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Archive for April, 2015

capnSOUNDTRACK: BOBBY BARE, JR.-Tiny Desk Concert #417 (January 27, 2015).

Ibbjr don’t really know anything about Bobby Bare Jr.  I don’t know anything about Bobby Bare Sr.  I knew he was from Nashville and I assumed he was a country singer.

But in this Tiny Desk Concert it’s just him on his acoustic guitar and Matt Rowland on keyboards (often employing a Hammond organ/1970s sound).  This makes his songs fall more into the singer-songwriter category than the country superstar category. (I particularly enjoy the way the keyboards “build” for the instrumental section of the first song, “Don’t Wanna Know” when Rowland lays his arm on the keys.

Bare is very funny (and Rowland’s keyboard “comments” add to the humor).  He introduces the second song “The Big Time,” a rocking catchy number about moving to Nashville to become famous.  He seems to have a love/hate relationship with Nashville.  He introduces the song by talking about hanging out with his friends and telling them, “I can’t wait til I become famous because I’ll never hang out with any of you motherfuckers again.”

As an introduction to the final song “Visit Me in Music City” he describes Nashville as making the worst music ever recorded and the best music ever recorded.  He talks about a guy at a bluegrass festival who, upon realizing that Robert Plant was in the audience said he’d like to welcome Robert Plant from ZZ Top.  “And this sums up Nashville.”  This is a funny and actually sweet song that shows how charming Bare can be,

I enjoyed the whole set, and it totally changed what I thought I knew about Bobby Bare Jr.  Check it out.

[READ: January 15, 2015] Captain Marvel

I was pretty excited to see a female super hero cross my desk.  I don’t really know much about the history of Captain Marvel (who was a man at some point).  Nor do I know why she is a woman now (there is a previous book in this new series written by DeConnick but I couldn’t find it).

This book opens in the middle of the action with Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, walking with several aliens (a robot creature, a green figure in a hood, a woman with snakes for hair and a bull-looking guy) on the Maniaciano Outpost.  They are looking for something.  The plan, which is a simple one, goes awry and soon they are all trying to escape at top speed.  Captain Marvel has what they are looking for but they have lost the green woman.  (Whose name is Tic).

Flash back six weeks ago where Captain Marvel is speaking to Captain America and she has just encountered a pod with, of all things, an alien girl with green skin.  We see that Carol lives in the Statue of Liberty and is also friends with Iron Man.  And as the first book closes we learn that she is ready to go back out on another mission.  This one proves to be pretty dangerous and she is saved at the last minute with help from…The Guardians of the Galaxy (holy crossover Spiderman!–it looks like she will be getting her own movie in 2018, so just hold on to your tights for a few more years). (more…)

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cleoSOUNDTRACK: JOHN REILLY & FRIENDS-Tiny Desk Concert #418 (February 3, 2015).

johnI started this show without observing who it was (it was just next on my queue) and I listened without watching first.  At first I thought, hmm, interesting old timey songs.  And then the guy spoke and I thought, wow, he sounds a lot like actor John C. Reilly, I wonder if he’s from the same place.  And then I clicked over and saw that it was John C. Reilly, in full beard and hat playing old timey, spiritual songs.

A lot of actors have vanity music projects, but there’s nothing vain about this. It’s all old music (they use an old timey microphone) and they’re clearly not looking to top any charts.  Rather, Reilly plays acoustic guitar and sings—he has a great, solid voice. And his backing group is full of great musicians who all have careers doing other things: Tom Brousseau on guitar and harmony vocals, Becky Stark from Lavender Diamond on harmony vocals, Andru Bemis on banjo and fiddle, as well as Soul Coughing’s Sebastian Steinberg.

I didn’t recognize any of the four songs they played–which is probably the point.  He explains that Tom is their archaeologist and he uncovered a number of these songs.

The second song references Jesus and after the song Reilly talks tells everyone that he’s a lapsed Catholic but it seemed a shame to ignore all these beautiful songs because of religion.  So when they say Jesus you can think Buddha or… Satan or… the ocean. Becky Stark comes across a bit more, um, something, with her comment “we are advocates for deathless bliss.” (Reilly deflates the silence by saying “deathless bliss” is their other band).

It’s a charming group of songs and would not sound out of place with some tracks from O Brother, Where Art Thou.

[READ: January 8, 2015] Cleopatra in Space Book One

I brought it home for Clark but it looked really fun so I read it too.  I enjoyed this book so much that I can’t wait for the next part.

I love Maihack’s artistic style, it’s simple and very clean, and his drawings of the people and aliens are cool and expressive

The basic setup here is that Cleopatra, yes, that Cleopatra, is about to have her 15th birthday.  This means she is about ready to rule the country.  But in the meantime she is stuck going to school and taking Algebra, ugh.  She gets her friend Gozi out of class (by hitting him with a pebble and making him yell).  So they sneak out.  I loved the joke when he asks where she got the slingshot since her father confiscated them all–“It’s not like they’re hard to make, Gozi.”

While they are shooting rocks at things, they uncover a giant tomb door.  When it opens, they see all kinds of cool artifacts.  One of them is a panel of some sort.  And when Cleo (she prefers Cleo) reads it, she is sucked into a portal to a new planet generations into the future.  The great great great great grandson of her cat is there (and he can talk–in fact all the cats can talk).  And they inform her that she is the prophecy sent to defeat the Xerx.  The Xerx are a race of brutes who are ruled by Xaius Octavian, a power-hungry dictator.

He evidently sent out some kind of EMP to destroy all of the electronic records in the world but also managed to keep copies for himself.  So he has all the knowledge in t universe.  And it was written that Cleopatra would come and save them from this terrible scourge. (more…)

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onfgoingSOUNDTRACK: MUCCA PAZZA-Tiny Desk Concert #419 (February 10, 2015).

Evmucca2en though I said that the Dan Deacon Tiny Desk was the most fun to watch, it is a close tie with this one from Mucca Pazza.  Mucca Pazza are a 23 piece band comprised of a huge horn section, violins, guitars, percussion, an accordion and even cheerleaders.  The group dress like a marching band (but everyone with a different colored (often ill-fitting) outfit).  The cheerleaders use caution tape as pompoms and do prompts between songs.  They tip their hats when songs are done.

They have been around for ten years (and have four albums out).  For this cramped Tiny Desk, they play four instrumental tracks (23 people and no vocalist!): “Subtle Frenzy” “J’accuse” “Dirty Chompers” and “Holiday on Ice.”

The songs are fast and fun and while there is an obvious marching band feel, they aren’t really marching band songs.  The electric guitar and strings tends to undermine the machine band tendencies (even if the xylophone adds it back).   Indeed, the electric guitars add a cool and sometimes disconcerting sound, like the guitar solo on “J’accuse” which is done on a teeny tiny guitar with a slide.

I love the melody of “Dirty Chompers”–such a fun song.  And “Holiday on Ice” is chock of full of the mayhem you might expect from the description of this band. The middle section slows down somewhat and sounds a little demented (in a good way) It also really highlights the different components of the group–with different horns playing different scales and the trombones keeping the main somewhat menacing riff consistent.

mucca 1So there’s a kind of Balkan Brass band element underpinning all of this–but there’s also discord and rock and psychedelia.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many people having so much fun before.  Their full stage show must be a riot.

You can watch the Tiny Desk here and listen to a full show (with a video of one song) here.

[READ: April 10, 2015] Ongoingness.

This book was excepted in Harper’s in December. I read the excerpt just a few weeks ago.  And then when I saw someone request it at work I found our copy and, since the book was short, decided to read it at lunch before sending it off to the requester (such power I wield!).

In my post about the excerpt, I said that I couldn’t imagine how there could be much more than the excerpt and that I wouldn’t want to read a lot more of the book.  Well, it turns out that the book itself is a brief 96 pages and the bulk of those pages are only a few lines.  So a rough count would suggest about 36 pages altogether–an easy to read at lunch request.  And that’s good, because if this book were 400 pages it would be either obnoxious or really tedious.

But at this length, it’s an interesting and enjoyable look at memory and life and how much we should be concerned about remembering. (more…)

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moellerSOUNDTRACK: UNTIL THE RIBBON BREAKS-Tiny Desk Concert #420 (February 17, 2015).

untilI’d never heard of Until the Ribbon breaks–a synth band from Wales–before this show.

It’s hard to imagine what their recorded songs sound like (this is evidently really stripped down).  The notes say that in order to achieve this sound, the solution involved a spaghetti strainer, a paint bucket and an acoustic guitar.  And as the show starts you can see the drummer putting a spaghetti strainer down and laying some paint buckets around.

They play four songs and they are all good.  They are fine.  “2025,” “Pressure” “Until the Ribbon Breaks,” and “Spark.”  In this stripped down form there’s really not that much too them, but they’re not bad at all. The lyrics are topical and current about relationships and the like.

I like that the drummer plays guitar instead of drums on the  third song (which is quite mellow).   The final song, “Speak” is my favorite–it is quite catchy with great backing vocals. You can watch the Tiny Desk here.

I just checked two of their recordings and they are very electronic–very dancey and moody.  I like the acoustic stripped down version of “Sparks” better, but the electronic aspects of “Pressure” make it a little more interesting than the stripped version.

[READ: January 5, 2015] An Almost Perfect Thing

This is a fascinating play told in a fascinating way.

There are three people in the play: Greg, Chloe and Mathew.

Six years earlier, Greg (who is a journalist) wrote a story about Chloe, a girl who went missing.  Now, six years later, Chloe is free from her captor but, rather than go to the police, she hunts down Greg and offers to give him an exclusive story about what happened to her.

Greg is excited about the prospect (even if he does think she should go to the police).  But she tells him that she won’t reveal her captor or give any details, she just wants to relate the experience to him.  He imagines that it could be a very successful book, but she says no, it must be installments in the paper. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 24, 2015] Guster

2015-04-24 23.01.50I’ve seen Guster a few times as openers (Tori Amos, Ben Folds, Barenaked Ladies) but never as the headliner.  And it was amazing how different the band was for this show–in which the crowd was totally there for them.

Singer Ryan Miller commented on how they haven’t played the Theatre of Living Arts in  a long time–and that the fans were with them on the way up and now again on their way down (it’s unclear if he was serious or not).  The band’s “stage design” for this tour was afghans.  As you can see in the pictures, the band has afghans draped all over everything.  Ryan said that the band’s fans supplied them with all of the afghans.  They decided to totally embrace the theme and even put an afghan on one of co-singer Adam Gardner’s guitar.  I did not get a good photo of it, but there’s a great photo on Instagram of it.

Midway through the show the band mentioned that they’d been together for 24 years.  Which is pretty impressive.  The three main guys (Ryan, Adam and “Thundergod” Brian Rosenworcel on bongoes and other drums (most of which he plays with no sticks–seriously, he smashes drums and cymbals with his hands–ouch)) are sill there.  For touring they’ve added an instrumentalist Luke Reynolds and a friend of the band on drums and percussion for some songs. (more…)

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[ATTENDED, April 24, 2015] Kishi Bashi

2015-04-24 20.11.02This is our second time seeing Kishi Bashi in about a year.  As Sarah said, I’m really glad we saw him in the State Theater first because in that venue, you could really see what he was doing with his feet and his other gear (well, and the sound was better).  But it was so much fun seeing him in this venue because the show was very different.

But still it was just him and his violin (and a bunch of looping pedals) and, man, is his good.

Whether it was the lack of seats or just more confidence on stage, K. was a more wild performer.  At this venue we stood one the floor (and marveled at how we are apparently very short).  We could see his head and torso (bow tie and leather vest) but not his feet.

He opened the show with “Atticus, in the Desert,” my favorite song of his.  He did some really fun beatboxing and sound manipulation (even commenting that one of the beats was “sick” and that he had to try to remember what he did) he improvises a lot of beats and is really good at it. (more…)

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moonknightSOUNDTRACK: ZOLA JESUS-Tiny Desk Concert #421 (February 23, 2015).

zolaI didn’t know Zola Jesus before this Tiny Desk show.  I’d heard the name but didn’t know that it was the “group” formed by Nika Roza Danilova.

This show is practically a capella.  It is just Nika and Daniel Walter Eaton on trombone.  Yes, trombone.  He works as a punctuation to her voice (which is powerful and really impressive).

She evidently normally plays with a much bigger band, and often with a lot of electronics.  So this really showcases the quality of her voice.

She sings three songs (in just 9 minutes): “Ego,” Hunger” and “Nail.”  “Nail” is probably the catchiest song of the three.

I can’t say much more about them, except that a trombone is certainly an unusual accompaniment and her voice is tremendous.  Check it out.

[READ: January 6, 2015] Moon Knight

This book collects the Moon Knight series issues 1-6.  I had never heard of Moon Knight before although apparently he is an old character resurrected by Ellis.

The story is a fairly simple (supernatural) one.  Marc Spector, a mercenary, was killed in Egypt under the statue of Khonshu, the moon god.  Spector was resurrected (or something) in the guise of the moon god.  According to the introduction of the book, “he wore [the god’s] aspect to fight crime for his own redemption. He went completely insane, and disappeared.”

This is what happened next. (more…)

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