Saturday, October 31, 2009

Podcast: End of Radio #14 - 'Comments on the World at Will'

"On this week’s show, End of Radio co-hosts Jordan Cronk and Jon Staph take a look at some of their favorite songwriters from the last 15 years or so, pouring over both specific lyrics and their collective works, which run the gamut from universally identifiable to purposefully oblique."

Music Review: OOIOO - Armonico Hewa (***1/2)

"The crippled drum beat and 15 seconds of feedback that open Armonico Hewa serve as a convenient little bit of foreshadowing. If what takes place over the next 50 or so minutes is by default the most rock oriented approach of OOIOO yet seen, it’s also simultaneously the tightest and most diverse collection of fuck-all jubilee these four women have yet recorded. In its own irrationally idiosyncratic way, Armonico Hewa follows in the footsteps of the band’s last two American releases—2005’s trance-inducing Gold & Green and 2006's jazz-inflected Taiga—in as much as Yoshimi & Co. have once again taken a specific approach to genre and turned it inside out, dropping cheerleader chants, intense bouts of poly-rhythmic mania, and any number of prog-rock signifiers into a paint-splattered display of communal pop overload. If Boredoms now sound as if they’re in permanent symbiotic communion with some interplanetary deity, then, by contrast, OOIOO are very much of the people and of this world. And by these standards, Armonico Hewa may very well be their most human and identifiable album yet. " [Continue Reading]

Music Review: Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport (*1/2)

"I’ve spent more time in the last couple of weeks wrestling with the relative merits of Tarot Sport than any number of better records that have crossed my path. The reason for this, I’ve come to realize, is because what the Bristol-based duo have essentially done here is made an album that surprisingly avoids conceptual stasis at the expense of bracing song craft. But let’s start from the beginning. Fuck Buttons’ 2008 debut, Street Horrrsing, is fundamentally a noise record, but one for listeners who would normally have no need for such a thing. It's the fascinating dialectic between traditional tones and dissonant sonics that makes for a rather arresting listening experience, regardless of genre. As beautiful as it is unsettling, Street Horrrsing bridged a divide which most acts of a similar outlook would never even attempt. And this is exactly why Tarot Sport has turned into more of an internal debate than an album for me. I should probably point out that there is nothing particularly “wrong” with anything here—from a technical standpoint, the album is nearly beyond reproach. But at the same time, I just can’t shake Tarot Sport’s conspicuous sense of compromise, which unfortunately permeates a majority of the album’s smoothly rendered musical texture." [Continue Reading]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

At the Movies - Top 10 of the Decade Countdown: #10

A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips have jumped out of the gate first with a 10 week countdown of the best films of the 2000s. They began last weekend with their #10 picks, Minority Report (Phillips) and Million Dollar Baby (Scott). I like both these films just fine, but oddly enough I agree more with each of their individual criticisms of the others pick. Which is to say neither is getting near my top 10. But nevertheless these are both worthy films, one of which is actually in need of some serious critical re-assessment. At the same time, I'd argue that Spielberg made a much more emotionally impactful and visionary science fiction film the year prior with A.I., while Eastwood has made at least two better films this decade. Anyway, watch them duke it out below.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Nosaj Thing Video Interview

Yours Truly has a cool video interview up with L.A. beat-tweaker Nosaj Thing, author of the rather exceptional Drift, one of this year's most underrated albums. With all these weak chillwave trend-spotters gaining indie notoriety these last few months, it's Jason Cheung who I'd most like to see rattle them off the map with any one of his indestructible head-knockers.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Music Review: Supersilent - 9 (**1/2)

"At first glance, 9 appears to be another piece belonging with the previous eight entries in Supersilent’s intimidating oeuvre—it’s sequentially numbered, the album art is typically blank and color-coordinated, and song titles are fixed in a deliberately numerical pattern mirrored by that of it’s album counterparts. What’s important to note when approaching this album, then, is the current line-up of the band, which has previously been comprised of four of the most adept and artistically-fused musicians in all of the Norwegian underground (a deep scene by any standards). Together, trumpeter and de-facto leader Arve Henriksen, keyboardist Ståle Storløkken, live electronics maven Helge Sten (aka Deathprod), and drummer Jarle Vespestad constituted distinct yet constituent parts in a monstrous whole, one that has subsequently annihilated the boundaries between free-jazz, out-rock, fusion and ambient." [Continue Reading]

Music Review: Lightning Bolt - Earthly Delights (**1/2)

"Over the past few years, as the modern noise scene has receded back into the shadows from whence it came, it’s been interesting to chart the progress of the movement’s most prominent acts. Whereas contemporaries like Wolf Eyes burrowed further underground just as their eyes glimpsed the mid-decade spotlight and Black Dice tore off on some never-ending fractured-house tangent, Providence, Rhode Island figureheads Lightning Bolt have simply grown more elusive. After a healthy three-album run to begin the aughts, culminating with 2005's epically draining Hypermagic Mountain, the bass/drum duo of Brian Gibson and Brian Chippendale pulled the reigns on their prolificacy, and in a way signaled the sinking-ship fate of noise’s brief brush with indie success. And now, as if by transmission from a scene-scattered wasteland, we have Earthly Delights, Lightning Bolt’s fifth album and a welcome reiteration of their considerable powers." [Continue Reading]

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Early Preview Of Upcoming U.S. Maple Doc

Here's an enticing look at the forthcoming documentary about the career of the great Chicago indie-rock band U.S. Maple. I had no idea this was even in development until a few hours ago, but it looks rather awesome-- anything to further document one of the most unjustly overlooked band's of the 1990s. The currently untitled film is directed Tony Ciarrocchi and being produced by Hardeye Films. (via @triablo)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Podcast: End of Radio #13 - 'Anesthetise Thineself'

"For the latest End of Radio podcast, co-hosts Jordan Cronk and Jon Staph weigh the pitfalls and rewards of cover versions, playing a selection of some of the most interesting artistic reinterpretations in recent memory."

Music Review: Califone - All My Friends Are Funeral Singers (***)

"If to the general indie populace Califone isn’t the best band in the world—and at this point, I think I could make a valid argument that they are—they’re certainly staking a claim for unrivaled consistency. The band’s last album, 2006's stunning Roots & Crowns, found the Chicago journeymen reaching a post-Red Red Meat peak, incorporating and refining just about everything—the found sound percussion, the scrap metal acoustics, the somehow organically mechanical drift of it all—that has made the band so special over their 10-plus year career. Similar to Roots & Crowns, the band’s newest album, All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, feels like a reconciliation of sorts. The sprawl of past albums such as 2004's epic Heron King Blues has been considerably streamlined, with just the aforementioned core Califone elements left to rattle around inside the band’s characteristically deep sound field. So while it’s certainly of a piece with the band’s omnivorous past, All My Friends Are Funeral Singers represents yet another unique and deeply rewarding conflation of a variety of classic and modern American rock and folk signifiers." [Continue Reading]

Music Review: The Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come (**1/2)

"When you’ve written roughly 18,000 songs, I suppose it’s inevitable that you’d arrive at an album like The Life of the World to Come. Thing is, John Darnielle has spent the better part of his career leading the Mountain Goats through a series of loosely defined concept albums, so shouldn’t a move like this have been somehow preordained? After all, Darnielle has always had a very prominent spiritual bent to his confessionals, both as a home-recorded solo artist and as fully integrated band leader. An entire album based on verses from the Bible shouldn’t be that surprising, right? Surely Robert Pollard would have attempted a similar feat had he not been drunk for nigh on 20 years now. And oddly enough, after spending a good amount of time with the record, I’m not even sure if my early life—raised as I was in both a religious household and multiple private schools—let alone my Mountain Goats fandom, has skewed my opinion of this album in any way. The fact remains, The Life of the World to Come is a deeply penetrating, earnestly manifest song cycle applicable to just about anyone willing to open themselves up to Darnielle’s penetrating realizations." [Continue Reading]

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

InRO Feature: Chasing Gold - October

Feature by Jordan Cronk & Luke Gorham

Luke and I have spent the last couple of weeks toiling away and tweaking our ever-evolving slate of Oscar predictions, and here are the fruits of our labor, this month's updated contenders charts. You'll notice that this month we decided to cut out all films that still remain without distribution, which in some cases made for a lot of reaching (see: Supporting Actress), but the top categories seem to be just as crowded as ever. We've also added predictions for Art Direction and Cinematography, with more tech categories to be included as we progress. But overall, you'll find that the race is finally beginning to take shape and some serious contenders have begun to stake their claims at Oscar gold. Check out the entire feature at In Review Online. Also I've updated my sidebar predictions (down below there in the right column) to reflect these changes, with a slight tweak to Animated Film with the growing likelihood of the category expanding to 5 nominees.

The Decade In Review (Music): The Year 2007

I'm not gonna waste a lot of space getting into detail about these albums (particularly the more well established ones), for the simple reason that if you've been following me or my writing for any amount of time you've no doubt heard me praise these ten works to no end. What I will say is that 2007 is, along with 2000, the best year of the decade in regards to music. A random selection of ten other albums from the very same year could prove just as rewarding, though these ten continue to impress me with every passing day.

Up Next in the Series:
-The Week of October 26st: The Decade in Review (Film): The Year 2007
-The Week of November 9th: The Decade in Review (Music): The Year 2008

Previous Entries in the Series:
-The Decade in Review (Music): The Year 2006
-The Decade in Review (Film): The Year 2006

In alphabetical order:

Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam

A more fractured and raucous album than what directly proceed it (2005s serene Feels), Strawberry Jam exerted more power and reaped greater rewards. Features my favorite AC joint, "For Reverend Green".

Battles - Mirrored

Post-rock taken to it's logical end. Math-rock taken to it's most extreme. Minimalism refracted through a modern landscape of hardcore maximalism. This is Mirrored, arguably the most (un)dance-able, (un)funky, (un)godly slab of art-rock this decade has produced.

Burial - Untrue

Dubstep's one true crossover success, and for good reason. Steeped in two-step beat lock, trip-hop atmospherics and the ghostly humanity of forgotten soul, Burial's Untrue remains a beautifully intangible enigma.

Deerhunter - Cryptograms

An expertly crafted, two-sided announcement of the newly re-focused Deerhunter, and thus the perfect marriage of the band's ambient sprawl and atmospheric art-rock. Cryptograms remains the band's best record in my estimation.

Panda Bear - Person Pitch
[Paw Tracks]

With Person Pitch, Noah Lennox brought years of textural experimentation with his parent band into the realm of perfect ambient pop. Informed in equal measure by minimal techno, Eno ambiance, and Brian Wilson pop harmonics, Person Pitch realized a generation's worth of nascent pop techniques and flowered them into the decade's most comforting psychedelic whirlpool.

The National - Boxer
[Beggars Banquet]

A comparatively restrained but intensely focused set of dread-fueled guitar rock from the ever-dour gents of The National. After years of intense maturation-- and with often times stunning individual results-- Boxer emerged as if fully formed, birthed from a totally in-sync group of musicians with the confidence to kill us slowly. The power of Boxer may not yet be realized, but as the prominent trends of crossover indie fall by the wayside, The National will be left standing with this monument to shadow-treading heartache.

Shining - Grindstone
[Rune Gammofon]

An even more confrontational and extreme vision than the rumbling upheaval of their prior work, Grindstone found Shining embracing a kind of damaging RIO aesthetic that seemingly had died with the more radical American and Japanese out-rock outfits of the 1980s. A pummeling, dizzying array of free-jazz skronk, metallic riffs and heady conceptualization, Grindstone instantly joined the top ranks of modern out-rock statements.

Stars of the Lid - And Their Refinement of the Decline

Returning after a lengthy hiatus, ambient figureheads Stars of Lid dropped an extraordinary two-disc encapsulation of the best aspects of modern experimental electronic music. A sighing, immensely moving two hour collection of peaceful drones and ominous undercurrents, And Their Refinement of the Decline plays like an elegy for our war-riddled society.

Supersilent - 8
[Rune Grammofon]

Improvisational Norwegian avant-jazz collective Supersilent had spent years toying with elements of noise, ambiance, free-rock and fusion for a decade prior to 8, but it's here where they presented all the diverging tendencies in a dynamic and gripping whole. As music on American shores continued its long and inevitable trip towards the middle, distant locales proved to be fertile ground for boundary-expanding, uncompromising experimentation. 8 may be the best representation of just how far music can be stretched without breaking.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sonic Youth on "Gossip Girl"

They single-handedly got me to tune into Gilmore Girls a few years back, and as most of you probably know, I haven't looked back since. I doubt SY's appearance on Gossip Girl will facilitate the same kind of love, but it's worth it just to see the band resurrect EVOL classic "Star Power".

Friday, October 9, 2009

Music Review: Built to Spill - There Is No Enemy (**1/2)

"Built to Spill has done very little this decade to dispel the notion that they are essentially a 1990s indie-rock relic and not much more. After a near-perfect three album run there in the latter half the 90s, concluding with 1999's stellar Keep It Like a Secret, Built to Spill seemed poised to conquer the new millennium. Instead, Doug Martsch's songwriting became increasingly lazy, content to rely on instrumental virtuosity over things like melody or continuity. They were, more concisely, resting on their laurels, and fan fatigue set in about as quickly as I can remember for a band with such a devoted following. And that, in short, is what makes There Is No Enemy such a refreshing listen. As band after band has seemingly reunited and reignited their artistic inspiration in the last few years, it’s satisfying to have a band that never really went anywhere release a very solid late-career summation record with enough inherent charm to satiate long-time fans and maybe even bring some new believers into the fold." [Continue Reading]

Music Review: Mission of Burma - The Sound the Speed the Light (**1/2)

"With three albums in the last five years, I think it’s safe to once again consider Mission of Burma an active band. They’ve already doubled their original early-80s output of one full-length and one EP, and with nary a seam showing between the two periods, they’ve slowly amassed one of the most intimidating catalogues in modern rock. The band’s influence reaches into the deepest recesses of modern indie-rock, yet at the same time they don’t have many direct descendants, resulting in a sort of slow crystallization of the Burma aesthetic. So it goes that their newest album, The Sound the Speed the Light, while not actively presenting any new facets of the band’s idiosyncratic sound, is nevertheless yet another solid entry in an ever-growing discography." [Continue Reading]

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

InRO Feature: Discographer #3 - Why?

Intro by Jordan Cronk
Album reviews by Jordan Cronk, Chris Nowling, & Lukas Suveg

As the restlessly creative Messianic Jew behind the ever-evolving Why? moniker, Yoni Wolf has established himself as one of this generation’s most interesting and inventive musicians. Based out of the typically heady Berkley, California, Wolf has built a career out of refracted pop music; shot though a lens of hip-hop turbulence and urban angst, the music of Why? is simply unclassifiable. Paradoxically, Wolf's career thus far has followed a rather traditional trajectory, beginning with rudimentary (though often inspired) home recordings, before the artist enlisted a full band to help flesh out his tape experiments. This move from the experimental to the concise culminates with the release of Why?'s latest album, this year’s intriguingly opaque Eskimo Snow. [Continue Reading]

Monday, October 5, 2009

Phillips & Scott on Steven Soderbergh and the Coen Brothers

It would be all but impossible to re-create the magic of Siskel & Ebert, but Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott have nevertheless continued the tradition of At the Movies with pride and integrity, and I think it's pretty safe to say that the results have been successful by any measure. One cool thing that the duo have made their own, however, is web-exclusive content, such as these two recent chats about the careers of Steven Soderbergh and Joel & Ethan Coen. These are both nice companion pieces to their broadcast reviews of Soderbergh's The Informant! and the Coen's excellent new film, A Serious Man (review forthcoming when I can finally wrap my brain around it). Anyway, take a look-- good content all around.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Podcast: End of Radio #12 - 'The Story of an Artist'

"For their second artist-exclusive podcast, End of Radio co-hosts Jordan Cronk, Brian Webster and Jon Staph – all working together here for the very first time – take a long, personal look back at the life and times lo-fi pop hero Daniel Johnston. Much gushing ensues. "

Music Review: Tyondai Braxton - Central Market (***)

"I’m of the firm belief that we now live in a post-Mirrored world. But even still, if you’re only familiar with Tyondai Braxton as the leader of the man-machine math-rock megaliths Battles, then you’re not really all that familiar with a career that’s never stood in one place for long. A second generation experimental music technician, Braxton (the son of avant-jazz composer Antony Braxton) has been exploring the divides between electronic and organic, live and studio-based composition since the mid-90s, working with real-time orchestrated loops and various other forms of traditional rock and jazz instrumentation. At one point he dropped a split-LP with noise-rock titans Parts & Labor, and on separate occasions he's even been commissioned by the Kronos Quartet and New York City’s Bang on a Can live music organization. I think it’s fair to assume, then, that his various disparate artistic tendencies have helped to shape his constantly evolving musical vocabulary. But as fate would have it, it was only when he hooked up with Don Caballero’s Ian Williams and ex-Helmet kit destroyer John Stanier to form Battles that his music was finally able to bridge enough of a gap between improvisation and the more immediately visceral aspects of rock to appeal to wider swath of listeners." [Continue Reading]

Friday, October 2, 2009

I Coulda Told You That

Well, Kate's held this designation with me for like 10 years now, but I guess this make it, um, official? Now if we could only get her in another good movie. Oh, and I dig the Blow-Up poster at the end. If you've been to my apartment, you know I have the same one hanging in my kitchen.