Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: OK GO-Tiny Desk Concert #278 (June 3, 2013).

I love OK Go’s music videos.  They are stupendous. I have watched all of them several times.  And yet I can’t remember a single song.  But that doesn’t diminish my appreciation for them.

When NPR was moving offices, they made a “Tiny Desk Concert” of the band proceeding from their old location to the new one.  And in OK Go fashion, they made a great video to go with it.  The music is live (I believe), even though they must have shot the footage hundreds of times.  It’s sort of a stop motion video, except that it’s not single frames but short 2 second clips spliced together.

You can watch as the old office is dismantled, as they walk through the halls to the moving truck.   As they play on the truck in the streets of D.C. and then as they enter the new building.  There are cameos from NPR colleagues: Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, David Greene, Guy Raz, Scott Simon, Alix Spiegel, Susan Stamberg and more.  There’s a hilarious moment with Karl Kassel who gives them a dirty look.  And then they march through the offices, the news room and into the new Tiny Desk location where they finish the song.

The song is fun and catchy and even has new lyrics that reference the NPR move.  It has to be seen to be appreciated.

And if you like figures here are some details from the shoot:

  • Number of video takes: 223
  • Number of seconds Carl Kasell spent in the elevator with OK Go: 98
  • Number of times Ari Shapiro played the tubular bells: 15
  • Number of days it took to shoot: 2
  • Number of cameras: 1

Incidentally, NPR and I are out of sync with our counting of Tiny Desk Concerts.  I can’t figure out what happened.  The reason mine is correct is because I have written down every concert and numbered them.  So I feel that for them one doesn’t count?  They say this was number 277.  Someday they’ll read this and we’ll get to the  bottom of everything.

[READ: April 1, 2016] No Mercy Vol. 1

Because of the way books are being handled at my work now, I don’t get to see as many books as I used to. So i was pretty delighted to get this graphic novel on my desk.  Even if I didn’t quite know what it was about, I wanted to read it.  And boy did I enjoy it.

I had no idea that the cast was a group of aspiring Princeton University students on a per-freshman trip to an underprivileged county (I like the t-shirts that say Building Bridges Helping Hands with a kinda Princeton P on the front.

We meet the cast in a cool way–each one steeping forward a bit in the crowd and giving a bit of information about themselves…mostly through text messages. Oh and I loved the way the opening colophon pages looked just like Facebook (or whatever) with a timeline photo and then on the right side–sponsored images with drawings of the author and the illustrators and an ad for an other Image comic by Alex de Campi called Valentine–genius layout idea.

There’s also a comment under the photo which says “OMG how sad, they were also young.”  So you know something bad is going to happen these poor kids. (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

fableSOUNDTRACK: CALLmeKAT-Tiny Desk Concert #152 (August 29, 2011).

callmekatKatrine Ottosen is CALLmeKAT and she is from Copenhagen.  I’m unclear what her sound normally is–if it’s fuller than it is here–but for this show, it’s her on a couple of synths and a drummer.

I like the interesting synth sound she gets in the beginning of “Tigerhead,” but, despite the two synths, the whole song feels a little thin to me. Nevertheless, she hits some admirable high notes.

She wrote the second song, “Going Home” at Newark airport—she says always miserable there, it’s “so depressing” (no argument there).  She samples herself on a tiny keyboard (Bob asks her what she’s doing singing into the tiny Casio–this has to have been before everyone was looping everything).  The song is very pretty but feels very slight again–even more so because there is no percussion.

The third song, “Glass Walls” also has a sample of her voice–the sample is just an “ooooooh” note.  She says she wrote this one in the Copenhagen airport (which must be nicer than Newark)  This song is a bit more robust.

I liked her voice but the whole show I wanted a bit more oomph, which is not a typical reaction from a Tiny Desk where I know things are usually stripped down somewhat.

[READ: February 15, 2016] Fable Comics

Following up on First Second’s 2011 collection of Nursery Rhyme Comics, comes this new collection of Fable Comics, also edited by Chris Duffy.

Duffy says that for this collection they wanted to use mostly Aesop’s fables (because they are the most widely knows).  But the book also includes a sampling from other traditions.  He says that cartoonist were allowed to embellish the stories but we asked that the lesson remained.

And so there are 28 fables and the artists are pretty much a who’s who of contemporary comics.  I’ve broken down the Fables by their creators:

Aesop

The Fox and the Grapes-James Kochalka modernizes this a bit with a jet pack, which is hilarious.

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse-Tom Gauld is back, and it’s great to see his work as he keeps the story fairly traditional

Hermes and the Man Who Was Bitten by an Ant ; Hermes and the Woodsman ; The Frogs Who Desired a King ; Hermes and the Sculptor. George O’Connor is responsible for the First Second Olympians series, so it’s no surprise that he tackles these stories about Hermes.  He remains faithful to the original and keeps up his very cool drawing style.

The Belly and the Body Members–Charise Harper has a wonderfully stylized look for this story about how the body parts need to work together or it can’t do anything.

Lion +Mouse–R. Sikoryak’s Mad Magazine style works very well for this familiar story about a mouse helping a lion (he has modified it somewhat of course).

Fox and Crow-Jennifer L. Meyer’s style is gorgeous.  This fable has a fantastic look to it with pale colors and circles of details.  I could look at it for hours.

The Old Man and Death–Eleanor Davis’s art is boxey and stark.  It works very well with this dark and Communist-looking story.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf–Jaime Hernandez.  I love when Hernandez does kids’ stoires because his characters are so perfectly cartoon and his colors are bright and fun.  His telling of this story is very good.

The Crow and the Pitcher–Simone Lia  I didn’t know this fable.  And I don’t really know how the beginning sets up the end. It shows crow as being very smart for others but the end has the crow being extremely smart for himself.   It’s a weird fable although it rings rather true.

The Dog and His Reflection–Graham Chafee does an awesome job of showing greed in others and leaving the dog’s story to be un-narrated.  He witnesses greed and acts accordingly.

The Dolphins, The Whales and the Sprat–Maris Wicks.  I was completely unfamiliar with this fable.  I’m also curious about how much Wicks has added.  I love that she adds some very funny factual details like that dolphins are actually a type of whale and that there are detailed asides about all of the animals throughout this story.  The moral is that they’d rather die than take advice from a sprat.  Still true today.

The Milkmaid and Her Pail–Israel Sanchez  This fable was also unfamiliar.  Sanchez’ drawings are stark and work well to tell this story of greed.

The Great Weasel War–Ulises Farinas.  This comes from a longer fable called The Mice and the Weasels.  I love Farinas’ art in this story.  The colors are spectacular and the creatures are great   And I love the moral is that they build these giant machines that cannot fight against nature.

The Sun and the Wind–R.O. Blechman. This fable was in Ava and Pip, so its funny to read it there and then see it here. Blechman’s simple drawings complement the story well.

The Hare and the Tortoise–Graham Annable’s art is great for this.  The tortoise is so crabby looking.  I’m unfamiliar with the deus ex machina that happens though.  It’s funny how many of these fables we may know without knowing them in total.

The Grasshopper and the Ants–John Kerschbaum’s art is so busy and full of detail, it’s really wonderful.  I’m unfamiliar with the ants asking the grasshopper to play for them at the end of the story tough.

The Thief and the Watchdog–Braden Lamb & Shelli Paroline. I really enjoyed the way these two created this fable.  The art is great–angular and simple but really powerful.  Having the dog explain why giving him meat won’t work is a great idea.

Demandes and His Fable–Roger Langridge.   I love Langridge’s clear lines and distinctive colors. He tries to get people’s attention and only succeeds by telling them a fable about Demandes.  I’m intrigued that his fable gets interrupted by himself.

The rest of the fables’ origins are mentions in parentheses after the title:

Leopard Drums Up Dinner (Angolan Fable)–Sophie Goldstein makes a fun visual of this story about animals trying to capture others with music.  I wonder how closely this aligns to the original, as its pretty crazy.

The Hare and the Pig (Indian Fable)–Vera Brosgol.  I didn’t know this fable at all.  Rabbit and Pig are arguing about who is best.  Leave it to fox to make the declaration.

The Demon, The Thief and the Hermit (Bidpai)–Keny Widjaja illustrates this amusing tale of a thief trying to join with a demon to rob a hermit

The Elephant in Favor (by Ivan Krilov)–Corinne Mucha.  I love that Corine modernizes the fable (the lion says Dude).  This is all about how everyone talks about the elephant.  He works slow but gets a raise. What makes him so great?  All the other animals speculate.  But it turns out that his ears are the real reason–for reasons other than the obvious.  This may be my favorite fable of all.

The Mouse Council (medieval European fable)–Liniers. This is the story of putting a bell on a cat and how no one wants to risk their life for the good of all.  Liniers’ art is spectacular.  I love the subtle shading of his drawings and then the rough drawings by the mice.

Man and Wart (Ambrose Bierce)–Mark Newgarden.  I love Ambrose Bierce but had no idea he wrote fables.  This one about people’s need for privacy and not belonging to a club is pretty strange.

The Hen and the Mountain Turtle (Chinese Fable)–Gregory Benton. I was unfamiliar with this story about a wise turtle saving a farm.

These collections of short pieces are quite wonderful. I wonder what genre First Second will tackle next.  #10yearsof01

Read Full Post »

augSOUNDTRACK: GAELYNN LEA-Tiny Desk Concert #513 (March 11, 2016).

graeGaelynn Lea won the Tiny Desk Contest and within a few days she was ready to appear for her formal Tiny Desk Concert.

She began her set with the prize winner, “Someday We’ll Linger In The Sun.”  The song was beautiful and haunting in the video, and it sounded just as good live.  She joked that with a loop pedal you have to be perfect, and it was.  Watching her play these notes is even more interesting than hearing them.

Gaelynn is clearly a little nervous, but she is still charming as she tells us how she got started in the music world.  She started fiddling because she had a crush on a boy who fiddled.  Simple as that.  She had been in a number of bands in Minnesota.  Then someone gave her a looping pedal and that changed everything for her.

She says that she began experimenting with the old and the new, and that the looping pedal allowed her to do things like play “Southwind.”  The song is 100 years old.  She loops a beautiful melody and then plays an excellent solo over the top it.  I think there’s something about the way she plays–her bowing seems to make her violin sound more like a cello or something–that makes her notes sound more haunting than another violinist might.

After the first two songs, Bob comes out to introduce Gaelynn.  He explains that she is a violin teacher and she has been playing for years and years.  And then he explains that she’s going to have accompaniment for the next two songs–Alan Sparhawk from Low!

Here’s how they met.  Gaelynn was playing at a farmer’s market with a guitar player.  Alan Sparhwawk who is also based in Duluth, MN, heard her playing.  Some time later, he called her (while she was at a wedding) and asked if she’d want to work on a project with him.  They made musis for a silent film and then formed the band The Murder of Crows.

And so Alan joins her for the last two songs.

“Bird” is an upbeat song with a lively lopped violin riff.  Alan plays slow guitars which flesh out the low end.  And then Gaelynn sings as the violin loops and Alan plays low notes.  Alan takes the second verse and then Gaelynn sings a round over the top of his voice.  It’s quite lovely.

She says she never wrote any songs until she met him, and she’s very grateful.

The final song is “Moment of Bliss.”  I really like the melody and vocal line of this song.  And again, the lyrics are really thoughtful.  Sparhawk’s slow guitar and low harmony voice really add depth to this lovely five minute song.  When she plays a looped solo at the end, it’s really beautiful.

[READ: January 25, 2016] “Leap Day”

I don’t think I’ve read too many stories where the plot of a movie is as instrumental to the story as it was in this one.

And when I say that that movie is Brokeback Mountain, it gives you a ton of context clues.

The story is a simple one.  Ernie Boettner is climbing up a grain silo in February.  And then we find out why.

Ernie is a farmer.  The townspeople of Park City, Illinois noticed that he seemed to get a lot of visits from the veterinarian Chester Bradbury.  There was nothing wrong with that per se, but it seemed like sometimes the vet’s truck was there over night.  Which seemed unusual. (more…)

Read Full Post »

CoverStory-2-22-16-879x1200-1455509711 SOUNDTRACK: JULIEN BAKER-Tiny Desk Concert #512 (March 7, 2016).

julienI had never heard of Julien Baker before this Tiny Desk Concert.  Indeed, she looks young enough that perhaps this is her first concert (it isn’t).

Baker plays a lovely, slightly echoey, but otherwise very clear electric guitar.  Her tone is so clear and quiet.  And her voice is also incredibly delicate.  Watching her play and sing it’s amazing you can hear anything at all, and yet she does not wilt in any way–her music is delicate but not whispered.

As with many players these days, she uses a looping pedal to great effect.  For the first song, “Sprained Ankle” she loops the lovely harmonics at the beginning of the song and then allows for the multiple layers to play.  Her vocals are as gentle as the harmonics, and yet, again, not whispery.  At barely 2 minutes, the song leaves you wanting more.

She talks about doing a new song for them called “Sad Song #11” since “I already have ten sad songs.”  She thanks everyone for their “courteous laughter.”  And then plays another beautiful song now officially titled, “Funeral Pyre.”  She has a very nice way with words: “Ash for a decorative urn you keep on your mantelpiece like a trophy for everything.”  There’s a beautiful layered guitar solo at the end too.

The introductory guitar lines from “Something” are really lovely–her sound is just so clear–and once again, the song is beautiful and haunting with her repeated lyrics sounding more powerful with each go around.

The blurb about the show references Torres, and I totally see the deference.  They don’t sound anything alike in that Torres is brash and loud, but they have that same up-close and intimate vibe.  For Baker, it makes you want to lean is as she sings.

[READ: February 17, 2016] “sine cosine tangent”

I have always meant to read more from DeLillo, I just never do.

And while I have enjoyed all of the things I have read by him, I didn’t love this story so much.  Okay, I’ve since found out that this is an excerpt, which changes things.  I’ll keep my review the same but with bracketed realizations pertaining to the novel.

This is the story of a young man (his age in the story is unclear to me, and I’m not sure how much distance separates the present from the past [presumably this is covered in the novel]) and his relationship with his father.  His father is a successful businessman but the son says that he “shaved a strip of hair along the middle of my head, front to back, I was his personal Antichrist.”

His father left when he was 13, although he never found out why.  Years later, he sees his father, Mr Ross Lockhart on the TV, discussing the ecology of unemployment in Geneva. (more…)

Read Full Post »

1252016SOUNDTRACK: BRUSHY ONE STRING-Tiny Desk Concert #509 (February 27, 2016).

brushyAlthough I don’t know where the “Brushy” part comes from, the “One String” part of Brushy One String’s name comes from the fact that he plays a guitar with one string.  A low E string.

Obviously, then, the songs are pretty simple.  Most of them are just one or two notes.  They are more or less bluesy and the main selling point of his music is his voice.

“Destiny” is the first song. I really like the middle of it where he scats in a cool accented…something.  The song begins as a fairly simple blues riff with Brushy’s vocals.  But when he gets to the chorus, he does some great things with his voice to make it really powerful.

“Chicken in the Corn” is a YouTube sensation with nearly 9 million views.  It’s fast and wild.  This song has a bit more of percussive quality as he keeps a beat on the guitar while playing his one string.  This song also has a cool scat section and multiple single styles.  It’s pretty fun.

“No Man Stop Me” is a slow song.  It’s a spiritual song and it’s way too long.  There’s a lengthy recitation and a lot of repetition, and or a song this much, it’s just too much.

[READ: January 19, 2016] “Aspice”

This is a very short story (one page translated by Anya Migdal) that is all about making Aspic.

The narrator is a woman who dreads making the annual aspic for the holiday dinner. “It’s a special kind of religion, making the aspic.  It’s a yearly sacrifice though we don’t know to whom or for what.  For some reason it must be done.”

And then in first person present she talks about the steps involved. (more…)

Read Full Post »

kokoSOUNDTRACK: CAR SEAT HEADREST-Tiny Desk Concert #505 (February 8, 2016).

carseatI only know of Car Seat Headrest from NPR.  They have really liked some of his previous songs and both Bob and Robin raved about his new song “Vincent” (which is really good).

For this Tiny Desk Concert, Will Toledo (who is kind of the only guy in the band, although not currently if you know what I mean) plays acoustic guitar on a tall stool.  Accompanying him are two friends from Leesburg, Va, who don’t actually do anything, and his two band mates who also don’t do anything (well, the drummer plays a toy “desktop” drum set for the song “The Drum”).  And yes, they all sing along during the sing along at the end of song three.

It’s worth mentioning that Toledo has released some 12 albums under the name Car Seat Headrest since 2010 (and Toledo is only 23).  Find them at bandcamp.  Unlike someone like Robert Pollard who has written hundreds of songs that are about 30 seconds long.  Most of Toledo’s songs are really quite long, with multiple parts.  And amazingly, all the parts are pretty catchy,

He plays three songs in this set.  His voice is a little creaky and high-pitched, but it is really-spot on for the kind of songs he writes.  By contrast,. it’s funny to hear how deep his speaking voice is.

“The Drum” opens with a riff that is almost out of tune seeming (like his voice).  The melody lines in the verses are simple but often unexpected.  And lyrically, the song is quite interesting (“the drum reads James Joyce,” “the drum’s in debt”).  And just when it seems like the song could end, it switches to a slower middle section, after which it all comes back to that catchy chorus.  By the end of the song it’s totally grabbed you.

For “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales,” he pushes his falsetto pretty high.  The  song starts out rather slow but once the verses start properly it picks up.  I love the way in the drunk drivers part he adds vocal melodies that are not in the music to make the song even fuller.   And then unexpectedly, the song shifts gears from the melancholy drunk driver section to the powerfully sung (and I’m not exactly sure how it’s related) “Killer Whales” part. It runs to 6 minutes and is constantly shifting and always stays interesting.

“Sober To Death” is also about 6 minutes long. There’s some great lyrics in here as well “every conversation ends with you screaming.  Not even words just ah ah ahhhhh” (with his voice breaking during the ahhs).   The sing along part at the end has a neat intro where the first guitar line is plucked slowly and the second line picks up speed.  And when everyone sings along it really elevates the song.

After just two listens to this show I was totally hooked and I’m really looking forward to hearing his last album, which is reworking of his earlier songs for Matador Records, and his soon to be released new album with “Vincent” on it.

[READ: February 25, 2016] Koko Be Good

I absolutely adored the art in this book.  I really thought it was outstanding and it has made me search out more of Wang’s stuff (she has a number of online comics at her website).  I also didn’t realize that she drew In Real Life–with Cory Doctorow–her style is similar there but a but less wild as it is here.  And the story is pretty great too.

So this is the story of two main protagonists and a third character who plays a smaller but pivotal role.  Koko is a wild Chinese girl who is carefree and careless.  Jon Wilgur is a tightly wound young man who is planning to change his life pretty drastically.

koko2The story opens with Jon–he is drawn so perfectly, I can’t get over it–a great combination of realism and cartoon style.  He is listening to an audiotape sent by his girlfriend (I love that he is listening to an audio cassette).  He and his girlfriend are planning to move to Peru together very soon. She is currently there and he is about to pack up and head down there himself. (more…)

Read Full Post »

aboveSOUNDTRACK: DO MAKE SAY THINK-& Yet & Yet [CST020] (2002).

DmstandyetandyetAfter the previous album, keyboardist Jason McKenzie departed the band.  I’m not entirely sure how this impacted the band, but this album is warmer and a little more delicate feeling.  It’s also their first album that was recorded all in the same place (in band member Justin Small’s house).

The disc opens with static and effects before a jazzy drumbeat comes in.   “Clasic Noodlanding” is mellow with a complex (for them) riff on the guitar and nice washes of keyboards.  It is primarily atmospheric until about two minutes in when it suddenly changes with the introduction of a great bass line.  And then this atmospheric song turns really catchy. The five and a half-minutes feel too short in this song.

“End of Music” opens with jazzy drums and keyboards.  It’s a slow piece that stretches to nearly 7 minutes.  About half way through the song, the drums come crashing in and a brighter, noisier melody takes over.  This end section is really catchy with some great chords and excellent drumming.

“White Light Of” opens with a cool slow bass line and drum pattern.  As the song grows in complexity I like the new bass rumble that is added and the way the guitar lines seem to intertwine. About half way through horns get added to the mix, quietly at first and then they slowly take over the song. About five minutes in the song comes to abrupt halt with some interesting echoed effects on the drums. It resumes again with a stranger version of the song—it feels unsettled and really interesting, with a nice riff interspersed with one that feels off somewhat.

“Chinatown” opens unlike any DMST song.  The bass sounds electronic and skittery with some interesting keyboard sounds over the top (it actually sounds a bit like later period Radiohead).  The song is slow and moody for all of its 5 and half minutes with keyboard washes and skittery guitars.  There are quotes thrown in throughout the song but I can’t tell what they are saying.  This song was features in the film Syriana.

“Reitschule” is one of two songs that are 9 minutes long. It opens with a slow meandering guitar line interspersed with another guitar playing an interesting counterpoint.  A cool bassline comes in around 2:30 which takes the song in a new direction.  Horns propel the song along until about 4 minutes when a jangly guitar takes over the song. It builds with some abrasive guitar chords until everything washes away except the bass.  And then it rebuilds as something else.  Distant horns play in the back as the guitars play overlapping lines.  It’s an epic song that demonstrates how much this band can do.

“Soul and Onward” has a pretty conventional melody line. It’s warm and friendly It also features wordless vocals by Tamara Williamson. I love the little tiny guitar lick that works as a bridge between the two sections.  This is my favorite song on this record.

“Anything for Now” is the other 9 minute song. It is slow and pastoral to start with a beautiful multi-guitar piece with gentle drums. At around 4:30 all the instrument vanish except for a single organ note. It plays for a bout a minute and it seems like the disc will end that way but then the chords build up again from the drone.  An acoustic guitar lick begins around 7 minutes in and runs through the end of the song.

Overall this album is more mellow than their previous discs, and there are some amazingly beautiful sections of music on this album.

[READ: February 8, 2016] Above the Dreamless Dead

I’m continuing with books that I wouldn’t normally read, to celebrate First Second’s #10yearsof01 challenge and to read something out of my comfort range.

This is a collection of poetry about World War I, written before during and just after the war.  Each of the poems is illustrated by a different contemporary artist.

As you can imagine, the book is pretty gloomy.  But the poetry is pretty spectacular and the illustrations were really interesting.  Obviously this book is not going to be a happy one.  But some of the artists do add a more positive spin on the poems (while some are just brutally violent as well). (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »