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Tuesday, April 30, 2013


KINGSBURY MANX - Bronze Age (Odessa)

Album number six from the Chapel Hill folk pop group turns up the psychedelia as they evolve into a more upbeat version of their earlier records.

At their best, Kingsbury Manx remind me an American take on Belle and Sebastian. They excel at songs that are firmly rooted in folk, but built up with captivating pop hooks and an eclectic palette of flourishes. They perfectly nailed it on their 4th album, 2005's the Fast Rise and Fall of the South, which made my Top 20 and still gets regular play through my headphones. Kingsbury Manx were never a band to settle into a groove and ride it; they're creatively restless and always evolving.

On much of the new album they pick up the tempo, filling out the sound with psychedlic (and at times proggy) richness and a clearly more rocking delivery. I don't recall their guitars ever being that fuzzy or the swirling keyboards being so full and upfront. They don't reinvent themselves to the degree of being jarring for fans of their earlier work, but like Wilco they are willing to risk stepping into new terrains without losing sight of what they do best. On a casual listen it's a pleasant album filled with memorable hooks and some wonderful pastoral pop. But when you dig in deeper, you can hear how meticulously crafted the whole thing is and how intricate the arrangements are. At times they come close to overthinking or overworking every detail, but never quite cross that line to distract from the top notch songwriting. This is a record that offers new things on repeated listens - the more you live with it the more it delivers subtle surprises.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Doodles! Doodles! Doodles! Yup....some more doodles.

Here are a few pages of doodles and cartoons from my Moleskine Folio A4 sketchbook.

more doodles from the Sketchbook

more doodles from the Sketchbookmore doodles from the Sketchbook

more doodles from the Sketchbookmore doodles from the Sketchbook
more doodles from the Sketchbook

So that's them doodles. Y'all come back now, ya' hear?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

My first two attempts at cartooning with acrylic paints

I've been drawing as long as I can remember, but I've never ventured far from pens and markers. I only dipped my toe into colored markers a few times in the past year or so, so almost everything I've ever drawn has been with a black marker or pen on a sketchbook page or piece of paper. To mix things up my wife and I signed up for an Acrylic Class at the Elmhurst Art Museum. We did a still life at the first class, which was the first time I've touched a paintbrush since grade school. It was quite satisfying to actually paint something, especially something serious since even when I set out to make a more traditional drawing it tends to end up turning into a cartoon.

But I was anxious to see if I could use acrylics to do something goofier and more fun in a style similar to my doodles. Last night I sat at the dining room and knocked out these two cartoon paintings. To ease into it I started out with some familiar. Both of these are based on reoccurring doodles in my repertoire. I'm still trying to get comfortable with using brushes, mixing colors, etc, but I had a lot of fun and am happy with how they turned out. Especially since this is only my 2nd and 3rd times putting brush to canvas.

Record Eating Rabbit: My first attempt at "cartooning" with acrylic paints
Record Eating Rabbit - Acrylic on 6" x 6" canvas panel

Push Fido Push: My second attempt at "cartooning" with acrylic paints

Push Fido Push - Acrylic on 6" x 6" canvas panel

Friday, April 26, 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: WIRE - Change Becomes Us

WIRE - Change Becomes Us (Pink Flag)

Using unfinished 30 year old snippets as the starting point, the post-punk legends make their most rewarding album since reforming.

It never feels accurate to describe Wire as reinventing themselves since their very foundation is built around constant experimentation and defying expectations. The band is always changing and evolving, but they never lose sight of their very distinct identity - you always know a Wire song (from any era) when you hear it. Throughout their on-again-off-again thirty five year career Wire have had an uneasy relationship with their past, which is why it was such a surprise to find out that their new album was built around unfinished song ideas from the end of their first era circa 1980.

Much of Change Becomes Us sounds like a continuation of what they were doing on the last album of their first era, 154 (as well as Colin Newman's first solo album, A-Z). But it hardly sounds like a museum piece or a nostalgic return to their past. Those thirty year old song blueprints are just the starting point to be reworked, rebuilt, and re imagined by a much more experienced band. I've never heard the live album Document And Eyewitness, where some of the original snippets appeared back in 1981, but from everything I've read most of the changes are pretty radical.

Wire's last album, 2011's Red Barked Tree, hinted at what Change Becomes Us delivers. That album had some wonderful moments, but most of it was missing the tension that is an essential part of Wire's sound. The new album is full of tension. Even the quieter songs have an edge (and occasionally even sound a little dangerous). As with the other post 2000 Wire releases, my early faves are the ones where they rock the fuck out. And they do that quite a bit this time round; recalling the intensity of the 2002 Read & Burn EPs and the 2003's Send album. But ultimately it's the slow burn of the more atmospheric pieces that showcase what Colin Newman, Robert Grey, and Graham Lewis (along with new guitarist Matt Simms) do better than anyone else.

Change Becomes Us is a record that any fan of Wire could love, no matter which era of their eclectic catalog you prefer. But it's also a very current sounding album from a band that finally sounds comfortable enough with its past to confidently twist it into its modern self.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

the Fabulous Sandwich Bag Cartoons of David LaFerriere

For the past 5 years graphic designer David LaFerriere has been taking a Sharpie to his kids' sandwich bags and surprising them with a new cartoon every day. He has over a thousand them on his flickr page. Here are a few of my faves, but they don't even begin to scratch the surface. [ via Colossal ]


Friday, April 19, 2013


CHELSEA LIGHT MOVING - Chelsea Light Moving (Matador)

With his new band Thurston Moore delivers a sludgier and much looser back-to-basics take on the Sonic Youth template.

After years of very deliberately trying to keep his extracurricular projects from sounding too much like Sonic youth, Thurston Moore can finally embrace that sound now that his former band is no more. There's no mistaking that Chelsea Light Moving is fronted by the key architect of Sonic Youth, but rather than sounding like a retread of what that band had already done, this sounds like a peek at what that band might have become.

The weirdly tuned dissonant guitar riffing is here along with Thruston's half spoken vocal poetry and the occasional enthusiastic yelping. But CLM are much looser than Sonic Youth ever were. It's not quite in-studio improv, but the songs lack conventional structure (even by modern SY standards) in favor of grabbing hold of a riff and riding it out. My original complaint with the album was that there was too much dicking around, but I've warmed up to free-from casualness that makes it feel a bit like a noisy postpunk prog album. Occasionally they edge close to self-indulgent jamming, like one of Greg Ginn's many SST projects, but they never actually cross that line.

Thurston's new guitar foil comes in the form of Keith Wood of Hush Arbors, who brings a muddier guitar sound rather than trying to emulate Lee Ranaldo's precision. Much of the album is heavier than anything Moore has tackled in the past, at times veering into the sludgy territory of Mudhoney or Melvins. Chelsea Light Moving isn't a great album, but it's solid enough to merit repeated listens and could be the start of a great new chapter in Moore's career. I take it as a good sign that my pick for favorite song on the album keeps shifting as I hear new things or listen in different moods.

Shuffle-a-gogo: the random goodness of the MP3 player

Time for another round of MP3 Shuffle-a-gogo. Set the MP3 player on shuffle and let 'er rip! First ten songs...

  1. the RANDY FULLER FOUR - The Things You Do (Bobby Fuller Four Never to Be Forgotten: the Mustang Years) After Bobby's death the Bobby Fuller Four was briefly retooled around brother Randy and released a few decent singles that have the BF4 sound, but in a lesser version.
  2. the HOT RATS - Big Sky (Turn Ons 2010) From the all covers side project from Gaz and Danny of Supergrass - this fuzzed out take on the Kinks was one that worked the best for me.
  3. X - Johnny Hit and Run Paulene (Los Angeles 1980) From the fabulous debut, this is one of my favorite American rock/punk songs from the era. Love the ripping great Chuck Berry opening riff and the exceptionally perfect John Doe vocals.
  4. EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL - No Difference (Like the Deserts Miss the Rain) Tracey Thorn's vocals and the hypnotic trip-hop drums really make this song for me. From their final album, 1999's Temperamental.
  5. KINGS OF CONVENIENCE - Leaning Against the Wall - Bamboo Soul remix (Versus 2001) I wasn't originally a fan of the band's sleepy new folk sound, but this album of remixes was a staple through my headphones for quite a while, which eventually led me to going back and loving their proper records. Now I don't understand how I didn't fall for them right out of the gate.
  6. LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III - Motel Blues (Album II 1971) Loudon's tale of lonely desperation on the road and his attempt to lure a girl back to his room.
  7. the SUBURBS - Cows (Ladies and Gentlemen, the Suburbs Have Left the Building) "I like cows. And they go "moo"!" Beej Chaney tells it like it is from the Minneapolis band's herky jerky new wave debut.
  8. the VAPORS - Spiders (Anthology) From the band's underrated second and final album, Magnets.
  9. the DUCKWORTH LEWIS METHOD - the Nightwatchman (the Duckworth Lewis Method 2009) If you're only going to listen to one cricket themed band featuring members of Divine Comedy and Pugwash, I'd suggest you start with the Duckworth Lewis Method.
  10. the AFGHAN WHIGS - Night By Candlelight (Black Love 1996) This is the side of Greg Dulli I'm not a fan of. I prefer my Dulli less precious and more rocking.

That shuffle actually played a bit like a good mix tape. I like when that happens!

Saturday, April 13, 2013


KARL BARTOS - Off the Record (Bureau B)

Second solo album from Kraftwerk core member is filled with retro synthpop that recall his former band's glory days.

At their peak, Kraftwerk sounded like the future. That future has come and gone and now the robotic vocals, synthesized bleeps, and mechanical electro pop rhythms have a charmingly nostalgic quality to them. That doesn't take anything away from how innovative and alive those records still sound today, or how much stronger the songs are over the countess bands they've inspired. Listening to Kraftwerk is still exciting and often I wish there was just one more album from that Trans-Europe Express / Man-Machine / Computer World era. In a way, Karl Bartos has granted that wish.

Karl Bartos was one-fourth of the classic 1975-90 Kraftwerk lineup (Radio-Activity through Electric Cafe), contributing writing, electronic percussion, and the occassional vocal. This album, Bartos' second solo, started as a collection of unused ideas from the Kraftwerk days updated for 2013. There is absolutely no way to separate Off the Record from Bartos's Kraftwerk past, which I think is part of the idea.

The sound and feel of the entire album is Kraftwerk circa 1980, but there's just enough modern production to keep it from sounding like a collection of Kraftwerk outtakes. Overall the songs are solid and occasionally stand up to the glory days - namely on the OMDish "Without a Trace of Emotion" and the hypnotic electro-groove of "Musica Ex Machina". But I might be giving the whole album a style-over-substance pass. But damn, he does the style so well. Between this album and his Elektric Music music I wonder if he influenced the band's sound a bit more than he's given credit for. For me this album is worth it just for the sensation of having a few more Kraftwerk nuggets to enjoy.