Archive for the ‘Squirrel Nut Zippers’ Category


The Squirrel Nut Zippers Christmas album is pretty much what you’d expect.  Part swing, but far more old-timey sounding.  This disc is comprised of originals and some unfamiliar covers.  I really like the swinging parts, but some of the slower songs are a bit too slow for me.

“Winter Weather” is my favorite song on the disc, with the cool drawl of, I assume Katharine Whalen, and the neat horn accents.

“Indian Giver” is an original.  Despite the offensiveness of the premise of the song, it swings nicely.  “A Johnny Ace Christmas” is a bluesy original song, I rather like the guitar parts that sprinkle the verses.  “My Evergreen” is another original.  It’s a slow shuffle that kinds of drags the album a bit.

Things pick up with a ripping “Sleigh Ride” It’s all instrumental and features that great moment in the back half where things slow down and then they bring it back up really big.  Good fun.

“I’m Coming Home for Christmas” is a slow original full of longing.

“Carolina Christmas” picks things up again with a hopping shuffling number about Christmas in Carolina.  “Gift of the Magi” is a slow ballad.  It is a retelling of the O. Henry story, Gift of the Magi, told in verse.  It’s a rather clever retelling of the story.  The duet format is pretty effective for this number.

“Hot Christmas” is a horn-filled swinging instrumental (with occasional chants of “hot Christmas”).  It’s got some good swing and lots of horn solos.

“Hanging Up My Stockings” is a slow swing number.  It’s earnest and sweet.  After a small pause, the disc tacks in the the original version of the song bu Chester Church on a crackling vinyl platter.  It is sweet and unassuming just like the lyrics indicate: “I want to show old Santa Claus that I believe.”

[READ: December 1, 2017] “Edna in Rain”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

I loved this story as well.  Edna is walking down the street when the first one falls from the sky.  Kevin is the first one–he was the one who could do that amazing thing “where you flip the girl from the top to the bottom without letting go.”  She caught up with him a little and then she went on her way.

The Marisa fell out of the sky.  It was nice to see her but by now, they had both moved on.

Then came Brent and Rico. (more…)

Read Full Post »

desmond SOUNDTRACK: THE PLANTS-“Aziphrale” (2013).

plantsThe Plants are Kids Corner favorites. And why not they are Philadelphia locals.  I have enjoyed several of their songs but I wasn’t familiar with this one.  And so I was surprised that it made the Top ten Kids Corner Countdown.

This song is another story song. It’s about a Chinese dragon called Aziphrale.  It has a cool horn sound, reminding me of some mellow ska or like the Squirrel Nut Zippers.  The song is bouncy and jaunty and has a kind of moral to it, which is always nice.

It even features a lengthy pirate section with people sailing a ship across the sea–(perhaps making future Decemberists fans?).

It’s an engaging story and a good song–a sea shanty about gold and dragons, what could be better?  And I actually thought it was quite different from their other song that I reviewed–Monster Under My Bed, but that song is also a story and features prominent horns and is bouncy and jaunty.  I bet they’d be fun to see live.

[READ: January 5, 2014] Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic

Although this book is about a sixth grader, C. loved it and encouraged me to read it.  Which I did.  And it is quite enjoyable.  It reminds me of Captain Underpants in spirit. But it’s very different in execution.

Desmond Pucket is a kid who loves horror movies and special effects.  And he is a great artist and creator.  Which doesn’t always fly in school.  So he gets an F on his math test but he draws a cool picture on the back.  The teacher tells him that if he spent as much time on his math as on his drawing, he’d get straight A’s.  Sigh. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: POKEY LaFARGE-Tiny Desk Concert #122 (April 20, 2011).

I had never heard of Pokey LaFarge before this Tiny Desk concert was sitting in my download folder.  In fact, the notes on the page say that they had never heard of him before they saw him wandering around SXSW.  And then he climbed onstage and played a great set.

LaFarge plays an old-timey style of music.  It’s a kind of Squirrel Nut Zippers retro sound.  As with the Zippers, I love their music in small doses.  And so, this Tiny Desk set is a perfect little sample of LaFarge’s music: happy, bouncy, jazzy.  There’s an upright bass solo, songs about being happy and singing “La La La” and other upbeat stuff.  It’s quite satisfying.

Especially if, as the notes say, you use it as a kind of antidote to the raucous music that you generally listen to.  A Pokey LaFarge song will perk you out of any self-inflicted gloom.  I just don’t need to hear more than three.

[READ: April 15, 2011] 2 book reviews

It looks like Zadie Smith has become a regular fixture at Harper’s.  I’m undecided if I’m going to review all of her book reviews from now on (perhaps I’ll lump some together in one post).  But in the meantime, I’m mentioning this one primarily because she reviews the story that I mentioned in yesterday’s post: Edouard Levé’s Suicide. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THE REAL TUESDAY WELD-“Cloud Cuckooland” (2007).

My friend Andrew linked me to the video for this song (after I showed him the video for “Lucas with the Lid Off.”   I’d heard of The Real Tuesday Weld, but never heard them, and I hope this is indicative of the rest of their (his?) stuff.

The video (which is hilarious and weird) supplies a wonderful videotrack to the music, but, unlike some other recent videos that I have watched, it doesn’t make a lame song seem interesting.

I likened this song to what I wanted the Squirrel Nut Zippers to sound like: playing old-timey music but with a real sense of silliness.  (The Zippers are great but are often too straight for me).  Rather than vocals, there’s a  sort of nonsensical sound-making.  And there’s some even some human beatbox in the track.

And it’s all over a very bouncy soundtrack that fits well with the black and white “movie” of the video.

It’s very cool.  Check it out here.

[READ: August 27, 2010] The Shell Collector

I have really enjoyed the two short stories that Doerr has written for McSweeney’s.  So much so that I decided to track down this collection of short stories.  And I’m delighted that I did.

Doerr’s stories are set all over the world (he himself has lived in Africa and New Zealand, although he is now from Idaho and grew up in Ohio) and there is so much diversity in this collection that I couldn’t believe he had this much information at his disposal.

One of the interesting things is that quite often the main character is named “The Shell Collector” of “The Hunter” while everyone else in the story has a name.  It’s an interesting conceit which brings at once a distance to the person and yet an immediacy to what he “is.”

“The Shell Collector” features a man who works with shells, specifically with the creatures that live in them (most of which are poisonous).  One day, a reporter is stung by a cone shell (that crawled from the ocean into his house) and goes into deathly coma.  The cone shell is a predatory sea snail called a geography cone has twelve kinds of venom in its teeth.  The woman was pronounced incurable, and yet twelve hours of catatonia later she emerged claiming to have had a religious experience.  From then on, the shell collector’s life is turned upside down. (more…)

Read Full Post »