Archive for the ‘Sketches’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: OPEN MIKE EAGLE-Tiny Desk Concert #687 (January 3, 2018).

I had seen Iron Mike Eagle’s album on a lot of Year End Best of lists, but I hadn’t heard of him before.  Well, I absolutely loved his Tiny Desk Concert and I’m ready to get his album as well.

I love that the “(How Could Anybody) Feel at Home” starts with a live trumpet and the rest of the band is there playing live, too–two synths, a live bass and Mike on some kind of techie gadget.  But the great thing about this Concert is Mike’s delivery.

He sings/raps and he’s got an uplifting style of rapping combined with the spare but cool/weird music that fit with the lyrics.

And it’s really the lyrics that won me over.

Everybody’s secrets inspire all of my scenes
I write in all of my fantasies and I die in all of my dreams
My superpowers I maintain
I take control of my scene

and the hook:

I done told
Some goofy shit that sounded like a poem
I spun around in circles on the globe
So who the hell could ever feel at home

I could tell that  the lyrics were pretty interesting, but I was surprised to read:

Open Mike Eagle may have released one of the most political albums of 2017, but Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is also among the most personal. It comes across best in his live performances. For only the second time during his recent tour cycle, the LA-based artist played a set aided by the live instrumentation of musicians Jordan Katz (trumpet, keys, sampler), Josh Lopez (keys, sampler) and Brandon Owens (bass) for his Tiny Desk debut.

He performed two songs from the stellar Brick.  The title comes from:

It’s been a decade since the last brick fell from the Robert Taylor Homes, the old Chicago Housing Authority project personified on the record. Yet, when it comes to excavating the politics of place, and all the racial implications inherent in cultural erasure, there is no project released in recent years that comes close.

“Daydreaming in the Projects” is, like the other songs, political but warm:

(This goes out to)
Ghetto children, making codewords
In the projects around the world
Ghetto children, fighting dragons
In the projects around the world

and then this seemingly nonsensical rhyme that speaks volumes

Everything is better when you don’t know nothing
I’m grown so I’m always disgusted
All these discussions online is mayonnaise versus mustard
Mayonnaise people think French can’t be trusted
Mustard people think eggs is all busted
But fuck it
We in it for the pattern interruptions

I love that it is accompanied by a simple but pretty trumpet melody while Jordan is also playing keys.

The set ender “Very Much Money,” from his 2014 album Dark Comedy, is tremendous.

What a great verse:

My friends are superheros
None of us have very much money though
They can fly, run fast, read Portuguese
None of us have very much money though
They know judo and yoga, photography, politics
Some of them leap over buildings
Writers, magicians, comedians, astronauts
None of it mattered when niggas was hungry

All to a catchy, cool beat that is in the spirit of bands like De La Soul, but far more modern and powerful.  Great stuff.  And if “Very Much Money” is representative, I need to check out his old stuff too.  And maybe even the other three (!) bands he’s with: he is a member of the hip hop collective Project Blowed. He is also a member of Thirsty Fish and Swim Team.


[READ: October 20, 2017] If Found

Tabitha had this book and I thought it looked really cute so I grabbed it not really knowing what it was.

Basically, it is the blank notebook of Montreal artist Elise Gravel.  She says:

At night, when my daughters are asleep, I draw in my blank notebook.  I draw complete nonsense   Whatever comes to my mind.  When I draw in my black notebook, it feels good–it’s as if I let out all the ideas that are bouncing around in my head.  I never critique the drawings in my black notebook. I give myself the right to fail.  To mess up, to create ugly drawings.  I’m kind to myself. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Clinton’s Tavern Toronto ON (October 20, 1990).

From the Rheostatics Live website:

Very good sounding show though a bit hot in places. I had to stitch it together from 2 tapes and a messed up order but I think I got it right. Interesting that back in 1990, before even Melville was recorded, they were playing such a large selection of songs from Whale Music and even Introducing Happiness plus a bunch of songs that didn’t end up on any album such as Fluffy, Seems Like, Woodstuck, Memorial Day etc. One of the only times they played all three Joey related songs in succession. Louis Melville guests as well as Jim Hughes of 13 Engines. I don’t believe this is the full show as they talk about to going into Edmund Fitzgerald but the tape ends.

I had planned to post about these Rheostatics live shows in order, but I’d somehow missed this one.  Interestingly though, they play a bunch of songs that they would not record for several years–some of them are early incarnations of songs, too.

As the Daves introduce the band, the phrase one fell swoop comes up.  And Bidini says that they are One Fell Swoop.  Then Clark says we are One Swell Poop.   Bidini continues: The Holmgren Brotehrs, Dave and Dave.  That’s Frosty Flake on bass and Ken “The Rat” Linseman on the rat pedal.  I gather that Bidini has a mustache (there’s a Freddy Mercury joke later in the show), but he says “The mods called me a rich kid on the street because of his mustache.  They called me dude too.  Which isn’t modish or contemporary.

After some noise and static Dave says the first song was supposed to start with a technological flourish of some kind.  It’s “Jesus Was Once a Teenager Too” [Introducing Happiness] and it is sung by Dave and Dave (!)  It sounds so strange and there’s no middle section at all.  Midway through they call out Lewis Melville from Guelph Ontario to play the guitar.

They play they crazy noisy staccato intro to “When Winter Comes” [Melville] and the song rocks out.  At the end Bidini says it is three songs rolled into one: Big Bear’s Birthday, When Winter Comes and Victoria.  They play “Northern Wish” [Melville] and “Woodstuck.”  Dave introduces “Seems Like” as written about a guy Martin met in Dublin who told the band they had no vision.  It includes the line:  “a sentimental flower child bawls me out for lacking vision…fuck you, dude.”

Then they introduce a song “about a great hockey player gone bad its called “Beer” [Would eventually be “Beerbash” on Whale Music].

Bidini says they are really the tragedy corner here–that was depressing so is this one (“Soul Glue”) [Whale Music] Tim says, “I thought you meant we were sucking.”  There’s no Benjamin Hayward in the lyrics.  And during the part about the police, someone chants “911 is a joke.”

Clark gives a bizarro story as an introduction to “Ditch Pigs”: he and Martin got into fisticuffs punch up in the Rockies.  They stole policeman’s peanut butter and smeared it on each other and then fell into a ditch.  None of that is true, someone points out.

Marty’s got a case of the bombastic flu–the four week flu.  And so they play “Martin’s First Day of School” [never released] although they claim it is from their forthcoming album Rheostatics Cut Their Head Off and Go Swimming or form their triple CD retrospective Smelling a Dog on a Sunny Day.

They play “Memorial Day” which is also kind of a downer [never recorded].  And then a fun introduction to “Who” [Whale Music]:

Just back from Neil Young’s ranch in Topanga Canyon Mr Jim Hughes of 13 Engines.   Then comes “Chanson les Ruelles” [Melville], “Sickening Song” [Whale Music] with lots of accordion that segues into “What’s Going On” [also Whale Music] with a nice solo at the end by Martin.

This leads into “Fluffy,” the only time it’s available live here.  Martin hits some absurd high notes–I wonder if they ever intended to record it.  Dave introduces a song called “Dealin at the 7-11” which would of course be Legal Age Life at Variety Store [Whale].  Then comes two songs from Melville: “Christopher” and “Horses.”  “Horses” starts acoustic ad kind of slow, but it gets really loud with some interesting guitar solo sounds and a few changed lines.

Clark says after a minute (my-noot) break they will be back momentarily.

When they come back Dave Bidini congratulates the Cincinnati Reds for winning the world series “Big Bad Jose Canceco arriving there on the hook, you got what you deserve, you big asshole.”  Yipes.  Clark diffuses this but apologizing to all hockey fans for the baseball season hanging on so long.  Long live hockey!  Death to the fat mans’ sport.  They Clark explains that they have challenged the Leafs to a fun game against their Rock and Roll Hacker Jets: Dave Tim and Dave on the front line and Rick “whomp um” Wamsley in goal.

Someone shouts that Judy quit her job.  They seem excited and then when martin sings “Record Body Count” he sings–“Judy pulled herself to her feet.”  Then they play “Joey 2” and “Joey 3.”  It’s followed by great versions of Saskatchewan” & “Dope Fiends.”

There’s a fun green sprouts theme (with someone singing loudly and out of key) and then a surprising “Rain Rain Rain” [Whale] described as a quiet version with Clark cracking up at the end for unknown reasons.  There’ s cool version of “Aliens” [Melville].   And then one of the last versions of “Good on the Uptake.”  It’s really long with some hearty jamming.

We find out that it is almost 1AM, and then there’s a nice version of “Lyin’s Wrong” [Melville].  Dave gasps and says “Martin transformed into a gay librarian right before my eyes.”  It’s clear that they are planning to play more songs.  Indeed it seems like they have many more songs to go.  Bidini says he’d love to play Edmund Fitzgerald tonight and then the tape cuts off.

For such an old tape, the sound quality is quite good and the song selection is really fascinating since they had barely released any of the songs.

[READ: August 17, 2016] “A Sigh and a Salute”

This is the second essay about an artist that Spiegelman had written for Harper’s in 2016.  I wonder if it will become a regular thing?

This essay is about Si Lewen, an artist of whom I’ve never heard.  It is actually from the introduction to Parade: An Artist’s Odyssey.

Spiegelman says he has one of Si Lewen’s “Ghosts” hanging in his studio.  Lewen began the series of Ghosts in 2008 and has made over 200.

Spiegelman gives Lewen’s complex history: Born in Poland in 1918, his family moved to Berlin as World War I ended.  They were trying to escape Polish antisemitism and found the German version. When Hitler became Chancellor, Si Lewen aged 14, decided to leave Germany.  He and his brother left the family behind and went to Paris.  There was some luck on his side.  Si’s uncle in America had organized a fund-raiser for Admiral Byrd’s expedition to the South Pole.  Byrd’s brother, a Senator, arranged for Si’s entire family to get Visas in America in 1935.  But even America wasn’t great for Si.  In 1936, while sitting in Central Park after visiting the Met, a policeman upon hearing his accent grabbed him, rowed him out to the island in the center of the lake, bludgeoned and robbed him.  What the holy fuck? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: action LIANNE LA HAVAS-Tiny Desk Concert #475 (October 2, 2015).

lianneLianne La Havas has a lovely, soulful voice. I didn’t think I knew her at all, although her song “What You Don’t Do” sounds really familiar. The chorus is a bouncy “It’s what you don’t do…it’s what you don’t say.”  But it’s the fast pre-chorus “I know what I got / and I know where were going / You don’t need to show it / I already know it all” that is really catchy.

I feel like the original is big and orchestrated.  But for this Tiny Desk it’s just her and a backing singer accompanied by a pianist who also sings backing vocals.

For song two “Unstoppable,” Lianne straps on a guitar and when she finally speaks–she has British accent!  “Unstoppable” is a gentle song with a cyclical guitar riff playing through the gentle pianos while all three voices soar.

It’s amazing how British she sounds after the second song–remarkable because of how unaccented her singing voice is.

On “Forget,” she plays guitar and there’s no other instrumentation.  This song sounds quite different from the others–the scratchy guitar isn’t really louder than the other songs, just much faster and more intense.  The real hook though comes in the chorus when all three sing a big loud “Forget!” in a memorable melody.

La Havas’ music veers towards R&B but never falls into the trappings of the genre.  She has some rock elements sand soul elements and her delivery is just charming.

[READ: July 8, 2016] Adventures in Cartooning Characters in Action

This is the fourth and (presumably) final book in the AIC series is called Characters in Action!  And as you see on the cover, the man screaming Action is a film director.  So this book is gong to take us on flights of (even more) fancy.

The book starts with the knight riding his faithful horse, Edward.  A fly goes by.  Sigh, it’s boring.

But as he rides off, he runs into a band of scoundrels–a viking, a wicked wizard an evil owl and an evil king and they are all there to do… evil!  And as they are talking about how evil they are, the real king (in rags) comes and says that he is the king.  The fake king says he looks like a beggar, then a real beggar says that the king is not a real beggar.  And then a big strong-looking knight looks at our favorite knight and says the he is no knight, either.  Egads, what is happening? (more…)

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xmasSOUNDTRACK: OH PEP!-Tiny Desk Concert #479 (October 16, 2015).

ohpepOh Pep! is a four piece from Melbourne, Australia.  As My Bubba was named for its two members, Oh Pep! derives its Oh from Olivia Hally (vocals, guitar) and its Pep! from Pepita Emmerichs (violin, mandolin).

“The Race” is indeed about a race: “You started skipping in a running race.”  It’s a fast upbeat song–almost punky but for the fact that they are playing acoustic guitar and plucked violin (the violin really adds some great sound to this song).  I love her  fast delivery and that delivery that reminds me in some way of The Smiths.  I love the ending of four quick drum hits.

When the first song ends, they are adorably star struck.  They say that they saw Bob in front row of the crowd at the showcase and were glad “he was someone important.”  They’ve watched tons of Tiny Desk shows online an are excited to be there.

“Doctor Doctor” is pretty straightforward folky rock song, but the plucked violin (held like a guitar) works as a great accent.  The melody is familiar and you can almost hear it in the lyrics: “I went to the psychic and the psychic said he wanted to, but it’s up to you….”  I love the repeated refrain: “I know what I want and it’s not what I need.”  Even better is midway through the song when the unexpected bowed violin kicks in–and the fact that it is a little wavery and not a “clean, sharp” sounding solo really works as the song propels toward the end.

As Oh tunes her guitar she says it doesn’t know where it is: They were in Australia, then Halifax.  It was hot in Louisiana and now it’s raining–her guitar won’t stay in tune.

For the third song “Tea, Milk & Honey,” Pepe plays the mandolin.   The song starts with just guitar and voice and seems likes that’s all it will be because this section lasts pretty long–two and a half minutes of the total 5 and a half).  When the bass and mandolin eventually come in, the song really blossoms.  The chorus of “tea, milk and honey never satisfied me” is clever and fun.   Another surprising moment comes near the end when there’s a violin solo and the sound of the violin is almost like a flute-like.  It’s very cool.

Oh Pep! is a fun band that I’d like to hear more from.

[READ: July 7, 2016] Adventures in Cartooning Christmas Special

What series would be complete without a Christmas special?

This Christmas story is even told in rhyme!:  “Santa is grumbling that traditions are crumbling.” Quality toys are a thing of the past.  But the elf points out that kids don’t want old-fashioned gifts–all the elves do is “write code and upload.”

I rather enjoy that the premise of this books is that video games and TV are bad (but not really).  The point is that books and drawing are pretty awesome and great uses of your imagination.

Santa imagines a comic book which will be exciting for kids and then *poof* here comes the Magical Cartooning Elf.  He says they’ll make an exciting, outrageous comic. And *poof* here is the knight (who is mad that everyone is speaking n rhyme). (more…)

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activitySOUNDTRACK: MY BUBBA-Tiny Desk Concert #485 (November 6, 2015).

mybubbaMy Bubba are a duo that consists of Sweden’s My Larsdotter and Iceland’s Guðbjörg Tómasdóttir (Bubba).  They sing quiet, delicate songs about Scandinavian things (including knitting).

The set begins with a clapping rhythm as both My and Bubba execute a complex rhythmic clapping (in cool synchronicity) using all parts of their bodies.  They both sing delicately with occasional harmonies.  And the sweet title of the song: “Dogs Laying Around Playing.”

For the second song, “Charm” Bubba plays guitar and My plays an old table harp.  This song is just as delicate as the first.  Somehow that table harp seems to make the song even lighter than the first.

There’s a pause after the second song where My drinks some tea and Bubba asks if there are any questions?  Bob asks them to tell a scary train story, because My is a locomotive engineer when they are not singing.  She laughs and says “My train hit a wild boar and it made a big bam and then she kept going.”  She hopes her boss isn’t listening.   Then My says she writes a lot of songs while she is driving the train to relieve boredom.  Bubba confirms that on one song on the new album you can hear the train because My recorded herself singing in the train.

“Knitting” is a capella and may have more going on than knitting, but  don’t think so.  The final song, “Ghost Sweat” is a new one. Bubba plays guitar and loops it.  My sings lead and when Bubba comes in with the harmonies, it sounds fantastic.

The music is delicate but not so precious that it will float away.

[READ: July 5, 2016] Adventures in Cartooning Activity Book

The guys from Adventures in Cartooning are back.  This time with a book that encourages the reader to fill in the blanks.  The full title of this release is The Center for Cartoon Studies Presents Adventures in Cartooning: Activity Book.

But unlike most do it yourself books, this one has two functions.  It tells a story that you get to impact and it teaches some of the basics of cartooning as well.

The story focuses on the same gang from the main book–the knight, Edward the horse and the Elf, but there’s much more going on.  As the book opens, we see the moon and sun talking.  The moon is ready to go to bed and he is content because of the bedtime story he heard.  Bu the sun never gets told a bedtime story and she begins to cry.  Poor sun. (more…)

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adventSOUNDTRACK: THE WILD REEDS-Tiny Desk Concert #489 (November 20, 2015).

wildreedsThe Wild Reeds are a five piece band who prominently feature a trio of women with beautiful voices. They had submitted a video for the 2014 Tiny Desk Contest, and they are pretty excited to be at the Tint Desk just a short time later.

The trio change instruments so it’s not easy to say who does what.  And since all three of them have gorgeous voices, you can’t even single one out!  When they sing together it’s even more impressive.

“Where I’m Going” is the great lead-off track (from their 2014 album).  Kinsey Lee sings lead and plays acoustic guitar (and harmonica).  Sharon Silva plays electric guitar and Mackenzie How plays harmonium (and harmonica).  Kinsey has a powerful kind of rocking voice while the other two offer great harmonies.  There’s some moments where all three are singing super loud and it’s really impressive.

The next two songs are new.

Sharon sings lead on “Everything Looks Better In Hindsight” and continues to play a really rocking electric guitar (she really crushes those chords). Kinsey switches to banjo, but also plays harmonium.  Mackenzie also plays electric guitar and this song rocks pretty hard.  Sharon’s voice is a bit smoother until the chorus where she wails.  And the harmonies are again outstanding.  I think it is Mackenzie’s harmonies that really elevate the song.

There are a bassist and drummer (unnamed) who add low end to the first two song (but not the final one).  The trio is the focus, but the rhythm section’s contributions are really good.

Mackenzie sings lead on  “The World We Built”  This is the most mellow of the three songs. She plays electric guitar (the only music in the song) and the other two sing harmonies.

Although their music can veer in the country direction, their voices are so good you can easily look past it.

[READ: July 5, 2016] Adventures in Cartooning

The full title of this release is The Center for Cartoon Studies Presents Adventures in Cartooning: How To Turn You Doodles into Comics.  This is an instructional cartooning book which also tells a fun story.

And I loved it.  I have recently discovered James Sturms’ books, and I love his simple but powerful style.

As it opens “Once upon a time, a princess tried to make a comic.”  The girl says she can’t draw well enough to make a comic But the Magic Cartooning Elf comes to help her.  He says that if she can draw simple stuff, then there is nothing stopping her. (more…)

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birdkingSOUNDTRACK: TRICKY-“Sun Down” (2014).

trickI really liked Tricky’s first few albums.  He came back with a good album last year and now he has a new one called Adrian Thaws.  It is currently streaming on NPR.

I listened to the whole album and I like it quite a lot.  There’s a decent variety of stuff, most of which is really fantastic.  There’s a few tracks I’m not so sure about.  But one of the key things is that Tricky’s claustrophobic and slighty off-kilter style is at the forefront here.  Especially in this song.

It begins with a kind of tribal sounding beat and then some distorted bass notes.  There’s a clock ticking in the background as Tricky’s voice (sometimes doubled) speaks/raps his slow style.  It feels close up and dark.  When guest vocalist Tirzah sings the female parts, she continues that slightly echoed, slightly muffled style that doesn’t really shed any brightness on the song.

Sure, there’s a chorus, but it’s not the reach out and grab you kind.  Rather, it just pushes the song along to its inevitable conclusion.  The keyboards noises that end the song create an uneasy feeling as the beat continues until the song ends with a ticking clock.

It’s great to have Tricky back in form.

[READ: July 1, 2014] The Bird King and other sketches

I’ve been marveling over Shaun Tan’s work this summer, so I was delighted to see this book as well.  The Bird King is, as the subtitle says, a collection of Tan’s sketches. He gives a brief introduction about how he was unsure whether or not to publish them as they are clearly unfinished, but so many of them are so beautiful in their “what might be” stage, that it’s hard to deny their value.

I mean, the very first picture, called “Bee-eater” is magnificent (it’s at the bottom of the page here).  It is part of the first section called Untold Stories.  This includes several of the pages from the comic Flinch that I read back in June.  I said I didn’t love the pieces then (I didn’t realize he did the cover of that book as well).  But I see now that I like the drawings better out of the context of that book, which was more about spooky and unsettling things.  I don’t think of Tan’s work as spooky or unsettling, rather it’s more magical, so seeing this series of titled pencil drawings together was really cool.

The second section is called Book Theatre and Film (I didn’t know that he was a creative consultant for Wall-E), and it includes samples from his books (like Eric and The Red Tree) as well as stills from movies that were made of his books like The Lost Thing as well as earlier books which I don’t know like John Marsen’s The Rabbits and covers of other books (like Tender Morsels). (more…)

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