I sense deviance. The lights shine blue in this boxy venue, sidled to the back of Pianos, a destination bar on Manhattan's Lower East Side. For some reason, the pockets of bodies sprinkled haphazardly about the club feel more like accomplices than mere Monday night revelers. There's a feeling that schemes are about to commence, or spells be cast. The Color Guard, taking the stage, are prepped to perform -- or, perhaps better stated, they are prepped to bewitch. Though you wouldn't guess it, necessarily, from their looks. To the right are two unassuming boys, who cover drums and guitar; two pixie-punk girls play bass and sing, marking center and far left stage. They look jovial, friendly. Slung on the back wall behind the undersized stage is a banner reading "The Color Guard" in a florid, shimmery cursive. From all appearances, this would be an orderly night -- but there's something a bit too orderly about it. I feel like I'm in a suspenseful thriller, with a surprise lurking nearby. Then, as if ghosts have risen in her, Lalena Fisher starts to sing. Her voice is sky high and sharp -- piercing your eardrums like a syringe, injecting its ether into your psyche, intoxicating you like a hallucinogenic drug. And, what's more, it's just her. "Wreck My Tea", this opening (off self-released Speech for Heated Hearts (2002, Suziblade Music)), begins with Fisher's singing, soon joined by the a capella voices of her bandmates, then thickened by dark, plodding bass and drums. It's an eerie -- and striking -- effect. As the song progresses, it grows noisy and wide, moodier despite (or maybe, because of) aural trinkets like a glockenspiel. Fisher's voice fluctuates between the airy soprano and a butch, frank alto. The crowd locks into this duality, standing mostly still. Or maybe stunned. This is what the Color Guard do: write songs that seem to soundtrack smashing porcelain figurines or ripping up an ex's picture. Speech for the Heated Hearts is a nugget of eight of these. They match their mischievous, fuzzy rock (think a literate grunge) with tuneful sensibilities, creating an effect that's simultaneously sing-song and sinister. It's also, thankfully, smart. The Color Guard's songs are layered with syncopations and shifting movements more than verses and choruses, giving them a much more curious, and artful, topography. Coming off as close-knit and brooding recorded, in the live setting the music explodes with fits of emotion, and sheer, unadulterated noise. This room is too small for their guitar lines that scrape, enormous bass, destroyer drums, melodies that wound and sting. Guitarist Josh Zisman sheds his nice-guy demeanor to transform into something much more wild. Jeanne Gilliland, on bass, and drummer Jake Alrich, tick like time bombs as they barrel through the set's kaleidoscoping rhythms. Fisher, in the middle, is the combination of all of these facets. She's calm one minute, manic the next, and dangerously borderline in between. Yet in between it all, the Color Guard play nice. As it's Cinco de Mayo, Fisher is showing off her Spanish skills for the crowd. The onstage banter is quirky, punchline humor. Though they are serious musicians, they aren't weighed down by the soberness of their music. Instead, they seem to be energized by it, recycling that energy back into their shadowy brew. The Color Guard are the musical equivalent of violent play: ripping the legs off stuffed animals, crashing toy trucks together, plucking out Barbie's hairs, one by one. Like violent play, the appeal of their music is that it's an innocent, though sometimes disturbing, method of living out the darker emotions. And sometimes, it's better to let someone else be the deviant for you.
Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.
"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979
Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.
That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.
"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge
Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.
The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.
In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.
If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.
Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.
Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.
Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.