Sunday, June 24, 2007

Margot at the Wedding

Oh yes, it's true, it's true. It has finally arrived. The trailer for Noah Baumbach's new film Margot at the Wedding is now below for you viewing pleasure. I can't even tell you how good this looks. Even if it's only half as good as the Squid and the Whale (my #1 film of 2005) or a fraction as good as Kicking and Screaming (maybe my favorite movie period), then we are still probably looking at another modern classic. I'm stoked that Nicole Kidman is in it; she's always fantastic. And I know Jack Black can do good work with the right material. So it's fitting that he is working with Baumbach, the king of good material and by some distance the best writer currently working. And Jennifer Jason Leigh is Jennifer Jason Leigh - perennially underrated and consistently cast aside for the flavor-of-the week types. This is gonna rule. Mark my words.



Thursday, June 21, 2007

Patience is a virtue...

You will notice if you try and click on any of the movie links around this site that things aren't working quite right. Well, there is a reason for that. Suffice to say that there was a little problem at BOOMj and my reviews won't be up again 'til probably next week. Sorry. In the meantime watch this, you human animal...

UPDATE: I am slowly getting everything working again. Some reviews are back up, others aren't. I am going out of town next week so it'll probably be another couple weeks before everything is working again. I'll have a "best films of the first half of the year" list up on Monday to tide you over though.




Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Live - Shearwater & Jamie Stewart @ The Echo, Los Angeles 6/19/07

Two of the most distinctive voices in modern music took the stage at The Echo last night. Jonathan Meiburg and his brooding folk-rock troupe Shearwater - touring behind the re-release of their fantastic 2006 LP Palo Santo - headlined a bill that included an acoustic set by Xiu Xiu frontman and all around psychotic Jamie Stewart.

Meiburg was in top form, moving from manic yelping to lilting falsetto seemingly at the drop of a hat. The set mainly consisted of Palo Santo cuts, including standouts "Red Sea, Black Sea", "Seventy-Four, Seventy-Five", "La Dame et la Licorne" and a show stopping version of album centerpiece "Hail, Mary". Besides being the record that finally removed Shearwater from the shadow of the mighty Okkervil River,
Palo Santo is also one of the most underrated albums in recent memory. I truly believe - and I don't say this lightly - there are moments on Palo Santo as enthralling, beautiful and emotionally cathartic as anything off Black Sheep Boy (if you've been following my various blogs for long enough, you will remember BSB as my #1 record of 2005). This would have been one of the best live shows I've seen in quite some time anyway, but then they returned to the stage for an encore rendition of Brian Eno's classic (and incidentally, one of my favorite songs ever) "Baby's On Fire", which sent the show out with a bang.

Shearwater is a somewhat recent discovery for me however, whereas
Xiu Xiu has been haunting my dreams for nearly four years. Jamie Stewart put aside the fractured electro-acoustic noise rock of his main band for a quiet (and really short) set of gospel (!?) songs. I have a feeling this was Stewart's warped idea of a spiritual awakening or something. His deep baritone reverberated through the tiny club (helped it would seem by his between song shots of honey), illuminating the pain inherent in even his worship songs. I would have killed for a rendition of "Fabulous Muscles", but this did the trick just fine.

Shearwater



















Jamie Stewart






Monday, June 18, 2007

Hell just froze over...



First the Jesus & Mary Chain reunite, then a celebrity curated Sonic Youth compilation released by the Starbucks (!) label is said to be in the works, and now this. According to tvshowsondvd.com, a Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box Edition, featuring the complete first and second seasons of David Lynch and Mark Frost's groundbreaking show is currently being compiled. This in and of itself is fantastic news, seeing as how the 1st season DVD has been OOP for over 6 years . However, what makes this box set even more special (or yes, definitive) is the inclusion of the long sought after 2 hour pilot episode from the show, directed by Lynch himself. The pilot has never seen a proper release on DVD outside of only a shoddy import DVD that I never felt the need to pony up c-note for. This is all still rumored, but thankfully this cover art has surfaced, lending more credibility to the story. If this is indeed true, we are looking at what will easily be the most significant DVD release of the past few years.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Here it is, the trailer for the Coen Brothers' new film No Country for Old Men. This looks absolutely amazing - anything to cleanse the palette after the back-to-back disasters Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers. From the looks of it, this seems like it may be the darkest and most serious film they have ever attempted. Should be interesting.



Friday, June 15, 2007

DVD Roundup

The Clash - The Singles (****)



You can’t step to the Clash; they were too good, too unpredictable, too genre-busting, too focused, too culturally conscious and just way too important for anyone to pretend that they either don’t like them or don’t at least respect their contribution to the progression modern music. They were ridiculously prolific, releasing six studio albums in only eight years (with one of those being a double-LP and one a triple-LP), at least three of which are landmarks in the American songbook. They were the first punk (not punk) band to consistently make dents in the charts, dropping a series of singles over the course of their career (1977-85) that helped define a generation of UK youths. Last year, all of the band’s UK singles were packaged in a massive 19-disc box set, which re-created down to every last detail, the original art and design of the original vinyl releases. It was lavishly done and beautiful to look at, but also not very practical or economical (it retailed for about $85). Now, less than a year later, we have all the 18 A-sides from that set collected on one single disc compilation, appended with US smash hit “Train in Vain” and funky promotional single “Groovy Times”.

The quality of the work the Clash did is impossible to understate, and hearing these singles sequenced back-to-back over the course of one hour is almost overwhelming - there is nary a misstep to found here. The disc kicks off with “London Calling”, the title track to their groundbreaking London Calling LP, and one of their last attempts at straight ahead punk rock. The Clash were never a group content to rest on their laurels, consistently genre-hopping from reggae to r&b to ska to soul to anything in between, always retaining that intangible quality that made them one of the most vital acts of the last quarter century. After “London Calling”, the disc moves in all sorts of directions, from timeless call-and-response jam “Rock the Casbah” to the reggae inflected “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais” and circling back to early punk stunners “White Riot” and “Clash City Rockers” among others.

Oft-forgotten tracks like the fantastic “Bankrobber”, the soulful “English Civil War (Johnny Comes Marching Home)” and the unrelenting “Know Your Rights” are even further proof that the Clash’s deep cuts can stand up to close scrutiny. But let’s be serious, the Clash were notoriously indulgent, and for those of you who have never been able to sit through 1980s notoriously bloated Sandinista!, or their hit-and-miss late career records, then The Singles is a godsend as there is not one moment on this record that sags in the slightest. Their restlessness consistently led them into interesting sonic territory, but was always wonderfully offset by their staunchly political lyrics, which were thankfully never ham-fisted or preachy. Rather, the passionate and insightful words of Mick Jones and Joe Strummer - best represented here by the band’s debut single “White Riot” and the anti-terrorist manifesto “Tommy Gun” - have long since become rallying cries for political upheaval and social unrest.

Despite the band’s dedication to the album format, it is surprising to hear how well their songs stand up their own, not to mention how fascinating it is to witness the strength of their catalogue when highlights like these are strung together non-chronologically. The Singles cannot replace essential purchases like London Calling and their self-titled debut, but it works as a perfect compendium for their stand-alone artifacts. The Singles is exactly what it claims to be – a complete and consistently stunning overview of the complete 12” works from one of the greatest bands of all time; and on those terms it is a fantastic success.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I Miss You...



So, on July 23, 2007 a long time dream of mine is going to finally come true. It will be on that night when I will witness the legendary Slint work their way through the entirety of their seminal 1990 LP Spiderland, which almost single handedly charted the course for 90s post-rock. It's something I really never thought would happen. Being the obsessive that I am though, I purchased 2 tickets without actually having anyone to go with. If you know me and want to go, let me know. After all, I paid through the nose for these tix. First come, first serve. Never heard (of) Slint, here should be all you need to hear.

Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full



"It’s all very non-confrontational and “nice”, which is par for the course with McCartney, but for an artist of such immense talent, we deserve more." [Continue Reading]

Monday, June 11, 2007

Jeff Buckley - So Real: Songs from Jeff Buckley (**)




If any artist did not need a greatest hits collection, it was late, great Jeff Buckley. The man only released one album in his short lifetime, in addition to two live EPs. Two of these—the legendary Grace LP and the mesmerizing Live at Sin-e EP—have, in the last couple years, been expanded as definitive Legacy Editions, complete with bonus tracks, alternate cuts and live tracks. Even Buckley’s unfinished record, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, is still readily available. So that’s three records with very few missteps, rendering any kind of compiling of these efforts superfluous.

In total, there are eight songs from Grace, in one form or another, present on So Real. This speaks to the quality of that record, but don’t forget that there were only 10 songs of Grace to begin with. The opening one-two punch of Grace standouts “Last Goodbye” and “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” is unquestionably strong, but the high is somewhat deflated by period rarity “Forget Her,” a nice tune that unfortunately has to follow up those two tracks. The center of the disc is occupied by a standard rendition of “So Real” recorded live in Japan that adds nothing to the original version, while the last quarter of the record is dominated by both “Grace” and Buckley’s now legendary cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” This is all well and good, but as these moments prove, there is really just no reason not to start with Grace if you want an overview of Buckley’s music.

The six remaining songs are taken from Live at Sin-e and Sketches. The two Sin-e tracks, “Mojo Pin” and “Je N’en Connais Pas La Fin”, are both great, particularly the former, which puts a nice spin on Grace’s leadoff track. The Sketches tracks are the most interesting, however. It is fairly obvious, even listening to these unfinished tracks, that Buckley was headed in a much different, much more interesting direction with his sophomore album. “The Sky is a Landfill” best exemplifies his new approach (already hinted at on fiery “road version” of “Eternal Life” from mid-1995), with its strangled guitar effects and loads more dissonance that anything on Grace. This proves that perhaps, like Kurt Cobain before him—another musician unwillingly thrust into the spotlight—Buckley was most at home in the underground music scene, where his ambitions would have had time and space to stretch out and develop (not unlike his father, the legendary Tim Buckley).

Coming on the heels of the grunge fallout of the early to mid-90s, Buckley’s music was a breath of fresh air to those exhausted from the in-breeding of that scene, as well the ever present flannel fashion statements. Buckley was the rare artist that appealed to both the hipsters and the adult contemporary set, effectively bridging a gap that rarely ever connects. So Real closes with a somber reading of The Smiths’ “I Know It’s Over,” a song that has always been an ominous cloud of impending passing in and of itself. When Buckley hits the refrain of “Mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head,” it is nearly impossible not to get a lump in your throat. Buckley drowned in Wolf River Harbor in May of 1997, cutting short a career of unprecedented success and a potential future of grand artistic statements. His entire legacy is contained within three discs that will run you about $40. Dropping $15 on an incoherent compilation that only wets the appetite is not only a waste of money; it does a disservice to the beautiful brush strokes of Buckley’s unwavering creativity.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

WTF, Henry Rollins on TSH?

So I'm walking by a television set in my house yesterday, and what do I see? Henry "the neck" Rollins being fed ridiculous questions by the That's So Hollywood hosts. In between plugging his radio and television shows, he informs them that mainstream radio sucks and that Deerhoof (!) is his favorite band at the moment, only to received blank stares in return. So at least something good came out of it.

And if you don't know who Henry Rollins is, this should give you a pretty good idea:

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Beach Boys - The Warmth of the Sun (****)



For all the fuss and acclaim tossed The Beach Boys’ way (not to mention their insurmountable legacy), it wouldn’t be thought of as out of the ordinary if you only owned one of their full length albums. Of course, that album should be Pet Sounds (if it’s not, we have problems), one of the most perfect documents of teenage angst, lost love and spiritual renewal in existence. It was also the group’s last grasp at greatness, at least in terms of full-length albums. Pretty much their entire catalogue outside of the music they made circa Pet Sounds and the aborted SMiLE is inconsistent at best and horribly dated worst. On the bright side, this makes The Beach Boys perfect candidates for the compilation treatment, which they are aware of and, for better or worse, have been milking for over three decades. It has paid off in an unexpected way however with the great new 28-track, career overview The Warmth of the Sun, which takes an alternate path around all the obvious Beach Boys hits and focuses on the overlooked, and quite frankly better songs that the group produced both pre and post-Pet Sounds.

The Warmth of the Sun is being marketed as a sort of companion piece to 2003’s Sounds of Summer compilation, which is probably the disc most casual Beach Boys fans reach for at barbeques or family get-togethers. I have news for these people however—The Warmth of the Sun is probably the best single-disc Beach Boys compilation currently available, assuming you own Pet Sounds (of which no songs appear here). The disc is thankfully short on those early, fun-in-the-sun Beach Boys singles (which comprised most of Sounds of Summer) that haven’t aged very well, yet continue to dominate oldies radio. Don’t get me wrong, these songs certainly have their place, but nowadays they mostly work as time capsules or pure nostalgia for those long lost teenage years and endless summer nights. However, this period did produce a handful of great moments, which continue to hold up well. These tracks kick off The Warmth of the Sun on a bright, sunny note with songs like “All Summer Long,” “Little Honda” and the fanatically infectious “Hawaii.” Also, for those who believe that Brian Wilson’s genius sprouted during the Pet Sounds sessions, they will be in for a surprise with “You’re So Good to Me,” “Kiss Me Baby” and “Let Him Run Wild,” all of which presage Pet Sounds and show glimpses into the serious minded approach that he would embark on in the coming years.

The disc is not chronological, but there is still a very pronounced gap halfway through the disc where the tone changes. The release of Pet Sounds fits right between track 13 (“Wendy”) and track 14 (“Disney Girls”), which effectively splits the disc in two. From this point on, the material becomes darker but continually grows stronger until you reach the last quarter of the record, and you realize you are listening to some of the most beautiful recordings the world has ever known. There’s Dennis Wilson’s somber “Forever,” Bruce Johnston’s underrated “Disney Girls” and Carl Wilson’s jaw dropping “Feel Flows” among others, but like always Brian Wilson steals the show. Brian post-Pet Sounds was an unstable individual to say the least, which kind of perversely led to his best and most ambitious songs he had ever attempted. It’s perhaps best represented here by the proto prog-pop epic “Surf’s Up,” which never loses its way through its three complex movements. The highlight of the disc, and perhaps the strongest song Brian Wilson ever wrote, is the achingly gorgeous “’Til I Die,” a song that Mike Love famously fought against the group releasing (and did I mention that thankfully there is very little Mike Love on this comp.?). The disc closes, appropriately enough, with the title track—a song that stands alongside “Don’t Worry Baby” (not included here) as the apex of pre-Pet Sounds Beach Boys.

Like I said before, the Beach Boys weren’t ever really an “album” band. The one time Brian consciously attempted to craft a full length, it nearly destroyed him. Their pre-Pet Sounds records were littered with covers (of which three are present here and account for the lowest points on this disc), and their post-Pet Sounds albums continually (but thankfully) resurrected years-old SMiLE songs for inclusion. However, with Brian finally completing SMiLE a few years back, he has effectively rendered most of their other records obsolete (although I would still highly recommend Surf’s Up and even Smiley Smile to paint a complete picture). The Warmth of the Sun picks up the slack, nicely compiling most of the group’s better songs even while avoiding their most fertile period. In this way it works as a great purchase for the uninitiated as well as those looking to dive further into one of pop’s deepest and most indelible catalogues.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Excellent Italian Greyhound



They're baaaaaaaaack!

7 years after 1000 Hurts - a period littered with countless post-punk throwbacks and dance rock revivalists - the mighty Shellac have returned to obliterate every lame "indie" band-of-the-month with their ground shaking, earth quaking noise rock. However, I have gotten to the point where I have come to the realization that the group will never release another album as consistently intense as At Action Park. Both Terraforms and 1000 Hurts had scattered filler, and Excellent Italian Greyhound is no different. But when Steve Albini, Tod Trainer and Bob Weston lock into that groove, there is not a band on the planet that can match up. EIGH has classic Shellac mindflayers like "Steady As She Goes", "Paco" & "Spoke", but also sees the band stretching out further into their tension-and-release style with "The End of Radio" and "Genuine Lullabelle" (the former more successfully than the latter). It is all undeniably Shellac though. It is good to have them back.

On a side note, Touch & Go have been steadily releasing footage/interviews with all the bands that performed at last year's Touch & Go 25 Festival, finally putting up Shellac's a few weeks back. They play "The End of Radio" and the untouchable "Watch Song". Check it out here. Oh and what the heck, watch Scratch Acid's as well. David Yow totally annihilates "Mess" and the twisted rape screed "Lay Screaming". Insane.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

2007 Festival de Cannes Winners



Palm d'Or
44 LUNI, 3 SAPTAMINI SI 2 ZILE (4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS)
Directed by Cristian Mungiu




60th Anniversary Award
PARANOID PARK
Directed by Gus Van Sant




Grand Prix
MOGARI NO MORI (THE MOURNING FOREST)
Directed by Naomi Kawase




Best Director
Julian Schnabel for
LE SCAPHANDRE ET LE PAPILLON
(THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY)




Best Actress
Jeon Do Yeon for SECRET SUNSHINE




Best Actor
Konstantin Lavronenko for IZGNANIE (THE BANISHMENT)




Best Screenplay
Fatih Akin for AUF DER ANDEREN SEITE (THE EDGE OF HEAVEN)


Reaction:
I was really hoping that the early buzz for the Coen Brothers' No Country For Old Men would translate to their second Palm d'Or, but it didn't quite happen. Perhaps the jury wanted to spread the wealth, seeing as the Coen's have owned this festival for over 15 years, having taken home the Palm d'Or, Best Director and Best Actor for Barton Fink, Best Director for Fargo and co-Best Director for The Man Who Wasn't There (shared with David Lynch for Mulholland Dr.) Just the fact that a Coen Brother's film has strong early buzz is good enough for me.

Gus Van Sant is no stranger to Cannes either, having won the Palm d'Or for Elephant a few years back. His new film Paranoid Park looks fantastic. Then again, everything Van Sant does is worth checking out (don't believe me, go rent My Own Private Idaho). I am also very excited for Julian Schnabel's new film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which nabbed Best Director. Even though he has only directed 2 previous films (Basquiat and Before Night Falls), both are fantastic, which will keep my expectations high. Everything else I have no comment on because I haven't heard of them. And more than likely most of them won't even make it to America.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

yes! finally...



I would have been happy with a typical bare bones Lynch-style DVD, but 90 minutes (!) of deleted scenes edited together into a mini-feature on a second disc! August 14th can't come soon enough.