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Archive for the ‘Foxes’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: REX ORANGE COUNTY-Tiny Desk Concert #961 (March 18, 2020).

I read about Rex Orange County (the low-key British pop star born Alex O’Connor) in some random article which basically said if you’re over twenty you’ve never heard of him, but if you’re under twenty, you think he’s the greatest thing ever. (My 14 year old son had not heard of him).

I didn’t read anything about his music, but I assumed he was a hip hop performer or the like.

So imagine my surprise when he turned out to be an English dude who sings like Stevie Wonder and (in the Tiny Desk at least) has music that sounds like it comes straight from the 70s.

“Loving Is Easy” features Michael Underwood on flute and Johnny Woodham on flugehorn sounding for all the world like a mid 70s AM hit.  Is he really popular with the young kids?

There was a palpable connection between the 21-year-old singer and [the crowd of millennial and Gen Z staffers that gathered early for Rex’s soundcheck]  that I don’t see often at this stage in a musician’s career. My guess is that they see themselves in him: introverted and shy, with the audacity to write and sing about his innermost thoughts.

I really feel like this blurb is overselling his openness.  I mean, most singer-songwriters bare their souls, so I’m not sure what makes him any different.  But the blurb really pushes his honesty

We’re in an age where young people are uninhibited and unafraid to address emotions, simple or complex. In that sense, his latest LP, Pony, is timely. He spoke with NPR and shared that he was incredibly unhealthy mentally throughout the making of the album. But there’s an arch to Pony and by the time we get to the final song, “It’s Not The Same Anymore,” he seems at peace with his new reality.

But what’s so intense about these lyrics?

Loving is easy
You had me fucked up
It used to be so hard to see
Yeah, loving is easy
When everything’s perfect
Please don’t change a single little thing for me

I mean, not much, so let’s not get carried away about how revolutionary he is.

I was instantly surprised by how white his band seems.  The band is dressed all in white and they are a remarkably pale bunch.  Drummer Jim Reed has the bright red cheeks of the overheated.  And Michael, Johnny and lead guitarist Joe Arksey are all blond and very pale.

Between songs, he seems like he has never been in front of an audience before with the awkward way he introduces these songs.

Up next is “Pluto Projector” in which Rex switches to guitar and  Underwood switches to piano.  There’s a moment in the middle when bassist Darryl Dodoo plays a slap note.  It’s really the only notable bass in the show.  Woodham plays a muted trumpet solo which is followed by a guitar solo from Joe Arksey that I was sure was bass, but it’s just a weirdly muffled guitar sound.

For “Always” Rex moves back to piano and he sounds even more like Stevie Wonder.  This song features sax and a non-muted trumpet.  There’s some great horn melodies in this song and I like the way he plays some piano parts in the middle.

There’s this awkward introduction.  Okay I only have one more now, and then I’m gonna go…  Let’s play the song that’s called “Sunflower” now.

“Sunflower” is “older,” meaning it dates all the way back to 2017.  He’s back on guitar with a nice echo.  The beginning of the song is guitar and flugelhorn.  Then in the middle, the song picks up the tempo and becomes the catchiest thing all show.  I’m not that keen on the rhyming/talking middle part–it seems oddly forced, but that’s okay.  There’s a jamming section at the end with a flugehorn solo followed by a sax solo

Rex did not blow me away, but I was pleasantly surprised by his sound and that kids actually like it..

[READ: February 21, 2019] The Dam Keeper Book 3

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 three, the final part, our heroes, Pig, Fox and Hippo are trying to get back home to save Sunrise Valley.

This third part is a lot of travel, very little dialogue and, honestly some fairly confusing action.

Pig has been given a plant by the moles and he hopes to use it to find the smoke monster.  Fox and Hippo say the heck with that and choose to head home.

Fox and Hippo are on Van’s ship.  They are brought inside to meet Van’s children.  The room is full of dozens of children of all different species.  As hippo puts it:

Erm.. these are your kids?  But they don’t look like you or Van how is this possible?

Van;s wife says that all of the children were abandoned for being different so Van took them in. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KIAN SOLTANI-Tiny Desk Concert #880 (August 16, 2019).

I feel like listeners are more familiar with a violin than a cello.  Violins are everywhere (they’re so portable), but cellos only seem to come out when you need a bigger string section.  I have come to realize that I much prefer the sound of a cello to a violin  The cello can reach some impressive high notes (check out about three minutes into the Hungarian Rhapsody) but its the richness of the low notes that really impresses me,  Or maybe it’s just the historical value of Kian Soltani’s cello

It’s not every day someone walks into our NPR Music offices and unpacks an instrument made in 1680. And yet Kian Soltani, the 27-year-old cellist who plays with the authority and poetry of someone twice his age, isn’t exactly fazed by his rare Giovanni Grancino cello, which produces large, luminous tones. (He also plays a Stradivarius.)

I love Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody, and I love this one as well. What is it about Hungary that inspires such wild songs?

The Hungarian Rhapsody, by the late 19th century cellist and composer David Popper, traces its inspiration to similarly titled pieces by Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms, but showcases a number of hot-dogging tricks for the cello, including stratospheric high notes, flamboyant slides and a specific high-velocity bouncing of the bow called sautillé. Soltani nails all of them with nonchalant elegance, backed with companionable accompaniment by pianist Christopher Schmitt.

He says that that piece was a very extrovert, out-there piece and so from this mode we take it more inward.

To prove he can make his instrument truly sing, Soltani worked up his own arrangement of “Nacht und Träume” (Night and Dreams) by Franz Schubert, replacing the human voice with his cello’s warm, intimate vocalizing.

It’s fascinating to think that this song was musically written for the piano and voice.  But he has taken the vocal track and turned it into a moving (possibly better?) version on the cello.

His parents emigrated to Austria from Iran in the mid-1970s.  He grew up in Austria and loved it as a locus of great classical music.  But he also hold on to his Persian roots.

And in the Persian Fire Dance, Soltani’s own composition, flavors from his Iranian roots – drones and spiky dance rhythms – commingle with percussive ornaments.

This is a wonderful Concert and Soltani’s playing is really breathtaking.

[READ: September 1, 2019] Middlewest

I had heard of Skottie Young as the author of I Hate Fairyland (which sounds like a children’s book but is definitely not).

This book is also definitely not for children (although I see some people think it could be for YA readers).

Abel is a young boy who lives with his abusive father.  His father, Dale, is a real piece of work. Abel’s mother left, so Dale blames Abel and is on him all the time.

As the first chapter opens, Abel has overslept his paper route (the second time in five years).  His father is very angry even if Abel has been getting up at 4:30 every day for five years. As Abel is running late delivering the papers, his friends tell him to blow it off–it’s too late anyway, just go with them to play video games. (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-Nonagon Infinity (2016).

A nonagon is a 9-sided shape.  Infinity is endless.  This album has nine songs that flow seamlessly into the next one.  Including the final song, which flows seamlessly into the first.  It’s a nine-track album designed to loop forever.  Riffs and choruses are repeated throughout (including the frenetic guitar solo riff that starts the album and is sprinkled throughout).  But even though the songs are connected and there are repeated parts no two songs sound alike–it’s not a 41 minute song by any means.

It is a pretty intense and relentless rocking good time, though, with all kinds of catchy melodies and bizarre lyrics.

This album launches with “Robot Stop,” a maniacal riff and a super fast beat .  It’s non-stop intensity of distortion, drums and vocals.  There’s distorted whoops and hollers.  There’s a distorted harmonica solo and more and more guitars.  It also introduces the repeated chorus:

Nonagon infinity opens the door
Wait for the answer to open the door
Nonagon infinity opens the door

It’s not always clear if the lyrics have meaning [Any wasp that I see / It’s a fig wasp / Pearly guillotine] but I love singing along with those that I can understand.  Or just chanting “Big Fig Wasp” when it comes around.

“Gamma Knife” encourages us to “come on through the door, see, it’s your unborn self.”   All the while, the guitars are rocking and the vocals are whooping.  Things do finally settle down near the end of the song, where everything drops out but the two guitars playing the riff.  It’s interrupted by some pretty wild drum soloing (from both drummers) before seguing into the moderately slow introduction of “People -Vultures.”  It’s slow for the first three lines before the line “What else have I got left to spew down?” prompts a breakneck resumption of the album’s pacing.

“Mr Beat” seriously slows things down for one of the catchiest songs on the record.  It’s a cool groovy chugging song with organs amid the guitars.   It has an instantly memorable melody and is easy to sing along to “Once I missed a beat – only missed a beat.”  Even the verse has a sweet sing-song melody.

Things do come to almost a complete stop as Mr Beat slows down, but before you can take a breath, “Evil Death Roll” takes off.  It is 7 minutes long, full of staccato chants during the chorus.   But midway through the song a new riff enters–a happy, almost boppy riff that reconciles itself into a version of the original main riff.  And after a few minutes of electronic manipulation, a new bridge comes around.  It’s musically unique to the album, but while that music is playing the nonagon infinity refrain returns.  And then the song returns to the main “Evil Death Roll” chorus before jumping into the staccato “Invisible Face” which shifts midsong into a gentle jazzy jam.

The ending riff segues seamlessly into the wah wah of “Wah Wah” which starts with a harmonica solo and then switches to a downbeat verse with a screaming noisy bridge of “Wah Wah Wah Wah.”   It ends with some distortion and a drum beat that sounds like a train, hence the album closer “Road Train.”

Road Train hearkens back to their more Western songs, but with all of the metal and garage trappings that are consistent on the album.  So the song about a train is rather dark:

The spawn of Satan’s back
It’s made of steel and black
It comes to bring you pain
It comes again and again
Road Train!

The song is 4 minutes but after a bout 3 minutes, it starts a new chanting of Nonagon Infinity–a new way of doing it that speeds up until the last ten seconds which return to the opening of the album.

There is so much originality in this album and so many ideas that it’s kind of a blur.  But repeated listens show just how much excellence is on display here.

[READ: February 25, 2019] Cottons Book 1

Wow, I loved this book (part 1 of a trilogy).  The story was fascinating (if a little murky in some places), but the artwork was simply tremendous.

Arnhold’s drawing style is so realistic, and the rabbits are so lovingly drawn, it’s really beautiful.  (In her bio she says she loves drawing rabbits, and volunteers at the Georgia House Rabbit Society).

This is the story of Bridgebelle and the rabbits in her warren.  They live in the Vale of Industry within the World of Lavender.  But their’s is not a happy life.  Bridgebelle is an artist and no one appreciates artists in this time of Industry.  But even worse, this is a time of fear for all of the World of Lavender.  Fear of predators, or fire and of the end of their existence.

As the story opens we see Bridgebelle and her co-worker/secret crush Glee fleeing from foxes.  The two of them hide in a stump when suddenly they see that Glee’s sister Soozie is snatched up and killed by Marrow, a ruthless fox.   It is devastating.  (The drawing is very sad, but not bloody or disgusting).

Worse yet, the murderous fox just did it to get the rabbits’ attention.  He wants control of their factory. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Paper Mâché Dream Balloon (2015).

After the imposed restrictions of Quarters (four songs each 10:10 long), Paper Mâché Dream Balloon goes for a change.  Actually, it goes for a lot of changes.

For this is an acoustic folk album.  It retains all of the psychedelia of their recent records but it removes the heaviness and harshness of those albums and focuses on the mellow.  The twelve songs are also quite short.  Only three songs are over three minutes.  There’s flutes and sitar (which actually isn’t that unusual for KGATLW).  And most of the lyrics are understandable (if not comprehensible).

“Sense” opens with strummed acoustic guitars and a melody from a saxophone or clarinet or both.  “Bones” has a lovely simple guitar riff (so catchy) and more flutes than you can shake a stick with holes at.  It’s immediately catchy and delightful.  “Dirt” ups the power some with slightly louder drums, but it is still fueled by flutes and gentle vocals.  “Paper Mâché Dream Balloon” maintains the high quality, pretty songwriting with a lovely flute melody and a much more uptempo (but somehow even poppier) chorus.

“Trapdoor” changes thinks pretty dramatically for this album.  There’s still a lead flute, but the melody has become kind of intense and minor key and the chanted “Trapdoor” chorus is reminiscent of earlier KGATLW freakout choruses.  But while the song stays restrained, it is still the loudest thing to be found here.  “Cold Cadaver” returns to that flute-y happiness (despite the title) and even features a cheerful “whooo” or two.  I love how the song stops and a very martial drum beat starts but the song never goes off the rails, it just follows along like before.

“The Bitter Boogie” is the longest song in the disc.  Although it initially seems as short as the others because it almost stops half way through.  But it slows down and then begins a new, pretty guitar melody and then a new vocalist comes in and continues the song.

“NGRI (Bloodstain) opens with a fast piano note (very rock-n-roll sounding) and some wailing harmonica.  But it’s all very friendly (until you start listening to the lyrics–no idea what NGRI stands for though (not guilty for reasons of insanity?) but the chanted “bloodstain” is a bit disconcerting.  There’s some wild drumming and a little sitar at the end, but it seems to serve more as a segue to the next song.  “Time = Fate” is a delightfully poppy ditty that seems to be related to “Time = $$$” although musically it doesn’t have any connection (aside from being a delightfully poppy ditty).

“Most of What I Like” is a sweet ballad (although the drums feel particularly distorted (and split between the two headphones) which leads to the final song. “Paper Mâché” is an instrumental which ends the album with a delightful flute melody and acoustic guitars.  It runs for about 2 minutes and is then followed by an incredibly speeded up something (the whole album backwards?) going faster and faster until it explodes.

It’s frankly amazing how many musical ideas this band has.  And the fact that they can pull of so many styles so well is a testament to their songwriting.

[READ: January 19, 2016] “Fox”

This is a story where animals are personified, but in which they also live in the “real” world, apparently.

The foxes are the adjudicators of the world.  The aunts run the den.  They sit upright, tails curled around their feet.  They are pretty animals and they enjoy being pretty.

Aunt Rob spoke the most.  She explained that all animals differ in their violent tendencies:  “The lions are racist, nervy.  They think everything south of Paris is Arab,  everything east of Poland is Chinese.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BETSAYDA MACHADO Y PARRANDA EL CLAVO-Tiny Desk Concert #707 (February 16, 2018).

How can you not love a band that is decked out in wonderful colors and whose only instruments are percussion?

I love the first song, “Santa Rosa.”  The chorus is super catchy and when they raise the note in the chorus on the “Oh! Santa Rosa” the song just soars.  Although Betsayda Machado sings most of the songs, this one opens with one of the men (in yellow) singing and I really like his voice, too.  I could even figure out the gist of the words.

And the percussion?  Two floor drums, 2 hands drums, shakers and that friction drum.  So cool.

So who are these folks?

The roots of the music of Betsayda Machado y Parranda El Clavo extend to the Venezuelan slave trade, and while the vocals are in Spanish and not an African dialect, the instruments the group plays date back more than 500 years.

The large bamboo cylinders, the djembe-like drums and the large friction drum together create a symphony of interlocking polyrhythms that was unlike anything I’d heard. Machado’s vocals soar over the unrelenting rhythms, and when she harmonizes with the other singers, it creates a choir-like display of African call-and-response vocals.

When discussing African-influenced music from the southern hemisphere, we often focus on countries like Brazil and Cuba, places where the folk music eventually made its way into popular music. Afro-Venezuelan culture and music is rarely featured or even acknowledged outside of the country. As you’ll see in this video, that should change once music fans take in the beauty of Machado’s voice and the power of her historical message.

“Alaé Alaó” is much more somber, but the percussion is incredible–three men playing bamboo sticks against bricks–the details of what they do are fascinating.  The song starts to pick up with bongos and other hand drums as the guy starts singing again.  During the middle of the song one of the women goes out dancing on the main floor with some of the crew.  This can only lead to more dancing.

“Sentimiento”  The guy in yellow sings the beginning of the song and then Betsayda comes in.  The friction drum is back along with all the shakers and percussion.  I love the way they all stop perfectly at the end.

The band includes: Betsayda Machado, Nereida Machado, Youse Cardozo, Blanca Castilo, Adrian “Ote” Gomez, Jose Gomez, Oscar Ruiz.

[READ: November 20, 2017] Science Comics: Dogs

I have enjoyed every Science Comic that has come out, but this might have been my favorite.

In addition to being about a great topic: dogs, it was also updated with a ton of new information that I had no awareness of.  On top of that there’s a ton of scientific information about genetics, evolution and natural selection.  To top it off, it’s narrated by an adorable pup named Rudy who loves a tennis ball.

Once Rudy drags his owner to the dog park, Rudy can tell us all about dogs.

He explains that all dogs are from the species lupus, and yet look at how different all of the breeds are.  So Rudy rushed back to 25000 BP (before present). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OPEN MIKE EAGLE-Tiny Desk Concert #687 (January 3, 2018).

I had seen Iron Mike Eagle’s album on a lot of Year End Best of lists, but I hadn’t heard of him before.  Well, I absolutely loved his Tiny Desk Concert and I’m ready to get his album as well.

I love that the “(How Could Anybody) Feel at Home” starts with a live trumpet and the rest of the band is there playing live, too–two synths, a live bass and Mike on some kind of techie gadget.  But the great thing about this Concert is Mike’s delivery.

He sings/raps and he’s got an uplifting style of rapping combined with the spare but cool/weird music that fit with the lyrics.

And it’s really the lyrics that won me over.

Everybody’s secrets inspire all of my scenes
I write in all of my fantasies and I die in all of my dreams
My superpowers I maintain
I take control of my scene

and the hook:

I done told
Some goofy shit that sounded like a poem
I spun around in circles on the globe
So who the hell could ever feel at home

I could tell that  the lyrics were pretty interesting, but I was surprised to read:

Open Mike Eagle may have released one of the most political albums of 2017, but Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is also among the most personal. It comes across best in his live performances. For only the second time during his recent tour cycle, the LA-based artist played a set aided by the live instrumentation of musicians Jordan Katz (trumpet, keys, sampler), Josh Lopez (keys, sampler) and Brandon Owens (bass) for his Tiny Desk debut.

He performed two songs from the stellar Brick.  The title comes from:

It’s been a decade since the last brick fell from the Robert Taylor Homes, the old Chicago Housing Authority project personified on the record. Yet, when it comes to excavating the politics of place, and all the racial implications inherent in cultural erasure, there is no project released in recent years that comes close.

“Daydreaming in the Projects” is, like the other songs, political but warm:

(This goes out to)
Ghetto children, making codewords
In the projects around the world
Ghetto children, fighting dragons
In the projects around the world

and then this seemingly nonsensical rhyme that speaks volumes

Everything is better when you don’t know nothing
I’m grown so I’m always disgusted
All these discussions online is mayonnaise versus mustard
Mayonnaise people think French can’t be trusted
Mustard people think eggs is all busted
But fuck it
We in it for the pattern interruptions

I love that it is accompanied by a simple but pretty trumpet melody while Jordan is also playing keys.

The set ender “Very Much Money,” from his 2014 album Dark Comedy, is tremendous.

What a great verse:

My friends are superheros
None of us have very much money though
They can fly, run fast, read Portuguese
None of us have very much money though
They know judo and yoga, photography, politics
Some of them leap over buildings
Writers, magicians, comedians, astronauts
None of it mattered when niggas was hungry

All to a catchy, cool beat that is in the spirit of bands like De La Soul, but far more modern and powerful.  Great stuff.  And if “Very Much Money” is representative, I need to check out his old stuff too.  And maybe even the other three (!) bands he’s with: he is a member of the hip hop collective Project Blowed. He is also a member of Thirsty Fish and Swim Team.

 

[READ: October 20, 2017] If Found

Tabitha had this book and I thought it looked really cute so I grabbed it not really knowing what it was.

Basically, it is the blank notebook of Montreal artist Elise Gravel.  She says:

At night, when my daughters are asleep, I draw in my blank notebook.  I draw complete nonsense   Whatever comes to my mind.  When I draw in my black notebook, it feels good–it’s as if I let out all the ideas that are bouncing around in my head.  I never critique the drawings in my black notebook. I give myself the right to fail.  To mess up, to create ugly drawings.  I’m kind to myself. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHAWN COLVIN-Holiday Songs and Lullabies (1998).

This album “was inspired by impending motherhood and the rediscovery of a favorite children’s book–the enchanting Maurice Sendak-illustrated Lullabies and Night Songs, from whence many of these traditional tunes come.”

I wouldn’t have said it this way, but this quote from the Amazon page is pretty apt (if overwritten):

These simple, elegant songs outshine any nasty humbug associated with holidays and dark nights, offering sanctuary from the ill temper of the season.  Though she was heavy with child at the time of recording, Colvin’s sweet, girlish voice is here huskily warmed and enhanced by the fullness of womanly glow, conjuring the innocent simplicity of a safe childhood.

The songs are all gentle and have that lullaby feel.  Some songs have strings and horns, but mostly it is piano, organ and acoustic guitar.  And it is all down-to-earth, clean-sounding and cozy.

Technically this isn’t really a Christmas album, but it’s perfect to get you fall asleep early on Christmas Eve.

The songs include: “In the Bleak Midwinter” (Traditional) / “Christmas Time Is Here”  /  “Now the Day Is Over” (Traditional) /  “Rocking” /  “Windy Nights”  /  “All Through the Night” (Traditional) /  “Love Came Down at Christmas” /  “Silent Night” /  “All the Pretty Li’l Horses” /  “Little Road to Bethlehem” /  “Seal Lullaby” (Rudyard Kipling) /  “Evening Is a Little Boy/The Night Will Never Stay” /  “The Christ Child’s Lullaby” (Traditional) /  “Close Your Eyes” (Brahms)

What’s especially good is that she doesn’t take any fast or upbeat songs and make them slow and soporific, she takes most of the slow ballads and sings them very prettily.

[READ: October 31, 2017] The Dam Keeper

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 clips 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.

The story is a somewhat peculiar one, at least in the beginning.

Animals live in a town called Sunrise Valley.  The fog used to consume the town.  Then they put up a dam with windmills to keep the fog out. It is up to the dam keeper to make sure it is always running. Because the fog means death.

The dam keeper is a pig .  The fog came into town and killed the dam keeper’s wife.  The father taught his son about the dam and the importance of making sure the dam is always working.  Then one day the father walked into the fog and was never seen again.

His father always said that the dam was working if the residents forget about it.  And so they have–they think the Pig family is weird for monitoring it.

So Pig, with no parents, must attend school and monitor the dam.  He has a lot of responsibility.  And he has few friends. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 4 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 11, 2005).

This series contains the final Rheostatics live shows that are left to write about.  This was the 4th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe–(All ages Sunday afternoon set). Ford Pier was on keyboards.  And once again Dave’s daughter Cece sings a song.

Recording starts at the end of Home Again – not sure what was played prior.  Given the length and set list they probably didn’t play much before “Home Again” but we only hear the end of it anyway.

All ages shows are typically shorter. But with having no beginning, this one is really short at just over an hour and a quarter.

“It’s Easy To Be With You” starts with an unexpected bluesy riff underneath the song before it starts properly.  It’s followed by a nice “Loving Arms.”

Then you hear Cece ask, “Dad, is it my turn, yet?” “No.”  “Awwwwww.  How many more song?”  “4 more.”

“Aliens (Christmas 1988)” (not kid friendly, actually).  But mid-song Dave starts playing the “When Winter Comes” during the quiet part, but they never leave the song.

Then Dave says, “We have to do this next one because we’re playing it at guest vocalist night.”  “Many words.”  Martin: “Good luck, Timmy.”  Mike counts out 7 but nobody follows through.  Tim: “So far, not so good.”  They make it through “The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos” and Tim says, “I can’t believe all those words are in my head.  It’s a weird feeling.”  Dave: “Yea, you said you wouldn’t remember the second verse and you did.”  Martin: “Here’s a request for “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  “Shhhhhhh”  Tim: “Speaking of many words in your head.”  Dave: “And that request will go unfulfilled.”  Mike: “If anyone is going to make that request they have to make cue cards.”  Dave says, “We did it well at The Boot.”  Mike: “I had a fever, I can’t remember.  101 a rock n roll fever.  Dave: “I think the rock n’ roll fever is 102.  I’m just quoting Foreigner.”  Mike: “It’s 103 with Foreigner.  Check it and see / got a fever of 102?  I don’t think so, Dave.”  “103 that’s like malaria.”

We’re going to do a new song of Tim’s that we have been learning in advance of a record that we hope will some day get made.  After we rest on our laurels for the next 8 months.  Whatever laurels are.  Tim: “they’re like chaise lounges?”  Martin: “Or are they like haunches?”

Tim starts “Sunshine At Night” then stops.  “Ford is building something back there.  Ford: ” No I’ll catch up.”  Dave: Ford is just finishing his Chinese food from last night.”  Martin: “And building an amplifier.”  Mike: “What can’t he do?”

After the sweet “Sunshine” they play a cool “Christopher.”  The middle sections slows down quite a bit and then bursts forth loudly with the drums (I hope they had earplugs for the kids).  It’s followed by a lovely “Little Bird, Little Bird.”

Then Dave lays out the schedule for the next few days:

A wonderful week planned:
Tuesday its free.  That’s wonderful for you and… okay… for us.
Wednesday is the Whale Music album with many guests
Thursday is guest vocalist night with about 14 people singing–we give about 43 percent.  That’s not free.
And then the weekend is the last two licks so we all go crazy.  Paint our faces (not really).
And we have a hockey game on Thursday at 4 o’clock.   4 bucks to play.  Sticks and skates.  There’s a sign up card.

Then Cece asks, “Dad, is it my turn?”  After a sweet “Making Progress” it is finally Cece’s turn.

She is quite excited and yells “Perfect!” right into the mic.  She calls all the kids up on stage and then says you sing the song with me…that’d be even better.  You hear someone says “I wanna sing in the microphone.”  She says “After me!”  And then she sings a great “Everyday People.”  The whole song is fun.  And at the end Dave says, “we gotta teach you to throw to the guitar solo.”

Dave starts “Bread, Meat, Peas and Rice” and then realizes, “Hey, the same chords as ‘Everyday People,’ only faster.  At the end he notes, “Everybody has fun when the bongos come out and then half an hour later nobody’s having fun.  It’s the overstay-its-welcome instrument.”  Mike asks if they were expensive and Dave says they are the real things, I think they were like $150.

Martin says “next is a song about being lost in the wilderness.  And it’s called “Personal Identification Number” for some reason.  Dave asks if it was supposed to be a longer title and Martin says, “My publicist said the name was too long so I shortened it.”  Then he says, “This is a tenor guitar.  It’s got 4 strings.”  He starts singing “my guts, my guts, my ooey gooey guts” which Mike picks up on and sing “The ones in the back and the ones in the front.”

Martin finishes with a really fast solo.  He says, “that was very 2112.  But small.”  Dave:  “like point 2112.”  Mike: “It tastes like Rush but doesn’t get you drunk.”

They move on to “Four Little Songs.”  Dave asks if Max is here, but he has left. When they get to the third section, Dave says it’s traditional for Ford or someone else to do that slot.  But he wants to know if there’s anyone out there who has a song that must be sung?  At the back of the room?  It’s the wallflowers who have the most significant musical contribution.”  Mike; “It’s a die Fledermaus moment.”

They call Max over, not sure who Max is or if he even comes, but they play a jam, with Dave saying “it’s Max, ‘it’s not Max.”  When they get to the end Dave says, “Hold on, we need a new ending.  We have three: By Mennen, the two yells, and the Yes!”  Mike says “by Mennen is usually editorializing”  and that he’s been with the band for almost five years and he;s never done “Yes!”  So they demonstrate. Mike says, “this is like a DVD where you can choose the ending.”  Dave says, the new ending is the discussion of the ending.

And then Ford suggests that the new ending could be “like a zinger on The Muppet Show (wah wah).”  Cookie Monster ate all the cookies.  Bert will you ever win?

Dave says, “A couple more songs.” Martin: “and then the clowns.”

So Dave tells a story “When I was in Moscow there as an Americana diner and there was a security guard who looked like Captain Kangaroo expect he carried a gun.  Every Wednesday he was to dress like a clown.  So they have clown security in the American diner which tells you everything you need to know about the coming together of the United States and Russia.  Then Ford says, “And Australia…kangaroo.”

Dave: “Captain Kangaroo had never been within 15,000 miles of a kangaroo in his life.”

They play two final songs.  Dave: “Remember kids, only steal a car if you really have to.  And be careful when you invest in the Steinberger product, it’s hit and miss.”

They play a terrific “Stolen Car” and then surprisingly, given that this is an all-ages show, end with “Horses.”  “Horses” opens with a very different intro than usual, it sounds pretty cool.  The song rocks, but Dave doesn’t do any crazy ranting.  At the end, Martin does the horse sound with his guitar and some one says “whoah woah, horsey.”

[READ: July 9, 2017] The Big Bad Fox

First Second continues to publish first class French graphic novels and children’s books (this one translated by Joe Johnson).

This is a children’s book, but it is quite long.  It’s not hard to read by any means, but it’s a not a quicky 32 page picture book.

It’s possible that this was originally released as a series–there does seem to be a kind of punch line every few pages, but the story is consistent and quite funny (even if it’s not all that original). (more…)

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