In this book, Amal is listening to Sigur Rós and TJ says “Sounds like nature vomiting.” This is not a totally inaccurate description of the band, but I mean it in a good way. Weaver says one of her friends described the band this way and while she disagrees, she thought the quote was too good not to include. This was Sigur Rós’s first well-distributed album (and the one that shot them into the stratosphere.)
The disc opens with “Intro” (it’s funny to think of a 9 minute symphonic track as needing an intro, but there ya go). I believe the song is backwards music. The vocals may be backwards, but it’s so hard to tell. It morphs into “Svefn-g-englar” which is just stunning (and reviewed a few days ago). ”Starálfur” opens with a beautiful string section over some washes of keyboards. It’s a pretty melody. Then the middle of the song switches to what sounds like an unplugged electric guitar strumming. The “solo” is a big string section, and the song ends abruptly with more of the unplugged guitar. It’s an amazingly different kind of song.
“Flugufrelsarinn” opens with noisy guitars that don’t sound like guitars. Although overall this is the most conventional songs. It’s got a steady beat and Jonsi’s vocals are mixed pretty loud and (relatively) deep. ”Ný batterí” opens with quiet horns for 90 seconds. Then a bass line emerges. At 2:30 the vocals kick in and the song builds gentle swells until the really loud drums kick in–its a great use of drums for drama. “Hjartað hamast (bamm bamm bamm)” opens with a harmonica and a Hammond organ! It’s got drums and loud guitars with lots of bass and, again, Jonsi’s more growly vocals—there’s unexpected diversity in sound for this track. Especially when the guitars roar into distorted crackling.
“Viðrar vel til loftárása” was also reviewed with the above single. “Olsen Olsen” opens with distant vocals and drums then some very loud bass guitar. “Ágætis byrjun” is a mellow ballad, with acoustic piano and guitars. There’s nothing over the top or dramatic about the song, it’s a pretty standard ballad (except that it’s 7 minutes long). And it works as a perfect ending to the disc. There is actually a final track called “Avalon.” It is electronics and other noises—a clear denouement for the record.
This is an amazing statement of what the band is all about. It’s over 71 minutes, and the shortest song is 6:46, except for Avalon and Intro (4:01 and 1:36 respectively). And they would perfect this palate over their next several albums.
[READ: September 24, 2013] The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal Volume 1
This book came across my desk the other day and I was instantly attracted to the style of drawing. And then I read the summary: “In one night Amal calls off his arranged marriage, comes out to his parents, goes on a bender and wakes up next to a dreadlocked guy named TJ. Who says they’ve agreed to travels across the country together.” Who could pass that up?
And man, is it an enjoyable story.
I was right about the art, E.K. Weaver is a masterful artist, conveying a great range of emotion with her characters. She also has an excellent rendering skill for places and locations. The streets and highways are recognizable and the occasional scenes of nature are very pretty as well.
But I was also won over by the story. It opens with Amal storming out of the house, heading to a bar in Berkeley and blacking out. When he wakes up, a white, dreadlocked, hippie dude is making eggs in his kitchen and smoking. Amal is confused about the guy, pleased about the eggs and pissed about the smoking. But he has too much else going on for him to worry too much about this guy who seems nice enough, and obviously didn’t kill him or steal from him (although Amal has to confirm that they didn’t have sex).
And then TJ, for that is the dreadlocked man’s name, explains that they are both heading east (Amal’s sister is graduating from Brown and TJ keeps mentioning Graceland, but that doesn’t seem to be where he is going) and last night Amal agreed to drive him if TJ paid for everything. TJ proves to be very cool about it—allowing Amal to back out if he wants to, but Amal says he’ll do it. He gets some stuff together and off they go.
On the road trip we learn a bit about Amal—how his parents arranged his marriage and have now disowned him because he is gay. We don’t learn very much about TJ though. And while he seems to be on the up and up—he indeed pays for everything and is very generous, there are some shifty-eyed moments where we know something is unusual with the guy. Continue Reading »