Prestige Format Review: Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter

Marc Ellerby's Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter

Marc Ellerby’s Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter

I recently discovered Marc Ellerby‘s Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter through a special Christmas comic that was posted about a month late to his tumblr and then reblogged by someone I follow. Which is a pretty roundabout way to discover something, I suppose, but such is the Internet. I was so enamored, however, that I immediately purchased the Chloe Noonan digital omnibus, a 136-page DRM-free PDF (with bonus covers and sketches and fan-art) which set me back all of $4.84(-ish, it’s whatever £2.99 converts to) including all of the Chloe Noonan stories except the 2012 Halloween and Christmas specials (those are available here!).

Chloe Noonan, Monster Hunter is a young lady living in the UK who, while not going to class, clubbing with pals or playing keyboard in a dysfunctional band, works for some sort of top-secret monster hunting organization. She has the powers of: a metal stick, and telling people off. She’s constantly grumpy and put-upon, a perfect foil to her ever-present short, perky and fit (the British way) pal Zoe. Chloe stumbles through life (not unlike a certain Canadian ex-boyfriend battler) and somehow survives, usually by the persistence of her frowns.

Mostly, Chloe is just trying to just get on with her life while having to deal with monsters, unstable bandmates and cheery best friends. As I alluded to earlier, there’s certainly some Scott Pilgrim DNA in these stories, but where Pilgrim is an OMG INCREDIBLE fighter, Chloe gets knocked down and suckerpunched a lot and she can’t even run very far without getting out of breath. It’s fun and refreshing to see a totally normal (if maybe supernaturally grumpy) person in a world where monsters abound. Seeing fantastic things happen while characters focus on the mundane and the ginger protagonist point to a bit of inspiration from legendary webcomic Scary Go Round, but Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter is fully its own entity.

Taken as a whole, the fun stories are a little disconnected. They’re presented as vignettes of Chloe’s life, and little hints of a bigger story pop out occasionally. There are bits of larger monster-related and life-related plot lurking in the background, and the Christmas and Halloween specials reveal a touch of backstory. Based on Ellerby’s blog posts and notes on the matter, the Chloe Noonan comics that exist right now are essentially a warm up to something greater. I can’t wait to see what that is, but right now I’m content with seeing Chloe call a Kraken Squidward and fuss at him to the point that he slinks away after insulting her.

Delicate Steve

I fell in love with this album after scanning Pitchfork’s review of it and then looking for it online.

In Laura Snapes’ review of Delicate Steve’s Positive Force, she name-checks some of my favorite bands (Yeasayer and Fang Island) and mentions that Delicate Steve is on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop Records. I was intrigued at this point, so, with Google’s help, I found Delicate Steve’s bandcamp page. My year-old son Zeke and I jammed out to the album this morning, and I fell more and more in love with Delicate Steve’s lyrical guitar playing. The album cruises nicely between a Ratatat-style electro-guitar and a more laid back, Citay-style psychedelic ramble. I bought it on the spot.

Listen below:

Favorite Albums of 2010

It’s my birthday, so I’d like discuss the albums I liked last year, no matter that it’s been 2011 for over a month.

1. Beach House – Teen Dream
Slow and soothing sometimes, rocking other times. Brilliant the whole way through. I have trouble talking about this record without using words like “perfect” or “absolutely perfect” or “best album ever”. It’s woozy and melancholy, uplifting and sonorous. I can’t listen to it enough. Sounds perfect on vinyl.

2. Sleigh Bells – Treats
Whereas Beach House is made for being played on vinyl, Sleigh Bells’ debut album, Treats, sounds perfect being played from an iPod. It’s constructed specifically to be lossy–it’s a noisy, violent mess. It’s all the best parts of metal and pop rolled into one. See my previous post about them to learn more of my obsession.

3. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
James Murphy is nothing if not consistent. When this album first leaked, there was a lot of disappointment floating around the internets. A lot of people pointed out the obvious Berlin-Bowie reference point of a couple of songs, and the album was basically written off. But a strange thing happened: as time progressed, the internet’s (and my) attitude towards the album changed. I warmed up to the songs in a big way (seeing them live at the Hollywood Bowl helped immensely–some LCD sounds you just need to hear live) and found some of my favorite tracks of 2010 (Home, anyone?).

4. Yeasayer – Odd Blood
Experimental pop sounds like such a joke genre. “We just take pop songs and play ’em weird, you know?” sounds like something some ‘experimental pop’ dude would say in a half-drunken interview. Well, the dudes from Yeasayer don’t mess around like that–even though you could describe their music like that and you wouldn’t be necessarily wrong. The guys from Yeasayer write fantastic, catchy-as-hell songs and then find the perfect off the wall sounds for them.

5. Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
Local Natives were my first big surprise of the year. Their name makes them sound like some pothead rap-rock band, and they went to middle school with my sister in Mission Viejo, the center of boring white suburban Orange County. But these harmonizers have been listening to a lot of Brooklyn bands like Grizzly Bear (a personal favorite) and combining an East coast-chamber pop aesthetic with a West coast sunniness that really gets me moving.

6. Chris Schlarb – Psychic Temple
“It’s sorta this ambient jazz thing…” is a terrible way to describe such a beautiful album. Chris Schlarb knows how to take disparate elements and layer them in a way that’s practically transcendent. This album works for folkies, jazz guys, ambient music nerds and plain ol’ indie fans in a way that’s honestly surprising. Please, give it a listen and you will be surprised with how much you like this album.

7. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz
Oh man. This guy. He takes a break from writing albums full of gorgeous, swelling orchestral folk-pop songs. Writes a Steve Reich-by-way-of-Warp records symphony to a much-hated highway in New York City. And then this album. It’s as if you took his Illinois album, combined the electronic leanings of his first couple of albums, and then replaced any self-editing tendencies with raw ambition. How else can you explain the 25-minute pop opus track that closes the album and encompasses everything from autotune to raw acoustic guitar (more to come about this later…)

And now we come to the cop-out portion of the list:

8. Baths – Cerulean / Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
I had two very different halves of this year. I started this year with an office job that made living comfortable, I ended up with a very different job that I greatly prefer but that makes life a bit more difficult. And here are the respective soundtracks. Both beat- and sample-heavy, Baths is floating and light in a way that FlyLo is deep and heavy. Both take different touchstones from which to produce serious beats (Baths: pop and R&B/soul, FlyLo: psych and jazz) and both are fantastic.

9. Damien Jurado – Saint Bartlett / The Mynabirds – What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood
These two albums are easy to lump together because they share Richard Swift as their producer. He brings such a similar vibe to both albums: he scrapes open a doorway to a more raw past for both artists. Jurado’s sad, truthful vignettes and laments never sounded so hopeful and nostalgic, and Laura Burhenn (the only mynabird in The Mynabirds) sounds churchier and southern-ier than she ever did as part of Georgie James.

10. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast / Best Coast – Crazy For You
One’s a group of Floridian dudes, the other is an LA girl. Both of them like fuzzy summer pop rock and getting high. Weezer (early Weez, obviously) is a touchstone for Surfer Blood; Best Coast is more of a 60’s pop fan. Both of them clearly prefer sunny days and the beach.

Runners Up (in no particular order) after the jump:
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My Favorite Albums of 2009

I tweeted all this madness, so you have probably seen it before. But here’s all 55 (!) of my #best09 tweets rounded up. The first 10 are in order of preference, after that they’re in the order in which they were posted. For reference, the format is Band/Album//Witty review with the // link going to my tweet.

1. Akron/Family/Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free//Embracing their jammy folkpop side, in the sense that they churn out a dozen monster jams.

2. Jookabox/Dead Zone Boys//Soundtrack for a zombie apocalypse, set in a decaying mall, by werewolves who’ll tear you limb from limb.

3. Cryptacize/Mythomania//Fractured pop held together by cowboy dreams. Beautiful.

4. DM Stith/Heavy Ghost//Haunting, spectral songs with arrangements like immense salt catacombs.

5. Grizzly Bear/Veckatimest//Gorgeous, well mannered songs that will politely blow your mind every time you hear them.

6. Dirty Projectors/Bitte Orca//An alternate-universe pop monster if ever there was one. Absolutely brilliant.

7. Phoenix/Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix//A Daft Punk album for the rockists that’s fun for the whole family.

8. Animal Collective/Merriweather Post Pavilion//Experimental music for the masses that’s as trippy (or lame) as its cover.

9. David Bazan/Curse Your Branches//The most moving and thought-provoking album out in ’09, no matter your allegiance.

10. Viva Voce/Rose City//Kevin and Anita throw down the gauntlet yet again with an album of swirling, near-perfect rock monsters.

read the rest of my reviews after the jump Continue reading

Livetweeting Philip Glass + LA Philharmonic @ Hollywood Bowl

The pictures linked in the tweets below are also in the slideshow above.

Download the iPhone recording of The Grid here.

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Top Ten of 2009’s First Half

This seems to be a thing, so I’ll go with it.

Top Ten

1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
[[tied]]
1. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
3. Akron/Family – Set ’em Wild, Set ’em Free
4. DM Stith – Heavy Ghost
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz
6. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
7. Bat for Lashes – Two Suns
8. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
9. Viva Voce – Rose City
10. I Was a King – I Was a King

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Paul Pope’s 100%: A Lunchtime Review

 

The cover of the Trade Paperback for 100%

<meta>I’m starting a new section of the site–“Lunchtime Reviews”–which are exactly what they sound like.</meta>

 

100%, Paul Pope‘s 2002 graphic novel, was billed as “a graphic movie” and I think it succeeds splendidly in that. Wikipedia has a good summation of the characters, sci-fi, and other elements of the comic, so go read that and report back. 

100% takes place in some future (2038) version of NYC, and, as name-checked by wikipedia, there’s a good amount of Blade Runner in the depiction. There is, however, a lot separating 2038 NYC from 2019 LA. The setting of 100% is a lot less stark; it is a lot more jumbled and full of humans, refuse, and day-glo colors. (The book is in black, white and halftones, so the dayglo thing is partially an assumption. But look at the covers!) 2038 NYC has some of the lived-in future of 2019 LA, but it’s also got some 1984 1/2 London in it. The drawings are kinetic while being cinematic–this could easily serve as a story board for one of those up-and-coming direct-adaptation-of-comics directors.

There’s a whimsy here not present in the threatening dystopias like Blade Runner. Details like the popular fast food of “Tandoori Star” and orb-like “threading devices” for communications bring in various elements of futurism, but it’s all taken for granted by the characters and the story. Denying someone’s thread request is no different from sending a caller to voicemail. These futuristic elements are presented front-and-center, but it’s as if Pope is winking at the audience, dazzling us with his imaginative concepts, and saying “look at the future…same as it ever was.”

The story focuses on three main stories which intertwine to various degrees. The focus of all three stories are good ol’ boy-girl relationships: a whirlwind romance, a chance encounter, a slow burning, a reconciliation, a breakup. They’re just like, well, real life: sometimes, heartwarming, sometimes inexplicable. Perhaps the most striking element of this book is honest and slightly mundane life is in the future. People fall in and out of love, feelings get hurt, anger and fear meld with apathy in a way that almost betrays the futuristic setting. In a world where nudity has given way to lurid viewings of internal organs, would interpersonal relationships remain unchanged? Why not? 

This book dares to be a slice-of-life comic wearing a future-suit. These aren’t extraordinary people doing extraordinary things; they’re just people, y’know? Sure, it’s the future, but so what?

Further Reading:

Comic Book Resources interview w/ Paul Pope
Paul Pope’s Blog
His flickr

A brief subject matter disclaimer: This graphic novel [ed. – sounds pretentious]  contains some naked bodies, some death, and some rough language.