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Archive for February, 2015

xkcdSOUNDTRACK: CHASTITY BELT-No Regerts (2013).

regertsChastity Belt’s debut full length returns to the lineup of the first EP: Julia Shapiro (guitar, vocals), Lydia Lund (guitar), Annie Truscott (bass), and Gretchen Grimm (drums).  But it retains some of the more full sound of the second EP.  It’s a really interesting album with a lot of diverse styles that are all held together by Shaprio’s voice.

I love the complexity of “Black Sail” which has some jangling guitar and an interesting lead riff at the same time–and which exudes a more psychedelic feel.  “Seattle Party” is up next and between the two songs, they clock in at 8 and a half minutes, which is funny since the next four songs total less than that.

“James Dean” (re-recorded from that first EP) sounds better here–you can make out the lyrics better and it’s less staticky.  It really highlights their great short song writing skills.  “Healthy Punk” has a quick sound, with an almost ska-like rhythm.  “Nip Slip” is a funny song about wanting some chips and dip (with appropriate sound effects–the whispered chorus is really quite funny too).  “Full” is a rather spare song that changes things up a bit.

“Happiness” is a slow song that I don’t love, but it’s followed by the awesome “Giant (Vagina)” which takes PJ Harvey’s “Sheela na Gig” to an even more unexpected place–it’s funny and funnier.  “Pussy Weed Beer” is about well, pussy weed and beer–a fun song for one and all.  “Evil” ends the disc with a bright happy guitar sound–belying the “evilness” of the narrator.

Not every song is great, but there’s plenty to like about this weird album.  And the new single from their soon to be released album sounds even better.

[READ: February 10, 2015] xkcd volume 0

After reading Monroe’s What If? [which, in a cool, utterly intentional time bending way will be posted two days from now], I saw that he had a previous book called xkcd.  This is also the name of his website. I had passing familiarity with xkcd, but didn’t know all that much about it.  I’ve mostly been sent links to it rather than actively going there.  And it turns out it’s not that friendly of a site anyhow.  But there is a lot of funny to be had there.

xkcd is primarily a bunch of stick figure characters getting involved in a few kinds of situations: romantic (or unromantic), mathematical and sci-fiction/sci-reality issues.  Or as he sums it up:

Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).

It helps to know that Munroe used to work for NASA (although not as like an astronaut or anything), and that he has a very scientific/mathematical brain.  So much so that a liberal arts major such as myself found many many of these comics to be waaaaay over my head.  Of course, he also has cartoons about Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer, so we can’t all be smug bastards, can we?

I laughed a lot at this book, and of course I scratched my head in confusion a lot too, but that’s okay, the ratio of humor to huh was high (there’s some basic math, right?). (more…)

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chew8SOUNDTRACK: CHASTITY BELT-“Dude” (2012) and “Seattle Party” (2013).

chasdudeThe Dude EP is 3 songs recorded after the first EP and with some dudes in the rhythm section.  On this record: Julia Shapiro, Lydia Lund, Peter Richards, Andrew Hall.

The record sounds a bit less trebly, which I like.  And there are loud backing vocals which is interesting (especially on “Pony Tail”: “cut it off cut it off” and “Alines” : “put your tentacles inside me.”

You’ve got a long pony tail and you look like my mom (another verse: you look like Steven Segall and the great rhyme: you look like Thomas Jefferson/Jennifer Aniston).  “Aliens” has a fun riff and an interesting guitar sound.  “Cadaver” sounds really full, with Shaprio’s voice fitting right in to the more bass driven sound.

chas seattle“Seattle Party” is a single from their debut full length No Regerts, which I’m only including here to show the album cover.  It’s something of a maturation (using the term loosely) musically–with a slow, unshouted chorus, although I don’t think it’s the most likely single on the album.

[READ: January 25, 2015] Chew: Volume Eight

Book Eight of the series (the last one I have until book nine comes out later this year) reminds us that even when people die in fiction they can still come back–especially with a supernatural story like this.  Well, come back is not the right phrase.  Show up again is more suited. Because in this book Tony Chu is able to imbibe a (revolting) concoction and speak to a dearly departed deceased person.

But before we even get to that we see how it was possible.

We also meet Tony and Toni’s baby sister Sage.  Sage also has food related “gifts” but she hates hers.  Sage is Cipropanthropatic–she can see the memories of anyone who is sitting near her if they are eating the same thing–so she goes to great lengths to try to avoid eating what others may also be eating.  It turns out that Sage has just discovered that the person eating next to her is a murderer and also the head of a crime family.

Chapter two introduces us to Ken Keebler, the eroscibopctaros, who can take pictures of food which arouse sexual desires in the viewer.  This all ties in with people in jail reading Food Luv magazine (ha).  Currently in that same jail is Mason and that’s when we realize that someone whom we thought was on Tony’s side is actually working with Mason.   And their escape plan involves Ray Jack Montero–the man behind the ban on chickens

In chapter four, Tony’s daughter Olive–an even more powerful Cibopath than her father helps to get on the case.

In chapter five we get to see the fascinating thing that Tony eats.  It has psychotropic powers as well which makes this whole chapter trippy and hilarious.  When Tony sprouts rabbit ears, that’s just the beginning.  And when the final page shows Olive screaming “Holy Shit…cool” you know something big is coming for book nine.

I can’t wait

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chew7SOUNDTRACK: CHASTITY BELT-Fuck Chastity Belt (2012).

chasThis is the worst music you will ever hear.
Chastity Belt is the worst band to ever exist.

So says the Chastity Belt band camp site for this EP.  Which also states that: The album was produced by Peter Richards. Peter Richards is deaf in one ear.
The cover photo was taken by William Newman-Wise. William Newman-Wise is blind in one eye.

Chastity Belt are not the worst band I have ever heard, not by a long shot.  But they sure do love to provoke, like their band photo (see below).  And the fact that is you try to look them up online, you will find many many images that you don’t want to see (not their band photo).

This four song EP is pretty representative off their full length album–intertwining guitars, catchy (if not vulgar) choruses, and a lead singer’s voice that soars above the music (and reminds me a bit of Grace Slick, although not exactly).  The band comes from Walla Walla Washington.  That and the cover photo reminds one of the Pacific Northwest riot grrrl scene, and there is so me of that slightly abrasive and yet still catchy feel to their music.

The biggest difference seems to be that although their lyrics are feminist and take-no-shit, there is still some humor in the lyrics too.  Not that the original riot grrrl scenes wasn’t funny, but it was much more intense, and unlike to include lines like: “God damn, that boy is hot damn, he makes me so stupid crazy and drunk.”

Of the four songs, I like them all, but the second, Dodge Ram is the least exciting for me, although I do like the “lead” guitar line that runs through the track (perhaps 4 minutes is too long for the song?).  “God Damn” is a great lead off track a simple guitar riff played slowly with an air of sloppiness that may be more of the recording sound (which is a bit staticky).  The segue into chorus really pretty.

On a far more serious tone is “A Bloody Spiral of Unyielding Fury” which is not a super fast belligerent death metal song, in fact it starts with a rather sweet high-pitched guitar melody.  But then lyrically, the chorus of “he wants me dead but I don’t want to die” informs the rather scary song about a guy with a knife (yet always with that rather happy guitar riff).

The one thing I don’t like about the record is the rather tinny sound of it.  There is bass, but it’s not very loud, and the two guitars are certainly turned up in the mix (and play mostly the high strings).  Having said that, “James Dean” (which also appears on their full length) has a much fuller sound, bigger chords and some of the most straightforward lyrics yet (all in Julia Shapiro’s keening voice)

chastityYou’re a slut
I’m a whore
we’ve fucked everyone before
Oh boy, when I fuck you
you make me feel like a prostitute
yeah, when you fuck me
I make you feel just like James Dean

You can check the EP out on their bandcamp site.

On this recording, Chastity Belt was On this record: Julia Shapiro, Lydia Lund, Annie Truscott, and Gretchen Grimm.

[READ: January 21, 2015] Chew: Volume Seven

After the horrible events at the end of Book Six, Book Seven was a chance for Revenge!

Tony Chu has not taken the event of book six lightly, and he is ready to get the bastard–the “vampire”–who has caused such distress to his family.  In fact, things are so serious that Tony (and Colby) have been reinstated to the FDA (and their boss doesn’t seem to mind).

And remember the high priestesss from the church of the super ova? (I had forgotten about her, but she’s back with all those writings in the sky and whatnot).  Well, she is looking to cause a lot of trouble.

But not everyone is happy that Colby has been transferred back. His former boss at the USDA is terribly sad to see her bed partner go. Of course, Colby’s new boss (who was his old boss) is suddenly also quite keen on having him back…I love how that is resolved with a nod and wink from the authors several chapters later. (more…)

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chew6SOUNDTRACK: ALVVAYS-Live at KEXP (December 2, 2014).

alvvays I’ve been enjoying the Alvvays album quite a lot.  They will be opening for The Decemberists this summer, so this was a good way to hear what they sound like live.

The band (pronounced Always) is from Canada and they play four songs and have a little chat.

The four songs are all on their debut album and while none of them are mind blowingly original, they scratch an itch that I have for poppy 90 s alt rock (female singer division).

Molly Rankin has a delicate voice that blends in beautiful with the washes of music (guitars and keyboards).  They remind me a bit of Lush, although less rocking.  There’s a bit more angst and yearning in her voice and lyrics.

Their hit is “Archie, Marry Me” but I find the other three songs, “Ones Who Love You,” “Dives” and “Party Police” to be just as catchy and delightful.  In fact I think the best song in this set may be “Party Police.”  The only real downside to this set is that they don’t have a live drummer.  No idea why, and it doesn’t really detract from the performance, it just makes it a but flatter than it might be.  I assume they’ll have a live drummer when I see them this summer.

[READ: January 22, 2015] Chew: Volume Six

Volume Six brings a very exciting return and a devastating loss to this awesome series.

The good news first: POYO!

The book opens with Toni (Antoinelle), Tony Chu’s sister in bed with Paneer, a man who is in love with her.  She, of course, needs to bite him to see what his future holds (which rather freaks him out).  Toni is (like her brother), cibovoyant and can read the future of everything she eats.

Toni is asked by her other brother Chow to help with a case.  A guy has out-bid him for a painting and he fears that the guy is just going to destroy the masterpiece.  As an agent of NASA surely Toni agrees she must help.  It turns out the artist is a sabopictor–his paintings taste delicious.  Of course it turns out that Chow has an ulterior motive–the guy has also stolen his cookbook, that’s all he cares about–he doesn’t care about the painting at all.  Toni is annoyed, but always happy to see her brother.

While she is visiting Tony in the hospital (from injuries suffered in book 5), Caesar walks in. Caesar used to work with Tony and he is quite certain that he recognizes Toni from somewhere (I loved this ongoing joke and that we keep flashing back to the number of times they met (and even hooked up) in their lives).

Then Toni gets called onto another case, involving mutated chicken frog (chogs) and a gangster named D-bear.Poyo-rules-the-Chew-roost-in-Secret-Agent-O31R1IQP-x-large

Of course the real excitement comes from the interlude which features POYO! the cybernetically enhanced rooster.  He is on a mission to stop Dr Albrecht Regenbigen, a ranapuliva who can recreate the meteorological phenomenon in which animals rain from the sky.

Back in our main story Poyo proves to be a great partner for Colby especially in the story of Judy Heinz-Campbell a victuspeciosian, who can craft a concoction out of food that temporarily changes your appearance (useful for supermodels and supervillains).

The final book shows the unthinkable–a wedding for Toni and Paneer?  Or something much more horrific and unimaginable.

I’m not sure I can forgive this series. Book 7 better bring something happy.

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chew5SOUNDTRACK: FANTASTIC NEGRITO-“Lost in a Crowd” (TINY DESK CONTEST WINNER 2015).

negrtitoFantastic Negrito won this year’s Tiny Desk Concert contest.  About 7,000 people submitted entries and Negrito was chosen.

On the surface this song is pretty simple–a basic blues riff and some simple percussion, but man there’s some gritty power and conviction in this performance.  The way he sings “rage” in a late verse is really great.  I also really like the way the chorus is so very different–it really changes the dynamic of the stomping verses.

A couple other things I like about this song: the drums appear to be done on a box, but they sound great and there’s a super cool piercing sound he gets when he claps.  This was a really good song and I’m looking forward to his upcoming Tiny Desk Concert.

[READ: January 19, 2015] Chew: Volume Five

I had been enjoying Chew so much that I’m shocked that I not only forgot about it but forgot about it for over three years!  This is the trouble with annual publications.  I’ve decided to try to find all of the series that I forgot about, so if you can think of something I’ve ignored for a while, let me know.

The good thing is that there have been four more books published since I last read them, so I get to indulge in four whole books rather than just one at at time.

As this book opens we learn that Tony Chu’s boss is super happy because he finally got rid of Tony Chu–his most hated agent.  That’s right Tony Chu is now a traffic cop and his partner, Colby, has been transferred to the USDA–and his partner is a lion.  If this whole USDA/FDA business seems weird, it is, and you need to get caught up on the series and the poultry ban. (more…)

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11SOUNDTRACK: BASIA BULAT-“Tall Tall Shadow” and “It Can’t Be You” live at Polaris Music Prize (2014).

basiaSwinging to the other side of the musical world from Tanya Tagaq, Basia Bulat also performed at the 2014 Polaris.  I like Bulat a lot, she comes across as a sweet singer (no idea if she is actually sweet).  And I love that she can make really complex songs out of such random instruments (she plays autoharp, hammered dulcimer and others).

In this performance, she is fairly traditional for “Tall Tall Shadow” on the piano (although the french horn accompaniment is a nice twist), but “It Can’t Be You” on charango really highlights just what you can do with, essentially, a souped up ukulele.

“Shadow” highlights her voice which she holds for some quite long notes.  The song is really pretty with a great chorus.  “It Can’t Be You” is just her and the charango (which looks like a ten string ukulele but is Andean in origin).  It’s quite a song–her voice and that instrument are lovely.

[READ: February 4, 2015] Grantland #11

I enjoyed this issue quite a lot, even if I didn’t know who half of the people profiled were (and won’t remember them in two days time).

I am very curious why Grantland is just so obsessed with basketball than other sports.  It’s a little crazy how one sided these books tend to be.  They obviously love all sports but the preponderance of NBA articles is really staggering.

I do wish there’d be a bit more about TV and movies (and even more about the shows that I watch), but it is a fun way to learn about shows I would never watch.  And maybe that’s why I like these books so much, it’s my chance to vicariously enjoy sports without having to care about any of it (especially since it is all a year old, I never know if anything they talk about actually came to fruition or not).

This issue covers January-March 2014 (it’s fun reading about things almost exactly a year apart–to read about Oscars and Super Bowl stuff but have it be last year’s Super Bowl (especially since it too had the Seahawks) was very trippy indeed).

(more…)

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janfebSOUNDTRACK: TANYA TAGAQ-“Uja” and “Umingmak” live at the Polaris Music Prize (2014).

tanyaTanya Tagaq won the Canadian Polaris Prize this year.  Tagaq is a Canadian (Inuk) throat singer from Cambridge Bay (Ikaluktuutiak), Nunavut, Canada who at age 15, went to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories to attend high school where she first began to practice throat singing.  Mostly I included that so I could have the word Ikaluktuutiak in a post.  She is the first native Canadian to win the prize.

Tagaq sings in a gutteral throat singing style combined with some more traditional high-pitched notes.  She has worked with Mike Patton and extensively with Björk.  Most of her songs don’t have lyrics per se, and the album that won the prize is called Animism.

This is a live broadcast of her set which has been describes as truly mesmerizing in person.  It is certainly mesmerizing in video–marveling that the woman can sound so possessed  and yet so clearly in control.

At 1:38 when the backing vocalists (who were shrouded in darkness sing out, it’s quite startling.  I don’t know when the first song ends and the second begins, but at 3:48. when the drums start a regular beat, you can hear a sense of commercial rock amidst the avant garde music.   Around 5 minutes the music drops away and when Tagaq sings briefly in her non-throat voice she sounds almost childish. But when the throaty growls returns, it’s a bit scary, frankly.

Tagaq has talked about bringing the sensuality of throat singing out into the public and by 7 minutes, the sensuality is right there on the stage.  By the end, when she is screaming her lungs out, it has to have been really intense in the theater.  And her wold howl at the end is uncanny.

Clearly not to everyone’s taste, but probably not lie anything else you’ll hear all day.  And unlike anything you’d hear at the Grammy’s.

[READ: January 2, 2015] “Beyond the Shore”

This is  brief story about competitiveness at the gym.  It’s the kind of story that is probably acted out in gyms across the country and one which shouldn’t have been all that interesting, but Awad chose an interesting setting and characters to flesh this out.

I also enjoyed that the title has nothing to do with the action of the story.  Rather, it refers to the place where they live: “Beyond the Shore, a gated-living community that has nothing to do with California (we are nowhere near California), the apartment building which overlooks the Malibu Club Spa and Fitness Centre.”  Each morning when the narrator wakes up, she can see from her bedroom window that Char, an extremely depressingly fit woman, is already working out ion the gym. And most of the time she is working out on Lifecycle One, the very machine that the narrator has signed up for in fifteen minutes.

This wouldn’t be a problem except that in fifteen minutes, the narrator, who is not in peak physical shape will get to the gym and Char will still be in mid-routine with no intention of stopping.  When the narrator approaches Char, Char says she’s almost done (even though she ‘s already over by five minutes) and then mutters a nasty name about the narrator under her breath.  Often by the time Char gets off, the narrator has but 24 minutes in her time slot before the cardio group comes in next. (more…)

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