Friday, September 21, 2012
So I naturally get a bit excited whenever they announce a new album, and while I knew they would be touring with The Killers this fall, I didn't know that it was in advance of a new album this January.
I've got to thank Allison Weiss for tweeting about this today. I'm sure I'd have stumbled on it eventually, but listening to this new track certainly brightened up the day quite a bit.
Closer, off of T&S's as of yet untitled new album, brims with the kind of lyrics I adore them for, namely this chunk of the chorus:
"I won't treat you like you're ever so typical"
This would be enough for me, I think, because that line hooked itself into the depths of my brain on the first listen, and I've known exactly when it's coming every time since then. But that's not all there is. I'm used to guitars, acoustic or electric, maybe some keys in their songs. The older stuff tended to be a lot harder and a lot angrier (which came back with Sainthood, a bit).
I'm listening to Closer right now, and I'm finding it really difficult to stay seated. They've traded traditional instruments for synths, for the most part, and this makes me want to just get up and dance.
This is a weird phenomenon, one that I wish I'd encountered before I turned 27, because maybe I'd have developed some dance skills by now if I had. Whatever, Tegan and Sara's new song makes me want to hit the dance floor and look like I'm having a seizure, and I can't fucking wait for this new album to drop.
Listen to it here, over at Rolling Stone.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
These are in no particular order, but I think I might list those that I felt most moved by, in one way or another, at the top.
Solanin- Inio Asano delivers a painfully relatable punch to the gut through exploration of the ennui experienced by a twenty-something office worker who leaves her job to try to discover what makes her happy. You should also consider What a Wonderful World 1&2, a series of vignettes that explores some similar themes to Solanin.
Pluto- Naoki Urasawa and Osamu Tezuka- This is a retelling of a classic AstroBoy tale, but rather than take 40 pages or so, Urasawa takes 8 volumes. It's a murder mystery that's an exploration into civil rights, the justifiability of war, and how we define our humanity. Urasawa is a king of the modern manga scene and you really can't get much better than letting him play around with Tezuka's classic. There is a very good chance that you will cry.
I guarantee there is more manga, but my exposure to it is limited. Check these out and if you like them, you've got a pretty diverse rabbit hole to tumble down into.
Okay, let's get the big American comics out of the way. Sandman, Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One are pretty much the birth of most of modern comics. Alan Moore's tenure on Swamp Thing probably deserves to be there as well as Morrison's Animal Man. They're all great. You should give them all a shot at some point, but everyone is going to recommend them to you, so I'm going to bypass them.
Let me tell you about King City, because holy shit does Brandon Graham know how to make great comics. King City is a 12-issue series that focuses around Joe, a burglar, and his cat, Earthling J.J. Cattingsworth III. Earthling is a MacGuffin, able to be injected with a vial of cat juice to do pretty much whatever Joe needs, which allows Graham to explore this quasi-sci-fi setting from the perspective of a guy just trying to do his job.
What makes King City so great, though, is that it accomplishes in comics what poetry attempts to accomplish with words. Sure, there are story arcs and character developments, exciting battles and painful heartbreaks, but somehow Graham is able to mesh words with pictures in such a way as to convey a feeling, rather than simply an idea. It's got a $20 MSRP and is over 400 pages of comics. You likely won't find a better deal and I have yet to meet anyone who has disliked it.
Essex County- Jeff Lemire has won a ton of awards for this, and they are all deserved. It's a look inside a small county in Canada and the lives of a couple of families and the county nurse. It's moving, the artwork is beautiful, and like Graham, Lemire knows how to let the art breathe, oftentimes serving to display the vastness of the snow-encrusted forests and the loneliness of childhood in these areas with unprecedented vividness. If you like this and really dig dystopic fiction, check out Sweet Tooth, from Vertigo.
Unlikely- Jeffrey Brown is my go-to for autobiographical comics. There are a lot of people who would recommend Clumsy as it was his first published work, but many of the people I know who have read it struggle to get past his style, which has evolved considerably since then. I feel like Unlikely is still rough enough to seem amateurish in style while delivering a beautifully painful story. It's the story of Brown's first real relationship and really showcases his talent and willingness to be completely open with the reader.
If the idea of reading something about relationships isn't your thing, that's fine, don't give up on Brown. Funny Misshapen Body is the story of how he came to become a cartoonist and was the first thing of his I read. It's great and wonderful, but a little harder to get and you won't see as many reviews floating around of it.
Also, here's Brown's answer as to why most of his comics aren't in chronological order:
American Elf- James Kochalka has done a daily comic strip for the past 13 years. There's more to it than that, but you require no monetary investment, as it's all online at www.americanelf.com. I have yet to see a better representation of the joys and mundanity of life.
Asterios Polyp- David Mazzucchelli takes the medium of comics and bends it over his knee. He does things with shape and color that I have never seen anyone do before and this graphic novel deserves all of the praise it has received and then some. This is everything you should ever want in a comic. The New York Times gave it a glowing review.
The Invisibles- Grant Morrison's counterculture epic that inspired/was stolen by the Wachowskis for elements of The Matrix. Seven trade paperbacks that scream to be read until they fall apart, not just because they are great and exciting, but because they are full of so many ideas that you will mine new ones each time. There have been two prose books examining the ideas behind The Invisibles, and there could probably be more.
Lucifer- Mike Carey writes a 75 issue spin-off of Sandman, exploring a Lucifer who has given up ruling Hell. If you have even the vaguest interest in Christian mythology, this is for you. It's also for you if you liked Sandman but wanted a more direct narrative.
I have carefully avoided traditional superhero stories. It's not that they aren't good, there are some truly spectacular ones, but there are also lists of those. My personal favorites are All Star Superman, Animal Man (Grant Morrison's run), Jack Kirby's Fourth World Saga, pretty much anything by Mark Waid and a bunch of things I'm forgetting at the moment.
Then there's a mess of indie stuff I haven't read or haven't listed that I can tell you has earned its reputation. Cerebus, Blankets, Ghost World, My Friend Dahmer, Bone, I Kill Giants, anything by Chester Brown or Harvey Pekar, Atomic Robo, Big Questions, Finder, Love and Rockets, and the list goes on. I've omitted Transmetropolitan and Y: The Last Man because the requestor had already read those, but yeah, go read those too.
But this is a start.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Morrison tends to write what I would refer to as the “thinking man's” comic. The majority of his work has a surface level that it can be appreciated at, but if you are willing to dig a little deeper, there are levels of commentary on humanity and the medium of comics beneath the superhero narrative.
One of my favorite Morrison works is Animal Man, the story of Buddy Baker, c-list superhero and family man. As far as power sets go, the ability to mimic those of an animal in the vicinity aren't particularly useful. Struggling to support his wife and children on his Justice League stipend and knowing that his teammates believe he's a third string hero, it is little wonder that he undergoes an existential crisis when the pieces of his life start to slowly unravel.
At 26 issues, Morrison's tenure on Animal Man was just over two years, and what began as a simple story championing animal rights with a superhero mascot ends as a meta-narrative with Buddy pleading for Grant to resurrect his wife and children. After all, Morrison displays his ability to create heroes and villains from nothing in the drab, Scottish grassland they are wandering through, he could certainly breathe life back into the Bakers, but he will not:
Morrison's first speech bubble here is all the answer that most writers would give. Tragedy is real. Pain and suffering are real. Bad things happen to good people, and there's nothing we can do about it. It's in the second bubble when you realize that he has a problem with this. Comic book superheroes are basically the closest thing that modern society has to classical mythology. These are stories that are supposed to tell of the greatness of mankind and the heights we can reach. About how a mere mortal who is determined enough can stand shoulder to shoulder with a god-like alien from another planet, or how a simple farm family can raise that alien to be a beacon of morality and one of the kindest beings on a planet of people he could enslave.
There are lots of things that comics can be used for, and it would be foolish of me to say that they should only be used to tell stories that many would call naïve. Morrison has spent the last two decades attempting to clean up the mess that Alan Moore and Frank Miller left in the 80's. While Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns are both wonderful uses of the medium, the majority of comics creators took them as a sign that adding death and anguish to superhero stories made them more “adult.” Twenty years later and we have comics like Identity Crisis and Cry for Justice with near hyperbolic levels of mature themes attempting to masquerade as mature storytelling. Over two decades ago, nobody listened to Morrison when he directly said what the problem was with comics:
We spend so much time in the emotional trenches, that it is no wonder there are so many people in the country suffering from depression. Whether it is reality television taking advantage of schadenfreude, the news presenting us daily with new calamities to fear and reasons to be ashamed of mankind or just the daily struggle to live up to the life that is expected of us from others, we have an overabundance of negative energy permeating our lives.
So, why don't we take a lesson from Grant and ask ourselves how we define adulthood, or happiness, or realism. Ask yourself why it is that when someone says that the world is unfair, it carries the message “and there is nothing you can do about it.”
Maybe, for once, we could try to be kind.