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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

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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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-Corel Centre, Ottawa, ON (November 28, 1996).

This is the 14th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.  The site has recently added a DAT version of the show in conjunction with the existing fan-recorded version.

The band had played a show earlier in the day at Record Runner.  They sound great and fresh at this show as well–playing 45 minutes instead of 2 and a half hours must be a much more relaxing gig.

After the intro music of “Popcorn” (I wonder if the intro music has any bearing on the rest of the show–setlist, mood of the band, anything), they play “Self-Serve Gas Station.”  Not too many shows open with an older song like this.  Martin sings “What went wrong with Nimrod, is he dumb?”  It sorta segues into Martin playing “California Dreamline.”

“Claire” sounds really nice with a great solo from Martin.

Dave introduces “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson” by saying, this song is about a writing a letter to Alanis Morissette asking to be on her team.  In the middle he whispers “write me back… write me back, in blood!”

A plug for the new record with “Bad Time to be Poor” which is followed by “Motorino.”  I love when thy play this song.  It’s quite peculiar with a cool riff and Martin speaking Italian.

They run through a sweet instrumental jaunt through “Artenings Made of Gold” for 40 seconds before seguing into “All the Same Eyes.”

They end the show with a shout out to “Tim Mech [who] is in the home” as they play a rocking “Horses.”  As the song ends, Dave chants “Fuck the Tories.”

It’s another great opening set.

[READ: March 2018] Motherest

This was a really touching story about Agnes, an 18 year-old going off to college who has lost her mother.  Not that she died… she is just gone, left one day without saying anything.

Set in 1994, Agnes gets through the tribulations of college by writing to her absent mother (a letter at the end of each chapter).

Despite the premise, there’s a lot of funny stuff in this book.  Agnes has a sarcastic outlook on life and her parents, even though she clearly misses her mother.   The humor is evident in her letters to her mother (who will probably never read them) and in the main body of each chapter.  Like that her roommate’s given name is Surprise (which makes for some challenging sentences: “Surprise asked me”).  Also a little challenging is that the boy she fancies is delicate and sensitive so she calls him (and refers to him as) Tea Rose.

Also missing from Agnes’ life is her brother Simon who died three years ago–the three longest shortest years.

So while she is going through her daily life–handing in papers and willing Tea Rose to look at her, she is also writing to her mother: “is ‘leaving” a verb or a personality trait.  Like do you do it because you are it, or are you it because you do it?”

The book does not have her pining for Tea Rose for too long, which is nice.  They speak pretty early in the book–he asks her is she knows Nirvana–not “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” their early stuff.   “How could he know I had an older brother once who knew everything there was to know about music?”  And by the end of the semester they are firmly together. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Marine Midland Arena, Buffalo, NY (November 26, 1996).

This is the 13th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.

It’s also only the second Rheostatics show recorded in the United States on the Rheostatics Live website.  There was an earlier recording of this show which was not a soundboard show.  My complaints about the show were mostly about the audience.  And you can’t hear them on this.  The recording is much clearer too.

They opened the show to “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” from the Wizard of Oz.   There’s no graceful segue into the music, Martin just starts playing “A Midwinter Night’s Dream.”  It sounds perfect.  Everyone is tight and right with the sounds and Martin hits those high note perfectly.  It’s an amazing and bold introduction to the band if you didn’t know them.

“Fat” is next.  It’s more conventional, but there’s some really amazing guitar work from Martin.  And the band is really into it by the end.  It sounds fantastic.  “All the Same Eyes” is up next and it sounds rocking and fluid.

Tim introduces the band in this way:
We’re the Rheostatics from Toronto, Canada.

Then Dave says:
We’re B.T.O. from Red Deer, Alberta.
We’re The Spoons from Burlington, Ontario.
We are every Canadian band that ever was and some that haven’t even been born yet.

The play “Motorino” which is dedicated to Brad May, the Buffalo Sabres player.  It’s a bit chaotic, and Martin sounds a bit unhinged, but I love that he speak/sings in Italian.

Tamara Williamson joins them for “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine.”  She and Martin sound great together.  I love that she gets a few solo moments.  And when they both hit those incredibly high notes–she goes even higher than him–goosebumps!  Martin breathes very heavily into the mic after the song–it’s so hard to tell if he’s having fun or is really going mental.

Don says “So far all of these songs have been from our brand new record.  And this next one is too.  And I think the only place it’s available in the States is right here in the lobby.”

They play a great “Bad Time to Be Poor” which Dave dedicates to “Chrissy?” “for playing our record.”  I feel like Tim emphasizes the “don’t give a shit no more” line.  He sings the whole song very clearly, which is nice.  Then they move on to a great “Self-Serve Gas Station” with excellent backing vocals from Tim.

Dave says “To all those people in the cheap seats, we can hear your cheers.  We appreciate them.”

The roaring ending segues into the quiet opening of the final song “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson.”  Instead of shouting “Michael” the first time around, Dave shouts “Triumph!”

During the verse, Dave says, “I see two angels with funny lights on their heads in the 11th row.  It’s like some kind of dream or something.”

Martin plays some fun wild soloing including a bit of “Sweet Child of Mine.”  There’s some wildness by the end with them all singing parts and martin soloing but they tack on a quieter ending, with martin noodling about and Dave whispering “big white buffalo”  Tim and martin end it with several falsetto “It feels good to be alive”.

As they leave, they thank The Tragically Hip, the best guys in the land.

[READ: March 23, 2019] “Childhood”

Mark is bringing his son Reuben to a doctor’s appointment.  They stopped at an Indian restaurant which caps off a pretty amazing trip so far since there was so much usual in their routine.  Riding a bus, strange smells.  A year earlier he wouldn’t have set foot in such a strange restaurant.   He was eight now and seemed to be doing better.

He could now read proficiently in English and French and seemed to remember the lyric to every song he heard.  He even got invited to friend’s houses.

Although group dynamics were still awkward.  There were also fits of temper and absent-mindedness.  And general spaciness.  But was all this normal?  What was the margin of error?

School wasn’t always a help–“report cards were composed in a language that bore only a faint resemblance to English.  Parent-teacher conferences had thepolite, anxious feel of second dates.”

Mark wonders about his only childhood, did he have any really distinct memories before he was turned eight?  Or twelve?  Everything felt like a brown haze.

So he and his wife put off the appointment until “it felt too irresponsible an cowardly not to.  And then they put it off some more” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKFRAGILE ROCK-“Smile More” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next two shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

It’s hard to talk seriously about Fragile Rock since they are a band of puppets.  Literally.

To say that Fragile Rock sent the evening hurtling sideways would be an understatement, as the band unleashed a torrent of faux-grim hilarity and chaos when it wasn’t urging the audience to shout out its prescribed antidepressants or berating fans for grinning along. (“We don’t appreciate your smiles,” seethed Brently Heilbron, in the persona of wounded frontpuppet Milo S. “You wouldn’t do that to Conor Oberst.”

And yet they are a good punk band and their lyrics have become even more pointed.  Especially this one.  They explain:

This is a song that Nick and I wrote reflecting on the #metoo and #timesup movements (that’s right lady in the back snapping your fingers you are correct).

This is a great punk blast and frankly it’s nice to hear a song sung by the female vocalists instead of the Fred Schneider-sounding male lead singer.

For “Smile More,” the spotlight shifted to Emily Cawood (performing as Briex Cocteau) and Megan Thornton (aka Nic Hole), who spent two minutes savaging the patriarchy. “Don’t tell me to smile more, don’t tell me what my mouth is for, from a man who started every war,” Thornton and her puppet shouted in unison. And, see, here’s the secret to Fragile Rock’s raucous, ridiculous charm: Subtract the puppets, the stage antics and the silliness of all, and you’re still left with some pretty damned good songs.

And nice succinct lyrics:

You could have had it all
You blew it didn’t you
I’m gonna watch you fall and
Never ever pity you
You’re purposeless
Your license is expired
Your services are no longer required

Your time has come and gone….time’s up!

All in two minutes.

[READ: March 14, 2019] Florida

When I started reading this book, I instantly remembered reading “Ghosts and Empties” in the New Yorker.  I assumed and was pleased that this was a full novel built out of that story.  Why?  Because nowhere on this book does it say that these are short stories.   Not on the cover, not on the front page, nor the back page.  It’s somewhere on the fly leaf, but since Groff also writes novels, it’s a bit of an oddity to not say “stories” somewhere on it.  I looked at the Table of Contents, obviously, but just assumed those where chapter headings.

I was exited to read the fuller story of the woman who walks at night.  And then I found out that the next “chapter” was a new story.  It turned out to be a fantastic story.  So that’s all good.  I don’t mind reading short stories at all, it was just a surprise.

It also turned out that I have read five of these short stores before (she is often printed in the New Yorker–the other stories were in different journals which I put in brackets after each title).

“Ghosts and Empties” (New Yorker, July 20, 2015)
I see now that I didn’t really enjoy this story the first time I read it (and yet it stayed with me all these years).  But I did enjoy it more this time (I still find it unsatisfying that the opening parental freakout part is never really addressed).  But basically this is a story in which woman walks around her neighborhood every night and observes things changing–for better or worse.  Old nuns dying, new houses being built, neighbors changing.  All in the heat of Florida. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Polygondwannaland (2017).

KGATLW continued to amaze in 2017 with their fourth record of the year.  This record was given away for free in November–it was released under an open source licence—meaning the band did not sell copies of the album, but uploaded the master tapes online, encouraging fans to make their own copies and bootlegs of the album. They wrote:

Make tapes, make CD’s, make records.  Ever wanted to start your own record label? GO for it! Employ your mates, press wax, pack boxes. We do not own this record. You do. Go forth, share, enjoy.  P.S. If u wanna make cassettes I don’t really know what you would do.  Be creative. We did it once but it sounded really shit.

As of 2019, Louder tells us

They put the master tapes and artwork online, and indie labels all over the world filled their boots. According to Discogs there are currently 246 different versions of the album, coming in all sorts of shapes and sizes. There’s the label who released a triple vinyl 8″ lathe-cut edition of 101 copies. Australian label Rhubarb Recordings released an edition of 500 housed in a reflective silver foil laminated gatefold sleeve with psychedelic UV printing. Pocket Cat Records released a run of 20 with the grooves cut into blank laserdiscs. Aural Pleasure Records used a Kickstarter campaign to fund their edition of five “Glitter Lizard” LPs, with transparent blue and yellow vinyl featuring embedded glitter and “lizards.” It all got a bit crazy out there.

Conventional wisdom would say that obviously if they’re giving it away, it must not be very good.  But that’s the surprise (or not, given the quality out put of these guys)–this album is just as good as their others, and in many places better.  They really seem to have unified their sound for the bulk of this album, incorporating so many aspects of previous albums, but successfully merging them into a coherent whole.  There’s an epic song, a whole bunch of songs that segue into other songs, songs that refer to other songs, loud vocals, quiet vocals, flutes, harmonica, and it’s all wrapped up in an early Pink Floyd-era synth sound. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ZAYTOVEN-Tiny Desk Concert #828 (February 28, 2019).

I saw Zaytoven on the Gucci Mane Tiny Desk Concert and thought he was a good performer.  I didn’t expect that he woul det his own show.  So I wasn’t expecting all that much, but man, this is awesome.  And then I read why this show is the way it is:

Last month, Zaytoven arrived at Bob Boilen’s desk with a full band in tow with the intent of backing up his Atlanta friend and collaborator Future, who had dropped his latest album, The Wzrd, earlier that day. The plan was to translate the bass-heavy trap sound Zaytoven helped originate to real instruments with Neil Garrard on guitar, Bernard “TreWay” Lambert on drums, DJ Spinz and Elena on flute (for what would’ve been a live version of “Mask Off”).

So instead, we get this beautiful instrumental collection.  There’s three tracks that are kind of jazzy, but not exactly.  They’re pretty melodies with some great solo work from the electric guitar and lots and lots of flute.   The drums from Bernard “TreWay” Lambert are a mix of traditional and electric (with great sounds) and some nifty scratching from DJ Spinz.

Track one “Lay Up” has a ripping distortion-filled guitar solo from Neil Garrard.  But man, the real killer is the flute work.  It’s so effortlessly beautiful the way it floats around the song.  Elena Pinderhughes is just dynamite on this song and every one.

Introducing “Peacoat,” he says it feels it like jazz.  He also says he still plays the organ in church on Sundays and that he wants all of his songs to have soul.

“I wasn’t even allowed to listen to this type of music, let alone to be producing it,” he told me a little over a year ago in the church outside Atlanta where he plays organ every Sunday morning. He was remembering how conflicted he’d once felt as a young producer who’d grown up in the church to be playing his trade for street artists like future trap god Gucci Mane (who Zaytoven would later back on keys during his first visit to the Tiny Desk). “To be the godfather of the sound, it was almost embarrassing for me, like, ‘Hold on, bruh. This ain’t really how I was brought up. This ain’t really what I do.’ I’m a guy that’s in the church and I try to lead people more so that way.”

There’s some pretty piano and keyboards form Zaytoven on this song, and I like the subtle scratching throughout.

The final song “Mo Reala” is also great.  He says it’s got a church vibe.  It was his first single from the album with Future saying real things.  He’d ben producing since 2004, but Future helped him refine his piano work and his beats.  In addition to the great song itself, the flute and guitar solos are fantastic.  And again, I love the drums and scratching too.

I listened to the track with Future’s vocals on it and I didn’t like it half as much.

Zaytoven, if you read this, you should absolutely get this band together and record these songs just like this as instrumentals.  They are dynamite!  And no one is releasing music like this right now.  Get on it, man!

[READ: February 26, 2019] Cucumber Quest 4

Reading book 4 means that I am now caught up with the books that are currently out.  And that is terrible, because the series suddenly got really intense and really emotional.  And who knows how long I’ll have to wait until the next book!

When I first started this series, which is kind of a spoof on hero quests, I enjoyed it.  It made me laugh and had lots of funny and absurd twists.  I never expected to get so invested in the story of the Nightmare Knight and his explanation for why he is such a bad guy.

But back to our heroes.

When they arrive in the Flower Kingdom, they are given the terrible news that the Kingdom does not have a Princess (our heroes need Princesses to sign a sword as art of their quest). What will they do? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NATALIE PRASS-Tiny Desk Concert #827 (February 25, 2019).

I know Natalie Prass because “Short Court Style” was absolutely ubiquitous.  WXPN overplayed this song to death this summer.  At first I didn’t think much of it and then it clicked and I loved it.  The bassline is fantastic and the vocals are just amazing.  I was genuinely surprised to find out that Natalie Prass was white, because she sounded so soulful.

I genuinely had no idea who she was, so I was surprised that the accolades were so effusive and people spoke of her as if she were a legend.  Well, this is only her second album, but it really struck a nerve.

Full disclosure: We here at NPR Music have decreed Natalie Prass something of a patron saint for roséwave — our groove-laden, pink drink-soaked soundtrack for the summer. So, when the Richmond, Va. artist arrived at the Tiny Desk, it was a cause for celebration, especially amid the January blues that seemed to permeate the NPR Music office. Decked out in matching, cobalt blue outfits (with a matching keyboard stand to boot), Prass and her backing band, comprised of Eric Slick: drums; Alan Parker: guitar; Jacob Ungerleider: keys; and Brandon Lane: bass, seemed to bring a warm breeze in with them.

“Oh My” opens with a thumping bass.  When the picture appears, everyone is wearing electric blue.  The song is very funky and Natalie does a great job with her little interjections of “No,” “hey,” “oh ho ho ho” and the titular “Oh My.”  There’s a funky bass solo midsong.  And throughout, Natalie is just so cool.

I didn’t really get a sense of the lyrics so I was surprised to read this:

There’s a sly political bent to Prass’ 2018 album, The Future and the Past. Ahead of its release, she said she actually had a different album nearly finished, but scrapped a huge chunk of it after [trump’s] election, which in turn led her to make this album instead. She highlights this mission statement on the album opener — and first song she performed at the desk — “Oh My.” It’s a track that speaks pointedly about the abject feeling of horror and exhaustion that seeps in when you tune into the news cycle, with bleak lyrics set against bright, dance-y music.

For “Short Court Style” (I always assumed it was called “Round and Round”), she brings out her backing singers, Angelica Garcia and Kenneka Cook: vocals.  Everything sounds fantastic here live.  She seems so free and easy singing this song, it’s a delight to watch her.  And those funky bass lines are great.

Before closing with “Hot for the Mountain,” Prass tells the NPR office that “the song’s a little off the beaten path, but, I don’t know, it’s my favorite.” “We’ll take you on / We can take you on,” Prass, Garcia and Cook sing in unison, a refrain that resounds emphatically. Her vision was clear: If you want to overcome the times, find strength in numbers.

I don’t see what’s so odd about it.  It doesn’t have a big hook like the other two songs, but there is a sing along chorus.

[READ: January 31, 2019] Cucumber Quest 3

Book three opens as our heroes arrive at Trebleopolis which is celebrating its birthday (clowns are everywhere).  And no one celebrates louder than Queen Cymbal.  She reveals that Princess Piano is going to perform a concert.  All our heroes want is the Princess’ signature on their sword (she has signed weirder things), but they are told they have to wait until after the show.  (It’s 110 minutes long…that’s like MORE than an hour).

But as the curtain opens, it’s not Princess Piano, but Noisemaker who comes out.  Noisemaster is a hiphop DJ who is not only annoying but quite evil.  For he is one of Nightmare Knight’s Disaster Masters and our heroes’ next conquest.  Nightmare Knight makes an early appearance and is not playin’ with Noisemaster’s shtick: “I cannot believe you are still acting like this…  I am being exceedingly ‘real’ Noisematser.”   He ends, I will allow you this chance to prove yourself  Do not waste it.

Noisemaster’s plan is to destroy the whole city if the noise machine hits 100%.  And with Piano’s loud voice that should be no problem.

We learn that the Melody Kingdom was divided by two kings King Treble and King Bass. They fought and had to be separated by a wall which the Oracle created.   The two sides have not seen each other in decades.  The wall, named Mezzo is very chill and tells them exactly the kind of convoluted quest they need to go on to get the key to open the doors in the wall.  Of course Almond and Carrot are right on that quest and they take off. (more…)

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