Posts Tagged ‘Live Blog’

Travel West

February 28, 2009

These are my people, I should never have come here.

Martha Wainwright


Welcome to Part II of Marth Wainwright’s CBC Radio 2 Concert on Demand. Well, my live blog of it.  Part I is yesterday’s post so you can just click back to it if you like.

We kick off part two of this exercise with This Life. I wonder if it’s more of a commentary on what is going on in her life at a moment, or a philsophical treatise. This, this life, right now, is snoring. I guess that answers my question.  Once again we have just Martha and her guitar.  I wish I could adequately describe her singing style. I made an attempt in Part I, but I’m not sure I did it justice.  Her voice almost cycles up and down, like Neko Case in a washing machine. That may seem negative but it is not intended to be.  Halfway through the song we bounce to French, then back to English. The crowd was delighted by the change.

Martha and her mother are now going to get together for one of Kate’s songs, Wise Men.  We are told, in French, that this song is about the war in Afghanistan, and apparently some relationship to the Magi.  What did they see in the sky that made them take leave of their life? Very good question. If there were in fact three wise men, who traveled to Bethlehem, I wonder what they thought when they arrived?  Was it what they expected when they saw a great light in the sky? The song has a strange vibe and reminds me of many a French folk song, even though the lyrics are in English. The combination of voices is almost creepy, yet sweetly satisfying.

Jimi.  I don’t know a thing about this song, but I wonder if this song is at all connected to Jimi Hendrix.  Martha creates unique sonic landscapes that are ethereal, musical, and yet almost not.  It is a collection of sonic postcards from Quebec to Pluto.  The whole band comes out in full force for this one.  The vocal harmonies in this song are at first jarring, but I came to understand that they are supposed to evoke the otherwordly colour of the piece.

Martha moved to New York at some point in her young life, and forged her musical career there.  This one starts out as a jazzy love song, lead by electric guitar and brushed drums.  This song is robably the most obvious one I’ve heard in this set.  It is the most like compositions by other musicians, and thus the least unique.  There is an understated building solo that turns into a duet with her voice.  The guitar tone is fantastic, very dirty and full. After the song she introduces the band. Looking over Martha’s discography, she has featured an astonishing number of guests on her albums. I guess that is one advantage of having famous musician parents.

G.P.T. from her self-titled album is the third-to-last song of the set.  This is a more rock song than anything we’ve heard in this half of the show.  It’s a very catchy tune.  I should probably thank the CBC for putting these concerts online.  It is a great opportunity to enjoy musicians I may not get out to see very often. I imagine if I lived somewhere like Moose Factory, where big musicians seldom go, I’d be even happier about the streaming COD’s.

We now have the first real cover of the night, because covering your mom’s music doesn’t count, Dis Quand Reviendras-Tu by French musician Barbara.  I have not heard the original yet, though I plan on checking out, but I am familiar with some French music.  This is a beautiful song featuring just Martha and piano.  The crowd seems deeply appreciative for this piece.

We finish up with what appears to be the whole family, in attendance, singing Factory. This has been a fun show, and I bet Montreal is the ideal place to see Martha.  This song shows off a lot of what makes Martha a highly entertaining musician.  It must’ve been cool to see the many talented singers together for this final song.  Once again the CBC has given us a fun and enjoyable concery.  Check it out if you’d like an hour or so of great music from one of Canada’s bright musical stars.

I’m In The Hearts Club Band

February 27, 2009

There’s a rush, when we touch.

Martha Wainwright

So Many Friends

It’s been awhile but it’s time for another CBC Radio 2 Concert on Demand Live Blog.  I have to admit I am more familiar with the work of Rufus Wainwright than that of his little sister Martha, but it is her December 12th, 2009 performance in Montreal that I am interested in today.  Being the daughter of two well known musicians, and the sister of another would cetainly aid in the career of a young singer-songwriter.  But Martha has certainly carved out a nice niche for herself away from the family.  In this concert we are apparently going to be blessed with an appearance by Kate McGarrigle, Martha’s mom, and her aunt Anna. There will also be some Christmas fare.  Let’s get to the music.

I Wish I Were gets us started with just Martha and an acoustic guitar. She is accompanied by a lot of yelling people in the crowd. She is beloved in Montreal (and a lot of other places). Her voice certainly reminds me of the great songstresses of the psychedelic and folk movements of the 60’s and 70’s.  It’s a classic sound that is beautiful and gritty all at the same time, like a tropical beach.  Indeed her voice overpowers anything her guitar does.  I can picture her prancing about the stage as she performs, though I’m not sure she actually does that, the song just gives the impression of a musician in motion.

Before Bleeding All Over You we get a nice little story about her travels and work en francais.  She must be in Montreal, a truly bilingual place. There are days when the cage doesn’t seem to open very wide at all. What a lovely line, I’ve had times like that.  Her songs are so whimsical, almost like they are blowing around in the breeze.  There is an interesting contrast between Martha’s voice and her backup singer Lily Lanken. I wish I could explain it but you’ll just have to listen yourself.

Coming Tonight starts out with a 50’s sci fi sound effect, and it occurs to me that Martha emits a sound that would be comfortable on vinyl.  I wonder if you can get her albums that way. She gets roaring applause for ending the song with coming tonight to my home town.

The drums kick off Hearts Club Band.  Martha is doing something musically that is a bit off the predominant indie, folk or pop modes of singing.  Although her songs would fit on a number of other band’s releases, Martha’s expressive singing is unique to her.  You’ve got the funniest smile I’ve ever seen.  This concert has already had a number of great lines and we are just getting warmed up. This song ends with some interesting use of apparently out of tune note combinations. I think it’s intentional. The value of that is the shock it causes our ears.

The crowd is excited about this one. It starts out like many  Dave Matthews Band song, but it’s So Many Friends.  This seems like a bitter sweet song, and I think Martha feels that way about it too.  I can’t make out every word because of the way she is almost cackling some lines.  I still love this vibe.  It’s just so different than other things out there, and in many ways reminiscent of an earlier sound.

Somewhat of a reminder that it’s Christmas, as the drums come up for Jesus and Mary.  This is a dark little song. It really should’ve been used in an episode of Due South. I love the atmosphere she creates, with dissonant guitar sounds. Rehersals must be a blast for this group. They seem like they love to play around in the music they are making.

I am going to wrap up Part I of this review with BMFA so look for Part II tomorrow.  Those letters stand for something I don’t want to publish on my blog, and are in reference to her father Loudon Wainwright III, who was apparently not a great dad.  I have no idea what that’s like because my dad rocks.  This is an angry song though, and Martha is not going to play around.

See How It Goes

January 9, 2009

Naked is as naked does.

Apostle of Hustle

The Naked and Alone

This is Part II of my look at Apostle of Hustle featuring Tanya Tagaq doing a CBC Radio 2 Concert on Demand. Part I is here. I guess as we roll into Jimmy Scott is the Answer Tanya is long gone.  I should listen to her set at some point and write more about it. This song has something to do with feeling better at someone else’s expense. I didn’t quite catch the whole story.  This is a discernible pattern to their songs, mainly that there is always a chance for soaring guitar work at somepoint in the song.  The current track is no exception, and in fact contains the most defineable guitar solo in the concert.

Folkloric Feel is one of my favourite Apostle of Hustle songs, and I doubt I’m alone in this. From the outset I highly enjoy this version. It opens with a fun jam session featuring lovely guitar work which suits the instrumental nature of the song. For a three piece they create a broad sound due to some fine guitar work, the use of effects, and the arrangement of the songs. The atmosphere of Folkloric Feel is indescribable. Perhaps it is reminiscent of the foggiest independent movie you’ve ever seen.

Next up we get The Naked and Alone. The drums are heavy in this song and it sounds like a cross between 70’s hard rock and more recent music.  In fact, this song seems more theatrical than the ones that were specifically written for the stage.  The middle of the song features a sample of two people talking over delayed guitar, followed by more meandering along the fretboard. In the 13 tracks in this performance the band covers both of their main albums, new material, and some side experiements. That is somewhat remakrable given the brevity of the set.

Haul Away, another track from National Anthem of Nowhere, starts with some latin inspired drums and more guitar meandering.  The lyrics start out like a fisherman calling to his underlings about the nets. That is the actual image I had in my brain.  Deep in my memory, an emptiness waits. This is a dark song, but would probably be right at home in a latin club somewhere.  Tanya is definitely back. It sounds like she is laughing, but she is actually singing in her distinctive style.  It mus have been a fascinating experience to blend together the sounds of the two groups.  The resulting music is almost indescribable. It is certainly cinematic in a way.  The sound coming from Tanya’s mouth almost seems supernatural.

Encore time! Time for another oldie, Song for Lorca comes from the debut album Folkloric Feel. This song has a dream like feeling to it.  Almost like floating in the air with a fuzzy view of the world.  Apostle of Hustle definitely succeeds in putting their listeners into a different headspace.  The drums here sounds almost missing, but still in the track.  Poetry came through this time.

The final song is Sleepwalking Ballad. Again, like most fans, this is a favourite.  Apostle of Hustle, for me, falls into the same musical realm as later Tragically Hip albums.  Although I prefer the formers music to the latter, they do share some tonal tendencies, if not an actual songwriting style or goals. I had all my fun in this world all I’ve got left is me.

Overall, this concert is entertaining and contains an otherworldly atmosphere. From the opening Improvisation to the last notes of Sleepwalking Ballad the audience is transported to another place for an hour or so.  It’s a shame to come back.

Paying Off A Crooked Cop

January 8, 2009

Haul away, haul away, haul away, haul away, haul away

Apostle of Hustle

Haul Away

On November 7, 2008 Apostle of Hustle along with Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq took the stage at the Glenn Gould Studio to record a live performance for CBC Radio 2. This is my “live blog” of the on demand version of the Apostle of Hustle half of the show.

I am familiar with the music of Apostle of Hustle but not Tanya Tagaq. The show begins with her signature throat singing style which is a little strange at first.  On it’s own it sounds like she is gagging at first, eventually morphing into a more pleasant sound.  The first ten minute track is entitled Improvisation, meaning that this singing is being made up as she goes.  As any child of the internet age would, I went immediately to Wikipedia to find out more about throat singing.  It may have originated in ancient Mongolia and traveled with the Inuit into the arctic.  Interestingly, it is normally done as a competition between two women with the winner determined by who can outlast the other.  Tanya Tagaq (find her music here) appears to be the only person practicing this style in a professional capacity as a solo artist.  She aspires to be like Bjork in that she is different from mainstream music, and she represents a specific group of people.  I have not had much to say about the first track because of its nature.  I think it is a unique exploration of two merging musical ideas, namely throat singing and indie rock in an improvised setting.  In some ways I imagine it is an homage to the traditional Inuit competition with the band in the role of competitor.

The second track is Baby, You’re In Luck.  It is jazzy (a loose term to use I know) and sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack of a dark film noir.  I can almost see the smoke rising from cigarettes in a dingy bar while two hitmen go about their business.

Next up is Xerxes a song that begins with an upbeat drum and guitar intro.  This song has its share of pop culture references. This is more of an indie rock song than the previous one.  Obviously “indie rock” is a ridiculously open ended term. I imagine I use it in the sense of guitar based songs with quirky vocals and harmonies that are good but not pop perfect. Of course synth instruments also have a role in a lot of indie songs, but I think you get the general idea.  The guitar tone in Xerxes is nicely off kilter.  To me, it’s the type of tone that fits in a Paul Simon solo song but that I would likely reject for use on my own album. I probably need to reconsider that.

Perfect Fit. Do you know about Apostle of Hustle? No? Well here is some info. Essentially, they are the brainchild of Andrew Whiteman of Broken Social Scene. He was inspired by the music of Cuba, and Apostle of Hustle grew out of that fascination.  I’m not as familiar with Cuban music as I might be, but I can definitely see the inspiration in a song like Perfect Fit.

How to Defeat a More Powerful Enemy is apparently about pamphlets falling from planes, inciting revolution. It starts out sounding like a Broken Social Scene song with sharp guitar lines and splashy drums. This is a new song for the band and I am always fascinated with how bands play new songs. They never seem quite right at first, probably because they don’t have the polish of tunes that have been around longer.  Generally, if you hear a band preview a new song that later shows up on an album, you will recognize it, but be happier about the change.  This track has a lot of potential, despite it’s goofy premise.

Cabaret Song was part of a theatrical project the band engaged in. They give the impression that the song after this one, Spirit Town, is also part of the same experiment.  This is a good song, the guitar is just right in the instrumental parts, but I wonder what this has to do with some kind of theatre production.  Spirit Town is a song “for the dancers.”  The drums do provide a suitable rhythm for moving at a slow pace. The guitar is U2-esque, playing around with delay a little bit. In fact, this song could be a U2 track.  Of course, if they did it, the vocals would be more overwhelming.  Whiteman is decidely understated.  I take it back, the song takes a turn into funky land at one point and abandons any connection to Irish rock.

That’s it for Part I, as usual Part II runs tomorrow.