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Archive for the ‘Unfinished series’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MAGIC SWORD-Endless (2020).

Not long after the release of the Awakening EP, Magic Sword is back to conclude the story arc that the previous albums have created.

The Keeper (red, keyboard, audio-visual), The Seer (blue, guitar), and The Weaver (yellow, drums) are Immortal and they have seen a story like this one unfold many times.  So they are not surprised by the direction it goes in.

“Depths of Power” opens this chapter with a slow pulsing matched with occasional power chords.  “Invincible” adds a new sound palette to the band’s music.  This song sounds a bit more like Tangerine Dream but with some more contemporary techno type sounds.

“Aftermath” adds some swirling uneasy sounds to the album.  It contains curlicues of sound that wiggle around and segue into “Empress” which has a low rumble underneath the propulsive synths.

“Shores of Oblivion” is a more eerie soundscape of wind and slow pulsing waves of emptiness. When the fast melody comes from out of the waves it feels like something sinister heading right for you.

“rophecy” adds some light to the proceedings with an uplifting melody which is eventually corrupted by “Corruption” and turns into a more threatening tone.

“Ritual” introduces a fairly heavy bassline and some more modern sounding synths.  Then “A New Quest” returns to the pulsing sound of old.  “Hope” starts quietly but brings am uplifting melody that continues throughout the song.

“Endless” ends the disc with strings–ominous at first but which move into a more stately melody that fades out slowly over a long time–continuing endlessly

The band also released a single of “Invincible” with a remix by Waveshaper.  I don’t typically like remixes, because mostly they just dump a new drum beat over an old melody, but this one plays around with the song in interesting ways.  It turns it into something different without losing the original.  I rather like the new bass line they add to the song.

In the comic book, Magic Sword says that this ends the cycle.  Does that mean the end of Magic Sword … or the beginning of a new cycle?

[READ: October 29, 2020] Magic Sword Volume 2, Chapter 3

Chapter 3 concludes this cycle somewhat unexpectedly for me (although it makes perfect sense once it is explained).

When Chapter 2 ended, Nayia came face to face (or more like face to big toe) with The Colossus.  It was the size of a mountain and seemed to be covered in bark.  It quickly grabbed hold of her with its tendrils, trying to burrow into her orifices.

But the power of the Magic Sword was still within her and it fought back where she couldn’t.  With its help she was easily able to best this beast.

But the story doesn’t end there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAGIC SWORD-Awakening EP (2019).

It took three years for Magic Sword, the instrumental band from Boise Idaho, to release chapter two of the second volume of their saga.  In that time, they had released individual songs, but for this entire seven song EP (and comic book), the year of the sword took much longer than expected.

The Keeper (red, keyboard, audio-visual), The Seer (blue, guitar), and The Weaver (yellow, drums) have continued the saga but have expanded their sound a bit.  They still sound like a 1980s movie soundtrack, but it’s a bigger budget movie.

“Herald” opens the EP with a deep-voiced narration of the opening page of volume one, the paragraph that sets up the story of the Magic Sword.  It segues into “Awakening” which sounds bigger than anything they’ve done while still retaining the recognizable retro Magic Sword sound.  Midway through the guitar comes in with a quiet solo that introduces a funky element to the song–there’s even the a kind of bass guitar element.  It is a slow opening that sets the tone of the album as we await “The Harbinger.”

“The Harbinger” is under three minutes and projects an ominous low tone as a distant, distorted voice recites a passage that I can’t make out.  It segues into “Lady of Light” which follows a pretty synth melody that mutates into a middle with a distinctly funky/disco bass.  “Reborn” bursts forth like a big 1980’s synth anthem.  But it quickly changes tone with a pulsing soundtrack and a ripping guitar solo.  It all resolves into the anthemic conclusion.

“Shadow” introduces a more sinister sound–both the harsh higher notes and the menacing low growling synth that works as a perfect segue to the album ending “Colossus.”  It continues like the rest of the album with just a hint more menace in the crashing drums and delays of the loud synths and an absolutely roaring guitar solo to close out the disc.

Magic Sword still sounds like the same trio, but they sound even more assured.

[READ: October 29, 2020] Magic Sword Volume 2, Chapter 2

Chapter 1 introduced us to Tayia, the chosen one.  She is pure of heart and is therefore eligible to wield the Magic Sword and restore balance.

But as The Keeper explained, the Magic Sword will take control of her body–she will become death.

As Chapter 1 ended, The Keeper stopped time and Tayia grabbed the Magic Sword.  As Chapter 2 opens, time resumes and the creature who was about to attack her, a member of the Kihlhi tribe, realizes she is no longer where she was (time did not stop for her).

He crashes to the ground.

Continuing with the parallels between this story and present reality, the Kihlhi was

Spouting vile hatred through slurred speech.

One can only hope that in reality the vile creatures also

had no idea of the mighty change that had overtaken and transformed his prey.

Tayia’s power and will merged with the will of the sword creating beautiful arcs of pink.  She fights effortlessly, including a full page scene of her dance/kick. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAGIC SWORD-Legend EP (2016).

Magic Sword, the instrumental band from Boise Idaho, is back, following their epic Volume 1 with a 15 minute EP and a new angle to their story.

The three members of the band remain: The Keeper (red, keyboard, audio-visual), The Seer (blue, guitar), and The Weaver (yellow, drums).

This EP has three songs.

“Legend of the Keeper” begins slowly, like something building from primordial ooze.  Steam escapes as the music builds and turns into a kind of 1980’s montage soundtrack introducing the hero.  There were guitars on the first album, but they are more prominent here with a lengthy solo.

“Uprising” begins with a menacing pulse that resolves into a tense series of overlapping melodies.  It continues into some laser-sounding pulses that set the tone for the uprising to come.    “The Curse” has a simple keyboard melody, but underneath it, the low distorted notes sound like an animal, a demon, whispering words into your head.  But a soaring guitar solo pushes through the distortion.

There is a Deluxe Edition of the EP with three remixes: “Legend Of The Keeper (F.O.O.L. Remix),” “Uprising (The Indicator Remix)” and “The Curse (The Toxic Avenger Remix).”  I’m not keen on remixes so these don’t do much for me.

[READ: October 29, 2020] Magic Sword Volume 2, Chapter 1

Volume 1 set up the origins of the Magic Sword.  In Volume 2, we see it come to the aid of the desperate.

The Nierhi Valley people were a peaceful tribe, who knew no threats.

But the neighboring Kihlhi tribe had recently crossed the mountain that separated them.  The Kihlhi has been overtaken by a mysterious stranger who slowly sucked their humanity from them.  They soon thought only of murder and defilement.

The Niehri were easily overwhelmed until a thunderous crack on the top of the mountain meant only one thing: the arrival of the Magic Sword. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAGIC SWORD-Vol. 1 (2015).

Magic Sword is an instrumental band from Boise Idaho.

There are three members of the band: The Keeper (red, keyboard, audio-visual), The Seer (blue, guitar), and The Weaver (yellow, drums).

Magic Sword makes 1980’s-sounding sci-fi movie soundscapes.  Meaning there are a lot of synths, a lot of retro sound effects, and a lot of pulsing music.

The music feels like a soundtrack and that’s because it actually is. Magic Sword includes a comic book with each release (read about it below).

“The Beginning” sets the stage with a catchy synth melody before the intensity of “Sword Of Truth.”  After setting the stage, the lighter (but with a still menacing underbelly) “The Way Home” propels the story forward.

“Kill Them All” has words.  A quiet, whispered voice states

They came in the night
They killed everyone
I hid in the shadows
And then it came to me
The Magic Sword
And I killed them all

Dramatic chords rise as the music swells.  “In The Face Of Evil” presents a sinister bass melody as a lead melody wanders along it until it turns into a lengthy solo.

“Only Way In” is slower and more intense with a looping synth keeping the tension high as what sounds like birds echo in the background.  After a build up of intensity (can you see a hero making their way through a small passage) the tempo picks up.  This song has the most modern sounding music (almost an EDM kind of distorted beat) letting you know its not all retro.

“Reflection” allows for a moment to rest as gentle music falls down. But an ominous undertone is always present.  “Retrogram” feels like an opportunity to start anew as “Discover” ups the intensity with a far more retro pulsing synth sound.

“Memories In Shadow” slows things down as sprinklings of notes poke out of the ominous lower chords that sustain the song until it begins to rebuild as it heads toward the “Battlefield.”  “Battlefield” does not feel violent as expected–it’s more passionate but not scary.  There’s even a slow, quiet middle for a moment of reckoning.

“Infinite” feels uplifting, but there’s no time for rest as the abyss stares back at out hero.  “Journey’s End” feels solitary.  There is still work to do as our hero soars into the distant sky.

[READ: October 29, 2020] Magic Sword Volume 1

Volume 1 is the first graphic novel from the band Magic Sword.  There are presently four books in the series. The story follows The Keeper (red, keyboard, audio-visual), The Seer (blue, guitar), and The Weaver (yellow, drums) as they prepare for the necessary return of the Magic Sword.

This first book opens

In the beginning there was light

and Darkness.

But soon evil spread over the land like a plague.  [sounds familiar]. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-“Dinosaurs on the Mountain” (2020).

After a series of much harsher, darker albums, The Flaming Lips’ new record, American Head (due out next month) promises a much brighter, warmer experience.

They have already released a few singles from the new album, like this one.

“Dinosaurs on the Mountain” starts with a pretty, almost childlike musical synth melody.  Wayne Coyne’s (older and more raspy) falsetto voice floats above the music as he sings “I wish the dinosaurs were still here and now.  It would be fun to see them playing on the mountain.”

The song builds with slow drums and acoustic guitars as the it shifts to a large bridge with appropriate soaring backing vocals.  The song also has a suitably vibrato-filled guitar solo.  In other words, it sounds a lot like classic Flaming Lips.

This song (and album) is meant to hearken back to The Soft Bulletin, which it does, somewhat.  But the biggest difference is that the whole song feels like it’s hiding under an extra layer of distortion–like they couldn’t escape the production style of their latter albums.  Bulletin was very clean, and I do rather miss that cleanness on this lovely song.

[READ: July 20, 2020] “Jack and Della”

I had read an excerpt from this series of books a couple years ago.  I was really interested in that first excerpt.  Although this one I found a little less interesting.  Possibly because the main character of this story (who is briefly in the other excerpt) is down and out.  And without having seen how he got that way (which I think the other book showed), it’s hard to get fully into this character.

But he certainly comes across as an interesting fellow and knowing his past makes him somewhat more compelling.

Jack (full name John Ames Boughton) is the son of a preacher.  Most of his father’s sermons were directed at Jack, who was not always the best boy he could be.

Jack didn’t take much away from his father’s sermons, but the one about always having good manners did stick with him. So when a young black lady dropped some papers on the pavement, he crossed the street to help her gather them.  Her name was Della Miles. She thanked him and called him Reverend because of the black suit he was wearing (he had bought it for his mother’s funeral and was about to return it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LANKUM-Tiny Desk Concert #975 (May 18, 2020).

At some point “new” Tiny Desk Concerts are going to stop being released to the site.  Given what the blurb says, it’s possible that this is the last one they recorded.

The band is super tight musically and I really enjoy the way they play traditional Irish music with a slight modern twist.

Bob Boilen loves this band and if it was the last Tiny Desk Concert for awhile, it seems like it was a good one for him to end on:

All of this was a build-up to a Tiny Desk concert I’ll never forget. I, too, am a massive fan of the drones from the uilleann pipes, harmonium, concertina and the stunning voice of Radie Peat. The Livelong Day to my ears has as much in common with Irish tradition as it does to electronic music, though everything they do is acoustic.

“The Wild Rover” is a nine minute song that builds slowly from its opening melody.  Daragh Lynch plays a repetitive quiet guitar chord high up on the neck and Cormac MacDiarmada plays a slow fiddle.  Radie Peat sings (in her very Oirish accent) while (I guess) playing the harmonium (although she doesn’t seem to be pumping it).  Ian Lynch adds an occasional note from  baritone English concertina.   After each verse (about drinking) all four of them sing the harmony chorus.  And after each chorus the song gets a bit louder–more concertina, louder fiddle.

Then surprisingly at 5 minutes after building so much, all the music drops out except for Lynch’s quiet guitar high notes as all four of them sing in close harmony.   Then MacDiarmada plays a fiddle solo and by the 7 minute mark the band starts playing with real discord as the harmonium and fiddle start playing slightly askew notes at the end of each line–adding yet more tension.

The song feels like it has taken you on a journey of its own.

Ian Lynch tells everyone that they are from Dublin (what a strong accent) and that they had lots of problems getting here.

Lankum’s journey from Ireland to the Tiny Desk was a wild and bumpy adventure. First, visa problems forced them to cancel their late February date. A week later, much of the world is more worried about COVID-19, though daily patterns here hadn’t changed. They arrived in New York, hopped in their van to Washington, D.C., only to have that break down. Finally, after all that, some good news: While in their new van heading to the Tiny Desk, the Dublin quartet received news that its brilliant album The Livelong Day had won Ireland’s Choice Music Prize Album of the Year!

The next song “The Young People” sounds very different.  It feels very traditional.  Daragh Lynch switches guitars and plays without a capo.  The sound is so deep compared to the previous song.  Daragh and Ian sing this slow, quiet song. I think Cormac MacDiarmada is playing the viola.  Mid song, Ian Lynch plays a brief uilleann pipe solo while Peat plays the harmonium.

The final song is an instrumental.  They remove the stand that Radie’s harmonium is on and she begins the song with a fast traditional melody on the baritone Irish concertina.  MacDiarmada plays a similar melody on the violin while stomping on a box.  Daragh Lynch bows the guitar at the start.

Then Radie puts down the concertina and sits on the floor at the harmonium.

After a couple of minute there’s the slightest pause of silence as the song shifts gears into a very catchy middle section complete with uilleann pipe solo.  The song flows through to the end with this very pretty melody.

Bob sees a lot of concerts each year.  This was his last of 2020 (so far).

A week later I saw Lankum in concert. It was the last one I attended in a real venue and the world was rapidly changing. Their journey home, I trust, was frightening. The idea of getting on a plane was so very different from just a few weeks before. I know it was tough, but I’m ever so grateful for this life experience and grateful to be able to share it here.

His last show was four days after my last show (Destroyer on March 8).  I was supposed to go to a show on March 12, but decided it wasn’t safe.  In retrospect, I should have gone, if only to get in one more show before music went away for awhile.

[READ: May 20, 2020] Five Years #9

This issue makes me think that either this series isn’t supposed to end in ten issues or he’s planning another series to continue this story after issue 10.

Because, boy howdy, there’s no way he can wrap this up in one more issue.

This book continues with the opening voice over.  Although this one is from one of the guards that Zoe has just stabbed. He is dying and he hears the voice of an angel.

The “angel” is Zoe (uh oh).  Zoe is on a mission and needs the weapon that she’s stuck in the guy’s chest.  Talk about a darkly comic opening. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CLEM SNIDE AND SCOT AVETT-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #26 (May 23, 2020).

I’ve never given a thought to Clem Snide.  Well, my thought is that he was a country guy that I didn’t want to listen to  Turns out, Clem is not a guy but a band founded by Eef Barzelay, who had a solo Tiny Desk back in 2010.

I do know Scott Avett from The Avett Brothers (although I never really know which brother is which).

Barzelay and Avett not only maintained social distancing throughout their set, but also rigorously enforced it with the aid of a visible tape measure.

This is my favorite Tiny Desk Home concert so far since it is done in a barn–and the sound is great!

Recording a Tiny Desk concert at home naturally subtracts a lot of familiar elements…. But when Clem Snide (the three-decade-old project of singer-songwriter Eef Barzelay) and special guest Scott Avett (the Avett Brothers co-founder who produced and performs on Clem Snide’s latest album, Forever Just Beyond) performed together in Avett’s barn, they added a few new features you’ve never gotten to hear at the Tiny Desk — most notably a noisy flock of birds and the unmistakable cries of a nearby rooster.

We’ve had a few disruptive animals at the Tiny Desk over the years, from the occasional dog to Bob Boilen himself, but this had to be our first rooster.

Their voices blended warmly as they tackled three spiritually searching songs from the (great) new record, Forever Just Beyond.

For the “The Stuff of Us” they both play guitar.  Eef’s is a full size while Scott’s is a smaller one (I can’t tell how many strings).  Avett sings the rather impressive high notes.

After encouraging everyone to brew their own fermented ginger beer for the immune system.

He introduces “Jews for Jesus Blues” by saying “A doubtless faith is a dead faith.”  The song from Clem Snide’s 2005 album End of Love, is a bouncy folk number.  Avett plays banjo.  The lyrics are interesting: “Now that I’m found, I wish I was lost” and “now that I’m saved, I wish I was dead.”  When the song’s over, Eef says, “not too offensive.”

Before “Some Ghost” the roosters start crowing.  Clem jokes, tell them chicken to shut the hell up.  Avett plays a full sized guitar and even sings some lead vocals.  Their harmonies are wonderful, too.  As the song ends, the rooster crows: “chicken go it right that time.”

Clem picks up a different,smaller, guitar for “Roger Ebert,” a song based on Ebert’s actual dying words: “This is all an elaborate hoax.”  Avett provides only percussion and vocals on this lovely song.

[READ: May 22, 2020] Five Years #8

Terry Moore seems like a very nice guy.  He draws people in love so wonderfully.  He draws adorable children and he specializes in a mischievous grin.

It’s easy to forget that he can be incredibly violent.  Well, I don’t know about him personally, but his art sure can be.

This issue has two violent deaths in it.  One is bloody, the other is not.

The one that is not is Stephanie.  The woman who wrapped Katchoo up in the mystery.  In several pages of wordless panels, Stephanie breaks into a secure building. She walks through a series of rooms activating secret panels.

She gets what she came for and heads out.  But when she steps outside, an unkindness of ravens swarms on her.

She drops her satchel and one of the ravens picks it up and flies off. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BUDDY & KENT JAMZ-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #25 (May 22, 2020)

It’s fascinating to learn that there’s an artist (or two) who are apparently well-known enough to not need an introduction that you have not heard of.

Or that you have not only heard of one of them, but even posted about his Tiny Desk Concert just five months ago and since then you have completely forgotten about him.

Such is the case with Buddy, who had a Tiny Desk in January, although I don’t think that Kent was there.  All I remember about that Tiny Desk (after looking it up) is that Buddy wanted to smoke a joint in the office.  And maybe that’s all I needed to take away.

Buddy and Kent Jamz aren’t just the life of the party, they’re the last two to leave. … So in the vein of Method Man and Redman, Cheech and Chong, and other mischievous pairings, they bring us the after-afterparty. For their Tiny Desk home session, or Jank session as they put it, they mirror the cover of their new project, Janktape Vol. 1: seated on a couch, red cups and bottles scattered, with the 1990s cult classic cartoon Bebe’s Kids projecting on the wall behind them. From their quarantine quarters in Los Angeles, they trade melodic bars and hooks from Janktape, with a little help from socially distanced Brody Brown on bass and keys.

I was surprised to see that this set was only 11 minutes long. The songs flow together pretty seamlessly.  Their rapping and singing is chill  and they are clearly enjoying themselves.  I enjoyed some of the lyrics

“She Think” has this fun intro

She saw me on TV and she think she falling in love
she smoke up all my weed and she think she falling in love

Kent says this is by Axel Foley who I know is an Eddie Murphy character, so is that the name of a rapper or are they just messing?

“For The Ladies” has a cool retro dance sound.  I wonder if the songs are more than just a loop when properly played without just Brody Brown (appropriately masked) playing everything.  Obviously this song is for the ladies.  This verse made me smile

one time for the groupies
two times for the hoochies
hop in the Jacuzzi
this is gonna be a doozy

Pretty much the entire lyric of “Inconsistent” is “she says I’m inconsistent.”  But “Terrified” has a bouncy melody.  I guess like an after party, this is nice to hear but easily forgotten.

[READ: May 20, 2020] Five Years #7

There’s not much left in this story, so how can Terry Moore spend an entire issue where nothing (really) happens?

Because this issue is wonderful.

There’s some great art, an amazing flashback and a fascinating action sequence.

Katchoo flies to Russia and in the voice over she says she’s never been there before (which is surprising) and doesn’t know the language.

Tambi got her a room so she doesn’t have to worry about that.  It’s no Marriott, thats’ for sure. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SYLVAN ESSO-Tiny Desk (home) Concert #24 (May 21, 2020).

Is it possible to make dance music while sitting on a couch?  Is it possible also to dance to that music while sitting on a couch?

These pressing questions are answered in this Tiny Desk Home Concert

Sylvan Esso, the Durham, N.C., couple of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn gives us three songs from their home couch using modular synths, a rhythm machine and Amelia’s heartfelt vocals.

Sanborn sits in front of box with all kind of wires patched into it. It’s an unholy mess and he manages to make the melody by pushing the buttons between those wires.

Meath sits in front of another box and supplies most of the beats. It’s neat watching her sing verses and then push a button as the drums enter or leave “Die Young,” a fun dancey song.  She answers one of the above questions in the middle of this song which has a “dance break” as Meath waves her arms and gently bounces on the couch.

“Rewind” is a slower song.  Sanborn walks off camera while Meath starts the simple drum rhythm.  I assume he’s playing a synth, although midway he picks up a guitar (how frustrating that he’s off camera–c’mon Esso!).

In keeping with Tiny Desk tradition, bands I actually like–like this one–do a set that is less than 15 minutes, while artists I’ve never heard of or don’t especially like ramble on for over 20.

So they have only one more song.  But before playing it, they plug their new release

This home concert stands in sharp contrast to Sylvan Esso’s remarkable new film, WITH, which features a host of their dear friends reshaping and reimagining their brilliant catalog of songs during the duo’s 2019 tour. Add that to your list of things to do while sitting on your couch, hopefully with someone you like.

After some technical troubles (the sound is totally wrong), they start “Radio” a very familiar dance song.  There’s more couch dancing and even some dancing from Sanborn as his finger move all over that cluttered machine.

[READ: May 20, 2020] Five Years #6

This issue makes everything seem like things are going according to plan, there’s even a lot of levity.

We see Rachel in Russia. The morgue attendant, Yana, has brought her home.  They speak Russian, although Rachel’s Russian “sounds ancient, like something she only heard at university once or twice.”  Yana wonders why she is not dead.

Rachel doesn’t die.

Then some short scenes: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RAUL MIDÓN-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #23 (May 16, 2020).

Raul Midón performed a Tiny Desk Concert back in 2018.  He was solo then (the blurb says he usually has a band with him) and he’s solo here now.  So there’s not a lot of difference between the two.

Except that in this home concert he plays five new songs.

It kicks off with two tracks from The Mirror, an album released just as we entered our quarantine period in mid-March: “I Love The Afternoon” and “I Really Want To See You Again,” a song that poetically captures the joy of friendship.

For both of these songs, Midón plays a very percussive guitar.  Whether it’s actually slapping the guitar like a drum to open the first song or the way he practically has the strings slap back against the guitar as he plays his complicated melody, there’s all kinds of rhythm going on.

He also has a light, fast, handpicking style.  And in “I Love the Afternoon” he adds a trumpet solo just with his mouth.

Midón’s jazz-influenced vocal phrasing throughout comes to the fore with just his acoustic guitar as accompaniment, illustrating once again why he’s normally one of the bright spots on our musical landscape and even more so at this moment.

Introducing “A Certain Café” he says Boris Karloff played bass.  Then he stops himself and laughs, Boris Kozlov–that’s from too much old-time radio.  It’s a slower, pretty song with a much gentler playing style.

He says that “Disguise” has fluegelhorn on the record but he’ll replace it here with his vocal fluegel, which is pretty cool.

“You’re The One” ends the set with a beautiful guitar introduction.  I was disappointed to hear that he raps the verses because the chorus is really catchy.

[READ: May 20, 2020] Five Years #5

This issue has two components.

In the first, Zoe is taken to see “Rachel’s” body. She fantasizes about killing Vlad in two spectacularly violent ways.  Zoe obviously realizes the body is not Rachel and the morgue attendant signals her in someway–although I can’t decipher it.

As they leave, Vlad offers Zoe a job since she has so much talent and potential.

Then we see Tambi parachute out of the sky with someone (is that Kathchoo?  It’s hard to tell). (more…)

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