Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Podcast: End of Radio #6 - 'Curious Perfection' (Jordan's Best of '09 So Far)



"Suddenly we're half-way through 2009. To celebrate, hosts Jordan and Brian take a break from the onslaught on new music being released and instead look back at the best albums the first half of the year had to offer (minus one very intimidating AOTY contender no one really needs to hear any more about). Part two of this two-part special features Jordan’s 10 picks; last week, it was Brian’s choices that aired. Between the two of them, there's a little something here for all tastes."

Monday, June 29, 2009

The 10 Best Films of 2009 (so far...)

Here we are, already half way through a pretty strong year for the art of both film & music-- kind of hard to believe. As is tradition around these parts, my top ten albums of the first six months of '09 will see the light of day in podcast form later this week, while a full write-up will be featured over at InRO the following week.

But for now, I thought I'd take a moment to look back at my 10 favorite films of the year thus far. In my opinion, this has also been a pretty wonderful year for film, with a lot more than ten films in contention for this particular list (and I haven't even had the chance to see Goodbye Solo or Munyurangabo, two of the more acclaimed films of the year, so keep that in mind). There are many big, prestigious-looking films coming this Oscar season, but for now here are ten films that have left a considerable impression on me over the last six months. Please note that these are listed alphabetically, but I've gone ahead and highlighted my #1 pick in red since it stands out so emphatically for me.

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Adventureland
Directed by Greg Mottola

"Comedies with a heart tend to find their way into mine with much greater regularity than one-dimensional genre exercises, and by that criteria, Adventureland should turn out to be one of the year's most perfect marriages of the emotional and the comedic" [Capsule Review]

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Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Directed by Sacha Gervasi

"Among the best and most purely entertaining documentary features in recent memory, Sacha Gervasi’s Anvil! The Story of Anvil casts the titular band as blazing optimists in the face of a career’s worth of missed opportunities." [Review]

--------------------


The Girlfriend Experience
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

"The script by David Levien and Brian Koppelman is one of the most tightly structured and subtly intricate pieces of writing of the year thus far, and Soderbergh, again working with many non-actors, pieces together each segment in a flowing, consistently interesting fashion." [Capsule Review]

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Moon
Directed by Duncan Jones

"Moon is a chiseled and often times bleak film, yet at the same time it is very affecting and one whose impact is measured not by narrative manipulation or heavy-handed thematic conceits, but instead as pure cinematic awe." [Capsule Review]

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Revanche
Directed by Götz Spielmann

"Revanche is a quiet yet poignantly observational picture that draws parallels between and around feelings of guilt, forgiveness, loyalty and the lengths to which man will go for an ambiguous state of sanctification." [Capsule Review]

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Sin Nombre
Directed by Cary Fukunaga

"Cary Fukunaga's brutal coming of age tale Sin Nombre takes these commonplace concepts and adds some much needed dimensionality in the form of some thought-provoking ideas regarding immigration and the real lives at stake in the ongoing race for basic human freedom." [Capsule Review]

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Summer Hours
Directed by Olivier Assayas

"Summer Hours is a smart, touching and refreshingly mature film with deep seeded undertones which manage to expose the unspoken feelings between a family in emotional flux." [Capsule Review]

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Two Lovers
Directed by James Gray

"Gray handles this sometimes difficult material with a strong directorial hand, ably letting his actors carry the load of the drama through the pitch-perfect screenplay..." [Capsule Review]

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Tyson
Directed by James Toback

"Tyson paints a convincing and, more importantly, a human portrait of a man overwhelmed by fame, fortune and women in equal measure." [Capsule Review]

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Up
Directed by Pete Docter

""Up is terrifically funny, visually stunning, emotionally acute and, most importantly, entertaining throughout its brisk 90 minutes." [Capsule Review]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Whoa



The L.A. Times Reports:
"[Updated at 3:15 p.m.: Pop star Michael Jackson was pronounced dead by doctors this afternoon after arriving at a hospital in a deep coma, city and law enforcement sources told The Times.]

[Updated at 2:46 p.m.: Jackson is in a coma and his family is arriving at his bedside, a law enforcement source told The Times.

Jackson was rushed to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center this afternoon by Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics.

Fire Capt. Steve Ruda said paramedics responded to a call at Jackson's home at 12:26 p.m. He was not breathing when they arrived. The paramedics performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and took him to the hospital, Ruda told The Times.

[Updated at 2:12 p.m.: Paramedics were called to a home in the 100 block of Carolwood Drive off Sunset Boulevard. Jackson had rented the Bel-Air home for $100,000 a month. It was described as a French chateau estate built in 2002 with seven bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, 12 fireplaces and a theater."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Music Review: Dinosaur Jr. - Farm (**1/2)



"Excepting perhaps The Fall, I’m not sure if there’s ever been another band that’s gotten as much mileage out of basically re-writing the same tunes over and over again as Boston alt-rock legends Dinosaur Jr. (and in both instances, I say that in the most respectful way possible). Dinosaur didn’t exactly arrive fully formed of course, but by the time of their landmark sophomore record, You’re Living All Over Me, the band’s classic sound was in place, never to be tampered with again. Even when the band imploded and the Dinosaur Jr. brand became more of solo vehicle for front man J. Mascis, that core sound persevered, unfettered by the ever-mounting trends of the ensuing decade. In fact, a great deal of grunge and shoegaze acts lifted directly from this basic Dinosaur aesthetic only to repackage it and call it their own. Still, there's something intangibly inspired about Dinosaur Jr. when the three original members appear on record together, and when the classic line-up of Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph (can’t forget Murph) reformed for 2006's wonderful Beyond, it unsurprisingly felt like a seamless continuation of where the band left off in 1988 with Bug, and in the process exposed the band’s epic classic rock leanings to a whole new generation of music fans. " [Continue Reading]

Music Review: Tortoise - Beacons of Ancestorship (**1/2)



"If any band was in dire need of a swift kick in the pants, it would have to be Tortoise. I mean, following 2004's numbingly innocuous It’s All Around You, you’d have been forgiven for assuming that the band were now just quietly riding off into the sunset, their legacy as post-rock progenitors secure and obligation to prove anything long since past. In the interim they had even released the requisite rarities box set (A Lazarus Taxon, which is essential I might add), all but signaling the end of what was one of the most groundbreaking musical acts of the 90s. Their slow recession from the spotlight coincided with the agonizing death of post-rock itself, which is rather fitting considering Tortoise arguably embodied the outlying signifiers of the genre better than anyone else. This is all to say that for all intents and purposes it felt like Tortoise had run their course, which is what makes their new record, Beacons of Ancestorship, such an unexpectedly bracing return for the group. I hesitate to call it a comeback, since they never technically broke-up, but it is most certainly a return-to-form, and even more surprising, it’s a form that the band has never fully assimilated in the past." [Continue Reading]

Music Review: Pisces - A Lovely Sight (***)



"The Numero Group may be more popularly defined by their various soul and funk compilations, such as the ongoing Eccentric Soul series, but for me, the most rewarding releases from the label have more often come via the excavation of decades-old fringe acts almost too obscure to even be considered undiscovered. Previous entries in the catalogue have spotlighted such musical footnotes as Antena, Catherine Howe, the original Yellow Pills compilation, Kansas City’s Titan pop label, and most illuminating for me, the Wayfaring Strangers: Ladies from the Canyon collection, which rescued over a dozen female folk singers from the early 70s post-hippie wash-out." [Continue Reading]

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Oxford Collapse Break Up


Insert collapse joke here

I'm not gonna sit here and front like the Oxford Collapse were one of my favorite bands or something, but these three guys were just so darn easy to like that news of their break-up still stings. No matter how you look at it though, they were one of the few true torch carriers for unabashed indie-rock, and they have a few solid albums to their name, particularly 2006s Remember the Night Parties, which featured towering single "Please Visit Your National Parks", an undeniable modern rock anthem that alone should manage to at least pencil these guys in to the history books, even if it's just on some future Now That's What I Call Indie Rock comp. The band followed this up with last year's underrated Bits, and are now playing a couple of farewell shows in New Jersey and their home state of New York.
(from P4k news via Sub Pop)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Priceless

"Please describe your music, and keep in mind that "crap" is already taken by the Decemberists."

(from P4k news via Stereogum)



Dusted Magazine: 2009 Mid-Year Report



As I sat compiling my mid-'09 top ten for InRO last week (podcast and write-up forthcoming), this Dusted feature popped up and surprised me. Dusted always makes some brave picks, so along with the requisite Merriweather slot, they also take the opportunity to single out the underrated new Akron/Family record as well as the terrible new Junior Boys album, Begone Dull Care. Can't say that I don't appreciate the honesty though, especially when it leads to the inclusion of Tim Hecker's absolutely sublime An Imaginary Country.

Their reissue picks are pretty solid as well. I particularly enjoyed seeing The Shadow Ring and Death getting some love, along with a mention for that Pisces collection, which comes courtesy of the good folks over at the Numero Group. Speaking of which, my own review of A Lovely Sight will see the light of day tomorrow, June 23rd, over at InRO (though, as always, you can pick up the link in this space as well).

The whole feature is worth examining, but here's an excerpt from their pretty much spot-on take on An Imaginary Country:
"At first, it may seem surprisingly clean. Distractingly poppy. Compared to this ‘un, Hecker’s 2006 loud-ambient milestone Harmony In Ultraviolet was practically metal. But beneath the antiseptic exterior of An Imaginary Country lies Hecker’s most harmonically complex, emotionally heavy work. If Ultraviolet broadcast from the airstrip and the factory floor, An Imaginary Country retreats to the pastoral backwoods compound and finds it less filthy, but no safer." [Dusted Magazine]

Friday, June 19, 2009

Antichrist...the Video Game!?

I haven't even been given the rare opportunity to see Lars Von Trier's ridiculously controversial Antichrist yet, but look here, they're already making video game. I hope there's talking foxes.

(via /Film)



Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Woody Allen: Ranked & Revisited


Update 07.18.13: Added the five most recent Allen films, released between 2009-2013.

For the better part of the year, and in anticipation of his 38th feature film, Whatever Works (due to be released this Friday, June 19th), I've taken the opportunity to revisit each and every feature film Woody Allen has ever directed. In a way it was kind of a huge undertaking-- I haven't gone more than week without watching (and in some cases re-watching) at least one of these films-- but in another it was one of the more rewarding cinematic journeys I've recently taken. As I sit here and attempt to reconcile his 40 year career into a single list, I'm struck by how hard it is to choose favorites. So like most lists, this thing gets pretty arbitrary after the first 10-15 picks or so, with my favorites probably changing by the time I finish writing this sentence.

----------------------------------------

01. Manhattan (1979)
02. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
03. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
04. Husbands and Wives (1992)
05. Annie Hall (1977)
06. Interiors (1978)
07. Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
08. Another Woman (1988)
09. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
10. Radio Days (1987)

11. September (1987)
12. Stardust Memories (1980)
13. Blue Jasmine (2013)
14. Zelig (1983)
15. Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
16. Everyone Says I Love You (1996)
17. Match Point (2005)
18. A Midnight's Summer Sex Comedy (1982)
19. Anything Else (2003)
20. Deconstructing Harry (1997)

21. Alice (1990)
22. Love and Death (1975)
22. Sweet and Lowdown (1999)
23. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
24. Midnight in Paris (2011)
25. Sleeper (1973)
26. Cassandra's Dream (2007)
27. Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)
28. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (1972)
29. Celebrity (1998)
30. Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)

31. Melinda and Melinda (2004)
32. Bananas (1971)
33. Take the Money and Run (1969)
34. Shadows and Fog (1991)
35. Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
36. To Rome With Love (2012)
37. Scoop (2006)
38. You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger (2010)
39. Small Time Crooks (2000)
40. Whatever Works (2009)
41. Hollywood Ending (2002)

Podcast: End of Radio #5 - 'Hey Ladies' (Brian's Best of '09 So Far)



"Suddenly we're half-way through 2009. To celebrate, hosts Jordan and Brian take a break from the onslaught on new music being released and instead look back at the best albums the first half of the year had to offer (minus one very intimidating AOTY contender no one really needs to hear any more about). Part one of this two-part special features Brian’s 10 picks; on June 30th, Jordan’s choices for the best records will air. Between the two of them, there's a little something here for all tastes."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Music Review: Sonic Youth - The Eternal (**1/2)



"The cover of 1987's Sister billed the band as The Sonic Youth, perhaps a self-consciously cheeky nod to the brave few steadfastly trudging through the American underground rock scene of the era or maybe of no overriding significance at all (probably the latter, but stay with me). In my mind that “The” has been implied ever since, as there never has and never will be another Sonic Youth. If you’ve hung around me for a considerable period of time, you’ve probably heard me refer to Sonic Youth as the greatest American rock band ever, and I’ve honestly never heard a compelling enough argument to convince me otherwise. My (admittedly warped) view of music history basically pivots on the arrival their self-titled 1982 EP, a time when the downtown NYC art scene collided head-on with the burgeoning DIY art-rock movement, effectively spawning what has arguably become America’s only consistently engaging, artistically intelligent and musically omnivorous rock band still going strong over 25 years later (or, post-Vampire Weekend). Hell, they’ve been massaging the history since day one, and with each new release comes (at the very least) the comfort of yet another accomplished and artistically airtight document of a band in the continual process of maturation. So it’s now 2009 and here we have the knowingly titled The Eternal, Sonic Youth’s 16th studio album and first on an independent label in over 20 years, and while it’s exactly what you’ve come to expect, it still manages to kick all kinds of ass in the process." [Continue Reading]

Music Review: The Field - Yesterday and Today (**1/2)



"By independent standards and as far as ambient techno goes, Alex Willner’s 2007 debut album as The Field, From Here We Go Sublime, was something of a crossover smash. Here was a record that appealed not only to high-minded techno fetishists, but also to a great deal of casual indie-rock fans who wouldn’t normally go in for something quite so synthetic, trance-like or static in construction. In a sense, Willner simply took the aesthetic that Wolfgang Voigt pioneered with his Gas project in the late 90s – insistent bass pulse, countless layers of ambient guitar texture, and a minimalist’s approach to structure – and repurposed it for a new generation of electronic fans looking for something more subtle and soothing than the then-burgeoning blog-house scene. Yet despite (or maybe because of) it’s debt to its forbearer, it worked like a charm, becoming one of 2007's most acclaimed records and one of the biggest sellers in Voigt’s indelible Kompakt catalogue." [Continue Reading]

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Shutter Island" Trailer

Just released trailer for Martin Scorsese's new film Shutter Island. Don't know how I feel about it just yet, but let me just say that if Marty can turn a typical genre picture into the masterpiece that was The Departed, then I see no reason he can't breath life into the psychological thriller genre as well.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Music Review: Animal Collective - Animal Crack Box (***)



"You know that stunning freeze-frame that ends François Truffaut’s French New Wave classic "The 400 Blows"? In a single shot, Truffaut, via the sly expression of young actor Jean-Pierre Léaud, magically captured that intangible feeling of budding male adolescence giving way to an ambiguous yet bright future where past crimes are negated in favor of a promising new path. For me, that momentary sense of discovery perfectly encapsulates the early sound of Brooklyn art-pop luminaries Animal Collective. Despite their ever-increasing fan base, consistently glowing 4-star reviews (from me and everyone else), and talk of breaking ground with every new note of music, it’s still the budding sound experiments of the band’s formative years that carry with them the greatest sense of revelation." [Continue Reading]

Music Review: The Vaselines - Enter the Vaselines (***1/2)



"Despite the fact that they emanated from the same nascent scene that birthed the Soup Dragons, BMX Bandits and the entirety of the C86 roster, Scottish boy-girl duo the Vaselines always carried a torch for the slightly more extreme corners of the American indie-rock movement. Of course, there’s no denying their allegiance to Orange Juice and the Pastels, the latter of which proved to be probably the most significant musical connection the band would make, but in the music of the Vaselines you can certainly hear the sounds of the American underground (The Modern Lovers, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur and even earlier, the Velvets). Still, the Vaselines were always most concerned with music of the pop variety, and their comparatively aggressive (which is to say not all that aggressive) sound still sounds unique over two decades later. The Vaselines catalogue encompasses a total of 19 officially released songs, and they’ve all been collected before on The Way of the Vaselines compilation, but with the band reunited in 2009 for a handful of festival appearances, Sub Pop has expanded the original comp with the two-disc Enter the Vaselines, appending demos and a couple of live performances to once and for all paint the complete picture of this short-lived but immensely loved act.

Music Review: Isis - Wavering Radiant (***)



"In retrospect, Isis’s 2006 album In the Absence of Truth now sounds distinctly like a transitional album. Coming after the titanic one-two punch of Oceanic and Panopticon (you try deciding between those two monsters), the Los Angeles-via-Boston metal septet hunkered down in their studio and, as per usual with these guys, diligently and boldly experimented with new textures, ultimately emerging with a slightly less tangible if no less powerful statement of intentions. Now, just as their sound has stretched out to encompass more than a handful of disparate genres, Isis have reconciled all these conflicting tendencies into arguably their most focused full-length to date. Wavering Radiant, the group’s hypnotic and consistently thrilling fifth album is the sound of Isis fully realizing the nascent experimentation of In the Absence of Truth, while confidently navigating the final stepping stones between metal, shoegaze and post-rock to finally and fully blur the borders between all their conflicting influences." [Continue Reading]

Thursday, June 4, 2009

R.I.P. David Carradine: 1936 - 2009

"Basically, I'm just gonna walk the earth."
"What do you mean, 'walk the earth'?
"You know, like Caine in 'Kung Fu'."



This is the kind of stuff...

...that gets me excited. Two more weeks.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Music Review: James Blackshaw - The Glass Bead Game (**1/2)



"The ever-prolific nature of London-based guitar prodigy James Blackshaw speaks pretty clearly to the law of diminishing returns. With no less than seven albums in five years time – and despite his best efforts to expand his traditional Takoma-influenced sound across said full-lengths – Blackshaw is nevertheless beginning to succumb to desensitization. This isn’t to say that over the last couple of years the 28 year-old composer hasn't created some beautiful music. In fact, I have a hard time thinking of any modern musician with Blackshaw’s sense of pristine harmonics and enveloping tonality. It’s just that with a sound this idiosyncratic, and a near-continuous stream of consonant pieces bearing his name, the results can’t help but feel a little less stirring each time out." [Continue Reading]

Music Review: Magik Markers - Balf Quarry (**1/2)



"Magik Markers have released over 30 musical documents in less than seven years time (CDRs, limited run vinyl, etc.), which can make it awfully difficult for critics to pin down specific albums (something we writers obviously love to do). The only olive branch that the core duo of drummer Pete Nolan and guitarist/vocalist Elisa Ambrogio have extended to us thus far is the fact that they’ve slowly been loosening up, perhaps unconsciously pulling themselves out of the sonic muck that caught the attention of Thurston Moore all those years ago. As a result, Magik Markers don’t really have a “best” or “worst” album, and up to now the most effective strategy for the curious has always been to simply pick up their most recent (or most readily available) release. So it goes that Balf Quarry, the band’s third major release and first for Drag City, is as good an entry point as any, building on the more structured and melodic sound of 2006's underrated BOSS while still retaining enough of their patented droning squall to appease longtime devotees." [Continue Reading]

Monday, June 1, 2009

Music Review: Sunn O))) - Monoliths & Dimensions (***1/2)




"Sunn O))) have come a long way in their ten-plus years of existence. So far in fact, that it’s become increasingly difficult to reconcile the fact that they actually began life as an Earth tribute band. Of course, the core elements are still there – mind-numbingly slow riffs, wall-rattling bass frequencies, an intangibly atmospheric dread permeating every disintegrating note – except that more recently, beginning around the time of 2006’s landmark Black One, the duo of Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson deliberately began weaving the sounds of the outside pagan world – voices, strings and now even horns – into their claustrophobic drone dirges. That Sunn O))) have so consistently and impressively built up their already overwhelming sound – in the interim experimenting with new textures and ideas through small-run vinyl with like-minded collaborators such as Mayhem’s Atilla Csihar, Merzbow and Boris, among others – it should come as no surprise that their newest album, the towering Monoliths & Dimensions, would be their richest, most expansive document yet." [Continue Reading]