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Archive for the ‘College’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: Maybe This Christmas (2010).

This is one of my favorite Christmas discs.  There’s not a lot of traditional Christmas music on it, but the originals are all either spot-on Christmas songs or at least work nicely for this time of year.  The only song that doesn’t fit is Ben Folds’ which is funny and vulgar.  It is not safe for Christmas and should be skipped in a family setting and saved for the drunken debauchery part of the night.

PHANTOM PLANET-“Winter Wonderland” Back in 2010, Phantom Planet was a kind of buzzy, talked about band (you’ll have to look up why).  But this is a great version of the song, I especially love that it’s kind of rocky and slightly dissonant but still really pretty.

RON SEXSMITH-Maybe This Christmas.
It’s a shame that this series of records is named after this song, which is so forgettable.  I usually like Sexsmith’s stuff, but I can’t keep this song in my head at all.

COLDPLAY-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Unlike Phantom Planet which was all buzzy when this was recorded, Coldplay had yet to take off and had a small hit with “Yellow.”  It’s interesting to hear this spare version (just Chris Martin singing and playing piano) and how he modifies the words in small ways.

VANESSA CARLTON-“Greensleeves”  This is a lovely version of this song, even if Carlton’s voice is a bit affected (and its technically not a Christmas song in this lyrical version).

BRIGHT EYES-Blue Christmas
This is a nice version of this song, mellow and catchy.

SENSE FIELD-“Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” The more I listen to this song, the more I think it’s really weird.  “The yellow and red ones” (?).

JIMMY EAT WORLD-“12/23/95”
This is a very catchy Jimmy Eat World song (once again, before they got huge for a time).  It’s hard to realize its Christmas-related until late in the song when they mention the holiday.

JACK JOHNSON-“Rudolph”
I love this version of “Rudolph” so much because Johnson tacks on an ending where the other reindeer feel bad of making fun of Rudolph.  And Johnson’s vibe is just always so mellow and chill.

BARENAKED LADIES & SARAH McLACHLAN-“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
This recording is quite old–from 1996.  The artists work very well together and Sarah’s voice sounds great.

BEN FOLDS-“Bizarre Christmas Incident” [NSFC]
Ben played all of the parts himself on this song.  I love Ben and I love when he is funny and vulgar.  But this song which is very vulgar and mildly funny is so out of place on this disc.  You can’t play this for the kids, whereas everything else is totally fine. I might like it on a vulgar CD collection bu I dislike it a lot here.

DAN WILSON-“What a Year for a New Year”
Dan Wilson always writes pretty, catchy songs.  This is a lovely song that seems (possibly) even more appropriate in 2017 than it did in 2002 when he wrote it.

NEIL FINN-“Sweet Secret Peace”
This is a very pretty, delicate song with a wonderful chorus.  It’s not necessarily a Christmas song, but it works at this time of year.

LOREENA MCKENNIT-“Snow”
McKennit’s voice is amazing, and this song is hauntingly beautiful.  It’s a stark and lovely ending to this disc.

[READ: December 14, 2017] “Lady with Invisible Dog”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This story was pretty bizarre and really wonderful.

There’s so much going on.  And much of it is pretty weird.  The story is set in 1995.  The narrator, Edwin, has had a run-in with a man called “The Narrator.”  And that has set all of the action of the story in motion. (more…)

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giant-daysSOUNDTRACK: MARTIN TIELLI-The Starlight Club Waterloo, ON (September 24, 2008).

This Martin Tielli show is the final solo show (excepting a Bidiniband that I am saving) on Rheostatics Live that I have to write about.

This is the first show of a tour at The Starlight Club in Waterloo Ontario. Just prior to release of The Ghost Of Danny G Part 1. Only live recording I have to date of “Ship Of Fire” and “Our Keepers.”

As Martin comes out he says, “This is our first show, we’re starting it here at my favorite club.”

This is a new band
Selina Martin – acoustic guitar, vocals, bowed saw ;  Monica Gunter – piano, synth, viola, vocals ; Greg Smith – bass, vocals ;
Ryan Granville-Martin – drums, vocals, glockenspiel.  There’s a lot of Martin up there.  Martin says, “My name is Martin because my mum’s last name is Martin.”

I really enjoyed this set a lot . The sound quality is excellent and the band is in tremendous form.

“Dead Is The Drunkest You Can Get” starts with just acoustic guitar and voice.  But when the get to “just like a child” the backing vocals come in.  And the xylophone sounds pretty.  It’s quite a surprise when the drums kick in mid way through the song.  “That’s What You Get For Having Fun” opens with some quavery violin and guitar trills–very different from the Nick Buzz version.  It’s overall more rocking and less cabaret style.

“Love Streams” sounds really pretty on piano.  He says, “that was a song I did a long time ago with a group called Nick Buzz.”  “(A Romantic Place) She Said, ‘We’re On Our Way Down'” opens with a musical saw!  He tells us, “I have to adjust the teleprompter here.”  He says it’s tough one, it’s a song I wrote about a place I love in Toronto.  A bar called the Inter Steer.  I wrote it in the bar while other music was going.  There’s too much music in pubic places, I think.  We should ban it.”  It has some great low acoustic guitar trills.  Overall, it’s a pretty spare song with Martin on guitar and the saw playing along.  When it ends he says “sorry about my brain… my brain my brain.”  That’s one of my favorite chorus of any song.  It’s by Wayne Omaha.

“That’s How They Do It In Warsaw” has a false start and lots of laughter.  He describes it as a “bit of a rockabilly number,” and when it’s over he says, “there were some devil notes in there.  Satan!  Frightening music that rockabilly.”

He opens “The Underbrush” by saying , ” the next few songs are on my subscription series records. These 2 record are about growing up in rural southern Ontario.”  This one is about a feral child.  Then he tells a story about his sister: She had an afro but she used to wear a towel on her head pretending she had straight hair.  I used to ask her what is wrong with an afro, it’s awesome….   We don’t talk anymore.  She lives in Brampton.

I love that you can hear the footsteps like in the beginning of the album and love how quiet and delicate it is with lovely backing vocals.

He busts out the vocoder for “Something In Those Woods.”   And then plays the beautiful “Watersriders”  They guitar is terrific and the keyboards add wonderful atmospherics. I love the guitar melody on “I’ll Never Tear You Apart” as well.

He tells a little bit about the subscription series: I had a bout of bravado about 4 or 5 years ago.  I’d do a subscription series and do 4 or 5 records in a year.  Then we blew the entire budget on the first record, Operation Infinite Justice, uh Joy.  Justice was the name that Bush gave to the first war on terror.  The town I’m writing about is Priceville.  Someone has heard of Priceville?  Priceville is where my grandparents live. His Italian grandparents are from a town near Verona, Italy.   A month ago I celebrated for a week because I finished all of the paintings.  The art is an important part of these records.   I was hoping to have it ready for Halloween because there are spooky musings about ghosts and spirits.  But now I’m hoping Christmas.

“Beauty On” jams through the whole first part even the normally quiet intro: “i am not.” It sounds great with the percussion.  But he asks, “Did we drop a verse n that song, it seemed too short.  He confesses, “I like working in bars because you can drink cocktails while you do your job that you get paid for.  I have a passione for the cocktails.

It’s nice to hear him do a Rheos’ song: “Take Me In Your Hand” is quite slow and different-sounding with the female backing vocals.  The coda on bells and melodica(?) is charming.

“My Sweet Relief” sound nice with the piano and Neil Youngish with the backing vocals.  “A Hymn To The Situation” is solo piano.  he interrupts the song to say “At the end of the next verse, there’s an axe and I want some heartfelt applause for the idiot I’m portraying, not an idiot…an honest guy.”  The crowd responds wonderfully.   He says that he’s been trying to rearrange “Sane, So Sane” so much that that’s the only way it can be done now.  It sounds good you can really hear the “lesbian pasta, please” lines.

He then says, “the next song is one I wrote with a certain hockey writer/sports writer.  Nice fellow, very gregarious.”  “Saskatchewan” opens sounding like “I’ve Got Sunshine on a Cloudy Day” and the band jams it for a moment before playing a really good version of the song–appropriately rocking.

He uses the robotic voice thing again for “Sergeant Kraulis.”  It sounds great but when he gets to the end, it feels like he wants to do something else but it just sort of fades out with him playing weird notes. The backing guitarist plays the notes that should come next, but he says “That’s the end.”

Then he introduces a “Totally new song.  I’m pretty sure it’s going to be on my next record after I finish this subscription… debacle.”  He says “Our Keepers” is “full of hate… the most invigorating emotion, hate… the most delicious, invigorating, joy-inducing emotions.  bloody ..and loving.”  The song totally rocks and the middle section is pretty classic rock sounding.  It’s shame it’s only available on More Large Than Earth (We Will Warn the Stars).

Apropos of nothing he says, “this is Buddy Holly’s Stratocaster–midi Stratocaster.  The light keeps things from getting too spontaneous.”

Then it’s back to the music with “another song I wrote with this Armenian-looking guy who writes columns for the Star and is on the radio a lot.  I stole the song and changed the entire meaning of it.”  “Stolen Car” sounds great.  The backing vocals are different, but Martin is the heart of this song and he songs it great.

Then it’s back to “Sergeant Kraulis” with the “Reprise.”  The song picks up with the repeated notes from earlier and then Martin repeats primarily the “we were opening packages” mantra on the robotic voice.  The end is a long jam with wild soloing from Martin.  At the end, We had to pick up the last bit of that song.”

During the kind of encore break, he says “thanks for helping us kick this little tour off.”

The intense “Ship Of Fire” has a rather Neil Young sound but with some cool synths.  This is the only recorded live version of it which is a shame because it is intense live.  There was more robot voice at the end.

Martin begins tuning and says, “Let’ do ‘Voices from the Wilderness.'”  And you hear someone say “Oh, yeah, okay!”  There is a hunt for capos “Capos have been located.”  More tuning Martin says, “Talk someone, while I tune.”  Selena sings “G…  A….” (as Martin tunes those notes, then asks, “So uh what’s things like in Waterloo?  I never get to spend any time here.  Just soundcheck, show.  It seems like a swell place.” Martin chimes in:  “I got to spend a lot of time here when I was a kid–Kitchener/Waterloo.  There was a big cemetery we used to play in.”  Someone asks, “Did they used to be two towns that grew together, kind of like mold?  But good mold on cheeses.  When we get big we’ll have people who can tune guitars for us–were working on that.  You know Gibson has expensive guitars that actually tune themselves.  I think Jimmy Page had one a really l long time ago.. because he could.  Voices has a lovely guitar melody and bells.   I like that he puts in the line “I know Geddy, but he don’t know me.”

[READ: April 20, 2017] Giant Days Vol. 4

I was so excited to see two volumes of Giant Days out!  This meant I could read them right after each other.

And its a good thing because the third book ended with a bombshell that Esther was dropping out of school.

Chapter 13 opens with Esther storming around her house, her parents quite upset about her decision.  But Esther is certain and she even goes out to find a job.  She gets one at Bakerymax as a sausage roll technician.

And how is Esther enjoying being home?  She runs into her old best friend Sarah (who has fun hair) and they catch up.  There is a wonderful joke about textiles.  And then she sees her ex, Eustace.  But he just looks at her and walks away.  It’s ugly being home.

Meanwhile Daisy is so upset to have found out that Esther is not returning that she talks to her grandmother for advice (I love the way she twists anything her gramma says into something good for her).  Daisy and Susan decide to go and find her to bring her back.  They show up at Esther’s house and her parents are thrilled to see them (and thrilled to offer them so free luxury–Esther’s parents are loaded!). (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: NICK BUZZ-Lula Lounge, Toronto, ON (December 9, 2010).

I was looking through the solo concerts on the RheostaticsLive page and realized that there were only a few left for me to post about.

This is the first of two Nick Buzz shows on the site and the one I hadn’t posted about yet.

This audio has been taken from the Mini DV recording of the show that I put on YouTube (which is available in 13 parts).  These clips are all available on YouTube.

It’s interesting hearing Martin with Nick Buzz because they are clearly a more cabaret style–even on Martin’s solo songs.  As of this recording, they had released Circo and the Shoenberg EP.

“Spilling The Wonderful” sounds terrific.  It’s odd and cabaret-ish and as the title says, Wonderful.  On “That’s What You Get For Having Fun” it is cool watching him pluck at his guitar.  It’s a weird song but always sounds great.

He says, “Thanks a hell of a lot for coming” and then takes off his suit jacket.  “Just Because” is quiet and pretty.

Then he explains that the next few songs are from the Schoenberg EP.
I can’t tell how they do that opening collage of music and spoken words for “Gigerlette.”  But Martin seems to be enjoying it.  At the  end of the song he says “Strangely all these rather formal songs that Schoenberg wrote back then are all about sex, is that strange?  I don’t know.”  I cracked up that during “Der Ganugsame Liebhaber (Black Persian Kitty) he shakes his head after he sings “it shivers as I stroke its velvety nap.”  Then he even does some jaunty dances.  The final one is “Arie Aus Dem Spiegel Von Arcadien.”  It is so much fun with the boom boom boom bits.  He notes: it’s 100 years old.

“A Hymn To The Situation” is from “our first and essential only album Circo.  The other album was part of a subscription service I’ve done over the past 38 years–a collection of the creepiest Schoenberg songs.  But this is one of the most despicable songs I have ever written.  And I want to share it with you.

“Milkeek” is a new song.  It’s inspirations are from a dream world.  It doesn’t make any sense to me hopefully it will make some sense to you.  And it’s about keeping certain types of food separated from other types of food.  There’s scratchy violin.  He says that song was about “The relax”.
This song ain’t.  “Eliza” features banjo and Martin takes his guitar guitar back.  Although once the vocals start he takes the guitar off again.

“L’Astronaut” has an amusing story attached:    He says it’s inspired by a fantasy:  one of the things that occurred to me and a friend of mine was how we felt at folk festivals.   We would like to attend one in a spacesuit with tools to take samples of the boutiques and booths and bongo jams and take samples and do observations to take back to our world.  To use a boring drill to take sample drill into a djembe.  We’ll play the song and see if its comparable at all.   Don’t think so.  Not sure if there’s second unknown song or if that was part of “L’Astronaut,” but at the end, Martin jokes, “yes, we’re a little bit country.

“The House With The Laughing Windows”  is spare and pretty with a lovely piano melody.  I love when the guitar comes kicking in near the end of the song.  “Sane, So Sane” opens with him saying” Are you enjoying the show so far?  This is only our second show in a normal venue.  We’ve only done abnormal venues at this point things like television and classical tent arrangements.  This is a song about Toronto where I don’t live anymore.  There’s some really cool sound effects throughout.

“Love Streams” is from our album Circo.  The first time we played it from top to bottom we kept it for the record.

He says this next song features my bass playing.  It’s “Uncle Bumbo’s Christmas.”   It’s pretty long and for the end he’s basically playing two notes.  I wonder if he was bored.  The final song “If You Go Away” gets cut off at the end, but it is a delightful torch song.  Martin walks away for a bit in the beginning but comes back after 2 minutes to start singing.

I assume there were more songs at the show, but we will have to make due with what we have.  The quality is good and the band sounds great.  It’s nice to see Martin working with violinist High Marsh in the Rheostatics reunions.

[READ: April 20, 2017] Giant Days 3

Boy do I ever love this series.  It might just be my favorite graphic novel series yet.  And that’s saying a lot.

The only thing that confounded me a bit was that in the year since I read the last book, I’d forgotten a bit about what was going on.  But it only took a short amount of time to get caught up again.  I also noticed that I said I didn’t like Max Sarin’s drawing style in the previous book.  Well, I find that I really like it now and that I just didn’t like the change from one to the other in the middle of the previous book.  Because here it’s just right on–exaggerated and fun, but still delightful.

Chapter Nine opens on what I thought was a confusing scene–Ed and a woman (Amanda) are spying on the student government. The woman is an editor at the paper, she is older and pretty intense.  But they find out some shocking secrets (which allows them to make great use of the joke “absent Parent”).  After their espionage, Ed falls for this editirix.  And she is quite taken with him so she invites him home.  But she is older and more experienced and well, soon someone has some stories to tell. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OK GO-Tiny Desk Concert #278 (June 3, 2013).

I love OK Go’s music videos.  They are stupendous. I have watched all of them several times.  And yet I can’t remember a single song.  But that doesn’t diminish my appreciation for them.

When NPR was moving offices, they made a “Tiny Desk Concert” of the band proceeding from their old location to the new one.  And in OK Go fashion, they made a great video to go with it.  The music is live (I believe), even though they must have shot the footage hundreds of times.  It’s sort of a stop motion video, except that it’s not single frames but short 2 second clips spliced together.

You can watch as the old office is dismantled, as they walk through the halls to the moving truck.   As they play on the truck in the streets of D.C. and then as they enter the new building.  There are cameos from NPR colleagues: Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, David Greene, Guy Raz, Scott Simon, Alix Spiegel, Susan Stamberg and more.  There’s a hilarious moment with Karl Kassel who gives them a dirty look.  And then they march through the offices, the news room and into the new Tiny Desk location where they finish the song.

The song is fun and catchy and even has new lyrics that reference the NPR move.  It has to be seen to be appreciated.

And if you like figures here are some details from the shoot:

  • Number of video takes: 223
  • Number of seconds Carl Kasell spent in the elevator with OK Go: 98
  • Number of times Ari Shapiro played the tubular bells: 15
  • Number of days it took to shoot: 2
  • Number of cameras: 1

Incidentally, NPR and I are out of sync with our counting of Tiny Desk Concerts.  I can’t figure out what happened.  The reason mine is correct is because I have written down every concert and numbered them.  So I feel that for them one doesn’t count?  They say this was number 277.  Someday they’ll read this and we’ll get to the  bottom of everything.

[READ: April 1, 2016] No Mercy Vol. 1

Because of the way books are being handled at my work now, I don’t get to see as many books as I used to. So i was pretty delighted to get this graphic novel on my desk.  Even if I didn’t quite know what it was about, I wanted to read it.  And boy did I enjoy it.

I had no idea that the cast was a group of aspiring Princeton University students on a per-freshman trip to an underprivileged county (I like the t-shirts that say Building Bridges Helping Hands with a kinda Princeton P on the front.

We meet the cast in a cool way–each one steeping forward a bit in the crowd and giving a bit of information about themselves…mostly through text messages. Oh and I loved the way the opening colophon pages looked just like Facebook (or whatever) with a timeline photo and then on the right side–sponsored images with drawings of the author and the illustrators and an ad for an other Image comic by Alex de Campi called Valentine–genius layout idea.

There’s also a comment under the photo which says “OMG how sad, they were also young.”  So you know something bad is going to happen these poor kids. (more…)

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kalfusSOUNDTRACK: XENIA RUBINOS-Tiny Desk Concert #551 (July 25, 2016).

xeniaI am fascinated by the music of Xenia Rubinos.  Every song in this Tiny Desk Concert has something interesting going on.  But for two of the songs, I can’t stand her voice.  Rubinos seems to sing in a free form jazzy / R&B/ improvised manner.  And it bugs me.  No matter how fun she is to watch (and she is), I just don’t like the way she sings (except on the second song).

But the music!  I love the way “Lonely Lover” opens with some interesting drumming and occasional weirdo samples. But the main melody is created by two bassists! (no guitars or anything else).  It’s such a great melody, slinky and smart, with each bassist playing a different aspect of the melody.  It’s super catchy (and when she sings actual words it works well).  It’s just the moaning and groaning that I can’t stand.

Between the first and second song she takes a dance break.  Then “Mexican Chef” open with a cool staggered bass line that is echoed by the guitar (the guitar (not the riff) sounds kind of 80’s punk) and some funky drums.  The lyrics of this song are right on, too.  It’s  a ruthless critique of the way brown people are treate.  It’s sung in a kind of rap style, with no room for soaring vocals.  It’s a really great song:

French bistro, Dominican chef/Italian restaurant, Boricua chef/Chinese takeout, Mexican chef …. Brown walks your baby/Brown walks your dog/Brown raised America /Brown cleans the house/Brown takes the trash/Brown even wipes your granddaddy’s ass …  Brown breaks his back // Brown takes the flack / Brown gets cut coz his papers are wack. … Brown has not / Brown get shot brown gets what he deserves coz he fought.

Right on.

For the final song, “Laugh Clown,” Rubinos plays solo bass and sings.  The bass is just occasional notes as Rubinos scat/sings.  It’s less interesting than the other two songs, but it makes for a  nice change of pace.

Once I got past her vocal delivery, I found I really liked these songs a lot.

[READ: November 18, 2016] Three Stories

Back in 2014, I ordered all 16 books from Madras Press. Unfortunately, after publishing the 16 books they seem to have gone out of business (actually they are switching to non-fiction, it seems). They still have a web presence where you can buy remaining copies of books.  But what a great business idea this is/was

Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors.  The format of our books provides readers with the opportunity to experience stories on their own, with no advertisements or miscellaneous stuff surrounding them.

The format is a 5″ x 5″ square books that easily fit into a pocket.

Proceeds from Kalfus’ book go to the Free Library of Philadelphia.

As the title suggests, there are three stories in this book. (more…)

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giants-days-2 SOUNDTRACK: THE OH HELLOS-Tiny Desk Concert #493 (December 8, 2015).

ohhelloThe Oh Hellos are technically a duo of Tyler and Maggie Heath.  But live (and here) they play chamber pop with nine members in the band.  They have an accordion, a violin, a banjo, guitars and great harmonies.

“Hello My Old Heart” starts with a quiet acoustic feel–slow and mellow.  But it picks up after a verse and grows in intensity.  The song has a few different parts that keep returning to the “ba dum ba, ba dum bah” melody.  I love the way the song builds to a rousing (and abrupt) end.  There’s so much going on in the song its hard to believe its only 4 minutes long.

The band members are all rather sick–they all have colds and there’s much talk of how bad they feel and how much they are coughing and sneezing (with a revolting/hilarious image of confetti).

“Like the Dawn” also opens with some lovely acoustic guitar.  This time Maggie is on lead vocals and Tyler’s harmonies sound really good with her.  Maggie’s lead soars (even while sick) and I love the way the song builds to a big folk rock explosion by the end.

Before the final song they joke about everyone being sick and how they are ready to be done with the tour.  They start talking about laundry and underwear and get very silly.  It’s pretty impressive the way Tyler can go from chastising them for being gross and then singing the first delicate falsetto note of “Exeunt” so perfectly.  Its fun watching the band (especially the guitarist and violinist) really get into the big chords in the middle of the song (jumping up and down as they rock out.  The song has an amazing ending as it builds and everybody sings “I have set my mind and my will” before all voices drop out and he gently sings, “I am leaving.”

It’s a pretty great ending although he notes that “The end of that one is a little more impressive with the full set up but you get the idea.”

The Oh Hellos are a great addition to the chamber pop world, and I look forward to hearing more from them.

[READ: June 16, 2016] Giant Days 2

What’s interesting but a little disappointing about his series is that continuity doesn’t seem to be a high priority between the stories.  The characters never change their behavior, which is good, but it feels like these stories are episodic rather than continual, and yet there is certainly meant to be a building upon previous stories.

Except for Chapter 5 which picks up right after the previous book with the men and women shopping for formal attire for the Hall Ball.   Esther convinces the women to buy secondhand dresses and then says that her brother can fix them–an excellent joke at the end of the page.

Meanwhile Ed and McGraw are trying on suits.  Ed says he hopes that Esther will be into him someday and McGraw looks to the heavens and saying “The maintenance, Ed.”

The dance proves to be successful for some (well, Esther) until one of the men says that there’s a bet a the dance to see who can hook up with her.  Well, that ends Esther’s fun.

And then some unexpected (or maybe not) pairings occur.  Each person is a bit ashamed (at least in front of the others).  And in classic “friend” scenario, Esther tells Ed that anyone who would not go out with him is an idiot.

And then everyone heads home for Christmas holidays.

Chapter six shows an emergency visit to Northampton and Susan’s home. We all know that Susan is prone to aggressive outbursts.  Well that was true in her past as well.  The girls show up to rescue Susan, but she doesn’t appear at the train stations.  How will they find her?  (There’s a very funny joke about all smokers knowing each other).  I also love the continuity of the amusing joke that McGraw really loves keys.

The crux of this chapter is that some time ago, Susan greatly upset the daughter of the richest family in Northampton.  And now that she is back, revenge is to be served.  This chapter is very funny but mostly centered on its own plot rather than advancing the college story.  As it ends, Esther realizes that exams are common up and she hasn’t been to a lecture since November.

Chapter Seven opens and things are…different. There is a new illustrator (Max Sarin) for the next two books and I have to say I really don’t like the new style.   Even though Cogar still does the colors, everything in this book feels much brighter–in part it’s because Max’s lines are thinner, but also because almost everything he draws is softer and rounder.  It take a lot of the edge off of the book and make s the whole thing a lot “cuter.” Which is disappointing.

The story is pretty solid though.  Esther is freaking out about exams-she thought her exam about the New Testament would be really easy.  To prepare for this exam she decides to go out dressed in whiteface to see Necrotising Swamp–a band that is satanic in a fun way.  On the way out of the show, while protesters are trying to make her feel guilty for being there, she decides to go to “the source” and in a joke that I love, she decides to ask a priest for help in her theology class.

In an act of desperation, Esther finds one more person who might be able to help her…which turns into something more.  At the same time Daisy discovers that Susan and McGraw have been “sexing.”

As Chapter 8 opens all of the couples are together.  Susan and McGraw, Esther and her new guy and Ed and Daisy (although not as a couple).  And this meeting is for Esther to introduce her new man to her friends. And conversely for him to introduce her to his friends (which could go better) and his parents (which could definitely go better–until she decides to really be herself).

When pressed she admits that she has a weakness for milquetoast handsome.  And while their backs were turned, Daisy became addicted to Friday Night Lights.  And while Ed has been trying to figure out how he could take his mind off of Esther and her new guy, he wound up joining the newspaper–what will that produce?

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giant-daysSOUNDTRACK: NATHANIEL RATELIFF & THE NIGHT SWEATS-Tiny Desk Concert #488 (November 17, 2015).

nateNathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats get a ton of airplay on WXPN–perhaps a bit too much airplay.  And yet I can’t deny the supreme catchiness of his music which owes a lot to Van Morrison’s brand of soul music.

Rateliff was (and perhaps still is) a folk singer.  But in 2015, he released this album with the band The Night Sweats and has had huge success with this more rocking soulfulness.

“I Need Never Get Old” sounds so much like a Van Morrison song that it’s hard to deny how catchy it is (especially the chorus).  “Look It Here” has a similar vibe with the kind of loudly mumbled vocals that sit nicely with backing vocals and horns.  The middle of the song picks up in intensity and changes the overall tone in a good way that segues nicely back into the main melody.

“I’ve Been Failing You” features more piano up front.  It’s a little more bluesy than soulful so I like it a bit less.  Although the backing vocals in the quiet section (Don’t you weep and don’t you worry) are very cool.

Typically a band does three songs, but Bob walks up and shakes his hand and asks if he wants to do another.  Nathaniel asks, do another or do that one over?  But Bob says, no another song if they want to.

The band agrees they can’t really do “Shake,” so instead they play “Mellow Out.”  Rateliff says, “Same key different song.”  And everyone laughs until he realized, “wait it’s actually a different key.  What do I know?”

“Mellow Out” which opens with some very Van Morrison “do do do dos.”   It sounds very much like the other songs–catchy and swinging with horns in all the right places.  When the song ends Bob says it sounded great and someone comments that they had an extra late night last night before the audio turns off.

I am genuinely surprised that they didn’t play “S.O.B.,” their first single (a song used in a Lipton commercial–although not any part that sings “son of a bitch, I might add).  But since I don’t really like that song, I’m glad they played the other ones.

[READ: June 15, 2016] Giant Days Vol. 1

Giant Days was excerpted in the back of a Lumberjanes book and I loved the excerpt–very funny with a great drawing style. Then as I am wont to do, I forgot all about it.  But in the library the other day, the librarian recommended the book and I was delighted to be reminded about it.

This series is set in a British college.  Susan, Esther, and Daisy are roommates.  Susan is the sensible one–a little angry at men and unwilling to take crap from anyone.  Esther is a goth hottie.  She dresses outlandishly and has a (literal?) forcefield of bad luck around her.  And Daisy was home schooled–she is very sweet and rather naive.

I loved right from the start when the three girls head out to campus.  Susan bets Esther that she can’t go three days without some kind of drama happening around her.  But as soon as they get outside, Susan see McGraw.  And she is furious.  McGraw has floppy hair and a big ol’ mustache.  And they launch into each other with cold pleasantries.

When the girls  force Susan to tell the story, there’s a very funny moment when the other two start chanting Flash-Back Flash-Back but we get a brief, intentionally unsatisfying one. (more…)

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