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Archive for the ‘Robyn Hitchcock’ Category

2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: KELLY HOGAN-Tiny Desk Concert #222 (June 4, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

kelly-hoganI know Kelly Hogan as an amazing back up singer.  She sang with The Decemberists when I saw them live (and she was truly amazing).  She also often sings with Neko Case.

I was pretty excited to hear her Tiny Desk because her voice is really beautiful.

Around this time 2012 she had released an album of songs written by all kinds of people.

“Haunted” is a catchy, bouncy number and her three musicians play along effortlessly.  She encourages everyone to sing along to the “na na na na na” part.

When the song ends she thanks every one “very much for coming to the lunchroom talent show.”

“Plant White Roses” was written by Stephen Merritt and it “is really sad” (and since it was written by Merritt you know it’s really sad). The song is pretty, but it was during this song that the Concert transformed into more of a country show.  Hogan even puts an accent on her voice to make it sound more country.  It’s pretty fascinating to witness.

The third part of the song really perks things up.

“I Like to Keep Myself in Pain” was written by Robyn Hitchcock.  She says it came from one of the many conversations they have had over the years.  This song has an even more country feel, especially towards the end.

So all in wall while Hogan’s voice is pretty fantastic and she herself is very charming, I guess I prefer her as an amazing backing vocalist (and sometimes co-lead vocalist) singing music I really like rather than the more country leanings of her own music.

[READ: December 10, 2016] “Two Minutes, Five Minutes, Ten”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

Sometimes, putting a story out of sequence is a gimmick.  But if it’s written well, the gimmick really brings the story to life.

This story is out of sequence, but beyond that, it is also full of possibility.

It opens with a statement about the future: “In two minutes, give or take, she will be running as fast as she can.” (more…)

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fairytaleSOUNDTRACK: JOE BOYD AND ROBYN HITCHCOCK-“Tiny Desk Concert #142 (July 18, 2011).

robynThis is one of the more unusual Tiny Desk Concerts because it is not just music.  It is music and a recitation.  Joe Boyd (who I didn’t know) is a producer of many classic 1970s albums, including albums by Pink Floyd, Syd Barret and Nick Drake.  Robyn Hitchcock is an unusual and often funny singer songwriter.

Hitchcock opens the concert by stating (in his wonderfully British broadcaster’s voice) “All my life I’ve been Robyn Hitchock [and I’m here with] Joe Boyd who has been Joe Boyd even longer than I’ve been me.”

Joe and Robyn were doing a tour together in which Joe would talk about his experiences with these artists and then Robyn would play a representative song.

Robyn plays two songs.  The first is Syd Barrett’s “Terrapin,” a song I’ve always like.  His cover sounds a lot like Barrett’s version while still retaining Hitchcock’s distinctive singing quality.

The second song is one that Hitchcock wrote for the tour called “I Saw Nick Drake.”  It was planned as the first encore. It’s very much a Hitchcock song, a little trippy and strangely  catchy about him seeing Nick Drake and Nick being fine.

Between these songs, Boyd talks for about fifteen minutes, telling about working with Syd and how amazing he was…until he wasn’t.  And then about working with Nick and how every recording he did was perfect and how big his hands were.

If you care about either of these musicians or about British rock from that era, this is a great performance to check out.  It’s informative and a little funny too.

[READ: January 19, 2016] Fairy Tale Comics

This book follows on First Second’s Nursery Rhyme Comics book. Perhaps because this was a thinner volume or perhaps because Fairy Tales are a bit more substantive than Nursery Rhymes, I found this book even more enjoyable than the other.

And even though I (and possibly you) think that you know every a fairy tale, there were quite a few in here that I didn’t know.  In his editors note, Chris Duffy notes that he encouraged the artists to pick stories other than Grimms (although Grim is well represented).

Brothers Grimm stories include:

“Sweet Porridge,” which I’d never heard of.  This is done in a classic cartoon style by Bobby London.

“The 12 Dancing Princesses” seemed vaguely familiar.  This was done in a very pretty style by Emily Carroll.

“Hansel and Gretel” I did know, of course.  It’s fun to see Gilbert Hernandez doing a children’s story since I think of his stories as very adult.  But his simple drawing style works perfectly for this story.

“Little Red Riding Hood” has a very simple almost anime style from Gigi D.G.  It ends with a happy ending.

“Snow White” was done by the other Hernandez brother, Jaime.  His style is so peculiar and yet so perfect for this tale (the fact that the baby is actually white is a wonderful touch.

“Rumpelstiltskin” is done by Brett Helquist whom I know from the Lemon Snicket stories.  I can see his style a bit in these drawings but the colors really bring his interesting style to life.  It’s a great version.

“Rapunzel”  I have recently become a huge fan of Raina Telgemeier, and I love what she does with this story.  Although as I finished it I had to wonder if this is how the story is usually finished.  This seemed much more positive than what I imagine the Grimms intended.

“Bremen Town” I had never heard of this story.  And I can’t believe that this was how it was originally written. In this story a group of animals forms a band.  They frighten away bad guys so that they can jam.  How weird.  Karl Kerschl’s style suits it well.

“Give Me the Shudders” is another Grimm story that I had never heard of.  It’s about a boy who can’t shudder or shiver and so every one assumes he is fearless. He keeps asking people to teach him to shiver, but when they see he can’t they keep promoting him to better stations in life. David Mazzucchelli’s style works nicely with this because of the simplicity of his design amid the craziness of the story.

In addition to stories from Grimm, there are these fairy tales

From Charles Perrault:

“Puss in Boots” makes me wonder if I don’t know the story all that well.  I was quite intrigued by the way this one turned out.  Vanessa Davis has a kind of sloppy style.

From 1001 Nights Tales:

“The Prince and the Tortoise.” I had never heard of this story.  It’s pretty wild and weird.  The drawing style by Ramona Fradon reminds me of adventure comics from the Sunday papers.

From a Japanese Tale:

“The Boy Who Drew Cats” is a wonderfully cool and interesting story about the powers of fantasy and doing what you are meant to do.  Luke Pearson’s drawing is perfectly old school and nearly monochromatic for the Japanese landscape.

From Bre’r Rabbit”

“Rabbit Will Not Help”  I don’t know this tale but I do know some Bre’r Rabbit.  He’s such a bastard, and the drawing style by Joseph Lambert works nicely with that.  It’s a little weird and dark–perfect for this tale.

From an English Tale”

“The Small Tooth Dog”  I had never heard of this tale.  It’s pretty weird from start to finish, and that includes the art by Charise Mericle Harper whose style is very dramatically cartoony and also a little weird.

“Goldilocks and the Three Bears” I didn’t realize that this wasn’t a Grimm story.  This was my favorite in the book because of the way Graham Annable chose to do it.  There are no words just wonderful illustrations and great looks by both Goldilocks and the bears.  I suppose it helps if you know the story already–it may not be ideal for those who are seeing for the first time (whoever that may be) but as an interpretation, I loved it,

From the Russian Tale:

“Baba Yaga”  Russian Tales are always so dark.  And Jillian Tamaki represents this very well. This story has a house with chicken legs, wolves, talking cats and much more.  I really like Tamaki’s work a lot and I enjoyed her interpretation.

From The King and His Storyteller:

“Azzolino’s Story Without End” is another story I’d never heard of.  In it, a boy king wants to be told a story without an end.  And the king’s story-teller think of a great way to do it The story is short but Craig Thompson’s style is right on.

I really enjoyed this collection a lot.  And I love getting introduced and reintroduced to these stories that I’ve known for quite some time.

Thanks First Second. #10yearsof01

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catsSOUNDTRACK: THE DECEMBERISTS-The Hazards of Love (2009).

hazardsI first played this disc a few times without really listening to it, just to get a feel for it.  And I was surprised by how heavy it sounded.  The harshest moments of the disc really stood out to me, and I was quite surprised, as I think of the Decemberists as more folky than this.

But when I finally sat down and listened, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the disc overall.  I have yet to understand the complete storyline (the lyrics are printed in a near impossible to read size and color, so I’ve had to rely on what I could pick out.)

The disc is a concept album.  It tells the story of  Margaret who falls for a shape shifting creature of the forest and, I think, their offspring as well.  There’s a jealous forest queen involved, and, of course, the Rake–although I’m not exactly sure how he fits in–but more on him in a moment.

In addition to some “celebrity” guest vocalists (Robyn Hitchcock and Jim James of My Morning Jacket sing backing vocals), for the first time on a Decemberists disc, Colin Meloy doesn’t sing all of the lead vocals.  The two women characters’ parts are sung by two singers I don’t know: Becky Stark (of the band Lavender Diamond) and Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond).  And when the queen (Shara Worden) sings, she’s pretty angry. She creates one of the harshest sounds I can think of by the Decemberists.

Interestingly, that song, “The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid” also contains one of the most beautiful passages that the Decemberists have done.  “The Wanting Comes in Waves” part of the song has an uplifting chorus, a wonderful melody and a beautiful sing-along.  Meanwhile, the “Repaid” part has some harsh, angular guitars and when the Queen repeats “repaid!” for the third time, the hair will stand up on your arms.  (Of course, the song then repeats the beautiful part once again…phew…and it is reprised at the end of the disc, because how could you NOT include that passage again?).

This record also features the catchiest song about infanticide that I know of.  “The Rake’s Song” rocks, and yet as you’re singing along to the simple but catchy chorus of “Alright, Alright, Alright,” you realize that the Rake has just killed all of his three children so that he can have a life as a free bachelor again.  (Revenge does come at the end).

And that revenge comes in one of the 4 versions of the title song.  What starts as a simple folky ditty (in Part 1) “singing, oh ho, the hazards of love,” morphs (in Part 2)  into a rocking track, then (in Part 3) a track with a children’s choir (my least favorite track on the disc–it works with the story, but I don’t care for the kids voices, really) and (finally) a haunting epilogue.

This is The Decemberists’ most striking album to date.  It is a bold attempt to alienate just about everyone, and yet I believe they have pulled off something just shy of a masterpiece.  The harshness of some of the songs still makes me a little uneasy (at least when listening with the kiddies), but the rewards are ample, and they really do fit perfectly with the plot.

I never expected the Decemberists to venture into prog rock territory but since they embraced it fully, they really pulled it off.  I do still need to get in and read the lyrics though, just to get all the details straight.  (They are legibly printed here).

[READ: June 1, 2009] Cat’s Cradle

This is the first “well-known” Vonnegut book I’ve read (not counting Slaughterhouse Five, which I’m going to re-read soon for the first time in fifteen or so years).  I’d heard of this book but never knew what it was about.  And, boy, trying to summarize is pretty tough.

Why?

Because Vonnegut invents an entire new religion and a fictional island on which to practice it.  And his characterization of the whole thing is so complete, that it is utterly believable.  And that’s only half the book.

So, let’s try this: John, the narrator decides to write a personal biography of Felix Hoenikker, the Father of the atomic bomb. Okay, so we know we are on somewhat fictional ground, and yet it is sort of based in reality.  Fine. (more…)

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