Tag Archives: new releases

Frothcoming – Cee-lo Green

And what better way to prepare for his new album‘s release than with Bill Shatner?

A must-have for both free speech enthusiasts and library collections worldwide. As if the two are mutually exclusive.

 

review – light boxes

Light Boxes is a peculiar book.  By all accounts it can be easily misidentified as a children’s book, given its fanciful illustrated cover as well as overly short chapters, containing an often poetic yet simplified tone.  Careful reading suggests otherwise, for it better resembles the cold, lonely and desperate circumstances found by those with firsthand knowledge of the cruelest month, February.  Indeed, for well within the work the reader is confronted with death by winter; kidnappings, hangings, throats stuffed full of snow and death by icy lichen. Quite unsettling, really, for the novella symbolizes not only with harshness of winter and death, but also the dissolution it causes, among families and community.

Jones well portrays the mystery, tenderness and frailty of a family’s desperation to escape an incessant cloud-filled sky in favor of a warm blue, most suited to the flight of their balloons.  While central character Thaddeus is somewhat one-dimensional in his love for his daughter, Jones introduces several interesting characters to confuse the reader as to whether there is even a villain in this story.  The shadowy Solution, a conglomerate of those willing to aid in the destruction of February, are always on the periphery and equally cryptic as the shaggy February itself. The psychology of humanity is the resonating beacon here; Jones writes of humans who are quick to act, but of those above who are too slow to be forced into their own movement.  The stagnation of winter, February, affects everyone.

Jones has written a very ethereal, cryptic and melancholy novella in Light Boxes.  The surrealism is not always fully realized when addressing the development of the characters, especially being such a brief work, but it is artfully crafted and extremely thoughtful.

review – trans-continental hustle

It’s hard to continually raise the bar on a genre that you create for yourself and yet still remain fresh or creative.  That said, there’s something missing on Trans-Continental Hustle that was so eye-opening on Gogol Bordello‘s Gypsy Punks, so explosive on Super Taranta! that it’s hard to pinpoint.  The energy is here, Hutz is still Hutz, the pace is frenetically balanced between traditional punk, gypsy, and Carnaval atmosphere, with the immigrant-centric worldliness still representing the core of the band.  And despite the difficult task of incorporating a more discernible Latin sound tied to punk, there’s still something missing.

Many have noted the now infamous photo of the band wearing matching garb promoting the release of the TCH, a ominous sign of something completely antithetical to the core of GB and punk itself, a band comprised of wildly diverse elements too unrestrained to be coerced into uniformity. It could point to the more polished nature of the album as a whole.  For since this album is under the purview of mega-producer Rick Rubin, I suspect that GB’s talents, and perhaps its greatest asset, raw unpredictability, may be sacrificed for family-friendly airplay.  Take the songs Uma Memina, Last One Goes The Hope, Rebellious Love and To Rise Above, for example. The backup singers sound distinctly bored with their restrained wailing. Gone is the occasional though necessary explicit lyric, and less prevalent is the evocative gypsy violin from Sergey Ryabtsev in favor of the strumming of acoustic guitar.

That’s not to say there are unworthy tracks here.  Rebellious Love, My Companjera, In the Meantime in Pernambuco, and the epically momentum building When Universes Collide are all worthy of addition to the elite GB songs.   GB’s songwriting has always been intelligent, fun and belligerent, and it doesn’t deviate much on TCH.  In fact, the lyrics are probably as tight as they have been on previous albums; the fever to which they’re musically set simply isn’t as wild or spontaneous.

For the handful of standouts in this album, for me it doesn’t match the intensity of Super Taranta! and Gypsy Punks.  I don’t blame the band for going in a more polished direction; it was bound to happen that someone influential with the promise of a big payday would try to latch onto GB.  I’m thankful that it didn’t detract too much from Trans-Continental Hustle, and that it happened after two supremely powerful releases.  Trans-Continental Hustle is a fine, if perhaps too well-produced album that while not as overwhelmingly definitive, continues Gogol Bordello’s recognition in the realm of worldly punk.

review – plastic beach

As simultaneously funky and disconcerting as Demon Days was/is, Gorillaz have raised the stakes with Plastic Beach. Thematically, the album is a philosophical musing that we can’t ever really separate ourselves from that which we discard or dismiss. Musically, Plastic Beach is at first glance a stark mismatch of distinct talent scrounged the world over by Damon Albarn, though ultimately fitting together seamlessly. It is a perfect amalgamation of seemingly disparate genres and musicians when listened as a whole, thereby raising the bar for music in this 21st century. It’s an ominous, carefree, thumping, melancholy and affirming mix of something that possesses both humility and gravitas.

Sure, everyone knows the talent that contributed to Plastic Beach, but one of the greatest strengths of the album is that it is a gestalt piece, where everybody contributes to the theme rather than focusing on their own impact. Albarn managed the talent impeccably, especially with relative newcomers like Little Dragon, Kano and Bashy. About the only thing I could have done without was the advert-like effects on Superfast Jellyfish. Other than that, every single track is a well-conceived standout. Plastic Beach is simply immaculate.

review – Gideon Defoe

gideonGideon Defoe’s Pirate! adventure series could quite possibly be one of the most cleverly conceived treatises on existentialism yet conceived.  Sure, each installment is anachronistic, brief, side-splittingly funny, or what the erudites term “humorous”, and given the fact that the whole series not-so-subtly gains its impetus from Defoe’s unrequited love, is besides the point.   Doesn’t existentialism entail all of the above anyway?

In any case, take Defoe’s latest exposition, The Pirates! in an Adventure with Napoleon, whereby our faithful and true Pirate Captain takes a brief respite to ponder his place in the pirate world, and whether perhaps beekeeping or even the unparalleled  superciliousness of an exiled Napoleon can provide some meaning or contentment in this lifetime. For it is here that our fearless captain comes to a realization all Pirate Captains must eventually consider:

The Pirate Captain sighed. ‘Well then, I suppose we’d better go and see what’s more interesting than me.’

Beyond the philosophical reverberations of the work, we have the usual salty complement to offset the dueling shenanigans of the Pirate Captain and Napoleon; specifically, the pirate with a scarf, the pirate in green, and Jennifer the Victorian all lend a supporting hand.  As this is a work of action and adventure, while reading of luxurious beards, ham and the highly democratic war over the St. Helena Residents’ association, take heed and consider your place in the pirate world.

review – modern ranch living

modIn Modern Ranch Living, Mark Jude Poirier spends a great deal of time detailing the eccentricities of life in Tucson. It’s an entertaining read, as bright and sweeping as the Arizona sun’s perpetual blanket upon the desert. How quaint are the characters within, specifically a sixteen year old exercise-obsessed and grammatically challenged Kendra Lumm, along with her awkwardly inanimate neighbor Merv, Splash World employee extraordinaire who lives with mother…at the age of thirty. How amusing it is to behold Kendra’s incessant indignation toward the unfit and uneducated in the ways of proper weightlifting and dietary habits as well as Merv’s altruism in adjusting the catheters of certain Splash World patrons who need that extra bit of customer support.

One can undoubtedly progress through Modern Ranch Living without much of a care as to the result of the novel’s plot. Roughly, it concerns the whereabouts of a missing neighbor shared by Kendra and Merv; really though, it’s about how the characters find a release from the stagnation of the Arizona summer, as well as their own lives. As carefree as the atmosphere is, Poirier foreshadows almost too well, for towards the very end of the novel he destroys the whimsical and eccentric nature of the desert dwellers with a gut-check of uneasiness lingering well after the novel concludes. Modern Ranch Living deals with overcoming the disturbing behavior that while born out of weirdness and eccentricity, is nevertheless disturbing.

review – the drowned life

drowned lifeChanneling the gravitas of Borges and Calvino, Jeffrey Ford’s collection of short stories titled The Drowned Life, though at times overreaching in scope, sublimely conjures a sense of sheer wonder and befuddlement when confronted with the intersection of everyday life and the dreams that shape it, or are shaped by it.

Ford alternates his stories between the subtle and grandiose, the mundane and the outlandish, incorporating through each a pervasive sense of mystery and weirdness. When he is not detailing the wisdom of a soothsaying octopus, a town’s dependence upon an annual, magical breeze, and the peculiar behavior surrounding the annual “deathberry” drinkers, he describes the power contained within an overlooked scribble, an apartment’s potentially haunting flicker of light, losing a Chinese curse in a poker game, and the dictated writings of a comatose daughter through her mother.

This see-saw between the highly fantastical and the merely strange begs careful attention and even patience of the reader, noting the eternal truth that things are never what they seem. Several stories, especially that which introduces the fascinating Madame Mutandis, are deserving of their own novels. The Drowned Life is a deep and resonating read.

Also worth mentioning is an extended supplement in which Ford describes his biography and approach to writing, both of which explain much and lend credence to the saying that truth is stranger than fiction.