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Archive for the ‘Oni Press’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: STUMPTOWN: Dex’s Mixtape (2020)

One of the fun things about Stumptown is Dex’s car–an old beat up Ford that she loves.

It has a cassette stuck in the player and the player goes on and off seemingly at will.  I don’t think the show has explored all of the music on the tape yet, but it keep the soundtrack squarely in the 1980s.

This Spotify playlist has 90 minutes worth of music that could easily fit on the cassette in the car.

The only discrepancy I have it is that “Yellow Ledbetter” from Pearl Jam didn’t come out until 1992.  We haven’t heard it in the car yet, although we have heard it in her house, so we’ll just consider that song a bonus cut.

Here’s the track list

  • SIMPLISTICS-Heat of the Night
  • BLONDIE-Heart of Glass
  • ELTON JOHN, KIKI DEE-Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
  • TIFFANY-I Think We’re Alone Now
  • BLUE SHOES-Hey
  • NEIL DIAMOND-Sweet Caroline
  • THE O’JAYS-Love Train
  • ASIA-Heat of the Moment
  • CAPTAIN & TENNILLE-Love Will Keep Up Together
  • PRETENDERS-Brass In Pocket
  • HALL & OATES-Private Eyes
  • CHAKA KHAN-I’m Every Woman
  • KISS-I Was Made for Lovin’ You
  • SNAP-Power
  • AIR SUPPLY-All Out of Love
  • PAT BENATAR-We Belong
  • PLAYER-Baby Come Back
  • EURHYTHMICS-Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves
  • CYNDI LAUPER-Girls Just Want to Have Fun
  • MISSING PERSONS-Walking In L.A.
  • WILSON PHILLIPS-Hold On
  • XTC-Dear God
  • PEARL JAM-Yellow Ledbetter (1992)

What’s great about the soundtrack is that the rest of the show is contemporary and very cool, with some really good song choices.  But I love that they can have this unexpected throwback musical story running through as a commentary.

[READ: March 20, 2020] Stumptown Volume 1

I had heard promising reviews of a new show called Stumptown.  It is based on this graphic novel series from Greg Rucka (who has written some amazing books over the years).  When I saw that the graphic novels were still available (possibly with new covers–the publishing history is a little confusing), I knew I had to check it out.

I have since watched most of the episodes (I’m a little behind) and I am hooked.

This book is more or less the start of the first episode of the show, but the show has changed things (and basically made the ending very different).

But before I get to the story I want to comment on Matthew Southworth’s drawings which are really terrific.  His style is realistic but rough around the edges which works perfectly for this storyline.  There’s a lot of impressionistic moments where you can feel the person moving (or being moved) without the need for action lines.  Also, the casting of the show was really perfect.  Cobie Smulders is a dead ringer for Dex Parios in the book and Cole Sibus is amazingly cast as Ansel (Southworth does a great job showing Ansel’s Down Syndrome).  Cole Sibus is really outstanding in the role–his comic timing is excellent.  The only character who looks nothing like the book is Jake Johnson as Grey.  However, Jake Johnson is awesome and he is absolutely perfect for the role–I feel like he’s far more interesting than the comic book character (although in fairness, Grey doesn’t have that much to do in the book). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: COURTNEY BARNETT-“Dawned on Me” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

This is a pretty standard cover of this song with Courtney Barnett on acoustic guitar with no accompaniment..  Her voice sounds great and it’s fun to hear her sing this in her Australian accent.  I definitely miss the wonderful bass line in the song, but her version is lovely.

[READ: February 2, 2020] Space Battle Lunchtime Volume 2

The book opens with Peony in a cell.  The disembodied voice shows that she signed a contract to be on Cannibal Coliseum. It is signed Peggy, ha.  They tell her she’ll be chopping or being chopped in an hour.

She says that she can’t cut up and cook someone.  The voice says “It’s called Can-nibal Coliseum not Can’t-ibal…”

Peony realizes the she has her phone so she turns it on and sees NO BARS.  You’re in space, what did you expect.

Back at the Space Battle Lunchtime set, it is revealed that Peony left a note–she forfeited.  But the cameraman says that doesn’t sound like her. Neptunia says that Peony bailed on their date as well.  And, what a surprise, Chef Melonhead has offered to fill in for the missing Peony.

Neptunia and the camera guy look at footage of the  loading doc and see that Peony was taken by a Cannibal Coliseum van.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BUILT TO SPILL-“Bloody Rainbow” (2020).

What happens when one of your favorite bands releases an album of covers of an artist that you think is so outrageously overrated that you pretty much hate him?

Yep, I’m the indie poster boy who cannot stand Daniel Johnston.  Everyone that I like and listen to seems to believe that his music is a gift direct from god.

I have heard some of his earlier songs when he could actually sing and I found them to be okay.  But most of my exposure to him is his later work when he couldn’t.  And I can’t help but think there’s some element of exploitation involved as well.

But whatever, his songs are simple an fairly catchy even if lyrically they are questionable.

I had no idea that Johnston had recruited Built to Spill to be his backing band for some of his final shows in 2017.  This album comes from the rehearsals for the tour.

This is the first song I’ve heard from the album and here’s what I learned.

I could listen to Doug Martsch sing anything.  This helps a lot.

Musically the song is exceptionally simplistic.  No problem there, lots of songs are simple.

The Built to Spill band sounds fantastic.  This is the trio format of Martsch, Steve Gere on drums and Jason Albertini on bass.

So basically, if the whole album sounds like this, I could absolutely see me enjoying it quite a lot.  Simple fun weird songs, sung by someone who can sing.  What’s not to like?

Just as long as I don’t have to listen to the originals.

[READ: February 3, 2020] Space Battle Lunchtime Vol. 1

I’m always intrigued by Oni Press books that look kind if un-professional. I’m not exactly sure what I mean by that, but many of their books, this one included, don’t look like they are “proper” graphic novels.  I think that’s what first attracted me to the press, that these stories looked like something I could do.  The artwork is good and most of the artists have their own style, but they look more homemade than studio produced.

Space Battle Lunchtime epitomizes that to me.   It feels warm and loved and personalized.  A story that Riess had to tell and enjoyed telling.

We open in a small bakery as Peony is putting the finishing touches on some pastries.  A frog-like creature walks in (on two legs) and asks for some Coo-fee lattes.  Then she notices the cakes and remarks about how cute they are.  While she is talking to them she gets a phone call.  Then she asks Peony if she has what it takes to be The Greatest Chef in the Galaxy.  After a second Peony says Absolutely.

Seconds later, Penny is at an alien television studio.  She says she thought Galaxy was the theme…not the location.  But she has very little time to settle in before it’s show time.

The rules are simple–impress the judges and win a 20,000 solarbuck prize.  Oh and if Peony loses, the frog-creature will lose her job (because she has screwed up too many times before). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEATH LURKS-“Happiness Pie” (1996).

After Grivo took GLeeMONEX, he went from being a dark man embracing darkness into a happy man who loves happiness.  In pie form.

What’s in this pie?

Two cups love
A cup and a half of understanding
a tablespoon of good old-fashioned compassion
sugar to taste
and the ovens … are our hearts

This song, like the other Death Lurks songs was written by Craig Northey of Odds.  And while the lyrics are deliberately over the top treacle, the song is top-notch.

The jangly guitars sound just right and you can easily start to sway along.

Much like this movie was all about drugs, this song is like a gateway into pop music.  You listen because it is so silly and easy to mock.  But you slowly start to get into it because the music s really catchy.  And soon enough you like pop music as well!

True story.

[READ: January 20, 2020] “Another Castle: Grimoire”

This story was written by Andrew Wheeler and illustrated by Paulina Ganucheau. It was published as a five issue arc and collected in this one volume.

In the Kingdom of Beldora a heart finch appears on a branch outside the window of princesses Artemisia (Misty).

Her lady in waiting is thrilled at the good omen, but he princess recognizes that it is not actually a heart finch.  She realizes it as a spy and puts a pair of scissors through it and it immediately disintegrates.  Then the princess if off to defend the kingdom–Shadelings are spying on them.

The Shadelings are run by Lord Badlug.  It has been ten years since he’s done anything to their kingdom, but hey can’t forget his treachery.

Misty’s father tells her to settle down and go back to her friends.  But Misty knows what she is doing.  She runs up to the throne and grabs The Leveler–the only sword that can kill Lord Badlug. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE HOOTERS-“All You Zombies” (1985).

WXPN played this song on the day after Halloween and the DJ said she couldn’t believe they hadn’t played it as part of their Halloween show.

It made me laugh about what people consider a Halloween song (and I know I need to let up on this).  Like so many other songs, the simple fact that there’s a monster reference in the title does not make the song a Halloween song.

Indeed, this song is about as far from a Halloween song as you can get.

The song itself is catchy as anything.  A great guitar riff and some tension-building synths support these rather dramatic lyrics:

Holy Moses met the Pharaoh
Yeah, he tried to set him straight
Looked him in the eye,
“Let my people go!”
Holy Moses on the mountain
High above the golden calf
Went to get the Ten Commandments
Yeah, he’s just gonna break ’em in half!
Interestingly, there’s no real chorus to the song.  The “All you zombies” part follows the same musical and vocal pattern.  The third verse is, like the first, Biblical.
No one ever spoke to Noah,
They all laughed at him instead
Workin’ on his ark,
Workin’ all by himself
Only Noah saw it comin’,
Forty days and forty nights,
Took his sons and daughters with him,
Yeah, they were the Israelites!

The Hooters guys say there was no explicit message to the song.  A 1985 interview with the Chicago Tribune, co-writer Eric Bazilian (with Rob Hyman) said

We really weren’t thinking at all when we wrote it. We were working on something else, and, true to the spirit of the song, it just came to us, like a vision. We were sitting there working on another song, and all of a sudden we started singing, ‘All you mmm-hhhmm-mmm.’ Then I heard something about Moses in my head, and I started singing, ‘Holy Moses.’

We just chased it down. We stopped what we were doing to go after this thing, and an hour later, the song was written, start to finish. We’re still trying to really understand the song. People ask us what it’s about, and while there’s a lot of heavy stuff in there, the weird thing is we didn’t consciously put it there. Who knows? Maybe in some bizarre way it came from somewhere else through us.

Interestingly, it got banned on several stations and there were some Christian stations that refused to play it.

So, not Halloween-related at all, but super catchy and lyrically unexpected.

Also interesting is that Hyman and Bazilian went on to work with Joan Osborne on her album Relish, with Eric writing “One Of Us” another religiously themed song.

[READ: September 2, 2019] Dead Weight

I haven’t read a graphic novel by Oni Press in a while.  They were once my go-to comic book publisher.

Then they stopped doing single issues and started publishing only graphic novels.  Nothing wrong with that but I had been collecting single issues back then, not books, so they fell off my radar.  I have to get them back on my radar because I really do enjoy their books.

I didn’t know what this was about, but the title and cover art appealed to me, so I grabbed it.

This story is set at a fat camp–Camp Bloom.  We meet many of the kids who are there for the summer as well as the counselors who are there to help them get through the summer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ARI LENNOX-Tiny Desk Concert # 895 (September 25, 2019).

I had never heard of Ari Lennox.  And I assume I will never hear of her again after this show.

I gather she is popular and respected, but as soon as I heard the sounds that came out as the first song opened, I knew I’d never be listening to her again and when she sang in her sweet R&B voice “Why not tell me all the mother fucking things” several times, I knew she’d never get played on the radio.

So who is Ari Lennox?  The blurb is surprisingly unhelpful.

Earlier this Spring, Lennox staked her claim not only on J. Cole’s Dreamville imprint as the sole female artist but also in the upper echelon of R&B with her debut album, Shea Butter Baby.

I don’t know who J.Cole is either, but I guess I’m supposed to.

Turns out that cursing is in no way atypical for her.

Her nuanced but explicit — and sometimes lyrically graphic — approach to seemingly surface-level emotions and situations immediately struck a chord with fans.

The lyrics are particularly disarming because the music is mostly smooth twinkly keys from Chris Worthy with simple drums and percussion from CJ Trusclair and Stanley Banks Jr.

In between songs, she seems very sweet complimenting the women in the audience and just being genuinely pleasant.  Then she made me laugh with this comment

I know you’re here and a little young but this next song is called “Pussy Pop.” [pause] Jesus.

I don’t know if the first song “Speak to Me” gets airplay, but there’s no way “Pop” does with these lyrics

Pop this pussy
For you tonight
Will you promise? Baby
Won’t you make a promise?
That you’ll make me your wife

If you really love me
I’ll fuck you good
Fuck you good, fuck you good

She gets some vocal help from Dave James, although I’m not sure who he is either.

“New Apartment” is up next.  She introduces it saying, “I need you to bust it up for me, seriously everyone 50 and up I need you up front bustin it.”  Musically it’s a bit more interesting with a cool bass line from Jerome Lawrence.  The middle of the song features a very funny call-and response as she tries to get the NPR crowd to sing along:

Everybody say “Get the fuck out” which they do.  Then she goes on “Get the fuck out my apartment.  Fuck that shit that you’re talkin’.  What the fuck is you talkin’ about?”  The audience does sing along but they are subdued, as usual.  She jokes, “Don’t be shy.  Are you all religious?  Whats going on?”  At the end of the song she says, “You all are so sweet and holy.  Thank you so much for stepping outside of your comfort zones and cursing with me.”

“Shea Butter Baby” is my favorite song.  It’s got a rocking Prince vibe with a great guitar solo from Taylor Gamble.  She says, “I made it for my sexy brown queens because we’re sexy and fun.”  Midway through the song she steps back and says, “Now welcome J. Cole, y’all.”  The room goes silent apparently in huge anticipation until they realize she is joking and everyone laughs loudly.  I guess J.Cole is a big deal.

But whatever, it’s a funny moment and she certainly won me over.  So I wish her well as long as I don’t have to hear her music again.

[READ: July 2, 2019] Scooter Girl

I loved Chynna’s Blue Monday series.  I started getting the individual issues of Scooter Girl when it started, but I feel like I may have never gotten them all.  I did however get this collected book.  The interesting thing is that I thought I’d like to read it again, but when I started treading it I realized that I must have never read it at all.    I certainly didn’t recognize very much of it if I did.  In fairness, this was 14 years ago, but I doubt that this story would have vacated my head entirely.

So I love everything about Chynna’s “deal.”  I love her drawing style–her nods to manga in a westernized story.  I love her taste in music (she’s the reason why I started including “soundtracks” in my post in the first place., because all of her scenes have them.  (Although this soundtrack in no way accompanies this story).  I also love reading about the whole mod scene (and that she make it seem so much bigger than I assume it actually is).  I also love that her women are kick-ass.

And that’s why I was so disappointed in the ending of this story.

I was particularly disappointing because in Nabiel Kana’s introduction he says:

Ultimately, though, it’s he unexpected that makes Scooter Girl such a special story.  You think you’ve got it all worked it.  You think you know what you’re in for.  You’re wrong.

But I wasn’t surprised or wrong.

Everything about his story says these two people hate each other and they are obviously going to fall in love by the end.  And (spoiler alert) that’s what happens.  And that’s why I was so bummed.  Not because people shouldn’t fall in love, but because Ashton Archer is such a shit, such a horrifying man, that there’s no way Chynna should have allowed her amazing protagonist to fall for him.  Certainly in the #metoo world, this story would never fly.

The story begins with the King’s Classic.  This is a huge scooter rally in San Francisco: top mods and die-hard scooterists, whose main purpose was impressing everyone around them…themselves above all, of course.  Cut to some classic Chynna scenes of mods–beautiful boys and girls dancing, making out, and sitting on scooters.  Her art is always wonderful.

Then we meet Ashton.  Ashton is the greatest thing in town.  He hooks up with who he wants when he wants.  He has sex with women and tosses them aside.  But he is so groovy and wonderful that no one elver seems to catch on.  They just want him to spin records for them.   He tells us that the men in his family (the Archers) have always been this magnetic.  His grandfather had an affair with Clara Bow, Constance Talmadge and Louise Brooks.   The family is smart, charismatic, attractive, and rich.

Then a girl on a silver special rode up, her name was Margaret Sheldon.  She looked at Ashton and he was suddenly a clumsy idiot.  He actually crashes his bike in front of her.  Obviously he is upset by this but he gets a lot of sympathy in school the next day.  Until he sees that she has started school there too. As soon as he tries to talk to her he falls down the stairs.

We don’t really know what she thinks about this guy who continually falls on his ass or his face in front of her until we see her overhearing one of his mates ask him if he ever goes out with the same girl twice “only if she gives amazing head.”  They also say that the new girl has got a nice mouth on her.  Clearly she is pissed.  She immediately goes to the girls room and rats out what she just heard.  And the slaps come fast and furious.

As he becomes persona non grata at school, he decides to flee and heads off to San Diego (as you do in high school).

Four years pass and he’s got his mojo back.  He’s spinning in San Diego and is doing great.  Until he sees her on the dance floor.  Did she follow him?  Is it coincidence?  Well, all of his flubs come back–this time jeopardizing his spinning career.

He decides that he’s going to get closer to her to find out ways to torment her.  He befriends her brother.  Her brother is a cool guy, not too happy about hanging out with Ashton.  But they soon find that they have some things in common and actually become friends.  Bu the whole time, Ashton is messing with her stuff–hiding her keys, popping her tires, causing irritations.  But every time he tries to do anything around her he gets messed up big time.  His mojo has vanished.

He goes to visit his grandpa in the nursing home.  His grandpa tells a lengthy story about an Arhcer who lived 400 years ago during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  The Archer man was a stud of course, but when the women got wise to him, they put a curse on him.  That curse lives to this day when a woman from that family comes around.  His grandpa says the only solution is to kill her.

And so, strengthening his resolve, he deices he will kill her.   Of course all the attempts go horribly wrong.  So he decides to hire someone to do it for him.  This guy is a local drug dealer with a reputation (the reason he has such a bad reputation is quite hilarious).

Of course this doesn’t work and even more bad things happen to Ashton.

After all of this what on earth could he possibly do to make her fall for him at all?  It’s probably not worth the revelation.  Which is a shame because the individual scenes and the strength of Meg up until then is pretty fantastic.

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SOUNDTRACK: JOSH RITTER with AMANDA SHIRES and JASON ISBELL-Tiny Desk Concert #896 (September 27, 2019).

I enjoyed Josh Ritter’s previous Tiny Desk Concert.  I liked his voice and found his lyrics to be quite thoughtful.

For this Tiny Desk he is accompanied by “musical soulmates,” Amanda Shires on fiddle and Jason Isbell on acoustic guitar who both play on Josh’s 2019 album Fever Breaks.

The three songs he plays in this concert are even more thoughtful, they are also pointed, powerful and painful.  The songs are not enjoyable, exactly.  They are accomplishing something other than joy.

As the blurb says

Honestly, it was a draining concert with challenges to who we are and who, as a country and a people, we wish to be.

The music is quiet and subdued and are there to lift up the lyrics, which are clearly the most important part of these songs.

“All Some Kind of Dream” is

filled with frustrations regarding the treatment of refugees, immigration, politics and our hearts…. He sings, “There was a time when we were them / Just as now they all are we / Was there an hour when we took them in? / Or was it all some kind of dream?”

Every word his sings is one that should change the way Americans view what is going on, and yet some will never be convinced by lyrics like

I saw the children in the holding pens
I saw the families ripped apart
And though I try I cannot begin
To know what it did inside their hearts
There was a time when we held them close
And weren’t so cruel, low, and mean
And we did good unto the least of those
Or was it all some kind of dream?

Ritter took a moment to encourage everyone to fight back

When the song ended, Josh stared into the NPR crowd. “I feel like the big thing that we all have to fight against is this notion that we’re not all human beings,” he said. “And they’re trying to break us in every number of ways, all different little groups, and that we have no power, but we have power!”

The next song “The Torch Committee,” is slightly more cryptic in construction but hardly cryptic in intent

Wait, suppose that we untie
Your hands to sign upon this line
To pledge that you have always been
A patriot and citizen
Please ignore the legalese
Lawyers are my right now see
Why we’re so happy that you came
Appendix three and list of names

It features a nice solo from Isbell and a raw violin solo from Shires.

They ended the set with a new song,”The Gospel of Mary.”

This is a long song ().  Like the other two it is something of a story song which “imagines Joseph, Mary and their child as refugees.”  The verses are interspersed with solos from Isbell and Shires.

As the applause faded Josh hugged his bandmates, thanked the crowd, smiled and said, “America, we love you, but you’ve gotta change!”

Ritter is an amazing songwriter and I hope that these songs hit the ears of those who need to hear them.

[READ: August 9, 2019] Labor Days Volume 2

Book 2 picks up a little over a month after Book 1.

Bags and Vanessa are still on a quest for the Face of History (which suspiciously keeps leading them to bars).  But they know that the Face of History is a leader of a vast conspiracy.  And of course Rick Stryker is hanging about being rather useless and hilarious as always.

Vanessa is annoyed with Bags for dawdling and wasting their time.  Bags is annoyed at Vanessa because she keeps hurting people in extraordinarily violent ways.  She seems to have no compunction about doing the violence she does.

A chance discovery sets them aboard a ship.  The captain makes Bags do grunt work and makes Vanessa something of a captain’s aide (much to Bags’ dismay). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JONAS BROTHERS-Tiny Desk Concert #897 (September 30, 2019).

I actually don’t know anything about the Jonas Brothers.  I think for a while I thought that the Jonas Brothers were some kind of offshoot of another pop band–someone named Jonas, maybe?  So I don’t know them and I had no idea they were still popular.

But the blurb says

The Jonas Brothers announced their reunion in February after a six-year hiatus and soon dropped a new single, “Sucker,” which debuted at number one of the Billboard Hot 100.  During their time apart, Kevin [vocals, guitar] focused on family, Nick [vocals, keys, guitar] went solo and Joe [vocals, in the pink hoodie] formed the band DNCE.

and also that

The line of NPR staffers waiting to see the Jonas Brothers’ Tiny Desk concert began forming four hours before the scheduled performance.

But I still didn’t know any of their songs or even what they sounded like.

However, they seem like really nice fellas and that goes a long way with me.

So the first song they played, “Sucker” seemed really poppy.  In fact, their vocal style screams pop music (which is code for “I don’t like it”).  And yet their instrumentation was primarily acoustic here.  Is that a part of being at the Tiny Desk or is this what the song sounds like?  I thought that the song had a pretty jazzy feel and the blurb concurs calling the version a “jazzy rework” so i guess they don’t normally sound like this.

The second song “I Believe” is really poppy and I didn’t really like it.

But between songs they were pretty funny.  Nick says he likes the “Nick pin” he sees and the audience member says she’s had it since 7th grade…she’s 23 now.

Earlier they had mentioned that this tour they were surrounded by toys (because of Kevin’s kids).

As the trio approached the desk, they were immediately drawn to the knickknacks and toy instruments scattered throughout the area. They ended up working them into their performance, adding a little childlike flair to “Only Human” from their latest album, Happiness Begins.

Nick says they made a video for the song in which they “took it back to the ’80s, which is long before I was born.”

I admit that this song is incredibly catchy and I love the way they use the toys to good (and humorous) effect through the song.  Although I hate the “eye eye eye eye” part, I’ll bet it’s a lot of fun live.

Joe asks where his Leos are at and they announce that it is his birthday today.  They say that last year on his birthday he said that next year, he wanted to play the Tiny Desk and now, amazingly, wink wink, this year it happened on his birthday.

so our video producer (and proud Joe-Bro fan), Morgan Noelle Smith brought a cake, and the large crowd serenaded him with “Happy Birthday.”

Jonas Brothers are not alone for this show.  They are accompanied by Jack Lawless on drums, Tarron Crayton on bass, Tom Crouch on guitar and Michael Wooten on keys.  Wootens’ piano parts are excellent and the full band accentuates these songs quite nicely.

[READ: August 8, 2019] Labor Days

I have clearly had this graphic novel in my house for over ten years.  I has assumed I’d read some of the early issues of it but it was all new to me.  And boy did I enjoy it.

The book is set in London where a goofy, somewhat likable guy named Bags is talking to his girlfriend.  She is inexplicably hot.

Fate interferes with Bags though in the form of a video tape.  Bags had put up a flyer “Bagswell household chores for hire” and this person is taking advantage of the services.  He offers 20 quid to look after the tape. But this tape will prove to be the start of something huge and terrifying for Bags.  One that will take him across Europe with tons of guns pointed at him.

Bags heads to his local where Warren the bartender tells him it’s one of those days.  He swears he used to push the handles to make the beer come put but today he has to pull them.  Bags has gotten a letter from his girlfriend.  The bartender gives him six shots and says to read it aloud.  “Bagswell—I hate you .  Have done so for a long time. –Kelly.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WEEZER-Tiny Desk Concert #837 (April 1, 2019).

Weezer is surprisingly polarizing for a band that writes fairly mundane pop songs.

I can’t help but think that this Tiny Desk Concert will just add fuel to the fire.  It’s the four Weezer dudes (Rivers Cuomo: lead vocals, guitar; Brian Bell: guitar, vocals, keys; Scott Shriner: bass guitar; Patrick Wilson: drums) on acoustic instruments.

Why polarizing this time?  Because they play unexpected songs.  They don’t play Africa, nor do they play any of their popular songs.  They also don’t play fan favorites from the first two albums (well, sort of).

They open with “Longtime Sunshine,” a 1994 track that’s only appeared as a Rivers Cuomo home recording on bootlegs and compilations, and on the deluxe edition of Pinkerton.  With piano and acoustic guitars, it really sounds nothing like Weezer, except that it is clearly Weezer (the lyrics, that voice).  Rivers plays the guitar solos and there’s some surprisingly loose bass work.

They sound good, but a little less than perfect, which is cool.  As the blurb notes

This is probably the loosest you’ll ever see Weezer. Known for meticulously produced — and electric — live shows, frontman Rivers Cuomo and the rest of the band settled in behind the Tiny Desk for an entirely acoustic set without the in-ear monitors, click track or vocal separation they usually employ to stay locked-in and tight for bigger performances. The result is surprisingly intimate, with songs that feel lived-in and rumpled, like an old flannel shirt from the ’90s.

They follow that up with a new song.

Then the band performed a stripped-down version of its electro-pop song “Living in L.A.,” from Weezer’s new self-titled “Black Album,”

I actually don’t know the proper version of this song (but I do know a lot of people don’t like the electro sound of the new album). So maybe this version (which is really good) will make them wish the recorded version were more like it.  Bell adds another acoustic guitar and the riffing is pretty heavy (for acoustic guitars).

For everything that polarizes people about Weezer, the one thing people seldom talk about is their musicianship.  All four of them (Bell in particular) are very good and even if they are loose hear, they still sound right on.

I was pretty excited to hear them play “Across the Sea” from Pinkerton, since the certainly don’t play this much.   I never really understood the lyrics all that well, but i enjoyed singing the parts that I knew.  The blurb puts it well:

It’s a song Cuomo originally wrote in his early 20s, inspired by a fan letter he’d received from a young woman in Japan. While beloved by many Gen-Xers who’d first heard it on 1996’s Pinkerton, the song’s lyrics haven’t aged terribly well.

But if you can look past that (I think it’s only the one line that’s uncomfortable-making), the version sounds great.  I especially like the combination of Rivers playing the solo and Bell playing the other guitar.

It’s nice that they were allowed to play four songs.  They play the new song “High as a Kite.”  I didn’t know this song either and I actually can’t imagine it done in any other way.  It’s quite a pretty song.  I’m very curious to hear the recorded version.

There’s a moment n the song where it shifts gears where it sounds like they screwed up, but I don’t think they do, it’s just a little clunky in this format.  Again, I want to hear what it sounds like on record.

Weezer is known for being kind of goofy, so it’s easy to expect them to do something fun, but they are all business.  Aside from this goodbye, “We are Weezer, from the planet Earth. Have a nice life!” they don’t really say anything or break from playing straightforward songs.

The blurb, again, puts it well. It says the song “High as a Kite,” is a

song of innocence and escapism, Cuomo sings about daydreaming and how he wants to disappear — which is exactly what the band did once the song was over.

Longtime fans of Robin Hilton will know that he loves Weezer.  I never found out how he reacted to this Tiny Desk.  Was it polarizing for him as well, or was it just cool to see this side of an otherwise very polished band.

[READ: April 9, 2019] The Return of King Doug 

I have had this book on my bookshelf for a decade, apparently.  I’m not even sure where or how I came to have it although the Oni Press label is a good indicator.

The book starts twenty-five years earlier in the Magical Kingdom of Valdonia.

Valdonia is made up of strange-looking creatures.  Part of this is also because of Wook-Jin Clark’s really odd drawing style.  It took me a while to get used to and enjoy the way he draws and even now I still find it a little off, somehow.

Two centaurs are speaking about the Dark Queen and how she will not rest until she has defeated their kingdom. Balthazar shows off their one defense, the Magical Heart of Agnon.  They just need someone pure of heart enough to wear it.  And Balthazar has heard that one of the Tumtums, Feldspar, has met a stranger–a human child–who might just be that pure being.

The human is Doug and he found his way into their village.  He also bears the mark of the prophecy. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NOW, NOW-Tiny Desk Concert #672 (November 15, 2017).

I really enjoyed the Now, Now album Threads.  It had a synthpop feel but with some cool slightly darker elements that kept the listener guessing.  The blurb describes it like this: “Its songs carried in them a weary recognition of how desire and nostalgia linger in the body and mind.”

I had no idea that it was released five years ago.

So I was pleased to see them on the Tiny Desk Concert.

But in the intervening years, their sound has become more poppy with (at least in this recording) many of the darker elements smoothed over somewhat.

Now, Now took the Tiny Desk stage with a minimal setup (dig the sampler as drum kit) that laid the vocals bare, but still lent the songs a room-filling pulse. Among those songs were “SGL” and “Yours,” the two singles that heralded the band’s return this summer (a full five years after Threads, with a pared-down lineup and no album yet announced, though the rumors say next year).

I hadn’t heard those singles.  But they are poppy and KC Dalager’s voice has become much more breathy.  Bradley Hale’s synths are very bouncy and sort of 1970s-sci-fi documentary sounding.

Jeffrey Sundquist and Daniel O’Brien join them, but I’m not sure who does what.  The guitar is quiet and echoed, adding textures to the songs.

Before the final song, they thanks NPR for their support and then KC says, “This [Tiny Desk] is the one thing we’re doing that my mom was really excited about.”  The final song, “Separate Rooms” is from Threads.  It retains some of the feelings of the original, but the synths still have the newer bounciness which is a little disconcerting.  The original also has a lot more guitar in it.  I almost don’t recognize the song.

It’s hard to know how different these songs would sound with a big drum sound (it’s funny to see the drummer standing there with his hand behind his back the whole time).  But I definitely don’t enjoy them as much as the original.

[READ: May 2, 2017] Junior Braves of the Apocalypse: Book 1

I saw this book at the library and I was intrigued by the title.  And, seeing it was from Oni Presss, I knew it would be a good read.   And, boy was it ever.

Without trying to reduce the story too much, call it a male version of Lumberjanes but with a whole end-of-the-world, zombie vibe thrown on top.

The book begins on Day 1 as we see a gruff and, frankly, angry-looking dude waiting for someone.  Turns out he is Padre Ron,the adult leader of the Junior Braves.  And over the next few panels we meet the braves.  There’s Travis (a bossy, jerky kid) and his (dorky)brother Marvin.  There’s Lucas, who is mad that they don’t say prayers. There’s Johnny who is Native American living with a foster family.  He is sullen and quiet.  And then there’s Raj (whose mom is overly cautious and thus, so is he) and Amir, a rough kid who knows Krav Maga.   And then there’s Dylan.  Their other adult leader is a recent graduate named Buddy.

Padre Ron is, as I said, kind of jerk, telling the parents that their boys will go out as children and come back an men and blah blah blah.  Exactly the thing that would make me hate the Scouts if we did that now.

Then Padre lets Buddy know they are not going to the promised camp.  The are going to a very secluded spot that proves to be very cool indeed.  Everyone has a pretty good time (except maybe Johnny) for 7 days.  But as they head back home, something… everything is wrong. (more…)

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