Monday, February 12, 2007

Music Review -- Waiting for Your Letter by Cary Brothers

Cary Brothers is the performer of two great songs on two great Zach Braff produced soundtracks, Blue Eyes on 2004’s Garden State and Ride (one of my favorite songs from the last couple of years) on 2006’s The Last Kiss. Despite the buzz from the soundtracks, Brothers has only two EPs out, so I decided to pick up the latest one. The five-song disc Waiting for Your Letter is from late 2005.

The album starts with the amazingly bittersweet song Ride. Brothers, in the simply written song, croons, “You are everything I wanted/ The scars of all I’ll ever know/ If I told you you were right/ Would you take my hand tonight?/ If I told you the reasons why/ Would you leave your life and ride?” His brit-rock side comes out in the title track which is an insanely catchy song. Really, what Brothers does best is the mellow, stripped down and wistful songs like Loneliest Girl in the World. While a bit mushy, he has a knack for simple yet meaningful lyrics. In Loneliest Girl he writes, “You are the loneliest girl in the world/ And tonight you’d fall for anyone.” On Wasted One, Brothers stretches out again with a rockier song, then finishes with another emotional tune in Forget About You. Other than Ride, the last track is the best. The speaker seems to see a relationship clearly for the first time and says, “Forget about you/ Forget about all this life we have/ We were the unseen…”

This is a solid effort by Brothers, who is a very solid songwriter, though it would be nice to see some deeper, fuller songs. Until he releases a full length album it is hard to tell what to expect from Brothers, though according to his website he is trying to release a new disc in May. I’m expecting a Pete Yorn type CD with modern rock styling melding with a singer-songwriter’s introspective lyrics. Check out his site at where he streams quite a bit of his music.

2.85 out of 4.00 on the Vin Swanson Scale

Saturday, February 03, 2007

What I'm Reading -- Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen

Last Town on Earth is a novel based on events in the 1918 flu epidemic, when some cities cut themselves from the rest of the world in order to keep out the flu. While told through the eyes of many of the city of Commonwealth’s citizens, Phillip Worthy is essentially the main character. The orphaned teenager has been taken in by the town’s founder. Commonwealth began as a refuge for those looking to run to a lumber mill without the pressures of working under horrible bosses and terrible working conditions. With the outbreak the deadly flu during the First World War, the town closes its doors and prepares to protect their borders from outsiders. When a couple of soldiers approach the town and nearby cities assume there is something wrong going on inside Commonwealth, the townsfolk find themselves in a lot of trouble and doubting their decision to go into quarantine. Phillip is an impressionable teenager, but becomes the center of all of these issues and is trying to figure his way out trouble. Mullen is a bit too transparent in the obvious parallels between his novel's reality and our post-9/11 reality. Nevertheless, this is a powerfully gripping novel as a town and its people wrestles with their place in a broken world.

What I'm Reading -- Saint Iggy by K.L. Going

The author of the very good Fat Kid Rules the World returns with Saint Iggy. Iggy is a 16-year old son of drug addicted parents. He has some problems doing the right thing and this leads to a misunderstanding that gets him kicked out of school. With the hearing with the school board just days away, Iggy decides he needs to do some great things and make the school board and the world realize that he is a good kid. Things get worse when his one respected friend gets involved with the drug dealer that supplies Iggy’s parents. While a bit overdramatic at times, Going keeps the pressure on Iggy, giving the novel a tense vibe the whole way through. Iggy really is a good kid, making him a character that readers will root for the whole way through. The ominous tone makes the ending less surprising than it usually would be. Going has crafted another touching novel that fans of her earlier work will enjoy.

What I'm Reading -- The Long Run by Leo Furey

Furey’s debut novel is the darkly comic The Long Run. The book follows a group of boys in a Newfoundland orphanage that is overseen by some fairly deranged priests. At times, the book is incredibly funny. It is especially humorous when one of the Catholic Brothers decides to introduce Japanese customs into their studies, which leads to some bizarre sumo wrestling tournaments. Furey also creates a disturbing world where the group of boys joins together to avoid extreme punishment, pedophilic priests and depression. Eventually, they decide to enter a marathon and train for it at night when the Brothers are asleep. The character development is incredibly strong and makes the novel feel realistic. This is a touching, well-crafted coming of age story.