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Archive for the ‘Mike Maihack’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: J.S. ONDARA-Tiny Desk Concert #936 (January 24, 2020).

WXPN has been playing J.S. Ondara quite a lot since his album came out.  And while the DJs would often give some details about his life story, he gives a bit more here.

J.S. Ondara’s journey to the Tiny Desk is a fascinating one. From his home in Nairobi, he listened on his sister’s radio to American artists, including Nirvana, Jeff Buckley, Death Cab For Cutie and, most importantly, Bob Dylan. He wanted to be a folk singer, so he moved to Minnesota, Dylan’s home state.

In between songs he narrates his life in a wonderfully comically understated style.

Ondara told us his story. “I remember, at one point, someone told me about this contest that you guys do called ‘the Tiny Desk Contest.’ And I was, at the time, desperately trying to be a folk singer. And I’m not quite. I’m not a big fan of contests, but I like NPR. So I figured I’d give it a shot. And I’d just written that song, ‘Lebanon.’ So I made a video of me playing that song, and I submitted it. And I suppose that things didn’t go quite in my favor. So I figured I’d find a bit of a roundabout way to get here, which involved making a record and touring it relentlessly and stalking Bob [Boilen] all around South by Southwest. (I actually didn’t do that part.) I was thinking about it. And now I’m here. The journey would have been a lot shorter had I just won the bloody contest. It’s on me, not you, I suppose, I should have written a better song.  But in the very wise words of Miley Cyrus, ‘it’s not about how fast you get there, it’s about the climb.’  I can’t stop quoting that song, it’s one of those words even when I don’t want to.”

“Lebanon” is a slow ballad with Ondara’s unique singing style (S. and I genuinely didn’t know if Ondara was a man or a woman upon hearing his song “Saying Goodbye” because his voice is so multivaried.  I really like the passion of the lyrics and how it is countered with the slowness of the music.

In the water, fire
I’ll go wherever you go
In the valley, in the canyon
I’ll go wherever you go
Hey, love, I’m ready now
Can’t you see this riot
Inside of my veins
Hey love, I’m overcome
By desire
How must I wait?
Up next is “Days of Insanity” with this fascinating lyric

There is a bear at the airport, waiting on a plane
There is a cow at the funeral, bidding farewell
There is a goat at the terminal, boarding the C-train
There is a horse at the hospital, dancing with the hare
Somebody call the doctor, from the university
Somebody call upon the witch and the wizardry
Somebody call the rabbi, the pastor and the sheikh
Coz we are coming on the days of insanity
The days of insanity.

In talking about this song he says it is such a rich time to be a folk singer in America.  He wrote the song while making the record.  He was watching videos of kittens and puppies as he does every night before bed and the video suggested watching Stephen Colbert with John Mulaney.  Mulaney took a trip to Japan and described things in America as being like seeing a horse loose in a hospital.  It’s like something no one’s ever seen before.  Ondara encourages us to watch the clip and he is right–it is hilarious!

“Saying Goodbye” is the song that’s been getting the airplay.  It’s passionate and powerful and when he sings in the higher register it really is otherworldly.

This live version is quite a revelation.  His delivery is different–much more slow and deliberate.  But he can still hit that glorious high notes..

Amazingly, Tales of America was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Americana Album (not bad for a guy from Kenya).  Sadly it didn’t win.

[READ: June 2, 2018] Cleopatra in Space Book Five

It took Maihack seventeen months to make this book!  He says that sixteen of those months were spent growing the bear on his author picture.

This story is action-packed with some fascinating twists and turns.  Consequently, seventeen months is a long time to go between books.  Fortunately, Maihack’s quality of illustration and storytelling has maintained its high standards.

The book opens with a flashback to the moment when Cleo first disappeared from Gozi while they were having target practice (back in book 1).

The actual story has followed Cleo on her adventures.  But now we see what happened to Gozi.  He was attacked by … someone … and imprisoned.  Gozi believes that whatever happened to Cleo–it was her choice not to return and help him.

I have to admit I was more than a little confused as to just what happened next, [Gozi explains things later on].  IN the montage of events, there’s a spaceship and lots of cats (I suspect that if I had read the other books more recently this would be more clear).  In whatever happened, Gozi is badly burned and the pain never goes away.  He was wrapped in bandages but that didn’t really help at all.  Then we see exactly what happened to make Gozi tun into Octavian and to agree to use the Lion’s plasma to carry out the ruin of the galaxy. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAC DEMARCO-“No Other Heart” (Field Recordings, August 10, 2015).

Mac Demarco is pretty famous now and seems to be pretty much everywhere.  And yet I actually don;t think I’d ever heard him before this recording.

I’m not even sure if it is in any way representative of his music.  But I love that you can hear the waves lapping.

For this song, Demarco says he bought a boat for his birthday.  It’s a small rowboat, which he rowed out into a bay in Queens “Take A Sunset Cruise With Mac DeMarco”) and began playing his song on a little keyboard. The music has an intentional weird vibrato on it but the recording sound is quite magnificent.

For the charismatic 26-year-old songwriter who grew up in the landlocked plains of Canada, the water still holds an exotic appeal. Plus, the area’s laid-back feel is a perfect match for his laconic delivery and perpetually chill personality.

He sounds a little goofy singing it–presumably intentionally–given the other clips of him goofing off on his boat.

DeMarco moved to this house [by the bay in Far Rockaway, Queens] last fall, after touring behind last year’s excellent Salad Days — just in time for the long, bleak East Coast winter — with the intention of playing his instruments loud and writing new music in isolation [the wistful, melodic mini-album Another One].  A shaggy and surfy collection of love songs, it’s suited for a lazy summer backyard barbecue or taking your second-hand rowboat out for a dusk cruise.

As the show ends, he goofs around singing “Don’t Rock the Boat” as the camerawoman walks up to him in waist deep water.

Behind him, sun-dappled waves are chopped up by freighter boats and the occasional jet ski passing by. Across the water sits JFK airport, with its distant engine hum of planes taking off and landing at a steady, rhythmic clip. The crisp, salty sea breeze mingles with wafts of stagnant water, decaying debris and dead horseshoe crabs that wash ashore.

[READ: June 2, 2018] Cleopatra in Space Book Four

T. brought this book home and I couldn’t believe that book four was out already (had it really been a year?).

This book opens with a reflection on the previous book and Octavian yelling at his soldier cat for not killing the girl.  He is provided with a bounty hunter–a dog-headed man who will stop at nothing to make sure that the Golden Lion is destroyed.

Octavian is shocked.   If they possessed the Golden Lion, they could firmly defeat P.Y.R.A.M.I.D.

Back at P.Y.R.A.M.I.D. at Yasiro Academy, we see Cleo doing battle against a whole bunch of robots in a simulator  Akira comes to take her to class but before they can go they are summoned before he Council.  When they arrive in front of the cat Council, Akira’s parents are there (they call her KiKi much to her annoyance).  They are happy to see her and very happy to meet Cleopatra for they have been studying her life and the prophecy for years. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LET’S EAT GRANDMA-“Deep Six Textbook” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 16, 2017).

Let’s Eat Grandma is a duo consisting of two girls from England–Jenny Hollingworth (17) and Rosa Walton (16).  I love that they took their name from the grammar joke about removing a comma.  But the somewhat sinister reality of the name is representative of the somewhat sinister tone of their pop songs.

Not all South X Lullaby venues are worth describing, but this one sure it.  It takes place in an airstream trailer. The setting is wonderful–all wood-paneled and streamlined. And it seems to make the sound echo perfectly.

The song begins with an electric drum–much louder than one might imagine–and then the girls do a little hand clapping game before the music starts.

Rosa on the keys has really long hair.  She sings lead and has an incredible, unique voice–a heavy accent and a menacing but childlike delivery.  Jenny sings occasional lines (they intertwine very nicely).  When the verses end, the chord change is fairly dramatic before it returns to this pretty and slightly creepy melody.

After 3 and a half minutes Jenny pulls out a saxophone and plays a short, weird muffled solo.  And then the song continues on to the end. It is utterly mesmerizing and as fascinating as the duo are.  I’m really excited to explore more of their music.

[READ: January 27, 2017] Cleopatra in Spaaaace!

While looking up Book 3 on Goodreads I saw this book called Cleopatra in Space Book .5 (that’s point five).  It is the original webcomic that inspired the series.  if you’re thinking about reading it, I’d wait until after Book 3 of the graphic novel.  You’ll see why.

Maichak introduces us to the series by saying he wrote it from August 2009 to October 2012 and that it ends abruptly because he began working on the graphic novels.

These pages will never appear in printed form because while they are the basis for the comic, they are a little different and, as he says, they are aimed at a slightly older audience.  But most of the elements are in place like Khensu The Space Kitty, the humor, the pacing and the great hieroglyphics that the aliens speak.  She’s even got her Sphinx space scooter.  Although Cleopatra herself is a bit older (and sexier). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VALERIE JUNE-“Astral Plane” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 15, 2017).

I have been hearing a lot about Valerie June lately, but I actually didn’t know her music before this lullaby.

For this song it is just her and her guitar sitting on a wall underneath some fairy lights.  “Astral Plane” is a 3/4 time song (with a kind of plucked strumming) .  The melody is simple and comforting, call it “a softly swaying, country-tinged soul song.”  But I  feel like it’s her voice that stands out.

Her voice is unique, and based on it I have no idea where she is from.  It sounds accented but also almost cartoony.  But there’s nothing funny about this song–it’s a pretty song about dancing on the astral lane.  I found that I didn’t really like her voice at first, but it slowly grew on me.  And I find myself somewhat addicted to this song now.  Must hear more.

[READ: January 28, 2017] Cleopatra in Space Book Three

I ended the previous review by saying I couldn’t believe I had to wait forever to read the next book.  And here it is almost a year later and book three is out.

As with the previous books in this series there is a lot of action–a lot of fighting sequences.  But Maihack once again does a great job in keeping the action easy to follow even while lasers and knives are zapping all over the place.

As the story opens, we see Cleo’s ship surrounded by Octavian and a massive Xerx fleet.  Cleo’s team is obviously afraid but we hear Octavian tell his crew that he wants everyone on Cleo’s ship alive.  Unfortunately for Cleo, Zaid, a rather impulsive youth has joined them and fires on one of the ship’s lasers.  This causes all kinds of chaos and a chase sequence. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKJEALOUS OF THE BIRDS-“Goji Berry Sunset” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 14, 2017).

Jealous of the Birds is, I believe, just the two women in this video.  This song is a beautiful, short, sweet song.  Naomi Hamilton, a singer from Northern Ireland sings (and whistles) and plays the guitar while backing singer Hannah McConnell sings the deadpan-ish lines in the response two the lead vocals.  But when the chorus comes in their harmonies elevate the song just a little higher.

This video was filmed under a soft, glowing light installation. The Amsterdam-based audiovisual design studio Circus Family conceived TRIPH as an immersive experience — as people enter the room, the lights change color, and as people leave, it falls to sleep.

So, while the song is lovely, it’s really satisfying to watch this video as the colors change and the camera moves all around.  And the sound is great, too.

[READ: February 8, 2016] Cleopatra in Space Book Two

I really enjoyed book one of this series a lot.  So I was delighted to see that Book Two had come out.  I brought it home and C. enjoyed it and so did I.  T. enjoyed it too.  So much so, that I brought home book one for her to read so she could get all caught up.

This book follows the day after the previous book ends.

The only problem I had with the book is one that I tend to have with action  stories.  The first chapter was almost entirely action/fighting.  Typically I find this sort of plot development hard to follow and unsatisfying. Fortunately, Maihack has an excellent artistic style and very clean lines and coloring, so there was nothing confusing about the action at all.  But I had enjoyed the dialogue in the first book so much that I wished there was more in this one. (more…)

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cleoSOUNDTRACK: JOHN REILLY & FRIENDS-Tiny Desk Concert #418 (February 3, 2015).

johnI started this show without observing who it was (it was just next on my queue) and I listened without watching first.  At first I thought, hmm, interesting old timey songs.  And then the guy spoke and I thought, wow, he sounds a lot like actor John C. Reilly, I wonder if he’s from the same place.  And then I clicked over and saw that it was John C. Reilly, in full beard and hat playing old timey, spiritual songs.

A lot of actors have vanity music projects, but there’s nothing vain about this. It’s all old music (they use an old timey microphone) and they’re clearly not looking to top any charts.  Rather, Reilly plays acoustic guitar and sings—he has a great, solid voice. And his backing group is full of great musicians who all have careers doing other things: Tom Brousseau on guitar and harmony vocals, Becky Stark from Lavender Diamond on harmony vocals, Andru Bemis on banjo and fiddle, as well as Soul Coughing’s Sebastian Steinberg.

I didn’t recognize any of the four songs they played–which is probably the point.  He explains that Tom is their archaeologist and he uncovered a number of these songs.

The second song references Jesus and after the song Reilly talks tells everyone that he’s a lapsed Catholic but it seemed a shame to ignore all these beautiful songs because of religion.  So when they say Jesus you can think Buddha or… Satan or… the ocean. Becky Stark comes across a bit more, um, something, with her comment “we are advocates for deathless bliss.” (Reilly deflates the silence by saying “deathless bliss” is their other band).

It’s a charming group of songs and would not sound out of place with some tracks from O Brother, Where Art Thou.

[READ: January 8, 2015] Cleopatra in Space Book One

I brought it home for C. but it looked really fun so I read it too.  I enjoyed this book so much that I can’t wait for the next part.

I love Maihack’s artistic style, it’s simple and very clean, and his drawings of the people and aliens are cool and expressive

The basic setup here is that Cleopatra, yes, that Cleopatra, is about to have her 15th birthday.  This means she is about ready to rule the country.  But in the meantime she is stuck going to school and taking Algebra, ugh.  She gets her friend Gozi out of class (by hitting him with a pebble and making him yell).  So they sneak out.  I loved the joke when he asks where she got the slingshot since her father confiscated them all–“It’s not like they’re hard to make, Gozi.”

While they are shooting rocks at things, they uncover a giant tomb door.  When it opens, they see all kinds of cool artifacts.  One of them is a panel of some sort.  And when Cleo (she prefers Cleo) reads it, she is sucked into a portal to a new planet generations into the future.  The great great great great grandson of her cat is there (and he can talk–in fact all the cats can talk).  And they inform her that she is the prophecy sent to defeat the Xerx.  The Xerx are a race of brutes who are ruled by Xaius Octavian, a power-hungry dictator.

He evidently sent out some kind of EMP to destroy all of the electronic records in the world but also managed to keep copies for himself.  So he has all the knowledge in t universe.  And it was written that Cleopatra would come and save them from this terrible scourge. (more…)

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