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Archive for the ‘Surreal’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ANNA MEREDITH-Tiny Desk Concert #713 (March 2, 2018).

I have never heard anything like this.  From sound to melody, to intensity, to instrumentation, this whole thing just rocked my world.

The melody for “Nautilus” is just so unexpected.  It opens with an echoed horn sound repeating.  And then the melody progresses up a scale, but not a scale, a kind of modified scale that seems off kilter just as it seems familiar.  The cello plays it, the guitar plays it, the sousaphone (!) plays it.  And it continues on in like fashion until only the high notes remain and then a menacing low riff on sousaphone cello and guitar breaks through–a great villain soundtrack if ever there was.  While everyone plays this riff, Anna returns to the keys to play the modified scale.

Meanwhile, the drummer has looked like he’s asleep behind his small kit.  And then 3 anda half minutes in he wakes up and starts playing a loud but slow rhythm.  The guitar begins soloing and as it fades out that main riff begins, now with a simple drum beat–not matching what anyone else is playing, mind you.  The sousaphone (which must have an echo on it or something and the cello pick up the low menace and it seems like everybody is doing his and her own thing.  But it all works amazingly.

So just who is Anna Meredith?

Anna Meredith was a former BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Composer in Residence. Two of the three songs performed here come from her 2016 release called Varmints.

Bob Boilen was also impressed when he first saw Anna Meredith live:

I first saw this British composer a year ago, in a stunning performance at the SXSW musical festival. It was one of the best concerts of my life. The music I heard sent me into a state of reverie. If music could levitate my body, this is how it would sound. It carried me away and thrilled my soul. I was giddy for days.

Now, I know this isn’t music for everyone. … But if you know and love the music of Philip Glass, King Crimson or Steve Reich — music that’s electrifying, challenging and sonically soars and ripples through your body — then crank this up.

Lest you worry that she couldn’t translate it to the Tiny Desk (she says they normally have 23 suitcases full of crap so this has been an exciting challenge to squeeze in here)

Out of nearly 700 performances at the Tiny Desk, this is simply the most exhilarating one I’ve experienced. The instrumentation is unusual, with pulsing bass sounds produced by a wonderful combination of cello, tuba and electronics. It’s all rhythmically propelled by an astonishing drummer and Meredith pounding a pair of floor toms. And much of the repetitive melody is keyboard-and-guitar-driven that morphs and erupt with earth-shaking fervor.

The second song, “Ribbons” is quieter.  It’s and new song and it has vocals.  Her vocals aren’t great (“hard when you’ve got the voice of a five-year old boy”) but the melody she builds around it shows that her  voice is just one more instrument (albeit saying interesting words).  Actually, that’s not fair, they are just so different from the noise of the other two songs that it feels very faint in comparison.

It opens with a quiet guitar and electronic drum.  And slowly everyone else joins in.  A nice string accompaniment from the cello (Maddie Cutter), bass notes on the sousaphone (Tom Kelly) and even backing vocals from everyone.  By the third go around the drummer (Sam Wilson) is playing the glockenspiel.  By that time the song has built into a beautiful round and the quietness of her voice makes complete sense.  As the song nears its end, Sam has switches to a very fast but quiet rhythm on the floor tom.

She introduces the band and wishes a happy birthday to guitarist Jack Ross.  She says this is a great present as “so far all we’ve gotten him is an apple corer, the gifts have been a bit low grade.”

They make some gear switches, “we have a bit of a logistics problem with all our gear we can’t quite afford to bring enough glockenspiels, we pass the pure crap glockenspiel  around ans everyone gets to go ‘my turn!'”

“The Vapours” opens with a wonderfully wild guitar riff–fast and high-pitched and repeated over and over.  Anna Meredith adds waves of synths and then in comes the sousaphone and plucked cello.  Then fast thumping on the floor tom propels the song along.  The song slows a bit a Anna plays the clarinet (!).  The song dramatically shifts to some complicated time signature while Anna plays glockenspiel.  After a few rounds, while this complex guitar riff continues the drum and sousaphone start playing a pretty standard beat the contradicts everything else that’s going on and then Anna just starts pounding the crap out of some more toms.

All through this there are electronic sounds adding to the chaos and I have no idea who is triggering them, but it’s really cool.

The end is almost circusy with the big sousaphone notes and yet it’s like no circus anyone has every heard.  When the camera pulls back and you can see everyone working so hard and yet smiling ear to ear (especially Maddie), you know this is some great stuff.

The end of the song winds up with a hugely complicated tapping melody on the guitar and everyone else working up a huge sweat.

I couldn’t get over how much I loved this.  I immediately ordered Varmints and checked her touring schedule.

How disappointed was I to see that Anna Meredith had played Philly just last month and has now gone back to Europe!  I do hope she comes back soon.

[READ: August 30, 2017] McSweeney’s 48

For some reason, I find the prospect of reading McSweeney’s daunting.  I think it’s because I like to post about every story in them, so I know I’m in for a lot of work when I undertake it.

And yet I pretty much always enjoy every piece in each issue.  Well, that explains why it took me some three years to read this issue (although I did read Boots Riley’s screenplay in under a year).

This issue promised: “dazzling new work; a screenplay from Boots Riley with a septet of stories from Croatia.”

LETTERS

GARY RUDOREN writes about using the Giellete Fusion Platinum Razor every day for 18 days and how things were good but have gotten a little ugly.  On day 24 he had a four-inch gash under his nose.  Later on Day 38 it was even worse–a face full of bloody tissue squares.  By day 67 he is writing to thank McSweeney’s for whatever they did perhaps it was the medical marijuana but now his face is baby butt smooth even without shaving.  He wants to change the slogan to Gilette Fusion the shave that lasts forever. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE GLENN MILLER ORCHESTRA-In The Nutcracker Mood (2012).

Glenn Miller disappeared just before Christmas on December 15, 1944. His Orchestra, in the too-short run under his personal leadership, had officially recorded only one Christmas song (“Jingle Bells”, October 20, 1941).

Year later, the orchestra has recorded three Christmas albums.

A list of desirable players was compiled. There were a few requisites — musicians had to be working currently; only alumni of the Glenn Miller Orchestra would be recruited; each individual had to have recognized and outstanding talent; each veteran had to be able to take a leave-of-absence from his current “gig”; and, of course, be available to come to New York City to record.  The average age of this band is about 50. The length of time each player performed with the Glenn Miller Orchestra ranges from as little as 6 months to well over 10 years. The cumulative experience of this band recreating the authentic Miller “sound” is well over 100 years!

The first recording, “In The Christmas Mood”, was released in 1991. It was so successful that a second recording, “In The Christmas Mood II,” was produced and later released in 1993.

Almost all of the musicians performing on all three of these recordings, are the same. The only differences are the pianist for the first recording, and trombonist, Larry O’Brien, the then leader of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, was unable to make the second recording due to being on tour. Larry is noticeably back on this recording as evidenced by his beautiful trombone solo on Toyland.

My parents loved Glenn Miller and I grew up listening to him.  So when I saw this, I knew I had to get it–combining Glenn and the Nutcracker!

“Miniature Overture” a fun overture that puts the swing in things.
“March” I don’t know if Brian Setzer put the swing into this song before they did, but it has Glenn all over it.
“Dance of the Fairy Dragee” doesn’t differ too much for the original at least until the middle when the jazzy drums kick in.  The end totally swings.
“Russian Dance”  fast and peppy and wonderful with a big band flourish at the end.
“Arabian Dance” I love that the more Arabian sound comes from a muted trumpet.
“Chinese Dance” There’s some extra big band solos thrown into this one–cheating a bit I think.
“Dance of the Mirlitons” Some nice swinging in this dance too of course.
“Waltz of the Flowers”  This song is usually pretty sedate, but they big up the band.   The main part is still a pretty waltz, though.

“Jolly Old St. Nicholas”  The band’s singers enter on this song.  I have to admit I never really liked the Miller songs with words.  But this sounds pretty accurate to me.
“Toyland” A slow romantic ballad that I don;t recognize from elsewhere.  I could see Lawrence Welk and his bubbles doing this song.
“Ode to Joy”  You don’t hear jazzy versions of this too often, but they have the Glenn Miller sound perfectly for this swinging Classic.

“A String of Carols; Here We Come a-Caroling, Up On the House Top, a Child Is Born in Bethlehem, Deck the Halls”  The swingers are back with this nice medley of carols.

“Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” I love that they threw in a few bars of In the Mood into this song.
“Old Fashioned Christmas Tree” and “March of the Toys” I’m not sure if they are from something or just goo old swinging fun.
“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” returns the vocals to the end of the disc.  I fitting end for the Christmas holiday.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra:
Saxes: Ralph Olson Lead Clarinet, Alto Saxophone & Flute; Lee Lachman Clarinet, Alto Saxophone & Piccolo; Mark Vinci Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone; Frank Perowsky Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone; Richy Barz Bass Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone
Trumpets: Tom Snelson; Ken Brader; John Hoffman; Dale Thompson
Trombones: Larry O’Brien; Eric Culver; Randy Purcell; Dennis Good
Piano: Tony Monte
Bass: Lanny Fields
Guitar: Jay Patten
Drums: Danny D’Imperio
The Moonlight Serenaders: Annette Sanders, Arlene Martell, Al Dana, Paul Evans, Kevin DiSimone

[READ: April 25, 2017] The Art of Wordless Storytelling

This book is a companion to an exhibition of Wiesner’s art at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

Wiesner has created some of the most beautiful children’s pictures books ever.  And most of them have no words at all.  His books include Free Fall (1988), Hurricane (1992), Tuesday (1991), June 29, 1999 (1992), Sector 7 (1999), The Three Pigs (2001), Flotsam (2006), Art & Max (2010), Mr Wuffles! (2013) and Fish Girl (2016).

This book taught me that all of his art is done in watercolor and done in such a way that he adds layer upon layer of color to create intense depth of color and shade–I’d always known his art was great but had no idea why.  But then I read that when most books are created they print all of the colors at the same time, effectively muting his work.  So all of the subtlety in his work is lost when it comes out in book form.  His original drawings and paintings sound breathtaking.

In addition to seventy some plates of paintings, this book contains a few essays and Q&A with Wiesner. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHRISTMAS REMIXED: Holiday Classics Re-Grooved (2003).

This has been one of my favorite Christmas albums for many years now.  Most of the songs remain faithful to the original with just an upbeat drum track underneath the vocals.  I’m sure some parts are sped up and some parts are looped over and over.  But it’s all in good fun and really gets these songs moving, tastefully.

Andy Williams – “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (A Shrift Remix)
We liked this song so much we used it for a home video one year.  The horns are terrific and Andy Williams is pretty awesome in general.

Bing Crosby – ” Happy Holiday” (Beef Wellington Remix).
This song adds a big old fun dancey drum beat and loops the orchestration.

Dean Martin – “Jingle Bells” (Dan the Automator Remix)
There’s some fun scratching on this and Dan manipulates Dean’s voice here and there.

Kay Starr – “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” (Stuhr Remix)
A big fun bass line is looped and a horn melody is tacked on. I think her voice is sped up a tad, but it’s not too noticeable.

The Cathedral Brass – “Joy to the World” (Mocean Worker Remix)
This track adds some drums and some synths to a jolly instrumental.

Johnny Mercer – “Winter Wonderland” (Rise Ashen’s Brazilian Beach Mix)
Lots of drums and percussion added to this.

Charles Brown – “Merry Christmas Baby” (MNO Remix)
They have stripped out a lot of the music in this and made it kind of slow.  The original is my least favorite Christmas song and the is my least favorite track here.

Berlin Symphony Orchestra – “Nutcracker Suite” (Baz Kuts Breaks Mix)
But this is one of my favorites. I love the Nutcracker and this is just a an awesome way to add some other kinds of dance to it.

Louis Armstrong & Velma Middleton – “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (Mulato Beat Remix)
Both performers had a blast with this original song.  And Mulato Beat don’t do all that much to it–mostly playing around with Louis’ performance–leaving in all of the laughs that were in the original and just making it a bit more dancey.

Duke Ellington – “Jingle Bells” (Robbie Hardkiss Remix)
I love the way this one loops a small part of the horn melody as a hook and then uses all of the tubular bells to push the song along.

Bing Crosby – “The First Noel” (Attaboy House Party Mix)
This opens with Bing talking over a thumping beat and then the whole choir sings along and it really works.

Mel Tormé – “The Christmas Song” (Michael Kessler Open Fire Mix)
This is slow version by the Velvet Fog.  They echo Tormé’s vocal on sounds seven more foggy.  A mellow ending to a righteous disc.

[READ: December 1, 2017] “The Journal”

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

This story was pretty trippy.

On her 12th wedding anniversary, Laurie found her husband’s journal in the nightstand.  She flipped through it without actually reading it. She saw words like dinner, rest, etc, as well as some pictures.  Nothing useful, but she felt bad for snooping.

It had been a long time since she felt close to him.  That night, they went out to dinner and had a polite meal.

The next morning she woke up and every time she looked at words, they seemed to wiggle off the page until the page was blank. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 7 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 17, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 14, 2004. This was the 7th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.

I compared all of the setlists from the nine shows and was somewhat surprised to see just how much repeating they did. Most of the rep

 Two versions are available – Mark Sloggett’s soundboard recording and 8 track files provided by Steve Clarkson.  The Sloggett download has 8 minutes of pre show intro music, which I assume is on the PA.  It starts out kind of synthy and cool then turns into piano music then a big horn-filled jazzy song then back to piano as mike starts playing some drums and that’s the official start of “Who Is This Man, And Why Is He Laughing?” even with the PA music still playing.   Despite this being guest vocalist night, this song is instrumental with accordion and clearly spoken Polish.

Martin says they’re not supposed to sing tonight so they’ll do an instrumental version of “Four Little songs.”  No one sings their verse, but Chris String on keyboards plays a lengthy sample: you gave this to, me but you cannot escape, not this time.”  They play the song really well without the vocals and for the end someone is ringing bells in tune.

Dave welcomes everyone to the 4th annual Fall Nationals and introduces their first guest vocalist Robin Lowe from Pittsburgh, PA.  She sounds great singing “Introducing Happiness.”  She’s followed by Melissa McClelland who asks, “Can I do something on this?” and someone jokes, “no don’t touch the keyboard.”  “Can I do some beat boxing on the mic?”  “Absolutely.”  She doesn’t beatbox but she sings a beautiful version of “Aliens (Christmas 1988).”  It’s a bit of a different vocal melody than martin sings and is quite wonderful.

Mike Bell comes out to sing “Beerbash” guessing that they haven’t done this in a while.  It’s rocking and fun/sloppy.   Then Paul Linklater and Donna Orchard
come out to sing “King Of The Past.”  Dave notes that “you guys sang separately last year.”  Which they did.  They do a kind of dramatic singing of the song which I think I like, but not as much as the original.

Dave says, “The beer is here and so is my adorable wife.”  Janet Morassutti who has co-written many songs sings “It’s Easy To Be With You.”  She has a good, deep voice and I love when she gets into the 1,2,3,4.

Kurt Swinghammer comes out and introduces the Trands-Canada Soul Patrol back in the house.  But Dave says they’re supposed to be backing Brenda Lee.  Kurt continues, “It’s time for a Tim Vesely song.  He’s sort of the George Harrison in the band.”  This brings forth three jokes at once including Dave saying he;s more of the George Foreman of the band.   They do “Loving Arms” and Dave says, “you’re lucky we did this last night.”  He sings in a deep and ponderous voice not sure it’s quiet right for this sweet song, but he does a great job with it.  The song ends but the give Kurt an extra solo.

Michelle Rumball comes out and says, “Dave do you know that the last time that I was supposed to sing this song, I showed up and only knew the backing vocals.”  Dave says, “I’ve never forgiven you for that.”  “It was like ten years ago.”  Then Dave notes “No one ever sings “Saskatchewan Part 2”  Michelle says, “next year?”  It’s slow and moody and she kind of messes up a bit but holds it together.  Chris Brown gets a keyboard solo.

Greg Smith of the Weakerthans recently.  He’s going to sing “The Tarleks” and they start asking him “what are you doing now that KRP shut down?”  He says he gets a lot of questions about Bailey Quarters–everybody liked her more than Loni Anderson.   There’s lots of wild synth stuff in the middle.

Chris Brown comes out for “Bad Time To Be Poor” and there’s some seriously off guitar to start the song, but they settle down and play along nicely.

Then they need to take a five-minute break to work on equipment.  Martins Steinberger guitar died.  It led a rich life and needs to go to the hospital.  Sorry about that.

Royal Wood sings a pretty version of “It” and then Steve Stanley puts the power back in “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne” including the intro.  They say that he is currently in a band called Midi-Ogres.  At the end of the song, there’s sustaining feedback note–“make it stop make the bad man stop, stop the fucking note, Mike.”  While they’re fixing that, Chris plays a sample:, “I’ve been practicing every day for a year.  I can’t even learn a piece in a week.  When will I learn to play real good?  How long does it take?”

Jen Foster sings “Take Me In Your Hand” (no accordion) and they do the penny whistle ending.  Justin Rutledge comes up for “Marginalized.”  Dave notes that he played with the last night and slayed the house. There’s some raw guitar sounds, but not as interesting as Martin’s.

Amer Diab comes up to play “Lying’s Wrong.”  Mike says, “Shit, I don’t think I’ve ever played this one.”  Dave: “me either.  How does it start?”  “Thanks for pulling that out of the closet.”

Howard Druckman and Beverly Kreller come out to sing “Chansons Les Ruelles.”  Bev plays the bodhran, which is evidently too loud in the monitors, which makes Dave says, “You’re the John Bonham if bodhran players, aren’t you, Bev?”  Mike: “John Bodhran.”   Howard says, “I remember the People’s Republic of Dave.”  Dave says, “You know Broken Social Scene stole everything from PROD.”

Kate Fenner sings “Northern Wish.”  her raspy voice is nice with this although she misses the “built my rocket” section.  Reid Jameson sings “In This Town” and dedicates it to all the Pisces in the room.  “Posses of Pisces.”  Martin says that he hasn’t listen to it since they recorded it.  They typically play a different version.

Dennis Ellsworth sings “Palomar” but the teleprompter seems to give out for a few seconds.

Simon Wilcox sings “Dead is the Drunkest You Can Get.”  But it causes nothing but trouble.  “Anyone remember how to play my song?”  Tim: “I thought this song only ever appeared on a t-shirt.”  She has a sultry, almost sexy delivery.

Matthew Cowley sings “My First Rock Show” although ta the end he says “He was there, I’ve never seen any of those bands.”  During the Joe Jackson saved my life part, Dave chimes in: “hes always doing that.”

Chris plays the “we are the music makers” sample from Willy Wonka.

Simon Head sings “Shaved Head.”  He says “It’s fun to be part of Rheostatioke.”  Martin says, we were thinking rheo-oke.  It sounds good.  The heavy part is really heavy.  At the end everyone comments: “Nice Vegas walk off, Simon.”  Martin: “next time we do that I’m going to do a walk off like that.  The walk off is underrated.”

David Celia does a nice version of “Claire” and Yawd Sylvester sings “Record Body Count.”  They have fun with Yawd (who mentions Tim’s album that he played on).  They call him the one-armed bandit and then say that “Yawd gives this the one thumb up.”  I wonder what happened to him.  There’s some fun jamming guitars (and accordion?) and other sounds.  And he says “Thanks you guys for putting smiles on 28 faces.”

Ford Pier comes out and Tim says, “Thanks, Ford, for not making us learn ‘Motorino.'” He retorts, “I didn’t not make you learn ‘Motorino,’ you refused to learn ‘Motorino.’  Who wants to hear ‘Motorino?’  Yea, well it’s not going to happen because of the lassitutde of these bastards.”  Tim: “That song is fucked.”  Ford: “It’s a damn good song and next year you’re not getting off the hook so easily.”  [He doesn’t sing it next year]. Tim: “It’s like five or six songs.”  Mike: “The only reason it didn’t happen is because you just got off a plane yesterday.”  Ford: “Perhaps we should be doing “Connecting Flights.”  But instead they play “Junction Foil Ball” and everyone messes it up at one point or another.  Guitars, vocals, timing.  It’s a mess, but fun.  And then right away starts the clapping for the next song, “Rain, Rain, Rain.”  Selina Martin sings it kind of crazy and growly and the final verse is pretty silly.

And then they’ve made it to the end.  John Crossingham comes out and they comment that making it to the end is an achievement in itself.

Mike wonders, “Is there going to be an encore?  Or are we going to be more theatrical about this?”
Tim: “The encore is tomorrow morning.”
Dave: “The encore is Selina Martin jumping around a bit more.”

The next song takes a bit of extra special tuning preparation, bear with us.  So John takes the time to thank the band for such a wonderful idea.  It means a lot to all of us who have graced the stage this evening.

Then Dave asks, “John where’d you get your toque?”  John: “On the floor at a Green Day concert at the Rico Coliseum.  I stepped on something and that was it.  I did wash it before I put it on my head.”  Dave: “You’d have to be pretty drunk to leave toque like that at a Green Day show.  How was the tour?”  John: “It was good.  Had its ups and downs.  His book On a Cold Road got us through.  If you haven’t read it already pick it up.  They’re even selling it over there, smartly.  Or perhaps you’d like to read about Italian baseball or hockey in the Republic of China?”

And then they’re ready to end the night with a great version of “A Midwinter Night’s Dream” (which is not available on the Slogett MP3 download).  John does an amazing job with this really difficult song.  He even hits the super high note in the middle.  It’s a solid version, and while I love Martin’ more of course, it’s really enjoyable.

There’s no encore since the show was already 3 hours long (!).  Although there is a crazy noise at the end of the song for a couple of minute–with synths and Martin messing around.

What a fun night.

[READ: July 7 , 2017] Spill Zone

Sarah loves Scott Westerfeld, although I hadn’t read him before. I had to wonder if this graphic novel was also a traditional novel, because I’d love to see how he described the visuals.  But I believe it is only a graphic novel, so I just get to marvel in the visual imagination of Alex Puvilland.

This book starts out weird, no doubt.  Addison is a teen with a camera.  She has been taking pictures of her hometown in upstate New York.  Which isn’t so strange except that her town is a Spill Zone.

What’s that? Well, actually I don’t know yet.  Suffice it to say that it’s not good.  There are dead people, weird sightings and a roadblock with military personnel.  Addison speculates it could be a nanotech accident colliding with the nuclear power plant, an alien visitation, something from another world?  Some people escaped, like her sister Lexa, but most didn’t, like her parents.  Addison was not there when it happened, and since the accident Lexa hasn’t spoken a word.

She is part of group if what she calls crazy tourists who like to take pictures of the disaster. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE MYNABIRDS-Tiny Desk Concert #670 (November 10, 2017).

I thought the name The Mynabirds sounded familiar.  Turns out they performed Tiny Desk Concert #64 (by my count).

Bob Boilen says he

first met Laura Burhenn ten years ago for a songwriting project she did with John Davis, her then bandmate in the duo Georgie James, here at NPR called Project Song. [which I plan to write about at some point].  Her current band, The Mynabirds, are Tiny Desk alum, Laura having played her first Tiny Desk Concert in the spring of 2010.  I’m not one to repeat artists at the Tiny Desk. I’m more into discovering and challenging new bands to play in this intimate and awkward setting. But this project was so different and Laura had ideas about how to make it even more special from what she’d done back in 2010, so I couldn’t resist.

2016 was a tough year … the elections and subsequent inauguration, which were devastating to many. But what transpired next for anyone dismayed by those events was inspiring: The Women’s March united many who were in despair, while giving purpose and focus to what for them was an unthinkable outcome in the election of Donald Trump.

Then came the songs – nine new ones Laura Burhenn wrote with Patrick Damphier, inspired by the many marches around the country, listening to the news, seeing social media, talking to friends and taking it all in. The result is The Mynabirds’ politically charged 2017 album Be Here Now.

The band sings four songs.  “Golden Age” features Laura on keys with a backing band of cello (Alexia Kauffman), guitar (Emily Moore) and bass guitar (Damphier). This song is full of lamentations and her husky voice works quite well with it.  She speaks of dead musicians, and political horrors.  The solo in the middle is interesting for it being deliberately jarring and somewhat out of tune.  Lyrically the song is pretty outstanding

Tell me, where are our heroes
Are they stuck at the wall?
Cause we got some real villains to stop
Before they kill us all

I see what you’re doing
With the Jews and the Muslims
You’re sawing us all
In half with your fake fear

My heart’s full of love
And all kinds of peace
But I think even
I 
Could punch a Nazi 
In the face

I just wish the song was more angry than sad.

For second song, “Shouting At The Dark” The People’s Choir come in.  The song rocks more with a great swinging bassline and some interesting muffled chugging guitar.  The choir really fills out the song and it sounds great.

I love the melody of the chorus which is once again, not entirely pretty–slightly haunting, except that they sound beautiful.  Adriana-Lucia Cotes is hitting these slightly dissonant notes that really standout in an interesting way.

Before the third song, “Hold On,” Laura talks about the choir, songwriting and the Muslim travel ban:

While recording this album, a travel ban was issued affecting six Muslim-majority countries. She wrote a song for refugees inspired by the ban and got in touch with friends back in Omaha at the Refugee Empowerment Center. It is there she learned of the Umoja Choir whose members include resettled refugees from The Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia and they ended up singing on her record. Laura also started a GoFundMe campaign for them to record their songs. Now some of those choir members Diendonne Manirakiza and Eric Esron (refugees from Burundi) have come to the Tiny Desk for a powerful set of songs. They’re joined by Michael Boggs, another Tiny Desk alum: Jessica Lea Mayfield. It’s an inspired project that I’m excited to share.

“Hold On” is “about having a heart.”  It’s a slower song with acoustic guitar and prominent cello.  The choir sounds like a “real” choir instead of backing vocalists on this uplifting song.

“Wild Hearts” opens with a cool echoed electric guitar.  For this song the choir works as powerful backing vocalists on this even more uplifting song.

[READ: May 20, 2017] Pretty Deadly 2

I didn’t really like the first book of this series.  And I didn’t like this book much either.  So I am officially giving up.

This book continues with the exposition by butterfly and dead rabbit.  An old woman, Sarah, is dying.  During the night she is visited by a ghost–of the man with slashes across his eyes, Fox (I can’t recall their relationship). Granddaughter Clara walks in and see the ghost.  Clara’s mother comes in and sees the ghost too.  And after some ugly words they ask if they can keep Sarah from dying until her son gets back to see her one last time–he is off fighting in a war somewhere. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANI DIFRANCO-Tiny Desk Concert #669 (November 8, 2017).

Back in the day, I really liked Ani DiFranco.  I saw here live a few times.  I loved her whole indie thing (all her music on her own label) and her politics.  Plus her songs were interesting and catchy.  And then, some time around 2000 I lost interest in her music.

I didn’t really like the new jazzy/funky/extended sound that she was playing with.

This Concert has two newish songs and one old song (it’s great to hear the old song again).

For her Tiny Desk debut, DiFranco brought a hell of a backing band, with drummer Terence Higgins and singer/violinist Jenny Scheinman joined by none other than Ivan Neville on keyboards.

I felt that her song writing style didn’t really lend itself to jazzy funky style. And I still feel that way.  The blurb notes that the band lends a slithery underpinning of funk to three songs that stretch across much of DiFranco’s career.  And Opening with “Dithering,” from 2014’s Allergic To Water, that is true.  But one of the things I loved about her music was her excellent guitar playing.  And on “Dithering,” all of the action of the song comes from the funky keys (and it’s a great groovy funky song), but I find that he singing style doesn’t quite work with the music.  Her voice still sounds terrific, though and Scheinman’s backing vocals are terrific.

Even if I still don’t love her new songs, I’m glad she’s still doing her own thing:

But she’s also kept her core values intact, from her outspoken commitment to progressive social causes to her strenuously maintained independence from the machinery of the music industry.   DiFranco introduces “Play God” (from this year’s Binary) with a monologue about reproductive rights and gender relations.

And it’s fantastic–pointed and thoughtful with just enough edge.  Musically, the song brings back some of her fingerpicking style and I do like Neville’s funky keys.  In fact the funkiness of this song feels natural.  And lyrically it’s great too.

She and her band close with 1998’s “Swan Dive,” which she calls “an early attempt at a happy song.”  I get a kick out of how she gets another guitar change and says “I never play a guitar twice.”  This song showcase what I loved (and love) about her songs–a complex and interesting guitar/rhythmic/percussive pattern that she does by herself.  The additional musicians add more fill, which sounds nice–the gentle keys and the slow violin (which also makes some great noisy sounds) as well as the way the drums kick in for the chorus.  It all works great.

It’s been about fifteen years since I really listened to her and I’m glad she’s still rocking to her own beat.

[READ: May 1, 2017] Pretty Deadly 1

I love Kelly DeConnick’s work with the Marvel Universe.  So I was pretty excited to read this story which is her own creation.

When I went to log this book on Goodreads, it said that this book marries the magical realism of Sandman with the western brutality of Preacher.  And I found that uncanny because as I was reading it I thought that the style of elliptical writing and even the placement of the text boxes in relation to the pictures was very much like Sandman. But the brutality of the art and the setting reminded me of Preacher. Clearly I was onto something.

I loved Sandman. I liked Preacher (never actually finished it, though), and I fear that this book is more Preacher than Sandman for me.

It begins very confusingly with a butterfly talking to a dead rabbit.  They are telling each other stories and they tell the story of when they met (which appears to be when the rabbit was shot and killed). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPHISH-sets one and three (MGM Grand Garden Arena, Friday 10 31, 2014).

The previous Ghost Box posts explored Phish’s Set two of their 2014 Halloween show.  But the rest of the night was perfectly suited to Halloween as well.

The band wore white tuxedos and white face paint.

Phish played a night of songs perfectly suited to Halloween.  A rousing spirited “Buried Alive” is followed by a slow moody “Ghost.”  “Ghost” had a lot of fuzzy dirty clavinet in the middle section.  It was followed by “Scent Of A Mule,” which features the Halloween related lyric:

She said, “I hate laser beams
And you never done see me askin’
For a UFO
In Tomahawk County”

A little guy from the UFO
Came on out and said his name was Joe
She said, “Come on over for some lemonade

There’s some wild piano soloing and then

an interesting “Mule Duel” segment spotlighting Mike and Trey. Mike utilized a synth effect, which drove the crowd wild, while Trey threw in dark and droning notes of his own. The interesting section of the Mule Duel climaxed with Mike and Trey holding their instruments in the air and rubbing them against each other, which made for quite a wild scene.

There’s some sci-fi sounding menace which seems to migrate into a kind of Yiddish melody until the song returns to the main melody again.

It as followed by a quick and fun “Sample In A Jar” which segues into a 12-minute “Reba” (a perfect Halloween song, indeed).  There’s a wailing solo just before the whistling coda.   It was followed by an intense “46 Days” (Taste the fear/For the devil’s drawing near) with some great mid-song soloing.  And then the perfect Halloween song: “Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars.”  The verses were really heavy and chaotic (musical nonsense from everyone as the noise crescendoed).  The song was particularly long at almost 3 and a half minutes.

Page then showed off lounge skills with a fun “Lawn Boy.”  He  took the lead mic and wished everyone a Happy Halloween and praised the great costumes.  Then after giving Mike a quick solo he had Fish do a very quick drum solo (he didn’t seem like he wanted to).  Next came another great Halloween song: “I Saw It Again”

When I wake in the night
(when I wake up in the night I’m pulled from my dreams)
Well, when something’s not right
I try not to look
(but the curtains pull open its breathing I hear)
For there is the shape
That I fear
And I’m fully woken
I saw it again

It had a great menacing feel to it with Trey’s wah wah adding extra sounds and the guys adding screams and cries during the choruses.  A funky “Tube” was next [You’re a portrait of your past / There’s a mummy in the cabinet / Are there no more arrows left?].  The set ended with a sprightly “Wolfman’s Brother.”  That opening piano note really snapped the darkness out of that previous ending.

Set two, was, of course the Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House [narration by Laura Olsher; Sound Effects by Walt Disney Sound Effects Group].

The third set pretty much eschews the Halloween motif.  “Punch You In The Eye” kicked it off with a 9 minute jam.  Then came a jaunty cover of TV on the Radio’s “Golden Age.”  Midway through, Page jumped over to his Wurlitzer electric piano as Fish altered his beat ever so slightly over the course of the 11-minute song.  There were a few times when it seemed the jam had petered out, but Page kept the keys going until Trey played the opening riff of “Tweezer.”  “Tweezer” was only 10 minutes long, but mid song they made a turn towards a bright, dreamy chord progression and eventually landed on a bright “Heavy Things.”

The expertly executed segue between the two is well worth the re-listen.

The 11 minute “Guyute” seems a but slow, but the end riffing part is really fast and intense and the slow last verse is quite menacing.  Although it comes out of that song bouncy once again and sets the stage for an 18 minute “Sand.”  There’s some great soloing from Trey and some cool funky keys from Page.

Just when “Sand” had hit its peak, the band pulled back and embarked on a second jam. McConnell took the lead on “Sand”s second jam as it seemed the band never wanted to stop playing the song. As Page milked the clavinet, Trey delivered thick, dirty riffs.

There were a few funk breaks (with Mike’s watery bass) and at each pause the crowd responded with a “whoo!”  Near the end of the song, the band started rocking out some heavy chords (with whooos as needed).  And while the band jammed those chords, Trey started playing a riff that sounded suspiciously like “Tweezer Reprise.”  I love when the band is playing basically two songs at once.  Eventually they all joined in for a spirited run through of the song.

The roof nearly came off the MGM Grand Arena by the time “Tweezer Reprise” came to a close as the clock approached 1 a.m. local time.

For the encore, they played Leonard Cohen’s “Is This What You Wanted,” sung by Mike.  It’s interesting to hear this done not but Cohen whose voice is so distinctive.  The song contains the lines “And is this what you wanted, To live in a house that is haunted, By the ghost of you and me?” which fits the haunted house theme perfectly.  Despite thematic choice, it’s not an especially rousing encore.  Which is why the band had one more Halloween song in mind.

Page came out with his keytar, [“which once was owned by James Brown,”] for The Edgar Winter Group’s  “Frankenstein.”  It sounded great and Page’s keytar had some fantastic old-school sounds that fit the Halloween theme perfectly.

The band played for almost four hours that night.  Now that is a treat!

[READ: October 26, 2017] “Hallowe’en in a Suburb”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar comes The Ghost Box.

This is a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening) that contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

A collection of chilly, spooky, hair-raising-y stories to get you in that Hallowe’en spirit, edited and introduced by comedian and horror aficionado Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, on the inside cover, one “window” of the 11 boxes is “folded.”  I am taking that as a suggested order.

Tucked into the bottom of the box is an orange rectangle with the poem “Hallowe’en in a Suburb” by H.P. Lovecraft.

Typically I don’t find poems to be particularly scary.  It’s hard to make rhymes scary.  But Lovecraft does his creepiness pretty well.  This one is written in English Quintain style (A-B-A-B-B).

This poem is more a disturbingly supernatural description of the suburbs around Halloween. (more…)

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