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Archive for the ‘Boom! Box’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KURT VILE-“Passenger Side” (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.

Kurt Vile is a pretty obvious and delightful choice to cover this loping song about drinking and not driving.

It’s a full band recording (even though it’s only two people playing).  Kurt plays some delightful meandering guitar throughout the song while Adam Langellotti plays bass, drums and keys.

It’s a fun cover and Vile’s delivery is perfect.

[READ: February 9, 2020] By Night

I am so taken with Giant Days, that I’ll pretty much read anything by John Allison.  This three-book series has a pretty uninspired title, but the story inside is trippy and very cool.

The story opens “in a commercial lab in Spectrum, South Dakota.”  We are looking at Jane Langstaff who has a masters in chemistry.  As the exposition continues Jane turns to us and says “Stop narrating my life, Barney.”  She sighs and says that she’s basically a restaurant dish washer but with biohazard.  Her best friend is now the autoclave.

As she walks outside she sees “ghost lady” and as she is looking at her she almost stumbles over Heather sitting on the stairs.  Heather has been waiting for Jane.  Jane lies and says she didn’t know that Heather was back in Spectrum.  They quickly catch up.  Heather is no longer with Shawn–who cut his hair and got a law degree.  Jane is shocked: “he cut his hair?” (with an accompanying picture of his gorgeous locks).  Heather reacts: “Of those two things that’s not the one that should blow your mind.”  Heather invites her for drinks.  Jane agrees but instantly regrets it.

Later Heather tells her that she wants to tear it up which means going to a local bar.  It is dark and depressing and no one is tearing up anything.  In fact, Heather’s s dad Chip is there drinking.

Chip reveals that he was terminated today.  He has worked at the Charleswood Estate for his entire life.  Heather realizes that this means that the Charleswood Estate is unguarded (he was the only guard left at the Estate).  With some sleight of hand, Heather steals her fathers’ keys and tells Jane they are going to sneak in.

After some persuading, Jane agrees to go.  They both know Charleswood Estate because every year the school would take them there for a class trip because Chet Charles more or less created the town.  When they sneak in the first thing they do is watching the old welcome video that they’ve seen so many times before.

They sneak into Charles’ private office, where he has a projector and a comfy looking chair.  They are pretty delighted with this find.  but when moonlight hits the projector it turns on and projects a hole in the wall which Heather and Jane walk through … into another world. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TOOL-“Some Days It’s Dark” (2007).

I recently learned that Tool performed this cover of a song from The Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy live.

In the movie Bruce McCullough’s character Grivo’s band Death Lurks plays this very heavy song (written by Craig Northey and performed by Odds).  Lyrically it’s amusingly Dark

Some days it’s dark
Some days I work
I work alone
I walk aloooooooone.

Tool is considered to be one of the most intense metal bands out there with fans taking them very Seriously.  So the fact that they covered this song (in Toronto) is fantastic.

The cover is great (of course).  They get the sound of the original right on, especially when the big heavy part kicks in.  The only problem I would say is Maynard’s delivery.  It’s a little too deadpan,  I’d like it to be a but more over the top.  But maybe that wouldn’t be Maynard’s way.

You can hear it (no video) here.

There’s no word on if they also played “Happiness Pie.”

[READ: January 27, 2020] Extra Credit

When a beloved (and award winning) series nears its end, it is time to put out early and special features collections.  Usually they come once the series has ended, but this one has come early.  Whereas Early Registration was a good collection of early material, this collection is a bit more haphazard.

It collects some Christmas specials and some early “comic strips” from Allison.  Given this seeming completest nature of this collection, I can’t imagine that there’s another volume planned.

The first story is called “What Would Have Happened if Esther, Daisy and Susan Hadn’t Become Friends (and it was Christmas).”  It’s the 2016 Holiday issue drawn by Lissa Treiman.

We zoom in on DAY-ZEE on “the edge of the boundless sweep of space” as she zooms in one the title question.  [It’s important to read Early Registration first as this story references that story].

Esther didn’t help Daisy move in on that first day.  Esther was immediately grabbed by the popular girls.  They are sitting under a tree playing music on their phones which wakes up Susan who curses them out. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAX RICHTER-Tiny Desk Concert #936 (January 22, 2020).

Max Richter is a composer and pianist.  His music is emotional and even more so when you know what has inspired it.

The first piece “On The Nature Of Daylight” was written as a response to the 2003 Iraq War.

In Daylight, which has been effectively used in movies such as Arrival and Shutter Island, a simple theme rolls out slowly in the low strings until a violin enters with a complimentary melody in a higher register. Richter, at the keyboard, adds a subterranean bass line for added gravitas, while high above another violin soars sweetly, mournfully. With all elements interlocked – and sensitively played by members of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble [Clarice Jensen: cello & artistic director; Ben Russell, violin; Laura Lutzke, violin; Isabel Hagen, viola; Claire Bryant, cello] – the piece gently sways, building in intensity. It all adds up to a six-minute emotional journey that, if you open yourself to the sounds, can leave you wrung out.

The music reminds me of the kind of repeating motifs you might hear in someone like Michael Nyman.

In between the two emotional string-filled pieces, he plays a solo piano piece called “Vladimir’s Blues.”

Its delicately toggling chords are an homage to novelist Vladimir Nabokov who, in his spare time, was a respected lepidopterist, obsessed with a subfamily of gossamer-winged butterflies called the blues. Richter plays the piano with the practice pedal engaged for a warm, muted sound.

The final piece, “Infra 5” is a ballet that he composed as

a meditation on the 2005 terrorist subway bombings in London… he counters violence with calming, thoughtful music.

This piece is much like the first in that it is beautiful and repetitive and thought-provoking.  This one is interesting because Richter does not play on it.  He just stands there and listens, no doubt deep in thought.

Richter is a truly amazing contemporary composer and his music is just wonderful.

[READ: January 23, 2020] Giant Days Early Registration

I found out recently that there is an end to Giant Days. In fact I believe it has already ended, but there are still three or so collections left to come out.

When a beloved (and award winning) series nears its end, it is time to put out early issues and special features collections.  Usually they come once the series has ended, but this one has come early.

Early Registration is a collection of the first self-published comics that John Allison made of our heroes Daisy, Esther and Susan.  This book is drawn by him (in the style that I initially preferred although I have now come to love Max Sarin so much that these pictures look weird).

This book begins with Esther’s parents sending her off to college (I didn’t realize until recently that Esther de Groot was in Allison’s previous comic Scary Go Round and that this is a spin off of sorts.  I don’t know that comic but am sure looking forward to reading it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: YOLA-Tiny Desk Concert #934 (January 17, 2020).

Yola was just nominated for a Grammy for best new artist.  And it does seem like she just came out of nowhere.  But she has been making music for a least a decade (with the band Phantom Limb) and was singing backing vocals for bands like Massive Attack before that.  She finally went on her own a few years ago and then released her Dan Auerbach-produced debut album last year.

This Tiny Desk features Yola singing three songs from that debut album and wow, what a voice she has.

With her bouncy Afro and a big smile, Yola’s presence behind the Tiny Desk was commanding, her energy captivating and, oh, that voice!

I had the exact same reaction as Bob Boilen:

I assumed her background was as a southern gospel singer, until she spoke. Her British accent was a shocker.

She’s very funny between songs as she chugs water and then jokes how she puts it here and it comes out here (on her forehead).

Yola’s affection for American music, from Dolly Parton to Aretha Franklin, is at the center of her character and expression. It’s likely one of the reasons she chose to write and record her debut album, Walk Through Fire, at Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville, and why it was such a perfect fit for her.

The second song, “”I Don’t Wanna Lie” is a “newie” and it is my favorite song of hers.  I absolutely love the chorus–so catchy and powerful.  It’s a shame it’s only on the deluxe version of her album.  Instead of piano, the keys are a great organ sound and the main riff on bass (from Taylor Zachry) and the great guitar licks (from Andy Stack) make this song a great soulful rocker.

For the last song, “It Ain’t Easier,” she picks up the acoustic guitar and is accompanied by slow guitar lines and that cool organ sound.  Drummer Jamie Dick is using brushes to emphasize the gentleness of this song.

I’m not sure what it takes to get someone to go from backing and guest vocalist to making a way for herself.

Now this singer from Bristol, who once sang for Massive Attack, and sampled by Iggy Azalea and The Chemical Brothers, is front-and-center.

But it was a great decision.

[READ: January 23, 2020] Giant Days Vol. 8

In this book, friendships are fractured and the future of our trip is in doubt!

As Chapter 29 opens we see Esther looking fabulously academic as she heads to her Romantic Lit class. She is the star of the class and always has the right answer. Until today.  McGraw’s ex-girlfriend Emilia has just started taking the class and as Esther rants “It’s not fair to sing that good, look that good, and think that good.”

Meanwhile Ed Gemmell is trying out a new look–overalls and a braid and, boy howdy, Daisy does not like it.  She asks, “Are you ‘fine’ because you joined a cult and they’taken away your pain?”  He says he’s tried so many things but girls are not interested in him.  Daisy sets him up with her friend Kathy with whom he should have lots in common.  She’s geeky and sexy!  But when she tries to move things forward he demurs.  Daisy is furious, “she could not have been any more your type if she’d been the result of a lab experiment to create the perfect Gemmell mate in one of those nightmare sci-fi shows you both like so well.”

The Esther/Emilia issue resolves itself at a literature professor’s soiree.  When one of the teachers gets handsy with Esther. It is Emilia who is there to help her out. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NAP EYES-“Mark Zuckerberg” (2020).

I really like Nap Eyes.  Their blend of deadpan singing combined with seriously rocking guitars makes a fantastic collection of quirky indie rock.

The earlier songs were lyrically introspective like:

But it’s easy to understand
What it is that makes me feel this way
It’s not so easy to make
All of my problems go away
Then again what else is there—

This newest song seems to go in a very different direction:

Is Mark Zuckerberg a ghost?
Maybe, maybe
Where are his hands?
And why don’t you ever see them public?

And what does he do with all that sand?
He collects sand, right?
I think I read that somewhere (Seems innocent enough).

It’s not clear if there’s any message in the song.  But when it is sung in Nigel Chapman’s melodic deadpan, it make the lyrics seem much more serious.

The melody is so incredibly catchy–a simple guitar riff completed by a distorted guitar riff following along.  It feels quiet and loud at the same time.

The middle part (about the sand) slows things down with a wonderfully haunting guitar lick.  Then the song returns to the fast opening riff once more.

Then the boys in a park are singing a beautiful sweet refrain of “transcendence is all around us.”

What a fantastic song that goes in several different directions all in less than three minutes.

The video is pretty great too.

[READ: January 20, 2020] Giant Days Vol. 7

It has been such a treat reading these Giant Days books in a row like this.  This story works so well when you don’t have gaps in between.

The book starts at Christmas time.  And it is time to meet Susan Ptolemy’s brood of a family.

In Chapter 25, first we meet Bobbie who picks Susan up at the bus station.  Bobbie sets the tone letting us know that Susan is the baby and that she and the other sisters all have lives of their own.  They don’t have time to worry about their parents–they can deal with their own problems.  Susan walks into her house and is immediately a little girl again because “six older sister is basically six deadly enemies who know everything about you.”

Susan calls her sisters to a pub to talk about their parents.  Btu they laugh at her that she just noticed how weird their parents are. Susan even tries to enlist the help of one her adorable nephews to encourage her parents to stay together..

Nothing seems to help and her parents are still fighting.  Until a woman with big frizzy hair and a child in a rucksack shows up at the door.  It is Susan’s sister Ellie, the prodigal daughter.  No one thought she would come for the holidays.  She crashes in and announces that she’s moving back home with her baby.  Esther asks if Susans’s parents “even feigned fury?”  Nope, they were just happy to have someone back in their house again.

Oh and, perhaps more importantly, Susan ran into McGraw on a night out.  But she was so drunk she doesn’t remember any of it.

Esther’s Christmas  was unusually eventful as her dad was out in the garden burning the living room carpet (we never find out why!!). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ENYA-“Echoes in the Rain” (2015).

One of the running jokes in this series is that Daisy’s favorite musician is Enya.

So why not add an Enya song to the soundtrack here?

Enya has released eight albums over the last twenty years.  Her sound is instantly recognizable and distinctive.  The impressive thing about her is that if you give some time to her songs you can see just how much diversity there is in these songs that sound vaguely the same.

This song, from her latest album features those same synthy strings, layered and soft as they pulse through the melody.  And of course, he layered soft voice running through the melody.

The biggest surprise to me in this song is that the chorus is simply Alleluia repeated over and over (with a kind of weird 80s repeat on her voice on one of them).  I’ve never known her to have overtly religious lyric in her songs (of course I don’t know her music that well, so maybe she has lots of them).  The verse is also a bit less soothing than usual–like the words are very distinctive and clear and make you think more about what she is saying rather than the feeling the song evokes.

There’s also a piano solo (sort of) in the middle of the song.  This intrusion of an acoustic instrument (not soft and echoed like everything else) is kind of jarring.

All in all, it’s a lovely song fitting in with her other songs pretty well, although I tend to prefer her earlier singles for a total chillout.

[READ: January 21, 2020] Giant Days Vol. 6

Book six covers the Fall semester in the students’ second year at school.  It takes us up through Christmas and a few new (sort of) characters get a lot of story time (to very good effect).

It is also a time of tempestuous love and solitary death (not one of the main characters).

But the honeymoon of Esther, Susan and Daisy’s brand new flat doesn’t last long because…

Chapter 21
They are robbed! After an instinctual freaking out, they deal things in their own way–Esther attacks the room with her karate, Susan crafts a weapon out of a broom and knives, and Daisy tells the robber they can work it out–no harm no foul. Of course the robber is long gone, but at least we have that established. There is humor to be had though, Esther says that whoever stole Susan’s laptop is likely to catch typhoid from her keyboard. But Daisy is the most upset because the only items she had left from her parents–some pieces of jewelry–were also stolen.

The police come and Susan assures them they have reset their passwords “some of our new security questions answers aren’t even true” (I love this series). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAKE BUGG-“How Soon the Dawn” (2017).

Back in 2012 I recall Jake Bugg kind of buzzing around with his debut album.  One of my co-workers at the time was really into him as well.

He basically fell off of my radar entirely until I saw him mentioned in this volume of Giant Days, which is why I looked him up.  He has put out a couple of albums since 2012 with his latest being a 2017 acoustic album produced by Dan Auerbach.

This song has such an incredible 70s vibe both in the sound of his guitar and his vocal delivery.  His voice is soft and clear and the chorus is really catchy.  Really any song that has a “tooo” that you can turn into a lengthy “oooooh” section is going to be super catchy.  It’s just acoustic guitar and a very minimal accompaniment and it suits him rather well.

His Wikipedia entry says that in 2018 he signed to a new label “in a bid to relaunch his career.”  I guess that hasn’t happened yet.  Shame, because this is a really pretty song.

Incidentally, in the book, he is mentioned when the girls are at a musical festival. Daisy says “Is ‘Jake Bugg’ good music?” and Esther says “No.”

Ouch.

[READ: January 20, 2020] Giant Days Vol. 5

In 2017 I wrote

I love this series so much.  I can’t believe I have to wait forever for volume 5 to come out.

Turns out I took that forever more literally than I needed to.  This book came out in 2017, but it took me until 2020 to read it.  The only consolation is that I now have about 6 books to read right in a row!

Max Sarin’s drawings are still over-the-top cartoony which I rather like. Even though the story lines are realistic(ish), giving them a cartoony vibe allows the over-the-topness to feel natural.

This book focuses on the end of their first year of school (can it really be over so soon?).

Chapter 17 starts a mini thread with Daisy going on an archaeology dig.  Susan’s comment that “You’d have thought we’d dug up all the Romans by now is interesting since just a few weeks ago (in the real world) even more remains were recently discovered.  Daisy’s dig is a disaster because Professor Bradford (you mean bad-ford) is in charge and he criticizes everything Daisy does.  “You’re doing it wrong” is a constant refrain.  He is so mean because on his very first dig he sat on a mummified form and was basically never invited on another dig.

Susan is distracted by McGraw’s new lady whom Ed Gemmell describes as “she speaks better English than we do but in an accent that means I understand one word in three.”  Susan refers to her as an Andalusian Succubus.

Ed reveals that he has been making spare change helping his roommate Dean with a translating project.  Dean pays 25 pence for every three word phrase they translate.   Like, “philosophical ideas about” becomes “recondite notions of,” and “brutally powerful world” becomes “mean planetoid.”  It soon dawns of Esther though that making money this easily can’t be on the up and up and that’s when they realize that Dean is basically selling plagiarized papers (with very bad phrases included).

Chapter 18 sees Esther and Ed being so concerned that they will get in trouble for Dean’s work–there’s a Paypal trail–that they visit a 24 hour lawyer.

But the more concerning news (really) is that their beloved home, Catterick Hall is going to be torn down at the end of school.

There’s a delightful running joke about Daisy being an unwitting pool shark.  She’s so good that McGraw, in his spare time, made her her own cue, which she calls a “pool pole.”

At the Farewell ball, Ed reconnects with Jenny.  Jenny broke the story on Dean’s plagiarism ring but described the lower tier workers as “Mr. Hair and Vampiella” (hee hee).  After a night of dancing, Ed Gemmell has fallen in love.  Even if he and McGraw aren’t sure what  they ‘re going to do if their roommate is in jail.

Chapter 19 is a delightful side trip to A Music Festival!  Esther is all in, Daisy is quite nervous and Susan just doesn’t care.  She has been smoking a lot more and when it comes time to set up her tent, she just lays it on the ground.  She’s in a sleeping bag anyway, this is just another layer–“double bagged like in an American supermarket.”  [Is that a uniquely American thing?].

Esther has a crush on the singer for Poison Nebula and wants to get right up close to hear their topical song “You’re my Napster you’re my wifi.”  Esther followed the band to their bus (Daisy: “Don’t go into buses with strange men!”).  It turns out Poison Nebula is really into…calligraphy: “Quill work on rag-edge parchment.”  There a hilarious moment later on when Shinobi the drummer tries to barter one of his quills for food but the philistines don’t appreciate the quality of the tool.

Daisy is horrified by this spectacle and is looking for something with the majesty of Enya combined with the mystery of Enya, “You’re just jealous of her success.  Everyone is.”  But she soon finds herself loving the world music stage which means Susan can explore on her own.

Susan meets up with The Cowboy who drugs her drink and has her spinning and flying through the festival–not in a good way.

This is all just to much for daisy who needs to find a space to meditate.  Which she does just as the sky opens up a downpour on them all.   The only consolation is that Susan’s unpegged-tent is there to save the day.

Chapter 20 opens with two guys throwing a rager in a unfamiliar house.  The furniture looks utterly destroyed.  We find out the at this is the place the girls are living in this year.  Amazingly it all looks beautiful.  Until Susan sits on the couch and finds that it is all held together with school glue and tape.  This can only mean one thing: a trip to IKEA!

Esther has never been to one (The deGroots fled the Netherlands to escape the jackboot march of flat-packed furniture) but she is instantly convinced of its awesomeness. The next page shows them sitting on all kinds of furniture with IKEA sounding-names (the note at the bottom translates” Orkan/Hat/Slukhål as hurricane/hatred/sinkhole.

Esther is allowed to buy one puppet and they have come in under budget which means meatballs!  Susan explains that they are “made of the national meat of Sweden: swan.”

Then reality sets in–they have to transport all of those flat boxes home.  AND put it all together.  Susan refuses to let Daisy ask McGraw for help, but Daisy sneaks out to ask him for tools: “is one size of junior hacksaw enough?”   “For 99% of the human race, probably.”

McGraw and Ed move into their new place.  Ed has spent a fortune on a cappuccino maker which he says will save them a ton of money over the year.  When they come back from their evening out, Dean has returned and has immediately destroyed the coffee maker by stuffing bananas into it and saying the smoothie maker is broken.

It’s going to be that kind of year.

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