Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Neil Gaiman’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ALICE RUSSELL-Tiny Desk Concert #288 (July 15, 2013).

I read the name Alice Russell and pictured some kind of folk artist.  Boy, was I surprised to see a woman with  bleached blonde hair, a leather jacket and a funny t-shirt.  And then her band started playing low groovy soulful music.

Turns out:

Russell is a classic soul-infused singer — close your eyes and it’s easy to hear a Southern drawl, but truth be told, she’s a Brit. American-style R&B from Britain has a long history dating back to the 1960s with Dusty Springfield and on up through 21st-century artists like Adele. As for Alice Russell, she’s been making great soul music for 10 years, and her arrangements on To Dust often include a dose of electronics.

I didn’t love her voice when the first song “To Dust” started.  But as soon as the chorus kicked in I was hooked–wow, what a great voice she has and with the full band playing behind her it sounded amazing (the sampled backing singers was a bit flat, but otherwise OK).  And by the second chorus, man she is belting out the song—it’s great.  The Adele comparisons are spot on.

Then she hit Bob’s gong at the end of the song and told us that it was an ode to the taxman.

“For a While” is a great big soul song.  The drummer gets some great sounds out of that one drum he has.  And they keys sound great too.  I love the middle part where there’s some seriously long pauses in between beats–they are all wonderfully in sync.  At the end of the song she yells “I didn’t gong!” and then makes a peculiar hand gesture about a turtle.

“Heartbreaker” has such a classic-sounding riff it’s hard to believe it’s a new song.  I like it a lot (although I don’t care for the chanted “when it falls, when it breaks” by the guys).

I have to agree with this blurb about her:

To Dust is Russell’s fifth album, but the hiatus that followed 2008’s Pot of Gold may be the reason too many people don’t yet know what she’s doing. This stuff is as powerful as the work of any American singer making soul music in the 21st century. If you haven’t heard of her yet, think of this as a well-overdue introduction.

[READ: May 15, 2016] I Kill the Mockingbird

I bought this book from the bookstore in Bethlehem, PA.  I don’t buy too many books these days but I saw this one in the PA authors section (and it was 20% off) and the title sounded intriguing.  So I grabbed it.

And I’m I glad I did. This book was outstanding.  I loved it from the first chapter and was thrilled that the ending was also very satisfying–not easy given the way the story was heading for a conclusion that could have gone in many different directions.

So what’s this about?  Well, there are three kids, Lucy Elena and Michael.  They are at the heart of the story.  I loved loved loved that these three were great friends who’d known each other forever.  And they were all big big big readers. Such an awesome start to a story. (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

thrilignSOUNDTRACK: ADIA VICTORIA-Tiny Desk Concert #545(June 30, 2016).

adiaAdia Victoria has a rough, raw voice that goes well with her simple, exposed guitar sound.  The blurb says her music “carries the singular perspective of a Southern black woman with a Seventh Day Adventist upbringing, who never felt like she’d fit in.”

She sings three song, mostly in a great, raspy voice.  For “Stuck in the South” she actually seems to be gritting her teeth as she sings: “I don’t know nothing ’bout Southern belles / but I can tell you something ’bout Southern hell.”  When the first verse ends, and her band kicks in, it adds such interesting textures.  a distorted bass and a lead guitar playing quietly distorted sounds.  This song is really captivating.

“And Then You Die” with its swirling sounds and keyboards has a very distinctly Nick Cave feel–gothic in the Southern sense of the word.  Indeed, the first verse is spoken in a delivery that would make Nick proud. This is no to say she cribbed from Cave but it would work very well as a companion song  I really like the way it builds, but the ending is so abrupt–I could have used some more verses.

After the second song the band heads away and Bob says “They’re all leaving you.”  She looks at them and growls, “Get off the stage!” to much laughter.

She sings the final song “Heathen” with just her on acoustic guitar.  It is a simple two chord song.  It’s less interesting than the others, but again, it’s the lyrics that stand out: “I guess that makes me a heathen, something lower than dirt / I hear them calling me heathen, ooh like they think it hurts.”

I’m curious to hear just what Adia would do with these songs when she’s not in this Tiny format.  I imagine she can be really powerful.

[READ: November 23, 2016] McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales

For some reason or another I have put off reading this McSweeney’s volume for many years.  This is technically McSweeney’s #10, although it was also released in this printing from a  major publisher. Sadly for me, my McSweeney’s subscription had expired sometime around here so I’ve never actually seen the “official” Volume 10 which I understand has the exact same content but a slightly different cover.

One of the reasons I’ve put off reading this was the small print and pulpy paper–I don’t like pulpy paper.  And it was pretty long, too.

But I think the big reason is that I don’t really like genre fiction.  But I think that’s the point of this issue.  To give people who read non-genre fiction some exposure to genre stuff.

Interestingly I think I’ve learned that I do enjoy some genre fiction after all.  And yet, a lot of the stories here really weren’t very genre-y.  Or very thrilling.  They seemed to have trappings of genre ideas–mystery, horror–but all the while remaining internal stories rather than action-packed.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy anything here. I enjoyed a bunch of the stories quite a bit, especially if I didn’t think of them as genre stories.  Although there were a couple of less than exiting stories here, too. (more…)

Read Full Post »

sleazeSOUNDTRACK: MARKETA IRGLOVA-Tiny Desk Concert #174 (November 10, 2011).

marketaMarketa Irglova came to the world’s attention in the film Once, where she duetted with Glen Hansard.  They formed The Swell Season and made some beautiful music together.  But he has another band and she has done some solo work, like in this Tiny Desk.  Incidentally, watch the video, but listen to the audio.  For some reason the sound in the video is all wonky and weird, but the audio is fine.

This concert is a little surprising because Irglova plays a synth, rather than a piano, and she is accompanied by Iranian singer-percussionist Aida Shahghasemi whom she met in New York.  And Shahghasemi and her drum (called a daf) are actually a bit more interesting than Irglova.

Irglova has a nice voice, and I have really enjoyed a lot of her music, but I found these songs to be a little long and a little undramatic.  However, once you accept that she’s not going for drama, these songs are mellow and lovely.

The opening song, “We Are Good,” has an interesting main riff on the keyboard and her voice blends nicely with the music.  The end section has a very nice melody as it builds and builds.  But as I mentioned, it the daf that is so fascinating.  The drum itself looks like an Irish bodhran (or any other hand-held drum, I suppose), except it has a much bigger diameter and is very thin.  It also has a series of dangling items on the inside, which bring about a lot more percussive qualities.

“Dokhtar Goochani” is a traditional Iranian song sung in Farsi.  Shahghasemi sings the song while Irglova plays.  With the keyboard, the song doesn’t really sound very Middle Eastern until Irglova joins in on harmony vocals in the chorus, when it takes on a very cool quality.  And the drum and percussive sounds in the middle are really enticing.

After this song, Shahghasemi talks a bit about her drum and says that it can be much louder than she’s playing it here.  It’s a traditional Kurdish drum with “jangles” which she explains is usually made of goatskin, but this one is synthetic because the humidity doesn’t affect it as much.

The final song, “Let Me Fall In Love” is about the idea of being in love, with lyrics that are a bit didactic, but whatever.  I really like the middle section where the two women harmonize quite beautifully.  But again the song is a little long.

[READ: October 25, 2015] Sleaze Castle

The cover of this book is crazy.  The full title appears to be:

Markosia/Gratuitous Bunny Comix
Sleaze Castle : The Director’s Cut
Part Zero: “Tales from Sleaze Castle”
Reprinting “Takes from Sleaze Castle” #1-#4
Screenplay by Terry Wiley & Dave McKinnon  Art Direction by Terry Wiley

And then a drawing of a woman with what looks like a magic wand and another woman standing by watching her.

And then there’s a whole list of “Starring” (these names are actually characters in the stories)
and then Film Sound Track Album by MWOWM available on Gratuitous Bunny Audio #GBA3

That’s a lot to take in and it made me wonder if the comic would be that busy.  And it is.  This book is a wonder to behold.  Self published in 1992, this book is just chock full of story, with an astonishing amount of detail included in the drawings–nods to other comics, musical appreciation and all kinds of fun things to look at.  It took me a pretty long time to read this because there was just so much to see and read.  It was a lot of fun.  Even if the plot was a little confusing.

This book collects the original books and adds material (which is not at the end of the story necessarily (so art quality varies).

The book opens on a planet far away.  A blonde woman is talking about the trip she will take which will last for ten minutes their time.

Then we jump to the Prologue set in Jo’s house.  Her sister Petra is giving her a hard time.  Jo wants to take her watchman to school (she is a film studies graduate student) but it was Petra’s new present.  So they are fighting of course.  The amazing detail starts here with books on Jo’s shelves and all manner of other things to look at. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[LISTENED TO: December 18, 2015] A Christmas Carol

gaimanchristmasJust like two years ago when we saw A Christmas Carol, a few days later I listened to the audio book.  This year, I found a different reading of it by Neil Gaiman.  This one comes from the New York Public Library podcast, and is available on Soundcloud and iTunes.

What makes this reading unique (and now different from Patrick Stewart’s awesome reading and from the McCarter production (which is different from the book as well) is that the version Gaiman read was hand-edited by Dickens for his own performances.  What?

Yes, evidently Dickens performed this story live a few times.  As the NYPL site explians:

Charles Dickens could not only write a crackling good story, he could perform it. And so in 1853, he took his Christmas Carol show on the road, first in Britain and then in the United States. Audiences loved it. Dickens didn’t simply read from his book. He transformed it into a stageworthy script—cutting, pasting together pages of excised passages, adding stage cues for himself, rewriting, then cutting some more…. Indeed, there is only one such copy of A Christmas Carol, created by Dickens himself, and The New York Public Library has it.

Gaiman read the “as the great author intended, following edits and prompts Dickens wrote in his own hand for his unique readings 150 years ago.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

Terry Pratchett [1948-2015]

tpI have been reading Terry Pratchett since I lived in Boston (circa 1993).  I “discovered” him from the book Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman (who I had also recently discovered).  I recently learned that even though I purchased Good Omens, I had never actually read it.  Duh.  Perhaps I was planning to read it in order after reading his Discworld books.

My fondest memory of reading Discworld is that when I first bought the Discworld books (not easy to get in the States back in 1993), the only versions I could find were these tiny editions (which now I can’t even find evidence of online–perhaps I am the only one who owns them).  I have no idea why they were printed in this preposterous format (the couldn’t have been more than 5 inches square with stupid tiny print).  And I remember diligently reading them at lunch at work.  Which must have looked absurd.  I have these books at home and will have to look up the ISBNs to see their virtual existence.

At any rate, those first four books in the Discworld series all came in that format and I read them all.  And then I proceeded to read through the rest of the series (which would have been up to about book number 17  or so).  At the time of his death there were some 41 books in the Discworld series, including YA books and, geez well so many other things.

And what were they about?  Everything.  Literally. He talked about religion and science.  He talked about metaphysics and witches, he talked about working and police.  He eventually started using popular culture as the basis for a lot of his books–riffing on something or other but never simply parodying them.  His later books advanced the civilizations on Discworld from a more medieval setting to a more contemporary one with newspapers, telephones, money and steam engines.  And of course, there was always Death.  Amazingly he managed to make all of this funny–usually a good laugh every page or two. (more…)

Read Full Post »

information_cover_FINAL_webSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Vertigo, Victoria British Columbia, (January 21, 2000).

21Jan2000I recently learned that the Rheostatics Live website has added dozens of new (old) shows.  It has been almost exactly a year since I last did a tour of some of these live shows, so it was time to move into 2000 (with one new show added since I last looked).

As of 2000, the band is still touring the Harmelodia album, and the set has a lot of songs from that album.  I recently relistened to the album (something I don’t listen to all that much).  I was surprised to hear how many songs had narration–which pretty much precludes them from playing them live.  So that explains why they focus on just a few songs live.

Lucky’s notes for this show state: The Rheos were on a short west-coast swing and they played in Whistler the night before this show. In fact, the inspiration for ‘Satan Is The Whistler’ (from their following album) came from this trip, as Martin remarked something along the lines of ‘They are a bunch of Fascists in Whistler!’.

This is a really good set.  The sound quality is excellent and the band is in very good form.  There’s some great harmonies on “Loving Arms” and Martin really rocks the guitar on “I Fab Thee.”  “Junction Foil Ball” sounds awesome here–a good breakdown in the middle.  And it’s a rare sighting of “Oneilly’s Strange Dream” and a replay of “Good Canadian.”

It’s always fun when the band is feeling chatty.  In this show they joke about the Crash Test Dummies and even sing, “Superman never made any money saving the world from Crash Test Dummies.”  They also have fun with “My First Rock Show” with talk of blood on the seats.

The band has some technical failures, and they play a Stompin’ Tom song (“Bud the Spud”) while they get fixed.  But it doesn’t mess them up as they play a killer version of “Stolen Car” with a great solo.

Luke Doucet (now of Whitehorse, then of opening act Veal) plays during “Legal Age Life” and the band jokes about the Vealostatics.

The whole show ran for nearly two hours.  It’s a great set and the first of two nights at Vertigo.

[READ: February 10, 2015] Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free

This short book is Doctorow’s plea for Copyright common sense, Net Neutrality and internet freedoms (among other things).  Of course Net Neutrality just passed–hurrah!– which makes this book less urgent but no less spot on and worth remembering while going forward.

Doctorow starts each section by stating his three laws:

  • “Anytime someone puts a lock on something you own, against your wishes, and doesn’t give you the key, they’re not doing it for your benefit.”
  • “Fame Won’t Make You Rich, But Yo Can’t Get Paid Without It”  (or as Tim O’Reilly said “The problem for most artists isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.”)
  • “Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, People Do.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

graveyardSOUNDTRACK: MARAJ-“Gettaway” (Tiny Desk Contest Runner-Up 2015).

maraj Last week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners up that they especially liked.  And I want to draw extra attention to a couple of them.

I know very little about these bands, but I assume that these folks are all members of Maraj.  They are from Kalamazoo MI and they do hip hop with a twist. I loved that there was a live upright bass player. And that the music had a steel drum sound (although it was all electronic).

The verses were done by two different rappers Motor Cit Kam–whose flow is incredibly fast and clear (even if I didn’t actually know what he was saying, the style was great) and Dari G who has a very different flow (and also sings a beautiful backing vocal later).  I enjoyed that there were two rappers, but I liked even more that the third verse (or perhaps bridge) was sung by two of the women in the band.  They totally change the tone of the song—an excellent mix of rap and singing.

What I thought set this song apart was that the chorus–while the music was the same, the slower singing gave a very different sound to the song.  It really changed the flow from the fast first verse.  And the singers–all six of them–all sing well together.

[READ: December 23, 2014] The Graveyard Book

Back in 2009, I read the prose version of this book.  Now in 2014, it has been re-imagined as a graphic novel.  And it’s funny, now that Gaiman has well established himself as a novelist, that I forgot he was originally a graphic novelist.  So this format works for him quite nicely.

As I said, I read the book five years ago, but I didn’t remember all the details.  Naturally the most exciting parts came back to me as I was reading it, but the little details has been lost to time.

I gave a rather detailed review of this book here and there’s really no reason for me to rewrite what I thought about it because it is pretty much unchanged.

But in sum: the story is about Bod Owens.  His family was murdered when he was 18 months old. He escaped to a graveyard (while the killer tried to track him down) and he was raised by ghosts.  They keep him safe from Jack, the killer, whose superiors want him to finish the job.  (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »