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Archive for the ‘Completed Series’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE ROOTS-Tiny Desk Concert #663 (October 30, 2017).

This Tiny Desk starts out with The Roots walking into the area, sousaphone playing a fun riff and everyone clapping.  Questlove takes his seat behind the drums.

He introduces: This is Jeff Bradshaw and Brass Heaven.  Let’s get into it.”  They play a great big dancing brass melody singing “Just give me some more.”   There’s a fun trombone solo which starts with him playing a really long note and bending it and then just going to town.  It’s very James Brownish and utterly belies the intensity of the next song.

After 3 minutes they switch tempo completely and Bilal and Black Thought come out.  They play “It Ain’t Fair,” a thoughtful, powerful piece that I absolutely love.  I was unfamiliar with Bilal before this and his delivery is just fantastic.

He sings with a classic 70s style of raspy intensity.  There’s a great chorus: “the well is running dry / racial tensions running high / under 21 is far too young to die.”

The song builds up somewhat and then Black Thought raps a harsh counterpoint.

Justice is never color blind, never gun shy
For one crime, you may never see the sun shine
We know of one times, giving you the finger
’round hearing me, fuck you, it’s not the number one sign

then its back to Bilal

Some people say, “Let Jesus take the wheel”
Others say, “Thou shall not kill”
But that old time religion ain’t gon’ pay my bills

At the four-minute mark the whole band just goes nuts playing a cacophony of sound and then stopping silent at Questlove’s direction.

When they start Bilal absolutely wails the final verse.  It is utterly fantastic (and I think better than the performance on Fallon with the full orchestra).

Armed with the incredible vocalist Bilal, The Roots performed the signature track from Detroit, a film about the race riots in 1967. “It Ain’t Fair” glares unflinchingly, takes a knee and raises a fist against the societal construct that has systematically denied equality of experience to those “presumed inferior,” to quote one of Bilal’s verses. And it achieves all this while covering its heart with its right hand. This reflective hymn tenderly yanks your heart strings and offers a window into the ethos of those who would like to stand for the flag but cannot in good principle, lest these same evils continue to exist.

Those lucky enough to be in the Tiny Desk audience witnessed masters at work. Black Thought is truly one of the most intelligent emcees ever, and his razor-sharp lyricism was on full display. Questlove, a musical and cultural historian nonpareil, was both a metronomical and moral anchor. It felt like the culmination of decades of academic rigor and boom-bap sessions, fittingly backed by a seven-piece horn section. Bilal’s falsetto-laced vocals and warm resonance evoked powerful messaging reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield’s “Don’t Worry,” delivered with the eccentricity of Prince.

The band: Curtis L. Jones Jr (Trombone), Arnetta Johnson (Trumpet), Hiruy E. Tirfe (Sax), Richard L. Tate II (Sax), Joseph Streater (Trumpet), Norman J. Bradshaw (Trombone), Damon Bryson (Sousaphone), Ahmir (Questlove) Thompson (Drums), Tarik (Black Thought) Trotter (Emcee), Bilal Oliver (Vocals)

[READ: April 19, 2017] Captain Marvel: Alis Volat Propriis

The previous book in the series was pretty goofy.  So I was pleased that this final book was a bit more intense.  The title is the motto of the state of Oregon (probably not why it was used).  It translates as “She flies with her own wings” (which probably is why it was chosen).

As the book opens, Lila and Carl transport to her ship.  But once again something is amiss.  Harrison is offline totally and there are aliens closing in.  It is only through some quick thinking they are able to escape them until they can flee.

When full power is restored, Carol and Harrison decide to find out where Tic and Chewie are.  The baddies have a head start, but they take a shortcut through “The Endless Envelope.”  Once they get in this pocket they realize that it is bigger on the inside than the outside and their shortcut will take five times as long to traverse.  They encounter enemy ships and a phenomenon called a Warp Bear.  There’s some good humor in this section in which Carol tries to communicate with Harrison the ship. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 5, 2012).

The Rheostatics were originally supposed to play 3 Reunion concerts to help celebrate the 65th Anniversary of The Horseshoe Tavern. Unfortunately the concerts got cancelled but Dave stepped in and offered up a free show on Wednesday December 5 2012, what was to be the first of the reunion shows. The show started out with Dave Clark’s Woodshed Orchestra and was followed by Bidiniband. The Bidiniband set was a mix of Bidiniband songs as well as a variety of Rheostatics songs featuring guests such as Dave Clark, The Woodshed Orchestra, Tim Vesely, Noah Campbell, Tim Sweeney, Matt Cowley, Selina Martin, Al and Colin of Jazzberry Ram.

Dave opens the set by wishing: “Happy birthday Horseshoe, 65 years old tonight.”

The set opens with two “new” songs.  Bidiniband’s album came out in 2012, but they have been playing most of these songs for years.  This is the first show on RheostaticsLive that includes “In The Rock Hall / Rock and Roll Heaven.”  “In the Rock Hall” is a fun singalong.  And “Rock and Roll Heaven” is a fairly vulgar song about groupies and whatnot.

“Big Men” is even catchier than before and the band sounds great.  They play a lengthy version of “Fat” which segues into a slow, fairly traditional version of “The List.”  This List ends with… “It’s true… fuck you.”

“We’re going to do a song and then we’re going to have Selina Martin come up and do the exact same song.  “Ladies of Montreal” is my most openly sexist song.  Not really.”  Indeed, after finishing the song they play it once more, this time with Selina Martin singing the lyrics in French!

It segues into a stripped down version of Rush’s “The Spirit of Radio,” which is a very different,loose take on the song.  At the end someone asks, “Can you do that one in French?”

This is the first time (on the site) they’ve played “On Camoragh Lake.”  There’s a lot of cursing in this song.

Dave asks, “should we go song guest song guest?”  Someone says, “Totally man it’s a lot of fun.  It’s fun to see a lot of Rheostatics shirts too.”  Is Tim Sweeney here?   He comes up, “thank god I’m not following Selena Martin.  The closest thing to church for me was going to a Rheostatics show, so this feels weirdly like  impersonating clergy.”  He sings “Ozzy Osbourne.”  It seems shaky with the first notes, but he does a great job with the main part of the song.

We’d like to get the Woodchoppers up for this one, if possible.  They blow through the really “Take a Wild Ride” and then Dave says, “Lets go to E!” and they segue into “Legal Age Life” with a nice big horn section.

Dave says: We all wish Martin Tielli was here big time, but he’s in Ancaster.  We’re thinking of him (yea, he’s the best).  There was a really important Knight Rider episode he had to watch.  He’s got a really nice TV room, I can’t blame him.  60 channels….  Sausages on the barbecue.  Don: Is that one of the channels?  Dave: “Nice one, Don.”   This next song features Don Kerr. It’s called “Guns.” [some chuckling as it’s a poem written by Dave Clark].  They play “Last of the Dead Wrong Things which opens slowly with great guitar work and backing vocals.  And the drums are tremendous.  Near the end he shifts the song to “Making Plans for Nigel,” but this time the band sings along with the chorus.

Dave says he brought some stuff from his basement to sell–some old Rheos discs, Whale Music on vinyl and one Five Hole Stories CD  (CD?)

Dave calls for Tim Vesely the Slovak Slayer (they don’t call him that).  “Tim’s got his electric rock guitar (someone shouts “Palomar”) “Its Tim Vesely of the Rheostatics and The Violet Archers (or The Violent Archers as I like to say).  Tim: “I don’t need any bass for these songs.” Dave: “It’s overrated.  Only 4 strings, how hard can it be?”

It’s nice to hear “Claire” and to have Tim back.  There’s a good solo from Paul and then he says, “We’ll do one more Rheostatics cover for you,” and they play “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  Which he introduces as “This song is for Tim Hudak [a Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1995 to 2016 who represented the ridings of Niagara South, Erie—Lincoln, and Niagara West—Glanbrook.]

“All Hail Canada” is new to the shows–it’s a cynical look at Canadian politics.

Then: “Do the guys from Victoria want to come up and sing now?  Come on it’ll be fun.  Jazzberry Ram, the nerds from Vancouver.  They do a great version of “Quuer” and put their own spin on it.  After the song, Dave says, Do yo mind if Matt joins us?  He’s okay, really.”  Matt Cowley comes up to sing a gleeful “My First Rock Concert.”

Dave takes a moment:

I meant to say something profound about this night but I’m lost because we’re in the soup of this experience. He says he has been writing in cafes (cause I’m from Toronto, so I’m cool I write in cafes.  He’s listen to music and Rheostatics would come up on YouTube. He’d enjoy the songs and marvel at the parts they played. Then he would listen more and he would cry and wonder… maybe we should try to play again.  It didn’t happen,  but that’s not to say it won’t ever happen as long as you never stop listening to your Rheostatics records and crying, anything is possible.

The opening of “The Land is Wild” sounds an awful lot like “Horses” the way it opens.  Dave says this song existed in the Rheostatics for a couple of months but then they broke up.  This version really rocks (the backing vocals are tremendous).  You can hear Dave’s guitar get staticky near the end.  The song segues into “Yemen” sort of, but the statics is too much and they have to stop to fix it.  Dave tries to gt things going again: “Can we start off where that last song ended I think it was building to an interesting place.  Or was it not?”   But the static is irreparable.

“Terrible time in the night to have technical problems–during the last song.”

Dave says, “Okay folks one more.  The crowd shouts: five more.  100 more!  Dave: That would be impossible.

Take it into the crowd!  There’s some inaudible chatter and laughter but I think save heads out into the crowd with the guitar to play Stolen Car.  Not sure who is singing–but he’s a bit off on things.  At one pint he says, “my son told me I’d fuck up.”  Dave: “you fucked up good though.”

Doug–says “I grew up listening to that shit.” He then talks about a dream: he was trying to play Take 5 but the strings were all mushy (The band plays a bit of “Take Five.”  Then Dave talks about a dream he had about shows that never happened.  They did play shows where nobody showed up.

Tim’s my favorite was in Winnipeg or Alberta, a university pub gig  “1/2 price wings plus live music.”  There was nobody there yet there was set list from the band that played the night before.  We took it and went song by song off the list and made up songs on the spot.  I think it was B-52s in Winnipeg  a lunch hour gig named not after the band or even the plane.

Audience: “How were the wings?”  “Half Price.”

We played in Red Deer to two guys who had just come back from putting out fires in Kuwait and a sound man who put his headphones into the TV to listen to The Cosby Show–it was an important episode.  Don: But we got a good bag of weed out of it.  Dave: In red deer at Mortimer’s in the Capri Hotel.  The Shell sign with the s burnt out.  We should have known…   that’s rock n roll.

bzzzt  “I don’t think it’s the cable”  “Put a mike on it!”  “That’s why we need a professional studio engineer.  Don’s side career is that he runs the Rooster Recording studio!

“Horses” sounds great.  Everyone is into it and the addition of horns at the end is great with someone singing along with the horns:  bup bup bup.  And then it rocks to the end.  Despite the cable, it’s a great set with super guests.  Not bad a for a free night.

[READ: April 13, 2017] Sweet Tooth: Wild Game

“Wild Game” is the concluding book in the Sweet Tooth story.  And it remains as dark as anything.

It also begins, like Endangered Species, with a storytelling section–the book turned sideways with a lot of text. It catches us up on what happened in a succinct style.  How the environmentalists were able to return to the dam, how they invited our heroes to stay (Johnny and Bobby accepted–Bobby needs to hibernate after all) but the rest decide to head to Alaska, to their destiny.

Their crew is now Jepperd, The Fat Man (the guy they met out in the woods), Wendy, Gus and Becky.  Lucy is now dead and Dr Singh fled to get to Alaska on his own (he had an epiphany that may have sent him over the edge–he seems to think he might be a preacher, or even a savior).

When they finally arrive in Alaska, sadly Abbot and his team are waiting for them.  And Abbot is especially angry at his brother.  Which leads to a flashback provided by Nate Powell.  It shows Abbot and Johnny as children with their abusive father and how Abbot always stuck up for Johnny even when Abbot went to the military and Johnny had long hair.  When the Sickness began, Johnny was taking care of his ungrateful father and Abbot was at war.   He had returned–with far less hair, and far more attitude.  He took Johnny away from their dad and brought him to the camp where we found them at the beginning of the story. Of curse Abbot wasn’t in charge at first but he quickly made everyone know just how powerful he was.

And just how much things have changed.

Dr Singh meanwhile had been looking for information about Gus’ father. Could he rally have been a lowly janitor? While searching, he comes across Dr Thacker’s journal (I love the continuity).  And he learns a fascinating but of history about Gus and his father.

While browsing through the barracks our heroes learn that there are many more hybrids living here–they are feral but not mean.  In fact they are quite taken with Becky. But they are quite fearful.  And they meet Dr Singh who has some pretty tough truths to impart.

But there is no time for any of that.  Because Abbot and his men are coming.  And Jepperd needs to get everyone prepared.

Can anyone possibly survive?  Yes, some do, but several others will die in the bloody confrontation.

The final chapter of the series is outstanding,  It looks very different–clearly Lemire’s work but with a starkly different, somewhat softer appearance.  Gus appears to be chased by more humans. But Gus looks different somehow,  And that’s when we learn that he is.

And the conceit of the last chapter is that each little segment begins This is a story.  Starting like the beginning with This is a Story of a little boy who lived in the woods.  And that story moves along through many years–through happiness and bloodshed. Through conflict between friends and love between enemies.  And it has an incredibly touching ending.

What a great story.  If you can handle the violence and gore, it is so worth it for the ending,

Lemire is a master storyteller.

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[LISTENED TO: August 2017] The Diamond of Darkhold

The end of the previous book (the prequel) left me in very good spirits about this final book.  This one had not come out while I was working at the public library so I didn’t know about it and the title and cover puzzled me.

But whatever, it was time to see how this series ended (I assume its over).

But, oh no!  Another new audio book reader!  This time Katherine Kellgren.  Kellgren has the unenviable task of following up Wendy Dillon’s establishment as a reader.  It was a little disconcerting hearing Doon and some other characters who had very distinctive voices portrayed differently.  In fact, I wasn’t all that impressed by her reading at first because the characters kind of sounded the same.  But as soon as new characters entered the picture I was really thrilled with her reading.  The diverse voices she brought to the story were outstanding.

So what happens in it?

The story picks up about nine months after the Emberites left Ember.  Winter is coming upon them and things are very hard.  People are also getting sick (some people have died).  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LJOVA AND THE KONTRABAND-Tiny Desk Concert #611 (April 14, 2017).

Ljova and the Kontraband play a rollicking blend of gypsy music with a twist.

There’s a viola, an accordion, an upright bass and a hand drum.  And they play rollicking fast trad music as well as delicate sow ballads.

Ljova and the Kontraband embraces Western classical, jazz and an array of international styles including tango and Eastern European and Balkan folk music. These top-flight musicians, who hail from Russia, Lithuania, the U.S. and Switzerland, pile all of these sounds atop of each other with great glee, and emerge with creations that alight on totally new and exciting terrain.

The band is led by the composer, arranger and viola player Ljova (Lev Zhurbin), who comes by this musical eclecticism naturally: the Moscow native, who comes from a family heavily involved in the arts, has worked with an astonishingly wide and starry group of collaborators, including Jay Z, the Bollywood queen Asha Bhosle and cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. In this Kontraband setting, he and his bandmates (including Ljova’s wife, the preternaturally sweet-voiced, Lithuanian-born singer Inna Barmash) create performances of deep earthiness, fragile tenderness, ebullient humor and quicksilver shifts in texture.

“Love Potion, Expired” is one of those fast songs with twists and turns and all kinds of solos.  The middle section is practically a percussion solo by Mathias Künzli (from Switzerland).  While the strings and accordion are sort of fiddling away on a couple of notes, Künzli (on his box drum) plays a sophisticated solo on the box which also includes all manner of percussion–cymbals, clackers, shakers, finger cymbals and other things that clatter (he even includes his thigh at one point).

It’s followed by an appropriately wild accordion solo (and that instrument is gorgeous) by Patrick Farrell (from Michigan).  The song is played at breakneck speed and is really fun.

The second song introduces us to Inna Barmash (Ljova’s wife). She explains that “Ven Ikh Zol Hobn Fligelekh (If I Had Wings)” is a Yiddish folk song from Western Ukraine.  She says the beginning of the poem is translated as “If I had wings I would fly to you if i had chains I would pull you to me.”  It id played as pizzicato and strummed viola while Inna sings.

But the heart of their Tiny Desk Concert was the song “By the Campfire,” whose words have a long, strange history that goes back to the Middle Ages. The words originally come from 12th-century Germany; Ljova’s grandfather, a noted translator, translated this poem from German to Russian, which Ljova uses in his musical setting.

Barmash gave us her own English translation of this unsettling, stunning, and perhaps even prophetic text: “Lies and spite command the world / Suffocate its consciousness, / Truth is poisoned, dead is law / Honor killed — obscene extolled! / … And the wisdom of our days / Teaches theft, deceit and hate.”

There are a couple of parts to this song.  As it begins, the accordion sounds like flutes.  Barmash sings beautifully for a few verses.  And then in the middle she sings a long sustained note that seems to signal the band to start on a chaotic section with everyone playing things crazily for a few seconds.  Then she does another long note and the song turns into traditional Russian type of dance.  There are many parts and this song goes through all of them.

Before the final song Ljova apologizes for disturbing their lunch.  “Walking on Willoughby” was written by Patrick, it’s a fun, wild polka that’s seven minutes long.   There are many parts to this song as well.  At times the viola and accordion play off of each other.  There’s several opportunities from each of them to solo held together by that thumping bass by Jordan Morton (from Syracuse).

The middle slows down to a one two count as the accordion plays a disjointed sounding solo.  There’s even more after that as this song just spirals in all directions.

[READ: July 10, 2016] Lunch Lady and the Schoolwide Scuffle

This appears to be the final book of the Lunch Lady series.  The book ends on something of a cliffhanger but to the best of my knowledge, no book has come out after this one.

But don’t be sad because this is a very satisfying conclusion.

As we left book 9, Lunch Lady had been fired.  She is so despondent that when the opening pages feature bad guys doing bad things, she’s not even there to stop them. It’s the fifth bank to be robbed in two weeks and Lunch Lady is just lounging about eating ice cream.  Egads!

But even worse, the school is a shambles–the superintendent has put a portrait of herself in every room (even the bathrooms).  Te teachers have been replaced by convicts, the principal has been replaced by Mr Edison who was put away in book 3 and even more shocking, Milmoe is being nice to them–he realizes he’s in over his head as student council president. (more…)

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sept2015SOUNDTRACK: RIVER WHYLESS-Tiny Desk Concert #501 (January 19, 2016).

whylessRiver Whyless is an interesting band, at least during this Tiny Desk Concert.  They have several singers, different instruments and a whole bunch of interesting percussion on hand–including a typewriter!

The band has one EP out, from which the first song “Life Crisis” comes.  The female singer (none of the players’ names are given) says that this was their tiny desk submission.

On this song the male singer (actually everyone sings) plays typewriter and presents his typed document at the end of the show–although the audience never gets to see it–I imagine it’s gibberish, but it would be amazing if it wasn’t).  The female singer plays a violin solo in the middle of the song (which was unexpected since she doesn’t have it as the song opens).

Under the typewriter is a pump for a harmonium which has an accidental vibrato on it.  Shes says that one day it started doing that and they love it and hope it never fixes itself.

The other two songs are new–not on their EP from last year.  “Sailing Away” starts with violin and harmonium.  There’s also a guitarist who sings leads and a percussionist (who has all manner of gadgets and drums and mallets around him).  The harmonium player/typist also plays a melody on the toy piano.  All of these items may seem like novelties or goofs, but their songs are quite lovely and these little accents just add to the overall feel.

“Baby Brother” opens with a buzzy acoustic guitar and a whole landscape of percussion.  And this time the harmonium player switches to guitar while he sings lead (everyone sings lovely harmonies by the way).

I love everything about this band…except their songs.  All three songs are quite nice, and while I’m listening to them I certainly enjoy them, but they are really not that memorable.  There’s no hooks in them.  Despite the fact that all of their accouterments are not really gimmicks, those are the things I will remember most about River Whyless.

[READ: January 18, 2016] “Learning to Fly Part 4”

This is the final part of the 4 part essay.  A series like this is bound to be anticlimactic because presumably if his solo didn’t go well, he’d be dead.  And if he didn’t do the solo, there likely wouldn’t be a part 4 (unless he talked about chickening out instead).

But Ferris takes an interesting tact for this end section.

He opens the essay by explaining that he was commissioned by Popular Mechanics to write this essay.  This makes sense but is something  hadn’t thought about–they asked him to do it.

He says that he was full of anxiety the entire time–which we knew he would be.  He was terrified to fly–a wobbly commercial airplane takeoff would totally freak him out.  Plus, being a writer, he had an overactive imagination. (more…)

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nola3SOUNDTRACK: BECK-The Information (2006).

infoAfter Guero, Beck released Guerolito, a remix album.  I’ve basically given up on remix albums, so I don’t know anything about that one.

His next proper album was The Information which I have recently read was recorded at the same time as Guero. I remember when it came out that it had a whole bunch of stickers that you could put all over the cover (which was made like graph paper) so that each cover could be personalized.  Sadly I remembered that more than the music.  I hadn’t listened to the album in a long time either.  So when I played it the other day, after the first song I was afraid I didn’t remember any of it.

And even after a few listens, that first song, “Elevator Music” just never grabbed me.  Then came “Think I’m in Love” which was a reasonably big hit (surprisingly, not the first single from the album).  It’s what you expect from Beck–a cool bassline, catchy vocals and a great melody.  This one is a mid-paced song, but the chorus has a lot of bounce.  The next song, “Cellphone’s Dead” sounds a bit like “Hell Yes” with that watery staccato funky bass.  It’s definitely a fun song, and there’s a “sample” that I have to wonder if it’s not a sample at all–a neat idea to have something that sounds like sample but actually not be one).

“Strange Apparition” is a folkie song.  And this is the first song which made me realize what’s wrong with the album.  The sound quality of the whole disc is really flat.  It’s very sleek and smooth, so even though there’s some great guitars on this track, it’s the same loudness as the vocals.  And the drums are kind of lost in the mix too, it renders it really bland.  Which is shocking coming from Beck.  It’s also a shame because with a better mix this would be a great song.  Same with “Soldier Jane.”  The bass line is really fun, but it just gets lost in the muddle of everything else–which is not to say it sounds muddied, it’s just all the same.  “Nausea” was the first single from the album and I can see why–it’s funky and bouncy and has a catchy chorus an a cool bass.  But then it slowly dawns that this is basically a slightly less successful version of “Black Tambourine.”

“New Round” sounds pretty different for a Beck song–there’s layered waves of vocals and a lot of different sounds going on, including an interesting piano.  And I want to like it more, but it also seems to get lost in the washes of sound.  “Dark Star” rises above the washes with its slow and sultry sound.  It’s got a very cool 70s bass sound.  I wish there were a few more peaks on the song, but then it probably wouldn’t be so spacey.  “We Dance Alone” has some great sounds as well–again, that bass is very cool, but it just feels too smooth.

“No Complaints” brings back Beck’s old slightly out of tune guitar sound.  It stands out in this muddy middle of the album and is definitely a highlight.  “1000 BPM” is one of Beck’s weird skittery songs. There’s wild sounds and a seemingly improvised rap.  This would have probably sounded great on Odelay, but it feels odd to me here.  “Motorcade” has more acoustic guitar but by the time the chorus comes in, the only melody is on Beck’s vocals, while the strange music is almost a distraction from the melody.  There’s some cool sounds in “The Information” which is certainly an enjoyable song (and a lengthy end section of weird trippy vocals that foreshadows the very long bonus track).  “Movie Theme” opens with keyboards.  It’s nice, but just sort of meandering.

Which leads to the 10 minute final track “The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton.”  This is sort of a recap of the whole album, with samples from different songs, long drawn out instrumental passages and dialogue.  There’s some interesting riffs, especially in the middle section (about 3 minutes in).  The third section of the song is dialogue between Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze, talking about space and other things.  One wonders where Beck got this or if he just asked them to talk for the record.  It’s a weird ending and feels like a bonus track but actually isn’t.

There’s a bonus version of the disc which I do not have.  It has some more songs and a DVD.

So overall this is the first Beck CD that I just didn’t love, especially coming on the heels of the excellent Guero. There’s definitely some good songs here, I just want it to be crisper.

[READ: March 14, 2014] Nolas’ Worlds #3

Nola’s World concludes with this book, which was also translated by Erica Olson Jeffrey and Carol Klio Burrell.

I loved the first two books of this series quiet a lot, but felt like the third one fell a little flat.  The ending felt like it was solved too quickly especially after the hugely lengthy set up.

The first nearly 50 pages are all a way to lead up to the ferrets finally meeting Damiano and Ines (with the inevitable we-can’t-tell-you-everything delays.  Then we finally get the explanation that Alta Donna is a town between the Human World and the Land of Stories.  Since Damiano and Ines escaped from the Land of Stories, they have messed everything up.  We learn all about how the ferrets control Alta Donna (the details of this are quite neat).

But the big thing missing from all of this is Pumpkin.  And Nola knows it, too. (more…)

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nola2SOUNDTRACK: BECK-Odelay! (1996)

220px-OdelayAfter the success of Mellow Gold (and those other releases) we didn’t hear from Beck for a while (there’s a joke about the title of this record referring to the delays in production).

Beck quickly went from one hit wonder to wunderkind with this release which had 5 singles and is generally considered a masterpiece of the 1990s.

I haven’t listened to it in a long time, and I was surprised to hear that “Where’s It’s At” is not the lead track (it’s actually #8).  Rather it’s “Devil’s Haircut” that opens the disc.  And it still sounds fresh and fun (and, it must be said, rather weird–the guitar solo and that screaming at the end are not typical “single” material.  “Hotwax” returns Beck to his folkier roots.  Although it is folk done Beck-style, with funk keyboards and rapped lyrics.  There’s a ton of interesting styles of music in the background (old timey pianos, distorted guitars, even a weird little trippy ending).  While not trying to ape “Loser” at all, there are even lyrics in Spanish.  It’s a simple song that might have been a hit if there weren’t so many other hit-worthy songs on the disc.  “Lord Only Knows” is a fairly conventional song, catchy and simple.

“The New Pollution” was another single.  It’s also pretty unusual for a single–the opening samples (it must be a sample, even though I don’t see credits for it) an old sounding do do, do do do vocal line, (the listed sample is the sax solo from Joe Thomas’ “Venus.”  It’s so hard to know what’s original and what’s sampled with Beck.  “Derelict” is a slow, unusual song which I quite like, although I can see it being the first song on the disc that people didn’t love.  The backing music sounds like it’s played on an old music box.

“Novacane” is a funky rap-style track.  It’s noisy but fun and has some great samples.  “Jack-Ass” was another single.  I especially like this song.  It’s a slow and fairly conventional song with s simple melody and Beck’s mellow vocals–it cuts through the clutter of Beck’s usual cacophony and shows that he can do simple as well (and hints at Mutations).  Even if he does throw in the donkey sounds at the end.  And then there’s 2 turntables and a microphone.

“Minus” has a big noisy bass and guitar–a punk song, if you will.  “Sissyneck” has a great whistling opening which comes from “The Moog and Me” by Dick Hyman.  I really enjoy this country-infused number (it’s strange that I enjoy the less weird songs more, given that the other singles were so much bigger) .  “Readymade” is a slow meandering song with some interesting elements, although it’s probably my least favorite song on the disc.  Especially since it’s followed by the raucous “High 5 (Rock the Catskills), which has some great samples (including Shubert), a noisy chorus (“rocking the plastic like a man from a casket”) and (apparently) a recreation of some old rap (I love the “Ooh, La La Sassoon” and “Sergio Valenti” call outs).

The disc ends with “Ramshackle” a simple folk song that feel slightly out of tune.  It’s a mellow end to this all over the place disc (well, aside from the obligatory “bonus” track which is less than a minute of repeated noise).  Although it is well-known for its sampling and pop creations, it also shows the real diversity of Beck’s songwriting.

Check out the Moog and Me, which has Dick Hyman playing the Moog synthesizer and whistling along.

[READ: March 9, 2014] Nolas’ Worlds #2

Nola’s World is a three-part graphic novel series.  I just noticed in this book that it was originally (in French) called Alta Donna.  This book was translated very naturally by Erica Olson Jeffrey and Carol Klio Burrell.

The book picks up right where book one left off.  Nola is wondering why, after the crazy events at the end book one (which involve a roller coaster and aliens) Damiano hasn’t called or texted her and Pumpkin can’t remember anything that happened.

I felt like the beginning of the book was a little too pre-teen angsty for me, but it quickly snapped out of it and moved on the to fun and weirdness that this series presents in spades. We basically learn that Damiano and Inez are avoiding Nola because she can’t know their secret.  We also learn (and I guess we knew this already but I missed it) that the man controlling the aliens at the end of book one is Nola’s father. –WHAT??! (more…)

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