Monday, December 20, 2010

Weekends "Totem"

I don't know if this song has anything to do with Inception's use of the word "totem" or not, because I don't know what the fuck this song is about. That doesn't stop it from being kind of perfect. And the video. Video is good.


Weekends "Totem" from Friends Records on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Music: Best of 2010

Best Albums 
(included streams/downloads aren't necessarily my favorite tracks from the records, just the ones I could find hosted online)
1. Titus Andronicus "The Monitor" A
Titus Andronicus "Four Score and Seven (Part 2)"
2. Deerhunter "Halcyon Digest" A-
3. Surfer Blood "Astro Coast" A-
4. Beach House "Teen Dream" A-
5. Kanye West "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" A-
6. Black Keys "Brothers" B+
7. The Walkmen "Lisbon" B+

8. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti "Before Today" B+
9. Sleigh Bells "Treats" B+
10. Tame Impala "Innerspeaker" B
11. Avi Buffalo "Avi Buffalo" B 
Avi Buffalo "What's in it for?"
12. LCD Soundsystem "This is Happening" B
13. Spoon "Transference" B
14. Arcade Fire "The Suburbs" B
Win is still riding on the coattails of "Funeral." Honestly, if this was anyone else do you think this record would make the top of any best-of lists?15. Teenage Fanclub "Shadows" B

Good
Warpaint "The Fool" B
Male Bonding "Nothing Hurts" B
Male Bonding "Year's Not Long"
Jaill "That's How We Burn" B
Jaill "Everyone's Hip"
The Hold Steady "Heaven is Whenever" B
The National "High Violet" B
The National "Bloodbuzz Ohio"
Dr. Dog "Shame Shame" B-
Yeasayer "Odd Blood" (the first half, at least) B-
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings "I Learned the Hard Way" B-
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings "I Learned the Hard Way"
Harlem "Hippies" B-
Wavves "King of the Beach" B-
No Age "Everything in Between" B-
No Age "Fever Dreaming"
The Vaselines "Sex with an X" B-
The Vaselines "Sex with an X"

Meh
The Morning Benders "Big Echo" B-
The Brooklyn via San Fran group led off its second album with perhaps the song of the year, "Excuses," a glorious amalgamation of glee-club harmonies, bluesy strings and soaring melodies, but then let Chris Taylor's (Grizzly Bear) production drag the following nine tracks through the tasteful, reverbed sludge that makes Taylor's outfit so damn boring. Only the occasionally fuzzed-out guitar struts through the languid, hung-over drapery, heard on the second track on the top-loaded record.
Listen (at least to "Excuses,") here:
http://www.themorningbenders.com/

She & Him "Vol. 2" C-
Everything M. Ward does deserves a listen. At a certain point, though, even if I recognize something as quality work (mostly the production and instrumentation) doesn't mean I have to like it, or force myself to listen to it on the reg. I just don't see the point of She & Him. Zooey doesn't write quite good enough songs, they are pleasant enough, but I'd rather just go dig up some old records.

Foals - Total Life Forever C

Overrated
Robyn "Body Talk Pt. 1"
Robyn is terrible and I'm tired of all these hipsters saying otherwise.
AV Club and Pitchfork readers who like Robyn, for the most part, talk shit about American pop music, meaning either A.) they would also like American pop music if it wasn't popular, or B.) force themselves to like Robyn instead because she is not a house hold name here (and therefor "cool"), and that's pathetic.
For those who like Robyn and also like American pop music, that's fine, you're honest with your tastes and I don't dislike you, I just dislike your music. 


Janelle Monae "The ArchAndroid"
I don't like modern RnB, even modern RnB with touchstones in classic soul, and thematic inspiration in Fritz Lang's dystopian masterpiece Metropolis. Janelle's got style, enthusiasm and a fantastic stage presence, but I find her voice thin, her melodies less-than-memorable and the production sterile. I'll pass. Give me Sharon Jones any day.

Best Coast "Crazy for You"
At first I thought, 'maybe there is more to this if I keep listening.' After several spins, the melodies were finally in my head and I liked her voice, so I posted a stream of the album on this site, and kept listening, hoping I would form some sort of summer bond with the record. Shortly after that near honeymoon, it hit me that, nope, there is nothing more and my first instinct was absolutely correct. She sings about her cat, getting high, and boys. There's nothing here to warrant multiple listens, praise or scorn. It's jangly pop, and it's borrrrrrring as fuck.

Disappointments
Vampire Weekend "Contra" C
I think yr a contra. NO! yr a contra ... this album stinks.
Wolf Parade "Expo 86" C
Broken Bells "Broken Bells" C-
M.I.A. "Maya"
The Thermals "Personal Life" C-


Like, but haven't listened to enough of yet
Gorillaz "Plastic Beach"
Pomegrantes "One of Us"
Dum Dum Girls "I Will Be"
Broken Social Scene "Forgiveness Rock Record"
The Tallest Man on Earth "The Wild Hunt"

Did not hear
New Pornographers "Together"
Band of Horses "Infinite Arms"
MGMT "Congratulations"
Joanna Newsom "Have One on Me"
... and thousands more

Shitlist:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/music/ref=pd_ts_nav

Thursday, November 4, 2010

FREE MP3 Download: Tennis "Marathon"

File under: Rich kids continue to make beautiful music on vintage equipment, expensive drugs.

Tennis' retro-minded debut on Fat Possum, "Cape Dory," is out Jan. 18.
Check out the ridiculous album art, left.

Via Gorillavsbear.net


Tennis "Marathon"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

FREE MP3 Download: Girls "Heartbreaker"

It was about this time last year when Girls delivered the full-length debut, "Album." It's Oct. 2010 already, and the duo have recorded some new songs for us, just in time for hoodies and and the other warm comforts of fall.

Girl's principle singer/songwriter Christopher Owens writes with an undisguised melancholy, buoyed by the florid jangle of a Rickenbacker.

His autumnal songs have the gift of taking seemingly blase statements and, thanks to his effortlessly affective singing voice, turns them into something deeply personal and resonant.

The new track is no different. The small details of everyday life, peppered throughout the verses add credence to Owens' recounting of a failed relationship. In the hands of anyone else, the chorus of "Heartbreaker" would sound downright maudlin or even adolescent — "When I said that I love you honey, I knew that you'd break my heart."

Even as the bass line strays dangerously close to that of their second breakout single, "Lust For Life," Owens can't help but be a singular, original talent. Thanks for another good October.

"Heartbreaker" appears on Girls new 6-song EP, "Broken Dreams Club," out on True Panther on Nov. 22.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Free stream: Warpaint "The Fool"

Listen to the debut LP by the much-hyped Warpaint, a full week before it's released, here:

http://hypem.com/search/warpaint

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Album Review: The Thermals "Personal Life"

http://www.pekintimes.com/entertainment/x1547940672/Album-review-The-Thermals-Personal-Life

FREE MP3 download: Cymbals Eat Guitars

Long Island upstarts Cymbals Eat Guitars are currently working on a new album. They played four songs from the upcoming record live in a BBC radio station, those recordings are available here for download (or to stream, left click):

Cymbals Eat Guitars "Wavelengths"

Cymbals Eat Guitars "Plain Clothes"

Cymbals Eat Guitars "Definite Darkness"

Cymbals Eat Guitars "Tunguska"


Monday, September 27, 2010

Free stream: Sufjan Stevens "The Age of Adz"

Sufjan Steven's new full-lengh "The Age of Adz" is streaming in its entireity over at NPR:

http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=130049247&m=130076387 

"The Age of Adz" is out Oct. 12 on Asthmatic Kitty Records. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Book learnin'

Education makes you miserable. And I'm not even talking about some fancy-pants Ivy League — just some horrendously discouraging public education and then a mid-tier Midwestern university will do the trick —or even a library card. I suppose that's better than being scared — scared of gays, immigrants, wardrobe malfunctions, and Kenyan-Socialist Nazi Islamists and child predators sneaking into playgrounds.

Instead, havin' been eja-cated and such, I can't turn on the TV without thinking about some theory of Neil Postman's. I can't watch even a seemingly innocuous television program without sensing an "assault" of implications and consumerist subversion that soon leads to rants and high blood pressure.

During my daily commute accross the Illinois River, I can't help but think of all the literal shit that flows directly into the water every time it storms. I can't help but think of the pending lawsuit against the power plant on the river that spews it's angel-of-death pattern over the city. And the fact that, as it shortens the locals' lifespans, the electricity is sent to homes in sanitized Chicagoland 'burbs. As I step out of my car and whiff what swirls and combines with the other industrial waste, it's hard to breath without smelling the ripe scent of particulate matter.
I just love the smell of sulfer in the morning.

Then lunch — even if the beef in my food is from the grocery store, I know it contains parts of several different unhealthy cows that were sustained with feed they should never have been eating. I know every part of my meal was likely flown or trucked to Illinois from far away and that I am just another wasteful piece of shit that ruined the planet for a taco. The more you know, the less you wish you did.

Fuck you, college; I'm no smarter or happier but I know how to use a semicolon.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wasted Postage: Reports from the Netflix Theater

The Third Man (1949)

The Third Man seems to be regarded as film noir by default only, as if it's simply the most convenient way to discuss the film. Of course it's always been a loose genre descriptor, and The Third Man fulfills plenty of the requirements — murder, intrigue, a mysterious woman and sharp, if not particularly hard-boiled dialogue. But the famous score, performed on a zither, tends to work against the cynical nature of the film, lightening the dark corners and shadows particular to the genre, often lending a more lighthearted feel, full of smirk and humor. The darkest, and most interesting element is the setting. Pulp novelist Holly Martins (played by Joseph Cotton) is drawn to post-war Vienna to meet a friend, Harry Lime, who promises work in the crumbled city. Vienna's bombed-out buildings are never too far off screen, lending an added weariness to the otherwise fast-paced mystery.

After the long flight in from the states, Holly arrives at Harry's apartment only to learn that his friend was struck and killed by a car the day before. The death was deemed an accident, but as soon as Holly starts asking questions, he learns of Harry's black-market entanglements and circle of bizarre friends who were present the day of the incident. Holly is now the main character in a suspense story seemingly ripped from one of his own adventure novels, and he intends to write the ending.

Allied-occupied Vienna is interesting for a reason beyond the bullet holes — it was divided into four regions following WW2 — United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom and France, with all four bureaucracies and police departments butting heads and created even more difficulties as Holly tries to protect Harry's former lover, and crack the case. Orson Welles doesn't appear until just passed the midway mark, and does so with a wink and smile. His charismatic supporting role carries the film past the somewhat predictable twist, through a beautifully-staged climax in a massive sewer system and towards the inevitable conclusion. British director Carol Reed employs lot of off-angle and skewered shots, and the film is often incorrectly and casually attributed to Orson Welles. It has been ranked as the best British film of the 20th century, and it won some Oscars and the Grand Prix at the Cannes in 1949. I liked it a bit less than the hype, but it's good none-the-less. A-

Wasted Postage: Reports from the Netflix Theater

Kick-Ass (2010)
I always wanted to see a dark, R-rated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — Leo actually uses his weapons to efficiently separate goons from their arms and legs, Donatello's bo breaks bones and Raph's sais are as sharp as his attitude. Like the comic books that inspired the source material, Kick-Ass indulges in the blood that a superhero would actually let — weapons don't always hit a magical "off switch" on the back of the bad guy's heads like in most comic book film adaptations — they do mortal damage. Simply put: this is a surprisingly violent fucking movie, and despite how real the blood and guts are, it's still pure fantasy. Sometimes that blood lust can be a little disconcerting when the bodily harm is inflicted by a martially trained 11-year-old girl, giddily using the identity "Hit Girl." Her father (Nic Cage in full-ham mode) is "Big Daddy," a batman-with-guns vigilante out to settle the score with NY's biggest crime boss, who's son (Christopher "McLovin" Mintz-Plasse) happens to be another budding superhero and unlikely heir apparent to the crime throne.

Meanwhile, high school comic nerd Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) buys a green wetsuit, yellow gloves and two batons to become "Kick-Ass," an untrained superhero wannabe with more "naivety and optimism" than strength or cunning. But, after one merciless beat-down, he becomes an internet sensation via a cellphone video of him defending a victim against three muggers. That notoriety makes him the prime target for said NY crime boss, who confuses Kick-Ass's burgeoning celebrity for the real Mongolians in his system — Big Daddy and Hit Girl. Lizewski's voice-over narration provides both snarky meta-commentary on the genre, and insight into the film's other major plot points in the high school sex-comedy realm. Eventually, all the major player's plot lines cross paths, with hyper-bloody showdowns resulting. The action scenes are exceptionally well choreographed, especially Big Daddy's magnificent warehouse slaughter-fest, mostly taken in one long and graceful shot. Even Kick-Ass's more ridiculous moments work, thanks to the self-aware and often satirical tone, that still reveal a love and reverence for comic book tropes and lore. I'm looking forward to the sequel. B+

Transformers: Rise of the Fallen (2009)
Growing up, did you ever go to a new friend's house, only to discover that the entire family talks to each other like a bunch of a retarded 10-year-olds? Every comment/question/statement shared between family members is stated in an argumentative near-shout, with inane responses and grating tone of voice the apparent norm, where just asking to pass the salt is shouted like a toddler in need of a nap? Watching "Transformers: Rise of the Fallen" places the viewer in the same uncomfortable territory. I was climbing a mountain of the worst in American culture — the most crass, consumerist, oblivious and unfunny people in the world, all trapped together for an excruciating two-plus hours.
My Everest-like climb to finish the latest Transformers film ended like every Sherpa-less traveler up the mountain — nauseous, weak and defeated. After three attempts over two days to make it through the film — the first aided by beer, the second with ibuprofen to fend off the on-setting headache, and the third by wine — I failed. The awful, ugly spectacle that is Transformers 2 literally frustrated me to to the point of feeling ill. The domestic-life scenes counting for comedy, the unwatchable, epileptically edited action scenes, minstrel-show robots .... I quit ... it's so fucking shitty I can't even form full sentences. This movie makes me hate everything. F

This Film is Not Yet Rated (2006) 
This documentary explores the MPAA's irrational and puritanical ratings board. Filmmakers document the history of the board and then attempt to unmask its secret members whose identity is a tightly held secret. I'm not kidding, the faceless censors who arbitrarily tell filmmakers to cut what they feel is obscene from art hide behind a veil of anonymity so thick it's comical. The film drags at points when following the PIs hired for the task, but really excels when showing how the system is favored for Hollywood pictures, works against indies and is one of the more insidious censorship bodies in the country — from working for war propaganda — to how scared it is of homosexuality and other sexual equality issues. The most glaring is how terrified it is of women actually receiving pleasure in a sex scene (and not just the man) — one film was deemed obscene because, in a mostly clothed sex scene, the camera lingered on a woman's face too long as she reached climax. Also of note: the ratings board's Washington connections, founder and long-time president Jack Valenti was a political insider and consultant for years before heading to Hollywood to begin censoring. Every cinefile should watch this documentary. A-


Terminator Salvation (2009) 
Terminator: Salvation has a giant budget and the corresponding preference for big business over genre thrills. The latest and worst Terminator film blandly scrubs away any of the horror grime of the first film, the suspense of the second and the nihilism of the third, and trudges through the motions as an overly predictable and generic sci-fi action snoozer. How do you fuck up a movie where humans battle robots? Hire McG and whittle it down to a PG-13 rating. I miss the fucking the '80s. C-

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

You lazy, cheap, good for nothin' trixters

Hear the new Deerhunter in its entirety, streaming thanks to those do-gooders and passive whisperers at NPR:

Deerhunter "Halcyon Digest"
Out Sept. 28 on 4AD


http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=129866612&m=129870848

Wasted Postage: Reports from the Netflix Theater

The Lady From Shanghai (1947)
               The Lady From Shanghai's more inconsistent elements become more understandable once you know a bit of history behind the film. An early-ish film noir, it was one of Orson Welles' several troubled projects following Citizen Kane. And, despite his pedigree, the studio yanked control of his original, two hour-plus cut and hacked it down to just short of 90 minutes. Despite shuffling any coherence or pacing it might have had, what was impossible to destroy was the daring camera work — extreme close ups, unnerving dutch angles and his always masterful framing of contrast and shadow.

Welles also wrote the film, and starred as a tough Irish veteran from the Franco wars in Spain. After a chance meeting with Rita Hayworth in a NY park, he's lured by the femme fatale
against his better judgment to serve as a deck hand on her husband's yacht. As the boat sails through one exotic locale after another, stopping for island excursions and picnics, Welles is sucked into the miserable life occupied by Hayworth's wealthy, defense-attorney husband and his law partner, who find joy in nothing but sitting around drinking and shoveling insults and pithy sarcasm on each other. Naturally, Welles appears to be the ideal escape for Hayworth, and the two begin to plot a future together as the two lawyers plot something different entirely.

Upon docking the yacht in San Francisco, the film's second half begins as a cynical court-room satire and spins into a disorientating jaunt through several elaborate set pieces, the most famous being a deserted fun house and its oft-copied hall of mirrors climax. The finale is done so well — it refuses to feel tired despite 60 years of copy cats — that the entire film feels better in hindsight. The acting is top-notch for the most part, save for Welles questionable Irish brogue. But the two best performances come from Everett Sloan's understated, devilish turn as the husband Arthur Banister, and Glenn Anders portrayal of his insane law-partner George Grisby. The two really give The Lady From Shanghai its joyous slime. B+

Friday, September 17, 2010

New to me - Knockin' off cultural blind spots

Some old CDs that I heard for the first time this year (with videos/songs).

New Order "Power, Corruption & Lies" (1983)
Does it make me a bad critic to prefer New Order to Joy Division? I don't really know New Order well enough to make that claim of course, seeing as the only albums I've heard are "Brothers" and "Power, Corruption & Lies," and the only Joy Division I own is "Closer" (yes yes I don't own "Unknown Pleasures," though I've listened to most of it.

New Order was formed after the death of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, the remaining members creating the more danceable and upbeat (upbeat meaning the group's growing love for synths and the non-baritone vocals Gary Schoenfeldt, who took over singing duties. But, barely under the surface it's really just as dark and brooding as anything Curtis-helmed). It's also more pop-oriented, with dance-floor staple "Blue Monday" still reigning as the top selling independent 12-inch single in UK history.
"Power Corruption and Lies" varies it's sound way beyond "Blue Monday," which is far from my favorite track on the album. That distinction belongs to "Age of Consent," which includes a repeating, Peter Buck-esque riff until a guitar more indebted to Sonic Youth than Brit-pop takes over with some cathartic strumming. This record owns. 'Nuff said. A
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ahU-x-4Gxw



Clap Your Hands Say Yeah "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah" (2005)
Speaking of post-punk, CYHSY was one of the first bands to tumble through the spin-cycle of internet over-buzz in 2005, and was part of that wave of NYC post-punk revivalism. Despite all the ephemeral context, CYHSY's debut is solid. Really solid. Like a squalid, driving distortion of David Byrne's vocals, Alec Ounsworth's primal melodies are immediately accessible and catchy, even as he wails almost unintelligibly about the "skin of his yellow country teeth." A-

The Specials "The Specials" (1979)
The leaders of ska's second wave in late '70s UK (and owners of the record label 2 Tone that is now synonymous with the genre) The Special's debut consists largely of covers of Jamaca's ska originators from the previous decade. More than just band nerds finding a way to utilize their brass instruments, The Specials were down-right cool and fun, and had more in common with Mod culture and the  burgeoning '77 punk scene than anything in ska's '90s US third wave. Oh, and it was produced by Elvis Costello, so you know it's good.
B+



The Buzzcocks - "Singles Going Stready" (1979)
I don't know The Buzzcocks as well as many of Punks' class of '77, but I know they are famous for having more melodic vocals than many of their peers.

"Singles Going Steady" is the only Buzzcocks record I own, and I've read it's all you really need unless you are a huge fan. They released a lot more singles and EPs than they did LPs, and it collects all the early singles and best songs. I haven't heard the other records. Listening to the Buzzcocks reminds how much of early Punk was indebted to garage rock and early rock 'n' roll. (Over-all B+, best songs A)

I hear the beach boys in this one, specifically:


GZA - Liquid Swords (1995)
All the adjectives usually used to describe RZA's production — murky, dark, violent, unforgiving, etc — apply here. This came out when the Wu was releasing solo efforts as easily as shit after coffee, and as with all Wu-Tang Clan projects, most of them make appearances. The whole thing is draped in Wu-mythology via old Kung-Fu samples. GZA always had the tightest, most straightforward flow of the crew, and occasionally the songs have a hard time distinguishing themselves from each other — but I suppose that's part of the appeal — this is a cohesive work, and a classic from Hip-hop's golden era. A

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Free MP3 Download: Black Mountain "Hair Song"

Black Crowes, meet Band of Horses, have children, name them "Wilderness Heart," the new record by Black Mountain.
I haven't heard all of "Wilderness Heart," but the group's last one sounded way more like Black Sabbath than the Black Crowes.

I dunno if the whole record strays in this direction, but either way, I dig it.

Black Mountain "Hair Song"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Free MP3 Download: Cults "Go Outside" and more

Hey! Check out this band!
Thanks, sister.

Free downloads of three tracks from the nostalgic dream-pop duo, can be had here.


Fans of Panda Bear, Deerhunter/Atlas Sound and other bloggity blogy-blog rock need apply.

BOOKS

The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (1908)
By G.K. Chesterton

This is the kind of book that, when nearing its final chapters, optimism takes hold and against your better judgment you nearly expect the resolution to explain the meaning of life and wrap things up in a neatly bundled plot. Of course that's a foolish expectation, especially with a book as absurd and full of paradox as TMWWT. It centers on a Gabriel Syme, a Scotland Yard detective who, upon engaging in a philosophical debate with a poetical anarchist, is led at-first unknowingly to the dynamiter's secret council headquarters, where he must protect his true identity in the midst of violent plotting. Chesterton's prose is full of puns and humor — incredibly well-organized anarchists are a hoot — and clever twists of phrase that push us further down-the-rabbit hole. This is an entertaining farcical mystery on the surface, but his comments on moral relativism, alienation, skepticism, human nature and the way individual impressions shape the world are one-of-a-kind and worth reading. The ending, specifically, is heavy on Christian allegory, but being a Christian is not necessary to enjoying the book (allow me as an example). He may not explain the meaning of life. But, after finishing the novel, people shine in a new light and for a few brief minutes, TMWWT removed my cynicism.  A

The Girl Who Played With Fire (2008)
By Stieg Larsson
This is the second novel in Stieg Larsson's "Girl" trilogy, and it's better than the first one. Not much to say: it's a quick reading mystery-thriller. Well written, plotted, paced and more character driven than your standard consumer fiction. Good stuff. I'm starting to understand why Lisbeth Slander is everyone's favorite new cyber-punk, as the events in this entry are a direct result of her troubled past. The best thing about the book as that it's not a sequel in characters only, i.e., it's not just Lisbeth and Mikael off on an unrelated adventure, but rather a series of consequences of actions taken in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. A-

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

NEW SUFJAN STEVENS ALBUM

Last week dude released a 60-minute "EP," which you can stream below fo free, or buy for $5. Today Stevens announced the release date for his first proper full length since 2000s touchstone "Illinois."

"The Age of Adz," will be released by Asthmatic Kitty on October 12.
Preorder that shit here.


<a href="http://sufjanstevens.bandcamp.com/album/all-delighted-people-ep">All Delighted People (Original Version) by Sufjan Stevens</a>

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Free MP3 download: Deer Tick "Piece By Piece, Frame By Frame"

Stream or download this stripped-down track by the circle-saw voiced Deer Tick, from the new-ish record "The Black Dirt Sessions."

Deer Tick "Piece By Piece, Frame By Frame"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

2009 — the year in film — belated edition.

I've finally seen almost everything I wanted to from 2009, eight months after the fact. Some of these I saw more than a year ago, and some last week, so the frail memory is making this task difficult ... here is my much-belated, best-of 2009 movie list. Discuss.

Best
1. District 9
2. The Hurt Locker
3. The Informant
4. Inglorious Basterds
5. Moon
6. The White Ribbon
7. A Serious Man
8. Gomorrah
9. Big Fan
10. Up in the Air
11. The Hangover
12. An Education
13. Bad Lieutenant: Port Call of New Orleans

Good
14. Zombieland
15. In the Loop
16. Drag Me to Hell
17. Star Trek
18. Funny People
19. The Road
20. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
21. Fantastic Mr. Fox 

Meh :
Up
Bruno
Whatever Works
Observe and Report
The Strangers
Extract
Avatar
Where the Wild Things Are
The Men Who Stare at Goats

Shitlist:
Terminator Salvation
Transformers: Rise of the Fallen
Gamer
Crank 2
The Box
Year One
Invention of Lying
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
I Love You Man
Friday the 13th
Sherlock Holmes
Angels and Demons

Unseen
Public Enemies
Antichrist
35 Shots of Rum
Coraline
Duplicity
Precious

and hundreds more ...

Wasted Postage: Reports from the Netflix Theater

The White Ribbon (2009)
In the early 20th century, parents sometimes tied a white ribbon on a boy's arm or in a girl's hair, to remind of them of purity, innocence and most of all, obedience. It was one of the less oppressive physical acts of parenting imposed by the families eking out an existence in pre-WWI Germany's lingering feudal system. Michael Haneke's latest film explores the roots of extremism — how it festers in over-worked, envious and hungry communities that grasp at any straw within reach. The Germany, 1913 setting has obvious implications for the religiously and emotionally oppressed children in the film, who will reach adulthood by the time of Auschwitz. But the central story has been, and will be, repeated throughout cultures world wide, and currently presents itself in the Arab world, as Haneke has said in interviews. Still, the German setting adds more gravity to the events captured in stark black-and-white, as we begin to see the unintended consequences of the childrens' upbringing, and the parental denial.

The White Ribbon opens with a doctor returning home on his horse, only to be be thrown from his ride and nearly killed by a wire strung between two trees. The attempted murder is the first in several heinous and unsolved crimes, including the torture of the land baron's young son, that slowly undue the small farm town's sense of prosperity and unity. A meek yet competent school teacher is the first to sense and admit to the growing sense of horror and its true roots, but as with all unspoken truths, it's too much for the supposed leaders of the community to admit. B+

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)
With a name as irreverent as Hot Tub Time Machine, you'd think the film makers would ditch more than just titular conventions. Instead, the 99 minutes following the title card are about as conventional as the '80s sex comedies and time travel flicks it occasionally tries to lampoon, but more often than not limply follows. You've got the ski-bum bully in the Zabka mold (just not quite as blond), and a plot that hinges on moments from the protagonists' past that set them into a lifelong pattern of loserdom, with time travel as an opportunity to change the course of their lives. And, of course, one nerdy character who insists in a responsibility to avoid the dreaded "butterfly effect." Rob Corddry is the most reliably funny as HTTM's Stifler, known here as "The Violator." Overall it's pretty funny — several '80s sight gags work as well as always, but the running jokes that get better with each reiteration are canceled out by an equal amount that don't, and the whole thing is hindered by regularly desperate grasps for hipness. B-

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Free MP3 download: Cloud Nothings "Hey Cool Kid"

This shows potential, but it's pretty rough right now.

Cloud Nothings is 18-year-old Cleveland resident Dylan Baldi.  Since recording songs in his parents basement in 2009, he's released a bunch of shit-quality tapes and vinyl singles this year.

Cloud Nothings is gonna tour with Fucked Up for a few dates and then release a proper full-length this winter on Car Park.

http://www.carparkrecords.com/heycoolkid.mp3

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Free MP3 Download: Colleen Green "Worship You"

This song rules.

Lo-fi guitar gravel, by the shovel full.

Colleen Green "Worship You"

Via 20 Jazz Funk Greats

September: the best month in music since May

I've yet to settle my party line on music 2010: is it a year of mediocre workmanlike releases by older, established indie acts? Is it the year when millennials (ugh) finally gave up on the future and turned towards a half-remembered past via navel-gazing, stomach-turning nostalgia, manifested as self-indulgent bedroom-brat pop? Whatever it is, it surely can't be summarized in either of those sentences, or anything else that reductive. Hopefully several upcoming releases help fill in my Swiss-cheese best of list for 2010.

The Walkmen "Lisbon"
Sept. 14 (Fat Possum)
The classiest gents in the early 2000s NY rock revival, The Walkmen were largely an afterthought to The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Strokes, but Hamilton Leithauser and crew steadily refined their waltzing post-punk-meets-Dylan sound until releasing career defining effort "You & Me" 2008.
"Lisbon," due Sept. 14, promises to continue that hot streak with more sad trombones, warbly organs, dusty heartbreak and reverb-drenched guitars. I got his pre-ordered a vinyl, I urge everyone else to do the same.

Hear "Stranded" here.

Deerhunter "Halcyon Digest"
Sept. 28 (4AD)
Bradford Cox' first band has a restless ambition. Each album digs into more accessible regions of the record crate than the last for inspiration, meaning that Deerhunter's noisy, dissonant shoe-gaze of yore is slowly sounding more like his solo project's (Atlas Sound) sampled psychedelia. If "Revival," the first single from "Halcyon Days," is any indication of the record as a whole, Deerhunter's gone into full-blown '60s pop mode (with some subversive fuzz under the surface, natch). If the rest is anywhere near as strong, it could be an album of the year contender.

Deerhunter "Revival"

The Thermals "Personal Life"
Sept. 7 (Kill Rock Stars)
They wont ever make another album as incendiary as 2006's punk masterpiece "The Body, the Blood, the Machine," but not many others will either. That record still kicks my ass. Hutch has said in interviews that Cathy wrote songs for this record, a first for the Thermals, so we'll see where that takes them.

The Thermals "I Don't Believe You"


Other notable September releases:
Sept. 7
The Clientele "Minotaur"
Interpol "Interpol"

Sept. 14
Superchunk "Majesty Shredding"
Black Mountain "Wilderness Heart"
The Black Angles "Phosphene Dream"
Bear in Heaven "Beast Rest Forth Mouth"
Fucked Up "Year of the Ox" (single)
The Vaselines "Sex With an X"
Justin Townes Earle "Harlem River Blues"

Sept. 28
No Age "Everything in Between"
http://soundcloud.com/subpop/no-age-glitter 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Free MP3 Download: Ducktails "Hamilton Road"

One-man bedroom pop/psychedelia project (because we don't already have enough of those) Ducktails is Matthew Mondanile. He's gonna drop his latest, "Ducktails III," this fall on Woodsist. Here's a free sample. It's actually got a melody, hooray! I dig the cheap crackle of the recording, which is lofi for sure but not to the point where his voice sounds like Times New Viking.

Ducktails "Hamilton Road"

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wasted Postage: Reports from the Netflix Theater: books to film addition

The Road (2009)
I still haven't finished Cormac McCarthy's source work for The Road, despite that it falls into one of my favorite genres — post-apocalyptic dystopian futures. But judging from the half I did read, John Hillcoat's film adaptation is about as faithful as they come. A nameless father and son wander a desolate landscape void of plant or animal life and dotted by dead treas. They push a shopping cart filled with their few remaining possessions — some crayons, paper, blankets, a few morsels of food, and a handgun with two bullets saved for the worst. They dodge cannibalistic drifters, stumble into a house of human livestock, and experience all other sorts of inhumane survival. It's nihilistic, grim stuff without an ounce of relief. Hillcoat was definitely the right man to bring McCarthy's hard-as-nails survival story to the big screen (everyone should check out Hillcoat's equally grim Australian western The Proposition). Despite reaching an unexpectedly emotional apex before concluding, when most of a film involves its main characters contemplating suicide, you're left wondering "What's the point?" B

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) This one also begs the question, what's the point? Not because it's a bad movie, it's actually pretty good, but because I already read the book. What's the point of watching a thriller/mystery when you already know where and when all the thrills end? It kind of kills the suspense. And as fun as it is seeing the pages realized on film, I kind of like my brain's version more. Of course, all of this can be said for any film adaptation. There's almost no way to judge it on its own merits, but I will try. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is perfectly cast, especially Lisbeth Salander, the emotionally disturbed hacker punk/private investigator who helps journalist Mikael Blomkvist look into corporate corruption, an ugly family secret and a series of brutal serial murders. I would even say that in its effort to translate the 600-page novel in to 2.5 hours of film, the required plot streamlining even improves upon some of the book. But again, knowing all the twists, red herrings and surprises ahead of time, I was bored at a few junctures. I'm guessing someone who doesn't know how it ends would like this quite a bit, so it's gonna get a B+. (An American remake staring Daniel Craig and a bunch of other people better looking than the Euro actors here is currently in pre-production, with David Fincher ("Se7en," "Zodiac") directing.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

No Age album art revealed

"Everything in Between" will be out Sept. 28 on Sub Pop.

Like "Nouns," the artwork is striking, and designed by Brian Roettinger.

I think I dig "Nouns" artwork a bit more, but this will do.

Free MP3 Download: The Vaselines "Sex with an X"

The newly reformed seminal twee duo have returned, and here's a free download of their new song, "Sex with an X."

http://soundcloud.com/subpop/the-vaselines-sex-with-an-x

Best Coast - Crazy For You

Best Coast's much buzzed debut has been out for a few weeks, my buddy over at Esoteria wrote a great review here praising Bethany Cosentino's teen-dream songwriting and general weed-gauze (I think "noise-pop" is the critically fashionable term, but it's really not that noisy) aesthetic. I still haven't decided if this is for me, but I can't stop giving it second chances, so maybe there is something here. For those in the same boat, below is a full stream of the record.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ugh

Actual supergroups suck anyways.
That's it. The word "supergroup" has got to go, forever.
Everyone in every band was in a band of some sort before their current band. Unless your bandmates' previous groups were Wham!, B2K and Jet, your band is not a supergroup (jokes!). This rant was inspired by Pandora.com's description of the Thermals:

"A Portland-based supergroup of sorts, the Thermals originally featured Kind of Like Spitting's Ben Barnett, the Operacycle's Jordan Hudson, and Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster of the twee/folk-pop duo Hutch and Kathy and the All Girl Summer Fun Band."

I'm sorry, but pulling members from those bands does not make you a supergroup, it makes you every other fucking band on the planet. This phenomenon of pretending we know about every obscure bedroom recording artist on the planet before they make it (relatively big) with a different but just slightly less obscure indie act has got to stop. Saying this, I love the Thermals. This is not aimed at them. Calling every band a supergroup because its members were in bands before is just a not-so-sly way for writers to sound more knowledgeable than they really are, while at the same time making readers feel ignorant: "Wow, I've never heard of BooBooKittyFuck, and now its former members are in a SUPERGROUP?!?!? Wow, I'm really out of it."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Free MP3 download: Woven Bones "I've Gotta Get"

Hey! I like the Black Lips! Do you guys like the Black Lips?! If so, you'll like Woven Bones! enthusiasm! garage rock!
But in all seriousnous I do like this single, from their new 7-inch EP:

Woven Bones "I've Gotta Get"
(Right click to download, left click to stream)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Free MP3 downloads: Avi Buffalo "Remember Last Time" and "What's In It For?"

I haven't heard the rest of this highly-buzzed self-titled debut, but I was instantly sold by the second-half guitar spaz-out that would have felt at home on Wilco's "A Ghost is Born." These kids are like 18. I lose.

Avi Buffalo "Remember Last Time"
(Right click to download, left click to stream)

Avi Buffalo "What's In It For?"
(Right click to download, left click to stream)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Last year is always better

I've been going back to some of 2009's freshest music, and man, does last year make this year look weak as hell.

2010 = Weak (by their standards) followups by established acts (Spoon, the Hold Steady, Band of Horses), and very few complete, fully-realized debuts (the exception being Surfer Blood, and maybe Tame Impala), and some disappointing to mildly good sophomore efforts [Vampire Weekend, (second half of) Yeasayer's album], with the exception being Titus Andronicus's "The Monitor." Some good, but not career-highlight albums by LCD Soundsystem and Black Keys, fill out my best-of the year list only because of lack of competition.

Beach House's superb "Teen Dream" doesn't fit in any of these categories. It's still really good, though. And my initial distaste and resistance for Ariel Pink is wearing off.

2009 = Several breakout sophomore (or later) albums (St. Vincent, Phoenix, Animal Collective, YACHT, White Rabbits, etc), several incredible debuts by bands with terrible names (Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Girls, Japandroids, The XX, Neon Indian) and plenty of good workman-like records from M. Ward, Dinosaur Jr., Yo La Tengo, The Thermals, Black Lips, The Decemberists and The Flaming Lips, among others.
In retrospect, Wilco's self titled record still stands as a disappointment, outside of a few tracks.

2010 may yet be redeemed by Deerhunter. The first single and B-side from "Halcyon Digest," available in an older posting, point towards great things.

MP3 download: Male Bonding "Year's Not Long"

"Nothing Hurts" was out several months ago, and if you haven't checked it out, it's worth it: Shoegaze-punk that powers through on 2-3 minute songs, with correspondingly fast rhythms and guitar.

Male Bonding "Year's Not Long"
(left click to stream, right click to save)

Friday, July 23, 2010

New Deerhunter song: Free Mp3 download

Deerhunter created a game: if you go here http://halcyondigest.com/revival/ and enter a password, you get to download the new single "Revival" (and the B-side!) from their upcoming "Halcyon Digest." I did some googling and found the password, it's "tapereel." Enjoy. Once the page loads, click on the tape recorder.

 "Revival" has a fairly clean (outside of the shoegaze-y vocals and a fuzz guitar lurking in the background) and poppy '60s vibe, not unlike Atlas Sound's standout 2009 track "Walkabout."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer reading (some beach books, some not)

Philip K. Dick "A Scanner Darkly"
Everyone should read this book. Funny, scary, compassionate, depressing and mind-bending, it's easily the best depiction of users and their circuitous conversations, paranoia and earnest foolishness I've ever seen/read. Having been friends with some real-life versions of characters in this book, the shit hit close to home. And, the plot, my god, the plot: Bob Archer is a Substance D addict. Bob Archer is also Fred, a undercover narcotics officer. When Fred reports to his superiors, he wears a holographic suit that disguises his appearance. Fred is assigned to report on Bob Archer's "suspicious" activities. As Archer/Fred becomes more dependent on Substance D, a drug the splits the brain's left and right hemisphere, he begins to compartmentalize his two identities until they are separate people. Is Fred, Bob, or is Bob, Fred? — all kinds of themes of identity are at play here, and "A Scanner Darkly" is easily some of PKD's best work. [My favorite PKD book is likely "Ubik," but I would also highly recommend "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" (the basis for "Blade Runner") as well as "The Man in the High Castle."] A

Stieg Larsson "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
This one falls more into the beach reading category, despite the occasionally dense paragraph detailing some financial scandal. Apparently everyone in America is reading this Swede's book, so why should I be any different? I couldn't put it down, and it definitely had its hooks in me — and why wouldn't it, with a journo as the main character, an the other being a hacker-punk chick who rides a motorcycle? I loved it, despite some questionable journalistic ethics in the final 100 pages, and an uneven writing style that occasionally jeers into an editorial voice. But, the book weaves a tale of corporate corruption, journalism, a family murder plot and buried secrets into a thriller that, you know, thrills. (Larsson was a magazine editor who wrote three books in this series before dieing in 2004. I have not yet read the other two, but this one could have used a bit more editing, me thinks. They were posthumously published.) B+

Dave Eggers "What is the What"
"What is the What" is tagged as fiction only because it tells the odyssey of Valentino Achak Deng who fled genocide in Sudan in the '80s for the United States, and Eggers had to recreate dialogue and some details to fill in Deng's memory. The story at large is purely non-fiction. Eggers frames the story from the present, as Deng is taken hostage during a sloppy robbery in his Atlanta apartment, and tells his story of escape from Sudan in the first person to his new, American captors, oddly addressing them directly. I didn't finish this, because I was reading it on vacation and then lost momentum when I got home and had shit to do. But it was engrossing for several hundred pages before becoming a bit repetitive. Deng went through several levels of hell — machetes, machine guns, fire, starvation, dehydration, disease, lions and then American robbery. Former 7' 7" NBA center Manute Bol hailed from the same tribe as Deng and fled the same atrocities. The book added new meaning and gravity to the memory of Bol, for me, who is often regarded as not much more than a circus act. Bol gave away most his NBA millions to Sudan relief efforts and died this summer 47. B+

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pitchfork Music Festival 2010

Seeing Titus Andronicus live on Saturday just cemented "The Monitor" as my album of the year thus far.

They win.

Oh and Pavement was good (sloppy), too.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

MP3 Download: High Life "F Kenya Rip"

A slice of Afro pop, from High Life's EP "best bless."

Left click to stream, right click to download, via Gorilla Vs Bear

High Life "F Kenya Rip"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

MP3 Download: Sonny & the Sunsets

Thanks to the blog Beach Tapes for introducing me to Sonny & the Sunsets, just in time too. Apparently they will be appearing at the Pitchfork Music Festival this weekend. I'll have to add them to my schedule. Their California Americana should be a nice change of pace from Neon Indian and the lot.

Right click to download, left click to stream:
Sonny & the Sunsets "Too Young to Burn"

Sonny & the Sunsets "Death Cream"


Sonny & the Sunsets "The Hypnotist"

MP3 Download: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti "Round and "Round"

The rest of this album is highly over-rated. But this song, this song, is amazing. Like a combination of '70s pop, an early Michael Jackson bassline and a lost '80s British smash, the thing just floats. Great summer jam, with hooks to spare.


Right click here to download (or left click to stream)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

MP3 Download: Perfume Genius "Mr. Peterson"

Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, has a haunted melancholy to his voice not unlike Sufjan Stevens. I haven't heard the rest of "Learning" yet to know if this is a one-off brilliant moment or a collection of great songs.

Right click to download Perfume Genius "Mr. Peterson."
(Or left click to listen to a stream.)

"Learning" is out now on Matador.

MP3 Download: Stornoway "Zorbing"

Oxford, England's Stornoway will release their debut "Beachcomber's Windowsill" on 4AD on August 10.
It sounds like a Glee-club Fleet Foxes. Perhaps a little prim and proper for my tastes, but it's pretty for sure, and shows a little unexpected life with horns near the 2 minute mark.

Right click here to save "Zorbing."

MP3 download: Mystery Jets

Thanks to http://amixedtape.tumblr.com/ for reminding me about Mystery Jets' new album "Serotonin".

I've heard a couple tracks and it's quite good. Right click to download an MP3 of "Flash a Hungry Smile":

http://www.beggarsgroupusa.com/mp3/MysteryJets_FlashAHungrySmile.mp3

"Serotonin" is out today on Rough Trade.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Wasted Postage: Reports from the Netflix Theater

Cache (2005)
Michael Haneke occasionally makes great films, despite himself — even with his occasional disdain for his audience (sometimes that's the entire point). But, if one of his films can stand on their own as a piece of entertainment, it's gotta be Cache.
Stripped of its social commentary of Hollywood's blood-thirsty schadenfreude, Haneke's best known film Funny Games still works as a horror film, albeit an unconventional one.
Stripped of its political commentary and meditations on guilt, Cache ("Hidden" in English) largely works as a suspense thriller. For the first two acts, Cache slowly unnerves its audience, as a middle-aged couple receives VHS tapes in the mail showing the outside of their home, occasionally accompanied by a childlike drawing. Theories about who might be sending the threatening postage tear at the fabric of their marriage, their relationship with their son, and eventually bring to light a secret from the husband's childhood. The secret functions as a metaphor for a 1970s massacre of Algerian civilians in Paris that has largely been swept under the rug in history books. Though by the final act, Haneke lets his thematic convictions take hold, and he disregards the conventional plot arc, leaving viewers waiting for an eventually unrealized conclusion. Because, as Haneke says in the DVD extras, the who-done-it plot, in the end, doesn't make a yarn of difference to the ultimate meaning of his film.

As a conversation starter and brain igniter, Haneke always wins. His ending is more than open-ended, it's not a predictably "unHollywood ending," where things happen just in the exact opposite way they would here. It's a purposeful statement about national and personal guilt, wrapped in a "suspense" package (though by American standards a very slow and deliberate one). But, the greatest role Haneke has yet to play is that of fully-formed story teller and point-maker at the same time. Note: The White Ribbon, Haneke's lastest, sits on my desk, and I'll be watching that soon, so we'll see if he's changed at all. A-
  
eXistenZ (1999)
I watched this after the Avclub.com's "Scenic Routes" feature focused on the film's "gristle gun" scene. Jude Law is a body guard assigned to escort virtual-reality-game designer Jennifer Jason Leigh into one of her own creations to track down a virus — planted by a rival corporation — designed to infecting and kill her invention from the inside. This is a David Cronenberg film, so the video game consoles are organic in nature, not plastic, are disgusting as hell and require a little body mutilation to communicate/integrate with, via an umbilical chord-like connection. In said Gristle-Gun scene, Law and Leigh are in an Asian restaurant (inside the game). Law orders the special, which is a plate of disgusting sea creatures unlike anything we'd ever eat. He begins methodically eating the mess, slowly discovering that the bones and gristle fits together into a gun that shoots teeth. It's an amazing scene. But like the rest of the film, it's only momentarily brilliant — one amazing idea tied to the next via laborious pseudo-techno jargon and stilted exposition. Philip K. Dick-worthy reality mind-fucks in the film's final act nearly redeem a ramshackle story. Oh yeah, throughout the film Cronenberg uses various characters as mouth pieces to espouse his various ham-fisted rants against video gaming and their reality-eschewing properties. No matter how prescient  Cronenberg often is, it's almost always clunky here. C+

Shutter Island (2010)
Some of the most enjoyable entertainment occurs when a "serious" artist has some fun and jumps in the genre mud pits. Marten Scorcese does exactly that here with Shutter Island, taking his Oscar-worthy chops and creating a pitch-perfect thriller. Shutter Island is Marty's first foray into pulpy genre film-making since Cape Fear, and he knocks the fucker out of the park. In turns suspenseful, tragic, terrifying, but most of all entertaining, he even manages to maneuver the twist that you don't want to be the twist, and makes it work. In a lessor director's hands, this could have been a cliched mess. A

Crazy Heart (2009)
Like the The Wrestler in 2008, Crazy Heart jumps in at the rock-bottom moment most overwrought biopics crawl to at about the two-hour mark, this is the part shortly after Johnny Cash falls down on stage and everyone writes him off, or when Jake Lamotta is fat and telling bad one liners at dive bars. Jeff bridges brings us in at the vortex of the downward spiral, and accomplishes the essential trick: making us care about a heartless bastard and his hopeful redemption. Lots of good original music and performances, too. B+

On the stereo this week: Tame Impala "Inner Speaker"

Innerspeaker is one of those records that quietly nags for you to return, it burrows in, re-arranges a few synapses, tells the right and left side of your brain to get along, and then waits for you to revisit. Tame Impala are a bunch of Australians who make far-out psychedelia, as much indebted to the Beatles and other late '60s guitar bands as they are shoegaze's swirling guitars. Here's hoping the album lives beyond the initial narco-blanket warmth and has some actual staying power.