Archive for the ‘Steampunk’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GIVĒON–Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #166 (January 28, 2021).

GIVĒON is a pretty classic R&B crooner.  He seems pretty grateful to have gotten where he is.

“Just bear with me while I just enjoy this and soak in it,” GIVĒON admits with a laugh.

He plays three songs.

“The Beach” opens with gentle guitar chords from James Murray and a slow bass line from Ivan Chatman.  Then GIVĒON and RaVaughn Brown sing together.

After the song, he says he’s pretty excited to play in February.

“Any moment to do this would be special,” he says between songs, “but I think Black History Month … just celebrating Black culture for this month, I’m really excited to get to do this on this platform.”

He also notes that he is a Pisces.  “Pisces are emotional, maybe that’s why I make songs like this.”  “Like I Want You” opens with a simple drum intro from Andre Montgomery and a slow bass line.  Deondre Ellis plays a keyboard melody that matches the vocal melody at the beginning each line–it’s a nice touch.  Murray plays a pretty ripping guitar solo, too.

Before the final song, “Stuck on You,” he says, “I can’t wait to watch this with my mom and see what she thinks because she likes to nitpick sometimes.”  It’s a bit of a faster song and when there’s about a minute left, GIVĒON walks off to let the band jam out the set.  The mark of an old school singer already.

[READ: February 20, 2021] Goliath

The final book of this trilogy was as exciting as the rest of the series.

Everyone is back aboard the Leviathan and they are heading toward the Arctic.  They have an exciting and dangerous mission up ahead–they are going to lower Leviathan as low as she can go so that they can retrieve some cargo from the back of a polar bear beastie.

Deryn and Newkirk are on a small platform swinging madly through the air as they try to secure this very large parcel from the back of a moving bear.  It’s something that’s been done before, but never with something this large (usually just mail bags).  This is a massive time saver, but if they miss, it means a several hours before they can turn around an try again.

The package is a huge amount of supplies both for the Leviathan and for the special guest who they are going to meet in the Wilderness. Things don’t go as smoothly as promised because the package weighs more than was promised–the danger is pretty great and the scene is very exciting.

When they open up the packages in the ships hold, they discover that in addition to the various supplies there is a massive Clanker gadget that needs assembling.  It is good that Alek and his men are on board to help assemble the Clanker contraption.  He’s also happy to have gainful employ for a time–it’s the happiest he’s been in a while.

The device proves to be a portable metal detector–a powerful one designed to be used almost like a giant magnet. But there’s no explanation for why it’s here.

The ship continues on its mission further up towards Greenland.  Then the watchman sends a message: Trees All Down Ahead.  It doesn’t make sense until they see a clearing up ahead and indeed all of the trees are destroyed–knocked over as of by the world’s largest hurricane. Worse yet, there are gigantic bones littering the place–as if a whale beastie was eaten. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACKFUTURE ISLANDS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #158 (January 25, 2021).

I’m not a huge fan of Future Islands.  I like some of their songs, and I think singer Sam Herring’s voice is really interesting.  The biggest thing I remember about them is NPR’s fascination with singer Sam herring’s dancing.  Herring does some dancing here, but saves most of it until the final song.

Future Islands’ four members are gathered not too far from their Baltimore base in Carroll Baldwin Memorial Hall, sans desk. “We lost the desk,” singer Sam Herring tells us with a smile. With drummer Michael Lowry on the tiny stage, the rest of the band — including bassist William Cashion and Gerrit Welmers on electronics — took to the floor, allowing Sam Herring to make his moves and sing his heart out. This music is clearly for the head and the feet.

The first three songs are from

their sixth and very recent album, As Long As You Are. 

“Hit the Coast” is an upbeat song musically.  The notable thing about Future Islands is that their music is primarily keyboard based, but there’s something about having a bassist that brings an organic element to the music.

Along with themes of loneliness and love, we also hear songs about race, which is most evident in “The Painter,” a song about how we can all look at the same thing and see it so differently.

He continues, “Art is subjective but they way we think about people and the way we treat human lives shouldn’t be.”

My favorite part of this very precise song comes mid-song when Cashion scratches up the strings a bit to add some chaotic distortion.

“Thrill” is set in Greenville NC on the banks of the great greasy Tar River.  It’s about feeling isolated in your society, about self-isolating through substance abuse and about continuing to push forward as all the seething bubbles up inside of you like the great river.  It is a slow and moody song and yo can tell that its very personal to Herring.

We end with a song that came out shortly after visiting NPR in 2011 [Oh man, I miss my hair] called “Balance.” It’s one of those tunes that feels repurposed for the 2020s: “This is a song for anybody who’s struggling through their lives,” Sam Herring says, “and I know there are a lot of you all out there, just trying to get by, but it’s going to take a little bit more time.”

This is a fun dance song–the kind of earlier, faster song that I like from them.  Herring lets his dance shoes lose, with some impressive and wild moves.

[READ: March 1, 2021] Behemoth

Book two of this series was longer and more dangerous–as a sequel should be.

As this book opens, everyone is on board the Leviathan having just sailed to safety.   Alek is showing Deryn how to fence.  She is impatient and has no technical skill.  But it’s nice for her to be with Alek (who Deryn has admitted to herself that she fancies) and it’s nicer that he is saying things like “we” when he talks about the Leviathan.

But soon they see some enemy ships.  The ships look in bad shape and the Leviathan looks poised to destroy them.  Until one of them fires up what they learn is a Tesla tower–a generator that can shoot lightning across great distances.  No one has ever seen one before.  But Alek’s men piece together what it is.  Since they are the only ones who know how to fly Clanker engines, they are in charge of propulsion.  And they disobey orders by bringing the ship to a halt.  The Leviathan, being sentient, also senses what’s going on and starts to concur with the decision.

But disobeying orders is mutiny (except that Alek’s men aren’t technically part of the crew so they can’t be punished).

The Tesla cannon fires and grazes the Leviathan.  It doesn’t puncture the ship (it could literally blow it up if it got to any of the hydrogen), but it does mess with everything electrical.  It also leaves one of the men stranded on a Huxley–essentially electrocuted.

Deryn takes it into her hands to save her mate in an exciting an daring rescue. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-3rd Annual Green Sprouts Music Week Night 1 (Ultrasound Showbar, Toronto Ontario September 18 1995).

It has been a while since I’ve listened to a live Rheostatics show.  Darrin at Rheostatics Live has added a number of new shows in the last eight months.  Like this full week of shows from the Third Green Sprouts Music Week.

He writes:

Rheos had just come off of the 2nd Another Roadside Attraction tour with The Tragically Hip in July. The band would perform their Group Of 7 commission in Ottawa a month later and during this run were working on material for what would become The Blue Hysteria album. Some of the working titles are listed (Crescent II, Two Flights) as well as Drumheller which would end up as “Desert Island Poem” on Dave’s first Bidiniband album The Land Is Wild.

I don’t regret missing many shows that I’ve missed, but I do very much wish that i had been able to go to a few nights of a Green Sprouts Music Week.  Seeing them in a small club with them chatting away and experimenting seems like it would have been a wonderful experience.

As the tape starts on this first night, someone asks

“Are we going to play that song tonight?”
“What song?”
“The $1.79 song.”
“Of course it wouldn’t be a Green Sprouts…”

Never find out what that is.  But then Dave tells the audience

The plan is over the next 7 days to pay every song we know and even songs don’t know.  He says that it’s Roger the sound man’s first Green Sprouts week and he hasn’t caught Green Sprouts fever yet.  This is also Don Kerr’s first green sprouts, too.

We’ll lay a couple old ones to start.  Someone shouts “YAY!”  Dave: “Hey you haven’t even heard the new ones yet.”

They start with “Me & Stupid” which features the spoken part of the poem “Wilderness Gothic” by Al Purdy:  “Something is about to happen two shores away a man hammering the sky”

Dave: “The great thing about green sprouts is you forget different stuff each night.”

Up next is “another Southern Ontario song” “Fish Tailin’.”

Then Martin unveils his new (as yet unpainted double neck) guitar: “overcompensating for the lack of headstock for the last 6 years.  Now he’s got a guitar with two big ones.”

Tim gets the first new song with “All the Same Eyes,” a song that doesn’t change much between now and the record.

In what will be a theme for the week, they have a really hard time coordinating the opening countdown for “Four Little Songs.”  They have to start it three times.  And they mess up the 4321 at the end.  Martin’s verse seems different.

Kevin Hearn joins them for the next song.  Dave says they stole some part of “Four Little Songs” from [Kev’s “on patrol?  Cabs On patrol?   No idea].

Kevin plays on “Fan Letter” and in they chant “Farm Fresh” instead of Michael.

Over the course of the week we’ll get more details about the creation of “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine.”  Onm this first night, Martin forgets the second verse.

Dave says that Neil Peart said that he preferred playing smaller places (meaning arenas) because he could hear himself (he preferred arenas to open air venues).  But in arenas there’s big speakers but it sounds small.  But it’s snugsville in here, boy.

It’s been a long time since we did this song (“Palomar”), which gets a good response.  After which “it’s the fall but we can still play summer music” (“Introducing Happiness”).

Dave says he saw Asleep at the Wheel and the last song everyone did a solo.  Then the lead singer had a guitar shaped like Texas, but instead of his solo, he picked up three balls by his feet and did some juggling. The last one he threw up in the air and it landed on the brim of his cowboy hat.  They’re working on that for later in the week.

They start the new “Connecting Flights” but can’t find a capo.  They do an improv “capo shortage,” a goofy bit a fun.  Up next is the new “Desert Island Poem,” which sounds great.

Then comes the popular section.  A rocking “California Dreamline” which segues into a lovely “Song of Flight” and right into “Fat.”

They haven’t played “Queer” in a while (which is a surprise).  As they start Dave says, “now there’s a little matter of the words.”  Someone recites them for him.

Dave is going to play “My First Rock Concert” every night this week and the and are kind of learning it on the fly.  In the middle of the song, some words are different.

Dave: “I sense something funky coming on (start of “Soul Glue”).

The last song before “our first encore” is a rocking version of Jane Siberry’s “One More Colour.”  I love their version.

Heading into the encore break Don says, “We just played 18 songs without a pee break.”

That reminds him of a gig they played in Pennsylvania: drinks were free until the first person has to pee.  It was a real classy establishment.  The most boring place on earth–Harrisburg, PA.  It’s a great place if you have a huge bladder.

Martin says “My assessment of tonight is that it started out very vague and hazy, like we haven’t played in six months or like we’re getting back together after a year breakup.  But it gelled together in the last three or four songs.”

Martin tries to remember the new song “A Midwinter Night’s Dream.”  He doesn’t go for the high note in the middle of the song–choosing a lower growl instead.  It works pretty well, but I love the high note.

Dave jokes: You don’t know what it was like touring in Platinum Blonde town after town having to play the hits with the drummer under the stage playing the parts for the fake drummer on the stage.

A delicate “Take Me in Your Hand” is followed by Don Kerr’s first time playing “Northern Wish.”  Martin gets the first line but missed the rest of the verse and starts the song again.

The first night ends with a ripping “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds.”  There’s a drum solo for Don and then martin ends the song with interesting guitar effects.

It’s a good start to a great week.

[READ: February 20, 2021] Leviathan

I signed C. up for a YA program at the library.  His subject was steampunk and they chose this book for him.  S. had read this series and loved it, so I decided to give it a read while it was still in the house.  I found it to be a fast and fun read.

The story is set in 1914, the dawn of World War I. But it’s an alternate reality–one where zeppelins and other hydrogen-based flying machines dominate the air  It also has a very cool component of animal/machine hybrids that are really quite impossible to explain except to say that the Leviathan is a living airship that is made out of whale–they are in side of a whale–but it’s also a machine.  Or something.  Best not to think too much about that.

It’s here that I should mention the drawings by Keith Thompson. They are wonderful pencil-looking drawings–dark but detailed.  They really help to get the visuals down of thes extradoridfanly machiens tah Westerfeld has createa.  I’m not always certain that I could picture the without the drawings.

The book opens on teenaged Prince Aleksander, the heir to the Austrian throne.  While he is playing with toy soldiers, imagining a war, two of his servants enter the room and tell him they are off to do some training in the dark–his father’s orders.

The machine that Aleks is being taken to is a Cyklop Stormwalker.  This is a giant machine that walks on two legs (Star Wars, yes). Alek has never piloted something this large before, but they tell him it’s important for his training. But Alek senses something is wrong and that’s when they tell him this is not a drill.  His parents, the King and Queen of Austria, were killed that very night. He is probably another target and they are trying to keep him safe. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: TOOL-“Some Days It’s Dark” (2007).

I recently learned that Tool performed this cover of a song from The Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy live.

In the movie Bruce McCullough’s character Grivo’s band Death Lurks plays this very heavy song (written by Craig Northey and performed by Odds).  Lyrically it’s amusingly Dark

Some days it’s dark
Some days I work
I work alone
I walk aloooooooone.

Tool is considered to be one of the most intense metal bands out there with fans taking them very Seriously.  So the fact that they covered this song (in Toronto) is fantastic.

The cover is great (of course).  They get the sound of the original right on, especially when the big heavy part kicks in.  The only problem I would say is Maynard’s delivery.  It’s a little too deadpan,  I’d like it to be a but more over the top.  But maybe that wouldn’t be Maynard’s way.

You can hear it (no video) here.

There’s no word on if they also played “Happiness Pie.”

[READ: January 27, 2020] Extra Credit

When a beloved (and award winning) series nears its end, it is time to put out early and special features collections.  Usually they come once the series has ended, but this one has come early.  Whereas Early Registration was a good collection of early material, this collection is a bit more haphazard.

It collects some Christmas specials and some early “comic strips” from Allison.  Given this seeming completest nature of this collection, I can’t imagine that there’s another volume planned.

The first story is called “What Would Have Happened if Esther, Daisy and Susan Hadn’t Become Friends (and it was Christmas).”  It’s the 2016 Holiday issue drawn by Lissa Treiman.

We zoom in on DAY-ZEE on “the edge of the boundless sweep of space” as she zooms in one the title question.  [It’s important to read Early Registration first as this story references that story].

Esther didn’t help Daisy move in on that first day.  Esther was immediately grabbed by the popular girls.  They are sitting under a tree playing music on their phones which wakes up Susan who curses them out. (more…)

Read Full Post »

steamiiSOUNDTRACK: MOON HOOCH-“Bari 3” (2014).

bari3Man, I love Moon Hooch–that loud crazy baritone sax and the other skronky sax.  But there’s also the great drumming.  And, in this song, there’s so many stops and starts, it’s amazing they can do so much with just 2 different types of instrument.

Just how many different things can one band do with two saxophones and a drummer?  Well, in the case of Moon Hooch, the answer seems to be limitless.  This song jumps and twists–it has a heavy loud section and a smooth groovy section, it even has a loud thunderous section.  Between Colin Stetson and Moon Hooch, the saxophone is definitely cool again.

And why not watch Moon Hooch play this song at a scenic rest stop on a Pennsylvania highway:

[READ: June 10, 2014] “Balfour and Meriwether in The Adventure of the Emperor’s Vengeance”

After having read the other two Balfour and Meriwether stories, it seemed only natural to track down the first of the stories.  And it happened to be collected in this Steampunk anthology.  I didn’t read anything else in the anthology even though I like steampunk, mostly because I didn’t have time.

This story opens, as the others do with Balfour and Meriwether sitting at home by the fire.  Then Lord Carmichael bursts in with news.  This means Balfour and Meriwhether know it is time to save Queen and country.

In this case, the crisis involves Napoleon and some old plundered Egyptian goods.  This proves to be a similar premise as Tales from the Clockwork Empire and I have no idea if Napoleon’s plundering of Egyptian artifacts led to any clockwork machinery for real or not–I may have to look that up.  But this story ups the ante by having a Jewish conspiracy as well.

The British museum has several Egyptian artifacts (taken from Napoleon’s army), but it is believed that Napoleon’s men included false items with the loot in order to discredit anyone who thinks that all of the items are real.  One such falsity was believed to be a sarcophagus.  Lord Abington (the anti-Semite) wants that sarcophagus opened while no one else around.  But when he opened it the others in the next room heard a scream, a thud and then silence.  Meriwther and Balfour speculate about what was in there–perhaps it was plague and the whole museum may need to be razed.  This freaks out Lord Carmichael, naturally. (more…)

Read Full Post »

bm-cover-sm-225x300SOUNDTRACK: ERIC CHENAUX-Dull Lights [CST043] (2006).

dullI’ve talked about other Eric Chenaux discs before, and this one is similar to those–very mellow with Chenaux’s gentle voice running through some melodies.  The instruments include electric guitar, 12 string banjo, lap steel guitar, harmonica, electric banjo, portable sample keyboard and drums.

It’s never always clear to me what he’s signing about because his words are stretched out quite long and I’m often very distracted by the music that is accompanying the songs.

The first song “Skullsplitter” is in no way what you might be expecting from a song with that title.  There are cymbals, but no real drums, there’s a scratchy sound like a violin (although none are listed in the credits so perhaps it is samples) and what sounds like randomly plucked notes on a muted banjo.   The martial drums on track 2, “Worm and Gear” really help to coalesce the elements of this song  so you can really appreciate what Chenaux is doing here.  “I Can See It Now” has a woozy almost drunken feeling.  Chenaux has such a pretty voice that you want to lean in but the music seems so unusual.

Later in the disc, “Memories Are No Treasure” is catchy with a nice vocal melody, showing that Chenaux can write a more conventional song.  “White Dwarf White Sea” has a banjo line that has always reminded me of lines from “God Bless America”–in the middle of the riff, the banjo seems to play “from the mountains to the prairie.”   “Ronnie-May” has a very catchy county melody.  A pretty wild (genuinely wild) guitar solo, breathes crazy life into the record.  “However Wildly We Dream” concludes the record with that same kind of drunken feel (the drums are just insane).

I definitely didn’t enjoy this one as much as his other discs

[READ: April 7, 2014] Balfour and Meriwether in The Vampire of Kabul

This is a short story that I discovered because I enjoyed the (written later but not impacting this story in any way) novella that came out this year.

Abraham has written three stories about these two turn of the 20th century “detectives.”  They are like a supernatural Holmes & Watson (with a tad more violence).  In this story, which, again, is completely independent of the others, Meriwether & Balfour are sitting at home on a December night in 188- bored out of their minds.

Just as Meriwether says he wishes that something would break their malaise a ninja comes crashing through their giant window.  In a trice she has a gun at Balfour’s head. Meriwether is helpless to assist.  But they both recognize who it is almost immediately–Maria Feodorovan, the czarina of Russia and sworn enemy of Meriwether & Balfour.  As the dust clears, we learn what Maria is here for–she is daring to ask for help from our duo.

It appears that the Czar has gone mad.  But not from natural causes–someone or something attacked him.  There was “an ectoplasmic darkness” in the corners of the room and while he has recovered somewhat, it seems that his mind is no longer his own.  And, she explains based on overheard knowledge that the Queen of England is next.  As she says this, the police rush in to say that The Queen has been attacked. (more…)

Read Full Post »

clockworkSOUNDTRACK: FEU THÉRÈSE-Ça Va Cogner [CST049] (2007).

feu2Bands change sounds from one album to another all the time, but few as radically as this one. From weirdo psychedelic band to French new wave pop band, from 6 minute instrumentals to 2 and 3 minute songs with vocals.

At times the album feels like Kraftwerk meets Serge Gainsbourg (which I know is an unfair reduction, but when your singer mostly talk/sings in a deep French voice, the comparison is apt.  And yet the album is fairly poppy and catchy as well.

“A Nos Amours” opens the disc with three minutes of synth happiness. It even has a section where the music drops out and the bass resumes its place.  Recall in their debut that at 4 minutes of each song something radically different happened.  Now the songs just end. “Visage Sous Nylon” features the more Kraftwerk sound—but it’s an almost organic Kraftwerk (which I know makes no sense but there it is). “Les Deserts des Azurs” has a kind of Tangerine Dream feel with washes of analog synths.

“Le Bruit du Pollen La Nuit” has a weird kind of synthy 70 s rock feel but the music almost drops out entirely (but not quite) while the vocals (in French) are spoken. It feels like it’s mocking and serious at the same time.  It’s also got a discoey chorus singing “You’re just a just a just a pretty boy!”

“Nada” has a synthy almost disco feel.  “Ça Va Cogner” is just over 5 minutes long and consists of various delicate swells of synths.  I kept waiting to hear The Beach Boys “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” burst forth from the waves, until about half way in when it turns into a simple delicate melody and a children’s chorus. “Les Enfants” is a simple ditty with hummed lyrics.  It’s poppy and catchy as anything

“Ferrari en Feu Pt. 2” is a fast synth songs with slap bass. (Part 1 was on the debut and sounded nothing like this).  “La Nuit Est un Femme” is a slow synth track with a female backing vocals over a sung male lead. The end of the song adds some loud textures to this otherwise sweet song bringing in some really interesting tensions.  The disc ends with “Laisse Briller Tes Yeux Dans le Soleil,” a synthy instrumental that ends with cheesy charm.

This album is really wonderful–surprisingly catchy and dancey and yet exotic enough to not sound like anything else that (most) people are familiar with.  All of the Constellation albums are streaming on their site, but this one is especially worth checking out.

[READ: April 15, 2014] Tales from the Clockwork Empire Book 1

I was very intrigued by this book because of the steampunk nature and because I have a strange fascination with clockwork ideas–a technology that is precise and interesting yet which never really took off beyond clocks and small toys because other technologies were more powerful

I thought that the cover was kind of interesting with this gigantic metal head holding ball.  But on closer look the man in the ball was very poorly computer rendered and that should have been a tip off.  For all of the people in the book have this same unfinished-rendered look.  It looks a lot like storyboards of unfinished versions of Pixar films.  I mean, really cheesy and really unfinished and really unsettling. This is especially noticeable on the rendering of Napoleon Bonaparte in the “end credits” of the book.

I hate to harp on the graphics, but this is a graphic novel after all.  All of the non human elements looks fine, many look even better than fine, bordering on photo realistic.  But the humans all seem ugh, creepy and stiff and just dropped on top of these scenes.  It is terribly distracting and may even make the dialogue feel stiffer than it actually is.  Because the dialogue felt very stiff and mechanical as well.

It is the kind of story that seems historically accurate in the details and works very hard to let you know that it is accurate.  Indeed, in the end of the book Duerden goes to great lengths to show the accuracies in the writing.  But there’s so little flow in the dialogue that it seems like a lecture.  Basically the entire book feels like, not a first draft, but like the draft before the final draft.  Like the book is going to go back to have a final polish to make the dialogue breezier and make the pictures look better.

This is all a shame since I haven;t eve talked about the story yet. (more…)

Read Full Post »

balfourSOUNDTRACK: SLINT-Spiderland (Remastered) (1991/2014).

slint2Slint is an overlooked band except by those who think they are really super important.  Slint played what would eventually be called post-rock before people called it that–they had spoken vocals and dark guitar, loud and quiet riffs and intense building sections (and on this album no songs under 5 minutes).  Some riffs were super catchy, indeed, many of the songs on Spiderland have super catchy sections, and yet there is something that resists you casually getting into them (probably those spoken lyrics).

I’ll even say that I tend to forget about them.  They get lumped in with other Steve Albini produced bands (Albini produced their first album, but not Spiderland, and since Albini’s band was Shellac, they are even close in the alphabet), but they don’t really sound like Albini’s output.  They’re much warmer and, dare I say ,emotional–the screamed vocals are incredibly passionate.  Plus, they only released one album before they broke up (this one was after the breakup), so their legacy is bigger than their output.

So I’m thrilled about this reissue if only so that it will give them a wider audience. And you can hear the entire two hour spectacle before it come out at NPR.

At the same time I didn’t notice a huge difference in the production.  It sounded great, but then I haven’t listened to it in a while so it’s hard to compare.  The deluxe package is a behemoth: the box comes with the album, outtakes and demos on 180 gram vinyl and on CD. It also includes a 104-page book with never-before-seen photos, lyrics, and a foreword by Will Oldham and Breadcrumb Trail, a 90-minute documentary about the making of Spiderland with interviews with the band, James Murphy, Steve Albini, David Yow, Ian MacKaye, Matt Sweeney and others.  Since it retails at about $150, I won’t be buying that.

slintI did listen to the whole thing and again was reminded of how great the album is.  The bonus material is, well, a little disappointing.  You get three more early versions of “Nosferatu Man,” one of which is an instrumental.  Two demo versions of “Washer” and “Good Morning, Captain” (one is an instrumental kind of goof).  There’s three versions of a song called “Pam” which didn’t make Spiderland, so that’s interesting.  Then there’s another outtake called “Glenn” and two post Spiderland songs called “Todd’s Song” and “Brian’s Song.”  They’re all good, but are in various stages of construction.

Perhaps the most interesting bonus track is the live (from Chicago 1989) version of Neil Young’s “Cortez The Killer.”  But I have to admit that vocally, they just can’t handle it.  The music sounds good, but the singer just never seems to be in tune, but nor is he talking it either.  It was a little disappointing (especially compared to Built to Spill’s live cover).

So if you are a die hard fan of this unheralded band, this is a worthy addition (especially for the book and movie).  Otherwise, enjoy the original, it’s a great album.

[READ: April 7, 2014] Balfour and Meriwether in The Incident of the Harrowmoor Dogs

I was immediately attracted to the cover of this novella–two men in bowler hats and button down shirts wielding weapons in front of a spooky background.  What’s not to like?  Especially when the book is tiny (80 pages).  I grabbed it and brought it home to read.

That’s when I learned that Balfour and Meriwether appear in other books and that this was “the first novella-length work” about the pair.  Did that mean that there was a lengthy series and this is the first short piece about them?  Indeed, no.  There are two other stories about them which are both shorter (these first two stories have been collected in one book).  And according to Abraham, he has no plans to write more, but that doesn’t mean he won’t.

So this is a fun and surreal adventure story set in England in the 1880s.  It is taken from Meriwether’s Diary (written in 1920).  Meriwether acknowledges that God the Creator has made many beautiful things but He has also made some abominations that walk the Earth.

And that leads us into this story of subterranean creatures and British political dealings with them. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[LISTENED TO: October 2013] Warbound

warboundI loved Book I and Book II of The Grimnoir Chronicles immensely. The first was an amazing introduction to this new world and the second upped the scale and intensity to an amazing level (nearly destroying Washington D.C.).

And since the beginning of Book II picked up shortly after the events of Book II, it seemed pretty safe to assume that we would be heading into the giant conflict that was predicted at the end of Book II–fighting the creature that was coming to kill The Power.  For real context, read the other two reviews first (I mean, really), but for simple context, a sizable minority of the population has the gift of Magic.  This gift comes from The Power and it allows people to do all kinds of things–bend gravity, transport from one place to another, talk through animals, fade into walls, etc.

It has only been recently, through the work of our heroes, that people understood just how people got the power.  It came from The Power, a creature that gave humans magic and then fed off of them when they died.  It was a symbiotic relationship.  But of course people who did not have Power hated those with Power.  Even though the people with Power often use their power for good, there were of course people who didn’t.  Consequently all people with The Power were scapegoated.  This is all laid on a backdrop of alternate reality 1930s America, where the Nipponese are ascending and offer a very credible threat–especially since their Magicals are organized and brutal. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[LISTENED TO: July 27, 2013] Spellboundspellbound

I enjoyed Book I of The Grimnoir Chronicles immensely.  I wasn’t really sure what Correia could do to top it.  There’s the inevitable dread for sequels that everything has to be bigger bigger bigger with the cost to the heart of the story.  (That’s more true in movies, but books can suffer as well).

And indeed, Correia does go bigger, but he loses nothing.  Indeed, the higher stakes make this story all the more exciting without sacrificing the characters in any way.

As the story opens, we learn that it is a few months after the events of Book I.  The Grimnoir are dispersed somewhat, with things falling into a somewhat logical place.  Francis Stuyvesant is the head of United Blimp.  Faye and Francis are more or less dating and Heinrich is more or less his bodyguard. The other team members are up to assorted states of resting and recuperating.  And Jake Sullivan is lying low.

But no matter how low he thinks he is lying, he’s still very big.  And he is soon found by a woman named Hammer.  Of course, at first the story maintains the trappings of noir, with Hammer being a (beautiful) woman in distress.  Surprisingly, she is in distress at the library and she asks Jake for help (he is there studying magic and, well, lying low).  He tells her to ask the librarian.  But later when he is leaving, he sees her being robbed by some thugs.  He goes to rescue her (and easy job for a big guy like him), and Hammer uses her power to determine that he is indeed Heavy Jake Sullivan.  And he can still do what he can do.

Hammer wrangles him into a government facility where he accepts a phone call from the dead Chairman.  This whole section is lovingly described and far too cool to try to summarize.  So let’s just say that Alexander Graham Bell created a phone that could talk to the dead–but only if they wanted to talk to us.  The Chairman found the phone and, of all people, he wanted to speak to Jake.  (I’m skipping so much stuff here that it hurts me, but I don’t want to spoil the story or the humor). (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »