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Archive for the ‘Rain’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BLEACHED-“Electric Chair” (Field Recordings, July 25, 2012).

This Field Recording [Bleached: Picnic Table Punk] is related to SXSW (it was filmed on the eve of the 2012 Festival at a food-truck parking lot [The awesomely named Hoover’s Soular Food] off the highway — about a mile northeast of Austin’s swarming 6th Street.

Jennifer and Jessica Clavin make up the core of Bleached, a rough-and-tumble garage-rock band.  Bleached is one of many young punk-infused acts playing three-minute, three-chord bashers with sneering, unraveled immediacy. When played on stage, the band’s music takes on a messy-but-fun live-wire buoyancy.  “Electric Chair,” is a distortion-fueled strumfest built around [literally] two lines: “Just got out the electric chair / and I don’t see you anywhere.”

It almost sounds like they aren’t plugged in (“we’re playing too loud,” one of them says)–you can hear the pick hitting the strings almost as much as the chords themselves.  Adn someone sounds a wee bit out of tune, but that all seems appropriate for this band.  This song is a simple (very simple) rough and tumble garage rock song.

Assisted by Sara Jean Stevens on bass and drummer Jonathan Safley — here playing a light-up tambourine bought at the last second from a tchotchke shop — Bleached showcases its fun, off-the-cuff spirit. It may lack meticulous precision, but the band’s infectious energy and simple, winning hooks more than compensate.

I don’t really care for garage rock all that much and this song doesn’t do all that much for me.  It is too spare and, honestly, I need at least one extra lyric.

[READ: January 5, 2017] “Flower Hunters”

This story is set on Halloween.  But the protagonist, a mom, has forgotten about the day entirely.  The last two days she was absorbed in a book by naturalist William Bartram, who traveled through Florida in 1774 (he’s a real person).  And so, although her boys wanted to be ninjas, she had made one a costume that was a long-sleeved shirt tied in the back and a slotted mask.  The boy is calling himself Cannibal Lecture.  The other boy is getting an old fashioned sheet-as-ghost (she is made uncomfortable about a white boy in a sheet but hopes the rosebuds on the hem mitigate the effects somewhat.

Her husband comes in from work, sees the costumes, raises an eyebrow, remains merciful.

What I really liked about the story was the narrator’s tone.

“She says to her dog, who is beside her at the window…One day you’ll wake up and realize your favorite person has turned into a person-shaped cloud.
The dog ignores her, because the dog is wise.

In addition to failing Halloween , the woman is also failing at friendship.  Her best friend, Meg, told her she doesn’t want to be her best friend anymore: “I’m sorry, I just need to take a break.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SEVYN STREETER-“It Won’t Stop” (Field Recordings, August 6, 2014).

The blurb for this song totally cracks me up (especially 4 years removed) because not only did this song not seep into my collective consciousness, I’ve never heard of it. Nor have I heard of Sevyn Streeter.

Although it is funny that just last week my wife and I were utterly mocking people who name their child a number–what else did George Costanza tell them to do? And how misspelling it like this is even worse.

Anyhow, here’s the blurb:

In the spring of 2013, songwriter and R&B singer Sevyn Streeter released a song called “It Won’t Stop,” which she’s called her “baby.” Over the year and change that’s followed, the song has sunk into our collective consciousness through commercial radio play and a music video viewed more than 35 million times, and on the recommendation of a growing group of critics and fans. The lyrics are vernacular, warm, unpretentious, while the performance demanded by the music is not for the meek. Away from a studio — and air conditioning — in a New Orleans boxing gym, Streeter executed with muscle and grace.

Having mocked the blurb, the song itself is pretty.  I’ve no idea what the original sounds like, but this version is done with just two acoustic guitars–one of whom seems to be playing some bass melodies from time to time.  Streeter sings and warbles all over the song and does those R&B quivering notes that I hate, but she does have a nice voice.

But damn is this song long.  Why is a pop song five minutes long?

It’s neat that they filmed this Field Recording [Sevyn Streeter Knocks Us Out] in a boxing gym–how on earth were they able to eliminate all of the ambient noise?  It almost seems like it’s not live.

[READ: February 8, 2018] “Microstories”

This is a collection of flash fiction pieces which may or may not be connected.

Rain
Never ending rain seemed to be the truth until the day he was born.  While everyone was delighted for him that he never had to experience it, he lived with regret that he would never have the chance.

Divorce
He is dressing for his grown up daughter  What a strange thing to have to do–how infrequently he sees her, how should he look.  No idea what happened at the end of it though?  An earthquake? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS-Christmas Caravan (1998).

The Squirrel Nut Zippers Christmas album is pretty much what you’d expect.  Part swing, but far more old-timey sounding.  This disc is comprised of originals and some unfamiliar covers.  I really like the swinging parts, but some of the slower songs are a bit too slow for me.

“Winter Weather” is my favorite song on the disc, with the cool drawl of, I assume Katharine Whalen, and the neat horn accents.

“Indian Giver” is an original.  Despite the offensiveness of the premise of the song, it swings nicely.  “A Johnny Ace Christmas” is a bluesy original song, I rather like the guitar parts that sprinkle the verses.  “My Evergreen” is another original.  It’s a slow shuffle that kinds of drags the album a bit.

Things pick up with a ripping “Sleigh Ride” It’s all instrumental and features that great moment in the back half where things slow down and then they bring it back up really big.  Good fun.

“I’m Coming Home for Christmas” is a slow original full of longing.

“Carolina Christmas” picks things up again with a hopping shuffling number about Christmas in Carolina.  “Gift of the Magi” is a slow ballad.  It is a retelling of the O. Henry story, Gift of the Magi, told in verse.  It’s a rather clever retelling of the story.  The duet format is pretty effective for this number.

“Hot Christmas” is a horn-filled swinging instrumental (with occasional chants of “hot Christmas”).  It’s got some good swing and lots of horn solos.

“Hanging Up My Stockings” is a slow swing number.  It’s earnest and sweet.  After a small pause, the disc tacks in the the original version of the song bu Chester Church on a crackling vinyl platter.  It is sweet and unassuming just like the lyrics indicate: “I want to show old Santa Claus that I believe.”

[READ: December 1, 2017] “Edna in Rain”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

I loved this story as well.  Edna is walking down the street when the first one falls from the sky.  Kevin is the first one–he was the one who could do that amazing thing “where you flip the girl from the top to the bottom without letting go.”  She caught up with him a little and then she went on her way.

The Marisa fell out of the sky.  It was nice to see her but by now, they had both moved on.

Then came Brent and Rico. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Casbah, Hamilton, Ontario (November 6, 2004).

This was a Hamilton show between the 2004 Western Fall Nationals and the 10 night Fall Nationals at The Horseshoe Tavern the following week. The band attempted to play all of 2067 succeeding apart from “The Latest Attempt On Your Life” and “Try To Praise This Mutilated World.”

The recording opens with some wild jazz playing–rather incongruous opening music.  But it quickly fades and you hear the guys plucking away as their noodling solidifies into “Easy To Be With You.”  They seem to be having a lot of fun with the hoo ah hoo ah middle part–making it a bit more rocking, perhaps?

Martin: “This is for Yod’s sister.”  Mike: “And Daryl from Niagara Falls, Happy Birthday.”  Tim: “We couldn’t download the lyrics to ‘Edmund Fitzgerald’ so we’re gonna do this one instead.  Mike: “All the teleprompter rentals were eaten up by the U.S. election.” Martin: “And Velvet Revolver are on tour.”  They play a  stompin “Record Body Count.”

So we have a new record out.  It’s called “twenty one twel–“.  It’s called 2067.  Tim: “It’s our 2,067th release.”  Martin: “We’re a very prolific band.  And we’re gonna attempt to do it top to bottom.”  Mike: “And you know what they say, there’s a fine line between flagship and guinea pig and you’re it.”

The first song is “Shack in the Cornfields.”  Martin introduces it: “This song had a large head. But Mike and I got down to it and made sure it was born.  In the corn.” It sounds good and has a really long percussion ending and then opens up into Dave’s quiet “Little Bird,” a song they have played a lot over the  last year.

Next up is “Marginalized,” which is a bit softer and less angry than some other versions.

Dave says, “We’re gonna do a song we just shot a video for.  We do a video every couple of years.  We got Frank Bonner to co-star in this video with Martin. It’s called The Tarleks and it’s about Herb Tarlke from WKRP in Cincinnati from the late 1970s and 1980s, the heyday of modern American sitcoms.  And one day it will be done and you will see it. But until then you just have to fantasize what it might look like.”  It’s a little slow an angular.  Like much of the show it feels either tentative or like they want the audience to be able to experience the songs fully.

“Power Ballad for Ozzy Osbourne” has the opening stanza which they hadn’t been playing live.  This is slower than usual, I think–although it feels like a real ballad the way it builds.  There’s a buzzy wire as well, which I’m sure bugs the band.  “I Dig Music” is a little goofier and less rocking than other versions.  On the way after the middle section MPW plays the drum fill for Rush’s “Lakeside Park” but not quite right.  For “Here Comes the Image” Mike plays a playful almost bell-sounding keyboard solo–although it does cut out a few times during the lengthy solo at the end.

Dave notes: “The worst part of switching instruments is not knowing which beer is yours.”

Mike says, “This song [“Who Is This Man and Why Is He Laughing?”] has no words.  It’s drifting and mellow.  Next up is supposed to be “The Latest Attempt on Your Life” which they have played live before.  But you hear Martin say he doesn’t want to do it: “Let’s skip that one and do ‘Polar Bears.'”  Mike agrees, “If we were doing Dark Side of the Moon or something we’d stick to it but we’re going to deviate.”  It’s a spare but romping version of “Polar Bears” with some loud “hey hey ho hos.”

Dave: This next song is about yesterday’s football game that Tim wrote, uh, four weeks ago. Two days ago?  Friday night?  What day is it?  That was yesterday I was talking Tiger Cats.
Mike: “Making Pierogies.”  It’s a slow mellow song.  Very pretty, especially the guitar parts at the end

Next week is our 4th annual Fall Nationals at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto (corner of Queen and Spadina).  Ten nights in a row this year starting next… the coming Thursday.

Tim: Thanks to Wayne Omaha for playing tonight.  They’re selling their new album back there and if you wanna get their other one Can the Maps. Go For the Beauty, bug them, and they’ll sell it to ya.
Dave: I think those guys should tour prisons. I think it would be really good for the country.  As long as they’re on the right side of the bars.

They skip “Try to Praise This Mutilated World” and go into “P.I.N.”  They play the coda at the beginning and then the songs starts.  Martin sings his verse in a kind of flat deadpan and Dave says Martin Stop rapping and Martin seems to get annoyed or something–he starts singing crazy–more deadpan and then he screams a punky style and then redlines the volume with a scream on the mic–it’s a little disturbing.  They jump into a poppy “Mumbletypeg” and after the first line Dave says “That’s a lot of beer.”  It gets pretty wild by the end.  It segues into a dark “Stolen Car,” with Martin singing “Goodbye suburban motherfuck.”  The middle has a lengthy instrumental section with Tim getting to mess around on bass a bit.

After a relatively long encore break, the come back with “Pornography.”  “We wish that song wasn’t relevant; however, it is.”

Then there’s a slow “California Dreamline.” And they end with a long “Feed Yourself” with a really creepy section of Dave whispering all kinds of things like “me and you in his head.”  The song ends with some wild effects from someone–almost a minute of pinging sounds after which Dave says, Sorry.

[READ: February 21, 2017] Furry Logic

This book came across my desk at work (I’m still bummed that they changed the way we get books at work so I don’t see as many interesting ones as I used to).  It looked interesting, so I brought it home and read it over the weekend.

This is a pop-science book that looks at how animals use physics to their advantage:  “If you’re scared of physics, don;t worry, we’ve kept things simple.”  I enjoyed that the book states right up front that the authors are anthropomorphizing the animals because that makes for a much better story. Even though, in the end, they dismiss this idea.

Chapter 1 is called Heat: The Warm Up Chapter.  In which we learn about gender-swapping snakes, floppy skinned dogs, mosquitoes that wee blood, killer bees, hot-tailed squirrels, vipers that see heat and beetles that hear infrared.

The chapter looks at (using the research of others) how snakes in Manitoba keep warm by piling together in a big clumps.  But more interestingly, there are certain snakes which swap genders (temporarily).  Male snakes secrete female pheromones to attract males for body heat.  We learn that dogs shake the water off of them because the energy they expel from the vigorous shaking is actually far less than the energy they would have to use to keep warm if they were so wet.  The authors talk a lot about just how interesting it is to see their skin flip back and forth (this goes for all mammals since they all seem to shake in vaguely the same way. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DIET CIG-Tiny Desk Concert #641 (August 2, 2017).

The guys at NPR have raved about Diet Cig for quite some time.  Especially their live show.  They played at a small club near me and I thought about going but I couldn’t make it.  So I was happy to hear they played a Tiny Desk so I could see what all the fuss was about.

Diet Cig is yet another duo:

with drummer Noah Bowman propelling the high kicks and constant pogo bounce of guitarist and singer Alex Luciano. With a candied voice, she sings of being on the cusp of adolescence — but underneath that bright veneer Alex sings truth to power, and about what it means to be a punk in a skirt, dealing with disrespectful souls. “I think you’re the kind of guy / who would meet me at a party / and forget my name / and try to take me home all the same,” she sings on “Sixteen.”

And while the songs do have some angst, it’s the incredibly happy infectious nature of Luciano that made me instantly fall in love with them and berate myself for not going to see them in a small club when I had the chance–I see they’re selling out shows in London now.

They play 3 songs in 9 minutes (and the last one is pretty extended because Luciano is dancing all over the place: on desks, on the drums, everywhere.  None of the songs are terribly complex, but that’s fine.  They’re charming pop punk nuggets

“Sixteen” is what gets the parental warning. Its starts off slowly:

when I was sixteen I dated a boy with my own name / it was weird in the back of his truck / moaning my own name while trying to fuck

then it picks up and Alex starts bouncing around.  And although the song is kind of sad, “I’ll never barbecue again, and you can keep all of your shitty friends” she can’t stop smiling all the way through.

“Tummy Ache” is when she really starts dancing–doing high kicks and bouncing around all while playing nonstop guitar.  The lyrics are simple but great: “I don’t need a man to hold my hand / and that’s just something you’ll never understand.”

“Harvard” is the first song they wrote.  It has the amusing chorus of  “fuck your ivy league sweater.” She bounces all over the place, climbs on the desk, steps over to the drums and plays the last chords from the bass drum.  As the final chord rings out she reaches into her fanny pack and throws confetti all over herself as she jumps down.

The set is delightful and adorable and boy, I hope when they come back to the area it’s to another small club.

[READ: August 2, 2017] “New World”

This story centers around a global event that I know nothing about.  That combined with some confusing lineage angles made this story less satisfying for me than it should have been.

The story is about the independence of Ceylon (currently Sri Lanka) from Britain.  The story presumes we will know a few details about this event (I knew none: Independence from Britain occurred in 1948, but had a convoluted history trying to attain full independence).  I assume knowing that is useful to the story.

But for our story the impact is more local.  When the new prime minister Don Senanayake spoke first in English and then in Sinhala–no one knew what he was saying–but they all heard the word Ceylon.  Sir William (no last name given) left the country on the eve of independence and he left all of his property to Mr Balakumar, the Tamil manager.

The story is written from a “we” narrator: “We didn’t see Selvakumar approach.”  The “we” are married ladies (who mustn’t be too old, although they do mention husbands at one point).  They are mostly interested in Selvakumar’s story.

This character was fascinating but slightly confusing–at one point he says of himself:  “How can an Indian bastard be prime minister?”  Selvakumar worked for Mr Balakumar, and the man often whipped the boy for doing a poor job (I loved the grotesque detail that he was beaten so hard with the sugar cane that he “smelled like brunt molasses.”

But the real conflict for Selvakumar is with a boy named Muthu.  Muthu, they said, would grow up to be like his father Mr Padmanathan who thought of himself as a big boss.  Muthu was 10 and that was the only reason his father allowed his son to have a friendship an “Indian coolie.”  Muthu would teach Selvakumar whatsoever he learned in school.  The thing that stuck with Selvakumar the most was Marco Polo and his travels.

While the village was celebrating its independence, a storm came through the village.  The rain came hard and fast and began to knock down the poorly made houses.   It flooded the ground, which turned into raging torrents.  When the rain subsided, the people slept “by the ruins of our homes.”  And yet despite the destruction, they knew that Independence would be a more lasting and powerful event for them.

As they assessed the damage, it became clear that Selvakumar was missing.  Had he been killed?  Everyone scoured he area for him.

But I found this part really confusing.  The main part of the story was full of so much detail that I was really surprised by how unstraightforward the end was.  .

This sentence, once unpacked, makes sense but reading it in context created so many visuals that I couldn’t parse it right away.

By the time we discovered the yellow-tipped butterfly on the fat corpse, Muthu’s father had rounded the hillside, dragging his son by the ear with one hand and comforting the wailing Mrs. Balakumar with the other.”

So much is going on there.

Suffice it to say that someone has died.  But something else largely unexpected has happened as well.

The end of the story sees the women imagining their future and the future of the boys in the village as well.

There was a lot going on in this story and I felt like some things came just out of the blue. It was strange how the story begin speaking of the future as one thing but then things changed dramatically after the storm.  Although apparently not because of the storm.

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