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Archive for the ‘Regrets’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ST. VINCENT-Masseduction (2018).

St. Vincent’s latest album seemed like a radical departure for Annie Clark.  It seemed to be all synth–a transgression from her guitar prowess.  But in fact it was a continuation of the sound that Clark generates with her guitar.

Her albums have always used synths.  And her albums have always used effects on her guitars to create different sounds.  They have just moved further along on this album.

“Hang on Me” opens the disc with drums and sound effects.  The guitar comes in but it sounds like synths (like most of the album).  Her voice is up front  (It would have been very cool if it sounded like she was whispering in your ears).  The song builds with more and more sounds.  The processed guitar still sounds nothing like a guitar but you can tell from the way it is played that it is a guitar–which is pretty cool.

“Pills” is almost all dance–lots of drums and synth sounds (which may be guitar, who can tell).  It’s the chorus, (the repeated pills pills pills) that really grabs you.  The guitars that come through have a very Prince-like feel (and the sexual connection–pills to fuck) even when the roaring fuzzed out guitar solo comes blasting through it’s not unlike something Prince would have done.  When the second part of the song comes in–absolutely quiet compared to the chaos that came before (S. assumed it was a different song) it has a beautiful melody and really showcases Annie’s voice nicely.  The two parts are so very different and yet both are really catchy in their own way.

“Masseduction” is the most poppy song on the record (and probably of her career).  It starts again with drums and Annie’s whispered vocal (again mixing her right in your ears would have been very intense).  Then comes there’s the big chorus of echoed vocals singing “mass seduction” with roaring guitars underscoring everything (even though this album feels very un-guitar there are noisy guitars galore on it, they’re just buried underneath everything).

Chanted vocals and programmed synth open up the fast-moving “Sugarboy.”  I love that the riff from “Los Ageless” is presented her in much faster and more staccato and mechanical way.  This song has a great, catchy chorus.

“Los Ageless” was the second single off the album and the dancey beat and synth sounds were quite a shock when the song came out.  For this one, her voice is mixed right in the middle of your head, which is very cool.  But it’s the “how can anybody have you” part that is so incredibly catchy and wonderful.  There’s not a lot of guitar on this song until the third verse in which all the synths drop out and you get a nasty guitar playing behind the verse–once again so inorganic but so interesting.

“Happy Birthday Johnny” is a beautiful piano ballad that showcases a great melody and lovely vocal from Annie.

“Savior” features a slinky guitar line with bits of wah-wah on it (slighty porn-y to be sure, especially given the topic of the song).  The bridge picks things up and with each subsequent verse more and more is added (backing vocals, big drums and sound effects).  It’s when the song gets to the third part, the ‘pleeeease” that it totally soars.

“New York” is another piano song, this one with more dance beats in it and the rather graphic “you’re the only motherfucker in the city who can stand me” for a chorus (odd choice for first single).  The bridge “I have lost a hero” just soars out of the piano section in a very cool way–the juxtaposition is outstanding.

After the quite ending of New York the noise and electronica of “Fear the Future” comes as quite a shock.  It’s practically a wall of noise before and abrupt ending

“Young Lover” is quieter and sounds a lot more like early St. Vincent songs.  The music is spare–thumping drums and washes of music.  But that first chorus grows very loud–crashing electronic drums and soaring vocals.  The amazing part comes toward the end as Annie hits some incredibly high notes and then caps it off with a high note that gives me chills every time I hear it.  The fact that she duplicated it live was just staggering.

“Dancing with a Ghost” is 46 seconds of waves of synths (or guitars) that I never quite realized was its own song.  It almost segues into “Slow Disco” which is a quiet song with strings and Annie singing.  When the harmony vocals come in it builds the song nicely.   Then someone (Annie?) sings a recurring motif of “don’t it beat a slow dance to death.”  It’s my least favorite song on the album and the one she has now made two (slower) remixes of.

That feels like it should end the album, but there is one more song, the dramatic “Smoking Section.”  With a husky voice Annie sings of getting stomped out and screaming “let it happen, let it happen, let it happen.”  The strings build dramatically until a loud three note riff introduces the second part of the song.

This album is pretty polarizing, even though it is St. Vincent through and through.

[READ: October 3, 2018] “The Rise and Rise of Annie Clark”

The previous story that I read by John L’Heureux was also about the Catholic church.  That one was the story of Jesuit Priesthood, circa 1954, and a man trying to join.

This one is also based around the Catholic church circa 1950.  The subject is very different, but with the same questioning attitude.

Annie Clark is a middle-aged woman in the 1950’s .  I’m unclear where this is set.  At first I thought France, but that is unlikely. so somewhere in the States, but I have no idea where.

Since the end of WWII, Annie knows that women were the real winners–women are taking charge of their lives.

But Annie is Catholic and must proceed slowly. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HOBO JOHNSON AND THE LOVEMAKERS-Tiny Desk Concert #785 (September 12, 2018).

Hobo Johnson and the Lovemakers are an incredibly fun and spontaneous-seeming band.  With lots and lots of shouting

“Romeo & Juliet” opens with some quiet piano and the band screaming: “Oh shit!  Godammit!  Fuck!  With Hobo continuing…Oh, that’s my shit right there!”

This song is a remarkably insightful look into a failing relationship.  It follows so many different avenues as Hobo John (Frank Lopes) speak/raps/sings lyrics that seem very personal.

We’re just Romeo and Juliet
But getting drunk and eating Percocets
But just to ease the stress
But soft what light, thru yonder window breaks
It is the east, but Juliet just puked off the balcony
How romantic

And if Romeo & Juliet continued to be married
Thens there’s half of a chance
That their kids would get embarrassed
When all the kids at school all talk about their parents
And Romeo Jr. has to say they’re not together
And Junior will dream of the day when he’s a man
And what he’ll do to avoid that 50% chance
Of his kids feeling the way he feels
He’ll probably just stick with Netflix and Chill

It ends with an a capella poem that details the breakup of parents–the sound of people falling out of love.

This is a band always on the verge of emotional explosions, all while Frank Lopes, aka Hobo Johnson, is quoting Shakespeare and making references to Jay-Z, The Front Bottoms song “Twin Size Mattress” and so much more.

“Sex in the City” opens with a pretty, quiet piano melody.  Hobo Johnson recites all of concerns about sex and love.  Lines like (“I got a duvet the other day – how do you wash a blanket? In a washer? That’s what I found out”)

So I’m not a babymaker-looker
But maybe I am
To a woman who really loves me
for who I am or maybe who I’m not
Either way it’s getting bothered and hot — GROSS!

If I looked like Brad Pitt mixed with a bit of Jake Gyllenhaal
in a bowl of David Hasselhoff.
I wouldn’t be here at all, I’d been in Los Angeles.
Or at your mom’s house eating all those sandwiches –DAMN I LOVE THOSE SANDWICHES.

It’s a terrific song.

Then Bob brings some peach scones our for the band–scones that he made himself.  (He got up at quarter to 7.  Hobo: That’s pretty early.  I will eat all these my self [grumbling] We’ll share them as a band).

The band

accomplished something remarkable this year with their Tiny Desk Contest entry. They made a simple backyard video – a single camera shoot – that’s now been seen almost 10 million times on YouTube. And the song they played, “Peach Scone,” has unlocked a door to a dream – to play a Tiny Desk Concert and be heard. The song is a tale of one-sided love – a tale of kindness in the face of loneliness and depression. Now, “a couple of kids – five I guess” as its lyrics go, get to bring their creative, urgent and somewhat nervous energy from Sacramento, Calif. to play “Peach Scone” and more to millions of other listeners.

They start “Scones” and Hobo messes up the words and laughs.  “How does this work when you mes at Tiny Desk?”  Bob: “Just start again.”  “Really?” “And we play the embarrassing part, too.”  “Really?  That’s awesome.”

For this song the pianist plays drums and there’s lots more shouting.  Despite the aforementioned kindness.  It’s terrific and slightly different from their video.

At times it’s as much a storytelling session or personal confession than a musical performance, and for me it conjures feelings of empathy and understanding and compassion.

The final song “Creve Coeur 1” is quieter.  It starts with a sad piano melody and although it has moments that are louder, the ending feels very personal: “Sorry Frank, You’re much too late.”

I hope I get to see them as they make the rounds touring.

[READ: September 20, 2017]  “As You Would Have Told It to Me (Sort of) If We Had Known Each Other Before You Died”

I really enjoyed this story.  Even if by the end I had no idea exactly what was happening.  And even after thinking about I’m not sure I even understand the internal logic of the title, much less the story.

It begins, “I remember that it was fall.”

Then the narrator tells the memory in past tense but with a sense of surprise as everything unfolds.

First, the police ring his doorbell.  The narrator thinks it is Katja.  He hadn’t spoken to her in three days, but things were like that between them sometimes. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JENNIFER CASTLE-Live at Massey Hall (November 23, 2017).

I didn’t think I knew Jennifer Castle, but I see that she has appeared as a guest singer on a whole bunch of records by artists that I know: Eric Chenaux, Bry Webb, Constantines and Fucked Up.

She has an unusual voice–soaring, delicate and whispery with a slight warble and yet you know she could belt out if she wanted to.

She starts the show saying Toronto has incredible beautiful old buildings and its rare these days to go inside one.  Inside Massey Hall it’s lit up to be another member of the band and to be part of the show.

I found the music to be incredibly spare–too spare in fact.  It is primarily piano and her vocals (with backing singers), but the piano (Jonathan Adjemian) is not a primary instrument, it is simply playing chords for her to sing over.  The sparseness was a little disconcerting.  But the backing vocalists (Victoria Cheeong and Isla Craig) are stellar–they really add a lot to the music and their voices soar in their own right.

But I think that sparseness allows her lyrics to really come through.  “Like a Gun” has the lyric “he was lik e gun [hah, from lovely backing vocalists] he was always going off.”

“Nature” has even better lyrics

Despite all my feelings of life parallel
Nature is happening without my goodwill
I called my friend up and she said it still
Happens to you even when you are ill

and ends with this interesting conceit

I lift my skirt for the economy

“Texas” is played on guitar with a very catchy “hoo hoo hoo hoo” clap-along.

I go down to Texas
To kiss my grandmother goodbye
She forgets things
But when I look her in the eye
I see my father
And he’s been gone so very long
In the name of time travel
Help him to hear to my little song

Jennifer plays electric guitar on “Truth is the Freshest Fruit” which changes the whole dynamic of her songs.  She plays guitar with piano accompaniment on “Sailing Away.”

She is the first person to mention the renovations Massey Hall is currently undergoing:

I know that Massey is going to go through a great big change but it feels good to play while the history is still on the paint.

The final song is absolutely wonderful.  She says she wrote “Please Take Me (I’m Broken)” because she knew they were coming to Massey and it celebrates the school of Greek mythology

The backing vocalists sing a verse by themselves and they sound great.  I love the chorus

Please take me cause something don’t seem right; something don’t compute.  I don’t belong here.
Please take me I’m broken;  I’ve woken up and I should be dreaming.
Please take me back to those other realms they seem much kinder on a dreamer like me.
I’ve always looked up to those ancient Greek stories.
I love the thrill of the scale; I like the the roll of the chorus.

A thoughtful and unique performer.

[READ: July 17, 2018] “Now More Than Ever”

I  feel like Zadie Smith’s recent stories have been exploring a new style for her, a more “in the present” kind of vibe.  This story has meta-elements and is very much an of the moment piece.  It seems to address current hot button issues and her own inability to fully wrap her head around them.

It begins: “There is an urge to be good. To be seen to be good. To be seen.  Also to be.”

This is what she told Mary.  She also told Mary that no one is called Marty these days.  “Could you get the hell out of here?”  So Mary left.  Then Scout came by–a great improvement.

Scout is active and alert on all platforms. She;s usually no later than the 300th person to see something.  The narrator was “the ten million two hundred and sixth person to see that thing.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING CRIMSON-The Elements Of King Crimson – 2016 Tour Box (2016).

This was the third Tour Box containing material that is similar in spirit, but different in fact to the previous two.

As always, it starts with the Wind extract, the sound of Fripp’s mellotron warming up and a voice saying “I prefer the early ones.”  It segues into a beautiful instrumental of “Moonchild.”  Once again, the lyrics are interesting in the song, but it sounds great without them.

The music stays in somewhat chronological order of release, but often with contemporary versions.  Like the 2015 recording of 1970’s “Peace” (which is okay) and “Pictures Of A City” (which is great).

“Prince Rupert’s Lament” is a two and half-minute guitar solo which has the Toronto crowd from the previous track overlaid, making this recording sound like a live one, when it is in fact an except from the recording session of Lizard.  There’s a rehearsal of the full 10 minute “Islands” from 1971 or so.

Then a “new” song, the two and a half-minute 2014 “Threshold Soundscape” which segues into the 2014 live version of “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part I” which is quite bass heavy.  Up next is a recording session of “Easy Money” without all the bells and whistles.

Then comes two live recordings from 1974.  “Improv I” which is full of gongs and guitars and chaos and segues into “Doctor Diamond.”  This is a song I had never heard before.  It never had an official release and this version seems like they’re just trying it out, like they weren’t really sure about the words, especially.  It’s heavy and  more than a little odd.

After a 30 second clip “From the Drummer’s Stool” which is the a drummer playing the intense “21st Century Schizoid Man” drums, the full song is played from 1974, sounding quite old in the mix.

The second disc continues with all manner of things in no particular order.

There’s more extracts from Lizard, this time a very pretty solo piano version of “Prince Rupert Awakes.”

And them it’s on to a non-Crimson album.  “The Other Man” is an alternate early version of the song from the Jakszyk, Fripp, Collins album A Scarcity of Miracles which I don’t know at all.

Next comes “Making Of Discipline,” it’s clips from bulk of the album spliced together into one song.  It’s very nifty.  There’s a demo instrumental of “Walking on Air” and then a three-minute live track called “Radical Action (to Unseat The Hold of Monkey Mind).”

There’s a demo of “Meltdown” (with guide vocals) and then a 40 second clip “From the Drummers’ Stools I” and a 20 second clip “From The Guitarist’s Stool I” which is part of the 21CSM solo.

Then comes some heavy stuff.  “The ConstruKction Of Light” live from 2014 with no vocal tag at the end followed by the bizarre Beatles mashup “Tomorrow Never Knew/Thela” live from 2000.

There another sample “From the Drummers’ Stools II” this one from “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic I” which is followed by “Nuages” (which I read as Nu-ages.  It’s trippy with bouncy bass

There’s a 2014 recording of the slow, jazzy “The Light Of Day” also originally from Scarcity of Miracles. It’s followed by a Lizard excerpt “From The Guitarist’s Stool II” and then a fast complicated 40 second 2014 soundcheck for “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic I.”

Moving away from that classic business, we jump to a new mix of “Dinosaur” from THRAK.  It’s followed by a final 45 second “From The Drummers’ Stools III” and then concluding with a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes.”  This version is from 2000 and I find it kind of weak, especially compared to the powerhouse versions they would unleash later.

Overall there’s some cool stuff on this box, but I feel like there’s a bunch of stuff that’s not quite my Crimson taste.

[READ: January 12, 2018] The Nix

The Nix received some pretty positive reviews and I was quite interested to read it–even though I had no idea what it was really about.  It’s not until nearly page 100 that we find out what the title even means.

The Nix (in the story, not the novel itself) is a ghost story from Norway.  The protagonists’s mother heard about The Nix from her Norwegian father.  The Nix was a horse.  It encouraged you to ride it.  When you did, it never stopped running until it ran off a cliff with you on it.  In modern terms, The Nix is a person–usually someone you think you love. Someone who will leave you.

Summarizing the book is either really easy or something of a challenge depending on how many aspects you want to include.

The book more or less follows one man–starting with his failing writing career and then flashing back to how he got where he is.  That sounds pretty dull, but the book is set on the backdrop of contemporary America–from the rebellions of hippie parents to the rebellions of the 99%ers.

There’s also these wonderful subplots that prop up the main story. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: September 2017] The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy complete radio series

The history of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is almost as convoluted as the story itself.

Douglas Adams (with help from John Lloyd) wrote the radio story in 1977.  It aired in 1978.  A second season aired in 1980.

Adams wrote the novel based on the radio series in 1979.  And then the second book The Restaurant at the End of the Universe in 1980.

Then they made the TV show.

Apparently Adams considered writing a third radio series to be based on Life, the Universe and Everything in 1993, but the project did not begin until after his death in 2001.  The third, fourth and fifth radio series were based on Life, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish and Mostly Harmless which were transmitted in 2004 and 2005.

It’s interesting and a little disconcerting how different the radio play is from the story of the book. There are a lot of similarities of course, but some very large differences.

The first series obviously leaves a lot out from the book, since the book wasn’t written yet. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: Summer 2017] Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

I might be one of the few people in America to have never read anything by James Patterson.  Well, C. really enjoyed this series (and his other books for young readers) so we decided to listen to this on a car ride. (Both kids had seen the film already, although I hadn’t).

I have to say that right off the bat I was turned off by the introduction of this book because there was this hard rocking guitar that they played through about 3 minutes of opening text.  And it was too loud!  It was really hard to hear the narrator.  I kind of tuned out because I feared that the whole book would feature this (it doesn’t).  And while I won’t say I was confused by what I missed, I did wonder if I’d missed some things that were revealed later (also, some of the main character’s motivation).

Rafe Khatchadorian is starting Hills Village Middle School.  It’s a new school (sixth grade).  Rafe seems to have a hard to succeeding in school in general.  There’s also a lot going on at home.  His mom has been dating a jerk named Bear.  Bear is unemployed, and living with them while Rafe’s mom is working two jobs and is hardly ever home.

The only person who seems to help Rafe cope with things is his friend Leo the Silent.  Leo doesn’t talk much, but he is an awesome artist.  And he also encourages Rafe to do things that maybe he shouldn’t.

When Rafe arrives at school, he is given a rule book with over 100 rules that he must follow.  Given the possibility of hanging out, being good and following the rules or having fun and enjoying school, he and Leo make a choice.  And they come up with “Operation R.A.F.E.” (which stands for Rules Aren’t For Everyone).  The operation is set up like a video game.  Rafe is going to try to break every rule in the handbook. Leo will award him points.  But he will also only have three “lives,” which he will lose if he gets caught or otherwise fails in his quest. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: RED BARAAT-Chaal Baby (2010).

Red Baraat is one of the few bands to play two Tiny Desk Concerts. I’ve also had the fun experience of seeing them live.

The band was founded by dhol player Sunny Jain as a way to bring Bangrha music to Brooklyn.  The band speaks to many disciplines and plays a wonderful mash up of styles.  So while the foundation is bangrha music, there’s elements of funk, go-go, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and jazz–all designed as one big party.

This debut album features the dhol, soprano and tenor sax, trumpets, trombones, sousaphone and drums and percussion.

To my ear the sousaphone is the grounding instrument–often standing out as the bass while the rest of the brass is playing melody or soloing.  And yes, sometimes the sousaphone gets a solo or two as well.

I love the vocal interjections–whether nonsense or actual words I can’t tell, but they are often fast and fun–good punctuation to the melody.  And the band knows melody.  The main riff of “Tunak Tunak Tun” is a blast.  And the vocal phrases are there to humanize the party.  I didn’t realize that this was a cover of Bhangra pop singer Daler Mehndi’s song of the same name, but that explains the catchiness.

In fact there are several covers on the album.  “Hey Jamalo” (a reworking of Malkit Singh’s popular “Hey Jamalo Tootak Tootak Tootiyan”) opens with a rousing introduction with a solo from dhol.  I rather wish there was more obvious dhol playing (which is so much fun to watch live) but it blends in pretty perfectly with the rest of the music and fits perfectly with the percussion solo in the middle of this song.

They play three Bollywood soundtrack hits “Dum Maro Dum,” “Samaro Mantra,” and “Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna.” “Dum Maro Dum” has some cool percussion sounds an a real jazz feel–I love the way they stretch out the notes in the middle.

The word Baraat (Hindi: बरात) (Urdu: برات‬‎) means a groom’s wedding procession in North India, West India and Pakistan.  Unsurprisingly, they play two covers of traditional Indian wedding songs “Punjabi Wedding Song (Balle Balle),” which has some fun stop and start melodies and a real marching band kind of vibe and “Aaj Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai” which opens with some dramatic percussion before settling into some very pretty processional music.

But it’s not all raucous party music.  “Arcana” slows things down with a cool riff or two and nice accompaniment.

However, other songs like “Drum and Brass,” escape easy categorization with a clarinet reminiscent of Eastern Europe combined with percussion and melodies from Western Asia.

The title song “Chaal Baby” has some great chanting and dramatic horns moments which I saw described as “the Dirty Dozen Brass Band gone Bollywood” or belonging at a Punjabi football halftime show.

Speaking of marching band, there are a few moments on this album that felt kind of like a marching band to me.  “Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna” was an example of a marching band vibe.  That kind of sound is hard to avoid (if indeed they are trying to) with that kind of instrumentation, although perhaps that is the inevitable comparison to processional music. My experience is that it works better live than on record.

But songs like the original “Baraat to Nowhere,” showcase a great original melody and some fun soloing.  Nearly every song features a solo by one or more members of the band allowing everyone to show his chops.  And back to that sousaphone–I’ve never heard anyone make sounds like that from an instrument before.  Great stuff.

“Samaro Mantra” the Bollywood song, ends the album on almost a down note.  The melody is somber, the drums are martial.  It’s kind of an odd choice for an otherwise upbeat and celebratory album.  But maybe it works as a calm down after an exiting wedding–time to go home everybody, party’s over.

Sunny Jain – dhol / drumset / percussion ; Rohin Khemani – tavil / doumbek ; Tomas Fujiwara – drumset ; Arun Luthra – soprano sax ; Mike Bomwell – tenor sax ; Sonny Singh – trumpet ; MiWi La Lupa – bass trumpet ; Smoota – trombone ; John Altieri – sousaphone

[READ: January 14, 2018] “Pieces”

I rather enjoyed Hye-Young Pyun’s previous story and was intrigued to read another one.  This one was translated by Sora Kim-Russell.

The previous one was thoughtful and disturbing and so is this one.

In this story, which is surprisingly unspecific about the characters, a man’s wife went missing a month earlier.  She slipped off off of a gorge and was presumed drowned.

He has just gotten a call from the police that a body part has been found and they would like him to identify it.  The part that was found was a right leg. (more…)

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