispering the lyrics. “Sky Musings” is one of those songs.  It’s propulsive with Roswell’s vocals slightly obscured as she speaks out.  If she were a tad louder in the mix, the song would feel incredibly intimate.

“Formidable Cool” shifts things agin, with an almost Beatlesqsue guitar riff that turns very loud for the chorus.  The lyrics get really angry and the song grows pretty intense.  “Space & Time” is a bouncing song that lets up in the middle until the second half roars to the end.  Live, this song was amazing with guitarist Jeff Oddie just banging the crap out of his old guitar and making all kinds of sounds.

“Sadboy” is a bit of slower song but it’s got some great noises and sounds on it.  The hook is one that will stay with you.  The second half, with the “waiting for love” refrain features a whole chorus of backing singers (or Ellie)–quite a surprise–as well as some deep, processed vocals and what I assume is Roswell screaming in the background.

“St. Purple & Green” opens with a similar chorused vocal effect before roaring out with some loud crashing guitars. The band plays especially wonderfully with loud/quiet dynamic because during the quiet sections, Roswell’s voice is so delicate and soothing.  The contrasts are tremendous.

“After the Zero Hour” is a pretty folk song with acoustic guitars and Roswell’s layered soaring vocals.  It’s quite a lovely piece.

The disc ends with the title track “Visions of a Life,” an 8 minute epic of heaviness with multiple parts and time signatures.  It’s a fanatic conclusion to the disc–even if 8 minutes is nowhere near long enough.

I feel pretty lucky to have seen them in a small venue as I can imagine them really taking off.

[READ: January 29, 2018] “The Recipe for Life”

This is an essay about Chabon’s father and his own childhood.

His father was a doctor–an excellent doctor, by all accounts.  He worked all day as a hospital pediatrician and then at night he did house calls for U.S. Public Health Service for insurance claims.

He often took Michael with him.  And Michael often had his own doctor bag (made of plastic) and his own stethoscope (made of plastic) and a needle (made of plastic).

He recalls one night when the patient asked him if he wanted to be a doctor like his father.  He felt, even then, that he could never live up to his father’s work.  He saw (and still sees) his father as an excellent diagnostician (he gets every diagnosis correct very early on while watching Marcus Welby).  But Michael is more impressed at his father’s ability to reassurance patients.  he is warm and thoughtful and consoling.

Except toward Michael: “Unless I am gravely ill or seriously injured–and I am almost never either of those things–I don’t even rate the bedside manner.  My father’s response when I cut a finger, stub my toe, twist an ankle or fall of my bicycle never varies: ‘We’ll have to amputate.'” (more…)

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