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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BABY ROSE-Tiny Desk Concert #943 (February 10, 2020).

I had not heard of Baby Rose, which I suppose makes sense since she put out her debut album last year.

The blurb makes it sound like she has been through a lot more than her 25 years might suggest.

But when the voice behind those words is as seasoned and vintage as Baby Rose’s, everything it utters reverberates like the gospel truth. The D.C. native — who came of age in Fayetteville, N.C. before coming into her own as an artist in Atlanta — returned to her birthplace.

She even speaks like a much older person:

“I would not be able to write with such emotion about these things without my fair share of regrets.”

It sounds like a sincere statement until you realize it’s a bit, an introduction to the song strangely spelled “Ragrets.”

But that is my favorite song here.  It’s got a great opening guitar riff from John Scherer that is duplicated on the bass (with some great high notes) by Craig Shephard.  Backing vocalist Erika JaNaé is there with her throughout–matching her with lovely backing ooohs.

Baby Rose has a voice that sounds a bit like Antony from Antony & the Johnsons–wavery and operatic.  Especially as the Concert opens with “Sold Out” which features strings from Jasminfire on viola, Yuli on violin and Noah Johnson on cello.

It’s also evident in the third song “Over.”  In the middle of the song she sings low and it sounds very Antony, although I suppose another comparison would be “the bluesy melisma of Nina Simone and the deep register of Sarah Vaughan–two of her idols.”  This song is, surprisingly, less than two minutes long.  It has a simple piano melody from Timothy Maxey.  In addition to Erika JaNaé, Jasminfire and Yuli sing backing vocals.  I like the bass slide at the end, which seems like it’s a transition to another part of the song, not the end.

The next song is “Mortal” which opens with a loud drum hit from Tauseef Anam and quiet shimmering guitars.  There’s a lot of backing singing on this song and they all sing very nicely.

As this song is ending she introduces the band and says

“This is what real love sounds like.  This is what it feels like.”

The blurb says

From any other new artist, a Tiny Desk declaration like that might sound a tad bit presumptuous if not altogether premature.

I actually thought pretentious was the word.

She asks if she can do one more (because of course an artist I’ve never heard of gets an 18 minute set).  And in introducing “All To Myself,” she says she is

Dedicating the song to herself — and “to anyone here that’s ever wanted to call or text somebody that you know you should not call or text” —  congratulating those of us who’ve refrained from squandering our emotions on the undeserved.

Her voice is really impressive on this song and I like that the blurb acknowledges that she’s not using autotune

In an era when the over-reliance on Autotune has nearly everybody in radio R&B land sounding like automatons, her unadulterated voice is almost otherworldly. It’s confounding how a vocal tone so weathered and wise emerges from her so effortlessly.

I was a bit cynical about her at first, but Baby Rose really brings the goods.

[READ: July 10, 2019] Who is Rich?

Rich Fischer is a cartoonist.  As the book opens, Rich is beginning his annual week-long teaching assignment at a New England beachside Arts Conference.  Rich was once sort of famous for his first (and only) published book and that’s why he was initially invited to instruct.  In the intervening six years, he has not really produced anything except drawings for magazines, but the head of the council still likes him, so Rich has that annual work to look forward to.

Although he doesn’t really look forward to it.  At this point, he knows what he is and how he fits along with the rest of the teaching staff:

unknown nobodies and one-hit has-beens, midlist somebodies and legitimate stars.

His was a four day intensive workshop that cost $1500.  He details his students–a former high school art teacher (who tried to take over the class), a med student who didn’t want to start med school, a trans kid, a Vietnam War veteran, a grandmother and a teenager skulking in the back.

He talks about his precocious success–at first it seems like a mistake, but you get used to it quickly. You assume it will always be there.  Until it isn’t.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BALÚN-Tiny Desk Concert #926 (December 20, 2019).

When I first listened to this Tiny Desk, I was delighted by the gentle way it started–pretty acoustic melodies on slightly unfamiliar instruments.  Although I usually enjoy noise and chaos, I really hoped that this whole set would stay like this.  And (for the most part) it did.

The set opens with sampled birdsong as “Vaivén” begins with a beautiful melody from Noraliz Ruiz on the Puerto Rican cuatro.  She’s joined by Enrique Bayoán Ríos-Escribano on the charango.  It’s a beautiful short piece that segues into “La Nueva Ciudad” and that’s when things changed a bit with the addition of electronics.

Their mix of traditional instruments with electronics creates not just a sonic treat but also a visual feast, as our eyes dart from one instrument to the other, drawn in by a Puerto Rican cuatro and a makeshift drum set.

Indeed

It’s impossible to not be drawn in by the visual specter of Balún. The band has refined their electronic roots with their turn toward self-discovery on beautifully crafted studio albums, and this set behind the Tiny Desk shows how expertly they deliver the same meticulous, artful music live.

“La Nueva Ciudad” opens with electronic-sounding percussion as Ríos-Escribano and drummer Shayna Dunkelman both scratch percussion instruments.  Then Ríos-Escribano plays a hand drum and José A. Olivares plays a little synth device as the melody unfolds.

Then we finally hear singer Angélica Negrón (with the purple hair).  She has a soft, high voice as gentle as the instruments around it.  Her voice is warm and inviting even if you don’t speak Spanish (it might make you want to learn).

For verse two Darian Thomas kicks in the violin with the charango adding its chords.  It’s a wonderful song, complex and fun.

Balún is from Puerto Rico and they dedicated the third song “El Espanto” to their island home.  Negrón says “El Espanto” is about cleaning up the bad energy and starting from scratch.    It opens with a fascinating percussive intro

I didn’t expect to be greeted by a mysterious, eighth member who made an appearance at the start of “El Espanto” in the form of programmed solenoids that struck the bottoms of pots and pans to create a rhythmic intro to one of their brilliantly crafted songs, mixing the folkloric with the modern.

The song starts with a weird synth sound (like an electronic folk instrument) which, along with the violin, pokes out the melody.  Electronic percussion fleshes out the staccato notes.  Midway through the song it gets huge with guitars, synths, who knows what else.  It brings a great alt rock sound and a hugely catchy melody (and Negrón’s voice is perfect for it).  Then the cuatro takes over the melody again.  The middle of the song has a ripping guitar solo from Raúl Reymund with Darian Thomas playing some wild violin.

I love that everyone sings along gently until the end of the song, when it’s a total freak out with loud electronic drums, noisy guitar, wild violin and all kinds of shaken percussion.  It’s the chaos I wanted after all!

Balún is part of a vanguard of bands that is expanding the musical landscape of Puerto Rico and it is a treat to watch them up close as they create an actual bridge between the ancient and the modern, set against a rich tapestry of vocals that extoll the virtues and challenges facing their beloved island these days.

“Punto De Encuentro” ends the set. It’s a new song.   Noraliz Ruiz picks up the bass (the first time a bass is used).  It opens with all kinds of electronics starting the song which turns onto a quiet, pretty ballad.  Thomas plucks the melody on the violin along with the synths.  Then the churango comes back with the bowed violin and all the while the complex percussion keeps the song moving along.

I had never heard of this band before this set and they totally won me over.  I’m looking forward to checking out their albums.

[READ: March 2, 2020] “Night Swim”

This story is set in Ireland.  I only find this surprising because in the story the narrator goes more or less skinny dipping which was something I didn’t think you could do in Ireland (do the lakes ever get warm enough at night?)–at least I’ve never heard of anyone doing that before.

But although that is the title and a crux of the story, it is not the entire story.

The story opens with the narrator, Michelle, driving her son Ben to a friend’s house.  Ben doesn’t talk much in general, but he seemed to open up in the car (I found that to be true about my own kids).

Michelle had not been to this friend’s house and was following the GPS map.  She was familiar with the area but not the route itself.

While she was driving, Ben began asking her “would you rather” questions: Would you rather drink a cup of lava or be drowned in a lava lake.  She doesn’t enjoy the game, but he is quite insistent.

When she answers she would rather neither of those things, he just repeats the question.

When he asks if she would rather drown in a lake or be strangled in the dark, she flashes back to the titular night swim. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHAI-Tiny Desk Concert #904 (October 23, 2019).

What sounds like circus music plays as four women dressed in hoods with colorful bangles run out behind the desk and start dancing.

The lyrics begin: C-H-A-I.  CHAI.  We are CHAI.

The choreography continues for about a minute and a half when they take off their robes to reveal the four of them wearing matching pink and orange outfits.

The quartet made its grand entrance wearing hooded pom-pom outfits, with loosely choreographed dance moves, while the band’s song “This Is CHAI” played boombox style. It felt adorable. But once the hoodies came off, revealing their matching pink, crop top uniforms, the serious fun began.

In yet another example of how the best Tiny Desk Concerts are unfairly short, this super fun and adorable set is not even 11 minutes long.

Although CHAI does manage to play 4 songs in that time.

My face hurt from smiling so much! That’s what I remember most about CHAI’s Tiny Desk. CHAI is a sweet, colorful blanket of joy. These four women from Japan — twin sisters Mana and Kana, along with Yuna and Yuuki — are on a mission to expand the conventional notion of what we think of as “cute” or “kawaii” as it’s called in Japan.

They open with “Hi Hi Baby.”  Yuna plays drums while Mana and Kana start singing.  Then Yuuki starts playing the bass–a fast rumble while Mana and Kana keep singing (and doing choreographed arm gestures).

Their voices are high and they are decked out in pink.

CHAI’s music leans punkish, and the outfits quite pinkish. The songs played at the Tiny Desk come from both the band’s 2017 album Pink and the 2019 album appropriately named Punk. The group’s lyrics bounce back and forth from Japanese to English, often in the same sentence.

For “N.E.O.” Yuna sits at the drum kit and plays a cool, complex pattern while Yuuki’s bass brings in a great low funky riff.  Kana adds some guitar licks as they sing in a kind of staccato style (in harmony).

The song ends and the three of them raise their arms and say We are CHAI!

“Fashionista” is one of these songs where you can tell it’s Japanese and English.  There’s big thumping bass as the vocals kinds of whisper the lyrics.  I don’t know what they’re saying–except the chorus “we are fashionista.”  There’s some cool chunky guitar and a great sliding bass (their bass sound is terrific).  Mid-song Kana plays guitar by itself while singing before the band jumps back in together.

Before the last song.  They introduce themselves:

I’m Mana and I’m Kana and we are twins!   Same face!  Same face!
I’m Yuna and I’m Yukki.  We are … not twins.

CHAI chose “Future” for the final song, with more lyrics to brighten my smile and the smile of those around me.

“This is just my FUTURE!
This song about us forever!
Are you ready?
Never seen before!
It’s just what I imagined!
Come on!”

For “Future” Kana plays a futuristic synth sound while Yuuki plays a slow, low bass and Yuna hits the drums and percussion with her hands.

I’ve been looking forward to this Tiny Desk and it did not disappoint.

[READ: March 1, 2020] “Unbuttoned”

This is a another essay about Sedaris’ father.  Sedaris’ father is 96 and quite frail.

David himself was in the hospital about to undergo “a pretty disgusting procedure: in a few hours’ time, a doctor was scheduled to snake a multipurpose device up the hole in my penis” when his sister called to say that their father was dying.

The urologist said the device had a camera that showed what was going on inside: There’s your sphincter!

He says his previous exam like this involved his prostate

I’m fairly certain it involved forcing a Golden Globe Award up my ass.  I didn’t cry or hit anyone, though.  Thus it annoyed me to see what he English radiologist who’d performed the test had written in the comment section of his report: “Patient tolerated the trans-rectal probe poorly.”

They bought next-day plane tickets for the U.S.  En route DAvid learned that his father had been taken out of intensive care and sent back to his Assisted Living Facility.

When his father woke up, David said “I figured you’d rally as soon as I spent a fortune on last-minute tickets.”  He said he knew “that if the situation were reversed he’d gave stayed put, at least until a discount could be worked out.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TWIN PEAKS-“Spiders (Kidsmoke)” (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.

This was the last song on this compilation and it’s my favorite.

There’s a lot of Wilco songs that I like and “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” is way at the top.  The song is really long and doesn’t change a lot but the changes are fantastic.  One of the great things about the song is Nels Cline’s insane guitar work throughout–noisy and seemingly uncontrolled, but somehow fitting in perfectly with the 1-2-3- bass line.

This version by Twin Peaks is as good, if not slightly better than the original.  I say that because the band sounds a little fuller during the verses which I like (although it does make the change to the noisier section less dramatic).  And Nels Cline;s guitar work is more interesting than the Twin Peaks version–although they do some cool things too.

I think Twin Peaks has a bit more of the heavy alternative sound the I like.  The vocals are great, the guitars are great.  I’ve now listened to both versions back to back and I like them both!

This cover actually made me investigate Twin Peaks more and I was bummed to find out that they had just played a show in our area after I had listened to this song.

Next time!

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Volume 5

This book opens with Adrienne and Bedelia enjoying a cleansing bath in a lake (I assume).  While they are getting clean, Adrienne mourns the state of her hair.  How often she has tried to straighten and control the knotty curls on her head.  And after some serious thought, she has Bedelia shave it all off.  I love that when she pops out of the water newly shorn, she looks gorgeous–well done Emily Martin.  On a less great note, there’s a scene in the water where Bedelia, who is a strong and rugged half-dwarf lets not forget, is drawn with a waist that would be about 10 inches across in real life–bad form Emily Martin.

In book two, Devin and Kira are trotting along (with the tough Kira getting nauseous on the back of a horse).  When suddenly Kira smells… an elf.  And it is her duty to kill it.  Kira dives on the elf’s travelling companion, who is Prince Wilcome.  The elf, named Tempest, quickly disarms Devin and takes his sword.  They are at an impasse.

Next we jump to the dwarf kingdom.  There are two male guards out front discussing music and almost come to blows during their argument, calling each other girlie and arguing which one is the real man.  But when another dwarf comes along shouting Dragon, we find out that the dwarf dragon slayers are all women.  They prep themselves and get ready to make dragon stew.  After a kiss between Benna and Gretta they fling the dwarfs through the air from a catapult. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PARQUET COURTS-“I Got Drugs (at the End of the Century)” (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.

This track is about as far from the Wilco sound as I can imagine.  Plus, this is a mash up of two Wilco songs, “Handshake Drugs” and “I Got You (at the End of the Century).”  The song opens with Austin singing the lyrics to “Handshake Drugs” while the rest of the band chants the backing vocals of “I Got You” at the end of each verse.

Musically it’s very un-Wiclo as well.  There’s a drum sound which sounds like a sample of a person making a drum sound.  There’s a chiming repeating guitar sound and a big rumbling bass. And of course the vocal delivery is about as far from Jeff Tweedy as you can get.

Austin sings the first two verses while the responding chants move further down the lyrics of “I Got You,” now chanting something else.

There’s  simple weird synth solo in the middle.  Then the end half of the song is loud and dancey with a lot of chanting, “It’s the end of the century” and an unhinged guitar solo.

This song sounds like neither of the two songs it’s taken from, making this a fascinating and ultimately very cool cover.

[READ: February 2, 2020] Rust: Volume 3

Volume three is the penultimate volume of the series.  I can’t believe how short this series is.  It seems like so little has actually happened and yet so much has gone on.

The story continues where volume 2 left off–in fact the first thing we see is the robot that Jet has destroyed.  But it is not destroyed, it easily rights itself and takes off after Jet.

Jet returns to the train to get Oz, but the robot is right behind them.  Jet uses a clever maneuver to avoid the robot who crashes into the train while it is on a huge bridge.  The train starts to goes over, bringing Oz (and presumably the conductor(!!) with it.  Jet is able to rescue Oz at the last second (no word on anyone else).  Nevertheless, Oz refuses to give Jet the oil cell, even though Oz is clearly dying.   Finally Jet has to punch Oz to save himself.  Jet flies Oz back to his family.

But Oswald is still not happy about Jet and he reveals what he knows to Roman and Jesse.  They drive off leaving Jet n a field.  And that’s where the man with the beard finds him.

He says this is the longest that Jet has stayed in one place. Jet reveals that he thinks the family needs him and he want to stay.  But the man says that is he stays he will bring the entire military to their doorstep. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CATE LE BON-“Company in My Back” (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.

Cate Le Bon is a fascinating character, an esoteric Welsh singer who experiments with interesting sounds.  I don’t know that there’s many people like her.  I’m looking forward to seeing her live with Kurt Vile in a couple of months.

Her take on this familiar song is pretty simple—she sings with a kind of deadpan delivery which really accentuates the words.  The verses are a sort of repetitive sound that sounds like a full-sized toy piano with some cool bass lines throughout.

When the chorus kicks in there’s all kind of unexpected horn sounds flitting about.

It’s pretty far from the original but is really fun.

[READ: February 2, 2020] Rust Vol. 2

Volume 2 resumes right where the last book left off.  We’re at the Taylor farm and Roman is looking at the pitchfork that Jesse used to stop the machine that was heading toward the farm.  But Roman has more questions about the pitchfork than the machine.  After inspecting it he decides that only Jesse’s grandfather, Mr. Aicot could have made a pitchfork that could stop a machine like that.

Roman fixes up the machine so that it will repair his truck.  But it seems to go after Jesse–it stops short of doing anything to her but it sure gives her the creeps.  This is a good point to say how cool these machine robots are.  Their faces are essentially a triangular Venetian blind look.  Horizontal lines with a pointed front (like a nose).  They are dressed in long coats and look incredibly menacing.

Meanwhile Jet is feeling weaker and weaker.  Oz is spying on him and sees Jet remove his power cell–Oz realizes that jet is a robot!  This freaks him out.  He bikes to Mr Aicot’s house and reveals the secret.  Mr Aicot says that he knew already, but he never said anything to anyone because no one would believe him,

Then he has some things to show Oswald. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JIMMY EAT WORLD-Tiny Desk Concert #938 (January 29, 2020).

I’ll never understand the logistics of the Tiny Desk Concert setup.

This Concert features Jimmy Eat World, an unarguably huge band (at one time at least).  They’re doing something cool–playing their songs acoustically with no drums.

And they play for … less than 12 minutes.

Meanwhile the previous Tiny Desk Concert was by a young reggae person who, while she won a Grammy, is certainly not as well known or regarded as Jimmy Eat World.  And she got 15 minutes.  I’m okay with bands that I like playing a short set, it’s just frustrating that so many bands that I don’t know–usually in genres I don’t like as much–get two and sometimes three times as much air time.

But whatever.   Maybe the bands don’t want to play for that long.  But Jimmy Eat World came for their Tiny Desk Concert looking to have fun.

Jimmy Eat World showed up to the NPR Music office all smiles and no guitars, goofing off with toy instruments behind the Tiny Desk and cracking jokes. They borrowed a couple acoustics, a miniature gong and tambourine emblazoned with Bob Boilen’s face, which set the tone for a slightly silly, but altogether gracious performance.

They open with “Love Never” which features Jim Adkins singing lead and Robin Vining singing harmony.  I never noticed how fantastic their harmonies are–they are really spot on.  I wonder if it’s more noticeable in this stripped down format (or maybe it’s because Vining is a touring member and was picked because his voice is amazing).

What’s really funny during this song is that drummer Zach Lind is standing behind them the whole time doing nothing. And then for the last note, he hits Bob Boilen’s gong.  It’s pretty funny and everyone cracks up.

The next song, “All the Way (Stay)” comes from the band’s tenth album, Surviving.  [They have been around for twenty-seven years!].  Zach plays the tambourine.   Again, the vocal harmonies are outstanding as Robin picks out the melody while Jim strums.

Introducing the final song, Jim says their new songs reflect their earlier song ideas: “Your sense of self-worth coming from external validation is an empty pursuit,”

Guitarist Tom Linton joins the band for the final song.  During the introduction, Adkins gets distracted by Tom’s guitar (and goofs about throat singing) before getting everyone super excited that they’re going to play “The Middle.”

I’m fascinated to realize that I’ve known this song for nearly 30 years.  It’s still fun to sing along to–which the audience does.

this feel-good Bleed American single has remained a constant source of goodness in a sometimes bleak world. When the audience joins in for the last chorus, an uplifting catharsis streaked through our hearts as we all sang, “Everything, everything will be just fine / Everything, everything will be all right, all right.”

I’m always thrilled when bands like this get a Tiny Desk and I hope there’s more to come!

[READ: February 1, 2020] Rust Volume 1

Volume 1 picks up right where the prologue left off.  We are at Roman Taylor’s farm.  Roman is typing a letter to his (deceased?) father.  He says that mom is doing good and the little ones are fine. He hopes little Oswald will stick round, he could sure use help on the farm.

Then he tells about Jet Jones.

How on the day he arrived, Jet came screaming through the sky like he’d been shot out of a cannon.  He crashed through the barn and into the field.   When Roman went to look at him he heard a sound coming from behind the barn.   It was a large machine, clearly on a mission

The machine grabbed the boy and hurled him into a tree–which snapped in half. (more…)

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