Archive for the ‘Faith Erin Hicks’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: XTC-“The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead” (1992).

XTC is a wonderfully poppy and often quite subversive band.

This song is subversive in overall meaning, but pretty straightforward lyrically.

It’s also got some great guitar sounds.

The song starts with those guitars, a ripping harmonica and some big loud drums.

And then the lyrics mostly follow the idea that if Jesus came around preaching his ideas today, he’d be considered an enemy of everyone.

Peter Pumpkinhead came to town
Spreading wisdom and cash around
Fed the starving and housed the poor
Showed the Vatican what gold’s for
But he made too many enemies
Of the people who would keep us on our knees
Hooray for Peter Pumpkin

Peter Pumpkinhead fooled them all
Emptied churches and shopping malls
When he spoke, it would raise the roof
Peter Pumpkinhead told the truth

Andy Partridge’s delivery is pretty great, too.  The way he sings “slur his name” in the third verse is nicely dark.

There’s some nice pauses before the ringing guitar chords–especially in the final verse–which really emphasize those moments.

The final verse shows his ultimate fate:

Peter Pumpkinhead was too good
Had him nailed to a chunk of wood
He died grinning on live TV
Hanging there he looked a lot like you
And an awful lot like me!

Not a happy ending, but a really catchy song nonetheless.

[READ: October 15, 2019] Pumpkinheads

I haven’t read anything by Rainbow Rowell, but she is the author of Eleanor & Park which I am familiar with.  The art in this book is from Faith Erin Hicks, who I do know and like very much.

This book is set in the most magical autumnal playground that one can imagine: DeKnock’s World Famous Pumpkin Patch & Autumn Jamboree.  By my house we have farms that have corn mazes and pick your own pumpkins and hayrides.  But this place is almost like a Renaissance Faire devoted to autumn.  Although I suppose really, all of the special booths are food related: Pumpkin Bomb Stand; Kettle Corn Kettle; Chili Fries Stand; Poppy’s Apples; Fudge Shoppe; Freeto Pie Stop; S’Mores Pit and the Succotash Hut.

The Hut is where the two main characters Josiah and Deja work.  We learn that Josiah has been the patch’s MVP almost every month for the three years he’s worked there.  But tonight is their last night working at DeKnock’s.  Josiah frets it might be his last time ever seeing the place again!  He truly loves working there–the sights, the sounds, the smells and his autumn friend Deja.  Deja calms him: “we’re going to college, not to Mars.”  But Josiah know it won’t be the same when they come back.  So Deja sets out for them to have the most amazing Halloween ever. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GUARDS-Tiny Desk Concert #290 (July 29, 2013).

Guards play a simple, almost naïve, kind of pop music.  I’d almost call it bubblegum.  Particularly in the lyrics: “I wanna build a happy home a home for you and me…I wanna live for ever I don’t care.”

The blurb explains:

Guards’ music captures the pop sound of the late ’50s and early ’60s, but with more power and polish. It’s hard not to hear a bit of Buddy Holly’s melody and spirit — think 1958’s “Rave On” — when you hear Guards play “Silver Lining,” the first song in this Tiny Desk Concert.

I also found this factoid interesting:

I also hear a contemporary band like Cults, a band inspired by ’60s dreaminess and power pop, when I hear Guards. When I first saw this group in concert, I was struck by its physical similarity to Cults: a whole lot of long black hair, for starters, with a man and woman at the front of each band. It all made sense when I learned that Richie Follin of Guards and Madeline Follin of Cults are brother and sister, and that Richie played guitar in Cults for a bit. In fact, the first set of songs he wrote and demoed were meant for Cults.

I found all three songs to be fairly similar. I really like the guitar line of the first song, “Silver Lining” which yes, is quite Buddy Holly-esque.  I also like that the woman (no names given, sadly) is playing some kind of electronic contraption that’s generating twinkles and other effects [I see that it’s called a Qchord].

“Not Supposed To” has a similarly simple poppy melody, although it’s a little slower (switching the lead instrument from guitar to keyboards also softens the sound).  I really like the backing vocals on this song–it really flashes it out.

Richie Follin also seems really nice and cheerful and his voice is quite clean.  Before the final song he says that John needs his coffee first, and then John starts playing the opening keyboard notes of  “Coming True.”  It’s a straightforward love song, simple and pretty.

Guards are pretty much a poppier, sweeter version of Cults.  It would be a fun double bill.

[READ: June 16, 2016] Lucky Penny

Sarah brought this book home and I was instantly drawn to the art style on the cover (and the fact that it was by Oni Press).

This is the funny story of a young adult named Penny who has the worst luck imaginable.

As the book opens she gets fired. This means that she has to move out of her apartment.  Even the soda machine won’t give her a soda.

She decides to move into her roommate’s storage unit (her roommate is moving and was going to sell the unit, but it’s much cheaper too live there than to pay rent).  Even if it is against the rules.  The only things she still has to her name are a grandfather clock (what a pain to move) and her grandmother’s steamy romance novel collection (I love that she arranged it according to hotness).

Her roommate’s parents own a laundromat and Penny asks if she can get a job there.  She shows up but the only person there is her roommate’s younger brother David. And he is a cold unwelcoming figure (and he’s only 11 1/2).   He says she can’t have a job because he doesn’t like her. With some cajoling, he changes his mind and gives her the job. (more…)

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lumberjanes-3 SOUNDTRACK: YOUTH LAGOON-Tiny Desk Concert #490 (November 23, 2015).

youthI thought I knew who Youth Lagoon was, but this Tiny Desk surprised me.  Lead singer/keyboardist Trevor Powers sings passionately.  But I was surprised that his voice is quite the falsetto (and at times sounds a bit like Pee Wee Herman).

At first I found this distracting, but after listening for a while I started to enjoy his voice, especially for what it did for the music.  They play three songs.  Two are new and one is older.

“Kerry” is a pretty song with a simple keyboard melody that is nicely duplicates on the guitar at times.  In fact, even though the keyboard is the main instrument, I love the various riffs and melodies that the guitar plays to accompany him.  There are some absolutely gorgeous musical passages in this song and Powers’ fragile voice is perfect for them.  In the middle, when the guitar plays a great solo section, it’s quite something.

“July,” is a wistful reflection on youth and regret from the band’s debut.  It’s a much more spare song with just voice and keys starting for the first minute or so.  About half way through, the rest of the band adds some real beauty to the melody as he sings more intensely.  I particularly like when the bass comes in at the end with a cool pattern of high notes.

“Rotten Human,” is a meditation on the passage of time and search for purpose in life.  I like this lyric: “I’d rather die than piss way my time.” It’s a slow song but once the drums come in the song builds.  I love the melody just before the next part which he sings with much more passion.  The “No I won’t” section sees his voice getting more ragged and angry-sounding–quite a change from the other parts of the songs.  Again there’s some great bass lines near the end of the song.

It took me a couple of listens to warm up to Youth Lagoon, but I really liked them by the end.

[READ: July 18, 2016] Lumberjanes 3

This is the third volume in the Lumberjanes series and I liked it a lot more than the second one.  This book collects issues 9-12.

The focus in the middle chapter on Mal and Molly was a nice change of pace.  And I thought it was very very funny that the girls tried to spend a chapter collecting “boring badges” for a change of pace.

There were lots of different illustrators in this book, because in the first chapter each the girls tells a story and each has her own illustrator. (more…)

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 nothing canSOUNDTRACK: DJANGO DJANGO-Django Django (2011).

220px-Django_Django_Album_CoverI heard about this band when “Default” became a kind of alt rock standard.  It got a little overplayed, but there was something so catchy and yet so slightly odd about it that I really wanted to hear more.  So when I heard how catchy and fun “Hail Bop” proved to be, I knew it was time to check out the whole album.

And the album is full of quirky, delightful songs.  In fact, despite how weird the album cover art is, it actually represents the sounds of the album pretty well.  It’s a kind of arid looking desert but with a futuristic weird alien thing scampering amidst it.  Thus, there are acoustic twangy guitars underpinning the songs that are liberally sprinkled with oddball sci-fi sounds and tweaks of gloriously fun synths.

The album has a completely cohesive feel (which I believe comes from the sunny vibe and the beautiful harmonies), and yet there is a great amount of diversity in the music.  Many of the songs are synth heavy and catchy, but not dance rock at all.  “Waveforms” is a strange song with synths being manipulated over a heavy drum beat.  But it’s those vocals (especially in the chorus) that elevate the song above the mechanical nature of the music.  “Zumm Zumm” is even weirder with the kind of sci-fi effects that get thrown around, and yet that chorus once again is really pretty.  And “Default” sounds like it is skittering and repeating as it pounds away–a strange and infectious single.

But for all the weirdness, “Hail Bop” is a supremely catchy sweet song.  And “Firewater” is propelled by a low bass with acoustic guitars on top.   Reference points for me include Super Furry Animals and The Soundtrack of Our Lives, neither one glaringly obvious sign posts but they have that same harmony filled vibe.  See especially “Love’s Dart” another catchy song with a fun twangy Western feels.  There’s mellow guitar on “Hand of Man” and there’s a surf guitar stomper in “Wor” and more stomping drums in “Storm.”

My album contains some extra remixes.  I’m not a big fan of remixes so these are needless additions (and add about 20 minutes  to the total running time).  But that’s got little to do with the album itself, which is really a treat for fans of poppy quirky rock.

[READ: August 2014] Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

Sarah gave me this book for my birthday because we both like Faith Erin Hicks (and we both like First Second books).  And I was not disappointed.

Obviously, a title like this leads you to conclude that everything will go wrong, and it pretty much does.  The cover image doesn’t quite convey what’s at stake in the story, although closer inspection reveals a kind of geeks (the ones with glasses) and cheerleader (the ones in uniforms) vibe.  Which this story certainly has.

Nate and Charlie are old friends.  Charlie is the captain of the basketball team and Nate is the president of the robotics club.  But unlike a typical pairing of these two types, Charlie is laid back and totally mellow while Nate is neurotic and angry with a huge chip on his shoulder.

As the story opens, Charlie has just been dumped by his girlfriend, the head cheerleader. Charlie doesn’t seem so upset by it but Nate is furious (as usual).  Of course, he is mostly furious because he thinks that Charlie is still with Holly and because the cheerleaders have declared war on the robotics team.  Specifically, they are trying to take the science funding to use for new uniforms (can this actually happen in school?  It happens in fictional schools all the time).  Obviously there’s nothing that Charlie can do about it, so he just goes home, allowing Nate to stew.

But mellow Charlie also has a dark storyline.  There’s a note from his dad telling him to call his mom to which he says “Yeah, that’s not happening.”  We learn a smattering of information about why Charlie is mad at his mom, and it is clear that their feud is going to build to a head before the story ends.  So tension is definitely present in the story. (more…)

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