Posts Tagged ‘Durham’

John Darnielle has written almost 600 songs now, and some of them are very sad, dealing with hard drugs and tragic ends, hurting yourself and others, sicknesses of both body and brain, off-brand alcohols. They are told in beautiful, unnerving, specific detail because he is a very good writer, and also some of them are just true stories about his own life.

The Mountain Goats released this live collection, The Jordan Lake Sessions: Volumes 1 And 2, on Bandcamp today via Merge Records. The recordings come from a pair of virtual concerts the band conducted at Manifold Recording in Pittsboro, North Carolina in August of last year.

The Jordan Lake Sessions: Volumes 1 And 2 follow The Mountain Goats’ 2020 studio release, “Getting Into Knives”, which arrived in October. The new live collection — featuring John Darnielle (vocals, guitar, piano), Peter Hughes (bass), Matt Douglas (keyboards, guitar, saxophone, piano) and Jon Wurster (drums) — contains 36 carrer-spanning songs the band recorded over the course of two virtual concerts on NoonChorus, which became one of the livestream platform’s highest-attended online concerts to date.

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Mountain Goats mastermind John Darnielle detailed

Like a lot of bands, we thought, we have to figure out some way to play together, it is unnatural for us to not be playing together, it feels weird and wrong, and it also feels weird and wrong to not be playing for the people who dig what we do, that is a huge part of who we are, it’s a circuit, you know, an energy transfer, it’s the coolest thing and we’re lucky to have it and then the pandemic came in to remind us just how lucky. And also there’s the I-try-not-to-be-talking-about-this-stuff issue of how playing live is our paycheck, it is how we make ends meet, it’s the gig. So we booked a studio that had cameras, and I put together a couple of set lists, and we played two shows in two days and then we put the shows up on sale; and the Mountain Goats Massive showed up, in truly humbling numbers, and the whole groove felt really emotional for us—and, it seemed to me, for the audience, too. There is an immense loss for me in this time away from the stages and rooms which are, in many ways for us, home. I miss the people who bring our music to life, so much.

And so a lot of people, like a lot, in the chat during the show, and in various @’s across social media, said, Hey buddy, what if there were a live release of some kind, I’d buy that, and I thought, well, cool, I’ll look into it; and we did indeed do that, and here it is, but I wanted to make it “pay what you like” on release day: because you people who already paid to see these shows, you are the people who literally put food in our children’s mouths this year. If you feel like you’re done paying for these shows, then we are cool with that, zero pressure. But!! if you’re in good shape, and your own job has figured out a way to let you report to the workplace in 2020, and you’re in a position to pay for these shows, then we are deeply grateful, it has been pretty harrowing to be banned from all clubs for a whole year. The news on the wire however is that a vaccine is coming which will unban us from clubs around the world, and, friends, when that viral ban is lifted, please know that there will be few places to hide from the Mountain Goats. We will rock them in the steel towns, and in the coastal towns, too; and on the cities of the plains, and in the oases of the desert, lo, we shall rock them, and then rock them even harder, at serious Deep Purple levels of rocking, the head-nodding, hair-flying style, at which many will say, I have been rocked, and indeed I wondered if my time of rocking were past, but it has returned this day with gale force. May that day speed hither with all due haste! Finally, if you are a reclusive Howard Hughes type reading these words, and thinking, What if “pay what you like” means I just throw an absurd amount of money at the Mountain Goats, well, friend, we’re glad to meet you. Please be assured that your gesture will be met by JD with similarly absurd gestures, as for example fulfilling his dream of commissioning a translation of the book Elfriede Jelinek got the Nobel for, but which still hasn’t been published in English twenty years later, for crying out loud.

Anyway that’s the news! Here’s two shows! We’re proud of them! If you wanna pay us for ’em, we won’t complain! We will see you next year!

Released December 4th, 2020

John Darnielle – vocals, guitar, piano
Peter Hughes – bass
Matt Douglas – keyboards, guitar, saxophone, piano
Jon Wurster – drums

Recorded live in studio at Manifold Recording in Pittsboro, NC, on August 8th & 9th, 2020

Al Riggs is back today with the new single “American Pencil” off of his upcoming album “I Got A Big Electric Fan To Keep Me Cool While I Sleep” from the opening notes there is a sense that this song is going to be full of dread. Those guitar chords are full of doom, the organ that comes in is haunting, and the drums are powerful. Al’s thoughts on what an artist is in today’s world are biting and stick with you long after you’ve listened to the track.

There is a big, honking, humming box fan in the bedroom of our barely-insulated century-old Durham house. Like most meaningless noise, it is white.

Noisier than this fan are the earworms that pervade the space. They’re in the walls, the floorboards, and even the couch cushions. The earworms–let’s call them Strum, Kick, and Wail–nest in our second bedroom: a de facto recording studio. I try not to interrupt the work. But upon hearing the demos for piano-powered “America’s Pencil” and the rhythmically elusive “Emo Revival,” I kicked the door in and, wearing little more than a handful of shaving cream, proclaimed “that’s the hit!” But they knew that already.

Al speaking about the song: “This is a song about being delusional and in your twenties and thinking you’re discovering poetic bitterness for the very first time. You sort of make every single thing in your life interesting for the sake of hopefully putting it in a song one day. Eventually some people learn that no one really cares about the sandwich you ate or the girl at the bookstore with the cool hair, and then some people just write ‘Universal Themes’.”

Those we know and/or love are present and accounted for. A.C. Niver’s pure tones make “Wishing and Clapping” a Three Stooges-esque harmonic casserole while Chuck Johnson’s pedal-steel witchery makes “Blighted By the Light” as dreamlike and borderless as a Carolina Country Night. Neither queer nor country enough in their own right, Al booked two of the gayest fabric samples in the business Patrick “Lavender Country” Haggerty and Paisley Fields to plug up the holes in “Ragged But Right.”

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Like shuffled pages from random chapters of a yet-to-be-finished novel about being an old queer married couple (in our 20s and 30s yet), the sonic scraps have been dropping clues to what was to come: I Got A Big Electric Fan to Keep Me Cool While I Sleep

Releases April 2nd, 2021

Merge Records is an independent record label based in Durham, North Carolina. It was founded in 1989 by Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan. It began as a way to release music from their band Superchunk and music created by friends, and has expanded to include artists from around the world and records reaching the top of the Billboard music charts.

We live in North Carolina, where a racist Republican legislature has worked for a generation to undermine democracy through unprecedented voter suppression. Our neighbours in Georgia have successfully fought back, through the efforts of Fair Fight and other organizations. The voters who turned Georgia blue in November can now elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, take back power in the Senate, and make true progress possible in this country.

The Merge Records artists on this comp came together quickly, recording in various quarantine situations, to pay tribute to their favourite artists from Georgia, or maybe just record their favourite songs with “Georgia” in the title, and to support those working hard in Georgia to make sure everyone’s voice is heard.

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Released December 4th, 2020

Sylvan Esso is Amelia Randall Meath and Nick Sanborn. A Band. With the swift demise of concerts as we know them this year, the live album has taken on a significance it’s not enjoyed for the better part of a half-century. So lucky were we that Sylvan Esso released “With” and its accompanying concert film a month into what felt like the end of everything good. Calling on a row of musician-friends hailing from Landlady, Hand Habits, Bon Iver, Mountain Man, and Mr Twin Sister, the already-great-live duo burn through a jaw-dropping set that recasts their catalogue with the warmth of eight further beating hearts, giving fans less of a reason to mourn the shows that could not be, but rather a glimmer of those to look forward to yet. 

Surprise! Our new “With Love” EP, featuring songs from the extra special From The Satellite performance, is available for streaming. Like its sister record “With” this album reimagines Sylvan Esso’s works as a full band, adding new layers and textures to these classic songs. The live version of “Free” at the end of this is hauntingly, intimately perfect. Twenty minutes and fifty eight seconds of sublime joy. The big band Sylvan Esso vibe is the finest thing there is.

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This tour existed only to exist, not to promote a new album or celebrate a milestone. No, Sylvan Esso simply wanted to do something fun. For themselves, for their fans, and for us, their friends, who got easily roped into being in the ten piece band. We were all sent the song list in advance, with just a few written ideas of what some of us could do on each song, but largely it all remained open for interpretation and when we convened in the house to rehearse in Durham for the first time. On the first day we played the song “Wolf,” checking the pulse of the band, how would we sound together, how would we arrange together, and how much homework did everyone actually do? The first take of that song put everyone immediately at ease and also turned up the temperature. Because it went really well. We knew how good this could sound, how different it could be from the original recordings and how special that would feel for the crowd, and for us. “Wolf” ended up being the first song in the set. “Wolf” became the anchor, before the rocket ship would take off each night. Yes I know I made a boat analogy early. And now I’ve shifted to space. That’s an accurate representation of how this show ended up.

The first four days we would just keep chipping away at songs, written on a large piece of butcher paper on the wall in fat marker, and we’d cross them off one by one as we hit them. The first day was a dream because we learned five songs and they all sounded great. The second day was impossible, because we had to learn five more songs, and then suddenly the songs from the first day weren’t so perfect anymore. That’s the big problem with getting better. Your ceiling goes up, the standards rise, and the goods can always keep improving, which means, in more pessimistic terms, it can always also keep sounding worse. There were twenty songs to learn, so there was a lot of bucking and bobbing back and forth between feeling over-confident and supremely challenged. Sometimes that had to do with how hungry we were.

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After the family style rehearsals concluded, we headed to Los Angeles for tech rehearsal. To get there involved thirteen of us, band and crew, flying on an airplane. Thirteen people each checking three bags. Thirteen people moving through the airport together is insane. It’s like a school trip. After the tour was done Nick and Amelia remarked on how ridiculous it was that we didn’t do any warm-up shows, how insane it was that we jumped into the fire at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a Frank Gehry designed space for the LA Philharmonic where a portion of the audience sits behind you. But we did it. For over two thousand people on night one, we did it, and we did it surprisingly well. We had our expectations set to cautious, because sometimes the first show can be a true disaster, it almost is supposed to be, but everyone cared so much and worked so hard and the stakes felt so high that somehow a meltdown just didn’t happen. 

The last two shows were homecoming shows in Durham, a little different feeling from the classic theatres, and these were the shows that were filmed for what you’re seeing here and now. I’m excited to watch it just so I can see the light show from the front. We were so sad when it ended but there wasn’t a formal goodbye. Folks trickled off to go home, and a bunch of us watched a movie the next day. It’s implied that we will be together again, we’re just not sure how or when. Those of us who don’t live in North Carolina feel ourselves threatening ourselves to move there, but I don’t see it happening for me. I like being called to serve and being swept into the vortex, then returning home to wait for the next vortex to assemble

Merge Records is an independent record label based in Durham, North Carolina. It was founded in 1989 by Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan. It began as a way to release music from their band Superchunk and music created by friends, and has expanded to include artists from around the world and records reaching the top of the Billboard music charts.

We live in North Carolina, where a racist Republican legislature has worked for a generation to undermine democracy through unprecedented voter suppression. Our neighbours in Georgia have successfully fought back, through the efforts of Fair Fight and other organizations. The voters who turned Georgia blue in November can now elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, take back power in the Senate, and make true progress possible in this country.

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The Merge artists on this comp came together quickly, recording in various quarantine situations, to pay tribute to their favourite artists from Georgia, or maybe just record their favourite songs with “Georgia” in the title, and to support those working hard in Georgia to make sure everyone’s voice is heard.

For nearly three decades under the Mountain Goats moniker, John Darnielle has been honing his craft as a songwriter and story-teller, shifting from those early direct-to-boombox recordings to elaborate concept albums about Professional Wrestling and Dungeons & Dragons, and generally finding a way to do whatever he wants. His latest project manifests in the new album, Getting Into Knives, “the perfect album for the millions of us who have spent many idle hours contemplating whether we ought to be honest with ourselves and just get massively into knives”. The album was laid to tape in the legendary Sam Phillips Recordings studio, an attempt to capture the spirit of the touring show that has blossomed with their current four-piece band.

The album will arrive on Merge at the end of next month, and this week they’ve shared the latest single from it, Get Famous.

While anyone who has even cast a flitting eye in the direction of The Mountain Goats’ music will probably realise, the thought of actually getting famous has never been top of their to-do-list. Instead here the idea is presented like acid in John’s mouth, spitting out his words at fame hungry stars, “light up the sky like a comet, make yourself want to vomit, shine like a cursed star, show everybody exactly who you are”. He even throws in a reference to Wesley Willis, the cult singer-songwriter, diagnosed with schizophrenia who was in some ways the antithesis of fame itself, to the point he was noted for greeting his fans with a headbutt. Like most of the best moments of The Mountain Goats, the playful lyricism is combined with some genuinely fabulous music, here they seem to channel the spirit of The Swampers or the Spacebomb House Band, combining virtuoso musical talent with a sense of undeniable fun, from the howling organ to the bright brass flourishes, surely destined for choreographed performances once you’re allowed enough people on a stage at one time. A band who know exactly what they’re doing and are at the top of their game, The Mountain Goats might never have sounded better, let’s just hope for their sake they don’t get famous because of it.

The day I wrote this song I knew the wait to share it would be excruciating AND IT HAS BEEN but today! is! the! day! across all platforms right now! Get Famous!. John Darnielle has written almost 600 songs now, and some of them are very sad, dealing with hard drugs and tragic ends, hurting yourself and others, sicknesses of both body and brain, off-brand alcohols. They are told in beautiful, unnerving, specific detail because he is a very good writer, and also some of them are just true stories about his own life.

“That kinetic rush of the record’s creation can be felt in first single ‘As Many Candles as Possible,’ which features Al Green’s organist Charles Hodges.” – Brooklyn Vegan

“The track opens with a bristling twist of guitars and rumbling drums before settling into a steady groove. A distorted crunch underpins the primarily acoustic proceedings, helping the song build to a pitch-perfect freakout, featuring Al Green’s organist Charles Hodges.” – Rolling Stone

“The album news arrives with the release of dark, squally lead single “As Many Candles As Possible,” which features Al Green organist Charles Hodges and builds to a churning catharsis.” – Indy Week

“Recorded across a single week in Memphis, the album trades between piano-driven intimacy and stormy bombast, the latter of which is on display in its lead single, ‘As Many Candles As Possible.’ Featuring Al Green’s organist Charles Hodges, the dark and swampy track reflects the Deep South milieu in which it was recorded.” – A.V. Club

Limited Edition salmon vinyl, tapes, and pins are almost sold out,

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releases October 23, 2020

RECORDED AT
Sam Phillips Recording, Memphis, Tennessee March 1–6th, 2020

John Darnielle: vocals, guitars, piano
Peter Hughes: electric and upright bass
Matt Douglas: keyboards, woodwinds, guitars, accordion, backing vocals
Jon Wurster: drums and percussion

JOINED FOR THE OCCASION BY
Bram Gielen: piano, guitars, keyboards
Chris Boerner: guitars
Charles Hodges: Hammond B-3
Sam Shoup: Mellotron
Tom Clary: horns
Reba Russell: backing vocals
Susan Marshall: backing vocals

“Bile and Bone” is the new album from songwriter al Riggs and guitar annihilator Lauren Francis.

Two years in the making, and in between countless side-projects, singles, side-albums, and a premiere at Hopscotch Music Festival 2019, Al and Lauren recorded this nine-song album in two different New York apartments, an apartment in Durham, a house on the other side of Durham, and additional recording in yet another house on yet another side of Durham.

Produced by Francis and mixed/mastered by Alli Rogers (recently an engineer on Bon Iver’s “i,i”), Bile and Bone is a culmination of familiar themes and tropes in Riggs’ songwriting (horror movie monsters, queer politics, puns) taffy-pulled into a widescreen format by Francis’ production and arrangement. Swaths of strings and electric piano are cut through by chunky acoustic guitar that sometimes teeters on the intrusive. Flirtations with soft rock (“Werewolf”) motorik pop (“Boyfriend Jacket”) and Eno-esque ambient balladry (“Apex Twin”) sit snugly against the ghosts of Fahey (“Dying Bedmaker Variations”) and the dust-clogged remnants of a pawnshop (“Love Is An Old Bullet”).

The title track is a shuffling climax of held-back fury, summarizing the overall air of the album with volatile lyricism (“I should not be in a place/where I am on my knees each night/praying for my leaders/to be shot down on sight”) with classic pop harmonies provided by Rook Grubbs (Vaughn Aed).

The end result is a patchwork of beauty with claw marks. Possibly cat, possibly wolf-person, definitely lovely.

“At the very end of the opening track, a sound is heard, a warped deviation, and you might, for a moment, think that it was Satan. Not the Satan our parents’ parents rejected in recordings, but rather a new, much improved Satan 2.0, leading by example of sensitivity and risky business, no longer mutually exclusive. Do not fear it. Give in and go forth and enjoy.”
-Adam Schatz (Landlady, expert on Satans)

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“It is their best and most compelling record yet, Riggs singing songs about self-realization during a moment that badly wants to beat you into preordered shapes, delivered with both tenderness and intensity over matching acoustic picking. A work of clarity and reckoning, it is the album that Riggs has been building toward for this busy past half-decade.”

Released September 18th, 2020

BIle and Bone is an album by Al Riggs and Lauren Francis

All words by al Riggs
All music by Al Riggs and Lauren Francis

Image may contain: one or more people, people on stage, people playing musical instruments and night

 

Recorded across the year 2010 at Mana Recording Studios, St. Petersburg, Florida; Fidelitorium, Kernersville, North Carolina; Q Division, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Mission Sound, Brooklyn, New York

with: Bob Barrone – steel guitar / Yuval Semo – organ; piano on outer Scorpion Squadron / Yoed Nir – cello / Gillian Rivers – violin / all string arrangements by Yuval Semo / vocals on High Hawk Season arranged by Daniel Perry and performed by the North Mountain Singers: Daniel Roihl, Daniel Perry, and Darrick Yee

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Damn The Vampires, Prowl Great Cain, For Charles Bronson, and Never Quite Free produced and mixed by John Congleton; High Hawk Season produced and mixed by Brandon Eggleston; Birth of Serpents, The Autopsy Garland, Beautiful Gas Mask, and Sourdoire Valley Song produced by Erik Rutan and mixed by Brandon Eggleston; Estate Sale Sign, Age of Kings, Outer Scorpion Squadron, and Liza Forever Minnelli produced and mixed by Scott Solter

all song lyrics and music by John Darnielle

The Mountain Goats:
John Darnielle, Peter Hughes, Jon Wurster

“Bile and Bone” is the new album from songwriter al Riggs and guitar annihilator Lauren Francis.

Two years in the making, and in between countless side-projects, singles, side-albums, and a premiere at Hopscotch Music Festival 2019, Al and Lauren recorded this nine-song album in two different New York apartments, an apartment in Durham, a house on the other side of Durham, and additional recording in yet another house on yet another side of Durham.

The track represents a somewhat different approach to writing for al, as they explain, “the song was a collection of lines and ideas I had for other songs…I started putting them together and it felt like creating a thrift store or pawn shop out of these ideas, so the song became about a pawnshop”. After an initial scepticism at its originality, Lauren Francis came to love the track, “at first I was like, damn this sounds like This Year by The Mountain Goats, but that’s a good thing. I wanted to make it our own…this has since become my favourite track because it’s so simple“.

Musically, like the best collaborations, this feels like the coming together of two musical worlds. Al’s background as an acoustic songwriter merges with Lauren’s contributions of guitar, piano, and, as she explains, after the pair debated the introduction of full- drums, “I added the bass drum loop just to give it some momentum”. The resultant track seems to exist in almost two different paces, al’s easy vocals and the meandering piano line seem to watch the world go round, while the prominent pulse of bass-drum throughout adds a certain urgency to proceedings.

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Swaths of strings and electric piano are cut through by chunky acoustic guitar that sometimes teeters on the intrusive. Flirtations with soft rock (“Werewolf”) motorik pop (“Boyfriend Jacket”) and Eno-esque ambient balladry (“Apex Twin”) sit snugly against the ghosts of Fahey (“Dying Bedmaker Variations”) and the dust-clogged remnants of a pawnshop (“Love Is An Old Bullet”).

The title track is a shuffling climax of held-back fury, summarizing the overall air of the album with volatile lyricism (“I should not be in a place/where I am on my knees each night/praying for my leaders/to be shot down on sight”) with classic pop harmonies provided by Rook Grubbs (Vaughn Aed).

Love is An Old Bullet will to some be a beautiful introduction, and to those who know already, a further reminder that the combination of Al and Lauren might just have made one of the year’s most compelling records.

“Bile and Bone” is out September 18th via Horse Complex Records

John Darnielle has written almost 600 songs now, and some of them are very sad, dealing with hard drugs and tragic ends, hurting yourself and others, sicknesses of both body and brain, off-brand alcohols. They are told in beautiful, unnerving, specific detail because he is a very good writer, and also some of them are just true stories about his own life. Roughly four months to the day that Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle dropped Songs For Pierre Chuvin, his first “boombox” LP since 2002, the songwriter’s back with a new Goats’ LP. Called “Getting Into Knives”, it’s described in a press release as “the perfect album for the millions of us who have spent many idle hours contemplating whether we ought to be honest with ourselves and just get massively into knives.” We are those millions, readers. Recorded across a single week in Memphis, the album trades between piano-driven intimacy and stormy bombast, the latter of which is on display in its lead single, “As Many Candles As Possible.” Featuring Al Green’s organist Charles Hodges, the dark and swampy track reflects the Deep South milieu in which it was recorded. 

The Mountain Goats have announced their new studio album Getting Into Knives. The LP arrives October 23rd via Merge Records and is led by the new single “As Many Candles as Possible.” Take a listen to that below. Getting Into Knives is the follow-up to April’s Songs for Pierre Chuvin, which John Darnielle recorded alone on his boombox.

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On New Year’s Day 2019, now a distant world away, Maggie Smith, author of “Good Bones,” tweeted a plotline for an imaginary buddy movie about a divorced woman driving around the US with her wedding dress, taking it all around the country. I thought to myself: what if she’s taking it to places she didn’t go when she was married, what if she’s showing her dress the life she didn’t live? I hunkered down and a couple hours later I’d written “Picture of My Dress.”

In March of 2020, also now a distant world away, we recorded the tune with Matt Ross-Spang at Sam Phillips Studio in Memphis. Playing on the track are the Mountain Goats John, Peter, Jon, and Matt — plus Bram Gielen and Chris Boerner for that extra sweetness. We were assisted in the studio by one hell of a nice guy named Matt Denham, who died unexpectedly this week and we are all torn up about it because he was a real one so I am sending this out to you, bud. Everybody else give an extra head-nod while you listen to the studio attaché with the gentle way, a song like this can only be the result of everybody in the room being on the same wavelength and his contribution was a special energy that this world will miss but the next one is presently richer for. Enjoy!,

Releases October 23rd, 2020

“That kinetic rush of the record’s creation can be felt in first single ‘As Many Candles as Possible,’ which features Al Green’s organist Charles Hodges.” – Brooklyn Vegan

“The track opens with a bristling twist of guitars and rumbling drums before settling into a steady groove. A distorted crunch underpins the primarily acoustic proceedings, helping the song build to a pitch-perfect freakout, featuring Al Green’s organist Charles Hodges.” – Rolling Stone
“The album news arrives with the release of dark, squally lead single “As Many Candles As Possible,” which features Al Green organist Charles Hodges and builds to a churning catharsis.” – Indy Week
“Recorded across a single week in Memphis, the album trades between piano-driven intimacy and stormy bombast, the latter of which is on display in its lead single, ‘As Many Candles As Possible.’ Featuring Al Green’s organist Charles Hodges, the dark and swampy track reflects the Deep South milieu in which it was recorded.” – A.V. Club