Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE HU-“Wolf Totem” and “Yuve Yuve Yu” (2018).

The HU are a band from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia who plays what they call Hunnu Rock.  There are four guys in the band: Gala, Jaya, Enkush, and Temka.

They have recently posted two videos online (after having been a band for about seven years).

Two of the men in the band play the morin khuur (морин хуур), or horsehead fiddle.  It’s a traditional Mongolian bowed stringed instrument. It is one of the most important musical instruments of the Mongol people, and is considered a symbol of the Mongolian nation.  The third member plays a shudraga, a three-stringed lute-like instrument which I suspect is being run through some distortion pedals.

Their instruments are beautiful with intricate designs on the neck and the heads.

Despite the traditional instruments, The Hu play very heavy music.  The shundraga appears to be playing some heavy chords, while the morin khuur play lots of cool solos.

The first song, “Wolf Totem” opens with what sounds like 1,000 thumping drums.  The morin khuur plays a bowed melody as the chanted vocals come forward.

The vocals are something of a guttural growl, but it makes sense as what you might think a Mongol leader might sound like.  There may even be some throat singing.

I also like that there’s an eagle call at the beginning and end of the song.

The fact that the video includes a host of leather jacketed motorcycle riders chanting the choral HU is pretty awesome.  And the Mongolian scenery is breathtaking.

The second song is “Yuve Yuve Yu.”  I’m mentioning the video first because it contrasts nicely.  It shows all the band members inside, playing video games, watching TV–very Western stuff.  But when they open the door of their flat, they find themselves outside on the plains.

The first guy steps outside to find his shudraga.  The riff is a but more substantial on this song, but only slightly.  It feels less like a call to arms and more like a song.

Although with a chorus (in Mongolian) of

Hey you traitor! Kneel down!
Hey, Prophecies be declared!

This seems more of a call to arms than the other.

There’s a cool sliding violin riff an instead of the guttural chanting there’s  a relatively high-pitched sung “doo do do” melody.

Both of these songs are quite cool, especially the accompanying videos.  The band has received some attention for the videos (which is how I found them).  They’ve even got their songs on bandcamp.

I’m curious to see if this will translate into somewhat mainstream success in the west.

[READ: January 10, 2019] “Whisky Lullaby”

This excerpt from a longer story is perfectly written–I loved the way it was presented and how the “ending” was revealed (it’s an excerpt, so not the real ending).

Hamid is a Muslim man living in Scotland.  He has recently married a Scottish woman, Ruqiyyah, who had converted to Islam a few years ago.  She was seeking a partner and he was seeking citizenship.

“She had not always been Ruqiyyah, she once was someone else with an ordinary name, a name a girl behind the counter in the Bank of Scotland might have.”

As the story opens, Ruqiyyah is holding a bottle e of Johnnie Walker.  It is his Hamid’s bottle and she shouldn’t know about it.  She is very unhappy about the bottle.  Being an intense convert plus being Scottish, she takes things like this far more seriously than he does.  He knows it is wrong, but in the grand scheme of things, drinking (instead of writing his PhD thesis) is pretty harmless compared to black magic, adultery, abusing your parents.  This was human weakness and wasn’t Allah all-forgiving? (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: PLACEBO-Running Up That Hill (2003).

Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” is a masterpiece of a song–weird and wonderful and surprisingly moving.

This Placebo cover is much darker, with the sleazy/sultry/hopeless/hopeful edge that Placebo is based around.  The video is a collection of fan-submitted headshots of people singing the song, which makes it all the more moving.

I will always love the original more, but this version is pretty great as well.

[READ: December 30, 2018] Barefoot BF [Posts 1-8]

I don’t normally write about blogs. Heck I don’t normally read many blogs (I’m a print guy).  I would also never be drawn to a blog about running.  But this blog is different. It is about running but it is about a lot more: music, redemption, friendship, relationships and running as a way of coping with the shit you’ve done in the past.  And the writing is great–suspenseful, passionate and honest.

This blog about running will have you riveted as he talks about how a run was a metaphor for dealing with the crazy family nonsense that he was coping with–and it is pretty crazy.  He writes about the races that he’s run, but he writes in such a way as to make the outcome ever in doubt–running with plantar fasciitis?  Running when your foot is swollen and the only conceivable relief is removing the shoe (hence the barefoot title)?  Running on Cape Cod in a Nor’easter while your girlfriend is miles behind you?

It’s some pretty intense stuff. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: KASVOT VÄXT-“Cool Amber and Mercury” (1981/2018).

Back in 1994, Phish started covering a classic album for its Halloween costume. In 2015 they covered the Disney album: Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House, which pretty much meant all bets were off.  So in 2018, they decided to cover an obscure Scandinavian prog rock band called Kasvot Växt and their sole album, í rokk.  This proved to be a big joke–they were a nonexistent band.  They had so much fun creating this band, that they even enlisted others to expand the joke.  This included impressively thorough reviews from WFMU and from AllMusic.

The joke is even in the name: when translated together Kasvot Växt and í rokk means “Faceplant into rock.”.

Here’s some more details they came up with:

The Scandinavian prog rock band purportedly consists of Jules Haugen of Norway, Cleif Jårvinen of Finland, and Horst and Georg Guomundurson of Iceland.  The album’s label, Elektrisk Tung, supposedly went out of business shortly after the LP’s release and little information about the record appears on the internet. Bassist Mike Gordon made a tape copy of í rokk in the mid-’80s and Phish would play it “over and over in the tour van in the early ’90s.” In the Playbill, guitarist Trey Anastasio insisted, “Every time the Halloween discussion comes up, we talk about Kasvot Växt. We honestly were worried we wouldn’t have the chops to pull it off or do justice to the sound, but when it came down to it, we just couldn’t resist any longer.”

The decision to go with an obscure album few have heard or even heard of appealed to the members of Phish. “We’ve paid tribute to so many legendary bands over the years, it felt right this time to do something that’s iconic to us but that most people won’t have heard of,” Gordon said as per the Phishbill. “And with these translations we’re really performing songs that have never been sung in English before.” Keyboardist Page McConnell added, “I love the mystery surrounding this whole thing. If those guys ever hear we did this I hope they’re excited because we absolutely intend it as a loving tribute.” As for what Phish fans can expect? “A weird, funky Norweigan dance album! Get out there and put your down on it!” exclaimed drummer Jon Fishman.

While the listings for the 10 tracks on the original í rokk were in a Scandinavian language, the titles appear in English in the Playbill. Phish called upon a Nordic linguist to translate the lyrics to English for tonight’s performance.

These songs do not really sound like a Norwegian prog rock band.  They do sound an awful lot like Phish (although with a more synthy vibe overall. The band has this part of their live show streaming on Spotify under the Kasvot Växt name.  And I’m ending the year by talking about each song.

This song picks things up a bit.  It’s still slow but the tone is a bit lighter. The repeated chorus of “Cool Amber and Mercury” is upbeat and there’s a great poppy guitar riff for most of the song.

There’s also the return of the “foosiplant in torock” as Trey solos.  This is a smooth grooving song and a nice pick up after the darker last few songs.

[READ: December 19, 2018] “They Told Us Not to Say This”

This is a story about young Filipino girls and how their lives evolved.  It is told in the plural as they experience the world around them.  Aside from having feelings for the boys in town, they also are keenly aware of how much more valued the boys are than them.

They note that the few white boys in their town could ball.  Brent Zalesky talked about basketball all the time.  He didn’t flinch at the sound of gunshots and he received detentions weekly.  He stole cassettes and CDs and removed the security stickers with magnets and a BIC lighter.  He even took requests for music.   Everyone called him Z.

The story then goes to say that Brent took “her” to the movies in junior year.  “Her” is Marorie (one of the “we”) and she described the date in wondrous terms. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: KASVOT VÄXT-“Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” (1981/2018).

Back in 1994, Phish started covering a classic album for its Halloween costume. In 2015 they covered the Disney album: Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House, which pretty much meant all bets were off.  So in 2018, they decided to cover an obscure Scandinavian prog rock band called Kasvot Växt and their sole album, í rokk.  This proved to be a big joke–they were a nonexistent band.  They had so much fun creating this band, that they even enlisted others to expand the joke.  This included impressively thorough reviews from WFMU and from AllMusic.

The joke is even in the name: when translated together Kasvot Växt and í rokk means “Faceplant into rock.”.

Here’s some more details they came up with:

The Scandinavian prog rock band purportedly consists of Jules Haugen of Norway, Cleif Jårvinen of Finland, and Horst and Georg Guomundurson of Iceland.  The album’s label, Elektrisk Tung, supposedly went out of business shortly after the LP’s release and little information about the record appears on the internet. Bassist Mike Gordon made a tape copy of í rokk in the mid-’80s and Phish would play it “over and over in the tour van in the early ’90s.” In the Playbill, guitarist Trey Anastasio insisted, “Every time the Halloween discussion comes up, we talk about Kasvot Växt. We honestly were worried we wouldn’t have the chops to pull it off or do justice to the sound, but when it came down to it, we just couldn’t resist any longer.”

The decision to go with an obscure album few have heard or even heard of appealed to the members of Phish. “We’ve paid tribute to so many legendary bands over the years, it felt right this time to do something that’s iconic to us but that most people won’t have heard of,” Gordon said as per the Phishbill. “And with these translations we’re really performing songs that have never been sung in English before.” Keyboardist Page McConnell added, “I love the mystery surrounding this whole thing. If those guys ever hear we did this I hope they’re excited because we absolutely intend it as a loving tribute.” As for what Phish fans can expect? “A weird, funky Norweigan dance album! Get out there and put your down on it!” exclaimed drummer Jon Fishman.

While the listings for the 10 tracks on the original í rokk were in a Scandinavian language, the titles appear in English in the Playbill. Phish called upon a Nordic linguist to translate the lyrics to English for tonight’s performance.

These songs do not really sound like a Norwegian prog rock band.  They do sound an awful lot like Phish (although with a more synthy vibe overall. The band has this part of their live show streaming on Spotify under the Kasvot Växt name.  And I’m ending the year by talking about each song.

This song continues in that darker, sleazier mode with the slinky bass and dirty keys.  The vocals are by Fish and he’s singing in a growly/Frank Zappa style.

Frozen in place (death don’t hurt very long)
Cast into space (death don’t hurt very long)
Transported too fast (death don’t hurt very long)
You know it don’t last (death don’t hurt very long)
Up from the ground (death don’t hurt very long)
Shaken by sound (death don’t hurt very long)
Descended from apes (death don’t hurt very long)
You’re just changin’ shapes (death don’t hurt very long)

At over 8 minutes, it’s one of the longest songs in the set and it totally rocks.  There’a lengthy, raw sounding solo and the song turns into a heavy jam.  It’s really good.

[READ: December 20, 2018] “Canon”

This story was written in 1926 and has been translated by Ryan C.K. Choi

This is a short piece.  It opens with a young man deciding to become a socialist and his father threatening to disinherit him.  But the young man persisted.  His studies suffered and his attendance at school became less frequent.  Eventually he dropped out and got a job.  Although he continued attending meetings .

After all, a world-wide socialist revolution was under way. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACKAMY GRANT-Tiny Desk Concert #813 (December 17, 2018).

Amy Grant is “The queen Christian pop” and as such I have no use for her.

Amusingly this Christmas-themed Tiny Desk Concert was organized by Lars Gotrich who also loved death metal.

Lars explains his connection to Amy:

Growing up in the ’90s, there was never a Christmas without Amy Grant’s music. Home for Christmas, in particular, was a favorite around our household, its string-swept nostalgia wrapped around the family den like a warm blanket and a plate of cookies. So when I invited the Nashville pop singer to perform our annual holiday Tiny Desk, I had to bring my mom.

When I saw she was playing I feared the worst–bland inoffensive pop and offensive Christian music.  But rather, this Concert proves to be bittersweet with two songs about Christmas that welcome Christmas but also know that it’s not always perfect.

“As I’ve gotten older, sometimes I’ve realized the bravest thing you can do at Christmas is go home,” she tells the Tiny Desk audience after performing “To Be Together,” from 2016’s cozy, yet lived-in Tennessee Christmas. “Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is open the door and welcome everybody back.”

Her band sounds tight–piano and acoustic guitar and a cool five string bass.  Her backing singers do a nice job–and while it hovers along the line of too much for me, she reins it in nicely.  And “To Be Together” is really a lovely Christmas song.

And that’s when it all comes home for Amy Grant. “Tennessee Christmas,” written 35 years ago, takes on new meaning here — this was the first time she’s performed the song since her father died this year. You see her eyes glisten, and her voice catch on the final “tender Tennessee Christmas,” everyone feeling that wistful tenderness and offering some back in return.

If you don’t need therapy before Christmas…hang on you’re gonna need it after,

To shake out her sadness, Grant dons reindeer antlers (generously provided by someone at NPR because of course someone at NPR keeps festive wear on hand) and dashes through a delightful version of “Jingle Bells.”

This version of “Jingle Bells” is almost manic in its speed and juxtapositions of slow and fast.  It’s really great.

[READ: December 20, 2018] “Christmas Triptych”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection, although I do love to include a Tiny Desk Christmas Concert like this one.

This is an actual Christmas story (or three) by the Canadian master of comedy, Stephen Leacock. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: CHRISTMAS AT DOWNTON ABBEY (2014).

We enjoyed Downton Abbey quite a lot, so it seemed natural to get the Christmas CD collection.  Well, it turns out you don’t need to have any appreciation of the TV show to enjoy this CD.

Aside from the opening Downton theme, everything else on the disc is a traditional British Christmas carol–secular and non-secular.

But it’s not an awkward cast recording.  There are a couple of cast members who sing, but they were known for the singing already:

Julian Ovenden who played Charles Blake sings a lot of songs.  Ovenden has sung musical theater with many orchestras.  His voice is great.  Elizabeth McGovern, who played Cora, has also had a singing career.  Between them, they sing six songs–all classic carols.

The rest of the album features The King’s College Choir Of Cambridge on fourteen songs and Kiri Te Kanawa who sings 6 songs.  There is more classical instrumental (and not) music that fills out this 2 CD set (45 tracks in all).

It’s not to say that there is no connection to the show.  Jim Carter (Mr Carson) recites ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas over some music.  It’s quite lovely and he has a great voice for recitation.

As far as tie-ins to TV shows go, this one is fantastic.

But if you like old-fashioned Christmas carols, this is a great album for Christmas.

[READ: December 18, 2018] “Strategies Against Sleeping”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

I loved the way that this story (translated from the Spanish by Miranda France) started as one thing and slowly turned into something else entirely.

Señora Eloísa was in a car getting driven back home.  She was very tired from her travels and wished to just close her eyes and let the soothing engine noise take her away.  She was on the verge of sleep several times, but the driver of the car kept pressing her to stay awake.

She felt compelled to make small talk with the driver, but regretted it instantly.  She felt she had given away too much information.  So when he asked if he could smoke, she allowed allowed it as an act of consiliation.  She regretted not taking the coach.

The driver kept saying how happy he was to have someone to talk to.  He himself was quite tired having not slept very well the night before and he felt that she was keeping him awake.  “Please talk to me” he said.

She talked about the rain and then about an essay she wrote once.  It had to do with beggars–about which she clearly knew very little.  She wrote in her essay that rain was a blessing for beggars–since they live under a blazing sun all day long, they must love the rain.

Even with this, whenever she paused she heard “Please talk to me.”  Annoyed, she pressed on.

She told the story of a woman, possibly a beggar but possibly not–she did have on nice clothes, anyone could see.  The woman was standing in the middle of a traffic jam in the heat.  Señora Eloísa’s husband didn’t see the woman but Señora Eloísa couldn’t take her eyes off of her standing in the street with that heavy baby .

She hadn’t mention the baby at first and the driver was puzzled. She snapped that of course she had mentioned the baby.  She then proceeded to admonish the driver and her (absent) husband for not understanding how hard it is to carry a heavy baby in the heat.

As the driver trues to change the subject, she quickly pulls it back to the heavy baby and the story suddenly changes into something else entirely.

This was a strange story to be sure, and there’s a lot there for one to unpack.

To learn more about this piece, here’s a Q&A with Liliana Heker.

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THE INNOCENCE MISSION-Tiny Desk Concert #807 (November 28, 2018).

I bought the third Innocence Mission album, glow, back in 1995.  The single “Bright as Yellow” was (and is) absolutely gorgeous.  It was a lovely, dream pop album.  But they took four years to make their next album and I guess I forgot all about them.

So what a delightful surprise to hear and see that they are still playing music together in their more or less original lineup.  After glow, their drummer left and they continued as a trio without drums.

The three songs they play are different in style, but not intent from “Bright As Yellow.”  “Bright” has a hazy/dreamy electric guitar sound.  These three song are gentle folk songs all on acoustic guitars.

The Innocence Mission, ever the most careful cultivators of quiet, encouraged us to come closer, to discover the “thing beautiful enough” in the moment it’s delivered.

They do not play “Bright as Yellow” (I wonder if they ever do anymore).  Instead they play two new songs and one old song.

The trio — now three decades into its existence — bookends this performance with two songs from 2018’s Sun on the Square. “Green Bus” and “Light of Winter” thread the long and winding needle of Karen Peris’ evocative words with her husband Don Peris’ decorative-but-nuanced guitar and Mike Bitts’ deft bass lines.

“Green Bus” sounds a lot like the recorded version, but warmer, somehow.  The end of the blurb says that Peris is a little under the weather.  It makes her voice seem even more fragile, which somehow makes the lyrics and the song even more intimate.

In some of my favorite lyrics of the year, Karen Peris tangles the tender and the tempestuous:

And what could I bring you,
now in the meantime?
Fruit from the sunlight,
quartz from the bay?
And where will I find this,
perfect and wondrous?
I look into shops,
I slip into rain.

Between those newer songs, The Innocence Mission plays “Tomorrow on the Runway,” the opening cut from 2003’s Befriended.  This song has a lovely guitar melody and Peris; delicate voice sounds wonderful.

Nursing a small cold, Peris’ voice slightly breaks when she sings, “Did you still leave the darkness without me? You’re always miles ahead” — but the humbling effect, however unintended, lingers in your being.

“Light of Winter” has a stunning chorus–the way the music weaves with her voice is gorgeous.  The verses are quiet and subtle but the way that chorus comes us–wow.

It was great to hear them again, and I think they may need to get added to a nightly bedtime rotation..

[READ: December 13, 2018] “Time for Their Eyes to Adjust”

This is a story of a woman’s relationship with her father.  A relationship that is strained and tested by many factors.

The narrator says she is 48, the same age her father was when she was born.  She is aware of her parents’ time together, but mostly through hearsay:

you can never know much about other people’s lives, least of all your parents’, especially if your parents have made a point of turning their lives into stories that they then go on to tell with God-given ability of not caring in the least about what’s true and what’s not.

Her recollection of her parents is that she was his child and her child, but never their child.  She spent a lot of time with her mother and then 1 month every year with him at Hammars, or Djaupadal (Sweden), as it was known in the old days. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »