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Archive for the ‘Children’s Books’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GEORGIA ANNE MULDROW-Tiny Desk Concert #839 (April 8, 2019).

I’d never heard of Georgia Anne Muldrow.  My takeaway from this set is that Muldrow is a wonderful hippie–spreading love and peace and being a total free spirit.  But what do we know about her?

The blurb says

The first song I ever heard from Georgia Anne Muldrow, back in the early 2000s, was called “Break You Down.” The opening line spoke directly to my experience as a twentysomething coming into my own:

“Don’t let them make you forget who you are
Don’t let them break you down”

I later found that she wrote, produced and performed that song when she was only 17-years old. She possessed talent and perspective beyond her years and I became a fan.

But more interesting than that is this piece of information.

She’s also made a name for herself as a collaborator with artists [like] Erykah Badu, with whom she introduced the notion of “staying woke” to the world, years before it was appropriated as a hashtag.

“Overload” opens with her doing some crazy muttering and sounds.  I didn’t think I’d like the song at first, but it got really funky with some cool keys from Mokichi (his keys dominate most of the songs as the main instrument) and a very cool six string bass from Bronson Garza.  I really like the chours.  By the end she is totally intense and into it–an amazing performer

I know they want to kill ya. I know they want to break ya.
I’m sure they envy you because your love is so true.
They want to break your mind they want to drive you crazy.
They don’t love no black man unless hes in slavery.
But let my love raise you higher.

It’s pretty awesome.

Some time would pass before she eventually released her debut album, Olesi: Fragments of an Earth, in 2006. Since then, she’s released well over a dozen, mostly self-produced projects. While much of her music’s focus has been on the healing, preservation and education of African American people, the themes are universal: family, struggle and of course, love.

Up next was “a reworked and animated versions of the song ‘Flowers.'”

She and the band were floating the possibility of swapping the duet with her partner in music and life, Dudley Perkins with another song. But she decided it was more important to showcase their shared love on the song “Flowers,” originally from Perkins’ 2003 album A Lil’ Light.

It’s a softer song.  She sings the beginning and then Perkins takes over.  I don;t like his voice all that much and find this song rather dull.  But they clearly had fun plying it.

They end the set with an extended and jazzy version of “Ciao.”  She plays bongos to start this one which accentuates Renaldo Elliott’s drum kit.  It has a jazzy bass line and feels really improvised.   She starts riffing on going to Africa–South Africa or Togo she stars rhapsodizing about all the places they could go Nigeria  left alone by the police there because we’ll be in the majority.

Pack my bags and go where the equator hugs me, maybe even pick me a mango.

Georgia Anne Muldrow is a force of love and it is hard, and somewhat foolish to resist her.

[READ: April 10, 2019] Be Prepared

T. has had this book at home for quite a while (she’s quite the collector of graphic novels).  I have seen the cover for ages and so I had an idea of what the book was about.  Boy was I wrong.  For I assumed it was about summer camp.  And while it is, it is about so much more.

I really enjoyed her drawing style in Anya’s Ghost but I like it so much more in this book.  Her drawings of Vera with her big glasses is just so charming and sweet.  I was hooked from the first page.

As the story opens we see Vera at a birthday party for Sarah Hoffmann.  The party is important–an ice cream cake, pizza, (with a stuffed crust) and of course, a sleepover.  All the girls have fancy sleeping bags, but Vera’s is Russian and very utilitarian.  All of the girls gave Sarah accessories for her fancy historical doll. While Vera drew her a picture.   The girls wonder where Vera’s doll is, and Vera lies (badly) about hers being at home.

When Vera has her own party later, she tries to create the same atmosphere–but fails miserably.  The ice cream cake is a Medovik tort (with writing in Russian), the pizza is from Dmitri’s and the drink is Kvass (carbonated beverage made from rye bread).  Everyone slept over, but they all called home to get picked up in the middle of the night.

Vera didn’t really fit in with anyone.  But she still had friends (and Sarah was certainly nice enough). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GAELYNN LEA-“I Wait” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next few shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

If you’re going to put together the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour — an epic night of Tiny Desk-style concerts, held at the wonderful Central Presbyterian Church in Austin during SXSW Tuesday night — you might as well kick things off with a core member of the Tiny Desk Family. Gaelynn Lea won 2016’s second annual Tiny Desk Contest with the barest of ingredients: a few swooping violin strokes, a loop pedal and her fragile-but-forceful voice.

At the Tiny Desk Family Hour, Lea performed in that same spare configuration. She closed with a powerful song called “I Wait,” which addresses the way people with disabilities — Lea herself has brittle bone disease, and works as a motivational speaker and teacher as well as a musician — are frequently left out of social justice movements. It’s Lea at her best, as her warm, intense, hauntingly beautiful voice is shot through with a clear sense of purpose.

This song is wonderful.  The looping is simple but effective–the notes are menacing and effective, while the unlooped pizzicato notes add just the right amount of rhythm to this otherwise sparse song.  For this song is all about the lyrics.  Lea details what it’s like to be handicapped–not in the world at large, but within protest movements which supposedly have her best intentions at heart.

So when you hear them
Make claims of progress
Take a good look
And see who isn’t there
We need a seat now
At the table
So please invite us
Or don’t pretend to care.

When Lea brought “I’ll Wait” to an abrupt close, the audience’s soft collective gasp gave way to the night’s first standing ovation.

It’s a stunning ending.

[READ: February 12, 2019] The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo #2

I really enjoyed the first book in this series and I’m happy to see the follow-up.

It opens with a recap from Charles Thompson, a future reporter (who uses a tiny reporter’s pad to write down his thoughts).  He talks about how he met Margo Maloo, the “Monster Mediator” and how with her help, he was able to locate and deal with a troll in his house.  And by “deal with” he means befriend.  For although Margo is a mediator between monsters and humans, she is mostly interested in the safety of the monsters.

Thompson has dozens of readers, he thinks, and maybe this is why Margo wants his help.

She will not be getting any help from Charles’ friend Kevin, who wants nothing to do with any monsters (unless they come in toy-form, like the Battle Beanz). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Cobo Hall Detroit, MI (November 23, 1996).

This is the 12th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour. This is a partial recording and also not a soundboard mix. It contains the only recording of “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” from the tour. This is also one of only 2 Rheos shows recorded in the US to date. This is the show that the Hip recorded for their Live Between Us release and the infamous line “This one’s for the Rheostatics…we’re all richer for having seen them tonight”. The DAT tape label says “Gord Bits” – upon listening to this I realized it is Gord Downie on solo acoustic guitar from October 16 1996 playing a song called “Fear Boner” and another called “Catharsis My Arse” (aka Every Irrelevance from the 2001 Coke Machine Glow album). It also has a 5 minute Tragically Hip jam. Out of respect for the band I followed up with their management and they have asked I do not put this in the public domain…just to clarify what the image shows.

So, compared to the other recordings this one is not as clear–very bass-heavy.  But it still sounds okay.  and the content is pretty great.

I was concerned that an American audience might not be as receptive, but they really get into it (you can hear the audience on the recording…presumably recorded from the seats).

So we only get four songs and it’s almost a total Tim show.

We get the whole of “Bad Time to Be Poor,” and in the middle of the song you can hear someone in the audience say, “these guys are great, aren’t they?” which must have been nice for the band to hear.

Don, clearly the only salesman in the band, says, “That’s a song off of our brand new record which you can’t buy in the United States except at the merchandise counter.  Dave chimes in: “Contraband!”

Up next, it’s more Tim, with “Claire,” which has a nice solo from Martin.  “Horses” is up next.  It’s very rocking, rocking, but a bit muffled.  I feel like it doesn’t quite get the applause it should.  Martin’s horse-guitar sounds at the end are phenomenal.  I wonder if this was my first exposure to them if I would have been blown away.

Martin’s wild guitars segue into “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and as soon as the crowd recognizes it, they go nuts.  It’s sung by Tim and sounds wonderfully dramatic–as it should.  But it’s a nine minute song, what a weird way to end the show.  But the crowd seemed into it, and that’s what matters.

[READ: February 25, 2019] Pop

This is another picture book from First Second.  Once again, because I’m reading everything they publish, I’m including this one too

The cover of this book (fun illustrations by Matt Rockefeller) has the sort of subtitle “Every last bubble must…POP!”

I thought that the story might go in a different direction.  As it opens, we see a boy, Dewey, blowing bubbles.  He says the best part of blowing bubbles is popping them.  The text includes “You don’t need a friend to blow bubbles.”  On the facing page you see kids playing chase.  So I assumed that they would come and pop bubbles with him.

But Dewey doesn’t need friends for this adventure.  He pops several bubbles but then misses the last one.  And it starts floating up and away. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary AB (November 16, 1996).

This is the 7th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.  These are the only recordings of “Queer,” “Soul Glue” and “Introducing Happiness” from the tour.

The opening music tonight is “Good Times” by Chic.  Which seems odd.  After a quick “hello,” Martin begins playing “A Midwinter Night’s Dream.”  The sound quality of this recording is excellent (as the others are) and this version is pretty outstanding.

Dave says “We’re very nervous.  This is very big place.  We’re very purple.  We’ll do 8 songs tonight and then the Tragically Hip will play.  We’re playing across the country with them and eating all their doughnuts.

“Bad Time to Be Poor” is dedicated to Gord.  It’s another Tim two-fer with “Introducing Happiness” which is “for my cats.”

Up next, Dave introduces “a song about being gay and playing hockey.”  “Queer” sounds great and the band is really into it.  It’s followed by a bouncy and fun “Soul Glue” (three from Tim!) with a grooving solo from Martin.  “Soul Glue is such an underrated gem.  I love the way the middle section is chaotic with the three singers singing different parts and then it segues into the great harmonies of the final “ooooh” section.

Dave jokes: “Hey, Martin, if you’re gonna play stadiums you need to know how to flick the pick.”  Then Dave gives a big shout out to Recordland on 9th: “the greatest record store in the celestial universe.”  And it’s still in business in 2019!

The guys don’t banter too much as openers, but they have this exchange about the people down front:

DB: They’re having too much fun.
MT: Is there such a thing?
DB: Yes as you know first hand.
DB: Does everyone wanna party?  [crowd roars] I was afraid you’d say that.
MT: Well, this song is a real downer.

It’s “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine” which sounds great with some really interesting chaotic parts in the middle–Martin seems to be either having fun or going a little crazy with the sounds and soaring vocals and lots of growled “rich”s.

Feed Yourself starts out really weird (a missing guitar maybe).  After a verse or so it sounds fuller.  The middle has no crazy chanting, but when the middle slow part end, it roars back.  It segues instantly into “California Dreamlike.”  When he sings “disillusioned porpoise,” the guitar sounds kind of dolphin-y.  The crowd is totally into them by this point.

They end the show with “RDA.”  Martin seems to start it twice then re-tunes and the blast through it properly.

Although a long rambling Rheostatics show is a thing of beauty, these short sets are pretty spectacular–like a great short story.

[READ: February 21, 2019] Quirk’s Quest 2

I had the exact same reaction from book one as I did for this book.  About Book One I said:

This story threw out so much disconnect for me that I never really determined if I liked it.

The artwork is adorable–the characters look like Fraggle Rock creatures–soft and furry with big round ping pong ball eyes.  Even the bad guys (much taller with four eyes) don’t look all that fierce.

And yet.

In the first 30 pages, these monsters kill and eat some of the cute Fraggle Rock creatures. What?!

This book looks ostensibly like a children’s book.  It is really cute.  But the diary entries of the Captain are written in a cursive that even I had a hard time reading (particularly because the captain’s named is Quenterindy Quirk and he is sailing on the H.M.S. Gwaniimander (hard enough to read that, imagine trying to figure it out in cursive!).

The cursive is still there (they name a river “Mabooglaqui” in cursive), and while there’s less death in the beginning of book two, there is a fairly astonishing scene where a creature eats smalls creatures and is then blown to bits (somehow adorably). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Pacific Coliseum Vancouver BC (November 9, 1996).

Rheostatics opened for The Tragically Hip in Fall 1996.  Some of the shows were online already, but in 2018, Rheostatics Live added about ten more shows.

This is the 2nd night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour. It also includes “Fan Letter To Michael Jackson” from the first night in Vancouver November 8, 1996.

Rheostatics as an opening band are quite different from a headlining show.  As headliners, they play for over two hours, the banter a lot and they are quite funny.  As an opening act (especially for a band like The Tragically Hip), they are much more efficient.  They have about 45 minutes.  I imagine the fans are receptive, although it’s hard to tell from these recordings.

Of course, the Rheos had been together for over a decade by then and had certainly done their share of opening slots, so they play  their songs and sound pretty great.  They even set up the night for fun by having their walk on music “Popcorn” by Hot Butter.

They are playing a lot of songs from The Blue Hysteria, their recent release.  And this set features Tim Vesely on lead vocals quite a lot.  Three of the eight songs!

The show begin with “Fat” with Dave on vocals and Tim playing some fun bass parts.  Both guitars sound great.  Everyone’s vocals are in top form.  Dave gives the rather bold introduction: “Thanks, Vancouver, we love you and we’d like to change your life.”

Up next is Tim singing “All the Same Eyes.”  The note on the cassette says it was hyperfast.   Then it’s back to Dave with “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson.”  Instead of Jackson, he sings Tielli and Martin gets a great solo.  Martin also hits some great high notes.

Martin’s first song of the night is a great “Dope Fiends.”  There’s a mellow middle section with some nice drum work before Martin roars back in.

Dave says we come from Etobicoke–it’s a long way from here.

Then it’s back to Tim for “Bad Time to Be Poor” which energizes the crowd.  Even more Tim follows with a lovely “Claire” in which Martin gets a ripping solo.

Martin says, “The guy with the bald head is Dave Bidini….  now you introduce me.”

Dave tells everyone that after the show (after the show??!!) at the Starfish Room on Homer Street is a bill with The Inbreds from Kingston, the Local Rabbits from Pointe-Claire Quebec and Citroën from here.  It’s cheap and it’s great and it’s new and it rocks.  And this is a song about pumping gas.  Not having gas, pumping gas.  Don Kerr says that that song is not on their new album which just came out.

They play a terrific “Self Serve Gas Station”  It ends beautifully and then it’s jarred out of the beauty but a slamming “RDA” to end their set.

This recording has a bonus track from the night before (which is kind of odd–why just this one song?).  It’s a recording of “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson.”  Martin asks if Michael Jackson ever played there.  We can’t hear an answer.  It’s got quite a slow opening and when they get to the line “I play Bad until my parents….” Dave winds up repeating the line.  It seems like a stylistic choice until he then says Here I am at the Pacific Coliseum and I forgot the words.  It’s my greatest moment of rock so far.

Otherwise the song sounds pretty great.

[READ: March 1, 2019] Hocus Focus

I have really enjoyed these short comic books based on the Adventures in Cartooning series.  Although this one was a little subpar, I felt.

Each one follows the adventures of the Knight and his horse Edward.  In most scenarios the Knight is impulsive and gets himself into trouble (often at Edward’s expense).

The Knight is tired of peeling vegetables,  he is working for the wizard and decided that he wants to learn to do spells.  So he asks the wizard to help him make a spell that will turn him into the greatest wizard ever.  He want to use a horn of unicorn and the feather of a phoenix for his super spell.

The wizard says she should learn stuff first (like patients) before jumping into something, but the knight refuses. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MEG MYERS-Tiny Desk Concert #830 (March 6, 2019).

Meg Myers has a fascinating delivery–singing rather low on the first verse and then in a kind of falsetto on the second verse.  It’s kind of interesting but it seems at times like she’s mocking the lyrics or something.  But I love the music on the song.  I especially love the violin slide to the high notes at the end.

Apparently the instrumentation here is very different from the album.

Meg Myers put out one of 2018’s most intense and cathartic albums. Take Me to the Disco raged and threw sonic punches at anyone who’d ever attempted to use or abuse her, from former record executives to past lovers. Dressed in a sparkling blue leotard, Myers re-creates that fire and ferocity behind the Tiny Desk, replacing her album’s roaring electric guitars and electronics with a pulsing string quartet, piano and brushed drums.  [Jared Shavelson: drums, percussion; Josh Rheault: keys; Kristin Bakkegard: violin; Livy Amoruso: violin; Paul Bagley: viola; Carol Anne Bosco: cello].

But the most intense part of the performance is Myers herself. The distant, piercing looks she gives during the set’s opening cut, “Jealous Sea,” are unforgettable and unforgiving as she sings about a rat’s nest of feelings — anger, fear, jealousy, desire — over an ex. “Everything’s right, everything’s wrong / When you call my name,” she sings while half-hugging herself. “And I don’t think I can stop the jealousy / When it comes, it comes like waves and I can’t breathe.”

I am mixed on her delivery, but I like most of her lyrics.  I am fascinated by the imagery of “I don’t think I can stop the jealous sea, when it runs, it runs like lightning through my teeth.”

Myers follows with a searing version of what she calls “a very lovely, uplifting song” from Take Me to the Disco called “Tear Me to Pieces,” a frenzied takedown of liars, buried secrets and “wicked temptations.”

In the middle of “Tear Me to Pieces,” she sings “it’s in your eye,s you fucking liar” which she sings in what I assume is her normal voice.  And she sounds so powerful and clear there that I rather wish she sang more like that.   I wonder if all of these vocals styles sound different with guitars.  Because by the end, her yelling seems a bit out of tune.

She takes a little break before the final song because she played last night.  While she’s rehydrating, she talks about the next song, a cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.”

She then dials back the fury and indignation to close with a surprising version of “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush. Myers is a longtime fan, and often gets compared to the British singer. But Myers tells the audience she fell in love with the song for its meaning. “It’s about men and women and the differences between them, and learning to have empathy for each other.”

At first I wasn’t too keen on her version–again, her vocal delivery seemed really wrong for this song.  But as she was singing–and singing the lyrics so clearly, I started to really appreciate the way she was performing it.  So I’m overall mixed on her.  I wanted to like her more than I did.

[READ: February 21, 2019] The Dam Keeper: World Without Darkness

Kondo and Tsutsumi have both worked at Pixar, which may explain why this graphic novel looks unlike anything I have ever seen before.   I have (after reading their bios) learned that this was also a short film.  I’m only a little disappointed to learn that because it means the pictures are (I assume) stills from the film.  It still looks cool and remarkable, but it makes it a bit less eye-popping that this unusual style wasn’t made for a book.

For part two, our heroes, Pig, Fox and Hippo are trying to get back home.  But they need the help of that weirdo frog character named Van.  Van shows them the city where he lives.  And it is incredible. So many people, so many colors, and the dams are all automated.  But when they get down into the city, it is just fill of smog,.. so much smog that they need to wear masks.  Van gets ahead of them and they lost him, but everyone speaks a different language and it’s hard for them to find anything.

After wandering around looking for Van, Pig spies the ancient symbol of damkeepers.  He remembers back to his father saying it’s a symbol of the damkeepers’ promise to protect the city–they sacrifice for a greater cause. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ZAYTOVEN-Tiny Desk Concert #828 (February 28, 2019).

I saw Zaytoven on the Gucci Mane Tiny Desk Concert and thought he was a good performer.  I didn’t expect that he woul det his own show.  So I wasn’t expecting all that much, but man, this is awesome.  And then I read why this show is the way it is:

Last month, Zaytoven arrived at Bob Boilen’s desk with a full band in tow with the intent of backing up his Atlanta friend and collaborator Future, who had dropped his latest album, The Wzrd, earlier that day. The plan was to translate the bass-heavy trap sound Zaytoven helped originate to real instruments with Neil Garrard on guitar, Bernard “TreWay” Lambert on drums, DJ Spinz and Elena on flute (for what would’ve been a live version of “Mask Off”).

So instead, we get this beautiful instrumental collection.  There’s three tracks that are kind of jazzy, but not exactly.  They’re pretty melodies with some great solo work from the electric guitar and lots and lots of flute.   The drums from Bernard “TreWay” Lambert are a mix of traditional and electric (with great sounds) and some nifty scratching from DJ Spinz.

Track one “Lay Up” has a ripping distortion-filled guitar solo from Neil Garrard.  But man, the real killer is the flute work.  It’s so effortlessly beautiful the way it floats around the song.  Elena Pinderhughes is just dynamite on this song and every one.

Introducing “Peacoat,” he says it feels it like jazz.  He also says he still plays the organ in church on Sundays and that he wants all of his songs to have soul.

“I wasn’t even allowed to listen to this type of music, let alone to be producing it,” he told me a little over a year ago in the church outside Atlanta where he plays organ every Sunday morning. He was remembering how conflicted he’d once felt as a young producer who’d grown up in the church to be playing his trade for street artists like future trap god Gucci Mane (who Zaytoven would later back on keys during his first visit to the Tiny Desk). “To be the godfather of the sound, it was almost embarrassing for me, like, ‘Hold on, bruh. This ain’t really how I was brought up. This ain’t really what I do.’ I’m a guy that’s in the church and I try to lead people more so that way.”

There’s some pretty piano and keyboards form Zaytoven on this song, and I like the subtle scratching throughout.

The final song “Mo Reala” is also great.  He says it’s got a church vibe.  It was his first single from the album with Future saying real things.  He’d ben producing since 2004, but Future helped him refine his piano work and his beats.  In addition to the great song itself, the flute and guitar solos are fantastic.  And again, I love the drums and scratching too.

I listened to the track with Future’s vocals on it and I didn’t like it half as much.

Zaytoven, if you read this, you should absolutely get this band together and record these songs just like this as instrumentals.  They are dynamite!  And no one is releasing music like this right now.  Get on it, man!

[READ: February 26, 2019] Cucumber Quest 4

Reading book 4 means that I am now caught up with the books that are currently out.  And that is terrible, because the series suddenly got really intense and really emotional.  And who knows how long I’ll have to wait until the next book!

When I first started this series, which is kind of a spoof on hero quests, I enjoyed it.  It made me laugh and had lots of funny and absurd twists.  I never expected to get so invested in the story of the Nightmare Knight and his explanation for why he is such a bad guy.

But back to our heroes.

When they arrive in the Flower Kingdom, they are given the terrible news that the Kingdom does not have a Princess (our heroes need Princesses to sign a sword as art of their quest). What will they do? (more…)

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