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Archive for the ‘Faith Erin Hicks’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DAKHABRAKHA-“Kolyskova” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 21, 2017).

I loved DakhaBrakha’s Tiny Desk Concert.  It was mesmerizing and beautiful.  And so the performers came to SXSW and did a lullaby.  And as the blurb says, they brought their “cello, keyboard, accordion – and tall, wool hats! — to the balcony of the Hilton Austin hotel.”

This lullaby of “Kolyskova” quiets things down a bit.  The song opens with simple keyboard notes.  One of the women sings, and when they reach the end of the verse, the male accordionist sings a falsetto that matches the women’s tone.  The woman on drums makes a strange sound–like a baby crying or animal yelping.

Then he winds up singing lead on the second verse in that falsetto with the women singing backing vocals.  Then the cello and drums kick in to build the sound.   The third verse is sung by the cellist as the keys play a pretty melody.

The song is upbeat with lots of bouncy vocals, even though the lyrics seem rather dark.  ‘The band only ever calls it “Lullaby.” It’s a quiet, contemplative song that the band says is a “connecting of several lullabies” with “philosophical lyrics that [say] we have time for everything — time to laugh and cry, time to live and die.’

I love at the very end as the song slows down to just the keyboardist singing because the drummer adds a very cool breathing as a kind of percussion accompaniment.  And then as the camera pulls back the two attack the keyboard making a cacophony of fun notes.  I bet they’re a lot of fun live.

[READ: June 2 2016] Explorer: The Hidden Doors

This is the third (and I assume final) in a series of graphic novel short stories edited by Kazu Kibuishi, the creator of Amulet.

I really enjoyed the first one a lot and was pretty excited to read the rest. As with the other two I was delighted by the authors involved and the quality of these stories.

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

This book revolves around the theme of “hidden doors.”  I like the way each author takes a concept that seems like it would be pretty standard and turns their stories into things that are very different indeed. (more…)

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nameless SOUNDTRACK: TWEEDY-Tiny Desk Concert #391 (September 22, 2014).

tweedyI’ve recently become a major fan of Wilco and Jeff Tweedy’s songwriting.  This band is Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer (on drums).  They usually perform with a full band, but here it’s just father and son.

The songs sound very much like Wilco (Tweedy’s voice is unmistakable), but there is a different, almost patient feel to these songs that makes them seem not-Wilco.  Spencer’s drumming is not flashy (that wouldn’t work here anyway), but it is right on the beat with occasional flourishes.

“Wait for Love” is a sweet ballad.  “New Moon” is a bit more upbeat.  There are 20 songs on the record.  After the second song, Jeff says he doesn’t know how many songs they’re supposed.  Bob says they’re supposed to play til 6″ (it appears to be early afternoon).

Jeff says they can stay till six, There’s nothing happening in the world, right? Bob states, “There is no news today.”  Jeff smiles and says that later “Spencer and I are going to reveal our strategy for ISIS, so it’s a good thing you’re here.”

“Low Key” is more rocking with some cool chord change progressions in the middle (ans a little drums-only section).

Before the final song, he says he wrote it for Mavis Staples (She didn’t sing it when I saw her…bummer).  He says that “Spencer didn’t play on that record… but we know how to play it together.”  He pauses and says, “We know how to play all of our songs together.”  Pause  “I’m such a good front man” (to much applause from everyone).

Jeff laughs and says that Spencer is gonna get a microphone and “you’ll have to talk to people.”

“You’re Not Alone” is a bit more complex and powerful than the others and that repeated refrain of “open up this is a raid” is really great.

The Wilco Tiny Desk Concerts have been raucous and fun.  This one is much more low-key and shows off a different side of Tweedy.

There’s a sweet moment at the end of the set where Spencer give his dad a hug.

[READ: April 20, 2016] The Nameless City

Faith Erin Hicks has been consistently excellent with her graphic novels.  I was pretty excited to see that she had a new book coming out.  And I was even more excited to go to the library and see that Sarah had requested it already.

I dove right in to this story.

It begins with some unnamed people riding down the River of Lives and going into a city.  They ask several different people what the name of the city is and they get several different titles.  They determine that this is the nameless city.

It turns out that every civilization that has conquered the city (which happens every thirty years or so) renames the city.  And, depending on which invaders you like best, that would be the name you would choose to call the place.  We later learn that most of the conquerors only conquer the main walled city proper and that the houses and markets on the other side of the wall pretty much just go with the flow.  The people who live outside hate everyone who is in charge and just try to keep their heads down to survive. (more…)

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ellsmere SOUNDTRACK: PROBOT-Probot (2004).

probotAfter all of the Dave Grohl love I’ve been sending his way, Grohl went and fell off a stage and broke his leg.  But, he is so badass (and such a thoughtful musician), that he went to the hospital, got his leg fixed up and went back on stage to finish the set!  Holy cow.

This is amazing (and he must have incredible endorphins (or something else) to be able to do this (the video is long because it shows his re-arrival):

Grohl has always been very open about his love of heavy metal–and the liner notes here go into pretty good detail about he bands he grew up listening to.  He wanted to create a kind of tribute/dream lineup album of metal vocalists.  As far as I can tell he was sitting around and banging away riffs and every time he got one that he liked, he recorded it.  He eventually added bass and drums and made demo tapes out of them.  Then he contacted some of his favorite metal singers from when he was a kid and asked them to write lyrics and sing.

I assume that Grohl sent the demos that sounded most like the bands to the appropriate singer, because so many of them are spot on for the original bands.  The Venom song sounds completely like Venom (Cronos’ bass certainty helps) and it’s one of the best songs here.  I don’t know Sepultura that well, but the music fits perfectly with Cavalera’s style.  And this song is just fantastic.

The Lemmy song sounds unmistakably Motörhead, again possibly because Lemmy plays bass, but the riff is pure Motörhead.  It’s another great song and one that the Foo Fighters have played live.

The song with Mike Dean is very punk, very C.O.C.  It’s followed by another punk/metal song from D.R.I.  This song also matches perfectly with Brecht’s style of singing on the more metal side of D.R.I..

Lee Dorrian used to sing in a guttural cookie monster growl with Napalm Death, but in Cathedral, he turned to proper singing.  I don’t know Cathedral, but the main riff coupled with the twin guitar solo notes from Thayil make a great epic song, especially that mosh section in the middle (I didn’t think Cathedral did mosh but whatever), although at 6 minutes it does go on a bit.

I also don’t know Wino, so I don’t know if this is the kind of thing he sang on, although I do hear a bit of Saint Vitus vibe from it.  There’s a really long middle section which is interesting for the backwards guitar solo, and while it’s a little long, when it comes out of that, the heaviness is really great.

Tom Warrior is a fascinating guy with all kinds of tricks up his sleeve, so the weird industrial sound on top of the heavy bass is pretty interesting.  There’s no way Grohl could hope to emulate Voivod’s Piggy, so he doesn’t even try.  Rather than playing up to Voivod’s proggy style, he goes deeper to the heavier stuff.  And, perhaps it’s Snake’s voice, the bridge sounds very Voivod.  The chorus is more poppy than what Voivod might do, and yet it’s a great song.  Voivod’s Away also designed the album cover.

I loved Trouble when I was in high school, although I don’t really remember them that well now.  This songs sounds bit more classic rock than metal (and I recall Trouble being pretty heavy), and yet Wagner’s voice works very well with the style.  I just read that Trouble went through a more psychedelic period and the middle section ties in nicely with that, so maybe this is inspired by later period Trouble.

Grohl says he was excited to get King Diamond, and who wouldn’t be.  Kim Thayil is back to create a suitable Mercyful riff (although it could never live up to the classic Fate).  But the mid section’s doom riffs are right on.  The song showcases some of the King’s vocal acrobatics, although not quite as many as I could have used (there are some excellent high-pitched notes in there though).

There’s a bonus track at the end of the disc which features Jack Black doing a suitably funny but accurate metal tribute.

This is a really solid heavy record that lets some classic metal singers back on the scene.  There won’t be a second Probot record, but there may not need to be one anyhow.  I also like that he picked some slightly more obscure singers rather than the obvious Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson type of singers, even if they would have also been interesting).

  • “Centuries of Sin” (feat. Cronos of Venom)
  • “Red War” (feat. Max Cavalera of Sepultura)
  • “Shake Your Blood” (feat. Lemmy of Motörhead)
  • “Access Babylon” (feat. Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity)
  • “Silent Spring” (feat. Kurt Brecht of Dirty Rotten Imbeciles)
  • “Ice Cold Man” (feat. Lee Dorrian of Cathedral and Napalm Death, and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden)
  • “The Emerald Law” (feat. Wino)
  • “Big Sky” (feat. Tom G. Warrior of Celtic Frost)
  • “Dictatosaurus” (feat. Snake of Voivod)
  • “My Tortured Soul” (feat. Eric Wagner of Trouble)
  • “Sweet Dreams” (feat. King Diamond of King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden)
  • “I Am the Warlock” (feat. Jack Black of Tenacious D)

[READ: February 13, 2015] The War at Ellsmere

I’ve enjoyed Hicks’ books in the past–both the ones she’s written and the one’s she’s simply illustrated.  In this book she does both which means you get big eyes and the dark hair.

As the book opens we meet Juniper, a girl who has just enrolled in Ellsmere Private School.   We meet the headmistress and learn the history of this beautiful school (established in 1810).  And then we find out that Juniper is there on a scholarship (merit based) and that Juniper is well aware that she will likely be there to “liven things up for the blue bloods.”

When Juniper meets her new roommate Cassie (who hears her talking to herself), Jun immediately goes on the defensive–until she sees that Cassie is actually quite a nice girl. (Nice, Jun, you just insulted Bambi).

But it’s during the orientation that we meet the real antagonist of the story–Emily, a pretty blonde girl who immediately insults Cassie and calls her “orphan.”  When Jun gets involved, it suggests that it will be an interesting year for all of them. (more…)

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brain campSOUNDTRACK: LESLIE HALL-“Tight Pants/Body Roll” (2010).

lesliehallA friend of mine posted this video on Facebook and I had no idea what it was.  Another friend filled me in that the singer is Leslie Hall (check out her site, which is full of wonderfully gaudy design).  I think her band is called Leslie and the LY’s (or some variation) and they are from Ames, Iowa.

There’s something absolutely wonderful about not knowing a thing about them when you watch this video as it is so out there.  She does have a wikipedia page in addition to her website, so if you need to fill in unanswered questions, you can do that there.

In the meantime, just enjoy:

[READ: January 8, 2015] Brain Camp

Camp Fielding is a place for losers–people who can’t get into any other camp.  They often go in because they are stupid and yet after just a few months they come out like geniuses.  It is the perfect place for a couple of misfits like Jenna, a girl who is lost in her own imagination (while her 14 year old sister just got accepted into Harvard.  Heck, even her younger sister is embarrassed by her).  Or like Lucas, a boy who we first see breaking into cars and whose mother has basically given up on him.

Neither one is terribly excited to go and neither one is pleased about the other one (they share a ride together).  But once they get to camp and the boys are bullies, the girls are worse and the food is so disgusting as to be deemed completely inedible, they form a reluctant bond (with a dorky boy who is the butt of everyone’s jokes).

The weirder think about the camp is that they don’t actually teach anything–they just put kids in a classes and talk at them assuming they’ll just pick it up.  And they seem to. (more…)

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 superheroSOUNDTRACK: ELIZABETH ANKA VAJAGIC-Stand With the Stillness of This Day [CST028] (2004).

eavlpElizabeth Anka Vajagic is a singing in the vein of Carla Bozulich (whose solo album CST would release a few years after this one).  She has a powerful, raw voice that can go low but can also rage.  She has a lot of control over her voice (which is seems sometimes Bozulich doesn’t) which leads to a lot of tension-filled songs.  EAV plays guitar and some piano.  These songs are also filled with cello, harmonium and an oud.  The songs are slow but powerful, and her voice suits the melodies very well–dark and full of longing.

“With Hopes Lost” has that mournful keening vocal, and the cello really provides that hopeless-feeling component.  “Around Here” is a dark stormy song with aching strings and piano.  “Where You Wonder” is a dark song but with a fight left in it–resistance to the darkness it feels.  The song feels mostly sparse until 4 and half minutes when it rages with a screaming guitar solo and big bold chords.  “Iceland” has probably the most fun chorus of the bunch, something actually sing-alongable.    The next song is called “Why.”  I’m always suspicious of a song called “Why” and this one is a little deservedly so–vague statements are not really anyone’s forte.  She has the keening down well, but it feels a little flat–brevity helps on this one.  “And the Sky Lay Still” opens with a slow echoing guitar, and as it slowly builds, ther’s a great vocal melody that builds for the verse  “Sleep with Dried Up tears” is an acoustic song.  It’s definitely a bit of a downer after the intensity of the album (which is dark but powerful).

EAV is definitely not for everyone.  It depends on your taste for screaming and, your taste for strings instead of heavy guitars to accompany those screams.

[READ: April 23, 2014] The Adventures of Superhero Girl

I grabbed this book from the library because I like Hicks’ work.  When I brought it home, Sarah thought that I brought it for her because it is on her Hub Reading Challenge List.  But no, I liked Hicks enough for myself (so selfish–although I did let her read it first).  She loved it, and so did I.

The Adventures of Superhero Girl is an online comic which Hicks seems to have started in 2010.  Online it is black and white (this book is done with colors by Chris Peters). I didn’t check to see if this is the entire series, but I assume it is. It went on hiatus in 2012 and has been eerily silent ever since.  So at least we have this pretty hardcover document of this hilarious series.

The strip is a genuine, honest to god, comic strip–8 panels and a punchline!  (okay most have fewer than 8 panels, but that’s the set up).  It’s sort of a goof on superheroes, but as the introduction by Kurt Busiek points out, it is really not a parody of the genre.  Superhero Girl is a superhero, with powers (but not amazing powers) and she does help people and she suffers angst from it.  But Hicks plays around with the most basic tropes of super heroes.

Superhero Girl, first of all, doesn’t have a superhero name.  She’s not hugely muscular, she’s not super sexy, she doesn’t wear a sexy costume.  She’s a young Canadian girl in a mask and (sometimes) a cape. She doesn’t have an agonizing backstory.  She just has superpowers and wants to help people. (more…)

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 fwboysSOUNDTRACK: DEFTONES-Koi No Yokan (2012).

koiThis is the disc that got me back into the Deftones.  My friend Cindy told me about an upcoming show (which just passed and which I could not attend, boo), and since I didn’t know that had a new album out, I ordered it and was really really impressed by it.  Diamond Eyes was an amazing culmination of all of their previous successes and Koi No Yokan (which means “Premonition Of Love”) takes it one step further.  They’re moving away somewhat from the really heavy sounds, and yet there is heaviness aplenty, both in Chino’s screams and in Stephen’s guitars.  Indeed, the album opens with big loud guitars–letting you know that they can still rock.

Then “Swerve City” shifts to cool swirling verses.   It’s not as extreme as earlier songs but it’s one of my favorites that they’ve done. The piercing guitar solo is great.  “Romantic Drams” has some of their more complex guitar lines mixed with a vocal line.  The bridge is bright and leads to a really catchy chorus.  There’s some really tight stop-on-a-dime moments as well.  “Leathers” pounds open with some bludgeoning chords and Chino’s screams (see, they haven’t gone soft), and then a great soaring bridge–a great hard/soft song, especially when the chorus kicks in at it’s almost inquisitive.  “Poltergeist” opens with hand claps and then some heavy loud guitars and bass.

“Entomed” presents another beautiful shimmery guitar introduction.  It’s one of their most delicate songs with the soaring chorus “shapes and colors are all I see.”  I can’t believe this song wasn’t a hit.  Why didn’t they release that as a single?  “Graphic Nature” has some great angular guitars but it smooths out into a cool song with some great basslines in it (Sergio Vega shines on this disc and even helped write some of the songs).  “Tempest” is one of those great songs where Chino sings at a different pace than the music–which I always like.  There’s a big heavy section about 4 minutes in that gives the song an extra boost.  “Gauze” has a heavy off-kilter guitar riff (with some really interesting keyboard blasts–Frank Delgado proving indispensable).  There’s a dark bridge and splashes of really heavy guitar throughout.

“Rosemary” is nearly seven minutes long and is has multiple parts.  It opens with some great echoey guitars.  And then the heavier guitars kick in chugging along while Chino’s voice soars over it.  By about five minutes the song gets really heavy and chromatic, rocking along until it suddenly stops and is replaced by a gentle guitar and keyboard  passage.  “Goon Squad” opens similarly to how “Rosemary” ends (in fact the end of “Rosemary” feels more like the beginning of “Goon Squad”) with quietly strummed guitar and swooshing keyboards.  There’s some cool weird screams that are layered in the mix of sounds.  Late in the song there’s a simple guitar solo that reminds me of Alex Lifeson.  Complex drumming (Abe Cunningham is still amazing) opens a very jazzy flavored final song “What Happened to You?”  Chino’s falsetto is in full effect and the song feels like a springboard to new styles of exploration on future records.

This album is really amazing.  It may not be as diverse as White pony but it’s more cohesive and it really highlights what a staggering good band Deftones have become.  I’m rather bummed that I missed that show.

[READ: March 13, 2013] Friends with Boys

Sarah had this book lying around for a while.  I had meant to read it because it sounded cool (and she said it was very good), but I never did.  Then she grabbed it again because it’s on a list of books she wants to read.  It was sitting on the table and I realized that the author (whose name is very very hard to read on the cover) was Faith Erin Hicks who wrote Zombies Calling, a book I enjoyed very much.  Now she’s on First Second Books (a favorite publisher of graphic novels) with this really great story.

I have one gripe I need to get out of the way.  The title is terrible for the story.  According to the drawings in the back of the book, it appears the original title was The Education of Maggie McKay which was an overdone idea at this point, but which actually makes more sense than Friends with Boys.  The title made me think that the story was about a tomboy who gets older and realizes that she can’t hang out with boys the same way.  That is certainly a part of the story, but the full story is far more complex–a girl who has been homeschooled all her life finally goes to high school, where she learns to make friends.  Oh, and there’s a ghost following her around too.  So you see, Friends with Boys, while an engaging title I think does it a disservice.

But that’s neither here nor there.  Because the story is really excellent. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Sirius Radio-The Grateful Dead Channel

I’ve never been a big fan of the Dead (even though I like Phish quite a bit). I never really got into the subculture, and really the music seemed peripheral to their fanbase. I recall being very disappointed when I bought What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been back when I was a metal head and couldn’t believe that a band with that name and with skeletons all over the place was that wimpy.

Well, it turns out that Sarah was something of a fan, and, after all these years of listening to Phish, I’ve grown an appreciation for the Dead as well (and Cherry Garcia, of course).

So, as we have Sirius radio, we put on the Grateful Dead channel one night. It’s a fascinating channel, as it sounds like it’s some guy playing all of his Dead bootlegs. It was funny to not hear any LP tracks. I found the whole experience rather pleasant. It worked great as background music, and was utterly inoffensive (not exactly a ringing endorsement, I know but). I enjoyed the experience and would definitely do it again. Probably not anytime too soon, after all, that was a lot of Dead to ingest. But someday, I’m sure…

[READ: June 10, 2008] Zombies Calling

Aside from Oni Press, my favorite comics publisher is SLG, Slave Labor Graphics. They’re generally a little darker and weirder than the Oni stuff, so it suits my dark side when needed. (more…)

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