Archive for the ‘Oni Press’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: WEEZER-Tiny Desk Concert #837 (April 1, 2019).

Weezer is surprisingly polarizing for a band that writes fairly mundane pop songs.

I can’t help but think that this Tiny Desk Concert will just add fuel to the fire.  It’s the four Weezer dudes (Rivers Cuomo: lead vocals, guitar; Brian Bell: guitar, vocals, keys; Scott Shriner: bass guitar; Patrick Wilson: drums) on acoustic instruments.

Why polarizing this time?  Because they play unexpected songs.  They don’t play Africa, nor do they play any of their popular songs.  They also don’t play fan favorites from the first two albums (well, sort of).

They open with “Longtime Sunshine,” a 1994 track that’s only appeared as a Rivers Cuomo home recording on bootlegs and compilations, and on the deluxe edition of Pinkerton.  With piano and acoustic guitars, it really sounds nothing like Weezer, except that it is clearly Weezer (the lyrics, that voice).  Rivers plays the guitar solos and there’s some surprisingly loose bass work.

They sound good, but a little less than perfect, which is cool.  As the blurb notes

This is probably the loosest you’ll ever see Weezer. Known for meticulously produced — and electric — live shows, frontman Rivers Cuomo and the rest of the band settled in behind the Tiny Desk for an entirely acoustic set without the in-ear monitors, click track or vocal separation they usually employ to stay locked-in and tight for bigger performances. The result is surprisingly intimate, with songs that feel lived-in and rumpled, like an old flannel shirt from the ’90s.

They follow that up with a new song.

Then the band performed a stripped-down version of its electro-pop song “Living in L.A.,” from Weezer’s new self-titled “Black Album,”

I actually don’t know the proper version of this song (but I do know a lot of people don’t like the electro sound of the new album). So maybe this version (which is really good) will make them wish the recorded version were more like it.  Bell adds another acoustic guitar and the riffing is pretty heavy (for acoustic guitars).

For everything that polarizes people about Weezer, the one thing people seldom talk about is their musicianship.  All four of them (Bell in particular) are very good and even if they are loose hear, they still sound right on.

I was pretty excited to hear them play “Across the Sea” from Pinkerton, since the certainly don’t play this much.   I never really understood the lyrics all that well, but i enjoyed singing the parts that I knew.  The blurb puts it well:

It’s a song Cuomo originally wrote in his early 20s, inspired by a fan letter he’d received from a young woman in Japan. While beloved by many Gen-Xers who’d first heard it on 1996’s Pinkerton, the song’s lyrics haven’t aged terribly well.

But if you can look past that (I think it’s only the one line that’s uncomfortable-making), the version sounds great.  I especially like the combination of Rivers playing the solo and Bell playing the other guitar.

It’s nice that they were allowed to play four songs.  They play the new song “High as a Kite.”  I didn’t know this song either and I actually can’t imagine it done in any other way.  It’s quite a pretty song.  I’m very curious to hear the recorded version.

There’s a moment n the song where it shifts gears where it sounds like they screwed up, but I don’t think they do, it’s just a little clunky in this format.  Again, I want to hear what it sounds like on record.

Weezer is known for being kind of goofy, so it’s easy to expect them to do something fun, but they are all business.  Aside from this goodbye, “We are Weezer, from the planet Earth. Have a nice life!” they don’t really say anything or break from playing straightforward songs.

The blurb, again, puts it well. It says the song “High as a Kite,” is a

song of innocence and escapism, Cuomo sings about daydreaming and how he wants to disappear — which is exactly what the band did once the song was over.

Longtime fans of Robin Hilton will know that he loves Weezer.  I never found out how he reacted to this Tiny Desk.  Was it polarizing for him as well, or was it just cool to see this side of an otherwise very polished band.

[READ: April 9, 2019] The Return of King Doug 

I have had this book on my bookshelf for a decade, apparently.  I’m not even sure where or how I came to have it although the Oni Press label is a good indicator.

The book starts twenty-five years earlier in the Magical Kingdom of Valdonia.

Valdonia is made up of strange-looking creatures.  Part of this is also because of Wook-Jin Clark’s really odd drawing style.  It took me a while to get used to and enjoy the way he draws and even now I still find it a little off, somehow.

Two centaurs are speaking about the Dark Queen and how she will not rest until she has defeated their kingdom. Balthazar shows off their one defense, the Magical Heart of Agnon.  They just need someone pure of heart enough to wear it.  And Balthazar has heard that one of the Tumtums, Feldspar, has met a stranger–a human child–who might just be that pure being.

The human is Doug and he found his way into their village.  He also bears the mark of the prophecy. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NOW, NOW-Tiny Desk Concert #672 (November 15, 2017).

I really enjoyed the Now, Now album Threads.  It had a synthpop feel but with some cool slightly darker elements that kept the listener guessing.  The blurb describes it like this: “Its songs carried in them a weary recognition of how desire and nostalgia linger in the body and mind.”

I had no idea that it was released five years ago.

So I was pleased to see them on the Tiny Desk Concert.

But in the intervening years, their sound has become more poppy with (at least in this recording) many of the darker elements smoothed over somewhat.

Now, Now took the Tiny Desk stage with a minimal setup (dig the sampler as drum kit) that laid the vocals bare, but still lent the songs a room-filling pulse. Among those songs were “SGL” and “Yours,” the two singles that heralded the band’s return this summer (a full five years after Threads, with a pared-down lineup and no album yet announced, though the rumors say next year).

I hadn’t heard those singles.  But they are poppy and KC Dalager’s voice has become much more breathy.  Bradley Hale’s synths are very bouncy and sort of 1970s-sci-fi documentary sounding.

Jeffrey Sundquist and Daniel O’Brien join them, but I’m not sure who does what.  The guitar is quiet and echoed, adding textures to the songs.

Before the final song, they thanks NPR for their support and then KC says, “This [Tiny Desk] is the one thing we’re doing that my mom was really excited about.”  The final song, “Separate Rooms” is from Threads.  It retains some of the feelings of the original, but the synths still have the newer bounciness which is a little disconcerting.  The original also has a lot more guitar in it.  I almost don’t recognize the song.

It’s hard to know how different these songs would sound with a big drum sound (it’s funny to see the drummer standing there with his hand behind his back the whole time).  But I definitely don’t enjoy them as much as the original.

[READ: May 2, 2017] Junior Braves of the Apocalypse: Book 1

I saw this book at the library and I was intrigued by the title.  And, seeing it was from Oni Presss, I knew it would be a good read.   And, boy was it ever.

Without trying to reduce the story too much, call it a male version of Lumberjanes but with a whole end-of-the-world, zombie vibe thrown on top.

The book begins on Day 1 as we see a gruff and, frankly, angry-looking dude waiting for someone.  Turns out he is Padre Ron,the adult leader of the Junior Braves.  And over the next few panels we meet the braves.  There’s Travis (a bossy, jerky kid) and his (dorky)brother Marvin.  There’s Lucas, who is mad that they don’t say prayers. There’s Johnny who is Native American living with a foster family.  He is sullen and quiet.  And then there’s Raj (whose mom is overly cautious and thus, so is he) and Amir, a rough kid who knows Krav Maga.   And then there’s Dylan.  Their other adult leader is a recent graduate named Buddy.

Padre Ron is, as I said, kind of jerk, telling the parents that their boys will go out as children and come back an men and blah blah blah.  Exactly the thing that would make me hate the Scouts if we did that now.

Then Padre lets Buddy know they are not going to the promised camp.  The are going to a very secluded spot that proves to be very cool indeed.  Everyone has a pretty good time (except maybe Johnny) for 7 days.  But as they head back home, something… everything is wrong. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GUARDS-Tiny Desk Concert #290 (July 29, 2013).

Guards play a simple, almost naïve, kind of pop music.  I’d almost call it bubblegum.  Particularly in the lyrics: “I wanna build a happy home a home for you and me…I wanna live for ever I don’t care.”

The blurb explains:

Guards’ music captures the pop sound of the late ’50s and early ’60s, but with more power and polish. It’s hard not to hear a bit of Buddy Holly’s melody and spirit — think 1958’s “Rave On” — when you hear Guards play “Silver Lining,” the first song in this Tiny Desk Concert.

I also found this factoid interesting:

I also hear a contemporary band like Cults, a band inspired by ’60s dreaminess and power pop, when I hear Guards. When I first saw this group in concert, I was struck by its physical similarity to Cults: a whole lot of long black hair, for starters, with a man and woman at the front of each band. It all made sense when I learned that Richie Follin of Guards and Madeline Follin of Cults are brother and sister, and that Richie played guitar in Cults for a bit. In fact, the first set of songs he wrote and demoed were meant for Cults.

I found all three songs to be fairly similar. I really like the guitar line of the first song, “Silver Lining” which yes, is quite Buddy Holly-esque.  I also like that the woman (no names given, sadly) is playing some kind of electronic contraption that’s generating twinkles and other effects [I see that it’s called a Qchord].

“Not Supposed To” has a similarly simple poppy melody, although it’s a little slower (switching the lead instrument from guitar to keyboards also softens the sound).  I really like the backing vocals on this song–it really flashes it out.

Richie Follin also seems really nice and cheerful and his voice is quite clean.  Before the final song he says that John needs his coffee first, and then John starts playing the opening keyboard notes of  “Coming True.”  It’s a straightforward love song, simple and pretty.

Guards are pretty much a poppier, sweeter version of Cults.  It would be a fun double bill.

[READ: June 16, 2016] Lucky Penny

Sarah brought this book home and I was instantly drawn to the art style on the cover (and the fact that it was by Oni Press).

This is the funny story of a young adult named Penny who has the worst luck imaginable.

As the book opens she gets fired. This means that she has to move out of her apartment.  Even the soda machine won’t give her a soda.

She decides to move into her roommate’s storage unit (her roommate is moving and was going to sell the unit, but it’s much cheaper too live there than to pay rent).  Even if it is against the rules.  The only things she still has to her name are a grandfather clock (what a pain to move) and her grandmother’s steamy romance novel collection (I love that she arranged it according to hotness).

Her roommate’s parents own a laundromat and Penny asks if she can get a job there.  She shows up but the only person there is her roommate’s younger brother David. And he is a cold unwelcoming figure (and he’s only 11 1/2).   He says she can’t have a job because he doesn’t like her. With some cajoling, he changes his mind and gives her the job. (more…)

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witoy SOUNDTRACK: JUANES-Tiny Desk Concert #172 (November 3, 2011).

Juanes is a Colombian superstar (he’s really juanesquite hunky).  This performance consists of Juanes singing and playing electric guitar (mostly solos) and his accompanist playing acoustic guitar.

The blurb says that he usually plays arenas and large venues, so it’s a treat to see him up close like this.  He was in town to receive an award from the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.

His voice is great and powerful and while he is singing in Spanish, his phrasings don’t sound Spanish at all.  Perhaps its the blend of Colombian roots-folk and rock ‘n’ roll.

“Hoy Me Voy” begins with some acoustic guitar playing and Juanes singing.  It’s a bouncy and upbeat folk song.  And while I don’t understand the words, I feel like I can make sense of the song.

For “Yerbatero” he opens the song with a guitar riff while the other guy plays percussive chords.  The “yeaaaaaaaaaaaah” section is catchy in any language.  And the solo he plays is pretty fun.  There’s also a fairly wild guitar solo near the end of the song.

“La Camisa Negra” was requested by someone in the audience–it was one of his bigger hits.  Juanes plays a cool intro riff (and some complex chords) before launching into the song proper.  I love the middle section with the warm guitars and catchy vocals that counter the staccato verses.

[READ: September 24, 2015] Wars in Toyland

There have been many books about toys coming to life, but I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like this before.

And the artwork is so good that it made the whole story even more compelling.

This book is geared towards YA readers and I can see why… although there’s no bad words (one “bastard”), the subject is very dark.  As it opens we see that young Matthew’s brother Adam is missing.  There’s even Missing posters on the fridge (it’s pretty dark).  Matthew and Adam used to play war with their toys all the time (I love the way the toy soldiers are drawn).

But now that Adam is missing Matthew doesn’t feel like playing war anymore.  And that’s when the toys drag Adam into the toy box and into Toyland, where things are very bad indeed. (more…)

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mermin2SOUNDTRACK: BOOKER T. JONES-Tiny Desk Concert #125 (May 2, 2011).

Booker T. Jones is the Booker T from Booker T. & the M.G.’s whose classic “Green Onions” is one of my favorite instrumentals ever (and probably why I enjoy the Hammond sound so much).

And he plays it here.  He says he wrote it when he was 17 years old (in 1962)–a senior in high school.  And he still enjoys playing it.

They did some furniture moving to get the desk-sized Hammond B3 organ and its sturdy wooden Leslie speaker cabinet to where Bob’s desk normally goes, and it is worth it.  Booker T. even gives a brief lesson about “crawling” on the organ and what drew him to it in the first place when he was ten years old.

After playing “Green Onions,” he switches sounds on the organ to play a wonderfully menacing version of “Born Under a Bad Sign” (a song he also wrote).  It’s so very different on the organ–and I much prefer this version to the familiar one.

The final song is called “Down in Memphis.”  It was a new song in 2011 but it is the song I like the least.  There’s nothing bad about it–it’s just kind of plain and simple.  It’s more of him singing (about Memphis, which doesn’t mean much to me) and less of his organ playing.  But that’s okay.  His voice is still amazing.

I’m all about that Hammond.

[READ: January 21, 2016] Mermin: Book Three

After waiting nearly three years between books one and two, I waited one day between books two and three.  I actually assumed that this series was a trilogy, but I have learned that there is a part four already out.

Book three opens up in the Kingdom of Mer.  Mermin is a little boy (uh, fish, uh, whatever) and he is having a really hard time learning to control the sea.  He should be able to use his thoughts to make the water move.  But he stomps out in frustration.

Then we jump back to the present where our gang (Pete, Toby and his sister Claire and Penny) along with Mermin and Benni are being driven in a ship to Mer.  And Mak is driving the ship (I don’t think I knew that my favorite walking whale had a name).

Their back home “plan” for heading to the sea involved having Randy tell everyone that they were away camping.  Of course, Randy is a bad kid and can’t be trusted, so it should come as no surprise to see that he stowed away on the ship (we never actually find out what happened back home). (more…)

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  mermin 3SOUNDTRACK: THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS-Tiny Desk Concert #145 (July 28, 2011).

tmbgI have loved They Might Be Giants for decades.  But I have kind of fallen off the TMBAndwagon over the last few years.

I must have watched this Tiny Desk when it came out, but i didn’t really remember it at all.

John and John (and Marty Beller on drums) play 2 songs from their then new album Join Us (the last one I bought I think).

The first is “Can’t Keep Johnny Down” sung by Flansburgh who also plays keyboards.  It sounds very much like classic TMBG (that voice, of course).

“Cloisonné” is a slower song sung by Linnel while Flans plays a very long saxophone (seriously, it’s very long).  This also sounds very TMBG–Johns voice and the sax are right on).  I don’t know why I didn’t listen to this album more.

They wrap up the set with the brilliant 21 part “Fingertips” from Apollo 18.  And it sounds perfect–just like the record, only live and a little more fun.

[READ: January 19, 2016] Mermin: Book Two

I enjoyed Mermin Book One quite a lot.  And of course, I couldn’t wait for Book Two.  And then I forgot about it.  I need some kind of reminder system, I guess.

Anyhow, this book picks up right where the previous one left off.

Mermin (not to be confused with Moomin) has completed his adventure and is trying to settle in with Pete and his friends–you know go to school and be normal even he is a green fish type creature.  And Benni (the round goldfish like creature) is still around to watch over Mermin (even if he is not appreciated).

And now suddenly Penny is trying to hang out with the boys.  Pete and his friends are reluctant for her to join them because she usually hangs out with other people and besides, they are trying to keep Mermin a secret.  They are not doing a good job of it though. (more…)

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chigerSOUNDTRACK: KACEY MUSGRAVES-Tiny Desk Concert #463 (August 20, 2015).

kaceyKacey Musgraves is probably the most country country singer that I really like.   She makes a lot of music that is really really country–the kind I typically dislike, and yet her lyrics are just so good that I can look past the country sound that I dislike so much (and even start to enjoy it).

I love that she plays with all of the country cliches—her backing band is decked out in matching sequined suits, there’s whoops, there’s a ton of slide guitar.  And yet her lyrics question convention (and have wonderful word play).

She plays five songs (so many more than most people!)

She’s super fun and chatty, making lots of jokes and introducing her band.  She also says she’s not going to leave, which is okay with the crowd.

“High Time” is a fairly conventional country song.  It’s not as funny as some of the others and it has a real slide guitar thing going on.

“Family Is Family” is the first song I’d heard by her and I loved the words then and I still love them.  They are funny without being novelty.

“Late To The Party” is a more traditional song.  It’s a sweet ballad.

“Pageant Material” is another funny song, mocking the conventions of pageantry and poise and beauty.

Bob asks for a suit (they light up!) and she says okay but we’ve never actually seen him in one….  We also learn that the bassist plays the spoons and the spoons that he uses are ones that he whittled himself.

On the day that Musgraves played, the Supreme Court had legalized gay marriage across America mere hours earlier.  She played “Follow Your Arrow,” the most anthemic go-your-own-way jam on Musgraves’ 2013 debut album She says that her sister had called her earlier that day just ugly crying out of happiness.  Everyone gets into the song in the office.  It was a feel good moment of the year.

[READ: June 21, 2015] Chiggers

I’ve enjoyed Larson’s work in the past, and I was happy to read this book too.

It’s set at summer camp and while it deals with jealousy and other teenage problems, there is a supernatural element well, which is pretty cool.

Abby is excited to go back to summer camp.  She can’t wait to see her camp friend Rose and some of her other bunkmates from last year.

But this year Rose is a Cabin Assistant.  And while she is the CA for Abby’s cabin, it is also means that Rose is really busy with real things (and had less time for chatting).  Some of the other girls seem to have grown up too.  One has a boyfriend and she is getting her ears pierced (like the woman in the band Spite Storm).  She and her boyfriend are even going to start their own band Glittergloom.

Suddenly Abby doesn’t feel as cool as she did last year.  And she has trouble falling asleep at night.

Then it turns out that one of the girls in her dorm has to go home–and the rumor is that she got chiggers! (more…)

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