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Archive for the ‘WNYC–93.9 New York’ Category

sweater SOUNDTRACK: ÁSGEIR-Tiny Desk Concert #397 (October 18, 2014).

asgeirÁsgeir Trausti Einarsson is an Icelandic singer songwriter.  He has a beautiful soft soaring voice.  He released his debut album Dýrð í dauðaþögn in Icelandic (it became the biggest-selling debit in Icelandic music history).  A year later he reissued it in English (with translation help from John Grant who was living in Iceland) as In the Silence and finally (the version I have, as a 3 disc set with the Icelandic and English discs as well as a selection of bonus songs.

“On That Day” is a pretty, guitar based song (Ásgeir plays the main melody line and has guitar accompaniment (and backing vocals) from his childhood friend Julius Róbertsson.

For the final two songs, Ásgeir switches to piano.  “Torrent” has gorgeous vocal harmonies. It’s interesting how much more deliberate this song feels–not quite staccato, but the piano chords don’t really ring out, letting each note stand on its own.

For this Tiny Desk, he stripped down the songs, getting to their core.  They’re not flashy, they’re just lovely.

The final song he plays, “Higher” is the first song on the record (interestingly “On that Day” is the final song on the record).  It has a very slow, delicate piano melody and is also soothing and beautiful.

And in a cool synchronicity at the end of the show Bob tells Ásgeir  that he’s playing at the same piano that John Grant played on a few months earlier.

[READ: July 2, 2016] Sweaterweather

Back in 2003, Sara Varon published her first book called Sweaterweather.  This collection includes all of the original 8 stories as well as a few more.  Each story gets a brief introduction from Varon which makes me like her even more (she’s quite funny).

Most of the stories are short(2-3 p[ages) and most don’t seem to have a title.  The contents page is actually thumbnails from each story.

When I first saw Varon’s style, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  It is so innocent and childlike.  And I have really grown to love it–especially when these sweet animals characters (they’re pretty much all animals) tackle some intense feelings. (more…)

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1.14.2008 SOUNDTRACK: IRON & WINE-Tiny Desk Concert #105 (January 21, 2011).

irionwineI have enjoyed Iron & Wine, but not extensively.  I knew that it was more or less a Sam Beam project (until recently, as the band has since grown in size).  And I knew that he sang beautiful folk songs. I did not know that he was such an amiable and sweet fellow.

For this Tiny Desk, Beam plays four songs.  Three are from his then new album, Kiss Each Other Clean, and they are great.  Beam’s voice sounds fantastic and his playing is excellent too.

After the first song, “Half Moon,” Bob Boilen asks him when he has time to write songs and Beam replies that he has less and less time.  He has to get up early to take the kids to school, so he works like a day job for song writing.

For the second song, “Big Burned Hand” he begins with the capo on fret five and then switches it to fret four apologizing that it’s early.  It’s another beautiful song.  At the end he apologizes for the word “fucking” in the final line (“the lion and the lamb are fucking in the back row”) but says that no other word would have had the same impact.  He doesn’t use words like that lightly in his songs.

He says that “Tree By The River” is a song he had been writing for ten years.  He was afraid it was always turning out saccharine, but thinks he finally got it.

Before playing the final song, Robin Hilton requests an old song (I can’t hear it) which Beam says he will butcher.  Robin says he will die happy if Beam plays it, but Beam says he’ll die unhappy if he plays it badly.  So instead, the final song is an older one, “Naked As We Came,” which has become a set-ender for the band.   Stephen Thompson says it’s great to hear this in this stripped down acoustic format instead of the full band version that has been common now.

And speaking of the full band, when Kiss Each Other Clean came out, the full band of Iron & Wine performed it live on WNYC (you can hear all four of these songs with the full band). And NPR has archived that performance, which you can download here.

[READ: January 7, 2015] “Wakefield”

I have always intended to read more from Doctorow, but he always seems to fall off my radar.  So I don’t know how this compares to his other works.  I really enjoyed it even if I felt like I had to suspend my disbelief a number of times in what was otherwise a somewhat realistic story.

Realistic or not, I really loved the conceit behind it.  The narrator and his wife of many years have had a fight about something stupid.  He went off to work as usual, but on the way home strange things happened.  First there is a problem with is train and he winds up arriving home much later than usual.  And then he finds there’s a power failure (it was interesting to read this right after Updike’s power failure story last week).

He gets out of his car and sees that there are raccoons behind the garage so he chases them away.  When he goes upstairs in the garage he sees that there are baby raccoons there too.  He chases them away and, since the power is still out and he is mentally taxed, he sits in a tattered rocking chair.

He only wakes up the next morning.  And he knows that his wife will never believe the truth. (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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SOUNDTRACK: CYMBALS EAT GUITARS-Live on KEXP June 18, 2009 (2009).

Cymbals Eat Guitars are from Staten Island (with members from New Jersey).  They have released two albums, although this recording is from after the release of their first album.    They play four songs:  “And the Hazy Sea,” “Cold Spring,” “Tunguska,” and “Wind Phoenix.”   They are noisy songs (mostly) with squalls of guitars (squalls is a good word since two of the guys are from Manahawkin, New Jersey.

The band has true progenitors in the indie rock scene–there’s sounds of Pavement, The Replacements,  even more melodic Sonic Youth .  They play noisy guitars and the vocals veer from softly sung to loudly screamed (often within the same line).    “Cold Spring” starts like a kind of shoegazery song and then after almost three minutes it turns into a  blast of pummeling rock with a noisy guitar section, before moving into a third more melodic section.

There’s   a lengthy interview with the band, where they give a shout out to New Jersey and seem genuinely surprised by the success they’ve had.  It’s a good show, and you can hear it here

[READ: September 25, 2012] God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian

Again, against my better judgment I brought this Vonnegut book home too because it was on the shelf (and it was very short).  I still haven’t finished Bluebeard yet, but I have been curious about this book for some time.  It references Vonnegut’s early novel God Bless You, Mr Rosewater, but it also name checks Dr Jack Kevorkian.  So just what is it?

Well, it is collection of radio spots that Vonnegut did for WNYC radio in New York back in 1998.  Vonnegut claimed that he went to Kevorkian’s facility, was strapped in and almost killed multiple times, but Kevorkian brought him back each time creating a near-death experience. And each time Vonnegut travelled through that “blue tunnel,” he would interview a dead person.

The people he interviews vary quite a lot in fame and stature: (more…)

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