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[CANCELLED: April 28, 2017] Pinegrove

I saw Pinegrove at the First Unitarian Church in Philly.  The venue was kind of fun, although I have basically decided that I will not ever go to another show there (despite THREE bands that I like playing there in coming months).  My takeaway from the venue is that if it’s at all crowded, it’s not worth going.

But I really enjoyed the Pinegrove show.  And I was super excited to see them twice more for the end of the year–tonight at Union Transfer and Starland Ballroom.  Kind of unreasonably excited, actually, especially the Starland show, because one of my new favorite up and coming Jersey bands Fire is Motion were going to open for them.

The openers were

Saintseneca, Adult Mom at Union Transfer

Forth Wanderers, Fire is Motion at Starland Ballroom

And then, out of the blue (at least to me), the band cancelled the tour.  This is now the third (and fourth) show this year that has been cancelled on me.  Oh well, I’m glad that problems like this come out and I hope that all involved get the help they need.  But because I’m selfish, I just wish that they would be revealed a few days after my show instead of before.

Official statement Continue Reading »

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 3 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 10, 2005).

This was the 3rd night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.   Each night’s show has gotten longer, with this one reaching almost two and a half hours.

Ford Pier is back on keyboards.  They are joined by Alan Pigguns for a couple of songs and Jen Foster on accordion.

Throughout the show, someone is yelling “Legal Age Life” It never gets played–so that ought to teach you something about shouting requests.  But they are very friendly to the folks from San Diego who get lots of shoutouts.

The opening band was The Mellow Grove Band, and Tim says, “I’d only ever heard The Mellow Grove Band on CD.  I wanted to see them live.  They totally blew me away.

“Saskatchewan” is a beautiful slow opening with twinkling pianos.  Martin sang the first verse through his robot voice and it sounded pretty cool, but seemed to throw everyone off–no one did backing vocals and no one caught on to the chord changes.  Dave says he screwed him up with that robot voice, so they start over and it sounds great (and you can hear someone yell “Thank you, Martin”).

As the song ends, Martin plays a few lines of “Hey Hey, My My” before the final piano keys twinkle out and the rhythmic clapping of “Rain Rain Rain” picks up.  Dave is playing the bongos and Martin calls out “Bongo Davey!”  Dave keeps playing and Mike shouts: “You’ve got your whole life ahead of you!  You go!    Dave says “Bongo solo is supposed to be at the end of the show.”  Mike: “This is the end of the show.”  Tim: “No, it’s now or never.  Let him go a bit.”  When “Rain Rain Rain” starts, you can hear the loud woman singing along with him.  It even makes Martin chuckle.

During “Polar Bears and Trees,” Dave interjects, “the land of polar bears and trees, that’s Canada.”  Then Martin says “Hi there” which gets the Martin fans nutty.  Before singing “The Tarleks,” He does a lot of talking in the Tarlek voice: “Love what you do.  Dave Bidini, your books are such great books.  Mike, your production work…fabulous.”

Dave send the next one out to people who aren’t from:  Toronto, Scarborough, Markham, Etobicoke or  North York. Mike: what about Mississauga.  Dave says you know I don’t even acknowledge Mississauga,  mike.  You know that all of the worlds problems stem from Mississauga, let’s face it.  Tim: Our last drummer was from Mississauga.  Triumph was from Mississauga.

They play a delightful “We Went West” and then start talking about hydrating.  Dave mentions “precious bodily fluids.  It all comes back to Stanley Krueger, Krubrick.  Someone put liquid acid in my bottle of water.  Everybody knows it was the guys from San Diego.  They scored liquid acid at Queens Park today (they shout “last night”).  And you thought it was a Tylenol.

“PIN’ starts with the outro music and then launches into the intro with lots of strummed acoustic guitars.  There’s pretty twinkling sounds at the end with Martin stating “On the Dirty Blvd.”

During “Mumbletypeg,” Dave states: “We’re Klaatu from Etoboicoke.”   During the outro, three of them are all singing different things in a chaotic fugue.

While people are shouting out their requests, Dave says, “Thanks for your requests, we’ll get to them later.  Or not.  You’ll go home disappointed but we’ll have your money.  That’s the way it is. That’s the rock n’ roll business.”

This seems to get the audience riled up and I hate that you can hear people yelling and talking loudly during the opening quiet part of “In This Town.”  Whats’ wrong with these people?

Dave adds an intro to “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne” “Death to you and death to me / death to the head of the company / corporate whores and superstores bring death to the future that i see / death to the men in pistols and pointed hoods who run F.M. radio and Hollywood.”  There’s some really  pretty vocals at the end of the song before Martin and I assume Ford take turns screaming the last note.

Why is someone hollering during the quiet beginning of “Northern Wish”?  Martin sings “gonna launch it from my garage.” And after that Martin seems to get lost but Dave is there to help him out.  At the “we don’t need submarines” (fucking hate em).  And then someone starts doing a doot doot submarine sound.  And then at the end, Martin is still doing the “land ho” when the band kicks into the “launch it from my pad” section.  Then Martin starts singing another verse and Dave says I believe it’s the end of the song.  So they do the land ho part again and everyone (even the crowd) sings along.

Martin: I think somebody slipped some ludes into my bottled water.   I was just enjoying the sweet grooviness of what was going on and I fell into a dream.”

Then up comes Jennifer Foster on the squeeze box.  She’ll be accompanying on “Who Is This Man And Why Is He Laughing?”  Dave: It’s a Michael Philip Wojewoda composition and it goes something like this (he plays drums really fast). Martin: “Put Dave behind the drum kit, he can barely contain himself.”  By the end on every fourth beat the audience starts shouting “oh!” in time.

We’d like to invite another beautiful person for tonight’s program, Alun Piggins.  Alun: “I’m just flattered that you called me beautiful, Dave.”  That idiot is still shouting of r”Legal Age Life” and Dave says, Al didn’t learn that.  Dave says “we;re gonna act like we didn’t discuss what to play.”  Ford: “I didn’t”  Alun: “Was that you, Mike?”  Mike: “No that was Ford, another smart ass in the group.”  Let’s do Fred.

They do a cover of Fred Eaglesmith’s “Freight Train.”  It sounds so different from anything else they play.  There’s even a harmonica solo.  It really rocks and sounds great.  I never heard the song before.

Note: When I write about kids books I try to keep the music somewhat clean.  It doesn’t always work.  And since I’m in the midst of this Rheos marathon who are usually only mildly dirty and am doing First Second books, I didn’t expect what comes next.  So, if you’re easily offended skip the next paragraph.

Alun asks if he can do a Christmas song. After some abuse, he says it’s a lonely Christmas song about a guy who spends Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day masturbating to internet porn.  Probably at triple xmas dot com.  Dave asks, Is this like that McLean and McLean song “Merry Christmas Handjob.”  Alun: No, I wrote this one.”  Dave is insulted by the McLean song saying “he calls it a handjob but he’s actually masturbating.  You know how fucked up that song is?”  Mike: “Is that from Toilet Tricks?”  Dave laughs and then admits that he does like the song. Alun’s song is called “Dirty Dirty Dirty Dirty Christmas” and it’s pretty damned dark.

When it ends, Mike notes: That man was in The Morganfields (a thrash/folk act).

“Here Comes The Image” has cool long keyboard solo and effects.  And a woman keeps shouting for “Making Progress,” but they don’t play it.

Dave says they’re going to play three songs from Whale Music, and that they’ll be doing the whole album on Wednesday.  And that tomorrow night is the all-ages show.

“King Of The Past” is a bit sloppy although Martin plays a great solo at the end: “ride that wild stallion, Martin.”  During “RDA”  Tim is pretty much screaming the backing vocals and laughing like a maniac.  Then Dave throws in a few choruses of “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.” and starts chanting:

we have no voice
when force is the noise
when force is the sound
when guns are the melody
when wrongs are the truth
when the newspapers are the crime

Which sounds eerily prescient for 2017.

“California Dreamline” is kind of sloppy but “Feed Yourself” is really intense.

After the encore, Dave plays his two acoustic songs, “Last Good Cigarette” which he says is “our White Stripes tribute” and “My First Rock Concert.”  The end gets a kind of reggae style and Dave sings in an almost reggae-but-really-inaudible way.  Then Dave asks Ford what shows he saw at 14.  And boy does Ford have a list

Big Country, Killing Joke, The Pogues’ first European tour, Black Flag, Husker Du.  And that’s when I became a non-U2 fan.  During the Unforgettable Fire tour, when he was singing Pride and Martin Luther King was projected and I thought…this is….  Dave says, “I’m pro U2.”  Mike: “Martin and I are more into the spy plane, actually.”  Martin: “Dave said the War tour was awesome. The Waterboys opened.”

Another request for “Making Progress.”  But Martin says, “Let’s go back to the 1950s with this next number.”  Mike: “When nuclear energy was still hopeful.”  They play “Torque Torque” which segues into ” a rollicking Claire.”  Paul Linklater comes up for a solo as well.

You can hear someone ask Dave something and he says, March 2007 at Massey Hall we hope (and that did come to pass).

They end this lengthy show with a wild “Satan is the Whistler,” which they have been doing very well lately.

[READ: October 17, 2017] Crafty Cat and the Crafty Camp Crisis

I was surprised to see that this second book had come out already (and a third one is due soon).

In this book Birdie is excited to go to Craft Camp. Birdie and Evan had a deal.  He would go to Crafty Camp and afterward she would go to his house to play Pumpkins & Pirates.  And when she loses the game, she will watch him do the victory dance.

She has high expectations for what this camp will be like–a big table full of brand-new craft supplies?  Maybe the walls will be sparkly and decorated with all the cool crafts we’re going to make?

Her best friend Evan is running late and there’s an amusing scene where he shows up but has to go to the bathroom.  While he’s in the bathroom she gets a visit from Cloudy who tells her that she is a good friend.  But Cloudy won’t tell Evan to hurry because it doesn’t do bathrooms.

Evan also bursts her bubble–“Craft Camp. It’s just in our regular classroom at school.” Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 2 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 9, 2005).

This series of shows contains the final Rheostatics live shows that are left to write about–except for their “final shows” and their “reunion shows” (which I really hope to see some day).” This was the 2nd night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe. Ford Pier was once again on keyboards.

This show was slightly longer than the previous night.  Unlike the 2004 Fall Nationals, however, they are not promoting an album, so there is a lot more diversity of songs.  Although there are a few “new” songs.

As the show starts, Dave says, Thanks to TruthHorse for the films.  [TruthHorse is a sketch comedy troupe who makes a lot of short films.  Like this one].

They have a lot of fun teasing the intro of “Onilley’s Strange Dream.”  You can hear Ford Pier and Martin occasionally playing the melody, but it takes almost four minutes before Dave says “we’re trying to set the record for playing the longest sustained G chord…. Ronnie Milsap currently has the record.”  Ford Pier goes on a lengthy bullshit rant about Medieval scholars and Boethius and chords and colors and physical and celestial bodies.  He says essentially that the G chord should make you think of the color blue and the sun.  After five minutes, Martin starts singing.  He doesn’t seem to recall all the lyrics, but Dave helps him out.  The song fades out and picks up with an interesting opening to “Fan Letter To Michael Jackson.”  It’s pretty rocking with a lengthy jam in the middle and a big keyboard section (“Ford are you ready to feel alive.”).

Dave chats with the audience: “How old are you?  Happy 22nd.”  The belligerent man with “her” says “Sing it to her, I’m not joking, right now.”  What? “Happy Birthday.”  Dave: “Oh if we did that the union would be all over us.  I don’t even now it.  We’ll dedicate this completely inappropriate political rant to you, if you’d like.”  That rant would be a rocking “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  Dave introduces Tim: “Straight from the Czech Republic.”  Tim: “Slovak.”  Dave: “That’s what I meant.”  Tim ask the birthday girl: “Are you Heather?  Oh.  Three birthdays today.”  Dave: “There have been three babies born here tonight and they have all been named Rheostatics.”  Mike: “Just imagine the cruelty on the school ground.”

“Record Body Count” has a lot of organ in the background which changes the sound somewhat.  Next comes “Four Little Songs” which they start but don’t actually get going.  Mike: “What, no melody?”  The song takes off and sounds good.  Then for the third verse: “Here’s Ford Pier to sing you a song.” Over a circusy keyboard melody he sings about a magnificent driver.” No sure if it’s a real song or improv.  At the end Ford Pier plays the “soulful sounds” of Canadian Airlines.  The music they would play as you boarded….before they folded.

Then comes Tim’s new song, “Sunshine At Night.”  It rocks with a good thumping bass line.   It’s followed by “the civic premiere” of a new Martin song “Teen On The Staircase.”  It’s pretty spare to start.  And it’s either not finished or Martin is just having a hard time.  It’s got simple lyrics:  “Teen on the staircase, wash your interesting hair.”   They get lost on the song and finally jump to the chorus.  The lyrics seem very stream of consciousness.

Dave chastises someone: “It’s very dangerous to hide beer bottles under the poinsettia.  You;ll cut your foot.  What are you doing?  You must be from Brampton.”

Mike says: “Fuck the sophistication, let’s go with the stupid”  Dave messes up the first line of “Me and Stupid”  “What the fuck happens in this song anyway?”

“The Tarleks” starts in the wrong key. No one notices and they get along quite well and then stop.  “Shit that was sounding good.”  Then Ford picks up his earlier thread: “This is what I was referring to, it was moving a different organ than we are used to.”  He mentions INXS and a New Sensation. And then Martin says “INXS is one of the only relevant bands from the 80s.”  Which is a pretty bold statement.  They pick up where they left off in the correct key.

Next comes two of Dave’s acoustic songs “Song Ain’t Any Good” & “Pornography.”  It makes me laugh that there’s a line in “Song Ain’t Any Good” that dismisses writing songs about unicorns or cats, and yet later they play Happiness which is about cats.

“I Fab Thee” comes as a surprise. It’s a rollicking bouncy version where Martin sings “caught you masturbating” which is not in the original kids song.

Dave notes that “Were entering the shank part of the evening.”  I didn’t know what it meant last time either.

Ford asks if anyone noticed that there’s a different backdrop this evening.

Then it’s two Tim songs, “Introducing Happiness” and “Marginalized.”  Marginalized has some trippy synths which takes some of the bite out of the crunchy guitars.  But it sounds kind of funky this way.

Mike asks if anyone has a drum key and amazingly someone does (why doesn’t he?)  Then Tim asks if anyone has 20 bucks.

Dave has some kind of guitar trouble during “The Land Is Wild” but they don;t get sidetracked.  It’s followed by “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds” in which the middle drum solo section finds Dave playing the guitar soloing riff from another song (I can’t place).   They take a break and for some reason, Martin mentions again that he smokes Gauloises Blue just like John Lennon and Bruce Cockburn.

After the break, Tim plays a solo version of a new Violet Archers song “Truth.”  It will appear on 2008’s Sunshine at Night.  Dave mentions that  they have the Violet Archers debut album as well as Martin’s solo albums and Dave’s books.  Ford talks about positive visualizations and about his 2005 accomplishment list.  One of them was playing a Fall Nationals.   “The other 9 or 10 items on the list… once the first domino has fallen… there’s three whole weeks left.”

Then comes two bird songs. “Take Me In Your Hand” is slow and spare–at first just drums and acoustic (with some keys on top).  There’s no coda at the end.  After making him feel like a  little bird, then comes “Little Bird, Little Bird.”

Someone requests “Whats Going On.”  Dave says we’re doing our whole whale music album Wednesday.  They guy says, I have an exam.  Well, you’ll have to fail.  You can surely fail a course to come and see us.

The last three songs are fun rocking versions of “PIN,” “Fish Tailin'” and “Soul Glue.”  For the last song, someone starts playing “Soul Clue” and then stops and Mike chants: Veto.  But then they play it again and everyone is happy.  The show was just over 2 hours.  And as they walk off, they thank Creaking Tree String Quartet and TruthHorse.

[READ: July 7, 2017] The Amazing Crafty Cat

This was a cute book about crafting and creativity.  I was totally caught off guard the way it started.  We see Crafty Cat in her room creating something (and saying Purrfect, which I didn’t like).  Crafty Cat keeps an eye out for colors and shapes that work together.  And with lightning fast paws, Crafty Cat makes it look easy. Crafty Cat has made a panda clip and Crafty Cat is a Big Winner and a Crafting Genius!

But then we hear a voice say “Birdie, you’ll be late for school.”  And that’s when we learn that Crafty Cat is the imaginary alter ego of a little girl named Birdie.

I was so relieved by this because I was afraid that the whole book was going to be Crafty Cat making crafts (which would have been a strange book, to be sure).

This breaks the Crafty Cat spell–she’s not ready to go to school just yet.   And she certainly doesn’t want to talk about homework.

But nothing can really bring her down because today is her birthday!  And everything will be perfect because she has a box of panda cupcakes!  She imagines that everyone will love them, even the mean girl, Anya.  (The flashback to Anya’s birthday is really hilarious–her birthday treat was playing a game called “I’m the queen and you’re all my loyal servants.” Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 1 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 8, 2005).

This series of ten concerts contains the final Rheostatics live shows that are left to write about–except for their “final shows” and their “reunion shows” (which I really hope to see some day). This was the 1st night of their last 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe. Ford Pier was on keyboards.

These shows seem significantly shorter that the 2004 Fall Nationals.  This show is under 2 hours–practically unheard of in a Fall Nationals.  Unlike the 2004 Fall Nationals, however, they are not promoting an album, so there is a lot more diversity of songs.

This recording is from the audience, so there’s a (shocking) amount of chatter from fans.  You also can’t hear everything that’s said into the mics, so you have to listen close if you want to hear audience interaction.

The show opens with them talking to fans from San Diego (Mike: “that means Saint Diego”).  Dave asks how long they’re here. He says well, we have three chances, then.

“Loving Arms” is a sweet opening from Tim.  Then Martin starts announcing in a smarmy voice “I’m a member.  Hi there.”  It’s a launch into “CCYPA” (Miek: “in an election year, imagine that”).  Tim follows with a quick “Song Of The Garden.”

Then Dave starts playing the opening to “Fat” to much applause.  “That’s Ford Pier on the keyboards.  That’s Tim Vesely on the keyboards.  That’s Martin Tielli on the keyboards.”  During the end jam section, there’s some loud, unusual backing vocals which I assume are from Ford Pier.

Martin: “What’s the first note of the next song, Dave?  I’m feeling a little shaky.  But that’s what this song [‘Fish Tailin”]is about so it should lend itself to this current number.  After this comes “Mumbletypeg” Martin: “That is David Augustino Bidini.  Dave wrote this song.  All by himself!”  It romps along nicely.

Next is the first of a couple new songs.  “Sunshine At Night” is actually a song hat Tim would release on his 2008 Violet Archers disc Sunshine at Night (where it is mostly the same but more fleshed out and better-sounding).

Martin is having fun with the “Hi there” smarmy voice as an intro to “The Tarleks.”  It’s followed by “Marginalized” which has a rather lengthy and dramatic piano solo in the middle.

Martin: “That was by Timothy Warren Vesely.”  Ford: “Stop shouting everyone’s middle names, Jesus.”  Dave:  “Martin is obsessed with middle names, whenever he meets someone new he says ‘What’s your middle name?”  Mike: “Yeah right but whats your middle name.”  Ford continues, “A friend of mine was engaged to a woman from Slovenia.  When she came to visit she was astonished to hear that everyone had a middle name–are you all rich?  It was a difficult thing to explain to her.  She associated middle named with wealth?  Middle names were not a concept that came to her block in Ljubljana.  Tim: “Ford tried to convince her it had something to do with wealth.”

Then came a song, “The Land Is Wild.”  This would eventually be released on Bidiniband’s 2009 album The Land is Wild.  It’s pretty much the same although this earlier version has a few lines that are not in the final.  A line about him being in his own head and listening to Metallica, Ozzy or Queen.  There’s another line about tickling the net and being lost in his head.  Both of these lines are left off in the final.  Interestingly, the final verse about fishing with his old man and his death were added later.

Martin says that for “Here Comes the Image,” Augustine is going to play the drums and Dimitrius is going to play the keyboard.”

As they start, “It’s Easy To Be With You,” Dave says, “My friend this is no time to be talking on your phone, there’s some serious rock n roll happening up here.  Take a picture with your mind.”

It’s followed by a beautiful “Stolen Car.”  Martin’s vocals are just so good.  After the song ends, properly, there’s an extra acoustic strumming section that soon becomes “Nowhere Man” sung by Selina Martin.

Dave notes that it has been 25 years since John Lennon was killed.  The world has gotten a lot shittier.

Ford then says, “You know who was really burned on that score? Darby Crash, lead singer of The Germs.  He committed suicide with an intentional heroin overdose the same day.  Five years earlier David Bowie said they only have five years left.  So he told his band mates hat five years from now he was going to off himself.  They ignored him, but he did.  And then three hours later the Walrus gets blown away.”
Dave’s takeaway: “Never take advice from David Bowie.  He told me to buy a wool suit.  Well actually Springsteen told me, but Bowie told him.”
Tim once ate some hot soup with David Bowie.

We’ll do a couple more for you seeing as how it’s Thursday.  Tim: “Can you do a little pretty intro for me that you sometimes do?”  Dave does and “Making Progress ” sounds big and more rocking than usual (the keys help).  Martin plays  a more rocking guitar solo before settling in to the pretty ending.  When it’s over you can hear Dave says “we can call him Timmy, I’m not sure you can call him…  Well, I guess you just did.  Is this your third straight year?  Fourth?  You’ve earned the right to call him Timmy.”

Thanks to the Creaking Tree String Quartet they were beyond awesome.  I can’t wait to see them again tomorrow night.  The set ends with a lovely version of “Self Serve Gas Station” with some great piano additions.  The song ends in a long jam with trippy keys a fun solo from Martin.  As he walks off Martin says, “I smoke Gaulioses Blue cigarettes, since they can’t advertise.  The flavor!  And so did John Lennon and Bruce Cockburn.”

After the encore, Dave sings and acoustic “Last Good Cigarette.”  When Martin comes back out they play a surprising encore song of “Song Of Flight” which segues into a mellow intro for “In This Town.”  By by the end it picks up steam and rocks to the end.

It was a fairly short first show, of the Fall Nationals, but they played a lot of interesting stuff.

[READ: April 20, 2017] Friends is Friends

This book had a lot going against it.  The title is virtually impossible to find in a catalog (3 words long, 2 words repeat, the other word is “is” and the one main word is incredibly common in children’s books, ugh).  On top of that, no libraries near me carried it.  And then its got that creepy-ass cover.

Reviews of the book weren’t very positive either.  So my hopes weren’t very high.

And even with low hopes, I was still pretty disappointed. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Christmas on Mars (2008).

Title aside, and despite the Lips’ love of Christmas, there is nothing Christmassey about this recording.

It’s a soundtrack to their film and it is composed of 12 instrumental pieces.  The disc (which is short) sounds like interstitial Flaming Lips pieces–songs that might appear at the end of or in between songs.

The tracks run the gamut from spooky outerspacey dirges to pretty choral numbers.  But the overall tone of the soundtrack is dark and foreboding (the movie isn’t very happy after all).

Some of the tracks (3 and 4 in particular) are prettier than other–with pretty harps and tubular bells.  But do not put this in your Christmas music rotation unless you really dislike Christmas music.

[READ: June 21, 2017] Adios, Cowboy

Hot on the heels of the depressing Sorry to Disrupt the Peace come this depressing story by Olja Savičević Ivančević (her full name according to Goodreads) translated from Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth.  In Peace, the narrator’s brother killed himself and the narrator wants to find out why.  In Adios, Cowboy, the narrator’s brother kills himself and she want to find out why.

The difference is that this book is set in Croatia, has multiple characters, multiple stories and a huge amount of confusion.

Dada (the narrator) lives in Zagreb, but she is called home to Old Settlement by her sister to help with their aging mother.  She is intrigued at the thought of going home  again after so many years.  But when she gets there, her mother has been taking all kinds of pills, her sister has pretty much given up as evidenced by her chain-smoking, their long-dead father’s shoes still lined up on the steps, and their dead younger brother’s cowboy posters of are still on the walls.  (The dead brother’s name is Daniel.  The fact that one of the characters in the previous book also about the suicide was also named Daniel really didn’t help this much). Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: IMAGENE PEISE-Atlas Eets Christmas (2014).

This is a terrific lost album created by Iraqi jazz piano prodigy Image Peise.  The record states that most of what is known [about Peise] is shrouded in clouds of legend and smoke of myth.”  She is “rumored to have committed suicide in 1978.”

She is playing mostly traditional Christmas songs, with a couple of originals added on to the mix.  She is accompanied by:

Imagene Peise – Piano
Ominog Bangh – Laughing/Crying Glider Synthesizer
Shineyu Bhupal – Drones, Sitar, and Baritone Tambura

The album has a consistent feel throughout.  Lots of jazzy piano and then some interesting Middle Eastern and/or psychedelic sounds that are sprinkled on top (primarily from the sitar and the glider synth).  Whether she is messing with the beauty or just manipulating it is up to the listener.

“Winter Wonderland” opens with a crackling record sound and some interesting Middle Eastern instruments and drones.  And then the lovely traditional jazzy piano version of the classic.  The trippy synth thing comes back up from time to time.

“Silver Bells” opens with a middle eastern synth that sounds nothing like the song.  But once again when the piano comes in it’s really lovely and traditional with hints of psychedelia.

“Christmas Laughing Waltz (Jingle Bells)” has some laughing-like sounds from the voice/synth thing.  Midway through the song, which has been mostly trippy, it resolves itself into “Jingle Bells” on piano with some cool sounds added.

“Silent Night” opens in a not at all peaceful way with some crazy sounds.  It’s a little disconcerting if you know what song it is supposed to be.  But the piano eventually finds the melody and plays it straight and nice.

The first original peace is the delightful if mournful, “Atlas Eets Christmas.”  It’s a series of washes and piano chords until finally a solitary piano melody plays  its mournful melody.  There’ s vocal line where you hear the pronunciation “At last it’s Christmas.”  The voice is pretty far in the background making it kind of hard to hear.  It fits in with the record but stands out because of the voice.  But the sentiment is quite nice.

“Do You Hear What I Hear” is the first really dissonant sounds on the disc.  They come in the form of echoed piano chords.  It feels sinister and kind of kills the mood of the song. The vocal melody is played on that glider thing with dissonant piano behind it.  It feels kind of wobbly and unsettled.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” returns to the more traditional style and once again, it’s very pretty.

“White Christmas” has a real feel of longing to it.  After a bout 2 minute it kind of builds with drums and upright bass but it never really gets into a more traditional feel.  It sort of hints at the song until the very end where the melody is more pronounced.

“Frosteeeee”is of course, “Frosty the Snowman.”  It opens with melody played on the piano.  But then it switches off melody lines with that voice/synth thing.  It’s sort of a duet between the two instruments.

“Christmas Kindness Song” is the other original.  It sounds like the other in spirit but this one has highly processed vocals.  Presumably they are by Steven Drodz, but I’m not sure if he sis supposed to sound like an Iraqi woman (how far is the ‘joke’ gong?), but he clearly doesn’t.

“The Christmas Song” returns to the jazzy traditional song with some sprinkling so psychedelia on top.

Depending on your tolerance for oddity, this is either a great, fun addition to a Christmas collection (it will make people prick up their ears to hear whats going on), or it’s just too disruptive to the holiday spirit.

And yes, in the “Christmas Kindness Song” I mentioned Stephen Drodz because this is an album by The Flaming Lips.  I gather that the music was created by Steven Drodz and the mythology of Imagene was created by Wayne Coyne.

Oh and the disc ends with some 30 minutes of what sounds like an album clicking at the end of locked groove.

[READ: June 21, 2017] Sorry to Disrupt the Peace

This is one of a new(ish) batch of McSweeney’s books.  I was intrigued by the title and the cover  and some snippets of reviews sounded promising.

There were things I liked about he story but overall I was mixed on it.

The story is about Helen Moran.  She is a 32-year-old Korean woman.  She was adopted by white parents when she was a baby. As was her adoptive brother (who is also Korean but is not related to her).  Throughout the story she refers to her parents as “my adoptive parents” and her brother as “my adoptive brother” easily 100 times each.  I realize that that is a true statement and description, and it is important to her to keep this distinction, but it makes for irritating reading.  It makes your main character seem really ungrateful.

And maybe that’s it.  Helen is a pretty unlikable character.  She works with at risk youth but does some pretty risky things with them.  She’s even currently under investigation at her work for doing suspicious things.  She says she is called Sister Reliability but its unclear to me if they are doing it to mock her, if they are not doing it at all or if they are actually doing it because she is reliable (which I doubt).  She has also written a pamphlet called How to Survive in New York City on Little to Nothing which she handed out to people.  She wears garbage and discarded clothes and eats whatever–and that’s her advice to the poor.

But that’s not what the story is about.  The story is about what happens after she hears from her uncle that her adoptive brother is dead.  For reasons we never find out her adoptive parents do not make the call, it is done by her uncle.  Weird. Continue Reading »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The disc ends with everyone wishing us a Merry Christmas.

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

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

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

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

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

Back in the other part of the world, Becca Wade and Sara have just gotten a message from Roald.  But it turns out to be a trap. Continue Reading »