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Archive for the ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE ENFIELD TENNIS ACADEMY-“My Missing Eye” (2017).

The Enfield Tennis Academy is one of the major locations in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  So, of course, a band that names itself after it must be listened to.

This is the first release by the band (which states “The Enfield Tennis Academy is TR.”

The bandcamp site describes this song as

“Garbage thrown together on a free trial of Reason. Song’s about missing a fucking eye. Real music soon.”

This is two minutes of noisy instrumental metal math rock.  There’s a lot of different sounds in this two minute song.

It opens with some staccato pummeling sounds–the guitars are interesting in that they sound like they are chords yet ringing out at the same time.  The middle is a really fast pummeling section that reminds me of Ministry.  Those opens stringed chords come back late in the song, and they sound really cool.

I’m curious to see what TETA’s “real music” is going to sound like.

[READ: July 20, 2017] Reheated Liō

I have really enjoyed the Liō books (going forward, I’m leaving off that line over the o, because it’s a real pain).

The strip has been going on for some 12 years now, which is pretty amazing.  And yet, there don’t seem to be any new or recent collections out.

So Lio is strip about a boy named Lio.  Lio is a dark, dark kid.  He has a pet squid, he loves monsters and he’s delighted by chaos.  Over the years his character hasn’t changed much but Tatulli has given him some surprising tenderness, which is a nice trait. (more…)

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1993-1994 SOUNDTRACK: LEON BRIDGES-Tiny Desk Concert #469 (September 8, 2015).

leonLeon Bridges has a great old soul voice.  Indeed, I had no idea he was so young until he started speaking after the third song and all manner of young person chat came out of his mouth: “Thanks to my main man, you all looking beautiful man.”  His voice is pure and clean and hearkens back to 1960s soul singers like Sam Cooke.

The way he sings “baby baby baby” in “Coming Home” is classic soul.  And his enunciation of “mouth” is just gorgeous.  This song features the backing vocals of his sister Jesse.

“Smooth Sailin'” features a sax solo and Bridges on guitar.  Since there are 2 guitarists already Bridges’ guitar doesn’t  add much, but for me it’s all about his voice anyhow.

“Twistin’ & Groovin'” is about how his grandparents met.  He says the first time he saw her at a party the thing he noticed first about her was her long legs.

“River” is just him on acoustic guitar with Jesse singing backing vocals.

It’s a solid set and Bridges’ star has continued to rise since this show.

[READ: September 18, 2016]  The Complete Peanuts: 1993-1994

I didn’t like the previous book all that much, but this one picked things up a bit.

The year starts with Snoopy taking a test in school and acing the true false part–the only one to do so!

1993 has Schulz’ first celebration of MLK day.  Patty mentions the “I have a dream speech” but I love that she just mentions it without making it a big deal, it quickly changes to an unfair lunch swap between a carrot stick and french fry.  Speaking of old words, Lucy begins insulting Linus with: blockhead airhead, noodleneck but then finds that these older words work better: puzzlewit, dimbulb.

In pop culture notes, April 1993 sees Snoopy as Joe Grunge and in May 1993 Sally asks why is Barney purple? (more…)

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silentSOUNDTRACK: HOSPITAL SHIPS-Tiny Desk Concert #177 (November 23, 2011).

hospital shipsHospital Ships is a band created by Jordan Geiger, who was in the band Shearwater, among others. In 2011 he released his second album as Hospital Ships.  The blurb describes the album as “packed with poppy folk songs and brash rockers enhanced with instrumental flourishes and bursts of guitar feedback,” but for this recording, they strip everything down to the basics: a guitar, banjo, ukulele and a drum with a towel over it to muffle the sound.

Geiger has a rather high-pitched, delicate, almost talking-singing voice and his songs are rather pretty.  The band plays 3 songs in just over ten minutes.  The first one, “Phantom Limb,” (once my lover, now my friend, you are my phantom limb) has a recurring motif of them saying/singing “ha ha” which is rather catchy.

“Carry On,” features a four-letter word (technically a seven letter word), which might be one of the first times on a Tiny Desk Concert that such a word is uttered.  It’s especially funny given how sweet the band sounds.  The sentiment of the song is nice though: “To all the women I’ve loved, When I was with you I would say I was better off….  And when I’m gone, carry on, carry on.”  There were harmonies in the first song, but they are more prominent in this one (three part) and are quite nice.  The banjo player also does a whistling solo.

“Let Me In” made me laugh because he uses the word baby a lot (which Ben Folds said in his Tiny Desk that he has never said in real life, so why would he put in it a song?).  But this song is very gentle and sweet–just Geiger on his guitar singing “baby, let me in.”

Geiger’s voice reminds me of a few different people–Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie especially on the final track; perhaps the Mountain Goats or the Weakerthans.  And his songwriting is very good.

[READ: December 26, 2015] Silent But Deadly

I really enjoyed the first Liō collection, and was pretty excited that I could find the second collection so quickly (my library doesn’t have any more collections for some reason, so I’ll have to track the rest down elsewhere).  This book collects the strips from February 25, 2007 – December 2, 2007.

Not much has changed from that book to this one, but I think Tatulli’s comic chops have gotten even better.

The strip won me over immediately with the first one in the book. Lio draws a monster and it comes to life.  He looks at the marker and it says “magic marker” and he gets a big grin and goes back to work.  So simple yet so funny.

It is that big grin–wide open-mouthed just unfettered mischievous delight that occurs in nearly every strip. (more…)

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sistersSOUNDTRACK: DANIEL LANOIS-Tiny Desk Concert #415 (January 13, 2015).

lanoisI don’t really know very much about Daniel Lanois. I know he’s a great producer.  I know that he’s worked with Brian Eno on an umber of projects. I even know that he has at least one album out of his own.  But other than that he’s an enigma to me.

And he remains so here.

He and his bassist Jim Wilson and drummer Brian Blade, play three instrumentals that are more or less improvised.

Lanois stands with his back to the audience, facing the other two guys. And aside from some closeups of his gear, the only interesting thing visually that happens is that the drummer knocks over an LP during a song and picks it up.

Lanois’ gear is totally perplexing to me—there’s knobs and buttons but no keyboards, so I don’t know where the sounds are coming from.  The bassist keeps a steady rhythm while Lanois turns and spins and slides things. Musically it’s not all that interesting—it’s sort of mellow background electronica.

The best part of the whole deal is the drummer. He plays some amazing fills and runs on that snare and hi hat.  It’s amazing the complexity he is able to achieve with just a bass, snare and hi hat. He also smiles a lot which is nice to see from these rather dour men.

Lanois doesn’t say a thing during the set, not even when it’s over.  You can see it here.

[READ: February 10, 2015] Sisters

I really enjoyed Smile, although I found out about Smile when Sisters came out.  So this is a sequel to Smile (although Raina still has her braces on during the book, so I guess it’s more of a concurrent story).

As the story opens, Raina (age 14) and her family (her mom and dad. her baby brother (6) and, grr, her sister (age 9)) are visiting relatives in Colorado.  Their dad has some work to attend to so he will be flying in a few days later, but everyone else is going to hop in the van and drive from Colorado to California and then back–so that’s basically two weeks in the car and one week in California.  Ugh.

The only saving grace is that their van has three rows of seats so each girl has a seat to herself while their brother rides shotgun.

Before they head out, we see that Raina and her sister Amara are on each other’s nerves constantly–with Raina ultimately shouting “Why did I ever ask for a sister?!”  Then we see flashback of Raina as a young girl desperately wanting a sister to play with.  And when Amara finally came–Raina was in love–until she realized that the baby would be sharing room with her.  There’s a joke about Amara meaning “immortal” in Sanskrit and “love” in Latin and her father muttering “it also means bitter one.”  And it turns out that Amara is a pretty cranky kid–especially where Raina is concerned. (more…)

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 locke4SOUNDTRACK: TORI AMOS-Midwinter Graces (2009).

midwinterI had loved Tori Amos for many years, but I got bored with her mid 2000s works, they were too adult contemporary for my liking.  So I wasn’t that excited to hear this Christmas album.  But Sarah bought it for me that year anyhow, and I have really grown to like it a lot.  At the same time there are a few things about it that drive me insane–particularly the crazy and I’ll say it, stupid way she pronounces words in her songs.

If Tori were not a native English speaker I would forgive her (I love a lot of non native English speakers as singers).  But she was born in the US and now lives in England and none of the weird things she does reflect any “accent” nor do they reflect the way she speaks.  She has a very distinctive way of mispronouncing certain words (which she seems to have developed late in her career) which is maddening and often makes the words unintelligible. Why would one do that?

That aside, the melodies and (most) vocals are really lovely.  For this album Tori takes some bits of traditional carols and tinkers with them. The accompanying DVD has an interview in which she explains her inspiration. But without knowing this, some of these versions can be very upsetting.  The first time I heard the first song I just did not understand what was happening–it’s just so wrong.  And while I’m not saying I “get” it now, but I enjoy it more because it uses the carols as a jumping off point..

“What Child, Nowell” is very disconcerting because the song changes so many different things at once.  It has a string section opening and then lyrics to What Child is This (in a very different melody). When she switches the vocal line in the “this this” part, you know something’s up, and when it jumps to the Nowell section (which is also done differently), well, who knows what’s happening.  It’s an unusual track but lovely. “Star of Wonder” has a very cool middle eastern lick. It opens with the we three kings line, but is immediately changed into something different (lyrics and melodies). I just love the chorus of this which modifies “star of wonder” in a cool way.   “A Silent Night with You” is a romantic song (her voice sounds a little funny) But the melody is very pretty.   “Candle” Coventry Carol” I don’t recognize the melody of the Candle part but the Coventry Carol party has a wonderful Victorian melody (it could do with more olde instruments, I think).

“Holly Ivy an Rose” has a pretty piano melody.  I love the melody even more when the chorus comes in.  But I genuinely don’t like when Tash’s voice kicks in—it feels flat to me. I appreciate her using her daughter (and I feel bad criticizing a nine-year old), but I think Tori’s voice sounds so magical that her daughter’s voice just can’t match.  “Harps of Gold” I didn’t realiy like the musical opening of this (the guitars sound really pale compared to the rest of the disc, but I love the drums –simple but so effective). This song is the one where I really noticed how weird Tori emphasizes words now. I was sure that she she was singing “Napoleon” (Nah ha poh ho lee un) which I know made literally no sense for the song.  In fact she is singing “Gloria” (Gluh hoe hoe Ree uh). That speaks volumes about how weirdly she has been emphasizing words on the last few albums.  Despite that weirdness, I really like this song and I will continue to sing “Napoleon.”

“Snow Angel” is a bit adult contemporary for me, but I find myself singing it a lot, so I must like it.  “Jeanette, Isabella” is a pretty song with a lovely melody but for some reason it’s not very catchy.   “Pink and Glitter” is a big band type swing number.  It comes as quite a shock after the mellow song before it). I love the chorus—Tori’s voice works very well with this style of music.  But again, what’s with the weird emphasis. “honorable mention” is sung strangely:  “men she un.”  And worse yet, the song ends with the word “pink” and yet she sings it without the final k so I was sure she was singing “shower the world with pain.”  What gives?

“Emmanuel” begins with the “O come O come” lines. It’s a little too slow.  This is another song where she mispronounces words on purpose–the way she says Israel is crazy.  But as soon as it switches to her own song, it becomes quite lovely.  “Winter’s Carol” is actually from her musical ‘The Light Princess.”  It reminds me a bit of her song Marianne and it’s really quite nice musically, but again, the way the words are sung is insane: “first song oov the robin, i koh through the land” Its a shame her pronunciation is so awful because the song is quite lovely (and the lyrics are good too).  I love the backing vocals–her niece sings them and she is quite fabulous.  The disc proper ends with “Our New Year,” it is a pretty song with nice string arrangements but a rather sad sentiment and kind of a downer way to end the record.

My copy has two bonus tracks: “Comfort and Joy”  It plays on the lyrics of “let nothing you dismay” and “glad tidings.”  It’s a totally different with a slow angsty ballad.  “Silent Night” is a mostly straight but with some different lyrics in the later verses.  But why does she say “pierce” instead of “peace?”

[READ: December 23, 2014] Locke & Key 4

This book opens with a tribute to Bill Watterson, in which all of the scenes in Bode’s head resemble Calvin and Hobbes (somewhat).  Bode is ostracized in school because he’s pretty weird.  His mom wants him to have friends, but he doesn’t seem to be able to make any.  But when he finds the animal key (which Scout used to transform into a wolf), Bode transforms into a…sparrow?  He is bummed until he realizes the power of a group.  And when he and his bird friends are able to take on the wolf, that’s pretty awesome (this is, sadly the bloodiest section so far in the book).

Chapter Two introduces us to the color key, in which Kinsley is able to turn into a black girl.  She does this when she realizes that the woman who wrote her name next to her father’s in that underwater cave is in the nearby madhouse.  The woman, Erin Voss, is black.  And racism is rampant in this section of town (and in the asylum).  Of course, when she screams the word white, it’s not because Kinsey is white, but because of something that Scout has done to her.

Chapter Three is set up in an interesting way.  Each day of the month is represented by some event (with very little in the way of context).  So there’s an embarrassing hockey loss for Ty, a breakup between Kinsey and Zack, and on the weekends they fight shadowy evils.  They also find some more keys, one appears to be for a cupboard filled of all kinds of things, another is a Hercules key.  There’s a lot of tears (and bloodshed) in February. (more…)

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tibSOUNDTRACK: INDIGO GIRLS-Holly Happy Days (2010).

hollyhappyI know I bought this for Sarah for Christmas a few years ago (I like that it looks like a present).  Sarah and I have both been fans of the Indigo Girls (and we’ve both seen them, but at different events).  This seemed like an obvious fun record for the holidays.  But we both felt a little let down by it.

I’m not exactly sure what’s not quite right, but after listening  again, I think the record is just too much of a downer for Christmas.  I mean even the Indigo Girls’ more serious songs counterbalance with lively singing, but much of this album feels very dirge-like to me.

The main unexpected thing for me is that the record is largely bluegrass-inflected–not something I expect from the Indigo Girls–or Christmas music.

But that’s just how it opens–banjos and fiddle and whooping on “I Feel the Christmas Spirit” a song I didn’t know before.  It’s fun, just unexpected.  “It Really is (a Wonderful Life)” reminds of Barenaked Ladies for some reason (not their voices obviously). It’s folky and is another a song I didn’t know.  I like it–it’s fun having new Christmas songs.
“O Holy Night” has a very weird quality to it.  I usually love this song, but I don’t really care for the way they did this one–it feels flat or something.  Or maybe it’s the violins and folk trappings?  Actually, the middle part (with their great harmonies) sounds really good–I guess it’s just the opening I don’t like.

“Your Holiday Song” sounds more like  a”real” Indigo Girls song–great harmonies, cool chord progressions.  (This one was written by Emily Saliers, so that makes sense).  It’s the first song I really like on the disc.

It’s the middle of the disc that really loses any steam it had.  “I’ll be Home for Christmas” is certainly a sad kind of song, but their version is practically suicidal.  Oh it’s such a downer with that slow violin solo.  Who would want to listen to this version of this song?
“Mistletoe” is an Amy Ray original.  Coming right after the downer of “I’ll be Home” this one is also slow and a downer.  I find that Ray’s voice also sounds really different on this song–I would never have guessed this was her.
“Peace Child” is the third downer in a row, and you just want to give up on your festive mood after this one.

But it picks up with a rollicking bluegrass “The Wonder Song” (written by Amy Ray).  It’s the most fun song on the disc and while it doesn’t scream Christmas, it is a holiday song.

Obviously no one is making “In the Bleak Midwinter” into an upbeat poppy song.  Their version is quite pretty, and their harmonies are wonderful.

Perhaps the strangest song is their cover of Woody Guthrie’s “Happy Joyous Hanukkah.”  It feels very Guthrie, which means it should be done in a folk style (which it is).  The surprise is the full bluegrass rendition of a Hanukkah song (how many Hanukkah songs have whooping in them?  It’s fun, though.

“Angels We Have Heard on High” sounds great with their harmonies.  Although the mandolin solo kind of brings the song down to earth in a weird way.

The disc ends as it middled, with a slow, mournful song,”There’s Still My Joy.”  While I know that not everyone is happy at Christmastime, this record goes a bit too far into the darkness for my liking.

[READ: December 2, 2014] Tib and Tum Tum

Here is another translated comic.  It is done with great flair by Carol Klio Burrel who also did Nola’s World.  This story is aimed more at kids though (but is not existential at all–see yesterday’;s post about translated stories).  The biggest surprise for me with this is that it is actually a series of one page strips rather than a long graphic novel (I think).  Well, there is a long story arc, but every page seems to have a “punchline” as if the story was sequential rather than continuous.

It’s a very simple premise. The book is set in caveman days.  Tib is a small boy with a giant birthmark on his face.  The other kids make fun of him for this.  His mother is overprotective (the joke about him always being safe is very funny) and his father is an oblivious storyteller (whoppers of tales, I must say).  In that first strip, Tib runs into Tum Tum, a baby dinosaur.  He is adorable (and a little scary too, of course).  And Tib decides that this red guy is pretty cool.  Tum Tum spends most of his time chasing (an eating) butterflies.

When Tib tells the elders about the dinosaur they tell him of course that dinosaurs are extinct.  (I love that the story is set in caveman times but that they talk in a more or less contemporary way (no grunting) and are knowledgeable (there’s a sewing joke which is very funny).  When he tries to show Tum Tum to them, the dinosaur hides so no one can see him.  Eventually his mom thinks he has an imaginary friend. (more…)

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