Wednesday, November 26, 2008

100 Albums that Changed my World

My friend Michael compiled a list of his 100 favorite albums and then challenged me to reciprocate, so here's mine. This is not my current heavy-rotation playlist, but rather the albums that had the biggest impact on my life, from the day I bought my first record (a K-Tel compilation of ABBA's greatest hits, I'm sorry to say) to now.

I hope someone else finds this entertaining or perhaps useful... though these albums are probably not to everyone's taste, I guarantee that not a single one of them is boring!

Devendra Banhart – Rejoicing in the Hands
Bauhaus – In the Flat Field
Bauhaus – Mask
Beastie Boys – Paul's Boutique
Beastie Boys – Check Your Head
The Beatles – 1967-1970
Bike for Three – More Heart Than Brains
Andrew Bird – & the Mysterious Production of Eggs

David Bowie – Hunky Dory
David Bowie – The Man Who Sold the World
David Bowie – Space Oddity
David Bowie – Diamond Dogs
David Bowie – Low
Buck 65 – Talkin' Honky Blues
Buck 65 – Secret House Against the World

Cabaret Voltaire – The Arm of the Lord
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Ballad of the Broken Seas
Candy Machine – A Modest Proposal
Johnny Cash – at Folsom Prison
Cat Power – The Covers Record

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – The Firstborn is Dead
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Your Funeral... My Trial
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – The Boatman's Call
Cocteau Twins – Treasure
Leonard Cohen – Songs
Coil – Horse Rotorvator

The Decemberists – Castaways & Cutouts
Brian Dewan – Tells the Story
Johnny Dowd – Pictures from Life's Other Side
Nick Drake – Pink Moon
Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline
Einstürzende Neubauten – Tabula Rasa

Brian Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
Ethyl Meatplow – Happy Days, Sweetheart
Everlast – White Trash Beautiful
Clare Fader – The Elephant's Baby
fIREHOSE – Ragin', Full On
Dick Gaughan – Handful of Earth
Bobbie Gentry – Chickasaw County Child
The Geraldine Fibbers – Lost Somewhere Between the Earth &
My Home
P J Harvey – Dry
Ed Haynes – Sings Ed Haynes
Billie Holiday – Lady in Satin
Chris Isaak – Heart Shaped World

Jesus Wept – Starball Contribution
Greg Hale Jones – Now There Is a Tree of Ghosts
Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
Joy Division – Closer
Macromantics – Moments in Movement
The Mamas & the Papas – The Best of the Mamas & the Papas

Morphine – Good
Morphine – Cure for Pain
My Dad Is Dead – The Taller You Are, the Shorter You Get
Neighborhood Texture Jam – Funeral Mountain
Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Joanna Newsom – The Milk-Eyed Mender
Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine
9353 – To Whom It May Consume (a.k.a. Overdoses at Your
Mother's House)
9353 – We Are Absolutely Sure There Is No God (a.k.a. Make Your
Last Days Loud Days)
Phil Ochs – I Ain't Marching Anymore
Will Oldham – Joya
Beth Orton – Central Reservation

The Palace Brothers – There is No-One What Will Take Care of You
Palace Music – Viva Last Blues
Pixies – Surfer Rosa & Come on Pilgrim
Pixies – Doolittle
The Pogues – Red Roses for Me
The Pogues – Rum Sodomy & the Lash

Iggy Pop – Lust for Life
Psapp – Tiger, My Friend
The Residents – Commercial Album
Stan Ridgway – Songs that Made this Country Great
Sebadoh – Bubble & Scrape
Shriekback – Oil & Gold
Simon & Garfunkel – The Essential Simon & Garfunkel
Skinny Puppy – Bites & Remission
The Smiths – Louder than Bombs

Sonic Youth – Sister
The Sugarcubes – Life's Too Good
Swans – The Burning World
The The – Soul Mining
The The – Hanky Panky

Think Tree – Eight/Thirteen
This Mortal Coil – Filigree & Shadow
Townes Van Zandt – Rear View Mirror
The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico
Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes
Tom Waits – Rain Dogs
Tom Waits – Bone Machine
Wax Tailor – Tales of the Forgotten Melodies

Jim White – The Mysterious Tale of How I Shouted Wrong-Eyed Jesus!
Jim White – No Such Place
Hank Williams – The Original Singles Collection
Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
Lonely is an Eyesore – 4AD Compilation
Prison Songs Volume 1: Murderous Home – Historical Recordings from Parchman Farm 1947-48
The Rocky Horror Picture Show – Soundtrack
The Triplets of Belleville – Soundtrack
Wings of Desire – Soundtrack

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Joao Ruas' Haunted World

So it's happened again – there I was, minding my own business and trying to conserve my financial resources, and suddenly I came across another incredible artist. João Ruas is a 27-year-old illustrator who lives in São Paulo, Brazil, and he paints strange, haunting, mysterious scenarios laden with emotion and atmosphere. He says, "I enjoy the ability to create some absurd but still believable reality from scratch. I just try to send these crazy thoughts to paper."

"Haunted #16"

I was helpless to resist this crazy picture, and if you click into it I'm sure you'll see why. The characters' expressions are nuanced, their gestures are evocative, the textures are impeccable and precise, yet very economically rendered, and the palette choices are bold and unusual. Its surrealism takes a really unique tone, quite distinct from other artists in this genre, and alongside its enigmatic, ethereal qualities is a lighthearted, playful note. (I feel it's worth mentioning that João seems to be a bit obsessed with girls in parkas.)

"Haunted #11"

This exquisitely rendered drawing, "Haunted #11," also has a host of possible interpretations. Personally, I immediately decided that the girl is an angel trying to pass as human, attempting to conceal her wings beneath her parka with limited success. The mannequin-like hands reaching out to her seem to be the self-involved prayers and grasping needs of humans. I'm not quite sure why the letters "ELA." immediately brought to mind Elohim, a Hebrew name for God, and by association melakh Elohim, an angel or "messenger of God" – that's probably not João's intention, but I can't escape it. (In fact, "ela" means "she" in Portuguese.) Her face is lovely, weary yet resigned, and it looks like it's cold outside and maybe she has a touch of the flu. I could keep going... but I'll leave it to you to weave together your own story.


There's not much information about João out there on the net, but I lifted a few remarks from an interview he did last year which may shed some light on his work.

"My true passions are pencils, watercolor and gouache, most of time combined together. Pencils are the most basic, forgiving and, at the same time, it allows a line full of expression to intricate details. When I use watercolors it seems I am not alone, the ink is alive. You can’t do the same brush stroke twice, it reacts to everything, from the humidity in the air to the age of the paper you picked. I really enjoy the sensation of trusting your senses and intuitions while painting with watercolor."

"Haunted #6"

"I started using gouache when I realized I couldn’t use acrylics properly (still can’t) and needed some opaque media to complete my watercolors. Gouache is a favorite nowadays, it gives me a great range of opacity, even impastos, and it mixes really well with the watercolors on paper."

"Chromo" (for the Labirinto album art project)

"I admire many artists, the golden age of illustration as a whole strikes me… J.C. Leyendecker, Franklin Booth, Joseph Clement Coll, Ivan Bilibin, Arthur Rackham, Howard Pyle, Norman Rockwell, etc. I am very fond of Degas and Whistler, as well. My favorite modern-time artists are Robert McGinnis, Kent Williams and Phil Hale."



"I have a handful of personal projects that are sometimes evolving, sometimes not. They include two graphic novel ideas, one about Russian cosmonauts left on space as communism collapsed, another one is a fairy tale for grownups about a lighthouse village being visited by forest creatures… and evil pirates."


Though João Ruas is thus far a little-known name in pop surrealist circles, he won two awards at last year's Spectrum competition, alongside illustration luminaries like James Jean and Shaun Tan. Thinkspace's current Drawing Room show contains several of João's pieces, and the gallery will be seeing more work from him in the coming year. Make sure to check out his work at Thinkspace while you have the chance – I have a feeling he's one to watch.

"16 Miles to Merricks"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tessar Lo's "my love, it's on we"

Be sure to check out Tessar Lo's show at Roq la Rue this Friday, November 7th, entitled my love, it's on we. (It's a double entendre, of course.) Tessar has outdone himself, as usual, envisioning a dreamlike plane of existence where physical reality is gauzy and ephemeral, yet thought and emotion rage like a psychedelic brushfire.


Tessar will be on hand to discuss the 13 paintings in the show and his many-layered installation of process work, sketches and explorations. There will also be an extremely limited edition of hand-touched serigraphs available to those lucky Seattleites who attend the opening. If you'd like to know more about Tessar, you can peruse my earlier commentary on his work, read this recent interview at Hunt & Gather, or check out the Analog Color episode from Tessar's show earlier this year at project:gallery.

"Fact or Fiction"

Tessar and I spoke recently about the layers of meaning he seeks to express through subtle atmospheric and aging effects, but alas, I am unable to recall the conversation in perfect detail – so I lifted from his blog this beautiful contemplation on the allure of the imperfect, which may give you some deeper insight into his work.

"I've always really loved the aged aesthetic of old images. More than just minor scratches and bumps, I love huge, unforgiving water damage, torn areas, and unexplainable chemical stains that darken or lighten over time.

A few years back, my home in Scarborough got flooded. Since my room was in the basement, almost all my stuff had water damage. At first, I was devastated. But in the next few days, after picking through stuff I would keep and throw away, I started to realize how impermanent most everything is anyway; how easily things can literally be swept away. And then, looking at the journal pages and drawings before me with the stains, bleeding and dirt – I felt blessed that I had these ephemeral warriors. They had gone through battle and came out with scars that told a story of their own.

Now, whenever I go through the memory boxes and old books, I see the stains and remember that summer in Scarborough. How a seemingly disastrous occasion taught me about the course of things. Wrinkled, worn out paper showed me how precious and beautiful experience and wear can be. I am always looking for that. The falling and rising, the hurting and healing."

Sunday, November 2, 2008


“Change doesn’t happen from the top down. It happens from the bottom up.”Barack Obama

"In our nation, the people are sovereign, not the government. It is the people, not the media or the financial system or mega-corporations or the two political parties, who have the power to create change." Howard Dean

"I believe that we have a righteous wind at our backs, and that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices and meet the challenges that face us."Barack Obama

History says, Don't hope
on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.

Seamus Heaney, "The Cure at Troy"