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BOOKS: The Great Gritsby

January 31st, 2019



PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE: Gritty is only four months old, but in that time he’s shown up everywhere. On wedding cakes, on Jimmy Fallon, on Christmas ornaments, on a fake (hopeful?) cover of Time magazine. So consider us highly un-shocked to discover that our favorite orange fur-ball made an appearance on some more fake covers: This time of the literary variety, thanks to a series of mock-ups by local indie publisher Quirk Books. MORE

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BEING THERE: Amen Dunes + Arthur @ UT

January 31st, 2019



Despite the frigid wind and snow of a polar vortex—whatever that is—Union Transfer was packed with beanie-wearing, beer-guzzling indie kids last night. At first, the crowd was largely friends and family of opener Arthur, the experimental pop project of Arthur Shea. Shea also plays in Philly band Joy Again, who I’ve been following on the DIY scene for several years, watching them grow from playing in dingy basements to touring with Rostam (Vampire Weekend).

Arthur’s music is surreal and alien, full of bizarre sound effects and skittering pop keyboards. The overall impression is frenzied, like an over-caffeinated kid stabbing random buttons on a video game controller. Shea’s songwriting is manic and personal, the voice of your darkest, creeping thoughts. Tracks like “Woof Woof” teem with paranoia and insecurity. “Julie vs. Robot Julie” wrestles with caving loneliness. Onstage, Shea snuck sips of his Juul, tucking his chin into his turtleneck and exhaling vapor. “This song is about imagining yourself in a different timeline,” he said of “Ivy League,” the poppy lead single off Woof Woof.

Floor-shaking church organs sounded in the pitch dark, announcing the arrival of Amen Dunes. Damon McMahon appeared like a celestial being, his soulful vibrato reaching to the rafters. It’s impossible to make out what he’s saying, lyrics robbed of their meaning, words stretched into shapeless sounds. The set pulled from his breakthrough album Freedom, a work that blends blurred hallucinations and the sharp edge of reality. Songs like “Blue Rose” revive a classic rock vibe with grooving bass and seraphic synths. The band covered “Song to the Siren,” written by Tim Buckley. The groggy rendition sounded like it could have been an Amen Dunes original— everything sort of faded into one endless song, warped by McMahon’s sleepy drawl.– MARIAH HALL

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IN THE BEGINNING: Vinyl Mini-Box Set Of David Bowie’s Earliest Demos Lands On Earth April 5th

January 30th, 2019



With 2019 marking 50 years since David Bowie’s first hit, “Space Oddity,” Parlophone is set to release a 7″ vinyl singles boxed set of nine previously unreleased recordings* from the era during which “Space Oddity” was first conceived. The title SPYING THROUGH A KEYHOLE is a lyric taken from the previously unknown song “Love All Around” and though most of the other titles are known, these versions have never been officially released until late last year (see footnote). Most of the recordings are solo vocal and acoustic home demo performances, unless otherwise stated. The photography that adorns the box front and the print inside is by Ray Stevenson and was taken in Tony Visconti’s flat in the summer of 1968. The design of each single label is presented to reflect the way David sent many of his demos to publishers and record companies, featuring his own handwritten song titles on EMIDISC acetate labels. The singles themselves are all mono and play at 45 r.p.m. Due to the nature of some of the solo home demos where Bowie accompanied himself on acoustic guitar, the recording quality isn’t always of a usual studio fidelity. This is partly due to Bowie’s enthusiastic strumming hitting the red on a couple of the tracks, along with the limitations of the original recording equipment and tape degradation. However, the historical importance of these songs and the fact that the selections are from an archive of tracks cleared for release by Bowie, overrides this shortcoming. Complete track listing after the jump…
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BOOKS: The Importance Of Being Edward Gorey

January 30th, 2019



THE ATLANTIC: When the war was over, Gorey went to Harvard, where he set about the business of—as Dery puts it—“becoming Gorey.” His assistant dean found him to be a “queer looking egg.” But his best buddy was the poet Frank O’Hara, so who cares? There began the long coats, the many rings, the weary supremacy. He had crushes on other men. No sex, though, as far as Dery can ascertain, and no long-term companionship. Sedulous bachelorhood became the MO. Morrissey again: The hills are alive with celibate cries. Gorey moved to Manhattan in 1953 and churned out book covers for Doubleday’s mass-market imprint Anchor. This was also the year he published the first of his small books, The Unstrung Harp, about a novelist named Mr. Earbrass. Gorey would never again use so much prose in a book, but the prose was good and, more important, it was Gorey: “Mr. Earbrass stands on the terrace at twilight. It is bleak; it is cold; and the virtue has gone out of everything.”

His poetry, meanwhile, was poetry. A fugitive and lurid gleam / Obliquely gilds the gliding stream. So run the lines beneath a panel in his 1969 book The Iron Tonic. Parodic? Iron-tonic ironic? Yes and no. These are lovely, Tennysonian lines, but with a slight chemical distortion, as if Tennyson had forgotten to take his lithium. In the illustration, a tiny-headed man in a huge fur coat stands (transfixed? lost? dreaming?) in a snowy landscape, on the bank of a dark stream. Rods of light come poking through the low clouds, and the gliding stream is indeed obliquely gilded. It’s Gorey all the way down: a heavy-hanging antique atmosphere retro-injected with modernity, with anomie, with freaky deadpan emptiness.

Gorey entered the American cultural mainstream quite suddenly on the evening of February 5, 1980, when WGBH, the Boston PBS affiliate, debuted its Mystery anthology of British crime dramas. Mystery featured title sequences tracked by tango music and worked up by the animator Derek Lamb and his team from motifs in Gorey’s books: a pen-and-ink montage of rain, tombstones, flitting aristocrats, a disconsolately struck croquet ball being crushed by falling masonry, a woman’s cry, wilting and droopily orgasmic. The series was a hit, and Gorey—in his creeping, ivylike way—went nationwide.

His influence today, the seep of his sensibility, is pervasive: Dery efficiently lays out the debt owed him by the graphic-novel author Neil Gaiman, the cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the filmmaker Tim Burton, and any other fantasist who loiters in the dark gardens of childhood. “When I was first writing A Series of Unfortunate Events,” remembers Daniel Handler, the author of the Lemony Snicket series, “I was wandering around everywhere saying, ‘I am a complete rip-off of Edward Gorey,’ and everyone said, ‘Who’s that?’ Now everyone says, ‘That’s right; you are a complete rip-off of Edward Gorey!’ ” You can hear Gorey’s feline phrasing in the voice-overs of Wes Anderson movies. Or you can just look at a dusty chandelier, or someone in jodhpurs, or a particularly knotty, obscurely communicative tree, and say: Yup … Gorey-esque. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: Edward Gorey was a lot of things — illustrator, author, designer, screenwriter, animal lover, pop culture junkie, antiquarian aesthete — but above all else, he was, for better or worse, the post-modern godfather of goth, a lineage that stretches back to Edgar Allan Poe, the pre-modern godfather of goth. Absent Gorey’s meticulously cross-hatched pen-and-ink chiaroscuros — typically exquisitely gloomy drawing room goreyinteriors and the forlorn coal-eyed waifs that haunt them — there would be no Tim Burton. Though he illustrated and authored countless books from the 1950s through the 1990s, and continued re-packaging and publishing his work up until his death in 2000, Gorey’s touchstone work will forever be The Gashlycrumb Tinies, a splendidly macabre illustrated alphabet book wherein 26 children, each one named after a letter of the alphabet, die in ways both devious and dastardly. Late last year, Bloomsbury re-published The Recently Deflowered Girl, a faux -advice book for young women navigating the newly opened world of sexuality. Originally published in 1965 and long since forgotten, the book features Gorey’s renderings of the recently de-virginized girls, the unlikely suitors, and the outlandish settings where the dirty deed got done. The accompanying nudge-nudge-wink-wink text by Hyacinthe Phypps (aka Mel Juffe ) counsels the freshly deflowered ladies on how best to extricate themselves from these unseemly assignations with whatever is left of their dignity and pride. Back when it was originally published, The Recently Deflowered Girl was an amusing harbinger of the then-blossoming sexual revolution. Today, in age of sexting and Viagra ads on prime time, it is amusing for a whole other set of reasons — reasons that we asked Bloomsbury editor Margaret Maloney  to explain. It was Maloney who helped shepherd the book from the outer reaches of the Internet, where it was first re-discovered, to a Barnes & Noble near you.  MORE

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AVEY TARE: Saturdays (Again)

January 29th, 2019

Avey Tare, a.k.a Dave Portner of Animal Collective, has announced the new album Cows On Hourglass Pond, for release on March 22, 2019. Cows On Hourglass Pond was recorded between January – March 2018 by Dave Portner at Laughing Gas in Asheville, NC on a Tascam 48 half-inch reel-to-reel tape machine. The album was mixed by Adam McDaniel and Dave Portner at Drop of Sun in Asheville, NC. Tour dates after the jump…

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INCOMING: The Girl With The Most Cake

January 29th, 2019

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In comedy circles, Amy Schumer is the girl with the most cake these days. Given her hard-won red carpet ubiquity  — between Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer, her big-hit sketch comedy show now on apparent hiatus after four seasons, Trainwreck, the 2015 hit comedy film she wrote and starred in, and her Chris Rock-directed 2015 HBO comedy special Live At The Apollo, and all the attendant rounds of transcontinental interviews and talking head commentary, social media hand-wringing and blogospheric pearl-clutching that accompany such affairs — there’s no real need to explain who Amy Schumer is to anyone who hasn’t been chilling oblivious in a cryogenic chamber for the last three years.

Having achieved stardom on stage and screen and cable TV, it was only a matter of time until she set her sites on publishing. The result was 2016’s The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo. In the time-honored tradition of the celebrity tell-all — or more accurately, tell-some —  The Girl With The Lower Back is one part semi-gritty memoir, one part origin myth, one part brand force multiplier, and three parts gold rush, for which she was reportedly paid a jaw-dropping $9 million advance.

Here’s what we learn: she really, really likes wine. Preferably Rombauer Chardonnay or Opus One Cabernet. She likes weed. She likes sex. And she likes food, especially pasta and preferably right before before bed. Her parents meant well but were kinda jerks at one time or another (but then whose parents weren’t?). Her sister Kim plays Robin to her Batman, together they inflict vigilante verbal violence on unrealistic beauty standards for women, body-shaming, slut-shaming, eating-shaming, male/female pay disparities and all the other signifiers of institutionalized misogyny in the media industrial complex.
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TIM HEIDECKER: Ballad Of ICE Agent Ray

January 29th, 2019


Today, Tim Heidecker releases the Another Year In Hell: Collected Songs from 2018 EP via Jagjaguwar, the follow up to 2016’s acclaimed Too Dumb For Suicide: Tim Heidecker’s Trump Songs. He also shares a lyric video for “Ballad of ICE Agent Ray,” edited by Vic Berger and stylized with a still of Trump’s twitter and his comically characteristic misspellings.

Featuring six songs that are caustic renderings of MAGA characters, both imagined and real, Another Year In Hell boasts the same signature piano and guitar lines from Heidecker’s previous release, but with a sharper bite. While Too Dumb For Suicide made us question when we should stop laughing at our current administration’s incompetence, this release reckons with the disasters that occur at the intersection of stupidity and TimHeidecker-AnotherYearInHellcruelty. Heidecker marries the absurd to everyday horrors, building a distinctly contemporary hellscape throughout. Two years into the administration, we should know what we’re laughing at.

“It was another year in Hell,” says Heidecker. “And while it didn’t generate the number of songs the year before did, I’m glad to have these songs I’ve released throughout the year in one handy package. And for the first time you can hear a new orchestration of ‘Tobin and the Judge’ by Bobby Halverson. This song really only showed up on YouTube as a backstage live recording so I’m so glad there’s an official and quite beautiful version of it now. Also new to most everyone’s ears is:  ‘Rake the Floor’ which I wrote for Father John Misty’s Wildfire Relief Fundraiser.  Please enjoy!”

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GEEK SQUAD: The Birds Of Prey Teaser

January 28th, 2019

The Birds of Prey are an all female superhero team of mostly Gotham (the city where Batman lives) heroes. In addition of Margot Robbie reprising her role as Harley Quinn, the film will feature Jurnett Smollett-Bell (Friday Night Lights, True Blood) as Black Canary, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, 10 Cloverfield LaneI) as Huntress , Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain, the Star Wars prequel’s Obi Wan Ewan McGregor as the villain Black Mask, and Chris Messina (The Newsroom, The Mindy Project) as serial killer Victor Zsasz star. Birds of Prey (And the Fabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) just dropped a 20 second teaser and while it reveals no new information on the plot or anything but we do finally see most of the main characters in costume.  While the teaser flashes between each character quick enough where it is hard to tell who is who the tone it goes for is clear. The characters are chugging booze straight out of the bottle, shooting crossbows and writing curse words on their broken arms. Clearly this is a group of heroes who don’t give a shit about authority too much. Add while that was the selling point of Suicide Squad (2016) I feel like this film will actually watchable. I’ve previously written why I think this film can save DC’s live action movies and I still feel the same. –RICHARD SUPLEE

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BEING THERE: Neko Case @ The Keswick

January 27th, 2019



The first time I heard Neko Case sing was at a live show and she was singing just to me. The year was 2004 and I was at the Tower Theater, er, sorry, Tower Records, in Fairfax Virginia. The listening stations were a favorite spot of mine after classes. I’d post up on those shiny red stools and bury myself in whatever the staff was recommending at the moment, and in this moment it was The Tigers Have Spoken. I was hooked from song one and have been enthralled ever since.

Neko has THE voice – recognized across the room by everyone immediately – like Tori Amos, Tom Waits, or Tricky. Over the years that voice, often drenched in reverb, has been party to some of the best alt-country-folk-Americana-rock-blues trail mix this side of the Appalachians. Friday night, the Keswick Theater was blessed with that sound, and that voice in fine fashion, bringing along a lot of songs. Neko and crew brought a wide variety of her catalog to life. A healthy mixture of fan favorites and deep cuts made grand appearances. The soaring chorus of “Deep Red Bells” spread out majestically across the Keswick’s walls, and while she kept things mostly lively, there were periods of dirge-ier sounding songs, such as “Winnie” from her latest release, Hell-On.

While Case and company peppered the evening with banter, the music is where she seems most comfortable. A lot of crowd pleasers made appearances–“Lion Of Albion” “Hold On, Hold On” “This Tornado Loves You” “Halls Of Sarah” and “Margaret Vs. Pauline” all sounded magnificent. One of my favorites has always been “Maybe Sparrow.” It’s starts gently, weaving the cautionary tale of the titular Passeridae, and builds to an intense peak. The whole song is really an excellent showcase of Case’s vocal range, and that night was one of the finest renditions of it I’ve ever heard. At one point in the night, an enthused fan called out “We still love you!” Which was either in reference to a perceived mistake earlier in the evening, or a glorious call back to the end of “Train From Kansas City” on The Tigers Have Spoken. Whatever the case, we all did still love her, and I think the feeling was mutual. — MATT SHAVER

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Q&A With Daily Show Correspondent Dulce Sloan

January 24th, 2019



As a correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and hailed by Variety Magazine as a Top 10 Comedian To Watch, Dulcé Sloan is one of the sharpest, fastest rising voices in comedy. She has been named by Rolling Stone as one of the 10 Comedians You Need To Know and was hailed by Timeout LA as a 2017 Comedian to Watch. She has also been honored as the 2016 NBC Stand Up Showcase Winner, a Montreal Just For Laughs New Face and as a Comedian to Watch on The Steve Harvey Show.

Dulcé has “a voice that doesn’t pander or bully but comes at you straight. With a chaser of Joy,” according to She offers a fresh and honest perspective that speaks truth to power and eviscerates the status quo. She was cast in the FOX pilot Type-A opposite Eva Longoria and the Amy Poehler project Dumb Prince for NBC. She has also appeared on MTV’s Acting Out, Comedy Central’s @Midnight, Tru’s Comedy Knockout, made her stand-up debut on TBS’ Conan, and has made multiple appearances as a correspondent on E! News Daily. Her signature point-of-view and confidence drives her hilarious views on everything from her personal relationships to the absurdities of society. She performs at Punch Line Philly January 25-26TH.

PHAWKER: Many people develop a sense of humor as a defense mechanism in response to bullies or hostile social/family situations or in response to some deep personal trauma and others just seem to be born that way. Where do you fit on that spectrum? And when/how did you realize you were funny — like, funny enough to make a living at it?

DULCE SLOAN: I knew in school that I could make people laugh by telling stories or little anecdotes or being a comedic character in a play. But I didn’t think I could be a stand-up comic until a comic, Big Kenney Johnson, told me I was a comic and got me to take his Stand Up class.

PHAWKER: Who were your comedy heroes when you were coming up (maybe mention three)? What made them so relatable to you, or at least what made them so funny in your estimation, and what have you learned/borrowed from them?

DULCE SLOAN: My comedy heroes growing up were Lucille Ball because her physical comedy skills and acting where amazing, Carol Burnett because she had a way of making you root for and love any character she played and Margret Cho because she was such a powerful force onstage and her comedy came from her life experiences.

PHAWKER: You are not afraid to tackle social/political issues with your stand up. Care to weigh in on the whole Gillette #MeToo ad right wing backlash?

DULCE SLOAN: The backlash seems to be men wanting things to stay the same and being exactly the men the ad was talking about. lol

PHAWKER: On a related note, what is up with white women — or for that matter ANY woman — supporting Trump? I don’t expect you to be an expert on this, but I am sure you have an opinion. And we’d like to hear it.

DULCE SLOAN: I don’t have an opinion on those women because they live a life I will never understand. They live in a bubble reality and that must be nice.

PHAWKER: While we’re getting heavy, we’d also like to hear your thoughts on the R. Kelly controversy.

DULCE SLOAN: He is a monster and he has been able to get away with what he is doing for so long because his victims are black women.

PHAWKER: Do you have a strategy for dealing with hecklers — such as just ignore them, or a bring-a-gun-to-a-knife-fight overwhelming force response? Surely you have a funny story or two about all this.

DULCE SLOAN: I have different tactics for dealing with hecklers. Sometimes I ignore them

PHAWKER: What was the last joke that somebody told you that made you LOL. (Dirty is fine, as is corny/cute.)

DULCE SLOAN: One of my friends posted a video on IG about how he bought the Atlantic Ocean and told everyone to get out it. I can’t stop laughing at it.


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Win Tix To See Neko Case @ The Keswick Friday!

January 24th, 2019



A tomboyish siren with a thick red mane and lungs of fine Corinthian leather, Neko Case is equal parts gender warrior and indie aesthete, a potent hybrid aptly evoked by the Joan-of-Arc-on-a-muscle-car tableau on the cover of 2009’s Middle Cyclone. Case is also in possession of what is arguably the greatest voice of her generation — clarion in tone; trans-national in its reach; and bottomless in its capacity to transmute wryly-observed public fictions into inescapable private truths that all more or less boil down to: I am woman, hear me ruminate. She performs at the Keswick Theater tomorrow night in support of her acclaimed 2018 album Hell-On and we have a couple pairs of tix to give away to two lucky Phawker readers. To qualify to win, all you have to do is sign up for our mailing list (see right, below the masthead). Trust us, this is something you want to do. In addition to breaking news alerts and Phawker updates, you also get advanced warning about groovy concert ticket giveaways and other free swag opportunities like this one! After signing up, send us an email at PHAWKER66@GMAIL.COM telling us a much (or that you are so cool, you’ve long been on our mailing list), with the words NEKOPHILIA in the subject line, and the correct answer to this ridiculously easy Neko Case trivia question: What is the name of Neko Case’s other band? Hint: they are based in Vancouver. Include your full name as it appears on your photo ID along with a mobile number for confirmation (FYI, none of this info will be shared or even stored). Good luck and godspeed!


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January 24th, 2019

From the fourth Vampire Weekend album, Father Of The Bride, due out this spring. Stay tuned.

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WORTH REPEATING: Chasing The Ghosts Of LBJ

January 24th, 2019



NEW YORKER: I am constantly being asked why it takes me so long to finish my books. Well, it’s the research that takes the time—the research and whatever it is in me that makes the research take so very much longer than I had planned. I’m currently working on the fifth and final book in “The Years of Lyndon Johnson,” about the nineteen-sixties. I am also planning to write a full-scale memoir, describing in some detail my experiences in researching and writing my books about Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson—my experiences in learning about these two men and their methods of acquiring and using power—and also the efforts that were made to keep me from learning about these men and their methods.

Which leads to a final question: Why am I publishing these random recollections toward a memoir while I’m still working on the last volume of the Johnson biography, when I haven’t finished it, while I’m still—at the age of eighty-three—several years from finishing it? Why don’t I just include this material in the longer, full-length memoir I’m hoping to write?

The answer is, I’m afraid, quite obvious, and, if I forget it for a few days, I am frequently reminded of it, by journalists who, in writing about me and my hope of finishing, often express their doubts in a sarcastic phrase: “Do the math.” Well, I can do that math. I am well aware that I may never get to write the memoir, although I have so many thoughts about writing, so many anecdotes about research, that I would like to preserve for anyone interested enough to read them. I decided that, just in case, I’d put some of them down on paper now. MORE

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