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Archive for the ‘Smarty Pants’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ROBIN OLSON-Tiny Desk Concert #724 (April 1, 2018).

Because the blurb is perfect, I am including it in it’s entirety.

“Not all pianists are created in equal temperament,” Robin Olson told a small but enthusiastic audience behind NPR Music’s storied Tiny Desk. The pianist, hailed as an “avant-garde gewandhaus” by Berlin’s Staubzeitung, is as celebrated for his cryptic maxims as he is for his inscrutable music.

Olson’s trademark style — shooting clusters of shimmering chords and solitary, pearlescent pitches into reverberant space — has led him to exalted concert halls and to work with a broad array of stars such as Yuja Wang, Aretha Franklin, Chick Corea and Emanuel Ax.

Drawing from the seminal Plink technique, cultivated among the Schlammstadt School of composers in the 1950s, Olson is regarded as a leading technician of the more expansive Neo-Plink style. “Intervals have coincident partials,” Olson explains. “They create a form of dissonance, called ‘beats,’ by which pitches are set for optimum harmonicity.”

From a bulging briefcase, Olson pulls out any number tools to alter specific pitches, as in his opening piece, “A 440.” He threads ribbons of felt between piano strings to mimic the muted cries of the Asian dung beetle in “The Temperament,” from his 2014 collection Infinite Chasms.

Olson surprised everyone at the Tiny Desk by debuting a new piece, “Tuning the Bass,” wherein his inventive command of the instrument’s lower register highlighted spaces between keening dark octaves.

He may be considered a challenging artist, but Olson, through the essential humanity of his performance, reveals the efforts of almost any other living pianist to be little more than a joke.

Set List

  • “A 440”
  • “The Temperament”
  • “Tuning the Bass”

I only wish I had seen this before the Editor’s Note revealed that it was an (excellent) April Fool’s joke.

[READ: December 27, 2017] Secret Coders: Robots & Repeats

Secret Coders 3 ended with a puzzle.  And I guessed wrong!  How embarrassing.  I see what I did wrong, but I still would have failed. I have a hard time with binary, too.

Anyhow, this book reveals some pretty amazing details about the ongoing story.

After selecting the correct door, the gang finds a floating triangle thing.  We learn that Professor Bee is not actually from this planet (okay now things are getting pretty weird, I must admit).   But he dismisses that (what??) so the kids can code some more using a construct made of “solidified light” which is pretty cool, although perhaps not as cool as an alien. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VICENTE GARCÍA-Tiny Desk Concert #701 (February 2, 2018).

Singer-songwriter Vicente García plays a delicate acoustic guitar and has a pretty crooning voice.

The blurb says that he

is still relatively under the radar, but performances like the one he gave at the Tiny Desk are starting to turn some heads.

García’s music isn’t dominated by his native Dominican Republic, but you can hear it in every note. His poetic lyrics are like short stories, sung by a voice both plaintive and evocative, yet always distinct.

“San Rafael” is quite a pretty song echoing the beauty of San Rafael.

Before “A La Mar” (the title of second album which means ‘to the sea’) he introduces [unclear] Vasquez from Dominican Republic on percussion and Ricardo Muñoz from Bogota on the keys.  There’s a neat moment where he plays a harmonic on the guitar in a rather unusual way.  The delicate percussion really adds a lot, as does the bass line plays on the keys.

“Dulcito e Coco” opens with a lovely guitar melody and a close up of the fascinating percussion box that Vazquez is playing–a purple, strangely-shaped box that seems to get different sounds where you strike it.  The song stays quiet throughout although it does get a bit bigger by the end.

 

[READ: November 13, 2017] Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children

I was so excited to see Trace Beaulieu in person.  Ans even though this book is available everywhere, it was especially neat to buy it from the man himself and get him to autograph it.

It is subtitled A Yucky Big Book of Rainy Day Fun for Belligerent Children & Odd Adults with Nothing Better to Do.  The illustrations are by Len Peralta who apparently has not done anything else I’ve read even though his work looks so familiar and is really good.

So what is this?

Well the title is pretty accurate.  Trace has concocted snarky funny poems.  Most of them are pretty short (and in this format are often two or three lines per page) and accompanied by an illustration). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WOLF ALICE-My Love is Cool (2015).

I liked this album when it came out, but it didn’t blow me away.  I enjoyed the band blend of shoegaze and grunge.  But when I listened to it more, I realized there was a lot more going on–some folk roots, some interesting electronic sounds and a surprising pop sensibility.

When I saw them live at a small club in Asbury Park, the band blew me away with their cathartic sound and really tight rhythms.  They were also quite a bit heavier loud–really rocking out some of these songs and speeding up the tempo, too.

As such, the album feels a little slow, but if you get past that (and you should) it works really well to all of the band’s strengths.

“Turn to Dust” opens with gentle guitars and trippy electronic sounds (that one descending note is great).  Ellie Roswell sings softly with a gentle echo (I like that you can hear her accent in some of the words too).  It’s a fantastic opening.  “Bros.” speeds things up a bit but it doesn’t get any heavier, yet.  “You’re Love’s Whore” has a cool bass line and low backing vocals.   Like the other two songs, it’s also very catchy.

“You’re a Germ” adds some loud guitars to the music.  There’s a lot going on in this song and it kind of forces its way into your brain: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 / you ain’t going to heaven / cause I’m dragging you down to hell.”  It’s the first time Roswell screams and she’s got quite the shriek.  “Lisbon” slows things down until the wildly chaotic chorus (featuring some insane drumming).  “Silk” is a slower, moodier song with interesting whispered vocals.  The chorus once again proves to be very catchy the way the music falls out but the vocals get bigger.

“Freazy” has a cool drumbeat and a shuffling rhythm.  “Giant Peach” has an unexpected bass line midway through the song.  But the biggest surprise comes with “Swallowtail.”  It’s a folkie acoustic song and it’s sing by drummer Joel Amey.  It is really quite a surprise to hear a different voice, but it works really well.  It’s got a really interesting chorus with Amey hitting a nice falsetto midway through.  I fond it to be a real earworm.

“Soapy Water” is a more pop-oriented song with heavy synths, but it’s go their unmistakable thump.  “Fluffy” rocks the album to an end.  Its got screaming guitars and a wonderful buildup to the screaming chorus of “Sixteen, so sweet.”  (This song really rocks, live).

The final song is a quiet song with thumping tom toms.  The vocal melody is a gentle rising and falling melody with quiet guitars.   Tacked on the end is a bonus song, called “My Love is Cool.”  It’s a minute and a half of quiet guitar and Roswell’s almost whispered singing.

The band covers a lot of territory on this album, but they own it all pretty well.  It’s worth a listen.

[READ: January 30, 2018] “Bronze”

I’d be very surprised if this was not an excerpt.  It just feels too big for it to be a short story (although it wraps up in a rather tidy manner).

There are two major threads running through it.  There’s one set in 1978 when a college freshman, Eugene, is returning to school on the train.  He was high and he was dressed flamboyantly–a white fur coat, pink sunglasses, a scarf at his neck. He wanted to be beautiful or at least noticeable.  He was seeking a seat, but the train was packed.

Eugene was late to the train because he was hanging out at his friend Stigwood’s house in New York City.  Stigwood had a boyfriend from Venezuela visiting.  Eugene and Raphael were hanging out when Stigwood came home and stuck his hand down Raphael’s pants–which made Raphael shout “I am not your slut!”  Eugene watched, fascinated, before realizing he was late for the train and he ran all the way to the station.

Eugene wanted to be a poet so when he got to the space between trains he recited out loud Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro.”  It calmed him.

In the next car a man offered him a  seat.  Eugene thought, “Not again, everywhere I go.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 3 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 13, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 13, 2004. This was the 3rd night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  This show was exactly 13 years ago!

I compared all of the setlists from the nine shows and was somewhat surprised to see just how much repeating they did. Most of the repeated songs are new ones–they played a lot from 2067, which makes sense.  But for a Fall Nationals, there’s really not a lot of “popular” or “rare” stuff.  But the band is in terrific form for all nine shows and the recordings are consistently great.

Over the PA, they’re playing some good music, which Martin says, “That was my brother’s [John Tielli] band, Clark, on the PA there.  We’re the Rheostatics project.

They open the show with “It” which is a fun way to start.  Martin is feeling a little silly and sings “I grew up on dinosaurs” and the rooooars to the delight of all.

You hear Martin say, “Woodstuck?”  They play and Dave sing a line and says “That’s wrong.”  But the rest of the song is right on and at the end after “hippie child,” Martin says “waah.”  Tim tells the story of someone bringing them a 24 track master of that song in Vancouver.  But he felt it was too heavy to bring home.  Although someone (Martin?) says that it is in fact in his basement.

“Happiness” seems to rock along really nicely.  After which Martin says, “It’s Saturday night in Bonertown.  The city where you can’t.” Dave: “But you can, its’ ok to have a boner.”  Mike: “Yeah, but can you smoke it?”

“Mumbletypeg” sounds a little sloppy at the beginning and Dave doesn’t sing the first line.  But they pull it together.  It’s followed by “Marginalized” which opens with a groovy drum before the funky bass and then an introduction of Chris Stringer on the keyboards.

Mike comments, it’s such a lovely extended summer up here.  Holy french fry lights, designed to beautifully bake us.

On “Four Little Songs,” each guy takes his verse: Martin, Tim, but when it’s Mike’s turn, Chris plays some crazy trippy synth noises.  Dave gets his verse and at the end, the fast riff devolves into utter chaos with Martin and Chris just making all kinds of weird ass noises.  They end the song with the bass thumps and state “By Mennen.”

Dave introduces “The Tarleks,” “here’s a song about a super salesmen”  Once again, Martin has a lot of fun singing it.

They play a zany version of “I Dig Music” and in the middle where Mike has to do his slow part (which he seems to really dislike), he says, “For the longest time I’ve been thinking Dave’s ideas were so gay and then he offered me a martini.”  After a sip MPW sings the Seymour Stein line and then they rock the end of the song.   I really enjoy Tim singing the “too bad.” backing vocals.

AS they start “Here Comes the Image” Dave notes the “double keyboard attack, eh?”  It’s really evident in the solo section as the one keyboard plays the solo and the other plays trippy sound effects.  Then up comes Jen Foster on accordion to join them for “Who Is This Man, And Why Is He Laughing?”  Martin is singing something in his robotic voice thing but I can’t tell if it’s just sounds or actual words.  At the end, Martin says, ”That’s a nice walk in the park, doncha think?”

Tim notes: “our heritage gets to shine in that song.  A little bit of Czech, little bit of Italian, little bit of French, little bit of Polish.  No English.”

“Pornography” opens with synths which is a nice change.  coincidentally, Dave says to someone: “You put your shirt back on, I see.  Good idea, sir.”

“We Went West” continues the rather mellow middle section of the show.  At some point Dave, I think says, “while you’re there check out the place mats they’re hilarious.”

Next up is “California Dreamline.”  Dave announces, “We’d like to invite Paul Linklater up for the next song.  He sang this song with us last year on guest vocalist night and we have guest vocalist night next Wednesday.  His rendition is pretty painful.

The next guest is during “I am Drummstein” Ladies and gentlemen, the star of stage and sound in Belleville, Ontario, Mr Anthony Fragomeni:  “Too bad that you quit Vebron, wasn’t working out?  They kind of sucked.”  While they are in the middle grooving section, Tim says, “This is the Better Than Ezra part of the evening.”  In a real coincidence, on this same day in 2017, Barenaked Ladies announced a summer tour with Better Than Ezra opening.  I haven’t thought about them in ten years.

“Satan is the Whistler” is quiet and menacing to start.  Martin gets the fast guitar riff pretty well this time.  But he’s still being a little silly singing “moose away aroo aroo arroo” and then “Satan is the Whistler, Satan Live in Whistler, arooo!!!”

During the encore, they raffle off an item with a ticket.  When Tim reads out the number, someone whoops and Dave says, “There’s always one guy who claims he has won when he hasn’t won.  I wonder what void you’re trying to fill in your life.”  Then after a pause.  “Just kidding.”  No one claims the prize, so Dave says anyone can go to the merch table with it later.

“Little Bird, Little Bird” is insane.  It starts with some silliness when Dave mocks Tim for his hat and then says, “Tim you have to bring popping and snapping to country music.  It hasn’t happened yet.”  They play the song and then midway through the it stops with much laughing.  Dave says, “there’s no room for karate in this song.  Cant believe you re always trying to sneak your karate in there.”

Time retorts, “Wait a second, you guys made that “ho ha”part while I wasn’t in the studio and now it comes time to do it live and I’m the only one doing it?  Dave says: “We’re not going hoo ha and laughing in the middle of it.”
Tim asks the audience, “Who won the debate, Tim or Dave?”
Dave: “There was no debate because you’re not gonna do it any more.”
They compromise: “everybody ho ha and nobody karate.”
Tim mutters, “I hardly even karate’d I can’t believe you saw it.”
Dave: “I couldn’t help but see it, you almost took me out with one of those chops.”
Martin: “He’s feeling sensitive like a little bird.”

They finish the song and then Martin says, “okay we’ll do ‘PIN’ for ya.”  But before the song starts we get a run down of all of the opening acts for the next few shows:

Sunday matinée: Hebrew School Dropouts on at 4.
Monday night Selina Martin with the Formidable Forces of Bigness (Mike: Close enough Faceless Forces of Bigness).
Tuesday is free.  We’ll give about 61%.
Wednesday night Kevin Hearn is opening and it’s guest vocalist night.  Tim: “I’m definitely coming on Wednesday.”  Martin: “I’m going to come for every single night (get the bonus pack).”
Thursday is Killer Thursday Danny Michel.  And apparently John Wojewoda will do some Bluegrass Nightmare.
Friday the Buttless Chaps are flying in from Vancouver.
And Saturday, The Imponderables will be back.

After “PIN,” “Ozzy” sounds even more maudlin with the mandolin and backing vocals, but there’s a pretty wild solo.  There’s a special shout out to Chris Stringer: “you can’t tell but he’s actually playing all our parts for us. “

They end with a lovely ending “Making Progress” which has a wonderfully smooth ending.  Thanks to all the out of towners, out of country-ers and out of mind-ers.

Then the guys come back out to try to get rid of the raffle prize.  Tim runs through a bunch of numbers.  Come on, people get with it.  I wish I had money to burn. I remember when 50 cents meant something.  Finally he says, “Well come and get the fucking t-shirt, Oh. He’s a liar.”  This is so embarrassing… anyone show me half a ticket?

[READ: April 14, 2017] Secret Coders: Secrets & Sequences

Secret Coders 2 ended with a pretty big cliffhanger.  Tabitha and I were a little bummed that there wasn’t more of a recap at the beginning of this book.  We sure hope that book 4 has a bit of recap because we’ll never remember the ending of this one when its time for that book (which just came out).

The kids are able to use the repeat function of the turtles to scare of the mean old rugby players.  In the commotion, it sure looks like the Professor’s nose falls off (what?!).

The next day in school, one of the rugby players calls for a truce, he never realized that Principal Dean was such a bad guy.

The kids learn about parameters–how you can use the same code, but just change a variable to make a bigger object (in this case, triangles). (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: SARAH JAROSZ-Tiny Desk Concert #324 (December 7, 2013).

I know Sarah Jarosz’ name from somewhere (anything spelled like tha I’ll remember), but I’m not sure where.  It turns out that Jarosz plays awesome bluegrass.

Perhaps I’d heard of her because of her youth:

The singer and multi-instrumentalist first surfaced as an 18-year-old wunderkind with the release of 2009’s Song Up In Her Head, which generated the first of what will likely be many Grammy nominations; now a grizzled 22, she’s out performing songs from her fine new third album, Build Me Up From Bones.

performed with the aid of fiddler Alex Hargreaves and cellist . All

“Over the Edge” has a great riff.  It starts out with Jarosz’ guitar (which is an 8-string guitar: twinned four string, so almost like a bass and yet strummed).  She’s accompanied by a plucked cello (by Nathaniel Smith).  And then her voice comes in: distinctive, raspy and really lovely.  But it’s after the first verse when the guitar and cello both play that fast 8 note riff that the song really kicks into bluegrass territory. In the middle of the song, it’s fiddler Alex Hargreaves who throws in some great bluegrass fiddling lines.  It’s swinging and rollicking and really fun.

“Build Me Up from Bones” is more folk sounding—her voice is beautiful and the melody of this song (which she plays on that 8 string guitar) is outstanding.  There’s a cool alt-folk tone to the song, especially in the bridge.  The cello is bowed, giving a rich sound before the violin (rather than fiddle) solo comes in.

For “Fuel The Fire” she switches to banjo.  This is a great bluegrass song and that banjo sounds great.  I’d love to see a double bill with her and Punch Brothers.

[READ: November 12, 2016] Gunnerkrigg Court 3 [23-31]

I really enjoyed book 2 of the series and was pretty exited to see that book 3 was already out–in fact books 4 and five have been released, too.  This book collects Siddell’s online series–for frame of reference, this book ends with chapter 31 and as of May 2017 he is up to chapter 62 online.

I loved that Chapter 23 started with a totally different style–looking like a kind of sci-fi epic (and called Terror Castle of the Jupiter Moon Martians). But we quickly learn that this new look is a simulation–a kind of test for the main kids.  But it’s very poorly made and they solve the mystery almost instantly. This plot leads to a couple of interesting revelations.  That Parley has a thing for Smitty (everyone can tell but the two of them), and that Jones is becoming a fascinating and enigmatic important character. Reynard is also even funnier with his comeback “I think you detect a hint of shut your face” which Anni responds to with “Hah, Katerina must be helping you with your comebacks.”

The simulation room also allows for us to learn more about the origins of Reynard and Coyote. (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: ASHLEY MONROE-Tiny Desk Concert #317 (November 3, 2013).

Ashley Monroe is a country singer.  She’s part of the new way of female country singers, most of whom I don’t really like.

But some of the folks at NPR music love country, so I’ll let the blurb do the talking for me:

The title track from Like a Rose tells an optimistic story of survival, the ambivalent ballad “You Got Me” chronicles ill-advised romantic obsession, and, of course, the Top 40 country hit “Weed Instead of Roses” functions as a playful, fun-loving mission statement. Speaking of “Weed Instead of Roses,” which closes this charming performance, Monroe says the straitlaced [Vince] Gill insisted upon the song’s inclusion on Like a Rose — even going so far as to declare it a condition of his producing the album. The guy knew what he was talking about, both in his support of the song and of Monroe herself.

“Like a Rose” is almost comical in how stereotypically country it starts out:  “I was only 13 when daddy died /Mama started drinking and my brother just quit trying.”  Good lord.  At least it has a positive message.

She says that the melody for “You Got Me” came to her in her sleep and woke her up.

“Weed Instead of Roses” is a song she wrote as a joke when she was 19.  She says her grandpappy first heard the lyric as “give me weeds as well as roses” and he thought that was right on because the weeds are just as important as the roses.

The song is definitely fun (and funny) but the whole set is way too twangy country for me.  And IO find her back up guitarist/vocalist to be even more whiny/twangy than her.  Yipes.

[READ: February 26, 2015] Gunnerkrigg Court 2 [15-22]

I was originally mixed on Volume 1 of this series, but I jumped right into this one and loved it from start to finish (even if I admit to not understanding everything that was going on).

The book, which compiles chapters 15-22 and some extras, doesn’t begin with any kind of recap, so you kind of have to catch up as you go along.

We meet the fairy from beyond the river who was turned into a girl.  She is very upset that her friend is no longer friends with her.  She assumes it’s because of her hair (which is now long).  In an amusing sequence, she believes that if she cuts her hair short and spiky she will be friends again (with some other girl).  She is delighted to learn she can cut her hair and it doesn’t hurt (then she attempts to cut off her finger).

But these cute one-off chapters are strategically placed between the more serious arc, which involves the awesome looking Muut (an owl head on a hunky man’s body) and the introduction of a short-haired woman who might be a teacher and who goes by the name Jones. She is a wise woman and an amazing fighter (she shows off by beating a man wielding a sword while she is unarmed). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALICE RUSSELL-Tiny Desk Concert #288 (July 15, 2013).

I read the name Alice Russell and pictured some kind of folk artist.  Boy, was I surprised to see a woman with  bleached blonde hair, a leather jacket and a funny t-shirt.  And then her band started playing low groovy soulful music.

Turns out:

Russell is a classic soul-infused singer — close your eyes and it’s easy to hear a Southern drawl, but truth be told, she’s a Brit. American-style R&B from Britain has a long history dating back to the 1960s with Dusty Springfield and on up through 21st-century artists like Adele. As for Alice Russell, she’s been making great soul music for 10 years, and her arrangements on To Dust often include a dose of electronics.

I didn’t love her voice when the first song “To Dust” started.  But as soon as the chorus kicked in I was hooked–wow, what a great voice she has and with the full band playing behind her it sounded amazing (the sampled backing singers was a bit flat, but otherwise OK).  And by the second chorus, man she is belting out the song—it’s great.  The Adele comparisons are spot on.

Then she hit Bob’s gong at the end of the song and told us that it was an ode to the taxman.

“For a While” is a great big soul song.  The drummer gets some great sounds out of that one drum he has.  And they keys sound great too.  I love the middle part where there’s some seriously long pauses in between beats–they are all wonderfully in sync.  At the end of the song she yells “I didn’t gong!” and then makes a peculiar hand gesture about a turtle.

“Heartbreaker” has such a classic-sounding riff it’s hard to believe it’s a new song.  I like it a lot (although I don’t care for the chanted “when it falls, when it breaks” by the guys).

I have to agree with this blurb about her:

To Dust is Russell’s fifth album, but the hiatus that followed 2008’s Pot of Gold may be the reason too many people don’t yet know what she’s doing. This stuff is as powerful as the work of any American singer making soul music in the 21st century. If you haven’t heard of her yet, think of this as a well-overdue introduction.

[READ: May 15, 2016] I Kill the Mockingbird

I bought this book from the bookstore in Bethlehem, PA.  I don’t buy too many books these days but I saw this one in the PA authors section (and it was 20% off) and the title sounded intriguing.  So I grabbed it.

And I’m I glad I did. This book was outstanding.  I loved it from the first chapter and was thrilled that the ending was also very satisfying–not easy given the way the story was heading for a conclusion that could have gone in many different directions.

So what’s this about?  Well, there are three kids, Lucy Elena and Michael.  They are at the heart of the story.  I loved loved loved that these three were great friends who’d known each other forever.  And they were all big big big readers. Such an awesome start to a story. (more…)

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