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Archive for the ‘Nostalgia’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN-“Radio Cure” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

Sharon Van Etten continues down her more ambient and mellow style with this cover of “Radio Cure.”

She plays everything–keys and piano–hushed and echoed while her voice soars around the song.  About a third of the way in, the drums kick in, giving it a but of oomph.

I really like the original of this song and I don’t quite like the direction she went with this cover.

[READ: February 17, 2020] “With the Beatles”

I have realized that I really enjoy reading Murakami’s words.  I don’t always understand what’s happening.  I don’t often understand why one part of a story is put with another part. And often when I’m done I’m not entirely sure what happened.  But I really enjoy the journey.

This was one where some parts seemed mysteriously tucked into the story.  It kind of all works thematically, but it’s still a bit disjointed.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading the whole thing.

The narrator starts by saying that he doesn’t mind getting older, it’s seeing other people who have gotten older that is so weird.  Really it forces him to admit that his youthful dreams are gone.

He will never forget a girl (a woman who used to be a girl) whom he didn’t actually know.  It was 1964 and this girl was hurrying down the hallway of their school, skirt aflutter, clutching the LP of With the Beatles–the original British version.  Their black and white faces were facing out as she ran.  He has turned this memory into a beautiful moment–he thinks he remembers the way she smelled even (if that is possible).  The moment was thrilling.

But he never saw her again in two more years at school.

He has met many women over the yeas and always tried to recreate that moment to no avail. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-“History Never Repeats” (1995).

On December 2, Pearl Jam announced that their fan club holiday singles will be released to streaming services.  Their first holiday single was released back in 1991.  It was “Let Me Sleep (Christmas Time).” They are rolling out the songs one at a time under the banner 12 Days of Pearl Jam.

These releases are coming out as a daily surprise.

I was not aware of this recording at all.  It is, indeed, the Split Enz song.  It was recording during a Pearl Jam show on March 24, 1995 in Auckland, New Zealand.   It must be during a quiet middle section, because it’s just Eddie with Neil Finn & Tim Finn live at the Mount Smart Stadium.

It is a bare-bones version with just voices and one electric guitar.  Neil Finn plays guitar and sings the first verse.  Eddie takes the second verse.  Tim Finn sings the third verse.  All three share  backing vocals and the chorus.

It’s a rare treat to hear an old recording like this, especially one of a song they’ve not played since.

[READ: December 13, 2019] “The Infinite”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

I really like César Aira’s stories.  He’s a fascinating guy and insanely prolific.

He has written nearly a hundred books.  Most of his novels are quite short, so I’ve never really thought of him as writing actual short stories.  This one comes from his collection The Musical Brain: And Other Stories which was translated by Chris Andrews.

The unnamed narrator says that as a kid he played some extremely strange games.  I love this line, “They sound made up when I explain them, and I did, in fact, make them up myself.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DIVINE COMEDY-“Don’t Mention the War” (2019).

The Divine Comedy contributed a song to the Amazon Prime series Modern Love.

I don’t know anything about the show, but I was delighted to hear a new song from Neil Hannon.

This is a much quieter songs than he has put out recently. It features acoustic guitars and strings and over a slightly bouncy melody, he gently sings.

Do you remember when? No I don’t either
All this remembering we’re none the wiser
It’s time to let go and say

The chorus is similarly bouncy but more nostalgic than happy.

Don’t mention the war
Don’t talk of those days
What good is it for?
Don’t mention the war
Let history lie
Kiss the old days goodbye
They’re no help anymore
Don’t mention the war

This song isn’t mind blowing (an apparently is a left over from something else). but it’s a delightful slice of chamber pop.  I’d like to think it might introduce him to a whole new audience who will love him, but realistically, I think it will get some nice plays on Spotify and that’s good enough.

[READ: November 29, 2019] “Hurricane Season”

Sedaris says that when you grow up in North Carolina, you know not to get too attached to a beach house. If this year’s hurricane doesn’t get you, next year’s will.  And so it was in 2018 that Hurricane Florence took away their house, the Sea Section.

While Hugh was devastated David could only think to mock the old fashioned hurricane names “they sound like finalists in a pinochle tournament.”  Where’s Hurricane Madison or Skylar? Category 4 Fredonté?

They were in London when the hurricane hit, so their friend, owner of the Dark Side of the Dune checked on their house for them.  The pictures made  the place look so tawdry he was embarrassed to share them.

Luckily for them they had purchased the house that’s next door to the Sea Section as well –preemptively avoiding a McMansion (eight bedrooms were common, spread over three or  four stories).  The place is ancient by Emerald Isle standards (vintage 1972).  But what you really didn’t want next door to you was a swimming pool.  All you hear is Marco Polo over and over. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STING AND SHAGGY-Tiny Desk Concert #866 (July 10, 2019).

Sting is certainly one of the biggest names to play the Tiny Desk Concert thus far (even if his star has probably faded somewhat).  I was surprised to see him here. And also surprised to see him with Shaggy, a singer I don’t know all that much about.

Sting and Shaggy might not be the most likely musical pairing. But one thing is certain, they love playing each other’s music. On a bright autumn morning, the legends arrived at the NPR Music office bleary-eyed yet excited to play for the diverse staff of Shaggy and Sting fans. What surprised many of my NPR colleagues is just how well the collaboration works.

I don’t know if they have done more together besides this, but they certainly sound familiar with each others work.  Well, the blurb suggests that they are or were touring together:

Shaggy affectionately refers to his collaborator as “Stingy,” putting his arm around him mid-performance. It’s easy to see the camaraderie that being on the road together affords these veteran musicians.

They open the set with “Englishman in New York” and Sting’s bass sounds great.  When he sings, he is so clearly Sting (even if he’s singing is slightly affected).  Dominic Miller strums Reggae offbeats on acoustic guitar.  Then Shaggy takes the second verse.

Shaggy (zoinks! – his nom de guerre comes from the Scooby-Doo cartoon character) was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He moved to New York when he was 18 and his music evokes only good vibes. The positive energy he brought to their opening song, “Englishman[and Jamaican]In New York,”had everyone in the room grinning ear to ear, “early morning Reggae style,” as he put it.

Shaggy adds this humorous verse:

I wear my colors in my back pocket / I got a big spliff in my hand /
and you might notice there’s swagger anytime I walk / I’m a Jamaican in New York.

Their voices sound great together especially as the end of the song soars unexpectedly.

After the tune, Sting announced “I never sang that song before 8 PM… Ever!”

Up next is “Don’t Make Me Wait,” a song I don’t know.  Sting plays a reggae bass line will Shaggy sings the first verses. The backing vocals from Gene Noble and Melissa Musique fill the chorus.  Then Sting takes the next verses.

The end is really funny as Shaggy tries to clap along with the backing singers but he gets lost and everyone laps.

The final song is a mash-up.  Dominic Miller co-wrote “Shape Of My Heart” which is mashed-up with Juice Wrld’s “Lucid Dream.”  “Shape of My Heart” sounds familiar–or at least sounds like a pretty typical Sting song.  Since I don’t know either song, I didn’t realize that Gene Noble was singing the lead of “Lucid Dream” within “Shape.”  Miller and Sting plays the same melody all the way through.  Noble has a nice voice, but I don’t like the way he sings.  Shaggy takes a verse.

This is an unlikely collaboration, but it works very well.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Diamond Monkey”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1995: This is another story about a summer job opportunity–one that promised much but delivered little.

This time the job opportunity was working the diamond mines in Yellowknife, Canada.  Heidi and her friends were driving up from Montreal.

This was pre-cell phone, pre-internet, pre-everything.  They squatted in grubby trailers playing cards.  What else was there to do?  Drink beers of course.

But you never wanted to go outside to pee, even after four beers because 20 seconds of dropped pants equaled at least three times that number in angry northern mosquito bites. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LADAMA-Tiny Desk Concert #853 (May 30, 2019).

There’s a lot to like in this Tiny Desk, but I am immediately drawn to Mafer Bandola’s  bandola llanera.  Is it see through?  Is it hollow?  I have so many questions.

Some of which are answered in the blurb.

But what might be even more interesting than the instruments is the international makeup of the band.

During the course of their performance behind the desk, the four core members of LADAMA — Lara Klaus, Daniela Serna, Mafer Bandola and Sara Lucas — had a chance to display their individual cultural and musical roots as part of an engaging and mesmerizing whole. Represented in glorious musical virtuosity are Brazil (Lara Klaus), Colombia (Daniela Serna) and Venezuela (Mafer Bandola), with a dash of New York City (Sara Lucas and bassist Pat Swoboda) thrown in just to make it interesting.

Not to mention all four of them sing lead.

“Sin Ataduras” opens with great sounds from the bandola llanera and some really great bass work Pat Swoboda.  Daniela Serna sings, almost raps, the lead vocals.  The song is catchy with a middle parts that’s all rim shots from Lara Klaus and clap alongs.  Then Sara Lucas adds a little guitar work, but it’s Mafer Bandola’s solo that’s really fantastic.

For the second song, “Elo” Lara Klaus plays the pandeiro and it’s amazing how much sound a little tambourine-looking drum can make.  She also sings lead–a very different vocal style.  Daniela Serna moved over to the congas and the tambor alegre.  Mafer Bandola switches to a more traditional-looking bandola llanera but still plays some amazing leads.

Throughout the songs, Sara Lucas plays quiet electric guitar that acts a foundation to lead bandola.  Incidentally, Mafer Bandola is a stage name (I assume Mafer is her first names put together).  Her real name is Maria Fernanda Gonzalez.

“Tierra Tiembla” is a much slower ballad.  Sarah Lucas sings lead (in Spanish).  Has a slow, smooth rhythm with nice echoing sounds form the bandola.  Sara Lucas sings lead on this one.  Lara Klaus is back on the kit, so with her and Daniela on congas, there’s a lot of percussion.   Mafer plays some nice lead lines and everyone sings delicate backing vocals.

The final song is “Inmigrante”  this song is for everybody–para todos inmigrantes–we are all immigrants.

It’s the fiery “Inmigrante” that finally raised the BPM meter and got hips swaying in our corner of NPR’s HQ, with its call-and-response back-and-forth and a very enthusiastic audience. T

Mafer Bandola sings this last song.  The bandola is a echoed and very cool sounding as she plays an excellent riff.  The drums are mostly hi-hat while the congas supply most of the percussion.  Sara Lucas puts down her guitar to play the raspa.

The song ends with a clap along and some fast and furious congas from Daniela.

This is yet another great Spanish-language band that enjoyed quite a lot.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “A Love Story”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1992: This is the story of tree planting and romance.  Claudia and her friend drove to the planting location with dreams of getting rich.

I have heard about tree planters from many different sources (it seems a very Canadian thing to do–I’m not even sure if people do there).  All sources suggest it is very hard, physically exhausting and pays little.  No matter how romantic the idea sounds, it’s not a fun job.

Claudia adds to this idea and includes that they slept in tents and were sleeping in an area where bears traveled.  They could hear the bears every night but the experience planters assured them they were safe (how does anyone do this long enough to become experienced?). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: IDLES-Tiny Desk Concert #858 (June 28, 2019).

I had heard of Idles from All Songs Considered.  On the podcast, Bob Boilen raved about seeing them live.  Like this:

My first time seeing IDLES ended with guitarist Mark “Bobo” Bowen frenetically dancing on a bar, his guitar still keeping time, until the swinging neck suddenly shattered some low-hanging, glass lighting fixtures. The band’s set at South by Southwest was fierce and I knew it’d be a challenge trying to figure out how to bring that cathartic rage behind my desk. There was talk for a while of some members of the band strapping on pocket-sized guitar amps and beating on a single drum. But a week before this bunch of British madmen arrived at NPR, the instrument list had grown and what ensued was just about the loudest, most fun and most raucous Tiny Desk Concert in memory.

This is all true, for sure.  But this Tiny Desk, as amazing as it is, doesn’t come close to showing how incredible their live show is.   Idles live is a truly unforgettable experience.

However, seeing all of that energy and fun contained in a small place is awesome and this is one of my favorite Tiny Concerts as well.

The first song “Never Fight A Man With A Perm” opens with a siren sound from keyboardist Jeremy Snyder and the main constant of Idles’ music–steady bass from Adam Devonshire.  Add in the thumping drums from Jon Beavis and you have the ground work for Joe Talbot to start his singing/yelling.

The band also has two guitarists.  Mark “Bobo” Bowen thumps on the floor tom while Lee Kiernan jumps around, slashing at chords.

The title sounds funny and it is, but the song is a serious indictment of male aggression.

What lead singer Joe Talbot and his mates bring to their shows is a mix of love and outrage. Their songs are often bursts of fury, but the message is insightful and not intended to incite. Joe Talbot says their opening Tiny Desk song, “Never Fight A Man With A Perm,” from their album Joy as an Act of Resistance, is an “exploration of the horrid corners of my past.”

The chorus of “concrete and leather” thumps around before the song returns to the verses, with some cockney slang:

Brylcreem
Creatine
And a bag of Charlie Sheen

A heathen from Eton
On a bag of Michael Keaton

Bobo is a ton of fun to watch–shirtless, wearing American flag spandex pants, he climbs on everything: amps, desks, and other unseen things.

“Mercedes Marxist” starts with a thumping single bass note which will remain unchanged for two and a half minutes.  Snyder takes over on the floor tom while Bobo and Lee trade off guitar sections.

The song is almost entirely that one bass note (with all kinds of guitar melodies and riffs swirling around it).  Until a big chorus comes near the end.  Through it all,  Talbot is directing the fun with his scary vocals.

It only took a few seconds for Joe’s face to turn blood-red; as he growled, it stayed that way for the next 13-minutes, even as he curtseyed at the end of the first song and bounced his way into the second.

The one thing that this Tiny Desk misses is Talbot’s love and generosity.

Despite his tone and the roughness of the music, his kindness and consideration is paramount to the band.  Hearing him wish nothing but love on everyone is a pretty wonderful feeling especially after he sings “dirty rotten filthy scum.”

“We are not the Jonas Brothers,” Joe Talbot explained before their final tune. “People get confused.” He said this with his charming smile and began to run in place while singing “I’m Scum,” just to make it clear who they are.

Before the songs, he asks, what song are we doing?  Someone says “Scum.”  He smiles, “I like this song.”  Before it even starts he begins running in place, knees high as he chants “hey! hey!”  The energy of this band is incredible and certainly hard to contain.

 watching the hyperactive movements in this confined space, it’s actually hard to believe that so few things broke.

Mid song Bobo leaves the desk area to grab someone on the crowd.  He gives her percussion instruments to bang. Then Bobo grabs somebody else and he takes over percussion as well.    Then Bono crawls around on his knees, climbs on the desk and is having a great time.  As is everyone else.

I thanks All Songs Considered all the time for the band they’ve introduced me to, but Idles might be the best find ever.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “A Crowded Memory”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1988: This story is written in paragraphs with drawings in between.

It is the story of a 7 year-old girl going to Hong king for the first time.

She was spending a month in Hong Kong without her immediately family.  She would be living with her Nai-nai and Gong-gong.

The place was total culture shock.  She had never heard only Cantonese before. She had never seen so many Chines people.  There were street vendors and apartments and the colors and smells were overwhelming.  Everything feels to loud, too big and too hot. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MIYA FOLICK-Tiny Desk Concert #864 (July 5, 2019).

I feel like I’ve heard of Miya Folick, but I’m not sure where.

Miya Folick was raised a Buddhist in Santa Ana, Calif., and is of Ukrainian and Japanese descent. She sings of conviction, not fiction. I find a stirring sense of truth driving that powerful voice of hers.

She portrays a nice mix of tough and vulnerable in this Tiny Desk Concert.  Between the pink hair and her at times gruff voice (and lyrics), she is bad ass.  But she also sings in a delicate falsetto.

Like on the opening song, Thingamajig” in which her voice (with minimal backing music) fills the room.

Miya Folick began her Tiny Desk Concert with an apology in the form of a song. “Thingamajig” opens with Wynne Bennett’s stark piano. The song is also the lead-off track on Miya Folick’s 2018 album Premonitions. On that version, the song crescendos with strings backed by a vocal loop. Here at the Tiny Desk, we get to hear why Miya Folick is such an astonishing performer, her classically trained voice taking charge, wrapping around those melodic piano lines while singing, “I am sorry / I know I am wrong / So take it all / I want to be out of control.”

For the last verse, Wynne Bennett adds some bass synth notes to flesh out the low end.

She is sweetly nervous after the song… I’m talking because I’m not ready.  I was surprised when she said “This song is called Dead Body,” but I enjoyed the way she turns that title around.

For her second tune at the Tiny Desk, “Deadbody,” she sings, “I need you to know I’m not powerless / My strength lies within my gentleness.” And by the time the chorus kicks in, her little band of two is in full throttle while Miya sings, “Over my dead body,” addressing the cruelty of men toward women.

The song opens with a cool shuffle on the drums from Garet Powell and a single repeated bass piano note while she sings.  For the chorus she adds some simple acoustic guitar chords that add a surprising amount of body to the otherwise stark song.  And she sings really powerfully and intensely for the end of the song.

The last song is called “Cost Your Love.”

I could see a deep appreciation for this day in Miya’s eyes. And before she played her final song, she took a moment to be thankful for being in this space. Miya stopped to say that she’s been watching Tiny Desk Concerts since before she was even playing music. Then she tuned her guitar, took a deep breath and launched into the darkness for her final tune.

Despite the intensity of her vocals and lyrics, she’s funny and personable.

She jokes: I only play one string so that string better be in tune.

Although it’s not a joke because she does only play one string.  But the melody is pretty cool and the songs shifts between that low string melody and very pretty piano.  She showcases both extremes of her voice–rough and growly and gentle and tender.  It’s an impressive performance.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Kelso Lake”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1979.  This story is sort of like a comic strip, but with more elastic panels than the standard boxes.

Every weekend that they could, David’s family would cram into the car with a cooler and towels and head off to Kelso Lake.

There’s even an illustration of Kelso Lake–a bent thumb near the Niagara escarpment.  It was light years from a Mississauga apartment and might as well have been Turks & Caicos. (more…)

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