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Archive for the ‘Completed Series’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: AND THE KIDS-When This Life Is Over (2019).

I’ve seen And the Kids twice and they put on a fantastic live show.  I highly recommend seeing them when live shows start again. 

The core of the band is Hannah Mohan on guitar and vocals and Rebecca Lasaponaro on (fantastic) drums.  For this record they were a four piece (although no names are included on the disc).

“No Way Sit Back” starts the record with a slow swinging song that features the wonderful wordless hook of Mohan singing “oooh oh oh no.” Midway through, the song shifts gears to a kind of glockenspiel melody over the lyrics “the world is never made for us.”  Even though lyrically this album is dark, musically it is really lovely.

“Butterfingers” lopes along at an unusual pace before a really catchy guitar melody kicks in midway through.  There’s some more catchy melodies as the two vocals line intertwine with each other.  Then comes “Champagne Ladies” a remarkably catchy song right from the get go.  The quietly rumbling guitar and the great vocal melody is nicely mimicked by the bass.  It’s a really fantastic song and should have been a big hit, even with the uplifting chorus: “life is a bastard, it wants to kill you don’t let go.”  But if the lyrics are too dark, there’s another fun wordless “ah ah ah” melody near the end.    

“2003” opens with a penny whistle introduction (when I saw them live, Mohan played the whistle and then just tossed it aside before she started singing).  There’s some excellent unusual and complex drumming at the top of this song. 

“The Final Free” has grooving guitars and a cool part in the middle where the guitar follows the vocal line in a quiet but catchy melody.  “When This Life Is Over” has a kind of hawaiian feel to it with guitars and choral vocals.   “Special For Nothing” is a quieter song that builds into a gorgeous soaring chorus. When the song shifts to the middle part and the music all falls back except for the vocals, it’s really quite lovely.  I love when the backing vocals do counterpoint over the refrain

“Get To That Place” is a short song, less than two minutes and sounds like a bedroom recording (lots of hiss) but as the song gets bigger there’s some cool vocal tricks (so much soaring highs) and glockenspiel.  It’s followed by another short song.  The mellow “Somethings (Are) Good” is just over two minutes with more overlapping vocals and a dynamite melody. 

“White Comforters” sounds bigger and more full sized.  It’s much slower with a bouncy guitar melody and a lot of spare playing. It starts a little too quietly but it builds very nicely.  “Religion” brings back the rocking guitars with a loud opening and a simple but catchy guitar melody, the joyous vocals with two layers of oh ho ho s really makes this song soar to glorious heights.

The disc ends with “Basically We Are Dead” a longer song that opens with a quieter guitar melody and vocal.  Atmospheric keys fill in the backing moments along with a bouncy synth melody and some joyful bah bah bahdahs.  But before the song ends, some familiar chugging guitar chords enter the song and they sing the chorus to “Champagne Ladies” one last time before it’s all over.

And the Kids play wonderful indie pop with plenty of unexpected twists.  And they are terrific live, too.

[READ: November 5, 2020] The Divided Earth

This is the final book in the The Nameless City trilogy.

The book opens with the leaders of the city agreeing that their sacred fire, Napatha, must be destroyed, lest it be used by one of the splintering factions.  But one copy of the recipe spared–given to the monks to hide for as long as was necessary.

Then we flash forward.

Kaidu is sitting with Rat and the others, resting up for what’s to come.

We see Mura, the woman who was abandoned by the monks as a little girl, receiving that copy of the book from the monks (they are hesitant).  She has every intention of learning the formula and creating the Napatha again. She imagines giving the formula to all of the other Dao generals for maximum production against the Yisun.  But Ezri, who has forcibly put himself in charge of the Dao people, wants to keep it under wraps.  Being a treacherous person, he anticipates treachery from everyone else as well.

The Yisun army is marching on the city.  Ezri hopes to have the Napataha ready to use against them.  He has just enough to show how powerful it is.  And it has the desired effect.

When Rat and Kaidu see what happened, Kaidu announces that he is going to steal the book from Mura’s clutches.  How?  Well, that’s where most of this book’;s adventure comes in.  It’s clever and stealthy and very exciting with switches and crosses and trouble everywhere.  They even get help from their minstrek friends (it’s always nice to see minor characters come back). 

At the same time, Kaidu’s parents (Kata and Andren) are (unbeknownst to Kadi and Rat) planning to negotiate with the Yisun army to save the city  Kata explains that she is in charge of the Dao tribe Liuvedao and she is no friend to the Dao regime currently ruling.

The soldier in charge of the Yisun army scoffs at this idea.  Until Kata’s secret weapon (which she didn’t know she had) steps forward and explains why the Yisun leader might want to hear them out. Kata proposes an dambush on the city, using an equal amount of Kata’s forces and the Yisum army. 

None of the attacking plans go smoothly.  Rat and Kaidu face very difficult odds (and many soldiers) and the ambush team literally walks into a dead end and needs to be rerouted through a sewer tunnel (ew).

There is a terrific showdown between Rat and Mura, two women whose lives began in a similar way but who took very different paths. And there are many many pages of battle scenes.  Hicks does a great job of keeping the action exciting and clear, with lots of one one one combat as well as an army of warriors.

The story has an epilogue set three years later, which is fun. It’s neat to see Kadi and Rat grows up some, although I could have used a dozen more pages of epilogue to see what things are like now.  And to see them catch up (there’s no Facetime back then). 

But even so, this was a great series, full of excitement and very emotional moments,.

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SOUNDTRACK: REX ORANGE COUNTY-Tiny Desk Concert #961 (March 18, 2020).

I read about Rex Orange County (the low-key British pop star born Alex O’Connor) in some random article which basically said if you’re over twenty you’ve never heard of him, but if you’re under twenty, you think he’s the greatest thing ever. (My 14 year old son had not heard of him).

I didn’t read anything about his music, but I assumed he was a hip hop performer or the like.

So imagine my surprise when he turned out to be an English dude who sings like Stevie Wonder and (in the Tiny Desk at least) has music that sounds like it comes straight from the 70s.

“Loving Is Easy” features Michael Underwood on flute and Johnny Woodham on flugehorn sounding for all the world like a mid 70s AM hit.  Is he really popular with the young kids?

There was a palpable connection between the 21-year-old singer and [the crowd of millennial and Gen Z staffers that gathered early for Rex’s soundcheck]  that I don’t see often at this stage in a musician’s career. My guess is that they see themselves in him: introverted and shy, with the audacity to write and sing about his innermost thoughts.

I really feel like this blurb is overselling his openness.  I mean, most singer-songwriters bare their souls, so I’m not sure what makes him any different.  But the blurb really pushes his honesty

We’re in an age where young people are uninhibited and unafraid to address emotions, simple or complex. In that sense, his latest LP, Pony, is timely. He spoke with NPR and shared that he was incredibly unhealthy mentally throughout the making of the album. But there’s an arch to Pony and by the time we get to the final song, “It’s Not The Same Anymore,” he seems at peace with his new reality.

But what’s so intense about these lyrics?

Loving is easy
You had me fucked up
It used to be so hard to see
Yeah, loving is easy
When everything’s perfect
Please don’t change a single little thing for me

I mean, not much, so let’s not get carried away about how revolutionary he is.

I was instantly surprised by how white his band seems.  The band is dressed all in white and they are a remarkably pale bunch.  Drummer Jim Reed has the bright red cheeks of the overheated.  And Michael, Johnny and lead guitarist Joe Arksey are all blond and very pale.

Between songs, he seems like he has never been in front of an audience before with the awkward way he introduces these songs.

Up next is “Pluto Projector” in which Rex switches to guitar and  Underwood switches to piano.  There’s a moment in the middle when bassist Darryl Dodoo plays a slap note.  It’s really the only notable bass in the show.  Woodham plays a muted trumpet solo which is followed by a guitar solo from Joe Arksey that I was sure was bass, but it’s just a weirdly muffled guitar sound.

For “Always” Rex moves back to piano and he sounds even more like Stevie Wonder.  This song features sax and a non-muted trumpet.  There’s some great horn melodies in this song and I like the way he plays some piano parts in the middle.

There’s this awkward introduction.  Okay I only have one more now, and then I’m gonna go…  Let’s play the song that’s called “Sunflower” now.

“Sunflower” is “older,” meaning it dates all the way back to 2017.  He’s back on guitar with a nice echo.  The beginning of the song is guitar and flugelhorn.  Then in the middle, the song picks up the tempo and becomes the catchiest thing all show.  I’m not that keen on the rhyming/talking middle part–it seems oddly forced, but that’s okay.  There’s a jamming section at the end with a flugehorn solo followed by a sax solo

Rex did not blow me away, but I was pleasantly surprised by his sound and that kids actually like it..

[READ: February 21, 2019] The Dam Keeper Book 3

Kondo and Tsutsumi have both worked at Pixar, which may explain why this graphic novel looks unlike anything I have ever seen before.   I have (after reading their bios) learned that this was also a short film.  I’m only a little disappointed to learn that because it means the pictures are (I assume) stills from the film.  It still looks cool and remarkable, but it makes it a bit less eye-popping that this unusual style wasn’t made for a book.

For part three, the final part, our heroes, Pig, Fox and Hippo are trying to get back home to save Sunrise Valley.

This third part is a lot of travel, very little dialogue and, honestly some fairly confusing action.

Pig has been given a plant by the moles and he hopes to use it to find the smoke monster.  Fox and Hippo say the heck with that and choose to head home.

Fox and Hippo are on Van’s ship.  They are brought inside to meet Van’s children.  The room is full of dozens of children of all different species.  As hippo puts it:

Erm.. these are your kids?  But they don’t look like you or Van how is this possible?

Van;s wife says that all of the children were abandoned for being different so Van took them in. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SUNNY WAR-Tiny Desk Concert #910 (November 13, 2019).

Sunny War says twice that she’s not going to talk.  She saves all of her words for her songs.

Her voice is soft and gentle, but her words are strong.

The first song “If It Wasn’t Broken” features the chorus “how would you know you had a heart if it wasn’t broken?”

Further lyrics in this slow and simple song:

so you lost your baby
so you lost your job
so you lost all faith
in the one you call god.

Dang.

These are words from a young woman who has been homeless, busked on city streets and Venice Beach, left home feeling she was a burden to her distraught mother, had her life complicated by drugs, and yet still found a way to pick up a guitar and bring joy to others.

Her songs aren’t complicated, but they feature some really excellent fingerpicking.  “Got No Ride” has a lot of beautiful interludes (including one part where she is fingerpicking and bending a string at the same time).

Sunny War began learning guitar from her uncle at around the age of seven. One of the early songs she learned was The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” an almost prophetic tune with the line, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly.” But it was the fingerpicking that was the attraction for Sunny War. She loved playing guitar that way as opposed to strumming and, as you watch this Tiny Desk, you’ll see what a fluid and remarkable guitar player she’s become.

The song also features some extra bass lines from Aroyn Davis (The first song didn’t really have noticeable bass).

“Love Became Pain” is a lot faster, with some really impressive guitar work.  Clearly from the title, though, this isn’t a happy song either.  I like the shuffle drums that Paul Allen gets using brushes on the cajón.

The final song, “Shell” opens with the lines:

“Before you rip your girl to shreds / Be sure you really want her dead.”

With such a pretty melody, too!

Much like her name, Sunny War’s music is a wonder of contradictions.

[READ: February 2, 2020] Rust: Volume 4

This book concludes the Rust saga.

Like the first book, there are a ton of pages with no dialogue.  This story is wonderfully told with just visuals.  And Lepp’s visuals are really amazing–what he accomplishes with such  limited color palette is really impressive.

The book starts with a flashback to the war 48 years ago.  It’s been awhile since I read the first book but I feel like this intro pages are exactly the same.  We see Jet Jones rescue a man by creating a large shield.  I’m not sure if there;s some more significance.  I’m also not sure if we’re supposed to know who the man is.

But the story quickly jumps back to the Taylor’s farm.  The really menacing robots are closing in.  Oz has a shotgun in ready.  And the engineer is carrying Jet Jones’ limp body away with him.

The robots arrive (why does it amuse me that they open the door) and Oz shoots, which awakens the family.

A terrible battle commences in the house with all of the people getting hurt, but with all of them doing a good job of harming the robots.  Jet comes in at the last second and smashes up some of the robots.  In the process reveals his mechanical arm.  The family is shocked, except for Oz.  Roman is furious that Jet lied. (more…)

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download - 2020-05-20T121917.708SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS AND HEADY FWENDS-“Is David Bowie Dying” (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 six minute track starts with scraping and electronic sounds and a two note guitar melody that rise sand falls. Neon Indian, an electronic chillwave band, is the guest on this song

Around 2 minutes the music turns optimistic and soaring and then it  mellows out with trippy sounds. The lyrics change to

At the mountain, you scream
Now the fountain reveals
As you do want and make you whole
Goodbye, goodbye

The mellowness lasts for about a minute then the angular guitars returns.  This second half feels less harsh and more trippy, although the wild effects are still in place.  This sequence runs through to the end as they repeat

Take your legs and run
Into the death-rays of the sun

[READ: August 1, 2019] Strangers in Paradise XXV #10

This limited series ends with this issue.

Katchoo is the voice over as she worries about the five years the earth has left to exist–she will have this hanging over her head as she returns home.

Francine reports that her mother is doing fine–she has the will to be alive to watch her grandchildren grow up.  This, of course, makes Katchoo even sadder.

Back home, the girls are up in the air vent wondering why Aunt Libby is crying.  But she’s not.  It turns out that there is a heavily tattooed man with a gun telling her that he plans to kidnap the two little girls because the dykes who live there have a lot of money and he intends to get the ransom for them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Willoughby’s Beach (2011).

After releasing five new albums in 2017, KGATLW spent 2018 re-releasing their first five releases.  These were out of print and hard to find.  And now they’re back.

Back in 2011, KGATLW was more of a goofy side project (hence the name).  But they coalesced as a seven-piece band and proceeded to make an EP–Willoughby’s Beach.  At nine songs in about 25 minutes, this garage rock/dirty blues project pretty well flies past.  Lyrics are an afterthought (most songs repeat one line) and most of the songs are under 2 and a half minutes.  It is great zipping fun with fuzzy guitars, fuzzy harmonicas, fuzzy vocals and an all around DIY feel.

“Danger $$$” is a fast, crazy blues with a wild harmonica solo and the repeated shouted lyrics of “danger money” between lots of whoops and screams.  “Black Tooth” opens with a similarly fast riff but it immediately slows down into a slower but still rocking riff.  “Lunch Meat” is a crazy fast and catchy song with the full lyric: “They made me get up in the morning morning morning morning.”

“Let it Bleed” is the longest song on the disc at 3:14.  It’s slower and the repeated lyrics are far more comprehensible (I want to see my lover again).  The wonderfully titled “Crookedile” has a kind of a spy theme for its music dark with echoing squealing guitars and chanted vocals.  What “just say god is on your side, he’s on your side” has to do with the title I have no idea.  “Dead Beat” is also (relatively) long, but it is much faster with lots of whoops and a simple but addictive guitar line.

“Dusbtin Fletcher” is a fun punk song with lots of big backing vocals–like The Monkees doing punk.  Oohs and oh ho ohs make this an incredibly poppy song.  “Stoned Mullet” has two sets of lyrics: “jack it” and “green out.”  Your guess is as good as mine.  It’s fast and catchy with a wonderful chorus.

“Willoughby’s Beach” is quick and catchy, a wonderful end to the disc.  The song is the definition of three-chord rock and features the lyric: “Just because I like you, it doesn’t mean I like you.”  Superb stuff.

[READ: January 31, 2019] Secret Coders: Monsters & Modules

This book ends the Secret Coders storyline.

It begins with the boys feeling very calm as they work out a code that will get them to travel to Flatland.  But Hopper doesn’t understand why they aren’t freaking out since as soon as they work out the code they will be travelling to a world with one fewer dimension!

Using a simple repeating code, the turtle makes the opening and they fall into the second dimension.  Eni turns into a square, Josh turns into a triangle and Hopper turns into a line!  And we learned in the previous books that lines (and women in general) were considered nothing.

They are immediately bothered by circles–the most superior shape in Flatland.  After some altercations, Josh and Eni are thrown in jail.  Hopper is able to hide because she is just a line and is therefore very hard to see. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: September 2017] The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy complete radio series

The history of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is almost as convoluted as the story itself.

Douglas Adams (with help from John Lloyd) wrote the radio story in 1977.  It aired in 1978.  A second season aired in 1980.

Adams wrote the novel based on the radio series in 1979.  And then the second book The Restaurant at the End of the Universe in 1980.

Then they made the TV show.

Apparently Adams considered writing a third radio series to be based on Life, the Universe and Everything in 1993, but the project did not begin until after his death in 2001.  The third, fourth and fifth radio series were based on Life, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish and Mostly Harmless which were transmitted in 2004 and 2005.

It’s interesting and a little disconcerting how different the radio play is from the story of the book. There are a lot of similarities of course, but some very large differences.

The first series obviously leaves a lot out from the book, since the book wasn’t written yet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE ROOTS-Tiny Desk Concert #665 (October 30, 2017).

This Tiny Desk starts out with The Roots walking into the area, sousaphone playing a fun riff and everyone clapping.  Questlove takes his seat behind the drums.

He introduces: This is Jeff Bradshaw and Brass Heaven.  Let’s get into it.”  They play a great big dancing brass melody singing “Just give me some more.”   There’s a fun trombone solo which starts with him playing a really long note and bending it and then just going to town.  It’s very James Brownish and utterly belies the intensity of the next song.

After 3 minutes they switch tempo completely and Bilal and Black Thought come out.  They play “It Ain’t Fair,” a thoughtful, powerful piece that I absolutely love.  I was unfamiliar with Bilal before this and his delivery is just fantastic.

He sings with a classic 70s style of raspy intensity.  There’s a great chorus: “the well is running dry / racial tensions running high / under 21 is far too young to die.”

The song builds up somewhat and then Black Thought raps a harsh counterpoint.

Justice is never color blind, never gun shy
For one crime, you may never see the sun shine
We know of one times, giving you the finger
’round hearing me, fuck you, it’s not the number one sign

then its back to Bilal

Some people say, “Let Jesus take the wheel”
Others say, “Thou shall not kill”
But that old time religion ain’t gon’ pay my bills

At the four-minute mark the whole band just goes nuts playing a cacophony of sound and then stopping silent at Questlove’s direction.

When they start Bilal absolutely wails the final verse.  It is utterly fantastic (and I think better than the performance on Fallon with the full orchestra).

Armed with the incredible vocalist Bilal, The Roots performed the signature track from Detroit, a film about the race riots in 1967. “It Ain’t Fair” glares unflinchingly, takes a knee and raises a fist against the societal construct that has systematically denied equality of experience to those “presumed inferior,” to quote one of Bilal’s verses. And it achieves all this while covering its heart with its right hand. This reflective hymn tenderly yanks your heart strings and offers a window into the ethos of those who would like to stand for the flag but cannot in good principle, lest these same evils continue to exist.

Those lucky enough to be in the Tiny Desk audience witnessed masters at work. Black Thought is truly one of the most intelligent emcees ever, and his razor-sharp lyricism was on full display. Questlove, a musical and cultural historian nonpareil, was both a metronomical and moral anchor. It felt like the culmination of decades of academic rigor and boom-bap sessions, fittingly backed by a seven-piece horn section. Bilal’s falsetto-laced vocals and warm resonance evoked powerful messaging reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield’s “Don’t Worry,” delivered with the eccentricity of Prince.

The band: Curtis L. Jones Jr (Trombone), Arnetta Johnson (Trumpet), Hiruy E. Tirfe (Sax), Richard L. Tate II (Sax), Joseph Streater (Trumpet), Norman J. Bradshaw (Trombone), Damon Bryson (Sousaphone), Ahmir (Questlove) Thompson (Drums), Tarik (Black Thought) Trotter (Emcee), Bilal Oliver (Vocals)

[READ: April 19, 2017] Captain Marvel: Alis Volat Propriis

The previous book in the series was pretty goofy.  So I was pleased that this final book was a bit more intense.  The title is the motto of the state of Oregon (probably not why it was used).  It translates as “She flies with her own wings” (which probably is why it was chosen).

As the book opens, Lila and Carl transport to her ship.  But once again something is amiss.  Harrison is offline totally and there are aliens closing in.  It is only through some quick thinking they are able to escape them until they can flee.

When full power is restored, Carol and Harrison decide to find out where Tic and Chewie are.  The baddies have a head start, but they take a shortcut through “The Endless Envelope.”  Once they get in this pocket they realize that it is bigger on the inside than the outside and their shortcut will take five times as long to traverse.  They encounter enemy ships and a phenomenon called a Warp Bear.  There’s some good humor in this section in which Carol tries to communicate with Harrison the ship. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 5, 2012).

The Rheostatics were originally supposed to play 3 Reunion concerts to help celebrate the 65th Anniversary of The Horseshoe Tavern. Unfortunately the concerts got cancelled but Dave stepped in and offered up a free show on Wednesday December 5 2012, what was to be the first of the reunion shows. The show started out with Dave Clark’s Woodshed Orchestra and was followed by Bidiniband. The Bidiniband set was a mix of Bidiniband songs as well as a variety of Rheostatics songs featuring guests such as Dave Clark, The Woodshed Orchestra, Tim Vesely, Noah Campbell, Tim Sweeney, Matt Cowley, Selina Martin, Al and Colin of Jazzberry Ram.

Dave opens the set by wishing: “Happy birthday Horseshoe, 65 years old tonight.”

The set opens with two “new” songs.  Bidiniband’s album came out in 2012, but they have been playing most of these songs for years.  This is the first show on RheostaticsLive that includes “In The Rock Hall / Rock and Roll Heaven.”  “In the Rock Hall” is a fun singalong.  And “Rock and Roll Heaven” is a fairly vulgar song about groupies and whatnot.

“Big Men” is even catchier than before and the band sounds great.  They play a lengthy version of “Fat” which segues into a slow, fairly traditional version of “The List.”  This List ends with… “It’s true… fuck you.”

“We’re going to do a song and then we’re going to have Selina Martin come up and do the exact same song.  “Ladies of Montreal” is my most openly sexist song.  Not really.”  Indeed, after finishing the song they play it once more, this time with Selina Martin singing the lyrics in French!

It segues into a stripped down version of Rush’s “The Spirit of Radio,” which is a very different,loose take on the song.  At the end someone asks, “Can you do that one in French?”

This is the first time (on the site) they’ve played “On Camoragh Lake.”  There’s a lot of cursing in this song.

Dave asks, “should we go song guest song guest?”  Someone says, “Totally man it’s a lot of fun.  It’s fun to see a lot of Rheostatics shirts too.”  Is Tim Sweeney here?   He comes up, “thank god I’m not following Selena Martin.  The closest thing to church for me was going to a Rheostatics show, so this feels weirdly like  impersonating clergy.”  He sings “Ozzy Osbourne.”  It seems shaky with the first notes, but he does a great job with the main part of the song.

We’d like to get the Woodchoppers up for this one, if possible.  They blow through the really “Take a Wild Ride” and then Dave says, “Lets go to E!” and they segue into “Legal Age Life” with a nice big horn section.

Dave says: We all wish Martin Tielli was here big time, but he’s in Ancaster.  We’re thinking of him (yea, he’s the best).  There was a really important Knight Rider episode he had to watch.  He’s got a really nice TV room, I can’t blame him.  60 channels….  Sausages on the barbecue.  Don: Is that one of the channels?  Dave: “Nice one, Don.”   This next song features Don Kerr. It’s called “Guns.” [some chuckling as it’s a poem written by Dave Clark].  They play “Last of the Dead Wrong Things which opens slowly with great guitar work and backing vocals.  And the drums are tremendous.  Near the end he shifts the song to “Making Plans for Nigel,” but this time the band sings along with the chorus.

Dave says he brought some stuff from his basement to sell–some old Rheos discs, Whale Music on vinyl and one Five Hole Stories CD  (CD?)

Dave calls for Tim Vesely the Slovak Slayer (they don’t call him that).  “Tim’s got his electric rock guitar (someone shouts “Palomar”) “Its Tim Vesely of the Rheostatics and The Violet Archers (or The Violent Archers as I like to say).  Tim: “I don’t need any bass for these songs.” Dave: “It’s overrated.  Only 4 strings, how hard can it be?”

It’s nice to hear “Claire” and to have Tim back.  There’s a good solo from Paul and then he says, “We’ll do one more Rheostatics cover for you,” and they play “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  Which he introduces as “This song is for Tim Hudak [a Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1995 to 2016 who represented the ridings of Niagara South, Erie—Lincoln, and Niagara West—Glanbrook.]

“All Hail Canada” is new to the shows–it’s a cynical look at Canadian politics.

Then: “Do the guys from Victoria want to come up and sing now?  Come on it’ll be fun.  Jazzberry Ram, the nerds from Vancouver.  They do a great version of “Quuer” and put their own spin on it.  After the song, Dave says, Do yo mind if Matt joins us?  He’s okay, really.”  Matt Cowley comes up to sing a gleeful “My First Rock Concert.”

Dave takes a moment:

I meant to say something profound about this night but I’m lost because we’re in the soup of this experience. He says he has been writing in cafes (cause I’m from Toronto, so I’m cool I write in cafes.  He’s listen to music and Rheostatics would come up on YouTube. He’d enjoy the songs and marvel at the parts they played. Then he would listen more and he would cry and wonder… maybe we should try to play again.  It didn’t happen,  but that’s not to say it won’t ever happen as long as you never stop listening to your Rheostatics records and crying, anything is possible.

The opening of “The Land is Wild” sounds an awful lot like “Horses” the way it opens.  Dave says this song existed in the Rheostatics for a couple of months but then they broke up.  This version really rocks (the backing vocals are tremendous).  You can hear Dave’s guitar get staticky near the end.  The song segues into “Yemen” sort of, but the statics is too much and they have to stop to fix it.  Dave tries to gt things going again: “Can we start off where that last song ended I think it was building to an interesting place.  Or was it not?”   But the static is irreparable.

“Terrible time in the night to have technical problems–during the last song.”

Dave says, “Okay folks one more.  The crowd shouts: five more.  100 more!  Dave: That would be impossible.

Take it into the crowd!  There’s some inaudible chatter and laughter but I think save heads out into the crowd with the guitar to play Stolen Car.  Not sure who is singing–but he’s a bit off on things.  At one pint he says, “my son told me I’d fuck up.”  Dave: “you fucked up good though.”

Doug–says “I grew up listening to that shit.” He then talks about a dream: he was trying to play Take 5 but the strings were all mushy (The band plays a bit of “Take Five.”  Then Dave talks about a dream he had about shows that never happened.  They did play shows where nobody showed up.

Tim’s my favorite was in Winnipeg or Alberta, a university pub gig  “1/2 price wings plus live music.”  There was nobody there yet there was set list from the band that played the night before.  We took it and went song by song off the list and made up songs on the spot.  I think it was B-52s in Winnipeg  a lunch hour gig named not after the band or even the plane.

Audience: “How were the wings?”  “Half Price.”

We played in Red Deer to two guys who had just come back from putting out fires in Kuwait and a sound man who put his headphones into the TV to listen to The Cosby Show–it was an important episode.  Don: But we got a good bag of weed out of it.  Dave: In red deer at Mortimer’s in the Capri Hotel.  The Shell sign with the s burnt out.  We should have known…   that’s rock n roll.

bzzzt  “I don’t think it’s the cable”  “Put a mike on it!”  “That’s why we need a professional studio engineer.  Don’s side career is that he runs the Rooster Recording studio!

“Horses” sounds great.  Everyone is into it and the addition of horns at the end is great with someone singing along with the horns:  bup bup bup.  And then it rocks to the end.  Despite the cable, it’s a great set with super guests.  Not bad a for a free night.

[READ: April 13, 2017] Sweet Tooth: Wild Game

“Wild Game” is the concluding book in the Sweet Tooth story.  And it remains as dark as anything.

It also begins, like Endangered Species, with a storytelling section–the book turned sideways with a lot of text. It catches us up on what happened in a succinct style.  How the environmentalists were able to return to the dam, how they invited our heroes to stay (Johnny and Bobby accepted–Bobby needs to hibernate after all) but the rest decide to head to Alaska, to their destiny.

Their crew is now Jepperd, The Fat Man (the guy they met out in the woods), Wendy, Gus and Becky.  Lucy is now dead and Dr Singh fled to get to Alaska on his own (he had an epiphany that may have sent him over the edge–he seems to think he might be a preacher, or even a savior).

When they finally arrive in Alaska, sadly Abbot and his team are waiting for them.  And Abbot is especially angry at his brother.  Which leads to a flashback provided by Nate Powell.  It shows Abbot and Johnny as children with their abusive father and how Abbot always stuck up for Johnny even when Abbot went to the military and Johnny had long hair.  When the Sickness began, Johnny was taking care of his ungrateful father and Abbot was at war.   He had returned–with far less hair, and far more attitude.  He took Johnny away from their dad and brought him to the camp where we found them at the beginning of the story. Of curse Abbot wasn’t in charge at first but he quickly made everyone know just how powerful he was.

And just how much things have changed.

Dr Singh meanwhile had been looking for information about Gus’ father. Could he rally have been a lowly janitor? While searching, he comes across Dr Thacker’s journal (I love the continuity).  And he learns a fascinating but of history about Gus and his father.

While browsing through the barracks our heroes learn that there are many more hybrids living here–they are feral but not mean.  In fact they are quite taken with Becky. But they are quite fearful.  And they meet Dr Singh who has some pretty tough truths to impart.

But there is no time for any of that.  Because Abbot and his men are coming.  And Jepperd needs to get everyone prepared.

Can anyone possibly survive?  Yes, some do, but several others will die in the bloody confrontation.

The final chapter of the series is outstanding,  It looks very different–clearly Lemire’s work but with a starkly different, somewhat softer appearance.  Gus appears to be chased by more humans. But Gus looks different somehow,  And that’s when we learn that he is.

And the conceit of the last chapter is that each little segment begins This is a story.  Starting like the beginning with This is a Story of a little boy who lived in the woods.  And that story moves along through many years–through happiness and bloodshed. Through conflict between friends and love between enemies.  And it has an incredibly touching ending.

What a great story.  If you can handle the violence and gore, it is so worth it for the ending,

Lemire is a master storyteller.

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[LISTENED TO: August 2017] The Diamond of Darkhold

The end of the previous book (the prequel) left me in very good spirits about this final book.  This one had not come out while I was working at the public library so I didn’t know about it and the title and cover puzzled me.

But whatever, it was time to see how this series ended (I assume its over).

But, oh no!  Another new audio book reader!  This time Katherine Kellgren.  Kellgren has the unenviable task of following up Wendy Dillon’s establishment as a reader.  It was a little disconcerting hearing Doon and some other characters who had very distinctive voices portrayed differently.  In fact, I wasn’t all that impressed by her reading at first because the characters kind of sounded the same.  But as soon as new characters entered the picture I was really thrilled with her reading.  The diverse voices she brought to the story were outstanding.

So what happens in it?

The story picks up about nine months after the Emberites left Ember.  Winter is coming upon them and things are very hard.  People are also getting sick (some people have died).  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LJOVA AND THE KONTRABAND-Tiny Desk Concert #612 (April 14, 2017).

Ljova and the Kontraband play a rollicking blend of gypsy music with a twist.

There’s a viola, an accordion, an upright bass and a hand drum.  And they play rollicking fast trad music as well as delicate sow ballads.

Ljova and the Kontraband embraces Western classical, jazz and an array of international styles including tango and Eastern European and Balkan folk music. These top-flight musicians, who hail from Russia, Lithuania, the U.S. and Switzerland, pile all of these sounds atop of each other with great glee, and emerge with creations that alight on totally new and exciting terrain.

The band is led by the composer, arranger and viola player Ljova (Lev Zhurbin), who comes by this musical eclecticism naturally: the Moscow native, who comes from a family heavily involved in the arts, has worked with an astonishingly wide and starry group of collaborators, including Jay Z, the Bollywood queen Asha Bhosle and cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. In this Kontraband setting, he and his bandmates (including Ljova’s wife, the preternaturally sweet-voiced, Lithuanian-born singer Inna Barmash) create performances of deep earthiness, fragile tenderness, ebullient humor and quicksilver shifts in texture.

“Love Potion, Expired” is one of those fast songs with twists and turns and all kinds of solos.  The middle section is practically a percussion solo by Mathias Künzli (from Switzerland).  While the strings and accordion are sort of fiddling away on a couple of notes, Künzli (on his box drum) plays a sophisticated solo on the box which also includes all manner of percussion–cymbals, clackers, shakers, finger cymbals and other things that clatter (he even includes his thigh at one point).

It’s followed by an appropriately wild accordion solo (and that instrument is gorgeous) by Patrick Farrell (from Michigan).  The song is played at breakneck speed and is really fun.

The second song introduces us to Inna Barmash (Ljova’s wife). She explains that “Ven Ikh Zol Hobn Fligelekh (If I Had Wings)” is a Yiddish folk song from Western Ukraine.  She says the beginning of the poem is translated as “If I had wings I would fly to you if i had chains I would pull you to me.”  It id played as pizzicato and strummed viola while Inna sings.

But the heart of their Tiny Desk Concert was the song “By the Campfire,” whose words have a long, strange history that goes back to the Middle Ages. The words originally come from 12th-century Germany; Ljova’s grandfather, a noted translator, translated this poem from German to Russian, which Ljova uses in his musical setting.

Barmash gave us her own English translation of this unsettling, stunning, and perhaps even prophetic text: “Lies and spite command the world / Suffocate its consciousness, / Truth is poisoned, dead is law / Honor killed — obscene extolled! / … And the wisdom of our days / Teaches theft, deceit and hate.”

There are a couple of parts to this song.  As it begins, the accordion sounds like flutes.  Barmash sings beautifully for a few verses.  And then in the middle she sings a long sustained note that seems to signal the band to start on a chaotic section with everyone playing things crazily for a few seconds.  Then she does another long note and the song turns into traditional Russian type of dance.  There are many parts and this song goes through all of them.

Before the final song Ljova apologizes for disturbing their lunch.  “Walking on Willoughby” was written by Patrick, it’s a fun, wild polka that’s seven minutes long.   There are many parts to this song as well.  At times the viola and accordion play off of each other.  There’s several opportunities from each of them to solo held together by that thumping bass by Jordan Morton (from Syracuse).

The middle slows down to a one two count as the accordion plays a disjointed sounding solo.  There’s even more after that as this song just spirals in all directions.

[READ: July 10, 2016] Lunch Lady and the Schoolwide Scuffle

This appears to be the final book of the Lunch Lady series.  The book ends on something of a cliffhanger but to the best of my knowledge, no book has come out after this one.

But don’t be sad because this is a very satisfying conclusion.

As we left book 9, Lunch Lady had been fired.  She is so despondent that when the opening pages feature bad guys doing bad things, she’s not even there to stop them. It’s the fifth bank to be robbed in two weeks and Lunch Lady is just lounging about eating ice cream.  Egads!

But even worse, the school is a shambles–the superintendent has put a portrait of herself in every room (even the bathrooms).  Te teachers have been replaced by convicts, the principal has been replaced by Mr Edison who was put away in book 3 and even more shocking, Milmoe is being nice to them–he realizes he’s in over his head as student council president. (more…)

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