Friday, June 29, 2012

2012.5 - The Best Records of the Year (so far...)


Special Mentions (Reissues / Compilations / Mixes / Live Albums):

Azusa Plane / Where the Sands Turn to Gold [Rocket Girl]
Captain Beefheart / Bat Chain Puller [Zappa]
Cleaners from Venus / Blow Away Your Troubles/On Any Normal Monday/Midnight Cleaners [Captured Tracks]
Codeine / When I See the Sun [Numero Group]
Donnie & Joe Emerson / Dreamin' Wild [Light in the Attic]
The Flaming Lips / The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends [Warner Bros. / Lovely Sorts of Death]
Medicine / The Buried Life [Captured Tracks]
Moss Icon / Complete Discograhpy [Temporary Residence]
My Bloody Valentine / EPs 1988 - 1991 [Sony]
Porter Ricks / Biokinetics [Type]
Rustie / Essential Mix [BBC]
Sentridoh / Weed Forestin' [self-released]
Sleep / Dopesmoker [Southern Lord]
Swans / We Rose from Your Bed With the Sun in Our Head [Young God]
The Wake / Here Comes Everybody [Captured Tracks]

Honorable Mentions (Not exactly #s 16 - 25, but ten other records I've spent a lot of time with this year):

The Congos / Sun Araw / M. Geddes Gengras / Icon Give Thanks [Rvng Intl.]
Hospitality / Hospitality [Merge]
Liars / WIXIW [Mute]
Lotus Plaza / Spooky Action at a Distance [Kranky]
Pop Winds / Earth to Friend [Arbutus]
Shackleton / Music for the Quiet Hour [Woe to the Skeptic Heart]
John Talabot / ƒIN [Permanent Vacation]
Sharon Van Etten / Tramp [Jagjaguwar]
The Walkmen / Heaven [Fat Possum / Bella Union]
Zammutto / Zammutto [Temporary Residence] 

The 15 Best Records of 2012 (so far...#1 in red):

Actress / R.I.P. [Honest Jon’s]
Beach House / Bloom [Sub Pop]
Burial / Kindred EP [Hyperdub]
The Caretaker / Patience (After Sebald) [History Always Favours the Winners]
Neneh Cherry & the Thing / The Cherry Thing [Smalltown Supersound]
Chromatics / Kill for Love [Italians Do It Better]
Cloud Nothings / Attack on Memory [Carpark]
Grimes / Visions [4AD / Arbutus]
Keiji Haino / Jim O'Rourke / Oren Ambarchi / Imikuzushi [Black Truffle]
Julia Holter / Ekstasis [Rvng Intl.]
Japandroids / Celebration Rock [Polyvinyl]
Laurel Halo / Quarantine [Hyperdub]
The Men / Open Your Heart [Sacred Bones]
Spiritualized / Sweet Heart Sweet Light [Fat Possum]
Dustin Wong / Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads [Thrill Jockey]

Friday, June 22, 2012

Record Review: Codeine - When I See the Sun

For a band that never moved in anything but slow, deliberate steps, New York City’s Codeine left an intimidating footprint on the independent music landscape. Conceived in 1989 at the direct intersection of first-wave shoegaze, the nascent post-rock convergence and the turn-of-the-decade indie rock uprising, Codeine crystallized many of these genre’s most recognizable aesthetic traits, draining the blood from the veins of a beast that major labels were set to co-opt in the near future while methodically staking claim to a sound that would soon come to be known as slowcore. Almost confrontationally patient, the style of music Codeine would pioneer—at once desolate and cavernous, glacial and expansive—had a slow-burn effect on modern guitar music. They advanced languidly but deliberately, with just a handful of records produced over a five-year span. But the reverberations are still being felt, the fallout from their heavy, carefully deployed gestures still melting hearts and crushing eardrums in equal measure. Codeine made music that burned like ice when left unguarded against human flesh. They’ve scarred me in the most beautiful way.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Record Review: Marissa Nadler - The Sister

Over the past couple of years it’s been interesting to sit back and listen as Marissa Nadler has transitioned into the second phase of her career. Four albums of increasingly textured and ambitious folk narratives culminated in 2009 with the 4AD-tinged, dream pop-leaning Little Hells, which felt simultaneously like a culmination and an extension of Nadler’s aesthetic reach. To these ears, it’s still her best and most consistently absorbing record, but judging by the modest gestures she’s made in the years since, it may not have necessarily been her most genuine. Retreating, in a sense, from the gauzy glare emanating from her label endorsement and the attendant record’s more outwardly confident and ornamented sound, Nadler has spent the last three years literally Kickstarting her own label (Box of Cedar) and presumably reconciling her artistic idiom in the process.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Blu-Ray Review: Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude [Criterion]

Though its themes are universal and its message indelibly—even naïvely—romantic, Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude is a film that could have only been made in the direct wake of the Summer of Love. Like one last gasp of earnest, sincere faith in the interconnectedness and perseverance of mankind before New Hollywood would be swallowed whole by the bleak realities of The French Connection, Deliverance, The Exorcist, Dog Day Afternoon, Taxi Driver, and the Godfather films, Harold and Maude set its sights on something less outwardly ambitious yet just as vital: the very heart of the human condition. Love—and all the odd permutations and involuntary reactions stoked by its flame—is the lifeblood of the film, which just so happens to contrast the winking yet darkly suicidal fantasies of the 20-year-old Harold (Bud Cort) with the eternally wide-eyed, carefree existence of the soon-to-be 80-year-old Maude (Ruth Gordon), who initially share an interest in funerals and not much else.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Blu-Ray Review: John Cassavetes's Too Late Blues [Olive Films]

At this point, the name John Cassavetes is so intrinsically linked to the American independent film movement that it can be easy to take for granted how seamlessly he could have taken an alternate route through Hollywood and potentially gone on to far greater fame and fortune. His landmark, self-financed debut feature, Shadows, may have turned out to be a career harbinger, but it certainly wasn't a financial success. Cassavetes spent most of the 1950s acting in various television shows and Hollywood motion pictures just to raise the money to eventually shoot Shadows, which languished undistributed in the U.S. for two years, until 1959 when the film played sparsely in major markets and Paramount Pictures took heed of enough critical notices and visible talent to recruit the young filmmaker for an unspecified studio project.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Top Ten Films of All-Time

Presented without comment--and in deference to Sight & Sound's voting policies for their once-a-decade Greatest Films Poll, which arrives this Fall (but to which I am not contributing)--my top ten films of all time. In alphabetical order:

Au hasard Balthazar / Robert Bresson (1966)
A Brighter Summer Day / Edward Yang (1991)
Celine and Julie Go Boating / Jacques Rivette (1974)
L’eclisse / Michelangelo Antonioni (1962)
Late Spring / Yasujirō Ozu (1949)
Sansho the Bailiff / Kenji Mizoguchi (1954)
Sátántangó / Béla Tarr (1994)
Stalker / Andrei Tarkovsky (1979)
Touch of Evil / Orson Welles (1958)
Two or Three Things I Know About Her / Jean-Luc Godard (1967)