Puzzles, Puzzles, Puzzles!

I enjoy putting together jigsaw puzzles. I never had the time and or patience before a couple of years ago, but due to different health issues, a spinal fusion and then an ankle joint replacement, walking on my lunch breaks was no longer an option for me.In the Everett Public Library staff room, we usually have an ongoing jigsaw puzzle. I was never really interested until I had to sit still and do something different.

Since then, I’ve become one of the most adamant of the staff puzzle club. Anything from a 500 to 1000 piece puzzle is usually there waiting to be pieced together. And like Linda’s latest post pointed out, puzzles help with depression. When deciding to write a post, I thought I might as well write it on something I was personally interested in and so I ventured forth to see the digital offerings that Everett Public Library had about the subject of puzzles. 

Here are some puzzle related digital items that sounded interesting to me:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – In this story a virtual reality world is a vast online utopia where people plug into an “oasis” instead of the grim , poverty stricken reality of the outside world. This story is full of action, puzzles, nerdy romance and the nostalgia of the 1980’s. In this high energy cyberquest, geeks everywhere will feel like they were separated at birth from the author. 

Young Adults who are fans of John Green (Fault in Our Stars) will enjoy the ebook by Arvin Ahmedi called Down and Across. In this  coming of age story a college bound senior, Scott Ferdowsi, sneaks off to D.C. and meets a college girl, Fiora Buchanan, whose ambition is to write crossword puzzles. The main character, Scott, gets himself into all sorts of mayhem like sneaking into bars and picking up girls at the national zoo all while trying to figure out who he is and what he wants to be.

A streaming video I found in the library collection on Kanopy is a 1992 Italian mystery/thriller called Body Puzzle. This film has been described as a fun 90’s giallo. The leading lady, Joanna Paula is a heroine in peril because some sick killer keeps breaking into the house and leaving severed body parts laying around. Needless to say, this title is Not Rated and definitely a slasher film. 

Something more science related is a streaming film called Mastering Rubik’s Cube, which is on Kanopy as well. Are you interested in an easy to learn eight step method for solving this mind bending puzzle? Follow along step by step and you will be solving a Rubik’s Cube in less than three minutes.

A third interesting streaming title on Kanopy is a documentary on artist Rene Magritte.  He makes witty and provoking images that merge his childhood, memories and everyday objects from his Brussel’s apartment into a fantastic, unique puzzle of art.

Some streaming music that came up in my puzzle search that is available from the library is Beggars Banquet by the famous English rock band the Rolling Stones. This streaming album on Hoopla has the song “Jigsaw Puzzle.”

Also the American rock band Saint Motel has a streaming album called Voyeur. I listened to their song “Puzzle Pieces” with its upbeat piano and happy tempo.

Since the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order I’ve completed a couple of jigsaw puzzles, but miss the team effort of my fellow staff members. Oh well, that will come back in time…but now I’m off to order a puzzle of Rene Magritte’s art!

Versing and the Post-Punk

One of my favorite albums is File Under Easy Listening by Sugar. In case you don’t remember, Sugar was a Bob Mould (of Husker Du fame) project. At one point in time this CD could be found in every corner bargain bin for next-to-nothing, which I never understood as it is one fabulous listening experience. The razor-sharp yet dense guitar work is nothing short of spectacular. It’s not a sound that pops up often.

If I had to describe the standout feature of F.U.E.L., it would be “texture”. Sharply-honed guitar saturates each song’s palette, but in such a way that the sound is still pleasant. The songs themselves tend towards being catchy, but within the framework of extreme sound spectrum saturation.

Which leads me to my topic…

Versing is a unique Seattle band that in some ways reminds me of Sugar. On their 2019 album 10000, the group drenches my ears ears ears with buzzsaw guitar wrapped in a downy blanket of catchiness. But there are other aspects of the band that make it difficult to describe their sound in any simple way.

Post-punk, which requires a thousand page manifesto to describe, is often angular, rhythmically complex, and to some extent devoid of personal warmth. The term does not describe a specific sound but a huge spectrum of potential sounds. One of my favorite post-punk albums is Vs. by Mission of Burma. Versing uses many of the same tricks as M.O.B.: odd accents that obscure the beat, dense textures alternating with sparse ones (sometimes quite rapidly), unusual melodies that can be an assault on the ears and, at other times, be monotone.

But this is still not a complete picture of Versing. Some tricks from Joy Division/early New Order can also be found in their playbook. Pop harmonies creep in from time to time, as if XTC invaded a Residents’ ditty. Some songs never progress out of their opening salvos. And, perhaps most unusually, song structures seldom go where expected: a guitar solo which differs from the rest of the song turns out to be the end; a song seems too short to end but end it does; another song simply fades into the sunset.

But this still does not describe all the complexities that make up Versing. Take all of the characteristics listed above and shuffle between them. First be poppy and sparse, then dense and angular, add irregular drum accents, now poppy and sparse, guitar solo, we’re done. Truly, I hear this album as a primer in post-punk songwriting. Each gem-of-a-song displays a different set of exciting features.

You can stream this exciting local album through Hoopla! And if you don’t know how to do that, you can find out on our website. Take advantage of our online resources and enjoy some fab music. Guaranteed to be fat-free and tasty.

Streaming Music from the PNW

In our last bat-episode we left our hero checking out and streaming movies using Hoopla. Today he will discover that Hoopla also offers a wide variety of streaming music, including a fair amount of bands from the Pacific Northwest. Holy Young Fresh Fellows, libraryman! So, ladies and gentlepeople, for your consideration I present The K-Tels, a Vancouver BC band that ruled the mean streets of the great white north from 1978 to 1980.

Also known as the Young Canadians (after being sued by K-Tel), the K-Tels played a raw brand of power pop with the emphasis on “power”. This musical energy, combined with wild live shows, led to them being labelled “punk”.

Let me digress for a moment into the realm of genres. Punk has meant many different things, but in the late seventies punk was essentially three-chord rock songs. In the case of groups like the Buzzcocks or the Clash, punk could actually be quite catchy. In later days it became more aggressive and less melodic, until eventually there arose pop punk, which is not all that similar to 70s punk but is still catchy. All of which is to say that we would probably not call The K-Tels punk today, but in 1978 it was an appropriate label.

So what did this daring trio of lads sound like? In an initial attempt to describe their sound I would say, CHECK THEM OUT USING HOOPLA! Were I to feel more cooperative I might offer comparisons to the Paul Collins Beat or the Plimsouls. Guitar often jangles, drums explode with maniacal precision and vocals warble around pleasant melodies. Add a touch of rawness. Stir to perfection.

The group only recorded a handful of songs during their relatively short tenure, and most of those songs are available through Hoopla. The 4-song ep Hawaii conjures visions of seventies punk with a dash of Devo (mostly in the vocals) and a soupcon of The Jam (mod British band, not fruit preserves). Some of you might even recognize the song Hawaii as the unofficial Canadian punk anthem.

While it’s highly likely that you’ve never heard of this group under either name, they were the real deal in Vancouver in 1978. Our neighbor to the north was a hotbed for exciting new music in the late 70s with bands such as D.O.A., Pointed Sticks and the Dishrags pointing the way for future groups. As these progenitors faded, the K-Tels picked up the mantle and seemed destined to be the next big thing. Which never quite happened. But the band’s guitarist Art Bergmann did go on to become an important fixture in Canadian rock. And, perhaps most importantly, the band left behind some good songs for our ears to enjoy.

So head on over to Hoopla and search for K-Tels. You should find their Hawaii ep, This Is Your Life ep and Automan single. Eleven songs that will blast you into the heyday of early punk. Stay tuned for more streaming music from the Pacific Northwest and remember, 54-40 or rock!