Sunday, 10 August 2014

Sunday Music

Another rainy Sunday passes and brings with it Sunday Music. I'd planned a couple more posts for this week but lack of time and a surfeit of procrastination killed them, or at least pushed them back a week. A review of comic The Fuse will show up next week. I had planned to do a My Favourite Albums post about Leonard Cohen's New Skin for the Old Ceremony but I'm thinking I might do Salutation Road by Martin Stephenson & The Daintees instead. 

The Wind Cries Mary - The Jimi Hendrix Experience One of my very favourite tracks on one of my very favourite albums. Hendrix's brilliance is pretty much universally acknowledged but I think Mitch Mitchell's genius is too often overlooked. Listen to this song and pay particular attention to how he's drumming. This is a jazz fusion song as much as a rock song and that's down to Mitchell's drumming and the way he and Hendrix feed off each other.

Ghost Riders In The Sky - The Shadows (originally by Stan Jones) This isn't my favourite song by The Shadows or my favourite version of this song but I needed a cover and I'd never posted a song by The Shadows before; I decided to put that wrong right.

After Hours - The Velvet Underground Originally this was going to be I'm Sticking With You but I'll leave that for another two weeks. After Hours seemed the perfect song to use instead. Another song with Mo Tucker's vocals but in many ways an opposite to it.

Darker By The Day - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds The standout track from And No More Shall We Part, a turning point album for Nick Cave, this really shows off Nick Cave's abilities as a story teller. This was the first bad Seeds album I owned and this was the first song from that album I loved.

Depth Charge Ethel - Grinderman Over time the Bad Seeds changed from a raw post-punk band to something much more orchestral and polished. Grinderman was formed by 4 Bad Seeds, (Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos and Martyn P. Casey), and produced two raw rock albums that still feature Nick Cave's story telling lyrical style.

Past Mistake - Tricky Tricky sounding very Tricky-ish from the 2008 album Knowle West Boy, with guest vocals from Lubna. A song with roots in his earlier albums, I'll be discussing this album sometime next week.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Tricky listening

Another week and another Tricky album. This week it's 2003's Vulnerable.

The cover of Love Cats I used in last week's Sunday Music comes from this album. This is an album that I'm not a huge fan of. There's a sort of club style dance music feel to parts of the album that I'm not really a huge fan of. It's not a bad album, it's just one I have no desire to listen to again.

However there is one song from it I love, Car Crash. So instead of skipping this album and/or this week, I'll just post that song.

Car Crash by Tricky

Car Crash is the track on the album that is best suited to the vocals of Tricky and Constanza. I'm as much a fan of Tricky's gruff and raspy vocals as anyone else, but his delivery on this track is toned back, a back-up vocalist that adds depth to the sing. Costanza takes centre stage here. Her voice rises above the atmosphere of the rest of the track and is full of grace. Remember those chillout compilation albums that started gaining popularity in the early 2000's? This track is what they all aspire to be. Full of depth and texture, relaxing without ever zoning you out of the sound of the song and into a comfort zone where the track is just background music. It's laidback and vital at the same time. That's a tough feat to pull of.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Comic Review - The Wicked + The Divine

The Wicked + The Divine is an ongoing creator owned comic. It is written by  Kieron Gillen with art by Jamie McKelvie. Currently 2 issues have been published. It's published by Image. This is a spoiler free review.

The Wicked + The Divine #1 cover by Jamie McKelvie
I've spoken before about how absolutely brilliant Gillen & McKelvie's Phonogra; it should come as no surprise that I rate this highly too. And I do rate it very highly. With only two issues out it is one of three comics that vie for the title of my favourite, (The others are Alex + Ada, reviewed here, and Sex Criminals, to be reviewed soon).

One of the reasons I like it so much after two issues is the lack of wasted space. It's common in comics that the first issue is all set-up with a final page reveal that gets the main story started. Partly because it's serialised story telling and you want people to buy the next issue but partly because creators want to set up the world they are telling their story in. The Wicked + The Divine creates the world as it tells the story.It's set on a world that is basically our own. The concept is that every 90 years 12 gods become incarnate in already living people. Within 2 years they're all dead.

The current incarnations of the gods have all become pop stars. The story is told through the filter of Laura, a fan of the gods/popstars who wants to become one of them. The secondary main character, (so far anyway, i guess she'll become as prominent as Laura soon), is Cassandra; a critic and journalist who is sceptical that these people are gods.The comic deals with how people are idolised and elevated by society as a whole. Laura & Cassandra represent the two extremes of this. One totally buying in to the idea and the other not just dismissing it but hating that people buy in to it. Nonetheless, they are both obsessed with the truth behind the story; they're both obsessed with the gods.

Art by Jamie McKelvie
As I said before, Laura wants to become one of the gods. She wants what they have. Of course a journey towards becoming that means leaving behind everything else, friends, family, college. She wants what they have but if she achieves it and becomes famous, will there be anything left of her. Will she still be Laura or another, ultimately disposable, celebrity. After all, these people are gods. But only for two years.

I mentioned this will be spoiler free so rather than talk any more about the plot I'm going to talk about what makes the book great. Firstly, the art is gorgeous. McKelvie has the knack of drawing images that even when full of movement and action are never confused or muddled. They lead the reader exactly where they need to go. Matt Wilson's colours deserve special praise too. the palette fits perfectly with the art; it's bright without ever being garish. Gillen's writing is clever but not subtle. That's not to say there's nothing to be found be re-reading or digging deeper into the story, there is, but it's a book about pop culture and how that leads to a transient immortality. It is frequently on the nose but never overbearingly asking you if you get the points it's making.

 Art by Jamie McKelvie 
Gillen & McKelvie are two talented creators and their work is always worth checking out. When they're collaborating it becomes a must buy for me. The Wicked + The Divine is shaping up to be their masterpiece. You should grab the first two issues and join in.

One last thing. Being that it's a book based around popstars, and Gillen is an ex-music journalist, he's created a spotify playlist for the series here.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Sunday Music

Today is the first sunny day we've had all week. Thankfully my neighbour's Elvis album has yet to make an appearance. Long may it continue. On with the music.

After yesterday's post on Hometowns I don't want anyone to be of the impression that it was The RAA's only album worth listening too. As proof, here's the first single from their second album Departing.
The Rural Alberta Advantage - Stamp

I've been meaning to feature this for a couple of weeks now. It gets stuck in my head on a pretty regular basis.
Broken Bells - The Ghost Inside

Another song that gets stuck in my head on a pretty regular basis.
The Black Keys - Next Girl

This was an easy choice. A cover by Tricky from the album that we're up to in his discography, (Vulnerable), this is a cover that's more re-imagining than straight copying. Those are the best type of covers.

Tricky - The Love Cats (originally by The Cure)

I love the open, cinematic sound to this song. It sounds nothing like actual Blues music but still captures the feel of Blues.
Timber Timbre - Bad Ritual

REM spent 15 years making great album after great album and then Reveal came out. It wasn't bad but it was a major step down from everything else they'd done, except for 2 or 3 songs. That was followed by Around The Sun which was, again, not bad. Just average. Average in a way that makes you never want to listen to it again, possibly apart from Final Straw. It seemed that REM's time was over. It happens and two less than good albums wouldn't detract at all from their legacy but still, it wasn't how it should have ended. Thankfully REM released too more albums before they quit and they more than made up for the disappointments of Reveal and Around The Sun. This is the first track from their penultimate album Accelerate. When I heard it, I knew REM were back.
REM - Living Well is the Best Revenge

My Favourite Albums - Hometowns

Hometowns is the debut album from The Rural Alberta Advantage. Released in 2008 and then re-released in 2009 after the band signed with a new & bigger label.

The Rural Alberta Advantage, from here on out I'll just refer to them as The RAA, is a three piece Canadian band made up of Nils Edenloff, (guitar and vocals), Amy Cole, (backing vocals, keyboards and percussion), and Paul Banwatt (drums).

Amy Cole, Paul Banwatt & Nils Edenloff (l-r)
If you read the last installment of Sunday Music you'll have seen, and heard, Don't Haunt This Place from Hometowns. It's one of my favourite songs from the album but it's not necessarily representative of the whole album, at least musically. I'm not sure there is one song that's representative of the musical styles on the album.

 The Dethbridge in Lethbridge

Lyrically however the album covers the same ground regardless of the music. The songs are about longing for something lost. A man in Toronto looking back at his past in Alberta and writing about that. So the lyrics are about things lost. Things left behind. A simpler way of life that we have when we're younger; soon enough to be replaced by the more complicated adult world. And it's a world that can never be revisited. Even if you go back to those places you've changed even if the places haven't. It's nostalgia, the remembering of things we loved that are gone.

Four Night Rider

Of course the problem with nostalgia can be that it leads to a refusal to grow up. Always looking back at the past is the easiest way to miss the present. This is not a trap that I personally feel Hometowns fall into. It's not an album about nostalgia as much as it's an album about living. Partially of this comes from the lyrics but mostly I think it comes from Paul Banwatt's drumming. All three members of the band are skilled musicians worthy of praise and the band works together in a perfectly complimentary way. All that said; Banwatt may be the best drummer around at the moment. In my opinion he's certainly vying with The Bad Plus' Dave King for the title. His drumming is always flawless, always driving the band along but never straying to far ahead. It gives the album a much needed vitality.


Nils Edenloff's vocals do somewhat sound like Jeff Magnum's. The RAA however aren't another band trying to be the next Neutral Milk Hotel; they are just uniquely themselves and Hometowns is the perfect, (I know I've over-used that word), and expression of that. In a world where it's easier to tear things down and make snarky, pithy comments, (something I am very guilty of) this is a sincere album by a sincere band. If there is one song that perfectly sums up this album it's In The Summertime. A song about the past, dealing with the present optimistically, and looking forward to the future. Driven along by Banwatt's heartbeat drumming accomponied by Amy Cole's keyboards and finishing off the song, and the album, with her vocals.

In The Summertime

Your music collection is a much poorer place without Hometowns.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Comic review - Satellite Sam

Satellite Sam is an ongoing creator owned comic. It is written by Matt Fraction with art by Howard Chaykin. Currently 8 issues have been published and a trade paper back collecting issues 1-5 is also available. It's published by Image. Before we go any further there will be some mild spoilers in this review.

Satellite Sam #1 cover by Howard Chaykin

Matt Fraction is currently writing another creator owned book at Image, Sex Criminals. Sex Criminals is a sex comedy. I won't go into it any further now, there will be a review in the next week or two. I mention only because Satellite Sam is pretty much the polar opposite of it.

Satellite Sam is set in the early 1950's at the birth of TV. Satellite Sam is a serialised kids sci-fi TV show. In the first issue the star, and owner, of the show is found dead. In a secret apartment in which his son, the main character, finds boxes and boxes of photos of women.

Art by Howard Chaykin
The comic revolves around Mike, the aforementioned son, and his attempts to find out just what happened to his dad and what all those pictures are about. Also, he replaces his dad on the Satellite Sam show, despite not being an actor. Or at least it's mostly about that. There are plenty of subplots running through the series. There's the studio owner trying to compete with the networks. The show's writer dealing with various pressures that would be too spoilerish to go into. One of the female co-stars of the show, Maria, and her relationship with her boyfriend. The director and his health. One of the crew members, Gene, trying to creative an inventive new style of TV show. Mike recruits another of the show's female co-stars to help him find out more about his dad. This co-star is also a born-again Christian and former hedonist. Her helping Mike leads to her having to confront issues from her past she thought long dealt with. To put it another way, the series is packed with plot and sub-plots.

Sometimes that works against it as they don't always seem to mesh together well. Mostly though it's a compelling look at just how messed up and inter-connected everything is. The comic has a tight, clautraphobic atmosphere. Everyone's trapped in some way. Mike is trapped in his father's shadow. The station is trapped by federal legislation. Other characters are trapped by the contrast between the lives they want to lead and the lives they have to appear to lead, again I'm trying to avoid spoilers. Maria is trapped, trying to make a career in America after leaving her life in Italy behind after the war. The picture below is her dressing for her boyfriend exactly how she appears on one of the posters for an old film of hers. She's trapped by the past and her heritage.

Art by Howard Chaykin

Even Gene, as he tries to break new ground in his medium, is trapped by what a terrible person he can be.

Gene's struggle is really the struggle of the comic. He wants to make a TV show where the words and the story clash with each other and both need to be paid attention to. The comic is the story of people trying to make their way in the world and the art is full of tightly framed panels to show just how constricted they are. Ultimately the things they do are limited by things they can't control.

It's fair to say that the comic has too many plotlines than it can handle sometimes and it's true to say that the main character, Mike, is pretty much a forgettable main character, (to a degree that's part of the point of his character but it can make it a little too hard to care about him), but overall this comic is a well written & beautifully drawn series that weaves interesting stories that promise to pay off in an very entertaining way in the future. I think it's worth checking out.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Some more Tricky music

As promised on Sunday here are some more songs from Tricky. These all come from the 2001 album Blowback.

Excess by Tricky feat Stephanie McKay and Alanis Morissette

The aim of Blowback was to get some more radio play and commercial success than the previous albums. Excess shows this perfectly. It's poppy in a way that only Tricky can really be.

#1 Da Woman by Tricky feat John Frusciante, Flea and Josh Klinghoffer

Essentially Tricky rapping over the Wonder Woman theme while John Frusciante provides guitars and vocals, Flea plays bass and Klinghoffer drums. So, yeah. Tricky + Red Hot Chili Peppers + Wonder woman theme. I shouldn't have to tell you great that is.

Five Days by Tricky feat Cyndi Lauper

Tricky's usual vocal style is on full display here; no suprises there. What was auprise, to me at least, is just how well Cyndi Lauper's voice compliments Tricky's.

That's it for today; enjoy the great music.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Sunday Music

I know technically this is early Monday morning not Sunday but I consider that if I haven't been to bed it's not morning yet. 

Rural Alberta Advantage - Don't Haunt This House From their fabulous debut album Hometowns which will be the subject of a My Favourite Albums blog in the coming week.

Radiohead - A Wolf at the Door Just a great song, from a great band, with a great video. 

Dax Riders - I Was Made For Lovin' You (originally by Kiss) I don't watch a lot of TV normally. Outside of sports the only programme I regularly watch in The Simpsons, with my daughter. Kiss' original I Was made for Lovin' You was on one of the episodes last week and we've spent most of the weekend end singing it at each other. This cover is in celebration of that.

Foo Fighters - Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love (originally by Van Halen) While we're on the subject of late 70's rock...

Die Toten Hosen - Guns of Brixton (originally by The Clash) I almost posted this in my Weltmeister post but decided to save it for Sunday Music instead. It's in English.

Wash My Soul - Tricky One last track from Juxtapose before we move on with Tricky. There'll be another Tricky post during the week.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Long songs

I was talking to a friend the other day about long songs and I though that'd be a good idea for a blog. So here we are. Three songs over 9 minutes long. I've excluded jazz from this, because that's kind of cheating

Kissing the Beehive by Wolf Parade.

The Court of the Crimson King by  King Crimson

Sister Ray by The Velvet Underground

That's it. I don't have a lot to say about these songs now because I'm ridiculously tired so I'm going to go to bed and read comics. Enjoy the three very different long songs and I'll see you tomorrow for Sunday Music.