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Archive for the ‘Archer’ Category

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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SOUNDTRACK: ROSANNE CASH-Tiny Desk Concert #893 (September 23, 2019)

I don’t know all that much about Rosanne Cash (I couldn’t recall how she was related to Johnny).  I also assumed that she would be a country artist.  Yet this set is anything but country.  But I guess the key to that is that her voice isn’t country at all, it’s just good.

This blurb also blows my mind a bit about how quickly (or not) they post concerts.  This show was posted in September but was recorded in January–she had to wait quite a while to see it.

Rosanne Cash and her band arrived at NPR to play the Tiny Desk on a freezing cold, bright sunny day in January — one of those brittle, crystal clear winter days when the snow reflects the sun and there’s nowhere to hide from the light. Her intense performance had that same balance of heat and ice.

Cash plays four songs

most taken from her 2018 album She Remembers Everything, have a lot of emotional heat, but they’re shaped and sculpted by the wry wisdom of age and experience. More than at any time in her career, her spirit and approach to performance these days reflects the influence of her father, the legendary country singer Johnny Cash.

“She Remembers Everything” opens with John Leventhal on with Rosanne on acoustic guitar.  Like most of these songs, it feels slow and powerful–kind of bluesy with a dramatic chord progression.  Mid song, Leventhal switches to guitar and plays a great little solo.

When the song is over she praises everyone: “So attentive.  Like a listening room at the NPR offices.”

Up next is “The Only Thing Worth Fighting” which she co-wrote with T Bone Burnett and Lyra Lynn  This song is not so much country as western-sounding.  There’s more nice guitar work from Leventhal.

Zev Katz on bass and Dan Rieser on drums don’t do anything to single them out except for keeping the songs moving properly.  The bass does do some nice lines, but mostly, these are simple songs which need little accompaniment.

For “Everyone But Me” she takes off the guitar.  This is a lovely piano ballad after which she says, “I don’t know if the young people can relate to this song but it means more as you get older.”

The last song is from her album The River and the Thread.  She says the album won a Grammy and the last time she won a Grammy, Ronald Reagan was president.  From this she plays the cool bluesy “A Feather’s Not A Bird.”

This isn’t the kind of music I enjoyed, but I liked this Tiny Desk Concert a lot more than I thought I would based on what I thought I knew about Rosanne Cash.

[READ: August 26, 2019] The Adventures of Barry & Joe

After the election that has sent the country spiraling into a level of hell, Adam Reid wanted to do something to make decent-thinking people laugh.

When I saw first saw this, I assumed that Adam Reid was Adam Reed, the creator of Archer and other delightfully dark cartoons.  It took a while for me to realize that he isAdam Reid who is responsible for The Tiny Chef Show.

Aside from that, I don’t really have any familiarity with him.  So that’s kind of interesting, I suppose. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 17, 2018] Xordox

When The The announced that they were touring for the first time in 18 years, I knew I was going to go, even if it meant dragging myself through the $15 Lincoln Tunnel.  (How do people afford that every day?).

I noted the opening acts: Agnes Obel will appear on all dates as a special guest, except the September 16 show at Brooklyn Steel where Elsyian Fields will open and the September 17 gig at the Beacon Theater where XORDOX (aka JG Thirlwell/Foetus), a frequent THE THE collaborator, will open.

I really like Agnes Obel and I put her on my list of people I wanted to see live.  So I was a little bummed that she didn’t play for my show.  But at the same time, Xordox is the creation of the legendary JG Thirwell, whom I have never seen before either.  Thirwell is probably best know for his group Foetus, but is more recently known as the guy who scores the new Archer seasons.  And that’s pretty great.

Every incarnation of Thirwell sounds different from the previous one (with a different pseudonym: Clint Ruin, Frank Want, and Foetus), so who knew what Xordox would sound like.

For this incarnation, Thirwell is Manorexia. (more…)

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axw1SOUNDTRACK: COLD BLUE MOUNTAIN-“White North” (Tiny Desk Contest Runner-Up 2015).

cbm Last week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners up that they especially liked.  And I want to draw extra attention to a couple of them.

I know very little about these bands, and I seriously hope that the guys from Cold Blue Mountain look like this when they play all the time.

This may be the best set up and reveal of a joke that actually contains an awesome song.  The video is 4 and a half minutes long, but the music doesn’t start for nearly a minute and a half as the set up proceeds.

When the music starts it is heavy, like really heavy, but beyond heavy there’s a great riff mixed into the music on the second guitar–it’s a great sound.

But the “joke” isn’t over, since at 2 minutes the music stops for 20 seconds until the next reveal comes in.  It’s pretty awesome.

My only gripe is that I don’t like the vocals (growly cookie monster type)–they work pretty well with the music, but it’s not something I want to listen to, which is shame since the song really really rocks.

And the video is awesome.

[READ: February 15, 2015] Axe Cop Vol. 1

After watching Archer on FX the other week I saw a few minutes of an animated show called Axe Cop which looked weird and silly and starred Nick Offerman as Axe Cop.  I only watched a few minutes of it and then went to bed.  A few days later I was in the library and saw four volumes of Axe Cop books.  Well, I had to check that out right away.

And here’s what I learned.  Axe Cop is a web comic that was drawn by Ethan Nicolle.  But the best part is that Axe Cop was written by Ethan’s younger brother who was 5 at the time.  That’s right, five.  So Axe Cop comes from the delightfully twisted imagination of a (rather precocious in my opinion) five year old.

This book collects the beginning web comics, including the first slew of Ask Axe Cop, perhaps my favorite feature of the comic.  It also has a forward by Mystery Science Theater 3000’s Kevin Murphy!

In the beginning, there was Axe Cop.  No, in the beginning Ethan tells about how he was visiting his younger brother over a Christmas break and they started playing with action figures and what not.  And one of the guys was a firefighter with an axe.  Malachai didn’t want to play fireman, so he called this guy Axe cop.  Ethan decided to make a comic out of it and it all started from there. (more…)

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2014 continues to throw new shows into the mix while other shows are already reaching their conclusions.  It’s very hard to keep regular track of shows when networks don’t follow the rules.  It also means that new shows pop up and quickly become favorites before going away possibly never to be seen again.

We’ve learned about the cancellation of a number of shows (but fortunately, none of the great ones and surprisingly not all of the bad ones).  And of course I’ll be sad to see How I Met Your Mother end, but it had a very good run.  And Cosmos has been mind blowing.

But I find that more and more my attention is turning to cable shows.  Although we don’t watch horror shows, I’m intrigued by Fargo.  And the cable shows are so much better at taking risks with their comedies.  We started to watch Orphan Black a while ago and then lost it, but I think we’ll be trying to catch up this summer.  And in old TV news, we just learned about Destroy Build Destroy (from 2010) and we are hooked.  Good thing there’s only 20 or so episodes.

So last time, I did a tally of networks.  Let’s see who wins this time (nightly shows like Late Night boost the numbers so I put them in parentheses):
FOX: 5 NBC: 4 (6)  CBS: 3 (4)  ABC: 3 SyFy: 3 Comedy Central: 2 (4) Lifetime: 1  IFC: 1 FX: 1

I can’t believe Fox still wins, but it has four comedies that I really like.  Actually Fox comedies are almost always good until they cancel them.
NBC is teetering away, but Thursday night helps it.
CBS is the old person’s network, and they’re losing a comedy that I like (and none of those promised new comedies look any good).
ABC is slowing building it’s comedy line up back, which is nice
And the cable networks combined really shine.

Oh and speaking of TV…how awesome was the Veronica Mars movie!!!!!!
(more…)

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Fall 2013 brought in a whole slew of new shows that we wanted to check out.  And while we dropped some after an episode, we still have a few that are lingering on the DVR which we are never really all that excited to watch them.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that a couple of shows that we thought were sure goners are still around.  And of course, there’s always those shows that we never watched and when we see an ad for it we say, “that’s still on?”

So last time, I did a tally of networks.  Let’s see who wins this time:
NBC: 4  FOX: 6   CBS: 3  Comedy Central: 1  FX: 1  ABC: 3  Lifetime: 1 SyFy: 1   (more…)

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2013 has been cruel to TV that I like.  Between the shows that have been cancelled and the shows that are ending, there’s not much to look forward to for the Spring.  Ben and Kate is gone, the US version of The Inbetweeners is gone, Don’t Trust the B—- is done (but we had stopped watching anyhow), 30 Rock is done, The Office is finishing up, Parenthood & Bunheads have budget issues which means there is some amount of question about their future and The Mindy Show is awful.

And yet, after that introduction, it’s not like there’s nothing on.

So here’s what’s on our schedule as February draws to a close.  I never bothered to tally shows by network before but let’s see:
NBC: 4  FOX: 3   CBS: 3  Comedy Central: 2  FX: 2   PBS: 2  ABC: 1  Lifetime: 1 SyFy: 1  IFC: 1 (more…)

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