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Archive for the ‘NPR/PRI/PBS’ Category

  SOUNDTRACK: FOXING-Tiny Desk Concert #857 (June 12, 2019).

I saw Foxing live and they were quite different from their recorded output–louder, more intense, a very physical band.  I was curious if they would sound more like their records or more like their live selves.

They have chosen the album sound–quieter, more subtle with gorgeous orchestration.

But I wasn’t the only one to wonder this.

When we invited Foxing to NPR HQ, we wondered how the band’s big sound would translate to such a (forgive us) tiny space. Would Foxing bring a bagpiper to recreate the shrill accent it snuck onto its latest album, 2018’s Nearer My God, or try to replicate the cathartic energy of its live shows over the hum of computers and fluorescent lights?

I didn’t realize that Foxing was

at the forefront of what’s referred to as “emo revival,” a term for today’s crop of bands heavily influenced by late-’90s and early 2000s groups… But with each new LP, Foxing’s ambitions reach beyond the genre’s boundaries, incorporating broader inspiration.

When I saw them, the show was dominated by singer Conor Murphy and guitarist Eric Hudson.  Interestingly, Hudson is on keys for this set.  Caeleigh Featherstone was on keys for my show.  She is on keys here, but her backing vocals are far more prominent here.

For this performance, Foxing expanded its numbers, bringing a saxophonist (Jordan Pettay) and a couple of string players (Gabriel Valle: violin; Nathan Sander: viola) to accompany the band’s touring lineup — and somehow, we managed to fit everyone behind Bob Boilen’s desk.

The first song, “Slapstick” features Conor’s falsetto and Caeleigh’s backing vocals.  Hudson plays the single wobbly notes that float behind the vocals. The strings are quiet but fill in the silences really nicely.  I love the gentle repeating guitar solo that Ricky Sampson plays through the middle.  Sampson plays bass throughout the rest of the show and Brett Torrence plays it on this song.  That sax solo at the end adds a nice touch to the emotional ending.

For its Tiny Desk, Foxing spotlighted three standout tracks from Nearer My God. The quieter instrumentation pushed singer Conor Murphy’s starkly confessional lyrics and shattering delivery to the forefront, especially on the set’s opening song, “Slapstick.”

And even with minimal amplification, the swelling chorus of the title cut “Nearer My God” is just as impressive as performed during the band’s explosive concerts.

“Nearer My God” accentuates Murphy’s falsetto even further and the harmonies sound truly wonderful.  The opening is quiet but it builds really nicely to the middle section which features great drums from the almost never on camera Jon Hellwig.

The set ends with “Grand Paradise” the song that I think makes them sound most like TV on the Radio.  It’s terrific the way the music counterpoints the vocals. The end section of the song just overwhelms with impassioned vocals.  The ending sax solo is pretty cool too although there’ s a nice bass riff around 11 minutes and we don’t get to see Ricky do it.

This is a great set, although I have a little question over the filming–too much attention to the strings and not enough to the rest of the band.

[READ: June 5, 2019] “Conduction”

This is an incredibly powerful story of slavery and freedom.

The story opens with Hiram Walker departing Virginia.  He is a slave with fake papers and a route to freedom.  The writing is excellent.  You can feel the tension, the fear and the sense that anything could go wrong at any second.  Slave catchers, known as Ryland’s Hounds, were at every turn.

He saw the men who were supposed to help him but he couldn’t make eye contact.  The conductor looked at his false ticket which stated that he had recently purchased his freedom.  The conductor didn’t care and he was allowed on.

After two days, he met a contact whom he also did not know.  After one more silent ride, he was in a house in Philadelphia with members of the Underground.

He explains how he knew the white man who helped him as well as the black man named Raymond White who also helped him.  Raymond’s brother Otha was also there–he was more charming, more jovial than Raymond.

For the next few days he wandered the city of Philadelphia, a free man.  Unused to and somewhat unhappy with this new burden.  It was an unsettling feeling, one that carried great deal of responsibility. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SESAME STREET-Tiny Desk Concert #856 (June 10, 2019).

Yes, Sesame Street.  Not the OTHER puppet band Fragile Rock, the actual Sesame Street characters.

It’s a convergence of NPR and PBS!

And there they are at the Tiny Desk: Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Rosita, Abby Cadabby and Cookie Monster, all singing about a sunny day and how everything is A-OK. The Sesame Street crew — including Elmo, Grover and other surprise guests — visited NPR’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., to celebrate Sesame Street’s 50 years of teaching the world its A-B-Cs, its 1-2-3s, how to be kind and how to be proud, all while spreading love and joy.

Everyone knows Sesame Street, but it’s also worth talking about how awesome it is.

Sesame Street has won more major awards than any other group to play the Tiny Desk, including 11 Grammys and 192 Emmys. There was a lot of love as the cast of Sesame Street got to meet NPR hosts and newscasters, who in turn got to geek out meeting their favorite Muppets and the creators behind the felt and fur. These folks include Matt Vogel, Sesame Street’s puppet captain and performer, and music director Bill Sherman.

The Muppets get through six songs in 15 minutes (no soloing here).

Count von Count and the NPR kids count us down: 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1!

Andwhat Sesame Street show could begin without “The Sesame Street Theme (Sunny Days)” (Rosita & Elmo, Ernie & Bert, Abby Cadabby, and Big Bird and Cookie Monster).

Then it’s on to Grover singing “People In Your Neighborhood” with Rosita.  Grover oberves a person making sounds with a soundy-making thingy.  Rosita is there to help learn about musicians.  Then a Reporter comes out to talk about what she does.  Finally Bob Boilen himself comes out (Grover: “who might you be sir, you do not appear to be doing anything.”  Bob: “I’m the producer, Grover.”  Grover: “Oh well that explains it”).

I even got to sing with Grover. And I’ll also say, on a personal note, that this may well have been the hardest-working, most dedicated group of performers I’ve ever worked with. I’m so proud of these Muppets and so happy to celebrate all that they’ve meant to the world for these 50 years.

Then they sang two new songs (imagine them having new sings in the last fifty years).

“What I Am” sung by Abby, Ernie and Elmo, a sweet song if ever there was one.

There’s even some full-sized Muppets in the audience (although the kids don’t seem that excited to be near them).

And then it’s Bert’s turn.  But Bert’s kinda shy and is nervous.  Thankfully Big Bird is there to sing a song together (and then confuse the proceedings): I

Its simple.  We’re gonna sing a song and we’re gonna sing it all together and i’ll start singing the song and then they’ll sing then song when I sing what I sing in the song and the you come in singing the song after i sing what i gonna sing when the song starts and we’ll sing the song.

There’s even more fun when Big Bird sings a long high note and Bert says: really?

Cookie monster wants a cookie, but it’s time for the medley” “Whats the name of that song?” (Elmo) then “Rubber Ducky (Ernie) and “C is fr Cookie” (Cookie Monster).  Then Big Bird sing a line before a funky piano and bass riff for “12345, 678910, 11 12… TWELVE!” (my personal favorite).

It segues into perennial happy song “Sing.”

Then Oscar comes on and tells everyone to scram.

[READ: June 4, 2019] “The Children”

This story reads like a fairy tale.  It has a slow inevitability in the pacing and real lack of urgency.

It is called an adventure of lost heirs.  It runs concurrently with a series of beheadings that were happening on Anjavavy island.  The story is quick to point out that the beheadings do not impact the story, they are just mentioned for context.

It begins in the early 2000’s on the island.  Giustinia was visiting Shay in Anjavavy for two weeks before heading off to Madagascar.  They are staying at Shay’s house which is mostly empty.  Shay lives on the island for part of the year and in Italy for the rest of the year.  Shay’s husband will be returning soon.

Giustinia is a poet and a critic  She and Shay became friends when Shay translated some of her essays for an American magazine.   Her family has ancient roots in Tuscany and has an unconscious regal air.

Shay hopes news of the beheadings doesn’t reach them during the fortnight. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TOMBERLIN-Tiny Desk Concert #855 (June 6, 2019).

I rather like when we see a glimpse at the workings of things.  Like how a Tiny Desk Concert typically happens:

Before I bring an artist to the Tiny Desk, I try to see them perform live. It helps me get a handle on what they’ll be capable of doing at my desk, minus all the artful tinkering of a studio. But I never saw Tomberlin before she came to my desk. My desire to see Mitski and Overcoats when Tomberlin was last in town had me at another venue and another opportunity failed to happen. But I was simply in love with Tomberlin’s ethereal debut album At Weddings and took a chance.

I didn’t know how her fragile songs would translate; all I knew was that Tomberlin was coming to the Tiny Desk to play acoustic guitar and sing, along with her musical partner Andrew Boylan. The eerie production that felt like the backbone to the fragile songs on At Weddings would be gone.

I haven’t heard this album, so I don’t know about the eerie production.  I wonder if that would set her apart from other similar women-with-acoustic-guitars.   This is not dismissive of Tomberlin–it is genuinely hard to distinguish yourself when all you have is a guitar and your voice.

On the first song, “Any Other Way” she sounds like a couple of other recent quiet(er) female singers.  The addition of Boylan helps a bit because he able to add some delightful harmonies and some simple guitar riffs to accompany her strums.

I think her perspective also sets her apart a bit

Tomberlin is the daughter of a Baptist pastor, grew up singing in the church and, since her teens, has questioned her own beliefs in God and faith. And as you listen to her sing these delicate, vulnerable songs, you may find your way to a new songwriter, capable of distilling doubt and isolation while forming a community around her music and expressing assurance.

So lyrics like this are quite unusual

Feeling bad for saying
Oh my god
No I’m not kidding

They say that even the most seasoned performers get nervous at the Tiny Desk.  Those nerves are apparent a bit between songs as she asks, “How’s work going today?  Anything happening? I don’t keep up with the things when I’m doing this thing.”  She continues, “I tried to mute trump’s name on Twitter but it doesn’t work.”  After trying to banter some more she says, “I’m going to stop talking and we’ll play another song.”

The combined guitars and harmony vocals on “Self-Help” are really wonderful. And this verse is terrific

I used the self-help book
To kill a fly
I think it worked mom
I think I’m fine

The final song, “Untitled-1” plays nicely with the harmony guitars.

When Tomberlin began to sing at her Tiny Desk Concert, wearing a bit of Tiny Desk nervousness on her sleeve while singing “I know I’m not eternal, I’m just a young girl,” these songs questioning her religious beliefs, felt deep and personal.

This song was the most interesting of the three for the guitars and for the way she really puts some power in her voice as the song progresses.

[READ: June 4, 2019] “Poorly Mapped”

The June 10th issue of the New Yorker features five essays by authors whom I have enjoyed.  They were gathered under the headline “Another Country.”

Dinaw Mengestu was born in Ethiopia but had not been back for many years.  His family left when he was two years old, in 1978.  When he returned, twenty-five years later (the only one in his immediate family to do so during that time) his aunt Aster asked him not to leave the house while she was out.

She had told him that nothing had changed in those years” even your mother’s shoes are still there.”  Further, everything he would need was available in their house–satellite television, internet and American food.  So he should stay put.

He assumed her concern as because of the protests and mass arrests dating back to 2005, but she shrugged all of that off saying that Western news made it seem worse than it was, “We’re fine, we go to work we live our lives.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: QUINN CHRISTOPHERSON-Tiny Desk Concert #854 (June 3, 2019).

Quinn Christopherson won the 2019 Tiny Desk Contest.

Despite the fact that I watch all of the Tiny Desk Concerts, I don’t really get involved in the Contest.   There’s just too many entries and too many bands to root for.  So I just sit back and wait to see who the judges pick.

When I first listened to Christopherson’s winning entry, “Erase Me,” I wasn’t that impressed.  It was spare and his voice was unusual.  His voice was kind of punky–the kind of voice that might work really well with some loud guitars around it, but this song was just a voice and a quiet guitar.  The song was pretty long and it was very angsty.

It built up some interesting tensions.  And by the end, I kind of liked it.

Then I read about Quinn, and how he is a transgender man, and I started thinking about how many people will say that he won because of that (like they said that Gaelynn Lea won because of her “condition” as well).  And that annoyed me (I’m not reading comments this time).

Then I listened to the song again and I really got it–the honesty, the power in his voice and the vulnerability behind the words.  It’s definitely not a song for everyone.  It is not catchy (although the chorus is kind of catchy), it is not easy.

One of the things about the Tiny Desk entrants is that there are some 5,000 of them and you never know how serious they are as musicians.  I mean, I could submit a song.  Quinn’s video, is fascinatingly set up in an art gallery in Anchorage, Alaska, where he lives.  But you never know if it’s his only song.

Indeed, no, as the blurb says,

What was most striking about the performance was [Quinn and his musical partner, guitarist and singer Nick Carpenter’s], unfettered confidence. Watching them play together and hearing their songs, with their interweaving guitar lines and vocal harmonies, feels like seeing two brothers performing old favorites.

This Tiny Desk confirms that his delivery is more of a melodic storyteller than a singer.

Quinn writes story-songs about what he knows best, his mom and sister, about their addictions and his love for them.

He opens with his brand-new tune, “You Told Me.”  It’s a slow song, with Nick playing the more active guitar parts.  It’s personal and intimate and yet still vague enough that you’re not entirely sure what it’s about.

And then comes an insight into life in Alaska.

A moment after our 2019 Tiny Desk Contest winner, Quinn Christopherson, finished his first song at the NPR offices, he made a confession. He looked at me, while tuning his “vintage white” Fender Telecaster, and said, “I don’t know if you know this, but when you called me and you told me, ‘You won!’ I got off the phone and I thought, ‘Dang, I should buy a guitar.’ Legit, did not have one. But that’s Anchorage; that’s the music community there. Everyone just borrowed me their stuff long term.”

The next song, Glenn,” is about his father.  Quinn and Nick play their chords back and forth chuckling with each other before Quinn starts singing

a moving song about his father and their beautiful two-peas-in-a pod relationship. There’s a line in that song that goes to the heart of Quinn’s songwriting talents: “My dad, he plays guitar, says he knows more than he can do. He tells me that I do more than I know.”

I enjoyed this verse:

He asks me what I wanna do when the weekend came
I always wanna go camping but not too far away
So we head to Eagle River and make ourselves a fire
Just the two of us eating pancakes and listening to …N… PR.

In the middle of the song Quinn says, “if my dad was here right now he’d probably say… wheres the bridge?”

They definitely have fun at the Concert.   Even during Quinn’s contest-winning song “Erase Me,” their excitement is palpable.

“Erase Me” is about his recent transition, what it now means to be a man and how he sees the way the world treats him differently after so many years of being “used to pulling the short stick” as a woman. It’s a revealing look at the roles of men and women in our culture at a pivotal time from a songwriter who, I believe, will be a defining voice in the future of music.

They lyrics are really affecting

“I got so used to pulling the short stick /
I don’t know what to do with all this privilege /
‘Cause I got a voice now and I got power /
But I can’t stand it,”

But even during this intense song, they can still have fun.  In the video submission, Nick’s guitar cuts out during the transition to the loud part.  It’s fascinating that they left it in, but they did.  During the Concert everyone sort of chuckles at how Nick handles that moment.

I’m curious to see what kind of success Quinn has after this.

[READ: June 3, 2019] “Canvas”

This story starts in a fascinating way.

The narrator talks about a woman, Agnes, who may or may not be in the upstairs apartment.  The narrator was renting the place and Agnes said she may be back to work in the studio upstairs.  The situation was weird but affordable. And the narrator would only be there for maybe a year longer while she did research on Gothic iconography of the soul.

She didn’t see much of Agnes and then one day there was a note on her door from Agnes inviting her to the studio.

I love this description of Agnes:

She was sitting on a stool, her bones jutting out in a frenzied geometry.

Agnes thanked her for coming saying it was good to be among friends “She looked at me quickly, to see my reaction.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAGOS HERRERA AND BROOKLYN RIDER-Tiny Desk Concert #849 (May 15, 2019).

Brooklyn Rider was on a Tiny Desk nearly a decade ago.  My main take away was how poorly it was lit.  I enjoyed them for their multicultural take on classical music.  For this Tiny Desk, they team up with Mexican singer Magos Herrera (whom I’ve never heard of).

When the intrepid string quartet known as Brooklyn Rider first visited the Tiny Desk nine years ago, no one knew what the musicians might play. They’re as likely to trot out an Asian folk tune as they are a string quartet by Beethoven, or one of their own compositions.

For this visit though, we knew exactly what was on tap. The band, fronted by the smoky-voiced Magos Herrera and backed by percussionist Mathias Kunzli, performed three songs from the album Dreamers, a collection steeped in Latin American traditions.

The versatile Mexican singer, who has never sounded more expressive, notes that these songs emerge from struggle.

She says, “Although there is a lot of light and usually I don’t sing that early, my heart is warm and expanding.”

The first song, Gilberto Gil’s bossa nova-inspired “Eu vim da Bahia” is “a tribute to his home state. He released it in 1965 as Brazil’s military dictatorship took charge.”  I love that between the heart-felt words, there is a gorgeous instrumental passage from the quartet (Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen: violins; Nicholas Cords: viola; Michael Nicolas: cello).

She says the songs transcend dark times with the values of their words.  Gil wrote the tune a year before the dictatorship was installed in Brazil

The atmospheric, flamenco-tinged “La Aurora de Nueva York,” composed by Vicente Amigo, has lyrics from a poem written by Federico García Lorca, the Spanish poet who wrote it while he was in residence in New York in the 1920s.  She says “A Poet in New York is my favorite book” and this poem is the most iconic poem from the book.  Her voice is smoky and impassioned.  There’s some wonderful pizzicato from the quartet.  There’s some lovely solo moments from the violins and some spectacular percussion sounds from Mathias Kunzli.

García Lorca, who fell to assassins during the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

The final track “Balderrama,” by the Argentine folk legend Gustavo Leguizamón, ruminates on a café which served as a safe haven for artists to talk about their work.

One of the members of Brooklyn Rider says that when they talked about this project, they wondered which songs to do.  Which would best represent beauty in the face of difficult circumstances–an antidote to cynicism.  What is most precious and beautiful to a culture.

This song and all of them certainly do that.

[READ: May 16, 2019] “The Presentation on Egypt”

I have enjoyed everything I’ve read by Bordas.  And I really enjoyed this one.  A story would have to be good if the apparent main character has your name and–before committing suicide–has to pull the plug on a brain-dead man with your son’s name.  [That was painful to read].

The story opens with Paul telling the wife of the brain-dead man that he is completely brain-dead.  Unlike on TV, he wasn’t going to magically snap out of it.  When the wife finally agreed to pull the plug and the main died, Paul went home, had a cigarette, and hanged himself.

Paul had a wife and a daughter (if either one had my wife or daughter’s name, I would have had to give Bordas a call).  Paul hanged himself in the laundry room, perhaps knowing that his daughter would never go in there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OHMME-Tiny Desk Concert #848 (May 9, 2019).

It’s not very often that I have seen a band before I have seen their Tiny Desk Concert (most of the time it’s the Tiny Desk Concert that makes me want to see the band). But I saw OHMME open for Jeff Tweedy last year and they were amazing.

This Tiny Desk captures most of that amazingness with some difference. Like in our show, Sima Cunningham (white guitar) and Macie Stewart (blue guitar) sang and played guitar (intensely fuzzed out guitar).  But at our show, one of them played violin for a few songs, which is not used here, and here they have a drummer, Matt Carroll.

When Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart fired up their angular guitar sounds during soundcheck at the Tiny Desk, I was thrilled. The shrieking, rhythmic noise these two classically trained musicians make as Ohmme is what made their debut album, Parts, a musical highlight for me in 2018. But hearing them in the office, trading vocals with such ping-pong precision, sent me into euphoria. This is now one of my all-time favorite Tiny Desk concerts.

Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart, along with drummer Matt Carroll, steer clear of rock music clichés that plague so much of the music I hear these days. Their adventurous spirit is sometimes challenging. But it opens a window on what the voice can be. It also redefines what the guitar can do — at one moment it’s a stuttering percussive instrument, the next it’s a bed of noise with a harsh tone that somehow morphs its way into the melody.

This show has four songs (!)  Yay!  Sixteen minutes of songs from an artist I like.

“Water” is the song that blew my mind when I saw them live.  That amazing buzzy guitar sound, the way the guitars morph and change, the way the bridge is harsh and alienating, the noise-filled “solo” and then of course, the hocketing.  I am frankly shocked that the blurb doesn’t talk about the hocketing:

the rhythmic linear technique using the alternation of notes, pitches, or chords. In medieval practice of hocket, a single melody is shared between two (or occasionally more) voices such that alternately one voice sounds while the other rests.

Both Sima and Macie alternate notes in a beautiful yet disorienting melody.  And the wonderfully noise-filled guitar solo that Macie plays is such a wonderful contrast to the catchy melody of the song.  It’s a stunning song.

“Icon” is a simpler song–on the surface.  The verses are a simple up and down melody–soothing and familiar.  But the chorus just takes off with high notes and an unexpected emphasis on the words “I want a new icon.”

“Parts” has Macie playing a looping guitar line while Sima plays a low bass-ish part.  They sing in harmony with Sima taking some occasional low notes.   This song has some very cool dramatic slow downs and build ups combined with wonderful lyrics.

My bloody Mary had arrived and so I bent into the pain
He can’t believe all the distortions I put my body in
Like an acrobat and banshee decided to inhabit
The same fleshy husk and it’s my job to stand it
A fly with a vengeance kept landing like a dancer
He must have had a grudge for some dead ancestor
I smashed last summer in a fit of rage
I don’t like little things touching my face

Sima also takes very pretty guitar solo on this one.

The final song “Grandmother” goes out to their grandmothers whom they love very much.  After a quiet opening (featuring Sima’s wonderful vocals), the song takes off in a three note rocking motif (with Sima scratching up and down her guitar for interesting sound effects).  Then Macie takes off with a noise-fueled guitar solo that would make any 90s band proud.

They are wonderful live and I can’t wait to see them again.

[READ: May 13, 2019] “Brawler”

I enjoyed Groff’s book of short stories recently, so I was intrigued to read this one as well.  And it features Groff’s unique peculiarities of subject and outlook.

Sara was on the diving team.  As the story opens, Sara is late for the match (but has not missed it).  She was in detention for getting in a fight–her knuckles were bloody and raw.  But she snuck out of detention when the moderator fell asleep.  Her coach called her “Brawler.”

Sara had originally been on the swimming team, but she was caught “brushing the boys’ junk in their Speedos with her hand as they swam by in the next lane.”  Diving suited her more, anyway.

Her dive was a success, even if she had to cover her minor foul with her bloodied knuckles (apparently the back of her head had grazed the board). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THOU-Tiny Desk Concert #847 (May 6, 2019).

I saw Thou play a show last year and they were loud, abrasive and intimidating.  So much so that when I saw this collective of people behind the Tiny Desk, I had to double check to make sure it was the same band.

I mean, the band I saw had a male singer who growled/screamed all of the lyrics.  This band had three women singing and was entirely quiet.

I had a ticket to a show recently featuring Screaming Females (who headlined for Thou last time, too) and what was listed as a rare acoustic show from Thou.  I assume it must have sounded something like this.

And this is pretty awesome.

But what is going on?

The first-ever metal band at the Tiny Desk is a little bit of a head fake. Make no mistake, Thou makes some of the heaviest, most tortuous music around; but the band also constantly experiments with beautifully ornate arrangements that balance its most extreme measures. In a set culled from the acoustic-driven Inconsolable — one of six full-lengths, EPs and splits the band released last year (no, really) — Thou shows us just how crushing quiet can be.

Guitarist KC Stafford plays guitar and sings lead.  The song is brooding and powerful in its slow quietness.

“This is the softest I’ve ever played,” guitarist KC Stafford told me during sound check.  Yes, their downtuned guitars are turned down low at the NPR Music office, but the weight is still ever-present. Stafford takes the lead on “The Hammer” as co-vocalists Emily McWilliams (blonde) and Melissa Guion (dark hair) sing, “Bring down the hammer / A bludgeon to my shrines / Bring down the hammer / To the corpse of my worship.”

McWilliams’ more high -pitched voice is an excellent companion to Stafford’s deeper delivery.

Guion also makes ambient-pop music under the name MJ Guider and MJ Guider was the opening act for the quiet show.

Stafford played bass when I saw them.  The bassist at this show, Mitch Wells, doesn’t look familiar from that night although he and rhythm guitarist Andy Gibbs are founding members (along with lead guitarist Matthew Thudium).  Perhaps Mitch was not around for that tour?  But he certainly brings some mirth to the proceedings.  He;s wearing a crazy bright shirt (not typical for a doom metal band) and he says that playing the Tiny Desk was a big old bucket list.

Even though the band’s line up has stayed pretty consistent since they began in 2005, they have had three drummers.  Tyler Coburn (who might be the reincarnation of Andy Kaufman) joined in 2018 which means I probably didn’t see him at my show.

The cryptic lyrics and melodies are largely written by Bryan Funck, who normally screams his existential despair for Thou. But for these songs and this Tiny Desk, he lurked in the audience.

So that’s where he was.  Turns out that for the Inconsolable EP, he didn’t sing anything, allowing guest vocalists to sing everything.

For the second song “Come Home, You Are Missed” McWilliams sings lead.  She sang on the EP as well.  Guion accompanies her very nicely.  For this song Stafford’s guitar seems tuned down so far you can hear the string vibrating and rumbling as she plays open chords.

The final lines, “Privacy is priceless to me” are repeated three times.

Thou’s decade-plus discography is an exercise in exploration and refinement, finding new textures in heft, which is why this set offers such a slow-burning thrill to its oeuvre.

I am now regretting even more not going to that show.  I can’t get over what a different experience it would have been.

The closing cut, “The Unspeakable Oath,” lead by guitarist Matthew Thudium, is a twinkling grunge song that overlaps guitar melodies with the grace and grandiosity of a whale.

I don’t believe that Thudium ever sang when I saw them, but his voice is fantastic.  He doesn’t even sing on the EP.  His voice seems wasted in a screaming band.

I really like this song a lot.  I like the way the verses quietly build up and then release with a simple but effective guitar riff as a segue to the next part.  The final part of the song also features some interesting/creepy “ahhhs” from McWilliams and Guion which conclude the song very tidily.

[READ: May 6, 2019] “The Escape”

Eddie Prior is the protagonist of this story and he makes a grand entrance.

As the story opens, Eddie has entered the Pavilion and is heading down the grand staircase when he slips (leather dancing shoes on parquet floor).  But he keeps smiling and manages to tap out the beat with each step, rescuing himself as he comes to a stop between two striking women.  Both women are named Millie and both are embarrassed by his attention.

The blonde Millie is dismissive.  The brunette Millie is embarrassed, but finds him handsome.  Later she agrees to dance with him and a year later agrees to marry him.

As with another recent New Yorker story, this one jumps ahead quickly.  There are children, a war, and bitter words but through it all they are Catholic, so they just get on with it. (more…)

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