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Archive for the ‘Swimming’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MAGGIE ROGERS-Tiny Desk Concert #641 (August 7, 2017).

I had been hearing Maggie Rogers’ name on WXPN and have liked “Alaska” which they’ve been playing.  But I didn’t know much else about her.

But reading the blurb reminded me of where I had initially heard of her:

Maggie Rogers became a viral star on the strength of a video in which Pharrell Williams raves about a demo of what’s become her signature song, “Alaska.” Since then, Rogers has signed a label deal, toured extensively and released a sweetly approachable, inventively arranged EP called Now That The Light Is Fading.

For her Tiny Desk debut, Rogers performed all three of the EP’s best-known songs, opening with the recent singles “On + Off” and “Dog Years,” the latter of which she calls “a song for all the pups.” Then, after dismissing her band, she treated us to a few warm words about public radio before introducing “Alaska.”

Maggie has an interesting voice that sounds similar to someone (it’ll come to me), but with a slight country twang.  It seems like she could easily fall into the country umbrella but her songwriting goes in a slightly different direction.  (I’m also astonished that she looks to be about 18).

She plays three songs (there are 5 on her EP),

“On+Off” starts with a piano intro and Maggie singing. When the middle section kicks in and she plays guitar there a much louder sound. It’s quite catchy.  I really like the delivery of the “Ooohs” that she adds.  There’s something about the way she does it that sounds very cool.

“Dog Years” is a slower, slightly more country-sounding song, but again the “ooohs” won me over.  This time the ooohs are harmonized by her band and it sounds even better.  She also demonstrated some wonderful high notes.

Her band leaves for the final song which she starts by telling everyone that “public radio has been a part of her musical discovery–since she used an NPR compilation to DJ her middle school recess.”  She’s very sweet.

Th final song is “Alaska” which she says is a song about coming back into your body.  It has a really pretty chorus–once again, her voice soaring to lovely high notes.  I prefer the recorded version to this solo version, but she sounds great by herself as well.

[READ: June 27, 2017] “Crossing the River No Name”

I was a little concerned about this story because it was set in Khost, Afghanistan and I thought it was going to be an intense war story–and war stories, like sports stories, pretty much end one of two ways.

So it begins on a rainy night in March 2009.  The narrator and his patrol are sent to interrupt a group of Taliban.  They reached a river and Hal, the leader, called on the best swimmers to swim across and set up the guide rope.  They made it across and secured the line.  The rest of the patrol got across but when it was the narrator and Hals’ turn they hit trouble.

Hal was afraid of the water.  He’d joined the Navy to get over that fear and it worked.  Most of the time.  He knew of one other example when Hal had had a brief freak out.  But this was the second one.  The river grew darker and they were pulled under. (more…)

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sahrakSOUNDTRACK: NO BS! BRASS BAND-Tiny Desk Concert #280 (June 15, 2013).

nobsWith a name like No BS! Brass Band, you think you know what you’re getting: brass and lots of it.  And while that is true, the Band goes way beyond what I anticipated a brass band would sound like (nothing like the far more traditional Canadian Brass for instance).

The blurb states:

Funky and danceable, the NO BS! Brass Band takes after the full black-music continuum you hear in groups like Rebirth or the Hot 8. But it’s also proggy, and a bit brutalizing, and full of pride in a different Southern outpost. The group’s new album is called RVA All Day, after all.  [I don’t know what that last line refers to].

Recently, Koehler, Pace and nine other musicians piled into a bus and journeyed up the freeway to NPR Music’s Tiny Desk in Washington, D.C. They blasted us with songs from the new album — it was so loud, you could hear the music on the other side of the building, a floor down.

The band includes:  Lance Koehler, drums ; Reggie Pace, trombone ; Bryan Hooten, trombone/vocals ; John Hulley, trombone ; Dillard Watt, bass trombone ; David Hood, alto saxophone ; Marcus Tenney, trumpet ; Sam Koff, trumpet ; Ben Court, trumpet ; Taylor Barnett, trumpet and Stefan Demetriadis, tuba.  And they play three super high energy largely instrumental songs that are obviously jazzy but which also have elements of the most fun marching band you’ve ever heard along with some rapping, some chanting and lots and lots of clapping.

The first song is all about “RVA All Day.”  And yet since that’s all they chant, I still don’t know what it means.   While the whole band plays loudly and powerfully, there’s a few solo moments as well.  First a trombone solo followed by a sax solo, then a trumpet and a super wild trombone solo (he gets some truly great, crazy sounds from that thing).  And then a huge surprise, midway through the song is a rap through a megaphone.

“Run Around” has a sing along to begin the song (and again, vocals through the megaphone).  It is also lively and a lot of fun.  The final song, “Infamous”sounds a lot more jazzy/big band.  It’s got a really nice groove.  The middle has a section with just tuba and trumpet where the rest of the band claps and shouts “Ho!” and it sounds great.  It’s also interesting watching how the different players “store” their instruments in different ways while clapping.

No BS! Brass band will totally make you wiggle your hips.

[READ: August 20, 2016] Shark Life

Clark had to pick a book for summer reading and he chose this one.  He enjoyed it so much, that he encouraged me to read it too.  And I’m really glad I did.  Although it wasn’t until writing this that I realized that this book was adapted for young people by Karen Wojtyla.  And yet I can’t find any mention of a grown up version of this book anywhere.  So who knows.

Anyhow,  Peter Benchley (who died in 2006) is the author of Jaws, and this book is full of stories of his life in and on the sea.  For, in addition to being an author, Benchley was a diver and explorer.  And his tales are both exciting and full of conservationist ideas.

The book opens in 1974. After the success of Jaws, Benchley had been invited to Australia to be on The American Sportsman.  He was going to be swimming in a cage with sharks feeding around him.  They put him in the cage, strapped all kinds of good food to it and left him there (okay they were close by).  But a few things went awry and suddenly things weren’t quite as safe as they could be. The shark got caught in Benchley’s air line and then panicked.  And a panicking shark is never a good thing. (more…)

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20SOUNDTRACK: ARTURO O’FARRILL-Tiny Desk Concert #303 (September 14, 2013).

arturo Arturo O’Farrill is not, as I expected, an Irish traditional musician.  He is, in fact, a Latin jazz pianist.  And the blurb states:

Latin jazz works best when the musicians involved are as fluent in Afro-Cuban rhythms as they are in the deep grooves and advanced harmonics of bebop. Arturo O’Farrill has that pedigree in his DNA: His father, Chico O’Farrill, was part of a groundbreaking group of musicians who created the mash-up of Afro-Cuban music and jazz back in late-’40s New York.

The octet you see in this video is a stripped-down version of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, which is at least twice as large — don’t think I didn’t try to get the whole band behind Bob Boilen’s desk — and dedicated to both preserving the legacy of the elder O’Farrill and documenting the younger musician’s efforts to move the music forward.

The octet includes trombone, trumpet, sax, bongo, conga, drums, bass and of course, piano.  And they play three pieces (for quite a long set).

“In Whom…” has a good swinging feel with O’Farrill’s piano running wild.  At one point they cut to the conga player and the lady behind him is checking her phone (rudeness even in 2013!).  But it’s not all about the piano, there s sax solo and then a fairly lengthy bass solo.  Indeed there are many bass solo moments in this concert–Arturo certainly shares the spotlight.

The second song is “Compay Doug.”  He explains that “compay” means some who is not family but who is as close as family or maybe even closer.  The main melody has a cool fast/slow riff and then there’s another long bass solo.  There’s some great conga work in the middle of the song ( you can hear the percussionist use a rain stick, too).  Late in the song there a trumpet solo.  So even though this is ostensibly a pianist’s performance, there is much more–but don’t be fooled, his piano playing is intense!

The final song is called “Mass Incarceration Blues.” He says many years ago it was called “Blue State Blues,” then it became “Stop and Frisk Blues” and now it’s called “Mass Incarceration Blues.”  NPR’s Felix Contreras joins them (he ha so many cameos!).  There’s a super fast series of opening piano runs.  Then there’s a surprisingly fun (given the name) staccato melody and lots percussion.  And, as if to get everybody a moment to shine, this song includes a trombone solo, a sax solo and Felix even gets a conga solo.

[READ: July 5, 2016] Goes for the Gold

This book came out in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics, and Babymouse joins the swim team!

The book begins with her doing a fantastic dive (called the Reverse Messy Whisker Dive) only to wake up in her backyard kiddie pool.

Despite her fantasy of doing dramatic dives, she actually spends all of her time after school reading and eating cupcakes.  Her parents insist that she do something–join a team or whatever.  She chooses to join the school swim team, “The shrimps.”  She figures how hard can it be, “I mean, swimming’s not even a real sport.”

Well not when you wear the suit that Babymouse has on.  She is encouraged to wear a proper swimming suit and goggles and a cap (to much amusement of everyone).

But swimming proves to be hard–between trying to go straight, the way the chlorine dries out your fur and the whale living in her locker (Moby-Dick, anyone?), it’s more than just splashing in a pool.

Especially when we see the other team–actual sharks!  And is that a giant squid at  the bottom of the pool?

But The Shrimps are very good and when Felicia Furrypaws dismisses swimming as not even a real sport, Babymouse has second thoughts–or at least would rather stay up late eating cupcakes.  Will she feel guilty about letting her team down?  Of course, she will.

But what will she do about it?

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jean-jacques-sempe-the-new-yorker-cover-may-19-2008 SOUNDTRACK: IRENE DIAZ-Tiny Desk Concert #380 (August 9, 2014).

iremeVirtually no infomation is given about Diaz in the blurb for her Tiny Desk Concert.

“My Sweetest Sin” opens as a one minute acapella song before she sits down at the piano and is accompanied by Carolyn Cardoza strumming away intently on ukulele for “Crazy Love.”  Her voice sounds lovely by itself but it sounds even richer when accompanied by the spare instrumentation.

“Lover’s Sway” goes through several genres.  It opens with a jaunty showtune vibe and then slows down for the verses.  And then indeed it gets jaunty once again, in a very different way.

For the final song, “I Love You Madly” she switches to guitar.  She says it was her first love song because she used to write a lot of depressing songs.  This is a pretty, mellow song and she at times sounds a bit like a country singer and a bit like Natalie Merchant.  It’s a little too slow and long for my tastes, but it is very pretty.

Diaz is quite a talent with a nice range of styles.

[READ: February 24, 2016] “East Wind”

This is the story of Vernon, who had moved to an unspecified busy waterfront town just a few months earlier.  A recent spate of vandalism had caused some beach huts to be burned down.  The town was horrified, but he didn’t mind so much because it improved his view to the sea.

He is sitting in a restaurant, and when the waitress asks if he’s done he replies with the cryptic, “All the way from the Urals.” When the waitress is understandably confused he says that’s where the wind comes from.

The waitress, a strong-looking woman, pronounces it Oorals.  He assumes she is Eastern European, perhaps Polish.  He jokes with her that they should o for a swim.  She replies, no swim, although he hadn’t actually meant it.

He became a regular there.  And on another occasion he said to her that they should run away and live in a beach hut.  “I do not think,” she replied.  But then he asked her out and she said yes. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_11_25_13Viva.inddSOUNDTRACK: PIXIES & “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-”I Bleed” (2009).

iblledYesterday I posted about “Weird Al”‘s new song “First World Problems” which parodies the Pixies’ style. I didn’t know that Al liked the Pixies, but he’s evidently quite a fan.  And the feeling is mutual. Here’s a video from 2009 of Al singing lead on the Pixies’ track “I Bleed.”

Al is totally passionate about the vocals.  The more professional looking video has an audio the mix is a little odd, as Al is so much louder than the band, that his intensity really sticks out, even though I’m sure the rest of the band was just as loud.  Indeed, there’s a fan video that is mixed better (which I have posted below, even though the more professional one has the welcoming introduction for Al).

I like that he starts with the spoken style (even if his spoken voice is not as menacing as Francis’).  And then when the actually rocking part kicks in, Al, keeps up just fine.

[READ: July 1, 1014] “Kilifi Creek”

This story starts out with an interesting technique–speaking about the main character in third person but with great insight and almost a judging attitude into her mindset: “It was a brand of imposition of which young people like Liana thought nothing showing up on an old couple’s doorstep, the home of friends of friends of friends….  mature adulthood–and the experience of being imposed upon herself–might have encouraged her to consider what showing up as an uninvited impecunious house guest would require of her hosts.”

Indeed, Liana is traveling around the world and has stopped at various people’s houses for free room and board for a week or so, all in the name of young exploration.  In most instances, she gives the lucky family a few days’ notice. And she felt she repaid the families not with money but with brightness and enthusiasm.

This particular family was on the Kenyan coast, their name: Henley.  “Regent Henley carried herself as if she used to be good-looking and her husband Beano (a ridiculous name for anyone so old) was a big game hunter.  They were wealthy by African standards and their native help often had little to do, Liana even considered that her arrival would give the help something to occupy themselves with.”

She was staying for six nights.  But rather than doing any major exploring, she spent most of her mornings writing things online to her friends, and most of her afternoons in a bikini, coming to and from the Kilifi Creek behind the Henley’s house. (more…)

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 walrusaprilSOUNDTRACK: BECK-“I Just Started Hating Some People Today” / “Blue Randy”(2012).

beckhateA few years ago, Beck suffered from a debilitating back injury that required spinal cord surgery.  This limited his output significantly over those years.  It also gave him a chance to re imagine releasing music.  And so around 2012 he started releasing singles with no albums attached.

This first one is a collaboration with Jack White and is and astonishingly traditional country song.

The song has big fiddles and twangy vocals.  Then the drums kick in and a big old bass notes sounds and…it’s even more country.  There are big, fun verses (about murder, naturally) and a slide guitar solo.

I honestly can’t tell what Jack White’s contribution is, but evidently it is “punk vocals.” And those punk vocals come near the end.  Because at 3:45, it turns into a blistering fun country punk mess, which lasts for just a few seconds.  And then it morphs into a weird, string-filled kinda sexy song with a hot-sounding lady telling us she’s going to kill us.

The straightness of the country is only weird because of the straightness of the punk at the end.  It’s clear Beck wanted to have fun with this track, and so he did.

The B-side is another country song.  This one is of a more spoken word quality, but it still has the country vibe (and slide guitar).  His voice sounds decidedly more country than I have heard from him.  Even Beck fans may be confused by just how country this is, and yet he definitely has country content in his earlier releases.

[READ: April 1, 2014] “The Navigator”

This is an interesting story that has a fascinating structure.  It seems like the story is told in third person.  It is the story of a man, Walter Ehrlich, who nearly died in 1972 when he caught pneumonia.  He had been swimming every day in Lake Ontario, but the doctors told him that that was unsafe, so he had a pool put in is backyard and he swam there every day that the winter didn’t freeze the water.

He also had a passion for ballrooms, and built one in his garage (this section is quite magical).

After a few paragraphs, the narrator reveals himself and the story is suddenly in first person.  The narrator knows about the man through his wife’s family.  Walter was close to his father-in-law (the story of how they met is also funny).  Indeed, there are photos of Walter visiting his wife’s family when she was just eight or nine years old.  (more…)

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  grantland8SOUNDTRACK: RALPH STANLEY-Tiny Desk Concert #31 (October 13, 2009).

ralpRalph Stanley is apparently a living bluegrass legend, although I’ve never heard of him.  He plays a clawhammer banjo (and apparently has for 63 years).

The concert lasted only 6 minutes, but in that time he sang three a capella songs: “Gloryland,” “Turn Back, Turn Back” and “Amazing Grace.”

It’s hard to assess a legend based on this performance.  I’ve no idea how good his voice was back in the day.  He sounds fine here, albeit understandably quite old.  I’d have liked to hear his banjo.

[READ: January 3, 2014] Grantland #8

It is becoming apparent to me that Grantland loves basketball.  Like, a lot more than any other sport.  This issue had a ton of basketball in it.  And, I have to admit I was a little tired of it by the end–there was a lot less pop culture stuff, too.  So, it felt especially basketball heavy.  I realize of course that the time frame covered was the playoffs, but still.

BILL SIMMONS-“Searching for a Superman”
A lengthy article about Dwight Howard, discussing the pros and cons of signing him again.

MARK TITUS-“How Did He Get So Good?”
A look at Paul George and Danny Green doing better than expected in the NCAA playoffs.

CHARLES P. PIERCE-“A Dark Day in Boston
Pierce wonders about Boston after the Boston Marathon bombing–he says the city will come back stronger. (more…)

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