Neil Gaiman at WV Book Festival in October!

As if the resurrection of our beloved WV Book Festival isn’t exciting enough, The Charleston Gazette reports that Sandman creator Neil Gaiman is among the featured authors! Whether his wife, The Dresden Doll’s Amanda Palmer, will join him remains to be seen.

The book festival will return October 23 & 24 at the Charleston Civic Center during the fall edition of FestivALL.

The Storyteller author Jodi Picoult and Brown Girl Dreaming author Jacqueline Woodson are also on the festival lineup, which will feature several writer-oriented workshops.

Small Business & Indies First Saturday 2014!

Tomorrow, Saturday, November 29, 2014 is “Small Business Saturday” and “Indies First Day,” in which authors and book lovers are being encouraged (including by an open letter from Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman) to support their local independent bookshops. I once again encourage all local bookworms to visit Charleston, WV’s only independent bookstore, Taylor Books, on that day or any day. You can also order books and ebooks/epubs from Taylors online, but it’s worth the trip for the bookshop’s atmosphere.

Taylors is my favorite bookstore on this side of the Atlantic and has the best coffee in Charleston. If you don’t like books or coffee, I really don’t know how you live.

If you do like books and are looking for recommendations for Indies First Day, my personal favorite books of all time are: Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut and pretty much everything else written by Kurt Vonnegut or Edith Wharton. More modern favorites have been Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, The Book Thief and anything by Brian Morton, Kate Morton, Maggie O’Farrell, Samanatha Harvey and Victoria Hislop.

I also highly recommend the more modern classic The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, which is now being adapted for a movie. You can read my rave review of it here. I first heard about the Guernsey book from a former manager of Taylors and it was a longtime staff pick on the shelves there. I’ve since given copies of the book to several friends, all of whom loved it as much as I did.

Other favorite bookstores of mine on both sides of the Atlantic: Empire Books in Huntington, WV; Two Sisters bookery, Old Books on Front Street and Pomegranate Books in Wilmington, NC; and The Winding Stair, Hodges Figgis and Chapters in Dublin, Ireland.

It would be very nice if independent bookstores get the kind of support from Indies First/Small Business Saturday that Record Store Day brings to indie music shops.

Ukulele Party!

Guest Post by: Brendan

Muruch Editor Vic may not have been fond of Amanda Palmer’s ukulele era, but I’ve been enjoying her performance of popular Radiohead hits on her Magical Ukulele:

Even more awesome is the fact that she brought her ukulele to C-Span.

Amanda’s Ukulele anthem is among the free downloads available from her Soundcloud page.

“The Guacamole Ukulele Song” by Lauren Fairweather and Lena Gabrielle will worm its way into your head and stay there forever. You have been warned:

Guacamole Ukulele by Lauren Fairweather

Here’s Jake Shimabukuro covering Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”:

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Over The Rainbow” is perhaps the most heard Ukulele cover. He was profiled on NPR’s All Things Considered.

Finally, I dare you to sit still during this NPR Tiny Desk Concert from Tune-Yards (mp3).

Amanda Palmer: Theatre Is Evil

Amanda Palmer just released her sophomore solo album, Theatre Is Evil, with her new band, The Grand Theft Orchestra. The album explores pop, New Wave and synth rock in a way that is quite a departure from Palmer’s old punk cabaret band The Dresden Dolls, but it often has the same twisted wit, high energy and frenetic pace. The product of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the bombastic Theatre Is Evil is the best argument for fan-funded albums. It more than lives up to the excitement stirred up by the mp3s Palmer has shared over the past few months.

I heard that if you see a star at night
And the conditions are just right
And you are standing on a cliff
Then you can close your eyes
And make a wish and take a step
And change somebody’s life

Theater Is Evil begins with an unsettling blare of German blasting through a megaphone courtesy of Australian “Kamikaze Cabaret” artist, Meow Meow. The English translation is “Ladies and Gentlemen, how can I slit my wrists when I can’t stop dancing?” I could do without the grating sound of the introduction, but it does sum up the album pretty well. Palmer isn’t abandoning her Goth roots, she’s just mixing them with uptempo beats and rhythms. She herself describes the album’s style as “crancing” – simultaneously crying and dancing. Which is probably why so many songs remind me of a mix of The Cure and Depeche Mode.

“Smile (Pictures or It Didn’t Happen)” floats in on swirling, crashing waves of piano that build with Amanda’s voice into a crescendo of melodic melancholia.

The deliciously dark pop number “The Killing Type” sweetly seethes with stalkerish self-denial. It’s one of many standout tracks. Somewhere Siouxsie & The Banshees are smiling.

“Do it With a Rockstar” is a swaggering, taunting glam rock anthem, while “Melody Dean” is catchy New Wave with a spectacular, horn-burnished instrumental interlude.

The downbeat “Grown Man Cry,” in which Amanda skewers an overly needly and maudlin male friend, is a scornful albeit atmospheric answer to The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry.”

The classically arranged punk-rock instrumental “A Grand Theft Intermission” reveals why Amanda’s band is called The Grand Theft Orchestra. The song would have fit well on Muse’s The Resistance.

“Bottomfeeder” seems to be both a wry indictment of spotlight chasers and a bizarre and lovely tribute to those lurking in the shadows. Amanda abandons her signature frantic playing for a beautifully sprawling piano melody.

Theatre Is Evil is Amanda Palmer’s greatest work since The Dresden Dolls’ debut (which was my #1 of the last decade) and sure to be on my best of the year list.

Amanda Palmer – Do It With a Rockstar (mp3)*
Amanda Palmer – The Killing Type (mp3)*
Amanda Palmer – Want it Back (mp3)*
Amanda Palmer – Trout Heart Replica (mp3)*

*mp3s hosted by & posted w/ permission of artist’s PR rep


Amanda Palmer Official Site

Amanda Palmer: Free EP Download!

In anticipation of the September 11th release of her new album, Theater is Evil, former Dresden Dolls singer Amanda Palmer is offering a free, legal EP download. The sampler includes four songs from the new album along with three previously unreleased tracks. You can access the mp3s by entering your email address into the Noisetrade widget below…

Buy Amanda Palmer Music @ Amazon

Amanda Palmer Official Site