Saturday, December 05, 2009

Nothing short of ...


A film this year that meets up to the hype is certainly Wes Anderson's new creation, The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

What I love about this film, is that it's no different than any of his other films; one that is meant not so much to be watched as it is consumed. With the small exception, of course, only in that his cast is voiced-over an incredibly animated stop-motion world.

Which, as it turns out, is really perfect for films of his own particular brand of self-created genre. This is only a snippet one of the many featurettes that are out there online:



And having watched the HBO First Look, which appears to have been the most extensive, Anderson had no idea how to make an animated film, which really seems to have been better for the whole project. He layered voice-overs that were recorded on location at a farm with a script that was written at Roald Dahl's home in the British countryside, and provided a film he shot starring himself in all the blocking he wanted the animatronic puppets to follow to the animators, who then storyboarded and acted the film out in painstaking detail.

Truth be told, I've never actually read the Dahl story; but as far as I can tell, it doesn't matter. Even the late author's wife, after watching the film, was quoted in the making-of featurette as stating he would have loved it.

As with all of his films, it's chock fulla counter-culture geekdoms; not the least of which is the guest appearance by Jarvis Cocker.

So I guess the real question is this: who's up for a game of Whack Bat?



Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Morning Drive-Time


I'm loving the satellite radio concept more and more each day. Now that I know how to work my receiver (not to mention that I now have a receiver that has a remote); I'm missing my iPod in the car less with each passing day.

Case in point, this morning's track list:

"Heavy Cross," Gossip (AltNation)
"Smile Like You Mean It," The Killers (AltNation)
"Big Poppa," Notorious BIG (Pop2K)
"To Be Young, Is To Be Sad ...," Ryan Adams (Outlaw Country)
"Linoleum," NOFX (Faction)
"Strange," Built To Spill (XMU)

Paired with the unmistakable feel of the season's first snow in the air, I get the feeling it's going to be a good day.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Derivation?


Many bands tread a fine line between derivation and simply being "influenced by" certain sounds, bands, scenes, etc.

This is one such song that reminds me of the phenomenon, even though such a link may not actually exist.



When I first heard the song on Sirius Alt Nation, my first instinct was ... catchy chorus, not much else going on. The chorus is happy, fun ... I instantly liked it, of course, but then after I heard it the second time I realized it reminded me of something.

Malajube's "Montreal -40c," to be precise.



One of my favorites of 2008; but for the fact that I can't speak French. Do you know how infuriating it is to have a favorite song to which you can't sing along?! Forget the fact that later in the year I overheard it in a Radioshack ad.

Sigh.

Anyway, these "The Features" guys are apparently the Kings of Leon's pet project; which is no surprise, since the lead singer sounds exactly like Leon's.

Thoughts? What is crossing the line of just plain derivative drivel and simply having a sound of a relative influential nature (The Decemberists & Neutral Milk Hotel being a good example of the latter ... at least in the earlier albums).

Saturday, September 05, 2009

What ... the MOTHER FUCK?!


I apologize for my vulgarities. I try to limit them.

However, the number-FUCKING-ONE track on XMU's 15 this week is ... Grizzly Bear feat. Michael McDonald.

That's right. Ya-mo-blow-my-brains-out Michael McFUCKINGDonald.

The song makes me want to stab someone in the face. With a mother FUCKING vengeance.

Which begs the question. What the FUCK is going on with today's youth?!?!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gut Reaction


As a fan-bordering-fanatic; I'm entitled a few quibbles with Wilco's new release. So here you go.



1) The stupid cover art. It's a first for Wilco that an actual full photograph is used for the cover, and it's an incredibly dumb one. As is the typeface.

2) It's pretentious title. Wilco (The Album). Not just a self titled release, it's specifically: "Wilco (The Album)." It makes the bile rise a little ...

3) It's pretentious, self-aggrandizing track 1, named simply: "Wilco."

4) The bevy of "borrowed" licks. Is that "Werewolves of London" ("Wilco")? How about "Every Day People" ("You Never Know")? A true sign that a strong influence of Nels' "experience" is, indeed, too much of a good thing.

5) Jesus, Tweedy. I thought you kicked your addiction and were onto sunnier days. What's with all the ballads?

6) Yes, I even have a problem with the collaboration with Feist ("You and I"). It's a good song, don't get me wrong, but Tweedy always saved "celebrity" collaborations for his side projects (see also: Golden Smog). Wilco was always his creative stronghold; this departure from that stance makes me fear for the future. Specifically, Jeff beginning to "phone in" his career because he's too lazy/busy/wants the commercial attention. This song screams "radio friendly." I have no problem with Wilco attaining commercial success like it did with Sky Blue Sky, because -- true or not -- that felt at least acccidental; this new album's sound makes it feel like they're actually reaching in that direction. Horrifying.

7) "Bull Black Nova" just blows. It makes me want to stab someone!

8) The repetitive phrasing! In the music and lyrics. It's everywhere, all over this album, in every song; and it's horribly grating!

Still hoping it'll grow on me ... but man; this is A Ghost Is Born all over again. Thankfully, that one did eventually find its way in; but even then, not in its entirety.

Today, though, I'm really missing Jay Bennett. I think I'd rather retreat with my copies of Summerteeth and YHF for the summer and save the new arrival for fall; which is where the heart of the album seems to belong anyway.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's like a Reincarnation!


It occurs to me that I would be offended by Vampire Weekend's complete and total ripoff of Simon & Garfunkel's sound if it weren't for the fact that is so entirely pleasing.


Vampire Weekend - Oxford Comma - Vampire Weekend


It's like they took all the great parts from "Cecilia" and "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard" and forged a 10-song album from them.

As it turns out, sometimes hype is founded.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

File Under: "I Just Don't Get It."


It happens. Writers, friends, random acquaintances; people who typically share your music tastes rave, swoon and obsess over a band you just have to experience.

So you do.

Annnnnd ... you don't get it.

Two such bands for me, that I just want to like with all the want that's there, are the The Fleet Foxes and Guided By Voices.

The Fleet Foxes, with their beautiful, lush harmonies somehow absentmindedly omit music from their music. I get it. You love you some CSNY. And The Band. You are all bearded, scruffy nomad-looking folk from the Pacific Northwest.

Why should I care when there's zero going on with your highly-lauded self titled release aside from four-part harmonies? Especially when I don't like beards? You could be so much more engaging, complex, and -- well -- enjoyable if a fraction of thought was put into more than how prettily we can sing together.

The only saving grace for them, which gives me hope for future releases, is that in this interview with Under The Radar Magazine, lead singer Robin Pecknold actually mourns the enthusiasm the press expressed over the release because it felt so incomplete to him.

Let's just hope the success doesn't go to his head.

Then there's Rob Pollard. The quintessential darling of Magnet Magazine, my alt-rock periodical of choice.

I've made my way through a large portion of the GBV catalog. There's a lot of catchy in there.

A lot of catchy, half-finished thoughts.

What is it with this guy? Is it just that he's a punk rocker trapped in an indie-rocker's body? Why can't he see a full phrase through? Most of the songs just trail off into oblivion without any semblance of finality. It seems to me that if he'd taken half of what he'd written, stew over the songs for a few days and actually go through the editing process, he'd come away a brilliant poet/lyricist/songwriter.

Instead, the result is just aggravating, frustrating, annoying ... but not noise, like punk rock is ... it's just so ...

Unsatisfying.

That's the word.

Rob Pollard's songwriting, to me, is sex without the courtesy of completion.

Or maybe I just need someone to explain it to me.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Summer of '98


This morning, while finalizing a mix for my brother, a bolt of genius struck my brain.

Why not make a time capsule mix for tonight's camping expedition? Say, perhaps, the summer of '98?

GENIUS!

This idea was actually partially sparked by Sirius Faction Thursday afternoon, when I happened to tune in right at the time "Sell Out" started. Volume cranking, and top-o-the-lungs singing ensued; I even contemplated stopping for a pack of Camel Lights for a split-second.

The Summer of '98 was one of my best, probably because it the summer between high school and college, the summer I moved out of my parents' for good, the summer I started working full time hours at Slackers, the summer I saw Pearl Jam from the front row at Riverport with my best friend ... so it was my real first taste of "freedom." I was a kid in an adult's world. And it was pretty awesome.

"Turn The Radio Off" was the #1 CD of that summer -- played in the old Corolla through my portable player via tape-deck adapter -- and a close second was Save Ferris' "It Means Everything;" in heavy rotation were also Less Than Jake's "Hello Rockview," Rancid's "And Out Come the Wolves," Sublime's self-titled and Squirrel Nut Zippers "The Inevitable." The hip hop tracks were all Tanya, my college roommate's, influence.

I know it seems like a juvenile mix, and there's so much pop here it kind of makes me cringe sharing it, but what the hell. I can't deny who I was -- who I am still, to a certain degree -- and although the following season was when I delved deep into teenage depression, and discovered the likes of Modest Mouse, Piebald, and the other reaches of indie and emo culture, I can't ignore the fact that even though I was working for the rekkid sto', I was still quite the pop princess.

... and blonde!

Me in the summer of '98 with my graduation cake.

My college roommie Tanya, me, and my best friend Kerri.


Summer of '98
Good Enough for Granddad Squirrel Nut Zippers
Red Sweater! The Aquabats
Doo Wop (That Thing) Lauryn Hill
I Can't Wait Hepcat
Where'd You Go? The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
You and Me and the Bottle Makes Three Big Bad Voodoo Daddies
History of a Boring Town Less Than Jake
Do the Evolution Pearl Jam
April 29, 1992 Sublime
Ghetto Superstar (That is What You Are) Pras w/Michel, ODB & Maya
Closer The Urge
Come On Eileen Save Ferris
Build Me Up Buttercup The Goops
Sell Out Reel Big Fish
Santeria Sublime
Gone Til November Wyclef Jean
Pharoah's Dreams Hepcat
Baby Got Going Liz Phair
My Skateboard Aquabats
She Has a Girlfriend Now Reel Big Fish
All My Best Friends Are Metalheads Less Than Jake
Roots Radicals Rancid
This Lonely Place Goldfinger
So Long-Farewell-Goodbye Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Heima Sweet Heima


I just get the feeling that Sigur Ros is a band you either love or you just hate.

What's more, I have a feeling that I'd be more inclined to be a party member of the latter, had I not stumbled across Heima last night on the Sundance Channel. Rarely ever do I find myself flipping the channels for something to watch; normally I switch it off and head to bed or a book or the record player. But, while paging through the guide I recalled them being a band of note, and not one I'd ever paid much heed, "So what the hell," ... says I.

My first impression is that, alone, their music sounds a bit like Thom Yorke fronting the Arcade Fire; which, I'm sure to most indie rockers such as myself would find appealing. But I've never been a huge Thom Yorke, or Radiohead for that matter, fan. So it was mildly irritating at first impression.

However, there was something very eerie and beautiful about their music soundtracked behind the gorgeous shots of the Icelandic landscape.

What's more, once you get into the dialogue from the live music scenes, the film makes the Icelanders even more so a charming and fascinating people. The scene shot in the building that looks a bit like an American Legion hall is particularly quaint and sweet; it gives the impression of a family reunion, all the family members of different generations sitting together quietly over tea and cake to take in a nice afternoon recital.

In any event, if you're ever bored, and it's on the television, I highly recommend. I recommend even more to just buy it if you're a fan of Sigur Ros, or of great musical documentary film making, or, really, Iceland in general.



Thursday, April 16, 2009

Say it Ain't So, Johnny!


NBC broadcaster John Madden retires

26 minutes ago

NEW YORK (AP)—John Madden, the burly former coach who has been one of pro football’s most popular broadcast analysts for three decades, is calling it quits.

Madden worked for the past three seasons on NBC “Sunday Night Football.” His last telecast was the Super Bowl between Arizona and Pittsburgh.

“It’s time,” Madden said. “I’m 73 years old. My 50th wedding anniversary is this fall. I have two great sons and their families and their five grandchildren are at an age now when they know when I’m home and, more importantly, when I’m not.”

Cris Collinsworth will replace Madden, moving over from the network’s studio show, NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol said. Collinsworth filled in when Madden took a game off last October.


Read the rest here.

Love him or hate him, his fodder made the Sunday (and before that, Monday) night broadcasts. Collinsworth is just so ... uncodgery! Coherent! Such a departure form the norm!

This with the murmurs of an extended football season; well. I just don't know what to think of the NFL anymore. Flawed as it is, John Madden is one of the great figures that represented the heart and soul of the league as it once was.

It's just a good thing Mike Shannon is still around in St. Louis. I think the day he retires, I will cry. Like the little girl I am.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Kenny Powers: Just an Average Guy with Exceptional Hair


It took me all season to decide whether or not I really liked this show. Fortunately it was only 6 episodes long, and fortunately I ended up favoring it after all.

I think it's because Danny McBride's (and Will Farrell's) brand of comedy isn't necessarily "haw-haw" funny; it's so subversive and dry to the point that it almost takes itself too seriously to even be considered comedy.

So once you accept that the story's hero is a complete and total unrepentant prick, it's scenes like this totally make the show thoroughly enjoyable.



Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sounds Of My Life: Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor


The year was 1998, Electroshock Blues was just released, and my mind was effectively blown. Beautiful, clever, cynical yet hopeful pop songs. Wow. This guy was just my speed.

This song reminds me of a particularly awkward social moment in my life, which echoes many of the foot-in-mouth moments I have and will relive over and over again. Try as I might, in practical application, my gob just isn't as eloquent as my mind wants it to be.

At the record store, I absent-mindedly mention to one of the new hires that her name reminds me of a lyric in an Eels song. The song itself is beautiful and complex, but instead of going into all of that, I lquote a portion of it to her:

"My name's Elizabeth ... my life is shit and piss."

This girl was very much an Elizabeth, not Liz or Beth; Elizabeth to the core. I realize, immediately, as I say this that this was a horrible thing to say to someone I've just met; even though I didn't mean it to be derogatory or negative in any way. I was having a moment where I wanted to share the profundity of the tune with someone ... but ruined it. Horribly.

Fortunately she was a sweet-natured enough girl that she didn't seem phased ... but, even worse, I didn't apologize for my misstep. That was the weird thing about this moment, and so many others that I've lived since: I make these incredibly bone-headed comments, realizing immediately the unintended double entendre, but utter no word of apology largely because I just don't want to dig the whole deeper (a la Larry David).

I just go on with the conversation, hoping the slip is just ignored or that it just is understood that I realize what a putz I am. Instead, the whole world probably just sees me as the gigantic, unapologetic a-hole that I am.

Artist: The Eels


PS I finished E's autobiography a couple of days ago. It was just what I expected (this is a good thing).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Best Show You're (probably) Not Watching




Hal. He was everyone's favorite Malcolm in the Middle character. Ever the scene-thief Bryan Cranston constantly stole the show with his dopey, lovable retard-husband-of-a-hen-pecking-wife antics; really, he was the dad we all always wanted.

So it's really no surprise that his follow-up to the defunct series is as Papa Bear on another series based in a Southwestern landscape.

Only this time, it's serious.

Set in the sleepy backdrop of Albuquerque, NM (and thankfully not Franklin Co, MO), Breaking Bad touts the city as the Meth Capitol of the Universe where Walt White holds sway ... or would be if only he could get a methed-out Latino drug lord or his DEA brother-in-law off his trail.

Did I mention this guy is a hen-pecked-husband/father-of-a-disabled-son-with-another-on-the-way who also happens to be a high school chemistry teacher that was recently diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer and given months to live?

So many layers. So many incredible actors. Such great writing. So many reasons to watch.

And yet, since its home network is AMC, I wouldn't be surprised to find that no one really is.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

WHAT is happening?!


I'm dying to know if Norman Gentle (Nick, whatever) made the cut into the final 12. We find out tonight!



OH MY GOD!!! I'M A MONSTER!!!

In all honesty though, he's the best thing to ever happen to Idol. Outside of the awesomeness that is the cringe-fest of the Hollywood auditions, the show is so sickeningly disturbing that I normally don't watch past the first 2 weeks. By Hollywood week, it's just a row of 40-50somethings sitting back and telling teen-20somethings how marketable "they" are or could be if only "they" were completely different from the person that was on stage performing.

Thrilling.

But this is why I love Norman/Nick. He's totally, hysterically true-blue regardless of what the judges think or say, which makes him incredibly lovable.

And I think it's enough for him to make it; and for some reason that makes me happy. Due to the underdog quotient? Probably. But that's a stretch ... he's going up against some Latinas Fantasticas (the producers really seem to be pushing a Latin-American winner year), a blind guy, and -- the most dangerous of all -- an early favorite of the judges, a 20something widower who has the face of Robert Downey, Jr. and a voice that melts buttah.

More likely it's due to the fact that a completely odd duck has forged a nook in the most ghastly display of the commercialized monstrosity that is the recording industry.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The American Version


Musically speaking, Philadelphia continues to surprise and impress me. In 1998 it was the Delta 72. In 1999 it was The Friggs, only I didn't realize they were Philadelphian until just recently. 2006 was Mazarin. In 2007, Dr. Dog and Man Man.



The 2009 Philly band du jour (thanks to Brian, as was Dr. Dog) is The Swimmers, an indie-pop outfit that composes harmonious rockers a la New Pornographers way. Only non-supergroup. And, you know, non-Canadian (yes, I'm aware that Neko isn't Canadian).

The 2008 album is quite good, and I'm wondering where I can get my hands on a copy; for the meantime I'll just have to stream the entire album, Fighting Trees at their website.

http://www.theswimmers.com/

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Dear John, I'm Sorry To Disturb You, But ...


(Forgive the XTC reference.)



The current focus of my audiophilistic obsessions is the weepy, mournful, and almost cute vocals of Loney, Dear. His newest release, Dear John, is nothing short of exceptional. His new richer, more layered and lush compositions make his former releases seem simplistically precious by comparison; which is no small feat.

But don't take my word for it. Here's the opening track:



And here are some tracks from his 2007 release Loney, Noir (courtesy Loney, Dear's own website):

Hard days
I Am John
The City, The Airport

He's on tour right now with Andrew Bird and, regrettably, I don't live in a sufficiently cosmopolitan city to deserve a hometown visit, but I have aggravated everyone I know to be more fortunate than I to go see him.

Enjoy, and if you are able, go see him live!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Adam and Eve Were Jews!


New Favorite Band Alert!



I have no idea why it took me so long to get into the Silver Jews!

I have no idea why such revelations ever surprise me! There is simply too much music to ever possibly keep up with!

So shame on anyone who knew about these guys and didn't bring them to my attention!

SHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAME!!!

PS Holy Shit! Magnet's website has been revamped and is completely and totally amazing!!!

I can't stop using exclamation points!!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bookish Pursuits


It's been awhile since I've wrapped my head around a book that interested me sufficiently to finish. In the past two years I've started and put away at least 6 books that just didn't move me; they interested me, but I'd get to a point where I'd just say, "Yeah, but who cares," and put it back on the shelf.

The last one I finished recently was Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which while incredibly bleak and depressing, was so gripping and masterfully-crafted that I didn't dare put it down. It is a new era Canticle For Liebowitz, which is equally bleak and depressing; but moves a bit more slowly and is best digested in smaller increments since it spans centuries of "human life."

Tired of half-reading semi-boring books, and finding myself in the middle of a bookstore while my honey was on a reference-material mission, I set about seeking new fodder that may be able to hold my attention. I came home with three titles that I think will foot the bill, two rock memoirs and one novel: Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield, Things the Grandchildren Should Know, by Mark Oliver Everett and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.



I started with Mix Tape because it's the shortest; and because it sounded cool. I was always a fan of "The Sheffield Report" back in the day; it was my easily my favorite contribution to Rolling Stone.

I didn't even read the back cover; it was on the employee picks section, so I figured it was worth a shot. I'm still halfway through, but that's because I haven't dedicated any real time to it. And it's such an intimate tale that I feel to give anything but my full attention would be disrespectful.

Had I read the back cover, I would have realized how important this story is to its author. I thought it was going to be a feel-good story of the contribution of the mix tape is to romance; I was only half right. By page 14 I was bawling my eyes out.

It was then I realized that this guy wrote it about not only his wife, but his late wife. A woman he loved so completely and purely, and who died far before her prime. His recollection of her memory through pop music will equally make you laugh, break your heart and give you hope.



Next up is the Eels' (a.k.a. Mark Oliver Everett) memoir, Grandchildren. I expect it to be less upbeat and hopeful, but still a good read. The man fascinates me; his music and lyrics always have, but it wasn't until I saw Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives on NOVA Science Now that I began to understand the big picture behind his ironic view of human interaction.

I have a real soft spot for artists of all kind who can point out the wry irony of the world's complete and total loss of humanity, yet all the while embody a complete sense of blind hope regardless. Probably because that sums me up to a Tee.



So it should be no surprise that the final selection is a work of fiction of the humorous/ironic variety, Jest.

It's humongous. 981 9" pages lined in dense 9 point script with less than 1" margins ... plus 96 pages of notes. In fact, I'm not sure if it's going to be completely amazing or a complete and total waste of money. But I got it anyway, because I'd heard he was hilarious, and because for some reason the novel reminded me simultaneously of three of my favorite authors -- Tom Robbins, Christopher Moore and Douglas Adams.

And because I could have sworn I'd recently heard that he'd just died. I was right. Offed himself in September. Genius? I think I'll be the judge of that.

Hopefully these will be enough to get me through this frozen-solid winter. They had better; the entertainment budget is running low, and I have rekkids to buy!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Learning to Speak the Language


I hate anti-drug ads.

Now I understand and agree with the importance of instilling good values in children, trying as hard to keep them pure as humanly possible; but as we all well know, eventually all the gospel-preaching is going to fall on deaf ears. Experimentation is pretty much inevitable.

To date, I've seen only one anti-drug ad that reaches its audience in a realistic way. For the most part, teens and adults alike laugh these incredibly cheesy messages off (just search YouTube for "abovetheinfluence" and see what comments have been posted); and who from the 80s doesn't remember giggling at the famous emotionally-charged line, "I learned it from watching you, Dad!".

Which is why I like this new ad by abovetheinfluence.com. Instead of a creepy talking Beagle or a girl melted upon herself, it uses irony to relay its message. Which I think is far more effective for a smart-assed teen audience.



That, or this is a true sign that I'm getting old.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Beauty and the Beast




Need I say more?

Alone, I don't care for her willowy whisper; but I can't ever seem to get enough of Lanegan's scratchy wrasp, so it's like the heavens parting on a cloudy day when these two voices meet.

This dynamic duo is at it again with a fresh batch of melancholia for us all to enjoy, and just in time for SAD season. It's out now, and Isobel has some tracks on her MySpace, so dig in!

www.myspace.com/isobelcampbell

Monday, January 12, 2009

GLOWER!


Every time SNL has a sketch I want to post on here, it's not available on their website.

Neil Patrick Harris hosted this past Saturday, and while the writing remains hit-and-miss and certain cast members need to just go away (I'm looking at you, Kenan Thompson, Bobby Moynihan and Casey Wilson), there was a a solidly riotous guest-host performance which was supplemented by bevy of good material this past week.

Here's one of them:



But by far and away, the best sketch all night was the orchestrated version of the Doogie Howser, MD theme song played by the entire cast; with Neil at the keys. It was comedy GOLD. And yet, is not available to view online. Grrrrr...

Oh, and Kristen Wiig is my TV girlfriend. Seriously, I wish we were best friends. She's the funniest comedic actress the show's seen since Gilda. Now, now Fey-sketeers, I said actress. Fey still is the funniest female comedy writer, ever.