Seeing Angel Olsen play Madrid is a bit like watching your childhood best friend meet the roommates: it’s beautiful, but sometimes you need to duck out of the room. Olsen is here, here being Europe, to promote Phases, 2017’s collection of folk/rock anthems that didn’t make it into her four previous albums. It’s a tour for the fans, who’ve filled the thousand seat theatre. She promises the crowd she’ll play any song we like. I catch myself wondering if anyone else is having an out-of-body experience. Like the Orpheum in San Francisco or Boston’s own Opera House, Madrid’s Calderon is capped with a neck-achingly beautiful ceiling and impossibly low-backed seats. The fluttering vibrato of Olsen’s voice in “Iota,” and even the power-ballad of “Never Be Mine” are swallowed up. Standing is difficult: the chairs, which are covered in dark velvet, keep everyone firmly anchored in place and exactly one arm-rest away from the nearest neighbor.
When I got there, late last Thursday night, the Sinclair had an unusually low-key energy. It kind of felt like the Powers That Be had pushed back Twain's stage time (they were opening for Darlingside) to do a late-night sound check, or like the venue had been delaying things with a recorded set list but the speakers had conked out. Even with the low audience hum, it was that quiet, and there was that little energy. And having listened to Twain’s label debut with Keeled Scales (Rare Feeling (2017), more info here) a few times through now, the reality of their live performance was awkward; I had been expecting the coherent, and (occasionally) profoundly listenable sound that defines tracks like "Solar Pilgrim" and "Freed from Doubt," and instead found myself struggling to follow along. I'm sympathetic, though; all it takes is a coffee house experience or two to know that it's really, profoundly hard for acoustic groups to command attention, when that attention isn’t already there.
The night began with The Star-Spangled Banner and a man in a black Morphsuit. The anthem, sung by concertgoer Kayla M. Salmon, was the highlight of an impromptu talent show hosted by Coast Modern, Tuesday night’s headliner in The Sinclair. This goofy, no-stakes “talent show” was the perfect icebreaker that seemed to forewarn the audience, “Don’t take anything you are about to see or hear too seriously.” And there’s nothing serious about Coast Modern.
From Los Angeles, Coast Modern is an indie pop band that sounds like they are from Los Angeles. Their music is an amorphous mixture of mischievous energy and dog-day lethargy. To hear this contradiction, listen to a track from their eponymous debut album released last year. The band consists of lead singer Coleman Trapp and guitarist Luke Atlas - who, by the way, was presumably the man in black spandex.
Moses Sumney isn’t taking interviews right now. But his manager is happy to put this writer and a photographer on the list for Sumney’s Monday performance at the Sinclair. Her message - or maybe it’s Sumney’s - seems pretty clear. Meet the musician through his music. Questions can come later. (Another possibility is that the Harvard Advocate isn’t exactly the sort of media outlet that Sumney, fresh from collaborations with Solange and Beck, and recent mastermind behind the genre-defying soul/folk/synth/choral creation that is Aromanticism, is going to entertain. But you can decide for yourself.) Anyway, we go. They are, after all, free tickets to a Moses Sumney concert.Live, Sumney embodies the same certainty that an interview refusal kind of implies. He jokes with the crowd, he heckles, he splits the audience of mostly-college students to self select into a two-part harmony by asking us whether or not we were rejected by Harvard College.
Earlier this year, Tank and The Bangas’ Tiny Desk contest-winning video went (deservedly) viral. NPR’s been hosting the concerts since 2008 (there had been 550, viewed a collective 80 million times as of November 2016), and the yearly contest is going on its fourth cycle now. But as much of an NPR fan-girl as I am Tank’s video is the first I remember watching the whole way through. Because, and maybe there’s no other way to put it, Tank, and The Bangas, are artists in a spectacularly new way.This past Thursday the group came up (they’re from and based in New Orleans) with Sweet Crude to play a gig at The Sinclair. Sweet Crude opened, starting exactly on time (and maybe I’m not going to enough Sinclair gigs but that has never happened to me, not once, not even within 15 minutes of the posted time) and right away had the half-full crowd completely rapt.
The end of the 2008 financial crisis marked the beginning of an agitated love-hate affair between Hollywood and Wall Street. Movies that satirized, maligned, or celebrated the exploits of the veiled “masters of the universe” became incredibly popular. Hollywood had found its new villain, and the following years saw the release of a string of movies like Margin Call (2011), Too Big to Fail (2011), and The Big Short (2015). Steve James’s new documentary, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, might be described as the anti-Big Short. It refuses to play into the tropes and excesses of its precursors. For one, it makes no attempt to glamorize the work of bankers or bamboozle the viewer into dumb awe with a barrage of inscrutable technical terms—CDS’s, MBS’s, tranches, and the like. Instead, the only source of the fantastic comes from the film’s very premise: Abacus is a profile of the only bank to have been criminally charged with mortgage fraud in the wake of 2008, and the family behind its operations.
"Make some noise if you wanna go to heaven.”When Chance the Rapper uttered this phrase about halfway through his set at Boston Calling, no one skipped a beat, the crowd roaring for everyone’s favorite friendly rapper. Pyrotechnics and massive screens began to roll as he transitioned into yet another immensely catchy and soulful song from his hit-studded repertoire. In front of the stage, beach balls flew and a sea of arms glistening with wristbands bobbed slightly off beat. All eyes focused on Chance. As he ran and jumped across the stage, it was hard not to revel at his fervor and knack for crowd engagement. But if college has taught me anything, it is to immediately transform my natural revelry into analytical impetus. And as a Religious Studies major, I couldn’t help but take a step back to look at the precedent and undertones of Chance’s massive performance.
Men Without Women By Haruki Murakami Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen 228 pp. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. $25.95 In his new book Men Without Women, Haruki Murakami tells the stories of seven heartbroken men to explore the condition of solitude—of being a Men Without Women, which the titular story insists is “always a relentlessly frigid plural.” The fidelity of the stories to this central theme is tight and precise, giving the collection an overall feel similar to one of the “days” in the Decameron—if, instead of the plague-ridden Italian countryside, the aching lovers roamed across Murakami’s melancholic Tokyo. In Murakami’s treatment, solitude emerges as a chronic condition whose incurability stifles the possibility of action.
We have run out of cinematic heroes. All we have left are entrepreneurs. Tired of watching movies about Steve Jobs? This time you can see one about Ray Kroc. Who is Ray Kroc? Ray Kroc is nobody. He’s an idea. A Placeholder. How do we know this? His character is plastic. He has misgivings, but they are only intimations. He drinks too much, he tramples his fellow man, he estranges his wife. Does he lament these qualities? We do not know. Does he desire like a man desires? Surely not. His are the desires of capital: expansion, accumulation, domination – never demonstrated within the experience of his person, but only suggested in the rabidity of Keaton’s eyes, the frenetics of his motion: skewed bites of burger, zigzagging approaches to golf partners, quasi-humping of the hood of the McDonald brothers’ car.
O journeyer, deaf in the mould, insane with violent travel & death: consider me in my cast, your first son. Would you were I by now another one, witted, legged? I see you before me plain (I am skilled: I hear, I see)Dream Song #42The first time I read the Dream Songs, I treated it like something that would help me know, something. Something something something - something about fathers and sons, about life on earth, life after, the glory of God, or an obsession that could replace it. Looking back, it was foolish of me to read poetry and expect knowledge, to go searching for enlightenment like a Leader could show the Student the answers that would get rid of pain. The Dream Songs didn’t do any of that for me, but what they did instead was rip all of it open.The book is Berryman’s weapon, the tool he uses to dig far into every potential answer to reveal the sublime chaos beneath it all: God is your father, who is not a thing but is the sky, the road, the path towards death and back.
“Numbers Stations” transmit recordings on shortwave radio frequencies that loop periodically into infinity. These recordings, bouncing and caroming off the atmosphere, can be heard from any location on earth and their source cannot be traced. Messages began to appear on these frequencies during World War I, and their content was mysterious and diverse: a female voice reciting strings of numbers in Czech, a child’s voice singing in German, a short, disembodied melody played by an old music box. The recordings, it was discovered, were encrypted messages for the purpose of espionage. To this day, we are unable to decode many of the messages, nor do we know their senders nor their recipients. These looped recordings are compiled in The Conet Project, whose website promises to send an authentic Roman coin to anybody who successfully cracks one of the codes.