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Archive for the ‘Aliens’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LESLIE ODOM, JR.-Tiny Desk Concert #908 (December 2, 2019).

I knew I had heard of Leslie Odom Jr. but I couldn’t remember from what.  Apparently I have heard of him from….everything.

A Tony- and Grammy-winning star, Odom has added a slew of achievements to his portfolio since 2016, when he left his role playing Aaron Burr in Broadway’s Hamilton. He’s continued his work in television and film, written a book and released jazz and Christmas albums. He co-wrote most of the songs on his latest project, Mr; out earlier this month, it’s his first album of original material.

Dang.

His singing voice is fantastic and these songs that he wrote are really wonderful.

“Cold” is a hopeful ballad with a beautiful melody and a hint of contemporary musical theater.  It opens with a lovely acoustic guitar from Jeremy Ting and piano from Tommy King.  Odom’s voice is powerful and strong and he hits some nice falsetto notes.  This is all accented by rim shots and cymbal taps from Garrison “G-Beats” Brown.

His backing vocalists, Christine Noel Smit, Nicolette Robinson (Odom’s wife) and Astyn Turr add some nice calla and response and then harmony voices. There’s a pretty acoustic guitar solo as well.

And all the while Odom’s voice and lyrics are fantastic.

When it’s finished he says, “you are the second group of people to hear that song.”

Then he

recalled advice he’d received from a friend: “You have to get used to it — you are part of a cultural phenomenon in New York City,” Odom said, before quipping, “I feel so blessed to be a part of … Law & Order: SVU for three magnificent seasons.”

Up next is “Foggy,” which he says is the most personal song on the album.  It’s much more spare, a love song filled with the regret of failed good intentions.  It’s almost entirely just he and the piano.  Although half way through some xylophone notes add a cool echoing sound.  As the song nears its end, Astyn Turr sings along with him.

Introducing the final song, “Hummingbird,” he says “This song is admittedly… I think it’s a bop, but it’s an odd little bop.  But it has been tested by my 2 year old and it is her favorite song on the album.  For this song Tommy King and Theron “Neff-U” Feemster switch places so “Neff-U” (who worked with him to make the record) is now playing piano.

The song features some wonderful violin from Andrew Joslyn.  It’s a fun boppy song and I love that everyone raucously sings the “you’re my hummingbird” line.

I really didn’t know what to expect from this set, but Odom has a fantastic voice and his songs are really very beautiful.

[READ: August 2019] Gods Without Men

I had read a review of this book by Douglas Coupland on two occasions and each time it made me want to read the book.  So I decided to read the book.  And what a book.

Coupland had warned, in a sense, that there were UFOs and aliens–but not to be put off by them.  And he’s right.  The book centers around aliens and such, but there are no “little green men.”

Rather, the book looks more at a location and the spiritual power it has had on people throughout history.

The book bounces back and forth between various eras and the present.  In most summaries of the book, the present takes prominence–and it is the most often visited timeline in the book.  But at times I found the story in the present to be less interesting than those in the past.

The book begin in 1947 with a man named Schmidt.  Schmidt drove out to the Pinnacles “three column of rock that shot up like the tentacles of some ancient creature, weathered feelers probing the sky.”  He used his diving rods and sensed the power here.  He paid $800 to a woman who owned the property and then settled in.  Schmidt built an underground structure to live in.  He bought an Airstream trailer and set it up as a diner.  Then he put in an airstrip and a fuel tank.  Soon enough pilots were stopping in for fuel as they sailed across the desert.  Schmidt is an interesting character (with a reprehensible past).  He also, every night, lit up the lights on top of his property that said WELCOME.

One night a ship descended from the sky. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: COURTNEY BARNETT-“Dawned on Me” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

This is a pretty standard cover of this song with Courtney Barnett on acoustic guitar with no accompaniment..  Her voice sounds great and it’s fun to hear her sing this in her Australian accent.  I definitely miss the wonderful bass line in the song, but her version is lovely.

[READ: February 2, 2020] Space Battle Lunchtime Volume 2

The book opens with Peony in a cell.  The disembodied voice shows that she signed a contract to be on Cannibal Coliseum. It is signed Peggy, ha.  They tell her she’ll be chopping or being chopped in an hour.

She says that she can’t cut up and cook someone.  The voice says “It’s called Can-nibal Coliseum not Can’t-ibal…”

Peony realizes the she has her phone so she turns it on and sees NO BARS.  You’re in space, what did you expect.

Back at the Space Battle Lunchtime set, it is revealed that Peony left a note–she forfeited.  But the cameraman says that doesn’t sound like her. Neptunia says that Peony bailed on their date as well.  And, what a surprise, Chef Melonhead has offered to fill in for the missing Peony.

Neptunia and the camera guy look at footage of the  loading doc and see that Peony was taken by a Cannibal Coliseum van.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BUILT TO SPILL-“Bloody Rainbow” (2020).

What happens when one of your favorite bands releases an album of covers of an artist that you think is so outrageously overrated that you pretty much hate him?

Yep, I’m the indie poster boy who cannot stand Daniel Johnston.  Everyone that I like and listen to seems to believe that his music is a gift direct from god.

I have heard some of his earlier songs when he could actually sing and I found them to be okay.  But most of my exposure to him is his later work when he couldn’t.  And I can’t help but think there’s some element of exploitation involved as well.

But whatever, his songs are simple an fairly catchy even if lyrically they are questionable.

I had no idea that Johnston had recruited Built to Spill to be his backing band for some of his final shows in 2017.  This album comes from the rehearsals for the tour.

This is the first song I’ve heard from the album and here’s what I learned.

I could listen to Doug Martsch sing anything.  This helps a lot.

Musically the song is exceptionally simplistic.  No problem there, lots of songs are simple.

The Built to Spill band sounds fantastic.  This is the trio format of Martsch, Steve Gere on drums and Jason Albertini on bass.

So basically, if the whole album sounds like this, I could absolutely see me enjoying it quite a lot.  Simple fun weird songs, sung by someone who can sing.  What’s not to like?

Just as long as I don’t have to listen to the originals.

[READ: February 3, 2020] Space Battle Lunchtime Vol. 1

I’m always intrigued by Oni Press books that look kind if un-professional. I’m not exactly sure what I mean by that, but many of their books, this one included, don’t look like they are “proper” graphic novels.  I think that’s what first attracted me to the press, that these stories looked like something I could do.  The artwork is good and most of the artists have their own style, but they look more homemade than studio produced.

Space Battle Lunchtime epitomizes that to me.   It feels warm and loved and personalized.  A story that Riess had to tell and enjoyed telling.

We open in a small bakery as Peony is putting the finishing touches on some pastries.  A frog-like creature walks in (on two legs) and asks for some Coo-fee lattes.  Then she notices the cakes and remarks about how cute they are.  While she is talking to them she gets a phone call.  Then she asks Peony if she has what it takes to be The Greatest Chef in the Galaxy.  After a second Peony says Absolutely.

Seconds later, Penny is at an alien television studio.  She says she thought Galaxy was the theme…not the location.  But she has very little time to settle in before it’s show time.

The rules are simple–impress the judges and win a 20,000 solarbuck prize.  Oh and if Peony loses, the frog-creature will lose her job (because she has screwed up too many times before). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FIONA APPLE-“The Whole of the Moon” (2019).

I’m rather a fan of a good cover song.  I don’t really like when bands play covers live–I’m here for your music not someone else’s–but a studio recording is usually welcome.

It’s especially helpful if it’s an artist I like doing a song I like.  Such as with this one.

I learned about The Waterboys back in college.  I hung out with Irish musicians and they introduced me to Irish bands.  Although we were more Fisherman’s Blues than This is the Sea, I still really enjoyed “The Whole of the Moon.”

Lyrically the song is simple but very clever.  It works through many comparisons about how “I” see things less completely than “you” do.

I was grounded
While you filled the skies
I was dumbfounded by truth
You cut through lies
I saw the rain dirty valley
You saw Brigadoon
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon

I also always like the part where the line “you came like a comet” is followed by an explosion–satisfyingly over the top.

The occasion of Fiona Apple covering it has to do with the show The Affair which I’d never heard of.  Evidently the season finale opens with The Waterboys’ version and ends with this new Fiona Apple version.  Fiona Apple’s song “Container” is used in the opening credits, so she already has ties to the show.

I can remember “discovering” Fiona Apple through an issue of New Music Monthly about two months before her debut came out.  I really liked “Shadowboxer” and then the whole album.  It was quite a surprise to me when she became a huge star soon thereafter.  And by the time she toured where I lived, the crowd was full of screaming girls.

Nevertheless, I have stuck with her because her music is always terrific.

Her voice has always been kind of raspy and deep–with a quirky range.  But she really pushes herself on this version.  She sounds worn out and it really works for these lyrics.

It stars with gentle synths and a drum pattern.  After the first verse, a full band comes in, with a trippy slide guitar (rather than the 80’s synths of the original).  But it stays pretty simple–this song is about the lyrics.  The middle instrumental section is similarly horn-based, but with a bit of piano and more slide guitar tossed in.

As the song goes on, Apple’s voice gets more and more intense.  The way she sings: “I sighed / but you swooned” will give you chills.

The Waterboys version has a cute musical ending which Apple removes. She also refrains from the comet explosion.

It’s stripped down and really fantastic.

[READ: September 23, 2019] Herbert’s Wormhole Book 3

I accidentally read Book 3 before Book 2.  I am embarrassed that that happened because I am a librarian and I should know better, but I double checked to see which came out first, but I must have read a paperback reprint with a later publishing date and though that book 3 was in fact book 2.

So I read book three and on many occasions I thought “How daring and surprising and hilarious that the Peter Nelson is referencing things that we did not see.”  I assumed that between book 1 and this one, the kids had had many adventures that we didn’t know anything about.  They would just casually refer to them.  This does happen in TV shows all the time, but I guess not in children’s books.  So I should have known better, but I was excited about the prospect of this rather author twist.  I do admit by the end that there were a number of things where I thought…hmmm…. this is referencing something that I think I should know about.  But I was far enough along at that point not to stop.

Turns out, at the end of Book 2 (I found out later), we see that GOR-DON’s plan for destroying the AlienSlayers is not his own.  It is actually  the plan of an evil mastermind.  An evil mastermind who we learn is called Aerostar.

But the real crisis is in the Filby household.  Because Alex’s dad is going to knock down the jungle gym (that they put up for Alex just last year) to make room for a huge playhouse for his bratty little sister, Ellie (“some serious assembly required”).  This will effectively destroy the wormhole!  What will they do now? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEODATO-Prelude (1973).

I know this artist because of Phish.  For years I thought that they “wrote” the discoey, funky. super cool version of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” which they play at a lot of shows.

I should have realized that the “Deodato” in the credits was the actual arranger of this cool piece, but I guess I never really thought about it.  I’ve no idea where the realization came to me, but once it did I decided  to check out the album from which it comes.

It turns out that Deodato is Eumir Deodato de Almeida (Brazilian Portuguese: [ẽʊ̃ˈmiχ djoˈdatu]; born June 22, 1942) is a Brazilian pianist, composer, arranger, and record producer, primarily in jazz but who has been known for his eclectic melding of genres, such as pop, rock, disco, rhythm and blues, classical, Latin and bossa nova.  Prelude was his first album released in the U.S. (released when he was 31) and eighth overall.  In addition to making over 30 albums, he has also been a producer and arranger on everything from Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” to Bjork’s albums PostTelegram, and Homogenic

“Also Sprach Zarathustra” begins with twinkling and guitar noises for 30 seconds before the 5-note funky keyboard comes in.  And then about a minute in the horns join to create the familiar Richard Strauss “Also Sprach Zarathustra” crescendo.  Even though that melody is barely a minute long, this version is 9 minutes long with a lengthy funky keyboard solo occasionally punctuated by horns.  It then switches to a more rocking sound with a 70s sounding guitar solo.  It really never loses the funk for the entirety of the piece.

“Spirit Of Summer” is a slow moody song that sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a noir film with slinky horn lines and jazzy bass.  I love the opening and how it then switches to an almost easy listening string section before adding a mellow keyboard solo and a surprising very fast flamenco guitar solo as well.   The song is only four minutes and ends with a flute solo and then a return to the opening horns.

“Carly & Carole” is an easy, mildly funky jazzy number.  There’s lead flute combined with the keys that push the song along.

“Baubles, Bangles, & Beads” is a jaunty five-minute romp that sounds like it would have been very popular at swinging parties in the 1970s.  There’s more flute and keys and two lengthy wild Santana-like guitar solos that run through to the end of the song.

“Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Faun” opens with a mournful flute that sounds a lot like the weird Snoopy interludes when he is the World War I Flying Ace in the old Peanuts cartoons.  The melody is quite nice and is then repeated by several instruments throughout the piece.   After 2 minutes it tuns into a swinging jazzy number with a flute solo and wah wah guitars and a bright trumpet solo.  I see now that this piece was done by Debussy and this is another arrangement.  It is not used in Peanuts although Schulz does reference the song in a strip.

“September 13” ends the disc with an upbeat funky song with groovy bass and keys and wah wah guitars.  There’s a wild mildly distorted guitar solo with fun effects put on it.  It’s a fun way to end an album that is short but really captures a moment in time.

[READ: September 3, 2019] Herbert’s Wormhole Book 2

I accidentally read Book 3 before Book 2.  I am embarrassed that that happened because I am a librarian and I should know better, but I checked on Goodreads and must have read a paperback reprint pub date and though that book 3 was in fact book 2.

Having read book three I basically knew a lot of what happened in book 2.  But primarily this is because in book 3 they make offhanded comments to things they did in book 2.  Incidentally, while I was reading book 3 I thought it was a really fun, bold move on the author’s part to reference adventurers that we hadn’t read about.  That should have dawned on me but I just persisted in believing that the author was being really daring. Oh well.

Knowing what happened didn’t really spoil anything, because the book is silly and funny anyhow.

This book opens with a paneled cartoon recap of book 1.

It’s followed by a hilarious opening sequence in which Alex’s dad has become hooked on video games.  He was trying to bond with Alex over Alex’s love of video games.  But in book 1, Alex’s memory of video games is wiped out.  So now his father is playing them and Alex doesn’t really see the point.  But Alex’s father is now as addicted as Alex was. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: A-WA-Tiny Desk Concert #886 (September 3, 2019).

I knew of A-WA and had seen them in a South X Lullaby this year.  But  that song was performed quietly, with just a guitarist.  This session is full band with all kinds of dancey accouterments.

Liron, Tair, and Tagel Haim [left to right] are behind my desk with a full band of keyboards, bass, guitar and drums, singing more forlorn tunes in their unique three-part harmony.  Their songs mix Yemenite and Arabic traditions with splashes of reggae and hip-hop.

These songs also have the lyrics translated at the bottom of the screen.  Since Bob says the songs are sad, I haven’t been reading too much, just enjoying the melodies [I’ll let Bob talk about the song in brackets]

The first song is “Habib Galbi” (“Love of My Heart”), [a heartbreaking song that went viral for A-WA in 2016].

I don’t know much of anything in the languages they are singing, but back in 1988 Israeli singer Ofra Haza released an album that I really liked and one of the great songs was “Galbi.”  So here it is again and it means “mt heart.”

‘Habib Galbi” opens with Middle Eastern melodies played on a synth (by Noam Havkin)–it’s a cool combination of traditional and modern almost futuristic.  It even has some electronic percussion (from Tal Cohen) and some great bass from Nitzan Eisenberg.  I love that there’s an occasional “Woo!” and lots of hand claps.  It is so dancey, how can it be heartbreaking?

 A-WA have recently released a second album, Bayti Fi Rasi (in Yemenite it means My Home is in My Head). The record tells the story of their grandmother traveling from Yemen to Israel.  The final two songs come from that recent album.

The second song “Al Asad” (“The Lion”) has the reggae feel in with the staccato guitar and a cool guitar solo from Yiftach Shachaf.  It “is a metaphorical tale of facing down a lion in your path.”

Once again, their movements and tone belie the story, as they move so almost sensually to the music as they sing (in fairness, it’s hard not to).

The last song “Hana Mash Hu Al Yaman,” (“Here is Not Yemen”) features some amazing rolling of r’s as they sing–I’m thinking it’s the word for “wheat.”  Once again, despite the music, this song

paints the struggles of coming to a new land, learning the language, finding work, a place to live and making it a home.

Although this song starts out more somber, as the song moves on it picks up a more danceable beat with more interesting synthy sounds.

I couldn’t help but be interested in the lyrics for this one with the way they sang “wheat” I had to find out what the rolled r word was.  This led me to see “Land of wheat and barely, grape and olive / fig, pomegranate date and home.”

And then further on:

Where will I stake a home? (You have a tent for now)
Or at least a small shack (along with four other families)
And here I will raise a family (Don’t let them take your daughter)
I’ll find myself a job with an income (either in cleaning or working the earth)
And I will learn the language (Lose the accent)
With time I’ll feel like I belong (Here is not Yemen).

Dang, draw me in with fun music and beautiful voices and then wow me with powerful lyrics.  Well done, A-WA.

[READ: September 3, 2019] Herbert’s Wormhole

We listened to this book on our summer road trip.  When I saw that it was a novel “in cartoons,” I decided to check out the print to see if it was any different as a story.

The cartoons certainly add to it. The drawings are done in a very stylized way (by Rohitash Rao).  The cartoons are indeed very cartoony but that befits a story about squid aliens who wear fake mustaches and toupees.

I’m glad I listened to the audio first because it was fun having the experience of hearing the Australian accents in my head while reading the text.  I’m sure I could have imagined the accents myself, but since Jonathan Davis did such a good job, it was nice having them in place.

The other interesting thing is how much I evidently missed during the listening (if you’re driving you have to pay attention to the world around you as well).  So the book version filled in some details that I clearly missed and a few things made a bit more sense.

The opening is fairly simple: Alex Filby is 11 years old and loves video games.  He is just about to defeat all the aliens in Alien Slayer 2 which is pretty great,.  Except he promised his parents that when he beat the game, he would stop playing video games for the summer and start playing outside.  So when he destroys the final alien, his parents tell him that they have set up a play date with the weird kid next store: Herbert Slewg. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: July 2019] Herbert’s Wormhole

We listened to this book instead of reading it.  Looking at the online book right now I see that the illustrations are pretty big part of the book (and they are weird and wonderful).  But this audiobook was narrated delightfully by Jonathan Davis.

The story starts with Alex Filby playing a video game.  He is just about to defeat that final alien in AlienSlayer 2.  His parents are watching him and they almost seem more excited than he is.  Why ever would this be?  Well, because he promised them that when he defeated every alien in AlienSlayer 2 that he’d put the video games away, play outside and not ask for another game all summer.  And they were pretty excited for that.

But when they bring him a present he hopes that maybe it’s AlienSlayer 3-D the greatest video game in history with motion sensor suits and a holographic projector.  Could they really be so awesome?  Well, no, instead, they gave him a home made T-shirt that says Alien Slayer.  Isn’t that wonderful?  They also gave him…a child-sized jungle gym. (more…)

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