Blogs tagged with "review"

Last night I had the great fortune to see my favorite comedian, Demetri Martin, live at Kent State University. I've been a Demetri Martin fan ever since the first time I saw him on YouTube doing a video for a song called "Selfish Jean" by Travis. Almost completely by accident that same week, I caught his stand up special called "Demetri Martin - Person" on Comedy Central. I was hooked immediately.

When people ask me to describe Demetri Martin's comedy, the only thing I can come up with is "Steven Wright with props," -- and then I wonder if that's an old-person reference. Does anyone still know who Steven Wright is? I'm guessing most of Demetri Martin's fans have not heard of him. Why? Because most of Demetri's fans weren't born when Steven Wright was popular. And they packed the Mac Center in Kent last night. I was acutely aware of being the oldest person in the building. Even the people I was with, my husband Jim and my good friend Elizabeth, were younger than me. Despite the fact that Demetri's is closer to 40 than 30 (although he looks more like 20), most of his fans are of a generation that demonstrate their enthusiasm by getting tattoos of him on their bodies (I am NOT making this up). One such fan had the pleasure of showing hers to the entire audience last night at Demetri's request. But it didn't matter how old anyone was last night -- Demetri made EVERYONE laugh.
Last night was my third time seeing Demetri live, and he was as funny as he's ever been. I was happy to see that every time I looked over at Elizabeth, a Demetri Martin virgin, she was laughing out loud. He did all the standards: the "Large Pad" (jokes that involve visual representation), the jokes with keyboard and guitar, and some new stand-up jokes. One of the funniest things he's doing lately is showing the audience a bunch of flyers that he made to put up in the local businesses or coffee shops. The photo to the left shows one of these flyers -- it says "I can see you right now. Call me to prevent me from getting you" but all the phone number tags are torn off. These are not just props. They're witty props. And oh my God! You have to know how to READ. Maybe that's why Demetri is so popular on college campuses.
The mark of a good comedian, in my opinion, is one who can develop a rapport with each and every audience no matter where he is. Demetri does this right from the start of every show by surveying his surroundings and making jokes about them. Last night, upon learning from the Kent State students that their main rival was Akron -- whose mascot is "a kangaroo" -- he cleverly noted the absurdity of it: "don't they know there are no marsupials in North America?"

But by far, my favorite part of a live Demetri show is the last 15 minutes or so when he "takes requests" from the audience. People shout out their favorite jokes and he performs them. Seriously? A stand-up comedian who takes requests? Even Demetri looks surprised when people shout out jokes he may not have done in a while. He even screws them up once in a while. And then laughs out loud at his own blunders. Elizabeth loved how he sometimes can't help himself and laughs at his own jokes. And isn't that what comedy is all about?

I'm going to switch gears from writing about training to talk about one of my other passions - MUSIC. To know me is to know how music is a huge part of my life. And I'm lucky to share my love of music with my husband Jim -- although our sonic tastes sometimes diverge, we have mutual appreciation of similar genres and we can depend on one another for support in road tripping it to concerts whenever possible.

To know me is also to know about my passion for UK musicians Turin Brakes. Calling me a "fan" doesn't even begin to describe it. Thus, I fear that writing a review of their new album, "Outbursts," will come across as just another gushing fanatic doing her thing. But I'm going to do it anyway and include a little history so that maybe one of my readers will consider taking a listen when they're perusing the shelves (or web pages) in a search of new music.
To me, Turin Brakes defies simple classification. Some people call them folk. Some call them pop. Some say rock or alt-rock. I say: stop and listen. Listen to the pain-inducing slide guitar and unique guitar picking. Listen to the spine-tingling harmonies... and that VOICE. Then, tell me this isn't some kind of singular undefinable genre. Oh, there are critics. I'll never forget reading a review of their epic song "Long Distance" in which it was described as sounding like two people arguing in a thunderstorm. It was obvious that the reviewer was grasping at the genius of the song and describing it as a negative thing.
My first contact with Turin Brakes was in 2002 when they supported David Gray in Newcastle, England. My life was forever changed with the first note of opener "Blue Hour." By the end of their set, I was having trouble breathing and could no longer stand from weakness in my knees. Never before had I experienced as strong an emotional or physical reaction to music. And to this day, their album "Ether Song" still has the power to eliminate anxiety for me. It was my constant companion in mid-2003 during endless nights of pain while recovering from being hit by a truck on my bike.
"Outbursts," Turin Brakes' fifth studio album, comes as an indie release on Cooking Vinyl. Many reviews are saying it's a return to what they do best, i.e., what they did on their first album, "The Optimist LP," and what my good friend Andy describes as the "intimacy of two guys playing guitars in a room." Although I "get" what they mean, I don't think Turin Brakes ever lost what made their music so unique and beautiful. As all great bands do, Turin Brakes grew and progressed and explored their sound in each subsequent album. And what I believe they've come 'round to is how to create their own particular brand of intimacy in their music -- I think that's what makes their sound what it is and how people best identify with it.
The first time I heard "Outbursts," I had a singular thought -- every song sounds like a movie soundtrack - not a song "from" a soundtrack, but the actual soundtrack itself. In my mind's eye, I could even see a flickering film reel for each of the 12 little standalone movies. This doesn't surprise me, as I remember reading that the origin of Turin Brakes was with singer Olly Knights, a film school student, enlisting childhood friend and fellow musician, Gale Paridjanian, to collaborate on a film. Perhaps another manifestation of their recent "back to basics" approach?
As I listened to "Outbursts" many more times, I came to realize that this album is a statement of maturity in finding that natural songwriting state -- the one that (probably) accidentally thrust them into the limelight all those years ago. As I already mentioned, with this album, they recreate the intimacy and immediacy of two guys with guitars -- with amazing voices and unique harmonies. Each song has a personality and style all its own, and none of them go in an expected direction. Yet, every song is typical "Turin Brakes" -- it sounds like an oxymoron, but I can't come up with another way to describe it. The first song, "Sea Change," and last, "Outbursts," are like bookends to the TB sound -- the first is a virtuoso musical piece, the other, a light calm-inducing love song. It's a very wide range and yet still "theirs."
I won't bore people with a song-by-song exploration of the album, but I'll give a few observations. "Rocket Song" continues the ever-present theme in their music of the fascination with flight. The song truly "feels" like a rocket launch. There's also that age-old thing about their lyrics -- where "you think you know what he's talking about... but not really." "Outbursts" contains great Turin Brakes lyrics that are just on the edge of comprehendible comfort. I've also noticed that they have embraced sweeping apocalyptic themes on this album, evident in songs "Sea Change" and "Embryos" -- and (obviously) "Apocolips." At the moment, my personal favorite is "Radio Silence" -- I have no explanation as to why, it just is. But, as is noted in "Will Power," "this will change." And with Turin Brakes, THAT is something we can be sure of -- and, to my delight, it will always sound just like Turin Brakes.
For more, please check out Turin Brakes web site. And here are some videos I took at a 2009 Turin Brakes gig in London.
New Single, Sea Change and what I like to call the "claymation evolution video":

I'm going to switch gears from writing about training to talk about one of my other passions - MUSIC. To know me is to know how music is a huge part of my life.

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