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Archive for the ‘Chris Ware’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JOY DIVISION-“Isolation” (1980).

This is the second song on Joy Division’s second and final album Closer.

It opens with a sharp drumbeat and Peter Hook’s recognizable bass sound.  Hook’s bass was often a lead instrument an the riffs in this song are propulsive.

A very synthetic synthesizer melody runs counter to the bass.  A descending synth line is the only thing that marks the chorus of the song.

Then Ian Curtis’ voice echoes from out of a well.

This song is about internal isolation and so it doesn’t really fit in with the quarantine theme, although this line does kind of fit

Surrendered to self preservation,
From others who care for themselves.

Midway through the drums turn to real drums–suddenly coming to life as the synths go a little wild with distortion.

With about ten seconds left the song kind of fades out with echoing sounds.  Apparently this cool ending came as the result of Martin Hannett’s efforts to rescue the original master tape from a botched edit by a junior sound engineer.

For a song that lasts less that 3 minutes, it conveys an awful lot about solitude.

[READ: March 29, 2020] Self-Isolating

I love Chris Ware.  I love his style and I love his tone.  Sure, sometimes he is too dark for me, but there’s always a sly humor that makes me smile no matter how dark the content.

Most of his pieces are long, so it was fun to see a one-page comic that I could post below (copyright The New Yorker and/or Chris Ware, but come on, this kind of fun should be shared with everyone).

So what’s the deal??  Well, a cartoonist who spends all of his time in a tiny room drawing pictures sure knows about self-isolating.  One might actually say this is his moment to shine.

Sometimes hardships bring out the best art.

(more…)

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diaSOUNDTRACK: JAPANESE BREAKFAST-Tiny Desk Concert #663 (October 25, 2017).

I had it in my head that Japanese Breakfast was a weird band–psychedelic or wacky indie or something.   And maybe they are.  But certainly not here.

For this concert, the band is all acoustic (except for the electric bass).  For the first two songs there is a sting section.  Interestingly, the string section is Rogue Collective who also performed with Landlady on a recent Tiny Desk.   [Landlady’s Adam Schatz told Zauner that the Rogue Collective make pretty great Tiny Desk partners].

So the blurb corrects me about the band, describing their music as having “gauzy, astral synths.”  Those are clearly not present here.

As Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner writes sparkling, opulent dream pop about grief and love (and, occasionally, robots). After releasing its debut album, Psychopomp last year, the band returned with this year’s stunning Soft Sounds From Another Planet. Where Psychopomp, written in the immediate aftermath of the death of Zauner’s mother, zeroed in on the experience of Zauner’s grief, Soft Sounds widens her aperture, featuring paeans to her coping mechanisms, ruminations on crooked relationship dynamics and said sci-fi robot fantasy.

“Boyish” aches with sadness (“your boyish reassurance is not reassuring”).  The melody (her guitar and Deven Craige’s bass to start) is lovely and heartbreaking.  Then the strings really punctuate the sentiment of these great lines.  And there’s some great backing vocals from drummer Craig Hendrix.

If you go to her don’t expect to come home to me.
I can’t get you off my mind /I can’t get you off in general
I want you and you want something more beautiful
I can’t get you off my mind / you can’t get yours off the hostess

I love the opening lines to ‘Till Death,’ which really sums up the end of 2016:

all our celebrities keep dying / while the cruel men continue to win.

She says the song is about marriage (and then chuckles).  The blurb says she sings “as she often does, in a way that strains her voice to the crackling, taut edge of heartbreak.”  This song is really lovely–the melody is a knockout.  The piano and bass start the song.  After the first verse the strings come in and Hendrix adds more backing vocals.

I love a song that ends with this final line:

PTSD, anxiety, genetic disease, thanataphobia

Everybody leaves for the final song, “This House.”  Except Hendrix moves from drums to piano.

Another great lyric opens the song:

This house is full of women
playing guitar cooking breakfast
sharing trauma doing dishes
and where are you

The song describes moments in love that are more fearful labor than bliss, the hazy space where commitment, confusion and longing intersect. Like much of Japanese Breakfast’s music, the performance shows Zauner looking unblinkingly at fear and pain, daring us to do the same.

Interestingly, for this concert, Rogue Collective has a different lineup.  They are a trio: Alexa Cantalupo (violin) and Natalie Spehar (cello) are back but Kaitlin Moreno (violin) is there while Livia Amoruso (violin) and Deanna Said (viola) are not.

In a cool footnote, the blurb says “The Collective practiced with Japanese Breakfast the day before the Tiny Desk, and was a featured guest later that night at the band’s D.C. show.”

I enjoyed this Concert a lot and will have to give a closer listen to their new album.

[READ: March 1, 2017] El Dia Mas Largo del Futur

This book came across my desk at work and I loved the look of it right away.  I can stumble through some Spanish books, but imagine my delight to see that this one had no words at all!  It is a wordless graphic novel (novela gráfica).

I especially liked the look of it because it reminded me in some ways of Chris Ware–very detailed, incredibly crisp lines, and really pleasing shapes.  It is also very dark, like Ware’s work.

But the comparison ends there.  This story is set in a dystopian future where violence is the norm, where robots can be easily programmed to kill and where love seems an unlikely prospect.

And NOW, after having read it, I have just learned the total history of this book.  It was originally written in French as Le Jour Le Plus Long du Futur.  Varela is from Argentina.  It has also been published in English as The Longest Day Of The Future by Fantagraphics books.  So even though I felt proud about “reading” the book in Spanish, I could have just found it in English too.  Well, I’m keeping with my original post, so….

You can see more details of the book from the publisher website.

But here’s what the site says (in Google-translated English, no the irony is not lost on me): (more…)

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dq25SOUNDTRACK: ARCHER PREWITT-“O, KY” (2005).

wikldernessArcher Prewitt formed The Coctails (a kitschy lounge act) in the early 90s, several years before the lounge revival.  Then he joined The Sea and Cake and has been making amazing music with them.  And he has also released several solo albums.

He has also published some comics (Sof’ Boy) with Drawn & Quarterly.

This song comes from his album Wilderness.  The title of the song is clever, too.

It’s upbeat and folky with a little psychedlia and rock thrown in.  I like Prewitt’s voice quite a bit–it’s simple but really strong.  But the selling point on this song (and others from this album that I have listened to) is the composition and arrangement of these songs.

I like the way this one goes from simple guitar to orchestration (although presumably not a real orchestra) for the chorus.  And how post chorus there are flutes and other instruments to pick up the momentum which adds a vaguely psychedelic feel to it.

At four minutes (the song is five) it changes direction entirely and turns into a nearly new song with big guitars and drums. And it rather rocks.

And just to make Archer the all around dude that he is.  He also drew the cover art.  Jeez.  He’s probably super nice and friendly, too.

[READ: January 3, 2016] Drawn and Quarterly: Twenty Five Years 

I have liked a lot of D+Q books for a long time, although I never really considered a comprehensive look at their publishing house.  This book–about 775 pages long–is about as comprehensive as it gets.

This book contains a few previously published cartoons and excerpts as well as a whole slew of previously unpublished pieces.  There are essays and histories and reminiscences and love love love for the little Montreal graphic novel publisher.

I didn’t know much about the history of D+Q–that Chris Oliveros started the publisher in 1989 out of his house.  That he was the only employee for years.  And that he was essential in getting the term “graphic novel” used by everyone–including the library of congress!

He weathered distribution problems, he weathered the rise and fall of indie comics in the late 90s and he has come through with some of the most beautiful books published.  D+Q has also brought attention to foreign artists as well as out of print artists.

Really, if you have any respect for graphic novels (that aren’t superhero-based) you owe thanks to D+Q. (more…)

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artofmcSOUNDTRACK: SUGAR-“Helpless” single (1992).

helplessI loved that first Sugar album and even bought the single for “Helpless” (back then singles were ways for record labels to get more money out of fans of a band rather than for people to pay for one song).  In addition to “Helpless,” the single contains three songs.  “Needle Hits E” is a poppy song–very Mould, very Sugar.  The song is a bright and vibrant addition and would fit nicely on Copper Blue.

The second track is an acoustic version of “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” which sounds wonderful.  Mould really knows how to record a 12 string guitar to make it sound huge.  “Try Again” is the final track.  It reminds me of The Who, especially the bass line at the end of each verse.  It’s a darker song (especially for his single which is so up).  But I love the way the acoustic guitar seems to make it build and build.  Then, some time around the two and a half minute mark, a feedback squall starts building.  It’s way in the background (and actually sounds a bit like squealing balloons).  It continues until the last thirty seconds just degenerate into full blown feedback noise–just so you know Sugar aren’t all pop sweetness.  All three songs were later released on Sugar’s Besides collection.

[READ: May 10, 2013] The Art of McSweeney’s

Sarah got this book for me for my birthday and I devoured it.  It answers every question I’ve had about McSweeney’s and many more that I didn’t.  It provides behind the scenes information, previously unseen pieces and all kinds of interviews with the authors and creators of the issues as well as The Believer, Wholphin and some of the novels.

The real treasure troves come from the earliest issues, when there was very little information available about the journal.  So there’s some great stories about how those early covers were designed (ostensibly the book is about the artwork, but it talks about a lot more), how the content was acquired and how the books were publicized (book parties where Arthur Bradford smashed his guitar after singing songs!).

The cover of the book has a very elaborate series of very short stories by Eggers (these same stories appeared on the inside cover of McSweeney’s 23).  For reasons I’m unclear about, the rings of stories have been rotated somewhat so it is does not look exactly the same–although the stories are the same.  The inside photo of the book also gives the origin of the phrase “Impossible, you say? Nothing is impossible when you work for the circus.”

The opening pages show the original letters that Dave Eggers sent out to various writers seeking stories and ideas that were rejected by other publications (and interesting idea for a journal). (more…)

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