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Archive for the ‘Shoplifting’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JOYCE DiDONATO-Tiny Desk Concert #932 (January 15, 2020).

I was sure that Joyce DiDonato had performed a Tiny Desk Concert before, but I actually knew her from a gorgeous NPR Field Recording from 2015.

the last time we filmed the down-to-earth diva, she insisted on singing an opera aria at the Stonewall Inn, the iconic gay tavern in Greenwich Village.

DiDonato is an opera singer and her voice is amazing–she can soar and growl and everything in between.  But this Tiny Desk is not what you’d expect.  For although DiDonato sings in her beautiful operatic voice, the music the band is playing is anything but.

When opera star Joyce DiDonato told us she wanted to sing centuries-old Italian love songs at the Tiny Desk we weren’t surprised. But when she said she was bringing a jazz band to back her up, we did a double take. But that’s Joyce, always taking risks.  On paper, the idea of jazzing up old classical songs seems iffy. At the least it could come across as mannered and at worst, an anachronistic muddle. But DiDonato somehow makes it all sound indispensable, with her blend of rigor, wit and a sense of spontaneity.

The first song is by Alessandro Parisotti.  “Se tu m’ami” sets the stage for what this show is going to be like.  Gorgeous jazz with DiDonato’s impressive voice.

The musical formula for these unorthodox arrangements makes room for typical jazz solos while DiDonato molds her phrases to the flexible rhythms and inserts old-school trills and flamboyant roulades.

A cool trumpet solo from Charlie Porter takes a cool trumpet solo while DiDonato admires his skill.

After three minutes they segue seamlessly into Salvator Rosa’s “Star vicino.”  This one features a piano solo from Craig Terry which he begins with a line from “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”  The song also features a muted trumpet solo with a few drum breaks for Jason Haaheim

My favorite moment in the set comes just before 6 minutes where she sings a beautiful lilting melody and then hits a growly note that I was sure was the trumpet until Porter played the same note on his muted trumpet.  It was very cool and kind funny.  Especially when she says

there’s no soprano in the world who could get away with that

Less than a minute later she runs through her enormous vocal range from low to very high to soaring.  It’s amazing.

She says that in the classical world, the standard is perfection–rarely achieved.  Young singers try so hard to get it perfect that they lose the “grease” as the jazz players say.  So this project was designed to put the swing back in these old love songs.

The third song she says is by anonymous, but it is credited to Giuseppe Torelli. “Tu lo sai” is a love song that says, “you have no idea how much I love you.  No matter how much you scorn me, I still love you,”  She says they giving this the Chet Baker treatment.  I’m not exactly sure what that means, but there is some wonderful trumpet work in this song.

It has a slow opening with piano and voice.  The other instruments slowly come in and there is a wonderful moment during Porter’s trumpet solo where she picks up the note from him and runs with it.

Bassist Chuck Israels (who has played with everyone from Billie Holiday to the Kronos Quartet) never solos but he keeps the whole enterprise running perfectly.

For the final song Francesco Conti’s “Quella fiamma” they bring out Antoine Plante on the bandoneon.  She says, “Yea we’re going to South America in a minute.”

Porter uses a different kind of mute which creates a unique sound.  Then the bandoneon comes in and the South American flair is complete.  There’s an incredible moment at the end of the song where Joyce just trills away–showcasing so much of what she can do.

As the blurb says, despite how great the band is

the star of the show is the continually amazing DiDonato, whose voice is certainly one of the great wonders of her generation. The flexibility of the instrument, the colors she conjures and her fine-tuned dynamic range are a few of the reasons she’s still at the peak of her powers. She looks and sounds like she’s having the time of her life.

I see that she sings in Princeton pretty often.  Next time she;s in town I will make sure to check her out.

[READ: December 20, 2019] The Raven’s Children

This story was fascinating in the way it started as a very real story, suddenly added magical realism and then turned into an utterly fantastical story.  And yet it all works perfectly well as an allegory of the oppressive regime under Stalin.

Not bad for a book with talking animals.

This book was translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp and she brings this story to life.

Shura is a young boy living in Leningrad.  He lives with his mama and papa as well as his older sister and a little brother.  They live in an apartment building and he and his sister are lucky enough to have a room to themselves.  The amusing set up is that they have to walk through a wardrobe that their father set up to separate the rooms (he removed the back but you can’t tell from the front).  This weird construction actually saves them later in the story.

Shura’s friend is named Valya.  His parents don’t want him hanging out with Valya, but they like to do the same things, so he disobeys.  Today they are putting pennies on a railroad track.  They had been doing this for long enough that they can tell how heavy a train is by the way the resulting items come out.

On this occasion the train that went by seemed to be full of people.  People crammed into each car.  As it sailed past, a piece of paper sailed out.  Valya grabbed it. Neither of the boys could read very well but they could see some numbers on it.  Shura was sure that the paper was important and he desperately wanted it. But he didn’t know how to get it from Valya without making him want it more.

They walked home and by the time they got to Shura’s place, they were physically fighting.  Shura manged to snatch the paper and Valya threw a rock at him.  The rock smashed a window of an older lady’s apartment in their building.  Shura knew he was in trouble for the window.  But it was Valya’s fault.  Of course, he wasn’t supposed to be playing with Valya. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OHMME-Tiny Desk Concert #848 (May 9, 2019).

It’s not very often that I have seen a band before I have seen their Tiny Desk Concert (most of the time it’s the Tiny Desk Concert that makes me want to see the band). But I saw OHMME open for Jeff Tweedy last year and they were amazing.

This Tiny Desk captures most of that amazingness with some difference. Like in our show, Sima Cunningham (white guitar) and Macie Stewart (blue guitar) sang and played guitar (intensely fuzzed out guitar).  But at our show, one of them played violin for a few songs, which is not used here, and here they have a drummer, Matt Carroll.

When Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart fired up their angular guitar sounds during soundcheck at the Tiny Desk, I was thrilled. The shrieking, rhythmic noise these two classically trained musicians make as Ohmme is what made their debut album, Parts, a musical highlight for me in 2018. But hearing them in the office, trading vocals with such ping-pong precision, sent me into euphoria. This is now one of my all-time favorite Tiny Desk concerts.

Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart, along with drummer Matt Carroll, steer clear of rock music clichés that plague so much of the music I hear these days. Their adventurous spirit is sometimes challenging. But it opens a window on what the voice can be. It also redefines what the guitar can do — at one moment it’s a stuttering percussive instrument, the next it’s a bed of noise with a harsh tone that somehow morphs its way into the melody.

This show has four songs (!)  Yay!  Sixteen minutes of songs from an artist I like.

“Water” is the song that blew my mind when I saw them live.  That amazing buzzy guitar sound, the way the guitars morph and change, the way the bridge is harsh and alienating, the noise-filled “solo” and then of course, the hocketing.  I am frankly shocked that the blurb doesn’t talk about the hocketing:

the rhythmic linear technique using the alternation of notes, pitches, or chords. In medieval practice of hocket, a single melody is shared between two (or occasionally more) voices such that alternately one voice sounds while the other rests.

Both Sima and Macie alternate notes in a beautiful yet disorienting melody.  And the wonderfully noise-filled guitar solo that Macie plays is such a wonderful contrast to the catchy melody of the song.  It’s a stunning song.

“Icon” is a simpler song–on the surface.  The verses are a simple up and down melody–soothing and familiar.  But the chorus just takes off with high notes and an unexpected emphasis on the words “I want a new icon.”

“Parts” has Macie playing a looping guitar line while Sima plays a low bass-ish part.  They sing in harmony with Sima taking some occasional low notes.   This song has some very cool dramatic slow downs and build ups combined with wonderful lyrics.

My bloody Mary had arrived and so I bent into the pain
He can’t believe all the distortions I put my body in
Like an acrobat and banshee decided to inhabit
The same fleshy husk and it’s my job to stand it
A fly with a vengeance kept landing like a dancer
He must have had a grudge for some dead ancestor
I smashed last summer in a fit of rage
I don’t like little things touching my face

Sima also takes very pretty guitar solo on this one.

The final song “Grandmother” goes out to their grandmothers whom they love very much.  After a quiet opening (featuring Sima’s wonderful vocals), the song takes off in a three note rocking motif (with Sima scratching up and down her guitar for interesting sound effects).  Then Macie takes off with a noise-fueled guitar solo that would make any 90s band proud.

They are wonderful live and I can’t wait to see them again.

[READ: May 13, 2019] “Brawler”

I enjoyed Groff’s book of short stories recently, so I was intrigued to read this one as well.  And it features Groff’s unique peculiarities of subject and outlook.

Sara was on the diving team.  As the story opens, Sara is late for the match (but has not missed it).  She was in detention for getting in a fight–her knuckles were bloody and raw.  But she snuck out of detention when the moderator fell asleep.  Her coach called her “Brawler.”

Sara had originally been on the swimming team, but she was caught “brushing the boys’ junk in their Speedos with her hand as they swam by in the next lane.”  Diving suited her more, anyway.

Her dive was a success, even if she had to cover her minor foul with her bloodied knuckles (apparently the back of her head had grazed the board). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND-The Carleton, Halifax, NS (February 13, 2015).

This is the most current solo show from anybody on the RheostaticsLive webpage.

Bidiniband’s third album came out in 2014 and this show chooses from it pretty heavily.

The show starts (Dave sounds either like he has a bit of a cold or he’s just worn out) with Dave saying “We’re going to start with a song about the cold, because it is.  Fucking snow, eh  Wow.”  “The Grey Wave” has great chord changes in the chorus.  It is a slow folkie song about cold and snow.  I like that he whispers “let’s go” before the buzzy but quiet solo.  The chorus comes out of that fairly rocking (a least for this set).

Dave continues, “I have some news.  Last night I was offered cocaine in the bathroom of the Alehouse.”  (Don, on drums, whispers, “in exchange for what?”).  Dave: “I think the guy just wanted to be my friend.  He was a bit of an asshole.  Cocaine is the one drug I think where when people offer it to you and when you say no, they apologize for having assumed you wanted any.”

Someone else notes: “I like that we’re the rock band from Toronto and we’re the ones shocked by all the drugs everyone is doing.  We were in BC and we were shocked at the big jug of MDMA being passed around.”

“Everyday Superstar” is a rocking, swinging song.  I love that the chorus is “I’m an animal out of control” but it’s kind of slow and mellow and at one point he says “its true.” And there’s this lyric: “When it’s hot, I’m gonna be Bon Scott you be Lita Ford.”  At the end of the song, someone asks, “Does everybody in the house know what bass face is?  You never know when Haddon is going to a picture of you with that face.”  Dave tells a story that Haddon Strong had a subscription to a magazine and it was addressed to Hardon Strong.

Introducing “My First Rock Concert” he says, “this is a song about music.  I bet you think it’s ‘Proud Mary’ but it’s not.  That was done last night.”  He sings it kind of whispering/spoken.   In the middle, Paul plays the riff to “Brown Eyed Girl” while Dave is singing “you’re either a mouse or Steven Page.”

“Take A Wild Ride” is s short song that segues at the same fast tempo into “The List” which is, again, almost spoken.  He throws in some other people who have made the list.  Jian Ghomeshi and Joel Plaskett (he was in Thrush Hermit) and at the end he says, “only kidding about Joel.”

“Big Men Go Fast On The Water” is a great-sounding song–in this version, the guitar riffs between verses sound like Boston.  They played this song last night at “Stolen from a Hockey Card” at the Spats Theater.  Dave was disappointed there were no spats there.  He says, “If I’ve over pattering, just tell me.”

We wrote this song “Bad Really Bad” about the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Three chords and the truth.

“In The Rock Hall” is about the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland from a poem written by Paul Quarrington  Once again he almost whispers, “C’mon Halifax, let’s rock.”   About “Ladies of Montreal,” he says, “I didn’t think there were enough songs in indie rock well, elderly indie rock, independent seniors, about beautiful women… boobs, you know.  It came in a dream.  I had to write it.”  Dave says it is sexist although I don’t exactly know what he’s saying with the French words.

Getting ready to play “The Motherland Part 1,” he asks, “Jerry you brought your flute, did you?  Oh fuck’s sake.  It’s okay. I think I told you last night but we were both pretty hammered.”  “The Fatherland” is “a heavy metal political song…political metal… politometal.”  It totally rocks and at the end Dave says “I don’t understand, the dancing girl left and we’re playing our most uptempo tunes.”  Before they complete the trilogy with “The Motherland Part 2” someone in the band asks, have you got the cocaine?–its pure MDMA.  Don rehashes the story about him throwing up at a party in the closet because of hot knives.  The middle of Part 2 really rocks.

“Last Of The Dead Wrong Things” is quieter for sure but the chorus and backing vocals are great.  Where there’s usually a drum solo there’s a kind of quiet freak out.

He says, “we’re going to do one more” (boo) …well how many more do you deserve?  Seventeen, eh, you have a very inflated view of yourself.”

“We’ll do ‘Fat,’ (a song “by Rheostatics band”), it has similar chord shapes don’t hold that against us.  Did I tell you we were playing this one?”  “Would it matter?” Let’s have a round of applause for Kevin Lacroix on the bass and Don Kerr on the drums.  Paul Linklater on guitar.

“We played with Corb Lund yesterday, from Alberta.  He’s very handsome and very accomplished.  “Really really handsome.”  Kevin: “I made out with him.”  Dave: “I made out with a guy who I thought was Corb but who was really the cleaning guy for the hotel….  Last night on this very stage he intoned, he evoked the name of Washboard Hank Fisher….  You’re not going are you, it’s going to be a good song.”  They have Lots of fun with “The Midnight Ride Of Red Dog Ray”  with over the top backing vocals.  And in the solo, we get Paul Linklater, one more time pickin’ and grinnin.’

Before the next song Dave says, “What are you guys laughing at?  I can see you in the mirror, you know.  This is my favorite club coz I can watch my rock moves, they’re top ranked.”  Don:  “That’s actually Dave’s mirror, he brings it to every club and says that.  It’s embarrassing.”  Dave mentions a famous story (doesn’t know who it’s about) about a heavy metal singer who was hammered and he saw the guy in the mirror and thought he was mocking him.  So he challenged him to a fight.  That’s rock n roll.”

“You got a weak bladder Jerry?  I’ve got a weak bladder, too.  I’ve peed myself twice during this set.”

This is an album by Bidiniband called The Motherland.  It’s a delicious record and I’d like you to buy it.  All of you.  It’s only $10.  Produced in Toronto in a studio  … by professionals.  Trained professional sounds.  Nothing like what you’re hearing tonight.

There’s a great buzzy bass sound on “Desert Island Poem” which is “a funny song about cannibalism.”  Dave gets pretty crazy at the end.

It segues into a wonderful surprise of them playing”Queer.”  And then a terrific version of “I Wanna Go To Yemen” with a fun wild sliding solo.

He wishes everyone a good night and they leave for a few seconds.  “If we take a break we probably won’t play anymore.  But that was break…  We probably should have taken a longer break and milked it more… but we didn’t.”

“Do people who come to lean along the bar are they into the music?”  Kevin: “Those are some of the best people in Halifax…but the creme d la creme starts right here.”

Jerry didn’t find his flute did he?  Dave asks for a hand for the opening act, Communism Music, look them up

The first encore is the hilariously offensive song “Take A Bath Hippie.”   Sample verses:  “This ain’t the 1960s / These are brand new modern times / everyone is equal and everyone is doing fine,”  “Your revolution ended the day Trudeau retired.  A land of Stephen Harper… we got the country we desired.”   He asks, “You guys got hippies out here?  Probably not. You got Buddhists.  That’s just as bad.  They lie around in their robes  eating flowers.  Shaving each other’s heads.  Sacrificing a goat here and there.”

 We’re all getting G&Ts?  Thank you people of the night.  Kevin: “Treating us all equally?  Like my parents.  My parents would bring us all something she wouldn’t bring me a G&T without bringing one to my sister.”  Dave: They were saints.

FYI, tomorrow, there is Hockey Day in Canada–a ton of games on and footage from the concert last night with Theoren Fleury, Rich Aucoin, Buck 65, Miranda Mulholland, and the ever handsome Corb “The Boner” Lund and The Barra MacNeils.  Dave did a short movie about John Brophy, that’s gonna be on.  “Fuck, it’s Saturday… just sit at home and watch hockey.  It’s what we are supposed to do.  If you don’t, Stephen Harper will have your ass.  But I’ll save you because I’m the hockey guardian.  No I’m not, I’m just tired.”

We’ll try to do one last song.  Have we done “Take a Bath Hippie?”  We’ll save it for next time.  I’m trying to not do a typical show closer tune.

Last gig Kevin played with this band he was playing drums.   I guess it didn’t go well because he’s been demoted to bass. (ha ha).  Dave: “You’ve got the best bass player joke about what happened to Gordie Johnson.”  Kevin: “oh no that’s just nasty.”  Dave “You’re right, its for later in the washroom when were doing coke.”

They play a surprising “Stolen Car.”  It’s so weird to hear Dave sing this song (which he wrote)–he whisper sings it (and can’t really hit the notes).  It segues into a folkie
“Legal Age Life -> Do You Wanna Dance -> Legal Age Life” with them singing, “Oh yeah music is fun.  Friends are fun.  Rock n roll is fun.  Sloppy and fun.”  They end with a Johnny Cash line get rhythm when you get the blues.

Who would have guessed that just seven months later Rheostatics would reunite?

[READ: November, December 2017 & January 2018] West End Phoenix

West End Phoenix is a newly created newspaper.  It was inspired by Dave Bidini.

I have loved just about all of the music that Bidini has created (with Rheostatics and Bigdiniband) and I have loved just about all of the books he has written.  So why wouldn’t I love a newspaper created by him?  Well, possibly because it serves a community that I do not live in and have very likely never visited.  That’s right, this is a community newspaper for a community that isn’t even in my country.

And it is terrific.

But why on earth would I want to read it?  Can I really like Bidini that much? (more…)

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shopliftSOUNDTRACK: BUILT TO SPILL-Untethered Moon (2015).

moonIt took six years for this album to come out.  And it was totally worth the wait.  This is another disc that is predominately shorter songs (a number around 3 or 4 minutes) but with an opener and closer that let the band stretch out.  This is also the first BtS album in years with a new lineup.  Steve Gere (drums) and Jason Albertini (bass) who played with them live.  The drums feel quite different–Gere has a vert different style. And the bass feels more frisky

“All Our Songs” starts off a little differently than other BtS albums.  It has a great walloping drumming section to start, big guitar chords and all kinds f soloing going on. It stops almost near the end for some quick time changes and then the most conventional rock n roll guitars solo ever heard on a BtS album.  I love the way “Living Zoo” starts off almost unsure of itself, meandering around until it latches on to a great riff and then speeds the riff up even more to totally rock out (the multiple guitars on this record really sound great on this song). I love the scream sound they get after “tigers.”  “On the Way” has an almost western feeling with the echoing guitars. I really like the way the song shifts gears a bit midway through with the inscrutable chorus of “Maltesian riot” and then shifts gears again for the end.

“Never Be the Same” seems like it could be the biggest hit the band has had.  The main riff is simple and sweet. And the verses are simple jangly guitars and that chorus is practically an earworm.  Martsch has (surprisingly) always written catchy songs but this has to be his catchiest . “C.R.E.B.” has more or less classic delivery of the word “Yeah” to start the song. There’s also another very cool riff that runs through the song. The chorus (I never meant to forget you) has a real Neil Young feel. “Another Day’ has some more great staccato sections and cool keyboards (which add new sound to the record) from Sam Coombs (who also produced the record).

“Horizon to Cliff” is a pretty ballad, and it gets going just as it fades out (total time is less than 3 minutes).  “So” seems to join in progress, with some wild soloing and feedback (somehow this reminds me of the guitar sounds of 70s rock) and then it settles down into my favorite song on the album.  The verse is quiet and simple and there’s a great guitar riff throughout.  But the best part is at 3:53 when the song shifts gears with a five note melody and a super heavy section.  When I saw them live, they stretched this out for a while, although on the record it is only 30 seconds.

The final song, “When I’m Blind,” is 8 minutes long.  Around 2 minutes in, the song shifts to pretty much bass and drums and what I can only describe as a really sloppy and harsh guitar solo. It morphs into different styles of solo over the course of about five-minutes before settling back into the song.

Although many fans feel that their first three major label albums were their best, I have to say that all of their records just get better and better.  I hate to have to wait another five years for a new record!

[READ: June 23, 2015] The Shoplifters

In a week of reading plays, I enjoyed this one the most.  I even really enjoyed the cover image which is a weird fish-eye drawing of a woman shoplifting.

So this play has only four characters: two shoplifters and two security guards.

The two shoplifters are Alma and Phyllis.  Alma is the ringleader.  She has been shoplifting (especially from this superstore) for a long time.  And it’s not just about the prices, there’s some well thought out arguments for her as well.  Phyllis is her friend although Phyllis doesn’t seem to really “get” the whole shoplifting thing.  In this instance, they are stealing things for Phyllis’ birthday.

They are stealing very large steaks, but because they chose prime cuts rather than prepackaged ones, the meat doesn’t stay secured to their legs very well.  And sure enough, Alma’s steak falls onto the floor and Phyllis shouts “I don’t know her!” right in front of security guard Dom. (more…)

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pettySOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“Now That’s What I Call Polka” (2014).

npwpolkI knew that Al wouldn’t make a video for his polka medley (always a highlight of his albums).

I was surprised that I knew so many of these songs (on the last album I knew hardly any of the apparently huge songs that made up the medley).  So either I listen to more mainstream music now (or, perhaps I have kids who know more mainstream music) or the music was just much huger this time around.

This batch includes: “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People “Best Song Ever” by One Direction (I didn’t know this one, and I crack up at the childish way he makes the “best song” sound like gagging) “Gangnam Style” by Psy “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen “Scream & Shout” by will.i.am featuring Britney Spears (I didn’t know this one) “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra (I can’t believe how different this one sounds) “Timber” by Pitbull featuring Ke$ha (I didn’t know this one) “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO (or this one) “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz (or this one, amazingly) “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams.

It’s in these medley’s that Al’s lyrics are the most graphic, because he’s actually singing other pop lyrics, not his own.

It’s always fun when he sings this live because he matches up the original videos to his new sped-up tempo.  Looking forward to Mandatory Fun Live in 2014 (or 15).

[READ: August 3, 2014] Petty Theft

I was intrigued by this story because of the strange cover art–two people in a book store–a hunched over guy and a pretty girl–both reading books.

The story is about Pascal.  He and his long time girlfriend have broken up and he is in a hellish limbo. He’s staying in a friend’s spare room and he is not drawing anymore.  In fact, he’s looking for a major change in his life–the whole cartooning thing isn’t working out for him.  The only comfort he has left is running, but on his last run he hurt his back and has been laid up practically immobile for weeks.

He goes to the chiropractor who helps him out some (although it hurts him as much as his back already hurts).  But she tells him that he cannot run for a couple of months.  He is despondent.  So he decides to go to the bookstore, his favorite local indie shop of course, and look around.  While he’s looking around he sees a girl pick up his own book (Bigfoot)…and steal it.  He is offended and intrigued at the same time.  He tries to follow her but loses her in a crowd.  And now he has to decide what to do.  Especially since he hears the clerks talking about how many books have gone missing lately.  And because he thinks the girl is really cute (and she likes his book!) (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_10_13Schossow.inddSOUNDTRACK: ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF-“Funeral for My Future Child” (2013).

anna-von-hausswolffThis was selected as one of NPR’s favorite songs of the year (so far).

It’s probably hard to like a song with a title like that, but there’s something strangely compelling about the whole proceeding–the great intricate percussion and drums that start the song, the ponderous pipe organ that lays down the melody, and then Anna’s voice which has a country-ish feel (kind of like Neko Case), but also has a kind of Dead Can Dance vocal style.   Or perhaps that’s just because she is Swedish.

By the time the chorus comes around, the ache of the song is apparent.  And the end has more of that amazing percussion.  I rather like the beginning and the end of the song more than the middle, which I guess doesn’t say a lot for it, but it is intriguing.

Evidently this album is primarily full of pipe organ, an interesting choice for a rock album.  I’d be curious to hear more.

[READ: June 17, 2013] “Twisted”

As if anticipating that I would not be able to write posts this week, the New Yorker has supplied me with a series of very short “True Crimes” pieces.  In fact, the whole issue is a fiction issue, which means a half a dozen or so stories as well.   But it’s these “True Crimes” that will keep me posting this week.

The first is from George Pelecanos, and it’s a story of his own crimes.  He explains that when he was younger, he did all manner of illegal things but had never been caught (aside from a few minor infractions).  He broke into houses and stole records from someone he didn’t like.  He rode in a stolen car, stole wallets from strangers at stores (at this point I really don’t like this guy).  But he doesn’t try to make excuses for himself.  He was a boy and he was having fun.

But the crimes continues long past adolescence.  In 1985 he was 28 and got involved in a high-speed chase.  He was drinking and smoking pot at a wedding.  He and his fiancée stopped at a convenience store where he backed  into someone’s car.  A gang of people came out and the threat of violence was imminent.  But he hopped in his car, drove on the sidewalk and sped off with the police in pursuit. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KISHI BASHI-Tiny Desk Concert #215 (May 10, 2012).

A few days after the concert at the 9:30 Club, K Ishibashi stopped in at the NPR offices to record a Tiny Desk concert.  The Tiny Desk  concerts are always fun–incredibly intimate and always well recorded.  He plays three of the five songs that he played at the 9:30 Club, and while they sound quite the same, there are little differences.

I find it very cool how similar they sound–since most of the sounds he makes are with his voice, it’s quite cool that he has that much control.  But I also like that he varies things a bit (although it sounds like a slightly flat note that plagues “Atticus in the Desert”).

What’s interesting is that although he doesn’t play things very differently, the feel of “I am the Antichrist to You” is quite different in the Tiny Desk setting.  I don’t really understand why, but it sounds very different, and equally wonderful.

Watching the Tiny Desk show is also neat–I’ve never seen anyone strum chords on a violin before.   And watching all of the technical adjustments is very cool too.  I’ve definitely become a fan of Kishi Bashi.

[READ: August 28, 2012] We Sinners

This has got to be the fastest turnover I’ve ever had where I read a short story and then read the author’s novel.  Well, it turns out that “Jonas Chan” was not a short story, but an excerpt from this novel.

The novel is a series of short stories about the same family.  I’m reluctant to brand it one of those connected-short story novels, but I think it really is.  Each chapter has a title and a specific focus and, as the excerpt showed, each chapter can work independently–although having all of the information certainly fills out the story.  (Unless I am mistaken, a few things that really depend upon the rest of the book were left out of the excerpt).

The novel is about the Rovaniemi family.  They are a very traditional Finnish family living in the midwest United States.  More than just Finnish, they practice Laestadianism, a very conservative kind of Lutheranism that is unique to the Finns.  There are nine children in the family (and 11 chapters in the book), and the novel follows them through about 18 years (the youngest, Uppu, is born in the first chapter and the second to last chapter is about her leaving for college.

There’s even a handy family tree:

WARREN  –  PIRJO  (parents)

BRITA  TIINA  NELS  PAULA  SIMON  JULIA  LEENA ANNI  UPPU

There isn’t an overall plot so much as an evaluation of this traditional family and how modern life impacts them.   And wisely, the book opens with the oldest daughter.  This (as opposed to first looking at the parents) allows us to see what kind of difficulties the kids will have with their religion.  We see Brita in school facing a tough decision.  The Laestadian religion doesn’t permit dancing (or TV, or much of anything).  And Brita has to inform her “boyfriend” that she can’t go to the dance because she isn’t allowed.  When Tiina finds out that Brita revealed their religious secret she freaks out that people will know about her too. (more…)

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