Feb 26, 2006

Judging a cover by its book.

Keeping the theme from the last post, these covers are from recent or upcoming comics. Most of them are from last week. Some of these I have or will read. Others I've never even heard of. I tried to be completely objective and just pick the best of recent covers. Comics Covers helped a lot with this.

In order from top to bottom, left to right: Wonder Woman 226; What If . . . Wolverine; Savage Dragon 123; Punisher Max 28; Spider-Woman: Origin 1; 100 Bullets 70; Big Questions 8; Batman: Secrets 1; In The Blood 1; Crickets 1; Fell 6

In other comic news, the first issue of the Lark/Brubaker Daredevil is now out. I've been a big fan of the Bendis/Maleev run, but this was probably the first time I've been totally engrossed in a single issue. Brubaker's TV-drama style adds a more epic quality to the story. Even when Bendis changes point of view, he's a character-focused writer. I miss Maleev's artwork, but I love the new team.

I liked Lark's work much better before I saw it colored. I would love to see DD done as a b&w book. It's not that much of a stretch from Maleev's noir-ishly-shadowed* backgrounds and faces. It probably wouldn't do as well, but I don't know that DD was ever one of Marvel's biggest money-makers.

*Yes, I know that is total b.s.

Feb 16, 2006

Under the Covers

It’s a special day on Stoplight Sleep. (Like there’s ever anything special about a n00b blog that almost no one reads . . .) I’m discussing a few of the best covers I’ve come across lately.

Saul Williams, in addition to being an accomplished poet, is perhaps one of the best MCs of all time. Like Kanye West and Common, his style often approaches spoken word more than what we might label as traditional rapping, but his vocal stylings are crisp and punchy. His lyrics are some of the most original, surprising, and through-provoking in hip-hop. You can listen to all of his self-titled album on his website.

Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley recently released her first “solo” album, which actually features a wide-variety of performers from the Saddle Creek scene and other venues. In late 2005, she and Swedish vocalist Robyn Carlsson performed a cover of William’s “List of Demands” on what I think is Sweden’s answer to MTV.

Watch the video on Google.

If you read any similar music blogs at all, you’ve heard of Sweden’s The Knife (Jeez, is Scandinavia going to be the next Canada?) You can just go right over to The Hype Machine and find any number of tracks from them as well as lots of conflicting opinions. People seem to love them (ahem . . . Pitchfork) or be totally unimpressed. (The Rawking Refuses to Stop poses an interesting theory about Pitchfork here.) My verdicts still out, but I’m really enjoying the track “Heartbeats.” I had heard Jose Gonz├ílez’s version from Veneer but never realized it was a cover.

Jose Gonz├ílez – Heartbeats.mp3

You can listen to Nouvelle Vague’s cover of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” here. I also love their cover of “Too Drunk to Fuck” by the Dead Kennedys.

Feb 13, 2006

The Greatest Release of '06 (so far)

On The Greatest, Cat Power expands the clean but warm studio sound she developed for You Are Free with the help of various Memphis studio musicians. The album begins with the title track, which sounds like a slightly up-tempo, choir-backed version of "Maybe Not" from Free, the haunting song she so stunning performed on Letterman. It's one of the most sparse songs on an album featuring horns, strings, lots of piano, and whistling. It's not amazing that Chan Marshall manages to be so eclectic on one album. What is amazing is how consistent her vocals are. Whether she's crooning a snappy jazz-tinted pop tune or whispering a jerky, bluesy tune, Marshall's voice always feels quietly strained but full and forceful. There's a lot of gravity in Cat Power's music, and The Greatest is pure heavyweight.

Listen to "The Greatest"

I'm noticing that this is the second release in a row I've discussed from the great folks at Matador Records. If you're not familiar with the label, check it out. They have a great, reasonably-priced back catalog. You can pick up The Greatest and their other releases at the best record store on the net, Insound. They sell those CD things, too.

Feb 6, 2006

Funny Little Feeling

Tomorrow sees the release of my of my most anticipated releases of 2006, Belle & Sebastian's The Life Pursuit. I just listened "Funny Little Frog" and instantly enjoyed it. The song is bouncy but calm, which seems to be B&S's favorite mode as of Dear Catastrophe Waitress. Something about the song irked me; I kept thinking I'd heard it before, or rather heard the opening bars before. "The Beatles?" I thought, mainly since I've been listening to Revolver and Abbey Road this morning. The riffs kept running through my head until I figured it out. The intro to "Funny Little Frog" is almost verbatim the opening guitar licks of Queen's "Death on Two Legs" from A Night at the Opera. I still enjoy the song, but in the same way one might enjoy two-day old birthday cake.

I still intend on picking the album up. I've also heard "Another Sunny Day," which sounds like a slightly amped-up version of
Boy With the Arab Strap-era B&S.


The second volume of Hard Time (DC Focus) is a few issues in. I've been reading this book since issue 4 or 5, and it's one of my favs. It mixes my interest in prison culture (think a PG
OZ) with my affinity for smart-mouthed adolescent male protagonists (a la Seth Cohen, Holden, etc.). Issue 1 of "Season 2" began at the end of a violent murder rather than the new-viewpoint plot review that we get later in the issue. At first I wanted to edit this timeline, but then I realized that first scene was exactly where Steve Gerber & Co. should have began. It sets the tone and stormy foundation of the dynamic setting that drives sixteen-year-old Ethan's struggle with angst, violence, romance, gangs, and his spirit. There are several twists to Hard Time that make it unique, but you'll have to read the book to find out more; I don't want to give away the best parts.