Saturday, December 27, 2008

Candy Cane Children

If you are as sick of Christmas music as this grinch is, you should enjoy the White Stripes' offering to the yuletide canon.

The 2002 rarity "Candy Cane Children" currently plays on the homepage automatically one click past the Betty Page RIP tribute photo. The track (I believe) was released as a vinyl single only and has never appeared on any album. It's short, but sweet vintage Jack and Meg.

Photo courtesy of

Friday, December 26, 2008

Lazy-length movie review: "Burn After Reading"

I finally got this in from Netflix this week, and immediately added it to #3 on the 2008 roundup blog.
It makes the year in film look a little bit better.

While watching "Burn After Reading," I couldn't help but think of the character in "Rounders" who said "If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker."

That quote applies to all the idiots wheeling and dealing for a piece of questionably important intelligence, lost by John Malcovich's low-level CIA data analyst in "Burn After Reading."
But the quote might also apply to the members of its audience still waiting for the "jokes" to start as the credits began to roll. In other words, chances are you're one of the crass Americans being satirized. The Coens find the dumb in all of us, not just the crowds that flocked to "Beverly Hills Chihuahua." I'm alright with that, and then again, not everyone has the same sense of humor. People do stupid things, and the Coens have made a career of writing and filming dumb people executing extraordinarily dim-witted plans that eventually lead to their own demise.

"Burn After Reading" is funny as hell. The humor is at times as painfully black-hole biting as the Coens' darkest work, and absurd as their lightest. All of the main characters think they are sharks in a tiny pond, unaware that the pond is actually a fishbowl sitting on the desk of an indifferent owner. Brad Pitt goofs it up as a dorky physical trainer at a suburban gym, Francis McDormand plays a knuckleheaded middle-aged women who will do anything for plastic surgery, George Clooney completes his "idiot trilogy" with the Coens as a sex-addicted glorified security guard for the U.S. Treasury Department, and Malkovich is a pretentious wannabe sophisticate with delusions of grandeur. It's all way more fun than it sounds — and as one of the few sane characters says while trying to find out what all the fuss is about "they're all sleeping together."

By films end, the Coens include a few scenes of ultra violence and its near-subtle social commentary, but they never pose in political stances other than showing how mindless and inevitable violence has become in America and how little any of it makes sense.

Grade (I don't think I've kept the same scale yet): 86/100

BLACK KEYS singer/guitarist to release solo debut on 2/10

When I first heard the Black Keys in high school, it was a sort of "FINALLY! JESUS! WHY IS NO ONE ELSE MAKING THIS MUSIC ALREADY?" moment.
Perfect, low-fi scuzz guitars, blooze-soaked beyond their years vocals and monster riffs, it was pretty much perfect for a blues/Hendrix/Zeppelin loving 17-year-old, and the band's run of three albums starting with the debut "The Big Come Up" through "Rubber Factory" are pretty much perfect still. Then came "Magic Potion," while solid, sounded like a band able to conjure its signature sound with a too-easy push of a button.
2008's "Attack and Release" was the groups first record to feature a producer besides drummer Patrick Carney, employing the knob-twirler of the moment Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley) to add swamp-soul synths in the back ground and otherwise act like a third member of the group. I still listed the album as one of my favorite records of '08, but frankly I was a bit disappointed. Danger Mouse might be wearing out his welcome, we'll see.

So when I heard Dan Auerbach (vocalist/guitar player) was going to release a self-produced solo disk this February (just 9 months after "Attack and Release") I was a little worried but mostly surprised. In the last few years Carney has started a record label that features ultra-obscure garage and avante guard acts, and is producing records all over the place. The fact that Auerbach is producing this himself, releasing it the Nonesuch label (not Carney's) and slid it under the radar until recently left me guessing. Is this going to be some backstabbing grasp for mainstream rock schlock? Thankfully, no. Three of the songs are available for listening on his myspace page, and they aren't that big a departure from his "Black Keys" tracks, and are in some ways stronger than some of the best on "Attack and Release." His production actually sounds closer to what I imagined Danger Mouses' would have on "Attack and Release." Anywho, it's an unexpected Black Keys bonus, even if it's missing Carney's floor-dropping backbeat. Let's hope this isn't the result of splitting tensions in the band.

Here are the myspace tracks for listen:

favorite is "Trouble Weighs a Ton"

Here is his label page, with the same tracks for sample:

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Depending on the Web site, comment boards can occasionally be more interesting than the object of discussion itself. Sometimes the entertainment value lies in the irrelevant, inane or half-baked nature of the posts. But when you stumble upon safe havens for complete and articulate thought, the comment boards can actually add insight and (most importantly) sharp humor to the subject at hand. Luckily for masochists and idiots everywhere, those safe havens are few and far between. Starting with the most shit-stained comment board on the planet, YouTube, and ending with this Troll's favorite, here is the countdown of four Web sites and their message boards.
The majority of Youtube commenters need to be quarantined for humanity's sake, LOL, which I guess, due to the popularity of the site, Fag!, means that the human race is no longer worthy of existence, LMAO Nobama!!!!!. YouTube can feel like a virtual playground for every snot-nosed 14-year-old know-nothing with a keyboard. A quick survey of any YouTube discussion reveals that: A.) just because someone can use Internet Explorer doesn't mean they should; B.) 9/11 was the most elaborate conspiracy ever executed by President Bush, Jews, Muslims and most notably Fags!!!; C.) everyone is a Fag; and D.) Hopefully the majority of commenters on YouTube don't accidentally stumble onto any of my favorite Web sites.
(Internet Movie Database)
The most useful site for quick and easy cast/crew reference and fact checking has only slightly better boards than YouTube. It is possible to find plenty of reasonable discussions regarding themes, interpretations or insights (both good and bad) on nearly every movie ever released. But sometimes it feels like everyone else commenting on IMDB claims to be cousins with an extra who nearly made it on set and almost saw so-and-so hungover and/or visibly angry. If you aren't said cousin, then you are surely asking commenters if so-and-so shows her tits in the movie, or claims that so-and-so looks like a specific porn star or other attractive actress. Like any other site, reasonable questions are often answered with extra nasty bile and condescension. Still, I religiously check IMDB (to find what an actor's name was, etc) immediately after watching most movies, and (in the case of a lot of David Lynch films) go to the message boards for new ideas and insights into the cryptic symbols.
My favorite product reviews are the "One Star" ratings that typically use an entire arsenal of cliches to denigrate an apparently disliked CD, movie, appliance, whatever. These usually rail against "critics and Hipsters" that tell everyone to like "total garbage" that isn't actually any good. Example: "How can you f*cking morans [sic] like the WHite Stripes?!? They are erratanting!!!! [sic]." These people are gloriously full of shit, uninspired and typically illinformed in their opinions about the genre or product.
The best comment boards on the Internet belong to my favorite Web site for arts and entertainment coverage, the Onion's AV Club. Staff writers on the AV Club actually join in on the discussions below the stories, answering questions posed by readers, or occasionally defending content in the story. There has been at least one commenter who was actually offered (and accepted) a job on staff after the Web site noticed his consistently informed and witty rebuttal. Some of the funnier things I have ever read were posted by nobodies below the story. The discussions have a propensity to delve off into interesting tangents, arguments and conversation. There are even AV Club comment board celebrities, if you will. Often imitated but never replicated, ZODIAC M0THERFUCKER always types in caps, is more extreme than any other human being on the planet and would probably kill your extended family with unbridled vitriol given the chance. He doesn't comment often anymore, but the AV Club staff will email him with requests to weigh in on certain stories.

Here is one of his more inspired exchanges, from when the AV Club's Taste Test feature asked ZODIAC to provide commentary about some really spicy chips:

The boards aren't solely for ironic nonsense, the majority of posters on the AV Club know their shit, and aren't too modest to let everyone know about it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

2008: The Crappening (updated again on 12/28 I keep remembering things I forgot to add)

I spent a good amount of this year catching up on some of 2006 and 2007's albums that I didn't grab the first time around. 2006, in particular, was an awesome year for music. I finally listened to "The Crane Wife" by The Decemberists, "The Loon" by Tapes n Tapes and "Boys and Girls in America" by the Hold Steady. I also bought "Boxer" by the National, one of '07s best records.

Though it can't compete with the last two years, music fared better than film in 2008, and did do an OK job fulfilling its most useful purpose — distracting me from everything happening outside my front door. Some of my favorite bands released overhyped and underwhelming records (My Morning Jacket, Black Keys, Beck, Kings of Leon) but the year stayed afloat thanks to a handful of promising debuts. In fact, 2008 churned out the best crop of indie freshman in recent memory. Haunting folk by Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver hung like a thick fog, slowing down my daily chores with heavy reverb and timeless harmonies.

Vampire Weekend succeeded in reinventing the wheel, making ska and African rhythms sound fresh 25 years after art-damaged kids and popsters alike turned the same trick.

And, with the year's best singles, MGMT brought danceable Psychedelic glam-rock into dorm rooms everywhere.

Favorite albums:
1. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Youtube video is the track "White Winter Hymnal"

2. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Youtube track is "Cape Cod Kwasa Kwasa"

3. Bon Iver - For Emma, forever ago
Youtube video is "Skinny Love"

4. The Walkmen - You and Me
Youtube video is "In the New Year"

5. Girl Talk - Feed the Animals
Video is "Play Your part (Pt. 1)"

6. MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
Video is "Time to Pretend"
7. Dr. Dog - Fate
Video is "The Breeze"

8. Deerhunter - Microcastle
Video is "Agoraphobia"

9. Blitzen Trapper - Furr
Video is "Furr"

10. The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
"Solute Your Solution"

11. Black Keys - Attack and Release
"I Got Mine"

12. Ponytail - Ice Cream Spiritual
"Beg Waves"

13. Hold Steady - Stay Positive
"Sequestered in Memphis"

14. TV on the Radio - Dear Science
"Dancing Choose"

15. Black Mountain - In the Future

Biggest Disappointment:
My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges

Moderate Disappointments:
Beck - Modern Guilt
Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple
Kings of Leon - Only By the Night
Kanye West - 808s and Heartbreak
Lil' Wayne - Tha Carter III
Cold War Kids - Loyalty to Loyalty

Albums yet to be fully digested that could possibly make the list:
Okkervil River - The Stand Ins
Portishead - Third
WHY? - Alopecia
Spiritualized - Songs in A and E
Magnetic Fields - Distortion
No Age - Nouns
The Knux - Remind Me in 3 Days
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Real Emotional Trash
Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue

Albums I didn't even get to:
She and Him - Vol. 1
The Kills - Midnight Boom
The Bug - London Zoo
Randy Newman - Hearts and Angels
Q Tip - The Renaissance
People Under the Stairs - Fun DMC

Heralded albums that I could give two shits about:
Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair
Fucked Up - Chemistry of Common Life
Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs
Coldplay - Viva La Vida


2007, and 2006, were probably the two strongest years of the decade for film. Last year had prestige films actually worthy of prestige in "No Country for Old Men," "There Will be Blood" and Zodiac, a comedy classic in "Superbad" and a good comedy in "Knocked Up."

2006 was worth it of not just for "Children of Men" and "Pan's Labyrinth." Admittedly, I didn't see many of this year's films, spent most of my Netflix que catching up on classic and obscure old movies. But, 2008 did have two of the strongest summer blockbusters in recent memory with "The Dark Knight" and "Wall-E." Other than that, the year was grim.

Favorite films of '08
1. Wall-E
2. The Dark Knight
3. Burn After Reading
4. Tropic Thunder

... and that's it

Best comedy that wasn't Tropic Thunder
Role Models

Biggest surprises
The Bank Job
In Bruges
The Foot Fist Way

Guilty Pleasure

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Yet to see
Slumdog Millionaire
Pineapple Express
Man on Wire

Monday, December 8, 2008

THE GRAMMMYS!!! ughhhhh ...

The Grammy Awards has backed itself into a paradoxical corner.

The artists nominated (with few exceptions) in the major categories are neither the inane pop heard on Top 40 radio stations, nor is it the critic/indie rock currently receiving the best writing and influencing serious artists of the future. Besides the two or three acts with the most nominations, the hundreds of other slots are filled by marginally acclaimed music listened to by nearly nobody. Industry types assume that an acclaimed indie band wont bring the ratings, but they would feel silly giving (fill in the top 40 name blank) an award for Record of the Year . Finding interesting popular music to give awards to is nearly an impossible task. No one buys a Christina Aguilera CD because Pitchfork (they would never) gave it a good review. But poeple will tune into the awards show if Xtina is peforming, same goes for J. Lo, whoever else is hot ... im dating myself ... shit.

The nominations fill the void between cutting-edge brainy rock and soulless T-Pain executions, and land somewhere in Starbucksland. In other words, the nominations are as safe as telling Grandma that you like her pumpkin pie - acoustic guitars rule (along with 4/4 song structures) and any female vocalist needs to sound slightly less edgy or interesting than Amy Winehouse.

I don't think anyone worth a shit was raving about Jason Mraz's new album. You can put it on in the background and not offend your frumpy aunt, but it's not going to inspire any creative thought or new perspectives about music or the world. Same goes for Coldplay, who's "Viva La Vida" was only slightly less bland than "X and Y" and "Rush of Cold Blood to the Head." These are the kind of nominations you get when the pop-country bunch, ring-tone rap and auto-tuned R 'n' B are the top-selling genres and the best sounding artists print 80,000 copies of their albums on tiny labels. The Grammys simply split the difference and nominate Coldplay, which is popular enough with soccer moms who refuse to admit that they are, in fact, soccer moms. Nominations for Adelle, Duffy, Mraz and even Plant and Krause are for big corporate acts that long to be indie, the rock 'n' roll version of in-denial soccer moms. Some of the acts - Coldplay - are actually pretty popular and can fill stadiums. Others - Adelle and Duffy - are simply on major labels that try to promote them as something big when really I don't think anyone is listening to more than maybe their single.

But, the Grammys have always been afraid to go out on a limb, or be in on any current or future trends. That's how you end up with Jethro Tull winning best Metal album over Metallica in 1990. With our short memories, obvious past mistakes such as the Tull/Metallica debacle are often white-washed by the fuzzy glow of romanticism. People are relentlessly nostalgic about pop's past (why can't music - that actually sells - be as good as it was in the '60s? blah blah blah). While there is some truth to that idea, I don't remember the Clash winning album of the year for "London Calling" in '77, or N.W.A. winning in '88. The Grammys would always rather be safe than sorry, even if the year's most offensive album is the most relevant and influential. (I can see why the Grammys would not like to award an album containing "Fuck the Police,," as its stand out track, as best album of the year - but it did sort of popularize a little thing called gangster rap.)

There is also a reason Lief Garret and the Partridge Family are still popping up on VH1 circle-jerk sessions - people listened to a lot of horrible fucking music back in the day, too.

So the Grammys have always been a little behind, but the lag only becomes more apparent as the glaring riff widens between what's "interesting/good/creative/accomplished, etc" (at least defined by the Pitchfork/hipster/critic crowd) and what's "popular" (at least according to the Jonas Brothers set.)

Side note: When did tweens become the American barometer for pop? Isn't it universally accepted that tweens are the least cool age to be - i.e. - wannabe teens with childish reflexes? Have you ever been in a middle school? I don't think even middle school kids like middle school kids. If anything else, their recent choices for entertainment have been dubious at best - High School Musical, WTF? ).

Admittedly, the Grammys did seem to do slightly better this year than past, but barely. The nominating commitee threw folks like myself a few bones. But M.I.A. most likely would not have received a nom if the "Pineapple Express" trailer didn't introduce "Paper Planes" to sorority girls everywhere. Little Wayne was one of the nomination leaders. "Tha Carter III" - was a good album, but it doesn't hold a stick to other hip-hop monuments. Radiohead received a bunch of nods. Kings of Leon did also, for probably the worst song the band has recorded, "Sex on Fire," off the band's weakest LP so far. And with the Grammys weird-ass calender, 2007's Radiohead's album feels like ancient history.

The category that really exploits the Grammys overall lack of fresh opinion is "Best New Artist." The obvious omissions strike the heart of this entire rant. The debut by the Fleet Foxes is my favorite record of the year (in any category). They are a bunch of 22-year-old Seattle kids that construct baroque-folk melodies and harmonies as rich as anything by the Beach Boys, CSNY or (more recently) Band of Horses. I'm not the only one, the album has one of the year's highest scores on (an average of critic reviews across the country). Vampire Weekend, whose debut might just be my second favorite album of the year wasn't nominated either, neither was MGMT. Here's who was nominated: Adele, Duffy, Jonas Brothers, Lady Antebellum and Jazmine Sullivan. Who the fuck is Jazmine Sullivan? I subscribe to three music magazines and check at least 3 or 4 music Web sites daily and have never heard of her or her music. Duffy and Adele are preprocessed, over-hyped, over-packaged Winehouse-lites, and The Jonas Brothers have already been popular on the Disney channel for at least three years.

I will only be watching the Grammys this year if I can score some really pure heroin, or have been in a debilitating car wreck and rejoice at any opportunity to kill four hours.

Of course this rant is deflated by simply saying "Your entire look at the Grammys is warped through the lens of your own tastes."

And my answer is: my tastes are better, and you should know that already.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Get Smart

I'm going to keep this brief.
"Get Smart" was fucking awful. 
It didn't get very good reviews, but I figured Steve Carell could at least drag its bloated carcass to the finish line. Not so. The film should have been fucking massacred by critics, straight "Fs" and one-star reviews from every known film scribe would have been appropriate. Unfunny, incoherent, inconsistent and irritating. The film's lazy, cliched hackery makes the rest of the bile that rolls out of Hollywood look like art. "Get Smart" has has no respect for the audience, treats you like shit, asks for a reach around and hopes you have never seen another movie to compare it to, ever.
That is all.

P.S. The movie fucking sucks

P.P.S. Anne Hathaway is hot.