Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Romance’ Category

[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…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: ROY AYERS-Tiny Desk Concert #712 (March 1, 2018).

I hadn’t heard of Roy Ayers, although I imagine I’ve heard his work somewhere before.  I love the vibes so I was looking forward to his set.

I was a little bummed to hear him singing–I assumed it would be all instrumental. Especially since his songs aren’t exactly lyrically masterful.  But the jazzy funky solos were pretty great.

Roy Ayers [is a] 77-year-old jazz-funk icon.  He sauntered through the office with a Cheshire grin on his face, sharing jokes with anyone within earshot. Accompanying him was a trio of brilliantly seasoned musicians — keyboardist Mark Adams, bassist Trevor Allen and drummer Christopher De Carmine. Later during the performance, pride washed across Ayers’ face as his bandmates took the spotlight. (Be sure to watch as Adams woos not just the room but brightens Ayers’ face during his solo.)

The set began with one of Ayers’ more recognizable hits: an extended version of “Searching,” a song that embodies the eternal quest for peace and love.  The vibes solo at 2 and a half minutes is worth the wait, though.

The lyrics are essentially.  I’m searching, searching, searching searching. It takes over a minute for him to even get to the vibes!  It’s followed by a groovy keyboard solo that starts mellow be really takes off by the end.

During “Black Family” (from his 1983 album Lots Of Love), you’ll hear him call out “Fela” throughout. That’s because Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti was a huge influence on Ayers in the late 1970s; the two eventually collaborated on an album, 1980’s Music Of Many Colors. “Black Family” is, in part, a tribute to Fela, even if the original version didn’t include his name.

Again the lyrics: “lo-lo-lo-lo-long time ago” and not much else repeated over and over and over. But it’s all lead up to a great vibes solo (as the band gets more and more intense).  I love that the keyboardist has a keytar as well and is playing both keys at the same time–soloing on the keytar with an awesome funky sound.  There’s even a cool bass solo.

Concluding this mini-concert, Ayers closed the set out with his signature tune, “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”, a feel-good ode if there ever was one. The essence of this song flowed right through him and out to the NPR audience.

Another terrific vibes solo is followed by a keytar solo which is full of samples of people singing notes (they sound like Steely Dan samples)–it’s weird and kind of cool.

[READ: August 2017] McSweeney’s No 46

As the subtitle reflects this issue is all about Latin American crime.  It features thirteen stories selected by Daniel Galera.  And in his introduction he explains what he was looking for:

DANIEL GALERA-Introduction
He says it used to be easy to talk about Latin American fiction–magical realism, slums and urban violence.  But now things have expanded.  So he asked 13 writers to put their own Latin American spin on the crime story.

And of course, each McSweeney’s starts with

Letters

DANIEL ALARCÓN writes passionately about Diego Maradona’s famous “Goal of the Century” and how as a child he watched it dozens of times and then saw it thousands of times in his head.  When he learned of Maradona’s questionable “Hand of God” goal, his father said that his previous goal was so good it counted twice.  But Daniel grows sad realizing that the goal of the century also marked the beginning of Maradona’s decline.

LAIA JUFRESA this was a fascinating tale about a game called Let’s Kill Carlo that her family played.   It involves a convoluted history including her mother “inventing” a child in order for her husband to come to Mexico from Italy and avoid conscription there.  But when this child “Carlo” “came of age” they had to think of reason why he wasn’t there anymore–so they invented the Let’s Kill Carlo game.

YURI HERRERA waiting for a bus in New Orleans as a man lay in the gutter also waiting.

VALERIA LUISELLI her friend recently moved to Minneapolis with her nervous wreck Chihuahua named President.   He was diagnoses with terminal cancer and the vet encouraged all manner of alternative therapies.  This friend was a very sweet person and had many virtues. And yet perhaps through her virtue the alternative therapy seems to have worked.

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN wants to know why immigration officers at Newark Airport are such dicks (and this was before Trump–#ITMFA).  He speaks of personal examples of Mexican citizens being treated badly.  He had asked a friend to brings books for him and she was harassed terribly asked why did she need so many bags for such a short stay.  Another time he was flying back to NYC with a Mexican girlfriend.   She went through customs and he didn’t hear anything for hours.  He didn’t know if she would even make it though customs at all–even though she’d done nothing wrong.   He imagines wondering how these officers live and what their lives must be like that they seem to take pleasure in messing with other people’s lives. (more…)

Read Full Post »

 SOUNDTRACK: THE CROSSRHODES-Tiny Desk Concert #704 (February 9, 2018).

Who knew there was explicitly Christian rap?  I mean, obviously there must be. But I never expected to hear it, especially not Christian songs that used the n-word and the f-word.

I’d never heard of The Crossrhodes, so here’s what the blurb says

Witnessing The Crossrhodes perform at the Tiny Desk instantly snapped me back to their early beginnings, just a few miles away from NPR headquarters. In 2001… the Crossrhodes stepped on stage. Week after week, the band passionately performed original material that jumped between society’s woes and their own love lives. Word eventually spread outside of the D.C. area and one-half of the group, Raheem DeVaughn, landed a record deal.

DeVaughn went on to achieve R&B superstardom, earning two Grammy nominations, while the other half of the group, Wes Felton, has remained a pillar of D.C. culture, excelling as both a musician and actor. They reunited and released their first album in over a decade last year. Footprints on the Moon recapitulates and magnifies the ideals they conveyed in the early 2000s with a hyper-focused sense of urgency.

Poet, Raquel Ra Brown opened the show with a poem.  After her introduction, and they were the band is dressed, I expected to hear more of a gospel sound, not for him to start out by going “yo, unh.”

“Footprints on the Moon” seems to be inspirational, but what’s with this lyric:

They lyin’ bout them there two white feet
That landed on the moon a year after they killed King

And again, the songs are fairly pious and you get this couplet:

The only topic of discussion is who they touchin’
Or who they buyin’ or who they fu**in’

Sure there’s politic on the song, but where is this music going?

“How You Gon’ Fall” has a pretty great chorus but the verses are again, pretty rough

cops shot 30 rounds in 15 seconds
4 month old baby in the rear section
another mother gotta call the reverend
a dead daughter, sister, veteran
now the media posing all the questions
slandering the victim pointing out aggression
somehow the angel of god kept the baby protected
coz grandma prayed beyond the pictures and necklace

The tautology of “Praying Prayers” is surprisingly catchy .  It’s probably my favorite song of the bunch

“America” has some well thought out complaints about the country, and it ends with the last few bars of the National Anthem.  I like that they took a knee during that part.

As the show ends, he gets everyone to chant, “I got the power, you got the power, we got the power; that’s power to the people.”

Overall, there was some good stuff in this set. Not my thing but I can certainly appreciate most of it.

[READ: September 21, 2017] “Fistfight, Sacramento, August 1950”

So the crux of this story is that a fist fight between two men brings a man and a woman together.

How delightful.

The story is written in a thoughtful manner, but it is still just about two dumb drunks fighting.

Inexplicably, James Sutter, in a bar, leans over and says–as if to no one–I hate Okies. Frannie Begara challenges him to a fight outside.

So they go out in the dark (the streetlight frames their ring).  Each man has his fan base ringing behind him. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: IBEYI-Tiny Desk Concert #703 (February 7, 2018).

ibeyiI have been fascinated with Ibeyi since I first heard them a couple years ago.  Their more recent song “Deathless” is just outstanding.  I’d also heard they put on a great show.

So I was looking forward to this Tiny Desk.

But just who are they?

They come by their connection to the Afro-Cuban culture by way of their late father, Miguel “Anga” Diaz, an in-demand Cuban percussionist who was part of a vanguard musicians who reinvigorated Cuban music before he died prematurely at age 45 in 2006. The sisters, Lisa-Kaindé (in blue) and Naomi (in orange) Díaz, carry that calling in their DNA, and how they’ve manifested it into their own art is nothing short of amazing.

The show begins with the sisters singing a capella: an invocation of a West African Yoruba deity called “Oddudua.”

The first song they play is “Deathless.”  “This song is dear to our hearts.  It’s made for you; for us.  Whatever happens, this moment is deathless.  We made it for you to feel for three minutes and believe it.”  Naomi hits a sampler to get the horns going and then Lisa-Kaindé plays the nifty buzzy keyboard melody and vocal samples.  Then Naomi starts playing the batá, which is really fun to watch.  Lisa-Kaindé sings lead (her voice breaks on one of the high notes)

The twins (Ibeyi means ‘twins” in Yoruban) perform their music with the batá drums associated with Yoruban sacred music and their elaborate vocal arrangements channel the call-and-response of traditional African music. The melding of their voices when they harmonize can be breathtaking, but the same can be said about the messages behind their songs, themes that inspire both inward introspection and celebrations of life.

The drums are such a cool percussive element that I didn’t expect.  The chorus is so uplifting and joyful even as it has a tinge of menace.  They get he audience to sing along in a rather inspiring call and response of the chorus.

“Valé” is a lullaby written for their niece–she sings frozen and she’s really into it.   Naomi sings leads while Lisa-Kaindé plays the pretty piano melody.  It is a delicate, quiet song (a lullaby, duh).  Then Lisa-Kaindé sings lead and Naomi plays cool percussion on a box drum which include lap-slapping as well.

Lisa-Kaindé says “Transmission” is the heart of their album.  It’s nearly seven minutes long and goes through several changes throughout.  They are both by the keys for the start of this one, with Naomi playing bass notes and both of them singing out of the same microphone.

The audience sings the gentle “Transmission” chorus as Naomi speaks in Spanish and then she adds the batá and sings some lovely harmonies.  It’s quite moving.

[READ: February 6, 2018] “Stanville”

I’ve been meaning to read one of Kushner’s novels for a while now because of great reviews.  But in the meantime, I have these short stories.

I’m not sure if this is an excerpt or not.  It feels pretty full on its own, but I coud easily see it going much further.

This story is done from two points of view.  A third person POV for the one main character, Gordon Hauser.  And then, later, a first person point of view for another major character Romy Hall.

Gordon Hauser is teaching G.E.D. classes in a women’s prison.  He was surprised to find that people would much rather teach in men’s prisons.  Indeed, no guard wanted to work in a women’s prison “female prisoners bickered with the guards and contested everything, and the guards seemed to find this more treacherous than having to subdue riots.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: SKATING POLLY-The Big Fit (2014).

The Big Fit is a slicker and more satisfying album from this duo.  Their songs are still noisy and abrasive and neither singer holds back, but overall the songs sound even better (I’m sure it’s the production as well).

“Oddie Moore” starts out quietly with just Peyton singing and then Kelli joining her (showing off some nice singing and harmonies) and a really catchy melody.

But it’s “Perfume for Now” that really shows how much their songwriting has jumped in one album.  It begins quietly with some cool bass lines and Kelli’s quieter singing.  Then comes the chorus in which Kelli sing/screams a line and Peyton basically just melodically screams a punctuation mark.  It’s terrific.  Then just to add to the tension, there’s a quiet bridge: “I know you wanted to be class white trash / Or were you going for class clown?”  And when they join together at the end of the chorus in harmony it’s really great.  I can’t help but feel that this song encapsulates the Skating Polly sound perfectly (and it was amazing live).

“Pretective Boy” switches things up a both with a poppier sound and some cool vocal parts from both singers.  “Cosmetic Skull” (whatever that means) is a piano-based song–a big change of pace with the sweet tribute to their matriarch: “I want to dance with Exene, coz she can lead.”  It’s a quieter song that shows that they’re not just all screams and feedback.  Their dual vocals at the end sound really cool, too.

“Nothing More Than a Body” has a simple, quiet guitar-chugging opening.  But rather than just the chugging chords, each line ends with three picked notes–it’s those little details that elevate these songs.  Kelli’s interesting “oooh” backing vocals that changes styles between lines are also a nice touch.  And then there’s the big chorus with the backing vocals mixed almost creepily in the mix.

“Hey Sweet” is a blistering noisy blast of a song–screamed by Kelli with a relentless bad-ass guitar riff.  Even a fast blast like this is 3 minutes long–these girls do not slouch when it comes to songwriting.

I was puzzled by “Morning Dew” because it sounded so unlike them and seemed so…odd.  I had no idea that it was written in the 1960s by Bonnie Dobson.  I thought it was such an odd song that a person is saying he heard someone and the other voice say she did not (in the Skating Polly version, Kelli screams this section as it turns into blistering punk).  I was really puzzled by the song and have now found out: “The song is a dialogue between the last man and woman left alive following an apocalyptic catastrophe: Dobson has stated that the initial inspiration for “Morning Dew” was the film On the Beach which is focused on the survivors of virtual global annihilation by nuclear holocaust. The actual writing of the song occurred in 1961 while Dobson was staying with a friend in Los Angeles: Dobson would recall how the guests at her friend’s apartment were speculating about a nuclear war’s aftermath and “after everyone went to bed, I sat up and suddenly I just started writing this song [although] I had never written [a song] in my life.”  Creepy.

“Arms & Opinons” bonces back with a piano melody  the middle section with the repeating piano melody and the backing vocals is spooky and very cool.  When both girls sing the next part it sounds tremendous.

Oh, please forget me for my sins
My charming hungriness has got me once again
My father sent me out, he told me what to do
But instead of listening, I filled up his cup to the top with glue
He tried to drink, he tried to swallow
But due to the lack of the air his face was turning dark blue
And I felt bad just for a second
But mainly I was laughing because I just brought the day

“For the View” is a quieter song with Peyton working through many different vocal deliveries–whispering, falsetto, a scream like Corin Tucker, and some good old rage screaming, too.  The drums are heavy on the toms which is also very cool.

“Stop Digging” has so many parts, it’s very neat.  It starts with a simple bass line and Peyton’s drumming.  Kelli sings quietly until the loud chorus which is all distorted.  The third sections sounds really different and catchy and then there’s a quick fourth section.  And then when the song seems like it’s over they add in yet another part with a great heavy distorted riff and big vocals for both of them.  The song could end there, but it adds a coda: “the first rule of holes, stop digging; the first step of getting out of a hole, stop digging.”

“Across the Caves” is a piano song.  It is a little faster than the other with some good drumming.  The disc ends with “Picker of His Words.”  This is a quiet acoustic song with Kelli and Peyton singing alternating verses to each other.  Kelli plays a simple bass riff and Peyton plays an interesting counterpoint guitar line over it.  It sounds pretty sophisticated and really shows off how nice their voices are when unadorned.

Since recording this album, they have added their brother to the band and have done work with Louise and Nina from Veruca Salt.  I’m really curious to see what their new stuff sounds like.  And I really hope I can see them live again–they were tremendous.

[READ: September 20, 2017] “A Recognized Man”

Timothy is a famous actor.  And he has a secret.  Lots of secrets, actually.

He is in love with René “or felt he very soon would be.”  He and Rene would be going to the Award ceremony in a few months but tonight was a special party for Timothy’s birthday.

René was not famous and he still really enjoyed seeing the reactions of people when they recognized Timothy. Timothy had other boyfriends who quickly tired of that adulation,but René did not.

Timothy is looking forward to a quiet night out with René.  He pretends to be surprised that René is taking them to Timothy’s favourite restaurant. But he is genuinely surprised to see that other people are there too. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: VOIRVOIR-The Free-P (2016).

I got this Free Ep at a VoirVoir (not Voir Voir) show in Bethlehem.  This EP contains four songs.

Two of them are new and two are re-recordings of songs from their debut album.

“Quit It All” is a bit poppier than their debut album.  The 90s synth is a nice touch to this song which, make no mistake, still rocks.   The middle noise section (skronking guitar solo and great drums) is a highlight as are the catchy verses.  The band even submitted a video for the Tiny Desk Contest (I had no idea).

“Sides” is perhaps one of the best catchy alt rock songs I’ve heard in years and I am bummed that they didn’t get recognized for it.  It’s got a great 90s alt-rock sound and wonderful harmonies in the backing vocals.  There’s a video for this song as well.  You can also stream the song on bandcamp.

The other two songs, “Stupid for Now” and “There are No Good Goodbyes” were recorded at WDIY (Lehigh Valley’s Community NPR Station) in a stripped down format.  You can stream the songs here.  It’s interesting to hear them without the fuzz and drums.  The songs are solid and work very well although I do like the originals better.  The show also includes an interview with the three members who play the stripped down show.  The DJ asks their influences and while main singer guitarist Matt Molchany demurs,  April Smith says Built to Spill) and Josh Maskornick says Primus and Superchunk.

And if you can’t get enough (since they haven’t released that much) here’s a live show from Shards.

[READ: January 10, 2016 & January 10, 2018] Goldfish Memory

For some reason, I read this book back in 2016 and then didn’t post about it–I felt like I needed to read it again, and so I waited almost exactly two years and re-read it and enjoyed it even more this second time.  Almost like actual goldfish memory.

The back of this book made the stories sound really compelling:  “what does it mean to have a connection with someone? This is the question these brilliant short stories try to answer.”  The note said that this was the first translation of Monique Schwitter’s form-breaking work.  The translation was by Eluned Gramich.

I’m not sure how form-breaking these stories are, but they are certainly interesting.  They remind me in some ways of Julie Hecht–a narrator who is connected to people but very distantly.  But while Hecht’s narrators are critical and dismissive of everyone, Schwitter’s narrators just seem to be incapable of connecting properly.  You can feel the longing in the distance between them.  I also like how these missed connections cover all kinds of relationships–familial, sexual, friendship, professional, even passing acquaintances.

Few of the characters seem to be able to tell anyone else how they really feel–even when they are dying.  There is sadness at loss, but a kind of c’est la vie about it as well.  And all along, Schwitter’s writing is consistently excellent and the stories are really enjoyable. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: CHRIS FORSYTH & THE SOLAR MOTEL BAND-Dreaming in the Non-Dream (2017).

I was anticipating watching Forsyth at the end of last year but the show sold out on me.  (Note: he is playing nearby this Friday).

I heard about him from a stellar Tiny Desk Concert and was totally psyched to hear this four-song full length album.

The disc opens with the 11 minute History & Science-Fiction that starts with a slow bass line and lots of percussion.  After a short intro the guitar comes in with whammy bar’d chords.  It resolves into a really catchy “chorus” and then a slow down that reminds me of a softer “Marquee Moon.”  But instead of turning into a rocking solo section, it totally mellows out, with keyboards and cymbals and a pretty guitar melody.  It slowly builds out of that by switching from organ to sax.

“Have We Mistaken the Bottle for the Whiskey Inside” is the only song with words.  Of the four it’s my least favorite, but that’s only because I like his guitar playing better than his singing.  It’s a fairly simple riff–kind of Crazy Horse-ish with Forsyth’s deep spoken-singing asking the title question.  After about 3 and a half minutes, the song starts to pick up speed and turns into a huge freak out of noise and chaos. 
“Dreaming in the Non-Dream” begins as a simple picked guitar line repeating.  Throw in some a steady drum beat and some buzzy synths and the song starts to build. And then Forsyth’s soloing makes an appearance.  At first he is just playing harmony notes alongside the lower notes but at the 2 minute mark, the full throttle wah-wah guitar soloing takes off (the backing guitar also throws in some cool wah-wah, too).  And the song runs as a full instrumental for over 15 glorious minutes.  But it is not just a 15 minute guitar solo.  The whole band gets involved–the rest of the band is fully present and there’s a synth solo.  But it’s all within that catchy melody line.  Fifteen minutes never went by so fast.
 “Two Minutes Love” is a beautiful two-minute song.  Gentle guitars interweaving over lush bass lines and twining with the other guitar.  It’s a nice delicate end to that spiraling CD.

[READ: December 27, 2017] Obama: An Intimate Portrait

Sarah got me this book for Christmas and it is awesome.  I wanted to spend 2018 looking forward, getting past the dumpster fire of 2017 and hoping we can move past what we are bogged down with.  #ITMFA #RESIST

But this book was just an amazing look back and something that gives me hope that we can move forward past what we have now.

Pete Souza is a tremendous photographer and this collection offers amazing access to a President who was full of gravitas and thoughtfulness.

We were concerned that reading this would be too depressing given the State of our country and the Embarrassment in Chief.  And in some ways it was depressing.  But in many ways it was what it was intended to be: inspirational.

It’s hard to believe that before our Chief Idiot was bumbling his way through life and giving literally zero thought to anything except his own ego, we as a country had 8 years of a leader who, these pictures show, put serious thought and concern into (almost) everything he did.  Obama was never quick to do anything–he was often mocked for his slow speech patterns–but this is a job where rushing to judgment never does anyone any good.  And you can see the pressures of the world weighing on him.

But this book is not all about pressure.  There are delightful moments of joy–with his daughters, with delightful citizens, with staff and of course with Michele. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »