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Archive for the ‘Dave Roman’ Category

SOUNDTRACK:  NINA DIAZ & Y LA BAMBA’s LUZ ELENA MENDOZA-“January 9th” & “Living Room” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 20, 2017).

I was intrigued by this pairing because Luz Elena Mendoza has a shirt buttoned up to her neck and, from the angle of the first song, it appears that she has her long sleeves down, while Nina Diaz (originally from Girlfriend in a Coma) is wearing a sleeveless T-shirt with tattoos showing up and down her arms.  They seem somewhat mismatched.  Until they sing.  (And also during the second song when it becomes obvious that Luz Elena’s arms are covered in tattoos as well).

The two have never played together, but after NPR Music paired them in the courtyard of St. David’s Episcopal Church for a late evening performance, we’re beginning to wonder why not. They’ve both played the Tiny Desk (Diaz twice, once with Girl In A Coma) and both navigate complex emotions and notions of identity in their music. Also, they just sing beautifully together, Mendoza’s yodel swirling in Diaz’s gritty croon.

Luz Elena’s song “Living Room” is first.  She plays guitar and sings. It’s a short song with Nina’s nice high harmonies over Luz Elena’s deeper voice.  The blurb also notes: Mendoza shares a brand-new song here, “Living Room.” When the two harmonize its confession — “I feel like I’ve been undressing all my thoughts in front of you” — it is, in tandem, starkly intimate and separate.

Nina Diaz’ song “January 9th” is a bit more fun (partially because I know it from her Tiny Desk Concert, but also because it’s a bit more upbeat).  I like Diaz’ singing quite a bit.  Mendoza’s backing vocals add nicely to the “bad one/sad one” part of the chorus.  The blurb adds: “It’s a bluesy ballad with a through line of ’60s pop, a tribute to her late grandmother, cooed and howled into a warm Austin evening.”

Future collaborations should be called for.

[READ: June 27, 2016] Explorer: The Lost Islands

This is the second in series of graphic novel short stories edited by Kazu Kibuishi, the creator of Amulet.

The three books are not related to each other (aside from thematic) so it doesn’t matter what order you read them in.

This first one is all about “lost islands.”  What was neat about this book was that since the premise of an island is so broad, the stories were all very different. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: L.A. SALAMI-“Day To Day (For 6 Days A Week)” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 17, 2017).

L.A. Salami’s full name is Lookman Adekunle Salami.  I really enjoyed Salami’s song “Going Mad As The Street Bins.”  His delivery is great and there were some rather unexpected chords.

For this performance of “Day to Day,” he is standing on the balcony of the Hilton Austin hotel overlooking the downtown skyline.

I usually try to pair kid-friendly songs with books, but there’s some curses in this song).

The music is basically the same for 7 minutes (although it does build by the end), which means you must focus on the lyrics. And they are pretty dark.  It talks about boredom on public transportation as well as gruesome deaths on the news.  There’s talk of mental health, like this section:

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.
I tell them that I do the same –
In certain moods, on certain days…
But despite the sane ways I can think
I could not do much to convince them…

But mostly I enjoy his delivery which has his slightly accented voice and charming mannerisms.  The first time I heard this I wasn’t as drawn to it as I was his other song, but each listen unveils something more to like about it.

[READ: June 1, 2016] Explorer: The Mystery Boxes

This is the first in a series of short graphic novel short stories edited by Kazu Kibuishi the creator of Amulet.

Sarah brought these home for the kids to read and they were sitting around our house for a while so I picked one up.  When I flipped through it and saw all the great authors in it I knew I had to read them.

The three books are not related to each other (aside from thematic) so it doesn’t matter what order you read them in.

This first one is all about “mystery boxes.” (more…)

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recessSOUNDTRACK: BUIKA-Tiny Desk Concert #298 (August 26, 2013).

buikaI had never heard of Buika before, so I had to rely on the blurb:

Concha Buika’s voice doesn’t come from inside her petite body: It comes from Africa, and from the past. There are obvious traces of flamenco, itself a historical mash-up of the Moors and various transitory cultures in southern Spain and north Africa.

During her flights of improvisation, we also hear the influence of Cuban vocalist Celia Cruz, a product of Afro-Cuban culture, mixed in with Ella Fitzgerald, who was the pinnacle of African-American jazz vocal expression.

In these two performances, we hear Buika interpret her own lyrics after a handful of albums in which she’s interpreted others’ words. With her eyes closed tightly, she inhabits these poems of love and heartache as if she were reliving them again before our eyes.

Buika’s singular voice has attracted a cadre of fans who’ve become enchanted by her voice and her leave-it-all-on-the-stage performances in clubs and theaters around the world. Watch this video and join the club.

So as the notes say, these two pieces are improvisations.  Not knowing Spanish all that well, I don’t know how much is made up or even how much is just sounds rather than actual words.  But it certainly sounds more off the cuff than written out.

The music is just a piano and a box drum and her voice.  Her voice is raw and pained, but quite pretty.  The two songs are called “La Noche Mas Larga” and “La Nave Del Olvido.”

[READ: April 15, 2016] Comics Squad: Recess

I found out about this collection in the back of a Babymouse book.

Comics Squad is a collection of eight comics from some of my favorite artists.  It basically works as a bunch of short, shall we say graphic novellas, from Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Babymouse/Squish) ; Jarrett J.  Krosoczka (Lunch Lady) ; Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants) ; Dan Santat ; Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman  (Smile and Astronaut Academy); Ursula Vernon (Dragonbreath) ; Eric Wright (Frankie Pickle) and Gene Luen Yang.

Since it’s edited by the Holms and Krosoczka they sprinkle the book with marginal comments and interstitials from Babymouse and Lunch Lady.  But each artist/author gets a story, and I enjoyed them all.

GENE LUEN YANG-“The Super-Secret Ninja Club”  This was a really fun story about a group of boys who meet at recess.  Once they know that noone is watching, they put on their masks and become the super-secret ninja club.  But Daryl, a decidedly un-ninja like boy wants in…desperately.  He’s never had a passion for any club before but this one is totally him.  The one boy says that since winter break is about to start, when the get back to school, they can talk about him joining.  So Daryl spends all inter break practicing.  Will it be enough?  The answer is very funny.

DAV PILKEY-“Book ‘Em, Dog Man!”  This story begins with a letter to the parents of George (the main character in Captain Underpants) from his teacher saying that she asked for a written assignment and once again he drew a cartoon.  She has attached the offending (and offensive) cartoon for them to see.  Petey the cat is in jail .  He wants to beat the superhero Dog Man.  But Dog Man is too smart  So Petey realizes that if he removes all the words from books no one will be smart anymore.  He invents a ray which does just that.  What will the world do when they can’t read anymore?

JARRETT J, KROSOCZKA-“Betty and the Perilous Pizza Day”  “Lunch Lady” is a cartoon I didn’t really know before reading this collection. Lunch Lady appears in the margins of the pages of the book, but not in this actual cartoon.  Rather, the star of this cartoon is Betty, Lunch Lady’s helper. And since Lunch Lady can’t be there, Betty will have to deal with lunch.  But it is pizza day!  The only hope is the Pizzatron 2000.  Unless, of course, it develops a mind of its own and goes on a rampage.

URSULA VERNON-“The Magic Acorn”  I don’t know Dragonbreath all that well, although Clark has read all of them.  This story is pretty simple.  Although since I don’t know the characters I don’t know if it is representative of anything prior.  Scratch, a squirrel who is rather realistically drawn (Vernon’s drawings are great) is interrupted by Squeak, a far more a cartoony squirrel.  Squeak is excited because he found a magic acorn.  Scratch states that this is the 318th “magic acorn” that he’s found.  And besides they have recess in ten minutes.  Well, this acorn may not exactly be an acorn, but it is certainly magical.

JENNIFER L. HOLM & MATTHEW HOLM-“Babymouse: The Quest for Recess”  In this brief story Babymouse has a few fantasies that prevent her from actually getting outside for recess.  First she is late for school (dreaming about Camelot) then her locker brings her to Zeus, making her late for class.  A western dream makes her disrupt lunch and then the barbarian fractions invade during math class.  Can she keep it together and actually get outside?

ERIC WIGHT-“Jiminy Sprinkles in ‘Freeze Tag'”  So I don’t know this comic at all either. Jiminy Sprinkles is a new student to the school (he is a cupcake). He immediately befriends a peanut who tells him to watch out for The Mean Green Gang, a group of vegetables.  (Their leader is Russell from Brussels (ha)).  The Mean Green Gang is pretty tough but Jiminy has a secret weapon of his own–a very funny one that the Mean Green Gang actually gets a kick out of too.

DAN SANTAT-“300 Words” This is an interesting look at the story The Giving Tree.  The kids were assigned a book report on the story three weeks ago and it is due today.  John is one of the boys who didn’t do the assignment and he’s about to write his 300 words now.  It’s a tree. It gives things.  But another boy has a better idea–he’s going to ask Sophia for her paper.  Even though the last time he talked to her he threw up on her.   Sophia has an interesting answer for him.

DAVE ROMAN & RAINA TELGEMEIER-“The Rainy Day Monitor” is a wonderful take on kickball.  Since the kids can’t go outside to play because of the rain, their recess is indoors.  And they are closely watched by Boring Becca the totally boring fifth grader.  When they ask if they can play kickball inside she asks the kids if they have ever played Dungeons and Dragons.  They groan until she says they should play kickball using dice and imaginary characters.  Pretty great idea Becca!

The end of the book is set up with fun fake ads and useful tips.

One “ad” is an offer for Babymouse Binoculars.  I also really liked Lunch Lady’s tips on how to draw Betty (which skip from 3 to 12 while Squish sweats).

This was not only a great introduction to all of these fabulous comic writers, it was a really funny collection in its own right.

The end of the book says “Do you think there will be another one? As sure as there is syrup on pancakes there’ll be a Comics Squad #2.”  And indeed, there was a second one.

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aareentry SOUNDTRACK: THE BLACK ANGELS-Tiny Desk Concert #132 (June 8, 2011).

I hblakangelsave The Black Angels’ 2013 album Indigo Meadow and I like it a lot.  It has a cool retro psychedelic vibe while still retaining a heaviness that sounds great.

For this Tiny Desk Concert, which is more or less in support of their 2010 album Phosphene Dream, the band strips down to almost a folk band.

There is an acoustic guitar, and hollow-bodied electric which I think is not plugged in (one guitar plays the bass lines and other one plays the solo notes), there’s a harmonium (the second one in a few weeks on the Tiny Desk), there’s a drummer (with basically a floor tom) and the lead singer with a tambourine.

No one is amplified except the singer–whose voice is processed to sound extra trippy (note especially the first lines of the second song, where he sounds like he’s singing from outer space).  His singing is very gentle (especially since they are basically unplugged, which makes the effects seem even more powerful).

The band plays four songs, “Bad Vibrations” which is a great way to start off.  “Haunting At 1300 McKinley” showcases that echoing voice very well.  One of the guitarist sings nice harmony vocals as well.  The harmonium has that vibrato sound that also makes the song seem trippy.

“Entrance Song” has the other guitarist singing harmony (deeper voice compared to the singer’s rather high voice).

For the final song, “Too Much Hate,” the singer plays the guitar (leaving the former guitar player with nothing to do).  The sentiment of the song is excellent, really showing off a hippy vibe.

I really like The Black Angels a lot, and this makes me think I need to check out their earlier stuff too.

[READ: February 3, 2016] Astronaut Academy: Re-Entry

I enjoyed Book 1 a lot but I enjoyed this sequel so much more.  I’m glad that I put off reading this one until after the first because even though there were no mysterious things that I wouldn’t have gotten, the whole experience is definitely greater if you read these in order.

This book opens with a similar style–brief episodes about each person–and what they have been up to over the summer.  I enjoyed that Hakata Soy has been spending his time on earth (such a novel idea).  But that’s when he gets the devastating news that Princess Boots, the girl he gave his second heart to in the backstory, actually gave it away and is now dating his arch-nemesis Rick Raven.

Scab Wellington was released from prison (which makes Maribelle Mellonbelly happy).  And Thalia Thistle still hasn’t told her dad that she plays Fireball. (more…)

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aazero SOUNDTRACK: FUTURE ISLANDS-Tiny Desk Concert #128 (May 16, 2011).

futureI don’t really know that much about Future Islands.  I know they were huge in 2014, but this Tiny Desk comes from three years earlier, when perhaps they were less known?

I didn’t really like the single that was very popular in 2014, but I can’t recall how it compares to this show. The band consists of a bassist and a keyboardist/electronic drummer and Sam Herring the lyricist/vocalist/melodramatic front man.

It’s odd seeing him sitting casually on the edge of the desk before he starts singing.  He seems so mellow and then he sings with a crazily arch voice and unexpected dramatic flourishes.

Given his general appearance and some of the faces he was making I kept thinking that Jack Black would do an aces impersonation of him.

The songs are simple musically–simple keyboard lines and, it must be said, some solid bass holding things down.  All the drama comes from the lyrics, like in “On the Water”: “Body of mine, body of Christ, can I be the one who saves your life.”

It’s funny to hear him talk between songs so deadpan and unaffected, before resuming that unusual singing style.

“The Ink Well” has some weird echoing keyboards sounds before the solid bass comes in again.  I have a hard time taking his vocals seriously, it seems so over the top.  Although the blurb says that “What Future Islands is really going for, with the mordant wit in the lyrics, the melodramatic chord progressions and Herring’s yowling, scratchy voice [I wouldn’t describe it like that, actually], is catharsis. And catharsis can happen in your head and in your heart.”    And I do like the line “the ghost of you still haunts me at night and that’s enough to keep me happy, sometimes.”

He says that the second song is hard to song quiet.  Perhaps his singing style would work better if the music was bigger, fuller (matching the size of the amp they brought with them).

“Walking Through That Door” works best of the three songs.  It is a little faster, with a more propulsive bass and it feels louder, so that Herring’s voice seems to work better. And when he wails his lines at the end it seems appropriate.

Still not sure if I’m a fan, but I appreciate them a little more than I did.

[READ: February 1, 2016] Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity

Both of the libraries that I go to had copies of the second book in this series, and I waited and waited for the first book to be returned, but it just appears that neither one ever arrived.  So I finally put in a request for book one (I couldn’t read the second first even if this is from First Second).  #10yearsof01

I really didn’t know what this story was about, but I was surprised to discover that it was a series of small incidents (each with an End). Was this a series of single web comics, or is it just a fun way to tell a bigger story?  I’ll never know.  The whole story is set at the astronaut academy.

As the book opens we see a promotional guide to Astronaut Academy from the principal (who carries a big sword and has big spiky hair).  We learn what the school has to offer and we see some of the teachers like Mr Namaguci who has even bigger hair than the principal and “may or may not have magical powers but is still handsome.”  There also Señor Panda (still not extinct) who has a secret.

We also see that the application is for Hakata Soy. (more…)

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