Friday, May 31, 2013

On the Completion of Edison's First Trip Around the Sun

Toward the end of last July, the two most awesome cats in the world came into my life.  I adopted two kittens, both of them Siamese/tiger mixes, from the parents of a good friend who needed to place them in a good home.  At only eight and four weeks old, respectively, when they arrived in Ruttville, Edison and Amadeus were so tiny the could share a standard-sized cat carrier with room to spare.

They earned their names immediately: Edison proved to be the thinker, the more inventive of the two, and remains so now.  It's fascinating to watch him as he observes, learns, and figures things out, from how to best position himself for sneak attacks upon his younger brother to how to pry open the cupboard door and find the packet of cat treats hidden within.  Amadeus was from the start the more vocal cat, mewing out melodies as he explored his new digs, and even now chirps and yowls and sings happily on a regular basis.

I call them brothers, even though they are not from the same litter.  In fact, Edison's first year on the planet began very roughly.  You can see in early pictures of him evidence of a nasty wound on the top of his head, which was part of the reason he needed a new home.  Edison was an orphan, and my friend's folks owned the cat who was Amadeus' mother.  Since she had just recently had the litter that included Amadeus, they took Edison in hoping the mother cat would adopt him as part of her new brood.  Unfortunately, in cat development, especially at such an early stage, four weeks of difference in age is apparently an unbridgeable gap.  Not only did the mother reject Edison, but she saw him as a threat to her kittens and attacked him.

I was finally ready for a new pet, having had to put down a wonderful Siamese named Napoleon a few years earlier due to kidney failure.  My friend posted Edison's picture on Facebook and I immediately shot her a message saying I'd be happy to give him a home.  When I spoke with her mother to make the arrangements for cat delivery, her mother asked if I'd be interested in a second kitten as well, and sent me Amadeus' picture.  I was immediately sold - but more on his tale in about four weeks...

Edison is mostly Siamese, but over the past year as he has grown, his coloring has darkened and clear tiger-stripe markings have become evident.  He still has the darker ears, nose, tail, and feet of a Siamese, but as you can see in his then and now pictures, there are times when he appears facially to have the markings of white Bengal tiger.  His Siamese side means his personality is somewhat aloof, but he is also the self-appointed guardian of the household and will immediately come over to greet - and inspect - anyone who comes through the door.  Early on, he taught himself to play fetch, either with a wadded up ball of paper or with a small stuffed mouse which he often carries around with him when it's not carefully hidden out of paw's reach under the sofa; at times I'll be sitting at the computer writing and will feel a paw at my ankle, and there will be Edison, having brought me that mouse or a paper ball he hid somewhere, and look at me as if to say, "OK, it's time to play. What are you waiting for? Throw it!" And lose himself in the joy of chasing and bringing back his prize for as much as an hour.

That tiny ball of fluff who could share a cat carrier with his brother is one year old today.  He's now grown to almost twelve pounds, and is quite the regal feline, but he can sure make me laugh when he momentarily forgets himself and lets the kitten still in him come to the surface.  Is it coincidence that I have not had nearly so many battles with my personal demons which I've discussed on this blog in the past since Edison and Amadeus have been in my world?  I think not.

So, for a kitten who, in his first 8 weeks on the planet had been orphaned, attacked, and had been moved to three different homes, Edison has turned out to be one cool cat.  Happy Birthday, my Friend.  I'm glad your third home turned out to be the charm!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Now Hear This!

Memorial Day weekend is drawing to a close, which means summer is all but upon us, though recent temperatures around these parts would have you believing otherwise.  Still, you're going to be needing some new tunes to be blaring out of your car stereo while cruising with the top down, or bopping to poolside with your friends, or whatever it is you kids do in the summer these days.

It's a big wide Internet out there, and it's full of tunes.  Some are good, some are bad; some you can acquire legitimately, some...well, not so much.  It's enough to make your head spin! Friend, I'm here to help.  I've done the hard part - I've separated the wheat from the chaff and come up with a list of 10 more excellent musical curios for your musical curio, iPod.  These aural treats are not presented in any particular order, and I am receiving no compensation of any kind from the artists, other than the sheer enjoyment of listening to their creations. Almost all of these are very recent, but some are not. That's just the way it is. Let's dig in!

Nikki Corvette & the Romeos
New music from Nikki Corvette is always cause for celebration, and her first single with her current backing group ranks among her best ever!  Fresh off a European tour, Nikki and her Romeos deliver two killer sides. "He's Gone" is sixties girl group heaven, straight from the Ronnette's playbook; on the flip (which coulda been an A-side itself), Nikki introduces us to her band in her classic bubblegum punk style.  Physical copies of the single are limited to 300 and going fast - get yerself over to Bandcamp and at least get the tunes!

There is something very cool happening musically in Baltimore these days.  There has developed quite a collection of local bands creating some pretty incredible music.  In previous posts I've mentioned bands like The Fishnet Stalkers and Plurals.  Now let me mention Roomrunner, whose first full-length release, Ideal Cities, is out now and available on Bandcamp.  Roomrunner's nods towards the grunge forefathers, especially Nirvana, are evident immediately, but don't kid yourself: these guys can thrash as well as anyone.  The lead track, "Bait Car", comes careening at you like Big Black with a searing headache. You can either grab on and take the ride of your life or be swept up in the wake of the passing maelstrom.  Great stuff!

Ed Schrader's Music Beat
Did I mention there is something cool happening in the Baltimore music scene? Here's yet another example.  Ed Schrader pounds out the music beat on his stand-up floor tom while Devlin Rice plays bass. Together they make a lot of racket, but find all kinds of sonic layers and variety from those two instruments.  Every bit as intelligent as fellow duo They Might Be Giants, Ed and Devlin's songs lean sonically more towards Math The Band or Half Japanese.  Check out "Radio Eyes" for details:

Imelda May
Until recently, I had missed the boat on Ireland's incredible Imelda May.  A few weeks ago a friend sent me a clip of her performing her debut single "Johnny Got A Boom Boom," a wild rockabilly ride that caught my immediate attention, and another clip of her crooning "Cry Me A River" in a perfect torch-singer pout that blew me away.  I immediately sought out more, and found the wonderful "Psycho," in which Ms. May comes as close to being Wanda Jackson as anyone not named Wanda Jackson ever could.  Behold:

Yes Mistress
Out of Long Beach, Yes Mistress may be the best rawk-n-roll band with the worst band name going these days.  But oh, man are they awesome!  "Do You Think I'm Satan?" is the best of a handful of truly fantastic tunes these guys have recorded (check out their Soundcloud page for more, including the excellent "Gunna Get Arrested").  Turn it up loud enough and you'll actually hear your own head go ka-THUNK!

Yes Mistress - "Do You Think I'm Satan... by BlankTV

Hank Wood & The Hammerheads
Sleazy, scuzzy, lo-fi garage punk still has a place in this world, and Hank Wood & the Hammerheads had the market cornered for a brief moment last year with the release of their debut (and, apparently, swan song) LP, Go Home! "It's Hard On The Street" epitomizes their growling, grumbling, ear-scraping sound:

Sonic Scream
Grungy psychedelia from Hertfordshire, UK.  Sonically somewhere between Mudhoney and MX-80 Sound, with a six-song EP released this past August (Without A Sound), Sonic Scream offer fuzzy guitar riffs, chugga-chugga rhythms and stonerific lyrics, all of which would have been equally at home in 1968 as 2013.  "PowerfuzzeD" is my pick of their current litter, and not just because the D at the end is capitalized...

Gin Wigmore
The third in my current triumvirate of post-Amy Winehouse female singers who reinterpret the old and make it not only new, but entirely their own (Gemma Ray and the earlier-mentioned Imelda May being the other two), Gin Wigmore may be the most stunning of the lot.  With an incredibly sexy, bluesy snarl and a swagger beyond her 26 years, Gin has been collecting accolades for some time in her native New Zealand.  It's only recently that she's getting any attention here in the States, but with cuts like "Kill Of The Night," people should definitely take notice.

Persian Claws
Finally, Persian Claws have their self-titled debut album out - limited edition though it may be.  If you're quick enough, you can order it through their label, Musica Para Locos Records, by sending them a Facebook message. At least, that's how I got my copy (complete with autographed postcard of Dee Claw - awesomeness!), and it has basically dominated the turntable since arriving.  Spinning a sunshine-y surf-punk-a-go-go sound, Persian Claws have slowly amassed an album's worth of amazingly good music.  Was hard to pick just one sample track, but "Yours Sincerely" gives you a good idea of the fun you're in for:

TV Girl 
"She Smokes In Bed," the new single from TV Girl, is one of those songs that that wheedles it's way into your head and sticks there, insisting that you listen to it again and again.  With a chugging melody and an irresistible "ba-ba-ba, ba-ba-pa-da-da-da-da" chorus, the music washes over you in pleasant waves, vaguely reminiscent of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark at their best.  Definitely eager to hear more from this band!