Dec 16, 2006

The Fountain of Batman. Soundtrack by Mogwai.

In the November issue of Wired, Steve Silberman discusses director Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, his third film (after π and Requiem for a Dream). The Fountain is also a graphic novel from Vertigo featuring artwork by Kent Williams, but the story didn’t begin that way. As Silberman explains, Aronofsky hired Williams to create the book after his attempts to film the movie were thwarted by a wishy-washy Brad Pitt and a bloated budget. The big-budget sci-fi flick eventually reincarnated as a pawn-shop art film, fueled by Aronofsky’s guerrilla-filmmaking background. The film might lose money, even after DVD sales, etc., but D.A. has proven himself once again.

What we’ll never see is Aronofsky’s “gritty take on” Batman. Silberman cites Aronofsky’s vision of Batman “battling switchblade-toting pimps” as being too racy for mainstream audiences. This reminds me of why most superhero films are doomed to fall beneath my expectations. Many comic books are acceptable for a general audience, but those I’ve loved either couldn’t be loyally translated to the big screen without an R rating (Miller’s Dark Knight series, in the case of Batman) or would be too convoluted for a casual viewer (e.g. Kingdom Come).

Batman takes out a WB executive.

Consider my favorite comic-based movies: Sin City, Ghost World, and Hellblazer. Each has an R rating. With the general exception of Sin City, these aren’t verbatim stories put in motion, but--Keanu aside--they are loyal to the original spirit, tone, and maturity of the books they come from.

I swear not to let Schumacher touch this.

Rachel Wise’s, who co-starred in
Hellblazer and is married to Aronofsky, performance in The Fountain struck me as saccharine, especially next to Hugh Jackman’s stoic coolness. In all three time periods in which the film takes place, all the characters are basically static. As with many films that aim for meaning and high-art, The Fountain is at times heavy-handed, but it’s consistently beautiful, visually and sonically.

Hey Jack, I think you've wandered into Apocalypto.

Clint Mansell, who scored Requiem for Kronos Quartet, also enlisted the help of Scottish post-rockers Mogwai on The Fountain soundtrack. The result is a score strong enough to stand on its own.

Kronos Quartet & Mogwai – “Death is the Road to Awe”

The Fountain official site

November’s Wired also features great articles on atheism, prosopagnosia, and six-word stories by Margret Atwood, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Kevin Smith, Mark Millar, Howard Chaykin, Neal Stephenson (my fav story), and Ronald D. Moore.

Nov 29, 2006

The Wolf's Back

I’ve been gone for a long time while I moved and worked on other projects, including today’s mix. Much has been made of the popularity of band names featuring wolf or wolves. I’ve included a couple less popular ones in today’s mix.

I wanted to focus on songs related to wolves. Some of these tracks are from 2006’s best metal/hardcore albums (Converge’s No Heroes, The Sword’s Age of Winters) and a few more are from recent releases from similar artists (Dillinger and Queens, respectively). The seemingly random wolf reference seems fitting for bands who find at least part of their inspiration in 70s hard rock, when having a growling wolf airbrushed on the side of your van would have been the height of coolness.

Some of the more mellow tracks seem to use the wolf as an archetypal figure. In Magnolia Electric’s “Talk to Me Devil, Again,” Jason Molina croons, “I talked to the wolf in the mountain.” Molina has used the wolf figure throughout his career to refer to a sage-like authority figure, his pagan god. TV on the Radio use the wolf as a symbol humanity’s careless or destructive side. Queens of the Stone Age play with the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing cliché.

Regardless of their approach to the noun, each song—perhaps with the exception of Wolf & Cubs’s “This Mess”—in the mix is somehow chilling, whether fast and cutting (We Are Wolves’s “Little Biros”), or slow and creeping (Devendra Banhart’s “Hey Mama Wolf”). References to wolves or, in the case of The Sword and Banhart, actual wolf howls add to this effect.

Someone’s into Wolves Mix

  1. The Sword “Winter’s Wolves”

  2. TV on the Radio “Wolf Like Me”

  3. Cat Power “Werewolf”

  4. Wolf & Cub “This Mess”

  5. Mastodon “The Wolf is Loose”

  6. Converge “Lonewolves”

  7. Cocteau Twins “Wolf in the Breast”

  8. Magnolia Electric Co. “Talk to Me Devil, Again”

  9. We Are Wolves “Little Biros”

  10. The Dillinger Escape Plan “Sunshine the Werewolf”

  11. Queens of the Stone Age “Someone’s in the Wolf”

  12. Devendra Banhart “Hey Mama Wolf"

Remember, if you enjoy any of the songs here, please learn more. Buy an album or digital track, or better yet, go to a show. It’s important to support good music.

Oct 18, 2006

Thought Bubbles: New Comics for 10/18

52 is really getting crazy now. If you like superhero books and you're not reading this one, I've gotta say you're missing out.

I just read issue one of The Damned. This book has cool, Jazz-Age, organized-crime drama, magical action, and demons! Writer Cullen Bunn has wrapped up some of my favorite things about comics in one original mini. Brian Hurtt, formerly on SS-fav Hard Time, handles the visuals. His hard lines and stretched frames are perfect for the material. Check out a preview and more stuff over here.

Related post: Comic's the Spektor

Another book from Oni Press, Wasteland, is on issue 4. This books keeps getting more complex, but it feels like things have just gotten started. Plus, dig those Templesmith covers.

The new Virgin Comics line is intriguing. I don't like Deepak Chopra and his "spiritual thinking," but the concept of building a comic universe around Indian mythology makes Virgin Comics more than just another publisher. Right now the only book I'm reading is Snake Woman. I enjoyed Gayos's artwork in Daredevil: Redemption and the story intrigues me more than the others I've looked into.

As a special note, I've very close to posting my webcomic. I don't have a real artist, so you'll have to tolerate my horrible work. Hopefully posting some of them will help motivate me to find someone handy with a pen. Any suggestions?

Oct 16, 2006

Appropriately Named, pt.1

“What did he say?” she posed as the whirling squirts and digital snaps roared at the song’s climax.

“Red hot drops,” I replied, with a somewhat condescending tone, my standard delivery for a question I felt unworthy of enunciation.

“It sounds like he’s saying drots.” She countered after listening to the next light more closely.

Indeed, the plosive ending to Chad VanGaalen’s “Red hot drops / hot read drops” lines in song of same name is so strongly punctuated that the interpretation is easily muddled. Throughout Skelliconnection, the singer’s latest album, VanGaalen flexes the songwriting muscles exhibited on 2004’s Infiniheart. As potent as his abilities are, they are further enhanced by the charming sloppiness of it all. VanGaalen learned this skill well from Grandfather Beck and the in-laws, Neutral Milk Hotel (whose lyrical cohesion he more closely follows).

On “Gubbbish,” VanGaalen proclaims, “I’m never going to sleep. / I’m never going to sleep.” “Mini-TVs” ends with the lines, “Mix tapes, / try to stay awake, / ride my rusty bicycle / into the lake.” The next-to-last song on the album is titled “Sing Me 2 Sleep.” As a whole, the album feels like the slow waning of an adolescent’s schizophrenic energy.

All these lyrics bring to mind the themes of Infiniheart, namely the closer “Traffic,” which partially inspired the title of this blog. Sleep (not to mention traffic, the ocean*, and the future) is to Chad VanGaalen what wolves, hearts, and owls are to Jason Molina: a personal archetype fat with symbolism and meaning, but slender enough to make an easy turn of phrase. The meaning is everything, but it’s not enough to distract from the simple genius of the song.

“See-Thru-Skin,” a gentle whisper compared to most of the tracks procedes “Wind-Driving Dogs,” VanGaalen’s version of a Delta-blues foot stomper, complete with hand claps. Other than the afore mentioned “Red Hot Drops,” no song jumps off of Skelliconnection, but VanGaalen has crafted a solid indie pop gem.

Chad VanGaalen – “Red Hot Drops” from Skelliconnection

Chad VanGaalen – “Traffic” from Infiniheart

*In VanGaalen’s musical universe, sleep = [under]water = traffic/highway (just listen to “After the Afterlife”), but I don’t want to get to English-major on ya’ll.

Oct 5, 2006

Make your own shirts, poser.

Today's San Antonio Rock City is rather poignant. I have a couple shirts that I've made myself. I'm wearing one right now. They're pretty crappy. My hint: don't use an iron-on on a gray or black T-shirt.

Recently, I've been thinking about giving it another try. Maybe I'll use something from superdickery. Thanks to Oh My Art Stars!/Random GIS of the Day for introducing me to that site.

That is all.

Oct 3, 2006

Spektor on the [Internet]

Regina Spektor is live from Washington, D.C. on the NPR Live Concert Series tonight at 7:30 Eastern. It's an early show. If you miss it live, it should be available to stream later on.

Check it out here.

Regina Spektor - "Ne Me Quitte Pas" from Songs
Regina Spektor - "Apres Moi" from Begin to Hope

Oct 2, 2006

Thought bubbles

The newest issue of Bitch magazine has a great article on the origins of Wonder Woman.

Grant Morrison's run on Batman
is finally hitting its stride. The drama caused by his possible son is comically ridiculous and painfully serious, which seems to be what DC is going for with the character lately .

Tim Bradstreet is no longer doing covers for the
Hellblazer comic, but at least they've got him on the novel covers.

Hellblazer: Subterranean

What to pick up at the comic book store this week:
52 #22
American Splendor #2
Y: The Last Man #50
Giant-Size Wolverine #1

Well, that's all for this post, kids. I'll be back next time with music!

Sep 29, 2006

The Rawking Refuses to Stop!

Recently I interviewed Dave from Cokemachineglow and The Rawking Refuses to Stop, one of my favorite music related blogs. What follows is an uncensored transcript of the emailed interview:

Stoplight Sleep: Since you already write for UCLA’s Daily Bruin and Cokemachineglow, why a music blog?

The Rawking Refuses to Stop: Well, initially I started the blog before I was writing for Cokemachineglow. I was looking for another outlet for my writing that could be more creative than the stuff I was doing for the Bruin, and blogging seemed like the way to go. Of course, the reason I want to write about music in the first place is because I’m the kind of guy who listens to an album and immediately wants to shout about it from the rooftops, so MP3 blogging gives me an excuse to talk about any song or band I want, whenever I want.

SS: You’ve been doing the blog for about a year and a half. In that time, how do you think blogging has changed? Do you think blogging has changed the music scene?

RRS: I can’t speak for blogging as a whole (which has obviously exploded – everybody and, literally, their mother has a blog), but I don’t think music blogging has changed that much. It’s more well known, which makes it more commercial – I’m not sure if people were really selling ads like they are now a couple years ago – but at the same time, the overall readership seems to have leveled off. You don’t see bigger publications talking so much about blogs anymore unless it’s an article about Tapes ‘N Tapes. I think the main effect of blogging on the music scene is two-fold – it allows tiny bands to get this great snowballing exposure if a bunch of people post on it, and I’m not talking about bands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! who had a lot of other factors working for them, but a group like Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin or Division Day. A band that hasn’t really broken through yet. The other thing is that I think it’s given the record labels a better idea of how they can use digital media to promote themselves and that file-sharing isn’t necessarily evil, but we’ll see if I’m right about that.

SS: Hype Machine lists almost 700 music-related blogs. lists around 1500. Do you think the music blogosphere is oversaturated? If so, what sets apart a good blog other than numbers?

RRS: Considering I don’t have time to read all the blogs in my own site’s blogroll, sure, the blogosphere is oversaturated. But at the same time, so is indie rock, so it works out. It’s like anything – you figure out what kinds of blogs you like and you support those people. The blogs I read consistently are the ones with taste that I know I can trust or that post really interesting stuff – Aquarium Drunkard and Rbally are two blogs that always have great bootleg concerts and unreleased material. The personality and the writing are important, too: A great music blog should be like hanging out with your awesome friend who knows way more about records than you do.

SS: Why do you like Ryan Adams so much!?

RRS: He’s my hero. Here’s a guy who could easily be a professional songwriter – just look at Tim McGraw’s version of “When The Stars Go Blue.” Almost any song on “Cold Roses” could be a great country song. But the thing that separates Ryan is that he’s an incredible, versatile singer and performer and nobody’s going to do a better version of his songs than him. He reminds me a lot of Neil Young in that he’s also completely in control of the vision for his records. He knows exactly what he wants to do and what the record is going to sound like from the music to the production, and for me, he pulls it off 9 times out of 10. I don’t think he needs an editor. If anything, he needs to put out more records.

SS: Seriously, what inspires you about music to want to write about it on a regular basis? What makes you decide to post on a specific song/artist/album/etc.?

RRS: The music inspires me. Sure, it’s a cliché, but music has a profound emotional affect on me and when I hear a great song, even if I’m listening to it for the 100th time, I still want to talk about it. I’m obsessed. Luckily, my girlfriend doesn’t really listen to indie rock so that forces me to figure out other things to talk about.

SS:. I happen to know you’re a comic fan as well, what books/writers/characters are you into?

RRS: Right now, my favorite books are Y: The Last Man and the two Superman titles. Kurt Busiek is doing a great job with Supes. I’ve been picking up the trades for “The Walking Dead” and that’s pretty solid as well, but I’ll read anything with zombies. I’ve been reading comics since I was a little kid and I have a nearly-complete seven-year run of all the Spider-Man comics from about 1992 to 1999, so he’ll always be my favorite hero and Mark Bagley will always be my favorite comic artist. I should mention I have complete runs of “Darkhawk” and “The New Warriors” from the ‘90s and I always felt those characters got a raw deal, especially now with Civil War, but it’s nice to see Darkhawk showing up in the Marvel universe again. Even though I’m reading a lot of DC and Vertigo now, I’ll always be a Marvel guy.

SS: If you could make one last post on TRRtS, what would it be about and why?

RRS: Elliott Smith’s song “Condor Ave.,” because it’s my favorite song ever and I don’t think I’ve written anything on it anywhere. It’s from his first album, Roman Candle, which isn’t something a lot of people have heard, so turning people on to that would be a great way to go out.

Elliott Smith - "Condor Ave."

Sep 24, 2006

Video Mix 0.1

I thought I'd do something a little different and give you guys a ton of videos from the wonderful YouTube. I'm not going to embed them because that would take up a ton of space.

All videos are the official video release unless noted.

Tahiti 80 - "Heartbeat"
This is not the actual video, if there even is one. This is a fan vid of clips from some show on Noggin' called South of Nowhere. Apparently it's about to teenage lesbians.

Interpol - "Slow Hands"

I know you've heard this song and probably seen the video, but it's been on my mind a lot lately. It's rather gimmicky, but I love it regardless (kind of like the band itself).

Joanna Newsom - "Yarn & Glue" (Live)
Can't wait for the new album . . .

You Say Party! We Say Die! - "Cold Hands, Hot Bodies" (Live outside the Seattle Center)
I'm not really sure what's going on with this outdoor show and small crowd, but I love this song. They're like Pretty Girls Make Graves, only more influenced by Television, et al.

Rah Bras - "No Furture" [sic]
These pseudo-goth synthcore trio blasts out some big beats on this track. And the video is crazy. This is how good Mindless Self Indulgence could be if they didn't try so hard to suck.

TV on the Radio - "Wolf Like Me" (Live on Letterman)
If you don't have this album, go get it now. Thanks to Silver's Boogaloo for the post.

Final Fantasy - "Fantasy" (Mariah Carey cover live)
Owen Pallett's (of Arcade Fire) Final Fantasy makes some great music, but his most amazing work can be found on YouTube in the form of live covers. Look for "Peach, Plumb, Pear" (Joanna Newsom) and "Modern Love" (Bloc Party).

The Knife - "We Share Our Mother's Health"
A beautiful video.

Margot & the Nuclear So & So's - "Quiet as a Mouse"
Another artistically animated video. Is this the trend now? I'm seeing a lot of them them. Fine by me. This band makes me think Pedro the Lion meets Arcade Fire.

Cansei de ser Sexy - CSSTV "CSS is looking for Cat Power"
Another hot new band that you've probably heard already. They have a bunch of funny videos they made posted on YouTube. This is the funniest.

Cat Power - "Maybe Not" (Live on Letterman)
Here she is.

Let me know what you think about the video mix. I may do more of these in the future.

Sep 19, 2006

Mitch Clem: Punk Comix Guy

Several months ago I wrote about one of my favorite online comics, Nothing Nice to Say. It was dead for awhile, but recently artist/writer Mitch Clem has revived the series, along with continuing his newer comic, San Antonio Rock City. New editions of NNtS are posted every Monday.

Mitch Clem's workblog
Nothing Nice to Say
Rock City Comics

Mitch Clem's homesite

Today's track is from the Ssion, whom I've posted about before. It's another from opportunity, Bless My Soul.
The Ssion - "I Think I Got Something to Prove"

Sep 14, 2006

Rasputina, you inbreeds!

Rasputina, that group of corsetted cellists and their native-American drum banger, are one of my favorite bands and one of the best live acts I've ever seen. You can just get over your little "but they're goth" deal. What's with that anyway. Don't you like Bauhaus? And I know you love the Cure. Everyone does. Even your mom.

Anywho. It's easier to point out acts they've inspired (Scarling, Bonfire Madigans) than name any pop music that's directly influenced them (other than the usual suspects). Like Dresden Dolls and Decemberists, a lot of their influences are from the early twentieth century.

Over at their homepage they have a huge list of all the catty comments and Howard Hughes jokes lead-singer Melora Creager has used to introduce songs. She's also obsessed with rollerblades (Satan shoes), urine drinking, dairy products, enemas, and Murphy Brown.

Screech on you demons of the . . . thing.

Here's the link radiofans.

Hell, I'll even give you an song. I know that's why you're here for.
Rasputina - Deep in the Sweet Water (Joseph Bishara Remix)
It's a remix of "SweetWater Kill" from Cabin Fever.

Go buy some of their albums on insound. I recommend starting with Cabin Fever. That way if you don't like it, you can at least hear them make fun of PJ Harvey, Bjork, and Matthew Barney. I love them all. But they really should be made fun of more often.

disclaimer: I realize their drummer is not really Native American. You think I'm stupid? You're the one who likes _________. (May I suggest filling in this blank with some crap band you like, such as Hellogoodbye, GG Allin, Bowling for Soup, or Jack Johnson.)

Sep 10, 2006

Phonogram 2

The next issue of Phonogram (Trust me, I read other comics, but right now . . . who cares?) is out Wednesday. You can catch a preview of the first five pages here. This page features some other Image previews, so you have to scroll down a bit to get to Phonogram. While you're at it, check out Girls. I haven't read anything for 10 issues or so, but the Luna Brother's artwork is always amazing.

Sep 5, 2006


A few weeks ago, Baltimore post-rock band Oxes filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Old Navy, who is accused of stealing the band's flier design for one of their T-shirts. This is old news, but I saw several of the T-shirts at the store yesterday. The suit was filed because Old Navy refused to pull the shirts, but I was surprised to see them still in stores.

Oxes have to been known to pull some crazy stunts, such as a staged protest and "split" with Arab on Radar on which they merely impersonated the noise-punk band. Oxes claim that this is not a publicity stunt (although it would be a rather effective one), and I hope they're being honest.

The size of Oxes discography doesn't match the band's talent, but 2002 LP, Oxxxes, is one of the best of the genre. The instrumental band sounds like Pelican meets Shellac, but more on the mathy, indie-rock side.

Here's a track from their [real] split with Big'n on Box Factory records. Sorry, I can't find a link to purchase this EP.

Oxes - "Undefeated"

Oxes on myspace

Sep 3, 2006

Here's what I say

I've got something nice in the works, I promise. I've just temporarily misplaced it.

In the meantime, I'm listening to MSTRKRFT's The Looks, and you should be, too.
It's like a lyric-sample-happy Daft Punk, only more house, then more big beat, and then . . .

MSTRKRFT - "She's Good for Business"

And here's a bonus remix: a Panthers track for all you Death from Above 1979 fans.

Panthers - "Take Me With Your Hands (MSTRKRFT Remix)"

MSTRKRFT - The Looks on insound

Aug 21, 2006

Aug 18, 2006

Phonogram and Pelican

In the prologue to Phonogram #1, Kieron Gillen writes, “Automythology . . . is reaching for the iconic in our lives – both good and bad – and transubstantiating it into the immortal.” He goes on to explain that what makes he and his friends so special (and, in turn, all of us) so special is nothing more than a pop song turns us into “gods on the dance floor,” or in my case, in the bedroom mirror.

With Phonogram, Gillen has captured our shared religions. While our myspace profiles proclaim us both as atheists, we worship at the throne of the perfectly placed note, the careful turn of phrase, and the art of a great mix.

Main character and narrator David Kohl is a misogynist bastard, but he’s so sincere, witty, and informative about it that I’m forced to love him off the bat. I’m forced to love the comic for reasons already mentioned, plus there’s a Huggy Bear reference and McKelvie’s (Long Hot Summer) restrained brilliance. Appearing on the letters page doesn’t hurt either.

My original Phonogram post
Phonogram official site
Kieron’s blog
David Kohl’s myspace page
Image comics


Post-metal-sludge-instrumental act Pelican are going back on tour in September and their first date is right in the heart of America, St. Louis. The quartet (which is primarily composed of former members of Tusk) play music on the Oxes-side of Mogwai. They’re subtlety-devastating tunes can be found on their most recent release The Fire in our Throats Beckons the Thaw, the classic Australasia, and their eponymous EP. If you’re in the U.S., here’s where you can catch ‘em:

9/18/06 in Saint Louis, MO @ the Creepy Crawl
9/20/06 in Denton, TX @ Hailey's
9/21/06 in Oklahoma City, OK @ The Conservatory
9/23/06 in Tempe, AZ @ The Sets
9/25/06 in Anaheim, CA @ Chain Reaction
9/26/06 in Hollywood, CA @ the Knitting Factory
9/27/06 in San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
9/29/06 in Portland, OR @ The Satyricon
9/30/06 in Seattle, WA @ Neumo's

Pelican’s homepage
Pelican on insound
Pelican on amazon


This week’s minimix

Summer at Shatter Creek “Your Ever Changing Moods”
Huggy Bear “Her Jazz”
Pelican “Australasia”
Magnolia Electric Co. “Leave the City”
Liars “It Fit When I Was a Kid”

“Your Ever Changing Moods” was one of those songs that got lost in the bulge of my iTunes library. The way it’s set up, single tracks are easy to ignore among full albums and Elliott Smith bootlegs. The Huggy Bear track is reposted in honor of Phonogram #1. “Australasia” is the title track and closer from the band’s first full length.
I’ve been thinking about Jason Molina a lot lately. His new album, Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go, releases Aug.22, and Fading Trails by his band Magnolia Electric Co. will be out Sept.12, both on Secretly Canadian.
I finally got around to watching the videos for Drum’s Not Dead, and band-member Julian Gross’s video for “It Fit When I Was a Kid” from Drum’s Not Bread is by far the best.

As always, I don’t wish to promote piracy. If you enjoy any of these tracks, please invest a little cash in the artist. Buy an album or download, or go to a show.

Aug 10, 2006

It's Tricky

Back in my early teen years, my step-mother bought me a subscription to Spin magazine on her daughter’s recommendation. It was a blessing, and not because my mother hated it so much. Living in small-town nowhere allowed little exposure to the alternative music I so loved, and Spin was one of my windows into that world.

I cringe to think that were I an adolescent now, M2 and Spin would be feeding My Chemical Romance and Sugarcult. In the mid-90s—amidst the alleged post-Kobain drought—I got Cornershop, Beck, Atari Teenage Riot, and Tricky. I can also vividly remember seeing the video for “For Real” on M2 back when it had no commercials and played different genres for each day.

In my nostalgic mind, Tricky represents a brief time in the 90s when no scene or style really dominated alternative music. One could make an argument that post-grunge schlock like Matchbox 20 and 7 Mary 3 or electronica (primarily big beat), lead by acts such as Prodigy and the Crystal Method, held sway, but from my chair, plurality ruled the day.

Now, it seems that faux-garage dance rock, 80s revivalism, and emo-pop punk are your only choices. I realize that’s short changing the contemporary music culture. With mix CDs and iPods, people’s tastes are as varied as ever. However a part of me wonders if Tricky could make it as a new artist today.

The answer is probably yes. Just look at acts like TV on the Radio, M.I.A., and the Streets, who owe at least a small debt to Adrian “Tricky Kid” Thaws, who was brought to us from the Wild Bunch via Massive Attack. I think we may have missed out on ATR, but some might count that as a good thing.


Tricky – “Bad Things” from Pre-Millennium Tension, his moodiest album and my fav.

Tricky (featuring P.J. Harvey) – “Broken Homes” from Angels With Dirty Faces, his most experimental work and a critical darling in its day.

Tricky (featuring Hawkman) – “Diss Never (Dig We Up History)” from 2001’s Blowback, Tricky’s big commercial effort guest-starring Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ed Kowlczyk (Live), and a Nirvana cover (“Something in the Way”). The album was roughly as successful as his previous releases and played a role in introducing the mainstream to dancehall. So you can blame Tricky for Sean Paul.


Tricky on insound
Trikcy on amazon
Tricky on iTunes

Aug 7, 2006

Sounds Alike, Vol 2: Man Man

When I first heard Man Man back in late 2004, I knew it was just the thing for those people who love catchy weirdo music, like Faust and Captain Beefheart. They even have wacko names like Chang Wang and Pow Pow. Unlike many artists in the pseudo-genre, Man Man isn’t shockingly original or painfully unconventional. They do sound like a drunken barbershop pirate quartet got lost in Tom Wait’s basement.
Download “10 lbs moustache” from their debut, The Man in a Blue Turban with a Face
Download “Vanhelsing boombox” from Six Demon Bag, one of this year’s best albums
You can download an mp3 of their concert with Fiery Furnaces at
their site.

Man Man is the Jim Carey to the Black Heart Procession’s Sean Penn. While both bands craft lush, sea-soaked melodies, Black Heart is more interested in wallowing in the shadows and storms. Remove singer Honus Honus’s gravel and Man Man’s “Skin Tension” could easily fit into BHP’s catalog. BHP’s “The Old King of Summer,” from their self-titled album, seems to be the inspiration for “Feathers,” the opener to
Six Demon Bag.

Download “Tropics of Love” from the Black Heart Procession’s fourth album, Amore del Tropico

One of the most instant references of Man Man’s music is Tom Wait’s unique brand of junkyard rock, specifically 92’s
Bone Machine. Man Man may be more tongue-in-check, poppier, and less pluralistic, but the attention to detail remains.

Download “Goin’ Out West” from Bone Machine, which was also featured in Fight Club.

Michael Jackson. You heard me. And not in the same way that “the Beatles influenced everyone, man.” Listen to “Smooth Criminal,” then go to
Man Man’s myspace and listen to “Black Mission Goggles.” Surely I’m not the only one who hears this . . .

Man Man on insound
The Black Heart Procession on insound
Bone Machine on insound

*Sounds Alike, Vol 1

Jul 31, 2006

Super-Mega-back-from-California Post

Stoplight Sleep is finally back from its summer vacation!

To make up for last time, but post will include more music and comics than a SS post ever has.

1. Last year one of the greatest contemporary punk bands, Hot Snakes broke up. On August 15, Swami Records will release a live recording, Thunder Down Under including a live version of this track:

Hot Snakes - "LAX"

but not this one:

Hot Snakes - "I Hate the Kids"

Both of these songs are from Suicide Invoice.

Hot Snakes on insound
Hot Snakes on Amazon

2. Over the last few days I read Marvel Zombies, which a friend loaned to me. If you read my review of Walking Dead, also written by Robert Kirkman, you can plug in my comments about the dialogue in those books. I'm not so upset that the Marvel heroes don't sound like zombies, because who really knows. But I'm upset that the characters don't even sound different or like themselves. The story does take place in a alternate universe, apparently one where Wolverine, Iron Man, and Giant Man all talk the same.

Besides that small gripe, I really enjoyed the books. The stories fun, compelling, and graphically impressive. The 5-issue series was highly popular with every issue having at least 2 printings and a variant cover. I wouldn't be surprised to see a sequel to this miniseries.

Buy the Marvel Zombies TPB on Amazon

3. Robots in Disguise - "DIY" from their self-titled album.

4. Wasteland is out now from Oni Press. Antony Johnston (Spooked) and Chris Mitten created this comic about a post-apocalyptic world somewhat similar to that of Mad Max. In the first issue alone there's ton of action, punch dialogue, and hints of the magic(?) of the universe.

The Wasteland website

5. Here's a couple newer songs from bands that everyone has talked about:

Oh No! Oh My! - "I Have No Sister"
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - "Ramblin' Man"

Oh No! Oh My! on insound
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, Ballad of the Broken Seas on insound

6. News from Comic Con: Adam Brody (The O.C.), Paul DeMeo, and Danny Bilson (father of Brody's co-star and rl girlfriend Rachel Bilson), and artist Jerry Ordway have created Red Menace, which Wildstorm will release this fall. The comic combines McCarthism and golden-age superheros. Read more at Newsarama.

7. A mini-mix. Enjoy.

a. Quixotic - "Anonymous Face"
b. Death Cab for Cutie - "405" (acoustic version)
c. Braille Stars - "Beautiful Fiction"
d. Songs: Ohia - "I Made the Change" (demo version)
e. Human Television - "Tell Me What You Want"
f. Monster Movie - "Letting You Know"

If you like any of these songs, please look into the artists and buy their stuff, or better yet, go to a show.

Jul 15, 2006

San Diego, Here We Come!

Stoplight Sleep is going to Comic Con!
That’s right, kids: this time when you don’t hear from me for several weeks, there’ll be a good reason for it. Oh My Art Stars and I will actually be in Cali for almost two weeks, but we’ll only be at Comic Con on Thursday and Friday. Along with volunteering each day, you may see us at the following:

Publisher booths, including DC, Slave Labor Graphics, Oni Press, and Fantagraphics; Tim Bradstreet’s booth in artist alley; (BB-11) IFC Presents: This Film is Not Yet Rated (10:15-12:15, Room 6A)

Thursday panels: Spotlight on Daniel Clowes (4:30-5:30, Room 8); Masters of Lowbrow Art, w/Tim Biskup and others (3:00-4:30, Room 5AB); Webcomics 101: Getting Started (6:00-7:00, Room 3)

Friday panels: We might try to get into Straczynski’s panel on writing (1:30-2:30, Room 3); Webcomics 102: Finding Your Audience (4:30-5:30, Room 1B);
Boondocks (5:00-6:00, Room 6CDEF); 52: A Year in the Life of the DCU (6:00-7:00, Room 6B)

I’m also hoping to run into the guys from
CGS, Lene from I Read Comics, and various artists/creators/writers, as well as random celeberties, such as Patton Oswalt and Brendon Small. I’ll try to post some music stuff before I leave, but if I don’t get a chance, see ya when I get back!

Jul 3, 2006

The Great Machine v. The Walking Dead

Brian K. Vaughn’s Ex Machina (Wildstorm) and Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead (Image) are two of the most popular comics on the shelves these days. They both come from writers who are probably better known for other work: Vaughn on Runaways (Marvel) and Y: The Last Man (Vertigo), Kirkman on Marvel Team-Up and Invincible (Image).

Although these books inhabit two ends of the graphic fiction spectrum, they employ similar narrative techniques. Both books follow a central character using no narration, occasionally cutting to scenes involving interesting supporting characters. Ex Machina follows New York’s Mayor Hundred, formerly known as The Great Machine, a superhero with the power to talk to anything mechanical. Rick, a cop who survived a zombie outbreak because he was in a coma, leads us through The Walking Dead.

In both cases, the reader isn’t allowed to easily see the story through the eyes of the character he or she might identify with most easily. Instead, we’re asked to empathize with the alpha-male, who has been placed in a position of power and given responsibility in a setting few of us could tolerate, let alone make important decisions in. Through both of these comics, we learn how hard it is to be a true leader.

The most recent Ex Machina trade paperback is Fact v. Fiction, the third volume in the series. In this arch Mayor Hundred checks in for jury duty, cracks down on fortune tellers, and hunts for his mother. Meanwhile, his associates hunt down a robot vigilante claiming to have been built by The Great Machine. Vaughn weaves the storylines seamlessly, along with flashbacks to Hundred’s past as a comic-shop regular, giving the book a made-for-TV-drama feel, similar to 100 Bullets or 52.

Although volume five of The Walking Dead is out now, I haven’t had a chance to read it. In the past week or so, I have read everything from the beginning of Miles Behind Us (volume two) until the end of volume four, The Heart’s Desire. Most of Miles Behind Us takes place on a farm that the main characters find on their journey. The next two volumes are set in the mostly-abandoned prison they claim as their new home. There’s lots of death, action, and sex along the way.

Finding the prison marks a turning point in the storyline, allowing the character’s to become slightly more settled and develop their own conflicts. Extreme times force extreme people and almost everyone evolved becomes polarized by some driving force in their life, whether it be grief, love, lust, or stress.

Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn, who took over for original artist Tony Moore, have done a spectacular job with the gray-scaled Walking Dead. There was a day when I’d overlook non-color books; Adlard and Rathburn illustrate why that attitude has changed. Rus Wooten’s lettering rarely draws attention to itself unless required, the hallmark of a quality letterer. My only real complaint is the overuse of splash pages throughout the series, especially at the end of volume four.

Tony Harris and Tom Feister illustrate a vivid, animated world in Ex Machina. Their heavily-photo-referenced work stands out among the cartoony and/or stylized work of many comic artists. Occasionally shots feel hyper-realistic, like Harris has frozen the characters and their most awkward moments, a reoccurring weakness in the series. I occasionally feel like I’m watching an episode of Tom Goes to the Mayor. As another minor gripe, many of Harris’s large-bosomed females appear to be clones. In volume three alone, an unnamed victim, a fortune-teller, a prostitute, and a juror appear to be the same person. I’m never sure if this is a side-effect of the photo-refing or intentional. Jared K. Fletcher is a fantastic letterer.

Vaughn’s gift for writing shines in Fact v. Fiction. He’s one of the best in the business when it comes to drawing you into the story with an engrossing story and crafting realistic dialogue. Conversely, while Kirkman’s plot is effective, it often feels fluffed up with mundane details, such as where the character’s new clothes come from (a fact I would have assumed without the big meeting and speech). His dialogue often sounds over-constructed, like each character writes a note card of speaking points. Against the backdrop of probable-worldwide chaos, their highly organized speech rings false. However, I can give Kirkman the benefit of the doubt, since he’s writing scenarios born purely of imagination and Hollywood.

While Vaughn has created a hybrid of political thriller, slice-of-life realism, and post-modern superheroism, Kirkman has achieved what I previously thought improbable: he has architected a zombie story with truly interesting characters and novel situations. It’s seems easier to remain interesting and relevant when you’re dealing with a contemporary New York City, the NSA, and talking to toasters, but I’m impressed by Kirkman’s maturation of the zombie genre. That’s not to downplay Vaughn’s achievement. Ex Machina is one of the best comics you’ll ever read: guaranteed.

My Walking Dead/Ex Machina Soundtrack

  1. Depeche Mode – The Dead of Night

  2. The Crowd – Modern Machine

  3. Johnny Cash – God’s Gonna Cut You Down

  4. Death From Above 1979 – You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine

  5. Rasputina – Herb Girls of Birkenau

  6. Queens of the Stone Age – Burn the Witch

  7. Mogwai – Robot Chant

  8. Duke Ellington – Mendoza

  9. Sam Cooke – Chain Gang

  10. Pixies – Wave of Mutilation

  11. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Weight of the World

  12. José González – Love Will Tear Us Apart

Liner Notes

  1. On many of these, it’s obvious which book they go with. I wasn’t too creative with a lot of them. I like the lyrics of the songs to add to story, not just the music. All the even numbers to with Ex Machina, the odds with Walking Dead.

  2. I think this is good opener, something to bring you into the city.

  3. This is a total traveling song. Use this anytime some one is driving down a car-littered backroad.

  4. This is kinda the Automaton’s theme song.

  5. I think this track would work well as atmosphere for the darker parts of the prison. The strings here are fairly dramatic.

  6. I want the doorman at the fortune teller’s to be listening to this. It would also work when Hundred’s in the desert.

  7. This is the zombie march!

  8. I wanted something jazzy for the earliest comic store scenes. It could also work for the courthouse.

  9. This would be great for scenes where they’re working at the prison.

  10. I tried to think of what might be playing in a comic store in the late 80s/early 90s for one of the flashbacks.

  11. This is Rick’s theme, mainly for when he takes the bike back to the old campsite.

  12. I like this for the final confrontation with the Automaton and the every end of the story.

Today’s Links

Get a great deal on the first four or five Walking Dead trades at Amazon.
Buy Ex Machina: Fact v. Fiction on Amazon.

Jun 25, 2006

Sounds Alike, Vol. 1: RIYL BYOP

This is the first edition of what I hope to make a regular segment here on Stoplight Sleep. In "Sounds Alike," I discuss some new and/or popular group and artists I see as related to them. In volume one, I focus on Be Your Own Pet, those Nashville teenagers with the hot new album.

Comparisons to YYYs are thrown around by people who probably work for Rolling Stone, or at least read it like it's anything more than fluff. It's also rather brainless to mention VU, Stooges, and Television. It'd be much harder to name bands that aren't influenced by them. I'd like to dig slightly deeper.

The Ssion hail from Lewisport, KY by way of Kansas City, MO. Listening to tracks from the Be Your Own Pet singles and EPs, I never noticed the connection. However, the new album instantly recalled tracks from Opportunity Bless My Soul, the band's 2003 album. The Ssion is loud and obnoxious, but also wickedly catchy. Listen and marvel:

The Ssion - "I Think I Got Something to Prove"

While listening to BYOP's self-titled album, I occsionally have to remind myself that it's not Huggy Bear, Bikini Kill's British cousins. The mixture of bullet-train guitars and scrambled-soul female vocals are trademarks of both. I think you'll find BYOP missing the post-gender evangelism, however.

Huggy Bear - "Her Jazz"

The combination of driving bass lines and screeching guitars barely held together by a drummer fighting for attention, such as found on "We Will Vacation, You Can Be My Parasol," invokes the most accessible moments of the Liars's classic debut, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top.

Liars - "We Live NE of Compton"

Today's Links
Purchase Be Your Own Pet on insound.
Purchase Opportunity Bless My Soul by The Ssion from Version City Records.
Purchase Huggy Bear's Taking the Rough with the Smooch on Amazon.
Purchase the Liars They Threw Us All in a Trench . . . on insound.

Jun 23, 2006

The O.C., minus the Barton

In the newest issue of Spin, Misha Barton is listed #8 on their 25 under 25 list. The blurb begins, "Were it not for her character's penchant for lesbian flings, booze, and bad boys, The O.C. would have been all about comic books and indie rock. Thank you, Josh Schwartz.

Anyone who has watched The O.C. has been exposed to some great music. If you'd like to know just what, you can hop on over to the site and check out the soundtrack for each episode.

It's also been host to many, although inconsistent, comic book references. During season two, Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) and co-star/fellow-comic-lover Zack Stevens (Michael Cassidy) begin a comic book club and even create their own comic, which they unsuccessfully pitch to Wildstorm.

The show has featured at least two references to Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon's Pulitzer-winning comic-related novel about two young men creating a new comic character in the mid-twentieth century. One of the men is gay. In one episode of The O.C., Seth compares himself and adopted-brother Ryan to the main characters of the book. This, along with some other references and details I won't bore you with make for some pretty believable slash fiction material.

Next time, I'll have some serious music and comics goodness. Until then, enjoy this:

Rufus Wainwright - California

Jun 14, 2006

Podcast Alley

The Comics Podcasts Network contains some of the best podcasts you'll ever hear. Basically, the site compiles every episode post from it's members, which include some of my favorite podcasts.

Comic Geek speak is one of the oldest and most prolific podcasts of its type. Several times a week, Bryan "Um" Deemer, Peter "Stump the" Rios, Jamie "Shiznit Pimp" D., Kevin "I'll probably misspell this" Moyer, Kevin, and Matt (I don't remember their last names) get together to talk recent issues, classics, comic-related issues, do interviews, talk trivia, make fun of Rob Liefeld, and do interviews. Speaking of, I got to be on episode 75 because I named their letter column. You can sometimes find me on their message board as Cascade. WARNING: These guys are huge nerds!

I Read Comics is my new favorite comics-related podcast. Lene Taylor, the self-proclaimed "
only woman with a comics podcast," reviews comics, rants on comics, and does comic-related interviews with her own unique twist. She often discusses feminist views on the medium and indie comics that you won't hear discussed on other podcasts. It's got everything from Donna Troy to gay porn.

I started listening to Comics News Insider because they interviewed Patton Oswalt, but now I'm hooked. They're podcast is basically news and reviews focused. Imagine a weekly TV magazine on comics and related issues.

Indie Spinner Rack is probably the loosest of the four mentioned here. The show has an organic feel, with lots of silly jokes and distracting editing. Like I Read Comics, you're likely to hear about stuff here that you won't hear on the other two. These guys know there stuff and have some friends in the biz. Plus their site looks spiffy!

Today's Links:

Patton Oswalt
Comics Podcast Network
Podcast Alley