Archive for the ‘KEXP 90.3 FM–Seattle, WA’ Category

chew6SOUNDTRACK: ALVVAYS-Live at KEXP (December 2, 2014).

alvvays I’ve been enjoying the Alvvays album quite a lot.  They will be opening for The Decemberists this summer, so this was a good way to hear what they sound like live.

The band (pronounced Always) is from Canada and they play four songs and have a little chat.

The four songs are all on their debut album and while none of them are mind blowingly original, they scratch an itch that I have for poppy 90 s alt rock (female singer division).

Molly Rankin has a delicate voice that blends in beautiful with the washes of music (guitars and keyboards).  They remind me a bit of Lush, although less rocking.  There’s a bit more angst and yearning in her voice and lyrics.

Their hit is “Archie, Marry Me” but I find the other three songs, “Ones Who Love You,” “Dives” and “Party Police” to be just as catchy and delightful.  In fact I think the best song in this set may be “Party Police.”  The only real downside to this set is that they don’t have a live drummer.  No idea why, and it doesn’t really detract from the performance, it just makes it a but flatter than it might be.  I assume they’ll have a live drummer when I see them this summer.

[READ: January 22, 2015] Chew: Volume Six

Volume Six brings a very exciting return and a devastating loss to this awesome series.

The good news first: POYO!

The book opens with Toni (Antoinelle), Tony Chu’s sister in bed with Paneer, a man who is in love with her.  She, of course, needs to bite him to see what his future holds (which rather freaks him out).  Toni is (like her brother), cibovoyant and can read the future of everything she eats.

Toni is asked by her other brother Chow to help with a case.  A guy has out-bid him for a painting and he fears that the guy is just going to destroy the masterpiece.  As an agent of NASA surely Toni agrees she must help.  It turns out the artist is a sabopictor–his paintings taste delicious.  Of course it turns out that Chow has an ulterior motive–the guy has also stolen his cookbook, that’s all he cares about–he doesn’t care about the painting at all.  Toni is annoyed, but always happy to see her brother.

While she is visiting Tony in the hospital (from injuries suffered in book 5), Caesar walks in. Caesar used to work with Tony and he is quite certain that he recognizes Toni from somewhere (I loved this ongoing joke and that we keep flashing back to the number of times they met (and even hooked up) in their lives).

Then Toni gets called onto another case, involving mutated chicken frog (chogs) and a gangster named D-bear.Poyo-rules-the-Chew-roost-in-Secret-Agent-O31R1IQP-x-large

Of course the real excitement comes from the interlude which features POYO! the cybernetically enhanced rooster.  He is on a mission to stop Dr Albrecht Regenbigen, a ranapuliva who can recreate the meteorological phenomenon in which animals rain from the sky.

Back in our main story Poyo proves to be a great partner for Colby especially in the story of Judy Heinz-Campbell a victuspeciosian, who can craft a concoction out of food that temporarily changes your appearance (useful for supermodels and supervillains).

The final book shows the unthinkable–a wedding for Toni and Paneer?  Or something much more horrific and unimaginable.

I’m not sure I can forgive this series. Book 7 better bring something happy.

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how you dieSOUNDTRACK: DIARRHEA PLANET-“Lite Dream” Live on KEXP (2014).

dpHow to pass up a band with a name like this?  Well, it’s pretty easy, actually.  Who would even want to say their name?

The name conjures images, no, let’s not go there.  The name conjures music that is just abrasive and rude–ten second punks songs.  But in reality, their music is pretty traditional old school heavy metal.  They have 4 lead guitarists after all! (There’s 6 guys in the band altogether, surprisingly, there’s no women).   One of the lead guitarists even plays with his teeth (for a few seconds).

This song is about heavy metal, although I’m not sure what about it.  There’s some big riffs, solos galore.  There’s even a classic 80s style dual lead guitar solo.  There’s big loud drums.  There’s feedback.  It’s everything you think of as heavy metal, with a seeming wink and nod thrown in.

This is basically a goofy feel good band, playing fast heavy metal.  Shame about the band name, though, really.

Watch it all here.

[READ: spring and summer 2014] This is How You Die

It is quite disconcerting to open a Christmas present from your wife and have the first thing you see be the words “This is How You Die.”  To then look at her confusedly and try to interpret the look of excited delight on her face as she wonders why you’re not excited.  Then she explains that it is a sequel to the interesting collection Machine of Death that you both had read several years ago (but which I evidently never posted about).  Sighs of relief and then Christmas can proceed with more merriment.

So over the course of the new year I read these stories and I enjoyed most of them quite a lot.

The premise of the book is that there is a Machine of Death.  This machine states how you will die, but it does not give you a time, place or real definition of what it means by hope you will die.  Statements seem obvious but may in fact be different in some twisted way.  As it says on the back of the book, OLD AGE could mean either dying of natural causes or being shot by an elderly bedridden man in a botched home invasion.  The book revels in the irony that you can know how it’s going to happen , but you’ll still be surprised when it does.

The way the machine works is that you insert your finger, it takes a blood sample and gives you a card with the way you die printed on it.  No matter how many times you do it you will get the same result.  These are the guidelines, and each author made a story with just that set up.

Pretty cool right?  The first collection was really great.  And so is this collection, done by writers and cartoonists that I had never heard of before.  There are 34 stories and 12 comic strips (it’s a hefty collection).  Because each story is basically about how a person dies, I had to think about how best to review the book–without giving away any twists.  So I think the title and a very brief plot will have to suffice.

There’s even a funny promo video for the book (at the end of the post). (more…)

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CV1_TNY_11_04_13Brunetti.inddSOUNDTRACK: LEE RANALDO AND THE DUST-Live at KEXP (December 8, 2013).

leeThis show was recorded before the holidays in 2013.  For some reason, it wasn’t posted online until Jan 31.  But whatever the reason, I’m glad it was featured.

During the dissolution (or whatever) of Sonic Youth, much has been made of both Thurston and Kim’s new projects.  But Lee Ranaldo tends to get lost in the shuffle (which is probably how he likes it).  During the break, Lee has been plugging away on two solo albums.  His latest one, with The Dust, is more of a band effort, with contributions from everyone: Steve Shelley (talk about getting lost in the shuffle, poor Steve) on drums, Tim Lüntzel on bass and Alan Licht on guitar.  Licht plays some wonderful guitar solos and sounds (although Lee handles most of the weird sounds).  I think what’s interesting about these songs is that although they feel like Sonic Youth, they have a “pretty” guitar solo which really changes the overall feel of the song.

Ranaldo has written (and sung) some of my favorite Sonic Youth tracks.  I always assumed that his tracks sounded great when they were balanced with the rest of the album.  But these songs sounds very Ranaldo and they are all fantastic.

The first song, “Keyhole” is part beautiful melody and part beautiful noise.  Ranaldo writes chords that work perfectly together and yet which don’t sound like an obvious pairing.  And his vocal phrasing is always perfect for the music he makes–his voice is not spectacular but it is really quite perfect.  The second song, “Off the Wall” has the most commercial-sounding chorus I’ve heard from a Sonic Youth alum.  I almost don’t like it, although the rest of the song is very cool.

They play a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Rock n Roll” which fits in perfectly with their sound (even if Lee doesn’t hit the falsetto “fine fine” notes).  The final song, “The Rising Tide” is perhaps my favorite.  Clocking in at 10 minutes, this song is expansive and full of textures and sounds.  It goes in a  bunch of different directions and is really fantastic.

There’s a very long interview in the middle of the four songs, in which we learn what Lee has been up to, about how Hurricane Sandy affected him and about The Dust’s tour in India.  Lee’s an engaging talker and the interview flies by.

I don’t have any of Lee’s solo albums, but I think this one Last Night on Earth (and it seems like perhaps the previous one, Between the Times and the Tides) are total keepers.  You can watch the whole show below.

[READ: January 5, 2014] “Take It or Leave It”

I was surprised and pleased to see a piece from Zadie Smith in here.  Her article is mostly a comparison of take out food in New York and in London (or more broadly, the U.S. and England).

She tells how the first time she ordered Chinese food in New York, she wondered why the delivery guy just stood there after getting paid.  So she closed the door on him.  Her companion was shocked.  They just don’t tip delivery people in England.  British people grumble about it when they come here and have to tip.  They say that people should be compensated fairly for their work (although Smith notes that no one actually says if delivery boys are fairly paid in England) .

She says that a guy comes to your door, gives you food, gives you change and leaves (sometimes without even taking off the motorcycle helmet).  And they never say to have a nice day.  (“Have a good one” is the best you’ll get). (more…)

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misswyomingSOUNDTRACK: THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH-Live at KEXP (September 8, 2012).

tmoeThe Tallest Man on Earth is Kristian Matsson a Swedish singer songwriter.  His albums have a very full sound, but when he plays live, it’s just him and his guitar.  And man, is he a compelling performer.  His guitar playing (primarily classical-sounding but often heavy and mostly rocking) is gorgeous–fast and pretty.  And his voice is gravelly and powerful.  I’ve enjoyed the studio songs I’ve heard, but he is transcendent live.

This set opens with a buzzy guitar that sounds like the show is not recorded well.  But that quickly goes away and the songs shine.  Matsson is a charming and self depreciating performer and when he has a malfunction as in “Love is All”and at the end he says “that was kind of embarrassing.”  But he not bothered by it and plays on with a great, short set.

The set includes some (then) new songs and a few older ones as well: “A Field of Birds,” “King of Spain”, “Tangle in This Trampled Wheat,” “Thrown Right at Me,” “The Gardener” and “Like a Wheel.”  It’s a great introduction to the guy and his amazing voice. which you can enjoy at KEXP.

 [READ: August 20, 2013] Miss Wyoming

I first read the book during my trip to Vancouver on the eve of Y2K (the best flight I’ve ever had—mostly empty and we were given champagne).  I started reading it on the plane and then in the second chapter the heroine is in a plane crash.  So I stopped reading.  I’m sure I finished it later, although I didn’t remember much of anything about it.

I read it again now and I was a little disappointed when I started reading it.  The first few chapters are so full of similes it is insane.  The word “like” is tossed around at an incredulous pace.  Like:

  • John’s teeth were big and white, like pearls of baby corn
  • …his skin like brown leather.
  • His eyes looked like those of somebody who’s lost big.
  • They crossed San Vicente Blvd, passing buildings and roads that once held stories for each of them, but which now seemed transient and disconnected from their lives, like window displays.
  • Susan was wrapped in a pale light fabric, cool and comfortable, like a pageant winner’s sash.
  • John was sweating like a lemonade pitcher,
  • …his jeans, gingham shirt and black hair soaking up heat like desert stones.
  • John felt as close to Susan as paint is to a wall.
  • Staring at the pavement, like Prince William behind his mother’s coffin.
  • This man with sad pale yes, like snowy TV sets

That’s all in the first chapter!

Now, I have come to see that the story is cyclical and it’s about people looking for their real selves.  So it’s possible that the simile heavy beginning is meant to reflect the fact that the protagonists are looking for themselves—they have no substance so they can only be compared to other things.  But man, it is hard going with that many comparisons.

The other major problem I had with the story was the really aggressive use of coincidence.  Susan and John both end up eating out of fast food dumpsters; just as Susan’s mother wants to sell their house, a pile of garbage from an airplane falls on it.  Right after we learn of a guy hoarding gasoline, the house explodes.  Again there are arguments for why these things might happen in this story (numerology is an important aspect of the book), but it seems too…easy.

But once the story starts moving the actual plot is really interesting and compelling. (more…)

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grantlandSOUNDTRACK: The xx–Live at KEXP (July 25, 2012).

I xxkexphave casually seen The xx on a few shows and I’m intrigued by them.  I’ve never really given their albums any time though, so I can’t say anything much about them.

However, I really enjoy the sound they get live (which is funny since in the article below they talk about how much of a perfectionist Jamie, the studio tech guy, is about the recordings).

This set from KEXP (KEXP always has great audio quality) contains four songs “Fiction” “Reunion” “Sunset” and “Angels.”  And I have to say the band sounds amazing.  So close, so clean, so intimate.  Oliver’s voice is right there, whispering in your ears, and Romy’s guitars sound gorgeous–gentle vibrato, chiming chords; her voice is also beautiful.

The thing that throws me about The xx is how spare their music is.  Sometimes it’s almost like there’s no music at all. And I keep thinking of reasons why I wouldn’t enjoy such simple music (it’s usually not my thing). Or that it should only be experienced in a dark room by yourself.  But the melodies are so beautiful that I think they’ve made a convert of me.  I really adore these songs.  And I must have heard “Angels” somewhere because it is completely familiar.

I wonder if they sound this good on record.  You can watch the show here:

[READ: July 9, 2013] Grantland #5

Grantland continues to impress me with articles about sports that I don’t care about.  They style that the writers have (and the humor they impart) is wonderful.  And it goes to show that if you are passionate about something you can make it interesting to anyone.  So, even if I don’t know who some of the people who they’re talking about are, I can still enjoy what they say about them.  Plus, their entertainment coverage is really fun, too.

BILL SIMMONS-“Battle of the Olympic Heavyweights”
I really enjoyed this article which compares Olympic swimming and gymnastics to see which one “wins” in this battle for TV coverage and the hearts of Olympic fans (hint: it’s gymnastics, but Simmon’s categories are very good).

BRIAN PHILLIPS-“The Death’s Head of Wimbledon”
Phillips tries to cover Wimbledon and finds it very difficult to manage because it is all designed for TV, not in person coverage.

REMBERT BROWNE-“I Feel Like a Free Man”
The amazing decision of Frank Ocean to come out and how little it impacted his career. (more…)

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5.20SOUNDTRACK: SAVAGES-Live at KEXP (May 16, 2013).

savagesI heard some songs from the Savages album, and I loved them–that combination of 80’s punk and goth all wrapped up in current technologies and attitude.  A couple of their songs are some of my favorite of the year so far.  I’d also heard that they were even better live.  So here are four songs played live in the studio from KEXP.  And while the audio is awesome, they are a lot of fun to watch.

In fact, the more I watch the less I know who I am most impressed by–the amazing guitarist?  the great unaffected bassist?  the wild drummer?  They’re all a pleasure to watch.

But it also sounds great.  There’s some great soaring guitar sounds on “City’s Full” which really has a Patti Smith meets Siouxsie vibe.  And there’s that whole goth feel–the bass up front and dominant but with really big guitar chords and cool riffs.  And the drums, man she rocks out in the whole first half of “City’s Full.”   Then listen to the fabulous bass line that runs through “Shut Up.”   I love the way the low bass plays off the high guitars  (and the vocals sound very Siouxsie there).    And the drummer is amazing at the end of the song.

A great 80s echoey riff opens “She Will.”  I love when the song almost stops and it’s all fast cymbals and faster guitar (which is really cool in and of itself) until it builds back up.  And just look at her drumming at 10:20.  Wow. 

And the closer, Husbands” just gets more and more intense.  Like the crazy noisy cymbals.  And the way her voice soars and soars until it just stops.  Wow.

[READ: May 23, 2013] “The Dark Arts”

Julian is sick. Very sick.  So sick, in fact, that American doctors can’t seem to help him, can’t even seem to effectively diagnose him.  So he and his girlfriend Hayley have traveled to Europe for new medicines that the AMA hasn’t approved yet.  They travel to a few places first as a kind of romantic vacation and their ultimate destination is Düsseldorf.  It’s there where Julian will have his bone marrow drawn out, then boiled and tinkered with and then injected back into him.


But there’s been a snag.  On their way to Düsseldorf, they had a fight and Hayley stayed behind.  So Julian went to Düsseldorf to a hostel.  Every day he goes to the train station hoping to see Hayley show up.  He imagines what he must look like to the locals–a skeletal American wearing what must look like a death shroud.  He barely eats, he barely does anything.  In fact, he has more or less given up.

But his father and Hayley, they believe in him, they believe that these cures can help.  Indeed, his father has been so great through all this offering him anything he needs–money they don’t really have and unwavering support.

And then the story gets even more interesting–we find out that American doctors not only couldn’t diagnose him, but actually believed that there as nothing wrong with him. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_05_06_13Schossow.inddSOUNDTRACK: BOY-“Little Numbers” (Live at The Current, April 6, 2013) (2013).

boyI am totally hooked by this single–a song which sounds like the next huge Feist hit.  It’s got a great piano melody that just grabs on and won’t let go.

So how does the song hold up on acoustic guitars?  In a recent interview the two Swiss/German band members, Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glass, say that the song was originally written in this slower more acoustic vein.  On first listen this version is not very appealing–there’s something so bubbly and bouncy and joyous about the single version.

The immediacy of the song is gone and the “woah-o” section seems more mournful than joyous.  I suppose it is actually more true to the original intent of the song (I read your name on every wall, is there  cure for me at all).  Although this version features Boy’s beautiful harmonies, especially the concluding moments, I still prefer the more upbeat single version.

[READ: May 21, 2013] “The Gray Goose”

When this story started, I was a little concerned that it was going to be another story about a repressed childhood under the thumb of an oppressive Jewish mother.  It begins by telling us that Miraim’s father left in 1948, when she was little.  One of the only presents she had been given was an album by Burl Ives.  And that album could be played on her family’s hi-fi/radio housed in a rosewood cabinet—“the most fantastical item of furniture in their lives.” Her father hated that they gave into consumerism to buy such a thing, but it was revered.  And all vinyl was held very delicately, as if a breath of air might warp it.

“The Gray Goose” was her favorite song and she listened to it often, trying to scrutinize the songs—just what was this gray goose that could not be killed, Lord, Lord, Lord.  (The traditional meaning of the gray goose that could not be killed appears to have something to do that with the hunter went hunting on the Sabbath, so the goose could not be killed). Although in the story, Miriam’s mother, Rose, says that the goose represents the heart of the working class.  For Rose and her husband, Albert were fiercely Communist.  We learn about Rose and Albert’s marriage—they were passionate about their beliefs, and this passion seemed to transmit to each other.  And then Rose got pregnant, so they married.  And then Rose had a miscarriage, but now they were stuck with each other so they decided to have a child—Miriam.  (His parents didn’t approve of any of it, especially Rose).

Then Albert was offered a job back in Germany—the only Jew to return to Germany so soon, and Rose and Miriam were on their own.  Well, Miriam was on her own, Rose had many many suitors, although none could stay the night.

That’s all back story for the evening of the action—the evening that Miriam and some friends have gone to Greenwich Village to a jazz club.  Miriam is precocious, having finished school a year early and started college (and apparently already dropped out).  She is out with some friends, the wonderfully named Rye Gogan, the horn-rimmed glasses-wearing Porter, assorted girlfriends and Miriam’s boyfriend who is referred to hilariously as Forgettable.  As in “of course Forgettable weighed in with, ‘What?’” (more…)

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