Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Comic Strips’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LOS BITCHOS-“Pista (Great Start)/Frozen Margarita” (2019).

pistaThis was Los Bitchos’ second release of 2019.  This one had a decidedly different look on the cover.

This single has two songs.  The first, “Pista (Great Start)” opens with whooping–a party is in full swing.  Musically, this is a great mix of cumbia and reggae with a smattering of Taureg in the guitar sound.

The song feels like they are partying in the desert no doubt drinking the title of the next song.

Although “Frozen Margarita” comes in at a quieter pace.  There’s a grooving bassline and a slinky lead guitar line.  It’s a very pretty piece.

[READ: July 14, 2020] “Johnny Tremain”

This issue of the New Yorker has a series of essays called Influences.  Since I have read most of these authors and since I like to hear the story behind the story, I figured I’d read these pieces as well.

These later pieces are all about one page long.

This essay later appeared in Saunders’ book The Braindead Megaphone under the name “Thank You, Esther Forbes.”

Saunders talks about his school days in Catholic school when Sister Lynette was a nun that he fell in love with.  He imagined her leaving the church for him (he was in third grade, but whatever). (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THE POP UPS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #13 (April 23, 2020).

When my kids were little I tried pretty hard to introduce them to interesting children’s music.  I often wonder if I ruined them by not just letting them enjoy Raffi.  Because they don’t like much of what I listen to these days.

I’m not sure how long The Pop Ups have been making music, but this is sure a fun (and informative) children’s band.

The Pop Ups (Jason Rabinowitz (on the keytar) and Jacob Stein) sing the theme song to the wonderful NPR podcast Wow In The World and perform at Wow in the World live shows. In their Tiny Desk (home) concert, they save the earth from an asteroid, explain sound waves through a sing-a-long and a keytar, and encourage us all to invent and create.

Before the first song Jason introduces the greatest instrument in the world.  The guitarino?  No, the keytar.  Then he talks about the kind of sound waves a synthesizer can produce: a square wave, a sine wave and sawtooth wave.  “Synthesizer” is a song about making these sound waves–and you are encouraged to dance around and make those waves yourself.

Then Jacob wants to see if we can stump Jason with sounds the keytar can’t make: saxophone, whistle, marimba, organ?  Nope, it can do them all.

The next song, “Meteor” introduces a puppet, Doctor Bronc the Brontosaurus.  Dr. Bronc saw a meteor in the sky so he created a laser to shoot at the meteor.  If everyone turned off their lights for one day, it would save enough energy to power the laser.  The moral: “You can save the world when everybody tries!”

The final song “Inventors” introduces us to a woman I have never heard of.  Mary Anderson in Alabama saw that snow was piling up on the street cars.  She figured there was something that could clean off the snow and so she spent much of her time coming up with windshield wipers.  Which we still use today!

Young inventors will help solve the problems that our generation made for you.

It’s sure inspirational, and a useful piece of history.

[READ: April 26, 2020] “Little Donald’s Sneeze”

I love any cartoon that is going to mock trump.  It’s especially excellent if you can use his own words against him (which isn’t hard because he never stops saying stupid things.

I particularly enjoyed this cartoon because of its old-fashioned look.  Since I can’t find the original cartoon this is based on (or maybe it’s just based on the general style of Winsor McCay’s strip), I can’t tell if Kuper did all of the art himself or if he judiciously used the original panels.

I also don’t know what’s at the header originally, but this one pretty succinctly describes the man who is killing people with his deceit.

The header of this cartoon lays it out clearly: He just simply couldn’t stop lying / He never told the truth!

Why is it that cartoonist knows this but news reporters can’t seem to catch on and actually believe him when he says things? (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: ADAM SCHLESINGER (October 31, 1967 – April 1, 2020).

Adam Schlesinger was best known as the co-founder of Fountains of Wayne.  I always appreciated the band because I was familiar withe the store Fountains of Wayne (in Wayne, NJ).  But I was never a big fan of the band.

They wrote indie pop songs, which were not really my thing in the late 90s (although I did really enjoy “Radiation Vibe”).

Ironically, Schlesinger was pretty much simultaneously involved with a band that I really did like called Ivy.  I liked Ivy a lot primarily for the vocals of Dominique Durand and had no idea that Schlesinger was involved.

Since then I have really come to appreciate Schlesinger’s songwriting (he’s written amazingly catchy songs for just about everyone).

The Coronavirus is devastating the world and Schlesinger’s death from it just amplifies the unfairness of this deadly virus.  That a man who made people happy with his melodies should be killed by it while people who are causing direct harm are not even infected by it just seems to show where we are in the world.

[READ: April 1, 2020] “Inside Tove Jansson’s Private Universe”

I’m a fan of the Moomin Universe and I know a bit about Tove Jansson.  I also know that her brother Lars (she called him Lasse) took over doing the Moomins at some point because she had burnt out.  She died in 2011 at age 86.

This essay is more or less a book review of a new collection of Jansson’s correspondence called Letters from Tove, which I might consider reading.

I did not know that Jansson wrote short stories. Her short story “Messages” is composed of snippets of letters she received: “Last time you didn’t make a happy ending.  Why do you do this?  We look forward to your valued reply soonest concerning Moomin motifs on toilet paper in pastel shades.”

It’s easy to see how forty years of these letters would be wearying. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: JOY DIVISION-“Isolation” (1980).

This is the second song on Joy Division’s second and final album Closer.

It opens with a sharp drumbeat and Peter Hook’s recognizable bass sound.  Hook’s bass was often a lead instrument an the riffs in this song are propulsive.

A very synthetic synthesizer melody runs counter to the bass.  A descending synth line is the only thing that marks the chorus of the song.

Then Ian Curtis’ voice echoes from out of a well.

This song is about internal isolation and so it doesn’t really fit in with the quarantine theme, although this line does kind of fit

Surrendered to self preservation,
From others who care for themselves.

Midway through the drums turn to real drums–suddenly coming to life as the synths go a little wild with distortion.

With about ten seconds left the song kind of fades out with echoing sounds.  Apparently this cool ending came as the result of Martin Hannett’s efforts to rescue the original master tape from a botched edit by a junior sound engineer.

For a song that lasts less that 3 minutes, it conveys an awful lot about solitude.

[READ: March 29, 2020] Self-Isolating

I love Chris Ware.  I love his style and I love his tone.  Sure, sometimes he is too dark for me, but there’s always a sly humor that makes me smile no matter how dark the content.

Most of his pieces are long, so it was fun to see a one-page comic that I could post below (copyright The New Yorker and/or Chris Ware, but come on, this kind of fun should be shared with everyone).

So what’s the deal??  Well, a cartoonist who spends all of his time in a tiny room drawing pictures sure knows about self-isolating.  One might actually say this is his moment to shine.

Sometimes hardships bring out the best art.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG-“I Think We’re Alone Now” (2020).

This quarantine has already brought out a ton of creative work from musicians.  If not new items, exactly, then certainly a lot of home concerts.  And also a lot of cover songs.

Billie Joe Armstrong released the first cover that I heard about that was specifically quarantine themed (even if jokingly).

It includes a homemade video (of what one might do at home with a lot of time on your hands).

So, yes it’s a cover of the song by Tommy James and the Shondells.  It’s about 2 minutes long and it’s terrific.

A simple. formulaic Green Day pop punk take on a simple, formulaic pop song.  It’s instantly recognizable as Billie Joe.  He recorded the song in his bedroom.  I feel like it sounds like it’s not the full band (the drums are really simple and the bass isn’t as prominent as usual).  But it’s a really short poppy song, so the spareness is understandable.

Whatever the case, it’s a fun cover and one of the, by now, dozens of fun things musicians have done to keep busy.

[READ: March 20, 2020] Comics Squad: Detention!

I really enjoyed the first two Comics Squad books and I was delighted when T. got this third one.  I wanted to read it when she brought it home, but I forgot all about it until I saw it the other day.

And what a better time to read a book about detention than during a quarantine.

Like the first collection, this one is edited by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Babymouse/Squish) and Jarrett J.  Krosoczka (Lunch Lady).

This book has comics from Krosoczka, George O’Connor (the Olympians series), Victoria Jamieson (Rollergirl), Ben Hatke (many many great books), Rafael Rosado & Jorge Aguirre, Lark Pien, Matt Phelan and the Holm siblings.

Like the previous book, the Holms and Krosoczka sprinkle the book with comments and interstitials from Babymouse and Lunch Lady. Like that Babymouse is in detention and Lunch Lady is going to slide her some cookies (no cupcakes?). (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: TOOL-“Some Days It’s Dark” (2007).

I recently learned that Tool performed this cover of a song from The Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy live.

In the movie Bruce McCullough’s character Grivo’s band Death Lurks plays this very heavy song (written by Craig Northey and performed by Odds).  Lyrically it’s amusingly Dark

Some days it’s dark
Some days I work
I work alone
I walk aloooooooone.

Tool is considered to be one of the most intense metal bands out there with fans taking them very Seriously.  So the fact that they covered this song (in Toronto) is fantastic.

The cover is great (of course).  They get the sound of the original right on, especially when the big heavy part kicks in.  The only problem I would say is Maynard’s delivery.  It’s a little too deadpan,  I’d like it to be a but more over the top.  But maybe that wouldn’t be Maynard’s way.

You can hear it (no video) here.

There’s no word on if they also played “Happiness Pie.”

[READ: January 27, 2020] Extra Credit

When a beloved (and award winning) series nears its end, it is time to put out early and special features collections.  Usually they come once the series has ended, but this one has come early.  Whereas Early Registration was a good collection of early material, this collection is a bit more haphazard.

It collects some Christmas specials and some early “comic strips” from Allison.  Given this seeming completest nature of this collection, I can’t imagine that there’s another volume planned.

The first story is called “What Would Have Happened if Esther, Daisy and Susan Hadn’t Become Friends (and it was Christmas).”  It’s the 2016 Holiday issue drawn by Lissa Treiman.

We zoom in on DAY-ZEE on “the edge of the boundless sweep of space” as she zooms in one the title question.  [It’s important to read Early Registration first as this story references that story].

Esther didn’t help Daisy move in on that first day.  Esther was immediately grabbed by the popular girls.  They are sitting under a tree playing music on their phones which wakes up Susan who curses them out. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: NICOLE BUS-Tiny Desk Concert #882 (August 21, 2019).

Nicole Bus is from Amsterdam.  Everything about her makes it seem like she has been around for a while.  Her style of music, her raspy voice (which makes her sound older than she is) and her choice of instrumentation (the horns and flute melodies sound old school).  But she is an emerging artist:

Nicole Bus’ sound is nostalgic. It’s reminiscent of vintage R&B, yet still feels current, and can transcend age and demographics.

Her style is R&B, but her singing style is far more reggae influenced.  It’s really fascinating.  The first song, “You,” opens with spooky piano from Eugene “Man Man” Roberts and slow horns from Chris Stevens (trumpet) and Aaron Goode (trombone). I love the addition of the flutes from Korey Riker.  More and more I can’t get over how good flutes sound in rock.  Her delivery is quite reggae until she lets out with her powerful raspy voice.  The song is really catchy.

Nicole followed by premiering a new song about women’s empowerment, “Love It.”  Drummer Mark Thomas starts with drums and then switches to hand drums.  Anthony DeCarlo adds acoustic guitar while Jasmine Patton sing high note backing vocals.  I love in the middle of the song when Eugene “Man Man” Roberts play a very 70s-sounding fill on the keyboards.  Riker adds more great flutes.

She ends the set

with “Mr. Big Shot,” an up-tempo banger mixing high-energy rhythms with ragga-influenced vocals.

Nicole plays acoustic guitar and there’s a cool, catchy four note bass riff from Ray Bernard that propels the song along.  Lamarcus Eldridge joins Patton for some great backing vocals.  This melody has been stuck in my head for days now.

I’d never heard of Nicole Bus, but I really enjoyed her set and her energy.

[READ: September 1, 2019] Paper Girls

This book turned out to be so much more interesting than I imagined.

The title was strangely puzzling and the cover had a kind of 1980s look to it.

It didn’t occur to me that “paper girls” meant newspaper delivery girls.

It’s coincidental that this book starts out with the main character, Erin, getting up at 4:40 to deliver papers since that’s almost exactly the same way as Middlewest in which Abel gets up at 4:30 to deliver papers.

Anyhow this story is quite different form that one because it has a cool feminist attitude, although it is also supernatural.

It begins with Erin asleep and dreaming of Christa McAuliffe in heaven.  Then she wakes up at 4:40 and gets ready to deliver the Cleveland Preserver.  It’s also November 1 (1988) as evidenced by The Far Side calendar (nice touch). The calendar has “hell morning” written on it.

Why?  Because at 4:40 on the morning after Halloween there are still hooligans roaming the streets.  One dressed as Freddy Krueger harasses Erin immediately.  But while he is giving Erin a hard time, three girls pull up on bikes and harass right back.  One girl uses some very inappropriate language which Erin (who goes to Catholic school) chastises her for.  The girl, Mac, waits for a thank you. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS AND HEADY FWENDS-“I’m working at NASA on Acid” (2012).

2012 saw the release of this very strange collaborative album.  Whether The Flaming Lips had entered the mainstream or if people who’d always liked them were now big stars or maybe they all just liked doing acid.  Whatever the case, The Lips worked with a vast array of famous (and less famous) people for this bizarre album.  Here it is 8 years later. Time to check in.

This song starts out with NASA voices and beeps.   The beeps turn into a rhythm and after a cool echoing guitar the song takes on almost a spaghetti western feel.  even with the bowed cello

The song features Lightning Bolt, a noise rock duo, and I assume they join in the fun in the middle of the song.

After three minutes, a pretty guitar melody leads to a sped up voice saying 1, 2,3, 4 as it soars into the next chaotic and wild section.  The riff speeds up, the drums and distortion increase and the song feels like an epic take off into outer space.

It runs for about two minutes and then slows down.  Way down.  After a backwards countdown 4,3,2,1, the song resumes as a gentle folk song kind of like “Space Oddity.”  It’s pretty cool.

[READ: August 1, 2019] Strangers in Paradise XXV #8

Katchoo is flying to Boston.  The voice over has a nice moment where we see just how much she loves Francine.

She lands and heads to Jet’s garage.  She tells Jet that she has something to give her.

They get into Katchoo’s car which is surrounded by ravens.  They seem to be following her.  I love Terry Moore’s art throughout this series.  He does realistic portrayals of women perfectly (even if sometimes I can’t tell some of the women apart).  I love the way he draws Jet so distinctively as well.  But those ravens, um, not so much.

Jet has no idea what the container is and when Katchoo explains the contents she thinks Katchoo is joking. Why did Stephanie send her to Jet if Jet doesn’t know what it is? (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: SAINT SISTER-Tiny Desk Concert #863 (July 3, 2019).

The first surprise from Saint Sister is the harp.  The second surprise comes when you realize that Saint Sister’s music isn’t going to be traditional harp-centric folk songs.

The third is when Morgan Macintyr speaks after the first song and she has a pretty heavy Irish accent.

It’s a surprise because their voices are angelic and accent-free while they sing their pretty songs.

Saint Sister makes the sort of music I’ve been fascinated with for much of my life, music that mixes the organic with the electronic. In this case, the organic sounds come from that Dusty Strings harp and the harmonies of Gemma Doherty and Morgan Macintyre, with electronics performed on keyboards by Morgan and Dek Hynes, and the mostly digital drums of Shane Gough.

So, yes, even if the harp is the centerpiece (“[when] Gemma Doherty pulled her 34-string lever harp from the band’s vehicle; it seemed bigger than all of us”) the rest of the band fleshes out the harp with waves of synths and percussion.

Causing Trouble” opens with single harp notes and echoing drums.  Then Gemma and Morgan start singing and their voices blend beautifully.

You can tell the Irish connection in the lyrics of this song:

We danced from Belfast to the Basin
When you sang, “And it stoned me”
Well it stoned me

“Shape of Silence” is a short instrumental made up of unearthly sounds and voices as Gemma plays a lovely harp melody.  It’s about a minute long and segues into “Is It Too Early? (Kilmainham).”  They sing in a kind of staccato style (and remind me a bit of Lily & Madeleine here).  There’s no much harp in the verses–it’s almost a dance song, but when the synths fade off, the harp returns and sounds even lovelier somehow.

For “The Mater” Dek and Shane leave so it is only Gemma and Morgan.  This song is quieter with just the harp and their voices.

Although the melding of harp and electronics is cool, they sound beautiful with just harp and voices.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “The Not-Okay Corral”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

This story is told in comic book style with panels.

1976: If you are Janet, when you are ten years old, the worst thing about horseback riding camp is the horses.  They are massive and muscular and totally in charge.

Much of the camp seemed to be about teaching the horse who was boss. When the kids were told to walk the horses around the ring, that was okay, even if Janet was clearly letting the horse lead.  But when they left the ring to return to the paddock, the horse let Janet know who was actually in charge.  It stopped following the horse in front of it and stopped to eat some grass. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: JOHN PRINE-Tiny Desk Concert #717 (March 12, 2018).

For all of the legendary status of John Prine, I don’t really know that much about him.  I also think I don’t really know much of his music.  I didn’t know any of the four songs he played here.

I enjoyed all four songs.  The melodies were great, the lyrics were thoughtful and his voice, although wizened, convey the sentiments perfectly.

The blurb sums up things really well

An American treasure came to the Tiny Desk and even premiered a new song. John Prine is a truly legendary songwriter. For more than 45 years the 71-year-old artist has written some of the most powerful lyrics in the American music canon, including “Sam Stone,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “Hello In There” and countless others.

John Prine’s new songs are equally powerful and he opens this Tiny Desk concert with “Caravan of Fools,” a track he wrote with Pat McLaughlin and Dan Auerbach. Prine adds a disclaimer to the song saying, “any likeness to the current administration is purely accidental.”

I thought the song was great (albeit short) with these pointed lyrics:

The dark and distant drumming
The pounding of the hooves
The silence of everything that moves
Late in night you see them
Decked out in shiny jewels
The coming of the caravan of fools

That song, and his second tune, the sweet tearjerker “Summer’s End,” are from John Prine’s first album of new songs in 13 years, The Tree of Forgiveness.

He introduces this song by saying that.  This one is a pretty song.  It might drive you to tears.  He wrote this with Pat McLaughlin.  We usually write on Tuesdays in Nashville because that’s the day they serve meatloaf.  I love meatloaf.  We try to write a song before they serve the meatloaf.  And then eat it and record it.

For this Tiny Desk Concert John Prine also reaches back to his great “kiss-off” song from 1991 [“an old song from the 90s (whoo)…  a song from the school of kiss off 101”] called “All the Best,” and then plays “Souvenirs,” a song intended for his debut full-length but released the following year on his 1972 album Diamonds in the Rough. It’s just one of the many sentimental ballads Prine has gifted us.

He says he wrote it in 1968…when he was about 3.

Over the years, his voice has become gruffer and deeper, due in part to his battle with squamous cell cancer on the right side of his neck, all of which makes this song about memories slipping by feel all the more powerful and sad.

“Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That’s why last night and this mornin’
Always look the same to me
I hate reading old love letters
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my sweetheart’s souvenirs”

The musicians include John Prine, Jason Wilber, David Jacques and Kenneth Blevins.

 

[READ: December 11, 2017] X

I really enjoyed Klosterman’s last essay book, although I found pretty much every section was a little too long.  So this book, which is a collection of essays is perfect because the pieces have already been edited for length.

I wasn’t even aware of this book when my brother-in-law Ben sent it to me with a comment about how much he enjoyed the Nickelback essay.

Because I had been reading Grantland and a few other sources, I have actually read a number of these pieces already, but most of them were far off enough that I enjoyed reading them again.

This book is primarily a look at popular culture.  But narrowly defined by sports and music (and some movies).  I have never read any of Klosterman’s fiction, but I love his entertainment essays. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »