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Archive for the ‘Regrets’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: WILCO-Live at the Newport Folk Festival (July 29, 2017).

Every year, NPR goes to the Newport Folk Festival so we don’t have to.  A little while afterwards, they post some streams of the shows (you used to be able to download them, but now it’s just a stream).  Here’s a link to the Wilco set; stream it while it’s still active.

I have been really enjoying Wilco’s most recent albums, but it’s their live shows that are exceptional.

Opening with “Random Name Generator” they segue into a very string-heavy “Via Chicago” (a one-two punch of greatness that would leave me flabbergasted).  The recording of this song is particularly great because you can really hear the craziness that Nels Cline adds to the noisy sections.  And the strings also loom large, which I find interesting.  It sounds like a full string section, but maybe its’ just synths?

Wilco have so many albums and so many songs.  Most of their live shows run over two and a half hours.  So this barely-over-an-hour set means excising.  And yet they don’t just play a hits set.  There’s quite a few songs from their latest album, Schmilco and a deep cut from Wilco (The Album).  That particular song “Bull Black Nova” has a cool guitar solo back-and-forth between Cline and whoever else was on guitar at the time.

A mellow “Reservations” leads to a lengthy “Impossible Germany” with an extended guitar solo from Cline.  “Misunderstood” gets a big round of applause (and a suitably chaotic middle section–a mini freakout).

Earlier, Jeff Tweedy said “I don’t feel like talking” but before “Heavy Metal Drummer he says, “I guess I feel like talking a little bit…  Nah.”  Then “Hope we didn’t ruin your lovely day, we didn’t mean to if we did.”

They play a fairly shambolic “I’m the Man Who Loves You” which means not that they play it sloppily but that they play it noisily–from time to time one instrument or another has a little noisy fun while everyone else keeps playing like normal.

As the set starts winding down and Tweedy starts to chat with the crowd, someone shouts something and he says

Happy birthday?  Don’t bring that up.  It’s nowhere near my birthday.  [pause] I might never have another one. [groans from the audience] I just wanted to draw everyone’s attention back to our mortality.  I thought we were having too much fun… it sucks. [pause]  You guys have been heartwarming and reassuring.  Every time I think that everything in the world completely sucks we get to play in front of an audience and share something with people that I know is real and I know it exists and will always exist…  And there will always be more of this than whatever the fuck that is.

They play a lovely “Hummingbird” and a crowd pleasing “The Late Greats.”  Tweedy tells us that “my dad says ‘life is happy and sad and it hurts,’ I wrote about 1,000 songs to say that.”

Tweedy can’t help impart some more advice for our troubled times:

Just show up.  Just show up for everybody and things will be all right.

Before the final two songs, he says, “A lot of people have been yelling for this song, which is understandable.”  It’s from the Billy Bragg & Wilco album of Woody Guthrie songs and it’s called “Christ for President.”  It’s more true now than ever.

For the final song, Billy Bragg himself comes out (that’s what so cool about Newport Folk Festival) and they play a rousing rendition of “California Stars.”

Festivals are never quite as good as regular concerts if you really want to see one band. The sets are always shorter than you want.  But this is pretty fine.  And the recording quality is superb.

[READ: June 20, 2017] “The Countess’s Private Secretary”

This issue has a section of essays called “On the Job,” with essays about working written by several different authors.

Jennifer Egan was indeed the private secretary to a Countess.  The Countess was a woman of some authority.  One time Egan was on her way to work for her.  There was some kind of fire emergency in the building and pedestrian traffic was halted.  The Countess shouted out the window to the emergency crews insisting that Egan be let through.  And she was.

Egan said that being the private secretary often meant “becoming” her–starting at 1PM their lives were more or less the same. It helped that Egan herself was tall and slender, Catholic and full of nervous energy.  She was also short-tempered, just like the Countess.  Indeed, even their handwriting matched pretty well.  Although the Countess told Egan that she liked and her, Egan always knew she was just a servant.  The Countess was not above telling her that garlic oozed from her pores for days after she ate it.  Plus her cowboy boots were coarse, her spelling was atrocious and so on.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HELADO NEGRO-Tint Desk Concert #631 (June 30, 2017).

It’s unfair that I have recently really enjoyed songs by Chicano Batman because Helado Negro sounds so much like Chicano Batman that I would certainly have guessed that’s who this was (although Chicano Batman is a bit more catchy and groovy).

Helado Negro is a band: [Roberto Lange (vocals, guitar); Nathaniel Morgan (sax); Angela Morris (sax, violin); Ben Lanz (bass guitar); Weston Minissali (synthesizer); Jason Nazary (drums)] and this is what Felix has to say about them

The artist Helado Negro (Roberto Lange) made a very big impression on me when I first experienced him almost eight years ago. It was a sound I had never quite heard, and I was immediately drawn in; there were layers of synths, percussion that percolated rather than pulsed, vocals that epitomized the world ethereal and lyrics in Spanish and English that floated amidst the music like wisps of smoke.

But that’s not what you’re getting here — instead of tinsel, we get Roberto standing behind Bob Boilen’s desk in a t-shirt that says “Young, Latin and Proud,” the title of his most recent single. That’s the essence of the songs he chose to play (and really, his entire catalog), music about being a young American with Ecuadorian parents, singing about life in here in the U.S.

Our little concert here also shows off an acoustic treatment of Helado Negro’s vision, and it’s just as compelling without the electronics. In fact, it’s as if the songs reveal a different aspect of themselves, the lyrics intimate and laid bare. Personally, I loved the sound of the alto and tenor saxophones playing harmonies in place of a bank of keyboards. As you’ll see, the entire band perfected that delicate balance of intensity and low volume, letting the music and ideas breathe.

They play four songs.  They are all mellow

“Transmission Listen” opens with Lange singing and playing guitar and then the full horns kick it, and that’s when it sounds like Chicano Batman (in a good way).

“Young, Latin and Proud” is very catchy.  This song reminds me of Sandro Perri–mellow and gentle with his smooth voice rising above it all.  I like at the end that he mentions his audience: “Felix is young Latin & proud, mi abuela is young Latin & proud.”

For “Run Around” he doesn’t play guitar.  There’s a nice use of violins instead of strings in the beginning and some cool synth sounds.  I liked the squeaky violin noises at the end.

“It’s My Brown Skin” is a happy song–indeed I love that he loves who he is and where he comes from: “My skin glows in the dark / shines in the light / its the color that holds me tight.”  The ending melody is really pretty (played on sax and violin) “I love you and I can’t miss anything about you / you’re stuck on me and all this time I’m inside you  / And its your brown skin… it’ll keep you safe.”

[READ: April 4, 2017] “Necessary Driving Skills”

This story was, wait for it, all over the map (ha) in some ways.  It is all about driving, (see, ha).  But it is about much more than driving.  It is about relationships, friendship, business and of course, driving.

It even starts: “This is the story.”

It continues: “Kim Le Bouedec and I run the Finchley Mint.  And I’ve just kissed his wife.”

The narrator, Neil, and Kim were friends in college.  And it follows that thought with this: “You see, this is the paradoxical thing about my age group (and yours–if it hasn’t happened yet, it will.) The more we settle, the more opportunities there are for disruption.”

Neil details: Simon and Maxine are married with a ten month old daughter.  Luke is married to Helen (who worked with the Neil’s wife Jill), there’s Kim and his wife Sasha.  “My circle of friends, turning square.”

Neil and Kim work at this Mint. It’s a business in which they sell “die cast model cards by mail order. Don’t laugh.” (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Ultrasound Showbar [2nd GSMW Night 1] (February 25, 1994).

The next four shows are four of the five nights from the Second Annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar Feb 25-Mar 1, 1994. Setlists for all shows were fairly similar in content focusing mainly on the 25-30 songs that they would use for consideration on Introducing Happiness which began recording the following week. This first night featured 24 songs never previously released and a few that were played live very very rarely including Joey III, Floating, Fluffy, Green Xmas (which would appear years later as The Music Room on Harmelodia) and Symphony. Some of the audio on the beginning of each side of the tape is a bit warped and thus has a bit of a flange like effect for a few minutes.

That flange is very noticeable on “Jesus Was Once a Teenager, Too,” but it all settles down for “Tim Vesely going electric” on “Introducing Happiness.”  Bidini jokes that this is going to be their “up with life” album.

Introducing “One More Colour,” Dave Clark says, “Our next diddy is by a friend of ours who we last played with in Guelph.”  They follow it up with “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson” and “Full Moon Over Russia.”  After this song they ask the audience which chord they like better during one section–the minor chord wins.

They introduce “Fishtailin'” as a song about “love and life and living and loving.”  But an even better introduction comes for “Earth/Monstrous Hummingbirds” in which Bidini says it’s a song about the missing link.  Mankind was just walking around on earth drooling a lot.  And then all of a sudden they were up flying kites and making hotcakes and colorizing films and making Top 40 Radio.  Some say aliens impregnated cro-magnon man.  Dave thinks they came down for just two days and made everything happen.

Before the next song, Clark asks, “Dave what’s the best time of the year?”  Bidini says “Spring time: spring training starts.  Clark says I find around September 23rd (Bidini says, that’s coz baseball’s ending) because it’s 21 degrees–my favorite temperature.  Bidini: “yeah well spring’s better.”

There’s some banter about rehearsal space.  Clark says the band that used the microphones after them left them smelling like cheese.  Tim: “and by coincidence the band is called “Cheesemike.”  Then Clark tells a story about them being on Lunch TV, with his friends calling up saying “hey man, what are you doing on lunch TV,” and I said, “what the fuck are you doing watching it?”  Martin is annoyed because he stepped all over his introduction to a sweet version of “Take Me in Your Hand.”

They ask if there are any complaints so far.  Has everyone who has written the band gotten a reply?  Then Tim requests that Martin sing a verse of “Fluffy” which has only been played one other time on the live bootlegs (back in 1990).  The verse about champagne  Champagne?  Martinis, sorry.  It’s incredible falsetto, but Martin stops the song and says it sucked.  The last time they did that song a dark cloud came over Saskatoon.  Martin gives himself credit for writing one of the sickest songs ever.

Then they do one of the “not sickest” songs ever written: “Claire.”  Whale Music the film is locking down on Tuesday.  Clark jokes “Lee Majors is in it!”–he isn’t.  And then a great version of “Me and Stupid” before they take a break.

Paul McCloud “and his two little clouds” played in between sets.

They come back and At the conclusion of “The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos” Dave says that song is where Jethro Tull meets Rush.  Someone shouts, “What corner?”  Dave replies, “The corner of Bloor and Symington” (voted as the worst intersection in 2012).  At the end of “In This Town” Clark asks “who’s got Olympic fever? I do!”  Bidini asks, “Who’s your favorite Olympian?” Clark mentions a sportscaster….  Bidini says, “Dave hasn’t watched one second of the Olympics clearly, or he would have said Myriam Bédard.

Then there’s “Floating” a song I don’t know at all.  It’s a slow building Bidini song with a bouncy refrain of “up in the air” and a really noisy middle section.  After that he asks, “Didn’t everyone on the Finnish national hockey team look like Great Bob Scott?”  Clark says, “It’s funny you should mention that.  If I was gonna write a song for anybody it would be for Kevin Hearn, my favorite clown.  Of course none of you know who Kevin Hearn is… (ironic that they opened for BNL the previous year)

We had an idea one night that we would do a sequel to Melville–continue the stories from the album.  They only have two, this one “Onielly’s Strange Dream: is one of them.  It starts out very pretty with a recognizable guitar riff, but midway through the tape must change or something, it gets really loud and flangy.  It’s okay, it’s virtually impossible to forget the words on record.  It’s virtually impossible to forget the words “chicken Jimmy kept em alive,” To which Martin mumbles, “yea well he did.  It’s not funny.”

“Symphony” is also new to me.  On the song Bidini plays drums.  Martin stops the songs after a few verses and Dave complains that Clark was so jealous that Dave was playing drums that he forgot to turn the snare on.  And then Martin says it was way fast.  There’s some cool riffs and a line about no one takes solos in this band.  I’d like to hear that one more clearly.

Before the next song, Bidini says, I don’t play guitars on this, thank the lord.  Then there’s some drummer jokes:

Drums is a promotion actually–a drummer told me that.
Clark yells, “If Laura Lynn’s in the audience shame on you for cutting on drummers–they’re the foundation of any band.”
Bidini: “What did she say? How do you know a drummer’s at your door?  The knock speeds up and gets louder.  Coz if she did, that would be okay.”
Clark says, “Of course the most schooled musicians sit behind the tubs.”

The slow and country sounding “Row,” gets the dramatic introduction, “This is a song… Tim wrote.”  Then comes a rocking “Triangles on the Wall.”

Before “Bread, Meat, Peas and Rice,” Clark asks, “Just acoustic guitar and voice?”  But no, “Full band.” Clark jokes, “We’ll attempt a song we don’t know.”  At the end Clark asks, “Was that cannibolically inspired?”  “Alomar” is always a fun treat especially when followed by a wild and raucous “PROD.”  At the end Tim asks, “I wonder if Steven Page had a song, “We are the people’s republic of Steven Page, how would it go?”  And they give it a shot.

They then launch into the lurching “The Royal Albert” the other song that’ s a sequel (“Joey Part II”) which ends with the guys all singing what sounds like “soooey.”  After this song, Dave says, “We’ll take some requests because we’ve run out of new material. [Much shouting] Okay we’ll do them all.”

They start with “Record Body Count” which ends with a fugue vocal of everyone singing “Joey stepped up on a block of ice,” which is pretty cool.  It’s followed by the unrecorded “Joey III” (all three parts together, just out of sequence).  “Joey III” contains the “do you believe it” refrain from “Christopher,” which is a little odd, but which works.  This segues into a slow “Self Serve Gas Station” that eventually rocks out.

They end the set with some covers: a short, sloppy but fun version of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” (sung by Martin) and a pretty rocking version of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” (sung by Dave) which segues into a blast of “RDA.”

Despite the slightly muddy sound, this is a great set, especially if you like Introducing Happiness.

[READ: January 18, 2017]: “In This One”

I don’t really have a sense for what Stephen Dixon is doing in his writings.  He really likes to play with convention as a way of telling a fairly conventional story.

So, in this one, Dixon uses the phrase “in this one” in nearly every sentence.

It starts out “In this one he’ll have only one daughter and no other child.  In this one he’ll be divorced and his ex-wife will live in California…”

The character being discussed is a writer, “in this one he’ll have finished a novel a month or so ago after working on it for more than three years.”

In this one, his daughter tries to set him up with a coworker but neither finds the other interesting.

It sounds like Dixon is trying to write a new story–trying to create a character based on other characters.  But as the story proceeds it seems like this story is far more self-reflective.  In this one he meets a woman and he’s off to bed with her. But he warns her that it has been a long time and he hopes he’s able to get started. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: June 29, 2016] No Girls Allowed (Dogs Okay) 

Scab McNally is a clever fourth-grade kid who is always inventing things. But he’s also kind of selfish and pretty mean to his sister.  Isabelle is his twin but because she really uses her brain (She is smart times ten) she has been bumped up from 4th grade to 5th grade.

Isabelle doesn’t understand Scab’s brand of cleverness (and mischievousness) and so she writes a daily news report about all of the things that Scab has done to her (and done at school) through the day.  She reads this to her parents every night.  It’s pretty hard for Scab to catch a break at this point.

But obviously, the more Isabelle tells on him the more things he does to her.  He puts cheese in her underwear drawer and dead bugs in her room.

This is all some background to the fact that more than anything else Scab wants a dog.  (There seem to be a lot of books about kids who desperately want a dog).  Scab’s best friend has a dog, Oscar–a wiener dog.  And Scab is super jealous but always happy to help out with Oscar.  Of course, since Isabelle is always attaining on him, his parents don’t think he is responsible to own a dog. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: NICK GRANT-Tiny Desk Concert #624 (June 2, 2017).

I had never heard of Nick Grant either.  And I wasn’t that impressed on an initial listen.  However, it says he’s got a bit of a flu, so kudos to him for pushing on.

In general, though, low-key rap shows are kind of weird.  They are mostly about hype, but its hard to hype a few dozen people.  But Grant is certainly game.

[Grant hails ]from a region where rap’s young guns and lil innovators tend to defy tradition, the South Carolina-by-way-of-Atlanta native proves being a purist is not just for the old heads.

Being cut from a vintage cloth has kept him in good company. He groomed himself on high school freestyle battles before working his way up to become the first signee to Culture Republic.  He’s a sly reminder that, contrary to popular opinion, the South still has a mouthful to say — and it doesn’t always have to be yelled, gurgled or Auto-Tuned to death. Sometimes it can be conveyed coolly, from a seated position, while backed by Washington D.C.’s soul garage band Black Alley, and still cut through all the noise.

I really like the live band, Black Alley.  The percussionist (Walter Clark) is particularly interesting with his congas and an electronic “plate” that plays all kinds of effects.  The bass (Joshua Cameron) is also great and the guitarist (Andrew White) plays a lot of interesting sounds.  I also like how muscular th keyboardist is playing simple chords.  And the drummer is pretty bad ass too.

The first song “Return of the Cool” (feat. B. Hess–not sure what the B. Hess is all about, I think he’s sampled in the chorus).  And that chorus is especially weird because the other singer is recorded and Grant is sort of quietly over the top of it.  It’s the smallness of the audience that makes the whole “hands side to side” part seem kind of weird.  Although it’s funny when he says, “you ain’t got your hands up.”  When it’s over he says “Give yourselves a round of applause.”  Before the next song starts he says “flu is killing me.”

It’s also strange to me in a lot of hip hop that the rappers feel the need to state who they are and where they are and sometimes when they are.  It’s been going on for decades now, but it’s odd .  So when he says “Nick Grant.  Tiny Desk.  NPR.”  it’s just what you do.  About the second song “Drug Lord Couture” he says that “street life wasn’t for me but I was fascinated with the fashion and the material things that came with being a drug dealer being in the streets.”  He says, “it wasn’t for me I found out quickly.”

He introduces the final song, “Luxury Vintage Rap” by saying that you “must be strong, have a lyrical ability to be #1.”  This song is faster with some good lyrics: “I don’t believe the devil would come as a snake / why would he come as something you would actually hate?”   There’s a cool dark end section with a funky riff.  His lyrics turn rather explicit with the startling line “sugar on a clit / that’s a sweet lick.”  As the songs sort of ends, he tells everyone, “Don’t stop.  Keep (the arm waving) going.

Grant won me over by the end.  And as the screen goes to black you can hear him saw, “Flawless….  Flawless any questions?”

[READ: April 22, 2017] “Deaf and Blind”

Vapnyar had a story in this same issue one year and a day ago.

This is the story of a young woman’s mother and her mother’s friend.  The friend was named Olga.  Olga and her mother had met at a fertility clinic.  The narrator’s mother had a child (obviously) while Olga did not.

But they bonded over their collective unhappiness. Olga said her husband loved her like crazy but that she never felt much for him–she always wanted to love someone with every fiber of her being.  The narrator’s mother was just the opposite: she loved her husband but was fairly sure he didn’t love her back.  She hoped a child would bring her husband back.

It didn’t.  And Olga didn’t get pregnant either. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: alt-J-Tiny Desk Concert #613 (April 24, 2017).

Alt-J have been reduced to a trio.  And their sound has gotten even more delicate and almost pastoral.

Bob Boilen loves Alt-J, and that’s why they’ve been invited back for a second time.  He explains:

As the primary booker of the Tiny Desk Concerts, I have this self-imposed rule: No artist can come back for a second visit unless there’s something wholly different about what they’re doing. The first time alt-J played the Tiny Desk, in 2012, they came as a four-piece; electric guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. They were a pretty new band, their album had been out a few months and they were playing in clubs for a couple hundred people, not much more.

In the five years since the band visited it has found quite a few new fans. When I heard cuts from the newest album Relaxer a few months ago I flipped and tried to think of a way to bring them back. So I wrote them, saying I’d love to have them again but that it would have to be wholly, out-of-the-box different. I told them I’d hire a brass band, an African kora player if need be, a string section… They took up the challenge. They told me to find a cellist and two violinists.

I wrote to my friend Carol Anne Bosco, a cellist, who turned out to be a huge fan of the band and helped find two violinists for the performance. About four days before the performance the band sent the string parts, written by their friend Will Gardner.

On Monday morning, the English band met the American string players and they all gathered behind my desk. As they worked their way through a first pass at “Three Worn Words,” I noticed them and relieved — alt-J had actually never heard the string arrangements, this was the first time. They sounded beautiful. By noon, NPR employees and friends gathered around my desk to witness this astonishing concert from alt-J, including two new songs and two old favorites. Magic.

“3WW” is the first single and it sounds very different.  The song opens with a lengthy instrumental, and then the keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton sings lead.  It sounds quite a lot like an old English balladeer song.  Then standard lead singer Joe Newman takes over.  His unusual voice is especially recognizable but the song still stays quite mellow until the moment where the strings burst forth …but just for a bit until they sing the practically whispered, “I just want t love you in my own language.”

“In Cold Blood” sounds a bit more like their old style with a very interesting drums pattern from Thom Green: lots of fast snares and toms.  The synths feel almost Ren-Faire like.  There’s also a fun section of “la la las.”  I only wish I knew what they were singing about.

“Warm Foothills” is primarily piano and strings.  There’s a very delicate falsetto vocals (and even a whistle).  All three of these songs are new.  It’s interesting to realize that these songs won’t sound like this anywhere else or on record because they have the strings only for this show.

They then say they’re going to play something from their first album, to mutters of pleasure and when he says “taro” there’s a whoop or two and Joe jokingly goes “Yes!!”  This is a quiet guitar-base song and the strings really bring out elements of it.

alt-J are certainly a weird band but they have slowly won me over.

I happened to check Wikipedia about the band and found this interesting tidbit (veracity in question of course): “The band’s unusual sound stems from the fact that due to living in student halls, where noise had to be kept to a minimum, they were unable to use bass guitars or bass drums. Thom Sonny Green suffers from Alport syndrome, a rare genetic disease which causes hearing and kidney failure. As a result, he is about 80 percent deaf.”

[READ: March 8, 2017] “Crazy They Call Me”

I usually love everything that Zadie Smith does.  But this story didn’t do very much for me.

It is a kind of inner monologue of Billie Holiday.  I’ve always liked Holiday’s voice but I don’t know much about her life.  Like I didn’t know that Billie Holiday wasn’t her real name–which was Eleanora Fagan.  But I don’t think that that’s what made me not love the story much.

I assume this story takes place near the end of her life “you certainly don’t go out anyplace less than dressed, not these days.”  She is saying goodbye both to Elenora Fagan and even to Billie: “There is only Lady Day.”

Lady Day is mostly thinking to herself about her life. How she doesn’t really like other women, is mostly a man’s lady. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TANK AND THE BANGAS-Tiny Desk Concert #603 (March 10, 2017).

Tank and the Bangas won this year’s Tiny Desk Contest.  And here is their official Tiny Desk Concert.

There is something so alive and fun about Tank and the Bangas.  I definitely get their appeal and how much fun they are live.  There are seven members–five musicians and two singers.  The musicians are top-notch–and almost never stop, they seem to keep the groove going even between songs while Tank hangs with the audience.

And then there’s the two singers.  Jelly is an amazing hype woman.  Her voice is terrific wit ha great deal of range and delivery style.  And then there’s Tank, versatile, emotional, funny and sweet but not to be trifled with.

I really like a lot about them.  I just wish I liked their music a little more.

“Boxes And Squares” opens with a groovy riff and a great flute intro.  Tank begins by speaking in a strangely childish voice “I like that, Albert [the flautist], but it’s missing something.  It’s missing you [the audience], can I get a snap?”  She switches to some deeper voices as she sings/recites/raps the lyrics.  Tank is adorable and fun with her huge hair pulled off to thee side and spiked with purple.

I have no idea what she’s going on about in the beginning of the song–I would have been the milk, I would have been the sup etc.  Then she switches to a kind of rapping style.  Then she interacts with Jelly: “You are like a loop.”  “A what?”  “You are like a loop.”  “A what, girl?”  “You don’t understand me?” “I don’t understand what you’re saying.” “You are like a loop a hoop.  Like I’m going round and round with you like the o’s in my soup.”  There’s much laughter and fun.

I really do like the way Tank and Jelly play off of each other with the staccato riffing about whatever it is they are singing about “you…you…you”

The end of the song is a funny improv of her being excited that she won Tiny Desk.  It’s fun and funky with some great synth and bass underneath (her vocal delivery is crazy diverse).

“Quick” was their winning entry, which sounds pretty different from their contest version (I find this version to be far more dynamic and the sounds to be really cool).  But once again the focus of this song is on the two front women who are fun and vibrant and have great vocal range.

I really like the chanting: “who who who gonna save me now? (points to the audience).”    “I don’t know.” “I don’t know.”

They have a ton of fun introducing the band–singing the band members names and joking with each other.  The music pretty much never stops.

Even as they segue into the final song, “Rollercoasters.”  In New Orleans, there’s a theme park that still says “will open after storm.”  She asks “why people rode those big roller coasters.  The feeling of throwing up gave them some type of excitement that they did not receive on a regular day.”

But the song is about when she finally did ride a rollercoaster–the butterflies and fireflies fighting in my stomach.  The song is quite emotional–she even seems to be crying during the delivery.  “Jelly sings over and over fly fly fly (in a falsetto) and then oh oh oh oh in a deep voice–very cool.  I’m not sure how much of the song is improv or what’s normally there.  Rollercoasters are for people like me who have never been in love–who want to know how it feels to just fall.”  When the song ends, Tanks mumbles, “Shit, I’m such a crybaby).

Here’s a bit more detail about the band from the blurb:

Out of over 6,000 entries — more submissions than we’ve ever received — Tank And The Bangas won, unanimously, this year’s Tiny Desk Contest. I fully expected their victory performance here at NPR headquarters in D.C. to be celebratory. I didn’t know we’d all end up in tears.

This band [Tarriona Tank Ball (vocals); Jelly Joseph (vocals); Merell Burkett Jr. (keys); Norman Spence II (keys); Joshua Johnson (drums); Jonathan Johnson (bass); Albert Allenback (saxophone)] combines R&B with hip-hop’s poetry and rollercoaster storytelling, with a flair and alchemy that could only come from New Orleans. Their winning song, “Quick,” mixes liquor and revenge — a sort of modern day take on a great folk tale, but peppered with their own idiosyncratic flair and humor. What I couldn’t see, until they took over my desk, was the depth of their lyricism and the versatility of their players. At one moment fun-filled funk, the next laid-back jazz, rhythm-driven blues — and it all flows seamlessly. And it’s fun to watch: There’s a magic kinship between Tarriona “Tank” Ball and Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph as they share singing roles, like two best friends finishing one another’s sentences.

So yes, i wish I liked them a little better.  But I’ll clarify.  I enjoyed this and watched it a few times.  I wouldn’t  go out of my way to see them live, but I’ll bet it would be a lot of fun.  And I’m petty excited for them that they won.

[READ: January 11, 2017] “Chairman Spaceman”

I see that I have enjoyed a bunch of stories by Thomas Pierce.  And I enjoyed this one as well.

Don Whipple, the notorious corporate raider had given away his entire fortune–everything–houses, cars, cash–to a religion.  The religion is called God’s Plan for Space and his money has earned him a one way trip to a distant, habitable planet.  He will be frozen–and not aging–for the duration of the flight.

They wish to establish a more egalitarian society on another planet and to spread the message of God’s love to e unexplored solar systems.

The story opens on his going away party–he is leaving in a day or two. All kinds of wealthy people are there to see him off  And he was happy to never see them again.  But he was also attempting to make amends with as many people as he could. (more…)

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