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Archive for the ‘Craig Thompson’ Category

spacedump SOUNDTRACK: YO-YO MA, EDGAR MEYER, CHRIS THILE AND STUART DUNCAN-Tiny Desk Concert #175 (November 17, 2011).

yoyoYo-Yo Ma might be the most well-known cellist in the world.  I suspect that everyone has heard of him.  But it’s likely that people don’t know just how diverse his musical range is.  As the NPR blurb says:

He’s reached out to a broad range of musicians (and Muppets) to play not just Bach and Beethoven, but also Brazilian samba, Argentine tango, jazz, songs from Sesame Street and a smorgasbord of Asian music with his Silk Road Ensemble. American roots music also figures into Ma’s melting pot: He teamed up with double-bass master Edgar Meyer and fiddler Mark O’Connor 15 years ago for the gentle new-grass album Appalachian Waltz.

For this 2011 venture called The Goat Rodeo Sessions, he has created another Americana album, this time with mandolin master (and multiple Tiny Desk Concert player) Chris Thile.  Meyer is back on double bass and they have added Stuart Duncan on fiddle.

I can honestly say I never expected to see Yo-Yo Ma on a song called “Quarter Chicken Dark” but there he is, playing along as Thile begins the song on the mandolin.  The cello, fiddle and bass are all bowed so, despite the mandolin, the song feels a bit more classical (Thile has also made classical music on the mandolin, so the pairing actually makes a lot of sense).  I think Thile comes off as the star of this song with a wild solo in the middle.

For “Attaboy,” the mandolin starts the song again, but pretty quickly the strings dominate.  There’s a beautiful opening by Ma and a great fiddle interplay in which Duncan hints at the big Irish section he’s going to play.  There’s some wonderful fast mini solos from all of the instruments, including the bass, and then the whole song switches to a jig with Duncan playing a very Irish riff while Duncan and Ma keep the low notes coming.   Incidentally, I believe that Thile and Duncan are playing the exact same solo by the end, which sounds great.  But it’s watching Yo-Yo Ma’s fingers and bow move so fast that is really amazing.

For the final song “Here and Heaven” Aoife O’Donovan joins them on vocals.  And for a chance of pace Duncan switches from fiddle to banjo.  (Although mid way through the song he switches back to fiddle).  Donovan and Thile sing the song together.  On the first verse they are a little too quiet.  But once they start belting out they are fine.  This song is catchy and fun and the vocals really do change the feel of their music.

It’s clear that these accomplished musician are having a lot of fun together.  Meyer and Ma actually wave to each other during the second song, and Thile makes lots of little jokes.  And when he introduces Aoife, it’s funny to hear Yo-Yo Ma cheer like a little kid.

While Yo-Yo Ma if probably the most famous musician here, I like them all, and I’ll honestly listen to Thile do anything.

[READ: August 29, 2012] Space Dumplins

Craig Thompson has created a pretty diverse collection of books.  From the serious and beautiful Habibi, to the weird-looking and sad Goodbye Chunky Rice to this trippy sci-fi story.

The story is about Violet Marlocke, a young girl who lives out in a space trailer park.  Her father is a space lumberjack (whatever that means) and her mom is a seamstress.  They are poor but pretty happy, and that’s okay by Violet, since family is everything to her.

But as the book opens we learn that space whales (okay, I’ll stop putting “space” before everything, because he doesn’t) have just eaten her school.  The whales have been rampaging all of the planets in the area. At first Violet is happy to have no school but her parents have to do something with her.  So her mom brings her to work at Shell-tar where they try to see if she can enroll in the state of the art school there.  She can’t because her dad has a criminal record (and he’s opposed to the fancy school anyway).

While Violet is looking around, she meets Elliot Marcel Ophennorth, a small chicken who is incredibly smart (and has visions of the future).  We also meet Zacchaeus, the last Lumpkin in the world. He works at the dump.  Violet quickly befriends them both, although they don’t all get along very well at first.

Two things then happen pretty quickly back home.  Violet and her dad buy an old piece of junk space bike to fix up and Violet’s dad takes on a dangerous job to make some more money. (more…)

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nurserySOUNDTRACK: FRANK FAIRFIELD-Tiny Desk Concert #445 (May 29, 2015).

frankFrank Fairfield and friends Tom Marion (who plays mandolin on the third song) and Zac Sokolow (on guitar) play old-timey music (marches, polkas and mountain tunes).  Fairfield plays banjo and plucked cello (and apparently fiddle, although not here).

The first song “Tres Piedras” is an upbeat instrumental.  The second song “I Ain’t A Goin’ To Weep No More” was written by Harry von Tilser whose brother wrote “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

The final song “Campanile De Venecia/Sharpshooters March” has an overwhelming Italian feel (that mandolin, I gather).  I like that Fairfield yells “take it, Tom” so that Marion will play a lengthy mandolin solo on the for the final song.  There’s also a “traditional” Italian melody in the song that I know more from cartoons than elsewhere.

The songs feel like they leaped out of a 78 record (even Fairfield’s voice seems suitably “old” on “Weep” (although it appears that they were up playing late last night so he may not quite be up to par).

This was a fun Tiny Desk by an artist I’d never encounter anywhere else.

[READ: January 21, 2015] Nursery Rhyme Comics

This is a collection of Nursery Rhymes as drawn primarily by First Second artists.

The 50 nursery rhymes includes here are the traditional rhymes which remain unchanged.  So this was an opportunity for these artists to draw interesting visuals to accompany the traditional stories.  Some artists stayed traditional, while others went in a totally new direction.

It was fun to see that while I knew most of the nursery rhymes, there were quite a few that I didn’t know.

I always wanted to get a  collection of nursery rhymes for my kids when they were younger, and I feel like I never got one that would have been as satisfying as this one. (more…)

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chunkySOUNDTRACK: FOO FIGHTERS-In Your Honor Disc One (2005).

Foo_fighters_in_your_honorIt took another couple of years before Foo Fighters’ next album came out.  Grohl was unsure what to do with the songs he had been writing.  He originally thought perhaps a film score.  But when he realized he had a whole bunch of acoustic songs, he decided to do a double album–one heavy and loud and one acoustic and mellow.

The rocking side opens with some fast guitar and Grohl’s voice kind of deep in the mix.  He is screaming as the song continues unabated.  And then about two minutes in, the song doesn’t change but the drums kick in and the song grows quite dynamic.  The song pauses near the end so that Grohl can take a breath and give a big scream to end the song.  “No Way Back” is the first great song on the album.  It’s got a fantastic opening riff and a big chorus.  It’s followed by “Best of You” a wonderful single that’s a big song with a super-sized chorus.

“D.O.A.” has a unique guitar sound for the Foos.  Not heavy metal but more punk.  Then there’s the big chorus that kind of quotes Jim Morrison “No ones getting out of here alive.”  I had this chorus in my head for a couple of days last week.  “Hell” is only two minutes long but it feels like a much more complete song–big choruses and really fast verses elevate this from what could have been filler.

“The Last Song” has a very punk feel (especially the pounding snare drums in the opening and verse).  It’s followed by “Free Me” one of my favorite Foo Fighters deep cuts.  The riff is awesome and Grohl totally unleashes as the song progresses.  There is something about the way the song seems to get busier and louder as it ends that is really cool.

“Resolve” is a nice come down from the intensity of “Free Me.”  It’s not quite as mellow as the stuff on disc two, but it definitely slows things down.  And is still very catchy.

The final two songs don’t run out their welcome (it could be that this disc is only 40 minutes, not 55 like their more recent ones)–these songs don’t drag.  “The Deepest Blues Are Black” has a cool transition from loud bashing into really grooving chorus.  It’s quite a heavy song but it’s really melodic too.  And “End Over End” is another song that gets stuck in my head over and over again.  It’s not terribly original, but it rock and is catchy as well.  I find it to be a far more successful album ender (with it’s repeating outro) than “Come Back.”

I tend to forget about this disc because the news (and guests) of disc two tended to overshadow the solid songwriting of disc one.  But this is a great Foo Fighters disc, no question.

Tomorrow’s post: Disc Two

[READ: August 29, 2012] Goodbye, Chunky Rice

I’ve read a few books by Craig Thompson and enjoyed them quite a lot.  And this one, with the strange title and cute looking characters on the cover seemed like a sure fire hit.

As the story opens, we see a deer mouse riding her bike to visit her friend, a turtle.  The turtle hops on the back of the bike and off they go.  They have a great time at the beach (we even see a heart form over the turtle’s head as he watches her in the water).

And then we learn that the turtle is Chunky Rice and he is leaving.  He asks the mouse to come with him, but she says she cannot, and that they are to have no more tears while they are together.

The scene cuts to a human guy telling the Eurydice story to a bird (we hear “doot doot”).  The man has found the bird, who was injured, and has brought him back to his place.  He has named it Merle. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE Live at Black Cat Washington DC, August 31, 2011 (2011).

I had never heard of Circle Takes the Square before seeing the link to this show on NPR (Thank you, Viking!).  I like the band name (Hollywood Squares reference), and couldn’t imagine what they sounded like.

Song titles like “In the Nervous Light of Sunday” and “We’re Sustained by the Corpse of a Fallen Constellation” and even “Non-Objective Portrait of Karma” lead one in many possible directions.  But it turns out that the band is sort of pigeonholed as screamo, a post-hardcore style that allows mostly for screamed vocals.  And yet these guys also incorporate intricate playing, odd time signatures and some beautiful instrumental passages.

Even though the band plays fast, they don’t play only short songs.  The shortest songs run about three minutes but they have two songs that are over 6 minutes, with several different sections.

I listened to this show a few times and I confess I never really got into it.  I liked some of it but I was never fully able to grasp what was going on.  It could have been the recording quality.  Usually NPR shows are crystal clear, but this one was a bit muddy–which may have been intentional from the band as they are pretty raw sounding.  I did like  the split male/female vocals which added a cool depth to the songs.  But mostly I was impressed by the kind and almost sweet attitude of the lead singer.  He was polite and thankful to the audience (thanking them for braving the weather–the show was during Hurricane Irene–thanking them for coming from both far and near and talking about how excited he was about Pg. 99, the headliners.  It’s funny to hear polite thankfulness and then screaming lyrics like: “Embrace the sweet sound of self-destruction.”

I’d like to hear a studio release before passing final judgment, because there was a lot to like here.

[READ: August 29, 2012] Habibi

I saw this book in a review by Zadie Smith in Harper’s a while back.  I didn’t realize at the time that the author was the same person who did the wonderful Blankets.

This book is an amazing piece of art.  And the story is very good too.

So this massive book (almost 700 pages) is the story of  a woman born into a fictional Middle Eastern country called where the Qur’an is studied and women are more or less chattel.  As the story opens Dodola is sold by her father to a wealthy man who becomes her husband.  The scene of her deflowering, while not graphic at all, is very disturbing nonetheless.  She is afraid of this man and cowers in the fear until they gradually start to see each other as human beings.  And although their age difference is substantial (and yes, gross), she learns to appreciate him.

Until he his killed by the king’s men and Dodola is taken away to the king’s palace to be sold as a slave–her hair is tied to another girl’s hair so they cannot escape.

Through a series of events, she does escape, and when she is hiding out she manages to save the life of a black baby named Cham.  She calls him Zam after the Well of Zamzam (Arabic: زمزم‎) in Mecca, the holiest place in Islam.  And while she is only 12, she takes care of this 3-year-old boy and raises him as her own child. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKSUPER FURRY ANIMALS-“Let the Wolves Howl at the Moon” (From the Basement) (2007).

[DISCLAIMER: This post was published on September 6th see that post for details].

Continuing this exploration of the From the Basement series, I found this unlikely video from Super Furry Animals.  SFA have never been big here (well, that had a fluke hit but that doesn’t count).  I have no real idea how big they’ve been back home.  So maybe it’s not a surprise that they are playing here.

SFA were a bunch of crazy psychedelic indie rockers.  Their early albums are totally nuts (like the EP Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyndrobwllantysiliogogogochynygofod (in space)).  But over the years, they have mellowed considerably. This song is the final track from Hey Venus!, an album that returned the Furries to their more rocking roots.  Despite the album’s overall rockingness, this song is the mellow ender to the album. 

This live version is very good, with Gruff Rhys sounding in fine form.  Visually, it’s more interesting than say Neil Hannon’s in that there are five of them, but they’re not exactly putting on a crazy show. What’s nice is the chance  to see just what the recording space looks like (there’s lots of wide shots) and to see just which hairy Welshmen are making which sounds. 

This is a wonderful song that could easily have been on anyone’s mellow folkie playlist.  The album version has a little bit more going on, but it’s not missed in this someowhat stripped down form. 

[READ: August 29, 2011] 3 Book Reviews

After last month’s tour de force about one title, this month returns to Zadie’s typical 3 books/month schedule.

The first book is Ian Thomson’s The Dead Yard: A Story of Modern Jamaica.  Zadie makes the amusing observation that this book, a very good and very well researched cultural study of Jamaica was written by a white Scotsman; she notes that a sense of remove from the culture was probably essential in order to create this book. 

Thomson offers historical context for the dangerous world that Jamaica occupies now (it’s not all “Jah, ganja mon” in the country.  In fact, five people are murdered every day (on this island of 3 million).  Fascinatingly, there is much racism in Jamaica—people seen as too black are often looked down upon in favor of lighter-skinned people.  Because of this, respect is very important.  Indeed, any kind of disrespect can cost you your life—just about everyone packs a gun (hence the stat above.  Of course this racism also may be why the Jewish, Indian and Chinese Jamaicans are thriving while the majority black are not.

Zadie says the only place where Thomson falls flat is in his utter dismissal of dancehall music (he likes reggae but can’t stand dancehall).  He dismisses Sean Paul and although Zadie’s not a huge fan of Sean Paul, she finds this dismissal a poor oversight possibly due more to his age (culture being a young person’s game) than anything else.  I especially enjoyed her dissection of one of Sean Paul’s videos. (more…)

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