SOUNDTRACK: LAURA MVULA-Tiny Desk Concert #284 (July 1, 2013).
I don’t know Mvula’s music (I know her because her name is unmistakable and I feel surprised that her debut came out only 4 years ago). The blurb talks about her big powerhouse soulful pop. But that is not in evidence here at all. As they say:
with the help of a small string section, she forgoes some of her flashier songs (“Like the Morning Dew,” “Green Garden”) in favor of Sing to the Moon‘s most brooding ballads.
“Father, Father” is almost entirely her singing and playing a very spare keyboard–with just a few seconds of string help near the end. Her voice is quite lovely in what is practically an a cappella setting.
She introduces the second song by saying: “If we had the bigger band we’d do the more upbeat things. I usually write in six-part harmony. But it’s just the three of us so I’m going to do another more intimate one called ‘Diamonds.'” There’s more strings on this song, which add to the song (the keyboard is quite thin, I fear).
The set ends with “She,” a song with a bit more complex keyboard parts which I rather like. This song is my favorite, probably because it sounds the fullest.
The whole set is a little too mellow for my tastes, but I am curious to hear what her big poppy six-part-harmony songs sound like!
[READ: April 21, 2016] The Right Here Right Now Thing
I found this graphic novel at work. What was so funny about it is that the title is in English but the publisher is German. I flipped through the book and saw the English dialogue so I decided to read it. Imagine my surprise then that the first few and the last few pages are in German!
Google Translate is a good thing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do as well with idiom and vulgar phrases, and there are a few in this book. But I got the gist.
Plus, quite a lot of it is wordless, too.
The story begins with hands putting drugs (I assume cocaine and pot from later sections) into a condom. And then we see our heroine on the toilet…doing something. Her plane ticket says Frankfurt-Krakau. She says goodbye to the guy lying in bed and she heads to the airport. Continue Reading »
Posted in Airlines, Decadence, Drinking, Drugs, Foreign Books, Funny (ha ha), Graphic Novel, Laura Mvula, Paulina Stulin, Sex, Tiny Desk Concert, Toilets, Translation, Travel | Leave a Comment »
SOUNDTRACK: NICK HAKIM-“The Want” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 24, 2017).
It’s always interesting to hear someone with a big hairy beard sing in high falsetto, and that’s just what Hakim does here.
This song is very simple with twinkling synths and programmed beasts all underneath Hakim’s delicate voice. The blurb introduces Hakim to those of us who don’t know him:
Nick Hakim begins with a bit of a fake-out — languorous strings like something out of a Stars Of The Lid record rumble from a sampler, somber and hesitant. But as he begins to sing in a heartbroken falsetto, surrounded by optical fibers hanging from the ceiling of SXSW’s Optic Obscura installation by Raum Industries, the ambient intro morphs into a quiet, psychedelic croon.
“The Want” will appear on Hakim’s full-length debut, Green Twins, but for now, this solo version is only backed by Mellotron and the reverb’d rhythms of what sounds like a Casio preset. It’s soul music for outer-space, performed in a room that looks like outer-space.
This blurb makes this song sound a lot more trippy than it actually is. To me, the only psychedelic bit is one harp line. Otherwise it sounds like a very spare, echoing, simple song. The end does add some interesting layers of sound, but maybe the recorded version is more trippy.
[READ: June 1, 2016] The Good Neighbors: Kith
I didn’t really love book one in this series. I enjoyed the premise, but found the execution flawed–both in the “script” and to an extent in the drawings–there a bunch of characters who all look vaguely similar. But I did like it enough to want to read Book 2.
There’s a handy recap that catches us up.
Then we see Rue sad because of her sullen boyfriend who might be breaking up with her. But he’s a dick anyhow as are most of the characters, frankly.
About 30 pages in something interesting happens when they discover a knife in a tree. Continue Reading »
Posted in All Songs Considered, Alternate Reality, Death, Fears, Goblins, Goths, Graphic Novel, Huh?, Humiliation, Marriage Trouble, Oddities, Regrets, Romance, Sex, South X Lullaby, Supernatural, SXSW, Violence, YA Books, Yuck! | Leave a Comment »
SOUNDTRACK: LYDIA AINSWORTH-“Afterglow” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 23, 2017).
I was unfamiliar with Lydia Ainsworth, but I was instantly struck by the setting of her lullaby.
We asked Lydia Ainsworth to perform in Raum Industries’ Optic Obscura installation. Surrounded by dim, long-hanging optical fibers that look like an infinity room of cat’s whiskers, she sings a stripped-down version of the slow-burning “Afterglow,” accompanied only by an upright bass and light percussion.
I’m not sure what the original song sounds like, but this version is moody and intense. The upright bass opens the song as Lydia’s whispered, sensual vocals come forth. She has a beautiful voice and it is especially haunting in this setting. It reminds me a bit of someone else although I can’t decide who.
The starkness of the silence when she stops singing is intense. And I really like the way the song ends, not abruptly exactly, but rather unexpectedly.
[READ: March 21, 2016] T-Minus
Jim Ottaviani did the amazing graphic novel Feynman, and in the blurb about him in that book, it said that he also wrote T-Minus. Coincidentally I had just brought T-Minus home for Clark and I to read. He read it quickly and said it was very good. It took me a little longer to read (I’m sure he didn’t read all the details) because Ottaviani jam packs this book with interesting facts.
As the title says, this is about the race to get a man to the moon. It begins 12 years before the actual date occurred. And it toggles back and forth between the United States and the Soviet Union.
On the margins of many pages there are drawings of all of the various attempts each country had to get a rocket into the air. The drawings show the design and then at the bottom it states the duration of the flight, the date and some other details. The USSR’s first rocket (1957) lasted all of 20 seconds before exploding. The U.S’s first rocket lasted about 7 seconds.
We meet a handful of people who were instrumental in the design and origination of these rockets. (Ottaviani explains that many of these people are composites of real people involved–if he wanted to include everyone, there would be 400 people in every panel). Continue Reading »
Posted in Adventure, Alexei Leonov, All Songs Considered, Astronauts, Charles A. Murray, Children's Books, Communists, Cosmonauts, Graphic Novel, History, Jim Ottaviani, John F. Kennedy, John Glenn, Lydia Ainsworth, NASA, Optic Obscura, Raum Industries, Russia, Scientists, Sergei Korolev, South X Lullaby, SXSW, Valentina Tereshkova, YA Books, Yuri Gagarin | Leave a Comment »
SOUNDTRACK: PHOEBE BRIDGERS-“Smoke Signals” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 22, 2017).
Bridgers’ “Smoke Signals” is a beautiful haunting song that reminds me a little of Liz Phair in her delivery. I had heard this song before and really liked it–I especially loved the arrangement, which had echoing guitars that reminded me of Twin Peaks.
“For this Tiny Desk, Bridgers and percussionist Marshall Vore came to Bob Boilen’s hotel room just before midnight to play the striking ‘Smoke Signals.'” The music is great with Bridgers’ open chords, and Vore’s suitcase percussion, children’s toy bells and vocal harmony. The cho and vibe are removed in this version which means you must really listen to the words–which are pretty intense.
I like how she talks about musicians in such an interesting way:
Singing ‘Ace of Spades’ when Lemmy died / nothing’s changed LA’s alright
and then later
Its been on my mind since Bowie died/ just checking out to hide from life
The toy bells and harmonies are a really nice touch, but again, it’s those lyrics:
I went with you up to
The place you grew up in
We spent a week in the cold
Just long enough to
“Walden” it with you
Any longer, it would have got old
This song is a little too slow for my preferences, but it’s very beautiful. I’d like to hear more from her.
[READ: February 5, 2016] The Good Neighbors: Kin
This book was on the new shelf at my library. And since I like Black and Naifeh I was grabbed it. Then I saw that it actually came out in 2008. Whatever.
It also turns out that my library has book two of this trilogy but neither had book 3 (which came out in 2010). What gives?
Holly Black is best known (by me anyway) as having written The Spiderwick Chronicles.
This story is actually a YA graphic novel and it definitely skews older. But like Spiderwick, it deals with a normally unseen world coming into contact with out own. Continue Reading »
Posted in All Songs Considered, Alternate Reality, David Bowie, Death, Fears, Goblins, Goths, Graphic Novel, Holly Black, Humiliation, Lemmy, Liz Phair, Marriage Trouble, Motorhead, Oddities, Phoebe Bridgers, Regrets, Romance, Sex, South X Lullaby, Supernatural, SXSW, Ted Naifeh, Violence, YA Books, Yuck! | Leave a Comment »
[ATTENDED: April 14, 2017] The Decemberists
Two years ago Sarah and I went to The Decemberists concert at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. It was spectacular. A great venue, a dignified crowd and a great set deign. The only complaint we had at all was that we couldn’t stand up and dance (well, we could, but we try to be considerate of those around us).
We knew we’d want to see them again, so when they announced another show in Philly–this time at the Fillmore, we were super psyched. We love the venue, the sound is great and best of all, you can dance.
I was telling Sarah that I have become spoiled by smaller venues like Union Transfer, which holds about 1,000 fewer people than the Fillmore, because I can get up really close. Well, this show was sold out big time (we were packed in a little too tightly for my liking). I wanted to try to get there as early as possible, but a few things led us to getting there about ten minutes later than I had hoped. And as such we were just a little too far out for my liking–the tall people seemed to have a wall set up about five rows of people ahead of us and we just couldn’t break through it.
So that meant a lot of leaning side to side depending on who you wanted to watch and, of course, terrible pictures. But wow did they sound great. This tour was a little less elaborate than the previous one. There was no real “set,” just lights. And that’s fine because the focus was on the music! Continue Reading »
Posted in Chris Funk, Colin Meloy, Jenny Conlee, John Moen, Kelly Hogan, Nate Query, Philadelphia, PA, The Academy of Music, The Decemberists, The Fillmore Philadelphia | Leave a Comment »
[ATTENDED: April 14, 2017] Julien Baker
I first heard Julien Baker from All Songs Considered. Her song “Sprained Ankle” is simply beautiful. She plays a very delicate guitar and on that song you can barely hear her voice–everything is very gentle.
I was intrigued when I saw that she was opening for The Decemberists, but I wasn’t entirely sure how much I’d like a whole set of such mellow music. But Bob Boilen has said on many occasions that you need to see her live.
And that proved to be true.
Her set started quietly with a new song, “Funeral Pyre” and then the incredibly pretty harmonics (looped) of “Funeral Pyre.” But she wasn’t all about delicate folksiness. Because on a few of these songs she belted out powerful notes–signing loud and hard and letting those notes linger for a long time. Her voice was absolutely amazing. And for just a “girl with a guitar,” she won the audience over pretty easily. Continue Reading »
Posted in Julien Baker, Philadelphia, PA, The Decemberists, The Fillmore Philadelphia | Leave a Comment »