My Own 2014 Top 20 of Music (#20-11)

I’ve never successfully written about a year’s choices in any kind of meaningful fashion, and the last time I tried, I got through about #10-#7 (and then I hit Carcass’s Surgical Steel, and writing about metal in the way I write about music is not an easy thing to do, for some reason). However, some kind soul happened to “like” the comment in the one place I had my 20 albums for the year, bringing it right back up and out of the fog of a billion comments out there—and one of my friends took the trouble to rate concerts he went to, so I thought, perhaps I’d give it a go here.

It’s not that I have the best Top 20, or the weirdest, or the most eccentric, obscure, or elite—no, it’s more that I have “my” Top 20, and that makes it whatever peculiar thing it is. Probably not the most (or even least) of any adjective, other than “mine”. You can see what I drew from here.

So, without further ado:

20) Dean Wareham – Dean Wareham

Dean Wareham is most “famous” (it’s often surprising to me the blank looks I get, but, then, I guess I don’t really run in “indie rock” circles much, even when I run in circles that deal in independent music) for Galaxie 500 and Luna, and Luna’s Rendezvous is probably in my all-time top 10 somewhere, but after Luna was “pared back” to Dean and his wife Britta Phillips (as Dean and Britta, of course), he cut back even further.

Well, on the name. Britta still plays on the record (and sings a bit), and tours and plays with him, too (as I saw at the beginning of the year, with people who mostly had ten plus years on me). If you know Galaxie 500 or Luna, the style won’t be too surprising, though of course it leans toward the latter–and even moreso toward, of course, the Dean and Britta stuff. It’s laidback as all get-out, and lush. It’s delicate and fragile with Dean’s notoriously Lou Reed-esque vocals (think VU, not solo, but even then it’s influence more than imitation or duplicate).

The two covers above represent the two media it was released on–the left is the CD cover, and the right is the (transparent yellow) vinyl cover. My favourite track is easily “Holding Pattern”. A bit more uptempo for the record, but has a nice feel for his unusual lyrics and wonderfully tasty guitar.

Get it here (on Vinyl, CD, or Digital).

19) Die Nerven – Fun

Almost completely randomly discovered (blame Amphetamine Reptile), Die Nerven are a dark, hardcore-tinged post-punk in the vein that leans toward the sharp corners and points of Joy Division, with an overall sound a bit closer to lesser-known talents like Josef K (do yourself a favour and check those guys out).

The relentless pounding thump of “Eine Minute Schweben” (yes, they’re a German band that sings in German, if that wasn’t clear) that comes out in bass and drums simple and straightforward is just a brilliant move. Guitars that hit that pinched keen that post-punk bands of this spartan style are so fond of turn it around a slightly unexpected corner if this is your first time with the band, without losing the ridiculous power that intro gives it. Vocals that careen between near-spoken and near-shouted complete the image.

Yeah, still my key track. Sure, it’s lazy. What of it?

[The LP is out of print again, so is the CD. Stream it on Bandcamp, and you can buy it digitally or in import-priced physical formats from the usual suspects]

18) Hew Time – Hew Time

I suppose you might instead credit this to Crover/Plummer/Willis–justifiably–but I hate dealing with three names (not aligned into a band name, a la CSNY) in terms of alphabetization, so, they’re stuck with this from me.

My distaste for drum solos is not a secret–in spite of the fact that I’ve developed a pretty strong love of drums and rhythm sections in recent years, used properly–so, on the surface, an all-drums, all-the-time record sounds like a terrible idea. But the pedigree here isn’t toward the kind of wankery that leaves me cold in classic and prog rock drummers (I still hate you, section of In the Court of the Crimson King), it’s that of Dale Crover (Melvins, Slayer, Fantômas, pre-Grohl Nirvana), Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse, The Black Heart Procession, The Shins, Cold War Kids), and Coady Willis (The Murder City Devils, Dead Low Tide, Big Business).

What does that mean? Well, Plummer said he started from Max Roach’s M’Boom as an influence, so we’re sort of off near jazz drumming. Kind of. But it’s jazz drumming as filtered through backgrounds in indie rock, punk, and metal. That isn’t to say it gets really metal-y (it’s hardly laden with double-kick), or that it eschews non-kit percussion (there’s a fair bit of stuff hiding in here, in fact), but it keeps the thing interesting, which is the cardinal sin of percussion-only stuff I distaste–being boring as hell.

The guys managed to make an all-percussion album really interesting to me, and that takes something. Key track: “Bell Window”.

Get it here (on Vinyl or Digital).

17) Tobacco – Ultima II Massage

Bit of a leap here, genre-wise. Tobacco was one of the driving forces behind Black Moth Super Rainbow, but kept his grimiest, dirtiest sounds for his solo work as Tobacco. Maniac Meat was my entry point, so I was in time to be one of the hundred people who has a completely unique copy of this sucker on vinyl.

Tom Fec’s approach to synth-y beats is grungy and weird, but this was a pretty great realization of it all. It builds more on his (yeah, BMSR is kinda solo now) last BMSR record than it does on Maniac Meat, but the differentiation that kept BMSR from being “Isn’t this a Tobacco record in all senses, even how it sounds?” keeps these two apart. The first video released (for opener “Streaker”) is filthy enough to get an NSFW marker in most places (even if, admittedly, it’s casual frontal nudity, not anything realistically troublesome–it’s not really even all that sexual).

It might be lazy again, but the former split track (with Black Bananas) “Lipstick Destroyer” is my selection. Complete with another bizarre fan-made video that features weird found footate. Plenty recognizable, if the name “Booji Boy” means anything to you…

Get it here (on CD, Vinyl, Digital, or Cassette–no shit).

16) John Howie, Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff – Everything Except Goodbye

I’ve been following Mr. Howie since I saw him perform in the Borders I worked in a lifetime ago with his previous band, the Two Dollar Pistols. At this point, I think the fact that I listen to an explicitly, unquestionably country band is the one that most surprises people, even those who’ve known me for a long time. I can’t tell you what it is exactly–the cutting, clever but direct lyrics that aren’t exactly a surprising tone for country music (quite a bit of heartache spoken here¹) have often struck a nerve with me (I know thing or two about heartbreak and tears). The music is not “borderline” or anything–the first few bars and anyone even remotely familiar with the genre can call it out, but it’s more old school country with turns from modern music in general than it is modern pop country.

Maybe it’s that–the disaffection for what is most oft-called country in this day and age (and for the past 20 years or so) without some willful leap away from it or into another genre. Whatever the case, his stuff never fails to impress, and the latest record was no exception.

“Nobody Moves, Nobody Gets Hurt” is my selection–turning that expression into what he does is clever enough, that it fits with the tropes of country as a phrase even before that just makes it all the more delicious.

Get it here (on CD) or from Bandcamp, if you prefer (in your choice of digital formats, including lossless).

15) Solids – Blame Confusion

I used to get a lot more direct record recommendations via overhead playing when I lived in the Triangle, but my periodic conversations with Chris out at Dead Wax in Lenoir do go into “Check this one out!” territory sometimes, and this was one of those (another will show later, actually).

I waited a long time to listen to it for stupid reasons (mostly amounting to wanting to have time to just sit with the turntable that just were not coming around), but pretty much regretted that fact instantly when I got around to it.

They’re only a duo (they even “cheat” at bass–it’s a pedal effect) and come out with a noisy wash of sound that sounds like it fell out of the 90s or early 00s (think My Bloody Valentine and descendants), but feels fresh despite that. They remind me, overall, of the less weird, less electronic bits of Parts & Labor (fine company to find yourself in!)–leaning toward BJ’s solo stuff as “Shooting Spires”, but a bit more organic than his usually was. They sound a lot more like a full band than you might expect, and they’re actually quite creative as the songs go. By “Off White”, it becomes clear that the goal is not just noisy, sweet little punk tracks, but something taking a more unique shape out of the noise.

Which makes the album cover choice kind of brilliant–I’ve been good at those since I was a kid, mind, and it’s actually not that unique an image.²

Get it here (CD, Vinyl, or Digital). Stream it on Bandcamp.

14) Sims – Field Notes

My love of all things Doomtree, despite my distance from Minnesota, could only inspire hysterical laughter, if anything, if termed a “secret”. Every release is pre-ordered, every show in the state is attended (or close to it, at least?).

Things have a been a bit odd since their crew album, No Kings, in 2011. Dessa’s spun off into less rap and more singing for her solo work (which made for her Parts of Speech being my unquestionable top album last year), P.O.S. started the trend of moving away from Beak and Paper Tiger as producers (or Cecil, or Stef himself), and no one’s really been breaking the trend.

Sims’s last record was co-credited to Lazerbeak, so, the fact that this one contains zero tracks produced by him (most are by Cecil) is a huge turn of its own, but the first track alone makes clear that this release is not the Sims of old. His flow has shifted, and it’s most present on opener “L’Audace” (which, at the Blowout at the end of the year he called “the hardest part of his night”, before starting up the most unusual of verses). By the second track–“Sims Jong Il”–we’re off in wildly unexpected, almost unrecognizable territory.

Get it here (on CD) or from Bandcamp, if you prefer, if you prefer (in your choice of digital formats, including lossless).

13) Survival Knife – Loose Power

I mentioned that Dead Wax brought me to a few records this year? Well, here’s that other big one.

Easy in: Justin Trosper fronted Unwound, and Brandt Sandeno played drums for ’em. That ought to be enough, but maybe it isn’t for you. Fair enough.

Muscle-y post-hardcore that sounds like a new band and not a revival or continuation–though I love that stuff, it’s good to keep fresh strains, too. Does that thing post-hardcore does so well: the instruments are layered and doing their own things to create a sum-of-parts styled whole that coalesces only at the right moments. They ooze exactly what they titled their own album: a loose power–a kind of threat, but an ease in it, the feeling that they could utterly destroy you (musically, of course) but are keeping it loose in service of the songs.

Indeed, the title track exemplifies this.

Get it here (CD, Vinyl, or Digital).

12) Mogwai – Rave Tapes

Ah, Mogwai. They’ve become relative stalwarts, in their way–not quite AC/DC or Bolt Thrower-type stalwarts (ie, reliably good’n’familiar), but consistently around, releasing and making it count. I probably shouldn’t take it for granted, admittedly.

They’ve been leaning into electronic sounds for over a decade, but they’ve only gotten further and further into it. You won’t find a “Glasgow Mega-Snake” or a “Batcat” on this record–the closest thing is the heavily electronic track that marks my favourite for the record: “Remurdered”. It’s all about the keys and Martin Bulloch on that one–a big shift away for a band known in the past for their absurdly loud guitars (yes, they are absurdly loud live, it’s not an exaggeration).

Interestingly, otherwise, they feel a lot more like the band I grew to love them as than the sounds they’d wandered into in the mid 00s or so, which is nothing sad at all, though the bizarrely funny vocal they sampled for “Repelish” is almost Negativland-like, though the backing they give it is just a great time.

Buy it here (on CD, Vinyl, or Digital).

11) Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso

When I went to see Dessa early last year, her listed opener was frequent collaborator Aby Wolf, but since I was in Chapel Hill, local Durham-ites got in via their relatively new group Sylvan Esso. They made quite an impression on me and the friend I saw the show with. Composed of Mountain Man-er Amelia Meath and Megafaun-er Nick Sanborn, it’s an indie-fied mix of pop vocals and unusually produced beats. It was a good match for the show, and I was not surprised to see them catch on rapidly–even if I was surprised at the speed with which they dropped a record and hit a bunch of end of year lists like my own.

Still, the strength of a track like “Play It Right” (re-created from an a cappella  Mountain Man track of the same name)–in terms of catchiness and unique qualities–is pretty undeniable. Amelia’s vocal was already written perfectly and beautifully, but Nick gives just the right counterpoint to really cut it into the pieces that highlight it so excellently.

(It’s something to see them perform, too, and just clearly feel that track!)

Buy it here (on CD or Vinyl).


 

Stay tuned for the next ten. Sorry if you think any of these should’ve been up there, too! It was not an easy list to whittle down or position. I was tweaking it even as I wrote each, for all that I’ve had the list written for a while.

¹Bonus points if you follow that sort-of country reference, incidentally. Though

²It’s a raised hand, if you’re wondering. If it were “off-white” itself (instead of the weird “static” of 3d image-thing), it might be mistaken for a Spiritualized cover, really.

 

Honourable mention to J. Robbins for his Abandoned Mansions acoustic EP.

 

Some Girl to Thrill Me, and Then Go Away

Normally a footnote, the oddity of this choice–and, let’s be honest, its relevance being tangential at best, as I’m soon to explain–means I should get that out of the way. It is, of course, one of the lines John (then Johnny) Mellencamp (then Cougar) uses to close the chorus of “I Need a Lover”, his first big single (if memory serves, bigger in the U.K.–oops, it was Australia, apparently–than his homelands here) from his early U.K. album, A Biography (released on the next year’s John Cougar in the U.S.). It appears here because it was the song covered for A.V. Undercover today, and that’s the really flimsy connection: the A.V. Club.¹

Anyway, current unemployment leads to strange ways to deal with free time, and the most common one (short of reading or organizing comic books, of course) is playing solitaire while watching things on Netflix. I’ve seen some great horror documentaries, and some interesting television serieses and what have you, but lately I ended up pursuing two of the anger-inducing-cancellations of past decades, these being the earlier works of Judd Apatow–Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared.

I actually caught episodes of both shows when they were initially airing, but not much more. The former intrigued me,² the latter drew me in with previews and then couldn’t hold my interest.

Revisiting these shows, both held in very high esteem, has been an interesting process. Freaks and Geeks fascinated me with its actors and scripts that made it pretty easy to forget either of those things was involved. Most issues were treated pretty reasonably–the scattered chaos of reality, minimal preaching or firm decisions about moralities and the like. With one exception–“Choking and Toking”, which I felt stumbled (pretty hard) on both of its issues. The most persistent bullies acted in vengeance (the whole arc of this, in-episode, is just silly, down to its closing line which never should have been spoken aloud, but conveyed silently), and Pot Is Definitively Bad.

Not a pothead. Never was. I can’t imagine a scenario in which I ever would be. But the hammering away–in contrast to the way it’s dealt with otherwise–is weird and forced. Coincidences appear to serve the plot, or, more accurately (and damningly), the message. It’s certainly a more reasonable and balanced treatment than usual, but that’s really not saying very much, considering the normal levels of absurd hysteria associated.

But that was the only real major hindrance–Undeclared is a whole other set of something. Nine episodes in and it has been passable at best, but I’ve gone off searching on at least two episodes now thinking they must be regarded as the absolute dregs of the series, only to find they are just as warmly received. The characters are what seem to be most appealing to people, and that’s certainly in keeping with sitcom mentalities, but they’re poorly developed and most of them are not great. Somehow the womanizer comes off far better than our “I’m not going to be a nerd anymore!” protagonist, who’s really kind of a creep.

The “God Visits” episode was beyond ridiculous, with a single philosophy class spinning someone into devout existential nihilism (with an emphasis of the latter half) and someone else into Born-Again Christianity. Neither of which makes sense for the characters, and just serves as a really stupid gag to drive the plot (and some continued not-all-that-funny jokes).

Maybe it’s personal. One of the first things Steven does is wait until Lizzie’s away to answer her phone when her boyfriend Eric calls. We know Eric is an insanely controlling ass because we heard his part of their last conversation. Steven doesn’t. But he answers her phone and decides to undo their relationship of his own accord (Lizzie forgives this immediately, and even Steven decides by the next episode that breaking them up is wrong–none of which makes sense). While not being the demanding-of-phone-sex-now type of person ever, I’ve had done to we what was done by Steven. It’s not funny. It’s not a harmless joke, either. It’s creepy and disturbing and all kinds of wrong. I suppose not being on the other end of that kind of call doesn’t make that clear, though.

I’ll probably continue plowing through the series, but so far I’m pretty baffled as to what is theoretically so great about this one. It’s supposed to be the characters, but they’re incredibly inconsistent, so I don’t know how that can be.

Ah, well. So it goes.

¹Reality: the lyrics that title these are often pleasingly relevant (to me, at least) but that tends to be more coincidence than anything else. It’s largely whatever words are in my head at the time of writing. C’est la vie!

²Jeff playing “I’m Eighteen” is the reason it was one of the first songs I tried to learn on guitar. True story.

I Don’t Need Pride of Place, But in Your Good Books I Think I Might Rate a Page

Is it frivolous to comment on things when I should theoretically be commenting tomorrow, in the passionate throes of New Books Are Out Wednesday¹?

Well, of course, the answer is: who cares?

So, onward and upward!

Most important news is, I’m afraid, music-related, and not comic book related: after comments, photos, and statements insisting that they were working on new material, we finally have evidence: Doomtree has dropped a new track.

The credits are much like those on No Kings, with Cecil, Beak, and Paper sharing authorship on the beat, and everyone who does so contributing verses (Stef, Sims, Cecil, Mike, with Dessa mostly just joining on the last recitation of the chorus).

The beat is odd: somewhat retro in its usage of synthesized noises, but very subdued and laidback. Unsurprisingly: the track is awesome.

Anyway.

It’s been a bad week, so I spun around the area (using the term “the area” loosely here) and filled a bunch of gaps. More (Flash Thompson, of course) Venom, more classic Valiant, classic Moon Knight, some newer Valiant to fill gaps there,  Justice League America and Europe (apparently, the latter is difficult to find, but often cheap as hell when you can), and most of the usual suspects. I finally have all of Friends of the Maxx, which pleases me greatly. And perhaps nicest of all, I plugged the single-issue holes in Uncanny X-Force (the second volume, the almost-all-female-except-one-troll-in-all-senses version) and Secret Avengers. Whew! I think I get why the latter issue was hard to find (it adds Venom to the team as Agent Venom), but I have no idea why UXF #10 was such a pain.

I’ve been starting to cut through the modern Valiant stuff with the first 10 or so issues of Archer and Armstrong–it’s almost like the satire Ennis likes to do, without having to pound into your face how much he likes having absurdly violent and/or sexual (and “and” can of course mean the two are combined!) scenes inserted, either for his own amusement, or for shock value.² It doesn’t linger (GERBER.³) and uses it to set up the character of Obadiah Archer in his entirety–as well as contrast him with Aram the Strong (guess which titular character that is!). There’s more character to
the villains, while the shadowy group of them maintains the vacuous simulacrum of “Obvious Satirical Metaphor™” all the while, not forcing the plot to revolve around the satire.

Quite pleased overall and, though I know it’s pissing some people off, I like that they are associating the universe with itself openly, as Bloodshot and Harada have been mentioned, while another character has appeared for relatively obvious reasons (I still haven’t read my classic stuff, so this was a surprise to me, and a nice one, so I’ll leave that to you to read, if you want–I figure if you want to know, you will, and if you aren’t interested in reading, why would you care anyway?).

Anyway, that’s all for the even…night. It’s definitely night here.

 

¹This title is still in focus groups.

²I suppose this might be to “further” the satire, but that’s up there with Ebert’s nonsense about suggesting you have to be a friggin’ genius to realize the Three Stooges gags in Evil Dead 2 are comedic. Pretentious dim-wittery, that.

³I actually found a “G” copy of an original Howard the Duck comic for about $.90 today (I got cut a lot of deals over the volume of shit I was buying, so any prices would be estimated). I think I will like it, despite my distaste for his work on Sensational She-Hulk.

Oh No, Can It Be? We’re Heading for a Heatwave

My listening has been really passive and boring–oddly, close to the listening I did years ago, which I’ve been wanting to get back to. A shuffle of 5 or so albums in the car (a burnt copy of No Coast which includes my digital copies of the Forgetters 2×7″ and J.
Robbins’s Abandoned Mansions acoustic EPThe Wombats Present…This Modern GlitchWhile a Nation Sleeps, etc) and at home just the set-it-and-forget-it approach to my digital collection (a few hours of chronological Fall, Cure, Smiths thanks to an issue of Secret Avengers (pictured right!).

I’d like to talk about music, but continue to feel as if I’m just continuously attempting to catch myself up on comics. I had to stop where I was reading (while listening to XTC straight through, incidentally–still in the White Music and Go 2 era stuff right now) and comment on Yost’s New Warriors. I never found any interest in the original–it wasn’t the eye-rolling 90’s glut of dark ‘n’ gritty, but it definitely carried (I thought¹) the feeling of forced new heroes with questionable depth (Hey! Another mutant! Who has fire powers! Because we haven’t done that…repeatedly…). It wasn’t fair (and it still isn’t!) but I never read the book as a result. I accepted the characters readily but I felt most of them weren’t going to last (in many cases, I was right).

This leaves the new book in an awkward place. I picked it up because it continues the Scarlet Spider², whose solo book Yost also wrote, and maybe someone else will pick it up for Sam, the new Nova, or what have you. But commentary and reviews are not encouraging–we have angered old-New Warriors fans³, and lame reviews (lookin’ at you, CBR).

After finishing issue 5, I was so amused by the dynamics and the approach to the book–it’s fun, but with post-Penance Robbie and Kaine here, there’s no shortage of undercurrents–that I had to say something. I was hoping others would find the book’s quality, as I got that feeling of dread–the suspicion that the book may not last. The comments around are NOT encouraging.

So, if anyone stumbles into this post: read the new New Warriors book! Give it a chance! Please!

It’s modern story-telling, so it’s not chock full of exposition to explain everything⁴, but Yost does the best thing that can be done with this style: characters are serendipitously engaged with each other, but not unreasonably so, and immediately begin grating or gelling, and developing interplay and dynamics. We get some emotional shorthand for all that lost exposition to explain why every character is who they are, and nudges to tell us there’s more going on if it’s going to be an ongoing mystery or development. I know modern Kaine pretty well, having read most of his solo book, and I read Civil War so I know something of what’s in Speedball’s history, but almost everyone else is a complete mystery to me–at best, I knew some of them existed. But I’m already getting a good feel for them, and that includes a nicely realized idea of who they are, with no prior knowledge.

The humour, the darkness, they’re contrasted appropriately–not a meted balance, but a properly paced one. It’s a fun book that doesn’t ignore the stained history of the New Warriors name (in-universe), but doesn’t linger on it, either. Stakes are high at start, giving everyone reason to gather (largely unintentionally), and reason to join together, though it remains tentative at best for now.

Give it a go–drop preconceptions and just run with it.

¹I’m continually surprised to find out how old the character of Richard Rider (Nova) is. And Speedball was no real-world spring chicken, either.

²To clarify, if you’re out of the loop, this is the Kaine Scarlet Spider, not the Ben Reilly one. Kaine, of course, used to look like this and murder people, like Doc Ock (made for a fun Superior Spider-Man story…). His power set is slightly shifted (no Spider-Sense, more strength, “stingers” in his wrists, that kind of thing) and his attitude is shittier. Cold, acerbic, self-loathing. Good times!

³Has any Marvel team ever been truly stable? Even the fucking Fantastic Four haven’t been able to retain all four members, having traded Ben for She-Hulk in the 80s, to start with. The Avengers–good lord, just TRY to find a definitive core team. Ain’t happening. And now, like the X-Men, they’ve split into 37 splinter versions, so don’t even. In other words: get over it, New Warriors fans.

⁴This irritates me to no end. Yes, you can do it badly, and you can do it not-as-badly, but the point is to allow people to jump in and not be confused out of their minds. There’s a lot of history to pretty much any given Marvel character. This would be easier to follow for people who were given some notes as they read. We don’t even get many editor’s notes anymore 😐

New Titles and Some Other Stuff!

Yesterday I got in my copy of Braid’s No Coast on vinyl, which means I release myself to listen to my digital copy, too (why I have this “rule”, I don’t know–I guess so the vinyl has freshness, like sticking to getting something the day it’s officially released. Some ritual is nice!).

It’s really good, living up to the rather excellent lead ‘single’ “Bang”.

 

 

Most of what I did while listening to it was sort my now 10ish longboxes (yeek) of comics. But it showed up around Wednesday, which means new comics! I started on Hawkeye thanks to reading the first issue online (I have a bad feeling about 2,3, and 7, the issues I couldn’t get a hold of…). I also picked up She-Hulk #6, which meant I finally read the new series yesterday–holy cow, it’s really good. Pulido’s art is the kind of creative layout usually reserved for the “indie” segment of independent books, experimental and unusual. Wemberley took over on the last two issues and kinda got into that same territory as Andrade did on Captain Marvel (not a great thing here, either–mostly just disappointing after Pulido’s four issues, though I understand Javier is thankfully back for at least the next few).

My modern Valiant collection continues to grow and remain thoroughly unread–I should probably do something about that, but I stopped off first to read X finally (my Dark Horse Heroes reboot books–also ignored!) and it’s also really, really good. Swierczynski keeps X in a nicely unclarified ground of being someone superhuman but humanly breakable, brutal and unrelenting, but not completely super powered. And the swirling corruption seems to be keeping itself light on its feet without turning too obviously toward cliché or expectation. I’m really looking forward to the next issue of that one.

As it stands, I’m currently pouring over Byrne’s Sensational She-Hulk mostly, while still trying to get everything sorted.

Valiant gets its own box, and D.C. has two (one is the “colour box”, as it contains Blue BeetleBlue DevilGreen Arrow, and Green Lantern), and there’s probably going to be a box of “other stuff”–but Marvel is proving to be a pain. After acquiring all those Thunderbolts, and all the X-Factor from Peter David–they kind of dominate boxes they go in. I worked out X-books in their own box (a tight fit that won’t last at all), but everything else is still kind of funky. Spidey was gonna be its own box (with Venom, Scarlet Spider, and the like), but that means I’ve got Midnight Sons stuff and Daredevil with unclear homes.

I guess I’ll figure it out eventually…

I’ve Been a Straight-Up Ghost, Since You Wrote Me Off

WP_20140711_001lblSo, the packages I was awaiting arrived! With numerous additional items that also happened to arrive! Sort of.

I knew that three of them were coming (Aquaman, GJBR order, and Mile High order) while the Forgetters EP was a total mystery (I received no communication from the seller after paying) and Tar Man was pretty much an unknown (though I am 99% sure I know who’s responsible).

That said: Mile High fucked up, but, as the image suggests, I won’t go into detail. Suffice it to say, they have some issues with listing for two admittedly confusing volumes of a book. And, of course: I pre-ordered a Maxx (with hat and coat!) that was to come with a Mr. Gone. I’ve not received The Maxx yet (awkward; Mr. Gone was a nice bonus, but the figure is iffy enough that this isn’t at all ideal), nor any notice, and I didn’t get a response to the one e-mail I sent them, either.

Oh well.

#12 there was not damaged, but that board is never gonna be flat. Well. Maybe it will. I switched it out for another book to keep my bag/board size consistent for Aquaman, and then stacked it in with some others. Maybe the weight will do the trick. Maybe not.

I labeled the Firestorm books for fun. I’ve yet to bag, board, or even read any of them. At this point, I’m effectively waiting for a more complete run, since I’m pretty darned close. And I buy bags and boards by the 100 anyway, so…

Alongside this, I ended up going out and picking up more “curiosity” books: some of the “Agent” run of Venom (mostly the latter half), some of the post-Thor (Sif-oriented) Journey into Mystery (all of it, actually, except #646 and #647 that started the run), and, somewhat curiously, FF 1-15 (minus 12).

Michael Allred’s work was intriguing with Madman, though I’ve never read it–but put me off X-Statix (nevermind the title…). I don’t know what it was about FF (maybe the characters involved?) but it caught my eye and I accumulated most of its 16 issue run yesterday pretty easily. That said, I’ve sped through the first six or seven issues and I have aFF1Allred feeling of dread. I really don’t want this book to end. I like everything about it–Fraction’s humour is on-point without being overbearing or making it a pure comedy book, and his pathos and angst and drama are all fun. His skewering of expected nuclear families doesn’t come off as preachy, so much as the kind of accepting that such things should be. And Allred’s work is just perfect for this tone–it’s weird and pop-art-y, but it doesn’t distract or detract, as it works for the humour and for the darkness of Scott Lang’s story (and dear lord help me, Scott Lang is a really cool character). It’s straightforward but complex, plot-y, but also character-y, funny, but serious–all the right kinds of contradictions, basically.

It’s a miserable shame it only lasts 16 issues. I guess maybe it’s the “right” length, I don’t know–Avengers Arena was 18, and I finished it yesterday quite satisfied.

But, you should definitely pick up FF if you get the chance. It’s pretty unmistakable, after all. And fuck those Amazon reviews.

Boxes That You’re Watching Day and Night

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I’m at that interesting point in the day. I want to go snatch up the issues of the original Ambush Bug series I saw at one shop, and I want to get issues 10 and 12 of Avengers Arena to finish the series (I devoured 1-9 last night, see cover of #1 above). But I have 2-3 packages (confirmed: 3) arriving today, too. And some stuff arriving at that second shop. So it’s all timing, but I can’t actually time that timing. I can’t know when things will arrive here–which means mostly sitting around and waiting all day and hoping I don’t either miss the doorbell or have a carrier who decides it’s not even worth bothering. It’s normally 3pm or later, so I could leave now, but that second shop gets their deliveries more like 1-2pm.

I’ve got issues of X-Men to read (I’m finally reading the un-adjectived book from the beginning and up to issue 5 or so), and games to play obviously, but I just want these things out of the way so that I can get on with the rest.

Since Aquaman #4 came in yesterday (it’s Peter David’s, c’mon) I could even start picking those up today to read while waiting.

Arena is a mess for people who read Avengers Academy and Runaways it seems. I’m cool with the ideas in both, but didn’t read either, though Hopeless’s writing is already drawing me to all the characters, so I don’t think it’s actually too important to have read them.

X-Men is better than I’d gritted my teeth and squinted for–a lot better. I think people were good with Claremont’s adieu, but the follow-ups are a mish-mash of writers. They’re the books I retain from earliest in my life, though (coverless and beat to hell, but present!) in their random presence (#2 and #5, I had I think?). There’s something straddling nostalgia and the nostalgic feeling of wandering into the middle of something–as well as filling gaps and re-reading with more knowledge–that makes these really fun to read. Knowing more about Mojo and Omega Red and Maverick, and being able to actually read better (and comprehend significantly better) makes for an interesting experience.

In other news, I’m really digging on “Bang”, the single Braid gave as an immediate download for pre-ordering their new album. Which isn’t a surprise I guess–but it means Frame and Canvas  is definitely “queued” for my going-out-today music. Probably inspired by that article about “90s punk” on the AV Club yesterday that was like reading a laundry list of everything I’ve been into musically of late, with the comments filling in whatever gaps might’ve been left behind, as everyone interpreted the term very broadly (including multiple waves of emo, post-punk, post-hardcore, hardcore, metalcore…).

Ah, well.

Back to figuring out how to hedge my temporal bets.