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Archive for the ‘Political Humor’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: CHARLY BLISS-Tiny Desk Concert #899 (October 9, 2019).

I wanted to wait until I saw Charly Bliss live before I watched this Tiny Desk Concert–even if the promo picture was certainly intriguing.

Lead singer Eva Hendricks was so much fun live, so full of joy and energy, that I’m glad I wasn’t expecting anything when I saw them.

In this Tiny Desk Concert, she is no less subdued, and her outfit–a pink tulle flouncy dress–is as vibrant as she is.  There’s even a whole bunch of gold balloons!

Charly Bliss arrived at the Tiny Desk with roughly 20 gold balloons, a burst of energy and some glitter to match. The vibrancy, especially from singer Eva Hendricks, can feel childlike and candy-coated. On the other hand, the subject of these songs is more about the pain of entering adulthood and leaving some of that sweetness behind.

Actually she is somewhat subdued because these songs have been changed for the Tiny Desk.  There’s even a small string section! (Rogue Collective: Kaitlin Moreno: violin; Alexa Cantalupo: violin; Natalie Spehar: cello).

They start with “Capacity” (which they started with when I saw them).

This song started with a drum machine because drummer Sam Hendricks was playing keys.  But what’s surprising (and was surprising when I saw them is that the lead “synth” line of the song is actually played by guitarist Spencer Fox.  Bassist Dan Shure is also playing keys on this song.

One of the most wonderful things about this song is how you can hear Eva Hendricks smile as she sings this song.  Even if, as the blurb says

 The three songs performed at the Tiny Desk, all from the band’s second album, Young Enough, are dark songs laced with the hope of bettering oneself.

After about two minutes, Dan switches to bass as the strings kick in and the song really takes off.  Eva even does some pogoing (she never stopped bouncing when I saw them, although she seems to be restraining herself somewhat here).

Up next is “Young Enough,” which is the name of their second album.

While introducing the title track, Eva Hendricks tells the NPR crowd, “It’s been really incredible rearranging these songs for this [Tiny Desk Concert] because it makes you remember how you were feeling when you wrote it all. And this song is kind of about when you finally realize that you made it out to the other side of something really painful.”

One thing that was really great when I saw them (and here) is when all the band members sing along.  Presumably that’s because

Eva Hendricks and her brother Sam Hendricks write the songs along with the other band members.

“Young Enough” starts quietly with just the keys (from Sam) before the gentle guitars chords strum in.  For the first few verses, it’s the bass that is prominent as Eva sings.  She is very into these songs–you can feel the emotion on her face (even with the eye shadow and glitter) as she sings.  Midway through, she adds acoustic guitar and the strings fill in more.

Sam switches to drums for the final song, “Chatroom.”  Eva introduces it with, “one of the most important things you have to do to grow is to cut some toxic people out of your life.”

When I saw them live, this song was a rocking fun fest.  It’s certainly more subdued here (no pogoing or wailing solos) , but you can feel the infectious nature of the songs in the way everyone gets into it (including Rogue Collective).  And the string crescendo at the end is a nice touch.

This is a band that is fantastic live–in any setting.

[READ: November 15, 2019] “On the First-World Campaign Trail”

I’m not sure how often Larry David writes for the New Yorker.  I feel like this is the first piece, but I’m probably wrong about that.

This piece is political–sort-of-and is timeless in the sense that it could apply to any campaign of the last thirty years.

This piece isn’t crazy funny, but it is much funnier if you read it in Larry David’s voice.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ROSANNE CASH-Tiny Desk Concert #893 (September 23, 2019)

I don’t know all that much about Rosanne Cash (I couldn’t recall how she was related to Johnny).  I also assumed that she would be a country artist.  Yet this set is anything but country.  But I guess the key to that is that her voice isn’t country at all, it’s just good.

This blurb also blows my mind a bit about how quickly (or not) they post concerts.  This show was posted in September but was recorded in January–she had to wait quite a while to see it.

Rosanne Cash and her band arrived at NPR to play the Tiny Desk on a freezing cold, bright sunny day in January — one of those brittle, crystal clear winter days when the snow reflects the sun and there’s nowhere to hide from the light. Her intense performance had that same balance of heat and ice.

Cash plays four songs

most taken from her 2018 album She Remembers Everything, have a lot of emotional heat, but they’re shaped and sculpted by the wry wisdom of age and experience. More than at any time in her career, her spirit and approach to performance these days reflects the influence of her father, the legendary country singer Johnny Cash.

“She Remembers Everything” opens with John Leventhal on with Rosanne on acoustic guitar.  Like most of these songs, it feels slow and powerful–kind of bluesy with a dramatic chord progression.  Mid song, Leventhal switches to guitar and plays a great little solo.

When the song is over she praises everyone: “So attentive.  Like a listening room at the NPR offices.”

Up next is “The Only Thing Worth Fighting” which she co-wrote with T Bone Burnett and Lyra Lynn  This song is not so much country as western-sounding.  There’s more nice guitar work from Leventhal.

Zev Katz on bass and Dan Rieser on drums don’t do anything to single them out except for keeping the songs moving properly.  The bass does do some nice lines, but mostly, these are simple songs which need little accompaniment.

For “Everyone But Me” she takes off the guitar.  This is a lovely piano ballad after which she says, “I don’t know if the young people can relate to this song but it means more as you get older.”

The last song is from her album The River and the Thread.  She says the album won a Grammy and the last time she won a Grammy, Ronald Reagan was president.  From this she plays the cool bluesy “A Feather’s Not A Bird.”

This isn’t the kind of music I enjoyed, but I liked this Tiny Desk Concert a lot more than I thought I would based on what I thought I knew about Rosanne Cash.

[READ: August 26, 2019] The Adventures of Barry & Joe

After the election that has sent the country spiraling into a level of hell, Adam Reid wanted to do something to make decent-thinking people laugh.

When I saw first saw this, I assumed that Adam Reid was Adam Reed, the creator of Archer and other delightfully dark cartoons.  It took a while for me to realize that he isAdam Reid who is responsible for The Tiny Chef Show.

Aside from that, I don’t really have any familiarity with him.  So that’s kind of interesting, I suppose. (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: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD with MILD HIGH CLUB-Sketches of Brunswick East (2017).

It was August of 2017 and KGATLW had already released two albums–one that explored microtonal music and a another that was a heavy metal concept album that wound up destroying the universe.  Where do you go from there?

KGATLW decided to join forces with Mild High Club and the results are forty minutes of … rather delicate retro jazzy psychedelia.  The instruments on this album (in addition to the standard bass, guitar, keys and drums), include: mellotron, flute, electric piano, glass marimbas, microtonal organ, omnichord, bongos, güiro, maracas, and of course harmonica.

I didn’t know Mild High Club, which it turns out is basically one guy, Alex Brettin.  Andtheir music is according to All Music, “pleasantly woozy and laid-back, but shows a subtle attention to detail without being excessive or indulgent.”

So that explains the overall sound of the album which is certainly woozy and laid-back.  But there are so many elements of Gizz-ness that it’s obvious how much the two fed off each other.

Like the previous album, there is a song with parts, (Sketches of Brunswick East I, II, III) that recurs throughout the album.  The album opens an interesting pattern of a 1 minute song followed by a 3 minute song followed by a 1 minute song etc.  That first song is “Sketches of Brunswick East I.”  It has a great bass line (the album is chock full of interesting, compelling bass lines).  There’s an awesome flute melody that floats throughout the song as well as acoustic piano from Brettin  and light drums from Michael Cavanagh.

“Countdown” follows.  It’s a gentle, breezy number with Mackenzie’s falsetto vocals floating over the top of jazzy music.  “D-Day” introduces some of their microtonal riffs into this gentler version of the band. Brettin, Mackenzie, and multi-instrumentalist Joey Walker all play microtonal instruments on a theme that sounds like jazz, Middle Eastern folk and rock.  The microtonal riffs do add a but of a harsher edge to the songs.

“Tezeta” is the chanted refrain of the next song that is a crazily retro easy listening exploration with vibes and spoken words and a fantastic bridge that repeats throughout the song.  The spoken word goes

Come here, girl
Who are you?
I am true perspective
Followed by the chorus
Tezeta, tezeta
Tezeta, tezeta
Nostalgia, nostalgia
Tezeta, tezeta
and then :
Come here, boy
Are you God?
I am that which I am
After a middle section that’s kind of a slow jam with great bass lines and interesting guitar melodies, the song re-emerges at a faster tempo!

“Cranes, Planes and Migraines” is another one minute song with a nifty bass line and intricate.  The melody segues into the easy listening jazz y joy of “The Spider and Me” which has a great vocal zippy vocal melody and concurrent musical riff.

On “Sketches of Brunswick East II,” breaks the 1 minute/3 minute pattern.  This is a longer version of the main theme.  It opens with (I assume) a tape of an old jazzy standard which slows down until the main melody starts up. A Fender Rhodes-like electric piano plays, and you can’t tell from the credits whether it’s Mackenzie or Brettin playing because both contribute electric piano to the tune.

In fact, the credits are really fascinating for this because everyone plays on the record but some people far more than others.  See:

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

  • Stu Mackenzie – mellotron (tracks 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 13), vocals (track 2, 3, 6, 9, 12), bass guitar (tracks 1, 4, 7, 8, 13), flute (tracks 1 4, 7, 11, 13), wah-wah guitar (tracks 2, 6, 11, 12), electric piano (tracks 1, 7), acoustic guitar (tracks 4, 12), microtonal guitar (track 3), glass marimbas (track 5), microtonal organ (track 9), synthesizers (track 11), piano (track 11), electric guitar (track 13); recording, mixing (tracks 1, 3-13), production
  • Joey Walker – bass guitar (tracks 5, 6, 9, 10), shaker (tracks 3, 4), synthesizers (tracks 4, 5), microtonal bass guitar (track 3), glass marimbas (track 4), acoustic guitar (track 4), vocals (track 4), electric guitar (track 4), omnichord (track 11), piano (track 11), bongos (track 12), güiro (track 12); additional overdubbing
  • Michael Cavanagh – drum kit 1 (all tracks), bongos (tracks 1-5, 7-9, 11, 13), drum kit 2 (track 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9-13), floor toms (tracks 1, 3, 7, 9, 13), maracas (tracks 1, 7, 11, 13), cowbell (tracks 4, 5, 9), snare brushes (tracks 1, 8), vibraslap (tracks 1, 8), tambourine (tracks 3, 9)
  • Cook Craig – electric guitar (tracks 1, 4, 5, 8, 9), fretless bass guitar (track 8, 11), vocals (track 8), synthesizers (track 8), bass guitar (track 11); additional overdubbing
  • Lucas Skinner – electric piano (tracks 2, 4, 6, 9), mellotron (tracks 2, 6), piano (track 11); additional overdubbing
  • Ambrose Kenny-Smith – harmonica (tracks 10-12), vocals (track 6)
  • Eric Moore – drum kit 2 (track 4)

Mild High Club

  • Alex Brettin – electric piano (tracks 2, 6-8), synthesizers (tracks 2, 5, 7, 9), bass guitar (tracks 2, 8, 12), electric guitar (tracks 8, 10, 13), microtonal synthesizers (tracks 3, 5), optigan (tracks 3, 7), organ (tracks 4, 12), acoustic piano (track 1), electronic drum kit (track 7); additional overdubbing, mixing (track 2)
  • Andrew Burt – guitar (track 11)

You get the feeling that people popped in, did some things and then left.  Like usual main dude Ambrose Kenny-Smith is only on a couple of songs.  But I guess if you release five albums in a year, you can slack off a little for one of them.

The second part of the album features longer songs like “Dusk to Dawn on Lygon Street.”  Again, the bass is great and it works nicely with the gentle vocals and sweet backing vocals.   It segues into the longest song on the disc, the five-minute, “The Book,” which features more great bass lines and a psychedleic keyboard intro.  It feels very 60s mod as it opens.  The really weird singing from Stu is a fun change of pace, too.  I love that at 4 minutes in the song sorts of halts with just the staccato keyboard melody and spare drums pushing it forward  until everyone jumps in again.

“A Journey to (S)Hell” picks up the pace and volume a little bit.  It’s by far the most psychedelic freakout song on the record.  There’s tape fluctuation and manipulation and the sounds of every-increasing synth notes like something taking off.

“Rolling Stoned” (has no one thought of that title before?) returns to the gentle sound of the rest of the record with a pretty, easy-listening melody.  There’s a very 70s sounding synth solo and it’s all quite groovy.  “You Can Be Your Silhouette” is a gentle jazzy number with whispered vocals.  It really encapsulates the whole album in one track.

The disc ends with “Sketches of Brunswick East II,” which opens with tape rewinding and then a reprise of that original melody once more.  This time the pacing and rhythm is very different with a very rubber guitar sound and a wash of sort of woozy synths.  It’s a very soothing ending to a very soothing disc.

How many ideas do these guys have?

[READ: February 1, 2019] The King of Kazoo

I saw this graphic novel while I was in the kids section.  I knew it was aimed pretty young, but the drawing style appealed to me–classic cartoon animal style with round head, oval eyes, oversized ears and a reluctance to adhere to physics–just my thing.

The story opens with a young girl, Bing, reading a book when Gypsy, a blue bird, flies in.  It sings, she listens attentively and then says “Wow!  I wish I spoke bird.”  But then she uses some magic, touched the bird’s beak and is able to see everywhere that Gypsy has been.  Gyspy saw a tunnel on Mount Kazoo which no one knew was there.  Bing runs to tell King Cornelius (her father).

But the King is busy thinking Kingly thoughts and cannot be bothered.  He is mostly thinking of his legacy–what can he put his name on?  (was this written immediately after the 2016 election?)  He has some big ideas, but they are all terrible.  Although he just assumes that you have to be a king to appreciate them.

They are interrupted by Torq, the inventor.  Torq has just created the Gonkless carriage.  Bing wonders if it runs on Magic, but the King says that no, it runs on Science.  The King says that Science is magic that anyone can use.  Bing wonders what the fun in that is.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Oddments (2014).

After the psychedelia of the previous album, KGATLW released this varied collection of songs.  Indeed, none of the 12 songs sound anything like the others.  It’s hard to say if this is a collection of leftover songs or an attempt to make a varied record.  After all, they had released four and a half albums in three years.

Nothing is really more than 3 minutes except “Work This Time.”  Everything goes by so quickly it’s hard to know what to think.

“Alluda Majaka” opens this record with an instrumental that has every style of music thrown into it–funky bass, organ, Indian music, there’s also sound effects and clips from a movie or two and really loud drums.  It’s a crazy opening for a crazy album.

“Stressin'” slows things down with a falsetto vocal and a gentle groove including a warbly wild guitar solo.  It’s followed by “Vegemite,” a nonsensical ode to vegemite with a great beat and an easy to sing along chorus (sung by Ambrose, I believe): Veg-e-mite…I like.

“It’s Got Old” is slower simple rocker (complete with flute and handclaps) and somehow is followed by the trippy, synthy swirls of “Work This Time.”  It opens with a rumbling wild drum intro and then becomes really gentle with more soft falsetto vocals.

“ABCABcd” is 17 seconds of garage rock nonsense before the sweet rocking acoustic guitars of “Sleepwalker.”

“Hot Wax” sounds like an old(er) KG garage rock song.  There’s creepy vocals from Stu and a simple riff and a chorus that literally repeats chorus from “Surfin Safari” but with their own muffled, fuzzy garage rock chords.  “Crying” has an old soul sound with its simple three note melody.  It even has spoken word parts (the way you act, girl) and everything.

The end of the disc throws in even more craziness in the last five or so minutes.  “Pipe Dream” is a one minute instrumental that doesn’t really do anything except evoke a psychedelic moment.  It fades out just as a riff begins.  But it’s not the riff to “Homeless Man in Addidas” which is a quiet acoustic folk song that sounds an awful lot like “April She Will Come” by Simon & Garfunkel.  The disc ends with “Oddments,” a 25 second piece of silliness that’s like a commercial for the disc which even chants out the disc name.

Unlike their more cohesive albums, this is not a necessity exactly, but it is a fun opportunity to see just how much KGATLW can do in 30 minutes.

[READ: November 2018] Cluetopia

This is a brief history of the crossword puzzle as broken down by year.

David Astle (whose name must be a crossword answer) is a crossword maniac.  What makes this book especially interesting to me is that he is from Australia, which means he has a very different perspective on the crossword puzzle than someone like Will Shortz.  For there is a great American/British (and Australian) divide when it comes to crosswords.

Astle is a huge fan of British-style cryptic puzzles and he really delves into some of the best ones over the last century.

A neat summary of the different types of puzzles comes from Always Puzzling: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HALF WAIF-Tiny Desk Concert #803 (November 9, 2018).

Nandi Rose Plunkett is a member of Pinegrove. She released albums as Half Waif, and when Pinegrove retreated for a time, she toured as Half Waif.  I wanted to see her but didn’t have the opportunity.

I was under the impression that her shows were very spare and I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy a full live set by her.  This five piece version (see more below) has a wonderful full sound though and these songs sound terrific.

The band [is] more often a trio, with Nandi singing her songs and playing keyboards, Zack Levine on drums and Adan Carlo bass synth and guitar.

But for this show she has a five piece band, which she has a great introduction for:

Midway through Half Waif’s Tiny Desk, singer Nandi Rose Plunkett stops to let us all know that this particular Half Waif show is extra special. “So today we’re actually ‘Full Waif,’ because I am joined by my dear friends,” she says. “These are all musicians who have played with the band Half Waif over the past five years, but we’ve never all played together until now! So thanks for the opportunity to get ‘Full Waif’ together.”

The other two guys are Zubin Hensler keys and Robin electronic drums.

It’s clear that she doesn’t need all five of them–the music isn’t all that complicated but it ensures a really full sound.  What’s most notable is the two drummers–each doing his own thing but combining into a wonderful rhythm session.

The session opens with “Lavender Burning.”  It sounds like she is playing a harmonium, but I don’t think she is.  The layers of synth are added to by Adan and Zubin.  It’s not until about half way into the song that the drums come in and it adds a lot of texture to an already wonderful song.

“Lavender Burning,” with its opening line, “Staring out into the shifting darkness / Tryin’ to give a name to the place where my heart is,” reinforces my love for their peaceful, almost backwoods calm.

The more I listen to the song the more powerful it becomes.  And Nandi’s voice is just lovely.

“Silt” opens with electronic drums and Nandi’s simple synth washes.  I love the thoughtful and clear lyrics

Nobody deserves me.  I get lonely. I get angry.
My love is like an island.  You can’t find it if you’re not trying
And if you want my love I will guide you. I will be your anchor.  If I only have a minute to myself. T hen i would let you in without poison.  I would eat my anger if you only gave me what I wanted.

Adan offers some nice backing vocals and Nandi does double duty on synth and piano.  There’s so many interesting sounds I’m not sure who is doing what (like that synth solo at the end).

The final song is “Salt Candy” which is the a more acoustic track–Nandi on piano only to start.  Adan is making the tiniest sounds on guitar and the drumming is spare and minimal.

When they closed with “Salt Candy,” the line “I wanted to be carried in my mother’s arms / I wanted to be buried in my mother’s arms,” in this setting and with the spare punctuation of electronic drums and textures, sitting alongside Nandi’s voice, was particularly chilling.

It’s a beautiful set and makes me like them a lot more.  I’ll definitely have to see them when they tour again.

[READ: January 7, 2017] “Pardon Edward Snowden”

Many people feel that stories about writers are not very interesting.  I disagree typically, but that’s probably because I aspire[d] to write something someday.

This story is about a poet and I really liked it a lot.  I enjoyed the political and the literary nature of the story.

Mark McCain received an email sent to many American poets inviting him to sign a “poetition” requesting that president Obama pardon Edward Snowden.

The request also took the form of a poem and the narrator talks about some of the rhymes: “pardon and rose garden.”  “nation and Eden” “Putin and boot in.”

Mark forwarded the email to his friend, the poet E.W. West.  They were enraged by the “poetition.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ERIC HARLAND AND AVISHAI COHEN-“Scrap Metal Improv” (Field Recordings, February 28, 2012).

This Field Recording [Eric Harland And Avishai Cohen: Scrap Metal Improv] is set behind the scenes at the 2011 Newport Jazz Festival.

Eric Harland is the sort of drummer who can conjure the music out of just about anything. And when you are this sort of drummer, you get asked to play with a lot of different musicians. When he joined us for this field recording, Harland was in the middle of playing three sets with three different bands in under five hours at the Festival.

One of those gigs was with the trumpeter Avishai Cohen and his band Triveni. Right after they finished with their set, we absconded with both trumpeter and drummer into an abandoned quadrant of Fort Adams State Park for a little experiment. Watch as Harland squats and annexes a rusty piece of scrap metal for a makeshift ride cymbal. The following improvisation seems to just fall into place.

This is an unusual field recording because, indeed, as it opens Harland is banging on pieces of metal (they sound pretty good too).  He plays for a bout a minute and then Avishai comes over and plays a two-minute trumpet improv around what Harland is doing.  It’s pretty need and a good example that you can make music anywhere.

[READ: January 22, 2018] “How Beautiful the Mountain”

This is (surprise) a strange story–one of those where the narrator just seems to be having a great old time being weird and rambling.  Where a descriptive paragraph just turns insane.

After a nice descriptive paragraph about a country it gets a bit, questionable: You could perhaps say this country has the smoothness and the symmetry of the inside of a much used mouth. I am the suckhole, the chewing and the cud.”

After this statement, “During the twentieth century there arose in some peripheral parts of the globe an obsession with democracy and human rights. Don’t bother to read the rest, it is of no importance.” (more…)

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