Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sex and the City 2

What a huge success. How do you follow up an incredible series and a depressing, mediocre movie? In the case of Sex & the City 2, you go back to the original formula. Raunchy, fun, and over the top. Nothing about this sequel is small. It was originally discussed money problems would be an issue in the film. And while issues with the economy are mentioned here and there, it never takes control of the film.

The film is long. Only once feeling long. I think it best to think of the film as 5 episodes. This is where the first film failed a bit. The first film was so heavy and flowed from one issue to the next. Resulting in a film feel instead of the feeling one received when watching the series. I think of the film divided into the following 'episodes:' Gay Wedding, The Movie Premiere, The Anniversary Gift, and Abu Dhabi pt.1 & pt.2 .

The women look older. In fact, more beautiful than ever before. Samantha's character has fully evolved into a woman of strength and weakness. She is the perfect ying and yang. And, I will go so far to say I finally see the beauty in Charlotte York. After years of hating her plain jane appearance, it was nice to finally see her beauty.

My biggest complaint going into the film was the trip to Abu Dhabi. I couldn't understand why a film about women and sex would travel to a place with laws against women and sexuality. But, by the films end, I see these issues are attacked. The film seems to make you understand while it may be beautiful to look at, there are many issues right under the beautiful surface. At times, the film pushes against Abu Dhabi too much (the silly 'I Am Woman' sing along) and other times it is spot on (Samantha throwing condoms at a group of men).

My favorite part of the film is how it handles love. A series created to show all the different ways to love and be loved. Carrie was now in a situation where she no longer had to create 'new love,' but she needed to carry on her love. The film speaks about rules in relationships. How society can't be in charge of how we manage our love. If anything, this may be the strongest message to come out of the Sex and the City series.

The film is light, slapstick sentimentalism. A great summer feel good movie. To have the women back with fresh stories is all I needed... but, this time around they went above and beyond my expectations.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dancer in the Dark

There are three films to make me physically sick upon first viewing: Requiem for a Dream, Irreversible, and Dancer in the Dark. All three films upset me for different reasons. They reach the darkest imaginations for humanity. These are not films one watches on a regular basis. In fact, two of the three I have only seen once. Dancer in the Dark I have now seen three times. The pain still exists by the films end, but it grows a little less sickening. And, that in itself is worthy of making one more upset.

Dancer in the Dark is billed as Lars von Trier's musical. I would go so far as to call it musical realism. The few, brief musical numbers exist only as dream sequences. Selma's escape from the everyday. The music, performed by Bjork, is not the most comforting or easy to listen to (even if you are a huge Bjork fan). The lyrics range from regret about murder to dealing with blindness. As usual, von Trier's world is bleak.

The performances are almost always spot on. Bjork's amazing scene as she tries to take back her stolen money is one of the most pained film sequences (other than the rape scene in Irreversible) I can remember. Her shrieks, hesitations, sobs, and shaking gestures are all too real.

There are issues throughout the films. Lots of questions as to why Selma does what she does. Her actions are not always explained. One can easily pass them off as a mild form of insanity on Selma's part. I choose to believe Selma is just in the fantasy of how one gets from point A to point B. Also, von Trier is not always consumed with the specifics of the plot. For von Trier, film is about an end result and not always how one finds that end result.

von Trier is smart in the way he ends the film. Selma's hatred for the closing song of a musical as being too over the top is mentioned twice in the film. At the end of this film, von Trier waits before he does exactly what she hates. Two curtains are pulled closed (so smartly used as a finale) and the camera slowly rises up and out. von Trier sticks to the pattern of musical (opening overture of changing colors, dance numbers, solos, and the big finale)throughout the film.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

East of Eden: Part Three/Part Four, John Steinbeck

I was amazed at how quickly 600 pages was completed. I guess that is the sign of an impressive novel. Of an outstanding author. Many novels that read so quickly are part of the Dan Brown/John Grisham formula. But, I guess in the rare case, a classic can have the same "unputdownable" effect.

As the novel continued the large cast of characters started to fade a little bit more into the background. Or, perhaps, I just became so familiar with their names and stories I no longer struggled with the 'who is this?' and 'how are they connected?' issues from earlier in the novel.

I wonder if Steinbeck was successful in his purpose of the novel. If Steinbeck wished to create Cal as a modern day Cain, I feel he failed. If Steinbeck wished to show that evil matures, calms, and struggles, I feel he succeeded. Is it up to me to decide? Or, should it be more clear? This might be my only issue with the novel as a whole.

I was surprised to see a slightly feminist twist to the novels end, too. The character of Kate doesn't end the way so many classical ladies have ended. Steinbeck gives Kate control and power throughout the novel. Never once turning her into a caricature or a moral. She was by far the strongest, most interesting character.

There is so much to say. So many things to ask. But, in the end, it is how long a piece of fiction lasts. Reading through the novel I spent a lot of time applying the brothers, Cal and Aron, to my own relationship with my brother. It was alarming how well Steinbeck creates siblings. The struggles, envies, and bonds.

And, for me, the true test of a great novel... tears. It is rare for me to cry from fiction. But, with one single line, Steinbeck was successful... all great and precious things are lonely.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox

I enjoy Rushmore. I adore The Royal Tenenbaums. Other than that, Wes Anderson's films are pretty average. The music is always fun. The camera work entertaining. And, I love the way Anderson packs every shot with so much stuff. Wes Anderson has a specific style and he follows it through in every film.

Part of what made Fantastic Mr. Fox so enjoyable was the way Anderson stuck with his usual style of film making. I may have been watching a cartoon, but Anderson made the cartoon exist on a larger level because of the way he incorporates the typical Anderson style. The music is background and foreground. At times, it pokes fun of itself in a way only Anderson can do without undermining the work.

The dialogue is much closer to Anderson than to Roald Dahl's novel. I should find complaint in this. But, I don't. I love Dahl's novel. Just seeing so much of his world entangled with Anderson's made the film worthwhile. By the films end I wanted Anderson to make a film of The BFG and a remake of The Witches.

The film is perfect for children and adults. Anderson captures Dahl's silliness and the adult implications of feeling restless. The feeling of love, family, loss.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hippies, Harlem

What if the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were made of snot nosed hipsters? Ok. Maybe the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were made up of snot nosed hipsters (at least The Beatles). I think that best describes the sound of Harlem. There is an old fashioned rock n roll to their music. A garage band, dirty, sock hop style theme running throughout much of the album.

The first few times I listed to the album, I thought it more background. Pretty boring and mostly simple. I played it as background music on two different nights I had friends over. Each night someone made a comment about the band. The background music was no longer just background. It was drawing attention. So, I decided to take a closer listen.

The lyrics aren't incredible. And, as I said, the music isn't revolutionary. But, there is something very comforting in the two combined. The band is a very solid band. The songs very short, hip shaking beats.

My favorite songs: 'Someday Soon,' 'Poolside,' and 'Be Your Baby.'

This is the album She & Him could make if they weren't so concerned about pleasing your grandparents.

I may eventually regret making the album a Best Of... But, as I said, it is catchy. It is clever. It is fun.


Friday, May 21, 2010

East of Eden: Part Two, John Steinbeck

Some of the character confusion of Part One still lingers in Part Two. My biggest issue with the “epic novel” is the large cast of characters. I always trip over character names. In postmodern fiction, the story is so much about the I/me and those who fall outside of this are just background… or, less significant at least. But, in East of Eden, everyone seems to be important. Or, Steinbeck has created them with equal significance. This leads to the issue of ‘who am I reading about?’ and ‘how do they relate to the rest of the characters?’ This is a problem I come across in Russian literature, but at least in Russian literature a list of characters is present at the novel’s start.

Much of this section focuses on the start of the Trask farm. Adam and Cathy have found their home and Cathy is ready to give birth. The Hamiltons exist purely for contrast to the Trasks at this point. I am still uncertain if the Hamiltons will carry more meaning than just symbolism. They aren’t purely background, but they certainly figure less in the plot.

Cathy/Kate is the most interesting character. Critics have argued she is too extreme a character. Many believe Steinbeck created a woman unlikely to exist and that her evil is unrealistic. But, I don’t really see her as evil. I see her as smart and broken. Most of classic literature turns these women into morals. I assume Kate will die some horrid death due to her love for sex, blood, and money. But, until then, I really enjoy her progression.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Breaking the Waves

Lars von Trier is often referred to as a misogynist. I couldn't find this to be further from the truth. von Trier's films typically depict the point of life of a female lead (Dancer in the Dark, Dogville, Manderlay, Breaking the Waves, Antichrist). While the women in these films are typically put through hell, I don't feel it is due to von Trier's disgust for women. Instead, von Trier's films are focused on the effects of religion on society. On women. And, in religion, women are pushed aside... removed from society... cast away. Made to feel less than equal to men. von Trier is only portraying an extreme view of women through the eyes of 'god.'

Lars von Trier may be the greatest filmmaker working today. He captures emotion and struggle like Bergman. He shoots films better than Altman. And, he is jack of many trades like Kuberick. In fact, one could go so far as to say von Trier is the contemporary Kubrick. Kubrick created many different styles of film: horror (The Shining), war (Full Metal Jacket), literary (Clockwork Orange), sci-fi (2001), and comedy (Dr. Strangelove). von Trier has created many different styes of film, too: comedy (Boss of it All), horror (Antichrist), musical (Dancer in the Dark), film noir (Elements of Crime), literary (Dogville), etc. von Trier is a master of his trade. Overlooked due to his experimental way of filming and the requirements he places on his audience.

I have wanted to see Breaking the Waves for almost five years. The film has been out of print and close to impossible to get ahold of until I happened to stumble across it by accident as a rental. I was worried about the film. It is part one in a trilogy that ends with Dancer in the Dark. Anyone who has seen Dancer in the Dark knows the emotional toll of that film. I was worried Breaking the Waves would be just as taxing. While Dancer in the Dark is much more painful, Breaking the Waves is equally frustrating and heartbreaking.

A simple minded Bess falls in love and marries Jan. After a freak accident leaves Jan paralyzed, he requests Bess go out and have sex with strangers. Jan wants Bess to retell her sexual encounters to him. He feels this keeps their sex life alive. He wants to live through her actions since he can no longer participate in the physical. At the time, this seems acceptable. Then, one realizes how sick Jan is. And, his request may be coming from a disturbed, dark rooted desire to destroy Bess just as he is destroyed.

The magic of von Trier is how many questions he asks. How much he forces the audience to pay close attention to the actions and desires of each character. His are not films one can breeze through and move on from quickly. They linger for quite awhile.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Treats, Sleigh Bells

Sleigh Bells is being hailed as the new "it" band for 2010. So, no matter how much you like them or dislike them... chances are, you're going to say 'they're pretty good.' Sadly, I almost fall into that "pretty good" compliment. But, for me, there tends to be a little something lacking in Sleigh Bells sounds.

The album is best described as noise pop. Something akin to the sounds of a few of the M.I.A. leaked tracks (and, from a couple of her older tracks). The voices seem to be more about sound and less about purpose. There is nothing wrong with this want for an album. In fact, there is almost something original going on in Treats. Many bands have sampled the aggressive, beating sound of many of the songs on Treats, but most of those bands just sprinkle a little here and there. Sleigh Bells goes the whole way.

Sleigh Bells can best be described as a messier, less interesting Crystal Castles. They want to make you move, but I'm not so sure they know how to move... much less know how to make me move. The music is a bit too catchy, too gimicky, too needy for your attention. Is this good or bad? I'm not sure. Many pop/rock/indie bands have survived on a need for taking your attention. If it were just a few tracks, an EP, I think I'd be more interested. Too much of a mediocre thing is just mediocre.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hairspray (1988)

I always forget my love of John Waters until I am faced with his complete brilliance. He is the trashy Andy Warhol (although, I find Warhol to be quite trashy... and overrated). Waters created his own little group of "actors" referred to as Dreamlanders. This group was made up of eclectic personas ranging from Mink Stole, Divine, and Edith Massey. A rag tag group.

The moment I started watching Hairspray (for the many-th time) I realized this film is probably in my top ten films of all time list. How sad that I forgot just how brilliant the entire film truly is. Waters uses a few of the Dreamlanders to create a fairly mainstream film. Up until Hairspray, Waters was busy making X rated comedies with actors fornicating in chicken blood, eating dog shit, and prancing around with sausages tied to their private parts (see Pink Flamingos). Waters has the same sense of over the top drama at play in Hairspray. The acting is pretty bad (as per usual for a Waters film), the occasional mic can be seen at the top of the screen, and occasionally it feels like the cast is just learning their lines. But, this is Waters' world and these are the traits of his films.

The cast of Hairspray is pop perfection: Ricki Lake, Divine, Jerry Stiller, Deborah Harry, Ruth Brown, and Sonny Bono to name a few. They all put in excellent performances as horrible actors. A true trash pop art feast.

The film is much stronger than I remembered. The theme of music as being a vital part of life. How music should join us. The issues of racism in the '60s is the central plot of the film. And, at times, the sentimentality of the film really does get a strong point across. This may seem like some light skipping through a colorful creation, but Waters is really working towards a point.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Midlake: May 17th, 2010: Newport/Southgate House

Opening Acts: Jason Lytle, John Grant

Midlake Set List:

1. Winter Dies
2. The Courage of Others
3. Children of the Grounds
4. Van Occupanther
5. Young Bride
6. Bring Down
7. Fortune
8. The Horn
9. Small Mountain
10. Bandits
11. Roscoe
12. Acts of Man
13. Rulers, Ruling all Things
14. Core of Nature
15. Head Home
16. Branches

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Flesh Tone, Kelis

BEST OF 2010

It may be too early to call this album a 'best of 2010.' I've only had it for a few days. But, I haven't stopped listening during those few days. Is this an amazing, earth shattering record? No. It is it incredible dance pop? Oh, hell yeah. Every song makes you dance. The lyrics are so quick to sing along to. Her voice sounds fantastic and realizes the music is definately the most important part of the record.

'22nd Century' is easily the songs greatest moment. Also, it is a dance anthem for 2010.

'Emancipate' is almost the silliest song on the album. An almost constant repetition of "emancipate yourself" being sung. But, it works. A great dance, disco message. This is the kind of song the Pointer Sisters or Donna Summers wished they had penned.

'4th of July' is the purest pop. Her vocals are thick around every vowel. A husky, deep song style on this track.

Many are comparing this album to the influences of Rihanna and Lady Gaga. But, I don't agree. I hear a whole lot of Grace Jones. And, that is always a great thing.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

East of Eden: Part One, John Steinbeck

[I am planning to read two big novels this summer. East of Eden and War and Peace. As a way to keep myself on track, I'm going to use this blog as a check in once a week or every 100 pages. As a way to keep myself motivated.]

The only Steinbeck novel I have ever read was Of Mice and Men. A simple story. Simple in style, prose, and plot. Therefore, I never thought of Steinbeck as such a great character in the literary world. I was wrong to dismiss him based on a single novel.

Steinbeck's prose is incredible. When writing about landscape he is the strongest. He has a way of really capturing the beauty of nature. The natural world is so significant a part in East of Eden. The landscape is the background for this novel.

Much of East of Eden is harsh. There is a raw, angry spirit at play. The tale of brothers at battle. Currently, the two brothers aren't even the main characters. But, Steinbeck is showing us the cycle.

Cathy, Catherine or Kate, is an evil soul. She slithers up to Adam's doorstep like a snake in the Garden of Eden. Her past is colorful, dramatic, and complicated. She is a great addition to an already interesting cast.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010


How much is too much? In two hours this film manages to cover race, women's right, sexuality, animal rights, slavery, abortion, love, lust, poetry, humanity. Human cruelty and weakness are central to this film. One of the harshest films I have seen in the past year. The reality of these characters and their actions is most times painful.

I wasn't sure if I was too worn out by the emotional complexity of the end or if the film starts to get a little out of control. But, other than a small twist of the end this is a very strong film. John Malkovich finally shows off his true acting talents. So many of his roles portray him as goofy, insane character actor. Disgrace places Malkovich as a main character in the middle of a complete nightmare.

Can we run from one painful piece of the past into an even more painful present? Is violence never ending? Is hate just a circle?

Many of the scenes come across as photographs. Such beautifully shot single scenes. A cinematographic dreamscape. Peaceful postures of everyday objects spread across the horrid terrain of a world of hatred. It is difficult to write a review of the film and not reveal so much of the content. From the film's description, I thought I was in for a sordid romance film gone wrong. But, that is all within the first 30 minutes. Things really fall apart as the father and daughter characters begin to cohabitate (non-sexually).


Monday, May 10, 2010

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Terry Gilliam's films are always beautiful to watch. The special effects, the imagination, the fun of each film is always something exciting. Many times, Gilliam's films don't quite reach above the spectacle and tend to fall a little flat. I feel this is mostly true for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Much of what we are watching is enough to keep us entertained, but the plot falls a little short.

While watching the film I wondered how much of Ledger's death caused a change to the film. Were there plans for a different end? A twist? Or, was Gilliam able to keep to his script with the help of Farrell, Depp, and Law? I'm sure I could do a little research to find out the answer, but I haven't done so yet. The climax of the film really seems to fall in on itself. Much of it a little too over the top, silly, and unnecessary. There could have been better ways to deal with the issues at hand.

Christopher Plummer is the highlight of the film. Every scene he is in is a hundred times better than any other scene in the film. And this is where the film is stronger than the average Gilliam film. Instead of image being the best part of the film, the acting of Plummer takes over. Also, Tom Waits as the devil is a perfect idea. Waits is fantastic as the smart assed, gambling man's satan. In fact, everyone in the film puts on a great performance.

The film isn't going to be the film to live on for many years. It isn't filled with anything new. There is no reason to spend a whole lot of time with this film. But, for a first viewing, it is a lot of fun. The type of film you see, enjoy, and tell others to watch.


Friday, May 7, 2010

In Other Rooms Other Wonders, Daniyal Mueenuddin

What an incredible collection of short stories. I rarely read short stories because they are time consuming. The attention to detail is so important that I am often worn out by the end of twenty or so pages. Joy Williams and Jhumpa Lahiri are my two favorite contemporary short story writers. I think it is time I add Mueenuddin to my list.

In Other Rooms... is his first collection of stories. The similarity to Lahiri is very evident. The stories are told very gently. With ease and care. The amount of life in each sentence is overwhelming. The strongest (and my favorite) story in the collection is 'Our Lady of Paris.' I feel this story is heavily autobiographic for the author. The male lead character has a similar background to the author. Also, the story is the closest to Lahiri's writing. Mostly, the similarity to The Namesake.

Many reviews compare to Mueenuddin's stories to Russian short stories (Chekhov, Turgenov). Why I am not too familiar with many of Chekhov's short stories, I am familiar with Turgenov (having read the collection Fathers and Sons while at college). I would agree with these statements because of the darkness of each story. There is certainly a lot of realism in the lives of the characters.

The most obvious comparison of these tales would be to fables. A handful of the stories read like moral lessons. They aren't as over the top or silly as a typical fable. The elements at play are still dark, real, and honest. The people are not necessarily learning, but the reader certainly is.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Solar, Ian McEwan

Upon opening McEwan’s newest novel I first checked out the list of other titles by the author. I was shocked to see I have read McEwan’s last five novels (having read a total of six of his novels). I have never listed McEwan as a favorite author or put much thought into him as being on a top ten list of favorite contemporary writers. I have no reason for this. As I have enjoyed all six of the books I have read. And, I find Saturday (his last prior to Solar) to be his best, strongest novel of them all.

This gave me hope for Solar. Having realized my respect for McEwan as a writer and having enjoyed his last so thoroughly (Saturday being the only novel I have read in one sitting since college), I assumed Solar was going to be a very enjoyable experience. Solar is a quick read. McEwan’s prose is still strong. But, all of the pieces of a McEwan novel aren’t quite working in the same way. Maybe I shouldn’t fault an author for kind of trying something new. The pieces for a McEwan plot are all present, but they’re scattered about and not considered too terribly important this time around.

The main character, Beard, is a disgusting creation. He cheats, drinks, lies, etc. Everything about the character is stereotyped. Over the top. It isn’t new for a McEwan character to be unappealing. In fact, many of his creations are unappealing. But, he manages to make us feel sorry for these people. McEwan can pull us into their world and create a little bit of pity. This time around, I felt nothing but annoyance at the main character. By the time Beard’s world crumbles around him I was more than pleased to see he was becoming a fallen man.

I appreciate McEwan’s dark humor. The attempt at creating something a little bit different from previous works. But, the plot feels forced. The climax rushed. In fact, the climax seems sloppy- too quickly appearing from out of nowhere (even though it is clear from the start where everything is heading). I am not put off enough to say I will not anticipate the next McEwan novel. But, Solar certainly wasn’t worth the wait.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Together, New Pornographers

Can a band become lost under the identity they created for themselves? The New Pornographers are always who they have claimed to be. A powerful group of voices. All with outstanding solo careers. And, somehow able to manage time for a super group. Could the New Pornographers be the boy band of indie rock? A hipster version of N Sync?

All the pieces of a New Porno album are at play in Together. Everyone sings, plays, and sounds exactly as you expect. Their personalities don't so much blend together as well as their voices do. You can tell the difference from track to track between who is in charge. The one member who stands out the most is always Dan Bejar. His voice, his lyrics, his style... some experimental abstract version of a pop song. In fact, even though Bejar doesn't quite fit with the rest of the band, he is still my favorite.

There isn't a single song on the album that really stands out. In fact, other than songs from Twin Cinema, I have always found the music of New Pornographers to live in a realm of slightly above background music. Their sound is lively pop. A sense of Beach Boys-Mama and the Papas-Beatles classic bubblegum pop.

Together is certainly better than Challenges, their previous album. Challenges was slow, boring, ballad filled. So, Together is certainly a welcome return to a sound with a tad bit more edge. I would never call the New Pornographers a bad band. Or a boring band. Or a mediocre band. They certainly are filled with talent. But, sometimes all that talent disguises the art.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Forgiveness Rock Record, Broken Social Scene

It is hard for me to write a review of Broken Social Scene. The band, and their albums, have represented a very rough time in my life. I discovered them during a very removed stage in my life. And, they’ve always been there when I begin to feel that way again. The band is the closest thing to existential music I have been able to find.

Broken Social Scene represents a generation. A lost, fucked up, disorganized generation of peoples just trying to get their shit together enough to be presentable. Their songs express this and the band members live this. Their first album, FeelGoodLost, is an instrumental meditation. The second album, You Forgot It In People, is the existential manifesto. The third album, Broken Social Scene, is a disorganized dream of everything.

The fourth album, their newest album, is Forgiveness Rock Record. Has the band actually pulled their shit together? Are they just putting on the show we all put on? And, why do they feel the need to do this? The hardest part for me in reviewing the band, and the new album, is that I have high standards for them and I can’t be too hard on them.

But, somehow they got a little too far away from the original plan. The album is mostly made up of hopeful meditations. Beautiful lyrics. Lovely vocals. Music that lacks the Dada-ist movements of earlier work. They’ve turned into adults. They’ve found the answers. They’re no longer feeling good lost. And now I am the one even more lost.

The album highlight is ‘Forced to Love.’ The only song on the album that really seems to remember the ache of the lost cause love affair.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Brothers, The Black Keys

The Black Keys may best represent aging more than any other musical act currently working. The energy and creativity of their first albums, thickfreakness and The Big Come Up, is certainly a thing of the past. The climax of their career is found in the almost perfect Rubber Factory album. Every song a blues heavy dirty rock anthem. They mellowed out a bit with the underrated Magic Potion (my 2nd favorite album by the band) and their covers album Chulahoma (an album I hoped would have been a sign of what was to come, but ended up being a brief side track for the band). Finally, we saw the band have a mid-life crisis with the release of a blues/rap album under the moniker Blacroc (and, despite a few great songs, the album is unnecessary). And, lastly, Attack and Release (an album only a faux-fan can really love). Attack and Release is the album your mother wouldn't mind listening to. Adult contemporary blues rock in a John Mayer vein. Sad.

Luckily, Brothers shows not everyone is dead in their old age. There may be some bumps along the road, but the past is still alive in the sound of this new album. The album is more along the lines of the Magic Potion. A mellowed out blues rock jam fest. The lyrics are cleaner and their vocals are a bit dirtier. There is a "swamp blues" feel to a lot of the songs. Even a lot of soul taking place throughout the album. Clearly the band is tweaking a new and improved sound. I give them credit for their work.

The albums strongest tracks are "Too Afraid To Love You" (a slow blues ballad), "Ten Cent Pistol" (reminescent of great classic rock), and "Sinister Kid" (the much livelier sibling of Attack and Releases horrid "Psychotic Girl"). "Howlin For You" is the albums worst song. The music sounds as if it samples Queen's "We Will Rock You." A mix of late 70's static fuzz and below average lyrics. The album closer "These Days" sounds like a track left off of Dan Auerbach's ballad filled folk blues Keep It Hid, but still very beautiful and a lovely final addition.

The band has aged. The music has mellowed. Anyone looking for the enthusiam of their earlier releases needs to stay far away from this album. But, anyone open to hearing a band dedicated to a solid record may still be interested in the efforts.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Crystal Castles (II), Crystal Castles

BEST OF 2010

If images are meant to mean anything... I was left to interpret the new Crystal Castles cover as a symbol for death. Perhaps, death of their old sound? And, the album is named the same as their first, Crystal Castles. Another way of saying 'we are starting over?' Or, just a shout out to Led Zeppelin?

Turns out Crystal Castles did not mean for any of what I interpreted to be true. The sound is still similar. The music still incredibly filled. The sound is less raw. The sudden shouts and frantic clatter of the first album is folded into a more produced and thicker sound. This is a not a bad thing.

The new album is most successful during songs four through six. 'Baptism' has a slow start beat that just drives through until the strong end. 'Year of Silence' samples a Sigur Ros song. The sample is thread through other sounds. A strange decoupage of sounds in the way only Crystal Castles can do successfully. And, finally, 'Empathy,' the best track on the album.

I can't imagine anyone finding fault in the new album or the slightly cleaned up sounds of this duo. They are still creating something very specifically their own without replicating what they've already done. This is no easy task these days.