Archive for March, 2015

dec2014SOUNDTRACK: LULUC-“Star” NPR Lullaby SXSW (March 18, 2015).

lulucRecorded outside of Stubbs while the groundscrew was cleaning up the huge mess, Luluc play a beautiful quiet ballad.

Steve Hassett plays lead acoustic guitar and sings harmonies while Zoë Randell plays rhythm guitar and sings lead. Interestingly, his voice often goes in higher registers than hers.

I really like the solo that he plays that adds a bit of uptempo feel to this otherwise quiet song.

Check it out here.

[READ: March 23, 2015] “At First Blush”

This issue of Harper’s featured five essays (well, four essays and one short story) about “Growing Up: five coming of age stories.”  Since I knew a few of these authors already, it seemed like a good time to devote an entire week to growing up.  There are two introductions, one by Christine Smallwood (who talks about Bob Seger) and one by Joshua Cohen who talks about the coming of age narrative.

Here’s yet another piece by Karl Ove (like the recent essay in the New York Times Magazine) translated by Ingvild Burkey

It’s hard for me to imagine that Karl Ove (who has written literally thousands of pages about his life) could have anything more to say–any incident that he hasn’t gone over with a microscope.  And yet, here he is with a new incident.

As with most things from Karl Ove, it explains a minute detail which proves to be a big event.  He was 12 and in school and told to spit out his gum.  As he walked up to the wastebasket the attention made him blush.  The first time he can recall the burning shame making him more self-conscious which then kept repeating itself.   And then some one said “Karl Ove’s face is all red!” (more…)


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dec2014SOUNDTRACK: TOM BROSSEAU-“Will Henry” NPR Lullaby SXSW (March 17, 2015).

tbFrom March 17-March 21, the SXSW festival raged on. And my friends at NPR Music were there so I didn’t have to be. In past years they have had a nightly recap of their favorite shows of the day. This year they upped the ante by inviting a musician to sing a lullaby.  Most of these lullabies occurred in some unexpected outdoor location at 2 or so A.M. after a long day of music.

Tom Brosseau was the first up. He has a long history with All Songs Considered, and he was game to play a song he has never recorded–a murder ballad about Will Henry.

Brosseau has a delicate voice. And with just him and his acoustic guitar (and the sounds of bird and traffic, this is a delightful lullaby.  Even if the words are a murder ballad.

The song is pretty consistent in its simple musical pattern, so that at around 3 minutes when he runs a riff, it’s quite stimulating.

Check it out here.

[READ: March 23, 2015] “Beeper World”

This issue of Harper’s featured five essays (well four essays and one short story) about “Growing Up: five coming of age stories.”  Since I knew a few of these authors already, it seemed like a good time to devote an entire week to growing up.  There are two introductions, one by Christine Smallwood (who talks about Bob Seger) and one by Joshua Cohen who talks about the coming of age narrative.

Russell’s essay is all about growing up in the age of beepers in Florida. For her 14th birthday she received a Motorola beeper.  She says the beeper was an evolutionary adaption for teenagers.  [I for one am not that much older than Russell, but I missed the whole beeper phenomenon and found them incredibly silly].  Before she turned 14 she was a solitary person but the beeper was a way to get hee out and mingling with people (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 28, 2015] Spencers: Theatre of Illusion

Back in October of 2012 we saw Spencers: Theatre of Illusion.  I saw that they were coming around again, and even though we had seen the show, I remember enjoying it and thought it would be fun to see them again since the kids were a little older now.

I also assumed that the show would be different.  I mean, it had been nearly 2 and a half years.  Sadly, many of the magic acts were exactly the same.  But on the positive side, they were still pretty awesome, and there was a bunch of new material as well.

In my previous write up I said that the pacing was too slow.  I’m sure it wasn’t faster but it didn’t feel slow this time.  That may have been the audience–the room was full of super excited kids and there was plenty of laughter and applause–it worked very well with his leisurely storytelling style (I may have also been anxious last time since our kids were younger and I wanted them to be excited all the way though).

He started off , like last time, by doing a seemingly easy but very cool illusion of tearing today’s newspaper in half. He made some jokes about the paper and then proceeded to rip it up and then reunite the whole page.   It’s pretty cool. (more…)

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soda_logoSOUNDTRACK: 魔法少女になり隊 [MAHOUSYOUJO-NI-NARITAI]-“Re-bi-te-to (floating magic)” (2014).

bandMahousyoujo-ni-naritai (which translates roughly as I Want to be a Magical Girl) are, no surprise, from Japan.  And, since I am talking about them, they must be pretty unconventional.  Their bio explains: “Formed in 2014 as a five-piece commercial and creative team, this genre-less band travels the world to not only to have the vocalist become a magical girl, but also to entertain audiences wherever they go.”

This song begins with some skittery dancey noises.  It quickly (12 seconds) turns into a raging rocker (with the same skittery bits).  By 37 seconds the female singers (auto tuned) begins singing a verse and by 48 seconds, the song turns into thrash metal as a guy with scary growly vocals take a verse.  By 1 minute the chorus enters with a sweetly poppy super fast vocal line by the female singer.  And by 1:15 the whole business repeats.  At around 2 minutes there a new section, a bridge, that is somewhat calmer, and the music even fades out into a kind of pop heavy metal guitar solo, before returning to the chorus.  By 2:30 the growly vocal guy sings backing vocals under the poppy chorus.  And the last 30 seconds is a high energy instrumental version of everything you just heard.

I am exhausted listening to it, and can’t even imagine what it looks like live.

The band have an EP out.  I can’t find this song anywhere online except this NPR site.  But here’s a live video of another song (which isn’t quite as insane, but is still pretty nuts).


[READ: March 26, 2015] Soda Pop Comics

I deal mostly with books from Latin American countries.  Which means most of the books I see are in Spanish or Portuguese.  And while I’d love to say that I read all of the cool books that come by in those languages, I can’t read either language well enough to enjoy anything.  But once in a while I get some books from these countries in English.  Sadly most of them are about human rights or crop rotation.  But this week I received a pile of comic books from Puerto Rico that were in English!  Better yet, they were published by a small press.  And better better yet their slogan is “Comics made by girls for everyone.”

Soda Pop Comics is a small comic book publishing company created by Carla Rodríguez and Rosa Colón.  And on the inside of their first issue they say “We did not make this new ‘Comic Company’ in order to fill the void left by Veronica Mars…”  They created it “in order to motivate more girls into making and publishing their own comics.”

They have a website http://sodapopcomicspr.com, where you can get all of the comics listed below as well as some cute crafts like magnets and plushies with mustaches.

There appear to be 15 comics available at their store.  I was lucky enough to read three of them (and to get 4 of their mini-mini bundles). (more…)

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oneThis is the final EP available from the We Arrive Alive bandcamp site.  In fact 2013 is the last I can find any information about this band at all.  This site, their Facebook page, there’s nothing after mid 2013.  I wonder what happened.

For this EP, the band has also grown to a 7 piece Andrew McGurk, Ben Healy, Adam Faulkner, Sean Dexter, Iain Faulkner, Michael Naude, Neil Dexter (still no idea who plays what).

“3 years” opens with some noise and fat propulsive bass and guitar.  The song feels more complex, although I’m not sure what the new musicians add to the song. There’s more noise (scraping guitar and whatnot ) that bring new dissonant textures to the song.  There may even be horns at the end (it’s a little hard to tell in the din). “Slow Fall” opens with a slow piano and an intricate drum pattern. A slow guitar line plays over the bass before some really noisy guitars are laid over the top.  At around 4 minutes the song shifts gear becoming faster and more broody.

The final song start with some ringing chords and a staccato guitar line. I like the way the new guitar introduces a melody to the proceedings. The song really starts to build at around 2 minutes, with some crashing cymbals shortly after.  There’s also a pretty middle section (which seems like a ticking clock).  The song end with a ringing guitar-and unexpected mellow ending to what I assumed would be a loud buildup to a song.

I’m intrigued by the direction the band went with this EP, although I like the sound of their previous one a bit more.  I am also concerned that they’ve broken up.  But if they have, they have three great EPs to their name.

[READ: March 24, 2015] Robert Moses

I can’t tell how ignorant I am that I’ve never heard of Robert Moses.  I mean his name sounded vaguely familiar, but I would never have known who he was (the master builder of New York City).  And I have to wonder if I am not alone.  For this book was originally written in French (and was printed in Poland and released in England).

This turns out to be a graphic novel biography of Robert Moses.  It’s hard to summarize how incredibly influential Moses was.  The back of the book says “From the streets to the skyscrapers, from Wall Street to the Long Island suburbs, every inch of New York City tells the story of one man’s mind.”

If you have seen the (excellent) book Wonderstruck, the mini model of New York City mentioned in the book was created for Moses.  New York Bound books describes the model thusly: “The Panorama, a miniature scale model of New York City that was commissioned by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair, is a 9,335 square foot architectural model that includes every single building constructed before 1992 in all five boroughs, or a total of 895,000 individual structures.” (more…)

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fatherlan SOUNDTRACK: WE ARRIVE ALIVE-My Friend the Bombmaker (2012).

Obombf the three EPs, on the bands bandcamp site, this is my favorite.  There was no band member listing on the first EP, but on this one, the band is a five piece: Andy, Neil, Ben, Michael & Adam.

This EP has four songs.  It opens with “My Friend the Bombmaker” in which the drums and bass have a bit more prominence but as soon as the guitars kick in it is clearly We Arrive Alive.   They seem to have made this sound their own.  I enjoy the way they mix things up on this song–some staccato parts which then jumps into a slow part with a bass line that makes the song seem more positive than it might.  A bright guitar line echoes that sentiment.

This EP features the two shortest songs recorded by the band.  Each is around three and a half minutes. “A Lethal Black Ooze” opens with some keyboard sounds and swirling guitars. The actual riff feels far more ominous than the previous song.  This one ends in an odd way—sort of abruptly.  “Zombies” opens with a great guitar riff. I love the way the bass thuds along in this one too.  Then the song kicks into high gear and simply propels itself along.  It comes and goes so quickly that when it does end at just over 3 and a half minutes you’re sure there will be more (and you want more).

The final song is slow and the bent guitar notes and rumbling at the end are ominous indeed.   “Dachau” may be a little too intense as a title, but the song is still effective and does evoke a sense of horror.

I really enjoyed this EP.

[READ: March 21, 2015] Fatherland

More than the story, the thing that struck me most about this graphic novel was the art.  Bunjevac has a beautiful realistic style that is uncanny in its use of lines and shading.  This book is simply gorgeous to look at (the cover indicates the kind of art inside).  I was constantly drawn in by the crosshatching, marveling that it was never “perfect” despite how perfect it looked.  It was these little “flaws” that made it look all the better.

The book opens in Toronto in 2012.  The narrator (shown on the first page drawing) is startled that her mother has come by unannounced,  but she uses the opportunity to bring up something that has been bothering her for many years.  Her mother has selective memory about her past (the narrator’s childhood).  Her mom can easily remember celebrities and other minutiae but her own life she doesn’t seem to recall.

And then we flash back to Welland, Ontario in 1975.  The narrator is the youngest of three children.  Her mother, after years of being unhappily married, begins taking precautions against the night–pushing a wardrobe in front of the window.  She once tried to flee from her husband (who was abusive), but he promised things would be different.  And they were, briefly. (more…)

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lumpenSOUNDTRACK: WE ARRIVE ALIVE-“Walls” (2011).

wallsI discovered We Arrive Alive from the Girl Band bandcamp site (it says the bands are friends).  They are from County Wicklow and play very cool post rock instrumentals.  They have three EPs, all of which are available for free on their bandcamp site.

Their first is called Walls.  The opening song “Walls” has fast guitar with a slinky Sleater-Kinney kind of guitar progression. Unlike S-K, there is bass and no vocals. The middle section feels like any number of post-rock instrumentalists like Explosions in the Sky.  But it’s not derivative–it’s expansive and beautiful.  “Save Me from the Morning” is a much faster song with a more intricate bassline underneath the guitar riffs. The structure of the song makes it seem more like a conventional song (ie one with words). But there are no words, and the guitars fill in very nicely for where vocals might appear. But 90 seconds in, the songs switches gears and becomes a bit more jazzy.  Then around 3 minutes the bass takes over with big loud notes—it’s a great transition. There’s yet another part, a quiet section, that ends the song.  That’s a lot of music packed into 6 and a half minutes.

“This is a City” is the final song.  A seven minute slow building instrumental. It starts quietly and the intertwining guitars get louder as they echo more.  I love the way at around 5 minutes the song shifts gears entirely to a sort of electronic feel with pinging notes.  It ends with a  fantastic closing riff.

I’m glad to have discovered these guys, I love a good collection of instrumentals.

[READ: March 17, 2015] A Little Lumpen Novelita

This may be the final extant untranslated book by Roberto Bolaño.  Although I have yet to read The Secret of Evil (that fell right off my radar), as far as I can tell, the only things left untranslated are:

  • Diorama (this book is unpublished at all, so it’s unlikely to be translated anytime soon)  AND
  • Consejos de un discípulo de Morrisona un fanático de Joyce, 1984  [Advice from a Morrison Disciple to a Joyce Fanatic] which has yet to be translated and I don’t know why, so I assume it never will be.

I don’t fully understand the use of the word “Lumpen” in the title, but don’t let that odd word (which is in the Spanish title, so we can’t blame excellent translator Natasha Wimmer) keep you from reading this breezy and entertaining (if not a bit dark) book.

As with many books by Bolaño, there’s not a lot of plot, per se.  In this book, a young woman (Bianca) and her brother have been orphaned at a young age.  Their parents died in a car crash in Italy (which is where they live).  They try to cope as best they can, but they ultimately decide to drop out of school and do nothing except watch a movie a day.  Bianca tells her brother that they can’t afford that lifestyle (especially since he just seems to get X-Rated films), but he continues to do so anyway.

They realize that they will need money of course, so Bianca gets a job as a hair washer at a salon.  Her brother gets a job cleaning floors at a gym.  It seems to be enough for the time being. (more…)

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