I had the opportunity to see Britta Phillips play in a reunited Luna the other night. Phillips is a member of the band and also has a new solo album called Luck or Magic, so the opening act of the Luna show was Phillips playing some of the songs from her new album, backed by the other three members of Luna.
(A friend of mine once went to a They Might Be Giants concert where the two members of They Might Be Giants opened for themselves, pretending to be a They Might Be Giants cover band. They played their beloved album Flood in its entirety as the opening set.)
Phillips' Luck or Magic songs she and Luna shared with us were so good I bought the album during the intermission between the Phillips set and the Luna set, and I've listened to it at least a dozen times in the less-than-a-week since.
Phillips has an ethereal quality to her voice. Gorgeous and clear. Her voice is pretty enough to take you away with it, but not plastic and Auto-Tuned like a pop star — she sounds very human and can convey confidence, danger, and soulfulness. The instrumentation on the record is poppy and synthy, but still lush and warm, which is a tough trick to pull off. She's Luna's bass player, so the bass lines on the album are particularly interesting. (She plays a number of the instruments on the record — there are only two other musicians involved, though you'd never guess that just by listening.) There's stylistic experimentation throughout Luck or Magic, but Phillips is able to keep the overall sound cohesive from song to song. I hear a lot of range in Phillips' voice and choice of material (half originals, half inspired covers), and it's a mercurial yet grounded album.
Luna was excellent live. (The only disappointment was how little Phillips sang during the Luna portion of the evening.) It's been over ten years since they were last active, but they played together like they'd never stopped. I only own one full Luna album plus their greatest hits (which sports a cover by indie cartoonist Adrian Tomine!), but I knew all but a handful of the songs they played. The standouts for me were their barnstorming takes on "Friendly Advice" and "23 Minutes in Brussels". They closed out with a couple covers — a Cure song called "Fire in Cairo" and a Beat Happening song called "Indian Summer", which was especially energetic.
I was excited to find out that Luna's recording together again. Frontman Dean Wareham told me after the show that they'd recorded seven tracks so far for a covers album (which will include the Beat Happening and Cure songs). I wonder if another album of original material will follow... As long as Phillips and Wareham keep making music, I'll be happy, and those two have made a few great records together without the other half of Luna as Dean & Britta (which was my entry to their music — a friend knew I'd love their sound and brought me to a Dean & Britta concert as they released their second album).
That said, this quartet has tremendous interplay, weaving their instrumental voices together beautifully. All four of them are strong musicians, and they make a big, complex sound despite their number. If I'd thought about it, I would've assumed there were a lot of overdubs on the Luna recordings, but it turns out that's likely not the case. A lot of times, with a four-piece band, you get a simpler sound, whether the band is rock or punk or pop or blues or some combination of those. But Luna plays together so tightly, and each musician has such a powerful musical personality, they create a full, powerful sound just between the four of them. It reminds me of the relationships between the members of The Band, but with a more controlled intensity and a sound reminiscent of the third Velvet Underground album (particularly the uptempo "Beginning to See the Light" and "What Goes On"). I'm listening to Luna's studio recordings with an even greater appreciation now.
I read Tillie Walden's sublime, intimate comic I Love This Part and then reread it as soon as I could. It's a short story of a blossoming and faltering relationship between two young girls. Telling her story in elliptical full-page vignettes, and drawing it in elegant lines and subtle watercolor, Walden gives us brief, understated moments that allow us to infer the character details. She dips into surrealism to better illustrate the inner lives of the characters, and I find her bold storytelling choices effective and inspiring.
I Love This Part is a masterpiece, and a continuation of work from a new voice in indie comics, already sure-footed and brilliant. I ordered the other Walden comic I could find, A City Inside, and her publisher Avery Hill tells me Walden's acclaimed debut, The End of Summer, will be back in print later this month.
Walden is also on Patreon. I've just pledged $3 a month to her, and I'll get to read the diary comics she posts there.
You can check out the first chapter of her new sci-fi webcomic here.
And speaking of sci-fi webcomics, mine continues today at michaelavolio.com. I add new Flesh Machine pages every Tuesday, and the whole story so far (136 pages and counting) can be read there.
Lucy Olmos leaves her home planet for the first time during intergalactic war...
And you can support my comics work on Patreon if you're enjoying Flesh Machine (or even if you aren't, honestly).
Thanks for reading!