Thursday, December 14, 2017

Get VATICAN ASSASSIN - The Graphic Novel #3 (of 4) Now!

Out Now from Glow-in-the-Dark Radio Comics...


Get it now at comiXology and DriveThruComics!

The tale of our VATICAN ASSASSIN, BC - Bernard Campion - goes on! He poses as a priest, but he kills for the Pope of the New catholic Church (NcC)! BC is supposed to be a PR man for the Cardinal and the Vatican Mission on Lunar Prime. But he's really a weapon fired at the UIN (Universal Islamic Nation) by the NcC and their allies the UTZ (Universal Trade Zone). As he's gone off, the repercussions are cosmic!

BC survives one brush with death only to find himself off on a new and even more dangerous mission, as Pope Peter and the Office of Papal Operations (OPO) send BC way off the beaten path - assigning him assassination of the charismatic leader of a religious cult holed up on an old orbital space station...

Now in Full Color! Written & Lettered by Mike Luoma, Art by Cristian Navarro, with Color by Juan Carlos Quattordio.

At comiXology
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Sunday, December 10, 2017

We All Gotta Work!

After getting the cold and prickly treatment from Rahkar and the Dakhur on the planet Hur – even as he returned their precious relic The Sunrise of Hur to them – Alibi Jones is headed home. And he has to go back to work! The Adventures of Alibi Jones continue – join us for free audio science fiction adventure every week, written and read by host Mike Luoma. He gives a short story-so-far in his intro – even first-time listeners can understand and enjoy the tale. This week, Chapter Thirteen of Alibi Jones and The Sunrise of Hur, on Glow-in-the-Dark Radio!   

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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Top Ten Albums of 2017 Part Two - Five to One

I can't write "Five to One" without hearing Jim Morrison in my head. Maybe that tells you something about my musical tastes, I'm not sure... We have reached the top five albums I liked best this year on my subjective list of favorites I share with you. These albums are each amazing in their own way!

Now... it's been brought to my attention I was a bit of a downer in the intro to part one. Well. Sorry about coming off cranky. Maybe it comes with turning fifty-two. Watching things going on in the world that are so wrong... ah, sorry again. Still, hope you enjoyed part one! And I certainly didn't mean to infer that the music wasn't up to par. If you listened to some tracks, you know. The music was good, wasn't it?

These five are just a bit better...

5. Steven Wilson - To the Bone - This album and #6, BNQT - Volume 1, are close together in my ranking. Decided Steven Wilson would get the higher spot because the early teaser track "Pariah" with Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb is so damn good! Someone asked, watching the video for the first time, "will there be an explosion of color?" Yes. Yes, there will be.

"Permanating" was another early-release track, along with "The Same Asylum As Before", "Refuge" and "Song of I" featuring Sophie Hunger - tracks two, three, four, five, six and nine - almost half the album, pre-released! Wild. Steven Wilson said To the Bone:
is in many ways inspired by the hugely ambitious progressive pop records that I loved in my youth (think Peter Gabriel’s So, Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love, Talk Talk’s Colour of Spring and Tears for Fears’ Seeds of Love). Lyrically, the album’s eleven tracks veer from the paranoid chaos of the current era in which truth can apparently be a flexible notion, observations of the everyday lives of refugees, terrorists and religious fundamentalists, and a welcome shot of some of the most joyous wide-eyed escapism I’ve created in my career so far. Something for all the family! 
"Permanating" embodies the joyous side:

4. Dan Wilson - Re-Covered - Feels a little odd to include an album of cover tunes, but Dan Wilson did co-write all the songs on this album (he's also no relation to Brit Steven Wilson...). The erstwhile frontman for Semisonic & former member of Minneapolis alternative darlings Trip Shakespeare has been a songwriter-for-hire of late, brought in to co-write songs with artists looking to find a new groove or a helpful, fresh perspective.

"Big Hits and Lesser-Known Jams, Illustrated, Illuminated, and Re-interpreted" it says on the cover of my book edition. Get the book. I'm serious. If there are any still available, get the book. Dan Wilson did calligraphy and drew cool pictures that you find throughout, including his giant center spread with all the songs. But more than that, he writes about songwriting - a little about writing each song, and some about the process itself. There's all kinds of insight into the mind of one of modern music's more successful contemporary songwriters.

And then, there's Dan Wilson's versions of the songs! His take on "Someone Like You" - the huge hit for Adele - has a sweet, different aura, with him on acoustic guitar accompanied by the Kronos Quartet, instead of Wilson on piano on the original. Speaking of calligraphy, you can watch him at work in the video.

One of the other big hits Wilson "Re-Covers" is his own band Semisonic's "Closing Time", given a whole different feel here - this time, it is Wilson on solo piano, almost giving his old hit the "Adele treatment" - if only because it's him on piano, I suppose. "Home" - a huge Country hit for Dierks Bentley - also gets a new gloss. Some songs here weren't hits - "Never Meant to Love You", written with and for Wisconsin-based singer songwriter Cory Chisel, was unknown to me before hearing it here - makes it sound like a fresh, new Dan Wilson tune!

So, they are "covers", but they're also the song's co-writer offering new interpretations of songs he helped write. Beautiful tunes I might have missed, like his co-write with Chris Stapleton "When the Stars Come Out", and songs heard a bunch, like "Not Ready to Make Nice", given a new spin. It is an amazing collection. And, again, if you can? Buy the CD with the book!

3. The War On Drugs - A Deeper Understanding - like To The Bone, A Deeper Understanding also introduced itself with stellar teaser tracks before appearing in full. The 11+ minute long "Thinking of A Place" debuted first, as both sides of a 12" single on Record Store Day. It's a beautiful excursion in song, with exquisite moments of tension and release.

"Holding On" was the first official "single" from the album, also released in advance, as was the album track "Strangest Thing" and single "Pain". "Strangest Thing" has an amazing guitar solo ripping through its almost ethereal serenity, so striking!

2. Blitzen Trapper - Wild and Reckless - You want an album with a cool backstory? This one is pretty awesome. Back in the spring, word got out about a wild project singer and writer Eric Earley and the band were involved in, writing songs and music for a musical they were part of in their hometown of Portland, Oregon (follow the link to see video from the musical!). It was set in Portland and featured both old and new songs from the band, who also performed roles in the stageplay.

According to the band: "The half musical, half rock-opera dealt with heroin abuse, desperation, true love and western power structures. The story evoked a bygone era of Portland with this sci-fi love story."

The Oregonian wrote a review back in March:
Set in a drug-plagued, dystopian Portland in a vague future, "Wild & Reckless," a new concert-musical hybrid, nonetheless dives into famed Portland rock haunts from the 1990s. Here's Chopsticks restaurant, known for its karaoke nights, not its food. There's popular punk hangout Satyricon nightclub. Holman's Bar & Grill, where you can "spin the wheel for a free meal," gets a shout-out.
The band released an album only available (initially) at the stage shows, with early versions of seven new songs from the show and the older tunes used, as well. I'm a fan, so I picked one up when they finally offered it on their web site. Nice to have new Blitzen Trapper music! And then? They finally released an album of the same name, a regular ol' LP, at the beginning of November, preceded by the title cut and "Rebel". Oddly, there's also a video from the spring of the tune "Stolen Hearts" - but it's obviously an earlier version, almost a demo, and it doesn't show up on the show CD.

And "Stolen Hearts" is so good on the album! Hear it for yourself:

The title track has that certain something... the old classic rock power the great ones tapped into. As John Pareles wrote in the New York Times:
Missing Tom Petty? He lives on in Blitzen Trapper’sWild and Reckless,” an accomplished slice of classic rock that unabashedly sounds like Mr. Petty singing a Springsteen song with the Heartbreakers’ California guitars and a harmonica intro from Neil Young... ...It’s the title song of an album due Nov. 3 based on a stage musical by the band, completed long before Mr. Petty’s death. But now it sounds like a ghost returning.
To me? It just sounds like great Blitzen Trapper!

1. elbow - Little Fictions - When it arrived early in the year, I thought this album was the harbinger of an amazing year of music to come. Instead, it turned out to be my musical highlight for the entire year. In hindsight, it's perhaps not fair to compare albums that followed to Little Fictions - it set the bar far too high! I've enjoyed elbow's music in the past. Nothing has ever connected with me the way this album did. It stood up to repeated listening in my car on the commute to and from work. Which meant that for a little while, I didn't even listen to other releases. It helps that the first single "Magnificent (She Said)" paved the way for this album so joyously!

I pretty much love every song on this album. The title track is epic! "Firebrand & Angel" has its own power (though unwittingly incorporates a bit of a My Morning Jacket song, used by kind permission of...). "K2" is also strong. But for a second song here I share "Head for Supplies" - so good! You should hear it for yourself:

That wraps up my Top Ten Albums for 2017. Again, this is subjective - only my opinion. If you have a passion for music, post YOUR Top Ten for 2017 somewhere. Spread the word about what you love - spread the word about music!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Top Ten Albums of 2017 Part One - Ten to Six

Ah, 2017...  kind of crap year, really. Wasn't it? Maybe yours was okay? Mine was pretty good for a while. A bout of head-to-toe poison ivy this summer showed me the way might be getting rough. And my year certainly ended like crap. But? At least there was music! Lots and lots of music released this year  - we certainly weren't lacking in quantity. Quality is always a different matter...

Narrow things still further down to personal picks for "best" albums of the year and that becomes a very subjective filter for quality we're talking about! And when it's me? I'm picky! I like what I like. For my own reasons, usually. And? I didn't like as much as I'd hoped to this year. Plus, I'm judging whole albums. This was a good year for singles, yet the albums behind some of them - those that had albums - didn't always have the depth one might hope for.

Could be my crappy-end-of-the-year perspective, I suppose. My #1 album did come out early on... but I thought it was a sign of a great year ahead. I was hopeful! And then? Well, it remains at #1, so certainly nothing better came along. Ahem. Still, here are ten very good albums! Best of the year, I say! And that #1 album is an AMAZING album, it is a bit unfair to the others to judge them by it.

These ten albums managed to cut through my jaded, less-than-welcoming exterior and entertained me. Made me feel something. Rocked my world a little. Best I came across. But it's just what I say - this list is purely subjective, with no pretense towards qualitative or objective assessment. These are simply the ones I liked. Hope you like 'em, too.

10. Low Cut Connie - Dirty Pictures (part 1) - Sometimes you need a little down n' dirty, straight ahead, piano driven, guitar thumpin' rock n' roll! In a tradition echoing back through the J. Geils Band to Jerry Lee Lewis, Low Cut Connie delivers a fresh new take on a "killer" sound, with charismatic frontman Adam Weiner pounding the keys and wailing about heartbreak. Or Revolution. Or "Controversy" - yeah, they take on the Prince tune...

It may be a cliche, but? You gotta see them live! I was already a fan and grooving on "Revolution Rock and Roll" a bunch when Low Cut Connie came to town as part of Grace Potter's Grand Point North Festival. Had to go see them. Live, Adam Weiner is a dynamo, radiating pure energy as the band rips through the tunes. He's on his piano! He's over his piano! He's diving into the crowd! He's hugging me! Yeah, he was hugging folks in the crowd as he made a circle through us, and I got hugged! You remember something like that.

9. Conor Oberst - Salutations - had to check to be sure this album came out this year - seems like such a long time ago. Suppose some of that has to do with the fact we got solo demo-ish versions of some of these on Ruminations last year. And maybe because, in some ways, this year has felt so damn long. For a long time now, Oberst has been touring with The Felice Brothers as his backing band (a killer live show, see it!), and they appear on Salutations, too. With one amazing exception...

I've never gotten into The Felice Brothers alone because they sound kind of loose and sloppy to me. And maybe not just me, because the amazing exception, the addition to the "band" for this album, is the most amazing timekeeper in rock, the best studio drummer of the last 50 or so years, the great Jim Keltner - who also serves with Oberst as the album's co-producer! This creates a fierce, barely checked alchemy, an urgent spontaneity under the light reigns of a master handler, all led by the vision of Conor Oberst.

I loved "A Little Uncanny" solo, and the band version rocks, "Tachycardia" comes off well, too. Some songs, I still prefer the early versions, like "You All Loved Him Once". But "Mamah Borthwick (A Sketch)" is the rare gem that sounds beautiful on Ruminations, and then, with the addition of sweet background vocals from Gillian Welch, even more amazing on Salutations - some of the best both albums have to offer!

8. Various - Thank You, Friends - Big Star's Third Live ...And More - I love it when an awesome project appears in front of you out of left field! Had no idea this release was even in the works and then the CD landed on my desk in the mail from the fine folks at Concord. They followed up with the CD/DVD combo pack so I could watch the show, too. This is a live recording of a special night in a traveling tribute to Big Star with a focus on their third album, a night when many special guests sat in with a tribute paying band line-up that was already stellar.

There was something special about the late Alex Chilton and his band Big Star, something quirky, melodic, pop-driven but fractured, charming but menacing, too. And though they never had huge pop success, the band's influence on the next couple of generations of musicians who followed in their wake was so widespread and impactful it was almost astonishing - as evidenced most overtly on songs like "Alex Chilton" by The Replacements, for example.

Jody Stephens, only surviving member of the band, sits in here on the drums. I've met Jody, and he's really nice, a humble, very gracious man - even when your complimenting him on being in such an influential band! He gives the project a grounding in the band and the work itself. Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer of The Posies played with Stephens and Chilton in the most recent, reconstituted version of Big Star. Their presence also ties the project into Big Star itself.

Mike Mills of R.E.M., Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Robyn Hitchcock, Chris Stamey of the dBs - there are a lot of cool musicians taking their turns at singing Chilton's tunes. Loved when his old band Trip Shakespeare covered it on their final release, the Volt EP, so it's great hearing Dan Wilson of Semisonic cover "The Ballad of El Goodo" here.  A great tribute, nicely presented.

7. Paul Weller - A Kind Revolution - I'm a big Paul Weller fan. Well, a big fan of some of what he does. Do believe he's brilliant. He's the kind of original artist who feels the need to sometimes push boundaries and get really experimental, angular or noisey, and I can't always follow him there. I love Weller's early, loud work with The Jam, don't get me wrong, it's more recent stuff like Wake Up the Nation (2010) or Saturn's Pattern (2015) that leave me cold. I like Weller's R&B side, certainly at its most indulgent in The Style Council, but it's Weller's pastoral British folk-rock side I like the most, as displayed most prominently on the classic, Traffic-influenced Wild Wood (1993).

A Kind Revolution touches on a little of each aspect of Weller. Lead track "Long Long Road" has the R&B flavor of Stanley Road (1995) - made me curious what sort of album was on the way this time! Second single "Woo Se Mama" kicks up the energy level to an almost ideal level:

There are tunes on the album I can do without, which is why this album isn't higher up the list, I suppose. Never been a Boy George fan, so I skip his guest spot on the Style Council-ish "One Tear". But rather than dwell on the negative, let's accentuate the clever musings on realist painter Edward in "Hopper", or the way "She Moves With the Fayre" brings many of Weller's worlds together. The jazzy R& B-flavored jam is rooted in the pastoral British sounds of Canterbury with help from vocals and trumpet work from Canterbury scene stalwart Robert Wyatt.

Overall a satisfying album from Weller - even if it does occasionally feel like a crowd-pleaser, as if sometimes he tries a little too hard, or nods and winks when you wish he wouldn't. But it's mostly good stuff for Weller fans - if you like his sort of thing, you're going to like it. More than likely.

6. BNQT - Volume 1 - Take four members of Texas band Midlake (Eric Pulido, Jesse Chandler, Joey McClellan, McKenzie Smith), add the lead singers from Travis (Fran Healy), Band of Horses (Ben Bridwell), Grandaddy (Jason Lytle) and Franz Ferdinand (Alex Kapranos), and you've got yourself what Pulido calls a "poor man's Travelling Wilburys"- BNQT!

Given the mix of talents and sensibilities involved, the album is a bit uneven. The Midlake guys together and each lead singer contribute two songs apiece to the project, for ten somewhat curious tunes. My favorites are those written by Pulido and company - "Real Love" features all of the "Supergroup's" members together on vocals, a la Wilburys. Jeff Lynne would recognize the beat, and George Harrison would, I'm sure, be humbled by the flattery inherent in the slide on the guitar. Add in a Beatle-esque brass section with a lilting piccolo and you get one of my favorite songs of the year:

Maybe it's because I'm into Midlake but not a huge fan of any of the other singer's bands, but it's the other Midlake-penned song that stands out for me as well, "Restart". Okay, I do kind of like Travis. But - funny story - I went to see an acoustic Midlake open for Band of Horses. Didn't stay through much of Band of Horses' set after Midlake opened. Sorry, Ben. Ben has a bit of a potty mouth, too. Wow - the lyrics on his second tune, Tara - lots of F bombs!

There's a "shit storm" in Fran Healy's L.A. On My Mind, too - so no worries on the lyric content. Kapranos' "Hey Banana" is fun, yet also slightly menacing. There's a sense these guys would not have done these songs with their usual bands. Obviously, this was a fun, relaxed project where the creators felt free to let go and create. Which makes it kind of awesome!

That's my 2017 Ten to Six... we'll do the Top Five in my next installment!

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Returning the Artifact

Alibi Jones recovered The Sunrise of Hur and turned it over to his Aunt Anita to take care of – a former Prime Rep, she still has a lot of behind-the-scene pull with the Solar Alliance government. But Alibi – and you – may be surprised at whom they choose to deliver the artifact to the Dakhur! Find out who that is – and go with them to the planet Hur – in Chapter Twelve of Alibi Jones and The Sunrise of Hur! As ever, there's a little story-so-far beforehand so you're ready for the tale ahead. The Adventures of Alibi Jones on Glow-in-the-Dark Radio – free audio science fiction adventure every week, written and read by your host Mike Luoma!

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Friday, December 01, 2017

Best Tracks of 2017

Hey, look at that calendar - it's December! That time of year when some of us get the urge to look back at the year that was - for me, the urge comes in music. It's the way I'm wired. So, here you go - this mix is HUGE - over 60 songs! Starts softer, finishes harder... Posted over at - my Best Tracks of 2017!

Now, technically, I'm kind of an "authority" on music, being the Music Director for The Point - Vermont's Adult Alternative Radio Network ( - I help pick out the new stuff you hear on the radio. But how one enjoys music is an incredibly subjective experience - and my end of year lists and collections are all admittedly my own, subjective opinion, through and through. This is not qualitative  nor authoritative - when I say "Best", I'm saying "This is what I liked". Simple as that.

If I didn't include something you think was awesome, that doesn't mean I'm saying you're wrong! Heck, let me know about it, if there's something that stirs your musical passion - email me using the link here on the blog, or find me on facebook or twitter. My lists reflect the music I seek out and what gets sent to me for work - so they do lean "Adult Alternative" in format.

Here's what I wrote over at 8Tracks: "As it winds down, time to listen back to some of my picks for the best new music releases from this year...Spoon, elbow, Low Cut Connie, many more! Huge mix - over 60 songs! A range of styles, mostly within the realm of Adult Alternative - starts softer, finishes harder, roams around in between (at least, the first time through). All from 2017 - Enjoy!!"

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Finder's Keepers

Alibi Jones has decided to turn over the alien relic he's recovered - the Travel Chair of Enokata - to Finder, in return for the one he's been seeking – The Sunrise of Hur. The Adventures of Alibi Jones continue on Glow-in-the-Dark Radio – free audio science fiction adventure written and read by your host Mike Luoma! Get into Chapter Eleven of Alibi Jones and The Sunrise of Hur – with a bit of a story-so-far to prep you for the chapter. Always free – every episode! And Glow-in-the-Dark Radio is now on Stitcher!   

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