Thursday, December 27, 2007

Largehearted Boy's Master "Best of 2007" List

FYI: In an effort to keep the Top 10 Films of '07 list at the top of the page over the holiday weekend, I will be pre-dating posts and positioning them under said list.

Alright then, the Largehearted Boy blog has been keeping an exhaustive tally of the myriad Best-of lists floating around the internet over the last few weeks. It is a fantastic resource to check out what some smaller sites are doing in their spare time. Stereo Sanctity's Albums of the Year list made the last cut, along with other localized newspaper and magazines. Check out the latest update here.

Cokemachineglow's Top 50 Albums of 2007

The always fascinating critics over at Cokemachineglow have finally released their quite thorough list of the Top 50 Albums of 2007. The Glow critics tend to have slightly more original, or for lack of a better word experimental, picks than most sites or mags. So for that reason alone my tastes usually line up pretty well with their picks (we have a 6 out of 10 match up in our Top 10s in fact). This year's list also gives credit to a number of unjustly overlooked records, including some of my favorites like Andrew Bird's Armchair Apocrypha, Future of the Left's Curses, Nina Nastasia & Jim White's You Follow Me, Shining's Grindstone, Blitzen Trapper's Wild Mountain Nation and Parts & Labor's Mapmaker. Check out the complete Top 50 here, along with a lot of other year end lists and commentary. Here is the Top 10:

1. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
2. Future of the Left - Curses
3. Supersilent - 8
4. Panda Bear - Person Pitch
5. Battles - Mirrored
6. Pantha Du Prince - This Bliss
7. Frog Eyes - Tears of the Valedictorian
8. Menomena - Friend & Foe
9. Deer Tick - War Elephant
10. Stars of the Lid - And Their Refinement of the Decline

Friday, December 21, 2007


A couple things to note:

1) All the year end lists have halted my normal movie reviews lately, but don't think I haven't been keeping up. I should have very quick, very truncated reviews for Margot at the Wedding, The Savages, Sweeney Todd, Atonement, Juno, Charlie Wilson's War and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly up by the end of the weekend, with my Top 10 Films of the year list coming by the end of next week.

2) In light of the recent SAG nominations, I have updated the Oscar Predix sidebar. This will be the last update until the DGA announces Jan. 8th.

Merry Christmas. Happy New Year, blah blah blah

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Northern on "The Unit"

Conflict of interest alert! Local L.A./O.C. band Northern, who's bass player Mike is a friend of mine, had their song "We Illuminate" played on CBS drama The Unit a couple nights ago. Give it look below, or check out their myspace, where they are currently posting video blog updates for their currently in-progress album. If you are looking to scratch that Coldplay itch, you could certainly do a lot worse.

I tend to sunscribe to the Morrissey school of thought that says, "We hate it when our friends become successful", but the Moz couldn't be more wrong here. Congrats guys!

Screen Actor's Guild Fallout

Oscar ballots are mailed out next week, making the SAGs not only the last major precussor of the year, but also the last chance at influencing the Academy into voting for a particular actor or actress. This year's SAGs raised more questions than it answered though. What it has done however, is filter out some weak links and solified some major contenders. Individual category breakdowns follow:

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
GEORGE CLOONEY / Michael Clayton - "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros. Pictures)
DANIEL DAY-LEWIS / Daniel Plainview - "There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage)
RYAN GOSLING / Lars Lindstrom - "Lars And The Real Girl" (Sidney Kimmel Entertainment)
EMILE HIRSCH / Christopher McCandless- "Into The Wild" (Paramount Vantage)
VIGGO MORTENSEN / Nikolai - "Eastern Promises" (Focus Features)

This was at once the most suprising yet most satisfying group of nominees this morning. Two grossly overlooked performances were included here, those being Ryan Gosling and Viggo Mortensen, while Johnny Depp and James McAvoy were snubbed (as were their respective films). In my opinion, as good as McAvoy is in Atonement, he isn't award worthy, but Depp - the supposed "competetion" to Daniel Day Lewis - is a baffling omission. Perhaps these gimmicky performances have become old hat to other actors, or perhaps this is just par for the course for Depp (probably both actually). Emile Hirsch meanwhile, who has been dangling in limbo, got the well deserved push he needed here to grab his first Oscar nod. But it's gonna take a something extraordinary to knock Daniel Day Lewis out of the frontrunner seat at this point.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
CATE BLANCHETT / Queen Elizabeth I - "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (Universal Pictures)
JULIE CHRISTIE / Fiona - "Away From Her" (Lionsgate)
MARION COTILLARD / Edith Piaf - "La Vie En Rose" (Picturehouse)
ANGELINA JOLIE / Mariane Pearl - "A Mighty Heart" (Paramount Vantage)
ELLEN PAGE / Juno MacGuff - "Juno" (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

If isn't wasn't already obvious, fellow actors love Cate Blanchett, singling out her work in the both the overwrought Elizabeth: The Golden Age and her great supporting turn as Dylan in I'm Not There. Christie, Cotillard and Page were undeniable here - all are in for Oscar nods. Jolie gets good exposure as well, getting in over the much beloved Amy Adams, who's film (Enchanted), I'm afraid, will be looked at as too "light" to get in with Oscar. And as sad as it makes me, Laura Linney looks like she is all but out of the race, having recieved no (yes, not one!) precurssor award or nod from any critics group or voting body for her fantastic performance in The Savages.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
CASEY AFFLECK / Robert Ford - "The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford" (Warner Bros. Pictures)
JAVIER BARDEM / Anton Chigurh - "No Country For Old Men" (Miramax Films)
HAL HOLBROOK / Ron Franz - "Into The Wild" (Paramount Vantage)
TOMMY LEE JONES / Ed Tom Bell - "No Country For Old Men" (Miramax Films)
TOM WILKINSON / Arthur Edens - "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Only one suprise here: Tommy Lee Jones recieving a surprise nod over Phil Hoffman's turn in Charlie Wilson's War. This just solidifies the love for No Country at this point. If Jones gets an Oscar nod, you can all but cancel the ceremony and give No Country the Oscar.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
CATE BLANCHETT / Jude - "I'm Not There" (The Weinstein Company)
RUBY DEE / Mama Lucas - "American Gangster" (Universal Pictures)
CATHERINE KEENER / Jan Burres - "Into The Wild" (Paramount Vantage)
AMY RYAN / Helene McCready - "Gone Baby Gone" (Miramax Films)
TILDA SWINTON / Karen Crowder - "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros. Pictures)

As expected, this category is all over the place. Blanchett, Ryan and Swinton are all in, while the remaining two slots keep getting foggier, especially with these mentions for Catherine Keener and Ruby Dee. The love Keener has within the acting community is nearly unmatched - she is nominated for seemngly everything at this point. I didn't get the love for her work in Being John Malkcovich or Capote either, but she snuck in for both those fims, so who knows? Ruby Dee on the other hand, who was in fact the best thing about American Gangster, will have a tougher go of it though. I'm still holding out hope for a Marissa Tomei nomination.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

3:10 TO YUMA (Lionsgate)
PETER FONDA / Byron McElroy
GRETCHEN MOL / Alice Evans
DALLAS ROBERTS / Grayson Butterfield
VINESSA SHAW / Emmy Roberts
BEN FOSTER / Charlie Prince
ALAN TUDYK / Doc Potter

AMERICAN GANGSTER (Universal Pictures)
ARMAND ASSANTE / Dominic Cattano
JOSH BROLIN / Detective Trupo
RUSSELL CROWE / Richie Roberts
RUBY DEE / Mama Lucas
CUBA GOODING, JR. / Nicky Barnes
CARLA GUGINO / Laurie Roberts
JOHN HAWKES / Freddie Spearman
TED LEVINE / Lou Toback
JOE MORTON / Charlie Williams
JOHN ORTIZ / Javier J. Rivera
RZA / Moses Jones
YUL VAZQUEZ / Alfonse Abruzzo

HAIRSPRAY (New Line Cinema)
NIKKI BLONSKY / Tracy Turnblad
AMANDA BYNES / Penny Pingleton
PAUL DOOLEY / Mr. Spritzer
ZAC EFRON / Link Larkin
ALLISON JANNEY / Prudy Pingleton
JAMES MARSDEN / Corny Collins
QUEEN LATIFAH / Motormouth Maybelle
BRITTANY SNOW / Amber Von Tussle
JOHN TRAVOLTA / Edna Turnblad

INTO THE WILD (Paramount Vantage)
MARCIA GAY HARDEN / Billie McCandless
EMILE HIRSCH / Chris McCandless
WILLIAM HURT / Walt McCandless
JENA MALONE / Carine McCandless
VINCE VAUGHN / Wayne Westerberg

JAVIER BARDEM / Anton Chigurh
JOSH BROLIN / Llewelyn Moss
TESS HARPER / Loretta Bell

Hopefully this list of nominees will finally put to rest the notion that the Best Ensemble SAG nomination is their version of Best Picture. Hairspray's got no shot with Oscar, and 3:10 to Yuma & American Gangster, while both good movies, are on the outside looking in at this point. The only thing going for American Gangster at this point is it's box office numbers, which outshine all the competition. Meanwhile, No Country and Into the Wild have that widespread support from the actors that can power a film to a Best Pic win - remember, the actors single handedly won Oscars for Gladiator, Chicago and Crash, over the more highly touted likes of Traffic, The Pianist and Brokeback Mountain respectively.

What does this mean for the snubees? Well, Atonement should fare well with the Academy on pedigree alone - it certainly isn't the frontrunner it once was though. Sweeney Todd took the hardest shot today, being competely shut out. I never bought into the idea of it as a major Oscar threat, but now more than ever, things will be an up hill climb. The there is There Will Be Blood, which, while it did get a Best Actor nod, didn't show up anywhere else. It really is a director's film though, as opposed to an actor's film, so I see it making more of an impact with the guilds, particularly the writers and directors. The DGA is in fact the last piece of the Best Picture puzzle. When they announce, things should be all but set in stone.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Shine a Light" Trailer

I guess this has been around for a little while now, but Awards Daily just tipped me off to it today. All this time I thought this was going to be a documentary about the early career of the Rolling Stones, guess I was wrong (besides, you can't replace Gimme Shelter right?). But Scorsese's name in the credits alone makes this a must see. Heads up: blink and you might miss Jack White & Christina Aguilera.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Critics Choice/Golden Globe Fallout

I have been really lagging on the awards race this week, what with all my personal Best-of lists being formulated as we speak, but the BFCA & the HFPA both announced their nominees this week, with little if anything to get too concerned or excited about. The biggest thing that stuck out to me was the disconnect between the love from the BFCA for Into the Wild (it led with 7 nods) and the film's near snubbing from the Globes (it petered out with just 2).

The Globes on the whole were pretty ridiculous though, as they continue to cement their reputations are the biggest set of Hollywood whores in all the land. They couldn't resist undeserved nods for Julia Roberts or The Great Debaters, and the John Travolta nod is typical HFPA red carpet eye candy. And although there were 7 nominees for Best Pic at the Globes this year (a tie occurred I'm assuming), it is important to note the impact There Will Be Blood is having on this year's awards race, having picked up a slew of accolades over the last 2 weeks in addition to nods from both these organizations.

Sweeney Todd is showing up in just enough places to keep it in contention, while The Kite Runner seems to gasping for air despite it's Critics Choice Top 10 spot. And then there is The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which is very quietly accruing an impressive collection of awards and nominations for both the film and it's director Julian Schnabel. Like last time, there won't be an actual "Race for the Prize" column this week, but I am updating the sidebar nominee predictions to account for last week's bevy of nominations and critics awards.

In case you missed them,

The 2007 Golden Globe Nominees:

Best Motion Picture - Drama
American Gangster
Eastern Promises
The Great Debaters
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

Best Actress - Drama
Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie - Away From Her
Jodie Foster - The Brave One
Angelina Jolie - A Mighty Heart
Keira Knightley - Atonement

Best Actor - Drama
George Clooney - Michael Clayton
Daniel Lewis - There Will Be Blood
James McAvoy - Atonement
Viggo Mortensen - Eastern Promises
Denzel Washington - American Gangster

Best Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy
Across The Universe
Charlie Wilson's War
Sweeney Todd

Best Actress - Musical or Comedy
Amy Adams - Enchanted
Nikki Blonsky - Hairspray
Helena Bonham Carter - Sweeney Todd
Marion Cotillard - La Vie En Rose
Ellen Page - Juno

Best Actor - Musical Or Comedy
Johnny Depp - Sweeney Todd
Ryan Gosling - Lars and the Real Girl
Tom Hanks - Charlie Wilson's War
Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Savages
John C. Reilly - Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Best Supporting Actor
Casey Affleck - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Charlie Wilson's War
John Travolta - Hairspray
Tom Wilkinson - Michael Clayton

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
Saoirse Ronan - Atonement
Julia Roberts - Charlie Wilson's War
Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton

Best Director
Tim Burton - Sweeney Todd
Joel and Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Julian Schnabel - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Ridley Scott - American Gangster
Joe Wright - Atonement

Best Screenplay
Diablo Cody - Juno
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Christopher Hampton - Atonement
Ronald Harwood - The Diving Bell & the Butterfly
Aaron Sorkin - Charlie Wilson's War

Best Foreign Language Film
4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days (Romania)
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (France, United States)
The Kite Runner (United States)
Lust, Caution (Taiwan)
Persepolis (France)

Best Animated Feature Film
Bee Movie
The Simpsons Movie

Best Original Score
Into the Wild
Grace is Gone
The Kite Runner
Eastern Promises

Best Original Song
"Despedida" - Love in the Time of Cholera
"Grace is Gone" - Grace is Gone
"Guaranteed" - Into the Wild
"That's How You Know" - Enchanted
"Walk Hard" - Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

And the Critics Choice Nominees are:

Best Picture
American Gangster
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Into the Wild
The Kite Runner
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
Sweeney Todd
There Will Be Blood

Best Actor
George Clooney - Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp - Sweeney Todd
Ryan Gosling - Lars and the Real Girl
Emile Hirsch - Into the Wild
Viggo Mortensen - Eastern Promises

Best Actress
Amy Adams - Enchanted
Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie - La Vie en Rose
Angelina Jolie - A Mighty Heart
Ellen Page - Juno

Best Supporting Actor
Casey Affleck - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Charlie Wilson's War
Hal Holbrook - Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson - Michael Clayton

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
Catherine Keener - Into the Wild
Vanessa Redgrave - Atonement
Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton

Best Acting Ensemble
No Country for Old Men
Sweeney Todd
Gone Baby Gone
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Best Director
Tim Burton - Sweeney Todd
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Sidney Lumet - Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Sean Penn - Into the Wild
Julian Schnabel - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Joe Wright - Atonement

Best Writer
Diablo Cody - Juno
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Tony Gilroy - Michael Clayton
Nancy Oliver - Lars and the Real Girl
Sean Penn - Into the Wild
Aaron Sorkin - Charlie Wilson's War

Best Animated Feature
Bee Movie
The Simpsons Movie

Best Young Actor
Michael Cera - Juno
Michael Cera - Superbad
Freddie Highmore - August Rush
Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada - The Kite Runner
Edward Sanders - Sweeney Todd

Best Young Actress
Nikki Blonsky - Hairspray
Dakota Blue Richards - The Golden Compass
AnnaSophia Robb - Bridge to Terabithia
Saoirse Ronan - Atonement

Best Comedy Movie
Dan in Real Life
Knocked Up

Best Family Film
August Rush
The Golden Compass
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Best Picture Made for Television
The Company
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Tin Man
The War

Best Foreign Language Film
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
La Vie en Rose
Lust, Caution
The Orphanage

Best Song
"Come So Far", Queen Latifah, Nikki Blonsky, Zac Efron, Elijah Kelley - Hairspray
"Do You Feel Me", Anthony Hamilton - American Gangster
"Falling Slowly", Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, Jesse L. Martin and Cast - Once
"That's How You Know", Amy Adams - Enchanted

Best Composer
Marco Beltrami - 3:10 to Yuma
Alexandre Desplat - Lust, Caution
Clint Eastwood - Grace Is Gone
Jonny Greenwood - There Will Be Blood
James Horner - The New World
Dario Marianelli - Atonement
Alan Menken - Enchanted

Best Documentary
Darfur Now
In the Shadow of the Moon
The King of Kong
No End In Sight

Monday, December 10, 2007

Chicago Film Critics Nominations

The Chicago critics do things a bit different than other critic circles, by actually announcing nominees as opposed to just honoring the winners. Things look more or less as expected, with the exception of The Kite Runner and Sweeney Todd both mysteriously MIA. Atonement also got pushed to the back burner here, although I suspect the Academy will receive that film much more warmly than critics.

Complete List for Red Carpet District:

Best Picture
"Into the Wild"
"Michael Clayton"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

Best Director
Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood"
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, "No Country for Old Men"
Tony Gilroy, "Michael Clayton"
David Fincher, "Zodiac"
Jason Reitman, "Juno"

Best Actor
George Clooney, "Michael Clayton"
Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
Ryan Gosling, "Lars and the Real Girl"
Frank Langella, "Starting Out in the Evening"
Viggo Mortensen, "Eastern Promises"

Best Actress
Julie Christie, "Away from Her"
Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose"
Angelina Jolie, "A Mighty Heart"
Laura Linney, "The Savages"
Ellen Page, "Juno"

Best Supporting Actor
Casey Affleck, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men"
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, "Charlie Wilson's War"
Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"
Tom Wilkinson, "Michael Clayton"

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchet, "I'm Not There"
Jennifer Jason Leigh, "Margot at the Wedding"
Leslie Mann, "Knocked Up"
Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton"

Best Adapted Screenplay
"Into the Wild"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

Best Original Screenplay
"Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"
"Michael Clayton"
"The Savages"

Best Cinematography
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

Best Score
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
"Lust, Caution"
"There Will Be Blood"

Best Animated Feature
"Meet the Robinsons"
"The Simpsons Movie"

Best Foreign Film
"4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days"
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
"La Vie en Rose"
"Lust, Caution"
"The Orphanage"

Best Documentary
"Darfur Now"
"The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters"
"Lake of Fire"
"No End in Sight"

Promising Director
Ben Affleck, "Gone Baby Gone"
John Carney, "Once"
Craig Gillespie, "Lars and the Real Girl"
Tony Gilroy, "Michael Clayton"
Sarah Polley, "Away from Her"

Promising Performer
Nikki Blonsky, "Hairspray"
Michael Cera, "Juno"/"Superbad"
Glen Hansard, "Once"
Carice van Houten, "Black Book"
Tang Wei, "Lust, Caution"

New York Film Critics Circle Winners

No alarms and no surprises here. No County sweeps.

Amy Ryan is officially the critics darling and has shoved her way into front runner status with yet another win, and Julie Christie picks up another win, all but cementing her Oscar nomination. However, it's important to remember that these are critics awards. There are far too many people around the web anointing various films and performances as "locks" for Oscar wins based off these awards. Critics groups are good for building buzz for nominations, not necessarily for wins. Despite No Country and There Will Be Blood dominating the precursors so far, it would be irrational to proclaim the race over at such an early juncture. Keep in my that these are two very un-Academy type films. Not saying they can't win, especially when taking into account
recent years & the Academy's refusal to be pigeonholed, but it is still that much bigger of an obstacle for these movies to overcome. Things will become clearer tomorrow when the BFCA announces and even more so Thursday when the Globes release their nominations.

Complete List from Awards Daily:

No Country for Old Men

Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men)

Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)

Julie Christie (Away From Her)

Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men)

Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)

Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men)

Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood)

No End in Sight

The Lives of Others


Sarah Polley (Away from Her)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

NYFCO, Boston & DC Film Critics Winners

It's becoming a showdown between two films so far this awards season, at least in terms of critics awards. That would be No Country for Old Men vs. There Will Be Blood. The Coen's picked up two more wins today from the Boston and Washington DC area critics, while PT Anderson continues to shock with his second big win of the day from the online New York Critics, following the bomb he dropped on the LA Critics earlier today. Look for one of these two to take the NYFCC tomorrow as well. And I think it is safe to say that Cate Blanchett is no longer the forerunner for Supporting Actress (although she did pick up one award today), as Amy Ryan continues to plow through just about everyone. Complete lists courtesy of Awards Daily.

New York Film Critics Online:

Best Picture: (tie)

There Will Be Blood & The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Best Actor

Daniel Day Lewis for There Will Be Blood

Best Actress:

Julie Christie for Away from Her


PT Anderson for There Will Be Blood

Supporting actress:

Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There

Supporting Actor
Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men

Breakthrough Performer
Ellen Page for Juno

Debut Director
Sarah Polley for Away from Her

Ensemble Cast
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Wes Anderson, Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola for The Darjeeling Limited


Foreign Language: (tie)
Lives of Others & Persepolis


Robert Elswit for There Will Be Blood

Film Music
Jonny Greenwood for There Will Be Blood

Top Ten Films:

1 Atonement (Focus Features)
2 Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (THINKFilm)
3 The Darjeeling Limited (Fox Searchlight)
4 The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Miramax)
5 I'm Not There (The Weinstein Company)
6 Juno (Fox Searchlight)
7 Michael Clayton (Warner Bros.)
8 No Country for Old Men (Miramax)
9 Persepolis (Sony Pictures Classics)
10 Sweeney Todd (DreamWorks)
11.There Will Be Blood (Paramount Vantage

Boston Society of Film Critics:

Best Picture:

No Country for Old Men

Best Director:

Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Best Actor:

Frank Langella for Starting Out in the Evening

Best Actress:

Marion Cotillard for La Vie En Rose

Best Supporting Actor:

Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men

Best Supporting Actress:

Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone

Best Cinematography:

Janusz Kaminski for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Best Screenplay:

Brad Bird for Ratatouille

Best Documentary:

Crazy Love

Best Foreign-Language Film:

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Best New Filmmaker:

Ben Affleck for Gone Baby Gone

Best Ensemble Cast:

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Washington DC Area Film Critics:

Winner: No Country for Old Men

Winner: Ethan and Joel Coen (No Country for Old Men)

Winner: George Clooney (Michael Clayton)

Winner: Julie Christie (Away from Her)

Winner: Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men)

Winner: Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead)

Winner: Diablo Cody (Juno)

Winner: No Country for Old Men

Winner: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Winner: Ratatouille

Winner: Sicko

Winner: Sweeney Todd

Winner: Ellen Page (Juno)

Los Angeles Film Critics Circle Winners!!!

Holy crap. We have arrived. In a shocking win, Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood has taken both the Best Picture and Best Director prizes from the venerable LAFCC. Talk about a boost for this unrelenting art picture and the man who's vision saw it's way to the screen unfettered. The win for Daniel Day-Lewis was expected, but the LA folks must have flipped for the film.

Amy Ryan continues to surprise as well, taking home all 3 of the major critics awards announced so far this year, over the highly touted Cate Blacnhett. It's nice to see The Savages get some love for its wonderful screenplay as well. And I can't explain the win for
Vlad Ivanov, expect to say that the LAFCC always toss a curve ball. This year they threw 3 though. Business just picked up....

LAFCC Winners:

Best Picture: "There Will Be Blood"

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood"

Actress: Marion Cotillard, "La Vie En Rose"

Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"

Screenplay: Tamara Jenkins, "The Savages"

Supporting actress: Amy Ryan for "Gone Baby Gone" and "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"

Supporting actor: Vlad Ivanov, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days"

Foreign language film: "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days"

Documentary/Non-fiction film: "No End in Sight" directed by Charles Ferguson

Production design: Jack Fisk, "There Will Be Blood"

Music: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, "Once"

Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"

New generation: Sarah Polley, "Away From Her"

Douglas Edwards Indie Award: "Colossal Youth" directed by Pedro Costa

Career Achievement: Sidney Lumet

Boston Film Critics Winners

Not surprisingly, No Country continues to dominate. Frank Langella is doing his best to make a last minute surge for an Oscar nod too. If he can win LA or NY, we may have a formidable contender on our hands.
from Awards Daily:

Best Picture:
No Country for Old Men
Best Director:
Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Best Actor:
Frank Langella for Starting Out in the Evening
Best Actress:
Marion Cotillard for La Vie En Rose
Best Supporting Actor:
Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men
Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone
Best Cinematography:
Janusz Kaminski for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Best Screenplay:
Brad Bird for Ratatouille
Best Documentary:
Crazy Love
Best Foreign-Language Film:
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Best New Filmmaker:
Ben Affleck for Gone Baby Gone
Best Ensemble Cast:

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Bradford Cox Interviews Pylon

Bradford Cox of Deerhunter/Atlas Sound recently got the opportunity to interview the legendary Pylon, who just happened to have their 1980 cult classic Gyrate issued on CD for the first time just last month (read my thoughts on the reissue here). It's obvious that Cox is a huge fan and it makes for a fascinating 22 minute conversation. It's up in MP3 format over at the Deerhunter blog.


The Los Angeles Film Critics Association announces their winners tomorrow, with the New York Critics weighing in on Monday. Common sense says they both go with No Country for Best Pic, but only twice this decade have they chosen the same film. I see this as a good opportunity for Diving Bell to make a splash, which along along with Juno are the only two films close to No Country in terms of critical praise. The LA critics in particular seem to do what they see fit, so I expect more surprises there and I have adjusted my predictions accordingly. Of course this all just a guessing game - you know, playing the averages and what have you. I'll have Golden Globe predictions up next week as well, which are much easier to call.

LAFCA Predictions:
Best Picture: The Diving Bell and Butterfly
Alternate: Juno

Best Director: Julian Schnabel
Alternate: Joel and Ethan Coen

Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis
Alternate: Phillip Seymor Hoffman

Best Actress: Ellen Page
Alternate: Marion Cotillard

Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem
Alternate: Max Von Sydow

Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett
Alternate: Jennifer Garner

Best Screenplay: Juno
Alternate: No Country for Old Men

NYFCC Predictions:
Best Picture: No Country for Old Men
Alternate: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Best Director: Joel & Ethan Coen
Alternate: Todd Haynes

Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis
Alternate: Johnny Depp

Best Actress: Marion Cotillard
Alternate: Laura Linney

Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem
Alternate: Max Von Sydow

Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett
Alternate: Amy Ryan

Best Screenplay: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Alternate: The Savages

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

National Board of Review Winners!

I suppose the National Board of Review is known more for the fact that they are the first big awards body to hand out awards every year than actually having any significant say in the Oscar race, although winning here certainly doesn't hurt anything.

Best Picture went exactly as planned, and I would venture to guess this is just the first in a long line of awards for No Country in the coming months. Best Director going to Tim Burton is quite surprising however. It certainly gives Sweeney Todd a nice boost right as it is about to open, but it will need to pick up some critics awards to stay firmly in the hunt though.

I really had no idea were their lead acting picks would land, but George Clooney seems almost like a split vote scenario between perceived front runners Daniel Day-Lewis and Johnny Depp. Clooney definitely has established himself a strong contender now though. I'm not shocked at all to see Julie Christie pick up Best Actress, as I have been predicting her for months now. She is all but locked for a nod at this point I feel.

The Supporting Categories are where things get interesting. The NBR are always a little left-of-center on their choices, but I am truly amazed Cate Blanchett and Javier Bardem didn't pick up the supporting awards. Of course their choices - Casey Affleck and Amy Ryan - are more than worthy, but these two categories seemed to be the easiest to read going into the morning. Blanchett missing could have something to do with category confusion, or more likely that -
seeing as how it didn't even crack their top 10 - they didn't seem to like I'm Not There at all. Jesse James on the other hand, rather surprisingly, seemed to appeal to them, as it made the top 10 and brought Casey along for the ride as well. It's a crowded category this year though, so I wouldn't start guaranteeing an Oscar nod just yet.

Everything else went mostly as planned, but I'd like to point out that one of my personal favorites of the year, Lars and the Real Girl, tied for Original Screenplay in addition to placing in the top 10. I don't expect too much more love for the film in regards to awards, so this was a nice turn of events.

Here is the full list of this year's National Board of Review winners. From Red Carpet District:

Best Film: "No Country for Old Men"
Best Director: Tim Burton, "Sweeney Todd"
Best Actor: George Clooney, "Michael Clayton"
Best Actress: Julie Christie, "Away from Her"
Best Supporting Actor: Casey Affleck, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
Best Foreign Film: "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
Best Documentary: "Body of War"
Best Animated Feature: "Ratatouille"
Best Ensemble Cast: "No Country for Old Men"
Breakthrough Performance by an Actor: Emile Hirsch, "Into the Wild"
Breakthrough Performance by an Actress: Ellen Page, "Juno"
Best Directorial Debut: Ben Affleck, "Gone Baby Gone"
Best Original Screenplay (tie): Diablo Cody, "Juno" and Nancy Oliver, "Lars and the Real Girl"
Best Adapted Screenplay: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, "No Country for Old Men"

The top ten (in alphabetical order):
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
"The Bucket List"
"Into the Wild"
"The Kite Runner"
"Lars and the Real Girl"
"Michael Clayton"
"Sweeney Todd"

Top five foreign films (in alphabetical order):
"4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days"
"The Band's Visit"
"The Counterfeiters"
"La Vie en Rose"
"Lust, Caution"

Top five documentary films (in alphabetical order):
"Darfur Now"
"In the Shadow of the Moon"
"Taxi to the Darkside"

Top independent films (in alphabetical order):
"Away from Her"
"Great World of Sound"
"In the Valley of Elah"
"A Mighty Heart"
"The Namesake"
"The Savages"
"Starting Out in the Evening"

Career Achievement: Michael Douglas
William K. Everson Film History Award: Robert Osbourne
Career Achievement in Cinematography: Roger Deakins
The BVLGARI Award for NPR Freedom of Expression: "The Great Debaters" and "Persepolis"

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Best Reissues & Compilations of 2007

I say this every year, but I really mean it: reissued records are as exciting to me - if not more so - than the constant influx of new music we all indulge in every week. Not that all this new music isn't worthwhile, cause it is, and I will get to those records which I feel are in a couple weeks, but there is no way you can fully appreciate modern music without at least some semblance of knowledge regarding the classics. 2007 was yet another great year in this regard. Some of the best, some of the most original and some of the most obscure records were dusted off and given the chance in the spotlight they so richly deserve. Here are the best of the best.

The Afghan Whigs - Unbreakable: A Retrospective 1990 - 2006

As one of the better post-grunge bands, the Afghan Whigs weren't exactly appreciated in their time. In fact, they were downright loathed by a good number of people. Listening to Unbreakable, a career retrospective of the groups best material though, and it is kinda hard to see why. They were confrontational no doubt, but it terms of sound, there was nothing here that your typical mid-90s, mussed hair teen couldn't appreciate. Revisionist history will probably cast this band in a nicer light, and Unbreakable works as an important first step in the process.

The Beach Boys - The Warmth of the Sun

"The Warmth of the Sun 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. " [Original Review]

Blossom Toes - We Are Ever So Clean

Anyone who has ever listened to a Nuggets box set knows that there is an endless well of worthy psych-pop bands that have yet to be discovered. Blossom Toes are one of those bands, and their debut record We Are Ever So Clean has now received it's stateside CD debut. Fueled by drugs, flower-power and a keen sense of Beatles-esque pop melody, Blossom Toes can too easily be confused with other bands of the era, but songs like "The Remarkable Saga of Frozen Dog" and "Intrepid Balloonist Handbook, Vol. 1" are too left-of-center not to standout amongst this crowded field. The original record is augmented with 10 bonus cuts, most of the alternate/outtake variety.

Boredoms - Super Roots 1/3/5/6/7/8

I've long awaited the arrival of Boredoms' complete Super Roots series, seeing as how some were out of print and some were Japan-only releases; other were just super rare. What is fascinating about the Super Roots series is that you can quite easily chart the trajectory of the group through all their phases just by listening to these 6 records (fyi: 2 was a limited edition mini-album and 4 doesn't exist....don't ask.). 1 is filled with song after song of super short, splatter-punk noise bursts, while 3 & 5 are nearly impenetrable, single track freak-out monstrosities, clocking in at 35 and 60 minutes respectively. Those two are for the Boredoms enthusiast only, but the final three (which does not include 9, which saw release this year) represent some of the most forward thinking, bombastic and utterly mind altering music of the mid-1990s. Not coincidentally, these 3 records coincided with the band's 180-degree turn from ADD shredding to tribal, heaven's-the-limit, drum's-not-dead pounding, which the group most fully realized on their 1995 full length Super Ae. 6 was a tentative step in this direction though, with eYe cutting-up tunes and reassembling them DJ style. It's a choppy listen, but a fascinating experiment that eYe would perfect on Vision Recreation a few years later. 7 is the masterpiece of the Super Roots series though - the first in Boredoms' seemingly unending line of Krautrock aping, motorik mayhem. The centerpiece, "7->(Boriginal)", is the moment that Boredoms went from an interesting experiment in penis jokes to a vital piece of the rock n' roll canon. 8 came next and split the difference between 6 and 7, merging the band's drum circle ferocity with eYe's DJ instincts, and ended up as one of the more distinctive entries in the series. Taken all together, these 6 records encompass everything that is good, bad, frustrating and ultimately vital about Boredoms and their single minded philosophy to reach the heavens through music. It's up to you whether or not to follow, but they've never looked back since.

The Chills - Heavenly Pop Hits
[Flying Nun]

Seeing as how every Chills studio album remains out of print in the U.S., this reissue of the band's 1995 greatest hits compilation is totally crucial to keeping one of New Zealand's greatest bands alive in the hearts of an American audience. This appropriately titled compilation charts the band through it's many incarnations, yet the results are ridiculously strong throughout. The highlight for me is still "Wet Blanket", one of the most beautiful love songs in existence and proof that this band, which combined a punk sensibility and a love for 60s pop into a insanely catchy mix, never got their proper due.

Daft Punk - Alive 2007

Considering Daft Punk have such an awe-inspiring live show, it seems almost insane that Alive 2007 is their first official live record. Culling songs from throughout their catalogue, this 2-disc set of immaculately sequenced classics goes a long way toward positioning the French duo as the foremost ambassadors of electro-chic awesomeness in all modern music. Alive 2007 also recasts much of the better moments from their much maligned Human After All LP as a worthy continuation of the anthemic house they helped popularize in the late 90s. And it certainly works better as a greatest hits collection than the unfortunate Musique Vol. 1 from last year did.

The Clash - The Singles

"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..." [Original Review]

Enon - Believo!
[Touch & Go]

It seems more than mere coincidence that the very same year that Enon made their long awaited return to recorded music with the high-gloss pop rock of Glass Geyers...Carbon Clouds, that Touch & Go would reach back 8 years to reissue the fractured electro-noise pop of the band's debut Believo!. After the untimely dissolution of the legendary Braniac, guitarist Jim Schmersal would assemble a tentative 3 man line-up for the first Enon record, and not surprisingly the record sounds like a well spring of tossed off pop hooks and low budget studio trickery. It should also be noted, but come as no surprise, that this is the one time that Enon really sounded like Braniac for a majority of a record, and probably the last time that their experimental tendencies outweighed their more pop ideals. Of course, this is what Enon was best at, and Believo! remains one of Schmersal's best albums to date.

Fennesz - Endless Summer
[Editions Mego]

It's a shame that one of the great records of this decade went out of print so quickly after its initial release, making this reissue of Christian Fennesz's ambient/drone masterpiece all the more special. Two bonus tracks have been tacked on to the end of the original 8 song record, both of which are nice if unspectacular. And although I don't like it when cover art is changed, the sunset pic now adorning the album fits the blissful mood perfectly.

Fire Engines - Hungry Beat

Every year seemingly brings about the reassement of a lost Scottish band. Two year ago we got The Glasgow School, an inspired collection of Orange Juice highlights; last year there was that Josef K compilation Entomology; and last but not least we now have Hungry Beat, which collects the entire recorded output of post-punk pioneers the Fire Engines. Although they don't get the same attention as the aforementioned bands, they are certainly just as important to the rebirth of the post-punk sound this millennium. With only around a dozen songs to their name, the Fire Engines didn't release a lot of music, but they left a legacy that is impossible to understate.

Robert Forster & Grant McLennan - Intermission: The Best of the Solo Recordings
[Beggar's Banquet]

The untimely passing of the Go-Betweens' Grant McLennan unfortunately casts a solemn mood over this collection of the band's two main songwriters' solo highlights. McLennan was always the more pop oriented of the two, and so it goes that the disc given over to him is the more upbeat and accessible of the two. That's not to discount Forster however, who is responsible for some of this 2-disc set's most memorable moments. I wouldn't say that any particular solo album by Forster or McLennan is essential, which makes Intermission the best one-stop for any interested party.

Hawkwind - Space Ritual (Collector's Edition)

The question with the newly reissue Collector's Edition of Hawkwind's mind frying live record Space Ritual is just how much Hawkwind is too much? This edition brings together 3 discs of material, and for the first time includes the entirety of the bands 2 performances in London and Liverpool in 1972. There is a slight overlap in material here, but the quality of the songs is hard to argue. The 3rd disc gives the album over to 5.1 audio so you can keep the neighbors up all night. Tune in and drop out.

Jawbox - For Your Own Special Sweetheart

Jawbox's awe-inducing major label debut For Your Own Special Sweetheart had ridiculously been out of print for years, and even though it still hasn't had a proper CD reissue, this download only reissue can satiate for now. Jawbox's post-Repeater grind is still one of the more distinctive sounds to ever grace a major label, and For Your Own Special Sweetheart features quite possibly the best 4 song opening set ("FF=66", "Savory", Breathe", "Motorist") of any record from the 1990s. For Your Own Special Sweetheart is, was and forever will be one of my favorite records, and it remains a touchstone of 90s rock in any format.

Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures/Closer (Collector's Edition)

These expanded 2-CD reissues of Joy Division's only 2 full length records were obviously meant to coincide with the release of Anton Corbijn's achingly beautiful Ian Curtis bio-pic Control, but that shouldn't be held against them, especially when you are talking about two of the most impressive documents of the first wave of post-punk. The beauty of these records is often overlooked, as most people tend to focus on the sometimes overwhelming despondency of Curtis' lyrics, but the groups ability to wrenched heartbreaking moments from such a chilling sound remains unmatched regardless. A complete live show is relegated to the 2nd disc of each album, with many of the selections coming from non-album singles and rarities (a number of which were complied on Still, also reissued). It's useless to try and praise one album more than the other, as each are cornerstones of modern music.

Laurie Anderson - Big Science

There aren't many records as prophetic as Big Science, Laurie Anderson's haunting vision of society and technology gone awry. Besides that fact that it eerily predicted post-9/11 fallout, it still has the power the enthrall on a human level. Anderson's spoken word diatribes, backed by inhuman electronics and foreboding string swells, is one of the most instantly recongziable sounds of the 1980s. The tag line says it all: "This is the time. And this is the record of the time."

Leonard Cohen - Songs of Leonard Cohen/Songs from a Room/Songs of Love of and Hate
[Sony Legacy]

"Utilizing the sparsest of instrumentation, Cohen would lay bare his nasal-inflected vocals, inviting listeners to dissect his lyrics, which are as honest and emotional as any ever written. Now, on the 40th anniversary of the release of his debut album, Sony has re-issued his first 3 studio albums, all re-mastered with added bonus tracks." [Original Review]

Life Without Buildings - Live at the Annandale Hotel
[Gargleblast/Absolutely Kosher]

Breaking up after your first album almost guarantees your band never got proper recognition during it's lifetime. Life Without Buildings' cult classic Any Other City still remains criminally unavailable (it currently goes for $90 on Amazon), so Live at the Annandale Hotel now becomes the only in-print document of one of the most underrated bands of the decade. Sue Tompkins' mind bending word play is a marvel of uncontrollable excitement, and the band, with it's new wave/post-punk guitar sound, ably provided backing for her slippery verbiage. This band accomplished more in its short lifespan than most bands of their ilk, and realizing this they hung it up before anyone had a chance to actually realize that they were one of the most charming and seductive bands of the early aughts.

Lisa Germano - Lullaby for Liquid Pig
[Young God]

Lullaby for Liquid Pig fell out of rotation rather quickly a few years back, but Young God's Michael Gira has corrected the situation and reissued this quietly haunting record with a fill disc of bonus tracks. The second disc may seem superfluous considering Lullaby is such a great stand alone work, but for fans of Germano, any chance to revisit her spellbinding world is reason enough.

Love - The Blue Thumb Recordings

The theory goes that psychedelic pop wonder Arthur Lee debuted with a couple of strong records, decided his time on Earth was coming to an end, dropped a stone cold classic (which he did), but never really lived up to that record (which is sorta true, but mostly ridiculous). The two long unavailable albums collected on The Blue Thumb Recordings (a 3rd disc of live cuts is included as well) goes a long way to show that Arthur Lee had more than a few gold nuggets up his sleeve post-Forever Changes. Out Here is a meandering mess in the best sense of the word, weaving odd asides with pop gems like its an mandated occurance, while False Start is a more concise final statement from one of the period's most schizophrenic minds. This collection is unfortunately limited to only 5,000 copies, so technically it is already out of print again, but you shouldn't have too much of a problem locating one if you act fast.

The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers

The Johnathan Richman-led mope rockers known as The Modern Lovers released their sole LP nearly 4 years after the band split-up, but its influence is heard today louder than ever, with multiple modern artists channeling Richman's cheekily heartbroken tales of awkward love. The original 9 song record is quite simply one of the 1970s best records, and this reissue, which adds all the band's remaining material, makes a case for The Modern Lovers as the 70s version of the Velvet Underground: a under appreciated group working for no audience in particular, but with the foresight to see where modern rock was heading. The Modern Lovers just reached the destination a couple decades early.My only quibble with this reissue is that the original cover art still hasn't been restored, although it is featured - along with some good liner notes - in the booklet.

Pylon - Gyrate +

This was a long time coming. Never having received an official release on CD, Gyrate, the debut album from Georgian post-punk cult legends Pylon unexpectedly surfaced this year thanks to the good folks at the DFA label. Gyrate + collects the entire Gyrate album (all songs from both versions of the original record are included), in addition to the "Cool/Dub" single, the 45 RPM EP and unreleased cut "Functionality". Their dubbed-out strut is Fugazi-by-way-of-Gang-of-Four, and Vanessa Briscoe Hay's proto-Karen O vocals are the throat-shredding equivalent of an aging fire breather. Gyrate is no-frills minimalist mutant disco for the new wave set, with a strict adherence to the post-punk template of fluid bass lines and a stabbing guitar attack. Pylon were as tight as they came, and Gyrate + is now, 28 years after the fact, ready for it's closeup.

Sebadoh - The Freed Man

It's really baffling that Sebadoh's legendary debut tape had never gotten a proper CD release. A majority of the songs were scattered over various collections, but the original record had never been heard outside of tape traders in the early 90s. Instead of just bringing togther these highly sought after songs though, Lou Barlow and Eric Gaffney have gone even further, collecting a staggering 52 (!) tracks from the period and arranging them into one of the most thorough documents of 1990s lo-fi ever assembled. Of course being Sebadoh, there is a lot of screwing around, weird one-offs (ummm, Lou rapping) and tape manipulation, but the amount of perfect pop here is truly something to behold. I'd say pick up last year's reissue of III first, but by then you'll want to buy The Freed Man anyway, so go ahead and start anywhere. You can't really go wrong.

Seefeel - Quique: Redux Edition
[Too Pure]

Quique, the 1993 release from ambient techno/post-rock trailblazers Seefeel, saw the band abandoning their early, post-MBV shoegaze sound and turning a sharp left into dub-y space age electro, hitting upon a truly idiosyncratic sound that has influenced everyone from Mouse on Mars to Tim Hecker. Quique is an enveloping experience, a mood alternating ether world of unidentifiable sounds and beats, and most importantly one of the 1990s most forward thinking experiments gone horribly right.

Shearwater - Palo Santo: Expanded Edition

Normally you don't see 2 year old records reissued when the original record stills resides on store shelves, but Shearwater took the opportunity to re-release (and in some cases rerecord) their breakthrough record when they jumped to Matador from Misra. This new edition sounds worlds better than the original CD, with bright and fully audible instruments, providing ample support for Johnathan Meiburg's arresting vocal performance. If you already own the original, it isn't necessarily essential, but for those who don't, this release leaves no question.

Sly & the Family Stone - Complete Discography
[Epic Legacy]

"Sly had no interest in forming a stereotypical soul or funk band; he wanted to challenge people’s perspectives by integrating into his music a modern psychedelic sound." [Original Review]

Elliott Smith - New Moon
[Kill Rock Stars]

It's nearly impossible knowing what we know now to listen to Elliott Smith rarities collection New Moon with a clear mind. One thing that is made immensely clear after just a few short songs though is how consistent this man was. This a two disc rarities collection made up of songs that most any singer-songwriter would aspire to write in an entire lifetime. Opener "Angel in the Snow" alone is reason enough to warrant this release, but thankfully their are 23 other songs that are at least its equal. "High Times", "All Cleaned Out", Big Star cover "Thirteen", "Placeholder", Half Right" - it could read as greatest hits collection if any of them had seen major release. Who knows how much more vault clearing will transpire in the years to come, but if they are half as good New Moon, then they are more than welcome.

Soft Machine - Third
[Sony BMG]

Avant-jazz behemoths Soft Machine - which featured legendary drummer Robert Wyatt - issued their 4 song epic Third in 1970, and it remains one of the periods most out-there records, combining elements of free jazz, psych rock and prog into a seething motnster of a record. I can't say that I can often endure full listening sessions to Third, but as the pinnacle of this band's collective powers, it is overwhelmingly impressive. This reissue offers up a 2nd disc of live cuts that show just how communicative and in-sync this seemingly improv based group were with dynamics.

Sun Kil Moon - Ghosts of the Great Highway
[Caldo Verde]

Formed from the ashes of the Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon's sole LP of original material Ghosts of the Great Highway, stands as fully realized and emotionally devastating as anything Mark Kozelek's former band accomplished. Nearly every song is here perfect, but the 14 minute centerpiece "Duk Koo Kim" is the standout, with it's hypnotic, rotating guitar figure and frail vocal melody coalescing into grand statement of intent from one of the best songwriters of our time. A 2nd disc of outtakes and alternate versions pad the release, but the original album is where the revelations are stored.

White Noise - An Electric Storm

More so than Sgt. Pepper's or Forever Changes or even Trout Mask Replica, it is darn near unfathomable that An Eletric Storm was made during the 1960s. It can lay claim to being the first electronic record of all time, which is even more stunning considering the group accomplsihed the feat without the use of then-unavailable synthesizers. Instead, the band used primitive tape splicing techniques to achieve the haunting soundscapes of "Visitations" and "Black Mass: An Electric Storm in Hell". Even though many bands claim influence to White Noise, there is no other record that I've heard that sounds even remotely similar. Even the first side of the record, which sticks rather closely to psych-pop formula (think the United States of America), stands just far enough outside the norm to reward repeat listens.

Wingtip Sloat - Add This to Rhetoric

It's rather disheartening to think that Wingtip Sloat, a slacker indie-rock band similar in sound and intent to genre godfathers Pavement and Sebadoh, have never received a fraction of the love those two bands regularly receive. This of course could have something to do with the fact that the band's best material had only previously been available on out of print cassettes and limited edition vinyl. This new CD reissue of the band's early EPs and compilation material is a vital timecapsule for a forgotten period of time when a few guys could sloppily record some songs in their garage and distribute them via handmade cassettes, while in the process impressing enough people to line up opening gigs for bands like Pavement. There are countless highlights here, but "It Reminds Me" has turned into probably my favorite discovery of the entire year: a beautifully lo-fi acoustic number, with drop-crap-on-the-floor-percussion and backwards electric guitar noise supporting an adorned vocal melody of startlingly rawness and emotion. And yes, if there is any justice in the world, please add this to rhetoric.

Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth & Collected Works


Colossal Youth seemingly sees reissue every couple years or so, but I'm not complaining that one of the great post-punk records of all time consistently stays in print. Rather, I've been waiting for a definitive release of the record, and with Colossal Youth and Collected Works, we finally have it. The original album should bear no discussion: it's a flat-out classic, having influenced an entire generation of slow core bands, in addition to any subsequent band that has broken their sound down to it's most essential elements (think Spoon circa Kill the Moonlight, which is all but a name-checking homage to Colossal Youth). Having only released one complete album in their lifetime, you wouldn't think there would be too much material lying around on the cutting room floor, but as this 3-CD set proves, Young Marble Giants were nothing if not hard workers. A 26 song 2nd disc is given over to singles, outtakes and rarities, while the 3rd disc houses a complete John Peel session the band record just prior to hanging it up for good.

Various Artists: CD86 - 48 Tracks from the Birth of Indie Pop


Here it is, my favorite release of the entire year. Exactly as it's title suggests, this 2-CD compilation collects 48 tracks from indie-pop bands residing outside the U.S. from the early 1980s. Some of the bands are more well known (Primal Scream, Television Personalties, the Jesus & Mary Chain) some aren't (14 Iced Bears, Meat Whiplash, East Village), but nearly every song is darn near perfect pop. After hearing this compilation, it's hard to fathom a time when the Groove Farm's "It Only Rains on Sunday" or The Flatmates' "I Could Be in Heaven" weren't in my memory bank. This is instantly infectious and joy-inducing music from heaven. And there won't ever be a time when I can't think back to the first time I heard the Raw Herbs' "She Blows In", which instantly shoved it's way toward the top of my personal favorites on my first spin though CD86.