28.2.05

The Clouds Above

the clouds above
Jordan Crane, currently one of the best indie comic creators, is releasing The Clouds Above through Fantagraphic Books sometime in March. The 300 page book is supposed to be beautifully packaged and is predicted to become an instant classic. I think that one of Jordan Crane's artistic assets is his incredibly ability to work with silkscreens. Everything he produces has at least part of it which was silkscreened at some point, and this gives his art a very personal and individual sort of quality. He works with fantastic color coordinations and has a very good sense of design and spacing. No page is too overwhelming, but nothing is underwhelming. Everything of his in balance.

But I have talked about why Crane is so good before. The Clouds Above is supposed to be artistically inspired by The Wizard of Oz and Where the Wild Things Are, but with a plot similar to an adventure like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it should have a pretty different story. It is about an alternate fantastical reality that the protagonist find accidentally while going to school.
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27.2.05

The Books - Lost and Safe

lost and safe
The Books are releasing their third album, called Lost and Safe, on April 5. The Books emerged on the music scene in early 2002 with Thought for Food and released The Lemon of Pink the following year. The duo describe themselves as

blipworld / fakegrass / speedblues / chamberclick / eccentrock / country&eastern / glitch post-anything music with samples

Now, what exactlly that means, I am not quite sure, but their music is always a fantastically interesting mash-up of just about every musical genre imaginable!
The new album will be featuring, as usual, cello, mandolin, banjo, and other uncommon instruments. I know that the album has been leaked, but I can't find any samples to give you all right now. Unfortunately, no one will be missing much. A band as distinct as the Books has a hard time, I'm sure, making their incredibly original sound unique every time. After two amazing albums, I think this one sounds like a repeat. Maybe it would be better (or at least more reassuring: "that's not how they usual sound") if the album were released as a collection of B-sides.
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26.2.05

Whitey

leave them all behind
Whitey is a fantastic self-taught producer, guitarist, and all-around excellent electronic musician. His newest rockin' single, Leave The All Behind, was just released on 1234 Records. You can hear a really short excerpt of the song here. Unfortunately, the track is too short to judge if the single is up to his normal standards, but it sounds pretty good anyway!
Whitey released a full-length album called The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is A Train last year and it looks like he's back with more!

First off, I love Whitey's appreciation for analog music and quipment. I am not old enough to be able to compare the new electronic music with the older stuff, but I dig Whitey's sound, and I think it is partially because he uses old techniques to make distinctly new music. Listen to more samples of his work here.
Secondly, 1234 Records is also home to Cosmetique, an excellent London duo. Unfortunately, both artists are rather difficult to find music by in the States, but I know each well enough to say that they are both incredibly talented. You can listen to some samples of their albums here.
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25.2.05

Out Hud

out hud
Out Hud is so freakin' good. I loved Street Dad so much! And now, the band has released Let Us Never Speak Of It Again, which is an incredible mix of dance, funk, punk, and electronic music. Oh yeah, with some dub on top. It's just so perfect. So incredible! Argh!
Please, please, please buy the new CD at Krany Records. It's worth it. Also, listen to some tracks here. One of my favorites one the disc is How Long, by the way.

But the thing that makes me even more excited about Out Hud is that they will be performing in Cleveland soon! I cannot wait for the concert as they are supposed to be fantastic live. Too ... excited ... can't ... contain ... myself!
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24.2.05

Les Georges Leningrad

les georges leningrad
Montreal has become the center of new music recently. It is being proclaimed to be the focal point of the Next Big Thing in indie music by such publications as Spin and the New York Times, among various other publications.
Although Les Georges Leningrad has been around for several years now (they ahve relesed two records so far), it was only until the Montreal music boom that they became more recognized. I primarily wanted to mention the band because I am going to see them on March 1, and I cannot wait!

Les Georges Leningrad does not really fit the Montreal music scene trend, however. They are quite unique, like many other bands from the region, but they are so out there and quirky, that they cannot be considered in the same realm as, for example, the Arcade Fire. They combine a weird mixture of post-punk-revival and synthesizers. With their bold yelping (often times in French) and funky costumes, Les Georges Leningrad will not disappoint. I hope.
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23.2.05

A Scanner Darkly

a scanner darkly
Philip K. Dick's classic, A Scanner Darkly is being made into a movie that will be released later this year. Several movies based off his books/short stories have been made, the most recent of which include Paycheck and Minority Report.
The film stars Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, and Robert Downy Jr., but in a very loose sense. It is almost animated. Check out this preview and you will see what I mean. Apparently, the actors were hooked up to computers, much like Golem in LOTR, and their images were messed with in some program. It looks cool, but I do not know if I will be able to take the story as seriously as I would had it been filmed in a more traditional way.

Regardless of the movie's image, the story is pretty interesting. A cop, Keanu Reeves, is chasing a killer who he discovers to be himself. Kind of a Memento theme, but still captivating ...
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22.2.05

New White Stripes Album

the white stripes
The White Stripes have started recording their 5th LP, and are expecting to have it completely finished within two months. The record is being recorded at the house of their friend, Brendan Benson. Considering that Elephant took only 10 days to record, I am pretty confidant that they're telling the truth when they say that the album will be done within two months. Let's all keep out fingers crossed!

Apparently, Brendan Brenson is providing much more assitance on the creative aspect of the album than just loaning out his home. White and Brenson have been working on the album since late 2004.
Also, since everyone else has mentioned it, and I just recently saw it, the White Stripes' DVD, Under the Blackpool Lights was released in December, and it's pretty good!
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21.2.05

Minutemen Documentary

the minutemen
California's speed-punk band, The Minutemen are premiering a documentary chronicleling the band in the 80s. Mike Watt and George Hurley are still alive, and will be at the premiere. Unfortunately, D. Boon, the frontman, died in a car crash in 1985.
The film is titled We Jam Econo and it features over 50 interviews (with some really cool and interesting musicians).

You can view a trailer for the movie here (medium) or here (large). The film looks pretty good, so I would like to see it sometime!
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Hunter S. Thompson Commits Suicide

hunter s thompson
On February 20, Hunter S. Thompson, the originator of "gonzo journalism," committed suicide. He was found dead in his Woody Creek, Colorado house with a self-inflicted gun wound to the head.
Thompson was best known for his book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was made into a movie starring Johnny Depp in 1998.
I think it is funny how "gonzo" writing was created. Thompson was on an assignment at the Kentucky Derby, and he hadn't written a sentence. Instead of throwing in the towel, he just ripped some pages out of his journal, numbered them, and sent them to the printers. Luckily, he wasn't fired, and instead became a journalism icon!

Unfortunately, no one knows why the 67 year old Thompson committed suicide. It is hard for me, personally, to imagine an elderly person committing suicide since I always associate the act with people like Kurt Cobain or Ian Curtis. Not just tortured sould, but also young souls. I still feel terrible for the man ...
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20.2.05

Tokyo Hose

tokyo hose
There is a kind of cute little article in this week's New York Times Magazine that discusses the stockings donned by female 20-somtething Tokyoites.
If you are member (it's free!), you can read the article here. Otherwise, just go to the "read more" link at the bottom of this post to view the whole thing!




Standing in a manga store in Tokyo recently, I had an epiphany about Japanese women and their penchant for knee-high socks. Among the 13,000 comic books, videos and toys on sale at Mandarake, a store in the hip Shibuya district, not one single woman stood out.

In fact, the cover of almost every manga, or comic book, featured an identical doe-eyed, cutely sexy creature with elongated legs and white schoolgirl socks. When the salesperson was dressed in the self-same sailor-collared dress and white socks that I had just seen on a gaggle of giggling teenage girls, I began to get the drift. Socks in Japan are not so much examples of childish innocence; they are more an invitation to dalliance and deviance.
I began seeing socks everywhere. Sidewalk shops had racks of them, printed with girly drawings or mysterious messages like ''sweet tart'' or ''sugar.'' My hotel's laundry sheet had an extra page offering to supply them (which I naturally took to be a hooker service, although my Japanese language skills were not up to testing it).

I started asking a few questions about socks. One acquaintance theorized that manga images are now so deeply embedded in the culture of the 20-something generation that, in their heads, Japanese women are cartoon cuties. Another one traced white socks separated at the big toe (and here I thought Martin Margiela had invented them!) to the kind worn by young girls when they don their first kimono; socks are probably the only thing a geisha keeps on when her kimono is unfolded.

By the time an American friend of mine, who is married to a Japanese man and living with his family, had told me that she was greeted with screams of horror from her mother-in-law when she ran down the stairs barefoot, I was getting a complex about finding my hotel bath slippers when the waiter came in with breakfast.

But then I used to get a complex in New York when I was the only person in the front row watching the shows, in freezing February, without her bare legs crossed so that a dainty mule hung off one toe.

Or in the steamy heat of July during the Milan men's-wear season, when no fashionable Italian woman hit the city streets without pallid beige fishnets.

My awkward relationship with hose started years back in class-conscious Britain, where nice young girls (gals, as they were called among the upper classes) covered what was visible of their legs with navy blue stockings under long pleated skirts. They are still worn to this day (probably with those Bridget Jones-style knickers) by members of the royal court. They are not to be confused with bluestockings 2/3 who were the intellectuals and feminists of their era and the first women to make hosiery their flag.

I have tried to see a pattern in leg coverings. If hemlines soar upward with a bull market, do hose follow? That seemed to be true of the 1960's, when swinging Londoners showed off Twiggy-style legs with newly invented pantyhose. But if socks are a signal of economic expansion, how come all those Wall Street traders spent the bullish 90's with bare feet stuffed into their Ralph Lauren loafers? (Perhaps they were plotting to send up the stock price of pharmaceutical foot fresheners?)

Only now that the dollar is in free fall against the euro have socks come back into the fashionable man's closet. There are even thick, woolly clotted-cream socks for next summer (as opposed to fine silk for the winter, naturally).

Men in socks with their pants off conjure up only images of hilarity, whereas women in hose, and especially the naked space between thigh and underpants, have been considered titillating ever since Victorian society decreed that a glimpse of stocking was something shocking. All those naughty Edwardian postcards feature women in black hose and not much else. On the silver screen, a woman rolling up her stockings was always a signal of sexual allure.

I had my own teenage awakening over hosiery. My high school, without enough regard for the punctuation lessons that were solemnly taught to us, insisted that girls should wear white or fawn-colored socks or stockings. Since white hose were briefly in vogue, I insisted that the rules be read without the semicolon that should have separated the socks from (nude) stockings.

I won my case, thus proving to myself that, in fashion and in life, hosiery is open to all sorts of interpretations.
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Over the Rainbow

over the rainbow
Yoshitomo Nara and his apprentice/student, Hiroshi Sugito, are releasing a brand new book called Over the Rainbow. The book document's Sugito and Nara's three-month residency in Vienna.
It is 112 pages long, and I think it also features some lithographs that have all been touched up with crayons by the authors. Sugito has a more delecate style (to my untrained eye), and Nara is just a god. I think the book looks interesting, and I am looking forward to its publication.

narasugitoAs you can see, Nara's work is more old-fashioned, or at least based off of old-fashioned styles. Sugito's work, on the other hand, seems generally more optimistic and lighter, giving it a fragile feel.
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19.2.05

Saelee Oh

saelee oh
Saelee Oh is a California based artist. She creates some of the best paper cutout pieces of art I have ever seen. And both her cutouts and actual drawings/paintings are so natural that I never get tired of looking at them. There is something so wonderfully child-like and innocent about her art which I absolutely can't resist! Her style reminds me a little bit of some of Souther Salazar's work.

Saelee has a solo show going on at Giant Robot, which started on the 12th. Unfortunately, San Francisco is a tad too far from my home ...

Although her store, Lemonade Maid is not up yet, it looks like it will be a very cool store in the near future. So ... excited ... !
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Garbage Update

bleed like me
Garbage's fourth album, Bleed Like Me will hit stores April 11. I'm pretty sure that this date is accurate this time. The running single for the album is Why Do You Love Me?, which would have worked well on the Napoleon Dynomite soundtrack.
Listen to the WMA of the song here, and listen to the Real Player version of the song here.
UPDATE - I found the video right here

Judging by this song alone, I would say that the new album will be pretty good. It sounds most similar to Beautiful Garbage, but with an even rockier sound. Also, there was a music video created for the song, but I cannot seem to find a copy of the thing yet.
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18.2.05

The Fictions

the fictions
The Fictions are a pretty awesome Sunny, Southern-California, Beach Boys-inspired sort of band. I like them a lot. Their music is nothing new (indeed, the most remarkable thing about their sound is that is really sounds like it is from the 60s), but it is perfect if you want to listen to that kind of music. Hear to several of their songs at their Myspace page.

Tha band seems to have grand aspirations. They sound like they're shooting for a more produced sound, but for some reason never achieve their goal. And it is mostly due to this shortcoming that the Fictions falls short. If they fully embraced the talent that they so obvious have, and the ear that they have for excellent poppy music, they would have an sure shot at indie-rock stardom. I want to see them become successful!
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The Silver Jews

silver jews
David Berman's the Silver Jews are going to release a new album in July. The album is currently being completed and is set to be finished on February 24. One of the main reasons I like the Silver Jews so much is because their American Water album featured Stephen Malkmus of Pavement fame. And the really good news? Malkmus is going to play on the new album!

But Malkmus is not the only big named attached to the upcoming record. Steve West and Bob Nastanovich (both former Pavement memebers) and Will Oldham will also be featured on Tanglewood Numbers, the working title for the album.
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17.2.05

NOW THEN

now then
The greatest comic art museum in the world (I know ... there isn't much competition), MoCCA has a new show called NOW THEN that looks pretty interesting. The show is a collection of famous cartoonists' work from their early years, juxtapozed with some of their latest works! And they have really great creators being showcased (Baseman, Marc Bell, Charles Burns, etc.)

I found Marc Bell's NOW and THEN to be especially funny, but I was also quite surprised to see how much Baseman's work has progressed from where it used to be!
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New Rhodes

new rhodes
The New Rhodes are a pretty generic, but talented rip-off of the Strokes. The band's lineup even looks like the Strokes'! As I said before, I have nothing aginst copying, as long as it is well-done and ackowledged.
Luckily, the New Rhodes are not from NYC (so no Strokes competition) ... they are a London-based band. You can listen to three of their songs on their website.

Also, check out their video. A little boring, but it's hard to make fun and creative videos these days!
I just thought of an incredibly unappealing way to describe the singer's voice! Imagine a mix between the Strokes' Julian C. and Paul Banks from Interpol. Then imagine the new hybrid voice being not as good as you had hoped.
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16.2.05

New Order - Krafty

krafty
New Order's second album in 10 years, Waiting the Sirnes' Call is going to be released in late March. But their first single, Krafty, has already been released. You can watch the video here. Also, you can hear 4 tracks from the upcoming album at One World. Looking good ...




So now for my two cents in regard to the Krafty single. It sounds to me like New Order is pretending to actually be 25 year old disillusioned youths. Imposters! The song is nice enough ... poppy, hooky, fun, but it isn't really New Order. I have never heard a song by an older band that sounds so overtly youth-oriented! However, New Order says that they have departed from their dancier style due to closing their club (the Hacienda, right?) and aging. How ironic!
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Gorillaz - Demon Days

demon days
For some reason, I got the impression that the Gorillaz were not going to release a follow-up album to their 2001 delf-titled debut. I was misinformed (thankfully). The Gorillaz are going to release Demon Days in May, and the album is looking promising! I've been desperately trying to find some clip of the upcoming album, but have been pretty unsuccessful. One of the things I've come across are these videos. Now, they are not music videos, but rather just strange short animations. Whatever -- they're still cool.
UPDATE - I have found an MP3 of a song from the album ...

The first single is going to be Feelgood Inc.
I highly advise you all to go and explore the website, as it is absolutely littered with clips and samples. And it's fun to look around!
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15.2.05

The Grates

the grates
It has already been said, but the NYC music scene is comprised of a whole lot of copy-ers. Some of them are very good, some of them are very bad. Some of them have not necessarily copied, but used other bands as springboards to build from (like Interpol, for example). The Strokes have been copied countless times, and everyone has jumped in on the dance/punk craze (not that it's a bad thing -- I like dance/punk).
But I have never seen a band that seems to have directly copied the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The Grates have done just that. They are, like the YYY, a three-piece band consisting of a guitarist, drummer, a sexy singer. But did I say they were bad? Nope. They are good! Listen to some MP3s on their media player.

Yes -- I was unnecessarily harsh on the Grates, so forgive me. I love the YYY, and I love that sound. And yes, the Grates are a little different. Sometimes they use the guitarist as a back-up vocalist, but still, they keep the chaotic sound that is so closely associated with the YYY. And did I already tell you that I also love the singer?
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Hiroshi Tanabe

tanabe
Hiroshi Tanabe's artwork is excellent. It is an incredible mix between 60s pop art and more modern, bolder line drawings. Some of his work reminds me of Moebius, the fantastic French cartoonist (if you could call him that at all ... )







For those of you who didn't know, I am an incredible researcher. Okay, so I exaggerate too much.
Regardless of researching skills, I did come across a book by Tanabe that looks very cool. I wish the young artist the best, and I think he should seriously consider doing some comics. That would be ridiculously awesome.
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14.2.05

It's Official

th' corns
If Pitchforkmedia says it's official, then I think it's official. The Unicorns have announced that the pressures of making a follow-up album and constantly touring have finally taken their toll.
The source for this: the 'Corns' Guestbook ... signed "Alden and Diamonds" ...
Also, their publicist confirms the breakup. It's sad, but we couldn't run from the truth any longer.

But wait. There is good news! First off, the Houston show was not their final one! March 12th. Mark your calendars. The Unicorns are playing their real last show in LA. Why couldn't they have chosen Cleveland?
Also, the band says that they will be releasing more tracks (whether this means MP3 or an LP/EP, I don't know), and two of the band members will indeed be releasing some material under the moniker Th' Corn Gangg as promised. So, there is hope for the future ...
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They Might Be Giants - Here Comes The ABCs

here comes the abcs
Don't get me wrong. I love They Might Be Giants. I did like their older stuff (Lincoln and before) the most, but some of the 90s work was good. Even their children's record was fun and cute, and I tolerated it.
But then they made a children's book.
And now they've made another children's CD. This one is called Here Comes the ABCs, and it is being released by Disney! I really have no idea how to take this. TMBG are going off the deep end ... they need to break up. I'm sorry.

And look at this tracklist ... the record seems to have been written for 3 year olds!

1. Here Come The ABCs
2. Alphabet Of Nations
3. E Eats Everything
4. Flying V
5. Q U
6. Go For G!
7. Pictures Of Pandas Painting
8. D & W
9. Fake-Believe
10. Can You Find It!
11. Vowel Family, The
12. Letter/Not A Letter
13. Alphabet Lost And Found
14. I C U
15. Letter Shapes
16. Who Put The Alphabet (In Alphabetical Order!)
17. Rolling O
18. LMNO
19. C Is For Conifers
20. Fake Believe (Type B)
21. D Is For Drums
22. Z Y X
23. Goodnight
24. Clap Your Hands
25. Here In Higglytown - (Theme To Disney Channel's Higglytown Heroes)

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13.2.05

The Raveonettes - Pretty In Black

raveonettes
Pretty In Black, the The Raveonettes' third album will hit shelves May 3rd. Although I am not a huge Raveonettes fan, I think they have an interesting sound. I thought it was cool how they recorded a whole album in B flat, even though it got a little tiresome after a while. And they have a well defined image. I guess they just aren't unique enough, and I never completely saw the Jesus and Mary Chain connection either ...

Anyway, the tracklist is as follows:

01. The Heavens
02. Seductress of Bums
03. Love in a Trashcan
04. Sleepwalking
05. Uncertain Times
06. My Boyfriend's Back
07. Here Comes Mary
08. Red Tan
09. Twilight
10. Somewhere in Texas
11. You Say You Lie
12. Ode to L.A.
13. If I Was Young

Apparently several of these songs have been played at live shows for quite some time, but I haven't heard them, so I'm excited to hear how they end up sounding!
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Cordarounds

cordarounds
Cordarounds are definately some of the coolest pants that I've seen in a while. I love corduroy pants, and since I've only one pair left, this gives me a good reason to buy some cordarounds. Plus, I bet they look really cool in the light since they are made of such a weird material!

And while we're on the subject of clothing, I am very happy that an Urban Outfitters finally opened up in Cleveland. Granted, it's on the west side, and in one of those terribly big, disgusting mid-west mall complexes, but I like the store so much that it all balances out. I bought some cool clothes there yesterday along with the Urban Outfitters CD. It's actually a pretty good compilation!
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Kustaa Saksi

saksi
Kustaa Saksi is an up-and-coming graphic designer from Finland. His work is pretty cool. It is a unique blend of urban styles and elegant boldness. I always associate his style of art with a distinctly USA-based movement, but I guess that is way too much of a generalization. I like it, though ... very cool.

I read about Saksi in XLR8R magazine. I enjoyed this month's installment as it features an interview with Mu ... check it out!
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12.2.05

Peter Bagge - Buddy Does Seattle

buddy does seattle
Peter Bagge is, in my opinion, one of the best comic artists to come out of the Generation-X movement of the 80s (along with Dan Clowes and the Hernandez Brothers, to name a few). He wrote Hate, Neat Stuff, several mini-series, and Yeah, a story for DC Comics!

Well, as all moderately successful comics artists do, Bagge has released a new anthology. This one is called Buddy Does Seattle, so it probably is a collection of stories from the Neat Stuff and The Bradleys comics.

Bagge has an incredibly distinct style. You have to give him that. Sometimes I get a little tired of having to constantly work through the dense material he draws (especially when reading his older stuff), but his works are usually funny and creative in a way that only an underground cartoonist could pull off.

I have often wondered whyunderground cartoonists (R. Crumb, Basil Wolverton, Peter Bagge, the Shelton Brothers, etc.) always created such wacky characters. Novels, for example, do not feature (or exaggerate) their characters to the extent that underground cartoonists do. I cannot think of a writer who, for example, only writes about a fetish that he has with women who have large thighs ...
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11.2.05

Mahjongg

mahjongg
Cold Crush Records is now my favorite record label. They are the label that brought you some Hint Hint, Gravy Train, and Les Savy Fav. Now, however, Cold Cut has found a new band ... Mahjongg, and they are super cool.
Mahjongg is a pretty normal rock band, except they don't have a drummer. Okay, so I lied. I'm quite certain thats they do have a drummer, but he is so on beat all the time and so mechanical, it sounds like it is just a drum machine playing. Actually, they probably also have a drum machine going, so I was half right. I like their real rough sound, which fits so perfectly with the robotic drums and Strokes-esque vocals. I love Aluminum, and I want to buy their full album so bad!

I never heard of Anna Oxygen before, but she is also really cool! Listen to Spectacle, and be amazed. Anna makes her music totally solo, which I think is really cool. She combines smooth electronic beats and synthesizers with her soft voice in a terribly sweet way. I am so happy that I found her, because she is now my favorite solo singer!
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10.2.05

Eisley

eisley
I remember listening to I Wasn't Prepared by Eisley several years ago. The young band promised a debut album "in the future," and although February, 2005 was later than when I thought the album would be released, they kept their promise.
I like I Wasn't Prepared a lot. In fact, you can listen to the song on their media player. However, I think that the other tracks on the website are not as good as I assumed they would turn out. This band seems pretty mopey, and trying to sustain a really low energy level throughout the LP is probably a difficult task for them. Regardless, I am sure that they will do well, and they are the perfect band for you, if you're into that Southern California disillusioned youth kind of thing.

Maybe I'm wrong, but didn't this band used to be called Mos Eisley? Also, I can't remember when I Wasn't Prepared first showed up on the internet, but the album version sounds exactlly like the one that I first heard. Either the band experienced writer's block, or they just got plain lazy for a while. Whatever, the album is out, and I'm happy.
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9.2.05

Nicole Gordon

nicole gordon
Cleveland, surprisingly, has several pretty good art galleries. It has Shaheen, which brought the Ai Yamaguchi show to town, MOCA, which had Yoshitomo Nara last year, and Spaces, which was not only given $100,000 by Peter B. Lewis (of Progressive Insurance) late last year, but also was the location of a comic-book show in which some of my work was displayed.
As one would expect, the $100,000 grant helped Spaces get more artists to exhibit their work at the small gallery, and allowed them to do it more often. Their latest show, Topographic, features many excellent aritst. My favorite, however, is Nicole Gordon. I have not been to the gallery for the show yet, but I promise you all that I am very excited to see it soon!

Gordon's art is refreshingly unique and creative (aren't they all ... ?)
I like how she uses Medieval paintings for reference. I have never seen such modern art use that as inspiration! Also, she combines paints and ink in an original way, and even in her less Medieval-esque paintings, she makes her subjects somehow appear flat (in a good way). I really love the color schemes and 2D appearance of her stuff -- you would think that deliberately doing something like that would make your art look uninteresting, but it does quite the opposite!
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Wrong About Japan

wrong about japan
I have never read anything by Peter Carey before, but he is said to be a fairly good novelist. His newest book, Wrong About Japan, is classified as a Travel book, but after reading it, I have decided that it is more of a Travel Narrative, and almost like a short, underdeveloped novel.
Overall, I would say it is a fair book. It gives the reader an interesting impression of Tokyo, discusses some new facts that I never knew before, and occasionally excites the reader. I recommend buying it, or at least getting you hands on it.

It is quite obvious that Carey is a trained (or at least practiced) novelist. The most apparant novelist trait that he melds into his Travel writing technique is a strong narrative. He carries the reader through a chronological chain of events, with him as the narrator. But the aspect that makes narration in his book more novel-like is his incorporation of dialogue. Many of the passages are only dialogue, and these scenes seem like normal fiction dialogue writing.

I was a little disappointed to learn that Takashi, one of the more vibrant characters in the book, was completely fictional. Yes, Carey is not a good jounralist: he created fictional characters in a non-fiction book, he lost his notes notes quite often, he lost business cards frequently, and he was inconsistent in his travel planning.

After reading the book, I felt like Carey kept the best parts for him and his son. Perhaps the fact that he was travelling with his son is the reason he decided to keep his travel logue; so he could write more on the theme of "A Father's Journey With His Son," seeing as that was the subtitle of the book.
This book is indeed worth reading - it is very short, and will take little time - but I personally was hoping for a little more from it ...
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8.2.05

Up-And-Coming Comic Artists

goldman
Inspired primarily by Kramer's Ergot 5, I decided to write this post on promising new (or unknown) comic artists. First off, I doubt that these guys will succeed, but they do represent a new form of comic art that has been blooming recently. They all share a very loose interpretation of what a comicbook is, and because of this, they are bent on using interesting drawing materials, strange narratives, and a handfull of other original and unique story-telling devices and techniques.

My favorite arists on this "list" are Leif Goldberg and Mat Brinkman, but all of them are superb.

brinkmanLeif Goldberg's work is so full of joy and emotion, that I am sort of glad that he only draws one panel per page, that the pages are small, and that the stories are short and not wordy. The colors and themes of the tales are so full of life that I cannot help but love them to death.

Mat Brinkman works with a similar aesthetic, although his pieces tend to be darker. His work is similar to Gary Panter's stuff, but more comic-oriented (I have always thought of Panter as the first generation of grafitti-aristst-come-comic-artist).
Both Brinkman and Goldberg's work is unhindered by the usual narrative story telling style incorporated into most comicbooks. Because of this, it is difficult to consider either of the artists' work to be purely comic in nature. But whatever, I like them a lot.

Next on the list is Dan Zettwoch who is more of a traditional comic artist. He has interesting coloring themes and layouts, but he is not bursting with creativity. Lastly, we have Helge Reumann who is just plain weird. He also has a style similar to Panter's, but again, his is more refined and constrained.

There is a problem with working in such an obscure subcategory of comics like the four above mentioned artists do. When you disregard traditional storytelling techniques, you lose a tremendous number of potential readers. Also, since these artists have such unique artistic talents, they do not appeal to normal "underground" or "alternative" comic readers. Instead, they are more appealing to avant-garde/artsy types, which further limits their readership. Whatever ... talent is talent ...
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Mu - Out Of Breach

mu
Everyone's favorite crazy, yet talented, Asian-American "rapper," Mu is back with a new album. After two years of waiting, Mu fans will finally be able to hear her unique screeching over frantic hip-hop and dance beats. The sophomore album is called Out of Breach, and I am digging it. It was produced by Mu (Mutsumi Kunamori) and her husband, Maurice Fulton. The single, Paris Hilton is ridiculous, and very fun.

Check it out! You can listen to clips of 4 tracks from the CD here! Mu's style of music is so alien to me, I have no idea how to even begin to describe it in comprehensible English, so I suggest that everyone listen to her tracks!
Also, if you go here, you can view the Paris Hilton music video!
... She kind of reminds me of Kiiiiiii, or something ...
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7.2.05

The Interactive Tablecloth

tablecloth
Now this is a cool application of new technology in everyday life. The Interactice Tablecloth reminds me of something from Minority Report or some other futuristic type movie. Very cool idea, indeed.

Also, the Drift Table (made by the same company/group) is really cool. I would have to see it in action, but I think I've gotten a good idea of how it works, also. Good things are happening at the Royal College of Art ...
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The Nomi Song

nomi
Klaus Nomi was a weird guy. For those of you who don't know good ol' Klaus, he was Germany's crowing achievement in the world of 80s New Wave. He was, apparently, from Outer Space (here to save us all), but unfortunately died of the oh-so-humanly disease, AIDS, back in 1984 (I think). Yes, he was ahead of his time in more way than one.

ANYWAY ... February 4 marked the day on which The Nomi Song hit select theatres nationwide. Directed by Andrew Horn, the movie is a documentary of Nomi's life. The movie looks like Party Monster, if it took place 5 years earlier!
I have not yet seen the film, but so far, the press has not been especially good. You can see a trailer, however, right here. Have fun!

The most distinguishing feature about Klaus (musically) was his incredibly high voice. I was unable to find a full MP3 of a song by him, but you can listen to this sample of Total Eclipse, his "hit." I know that the clip is a mere 30 seconds, but those 30 seconds are absolutely blissful. Anyway, I'm sure that you get a good idea of what he was like.
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6.2.05

LCD Soundsystem Review

lcd soundsystem
Unfortunately, Music Related's online music 'zine, Small Super Name shut down after only 2 installments. I wrote two reviews for the site before, and I completed a third one last night for the LCD Soundsystem album. Well, now I have nowhere to post the review except for my site, so if you would like to read the review, click "Read More," and read on!

This review has been moved to Exploding Plastic, a magazine specializing in electronic music that I now write for!
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The Bravery Music Video

the bravery
I wrote about the Bravery earlier, and since then they have only gotten more popular and hyped. In fact, a recent poll that the BBC took forecasted that the Bravery would define the Sound of 2005! That's pretty good, right?
ANYWAY ... they've had this video out for a while, but I like the song Honest Mistake, and I enjoy getting a visual of the band since they definately have their wardrobe down pat.
Real Player video (hi)
Windows Media video (lo)

Trying to place the Bravery's sound ...
Are they equal parts punk and new wave? Not really ...
They are not 80s obsessive like their peers, the Killers ... ? No ...
I don't know! When someone gets a better read on them, tell me ... I'm interested!
(PS -- I have a whole bunch of tracks by them, so if you want an album's worth of material, email me ... )
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5.2.05

Moby Update

hotel
I wrote about Moby's upcoming album, Hotel a while ago, but I did not hear any of it until recently. KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic show had Moby on, and he played one song from the new album. You can hear the song here, although you will have to listen to several minutes of (motsly political) conversation, which is rather boring ...

The song is dreadful (alright, so it isn't that bad, but it is not good at all). The first minute or so is really boring to hear, and when Moby himself actually starts singing, it doesn't get much better. The two big problems with this song are (a) that Moby isn't the main singer here because he doesn't start the song off (and the woman who does sounds like she is an opera refugee), and (b) the instrumentation and theme is lame. Try imagining really un-inspired reggae dub made by a 5 year old, and produced by Moby during his 18 period. And it's even more depressing to hear this song seeing as literally 10 seconds before the song was played on MBE, Moby confessed that the first 45 seconds of the song are boring, but you should give it a chance because "it is good." Not cool, Moby ... not cool.
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Drawing Description Game

headguard
A British sculptor, Benedict Carpenter created an appealing little game that he has [not-so-creatively] dubbed, Drawing Descriptions Game. The game is really simple. You send a written description of a object, and then Mr. Carpenter renders the image with pen and pencil on paper. Some of them are really easy (i.e. a triangle), but others are rather difficult.

Hopefully, Mr. Carpenter is having fun trying to re-create the complex descriptions he has been receiving. Look at this one, sent in for the object picture above!

"This object is constructed entirely from one piece of tough but flexible 1 inch thick foam sheathed in shiny black plastic. It consists of a hollow dome-like structure approximately the size of a regular inflated balloon, aerated by regularly-spaced circular and elliptical holes cut into the top, back and side surfaces. On the furthest left and right extremities as you look at it front-on are two additional reinforcing lozenges of the same material, about the size and area of a flattened avocado. On the very top of the dome, two elongated semi-circular areas have been cut out of the material leaving a band of material running across the top laterally. At the bottom of the dome, both sides taper to a curved flap and then stop - bridging the gap from one side to the other is a lateral strip of strong black elastic 1.5 inches width, glued at one end to the structure and with a velcro fastening at the other end designed to attach to the facing flap. The 'front' of the dome structure has been cut away in an inverse triangle - above this gap, on a thick band running horizontally across, is an English word in white type and a small white circle containing two black characters in an oriental script."

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4.2.05

Bearsuit

bearsuit
Bearsuit is one of the most creative bands that I have heard in a while. Or at least one of the most unique to come out of the UK in quite some time.
I know, I know ... I compare too many bands to the Unicorns, and that is probably getting a little annoying (and also probably discrediting the band some), but Bearsuit is quircky and original in a Unicorns and Wolf Parade sort of way, so the comparison is justifiable.

This song is really quite good, but if you want to listen to more music by them, check this page on their website out. Oh yeah, and as usual, everyone should buy CDs of theirs!
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3.2.05

The Wurst Gallery

wurst gallery
Now this is a cool idea. A bunch of [random] artists have gotten together, bought artwork from local thrist stores, and changed them into new, unique pieces. I really like all of the paitings, but I was especially drawn to this one (the crying dog one) because I find it uber-cool that Einat Peled (the Israeli arist behind the work) actually stitched over the original piece. That is neat.

And the good news? It is still for sale, so anyone, yes anyone can buy it for me. But actually, I like them all, so any one of the works will suffice.
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The Octopus Project

the octopus project
The Octopus Project is an excellent four-piece band that recently released an album called One Ten Hundred Thousand Million (cool name, huh?)
I like how the record is a fantastic mix of quiet, supple songs and harder indie-rock songs. Also, the instrumentation is cool (normal alternative rock kind of stuff with some serious electronic undertones), and I love female vocals for this kind of music.

So don't you all really want to hear some music by the band? Well please ... have fun and listen to an excellent song right here. Yeah ... I really should buy the CD ...
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2.2.05

The Skeletons

the skeletons
I have been trying to find a webstie, article, MP3 ... anything ... by the Skeletons ever since I heard them at the Grog Shop 2 weeks ago (at the VHS or BETA concert).
Well, my efforts have finally paid off. I have discovered that The Skeletons are on an obscure indie label called Shinkoyo. Life and Afterbirth is their second album. Although I have not listened to it in its CD format, I heard a lot of the CD at the concert, listened to the MP3, and have so far been pretty impressed.

I think everyone should listen to them and judge the band for themself, but I personally fall into a sort of enchanted state of being when I hear their music. First off, their stuff sounds surprisingly Canadian ... there is something very innocent about it that is very noticeable in Canadian music (for me at least). They are from the Midwest (CHicago, Cleveland, etc.), however.
Try to imagine a more depressed version of Child Star by the Unicorns mixed with a nicer synthesizer (no, probably not a Casio in this case) and a more refined guitar sound. The singer has a really weird, high, and dreamy voice. The drum machine (they don't really have a drumer ... at the show they just used a drum machine and some cymbals and bongos - or something) ... so the drum beats they use sound very rigid and hip-hop-esque. I like the strange combination of styles and sounds, and highly recommend that everyone (including myself) buy the CD.
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1.2.05

Beck - Hell Yes EP

hell yes
Just a little Beck update:
iTunes just released an exclusive EP for Beck's forthcoming album, Guero. The EP is called Hell Yes, and it is four tracks long. I think it has also been released as a 12" (or it will be soon). The tracks are:

1. GHETTOCHIP MALFUNCTION (Hell Yes)
2. GAMEBOY & HOMEBOY (Que' Onda Guero)
3. BAD CARTIDGE (E-pro) [remix]
4. BIT RATE VARIATION IN B-FLAT (girl)


As you can tell from the tracklist, the EP is kind of a teaser. It features alternate mixes (all with a cool Gamboy/8-bit theme) of 4 songs from Guero. I am really digging the EP, and it has been successful in pumping me up more for the upcoming album! I think Beck may have released it in response to the early internet leak of his album, and this way he can promote the album without actually giving anyone the oficial finished tracks.
Just ... can't ... wait!
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Belly Button Comix #2

belly button comix
You would never think that a seemingly average art school student would be the offspring of the perverse R. Crumb, but that is what his daughter, Sophie Crumb seems to be.
Okay, so no offense to Sophie, but hey, she's the daughter of arguablly the most famous underground comics creator, and that's probably why she has snatched some acclaim (in the NY Times, for example). Right, so now that I've gotten my cynical opinion out of the way, I can report on her professional life.
Just last month, Sophie released Belly Button Comix #2, a collection of stories from her life in France to Berkeley. It looks pretty good, if you are into her kind of art. You can buy the comic at Last Gasp (and tell me about it!)

So I was definately too harsh on the young Ms. Crumb. She did win the Harvey for "Best New Series," so she has to pretty pretty good, eh? I would definately say so ...
I read Belly Button Comix #1, and I liked it. It was cute and light and more fun than her father's work. I have really grown tired of R. Crumb. His fame has given him an excuse to be as perverted as he wants. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but he thinks it's okay to just write stories about thick women for the rest of his life since his "new crowd" fo fans likes that (or seem to at least be fascinated with it ... ) And for some reason, the "new crowd" that is most interested in him (i.e. the NY Times, again), seem to view him in a sort of rapper-like fascination. He is so out there, so dirty, so strange, that no one can touch him. It really is like the white-man's rap, and it is, apparently, completely permissible.

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