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Archive for the ‘Easter’ Category

1997SOUNDTRACK:LOS HACHEROS-Tiny Desk Concert #545 (July 5, 2016).

hacherosLos Hacheros play “Afro-Caribbean music that provides the source material for modern salsa and all of its permutations.”

This music swings and bounces and with such simple instrumentation: an upright bass and a guitar.  With the main melodies constructed by the trombone and vocal (the trombonist doubles on violin).  But the rest of the band is there for percussion–cowbells, shakers and the conga.

The band plays three songs all sung in Spanish.  It’s fun to watch them get into the groove and begin to sway in unison to the music.

“Baila Con Los Hacheros” features a violin solo that is pretty intense “Papote’s Guajira” features an acoustic guitar solo that is complex and fun to watch. It also has a lengthy flute solo (the violinist also plays the flute!). “Bambulaye” features NPR’s own Felix Contreras on congas–he gets a solo–apparently he has been playing in bands for years.  What a nice surprise.

[READ: November 3, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1997-1998

This is the second to last book of collected strips from Schulz.  Rerun features quite prominently and Linus has faded somewhat.  Snoopy is no longer playing characters (except for the soldier..always soldiers) and Charlie is still pining for things he won’t get.

1997 opens with Charlie showing Linus his autographed Joe Shlabotnik baseball.  But Linus thinks it’s a forgery.  Cue a week of strips about an autograph forger (who tries to hire Charlie as his accomplice).  I love that Schulz went on strange little tangents like this, but I always feel like he doesn’t follow through with these funny ideas. The whole premise of this just ends never to be heard from again.

And then in a surprise to me, Snoopy starts acting like a Revolutionary War patriot standing guard at Valley Forge.  He seems to have given up on WWI and gone back in time to a far less dramatic role–he mostly just stands around in the cold.  Strips about that occur from time to tome with him talking to General Washington.  The last one is in December 1998 where he realizes he is only guarding snow. (more…)

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1989 SOUNDTRACK: THE SUFFERS-Tiny Desk Concert #482 (October 27, 2015).

suffersThe Suffers are a ten piece soul band fronted by the charismatic Kam Franklin.  I loved how at the start of this show each band member counted down 1-10 while Kam stood on the desk to sing.

“Giver” is a slow R&B type song with lots of lengthy horn solos.

“Midtown” has a funky sound with a cool bass line.  I though that song started to get interesting towards the end but then they stopped it.

“Gwan” is my favorite of the three because it is more uptempo and fun and allows the band (including Kam) to really rock out.

Everything about The Suffers is right on–the horns sound great, the band is tight, Kam’s voice is string and powerful.  But I just don;’t like this kind of music at all.  And I don’t really need to hear The Suffers again (although that last song is pretty good.

[READ: September 10, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1989-1990

I had said that the previous book felt a little lightweight compared to previous years.  This book actually continued in that somewhat unsatisfying vein.  For point of reference, when I jot down strips that I really like, I usually fill two or three small pages of paper.  This book had only one page and a little over flow.

But, it also had one of the most exiting and emotionally satisfying sequences as 1990 drew to a close.

Schulz has also been having fun with the new fewer-panel style. It’s mostly three panels but he experiments with 2 panels and even one panel.  He seems to enjoy playing with the space afforded with one panel–its interesting to see.

The year starts off with an ugly dog contest and the introduction of yet another of Snoopy’s brothers, this one named Olaf.  Olaf is very ugly and wears a sack. When he takes it off he reveals himself to be a squat round version of snoopy with buck teeth or a tongue hanging out of his mouth.  In June of 1989 we actually see Snoopy’s Dad on Father’s Day. He looks like snoopy but with a big mustache (white), small glasses, and a cap.

Starting in the previous book and continuing through now, we often see Sally responding to things on the TV.  Most of them are pretty funny.  Later, Sally says that her school play is going to be Hansel and Grateful.

Marcie still has mixed feeling for Charles and tells Patty to throw a bean ball at him, but then takes it back.  In the summer of 1989 Patty goes to summer school and Marcie teases her that she (Marcie) and Charles area at camp togetehr.  Patty gets very jealous.

In July 1981 in a one panel; the kids are on line to buy tickets to the movie sand one of them says “Those two guys on TV hated it.”

Snoopy has another good food comment this year: “Do you want a cookie with nuts or a cookie with raisins?” “Neither, I prefer plain cookies.  I don’t like food in my food.”  But speaking of cookies, there are about 100 strips where the punchline is something about Snoopy eating cookies.  It gets a little out of hand.  There were always the jokes about the chocolate chip cookies calling him but soon all of the punchlines start to do with cookies.

Franklin is still talking about his grandpa with Charlie Brown.   And Pig-Pen returns for a little while.

In July of 1989 an “old friend” calls Charlie Brown.  She insists on coming over and says she hasn’t seem hm for a long time.  She seems to have red hair (but is not the red-haired girl) an upon seeing them, runs up to Snoopy, calls him Charlie Brown and takes him away.  She looks at Charlie and asks “who are you.”  She feeds Snoopy sundaes until he is nearly sick.

Over the summer Patty and Marcie are supposed to read four books, but Marcie reads an extra one: The Little Prince.  Patty says it’s so short what’s he big deal?  Marcie read it in French.

In August 1989 in the kids are lined up for autographs   $30 for Joe DiMaggio, $25 for Ted Williams.  Steve Garvey is $9 and Maury Wills is $5.  Charlie gets Joe Shlabotnick’s and the guys gives Charlie a dollar.  Joe Garagiola continues to pop up in the strip.  Charlie tells Schroeder he can have a career as a catcher and then after you retire you can go on TV like Joe Garagiola and Lucy says Who?

1989’s football gag has Lucy telling Charlie to think of the regrets he’ll have if he never risks anything.

Starting in 1989 and continuing for a few years it seems, Charlie has become very close to Snoopy–a relationship that was never really there before.  There’s a lot of pictures of Snoopy on Charlie’s lap (very cutely drawn, I must say.  It more or less starts in October with Charlie saying “All I seem to want to do lately is sit around holding my dog on my lap.”  This leads to Charlie quitting school and devoting his entire life to making Snoopy happy.  They eat a lot of food until Snoopy gets sick and he concludes ” I think I happied him to the vet.”  Charlie concludes that he was sorry making him happy didn’t work out and Snoopy replied “I was already happy.”

There’s also a  resurgence of the blanket battle between Linus and Snoopy which I always liked.

POP CULTURE: Lucy is listening to the radio and says she missed the ball because Michael Jackson hit a high note.  Later in the month Linus thinks to videotape the Great Pumpkin (although we never see him do it).  In August 1990, Snoopy calls himself “Joe Bungee” and in November, Snoopy is riding Rollerblades and then later Sally asks for them from Snoopy Claus.

In January 1989 Patty is watching her hero Donna Adamek bowl.

I really enjoy the wordless joke of the street sign pointing up and then a curve down.  One of the Woodstock birds stands on top of the sign, the other two where the arrow points.  Snoopy s says, “You’re right we should have had a picture of that.”

A lot of the Mother’s Day panels for the last few years have been about Woodstock trying to give a card to him mom, but in 1990 Charlie lets his mom pitch for Mother’s Day which is very sweet

For summer camp Sally refuses to go.  When Charlie describes on the phone that there will be canoeing, swimming, rock climbing, tennis hiking, soccer he turns to Sally  to sally and their Granma just signed up.

As I mentioned earlier, this book wasn’t that exciting for me.  I never really got into any of the story lines. Until summer camp of 1990 when things suddenly became awesome.  Charlie takes Snoopy to camp, which is kind of fun.  But then unexpectedly, on July 23, Charlie talks to a cute girl.  He says he always gets nervous around pretty girls.  But she says he shouldn’t be: pretty girls are human too.   Her name is Peggy Jean and he is so in love that he calls himself Brownie Charles, which she thinks is adorable.  She really likes him!  She even holds the ball for him to kick.  But he is so conditioned that he doubts her sincerity which just gets her mad.

But before camp is over, she tells him he’s the nicest boy she’s ever met and then she kisses him!  And a few weeks later when Charlie can’t figure out why she hasn’t written, it’s because Sally has been throwing out all the letters that came to Brownie Charles–if only he’d been waiting at the mailbox!

I also enjoyed the joke in August of 1990 where snoopy sells a raffle ticket and it say s “You don’t win anything but you’ll have the pleasure of owning your very own raffle tickets…  be the first on your block to start a collection.”

In Sept 1990 Pig Pen decides to run for class president.  Someone shouts that he has no dignity so he puts on a stove pipe hat.  Nobody votes for him anyhow.

And then in October, we get some real insight into Marcie.  She comes over to say that her parents are driving her crazy.  They want her to be perfect and get straight A’s.  Shes cracking up.  It’s a pretty intense moment for Peanuts.  And Charlie is in way over his head.  Marcie falls asleep at Charlie’s house.  When she wakes up she says “I don’t want to go home… can I stay here? If I go home I have to be perfect….  Sally shouts from the other room, “If she doesn’t want to be perfect she’s come to the right place!”  The sequence ends sadly open-ended with Marcie saying she’s going home so she can get straight A’s “just so I can go to some college they’ve already picked out for me.”  And Sally says “and end up marrying some nerd.”

In Dec 1990 Charlie goes to buy Peggy Jean some nice gloves. But they cost $25.  He sells all of his stuff to buy them for her only to find out that her parents just bought her gloves.    Sadly he gave them to Snoopy instead.

The book ends with one of the saddest Christmas strips ever.  It’s just Spike sitting alone with mistletoe stuck to a cactus and him saying “Rats.”

Apropos of this, the intro was written by Lemony Snicket.  Rather than raving about the strip, Snicket revels in how dark it is  He quotes all of the darkest lines in the book and says how odd it is that these sentences are found in the section marked Comics.

And then Snicket summarizes the strip:

The hero of this melodrama is a balding grammar school student paralyzed by fear and self-loathing.  Sadly, the psychiatrist he chooses is also a child, who not only offers him nothing but cruelty and scorn…One would be tempted to label her as the villain of this ongoing tale of terror, if she didn’t share the same unhappy hopelessness as her helpless patient.

Then there’s her young brother who shuffles around town clutching ragged bedclothes and trying to dissolve one of his own fingers in his mouth.  It’s no wonder the psychiatrist has fallen into a cycle of romantic obsession and violent argument with a temperamental musician.

Our hero, in the meantime, is not far from obsessive complication: two women compete for his attention, all the while maintaining a tense “friendship: with one another despite the fact that one of them, out of stupidity or malice, mistakes the gender of the other.

Even the neighborhood dog, who by all rights should remain clueless of the goings-on, is ravaged by the local madness.  When not talking to a bird who utters nothing but apostrophes, he fantasizes that he is fighting in one of the world’s mist horrific conflicts.

I am fascinated by the endless ghastly tale of these poor youngsters.

Make no mistake, Lemony Snicket is a huge fan.

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1985SOUNDTRACK: JOAN SHELLEY-Tiny Desk Concert #473 (September 25, 2015).

joan When I first started listening to this Tiny Desk Concert, I thought Shelley was going to be singing more of a country music style.  But more careful listening revealed an early British Folk songwriting style.  Because I’d heard Richard Thompson talking about Sandy Denny recently, I  thought of her.  So I was pleased to see that the blurb (and Shelley herself) references Sandy Denny as well.

The Concert is Joan on acoustic guitar and Nathan Salsburg (she describes him: “my band, we are Joan Shelley”) on the second guitar.  They play beautifully together.

The songs, like “Easy Now,” are really pretty with a delicate finger-picking style from Shelley and fairly complex finger-picking soloing/accents from Salsburg.  But the best thing is her voice.  Clear and powerful–no warbling or hesitation, just clear beautiful singing.

I didn’t think I knew Joan Shelley, but “Stay on These Shores” sounds incredibly familiar to me.  She says that she is from Louisville Kentucky so it doesn’t make sense to her that she would write songs about the ocean.  She attributes it to the Sandy Denny lineage.  The way she sings the first line of this song is just hauntingly beautiful.  I really love this song a lot.

In “Not Over By Half” it is almost uncanny how much she sounds like a 1960s British folksinger.  Her delivery and phrasings are just amazing.  This is another beautiful song, all three of which came from her album Over and Even.

Shelley is an amazing force in folk music.

[READ: August 31, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1985-1986

Schulz had been writing Peanuts for about 35 years when these strips came out.  Wow. It’s interesting to see how many themes have stuck around and how many have gone away or come back and been updated. I also love seeing the few pop culture references that he deigns to throw into his strips–things that he assumed would be eternal, I guess, or maybe things so ubiquitous he had to mention them?

Snoopy’s brother Spike is on the cover of this book.  I am somewhat surprised at how much attention he gets (especially since I don’t remember him at all).  The problem is that almost all of his jokes are about cactus.  I feel like Schulz was going for a loneliness angle, but it all seems to involved cactus “arms” or thorns.

The year starts off great for Patty because she won an essay contest on what she did during her Christmas vacation (she got a D- on the paper in school, however).  She even gets to read it out loud (where things don’t go so well).  Of course, she continues to get D miuses and in July 1986 she even get a tutor. He is quite snarky with her and she calls him Joe Sarcasm.  (There have been dozens of Joe ____ characters, although almost all of them have been aliases of Snoopy, this is one of the few for someone else).  Then she calls him Captain Tutor.  He shouts that his name is Maynard.  So Patty calls up Marcie to say she should meet him–he’s just her type…weird.  It turns out that Maynard is Marcie’s cousin (ha). Eventually Patty just throws him out.

For Valentine’s Day in 1985, Charlie has Snoopy pretend to be the little red-haired girl and Snoopy puts on a curly wig–is that the first insight into the girl’s appearance?  That week people are all hit by lost love.  It seems like an unusual and very specific emotion for Schulz to deal with–something he never really talked about before.  He’s certainly talked about lost loves, but never so directly.

Marcie continues to be one of my favorite characters.  Especially the way she picks on Patty.  Patty is still falling asleep in school all the time.  In Feb 1985, Marcie puts a binder on the back of her head, walks her up in front of the class and then shows off a “full-scale model of the human head” to the class.  Genius.  Patty doesn’t even wake up.

Linus decides that building a rock wall is good therapy.  It is suggested that he can do this instead of needing his blanket.  But let’s not go crazy.  Later, Linus tries to do his own laundry and Lucy catches him trying to stuff his shirt into the laundry detergent bottom

Every once in a while there’s a really wordy strip that I find very funny.  In March of 1985, Charlie is telling Sally a story from his grandpa about WII: “all the enlisted men were issued two pairs of shoes, but a lot of them men wore only one pairs so they could keep the other pair shined and looking nice under their bunks.  Battalion headquarters decided that the men should alternate shoes each day and to make to sure they did, the men had to lace their shoes on a certain way.  One day they had to wear the shoes which had the laces crossed and the next day they to wear the shoes which had the laces going straight across.”  Sally sensibly asks,. “How did they ever win the war?”

Sally is always asking her big brother for homework help, which he tends to refuse.  In March she says if he helps, he’ll get her everlasting gratitude.  When he doubts she knows what that mean she says “’til I ask you again.”

Sally has also been doing a lot of handwriting practice over the last few years.  Mostly it’s different pieces of punctuation (with funny comments about them).  In May 1985 she works on commas and possessives and quotation marks.  After telling Charlie all about it she says “stay tuned for the inside story of what goes on in the glamorous world of punctuation.”

And in some wonderful Sally mistakes that make me laugh: “behind the barn the farmer had a pastor” or “the walls were covered with naughty pine.”  For this one, she looks at Charlie and says “You looked like you were going to say something” and he wisely says, “not for anything in the world.”

In the realm of deliberate puns, Snoopy tells Woodstock to get a  job in a tree “you could be a branch manager.”  Sigh.

Pop culture: in May 1985 it is revealed that Woodstock has a satellite dish.  In August 1985 Patty reveals that she and Marcie are “mallies” :  They go to the mall to hang out.  But Patty is distraught that Marcie actually buys something there.  They even meet “a punker” which is snoopy with a kind of mohawk.  In October 1985, Sally does a presentation on Halley’s Comet saying that the next time it comes by will be in 2062–we’ll all be 80 years old when that happens.  [It passed by us in Feb 1986].  In May of 1986, Lucy starts a “swimsuit issue” campaign for the school paper.  She gets all the boys to wear swimsuits.  And in June 1986 Charlie’s desk comes equipped with an airbag.

In August of 1986, Linus asks Snoopy (the attorney) is he thinks cameras should be allowed in the courtroom.

August 1986 has Sally saying “I’ve decided to embark on a program of serious discipline. I’m going to eat properly, sleep properly and exercise properly.”  Charlie asks, “Then what?”  She replies, “You’re right, forget it.”

April 1985 sees an Easter Beagle strip (not as many of these as you might think).

There’s always baseball, and in April 1985 Charles mentions the new commissioner of baseball Peter Uberrroth (he took over in 1984).

There’s a lot fewer hockey references these days although Rerun is riding on his mother’s bike with a helmet and says people confuse him with Wayne Gretzky.  A few months later in March 1986 he has a Baby on Bike sticker on his helmet (That was a huge fad in 1985).

There’s not that much about football this year, although Sally wants to know why the guy is always holding up John 3:16 and then says she assumed it had something to do with John Madden.

There’s some tennis but not as much.  In March 1986 Molly Volley returns for a brief run with Snoopy.

Schulz must have been displeased about technological advances: Charlie tells Sally “if we watch TV all the time, we won’t have to learn to read.  if we use word processors and calculators we wont have to learn to write or do math.  Pretty soon we wont have to know anything.”  Sally replies “That’s when I’ll fit in.”

On the environmental front, in November Sally does a paper that she ends with “This report was written on recycled paper… no trees were destroyed to make this report.”

Summer camp in June of 1985 is all rain all the time. The only thing worse than all the rain is the prospect of a sing-along.  Ha  In 1986, the kids go to a survival camp which is pretty funny: “there are people out there who want to destroy our way of life.”

In August of 1985 Charlie and Sally are told that they are going to start taking the bus to school.  I love the way the joke plays out that they decide to walk instead, but the computer says they are on the bus, so they get in trouble.

Last book, Patty an Marcie went to a lot of Tiny Tots concert (Patty hates being called that). They always see Peter and the Wolf.  I wish that my kids went to Tiny Tots concerts.  But anyhow, in June 1985, Patty saves her ticket stub in hopes they will have raffle at the end–maybe she’ll win a violin.  Later in August 1986, Patty shows off her musical knowledge by asking why it is called Mostly Mozart, why not “Regularly Rachmaninoff, Principally Prokofiev, Frequently Franck, Largely Lehar, Chiefly Tchaikovsky [my favorite joke],  Mainly Mussorgsky, Essentially Elgar, Supremely Schubert or Generally Gershwin”.

Every once in a while Charlie gets a small victory.  Like when Linus tells him that he knows Charlie would like to cry but that he’s too macho.   Charlie gets excited “I am?!”

There’s few jokes of Woodstock getting attacked by a can of worms.  And even though i like Woodstock as a character a lot, for some reason, it’s always funny seeing him getting beaten up.

The World War I flying Ace continues to appear.  In a new twist he often speaks to Marcie in French.  Although in 1985, instead of the ace, he pretends to be Charles Lindbergh, the “Lone Beagle.”

Lucy continues to be a voice for women’s rights.  When Snoopy is flying over No Mans Land she asks what about No Woman’s Land.  So he changes it to “No Person’s Land.”

In February of 1986 Sally believes that the LL on the elevator button in the library stands for Louis L’Amour “that’s pretty neat having your initials on an elevator button.”

Schulz also taught me something new.  A ganglion cyst is also called a bible bump.  It is a cyst that forms on your wrists and they say you should hit it with a bible.  I’d never heard of this, but apparently it is a thing and quite common.  Of course Schulz uses it as an excuse to make a joke about the different translations of the Bible.

In another funny sequence, Snoopy and his scouts get a cannon.  And they fire it!  But it destroys not only his dog house but also Lucy’s doctor booth and even Schroeder’s piano (over the course of several strips).

In May of 1986 they elect a May Queen.  In Charlie’s school, Lucy is elected (which makes Patty say that the school has low standards).  In Patty’s school… Patty is elected!

Sally gets a great joke in.  A speed limit sign says 25 When Children are Present.  She says, “I never realized we had so much influence.”

And the best one liner of all: Sally has to go to the dentist “I have to go have my teeth criticized.”

Two new characters arrive in 1986.  One is a girl who is unnamed.  The joke with her is that Linus is two months older than her but she keeps referring to him as if he is an old man.

And in September 1986 we meet Tapioca Pudding.  Her dad is in licensing and she always talks about how her face is going to be everywhere.  Every time she talks to someone she introduces herself by her full name and everyone says “I know.”  Linus asks her out on a date (which makes Sally really jealous), but all she can talk about it herself and her licensing.  She asks Linus if she is boring him “No I always like to rest my face in a marshmallow sundae.”  Finally Snoopy the agent gets her a gig appearing at the Opening Ceremonies in the Olympic Game in L.A. (which were two years earlier).

In October 1986, Sally develops a new philosophy “Who Cares.”  From now on nothing bothers me.

When Patty wants to organize a football team, Marcie says the costumes aren’t feminine enough.  Then she wraps the football in a bow.  Patty gets mad and says she won’t kick a ball that’s wrapped in a bow, but Marcie says “The Icebox would”  Patty: “Refrigerator” Marcie: “Whatever.”

Lucy didn’t pull the ball away in 1985 (there was no mention of it).  But she does in 1986 with the excuse that it is a special moment to look forward to every year.  Then she pulls it away and sighs “it’s over before you know it.”  There’ also a Great Pumpkin joke in 1986.  Patty says she believes him about the Great Pumpkin.  And then jokes that “On Secretary’s Day the Great Secretary rises from her desk and rides through the city in a taxicab with notepads for all the secretaries everywhere.  And on Grandparents Day the Great Grandmother rises out of her condominium with cookies for all the grandchildren in the world.”

As 1986 draws to a close, Charlie gets up the nerve to wink at the red-haired girl. There is no reaction because she wasn’t in school that day.

And the musical jokes continue in December 19896 with Patty saying the enjoyed the concert because Marcie spent the whole time “Flauting with the flirtist.”

Patton Oswalt wrote the introduction.

He mentions how he bought the third Calvin and Hobbes treasury in 1988 and Schulz wrote the introduction to that.  Schulz’ introduction was full of praise for Watterson’s technical skill and all the wonderful details he put s into his strips.

Oswalt talks about how over the 35 years the strip went from kids writing with desktop inkwells and now he’s talking about answering machines.   Oswalt is dismayed that Schulz had to include an attorney as an imaginary Snoopy character–a sad reflection on our world

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1979SOUNDTRACK: HAPPYNESS-Tiny Desk Concert #468 (September 4, 2015).

happynessHappyness are a trio from London: Benji Compston (guitar), Jonny Allan (bass) and Ash Cooper Drums).  They play mellow Britpop with rather clever lyrics.

The first song “Montreal Rock Band Somewhere” opens with a steady bass line and smatterings of guitar chords.  And when the guys  sing, Benji sings into a normal mic in a kind of deep whisper and the Jonny sings into a processed mic to make his voice sound kind of tinny (in harmony).  And the lyrics are great.  I like when the second chorus comes in and the processed vocals go up an octave for a really cool harmony effect.  And I mentioned the lyrics.  Here’s an interesting verse:

I’m wearing Win Butler’s hair / There’s a scalpless singer of a Montreal rock band somewhere / And he’s all right

Before the second song starts, they have a bit of fun while Benji tunes his guitar.  Everyone is standing around awkwardly and Benji tells Jonny to tell his whale joke.  Jonny says no and that it’s not his whale joke he took it off the internet and would like to put it back.

For the second song, “It’s On You” the guys switch places (it  was suave, kind of Bob Fosse-ish).  Benji sings into the processed microphone. The song also has some busy basslines but the guitar is more pronounced.  Hearing him sing in that processed tinny voice is really interesting.  More interesting lyrics: “You said I’m an anarchist, communist, feminist phlebotomist.”

Before the final song, they switch places again.  Benji says he’s “not the most flexible boy in this collection of people.”  “Who is?”  “Definitely [the bassist].”  Bob asks, “Who tells the best jokes?”  “Unintentionally [the drummer]  Jonny says to the drummer: “You could do the whale joke… don’t do the whale joke.”

The final song, “Weird Little Birthday Girl” is nearly 8 minutes long.  It opens with a cool bass riff and some lovely overlapping guitars.  There’s a nearly three-minute instrumental opening and when Jonny starts singing it has a distinctly Wilco quality (partly because oft he processing on his voice but also his delicate singing).  There’s a nice shout out to Prefab Sprout in the lyrics:

Its so easy to replace it / some things hurt more much more than cars and girls / an evening in an iron maiden / a morning in your funny little world.

I really enjoyed this set a lot and I’m intrigued that their album (on bandcamp) has some really short songs too.   I wonder if their sound is different on the record.  Guess I’ll have to give it a listen.

[READ: July 12, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1979-1980

I foolishly thought that this book would play up the idea of moving into a new decade. But as I should have learned from years past, Schulz doesn’t really care about when it is.  His strip is mostly timeless.  There are of course references to time passing, but they are very minor.  So, on New Years when it  turns 1980, the strip heading says 1980, but there’s no other mention of it.

It’s also interesting how some things that he’s talked about in the past cycle again–many many years later.  In January 1979 Peppermint Patty is on a quest for a library card (we saw Sally get one like 5 years ago).  She says that once she gets one she wont leave home without it.  Marcie says Karl Malden will be happy to hear it. This is a reference to a an American Express card commercial that I remember hearing all the time when I was a kid (although I had o idea it was Malden doing it).  She also get a very funny line about junk food: “Life is more than carrot sticks, Marcie…what is a stomach that’s expecting a chocolate bar going to say when it gets a carrot stick?”

The World War I Flying Ace never really went away, but it seems to be making a resurgence in this year, with Snoopy wandering around speaking French and then later German to all the young ladies. (more…)

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1978SOUNDTRACK: LAND LINES-Tiny Desk Concert #494 (December 11, 2015).

landLand Lines are a trio from Denver.  They have a drummer, a synth player and a cellist/lead singer.  Although their music is pretty spare and simple, I find them really compelling.

On “Wreckage,” Martina Grbac plays the cello with her fingers, strumming chords on the neck of the instruments in a way I’ve not seen anyone play before.   Grbac sings quietly and her voice–echoing and effects-laden–reminds me of someone from the 1990s, although I can’t exactly pinpoint it (maybe a Cocteau Twins vibe?  but not quite). James Han plays really interesting chords and textures on the keyboard.  Sometimes he adds melody lines, and other times, like at the end of this song, growing washes of sounds.  Ross Harada’s percussion is also fun for the complex and different sounds he adds to the songs.

“Anniversary” has a similar vibe withe that cello chord playing.  The opening keys play simple echoing notes which add a nice atmosphere to the acoustic chords and percussion.

For the final song, “Fall or Fall,” Grbac plays a rapidly bowed cello (which has such a different sound than the other songs).  The bass is provided by the synth (a good sounding bass).   I love the way her voice contrasts the keyboard chords.  The chord progressions throughout the song are interesting and I really like the unexpected sounds that close out the song.

I’d never heard of Land Lines, but I liked this show enough to listen to it a bunch of times.  I’ll have to check out their other songs as well.

[READ: July 9, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1977-1978

I feel like this era is when I would have read Peanuts the most, although I have no recollection of any of these strips.

The covers of the books don’t necessarily depict who will be prominent in the collection, but Peppermint Patty on the front does equal a lot of Patty inside.  While Peppermint Patty continues to do very poorly in school, she does get some witty remarks like “What was the author’s purpose in writing this story?  Maybe he needed the money.”

We see a return of Truffles in January which also introduces Sally calling Linus her Sweet Babboo for the first time.  “I’m not your Sweet Babboo!”  Truffles is very excited to see Linus and vice versa but it kind of ends with unanswered questions because, in one of the first times this surreal gag was introduced, Snoopy flies in as a helicopter–a joke used many more times in the future–to sort of interrupt the whole saga.

Snoopy also pretends to be the Cheshire Cat a few times.

It has been a while since Linus has built anything outstanding (something he used to do a lot as a precocious child).  Well, in Feb 1977 he builds a snowman of Washington crossing the Delaware (to show up Lucy’s George Washington snowman with a little sword). (more…)

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1975SOUNDTRACK: ESKIMEAUX-Tiny Desk Concert #466 (August 28, 2015).

esquimeauxEskimeaux is Gabrielle Smith, who is the keyboardist in Bellows, a band that played a Tiny Desk Concert just a few months before this one.  As far as her stage name,

as an adopted child, Smith discovered that her biological father is Tlingit Eskimo; she describes the -eaux suffix as “just a playful jumble of letters that represents the way I record — a confusing layering of sounds that somehow coalesce into something simple.”.

Smith sings three songs in less than ten minutes.  She has a pretty, unaffected voice–just clean and clear vocals.  For the first two songs it’s just her and her guitar

“Folly” is a simple song as you might expect from just a strummed electric guitar.  But there’s something about the way she sings her lines in a series of rising notes that is really inviting.  She also has a nice way with words.  Like:

In my dreams you’re a bathtub running / You are warm and tender / And bubbling

“A Hug Too Long” is a faster song with a simple but interesting guitar riff that’s followed by a simple but interesting vocal melody.  Again, her clear voice fits perfectly with the music.  It features the intriguing chorus: “You went to work, I went to New Brunswick.”

Her final song is “I Admit I’m Scared.”  She has her bandmates from Bellows come out to sing with her.   There’s no extra instrumentation, but Smith sings in a slightly deeper register and Bellows fleshes out sections of the song (they even do a kind of deadpan synchronized move after each chorus).   Another great line of hers is: “And everything I said spewed like sparklers from my mouth.  They looked pretty as they flew but now they’re useless and burnt out.”  As the song ends, everyone sings louder “If I had a dime for every time I’m freaking out” which leads to a  dramatic climax before the final resolution: “We could fly around the world / Or just get out of your parents’ house.”

Bob jokes at the end that they can come back any time with a new band.  She says they have five other bands (including Told Slant and Small Wonder).  He says “you could come in every Tuesday.”

Bellows isn’t that different from Eskimeaux in style–pretty, quiet songs that are articulate and almost deadpan.  But having Smith sing (and presumably write) changes the way the style is created.  Which is pretty cool.

[READ: June 8, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976

I really enjoyed this book a lot.  In the introduction, Robert Smigel talks about how it seems like in this era, Schulz turned a corner a bit to become more absurd.  The jokes are sillier, with new characters and some crazy ideas–like talking buildings, pitching mounds and body parts.  He wonders if it was Schulz’ happy marriage or just a desire to take some chances rather than repeating himself.  But whatever the case, the book is really fun.  I especially love the Peppermint Patty/Marcie strips in which Schulz just seems to be having a great time.  I also love all of the jokes with Sally in which she makes herself laugh with some awful puns–I just imagine Schulz cracking himself up and not being able to wait to draw the strips.

But for all of the newness of the strips, Peanuts is always seasonal.  So 1975 beings with ice skating and snowmen.  Linus has made a snowman reclining and reading a book. Charlie asks if it’s Robert Frost and Linus snarks “You said it, I didn’t.”

Patty has been falling asleep a lot in school–her dad is away–and Snoopy makes as terrible watchdog for her.  More funny Patty moments are when she is being so decisive about true false questions.  “Irrefutably true, understandably false, intrinsically false, inherently false, charmingly true.”  To which Franklin asks “Charmingly?”  Patty also becomes the first disciple of the Great Pumpkin–but she blows it by asking for a gift, as if the Great Pumpkin is some kind of Santa Claus. (more…)

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1973SOUNDTRACK: LUCINDA WILLIAMS-Tiny Desk Concert #412 (December 20, 2014).

lucindaI set tiny, manageable goals for this blog.  They often change over the course of the year, but I like to see if I can complete them.  One such goal was to write about all of the Tiny Desk Concerts from 2014.  And here’s the final one.  (Another such goal is to write about the remainder of the 2016 shows, which is doable).  I also want to write about all of the rest of the First Second Graphic Novels (there’s about 20 of them left).  Insignificant goals that I find satisfying to complete.

I’ve never been a fan of Lucinda Williams.  Although, while I’d certainly heard of her, I obviously didn’t know any of her music. The blurb talks about her distinctive voice.  And it is certainly that.  About 20 years ago a sort of friend of mine saw her open for somebody else and she dismissed Williams as trying to sound like a different singer (wish I could remember who it was).  The irony that Williams has been around since the late 1970s was not lost on me.

But Williams has changed her style over the years.  She originally sang country and has morphed into more of a folk and now a blues style.  This Tiny Desk Concert focuses on her bluesy songs.  I know she’s something of a legend, but I found her demeanor through the whole show off-putting until the end, when she loosened up a bit.

She sings four songs.  “Something Wicked This Way Comes” is rocking blues song.  And I have to say I was pretty shocked by her voice–rough and raspy and sounding not a little hungover.  Her lead guitarist was really the start for me, effortlessly playing some great groovy licks.

For “Cold Day in Hell” (she laughs at saying the title) she straps on an acoustic guitar and then sings like Tom Waits.  That seems like a joke, but the structure of the verses is pure Tom Waits–I would have even suggested he wrote the song.

The third song is the more bluesy “Protection.”  There seems something so inauthentic about this song.  I just don’t believe her rendition of it–I don’t believe that she actually needs protection.  It’s really disconcerting.

She finally smiles after this song and says “Now I’m kinda getting used to this … I’m not a wake yet, that’s what the thing is.  She straps on her guitar and says this is based on the story of the West Memphis Three.  It’ my favorite song of the four–she seems to really get into it.

But all the same, I really don’t like her voice all that much–she’s got a weird drawl and sounds like there are some marbles in her mouth. It’s very strange.  I listened to a bit of a song from a live show from 1989 and her voice was quite pretty–deep, yes, but very pretty.  By 2007, her voice has changed–it’s deeper, with a pronounced drawl.  At a show in 2013, she sounded kind of pretty again.  So, I don’t know what to make of it.  I’ll have to just go back to not listening to her.

[READ: June 8, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974

I really enjoyed this volume a lot.  There were a lot of really funny jokes and the characters are really nicely distributed by now.  I don’t want to say that Schulz hit his stride around this time, because he’s been pretty solid right from the start, but this book was easily my favorite so far.  Possibly because it contained so much of Marcie and Patty who have easily become my favorites.

The year starts off somewhat inauspiciously with the anticlimactic return of Poochie.  She shows up, realizes that Snoopy isn’t a cute puppy anymore and leaves.  Never to be seen again.

More interesting is that Linus decides that since Charlie has been their manager for so long and worked so hard that they ought to throw him a commemorative dinner. They plan it for a couple of weeks and when he finally hears about it, his smile is awesome.  They even get Joe Schlobotnick to agree to come. Of course, then Marcie starts saying that they’d all be hypocrites if they actually showed up and said nice things about him since he’s a terrible manager.  And so they cancel it at the last-minute–while Charlie is there. (more…)

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