The Both is a mini-supergroup of sorts featuring Aimee Mann and Ted Leo. I don’t know too much about Ted Leo, but I do know a lot about Aimee Mann. I was curious to hear what these two sounded like together (this Tiny Desk was recorded before their album was released and was one of their first public performances together).
They play four songs, and I feel like they sound very much like Aimee Mann songs. I never thought of Aimee Mann as having a terribly distinctive voice, but I guess she does. And her voice and melody lines over these simple songs sounds very much like her own. Since I don’t know much about Ted Leo, I don’t know exactly what he adds to the songwriting. His voice is good (he can hit some high notes) and his guitar playing is minimal but very effective.
“You Can’t Help Me Now” sounds a lot like an Aimee Mann song, so it’s nice to hear Ted come in on the second verse, to change it up a bit. “Milwaukee” sounds a lot like a Beautiful South song to me–the way the verses are sung and the way the chorus comes in, there’s just something that sounds very much like the way Paul Heaton writes songs (this is a good thing). “No Sir” is a rather different song from the others. It features some great echoey guitars to open and has a loud ringing guitar solo. The verses still sound like Aimee Man (that has to be unavoidable), but the choruses change things up.
“The Gambler” sounds like a jointly written song. It’s a bit more raucous and highlights both of their strengths. Overall, the music isn’t the most exciting but I’m not really sure what else would have come out of this pairing. Obviously, if you like Aimee Mann, you’ll like The Both.
What’s most interesting to me is seeing Aimee Mann play–she is so causal (she barely changes expression and hardly opens her mouth when she sings) and she stands up so straight and calm. Check it out here.
[READ: June 26, 2014] Animal Crackers
I’ve mentioned Gene Luen Yang’s books before–I’m very fond of him. So I was thrilled to see a new book by him. Except that this isn’t new, my library just happened to get it now. This book was published by Slave Labor Graphics in 2010, but these stories are much older than that. In fact, the back of the book has a note from Gene in which he explains that the first chapter of this book was actually the first story he ever created.
And what a story it is.
The book is actually three interlocking stories. Two longer stories: “Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks” and “Loyola Chin and the San Peligran Order.” And a brief interlude called “Sammy the Baker and the M.A.C.” You know they are interlocking because Gordon appears in the Loyola story (and because they both stick cable TV cables up their nose at some point), and because Sammy appears in the Gordon story.
In the first story Gordon is a bully. He and his buddy Devon find the King of the Geeks each year in school and “crown” him (with super glue and old underpants). They think this is very funny and plan to do some more devious things to him later that day. Of course, when Miles, King of the Geeks gets home, his mother is very upset (naturally) and plans to call the police. But the only thing that he cares about is his father. Whose only comment is to wonder how he wound up with such a sissy son.
Gordon wakes up in the middle of the night with a pain in his nose. It turns out to be a space alien (the aliens learned that humans use so little of their brains that they can store data in our brains for use later). The only way that Gordon can help with this problem is by sticking the coaxial cable in his nose. Which he does. And the little alien dude explains what he has to do. Which is, of course to go to the King of the Geeks (whose brain they are also using) to find the instructions for how to evict the spaceship. But as they try to exchange the proper information, Gordon gets all of the Geek King’s memories. And suddenly he feels really bad about what happened.
In Chapter Two we realize just how much of an ass Miles’ dad is (perhaps a bit too much really). Later, Gordon comes over and says he needs to get Miles’ memories out of his head. They try some things, but eventually a bump on the head releases the memories which go flooding into the animal crackers box that Gordon carries around with him (he loves animal cracker). The Crackers come to life and man are they mad.
Gordon says they should go to meet a baker, Sammy, who has had experience with crazy pastries. Sammy says that they are alive because of hate and that Miles needs to forgive someone before the hate builds up too much.
There are some very deep issues at hand here, but with the help of a magical donut our protagonists are able to work through…some of them. The story ends a little abruptly but it is quite a solid story.
“Sammy the Baker and the M.A.C.” is the history of Sammy and why he has experience with crazy pastries. It’s a rather funny little piece.
“Loyola Chin and the San Peligran Order” is the final story in the book. The San Peligran Order was in Gordon’s story (they were the guys in his nose). After experimenting with crazy foods, Loyola has a dream about a man on a mountain whose name is Saint Danger. They have nice chats on the mountain, while Loyola explains that she no longer believes in God because her mother died and Jesus did nothing. Saint Danger says he has beliefs of his own.
Meanwhile Gordon is in Loyola’s math class and everyone knows he likes her. Her friend Mags decides to give the poor guy a break (since Loyola has had little success with men), but Gordon is just so dumb. He’s going to need a lot of work. Yet regardless of what they try, Loyola is preoccupied with Saint Danger.
And soon, he tells her to stick a cable up her nose and those same alien come and explain what they think is going to happen–the earth is going to be invaded. And Saint Danger plans to stop it.
Whereas the first book was very heavy, this one (even though the stakes are higher) has a lot more humor in it (Gordon is a much nicer person now–although we don’t know much about what happens to Miles). And then there’s a big twist as the story turns in a very unexpected direction (at least unexpected to me) and I’m not sure just how well it works, but it is an interesting twist.
The final scenes bring some humor and sweetness back.
Overall this is a nice collection of stories, although they’re not as powerful as what Gene Yang will go on to do later.