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Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE HOOTERS-“All You Zombies” (1985).

WXPN played this song on the day after Halloween and the DJ said she couldn’t believe they hadn’t played it as part of their Halloween show.

It made me laugh about what people consider a Halloween song (and I know I need to let up on this).  Like so many other songs, the simple fact that there’s a monster reference in the title does not make the song a Halloween song.

Indeed, this song is about as far from a Halloween song as you can get.

The song itself is catchy as anything.  A great guitar riff and some tension-building synths support these rather dramatic lyrics:

Holy Moses met the Pharaoh
Yeah, he tried to set him straight
Looked him in the eye,
“Let my people go!”
Holy Moses on the mountain
High above the golden calf
Went to get the Ten Commandments
Yeah, he’s just gonna break ’em in half!
Interestingly, there’s no real chorus to the song.  The “All you zombies” part follows the same musical and vocal pattern.  The third verse is, like the first, Biblical.
No one ever spoke to Noah,
They all laughed at him instead
Workin’ on his ark,
Workin’ all by himself
Only Noah saw it comin’,
Forty days and forty nights,
Took his sons and daughters with him,
Yeah, they were the Israelites!

The Hooters guys say there was no explicit message to the song.  A 1985 interview with the Chicago Tribune, co-writer Eric Bazilian (with Rob Hyman) said

We really weren’t thinking at all when we wrote it. We were working on something else, and, true to the spirit of the song, it just came to us, like a vision. We were sitting there working on another song, and all of a sudden we started singing, ‘All you mmm-hhhmm-mmm.’ Then I heard something about Moses in my head, and I started singing, ‘Holy Moses.’

We just chased it down. We stopped what we were doing to go after this thing, and an hour later, the song was written, start to finish. We’re still trying to really understand the song. People ask us what it’s about, and while there’s a lot of heavy stuff in there, the weird thing is we didn’t consciously put it there. Who knows? Maybe in some bizarre way it came from somewhere else through us.

Interestingly, it got banned on several stations and there were some Christian stations that refused to play it.

So, not Halloween-related at all, but super catchy and lyrically unexpected.

Also interesting is that Hyman and Bazilian went on to work with Joan Osborne on her album Relish, with Eric writing “One Of Us” another religiously themed song.

[READ: September 2, 2019] Dead Weight

I haven’t read a graphic novel by Oni Press in a while.  They were once my go-to comic book publisher.

Then they stopped doing single issues and started publishing only graphic novels.  Nothing wrong with that but I had been collecting single issues back then, not books, so they fell off my radar.  I have to get them back on my radar because I really do enjoy their books.

I didn’t know what this was about, but the title and cover art appealed to me, so I grabbed it.

This story is set at a fat camp–Camp Bloom.  We meet many of the kids who are there for the summer as well as the counselors who are there to help them get through the summer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ERIN RAE-Tiny Desk Concert #867 (July 12, 2019).

Lars Gottrich is one of my favorite NPR personalities.  He picks some of my favorite loud music but he also loves a lot of quiet music.  So even though I have never seen Erin Rae, he has apparently seen her many times.

Every time I’ve seen Erin Rae live, she transforms her quiet storms into different hues of squalling introspection.

She opens with “Bad Mind.”  But before that,

Her performance at the Tiny Desk opens with a soft tide of ambient tones — both a way to ease into the song but also understand that life’s unease is ever-present.  Then a lilting acoustic melody introduces “Bad Mind,” a stunning statement of identity from a Nashville singer-songwriter who shares the secrets we keep close.

She’s joined here by Jerry Bernhardt, a treasured collaborator and a guitarist who knows how to play decorative but unobtrusive figures. He and drummer Dom Billet both appear on Putting On Airs, taking those arrangements and stretching them out at the Tiny Desk with Mellotron/Rhodes piano player Ben Tanner and bassist Joe Garner.

It’s a lovely melody and she avoids the dreaded country twang when she sings. In fact when Bernhardt and Billet sing along, their voices are pure folk gold.  Bernhardt introduces a quiet buzzing guitar solo which, along with the organ adds all kinds of neat sounds to this simple song.

Before the second song she says she and her sister used to make their own radio shows.  They were a big NPR family but she thought it meant Nashville Public Radio.

“Can’t Cut Loose” is a song about letting go of things that aren’t good for you anymore.  Its’a quiet slow song with a pretty chorus.

The Tiny Desk closes with “the summer jam,” as Erin Rae jokingly calls “Love Like Before,”

She says it’s their most upbeat song, although that is all relative.  It’s about learning to be content wherever you may be.

It’s definitely a bit more upbeat but it’s still a slow and thoughtful song.

I won’t be going to see Erin Rae, but I did enjoy this mellow little Concert.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Radio Summer”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

2003:  Here’s another summer job story.  But this one is actually a happy summer job story.

Abdelmahmoud says that normally you want a summer job that starts in the evening so you can sleep in.  But there was one job worth getting up at 8AM for: being the summer DJ at CKVI 91.9 FM in Kingston.

It was part of a school program and for the summer he was the only DJ there from 8AM to 4PM.  You want jazz? Sure! A ska show from 2-3? Sure!

This was a dream job and one lucky person got it each summer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LUCKY DAYE-Tiny Desk Concert #852 (May 28, 2019).

I watched the Raphael Saadiq Tiny Desk Concert where he brought out Lucky Daye before watching this one.

I might have appreciated Lucky Daye’s guest spot more had I seen this first.  I wound up liking him quite a bit in this Concert.

In the blurb Sidney Madden writes:

NPR Music’s Bobby Carter and I have been checking for Lucky Daye since last year when we dubbed him one of the “Kings of R&B.” Then, after seeing Lucky perform live in Washington D.C., we knew his charisma and control would translate well to the Tiny Desk.

This set is fun for all of the horns that are included (which we’ll chalk up to his hailing from New Orleans).  I feel like the horns give the songs more excitement than if they hadn’t been there.

Hailing from New Orleans and inheriting a love of sticky, bass-bumping funk early on, Lucky wanted to bring the full flavor of his debut album, Painted to NPR. So he brought along a 10-person band, including a quartet of horns.

“Roll Some Mo” opens with a quiet guitar from Kenji Chan and twinkling keys from Quintin “Q” Gulledge.  There’s a soft cymbal escalation from Kendall Lewis when a cool bass line comes in from Daye’s go-to producer Dernst “D’Mile” Emile II.

The horns are quiet as the song starts.  The camera seems to really like trumpeter Crystal “RØVÉL” Torres as it zooms in on her a bunch.  Brandyn Phillips on trumpet and flugel gets some screen time too.  There’s not a ton of differentiation between the horns–no solos or anything.  But once in awhile you can pick out Chris Johnson on trombone and Corbin Jones on baritone sax.

Nikki Flores does the first backing vocal part but then Chelsea “Peaches” West adds a lot to the call and response.

“Misunderstood” is a quiet song with keys and Crystal “RØVÉL” Torres playing a muted trumpet.  This is my least favorite song because of the way he sings it–all of that moaning and ohhing is not my thing.  I don’t care for an R&B ballad, obviously.  But he won me over after the song.

“I’ve never performed that song in front of anyone with a band,” he said, trying to laugh off mid-set jitters and bask in the moment. “This is amazing, y’all. I’m really grateful.”

The final song, “Late Night” is a lot of fun.  It starts with some great wah wah guitar with horns and vocal hits.  I like the way his sings this song much better—deeper vocals and some fun backing vocals.

The end of this song with the horns swinging and singers singing is really fun.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “First Time”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1998

This story is mostly visual.  Because there’s not a lot of text.

Grade 11.  A daily bus ride.  A beautiful girl.

He wore a school uniform (grey pants, green cardigan).

She had long straight hair, amazing eyes and was always alone.  She was out of his league. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STING AND SHAGGY-Tiny Desk Concert #866 (July 10, 2019).

Sting is certainly one of the biggest names to play the Tiny Desk Concert thus far (even if his star has probably faded somewhat).  I was surprised to see him here. And also surprised to see him with Shaggy, a singer I don’t know all that much about.

Sting and Shaggy might not be the most likely musical pairing. But one thing is certain, they love playing each other’s music. On a bright autumn morning, the legends arrived at the NPR Music office bleary-eyed yet excited to play for the diverse staff of Shaggy and Sting fans. What surprised many of my NPR colleagues is just how well the collaboration works.

I don’t know if they have done more together besides this, but they certainly sound familiar with each others work.  Well, the blurb suggests that they are or were touring together:

Shaggy affectionately refers to his collaborator as “Stingy,” putting his arm around him mid-performance. It’s easy to see the camaraderie that being on the road together affords these veteran musicians.

They open the set with “Englishman in New York” and Sting’s bass sounds great.  When he sings, he is so clearly Sting (even if he’s singing is slightly affected).  Dominic Miller strums Reggae offbeats on acoustic guitar.  Then Shaggy takes the second verse.

Shaggy (zoinks! – his nom de guerre comes from the Scooby-Doo cartoon character) was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He moved to New York when he was 18 and his music evokes only good vibes. The positive energy he brought to their opening song, “Englishman[and Jamaican]In New York,”had everyone in the room grinning ear to ear, “early morning Reggae style,” as he put it.

Shaggy adds this humorous verse:

I wear my colors in my back pocket / I got a big spliff in my hand /
and you might notice there’s swagger anytime I walk / I’m a Jamaican in New York.

Their voices sound great together especially as the end of the song soars unexpectedly.

After the tune, Sting announced “I never sang that song before 8 PM… Ever!”

Up next is “Don’t Make Me Wait,” a song I don’t know.  Sting plays a reggae bass line will Shaggy sings the first verses. The backing vocals from Gene Noble and Melissa Musique fill the chorus.  Then Sting takes the next verses.

The end is really funny as Shaggy tries to clap along with the backing singers but he gets lost and everyone laps.

The final song is a mash-up.  Dominic Miller co-wrote “Shape Of My Heart” which is mashed-up with Juice Wrld’s “Lucid Dream.”  “Shape of My Heart” sounds familiar–or at least sounds like a pretty typical Sting song.  Since I don’t know either song, I didn’t realize that Gene Noble was singing the lead of “Lucid Dream” within “Shape.”  Miller and Sting plays the same melody all the way through.  Noble has a nice voice, but I don’t like the way he sings.  Shaggy takes a verse.

This is an unlikely collaboration, but it works very well.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Diamond Monkey”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1995: This is another story about a summer job opportunity–one that promised much but delivered little.

This time the job opportunity was working the diamond mines in Yellowknife, Canada.  Heidi and her friends were driving up from Montreal.

This was pre-cell phone, pre-internet, pre-everything.  They squatted in grubby trailers playing cards.  What else was there to do?  Drink beers of course.

But you never wanted to go outside to pee, even after four beers because 20 seconds of dropped pants equaled at least three times that number in angry northern mosquito bites. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LADAMA-Tiny Desk Concert #853 (May 30, 2019).

There’s a lot to like in this Tiny Desk, but I am immediately drawn to Mafer Bandola’s  bandola llanera.  Is it see through?  Is it hollow?  I have so many questions.

Some of which are answered in the blurb.

But what might be even more interesting than the instruments is the international makeup of the band.

During the course of their performance behind the desk, the four core members of LADAMA — Lara Klaus, Daniela Serna, Mafer Bandola and Sara Lucas — had a chance to display their individual cultural and musical roots as part of an engaging and mesmerizing whole. Represented in glorious musical virtuosity are Brazil (Lara Klaus), Colombia (Daniela Serna) and Venezuela (Mafer Bandola), with a dash of New York City (Sara Lucas and bassist Pat Swoboda) thrown in just to make it interesting.

Not to mention all four of them sing lead.

“Sin Ataduras” opens with great sounds from the bandola llanera and some really great bass work Pat Swoboda.  Daniela Serna sings, almost raps, the lead vocals.  The song is catchy with a middle parts that’s all rim shots from Lara Klaus and clap alongs.  Then Sara Lucas adds a little guitar work, but it’s Mafer Bandola’s solo that’s really fantastic.

For the second song, “Elo” Lara Klaus plays the pandeiro and it’s amazing how much sound a little tambourine-looking drum can make.  She also sings lead–a very different vocal style.  Daniela Serna moved over to the congas and the tambor alegre.  Mafer Bandola switches to a more traditional-looking bandola llanera but still plays some amazing leads.

Throughout the songs, Sara Lucas plays quiet electric guitar that acts a foundation to lead bandola.  Incidentally, Mafer Bandola is a stage name (I assume Mafer is her first names put together).  Her real name is Maria Fernanda Gonzalez.

“Tierra Tiembla” is a much slower ballad.  Sarah Lucas sings lead (in Spanish).  Has a slow, smooth rhythm with nice echoing sounds form the bandola.  Sara Lucas sings lead on this one.  Lara Klaus is back on the kit, so with her and Daniela on congas, there’s a lot of percussion.   Mafer plays some nice lead lines and everyone sings delicate backing vocals.

The final song is “Inmigrante”  this song is for everybody–para todos inmigrantes–we are all immigrants.

It’s the fiery “Inmigrante” that finally raised the BPM meter and got hips swaying in our corner of NPR’s HQ, with its call-and-response back-and-forth and a very enthusiastic audience. T

Mafer Bandola sings this last song.  The bandola is a echoed and very cool sounding as she plays an excellent riff.  The drums are mostly hi-hat while the congas supply most of the percussion.  Sara Lucas puts down her guitar to play the raspa.

The song ends with a clap along and some fast and furious congas from Daniela.

This is yet another great Spanish-language band that enjoyed quite a lot.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “A Love Story”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1992: This is the story of tree planting and romance.  Claudia and her friend drove to the planting location with dreams of getting rich.

I have heard about tree planters from many different sources (it seems a very Canadian thing to do–I’m not even sure if people do there).  All sources suggest it is very hard, physically exhausting and pays little.  No matter how romantic the idea sounds, it’s not a fun job.

Claudia adds to this idea and includes that they slept in tents and were sleeping in an area where bears traveled.  They could hear the bears every night but the experience planters assured them they were safe (how does anyone do this long enough to become experienced?). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: IDLES-Tiny Desk Concert #858 (June 28, 2019).

I had heard of Idles from All Songs Considered.  On the podcast, Bob Boilen raved about seeing them live.  Like this:

My first time seeing IDLES ended with guitarist Mark “Bobo” Bowen frenetically dancing on a bar, his guitar still keeping time, until the swinging neck suddenly shattered some low-hanging, glass lighting fixtures. The band’s set at South by Southwest was fierce and I knew it’d be a challenge trying to figure out how to bring that cathartic rage behind my desk. There was talk for a while of some members of the band strapping on pocket-sized guitar amps and beating on a single drum. But a week before this bunch of British madmen arrived at NPR, the instrument list had grown and what ensued was just about the loudest, most fun and most raucous Tiny Desk Concert in memory.

This is all true, for sure.  But this Tiny Desk, as amazing as it is, doesn’t come close to showing how incredible their live show is.   Idles live is a truly unforgettable experience.

However, seeing all of that energy and fun contained in a small place is awesome and this is one of my favorite Tiny Concerts as well.

The first song “Never Fight A Man With A Perm” opens with a siren sound from keyboardist Jeremy Snyder and the main constant of Idles’ music–steady bass from Adam Devonshire.  Add in the thumping drums from Jon Beavis and you have the ground work for Joe Talbot to start his singing/yelling.

The band also has two guitarists.  Mark “Bobo” Bowen thumps on the floor tom while Lee Kiernan jumps around, slashing at chords.

The title sounds funny and it is, but the song is a serious indictment of male aggression.

What lead singer Joe Talbot and his mates bring to their shows is a mix of love and outrage. Their songs are often bursts of fury, but the message is insightful and not intended to incite. Joe Talbot says their opening Tiny Desk song, “Never Fight A Man With A Perm,” from their album Joy as an Act of Resistance, is an “exploration of the horrid corners of my past.”

The chorus of “concrete and leather” thumps around before the song returns to the verses, with some cockney slang:

Brylcreem
Creatine
And a bag of Charlie Sheen

A heathen from Eton
On a bag of Michael Keaton

Bobo is a ton of fun to watch–shirtless, wearing American flag spandex pants, he climbs on everything: amps, desks, and other unseen things.

“Mercedes Marxist” starts with a thumping single bass note which will remain unchanged for two and a half minutes.  Snyder takes over on the floor tom while Bobo and Lee trade off guitar sections.

The song is almost entirely that one bass note (with all kinds of guitar melodies and riffs swirling around it).  Until a big chorus comes near the end.  Through it all,  Talbot is directing the fun with his scary vocals.

It only took a few seconds for Joe’s face to turn blood-red; as he growled, it stayed that way for the next 13-minutes, even as he curtseyed at the end of the first song and bounced his way into the second.

The one thing that this Tiny Desk misses is Talbot’s love and generosity.

Despite his tone and the roughness of the music, his kindness and consideration is paramount to the band.  Hearing him wish nothing but love on everyone is a pretty wonderful feeling especially after he sings “dirty rotten filthy scum.”

“We are not the Jonas Brothers,” Joe Talbot explained before their final tune. “People get confused.” He said this with his charming smile and began to run in place while singing “I’m Scum,” just to make it clear who they are.

Before the songs, he asks, what song are we doing?  Someone says “Scum.”  He smiles, “I like this song.”  Before it even starts he begins running in place, knees high as he chants “hey! hey!”  The energy of this band is incredible and certainly hard to contain.

 watching the hyperactive movements in this confined space, it’s actually hard to believe that so few things broke.

Mid song Bobo leaves the desk area to grab someone on the crowd.  He gives her percussion instruments to bang. Then Bobo grabs somebody else and he takes over percussion as well.    Then Bono crawls around on his knees, climbs on the desk and is having a great time.  As is everyone else.

I thanks All Songs Considered all the time for the band they’ve introduced me to, but Idles might be the best find ever.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “A Crowded Memory”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1988: This story is written in paragraphs with drawings in between.

It is the story of a 7 year-old girl going to Hong king for the first time.

She was spending a month in Hong Kong without her immediately family.  She would be living with her Nai-nai and Gong-gong.

The place was total culture shock.  She had never heard only Cantonese before. She had never seen so many Chines people.  There were street vendors and apartments and the colors and smells were overwhelming.  Everything feels to loud, too big and too hot. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TASHA COBBS LEONARD-Tiny Desk Concert #860 (June 24, 2019).

Tasha Cobbs Leonard tells the crowd we’re gonna do some worship songs–gonna go to church some.  Everyone is wearing blue except Tasha who is in a very colorful outfit.  She is “regarded as one of the best gospel singers performing today — she’s won numerous awards, including a Grammy.”

“Break Every Chain” has the opening lyrics: There is power in the name of Jesus.”  It opens with David Williams II playing keys and after a verse or two Wellington “Boo” Britt adds some simple drums.

Her backing vocalists Kennya Miller, Breona Lawrence, and Emoni Robinson sound fantastic–adding a wonderful chorus.

After the first chorus Archie “Snoop” Pearson adds some bass and the whole song feels full.

Her Tiny Desk set started out with one of her favorite songs and her most popular tune, “Break Every Chain,” an anthem that reminds many of us that “there is power in the name of Jesus.”

Tasha gives a little preach about God’s plan for everyone before the next song

“You Know My Name,” is one Cobbs Leonard wrote a few years ago with South African musician and friend, Brenton Brown.

This songs starts out as a ballad with just guitar from Benjamin Forehand and voices.

I like the way Tasha was brought to the Tiny Desk:

I first saw Tasha Cobbs Leonard sing live in my church’s 4,000-seat sanctuary. Her voice easily powered-over the PA system and I was amazed by how well I could hear its beautiful resonance and clarity.

The final song is “The River of the Lord,”

a country-influenced tune, written by her husband, musical director and producer, Kenneth Leonard, along with some of their friends. Originally from Jesup, Georgia, Cobbs Leonard explained that “where I’m from, this is called a hand-clapping, foot-stomping, church song. We’re going to clap a little bit, put a smile on our faces and celebrate the river and the joy of the Lord.”

I grew up listening to religious music that was pretty bland and people who didn’t seem to like singing it.  But I can see why people get into gospel music.  Music that’s this fun–even religious music–is really enjoyable..

[READ: July 1, 2019] “First Powwow”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1983: Waubgeshig and his family traveled more than 300 kilometers from Wasauksing to Mississaugas for his first powwow.

He doesn’t remember the journey or arriving.  He really only remembers the sound of the big drum.

The beat echoed in his chest and he was thrilled at the colors of the people dancing around the drum. (more…)

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