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Archive for the ‘Monsters’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: beabadoobee-Loveworm (2019).

beabadoobee is Beatrice Kristi Laus, a 19 year-old singer-songwriter who was born in the Phillipines and lives in London.  She has released some six EPs since 2018 and has been played on the radio on WXPN.  I see she’s also headlining a small tour over here in the Spring.

Yesterday I listened to the bedroom version of this EP, and here is the original release in all of its glory.  Interestingly, the sound isn’t all that much bigger, but there is a lot more instrumentation.  And some of these songs definitely rock harder.

“Disappear” is played on a gentle electric guitar with swirling keys and a simple drum clicking sound.  When the bass comes in after the first verse, the song feels really full (with a sprinkling of keyboard sounds added on top, too).  The middle third has a nice little section with bells as everything else fades out for a moment.

“1999”s guitars sound a bit more downbeat, deeper.  The middle has some lovely overdubbed guitar parts. I really like the repeated guitar melody that flows all the way to the end,

“Apple Cider” is wonderfully upbeat in this version.  Bouncy guitars, more bells and her soft vocals make this sound like a perfect 90s alt-rock song.  Just as I was about to say this song was perfect, it added some “oohh la las” which don’t quite fit.  However, the crazy guitar solo(s) are very cool and more than make up for it.

“Ceilings” remains a quiet ballad with some nice falsetto vocals and trippy backing sounds that turn into a synthy solo.

“Angel” sounds different on this record too, with some staggered guitars and a fairly complex drum pattern.  There’s some noisy electric guitar on this song too.  I love the way this song rocks out at the end.  The rocking continues on “You Lie All the Time” (which still sounds a bit like Juliana Hatfield).  It rocks all the way through to the end,

The final song “Soren” is a slow ballad.  With the two guitars it does actually sound quite different from the bedroom version, which is kind of cool since they are for the most part pretty similar.

I enjoyed both versions of this EP, but I like this one more. There’s more variety and the songs rock a bit more.  I’m curious what her first full-length will sound like.

[READ: January 10, 2020] The Babysitters Coven

I don’t usually read books like this, but the cover caught my eye (I love judging a book by its cover) and I’m so glad I read it. It was fun and funny and mashed up ideas from existing stories into something all its own.

Esme Pearl is a babysitter.  She and her best (and only) friend Janis started a Babysitter’s Club back in junior high. There were of course four of them in the club and each girl paralleled one of the girls in the original series.  [I have never read those books, so I don’t know how much is taken from that series.]

I enjoyed Esme as a character for a number of reasons.  She was a believable seventeen year old, but a shy and kind of solitary one.  She uses some abbreviations, but the whole book is not littered with them.  Lines like “the number one perk of babysitting is OPP–other people’s pantries” is a good example.  Esme has a great tone of being above her school while still being unpopular (but not hugely so).  She lives in Spring River Kansas home of the Bog Lemmings (“apparently by the time they’d gotten to Spring River all the good mascots had been taken”).  About the cafeteria food: “I’d never seen a food that wasn’t brown.”  Later she grabs what she things is curry but which turns out to be gravy.

She and Janis coordinate outfits every day.  [I love the detail that Janis’ full name is Janis Jackson].  They don’t wear similar things at all, they just discuss the night before what their fashion choices will be and then show them off the next day,  They both love going thrifting, so their outfits are unique.  If I had one complaint about the book it’s that there’s no way a backwater town like Spring River would have such amazing thrift stores.  Anyway, today “Janis was ‘Denise gets a step-daughter’ and I was “Sylvia Plath goes to prom.'”

Esme loves babysitting and she takes it very seriously–she does not wan any other kind of job, like where you wear a uniform–and she has built up a reliable collection of clientele.  She and Janis really are the only game in town.

As the book opens, Esme is babysitting Kaitlyn, a demon baby.  Not literally.  She is just a wild girl who is high maintenance. But Esme thinks of her as baby Satan (Kaitlyn managed to get a Sharpie and draw all over the wall while Esme was peeing).  But usually once Kaitlyn is asleep, she’s down.  This night things are different.  Esme heard a loud thunk and went upstairs,  The door was locked–Esme would never lock the door.  She somehow got the door open an saw that the bed was empty and the window was open.  She looked out the window and saw Kaitlyn on the roof.  Esme managed to get her back to safety.  When Esme asked what happened, Kaitlyn described a guy who looked like David Bowie’s character in Labyrinth. She knew that Kaitlyn watched a lot of movies so she assumed it was a nightmare. But there was so much unexplained…. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LUCY DACUS-“In the Air Tonight” (2019).

For 2019, Lucy Dacus has been releasing songs that correspond with the holidays (to be pt out on an EP soon).  For Halloween she decided to cover Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.”  I have heard the original song a million times.  I loved it, then I got sick of it and then started to really hate Phil Collins and really never wanted to hear it again.

So it’s fun that Lucy has dug it from its grave to release for Halloween.

In a n interview she was asked why on earth it was this song.  She said that she knew this song from her childhood–it was one of the first songs she remembers hearing with her mom (who used to sing along with the radio in the car all the time).

Lucy–like everyone–could never hold back on air drumming to the big drum part in the middle.  Her band was listening to it one day when everyone air drummed along and they knew then they had to record it.

She also said you never realize quite how dark the song is until you really listen to the words.

Well if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand
I’ve seen your face before my friend, but I don’t know if you know who I am
Well I was there and I saw what you did, I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you’ve been
It’s all been a pack of lies

Lucy’s version is pretty great–understated and whsipery.

It starts with the drum machine and some distant keys.  Lucy’s voice is quiet with a soft echo–possibly with a different take in each ear?

The synths stay quiet and subtle throughout the verses.

By the midpoint the music grows louder–to good effect–and there’s some creepy echoing on her voice.  Her delivery lets me understand lyrics that I never knew before (and her vocal processing is much more subtle too).

The big drum part is pretty great and the live drums continue throughout to the end.  I don’t honestly recall what the music of the original end part sounds like (apart from that prominent bass) but Lucy throws in some cool distorted guitar noises throughout to add just some more chaos to the proceedings.

And then the chilling matter of fact ending.

[READ: October 20, 2019] Fake Blood

Lots of times I don’t know what graphic novels are about before I read them.  Usually if someone in my family likes it, I’ll check it out.

I didn’t really even give much thought to the title (and cover) of this book before reading it.  I just read it because my daughter liked it.  So I didn’t really think to much about how vampires would appear in this book until people started talking about them.

AJ is entering sixth grade and he believes things are going to be different.  But things aren’t.  As he heads toward the bus his friends Hunter and Ivy race past him–seeing who can be first–because everything is a competition with them.  Like always.  When they reach the bus stop, Hunter is thrilled to be first but AJ is upset because they actually missed the bus…again.

As they walk to school, Hunter tells his story about his wild summer bungee jumping.  Ivy talks about hiking to the top of Mt. St. Helen’s.  And AJ… read like ten books. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANTONIO CORA-“The Cellar” (from The Blair Witch Project) (1999).

A lot of the music I listen to is weird and probably creepy to other people, but I don’t necessarily think of songs as appropriate for Halloween or not.  So for this year’s Ghost Box stories, I consulted an “expert”: The Esquire list of Halloween songs you’ll play all year long.  The list has 45 songs–most of which I do not like.  So I picked 11 of them to post about.

I was getting bored of the Esquire list so I found this fun little tidbit of spookiness.

The Blair Witch Project was a low budget, DIY-looking movie.  The soundtrack is a compilation with songs on it (Josh Blair’s Witch Mix), but this track is from the actual movie soundtrack.  I couldn’t exactly tell if there was a release of the actual movie soundtrack, but the last track on the disc is similar to a video I found online for the “end credits theme.”

Excluding the intro, which has 30 seconds of dialogue from the film (“Heather’s Apology”), this track is a five-minute nightmarish ambient score.

It is largely quiet with rattling, echoing sounds.  An online thread (therefore of dubious truth) says that the score was made with the sound of sticks breaking and being thrown into a culvert (or some such) and slowed down dramatically.  There’s also some kind of droning sound throughout (maybe a synth, but who knows).  It seems to slowly percolate while things scrape and bang.  There’s a few louder noises that really stand out, but there’s no momentum or narrative to the soundtrack.  It’s just a sort of endless low grade scare.

Don’t listen at bedtime.

[READ: October 27, 2019] “Last Call for the Sons of Shock”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. and Ghost Box II. comes Ghost Box III.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

Oh god, it’s right behind me, isn’t it? There’s no use trying to run from Ghost Box III, the terrifying conclusion to our series of limited-edition horror box sets edited and introduced by Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, I’m going to read in the order they were stacked.

I feel foolish that I didn’t “get” this story right away.  When I see that it was originally published in The Ultimate Frankenstein, I guess the Blank Frank name would have been a bit more obviously Frankenstein’s monster.  I did figure it out before the end, but on a second read it was much clearer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RAMONES-“Pet Sematary” (1977).

A lot of the music I listen to is weird and probably creepy to other people, but I don’t necessarily think of songs as appropriate for Halloween or not.  So for this year’s Ghost Box stories, I consulted an “expert”: The Esquire list of Halloween songs you’ll play all year long.  The list has 45 songs–most of which I do not like.  So I picked 11 of them to post about.

Ramones are the least punk punk band ever.  Sure they are essential to the history of American punk, but they were basically playing fast rock n roll songs. They were awesome sure, but compared to the viciousness of British punk, Ramones were just guys in leather jackets singing harmonies.

By the time they released “Pet Sematary” in 1989 they were more of a pop metal band.  This song is stupidly catchy.

It’s got a complex (for them) opening guitar riff and quickly moves into power chords.

The chorus (with all kinds of backing vocals) is one of the poppiest things around.  If it weren’t for the lyrics

I don’t want to be buried in a pet cemetery
I don’t want to live my life again

it could easily be a radio friendly pop hit (and I think it was anyhow).

This song actually works very well for Halloween, even if it isn’t particularly scary, because of the lyrics.

Under the arc of a weather stain boards
Ancient goblins, and warlords
Come out the ground, not making a sound
The smell of death is all around

The moon is full, the air is still
All of the sudden I feel a chill.

I never realized that the song was literally about the book/movie.  I knew it was for the movie but the lyrics reference Victor the main character, which I never knew).

I suppose if you were a fan of the first four Ramones album and then never heard another song until this one, you might find it frightening how far they’d traveled from their origins.

[READ: October 22, 2019] “A Defense of Werewolves”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. and Ghost Box II. comes Ghost Box III.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

Oh god, it’s right behind me, isn’t it? There’s no use trying to run from Ghost Box III, the terrifying conclusion to our series of limited-edition horror box sets edited and introduced by Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, I’m going to read in the order they were stacked.

This story was first published in 1948 and wow, did I dislike this.   The first time I read it.

It’s pretty short so I read it twice.  This story is written like a treatise.  It is high language and rousing, I guess.  But honestly it really has nothing to do with werewolves and is actually more about the fantasy genre and keeping it safe from “the querulous, muttering voices of the plain.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKGINA CHAVEZ-“The Sweet Sound of Your Name,” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next few shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

NPR’s Felix Contreras writes:

Years ago, Chavez was a SXSW discovery: I’d tracked her down at some unofficial showcase and was immediately mesmerized by the Austin singer-songwriter. Since then, many good things have come her way, and she’s developed into a major artist. On this Tiny Desk Family Hour video…Chavez’s voice floated into the sacred space during “The Sweet Sound of Your Name,” a 2014 song about another kind of devotion. She’d just performed a deeply emotional pair of songs, barely holding her emotions in check. And like the eight other acts to perform in this special lineup, she tapped into the communal intimacy of the setting, finding magic along the way.

Gina played a Tiny Desk Concert a few years ago and I really liked her.  She had power and passion and a wonderful voice.  She also sang in English and Spanish which was pretty cool.

This song is a delicate gentle jazzy song.  And while her voice is lovely and it’s appropriate for the setting, it just feels like a bit of letdown from what else I know by her.

The song is quite nice, bit it feels too much like lite jazz.  Gina is on her guitar and sings a very delicate verse with lovely backing vocals.  There’s a sweet Spanish line and then after the first verse the jazzy music kicks in–jazzy drums, and jazzy keyboard stabs–delicate and soft.  A jazzy trumpet solo comes in the middle.

There’s no question that she has a lovely voice, but this song, pretty as it may be, just doesn’t excite me that much.  It may be a situation of having just enough information to wish it was something else.

Although reading the blurb from Contreras makes it more apparent why she seems so wracked by the end.

  And I’m sure seeing it in person was much more dramatic.

[READ: March 21, 2019] Monsters Beware

I had really enjoyed the first two books in this series but for some reason I was hesitant to jump into this one.  It may be because the titles are so similar it’s hard to know how the books can be any different.  I needn’t have worried as this book was just as good–if not a lot weirder–than the first two.

In the second book, Claudette talked of a great sword called Breaker (which they eventually found).  We also saw the evil wizard Grombach get locked in amber forever.

This story uses those two aspects of the previous stories but adds a new twist–a young warrior competition!

Claudette is super excited about it–but the king says there is no way he will let her participate.  Worse yet (well, not for her exactly), her brother Gaston has had his magical gelato stall shut down (no magic is allowed during the competition) and after the competition, her best friend Marie (the king and queen’s daughter) is being sent away to finishing school. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GAELYNN LEA-“I Wait” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next few shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

If you’re going to put together the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour — an epic night of Tiny Desk-style concerts, held at the wonderful Central Presbyterian Church in Austin during SXSW Tuesday night — you might as well kick things off with a core member of the Tiny Desk Family. Gaelynn Lea won 2016’s second annual Tiny Desk Contest with the barest of ingredients: a few swooping violin strokes, a loop pedal and her fragile-but-forceful voice.

At the Tiny Desk Family Hour, Lea performed in that same spare configuration. She closed with a powerful song called “I Wait,” which addresses the way people with disabilities — Lea herself has brittle bone disease, and works as a motivational speaker and teacher as well as a musician — are frequently left out of social justice movements. It’s Lea at her best, as her warm, intense, hauntingly beautiful voice is shot through with a clear sense of purpose.

This song is wonderful.  The looping is simple but effective–the notes are menacing and effective, while the unlooped pizzicato notes add just the right amount of rhythm to this otherwise sparse song.  For this song is all about the lyrics.  Lea details what it’s like to be handicapped–not in the world at large, but within protest movements which supposedly have her best intentions at heart.

So when you hear them
Make claims of progress
Take a good look
And see who isn’t there
We need a seat now
At the table
So please invite us
Or don’t pretend to care.

When Lea brought “I’ll Wait” to an abrupt close, the audience’s soft collective gasp gave way to the night’s first standing ovation.

It’s a stunning ending.

[READ: February 12, 2019] The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo #2

I really enjoyed the first book in this series and I’m happy to see the follow-up.

It opens with a recap from Charles Thompson, a future reporter (who uses a tiny reporter’s pad to write down his thoughts).  He talks about how he met Margo Maloo, the “Monster Mediator” and how with her help, he was able to locate and deal with a troll in his house.  And by “deal with” he means befriend.  For although Margo is a mediator between monsters and humans, she is mostly interested in the safety of the monsters.

Thompson has dozens of readers, he thinks, and maybe this is why Margo wants his help.

She will not be getting any help from Charles’ friend Kevin, who wants nothing to do with any monsters (unless they come in toy-form, like the Battle Beanz). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LA FORCE-Live at Massey Hall (June 15, 2018).

I’d never heard of La Force.  Turns out La Force is Ariel Engle, vocalist and newest member of Broken Social Scene.  In her pre-show interview she says something that concludes with “life’s a bitch and then you die,” which didn’t bode well, but her sound is interesting (if maybe too much saxophone).

The show starts with “Upside Down Wolf.”  I love the weird square guitar she plays (and the cool sound that comes from it).  There’s also an acoustic guitar, sax and drums.  The drums from Evan Tighe are really dynamic with some great unexpected rhythms (and electronics).

The blurb describes “You Amaze Me” as infectious.  It’s a more dancey song with lots of drum-triggered sounds.  The sax from David French works pretty well here because it adds to the swells of music that are triggered by the drums.  And when the sax does add a solo, it;s a nice deep sax, which is a nice change of sound.

“Lucky One” opens slowly with a great guitar sound–a slow intro that is accented wonderfully by the acoustic guitar (there seems to be a cool echo on Warren Spicer’s sliding his hand up and down the strings).

“The Tide” swings faster.  Both guitarists add some cool sounds while the drums shuffle quickly.  Before the next song she explains she got the name La Force from a tarot card.  The La Force card had a picture of a woman opening a lion’s mouth and she loved the idea of the power that represented.

“Can’t Take” is a moody, slow piece, with some cool lead guitar from Spicer while Engle plays a very pretty minor key melody.

“TBT” opens with a simple two note guitar riff (that’s quite infectious) and a cool tribal drum beat.  The end of the song is a wonderful jam of the guitar, sax and drums totally rocking out.  It’s my favorite moment of the show and a great end.

[READ: January 20, 2019] Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter

I get the feeling that this book may have been initially intended for an older audience and then they brought it down to be more family friendly.  Or maybe it feels more like a pilot episode than a confident story.  It just didn’t feel natural.

I enjoyed a lot of the book, but it felt forced in places.  Especially because Scarlett says all kinds of exclamations that seem odd–Leaping Lizards! or Gaskets! or Piston Heads!  I mean, she’s not a car person, so why would she scream car epithets?

I also didn’t love the darkness of the story.  I realize times are bleak, but the art doesn’t have to be.

The premise is that Scarlett Hart is a monster hunter (duh).  But by law, she is too young to fight monsters (not sure how old she is or what the age of consent is, but she is younger than it).  This seems like a strange law, but many laws are strange.  She has help, though, from her butler Napoleon White and his wife.  They also helped her parents fight monsters.

But her parents were killed several years ago while on the job.  She can’t get revenge against the monsters that killed them but she can become the best monster hunter she can be. (more…)

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