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Archive for the ‘Romance’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JENN GRANT-Live at Massey Hall (June 23, 2017).

I don’t know Jenn Grant, although her music sounds somewhat familiar.  She’s from PEI originally but her family moved to Nova Scotia when she was ten.  She recently moved back to Nova Scotia with her husband, where they live by the ocean and the woods.

For this show, she is joined by Daniel Ledwell, Michael Belyea and Tavo Dies de Bonilla.  On a couple of songs, she has Julie Fader and Kim Harris for backing vocals (this is Fader’s second appearance in the series).

Years ago shed opened for BNL at Massey Hall, but she wasn’t present. This time she’s very aware of things like the large but intimate feeling of the place.  During soundcheck she felt she never sounded better

“Paradise” is a slow keyboard song with electronic drums.  It’s moody in a Twin Peaks kind of way.  Although it picks up for the chorus.  The drum sounds in the middle of the song sound like when my phone speaker is over powered, it’s unsettling.

“I am a River” is interrupted by her speaking about her new record.  It’s interesting that her music is quite electronic since she is so inspired by nature.  Although this song does have more organic elements like piano and such.

She introduces “The Fighter” by saying “This is a song from an album that we made once.”  She plays electric guitar and that creates more drama and texture in the song.  This has a great overall sound.

“I’ve Got Your Fire” starts with piano.  This song sounds familiar–I wonder if I know it or if it just sounds like a Jane Siberry song.  It’s very pretty.

“No One’s Gonna Love You (Quite Like I Do)” is mellow song, also quite pretty.  “Galaxies” is a bit higher energy and she says it’s “fun to perform for an audience.”  It’s got a cool retro keyboard sound.  Dreamer ends he show quietly with delightful backing vocals.  I like the way the song slowly builds.

[READ: January 25, 2018] “Fourteen Feet of Water in My House”

This story sets everything up right from the get go:

My hometown flooded.  Prediction, as usual, failed us.

And so, when the narrator wakes up with a river in his house, he is quite pleased to see that his boat, kept in the backyard, was banging on his second storey window.  He is barely awake but he jumps into the boat headfirst.

“This is real… Dad’s house is ruined…. Boat seems fine though…. People probably stranded … ”

The rest of the story is his adventure saving people. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPEACHES-Live at Massey Hall (August 4, 2016).

Peaches is afraid of no one.  She bears it all, lyrically, visually, sexually (sample lyric: “Can’t talk right now this chick’s dick is in my mouth”).

She stands center stage, all by herself atop a small pyramid.  She programs some beats at the back of the pyramid and then begins singing the lyrics to “Rub.”  She demonstrates quite exaggeratedly where the rubbing out to take place

Tell on my pussy
Whistle blow my clit
Watch it open up
Cause it can’t keep a secret

What’s great about Peaches is that she was 49 at the time of this performance and she held nothing back–doing a very impressive split at the top of “Operate.”

She began the show with an oversized cape and what looks like a catcher’s chest protector with the outline of abs on it.  When she takes those off she reveals a body suit with hands all over it–grabbing her.

Next up is “Vaginoplasty.”  She introduces the song that it “is not about a big dick or big tits it’s about my big fucking vagina.”  Its at this point that her two dancers (Jess Daly and Agent Cleave) come out wearing gigantic vagina body suits.

In addition to being about her vagina though, she also addresses transgender issues

If you’re born as a man
But know you’re a woman
I understand
Gotta get it, get it girl

About this song she later said:

I think “Vaginoplasty” is about an important subject, but I also think it’s hilarious. The song is about a big vag, but then you have to think, Why does that gross me out?

Her voice is terrific on this song as well, she hits some really powerful notes.

“Mean Something” features a duet with “Feist.”  Feist sings the eerily compelling chorus.  It’s a great song without being explicit.

During an interview she talks about going to Berlin where she was appreciated before returning home to make her album.

After an onstage costume change, Peaches wears a fabulous outfit that’s a giant vagina and she walks out into the audience, walking across the backs of the chairs until she stops and says, “These are my parents!” (their reaction is..amusing).

“How You Like My Cut” is more of a rap–incredibly sparse with lyrics that are not terribly eloquent

How you like my cut
How you like my cut what
How you like my cut

But it seems more about the mood than the words.  Words are suitably important for “Fuck the Pain Away” (now that is something you did think you’d be singing at Massey Hall).  Both songs feature her dancers in minimal bondage gear.

The chorus that gets the crowd chanting is

S I S I U D, stay in school cause it’s the best

With repetition, the lines eventually sound like “SIS, stay in school cause it’s the best IUD.” Peaches thus ties the education of women directly to birth control and reproductive autonomy.

For the final two songs, she has one more outfit change (which leaves her topless, but with pasties on).  “Dumb Fuck” has an incredibly catchy chorus of “dumb fuck, you dumb fuck, you dumb fuck” which is certainly cathartic.

The final song is “Close Up” and is a duet with Joel Gibb from The Hidden Cameras.  They have a lot of fun with the song.

[READ: January 9, 2017] “The Bog Girl” 

Some stories are so weird that you have to keep reading.  And when they get even weirder and even more compelling, you sort of marvel at the way it unfolds.

This story was one of those.

Cillian is a fifteen year old boy working in the peatlands in an island off of Ireland on the archipelago known as the Four Horsemen.  He is working illegally, but his boss hired him because his house abutted the peatlands.

The story gives a brief history of peat–how it is created and used for fuel and explains that the lack of oxygen allows things to decompose there–so there are all kinds of dead animals in the peat.  But no one notices because it is now industrially harvested.

Then one day, as he is digging up the peat, Cillian sees a hand.  It proves to be the hand of a girl.  When she is exhumed, her body comes out intact.  She is cute with a sweet smile.  The police determine that she is not a recent murder, that she is probably 2,000 years old.  Well, Cillian is lucky that he lives on a remote island. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BEDOUINE-Tiny Desk Concert #737 (April 30, 2018).

Bedouine has a lovely clear voice.  She’s a genuine folk throwback treasure, without being retro.  Her songs are remarkably simple and yet they are rich and almost enchanting.  There is something about the way she sings that makes you want to listen, to lean in and hear what she has to say.

Her guitar playing is also very pretty.  Again, a reasonably simple finger-picking style.  but it is simultaneously precise and warm.

I saw her live recently and she held an entire club rapt despite being an opening act for two much louder bands.  So who is Bedouine?

Azniv Korkejian is Bedouine, a singer and acoustic guitarist who echoes sounds from the 1960’s North American folk songwriters, but with vocal inflections that feel closer to Leonard Cohen than to Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez.  This is as spare as music can be – songs stripped to their essence and just gorgeous.

Azniv Korkejian was born in Aleppo Syria. Her parents were Armenian and she spent her childhood in Saudi Arabia. But a green card lottery win found her family moving to Boston and Houston. Eventually she made her way to Los Angeles with important time spent in Austin, Texas and Savannah, Ga. The name she chose, Bedouine, reflects the traveler, the wanderer in her.

She plays three songs, just her and her guitar.  The songs don’t diverge that much from each other.  She even jokes that the second song is a different song than the first one, she promises.

“One of These Days” is a pretty song that seems so optimistic because you can feel the smile in her voice as she sings.  But as with much of what she plays, there is a kind of melancholy to it.

“Solitary Daughter” opens with the same chord (and picking) but soon shifts textures. I love her delivery on this song in which she lets her voice drop a register and adds a kind of Laura Marling spoken word style to part of it.

The middle third is just stunning

I don’t need the walls
to bury my grave
I don’t need your company
to feel saved
I don’t need the sunlight
My curtains don’t draw
I don’t need objects
to keep or to pawn
I don’t want your pity
Concern or your scorn
I’m calm by my lonesome
I feel right at home
And when the wind blows
I get to dancing
My fun is the rhythm of air
When it’s prancing

“Nice and Quiet” is an intimate love song, but one tinged with sadness.  It has such a charming and sweet melody, which really sums up her music pretty well.

[READ: March 5, 2018] The Prince and the Dressmaker

Jen Wang is back with an outstanding book.  I absolutely love her drawing style.  The look of her dressmaker, Frances, is just adorable.  I love her clothes, I especially love her face, which is cartoony but not caricature-y.  The prince’s nose is huge but not overtly comical and adds a distinctive element to the story.

But what makes this book stand out even more than the art is the story.

The Prince is holding a ball.  When the scene pans back we see horse-drawn carriages.  In other words, the time is sort of nebulously olde.  The women are dressed fancy, with petticoats.  There is much stress around town because all the young women wish to go to the ball.

A woman storms into a couture shop with a mud-covered dress.  Her daughter decided to play in the dress and it is ruined.  Can then makes something for her in time?  Frances is available and the owner gives her the job. (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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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…)

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 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…)

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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…)

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