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Archive for the ‘Illness’ Category

giants-days-2 SOUNDTRACK: THE OH HELLOS-Tiny Desk Concert #493 (December 8, 2015).

ohhelloThe Oh Hellos are technically a duo of Tyler and Maggie Heath.  But live (and here) they play chamber pop with nine members in the band.  They have an accordion, a violin, a banjo, guitars and great harmonies.

“Hello My Old Heart” starts with a quiet acoustic feel–slow and mellow.  But it picks up after a verse and grows in intensity.  The song has a few different parts that keep returning to the “ba dum ba, ba dum bah” melody.  I love the way the song builds to a rousing (and abrupt) end.  There’s so much going on in the song its hard to believe its only 4 minutes long.

The band members are all rather sick–they all have colds and there’s much talk of how bad they feel and how much they are coughing and sneezing (with a revolting/hilarious image of confetti).

“Like the Dawn” also opens with some lovely acoustic guitar.  This time Maggie is on lead vocals and Tyler’s harmonies sound really good with her.  Maggie’s lead soars (even while sick) and I love the way the song builds to a big folk rock explosion by the end.

Before the final song they joke about everyone being sick and how they are ready to be done with the tour.  They start talking about laundry and underwear and get very silly.  It’s pretty impressive the way Tyler can go from chastising them for being gross and then singing the first delicate falsetto note of “Exeunt” so perfectly.  Its fun watching the band (especially the guitarist and violinist) really get into the big chords in the middle of the song (jumping up and down as they rock out.  The song has an amazing ending as it builds and everybody sings “I have set my mind and my will” before all voices drop out and he gently sings, “I am leaving.”

It’s a pretty great ending although he notes that “The end of that one is a little more impressive with the full set up but you get the idea.”

The Oh Hellos are a great addition to the chamber pop world, and I look forward to hearing more from them.

[READ: June 16, 2016] Giant Days 2

What’s interesting but a little disappointing about his series is that continuity doesn’t seem to be a high priority between the stories.  The characters never change their behavior, which is good, but it feels like these stories are episodic rather than continual, and yet there is certainly meant to be a building upon previous stories.

Except for Chapter 5 which picks up right after the previous book with the men and women shopping for formal attire for the Hall Ball.   Esther convinces the women to buy secondhand dresses and then says that her brother can fix them–an excellent joke at the end of the page.

Meanwhile Ed and McGraw are trying on suits.  Ed says he hopes that Esther will be into him someday and McGraw looks to the heavens and saying “The maintenance, Ed.”

The dance proves to be successful for some (well, Esther) until one of the men says that there’s a bet a the dance to see who can hook up with her.  Well, that ends Esther’s fun.

And then some unexpected (or maybe not) pairings occur.  Each person is a bit ashamed (at least in front of the others).  And in classic “friend” scenario, Esther tells Ed that anyone who would not go out with him is an idiot.

And then everyone heads home for Christmas holidays.

Chapter six shows an emergency visit to Northampton and Susan’s home. We all know that Susan is prone to aggressive outbursts.  Well that was true in her past as well.  The girls show up to rescue Susan, but she doesn’t appear at the train stations.  How will they find her?  (There’s a very funny joke about all smokers knowing each other).  I also love the continuity of the amusing joke that McGraw really loves keys.

The crux of this chapter is that some time ago, Susan greatly upset the daughter of the richest family in Northampton.  And now that she is back, revenge is to be served.  This chapter is very funny but mostly centered on its own plot rather than advancing the college story.  As it ends, Esther realizes that exams are common up and she hasn’t been to a lecture since November.

Chapter Seven opens and things are…different. There is a new illustrator (Max Sarin) for the next two books and I have to say I really don’t like the new style.   Even though Cogar still does the colors, everything in this book feels much brighter–in part it’s because Max’s lines are thinner, but also because almost everything he draws is softer and rounder.  It take a lot of the edge off of the book and make s the whole thing a lot “cuter.” Which is disappointing.

The story is pretty solid though.  Esther is freaking out about exams-she thought her exam about the New Testament would be really easy.  To prepare for this exam she decides to go out dressed in whiteface to see Necrotising Swamp–a band that is satanic in a fun way.  On the way out of the show, while protesters are trying to make her feel guilty for being there, she decides to go to “the source” and in a joke that I love, she decides to ask a priest for help in her theology class.

In an act of desperation, Esther finds one more person who might be able to help her…which turns into something more.  At the same time Daisy discovers that Susan and McGraw have been “sexing.”

As Chapter 8 opens all of the couples are together.  Susan and McGraw, Esther and her new guy and Ed and Daisy (although not as a couple).  And this meeting is for Esther to introduce her new man to her friends. And conversely for him to introduce her to his friends (which could go better) and his parents (which could definitely go better–until she decides to really be herself).

When pressed she admits that she has a weakness for milquetoast handsome.  And while their backs were turned, Daisy became addicted to Friday Night Lights.  And while Ed has been trying to figure out how he could take his mind off of Esther and her new guy, he wound up joining the newspaper–what will that produce?

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giant-daysSOUNDTRACK: NATHANIEL RATELIFF & THE NIGHT SWEATS-Tiny Desk Concert #488 (November 17, 2015).

nateNathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats get a ton of airplay on WXPN–perhaps a bit too much airplay.  And yet I can’t deny the supreme catchiness of his music which owes a lot to Van Morrison’s brand of soul music.

Rateliff was (and perhaps still is) a folk singer.  But in 2015, he released this album with the band The Night Sweats and has had huge success with this more rocking soulfulness.

“I Need Never Get Old” sounds so much like a Van Morrison song that it’s hard to deny how catchy it is (especially the chorus).  “Look It Here” has a similar vibe with the kind of loudly mumbled vocals that sit nicely with backing vocals and horns.  The middle of the song picks up in intensity and changes the overall tone in a good way that segues nicely back into the main melody.

“I’ve Been Failing You” features more piano up front.  It’s a little more bluesy than soulful so I like it a bit less.  Although the backing vocals in the quiet section (Don’t you weep and don’t you worry) are very cool.

Typically a band does three songs, but Bob walks up and shakes his hand and asks if he wants to do another.  Nathaniel asks, do another or do that one over?  But Bob says, no another song if they want to.

The band agrees they can’t really do “Shake,” so instead they play “Mellow Out.”  Rateliff says, “Same key different song.”  And everyone laughs until he realized, “wait it’s actually a different key.  What do I know?”

“Mellow Out” which opens with some very Van Morrison “do do do dos.”   It sounds very much like the other songs–catchy and swinging with horns in all the right places.  When the song ends Bob says it sounded great and someone comments that they had an extra late night last night before the audio turns off.

I am genuinely surprised that they didn’t play “S.O.B.,” their first single (a song used in a Lipton commercial–although not any part that sings “son of a bitch, I might add).  But since I don’t really like that song, I’m glad they played the other ones.

[READ: June 15, 2016] Giant Days Vol. 1

Giant Days was excerpted in the back of a Lumberjanes book and I loved the excerpt–very funny with a great drawing style. Then as I am wont to do, I forgot all about it.  But in the library the other day, the librarian recommended the book and I was delighted to be reminded about it.

This series is set in a British college.  Susan, Esther, and Daisy are roommates.  Susan is the sensible one–a little angry at men and unwilling to take crap from anyone.  Esther is a goth hottie.  She dresses outlandishly and has a (literal?) forcefield of bad luck around her.  And Daisy was home schooled–she is very sweet and rather naive.

I loved right from the start when the three girls head out to campus.  Susan bets Esther that she can’t go three days without some kind of drama happening around her.  But as soon as they get outside, Susan see McGraw.  And she is furious.  McGraw has floppy hair and a big ol’ mustache.  And they launch into each other with cold pleasantries.

When the girls  force Susan to tell the story, there’s a very funny moment when the other two start chanting Flash-Back Flash-Back but we get a brief, intentionally unsatisfying one. (more…)

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shadowSOUNDTRACK: ERIC CHENAUX-Skullsplitter [CST112] (2015).

chenAn album named Skullsplitter sounds like it should be really heavy and loud.  But if you know Chenaux, you know that that’s not his thing at all.  So what wins?

The traditional Chenaux wins.  At times light and beautiful and at times wobbly and disorienting, Skullsplitter sounds like many other Chenaux releases.  And you either like him or you don’t. His slow songs, vibratoed guitar and really delicate voice either win you or not.

“Have I Lost My Eyes?” has one of the most wobbly guitars I can thing of (even for him).  The slow electric guitar solo is pretty much perpetually played with wah-wah bar in motion.  After 90 second of this, Chenaux’s delicate tenor voice comes in and sings a melody that is not exactly suited to the music, but which doesn’t sound off, either.  Classic Chenaux.

Alternating with the vocal pieces are instrumentals.  Chenaux plays a lot of ringing and delicate solos and overdubs them.  And the instrumentation is pretty varied: Voice, electric guitar, un-amplified electric guitar, nylon-string guitar, speakers, melodica and electronics.  “The Pouget” is roughly two minutes long.  “My Romance” has a kind of warbling guitar solo over some mellotron.  “The Henri Favourite” is another 2 minute slow piece with a slow guitar solo played over some keyboards.  The last instrumental is quite different.  “La Vieux Favori” changes the tone with a bowed sound (although you can see there’s no violin listed–he must be bowing the guitar).  It doesn’t have the same smoothness as the other songs, although it is certainly interesting, especially near the end when it is just that bowed instrument with no accompaniment.

“Skullsplitter” is, as I said, a mellow song just like the others.  His voice is relaxing and calming and the music is also mellow with waves of keys.  I’ve never really tried to figures out the words to any of his songs before–he sings so slowly it’s kind of hard to follow the thoughts.  But the lyrics to this song are the cover art.  And seeing them printed, I still don’t know what they mean.

“Spring Has Been a Long Time Coming” is the most friendly song of the bunch–music and vocals meld perfectly, and Chenaux’s guitar sounds beautiful.  The 8-minute “Poor Time” has a jazzy feel as it unfurls slowly.  It intersperses his vocals with a delicate but wildly-wah-wahed solo.  The final track, “Summer & Time” ends the disc with some pretty acoustic guitars and Chenuaux’s delicately soaring voice.

[READ: June 1, 2016] Lighter Than My Shadow

I was looking on the shelves in the library for some books and I saw this book on the shelf next to them. I loved the title, Lighter Than My Shadow and when I pulled it off the shelf, I really liked the drawing style that Green employs.

I genuinely had no idea that this book was going to be about woman suffering from body issues and anorexia.  It all seems obvious, but i didn’t look that closely at first.  Such a topic could be really hard to read about, but I was also really surprised and delighted at how good the book was.

She covers her mental state in all capacities.  And she really demonstrates the way her body rebelled against herself.  In fact, this was the most compelling and complete look at anorexia that I have ever seen.

There is something about the way her drawings style–simple figures and even simpler backgrounds work perfectly in this story.  She is able to show herself getting thinner without resorting to shocking illustrations (well, there are one or two mildly shocking ones).  The most effective part of the book is the black scribble that hovers around her representing her interior self. (more…)

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Sfeb20156OUNDTRACK: GRAHAM NASH-Tiny Desk Concert #515 (March 14, 2016).

nashI only realized after reading this blurb that he was in The Hollies.  I’ve really only known him from CSN&Y.  And that makes sense now why “Bus Stop” (a song I’ve known forever but never knew the name of) sounds so familiar.

Nash plays guitar (and harmonica) and sings and he’s accompanied by Shane Fontayne on guitar and harmony vocals.  The duo sound great.  Nash’s voice is clear and sounds amazing (because he’s 74 but even if he weren’t).  Obviously I missed the mega harmonies of CSN&Y, but as a solo performer he really shines.

The first song he plays is “Bus Stop” and it sounds wonderful.  I miss some of the inflections that are in the original–but this is clearly a solo rendition (and it has been 50 years after all).

The other two songs are from his new album.  “Myself at Last” he says was the first song the recorded and that it was done in one take (and that musicians love that).  It’s a lovely song with a very Graham Nash feel (imagine that).  I love the chord progression in the bridge and the slight delay in vocals for the chorus.

For the final song, “This Path Tonight,” he asks us to imagine “an incredible rock and roll band playing with us.”  Even though the song isn’t fast, it has a real sense of urgency in it.  The chord progression is intense, and I imagine that with a band this song would be even more exciting.

[READ: January 20, 2016] “My Diagnosis”

This is the kind of story that reads more like an exercise that was later developed into a full story.

The opening of the story is that the narrator’s mother has made the narrator’s diagnosis public.

And the rest of the story is the narrator’s way of obfuscating what that diagnosis is–possibly from herself but definitely from her mother’s friends. (more…)

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