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Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RADIOHEAD-Drill EP (1992).

Radiohead recently released a bunch of their stuff to streaming platforms.  One of those releases was Drill, their debut EP that came out a year or so before Pablo Honey.  Most of the tracks appear to be demos.  And yet, they are very well recorded demos.–they sound quite good.

Three of the four songs were rerecorded for Pablo Honey.  The only one not on the album is “Stupid Car” a quiet ballad.

“Prove Yourself” and “You” sound a lot like the album versions.  The biggest difference is the sound quality and the “Prove Yourself” guitar solo which is much louder and more piercing on Pablo Honey.  “You” sounds pretty identical, right down to Thom Yorke’s powerful scream mid song

The biggest difference comes with ‘Thinking About You”  On Pablo Honey it is a slow acoustic ballad.  But here it is a fast-paced almost punk rocker.  It’s got racing guitars and fast drums.  Honestly I prefer this to the album version.

The impressive thing is just how good these songs sound.  Not only because they were basically demos.  But because this was their first release and while Radiohead has changed drastically over the years, these original songs are still really good.

Fans tend to disregard Pablo Honey, but the compositions, while nothing like the newer work, are solid, well-crafted alt rock songs.  Don’t dismiss this EP, this band is going somewhere.

[READ December 29, 2019] Out of the Cage

Every now and then I get a short play at my desk.  This one looked pretty interesting.

Inspired by the munition women of Silvertown, London during the First World War, this tells the story of women’s courage, dignity and hope, fired in the crucible of war.

During the War, women worked in munition plants (munitionettes, they were called).  Despite their hard work in dangerous places, they were given far less credit and pay than their male counterparts.  (Sound familiar?). Could they possibly stand up for themselves or would they forever be seen as second class citizens.

There are eight major characters in the play

  • Jane Byass: 40’s 4 kids, hard but fair
  • Nancy LongdonL Late 20s upper-class, committed to the cause
  • Dee Jessop: 40s, sick and dying, vengeful
  • Nelly Jonson: 30s forceful and sharp, the only Irishwoman there
  • Annie Castledine: early 20a vibrant and funny
  • Carrie Sefton: Early 20s, tough and engaging
  • Ol’ Mim: 50’s nurturing, tough
  • Lil’ Ginny: early teens, naive

The play opens in Jane’s apartment.  The women are meeting there to discuss what to do about he unfair working conditions.  The first to arrive is Nancy.  The others are mistrustful of her because she is upper class, but she is dedicated to women’s rights.

Dee arrives next, she is bitter and sarcastic, she has been breathing in the toxic fumes in the furnace room.  Her breath is a short as her temper and she is not doing well at all.  Nelly arrives next.  She is the most cynical about Nancy because of the Irish vs. English class wars.  The women descend into bickering but Jane settles them down. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-“Santa God” (1993).

On December 2, Pearl Jam announced that their fan club holiday singles will be released to streaming services.  Their first holiday single was released back in 1991.  It was “Let Me Sleep (Christmas Time).” They are rolling out the songs one at a time under the banner 12 Days of Pearl Jam.

These releases are coming out as a daily surprise.

The song opens with a quiet guitar melody and Eddie’s droning style of vocal until the bass comes in and the song starts really moving.

It’s a flashback to childhood

Now and then I remember when
Us Adults were little Kids
And our only worry was
What we get from Santa Claus

There’s a little synth melody in between verses as the song seems to grow more positive.  The chorus is simple and reminds me in style of some of the later Nirvana songs (with the backing vocals especially).

It seems like it’s a sarcastic song, but indeed, it’s not

How I learned from right and wrong
Had to be good for Santa Claus
He made me, stop misbehaving
And once a year if I did my job
I’d be given my favorite toys
So simple, the principles

It’s a catchy enough song, but probably won’t run up the holiday music charts anytime soon.

[READ: December 7, 2019] “An Errand in the Country”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This is a short short story.  It concern a Russian man who has been living in the United States for most of his life.  Gregory has been a successful businessman in New York City.  He was exacting and always on time.  Actually, he’s rather a a jerk.

He returned to Moscow infrequently, and when he did, his visits were brief.  He wanted to stay at the Ritz but his mother was always upset with him if he didn’t stay with her.  So he agreed to stay in her run down place, where he knew he would not be able to get the smell of her apartment out of his clothes. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FOUR LADS-“The Bus Stop Song (A Paper of Pins)” (1956).

Given the content of this book, I thought it might be fun to pick a song that was popular in Canada in, say 1956.

I was pretty fascinated to learn from the Canadian Music Blog:

National charts did not begin in Canada until the launch of RPM Magazine in 1964. Below, from Oh Canada What a Feeling A Musical Odyssey by Martin Melhuish are lists of popular songs in Canada through the 1950s. We have also included big hits by Canadian artists that made the year-end charts of U.S. Billboard Magazine with their year-end positions on the chart.

Some popular artists back then were

Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians: Enjoy Yourself, The Third Man Theme, Dearie, Our Little Ranch House, All My Love, Harbour Lights, Tennessee Waltz. (all 1950) If, Because of You (1951) Crazy Heart, Blue Tango, Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart, Half as Much (1952) Hernando’s Hideaway (1954)

The Four Lads: Moments to Remember (#17) (1955) My Little Angel, A House with Love In It, The Bus Stop Song (A Paper of Pins) (1956) Who Needs You, I Just Don’t Know, Put a Light in the Window (1957) There’s Only One of You, Enchanted Island, The Mocking Bird (1958)

The Crew-Cuts: Earth Angel, Ko Ko Mo, Don’t Be Angry, Chop Chop Boom, A Story Untold, Gum Drop, Angels in the Sky (1955) Mostly Martha, Seven Days (1956)

Paul Anka Diana (#24) (1957) You Are My Destiny, Crazy Love, Let the Bells Keep Ringing, The Teen Commandments (1958) Lonely Boy (#5) Put Your Head On My Shoulder (#12) My Heart Sings, I Miss You So, It’s Time to Cry (1959)

My dad was really into big band music of this ilk and he had records from Guy Lombardo and The Four Lads.  To me the switch from that kind of sound to the style of Paul Anka in 1957/1958 seems like a pretty big shift.  I feel like my dad didn’t like the kind of crooner-y music that Paul Anka sang.  It’s interesting that The Four Lads never rose above a chart position of 52 after 1958.

I chose this particular song because I know  The Four Tops a little.  But mostly because this song is very perplexing.  I had no idea what a “paper of pins” could be.  Turns out the lyrics are a traditional English children’s song.  A “paper of pins” is a sheet of paper with different size pins for sewing.  Why on earth would you give them as a sign of your love?

In the original, the song is a call and response, with the second verse being the rejection of the first verse.

I’ll give to you a paper of pins
And that’s the way our love begins
If you will marry me, me, me
If you will marry me

[The original verse two is :
I don’t want your paper of pins,
If that’s the way that love begins,
For I won’t marry,
Marry, marry, marry
I won’t marry you.]

[The original next verse is not a feathery bed but:
I’ll give to you a silver spoon,
Feed the baby in the afternoon]

I’ll give to you a feathery bed
With downy pillows for your head
If you will marry me, me, me
If you will marry me

After a few more verses, the Four Lads end:

But you don’t want my paper of pins
And you don’t want my feathery bed
You want my house and money instead
That is plain to see

Well, here they are take everything
My house, my money, my wedding ring
And in the bargain I’ll throw in me
If you will marry me

But in the original ends like this

If you give me the keys of the chest,
And all the money that you possess,
Then I will marry,
Marry, marry, marry,
I will marry you.

Ah ha ha, now I see,
You love my money but you don’t love me,
So I won’t marry,
Marry, marry, marry,
I won’t marry you.

So The Four Lads made this song kind of sweet, but also kind of pathetic.  Weird choices.

And why in the world is it called The Bus Stop Song?

[READ: November 17, 2019] The Canadians

This is a book of 79 photos taken from The Globe and Mail archives.  The are not art, they are not beautiful.  They are documentation.  Documentation of a specific time and place–Canada in the late 1950s and early 60s.

These are pictures of regular folks working, doing chores, meeting politicians.  There’s no posing, there’s no “beauty.”  It’s just grim reality.  I grabbed this book because Douglas Coupland wrote the introduction (I’m not sure who wrote the copy for the pictures–each picture has one line of information about it).  The collection was edited by Roger Hargreaves, Jill Offenbeck and Stefanie Petrilli.

I love Coupland’s take on these picture because he looks at things from such a different vantage point than I’m used to.  Like the way he opens the book.  He says that the Canada depicted here pretty much didn’t exist anymore by the time he was born.  He describes Canada then as “a country in which, it would seem, people were born, became teenagers, and then magically at the age of 21, turned into chain-smoking fifty year-olds with undiagnosed cancers.”

He observes that few people smiled and those that did had teeth riddled with nicotine stains.  This is by and large true.  The photos with politicians seem to have the biggest smiles although the young members of Chelecos and Lancers Motorcycle Club certainly mug for the camera. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS-Live at Massey Hall (October 1, 2017).

I’ve been a fan of the The New Pornographers for years.  Their first single, “Letter from an Occupant” was one of my favorite songs of 2000.  For nearly twenty years, they’ve been releasing super catchy fun poppy alt rock.

I was really excited to see them last week.  And then almost equally excited to see that they had a show on Live at Massey Hall.

This show did not have Neko Case singing and while she is not the crux of the band, I’m glad she was at my show, because her voice is great and having three women singing was more fun than having just two.

Before the set, singer and songwriter AC Newman says, “I’m nervous because I realize this is what I do … people paid to come see you.”  His niece, keyboardist Kathryn Calder is with him.  She says she loves having the momentum of 7 people on stage.  It’s a very in the moment feeling shared by all of them.

The show starts with an older song “The Jenny Numbers.”  There’s a wild ripping guitar solo from Todd Fancey in the middle of this otherwise poppy song.  Calder and violinist Simi Stone sound great with their backing vocals–so full and complete.  And excellent compliment to the songs.

Up next is “Whiteout Conditions” which starts with a ripping violin melody from Stone.  I happen to know their newer songs a lot better than their middle period songs and I really like this song a lot.

The full setlist for this show is available online.  They played 22 songs at he show, so it’s a shame to truncate it to 35 minutes.  How did they decide what to cut?  They cut “Dancehall Domine.”

Up next is one of the great songs from the Together album, “Moves.”  The opening riff and persistent use of violin is perfect.

Between songs, Newman says to the audience, “you’ve got to promise not to sit down because it’ll be like a dagger in my heart.”

In the interview clip he says he always love the compartmentalized songs of Pixies.  They influenced the way he wrote music.  So did The Beach Boys for harmonies.  He says it’s hard to know what seeps through, but there’s a ton of it.  Sometimes I’ll hear an old song I used to love and realize I totally stole a part from that song and I didn’t know it.

The show skips “Colosseums” and moves on to “The Laws Have Changed.”  I loved seeing this live because of the amazing high notes that AC Newman hits in the end of the song.  This is also a chance for Kathryn to shine a bit.  “High Ticket Attractions” comes next in the show and here.  It’s such an insanely catchy song.  From the call and response vocals to the overall melody.  It’s one of my favorites of theirs.

The show skips three songs, “Champions of Red Wine,” “Adventures in Solitude,” and “All the Old Showstoppers.”  So up next is “This is the World of the Theater.”  I’m glad they chose this because Kathryn Calder sings lead vocals and she sounds fantastic.  The middle section of the song also includes some hocketing where Newman, Calder, Stone and maybe some others sing individual notes alternately to create a lovely melody.

I noticed that drummer Joe Seiders sings quite a bit as well.  And a shout out to bassist John Collins because he gets some great sounds out of that instrument.

Newman tells the audience that Massey Hall is an intimidating venue, but one you get here it feel welcoming and warm.  The crowd applauds and he says, “soooo, I’m not sweating it.”

Up next comes the poppy and wonderful “Sing Me Spanish Techno.”  It has a constant simple harmonica part played by Blaine Thurier who also plays keyboards.   It’s such a wonderfully fun song.

They skip pretty much the rest of the show to play the big encore song, “Brill Bruisers.”  [Skipped: “Backstairs,” “Play Money,” “Testament to Youth in Verse,” “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk,” “Avalanche Alley,” “Use It,” “Mass Romantic” )that’s a surprise!) and “The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism”].

“Brill Bruisers” is from the then-new album.  The first time I heard it I was blown away.  Those “boh bah boh bah bah bohs” in the beginning are so arresting.  The harmonies that run through the song are sensational and the “ooh” part in the verses just knocks me out.  Its a great great song.

“The Bleeding Heart Show” closed the show and it is played over the closing credits.

This is a terrific example of how good this band is live, but nothing compares to actually seeing them.

[READ: August 1, 2019] Bit Rot

A few years ago I had caught up with Douglas Coupland’s publications.  I guess it’s no surprise to see that he has published more since then.  But I am always surprised when I don’t hear about a book at all.  I just happened to stumble upon this collection of essays.

Coupland’s general outlook hasn’t changed much over the years.  He is still fascinated by “the future,” but he looks at technology and future ideas in a somewhat different way.  He tends to mourn the loss of some things while often embracing what has replaced it.

As my son is now a teenager, I wondered what his take on some of these essays would be–if he would think that Coupland is an old fuddy duddy, or if he was right on.  Or, more likely, that he had never looked at some of these ideas that way at all.  Coupland is quite cognizant that young people are growing up in a very different world than ours.  And that they don’t have any problem with that.  They don’t “miss cursive” because it never meant anything to them in the first place.  They can’t imagine not having Google and hence all of the world’s information at their fingertips.  Of course they assume that technology will continue to get smaller and faster. We older folks may not be prepared for that (or maybe we are), but that’s what younger people expect and can’t wait for

This was a very long, rather thick book that was just full of interesting, funny, thoughtful essays and short stories. I really enjoyed it from start to finish, even if I’d read some of the pieces before. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: A-Hi-Fi Serious (2002).

Many bands are hard to search for online.  A may have topped the roster of most unsearchable bands (they were named in 1993 way before Google was even a thought and when they would be at the front of record store racks).  A are also the alphabetically first CD I own.  So my collection literally goes from A to Z

A are a band from Suffolk England.   They formed in 1993, broke up in 2005 and have been sort of reuniting off and on every since.

Their second album A vs. Monkey Kong was well received and this, their third album had a solid single in “Nothing.”  I’m not sure how I heard of them (probably well reviewed in Q magazine back in 2002) so I grabbed this album.  This album comes with a Quicktime video!  When I learned about this band back in 2002, scads of information were not available about them.  So as I was looking them up I learned all kinds of things about them (like that they cite Rush as an influence).  And that this album name comes from the name of the hi-fi electronics store Alan Partridge buys a stereo from in the last episode of I’m Alan Partridge series 1.

This album is pretty punky/grungy.  Lead singer Jason Perry has a distinctive voice with some good power.

There are all kinds of hit-making elements in here.  Big crunching guitars coupled with soaring vocals dominate most of the songs, like “Nothing” and “Pacific Ocean.”   “The Distance” also revels in the grunge punk guitar sound with a totally metal guitar solo

Songs like “Something’s Going On” have a distinctly pop-punk bratty sound.  So does “Starbucks” with the line: “don’t wanna get a job at Starbucks”  The title track also works in this snarky, funny, catchy vein.

“Six O’Clock” mixes some cool electronics in the verses while the chorus is, once again, big and catchy.  “Going Down” has a much smoother sound with anything distinctive coming from his vocal delivery.

“Took It Away” does the quiet/loud verse thing very well.  Some deliberate glitching is a fun surprise too.  While “The Springs” introduces acoustic guitar and lots of oohs–a real flick-your-lighters kind of song.  “W.D.Y.C.A.I.” is also catchy with a sing along (woah oh) bridge and a super poppy chorus.

“Shut Yer Face” sounds like the quintessential grunge song–snarky lyrics, big grungy guitars, and a soaring chorus.  It even has vulgarish lyrics, record scratching and other samples!  And man is it catchy.  If this didn’t crack the States for them, nothing would.

[READ: April 15, 2019] “Djinn”

I was shocked to see that Esquire had published a story by Russell Banks in both March and June of 2000.  I was also shocked to see that a man gets shot in this one as well (that’s four of the first five stories in Esquire in 2000 in which someone is shot).

This is a story of a man who works in Hopewell, New Jersey.  They manufacture and sell women’s and children’s high end rubberized sandals.  The sandals were manufactured in Gbandeh, the second-largest city in the Democratic Republic of Katonga, a recently desocialized West African nation.

One of his jobs was to travel to Gbandeh and make the acquaintance of the local managers with hopes of facilitating communication.  And of course to make sure the Katongans could adapt the the fast paced technology in place. (more…)

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(Field Recordings, January 12, 2012). 

This is a lengthy Field Recording [Mantra: Post-Minimalist Percussion In Aisle 12].  It has some interruptions by one of the guys.  Then he talks about how they have set up the board–suspending it on pegs.

There’s something primeval about guys banging on wood. But the New York percussion group Mantra takes such primitive pounding to a surprisingly refined level. For composer Michael Gordon’s mesmerizing new work — Timber, written for six two-by-fours — Mantra set up a public performance of the piece in the lumber department of a big-box hardware store in Alexandria, Va. Who knew 60 inches of processed pine could sound so good?

It’s unclear how long the piece is since there are constant interruptions.   Although it does run for about 2 and a half minutes uninterrupted.

For the most part the six players play a constant rhythm that creates overtones and resonances.  It’s a little monotonous until one of the starts to play a slightly different rhythm.  And by the end, there’s a couple of different rhythms that make it sound even better.

It’s a neat piece and would be fun to walk unto a hardware store and see that.

[READ: January 22, 2018] “Elf-Cio”

This is from a children’s book called Elves for Dignity.  It was published by a worker’s cooperative in Buenos Aires–one of 170 worker-run businesses in Argentina. The piece was translated by Burke Butler.

Once upon a time there was a greedy and merciless King.  One morning he awoke with the idea of converting one of his palaces into a hotel.  He hired a legion of elves whom he considered selfless and docile. They all abandoned their markets and farms to serve the King.

They worked night and day to ensure the splendor of the hotel. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BRANDEE YOUNGER-“Hortense” (Field Recordings, June 6, 2013).

I had never heard of anyone playing jazz harp before.  At first I thought that it was just going to be harp music with an upright bass giving it a jazzy feel, but no.  Younger is playing a beautiful lead melody on the harp while Dezron Douglas’ upright bass adds a real boho jazz element.  Basically, this is in no way new age harp music.

But this Field Recording [Brandee Younger: Taxidermy, Two-Headed Skeletons And Jazz Harp] seems to get more than a little distracted by its surroundings.  And who can blame the filmers?

Among the vestment racks, satchel purveyors and art galleries of New York’s SoHo neighborhood lies a small merchant unlike its neighbors. It’s called The Evolution Store, and it peddles, um, natural-history collectibles. You know, preserved insects, taxidermy, skulls and bones, remnants of marine creatures. It’s as if a museum ran out of space and started putting its sloths and tarantulas in the gift shop.

We’re not quite sure what any of this has to do with Brandee Younger [who doesn’t know a sloth when she sees one], though she is a rare breed in her world: a jazz harpist.

A bit more about Younger:

She’s classically trained, and plays her share of freelance and wedding gigs — in her C.V. are recordings for rappers Common and Drake — but like predecessors Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby, she’s also developed a way to improvise and truly groove on the harp.

I really enjoy the minimalism of this piece.  I am quite fond of the harp. So I’m intrigued to read:

With a full band, the song heard here, “Hortense,” takes on a distinct Caribbean bounce, a one-drop reggae beat anchoring Dezron Douglas’ bass line. Stripped down to a duo, it wafts and glides, all arpeggios and plucked wires.

I’m not sure I would enjoy the full band version as much, so I’m glad I got this one–bizarre as the surroundings may be.

[READ: January 25, 2018] “Willows Village”

This is the story of Guillermo, call him Billy, who has moved to Santa Ana to live with his Aunt Maggy.  Billy has a wife and a child in El Paso, but he doesn’t have a job and he thought he could move to a more wealthy part of the country, get a job and send a lot of money home to his family.  His Aunt Maggy is his mother’s sister and while he has heard a lot of gossip about her, he will still ask for the favor of her hospitality.

He hasn’t seen her in years and he is surprised at how good she looks–she’s actually pretty hot, which he finds disturbing but true.  And she welcomes him with open arms.  She gives him a room and whatever food or drink he wants.

Maggy proves to be quite the character  She drinks.  A lot.  She has a ton of money–when she opens her purse to pay a delivery guy, money just falls out of it.  And she seems to eat one bite  of food and store the rest in the fridge, until it spoils.

She tells Billy that Lorena is also staying with her.  She is a good friend and has been having marital trouble, so Maggy put her up in the guest room.  She put Billy–Guillermo she will call him–in her “playroom,” a pink room with dolls and make up boxes and photos.  It was weird. (more…)

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