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The Department of Tangents Podcast


Years ago, playing a sort of improv game with friends in which we all picked super powers based on our personalities, I dubbed myself “Tangent Lad.” I was not a very strong superhero, and I could not defeat a super villain on my own, but I could distract them with Monty Python quotes and football trivia. I have many times since apologized to an interview subject in my capacity as a journalist by saying, “I am either very good or very bad at tangents, depending on how you feel about tangents.”

I had a rough time coming up with the concept and naming this blog/podcast. I knew I wanted to create a place where I could address things I’m passionate about – comedy, music, and horror. Finding a name that communicated all three of those things proved a bit impossible. I bugged my friends, and they all tried to help. To no avail. Then I thought, maybe I’m approaching this from the wrong angle. Maybe my lack of focus should be the focus.

As a journalist, I have written for The Boston Globe since 2000, starting out writing CD reviews and then writing a regular column on comedy for seven and a half years. I still contribute there, and to Kirkus Reviews, and other publications. I’m also a musician, and released my debut full-length album, Blue Skies and Broken Arrows, in March of 2015. And I’ve been publishing short horror fiction for a couple of years.

I like to climb into things I love and see how they operate. That’s what the Department of Tangents is for. I’ll be writing regular features, essays, and news bits about the big three – comedy, music, and horror – and offering clips from people I’ve taped interviews with over the past nearly twenty years of writing. Some of the best parts of the interviews I’ve done have been completely off-point and inappropriate for print. I’ll get to explore more of that here. I’m also hoping to convince some friends to tell me about the things they love that I might not even know about, and pass that along to you.

The DoT podcast might be short or long, depending on where the conversation leads. You cant purposefully create an interesting tangent in conversation – it has to happen naturally. But I can confidently forecast that there will be moments in the individual podcasts where things veer off wonderfully.

The main thing here is love. To write about the things that make I’ve loved forever, and some new things that might stand the test and be around, at least for me, for decades to come. I’ve had to be critical in my writing at times, and it might not all be nonstop roses here, but in the end, what I really want to talk about is the good stuff. That’s why I will regularly write about things I think are “Perfect,” even if someone can demonstrate empirically that they are flawed. Still perfect to me.

Also, fish.

I hope you, dear anonymous surfer person, will come to expect only the highest-quality, free-range, grass-fed tangents. And I hope some of you love the same things I do and find it useful. Or at least a welcome distraction until the others get here.

May 16, 2019

There is so much to explore in Karen Haglof’s career. She started out playing with a band called The Crackers in a Minneapolis scene that included Curtiss A, The Suicide Commandos, The Suburbs, and Flamingo before bands like Soul Asylum, the Replacements, and Husker Du put that scene on the map nationally. If, like me, you’re unfamiliar with that bit of history, seek out a new documentary called Jay’s Longhorn, for which Haglof is interviewed. It’s the most Midwestern story you could imagine – a bunch of writers and musicians and fans deciding they want a punk and indie music scene, and then forming committees and canvassing neighborhoods to find places receptive to hosting music. And it worked.

Haglof eventually left that scene to pursue music in New York City, where she joined Band of Susans and created some heavy music with fellow guitarist Paige Hamilton, later of Helmut. Haglof was a hired gun guitarist and working at restaurants when she decided she needed to grow up and have a career. She didn’t choose an easy path. She went to med school eventually became an oncologist, a job she still does full time in New York City today. She had left music behind while she studied and made her way into her profession, but got the itch to play guitar again after seeing the guitar documentary It Might Get Loud with Jimmy Page, the Edge, and Jack White. This time, she started making music for herself and writing her own songs.

The new album, Tobiano, shows a blossoming of Haglof’s skills as a songwriter. The style and feel shifts from song to song, from the cool and groovy indie rock of “Tobiano Twirl” to the twang and train beat of “Humbled and Chastened,” the bouncy country of “Foothold” to the Jimmy Page-esque riffing of “These Are the Things” and the charging Velvets sound of “Favor Favor.” She enjoys the contrast, which is the story behind the title “Tobiano,” a term used to describe a horse with white and brown contrasting colors. You could apply that more universally to Haglof’s life as a rock and roller and oncologist. She finds time for music and she’s always writing down ideas, but she would never tour while she had patients to tend to. You can <a href="http://karenhaglof.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">find out more about her work at karenhaglof.com</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/karenhaglof?lang=en" rel="noopener" target="_blank">find her on Twitter under @karenhaglof</a>.

This week’s featured track is “What Yer Doing To Me” from Florida’s The Woolly Bushmen off their brand new album, In Shambles. Got to love that twangy reverb right off the bat on this track. It’s a certified garage guitar rocker, and if the name Woolly Bushmen makes you think of Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’ hit “Wooly Bully,” you’re in the right territory. Singer Simon Palombi has that same kind of bit and playfulness in his voice. The background vocals are also drenched in reverb here, which makes me think of that eerie sci-fi sound of the Pixies on “Where Is My Mind?” It’s great new music for your hi-fi, and you can f<a href="https://thewoollybushmen.bandcamp.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">ind it on BandCamp,</a> which pays the artist a bit better than some other platforms, or <a href="https://open.spotify.com/artist/5fqNJSuavsDeVzMG3hBfYo" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Spotify</a> and <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/the-woolly-bushmen/868768127" rel="noopener" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Woollybushmen/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">keep up with them on Facebook</a>.