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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PITCH BLACK PROCESS feat. HAYKO CEPKIN-“Zahid Bizi Tan Eyleme” (2019).

Pitch Black Process is a Turkish heavy metal band.   All of the members played in a band called Affliction in the 90s and 2000s.  As PBP they have released an EP and two albums and have a new EP on the way from which this song comes.  And I found it because of the Hayko Cepkin connection.  Interestingly, some of the songs on their albums are in English, but this song is in Turkish.

Metal Shock Finland says of the song

In “Zahid Bizi Tan Eyleme”, Pitch Black Process interpret a poem from the 16th century, of which melody is anonymous. With this significant work by “Muhyî”, their aim is to contribute to bring the culture of this land to the world scene, via building a bridge between east and west. It is a modern but also a folkloric song which blends traditional and authentic instruments with rock/metal elements; it is emotional, touching and sombre, but at the same time it’s moving, encourages individuality and gives a sense of fight and battle.

This song opens with traditional instrument–drums, flute and oud (I believe).

After 45 second the band kicks in with heavy guitars sludging through a traditional-sounding melody.    I really love the way the heavy guitars produce the djent sound along with traditional riffs.  Midway though an instrumental break highlights the zurna, I believe.

The end of the song features Cepkin and PBP singer Emrah Demirel singing in harmony over a quiet musical interlude that builds to a crushing end.  It’s a short song but it’s a terrific mix of the traditional and the modern.

The video is pretty outstanding.

[READ: June 4, 2019] “Hard Seat”

The June 10th issue of the New Yorker features five essays by authors whom I have enjoyed.  They were gathered under the headline “Another Country.”

Jennifer Egan is the only writer born in America writing in this series of essays and her perspective is as an America in another country.

In 1986 she turned twenty-four while travelling with a friend in China.  Her friend wasn’t quite as excited by this journey as the night before in Hong Kong rats had gnawed through her satchel at the youth hostel.

But they took a ferry to China (Guangzhou), a city full of tea shops and sunny gardens.  They stayed in a dormitory style hotel designed for travelers. (“this was practically a job description for most of our bunkmates, who’d been travelling in Asia for months.”  She felt silly around them–she was a grad student studying in England.  Hong King was still under British rule at the time and felt barely exotic). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Y LA BAMBA-NONCOMM 2019 (May 14, 2019).

I have been hearing a lot about Y La Bamba lately and for some reason I didn’t realize that they sang in Spanish (which is why I thought it was an odd name for an English-speaking band).  I know WXPN has been playing some of their songs, perhaps I only heard “My Death” and “Orca” which are in English and which they did not play at NonComm.

But they do sing in Spanish and they bring a wonderfully diverse sound to these Spanish lyrics.  And they are not simply casually Spanish either, as their mission statement explains “BEING A CHICANA, MEXICAN AMERICAN HAS BEEN AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE A STRENGTHENING JOURNEY. I AM LEARNING HOW TO CELEBRATE MY BEAUTY, HISTORY, BE AND HEAL FROM WITHIN IT.”  Nor are they exclusively Spanish. “I WRITE IN SPANISH BECAUSE IT WANTS TO BE SUNG, I WRITE IN ENGLISH BECAUSE IT WANTS TO BE SAID.”

Lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Luz Elena Mendoza is the daughter of immigrants from Michoacán, and she has channeled into her music her Mexican-American heritage and her many frustrations with American culture.

And she demands the audience’s respect.  I would have found this particular set very uncomfortable as Mendoza, called out talkers in the back of the room, demanded silence and respect.  I’m all for silence and respect for bands during shows.  In fact I wish more bands would demand it, but this was really uncomfortable to listen to and I wasn’t even there.

Demanding silence form the drinkers at the bar, she said “I don’t come here to waste my time, […] you hear me?” She waited for the crowd’s attention. “You hear me? […] OK. Because that’s real. I’m not here to be cool, to give you something that you think might be cool. I’m here to give you my parents’ story.”

This is all pretty awesome, but since nearly all of the songs they sang were in Spanish, I’m not sure how much the audience really got out of what she was singing.

The blurb describes their music as a “mix of indie-punk, música mexicana and raw emotional storytelling” while Mendoza sings and raps in Spanish and English, railing against misogyny, patriarchy, and white ignorance.

Y La Bamba were at their most intense last night when Mendoza rapped in unison with keyboardist Julia Mendiolea, including on their fiery opener, “Paloma Negra”(“Black Pigeon”).

There’s some gentle echoing guitars (Ryan Oxford) and some bouncy synths underneath their very fast rapping.

As the raging “Paloma Negra” concluded, drummer Miguel Jimenez-Cruz instantly slid into a sly tresillo groove that marked the introduction to “Boca Llena,”

Later, “Bruja de Brujas” introduced all kinds of cool sounds in the bass (Zack Teran) and the percussion.  It was funky and fun.  The song ended with a

a wash of echoing cymbals and guitars that finally coalesced into the arrival of “Cuatro Crazy,”

This was the first (and only) song sung in English.  It was quiet with the two singers singing in a gentle falsetto over washes of guitar.

A blend of phasers, distortion and delay lines infused the band’s guitar and vocal sounds with an electric energy, and helped Mendiolea’s synth provide a brooding ambient backdrop for the spoken-word “Santa Sal.”  This was spoken in English, but it had some echoing and it was a little hard to follow.

It was during the introduction to “Una Letra” that Mendoza started to get angry with the crowd.

As she introduced the ballad “Una Letra,” Mendoza explained to the crowd, “It’s about domestic violence. It’s about my mom writing a letter to me, wishing […] for me to have the good things that she couldn’t have. And if those don’t want to hear this story, and you’re here to listen, then I don’t know what you’re doing here.”  Mendoza and her bandmates gently repeated, “No se sabe. No se sabe, se comprende.” — “You don’t know. You don’t know and you don’t understand.”

Again, she has every right to be annoyed that she’s telling these personal stories and people are apparently ignoring her.  But again, it’s hard to “hear the story” if you don’t understand the language.

This is when she launched into her “I don’t come here to waste my time, […] you hear me?”  tirade.  But It felt a little better when she sent her anger to someone who should know better.

“I’m very disappointed in Morrissey,” she went on to refer to a 2018 interview that Fiona Dodwell conducted with the former Smiths frontman, for which he has received intense backlash. In the interview, Morrissey aligned himself with a UK political movement known as For Britain and dismissed the many critics who have deemed the movement extremist and racist.  Morrissey performed at NonCOMM just a few hours before Y La Bamba on Tuesday night, before a crowd that presumably included some of the same listeners who attended the Y La Bamba set.  “I’ve been a huge fan of Morrissey and I just heard him talk,” Mendoza continued, “He thinks that ‘racism’ is just a childish word that we use against one another. He’s a white man with so much privilege! I am so disappointed!”

I had wondered if anyone would allude to Morrissey’s recent politics statements and thought no one had.  But Mendoza did not hold back.

I don’t know if Morrissey had anything to do with the next song but “Soñadora” shimmied ans swayed and Mendoza’s voice soared to new heights. “Corazón, corazón,” she and her bandmates chanted.

What is particularly unsettling is that on the recording, people sound respectful, but apparently she is unhappy with the crowd.

Before a gentle solo rendition of “Entre Los Dos,” she said

“I politely ask for everyone’s silence,” she said. But as the bar and the back the room remained noisy, she continued, “Because what are we doing here? … People wanna have their drinks, but I’m really asking — just giving benefit of the doubt — just everyone’s silence. To actually listen to what’s happening….  If you saw, ‘Y La Bamba is playing,’ and you saw what record I put out, and you got to read the story — you got to hear that it’s for women.” This prompted shouts of approval from several voices in the room, but Mendoza seemed intent on getting the attention of even more of the crowd. “You know? Right? Right? Isn’t that what we’re here for? … Let’s remember that, OK? Come on, we’re not children anymore. You know what I’m saying?”

She strummed her guitar softly and continued on with the song, but stopped singing again at one point to remind the room, “I’m not gonna play my song until everyone gets the point … I’m making my point, and I’m gonna make my point everywhere I go. It’s not really about like, you know, hearing me sing, it’s about listening. Like, yeah, if I get to sing, cool. But it’s about listening … and it’s really hard. Like, nobody even knows what I’m talking about back there. No one.” She then addressed those closest to the stage. “But I see you! I see those who are in the front. I see you. I hear you, with your heart.”

Of all of the comment she made, I though this was the most powerful and could be used in any context

After Mendoza completed “Entre Los Dos”, Jimenez-Cruz began a low drum roll and Oxford’s electric guitar shuddered back to life. Before the band began their final two numbers, Mendoza looked to front row of the crowd with resolve. “You guys wanna help me sing this song?”

“When I show up here, it starts right here.  When I ask for silence I really wanna be taken seriously.  When I am out there walking out on the street, I am not going to count on it. “

That’s pretty powerful and reasonable thing to say.  But she seems so pissed when she says it that it’ hard to know how to respond to her request that everyone sing a long to a pretty melody of “dadada da da da”  “Riosueltos” is a great rocking rap-filled song.  It was my favorite of the set, with its cool bass and guitar.

The set ends with “De Lejos”an upbeat dancey number with some great wild guitar work.

Before this show I was curious about Y La Bamba, but I can tell they are not a band I need to see live–I wonder if she’ll demand the same respect at XPNFest, when people are not there just to see them.

[READ: May 3, 2019] “Green Ash Tree”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue.  This year’s issue had three short stories and three poems as special features.

I don’t normally write about poems.  Certainly not ones that appear in magazines (this blog would be all poetry if  did that).  But for a summer reading issue that features three poets, since I wrote about the other two, I figured I should include this one as well.

Of the three, I feel like I “got” this one the least.

A tree never dies
except in our neighborhood.  Green ash,
stripped in old age, all branches
cleanly lopped by saws: a torso standing

Upon being aware of this poor specimen (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TACOCAT-NONCOMM 2019 (May 14, 2019).

Tacocat are from Seattle and they are very happy to be here.

It sounds like that was another set that would have been a lot of fun to see:

An indie-punk four-piece from Seattle [singer Emily Nokes, drummer Lelah Maupin, bassist Bree McKenna and guitarist Eric Randall] walked onto World Cafe Live’s upstairs stage glowing—literally. Covered head-to-toe in bright colors and sparkles. The band brought an unwavering burst of energy to the first night of NonCOMM, performing a handful of songs from each of their three albums.

Tacocat wasted no time getting started as they jumped right into “Hologram” from their latest album This Mess Is a Place. Lead singer Emily Nokes started dancing with a tambourine in her hand and didn’t quit until the set was complete (minus breaks between songs to sip some tea—we hope she’s feeling okay).

“Hologram” puts a slight political spin (I assume) on their poppy punk songs.  Indeed, their identity seems to be one of snark and surf-pop, but with thoughtful questions underneath

Not so long ago, I used to feel like
I was too sensitive to be alive
But maybe now it’s the opposite
Too much to say
So I don’t say anything
Is numb even a feeling?
I just wonder how anyone falls for this anymore

“Bridge to Hawaii” is about seasonal depression–wouldn’t it be nice to build a bridge from rainy Seattle to beautiful Hawaii so that you could just walk there?  While “New World” wonders what it would be like to build a new world–like in sci-fi movies.

New world, new planet
No ugly buildings in my eyes
No paperwork, no jerks, no parking tickets
No beak to feed, no nine-to-five

“The Joke of Life” is about “when when things are too hard to make fun of anymore because they’re already making fun of themselves.”   Randall chimed in, “the death of satire.”  The song contains the chorus: “The jokes is that the joke is already a joke.”  This one features backup vocals from Randall and McKenna which perfectly complement Nokes’s raspy lead vocal.

At the end of the song drummer Lelah Maupin [who was sporting a checkered onesie and a toothy smile throughout all 7 songs the band played] said, “my whole life as a drummer has been building up to playing that song.”

“Grains of Salt” changes their sound a bit with some synthy solos.  It’s more poppy than punky but doesn’t feel too far away from their sound.

Randall says that they needed t pick a single for their album and “Crystal Ball” just didn’t make the cut.  “But we love it.  We love all our children equally.”

The final song, “I Hate the Weekend” is which is dedicated to everyone who ever worked in the service industry…  like you.  Let’s all be nice.  Let’s all tip well.  Let’s not throw up in the sink.”  It’s a ripping fast song with this nice section

Homogenized and oh so bleak
Got a hall pass from your job
Just to act like a fucking slob

before the chippy clap-along chorus.

I missed Tacocat when they came around, but I hope they open for someone I see real soon.  Stream this show on the media player.

[READ: May 3, 2019] “Fake News”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue.  This year’s issue had three short stories and three poems as special features.

I don’t normally write about poems.  Certainly not ones that appear in magazines (this blog would be all poetry if  did that).  But for a summer reading issue that features three poets, I thought I’d make an exception.

Especially for this one, which is subtitled “An American bodyguard forsees his death.”

How’s this for an opening line

Do I love my country less  than I pledged,
since I haven’t yet brought the tent top down
on this circus?  Head clown, I and the men

code call him, in small font, or else imPOTUS–

But if some fanatic
does attempt to off him (snipe him, stab him,

body bomb him), my Navy SEAL-trained nerves
will trigger a textbook-expert tackle–

block bullets with my skull, spine, sacrum

I have often wondered if we would ever see a day when a bodyguard would turn on him–for love of country since he is wrecking our so badly.  I assume not.  I can’t imagine what would have to happen to a person’s mind to act that way.

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SOUNDTRACK: MORRISSEY-NONCOMM 2019 (May 14, 2019).

Morrissey was (to me) quite a surprise performer at NonComm.  It seems way too “exposed” for him.  When I mentioned divas not mingling with fans, it was Morrissey I had in mind.  I don’t know if he mingled anywhere at NonComm, but, speaking of divas, he does not have a live stream available.

I had the radio on when he performed and heard a bit of his set.  I was impressed with his voice.  It doesn’t sound like it used to in his heyday, but it still sounds strong.  He seems to have modified the songs to allow his somewhat deeper, gravellier voice to work well with them.

I was supposed to see Morrissey last time he came to Philly.  I even had a ticket. But better than a Morrissey show, I got a Morrissey excuse–the show was cancelled.  On the night of the show!  So I don’t feel the need to see him now.  I wonder if he’ll actually make it to his show this summer.

Since I can’t re-listen to his NonComm set, I’ll have to rely on the (lengthy) blurb that The Key has written.

Morrissey was as cynical, self-obsessed and self-assured as ever at NonCOMM on Tuesday night. “I have to warn you before I begin,” he offered slyly as he took center stage. “I have never in my life been this close to another human being. So If I don’t do something illegal, I will do something extremely… enjoyable.”

The World Cafe crowd responded with a roar, and the band burst into a rowdy rendition of “Alma Matters” from Morrissey’s 1997 album Maladjusted. His croon was grave and full-throated, and the band matched his machismo with pounding drums and several wailing guitar solos early in the set. Morrissey strutted across the stage, full of pomp and in his element; he danced with his microphone stand, clapped along to the band, and took every opportunity to denounce his critics, including in song. “So, the choice I have made may seem strange to you. But who asked you anyway? It’s my life to wreck, my own way,” began his opening number. The Manchester native dressed himself in all black, with a t-shirt proclaiming “MEAT IS MURDER” (also the name of a 1985 LP by his former band, The Smiths) and dressed his band in blood-red tees that threatened “BE KIND TO SEALS OR I’LL CULL YOU.” (These shirts are also available on Morrissey’s website.)

But for all his sarcasm, egotism and brash political inclinations, the Philadelphia crowd still hoped to show Morrissey plenty of genuine affection. Dozens of fans standing in the front row reached out to hold his hand each time he stepped downstage; one of his most ardent fans attempted to climb onstage before being shoved back down by a security officer, and another fan got so far as to step onto center stage and lock Morrissey in an embrace before security managed to pull them away from the singer.

Did this really happen?  Is there footage?  He didn’t cancel the rest of the set?

The crowd enjoyed a set spanning Morrissey’s career, including “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris” from 2009’s Years of Refusal, the Pretenders cover “Back on the Chain Gang” from 2017’s Low in High School, and the Jobriath cover “Morning Starship” from his upcoming album California Son.

Recently, as Morrissey has begun making public appearances to promote California Son, journalists and fellow musicians have criticized him for his outspoken support of For Britain, a UK political party that many have deemed extremist and racist. On Monday night, Morrissey appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to perform “Morning Starship,” and he wore a lapel pin featuring For Britain’s trident logo. On Monday night at NonCOMM, he wore no pin and made no mention of the controversy, although he seemed bent on repelling all those who might judge him (as usual).

I was very curious if anyone would say anything about him or to him about what he;’s been saying lately, but apparently not.  Left-wing Morrissey fans (like me) are able to turn compartmentalize.

In between two songs, he gave the crowd a snarky smile and chuckled, “As I thank you now, I have many critics. I have many critics. As you know, I have many critics,” he repeated, before concluding, “They’re all idiots!” With that, he exploded into his most contemptuous number of the night, “If You Don’t Like Me, Don’t Look At Me.”  “See if I care! See if I care! See if I care!” he taunted in each verse. Growling lead guitar propelled this song toward its climactic finish, which was marked by Morrissey’s send-off, “Don’t get your knickers in a twist!” (These lyrics do not appear in the recorded version from 2009.)

Morrissey also performed one Smiths track — “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” from Meat is Murder — before finishing with “The Bullfighter Dies” and the menacing “Jack the Ripper.” During the closer, white strobe lights struck him as his deep laugh echoed through the hall. Then, while the clanging guitars faded and the stage smoke dissolved, he smugly proclaimed, “I love you. Goodnight.” He tore his shirt in two, ripped it off and tossed it into the crowd, then departed.

Wait, he tore his shirt off?  For real?

I need more pictures to see what really happened.  And I’d like to hear “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” to see if he or Johnny Marr now sings songs from The Smiths better.

[READ: May 3, 2019] “Extinction Sonnets”

I don’t normally write about poems.  Certainly not ones that appear in magazines (this blog would be all poetry if  did that).  But for a summer reading issue that features three poets, I thought I’d make an exception.

Especially for this one.

And it seems quite apt for Morrissey.

This depressing series of five poems is five sonnets written to extinct species.

The Monteverde Toad (Costa Rica)

This one offers some modicum of hope:

like fallen stars How lost the scientists
wondering where you went and why. Perhaps mist

there’s still hope that one day you’ll be found
like buried treasure: patient, underground.

The Baiji Dolphin (China)

[once] esteemed as a goddess: one glimpse then gone–

this time you’re drowned for real, will not return
no matter how much incense people burn.

The Black-Faced Honeycreeper (Hawaii)

The Honeycreeper is not yet extinct but is very close. Hence

rarest bird in the world

hidden on remote Haleakala

They say that you are “unusually quiet.”
Well, lonely as you are, why would you sing?
You pretty thing, pretty thing, pretty thing.

The River Otter (Japan)

Once abundant at as reeds in the waters
where you swam and played and raised your young for years,
you’ve disappeared victim of casual slaughter
because humans must wear fur.  Profiteers…

The Pyrenean Ibex (France and Spain)

extinction’s a mystery
we’ll never understand.  But full of guilt
or full of pride, we tried to fix history
by cloning you.  No luck.

The end of this poem summarizes the whole series and summarizes humanity, too.

The things we killed
can never be restored, we know that now.
What we don’t know is who dies next, and how.

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SOUNDTRACK: TORO Y MOI-Tiny Desk Concert #845 (April 29, 2019).

I have been hearing about Toro Y Moi for quite some time and yet I never got a sense what he (they) were like.  I also always assumed it was a duo (which apparently it is not).

Chaz Bear, who performs as Toro y Moi, is going to do what he feels. In preparation for his Tiny Desk concert, we were given two possible sound scenarios: aim to recreate the heavily electronic and lustrous aura that birthed his latest LP, Outer Peace or strip away the bells and whistles for an acoustic performance. The game-time decision was the latter and fans were treated to brand new iterations of these songs.

I had assumed that the music was dancey, so this acoustic rendition was a surprise.  Reading that blurb makes more sense.

Toro y Moi’s discography conveys that same unpredictability and showcases his affinity for a wide span of genres. While largely known as an early pioneer of chillwave, Outer Peace is anything but. It’s hard-hitting, funky and directly to the point, as is this Tiny Desk concert.

It’s true.  “Laws of the Universe” is as funky as anything (that bass!–Patrick Jeffords) with the stabs of piano (Tony Ferraro) really bring the melody home.  The drums (Andy Woodward) snap and pop and bring the song to life.  And I love the nod to LCD Soundsystem: “James Murphy is playing in My house.” (we should have all replied “my house”).

Stripping down such heavily produced songs could risk revealing weaknesses. In this case, the rhythms move just the same. Removing the Auto-Tune, synths and effects make way for some insightful songwriting that’s often hard to hear in the recorded version.

Like in “New House” which is “about wanting that gold.”  It comes across as such a simple song with simple but relatable lyrics.

I want a brand new house
Something I can not buy, something I can afford
I ain’t even make it off the jetway now
Phone’s been on blast like all day (Ring)
Why you gotta do this? Try to test me now
Right when I touchdown got anxiety (Fuck)
Follow signs out of the terminal now
JFK is a different animal now
Damn baggage claim is like a warzone now
Glad I packed light clothes, I’m on my own

He has a simple, quite vocal delivery here in this mellow song.

“Freelance” returns that funk in the bass with more nice piano punctuation of melody.  I love this verse:

No more shoes and socks, I only rock sandals
I can’t tell if I’m hip or getting old
I can’t hear you, maybe you could change your tone

For the final song they brought out a special guest (who I didn’t know).

With shaker in tow, Bear sat front and center at a stool to deliver four of my favorites from Outer Peace, including “Ordinary Pleasure,” with bongo assistance from Foots of Foot and Coles.

There is definitely a sameness to the set (are they all in the same chord?)  His quiet delivery and the spare piano are all there.  But each song has a moment that lets it stand out.

Like the funky bass and the insanely catchy chorus of “Ordinary Pleasure.”  The bass and ooohs have a very disco feel to it as you dance along to “Maximize all the pleasure, even with all this weather, nothing can make it better, maximize all the pleasure.”

I have since listened to all four songs and I found the Tiny Desk versions to be more enjoyable each time–except for “Ordinary Pleasure” because the disco is ramped up on the album and it’s impossible not to shake to it.

[READ: April 29, 2019] “Poetry”

There is so much going on in this story, that it’s amazing it keeps its coherence.

James and Celeste are on vacation near a volcano.  Possible rain suggested that Celeste would not enjoy the hike but, “so, frankly, did Celeste’s dislike of hikes.”  But the volcano was there and so they had to climb it.  Celeste could sit out out, of course, but “there was the looming question of marriage and children, after all and of the deeper compatibility of our interests.”

She had once told an acquaintance that he needed harrowing ordeals to prove he’s not on the road to death.

The hike was tough–straight up, it felt–and it did rain.  He hoped they would both hold on to the idea that suffering underwrote a deeper pleasure.  He promised it would be over soon and they would enjoy the taste of prune de Cythère.  (Even though neither one knew what it actually was). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KASVOT VÄXT-“Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” (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 is probably the most memorable of all of the songs on the disc.  The keyboards are funky, the bass is funky and the wa- wah is funky.  The verse is a nice, slow slinky build up to the big chorus which is dumb and easy to remember, and–more to the point–really fun to sing along (hi-ho-hi-ho-hi-ho).

The post chorus of “This is what space smells like (you will always remember where you were)” is more or less screamed and makes it pretty unforgettable.  What does S.A.N.T.O.S. stand for?

Well, most of the time Tom Marshall writes the songs with Trey, but according to a Live for Live Music report:

Trey and Tom have been best friends and songwriting partners since elementary school, but Tom explains that he had absolutely nothing to do with Phish’s mastermind curveball they threw for Halloween, and remained in the dark, just as Phish’s entire fanbase did. Trey remains extremely tight-lipped following Phish’s debatably greatest prank ever, but according to Tom Marshall, the one thing Trey divulged is what the acronym S.A.N.T.O.S. stands for. Whether we believe it or not, Trey evidently told Tom that S.A.N.T.O.S., from Phish’s new tune “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.”, stands for “Subterranean. Arctic. Neuro. Technology. Orientation. Station.”

Whatever it stands for, it’s great.

[READ: December 7, 2018] “I Flirted with the Women”

This is an excerpt from a book whose subtitle is A Life and Work in Conversation with the Life and Work of Etheridge Knight.  I don’t know what that means and that makes this excerpt which is largely about Mary Karr even more puzzling.  (After re-reading I see now that it is Hayes interviewing Mary Karr about Etheridge.)

It begins with someone saying

One day Mary Karr sort of appeared along my path like a brush fire.  She’s incendiary, combustible, she’s a walking flame.  She’ll light up the whole house or she’ll burn that motherfucker down.  Recently when I told her I described her that way to people, she paused and said, “I don’t know if that’s a compliment or a complaint.”  I meant it the way she heard it.

I myself only really know about Mary Karr because of her association with David Foster Wallace.  I don’t think I’ve ever read her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE TINY CHEF MISH MESH ALBUM (2018).

What is The Tiny Chef?  I just heard about him a few weeks before getting this album.  According to his site:

The Tiny Chef has been cooking up amazing plant-based food and has wanted his own cooking show for the better part of the 90’s and 2000’s. He’s excited to work with Rachel, Ozi, Adam and the rest of the internet to spread his recipes and cooking style. He also firmly believes that children should learn how to cook and is hopeful that kids watch his cooking program. In his free time The Chef enjoys playing endless games of Uno and he loves to play his tiny banjo.

Rachel, Ozi and Adam are animator Rachel Larsen (who worked on Isle of Dogs among many other projects), writer/producer Adam Reid (The Adventures of Barry & Joe: Obama and Biden’s Bromantic Battle For The Soul of America) and cinematographer Ozi Oshiro (also Isle of Dogs).

Each video shows The Tiny Chef making something and singing to himself in an adorable mumble (he has a good voice, it must be said).  And thus, they released The Mish Mesh Album with all of the proceeds going to adopt “SWEET PEA” the Scottish Highland cow at The Farm Sanctuary.

I was happy to contribute my $5 and was happy to learn after the fact that:

We have definitely covered the $38 it costs to adopt and sponsor sweet pea.

I also love the modest goal that they set.

So the album consists of The Tiny Chef singing these Christmas songs in his own humming style:

“Mingle Mells” “O Come Al Ye Faithful” “Meck the Malls”  and “The First Noel” all have minimal cute/cheesy background music.

But the rest are all acapella:

“Frosty” “Good King” “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Mish Mesh” “Here Comes Manta Maus” (is a little jazzier withan “oh yea” at the end).  “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” “Smighlent Might” “Tiny Drummer Chef” (he really gets into this one, rolling his rs during the rum pa pum pum).  “Last Mish Mesh” is incredibly long and probably outlives its welcome, just like the original.

The rest of the songs are a minute or two and are sweet and adorable.  Sometime I wish he sang more mumbles and fewer almost lyrics, but that’s the Chef’s way.  It’s a delightful addition to the holiday listening and I hope it’s available again next year.

[READ: December 22, 2018] “Returning to the Problem”

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.

Lim describes this story as “A fiction-poetry-essay-memoir frankenstory sparked to being by torture rendition sites and a tossed-off comment by Tom McCarthy on the destruction of the Death Star.”

This story started out in a weird way–as if it was a poem with gaps between lines and right justification.  You instantly want to read it differently.

The story (which is not all in verse) is also in several numbered parts.  The crux seems to be that he wants to write about the Immigration Act of 1965, which a footnote says is thought to have been more symbolic than consequential–“an antidote to the country’s embarrassment during the Cold War of not being the beacon of democracy it professed to be.”

The story has a refrain that is as powerful as it is awful: (more…)

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