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Archive for the ‘Adrian Alphona’ Category

  SOUNDTRACK: L.A. SALAMI-Tiny Desk Concert #649 (September 13, 2017).

I know about L.A. Salami exclusively from NPR.  They played “Day to Day (For 6 Days a Week),” a while back and I really liked it.  Then L.A. Salami performed an SXSW Lullaby for them.  And now he;s back for a Tiny Desk Concert.

Bob says that Salami is a bit like Dylan.  It’s a fair comparison in one way–particularly Salami’s lengthy narrative style.  But Salami is British and is delivery is radically different–alert and agitated instead of slow and almost disaffected like Dylan.

But here’s the blurb:

Lookman Adekunle Salami, who writes and records as L.A. Salami, is a storyteller and a poet. His songs are deliberate meanderings on the mundane and the poignancy in everyday life. And in the way Bob Dylan took his guitar and harmonica to accompany his rarely repeating ramblings, L.A Salami embraces a similar aesthetic, albeit as a black Englishman instead of a white Minnesotan.

His opening song at the Tiny Desk, “Day to Day (For 6 Days a Week),” runs about six minutes, with over 600 words. He seems to rattle them all off effortlessly, with compelling, complicated rhymes that never repeat and phrases such as:

“Went to work for the NHS –
Mental health, people depressed.
Met Joanne – Scared of living,
Afraid of dying, terrified of being.
Then met Paul, a schizophrenic,
Shaking limbs, paranoid fanatic –
Unwashed 10 days in a row –
So afraid almost paralytic.”

And the blurb is right–he is effortless in the way he sings-speaks these complicated ideas.  The words are sophisticated and the ideas are powerful.  He plays this song on acoustic guitar, a simple, sweet melody that supports the multifaceted words.  When it’s over he says, “that song was dedicated to anyone who has a job, or doesn’t have a job, or anyone who needs a job.”

For the second song, “Terrorism (The ISIS Crisis),” he switches to electric guitar.  He says, “I’m guessing you guys have heard of the terrorist attack in Westminster.  This next song “Terrorism (The ISIS Crisis)” is about this.”  This song has a pretty radically different sound.  Especially in the chorus (the other two songs don’t even have one) which features a loud, ringing, sharp guitar lick and Salami screaming (mostly) “the ISIS crisis.”   It’s effective the first time through but it seems kind of limited after a number of verses.  The verses are, once again very powerful, especially the quiet middle section:

“This song is called ‘My Thoughts, They Too Will Tire open brackets, sigh, close brackets.'”  This song has a lovely melody (the acoustic guitar is on capo 8 so it’s mostly high notes).  It’s another lengthy pointed but meandering song, a style that Salami does very well.

[READ: April 28, 2017] Ms Marvel: Civil War II

I was puzzled as to why this was called Civil War II.  I actually thought that it was a sequel to a book I hadn’t read yet as it seemed to come out of nowhere.  But I don’t think I missed anything in the Ms Marvel universe.

What I did miss out on was an overarching storyline called Civil War II about which Gizmodo has a lot of very negative things to say.  So I gather this series is part of a bigger thing which I don’t care about.  Sigh.  According to Wikipedia:

Functioning as an allegory about the nature of determinism versus free will the story sees opposing factions of superheroes led by Captain Marvel and Iron Man come into conflict when a new Inhuman named Ulysses emerges with the ability to predict the future. The debut of the series was scheduled to capitalize on the release of the 2016 Marvel Studios film Captain America: Civil War.

As the book opens, Kamala and her friends are involved in the Tri State Ultra Mega Science Fair.  They are squaring off against NY and CT nerds.

Jersey starts with Skyshark (a shark in a floating bubble of water) which Connecticut says is cruelty to animals (because CT is full of lawyers, ha).

NY makes the Re-aktron which is able to absorb all of the static electricity in the air and use it to power electrical grids.  No contest.

But for round 2, Jersey brings put the Fusion Master2000 a pocket-sized nuclear generator.  (What could go wrong?)

Well, when it does go wrong, it turns out that Spiderman (in the black outfit–no idea what that means) is already on the scene–we see hes actually one of the kids in the fair) and then superhero Nova arrives–all three there to help out. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLEACHERS-Tiny Desk Concert #648 (September 12, 2017).

I didn’t realize that Jack Antonoff, lead singer of Bleachers, was the lead guitarist (but not singer) for the band fun.

I really don’t like the lead sax by Evan Smith on two of the songs.

I particularly don’t like the sound of the sax on “Everybody Lost Somebody.”  When the sax is gone, the song which is otherwise just piano (Mikey Hart) sounds pretty great.  Antonoff’s delivery is quite interesting on this song, it reminds me of The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle–an almost-speaking, somewhat arch style..

After the song ends, Antonoff asks, “How often you guys do this?”
Bob says, “We got another one in an hour.”
Then he continues, talking about how NPR seems like a nice place to work.

For the second song, “Don’t Take The Money,” Antonoff says: “If you ever see Bleachers live, it’s two drum sets and it’s big and it’s kinda like this big statement that I could hide behind the tears with this big rock show. But the songs are written like this.”

This is kind of funny since the drums are played on a boombox and are quite loud.  The synths really fill the room, too.  Oddly the song segues into the chorus of Queen’s “Radio Gaga.”  Of the threes songs this is my favorite.  There’s no sax and Smith is playing along on a second set of synths to really make a full sound.

My favorite part of the song is at the end when he tries to get the boom box to stop.  He hits the button (trying to get a percussive sound), but it doesn’t turn off.  He and the pianist turn it into a cool improvised ending.

He says, “that’s cool we’ve never played that song like that.  That’s how it’s meant to be.  In some ways.  That’s what I love about playing live is to trick people–trick them into getting really sweaty and then going home and having weepy moments.”

After the song, Antonoff talks about the live show.  The blurb helps out:

“My manager says, ‘When you play for 1,000 people, don’t talk to one person. It’s only cool for them,'” Antonoff said. It was offered as an apology — he had just finished aiming a monologue about the link between dancing and crying at a single NPR staffer in the audience — but it was also a perfect encapsulation of the connection Antonoff’s songs create. Bleachers makes truly conversational pop, songs that sound expansive but retain a sense of intimacy, even when aimed at the masses.

This final song is called “Foreign Girls” and he tells the band, “I guess we’ll do it… like we talked.”  The sax is back and is almost obscured by him “la la la’ing” but it does peek through.

It’s interesting hearing them like this, but I don’t know what they sound like all big and dancey, so I can’t really compare.

[READ: October 1, 2016] Ms Marvel: Super Famous

Confusingly, this book collects issues 1-6, but they are definitely not the first issues one to six.  This is a whole new story line which follows the previous books and is listed as Volume 5.  The book has three artists: Takeshi Miyazawa (issues 1-3) , Adrian Alphona (part of issue 1), and Nico Leon (issues 4-6).  And it starts off almost where the last series ended.  Except it’s 8 months later and a few things have happened.

Like Ms Marvel has officially become an Avengers (there’s a cool two page spread of them coming down the alley (although I don’t recognize some of them, actually).  And Ms Marvel is doing pretty well.  However, Kamala, the girl who is Ms. Marvel is having a hard time keeping up with schoolwork, friends and family while fighting crime at night.

Oh and somehow in the last 8 months, her best friend/crush Bruno has started dating a wicked cool girl named Mike.  How did she not notice this romance blooming?  And can she take it out on Bruno?  Well, she can until she looks up and sees her image (well Ms Marvel’s image) on a billboard.  And this has her fighting mad, even more so when she finds out who is responsible for the billboard.

Turns out it is a bunch of developers creating Hope Yards–a plan to clean up Jersey City by making it unaffordable for undesirables.  And what’s worse is that the people protesting the unannounced building of Hope Yards are naturally associating her with the project. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: FRANCES CONE-Tiny Desk Concert #647 (September 8, 2017).

Frances Cone is a relatively new band (their second album is due out soon).

There’s keys, drums guitars and lots of harmonies.

Christina Cone sings primary vocals but Adam Melchor sings lovely hrmony vocals  The keys dominate on the first song “Unraveling” until the gentle acoustic guitarists add a nice texture.  What’s interesting is that once the acoustic guitars kick in, Andrew Doherty, on bass, gets to play a more prominent lead riff and also takes over on lead vocals while keys and guitar do the oohs an harmonies.  It really changes the texture of the song and when Christina takes leads back again, it’s really something else,

The song is simple but really catchy with a powerful chorus. and Christina’s occasional high notes are a very nice accent.

I really enjoy when a band gushes to be on Tiny Desk, and Christina seems really overcome with joy (so does Adam later).

I love the keyboard sound she chooses for “Arizona”–an old fashioned organ sound. She sings lead but he guys are right behind her with low harmonies and oohs as needed.  Andrew switches to lead guitar (with the keys handling the low end) which adds a whole new sound to their repertoire, and the chorus is really catchy with Christina’s soaring vocals.

before the final song, Adam says, “I was watching that Shia LaBeouf “Just Do It” video–don’t let your dreams be dreams–and that what this feel’s like.
Bob: “I wondered where you were going with that.”
Christina: “Are you referencing Shia LaBeouf right now?”

Adam switches from acoustic to electric and there’s some great buzzy bass sounds out of the keys.  The guys sings some gorgeous harmony vocals on this song.  I love that the spare use of guitars comes in with some neat harmony melody lines mid-verse.

There’s also a drummer who I haven’t mentioned–he did a lot of interesting sounds–sometimes using mallets but playing a rim shot with each stick, or using the mallets properly.

Christina Cone (keys, vocals); Andrew Doherty (electric bass, electric guitar, vocals); Adam Melchor (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals); Alex Baron (drums).

[READ: October 1, 2016] Ms Marvel: Last Days

This book collects books 16-19 of the Ms. Marvel series and kind of wraps up the story (sort of, there’s another series that has come out and starts with issue #1–so confusing!).  This book also includes a 2 issue crossover with Amazing Spider Man-7 & 8.

This book opens with yet another amazing crossover–Kamala gets to meet the original Ms Marvel, Carol Danvers (who is now Captain Marvel and, confusingly to me, is dressed in a strange suit with what looks like a mohawk).  Kamala is worried thay Carol will be mad that she copped the Ms Marvel name, but Carol is cool with it–Kamala has earned the title. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JASON ISBELL-Tiny Desk Concert #645 (August 28, 2017).

Everybody seems to love Jason Isbell.  I’d heard the songs that people liked and I didn’t really think all that much of them.

This Tiny Desk Concert made Isbell sound much more country than I’d realized (I didn’t know he was with the Drive-By Truckers, either).

I was a little resistant initially, but the first song “Chaos and Clothes” really won me over with the words and melody.  By the end of the song when the fiddle and violin are in full swing and the bassist is playing a cool bass line on that weird tiny fake-looking bass guitar the song really takes off.

But it was Isbell’s playful and funny side that made me rally enjoy him and his band.

He asks the drummer how he is dong and then comments on the hat that they wished they could have worn (they point to tiny top hats).

Isbell says, “Abraham Lincoln had a tiny head, it turns out.  Where’s you’re novel about that, George Saunders.”

Then he jokes about the bass guitar: “that’s’ why you need the hat,  your bass is so small.  Abe Lincoln played a tiny bass.

When they finally get going, the second song “Molotov” has a false start-“I spent so much time on that word and then I said the wrong one.”  The violinist says its alright she didn’t do the best either.  I love the dramatic melody and delightful swing to this song.  It’s really good.

They have a lengthy amusing discussion about babies’ defense mechanisms. The whole banter section between the second and third song is really funny.  Jason leans into his guitarist who jumps and says “thank you.”  This makes Isbell laugh, “if you scare Sadler, he says ‘thank you.'”  Sadler says it’s a defense mechanism from when he was a baby.  Isbell looks at him: “Why would you have o defend yourself when you were a baby?” They talk about baby defense mechanisms and Isbell determines that saying thank you is a good idea: if you were going to kill someone and they said thank you, you’d pause–wondering if you fell into their trap.

He jokes, “we shouldn’t have taken all that acid before Tiny Desk.”

There’s a lot of laughter and then Amanda worries that she has boogers.  It’s quite light-hearted (she doesn’t, by the way).

There’s another false start for “Last of My Kind.”  He pauses the song and then invites an audience member up on “stage” to play.  He says that when he was younger he always imagined that this would happen to him–that someone would have once just asked him to come up and play.

The final song is really good, with a lot of great details in the words, and Ashwin, “a guest in the building who got more than he’d likely expected from his visit to NPR headquarters,” makes good use of his special performance.

His band is The 400 Unit: Sadler Vaden (guitar); Amanda Shires (fiddle, backing vocals); Jimbo Hart (bass); Derry deBorja (keyboards); Chad Gamble (drums); Ashwin Wadekar (guitar on “Last of My Kind”).

[READ: March 15, 2015] Ms Marvel: Generation Why

This book collects issues 6-11 of the Ms. Marvel series. I really enjoyed the first collection a lot, but I hadn’t seen any of the follow ups.  So I was pretty excited to see that my library had gotten all of the published volumes.

In addition to having a great story line about a Pakistani-American teenager who received superpowers, Ms Marvel has a lot of fun with inside-Marvel jokes (which I know some people get tired of, but which I like and which I think works very well here).  Ms Marvel is Kamala Khan.  She is a huge fan of the Marvel Universe (which of course is real), and she had taken the name of Ms Marvel in honor of Carol Danvers, the first Ms Marvel.

Jacob Wyatt drew books 6 & 7 and Adrian Alphona did 8-11.

The book opens with Kamala’s parents–god-fearing Muslims, sending her to Sheikh Abdullah.  She is obviously concerned with talking to this religious leader. Her new career as Ms Marvel has kept her from doing most of the things she should be doing as a decent Muslim girl. But the Sheikh is surprisingly cool.  She doesn’t reveal her secret but he senses that she is doing good and perhaps she just needs the help of someone–a teacher?  She heads downtown where suddenly there is a sinkhole in the ground.  As Ms Marvel, she jumps in and discovers gigantic crocodiles.  The person who has carted these gigantic creatures proves to be a human-cockatiel hybrid who IS NOT A BIRD.  He is bad guy named The Inventor.  And just as things start to get really intense, a teacher of sorts comes to help out–Wolverine!  It cracks me up that she takes a selfie with him. (more…)

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marvel SOUNDTRACK: YES-The Yes Album (1971).

The_Yes_AlbumAnd then came The Yes Album and everything changed.  Whether it was the addition of Steve Howe on guitar or just more confidence in their songwriting, I don’t know, but The Yes Album is leaps and bounds above Time and a Word.

The opening staccato notes of “Yours is No Disgrace” are tight and loud—what is now considered classic Yes sound—Squire’s bass is low and rumbly but ever so precise.  There’s the true Yes keyboard sound and some amazing guitar work.  It’s got a great introduction followed by some excellent harmony vocals (that’s don’t sound psychedelic any longer).  Then comes the great slow jazzy section with the awesome bass meandering through.  The song has so many great parts and they all fit together perfectly.  This is how you make an awesome 10 minute song.  Even the ending which isn’t exactly different adds more drama.

The next song is a live version of “Clap” (apparently not called “The Clap” as our discs say).  It’s a fun romp from then new guitarist Steve Howe.  It’s a delightful masterpiece, although it’s kind of oddly placed (and the fact that it’s live also makes the flow seem odd).  This is all my way of leading up to saying that Fragile is a slightly more cohesive album than The Yes Album even if they are equally excellent.

“Starship Troopers” is another classic with some more great basslines and some really crisp drums. It also has a middle section (acoustic guitar with great vocal harmonies) that really holds the song together very well.  They do a great job at making instrumental sections interesting.

“I’ve Seen All Good People” has a great opening with harmony vocals and acoustic guitar and then a full chorus.  When Squire’s bass comes in at around 3 minutes, it’s like the heaviest thing on earth.  I happened to be listening in only one ear while writing this (never do that with Yes) and for the first time I hear the choral voices sing “Give Peace a Chance” before it switches over to the rocking second half of the song.  “A Venture” is like a truncated version of a Yes song.  It may be the least interesting song on the disc, but that’s just because of the company around it.

“Perpetual Change,” the third 9 minute song opens with some great loud guitars and then some quiet sections where Anderson’s voice really shines.  And just when you think that the song is going to be nine minutes of more or less the same sweet music, at 5 minutes it shifts gears entirely into a crazy staccato section of fast notes and drumming.  It’s such a strange riff (and when the bass starts following a slightly different riff and the guitar solos over the top, it’s beautifully controlled chaos.  And after a minute and a half of that, it switches back to the delicate harmonies of yore.

There’s not a bad song on this disc and depending on your proclivities it is either a little better or a little worse than the next masterpiece, Fragile.

Since almost every Yes album had different personnel, I’m going to keep a running tally here.  Our first change occurs with this their third album:

Chris Squire-bass
John Anderson-vocals
Bill Bruford-drums
Tony Kaye-keyboards
Steve Howe (#2 replaced Peter Banks)-guitar

[READ: March 15, 2015] Ms Marvel: No Normal

This collection collects books 1-5 of the Ms. Marvel series (Adrian Alphona is the artist for all of the books).  When I saw it at work, I assumed it was related to the new Captain Marvel series that I had just read.  But it turned out to be a different story altogether.  And I loved the new character that the Marvel universe has added to its fold.

For this story is about Kamala Khan an ordinary girl from Jersey City.  She is a Turkish Muslim with very strict parents.  Her brother doesn’t work but spends all his time praying (much to her father’s dismay).  Her best friend Kiki (call her Nakia now, thank you) has recently found her religion and begun wearing head scarves.  And her other best friend, Bruno, is busy working all the time.

As the story opens, we see these three in the Circle Q where Bruno works (there’s funny joke about “Chatty” Bob, which I liked). In walks a spoiled white girl Zoe who seems nice but really probably isn’t.  Kamala seems to like her but Nakia does not (and Zoe’s insensitivity to Nakia is part of the reason).

Zoe invites them to a party (knowing they won’t go), but Kamala sneaks out and heads to the party anyway.  She immediately doesn’t fit in, and as she wanders away from the festivities a mist covers the ground and she is visited by Captain America, Iron Man and Captain Marvel (in her new female form), and, better yet, she can speak Urdu. (more…)

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