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Archive for the ‘Regrets’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF-Tiny Desk Concert #699 (February 5, 2018).

I first heard of Hurray for the Riff Raff from their previous album (the song “The Body Electric”).  I loved Segarra’s voice and the politics behind the song.  I could hear that she was a proud woman, but I had no idea that she was a proud Puerto Rican as well.  I learned about that aspect of her music when they played Newport Folk Festival.

Alynda Segarra’s unamplifed voice in this Tiny Desk performance had no problem rising above the drums, congas, cello, violin, bass, keyboards, and an electric guitar. The passion for her Puerto Rican roots feels boundless. As Soul Captain for Hurray for the Riff Raff, she and her band weave tales of man’s inhumanity to fellow humans, often from bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.

“Rican Beach” adds a lot more Latinx accents to the music–between the congas and other percussion from Juan-Carlos Chaurand and the riffs and, of course, Segarra’s lyrics, this is a much more culturally aware album without removing any of the folk/rock that the band is built on.

First they stole our language
Then they stole our names
Then they stole the things that brought us faith
And they stole our neighbors
And they stole our streets
And they left us to die on Rican Beach

“Pa’lante,” is such a wonderful mix of the Hispanic and Americana.  Singing in Spanish to Juan and Miguel the song includes a more traditional American folk style with piano (Sarah Goldstone), violin (Claudia Chopek), cello (Patricia Santos) and even a guitar solo (Jordan Hyde).  Introducing the song, she says, “There’s a lot of people trying to hold us back but we have a whole generation of children counting on us to change the world.  And I believe in us.”

The song “Pa’lante,” one of the most articulate songs of a generation, speaks of being colonized and hypnotized, sterilized and dehumanized, with the refrain, “pa’lante” which translates as “forward.”  To continue the fight to freedom and respect:

“To all who lost their pride, I say, Pa’lante!
To all who had to survive, I say, Pa’lante!
To my brothers, and my sisters, I say, Pa’lante!”

But before that empowering end, the opening lyrics speak to the everyday that we all want:  Over  a simple piano melody, she sings:

Oh I just wanna go to work / And get back home, and be something
I just wanna fall and lie / And do my time, and be something
Well I just wanna prove my worth / On the planet Earth, and be, something
I just wanna fall in love / Not fuck it up, and feel something

And then more specifically:

Colonized, and hypnotized, be something
Sterilized, dehumanized, be something
Well take your pay / And stay out the way, be something
Ah do your best / But fuck the rest, be something

After four verses the song shifts gear entirely.  There’s some louder chords and then it moves on to a an almost chamber-pop style with some prominent snare drum Charlie Ferguson.  The end of the song, with her singing “P’alante” it’s catchy and inspiring at the same time.

For “Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl” Segarra picks up a guitar.  It’s a slower more traditional folk song with full string accompaniment.  There’s quiet backing vocals and delicate yet pronounced bass from Justin Kimmel and some fun percussion before the ending refrain “before you love me like this, oh yeah, love me like this.”

I have tickets to see them and Waxahatchee this spring, it should be a great double bill.

[READ: July 22, 2016] “Sweetness”

I haven’t read very much by Toni Morrison.  I have always intended to but just never did.

So this might be the first thing I’ve read by her.  And man, does it pack a lot into the few pages of it.

The story begins with a woman saying, “It’s not my fault. So you can’t blame me.”  And then she reveals that what’s not her fault is the color of the skin of her baby.  The woman–the mother–is a light-skinned black woman with “good” hair, “what we call high yellow.”  So was the girl’s father.  So how could the baby have come out so dark-blue black?  She was embarrassed as soon as the baby was born.

She talks about her family’s past–how her own mother was light-skinned and could have passed but chose not to.  She told the price she paid for that decision–colored water fountains and, even more offensive: a colored Bible. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FIRST AID KIT-The Big Black and the Blue (2010).

Following their debut EP, Johanna and Klara Söderberg recorded a full length album, this one also produced by their dad.

This album feels a little bigger, a little fuller, overall. I’m sure the drums help, but also the guitar feels enveloping.  The biggest development is how terrific the sisters’s voices sound together.  They have really gotten their harmonies (including falsetto) totally in sync.

“In the Morning” has nearly one minute of gorgeous a capella harmony until a simple but interesting guitar motif comes in–and the powerful harmonies continue.  “Hard Believer” is acoustic guitar and Klara’s solo voice until the chorus when Johanna’s harmony adds heft to the song.  More instruments follow as well–mandolin shows up here and there.

“Sailor Song” opens with an autoharp, normally a jokey kind of instrument, but it works very well with their voices.  When the song launches into a 1-2 stomp, a nod to some of their country love, it really takes off.  “Waltz for Richard” is, indeed, a waltz with knock-out harmonies in the chorus.

“Heavy Storm” has some great music–a slight departure form the standard strum, and it’s quite engaging with their voices.  “Shot Down” opens with a harmonium (or accordion). It turns into a pretty, slow piece with spare piano.  It mind-boggling to think that these two songwriters were just 19 and 17 when they were writing lyrics like

And I remember how you told me
All that you wanted to do
The dream of Paris in the morning
Or a New York window view
And I can see it now you’re married
And your wife is with a child
And you’re all laughing in the garden
And I’m lost somewhere in your mind

“Josefin” is a pretty song with layered harmonies over a simple one-two bass rhythm.   “A Window Opens” has a great waltz rhythm and a cool guitar melody.  And “Winter Is All Over You” has s lovely spare guitar melody with Klara’s voice soaring over it.  (I love the aaaaahh section, it is really gorgeous).  “I Met Up With A King” is one of my favorite songs on the disc.  The delicate flute and their close harmonies are just beautiful in this spritely song.  I also love the way they sing “Thank Gawwwwwwd” in an almost aggressive style with the rough note that they hold a lot longer than expected.

The disc ends with a delicate pastoral “Wild of the River” a delightful folk song.

While it’s true that each successful album gets bigger and better, this is a wonderful debut full length, especially if you like their folkier style.

[READ: January 9, 2018] “Foreign-Returned”

Hassan works in Connecticut.  He and his wife had moved from Pakistan when he had gotten a job in Manhattan.  But he was let go and before his Visa coul run out, he quickly got a new job in Stamford.  It was quite a come down.  And despite the huge savings in rent, the place they lived was nothing compared to Manhattan.

He had been in Stamford for eight weeks, with his own desk and everything, when a young woman, early 20s, was introduced at his workstation.  She would be sharing space with him.  Her name was Hina and she was also Pakistani.

She had computer manuals, a velvet-covered Quran and wore a scarf.  He found her rather annoying. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AHI-Tiny Desk Concert #690 (January 16, 2018).

AHI is apparently, inexplicably pronounced “eye.”  He is an Ontario-based singer.  There’s nothing strikingly original about his sound, but his songs are pretty and thoughtful and his voice has a pleasing rough edge.

Bob says,

AHI’s gruff but sweet voice and openly honest words were my gateway to this young Ontario-based singer. AHI says he sings Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” at the end of every set with a sense of hope. It was powerfully moving, without a note that felt clichéd or overly nostalgic. At that moment, I knew he needed to play a Tiny Desk Concert.

With a tasteful band comprised of Frank Carter Rische on electric guitar, Robbie Crowell on bass guitar and Shawn Killaly (a man of a million faces) on drums, AHI put his heart into three songs in just about 11 minutes, all from his debut album We Made It Through The Wreckage, which came out a year ago this week.

“Alive Again” builds slowly, but by the time the chorus comes around and he adds some whoops, the song really moves. I’m quite intrigued at the constant soloing from guitarist Frank Carter Rische.  It’s virtually nonstop and really seems to propel the song along.  It’s a catchy and fun song the way each round seems to make the song bigger and bigger.

About “Closer (From a Distance)” he says, we all have relationships.  Some are good; some are bad and some are just awful.  You may care about someone with your whole heart only to realize that you care about that person more than they care about themselves.  No matter how strong you are your strengths may not be as strong as their weaknesses.  Sometimes the only way to save the relationship is to walk away–“maybe we’ll be closer from a distance.”   This is a really heartbreaking song.  The lyrics are clearly very personal and quite powerful.  And the soloing throughout the song is really quiet and beautiful.

“Ol’ Sweet Day” is bouncy and catchy with a propulsive acoustic guitar and lovely licks on the lead acoustic guitar.  The drums are fun on this song as Killaly plays the wall and uses his elbow to change the sound of the drum at the end of the song.

The burning question that is never addressed is way he is wearing a helmet –motorcycle? horse riding?  It stays on the whole time.  At one point he even seems to “tip” his hat.  How peculiar.

[READ: December 8, 2017] Glorious and or Free

The Beaverton is a satirical news source based in Canada.  It began as a website in 2010 and then added a TV Show in 2016 (now in its second season).  To celebrate 2017, the creators made this book.

They have divided the history of Canada into 13 sections.  As with many satirical history books, you can learn a lot about a country or a time from the kinds of jokes made.  Obviously the joke of each article is fake, but they are all based in something.  Historical figures are accurate and their stereotypes and broadsides certainly give a picture of the person.

Some of the humor is dependent upon knowing at least a little about the topic, but some of the other articles are just broadly funny whether you know anything about it or not.

When we made this book our goal was to transport readers back to grade school to remember what they were taught n Canadian history class.  And so what if your teacher was hungover most of the time?

~30,000 Years of History in About Four Page (3,200,000,000 BCE – 1496)

“What the hell is that?”  –God after forgetting he made beavers. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE WEATHER STATION-Tiny Desk Concert #687 (January 8, 2017).

The Weather Station played a show in Philly a while back.  I knew that Bob Boilen really liked the album, and I thought about checking them out live.  But things came up and I didn’t.  And now here they are at a Tiny Desk.

It was the first song here, that Bob especially liked:

It’s called “Thirty” and in less than four minutes and nearly 400 words, singer Tamara Lindeman paints images of joy intertwined with the awaking jolt of turning thirty.

The dollar was down
But my friends opened businesses
There were new children
And again, I didn’t get married
I wasn’t close to my family
And my dad was raising a child in Nairobi
She was three now, he told me

The song is a pretty, shuffling song (spare drums from Ian Kehoewith a speedy rhythm guitar (from Lindeman), a roaming bassline (Ben Whiteleyand some cool guitar licks (William Kidman) over the top (both of which are really lovely).

The musicians in The Weather Station underpin these words with delicate playing and by sitting quietly but poignantly under Tamara Lindeman’s beautiful voice. Her soft voice shifts pitch with a rapid flow in a Joni Mitchell-sort of way, never coming up in volume more than a quiet, table conversation level.

There’s a great (relatively) wailing solo that really pushes the song forward and which ends perfectly when Tamara starts singing again.

“You and I (On the Other Side of the World)” has a slow slinkiness that I rather like.  There’s also some nice, understated backing vocals (deep male voices under Tamara’s higher register).  I love the bass work at the end of the song, too.

Tamara’s voice sounds very much like someone else or maybe a number of people: I hear Laura Marling and yes, Joni Mitchell, but maybe Margo Timmins as well.  In other words, all good benchmarks.

In fact, the final song, “Free” has a real Cowboy Junkies feel with the big slow echoing rhythm guitar that opens it.

On “Free,” there’s some great lead guitar work once again as well as a wonderful bass line.

a song Lindeman describes as about being both free and not free at the same time, there’s restraint in the voice and a release in the powerful guitar chords. That tension and release is an essential element to The Weather Station’s sound and one of the joys I’ve found listening to their enchanting music.

Initially I wasn’t blown away by this concert, but I found myself hitting replay over and over, enjoying it more each time.

[READ: August 20, 2017] Fierce Kingdom

I read about this story on Skimm, a daily news digest that I have since read is geared to women (and according to some criticism, treats women like they are dumb.  I have recently stopped subscribing to it because I do find it rather dumb and subtly right-wing (how could a site for women not be pissed that Hillary lost? #RESIST).  But whatever, the book sounded interesting so I put it on hold.

The premise is fairly simple: a woman and her young child (4 perhaps), are in a zoo.  Right around closing time two gunmen enter the zoo and start killing people.  What will she do?

For some reason, the blurbs didn’t reveal that there were gunmen, just that “something” happened. Well, honestly what else could it have been but gunmen. So, perhaps I spoiled that part but it came out pretty early anyway.

The story begins with a time stamp 4:55 PM. The zoo closes at 5:30 and Joan and her boy Lincoln are sitting in their favorite spot waiting to leave the zoo.  As they head toward the exit around 5:30, she notices bodies on the ground.  She had heard explosions earlier but didn’t think much of it,  But when she sees the bodies, she quickly puts things together and takes off.

Now the blurb for the book on the inside cover says “an electrifying novel about the primal and unyielding bond between a mother and her son, and the lengths she’ll go to protect him.”  That’s not wrong exactly but I feel like that puts a weird focus on it being about mother hood instead of survival.  Must be some kind of marketing thing.  I didn’t get the sense in the book that it has anything to do with motherhood–I mean frankly any parent would do that for his or her child and I’m sure any person would do the same for anyone they loved.  The fact that the child is younger and doesn’t have the same cognitive skills make the story more compelling.

Because, frankly, as she hides in an abandoned animal enclosure, there’s no reason she would ever have to leave such an enclosure–she can’t be seen, she is well protected, and it is dark.  She even has her cell phone and she talks to her husband (I find it a bit hard to believe that the police wouldn’t listen to him if he has a text from his wife in the zoo, but that’s what happens).  The bad guys even come into where she is and don’t see her.

So, end of story right?  At least I couldn’t imagine why there would be more story when she is safe and the police are coming. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF-Live in Brussels (2010).

This album was recorded while Nada Surf was touring their Let Go album.  This particular show was recorded at the AB Club in Brussels 31st March 2003.

This is a great live recording–the band Matthew Caws on guitar/vocals, Daniel Lorca on bass and Ira Elliot on drums–sounds terrific and the recording quality is excellent.  They added a keyboard for “Blonde and Blonde” but otherwise it’s just the trio.

They play nine songs from Let Go (not in sequence).  Those are mixed with four from Proximity Effect and three (including “Popular”) from their debut.

There’s some mild distortion on the guitars but the bass and drums are very clean.  Caws’ voice might be a tad loud in the mix, but since his voice sounds great, it’s fine.  They don’t deviate too much from the recorded versions–a few drums fills here and there near the ends of songs.

The most notable differences are on the songs from high/low which sounded a bit different from their “newer” sound.  “Stalemate, for instance, is far more up tempo, but less heavy.  The biggest surprise comes during this song when they seamlessly shift into a verse and chorus of (a very mellow) “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”

*from Let Go, **from Proximity Effect % from high/low

*”Blizzard of ’77”       *”Killian’s Red”              **”Bacardi”
*”Treading Water”     *”Hi-Speed Soul”         %”Stalemate”
%”Icebox”                   *”Happy Kid”               **”Robot”
**”Amateur”           *”Fruit Fly”      *”Blonde on Blonde”
*”Inside of Love”         **”80 Windows”         %”Popular”
.                                                                  *”The Way You
Wear Your Head”

Caws speaks rather good French (I guess) and does all of his announcements in French.  I enjoyed that before “Popular” he says the song is “tres, tres, tres sarcastique.”  I’m only mildly surprised they didn’t play “Là Pour Ça.”

I was amused at how “rushed” or “weird” “Popular” sounded.  Then I saw in the liner notes (the advantage to mp3s) that Caws says, during a previous performance in Brussels, “on a lark, we invited whoever wanted to get up onstage and join us at the end of the show.  Apparently, some members of that audience were a this AB show and decided to do it again during ‘Popular.’  We apologize for our slightly abstract performance of that song and the one after it.”

I have tickets to see them in March and I’m really excited about it.

[READ: March 25, 2016] “The Beach Boy”

I found this story to be very engaging and somewhat surprising.

It begins with friends meeting for dinner.  They are in Manhattan and there are three couples.  One of the couples–the protagonists–have just come back from a vacation celebrating their twenty-ninth anniversary.  They were at an (unspecified) island and everyone is asking them all about it.  Was it safe?  Was it worth it?

Marcia says the beaches were beautiful and the sunsets were better than any painting.  But then she speaks of the political situation and the beggars.  And there were the prostitutes–male prostitutes, called Beach Boys.  The women wanted to know about the beach boys–what they looked like and what they said.

Then they talked about the feral monkeys (and the one who stole John’s pen). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKMASTODON-Cold Dark Place EP (2017).

The Cold Dark Place EP was apparently written to be a Brett Hinds solo project.  I don;t know how many songs he wrote for it, but he pulled his whole band together for these four tracks and they sound like the ever-evolving Mastodon–less heavy, more complex and with new, intriguing sounds.

“North Side Star” is a mellow song, with gentle guitars and rather delicate vocals.  The feature appears to be Brent Hinds’ 1954 Sho-Bud 13-string pedal steel guitar (which he acquired several years ago, fully outfitted with knee and foot-benders).  The slide doesn’t take over the song but adds really interesting soaring notes to the proceedings.  I love when both singers harmonize on their songs–their voices are quite distinctive and work together in a fascinating way.  Or as on the third verse when you can hear Hinds; voice and there’s a low harmony in the background.  Three minutes in there’s a cool guitar lick that leads to an almost (almost) funky break (it’s more heavy than funky) that leads to some cool guitar pyrotechnics.

“Blue Walsh” is sung by drummer Brann Dailor–his smooth crooning voice over the spiraling guitar line.  It has a cool bridge that leads to an aching chorus (with different lead vocals).  The end of the song turns into a blistering guitar solo that leads into a classic heavy Mastodon riff before returning to the chorus.

“Toe to Toes” opening with a very pretty acoustic guitar melody the song quietly shifts gears into a heavy circular riff and some rough but catchy singing.  The second vocal comes in on the second verse.  A pretty melody before a rather tough guitar solo.  It’s close to old Mastodon but still quite pretty.

“Cold Dark Place” opens with more of the Sho-Bud and Hinds’ singing.  This is a delicate ballad.  The keening slide guitar hovers over the pretty acoustic middle section (in which Hinds’s voice is too muffled).  Five minutes in, the song build into a screaming solo and a heavy prog-riffing end.

[READ: February 1, 2016] “Ghosts and Empties” (yes I read this almost two years ago)

This was a story in which I liked the heart of the story but I found the framing information to be less than satisfying.

The heart of the story is that a woman walks around her neighborhood every night and observes things changing–for better or worse.

Although it was a bit navel gazing and not especially compelling, I did enjoy her observations about her neighborhood.  It was especially useful once she gave the context of the neighborhood and how it has ups and downs and had its share of good news and bad news.  (Having a bay swan eaten by an otter is simultaneously adorable and horrifying). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TYLER, THE CREATOR-Tiny Desk Concert #681 (December 11, 2017).

I’ve never really liked Tyler, The Creator.  My experience with him and his Odd Future posse was that they were just too …  everything.  Violent, misogynist, homophobic, everything.  Well, it has been a decade or so since he first came to my awareness and he has matured considerably.

The change was noted in the blurb:

Flower Boy, Tyler’s latest album, is much like this Tiny Desk performance; a surprising departure from the expected. Four albums in, he has matured as a producer, rapper and human being. Often equated to hip-hop’s class clown, the 26-year-old peels back his own mask of immaturity to reveal a young adult grappling with anxiety, fear and uncertainty of self.

Which is not to say that he’s not vulgar, because he is, but he is also a lot of fun.  And he made a point of having fun at this Tiny Desk Concert:

Tyler, The Creator’s Tiny Desk performance was a first for many reasons. It was the Los Angeles rapper’s first time performing at our offices, but moreover, it was the Tiny Desk’s first nighttime performance, a special request from Tyler and his team in order to professionally light the “stage” themselves. Members of Tyler’s lighting crew came to the office a day before to set it up, eventually bathing him and his band in shades of fuchsia, orange and blue — one for each song — during the early evening show.

“Boredom” opens with the room bathed in blue as the two backing singers Kaye Fox and Kiandra Richardson sing a pretty melody of “boredom got a new best friend” as the keys by Jaret Landon, drums by Dalton Hodo and upright bass (!) by Dré Pinckney plays a mellow jam.  After a minute and a  half, Tyler comes out and starts rapping.  I like when he adds his 70s sounding synth over the backing vocals.

They have a lengthy jam at the end with the backing singers getting a chance: “make something up its your turn.”  Then he asks a woman in the audience with a phone: “whats your name?”  “Nana.”  he sings, “Nana in this mother fucker… you can call me.”

I assume he has a cold (his voice sounds very cool and gravelly) as he “sips this nasty ass tea.  Can’t believe people choose to drink this shit.”

As “See You Again” starts, he plays a new synth sound and the lights turn fuschia.  Then he says, “I don’t know how many people are familiar with this song.  If you wanna join in because you’re excited, feel free to join in because i like that shit.  Then he points, “I know you three for sure you been saying every lyric.  I appreciate you.”

When it starts he says, “Excuse my voice.  I can’t sing….  But I don’t fucking care because it feels good.  Like a warm shower.  I think.

The blurb notes that his warmth to the audience was genuine:

After he was done, Tyler did something of a modified mic-drop, throwing his tambourine in celebration of what he and his band had accomplished. Always one to stay casually connected with his fans, Tyler made time — nearly an hour after the performance was done — to pose for photos, sign merch and crack jokes with (and on) everyone around him.

“Glitter” features a lot more rapping and some great backing vocals.  I assume that the backing singers will become known and their voices are great.

When the set ends, the screen goes black.  But wait, there’s more.

He says, “I guess we’re done (people clap).  Wait, wait (getting angry-sounding, like Dave Chapelle) I’m about to talk.  I wanna talk.  Shit.

Someone asks, “Whats on your mind.”  He says, “Thank you.  I respect that.  People don’t take the time to ask that. To listen.”  He has everyone go around and introduce themselves and give a fun fact.  The whole set is a lot of fun.

[READ: October 20, 2017] Demon Vol. 3

Volume 3 of this series continues the thread of Jimmy Yee.  Jimmy is a demon who–when his host body is killed–will instantly jump into the nearest living body.  He and his daughter Sweetpea have been alive for hundreds of years and have seen and done everything.  They have unlimited money and resources and have slept and killed their way around the world several time over.

By Chapter 15 Jimmy runs into that guy from the earlier books with the square hair and mustache  (Hunter).  Hunter wants to kill this demon so they get into a hilariously over the top fight sequence.  Since nether one of them can die, they jump out of building and crash into things–jumping into the next body and the next.  The carnage is incredible. (more…)

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