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Archive for the ‘Suicide’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: CORNELIUS-Tiny Desk Concert #718 (March 19, 2018).

I was familiar with an artist known as Cornelius, but I guess I didn’t really know anything about him, because this blurb came as a total surprise:

As Cornelius, Keigo Oyamada has stretched his vision across frenzied indie rock, lush ’60s-style pop, psychedelic funk and glitched electronics, all deconstructed and reassembled like a neon cubist-pop sculpture. After a little more than two decades, no one can really imitate his complex cool.

Sporting a pair of sunglasses (always), Oyamada recently brought his band from Japan to the Tiny Desk on a rare U.S. tour, including his longtime collaborator and Pizzicato Five session musician Hiroshisa Horie, drummer Yuko Araki (Mi-Gu, Cibo Mato’s live band) and synthesist Yumiko Matsumura (Buffalo Daughter). They’re all musicians who tease and poke at music’s fringe territory, but still know how to make a song buzz and pop with gleeful curiosity.

So I guess I know Cornelius from Pizzicato Five.  But I was not prepared for the trippy synthy music that this band created.

Cornelius performs three very different songs from last year’s Mellow Waves. There’s the robotic groove of “Helix/Spiral,” which repeats and mutates the same phrase and melodic fragments in a delicate and strange dance.

“Helix/Spiral” is all synth with his vocals auto-tuned into robotic sounds.  The lyrics are mostly him speaking those two words over and over (which I thought was saying Alex Spy-lo, but that is clearly me not understanding his accent.  The synths are great.  One is doing cool trippy backing sounds while the main riff is a disjointed melody that begins confusing and ends as an earworm.

“In a Dream” is a star-swept landscape that invites the subconscious to search for meaning, its keyboard flourishes and light acoustic strums so breezy you could almost call it a kind of retro-futuristic yacht rock.

I love the full synth sound (and swirling bass of “In a Dream”).  I believe he is singing in Japanese.  The chorus of the song is so incredibly catchy in an almost light folk sort of way.

But set closer “If You’re Here” is the real marvel to behold live, as the band performs at different tempos, gradually solving a polyrhythmic puzzle of a slow jam. The song also features one of my favorite guitar solos in recent memory — it’s unflashy, but twists, spits and resolves in the most unexpected ways.

“If You’re Here” is a longer song–nearly 7 minutes–with a kind of slow building feel.  Those electric guitar solos from Cornelius himself are very cool indeed.  There’s a lengthy instrumental coda at the end which is very trippy and cool.

I really enjoyed this set and every new listen brought in something new.

[READ: January 9, 2018] “The Send-Off”

This is an excerpt from a novel called Inhumaines which has just come out in English (translated by Camille Bromley).

The previous piece that I read from Claudel was pretty surreal.  This one is as well.

It begins

Last night, Roger Turpon, from dispatching, invited us to his suicide.  There were twenty of us.  Family and friends only.

Turpon has been talking about killing himself for a while now, but boy “A suicidal person is tiresome.”

Finally Dupond helped him out by calling him a coward, saying he won’t do it.  They stood in the parking lot in mid-autumn with leaves blowing all around them.  “It was lovely.”

Three days later they received the invitation: Mr and Mrs Turpon are delighted to invite you to Roger’s suicide this Saturday. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CIGARETTES AFTER SEX-Tiny Desk Concert #684 (December 13, 2017).

I only know of Cigarettes After Sex from when NPR played a song of theirs and Bob asked us to guess whether the singer was a man or a woman.

Greg Gonzalez has one of those wonderful voices that is deep and husky and sounds feminine (although his speaking voice is very deep).

This Tiny Desk Concert is very quiet (like The XX).  It is just Gonzalez on heavily echoed guitar and vocals and his unmoving, emotion-free longtime bandmate Phillip Tubbs on spare keyboards.

Although there’s not a lot to these songs, the melodies are truly terrific.

The three songs sound very similar–unmistakably them.

“K.,” the opening track to this Tiny Desk Concert – and the opening cut to the band’s eight year-long awaited debut album – is especially memorable. The lyrics are simple and easy to remember: “Kristen, come right back/I’ve been waiting for you to slip back in bed/When you light the candle.”

Amazingly, for almost half of each song, there are no keyboards, just the guitar.  So that extra, gentle wash of music sounds huge.  “Apocalypse” has the lovely swooning chorus of “you’ve been locked in here forever and you just can’t say goodbye” and “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” follows that same pretty structure (although it’s my least favorite of the three).  With the minimalism:

each note and each word seems to count for more  …  and the office environment of the Tiny Desk Concert [may work better] than in a club, where just the chatter of a crowd can drown out this gentle music.

[READ: November 1, 2017] The Hunting Accident

I loved this book. Everything about it was utterly fantastic.  The story, the way it was told, and the amazing drawings of Landis Blair

The book opens on a snowy day in Chicago in 1959.  A boy whose mother has just died has moved from sunny California to miserable Chicago to live with his blind father, Matt.   The boy had lived with his mother since he was four (his mother’s mother thought that his father was a trouble and that they needed to get away from him).  So he barely knew his father.  And now it was time to find out everything about the man.  Like, first off, how he became blind.

The father told the boy all about the hunting accident.  He and his friends were screwing around, playing by the train tracks.  They were having fun scaring each other.  All the kids were afraid of real life bogeymen Leopold & Loeb local murderers.  The boys even believed they found the pipe in which Leopold & Loeb stuffed their victim.

There’s even little reminder of the crime:

In 1924, two wealthy educated men kidnapped and brutally murdered Bobby Franks, a 14-year-old neighbor…just for the thrill of it… to see if they could commit “the perfect crime.”

Anyhow, the boys had a shotgun and heard a deer.  When one of those boys shot at the deer he missed and his Charlie’s father right in the face.

Soon Charlie must learn what it is like to live with a blind man–how everything must be in the exact same place.

Charlie’s father writes all the time (on a braille machine).  He writes about morality and poetry.  He quotes Dante.  And soon, Charlie’s dad was having Charlie help with the writing–by proofing and checking things (Charlie learned a lot at the same time).

Charlie’s grandmother also said that Chicago was dangerous, but not for Charlie.  He got along fine. He even made friends with Steve Garza–the coolest kid in the neighborhood.    Garza was so cool he bummed cigarettes off of Charlie (from his dad–even though Matt, counted them and got mad about it).

Charlie also began getting involved in extracurricular activities–he loved tap dancing and tried the cello–two things his father appreciated. But soon Steve and his buddy started pressuring Charlie.  He “left” his tap shoes at the park, he stopped playing cello and he got involved in some ugly things.

Garza wanted to join the JPs–a local mob related gang.  But he was too young so he started the Junior JPs and soon enough that involved theft.  And since they were dumb, they were easily caught.

And that’s when the truth comes out.

I was already hooked into the story and then I was blown away.  Charlie’s dad did not lose his sight in a hunting accident.  Charlie is furious that his dad lied to him.

Garza convinces Charlie to head for Canada to avoid the cops.  (The third guy has already gotten there and is at a free-love commune or something).  Charlie is prepared to drive them both (he’s the one with the car after all).  And then his dad tells him the whole truth, which gets Charlie to pause.

The rest of the book cover’s Matt’s story.

He was poor in 193os Chicago and got mixed up with the wrong crowd.  His did go blind from a gun shot, but it was a very different setting–and it led to prison.

On the day he got to prison, the same prison that Leopold and Loeb were in, Richard Loeb was killed in the shower.  This left Leopold alone.

Charlie asks if he met Leopold.   And Charlie’s dad says that Nathan Leopold is the reason for his divorce.  What?

Turns out hat not only did Charlie’s dad know Nathan Leopold. He was Leopold’s cell mate.  Since Loeb was killed there was concern that Leopold might be next.  And since Matt was blind, they were put together under watch.

After Matt was out of prison, Leopold sent him a letter (in braille) which the grandmother intercepted.  Matt had never told anyone he was in jail, and that made Matt a Liar.

Matt was miserable in jail.  He couldn’t see, his father was disappointed in him and he had nothing to live for.  He just wanted to die, but that was pretty hard to do under constant supervision. We see daily life for a blind man in jail–food stolen all the time and knocking his cellmate’s things over.

Leopold was angry and bitter and wanted nothing to do with a blind man.  But soon, Leopold began talking to Matt about the life of the mind–something he realized that Matt lived all the time.  Because he couldn’t see everything was in his mind. Leopold used to hold educational lessons in the library at the jail.  He also showed Matt how to make a Glim Box (a way to use a spinning coin to light a fire to light cigarettes).

Matt tells Leopold that he has no family.  Meanwhile, Leopold’s dad visits every two weeks (the visits are awkward and uncomfortable but are a way for Leopold to get things from the outside).

Soon, Leopold is trying to convince Matt to learn Braille.  Why?  well, this gave opportunity for Leopold to learn it to and thereafter he could read after lights out.  (Leopold was a master of many languages and picked up braille easily).

And that’s when Leopold persuaded Matt to read Dante’s Inferno.

The story of Matt’s imprisonment jumps back to the present where Charlie is still annoyed with his father, but is really interested in the story. Especially when he leans that his father almost committed suicide there.

I loved the philosophical ideas in the story–they way the book interprets both Plato and Dante for the everyman .  I loved that Matt’s story runs throughout the book and I loved the whole idea of a blind man helping one of the most notorious criminals of he 20th century.

This story is thought-provoking and exciting at the same time.

The only thing that I feel was left out–did Charlie wind up going to jail or not?  It’s never addressed.

The end of the story and that final two-page spread are just breathtaking.

I also love that David L. Carlson more or less found out about this amazing true story by accident.

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SOUNDTRACK: TYLER, THE CREATOR-Tiny Desk Concert #683 (December 11, 2017).

I’ve never really liked Tyler, The Creator.  My experience with him and his Odd Future posse was that they were just too …  everything.  Violent, misogynist, homophobic, everything.  Well, it has been a decade or so since he first came to my awareness and he has matured considerably.

The change was noted in the blurb:

Flower Boy, Tyler’s latest album, is much like this Tiny Desk performance; a surprising departure from the expected. Four albums in, he has matured as a producer, rapper and human being. Often equated to hip-hop’s class clown, the 26-year-old peels back his own mask of immaturity to reveal a young adult grappling with anxiety, fear and uncertainty of self.

Which is not to say that he’s not vulgar, because he is, but he is also a lot of fun.  And he made a point of having fun at this Tiny Desk Concert:

Tyler, The Creator’s Tiny Desk performance was a first for many reasons. It was the Los Angeles rapper’s first time performing at our offices, but moreover, it was the Tiny Desk’s first nighttime performance, a special request from Tyler and his team in order to professionally light the “stage” themselves. Members of Tyler’s lighting crew came to the office a day before to set it up, eventually bathing him and his band in shades of fuchsia, orange and blue — one for each song — during the early evening show.

“Boredom” opens with the room bathed in blue as the two backing singers Kaye Fox and Kiandra Richardson sing a pretty melody of “boredom got a new best friend” as the keys by Jaret Landon, drums by Dalton Hodo and upright bass (!) by Dré Pinckney plays a mellow jam.  After a minute and a  half, Tyler comes out and starts rapping.  I like when he adds his 70s sounding synth over the backing vocals.

They have a lengthy jam at the end with the backing singers getting a chance: “make something up its your turn.”  Then he asks a woman in the audience with a phone: “whats your name?”  “Nana.”  he sings, “Nana in this mother fucker… you can call me.”

I assume he has a cold (his voice sounds very cool and gravelly) as he “sips this nasty ass tea.  Can’t believe people choose to drink this shit.”

As “See You Again” starts, he plays a new synth sound and the lights turn fuschia.  Then he says, “I don’t know how many people are familiar with this song.  If you wanna join in because you’re excited, feel free to join in because i like that shit.  Then he points, “I know you three for sure you been saying every lyric.  I appreciate you.”

When it starts he says, “Excuse my voice.  I can’t sing….  But I don’t fucking care because it feels good.  Like a warm shower.  I think.

The blurb notes that his warmth to the audience was genuine:

After he was done, Tyler did something of a modified mic-drop, throwing his tambourine in celebration of what he and his band had accomplished. Always one to stay casually connected with his fans, Tyler made time — nearly an hour after the performance was done — to pose for photos, sign merch and crack jokes with (and on) everyone around him.

“Glitter” features a lot more rapping and some great backing vocals.  I assume that the backing singers will become known and their voices are great.

When the set ends, the screen goes black.  But wait, there’s more.

He says, “I guess we’re done (people clap).  Wait, wait (getting angry-sounding, like Dave Chapelle) I’m about to talk.  I wanna talk.  Shit.

Someone asks, “Whats on your mind.”  He says, “Thank you.  I respect that.  People don’t take the time to ask that. To listen.”  He has everyone go around and introduce themselves and give a fun fact.  The whole set is a lot of fun.

[READ: October 20, 2017] Demon Vol. 3

Volume 3 of this series continues the thread of Jimmy Yee.  Jimmy is a demon who–when his host body is killed–will instantly jump into the nearest living body.  He and his daughter Sweetpea have been alive for hundreds of years and have seen and done everything.  They have unlimited money and resources and have slept and killed their way around the world several time over.

By Chapter 15 Jimmy runs into that guy from the earlier books with the square hair and mustache  (Hunter).  Hunter wants to kill this demon so they get into a hilariously over the top fight sequence.  Since nether one of them can die, they jump out of building and crash into things–jumping into the next body and the next.  The carnage is incredible. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 9 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 16, 2005).

This was the second to last night, the 9th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.

This show seems to be a confluence of technical difficulties and goofs.  The band is probably loopy after eight nights.  They even got under way late, apparently.

They open with “Saskatchewan.”  The song sounds great, the band is really into it. The backing vocals are great and the song soars.  But then they spend nearly 6 minutes trying to figure stage issues out.   Martin says, “Tim’s acoustic guitar is strung in Nashville tuning.  You should try it sometime.” (I wonder what that means).

Thanks to Great Aunt Ida for opening for us tonight.

Martin says “This is the Cazostatics.  Hugo Boss’ line of clothing. You notice Tim’s flannel shirt.”  Dave and Martin talk about “guys touching their nipples, a  21st century phenomenon.”  Martin: “It was funny 12 years ago.  There’s one person who can do it I love him.”  (I wonder who that is).

After a few minutes, Dave says, “Be careful or I’ll start talking about merch….  All right, I’m talking about merch (merch bassline).

This song (Tim’s new song) is worth it, I like it a lot.  Tim: “this better be a good fucking song is all I have to say.”  “Sunshine At Night” sounds good.

Don’t forget the bongos.  Martin:  “last night, I got to play the bongos with a black turtleneck on.”  Dave: “I think you mean you got away with playing bongos wearing a black turtleneck.”

Then comes two songs from Introducing Happiness.   “Fish Tailin'” and “Me and Stupid.”  At the end, Dave says, “Tim, a little horn pipe on the bass.”  Which he does.  And then Dave says, “one thing we don’t know about Ford Pier–have you ever recited poetry?”  “Never have done, sir?” Anything that rhymes?  Greeting cards?”  When pressed he comes with a verse from 7 Seconds’ “Colourblind.”

There’s nothing funny when you think about
All the hate in this world makes me just wanna shout
Whether Black, White, Brown, Red, Yellow, or Blue
All the caring in the world will depend on you
We gotta fight to change things; help rearrange things
Get along; stand together; live as one
But the only way to do it is to get right to it
Communicate, ?, and getting things done

Martin: “This is a weird night.”  Dave: “Here’s “Marginalized.”  The bass is off.  After a verse, Dave stops the song.  “The bass is really out of tune and the bass is vital.  I wouldn’t have stopped if it wasn’t really out of tune.”  Tim: “That’s the “Palomar” tuning form like two nights ago.”  Dave: “Sorry this shows gonna take 14 hours.  Have you heard about the merch?” (jazz chords).

Pick it up at the first chorus.  Dave stops it again.

Tim: “Hang on a sec, I think you might have just been playing the wrong notes.”
Dave: “Even a moron like me can play a G.”
Martin: “Cazostatics”
Dave: “I could fucking kick this bass with my foot and G would ring out.”
Tim: “That’s the approximate bass.”

Tim just picks up again and finished the song with “Little Caesar” by Vic Chesnutt.

Martin has a lot of fun with the goofy voice saying “Hi there.”  They play a great version of “The Tarleks” and then “Fan Letter To Michael Jackson.”   Near the end of the song Dave says, “let’s rock.”  Then pauses and says, “but first let’s reluctantly rock.”  Tim: “may we rock?”  Dave:  “Not yet.”  Martin: “Sorry.  May we sheepishly rock?”  Dave: “Martin is exhibiting a slight degree of frock on his very unrock guitar.  Tim’s digging in.  Ford has put away that nasty French horn and is coming to the dark side.  Now we must rock.”

At the end, Martin takes off with “RDA” but after he starts it gets shut down.  “Aww, wrangler Dave.”
Mike: “It’s only good when Dave calls out the chords.”
Martin: “Sorry dad, I didn’t mean to come out like that.”

Martin:  “I’m playing a double neck guitar.  The upper neck has 12 strings.  The lower four of which are in octaves although two appear to be missing.  The lower neck is a normal 6 string guitar.”  In a cheesy voice: “I love this axe.  It has rocked me through many a show.  Check this out.  The lower neck resonates in the upper neck.  That’s no gizmo.  That’s in the axe.  Have I blown your mind?”

Ford: “Your inner pedagogue has really reared its head for this last Fall Nationals.  You’ve been giving away all your shit.  Kiss wouldn’t even tell people how they kept their make up from running.”

Dave says he wants to make a parody instructional guitar DVD.  Ford: “Parody my nutsack.”  Would anybody buy that?  Tim says he would buy it if it was called “Parody My Nutsack: Dave Bidini on Rhythm Guitar.”

Ford says we’re demonstrating the chatter-to-music ratio.

This one’s called “Smokin’ Sweet Grass.”  They start “Making Progress” which Tim says is “for the guy who just shouted ‘fucking play.'”  It’s followed by a nice “Little Bird Little Bird.”

Ford tells a story about finding moth larvae on his suit pants.  Every time he pauses, Dave plays a rim shot.
Tim tells his own story (Dave still doing rim shots).  He says they  got a dog which the cats hate.  The vet gave him something you plug in the wall to release pheromones to make you cat feel good.  Like cat prozac.  Dave: “I snorted that backstage at the Duran Duran reunion.”  Tim: “He gave us a sample and we’re on it tonight.  So everything is okay.  Until the end of the world.”

“Here Comes The Image” features MPW on the synth.  Martin: “Mike forgot his mustache wax.  It’s followed by “Who Is This Man and Why Is He Laughing?” with Jennifer Foster (better known in some parts as JFo).  Tim: Dave Bidini on drums for two songs in a row.  Pretty awesome.”

“Pornography” starts slow, but the end picks up and rocks.  Martin says “Tim Vesely, the lizard king.”

Tim says this night is full of a crowd full of people who came from shitty office parties.  Dave: “Our office party was tonight, two clubs over.”

“In This Town” rocks and is followed by “PIN”  Dave says it’s from Night of the Shooting Stars, the black album.  At the end, Martin starts making goat noises (??).  Eat me, feeeeeeeed me.

Next comes “Four Little Songs.”  Martin sings his verse like a goat.  For our third little song, last night’s comedy guests The Imponderables.  Their bit is all about dreams.  Three guys tell their dreams.  The fourth guy comes out.  He’s certainly naked, possibly with an erection. Everyone reacts appropriately. Dave: “That’s The Imponderables and that’s John’s cock.”  In Dave;s verse he sings “your voice will ring out like a giant…schlong.”  He ends the song saying, “There’s certain things that make our Horseshoe stands that much more memorable.”

Ford plays a roller rink version of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”  After two minutes, Tim starts singing “Shangri-La” (by The Kinks) which segues into “Bad Time To Be Poor.”   Man someone’s guitar is way off playing sour notes through the whole thing.

Then the return to “RDA.”  It rocks and they have guests from Lowest of the Low Steve Stanley and Paul (can;t find his last name).  Mid song they launch into a heavy version of “I’m So Bored With The USA.”  Paul rails about middle management and wants cultural diversity he wants middle management to get out of public broadcasting.  Dave: “Will someone save Canada from itself?”

Ford sings The English Beat’s “Save It For Later.”  And then they end with a 20 minute medley

“Takin’ Care Of Business” (anybody bring a cowbell?), into “My Generation.”  Martin sings “One More Colour.”  It jumps to “P.R.O.D.” with Mr Ron Koop.  Over to G.  after a few bars, Ford says, “the suspense is killing me.”  So Dave plays “Bud The Spud.”  He kind of mumbles it very fast, “that’s the closest I’ve ever come to rapping.”  It turns into “Radios In Motion” and then into “Blitzkrieg Bop.”  Dave: Take it down to Bflat… never mind take it back to A.  Ford sings “Monkey Man” by Amy Winehouse.  It becomes “Green Sprouts.”  Dave: “You know what I hate in this song?”  The bridge?  Tim: “Take it to the bridge.”  The audience chanting 1,2,3,4.  Tim instructs them.

Thanks to the Lowest of the Low, Great Aunt Ida, The Imponderables and TruthHorse tomorrow.

[READ: August 8, 2017] Demon Vol. 2

I really enjoyed the far out and rather over the top premise of volume 1 of this series (of four in total).

Volume 2 is much larger than Volume 1 (about 50 pages larger).  And that extra size allows for more complexity.

And I admit I was a bit confused from time to time.  The whole premise of the story is a little confusing in a wrap-your-head-around-it kinda way, but he added a new element that was a major Wha?? moment.

So Jimmy Yee, is a boring 44-year-old actuary.  He didn’t realize that he was actually a demon until the day before when he tried to kill himself.  Now whenever his body dies, the demon jumps into the nearest body.  His personality transfers to the new body, and Shiga represents this by having Jimmy’s face on each new body (but if someone else looks at that person he still looks like what the now-possesed person’s face.

Jimmy has been experimenting with this whole Demon thing.  And that means inhabiting various body and killing them (which looks like suicide).  The police are after him for the series of murders he has committed (even though he himself is technically dead). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN DENVER & THE MUPPETS-A Christmas Together (1979).

This is a strange recording.  Perhaps even more so nearly forty years past its release date when The Muppets are still beloved but aren’t hugely popular.  It’s strange because it’s quite an earnest record, and yet it is sung by puppets with weird voices.

So this album is not meant to be funny (with some exceptions), and yet it’s hard not to smile somewhat at the crazy voices involved.  But the songs aren’t played for laughs.

So if you can get past the fact that Rowlf the Dog is singing an earnest song, it’s quite enjoyable.  In fact, the whole disc is warm and inviting, nonjudgmental and really sweet–pretty much everything that John Denver and The Muppets are known for.

The album features of traditional Christmas carols and original songs.

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” (Denver with the Muppets).  This is kind of an unfortunate song to start with if only because it feels much longer than its 4 minutes (as this song always does).  Having a different Muppet sing each line helps though.  And there are some amusing moments (Beaker of course).  But it’s not really played for laughs, exactly.  Except maybe for Piggy’s “five golden ring” line, kind of.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (Rowlf the Dog and Denver).  Rowlf was always an earnest singer so this pairing makes sense.  But Rowlf’s voice is pretty weird.  “The Peace Carol” (John and Scooter with the Muppets). I don’t know this song, but it’s quite pretty and they have wisely picked the least strange-voiced Muppets to sing it with him.

“Christmas Is Coming” (Miss Piggy with Scooter, The Great Gonzo and Robin the Frog) This is a round with Piggy on lead and then each one repeating the one line.  I was unfamiliar with this song too.

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat / Please put a penny in the old man’s hat / If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do / If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you!

“A Baby Just Like You” (Denver with the Muppets) This is a very John Denver song, pretty and mellow.  “Deck the Halls” (The Muppets)  It’s nice to hear Kermit get a lead vocal.  Everyone sings this in turn and it’s quite nice.  “When the River Meets the Sea” (Robin and Denver with the Muppets)  It’s weird to have a Muppet sing this first verse, but it’s a gentle voice and works nicely with Denver.

“Little Saint Nick” (Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem)  Okay, so hearing the Electric Mayhem is always fun.  I’m amused hearing all of the voices of the band (this is a song you can be silly with).  And of course having Animal shouting “Run! Run! Reindeer!” is pretty darn funny.

“Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913” (Denver) gentle and pretty.  “The Christmas Wish” (Kermit the Frog with the Muppets)  This is a very sweet song wishing love to all whether you believe or not.  Medley: “Alfie, the Christmas Tree” / “Carol for a Christmas Tree” / “It’s in Every One of Us” (Denver with the Muppets)  This is a strange story about a tree who loved Christmas.  And it’s narrated not sung.  This one is skippable.

“Silent Night, Holy Night (Stille Nacht)” (Denver with the Muppets) I was surprised that this was sung in German first.  Then Denver recites how the song was written, and it’s quite moving.   A very lovely rendition.  “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (Denver with the Muppets) The disc ends with a bit of fun with the cast singing.  And there’s some good Muppets antics: they sing “figgy pudding”  Miss Piggy asks, “piggy pudding?”  “no, it’s made with figs.”  “oh”  “and bacon.”  And when they sing “we won;t go until we get some” Animal chants “won’t go! won’t go!”

All in all this is a delightful Christmas album.

[READ: December 1, 2017] “Aftermath”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

There’s a lot unspoken in this story, which is revealed in little snippets.

Genevieve moved back into the house on Monday.  But she decided that it needed a good cleaning first.  She called a company named Aftermath to go through the whole house–scour it and make it shine.  They asked if there was any kind of biohazard in the house and she said no.

When she returned, everything looked the same, although a little brighter. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: IMAGENE PEISE-Atlas Eets Christmas (2014).

This is a terrific lost album created by Iraqi jazz piano prodigy Image Peise.  The record states that most of what is known [about Peise] is shrouded in clouds of legend and smoke of myth.”  She is “rumored to have committed suicide in 1978.”

She is playing mostly traditional Christmas songs, with a couple of originals added on to the mix.  She is accompanied by:

Imagene Peise – Piano
Ominog Bangh – Laughing/Crying Glider Synthesizer
Shineyu Bhupal – Drones, Sitar, and Baritone Tambura

The album has a consistent feel throughout.  Lots of jazzy piano and then some interesting Middle Eastern and/or psychedelic sounds that are sprinkled on top (primarily from the sitar and the glider synth).  Whether she is messing with the beauty or just manipulating it is up to the listener.

“Winter Wonderland” opens with a crackling record sound and some interesting Middle Eastern instruments and drones.  And then the lovely traditional jazzy piano version of the classic.  The trippy synth thing comes back up from time to time.

“Silver Bells” opens with a middle eastern synth that sounds nothing like the song.  But once again when the piano comes in it’s really lovely and traditional with hints of psychedelia.

“Christmas Laughing Waltz (Jingle Bells)” has some laughing-like sounds from the voice/synth thing.  Midway through the song, which has been mostly trippy, it resolves itself into “Jingle Bells” on piano with some cool sounds added.

“Silent Night” opens in a not at all peaceful way with some crazy sounds.  It’s a little disconcerting if you know what song it is supposed to be.  But the piano eventually finds the melody and plays it straight and nice.

The first original peace is the delightful if mournful, “Atlas Eets Christmas.”  It’s a series of washes and piano chords until finally a solitary piano melody plays  its mournful melody.  There’ s vocal line where you hear the pronunciation “At last it’s Christmas.”  The voice is pretty far in the background making it kind of hard to hear.  It fits in with the record but stands out because of the voice.  But the sentiment is quite nice.

“Do You Hear What I Hear” is the first really dissonant sounds on the disc.  They come in the form of echoed piano chords.  It feels sinister and kind of kills the mood of the song. The vocal melody is played on that glider thing with dissonant piano behind it.  It feels kind of wobbly and unsettled.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” returns to the more traditional style and once again, it’s very pretty.

“White Christmas” has a real feel of longing to it.  After a bout 2 minute it kind of builds with drums and upright bass but it never really gets into a more traditional feel.  It sort of hints at the song until the very end where the melody is more pronounced.

“Frosteeeee”is of course, “Frosty the Snowman.”  It opens with melody played on the piano.  But then it switches off melody lines with that voice/synth thing.  It’s sort of a duet between the two instruments.

“Christmas Kindness Song” is the other original.  It sounds like the other in spirit but this one has highly processed vocals.  Presumably they are by Steven Drodz, but I’m not sure if he sis supposed to sound like an Iraqi woman (how far is the ‘joke’ gong?), but he clearly doesn’t.

“The Christmas Song” returns to the jazzy traditional song with some sprinkling so psychedelia on top.

Depending on your tolerance for oddity, this is either a great, fun addition to a Christmas collection (it will make people prick up their ears to hear whats going on), or it’s just too disruptive to the holiday spirit.

And yes, in the “Christmas Kindness Song” I mentioned Stephen Drodz because this is an album by The Flaming Lips.  I gather that the music was created by Steven Drodz and the mythology of Imagene was created by Wayne Coyne.

Oh and the disc ends with some 30 minutes of what sounds like an album clicking at the end of locked groove.

[READ: June 21, 2017] Sorry to Disrupt the Peace

This is one of a new(ish) batch of McSweeney’s books.  I was intrigued by the title and the cover  and some snippets of reviews sounded promising.

There were things I liked about he story but overall I was mixed on it.

The story is about Helen Moran.  She is a 32-year-old Korean woman.  She was adopted by white parents when she was a baby. As was her adoptive brother (who is also Korean but is not related to her).  Throughout the story she refers to her parents as “my adoptive parents” and her brother as “my adoptive brother” easily 100 times each.  I realize that that is a true statement and description, and it is important to her to keep this distinction, but it makes for irritating reading.  It makes your main character seem really ungrateful.

And maybe that’s it.  Helen is a pretty unlikable character.  She works with at risk youth but does some pretty risky things with them.  She’s even currently under investigation at her work for doing suspicious things.  She says she is called Sister Reliability but its unclear to me if they are doing it to mock her, if they are not doing it at all or if they are actually doing it because she is reliable (which I doubt).  She has also written a pamphlet called How to Survive in New York City on Little to Nothing which she handed out to people.  She wears garbage and discarded clothes and eats whatever–and that’s her advice to the poor.

But that’s not what the story is about.  The story is about what happens after she hears from her uncle that her adoptive brother is dead.  For reasons we never find out her adoptive parents do not make the call, it is done by her uncle.  Weird. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PERFUME GENIUS-Tiny Desk Concert #627 (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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