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Archive for July, 2015

lostdogsSOUNDTRACK: GIRLPOOL-Tiny Desk Concert #454 (July 10, 2015).

girlpoolGirlpool is a duo consisting of Cleo Tucker (guitar) and Harmony Tividad (bass).  Both women sing and what’s interesting about their singing is that they don’t sing harmony–they sing in unison, which gives them an really interesting resonance.  And when they do hit the occasional harmony it sounds magical.

As for the guitar and bass, they are playing largely the same thing there as well–with occasional guitar soloing.

The band has a new album out.  It’s pretty short (10 songs in about 25 minutes), and it is as direct and unsettling as it is catchy.  The riffs are unexpected and the pair sound so honest and exposed.  It’s really quite something.  It has the air of a novelty (two people, no drums), but aside from a few lyrics that are thoughtful/funny, there’s no joking from these two.  You can see from this photo that Cleo is really into it.

They play three songs: “Before The World Was Big” (the title track of the new album) which has an unusually paced riff and Cleo & Harmony’s stark vocals.  The harmonies when they get to “One hundred, one million, billion, trillion times” is really great.  I also like how they start singing in a round to end the song.  “Ideal World” has an even simpler riff (with a very cool dissonant guitar notes every few lines) and some cool harmonies.  And Tucker’s wailing guitar solo at the end is pretty shocking.  “Cherry Picking” opens as a far slower song, but it picks up after the first verse and has one of the few times when Cleo and Harmony are playing different things on their instruments.  Their singing at the end is really intense.

I like their album a lot and this is a great Tiny Desk Concert.

[READ: May 18, 2015] Lost Dogs

I picked up Lemire’s Essex County at the library and while there I also saw Lost Dogs.  I didn’t know anything about Lemire, but Essex County looked really cool, so why not grab his other book while it’s there?

Well, this was Lemire’s first proper book. He started it while trying to finish the 24 hour challenge–a 24 page comic in 24 hours.  He failed the challenge but he loved what he was doing so much that he decided to finish up what he started and he made this first book.

I’m glad I read Essex County first because Lost Dogs is so rough, so sketchy, that I wouldn’t have realized how talented Lemire was from this book alone.  This book is definitely an “early days” kind of project–a way to see where he came from.  Not that the story isn’t good, but that it is very rough (intentionally so).  It also notes that in the reproduction the lettering was made to look nicer because no one wants to read sloppy lettering.

If nothing else, I will enjoy this quote from Timothy Callahan who says that Steven Soderbergh said “audiences will put up with poor picture quality as long as the sound is clear, but a crisp picture and problematic audio will turn off even the most eager viewers.”  Callahan adds “the same is true for comics, where slick lettering can help even the most chaotic sequence of images seem readable.”  So remember, make sure your letters are good! (more…)

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herecoverSOUNDTRACK: CHRISTOPHER PAUL STELLING-Tiny Desk Concert #453 (July 6, 2015).

cpsSomehow after 450 some Tiny Desk Concerts I feel like I’ll know anyone that comes along.  But here’s yet another performer who I’d never heard of.  Christopher Paul Stelling plays an old beat up guitar (it ha a hole in it from where it has been worn down.  According to the NPR site:  That guitar, bought in Asheville, looks like a well-worn friend, with its dark bruised wood and his initials hand-carved into its body. Stelling marked the instrument a year after he bought it, when he made New York City his home in 2007.

Stelling plays some amazing fingerpicking and he backs it up with some catchy songs and interesting lyrics.  His voice is rough and reminds me a but of The Tallest Man on Earth.

He plays four songs.  The first “Castle,” is a really enjoyably folky song. His guitar work is amazing and almost as interesting as his lyrics (there’s some nice little twists i the words he sings). I was also amazed at how good the guitar sounded with the holes and carvings and all.

“Scarecrow” is more mellow, a bit sadder.  And when he tunes it up you can hear the resistance in the tuning pegs–that guitar has been through a lot.

“Horse” is a much faster completely intense song.  As the NPR site describes it: “Watch him lean in as if he’s about to lunge, his eyes bugged out, sometimes rolled back in his head revealing just the whites, skin blood-red, voice like a preacher on fire.”  The song is majorly intense, althouhg he kind of reminds me a bit of Chris Pratt’s character on P&R (but not in a funny way).  After the song he he says you see why I didn’t play that first

“Warm Enemy” reminds me of the guitar style of RT. A wild picking song, with some great runs throughout the piece.

It’s always cool to hear of a new artist who is really impressive.

[READ: May 10, 2015] Here

I read about this book when Five Dials devoted an entire issue to it.  And I’m so glad they did, because I probably wouldn’t have heard it about it elsewhere.  And it is fantastic.

In the Five Dials issue they talked about how McGuire had first created a version of this book many years ago–it was 8 pages and ran in Raw Magazine.  Now in 2014, he has redesigned and thoroughly expanded the book, adding color and a ton more information.  And it is really astonishing.

The book itself is quite simple.  We see a scene in a house.  It is a living room.  There is a window to the left, a fireplace to the right and various pieces of furniture.

The first page in the upper left corner says 2014.  There is a couch and little else.  Then there is a bookshelf.  And then the scene jumps back to 1957.  Same location, same angle, but (nearly) everything is different.  The furniture is chanced, there is wallpaper on the walls, there is a playpen in the center of the room.  Then the next page jumps back to 1942: the color scheme is maroon.

here3After a few pages it heads back to 1957 and we see our first person.  A woman saying “Now why did I come in here again?”  And then, the first break with the style–in the bottom right is a tiny box that says 1999 and there’s a cat in it.  And then the next page plays with things even more.  The woman from 1957 is still there as is the cat (who is licking her paw now), but the background is 1623 and the “house” is simply the woods.

The next page shows a scene from 1989 and in 1999 the cat leaves the room.

here2I’m not going to tell every page, obviously, but suffice to say that the next page goes all the way back to 8,000 BCE (while leaving the scene from 1989 in the book).

We see shots from 1763 (a lumberjack) and 1764 (a house being built).  And then in 1775 a colonial scene with, I believe, Ben Franklin.

here5Occasionally, there are a series of frames that show time passing in sequence like the children sitting on the couch in 1959, 1962, 1964, 1969, 1979 and 1983.  Or the one that shows Halloween parties from several years all on one page

The book also goes into the future with a small box showing 2017 and then 2050 with some interesting technology.  And then later forward to 10,175 with a strange creature in a wasteland,

The book is really amazing.  So much fun to look at and imagine the lives that were in this house.

For there is no plot. There is virtually no dialogue.  It is just snapshot after snapshot of a place and what people and creatures have done to it throughout history.  It is such an interesting idea (the original was quite revolutionary at least according to cartoonists) and while similar pieces have been made they don’t compare to the scope of this one.

Incidentally, the house is in Perth Amboy, New Jersey (and I believe is his childhood home).  It offers actual historical data as well as imagined information.  But he based many of his designs on photos from his family’s albums.

I’m so happy I got to look at the book.  And when I read it again, I’m going to try and read it in a vaguely sequential style just to see if there is a “story” to it.

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gunner SOUNDTRACK: AND THE KIDS-Tiny Desk Concert #452 (June 30, 2015).

Ikids hadn’t heard of And The Kids before, but I was intrigued by their name and the lead singer’s look (is that a tattoo on her lip?).

But I didn’t like the way the first song started with a modified military “Glory Glory Hallelujah” musical refrain–it seemed strangely forced, especially for the first song I’d heard by them.  Although I may have liked it better if I knew the band better. It was a weird way to start.

Especially since I ultimate liked “Glory Glory.” (I am hearing a chorus of “I’ve been picking up floor milk” which is as fascinating as whatever the lyrics really are).  The drummer has great harmony vocals that really adds something to the song. I also love at around 2 and half minutes when the song turns into something very different—faster guitars with lead vocals by the drummer.  And even the bassist who has been quiet thus far chimes in with another layer of voices (and some interesting bass lines). It’s very cool.  So the song which started out kind of shaky really rocks out at the end.

The band trio, with a singer/guitarist, bassist and a great drummer.  There’s something about the lead singer’s guitar–it seems really big (maybe it’s just the head of the guitar?).  And the sound that the drummer gets is really great too—it may just be this recording, but the snare is really sharp.

For “All Day All Night” the drummer busts out a glockenspiel. It has a kind of shouted chorus that borders on dissonance but isn’t quite.  I like the way the song slows down (with the guitarist playing keyboard as it builds back up), the drummer plays the glockenspiel and the drums at the same time.  And the all three start singing with interesting harmonies. The ending whoo hoos are sharp and distinct as well.

“Cats Were Born” has a very interesting lyric: “The cats were born to kill for fun.”  But perhaps even more interesting than the words are the yodels and screams and yips that punctuate the song.  What’s also strange is the way the bassist seems so reticent to look goofy while the other two are wild.   The guitarist busted out a small four string guitar for this song which sounds really distinct. And the drummer really shines.  Through many of the songs she’s playing rim shots which is a distinctive sound in itself, but when she switches over to a faster style for the middle section, it’s really intense.

I don’t think any bands has gone so far from me not thinking much of them to being really won over by the end of their Tiny Desk.

[READ: February 26, 2015] Gunnerkrigg Court [1-14]

I discovered this book through my Goodreads account.  It was suggested because, well, I don’t recall, it had something to do with schools and supernatural and graphic novels or whatever.  There was also one that was suggested for Sarah (it was about boarding school and tea) which turned out to be Japanese softcore porn, so beware the Goodreads suggestions.

Although there was nothing to beware of with this book.

I actually thought Sarah would like it more because she loves boarding school fiction.  But she gave up on the book after a few stories.  Interestingly I almost did as well. It wasn’t that it was bad, in fact we both enjoyed the beginning.  But it was the kind of book that once you put it down, you didn’t feel compelled to pick it up again.  Perhaps because each chapter feels so self-contained–with no real cliffhanger–that it seemed like the stories were done.  And while the stories were good they weren’t awesome…so.  She gave up, but I continued

And I’m glad I did. (more…)

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reject2SOUNDTRACK: ODDISEE–Tiny Desk Concert #451 (June 26, 2015).

oddisee Oddisee is a positive rapper.  That photo of him smiling really conveys the tone of his songs–well, that and the fact that the first song is called “That’s Love.”  He raps really quickly.  He also gets a wonderful call and response going on “That’s Love” where he has the NPR staff sing along to his chorus.  (The opening scene shows him practicing with the audience).  And he really gets everyone going.

I don’t know what his recorded output sounds like, but in this Tiny Desk, he’s with only a keyboardist and a drummer.  The live drummer is a great addition.

“Contradiction’s Maze” has a few sung choruses (he has a good singing voice too).  They don’t really modify the keyboard sound for the songs, which isn’t all that interesting.  It sets a nice background for all the songs, but it does make things sound a little samey.  “Belong To The World” is similarly uplifting, but I honestly had a hard time distinguishing it from the previous song.

Despite that, his positive attitude and generally upbeat personality were quite infectious.

[READ: July 24, 2015] The Rejection Collection 2

The Rejection Collection is back!  Presumably the first collection was successful enough that Diffee was prepared to do another one.  He gathers many of the same cartoonists (although at least a half a dozen did not return) and he gathered some new folks as well (for a total of 38 this time).

Returning: Leo Cullum, Pat Byrnes, Sam Gross, Mike Twohy, C. Covert Darbyshire, Drew Dernavich, Christopher Weyant, Kim Warp, John O’Brien, Marisa Acocella Marchetto, Danny Shanahan, Mick Stevens, Mort Gerberg, Michael Crawford, P.C. Vey, Gahan Wilson, Glen LeLievre, Alex Gregory, J.C. Duffy, Carolita Johnson, Ariel Molvig, Michael Shaw, Eric Lewis, P.S. Mueller, David Sipress, Jack Ziegler.

New additions include:  Paul Noth, Roz Chast, Marshall Hopkins, Nick Downes, Robert Leighton, Julia Suits, Zachary Kanin, Harry Bliss, Jason Patterson, J.B. Handelsman, Sidney Harris, Jack Ziegler, Robert Weber. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 25, 2015] My Morning Jacket

2015-07-25 22.10.21I had made a list of bands that I really wanted to see.  My Morning Jacket was pretty near the top of it.  My friend Jay and I marveled over singer Jim James’ use of a cape (which sadly he did not wear at this show).  Of course, it wasn’t just the cape we wanted to see, it was the whole band.

So when they were announced to headline the XPNFest, I knew I had to get tickets (the fact that St. Vincent was co-headlining was a huge bonus).

While the crowd was good for St. Vincent, they were ecstatic for MMJ.  Everyone was on their feet the whole show.  And what a show.  The band played for 2 and a half hours, running through much of their new album as well as classics from their past few records.

I had heard that MMJ were a big time jam band, and indeed they were.  In fact, even though Neil Young did some amazing jamming and soloing during his recent set, this was the first real “jam band” show I’ve been to.  Where the band takes a song in different directions, wending through different moods and styles like the 20 minute “Deodato”–more on that later.

2015-07-25 23.27.05In fact, each song was extended by some impressive soloing.  Interestingly, Jim James took a number of solos that were just himself on stage.  And I felt like his solos weren’t really that impressive.  There was a bluesy one that was very cool and one or two others that were more textural than “impressive.”  It’s clear that lead guitarist Carl Broemel can solo amazingly, but he didn’t get any features, just wailing solos during the songs.

I was pretty excited that they started with “Off the Record” which had some pretty impressive jamming in the middle.  Jim James was wearing an awesome jacket with neon stripes all over it and a pair of sunglasses that he never removed.  It was 90 degrees out that day.  How did he stand it? (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 25, 2015] St. Vincent

2015-07-25 20.41.29I’ve enjoyed all the St. Vincent records–each one more than the previous one.  This past year Bob and Robin from NPR both claimed that the St. Vincent live show was the best that they saw that year.  Since then, I have been hell bent on seeing her (she played NY right after they raved about her but it was sold out).  She has been touring Europe for a while now so I never expected to see her anytime soon.

And then it was announced: St. Vincent AND My Morning Jacket, another band that I’ve been dying to see, would headline this years XPNFEST.  As with last year’s fest, we considered going to the all day show–again, $45 for a 3 day pass (and when I found out that kids can get a day pass for $5–jeez!).  So maybe next year if we don’t like the headliners, we’ll go for the day (I wouldn’t keep the kids up till midnight watching headliners).  But as we saw this year, the venue is shaded, there’s lots to see and lots of free stuff (which the kids love) they even have a Kids Corner section, so next year, if there’s some good bands like this year (Calexico, First Aid Kid, Fly Golden Eagle), it would totally be a fun day out.

But never mind that, we were there for St. Vincent. (more…)

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reject1SOUNDTRACK: HOP ALONG–Tiny Desk Concert #450 (June 22, 2015).

hopNot too long ago a friend asked if there were bands that we wanted to like but didn’t.  Some people just said no, of course not, you either like a band or you don’t.  But I knew what he meant.  There are a lot of bands that I’d like to like.  And Hop Along is one of them.

Lead singer Frances Quinlan has the kind of raspy voice that is practically iconic (think Janis Joplin after a rough day).  And their music, which is kind of folky, also has a rawness that should combine with her voice to make me listen all the time.

And yet, for all of that, I really don’t like her voice.  It should be right up my alley but it, well, isn’t.  And that goes a long way to me not really liking the band.

They play three songs and although the blurb about the band talks about the music being more than her voice, I really can’t get past it.

None of the songs is bad, although they all sound a bit the same to me (her voice again).  “Horseshoe Crabs” has a folky feel and some soft/loud sections.

“Well_Dressed” has some unusual dissonant chords thrown into the mix. It’s especially interesting given the pleasant acoustic guitar that accompanies this song.

“Sister Cities” has some lyrics about shooting your dog which is a bit of a turn off.

So yes, I would like to like Hop Along more, but I just don’t.

[READ: July 20, 2015] The Rejection Collection

I heard about this book because it was listed under Matthew Diffee’s books in his bibliography.  I enjoyed his Hand Drawn Jokes for Smart Attractive People so much that I wanted to see what else he’d done.  Well, I didn’t quite understand the premise of the book.  Instead of it begin a collection of his rejected cartoons, he had edited a collection of cartoons that were rejected by thirty of the New Yorker’s regular contributors.

Which means there’s a lot more variety and a lot of funny stuff in here.

He gives us some context: each issue of the New Yorker has about 15-20 cartoons.  There are some 50 cartoonist vying for these spots.  Each of these 50 artists brings 10 cartoons each week and the editor pick the few that will make it (and those that are chosen are the only ones who get paid).

So that means that there are dozens of really good cartoons that just aren’t going to make it.  Many of those cartoons will be saved by their creators and submitted somewhere else or even back to the New Yorker in case the editors have a change of heart.

There are many reasons why cartoons are rejected.  Some aren’t very good, some aren’t appropriate for the magazine, and some just aren’t as funny as others this week (but may seem even funnier in two weeks’ time).

If you’ve read the new yorker (or ever been in a cubicle) you have seen the work from most of these people (even though you probably don’t know their names):

Leo Cullum, Pat Byrnes, Sam Gross, Mike Twohy, C. Covert Darbyshire, Drew Dernavich, Christopher Weyant, Kim Warp, William Haefeli, John O’Brien, Marisa Acocella Marchetto, Danny Shanahan, Tom Cheney, Mick Stevens, Mort Gerberg, Michael Crawford, P.C. Vey, Barbara Smaller, Arnie Levin, Gahan Wilson, Glen Le Lievre, Alex Gregory, J.C. Duffy, Carolita Johnson, Ariel Molvig, Michael Shaw, Eric Lewis, P.S. Mueller, David Sipress, Jack Ziegler.

(more…)

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