Monthly Archives: November 2014

Over the Garden Wall

Sorry I had to miss last week! My Internet has not been treating me well. I have a feeling it’s actually my computer. But I’m back this week! And I’m here to talk about…TV?

Yes! I am here to talk about the soundtrack to Over the Garden Wall, the 5-night animated mini-series that aired on Cartoon Network earlier this month. And yes, this IS a blog about music, but even TV shows have music! If there are pleasant (or unpleasant) sounds to be heard, I’m here to talk about them.

So anyway! A quick (spoiler-free) breakdown of the show: Over the Garden Wall is about a pair of brothers who are lost in a strange and magical woodland setting and are trying to find their way home with the help of a talking (and reluctant) bluebird. They encounter several characters along the way and try to help them so that they can get help in turn. The story is broken into 10 chapters. Think of it as a series of fairy tales strung together like a charm bracelet. It’s all very whimsical and has a sort of late 19th/early 20th century American folk tale feel to it.

On to the music! The soundtrack (most of it anyway) is available to listen to for free on Cartoon Network’s YouTube channel. No official album available for purchase yet. Which is a shame, and hopefully will be remedied soon! Go ahead and give it a listen. It’s just a little over 14 minutes and there really aren’t any spoilers that can be pulled from it. The songs here don’t play in order! (Click the letters at the top right for each following track – It should spell THE UNKNOWN.)

The music really keeps up with that whimsical theme. It’s very inspired by late 19th/early 20th century American folk music. In a making of the music featurette, Elijah Wood (who voices Wirt, one of the brothers) states “If this show were a record, it would be played on phonograph.” That’s clear to me right away. I can almost hear it with the occasional minute scratch or hiss under the music.

My favorites (and most everyone else’s, I’d wager) are “Langtree’s Lament” (gotta learn all the words – I love this one!) and “Potatoes and Molasses,” which sounds gross and yet I want to try it because of this show and song. However, I also really like “Over the Garden Wall” and “Into the Unknown” as well as “Patient is the Night” and “A Courting Song” (which makes me want to do a little jig). Well, that’s about half the soundtrack, haha.

“Like Ships” is super corny, which is great because of what happens later in the chapter featuring this song. (I won’t give it away!) “Come Wayward Souls” is super creepy – and it’s meant to be, seeing as how it’s sung by the antagonist. “Forward Oneiroi!” is tough for me to like on its own. It was very particular to a segment that happens in one of the chapters. Same goes for “The Highway Man” but that one stands stronger on its own. It’s still meant to me listened to while you watch the sequence!

I would totally buy this soundtrack if they released a digital version. Heck, I would buy it on vinyl AND get a record player just to hear it that way! That same making of the music featurette shows them creating the LPs (although I think technically it’s an EP?) but it seems they made a limited amount for release in press kits only. So unfair!

Give this soundtrack a listen now if you want – but watch the mini-series too! You can buy it on iTunes in HD for $9.99 – or SD for $6.99 – and it’s not even 2 hours long in total. Yes, I said this is a music blog, but I’m allowed to like other things, and I LOVE this show! I keep thinking about watching it again and again. In between views, I just play the soundtrack over and over again. So lovely.

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Top 10 – Neko Case

I was going to do a post about the release of BLUE by iamamiwhoami. The album finally dropped and the BLUE island (an interactive website with social media aspects) opened for those of us who had pre-ordered. But they sent this email about not sharing certain unreleased content or they’d close up the island and I’m just super paranoid about doing or saying something I ought not do or say, so I’m going to pass on that for now. More reviews as their YouTube channel updates, perhaps!

So what will I talk about this week? My top 10 favorite Neko Case songs! I don’t have ALL of her work – I really need to get on that – so this will just be her solo work. Not with Her Boyfriends, not with The New Pornographers, not with The Sadies – just solo Neko Case. You should know by now, and it goes without saying, this list will be in no particular order. Here we go!

neko-case

1) Wayfaring Stranger

This one feels like cheating a little, because it’s a traditional folk song that Neko covered on her live album The Tigers Have Spoken. But she sings it fantastically. Her voice was made for this song. It’s so beautiful. She really knows how to belt out those plaintive notes. And the minimal use of banjo and vocals is perfection. I can just picture some lonely cowboy riding his horse across the desert. I never get tired of listening to this song. It gives me chills every time.

2) Things That Scare Me

Speaking of cowboys, this song is another one that makes me think of them! It’s got a very country vibe to it, but not the way you’re thinking (if you’re thinking of most country songs you hear on the radio). It’s those guitars and banjos, but it’s Neko’s cool yet expressive voice too. I think this was the first Neko Case song I heard and it had me hooked from just one play. If I could only choose one song from this album to listen to for the rest of my life, I think it might be this one.

3) Margaret Vs. Pauline

Ah, yes. I’ve talked about this one before. This is one of those songs that gets me right in the heart. I feel it every time I listen to it. It’s so perfectly written – both the lyrics and the music. They work so well together. It’s so full of poetry (“Girl with the parking lot eyes/Margaret is the fragment of a name”) and tragedy (“Two girls ride the blue line/Two girls walk down the same street/One left a sweater sitting on the train/And the other lost three fingers at the cannery”).

4) Magpie to the Morning

I’m going to cheat a little and say this is both the original version on Middle Cyclone and the version on The Worse Things Get… because they are both lovely in their own ways – though I think I may like the latter just a little bit more. (I guess I like my Neko with a side of banjos?) It’s such a sweet song from nature to humans. It feels very personal and hopeful. It makes me feel better about things to come when I’m uncertain about what those things may be.

5) Ragtime

Suuuuch a good song, and it was amazing live too! It’s a great pick-me-up song, without being forced or hokey. It’s just simmering with strength. She goes from sounding soft and uncertain to singing with power and conviction. Like she’s saying “I am Neko, hear me roar!” The way it gets cacophonous at the end with the layers of instruments and vocals clashing just makes sense somehow. Everything feels like it’s going to be okay by the end of the song.

6) Maybe Sparrow

If this song were a poem, it might be my favorite. Songs are pretty much poems though, just more dressed up, so maybe it already is my favorite poem! On the surface, it seems like Neko is literally singing to a sparrow. And maybe she is, but there’s something deeper here. The way she sings it, you can hear her own fears and doubts. The sparrow is just a vessel. I think if I were to introduce someone to Neko Case, this would be the first song I’d use to test the waters.

7) This Tornado Loves You

This is one of the most beautiful and desperate love songs I’ve ever heard, without the heavy-handed corniness. The instrumentation is great, and the idea that Neko’s love is a tornado that destroys everything in its path and can only be tamed by one love is fantastic. It’s brilliant how she describes/sings about herself as a literal tornado too. Love can be that powerful. It’s a force of nature. One of my favorite love songs of all time, without a doubt.

8) Hold On, Hold On

This is such a personal song. I’ve written before about how this was an autobiographical song for Neko. But instead of feeling like a stranger looking in, you can feel every emotion as she sings it. Uncertainty, anxiety, sorrow, bitterness…It’s a mess of emotions but she sings them all beautifully. Whenever I’m feeling any of those and I hear this song, I feel better. Like I’m not crazy for feeling them. Another brilliantly composed song.

9) I Wish I Was the Moon

You know, until fairly recently, I wasn’t crazy about this song. I usually skipped it. And then I heard Neko sing it in concert and it was like an arrow through the heart. This song is so heavy. It’s like getting hit with an emotional sledgehammer. It knocks you off your feet. What’s with the weapons metaphors? I don’t know, but they make sense to me! The point being, this is one of her most emotional songs. Wowee-wow.

10) Lion’s Jaws

I can’t remember if it was Neko or her backup signer, Kelly Hogan, who described this as a “make-out song,” but whoever it was, they were right! This song is hot and heavy – and sexy in a way that only Neko can manage. I swoon when I hear it. (See? It’s not just Goldfrapp songs that do that to me!) “[Falling] into the lion’s jaws” is a beautiful and poetic way of describing one’s own seduction. This is another one I don’t ever get tired of hearing.

Once again, it was hard to choose just ten songs, so here are some honorable mentions (It was almost painful to leave some of these off!):

-Deep Red Bells

-Vengeance Is Sleeping

-Night Still Comes

-The Pharaohs

-Star Witness

Just think of this list as my perfect Neko Case concert. I can’t wait until the next time I get to hear her live. If you think her voice sounds great through your speakers or headphones, you haven’t heard ANYTHING until you’ve heard her through a microphone on a stage. (insert dreamy sighs here)

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Ghost

I had a music-related first last week. I discovered a band via Tumblr, and that band is Mystery Skulls. Just search for Mystery Skulls on Tumblr, if you have one. Otherwise do an image search for Mystery Skulls Lewis and you’ll find what I started seeing on my dash – Dozens of cartoon images of a pink-haired, sharp-dressed skeleton-man.

At first I though that maybe this was from some new indie cartoon. So I was a little confused and frustrated when a band kept popping up. Then I finally made the connection and I realized that the skeleton was a cartoon in a fan-made music video for “Ghost,” a single from the album Forever by the band Mystery Skulls. And so I finally watched it!

I love this music video so much. I love how bright and colorful it is, I love the animation style, and I love the way everyone’s heads bob in time to the music. (And I want to bob my head in time with the music when I listen to this song.)

The first thing that should be obvious is that the music video is an homage to Scooby-Doo. First, we’ve got a couple of teenage or college age kids and a dog driving through the spooky woods and winding up at a haunted house. Then there’s the animated style of their running, which is very posed and distinct – anyone who watched Scooby-Doo growing up would recognize it. And finally, there’s the classic hallway doors scene, wherein the character chase each other in and out of various doors, the connections between which don’t really make sense.

But setting aside the Scooby-Doo parallels, the music video tells a really sad story – one that doesn’t get a happy ending! Gosh, I didn’t think a little cartoon music video could break my heart. I just didn’t want it to end where it did! I was hoping Lewis (the skeleton) and Vivi (the girl) could somehow wind up together happily ever after. (By the way, don’t ask me where these names came from – Tumblr has somehow decreed that these are the names of the characters, so I’m just going along with it.) Ah, well. There’s oodles of fan art to be enjoyed.

What about the music? Well, I love that too! It’s energetic and fun and makes me want to dance – that last one is always a good thing for me! It reminds me of some of Daft Punk’s earlier works, with more of a pop sensibility. I actually bought the entire album after hearing “Ghost” – and if you love this single, you’ll love the rest of it too! It’s totally the kind of album you would throw on if you wanted to have a dance party with your friends.

I just can’t believe this song isn’t on the radio! Or maybe it is. I’ve kind of been in and out (mostly out these days) with my radio listening. So give “Ghost” a try and buy the album if you like it. Support this band!

Here’s a bonus: The original music video! I don’t like it as much – which isn’t to say I don’t like it. It’s a fun and silly nod to The Exorcist (watch out for a little jump-scare in the last 10 seconds when the music starts to fade). I feel like there’s a bit of Michael Jackson posturing going on here too. Still, I’m just too attached to the bright colors of the animated music video and the star-crossed story of Lewis and Vivi.

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