Archive for the ‘Joe Hill’ Category


This Halloween song is also about Halloween.  It comes from Dead Kennedys’ final album.

It’s breakneck paced, snarky and full of socio-political commentary, as you might expect.

Because you’re still hiding in a mask
Take your fun seriously
No, don’t blow this year’s chance
Tomorrow your mold goes back on
After Halloween, after Halloween
You’ll go to work tomorrow
Shitfaced tonight
You’ll brag about it for months
“Remember what I did, remember what I was, back on Halloween?”

The body of the song is pretty simple musically (although the guitar gets to go a bit nutty here and there).  But it’s as the song reaches the end that it gets pretty intense.

Much like the way Ministry’s “(Everyday is) Halloween” mocked those for conforming, this song takes it one step further.

Because your role is planned for you
There’s nothing you can do
But stop and think it through
But what will the boss say to you?
And what will your girlfriend say to you?
And the people out on the street they might glare at you
And whadaya know, you’re pretty self-conscious too?
So you run back and stuff yourselves in rigid business costumes
Only at night to score is your leather uniform exhumed
Why don’t you take your social regulations, shove ’em up your ass?

So yea, this one is a but less suntle than Ministry (who would’ve’ thought anything could be?)

[READ: October 28, 2018] “Abraham’s Boys”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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locke6 SOUNDTRACK: HAPPY FLOWERS-“All I Got Were Clothes Christmas” (1986).

godsAfter all of this mostly respectful Christmas music, I had to throw in one crazy stupid ugly horribly song.  But that’s mostly because I forgot it existed until I stumbled on it the other day.  The Happy Flowers were a terrible band (seriously).  They were the kind of band that seemed to blossom in the late 1980s which don’t seem to exist anymore (for better or worse).  They were beyond noise, this was just a crazy noisy pile of sound with screamed lyrics that have nothing to do with the music.

I loved them.  But not really, because they were terrible.  But it was fun to know that people not only made music like this but that it could find a record label (and presumably an audience).  I used to enjoy playing their songs on my radio show.

The Happy Flowers were two guys from Charlottesville, VA.  They were in another band (the Landlords) so presumably they could play their instruments, although I don’t know that band at all.  Their stage names were Mr. Horribly Charred Infant, (drums, vocals) and Mr. Anus, (guitar, vocals), so you have a sense of what we’re dealing with here.  And yet you really can’t be prepared for it.

This song is basically just feedback and two adult men screaming about how they wanted to get toys for Christmas but all they got was clothes.  For four minutes.  And it made it onto the above compilation, God’s Favorite Dog, with Big Black and the Butthole Surfers.

If your Christmas didn’t live up to your expectations, perhaps you need to hear this.  Or perhaps not.

[READ: December 29, 2014] Locke & Key 6

I knew I couldn’t hold out until the new year to finish this series.  I was compelled to keep going.  There was nothing I could do to hold back, as if some kind of spirit kept pulling me towards the books.

And the ending did not disappoint.  Well, it did disappoint a little in that so many people ended up dead.  I couldn’t believe how many people who I grew to care about were killed in various ways.

There’s really no time for flashbacks in this book, although we do get occasional look-backs.  We see the Locke kids make up with the friends that they have alienated. We also see that the kids’ mom has been sober for 30 days (this whole series takes place over a much longer time than it seems).

We also see Rufus come to say goodbye to the Locke family. While he is waiting for Bode to come up from the water, Rufus sees Bode’s ghost who tells him that the person in Bode’s body is not him but is actually Scout.  Rufus immediately attacks Bode when he arrives.  This send Rufus to the same institution that Erin Voss is in.  While he’s in there we see him already making plans to escape.  And it turns out that Erin Voss is able to communicate with him (sort of) and she is able to help in her own way. (more…)

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locke5 SOUNDTRACKULTRA LOUNGE: CHRISTMAS COCKTAILS Part Two: Another Sound of Cool Holiday Spirits (1997).

xmastails2I enjoyed Christmas Cocktails so much, it seemed foolish to pass on Part Two.  It could never be as good as Part One (that’s where all the best stuff went), but it’s still pretty solid with some great renditions of old songs and new (to me) songs.  And yes, one or two that are even better than disc one.

CAIOLA & ORTALANI/JIMMY McGRIFF-“Sleigh Ride/Jingle Bells” A cool easy listening version with guitars swinging and then switching two smooth violins/organ solo Hammond.  LENA HORNE-“Jingle All The Way” I like that the bass is playing the “I like the sleigh ride” without it being sung.  It’s a fun version (also on Pier 1 Imports).  LOU RAWLS-“Merry Christmas Baby” I don’t typically like Lou Rawls, and I don’t really like this song, but this version fits in good with the rest of the disc.  JULIE LONDON-“Warm December” I don’t know this song, it’s pretty and sweet.  London must be the sweetheart of the Capitol Records stable.

EDDIE DUNSTEDTER-“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!/Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” An ice-rink keyboard version of the songs—cheesey and awesome!  JUNE CHRISTY-“The Merriest”  I didn’t know this song.  It’s a fun unusual song that I like quite a bit, the words are unexpected and full of wordplay.  NAT KING COLE TRIO-“All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)” Also on the Pier 1 disc, I didn’t notice the backing vocalists as much on the other version—they almost drown out Nat on this one.

NANCY WILSON “ The Christmas Waltz” I feel like Ive only become aware of this song this year. I like this version a lot. With strings and Wilson’s lovely voice.  LES BROWN AND HIS BAND OF RENOWN-/FRANK DEVOL WITH THE STARLIGHTERS-“I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm/Jing-A-Ling, Jing-A-Ling” This is a fun instrumental, big band version until the second half when the Starlighters sing–in great 40s era style–Jing-A Ling which I’ve never heard before.  JIMMY McGRIFF-“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”  I don’t especially love this song, but this crazy Hammond organ version is awesome (is it different from the one on the first disc?)?

DEAN MARTIN-“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” A fast version of this with what sounds like a chorus of women responding to Deano.  GEORGE SHEARING/BILLY MAY-“Snowfall / Snowfall Cha-Cha” A pretty, string filled chill-out song that I’m unfamiliar with.   WAYNE NEWTON-“ Jingle Bell Rock” I don’t really like this song in general.  And this is a woman singing so I don’t quite get the Newton connection, but I am amused at how much this song does not rock.  THE VENTURES-“Frosty The Snowman” a fun surf version.  THE DINNING SISTERS & BOB ATCHER-“Christmas Island” I love this song and this version.  It’s always a treat to hear this at Christmastime.

MARTIN DENNY-“Exotic Night” I love Martin Denny and his weird “exotic” tracks. This is a wonderful version of “What Child is This” as done on vibes and possibly glasses? With a pretty piano.  PEGGY LEE-“Happy Holidays” Classic big band fun.  FERRANTE & TEICHER/LES BAXTER-“Sleigh Ride/Santa Claus’ Party”  Les Baxter is another great exotic music fan.  This is the great instrumental version with sleigh bells and cloppy sounds and all. The second half is a vocal rendition of a song I’ve never heard before (“a mountain of ice cream where everyone has his share!”).  Someday I’ll have to make a disc of “old” Christmas songs that are not part of the typical rounds

GUY LOMBARDO & HIS ROYAL CANADIANS-“ Auld Lang Syne” standard Auld Lang Syne fare, although a little slow.  STAN KENTON-“ What Is Santa Claus?” A sweet story about Santa Claus. It’s spoken word with the set up that children are always asking him what Santa Claus is.  Set over a backing chorus of “Silent Night,” it’s very sweet, although he says Santa has 7 reindeer—that’s odd.

[READ: December 22, 2014] Locke & Key 5

I’m trying so hard to pace myself with these stories, but I am so hooked.  I knew I would finish the series by the end of the year, even if I couldn’t post about them until January

This penultimate book opens with a flashback.  A very long ago flashback with a bunch of people who look a lot like the Locke family.  And indeed they are the Locke’s from 1776, when the parents of the family were killed by British soldiers for supporting the local militia.  The children watch the hanging and are told to go to the caves (where the militia is waiting).  When they get to the caves, they learn that the men hiding there have found a door.  The door is marked 11 and has all kinds of designs on it.  The men reveal that the children’s brother was killed fighting off whatever was in that door (so they lost three family members that day).

Behind the door is the creepy spirit dimension that Scout is trying to control.  After a staggering amount of bloodshed, we learn that if the spirits are incapable of taking over a body, they turn into a weird kind of metal.  Which the boy forges into the Omega key.  And, mind-blowingly, Ty and Kinsey are there as ghosts to watch the whole thing.  (And I have to laugh that during all the horror, the goat is just eating people’s hats and whatnot). (more…)

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 locke4SOUNDTRACK: TORI AMOS-Midwinter Graces (2009).

midwinterI had loved Tori Amos for many years, but I got bored with her mid 2000s works, they were too adult contemporary for my liking.  So I wasn’t that excited to hear this Christmas album.  But Sarah bought it for me that year anyhow, and I have really grown to like it a lot.  At the same time there are a few things about it that drive me insane–particularly the crazy and I’ll say it, stupid way she pronounces words in her songs.

If Tori were not a native English speaker I would forgive her (I love a lot of non native English speakers as singers).  But she was born in the US and now lives in England and none of the weird things she does reflect any “accent” nor do they reflect the way she speaks.  She has a very distinctive way of mispronouncing certain words (which she seems to have developed late in her career) which is maddening and often makes the words unintelligible. Why would one do that?

That aside, the melodies and (most) vocals are really lovely.  For this album Tori takes some bits of traditional carols and tinkers with them. The accompanying DVD has an interview in which she explains her inspiration. But without knowing this, some of these versions can be very upsetting.  The first time I heard the first song I just did not understand what was happening–it’s just so wrong.  And while I’m not saying I “get” it now, but I enjoy it more because it uses the carols as a jumping off point..

“What Child, Nowell” is very disconcerting because the song changes so many different things at once.  It has a string section opening and then lyrics to What Child is This (in a very different melody). When she switches the vocal line in the “this this” part, you know something’s up, and when it jumps to the Nowell section (which is also done differently), well, who knows what’s happening.  It’s an unusual track but lovely. “Star of Wonder” has a very cool middle eastern lick. It opens with the we three kings line, but is immediately changed into something different (lyrics and melodies). I just love the chorus of this which modifies “star of wonder” in a cool way.   “A Silent Night with You” is a romantic song (her voice sounds a little funny) But the melody is very pretty.   “Candle” Coventry Carol” I don’t recognize the melody of the Candle part but the Coventry Carol party has a wonderful Victorian melody (it could do with more olde instruments, I think).

“Holly Ivy an Rose” has a pretty piano melody.  I love the melody even more when the chorus comes in.  But I genuinely don’t like when Tash’s voice kicks in—it feels flat to me. I appreciate her using her daughter (and I feel bad criticizing a nine-year old), but I think Tori’s voice sounds so magical that her daughter’s voice just can’t match.  “Harps of Gold” I didn’t realiy like the musical opening of this (the guitars sound really pale compared to the rest of the disc, but I love the drums –simple but so effective). This song is the one where I really noticed how weird Tori emphasizes words now. I was sure that she she was singing “Napoleon” (Nah ha poh ho lee un) which I know made literally no sense for the song.  In fact she is singing “Gloria” (Gluh hoe hoe Ree uh). That speaks volumes about how weirdly she has been emphasizing words on the last few albums.  Despite that weirdness, I really like this song and I will continue to sing “Napoleon.”

“Snow Angel” is a bit adult contemporary for me, but I find myself singing it a lot, so I must like it.  “Jeanette, Isabella” is a pretty song with a lovely melody but for some reason it’s not very catchy.   “Pink and Glitter” is a big band type swing number.  It comes as quite a shock after the mellow song before it). I love the chorus—Tori’s voice works very well with this style of music.  But again, what’s with the weird emphasis. “honorable mention” is sung strangely:  “men she un.”  And worse yet, the song ends with the word “pink” and yet she sings it without the final k so I was sure she was singing “shower the world with pain.”  What gives?

“Emmanuel” begins with the “O come O come” lines. It’s a little too slow.  This is another song where she mispronounces words on purpose–the way she says Israel is crazy.  But as soon as it switches to her own song, it becomes quite lovely.  “Winter’s Carol” is actually from her musical ‘The Light Princess.”  It reminds me a bit of her song Marianne and it’s really quite nice musically, but again, the way the words are sung is insane: “first song oov the robin, i koh through the land” Its a shame her pronunciation is so awful because the song is quite lovely (and the lyrics are good too).  I love the backing vocals–her niece sings them and she is quite fabulous.  The disc proper ends with “Our New Year,” it is a pretty song with nice string arrangements but a rather sad sentiment and kind of a downer way to end the record.

My copy has two bonus tracks: “Comfort and Joy”  It plays on the lyrics of “let nothing you dismay” and “glad tidings.”  It’s a totally different with a slow angsty ballad.  “Silent Night” is a mostly straight but with some different lyrics in the later verses.  But why does she say “pierce” instead of “peace?”

[READ: December 23, 2014] Locke & Key 4

This book opens with a tribute to Bill Watterson, in which all of the scenes in Bode’s head resemble Calvin and Hobbes (somewhat).  Bode is ostracized in school because he’s pretty weird.  His mom wants him to have friends, but he doesn’t seem to be able to make any.  But when he finds the animal key (which Scout used to transform into a wolf), Bode transforms into a…sparrow?  He is bummed until he realizes the power of a group.  And when he and his bird friends are able to take on the wolf, that’s pretty awesome (this is, sadly the bloodiest section so far in the book).

Chapter Two introduces us to the color key, in which Kinsley is able to turn into a black girl.  She does this when she realizes that the woman who wrote her name next to her father’s in that underwater cave is in the nearby madhouse.  The woman, Erin Voss, is black.  And racism is rampant in this section of town (and in the asylum).  Of course, when she screams the word white, it’s not because Kinsey is white, but because of something that Scout has done to her.

Chapter Three is set up in an interesting way.  Each day of the month is represented by some event (with very little in the way of context).  So there’s an embarrassing hockey loss for Ty, a breakup between Kinsey and Zack, and on the weekends they fight shadowy evils.  They also find some more keys, one appears to be for a cupboard filled of all kinds of things, another is a Hercules key.  There’s a lot of tears (and bloodshed) in February. (more…)

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singles I got this album from Parasol Records because I was looking for alternatives to the standard Christmas carols. I always think its fun to find variations of songs which you won’t hear on the radio or in movies. So this seemed like an interesting indie selection. Parasol put out a few bands that I liked The Soundtrack of Our Lives, White Town) so it seemed like a good place to start.  There are lots of bands I’ve never heard of (before or since) on the disc as well (as befits a label sample).

And I have to say that overall this collection is pretty disappointing.  The songs are all kind of flat and unremarkable.

ERIK VOEKS-“Christmas Singles” a good melody, vaguely 90s alt rock lite. There’s a nice chorus but the song isn’t all that catchy.  ELIZABETH ELMORE-“White Christmas” gentle guitar version of the song. Upbeat and pleasant.  MARK BACINO-“Merry Christmas, I Love You” this sounds a bit like an Elvis Costello song (nice guitar pop) with a nice chorus.  ANGIE HEATON-“Hard Candy Christmas” a slow downbeat folkie song pretty but sad.  GEORGE USHER GROUP-“I’ll Be There on Christmas Day” although the message is upbeat the music is slow and sad.  VITESSE-“The Last Days of December” a mildly electronic song with low vocals…nothing special.  WHITE TOWN-“Merry Fucking Christmas” a buzzy and noisy fast song with inaudible lyrics (something about this is all a waste of time).  But far less mean spirited than the title suggests.  FRIENDS OF SOUND-“Christmas Light, End a Fight” synths and soft languid female and male.  There’s some weird vocal effects in the middle. Not too inspiring either.  ELK CITY-Deer Crossing” upbeat folkie guitar song.  PHILO-“Everyday will be Like  a Holiday” fuzzy, poorly recorded, hard to understand.  KAYLA BROWN-“All I Want for Christmas” this is a pretty, original acoustic folkie song.  TOOTHPASTE 2000-“I Wish That Everyday was Christmas” opens with the lines from “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” but with a very different melody. Then he writes his own lyrics—upbeat 90s alt rock.  This is rocking and fun, one of the best songs on the disc.  SIGNALMEN-“Holiday Wine” a soloing and rocking guitar but not a very rocking song.  SHALINI-“Nutrocker” This is my favorite song on the disc, a swinging and fun instrumental version of the nutcracker.  MATT BRUNO-“Merry Christmas” slow crooning voice over simple keyboard notes. A pretty song but nothing special.  DOLEFUL LIONS-“Auld Lang Syne” guitars and synth a fuzzy version that’s okay.

So yes, aside from a few tracks, this is a pretty mid tempo and kind of dull collection.  Shame.

[READ: December 12, 2014] Locke & Key 3

Even though Rufus doesn’t appear in this book (and he seemed so crucial at the end of book two), this book just made the story get even better.

As the first chapter opens, Scout (Zack) finds the ghost key and meets up with Sam (the boy who killed the Locke’s dad).  They have a huge fight–Sam is mad that Scout keeps using him.  And we learn that Scout is vulnerable in human form.  (I also LOVE that Scout is wearing a Pac-Man ghost shirt).  As the book ends, Scout drops one of the four keys that he now has and Tyler’s mom finds it.

Chapter Two focuses on Kinsey.  She is still without fear and although Zack is hitting on her (and she seems to be reciprocating) she suddenly has a new admirer–a skinhead (mostly) with tattoos who says that he has seen her dad’s name graffiti’d in a cave.  She’s curious (and clearly not afraid) so she agrees to go along.

They head down to the locked off (no trespassing area) of the cave.  But when they get to the cave, it is flooded.  Kinsey, having no fear, jumps into the freezing water.  But after a few minutes of panicking and teasing, the stairs that they are sitting on collapses and all four of them, Scot (the skinhead) and his friend Jamal and Kinsey’s friend Jackie plunge into the water.  It’s a pretty tense moment until Kinsey figures out a way to rescue them. (more…)

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 locke2SOUNDTRACK: SUFJAN STEVENS and FRIENDS present Let It Snow! songs for Christmas vol. 9 (2009).

sufjan 9 Disc 9 of the series is a return to the old style after the freakout of Vol. VIII.  It’s only 21 minutes long and features a number of fun Christmas Carols (done as only Sufjan can do them).

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” sounds traditional with harps and bells.  “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (this is the first time he’s done Santa-centric songs) has fun group singing (which reminds me a bit of Peanuts).   There’s lots of layers of voices, and it’s almost chaotic, but not quite.  “The Sleigh in the Moon” was written and sung by Cat Martino.  It’s a slow pretty song.

“Sleigh Ride” is old school sounding but with some modern effects thrown in too.  It ends with a whole mess of silly sound effects.  “Ave Maria” has such a beautiful melody that it’s a shame he messes with it here. I don’t really care for this version.  “X-Spirit Catcher” has a nice melody.  It’s an upbeat fun song but it gets kinda weird near the end with overlaid vocals sounds.  “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” also has a very unexpected melody–it’s minor key and sad.  It’s a weird way of dealing with the song but it’s very pretty in its melancholy (this is melody he can mess with).  “A Holly Jolly Christmas” also has a tinkered melody.  This time just a tweak, but it’s surprising.  The music sounds like a calliope.  “Christmas Face” ends the disc.  It’s a sweet song, only 40 seconds long. It was written and sung by Sebastian Krueger.

It’s fun to have the Christmas albums of old back from Sufjan.

[READ: December 12, 2014] Locke & Key 2

I enjoyed Book 1 of this series so much I couldn’t wait to read Book 2.  And book 2 not only did not  disappoint, it was even better than the first.

The book opens with the ghost from the well (who goes by Scout, although he is now known as Zack) hunting down an old teacher who seemed to recognize him (from when he was Luke a generation ago).  But this murder gets the police involved, especially when they see that the professor fought back and left some evidence.  But Scout’s real problem is with Ellie and her son Rufus.  She keeps calling him Luke (instead of Zack) and seems to be making his reemergence very difficult.  But at the same time, he knows he needs her so he can’t get rid of her.

Zack is also getting quite friendly with Tyler.  Tyler seems to be adjusting fairly well,  He can’t stop thinking about his father (understandably) but he seems to be making friends (of questionable quality, naturally).   His mom is looking pretty haggard, though, what with everything going on.  And to make things worse, Duncan, the guy who has been helping out around the house and cooking them good food (he’s related in some way although I don’t know how exactly) is ready to head back to Provincetown.  This means bad food ahead for the Locke family.

On the supernatural front Bode has found a new key and this one lets you see inside people’s heads (I adored the way it was drawn, and won’t spoil it).  (more…)

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lcoke1SOUNDTRACK: SUFJAN STEVENS and FRIENDS present Gloria songs for Christmas Vol. 6 (2006).

sufjan 6I was planning to write about Sufjan Steven’s first collection of Christmas albums, but I had forgotten that I had already done so back in 2009 [Vol 1 here; Vol 2 here; Vol 3 here; Vol 4 here and Vol 5 here.]

The next five volumes (from 2006-2010) came out in 2012.  This collection bucks the rather traditional tradition he had established with the earlier volumes.  Indeed, as the discs progress, they get more and more unusual.

But this first disc is quite traditional sounding.  It has 8 songs and is about thirty minutes long.

“Silent Night” is very pretty with gentle acoustic guitars and lots of backing vocalists. The solo is kind of a singing saw I think—a little odd, but neat.
“Lumberjack Christmas/No One Can Save You from Christmases Past” is filled with fiddles and is quite sweet (with a very familiar melody (and ho ho hos).
“Coventry Carol” I love the introductory melody of this song, it’s so pretty.  The voices feature multiple harmonies;  it’s quite lovely.
“The Midnight Clear” despite the title and first line, this is not “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” but a song inspired by that one. This is a very pretty song with a complex melody and lots of filigree in the instrumentation.
“Carol of St. Benjamin the Bearded One” I love this instrumental opening (about 90 seconds) which plays with a twist on “Hark Hear the Bells” and then plays some different instrumental sections but always returning to that Hark section. It’s very cool.  When the vocals come in it mellows out quite a bit and is still very pretty.
“Go Nightly Cares” has a very Elizabethan feel to it.  It’s a lovely 15th century instrumental.
“Barcarola (You Must Be A Christmas Tree)” is 7 minutes long. It begins slow but gets bigger and bigger with a section from Do You Hear What I Hear (the “following yonder star” melody)
“Auld Lang Syne” is a very pretty version on acoustic instruments with lots of singers.  It’s a nice way to end the EP.

[READ: December 5, 2014] Locke & Key 1

I heard about this graphic novel series when Joe Hill was on Seth Meyers’ show.  I didn’t really know too much about his writing style but I knew he wasn’t someone I was anxious to read (even if his book Heart Shaped Box must have something to do with the Nirvana song, right?).

But Seth made this graphic novel series sound really compelling, so I decided to check them out.  There are six collections in the series and they are all available now.

The first collection is called Welcome to Lovecraft and it sets the story in motion pretty much from the get go.  As the book opens we see two creepy looking youths harassing a pretty woman.  We see that they have killed at least two people, and things don’t look good for the lady.

Then we cut to some kids.  An older boy, Tyler; a young teen girl Kinsey (with dreadlocks and piercings) and a little boy. Bode.  They are all complaining about how much they hate living where they are.

Jump cut to a funeral with a bright red urn and Tyler looking down at it. (more…)

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