Archive for the ‘Futility’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SHOVELS AND ROPE-Tiny Desk Concert #304 (September 16, 2013).

This Tiny Desk Concert starts with the most fun opening of any—the duo of Shovels & Rope brought their dog along, and as they are warming up, the dog roams around, getting pet by people and sneaking treats.

As the blurb notes:

But once Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent showed up, the office quickly lost sight of the approaching performance, as the murmurs began: “There’s a dog in the office there’s a dog in the office there’s a dog in the office!” You could practically see our coworkers’ brains short out from a combination of cognitive dissonance and canine adoration.

I’ve enjoyed Shovels and Rope’s punky folky country music, But I didn’t know much about them:

As endearing as our new friend was, Shovels & Rope soon won back the crowd’s attention [with] the husband-and-wife duo’s mix of rowdy folk-rock and rootsy balladeering. After opening with the plaintive ballad “Carnival,” the South Carolina duo ripped through one of its signature rockers — “Birmingham,” during which the pair held eye contact sweetly while singing in unison — before closing with “Bad Luck,” a clattering gem for which the two swap instruments (he on guitar, she on drums). The song, originally from a Michael Trent solo album, most recently appeared on a deluxe version of Shovels & Rope’s 2012 debut, the winning and appropriately titled O’ Be Joyful.

The band’s music is definitely steeped in country and yet there’s something about it that I like—they have country spirit without all the twang—or perhaps it’s just the gorgeous harmonies that elevate it above pedestrian country fare.

“Carnival” is a slow, sweet song.  She plays guitars, he plays keys and he gets a harmonica solo.  For “Birmingham,” he jumps up and switches to drums. And it’s amazing how much power that simple drum beat puts into these songs.  This is a hootin’, hollerin’, country stompin’ song.  There’s a punky element to it- sort of an X vibe (although I think its more like The Knitters than X) with their voices mingling.

As that song ends, they switch places–he takes guitar she takes the drums.  Before starting, he asks, “Where’d our dog go?  Anyone got a line on a hound dog?”  She jokes, “If your ham sandwich is half eaten?”  Then corrects: “He won’t half eat it, he’ll get it all.”

The final song “Bad Luck” is a big stompin’ fun song. There’s simple loud punky drums and she hollers the vocals for extra fun

The dog even gets an on-screen handshake at the end (and then the duo shake each others’ hands, too).

[READ: July 30, 2016] The Metamorphosis

I’ve been enjoying the art of Peter Kuper lately.  So I found a few of his older books, like this adaptation of The Metamorphosis, which is pretty great.

I don’t know if this is meant to be a complete telling of the story.  I’ve read it a few times, but I don’t know all of the details.

I liked that he clearly doesn’t include all of the dialogue or text–it’s not a comprehensive version of the story.  Rather, he uses a the art to move the story along.

The cockroach is drawn in Kuper’s very blocky, very robotic style–it’s cool and creepy.  But not bug-creepy just inhuman-creepy.

As the book opens, he flashes back to his life and job as a traveling salesman .  He hates the work–it is exhausting–and if his parents didn’t need the money he would have quit a long time ago.

But while he’s thinking all this he realized that he is late for work.  He tries to get up and that’s when the limitations of being a cockroach really hit him.

His supervisor comes to tell him that he is fired because of poor performance and when his family sees him, they are disgusted by him.

Only his sister Grete treats him kindly–bringing him scraps of foot (real food at first and then rotting food, since he is a bug). We learn that in the family only Grete and Gregor are close–their father is distant and cold.  The father is really annoyed at Gregor the bug still being in the house–how do they even know he is that creature or if he is even still “in” there.  He throws an apple at Gregor and it gets embedded in his back (ew).

Without Gregor’s income the family must take in lodgers, who are bossy and inconsiderate  Gregor wants them out but when they see him, they freak out and storm out without paying.

Can a story like this find any happiness at the end?  Well, sort of, in a very unexpected place.

Even though this is primarily a visual work, it really conveys the horrors of the original in a very clever way.

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SOUNDTRACK: ALSARAH & THE NUBATONES-Tiny Desk Concert #584 (December 9, 2016).

The Tiny Desk Concerts have introduced me to a ton of bands I’ve never heard of before.  They’ve also introduced me to styles of music I’ve never heard before.  Alsarah and the Nubatones play music inspired by her home country of Sudan.  But I believe she (they) include pop elements to make the music more accessible (and danceable).

And this Concert was great–I listened to it over and over.

The instrumentation is all fairly simple: Rami El Aasser plays all kinds of percussion.  I love the sound that he gets out of that hand drum.  Brandon Terzic plays an amazing oud and  Mawuena Kodjovi’s bass holds the whole thing together in an incredible way–something that I think this traditional music lacks.

But most important are the singers’ voices.  Alsarah sounds great by herself but when she and Nahid harmonize, it is enchanting.  Especially in the chorus of the first song, “Ya Watan” when their voices work together so perfectly

But what’s Alsarah’s deal?  The blurb is really helpful:

When singer Alsarah left her native Sudan, she was just a child who’d shown an interest in music. She’s said it served as her coping mechanism during a subsequent transition to life here in the U.S. That passion led her to a university degree in ethnomusicology.

It also drew her to musicians who were passionate about the intersection of culture, music and migration. Together, their one-of-a-kind expression has been called “East African retro pop.” But that tag only scratches the surface: In their hands, the music pulses, breathes and comes alive with a mix of tradition and contemporary influences.

I don’t know what the song names mean, but I love “Ya Watan.”  The song is really catchy, but when the bass did a big slide at the end of the middle slow section to announce the final part, I was hooked.

I have no idea why there’s a 3 in this titular word, but that makes me even more intrigued by “3roos Elneel.”  Before the song she says (in perfectly unaccented English), “I’m going to tell a story because I think I can do whatever I want.”

She says that the song is inspired by “girls music” performed at wedding ceremonies in Sudan.  But she tries to merge it with an old myth.  The Nile River would flood every season because the gods were angry and lonely.  So the Sudanese people would sacrifice the most beautiful maiden in the village.  But she wonders what happens after she goes in the river.  And what happens next season when there’s a new girl–that’s a lotta wives.  So, she likes to think there’s trade off.  You go in to the river and do 3 months as a Nile god bride and then you swim off.  Maybe the bottom of the Nile is full of ex-Nile-god-divorcees giving birth to mermaids.  Yes, she claims mermaids as a Nubian invention.

The song begins with a call and response. It sounds rather traditional.  But after a few lines, the song stops with a four-beat clap-along section.  And then everything shifts.  First the bass plays a cool riff then the oud joins in with some fast playing and then the percussion makes it utterly danceable.  There’s even a cool oud solo.

The first section of “Fulani” is the chorus repeating the word Fulani over and over (in call and response style), but it’s done in wonderfully melodious fashion, including a catchy stop start section with more clapping.

The song is really great and I love the way all the instruments are able to make the song fade out.

This music was totally captivating.

[READ:January 27,2017] Beautiful Blue World

Sarah brought this book home and read us a little bit of it and I decided I had to read it, too.

The part she told us about was about a girl taking a test to see if she would be useful for the army.  But it was no ordinary test, it was more like Bletchley Circle–puzzles and observations more than facts.  That sounded great.

What she didn’t tell us was the general set up of the story.

So, this story feels like a World War II story, with a country like England being attacked by a country like Germany.  But what makes this book special is that these are not the countries. The countries are called Sofarende (the attackees) and Tyssia (the attackers). But despite these countries having fantastical names, the story feels very real.


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SOUNDTRACK: ALICE RUSSELL-Tiny Desk Concert #288 (July 15, 2013).

I read the name Alice Russell and pictured some kind of folk artist.  Boy, was I surprised to see a woman with  bleached blonde hair, a leather jacket and a funny t-shirt.  And then her band started playing low groovy soulful music.

Turns out:

Russell is a classic soul-infused singer — close your eyes and it’s easy to hear a Southern drawl, but truth be told, she’s a Brit. American-style R&B from Britain has a long history dating back to the 1960s with Dusty Springfield and on up through 21st-century artists like Adele. As for Alice Russell, she’s been making great soul music for 10 years, and her arrangements on To Dust often include a dose of electronics.

I didn’t love her voice when the first song “To Dust” started.  But as soon as the chorus kicked in I was hooked–wow, what a great voice she has and with the full band playing behind her it sounded amazing (the sampled backing singers was a bit flat, but otherwise OK).  And by the second chorus, man she is belting out the song—it’s great.  The Adele comparisons are spot on.

Then she hit Bob’s gong at the end of the song and told us that it was an ode to the taxman.

“For a While” is a great big soul song.  The drummer gets some great sounds out of that one drum he has.  And they keys sound great too.  I love the middle part where there’s some seriously long pauses in between beats–they are all wonderfully in sync.  At the end of the song she yells “I didn’t gong!” and then makes a peculiar hand gesture about a turtle.

“Heartbreaker” has such a classic-sounding riff it’s hard to believe it’s a new song.  I like it a lot (although I don’t care for the chanted “when it falls, when it breaks” by the guys).

I have to agree with this blurb about her:

To Dust is Russell’s fifth album, but the hiatus that followed 2008’s Pot of Gold may be the reason too many people don’t yet know what she’s doing. This stuff is as powerful as the work of any American singer making soul music in the 21st century. If you haven’t heard of her yet, think of this as a well-overdue introduction.

[READ: May 15, 2016] I Kill the Mockingbird

I bought this book from the bookstore in Bethlehem, PA.  I don’t buy too many books these days but I saw this one in the PA authors section (and it was 20% off) and the title sounded intriguing.  So I grabbed it.

And I’m I glad I did. This book was outstanding.  I loved it from the first chapter and was thrilled that the ending was also very satisfying–not easy given the way the story was heading for a conclusion that could have gone in many different directions.

So what’s this about?  Well, there are three kids, Lucy Elena and Michael.  They are at the heart of the story.  I loved loved loved that these three were great friends who’d known each other forever.  And they were all big big big readers. Such an awesome start to a story. (more…)

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index SOUNDTRACK: LYLE LOVETT-Tiny Desk Concert #257 (December 10, 2012).

lyleLyle Lovett was the first country musician I ever enjoyed.  And that came mostly from his Large Band recordings.  Lovett, while clearly of the country ilk, is a different kind of country—perhaps it’s because his country comes from Texas.  He is not afraid to bend genres and sing about whatever is on his mind (with a great, unique voice that eschews country flavors.

For this tiny desk it is just Lyle and a fiddle by Luke Bulla.

One of the things I’ve always liked about Lyle is his sense of humor. He doesn’t write funny songs, but some of his songs are funny.  And he himself is very funny–very deadpan–which he demonstrates amply here.

And, according to the blurb, he’s also rather humble

Lovett not only showed up at NPR Music’s offices without an entourage, but also booked his Tiny Desk Concert himself, emailing us out of the blue to express his interest. (Our reply: “We would only agree to have you perform a Tiny Desk Concert if it’s under any conceivable circumstance.”)

So it’s appropriate that Lovett would open this performance at the NPR Music offices by performing “Cowboy Man,” the first track on his 1986 debut: He may be a music-industry veteran, but in many ways, he’s starting over. With a fresh-faced accompanist in fiddler and backup singer Luke Bulla, Lovett gives a loose, engaging performance that feels like both an introduction and a victory lap.  He follows “Cowboy Man” with two songs from 1989’s Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, so this is no mere promotional appearance.

He’s charming right up front.  After the “Cowboy Man,” which sounds great, he looks up and laughs, “thank you very much,” with a sense of wonder.  He starts right into the second song and then stops and stop again and then says “I just about got it.”  He plays the melody for a few bars and the violin comes in and they play a few bars together and then, I gather, Lyle screwed up because he kind of smiles over at Luke and then stops playing and says “you sure you want to play that?”

Everyone laughs, some tension is broken.  And he looks up at everyone.

“This is…it’s kinda weird, right?”  Someone shouts out “Good weird!”  He laughs, “Good for sure, no question.”

Then he picks up a CD off the desk and says, “Just one of those chance meetings.”  He holds up the CD, “Iris Dement, she was just right here.”  To much laughter.  Stephen, who booked the show shouts, “We’ve got all those inventoried, so don’t even think about it.” Which cracks everyone up.

Then he tells a story about meeting Iris’ daughter  He asks them is they know about the Cayamo Folk Cruises.  No one replies so he says “It’s a popu….it’s not that popular.”  He says it is a festival on the water (it must have been one of the first music cruises).  He describes it and says its fun a deal.  And then stops and says “I don’t know why we’re talking about it.”  Then they remind him about Iris Dement’s daughter.

His story about her is very funny, told in a great deadpan way:  I saw this cool chick, about ten years old, leaning against the elevator.  Wearing skinny pants and a hat.  She looked at me in that skeptical way, and I said, so you in a band?  She rolled her eyes, gave me a sideways look.  She said, No.  So I said, Well, you oughta be.  She said, My mom’s in a band.  Who’s your mom?  She said Iris, just like that.  She was cool.

Finally starts playing “If You Were To Wake Up” again and jokes, “Pretend like this is going well.”  It is, the song is very pretty with gorgeous violin.

The final song is “Good Intentions”  He looks at Luke and says. “Play it just…do it however you want.”  Lyle starts the song,  “It’s a sunny day in Sunny…” and he stops and looks at Luke and says “Don’t mess me up anymore, alright?”  To more laughter.  It’s one of his great songs–jazzy and with swell lyrics.  There’s even a plucked violin solo.

I have loved Lyle and his Large Band, but I also like him in this small duet as well.

[READ: January 21, 2015] “Youngthing”

Boy I hated this story.

It is the story of a young Somali thug (nicknamed Youngthing) who has been conscripted into a the Shabaab-led insurgency.

He is sent on a mission for the insurgents.  He is meant to secure (steal) a house for the group.

He doesn’t pay attention, winds up going to wrong place and inadvertently “captures” the wrong house.

There is an innocent old man living there.  We see the story from the man’s point of view we see for half of the story; we see it from Youngthing’s point of view for the other half).  The old man doesn’t realize the trouble he is in right away.  He even manages to convinces Youngthing that everything will be okay. (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: LAURA MARLING-Tiny Desk Concert #230 (July 12, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

marlingSince I first heard this Tiny Desk Concert, I have become a huge fan of Laura Marling.  Her album Once I Was an Eagle is dynamite.  Her voice is unique and beautiful.  She sounds so mature and sophisticated in her singing style.  It is astonishing to learn that she was only 22 when she recorded this (and she looks it).

Her guitar playing is wonderful—nothing fancy but the sounds she gets out of the acoustic are magnificent.  And they work perfectly with her voice.  Her guitar is as warm as her voice is distant.  It’s a great combination and I could listen to her sing all day.

She plays two songs from her then current album A Creature I Don’t Know.  “Don’t Ask Me Why” and “Sophia” highlight some of those great moment when she sings along to the chords she strums.  And I love when she switches from delicate falsetto to almost spoken deep-voiced dismissals.   She’s so compelling.

“Once” is a song she hadn’t officially recorded yet. So consider this performance a premiere of sorts.  It did come out on Eagle.

She’s very quiet between songs–hard to tell if she’s nervous or just incredibly composed.  The blurb tells us that she “once held a series of unplugged and unrecorded concerts in a near-empty room, each consisting of a single song performed for two strangers at a time.”  (Seriously, click on that link and read about her amazing concert experience).

[READ: December 12, 2016] “Oneness Plus One”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

I’ve enjoyed Aimee bender’s stories in the past, although I don’t usually love them. She tends to look at things in a rather different way.

In this case, this story is all about a speck of dirt.  It had lived on the apartment floor for quite some time and had managed to avoid the broom.  It had not been attached to any of its kin and just wanted to be left alone.  So every day it huddled under the book case and tried not to be seen. (more…)

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vamplove SOUNDTRACK: DO MAKE SAY THINK-You, You’re a History in Rust [CST045] (2007).

rustYou, You’re a History in Rust feels very different from DMST’s previous album.  That record felt kind of insular and tight.  This one feels expansive and experimental.  Like the first song which has multiple sections that feel completely unrelated and which are only connected by silence.  Or the fact that there are lyrics in a song, or even a fairly conventional song.

“Bound to Be That Way” This song opens in a peculiar way.  There’s a drum rhythm, that slowly builds and some piano chords are laid over the top. This goes on for about 45 seconds and then fades out.  And then a new melody–completely different–with horns and guitar peeks its way out. And then it too fades.  Then around 2 minutes a pretty guitar melody comes through followed by big crashing distorted drums. Eventually a new riff enters the song and it really starts grooving.  It’s fantastic, but it too is just a portion of a song which ends at around 4:30.  And then another new section comes in. Then acoustic guitar riff is counterpointed by some horns.  The final melody is the catchiest one of the bunch and it ends this strange song on a high.

But if that was strange, “A with Living” offers the biggest shock to fans of the band.  There are words in this song!  And they are sung! Words were co-written and sung by Alex Lukashevsky and the Great Lake Swimmers’ Tony Dekker.  Akron/Family also joins in doing “oohs” and “ahs.”  It opens with rumbling drums and then the singing begins.  The song has a conventional verse chorus verse structure with big horns.  It’s catchy (the vocals are great).   But it’s also a 9 minute song and at 4 and a half minutes the song moves way from the melody and enters a lengthy instrumental section with deep rumbling guitars.  The chorus of voices returns briefly before the mellow guitars lead us to the end.

“The Universe!” is one of my favorite DMST songs.  It rocks and rollicks.  It has two notes and then five bashing chords.  Repeated several times.  It’s one of the most straightforward songs they’ve done.  It has screaming guitar solos and a cool sliding bass. It’s also very raw sounding, with all kinds of noise floating around it.  And just like that, it’s gone.  Seguing into the quiet, “A Tender history in rust” which opens with processed guitars or keyboards, layered upon each other.   There are voices fighting through (saying all kinds of sounds—including laughing), before it switches to a pretty acoustic guitar riff.  It’s a delightfully conventional folk melody–another unusual addition for the band.

“Herstory of Glory” has another pretty acoustic guitar melody with some rattling drums (in the right ear).   Then there’s a rumbling bass and distant voices before more and more instruments add to the beautiful song–pianos, trumpets, claps.

“You, You’re Awesome,” is the shortest song on the disc at under 4 minutes.  It opens with slow electric guitars and a e-bowed solo.  After a minute or so, the rest of the band comes in with a slide guitar and banjo making a kind of sloppy folky romp.

“Executioner Blues” is another favorite.  Its 8 minutes long with some lovey guitar riffs and sounds.  It opens with some big guitars and a repeating riff.  A martial drums enters the song and keeps it moving until the next big section.  Horns repeat a similar melody and then a romping bass guitar takes over.  More instruments kick in making the song noisy and slightly distorted.  There’s piano trills, glockenspiel, electric guitar, noises and more.   and the instruments all go up the scale slowly for a few bars and then play a punch of staccato notes.  It’s rather dramatic.  After several permutations of this, they just keep going up and up the scale until the reach the top and then they gradually descend again.  The last minute is a series of quiet bass notes, as if everyone has totally come down from that intensity.

“In Mind” is a quiet disc closer.  A simple guitar melody, it is joined by banjo and trumpet.  Then some bass lines come in followed by a very distorted chorus singing “When you die, you’ll have to leave them behind/You should keep that in mind/When you keep that in mind, you’ll find a love as big as the sky.”  The disc ends with some quite banjo plucking.

This disc goes all over the place and really explores different avenues.

[READ: February 10, 2016] Vampire Loves

Joann Sfar created Little Vampire (and apparently about 100 other comics, some of which have been translated into English by Alexis Siegel and published by First Second).  Of the things I’ve read by him, (and there have been a few) I enjoyed this the most.  It seems like a lot of his books (like Little Vampire) are for kids, bu this one is absolutely for adults (there;’s curses in it and talk of sex and everything).

There are four stories in this book (I just learned that Sfar has written six in total, so maybe there will be more translated). After the third book in this collection, there’s a question as to whether or not Ferdinand, the vampire in this story is Little Vampire.  There’s a little drawing of Little Vampire which says that Ferdinand is him.  “But vampires don’t grow up!  No, but they can grow little.  Ferdinand was me before!  You mean that before being little you were grownup? Yes.”  So there’s that sorted.

“Could Cupid Care Less?” starts us off with Ferdinand the vampire’s woes.  His girlfriend, Lana, (a kind of plant creature) has just come back.  She cheated on him, but turns the conversation around to say that it is his fault–if he weren’t so jealous he never would have found out.  He freaks about this and she storms off again.  Furious, he sets off for his nightly feeding.  Ferdinand is a nice vampire–he takes little sips and only with one fang so it looks like mosquito.  While he is feeding on a woman, a red-haired vampire storms in and shows him how to do it right.  She is a vixen with an ankh necklace and after feeding, she comes on to Ferdinand hard.  She says she likes old, proper-looking vampires–not goth wannabes.  She brings him back to her house but before they can do anything, her sister walks in.  She’s also red-haired and has a shapely figure and actually has more in common with Ferdinand.  And that’s when we learn that the first woman’s name was Aspirine and her sister’s name is Ritaline (ha!).

All of the stories cut back and forth to different sections.  So we cut over the Lani who is staying with the Tree Man.  He is trying to hit on her, but she’s having nothing to do with it.

We return to Ferdinand where he just can’t get rid of Aspirine, even when he wants some alone time.  He can’t get a woman he wants and can’t get rid of the ones he doesn’t.

“Mortal Maidens on My Mind” opens with a Japanese woman meeting Ferdinand in Paris and falling for him.  They do all kinds of things together and she even writes home about him.  But Ferdinand had to return home and that was the end of that.

We cut back to the Tree Man who is still pining for Lani but is having no luck with her.

Back home, Ferdinand runs into the man who slept with Lani, Michael.  He also argues that it was Ferdinand’s fault that things wound up as they did.  He says that he was just looking for fun.  He didn’t want to hurt anyone, so why did Ferdinand have to get involved?  After a fight Ferdinand leaves to go to a bar where he tries to hook up with a woman but it all falls apart.

Then we cut to a man who has created a golem.  He wanted the golem to do bad things, but the golem is so kind that he couldn’t possible have made the him do the evil things he planned.

The postscript of the story contains a few notes on the protagonists of this story which sort of retroactively tries to make sense of the seemingly disparate story lines and lets us know how these characters belong here.

“Lonely Hearts Crossing” shows Ferdinand on a cruise.  But first we meet a woman named Alas, and her spiritual ghost-creature-friend named Sigh.  Alas is looking to score with the captain of the ship (who is the invisible man).

Meanwhile Lani is going shopping with Tree Man.  He has become her buddy and he can’t get out of it.

On the ship, Ferdinand runs into a werewolf who turns into a wolf when he sees a girl.  He only transforms back if he can kiss a girl.  But he is a such charming creature that he has no problems scoring–much to Ferdinand disgust and amazement.

The story turns very exciting as there are armed criminals on board and a shootout.  And by the end of the story Ferdinand is making out with the spirit ghost creature (who teaches him how to go through walls which turns them both kind of ghostly for a time).

“Moonstruck Post Mortem” ends the book with Ferdinand trying to pick someone else up.  His conscience is bothering him lately though so he manages to get rid of it.  The woman is interested in him but already had two boyfriends so she kind of blows him off.

The scenes shifts to Ferdinand at the police station.  He’s not n any trouble.  in fact, the police would like him to help with their investigation of suspicious murders.  Since he’s nocturnal they figure he can look at night.  That’s how police work, right?

Ferdinand decides to go out drinking again. He meets a woman he likes, but she seems disinterested. So he quickly moves on and finds a  creature who is into him.  But he is quickly utterly disgusted by her.  And the first woman just came back. Oh no!

Frustrated, he leaves and goes to see the dentist–because the dentist has some secret information about the investigation. But before he will give the information to Ferdinand, he needs to give him a compete check up.  By the end, he tells Ferdinand not to get involved. And as the story progresses and the criminal is found…  Ferdinand is shot and thrown into a hole!  Can Ferdinand’s conscience come to the rescue?

The whole story concludes with Ferdinand going back to find Ritaline (but of course finding Aspirine instead).  She offers to let him bite her–but when one vampire bites another it’s “catastrophe.”

It’s a totally nuts book but very funny.  Another fun book in my #10yearsof01 February.

I think the reason I don’t enjoy the Sfar books as much as I might is because they are printed so small.  I don’t know what the original size was, but the format makes everything feel really squished.  This makes the dialogue hard to read and means you can’t see all of the details that well.  I think if these books were bigger it would really help their appeal.

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little vamopSOUNDTRACK: DO MAKE SAY THINK-Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn [CST025] (2003).

hymnThis album, at least according to the liner notes, seems to be broken into three sections, as the title suggests.  Although there is no explicit attachment of a particular hymn to the songs, there is a gap between the listings, giving each section three songs.

“Federica” is 9 minutes long and opens with a very lovely slow guitar melody.  Then the drums crash in and the song doesn’t change so much as intensify.  At around 3 minutes the song pauses before a loping bass adds to the mixture and the songs gets bigger and bigger, and even a little funkier. When the distorted guitar comes in at 5 minutes, it’s hard to believe it’s basically the same song all along.  It builds to a cacophonous explosion and then settles down again. A new style emerges—slow and plaintive with mildly distorted guitars. But they can’t stay muted for long. The distorted guitar comes back and forces the song forward with some distorted bass and other noises until it resumes a reprise of the original guitar melody.

“War on Want” is only 2 minutes long.  It is mostly strings that seemed to be looped in some way.  There haven’t been a lot of strings in DMST records so far, so this is new.  They drift slightly out of tune as they introduce the 3rd song “Auberge le Mouton Noir.”  The song opens with some crackling noises and some pretty, slow chords. which resolve into a simple riff.  The song builds, growing faster with a great propulsive beat. I like that it switches back and forth between the chords and the guitar riff.  Is that a slightly out of tune bass guitar before the ringing guitar solo takes over?

The second section begins with “Outer Inner & Secret.”  It’s ten minutes long and opens with an interesting bass line and guitar motif. It’s quiet and insistent, kind of dreamy. After exploring some quieter avenues some feedback squalls float in and out.  About 4 minutes in the song builds, but it quickly recedes only to build again and recede once more.  For the third build the drums kick in and the song launches in a louder direction for a few measures.  But just as you think it’s going to take off for a while, it settles down and then comes back to a quitter style with martial beat and keyboards.   The remainder of the song switches between loud building guitarists and quitter moments with just bass and drums.  For the last-minute or so horns burst forth and then the music drops away except for the horns, which end the song with a plaintive melody.

The 4 minute “107 Reasons Why” is a slow horn & guitar melody song.  There’s some interesting sounds that play over the top of the delicate melody, including a nice horn line.

“Ontario Plates” is 7 minutes long and opens with very jazzy drums and bass–it’s rather noir with a quiet saxophone.   Once the sax plays over the top it just increases the jazziness. DMST has always had a jazz feel but this one really pushes it about as far as the band has gone. The drums start to come to the fore and I love the way about 3 minutes in the drums morph into something else and the song almost imperceptibly switches into a new song entirely. The bass takes over and a new riff enters the piece. About 5 minutes in, the song switches to a very bright and uplifting motif–big horns, bright guitars and a catchy riff.  It’s quite lovely.

The third section opens with “Horns of a Rabbit.”  This song introduces big drums and kind of electronic bass sound.  About two minutes in the noise beaks through—bashing guitars and intense drums.  It even includes a pretty wild guitar solo. I like how the song (which is only 4 minutes (kind of disintegrates on itself before merging into the two-minute “It’s Gonna Rain,” which may indeed be simply the sound of rain on a tin roof.

The final track, the 7 minute “Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!” opens with some synths sounds—unlike anything else on the record.  And then a pretty guitar intro mixes with some lovely horns.  It’s probably the most delicate thing they have created.  After 3 minutes the occasional guitar swirls grow louder and it grinds it way to a happy and uplifting keyboard riff.   Then a bunch of surprises for DMST: A slide guitar plays a little solo and then, most surprisingly, a chorus of voices sings the melody.  The ending slide guitar sounds like it could come from Mercury Rev or The Flaming Lips.  If you listen closely, you can hear people shouting Hooray! in the background.

This album feels a bit more claustrophobic than their others, and while I like pretty much all of the songs, I really like their other albums more.

[READ: December 20, 2015] Little Vampire

Joann Sfar is responsible for the Sardine comics which I kind of liked but mostly didn’t (I think that may have been because of the uglyish drawing style).  But here Sfar has another series called Little Vampire.  (I also just learned that Joann Sfar is a man, so apologies earlier, but I think that’s an understandable mistake).

This book collects three stories into one volume, all translated by Alexis Siegel.  Each story is about 30 pages.  And they follow the “life” of little vampire.  He is a sweet boy with a bald head, big eyes and pointy ears.  He lives in a castle with call all kinds of undead people including his dog Phantomato (he is bright red and rather devious) and several other monsters.

“Little Vampire Goes to School” introduces us to the home where the monsters live.  As the undead are partying, Little Vampire comes down and says he wants to go to school.  The others are horrified, but he won’t give up the idea. He says he’s bored and wants to meet other children (most of the undead are adults).

Little Vampire’s mother (who is strangely pretty in her weird design) and the other elders allow him to go to school, but he can only go at night when it is closed.  So the undead come and all attend school with him.  The class is taught by The Captain of the Dead who is an old dead pirate. (more…)

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