Archive for the ‘Violence’ Category

SOUNDTRACKPoolside Yuletide: 51 Songs To Paint Your Holidays Pink Season’s greetings from roséwave, the soundtrack for living your best life (2018)

This summer, Lars Gottrich, my favorite All Songs podcast contributor, took some friends and started something called roséwave, which is:

Roséwave is a one-word joke I made on Twitter that was less about a genre (that does not exist) and more a lifestyle (that very much exists). Without thinking too hard, y’all can probably think of five pop songs one might tipsily shout along to, whether at karaoke, in the back of a cab, out with your besties spilling a little bit of the pink drink on your new shoes. This is how a spiraling playlist sprang from friends all over the country, just in time for the first official day of summer.

It’s terrible.  Ironically or not.  And yet there’s some good songs on the list too (Lars has great taste as well as terrible taste).  So for the holidays, he created a Roséwave playlist.

It is also terrible.

Poolside Yuletide is the holiday playlist for both basics in warmer climes (hello Australia!) and those of us who need to escape the winter blues, or at least require a reflective mix of sweet and sad while staring out frosty windows. (We see you, “Blue Christmas” as sung by noted mope Conor Oberst.) Saxophones stream across Carly Rae Jepsen’s faithful, yet undeniably Queen of Christmas cover of “Last Christmas” and Bruce Springsteen’s high-kickin’ “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” There’s the drum-machine joy of Saint Etienne’s should-be-classic “I Was Born On Christmas Day” and the perfectly titled “Dashing Through the Snow in High Heels” by K-pop group Orange Caramel. PJ Morton puts a New Orleans bounce spin on “This Christmas” while Big Freedia twerks all over “Rudy, The Big Booty Reindeer.” A La Face Family Christmas offers not one, but two tidings: TLC’s bopping “Sleigh Ride” (Left Eye’s “giddiup, giddiup, giddiup and away we go” will single-handedly make your spirits bright) and a reminder that OutKast’s very first single was a “Player’s Ball” wrapped in “nonsense about some silent night.”

But your halls just aren’t properly decked without some classics, including The Supremes’ lush orchestration of “My Favorite Things,” Otis Redding’s “Merry Christmas Baby” and, yes, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” — Christmas doesn’t even begin until we hear this song, don’t @ us. We made Poolside Yuletide three hours long not just to soundtrack holiday parties and long drives home, but because we know the season contains every shade of e•mo•tion.

For the most part I do not like this play list.  But even if Lars has gone off the deep end into pop cheese, he is still Lars and he is able to dig out some great gems that I didn’t know about (and some old favorites too)

Here is the full list of songs.  Should you dare to find the playlist, it is here.

I’ve bolded songs I liked (using generous terms for “like” because it’s Christmas), but didn’t go into too much detail about anything.  Next year I’ll dig out some of these favorites and make a mix of my own.

Carly Rae Jepsen-Last Christmas
Saint Etienne-I Was Born on Christmas Day
DWV-Christmas Ain’t Christmas
Ronald Isley-What Can I Buy You
PJ Morton, HaSizzle-This Christmas
OutKast-Player’s Ball
John Legend-No Place Like Home
Joseph Washington, Jr-Shopping (okay)
Kayne West, CyHi The Prynce, Teyana Taylor-Christmas in Harlem
The Waitresses-Christmas Wrapping
RuPaul, Markaholic-Hey Sis, It’s Christmas (terrible but good but I may not ever listen again)
The Supremes-My Favorite Things (they’ve made this an xmas song with sleigh bells)
Fountains of Wayne-Valley Winter Song
Casey Musgraves Christmas Makes Me Cry
Bright Eyes-Blue Christmas
Chance the Rapper-Blessings
Whitney Houston-The First Noel
Britney Spears-My Only Wish (This Year) (surprisingly not bad)
Bruce Springsteen-Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
The Killers, Toni Halliday-A Great Big Sled (nice to hear guitars for xmas, even if the song is bland)
The Spook School-Someone to Spend Christmas With (my favorite song on the list)
Natalie Merchant-Children Go Where I Send Thee
Khuangbin-Christmas Time is Here (slow and trippy interesting)
Otis Redding-Merry Christmas Baby
TLC-Sleigh Ride
Brenda Lee-Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day
Mariah Carey-All I Want for Christmas Is You
Boys II Men-Let It Snow
Amy Grant-Emmanuel
Ariana Grande-Wit It This Christmas
Orange Caramel, Nu’est-Dashing Through the Snow in High Heels (K-pop)
Phoenix-Alone on Christmas Day
Yumi Zouma-December
Beyonce-Ave Maria (not that song, exactly)
Cocteau Twins-Frosty the Snowman
Phoebe Bridgers-Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Tracey Thorn-Joy
Tom Petty-Christmas All Over Again
Taylor Swift-Christmas Must Be Something More  (I like the music but the lyrics are too preachy)
Michael McDonald-That’s What Christmas Means to Me
Kylie Minogue, Dannii Minogue-100 Degrees
Earth, Wind & Fire-December (a December version of their song September)
The Weather Girls-Dear Santa Bring Me a Man This Christmas) (goofy)
Big Freedia, Ms. Tee (Rudy, the Big Booty Reindeer)  (The first verse is funny, but no)
Justn Beiber-Mistletoe ( I don’t hate this. How is that possible?)
Feist-Mushaboom (is this a Christmas song in any way?  Oh, it mentions snow in the chorus)
Booker T. & The M.G.’s-Winter Snow (a little slow but I love Booker T.)
Aretha Franklin-‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (spoken word and funny)
Clarence Carter-Back Door Santa (the sample for Run DMC)
Eartha Kitt-Santa Baby
The Orioles-What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve

Boy there are a lot of songs that I hate up there.

[READ: December 23, 2018] “Legends of the Seoul Dogs”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.  But this particular Soundtrack comes from the deep NPR Christmas archive. (more…)


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SOUNDTRACK: dvsn-Tiny Desk Concert #806 (November 19, 2018).

I love when an artist appears on a Tiny Desk and the blurb is going crazy with excitement and yet I have never heard of them.  When I saw the name dvsn I assumed it was a techno band.  But I couldn’t have been more wrong:

With a four-piece band and three pristine backup vocalists for support, singer Daniel Daley flexed his falsetto pipes and a shiny gold grill, running through a sampler of fan-favorites about breaking up, making up and trying to move on. The short-and-sweet set is an example of the kind of audible acrobatics you don’t often hear at contemporary R&B shows anymore. … Though it’s easy to mistake dvsn as simply the stage moniker of Daley, the act is really a Toronto-based duo comprised of the singer and Grammy Award-winning producer Nineteen85, the (almost) secret weapon behind the boards.

The band has only released two albums, so they’re not especially long-lived, but clearly they have fan-favorites.  And they’ve been playing live for a number of years”

When dvsn visited NPR for this Tiny Desk concert, it reminded me of the first time I saw them two years ago in New York City. They decided to wash the desk in vibrant blue, purple and orange lighting, brought in by dvsn’s team to make the space feel like a concert hall. And while the audience at NPR was almost as densely packed as that NYC venue, it felt much like my live introduction to the group — grandiose in presentation, but at the same time, deliberately intimate in delivery.

They play three songs, “Too Deep” “Body Smile” and “Mood.”  Daniel Daley has an amazing falsetto–hitting crazy high notes almost randomly.  And thee lights are certainly a cool effect.  But these three songs are indistinguishable from countless cheesy-sounding R&B songs.

Of the three, “Body Smile” has the least amount of cheese–his voice sounds good and real and not smoove.

My favorite part of the Concert is actually after he says thank you and walks off because the band jams for an extra minute and they are great.  The guitarist plays a sick solo and then the band plays a gentle little jam to close out the show.

[READ: January 29, 2017] “Happyland”

This story behind this story is pretty fascinating.  Essentially he was inspired by the life of the American Girls creator Pleasant Rowland.  Although as he puts it in the introduction to the eventually-published book in 2013 (he wrote it in 2003), “I didn’t mean to write anything remotely controversial. A former doll and children’s book mogul started buying up property in a small town and the town got mad.  Wouldn’t this make a good novel, people kept asking me?”

He had friends who lived in the town that Pleasant was buying property in and told them not to send him any information about the story.  He didn’t want to write the story of Pleasant, he wanted to take that idea and write the story of Happy Masters a woman with a similar career but clearly a very different woman altogether.  He says, “To this day I know nothing of the real [doll mogul] that I didn’t learn over the phone, from lawyers.”

The original publisher, fearing imaginary unthreatened lawsuits, dropped the book.  As for the mogul herself she had no intention to sue. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, ON (December 7, 2017).

For the longest time, I thought that these last four shows of 2017 would be the final live shows on the Rheostatics Live website.  But then mid-September, Darrin added more than 20 historical shows to the site.  So, there will be some older shows posted about in the new year.  But for now, while the Rheostatics are recording their next album (!), it’s fun to look back on shows from just one year ago.

First of three shows for the Horseshoe Tavern’s 70th anniversary celebrations. Kindly recorded and provided by Mark Sloggett and Matt Kositsky.

The opening band for this night was Ensign Broderick.

The show opens with “Saskatchewan,” it’s got a two-minute quiet guitar intro before the song proper starts.  It’s a very quiet and chill rendition, with Martin almost whispering.  It’s not until about 10 minutes that the song comes roaring out.

Starting “Supercontroller” is Hugh Marsh with a cool violin solo–a trippy echoing section.  “Supercontroller” is so simple but I really like it, it’s so very catchy.  It shifts to “AC/DC on My Stereo” which is just too simple for my tastes (homage to AC/DC?).  The Clark section is weirdly flat–maybe the sound balance is off?  There’s lots of Hugh and the a crazy sloppy ending.

People shout out requests and then someone says, “You can’t touch the Rheostatics.”  To which Bidini responds, “Literally, it’s in our contract—no touching.”  Clark chimes in, “That’s why we never did a double bill with The Feelies.” [groans]  Clark: “Teacher humor…. I am older you know.”

Tim plays acoustic guitar for a lovely “Rear View,” a pretty acoustic number with a nice beat.  Then DB thanks everyone for coming out on a Thursday night.

Clark asks if a pickerel is a small pike.  Martin gets really into the discussion.  How a walleye is called pickerel.  And that pike is bony, although many species of pike are pickerel they are not related to walleye.  DB: “That concludes our PowerPoint presentation.”  The Clark continues to talk about making rainbow trout in avocado and olive oil, with all the free radicals.

Back to the music, it’s great to hear “The Headless One,” (apparently a Martin request).  There’s some great violin from Hugh and great backing vocals from Martin.  It’s followed by “Michael Jackson” with nice pizzicato strings and a big, soaring ending that totally kills.

Clark says he heard Martin say to DB: “Stop being a  rock n roll grandstander.”  And DB said, “I was being a rock n roll grandpa.”  To which Martin coined, “grandstand grandpa.”

“Mountains and Sea” is a new song featuring Hugh Marsh.  Martins guitar is a little too loud, then about halfway in, they mess up.  DB: “Let’s do that again.   Band meeting.  I can’t remember that chord.”  Live rehearsals… this is extra!   Martin says something about their old live rehearsals at the Rivoli and Martin thought they were jam-packed and he saw a video and found that there were like 14 people there (it’s a video of Martin spanking Dave C on the ass with his guitar for messing up).  Tim: I told you we were gonna fuck it up.

Clark offers a vote: it’s rare in any society that your voice gets heard.  Should they do it from the top of the song or from the A minor part.  [A minor wins].

Clark’s neighbor made the Guinness book of world records for making the worlds smallest playable violin.  And Martin says he really like the name “Tim Gillette.”

Up next is Tim’s “Music is the Message” a slow but pretty song with lots of violin.  It’s followed by “Sickening Song, which sounds great with just accordion.

“Sickening Song” sounded good with just accordion and guitar but then it gets pretty wobbly and they have to stop.  But they get through it happily.  Martin talks about looking for an operetta that he and Tom wrote called “These are things I cannot tell my dad.”  I  thought I found it in my parents house, but it turned out to be us working on “Sickening Song,” playing it 20 times.  Tim: “I think your dad erased that tape.”

PIN sounds good but “they’ll never get the ending.”  That’s why you play three nights because the first night’s always shit.  They start talking about cursing on TV and how you can hear someone say Shit on CBC at 8PM.  Martin jokes that at 8 o’ clock “that’s bullsandwiches” and then you hit 9 and it’s “motherfucker.”

DB: If you came from out of town thank you.  If you’re not from out of town that’s fine too.   Just not quite as awesome.  And thanks for a youthful-looking crowd.  That’s amazing.  Lots of lovely sweaters.  Sir you have a Tea Party shirt you have to stand at least ten feet back from me.  I’m kidding as long as you’re not wearing leather pants.  Clark: I thought he was talking tea party political shit.

Martin begins, “Remember….”
DB: “No not really.”
Clark: “Take us away there Jerry Garcia.”
DB: “I’d like to wish the group good luck as we embark on this next piece.”  “Here Come the Wolves” opens with a deep riff and tribal drums and Martin says, “Speaking of leather pants…”  To which DB concedes, “This is definitely our most Tea Party song for sure.”  This is an unusual song and I love that it’s got heavy parts and I look forward to the recorded official version.

    I like the way it is loud and heavy and then there’s a quiet martin bit

Northern Wish starts out rather quietly, but it sounds great.  It segues into Clark singing “Johnny Had a Secret” acapella.

DB says, “We’re gonna take you home.  We’re gonna stop 3 places along the way.  The first is a slow and moody “Stolen Car.”  The second is a bonkers “Legal Age Life” with the guys barking at each other and DB just rolling his r’s for a good ten seconds.  Clark: “Let’s dedicate that one to Monty Hall.”

While the next song starts, Dave asks, “Martin do you ever have lapel neurosis?”  Martin: Oh, you have lapel bulge—it has no crease.”

DB: Anyone been to California?  Martin: We’re heading down to do our next album in California

Martin tells a long story about Compass Point in the tropics where they recorded their last album together.  He talks about an old roll of film—you tried to make them count but inevitably there are fuckups.  He’s been photographing his old slides with a macro lens.  He found a picture of them swimming at night snorkeling.  The place made Martin weep.  Dave and Dave stayed in Tina Weymouth’s place.  And yet, in front of the apartments is a pool!  The Caribbean Ocean is right there.  It’s luxury overkill.

  This leads to a discussion of magenta.  Does anybody like magenta?  It has to be there but we hate it.  If you’re ready to wear a magenta power suit I would have to bow to you.  Ryan was just changing the lights to magenta–a lighting joke.

“Digital Beach” starts slow, but “Dreamline” takes off.  Martin has a lot of fun with it and it eventually merges into a lovely acoustic “Claire

As the song fades out Dave starts singing Big Bottom and the band doesn’t change the music at all, but Tim sings along with him.

After an encore Clark comes out for a drum solo which leads to a stripped down sounding (but great vocal mix) of “Soul Glue.”  Tim sounds great and the backing vocals are spot on.  The end of the song blends nicely with “Song of Flight.”  The final three minutes are a rollicking crazy sloppy fun lunatic version of “RDA.”

Tim observes, “That was show stopper if I ever heard one.”

[READ: December 1, 2015] “Oktober”

I like Martin Amis a lot.  Although I have to say that this story confused me.  Now, it’s true that Amis can be a trickster when he writes, but this story wasn’t fancy at all, it was just…unsatisfying.  And really long.

Told in first person, the story begins with “I” drinking black tea in a hotel in Munich.  It was the time of Oktoberfest.

Next to him is a businessman, Geoffrey, on his mobile phone.  The man is aggressive and seems angry, speaking about clause 4C and saying things like “I’m accustomed to dealing with people who have some idea of what they’re up to.”

The photographer shows up to take a picture of the narrator.  They talk about Germans and refugees until it’s time to go.  He looks at his phone.  Of the 1800 messages none are from his wife or children. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SOUTH PARK-Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics (1999).

When this came out in 1999, I was a huge South Park fan and I didn’t celebrate Christmas very much.  So this was a wonderful anti-Christmas celebration.

Now, 19 years later (holy cow), this album is a fun holiday treat–one that can’t be played in front of the kids.  So it has become an adult-only holiday treat when S. and I are driving.  Most of the songs are still hilariously offensive and hold up really well.

“Mr. Hankey The Christmas Poo” by Cowboy Timmy is an intro, nothing special.  But things pick up hugely with song two, “Merry Fucking Christmas” sung by Mr. Garrison.  Hearing it sung in his voice is hilarious and it is so profane.  Thank you, Mr. Hat.  It’s a seasonal highlight.  As is Cartman’s “O Holy Night.”  He gets all the words right in this one and he has a choir behind him.  Even 19 years later, Cartman’s voice is still funny, especially singing this beautiful song.

The next song, “Dead, Dead, Dead” by Juan Schwartz and the South Park Children’s Choir is meant to darkly comic I guess (“someday you’ll be dead”) but really it’s just kind of dull and it feels endless even though it’s barely 2 minutes long.  But Mr. Mackey picks things up with his hilarious rendition of “Carol of the Bells”  Mmmkay.

Kyle’s “The Lonely Jew on Christmas” is pretty funny “And what the f*ck is up with lighting all these f*cking candles, someone tell me please” which is made even better with the appearance of Neil Diamond!  Shelley’s “I Saw Three Ships” is a one-note joke (she has braces and can’t say the letter S).  It feels too long at a minute, although “Shut up, turds!” could become a holiday catchphrase.

I didn’t know that “It Happened in Sun Valley” (sung adorably by Stan and Wendy) was a real song.  I didn’t know why it was funny.  I still don’t know if it is funny (Stan throws up when he talks to her which is kind of funny, but doesn’t really work in a song that is largely solid and enjoyable anyhow).  We like it and just ignore the barf.  Eww.

The next little skit is so offensive as to be utterly  hilarious.  It begins with Hitler singing “O Tannenbaum” and then Satan trying to make him feel better by singing about it being “Christmas Time in Hell.”  We often wonder why the guys chose the celebrities that they did to put in hell.  Did they particularly dislike the named people or were they just trying to upset as many people as possible.

Chef only gets one song on this CD, but his hilarious take on “What Child is This” (called “What the Hell Child is This?”) is amazing.  It’s white so it cannot be mine.

The skit “Santa Claus is on His Way” sung by Mr Hankey is weird because it is taken from the episode and relies on a visual joke that doesn’t translate to the CD.  But again, Cartman is back to redeem everything with the ultimate Christmas song, an ode to Grandma and the “Swiss Colony Beef Log.”

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is, I assume a rip on Peanuts with the kids of thee “South Park Children’s Choir” all singing it (badly).

Parker and Stone showed their amazing musical genius (ultimately put on display with Book of Mormon) with “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” sung by The Broflofskis with Eric Cartman and Stan Marsh.  Basing the melody around the Dreidel song, they add four or five people singing at the same time and it sounds fantastic.  Cartman’s lyric is stunningly perfect “I have a little drediel, I made it out of clay, but I’m not gonna play with it cause dreidel’s fucking gay”) fits so perfectly rhythmically that its uncanny.  Stan’s dad’s love for Courtney Cox which you hear clearly at the end is in fact the only thing he sings throughout the song which is also genius.

“The Most Offensive Song Ever” is pretty offensive.  Perhaps it’s after 19 years of listening, but it seems more and more obvious what all of Kenny’s mumbled words are.  Mary!

I don’t understand the joke with “We Three Kings” by Mr. Ose. Is it just that he’s Chinese?  It’s less than a minute but is pretty irritating.  The disc’s closing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sung by Mr. Hankey with Stan, Kyle and Cartman is a fun ending but it only helps you realize how short the disc actually is (especially if you skip those three or four lame tracks).

Merry Christmas everyone.  When you’re old enough.

[READ: December 2, 2018] “Sunflowers”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

I typically dislike war stories.  They’re probably great for soldiers, but not for me.  Both because I think war is awful and because soldier stories are usually all the same: lots of boredom (for them) and then something horrible happens. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SPIKE JONES-Let’s Sing a Song of Christmas (1994).

I like Spike Jones’ comedy music.  I feel like my dad was a fan.  I know he knew a lot of Spike’s songs, whether or not he knew they were from Spike, I don;t know.  So when I was looking for non-traditional Christmas music, I saw this and thought it would be a zany collection of songs.

Well, it is not.  In fact I remember being really disappointed at the time because it’s pretty straightforward.  Although now, some 14 years later, I listened to it again and realized it’s a lovely collection of Christmas music.  There are some “funny” songs, but they’re more traditionally funny and not so zany.

This is a collection of twenty songs and my version has pretty much no information about the songs.  But the recording is top-notch if you like mid-50s, big band, “very white” (my term) singers.  The City Slickers and the City Slicker Juniors along with The Jud Conlon Singers take on all of these classics:

Jingle Bells Medley: Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town / The Christmas Song / Jingle Bells; Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer; Silent Night; Sleigh Ride;  Snow Medley: The First Snow Fall / Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow; Deck The Halls Medley: Deck The Halls With Holly / Away In A Manger / It Came Upon A Midnight Clear / The First Noel; White Christmas Medley: Winter Wonderland / Silver Bells / White Christmas; Hark Medley: Hark, The Herald Angels Sing / O, Little Town Of Bethlehem / Joy To The World / O, Come All Ye Faithful; Christmas Alphabet Medley: Christmas Alphabet / Merry Christmas Polka / Christmas In America; Victor Young Medley: It’s Christmas Time / Sleep Well, Little Children and What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

They also do a couple of songs with the Saint Victor’s Boys Choir:  The Night Before Christmas Song and Christmas Cradle Song.

Interspersed with these songs are the ones featuring George Rock.  Rock is the quintessential voice of “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.”  You know the one where it’s clearly an adult, but somehow he sounds like a tiny kid.  Well, that was George Rock.  And Rock has a pretty fascinating history himself.

A large man, he attended Wesleyan University on a football scholarship, before turning pro as a musician at the age of 20. His first national exposure was in the Freddie Fisher’s Schnickelfritz Band. In 1944 he signed up with the Spike Jones Band.

It must have been fun to see the large guy singing like a little kid.  This collection includes, “Two Front Teeth” as well as “My Birthday Comes On Christmas,” and “(I’m The) The Angel In The Christmas Play.”  They also had a few songs sung by actual kids, The City Slicker Juniors.  They perform “Nuttin’ For Christmas,” “Frosty the Snowman” and “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

None of these songs are particularly funny, but I think people laughed a lot easier back then.  Nonetheless, if you’re not freaked out by the voice (or wondering why anyone would WANT to say “Sister Susie sitting on a thistle,” these songs should raise a smile.

This collection would work well on random with all the modern Christmas songs at your holiday festivity (as long as the volume is mixed loud enough).

Interestingly, I can’t find the cover of my CD version (only a cassette version of it).  So I must have a less popular version that the one that’s above.

[READ: December 3, 2018] “Endless City”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This story comes from Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey (apparently it was printed in the first, small-press edition, but not the second major-press edition, which seems weird).

So, this is, as the book title notes, a side story of Odysseus .  What a weird, thankless project it seems to add to The Odyssey. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CARLA MORRISON-“Falta De Respeto” (Field Recordings, October 18, 2012)

This Field Recording [Carla Morrison: Out Of The Past, Into The City] is set in a New York City park, my idea of a Field Recording.  She has an audience (who are appreciative at the end) and everything.

The opening is so beautiful–the ooohs just soar and the accompaniment of guitarist Andres Landon (who has excellent harmony vocals) and percussionist Miguel Sandoval fill this out perfectly.

“Eres tan moderno, que mis caricias ya son anticuadas,” Mexican singer Carla Morrison croons to an indifferent lover in “Falta De Respeto” (“Disrespect”). That beautiful line — which translates as “You are so modern that my caresses are antiquated” — captures Morrison’s essence. Part tragic heroine, part bold feminist, she’s always a pining romantic, yet she won’t sit pretty in a corner and wait to be swept off her feet. She’ll get in your face and tell you just how much she loves you.

It’s an absolutely lovely song even if you don;t know what the words mean.

[READ: November 27, 2017] “The Lost Troop”

This is the second military story from Mackin in 2017.  While the previous story had some interesting aspects to it, this one painted a bad portrait of the soldiers and wasn’t really all that interesting.

It was December in Logar.  And it was slow.  It was like peace had broken out and no one had told them.  But they knew the war wasn’t over.

So instead they keep themselves busy.  They think back to the graveyard that looked like a used car lot.  One of them thinks they need to go back there because it might have been fake.   They take helicopters only to discover that there is nothing there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AMADOU & MARIAM-“Wily Kataso,” (Field Recordings, April 11, 2012).

The story of Amadou & Mariam is fascinating.  I was really made aware of them in 2018, where I saw their Tiny Desk Concert and learned

Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia met when they were children in Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind. Both had lost their sight when they were young and they began performing together. Later, in the 1980s, they married and began a career together.

This Field Recording [Amadou And Mariam: Finding Mali In Harlem] is six years prior to the Tiny Desk and Amadou & Mariam are on a bench outside The Shrine in New York City.

One major gathering point for Africans and non-Africans alike in this neighborhood is The Shrine, a nightclub and restaurant whose clout belies its small size. So when Malian breakout superstars Amadou and Mariam happened to find themselves with an extra day in New York recently, we invited them up to The Shrine to sing a quick, unplugged set.

There’s not a lot in New York City that looks much like Bamako, the capital city of Mali, but there are pockets uptown where a West African might feel a little closer to home. With increasing numbers of immigrants to Harlem from countries like Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Gambia and beyond, jewelry shops sell the beautiful, bright gold twisted hoop earrings traditionally worn by Fulani women; men stride along the street wearing the elegant, flowing robes called grands boubous; and restaurants sell bissap, the sweet cold drink made from hibiscus flowers that’s beloved across the region.

Amadou plays a simply guitar melody and Amadou starts singing with a repeated refrain of “Baro bom baro negé ta na” which means something like: Away, away, Go home.

The song almost becomes a drone since the music is repeated almost constantly throughout.  There is one part near the end where Amadou plays something a little different on the guitar–a kind of solo–but that’s the only variation.

It was just their two powerful voices, Amadou’s blues-soaked guitar and an incredibly catchy melody that lit up The Shrine.

They are mesmerizing and their voices are wonderful.

[READ: January 10, 2017] “Of Window and Doors”

This story was depressing and brutally honest.

It is about Saeed and Nadia and how their (unnamed) city was constantly at war.  Neighborhoods fell to militants quite easily.  Nadia was living alone and Saeed was with his parents.  He continually tried to get her to move in–chastely of course–because it was so unsafe for her to be alone.  But she refused.  Until Saeed’s mother was killed.  Then she agreed to be with them.

The title refers to actual windows and doors.  Window were now the border through which death was likliest to come–windows could not stop ammunition and they turned into more shrapnel.  Many windows were broken, but it was winter and people needed to keep the cold out.

Saeed’s family did not want to give up the windows, so they covered them with bookcases and furniture to block out the light and visiblity and to make them less vulnerable.

Doors were something different.  Rumors began to spread that doors could take you elsewhere–to places far away.  Some people claimed to know others who had been through the doors. And that an ordinary door could becomes a special door at anytime.  But others believed that this was all superstition.

Saeed and Madia get word of a possible door through which they can escape.  The rest of the story concerns their attempts to escape without being captured by militants.

This story was well-written and powerful.  It made me really fear for what life would be like if our country ever turned into a lawless land like this.  It was really frightening and real.

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