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Archive for the ‘#10yearsof01’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: AND THE KIDS-When This Life Is Over (2019).

I’ve seen And the Kids twice and they put on a fantastic live show.  I highly recommend seeing them when live shows start again. 

The core of the band is Hannah Mohan on guitar and vocals and Rebecca Lasaponaro on (fantastic) drums.  For this record they were a four piece (although no names are included on the disc).

“No Way Sit Back” starts the record with a slow swinging song that features the wonderful wordless hook of Mohan singing “oooh oh oh no.” Midway through, the song shifts gears to a kind of glockenspiel melody over the lyrics “the world is never made for us.”  Even though lyrically this album is dark, musically it is really lovely.

“Butterfingers” lopes along at an unusual pace before a really catchy guitar melody kicks in midway through.  There’s some more catchy melodies as the two vocals line intertwine with each other.  Then comes “Champagne Ladies” a remarkably catchy song right from the get go.  The quietly rumbling guitar and the great vocal melody is nicely mimicked by the bass.  It’s a really fantastic song and should have been a big hit, even with the uplifting chorus: “life is a bastard, it wants to kill you don’t let go.”  But if the lyrics are too dark, there’s another fun wordless “ah ah ah” melody near the end.    

“2003” opens with a penny whistle introduction (when I saw them live, Mohan played the whistle and then just tossed it aside before she started singing).  There’s some excellent unusual and complex drumming at the top of this song. 

“The Final Free” has grooving guitars and a cool part in the middle where the guitar follows the vocal line in a quiet but catchy melody.  “When This Life Is Over” has a kind of hawaiian feel to it with guitars and choral vocals.   “Special For Nothing” is a quieter song that builds into a gorgeous soaring chorus. When the song shifts to the middle part and the music all falls back except for the vocals, it’s really quite lovely.  I love when the backing vocals do counterpoint over the refrain

“Get To That Place” is a short song, less than two minutes and sounds like a bedroom recording (lots of hiss) but as the song gets bigger there’s some cool vocal tricks (so much soaring highs) and glockenspiel.  It’s followed by another short song.  The mellow “Somethings (Are) Good” is just over two minutes with more overlapping vocals and a dynamite melody. 

“White Comforters” sounds bigger and more full sized.  It’s much slower with a bouncy guitar melody and a lot of spare playing. It starts a little too quietly but it builds very nicely.  “Religion” brings back the rocking guitars with a loud opening and a simple but catchy guitar melody, the joyous vocals with two layers of oh ho ho s really makes this song soar to glorious heights.

The disc ends with “Basically We Are Dead” a longer song that opens with a quieter guitar melody and vocal.  Atmospheric keys fill in the backing moments along with a bouncy synth melody and some joyful bah bah bahdahs.  But before the song ends, some familiar chugging guitar chords enter the song and they sing the chorus to “Champagne Ladies” one last time before it’s all over.

And the Kids play wonderful indie pop with plenty of unexpected twists.  And they are terrific live, too.

[READ: November 5, 2020] The Divided Earth

This is the final book in the The Nameless City trilogy.

The book opens with the leaders of the city agreeing that their sacred fire, Napatha, must be destroyed, lest it be used by one of the splintering factions.  But one copy of the recipe spared–given to the monks to hide for as long as was necessary.

Then we flash forward.

Kaidu is sitting with Rat and the others, resting up for what’s to come.

We see Mura, the woman who was abandoned by the monks as a little girl, receiving that copy of the book from the monks (they are hesitant).  She has every intention of learning the formula and creating the Napatha again. She imagines giving the formula to all of the other Dao generals for maximum production against the Yisun.  But Ezri, who has forcibly put himself in charge of the Dao people, wants to keep it under wraps.  Being a treacherous person, he anticipates treachery from everyone else as well.

The Yisun army is marching on the city.  Ezri hopes to have the Napataha ready to use against them.  He has just enough to show how powerful it is.  And it has the desired effect.

When Rat and Kaidu see what happened, Kaidu announces that he is going to steal the book from Mura’s clutches.  How?  Well, that’s where most of this book’;s adventure comes in.  It’s clever and stealthy and very exciting with switches and crosses and trouble everywhere.  They even get help from their minstrek friends (it’s always nice to see minor characters come back). 

At the same time, Kaidu’s parents (Kata and Andren) are (unbeknownst to Kadi and Rat) planning to negotiate with the Yisun army to save the city  Kata explains that she is in charge of the Dao tribe Liuvedao and she is no friend to the Dao regime currently ruling.

The soldier in charge of the Yisun army scoffs at this idea.  Until Kata’s secret weapon (which she didn’t know she had) steps forward and explains why the Yisun leader might want to hear them out. Kata proposes an dambush on the city, using an equal amount of Kata’s forces and the Yisum army. 

None of the attacking plans go smoothly.  Rat and Kaidu face very difficult odds (and many soldiers) and the ambush team literally walks into a dead end and needs to be rerouted through a sewer tunnel (ew).

There is a terrific showdown between Rat and Mura, two women whose lives began in a similar way but who took very different paths. And there are many many pages of battle scenes.  Hicks does a great job of keeping the action exciting and clear, with lots of one one one combat as well as an army of warriors.

The story has an epilogue set three years later, which is fun. It’s neat to see Kadi and Rat grows up some, although I could have used a dozen more pages of epilogue to see what things are like now.  And to see them catch up (there’s no Facetime back then). 

But even so, this was a great series, full of excitement and very emotional moments,.

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81HkprYowjLSOUNDTRACK: SNOH AALEGRA-Tiny Desk Concert #947 (February 18, 2020).

maxresdefault (2)In what seems to be a new trend at the Tiny Desk, here’s another artist whom I’ve never heard of somehow and who manages to cram five songs into 16 minutes.  (I won’t complain about the length of this show because it’s not that long, but everyone knows you get three songs).

The most fascinating things about Snoh is that she is Iranian-Swedish.  And that her band is enormous.  And that they all have great names like: O’Neil “Doctor O” Palmer on keys, George “Spanky” McCurdy on drums and Thaddaeus Tribbett on bass.  There’s also Jef Villaluna on guitar whose name isn’t that crazy,

Unfortunately her songs and albums have terrible names.

Her new album is called Ugh, those feels again and her previous album is called Feels. (and she’s not even millennial).  And then the third song is called “Whoa.”  Good grief,

“Whoa” is a sweet love song that is detailed but not explicit.  Except the chorus which is “you make me feel like, whoa.”

The rest of her songs have a very delicate soft-rock vibe.  Especially with the string section of Ashley Parham on violin, Johnny Walker, Jr. on cello, Asali McIntyre on violin and Brandon Lewis on viola.

But apparently that’s not what her music typically sounds like.

On this day in particular, Aalegra’s tracks were stripped of their punchier, album-version kick drums and trap echoes. In their absence, it’s Aalegra’s delicate vocal runs and chemistry with her supporting singers that resonated most. “I Want You Around” and “Whoa,” which usually rest on a bed of glitchy, spiraling production, felt lighter thanks to the dreamy string section.

All of the songs featured her backing vocalists Ron Poindexter and Porsha Clay,  but they were especially prominent on “Fool For You” which ran all of two minutes.

Snoh seemed a little too cool up there, which did not endear me to her.  Her voice is certainly pretty though, even if I didn’t like her songs.

[READ: March 15, 2020] Best Friends

This book is a sequel of sorts to Real Friends.

It continues the story of young Shannon in sixth grade and how she deals with the minefields that middle school can present.

The same cast is back–the good and bad friends, the girls and boys and all of the insecurities that are practically a character in themselves.

As the book opens, Shannon realizes that she and her friends are not really in sync. She can’t keep up with the pop songs that they like–how do they always know the newest cool song (her family doesn’t listen to pop music so she is way out of the loop).

But aside form that, things seem good.  Shannon is best friends with Jen, the most popular girl in their class.  And since they are the oldest grade in school, Jen is therefore the most popular girl in school.

But the girls are always sniping at each other or trying to get Shannon so say nasty things about one of the other girls behind her back (while the girl was listening).  Shannon never did, though, because she is really a good person.  Something the other girls could use some help with, (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Memorial Stadium, St John’s, NL (December 03 1996).

This is the 17th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour. First 4 songs missing.

Even with the first four songs missing, this tidy little 30 minute set is quite enjoyable.

It opens with “Four Little Songs.”  Dave says that Don Kerr on the durms, he invented this beat (a simple snare/bass 4/4).  Then Dave messes up the 4-3-2-1 intro!   But they start over and rip it out.  When it comes to Tim’s part, he says, “Song two if you’re keeping score.  Tim changes the lyrics a bit from

This lady’s shaped like the Tour de France.
A thousand wheels besieged the city of romance.

to

This lady’s shaped like the Tour de France.
A thousand wheels besieged her underpahnts

And after the jaunty “you cant go wrong/you can’t go wrong”, Dave shouts “UNLESS” before Don’s “Huge creatures plowing the streets tonight, right, right. / The mighty puffin sets the sky alight.”

I learned a fascinating thing during this show.  In Canada, the corn dog is called a “Pogo!”  “While you’re picking yourself up a pogo or a root beer you may want to check out the CD with lovely cover art by Martin Tielli as always.”

Up next is “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine” in which Martin jhits some amazing high notes by the end.  It jumps to “Feed Yourself.”  The end rocks with some great feedbacking.  Tim comments: Way to go Dave.”  Dave replies “Way to go Tim” as they start “Bad Time To Be Poor” which is “for all the green sprouts.”  They thank the Tragically Hip for bringing them to Saint Johns twice.

Then they end the set with “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”  It sounds great–Martin’s vocals and guitars, everything is great.  The high notes at the end are wonderful.  And even though at the end, he sings the opening lyric, he catches himself and sings the proper ending.  Great stuff.

[READ: April 2, 2019] Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules

Boy do I love Delilah Dirk.

These stories are wonderful–fun, fantastical, exciting, witty and historically inaccurate (mostly).

I have totally embraced Cliff’s drawing style.  He has wonderfully subtle, expressions and his command of faces is amazing.  I absolutely love his amusing “action” words when one of the characters does something: “Skid,” “Grab,” “Hoist,” “Scramble.”

But like with the first two books, it’s the story that is really wonderful.

This book opens in 1812.  Delilah Dirk and her companion Erdemoglu Selim are in Turkey waiting to help a ship in Adalia’s harbor.  They are trying to protect the ship from the local tyrant Küçuk.  We see Delilah mingling at Küçuk’s party (and her expressions of distaste are wonderful).

Things do not go as planned, but the end result is the same–success for Delilah and humiliation for the tyrant.  Of course, it’s the not-going-as-planned that makes all the fun. (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: RHEOSTATICS-Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary AB (November 16, 1996).

This is the 7th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.  These are the only recordings of “Queer,” “Soul Glue” and “Introducing Happiness” from the tour.

The opening music tonight is “Good Times” by Chic.  Which seems odd.  After a quick “hello,” Martin begins playing “A Midwinter Night’s Dream.”  The sound quality of this recording is excellent (as the others are) and this version is pretty outstanding.

Dave says “We’re very nervous.  This is very big place.  We’re very purple.  We’ll do 8 songs tonight and then the Tragically Hip will play.  We’re playing across the country with them and eating all their doughnuts.

“Bad Time to Be Poor” is dedicated to Gord.  It’s another Tim two-fer with “Introducing Happiness” which is “for my cats.”

Up next, Dave introduces “a song about being gay and playing hockey.”  “Queer” sounds great and the band is really into it.  It’s followed by a bouncy and fun “Soul Glue” (three from Tim!) with a grooving solo from Martin.  “Soul Glue is such an underrated gem.  I love the way the middle section is chaotic with the three singers singing different parts and then it segues into the great harmonies of the final “ooooh” section.

Dave jokes: “Hey, Martin, if you’re gonna play stadiums you need to know how to flick the pick.”  Then Dave gives a big shout out to Recordland on 9th: “the greatest record store in the celestial universe.”  And it’s still in business in 2019!

The guys don’t banter too much as openers, but they have this exchange about the people down front:

DB: They’re having too much fun.
MT: Is there such a thing?
DB: Yes as you know first hand.
DB: Does everyone wanna party?  [crowd roars] I was afraid you’d say that.
MT: Well, this song is a real downer.

It’s “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine” which sounds great with some really interesting chaotic parts in the middle–Martin seems to be either having fun or going a little crazy with the sounds and soaring vocals and lots of growled “rich”s.

Feed Yourself starts out really weird (a missing guitar maybe).  After a verse or so it sounds fuller.  The middle has no crazy chanting, but when the middle slow part end, it roars back.  It segues instantly into “California Dreamlike.”  When he sings “disillusioned porpoise,” the guitar sounds kind of dolphin-y.  The crowd is totally into them by this point.

They end the show with “RDA.”  Martin seems to start it twice then re-tunes and the blast through it properly.

Although a long rambling Rheostatics show is a thing of beauty, these short sets are pretty spectacular–like a great short story.

[READ: February 21, 2019] Quirk’s Quest 2

I had the exact same reaction from book one as I did for this book.  About Book One I said:

This story threw out so much disconnect for me that I never really determined if I liked it.

The artwork is adorable–the characters look like Fraggle Rock creatures–soft and furry with big round ping pong ball eyes.  Even the bad guys (much taller with four eyes) don’t look all that fierce.

And yet.

In the first 30 pages, these monsters kill and eat some of the cute Fraggle Rock creatures. What?!

This book looks ostensibly like a children’s book.  It is really cute.  But the diary entries of the Captain are written in a cursive that even I had a hard time reading (particularly because the captain’s named is Quenterindy Quirk and he is sailing on the H.M.S. Gwaniimander (hard enough to read that, imagine trying to figure it out in cursive!).

The cursive is still there (they name a river “Mabooglaqui” in cursive), and while there’s less death in the beginning of book two, there is a fairly astonishing scene where a creature eats smalls creatures and is then blown to bits (somehow adorably). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Pacific Coliseum Vancouver BC (November 9, 1996).

Rheostatics opened for The Tragically Hip in Fall 1996.  Some of the shows were online already, but in 2018, Rheostatics Live added about ten more shows.

This is the 2nd night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour. It also includes “Fan Letter To Michael Jackson” from the first night in Vancouver November 8, 1996.

Rheostatics as an opening band are quite different from a headlining show.  As headliners, they play for over two hours, the banter a lot and they are quite funny.  As an opening act (especially for a band like The Tragically Hip), they are much more efficient.  They have about 45 minutes.  I imagine the fans are receptive, although it’s hard to tell from these recordings.

Of course, the Rheos had been together for over a decade by then and had certainly done their share of opening slots, so they play  their songs and sound pretty great.  They even set up the night for fun by having their walk on music “Popcorn” by Hot Butter.

They are playing a lot of songs from The Blue Hysteria, their recent release.  And this set features Tim Vesely on lead vocals quite a lot.  Three of the eight songs!

The show begin with “Fat” with Dave on vocals and Tim playing some fun bass parts.  Both guitars sound great.  Everyone’s vocals are in top form.  Dave gives the rather bold introduction: “Thanks, Vancouver, we love you and we’d like to change your life.”

Up next is Tim singing “All the Same Eyes.”  The note on the cassette says it was hyperfast.   Then it’s back to Dave with “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson.”  Instead of Jackson, he sings Tielli and Martin gets a great solo.  Martin also hits some great high notes.

Martin’s first song of the night is a great “Dope Fiends.”  There’s a mellow middle section with some nice drum work before Martin roars back in.

Dave says we come from Etobicoke–it’s a long way from here.

Then it’s back to Tim for “Bad Time to Be Poor” which energizes the crowd.  Even more Tim follows with a lovely “Claire” in which Martin gets a ripping solo.

Martin says, “The guy with the bald head is Dave Bidini….  now you introduce me.”

Dave tells everyone that after the show (after the show??!!) at the Starfish Room on Homer Street is a bill with The Inbreds from Kingston, the Local Rabbits from Pointe-Claire Quebec and Citroën from here.  It’s cheap and it’s great and it’s new and it rocks.  And this is a song about pumping gas.  Not having gas, pumping gas.  Don Kerr says that that song is not on their new album which just came out.

They play a terrific “Self Serve Gas Station”  It ends beautifully and then it’s jarred out of the beauty but a slamming “RDA” to end their set.

This recording has a bonus track from the night before (which is kind of odd–why just this one song?).  It’s a recording of “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson.”  Martin asks if Michael Jackson ever played there.  We can’t hear an answer.  It’s got quite a slow opening and when they get to the line “I play Bad until my parents….” Dave winds up repeating the line.  It seems like a stylistic choice until he then says Here I am at the Pacific Coliseum and I forgot the words.  It’s my greatest moment of rock so far.

Otherwise the song sounds pretty great.

[READ: March 1, 2019] Hocus Focus

I have really enjoyed these short comic books based on the Adventures in Cartooning series.  Although this one was a little subpar, I felt.

Each one follows the adventures of the Knight and his horse Edward.  In most scenarios the Knight is impulsive and gets himself into trouble (often at Edward’s expense).

The Knight is tired of peeling vegetables,  he is working for the wizard and decided that he wants to learn to do spells.  So he asks the wizard to help him make a spell that will turn him into the greatest wizard ever.  He want to use a horn of unicorn and the feather of a phoenix for his super spell.

The wizard says she should learn stuff first (like patients) before jumping into something, but the knight refuses. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MEG MYERS-Tiny Desk Concert #830 (March 6, 2019).

Meg Myers has a fascinating delivery–singing rather low on the first verse and then in a kind of falsetto on the second verse.  It’s kind of interesting but it seems at times like she’s mocking the lyrics or something.  But I love the music on the song.  I especially love the violin slide to the high notes at the end.

Apparently the instrumentation here is very different from the album.

Meg Myers put out one of 2018’s most intense and cathartic albums. Take Me to the Disco raged and threw sonic punches at anyone who’d ever attempted to use or abuse her, from former record executives to past lovers. Dressed in a sparkling blue leotard, Myers re-creates that fire and ferocity behind the Tiny Desk, replacing her album’s roaring electric guitars and electronics with a pulsing string quartet, piano and brushed drums.  [Jared Shavelson: drums, percussion; Josh Rheault: keys; Kristin Bakkegard: violin; Livy Amoruso: violin; Paul Bagley: viola; Carol Anne Bosco: cello].

But the most intense part of the performance is Myers herself. The distant, piercing looks she gives during the set’s opening cut, “Jealous Sea,” are unforgettable and unforgiving as she sings about a rat’s nest of feelings — anger, fear, jealousy, desire — over an ex. “Everything’s right, everything’s wrong / When you call my name,” she sings while half-hugging herself. “And I don’t think I can stop the jealousy / When it comes, it comes like waves and I can’t breathe.”

I am mixed on her delivery, but I like most of her lyrics.  I am fascinated by the imagery of “I don’t think I can stop the jealous sea, when it runs, it runs like lightning through my teeth.”

Myers follows with a searing version of what she calls “a very lovely, uplifting song” from Take Me to the Disco called “Tear Me to Pieces,” a frenzied takedown of liars, buried secrets and “wicked temptations.”

In the middle of “Tear Me to Pieces,” she sings “it’s in your eye,s you fucking liar” which she sings in what I assume is her normal voice.  And she sounds so powerful and clear there that I rather wish she sang more like that.   I wonder if all of these vocals styles sound different with guitars.  Because by the end, her yelling seems a bit out of tune.

She takes a little break before the final song because she played last night.  While she’s rehydrating, she talks about the next song, a cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.”

She then dials back the fury and indignation to close with a surprising version of “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush. Myers is a longtime fan, and often gets compared to the British singer. But Myers tells the audience she fell in love with the song for its meaning. “It’s about men and women and the differences between them, and learning to have empathy for each other.”

At first I wasn’t too keen on her version–again, her vocal delivery seemed really wrong for this song.  But as she was singing–and singing the lyrics so clearly, I started to really appreciate the way she was performing it.  So I’m overall mixed on her.  I wanted to like her more than I did.

[READ: February 21, 2019] The Dam Keeper: World Without Darkness

Kondo and Tsutsumi have both worked at Pixar, which may explain why this graphic novel looks unlike anything I have ever seen before.   I have (after reading their bios) learned that this was also a short film.  I’m only a little disappointed to learn that because it means the pictures are (I assume) stills from the film.  It still looks cool and remarkable, but it makes it a bit less eye-popping that this unusual style wasn’t made for a book.

For part two, our heroes, Pig, Fox and Hippo are trying to get back home.  But they need the help of that weirdo frog character named Van.  Van shows them the city where he lives.  And it is incredible. So many people, so many colors, and the dams are all automated.  But when they get down into the city, it is just fill of smog,.. so much smog that they need to wear masks.  Van gets ahead of them and they lost him, but everyone speaks a different language and it’s hard for them to find anything.

After wandering around looking for Van, Pig spies the ancient symbol of damkeepers.  He remembers back to his father saying it’s a symbol of the damkeepers’ promise to protect the city–they sacrifice for a greater cause. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Live from Gizzfest (December 1, 2018).

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are such a big deal in their native Australia, that they have created their own festival called, naturally, Gizzfest.  It began in 2015 as a touring festival with a dozen or so bands.  2018’s festival was only one day (in Melbourne) and some kind soul recorded it and posted the KGATLW set online.

The set lasted for about an hour and 40 minutes and touched on nearly every release.  It even included a few never before played live tracks from Eyes Like the Sky!

The recording quality isn’t great and you can hear a lot of people talking through the set.  It sounds like it might be pretty far away from the speakers as well.  Having said that, the music isn’t hard to hear (it’s not like it was recorded at a low level) it’s just not very clean.  Having said THAT, it’s not like KGATLW are an especially clean band, since they are often shrouded in fuzz, echo, distortion and more.

The songs are not chronologically played.  In fact, they start right in the middle with I’m in Your Mind Fuzz.  They play the first two tracks, “I’m in Your Mind” and “I’m Not in Your Mind” seamlessly together, including the nifty solos throughout “Not.”

But they do not play the third song (which segues on the album).  Rather, they jump right to Murder of the Universe with “The Balrog.”  It’s an intense start to the show and after a little breather they play the far slower and very delightful “Stressin'” from Oddments.  Unfortunately, the recording is very quiet and more muddy for this song.  Not sure what happened there.

But things get much louder very quickly, as they jump to their then newest album Gumboot Soup.  They play only one song from the record, the totally rocking “The Great Chain of Being.”  To much celebration, they jump into Polygonswannaland’s “Crumbling Castle.”  All the elements are there and they sound great playing it (even if the audio quality isn’t great).  The song segues perfectly into the album’s final track, “The Fourth Colour.”

After all of that rocking, they slow things down but stick with Polygondwannaland with the groovy “Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet” which segues into the middle section of that albums’s “Castle in the Air.”

Ambrose gets to the mic to say they’re gonna to do some silly stuff now.

“Dead-Beat” goes all the way back to their first EP, Willoughby’s Beach.  The really dumb lyrics “pull my finger and punch my face” are so much clearer here than on the album.  I wish I could hear if people are singing along.  Then they play a track from their first album 12 Bar Bruise “Cut Throat Boogie.”  This one is sung by Ambrose and features lots of his wailing harmonica.  Ambrose gets another lead vocal on another old-school one, Float Along–Fill Your Lung‘s “Let Me Mend the Past.”  It’s a respite of slower rock n roll with some nice piano accompaniment.

They play a surprising “Tezeta” from Mild High Club.  It’s slow and groovy with nice clear sound, although I can’t hear if there are any groovy backing vocals or not.

After these slower moments the band roars back with a wild “Rattlesnake” from Flying Microtonal Banana which whips the crowd into a sing-along frenzy.

And then they pause to introduce their special guest: Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s dad, Broderick Smith, writer and narrator of the Eyes Like the Sky album. Broderick does a great recitation and the band plays these rarely played Western songs perfectly: “Eyes Like the Sky,” “The Year of Our Lord” and “The Raid.”

They jump in with the opening to the jazzy wonderfulness of Quarters‘ “The River,” but they only play about 3 minutes of it, because as the band is quieting down during the slow bit (down down down) with the falsetto “a river” backing vocals, Stu starts singing the lyrics to “Wah Wah.”  For a few beats, the “a river” backing vocals continue, which is pretty cool.  “Wah Wah” rips louder and louder and as the song starts feedbacking out, the super fast drums of “Road Train” begin.  For this is the Nonagon Infinity portion of the show.    “Road Train” is the last song on Nonagon infinity so its fun that they do some nonagon infinity chants and then continue with “Robot Stop,” the first song of the infinite loop album.   It’s full of that spiraling guitar and wild harmonica solos.  But rather than seguing into the next song on the record they jump to the super catchy “Gamma Knife.”

The concert more or less ends with “Some Context,” the 46 second riff that’s a transitional piece on Murder.  That’s how they ended the show when I saw them.  It’s a great riff, too.  But they weren’t quite ready to end the show.

After some quiet, they began their 16 minute epic “Head On/Pill”  This version is certainly slower than the record, but it is still trippy.  It’s still got those soaring riffs and chanted vocals.  Things quiet down to almost a whisper around three minutes in, but by 4 minutes, the whole band kicks in for a truly rocking jam.  After nine minutes, they start a medley that begins with a rather quiet “Alter Me” which is more of a jam than the song.  Some more jamming leads to the opening of “Am I in Heaven?”  They end more or less with “Cellophane” which everyone can chant along to.

It’s basically a career spanning set in which they play songs from all of their fourteen releases (in FIVE YEARS), except for their folky Paper Mâché Dream Balloon.

Although the sound quality isn’t great, this is a fantastic show in front of a very happy hometown crowd.  When I saw them back in 2018 they focused primarily on the five albums they had released the year before with six songs from Murder of the Universe, 4 from Polygondwannaland, and 3 each  from Gumboot Soup and Flying Microtonal Banana.  I love that they can play such diverse sets–playing new songs for people who haven’t heard any of them and then playing a whole career’s worth for the locals.

How their sets can stay under two hours when they have that much music is still a mystery.  And yet no one leaves disappointed.

[READ: March 1, 2019] Spill Zone 2

I enjoyed Book 1 but I really didn’t like this part.  For some reason I thought this book had at least three parts.  But it seems that it has ended with book two which makes it all the more disappointing.

I didn’t even find the art to be evocative or charming.  It just felt kind of ugly an over the top.

As the book opens Addison goes to her art dealer and gets a million dollars. Of course she went to the buyer directly, cutting out the sketchy middleman.  And he is not happy about that, so he goes to the North Koreans with some information about Addison and her pictures.  Of course they have no time for bit players like him.

Meanwhile back in North Korea, Don Jae had entered the Spill Zone there and was having visions about the one in America.  He knew he had to go there.  He winds up visting the art buyer.  He gives her some of the radioactive dust so she can truly see what’s going on in the pictures she’s buying. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NATALIE PRASS-Tiny Desk Concert #827 (February 25, 2019).

I know Natalie Prass because “Short Court Style” was absolutely ubiquitous.  WXPN overplayed this song to death this summer.  At first I didn’t think much of it and then it clicked and I loved it.  The bassline is fantastic and the vocals are just amazing.  I was genuinely surprised to find out that Natalie Prass was white, because she sounded so soulful.

I genuinely had no idea who she was, so I was surprised that the accolades were so effusive and people spoke of her as if she were a legend.  Well, this is only her second album, but it really struck a nerve.

Full disclosure: We here at NPR Music have decreed Natalie Prass something of a patron saint for roséwave — our groove-laden, pink drink-soaked soundtrack for the summer. So, when the Richmond, Va. artist arrived at the Tiny Desk, it was a cause for celebration, especially amid the January blues that seemed to permeate the NPR Music office. Decked out in matching, cobalt blue outfits (with a matching keyboard stand to boot), Prass and her backing band, comprised of Eric Slick: drums; Alan Parker: guitar; Jacob Ungerleider: keys; and Brandon Lane: bass, seemed to bring a warm breeze in with them.

“Oh My” opens with a thumping bass.  When the picture appears, everyone is wearing electric blue.  The song is very funky and Natalie does a great job with her little interjections of “No,” “hey,” “oh ho ho ho” and the titular “Oh My.”  There’s a funky bass solo midsong.  And throughout, Natalie is just so cool.

I didn’t really get a sense of the lyrics so I was surprised to read this:

There’s a sly political bent to Prass’ 2018 album, The Future and the Past. Ahead of its release, she said she actually had a different album nearly finished, but scrapped a huge chunk of it after [trump’s] election, which in turn led her to make this album instead. She highlights this mission statement on the album opener — and first song she performed at the desk — “Oh My.” It’s a track that speaks pointedly about the abject feeling of horror and exhaustion that seeps in when you tune into the news cycle, with bleak lyrics set against bright, dance-y music.

For “Short Court Style” (I always assumed it was called “Round and Round”), she brings out her backing singers, Angelica Garcia and Kenneka Cook: vocals.  Everything sounds fantastic here live.  She seems so free and easy singing this song, it’s a delight to watch her.  And those funky bass lines are great.

Before closing with “Hot for the Mountain,” Prass tells the NPR office that “the song’s a little off the beaten path, but, I don’t know, it’s my favorite.” “We’ll take you on / We can take you on,” Prass, Garcia and Cook sing in unison, a refrain that resounds emphatically. Her vision was clear: If you want to overcome the times, find strength in numbers.

I don’t see what’s so odd about it.  It doesn’t have a big hook like the other two songs, but there is a sing along chorus.

[READ: January 31, 2019] Cucumber Quest 3

Book three opens as our heroes arrive at Trebleopolis which is celebrating its birthday (clowns are everywhere).  And no one celebrates louder than Queen Cymbal.  She reveals that Princess Piano is going to perform a concert.  All our heroes want is the Princess’ signature on their sword (she has signed weirder things), but they are told they have to wait until after the show.  (It’s 110 minutes long…that’s like MORE than an hour).

But as the curtain opens, it’s not Princess Piano, but Noisemaker who comes out.  Noisemaster is a hiphop DJ who is not only annoying but quite evil.  For he is one of Nightmare Knight’s Disaster Masters and our heroes’ next conquest.  Nightmare Knight makes an early appearance and is not playin’ with Noisemaster’s shtick: “I cannot believe you are still acting like this…  I am being exceedingly ‘real’ Noisematser.”   He ends, I will allow you this chance to prove yourself  Do not waste it.

Noisemaster’s plan is to destroy the whole city if the noise machine hits 100%.  And with Piano’s loud voice that should be no problem.

We learn that the Melody Kingdom was divided by two kings King Treble and King Bass. They fought and had to be separated by a wall which the Oracle created.   The two sides have not seen each other in decades.  The wall, named Mezzo is very chill and tells them exactly the kind of convoluted quest they need to go on to get the key to open the doors in the wall.  Of course Almond and Carrot are right on that quest and they take off. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RODRIGO Y GABRIELA-“Echoes” (2019).

Rodrigo y Gabriela are amazing guitarists.  Rod plays amazing solos wile Gab plays an astonishing rhythmic counterpoint (both on acoustic).  Although they do play classical and Spanish styles (and so much more) they often mix heavy metal elements into their songs.  I have seen them twice live and they blew me away each time.

They are back with their first album in five years.  And they have just released a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” an 18 minute song that I just love.

And their version is utterly fascinating.  How do two guitarists plan to cover Pink Floyd?  Well, the beginning of the song is a great, recognizable riff, so they play that and Rod plays the vocal line when that comes around.

The middle of the original gets really trippy and kind of dark, with all kinds of synth sounds.  So what do Rod y Gab do?  They embrace what they do best–with Gab playing an incredible rhythm, Rod takes an opportunity to shuffle around in a solo (there’s certainly some looping overdubbing here).  The middle quiets down to them just scraping strings and pounding the guitar and splaying single echoing notes.  It’s not as dark as the original, but it’s still a weird and somewhat unsettling passage.

The song comes out of the middle darkness with  a rollicking solo and a huge buildup from both guitars.

It resumes the song and finishes much like the original in about 18 minutes.  It’s spectacular.

Learn more about it and watch the video here.

[READ: January 25, 2019] Cucumber Quest 2

It has been a while since I read Cucumber Quest 1, so details were a little fuzzy, but the humor of the book is still awesome (especially the way it undercuts hero tropes.

Cucumber wakes up on an island and as he is calling for his friends, he steps on a cell phone.  As he goes to use it, someone shouts NOOO!

It is a young female bunny creature arguing with a crab.  The crab (and all of the crabs) are crabby.  They doubt that she is Princess Nautilus even if she claims she is.  Cucumber takes out his magic wand and it actually works!   He saves her.  Woah.

She says he can call her Nautilus.  He suggests “How about Nautie for sh–” and then realizes what he said. (more…)

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