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Archive for the ‘Magic’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LO MOON-Tiny Desk Concert #688 (January 5, 2018).

WXPN has been playing “This is It” quite a bit lately and I’ve realized that it sounds way too much like Mr. Mister (I think it’s Mr. Mister, or something else cloyingly 80s) for me to really enjoy.  [Speaking of Mr. Mister, how is it possible that Pat Mastelotto, currently touring with King Crimson, was the drummer for Mr. Mister?  Are they better than “Broken Wings.” There’s hardly any drums in that song at all and Mastelotto is awesome].

Anyhow back to the history of Lo Moon, lead singer and instrumentalist Matt Lowell says he created the song “Loveless” 5 1/2 years ago in a basement studio in New York.

He then moved to Los Angeles and linked up with Crisanta Baker (guitar, bass, keyboards and backing vocals) and multi-instrumentalist and principal guitarist Sam Stewart. They spent months in a backyard shed with gear and guitars everywhere. There they learned to feed off each other, sometimes jamming on two-chord drones for six hours straight without even saying a word. With the lights turned down, it was a comfortable space for the band to catch its artistic wind and create a celestial sound.

No word on when Sterling Laws was added as a drummer.

The show starts with “This is It.”  Lowell is on piano, and the song sounds pretty faithful to the recording. It’s the combination of the four note melody and the synth sound of those four notes at the end of the chorus that really rings Mr. Mister to me.  The addition of the backing vocals (ahhhing) is a nice addition to the song.

For “Real Love” Chrisanta switches to piano, Sam switches to acoustic guitar and Matt goes to electric guitar.  He plays a pretty melody on the guitar, but I can’t help feel that his voice is too soft, too middle of the road.

The same is true for “Loveless.”  They switch back to the original instruments.  Like “Real Love” it’s a pretty song, but ironically, without those Mr. Mister notes, there’s really no hook.  The songs just sound like pretty, generic songs on some kind of soft rock station.

[READ: September 9, 2017] Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training

I enjoyed the first Pip Bartlett book.  It was funny and had a good time with magical creatures.

In the first book we find out that Pip Bartlett is a young girl who can speak to magical creatures–unicorns, silky griffins, fuzzles–but no one believes her (because no one else can).  This is a drag because she loves magical creatures and her Aunt Emma is a veterinarian of magical creatures (people know magical creatures exits, they just don’t think people can talk to them).

Pip loves Unicorns and in the past has assisted Mr Henshaw with a very timid Unicorn–Regent Maximus–who was afraid of his own shadow.

I love the tone of the books.  This one opens: I was shoveling Greater Rainbow Mink poop. This wasn’t as bad as you might think. Greater Rainbow Minks only eat brunt sugar, so their poop literally smells like candy.  (It’s NOT candy, of course, It’s very important to remember that no matter how good its smells, it’s still poop).

And then we see (or actually we don’t see) a Rockshine who can only say the word Hey, but most often says “Heyyyyyyyyyyy!”  Rockshines are dull sheeplike creatures who turn invisible when frightened–which is often. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DARLINGSIDE-Whippoorwill EP (2016).

This EP is a collection of some B-sides and Outtakes from their fantastic album Birds Say.  There are five songs, included a stunning cover of Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979.”

The other four songs are the lovely “Whippoorwill” punctuated by scratches from the mandolin and guitar at the end of each line.  Lead vocals seem to be from Auyon, but there’s very rarely one lead vocalist here.  And just when you think the song is a pretty folk song, the end gets bigger, with a cool bass line and louder harmonies.

“Fourth of July” is all about harmonies and a propulsive chorus.  And “Open Door” is almost a capella.  The only music for a time is the scratching of Harris Paseltine’s guitar strings as a rhythm while all four sing beautifully.  This song is faster than many of their others and even features a whistling solo.  There is some minimal violin on this track but it really feels fully a capella.

“Blow the House Down” is an old song (from their debut–when they had a drummer!) reissued here as a foursome.  What’s notable about it is that vocals are supplied almost exclusively by bassist David Senft.  Rather interesting humming bass backing vocals are supplied by everyone else.  It ends with a wailing (for them) noisy solo from Don Mitchell’s electric guitar and Auyon’s violin (it’s even more intense live).

The final song is their terrific cover of “1979.”  I’ve always thought the music for this song was wonderful.  But hearing their version of it I realized how much Corgan’s voice kinda ruins the song.  Hearing these guys harmonize the verse is pretty great.  But hearing them sing full-out on the chorus “I don’t even care” is utterly gorgeous.  Their version is the gold standard for this song now.  It’s a great EP (and three of the guys signed it for me!).

[READ: November 5, 2017] Castle in the Stars

This gorgeous graphic novel was originally published in French and was translated by Anne and Owen Smith.

The title is an intriguing one and while initially confusing, it makes perfect scene when you realize the book is about ballooning: “1868: The Age of Progress, an era of industry… beyond the blue of the sky, where the cold freezes the breath, where the air disappears…the mysetry begins.”

For this story is not just about ballooning, it is about The Secret of Aether.

The story is about young Seraphin. As the book opens, his mother is going into the balloon. His father is yelling at her that she is crazy to go up in the is weather (gorgeous ominous clouds fill the full page). He tries to guilt her into not going.  But her balloon is equipped with a bulb that will light when it gets to the aether, which is her quest.  Then she is up in the air writing in her journal.

She rises to 12,000 meters but… nothing. She’s about to give up when at 12,900 meters the bulb shines brightly and then explodes.  She found it! And she is never seen again. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKTHIS IS THE KIT-Tiny Desk Concert #685 (December 13, 2017).

I know this band because I received a download code for their EP “Spoon Quake Bash.”   I found it really intriguing.  Kate Stables’ voice is unique and has an appealing affectation that I can;’t quite figure out but which I enjoy hearing  And the music on “Moonshine Freeze” is just tremendous–different textures coming from different guitars. I really can’t get enough of it.

The band’s only permanent member is singer Kate Stables.  For this show, she’s accompanied by Rosalind Leyden, Jamie Whitby-Coles, Noil Smith, Adam Schatz, Jonah Parzen-Johnson.  It’s amusing that for the first song, everyone but the bald man is wearing a toque.

In this Tiny Desk Concert the first song is “Bullet Proof.”  It’s just a four piece: bass (Rosalind), drums (Jamie), guitar (Noil) and Kate on lead banjo and vocals.  Her voice sounds like classic British folk singers–very clean and open-voweled.  Once the echoed guitar rises in, the song sound really full.  The song also tells a story, as the blurb points out.

And the stories … Kate … weaves are profound but sweet with a tone that quietly reels you in.

Although it is my least favorite song of the three, possibly because the other two are so much fuller.  For songs 2 and 3 Jonah and Adam join on sax.

“Moonshine Freeze” has so much going on.  A great bass line, echoing harmonics on the lead guitar and Kate’s gentle chugging rhythm guitar.  The drums are a cool shuffle.  It’s such an intriguing song, especially with Kate’s cool vocal delivery.   And then there’s the backing vocals singing in a round.  It’s fantastic.  The horns are a nice touch, too.

“Hotter Colder” sways with a wonderful rhythm guitar melody and some great lead guitar lines from the guitarist hiding in the back.  I love the intermittent oohs from the various singers.  The two saxes also sound great here too.  The song is capped off with awesome bursts of buzzy guitars at the end of the song.

[READ: November 5, 2017] Cucumber Quest 1

Cucumber Quest was (is?) a webcomic.  This book was originally published (via Kickstarter?) back in 2012.  It is now getting a more formal release from First Second (I don’t know if there are any changes in the book).

The book opens with a monster delivering a sphere to an evil queen: “This makes lucky 7, one more and the world will know the meaning of terror.”

The next page is the Prologue.  Cucumber is a bunny and he is about to go off to the school of his dreams–Puffington’s Academy for the Magically Gifted and/or Incredibly Wealthy).  He is nervous but his younger sister says you’re the biggest nerd I know, you’ll be fine.

But then they get a letter from Cuco’s dad (who was in he room when the queen revealed her plan).  He is concerned about world domination and he says hat only Cucumber can put an end to it.  But Cuco is going to school tomorrow!  Plus he’s a real coward. Meanwhile his sister Almond is pretty exited to go on this quest herself.

There’s some really funny jokes in this section

Mom: “Almond sweetheart, you know it’s too dangerous for you.”  Cuco: “But not for me?”  Mom: “Well, Almond IS your little sister.”

As the chapter ends, “Why does dad find a way to ruin everything?”

The Dream Oracle finds him, she is protector of this world and has important information about his quest.  The Oracle then confirms that little sisters aren’t legendary heroes. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Live Phish Downloads 5.8.93 UNH Fieldhouse, Durham, NH (2007).

This concert was recorded on my birthday.  Although I wasn’t there (and wasn’t even really a fan at the time).  This is the last show of the tour, so they thank the crew and have a lot of fun with that.  This is a great 3 CD set because there’s a lot of strong bonus material at the end of disc 3.

The set opens with a rocking “Chalk Dust Torture” and segues into a really tight “GuelahPapyrus”—I love how they can start and stop in total synch.  There’s great harmonies on “Rift” and a perfect tempo-change into “Mound.”

Then comes a jamming 12 minute “Stash” with a lot of bass sections.  It segues into the delightfully bizarre “Kung” and then returns to “Stash” for another minute before switching to “Glide.”  “Glide” has more great harmonies with a very long pause (over a minute of silence, which gets the crowd excited) before ending the song. It’s followed by a great version of “My Friend, My Friend” that segues into a 13 minute Reba.”  Trey thanks the crew and everyone for the tour after which they play a very jazzy “Satin Doll.”

The first set ends with a blistering “Cavern.”

Set Two opens with a minute of “David Bowie” before Page turns it into a cover of The Allman Brothers’ “Jessica” (including a Simpsons’ “D’oh”).  “David Bowie” returns with a 10 minute jam–no solos, just the band rocking–before mellowing out into a reggae version of “Have Mercy” by The Mighty Diamonds.   That two-minute slow down is followed by a scorching soloing conclusion to “David Bowie.”

They take a kind of break with “The Horse,” an acoustic guitar piece for Trey (It’s very pretty and one of the few times I’ve heard him play acoustic).  It turns into a great “Silent in the Morning.”  There’s a nearly 10 minute “It’s Ice” in which each player really stands out—Mike’s bass, Fish’s drums, Page’s keys—everyone is highlighted in this quirky staccato version which segues perfectly into a 16 minute “Squirming Coil.”

There’s a great jam in this song with a lengthy piano solo.  The ending is wildly erratic and weird (and I suppose is technically a “Big Ball Jam”) as they continue to jam for a few extra minutes before launching into “Mike’s Song.”  Like “Bowie,” “Mike’s Song” is broken up to include a bluesy cover of “Crossroads” with lots of piano soloing.  It segues back into the end of “Mike’s Song” which doesn’t really sound like an end to the song.  But it’s followed by a pretty “I am Hydrogen” which launches into a great, funky bass roaring “Weekapaug Groove.”

Towards the end of “Groove,” Page stars playing “Amazing Grace and as it softens up, the band sings a quiet a capaella version of the song.  And then the launches into a jamming version to end the set.

The encore is a loose “AC/DC Bag” for a nice end to the tour.

The Bonus songs include “Shaggy Dog” from the 5/8/93 soundcheck. It’s just guitar and voices with good harmonies.

“Tweezer” and “Tela” come from 5/6/93 Palace Theatre – Albany, NY.  “Tweezer” is totally rocking and 19 minutes long.  There’s a bass-filled jam in the start and it gets dark and a little crazy in the middle.  It slows way down to just one drum and one bass note and then segues nicely into a very pretty “Tela.”

The final bonus track is a crazy 32 minute “You Enjoy Myself” from 5/5/93 Palace Theatre – Albany, NY.   It features special guests Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit as well as the Dude of Life.  There’s a funky middle section of 3 to 5 note motifs repeated.  There’s a lengthy bass solo—just Mike.  It segues into a series of descending riffs until more percussion comes in and someone (Dude?) is talking (incomprehensibly) into the microphone.  Then comes bongos and horns.  I believe there’s even a vacuum solo.  The end of the song has a jazzy scat sing along with the guitar and some rally heavy drums at the end.

On many of the discs, the bonus material is sort of interesting to have but on this one, the “Twezer,” “Tela” and YEM” are outstanding in and of themselves.

Here’s a longer essay about this show by Kevin Shapiro.

[READ: May 8, 2017] The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner and Other Stories

It’s always weird to read posthumous stories, especially if you’ve been a fan of the author for years.  But like the previous collection Dragons at Crumbling Castle, this book collects stories from when Terry was a young lad (between 1966 and 1973) in the Children’s Circle of the Bucks Free Press. He says that they are as they were except that he tinkered here and there with a few details and added a few lines or notes, “just because I can.”

There are 13 stories in the book, and they explore variations on Pratchett’s themes like that the unfamiliar is not the enemy (necessarily) and that people can and often will be surprised by how others react to things.  He also has  a story idea that would blossom into the Carpet People stories later on.

“The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner” (1970)
This begins with a great premise: “Uncle Ron Swimble, the magician, enjoyed performing at parties. He did lots of simple tricks and the kids enjoyed him.  But when he went to his most recent party, things went awry.  But in a way that the kids loved: when his hat fell off, three rabbits jumped out.  And when he bent over a flock of pigeons flew out from under his coat.  The kids were delighted.  But Ron was the most surprised because he had no rabbits or birds in his act.  Every time he moved his hands something vanished or appeared.  It was crazy.  Then they figured out that Uncle Ron had knocked over Mrs Riley’s vacuum cleaner.  And as all the kids knew (but the adults didn’t seem to ) Mrs Riley was a witch.  The resolution to this story was really delightful. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 4 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 14, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 14, 2004. This was the 4th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  It was an all ages show and ran about 90 minutes.

There are two recordings available for this show.  The Sloggett version is from the soundboard, but the Clarkson recording sounds a bit bigger with more bass and stage noise.   Although you can’t hear the spoken word part of “Mutilated World” at all.  You can hear Dave’s daughter Cecelia chatting you can hear her at one point say “Hi, Tim!”

The start off saying they’ll do a coupe of songs from The Story of Harmelodia to start us out, get us in the mood.

They open with “Home Again” which sounds appropriately cute–Martin has fun with it.  Then for “It’s Easy to Be with You”, they “invite Don Kerr up on stage for this next number on the tenor guitar.  A man of many talents, above all growing a handsome mustache (MPW: or perhaps partially shaving a fanatic beard).  Don says: “Somebody called me papa smurf the other day because I had a cap on.” Dave: “I think Papa Smurf was a little rounder around the middle.”  The song sound nice with that extra guitar.

You can hear on the Clarkson recording “When is my song?”  Dave: “Gonna be maybe in about 5 songs?  Maybe in about 4 songs?  Wanna do it now?  well.  alright.  Does your brother wanna sing too?”  Cecilia (who is like 4 years old, maybe) does an amazing job with Dave Edmund’s “Almost Saturday Night.”  She has a great sense of melody and really gets the feel for the song.  At the end Mike says, “It’s a perfect song to sing on a Sunday.  That’s optimism.”  As she walks off you hear Dave say, “Good job, Cees.”  And she replies, “Good job, dad.”

Then it’s on to a solid version of “Claire” which they send out “to Paul Quarrington, Gillar nominated, should have won.”  Tim says, “co author of this song.”  Mike: “At least on the SOCAN form.” Dave: “A man who launched 1,000 careers.”

“Aliens (Christmas 1988)” opens with a kind of rocking rhythm.  Martin starts singing a weird version of Split Enz ‘ “I Got You” before doing the “whoo hoo hoo” and launching into an incredibly fast paced version.  When it slows down in the middle, Martin says, let’s bring it to normal speed.

For “Try To Praise This Mutilated World,” they also shout out to Chris Stringer on keyboard “bringing down the mean average age of the band.”  I normally can’t hear the spoken parts, but you can hear someone speaking polish I believe.  Each version of this song sounds better and better.

To continue this mellow middle section, Jen Foster is back on accordion for “Who Is This Man, And Why Is He Laughing?” and then comes “Making Progress.”  However, they start in wrong key.  As they get situated, Martin asks Dave why no one is showing minor league and jr league hockey.  Dave says that the CBC is complicit with the NHL in holding back younger players.  Once they get the song going, it sound perfect.

As an introduction to “Take Me In Your Hand,” Martin plays a quick guitar lick from one of his solo songs (“Waterstriders,” I think) and then segues into a very delicate version of the song.

Dave asks if any of the horn players from the Hebrew School Dropouts are still around (they opened the show).  Up come Adam and “Fedora guy” to play horns (including solos) for “Legal Age Life At Variety Store.”  Dropping out of Hebrew school is the best thing you guys ever did.

“Northern Wish” is a very pretty, very mellow version.  It’s followed by a really lovely slow version of “Stolen Car.”

After the encore break, Tim comes out to play a special request “all the way from California.”  He starts “Row” and asks if it’s the right song (it is).  He forgets a few lines but is otherwise quite pretty.  When it’s over, the requester shouts, “Thank you!”  Someone else shouts “Saskatchewan” but Tim says the Hebrew School Dropouts are going to school in Etobicoke so we’ll do a good Etobicoke song for them.  That song is “Self Serve Gas Station.” Martin changes a line to “What went wrong with little Jimmy, is he dumb?”

It segues into a wild, upbeat “Song Of The Garden.”  It’s rollicking and crazy and sort of segues into a slapdash cover of XTC’s “Radios In Motion.”

And that’s it.  It’s short show for the band, but probably perfect for an All ages crowd.  Speaking of All-ages, it’s pretty kid friendly, but not entirely (with some of Martin’s songs).  It would have been really fun to see though.

[READ: July 7, 2017] Animal Crackers

The origins of this story are confusing to me.  It was originally written in 2011 (and published by a different publisher (with a different cover, of course).  But there’s not much you can find out about it.  There’s also a prequel (also originally released in 2011) which came out by First Second around the same time, but that’s for another post.

This book bears the sticker that says “Now a Major Motion [Animated] Picture (due out in Fall 2017).”  Given how short this book is, I wonder if the movie is based on both books or what.  Guess we’ll see.  Since I first wrote that, I have seen that the film has been released, but not in the States.  And, it has major stars associated with it.  I still can;t imagine how they stretched this premise out to 94 minutes.

This story is cute and fun with some good humor.  The problem is that the entire plot is given away in the blurb on the inside cover (so don’t read that). (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: August 2017] Half Magic

I grabbed this book at the library not realizing that Tabby had just started reading it on her own.

The selling point for me on this was that it was described as being “set in Ohio in the 1920s, yet fresh and funny now as the day it was written.”  And that was totally true.  This book was very very funny and the location and time was pretty much irrelevant.

This is the story of four (very precocious) children: Jane, Mark, Katharine and Martha. The beginning of the book has a great time creating and addressing their characters:

Jane was the oldest and Mark was the only boy, and between them they ran everything.

Katharine was the middle girl, of docile disposition and a comfort to her mother. She knew she was a comfort, and docile, because she’d heard her mother say so. And the others knew she was, too, by now, because ever since that day Katharine would keep boasting about what a comfort she was, and how docile, until Jane declared she would utter a piercing shriek and fall over dead if she heard another word about it. This will give you some idea of what Jane and Katharine were like.

Martha was the youngest, and very difficult.

The children’s’ father was dead and their mother worked full-time.  They were looked after by Miss Bick:

Miss Bick came in every day to care for the children, but she couldn’t seem to care for them very much, nor they for her.

(more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: SARAH JAROSZ-Tiny Desk Concert #324 (December 7, 2013).

I know Sarah Jarosz’ name from somewhere (anything spelled like tha I’ll remember), but I’m not sure where.  It turns out that Jarosz plays awesome bluegrass.

Perhaps I’d heard of her because of her youth:

The singer and multi-instrumentalist first surfaced as an 18-year-old wunderkind with the release of 2009’s Song Up In Her Head, which generated the first of what will likely be many Grammy nominations; now a grizzled 22, she’s out performing songs from her fine new third album, Build Me Up From Bones.

performed with the aid of fiddler Alex Hargreaves and cellist . All

“Over the Edge” has a great riff.  It starts out with Jarosz’ guitar (which is an 8-string guitar: twinned four string, so almost like a bass and yet strummed).  She’s accompanied by a plucked cello (by Nathaniel Smith).  And then her voice comes in: distinctive, raspy and really lovely.  But it’s after the first verse when the guitar and cello both play that fast 8 note riff that the song really kicks into bluegrass territory. In the middle of the song, it’s fiddler Alex Hargreaves who throws in some great bluegrass fiddling lines.  It’s swinging and rollicking and really fun.

“Build Me Up from Bones” is more folk sounding—her voice is beautiful and the melody of this song (which she plays on that 8 string guitar) is outstanding.  There’s a cool alt-folk tone to the song, especially in the bridge.  The cello is bowed, giving a rich sound before the violin (rather than fiddle) solo comes in.

For “Fuel The Fire” she switches to banjo.  This is a great bluegrass song and that banjo sounds great.  I’d love to see a double bill with her and Punch Brothers.

[READ: November 12, 2016] Gunnerkrigg Court 3 [23-31]

I really enjoyed book 2 of the series and was pretty exited to see that book 3 was already out–in fact books 4 and five have been released, too.  This book collects Siddell’s online series–for frame of reference, this book ends with chapter 31 and as of May 2017 he is up to chapter 62 online.

I loved that Chapter 23 started with a totally different style–looking like a kind of sci-fi epic (and called Terror Castle of the Jupiter Moon Martians). But we quickly learn that this new look is a simulation–a kind of test for the main kids.  But it’s very poorly made and they solve the mystery almost instantly. This plot leads to a couple of interesting revelations.  That Parley has a thing for Smitty (everyone can tell but the two of them), and that Jones is becoming a fascinating and enigmatic important character. Reynard is also even funnier with his comeback “I think you detect a hint of shut your face” which Anni responds to with “Hah, Katerina must be helping you with your comebacks.”

The simulation room also allows for us to learn more about the origins of Reynard and Coyote. (more…)

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