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Archive for the ‘Chickens’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SUNNY WAR-Tiny Desk Concert #909 (November 13, 2019).

Sunny War says twice that she’s not going to talk.  She saves all of her words for her songs.

Her voice is soft and gentle, but her words are strong.

The first song “If It Wasn’t Broken” features the chorus “how would you know you had a heart if it wasn’t broken?”

Further lyrics in this slow and simple song:

so you lost your baby
so you lost your job
so you lost all faith
in the one you call god.

Dang.

These are words from a young woman who has been homeless, busked on city streets and Venice Beach, left home feeling she was a burden to her distraught mother, had her life complicated by drugs, and yet still found a way to pick up a guitar and bring joy to others.

Her songs aren’t complicated, but they feature some really excellent fingerpicking.  “Got No Ride” has a lot of beautiful interludes (including one part where she is fingerpicking and bending a string at the same time).

Sunny War began learning guitar from her uncle at around the age of seven. One of the early songs she learned was The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” an almost prophetic tune with the line, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly.” But it was the fingerpicking that was the attraction for Sunny War. She loved playing guitar that way as opposed to strumming and, as you watch this Tiny Desk, you’ll see what a fluid and remarkable guitar player she’s become.

The song also features some extra bass lines from Aroyn Davis (The first song didn’t really have noticeable bass).

“Love Became Pain” is a lot faster, with some really impressive guitar work.  Clearly from the title, though, this isn’t a happy song either.  I like the shuffle drums that Paul Allen gets using brushes on the cajón.

The final song, “Shell” opens with the lines:

“Before you rip your girl to shreds / Be sure you really want her dead.”

With such a pretty melody, too!

Much like her name, Sunny War’s music is a wonder of contradictions.

[READ: February 2, 2020] Rust: Volume 4

This book concludes the Rust saga.

Like the first book, there are a ton of pages with no dialogue.  This story is wonderfully told with just visuals.  And Lepp’s visuals are really amazing–what he accomplishes with such  limited color palette is really impressive.

The book starts with a flashback to the war 48 years ago.  It’s been awhile since I read the first book but I feel like this intro pages are exactly the same.  We see Jet Jones rescue a man by creating a large shield.  I’m not sure if there;s some more significance.  I’m also not sure if we’re supposed to know who the man is.

But the story quickly jumps back to the Taylor’s farm.  The really menacing robots are closing in.  Oz has a shotgun in ready.  And the engineer is carrying Jet Jones’ limp body away with him.

The robots arrive (why does it amuse me that they open the door) and Oz shoots, which awakens the family.

A terrible battle commences in the house with all of the people getting hurt, but with all of them doing a good job of harming the robots.  Jet comes in at the last second and smashes up some of the robots.  In the process reveals his mechanical arm.  The family is shocked, except for Oz.  Roman is furious that Jet lied. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PARQUET COURTS-“I Got Drugs (at the End of the Century)” (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 track is about as far from the Wilco sound as I can imagine.  Plus, this is a mash up of two Wilco songs, “Handshake Drugs” and “I Got You (at the End of the Century).”  The song opens with Austin singing the lyrics to “Handshake Drugs” while the rest of the band chants the backing vocals of “I Got You” at the end of each verse.

Musically it’s very un-Wiclo as well.  There’s a drum sound which sounds like a sample of a person making a drum sound.  There’s a chiming repeating guitar sound and a big rumbling bass. And of course the vocal delivery is about as far from Jeff Tweedy as you can get.

Austin sings the first two verses while the responding chants move further down the lyrics of “I Got You,” now chanting something else.

There’s  simple weird synth solo in the middle.  Then the end half of the song is loud and dancey with a lot of chanting, “It’s the end of the century” and an unhinged guitar solo.

This song sounds like neither of the two songs it’s taken from, making this a fascinating and ultimately very cool cover.

[READ: February 2, 2020] Rust: Volume 3

Volume three is the penultimate volume of the series.  I can’t believe how short this series is.  It seems like so little has actually happened and yet so much has gone on.

The story continues where volume 2 left off–in fact the first thing we see is the robot that Jet has destroyed.  But it is not destroyed, it easily rights itself and takes off after Jet.

Jet returns to the train to get Oz, but the robot is right behind them.  Jet uses a clever maneuver to avoid the robot who crashes into the train while it is on a huge bridge.  The train starts to goes over, bringing Oz (and presumably the conductor(!!) with it.  Jet is able to rescue Oz at the last second (no word on anyone else).  Nevertheless, Oz refuses to give Jet the oil cell, even though Oz is clearly dying.   Finally Jet has to punch Oz to save himself.  Jet flies Oz back to his family.

But Oswald is still not happy about Jet and he reveals what he knows to Roman and Jesse.  They drive off leaving Jet n a field.  And that’s where the man with the beard finds him.

He says this is the longest that Jet has stayed in one place. Jet reveals that he thinks the family needs him and he want to stay.  But the man says that is he stays he will bring the entire military to their doorstep. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-“Halloween on the Barbary Coast” (1992).

A lot of the music I listen to is weird and probably creepy to other people, but I don’t necessarily think of songs as appropriate for Halloween or not.  So for this year’s Ghost Box stories, I consulted an “expert”: The Esquire list of Halloween songs you’ll play all year long.  The list has 45 songs–most of which I do not like.  So I picked 11 of them to post about.

Clearly this Esquire list is not meant to be scary or Halloween-appropriate songs.  Many of them might have a Halloween-type word in the title or chorus, but since they are songs you might want to listen to all year, the’re not really holiday specific.

There are songs that have Halloween in the title, like this one.  Although this song really has nothing whatsoever to do with Halloween.  Nor is it scary in any way.  It’s just weird trippy, pre-radio-friendly Flaming Lips.

Wayne Coyne’s voice is high and the main guitar riff is fluid and kind of catchy.  After a minute, the song shifts to a kind of acoustic stomping song.

The lyric does include the line “boy you still got shit for brains/it’s Halloween on the coast again.”  Of course it also references a Christmas tree, so I guess it could be a Christmas song too?

There’s a vaguely Middle Eastern feel to the middle portion of the song, but mostly it’s just a fun, shambolic Lips song.

[READ: October 24, 2019] “Sredni Vashtar”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. and Ghost Box II. comes Ghost Box III.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

Oh god, it’s right behind me, isn’t it? There’s no use trying to run from Ghost Box III, the terrifying conclusion to our series of limited-edition horror box sets edited and introduced by Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, I’m going to read in the order they were stacked.

This has been quite possibly my favorite story in any of the Ghost Boxes.

Saki is the pen name of British author Hector Hugh Munro.  I could not get over that this story was written in 1912, as it was timeless and darkly amusing. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KASVOT VÄXT-“We Are Come to Outlive Our Brains” (1981/2018).

Back in 1994, Phish started covering a classic album for its Halloween costume. In 2015 they covered the Disney album: Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House, which pretty much meant all bets were off.  So in 2018, they decided to cover an obscure Scandinavian prog rock band called Kasvot Växt and their sole album, í rokk.  This proved to be a big joke–they were a nonexistent band.  They had so much fun creating this band, that they even enlisted others to expand the joke.  This included impressively thorough reviews from WFMU and from AllMusic.

The joke is even in the name: when translated together Kasvot Växt and í rokk means “Faceplant into rock.”.

Here’s some more details they came up with:

The Scandinavian prog rock band purportedly consists of Jules Haugen of Norway, Cleif Jårvinen of Finland, and Horst and Georg Guomundurson of Iceland.  The album’s label, Elektrisk Tung, supposedly went out of business shortly after the LP’s release and little information about the record appears on the internet. Bassist Mike Gordon made a tape copy of í rokk in the mid-’80s and Phish would play it “over and over in the tour van in the early ’90s.” In the Playbill, guitarist Trey Anastasio insisted, “Every time the Halloween discussion comes up, we talk about Kasvot Växt. We honestly were worried we wouldn’t have the chops to pull it off or do justice to the sound, but when it came down to it, we just couldn’t resist any longer.”

The decision to go with an obscure album few have heard or even heard of appealed to the members of Phish. “We’ve paid tribute to so many legendary bands over the years, it felt right this time to do something that’s iconic to us but that most people won’t have heard of,” Gordon said as per the Phishbill. “And with these translations we’re really performing songs that have never been sung in English before.” Keyboardist Page McConnell added, “I love the mystery surrounding this whole thing. If those guys ever hear we did this I hope they’re excited because we absolutely intend it as a loving tribute.” As for what Phish fans can expect? “A weird, funky Norweigan dance album! Get out there and put your down on it!” exclaimed drummer Jon Fishman.

While the listings for the 10 tracks on the original í rokk were in a Scandinavian language, the titles appear in English in the Playbill. Phish called upon a Nordic linguist to translate the lyrics to English for tonight’s performance.

These songs do not really sound like a Norwegian prog rock band.  They do sound an awful lot like Phish (although with a more synthy vibe overall. The band has this part of their live show streaming on Spotify under the Kasvot Växt name.  And I’m ending the year by talking about each song.

This song starts with a simple high-note bass.  In the live, set the visuals corresponded nicely with nine white cubes floating in the sky (lyrics include: “shapes are hanging over you” and “nine cubes”).  The chorus has a repeated rising singing of the title that is super catchy.  This song also includes the puzzling lyric: “I’m the glue in your magnet” (translation, indeed!).

The last three minutes have a solo that is pure Trey–upbeat and cheerful, with the “glue” line repeated and the switching to the title phrase a few more times.  It’s a nother solid song in this collection.

[READ: December 22, 2018] “A Chicken in Every Pot”

Here is a Christmas tale to help everyone prepare for the holiday.

Morris has curated a collection of 19th and 20th century socialist fairy tales, like this one, which were recently published.

This one is set in the time before man had completely established domination over the animal world.  As it was nearing Christmas, the poultry gathered in a solemn conference with an important issue to consider: “the debate partook of the gravity of he times…and the all-important subject, With what sauce shall we be eaten?”

The hall was crowded and every poultry was heard–even the bantam hens’ cackling was considered. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 4 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 11, 2005).

This series contains the final Rheostatics live shows that are left to write about.  This was the 4th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe–(All ages Sunday afternoon set). Ford Pier was on keyboards.  And once again Dave’s daughter Cece sings a song.

Recording starts at the end of Home Again – not sure what was played prior.  Given the length and set list they probably didn’t play much before “Home Again” but we only hear the end of it anyway.

All ages shows are typically shorter. But with having no beginning, this one is really short at just over an hour and a quarter.

“It’s Easy To Be With You” starts with an unexpected bluesy riff underneath the song before it starts properly.  It’s followed by a nice “Loving Arms.”

Then you hear Cece ask, “Dad, is it my turn, yet?” “No.”  “Awwwwww.  How many more song?”  “4 more.”

“Aliens (Christmas 1988)” (not kid friendly, actually).  But mid-song Dave starts playing the “When Winter Comes” during the quiet part, but they never leave the song.

Then Dave says, “We have to do this next one because we’re playing it at guest vocalist night.”  “Many words.”  Martin: “Good luck, Timmy.”  Mike counts out 7 but nobody follows through.  Tim: “So far, not so good.”  They make it through “The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos” and Tim says, “I can’t believe all those words are in my head.  It’s a weird feeling.”  Dave: “Yea, you said you wouldn’t remember the second verse and you did.”  Martin: “Here’s a request for “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  “Shhhhhhh”  Tim: “Speaking of many words in your head.”  Dave: “And that request will go unfulfilled.”  Mike: “If anyone is going to make that request they have to make cue cards.”  Dave says, “We did it well at The Boot.”  Mike: “I had a fever, I can’t remember.  101 a rock n roll fever.  Dave: “I think the rock n’ roll fever is 102.  I’m just quoting Foreigner.”  Mike: “It’s 103 with Foreigner.  Check it and see / got a fever of 102?  I don’t think so, Dave.”  “103 that’s like malaria.”

We’re going to do a new song of Tim’s that we have been learning in advance of a record that we hope will some day get made.  After we rest on our laurels for the next 8 months.  Whatever laurels are.  Tim: “they’re like chaise lounges?”  Martin: “Or are they like haunches?”

Tim starts “Sunshine At Night” then stops.  “Ford is building something back there.  Ford: ” No I’ll catch up.”  Dave: Ford is just finishing his Chinese food from last night.”  Martin: “And building an amplifier.”  Mike: “What can’t he do?”

After the sweet “Sunshine” they play a cool “Christopher.”  The middle sections slows down quite a bit and then bursts forth loudly with the drums (I hope they had earplugs for the kids).  It’s followed by a lovely “Little Bird, Little Bird.”

Then Dave lays out the schedule for the next few days:

A wonderful week planned:
Tuesday its free.  That’s wonderful for you and… okay… for us.
Wednesday is the Whale Music album with many guests
Thursday is guest vocalist night with about 14 people singing–we give about 43 percent.  That’s not free.
And then the weekend is the last two licks so we all go crazy.  Paint our faces (not really).
And we have a hockey game on Thursday at 4 o’clock.   4 bucks to play.  Sticks and skates.  There’s a sign up card.

Then Cece asks, “Dad, is it my turn?”  After a sweet “Making Progress” it is finally Cece’s turn.

She is quite excited and yells “Perfect!” right into the mic.  She calls all the kids up on stage and then says you sing the song with me…that’d be even better.  You hear someone says “I wanna sing in the microphone.”  She says “After me!”  And then she sings a great “Everyday People.”  The whole song is fun.  And at the end Dave says, “we gotta teach you to throw to the guitar solo.”

Dave starts “Bread, Meat, Peas and Rice” and then realizes, “Hey, the same chords as ‘Everyday People,’ only faster.  At the end he notes, “Everybody has fun when the bongos come out and then half an hour later nobody’s having fun.  It’s the overstay-its-welcome instrument.”  Mike asks if they were expensive and Dave says they are the real things, I think they were like $150.

Martin says “next is a song about being lost in the wilderness.  And it’s called “Personal Identification Number” for some reason.  Dave asks if it was supposed to be a longer title and Martin says, “My publicist said the name was too long so I shortened it.”  Then he says, “This is a tenor guitar.  It’s got 4 strings.”  He starts singing “my guts, my guts, my ooey gooey guts” which Mike picks up on and sing “The ones in the back and the ones in the front.”

Martin finishes with a really fast solo.  He says, “that was very 2112.  But small.”  Dave:  “like point 2112.”  Mike: “It tastes like Rush but doesn’t get you drunk.”

They move on to “Four Little Songs.”  Dave asks if Max is here, but he has left. When they get to the third section, Dave says it’s traditional for Ford or someone else to do that slot.  But he wants to know if there’s anyone out there who has a song that must be sung?  At the back of the room?  It’s the wallflowers who have the most significant musical contribution.”  Mike; “It’s a die Fledermaus moment.”

They call Max over, not sure who Max is or if he even comes, but they play a jam, with Dave saying “it’s Max, ‘it’s not Max.”  When they get to the end Dave says, “Hold on, we need a new ending.  We have three: By Mennen, the two yells, and the Yes!”  Mike says “by Mennen is usually editorializing”  and that he’s been with the band for almost five years and he;s never done “Yes!”  So they demonstrate. Mike says, “this is like a DVD where you can choose the ending.”  Dave says, the new ending is the discussion of the ending.

And then Ford suggests that the new ending could be “like a zinger on The Muppet Show (wah wah).”  Cookie Monster ate all the cookies.  Bert will you ever win?

Dave says, “A couple more songs.” Martin: “and then the clowns.”

So Dave tells a story “When I was in Moscow there as an Americana diner and there was a security guard who looked like Captain Kangaroo expect he carried a gun.  Every Wednesday he was to dress like a clown.  So they have clown security in the American diner which tells you everything you need to know about the coming together of the United States and Russia.  Then Ford says, “And Australia…kangaroo.”

Dave: “Captain Kangaroo had never been within 15,000 miles of a kangaroo in his life.”

They play two final songs.  Dave: “Remember kids, only steal a car if you really have to.  And be careful when you invest in the Steinberger product, it’s hit and miss.”

They play a terrific “Stolen Car” and then surprisingly, given that this is an all-ages show, end with “Horses.”  “Horses” opens with a very different intro than usual, it sounds pretty cool.  The song rocks, but Dave doesn’t do any crazy ranting.  At the end, Martin does the horse sound with his guitar and some one says “whoah woah, horsey.”

[READ: July 9, 2017] The Big Bad Fox

First Second continues to publish first class French graphic novels and children’s books (this one translated by Joe Johnson).

This is a children’s book, but it is quite long.  It’s not hard to read by any means, but it’s a not a quicky 32 page picture book.

It’s possible that this was originally released as a series–there does seem to be a kind of punch line every few pages, but the story is consistent and quite funny (even if it’s not all that original). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Christmas on Mars (2008).

Title aside, and despite the Lips’ love of Christmas, there is nothing Christmassey about this recording.

It’s a soundtrack to their film and it is composed of 12 instrumental pieces.  The disc (which is short) sounds like interstitial Flaming Lips pieces–songs that might appear at the end of or in between songs.

The tracks run the gamut from spooky outerspacey dirges to pretty choral numbers.  But the overall tone of the soundtrack is dark and foreboding (the movie isn’t very happy after all).

Some of the tracks (3 and 4 in particular) are prettier than other–with pretty harps and tubular bells.  But do not put this in your Christmas music rotation unless you really dislike Christmas music.

[READ: June 21, 2017] Adios, Cowboy

Hot on the heels of the depressing Sorry to Disrupt the Peace come this depressing story by Olja Savičević Ivančević (her full name according to Goodreads) translated from Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth.  In Peace, the narrator’s brother killed himself and the narrator wants to find out why.  In Adios, Cowboy, the narrator’s brother kills himself and she want to find out why.

The difference is that this book is set in Croatia, has multiple characters, multiple stories and a huge amount of confusion.

Dada (the narrator) lives in Zagreb, but she is called home to Old Settlement by her sister to help with their aging mother.  She is intrigued at the thought of going home  again after so many years.  But when she gets there, her mother has been taking all kinds of pills, her sister has pretty much given up as evidenced by her chain-smoking, their long-dead father’s shoes still lined up on the steps, and their dead younger brother’s cowboy posters of are still on the walls.  (The dead brother’s name is Daniel.  The fact that one of the characters in the previous book also about the suicide was also named Daniel really didn’t help this much). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PINEGROVE-“Intrepid” (2017).

Pinegrove frontman Evan Stephens Hall just announced that, because of indiscretions, he was cancelling the band’s winter tour.  I had tickets to two of these shows, so that’s certainly a bummer.

I can only hope that whatever the details of his trouble, he can work it out amiably, get the help he needs and get back on the road in a better place.

Before this all happened, the band released their first new single since Cardinal took off.  “Intrepid” opens with a quietly strummed guitar and Hall singing quietly, including an unexpected falsetto note.  The song threatens to get big and loud but then seems like it might just end.

But after a minute and a half the rocking guitars and backing vocals come in and the song lifts off.  It strikes me as far less catchy than anything they’ve done so far, but it feels a lot more complex, as well.

The end of the song drops in volume, with one more little rocking guitar part before it fades out quietly with the same part that sounded like the end earlier.

It’s really well crafted.

[READ: May 7, 2017] Dark Shadows

This fourth book is once again Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin.  It also has an introduction by J.J. the search and rescue dog whose current civilian job is to look after the Chicken Squad.  I would love to see what the humans think of these chickens acting this way, I think that would be a very funny insight.  But maybe it’s best if it’s left unknown.

The family, including J.J. and the chickens are in the car going to a farm to “See things you’ve never seen before.”  Sugar says she has seen everything there is to see.  J.J. counters that she has never been out of the backyard.

Their mom, Moosh, explains that this will be a family reunion–they’ll meet all of their aunts, uncle and cousins.  And when they arrives there are hundreds and everyone expects them to lean all of their cousins’ names. (more…)

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