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Archive for the ‘Suicide’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PERFUME GENIUS-Tiny Desk Concert #626 (June 12, 2017).

Perfume Genius is a delicate-sounding band.  Singer Mike Hadreas has a gentle voice.  Oon the first song he’s almost drowned out by the (relatively quiet) guitar from Tom Bromley.  The songs are also deeply personal–he wrote most of the new album as a love letter to his boyfriend (the keyboardist Alan Wyffels).

Hadreas’ voice is really affecting, especially when you can hear him clearly.

“Valley” is in waltz-time (with the guitar keeping rhythm for much of the song before the drums and keys come in).  The drums (by Herve Becart) are simple but wonderfully deep and resonant

“Slip Away” reminds me (and I can’t believe how many singers have sounded like this guy to me) of the band Dear Mr. President, a kind of aching falsetto.  The guitar is a little louder, rockier.  But the best part of the song (and the part that does not remind me of DMP) is the gorgeous chorus where everyone sings along to some “ooohooh.”

The final song is an older one called “Normal Song” it is just Hadreas and Wyffels and it is the most tender and delicate song yet.  Hadreas plays some simple, quiet chords (in waltz time again) as he sings:

“Take my hand when you are scared and I will pray,”

“… And no secret, no matter how nasty, can poison your voice or keep you from joy.”

The delicate ringing keys in the middle of the song are really pretty and I like the way they don’t play while he is singing–it’s just him and his guitar.

[READ: December 28, 2011] “Fly Already”

The premise of this story is at once humorous and horrifying.

And on a reader’s note: as an American unless told otherwise, I imagine all stories are set here (I assume that’s not an uncommon reaction to fiction).  So even though I know that Keret is not writing in America, often his stories don’t really need a location (which is awesome).  But then he gives away one detail that makes you realize the story isn’t set here.  That detail will come in a moment.

As the story opens, a man and his son, P.T. are walking to the park.  En route they see a man on top of a building.  The boy (who is 5) says, “he wants to fly!”  But the father knows a more reasonable (and terrible) reason why the man is on the roof of the builidng looking over the edge. (more…)

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harpers-magazine-march-2017-4 gucciSOUNDTRACK: GUCCI MANE-Tiny Desk Concert #585 (December 12, 2016).

Usually when someone is popular I have heard of him or her.  So I’m always surprised when someone gets a Tiny Desk Concert and I don’t know them (especially given his story).

Gucci Mane sounds kind of familiar, but I don’t think I’d ever heard of him before.  So what does the blurb say:

Gucci Mane’s smile makes you feel like there’s still some good in the world. He’s really earned it, and that thing is infectious. We asked him to come to NPR because we wanted to be a part of the victory tour he’s been on this year: In the past six months or so, Gucci Mane was released early from the federal penitentiary; he proposed to his girlfriend on the kiss cam at a Hawks game, and she said yes; he’s releasing a total of three albums, all over which he celebrates his newly committed sobriety; he and Courtney Love look like they get along; and he remade “Jingle Bells.”

In this Tiny Desk concert, Gucci Mane performed with just his longtime producer and friend, Zaytoven, on piano. Their version of stripped-down is a minimal backing track and plenty of church-groomed trills. They performed with the understanding that everyone in the room knew their songs — one from 2009 and two from this year — and knew that this performance would represent a surreal dip into a parallel universe where ingenuity is rewarded, snobbery is gone and love is real. Gucci Mane agreed to this unlikely set as a gesture to those people — for remembering his work while he was away, and for cheering on his resurgence, his health, his charm and his singular nature.

Gucci does the three songs, “First Day Out,” “Waybach,” and “Last Time,” all accompanied by Zaytoven, easily my favorite stage name and the absolute highlight of this show for me.

Gucci Mane’s flow is a kind of slow drawl.  It’s kind of charming and engaging.  I find it really strange that he’s rapping over himself (I guess).  But it’s so stripped down that it’s weird to hear his backing track so clearly.  But that live piano totally make the show fantastic–Zaytoven has some amazing chops.

[READ: February 21, 2017] “Sinking Ships and Sea Dramas”

The introduction to this story was pretty fascinating.  This piece is an except from a manuscript in progress inspired “in part by lines from the work of Ben Lerner, the poetry editor of Harper’s

This was translated from the German by Isabel Fargo Cole.

I’m not sure what Lerner wrote that inspired this, but this “cycle” consists of 6 ruminations on death and the sea. (more…)

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semonSOUNDTRACK: RUN THE JEWELS-Tiny Desk Concert #596 (February 6, 2017).

When Killer Mike and El-P walk out to the Desk, El-P drinks from a formerly unopened liquor bottle (E&J), which Bob says has been aging for 8 years.

Then as the music from DJ Trackstar begins, EL-P says “I insist that you clap your hands like this, lets see if NPR has rhythm”–and after a few claps everyone is way off, to much laughter.

The blurb says

Like any good pair of twins, Run the Jewels have a freaky sort of unspoken fraternity. When El-P (née El-Producto, née Jaime Meline) — rapper, producer, and all-around godfather of the backpacker scene of the late-90’s — and Killer Mike strode in with their usual uniforms — Mike in a gold chain as thick as a garter snake, El in a fitted Yankees cap and pair of blue-mirrored sunglasses — the two didn’t have to do as much as nod to one another before upending three tracks from their latest LP, RTJ3, in strange and perfect symbiosis.

On “Talk to Me,” I feel like Killer Mike’s flow is a little better than El-Ps at least in the beginning.  El-P also says fuck a lot, which I noticed when I first downloaded their album, as well–lots of fucks, which is kind of lazy, I think.  Or maybe I just like Mike’s lyrics better.  Like this:

Born Black, that’s dead on arrival
My job is to fight for survival
In spite of these #AllLivesMatter-ass white folk

After he says this line, they stand back to back, middle fingers raised.  El-P says “this is the pose we do in this song.”

Before “Legend Has It” El-P grabs a banana like a microphone and says it feels more natural that way (Mike then signed the banana for Bob and he had it laminated).  As the song begins, Mike says, “y’all can dance to it your boss ain’t looking.  It’s a little slower and El-P has his flow on and has some great lines:

I am the living swipe right on the mic, I’m a slut
I don’t know how to not spit like a lout
I’ll spill a pound of my kids on your couch

and

I don’t play chicken, you prick, I’m a fox
You wanna kick it, I’ll give you the rocks
You kiss the wood chipper blade if you balk
I’m fuckin’ magic, in fact I’m a warlock of talk
I got a unicorn horn for a (stop)

But the crowd is on it this time when they chant and the crowd goes “RTJ!”

As the song ends, El-P says “You know why they do these things because for that least one week you cannot complain about your jobs.”

The final song is “A Report To The Shareholders.”  Before it begins, El-P says.  “It’s oddly awesome to be here.”  Then he takes one more swig.  Mike shouts, who got the weed?

It is much slower, almost spoken. Each guy gets a verse, between them, there s little instrumental and El-P says ” we haven’t figured out to so in this part.”  My favorite line of the show comes in this song:

“ooh, Mike said ‘uterus'”
They acting like Mike said, “You a bitch”
To every writer who wrote it, misquoted it
Mike says, “You a bitch, you a bitch, you a bitch”
Add a “nigga” for the black writer that started that sewer shit

The two do indeed play off each other perfectly–echoing the last lines of each other’s words.  And despite how angry they sound i the words, they are a surprisingly genial bunch.

[READ: December 8, 2016] Demon Vol. 1

I’ve really enjoyed pretty much everything that Jason Shiga has created.  I love the style of his characters–seemingly very simple yet very expressive.  And I love that his stories are bizarre, complex and mind-blowing.

I’m delighted that this series is being distributed by First Second since I like just about everything they do.  Although I am a little surprised that the published it, given how icky it gets.

Shiga has drawn some books that were kid friendly, but this book IS NOT!  It is about suicide and murder and bad language and all manner of adult things.  Indeed in the forward Shiga notes, “It’s been a dream come true working on this project, pushing past the limits of common decency–of good taste–with every new page. (more…)

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592016 SOUNDTRACK: PETER FRAMPTON-Tiny Desk Concert #525 (April 27, 2016).

framptonI’ve never been a big fan of Frampton.  Never disliked him, just never got into him.  It always made me laugh that Frampton Comes Alive was so huge and yet I only ever knew two songs from it.  And in my head the only thing he was known for was that voice guitar thing.

So it’s interesting to see him now, considerably older with much less hair. Indeed he changes the lyrics to the first song “All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)” to “I don’t care now that I’ve…lost some hair.”  For this song it’s just him playing an acoustic guitar and singing–no effects.  (This is all in tour of his new Acoustic Classics album).  It’s interesting to hear him playing such a folkie song (which sounds a bit like Eric Clapton).  But the more important thing is that his voice sounds great.  Many singers his age simply don’t have the voice anymore, but he certainly does.  He hasn’t lost anything.

For the second song, “Lines On My Face,” he is joined by Gordon Kennedy.  Kennedy has been his writing partner for decades.  Together they wrote some of Frampton’s classics as well as a song for Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitts’ new single “Gypsy in Me.”  He says that this song is something he wrote a long time ago and it’s still a favorite.  While Kenendy plays acoustic backing chords, Frampton plays some good solos on that acoustic guitar.

For being Peter Frampton, he was actually very humble and self-effacing and rather funny.  There’s a good moment when he says he didn’t expect quite this many people.  “You hear like “clap clap clap….”

Of course, I know “Baby, I Love Your Way.”  I’m not exactly sick of it, but I don’t go out of my way to listen to it.  However, in this new acoustic format I really got to listen to the song anew.  It’s really quite a nice song.  And when the crowd spontaneously chimes in and sings along he seems genuinely pleased and it makes the song t hat much better.

This Tiny Desk made me appreciate Peter Frampton in a way I never thought I would.

[READ: June 10, 2016] “Three Short Moments in a Long Life”

I enjoy when a story has Parts.  This one has three and they all connect, which is even better than three discrete parts.  But this story, which covers a man’s life from childhood to old age is really quite a downer.  It speaks volumes about the futility of life without actually ever saying anything about it.

Part 1 is called The Spy (although I’m not entirely sure why).  In it, the narrator talks about Beverly LaPlante.  He and Beverly were in second grade together.  She was very shy and cried a lot.  They both hated recess and he was afraid to get lumped in with–the kids made fun of her a lot.  Midway through the year she left the school and that was that.

Third grade meant a new teacher and he had a crush on her.  Then one day during dodge ball he noticed that there was a new girl.  And her name was Beverly LaPlante.  But there was no way she was the same girl, right?  She wasn’t shy at all, in fact, she ended the dodgeball game by cursing out some of the losers.  He was upset that he sweet teacher didn’t yell at her.  When she finally said something to the girl, Beverly shouted “Jesus Christ and shit, piss, fuck!”

The narrator prayed that night–he prayed that Beverly would die.  He immediately took it back but it was too late.

Part 2 is called The Writer.

In this brief part the boy is grown up.  He is a writer, and has written several books which no one cared about.  While he was thinking about writing, there was a knock at the door.  He opened it and there was Jesus: “he had long blond hair and those eyes that follow you around the room.”  Except of course it wasn’t Jesus, right?  It was a just a guy looking for work or change.

Part 3 is called The Substance of Things Hoped For.

As the section opens the man is now eighty–lying on his bed unable to move.  We learn that he has Parkinson’s and is being taken to the hospital for pneumonia.

He has felt like a burden to his wife and some time ago tried to kill himself. It failed obviously but she told him if he ever did that again she’d kill him herself: “She’s a genuine saint, the real thing, without any pious crap, so she’s not always easy to live with.”

He is in the hospital for a while, marveling at the attendants and how young they seem.  He wonders if and when he is going to die.

This last part seemed really extraneous and not very meaningful.  I realize that it was meant to wrap everything up but I would have preferred to have the two parts together and let me imagine the third.

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augSOUNDTRACK: GAELYNN LEA-Tiny Desk Concert #513 (March 11, 2016).

graeGaelynn Lea won the Tiny Desk Contest and within a few days she was ready to appear for her formal Tiny Desk Concert.

She began her set with the prize winner, “Someday We’ll Linger In The Sun.”  The song was beautiful and haunting in the video, and it sounded just as good live.  She joked that with a loop pedal you have to be perfect, and it was.  Watching her play these notes is even more interesting than hearing them.

Gaelynn is clearly a little nervous, but she is still charming as she tells us how she got started in the music world.  She started fiddling because she had a crush on a boy who fiddled.  Simple as that.  She had been in a number of bands in Minnesota.  Then someone gave her a looping pedal and that changed everything for her.

She says that she began experimenting with the old and the new, and that the looping pedal allowed her to do things like play “Southwind.”  The song is 100 years old.  She loops a beautiful melody and then plays an excellent solo over the top it.  I think there’s something about the way she plays–her bowing seems to make her violin sound more like a cello or something–that makes her notes sound more haunting than another violinist might.

After the first two songs, Bob comes out to introduce Gaelynn.  He explains that she is a violin teacher and she has been playing for years and years.  And then he explains that she’s going to have accompaniment for the next two songs–Alan Sparhawk from Low!

Here’s how they met.  Gaelynn was playing at a farmer’s market with a guitar player.  Alan Sparhwawk who is also based in Duluth, MN, heard her playing.  Some time later, he called her (while she was at a wedding) and asked if she’d want to work on a project with him.  They made musis for a silent film and then formed the band The Murder of Crows.

And so Alan joins her for the last two songs.

“Bird” is an upbeat song with a lively lopped violin riff.  Alan plays slow guitars which flesh out the low end.  And then Gaelynn sings as the violin loops and Alan plays low notes.  Alan takes the second verse and then Gaelynn sings a round over the top of his voice.  It’s quite lovely.

She says she never wrote any songs until she met him, and she’s very grateful.

The final song is “Moment of Bliss.”  I really like the melody and vocal line of this song.  And again, the lyrics are really thoughtful.  Sparhawk’s slow guitar and low harmony voice really add depth to this lovely five minute song.  When she plays a looped solo at the end, it’s really beautiful.

[READ: January 25, 2016] “Leap Day”

I don’t think I’ve read too many stories where the plot of a movie is as instrumental to the story as it was in this one.

And when I say that that movie is Brokeback Mountain, it gives you a ton of context clues.

The story is a simple one.  Ernie Boettner is climbing up a grain silo in February.  And then we find out why.

Ernie is a farmer.  The townspeople of Park City, Illinois noticed that he seemed to get a lot of visits from the veterinarian Chester Bradbury.  There was nothing wrong with that per se, but it seemed like sometimes the vet’s truck was there over night.  Which seemed unusual. (more…)

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aug24SOUNDTRACK: IVAN & ALYOSHA-Tiny Desk concert #109 (February 7, 2011).

ivanIvan & Alyosha are a five piece (no one is named Ivan or Aloysha) consisting of Tim Wilson (lead vocals) Ryan Carbary (guitars) Pete Wilson, (Tim’s brother), Tim Kim (acoustic and electric guitars) and drummer Cole Mauro).  They play bouncy folk (I assume that their non-Tiny Desk sound is bigger than two acoustic guitars and a tambourine).

“Beautiful Lie” is the first song.  The lead singer has a gentle falsetto and the other guys add nice harmonies (especially during the oooooooohs).

As they introduce “Easy to Love” Wilson says they recorded it at 2AM in their last half hour at the studio.  And it wound up being the song people like most.  It’s easy to like, with a fun clap-along and a simple electric guitar solo.  Again, I assume the actual song is bigger than this.

“I Was Born To Love Her” is a good jam (their words).  It completes that folks sound with two guitars and lovely harmonies.  They’d be a great opener for Band of Horses.  I’d see that tour.

Incidentally, the band name comes from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

[READ: February 3, 2016] “These Short, Dark Days”

I was planning on saving this story to put it sequentially with the other New Yorker stories that I’ll be posting in the weeks to come.  But this story is set on February 3, so why not post it on that short, dark day, since it is that day, anyhow.

This story begins with a suicide.  A man sees his wife out the door, then covers the windows and door gaps, pulls the gas hose off the stove and brings it with him into the bedroom (who knew the hose would be that long).

The next section of the story jumps to much later as we see a nun, Sister St. Savior, walking down the street.  She is tired and aching from begging all day. But she smells the smell of an extinguished fire and she knows in her heart that she must go there and help.  I love that when she arrives, everyone defers to her.  One of the men even acts as if he has sent for her, when clearly she came of her own design. (more…)

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novSOUNDTRACK: LIZZ WRIGHT-Tiny Desk Concert #116 (March 14, 2011).

lizz Lizz Wright is a gospel singer with a lovely voice.   For some reason she only has two songs here (the editing makes it seem like she does at least one more).

I don’t know Wright at all, but the blurb gives context: Raised on church music in Georgia, Wright is well-versed in the freedom songs of Sweet Honey in the Rock, without whom none of the music here would exist; “I Remember, I Believe” is by that group’s leader, the great Bernice Johnson Reagon, whose daughter Toshi Reagon (Wright’s best friend) co-wrote “Hit the Ground.”

“Hit the Ground” is upbeat and lively.  Whereas “I Remember, I Believe” is far more powerful, but much slower.

Sadly for me, I don’t really like gospel music, especially the slower songs like the second one here.  So I didn’t love this Tiny Desk, but I can certainly appreciate how good a singer she is.

[READ: January 15, 2015] “Williamsburg Bridge”

I don’t know anything else by John Edgar Wideman, so I didn’t really know what to expect with this story.

I certainly did not expect a long (rather dull) story about a man on the Williamsburg Bridge contemplating suicide.

There were some beautiful passages and phrasings here, especially the reflections on Sonny Rollins, but man, this thing just seemed to go on and on. (more…)

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