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Miss Von Trapp’s “Songs to Die For” available now on Bandcamp

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If you like dark, twisted nursery-rhyme songs performed with a cello and a Mary Poppins accent, then head over to Bandcamp now and get your mitts on a copy of Songs to Die For, the new record from Miss Von Trapp. It features nine little nuggets of dark whimsy, including rewrites of “Daisy Daisy” and “Rule Brittania” (renamed “Cruel Brittania”) that reveal those old chestnuts to be the sick, depraved anthems we always knew them to be.

All this will set you back five quid, as the Brits like to say, which we believe translates to something like 10 bucks. Although by the time you read this, the whole American economy may have collapsed because of that whole sequester thing. So maybe it’ll be more like 20 bucks.

Here’s that Bandcamp link again. Enjoy!

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Miss Von Trapp

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Well, after a humdinger of a Facebook poll, we are ready to crown our first Weird Band of the Week of 2013. Or maybe we’ll crown the severed head that accompanies her at most of her shows. Apparently the head is named Anne Boleyn, so that seems more appropriate.

Miss Von Trapp is the stage persona of one Lizzi Fugeman. She hails from England, plays the cello and sings Goth-Victorian folks songs about children being poisoned by eels and the inner musings of Jack the Ripper and other such cheery subjects. She also wears stripey stockings and creepy doll makeup. She calls her music “Murderously Quirky Dark Cello Cabaret” and “performance poetry to revolt and entertain.” She’s kind of Rasputina meets the Tiger Lillies meets the room this old spinster named Priscilla kept full of creaky antique toys on the street where I grew up. If that room had had a soundtrack, I bet it would’ve sounded exactly like Miss Von Trapp. Come to think of it, what the hell was I ever doing in that room? My parents did not inculcate me with a proper sense of Stranger Danger. If I were the subject of a Miss Von Trapp song, I surely would have met an untimely end.

Miss Von Trapp has a new album called Songs to Die For coming out later this year, which you’ll no doubt be able to read all about here, as soon as we can wheedle a copy out of her. Meantime, here she is performing a pair of original songs, “Tragic Moments” and “Roses Are Red,” at something called the Dolly Delights Burlesque Peep Show and Cabaret. Oh, those saucy Brits and their salacious peep shows, featuring buxom cello players in doll makeup and granny glasses. Be still my boiling tea bags!

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P.S. We’re still recuperating from our latest Facebook poll, but we’ll have a new one soon. Promise.

Get yourself a personalized music video from Rasputina’s Melora Creager

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Have you ever watched a Rasputina video and thought to yourself, “This is cool and all, but I’d be way more into it if Melora was playing cello in a full Barney the Purple Dinosaur costume”? Well, now’s your chance to ask her to do it.

Yep, starting this month, Melora Creager is offering to shoot personalized music videos for any Rasputina song. The price tag for each video is $350, which sounds steep until you consider that’s probably how much you paid for that abstract landscape painting you bought at Art Walk after drinking too much Two Buck Chuck. And while that crappy painting doesn’t take requests, Melora does: You can suggest costume elements, give her acting directions (the examples she gives are “extra-sad” and “nerdily seductive”) and even ask her to change the lyrics to better suit your boundless ego (“Andy of the Grotto” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?). “You cannot dictate what I make,” she explains on her website, “but any suggestion by you, the collector, will inspire me and lend direction to the piece.” Just don’t be the first douchebag to ask her to take her clothes off, OK? This is art, people.

Watch Melora’s infomercial below for more about her Personalized Music Videos© and visit Rasputina’s “Handicraft Shoppe” if you have the scratch to request one. And be sure to check out the sample personalized video she made for her boyfriend Gabe. As you can see, the production values ain’t exactly Bruckheimer, but it’s pretty entertaining nonetheless.

Rasputina

Let’s be clear here: We’re not including Rasputina on TWBITW just because they’re a cello band. Lots of rock bands actually feature cellos (Avett Brothers, Belle & Sebastian, Ra Ra Riot, etc.) and another band, Apocalyptica, even uses the same format as Rasputina (multiple cellos + drum kit) to play something they call “symphonic metal,” which is arguably weirder that what Rasputina has traditionally stood for, i.e. chicks in quasi-Victorian garb doing sort of gothy chamber music.

No, the reason Rasputina rates a spot on The Weird List boils down to one thing: Melora Creager. Over Rasputina’s 15+ year history, she has proven herself time and again to be one of the most fabulously weird, eccentric characters in all of music. Without her unique songwriting style, her quirky obsessions with historical emphera, and her ingenuity for coaxing new sounds out of the cello, Rasputina would be a one-trick pony that wore out its welcome ages ago. Instead, they’ve managed to still sound fresh over five studio albums and various EPs and live discs. (The fact the band’s lineup has evolved even faster than Creager’s increasingly fanciful costumes probably hasn’t hurt, either.)

Rasputina is probably best-known for doing cellified (is that a word? is now!) versions of classic rock songs like “Barracuda” and Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” and they’ve also been known to breathe new life into creepy old folk songs (“Wicked Dickie,” a little dirge about “an old man who had but one cow,” is my personal favorite). Creager even released a limited-edition recording called Ancient Cross-Dressing Songs that features three…well, ancient cross-dressing songs. Like we said, this woman knows her ephemera.

But it’s Creager’s original songs that really make Rasputina stand out. Many of them delve into very specific historical material, like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire or the Year Without a Summer; some are based on 19th century pulp fiction (the truly excellent “My Captivity by Savages“) and other esoteric source material; some employ historical figures but are apparently just the product of Creager’s lurid imagination (“Incident in a Medical Clinic,” which casts Mary Todd Lincoln as a fevered madwoman leading an army of blimps…no, really). Other song titles speak for themselves: “Momma Was an Opium Smoker,” “Transylvanian Concubine,” “The Donner Party.” Then there’s “Choose Me for a Champion,” which is based on an Osama Bin Laden speech. Yep, for Creager, pretty much nothing is off-limits.

The best part? Much of Rasputina’s music is actually downright catchy, despite its frequently bizarre subject matter and the fact that most of what you’re hearing is cellos. Okay, the song about Josef Mengele is a bit of a downer, but much of the Rasputina catalog is actually quite beautiful, or rockin’, or often both.

Rasputina’s sixth studio album, Sister Kinderhook, comes out this summer on Creager’s own Filthy Bonnet label. We’re stockpiling absinthe in preparation for a marathon listening session the day it comes out.

Apart from a rather ridiculous clip dating back to their brief stint on Columbia Records in the late ’90s, Rasputina haven’t done much in the way of music videos–which is too bad, because Creager’s doll-like features and steam-punky fashion sense are pretty photogenic. Still, this live clip of a track from the group’s best (IMHO) album, Frustration Plantation, gives you a pretty good idea of what their all about. We assume she’s running her cello through some kind of guitar pedal to get that effect, but however she’s doing it, it totally makes us want to rock out–in a top-hatted, Victorian sort of way. Maybe snort a line of snuff off a chorus girl’s bloomers?

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Dead Man’s Bones

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Okay, let’s see: You dress up as Frankenstein and the Wolfman in your publicity photos. Your first song features a children’s chorus–dressed up in Halloween costumes. Some of your first concerts are taking place at a children’s marionette theatre. Sounds like a TWBITW candidate to us!

But wait, it gets better: Dead Man’s Bones is a collaboration between L.A. actor/musician Zach Shields and…wait for it…actor/musician Ryan Gosling. Yes, the Ryan Gosling. The dude who was so awesome in Lars and the Real Girl and Half Nelson…and The Notebook, or so my girlfriend tells me. Who says all actor-fronted bands suck?

According to the band’s official bio, Dead Man’s Bones sprang into existence from a shared love of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland, plus old horror movies, ghosts, graveyards and anything generally creepy and macabre. It evolved according to a strict set of rules that forced Gosling and Shields not to conceal their occasional amateurishness, or that of their collaborators, which mainly include local choruses and choirs. The resulting music sounds kinda like what Tom Waits might create if he gave up making records and went off to run a children’s theatre. It’s spare and spooky and surprisingly elegant–and very, very weird. Their debut album is due out October 6th on Anti Records–also home to Tom Waits, as it turns out. We can’t wait to hear the rest of it.

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