Wednesday, October 31

Why So Serious?

Batman: The Dark Knight viral site Why So Serious? has a Halloween treat, with images and items hidden in various cities. Most have already found theirs and submitted photos, but one has not -- Atlanta! The work of the Joker, it seems...

#1: Click the letter ('C'? Backwards 'D'?) at the lower right to reveal the clue and submit a digital image.

"On Peachtree between Ellis and Andrew Young, this glass target will Tower above you, even thought it's lowercase."

#2: Click the top piece under the razor knife.

"Spring St NW between Walton and Poplar. In front of the 107 door."

Any idea, Atlanta folks?

Supposedly something cool will happen when all have been revealed. Hmm...

Comics celebrity playlist: Matt Fraction

Matt Fraction is one of the most prolific and praised writers in comics today, whether for his graphic novels, creator-owned comic Casanova, or his work for Marvel on The Order, Punisher War Journal, and The Immortal Iron Fist.

Fraction's rise to rock star status has escalated over the past several years. He first captured widespread attention with humorous super-spy ape book The Annotated Mantooth! (2002) and bank robbery caper Last of the Independents (2003). He turned my head, however, with the historical sci-fi epic The Five Fists of Science, in which Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla team up to save the world from itself and make a few bucks on the side. It's a story loosely rooted in historical truths, which takes some liberties when it turns to a towering automaton, black magic, and an evil cabal allied with J.P. Morgan and Thomas Edison. Quite a fun read, especially if you enjoy watching Mark Twain threaten to whoop some ass, Missouri style.

While those graphic novels earned Fraction notoriety, the comics community has really latched on to his various current projects. His writing for Casanova in particular has garnered ample admiration. Casanova, published by Image Comics, is the story of Casanova Quinn, a young man from a powerful family whose business happens to be international espionage and assassinations. It transcends the usual spy fare, however, by allowing Quinn to function in multiple timelines and dimensions, losing and gaining allies along the way. There's plenty of humor, action, nudity, raw language, and the like, so it's certainly for mature readers only. Pop fans will also note several references to Beatles songs within the dialogue. A very fun read.

You can view the entire first issue at Newsarama, and the first 7 issues (of the 10 so far released) have recently been released in a hardcover collection. Issue #8 can be read at Myspace Comics.

In the past couple years Fraction has taken on duties with the big boys at Marvel Comics, writing both two of their better-known characters and an upstart title. Punisher War Journal follows the exploits of vigilante badass Frank Castle, The Punisher, whose iconography is well known. Fraction has had the Punisher taken on superhumans, mutants, aliens, Nazis, and slave traders in his 13 issue run, which should be enough to keep any anti-hero busy. Reaction to Fraction's depiction of the character has been overwhelmingly positive. The first collected volume of Fraction's run, which coincided with the civil war among Marvel's heroes, is now available and the second is due in December.

Also currently on Fraction's plate is new series The Order, in which a team of upstart heroes has been put in charge of maintaining a superhuman presence in California. The team is comprised of individuals who have excelled in other fields and are selected for training and genetic manipulation. A character in the book has referred to the program pejoratively as American Idol for superheroes, but the analogy seems appropriate. It's a young series, but has been fun and promising so far.

I'd also like to point out that the image below, from issue #2, features a shape-shifting beauty queen battling a Soviet bear with a jet pack. Winner winner, chicken dinner. Issue #4 is due November 7.

Perhaps the hottest title for which Fraction has been writing is The Immortal Iron Fist, which he has been co-writing with bigshot Ed Brubaker (also currently on Daredevil and Captain America). A perennial also-ran at Marvel, Fraction and Brubaker, along with artist David Aja, have elevated the title into what is often considered the best Marvel book currently released. Since its reboot last year, the book has traced the history of the Iron Fist title and legacy, and involved protagonist Danny Rand in a series of adventures involving epic kung-fu tournaments and team-ups with old allies. Immortal Iron Fist #10 is due on November 7.

The first six issues are currently available in a hardcover collection.

Expect Fraction to be a heavy hitter among comics writers for years to come.

As is quickly becoming customary at C&T, I've asked the featured creator to submit a playlist. Fraction has been kind enough to oblige, sending a love letter to John Darnielle from his Kansas City home. Might we see some Mountain Goats references in upcoming issues of Casanova? I'll certainly be on the lookout...

FIVE MOUNTAIN GOATS SONGS FOR YOU - A playlist by Matt Fraction

These are five Mountain Goats songs. It's hard to whittle it down to five; The Mountain Goats put out jams like Kiss did in their prime, a new record every year and more than a few minor releases leaking out around the edges. And they're all more like DESTROYER and not so much like UNMASKED, you know? So it's hard.

Also, I now want to hear the Goats cover "Beth." Or star in a remake of KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK. Yes, Catman, they ARE serious. Anyway: songs.

"No Children," TALLAHASSEE (2003) - This song is almost profane. The first time I heard it I think I may have covered my mouth. I couldn't believe it. I made Laurenn, who was playing it for me on her iPod, play it again and maybe even again. I have that thing, that music brain thing, that lets me do that, that forces me to do that and inflict immediate obsessions on all those around me. I remember when I was a kid, the first time I heard "Purple Rain," I had the same reaction-- I couldn't believe Prince was talking about his parents like that! Ahh, youth. Anyway, so: Here are the Alphas, then: Darnielle's dream couple at their very worst. Here they go so black as to become Actually Hilarious. I was staggered to find out this track didn't end the record. How could it not? How could any light escape from this damn and damned place, ever again? How do you not just put the chairs on the tables and get the fuck out?

Sidenote: two songs kind of uncool to be singing out loud, somewhat subconsciously, around either your wife or newborn child: "No Children," by the Mountain Goats, and "Last Caress," by the Misfits. They get you looks, y'know?

"Golden Boy," GHANA (1999) - A song about peanuts-- magnificent peanuts!-- from Singapore which may or may not exist. It's such a fun, joyous, playful song that it beggars the imagination that it came from the same place that birthed the grueling, warring Alpha clan, THE SUNSET TREE, etc etc. I love the little audio tag at the head, where Darnielle talks directly to Paul, for whom the song was recorded. I hate you, Paul, in my paroxysms of jealousy over being the kind of guy the Mountain Goats record songs like "Golden Boy" for. Then there's the telltale pulse of the Mountain Goats tape machine. Track after track begins with that incandescent drone; when Darnielle and co. finally moved into a studio with TALLAHASSEE you almost miss the presence of that analog didgeridoo. This song is a delight. Also good for soothing tetchy babies, I've found.

"Best Ever Death Metal Band," ALL HAIL WEST TEXAS (2002) - An anthem for anybody that ever escaped a town that they themselves were bigger than; I get chills and sing along every single time. Do they play this live? I bet getting a room full of people to sing along to "Hail Satan" is magical.

"Original Air-Blue-Gown," FULL FORCE GALESBURG (1997) - Did you ever date somebody way more messed up than you? Someone whose dark and painful shit was way darker and way more painful than your shit could even come close to touching? Remember that feeling that someone, ostensibly your peer, had been transformed by forces so far outside of your understanding that the two of weren't peers at all, but rather, just two people sharing space with very little common ground? Remember what it feels like to find secret oceans inside of someone you thought you knew, and then realizing very suddenly you didn't know them at all as the waves threaten to pull you down? This song. God damn.

I'm paralyzed by the thought of picking a fifth track. Jesus, how do I put a lid on this? "Woke Up New," from GET LONELY? I didn't love the record but this song haunts me. Something from SUNSET TREE, maybe? "This Year," or "Up the Wolves," or "Dilaudid"? No-- too new. It'll make you look like a tourist. "Prana Ferox," then? "Genesis 19 1-2"? "Cai Dao Blowout"? "Blood Royal"? Fuck, I don't know. There's too much; there're too many riches here, too many songs to love and obsess over, to crush on and film in your head endlessly. I love losing myself in the Gregory Crewdson music video for "Lion's Teeth" I shoot in my head; I remember the first time I ever heard the Mountain Goats every time I hear "Cubs in Five." I shiver with gratitude through the entirety of WE SHALL ALL BE HEALED because, shit, there but for the grace of god go I. I don't know. You pick one. Find one you love. It's not hard.

I've been listening to a lot of Mountain Goats lately; their lyrics, or John Darnielle's lyrics, I should say, have been finding their way into whatever I'm working on. They turn into lines of dialogue, or suggest plot turns. I don't understand my compulsion to do that entirely. I have a newborn son and he experiences what the baby books call the Startle Reflex or the Moro Reflex, where he seems suddenly convinced that he is falling, no matter how fixed, permanent, and secure he is at the moment-- like a cartoon character falling backwards in a chair, he shoots his arms and legs straight out and wiggles them in little circles. If he had a sound effect, it would be whoa-oh-oh-oh. And then he relaxes, convinced he is not falling at all, and goes back to whatever it was he was doing, which, let's be honest, is either laying there or sleeping, because he's a baby, and he doesn't do much. I think, then, sometimes, that I feel like I live my entire life under the spell of the Startle Reflex, that I am convinced I'm falling, always falling, that I am anything but fixed, permanent, or secure. Grabbing these things out of the air as I feel the fall come is me trying somehow to prove that no, I am not falling backwards, I am here, safe and stationary. I think I grab for these things to prove it, to say, I am here, and this was here with me. I am obsessed with stealing proof of my existence out of the ether.

(Matt Fraction writes comics like CASANOVA from Image Comics, which GQ called "Deeply geeky... and brilliant," and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY called "Sexy... and darkly funny." He writes books for Marvel Comics, too, like PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL, THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST (with Ed Brubaker) and THE ORDER.)

(He is going to see the Mountain Goats live for the first time on November 8th.)

Tuesday, October 30

Hard 'N Phirm - "Rodeohead"

With Radiohead getting all the buzz these days, it might be time to revisit a related bit of ridiculousness. A few years ago L.A.-based comedy/parody duo Hard 'N Phirm released a bluegrass medley of Radiohead songs that took the Interwebs by storm. Today it came up on my iTunes. I hope it doesn't cause fans of Yorke and co. to have nightmares/convulsions.

Hard 'N Phirm - Rodeohead

See more of their absurdity on Myspace or their blog.

As if millions of pumpkins cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced

Need a little last-minute pumpkin carving inspiration? Student Hacks has you covered.

Hat tip to Geeks of Doom.

Bonus mp3: Evangelicals - Halloween Song

Monday, October 29

Colbert: "I will crush the state of Georgia"

Unpleasant news from the Palmetto State -- Stephen Colbert, already pandering in his bid to take the South Carolina primary, has condemned the state of Georgia [hat tip to the Athens Banner-Herald]. Shameful:

"I promise, if elected, I will crush the state of Georgia," Colbert said to the cheering crowd.

He didn't stop there, going on to disrespect Georgia peaches:

"Our peaches are more numerous than Georgia's," he said. "They are more juiciful."

As he was on the USC campus at the time, I can only assume he was trying to appeal to Gamecock fans and their agri-corp Big Peach allies. Watch yourself, Colbert. Georgia has friends you don't want to anger...

Bonus mp3:Grumpy Bear - Luis Bunuel

Saturday, October 27

Jay Jay Pistolet

After hearing a few songs, I'm very interested in learning more about Jay Jay Pistolet. He's a rising star from London, whose first single is due soon on Chess Club. The 7" single of "We Are Free"/"Holly" will be released November 19. A similar artist that immediately comes to mind is Elvis Perkins -- he's a singer-songwriter with some soul and country flavor.

Jay Jay Pistolet - Holly

Don't have an .mp3 of the track yet, but "We Are Free" has the makings of a hit:

One to watch, for sure...

Friday, October 26

No postage required

If one thing is evident about the Golden Age Captain America, he wasn't shy about mixing it up:

Well, neither am I. As is customary at C&T, here is yet another mix of tracks rescued from my inbox and around the web. These were things I felt were worth sharing, but due to the finite nature of time I have not worked into posts of their town. Some goodies for the weekend...

Josh Ritter - The River [live; Bruce Springsteen cover]
Tiger! Tiger! - Black Daggers [Atlanta gal rockers]
Castanets - Sway [psych-folk]
Bear in Heaven - Bag of Bags [shimmering psych]
The Ginger Envelope - Dirty Penny [Athens emo-folk]
Saint Bernadette - I Own the City [sultry chanteuse]
Trost - Man on the Box [experimental electro-pop]
Sally Shapiro - He Keeps Me Alive [synth/dance-pop]
The Yarrows - May [alterna-folk]
The Pendletons - Not Gonna Stop [Athens rock]
Kate Tucker and the Sons of Sweden - Faster Than Cars [folk-pop]

As always, feel free to drop other recommendations in the comments.

99X Mistletoe Jam 12/16 with Modest Mouse, The Shins

I feel compelled to post about this, even though the more I think about it the less I care.

On December 16, the 99X Mistletoe Jam will take place at Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, Georgia. The lineup will include Modest Mouse and The Shins (neat) as well as Silversun Pickups and Silverchair (meh). Tickets apparently went on sale yesterday via the Ticketmaster site.

I'll sit this one out and let the kids have their fun. It would take a lot to get me into an arena show these days, and there's no way I'm sitting through those first two bands. Still, Modest Mouse and The Shins is pretty nice.

Modest Mouse - Never Ending Math Equation [live, courtesy of KVRX]
The Shins - Know Your Onion!

The 63 Crayons, The Selmanaires, The Coathangers 10/25 at Caledonia Lounge

Lots of music happenings last night in Athens -- The Hold Steady and Art Brut were at 40 Watt, Dark Meat played at Secret Squirrel, and Caledonia Lounge hosted The 63 Crayons, The Selmanaires, and The Coathangers. I chose to attend the latter, as I'm a fan of all three bands. The show was fun, and a nice way to take advantage of a rare Friday off work. Huzzah for fall break!

Julia Kugel of The Coathangers

The Coathangers' Julia Kugel, Stephanie Luke, and Meredith Franco

Tommy Chung and Herb Harris of The Selmanaires

The Selmanaires setlist, October 25

Charlie Johnston and Derek Almstead of The 63 Crayons

The 63 Crayons' Ben Davis

I did tape the show, but have some writing to do before I can fiddle with it. The 63 Crayons and The Selmanaires were hot stuff as usual, but I want to give special attention to The Coathangers -- last night was the first show of their tour, on which they'll be hitting lots of markets east of the Mississippi River. They play tonight in Chapel Hill before hitting the northeast, midwest, and returning to the South. The dates are on their Myspace.

The 63 Crayons - Revolution Fight Song
The 63 Crayons - It's About Time
The Coathangers - Parking Lot
The Selmanaires - Reason and Chance

The Selmanaires next play November 1 at The EARL in Atlanta, when they'll share the stage with Pylon (!!!) and New Sound of Numbers.

Wednesday, October 24

Comics celebrity playlist: Fred Van Lente

C&T continues to feature comics creators, this time turning a spotlight on writer Fred Van Lente. While he has been in print for about a decade, Van Lente has recently published several highly praised works for both indie and major publishers.

After writing indie books for several years (Tranquility, Watchdogs, The Silencers), Van Lente and artist Ryan Dunlavey have received considerable acclaim for their Action Philosophers! series which recently concluded. Published by their creator-owned Evil Twin Comics, these "non-fiction" comics focus on the lives and thought of prominent figures in (you guessed it) philosophy while incorporating heavy doses of humor. While anything but strictly educational, these innovative and entertaining books are fun and jam-packed with knowledge.

Somehow I think they managed to capture the dynamic between Thomas Jefferson and King George III, even without dialogue:

I always suspected that TJ had a high midi-chlorian count.

Their sequence with Karl Marx as a Rambo for the proletariat is a winner as well:

Each issue focuses on three prominent philosophers, and the single issues have been collected in three volumes available from Evil Twin Comics or other retailers. Subjects include Plato, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, Georg Hegel, Carl Jung, Ayn Rand, Friedrich Nietzsche, Rene Descartes, and about a dozen others. Truly unique, and more fun than should be had reading philosophy.

More recently the bulk of Van Lente's output has been for the House of Ideas at Marvel Comics. He has scripted such iconic characters as Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the Fantastic Four for the company's all-ages Marvel Adventures line as well as runs on Amazing Fantasy and Heroes for Hire. The project that has my attention, however, is the mini-series Super-Villian Team-Up/M.O.D.O.K.'s 11.

It's a crime caper in the spirit of Ocean's Eleven in which cult favorite villain M.O.D.O.K. (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing), who is basically a brilliant giant head with a flying chair, assembles a team of B- and C-list baddies to pull off an impossible robbery. It's filled with snark, action, and unexpected double-crosses along with a group of underused villains like The Spot and Rocket Racer. Tons of fun, and the final issue (of 5) is due on November 7.

In addition to that great series, Van Lente is also currently publishing mystic martial arts mini-series The Weapon with Platinum Studios, and has big stuff on the way. The biggest news of all, in fact, involves a Jade Giant. Beginning with #112 in December, Van Lente shares co-authoring duties on Marvel's The Incredible Hulk with Greg Pak. As Pak has had that title firing on all cylinders the past couple years, it's great to see Van Lente joining up. Next year will also see the creative team behind Action Philosophers! return with both Comic Book Comics and Action Presidents, with the former an irreverent look at comics history and the latter highlighting presidents as did philosophers. Look out Federalists, Jefferson may get to wield that light saber yet again...

I've asked Van Lente to contribute a playlist to C&T, and he has graciously agreed. He describes his music tastes as "hopelessly eclectic and hopelessly banal" and came up with a great collection of fun covers to combine the two. Enjoy...

Fred Van Lente's Comics Celebrity Playlist

The Travoltas - "That Thing You Do" (from Travoltas Party!)
A shout-out to my Dutch roots. Amsterdam's premiere surf/punk band does a great acoustic cover of Tom Hanks' favorite one-hit wonder.

Twink - "Enter Sandman" (from Supercute)
You have not lived until you've heard Metallica done on toy piano and cello.

The Bad Plus - "Iron Man" (from Give)
I first saw this jazz trio on my birthday (Valentine's Day) in the Village Vanguard. It was like five below outside and I had a hundred degree fever but, corny as it sounds, they made me forget all that. They specialize in pop covers. My favorite is really "Smells Like Teen Spirit," but I chose this one because it's more obscure.

The Folksmen - "Start Me Up" (from A Mighty Wind soundtrack)
You can keep your Waiting for Guffmans and Spinal Taps, this is my favorite Christopher Guest mockumentary. My wife and I loved the movie so much we actually went and saw the three faux bands perform live at Town Hall. Alas, Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer did not reprise this hilarious Rolling Stones cover, which I don't think was actually in the movie

The New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars - "Tradition" (from Knitting on the Roof)
"At three I started Hebrew school/At ten I smoked some weed/I hear they picked a bride for me/I hope she puts out" GENIUS!!

They Might Be Giants - "Jessica" (from Why Does the Sun Shine?)
My first road trip freshman year of college was from Syracuse to Troy, New York, to see TMBG perform in the basement of the college student union. It was just the two of them, their various instruments and computers, and I've been an addict ever since...Just about the only way I'll put up with the Allman Brothers.

Johnny Cash - "Personal Jesus" (from American IV)
Although I do like "The Man Comes Around" better.

Thanks again, Fred!

For more on Fred Van Lente and his projects, see his website. His various wares are available from Amazon.

Tuesday, October 23

Ani DiFranco at Wordsmiths Books, Nov. 13

A cool treat for the Decatur/Atlanta crowd...

At 1pm on November 13, Ani DiFranco will appear at Wordsmiths Books in Decatur, Georgia. She'll be reading from and discussing her new volume of poetry, Verses. Russ from Wordsmiths reports that Ani will participate in a conversation of the writing process and her work, but won't be playing any music. Certainly a rare treat.

Ani performs later that night at the Variety Playhouse.

Ani DiFranco - Two Little Girls [live]

For more information, hit up Wordsmiths.

The High Water Marks - Polar

While not an Athens band, The High Water Marks have their share of friends in the Classic City. You'd expect nothing less from a band associated with the nebulous Elephant 6 family. Now headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky, the band is fronted by Hilarie Sidney, whom many C&T readers may know from her stint as the drummer for Apples in Stereo.

On September 25 The High Water Marks issued Polar, their first release with Happy Happy Birthday To Me and follow-up to 2004's About the Ocean. It's a really nice collection of pop songs that covers a lot of ground. There are moments rooted in classic '60s pop-rock, and others more reminiscent of Built to Spill or Guided by Voices (or Jupiter Watts, for those in the know). I have absolutely no problem with that. Go figure.

High Water Marks - The Leaves
High Water Marks - Dutch Tape

You can order Polar directly from HHBTM.

UGA vs. UF: Pop culture showdown

As previously noted, this weekend is the big ol' Georgia-Florida football game. Now, I don't have much interest in college sports. I haven't lived in Athens long enough to be too interested in the Dawgs, and the primary impact of gamedays on me is a lack of downtown parking. Since I know absolutely nothing about either football team, how to pick a favorite? Going to would be too easy, so I'm going to rely on what I do know something about -- pop culture. So, Athens or Gainesville?

My first instinct is to compare music scenes, but... come on. While Gainesville has its leading lights (Tom Petty, Sister Hazel, Less Than Jake), Athens is Athens. Let's turn instead to the neutral ground of TV and film. Completely arbitrary, but whatever. Which city has served as the backdrop for better productions? IMDB knows all....

Motion picture comedy
Athens: Road Trip (2000)
Gainesville: Parenthood (1989)

Solid entries here from each contender. UGA hosted filming for parts of the Stifler/Tom Green college romp, most memorable for Green's "Unleash the fury!" cry. While Road Trip might win if Gainesville lacked a strong counterpart, it was one filming location of the Steve Martin classic Parenthood. Despite the fact that Road Trip included both Andy Dick and Tom Green, I'll have to go with Parenthood. Sorry kids.

Winner: Gainesville

Unleash the fury:

Best cast
Athens: Cobb (1994)
Gainesville: Just Cause (1995)

Two forgettable films, but some star power. Cobb was a Tommy Lee Jones vehicle that also included Robert Wuhl. Not so bad. Just Cause, however, was loaded -- Sean Connery, Laurence Fishburne, Ed Harris, Ned Beatty, and a very young Scarlett Johansson. No contest.

Oh, and Gainesville also had the Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, and Charlize Theron film The Devil's Advocate. While I didn't select it as the city's candidate, that's a winner too.

Winner: Gainesville

From Cobb:

Music documentary
Athens: Athens, Ga.: Inside/Out (1987)
Gainesville: The Allman Brothers Band: Brothers of the Road (1985)

Quality entrants here, but gonna have to go with Athens. I haven't seen the ABB doc, but it's a band I'm bored with performing a decade past their prime. Inside/Out, on the other hand, was an important and seemingly prescient project capturing a blossoming music scene.

Winner: Athens

From Athens, Ga.: Inside/Out:

Comedy performance film
Athens: An Evening with P. Oswalt (2007)
Gainesville: The Tom Green Cancer Special (2001)

Tom Green making an hour's worth of jokes about testicles, or Patton Oswalt being Patton Oswalt? Patton it is.

Winner: Athens

Patton likes Athens too:

Television program
Athens: "Trading Spaces"
Gainesville: "Rescue 911"

This one's harder than it seems. "Trading Spaces" can be addictive even if you can barely pick up a hammer, and features some serious eye candy. "Rescue 911," however, has William Fucking Shatner. A tough contest, but this one goes to Athens. Put Shatner in a Starfleet uniform and I'll reconsider.

Winner: Athens.

Let's add up those final tallies, shall we?

Athens 3, Gainesville 2. Classic City by a nose.

I doubt they'll let me pick the Southeastern Conference champ with such criteria, but I'd be willing to give it a shot.

Monday, October 22

Run Dan Run - Basic Mechanics

It took me a while to get around to it, but I've been enjoying Run Dan Run's Basic Mechanics a lot lately. They're an atmospheric indie quartet from Charleston, SC, who don't sound a thing like my notion of a band from the Holy City.

They remind me of bands like The Films, Peel, or even Death Cab, though with both male and female vocalists, juicy synth, and great big hooks. I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear Run Dan Run on commercial radio at some point -- it's the kind of instantly accessible rock/pop that sounds familiar and comfortable right out of the shrink wrap.

Run Dan Run - Your Name Escapes Me
Run Dan Run - The Turnover

You can order Basic Mechanics from the good people at CD Baby.

Madeline to tour Georgia, Tennessee, Florida

Just in time to soothe over any ill will resulting from the Georgia-Florida game this weekend, Athens' own Madeline will tour the region from October 23-29. I've featured this charming singer-songwriter several times, and continue to adore her music.

Madeline - I Left the Light On
Madeline - Home to Me
Madeline - To Hell and Back
Madeline - Durty South [live 2-3-2007 @ 40 Watt]

The tour dates, all with Bridge and Tunnel:

10/23 Little Kings, Athens, GA
10/24 Anarchita, Chattanooga, TN
10/25 Sluggo's, Pensacola, FL (w/ Defiance, Ohio)
10/26 The Thunder Dome, Gainesville, FL (house show)
10/26 The Fest, Gainesville, FL
10/27 The Fest, Gainesville, FL
10/28 The Fest, Gainesville, FL
10/29 141 Moreland, Atlanta, GA

For more Madeline music, hit her official site. My recording of her CD release show ain't too bad either.

Sunday, October 21

Comics celebrity playlist: Alex Robinson

As many of you have noticed, lately I've incorporated more comics content into C&T. Why not, eh? I don't know how many of the blog's readers regularly pick up a comic book or graphic novel, but when done effectively the medium can be on par with the best in television or film. Heck, maybe better.

For those whose tastes extend beyond the superhero genre, one of the premiere writers is Alex Robinson. His graphic novels Box Office Poison (2001) and Tricked (2005), both published by Top Shelf Productions, were universally praised and the recipients of several significant industry honors. Each has been frequently described as a "slice-of-life" book, with Box Office Poison focusing on young professionals in New York and Tricked a window into the lives of six seemingly disconnected individuals whom fate brings together. A companion to Box Office Poison titled BOP! was released in 2003. If you're looking to get into indie comics without a hint of capes and tights, these are a nice place to start.

Next month Robinson will release Alex Robinson's Lower Regions, a bit of escapism from real-life stories that features no dialogue and a sexy barbarian battling monsters in a cave. Top Shelf's blurb says it's a "[u]nique blend of cheesecake, mayhem, and humor." He returns to more reality-based material next year with Too Cool to be Forgotten, which will be about a high school kid in the glorious 1980s. If his track record is any indication I imagine it will be getting a lot of attention in 2008. Even if you wouldn't normally reach for a graphic novel before bed, I encourage you to check this stuff out.

Since this remains a music blog, I've asked Robinson himself to submit a playlist of songs he's enjoying at the moment. Below are his contributions, which I'm pleased to share with several available for download. Thanks Alex! Hopefully I'll be able to do this more in the future.

Alex Robinson's Comics Celebrity Playlist

Jonathan Coulton - "The Presidents"
I found out about Coulton a few months back and he's a favorite of mine at the moment. I especially like this one because it combines my love of U.S. history and novelty songs.

1990s - "You Made Me Like It"
This album was recommended to me by itunes and what do you know? I actually like a bunch of their songs. Catchy power pop.

Pink - "Crash and Burn"
I don't know if the pop charts have gotten better or I just don't care as much about appearing cool but I find myself enjoying mainstream songs more than I did, well, ever before. I think Pink has some really great songs, and right now I really like this one. Amazingly/annoyingly, this wasn't on the CD I bought but was a bonus track on itunes.

XTC - "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love"
I was very saddened to learn that XTC frontman Andy Partridge had more or less thrown in the towel and stopped making music because I loved their later albums. Every group should have a swan song as awesome as "Wasp Star," the album featuring this terrific song.

Goldfrapp - "Lovely 2 C U"
Another change I've undergone over the years is a growing taste for electronic, dance-oriented music that my college self would've sneered at or at least been embarrassed to admit to listening to. Screw you, younger-version-of-me, I like it.

Tom DiMenna - "Ode to Fredo"
The best sort of novelty song is one that you can listen to not-closely and not even realize it's funny, as is the case of this clever song. It's a song about hapless Fredo Corleone, from THE GODFATHER movies, and, like the character himself is both amusing and heartbreaking at the same time.

The Ark - "One of Us is Gonna Die Young"
More catchy pop, this time from Sweden of all places. I used to have a theory that non-English speaking peoples (usually) couldn't make good rock songs but either I've changed, they've changed or the good stuff is finally getting heard because I have canceled my subscription to that theory. I like upbeat songs which have sad lyrics, as this one does.

For more on Alex Robinson, zip on over to his website.

Saturday, October 20

Welcoming autumn with Telenovela

While Athens pop band Telenovela's Saffron Songs was released back in the spring, I'm finding it a lovely record to usher in autumn. It's often sparse and wistful, with a number of songs about nature and transition. The minimalist compositions of many songs suit the season as well, a departure from the lushness of summer. Lovely stuff that brings to mind latter-day stalwarts like Nico, the Velvets, or Joni Mitchell mixed with a little Belle & Sebastian.

Telenovela - Breakfast with Birds
Telenovela - Calendar Burning

For more on Telenovela, see their Myspace.

New albums from The Selmanaires, Anna Kramer & Lost Cause

Atlanta-based International Hits has announced a pair of forthcoming releases that have me all kinds of excited. New records from both The Selmanaires and Anna Kramer are due on January 22, 2008.

The record from The Selmanaires will be called The Air Salesman, and follows their 2005 debut that was a local sensation. If you've been reading here long, you probably know this post-punk quartet is my favorite from Atlanta. They've just wrapped up a tour with Black Lips, and have upcoming shows with those gents as well as Pylon, 63 Crayons, Deerhunter, New Sound of Numbers, and The Coathangers.

The Selmanaires - Reason and Chance [from The Air Salesman]

I'm sooooo looking forward to this record...

The album from Anna Kramer & Lost Cause will be their first under that name, and Anna's second full-length along with a successful 7" on Rob's House Records. This outfit includes Shannon Mulvaney (bass; ex-Magnapop) and Adam Renshaw (drums; ex-Forty Fives) along with the diminutive Kramer. While Anna can work the delicate side of country and R&B all day, I'm told the new record will mostly feature the band's hard rockin' side that makes their live shows kick ass. The first track released indicates that just might be the case:

Anna Kramer & Lost Cause - When You See Him [from The Rustic Contemporary Sounds of Anna Kramer & Lost Cause]

Can't wait to get my hands on this one either. January 22 is going to be sweet.

International Hits is currently selling limited edition 7" releases from each act -- it's $10 for the pair, and I put my order in just minutes ago.

Friday, October 19

Black Olive - "Salty Bite"

Can you guess who was too busy to tinker with his blog this week? Anyway, back to the goodness...

Black Olive is a Los Angeles act that I stumbled upon via KRCW's Today's Top Tune podcast. That the picture above is rather grainy is appropriate, as finding information on Black Olive seems to be about as easy as snapping photos of Bigfoot (the creature, not the truck).

What I can tell is that they're an indie folk duo comprised of James Combs and Kelly De Martino, and they have quite a talent for hooks and bittersweet lyrics. Moments of this track remind me of Flaming Lips in their more sedate moments, and that ain't a bad thing.

Black Olive - Salty Bite

Hit up their Myspace for more 411.

Tuesday, October 16

Tommy hurled on Batman's boots -- Doo-dah! Doo-dah!

A word of advice from me and Hitman's Tommy Monaghan: Don't puke on Batman.

From Hitman #1...

I sure hope Bats has some Handi Wipes in the ol' utility belt.

Bonus mp3:
Max Creek - Batman theme > Secret Agent Man [live 8-26-2005]

Monday, October 15

Pylon CD signing in Athens tonight, Oct. 15

Got word this morning that Athens art-rock pioneers Pylon will be signing CDs tonight (Mon., 10/15, 11pm-1am) at Wuxtry. Their 1980 debut album, Gyrate, will be re-released Tuesday by DFA Records. Gyrate Plus will feature the album and extra material all packaged on compact disc for the very first time.

Note that Pylon has also announced a few select shows....

11/1 The EARL, Atlanta, GA
11/5 Local 506, Chapel Hill, NC
11/9 Mercury Lounge, NY, NY

Gyrate Plus is available online from

Sunday, October 14

The Greencards

With all the indie stuff that comes my way these days, I don't take much time for other genres. That's a darn shame. A friend was telling me how great The Greencards were at a recent Chattanooga bluegrass festival, so I thought I'd give them a fresh listen. I'm pleased to see they'll hit Atlanta's Variety Playhouse on February 22.

The Greencards are made up of two Australians and an Englishman based in Austin, Texas, (hence the name) whose style is at the intersection of pop, bluegrass, and country. They've been widely praised for the past few years, including from such mainstream outlets as Rolling Stone and Country Music Television. Oh, and Paste and Creative Loafing too. They've also done a series of dates opening for Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. You get the picture -- they're hardly obscure, but a quick check of reveals they haven't gotten much blog attention. Their current album, Viridian, was released back in March.

The Greencards - Time [from Weather and Water]
The Greencards - 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover [Paul Simon; live 5-24-2007]

For more info and tour dates, see their Myspace.

Friday, October 12

Stevie Wonder returns to Atlanta 11/1

Well, I'll be darned. Just months after his first show here in ages, Stevie Wonder has extended his fall tour to include an Atlanta date on November 1. He'll appear at Phillips Arena. Presumably the Hawks won't be playing that night, although I'm reasonably certain Stevie could play them for the court and emerge a winner.

Stevie Wonder - Higher Ground [live 7-4-1973]

The dates on Stevie's tour, all on the east coast, are online. Atlanta tix go on sale Saturday, October 13, at 10am. Prices are $47-$97. Yeesh.

Contest: Red Pony Clock CD giveaway!

Thanks to C&T's friends at Happy Happy Birthday To Me, I have available three copies of Red Pony Clock's new album God Made Dirt. These San Diego popsters have been touring like mad for the last while and were among the crowd favorites at this year's Athens Popfest. I understand many vendors are sold out of their allotments of this record, so here's a chance to pick it up for the price of sending an e-mail. If you want to enter, just send me a note with "RPC" in the subject line. I'll pick three winners at random on Wednesday, October 17.

I've listened through the record a few times, and this is a fun one. Red Pony Clock's score of members plink or play a wide variety of instruments, and there's little doubt they're having a ball while doing it. Horns, xylophones, etc., are present throughout and provide numerous layers of texture. There's a strong hint of mod influence, and plenty of moments reminiscent of Daniel Johnston's shaky charm or the clever quirkiness of a Stephin Merritt or Jens Lekman. "My New Best Friends" and "12-Color Step" even wander into the realm of ska. God Made Dirt is pretty much one 40-minute carousel ride.

Red Pony Clock - Joshua
Red Pony Clock - 12-Color Step

For more on Red Pony Clock, visit their Myspace. A total of 1000 copies were pressed, and you can order them from HHBTM.

Got my mind set on you

Ah, the late 1980s. When even a former Beatle could release one of the most annoying songs ever.

On this date in 1987, George Harrison released his cover of "Got My Mind Set on You," the centerpiece of his comeback album Cloud Nine. As you might recall, it went on to get stuck in the head of each and every breathing American for months. I was a grade-schooler at the time, and remember rocking out to Cloud Nine while dancing like a madman and playing air guitar on an aluminum baseball bat. I was awesome. Too bad my guitar skills haven't improved since. Let's relive those days, eh?

Not hard to believe it shot up to #1 by January 1988. But good grief, that chorus...

George Harrison - Got My Mind Set on You

By the way, bad album cover or the baddest album cover? Nice shades, George.

I think Weird Al had it right:

Weird Al Yankovic - (This Song's Just) Six Words Long

But then again, doesn't he usually?

Thursday, October 11

Over the Rhine - The Trumpet Child

Coming at you today with a guest post from my bud Emily R., who talks up the new release from Over the Rhine. It's an album I'm fond of as well, so I'm glad to help spread the love...

Over the Rhine released their eighteenth album in late August, and the husband and wife team of Bergquist and Detweiler continue to be innovative in each effort, even when nostalgic. Many reviewers have used nostalgic words to describe the new release, The Trumpet Child: words like "neo-cabaret," "burlesque," and "music of a by-gone era." They aren't wrong.

The disc opens with the smooth sounds of saxophones to set the tone for the whole experience. Each song borrows a little from another genre of music, with Karin Bergquist. "I Don't Want to Waste Your Time" hints at a gospel wail, while "Trouble" mixes a tango riff with the feel of Cuban jazz. "I'm on a Roll" and "If a Song Could Be President" feel like country songs the way they used to be, though Karin's drawl is Midwestern in sound and soulful in feel. "Desperate for Love" might have been sung in Paris in the 40s. "Don't Wait for Tom" is a dirty cut of spoken word with sounds reminiscent of old New Orleans. Every element of this album embrace the way music sounded and felt when it was "better"--or at least simpler.

None of this is to say that this, one of the best records OTR has created to date, lacks innovation. The composition of each song is exquisite, thanks to Detweiler's abilities to know exactly when to add more and when to leave a song to stand for itself. Interesting instrumentation never overwhelms the music. Karin's voice is smooth and beautiful--some may find she has a similar sound to Feist, but I find it more country, jazzy, and perhaps, sleepy. Every track is different in its inspiration, message, and construction, so the CD is like a treasure trove--even though united in a simple but consistent theme.

Over the Rhine - Trouble
Over the Rhine - Don't Wait for Tom

If interested, visit their website where you can listen to the entire album on the record player. Note that they're releasing a Christmas album nationwide this month--they made it last year, but didn't release it. They're also visiting the great state of Georgia soon, with a show in Athens (Melting Point, 10/18) and two in Decatur (Eddie's Attic, 10/22 and 10/23). I saw them once seven years ago, and I'll definitely be making it to one of these.

Ed. note: Thanks Emily!

Hitman with a heart of gold (and a dirty mind)

No idea how many C&T readers pick up a comic book now and then, but the JLA/Hitman mini-series that just concluded was terrific. Great character development, action, humor, art.... just a nice couple issues. You have to love a superpowered assassin with a sense of humor. Hitman Tommy Monaghan, from JLA/Hitman #1...

Lowbrow, sure, but it made me laugh. Wonder Woman probably not so much.

Bonus mp3:
Guster - X-Ray Eyes [live 4-4-2003; courtesy]

Wednesday, October 10

Holy musical overload, Batman!

It's been a ridiculous couple days of new releases, unlike any I can remember for many months. I've spent the night listening to the new efforts from Radiohead, Beirut, Sunset Rubdown, and Band of Horses while writing. As may go without saying at this point, that's a damn fine soundtrack to an evening. My generally positive initial impressions, for what their worth...

Just over a week after we were alerted to its coming availability, Radiohead's In Rainbows is all over the place. After some payment difficulties, I've given the initial 10 tracks a single listen. First impression is quite positive. They grabbed me about 40 seconds into opener "15 Step" and didn't let go for the duration.

Radiohead - Jigsaw Falling into Place

I thought Yorke's The Eraser was downright mediocre, riddled with excessive bleeps, bloops, and laptop trickery coupled with lackluster songs. Thankfully, In Rainbows is quite different. The band relies less on digital escapades and more on actual instruments. Synthesizers and strings feel equally appropriate, and Yorke's signature voice soars. I don't feel qualified yet to comment much on the songwriting on In Rainbows, but I will say it seems more akin to OK Computer than the band's more recent efforts. Remember this sucker is available only from Radiohead for the time being, but will hit stores early next year. In Rainbows will certainly take several listens to digest properly, and it appears to deserve them.

Beirut's The Flying Club Cup hit store shelves yesterday. After a successful debut album and EP, Zach Condon's terrific output should be old hat. Thank goodness that is not the case. The record is a departure from Gulag Orkestar in some ways, primarily in its improved production and greater tendency to be content with understated beauty in spaces that might earlier have been occupied by horn flourishes. Condon and his ukulele on "Forks and Knives (La Fete)," for example, illustrate that his songs can be as gripping even without accordion, strings, and the like. That xylophone on "St. Apollonia"? Hell yes.

Beirut - In the Mausoleum

Moments on The Flying Club Cup are nothing short of gorgeous. While that shouldn't surprise us with regard to Condon at this point, it's nice to actively notice it rather than have the record passively in the background. This album demands attention. The breakdown 2/3 of the way through "La Banlieu" is a great example -- even while I was staring out at Athens traffic it refused to be ignored. If you've enjoyed Beirut's prior output, there's no reason not to add this record to your collection.

Another Tuesday release was Sunset Rubdown's Random Spirit Lover. Just as Zach Condon has come to occupy a revered place in the "indie rock" (whatever) community, Spencer Krug has risen in a few short years to a place of prominence. Sunset Rubdown may have began as a side project of sorts, but released one of my favorite records of 2006 with Shut Up I am Dreaming. Here Random Spirit Lover picks up where that album left off.

Sunset Rubdown - Winged/Wicked Things
Sunset Rubdown - Up on Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days

Krug's unmistakable voice carries the record, in my humble opinion, but the presence of unusual and seemingly found instruments (are those pots on "The Courtesan Has Sung"?) also gives the album a good deal of personality. Some of the tracks even have a tinge of prog-rock, including "Up on Your Leopard..." linked above. The lyrics are often surreal, which doesn't bother me one bit, and there are psychedelic moments as well (e.g., the mid-album "Colt"/"Stallion" pairing). Lots to like about this one, and I imagine it'll be getting a lot of spins in the coming months.

Perhaps the least urgent of these new releases from my point of view was Cease to Begin from Band of Horses. I've suffered from "The Funeral" burnout for quite some time, so new material is quite welcome. I hate to compare it to the records above rather than judge it on its own merits, but it is the lone release among the quartet that I found somewhat disappointing.

Band of Horses - Is There a Ghost?

Perhaps it has just been a while since I listened to Everything All the Time, but I don't remember Band of Horses being as dull as the flat first half of Cease to Begin. Until the piano and handclaps-driven "The General Specific" midway through the record, it ventures dangerously close to Dad-rock territory. Egad! There's more evidence that the band is awake on the second half, but there seems to be a tendency to strive for the "epic" here that sometimes turns me off to Arcade Fire and their umpteen flawed clones (not that Band of Horses is one). The record is far from awful, but I don't find it particularly compelling. Your mileage may vary.

So, um, how's that new Jens Lekman?

Office hits Atlanta 10/14

Chicago, how you torment me.

First my beloved Cubs play like the Bad News Bears and get swept, and now one of the Windy City's finest indie bands is visiting Atlanta and I can't go. Grrrrrr. The band in question is Office, and they'll be at The EARL on October 14 opening for Earlimart. These guys play a fine, smart brand of danceable indie pop.

Office - The Big Bang Jump

They're touring to support their recently released A Night at the Ritz, which I actually haven't gotten my paws on yet. To hear tracks from that record, hit up their Myspace.

Bonus mp3: Earlimart - The Hidden Track