The Vinyl Frontier
Congress of the Animals
In the world of alternative comics, Jim Woodring is a mystic. His first graphic novel, Weathercraft, was lauded for being told with no dialogue and only pictures, but also criticized for being too metaphorical. Woodring’s characters, for years, have lived in the Unifactor, a place where its dwellers can never change. And in his latest, the heady Congress of the Animals, someone escapes. Change is upon them. What will life be like when it’s never the same? Congress is winning over critics and reinforcing Woodring’s place as an oracle in the wide world of graphic lit.
Weatherhead, Helms Alee
If the cats with lasers for eyes on the cover of Helms Alee’s new record, Weatherhead, aren’t enough for you, then perhaps the gravelly riffs within are. The follow-up to the Tacoma band’s excellent 2009 debut, Night Terror, is an album of surprises: a record that is equal parts pleasantry and assault. The band constructs complex, technical storm clouds (see “8/16” and “Music Box”) — songs that erupt violently before blooming into soft, melodic rolling landscapes of introspective guitar work and delicate harmony. The calm, for Helms Alee, always comes after the storm.