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Archive for the ‘Pirates’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SiR-Tiny Desk Concert #940 (February 3, 2020).

I had never heard of SiR, the R&B singer from Inglewood, CA.  That’s not surprising since I don’t listen to R&B.

But as I often say I’m always surprised to read that someone is very successful and yet I have never heard of them.

Since signing to hip-hop juggernaut Top Dawg Entertainment in 2017, Sir Darryl Farris has been the most consistent, most reliable player on the roster outside of its original four.  His output has further solidified the label’s stake in spaces outside of just rap music.

He sings four songs, all ballads.  His voice is somewhere between speaking and singing with an interesting raspy quality.

The songs come from his latest LP, Chasing Summer.

Themes of regret loom throughout the album and he’s never shied away from writing about personal flaws. His depiction of misdirected desires and heartbreak on “John Redcorn” and “The Recipe” reveal a cruel honesty that couples grapple with at times.

“The Recipe” has some really nice backing vocals from Davion Farris, Jacquelyn Farris and Zyah Belle.

“New Sky” has a pretty piano melody from Ledaris “L.J.” Jones with some nice fat bass from Samuel Davis.   I quite like like the vocals on the chorus.

When he introduces the band he reveals that Davion Farris is his older brother and Jacquelyn Farris is his mom.

The set was also a family affair with his mother and older brother offering support as two of the three background vocalists. We get a glimpse of his upbringing in the gospel choir once those harmonies open up.

The set proves to be unexpectedly emotional

About halfway through the performance, SiR revealed that he’d lost his infant godson a few days prior and dedicated the performance to him. “We’re doing this for him. I didn’t want to come… It took a lot for me to be here today …but we’re gonna get through this.”

He plays the spare “Wires in the Way.”  It’s just his voice with some quiet jazzy guitar from Terrall Whitehead.  Midway through some lovely jazzy piano is added.  Throughout, you can see how emotional SiR is while singing the song and then he needs a moment at the end before they start the last song.

Woah.

He is able to bring the happiness back for the last song.  He says “It’s my favorite song off the album.  Hope you like this last one.”

“John Redcorn” feels like a culmination of the other songs, with everyone playing or singing to make this song very full.  I especially like the way Roger “Jooseondrums” Benford makes the cymbals sound like they are filling up the room.

Many Tiny Desk Concerts are emotional and you;d have to be stone cold not to be moved by this one.

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Raven Book 3

Book Two ended with a cliffhanger–would Raven be able to save Ximena?  She needs to take Ximena for medical care, but she knows that she can’t go anywhere on the island, since her brothers rule everything there.

Katie looks at the maps that Ximena has been making and sees that there’s an island not too far off.  It’s a spa for people who are really injured.  They set sail immediately and Katie is put in charge while Raven stays with Ximena.  Raven reveals that she is in love with Ximena (which most of the crew guessed anyway).

Raven is told that Ximena needs to hear her voice if she is to recover and so Raven tells the story of how her mother and father met.  It’s a pretty wonderful story and is beautifully drawn by Sorah Suhng.

All this time, Sunshine has been listening at the door.  It turns out she’s quite jealous of Ximena because she has a major thing for Raven.  So when Raven asks Sunshine to tell Ximena a story, Sunshine is really torn.  But she knows how important it is so she tells the story of how her parents met–that a human and an elf could conceive.  It’s a pretty great story drawn in a very different style by Jason Strutz. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RISING APPALACHIA-Tiny Desk Concert #939 (January 31, 2020).

I feel like I have heard of Rising Appalachia, but I’m not sure that I have.  If I had, I certainly didn’t know anything by them.  But I think I had a pretty safe guess.

Rising Appalachia’s Tiny Desk Concert is charged with the roots music that sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith learned in fiddle camps as kids. Growing up in urban Atlanta and beyond, they also heard rhythms from a wider world, and their music grew to reflect new sounds and their activism. When they came to NPR, their van was packed with a bodhrán (Irish drum), an ngoni (West African harp) a huge gourd, a cello, a baritone guitar and more, including the other musicians who make up this wandering, Atlanta-based band: David Brown, Biko Casini, Arouna Diarra and Duncan Wickel.

And so, with this band you get traditional-sounding folk music but with world music instruments and influences.  It melds beautiful.  And their lyrics are great, too.

“Resilient” starts the set with just the two of them.  Chloe Smith is on banjo while Leah Song is on bodhrán.  Their voices are great together as they sing a fantastic protest song. There’s so many great lyrics to choose from, but I’ll pick just this one

My voice feels tiny I’m sure so does yours / put em all together make a mighty roar.

There’s also a really catchy “who ho ho” in the chorus, which is a fun treat.

After the song, Leah says they are reviving the voice of the people.  Then, introducing the next song, “Medicine”  she says this is for all of our ancestors and all the medicine keepers.

Chloe switches to acoustic guitar.  The song begins with a a bowed, then plucked cello from Duncan Wickel.  Biko Casini plays a high hat with a big circular gourd for a bass and percussive sound.

There’s a very nice bowed cello solo.  Leah sings lead and Chloe adds some terrific harmonies.  Midway through the song you can really hear Arouna Diarra on the ngoni, playing some high notes, but it’s his solo at the end of the song that is so cool.  I’m fascinated by this instrument.

Before the final song, they joke that they wanted Leah to jump on the desk and that they might crowd surf.

Leah says she was going to shave I Love Bob Boilen into her hair.  Or maybe NPR, but if you mess that up it could just go wrong.

They end the set with a song Leah and Chloe “learned from our mama, an old boot-stompin’ Appalachian folk tune” called “Cuckoo.”  They aim to bring old music into a new format.

“Cuckoo” is a song I know from Kristin Hersh and, coincidentally, she played it when I saw her recently.

For this song, Leah plays the banjo and Chloe plays the violin (as does Duncan Wickel).   Their take is rather different from Kristin’s–not in the melody or lyrics but the way they sing the words.  Kristin has a very different vocal style.

The end features a njongi solo along with the baritone guitar solo from David Brown followed by a fiddle solo

And after a minute or so of soloing there’s split second pause before everyone rocks out a bit.  You can really hear the baritone guitar and its bass notes here.

I really enjoyed this set and I’m very curious about this band.

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Raven Book 2

Book One of this series was pretty intense.  And book two doesn’t really let up.

Well, the first chapter lets up some as we meet the crew and the women get used to the ship.  There are some rope climbing contests, everyone also wants to take a turn steering.  And Ximena and Raven are arguing already.

It’s a cool way to meet some of the new cast.  Dezzy would rather sunbathe than work.  Helena is very strong, Cid is deaf–which we find out because Jayla is yelling at her (to no avail obviously) and is getting frustrated and petulant–she’s a terrible character.  And powerful Sunshine is incredibly seasick.

Then they get into some sword practice. Raven addresses her crew calling them bilge rats. But Katie interrupts, “The insulting thing, is that something we have to do?”

Raven says she never thought of it.  That’s just how pirates speak. But Raven decides the ship will be a democracy (except in battle when her word is law).  She asks who finds insults to be a motivator?  No one raises her hand.  Raven hereby abolishes “name-calling, back-biting, under-cutting, insulting and sarcastic undermining” from her ship. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KIKAGAKU MOYO-“Gypsy Davey”/”Mushi No Uta” (2020).

Japanese psych rock band Kikagaku Moyo (who are amazing live) were picked for the new Sub Pop 7″ singles cub release.  I’m not part of that club, but the tracks are available to stream.  Here’s what the band says:

This is a limited release as a part of the Sub Pop Singles Club Vol. 4, and physical copies will only be available to subscribers of the series. As such, it won’t be available at our shows or in stores…but you can listen now on streaming sites.

The first song, “Gypsy Davey,” is a reworking of the traditional British folk song by the same name. We referenced Sandy Denny’s arrangement from the 1971 album Fotheringay for our performance.  We recorded the track in London with guest vocalist Kandice Holmes, aka Bells @be__lls.

The second song, “Mushi No Uta,” was written by Tomo and Go and recorded last summer in their living room.

Both of these were recorded in brief windows during our touring in 2019. We are very happy with opportunity hope you enjoy the songs.

I love the way they have taken this old English folk song “Gypsy Davey” and added some great psychedelic elements.  First off it starts with drums and some very cool sitar work.  The guitars are slow and echoing.  Then after the first verse, the full band joins in with a slow 70’s sounding folk rock (with electric guitars) song.  By the third verses, the two guitars are doing different things and it all works together very nicely.

I had never heard of Kandic Holmes (aka Bells) but her voice is perfect, sounding old school and like she has heard this song a million times and can’t wait to sing it again.

The middle of the song has a wonderful, slow sitar solo.  I love that they have taken folk and made it international folk.

“Mushi No Uta” is a slow ballad. It does sound a bit like a home made recording (or else it is recorded deliberately close-sounding).  The vocals are whispered and the guitars intertwine nicely.  After a minute and a half, expansive, echoing guitar chords come rumbling through totally changing the atmosphere.  The second guitar plays some wild lines.  After about a minute, it all fades out and the original sound returns–gentle folk acoustic guitar and falsetto vocals.

It’s a nice single and shows a different side of the band.

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Raven Book 1

I really enjoyed Book 3 of the Princeless series in which Adrienne encountered Raven locked up in a castle.

I thought Raven was a pretty awesome character and I was really happy to see that Jeremy Whitley had created a series just for her.

This series is a lot less light-hearted than the Princeless series and definitely skews a bit older than Princeless.  It’s also not quite as funny (by design, I assume).  However, it features a wonderfully diverse crew of women and all of the great feminism that Princeless is known for.

As this book opens, we see Raven’s father showing her how to shoot an arrow–how she came to be known as Black Arrow and how fearsome she was even as a child.

The story of the excitement she had as a child on her father’s ship is contrasted to the drudgery of the present–fixing up the ship that she has commandeered from her brother’s mates.  She realizes that if she is going to get revenge on her brothers for locking her up, she needs a crew.  So she heads into town where she bumps into (literally) a woman who barely speaks English and is down on her luck.  She says she ate today, but has no money left.  Raven gives her some coins and the woman replies, “You give me to have these?”  She gives Raven a huge kiss and walks off.  That’s when Raven realizes the woman stole her purse.

The rest of the chapter shows some excellently drawn chase scenes from Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt in which the thief (who we will learn is a half-Elf named Sunshine) is impressed by Raven’s tenacity and in which Raven is impressed by Sunshine’s physical abilities.  Sunshine runs into a bar and as Raven is about to tackle her, the bar owner points a crossbow at her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LOW-“War on War” (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 is a slow, spacey, trippy cover with gently echoing synth, big echoing drums and a processed echoing voice.  I really like the original of this song and I find this cover to be a little too slow for my liking.

However, the overall sound of the song is very cool, especially the chaotic ending.

[READ: February 2, 2020] Princeless, Vol. 3

This book said Book 3 on the label but it seemed like it was starting form the very beginning.  It wasn’t until after I finished it that I read that this is in fact book 3 but it is a kind of spin off of sorts.  The main character of this story, Raven Xingtao, is actually not the main character of the series.  I did wonder why the two other characters on the cover, Adrienne and Bedelia, are not really introduced here–they are introduced in the first two books, obviously.

So this story starts with a story.  We learn of Ming Two-Tails the fiercest pirate to ride the sea. Her ship was called The Just Wind because she and her crew were so silent sailors thought it was just wind they heard.

The man who is telling the story ends with “And that’s what you’ll be like someday, my little Raven.”

Turns out Ming was Raven’s great-grandmother and Raven was so inspired that even as a little girl she was ready to fight.  She asked her dad to show her how to use a bow.  Her dad smiled and said she will not be a helpless princess.

Cut to the next scene and Raven is in a tower.  She had been there 90 days with no one looking for her.  Until a pink dragon flown by Adrienne Ashe and Bedelia Smith flies in.  They ask if Raven needs help. She does. So Adrienne lands and looks for a fight. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MEREBA-Tiny Desk Concert #915 (November 27, 2019).

Who the heck is Mereba?

Very few artists get to return to the Tiny Desk, and fewer still return twice in the same year. But after contributing background vocals behind the desk for Dreamville artist Bas in early 2019, we invited Mereba back for a solo set that puts her eclectic, major-label debut The Jungle Is The Only Way Out into sharp focus.

As with many singers I’ve never heard of, I’m not sure if these songs sound like this on the record or if they are more dancey.  I do quite like the simple, organic sounds that accompany these songs.

The stripped-down soundscape Mereba achieves live with her four-piece band is equally dreamlike here, drawing from influences as wide-ranging as the many places she’s called home (Alabama, Philly, North Carolina, Atlanta, Ethiopia). As she pulls from genres as seemingly disparate as folk, rap and spoken word, her set reflects the years she spent perfecting her craft on live stages in Atlanta cafes and clubs, where she attracted the attention of the indie creative collective Spillage Village  before joining them in 2014.

She sings three songs and recites a poem (all on the album).

When “Black Truck” started I thought she sounded exactly like Alanis Morissette.  The way she says “and I said world would you please have some mercy on me” sounds very uncannily like her.  The song is a quiet, mellow piece that starts with a simple bass line (including some harmonics) from Chris James and guitar washes that turn into a nice picked melody from Sam Hoffman.  After a minute or so, Aisha Gaillard plays a simple drum beat and the song kicks into higher gear.

Through all of this, the backing vocals from Olivia Walker were just beautiful.  The end of the song turns into a kind of rap as the guitar and bass fade out.  I say kind of a rap because Mereba is also a poet and she has more of a poet’s delivery than a rapper’s delivery.

For “Stay Tru” the guys switch instruments and the bass takes on a slightly more lead role.  But this song is also very mellow.  Mereba’s vocals sound a bit more Jamaican in his song.  Midway through, James switches to violin and Mereba plays keys which adds a whole new texture.  I didn’t like this song as much because the chorus is kinda lame with a lot of repeating of “cut the bullshit, this time” sung in a sweet voice.  It also seems to drag on for a really long time (although it is very pretty).

“Dodging The Devil” is a poem she wrote when things just didn’t seem to be going right.  After a couple of verses, a quiet guitar line fills in the background.

On the last song, “Kinfolk,” Mereba plays the main guitar line while Sam plays single soaring notes.  The song kicks into gear with a simple guitar riff and some prominent bass.

I really enjoyed this set.  I thought the music was beautifully restrained and her voice distinct enough in each song to show such a range of sounds.  It’s always nice to be surprised by a new musician.

[READ: November 15, 2019] Cursed

I saw this book in the new YA section at the library.  I was attracted by the cover and fascinated by the “soon to be a Netflix Original Series” sticker.

I have known of Frank Miller for years.  I’m sure I’ve read graphic novels by him, although I don’t know if I’ve read Sin City (maybe a long time ago?).  Mostly he drew superhero comics which is not my thing.  Turns out I really don’t like his artistic style in this book (at least for the way he draws the heroine–I rather like the way the bad guys are drawn).  If the series was in any way designed to look like the art in the book I don’t think I’d watch it.

But the story itself is petty darn good.  It took me a while to read it for some reason. I guess maybe the opening was a little slow because there’s so much going on it takes awhile to really get settled in this universe.

But the description of the story is pretty intriguing: Whosoever wields the sword of power shall be the one true king.  But what if the sword has chosen a queen?

For this is a story of Arthurian legend with many many twists.  My knowledge of Arthurian legend is surprisingly minimal.  I love the story and I know the main participants, but there is a lot of information in here that I didn’t know about–or even how much Wheeler is making up. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Eyes Like the Sky (2013).

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard clearly didn’t set out to top the charts. After the frenetic fun of 12 Bar Bruise, their follow up is this–a spoken word “Western” musical.  Stu Mackenzie says that after recording “Sam Cherry’s Last Shot” with Broderick Smith, he wanted to try a “multi-song, read-along, narrative based western musical” and Brod was keen to write a story and narrate it.

The music is impressively “Western.”   Right out of the gates, you feel the reverbed guitars and sound effects of gun shots.  Repeating motifs abound and there is an amazing amount of restraint.  Plus, the songs (which don’t really follow the story chapters) are quite different from each other (all within the same Western motif). “Year of Our Lord” builds some real suspense.  While “The Raid” adds some surf guitars.

You can also hear his parents’ dogs barking in “The Killing Ground” and his dad banging on a rusted saw blade, which you can hear in “The Raid.”

“Drum Run” is, indeed, very drum heavy with distant echoing harmonica.

And then there is the story.  A story of a man who is feared as a legend.

The bad white men call him the devil the Yavapai call him Eyes Like the Sky.

Miguel O’Brien was kidnapped from his white family when he was five years old.  He became a fearless Yavapai Apache warrior.

The American Civil had not encroached on Apache territory.  But ten years later, the Americans brought their war to Apache land.  They were

Led by a man holding a leather book with a cross stamped in the leather.  An evil man who did terrible  things to people in the name of a god that looked upon the man himself with revulsion

The music for this track is called “Evil Man” and between the Western riff and the backing “ahahas,” it’s got gunslinger all over it.

The Americans killed the Apache, but he was spared because of his blue eyes.  But once more family he loved had been killed–this time by Americans.

The god man thought he might be from the O’Brien family or maybe the Jebsen family.  So they named him Jebsen O’Brien but they called him “blue” because of his eyes and his expression.  A trapper taught him white man’s ways so that he could read and write and also learned to use a gun.

The god man was a truly evil man–“satisfying his goat lust with a Yavapei girl.”  Seeing this defilement, Blue swiftly killed him. Then he took guns, money and the defiled girl and fled from the Fort.  The two of them happened upon a scene of death–white men killing white men but disguised as Apache.

I’ll not spoil the ending but the final two songs are “Dust in the Wind” (not that one) and “Guns & Horses.”   “Dust in the Wind” is a stomping song that presages death–of many.  “Guns & Horses” ends the story–all too early in my opinion.  While Eyes Like the Sky’s story comes to a satisfying conclusion, I want to hear more.

With a cool soundtrack.

Incidentally, the soundtrack is far more grown up than the graphic novel.

[READ: February 5, 2019] Knife’s Edge

I didn’t realize that these two books made up the Four Points series (I didn’t know there was a series title until I looked this book up].  But it is nice to see that this book ends the story.  And it ends it very well.

This book opens with the explanation of what happened to Alex and Cleo’s father when he left them on their own.  He went off to do a (supposedly) simple job down at the docks.  But while he is aboard a ship he is attacked by Lucky Worley.  Turns out Worley knew that Mr Dodge had the pocket watch and pocket knife–the clues that will lead him to the treasure he wants so badly.  It also turns out that he doesn’t know about Alex and Cleo.  So he hijacks Mr Dodge and takes him aboard his ship.   We also learn that Dodge isn’t their father–which we knew from how young the babies were when he received them, but the kids didn’t.  He doesn’t know who their real father was.

Worley had caught word of them through their involvement in the Black Hook gang and he deduced that they had the map pieces.  So their lives were now in danger.  And that’s pretty much where book one began. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-“Cyboogie” (2019).

Few band names are as much fun as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. With a name like that, the fact that they actually make good music is somehow amazing.

2018 was a quiet year for the band after they released five albums in 2017.  But they are now back with a new single and an upcoming tour.

“Cyboogie” is basically exactly what it sounds like it might be–a cyborg boogie.  It also features a classic trope of KGATLW songs–one word repeated over and over again (see: Rattlesnake).

This boogie is nearly 7 minutes long and features electronically processed vocals, prominent synth sounds and the occasional run up the musical scales at the end of each chorus.

It opens with the robotic voices chanting “boogie boogie boogie.”  Over a pulsing bass and 70s sounding keys, this very retro song starts.  There are lyrics in the verses, but they are so processed as to be almost inaudible (nice melody though).  They lead to the chorus: cyboogie, cyboogie, boogie boogie boogie boogie, cyboogie.  All with that undeniable beat.

The instrumental breaks are classic trippy 70s era instrumental breaks.  Including the one at 3 minutes where the music stops briefly and a new beat and sound style emerges (more boogie).  The third verse is so vocally processed I wasn’t even sure if there were words–but since the music has all boy dropped away it’s all you can hear.  But fear not it is melodically sound and makes the next chorus even more interesting.

The song ends with some more robotic voice reciting something (no guesses as to what).

[READ: January 31, 2019] Compass South

This story was written by Hope Larson but illustrated by Rebecca Mock (which is only odd because Larson herself is an excellent illustrator).

It opens in New York City, 1848.  A man named Dodge is seen going home when he is stopped by a large man in a cloak.  The cloaked man tells him that his beloved Hester is dead in Ireland.  But she wanted him to have…two babies:  Alexander and Cleopatra.

He vows to be there for them, but in Chapter One, it is twelve years later and the children are on their own.  As we zoom in on them, they are in the middle of robbing a house.  They are with the Black Hook gang and Alex is getting tested.  But Alex gets caught.  Cleo goes to save him, but Luther, the local head of the gang stops her and says if they rat on the gang, they are dead.

Next, the twins are talking to the police.  They have nothing to offer, so he gives them a deal–tell them about the Black Hook gang and they can go free.  Of course, they take the deal. But before Luther can go after them, he is contacted by the henchman of Felix Worley, famed pirate and captain of El Caleuche.  Seems he wants the twins, too. (more…)

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