Monday, October 11, 2021

JoJo Rabbit


I recently watched JoJo Rabbit, a movie from 2019 that came highly recommended and movie that was not streaming anywhere. Thankfully, my library had it on DVD and I borrowed. I could talk about this movie for days, discussing the many reasons I loved it. But I will simply urge you all to see it and will write this two word review:

Absolutely Brilliant!

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Weekend Music Roundup


It's the weekend...and it's a long weekend. For the holiday weekend, I've decided to make this list a jazz list. They say jazz is the only true American art form and as we take time over the next few days to think about the collision of east and west, it might be nice to celebrate something good that came out of that collision that had so many devastating effects on culture. But out of the melting pot that was created, jazz was born.

Stuff Smith - Sweet Swingin' Stuff: Over the past several years, Stuff has become one of my favorite jazz artists. A rare jazz artist whose instrument is violin, he plays it in a way unlike anyone else. He transforms this typically formal instrument in a tool to create swing music. Released in 1959, this album features a ton of Stuff vocals that are truly endearing. Of the four Stuff albums I own, this one is the most traditional. It's a wonderful example of swing jazz and is just super cool. 

Cannonball Adderly - Cannonball Enroute: One of four albums released by saxophonist in '61, and one of dozens released in the period that covered the seven year period at the height of his career. Hard Bop has always been my favorite jazz genre, though in the past few years, I've moved into exploring others, so when I do pick up a hard bop record, it always grabs me right way, pulling my back into that joyful space. Sam Jones on bass and Julian Mance on piano are pretty brilliant on here. "Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be)" and "A Foggy Day" are mesmerizingly good.


Dizzy Gillespie and Django Reinhardt - Jazz from Paris: The Verve label split album was released in '56 and recorded in the early 50s. By this time Dizzy had already had a blistering career, playing with all the giants and having made a name for himself as trumpeter. He was already popular in Paris and he plays here with string accompaniment. It's mellow fairy tale recording and quite pretty, if not altogether essential. The Django Reinhardt side was an afterthought for me, but ended up being the star. The Gypsy guitarist totally swings on this eerie recording, which was done only months before he died. If Dizzy captures the romance of Paris, Django captures the underworld of Paris. 

Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker - Timeless: Though not released until '63, these recordings were made between '52 and '54. There was a lot of improvisation going on in the quartet in those days, with the two legends of cool jazz playing off of each other and essentially inventing the genre. There's something magical in these recordings, like a soundtrack taken from a dreamworld. The version of "My Funny Valentine" on here is pretty mind-blowing.  

The Jonah Jones Quartet - Jumpin' With Jonah: Released in '58, this was the height of the swing jazz trumpeter's career. Having worked with Stuff Smith and Cab Calloway, Jonah was well versed and at the top of his game. Often referred to as King Louis II, Jones has that same riverboat style as Louis Armstrong, and spent a lot of his career unable to pull out of that shadow. But let's face it, there are worse shadows to have to live in, and this album proves to me that he deserved his own spotlight. 

Charlie Parker - Volume V: I've been coming across these Everest Records Archive of Folk and Jazz records in the cheap bins for years and always snatch them up. I already have Charlie Volume 3 and 4 so was pretty excited to add this one to the mix. Charlie is an icon for a reason. He is a master at the Bop and swing sound. This compilation features some great recordings, and like all albums in this series, I recommend picking them up if you come across them. 

Pretty Baby Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: I don't typically go for soundtracks, but this one is basically just a New Orleans jazz comp featuring some of the great players of the time doing some of the classic tunes from the earliest days of jazz. There was promotional copy in the $2 bin and I figured there was nothing loose. I was right, a pretty fantastic record that contains none of the usual soundtrack filler that turns me off.  


Friday, October 8, 2021

Fiction Friday (143)


I made the choice several weeks ago to dive into a Middle Grade series that had been on my list for some time. I'm quickly learning that it might have been a mistake because I'm totally hooked and will now be spending the foreseeable future living in the pages of the Lost Cities. On second thought, it's no mistake...I'm totally okay with that.

Keeper of the Lost Cities: Exile by Shannon Messenger

(Aladdin, 2013) 

Sophie has safely returned home from her ordeal with the mysterious kidnappers, but that doesn't mean all is well in her new life with the elves. Whoever was behind her abduction is still on the loose, and there are still lots of unanswered questions surrounding the organization that hid her among the humans; The Black Swan. And if that wasn't enough drama for the 13 year old prodigy, she now finds herself saddled with a goblin bodyguard and a newly discovered alicorn who won't stop transmitting her messages. Though these worries trouble Sophie, she soon learns that they pale in comparison to what is to happen next.

The second book in the bestselling series extends nearly 600 pages and is equally as engrossing as the first. It is one of those rare stories that has characters who are as compelling as the ever-expanding and involved story. The questions continue to grow, but thankfully readers are also given enough answers to satisfy their curiosity and leave them eager for more. 

 I can't wait to see Sophie and her friends encounter next.


Saturday, September 25, 2021

Weekend Music Roundup



It's the first weekend of Autumn, and autumn has always been my favorite season for music listening. It usually changes my choose in mood for records, so I'll be pulling out some fall favorites soon. This was a week spent between jobs, recharging the batteries for new challenges, and absorbing music all day long. This week is a list of some of those, along with other relatively recent listens. Enjoy.

Patti Dahlstrom - Patti Dahlstrom: The Texas native moved to L.A. in her twenties to pursue a music career, eventually landing a deal with the Uni label and releasing this debut in 1972. It's a singer songwriter album with folk and soul roots and reminds me of a more pop rock version of Sandy Hurvitz's work, somewhere between the debut and her incarnation as Essra Mohawk. There's a bit too much orchestration on here, designed to give it a more or a Carol King feel that it doesn't really need. It opens with the brilliant "Wait Like a Lady" and it grabbed me right away. "This Isn't An Ordinary Love Song," "I'm Letting Go," and "Ollabelle and Slim" are standouts on this great album.

Elevator to Hell - Eerieconsiliation: Released in '97, this was the fourth album from the Canadian lo-fi band, but their first on Sub-Pop. It was recently remastered and that's how I stumbled across it. I wasn't aware of this when it came out, probably because I was kind of exclusively listening to British music in '97, but I wish I'd heard this. It's a fantastic post-grunge psychedelic lo-fi record.  

Traffic - Shoot out at the fantasy factory: Released in '73, two years after Dave Mason final exit from the band after their previous album The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. Yes, this is the sound of a band reaching their end, even the 3D album cover is an attempt to repeat past success. However, this is still a great album of blues inspired prog rock. You can hear the sound of the 70s really taking root on here, making it sound more like the Eagles than Mr. Fantasy. Even on the decline, this band is exceptional. 

Delta Spirit - What is There: Released last year, this is the fifth album from the Brooklyn (via California) indie band. This album has a folk pop feel to it, and reminds me of a ton of bands that makes this kind of music. This is pretty solid, though not anything that I haven't heard before. Still, this is a decent record and if indie folk is your thing, you can't really go wrong with giving this a listen. "Can You Ever Forgive Me," "Home Again," "Lover's Heart," and the title track are standouts. 

No Kill - Gold Chorus: The debut album from the Brooklyn indie duo was released this summer, though the band has been releasing singles in EPs for a decade. This is an interesting combination of psychedelic folk and dream pop that comes off sounding like one of those great summer day albums. "Hallelujah," "A Place," "Low Times," and the title track are personal favorites. 

The Ice Man's Band - Introducing The Ice Man's Band: The introduction turned out to also be the farewell for this soul band. This, their only album, was released in '72. They were Jerry Butler's, "The Ice Man", back up band and went out and made this little record. I found this album in a free bin, and the record was in good shape. I couldn't resist checking it out. It's a nice piece of mellow soul that certainly conjures that early 70s feeling. There's a great cover of "Come Together" and some other groovy gems.



Friday, September 24, 2021

Fiction Friday (142)


I'm lucky enough that my child is now album to listen to a novel every now and then at bedtime. Sometimes she amazes me with how well she retains the story. The best part is that I get to read some of the children's novels that I've always wanted to read. Last year we read a few of the Oz books and they are delightful. Recently picked up this Baum book that isn't Oz related, though the characters from this book eventually find their way to Oz and have other adventures outside.

The Sea Fairies by L. Frank Baum

Reilly and Lee, 1911

Nobody has ever met a mermaid and lived to tell the tale, or so Cap'n Bill tells his child friend, Trot. She doesn't believe the old sea captain. While the two are on a short boat trip, she is proven correct by when several brightly colored mermaids come to the surface and invite them to visit their underwater kingdom.

The ocean, it turns out, is populated with imaginative beings that one might encounter in Baum's Oz books or in a flooded Wonderland. As with both of those worlds, this one is the kind that takes a resourceful, brave girl to navigate safely through. 

This book is fun for any Baum fan, but unless your a die-hard, or a completist, stick with the first few Oz titles. Trot and Cap'n Bill would eventually star in two other Baum novels, and eventually visit the Oz series with book nine, The Scarecrow of Oz

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Weekend Music Roundup


The weekend is here once again. I've been between jobs the few days, which has given me some time to catch up on some digital album listens as well as some recent vinyl pick-ups. It's another wide spanning of list of music from 60's through now, featuring mostly rock, but with some folk blues and indietronic thrown in. Happy exploring, everyone. Enjoy.

The Bevis Frond - Little Eden: Indie psych icon Nick Saloman's newest album. This guy has been making great records since the mid-80s, consistently great records that I've been listening to since the mid-90s. Over the past 35+ years, the sound hasn't changed much, lots of fuzzy guitar and apathetic vocals that feel very David Gilmour-esque.  This is another fine album in a rich catalog of fine albums. 

Blues Magoos - Never Going Back to Georgia: Formed in the early '60s in the Bronx, these guys started out as a psychedelic garage band. By 1969, and the release of this album, their fourth, they had developed into a blues rock band, much less garage and much less psychedelic. For that reason, a lot of people do not like this album, finding more generic than their earlier albums. I can respect that, but this is a solid blues rock album that feels more like The Doors than anything else. "The Hunter," and "Getting Off" are my personal favorites. 


Thou and Emma Ruth Rundle - The Helm of Sorrow: This 2021 EP is the second collaboration between the sludge metal band Thou and ERR (one of my favorite artists), following last years full length album. This EP contains three songs from the sessions that produced the album, and a cover of the Cranberries' "Hollywood". The combination of styles on these collaborations are pretty interesting. Emma's voice highlights the great guitar work and softens the growling vocals of Thou. A nice companion piece to the album. 

Half Moon Run - Inwards and Onwards: The newest EP from the Montreal indie band whose debut came out back in 2012. This is a mellow folk album that reminds me of New Bums though a bit less psychedelic inspired. "On and On," "It's True," and "Tiny" are my person favorites on this fine Sunday kind of album.

Styrofoam - Nothing's Lost: The forth album from the inditeronica band from Belgium came out in 2004 and features members of Notwist, Death Cab for Cutie, and others. This is one of super chill-out albums that borders on ambient and shoegaze, and is totally something I would have been jamming to in college. It reminds me a bit of Slowdive meets Boards of Canada, which is a pretty great combination. "Couches in Alleys" is my personal favorite. 

Dave Van Ronk - Sings the Blues: Originally released in '61 as Dave Van Ronk Sings Volume 2, this Verve edition was released in '65. I also have Volume 1 as a re-issue titled Gambler's Blues. Van Ronk is one of my favorite '60s Village folk singers because he mixes folk and blues into something spiritual. Along with Jackson C. Frank, Dave is one of the best, most honestly pained voices in the 60s folk scene. So glad I was able to pick this up...and for free, no less. 


Friday, September 17, 2021

Fiction Friday (141)


I'm the kind of person that always has a fairly extensive list of books that I want to read, some of which linger there for years and others that find ways to leapfrog themselves to the top. After having avoided Middle Grade for the better part of a year, I was swept up again with Hollowpox and since a new Nevermoor book is a ways away, I decided to move into a series that I felt I'd been neglecting...a mistake that has now been corrected.

Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

(Aladdin , 2012)

Sophie is not like the other kids in school, and not simply because she's 12 years old and a senior in High School. She's always known she's different, but until one fateful field trip that leads to a strange encounter, Sophie has no idea just how different she truly is. And so begins the epic tale that has already spanned nine bestselling novels about a group of friends who inhabit a world that exists within our reach but beyond our understanding.

I had been unaware of this Middle Grade series until rather recently and finally found time to dive in. Though certainly in the Harry Potter realm (a school for talented magical kids, a hidden secret enemy, and a main character of destiny) it doesn't really feel the same, though the same fans are certainly reading it. The key to any great middle grade fantasy is that the characters, while having adventures one could only dream of, still suffer with the same dilemma's that readers can identify with. 

There's a clear reason why these books have been so popular for the last decade and I enjoyed every single one of the 450+ pages of this much so, that I'm moving on to the second book on the same day I finished the first.