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Archive for the ‘Trolls’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GAELYNN LEA-“I Wait” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next few shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

If you’re going to put together the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour — an epic night of Tiny Desk-style concerts, held at the wonderful Central Presbyterian Church in Austin during SXSW Tuesday night — you might as well kick things off with a core member of the Tiny Desk Family. Gaelynn Lea won 2016’s second annual Tiny Desk Contest with the barest of ingredients: a few swooping violin strokes, a loop pedal and her fragile-but-forceful voice.

At the Tiny Desk Family Hour, Lea performed in that same spare configuration. She closed with a powerful song called “I Wait,” which addresses the way people with disabilities — Lea herself has brittle bone disease, and works as a motivational speaker and teacher as well as a musician — are frequently left out of social justice movements. It’s Lea at her best, as her warm, intense, hauntingly beautiful voice is shot through with a clear sense of purpose.

This song is wonderful.  The looping is simple but effective–the notes are menacing and effective, while the unlooped pizzicato notes add just the right amount of rhythm to this otherwise sparse song.  For this song is all about the lyrics.  Lea details what it’s like to be handicapped–not in the world at large, but within protest movements which supposedly have her best intentions at heart.

So when you hear them
Make claims of progress
Take a good look
And see who isn’t there
We need a seat now
At the table
So please invite us
Or don’t pretend to care.

When Lea brought “I’ll Wait” to an abrupt close, the audience’s soft collective gasp gave way to the night’s first standing ovation.

It’s a stunning ending.

[READ: February 12, 2019] The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo #2

I really enjoyed the first book in this series and I’m happy to see the follow-up.

It opens with a recap from Charles Thompson, a future reporter (who uses a tiny reporter’s pad to write down his thoughts).  He talks about how he met Margo Maloo, the “Monster Mediator” and how with her help, he was able to locate and deal with a troll in his house.  And by “deal with” he means befriend.  For although Margo is a mediator between monsters and humans, she is mostly interested in the safety of the monsters.

Thompson has dozens of readers, he thinks, and maybe this is why Margo wants his help.

She will not be getting any help from Charles’ friend Kevin, who wants nothing to do with any monsters (unless they come in toy-form, like the Battle Beanz). (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: December 2016] A Boy Called Christmas

boyS. brought his audiobook home for us and we started it the night we went to pick out our Christmas tree.

This is a delightful story of Nikolas, an 11-year-old boy living in Finland in the olden days.  His parents called him Christmas, because he was born on Christmas day.

Nikolas’ life has been one of terrible hardship.  His mother was killed when she was attacked by a bear (a bear that lingers around their house to this day).  His father, Joel, is a woodcutter.  He cuts enough wood for them to survive, but otherwise things are bleak.  They eat mushroom soup for every meal and, in Nikolas’ whole life, he has received just two toys: a sled and a doll with a turnip head.

The only friend that Nikolas has is a mouse named Mika.  Now, this may be a fairy-tale kind of story but even Nikolas can’t understand Mika’s squeaks (although we can).  Mika is constantly on a quest for cheese–even though he has never tasted it.

Joel has noticed a man, a hunter, in their vicinity.  He turns out to be an excellent bowman with silver arrows.  In fact, once, when the bear that killed Nikolas’ mother is nearby, an arrow flies through the air and scares off the bear, saving Nikolas’ life.  The hunter finally comes to their house with a proposition for Joel.

The hunter is on a quest on behalf of the king.  They are setting off to prove that Elfhelm, the mythical land of elves, really does exist.  If they can bring proof to the king, they will be incredibly rich men. Joel and Nikolas believe very strongly in magic and in Elfhellm, and after much hemming and hawing, Joel decides to go on the quest.

This leaves Nikolas alone (with Mika).  So Joel calls his sister Aunt Carlotta to watch over Nikolas while he is gone.

There’s a lot of villains in the story, but Aunt Carlotta might be the worst of them.  She is mean from the start.  She takes all of the cushions for herself and forces Nikolas to sleep outside.  He is put to work immediately–gathering food and firewood–and cooking for her.  And finally she reveals that the only reason she came is because if his father does return–which she doubts–he will give her a lot of money.  As the section with Aunt Carlotta continues, she commits the gravest sin imaginable.  And that’s when the last straw is broken and Nikolas leaves. (more…)

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margoSOUNDTRACK: COLIN STETSON-New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light [CST092] (2013).

stetson3 After the raucous wildness of Stetson’s Vol. 2, I wasn’t expecting the first song to be so gentle.  Justin Vernon sings (with many layers of processing) the rather pretty opening track.  When I first heard it I didn’t like it—I wanted Stetson to do Stetson and it seemed like the track was all voice (nad very different from Stetson).  But Stetson is there, and he plays his normal unceasing melodies behind the voices.  The track seems especially light since it is followed by the aggressive “Hunted” which prominently features Stetson’s “voice” (he has a microphone on his throat or something to pick up his grunts), making an almost growling noise as he plays.   It’s worth repeating that Stetson does circular breathing, is able to play nonstop and can somehow to play different things at the same time (no overdubs) as well as vocalize in interesting ways.  You can also hear him taking breaths while he platys—the breaths are part of the percussive nature of his playing. It’s pretty amazing.  About four minutes in, the tone changes a bit, becoming a little sharper which seems to make the growl even more pronounced.

“High Above A Grey Green Sea” is a quieter song with more vocalizing, but this one feels mournful and lonely as opposed to intense and scary.  “In Mirrors” opens with a deep breath as he plays a slow quiet 90 second song full of unexpected high notes.

“Brute” is appropriately named as it sounds like he is forcing the song out of his sax.  He places mics on his sax so you can hear the clacking of the keys.  And that is readily apparent on this song which is full of clacking and clicking and grunting all the way.  After about a minute, a discordant melody comes in and establishes a tone that plays or a few bars until Justin Vernon returns, but this time with growled words.  It’s a pretty intense and rather scary track—and nothing like Bon Iver at all.

“Among The Sef (Righteous II)” is a brighter song—higher notes played in a very fast style.  There are some vocalized melodies as well.  But the main song is a rolling series of high notes.  “Who The Waves Are Roaring For (Hunted II)” opens with an interesting vocalized melody—he is really using that technique a lot on this record.  It also featured Justin Vernon.  “To See More Light” opens with slow echoed notes as he begins to build a melody out of a four note string.  He starts adding more and more notes.  The melody grows faster and faster until about five minutes when it starts to really slow down—dramatically so.  Around 7 minutes in, the song slows to a crawl, almost drunkenly it seems.  And the song feels like it has ended.  But Stetson has more on his mind.  The notes are held longer and shift more slowly.   Then the song starts to build up again with a different 4-note pattern that adds some squeaky feedback notes and then a catchy melody.  All 15 minute of this song done nonstop, pretty impressive.

“What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?” begins with voices from Vernon (in a softer voice than we’ve come to expect) as he sings a verse before the sax comes in.  “Bed” features some loud key clacking a great rhythmic pattern and some quiet notes from both the sax and his voice.

The final song is “Part Of Me Apart From You.” It really emphasize his “singing” the melody in his throat while playing the repeating lines on the sax.   The song seems to emphasize the lower notes in this song even as he “sings” higher notes.

[READ:October 20, 2016] The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo

The title of this book implies that it is a series, and I rather hope it is.  I loved the premise of this book.  Most of the characters were interesting and the mystery behind Margo herself was really cool.

I didn’t love Weing’s drawing style, though.  It really never resonated with me at all, and at times I found it off-putting.  Which is a shame since the story is so fun.

Charles is moving to Echo City and he hates it.  His mom tries to convince him that big cities are fun.  Plus, his dad is fixing up a big old hotel and they get to live there for free (suspension of disbelief there).  There are already some people living there, too.

Charles’ dad is hip and cool (he is seen with Dead Kennedys and Black Flag logo tattoos).  All of the things that Charles finds creepy about the place, his dad calls “character.”   Like the giant chandelier that was in a closet.  Whatever his dad says, Charles’s comment is simply, “This place is definitely haunted.” (more…)

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beraSOUNDTRACK: ANDRA DAY-Tiny Desk Concert #478 (October 13, 2015).

andra Andra Day looks…unusual.  Her hair is put up in a yellow scarf, she has a day-glo green clip in the front of her hair. She has dramatic eye liner on and bright red lips.  It’s quite a look.  And when she contorts her face in voice–the makeup really accentuates everything–as if she was made up for the stage rather than a close up.

But she earns the look with her powerful voice and delivery.

“Forever Mine” is an R&B song that her band assist with nice backing vocals. I love that the pianist is playing what sound lie a toy piano on top of the real piano.

“Rise Up” has a descending vocal melody that’s not unlike Prince.  It is a simple ballad played on keys and acoustic guitar.  The end has a kind of gospel tinge (and of course she does the vocal gymnastics of the genre that I really hate).  This could easily be in a movie or on some TV singing show.

Before “Gold” she asks “am I allowed to say that?” but I can’t figure out what she’s asking about as there’s nothing bad in the song that I can hear.  Of the three songs this is my favorite, particularly her unusual deliver of some of the verses and the neat keyboard sound they use.  Of course it drives me a little nuts that she sings “slipping true my hands” (her backing singers do actually sing “through” thankfully), but this is a good dramatic set ender.

[READ: October 12, 2016] Bera The One-Headed Troll

This is an unusual book.  It’s kind of cute, but in a dark and creepy way.  The whole book is done in tones of brown, making it unique in its appearance.

It took me a few dozen pages to get into this book (which is 126 pages–pretty long for a children’s graphic novel), but once the flow started happening, I thought it was quite good.

The slowness in the beginning was largely because of exposition–some of which wasn’t really necessary, I don’t think.

I also felt some confusion about Bera herself. Bera is a one-headed troll.  The fact that this is important enough to be the title seems like it should be addressed in some way in the story. But it isn’t.  We meet some other trolls with more than one head, but it’s unclear if they get more heads as they get older or if they are born that way.  Her one-headedness is never actually addressed. (more…)

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