Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Top Ten Records Of 2007

01. The National / Boxer
Boxer is one of those rare albums that has your attention from the beginning of the first track, and keeps your interested until the very end. Previously, my only exposure to The National was a song that Brandon had put on a previous mix (from 2005's excellent The Alligator). But Boxer is definitely one album that has caused me to sit up and take notice of this band.

02. Radiohead / In Rainbows
After the Holy Trinity of The Bends (1995), OK Computer (1997) and Kid A (2000), Radiohead has had a hard time topping itself. Amnesiac (2001) proved a failed-experiment and Hail To The Thief (2003), although not a bad record in the least, didn't really live up to peoples' expectations. When the band announced that In Rainbows would be available exclusively through their website on a pay-what-you-want basis, many music listeners grew suspicious. How good could it be if their label isn't involved, and you can get it for as little as a penny? This is the reason why I didn't bother sitting down to download In Rainbows but, fortunately, Curt floated me over a copy when we were in St. Louis over Christmas. I'm glad he did because In Rainbows is like the rainbow at the end of a rainy day. God, that was stupid.

03. Jens Lekman / Night Falls Over Kortedala
Night Falls Over Kortedala is a perfect example of what you can achieve if you wear your emotions, as well as your musical influences, on your sleeve. Jens Lekman is the bastard son of Burt Bacharach and Beck Hanson.

04. The Clientele / God Save The Clientele
With the AM-friendly sixties sound, this album gets better with every listen. The Clientele reminds me, not of Belle & Sebastian (necessarily), but of the first time I ever heard Belle & Sebastian. At fourteen songs, it's just a little too long and, if not for that and that alone, God Save The Clientele would have been higher up on this list.

05. M.I.A. / Kala
I'm surprised I even gave Kala the time of day to begin with. After all, I'm not a fan of dance music. But I would argue that this album stands out more for its hip hip elements than its dance hall beats. I am continuously seeing Kala on various critics' end-of-the-year lists, and with good reason. And, since the rise and fall of Roxanne Shante, I've never been a fan of female emcees either. This one delivers the goods. Whatever that means.

06. The Veils / Nux Vomica
I first gave The Veils a listen after having heard all the comparisons between Nick Cave and lead singer, Finn Andrews. It's been about six months since I got my hands on a copy of Nux Vomica and I'll have to say that I still don't hear it. No, the first band I thought of was XTC and, apparently, my instincts were right on the money after having found out that Andrews is actually the son of founding-XTC member, Barry Andrews. Anyway, similarities and influences aside, this particular record is outstanding. And, at a perfect length--ten songs at a total of 43 minutes--gets better with every listen.

On a side note, I played this album for Lisa on a recent trip to St. Louis. About a minute into track 4, "Jesus For The Jugular," she asked me to skip to the next track, claiming it sounded "too Tom-Waitsy." Whatever that means, I couldn't hear it.

07. Grinderman / Grinderman
In case you didn't know, Grinderman is basically Nick Cave and about three-sevenths of The Bad Seeds. But, for those few of you who didn't take the time to listen to it, we are far from Bad Seeds territory here. Nick Cave, Warren Ellis and company wear their bluesy, dirty, surly, foul-mouthed influences on their sleeves. And, from what I gather, they're here to stay. Because of Grinderman, I'll forgive The Bad Seeds for only releasing a live 2 CD, 2 DVD collection this year (The Abattoir Blues Tour, which consisted mostly of material off 2004's Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus).

08. The New Pornographers / Challengers
The New Pornographers always seem to live up to the hype that have surrounded them since their incarnation in 2000. Every time a new record drops, I tend to brace myself for the sound of that second shoe hitting the floor. Now, four albums in, Challengers shows no signs of The Pornos going downhill.

09. MF Grimm / The Hunt For The Gingerbread Man
The emcee, who's legal name is Percy Carey, has achieved something that's rare in hip hop: longevity. Since the late eighties/early nineties, MF Grimm has proven himself at rap battles against the likes of GZA and Treach. He penned lyrics for some of the greatest emcees of all time (Dr. Dre, Snoop, Biggie, just to name a few) and produced albums by KMD and MF Doom. Every once in a while, he quietly releases a gem like The Hunt For The Gingerbread Man and it tends to go unnoticed by critics and hip hop heads alike. As a concept album, Gingerbread Man is brilliant storytelling.

10. Aesop Rock / None Shall Pass
I had high hopes for 2007 in regard to hip hop music. I anxiously awaited the third full length by Sage Francis. Unfortunately Human The Death Dance starts off really strong and loses steam about four songs in. In early December, the Wu Tang Clan released 8 Diagrams to mixed reviews. I downloaded a handful of tracks and only cared for a few of them. The new Madvillain record never saw the light of day. The Beastie Boys' new album was sans vox. And El-P finally released his proper follow-up to Fantastic Damage, which seemed to be well received by the hip hop community. I, for one, was pretty disappointed. And, since his days with Company Flow, I've always loved the music of El-P. Ironically, I've never really cared for Aesop Rock (whose record is produced by El-P) and None Shall Pass did not attract my attention until I heard the title track. I got my hands on the full length album and it's all I listened to for about two weeks straight. Thanks to None Shall Pass, I have a new-found respect for Aesop Rock. And, between him, The Gingerbread Man, and even M.I.A., my year for hip hop music ended on a good note.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


In case you haven't heard, an "Amber Alert" of sorts has been issued for the contents of one unpublished children's book by the name of "That Baby." On Tuesday, 11 December, I was home from work on a snow day. While in the process of moving the contents of the G4 Mac to the MacBook, I created a file and labeled it "trash." These were documents that had been saved up over the past few years, that we no longer needed. I accidentally dragged the Photoshop files for "That Baby" into this folder, where it awaited its fate. A while later, thinking I was finished, I put this folder into the trash at the bottom of the screen. As I sat, watching the progress of the "emptying" of the trash, it occurred to me that I had not yet moved the file to "That Baby" over to the new computer. And if it wasn't visibly on the desktop, and it wasn't on the MacBook, then it could have only been in one other place. I quickly hit "cancel" to end the cleaning, but it was too late. "That Baby" was gone. And, for some reason, realized that I had never bothered to save it to a disc. There was one last possibility. I found a CD-R titled "design stuff, 06-07" and checked its contents. As you may have guessed, every design project I had done in the past two years was accounted for...with the exception of "That Baby."

Was it completely gone? No. There was still the hard copy. The version that I had printed out and had fashioned a dummy hard cover book from. So it's not really "lost." Well, yes it is. Without the original electronic files, I can't go back and fix anything I'd done. Even if I scanned the pages from the book and made new files in Photoshop (which I did), I can't go back and change the font and placement of the type. Or the wording. Or, in regard to the illustrations, I can't mess with the color or the expressions on the baby's face. By scanning copies of the pages, I don't really have the book. It would be like having a photo of your lost child and saying that you actually have the child. I've taken a huge step backward. The only two things I have out of the way are the initial drawings and the story itself. So, yeah, it could be a lot worse.

So, thankfully, I have a top notch scanner at work. On the day before winter break, I scanned each illustration from the dummy copy of the book on the highest resolution that I could. I was hoping to spend the next two weeks, sending out copies to agents and publishers. Instead, I've been sitting at my in-laws' house, hunched over the computer, reworking the pages one at a time. This being the second day, I've managed to clean up one illustration thus far (the one posted above). It's been a tedious process of converting the illustrations from CMYK to Grayscale and then adding colors back in. Then darkening in the lines and rebuilding layers. With any luck, by the time I return to work on 7 January, I will have most of these drawings cleaned up and recolored. Who knows, maybe it'll end up looking even better.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Audrey & Her Crew

The Crew, clockwise from top: Thomas, Audrey, Anden, Liam and Baby Eavie. Word.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Abby And Sabra

Last Friday evening, we were treated to a surprise visit from Matt, Kathy, Abby, Sabra and David. In honor of my birthday (yesterday, 19 December), Abby made me a card. I've made it a habit of displaying both nieces' artwork here in the past. Abby seems to have really grown even more recently, as one might tell from her sense of depth, one-point perspective and hand-drawn font.

Sabra's contribution was a series of hand-colored drawings (seventeen of them) that represent a Christmas theme. I was impressed with all of them and have several favorites. Like Abby, Sabra has developed her own style. Recently, she seems to have turned to artists in the fashion industry as a means of inspiration, complete with the ambiguous (i.e. "nonexistent") facial features.

It's the love of art, not just by me, but by others, that has truly brought this blog back from the dead.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm Thirsty Vs. Welcome To The Gun Show

A couple of sketchbook drawings.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Audrey has been obsessed with the camera feature on my new MacBook.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Mixed Media With Working Parents Ignoring Sleeping Child

I know I swore off retirement, but in the grand tradition of artists who promise to go away and end up reappearing (Prince, Jay-Z, Babs, etc.), I thought I would come back every so often to post a project I've been working on.

This week, I have my students working on Mixed Media Collages, which is a medium that I've loved since high school, but don't get much of a chance to practice anymore. It was nice to actually get my hands dirty and get to working on my own art again. I call it, obviously, "Mixed Media With Parents Ignoring Sleeping Child."