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Archive for the ‘Funny (ha ha)’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PORTUGAL THE MAN-“Who’s Gonna Stop Me” (feat. “Weird Al” Yankovic) (2020).

Portugal. The Man and “Weird Al” (punctuation buddies, clearly) have worked together in various ways in the past.  But here is something totally weird for Weird Al.  He is providing serious verses to a serious song.

Portugal. The Man songs tend to be dancey and fun, but this song is quite serious (and the video is fantastic).

A quiet opening of drums and echoing keyboard notes.  The hook comes when the vocals speed up in the middle of the first verse.

There are some gorgeous “ooohs” and then Al’s verse comes.  Al obviously has a great voice–he can mimic anyone–he is perfectly matched to the original vocal line and his voice sounds great singing “sneaking out, jumping over backyard fences, we’re always looking for freedom.”

After some more of those haunting oohs, a loud drum fill introduces the second half of the song which elevates the song into a slightly more danceable section full of drums and voices.

And then comes the incredible hook of “toooooooo high!”  The vocal range from the deep “too” the soaring “high” is outstanding.

It sounds like Portugal. The Man are taking their music in yet another direction and this one is quite a good one.

[READ: October 10, 2020] Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City

I read a positive review of K.J. Parker’s “follow up” to this book called How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It.  When I picked up that book, I saw that the back cover said it was the follow up to Sixteen.  I assumed that meant it was a sequel and that I should read Sixteen first.  Well, Sixteen ends pretty definitively.  It turns out that Empire takes place seven years later and while I haven’t read it yet, I think it’s good I read this one first.

Also, K.J. Parker is the pseudonym of Tom Holt, a fantasy author I have not read but whom I gather I would like a lot.  So it was a good thing to read the review of Empire.

Parker has written several trilogies as well as a few stand-alone books.  I bring this up because I’ve read that some of the characteristics of this story reference other parts of his stories (this is a stand alone story, but I guess there might be parts that refer to his other books).

Like, for instance, the blues and the greens. These are two of the dominant races in the book.  I had a hard time telling them apart because there was no real introduction of either group. It was clear they hated each other, but I couldn’t figure out why (which I assumed was the point). At any rate, another reviewer says that the blues and greens are part of his other books, so maybe they are explained elsewhere.

The City appears to also be a thing that Parker likes to play around with.  In this book, the City is run by the Robur, a dominating group who have successfully conquered much of the surrounding lands. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WEEZER-Weezer (The Black Album) (2019).

When the Black Album was announced, the Weezer camp said it would be a reversion back to the blue album or Pinkerton (what people who lovehate Weezer have been wanting since they released the third album).  Well, despite that promise, this album proved to be a genre bending album full of disco beats, remarkably dumb lyrics (what’s up with that PhD Rivers) and of course, super catchy choruses.

No matter what Weezer does, it always sounds like Weezer–perhaps that’s just Rivers Cuomo’s voice or maybe his songwriting sounds the same in any genre.  So this album is almost forty minutes of Weezer in various forms (but nothing too outrageous for them).

“Can’t Knock the Hustle” brings in the disco with a funky 70s synth, backing oohs, and an unexpected mariachi flair when the “hasta luego/adios” line comes in.  Was there ever a less threatening thing than Rivers saying Don’t step to me, bitch.  “Zombie Bastards” is a really dumb lite reggae song but the chorus, with the presumably sampled Yea! is some dumb fun.

“High as a Kite” is a gentle song with some fun bouncy bass and one of the catchiest choruses around.  When you give up hating on Weezer, you can just accept that songs like this are really great to sing along to.  The middle section spreads some more 70s good cheer (with those nice bass notes again).  “Living in L.A.” is a little more aggressive sounding but really poppy with another knockout chorus.  I genuinely love singing along to these two songs.  Everyone thinks of Randy Newman as the “I Love L.A.” guy but by now, Rivers has written more songs about L.A. than anyone, I think.

“Piece of Cake” is a mellow synthy ballad.  It’s not as catchy, but the chorus has a nice hook.

“I’m Just Being Honest” actually sounds like it could be a Weird Al song.  Not musically but lyrically, since it’s basically a lot of truthful insults.  This hearkens back to Pinkerton days, but would do so more if there were some more rocking guitars.  “Too Many Thoughts in My Head” is the most disco of the bunch, with the wah wah guitar and slinky bass.  Even River’s voice sounds different in the verses–whispered and a little sinister.  The chorus rocks in that same slinky electronic style.

“The Prince Who Wanted Everything” is like a 70s monster riff song (although it’s not all that monster sounding) with a sweet chorus. It’s very organic sounding with lots of “do do dos.”  On the opposite end of things is “Byzantine” with its Casio drum beat and processed “ooh ooh oohs.”  It also has the strange pseudo-dis:

I want Neil Young on your phone speaker in the morning
and fuck him if he just can’t see
This is how his songs are supposed to be heard
no more lectures on fidelity.

This song suggests that Rivers was unfamiliar with Sparks before meeting this person, and I find that very hard to believe.

“California Snow” ends this disc with swirling keys and a big synth riff that sounds not unlike “Mr. Crowley”  There’s a sort of hip-hop vibe in the vocal delivery (which doesn’t really work, but whatever).  A catchy chorus is followed by a wholly different sound in the next verse–softer and more “Weezer.”

I don’t know if any new Weezer album is necessary, but I can still enjoy a half hour of Rivers and the guys.

[READ: October 10, 2020] “Le Nozze”

This issue of Harper’s has an essay about Shirley Hazzard on the release of her Collected Stories (from which this story comes).  The article raves about her writing particularly how hard she worked to find the perfect word.  Her most famous work is 1980’s Transit of Venus and she says she that had twenty or thirty drafts per page of the book.  She has written two short story collections, four novels, and a handful of nonfiction (some of which was very critical of the United Nations (!)).  I really enjoyed the essay which made me really want to read her novel.  But I can start with this short story.

In this story, a man and a woman are measuring his room to fit her chest of drawers.  They discuss how there is measuring in Figaro and she begins to sing some of it.  She says that she sang in school and he thinks about what that might have been like.

He is making room for her to move in. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Lighting Strikes the Postman: The Flaming Lips Remix (2016).

This release came out on Record Store Day 2016.  It is, simply put, the Lips’ album Clouds Taste Metallic but remixed to remove all of the vocals and to highlight all of Ronald Jones’ guitar playing.  This was Jones’ last album with the band and he has become pretty reclusive since then.

You can hear the very basic structure of all of the songs–drums, bass and rhythm guitar are all there, but mixed low.  The rest of the CD is Jones’ rather unique style of playing–noisy, feedbacky, almost improv-y, but never out of control.

The release also comes with a comic book penned by Wayne Coyne.  The comic pretty much explains Jones’ guitar playing.

You see, after the band released the album, Ronald was abducted by aliens. Why would they take him? Because back then he had one of the most elaborate homemade pedal boards on earth.   He would hook together an endless amount of gadgets, some that were not meant to go together.  One night he connected to a giant antenna.  Then while searching for a sound to enhance the ending of “Placebo Head Wound,” he found the sound of the dreaded Zorgodrites’ freaky 2 way radio and boy were they mad.

They came down and took him away and he was never seen from again.

And so that’s what you get.  Around 55 minutes of guitar freakouts.  But unlike an album of just noisy, weird stuff, this collection is based around songs.  Some of the songs are the same length as the final product.  Others are a bit longer.  The opening track “The Abandoned Hospital Ship” is about three minutes longer than the album version–mostly for Jones’ noodling. 

I tried to sync up the disc to the original via Spotfiy with varying degrees of success.

If you know the album pretty well, you’ll recognize the songs–the verses and choruses are in tact, it’s just that you get to hear some wild guitar around those melodies instead of the melodies themselves.

It can be a disconcerting listen if you are expecting to hear the songs, but if you put that aside and just listen to the kind of things Jones is doing it’s a pretty cool exploration of the guitar.  But definitely not for everyone.

[READ: October 1, 2020] Cycling: The Craze of the Hour

I love books like this.  This is a collection of pamphlets from around the turn of the 20th century, both pro and con for bicycles.  The first item is an instruction manual about how to ride a modern bicycle.  The second talks about the dangers (to your heart) of riding a bicycle.  The third and fourth are humorous stories in which bicycles feature prominently.

The first bicycle was invented at the turn of the nineteenth century but the craze really took of in the 1890s. And so you get:

“The Modern Bicycle (with Practical Illustrations)” (1877) by Charles Spencer

Spencer was an early proponent of the bicycle.  In 1869, he rode from Trafalgar Square to Brighton in fifteen hours (Google maps says it should now take you a little over five on a bicycle, so that’s pretty impressive for 1896.)

This instruction manual is fascinating.  Now, the bicycle they are talking about is more or less a penny-farthing.  The “modern bicycle” may be slightly shorter than a pennyfarthing.  And yet, as a person who can ride a bike today, I can”t imagine riding one of these death traps. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: THE DISTRICTS-A Flourish and a Spoil (2015).

A Flourish and a Spoil feels like an extension of The Districts‘ EP. And that’s no bad thing.

It’s got more of the same vibrato guitars and thumping bass all wrapping around Rob Grote’s angsty voice.  The big difference from the EP is that most of the songs are shorter (around four minutes with the exception of the end of the album).

A propulsive bass opens up the super catchy “4th and Roebling.”  The song starts somewhat quietly but turns into a raucous brawl by the end with crashing cymbals, smacking drums, and the whole band singing along.

“Peaches” has a fuller sound as the whole band plays the main parts until the catchy chorus where the guitar gets to play the lead melody along with the vocals.  “Chlorine” starts loud and then slows down for the verses.  Followed by the catchy chorus which is bigger and louder.  “Hounds” is built out of a simple riff that is played with a little delay so that it lurches interestingly until the shambolic ending of “hounds in my head, hounds in my head.”

“Sing the Song” is a slower song with a loud but spare chorus.  It’s got a rousing ending and then a lovely delicate denouement.

“Suburban Smell” is under three minutes. It’s a pretty acoustic song with some lovely guitar melodies and Grote’s more delicate vocals (and yes, there’s a questionable lyric in there). The song ends with a mic shutting off, like a real bedroom recording. It’s followed by a full on echoing drum intro of “Bold.”  The song is full of noises and sounds like a song in search of something.  It finds it with the soaring catchy ending section, fast chords, highs notes and a powerful repetition.

“Heavy Begs” is the last short song on the record.  It features the one thing that has been missing: some “oohs” (although only once).  It’s also got a new sound introduced in the guitar solo–a buzzing that works nicely with their overall sound.

“Young Blood” stretches out to almost nine minutes.  After a siren-like introduction, the song settles into a relaxed lope with catchy vocal melody.  The first four minutes jump back and forth between verses an chaotic crashing chorus.  Then comes a pause followed by a quiet bass line while the other instruments slowly add sounds and melodies (and what sounds like a party in the background).  This instrumental section builds on itself for two minutes until the coda.  The quiet “it’s a long way down from the top to the bottom” which repeats until the drums start pounding  before the final guitar solo takes the song out with a riff that sounds like it came from Built to Spill.

That feels like an album ender to me, but they put in one more song, the nearly 6 minute “6AM.”  This song also sounds like a bedroom recording–it sounds raw and rough–and it never sounds too long.

[READ: September 30, 2020] “Rainbows”

I liked the way this story seemed to be settling into a time frame and then leaped away from it to move on to something else.

The story is told in first person, by an Irish woman named Clodagh.  She came to America when she was twenty-three.  She’d never heard of mentors or office hours or anything like that in an educational system.  She was getting a Master’s Degree in Applied Analytics. 

She decided to audit a class in anthropology just to take her mind off the degree.  The teacher, Paola Visintin, became something of an unexpected mentor to her.  Paola was twenty years older, but cool in a way that younger teachers weren’t.  The bonded in coffee shops and talked about many of Clodagh’s problems.  Paola’s answers were short, direct and sometimes beside the point.

The passage of time is delivered in a fun way:

My kitten grew into a cat, turned into an old lady, died. The obstetrician lifted a red-blue creature from behind a blue paper curtain–and, flash, the creature, Aoife, turned eighteen. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANGEL OLSEN-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #92 (October 7, 2020).

Angel Olsen is a favorite of many critics. I rather enjoyed her new album–but I think more for the sound of the production than the songs themselves.

I had the chance to see her recently but didn’t go and later heard the show was amazing.

This is a super-stripped down set (just her and her guitar on a balcony in North Carolina).

She opens with “Whole New Mess.”

The song is actually about addictions, defining her “home” amidst a life of touring that kept her on the road for large chunks of time. Much like this Tiny Desk performance, the original recording is just her stunning voice and guitar (minus the birds and the trees), recorded in a church-turned-studio a few years ago.

Up next is “Iota”

a song that wishes “that all the world could see something for what it is at the same time.”

“What It Is” is the only song I knew.  It was played on the radio a bunch and I grew to really like it.  This spare version is less interesting to me, but the melody is still lovely.

Angel leaves us with “Waving, Smiling,” a farewell song. She says goodbye to the sounds around her, the birds, the chainsaws, and leaves us with a theme of acceptance, bittersweet but without regret.

The whole set is gentle and lovely–it’s hard to believe she put on a dynamic and exciting live show.

[READ: October 1, 2020] Child Star

I am only mildly upset to learn that Box is not Box Brown’s real name (it seemed unlikely but amusing, nonetheless). But I am in no way upset about how great this book is.

In the author’s note, Brown says that he grew up watching TV in the 80s–he especially enjoyed the shows that had child actors in them.  He learned that the lives of child actors tend to follow a particular, tragic arc.

So for this “biography,” he created a child star, Owen Eugene, as an example of the kind of life.  If you grew up watching the same shows, you’ll recognize the children that he is drawing from.

You’ll recognize some of the notable episodes from shows.  Like the “very special episodes,” about drugs, or pedophilia or smoking or whatever; or the one where Nancy Reagan came on set; or when the younger, cuter kid came on to take over being the cute one.  And of course, the inevitable catch phrase.

The book is written like a Behind the Scenes kind of TV show.  There’s interviews with all kinds of people–his parents, his costars, washed up actors and ex-wives.

Owen Eugene had a hormone issue so he didn’t grow very tall–which meant he stayed adorable for a long time.  He was also a lot older than he looked.  So he could try out for roles and get them because he was the most talented 5 year old (because he was ten). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JASON ISBELL & AMANDA SHIRES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #88 (September 30, 2020).

I can’t decide if I like Jason Isbell or not.  I like his songs quite a lot and after watching this set I like him a whole lot. But I find his voice unpleasant–too twangy and country, which just rubs me the wrong way.

And yet the chorus of “Dreamsicle” is wonderful.  The way he and Amanda Shires harmonize is just fantastic.  I’ve heard the song on the radio, but it sounds amazing here.

The songs for this Tiny Desk (home) concert are from Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s Spring release, Reunions. “Dreamsicle” shares the story of a child seeing his family falling apart all around. Reflecting on those times, he finds fond memories, and the chorus of the song — “a Dreamsicle on a summer night in a folding lawn chair” — conjures up bright light even amidst the darkness.

Between songs, Jason is very chatty, making a lot of humorous observations, like that he’s been to the Tiny Desk and “The Tiny Desk Desk is not tiny, it is larger than average for a desk….  It’s a tiny concert at a desk.  [Call it a] cluttered desk concert.”

The next song “Overseas” is a louder song (it think it even distorts their sound equipment some).  Introducing the song he says, “Lets do ‘Overseas.’ Because we cant go overseas were gonna sing ‘Overseas.’  There’s a lovely lead violin and more terrific harmonies in the bridge.  They have this back and forth at the end

JI: That’s Amanda Shires playing the fiddle.  That’s really good.
AS: Thanks for having me.
JI: That was so good.
AS: I like to the play the fiddle, man. It’s a violin though.
JI: We should do this more often.
AS: Yeah we should.

This interchange is all the more funny because

Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires feel fortunate. They have their 4-year-old daughter, Mercy, a wonderful home, and each other.

Jason says that Mercy “tells me that she is an expert yodeler…. And it’s good, especially for a four year old who is not Scandinavian or Jimmie Rogers.  But then she says can you send that video to Jewel?   Jewel seems very nice but I’m afraid she’s going to come to our house and say “you can’t yodel for shit” and I want to be the barrier between my daughter and the cutthroat world of yodeling.

Amanda says they got a new rooster who is learning to crow.  Mercy named their new rooster Captain Love Heart. He has a lot of love in his heart and he is a captain. Makes me think of Captain Beefheart and makes me think of the chicken crowing “Upon the Me Oh My” or something from Trout Mask Replica.
The final song, “It Gets Easier,” deals with Jason’s drinking demons, with a refrain filled with such stark truth: “It gets easier, but it never gets easy.” These words could be an anthem for all those in recovery. It’s the nature of Jason Isbell to sing the truth.
I really enjoyed their banter and it made me like their songs even more.

[READ: September 24, 2020] “Birth of a Gardener”

During the COVID Quarantine, venerable publisher Hingston & Olsen created, under the editorship of Rebecca Romney, a gorgeous box of 12 stories.  It has a die-cut opening to allow the top book’s central image to show through (each book’s center is different).  You can get a copy here. This is a collection of science fiction stories written from 1836 to 1998.  Each story imagines the future–some further into the future than others. As it says on the back of the box

Their future.  Our present.  From social reforms to climate change, video chat to the new face of fascism, Projections is a collection of 12 sci-fi stories that anticipated life in the present day.

About this story, Romney writes

the story works because the woman’s husband is a mansplainer.  He loses her to another dimension simply because he assumed he understood the principles of physics better than she did. Not to worry: that isn’t a spoiler.  …  [Pitkin Buck shows that] even as we are simplified into the roles that prioritize our relationships — mother, wife, sister, daughter, partner — over our individuals identities, women in 2020 (as with women in 1961, and women in 1861, and…) have to fight to retain our own rich interior experiences.

In this story, Payne is a physicist–Fermi Research at the Droxden Foundation, famous for his work on anti-matter.  His wife, Lee, is not.  And he hates to see her “spraining her mind” over books about physics. Why did she waste her time with books like that when she has such a green thumb.

He is so frustrated with her that he finally says she should just give it up “If you would be happy for life, plant a garden.”

She replies “That wasn’t why I evoked you.”

He doesn’t understand what she means, even when she says, “I just thought very hard and–finally one day, there you were.”

He says “Stop playing around with a rigorous logic that isn’t your style.”

She retorts: “Rigorous logic!  Rigor mortis!”

Finally, she says she wants him to teach her to see physics.  It would help them both.  She says she can already see neutrinos.  

He gets angry and asks why she keeps talking fairy tale when he has serious work to do.

After more back and forth he ends the discussion with, “Darling, you bore me.”

The next morning Lee was dead. It was shocking to him, but he felt closer to her now than he ever had while she was alive.

Suddenly he started seeing her–as if she were down at the end of a tunnel looking at him. He sees that she is looking at book. It is called The Validity of Thought Patterns as Determined by Their Elegance. He sees that she is the author of the book.

Then she starts demonstrating a diagram on a black board. She made a beautiful arabesque–it was the work of a clear and intelligent mathematical. But he had to laugh because she had gotten one thing crucially wrong–of course she would be confused in the end. 

Then he realized the mistake was his own.  She was not drawing matte but anti-matter.  His own field of study!  He and Lee were even closer than he’d ever realized.  He must try to communicate with her.

The end of the story is outstanding.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BRIGHT EYES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #86 (September 28, 2020)

I was never a fan of Bright Eyes.  Something about them just never quite appealed to me.  And since Conor Oberst was so prolific, I got tired of him too.

But then he made better Oblivion Community Center with phoebe Bridgers and I really liked the album and the live show.  So I’ve rethunk Bright Eyes.

They were supposed to play a show in Bethlehem this summer with Lucy Dacus.  I was more interested in seeing Lucy, but I would have certainly gone.

So here’s Bright Eyes with their first new album in almost ten years.

They recorded this Tiny Desk (home) concert with Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis at ARC Studios in Omaha, Neb., while Nate sits 1,500 miles away at Lucy’s Meat Market, a well-equipped studio in Los Angeles filled with sweet-sounding vintage keyboards. Singing and seated behind him is Becky Stark, better known as Lavender Diamond, along with their daughter.

The three songs they perform from Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, are intense, with stripped back rawness and lyrics that are not always decipherable, filled with struggle and hope.

They open with “Mariana Trench” in which Mogis is on pedal steel, Walcott is on piano and Becky and daughter sing backing vocals.  Oberst’s voice sounds as strong and confident as ever.

Up next is “Pan and Broom.”  Nate starts the drum machine and then plays the organ.  Meanwhile Mike is playing the Marxophone which is a kind of tiny echoing sounding zither machine.

“Persona Non Grata” is about being insane enough that people don’t want you around. Conor sits at the Moog, while Nate stays on the organ and Mike goes back to the pedal steel.  Oberst plays a cool-sounding solo while Mike plays a pedal steel solo along with him.  It sounds really good.

“Shell Games” is an older song.  Mike switches to the guitar and Nate jumps over to the Casio.  The guitar is quiet but adds a cool fuzziness underneath the synth sounds.  This song also seems to be a bit more intense than the others.

This feels like a stripped down sound, but I don’t actually know what the recorded versions sound like.

[READ: September 26, 2020] “A Logic Named Joe”

During the COVID Quarantine, venerable publisher Hingston & Olsen created, under the editorship of Rebecca Romney, a gorgeous box of 12 stories.  It has a die-cut opening to allow the top book’s central image to show through (each book’s center is different).  You can get a copy here.

This is a collection of science fiction stories written from 1836 to 1998.  Each story imagines the future–some further into the future than others.

As it says on the back of the box

Their future.  Our present.  From social reforms to climate change, video chat to the new face of fascism, Projections is a collection of 12 sci-fi stories that anticipated life in the present day.

About this story, Romney writes

Murray Leinster was one of the most prolific writers in the heyday of science-fiction pulps. … It reads like a creative exercise in conditional statements, with just a touch of black humor thrown in. … My favorite aspect is the implication that AI is evil because we, humans, make it evil, not because some robot has gone rogue.

The other stories in this collection so far have been more of a detailed explanation of a utopian future.  This story is an actual story–and an exciting one.

It’s a shame that the central motivator of the narrator is a sexist trope, but otherwise the story is really cool and amazingly prescient when it comes to technology.

The story jumps right in and doesn’t fully explain what’s going on just yet.

The narrator works at Logic Company as maintenance worker.  On August 3rd, a Logic called Joe came off the assembly line.  Two days later Laurine came into town, and that’s when the narrator saved the world.

The narrator is married and Laurine is the woman he dated before he met his wife  Laurine “is a blonde that I was crazy about once–and crazy is the word.”  She dumped her exes and even killed one of them.

So, yes, a sexist underpinning to this story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AILBHE REDDY-“Distrust” (2016).

I found this song from, of all things, a redbull website listing up and coming Irish bands.  It says that this song has been streamed over 3 million times.

This song opens with otherworldy “oohs” before a jagged, slapped guitar melody enters the song.  The guitar feels like it ends too abruptly.  It ‘s a very cool hook.  Especially for a song that is a total kiss-off song like this one.

Over the course of three and a half minutes more and more is added to the song–an insistent bass, drums, more backing vocals and even a violin.  But that persistent guitar runs through the whole song.  As does Ailbhe Reddy’s voice which is clean and piercing.  She speak-sings in the beginning, but when the chorus comes in, her voice is in full power. 

The song soars by the end, as does her voice.  

In the video, she stands absolutely still and strong as the room she is in falls apart around her.  

Reddy has a full album coming out next month. This song isn’t on it, but her new song “Looking Happy” is a real rocker (with a cool video). 

[READ: September 19, 2020] No Country for Old Gnomes

I really enjoyed the first book in the series–Kill the Farm Boy.  I was really looking forward to reading the continuing efforts of the heroes of Pell.

So I was a little surprised to learn that this book has almost nothing to do with the first one.  It’s set in the same place (with the same map up front) and the world remains the same, but this book follows the exploits of a completely different band of accidental warriors. 

That was a little disappointing at first (I miss Fia and Agrabella) but Dawson & Hearne have created a brand new band of travelers who are just as interesting and compelling as the first bunch. All of the characters from the first book make cameos, but they are brief.  The only characters from the first book that have any regular work are King Gustave and Grinda the Sand Witch.

But this book is exciting and funny and in the same vein as the first while being very different as well.  It is full of puns and jokes and twists on fantasy novels all while fleshing out the world that was created in book one (and making great use of the map that’s on the first page).

The book opens with three witches (not Grinda) and a cauldron.  I love a spoof of this scene and this one is especially good.  Two of the witches are casting a spell to help the Bruding Boars win their jousting competition.  But they needed a third so they put an ad on Ye Olde Meet-Up Bulletin Boarde. This third with (who looked quite different from her picture) had a very different spell in mind.

The third witch disappeared after casting a spell full of blood and seeming to be against gnomes.  But, really, who cared about gnomes.

Neither noticed the surfeit of portent in the air, wafting from the coppery-smelling cave, probably because the second witch smelled so strongly of cat urine.
But the portent was there nonetheless.

The book shifts to the Numminen family of gnomes.  Gnomes are generally smöl (ha!) and cheerful. The two sons Onni and Offi are fighting about Offi’s lack of gnomeric behavior.  Offi likes wearing cardigans that are black and covered in bats (gnome cardigans should be bright and cheerful).  So, yes, Offi is a goth gnome.  Whereas Onni is a perfect gnome who wins award for his gnomeric behavior. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KNEECAP-“C.E.A.R.T.A.” (2018).

Kneecap are the Northern Irish trio of Mo Chara, Móglaí Bap and DJ Provaí.

They rap.

In Irish.

This in itself opens up all kinds of interesting rhyme opportunities.

Because I have no idea what they are saying, when the song opens with what sounds like “Fuck me,” I don’t know if that’s what he’s saying or if he’s saying something in Irish.  It sounds like they say fuck a lot, so I’m assuming that’s what they are saying (especially since the video has them flipping the bird a lot).  But who knows.

The song is anti police (garda) I’m assuming, although I don’t know what the initials stand for.  It also seems to be pro drug (or at least pro party).  There is one line that I picked out (there are occasional English words)  So a line ends with “balaclava” and then goes on

coke, speed, E, agus [and] marijuana
[irish irish irish irish irish] Connamara.

The video is an interesting insight into, I assume, Belfast, with graffiti-strewn tunnels and a very very very depressing looking “party” at the end.

The music is not terribly interesting.  It’s a very simple bass line that runs through the whole song, with the only change in the chorus being the addition of a high synth line.  But their flow is really good (to someone who can’t tell what they are saying).  The rhymes work and it is good craic not knowing what they are talking about but hearing an occasional familiar word.

If they can get their musical part more interesting, they’d be on to something.

[READ: September 21, 2020] My Wife is Married to a Feckin’ Eejit

I have no idea who Bernard O’Shea is.  Well, he’s an Irish comedian, but I don’t know what kind.  He could be Ireland’s Jeff Foxworthy for all I know.  I doubt that he’s Ireland’s Dave Chapelle, anyway.

This book came across my desk at work and I liked the title so I thought I’d give it a read.

The premise of this book is that O’Shea found a list in his wife’s diary of all of the reasons why he is an eejit.  So he enumerates this list and then gives details about each incident.

Most of the things O’Shea he talks about are daily frustrations (often gone to crazy conclusions).  I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this book if it were set in the States, but having it set in Ireland–where everyday things are a little different, (what in the heck is a crèche?) brought enough unfamiliarity to make these familiar stores seem more amusing. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ARLO PARKS-Tiny Desk Concert #80 (September 15, 2020).

I had never heard of Arlo Parks before this set and then today Spotify recommended her album to me.  How about that.

Arlo Parks was born Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho in London.

She began writing poetry and songs because (according to her short bio) she spent her high school days “feeling like that Black kid in school who couldn’t dance for s***, listening to too much emo music and crushing on the girl in Spanish class.”

Accompanied by a guitar from her home in London, Parks opens with her latest single, “Hurt”, followed by the three songs that introduced her to the world and remind us that we really aren’t alone.

All of her songs sound similar in style–very gentle guitar and her soft, eloquent vocals.

“Hurt” is filled with nice details like

Charlie melts into his mattress
Watching Twin Peaks on his ones
Then his fingers find a bottle
When he starts to miss his mum

There’s a nice spoken word part–she has a lovely singing voice, but I enjoyed hearing her speaking voice as well.

It’s funny to hear a 19 year-old talk about introspection and reading through her “old journals.”  Especially since the next song, “Cola” is the first song she ever put out–way back in November 2018.

Playing “Cola” makes her reflect on the journey she;s had and what’s next to come.  It’s another pretty, gentle song with lots of specific details.

“Eugene” explores blurring the lines between romance and friendship.  It’s one of her favorite songs that she’s written.  It’s got a simple but really engaging guitar melody.

I had a dream we kissed
And it was all amethyst
The underpart of your eyes was violet
You hung a cigarette between your purple lips
We’ve been best buds since thirteen
I hold head back when you’re too lean
I hold the Taco Bell and you cried over Eugene

“Black Dog” is one of the most emotional songs she’s written.  It’s about mental health and has gotten a very string response from people.  Her voice is so tender, so delicate.  It’s quite lovely.

[READ: September 30, 2019] Personae

I really enjoyed De La Pava’s first and third books but somehow I missed this one, which is quite unlike the other two.  It is several hundred pages shorter and has far less of a narrative.  While the other books are chock full of details, this one feels like he was deliberately leaving things out.

Part 1 is called Our Heroine and begins with Detective Helen Tame.  She is the author of this report: “this Department is obsessed with reports and I am not; if I had to cop to any obsession it would be with the Truth.”

She is amusingly no nonsense.  When addressing a police officer on the case she says:

“You can go now,” I add, but he hesitates.  “That means leave in Etiquette.”

She is writing this report because she has found a dead body–a bloody dead body.  “He is more than century old; was.”  The victim an 111-year-old Colombian writer named Antonio Arce. (more…)

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