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Archive for the ‘Solstice’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: STELLA DONNELLY-Tiny Desk Concert #819 (January 22, 2019).

Stella Donnelly has been generating some buzz lately, but I wasn’t familiar with her.  I didn’t even realize she was Australian.

She is adorable with her hair in two little nubs at the back of her head and a big smile most of the time.

She immediately won the office over with her broad smile, warmth and good-natured sense of humor. It’s the kind of easy-going, open-hearted spirit that makes her one of the most affable live performers you’ll see. While there’s no doubting her sincerity, she’s also got a disarming way of making her often dark and brutal songs a little easier to take in.

And indeed, she does not mince words when she sings.

“Beware of the Dogs” is a delicate song with Stella strumming her guitar with no pick and singing in a beautiful but soft voice.  There’s such a gorgeous melody for the chorus.

It turns out that this song and the other two are new.  Because she doesn’t even have an album out yet!

For this set, she performed entirely new — and, as of this writing, unreleased — songs from her upcoming full-length debut, Beware of the Dogs. Opening with the title cut, Donnelly smiled cheerfully through the entire performance while reflecting on the horrors that often lurk beneath the surface of seemingly idyllic lives. “This street is haunted like a beast that doesn’t know its face is frightening to behold,” she sings. “All the painted little gnomes, smiling in a line, trying to get your vote.”

As the song builds she gets more pointed:  “There’s no Parliament / Worthy of this country’s side / All these pious fucks / taking from the 99.”

She follows with “U Owe Me” which is “about my old boss at  a pub I used to work at back home.”

This song has a gentle guitar melody and some surprisingly soft vocals (including some vibrato at the end of each verse).   But the lyrics are straightforward and pointed (all sung with that disarming smile)

you put your great ideas up your nose /
and then try to tell me where the fuck to go /
you’re jerking off to the cctv /
while I’m pouring plastic pints of flat VB [or Foster’s or whatever].

At the end of the song she says, “He actually paid me a week after.  I was on the wrong week of my payroll.  It was very dramatic back then.”

She says “Allergies” is a run-of-the-mill breakup song.   “I’ve only got two of them and this is one of them.”  It’s a delicate, quiet song (capo on the tenth fret!) and once again, her voice is just lovely.

How can this Concert be only ten minutes long? I could listen to her all day.

Surprisingly, Donnelly chose not to play any of the songs that have gotten her to where she is in her young career — songs like 2017’s “Boys Will Be Boys” or last year’s “Talking,” two savagely frank examinations of misogyny and violence that earned her the reputation for being a fearless and uncompromising songwriter. But the new material demonstrates that her unflinching perspective and potent voice is only getting stronger.

I’m bummed that I am busy the night she’s playing a small club in Philly, as it might just be the last time she plays such a small venue.

[READ: January 26, 2019] Brazen

This is an awesome collection of short biographies of kick-ass women.  Bagieu has written [translated by Montana Kane] and drawn in her wonderful style, brief, sometimes funny (occasionally there’s nothing funny), always inspiring stories about women who spoke up for themselves and for others.  Some of the women were familiar to me, some were not.  A few were from a long time ago, but many are still alive and fighting.  And what was most cool is that the stories of the women I knew about had details and fascinating elements that I was not previously aware of.

What a great, great book.  It’s perfect for Middle School students all the way to adults.  I actually thought it might be perfect for fourth and fifth grade girls to read and be inspired by.  However, it skews a little bit older.  There’s a few mentions of sex, abortion, rape and domestic violence.  These are all real and important issues, but may be too much for younger kids.

Bagieu’s art for most of the pages is very simple–perfectly befitting a kind of documentary style but after each story she creates a two page spread that is just a breathtaking wash of colors which summarizes the previews story in one glorious image.  Its terrific. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AVERY*SUNSHINE-Tiny Desk Concert #616 (May 1, 2017).

I had never heard of Avery*Sunshine and had no idea that she was a “soul maven.”  But boy did I enjoy this set.  She is a lot of fun, vibrant and playful and she really gets the crowd singing along.  Her lyrics are fun and improvisations are really fun.

Here’s what the blurb says:

When the soul maven visited NPR headquarters to perform her first Tiny Desk Concert, she gifted us with the story of her own redemptive love. And a whole lot of laughs in between.

Avery*Sunshine knows what love will make one do: Give up your favorite ice cream. Break up to make up. Even swear off of holy matrimony for good, only to fall head over heels again.

Newly married to her musical partner, guitarist Dana “Big Dane” Johnson, Avery*Sunshine broke down the meaning behind the title to her latest album, Twenty Sixty Four. But it was her playful charisma and those heavenly vocals that won us over, the same way she’s turned such legends as Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson into fans. Press play and prepare to fall in love, too.

And her band The Trustees is tight and hot: Dana “Big Dane” Johnson (guitar); Demonterious “Detoxxx” Lawrence (bass); Quinton “Q” Robinson (drums)

“Come Do Nothing” has a cool funk start and Sunshine’s sweet soulful voice.  It’s an interesting song of get away/come back, with the get away part being funky and cool and the come back being a bit treacly and sweet.  I loved this lyric: “I heard you found a girl.  I saw her pic online.  Yes I looked her up on Face Book (thump thump on Face Book).  She gets everyone to sing along “Come on Over here with me ; come do nothing here we me” before playing a joyful keyboard solo.

When the song ends, somebody jokes that “Big Dane” is not the one guilty of cheating.  There is much laughter as she explains that she and Dane got married a year ago.

Then she describes the song as a can’t live with you can’t live without you song:

“Go on, get out.  I put all your stuff out and you can come pick it up.   But when you come… ring the doorbell coz… I’ll be making gumbo.”

Then she talks about their marriage:  they were both married before and they swore that they would never get married again.  And then he proposed some time later.  And she prayed: Just give me until 2064 with this man.  I’ll be 89 and he’ll be 91. I won’t cuss anymore. I’ll eat all my vegetables.  I will be good.  That’s why the album is called 2064.

After they got engaged, she wrote “Ice Cream Song” as their wedding song.  It’s  sweet soulful ballad: “I’d give up ice cream just for you / I’d open my bag and sell my shoes.”

As she introduces the final song, Dane says, “You need to change the piano.”  “Will you do it, you’re so good to me.  He changes my keyboard sound for me, he’s so sweet.” And while he’s fiddling, she says, “The people are waiting, honey.”

She says that “Used Car” is a metaphor for divorced people.  Her mama said, “There;s nothing wrong with a used car.”  She says I’m not encouraging anyone to get divorced–but if you are, there’s no reason to not try again.  Just make sure its a certified pre-owned.

The song is bright and bouncy and  ton of fun with funny enjoyable lyrics.  There’s a cool break down with  funky bass line and she gets to talk about her cars, with the Trustees shouting : “a car payment is overrated.”  And man when she gets into it at the end she really shows off her pipes–boy she can sing.

They start chant at the end “used car” and she throws in lines like “I’m taking a selfie in my…”

The whole set is fun It’s a pretty great way to spend 17 minutes.

[READ: March 10 2017] “Solstice”

The story opens with a man in Dublin looking for his car.  It has gotten dark in mid-afternoon–it is the twentieth of December–and he can’t remember what floor he was parked on.  It felt like the longest night of the year, because it was.

And he marveled that at 10:44 AM the next morning the solstice “the event” would happen:  “Somewhere in that moment whether he believed it or not, the sun would pause in the sky above him, or seem to pause.  It would stop its descent and start its slow journey back to summer and the middle of the sky.”

I love that the next line undermines the wonder: “or this year, he thought, it might not bother.”

He drives home out of the city into the country where the night was very big. (more…)

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