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Archive for the ‘Set at School’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: Y&T-“Mean Streak” (1983).

In the early 1980s Y&T had a couple of albums that made it onto my radar.   This one, Mean Streak, had this song which I liked enough. It’s got some cool riffs and Dave Meniketti’s raspy but distinctive voice.

I remember liking this song, even though I really had no idea what was going on in the lyrics.  The chorus where everyone sings “mean streak” behind his lyrics was certainly the catchy selling point.   But this is hard rock more than metal and is not really my thing.

I may have bought this album, but I know I have the follow up In Rock We Trust, which was more poppy (and they were more pretty).  I had forgotten all about “Lipstick and Leather” yet another cheesy pop metal song about, well, lipstick and leather.

People who were fans of Y&T (like Posehn) were die-hards, but even listening now I see why I never really got into them, even if I liked them for a bit.  Maybe it was a California thing.

[READ: January 2019] Forever Nerdy

S. got this for me for Christmas after we saw Posehn on a late night show and he talked about his nerdy obsessions, including Rush.  It seemed like an obvious fit.  And it totally was.

Posehn is a few years older than me, but if he had lived in my town we would have totally been friends (except I would have never talked to him because he was older).  Anyhow, we had more or less the same obsessions and the same nerdy outlook.  Although I was never really picked on like he was so perhaps I was a little cooler than he was.  Although I never smoked or drank when I was in high school so maybe he was cooler than me.

Things to know about before reading this–Posehn is a vulgar dude–there’s not much kid friendly is in this book.  Also this book isn’t really an autobiography exactly. I mean it is in that he wrote it and its about him, but if you were dying to find out fascinating stories about his crazy life, this book isn’t really it. I t’s more about the things he was obsessed with–in true nerdy fandom.

Although, Brian, what nerd doesn’t have an index in his own book? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CAT POWER-Tiny Desk Concert #821 (February 4, 2019).

I remember when Cat Power was a buzz artist who had signed to Matador.  I bought her album in 1996, but I guess it didn’t leave that much of an impression on me.

Since then, she has been a buzz artist for performing and then for not performing and then for performing again.  All the new music of hers that I have heard seems to get slower and softer.

The biggest surprise about the Tiny Desk Concert was how full of smiles she was and yet the blurb makes her sound uncomfortable:

Most artists who play the Tiny Desk are at least a little nervous. Performing in broad daylight in a working office full of staring faces is outside the comfort zones of most people. But Chan Marshall, the unforgettable voice behind Cat Power, seemed especially uneasy when she settled in for her set. Rather than taking center stage, close to the audience, she stepped back and to the side to be closer to her pianist and friend, Erik Paparazzi, for much of the performance. She intermittently steadied herself by resting a hand under her chin while clutching a cup of tea, and she ran through three songs without a break, making her set sound more like a Cat Power medley than a series of distinct songs.

So I don’t know any of the songs she played here and when I first listened I actually assumed she’d only played two songs because the first two blended together.

Regardless, the music was arresting and beautifully orchestrated, with simple piano lines and brushed drums backing a voice that could only be hers.

Opening with “Wanderer,” the title track to Cat Power’s latest album, Marshall sang of restless love and yearning with a nod toward motherhood and her 3-year-old son: “Twist of fate would have me sing at your wedding / With a baby on my mind, now your soul is in between.”

It has a quiet, simple piano melody (from Erik Paparazzi) and a gentle guitar (from Adeline Jasso) that imperceptibly pushes it forward.  After a minute, the brushed drums (from Alianna Kalaba) come in to add a little snap to the song.

“Woman,” another track from Wanderer starts immediately.  She had recorded this song with Lana Del Rey and I recall liking it. This version sounds so much like the previous song that I don’t even recognize the original in it.  The differences between the two songs are that the piano notes have changed a little (but since they repeat all the way through, it’s not hugely noticeable) and the guitar now uses a slide.  Otherwise the beat is I believe unchanged.

She segues right into “The Moon,” from her 2006 album The Greatest.  The only distinction here is that the guitar and drums stop briefly while the newly repeating piano picks up a slightly different melody.  This song sounds so much like the previous one because she sings the word “Moon” so much like the word “Woman” (often given Moon more than one syllable) I couldn’t tell that she was saying something different.

I suppose if I were in the right mood I would have found this mesmerizing and enchanting.  But mostly I just found it rather dull.

[READ: February 5, 2019] Speak

I hadn’t read this novel and, in fact, I wasn’t exactly sure what it was about (although I knew it was intense).  The only reason I picked it up was because I thought it was a First Second publication and I plan to read all of their books.  This was listed in their 2018 publication list, but it ultimately wasn’t published by them, it turns out.

S. knew the book from her work with teens and said she didn’t want to read the graphic novel version.  So I expected a harrowing, potentially unreadable story.

But Anderson has created an excellent and compelling story built around a harrowing incident.  She also doesn’t detail the harrowing incident until later in the story, so by the time we hear about it we are even more sympathetic to Melinda.

I will say that as the story opened (because I didn’t know the timeline), I thought that the kids were being unrealistically mean to her.  I thought she was a new student at the school (it’s her first year in high school) and I couldn’t imagine why people really had it in for her.  It seemed hard to believe.  Especially as we realize pretty quickly that the incident has already happened.

Then it gradually comes out that kids are mad at her for something she did.  It is connected to the incident, but clearly isn’t about the incident because she hasn’t told anyone about it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Willoughby’s Beach (2011).

After releasing five new albums in 2017, KGATLW spent 2018 re-releasing their first five releases.  These were out of print and hard to find.  And now they’re back.

Back in 2011, KGATLW was more of a goofy side project (hence the name).  But they coalesced as a seven-piece band and proceeded to make an EP–Willoughby’s Beach.  At nine songs in about 25 minutes, this garage rock/dirty blues project pretty well flies past.  Lyrics are an afterthought (most songs repeat one line) and most of the songs are under 2 and a half minutes.  It is great zipping fun with fuzzy guitars, fuzzy harmonicas, fuzzy vocals and an all around DIY feel.

“Danger $$$” is a fast, crazy blues with a wild harmonica solo and the repeated shouted lyrics of “danger money” between lots of whoops and screams.  “Black Tooth” opens with a similarly fast riff but it immediately slows down into a slower but still rocking riff.  “Lunch Meat” is a crazy fast and catchy song with the full lyric: “They made me get up in the morning morning morning morning.”

“Let it Bleed” is the longest song on the disc at 3:14.  It’s slower and the repeated lyrics are far more comprehensible (I want to see my lover again).  The wonderfully titled “Crookedile” has a kind of a spy theme for its music dark with echoing squealing guitars and chanted vocals.  What “just say god is on your side, he’s on your side” has to do with the title I have no idea.  “Dead Beat” is also (relatively) long, but it is much faster with lots of whoops and a simple but addictive guitar line.

“Dusbtin Fletcher” is a fun punk song with lots of big backing vocals–like The Monkees doing punk.  Oohs and oh ho ohs make this an incredibly poppy song.  “Stoned Mullet” has two sets of lyrics: “jack it” and “green out.”  Your guess is as good as mine.  It’s fast and catchy with a wonderful chorus.

“Willoughby’s Beach” is quick and catchy, a wonderful end to the disc.  The song is the definition of three-chord rock and features the lyric: “Just because I like you, it doesn’t mean I like you.”  Superb stuff.

[READ: January 31, 2019] Secret Coders: Monsters & Modules

This book ends the Secret Coders storyline.

It begins with the boys feeling very calm as they work out a code that will get them to travel to Flatland.  But Hopper doesn’t understand why they aren’t freaking out since as soon as they work out the code they will be travelling to a world with one fewer dimension!

Using a simple repeating code, the turtle makes the opening and they fall into the second dimension.  Eni turns into a square, Josh turns into a triangle and Hopper turns into a line!  And we learned in the previous books that lines (and women in general) were considered nothing.

They are immediately bothered by circles–the most superior shape in Flatland.  After some altercations, Josh and Eni are thrown in jail.  Hopper is able to hide because she is just a line and is therefore very hard to see. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LIGHTSPEED CHAMPION (“Field Recording” March 2, 2009).

Years before NPR created a category called “Field Recordings,” they were creating Field Recordings–“backstage” (or elsewhere) recordings of bands.  Most of these seem to happen at Music Festivals where musicians just seem to be hanging around anyway.

I have no idea how many of these there are.  In fact, the only reason I discovered this one is because there was a link to it from the Blood Orange Tiny Desk Concert.

Because it turns out that Devonté Hyness, the guy behind Blood Orange was once Dev Hynes, the guy behind Lightspeed Champion.

And so, eleven years ago, Lightspeed Champion played SXSW.

It was a spectacularly beautiful day in Austin, TX when Lightspeed Champion’s Dev Hynes and violinist Mike Siddell met with All Songs Considered’s Bob Boilen for this exclusive outdoor performance. Hynes and Siddell offered up an intimate little set as they ran through four songs, opening with “Tell Me What It’s Worth,” followed by “Everyone I Know is Listening to Crunk,” “Galaxy of the Lost” and an inspired cover of Olivia Newton John’s “Xanadu.”

For all four songs, it’s Dev on acoustic guitar and Mike on violin.  Like on “Tell Me What It’s Worth” Dev sings mostly quietly with his accent audible.  The violin adds sweet touches and occasional solos.

He introduces “Everyone I Know is Listening to Crunk” by saying that crunk is a musical genre that originated about two hours east of here.  Li’l John more or less started it and the queen of crunk is Sierra.  It features this amusing chorus (?)

my drawings are starting to suck
My best friends are all listening to crunk
i feel like the world’s gone crazy
…sometimes in the cold night my phone rings but it’s not you

“Galaxy of the Lost” is a slow pretty ballad with a lovely rising scale in the middle.

Finally comes his cover of “Xanadu” (a song I love).  The opening guitar sounds like “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” and I love the way he resolves it into “Xanadu.”  The sprinkles of violin are a nice touch.

It’s pretty amazing how different this sounds from Blood Orange.  It’s an impressive development for an artist.

[READ: January 23, 2019] Secret Coders: Potions & Parameters

Secret Coders 4 ended with a puzzle.  But I read it months ago, so I haven’t even thought about it since then.  In fact, I have conceded that I will not learn basic programming from this series, so I’m not even trying.  I could see, though, that if you were reading these in quick succession that it would be fun to learn how to do what they are doing and to try the tests.

When we last left our heroes they were being attacked by biting ducks (!).  They use their program skills and the hard-light-generating Light-Light to escape.  And they wind up in a room with all the people who have drunk the green soda.  Including Hopper’s dad.  What?

As they try to snap him out of the “green!” stupor he is in, Dr. One-Zero arrives with Paz.  Turns out Paz was double crossing the kids all along and now Dr. One-Zero has the hard light generator and has the kids trapped.  He’s that much closer to winning–and his final plan is pretty terrible. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BUDDY-Tiny Desk Concert #815 (January 9, 2019).

Buddy is a pretty upbeat rapper from Compton.  He’s dressed in yellow, he laughs a lot.  he plays a groovy kind of gentle raping.

The same soulful hybrid of rapping and singing that compelled Pharrell to sign him as a teenager found Buddy stretching L.A. hip-hop beyond its typical gangsta narrative, while dancing with his dreams and shaking off his demons.

So it’s funny that the blurb is all about the drama of his Tiny Desk.

When Buddy, a preacher’s son from Compton, turns to me with eyebrows raised on the elevator ride inside NPR’s corporate headquarters, it’s hard to tell if the question that comes next is in preparation for his performance or pure provocation.

“Can we smoke in here?!” he asks with a grin that elicits stifled laughter from his bandmates and a few newsroom journalists along for the ride. It’s a blunt request, even from a self-professed “weed connoisseur,” and it kicks off one of the most dramatic Tiny Desks in recent memory.

That drama doesn’t happen until midway through the 11 minute set, and we don’t actually see it.

He starts “Legend,” which is really only an introduction.  He asks everyone to sing “Legend.”  You all got to say this, Legend.  You there in the glasses, you gotta say that shit Legend.

Everyone wants to be a legend, as far as I’m concerned, it’s my turn.

“Trouble On Central” is a song about aspirations and dreams, but being stuck.

Buddy is clearly a natural at this.  He’s also an alumni of actress Wendy Raquel Robinson’s Amazing Grace Conservatory, an L.A. program known for steeping inner-city kids in the performing arts. Between the two, he earned his dramatic chops early.”I’m so used to being in front of an audience of people,” he tells me, “just doing my thing and not really caring about it.” He’s definitely not afraid of the camera. In fact, he’s one of the rare Tiny Desk guests who stares directly into it throughout much of his set, performing for the camera in the most literal sense.

I did think it was odd how often he looked at the camera, and I see that most people don’t

“Hey Up There” is where the controversy arises.

So when Buddy proceeded to fire up a blunt midway through his set, we had to stop the show and ask him to put it out before re-recording his song, “Hey Up There.” (Smoking is not allowed on NPR property.) The performance was still lit,

“Real Life S**t”  has a sweetly sung “la da da da da” backing vocal which he joins in on from time to time.  He raps mostly and throws in some fast rapping at the end of a verse, but mostly this is a groovy song.

While onstage drama kept Buddy a safe distance from the streets, he still experienced the kind of coming-of-age struggles that shaped his personal and political outlook. On “Real Life S**t,” the opening song on his album and the last song in his Tiny Desk set, he conveys that reality with raw sentiment for the sitting President in lyrics straight from the record: “Fuck Donald Trump and that Nigger’s son.”

At first I didn’t think too much of Buddy’s set but after another listen, I enjoyed his whole attitude.  It would have been fun to see him light up and what reaction it caused.

[READ: November 1, 2018] Check Please Book 1

This was a fun, fully enjoyable graphic novel about hockey–with the typical First Second quality, of course.

Like many books lately, this one started as a webcomic and you can read all of this book and more online. (but print is better).

The story follow Eric “Bitty” Bittle as he goes off to college at Samwell University.  Ukazu went to Yale and Samwell is meant to be in the ECAC league just like Yale and Princeton.  Bitty came to hockey through figure skating.  He is quite tiny, especially compared to the other players.  He also bakes a lot of pies.  And, we learn soon enough, Bitty is gay.  Fortunately for our hero, he went to a school that is very tolerant (his coming out story is very funny).

His hockey team also has a star player Jack Zimmerman.  Who?  Jack Zimmerman is the son of the legendary Bob Zimmerman who has won more awards and trophies than you can count.  But Jack was anxious trying to live up to his legendary father and he took anxiety medication for it which ended up with him in rehab and presumably no career.  But he found a home at Samwell. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALLEN STONE-“Sleep” (Field Recordings, November 1, 2012).

I read this performer’s name as Alien Stone and was kind of excited.  Far more than when I realized his name was just Allen Stone.

This [Allen Stone: A Rollicking Moment, Performed On The Wind] is the final Field Recording set backstage at the Sasquatch Festival.

It amused me as the song started that they start singing “Danger Zone”  And the opening moment where:

“I feel like Zeus,” Allen Stone announces with a laugh as gusts of wind whip his long hair in dramatic fashion. With a mountainous vista behind him, he’s found himself in the kind of majestic rock ‘n’ roll moment that requires a callout to Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone.”

I was thinking that Stone sounded a bit like Stevie Wonder as he sang (which the blurb agrees with), but I also sensed a bit of Jamiroquai.

I thought the song was kind of dull, but maybe that’s because it is normally much bigger.

Usually, Stone performs his bluesy soul with the aid of a crack band, but here, we got the 25-year-old belter to perform his single “Sleep” — usually a big, rollicking rave-up — with just a guitarist (Trevor Larkin, performing unplugged) to supplement Stone’s voice. Channeling Stevie Wonder in all but appearance, Stone demonstrates here that his sound can withstand just about anything, even as it’s stripped down to its skeleton and performed on the wind.

I’ve not heard of him since this, so I don’t know what happened to him, but I’m not really that curious to find out.

[READ: January 11, 2017] “The Hanging of the Schoolmarm”

This is a short, simple story in which the title pretty much tells the whole thing.

But Coover has some fun as it gets there.

The story opens with the schoolmarm playing poker in the town saloon.  At stake is the saloon itself.  The men are awed by her refined and lofty character–they cuss a lot, but never around her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HANNI EL KHATIB-“Save Me” (Field Recordings, August 7, 2013).

I love when Field Recordings like this one [Hanni El Khatib Gets Saved In The Desert] are filmed outside.  For this one Hanni El Khatib and his bandmates head to the Mojave Desert where it is getting cold pretty quickly.

I’ve never heard of Hanni before, and his music is generic enough that I don’t imagine I ever will.  The acoustic guitar plays a simple back and forth chord structure to the rhythm of hand jive.  Hanni plays a series of solos on the electric guitar in between simple verses (although the line about boys in the desert seems apt).

After a misfire with the maraca–it is so loud that Hanni can’t hear himself–the other guitarist suggests he should play it more nonchalantly–like business casual.

There’s nothing bad about the song, it’s just , well, bluesy garage rock, a fairly uninteresting style.  But the setting is sure pretty

The Los Angeles singer-songwriter, on a break from touring in support of his latest album In the Dirt, gamely stripped down his loud, bluesy garage-rock sound and let the stunning backdrop of Joshua Tree National Park provide the drama.

[READ: January 9, 2017] “The Gospel According to García”

This story was short and was packed full of so much.  Especially since Garcia wasn’t even present.

The story is told in second person past as a classroom full of kids watch a man come in.  There are 12 students on the verge of failing.  Seven are seniors.  The man seemed to falter a he walked into the room.

The kids knew this was his first mistake–allowing them to size him up.

He sat down where García used to sit, just like that, as if he had the right to do so.

He tried to get them to speak–maybe we should introduce ourselves–but they said nothing.  He tried to make a joke about breaking the ice, but no one responded. (more…)

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