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Archive for the ‘Failure’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE HANDSOME FAMILY-“Capitol City” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

I’ve know of The Handsome Family for a long time, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard them before.  “Capitol City” is also a bit of a mystery.  It appeared on a Wilco bonus disc (for the deluxe edition of The Whole Love).  I assumed it had something to do with The Simpsons, but I guess it doesn’t.

This is a kind of honky-tonk version with banjo and “gadgets” as part of the lineup.   It’s fun with lots of weird sound effects swirling around this otherwise conventional song.

I wish you were here. Better yet, I wish I was there with you.

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Volume 4

Sir Gahiji the Hunter has learned that Adrienne is actually not dead and is in fact the knight they are all after.  He shares this information with the Black Knight. They instantly fight and the Black Knight knocks out Gahiji (or Cat Hat, since he wears a wolves’ head on his head).

Adrienne and Bedelia are headed for Grimmorium Swamp.  Bedelia tells of some horrible things that live there: flesh eating goblins, swamp creatures, electric fish, squirrels… real live squirrels! (The squirrel revelation is pretty great).

Back at the castle, the King grabs Devin and brings him along to the forest where the encounter the remains of the Queen’s carriage.   The King says he thinks the Black Knight is responsible.  The King then introduces Devin to the wolves (Kira scares the daylights out of him).

Amazingly Devin and Kira soon bond well enough.  The leader of the wolves says that he wishes his daughter were inquisitive like Devin. The King says he’d rather have Kira in battle–he’s seen rabbits with more courage than his son.  In the background we see Kira and Devin climbing all over his mother’s empty chest.  When he comes out he stands tall and says “I’m going on a quest to save my mother!” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PUSS N BOOTS-“Jesus, Etc.” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

This was my introduction to Puss N Boots, a group consisting of Catherine Popper, Sasha Dobson and …Norah Jones?  They’ve been getting some buzz lately (of course) and it’s interesting to have my first exposure to them through this cover of one of my favorite Wilco songs.

This has a great slow rocking sound.  It’s got minimal instrumentation (no drums), just electric guitars and bass.  The women harmonize really nicely.

I really like this version, although whoever is singing lead (Catherine or Sasha) has that weird thing that singers seem to be doing now where it almost sounds like a speech impediment on the letter r.  The way she sing skyscrapers so it almost sounds like skyskwrapers.  And cry sounds like cwry.

It’s a thing that I’ve heard a lot lately and I can’t quite wrap my heard around it.  It’s not an accent, but what is it?

Regardless, I do like this version.  The opening electric guitar is great and their voices work very well together.

[READ: February 19, 2020] Princeless: Volume Two

I like the artwork y in this book so much better than the first.  I feel like Emily Martin brings a whole new level of greatness to this series.  The coloring is also much more vibrant.  It’s possible that the printing I had for book 1 wasn’t very good, but this book is fantastic.

The book opens with Adrienne’s father speaking to the bravest knights of the land: Sir Rocks the Mighty; Sir Gahiji the Hunter (who wears a wolf head on his head); Sir Raphael the Handsome (a poet and a vampire); Sir Walsh the Braggart; Sir Zachary the Pure (who serves the gods); and The Black Knight, the king’s fiercest of friends.  They have been summoned to kill the knight who made off with Adrienne’s head and bring the head of her dragon.  Whoever can do so will win his daughter’s hand in marriage.  (Which daughter? someone whispers).

Devon is angry that his dad is doing this so he goes to talk to his mom.  But she has plans–she is leaving and going to visit her parents.  He can’t believe she is running away too.

Back to our heroines.  We see them flying on Sparky, with Bedelia hanging from a rope and swiping food from the cart of a thief who stole the food in the first place.  But Sparky isn’t the most coordinated of fliers and soon enough, Bedelia and Adrienne wind up in a tree.  Again.

They manage to regroup and are sitting near a fire eating their plunder when a dandy prince shows up.  His name is Roderick Lovelorn and he is a poet.  He calls her fair lady and i love that there’s a running joke that she is not fair–fair means pale and she is not pale, she has brown skin (and kinky hair) thank you very much.  He is heading home to his muse.  The lady whom all seek to see but none dare to touch.

As he goes on like this, Adrienne gets annoyed because she realizes that he is talking about…her sister Angelica. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JON BENJAMIN JAZZ DAREDEVIL–Well, I Should Have…* *Learned How To Play Piano (2015).

In 2015, H. Jon Benjamin released a jazz album on which he played piano.  He did this despite not knowing how to play piano.

This album should be a trainwreck.  However, he has employed the talents of Scott Kreitzer (saxophone), David Finck (bass), and Jonathan Peretz (drums) to assist him.  And they are really good.

It’s hard to believe that Benjamin has never played at all before, because while he’s not good by any definition, he certainly knows how to press the keys on the piano in a reasonable way.  Meaning, when he plays a solo he is at least trying to sound like he’s playing a solo.  It’s not like cats on a piano playing utterly random crap.  He’s certainly bad, but he’s bad within the ballpark, which makes this amusing to listen to and not intolerable.

Obviously, part of the joke is that Benjamin hates jazz and this pretty much mocks improv piano.  And yes, his playing sometimes sounds like an improv pianist deliberately plying wrong notes until the right ones come back into focus (although Benjamin’s never do come back in to focus).

The disc is quite short.  It’s under 30 minutes.  It includes a skit at the front called “Deal with the Devil.”  It is a really funny introduction in which H. Jon tries to sell his soul to the devil.  Kristen Schaal as the secretary get a very funny joke or two, but the devil (Aziz Ansari) explains that usually selling your soul is a last resort, not a first step.  There’s a vulgar joke (which I found really funny), but which makes the track unplayable for family gatherings (if you were to do such a thing).

There are four main pieces on the disc “I Can’t Play Piano” Parts 1-4.

“I Can’t Play Piano Part 1” (3:39) starts off with a rollicking sax solo and some bouncing jazz and then Jon’s tinkling at the high end of the piano.  The band even pauses a few times to give him a proper solo or four.  All of the solos are horribly inept and pretty funny.  Midway through the song, bassist David Finck takes a cool upright bass solo and you can hear Jon shout “play it Joe” or something like it.

Part 2 (3:09) has a riff that Jon tries to follow and fails to play spectacularly.  There’s less “soloing” in this one and more “playing with the band.”  At times you almost don’t quite realize that he’s playing with everyone else–something just seems slightly off.  There’s also some nice drum soloing from Jonathan Peretz.

There’s a hilarious skit [not on this record] by Paul F. Tompkins in which he talks about jazz as “a genre of music that is defying you to like it.”  He talks about going to a jazz show (by accident or because you lost a bet) and just at the point when you’re almost asleep, you think the bass player is going to play [blanhr] but instead he plays [blownhr].  And next.. this is the worst thing that jazz guys do.  The other guys on stage start laughing like it was the funniest thing they ever did see.  And you’re sitting in the audience thinking “I don’t get the jazz joke Why is that note so hilarious?  You’ve played many notes this evening, none of them particularly side splitting.”

This album is pretty much a musical rendition of that joke.

“It Had to Be You,” is a pretty conventional cover of the song (at least for the saxophone).  Jon clearly knows how the song goes, he just doesn’t know how to play it or which notes should even be in the song.  The middle of the song is a saxophone solo (no piano) and once again, you are kind of lulled into thinking the song is pretty straightforward, and then Jon comes back for a solo.  It’s a slow solo so at first it doesn’t seem so bad, but once he starts going, you realize how bad he really is.

“Soft Jazzercise” is a skit. Jon talks over a slow piano piece (presumably not by Jon as it is actually melodic).  Jon says that his soft jazzercise is very very very very very very very low impact.  You have to do it slow.  Like a turtle slow, like an opiated panda slow.

Back to the improv with “I Can’t Play Piano, Pt. 3” (4:57).  The song starts as a kind of call and response between the saxophone and the piano (hilariously bad every time).  Jon also gets a solo in the beginning.  He even slides his hand up and down the keys a few times–almost convincingly.  In the middle of the song you can hear Jon really getting into it shouting almost audible encouragement and saying “here we go!” and “dig this!” then the saxophone starts playing a response to what Jon is playing–can he even play that badly?  Jon even says “you can do better” at one point.  The sax almost plays “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” twice before the riffing ends.

The final improv piece “I Can’t Play Piano, Pt. 4 – (Trill Baby Trill)” (5:25) starts with Jon’s piano and the rest of the band apparently trying to follow or keep up.  Once again it’s not as horrible as you might expect.  It’s not good, but it almost seems like it could be a serious improv.  There’s a lengthy bass solo (no funny notes that I can hear).   Then, after the drum solo when the sax takes the lead again, you kind of forget that Jon is even playing.

The final track is a funky/rap about anal sex.

The five instrumentals would be hilarious to mix into any dinner party to see what people thought or if they even notices.  The other three tracks are definitely NSFW.

[READ: June 1, 2018] Failure is an Option

I love H. Jon Benjamin.  Or, more specifically I love his voice.  He has voiced some of my favorite characters over the years including Archer and Bob Belcher.

But I have found that when I watch things that he has created, I don’t enjoy them quite as much.

So, which way would this ode to failure go?

It’s a mixed bag but overall it’s quite funny.

It has an introduction with this appropriate line:

I am writing this at the dawn of the Trump presidency, particularly apropos of failure being an option.  A very horrible and dangerous option in the case of a entire country’s future.

The opening talks, as many of these memoirs do, about how exhausting it is to write a memoir (“when I was saddled with the task of writing a book”). (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: August 2019] The Schwa Was Here

I know about Neal Shusterman because Sarah really loved his Arc of a Scythe series.  I love the cover design of that series, but I haven’t read the books (yet).

I was looking for audio books for our summer vacation and found that Shusterman had written a lot of books before the series.  Including this one, The Schwa Was Here.

I have always loved the word “schwa.”  I never full understood it I just knew it was represented by the upside down e [like this: ǝ].  The epigram of the book actually explains a schwa pretty well.  So here’s the simple version:

The schwa sound is the most common vowel sound. A schwa sound occurs when a vowel does not make its long or short vowel sound.

I also had no idea that this was part a series until I looked it up.  The series is called the Antsy Bonano Novels.  Now I ‘m curious to see where this series goes.

I loved the audio book because Shusterman reads it in his greatest Brooklyn accent. And while the characters aren’t thoroughly diverse is voice, they are diverse enough to keep the characters straight.  But his accent is awesome.  And it’s relevant because Antsy is a Brooklyn boy through and through and he addresses the way they talk.

As soon as his brother says a bad word, their mother “hauls off and whacks him on the head in her own special way… ‘You watch your mout!’  Mom says ‘mout’ not ‘mouth.’  We got a problem here with the ‘th’ sound.”

They also have problems with vowels.  He is Anthony, but known as Antny (which became Antsy).  And, his family are Catlick. (more…)

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