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Archive for the ‘Phones’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RAVEENA-Tiny Desk Concert #921 (December 9, 2019).

Raveena’s music is so soft and delicate, so Lite-FM that I hated listening to it.  But once I watched the video and gave it my full attention, it was another story.    Because Raveena is full of 70s trippiness, delightful psychedelia and a lot of love.

From the moment Raveena Aurora stepped into NPR’s Music Department and looked at the Tiny Desk for the first time, she was ready. The Queens, N.Y. singer-songwriter and her team showed up early (which rarely happens) to meticulously arrange her stage props of homemade mushrooms and flowers, in the already endearingly cluttered space. These extra touches were meant to make clear that this performance would be all about community and safe spaces.

Her three songs are warm and enveloping.  I’d never have guessed they were born of pain.

“A lot of my music talks about growing out of these really traumatic experiences,” Raveena told the audience once the cameras started rolling. “And if you’ve ever gone through something similar that I talk about in my music, I just want you to know that in this space that we’re in, you’re extremely, extremely loved.”

She plays three songs from her debut album Lucid.

This includes “fan-favorite single “Honey,”” “Bloom” and “Still Dreaming”

Once again I am amazed to hear that a musician has a following and I’ve never heard of her.

Raveena herself is very sweet and loving and the music feels warm and echoey.   There’s delicate guitars from Tiana Ohara and twinkly synths from Cale Hawkins (who plays music while she speaks, as if she is speaking from a dreamy otherworld)  And of course, drummer Tyler Newson on drums keeps everything smoothly.

She is assisted by two backing vocalists, Gayathri Menon and Ada Obieshi who add a ton to her sound, although Raveena’s voice is really quite pretty.

 the rising star cultivated her range by growing up on Minnie Riperton, Sade and Asha Puthli, India’s ’70s disco queen

But my favorite person to watch was bassist Aaron Liao.  He is in a state of bliss.  So much so, that it inspired a comment on You Tube (I usually don’t watch these on YouTube, preferring the NPR site and I almost never read the comments, but this one stood out).

My man on the bass is a whole vibe by himself.

And Liao even wrote back:

AYEE!!! Thank you!! I have the best job in the world

I love how much this set won me over once I settled down and paid attention to it. Go Raveena!

[READ: March 1, 2020] “Ring of Fire”

I was interested in this essay because I’ve had similar calls (as most people probably have) but it never even occurred to me to ever answer unknown calls from California.

Kisner says that his parents live in California, so an unknown number in California could be an emergency.

But when he answered, he heard he voice was clearly a recording.  The man said “First they deceived you, then they oppressed you.”  It sounded like a Pentecostal preacher.  “There is a person keeping you in this situation.  Press the numerical option 1; press 1 now.”

He has picked up a few times and the messages are not the same, but they are similar.

After the message different voice says if you’d like to continue, press 1 if you’d like to no loner receive these calls press 4.

He knows he should press 4 (or maybe he shouldn’t) but he wants to press 1 to see what happens. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: UMPHREY’S McGEE-“Santa Oddity” (2018)

This is a ridiculous and somewhat forced Christmas version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”  It’s pretty funny and would have been a treat to see live, but really you don;t need to hear it more than once.

It opens with an acoustic guitar and the lyric:

Ground control to Santa Claus… eat your cookies and put your suit on.”

I wish the voice worked a little better–it doesn’t have the Bowie feel at all.

The middle section has this fun twist: “Planet earth is white and its Christmas time tonight”

Midway through the song, since they’re Umphrey’s McGee, they throw in a mash up of The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can;t You See.”  It feels like it’s supposed to be Santa-related, but they forgot, although they do change the one lyric: “Santa please, can’t you see what that woman been giving to me.”

Then its back to the end: “Here I am sitting on a rooftop…”  It ends, the crowd goes nuts and you hear them say: That worked, That was fun.  Thank you.  That’ll only happen once.  But here it is to enjoy over and over.

[READ: December 16, 2018] “Two Stories Containing a Mouse”

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 this weekend, I’m pairing them with recently released songs from bands I like.

These stories feel connected and maybe they are, but “Rubies” was written four years earlier.  It has a very different style as well. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: boygenius-Tiny Desk Concert #805 (November 16, 2018).

boygenius have been getting a ton of absolutely deserved press for combining the amazing talents of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus.

I wasn’t that upset when I read that the three weren’t touring near me (the tour was Lucy, Julie, Phoebe and then boygenius) because I had seen all three of them fairly recently.

In fact, I saw Phoebe in July, Lucy in April and Julien a few days after Lucy (as well as in April 2017).  But then I heard exactly how the tour was structured and that the boygenius part at the end was just stunning.  My only (sort of) consolation, was that they didn’t tour anywhere near me, so it’s not like it was my fault I didn’t go.

And I first heard about all three of them from Tiny Desk Concerts.

The group is new, but all of the members of boygenius — Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers — are Tiny Desk Concert alumae. In fact, Julien has been behind my desk twice before. So when the usual nerve-racking session was over and I shouted out, “So, is it any easier the second or third time?” I had to laugh when I got a resounding “No!” from all of them.

Boygenius only has six total tunes, all from their just-released, self-titled EP, and here they perform half of that catalog. What you get at the Tiny Desk is a frailer version of these more fleshed-out songs from a band that is likely quite temporary.

All three songs are delicate and lovely–somewhat belying at least Lucy and Phoebe’s ability to totally rock out

“Souvenir” opens with Julien singing the first verse while she gently plays mandolin.  Phoebe plays guitar and sings the second verse.  Lucy (no instrument) sings  a wonderful harmony with Phoebe in the second part of her verse and then sings the end solo.  All three sing the end.  It’s amazing how wonderful their voices sound together–they fit like a practiced team.

Bob asks if they have a joke.  Lucy attempts a cupcake joke and messes it up.  “I shouldn’t have gotten into that.  You baited me.”  Phoebe asks where the king keeps his armies (I’m not giving that away) and no one laughs (although I thought it was great).  Lucy says Jokes are not our forte.  To which Phoebe corrects her, It’s totally my forte, Lucy.

On the second song, “Me & My Dog” Phoebe (whose speaking voice is so much deeper than her singing voice its uncanny) sings the first verse and plays guitar.  Julien is on piano.  There’s gorgeous oohs from Lucy and Julien and then all three of them harmonize on the chorus.

For their closing tune at the Tiny Desk, “Ketchum, ID,” Julien, Phoebe and Lucy each take a verse.

Only Phoebe plays guitar on this one.  And they harmonize beautifully on the chorus.

Lucy’s verse ends the song with the line, “Let’s dissolve the band, move to Idaho.” And the chorus to the song, in stunning harmony, echoes the mileage of the lifestyle, how they live and how they met: “I am never anywhere / Anywhere I go / When I’m home I’m never there / Long enough to know.”

This trio is a special gift to us all in 2018.

There is a part of me that thinks it would be best if they simply made this lovely EP, did some shows and dissolved.  What a great stamp to make on music.

And yet I can’t help but think that we all need more from them.  We should just be grateful we got what we did.

Also, listen to their interview on All Songs Considered for more insight and a full retelling of the muffin joke.

[READ: December 14 2015] “Jelly and Jack”

This story is set in 1985, which is what allows its simple premise to be executed so well.

Jelly is a woman who calls men.  Not as a job or for sexual gratification, exactly.  But just to talk to  them.

The details are a little sketchy about who she calls, but it appears to be people she doesn’t know herself but knows about because of other men.  Some of the men are annoyed by her calls.  Some are angry, some even curse at her.  But others are willing to talk to her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AMIR ELSAFFAR & TWO RIVERS-“Hemayoun” (Field Recordings, July 3, 2013).

I was pretty excited to see the start of this Field Recording [Amir ElSaffar & Two Rivers: Golden Sound In A Gleaming Space] because it begins with hammered dulcimer and oud.  I have never seen these two instruments used in jazz before.

But once the band starts the jazz pushes out he Middle eastern instruments somewhat.

The oud is certainly drowned out by the horns, but you can hear it plucking away.  And the hammered dulcimer is hardly used at all.

I had never heard of the participants although apparently

The session had the feeling of a reunion. ElSaffar — a trumpeter and santur (hammered dulcimer) player who was born near Chicago to an Iraqi father and an American mother, and who grew up immersed in both cultures — had recently moved from New York to Cairo to pursue his work with Arab classical music. But this group with Ole Mathisen on saxophone, Zafer Tawil playing oud, Carlo De Rosa on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums shifted into Two Rivers gear immediately.

At 3:49 when the sax solo starts the minimal oud is used more to keep the beat than anything.  At 5:10 the trumpet returns playing a riff with the sax.  By around 7 minutes its all trumpet and drums (some good improv) with the bassist adding rhythm but playing very hard and being barely heard.  At around 8 minutes there’s a minimal oud solo that runs through to the end of this song.  This is particularly cool, although I kind of wish the other guys didn’t drop out entirely–I’d like to see the oud share the stage with the traditional jazz instruments.

I love that the music has non-Western instrumentation but I feel like it is underutilized.  But maybe that’s not the point

 ElSaffar has found a beautiful and singular way of pairing the sibling spirits of jazz and the classical maqam system of the Arab world, with their shared spheres of improvisation, deep knowledge of tradition and urge to keep innovating. Two rivers, but they lead to the same ocean.

[READ: October 22, 2017] “The Sinking of the Houston”

O’Neill has a way with making stories amusing despite the tension underneath.

It begins with a defense of sleep. The narrator says when he became a parent of young children, he became an opportunist of sleep: “I found myself capable of taking a nap just about anywhere, even when standing in a subway car or riding an escalator.”  But when the boys grew up into “urban doofuses neurologically unequipped to perceive the risk incidental to their teenage lives,” sleep became much harder to get.  He would lie awake until they were all home, and then every sound in the house would be meaningful.

Then comes the phenomenon of Dad Chair, a black leatherette armchair which he has designated as his haven.

It has worked pretty well except when the boys disrupt the peace.

The middle son asks if he’s heard of Duvaliers, the dedicators of Haiti.  The dad says he knows all about them–they were horrible.  When the boy tries to tell him more details, he retorts: “I lived through it ! I don’t want to discuss it!”  The boy logically says you didn’t exactly live through it.

Another son asks where East Timor is.  They all want to talk about atrocities.  But he has a new philosophy–Cest la Vie–it works pretty well. (more…)

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