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Archive for the ‘Funny (ha ha)’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG-“I Think We’re Alone Now” (2020).

This quarantine has already brought out a ton of creative work from musicians.  If not new items, exactly, then certainly a lot of home concerts.  And also a lot of cover songs.

Billie Joe Armstrong released the first cover that I heard about that was specifically quarantine themed (even if jokingly).

It includes a homemade video (of what one might do at home with a lot of time on your hands).

So, yes it’s a cover of the song by Tommy James and the Shondells.  It’s about 2 minutes long and it’s terrific.

A simple. formulaic Green Day pop punk take on a simple, formulaic pop song.  It’s instantly recognizable as Billie Joe.  He recorded the song in his bedroom.  I feel like it sounds like it’s not the full band (the drums are really simple and the bass isn’t as prominent as usual).  But it’s a really short poppy song, so the spareness is understandable.

Whatever the case, it’s a fun cover and one of the, by now, dozens of fun things musicians have done to keep busy.

[READ: March 20, 2020] Comics Squad: Detention!

I really enjoyed the first two Comics Squad books and I was delighted when T. got this third one.  I wanted to read it when she brought it home, but I forgot all about it until I saw it the other day.

And what a better time to read a book about detention than during a quarantine.

Like the first collection, this one is edited by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Babymouse/Squish) and Jarrett J.  Krosoczka (Lunch Lady).

This book has comics from Krosoczka, George O’Connor (the Olympians series), Victoria Jamieson (Rollergirl), Ben Hatke (many many great books), Rafael Rosado & Jorge Aguirre, Lark Pien, Matt Phelan and the Holm siblings.

Like the previous book, the Holms and Krosoczka sprinkle the book with comments and interstitials from Babymouse and Lunch Lady. Like that Babymouse is in detention and Lunch Lady is going to slide her some cookies (no cupcakes?). (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: CIMAFUNK-Tiny Desk Concert #951 (February 28, 2020).

Tiny Desk Concerts have shown me how much I enjoy Afro-Cuban music, a genre I really didn’t know much about previously.

The fact that Cimafunk incorporates elements of funk makes his even more fun.

The band plays three songs.

From the moment Cimafunk and his band start their feathery intro to “Alabao,” it’s clear that something different is about to go down. Lead vocalist Cimafunk (Erik Rodríguez) has mastered the mash-up of Cuban soneos (vocal improvisations) and deep, soul-singing over music that I swear could have been played by any of the funk bands I saw back in the ’70s.

Cimafunk has a terrific voice–deep and resonant, able to rap and scat and make interesting vocal asides.  But he also shares the lead on “Alabao” with Ilarivis Garcia “Hilaria Cacao” Despaigne  who takes a verse and then plays trombone!

The middle of the song has a great stomping section with heavy bass from Ibanez Hermida “Caramelo” Marrero  and congas from Mario Gabriel Mesa “Machete” Meriño.

You can hear the funky guitar chords from Diego “Bejuko” Barrera Hernandez as the song draws to a close.

The next song “Cocinarte” opens with that fun Afro-Cuban chord progression on the keys from Juan Marcos “Firulais” Rodríguez Faedo (which I guess is called guajira).

the very traditional guajira piano riff on “Cocinarte” transitions to a James Brown-styled funk groove so easily, it sounds like they were made from the same root.

Backing singer Miguel “Miguelo” Piquero Villavicencio plays a percussive sliding instrument and Cimafunk adds in a fast rapping section.  Everyone sings along on the fun chorus especially “Hilaria Cacao” and “Miguelo” (who makes the kissing sound later in the song).

The band breaks things down into the funkiest of bolero-swing only to have it explode into another funk romp, powered by lead singer Cimafunk’s reimagining of 1960s soul singer Otis Redding and Cuban icon Benny Moré.

The final song “Me Voy” opens with great guitar work from “Bejuko” before it turns into a party from start to finish with everyone singing, a funky bass and great drums from Raul “Dr. Zapa” Zapata Surí.

Cimafunk proves that he’s a great front man as the song nears the end and he sings really fast, ending in a big “whooo!”

It’s really fun watching “Caramelo” slide his hands up and down the neck to make grooving bass sounds and when “Miguelo” brings out the whistle, you know it’s a party.

their tune “Me Voy” raises the roof and wakes the dead, with a deep Afro-Cuban, funk-party groove. This time, they turned the Tiny Desk into the hippest Cuban dance spot on the East Coast.

I don’t know what these songs are about, but I don’t care, because they are super fun.

[READ: March 22, 2020] “Out There”

This story is about dating.

But in addition to the normal pitfalls of modern dating, Folk has incorporated blots into the mix.

The narrator says that after a bleak Thanksgiving back home in Illinois, she returned to San Francisco and downloaded Tinder, Bumble and a few other similar apps.  She says she never liked the idea of ordering up a date the way you’d order an Uber, but now the blots had really complicated things.

I thought that perhaps I was too out of touch with this story and that blots were some thing I hadn’t heard of.  But no, blots are (as far as I know) specific to this story. They are biomorphic humanoids.

Early blots were easy to identify–too handsome, tall and lean, they were like models with no sense of humor.

She met one at a party.  Her fiend had invited her to the party to beta-test the blots without her knowing about them.  Roger was “solicitous, asking about my family, my work as a teacher and my resentment toward the tech industry.  He seemed eager to charm.”  But she felt spotlighted by this attentiveness and was not charmed by him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: INDIGO SPARKE-Tiny Desk Concert #950 (February 26, 2020).

I was sure that I had heard of Indigo Sparke before–in some kind of NPR context.  But I can’t find any evidence of that.

The only thing I can figure is that I must have listened to this Tiny Desk Concert when it was first published, because I remembered her telling the story about driving a car (before the second song).

Indigo Sparke is an Australian singer-songwriter.  She sings quietly and plays an electric guitar almost without amplification (aside from occasionally loud drone sounds).  Bob says,

I asked everyone to gather a little closer than usual around my desk for this one.

“Colourblind” starts the set off as she quietly strums and sings.

Up next is “the day i drove the car around the block.”  She introduces the song by telling about

trying to learn how to drive on the other side of the road while in Los Angeles, with a huge vehicle and a stick shift.

After that introduction, you might think the song was amusing.  But it is not

It is a tale of defeat and solace:

“Take off all my clothes, kiss me where the bruises are,” …
“Love is the drug, and you are in my blood now.”

Sparke sings a little too slowly for my liking–the kind of stretched out vocals that make it hard for me to follow the thread of the song (or maybe that you need a few listens to fully appreciate).

Before the final song, she invites her partner, Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief up to play guitar with her.  She tells us that the song is so new it has no title–if you think of one while she’s playing it, let Bob know.  It has since been named “Burn.”

Lenker’s addition of chords (and lovely harmonics) add a nice extra layer to the song.

[READ: March 21, 2020] Paradox Girl: First Cycle

Who doesn’t love a story that begins: “Do you know what happens when you violate causality?”

Paradox Girl is a time-traveler who has changed her past so many times she doesn’t know what he truth is.  She also lives with about a hundred copies of herself.

Her partner in crime-fighting is Axiom Man.

This book had so much that I love in a superhero story–strong female characters, wild humor and all kinds of time-travel paradoxes.  It even had fantastic artwork from Yishan Li–I love the light purple lines that indicate some time travel magic.

But I guess I learned that this is something of a one-note premise.  Which means that most of the stories are variants on the one idea that she can appear anywhere at anytime and that her other selves will be there as well.

Often this works pretty well, but I guess reading six comics in a row gets a bit samey. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKJENNY LEWIS-Tiny Desk Concert #949 (February 24, 2020).

I was lucky enough to see Jenny Lewis open for Death Cab for Cutie.  I really enjoyed her set and how much fun they all seemed to be having.  Although I guess my version of her show paled in comparison to her headlining show:

Having seen Jenny Lewis’ recent concert spectacle, with its Las Vegas sparkle — complete with a multi-level stage — I loved the contrast her Tiny Desk Concert provided.

There was certainly spectacle, but maybe it was the venue (darker than it should have been) that made it less Las Vegas and more Atlantic City.  But either way, it’s obvious that this Tiny Desk is very different from that set.

Jenny arrived at NPR with just her acoustic guitar and bandmates Emily Elbert, who sang and played guitar, and Anna Butterss on upright bass and vocals. Stripped of all the glitz, it was the words that found their way to my heart. A consummate storyteller, going as far back to her days with her band Rilo Kiley, Jenny’s words have comforted and inspired so many.

She sings two of her three Tiny Desk songs from her fourth solo record, On the Line. These are tough breakup songs, though she redirects all the pain into thoughtful fun.

Jenny plays guitar on “Rabbit Hole” and that upright bass adds some great low notes to Jenny’s high vocals.

She even turned “Rabbit Hole” into an NPR sing-along

The crowd very willingly sings along–except for one person who looks defiantly at the camera instead.

For “Do Si Do” Jenny puts down her guitar and picks up a tambourine.  The low bass notes that start the song are almost shockingly loud and rumbling.  There’s a few very high backing vocals in the song which are all provided by Emily Elbert (I especially like the Ooh ooh ooh and wonder if she does them on record as well).

The blurb also includes this line

and [she] gave us all a Hot Pockets surprise. You’ll have to watch for that one.

That comes when she messes up “Just One Of The Guys.” (or J-O-O–T-G).  I’ve thought that that song sounded really familiar, but never in the way she suggests.

They (thankfully) start the song from the top.  It’s my favorite song of hers and I’m glad to get it all the way through.

The original of this song is super catchy and this quieter version (no electric guitar melodies mid-song) is just as catchy.  Elbert also does a nifty solo (very high up the neck) on the acoustic guitar.

This is another wonderful Tiny Desk Concert that once again I am going to complain is waaay too short.  One of these days, artists I’ve heard of will get more than fifteen minutes.

[READ: March 15, 2020] Investigators

I have loved everything that John Patrick Green has done–Hippopotamister, Kitten Construction Company and now Investigators.  His humor is excellent and his artwork is so clean and enjoyable.

The premise of this book is pretty much based upon the fact that Gators is the last sound in Investigators.  What I mean is that this book is chock full of word play–some of it clever, some of it really dumb and all of it very very funny.

Mango and Brash are the top agents and they are on the case (Brash: “Hey get offa my case!” while Mango stands on Brash’s suitcase).  The case contains a mustache and chef hats.  Turns out that chef Gustavo Mustachio is missing.  Gustavo is the guy on all the pizza boxes and is the chef behind some of the best cupcakes.

There’s a giant creature who has taken him and is demanding that Gustavo cook something perfect. (more…)

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516ZKjM2CqL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_ (1) SOUNDTRACK: ELISAPIE-Tiny Desk Concert #947 (February 20, 2020).

downloadElisapie (I have no idea how to pronounce that) is a First Nations singer from Salluit, on the Northern tip of Quebec.

She sings in Inuktitut (as well as in English and French).  And her voice is absolutely intense.

Her songs are very personal–she sings of

her life as an adopted child and of meeting her biological mother. Now, as a mother herself, she sings about what it must have meant to her own mother to give up her child.

Elisapie left her birth-village, Salluit, as a teenager and headed to Montreal, leaving her community and her sick mom. The songs she sings, here all come from her album, The Ballad of the Runaway Girl and deal with the consequences of her leaving.

These songs are definitely rock, but with a different overall sound.  Jason Sharp’s bass saxophone is fantastic–creating deep low rumbles and otherworldly squawks.

“Arnaq” opens with some chugging guitar riffs (I can’t tell if the guitar is acoustic or electric) from Joe Grass and after a verse or so, some great noisy electric guitars from Josh Toal, who punctuates the song with little solos.  There’s no bass guitar because the bass saxophone covers all of the low ends.

The song, even though it is in Inuktitut is rally catchy with a chorus of “ahhhhhh, I, yi, I” (or something).

The middle section is full of great noises as both guitars and the sax all play some wild solos.

All of this is held together by “the tasteful drumming of Evan Tighe.”

She says the second song, “Una” is the most painful yet the most freeing song.  It is  written to her biological mother.  In Inuktitut the word for mother means “our little bag” because they carried us.

It opens with slow staccato guitar chords and a near a capella vocal before the quiet electric guitar from Josh Toal joins in.  The spareness of the beginning of this song is a great counterpoint to the end of the song when everyone joins in–vocals, guitars, sax and some complex drumming.

Before the final song, she looks around and smiles and says Lizzo was here!  My daughter is very excited.

The final song “Darkness Bring The Light” opens with some great weird sounds from everyone.  Tighe makes scraping metallic sounds as he slides his drum sticks around the cymbals.  Toal plays a synth intro as Grass bows his guitar and Sharp makes waves of gentle sounds to underpin the melody

This one is in English.  She sings a melody that rides over the sounds.  After 2 minutes the drums kick in and after a run through of the chorus, the guitarists join in

Bob Boilen concludes

This is an extraordinary Tiny Desk from an artist with something meaningful to say.

He is absolutely correct.  This set is fantastic.

[READ: March 10, 2020] Gunnerkrigg Court 4 [32-41]

I really enjoyed the first three books of this series and then promptly forgot about it.  I happened to see this book at the library and was excited to see that I hadn’t read it.  Can it really have been three years since I last read about these characters?

Being away for so long made some of this a little confusing.  I will have to read the whole story again some time.

Chapter 32 shows Antimony returning from the forest and there is a warm welcome with Renard. But Katarina’s welcome is cool–“you kinda make it hard to be your friend.” Antimony tries very hard to make Kat like her again…too hard.  She creates scary situations in which she can “save” Kat,  It doesn’t exactly work, although Kat isn’t really mad anymore, just annoyed.  But then a gigantic creepy monster thing comes out of the water.  Kat is impressed by Annie’s conjuring until Annie says she didn’t do it.  They run out.

Only to learn that this is Lindsey–the creature who helped design most of everything at the court–a giant crablike creature.

All this time Kat has been working on the idea of growing a robot.  Well, not exactly, but kind of.  She imagines using a muscular frame to build a robot body around.  Or something.  She is able to use the smarts of one of the existing robots to give her a hand.  The code they provide is actually a small white cube with no writing on it.  Amazingly Kat is able to read parts of it. (more…)

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2020_03_16 (1)SOUNDTRACK: MOUNT EERIE-Tiny Desk Concert #944 (February 12, 2020).

maxresdefaultI’ve heard of Mount Eerie, but I didn’t really know that much about them. And when I say them, I really mean him, Phil Elverum.

Phil Elverum’s songs come full circle, swooping down like vultures and floating up like ashes from flames. Throughout his work in Mount Eerie and The Microphones, idealism comes up against realism, existence entangles with impermanence and love discovers new forms. So when he sings, “Let’s get out the romance,” in close harmony with Julie Doiron at the Tiny Desk, there’s a history going back nearly two decades to an isolated cabin in Norway where he first wrote the phrase.

I have never really enjoyed quiet, sad music.  It’s just not my thing.  So this Tiny Desk is definitely not my favorite.  Although I can appreciate the intensity of his lyrics and the beautiful way his and Julie’s voices combine.

They recorded an album, Lost Wisdom Pt. 2, last year.

the sparsely decorated, deeply felt album meditates on a heart still breaking and mutating, but also gently reckons with a younger version of himself. That refrain on “Belief” is performed here with only an electric guitar and a nylon-string acoustic bought in Stockholm during that Scandinavian trip many years ago.

“Belief” opens with quiet acoustic guitar and then the two of them singing together.  And it’s pretty intense:

Elverum remembers himself as a young man who begged “the sky for some calamity to challenge my foundation.” We then become the Greek chorus, witness to the unfolding tragedy: first, the death of his wife and mother to their child, the musician and illustrator Geneviève Castrée, in 2016; then the marriage to actor Michelle Williams in 2018 and their divorce less than a year later. “‘The world always goes on,'” Doiron sings in answer, quoting a Joanne Kyger poem, “‘Breaking us with its changes / Until our form, exhausted, runs true.'”

Doiron’s guitar contributions are so minimal, she doesn’t play for most of the song.   The song runs almost seven minutes and does seem to end mid-sentence.

When “Belief” suddenly ends, seemingly in the middle of a thought, Elverum’s eyes search the room. The audience responds with applause, but a version of this dynamic plays out everywhere he’s performed for the last three years — long silences broken up by tentative claps, nervous laughs struck by grief and absurdity.

The second song, “Enduring The Waves” is only three minutes long.  He begins it by speak/singing “Reading about Buddhism” and I wasn’t sure if it was a lyric or an introduction.  It’s a lyric.  This song features Julie and Phil singing seemingly disparate lines over each other until their final lines match up perfectly  The construction of this song is really wonderful even if it is still a pretty slow sad song,

“Love Without Possession” Julie sings the first verse and after her verse, Phil starts strumming his guitar in what can only be described as a really catchy sort of way.  They harmonize together and Doiron includes minimal electric guitar notes.  This is my favorite song of the bunch.

[READ: March 13, 2020] “My High-School Commute”

Colin Jost is one of the presenters on Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update.  I think he’s very funny and has a great sarcastic tone.  Although, I have to agree with the title of his new memoir: A Very Punchable Face.

This is an amusing essay about his daily commute to high school, in which he took “a journey by land, sea and underground rocket toilet.”

His grandfather always told him about the value of an education–protect your brain! was his constant refrain.

It was his brain that got him out of Staten Island.  It got him into a Catholic high school called Regis* *Regis Philbin was named after my high school but went to Cardinal Hayes High School which was full of kids who beat the shit out of kids who went to Regis.

Regis is one of the best schools in the country and it is free–tens of thousands of kids apply for 120 spots. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHERYL CROW-Tiny Desk Concert #918/Tiny Desk Fest October 29, 2019 (December 2, 2019).

This Tiny Desk concert was part of Tiny Desk Fest, a four-night series of extended concerts performed in front of a live audience and streamed live on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Back in October, NPR allowed fans to come watch some Tiny Desk Concerts live.  October 29th was pop rock night featuring Sheryl Crow.

I had tried to get tickets to the Tiny Desk Fest.  Possibly on this night, although really I wanted the indie rock night.  If I had gotten tickets to this night I would have been a little bummed to find out it was Sheryl Crow.  I did like her many years ago, but I basically grew disinterred in her after her first couple of albums.

However, this set proves to be a lot of fun.  Her old songs sound great, the new songs are fun and her voice sounds fantastic.

“I heard a big thing on NPR about the shrinking of the attention span and how now, with pop songs, everything has like six seconds before you gotta change it, because the kids swipe over,” Sheryl Crow tells the crowd early in her Tiny Desk Fest concert. “I’m just gonna tell you right now: We’re dinosaurs. … And while the kids are all writing fast food — which is super-cool ’cause it tastes great, super-filling — we’re sort of still writing salmon. We’re the songwriters that are here to tax your attention span.”

She opens with “All I Wanna Do”

Twenty-five years ago this fall, Crow was in the midst of a massive career breakthrough: Her inescapable hit “All I Wanna Do” was entrenched in the Top 5 — it would later win the Grammy for Record of the Year — and her 1993 debut album, Tuesday Night Music Club, was well on its way to selling more than 7 million copies in the U.S. alone.

Gosh it seems way more than 25 years ago to me.

I get a kick that she starts the song by saying “This ain’t no country club.  This ain’t no disco. This is Tiny Desk.”  The songs sounds terrific.  It holds up well and feels rejuvenated with some amazing pedal steel from Joshua Grange.  Surprisingly, the song doesn’t finished, it just jumps right into “A Change Would Do You Good.”  This song is one of several that feature nice keyboards sounds from Jen Gunderman (who also provides backing vocals).  Sheryl hits some nice high notes and there’s a great slide guitar solo from Peter Stroud.

She played some songs from her new album.  Introducing “Prove You Wrong,” she says this song features Stevie Nicks and Maren Morris.  They’re not here but were gonna play it anyway.  This song is remarkably country-sounding with some bouncy country bass from Robert Kearns.  There’s also a honky tonkin’ guitar solo form Audley Freed and a more rocking guitar solo from Stroud.

She wrote some songs with Chris Stapleton, like “Tell Me When It’s Over.”  This opens with a little drum fill from Frederick Eltringham.  It’s got a surprisingly disco feel in the middle of the song with some real old-fashioned keyboard sounds.

Fifteen years ago she moved to Nashville to quite out the noise–you know the noise of the world.  She says NPR is calming.  There are tiny desks everywhere with good people sitting behind them telling the truth at their tiny desks.  This is an introduction to “Cross Creek Road” an Americana song with solos from first Stroud and then Freed.

She continues saying that things are crazy these days and its hard to raise kids telling them you’re not allowed to lie, truth matters, be nice to one another, be empathetic and then having to turn off the TV if the news comes on.  Her nine year old asked her if the apocalypse was real, which freaked her out until she realized he was watching a zombie movie.  This

“Out Of Our Heads” proves to be a good old-fashioned campfire sing along.

The set ends with “If It Makes You Happy.”  She starts it slowly in an improv way, but when everyone kicks in it sounds pretty darn nice (although maybe a little slow).  I really like the keys that sound like flutes in the middle.

The blurb says she performed two unexpected encores.  I assume we heard them but they just cut out the intervening clapping?  Either way, it’s a really great set and shows that Crow still has it.

[READ: December 2019] Moone Boy: The Fish Detective

This second book has an introduction from the imaginary Friend just like the first one.  It invites you to put your feet up (but not on the book unless you enjoy reading through your toes) and to have a snack (the red bits on the cover taste like strawberries).

The book opens with the explanation that Martin Moone doesn’t handle the calendar very well–he doesn’t like long stretches of time on between holidays, so he divides the calendar into “yections:”

  • Boxing for Love: St.Stephen’s Day to Valentine’s Day
  • Lovefool: Valentine’s Day  to April Fools Day
  • Fools’s Gold: April Fools Day to 20th May (my birthday when I always ask for gold gifts)
  • Golden Days: 20th May to end of term
  • Days of Wonder: summer holidays!
  • Wonder What Happened to the New School: start of term to 5th November
  • Why Won’t It End: 5th November to Christmas Day

We were in the last yection–it was 50 sleeps til Christmas and Martin wondered if his parents had thought of a good present for him. They said they were torn “between getting you new school trousers or fixing the sink in the bathroom. You love that sink, don’t you?”

Then Martin gives the crux of this book: For Christmas he wants a Game Boy.

That seems unlikely to happen so maybe Martin could get a job.  He thinks he’d like to a be a bin man.  But the actual bin man says you’re not exactly a man are you?  It’s in the job title after all. (more…)

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