Archive for the ‘Lucy Knisley’ Category

newSOUNDTRACK: DANISH STRING QUARTET-Tiny Desk Concert #399 (October 25, 2014).

danishI always enjoy hearing a string quartet that I’m unlikely to hear anywhere other than a Tiny Desk Concert.  It’s fun to listen to them before reading anything about them to try to imagine where they’re coming from musically.   The opening notes of the first song made me think they were a modernist quartet playing music that was repetitive and mildly atonal.

But they quickly swing it around into what turns out to be the first of many traditional Danish wedding folk songs!

While the quartet does play classical pieces as well, for this Tiny Desk Concert, they focus only on songs from their then recent album Wood Works.  The blurb says “the group recently took a musical detour that landed them in the foggy inlets of the Faroe Islands (a Danish outpost halfway between Norway and Iceland) and various Nordic hamlets where folk tunes are played and passed on.”

The first piece is actually three melodies: “Traditional: Ye Honest Bridal Couple — Sønderho Bridal Trilogy Parts I & II”  The piece begins somewhat atonally, but about 2 and a half minutes in the somber tones give way to a spritely melody that sounds like a great lost Irish jig.  But soon enough with the addition of the other strings it sounds very romantic indeed.  In what I presume is part II, around 6 minutes, the cello plays a wonderfully upbeat and catchy rhythm. The violins play staccato notes that keep the rhythm going while the viola and cello continue the melody–it’s pretty awesome.  Especially as the song fades and each of the strings plays the riff in succession.

The second piece is in fact two pieces: Traditional: Sekstur from Vendsyssel — The Peat Dance.”  Once again the two melodies sound kind of like Irish dances (I guess it’s time to call them Danish dances).  The second half of the first part sound great as the full quartet plays a wonderful melody.  But when the second part of the set comes and the super fast fiddling begins, it s hard not to dance (you can even hear someone tapping his foot as he plays).  The big difference between this and Irish dance is the rather formal sounding and lovely ending melody.

The final piece is the third part of the Bridal Trilogy from the first piece: “Traditional (arr. Nikolaj Busk): Sønderho Bridal Trilogy Part III.”  He says that these melodies date back many 100 years and are still used today.  It begins very slowly and almost somberly.  It doesn’t feel very wedding-like to me and of the three this is my least favorite.

The quartet sounds amazing. The players are Violinists Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen and Frederik Øland, violist Asbjørn Nørgaard and cellist Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin.  It’s also kind of funny since three of the four have beards–not something you typically see on a string quartet. They acknowledge this on their website: “We are simply your friendly neighborhood string quartet with above average amounts of beard.”

[READ: June 20, 2016] Something New

Knisley has made a rather successful career out of writing graphic novel memoirs.  She has covered food and travel.  And, in a somewhat surprising twist (if you have been following her books), she just got married.

This is surprising because the man she married is the man she broke up with in one of the previous books.  The story basically tells how they were on an off sorta kinda for years until they finally tied the knot.

So this book is the story of their relationship and their engagement. But beyond that it is also an interesting and helpful guide-book for those who want to get married but who may not be totally on board with all of the conventions and trapping of the wedding industry. (more…)

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milkSOUNDTRACK: ANNA & ELIZABETH–Tiny Desk Concert #447 (June 8, 2015). 

annaelizAnna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle are from different parts of the country but share a love of old stories and songs.  This Tiny Desk features three songs and one story (with visuals), and it’s quite different from pretty much anything I’ve ever seen.

“Long Time Traveling” is an a capella song that has a very olde sound of what I can only call “mountain music.”  The women have lovely harmonies reminiscent of O Brother, Where Art Thou?

And just when you think you’ve got these two figured out, they do “Lella Todd Crankie.”  This is a spoken word piece.  Anna (the taller one) explains that they would go into archives and listen to blank CDs of people telling stories from the old days.  And this is one that they memorized.  But just telling the story isn’t enough.  They have resurrected the “crankie” which is like a mural on a spool.  Each one is drawn and crafted to be hand-cranked and unfurled at the pace of a song.  This visual accompaniment (hand cranked by Elizabeth) follows the story as it is told, with visuals that relate perfectly to the story (I’m not sure who created those either).  Part of this story tells of how Miss Lella played fiddle, and as they get to that part, Anna starts playing the fiddle, and it is magical.

“Goin Cross The Mountain” is a war-based song on banjo and guitar with, again, great harmonies.  “Little Black Train” is a judgment day dark song sung with great harmonies and Anna’s twangy guitar.

I don’t think I could do a whole concert with them, but this little fifteen minute show is mesmerizing.

[READ: May 25, 2015] French Milk

I had gotten this book out at the same time of Age of License.  But since that one couldn’t be renewed (someone else wanted it) I read that first.  So, out of sequence, I now read this, her first book.  I’m kind of glad I did read it out of sequence, because the events of Age of License shed some light on this book, which is pretty neat.

This book looks at the trip that Knisley and her mom took to France back in 2007.  They lived in a rental apartment for New Years and much of January.  The book sets the standard for her other books–lots of (really good but simple drawings–the sample faces on page 78 are really amazing–and belie the simplicity of her other “simpler” drawings ), many photos–rather blurry frankly, which is weird (see page 8 for an example), although the non blurry one of her mom in front of a nudie magazine is very funny.

We see some of her life before the trip.  We meet John, the awesome boyfriend (spoiler: she has broken up with him by Age of License).  She describes the airport, airplane (complete with kicking child) and arrival.  (The descriptions in License are more enjoyable–she had become a better writer by then).

Knisley is a foodie.  She talks a lot about the food they eat, including a bunch of foie gras and baguettes, sausages and the delicious French Milk (which she says is the best milk she’s ever had).

I enjoyed her descriptions of her apartment (and the creepy half-cat head on the door).  The strange standing screen which blocks nothing and has hunting fabric.

There’s also talk of them not paying attention to the world around them (like the execution of Saddam Hussein–although honestly if you’re on vacation for a month in France I think its okay to be oblivious although by 2015, it would be virtually impossible to be so oblivious).

They spend a lot of time in art museums, and she says by the end that she is basically sick on naked women, even if her favorite painting is “L’Origine du Monde.”  And I loved her disappointment to find out that famous Moulin Rouge is “a papier-mache windmill on the roof of a strip joint”

But as the book hits its final third, Knisley gets really bummed out.  She starts thinking about failure and that fact that she is turning (gasp) twenty-two.  And that’s when I wanted to throw the book against the wall.  A 22 year-old being whisked around Paris has no right to complain about financial responsibility–nor even does her mother have a right to talk to her about it on the trip.  The quote on page 125: “Even though I’m in my 20s, because I’m an only child, sometimes I feel a little like a spoiled brat…”  Well, it has nothing to do with being an only child if you can spend a month in France.  And when she says that her pie chart of her time management is spent 50% worrying 30% eating and 20% thinking about sex?  No, I will not accept that.  Go out and enjoy Paris for Christ’s sake.

I think its’ nice that her divorced parents are still friends and that he came to visit in France (how can a former English professor afford that?).

And then after a few more meals they are wending their way back home.  The flight back is hilarious and I love that they punished the person who complained about their DVD player by talking really loudly instead.

I can’t help but feel that each book has gotten progressively better.  And while I didn’t enjoy this one as much, I feel like each book has gotten better.  But how much more can she travel?

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dispSOUNDTRACKTHE PRETTIOTS–Tiny Desk Concert #448 (June 15, 2015).

prettiotI hadn’t heard of the Prettiots before this set, but I loved them right from the bat.  The band plays super catchy, simple (funny) pop songs.  Kay Kasparhauser plays ukulele and lead vocals and bassist Lulu Prat sings great harmonies.  Kasparhauser is quite mobile, singing and bouncing around.  While Prat almost stares down the camera.  Meanwhile,  drummer Rachel Trachtenburg from the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players sits mostly stone faced as she thumps along on the drum.

Their songs are rather funny (even when they aren’t).  The first song “Boys (I Dated In High School)” names the boys she dated, whether they were good at sex and why she dumped them.  All with a call and response in the verses that’s fantastic.

“Stabler” is an ode to the guy From Law and Order, which I don’t watch, but I can still appreciate it.  It ups the musicianship a bit from the much simpler first song.

“Suicide Hotline” is a humorous look at a dark subject: The lyrics name check lots of famous suicides and starts with the lyric “On a scale of 1 to Plath I’m like a 4.”  Prat switches to guitar for this last song and it boosts the sound a bit.

I actually don’t know what the band really sounds like–I sort of picture them being bigger and more punk, and yet their lyrics work perfectly in this more acoustic style.  (They have two songs on Spotify and they are still quite acoustic in their sound).  I’m looking forward to hearing more from them.

[READ: July 15, 2015] Displacement

I enjoyed An Age of License, even if I didn’t always love Knisley’s attitude.  This book, which is sort of a companion to License (although not really, it’s more like another travelogue released around the same time as the first one), was something I wanted to read.

In a nutshell this book is another travelogue, but it is not anything like the previous one.  In this one, Lucy volunteers to go on a cruise with her 90 year old grandparents.  The grands wanted to go on the trip, but no one in the family felt that they should go alone.  Lucy thought it would be a good way to spend time with her grands and also to get a chance to enjoy a cruise (which she would never be able to afford).

Knisley ends each “chapter/day” of the cruise with a quote (and her own illustration) from a book that her grandfather wrote about being in the war.  A decade or so ago he decided to put down all of his memories about his time in the service.  He had them bound and gave a copy to each of his children.  And his stories are exciting and scary and thoughtful.  (I wouldn’t be surprised if Knisley had the whole book published with her illustrations–I’d certainly read it).  So, after a trying day with the grands, we get a perspective of the man she was looking after as a young man in a really serious situation. (more…)

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ageSOUNDTRACK: GENEVIEVE-Tiny Desk Concert #446 (June 1, 2015).

genevieveI enjoy that the opening of this Tiny Desk Concert shows Genevieve “creating” her backup singers.  So that when she gets to the chorus and taps that loop pedal her harmonies really shine.

Genevieve is a poppy singer with a sometimes raspy but often really clean singing style.  She has a great voice and vibrant personality (and hair color).  Even though she is from Chicago, I hear some tinges of Bjõrk and maybe even Tori Amos in her voice.

Evidently she normally plays with a full band, but for this concert, she is accompanied only by Chris Faller who “plays all of the instruments.”

The first song “Colors” is played only with keyboards (and feels like it could use a little but more music–although her voice is powerful enough and that chorus is super catchy as is).  “The Enemy” is accompanied by an acoustic guitar and is a suitably mellower–a kind of sad ballad–which shows how powerful her voice is even in this more quiet setting (she has a lovely range).

The final song “Authority” feels like it might be a big raver (she adds hand claps that seem like the kind that might get the crowd going, but the claps are quiet and subtle here).  The chorus is big with lots of long-held notes and is super catchy.

Genevieve would probably be too pop for me in general, but the Tiny Desk Concerts tend to remove a lot of gloss and leave the heart of the musician.

[READ: May 15, 2015] An Age of License

I enjoyed Knisley’s Relish, so when I saw this in the library I decided to check it out.

Unlike Relish, which was about food, this book is about her travels outside of the country.  But like Relish, this book is another memoir/journal/autobiography.

Since I have been having a major Norway kick (thanks to Karl Ove Knausgaard and some great sites on Instagram) I was pretty excited to see that her travels began in Norway.  Her itinerary is short but very busy.  Fly into Iceland than immediately to Norway (for the Raptus Comics Fest in Bergen).  Then it’s off to Sweden (to visit a guy she knows in Stockholm).  Then to Berlin to join her friends on their honeymoon (which is not as tacky as it sounds). Then it’s off to France to visit her friend in Beaune, and then to hang out with her mom and her friends on Royan.  Finally a day in Paris before flying back home.  I’m exhausted just writing it all.

Knisley also has the headache of dealing with a breakup (to the nice guy who has been in her previous books) although he is kind enough  to babysit her cat while she is gone.

Every few pages has colored (watercolor I assume) drawings which add a nice touch to the otherwise black and white story.

Starting Sept 8th, she arrives in Norway.  We see the flight and other people on the flight.  We see a nice meal that she eats (Pinnekjott–someday I hope to get to the Scandinavian countries and eat food that I cannot pronounce).  Norway is fun–she goes to the Fest (where she gets to draw with Ethan Nicolle of “Axe Cop” (presumably his five-year old brother stayed home).  She shows students how to draw (her friend is a teacher), although she declines to eat Lutefisk (which she illustrates as Fish + Lye.  Lye??).  She also mentions that she was not only stalked, but that the boys who stalked her then made and published (and had it available at the following year’s Raptus Fest) a comic about stalking her–creepy! (more…)

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nurserySOUNDTRACK: FRANK FAIRFIELD-Tiny Desk Concert #445 (May 29, 2015).

frankFrank Fairfield and friends Tom Marion (who plays mandolin on the third song) and Zac Sokolow (on guitar) play old-timey music (marches, polkas and mountain tunes).  Fairfield plays banjo and plucked cello (and apparently fiddle, although not here).

The first song “Tres Piedras” is an upbeat instrumental.  The second song “I Ain’t A Goin’ To Weep No More” was written by Harry von Tilser whose brother wrote “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

The final song “Campanile De Venecia/Sharpshooters March” has an overwhelming Italian feel (that mandolin, I gather).  I like that Fairfield yells “take it, Tom” so that Marion will play a lengthy mandolin solo on the for the final song.  There’s also a “traditional” Italian melody in the song that I know more from cartoons than elsewhere.

The songs feel like they leaped out of a 78 record (even Fairfield’s voice seems suitably “old” on “Weep” (although it appears that they were up playing late last night so he may not quite be up to par).

This was a fun Tiny Desk by an artist I’d never encounter anywhere else.

[READ: January 21, 2015] Nursery Rhyme Comics

This is a collection of Nursery Rhymes as drawn primarily by First Second artists.

The 50 nursery rhymes includes here are the traditional rhymes which remain unchanged.  So this was an opportunity for these artists to draw interesting visuals to accompany the traditional stories.  Some artists stayed traditional, while others went in a totally new direction.

It was fun to see that while I knew most of the nursery rhymes, there were quite a few that I didn’t know.

I always wanted to get a  collection of nursery rhymes for my kids when they were younger, and I feel like I never got one that would have been as satisfying as this one. (more…)

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relishSOUNDTRACK:RHEOSTATICS-World Next Door Festival, Winnipeg, MB (September 5, 1998).

wndI was pretty excited to hear this outdoor festival version of the Rheostatics.  I knew the show would be short (and it is at about 45 minutes), but i imagined the entire feel of the show would be different in this setting.  What surprised me is that the recording is taken from a CBC radio broadcast of the show (which in and of itself is pretty cool).  But the recording is terrible!  The sound is bad and there are dozens of stops in the tape.  Bummer (especially when Aliens gets cut off).

Perhaps the most enjoyable part is when Dave says there’s going to be a double neck guitar war between Martin and Gordie Johnson (he was the front man for Big Sugar, a band I don’t know.  They apparently headlined the festival and he plays a mean double neck guitar).

Strangely enough I can’t find out anything about this festival which apparently doesn’t exist anymore.

[READ: March 5, 2014] Relish

Sarah read and really enjoyed this graphic novel. She said I would like it too and she was right.

This is a collection of memories from Knisley.  She writes about growing up in a family of foodies and how at a very young age she at anything.  She even began to crave unusual foods (in one short piece, she says that as a child she craved sautéed mushrooms).  But what’s cool about the story is that although she was raised in a snobby food way (you she see her father’s reaction to McDonald’s and her mother’s reaction to ketchup) she still appreciated junk food. She says, “Anyone who can fail to rejoice in the enticing squish/crunch of a fast food French fry or the delight of a warmed piece of grocery-store donut, is living half a life.”

At the end of each chapter is a recipe for something from the book.  The recipes are pretty simple, although some of them have extravagant ingredients (like her Chai Tea which sounds amazing, but is frankly too full of expensive ingredients for me to ever make–cardamom pods, star anise? No way.).  However, her recipe for marinated lamb sounds delicious and uses only the most basic ingredients. (more…)

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