Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Joanna Newsom: March 30, 2010: Cincinnati/Music Hall

Opening Act: Robin Pecknold (of Fleet Foxes)

Joanna Newsom Set list:

1. Bridges and Balloons
2. In California
3. Easy
4. Soft As Chalk
5. The Book of Right-On
6. Have One On Me
7. Inflammatory Writ
8. No Provenance
9. Good Intentions Paving Company
10. Monkey & Bear
11. Encore: Baby Birch

Monday, March 29, 2010

8 bit Heart, Simon Curtis

Is Simon Curtis the nerd/geek double of Justin Timberlake? Maybe. If J.T. created all his music from his basement and thought robots were cool. There is something charming about Curtis’ desire to be the geek he truly is while singing alongside danceable beats.

The best track on the album, “Beat Drop,” is pure Kesha meets geek pop. In fact, I would imagine Curtis wants to be the male Lady Gaga. The CD opens the same way Gaga starts her shows… with a monotone voice speaking in a brain washing sort of style. I am certainly not trying to suggest his style/voice/lyrics come anywhere near the greatness of Lady Gaga. This is purely a fan with the desire to create what he enjoys.

There is nothing wrong with the CD. In fact, it is a free CD (download here: So, everything is right about this CD. A few songs are real catchy, a lot of fun, and perfect to add to a dance mix. And, how can I not love a pop song that samples from one of the creepiest children’s movies of the ‘80s, The Dark Crystal?

Pure dance geek pleasure.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Short Cuts

It has been at least five years since I last sat through this entire film. It has existed on my top ten films of all time list since I first viewed it sometime around 1997. My memory of the film is exactly how it exists. The puzzle pieces of these broken people living throughout Los Angeles.

Robert Altman adopted a handful of short stories by Raymond Carver. Altman took plots, characters names, themes, and applied them throughout this ensemble cast. A large cast. Something Altman became very famous for after he made this film. I think of Short Cuts as the start of a new path in Altman's career. The path we saw in many of his films that followed (The Player, Gosford Park, Ready to Wear, The Company, etc).

There are two amazing monologues in this film. One with Jack Lemmon. He tries to relay the facts of an affair gone wrong. As an audience we don't know if this man can be trusted. Is this just another trick in a long line of tricks of a dead beat father? Or, is this a final grasp at a relationship with a son?

The second monologue is Julianne Moore, naked from the waist down, telling her husband of a quick affair in a parked car with a gallery owner. As an audience member we are uncomfortable about the raw honesty in the story. The matter of fact details of a drunken fuck. Also, we are left to feel so involved due to the nudity. The way we suddenly feel a part of someone we allow to see us naked.

Altman is incredible with the way he films dialogue. The actors are just voices in this film.


Friday, March 26, 2010

New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh, Erykah Badu

BEST OF 2010

I have followed Erykah Badu since her first album. I have never been one to follow R&B, etc. But, something in the soul of Badu has always appealed to me. She has never played stupid. She has never turned herself into anyone other than Ms. Badu. She is the high priestess.

Her new album is part two of a three part series. The first installment, 4th World War, is an angry outcry. The music is unsettling. Badu at war with herself, her beliefs, and her world. It isn't a bad album, but it isn't always easy to listen to without feeling depressed, pained, or angry.

Return of the Ankh is a fantastic blending of Baduizm and Mama's Gun. A lovely psychedlic R&B orgasm. The music just makes your body bounce. A little smile in the corner of the mouth. Badu is being playful. She's being sexy. She's a silly poet with an incredible mind.

I adore the harps on 'Incense' and the drawn out groove of 'Out of my Mind, Just in Time.' An artist who has yet to disappoint. This is one of those albums I'll be listening to for many years.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Congratulations, MGMT

Many will complain that anyone who isn't into this album is just disappointed with the band's growth. But, those people would be wrong. This is not growth. This is the wilting decay of what was once a lovely flower.

I wasn't a huge fan of MGMT's first album, Oracular Spectacular. I enjoyed a great many of the songs, but the album took a while to grow on me. The few 'hits' were mostly just fun indie pop dance. But, for a first album it was a great sign of things to come. Instead, they follow up an upbeat album with some form of The Shins meets Modest Mouse. And... not in a good way. Not at all.

The horrid album cover is only the first step in a huge pile of shit. Every song sounds exactly like the previous song. As if the vocals are being sung from the other end of a very long tunnel. The music just swirls around in this attempt at a hippy trippy kaliedescope.

Sorry, MGMT. I'm just not interested. This is background music at best. I support an attempt at trying to create something new with each endeavor. This attempt just isn't impressive, exciting, or necessary.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Just Kids, Patti Smith

BEST OF 2010
There are certain times when a book falls into your hand at the right time. Patti Smith's memoir is one of those books. As I have struggled with the idea of "who am I as an artist?" over the past couple of months, it was lovely to read about the struggle of coming to terms with being an artist. And, the struggles of growing into the concept of an artist.

I admire the people filling this memoir. Those who gave up on everything expected of them to follow their dreams. Poetry, music, literature, painting, photography, etc. The Chelsea Hotel is a dream come true to me. A commune of lost souls creating. Feeding off of each other. Perhaps, also, destroying one another. The complexity of the way we rely on others who may not be our best option.

Many reviewers have found the name dropping to be unnecessary. But, it adds to the reality of this period. When artists were their own small celebrity circle. Before the mass audience started to be so interested in these 'other' artists. Also, many have complained too many of Smith's memories seem made up. I have always hated this complaint about a memoir. In writing one has to create. Even when writing non-fiction. And, don't we all remember the way we need to remember? Not necessarily the way it painfully did happen?

The love story of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe is very interesting. The confusion of sex and gender. The way they were one, but so much two. There is a great sadness in the way she writes of their slow separation into different worlds. The innocence of Patti Smith is the most shocking parts of this memoir.

She has always inspired me. As I closed the book last night I started to cry. Once again inspired. Once again asking myself if I was on the right path. Once again wanting so much to focus more on my own writing.

This is a memoir more on the process of becoming an artist and less about two young lovers.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Girl With Glass Feet, Ali Shaw

Was it envy which drew me to this novel? The author was born in 1982, as was I. The author worked in a bookstore, as did I. The author has a degree in English Literature, as do I. The author works in a library, as do I. The author has published his first novel...

I am often curious about the writing of others in my age range. Often times authors are older. Rarely are they younger. Something happens in your 30s. This is the age of many published authors... thirty and above. But, someone so 'young.' What does he have to say?

There is something fresh, orginial, and familiar in this text. A fairy tale of sorts. But, not a Disney fairy tale. A Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Something dark and mischevious. The slightest amount of hope and romance lingering along the edges.

Due to school work, I only read half of this novel. After a two week break I went to pick the novel back up, but realized I would need to start over. So, for a bit, the book has been placed aside. But, I look forward to returning.

First half: B+

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I have a bad habit of turning children's films into heavy material. I believe Mary Poppins is a movie about child abuse. So, it comes as no surprise that I would find something living underneath the surface of Up.

One could take the film as is. Or, as death. The point of this film is impossible. An old man moving his house, via balloons, to South America. Managing to drag it along through a forest like a parade float. A young boy who hitched a ride. A talking dog, etc.

The film is about death. The old man's wife dies at the start of the film. I believe the old man dies shortly thereafter. Instead of his wife being part of this second life he has created the house to represent her. Calls the home 'Ellie' many times throughout the film. The young boy at his side is a contemporary spitting image of the old man in his youth. An awkward nerd in search of an adventure. And, the talking dogs. Dogs are known as man's best friend. What man wouldn't want a dog that speaks?

The old man discovers a rare bird that an explorer he admired was unable to ever truly prove as real. Once again, such an unlikely stretch of the imagination. I believe children's stories hold so much more than the surface because I believe those who create for children refuse to treat them as children. Those who play with the imaginations of children know there is an ability to really grasp more.

I wouldn't say the film was overly charming, or sentimental, or imaginative. But, it was something different for a short time.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Head First, Goldfrapp

A mix of Kate Bush, ABBA, and a bit of contemporary electronic music. A mix of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Goldfrapp is always recreating their sound. One never knows what to fully expect from their next album.

I have to admit, I'm usually a little disappointed with what is released. After a while the CD usually grows on me. But, what Goldfrapp suggests as goal never seems fully developed by time the album is fully formed.

This time around, Goldfrapp is going for radio lite pop songs. There is nothing here anyone really wants to embrace. Everything is a little bit cold and distant. The songs mostly sound alike. They sound like something you've heard before. And, why not find that something else?

The album isn't a failure. It is fun. A couple of the songs will make it on to my workout mix. Or a mix CD of hipster dance songs. I'd like to see some of these songs receive the remix treatment.

The album will be lovely on warm summer nights before going out to dance...


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Scratch My Back, Peter Gabriel

It is kind of hard not to be excited by the concept of this album. Music great (and oddity) Peter Gabriel pulls together a set list of wonderful songs... by other artists.

Gabriel's voice has always been very attractive for me to listen to, but I never found many of his actual songs to be too appealing. Now, I get his incredible voice and flair for the dramatics mixed with some wonderful lyrics.

Gabriel covers my favorite Arcade Fire song, 'My Body is a Cage,' by adding some of the most brilliant mood setting string section. Actually, the whole CD is with strings... no drums or guitar.

Also covered: David Bowie, Bon Iver, Magnetic Fields, Talking Heads, Paul Simon... And, one of the most odd and exciting covers is 'Apres Moi' by Regina Spektor.

This isn't an earth shattering album. But, it is comforting in a whole new way.


Monday, March 15, 2010

The Body Artist, Don DeLillo

After reading Point Omega I knew I would need to return to DeLillo's earlier "short novel" to see if there was a connection. I feel these two novels are very strongly tied together. Not so much in plot or theme. But, somewhere in these two texts is this discovery of time as still and moving.

I first read The Body Artist upon its release. I loved the book and have placed it on my top ten favorite books of all time list. I can't recall what my theory of the book was at the time. So, I'm uncertain if how I feel now is the same as how I felt then.

I feel the book is a complex study of loss. The way we mourn the death of someone we love. And, in the case of this novel, how an artist relates to the loss of another artist/lover. The filmmaker and the performance artist. These two as different studies in art, but somehow so similar. The idea of creating an illusion of reality through fantasy through reality.

Laura is just a shell. She creates herself as something new. Someone new. She is never herself. Unable to be alone. A need to constantly create. So, is this stranger in her house a reality? A fantasy? A work of art in progress? DeLillo is a master at not giving direct answers. Just suggestion.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dagger Paths, Forest Swords

BEST OF 2010

I won't lie, I based the downloading of this album on the cover. The website I downloaded this from had very little information on the band. In fact, very little meaning none. And, I attempted to do some searching on my own... only to find a few songs on YouTube. Nothing to tell me of the band's past.

The songs are beautiful. Instrumental, primal, brooding, mysterious. Some of the songs have an anxious build up. As if taken from the scene of a scary movie. Other songs have a beautiful movie score element. The likes of Ennio Morricone.

Then, there are the comparisons to Fout Tet... Animal Collective... Memory Tapes, even. This instrumental lo-fi dub meets slow burn folk.

Despite all these comfortable comparisions, the album is still something wholly fresh and welcoming. You can check out "videos" for Miarches and Glory Gongs on YouTube. Or, and not to sound too emo, check out their myspace page.


Thursday, March 11, 2010


The damaged youth of Sheen's character. The beautiful innocence of Spacek's character. This film could not have been more perfectly cast. There is a complexity to the relationship between these two people. A level never fully evolved throughout the film. This is the film's greatest weakness- an inability to really delve into that which brings these two together and so far apart.

This is Terrence Malick's first feature film. I have been wanting to view this film for a number of years. Always pushing back the "right time." I can't say I find the film particularly worthwhile. The filming is beautiful. Malick's desire to capture nature is heavily at work. In fact, most of Malick's significant themes are at play from the very start of his work.

Badlands ties very closely to Days of Heaven. Both films deal with men on the run from the internal. Fighting their way out of themselves and into the external. Malick's two follow up films, The Thin Red Line and The New World, are complete opposites of his first two films. The Thin Red Line and The New World are much more focused on fighting ones way deeper inside while running from the external.

I am happy to have completed Malick's filmography up to this point in time. I find him one of the ten best directors in the history of filmmaking. While I won't say this is his finest moment, it certainly is a nice glimpse at where genius grew.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Genuine Negro Jig, Carolina Chocolate Drops

What if the 1930's banjo music never went away? And then it mixed with the contemporary issues of a whole new decade? Genuine Negro Jig would most likely be your answer. This is the bands third release, but my first experience with their music.

At times, the lyrics are a bit superficial. Trying too hard to still hold onto an old world feel. At other times, the music a little too "world music" sounding. And, I hate nothing more than "world music." But, overall the mood is upbeat and original. Kissin' and Cussin' is the darkest song on the album. Possibly the strongest, too.

After I first listened to the album it made me think it could be a new soundtrack for Steven Martin's The Jerk. The mix of African-American bluegrass banjo blues and soul.

This album is very different from anything I've encountered this year.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Black Noise, Pantha Du Prince

BEST OF 2010

How many albums make you want to dance and dream at the same time? Shoe gazing, star gazing, drugged up off in space gazing. This album is just an incredible escape into sound. Most of the songs have this slow build up of a beat. The softest start and the most lovely finish.

One could say there is a hint of Animal Collective to the music. And, one would be kind of right. Panda Bear guests on 'Stick To My Side.' There are very few vocals on the album.

Once I hated albums without vocals (minus Broken Social Scenes first release, of course). This year, I have found myself drawn to the lack of voice. This idea of speaking without word. Something to the level Bjork attempted with her throat noise album Medulla.

This is the album Four Tet could only dream of releasing.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Summer Hours

I had read reviews of this film when I was in New York for the summer. Never found the time to find my way to the theatre. There has been a bit of a delay in the DVD release. The Criterion Collection will be releasing the film in a couple months. By chance, the Sundance Channel had a showing two weeks ago. I recorded, but only found the time to watch it this evening.

I expected a family drama based on the dysfunctions and relationships of three siblings after the death of the mother. Somehow the film slightly captures this, but the film is larger. The family is just a model. The story is everything surrounding.

The film is a discussion on age. The need and want of 'things' as new generations are born. And, with this need for 'things' comes a disrespect for 'things.' The constant change over to something bigger, better and the easy access to so much is partial focus of the film. The 'things' the aged hold close vs. those 'things' the youth glance over.

Also, the film is a discussion of art. Of aesthetic. Of creativity lost and inspiration no longer growing. There are such lovely little ideas, references, glimpses of the art world from the view of the artist and the artist's family.

The film tends to wander. Lots of little conversations. Little hints of disagreement. Quick views of family arguments. None of this is for the purpose of emotion. Just for the purpose of exhibit. The need to display the interactions of a contemporary family. There is a complexity so carefully touched on throughout the film.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

July Flame, Laura Veirs

Ever since I heard Veirs' 'Rapture' off of her 3rd release, Carbon Glacier, I have been a fan of her quirky lyrics and folky guitar strums. "Do you blame Monet? His gardens in Giverny he captured..." How can one not fall in love with these lyrics?

The follow up album, Year of Meteors, suffered from a bit of a rut. A mix of recycled and bland. It didn't help I had seen her opening for Sufjan Stevens and found her stage presence to be rude, unwelcoming, and downright superior acting. It took me a few listens of the songs I love by her to really come to terms with sometimes you have to separate the art from the artist.

On her fifth release, July Flame, Veirs is showing she is a strong song writer. A lot of the quirkiness has been erased. The lyrics are slightly darker. There is a maturity, a sadness, a longing in Veirs voice. It was always there, but is stronger on this release. The music compositions are similar to earlier releases, but also a lot darker, heavier.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Village Life: Poems, Louise Gluck

It has been at least five years since I last read a collection of Gluck's poetry. I may have been that English Literature cliche. So it is odd to return to poetry so matter of factly. I have read a few collections over the past few years. Random new poets and recent releases of favorite poets. There was a time I really admired Gluck's honesty. The sense of writer/poet self in so much of her voice.

In A Village Life I feel much of Gluck is removed. We're faced with the infamous stuff of poetry- life and death. The strongest poems in this collection deal with the life and death cycle of nature. The weakest are focused on the life cycle of the living: love, youth, family, life, etc.

The three strongest poems in the collection are named "Burning Leaves" (there are a handful of poems containing the same title throughout the collection). The subject of these poems, the life and the death, are strongly portrayed through nature and humans. The literary theme of man vs nature is stripped and the fight is removed. The same struggle of survival is revealed..."So it's finished for another year,/death making room for life" (26).


Monday, March 1, 2010


This is a bit of a change from the "typical" review. Although, still a bit of a review. But, how does one review something they aren't fully certain of? Perhaps, it is the best way to review. Knowing nothing of what is behind the sound, image, meaning. A complete emptiness on which to base comparison and criticism.

Since the end of December a series of one minute videos have been surfacing all over the web (youtube, muumuse, vinyl and vodka, pitchfork, etc) from an unknown artist. These videos vary slightly. From scenes of a woman licking a tree... being birthed in a mucky pond... turning into a spring flower... Each video is accompanied by a series of numbers. A code. Each video associated with an animal (owl, bee, whale, llama, dog, monkey, goat).

Her voice is muffled. Hidden behind music. The music is beautiful. Ranges from dreamy to poppy to music box. Every video just as confusing and beautiful as the one before. The blogs have listed many possibilities: Christina Aguilera, Goldfrapp, Lady Gaga, MGMT, Trent Reznor, Animal Collective, Bjork, Little Boots,... the list goes on and on.

In this final(?) video, a glimpse of the true voice. A single word (why?) or a single letter (y) are uttered.

Follow the link and watch the videos from bottom to top (in the correct order). Be ready to be in a trance.