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Archive for the ‘Prison’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: CHRIS FORSYTH & THE SOLAR MOTEL BAND-Dreaming in the Non-Dream (2017).

I was anticipating watching Forsyth at the end of last year but the show sold out on me.  (Note: he is playing nearby this Friday).

I heard about him from a stellar Tiny Desk Concert and was totally psyched to hear this four-song full length album.

The disc opens with the 11 minute History & Science-Fiction that starts with a slow bass line and lots of percussion.  After a short intro the guitar comes in with whammy bar’d chords.  It resolves into a really catchy “chorus” and then a slow down that reminds me of a softer “Marquee Moon.”  But instead of turning into a rocking solo section, it totally mellows out, with keyboards and cymbals and a pretty guitar melody.  It slowly builds out of that by switching from organ to sax.

“Have We Mistaken the Bottle for the Whiskey Inside” is the only song with words.  Of the four it’s my least favorite, but that’s only because I like his guitar playing better than his singing.  It’s a fairly simple riff–kind of Crazy Horse-ish with Forsyth’s deep spoken-singing asking the title question.  After about 3 and a half minutes, the song starts to pick up speed and turns into a huge freak out of noise and chaos. 
“Dreaming in the Non-Dream” begins as a simple picked guitar line repeating.  Throw in some a steady drum beat and some buzzy synths and the song starts to build. And then Forsyth’s soloing makes an appearance.  At first he is just playing harmony notes alongside the lower notes but at the 2 minute mark, the full throttle wah-wah guitar soloing takes off (the backing guitar also throws in some cool wah-wah, too).  And the song runs as a full instrumental for over 15 glorious minutes.  But it is not just a 15 minute guitar solo.  The whole band gets involved–the rest of the band is fully present and there’s a synth solo.  But it’s all within that catchy melody line.  Fifteen minutes never went by so fast.
 “Two Minutes Love” is a beautiful two-minute song.  Gentle guitars interweaving over lush bass lines and twining with the other guitar.  It’s a nice delicate end to that spiraling CD.

[READ: December 27, 2017] Obama: An Intimate Portrait

Sarah got me this book for Christmas and it is awesome.  I wanted to spend 2018 looking forward, getting past the dumpster fire of 2017 and hoping we can move past what we are bogged down with.  #ITMFA #RESIST

But this book was just an amazing look back and something that gives me hope that we can move forward past what we have now.

Pete Souza is a tremendous photographer and this collection offers amazing access to a President who was full of gravitas and thoughtfulness.

We were concerned that reading this would be too depressing given the State of our country and the Embarrassment in Chief.  And in some ways it was depressing.  But in many ways it was what it was intended to be: inspirational.

It’s hard to believe that before our Chief Idiot was bumbling his way through life and giving literally zero thought to anything except his own ego, we as a country had 8 years of a leader who, these pictures show, put serious thought and concern into (almost) everything he did.  Obama was never quick to do anything–he was often mocked for his slow speech patterns–but this is a job where rushing to judgment never does anyone any good.  And you can see the pressures of the world weighing on him.

But this book is not all about pressure.  There are delightful moments of joy–with his daughters, with delightful citizens, with staff and of course with Michele. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CIGARETTES AFTER SEX-Tiny Desk Concert #682 (December 13, 2017).

I only know of Cigarettes After Sex from when NPR played a song of theirs and Bob asked us to guess whether the singer was a man or a woman.

Greg Gonzalez has one of those wonderful voices that is deep and husky and sounds feminine (although his speaking voice is very deep).

This Tiny Desk Concert is very quiet (like The XX).  It is just Gonzalez on heavily echoed guitar and vocals and his unmoving, emotion-free longtime bandmate Phillip Tubbs on spare keyboards.

Although there’s not a lot to these songs, the melodies are truly terrific.

The three songs sound very similar–unmistakably them.

“K.,” the opening track to this Tiny Desk Concert – and the opening cut to the band’s eight year-long awaited debut album – is especially memorable. The lyrics are simple and easy to remember: “Kristen, come right back/I’ve been waiting for you to slip back in bed/When you light the candle.”

Amazingly, for almost half of each song, there are no keyboards, just the guitar.  So that extra, gentle wash of music sounds huge.  “Apocalypse” has the lovely swooning chorus of “you’ve been locked in here forever and you just can’t say goodbye” and “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” follows that same pretty structure (although it’s my least favorite of the three).  With the minimalism:

each note and each word seems to count for more  …  and the office environment of the Tiny Desk Concert [may work better] than in a club, where just the chatter of a crowd can drown out this gentle music.

[READ: November 1, 2017] The Hunting Accident

I loved this book. Everything about it was utterly fantastic.  The story, the way it was told, and the amazing drawings of Landis Blair

The book opens on a snowy day in Chicago in 1959.  A boy whose mother has just died has moved from sunny California to miserable Chicago to live with his blind father, Matt.   The boy had lived with his mother since he was four (his mother’s mother thought that his father was a trouble and that they needed to get away from him).  So he barely knew his father.  And now it was time to find out everything about the man.  Like, first off, how he became blind.

The father told the boy all about the hunting accident.  He and his friends were screwing around, playing by the train tracks.  They were having fun scaring each other.  All the kids were afraid of real life bogeymen Leopold & Loeb local murderers.  The boys even believed they found the pipe in which Leopold & Loeb stuffed their victim.

There’s even little reminder of the crime:

In 1924, two wealthy educated men kidnapped and brutally murdered Bobby Franks, a 14-year-old neighbor…just for the thrill of it… to see if they could commit “the perfect crime.”

Anyhow, the boys had a shotgun and heard a deer.  When one of those boys shot at the deer he missed and his Charlie’s father right in the face.

Soon Charlie must learn what it is like to live with a blind man–how everything must be in the exact same place.

Charlie’s father writes all the time (on a braille machine).  He writes about morality and poetry.  He quotes Dante.  And soon, Charlie’s dad was having Charlie help with the writing–by proofing and checking things (Charlie learned a lot at the same time).

Charlie’s grandmother also said that Chicago was dangerous, but not for Charlie.  He got along fine. He even made friends with Steve Garza–the coolest kid in the neighborhood.    Garza was so cool he bummed cigarettes off of Charlie (from his dad–even though Matt, counted them and got mad about it).

Charlie also began getting involved in extracurricular activities–he loved tap dancing and tried the cello–two things his father appreciated. But soon Steve and his buddy started pressuring Charlie.  He “left” his tap shoes at the park, he stopped playing cello and he got involved in some ugly things.

Garza wanted to join the JPs–a local mob related gang.  But he was too young so he started the Junior JPs and soon enough that involved theft.  And since they were dumb, they were easily caught.

And that’s when the truth comes out.

I was already hooked into the story and then I was blown away.  Charlie’s dad did not lose his sight in a hunting accident.  Charlie is furious that his dad lied to him.

Garza convinces Charlie to head for Canada to avoid the cops.  (The third guy has already gotten there and is at a free-love commune or something).  Charlie is prepared to drive them both (he’s the one with the car after all).  And then his dad tells him the whole truth, which gets Charlie to pause.

The rest of the book cover’s Matt’s story.

He was poor in 193os Chicago and got mixed up with the wrong crowd.  His did go blind from a gun shot, but it was a very different setting–and it led to prison.

On the day he got to prison, the same prison that Leopold and Loeb were in, Richard Loeb was killed in the shower.  This left Leopold alone.

Charlie asks if he met Leopold.   And Charlie’s dad says that Nathan Leopold is the reason for his divorce.  What?

Turns out hat not only did Charlie’s dad know Nathan Leopold. He was Leopold’s cell mate.  Since Loeb was killed there was concern that Leopold might be next.  And since Matt was blind, they were put together under watch.

After Matt was out of prison, Leopold sent him a letter (in braille) which the grandmother intercepted.  Matt had never told anyone he was in jail, and that made Matt a Liar.

Matt was miserable in jail.  He couldn’t see, his father was disappointed in him and he had nothing to live for.  He just wanted to die, but that was pretty hard to do under constant supervision. We see daily life for a blind man in jail–food stolen all the time and knocking his cellmate’s things over.

Leopold was angry and bitter and wanted nothing to do with a blind man.  But soon, Leopold began talking to Matt about the life of the mind–something he realized that Matt lived all the time.  Because he couldn’t see everything was in his mind. Leopold used to hold educational lessons in the library at the jail.  He also showed Matt how to make a Glim Box (a way to use a spinning coin to light a fire to light cigarettes).

Matt tells Leopold that he has no family.  Meanwhile, Leopold’s dad visits every two weeks (the visits are awkward and uncomfortable but are a way for Leopold to get things from the outside).

Soon, Leopold is trying to convince Matt to learn Braille.  Why?  well, this gave opportunity for Leopold to learn it to and thereafter he could read after lights out.  (Leopold was a master of many languages and picked up braille easily).

And that’s when Leopold persuaded Matt to read Dante’s Inferno.

The story of Matt’s imprisonment jumps back to the present where Charlie is still annoyed with his father, but is really interested in the story. Especially when he leans that his father almost committed suicide there.

I loved the philosophical ideas in the story–they way the book interprets both Plato and Dante for the everyman .  I loved that Matt’s story runs throughout the book and I loved the whole idea of a blind man helping one of the most notorious criminals of he 20th century.

This story is thought-provoking and exciting at the same time.

The only thing that I feel was left out–did Charlie wind up going to jail or not?  It’s never addressed.

The end of the story and that final two-page spread are just breathtaking.

I also love that David L. Carlson more or less found out about this amazing true story by accident.

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: BRANDI CARLILE-Tiny Desk Concert #229 (July 9, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

brandiBrandi Carlile has been making a lot of noise on WXPN this last year.  She has a few song that I really like.  But I didn’t realize that her background was in country music—it’s slightly apparent on her more recent music.  But in this Tiny Desk, her whole country style really comes out.  Well, I guess she’s more alternative country—it’s strange that she has a country twang in her voice since she is from Washington.

“Raise Hell” is a romping stomping ass kicking song.  The riffing and power of the song is undeniable.  And it’s lyrically fun.  She actually sounds a bit like one of the Indigo Girls (I can never remember which one is which) on this song, with a notable but not pronounced accent.

Her backing band is great—two guitars a cello and a violin.  And they sing some great “ooohs” always right on pitch and sometimes quite high.

She asks if they should do a guitar version of “That Wasn’t Me.”  This is straightforward folk song with some more great “oooh” backing vocals.  But when the strings kick in about half way through, it really elevates the song.  Bob jokes about how often they’ve played the song in that way and she says, “That arrangement is about 5 minutes old.”

For the final song she wants to feature the strings.  “Promise to Keep” is a pretty , slow song with great strings and backing vocals.   Her voice is strong and powerful throughout all the songs and she hist some really high falsettos in this one.

I am glad she is moving more towards folk, although some of that stomping country would be fun to see live.

[READ: December 11, 2016] “Crazy Life”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

Most of the stories so far have been somewhat hopeful, but this one really removes all hope from the characters’ lives.

The story is told in first person by Dulcie.  Dulcie is dating Chuey, a gang member who has been picked up by the cops in the past.  She gives him grief but then realizes that this time it is far more serious.

She went downtown and there were all the town’s reporters there.  There was talk of capturing an important gang member.  I love that Dulcie walks through one reporter’s take because she doesn’t care about the media.

Dulcie knows she has to lie about who she is–they’d never let a girlfriend in to see a perpetrator.  So she pretends to be Chuiey’s wife.

After some hurdles, she gets to see him and he reveals that they think he was the shooter, but he swears he was just the driver.

(more…)

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black-daimons SOUNDTRACK: LAST EX-Last Ex [CST107] (2014).

last-exOne of the things I love about Constellation Records is that you often never know what you’re getting.  They used to very specifically release a certain kind of music, but they’re now just releasing interesting and exciting music.  But also, a band name can’t really tell you what to expect from this label.

So who knows what a band like Last Ex will sound like.  And how cool that their first few songs on this are so good.

The disc’s sides are split into Side X and Side XX.

“Hotel Blues” opens with some scattered drums and chords.  It has  vaguely early-Pink Floyd feel to it.  But around a minute in, the synths pick up a repetitive melody and the bass and drums kick in to give it a very Can or Kraftwerk vibe.  The song is fairly straightforward, but there are sprinklings of notes—sometimes slightly off and vibrated that add some very cool textures to this pulsing track. It’s really groovy and fun.  But it’s “Girl Seizure” that I find so strangely compelling.  Again, over simple repetitive drum and bass, the guitar (or keyboards) play warbling notes that are unsettling and yet enticing.  The song quiets to almost nothing and then resumes in much the same way—and you welcome that weird warble and its of Moog feeling.  At just under 3 minutes its just the right length.

“Flûte magique” slows things down with some simple arpeggios.  There’s not a lot to the song, but it is wonderfully soothing as the bass notes tick away and then the guitar notes rise higher and higher.  The song picks up speed as it goes along and leads to a middle section that’s almost stiffly funky, if that’s possible.  The ending gets a little louder as it thuds to a conclusion.

“It’s Not Chris” opens with some static and strange noises and some soaring keyboards.  About a minute and a half in a strange staccato organ melody comes in with a violin sound doing a kind of solo over the top.  It’s all a little strange but it drops out in the middle to a kind of sinister pulsing, and when the melody resumes, it seems strangely comfortable again.  The end of the song has some high-pitched violin notes that sound almost like a theremin.

“Resurrection Drive” is mostly drums and echoed surf guitar chords. After a minute or so some strings are added to the mix.  It’s only 2 minutes long but it introduces some interesting tension.

Side XX has a quieter feel overall.  “Nell’s Theme” opens with acoustic guitars playing a simple, pretty four-note melody.  The song slowly grows more complex as a violin is added to the song. With about 30 seconds remaining, everything drops away save for a mournful violin.

Thudding bass and picked notes echo through “Trop tard.”  It has a slow, spacey feel (like mid-period Pink Floyd).  A guitar is added and it speeds up some but still sounds of the era and then settles back down to a languid pace.  “Cape Fear” is less than 2 minutes of swirling outer space sounding synths—a creepy, lonely feeling.

“Cité d’or” has more slow pulsing rhythms and more echoing surf guitars and the whole thing feels rather tension filled.  Some squealing  feedback intersperses the surf guitar.   “Hotel Blues Returns” for 1:43.  It’s primarily the drumming pattern of “Hotel Blues” with some swirling synth noises (it’s good for headphones).  “Hotel Kiss” ends the disc with sirens and then a slow thudding drum and more noir guitars.  This could be used in a Twin Peaks scene.

So this album is an interesting mix of rocking songs with unsettling noises and mellower songs with cool synth effects.  It’s a great find.

[READ: September 24, 2016] The Black Diamond Detective Agency

I read this book a while ago, but I never posted about it.  And that gave me the opportunity to re-read it and, frankly, to enjoy it more.

This is the third book by Eddie Campbell that I have read.  I have found his stories to be complicated and hard to follow on first read.  They really demand a second and even a third read.  Part of it is that he writes complicated and somewhat intentionally convoluted narratives.  And part is because of his drawing style.

I love the cover of this book, how it is set up to look like an Old West placard: ORPHANS! MAYHEM! TERROR!  “In This the most recent offering from The First Second Quality line of Books.  An epic take of a newly industrialized America as revealed in words and pictures by the inimitable Mr Eddie Campbell.  Based upon  the manuscript of a Kinematographic play by Mr C. Gaby Mitchell.”

And its this last part that I missed when I first read it–that it was based on a screenplay.  And this book does resemble a screenplay.  However, I noted that in my other posts about Campbell that I’ve said of this book: I liked and didn’t like this book.  Well, which is it?

The story is incredibly complicated–with double and triple crosses.  And the visuals call for mistaken identity and hidden identity as well as new characters who all look vaguely the same–like pale photographs of turn of the century urban gangsters. But the story is really interesting. So I liked it, although I think I’d like to see it more as a film. (more…)

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augSOUNDTRACK: SCOTT MULVAHILL-“Begin Againers” (Tiny Desk Contest Runner-Up 2016).

beginLast week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners up that they especially liked.  I want to draw attention to a couple of them.

Mulvahill is a double bassist, and his double bass sounds outstanding.  He slides notes, he plays chords, and he keeps up a really fun, jazzy riff.

He also slaps the strings which provides some percussive sounds.  One of the nice features of this song is that he keeps playing a low open note so the song never sounds empty.   And that’s all there is to the song–just his voice and his bass (and a proper verse/chorus structure of course).

The song s(and his voice) reminds me of a kind of stripped down Paul Simon song. It’s not really my thing, though and I wouldn’t choose to listen to it a lot, but I love his bass sound and I think the song itself is really good.

[READ: February 16, 2016] “Measure for Measure”

This is an excerpt from Moshfegh’s novel Eileen.

This excerpt (and presumably the whole book) is about a woman who I assume is anorexic  She doesn’t eat and seems to relish in her boniness.

I took such poor care of myself. I knew I should drink water, eat healthful foods, but I didn’t like to drink water or eat healthful foods. I found fruits and vegetables detestable, like eating a bar of soap or a candle.

She is reflecting back on her younger days when at 24 she was considered a spinster and had indeed had only one kiss from a boy when she was 16.  It was a prom date that had gone rather awry–she wound up biting him on the neck (and can’t recall is she drew blood).

She concludes the memory by saying “He’s probably dead..Most people I know are dead.” (more…)

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nov3SOUNDTRACK: OYSTERHEAD-The Grand Pecking Order (2001).

oysterheadThis is a really fun album.  Despite the three big personalities here–Trey Anastasio, Steward Copeland, Les Claypool, they work so well together.  Some songs feel like Phish songs (Trey has a song or two that is just him), some feel like Les songs (ditto for Claypool), but you never feel like they are trying to outdo each other.  And of course Stewart Copeland plays his great drums all the way through.

Les and Trey share vocals on “Little Face” which features Phish sound effects and some great Les wild bass.  “Oz is Ever Floating” has jam feel–lots of soloing.  Unlike some of Les’ projects though, on many of the songs, like this one, his bass fits right in.  And the vocal harmonies from all three sound great in the chorus.

“Mr. Oysterhead” is a fun song with Les’ wild bass sounds.  This one feels kind of Primus like but with very different guitar sounds coming along.  This even has a big ol’ bass solo.  “Shadow of a Man is very Primus sounding–it was written entirely by Claypool and is primarily bass with some smattering of (wicked) guitars).  While “Radon Balloon” is a pretty acoustic number from Trey.  He sings gently (and if Les’ bass is there, it’s very subtle).

“Army’s on Ecstasy” has Les’ more cartoony voices, but some interesting jazz guitars and drums.  “Rubberneck Lions” is a fantastic song, one of the most Phish like songs on the disc (even if Les sings the first verse–it’s the chorus that screams Phish).  It’s got a rocking ending with great drums.  “Polka Dot Rose” has some fun group vocals at the end of the song.

“Birthday Boys” is another very Phish seeming song–very Trey influenced–some great guitar picking and subtle work from the other two guys.  It has a great chorus.  “Wield the Spade” seems like a goofy song that might be short (Trey repeating a few words as the song opens), but it proves to be one of the longer songs on the disc.  I gather it is about Ceausescu, and has Stewart Copeland doing all the lead vocal talking/shouting).

“Pseudo Suicide” has a big wild Primusy bass riff.  There’s a great jamming section in the middle, when Trey takes over vocals.  “Grand Pecking Order” is kind of a goofy Primus stomp while “Owner of the World” is a kind of catchy sing along to end this disc.

 There’s some really good songs on this disc and it works for fans of Phish and Primus.

[READ: January 20, 2014] “Picnic in the Yard”

This week’s issue of the New Yorker was its semi-annual food issue.  As such there were four food-related essays by writers who I’ve written about before.  The section was called “Rations.”

The final was by Jaime Joyce (there’s a name with literary aspirations, eh?).  The three essays so far have talked about food in medical school, the army and college. This one is about food in prison. (more…)

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44SOUNDTRACK: WNYC SOUNDCHECK GIG ALERTS (2009-).

soundcheck There are so many places to listen to free music.  But i prefer places where you can (legally) download free music.  So here’s a place I’ve just discovered: WNYC Radio’s website which features a section called “Gig Alerts.”  The feature talks about a different interesting band playing that night (in New York).  After a small blurb, there is (almost always) a free downloadable track.   There’s twenty listings per page and 86 pages.  Do the math and that’s a lot of songs.

The feature covers virtually every genre, although there is a preponderance of alt- and indie- rock (mostly lesser known bands).  If you are interested in new (to you) music and in exploring different artists, this is a great resource for a ton of free music.  So, check out Gig Alerts here.

[READ: May 20, 2014] McSweeney’s #44

I was pretty pleased with myself when I got caught up on the McSweeney’s issues.  But I remember wanting to take a break when this one came in.  I now see it has been almost a year since I read the last issue.  So the break was too long and now I have three issues to catch up on again.  Sigh.  But this one proved to be a great issue to return on.

This is a pretty quintessential issue of McSweeney’s.  It’s got letters, some fiction, a special section dedicated to Lawrence Weschler (which includes a lot of art), and a cool, interesting section of plates with full color art.  It’s also got an interestingly designed hardcover with a kind of raw cardboard in the back, a slightly raised colorful section for the spine and then a further raised section for the giant 44 on the front cover.

LETTERS (more…)

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