Archive for the ‘Threats’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ROY AYERS-Tiny Desk Concert #712 (March 1, 2018).

I hadn’t heard of Roy Ayers, although I imagine I’ve heard his work somewhere before.  I love the vibes so I was looking forward to his set.

I was a little bummed to hear him singing–I assumed it would be all instrumental. Especially since his songs aren’t exactly lyrically masterful.  But the jazzy funky solos were pretty great.

Roy Ayers [is a] 77-year-old jazz-funk icon.  He sauntered through the office with a Cheshire grin on his face, sharing jokes with anyone within earshot. Accompanying him was a trio of brilliantly seasoned musicians — keyboardist Mark Adams, bassist Trevor Allen and drummer Christopher De Carmine. Later during the performance, pride washed across Ayers’ face as his bandmates took the spotlight. (Be sure to watch as Adams woos not just the room but brightens Ayers’ face during his solo.)

The set began with one of Ayers’ more recognizable hits: an extended version of “Searching,” a song that embodies the eternal quest for peace and love.  The vibes solo at 2 and a half minutes is worth the wait, though.

The lyrics are essentially.  I’m searching, searching, searching searching. It takes over a minute for him to even get to the vibes!  It’s followed by a groovy keyboard solo that starts mellow be really takes off by the end.

During “Black Family” (from his 1983 album Lots Of Love), you’ll hear him call out “Fela” throughout. That’s because Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti was a huge influence on Ayers in the late 1970s; the two eventually collaborated on an album, 1980’s Music Of Many Colors. “Black Family” is, in part, a tribute to Fela, even if the original version didn’t include his name.

Again the lyrics: “lo-lo-lo-lo-long time ago” and not much else repeated over and over and over. But it’s all lead up to a great vibes solo (as the band gets more and more intense).  I love that the keyboardist has a keytar as well and is playing both keys at the same time–soloing on the keytar with an awesome funky sound.  There’s even a cool bass solo.

Concluding this mini-concert, Ayers closed the set out with his signature tune, “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”, a feel-good ode if there ever was one. The essence of this song flowed right through him and out to the NPR audience.

Another terrific vibes solo is followed by a keytar solo which is full of samples of people singing notes (they sound like Steely Dan samples)–it’s weird and kind of cool.

[READ: August 2017] McSweeney’s No 46

As the subtitle reflects this issue is all about Latin American crime.  It features thirteen stories selected by Daniel Galera.  And in his introduction he explains what he was looking for:

DANIEL GALERA-Introduction
He says it used to be easy to talk about Latin American fiction–magical realism, slums and urban violence.  But now things have expanded.  So he asked 13 writers to put their own Latin American spin on the crime story.

And of course, each McSweeney’s starts with


DANIEL ALARCÓN writes passionately about Diego Maradona’s famous “Goal of the Century” and how as a child he watched it dozens of times and then saw it thousands of times in his head.  When he learned of Maradona’s questionable “Hand of God” goal, his father said that his previous goal was so good it counted twice.  But Daniel grows sad realizing that the goal of the century also marked the beginning of Maradona’s decline.

LAIA JUFRESA this was a fascinating tale about a game called Let’s Kill Carlo that her family played.   It involves a convoluted history including her mother “inventing” a child in order for her husband to come to Mexico from Italy and avoid conscription there.  But when this child “Carlo” “came of age” they had to think of reason why he wasn’t there anymore–so they invented the Let’s Kill Carlo game.

YURI HERRERA waiting for a bus in New Orleans as a man lay in the gutter also waiting.

VALERIA LUISELLI her friend recently moved to Minneapolis with her nervous wreck Chihuahua named President.   He was diagnoses with terminal cancer and the vet encouraged all manner of alternative therapies.  This friend was a very sweet person and had many virtues. And yet perhaps through her virtue the alternative therapy seems to have worked.

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN wants to know why immigration officers at Newark Airport are such dicks (and this was before Trump–#ITMFA).  He speaks of personal examples of Mexican citizens being treated badly.  He had asked a friend to brings books for him and she was harassed terribly asked why did she need so many bags for such a short stay.  Another time he was flying back to NYC with a Mexican girlfriend.   She went through customs and he didn’t hear anything for hours.  He didn’t know if she would even make it though customs at all–even though she’d done nothing wrong.   He imagines wondering how these officers live and what their lives must be like that they seem to take pleasure in messing with other people’s lives. (more…)


Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: JULIEN BAKER-Tiny Desk Concert #690 (January 10, 2018).

Julien Baker joins a handful of artists who have now made a second appearance at a Tiny Desk Concert.  (If they start inviting artists back regularly, they’ll never get ANY work done at the NPR offices).

I was quite enamored with Baker when I watched her first Tiny Desk Concert.  And I was totally smitten with her when I saw her open for The Decemberists.

Julien plays three songs here.  I’m intrigued that in the blurb Bob says “I reached out to ask if she would be willing to do something different this time around.”

It makes it sound as if she’s going to do some kind of dance/electronica show.  But I guess the difference is that last time, she just played electric guitar and this time she mixes up instrumentation and adds a violinist.

The first two songs, “Hurt Less” and “Even,” were accompanied by Camille Faulkner, with Julien on piano for the opening tune and acoustic guitar on the second.

If Julien Baker sounds delicate with just her electric guitar, she’s twice as delicate on piano.  But her voice sounds exquisite–powerful, honest and a little raspy, adding a slight edge.

I love seeing her sticker-covered acoustic guitar as she sings on “Even”:

Putting my fist through the plaster in the bathroom of a Motel 6 / I must have pictured it all a thousand times / I swear to God I think I’m gonna die / I know you were right / I can’t be fixed, so help me

She tends to play her guitar a little louder than the piano, so this one is a bit more dynamic.  The violin adds some aching sounds over the top.

I love that she plays each song in a very different style:

For the final song, Julien put together an arrangement of “Appointments” that begins on electric guitar, which then was looped as a backdrop to her on piano and voice.

It’s always fun watching someone loop guitar melodies.  And I like that she continues to loop long after it seems like the looping is done.  This allows for some of her gorgeous ringing chords.  They continue to ring out as she plays the piano.  It’s even cooler that she can stop parts of the guitar looping while she is completing the song.

All along her voice, which seems so delicate when she starts proves to be really powerful, especially during “Appointments” when she builds to a powerful high.    When I saw her live, she held a really long note that was quite impressive.  Don’t be fooled by the quietness of her music, Julien Baker rocks.

[READ: October 27,2017] Threads of Blue

This is the sequel to Beautiful Blue World, a book I really enjoyed.

In the first book, Mathilde’s country of Sofarende was being attacked by Tyssia.  She was sent to a special location to work on the war effort–they needed precocious children and she was picked for her empathy.  As the book ended, Mathilde followed her empathy and, while their encampment was under siege, released a teenaged prisoner of war because she felt that he was a good person who was just caught up in the war.

This act caused her to leave her group (and her best friend Megs) and to miss the conveyance to safety.

As this book opens, Mathilde wakes up on a boat that is bringing her to the country of Eilean.  She has secret documents and an order to be secretive.

The book picks up right where the previous one left off (I could have used a slight refresher, honestly). (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: LO MOON-Tiny Desk Concert #688 (January 5, 2018).

WXPN has been playing “This is It” quite a bit lately and I’ve realized that it sounds way too much like Mr. Mister (I think it’s Mr. Mister, or something else cloyingly 80s) for me to really enjoy.  [Speaking of Mr. Mister, how is it possible that Pat Mastelotto, currently touring with King Crimson, was the drummer for Mr. Mister?  Are they better than “Broken Wings.” There’s hardly any drums in that song at all and Mastelotto is awesome].

Anyhow back to the history of Lo Moon, lead singer and instrumentalist Matt Lowell says he created the song “Loveless” 5 1/2 years ago in a basement studio in New York.

He then moved to Los Angeles and linked up with Crisanta Baker (guitar, bass, keyboards and backing vocals) and multi-instrumentalist and principal guitarist Sam Stewart. They spent months in a backyard shed with gear and guitars everywhere. There they learned to feed off each other, sometimes jamming on two-chord drones for six hours straight without even saying a word. With the lights turned down, it was a comfortable space for the band to catch its artistic wind and create a celestial sound.

No word on when Sterling Laws was added as a drummer.

The show starts with “This is It.”  Lowell is on piano, and the song sounds pretty faithful to the recording. It’s the combination of the four note melody and the synth sound of those four notes at the end of the chorus that really rings Mr. Mister to me.  The addition of the backing vocals (ahhhing) is a nice addition to the song.

For “Real Love” Chrisanta switches to piano, Sam switches to acoustic guitar and Matt goes to electric guitar.  He plays a pretty melody on the guitar, but I can’t help feel that his voice is too soft, too middle of the road.

The same is true for “Loveless.”  They switch back to the original instruments.  Like “Real Love” it’s a pretty song, but ironically, without those Mr. Mister notes, there’s really no hook.  The songs just sound like pretty, generic songs on some kind of soft rock station.

[READ: September 9, 2017] Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training

I enjoyed the first Pip Bartlett book.  It was funny and had a good time with magical creatures.

In the first book we find out that Pip Bartlett is a young girl who can speak to magical creatures–unicorns, silky griffins, fuzzles–but no one believes her (because no one else can).  This is a drag because she loves magical creatures and her Aunt Emma is a veterinarian of magical creatures (people know magical creatures exits, they just don’t think people can talk to them).

Pip loves Unicorns and in the past has assisted Mr Henshaw with a very timid Unicorn–Regent Maximus–who was afraid of his own shadow.

I love the tone of the books.  This one opens: I was shoveling Greater Rainbow Mink poop. This wasn’t as bad as you might think. Greater Rainbow Minks only eat brunt sugar, so their poop literally smells like candy.  (It’s NOT candy, of course, It’s very important to remember that no matter how good its smells, it’s still poop).

And then we see (or actually we don’t see) a Rockshine who can only say the word Hey, but most often says “Heyyyyyyyyyyy!”  Rockshines are dull sheeplike creatures who turn invisible when frightened–which is often. (more…)

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: JOHN ZORN’s A Dreamer’s Christmas (2011).

You can never say with certainty what kind of music you will get with a John Zorn record.  It could be beautiful; it could be scary.  It could be chaotic; it could be traditional.  There’s could be death metal or gentle jazz.  There could be vocals or not.

Some time in 2008, Zorn started yet another project.  This one was called The Dreamers and it proved to be on the mellow, jazzy side of his spectrum.

The members have been Cyro Baptista − percussion; Joey Baron − drums; Trevor Dunn − acoustic and electric Bass; Marc Ribot − guitars; Jamie Saft − keyboards and Kenny Wollesen − vibes, chimes, glockenspiel.  For A Dreamer’s Christmas, Mike Patton (notorious for making a racket) sings some delightful vocals on 2 songs.

The album contains eight tracks: six traditional and two original Zorn compositions.

“Winter Wonderland” is played on vibes.  There’s a cool repeating bass signature that bounces the song along and a groovy jazzy keyboard background before the electric guitar comes in to play the main riff.

“Snowfall” is just lovely with more vibes and a delicate guitar and twinkling piano.  There’s even some hand drums to add some cool percussive effects.  the songs is primarily a lovely piano instrumental.  I don’t understand why I don’t know this song.  Why isn’t it on other Christmas albums?  It’s lovely.

“Christmastime is Here” is, indeed, the song from The Peanuts movie.  The main melody is guitar and vibes and this version is possibly more entertaining than the original.

“Santa’s Workshop” is a John Zorn composition.  It’s faster and a bit more upbeat than the others, but with a really groovy riff and some fun vibes to match it.  There’s also a fun keyboard solo.  This song first in perfectly with the others.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”  begins with a quiet and somber piano playing the melody.  It’s a lovely piece with some fun piano noodling.

“Let It Snow” starts with a bell and a rather funky bass line.  After a minute or so the guitar takes over to play the main melody.  There’s some weird and wacky 70s keys playing around in the background that you don’t really notice right away.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is the first odd-sounding track on the disc.  The guitar is plucked and the percussion seems to be all kinds of small wooden things clattering around.  I assume someone is playing the rims of glasses as well.  That goes on for a minute before the piano comes in and it gets very jazzy (with an upright bass).  It sounds a lot like the kind of piano playing featured in Charlie Brown.  The end of the song features a kind of whispered, slightly sinister take on the lyric by Patton.

“Magical Sleigh Ride” is the second Zorn original.  It is a swift-moving treat–fluid bass, repeated guitar licks and solos, and a fast percussion beat before the melody kicks in.  After about 2 minutes there’s a pretty wild and rollicking guitar solo.  It’s the most intense thing on the record (which isn’t very intense really) but all along the jazzy pianos and percussion remains.  Its followed by a similarly exuberant vibes solo.  It’s another great Christmas song and fits in perfectly with the others.

“The Christmas Song” returns to the traditional with a lovely, quiet piano rendition of the song and a nice vocal delivery from Mike Patton.  Patton is in perfectly deep-voiced crooner mode and it suits everything perfectly.  There’s a lengthy piano solo in the middle and then Patton finishes the song.

The disc ends with everyone wishing us a Merry Christmas.

It is a surprising and wonderful Christmas album worthy of addition to everyone’s collection.

[READ: November 26, 2017] The Crown of Fire

This is the fourth and final book in the Copernicus series.  There is no third or fourth mini book (I wonder why there wasn’t at least at third one).

I found this book to be exhausting and depressing.   And that’s because for the most part that’s how the characters felt–exhausted and depressed.  I also felt more exhausted by the series than I apparently felt after book three.  I thought I had stopped because I was burnt out on the series, but that’s not the impression I get from reading my post.  But this book did get very dark for most of its 500+ pages.

Lily and Darrell are together by themselves and they are fleeing once again.  They eventually find someone who will help them leave the country in a cargo ship–two weeks in a tiny hold by themselves.  Even Darrell who is still crazy about Lily finds it a bit much.

Back in the other part of the world, Becca Wade and Sara have just gotten a message from Roald.  But it turns out to be a trap. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: TED LEO-Tiny Desk Concert #680 (December 4, 2017).

Up until now, I have more or less missed Ted Leo and all of his phases.  The blurb notes:

How you listen to Leo depends on when his work came into your life. If you’re a back-in-the-day type you might rep for Chisel, his ’90s punk outfit born on the Notre Dame campus and bred in Washington, D.C. If you’re just tuning in, you may have witnessed his understated comedy chops in arenas like The Best Show on WFMU and a highly enjoyable Twitter feed. At the center of this bell curve are those who found Leo at the dawn of the 2000s — when, at the helm of what’s most commonly called Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (shout-out to the typographical variants still mucking up iTunes libraries), he kicked off a run of five stellar albums in just under 10 years, each one urgently attuned to its political context and yet defiant in its ideas of what punk could sound like and whose stories it could aim to tell. Fans will tell you the songs about eating disorders and missing old ska bands felt just as vital to their moment as those that explicitly took on Sept. 11 and the Iraq War.

I know Ted Leo from when he played with Aimee Mann as The Both (they did a Tiny Desk show) and I am aware of Ted Leo + Pharmacists (the above mentioned typographical variant), but I somehow never really heard him/them.  I didn’t even know he was a Jersey guy.  (My friend Al is a big fan, I recently learned).

Recently, WXPN has been playing his new song “Can’t Go Back” which is wonderfully poppy and catchy and which I sing along to each morning.  Leaning more about him (and how funny he is in the Tiny Desk show) makes me want to see what I’ve been missing.

I obviously had no idea about his punk past, so I was pretty surprised to hear the feedback and heavy guitar of the first song here “Moon Out of Phase.”  Leo sings pretty hard on this song, too.  It’s fairly simple musically, but there’s a bunch going on lyrically that’s fun to pick out.

[After] the bone-rattling slow burn “Moon Out of Phase,” he smiled and explained the song was perhaps “a little heavy for noon — but, practically speaking, it helps me get the cobwebs out.”

“Can’t Go Back” couldn’t be more different. It’s catchy and not at all heavy.  It has backing vocals (provided by Leo himself) and just swings along.

 It’s a bit faster than on record, and as the blurb notes:

By the time he hit the first chorus of “Can’t Go Back,” a danceable bop about accepting that the life you have isn’t quite the one you planned for, any remaining cobwebs had been scattered to the wind.

Interestingly for being such a guitar based guy, there;s no solos on the songs (and yet they’re not short either, the first and third songs are about 4 minutes long).  Rather than a solo on “Can’t Get Back,” there’s a cool guitar chord progression.

He seems unsure of the quality of that song (not sure why–because he doesn’t hit those high notes perfectly?)  But then says he’ll finish off with a request.  “I’m a Ghost” is an old song that he doesn’t usually play solo, but figured he would because of the time of year (guess this was recorded around Halloween).

He tells an amusing story about someone asking about the first line: “I’m ghost and I wanted you to know its taking all of my strength to make this toast.”  The person asked if the toast was “a toast” or a ghost pressing the lever down on a toaster and “the hand of the frosty apparition is just going through the thing.”  He says it was originally “a toast” but now it is absolutely about the toaster, that’s the greatest metaphor for so many things.”

It’s really about “alienation from the political process.” It’s more rocking, like the first song, but with a catchy chorus like the second song.  This is a fun set and a good, long-overdue introduction to Ted Leo.

[READ: April 6, 2017] The Golden Vendetta

This is the third full-sized book in the Copernicus series.  It follows the mini-book about Becca.

I enjoyed this book more than the second one.  I enjoy the sections where they have some downtime and aren’t just running around.  And there was more downtime in this book.  I was also really intrigued by the way it began.

The families had been reunited and them separated.  So Darrell and Wade and the adults Kaplans were living in a hotel under an assumed name.  And Lily and Becca were also together under assumed names–but they were not allowed to contact the boys.  This went on for two months.

In that time Galina Krause had been inactive.  We learn that she had been in a coma, but the good guys never find that out, they’re just in the dark for months.

Until Galina wakes up and is on the move again.  And then everyone is on the move.

The families travel under assumed names but are still followed relentlessly by the bad guys. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »