Sunday, December 30, 2007

My favorite albums of 2007

10. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
I only rediscovered Spoon a few years ago. When a friend first loaned me a cd 10 or 11 years ago I apparently dismissed them as a Pixies knock-off. While their first album does owe a heavy debt to The Pixies, revisiting their catalog years later made me realize I’d been missing out on great music all that time. Spoon very quickly forged its own sound and has been busy making great album after great album. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga continues that tradition.

9. Feist – The Reminder
While I contend that Feist’s previous album Let It Die is even better than The Reminder this album “reminds” us that Feist is a major talent and a force to be reckoned with. (This seems to happen frequently – an artist’s “breakthrough” success often follows a superior album.)

We first saw Feist perform at KCRW’s Sounds Eclectic show in 2006 and what surprised me most was that she really kicked ass on her guitar. I said to my wife, “I’d like to see her do a Stooges song!” On that night at least, she performed her songs much more aggressively than on album. It was exciting. I was looking forward to The Reminder having some of that energy so I admit I was disappointed when the album turned out mellower than its predecessor. That said the album is still packed with great songs. I’ll just hope her next album is heavier!

8. The Stooges – The Weirdness
One of my all-time favorite bands records a brand new album 30 years after their last effort?!? Are expectations high or low in this case? I don’t think anyone could expect this album to hold up to the impossibly high standards set by The Stooges debut, Fun House, or Raw Power. The Weirdness doesn’t stand up to those classics but it does rock and it’s certainly the best thing Iggy’s released in years.

Really though, the best part of this album was that it meant The Stooges would be touring to support it. I still can’t believe I’ve seen The Stooges live, much less twice! They put on an unbelievable show, one that’s not to be missed.

7. Radiohead – In Rainbows
My interest in Radiohead peaked with OK Computer and Kid A, but I never stopped buying and enjoying their records. In Rainbows has probably received more press over the fact that Radiohead opted to self-distribute the album as a digital download than the actual music it contains. What the press is glossing over, of course, is that this is another great album.

6. Manic Street Preachers – Send Away the Tigers
I was really into the Manics in the late 90s and for whatever reason kind of lost interest for a few years. This new album coincided with my reawakened interest in the group. This like their earlier albums is a great rock album. I complain a lot about modern groups not “rocking”. Well, the Manics definitely rock.

5. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova - Once soundtrack
I don’t know what else to say about this movie and album that hasn’t already been said elsewhere. The movie is great mostly because these songs are so good, and they’re performed so beautifully. I will be shocked if they don’t get an Oscar nomination for Best Song.

We saw them perform at The Wiltern a couple of months ago, and it was no surprise that they would be good live. What did surprise was just how funny Glen Hansard was. The stories between the songs were at least as entertaining as the songs themselves, and that’s saying a lot.

4. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
When this album came I out I was annoyed with the suggestion that this record was some kind of return to form. I don’t think Jack and Meg have made a bad album, and in fact I prefer the previous album Get Behind Me Satan. Still, this is yet another great White Stripes album.

3. Julian Cope – You Gotta Problem With Me
You Gotta Problem With Me (a statement, not a question!) continues Cope’s tradition of the cleverest album titles ever. (Other examples include “Droolian”, “An Audience With the Cope”, “Citizen Cain’d”, and with his side project Brain Donor: “Love, Peace & Fuck”, “Too Freud to Rock n’ Roll, Too Jung to Die”, and “Drain’d Boner”.)

This one was a grower for me. On the first couple of listens I thought this was another of Cope’s recent albums that didn’t quite connect with me. Once again, the iShuffle came to the rescue. I didn’t think I liked the album, yet every time one of the songs came up I liked the song. Now I really like the whole album. This definitely isn’t the album someone new to Cope would want to start with (try Peggy Suicide or my personal favorite, Jehovahkill), but this is my favorite since 2003’s Rome Wasn’t Buried In A Day.

2. Ian Brown – The World Is Yours
I have always been and will always be a massive Stone Roses fan. When the Roses broke up, I didn’t think singer Ian Brown would have much of a career without his songwriting partner John Squire. To be fair, I thought the same thing of Morrissey when The Smiths broke up. 5 great solo albums later (3 more than the Roses made), I’m happy to say that Brown, like Morrissey before him, has proven me wrong.

The World Is Yours, while no real departure from Brown’s previous album is another really solid piece of work. Stand out tracks include the duet with Sinead O’Connor “Illegal Attacks”, “On Track”, “Me and You Forever”, and “Sister Rose”. These last two feature Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook along with Happy Monday’s bassist Paul Ryder as the backing band, and they are amazing. Brown needs to do a whole album with this band!

1. Grinderman – Grinderman
This album was easily the biggest surprise of the year for me. I downloaded it off of eMusic based on all the stellar reviews, despite the fact that I have never been a big Nick Cave fan. Still, it sounded interesting so I gave it a shot. I had honestly forgotten about it until I came across one of the tunes in my iShuffle on my morning run a couple months ago. This awesome song came on but I had no idea who it was. Now I like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, but this sounded like the BRMC with more balls, or like some lost classic-era Stranglers. In other words, it’s right down my alley! My favorite songs are “Get It On”, “No Pussy Blues”, “Go Tell the Women”, and “Love Bomb”. The entire album is just fucking great. GO BUY IT.

Honorable Mention: Sea Wolf – Leaves In The River
I first became aware of Sea Wolf early this year due to Indie 103.1’s incessant playing of this simple haunting tune called, “You’re A Wolf”. My wife bought the 5 song EP and I was really impressed. The single and the 4 extra tracks are excellent so we both expected to really like the full-length album. I do… only slightly less than the EP. The album retains “You’re A Wolf” but doesn’t include any of the EP’s other 4 tracks. If this album had all or even just a couple of those songs I would have placed it in my Top 10. Still, good stuff!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Editorial cartoons, pt. 1

I've just started doing regular editorial cartoons for the South Bay's free weekly paper the Easy Reader. These will mostly be on local South Bay issues with probably the occasional state-wide topic. This first one ran last week. It's about the Redondo Beach Fire Chief assuming control of the Hermosa Beach Fire Department as well - and the inevitable consolidation of all 3 Beach Cities Fire Departments.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Sketch Cards, part one

At the end of summer I took on a few sketch card jobs, mainly out of curiosity. Sketch cards are a new phenomenon to me. The idea is that mixed in with your standard photo trading card packs there are a small number of original drawings by a variety of artists. So these things are highly collectible and there seems to be a devoted fan following.

This company out of London, Strictly Ink, lured me in with a fun bunch of series including Hammer Films, the Ray Harryhausen Collection, and 2000a.d. (a British comic anthology - best known as the home of Judge Dredd). However they had an immediate need for CSI:Miami and CSI:New York cards, so that's what I started with. Unfortunately, I wasn't provided with reference and only had some poor publicity stills to go from, so I did a lot of repeats.

I did 50 of the Miami set. I could only afford to spend 15 minutes on each card. I tried to move the portraits into caricature as often as I could which never seemed to work out with Caruso. For whatever reason the supporting actors likenesses seemed easier to nail down and caricature. These would have been a lot better if I had some stills to work from, but what are you going to do?