Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Mix-Tape

Summer Summer Summertime! Time to throw some meat on the grill, crack some beers and (if you’re in my neck of the woods) hope it stops fucking raining before August. Here’s a mix I put together that is perfect for just those times, featuring Tommy Keene, Sugar, Stars, Velocity Girl, The Times, Sloan, Gorillaz, Portastatic, The Pipettes and many others! 
Download it here, I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Gladstone's School For World Conquerors

Picked this up on a whim because I really enjoyed writer Mark Andrew Smith's previous work on The Amazing Joy Buzzards and Aqua Leung (and had also pledged to his Kickstarter book, The New Brighton Archaeological Society).  This book was a real pleasant surprise, essentially the flip side to superhero training school based comics (Zoom's Academy comes to mind), this books begins witht he history of the title institution, began by a villain who wasn't very good at his job. From there we're introduced to some of the students, who deal with the same trials that kids everywhere deal with; not measuring up to their parents' expectations, boring teachers, schoolyard taunting, however the students are also by and large, well, evil. And super-powered.  So there's that.

The word "fun" is thrown a lot in comics reviews, but it's tough to not include it in this one.  Though the book does touch on some heady subjects (absent parents, truly sociopathic children) it balances them well with bright action and wit.  The comics gives you a good handle on the main characters, the layout of the school and the dark (well, not that dark) secret that lies in the background of their world. 

The art is handled by Armand Villavers and he does a very nice job.  Similar to the style of Smith's previous Buzzards collaborator Dan Hipp, but the edges are a little less sharp and stylized, which definitely suits the book's all-ages tone.

This book was a great pick-up for me and I look forward to handing it off to the kids to check out.  It's also a great value, offering 40 pages of story for only $2.99, so if you're looking for something to pick up when you're at the shop tomorrow for Free Comic Book Day (and if you're going you should buy something too), this is a good choice. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 A Year In Singles: Side Two

OK, we've cruised through the pop half of my faves of 2010 mix-tape, now let's move on to my usual rock n' roll stomping grounds. There were a good amount of rock records I loved this year, most coming from old favorites That's good, because I love seeing bands I enjoy keep moving forward, but also unfortunate as there just aren't a lot of new bands out there that doing it for me. Let's go to the list.

1. The Like - He's Not A Boy from Release Me: Just a charming single from this all-girl band. Pumping out a sound that wouldn't sound out of place in some late-50's biker movie, this song is pure nostalgia for garage rock. It's just plain charming. While the album that followed later in the Summer was good, it doesn't come close to the heights that its lead single achieved.

2. Jason and The Scorchers - Mona Lee from Halcyon Times: Jason and The Scorchers is a band that I've sadly slept on for far too many years. I've read nothing but fantastic write-ups about them for years, and even enjoyed Jason Ringenberg's children's album, A Day At The Farm With Farmer Jason with my kids, but I just never took the plunge. Finally, after an enthusiastic e-mail from this guy, I bought their newest reunion record Halcyon Times and it's just fantastic. Full of barnstorming rockabilly, it's absolutely irresistible. This is just one of the many fantastic songs off of a fantastic album.

3. Teenage Fanclub - Baby Lee off Shadows: Another older band that is still putting out vital music. First pushed as the "next bog thing" during the first Brit-pop wave of the 90's, Teenage Fanclub has carved out a pretty great career putting out 60's style garage rock that is utterly infectious. I can't recommend picking up their new album enough (and it's only $5 this month here as added incentive).

4. Best Coast - Crazy For You off Crazy For You: Just pure breezy summer pop music. Can't say too much about it, but this is the type of music that immediately puts in mind sitting on the beach with an umbrella drink in hand.

5. Superchunk - Learn To Surf from Majesty Shredding: Speaking of both beaches and old bands still pushing out vital music, Superchunk came back after close to a decade off and put on two blistering shows in Chicago this year and put out one of my top three or four albums from them. Though they've harnessed a few of their rougher edges, they've done it by mastering a tunefulness that is undeniable. I love this band, I love this album and I love this song.

6. Stars - Wasted Daylight from The Five Ghosts: I really think I'm the only person who absolutely adored this album, but there it is. A bit of a departure from their previous albums, The Five Ghosts kind of felt like Stars was pushing all-in to break big, but I really liked what they did with their sound. Between this song and We Don't Want Your Body (the best Michael Jackson song he never sang), they made some fantastic music to dance to, and I really liked it.

7. Spoiler Alert! - Booster Gold from Spoiler Alert! EP: Art Brut frontman Eddies Argos took 2010 "off" from that band in order to head up no less than three side projects. Everybody Was In The French Resistance...Now!, a band that makes songs that answer famous pop songs; Glam Chops, a band that renders covers of pop songs as glam rock songs and Spoiler Alert!, a band that, in theory, for legal reasons, Argos has nothing to do with, but that sings songs exclusively about DC Comics superheroes. This song, explaining why Booster Gold is the "greatest hero that you've never heard of" is just amazingly charming and warms this old Booster Gold fan's heart. Which reminds me, I really need to pick up this t-shirt.

So that's it for my mix-tape for the year, I really do suggest putting it together as a playlist, it works rather well together (or *cough* contacting the author for assistance if need be). Finally, let's hit up some honorable mentions for the year.

New Pornographers - Together and Ted Leo + Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks: While neither of these efforts from favorite bands were as ground shaking as some of their previous releases, they were still damn solid and damn solid out of either of these two is better than 80% of the rest of the music I own.

Adam WarRock - West Coast Avengers Mixtape: Speaking of love for 80's superheroes, 2010 was a banner year for this old man, if only I could send this back in time to me in 2985, I'd be one cool-ass 11 year-old, let me tell you. FYI, if you want to check this out, it's available free thanks to the fine folks at Comics Alliance. Also, WarRock's website features over 50 other free tracks that are really damn good.

Chromeo - Business Casual and Girl Talk - All Day: You wanna dance some more? Here you go. (All day is free as well, just hit the link.)

Let's see if I can keep this thing going and come back to you about comics tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010: A Year In Singles Part One

2010 was a pretty great year for music, personally, I probably purchased more albums this year than at any time since the 90's.  While I generally hate writing about music, let's go through my favorite new songs from the pasty year, the order is unimportatn, other than the fact they make a nice playlist this way.

1. Adam WarRock - The Silver Age (f/ Tribe One) from The War For Infinity:  It's tough for someone to rap about comics oriented stuff and avoid getting labeled something with a derisive "nerd" attached to it.  Eugene Ahn avoids this deftly with the single off his excellent concept album, re-purposing Marvel's The Infinity Gauntlet to a world where the dispute was not settled with fisticuffs but rap battles.  The single, though it is separate from the album's story helps to inform the foundation on which it was built.

2.  Gorillaz - On Melancholy Hill from Plastic Beach:   It's tough to pick one track from Plastic Beach because it is truly a complete album, one that has a form of sonic cohesion that's rare in pop music today.  I tdo realize there is an overarching story line to the album (and indeed all of Gorillaz work), but I can't make heads of tails of it without viewing their (fantastic) videos as an accompaniment.  This is easily my favorite album of the year.

3.  Kanye West - Runaway from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:  To paraphrase Aziz Ansari's description for someone else, Kanye West is an brilliant rapper/crazy person.  While his latest is not my favorite of his releases, Runaway is a pretty undeniable single.  My only wish is that it had come out in the Summer, since this is windows down on a hot day  music if there ever was any.

4.  Passion Pit - Little Secrets from Manners Speaking of Summer music, this song is it to a "T".  While the album it comes from is certainly good, this is one of those singles that just stands above the crowd.  Not too much else to say.

5.  Daft Punk - Derezzed from Tron: Legacy OST While I would have prferred a "proper" Daft Punk album this year, their rollicking soundtrack to the Tron sequel fits the bill quite nicely.

6.  Robyn - Dancing On My Own from Body Talk this year I really came around on pop music, and robyn's Body talk EP's (now collected into on fantastic album) really were the final nail in the coffin.  The fact that Lady Gaga gets as much press as she does for doing so much recycling and wearing meat dresses while Robyn simply makes great music in the trenches and is ignored by the mainstream is pretty depressing.  Regardless, there is great pop music out there and that's a great thing.

7.  Cee-Lo Green - Fuck You from The Lady Killer:  It's easy to write this song off as being cheap, "hur hur he says 'fuck' a lot" but, damn, this is a fine ass song.  That it's gotten several conservative commenters upset that someone other than Dick Cheney is using the f-word only makes it sweeter.

So that wraps up the first half of what I loved this year, tomorrow I'll come back with part 2 and the more rock-oriented half of the list. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Big Hits, Big Money

 I listen to a fair amount of sports radio, though I'd rather listen to NPR, the current pre-election news cycle is enough to get me from zero to RAGE in under 10 minutes and that's no good first thing in the morning.  Anyway, speaking of rage, the recent crackdown in the NFL on violent hits is turning even the rather calm confines of ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike into yet another edition of Sports Shouting.

If you're unaware, there have been a shocking amount of injuries this year, a lot from violent, and possibly illegal hits, especially ones that are helmet to helmet.  On Monday, after a particularly viscious Sunday, the NFL came down and said that they would start fining players harder and perhaps even suspend players for hits that have been, up until now, considered legal and part of the game.  Naturally, this has caused sports radio apocalypse, and the arguments against the new crack-down are as follows:
  1. The league has been acting rather responsibly on the point of concussions this year and though this year's injuries may simply be an aberration, they should continue to act responcibly and not make knee-jerk reactions.
  2. The players know what they're signing up for and it's part of the reason they get paid such huge salaries.  They know every time they strap on their helmet they may get carried off the field, perhaps never to walk again. 
  3. The NFL has long built itself on "big hits" being part of the game, going so far as to sell video tapes featuring their "greatest hits".  Just look at half of the highlights packages that play before games on Sundays, I guarantee there's at least 2 clips of someone getting absolutely demolished to every sweet touchdown or catch shown.
  4. It's fucking football.  Stop being such a fucking pussy.
Though those arguments are valid, I think they're missing, or perhaps even ignoring the point behind these rule changes.  The NFL is in business to do one thing, make money.  This is not a secret, this is not a bad thing.  Yes, I'm sure Roger Goodell and the rest of management want to protect players as well, but their first job is to make sure the league is profitable both today and well into the future and this brings me to the 2 big points why they are making these changes now and not hesitating.

I'm a fan of NFL football, though not necessarily a die-hard, but I'm certainly more than a casual fan.  I generally watch every game on Sunday and Monday nights, hell, I even lasted through a full half of that shit storm that was Titans/Jaguars last Monday night before giving up and switching to baseball.  I'm in a fantasy league and a confidence pool, however I do not bet on football nor go to games nor even think about laying out the cash for the Sunday Ticket.  So I figure this places me pretty much in the middle-ground of fandom.  The thing is, for me, and those who like the game as much or more than I do, the NFL doesn't have to sell us.  We've bought in to the extent that we will buy in, we're addicts and we'll show up every Sunday no matter how badly they shit on us.  Be it interminable commercials, be it Joe Buck, be it John Gruden, be it everyone pretending Matt Millen didn't ruin football in Detroit for a quarter of a century.  The NFL is no longer trying to sell to us, they're going after the casual fans.  The ones that maybe watch one game a week and maybe even go to or hold a Superbowl party.  The NFL wants these people, they want their money, badly, and when these consumers are confronted with mounting news stories of dreadful injuries to NFL players,  and of the possible horrible future that awaits these players due to repeated head injuries, they are far less likely to buy into the NFL.  These injuries, and the news stories and medical studies they spawn, are costing the NFL money today, and more importantly new money in the future.  The NFL has to be seen as being proactive, going out of their way to protect these players from these injuries and even from themselves.  That way these new consumers will feel better about handing over their cash to the league and not spending it on a new Cubs jersey instead.

Secondly, as a parent of two boys (4 and 7 years old), I'm deathly afraid of letting them play football.  My eldest has already had one concussion from an accident a few years ago, making him even more susceptible to them in the future.  While I would not go so far as to ban them from playing, I would take them to get base-line testing done prior to playing and pull them out with no hesitation at the first whiff that they could get hurt.  From talking to other parents, I'm certainly not the only one who feels this way and that's got to be a huge concern for the future for the NFL.  This cuts into both their future player-pool and into their future fans.  Unless they can reassure parents that their kids will be safe in the sport, the future could be rather grim.

Another aspect of this whole situation that I do think is being willfully ignored by the media, especially the NFL partners like ESPN, is the upcoming labor dispute.  As the NFL tries to push an agenda that both features paying the players a smaller percentage of their revenue along with the 18 game season, a season that features more injuries along with the release of more and more studies showing the long term effects on players it makes their position tougher both at the bargaining table and in the public eye.  With the looming idea of a lock-out next season, every single move the NFL makes has to be viewed through the lens of the effect it will have on the next labor agreement, but it is hardly even mentioned in the media and I don't think that's because they think it is of no consequence.  It's obvious that the more the labor issues stay out of the news cycle, the better it is, probably for both parties, but it's still odd to not see it mentioned, even in passing along with this debate.

As more and more of the true health consequences come to light of playing professional football, I have no doubt that drastic actions will be taken in the coming years.  From requiring state-of-the-art mouth-guards (which really could help immediately), to requiring players to wear tight-fitting helmets (most of the helmets you see go flying on game-day is because players wear them too loose) to draconian measures like legislating certain types of contact out of the game, I really have not doubt that the NFL we see ten years from now will look a lot different from today's.  This should be a good thing.  Protecting the players, be it for money or out of true altruistic care is a good thing and should be paramount in everyone's mind, but everyone needs to calm down and talk about this like rational human beings, not like the assholes they're being on radio right now.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Floppytown Reviews

Should have a bunch of reviews up at FLOPPYTOWN this week, including Avengers Prime #3 (already up),Captain America #610, Skull Kickers #0 & Action Comics #893.  Swing by and check them out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Floppytown: Steve Rogers Super Soldier #3

Inspired by The Singles Jukebox, Matt Springer has wrangled a bunch of people into contributing brief reviews on single issues of comics each week at a new site called Floppytown.  The first post is up today, which is a review of Steve Rogers: Super Soldier #3 and I have a contribution. 

This looks to be a fun project, so swing on by and please contribute as the more will be the merrier.