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silentSOUNDTRACK: HOSPITAL SHIPS-Tiny Desk Concert #177 (November 23, 2011).

hospital shipsHospital Ships is a band created by Jordan Geiger, who was in the band Shearwater, among others. In 2011 he released his second album as Hospital Ships.  The blurb describes the album as “packed with poppy folk songs and brash rockers enhanced with instrumental flourishes and bursts of guitar feedback,” but for this recording, they strip everything down to the basics: a guitar, banjo, ukulele and a drum with a towel over it to muffle the sound.

Geiger has a rather high-pitched, delicate, almost talking-singing voice and his songs are rather pretty.  The band plays 3 songs in just over ten minutes.  The first one, “Phantom Limb,” (once my lover, now my friend, you are my phantom limb) has a recurring motif of them saying/singing “ha ha” which is rather catchy.

“Carry On,” features a four-letter word (technically a seven letter word), which might be one of the first times on a Tiny Desk Concert that such a word is uttered.  It’s especially funny given how sweet the band sounds.  The sentiment of the song is nice though: “To all the women I’ve loved, When I was with you I would say I was better off….  And when I’m gone, carry on, carry on.”  There were harmonies in the first song, but they are more prominent in this one (three part) and are quite nice.  The banjo player also does a whistling solo.

“Let Me In” made me laugh because he uses the word baby a lot (which Ben Folds said in his Tiny Desk that he has never said in real life, so why would he put in it a song?).  But this song is very gentle and sweet–just Geiger on his guitar singing “baby, let me in.”

Geiger’s voice reminds me of a few different people–Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie especially on the final track; perhaps the Mountain Goats or the Weakerthans.  And his songwriting is very good.

[READ: December 26, 2015] Silent But Deadly

I really enjoyed the first Liō collection, and was pretty excited that i could find the second collection so quickly (my library doesn’t have any more collections for some reason, so I’ll have to track the rest down elsewhere.

Not much has changed from that book to this one, but I think Tatulli’s comic chops have gotten even better.

The strip won me over immediately with the first one in the book. Lio draws a monster and it comes to life.  He looks at the marker and it says “magic marker” and he gets a big grin and goes back to work.  So simple yet so funny.

It is that big grin–wide open-mouthed just unfettered mischievous delight that occurs in nearly every strip. Continue Reading »

lio1 SOUNDTRACK: JOE HENRY-Tiny Desk Concert #176 (November 21, 2011).

joe henryI had never heard of Joe Henry, so imagine my surprise to find out that he was releasing his 12th album in 2011.  For this Tiny Desk, it’s just him at a stool playing his guitar.  He has a very easy vibe, telling stories between songs and playing them with very little fuss.

He opens the show by saying this is, “not exactly like Woody Guthrie playing for the union members but you are working people.”

He plays four songs, “Sticks and Stones,” After the War,” “Odetta” and “Piano Furnace.”

Between the first two songs, he says he first became aware of Tiny Desk Concerts when his friend Vic Chesnutt was on the show (amusingly, he was the second person on the show).  He says he has a song on his new record about Chesnutt (Chesnutt had recently died).  He doesn’t play it though.  At first it seems like he might not be allowed to play it, but then it seems like maybe he just doesn’t get to it.

Rather he plays “After the War” where his guitar sounds like it has an incredible echo on it.  That echo is also present on the third song.  After which Bob asks him about his guitar.

Joe says he’s had the guitar for 6 years.  But the guitar dates back to 1932.  He says that he heard things differently with this guitar.  It’s got a smaller body and was actually sold as a budget guitar by Gibson (for $19 in 1932).  He also jokes that it’s black and looks a bit like a World Wrestling Federation belt.

Then someone asks him about Sam Phillips.  Joe says he sold her husband a guitar about 20 years ago.  She and her husband have split and Sam got the guitar and has been playing only that guitar for the last 20 years.  He says that he loves that she doesn’t plug in her guitar.  She plays into a microphone where you can hear the whole guitar and which makes the other players lean in to hear her.

I love the chords he plays in the final song, “Piano Furnace,” even if I don’t know what the song is about.  Henry’s voice is familiar.  I think he sounds a bit like a number of different singers.  And overall, nothing really stands out in his performance, except that everything sounds great and hiss songwriting is really solid.  That’s not a bad thing.

[READ: December 20, 2015] Happiness is a Squishy Cephalopod

Mark Tatulli is the author of the Desmond books.  I liked the stories, but I didn’t love the drawing style so much.  Imagine my surprise to find out that Tatulli has been drawing comics featuring this little boy Liō since 2007 (going forward, I’m leaving off that line over the o, because it’s a real pain).

And even more surprising is that I like the drawing style in the comic quite a bit–it is slightly refined over the Desmond books and is all the better for it.

I am also really surprised to find out that this strip appeared in newspapers across the country.  I’ve certainly never heard of it (but then I don’t read newspapers anymore, either).

So Lio is strip about a boy named Lio.  Lio is a dark, dark kid.  He has a pet squid, he loves monsters and he’s delighted by chaos. Continue Reading »

spacedump SOUNDTRACK: YO-YO MA, EDGAR MEYER, CHRIS THILE AND STUART DUNCAN-Tiny Desk Concert #175 (November 17, 2011).

yoyoYo-Yo Ma might be the most well-known cellist in the world.  I suspect that everyone has heard of him.  But it’s likely that people don’t know just how diverse his musical range is.  As the NPR blurb says:

He’s reached out to a broad range of musicians (and Muppets) to play not just Bach and Beethoven, but also Brazilian samba, Argentine tango, jazz, songs from Sesame Street and a smorgasbord of Asian music with his Silk Road Ensemble. American roots music also figures into Ma’s melting pot: He teamed up with double-bass master Edgar Meyer and fiddler Mark O’Connor 15 years ago for the gentle new-grass album Appalachian Waltz.

For this 2011 venture called The Goat Rodeo Sessions, he has created another Americana album, this time with mandolin master (and multiple Tiny Desk Concert player) Chris Thile.  Meyer is back on double bass and they have added Stuart Duncan on fiddle.

I can honestly say I never expected to see Yo-Yo Ma on a song called “Quarter Chicken Dark” but there he is, playing along as Thile begins the song on the mandolin.  The cello, fiddle and bass are all bowed so, despite the mandolin, the song feels a bit more classical (Thile has also made classical music on the mandolin, so the pairing actually makes a lot of sense).  I think Thile comes off as the star of this song with a wild solo in the middle.

For “Attaboy,” the mandolin starts the song again, but pretty quickly the strings dominate.  There’s a beautiful opening by Ma and a great fiddle interplay in which Duncan hints at the big Irish section he’s going to play.  There’s some wonderful fast mini solos from all of the instruments, including the bass, and then the whole song switches to a jig with Duncan playing a very Irish riff while Duncan and Ma keep the low notes coming.   Incidentally, I believe that Thile and Duncan are playing the exact same solo by the end, which sounds great.  But it’s watching Yo-Yo Ma’s fingers and bow move so fast that is really amazing.

For the final song “Here and Heaven” Aoife O’Donovan joins them on vocals.  And for a chance of pace Duncan switches from fiddle to banjo.  (Although mid way through the song he switches back to fiddle).  Donovan and Thile sing the song together.  On the first verse they are a little too quiet.  But once they start belting out they are fine.  This song is catchy and fun and the vocals really do change the feel of their music.

It’s clear that these accomplished musician are having a lot of fun together.  Meyer and Ma actually wave to each other during the second song, and Thile makes lots of little jokes.  And when he introduces Aoife, it’s funny to hear Yo-Yo Ma cheer like a little kid.

While Yo-Yo Ma if probably the most famous musician here, I like them all, and I’ll honestly listen to Thile do anything.

[READ: August 29, 2012] Space Dumplins

Craig Thompson has created a pretty diverse collection of books.  From the serious and beautiful Habibi, to the weird-looking and sad Goodbye Chunky Rice to this trippy sci-fi story.

The story is about Violet Marlocke, a young girl who lives out in a space trailer park.  Her father is a space lumberjack (whatever that means) and her mom is a seamstress.  They are poor but pretty happy, and that’s okay by Violet, since family is everything to her.

But as the book opens we learn that space whales (okay, I’ll stop putting “space” before everything, because he doesn’t) have just eaten her school.  The whales have been rampaging all of the planets in the area. At first Violet is happy to have no school but her parents have to do something with her.  So her mom brings her to work at Shell-tar where they try to see if she can enroll in the state of the art school there.  She can’t because her dad has a criminal record (and he’s opposed to the fancy school anyway).

While Violet is looking around, she meets Elliot Marcel Ophennorth, a small chicken who is incredibly smart (and has visions of the future).  We also meet Zacchaeus, the last Lumpkin in the world. He works at the dump.  Violet quickly befriends them both, although they don’t all get along very well at first.

Two things then happen pretty quickly back home.  Violet and her dad buy an old piece of junk space bike to fix up and Violet’s dad takes on a dangerous job to make some more money. Continue Reading »

sleazeSOUNDTRACK: MARKETA IRGLOVA-Tiny Desk Concert #174 (November 10, 2011).

marketaMarketa Irglova came to the world’s attention in the film Once, where she duetted with Glen Hansard.  They formed The Swell Season and made some beautiful music together.  But he has another band and she has done some solo work, like in this Tiny Desk.  Incidentally, watch the video, but listen to the audio.  For some reason the sound in the video is all wonky and weird, but the audio is fine.

This concert is a little surprising because Irglova plays a synth, rather than a piano, and she is accompanied by Iranian singer-percussionist Aida Shahghasemi whom she met in New York.  And Shahghasemi and her drum (called a daf) are actually a bit more interesting than Irglova.

Irglova has a nice voice, and I have really enjoyed a lot of her music, but I found these songs to be a little long and a little undramatic.  However, once you accept that she’s not going for drama, these songs are mellow and lovely.

The opening song, “We Are Good,” has an interesting main riff on the keyboard and her voice blends nicely with the music.  The end section has a very nice melody as it builds and builds.  But as I mentioned, it the daf that is so fascinating.  The drum itself looks like an Irish bodhran (or any other hand-held drum, I suppose), except it has a much bigger diameter and is very thin.  It also has a series of dangling items on the inside, which bring about a lot more percussive qualities.

“Dokhtar Goochani” is a traditional Iranian song sung in Farsi.  Shahghasemi sings the song while Irglova plays.  With the keyboard, the song doesn’t really sound very Middle Eastern until Irglova joins in on harmony vocals in the chorus, when it takes on a very cool quality.  And the drum and percussive sounds in the middle are really enticing.

After this song, Shahghasemi talks a bit about her drum and says that it can be much louder than she’s playing it here.  It’s a traditional Kurdish drum with “jangles” which she explains is usually made of goatskin, but this one is synthetic because the humidity doesn’t affect it as much.

The final song, “Let Me Fall In Love” is about the idea of being in love, with lyrics that are a bit didactic, but whatever.  I really like the middle section where the two women harmonize quite beautifully.  But again the song is a little long.

[READ: October 25, 2015] Sleaze Castle

The cover of this book is crazy.  The full title appears to be:

Markosia/Gratuitous Bunny Comix
Sleaze Castle : The Director’s Cut
Part Zero: “Tales from Sleaze Castle”
Reprinting “Takes from Sleaze Castle” #1-#4
Screenplay by Terry Wiley & Dave McKinnon  Art Direction by Terry Wiley

And then a drawing of a woman with what looks like a magic wand and another woman standing by watching her.

And then there’s a whole list of “Starring” (these names are actually characters in the stories)
and then Film Sound Track Album by MWOWM available on Gratuitous Bunny Audio #GBA3

That’s a lot to take in and it made me wonder if the comic would be that busy.  And it is.  This book is a wonder to behold.  Self published in 1992, this book is just chock full of story, with an astonishing amount of detail included in the drawings–nods to other comics, musical appreciation and all kinds of fun things to look at.  It took me a pretty long time to read this because there was just so much to see and read.  It was a lot of fun.  Even if the plot was a little confusing.

This book collects the original books and adds material (which is not at the end of the story necessarily (so art quality varies).

The book opens on a planet far away.  A blonde woman is talking about the trip she will take which will last for ten minutes their time.

Then we jump to the Prologue set in Jo’s house.  Her sister Petra is giving her a hard time.  Jo wants to take her watchman to school (she is a film studies graduate student) but it was Petra’s new present.  So they are fighting of course.  The amazing detail starts here with books on Jo’s shelves and all manner of other things to look at. Continue Reading »

witoy SOUNDTRACK: JUANES-Tiny Desk Concert #172 (November 3, 2011).

Juanes is a Colombian superstar (he’s really juanesquite hunky).  This performance consists of Juanes singing and playing electric guitar (mostly solos) and his accompanist playing acoustic guitar.

The blurb says that he usually plays arenas and large venues, so it’s a treat to see him up close like this.  He was in town to receive an award from the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.

His voice is great and powerful and while he is singing in Spanish, his phrasings don’t sound Spanish at all.  Perhaps its the blend of Colombian roots-folk and rock ‘n’ roll.

“Hoy Me Voy” begins with some acoustic guitar playing and Juanes singing.  It’s a bouncy and upbeat folk song.  And while I don’t understand the words, I feel like I can make sense of the song.

For “Yerbatero” he opens the song with a guitar riff while the other guy plays percussive chords.  The “yeaaaaaaaaaaaah” section is catchy in any language.  And the solo he plays is pretty fun.  There’s also a fairly wild guitar solo near the end of the song.

“La Camisa Negra” was requested by someone in the audience–it was one of his bigger hits.  Juanes plays a cool intro riff (and some complex chords) before launching into the song proper.  I love the middle section with the warm guitars and catchy vocals that counter the staccato verses.

[READ: September 24, 2015] Wars in Toyland

There have been many books about toys coming to life, but I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like this before.

And the artwork is so good that it made the whole story even more compelling.

This book is geared towards YA readers and I can see why… although there’s no bad words (one “bastard”), the subject is very dark.  As it opens we see that young Matthew’s brother Adam is missing.  There’s even Missing posters on the fridge (it’s pretty dark).  Matthew and Adam used to play war with their toys all the time (I love the way the toy soldiers are drawn).

But now that Adam is missing Matthew doesn’t feel like playing war anymore.  And that’s when the toys drag Adam into the toy box and into Toyland, where things are very bad indeed. Continue Reading »

stroppy SOUNDTRACK: LISA HANNIGAN-Tiny Desk Concert #171 (October 29, 2011).

lisahI thought that Lisa Hannigan’s name sounded familiar, but given this Tiny Desk Concert, I’m going to assume I had never heard her before.

Hannigan has a really interesting voice–kind of deep and raspy but with splashes of falsetto.  It’s really pretty.

And she plays a variety of instruments.

For “Knots” it is just her and her large ukulele (and she gets a remarkably full sound out of that tiny 4 stringed instrument).

It’s between songs that you notice her accent as she welcomes John Smith to accompany her.  Lisa switches to guitar as well.  It’s interesting that she plays a similar picking style on the guitar which of course just sounds bigger.  The two guitars play very nicely off of each other.  This song is a bit quieter, with her singing most of it in a whisper that makes you want to lean in to hear more.

Before the third song, “Passenger” Bob asks if she’d like to stay the whole day.  She says yes with all of the lovely tea. Bob says there’s plenty and she jokes “Not for long once I get going.”

John needs to tune his guitar, “it was in tune when I bought it,” and Lisa switches to a mandolin.  The high notes of the mandolin work perfectly with her deeper voice.  She shows off a powerful side with some of the sections of this song and the guitar adds some nice bass notes to the music.  For the middle section, Smith sings low harmonies and they both sing louder than before.  It’s a great transition in this song.  And she hits some lovely high notes as well.

Hannigan came to people’s attention while working with Damien Rice.  Then she put out two solo albums.  But she hasn’t put out anything since (except one-off songs).  That’s a shame, I’d love to hear more.

[READ: July 30, 2015] Stroppy

I don’t know anything about Marc Bell, although his art looks very familiar.  The telltale sign is that every character has white eyes which look a bit like capsules.  This book is put out by Drawn & Quarterly and while I thought his art looked familiar, it could just be a D&Q aesthetic.

This story is pretty bonkers.  Stroppy works for Monsieur Mustache at the remote villager processing plant.  In this plant, small villagers who look a bit like Minons (yellow capsules) have their brains removed an a new brain inserted, turning them into security guards and other roles. But then there’s a visitor.  A large shirtless man comes through the tiny opening clogging up the works.

His name is Sean and he has come to put up posters for The All-Star Schnauzer band Song Contest (meanwhile, the villagers are piling up in Stroppy’s work area.

Monsieur Mustache arrives, fires Stroppy and then, upon hearing about the song contest, he Hires Sean, in hopes of buying him off.  Turns out Monsieur is a pretty evil dude (and his songs are just as bad). Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: April 28, 2016] Pearl Jam

pjphilyWells Fargo Center is becoming one of my favorite venues.  Not because the acoustics are so good (although they are pretty good), but because now I’ve seen three of my favorite concerts there: Rush, Muse and now Pearl Jam.

I’ve been a fan of Pearl Jam for nearly their entire 25 years of existence.  I loved their first few albums, lost my way a bit in the late 1990s and then came back big time in 2001 when I enjoyed listening to their Live bootleg series.   Their live shows sounded amazing–super long, playing different songs every night–and making all of their songs sound more alive than on record.  They just sounded amazing.

And yet I had never seen them.  I should probably have gone on the 2003 tour but didn’t.  And then I met Sarah and Pearl Jam was one of her favorite bands, but she’d never seen them either.  Since we’ve been married they’ve toured near us 6 times.  We had some excuses of little babies for a couple of those tours, but we should have certainly gone in 2013.

Well, here it is, their 25th anniversary tour and Sarah and I finally got to see them.  And, although I do wish we’d gone before, was it ever worth the wait. Continue Reading »

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