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Archive for the ‘Children’s Books’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Mowat Collegiate Late (1982).

This Rheostatics show dates all the way back to 1982, when the band was very very different.

This is the second oldest show I have been provided with to date… (based on the fact that Chemical World is introduced as a new song and it isn’t played on the other Mowat show on the site). From Mowat Collegiate in Scarborough it is slightly later in the year and has much clearer sound.

These old shows confuse me because I can’t tell who is singing.  To me it sounds like Tim singing lead on all the songs, but I didn’t think he was the main singer back then.  Or is it that Dave Bidini’s voice is so much different because they were all just babies?  I assume it’s Bidini doing the talking, and his voice is sure different (not Tom Waits different, but still).  I’m also not sure who is playing what.  I assume Tim is on bass, but he doesn’t usually play bass when he sings.  Dave Clark is also very quiet (he is usually full of jokes and poetry and whatnot).  I’m assuming that’s David Crosby (not that David Crosby) on lead guitar.

And somebody is playing with a high pitched oscillator type sound for the first few songs.  I wonder who is doing that while apparently playing their actual instruments. 

This set starts out with “National Pride.”  A funky, bass-slapping, bass-sliding song that shows that the early Rheos were far more into funk than anything else. 

The set (actually I guess it is two sets) is full of covers.  But each one is done in their new wave-ish ska-ish, not sounding anything like the original, style

The Kinks’ “Well Respected Man About Town” is almost unrecognizable with the bouncy bass in the verses and the entirely un-Kinks-like quality to the rest of the song.

“Chemical World” is described as new song (it’s one of the few from this era that has survived a little).  It starts out with Dave Clark on drums. It’s all new wave guitar and a lolloping bass.

“Girl in My Magazine” is a full-on ska song with bouncy guitars and a big fat bass.

Then they run through “Louie Louie” which sounds like the original in some ways–melodically–but it’s still got that big funky bass sound going on. 

Dave (or Tim) keeps encouraging everyone to come up and dance.

Up next is the “single which we’ll be handing out after our next set (we’re playing twice) called “Satellite dancing.”  It’s got the same basic sound but with a kind of blues riff underpinning the ska guitars.

As the song ends, someone says, stay tuned for Mark Malibu & the funky Wasagas.  Interestingly Mark Malibu & the Wasagas broke up in 1982, but reformed with all the original members in 2014 and have released three albums.

Presumably after a break and they are back with a new set of different songs.

This set opens with a lengthy bass intro and echoing reggae guitars which turns into a lengthy drum solo.  It’s called “Reggae Trenchtown Jam” and it’s basically just a nine minute jam.  In the middle of the song while encouraging people to dance, someone says, In Missouri and Kentucky they’ve outlawed… [can’t hear the rest].

Up next is “My Generation,” which is “on that record.”  This is , like The Kinks’ cover, a very unusual new wave version of the song–again almost unrecognizable.  Despite the prominent bass in this set, there’s no wailing bass solos like ion the original.  There is a wailing guitar solo though and the song jams out about five minutes.   

Up next is the shortest song of the night.  “Man of Action” is under three minutes with more of those reggae guitars.

Then comes a song by Sly and the Family Stone.  “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” sounds like one of their own songs, they have so taken it over.  Surprisingly, given their funk, this sounds nothing at all like the original.  Even the super catchy chorus is done in a very different way.  They are indeed being Mice Elf.  There’s a jamming section at the end with some serious slap bass.

Up next is “an old ska song” called “The Suburb Shuffle.”  I can’t find anything about this song.  Although the introduction says “I’m sure everyone in Scarborough can relate to it.  It’s about green houses and black driveways and well-cut lawns and flowers in the sidewalks.   It has nothing to do with Martha and the Muffins.”  It is indeed a suburban ska song.

They end the set with “Shake Your Body Thang” and “we want everyone up on stage, especially Mark Malibu.”  I think this one musty be Tim singing.  The jam this one out for nearly nine minutes.  Mid way through, they invite people on stage.  There’s a break down when it’s just drums and vocals.  It’s got everything a 1982 collegiate rock band should have.

It’s impossible to believe that these are the same guys.

[READ: October 22, 2020] Lightfall Book 1

This is an enchanting first book in a new series. Tim Probert’s illustrations are wonderful–a fantastic soft palette and delightfully unusual characters.

Set in the land if Irpa, we first meet Bea and her cat Nimm. Bea is somewhat nervous by nature. Especially when it comes to a small jar with a flame in it which she is meant to be guarding.

Bea lives with her adoptive grandfather named Alfrid the Pig Wizard. Alfrid is, as the name suggests, a pig and a wizard and he makes potions for people. But he is also very forgetful. He leaves reminders for himself, but they don’t always help.

Bea ventures out to get some ingredients for a potion. She is in a tree, when the branch breaks. As she hangs on for dear life, a tall froglike creature walks past (on two legs), and as she falls out of the tree he catches her. The creature is Cadwaller, known as Cad. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK
: BILLIE EILISH-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #71 (August 26, 2020).

There’s so much to say about this Billie Eilish concert.

The biggest artist in the world has just done a Tiny Desk Concert!

Somehow it looks like she’s in the Tiny Desk studio!

Why does she only play two songs?

My daughter and I were supposed to see her back in March and she cancelled her tour about three nights before our show was supposed to happen.  What a bummer!  Especially because who knew if people would even want to see her again in a year (I’m pretty sure they will).  And would her stage show and song style change over that year?

The answer to that seems to be a dramatic yes.  Especially if these two songs are anything to go by.

For these two songs Billie embraces her torch song inner child.  She has a really lovely voice–delicate and emotional.

These songs are personal and lovely–there’s no “Duhs,” there’s no snark.  Compared to what I expected, they were kind of dull, actually.  Very pretty, but kind of dull.

These are the two new singles.  For “my future” Billie plays keyboards and her “real brother” Finneas plays guitar and sings some backing vocals.

On “everything i wanted” they switch places, with Finneas playing the pretty piano melody and providing a lot of nice backing vocals.

These two songs seem like they would go very nicely in the middle of a set of bangers for a few moments of cool down.  I hope when her show is rescheduled that she still brings all the excitement I;d heard her shows typically have.

As for the background…at first I thought it was just a cute idea.  But after six months, it was really comforting to have musicians look like they were playing the actual Tiny Desk.

[READ: August 28, 2020] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Wrecking Ball

This is the book that started my resurgence into reading Wimpy Kid books. I bought this one for my daughter.  This story had me laughing out loud once again.

This book has a lot to do with the Heffley’s house.  I don’t know if middle school kids can appreciate jokes about household maintenance, but as an adult I sure can.

The book opens with Greg’s mom wanting to do some cleaning up.  That means going through the closet in Greg’s room.  He tells us that he basically just throws things into it, so it’s like an archaeological dig.

He starts sifting through things and finds old toys and things to feel sentimental about which is pretty funny.  But with all this junk, he decided that rather than throw it out, he should make some money off of it and have a garage sale.  Cue: Family Frolic magazine and their “great” ideas for a garage sale.  [I love when he makes fun of this magazine].

Greg has labelled his tables in creative ways: “Great gifts for your grandkids”(stuff from his grandparents that he doesn’t want).  “Pre-written birthday cards” (with his name white-outed). Mystery socks (which is just a pile of junk for 50 cents) and Rare Items (like an invisibility lotion and a freckle remover (an eraser or soap I guess)). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: YOLA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #70 (August 25, 2020).

Yola is a Britiish singer with an amazing voice.  She is quarantining in Nashville and for this Home Concert, she is playig in a lovely backyard in Nashville with guitarist Jordan Tice.

Yola has one album out (and an EP) and her songs are full of soul and energy.  And that voice!

These four songs are stripped to just acoustic guitar (Tice plays lead on some of the tracks).  They are

 beautiful interpretations of songs from her 2019 album Walk Through Fire and her 2016 EP Orphan Offering that pull back the intensity I associate with Yola’s music, but are still passionate and fervent.

I’ve enjoyed hearing the recorded versions of these songs but hearing them stripped down to just melody and her voice, the sound even better.

“Faraway Look” is a gorgeous song with a terrific melody.  It sounds really quite different with the acoustic guitar but her voice is perfectly suited to it regardless of what kind of music backs it up.  And the way she can hold those notes is really stunning.

“Dead And Gone” feels more relevant now than when she wrote it for her 2016 EP.  This song is a little darker with some nice soloing notes from Tice.

“Love Is Light” is a beautiful ballad with a fantastic vocal melody.

I love the final song, “It Ain’t Easier.”  It’s got two great vocal lines back to back in the chorus.  I could listen to her sing it all night long.  And those little grace notes at the end are pretty awesome.

[READ: August 23, 2020] Malamander

I don’t often pick out children’s books to read.  Although I’m rarely disappointed when I find one that looks good.  My daughter and I were in Barnes & Noble and I saw this book.  The title, cover and description sounded really fun.  So I decided to buy it.  And I’m glad I did.  It was a fast, engaging read and the start of a promising series.

The book is set in Eerie-on-Sea.  Eerie-on-Sea is a wonderful place to vacation in the summer (when it is known as Cheerie-on-Sea).  But nobody wants to be there in the winter.  Sometimes not even the people who live there want to be there.  It’s bleak. It’s cold.  It’s windy.  And there is the legend of the fearsome Malamander.

When people visit they stay in The Grand Nautilus Hotel.  The Hotel’s Lost-and-Founder is 12 year old Herbie Lemon.  Perhaps you’ve never heard of a Lost-and-Founder, but you should have–who else is in charge of making sure everyone gets their lost items back?

Herbie is very good at his job.  But a big surprise happens when a girl climbs through the window of his office and asks him to hide her.  He does as she asks–who wouldn’t–just as two men come to Herbie’s door.  One is Mr. Mollusc, the manger of the Hotel who dislikes Herbie and dislikes the whole idea of the Lost-and Founder.  Fortunately for Herbie, Mr Mollusc is not the owner.  The owner, Lady Kraken, LOVES having a Lost -and Founder, she finds it essentially to running a good hotel.  The other man is large and scary with a hook for a hand.  Herbie and the girl, Violet, call him Boat Hook Man.

The girl is Violet Parma.  Her parents went missing from the hotel 12 years ago, when Violet was a baby  Violet was orphaned and raised by her Aunt.  She has now come all the way back to Eerie-on-Sea by herself to find out what she she can about her missing parents (she is sure they are not dead).  Coincidentally, Herb is also an orphan.  He was found by Lady Kraken and that’s how he got the job. (more…)

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download (98)SOUNDTRACK
: TAME IMPALA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #69 (August 24, 2020).

download (97)With so many artists that I’ve never heard of doing really long Home Tiny Desk Concerts, why on earth did Tame Impala, one of the biggest bands around, only play for 16 minutes?

The studio version of Tame Impala is pretty simple on paper: All songs are written, produced and performed by Kevin Parker. For the live version, Parker is still front and center but surrounded by a host of musicians who interpret his recorded work almost to a tee.

For his Tiny Desk (Home) Concert or his “Tame Impala Soundsystem” Parker brought Jay Watson and Dom Simper together to

do this kind of electronic jam with heaps of equipment around us and we’ll recreate the songs with samplers and sequencers. I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while and thought Tiny Desk would be the opportunity to do it.

So the three of them are in a room with banks of keyboards and all kinds of buttons to push and knobs to twist.  There’s even a guitar (most notably on “Is It True”).

They play two songs from this year’s The Slow Rush.  They open with “Breathe Deeper.”  The most interesting part of the song comes at the end when Parker starts messing around with the mixer in front of him and he starts generating drum beats and manipulating the sound of the entire song.

“Is It True” is similarly dancey and Parker’s soaring falsetto rides over the top of the song nicely.

They end the set with “Patience” a fantastic 2019 single that for some reason, didn’t make it to The Slow Rush.  This is my favorite song of the three.  The melody is great and with the pace slowed a bit it makes the song a bit more memorable.

When I saw then live, their show felt massive.  This show sounds massive too, yet it’s all confined to a tiny room.

[READ: August 20, 2020] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway

I was looking forward to reading this book after really enjoying Book 12.  But I felt like this one wasn’t quote as laugh out loud funny as some of the others.  I find Greg’s family dynamic to be the funniest part of these books and his family doesn’t feature all that much in this one.

This book is all about snow.  And snow means snow days from school, sledding and snowball fights.

The book begins with some environmental concern about global warming (it is unseasonably hot that winter).  Despite the genuine concern for global warming, Greg’s take is always a little warped–he’s concerned that if the ice caps melt there could be a giant monster hiding in there.  (more…)

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download (92)SOUNDTRACK: VÍKINGUR ÓLAFSSON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #63 (August 12, 2020).

download (91)Víkingur Ólafsson has a fantastic name.  But even better is his way of talking about the music he plays.  He adds so much detail and information about these songs that they really come to life.  I don’t often buy classical music anymore, but I absolutely want to get his new record of Rameau and Debussy pieces).

Ólafsson  has moved from strength to strength, releasing three terrific albums in a row (Philip Glass, J.S. Bach, Debussy-Rameau). And now that he has a young son, he wants to spend as much time with the family as possible these days.

So he tells us that he is leaving Berlin after living there for eight years, to return to Iceland with his wife and son.

He opens with a beautiful slow and stately piece from J.S. Bach (arr. Stradal): “Andante” (from Organ Sonata No. 4).  The piece runs about five minutes and after four slow lines, he throws in some amazing speed near the end.  he says that Bach is a good idea whether you are happy or sad–whatever it is, Bach makes things better.

Then Ólafsson offers a crash course in the fascinating music of Jean-Philippe Rameau and Claude Debussy, two French composers who lived nearly 200 years apart. Ólafsson connects the dots between the two seemingly strange bedfellows, illustrating his points with demonstrations on his Steinway.

Introducing Jean-Philippe Rameau, he says the music will go in a very different direction (than Bach).  Rameau was two years older than Bach and was dubbed the Newton of harmony.  He defined harmony and opened musical doors.

For Rameau: “Le rappel des oiseaux” (“The Recall of the Birds”) he says that he is playing two birds: one in his right hand and one in his left.  They are calling to each other–one imitating the other with perfect recall.  Then they take flight and we see the landscape under their wings.  When he plays it, it absolutely comes to life.

He says that was first piece of Rameau that he had ever heard.  The version he heard was by a Russian pianist who played it “more sad, more Russian.”  He plays it like that original version and you can hear the remarkable difference and how both versions work so well–although I like Ólafsson’s better.

Introducing Claude Debussy, he says it’a unusual pairing since they lived 200 years apart.  But Debussy’s idol was Rameau.  They were both musical outsiders, reinventing music, bringing life to a tired scene.

He plays a simple Debussy melody–harmony in space, a timeless beauty.  But Debussy did not like being considered an Impressionistic.  He was interested in the baroque, and there is a baroque structure to his music.

For Debussy’s: “The Snow is Dancing” (from Children’s Corner), he describes the driving rhythm that never stops as he explores harmonic inventions.  This song wa written for his four-year-old daughter as he was exploring the snow with her. You can absolutely hear the textures of the snow in the song.

Ólafsson has a penchant for making transcriptions, taking pieces written for other instruments and making them his own. He closes with “The Arts and the Hours,” his mesmerizing arrangement of a scene from Rameau’s final opera, which he plays as a farewell to his Berlin apartment.

Ólafsson says that he wrote his last masterpiece (an opera) a year before he died and he never heard it performed.  Indeed, it didn’t get a world premiere until 200 years after he died in 1960.  This is a transcription he made because he was jealous of all the conductors and orchestra players who got to play this music.   Rameau (arr. Ólafsson): “The Arts and the Hours” (from Les Boréades) is more loveliness from a composer who I feel may be quite under appreciated.

[READ: 2017 and August 15, 2020] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway

I read this book when it came out in 2017 but never posted about it.  Then I recently realized that Kinney had written two more Wimpy Kid books that I hadn’t read (and two books written by Rowley, that I don’t know at all).  So it was time to get Wimpy again.

This book is a Christmas book and yet it’s not a typical Christmas story–no annoying relatives, no bad gifts, not even snow.  For The Heffleys have decided to go on holiday for Christmas.    Their Christmas planning was going very badly (a funny picture of the tree on its side with Manny playing with tinsel), so when they saw an ad for Isla de Corales, where Greg’s parents went on their honeymoon, they decided to get out of town for Christmas and celebrate in the warmth of the holidays.

Now, unlike shows where the place is far worse than the advertisement shows, Isla de Corales proves to be a wonderful paradise.  However, the place has now been divided into the mild side for families and the wild side for couples.  Obviously, the wild side is better but the Heffleys have no way to get there.

But before they arrive, they have to get there.  Their entire trip to the airport is one terrible moment after another–bad traffic, lost luggage, late shuttle.  Not to mention terrible lines and a hilarious pile of confusion at the security line–I love that it’s not Greg’s fault that things went so badly but the Heffleys had to pay for it anyway.  And of course Manny is a nightmare. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RunHideFight-The Key Studio Sessions (August 23, 2018).

I listened to the single from RunHideFight and then found this live-in-studio session from 2018.  This session is about 20 minutes long with 9 wonderful garage rocking songs.

Lead singer Geeta Dalal Simons is the driving force behind this band.  She writes the songs and she plays a double neck 12 string guitar/12 string sitar.

Geeta Dalal Simons singer for RunHideFight grew up in West Virginia.  She says, “As a first gen, Indian American woman; I was busting up all kinds of cultural/gender norms by not finishing a pre-med track, having a green Mohawk and tattoos, playing in punk bands at skate parks, openly dating before marriage.  I was so angry and I desperately wanted to be heard and seen by a world which resisted that.”

Music was her outlet, continuing through her move to Philadelphia and her immersion in its indie community during the 90s and early 00s, when she played with Khyber regulars Swisher, Los Angeles, and Rockula. She stepped back from the scene for about a decade when she had children, but returned last year with a vengeance to form RunHideFight, a project born out of Simons’ heartache at her mother’s passing, her frustration at Donald Trump’s election, and the generally frayed-nerve state of the world.

“He’s A Jerk” sounds even better live than it does on record.  “Big Muff Pie” has a great slow bass line from Christine Weiser (who has a terrific bass sound all through this recording).  “Because I Love You” sounds even more raw than the recorded version.  “Get Lost” keeps the original songs rocking in this garagey sound.

The “Send Me a Postcard” cover (original by Shocking Blue) has a weird (funny?) intro from John Terlesky.  It’s a catchy cover and has a nice moment for drummer Jon Kois to get a (very) little solo.

“Eat My Heart Out” has another cool moment for Kois when the toms almost overpower the song.

Geeta introduces “What Are You Talking” over a fantastic bass intro from Weiser.  It’s simple, but it sounds great.  She says, “I’m gonna sing you a little song about what it was like growing up in West Virginia, looking like me.”

Simons’ family is of Desi heritage, and she grew up in a region that is — to put it bluntly — kind of blindingly white. And not the most tolerant, either.  The racism she experienced as a young person was once again out in the open, and on the aforementioned “What Are You Talking?,” Simons directly confronts her own experience — culminating in a howling recollection of a classmate bullying her over her brown skin, saying “hey girl, how are you ever gonna wash all that dirt off your hands?” In the song’s cathartic conclusion, the taunt is screamed to a hammering rhythm: “that’s not mud / it’s just you.”

It’s a fantastic song.

“Mom of the Year” has an abrupt ending which segues into the final song, a cover of The Saints’ “Lost and Found.” which even gives Terlesky a chance to sing.  And at four minutes it’s the longest song of the set.

The most recent update on the band that I can find is from June of last year.  Perhaps they’re on a long hiatus.  I’d definitely see them live if t hey played out again.

[READ: July 1, 2020] Cinderella Liberator

Rebecca Solnit rewrites the Cinderella story in this fantastic book for children and adults.

I love the introduction of the stepmother.  She made Cinderella do all the work because

even though there was plenty for everyone, and plentty of people to do the work, her stepmother believed there was not enough for everyone.   And she wants the most for her own two daughters.

On the plus side, because Cinderella has to do everything, including the shopping, she grew strong and capable and she became friendly with everyone in the marketplace.

Then comes news that the king’s son–Prince Nevermind–is holding a ball (“which is what they called dance parties in those days”).  The sisters get all dolled up for the ball but Cinderella was not invited (“there is nothing worse than not being invited”).  When she finished helping them, she said I wish someone would help me.  And there was a knock at the door and a little blue woman was standing there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KT TUNSTALL-“Wash ya Hands” (2020).

KT Tunstall has been on my radar a lot lately (I think she’l l have about five posts about shows I’m not going to).  Turns out that she released a special COVID-19-related song called “Wash Ya Hands.”

It’s not a great–but it is danceable and funny–for a song that’s all about a message.

The music starts kind of menacing (which is appropriate I suppose) with some swelling strings.  But it’s all about dancing and washing your hands.

Lyrically it’s pretty straightforward and easy:

Here’s the rules you have to follow
Wash your hands while you can
Keep on following the plan
Keep your fingers off your face
Keep your distance, give a wave
Call your fiends that you love
Shout out who you’re thinking of
If you gotta cough don’t be dumb
And don’t forget your thumbs.

Those last two lines fall flat, for sure.

However, the video is pretty cute and it’s full of kids dancing around (and the song is clearly for them).

The middle breakdown section is interesting with strings and lots of percussion, including water droplet sounds.

The end adds a bit more fun when the song moves up a step and the lyrics continue:

Wash your hands while you dance
in your favorite underpants.

It’s a positive message in a negative time.  Remember: all you’re spreading is love.

[READ: July 4, 2020] Becoming RGB

Why is is that children’s (graphic novel) biographies are so good?  Is it because they can focus on all of the important things in a short amount of space?  Is it because it is written at a levy that is easy for anyone to understand?  Whatever the reason, this biography of the amazing Ruth Bader Ginsburg is fantastic.  The illustrations from Whitney Gardner are great too–clean and informative.

Most Americans know that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the tiny woman on the Supreme Court.  She’s been there for a long time and she is steadfast and true–very much unlike the two jokers who were recently appointed.

But aside from that, what do most of us know about her?  Well, for me, that was a big “not much.”

Her real name is Joan Ruth Bader.  But there were three Joans in her kindergarten class so she went by Ruth (everyone called her Kiki anyway). She grew up in Brooklyn.  She was left handed and the school forced her to switch (which she refused to do).  It was the first of many time she bristled at what a girl was supposed to do.

Ruth’s family was Jewish and they listened to the horrors of the Nazi progression on the radio.  Her grandparents immigrated from Russia and Australia years earlier assuming they could escape prejudice in America.  But Antisemitism was alive in New York.  As was racism and sexism.

And yes, it’s still here–somehow more vocal than ever.

But RBG saw it and wanted to do something about it.  She was inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt who said that “cruelty is a double-edged sword, destroying not only the victim but the person who indulges in it.” (more…)

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okSOUNDTRACK: PJ-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #33 (June 12, 2020).

pjI understand that coming up with a stage name has to be tough, but there’s too many artists who try to go by one name when t hat name isn’t unique enough.  I mean, the rapper Dave?  C’mon.  PJ is another one.  That is such a common nickname there’s really no way you can claim it.

However PJ (whose real name is Paris Jones) has apparently made a name for herself.  Usher, Wiz Khalifa and more.  These songs come from her debut EP–I’m fascinated by the people who write hits and then eventually decide to sing.  Why did they give their songs away instead of singing them?  Is it a good way to establish your cred and make some money?  Probably.

Anyhow, I expected these songs to be much more pop-friendly and hook-filled.  Rather, they are pretty songs and PJ’s voice is really nice as well, but they aren’t earworms.

Backed by Drin Elliot on the keys, the Los Angeles-based North Carolina native breezes through two tracks off of her new EP, Waiting on Paris, from quarantine digs complete with mannequins, floral arrangements and radiant artwork.

I like the sound that Elliott gets from the simple setup (but I guess you can program synths to do a ton of stuff at the press of a button).

PJ is now the third singer in a row to have a song on the soundtrack for HBO’s Insecure.  I am now really surprised that I haven’t heard of it, even in ads.

For the final song and with the biggest grin on her face she “switches vibes” with the upbeat and anthemic “Element,” from this season of HBO’s Insecure. Here, her energy is nearly impossible to harness as she exclaims “quarantined but in my element!”

Strangely, I don’t find this song all that anthemic.  It’s kind of catchy, but then I haven’t found any of the Insecure songs to be all that super catchy.  Maybe it’s an understated soundtrack.

[READ: June 19, 2020] The Okay Witch

This graphic novel was wonderful.

Set in Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, this story is about witches (duh).  But there’s a fun twist with a mother-daughter/generational issue that definitely goes beyond witchcraft.

Middle schooler Moth (no explanation given for the name) lives with her mom, Calendula.  They own a second hand shop that was once owned by a nice old Jewish man named Joe Laslo.  (The Jewish part is relevant only because of what happens later–it’s funny).

As the story opens we learn that Founder’s Bluff has a long, beloved history of witch persecution.  Judge Nathaniel Kramer made the witches leave the town.  In 1692, women were accused of bewitching Kramer’s son Peter, and they all “disappeared,” taking Peter with them.  Kramers have been in charge ever since (the Mayor is a descendant). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAURA MARLING-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #10 (April 16, 2010).

I have become a huge fan of Laura Marling over the last few years.  I was so looking forward to her solo performance this past March. It was one of my bigger coronavirus disappointments that the intimate show is not going to be rescheduled.

Marling has been doing regular guitar lessons about her own songs (her tunings and playing style is unique and wonderful to see demonstrated).  You can see the past (and future) ones here.

(While many artists have postponed the release of their new music in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Laura Marling rushed to change the release date of her album from late summer to April.

As of right now her album is only available digitally. The physical release is slated for summer.

On this Tiny Desk (home) concert, we find her in her living room, with an intimate performance of songs from her just-released record Song For Our Daughter. The album is an homage to a future generation of women and to Maya Angelou’s Letter to My Daughter, a collection of essays addressed to a fictional daughter. The warm, home setting makes room for Laura Marling’s extraordinary voice to shine.

“Held Down” has a lot of backing vocals and arrangements on the record and this stripped down version sounds amazing without it all.

“Strange Girl” demonstrates her deeper singing style in a fast and bouncy song.

“Song For Our Daughter” is a slower song, beautiful and thoughtful.

I just cannot get over how beautiful her voice is.  These personal performances almost make up for not seeing her live.

[READ: April 20, 2020] Mac B. Kid Spy: The Impossible Crime

This is the second book in a new series illustrated by Mike Lowery.  It begins

My name is Mac Barnett.  I am an author.  But before I was an author, I was a kid.  And when I was a kid, I was a spy.  An author’s job is to make up stories.  But the story you are about to read is true.

This actually happened to me.

It’s 1989 and Mac is at the mini golf course.  But he is there not for the mini golf but for the video games. He is playing Spy Master 2–the arcade update to the home game.  Mac was just about to beat the big boss–something no one else had ever done before.  People were cheering him on. Except for Derek Lafoy (who did not invite Mac to his birthday party in the previous book). Derek called him Mac Barn Head and chanted “Choke!”

But this book isn’t about video games, its about the Queen of England who called Mac at the golf course to tell him that she thought the Crown Jewels were going to be stolen again.  (In the previous book Mac helped rescue the Crown jewels for the Queen). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KEVIN MORBY AND WAXAHATCHEE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #9 (April 14, 2020).

I had no idea that Katie Crutchfield and Kevin Morby were an item (or are at least close enough to quarantine together).

I really enjoyed Waxahatchee’s last two albums and was a little bummed to hear that this new one was more mellow (although good for her for getting sober!).

I really only know Kevin Morby from Tiny Desks.  I was pleased at how much I enjoyed his set and some of his other songs.

And so here they are together.

On the raw video Kevin Morby and Katie Crutchfield (aka Waxahatchee) sent to us, Kevin takes a deep breath, gives a sweet smile as he looks into his camera, clasps his hands, and says, “Hello everyone, we’re going stir crazy — this is take number 55.”

Recorded at Kevin’s tiny desk in Kansas City, they play two songs from Waxahatchee’s new album Saint Cloud, sing together on Kevin’s 2016 tune “Beautiful Strangers,” and find new meaning in the late Jason Molina’s song “Farewell Transmission.”

I also never noticed how much she and her sister Alison look alike as much as in this video–maybe it’s the (lack of) makeup?

“Fire” is the first song I’d heard from the Waxhatchee album.  I really didn’t like the high notes that start the song–they seemed just too much.  Although having heard it a few times (and now hearing her sing it live), I’ve grown to really appreciate it.  The rest of the song is really pretty too.

Kevin Morby wrote “Beautiful Strangers” in 2016 as a single with the proceeds going to Everytown for Gun Safety.  I don’t know the song, but I find it very pleasant (and Katie’s backing vocals are perfect here).

“Lilacs” is a great song from the new album which features Katie’s voice perfectly.  This is the song that made me want to hear more from the album.

The final song is a Songs: Ohia cover called “Farewell Transmission” I don’t know much about Songs: Ohia, but I know everyone loves Jason Molina, which makes me think I should listen to him more. This song runs over 7 minutes and doesn’t change all that much.  In fact,  it might just go five minutes before something different happens.  Without focusing on the lyrics, it’s a little dull, but it is nice to have both of them switching off lead vocals.

[READ: April 10, 2020] Mac B Kid Spy: Mac Undercover

I really like Mac Barnett.  I like his picture books, but I really like his chapter books.  His Brixton Brothers series is fantastic.  I love his style and his excellent sense of humor.

This is a new series illustrated by Mike Lowery.  It begins

My name is Mac Barnett.  I am an author.  But before I was an author, I was a kid.  And when I was a kid, I was a spy.  An author’s job is to make up stories.  But the story you are about to read is true.

This actually happened to me.

Mac shows his house and then gets right to it: The Queen of England called him to ask for a favor.  He says

Whenever somebody asks you for a favor, it is a good idea to ask them what the favor is before you say OK.

But I had never talked to a queen before.

So I said OK.

The queen tells him that last night somebody stole the Crown Jewels and she wants Mac to find them.

I have a question, I said.
“I hope it is a quick question,” said the Queen.
“Why me?”
The Queen of England sighed. “That is a stupid question.”
“My teacher says there is no such thing as stupid questions.”
The Queen of England frowned (I could tell she was frowning even over the phone).

Mac, said the Queen. “You are the smartest kid in your class.  You have straight As in every subject except handwriting.”

So Mac packed these things to take with him: his Game Boy, three books, a toothbrush, a hat, a shirt, a jacket, and his favorite blue jeans (perfectly faded). (more…)

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