Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ANIMAL MASKS-EP (2017).

Animal Masks is a band based out of Somerville, NJ (almost my home town).  They have an EP out (buy or stream on bandcamp), and it’s a great four song collection that melds a 70’s glam rock feel with a kind of 80s pop punk.

They are a trio and have the thick, meaty sound that trios do so well.  The disc doesn’t give a lot of details, but the band consists of Dave DeCastro, Dan Zachary and Ronny Day (not sure who does what).

The last three songs of the Ep have more of the punk edge–the songs are faster and shorter (“Tear It Down” is just over 2 minutes), but they are in no way hardcore.  There’s a distinct  major label Hüsker Dü vibe to these latter songs.

“Sad Day” has some nice harmonies in unexpected places and I love the gritty minor key guitars.  The chord progression in the bridge is also a nicely unexpected change up for an otherwise simple melody.  It’s a sweet touch to get a fuzzy wah wah sound in the second half of the (not at all flashy) guitar solo as well.  The “Ohhs” at the end of the song are pure Mould/Hart/Norton.

“Tear It Down” is a bit more upbeat (surprisingly given the “when everything falls apart, it’s time to tear it down” lyrics).  I love the thumping drums (and the screamed harmonies) in the chorus.  “Used By the Universe” is a bit muddier than the other songs–I can’t tell if it’s the same singer on all the songs–he’s harder to hear on this track.  He sounds a bit deeper, gruffer on this one.  There’s some great bass lines in this song, and once again, the drum has some great fills.

The glam comes to the fore on the first song, “For Real.”  The singer’s voice sounds a bit less snarly and the guitars are wah-wahed and echoey in a way they aren’t on the other three.  There appears to be some other kind of interesting overdub sound floating behind the guitars, which is a nice addition.  The song is slower, but I really like the way the drum plays a fast four beats in the middle of the chorus.

One thing that tickles me about this song is that the main body of the song has a chorus of “is it always… now or never” the “for real” of the title doesn’t come until after four minutes (the song is just under 5) with a coda that repeats “are you for real.”

I wish the recording was a little crisper, but that’s probably personal preference.  I definitely wish the drums were mixed differently–they sound kind of flat–which is a shame because the drumming is outstanding.  All of this just speaks to how great they probably sound live.

[READ: October 30, 2016] Cool Japan Guide

After enjoying Diary of a Tokyo Teen, I saw that Tuttle Publishing also put out this book. I got it out for Clark but wound up reading it before he did.

Abby Denson is a cartoonist (the other subtitle is A Comic Book Writer’s Personal Tour of Japan).  She and her husband (Matt Loux–who did the Salt Water Taffy stories) love Japan and Japanese culture and they travel there a lot.  So this is her personal guide book to visiting the wild world of Japan.

While it has some of the same features as Tokyo Teen, this book is far more of a guide book for travelers than a personal memoir of one girl’s travels. The book opens with a pronunciation guide (very helpful) and each chapter has a list of useful phrases and expressions all introduced by the very helpful Kitty Sweet Tooth.

Denson is quite thorough in this book.  Starting from before you leave–getting a passport, making reservations, getting rail passes, everything.  Even what to expect in each of the seasons.  Upon arrival there’s all kinds of fun things to see immediately–train stamps (you get a stamp for every station you go to) vending machines (and how to understand them) and even what kind of (apparently delicious) food you can buy on a train in the country. (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: SNAIL MAIL-Tiny Desk Concert #649 (September 15, 2017).

It’s always encouraging that young musicians are still picking up guitars and writing catchy and interesting songs.  I’d never heard of Snail Mail, but finding out that lead singer/guitarist Lindsey Jordan graduated high school last year is pretty cool.

I think that it helps to have some connections, though:

Jordan started Snail Mail at 15 and released the quietly stunning Habit EP via Priests’ in-house label last year. She’s quickly found fans in Helium and Ex Hex’s Mary Timony (who also happens to be Jordan’s guitar teacher) and just went on tour with Waxahatchee and Palehound.

They play three songs.  On one it’s just her, but on the first two, she is joined “by what’s become her consistent live band (drummer Ray Brown and bassist Alex Bass).”

“Slug” has a propulsive verse and a cool thumping bridge.  It’s an ode to a slug, in fact, but it also looks internally: “I have waited my whole life to know the difference and I should know better than that.”  I really like the way the song builds and builds and then drops out for a second for a few curlicues of guitar.

Her lyrics are wonderful mix of maturity and teenager (I do like the “my whole life bit,” but I really like this couplet from the next song “Thinning.”

I want to face the entire year just face down / and on my own time I wanna waste mine.
spend the rest of it asking myself is this who you are / and I don’t know it just feels gross.  (And her delivery of the word “gross” is wonderful).

From her reaction and this blurb, I guess the band is a bit louder than what they play here:

Because we often ask bands to turn down for the office space, she jokes, “I guess I don’t really know what we sound like because we’re so loud. Now we’re quiet and Ray’s using the mallets and my guitar’s all the way down — I was like, ‘We sound like this?'”

For the last song, the guys leave as she re tunes her guitar:

Jordan closes the set solo with a new song, “Anytime.” It is, perhaps typically for Snail Mail, slow and sad, but the alternate guitar tuning and Jordan’s drawled vocal performance gives this song about a crush an aerial motion, like acrobats sliding down a long sheet of fabric.

With just her and her guitar this song is far more spare and less bouncy but it works perfectly were her delivery.  I also like watching her bend strings with her third finger while playing a chord–she has learned some mad skills from Timony for sure.  I wish I had seen them open for Waxahatchee, that’s a bitchin’ double bill, for sure.

[READ: October 20, 2016] Diary of a Tokyo Teen

Sarah brought this book home and it seemed really fun.  It’s a look at Japan through the eyes of a girl who was born there about 15 years earlier but then moved to the U.S. with her family.  She is older and somewhat wiser and is delighted to have a chance to explore what is familiar and unfamiliar.

And it’s all done in a simple comic book style diary which she self published at age 17.

So Christine flies to Kashiwa, a small city outside of Tokyo to stay with her Baba and Jiji (grandparents).  She says the best reunion (aside from her grandparents) was with her favorite fast food chain unavailable in America: Mos Burger (you eat the wrapper because it would be messy to take it out of the wrapper).

What I love about this book is that unlike a more formal guide book, Christine is a typical teenager with typically American experiences.  So she notices that the people who work fast food are happy–or at least appear to be.  She’s also aware right form the start how trendy the other kids are.  And while an adult might not care, for a teen aged girl, that’ pretty devastating. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[LISTENED TO: September 13, 2017] Believe Me

When I saw that Eddie Izzard had a book out I was pretty interested to read it.  I have loved his stand-up since 1997 or 1998 and I was lucky enough to see him on his Circle Tour (on the date they recorded it!).  I have been keeping up with his career and trying to see him in whatever he does (although I like my comedy more than drama and he has certainly made the shift towards drama in recent years).

I thought an autobiography or memoir by him would be pretty interesting (even if he claims to be boring).  But when I saw that he read the audiobook, I knew I had to give it a listen (even if it was 12 discs)!

Amusingly, there was a long delay at the library.  The lady at the counter (who is not the librarian–we librarians know the difference) said if I knew his voice, I could just read the book to myself in his voice.  It was an amusing thought, and I possibly could do that, ….yes, but Eddie’s voice is just so fantastic that it never would have worked properly.  Plus, he throws in easily an extra hours worth of footnotes and rambles that aren’t in the print book!  That’s right, an extra hour’s worth of nonsense if you do the audio.   True you don;t get to see the pictures, but it’s a fair trade-off.

Well the book finally came in and I had plenty of driving time to make short work of this 12 hours behemoth.  And I laughed and laughed.  And cried and cried.

Because while Eddie Izzard is an action transvestite (transgender, now) and one of the best stand-ups around, he is also an extremely warm and thoughtful person. He worked very hard to become the success he is.  And he has used his fame to do some absolutely wonderful things for humanity–including raising millions of dollars.  Not bad for an atheist who is sometimes in girl mode and sometimes in boy mode. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-LivePhish 11.14.95 University of Central Florida Arena, Orlando FL (2007).

In addition to formal live releases and a series of 20 full show LivePhish releases (which were packaged in some horrible goo and have subsequently been ruined), Phish has also released some shows a but more formally as LivePhish archival “releases.”  I don’t know if there is any specific reason for the release of any of them, but they seem to out out two or so a year.

Regardless, this show is pretty fantastic.

There’s a pretty thorough review and essay (with photos) by Kevin Shapiro about the show here.  And it provides a lot more context and Phish lore than I can and I’ve quoted some below.

Hoist had come out the previous year but Billy Breathes not for another ten months or so.

The show has a lot of whispered vocals from Trey (especially at the beginnings of songs—they’re audible, sure, but just seem quieter than usual).  The show starts off with a blast of “Chalk Dust Torture” and an extended 10 minute “Foam.”   The whispered vocals are especially noticeable on “Billy Breathes” but once the song really begins there are some great harmonies.

Then for the fifteen minute “Divided Sky,” which sounds amazing, there’s quite a long pause before the main riff starts—teasing the audience a bit.  Trey basically stands there, stock still for almost a minute and a half.

It’s always a treat to hear “Esther” which has a good jam going and so does “Free” (which is technically a new song), although it seems to go a little dark. Then there’s another quiet verse to start “Julius” before it really takes off. All three of those songs were about 9 minutes each.

That all settles down to a quiet almost unplugged bluegrass version of “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome” [the notes mentioned above indicate: I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome featured a brave mandolin solo by Fish as well as some especially inflected vocals by temporary upright bassist Page].  The set with a great version of “Cavern.”

At the end of the song he talks about the audience chess move that anyone can get involved in.   And then in the beginning of set two, they mention the audience move.

There’s a very extended “Maze” (13 minutes) in which Trey is on fire, and then a fun “Gumbo” that in no way prepares you for what’s to come: the wild frenetic soling in a hugely extended version of “Stash.”  The song segues into other songs (“Manteca” and “Dog Faced Boy”) and back into “Stash” for a total of 40 minutes of jamming.  There’s some crazy feedback and noise in Trey’s solos.  There’s also a percussion slow down with just one note of piano and percussion keeping the song going. The liner notes break it up into three distinct songs: the first part is 15 minutes, then a break into the jazzy instrumental “Manteca” and then back into Stash for a total of 14 minutes and then Trey breaks into a quiet a capella version of “Dog Faced Boy” which segues into the ending solo of Stash which is feedbacky and crazy.  A total of almost 10 minutes.  The notes say:

The improvisational skill and grace demonstrated in this “Stash” set the standard for years to come.  Staccato guitar and clavinet accents began to lead into some incredible jamming with massive, swirling tension as the band weaved in and out of Stash’s theme in a loose, psychedelic approach. Deep rhythmic tribal incantation followed with Trey eventually switching to percussion and grooving into something akin to the ending of “Fee.” This jam continued, melting perfectly into a supercharged version of “Manteca,” played for the first time in a year and sandwiched between segments of Stash

There’s a brief respite with a beautiful, mellow “Strange Design.”  And then the band ramps up again with a 21 minute “You Enjoy Myself.”

Like parts of the show-stopping “Stash” and other versions from this year commonly ranked among the best ever, this “YEM” is amazing, intense and engaging, exploratory and rocking especially when teamed with Chris Kuroda’s phoenix-shaped lighting rig. A brief nod to Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song” punctuates the jam and the energy in the room and intensity of playing throughout kept the set flying as high as Trey and Mike’s mini-trampoline performance.

There’s also a (fairly mellow) vocal jam at the end, bringing the show proper to a close.

The encore is two songs, “The Wedge” which sounds a little different from the record and a fast and frenetic “Rocky Top.”  It is truly a great show.

The disc is a three CD set and includes two bonus Filler tracks.  There’s a goofy, fun version of “Poor Heart” (from a soundcheck on 11/14/95 and a really silly “Dog Log” (with someone speaking the refrain “to the john” over and over).  That one comes from a show on 12/01/95, which is pretty far away from this show, but is a fun addition.

[READ: November 24, 2016] Fall Out

Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors. For this particular book, proceeds to benefit Women for Afghan Women.

This book is divided into four sections.  They could be short stories or they could be parts of a full story.  The pieces do fit together

Conduction
From 1951 to 1962, nuclear bombs were detonated in the Nevada Test site.  Buildings were destroyed, sand was turned to glass.  This story then jumps to Troy, New York in 1953.  Three students were tossing a ball around after a rainfall.  They went into a college building and tested a Geiger counter which showed ratings off the charts on the ball that had been in the puddle.

Night of the Avengers
On a given night, several people saw what looked like an ice cream cone made of light in the sky.   And then a local boy encountered the alien.  This section is actually a film made by director Zweig.  We learn about Zweig’s childhood working on the sets of Metropolis, and his difficulties in getting this low budget film made.  It’s an interesting plot–people blame the aliens for things that are going wrong, but the aliens are not responsible.  So they simply leave rather than taking the abuse.  There is also Dr. Exline, who is making a bio weapon.  He is the one responsible for all the troubles they’ve been having–won’t anyone listen? (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Quilted Bear, Banff, Alberta (February 11, 1997).

I am quite surprised that the Rheostatics Live site doesn’t make a bigger deal about this show, given its unique nature.  This is an acoustic show that sounds like it was played in front of ten people and a lot of beer.

The shows seems to have started with the second song (at least the way Dave introduces it).  But the first track is a romping acoustic “Record Body Count” (sound check? or maybe just put out of place?).  Whatever, it sounds great with some electric guitar squeals but mostly just folk style with lots of backing singers).

The show proper starts with Dave introducing “an Ontario drinking song.”  There’s lots of shushing as people keep talking over him (although those people might be Tim an Martin).  Dave says, “a drinking song, there’s got to be some drunks talking.”.  Dave tells the story behind the sons and then they launch into a spirited rendition of Stompin’ Tom Connor’s “Midnight Ride of Red Dog Ray.”

Next comes “Christopher.”  It’s hard to believe they used this version for Double Live because it is so imperfect.  Martin coughs in the beginning and his voice cracks a bit.  But it sounds great and is a wonderfully unique version, especially for the live record.

It’s followed by a folksy rendition of “Chanson les Ruelles.”  Although Tim is too quiet.  mid song, you can hear someone in the crowd says “is it in French?  Yea!”  The version of “Wendell Clark” that comes next is only the second part.  But it is stompin and rompin (with someone yelling “yeeeha”).  At the end someone shouts Wendell broke his back.  “He didn’t really break it.”  “Well, he hurt it.”

Someone shouts for “Palomar” (or “Alomar” that seems less likely).  But they play “Take Me in Your Hand” instead.  It is also a folkie version and the end features a percussion addition of wood blocks.

Dave shouts “Hey, Mike, you wanna do Noah’s Cage?”  I have to assume this is Mike O’Neill from The Inbreds (the song is an Inbreds song).  They play the song although Mike forgets the second verse so he repeats the first.   He says its been a while since he played it.

Martin introduces “Introducing Happiness: as “this is a song about being happy.”  Dave says, “I hope so.”  It’s followed by a surprising acoustic version of “P.R.O.D.”  Surprising only because the song tends to get noisy and out of control, but it’s not in this version.  Towards the end, Dave shouts “all percussion solo–whatever you got.”

Martin busts into the melody of “Dope Fiends” but instead they play a long funny version of “Desert Island Discs.”

Dave: AC/DC-Back in Black; Ramones-Rocket to Russia; Martha and the Muffins-Danseparc.
Tim: The Inbreds-Hilario; The Inbreds-Kombinator ; The Inbreds-It’s Sydney or the Bush.
Donny: Randy Newman-Creates Something New Under the Sun; Grace Jones-Nightclubbing; Herbet von Karajan conducts Beethoven’s… “Last Waltz?” (Dave: could you believe he said the classical one?)
An audience member: Kiss-Dressed to Kill;  The Beatles White Album, and… someone says Billy Idol-White Wedding.  Dave: Billy idol?  Gigs over.  And a later line: I’m going to get me to an island not with that guy though, he wants to bring Billy Idol. I don’t even think White Wedding’s the name of the album (it’s not)–although the fans argue the point).
One last guy: Pink Floyd-The Wall; Led Zeppelin-IV… how many picks? How many picks!?)  ZZ Top-Degüello.

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is sung my Tim, Dave sings “I wish I was back home in Derry” at the appropriate moments.

They end with a piano-based version of “Jesus was Once a Teenager Too.”  He has to start again (“it’s just that that thing fell over”), but when he does it sounds really good–very different.

What a fun show to have been at.  There’s a lot of interaction with the band and fans–I really wonder how many people were there.

[READ: April 3, 2017] “Girlfriend on Mars” 

This story is probably my favorite Lucky Peach story (even if it had nothing to do with food).  Although the end seemed to maybe spiral out of control a little bit–with a finale that was, possibly, a little trite (although, not exactly).

This plot is simple.  Amber Kevinn, the narrator’s girlfriend is going to Mars.  Well, maybe.  She has (unbeknownst to Kevin) entered a reality show contest in which two winners will be selected to travel to Mars on MarsNow.  They will live on Mars until they die–no hope for returning.  This story intersperses the contest with just how Amber’s boyfriend feels about the whole thing.

Amber and Kevin are drug dealers.  Well, not exactly–they sell drugs, but only to family and friends.  They grow them hydroponically–this skill with plants was one of the reasons she was accepted for Mars in the first place.  But why didn’t she say anything to her boyfriend (of twelve years!) until it got to this point?

She made a video, she sent in an essay she even met with the TV people–all without him knowing.  Of course, Kevin’s a pretty heavy stoner at this point so he doesn’t notice much. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Molson Centre, Montreal, QC (December 9, 1996).

This is the second and final Quebec show on Rheostatics live.  Once again they are opening for The Tragically Hip and although it still has that stadium feel, this one is a little muffled.

They open the show with a French language clip and once again I have no idea what it is from.

Before the first song starts either the guys are talking to each other or there’s a recording of Martin & Dave talking to each other about dreams.  “I had this weird dream we were in a giant rock stadium.  We were opening for Ringo’s All Stars  All these people were there speaking a  different language.”  “Ringo’s really been giving it all this tour.”

Eventually they start the riff and play a great version of Fat.  I love how the song builds and builds to a cacophonous racket and then quiets down into the slinky riff.

They play “Aliens” and Martin modifies the lyric from “they took you up and put you under” to “they took you up and gave you drugs.”  It’s followed by “All the Same Eyes” which is such a good conventional rocking song.  “Michael Jackson” sounds great with some wailing guitars.  At the end, Martin states, “It feels good to be alive.”  Dave retorts: “Sometimes.”

Then Dave says thanks for CFRG and CFLY (which seems unlikely to play them now) for “coming down here and talking to us today we appreciate it.  This [“Bad Time to Be Poor”] is the song that’s getting played on the radio and in all the finer dentist offices around the land.”

Martin makes some interesting guitar noises before starting a really great “California Dreamline.”  Before Claire, Dave says “Happy birthday, Gary Stokes” (their sound man).  They’ve been adding some great guitar solos into “Claire” and this one is no exception–Martin really stretches.

“Horses” is, as always, really strong.  The version rocks and then during the moody middle section Dave starts chanting about power in the darkness.  Near the end as Martin starts making his horse sounds, Dave chants “we don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.”

It’s a dark but effective ending.  I assume the Canadian audiences know the band already, but I wonder what they think of them as an opening act.

[READ: June 20, 2017] “The Love Nest”

This is The Walrus‘ Summer Fiction Issue with new fiction & poetry from 6 writers in total.  I won’t be reviewing the poetry, but I’ll be talking about the three short stories.

This story was delightful.  I enjoyed everything about it.

It consists of a series of log book entries at a B&B from October 10, 2013 through August 5, 2015 with a sort of addenda at the end.

It begins with a Russian couple complementing their hosts for their charming B&B in Vermont.  They learned a lot about Vermont in their stay and are happy to share their information.

The next couple mentions how once they had kids they lost all of their single friends.  Another talks about how the B&B’s mason jar cups reminds her of a college “naked party” where she and her now husband met.  Another has a small gripe (no spoilers) that he wants to write in the book–but not on Trip Advisor. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: RARE ESSENCE-Tiny Desk Concert #636 (July 19, 2017).

I have learned of go-go music exclusively from Tiny Desk Concerts:

Dominated by drive and momentum, heavy on percussion and bass, go-go music is all about the beat. Live, “songs” can continue on for half an hour, as the percussion continues to simmer and punctuate between and across different pieces. “That’s why we call it go-go, because it goes on and goes on and goes on,” as guitarist Andre Johnson put it in a documentary film.

This visit by Rare Essence perfectly encapsulated the genre’s incomparable meld of soul, R&B and, most importantly, funk (with a dash of Afro-Cuban influence).

So that’s go-go.  What about this band?

Rare Essence emerged not long after go-go itself did, beginning as a group in 1976 in Washington D.C. Ever since the group has kept a steady schedule playing around town and around the world.

The band plays seven–SEVEN–songs in sixteen minutes.  Many of them are just riffs that go on for a minute or so like “Down for My Niggas.”  Whereas “Rock This Party” is a bit more of a call and response piece–with some good congas.  “Freaky Deak” is pretty much a riff or two before they start talking to the audience.

They thank Suraya for arranging the show and there’s a lot of shouts outs and hand waving.  And then they start with one of their favorites, “One on One.”

All of the songs more or less flow into each other as one long jam.  There are multiple lead singers and everyone participates in the responses.

After a spell of their name (R-A-R, Double E, S-S-E-N, C-E) the lead guitarist sings lead on “Bad Bad” (he’s the oldest looking guy but he still has the power in his voice).

As they segue into “Lock It,” We apologize we could play this song for ever but I know everyone got to go back to work.  We’re gonna play the short version  We could play this for at least an hour.  They keys plays a nice Cuban sounding melody–almost like xylophones.

“After three minutes, he says this ant even the first part of the song–we still got about fifty more minutes.” Then they segue into “Overnight Scenario” which everyone sings along t o.

Anthony Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson (guitar, vocals); James “Funk” Thomas (vocals); Charles “Shorty Corleone” Garris (vocals); Leroy “RB” Battle, Jr. (keyboards); Calvin “Killer Cal” Henry (vocals); Michael Baker (bass); Kenneth “Quick” Gross (drums); Samuel “Smoke” Dews (congas); Kym Clarke (trumpet); Derryle Valentine (sax, flute)

[READ: July 23, 2017] “Bonebreaker”

I find Nell Zink’s stories to be weird but compelling.  She writes about strange things in unusual ways.  The people are often peculiar but compelling.

But this story was especially odd to me because the two characters seem really stupid

Both Jed and Laurie are fleeing the States.  As the story begins they go to the airport with a lot of cash.  But they knew that the TSA would be suspicious of that.  So when they see the “money sniffing” dogs, they know the TSA is on to them.  They leave their stuff at the airport and return home–which puts them on the no-fly list.

After a few more aborted attempts, they decide to take a barge–a real refugee situation. Not only do they not get where they are going, they lose a lot of money and are mostly miserable.

Why are they fleeing? (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »