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Archive for the ‘YA Books’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PINO PALLADINO + BLAKE MILLS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #225 (June 17, 2021).

This is a mellow, jazzy set with four musicians all playing at equal strength.  I’ve only heard of Blake Mills (although I might be getting him mixed up with Buck Meek or James Blake or Mike Mills).  But apparently I should know more of them.

 Pino Palladino is a prolific bassist whose sound you’re already intimately acquainted with (even if you don’t know it). Blake Mills, a guitarist and two-time Grammy nominee for producer of the year, has an impressive catalog of his own. Together, in the studio, the topshelf sidemen are in their element, distilling the sonic creativity that is the first release under Palladino’s name, Notes With Attachments.

“Just Wrong” opens the set

Eight pulsing calls from saxophonist Sam Gendel usher us into Just Wrong a melodic meditation that unfolds like a blossom in timelapse. Guitar, bass, sax and Abe Rounds’ colorful dustings of percussion in this song are magical; we soar with the musicians through varied repetitions of the melody before they gently set us back on our feet.

All three musicians slowly play one note to start.  Then Pino Palladino meanders up the neck of his fretless bass while Blake Mills plays higher and higher chords on the guitar.  Then he switches to an interesting picked note melody while Abe Rounds adds gentle percussive bells.  Sam Gendel on the sax plays the main lead while Paladino adds gentle harmonics. Eventually the drums get louder and Mills and Gendel seems to be responding to each other with leads.   Gendel’s sax sounds like it’s processed in interesting ways, making unusual sounds.

“Ekuté,” is a tune that explores traditional West African music, jazz and rock influences with a few modern touches of technology.

A soft shaker opens the song as Palladino plays a fretted bass melody as a lead.  Gendel starts adding in some swirling sax melodies before Mills throws in some cool wah wah guitar forms.  As the song takes off it’s like a conversation between guitar and bass, both more or less playing lead.  Gendel lays some random skronking sax notes over the bed the guitars lay down.  Eventually the song settles into a nice groove while Mills plays a fascinatingly complex solo.

“Djurkel” the final offering in this set, is also experimental in nature. Palladino’s trademark bass sound lies in the cut, the fertile ground on which Mills, Gendel and Rounds dance dreamily around each other.

This one opens with sax and guitar washes before Palladino takes over with a cool lead bass line.  Mills is playing a fretless guitar on this songs, allowing him to create a really interesting mix of sounds.

I really enjoyed the diverse amount of sounds and the mellow exploration that this set provided.

[READ: June 27, 2021] Heartstopper 3

I’ve really enjoyed this series so far and I’m quite pleased to see that there’s going to be another book after this.

This book centers around a school trip to Paris.  Both Charlie and Nick had signed up already.

After Charlies’ mom signs the permission, he bashfully says he has something to tell them.  His dad jokingly says “Are you trying to come out again, because we already know.”  Charlie laughs and then tells them about Nick and his parents are very happy because they saw how much he liked him.  But Nick is definitely banned from sleepovers forever now.  (Dad, stop saying “hanky panky.”)

When Nick sees Charlie at school the next day, Nick tells him that he came out to his mum last night and she was really supportive, too. They share a kiss and Nick jokes tat kissing at school is still a terrible idea.

In a later scene Nick’s friends Christian, Sai and Otis apologize to Nick for what happened that night when Nick got into the fight with Harry–they admit that they should have told Harry to fuck off. They all agree that they like Charlie and the four are friends again.  When Nick walks away one of them says what was I supposed to say we know you and Charlie are a thing and that’s fine??

Later, after the rugby coach sees the two of them kissing, she calls Nick into her office  After offering him the position of captain, she says that she met her wife at university.

People gave us a lot of shit.  Things are a little better now but you never know.

It’s a nice moment.

Followed by an unpleasant one, when Nick’s brother has come home from university. He says to Nick that he is talking to Charlie to meet the guy who turned his brother gay.  It turns ugly with Charlie lamenting why does being out have to be so complicated.

But there’s the Paris trip, which is definitely going to be cool. The chaperones say…no rooming between boys and girls which gets groans from everyone except for Tara and Darcy and Charlie and Nick. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ACID MOTHERS GONG-Live Tokyo (2006).

Gong is a band that started in Paris in 1967 by Daevid Allen.  The band is still active and has seen many many lineup changes over the years.  From 2003-2004 the band included members of Acid Mothers Temple.  They released a weird (well, all Gong albums are pretty weird) album called Acid Motherhood.  And then released this live document in 2006.

The line up was Daevid Allen – guitar gliss, vocals/fx; Gilli Smyth  – space whisperer; Josh Pollack – guitar, megaphone; Kawabata Makoto – guitar, voices; Cotton Casino – synth, voices; Hiroshi Higashi – synth, voices; Yoshida Tatsuya – drums, sampler; Tsuyama Atsushi – bass, whistle, vocals.

Gong used a sped up vocal technique a lot, which you can hear in the opening 40 second song called “Gnome.”  Gnome introduces Acid Mother Gong and  segues into “Ooom Ba wAH!” which is improvised processed sped up vocal nonsense.

“Crazy Invisible She” is a nearly 4 minute spoken piece by Gilli that segues into “The Unkilling Of Octave Docteur DA 4J.”  This is a nine minute jam with trippy chords and a two note riff.  There’s wild soloing and trippy space keys.  “Avahoot Klaxon Diamond Language Ritual” has more nonsensical spoken word with wild drums and guitars.  The guitar turns into a siren as chanting begins and segues into “Rituel: Umbrage Demon Stirfry & Its Upcum,” a three minute fast chanted piece with distorted voices and rocking chords.

“Jesu Ali Om Cruci-Fiction” is a ninety second swirling feedback segue into “Ze Teapot Zat Exploded” (“Flying Teapot” alternate title) a nine minute song that feels like a proper song.  It starts with a riff and then the whole band jumps in.  About halfway through someone starts singing (in English!).

“Eating Colonel Saunders Upside Down” sounds like a 7 minute transmission from outer space with a slow beat then turns into a kind of tribal chanting and ends with a high pitched voice singing a wild melody.  “Vital Info That Should Never Be Spoken” is a spoken word piece in which the sound regularly cuts out making it very hard to understand this vital info.

“Parallel Tales Of Fred Circumspex” is a five minute recited piece about Frederick in English and possibly translated into Japanese as they go?  Or is it something else?  By the end he is chanting how everyone is nude.  I guess the nude people then go to “The Isle Of Underwear.” I’m not sure why its called this as it is “Pink Lady Lemonade.”  Aafter 8 minutes someone gently sings the words of “Pink Lady Lemonade.”

“Ohm Riff Voltage 245″is 8 minutes of faster and faster chanting with lots of drums.  Then it turns into slow jamming until the end.  It segues into “Totalatonal Farewell To The Innocents” which is full of soaring sounds and deep sing song chanting that turns into a bouncy jam. By the end, the gnome voice is back.  And the show ends.

You have to be in a very specific headspace to really get into this.

[READ: June 20, 2021] Heartstopper 2

I enjoyed Heartstopper Volume 1 so much I couldn’t wait for Volume 2.  The story is so sweet and kind, I was happy that volume 2 kept up that level of joy.

I also enjoyed that Iseman opened the book with a little drama, but that it was resolved pretty quickly.

In Volume 1 we meet Charlie, who is gay.  He befriends a boy named Nick who is straight.  Charlie is unlike anyone who Nick has hung out with–he usually hangs out with jocks. Charlie is so much the opposite it’s a breath of fresh a air for Nick.  And suddenly, Nick realizes that he is falling for Charlie.

At the end of Volume 1 they kissed…

But as Volume 2 opens we see Charlie’s diary and he is very upset because Nick ran off and didn’t text or anything.  He thinks he ruined everything.  Then we see Nick trying to type his feelings in a text.  He’s sorry for running off, he really likes Charlie, he was just scared.  But he decides it would be better to say something in person.

The next morning, Charlie wakes to the doorbell.  He is in his PJs and with behead and Nick is standing there.  Nick explains everything and suddenly they are having a wonderful day together.

I love the way Iseman draws them–so sweet and loving. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BUZZY LEE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #218 (June 2, 2021).

Everybody sounds better in the bathroom, right?

There’s a comfort to be found singing in a bathroom; we all sound better with our voices bouncing off the tiles. For Sasha Spielberg, a.k.a. Buzzy Lee, she took it a step further, recording her Tiny Desk (home) concert in her childhood bathroom, which her parents decorated with images of fairytales.  … “I’d spend hours on end in here dreaming of singing in front of people. It’s also where I wrote my first song, age 5, ‘You’re Just Like Pie Crust.’ It was a pop song. Huge hit.”

Buzzy Lee’s Home Tiny Desk is filmed in her bathroom.  The show opens with her sitting on the edge of her tub playing the keys and gently singing “Strange Town.”  After 43 seconds, she adds a bass note with a second keyboard and the song fleshes out.  But when the camera pulls back you can see Adam Gunther sitting in the bathtub playing modular synth and modular bass (it sounds really good later in the song).

After a minute and a half the song changes from soft washes to a super catchy synth riff and Jorge Balbi Castellano who has been sitting on the toilet all this time, starts adding electronic drums.  Once the riff kicks in the song is really catchy and Spielberg’s voice proves to have a lot of different sounds (including a really cool mic that is like an echo chamber unto itself).

For the rest of the four song set

we hear songs and tales with different themes: obsession, love, attachment, and self-doubt, all filled with playful wordplay and her passionate voice.

It’s weird to hear her ask Gunther to “pull up the file for ‘Coolhand.'”  But it’s all smiles as he “types” in to the keyboard on the tiniest Tiny Desk yet.  This song is poppy and bouncy with some really fun singing in the verses.

When the song ends, she says “We’re going to play ‘Spoiled Love,'” and hands Jorge a newspaper.  He puts down his sticks to read while sitting on the trouble.  This song is a gentle ballad (with no drums).  I love the use of that crazy echoing microphone.

To start the final song, “What Has A Man Done,” she reaches over and “starts” the computer.  Her keyboard has a really soulful sound as she sings this slow, moody piece.  I love the way her voice goes from deep to a really high falsetto as it shifts from verse to chorus.

[READ: June 1, 2021] Heartstopper 1

Sometimes a simple love story which is told very well, can be a real joy to read.  It’s even better when there are wonderful illustrations.

The story opens on Charlie (a quiet boy) and Ben (a much louder boy) kissing in the library at school.  But the bell rings and class starts–and Ben seems a little jerky.

Charlie has a note that says he’s in a new class with kids from all four grades in it.  Charlie is in grade ten and he is placed with Nicholas Nelson an 11th grader.  As their eyes meet, the title–Heartstopper–flashes across the page

Nick is a big strong guy–a rugby player–and although he is very nice to Charlie, Charlie assumes that Nick is messing with him.  Charlie doesn’t trust the jocks–and with good reason.  When it got out that Charlie was gay (in an all boys school) news travelled fast and people weren’t nice to him.  But he seems to be pretty well accepted now–at least by some. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MDOU MOCTAR-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #213 (May 24, 2021).

Mdou Moctar has been getting some well deserved recognition lately.  It’s pretty great to see a Nigerian performer, who plays distinctly Nigerian style music making an impression on American audiences.

Of course, since I’m contrary, I’m more attracted to Moctar’s drummer who is playing a calabash–in this case red object that looks like a turtle shell and makes a remarkable range of sounds.  But really the focus should be on Moctar’s guitar playing.

Get ready for some fiery desert guitar-shredding, Saharan style, with the music of Mdou Moctar. Producer and American bassist Mikey Coltun told me that “the concert was filmed outside of the house we were all staying at in Niamey, Niger, in November/December 2020.” He continued, “As with any sort of musical happenings in the region, once some music is blasted, that’s an invitation for anyone to come join, sing, clap, dance, and just come together as a community. We wanted to present the Tiny Desk exactly like this, from when we started playing to finally the energy growing with fans crowded around filming on their cell phones and passing around Tuareg tea.”

And so, the four musicians, seated on a blanket (designed with oversized roses) with amps on either side, start playing with no fanfare.

The (home) concert starts off with Mahamadou Souleymane, a.k.a. Mdou Moctar, playing a melodic line on acoustic guitar, with Ahmoudou Madassane on rhythm guitar, Souleymane Ibrahim playing percussion on a calabash, and Mikey Coulton on his Fender Mustang bass on the song “Ya Habibti” from the album Afrique Victime. It’s an album of songs dealing with intense subjects close to Mdou Moctar’s heart: colonialism, exploitation, inequality, but also love.

The song almost feels like a drone because the bass and rhythm pretty much never change throughout.  The drumming is muted–effective but never sharp.  And Moctar’s voice and lead guitar work is subtle.  I’m sure since I don’t understand what he’s singing (which sounds pretty intense), I find his voice very soothing.

“Tala Tannam” follows in the same pattern–except the bass is even less mobile and the way Moctar sings it feels like a lullaby.  The best part is watching Ibrahim and Coltun clearly enjoying themselves–smiling to each other and even hugging at one point.  It’s hard to know how long these songs are as they seems to just go until they stop, but this one does have a deliberate ending.  It’s when he puts down his acoustic and grabs the electric guitar.

You can hear the real musical fire on the last song, the roughly 7-minute psych-rock title track to Afrique Victime. “Africa is a victim of so many crimes,” Mdou Moctar sings in French. “If we stay silent, it will be the end of us.” Silence is not something in Mdou Moctar’s vocabulary.

Moctar’s soloing was subtle on the other songs, but you can really here it standing out with this sharp electric guitar sound.  It’s nice to watch his fingers fly around the neck. There’s some guitar god moments in the soloing–including some finger tapping–but having him seated and equal with everyone else, the solos never seem showoffy.  I also like the way the song speeds up incrementally as it goes–mostly notable by how fast Ibrahim is suddenly hitting the calabash.

[READ: June 10, 2021] Losing the Girl

This final book of the trilogy was a little disappointing for me.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but I feel like there wasn’t enough resolution for anyone.

The book opens on Nigel.  Claudia has shown up to tutor him in math.  He is so smitten he writes a poem that he submits for class.  He calls it “Teacher” and his teacher assumes it is about her.  I can’t even believe that he would submit a poem with the line “teach me how to make puppy love turn into doggy style”  (Nigel is so clueless).

Next we see Brett at his mother’s funeral.  Johanna tries to comfort him but he blows her off demanding to know why she didn’t tell him about her and Paula.  They smooth things over and she asks if his father knows that his mother died.  He says no, he hasn’t talked to his father in a long time.  Jo says her mother might know how to get in touch with him.

The next section is about Darren.  He is by himself remembering how his father hurt his mother and how he doesn’t want to repeat the cycle. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAURIE ANDERSON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #212 (May 20, 2021).

Anyone who likes original or avant garde music knows Laurie Anderson.  Even forty years later, her music is unlike most other music out there.  Her music still sounds futuristic.

Which doesn’t mean it’s always enjoyable.  But some of it is quite good and it’s all pretty fascinating.  It’s also fascinating that you know instantly that it’s Laurie Anderson.  Her voice hasn’t changed in years–true she doesn’t sing, but it’s still the same.

She begins this set, which feels incredibly minimal with her keyboardist (and so much more–she played on and produced Big Science with Laurie Anderson in 1982) Roma Baron playing a simple clicking beat track.  She speaks (with her voice processed):

I met this guy and he looked like he might have been a hat check clerk at an ice ring.  Which in fact he turned out to be.  And I said oh boy, right again.

And Rubin Kodheli on the cello is playing gentle strings, including high notes sliding down the fretboard.

Is the song a story?  Does it have a narrative?  Or is it just stream of consciousness?  I’m not sure.

Laurie Anderson is a revolutionary artist who has mixed storytelling, music and technology for the past four decades plus. This Tiny Desk (home) concert celebrates the truly breathtaking breakthrough album she put out in 1982, Big Science. On that record, she used a few different voice processors; one of them was a Vocoder. By singing into a microphone attached to a keyboard, you can hear how it effectively adds harmony to her voice on “Let x=x.”

Laurie Anderson’s music seems so serious, so it’s delightful to hear her be so loose and chatty (and funny) between songs.

She introduces Rubin Kodheli, her favorite musician, with whom she plays all the time.  They create what’s listed here as “Violin Cello Improv.”  It’s about a minute of vaguely dissonant string music.

Then comes the big song, the one that people know Laurie Anderson for.  If it wasn’t a hit, it was certainly popular.

Laurie Anderson also used that [Vocoder] effect, creating what I think of as ‘the voice of authority’ in her storytelling, on “O Superman,” a song unlike anything music I’d heard when it came out in 1981. She made use of a vocal loop, something ever-present these days in sampling, but here she uses an Eventide Harmonizer, looping the single syllable “ha” as the rhythm of the song. It’s a song about dealing with the technological revolution, about compassion; if it’s your first time hearing it, take it in and see what strikes you.

The song has always felt very mechanical to me (it must be the looping and the synthesized voice), but it’s really interesting to hear how it changes live. Not drastically, but it feels like a living breathing song, which is pretty neat.  As is Bob Boilen’s story:

On a personal note, I was a lover of Laurie’s music back in those days; they were also the days I played synthesizer in my band Tiny Desk Unit. We opened for Laurie Anderson in 1981, and Laurie joined us onstage for a song. I bring this up because the Tiny Desk name (created by our guitarist Michael Barron) was familiar to Laurie long before this NPR series existed. At the end of her home concert, Laurie, I assume, mistakenly, thanks Tiny Desk Unit for having her. It made me smile and sparked so many memories. Thank you, Laurie.

Laurie Anderson is 74 and she seems as vibrant as ever.

[READ: June 10, 2021] Gravity’s Pull

I really enjoyed everything about Book 1 of this series and I was delighted to see that Volumes 2 and 3 were already out.

Volume 2 follows the same characters and is laid out in the same way (with each section following one of the characters but having the timeline stay linear.  MariNaomi also seems to be having even more fun with her drawings,

The first part is about Nigel Q. Jones (just like in the last book).  He’s in class when his teacher announces that the girl who was missing in book one (Claudia Jones–no relation) has suddenly returned and is coming back to school.  The teacher asks that everyone just give her space.

We realize it has been four months since the last book so Claudia has been gone along time.

Meanwhile Nigel still thinks about Emily (who has a cool new haircut–when a friend said she finally has good hair, the insult is not unnoticed) but realizes it’s time for him to move on.  As he’s thinking this Claudia Jones walks into the building and Nigel falls instantly in love with her.  How does she suddenly look so beautiful?  Almost otherworldly.  Here’s where MariNaomi has fun with the illustrations, making Nigel’s dreadlocks look like a kind of glove the way she draws his head. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATHLEEN EDWARDS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #211 (May 19, 2021).

Kathleen Edwards is a wonderful songwriter with a fantastic voice.  I discovered her from her 2008 album Asking For Flowers.

She put out one more record and then disappeared.

Struggling with depression, Kathleen Edwards opened a coffee shop called Quitters Coffee and lived a very different life.  A handful of years later, in 2017, she was invited to Nashville by Maren Morris to write some songs. That Nashville visit sparked a new beginning and eventually the 2020 album Total Freedom, which birthed the four songs you hear in this Tiny Desk concert.

So Kathleen Edwards is back with a wonderful new album.

On this Tiny desk she is joined by Todd Lombardo and Justin Schipper on dobro (that slide guitar looking thing).

Kathleen’s voice sounds great and on “Glenfern.”

From a house in East Nashville, Kathleen Edwards sings about how thankful she is for those early aughts when she was praised with awards, television appearances, touring to packed venues — even if the tour bus with the bed in back was “total crap.” As she continues to sing “Glenfern,” the opening track to her first album in eight years as well as this Tiny Desk (home) concert, she remembers her former husband and collaborator.

After the first song she introduces the band and says I can’t sing through a mask so after this we’re going straight to to the COVID clinic.

Kathleen Edwards seems happy playing these new songs.  They can be songs of sadness, sometimes filled with seething, such as “Ashes to Ashes,” but she’s also grateful for her everlasting love for a four-legged creature and the little catalpa tree where it’s buried.

There’s some beautiful interplay of guitars in this song.  It’s amazing how great her voice sounds with no accompaniment, no effects.  And afterwards she tells a delightful story about catalpa trees–I just passed one on a dog walk yesterday and absolutely want to try to grow my own this year.

“Hard On Everyone” is the song that’s been getting some airplay around here.  It’s so catchy, I love it.  And the lyrics are pointed and spot on.  when the song is over she and Todd bump elbows and their guitars bump for a nice resounding thump.

I would love to see Kathleen Edwards live.  She played one of her first shows after retiring at XPN Fest, unfortunately that was the year we went to Newport Folk Festival.  Now I see she’s coming around again, but she’s opening for Jason Isbell, and I don’t want to see him, so I’ll have to hope she finds a smaller club to headline.

[READ: June 10, 2021] Losing the Girl

T. brought this book home from school and I though the cover looked pretty neat.  When I looked inside I really liked the crazy drawing style(s) of it (S. did not like it at all).

The book opens on Nigel Jones, a boy with dreadlocks (his profile is always great, and MariNaomi uses these dreadlocks to express Nigels’ mood in clever ways).  The book also uses simple things like arrows to convey movement in a panel, which I liked.  One of the early ones shows a city block.  We just saw Nigel get off a bus and the arrows and a tiny figure on a skateboard show which way he is going.  This effect is used very well at a party later as we see the crowd move about the room in a static picture.

It’s through Nigel that we learn that nobody’s phones are working–this is a steady concern and a minor (or major) irritant throughout the story.   We also learn that a girl, Claudia Jones, (no relation) has been missing for three days.  Everyone has speculations about what happened to her.

Nigel lives with his mom (his dad has moved out) and Nigel is not too happy about the new arrangements–just because your parents separate doesn’t mean they fight less.  In school the next day Nigel tells a joke to Emily.  I found it very funny but Emily doesn’t seem to.  She asks if that’s his way of flirting with her.  A lightbulb goes off and he says yes (he’s had a crush on her for years).  She agrees to meet him at the bleachers later. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ChocoQuibTown-Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK: #204/196 (May 2, 2021).

Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK was the opening event of AFROPUNK’s “Black Spring” festival. The virtual celebration, hosted by Jorge “Gitoo” Wright, highlighted outstanding talent in Afro-Latin and Afro-Caribbean music across the globe. Our showcase featured four artists who honored their homes and celebrated the art their heritage has inspired.

 ChocQuibTown–named after the coastal area the trio hails from–is a family affair comprised of siblings Miguel “Slow” Martinez and Gloria “Goyo” Martinez, the latter of which is married to Carlos “Tostao” Valencia. In 2000, the trio formed to promote their neglected corner of Colombia’s culture; today, ChocQuibTown’s music blends the traditionality of Afro-Latin jazz with the modernity of hip-hop to create a singular, yet versatile sound.

They play what I assume is a medley of six songs in fifteen minutes.

“Somos Pacífico” has grooving bass from Braulio Fernández and little horn blasts from José González.

“De Donde Vengo Yo” shifts gears when Tostao starts singing lead the repeated “ah has” from Eignar Renteria and Yaima Saurez are very fun.  Goyo raps and then Slow raps.  Rapping in Spanish has a really nice flow.

“¡Tú sabes!” Carlos “Tostao” Valencia exclaims after Colombian hip-hop trio ChocQuibTown performs its second song, the energetic “De Donde Vengo Yo.” “ChocQuibTown, straight from Colombia, from the Pacific coast,” he says. “We call it Africa inside Colombia, we got the flavor, we got the flow.”

The rest of the songs are much quieter.  “Pa Olvidarte” has soft acoustic guitar from Alejandro García and keys from Daniel Rodríguez “Noize.”  They sing softly in nice harmony.

“Qué Lástima” is another slow ballad, this one sung by Slow, with gentle percussion from Carlos Palm.  “Lo Que Quieras Tú” segues smoothly into “Cuando Te Veo” which is a little bouncier and fun to start but it slows down for Goyo’s vocals.  As the send the song out, Tostao does some sound effects scratching and singing Tiny Desk and blapping.

[READ May 30, 2021] Red Sonja and Vampirella Meet Betty and Veronica

I don’t understand crossovers.  Well, I understand some, when they make sense.  It’s ones like this that I don’t understand.  Did someone just say, Wouldn’t it be cool if Red Sonja and Vampirella teamed up and went to Riverdale?  I guess so.  And sometimes the most ridiculous crossovers make the best stories.

Amy Chu wrote this story with Alexander Chang’s assistance on book 5.

Now, I don’t watch Riverdale, but I know the show.  So obviously this isn’t old school Betty and Veronica.  But neither, I don’t think, is it Riverdale-based either (or maybe it is).  I’ve also never read Red Sonja or Vampirella books.  So really this crossover event is not for me.

And yet, I did enjoy it.

The book opens with a teacher getting killed and then a shot of Red Sonja and Vampirella in the woods.  Now, I realize that these two characters were created by men, and that’s why they are dressed as they are.   Red Sonja could not be dressed more impractically for fighting as she is wearing a hooded cape and a chain mail bikini.  I mean, the absurdity of dressing like that for combat is monumental.  The cape alone would cause her no end of grief.  Vampirella is at least wearing clothes–a cleavage enhancing skin tight tank top and super low cut off jeans.  But hey, she’s a seductress, right?

I guess I was surprised that Amy and artist Maria Laura Sanapo would keep these costumes. But they do need to establish the characters traditionally first, right?  It was a nice surprise when a few pages later, Betty & Veronica (who aren’t at all disturbed by a woman in a chain mail bikini with a large sword) invite them over and dress them in regular clothes (still sexy) so they blend in. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CARM-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #192 (April 15, 2021).

CJ Camerieri is a co-founder of yMusic, which is how I know him (I saw him perform with Ben Folds).

This is his new project, CARM.  Camerieri is also a member of Paul Simon’s band, a collaborator with Bon Iver and a Tiny Desk alum. (You can hear his French horn with The Tallest Man On Earth from their 2019 Tiny Desk Concert.)

“Soft Night” is the first track and introduces us to what CARM is about.  He plays trumpet while Trever Hagen plays electronics and sets up the melody and drums.  Then Camerieri switches to French horn while Hagen plays some trumpet.  Then in a fun moment, Camerieri picks up the trumpet with his right whole still holding the French horn in his left.  He plays the trumpet melody and then puts down the trumpet and starts on the French horn.  For the rest of this five-minute instrumental, the two jump back and forth playing trumpet riffs and leads as the electronics build satisfyingly.

For CJ Camerieri … home is where the art is. He performed his concert at the Pablo Center in Eau Claire, Wisc., where [he] conceived and recorded all the songs for his 2021 debut solo album, CARM. “This particular community has been a really big part of my musical life for 10 years,” CJ says after playing the calming tune “Soft Night,” “so it seems like the perfect place to be doing this.”

He made “Song of Trouble” with Sufjan Stevens.  They wrote it before the pandemic but the lyrics have taken on new meaning.  S. Carey plays piano and sings.  This is another mellow song with some lovely muted trumpet and simple electronics backing the song.

“Nowhere” is a little stranger.  It opens with jittery trumpet and skittery and loud electronics.  The juxtaposition of the organic horns and the electronic instruments is very cool.

“Slantwise” opens with some rapid and wild drum loops.  Then Camerieri loops the French horn and trumpet giving the song a rather majestic feel.

[READ: May 11, 2021] A Complicated Love Story Set in Space

The librarian in West Windsor recommended this book to my son.  He didn’t read it, but I loved the title and was really interested in reading it.

And wow, did I enjoy it.

I have not read anything by Hutchinson before, so I’m not sure how this compares to his other books, but this was, indeed, a very complicated love story.  In the acknowledgments Hutchinson says that originally the story was called Gays in Space.  And while that is a fun title, I think the final title is wonderfully compelling.

The story opens on Noa.  Noa is a normal teenager from Seattle.  But he has just woken up and he finds himself in a spacesuit, floating outside of a spaceship.  He has no recollection of how he got there.  There’s a note that says “You are in space floating outside a ship called Qriosity.  There is no reason to panic.”

Well, thank goodness for that.

After getting his bearings, a voice speaks to him.  The voice is from a teenaged boy named DJ.  DJ is from Florida and he is aboard the Qriosity.  He also has no idea how he got there.

They are each tasked with a pressing problem and if they don’t fix them immediately, the ship will explode.  Noa panics (as he tends to do) but DJ calms him and talks to him as they work together to fix the ship.  Which they do.  But as Noa is heading to the airlock, his tether is not attached and he is flung from the ship.  He has nowhere near enough oxygen and soon enough, he is dead.

That’s a rough start for the protagonist of the story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKDAVIDO-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #174 (February 24, 2021).

I thought I knew what Afrobeat was and that I was really starting to enjoy it, but Davido plays something other than what I was expecting.

Nigerian Afrobeats star Davido comes to us from his estate in Lagos with an intimate four-song performance that takes us on a mini-retrospective of his career.

He and his band create a sultry vibe with a unique rendition of “Gobe,” his smash 2013 single, to open the set.

“Gobe” doesn’t have the percussion and bounce that I thought it would, although drummer Stanley Unogu is pretty sharp.  The lyrics are pretty funny, though

Girl your behind is a killer
I can see you’re sensual
See gobe
Omo see gobe eh
When you wiggle and waver
You must be intentional

Bassey Kenneth and Sylvia Asuquo sing nice backing vocals.  Then he says that “Aye” is dedicated to his father.

Davido has long expressed pride in his father’s success. He titled his 2012 debut album Omo Baba Olowo, meaning “son of a rich man” in the Yoruba language. In his (home) concert, Davido cites his father as his inspiration in a sweet and tender moment: “A Nigerian American like myself that studied in the States…I went to an HBCU, you know… My dad went to one as well and my dad used to work at Burger King. … To become what he’s become today as a Black man starting off in America has been very, very inspiring to me.”

A cool bass slide and generally fun bouncy bass from Kenneth Ogueji make “Aye” a fun track.  The rest of the song is all keys from Gospel Obi and Orowo “Roy” Ubiene.

In collaboration with the Alternate Sound band, Davido strips back “Aye,” a hit from 2014, with an unfettered rendition showcasing his natural voice devoid of any vocal effects.

It’s followed by “Risky” which is a bit more poppy.

Rounding out this Tiny Desk (home) concert, he concludes with “Jowo,” a single from the album that of conjures hope for better times ahead.

“Jowo” is a sadder ballad.  I like the song, but I cant help but think that by the end the backing singers are off key.

[READ: March 24, 2021] This is Not the Jess Show

I subscribed to the Quirk books newsletter some time ago.  And that explains why I received so much promotion for this book which I’d never otherwise heard of.

I read the blurb and it sounded fun, so I checked it out of the library.  And I was hooked instantly.

The book set in 1998 and it rather revels in 90s culture.   I though this was a lot of fun (since I am quite fond of the 90s myself).  At times it seemed like the book was maybe overdoing it with the 90s love (how many reference points are there: Titanic, Jewel, Scott Wolf, Savage Garden, Chumbawamba, Tori Amos), but whatever, Jess is a teenage girl and pop culture is pretty important in a teenager’s life.

As are crushes.  Her oldest friend Tyler has suddenly become… more interesting to her.  When they were younger, Tyler had buckteeth and rust colored hair.  He was fun but dorky.  And yet suddenly, she couldn’t stop thinking about him.

Her two best girl friends Kristen and Amber just didn’t get it.  They still thought of Tyler as a dork and they really discouraged Jess form pursuing him.  They teased her that she was like the song “Lady in Red”

It’s like, really?  You’ve known her this whole time and you’re only into her now, after seeing her in a red dress?  Isn’t that a little …fickle?

In fact, they know that Patrick Kramer, the hunky soccer player (and local hero!) is going to ask Jess to the spring formal.  How could she pass this up?  (Because Jess thinks Patrick is dull as dirt). (more…)

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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…)

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