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Archive for the ‘Circus’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ELLIOTT BROOD-Live at Massey Hall (April 8, 2017).

Elliot BROOD formed in 2002 as an alt-country band although their style has been described as “death country” or “frontier rock,” which I rather like.

The more I hear alt-country bands and the more alt-country bands that I like the more I realize what I dislike about country music primarily is the vocalist.  I hate twangy singers.  And most Canadians don’t have a Southern twang, so that solves that for me.  And just to settle it, Elliott Brood rips and rocks and stomps and it is awesome.

They say they always thought it would be amazing to play Massey Hall.  It’s a pinnacle.  They’re really excited–friends and family are coming from all over.  They say they play a lot of places late at night but “we’re not going to edit ourselves for 8 o’clock.”

They open asking “Can we get some claps” for “Without Again.”  After an un, dos… un, dos, tres, quatro, Mark Sasso starts singing lead vocals and playing banjo (and banjo, ukulele, and harmonica).  He has a rough gravelly voice that is instantly appealing to me.  This is a catchy stomping sing along.

“Nothing Left” is a breakup song.  Stephen Pitkin on drums opens the song on keyboards, playing a melody that sounds like toy piano on the sampler.  For a breakup song, it rocks even harder with Sasso switching to acoustic guitar and Casey Laforet playing electric guitar.

Their friend Aaron Goldstein comes out to play pedal steel drums for the next few songs.

He introduces “If I Get Old” by saying it’s been 100 years since Vimy Ridge.  “We’re not a perfect country yet, but we’re pretty lucky to be in this one.”  They wrote a record a few years back about WWI.  We’re lucky to be this age and to not have been in a war.  This song is for the WWI soldiers, it’s called “If I Get Old.”  It is touching and lovely.

“Oh Alberta” is a wonderfully fun song with lots of slide guitar.  The lyrics are playful and funny:

Oh Alberta, don’t you cry, listen to me, it’ll be alright, uh huh oh yeah
Don’t hate Saskatchewan, never meant no harm to anyone
Manitoba, don’t you know you’re out where you won’t make it home
Back to Ontario

And it ends with this funny twist

North Dakota, don’t you that you don’t belong in this song
Where did we go wrong?

“The Banjo Song” is a shorter one that’s “about the life of a banjo.  It’s a hard life they lead.”  Hey “cheap seats, help us out like this,” [clap, clap] “expensive seats too….  We need more handclaps and footstomps if you please.”

The title of their album Work and Love comes from a Constantines song:

work and love will make a man out of you, work and love are the things that will take your childhood away from you.  Your focus changes to your children, you start writing from a different point of view.

“Fingers and Tongues” has a rocking loud sound, it’s a rollicking end to a great show.

[READ: January 9, 2017] “The King’s Teacup at Rest”

I often enjoy stories that are, simply put, odd.  But I like the story to have either some grounding in the familiar or none whatsoever.  It’s the stories that seem like they are part of something I should be familiar with but which are ultimately really divorced from reality that give me a problem.

And this is one of those stories. There are two threads to this story, each one is equally strange.

As it opens we encounter His Royal Highness, the King of Retired Amusements.  He has just purchased? acquired? Liebling’s Sunday Morning Carnival and Midway.  Of course he has a retinue with him–a steward, a scout, and a dancing bear (with a fez and a ruff, balanced n a ball).

They explore the carnival, and the king tells them to find refreshment.  The refreshment proves to be very very old hot dogs “a few bloated green wieners still floating in a steel pond of brine.”  The king insists on eating them despite the steward’s warnings.  The king declares them passable and then goes on the rides.

Pretty weird, but possible. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHE & HIM-Christmas Party (2016).

The first She & Him Christmas album was a little flat, a little dull.  So I wasn’t that excited to get a new one.  But this one is so much more fun than the first.

Zooey Deschanel feels much looser and freer and the music is more lush and not so restrained.  It’s still not anything like the craziness that Zooey Deschanel is capable of. In fact, there’s a lot of restraint.  But some fun is certainly have, mostly as little asides.

“All I Want for Christmas Is You” starts the album and you can hear the big change.  There’s a choir singing behind her which sounds huge (in comparison) and Zooey puts a nice vibrato on her voice.  There’s drums and a bouncy beat.  This album feels very much alive compared to the first one.

“Let It Snow” slows things down.  But it’s and jazzy very appropriate to the song.

“Must Be Santa” is a silly fun track.  This one has accordion and a bouncy backing chorus.  Like in the Dylan version, they list the presidents along with the reindeer.  But it hurts a lot that after the first batch of presidents, they tack on Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, which hurts a lot.

“Happy Holiday” has a pretty, echoey guitar and Zooey really shows off her voice nicely.

“Mele Kalikimaka” is a favorite Christmas song.  This version is a little delicate compared to the more rocking version, but it does capture a Hawaiian spirit.

“Christmas Memories” is a bit too slow for my liking but it is a pretty song.

“Run Run Rudolph” M sings lead.  This song is kinda dumb when you actually hear the words.  I’m surprised they didn’t upend gender stereotypes on this one like they did on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

“Winter Wonderland” a duet with Jenny Lewis.  It’s fun to hear another voice with hers.  There’s a goofy moment where Jenny sings, “we can pretend he is Jerry Brown.”

“The Coldest Night of the Year” is a nice sweet duet.  When the chorus comes in with Ward in the backing vocals it sounds really great.

“A Marshmallow World” is perfect for her.  Fun and bouncey and surprisingly restrained for what it could have been.

“The Man with the Bag” is pretty and old-fashioned-sounding.  Zooey does this style very well.

“Christmas Don’t Be Late” This normally hyperactive song is almost like a dirge.  I don’t know why the excitement has been removed from it.  It’s a bummer way to end the record.

[READ: December 1, 2017] “Eva”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This story is really wonderful.  It’s sad and strange and powerful.

It opens with a man visiting “the hairy child” in Quetzalenango.  The girl is Eva.  Her mother hopes this man is a doctor.  But he is not.  He is a representative of Doña Teresa de Miraflor, a Cuban heiress who was setting up the Society of Scientific Knowledge in Havana. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 4 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 14, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 14, 2004. This was the 4th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  It was an all ages show and ran about 90 minutes.

There are two recordings available for this show.  The Sloggett version is from the soundboard, but the Clarkson recording sounds a bit bigger with more bass and stage noise.   Although you can’t hear the spoken word part of “Mutilated World” at all.  You can hear Dave’s daughter Cecelia chatting you can hear her at one point say “Hi, Tim!”

The start off saying they’ll do a coupe of songs from The Story of Harmelodia to start us out, get us in the mood.

They open with “Home Again” which sounds appropriately cute–Martin has fun with it.  Then for “It’s Easy to Be with You”, they “invite Don Kerr up on stage for this next number on the tenor guitar.  A man of many talents, above all growing a handsome mustache (MPW: or perhaps partially shaving a fanatic beard).  Don says: “Somebody called me papa smurf the other day because I had a cap on.” Dave: “I think Papa Smurf was a little rounder around the middle.”  The song sound nice with that extra guitar.

You can hear on the Clarkson recording “When is my song?”  Dave: “Gonna be maybe in about 5 songs?  Maybe in about 4 songs?  Wanna do it now?  well.  alright.  Does your brother wanna sing too?”  Cecilia (who is like 4 years old, maybe) does an amazing job with Dave Edmund’s “Almost Saturday Night.”  She has a great sense of melody and really gets the feel for the song.  At the end Mike says, “It’s a perfect song to sing on a Sunday.  That’s optimism.”  As she walks off you hear Dave say, “Good job, Cees.”  And she replies, “Good job, dad.”

Then it’s on to a solid version of “Claire” which they send out “to Paul Quarrington, Gillar nominated, should have won.”  Tim says, “co author of this song.”  Mike: “At least on the SOCAN form.” Dave: “A man who launched 1,000 careers.”

“Aliens (Christmas 1988)” opens with a kind of rocking rhythm.  Martin starts singing a weird version of Split Enz ‘ “I Got You” before doing the “whoo hoo hoo” and launching into an incredibly fast paced version.  When it slows down in the middle, Martin says, let’s bring it to normal speed.

For “Try To Praise This Mutilated World,” they also shout out to Chris Stringer on keyboard “bringing down the mean average age of the band.”  I normally can’t hear the spoken parts, but you can hear someone speaking polish I believe.  Each version of this song sounds better and better.

To continue this mellow middle section, Jen Foster is back on accordion for “Who Is This Man, And Why Is He Laughing?” and then comes “Making Progress.”  However, they start in wrong key.  As they get situated, Martin asks Dave why no one is showing minor league and jr league hockey.  Dave says that the CBC is complicit with the NHL in holding back younger players.  Once they get the song going, it sound perfect.

As an introduction to “Take Me In Your Hand,” Martin plays a quick guitar lick from one of his solo songs (“Waterstriders,” I think) and then segues into a very delicate version of the song.

Dave asks if any of the horn players from the Hebrew School Dropouts are still around (they opened the show).  Up come Adam and “Fedora guy” to play horns (including solos) for “Legal Age Life At Variety Store.”  Dropping out of Hebrew school is the best thing you guys ever did.

“Northern Wish” is a very pretty, very mellow version.  It’s followed by a really lovely slow version of “Stolen Car.”

After the encore break, Tim comes out to play a special request “all the way from California.”  He starts “Row” and asks if it’s the right song (it is).  He forgets a few lines but is otherwise quite pretty.  When it’s over, the requester shouts, “Thank you!”  Someone else shouts “Saskatchewan” but Tim says the Hebrew School Dropouts are going to school in Etobicoke so we’ll do a good Etobicoke song for them.  That song is “Self Serve Gas Station.” Martin changes a line to “What went wrong with little Jimmy, is he dumb?”

It segues into a wild, upbeat “Song Of The Garden.”  It’s rollicking and crazy and sort of segues into a slapdash cover of XTC’s “Radios In Motion.”

And that’s it.  It’s short show for the band, but probably perfect for an All ages crowd.  Speaking of All-ages, it’s pretty kid friendly, but not entirely (with some of Martin’s songs).  It would have been really fun to see though.

[READ: July 7, 2017] Animal Crackers

The origins of this story are confusing to me.  It was originally written in 2011 (and published by a different publisher (with a different cover, of course).  But there’s not much you can find out about it.  There’s also a prequel (also originally released in 2011) which came out by First Second around the same time, but that’s for another post.

This book bears the sticker that says “Now a Major Motion [Animated] Picture (due out in Fall 2017).”  Given how short this book is, I wonder if the movie is based on both books or what.  Guess we’ll see.  Since I first wrote that, I have seen that the film has been released, but not in the States.  And, it has major stars associated with it.  I still can;t imagine how they stretched this premise out to 94 minutes.

This story is cute and fun with some good humor.  The problem is that the entire plot is given away in the blurb on the inside cover (so don’t read that). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Reverb, Toronto, ON (August 29, 1997).

This is the final show Rheostatics show from the 1990s that I haven’t mentioned thus far.

I’m not sure what the band had been doing before this show (aside from making he Nightlines show), but they’ve apparently not played live for a while.  This return to performance seems to have brought out the wildness in them.  This show has all kinds of jamming moments with eight songs lasting over 7 minutes.  There’s also some slower moments or songs played differently.  It’s a cool, unique show–very different from their other shows.

There’s even an “opening jam” with a guitar riff explored around some bass notes.  Then a new guitar comes in with some rums.  The whole jam is about 3 minutes but it doesn’t really turn into anything, it’s just a like a warm up jam–I even wondered if it was just the guys messing around until all four of them were on stage.

They play the opening riff to “Fat” but he only plays a clip of it and then stops (allowing Tim to do some bass fills).  During the “bye bye” section they stop the music a few times unexpectedly as well.  It’s an interesting jamming opportunity and runs a pretty long time.

After the song Dave says, “we haven’t played togetehr in a long time well, we haven’t played live in front of people.  We played together at the CBC.”  (the Nightlines show mentioned later).  “So now we got one under our belt.  We forgot our songs had so many parts.”

Dave continues, “There’s a lot of people from Michigan here tonight for some strange reason.  They think the Stanley Cups is here.  But it’s not.  We’ll send this next song out to them.”  It’s “Aliens” At the end, Martin takes off on a wild solo as the band really rocks out.  There’s also an extended jam with someone singing a “dit dit dit” part while Martin plays along on guitar.

“All the Same Eyes” is pretty straightforward except that there’s some real wailing from Martin throughout.

Someone shouts “Are you looking for some fun?” and Martin says “We’ve got a new version of that song we’re gonna play.”  Then Tim says, “Just write your requests on a plate.  Dave: “There’s a private party upstairs and there’s lots of plates outside the door.”  Martin: “There’s a private party for um the three little boys with sandy blonde hair… hamsum?  handsome?”

Then they play the first known occurrence of “Junction Foil Ball.”  Martin introduces it: “we’ll do a kind of a new song”  Don: “its new and we’re kind of going to do it.”  I’m impressed with the interesting sound effects that Martin gets while playing this song.  During the “acoustic tile” section he even distorts his voice like it has slowed down–is that effect of Martin’s singing.

“Four Little Songs” sounds totally different.  It’s got a kind of swinging opening.  The first part is really heavy.   Dave’s part is interesting because while still in the trippy intro section, he begins singing the lyrics to Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.”  When he finally gets to the song, people sing along to his first lines!  Martin has crazy fun with the riff at the end–lots of squeaking solo noises.

Dave asks: “How are those chamois working out, martin?” “They’re remarkably absorbent for large quantities of liquid.”  When I saw them Martin was very sweaty.  I wonder if he always was.  There’s a solid, slow version of “Bad Time to Be Poor,” which Dave says was written awhile ago…but it’s still a bad time to be poor.

Before “Sweet Rich” Martin says, so I’m going to do this solo, okay Tim.  Just the first bit.”  It’s a great version.

“Joey II” has a long rollicking jam in the intro with Martin chanting “I’m about to fuck up, I’m going to fuck up.”   During the middle of the song he asks if any musicians in the audience have played at the Royal Albert Hall in Winnipeg–well that’s what this song is about.

They play an early version of “Easy to Be with You” which goes to “California” instead of “Harmelodia.”

Dave introduces “Stolen Car” by saying “We’d like to do another new one for you.  We played this at our last concert but we’re going to play it a little differently.  This is Tim Mech one of North America’s greatest unsigned artists.   Seriously, he won a contest in Musicians magazine and was named one of the ten best unsigned artists.   We recorded this for the last Nightlines program.  We recorded about 32 minutes of music.  Old stuff, new stuff and a version of this song.  Dave’s last show is tomorrow night.  Thats 104.1 FM CICZ-FM in the local area!”

As the song starts he says (I assume referring to Mech’s guitar) “this is a Hawaiian guitar that’s autographed by Ben Harper.”  ( I had no idea Ben Harper was noteworthy back in 1997).  There’s a weird electronic drumbeat through the song, and the music is primarily guitars–gentle and smooth.

Martin shouts, “Its’ been great playing in our home town–Toronto!”  They play a long version of “My First Rock Show” with a lengthy introductory instrumental section.  Near the final verse, he whispers the “many years later” section and someone shouts “bird in a cage” at the right time.  As the song ends they play the chorus of Trooper’s “We’re Here For A Good Time (Not A Long Time).”

“California Dreamline” is quite extended as well.  After the first verse there’s a dance jam before the second verse begins.  The middle has a kind of vocal jam with a light bass and guitar motif and everyone singing different parts in a fugue state.  It’s a weirdly unique version.  At the end Martin says, “That was ‘California Dreamline,’ we’re going to do ‘Record Horse Count’ next.  They do neither and in fact play a really slow almost country-feeling version of “Claire.”  It’s so different sounding that they kind of mess it up here and there.

Things get quiet and then people start clapping along and you can barely hear them playing an acoustic un-mic’d version of “Bread Meat Peas and Rice.”  Dave says the name of the song “for those of you who could hear it.  You kind of understand why you use microphones.”  Tim starts talking about the band Farm Fresh. “They had a similar kind of thing with their Peanuts and Corn record [what?] and apparently they’re supposed to be releasing a new record, is that right?  They’ve made two cassettes and they are both for sale and are both really good.”  Dave: “Whats with that T-shirt, Tim?”  “Free with every cassette sold.”

Someone shouts again, “We’re looking for some fun.”  Dave: “Are you?”  And they launch into “Fishtailin'” which opens with that lyric.

After the song Dave asks “What is the time, late or early or what?  What time do bars say open til  4?  5?  [Shouts of four and Five] Tim: According to the new mega city law they close at 1 [boooos], so we’ve got half a song left.

They surprise ever one with “Bees,” a short quiet song with Martin making bee-like sounds on his guitar.  It leads to a long, quiet intro for “Michael Jackson” with Martin still doing some cool guitar sounds.  The whole beginning is slow and a little odd, with Dave singing “but an auto-bon would be better.”  And later, “Elvis is king because he’s dead.”  In the middle of the song Dave starts “rapping” and he says “I’d like to call Pip Skid (I assume) to the stage.  Pip Skid from Manitoba does a rap that’s kind of hard to hear.  Then there’s some soaring guitars from Martin.  The whole song is 11 minutes long and ends in a vocal jam that grows ever quieter.  Martin sings “It feels good to be alive” (hitting great falsettos) while the others are singing snippets and oh yeas.

They play an 11 minute “Dope Fiends” which has a bass and drum solo in the middle as well as just a drum solo later.  After 8 and a half minutes the band keeps going with some simple rocking.  At the end Martin says, “Thanks guys for giving me a second chance.” [?].

They leave the stage for the encore with a drum machine blipping away.  They come back with the drum machine still playing and someone plays a slow meandering guitar line. Another instrumental jam for 3 or so minutes before Dave says, “We’ll play one more.”  He also says that they’ll have their live album out by Christmas (stocking stuffers!).  And they end the show with a great non-nonsense version of “A Midwinter Night’s Dream.”

This is a wonderfully atypical show for the band.  A real treat for fans and an interesting entry point for fans of jamming shows.

The next Rheostatics show that I’ll mention will be in 2001!

[READ: March 16, 2017]  “The Pickle Index”

This story is written in a fascinating way.  There are newspaper articles from The Daily Scrutinizer (written by Mark Hamper) and with them, there is the Pickle Index, a series of recipes.  In fact, it’s a recipe-exchange network “for citizens by citizens.”   Daily participation is mandatory (though surely that’s unnecessary since the treats within are so tasty).

From the Scrutinizer we learn that the official strike team has captured Zloty Kornblatt,the instigator, conspirator and fomenter. He brought a troupe of “performers” into the village to mock, destabilize and cause anarchy.

The Pickle Index begins with Fisherman’s Dills (by Sarafina Loop)–brine-ing cucumbers in the ocean.  And then comes Hollow Gherkins by Flora Bialy.  Although midway through the recipe, it shifts directions and talks about Zloty.  How he left them last night and the writer, Flora Bialy wonders why–was it their incompetence or was it her?  She says that once, years ago Zloty’s team was a real circus with clowns, a trapeze and roasted nuts, but now they were reduced to an extended residency in Burford. (more…)

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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…)

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castle SOUNDTRACK: TINDERSTICKS-The Waiting Room (2016).

tinderstIt had been four years since the previous Tindersticks album.  And this one was not released on Constellation Records, but rather on Lucky Dog.  Whether or not that had anything to do with the sound of this record I don’t know, but I really like this album a lot.

“Follow Me” is a slow broody melancholy instrumental with a high accordion playing a lovely melody.  It’s completely evocative.  “Second Chance Man” has a kind of unsettling vibrato on Staples’ voice.  But the melody (sparsely played initially on keyboards) is really catchy.  The rest of the band fleshes out the sound after a verse and chorus.  I love that it builds in the middle and then again at the end with horns lifting the gloom off the song.  “Were We Once Lovers” has a thumping bass line and an uptempo feel as Staples’ sings in a kind of falsetto.  I love the way all of the parts form together in the chorus that’s introduced by a simple but effective guitar: “How can I care if it’s the caring that’s killing me.”

“Help Yourself” opens with some soulful horn blasts and Staples’ whispered vocals.  The bass keeps the song going as occasional horn blasts accent this strangely catchy song.  Staples also sings in an uncharacteristically angsty style in this song, which is strangely unsettling as well.  I love the way the song keeps circling round and then almost surprising the chorus when it comes back.

Whenever Tindersticks use a female guest vocalist, they really seem to step up their game.  “Hey Lucinda” is an incredibly catchy song, starting with simple bells and an accordion playing a great melody.   When Staples’ deep voice is balanced by the exotic voice of Lhasa, it makes for a great pairing.  It’s unusual for a catchy song to be so spare, but the simple accordion accents really hold the song together before it takes off near the end.

“This fear of Emptiness” is another gentle instrumental with bass and acoustic guitar accompanied by accordion sections (sometimes dissonant near the end).  “How He Entered” is another spare song with mostly bass and keys and an occasionally scratching sound as an ascent.  But it’s still a very catchy melody.

“The Waiting Room” has that same echo on his voice as he slowly sings over a keyboard melody.  His anguished singing of “don’t let me suffer” totally makes the song.  “Planting Holes” is a short delicate instrumental with a sweet but melancholy keyboard riff running through it.

Perhaps the most dynamic song on the disc is “We Are Dreamers!”  It’s the angriest song I can think of from Tindersticks, with rumbling keyboards and tribal beats as Staples sings bursts of vocals.  But it’s when Savages’ singer Jehnny Beth adds her voice that the song turns really aggressive.  They sing the chorus “This is not us/ We are dreamers!”  And as Beth takes over the chorus, shifting pitch and intensity, Staples is commenting including lines like “You can rob us/ You can trick us/ Peer over our shoulders and steal our ideas”

The final song is “Like Only Lovers Can.”  The delicate and pretty keyboards belie the sadness in the lyrics: “We can only hurt each other the way lovers can.”  The quiet keyboards end the disc.

[READ: March 15, 2016] Castle Waiting Volume 2

I loved Castle Waiting.   And I couldn’t wait to read Volume II.

And I loved it even more.  Linda Medley is such an engaging storyteller.  Her characters feel utterly real and funny and charming.  I could read more and more and more from her.  Which is why I am so bummed that the series ends here (with rumors that she is doing more).

This volume is a bit more playful.  The characters are well-established and settling into their lives at the castle.

As in the previous volume, there are a lot of flashbacks to Jain’s childhood.

But there’s also a lot of wonderfully meandering stories in the present. The man who looks like a horse (literally) has injured his hoof, so he is hobbling around and is not as useful as he might be (and is cranky about it).

But the main story centers around the arrival of two dwarves, I mean hammerlings–only racists would say dwarves.  They are the relatives of Henry, the quiet blacksmith (who is actually human, but was adopted by the dwarves).  Henry is super excited to see them (as excited as his monosyllabic grunts allow him to be).  Actually, we finally learn why he is so standoffish and quiet most of the time.

They are here for a very specific an(and embarrassing) purpose.  They need women’s clothes for the human who works with them back home.

Their presence enlivens everyone in the Castle. They are fun and interesting–enjoying hard work and being very playful. It is with their help that the Castle dwellers do some remodeling, find a booby trap and even learn how to play nine pin bowling.  The older women who still live in the castle take some bets about who will win–with much merriment.  I love that there a whole chapter about them bowling.

There’s a subplot about Jain’s son Pindar being a leshie–a species we learn a bit about, although we also learn that they are extinct.  This plot line is never concluded properly, though.

We also finally learn about Doctor and his crazy mask (it was a sort of gas mask for the plague).  They are all worried about his sanity, especially when he starts walking around wishing everyone a happy Yule (the Christmas stocking subplot is outstanding).

Speaking of Jain, she has decided to move into the Castle (where there is indeed a ghost).  But her kindness appeases the ghost somewhat.  Especially when she teaches Simon to read (I love the scene where he learns to read and then sits at the table reading instead of eating–just like in my house).

There’s a hilarious thread about a very stubborn goat (whom Simon can outsmart).  And a multi-chapter thread about Sister trying to get a cross for Jain’s room.  We finally get to the bottom of the house sprites (they are adorable when we finally find out what they want).  Finishhtory!  Finit!  Reetoomee.

I am so attached to these characters, that I need to hear more about them.

As in the previous book,Medley’s art is simply gorgeous.  She does realism like no one I know and her characters have an awesome blend of realism and hyper-realism that makes them so enjoyable to look at (and unbelievably detailed as well).

There have been a number of graphic novels that I have gotten completely attached to, but none like this.  It was so bittersweet to finish this, knowing there’d be no more–but holding out hope for a surprise some day.

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castlewaitingSOUNDTRACK: TINDERSTICKS-The Something Rain [CST086] (2012).

tinders This was Tindertsicks third and final full length album for Constellation.  It has some noisy elements–especially the distorted guitar–that feel different from their other releases.  Although overall I find the album a bit too slow and drawn out.

The first song on this disc, “Chocolate” is quite unlike other songs by the band.  It is a 9 minute slow song with a spoken word story delivered by by keyboard player David Boulter.  The music sets a nice tone for this story of living in a squalid bedsit and heading into town.  As the song picks up momentum, the guitar lines and the rest of the band add more atmosphere.  In the story, he goes to the bar to play some pool and picks up a woman–a regular.  By six minutes, the whole band, including horns is playing and the song is louder and more noisy while the story continues.  For the final two and a half minutes the band drops out and the denouement reveals a secret.  It’s a cool story, well delivered.

“Show Me Everything” opens with some slow bass and a buzzy electric guitar as the backing voice sings “show me…”  And, after ten minutes on the disc, we finally hear Stuart Staples’ iconic voice sounding deep and whiskery as lawyers.  I love the songs with the female backing vocals like this one.  “This Fire of Autumn” is a faster song with a throbbing bass line and catchy chorus (with more backing vocalists).  The addition of the vibes makes this a great Tindersticks song.

“A Night so Still” slows things down almost to whisper with the gentle keyboard riff under Staples’ languid delivery.  “Slippin’ Shoes” is a bit more upbeat and the horns come in right at the front of the song.  I love the way the bridge seems almost sinister and slick before resolving into a bright chorus.  “Medicine” is another slow song with multiple layers of guitars and slow horns and strings.

“Frozen” opens with slow horns that sounds like feedback, almost.  When the fast bassline and almost discoey drums come in, it’s kind of surprise, but a nice pick me up from the previous slower songs.  Staples is singing quickly over himself–the echoes of his voices catching up to his new lines. And the scratchy guitars and jazzy horns make a nice moody soundtrack of him pleading “If I could just hold you, hold you.”

“Come Inside” is  7 minute song with a simple keyboard riff that floats over the slow beat.  There’s a long slow jazzy outro–too long frankly.  The final song is the 2 minute “Goodbye Joe.”  Its all tinkling bells and a shuffling bass, a pleasant instrumental to end the disc.

While Tindertsicks albums tend to be kind of slow, this one has a few too many extended slow parts and not enough of Staples’ magical crooning or the more dramatic sounds that the band does so well.  I’m not sure why their next album was not put out by Constellation, ether.

[READ: February 15, 2016] Castle Waiting 1

I have been aware of Castle Waiting for a long time.  I believe I have even picked up an individual book at the comic book shop (of course I never read it because I wanted to start from the beginning).

So this book collects Chapters 1-19 (plus an epilogue).

I was instantly hooked by Medley’s outstanding drawings–so believable and realistic while exaggerated enough to make them all unique characters.  Not to mention the fact that there are humans and human hybrid creatures (and no one bats an eye).  And then top it off with the incredibly creative first chapter.

The story opens with a king and queen having a baby.  Actually they couldn’t have a baby so they employed a local witch for assistance.  The nice witch gives them good advice but when the town’s evil witch hears of this betrayal she plans to curse the baby.  And thus on the girls’ fifteenth birthday, the evil witch says she will prick her finger on a needle and die.  This should sound vaguely familiar to fans of fairy tales   But Medley puts a twist on things immediately by removing all needles form the castle and hiring a creature named Rumpelstiltskin to do all of their work off site.  Rumpelstiltskin has been cut in half and stitched together so when the creature asks for the Queen’s child in payment, the King yells at him and says he knows what kind of trouble that leads to.

The good witch is able to deflect the curse somewhat to make her sleep for 100 years (that should also sound familiar) rather than dying.  So, when the girl’s fifteenth birthday arrives, the bad witch comes and brings a needle to set the plan in motion.  The princess falls asleep–the whole castle falls asleep and, in a neat twist, the bad witch is killed.

And then Medley has a ton of fun with the story.  When the prince comes to wake up the princess, they run off an get married.  And there’s a hilarious multiple paneled spread of the rest of the castle sanding there, mouths agape.  As the scene ends, we see three older women telling a man with a bird’s head that that all happened along long time ago.  And the castle has been a refuge ever since. (more…)

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