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Archive for the ‘Raina Telgemeier’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: NATALIA LAFOURCADE-Tiny Desk Concert #662 (October 27, 2017).

I’d never heard of Natalia Lafourcade , so here’s what the blurb says:

Natalia Lafourcade is a successful singer-songwriter whose voice and music live on the edge of pop, but maintain a distinct independence.

A few years ago, while Lafourcade was traveling Brazil, she felt a great nostalgia for her native Mexico and its folk music. When she finally returned home, she immediately called some friends for the kind of party that is ubiquitous in Latin America: lots of social drinking, lots of food and lots of guitars and singing. Classic folk songs were on the playlist and a good time was had by all.

Someone recorded the informal jam session and Lafourcade’s management team heard the tapes. “This is your next record!” they told her.

That record, Musas: Un Homenaje al Folclore Latinoamericano en Manos de los Macorinos, Vol. 1, [Muses: A Tribute to Latin American Folklore in the Hands of the Macorinos, Vol. 1] was a commercial and critical hit, and received a Latin Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. It only made sense for Lafourcade to bring her Musastour to the Tiny Desk. The performances are an ode to a magical time in Mexican popular music, one that is revived with every note this singer and her band perform.

Los Macorinos are Ernesto Anaya (traditional Mexican guitar), Uriel Herrera (drums) and Jorge Molina (double bass).

One important historical note: The two older gentlemen on the video are Juan Carlos Allende (acoustic guitar) and Miguel Peña (electric guitar), two revered musicians who played with the iconic ranchera singer Chavela Vargas.

She plays three songs:

Lafourcade has a lovely delicate voice and brings a lot of joy to these songs.  On “Soledad y el Mar,” her voice and all of the acoustic guitars meld together wonderfully.  There’s also beautiful “traditional” harmonies from the players.

“Mi Tierra Veracruzana” was written for her hometown of Veracruz (five hours from Mexico City).  She says “its full of energy and  the beautiful things that I remember about my little town.”  There’s some delightful little acoustic guitar solo runs in the middle of the song that really spice up this delightful song.  I love that there’s also someone there to give a high-pitched aahhhhhhh ha ha!

“Tú Sí Sabes Quererme” its a love song which means You Know How To Love Me.  There’s much chuckling and then she says, when it happens it happens. She plays a small four string guitar.  After running through the chorus for everyone to sing along: “mas o menos, you have to sing as you were very in love with somebody.”  This song really swings and it’s a lot of fun..

[READ: October 27, 2017] Ghosts

Ghosts is a very different story for Telgemeier.

In the past, her stories have been rather personal–taking events from her own life (I assume).

This story mixes some real events (a sister with cystic fibrosis–this is tangentially related to her own life) and fantastical events–ghosts appearing on Dia de los Muertos.  She does an excellent job of linking the two.  Not only because the sister is facing death, but also because the sister needs a breathing apparatus and the ghosts are also “seeking” breath to come alive for the festivities.

As the book opens, we see Kat and Maya in the back seat of the car.  They are pulling out of [not] In-N-Out Burgers and learning that their new home in Bahiá de la Luna does not have an In-N-Out Burger.  This is pretty upsetting, but Kat realizes that they are moving to save her sisters’ life.  Kat will of course miss everything back home, but Maya needs the cool wet climate (the sun only shine 62 days of the year) of their new home. (more…)

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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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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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dramaSOUNDTRACK: SHARON JONES AND THE DAP-KINGS-Tiny Desk Concert #496 (December 21, 2015).

sharonTo end out the Tiny Desk Christmas season, I chose this year’s entry.  And for this year’s Christmas show, they went all out.  There’s lights strung around the office, there’s twinkling gold tinsel behind them, presenting a wall of glitter, and a sign that says Dappy Holidays.

I don’t love Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (I often feel like I am the only person who doesn’t).  I’m not a big fan of the blues or of soul music, so there is that.  But then I heard her blues version of “Silent Night” and it is a travesty.  “Silent Night” is a beautiful tender song.  If done right, it can make you cry.  But this is just dreadful. You don’t make “calm” a ten syllable word.  You don’t sing “talkin ’bout a Silent Night.”  You don’t make this song fun.  You don’t show off you crooning skills with this song.  You just sing it.  Perfectly.

When she’s not tinkering with classics, though, Jones has some good fun with two originals.  The first is the fun “8 Days of Hanukkah” She sings about all the things they’ll do on each day–spin the dreidel, roll out the latkes, and the best: “we’re cooking up the brisket the kosher butcher sold my uncle Saul,”  It’s a lot of fun (when the horns launch into the dreidel song amid their jamming it’s a good time).  This is the kind of soul that I like–lots of swinging horns and good times.

And Sharon herself seems like a fun person–she asks for help remembering the lyrics to the final song and plays it off in a fun way.

“Big Bulbs” is another original.  It’s also funny with the lyrics, “Baby you got them big bulbs flashing in your windows tonight.”  IT seems like it’s a double entendre but I don’t really think it is, it’s just fun.

Despite my aversion to the first song, she totally won me over with the second two songs, and I’d happily add those to any holiday mix.

[READ: December 10, 2015] Drama

I really enjoyed Telgemeier’s Smile and Sisters.  But I enjoyed Drama even more.

This story is an ode to everyone who works behind the scenes at the drama club.  But it’s also a chance for the stars to shine and the shy kids to come out too.  All done in Telgemeier’s delightfully simple yet effective drawing and storytelling style.

Callie is in love with the drama club.  She works late on sets, she loves seeing things come to completion.  She also knows she has no talent to be on stage.

And things are good.  Until the drama arises.  Greg and Matt are her friends.  Greg is a little older and Callie has a crush on him.  When Greg tells her that his girlfriend Bonnie broke up with him, she is pretty excited.  And they share a kiss.  But from that moment on, not only does Greg avoid her, but Matt is a jerk to her, too.  Not bad for the first few pages. (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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