Archive for the ‘They Might Be Giants’ Category

[POSTPONED: March 13, 2020] They Might Be Giants [moved to September 8]

indexMarch was going to be a very busy concert month for me.  This was to be the first of four shows in five nights.  This show was going to be for me and S.–a night of They Might Be Giants performing Flood!

It turned out to be the first of dozens of shows cancelled or postponed by the coronavirus.

Obviously, my main concern is for everyone’s safety, including the bands!

My selfish concern though is that once the shows are rescheduled that all of these shows will be scheduled on the same day!

Let’s hope the rescheduled dates also do some social distancing.

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newSOUNDTRACK: DANISH STRING QUARTET-Tiny Desk Concert #399 (October 25, 2014).

danishI always enjoy hearing a string quartet that I’m unlikely to hear anywhere other than a Tiny Desk Concert.  It’s fun to listen to them before reading anything about them to try to imagine where they’re coming from musically.   The opening notes of the first song made me think they were a modernist quartet playing music that was repetitive and mildly atonal.

But they quickly swing it around into what turns out to be the first of many traditional Danish wedding folk songs!

While the quartet does play classical pieces as well, for this Tiny Desk Concert, they focus only on songs from their then recent album Wood Works.  The blurb says “the group recently took a musical detour that landed them in the foggy inlets of the Faroe Islands (a Danish outpost halfway between Norway and Iceland) and various Nordic hamlets where folk tunes are played and passed on.”

The first piece is actually three melodies: “Traditional: Ye Honest Bridal Couple — Sønderho Bridal Trilogy Parts I & II”  The piece begins somewhat atonally, but about 2 and a half minutes in the somber tones give way to a spritely melody that sounds like a great lost Irish jig.  But soon enough with the addition of the other strings it sounds very romantic indeed.  In what I presume is part II, around 6 minutes, the cello plays a wonderfully upbeat and catchy rhythm. The violins play staccato notes that keep the rhythm going while the viola and cello continue the melody–it’s pretty awesome.  Especially as the song fades and each of the strings plays the riff in succession.

The second piece is in fact two pieces: Traditional: Sekstur from Vendsyssel — The Peat Dance.”  Once again the two melodies sound kind of like Irish dances (I guess it’s time to call them Danish dances).  The second half of the first part sound great as the full quartet plays a wonderful melody.  But when the second part of the set comes and the super fast fiddling begins, it s hard not to dance (you can even hear someone tapping his foot as he plays).  The big difference between this and Irish dance is the rather formal sounding and lovely ending melody.

The final piece is the third part of the Bridal Trilogy from the first piece: “Traditional (arr. Nikolaj Busk): Sønderho Bridal Trilogy Part III.”  He says that these melodies date back many 100 years and are still used today.  It begins very slowly and almost somberly.  It doesn’t feel very wedding-like to me and of the three this is my least favorite.

The quartet sounds amazing. The players are Violinists Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen and Frederik Øland, violist Asbjørn Nørgaard and cellist Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin.  It’s also kind of funny since three of the four have beards–not something you typically see on a string quartet. They acknowledge this on their website: “We are simply your friendly neighborhood string quartet with above average amounts of beard.”

[READ: June 20, 2016] Something New

Knisley has made a rather successful career out of writing graphic novel memoirs.  She has covered food and travel.  And, in a somewhat surprising twist (if you have been following her books), she just got married.

This is surprising because the man she married is the man she broke up with in one of the previous books.  The story basically tells how they were on an off sorta kinda for years until they finally tied the knot.

So this book is the story of their relationship and their engagement. But beyond that it is also an interesting and helpful guide-book for those who want to get married but who may not be totally on board with all of the conventions and trapping of the wedding industry. (more…)

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  mermin 3SOUNDTRACK: THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS-Tiny Desk Concert #145 (July 28, 2011).

tmbgI have loved They Might Be Giants for decades.  But I have kind of fallen off the TMBAndwagon over the last few years.

I must have watched this Tiny Desk when it came out, but i didn’t really remember it at all.

John and John (and Marty Beller on drums) play 2 songs from their then new album Join Us (the last one I bought I think).

The first is “Can’t Keep Johnny Down” sung by Flansburgh who also plays keyboards.  It sounds very much like classic TMBG (that voice, of course).

“Cloisonné” is a slower song sung by Linnel while Flans plays a very long saxophone (seriously, it’s very long).  This also sounds very TMBG–Johns voice and the sax are right on).  I don’t know why I didn’t listen to this album more.

They wrap up the set with the brilliant 21 part “Fingertips” from Apollo 18.  And it sounds perfect–just like the record, only live and a little more fun.

[READ: January 19, 2016] Mermin: Book Two

I enjoyed Mermin Book One quite a lot.  And of course, I couldn’t wait for Book Two.  And then I forgot about it.  I need some kind of reminder system, I guess.

Anyhow, this book picks up right where the previous one left off.

Mermin (not to be confused with Moomin) has completed his adventure and is trying to settle in with Pete and his friends–you know go to school and be normal even he is a green fish type creature.  And Benni (the round goldfish like creature) is still around to watch over Mermin (even if he is not appreciated).

And now suddenly Penny is trying to hang out with the boys.  Pete and his friends are reluctant for her to join them because she usually hangs out with other people and besides, they are trying to keep Mermin a secret.  They are not doing a good job of it though. (more…)

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anyaSOUNDTRACK: THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS-Holidayland (2001).

tmbg This was one of the first Christmas albums I bought, and i would have bought it regardless because it is They Might Be Giants.  As far as Christmas records goes, it’s pretty short: 5 songs in 11 minutes.

“Santa Claus” has a funky bass line and a snotty attitude. There’s loud guitars, a honking horn and plenty of NOTHING!  “Santa’s Beard” is an old super fun song, classic TMBG.
“Feast of Lights” is a simple song on toy piano and real piano, a Hanukkah-based kinda sad song with a bit of hope in the end.  “Careless Santa” is an upbeat song about Santa spoiling Christmas for him (cops are involved!). It has some loopy synth sounds and wild drumming at the end.

“O Tannenbaum” The only traditional song, this is a slow version.  It opens with horns in the vocal melody for the first minute and then John F’ sings in German for the final minute.

I’ve always enjoyed this admittedly slight holiday record.

[READ: December 18, 2014] Anya’s Ghost

Sarah was surprised to see that I’d brought this home because she read it for her YA contest this year.  She also liked it quite a lot.

Brosgol wrote and drew the book and I love her illustration style.  It is simple but very effective.  She draws a normal looking girl quite effectively (and the embarrassing underwear shot is quite funny).  But she also knows how to draw the skinny, “hot” girl and make her look sweet as well.  And lets not forget how well she conveys the ghost in the story, too.

Anya is in a private high school (which her mother can barely afford).  Anya’s family moved to America (from Russia) when she was little.  She learned to speak English and does not have an accent.  But she is nervous about being seen as a FOB (fresh off the boat).  And as such she avoids Dima, a new to America Russian boy who studies hard and is a real dork (and suffers accordingly).

As the book opens, Anya’s mother is making Сырники (Syrniki–fried quark (a dairy product) pancakes, garnished with sour cream, jam, honey, or apple sauce–YUM!).  But Anya is upset that she’s making yet another fattening food.  Now that she’s in America she’s not interested in her mother’s claims that “in Russia being fat meant you were a rich man.”

She takes a bag but throws it out on her way to school (travesty).  Then she meets her (only) friend Siobhan.  Siobhan is kind of bitter and a little nasty (but funny).  She is drawn very angrily though–she’s the one character I don’t like the look of.  When Anya doesn’t let Siobhan bum a cigarette, Siobhan gets mad and stomps off.  Anya goes off in the other direction and…falls into a hole. (more…)

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rattleSOUNDTRACK: THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS-“Greasy Kid Stuff” (2013).

3This song was recorded especially for the Greasy Kid Stuff radio show and appears on Greasy Kids Stuff Vol 3.

It starts out like a very TMBG song–with funny lyrics (by John L) over a simple keyboard melody.  The lyrics are about his unruly hair (it needs some schooling).  But it quickly turns into a plea to the radio for songs about Greasy Kid Stuff!

The chorus sounds very “rock n roll” (with old style backing vocals).

It’s only 1:40 and it’s the kind of song TMBG seems to be able to whip out in a couple of minutes.  But it’s really quite catchy.  It’s nice to get some new fun from John and John and the Dans.

[READ: August 11, 2014] We Can’t All Be Rattlesnakes

Indeed we cannot all be rattlesnakes. Even the main character of this book, a gopher snake, can’t be one, despite how much she looks like one.

The gopher snake is unnamed because even though she is the main character, she has just been captured by a boy named Gunnar.   Well, actually he calls her Crusher, but that’s not her name, and she refuses to acknowledge it (especially since she doesn’t crush her prey, she asphyxiates it).  We see everything that happens to her from her own eyes. This allows us to see everyday human items (like a video game console) as completely foreign.

Gunnar is a kinda dumb, kinda violent boy, at least that’s what the other captive animals claim (reptiles can communicate telepathically, you know).  Speedy the tortoise and Rex the lizard tell Crusher all about how things are in this house.

Gunnar plays violent video games, disobeys his mom, has dumb friends and refuses to accept that Crusher is a girl.  At first Crusher is really angry about being captured and she vows revenge.  Not only won’t she eat the dead mouse he puts in there with her, she refuses to eat the live mouse he puts in there with her.  In fact the mouse, named Breakfast, becomes quite taken with Crusher, and cuddles up next to her. (more…)

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myhomeSOUNDTRACK: MUCKAFERGUSON-“MC Speller” (2010).

muckaI had never heard of Muckaferguson.  Okay, that is not true, as I see I made a post about them because of the They Might be Giants song “John Lee Supertaster.”  Because the real John Lee is a indeed a supertaster and was in the band Muckaferguson. (And John Flansburgh of TMBG produced this album).  So there.  But I still hadn’t heard them until now.

This song comes from that album.

The album is a flurry of genres and styles, and amid all of this, we get this old school beat box rap (sorta early Beastie Boysish).  And I like it because it is quite funny.  And since it’s only a minute and a half long, I’ll put all the lyrics, because I can’t pick a favorite line:

my name is mc speller and i like to spell…s p e l l spells spell. mc speller and i love to spell…q u e u e spells queue.

he’s a maniac, ya’ll. here comes the heart attack, yo. chris likes food. andy like atari. i like the work of john baldessari. my rhymes are fresh and my moves are hard. i play the plastic guitar like baudrillard.

my name is mc speller and i like to spell…d a d spells dad. mc speller and i love to spell…r h o n g spells wrong.

i’m mc scared of bees, ya’ll cause you know that i’m scared of bees, ya’ll. when i see a bee i run because by definition i’m scared of bees.

yo, i’m comin’ to you straight out of sutton in suburban south london. white, middle class, educated 20 something. i got me degree in pure mathematics. i don’t like to rap i’m just being sarcastic.

r i g h t spells right, mc speller’s gonna spell all night, talkin’ about. n i g h t spells night, mc speller spells everything right

Despite the kid friendly nature of some of some of these songs, the album as a whole is definitely not kid friendly (I mean, look at the cover and, frankly the band’s name).  The song “I Wanna Get…” is all about getting, well, F’d up, so be mindful.  But many of the songs are delightfully witty.

John Lee, incidentally, is also responsible for the show Wonder Showzen, so if you know the show, you get a sense of the kind of mischief he makes.

[READ: August 9, 2014] My Homework Ate My Homework

Regardless of how I felt about Guinea Dog 1 and 2 (overall I liked them quite a bit), it was impossible not to snap up a book with a title like this.  Especially when the book is about a ferret.  (The cover is by the same artist as the Guinea Dog books, which led me to assume the style was similar, which it was).

This book is about 10-year-old Zaritza (the unusual name is never explained).  She is… dramatic.  And is a fan of dramatic….  pauses.  She is incredibly excited to be playing Calamity Jane in the upcoming traveling theater production of Calamity Jane.  She has watched the film dozens of times and has her “Calam” down perfectly.

The problem is that if she doesn’t bring her grades up she’s won’t be allowed to do extra curricular activities.  Like drama.  She is not the best student, so rather than actually doing her work, she decides to do some extra credit.  Like bringing the classroom pet Ferret home for the weekend.  She hates the ferret.  She hates its smell, she hates its look. Hates it.  But she needs the credit.  And so it comes home.  And then she forgets to close the cage door and the ferret gets out.


While the ferret is out, and they are trying to catch it, Zaritza hears something–gnawing.  And that’s when her homework ate her homework. (more…)

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stickman1SOUNDTRACK: DANNY WEINKAUF-“Archaeology” (2014).

noschoolDanny Weinkauf is one of the Band of Dans that plays with They Might Be Giants.  In 2014 he successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign to create his solo album, No School Today.  (I knew nothing about the Kickstarter campaign).

The album comes out this month and I have to say I really like what I’ve heard so far.  This song has been played on Kids Corner a lot.  It’s very catchy and reminds me of good indie pop music.  There’s even a feel of 70s British pop (or like Davy Jones singing).  It’s super catchy.  The chorus and the oft-repeated “arc” “arc” “arc” before “archaeology” can be a bit much at the end of the song, but for the most part this is a real winner.

Danny also wrote “I am a Paleontologist” from They Might Be Giants Here Comes Science album, so his bona fides are good.  And the lyrics are clever and smart, too:

Archaeology It’s human evolution From the Caveman to you and me analyzing their solutions (yeah now)
/Archaeology the secrets they left for us We can study activities Of those who came before us

[READ: April 7, 2014] Stickman Odyssey, Book 1

While I was looking for Stickdog books for C., I came across Stickman.  There are two books in this series (with book two being set up for a third, but no sign of it yet).

This book is a kind of spoof of Homer’s Odyssey, but not really. It is set in the time of the ancient Greek gods and some of those gods make appearances.  Even the style is done in a generically Homeric epic storytelling style.  But none of the characters from Homer appear.  This is an alternate reality of sorts.  The Great Whirlpool exists (shades of Scylla and Charybdis), but so does Candy Island and a place called Odonoros and Stickman’s home world of Sticatha (which made me laugh once I pronounced it correctly).  So, you don’t need familiarity with Homer to appreciate this, indeed, it kind of confused me at first because I wasn’t sure if I should be looking for parallels.

Stickman’s name is the awkward Zozimos (which I want to be significant but can’t figure out any reason why it would be).

The gods do play with the humans, though.  On the second page we see that Athena wields a giant pen and makes Zozimos a raft while he is struggling in the ocean.  Days later he lands on what he thinks is Sticatha, but no, he lands on an island with fair maidens.  He tries to charm one of them, Asteria, but is immediately grabbed by a golem and dragged to jail.  The evil King Marnox imprisons every castaway who lands on the island–he has his reasons.

But Asteria is mad that her father is locking up all of these eligible men, so he brings Zozimos out of the jail for him to tell his story.  And it is…epic! (more…)

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