Her songs seem to have a lot of low-end in them (without being bass heavy exactly–in fact in this Tiny Desk, there is no bassist). And her singing voice is often rather low (and sometimes growly). There’s a moment in the first song “New Skin” in which the music drops out and then Mackenzie Scott starts playing her guitar anew and it’s a sound unlike any in the song before (even though she has been playing all along).
Guitarist Cameron Kapoor adds cool sounds to what I think is her best song, “A Proper Polish Welcome.” Erin Manning provides wonderful harmony vocals along with keyboards on this song which is as powerful as it is understated. The song gives me chills.
“The Harshest Light” is a slow song that has glimpses of light as she sings slightly higher notes in the chorus. And when her voice breaks near the end, you can hear the intensity in her singing.
It’s a great three song set that only leaves you wanting more.
I had resisted getting this album, but realizing just how good these songs are might tip the tables to a purchase.
[READ: Summer 2015] Olympians 1-6
While I imagined that I might read all of the First Second books this year, I paused about mid way through (more for me next year). But one of the last things I read from First Second was this series of outstanding mythologies about the Greek Olympians. It also turned out that a few years back I got these books for Clark, not realizing they were under the First Second imprint. I was intrigued by them then, but I’m really glad that I read them now.
George O’Connor is a massive geek and Greek scholar. He has done lots of research for these books, including going to Greece and visiting sites and antiquities as well as comparing all manner of ancient stories to compile the most interesting pieces. He explains that since these stories were orally passed down, they were modified over the years. He doesn’t change the myths, he merely picks the story lines that are most interesting to him. And then he adds a lot of humorous modern touches (and dialogue) which keep it from being at all stuffy.
O Connor’s drawing style is also inspired by superhero comics, so his stories are presented in a way that seems much more like a super hero than a classical hero, which is also kind of fun.
Each book ends with an author’s note which is hugely informative and gives plenty of context. It also has a bibliography, but more importantly, it has a list of notes about certain panels. Do not skip these notes! In addition to providing a lot of insight into the myths of the characters themselves, there are a lot of funny comments like “Greeks raced in the nude (point and laugh)” which really bring new depths to the stories.
I have been a huge fan of the Greek myths for decades and yet I learned a lot from these stories. O’Connor helpfully explains how the Greek and Roman names differ and how they relate to contemporary world.
1. Zeus: King of the Gods (2010)
You really shouldn’t read these out of order, or at least you should start with the Zeus volume because it puts in context all of the history of the gods–how Gaia and Ouranos (Uranus) spawned the Titans and Kronos, who spawned the Olympians: Zeus, Hera, Demeter, Hades, Poseidon, and Hestia. How Kronos swallowed all of his offspring but Zeus was able to slay him anyhow. It’s unusual to see Zeus as a young man (he always seems to have a beard), but that’s where we start with his story. We even meet the Cyclops, and I like how they looks like aliens form a modern sci-fi movie.
2. Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess (2010)
This book is unlike the others in that it is told by the three Fates who spin tales. The Fates govern everything that happens, but this is the only story in the series that they actually tell. Athena is Zeus’ daughter. I never knew her origin story before this book. Zeus married Metis (she is so adorable in this comic). But when he learns that his offspring will overthrown him, he has Metis changed into an insect so that when he transforms into an eagle he swallows her. But she is already pregnant and Athena is born inside of Zeus. Zeus forgets about them and moves on to Hera. Eventually, when Athena was old enough to fight back, she was “born” directly from Zeus’ head full-grown and covered in armor. This book has many stories of Athena: like how she became known as Pallas Athena and how she got her Aegis (and the hides of which creatures make it up).
This book also contains the story of Medusa. Medusa was beautiful woman, a priestess of Athena. But when she fell for Poseidon and made Athena’s temple their rendezvous spot, Athena had her turned into the gorgon we all know. We also learn how Heracles fought Medusa to get her head (which was added to Athena’s Aegis).
Amazingly the story of Arachne the weaver is also tied to Athena. This brief story talks about what an amazing weaver Arachne was and how she claimed to be better than Athena. In their challenge Arachne went too far in her insults to the goddess and was turned into, well, an arachnid.
O’Connor points out that the sexist nature of the ancient Greeks really kept a light from being shone on the goddesses as much, and he aims to rectify this with these books.
3. Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory (2011)
Hera is Zeus’ wife (and sister, but best not to dwell). O ‘Connor explains that most of the interesting stories about Hera come from recovered artwork because the female based stories that described Hera were largely forgotten to history–men didn’t record these stories so most of history is given to Hera being simply a jealous wife. But as O’Connor points out, why shouldn’t she be, her husband was a real jerk. But because of the lack of information, this story focuses on Heracles and the 12 labors he was given. Heracles was named for Hera and while he was Zeus’s son Hera was not his mother. She decided to curse him with 12 labors–impossible tasks that if he completed he would be freed from er curse.
And what tasks. He must kill a lion with an impenetrable hide. Them he must defeat a hydra, capture or kill other animals. By #9 Hera messing with the results. And then we see Heracles (Hercules) holding up the sky for Atlas. He even captures Cerberus.
The final page shows the myth of Hera and her transformation into a young woman on a monthly basis. It is very cool.
There’s also a funny bit about Zeus being with a woman and turning her into a cow to hide her from Hera, but then he says that she has lovely eyes like Hera does (cow eyes was a compliment back then).
4. Hades: Lord of the Dead (2012)
This book opens with the familiar telling of how you get to the underworld–getting brought by Hermes, crossing the river Styx, drinking from the river Lethe and maybe meeting Hades. We learn that the Olympians had been invited to many mortal feasts and ate sumptuous meals with them (although they didn’t need the food or drink as they were immortal). And then we learn how Demeter is the goddess of growing things. She has a daughter Kore. They have a fight and when Kore runs away for some air she is taken by Hades to the underworld to be Hades wife. Kore is appalled, of course, but she soon learns that he’s not such a bad guy and decides to stay.
Meanwhile Demeter is freaking out and is causing all kinds of badness to befall people’s crops. She is sulking and angry. She is also tricked into doing something by a mortal who is then sent to Hades to be punished for all eternity. Kore (who looks like Joan Jett) begins to accept the power she would have if she became queen of the underworld, and she changes her name to Persephone. We meet Hekate and see Hermes on his mission to the underworld to rescue Persephone. And I loved the way her final decision explains our four seasons.
5. Poseidon: Earth Shaker (2013)
Poseidon is a little different from the other books in that it is told in first person. O’Connor says that he felt Poseidon’s story was a little different so he wanted to tell it via first person. But initially he had trouble with this decision. Then he was able to figure out what was wrong and off he went.
Poseidon is an interesting character, as he is the god of the sea and also of horses. He is angry most of the time. Even though he seems to like being god of the sea he seems bitter about it as well.
Poseidon has many children and he agrees that most of them are monsters. One of them, Polyphemos, is the cyclops from The Odyssey. And we get a summary of Odysseus’s exploits from that story and why Poseidon hates Odysseus so much. There’s another story about Aegeas who was with a woman who bore him a son–although it’s more likely that the son was Poseidon’s.
And thus the story of Theseus is revealed. I liked that O’Connor makes Theseus out to be a jerk. We also get the Minotaur story (in which Theseus still proves to be a jerk). The visuals for the labyrinth are very cool.
And finally we Poseidon him engage in a battle with his sister Athena. The battle is to win the love of the citizens–but perhaps being an angry sea god is less endearing than being a beautiful happy goddess. O’Connor even tries to parse out where the horse stories come from, which is a really cool idea.
6. Aphrodite: Goddess of Love (2014)
I love that he decided to make Aphrodite darker skinned with brown hair–not the typical bleach blonde. And she is by far the most beautifully drawn women in the series. We see her origin story–she was not born of Kronos like the rest, but was the personification of love that walked from the sea. Her arrival caused a great stir among the gods and soon Zeus accepted her as a daughter and had her quickly married to Haphaestos an ugly Olympian. Haphaestos loved her but was no match for the power of her love.
She was responsible for the Pygmalion story–a statue coming to life. She also gave birth to Eros (cupid). At a wedding event Eris (the source of destruction) threw a golden apple and made the three women fight over who was prettiest (O’Connor discusses the sexism inherent here). They call upon Paris of Troy to determine the winner. He picks Aphrodite and she rewards him with the love of Helen of troy (which you know, stars the war).
O’Connor has already written book 7 (Ares) and Apollo and Artemis are on the way. This is a great series and I’m looking forward to water he puts out.