Sunday, September 26, 2010

Molly Fox's Birthday, Deirdre Madden

BEST OF 2010

Over the past few years I have grown to realize how much I really love Irish novelists. There is a gritty, day to day truth throughout their fiction. Much like plays, the Irish novels I have read, speak in a manner not common to most. There is a digging inwards to their questions. There is a confession to their stories. I would compare Madden's writing to Banville's (The Sea), Enright's (The Gathering), Barry's (The Secret Scripture), and McCann's (Let the Great World Spin). All of these authors, and mentioned novels, have been sitting high atop my list of favorite novels in recent years.

In Molly Fox's Birthday, Madden is doing what many of the above mentioned writers did with their novels. The novel takes place over the course of a single day. And, Madden is studying the significance of ourselves in the lives of others. Of the past as significant in our present and future. One single day is never simple. We are constantly tied to those pieces of our past. To those lives we've lived and those people we've lived beside. This is a novel about what we become.

The narrator is a playwright. She is staying a few days at the home of a good friend, the great stage actor, Molly Fox. Ms. Fox is abroad so the narrator is left alone to work on her most recent play. She is surrounded by the awards, photos, and memories of Ms. Fox's home. The objects one keeps as reminders of who they have been and where they have been. There is so much personality of Ms. Fox brought into the novel based solely on the objects of the home and the home itself.

Madden does a marvelous job of creating history. These characters are not flat, single suggestions. These are fleshed out ideas. These people represent a larger world. Much of the novel's focus is on the role of art in our world and the role of art in an actor's life. A great deal of meditation on what it means to act and to be a great actor. But, this novel should not only interest those who have been on the stage. This is a novel for those who understand the role of portraying oneself and someone else. What price do we pay if we pay any price at all?

What Madden is most successful at within Molly Fox's Birthday is that the novel never becomes too dark. Many of the Irish writers mentioned have some very dark pieces of literature (ie The Gathering). Madden falls into the darkness from time to time. But, the narrator recognizes life as a series of up and down. Recognizes there are ways out just as there are ways in.

The plot is simple. But, it never slows. The prose is beautiful. A precise and detailed manner. An ordered history of lives disordered. This is the novel of our every day. A guide to recognizing the roles we play for all we hold close.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Flamingo, Brandon Flowers

What a fucking mess!

Brandon Flowers, lead singer of The Killers, decided to make a solo album. I never fully understand this need. Sometimes, it is for artistic change. This can't be the case of Mr. Flowers as most of these songs sound like slower versions of The Killers songs. The other reason for a solo project... to be selfish and gain attention as the "individual." This must be Flowers' reasoning. And, he should be ashamed of himself.

There are moments I felt so pained during this album I wanted to compare it to John Mayer meets 80s ballad. Awful, right? Yep.

The only strong song on the album is 'Only the Young.' There is something wistful and beautiful about the track. The song plays like a bonus track from The Killers' Sams' Town. Instead, it gets lost inside these tracks.

On 'On the Floor,' Flowers does his best attempt at mimicking a sober, boring Johnny Cash. What's the point? 'Swallow It' is a failed attempt at something... so failed it lost its purpose. And, on 'The Clock was Tickin' it sounds like Flowers is creating the score to a hipster western. Too much country and not enough interesting.

The lyrics are cliched. The locations are cliched. The album fails at rising above fluff, radio friendly mediocrity.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid

I have very little to say about this tiny little novel. I read it because my book club requested we read it. I have read two otehr novels dealing with the aftermath of September 11th. Both Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close and The Falling Man are incredible novels dealing with the emotional toll of September 11th.

Hamid's novel doesn't so much deal with emotions. The story is told from one voice. The narrator, speaker, sits down with a stranger in a restaurant. The entire novel involves the narrator speaking. A one sided perspective on the past. On going to college in New York, falling in love, being forced to deal with dark skin in a post-9/11 NYC, etc. In all honesty, the novel is almost as cliched as one would expect.

What saves this novel besides its small size? The writing. The prose is beautiful. Some of the passages are written so crisply I was shocked and saddened for such beauty to be wasted on the miserable plot.

The love interest, Erica, is never fully realized. Her character fills in as a mysterious back story never completed. And, honestly, her story is the most interesting. I wanted more of Erica. I wanted to believe she was able to love the narrator. Or, that the narrator really loved Erica. Their relationship felt so shallow.

As I said, I have little to write about. I forced myself to the end based solely on being able to make small, snide remarks during the book discussion.

The only positive... there are moments I felt like Hamid may have been a little influenced by Marguerite Duras' The Lover. And, that is never a bad thing.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Swanlights, Antony & the Johnsons

I have been a fan of all releases from Antony & the Johnsons. Their full length albums (The Crying Light, I Am A Bird Now, and their S/T album) are beautifully exhausting. Their EPs (Another World, I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy, The Lake, and Thank You For Your Love) are classic and quirky. Even their singles (Aeon, You Are My Sister, Hope There's Someone) are filled with amazing B-sides.

This is a band, and a lead singer, of great talent. I saw them in concert on tour with The Crying Light. The experience was many things: mysterious, theatrical, breathtaking, emotional, relaxing. Antony has even joined forces with pop-disco band, Hercules and the Love Affair. Again, very successful. On Bjork's Volta, Antony performed backing vocals and harmony.

Basically, I have to start this review out in complete praise of Antony & the Johnsons because I am not going to heap these same praises on their latest release, Swanlights. I must confess, I have not seen the art book which accompanies this release. It is possible I will change my mind once I flip through these pages and listen to the album. The album cover suggests a ready-made, Dada-esque quality. Something I thought may be experimented with throughout the album. Instead, Swanlights is truly minimal. Antony's voice is more restrained. The music, orchestration isn't as grand as previous albums. In fact, the first half of the album just kind of falls away.

Swanlights feels a little like a Bjork album in its experimental nature. I don't want to suggest it is as "out there" as Medulla. There is certainly a lot more restraint taking place on this album than on Medulla. The album doesn't have such extremes and discomforts. As I said, this is a pretty quiet album. And, calling an album quiet, in comparison to other Antony releases, means a very quiet album.

Not until the title track does the album start to pick up. 'Swanlights' is the most beautiful track on the album. The following track 'The Spirit Was Gone' isn't too bad, either. These two songs really compliment one another. They are followed by the out of place 'Thank You For Your Love.' This is a very solid song. A perfect single from their EP early this year. In fact, this track seems like a left over from I Am A Bird Now.

Suddenly, the Bjork feeling makes sense. 'Fletta' arrives like a breath of fresh air. Bjork on vocals. Antony does a tiny bit of background vocals. The song is beautiful. Makes me crave a new Bjork release. But, should I be listening to one artist while demanding something new from another?

'Salt Silver Oxygen' is a unique little song. I would say it stands out from most songs on this release. There is a bit of patter to the song. A very fast bounce to some of the lyrics that reminds me, a tiny bit, of Gilbert and Sullivan... something from The Mikado. The album ends with 'Christina's Farm.' This song is very much left over from The Crying Light. It is a beautiful, emotional track. A great way to end an album.

I am not suggesting this is a bad album. Or, a boring album. Antony & the Johnsons are creating a different type of music. Always slightly tweaking, playing with their sound. It can't always come out like gold. And, because Antony & the Johnsons are such a unique band... I can't really compare them to other bands. I have to critique them based on their previous releases. I can only hold them up to what they've already handed out.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Last Exorcism

I am an avid fan of horror films. So, you'll have to forgive me my praise of such light and trashy fluff. My love of horror films varies. I tend to love the serial killer/psycho horror or the ghost story, haunting horror films. I am a fan of too much gore or the simple things like groans and bumps. I'm not a fan of the in-between.

My favorite type of horror film is the faux-documentary. This love started with The Blair Witch Project. On first viewing, the film can seem a tad bit disappointing. The need for something more after so much build up. But, after a handful of viewings, the fear of the film really begins to flood over you. Other such films in this vein are REC (or, the American version, Quarantine) and Paranormal Activity.

The Last Exorcism isn't as scary as the preview may lead one to believe. This is a film about the fear of self. The fear of what we believe. What others believe. And, what we can do to control others with the things they believe. This film may be more about faith than about any other subject. The film is never once preachy. Never once poking fun at one side or the other. Everyone is treated equally.

The mystery at the heart of the film- is the young lady possessed or acting out from childhood trauma? There is a long, sordid road ahead of the viewer. Many things are revealed. Some are explained. Some are hinted at. Others, left to keep you unsettled.

By the films end, the real twist is handed over to the audience. There is a moment of 'I knew it.' But, you don't. You can't really quite know it. And, in the revealing of what isn't quite known... a lot of shaky camera work, screams, blurred images, and the viewer is left to imagine the actually going ons. Not only are we expected to understand what is happening, but why it is happening.

Many reviews claim the end is too much. Too unrealistic. Too far fetched. But, this is film. This is imagination. Maybe the filmmakers have taken a reality and stretched it. I was worried, scared, confused for the last fifteen minutes of the film. I enjoyed the entire trip.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Freedom, Jonathan Franzen

BEST OF 2010

It is close to impossible to not be aware of Franzen or his newest novel, Freedom. Franzen is the first literary figure to grace the cover of Times in the last ten years. Freedom received rave reviews from Michiko Kakutani over at the New York Times. This review sparked an anti-Franzen panic amongst un-literary female authors (Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Picoult) who believe male authors are the only authors getting praise (um, maybe give Toni Morrison a call, ladies?). Freedom has been reviewed as the great American novel. And, as of Friday, Oprah revelead Freedom as the first book for this season's book club. This has shocked many, as Franzen, nine years earlier, refused to appear on Oprah's show after she picked his previous novel for her book club.

How does so much commotion come out of a single book? A novel. An object so many feel is on its way out. Is this the last cry of literature? A final, giant explosion before the end? And, why for Freedom? What does Franzen have that so many authors lack? And, seem to want? I think it's the attitude. The literary world doesn't have any assholes anymore. And, by assholes I mean literary giants with egos, personalities, and larger than life opinions. Franzen is all of these things and more. This should make him unlikable. But, it makes for a great writer. Literature means to push buttons and explore territory meant to be swept under the carpets. Franzen refuses to back down.

The only negative comments being tossed Freedom's way exist within the critics sense that Franzen really hates his characters. That the characters are meant for satire and come with a level of dirt and grime many inches thick. But, I have to disagree. Did these reviewers not follow Franzen to the finish line? Yes, these people are selfish, lost, pained. These people do ugly things to one another. They lie to themselves. They stand for all those things we, the reader, would say 'who could do this?' Well, the answer is pretty easy. We would do these things. Generation after generation we have been doing these things. What places this in a category of "great American novel" is the way Franzen uses a single family of four to explore, exploit, and uncover our dirty rotten selves.

Would I agree that this novel is the great American novel? Probably not. But, do I have a better piece of evidence? A stronger book? Nope. But, I'm not so sure the great American novel will ever exist. There must be a Jesus Christ complex in all realms of the world... some imagined concept of perfection to drive us forward. Freedom is one of the strongest novels I have read in years, though. Franzen has created a literature melding contemporary issues and plotting while combining the epic nature of classic literature. It is rare I read a novel and think "this is the type of novel I could have written an amazing paper on at university." But, this is that novel. The type of read you can't stop dissecting. The type of novel you won't stop talking about. The type of literature you want to share with everyone. (Luckily, Oprah is taking care of this for me).

There are weaknesses to the novel. I find the political issues of the father and son to become a little too abstract. A little too lost to satire. I found myself uninterested. But, this isn't to say they aren't significant. Only that I was not fully consumed during these passages. The only other issue is the section written by Patty as an autobiography at the request of her therapist. The voice of the narrator hardly changes during the section written by Patty. Are we to believe this woman is so knowing? So aware of self? Yet, unable to get through her day to day without falling apart? Again, this negative has a positive. The section narrated by Patty is one of my favorite pieces of the entire novel.

Franzen isn't covering new ground. He isn't forcing us to take in some brand new concept on the dysfunction of family and the way history repeats itself. This is very much a novel of how we deal, and don't deal, with our pasts. How far we can run before we run ourselves right back to where we started. A giant circle. The heart of the novel, in my opinion, exists within this one sentence: "Why don't you want to deal with the thing that's important right now, and deal with the past later?" (p.497). This is exactly the problem. We want to fix the past before we fix the present and future. But, can the past be fixed? Forgotten?

Freedom is literature. Franzen's characters are real and realized. Freedom is the literary event it is being pushed as.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wreck Your Wheels, Kim Richey

BEST OF 2010

This entire review plays to the pure sentimental side of myself. Believe it or not, I have a soul. And, occasionally, said soul takes over my point of view. Or, maybe, Kim Richey really is a great, undiscovered talent. Maybe I am not just living off of a memory when I would listen to Richey on a regular basis. Maybe. Maybe not.

I first discovered Kim Richey in 1999 during the release of her most beautiful album, Glimmer. To this day I still listen to Glimmer on a fairly regular basis. During the late 90's I was obsessed with female singer-songwriters. I was a die hard Lilith Fair participant. If there was a female with a guitar, chances are I was listening. Of course, as one matures, the talent of a handful of these artists started to prove thin. I lost interest in most. But, a few remain.

During this period of female singer-songwriter I found myself pulled towards folk music. From folk music I fell into alt-country. From alt-country to a little bit of folk-country. This is where Kim Richey fell into place. I discovered Richey after following a long path.

I am not a stranger to country music. I grew up with my mother listening to Mary Chapin Carpenter on a regular basis. I have a soft spot for Rebe McEntire. And, the queen of alt-country, Lucinda Williams remains one of the best live performers (and recording artists).

Kim Richey is the softer version of Lucinda Williams. Ms. Williams is the older sibling, the drinker/drugged up/hard loving singer. Ms. Richey has played it a little more quiet. She knows all the same pain. Sings all the same notes. But, she delivers it with a little bit of hope left. She is positive in her sadness.

On Wreck Your Wheels, Richey has returned to the place of Glimmer. Richey has released two other albums (Rise and Chinese Boxes) between Glimmer and Wreck Your Wheels. Neither album was heavily played by me. But, they have some high spots.

Richey's strength is the sad song. This is most of what is delivered on Wreck Your Wheels. A world of loss, pain, and introspection. The title track starts the record. A very catchy, radio friendly song. I was immediately singing along. 'Careful How You Go' is the perfect follow-up to the opening track. Then, Richey hits the low point with 'Leaving 49.' Both 'Leaving 49' and 'Once In Your Life' are dreadful songs. Too poppy, too happy, and out of place along with the other tracks.

On 'Keys,' Richey is singing my song. A song about the way we hide ourselves away. Bury ourselves with keys behind closed doors. The second stand out track is 'In The Years to Come.' On this song Richey sings about a dream in which a relationship ends... not now, but eventually. She remains positive about the in between. But, how heartbreaking and heavily realistic. Beautiful.

Fans of Lucinda Williams and Suzanne Vega will be very much at home with this album. The second strongest album of Richey's career.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Penny Sparkle, Blonde Redhead

Since my last post I have been wanting to write a review of the new Blonde Redhead album. Never getting around to actually post. And, honestly, never getting around to listen to the entire album in a full sitting. I struggle to review albums I only hear piece by piece. Already a bad sign for the review... I just couldn't find the interest in sitting down for the full length of the album. I still haven't had that sit.

There are two Blonde Redhead albums which I adore: Melody of a Certain Damaged Lemon and Fake Can Be Just As Good. There are two Blonde Redhead albums which I enjoy from time to time: Misery Is A Butterfly and 23. For the most part, and obviously in my opinion, these are the only albums you really need to understand Blonde Redhead.

Most of their last few albums sound a lot alike. Most of their first few albums sound a lot alike. There was a shift in the middle. A good shift? No. A bad shift? No. Just a single shift. Something different. But, nothing that would alienate any of the listeners.

I have always thought of Blonde Redhead as the less interesting Bjork. A feminine version of Radiohead (yes, Blonde Redhead is male and female vocals, I am talking musically). It is unfair to compare a band to such artists. Impossible to live up to their standards. And, realistically, I have never put them in comparison. Only something I've noticed.

On their most recent release, Penny Sparkle, I find myself lulled to sleep. A little too distracted. This album may be too quiet. Too removed from my interest. This is the album for background music at very matured dinner parties. For music when the family comes over.

This all sounds a little too negative. The album isn't bad. It isn't awful. It just kind of exists in this middle ground. Not the worst place to live.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Life During Wartime

BEST OF 2010

Todd Solondz has experienced quite the career. His debut film, Welcome to the Dollhouse, was an indie hit. It came to fame during the rise of the art house film. The story was disturbing, over the top, dark, and somehow relatable. Soldonz started here with the creation of his world.

His second feature, Happiness, is my favorite Solondz film. Happiness is more disturbing, darker, funnier, and more cruel than Solondz's first film. I wouldn't have imagined such a film. In this film, Solondz touches on the most perverse side of humanity. The sex is kinky, illegal, dirty, depressing, and dangerous. Solondz even manages a unique portrait of a pedophile.

Solondz fell to the side with the next two releases, Storytelling and Palindromes. Both films suffer from a need to be different and preachy. Solondz is trying too hard. But, at the end of Palindromes, Solondz reintroduces us to a member of the Welcome to the Dollhouse family. This is where Solondz begins to fold his worlds into one.

On Solondz most recent release, Life During Wartime, he has created a sequel to Happiness. The film takes place 10 years later. And, true to Solondz form, not a single actor returns from Happiness. Solondz has recast the entire film, but is using the same characters. This is a bold and wise choice. This keeps the entire experience fresh. Like watching a brand new film, but feeling oddly comfortable with this "new" cast of characters.

Also, Solondz uses two characters from Welcome to the Dollhouse. The audience is never fully made aware the two characters are the father and son from the first film, but the names match. The backgrounds match. Solondz is completely in his own world. And, this was the best thing he could have done.

Life During Wartime is Solondz most incredible film. The images are beautifully shot. The cinematography is perfect. All the sloppiness and art house awkwardness of the earlier films are all gone. Solondz is working to make a true film. A fully formed idea, concept, and plot. This is the film Solondz entire career has been building up for.

The movie is dark. But, dark in a black comedy kind of way. I found myself laughing out loud through a handful of parts. The film is awkward. The dialogue is unique. The relationships are strained. But, this is the point. Solondz is showing how we function on a day to day basis. The ghosts of our pasts- lovers, family, friends.

I can not have imagined a more perfect film. Truly beautiful, smart, and original.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vivre Sa Vie

I haven't seen many of Godard's films. Probably less than half. But, I do believe I've experienced the holy trinity of Godard. The father (Breathless), the son (Pierrot Le Fou), and the holy spirit (Band of Outsiders). Any other film I watch by Godard will feel less than the other three. This is a fact I've put into my mind. And, so far I have not been proven wrong.

Again, my love of prostitution is at play with Vivre Sa Vie. Nana, the character played by Anna Karina, is a want to be actress pushed to the breaking point. Once her finances are gone she turns to a friend for advice. Prostitution being the best advice. All of this is handled in such an unusual way. Nana never hesitates. She doesn't seem scared, either. She is a strong spirit. Unwilling to let anyone break her dreams.

The films credits are a series of different angles of Nana's face. We are shown her left side, right side, and front. The audience is forced to really study Nana. Also, this is Godard's way of letting you know this is very much a character study. Godard plays a joke on us by beginning the film with a conversation between Nana and Paul. We are only shown the backs of their heads as they sit at a diner counter. After being forced to stare into Nana's face we are quickly taken away.

Godard's filming is unusual. The camera moves in such strange patterns. At times it plays along to the music. At times it moves like the dialogue. At times, the camera moves the action to the screen's edge. Godard is so playful with filming. Constantly forcing the audience to pay closer attention. To get past the distractions and attempt to focus.

The film is set up into a series of 12 tableaus. This is very similar to the way Brecht created theatre. Brecht uses titles as the start of every scene. The uses of titles allows the audience to know what is about to happen in the following scene. This keeps the audience from being distracted by plot. Again, forces the audience to pay closer attention to motive and character. Lars von Trier uses this same Brechtian method in his films (Dogville, Manderlay).

Vivre Sa Vie isn't boring. It is too short to bore. But, it isn't quite full of enough substance. There are a handful of dialogues that really pull the audience in. Some philosophical ramblings. Mostly just a strong spirit wandering slightly lost.

The films rests on Karina's shoulders. She does a most beautiful job. There are two scenes where Karina stares directly into the camera. The audience in confronted with the break in the fourth wall. And suddenly everything feels more real. I looked away from the screen in a moment of discomfort. A beautifully played trick.


Monday, September 6, 2010

True Blood: Season Two

Ok, so it is addictive. And, really trashy. The acting remains bad. The stories remain silly. But, for some reason, once you start the series... it just snowballs into another episode into another into another.

The series is already headed where I knew it would. After the first season of clever ideas and unique plots, the show is losing steam. The main story line seems a bit weak. Drawn out too long. I enjoyed the story of MaryAnn. I love the idea of the partying, the drugs, drinking, dancing. I loved the power she had. I enjoyed her philosophy on life as a way to live to the extreme. To stop worrying about the silly stresses. And, I love the actress Michelle Forbes (In Treatment: Season One). But, her story moved slowly. Very little happened over the span of 12 episodes.

Jason Stackhouse's character finally became a little interesting. His search for understanding leads him to a right wing religious cult of sorts. And, to see Jason cope with the process and come out a better person at the end... showed some real development in a character I thought was only around for sex appeal.

Lafayette's story line disappears almost altogether. The character's trauma is only hinted at from time to time. But, I guess I'm asking too much of a series that exists purely for fun... I hope. Again, I find myself in the same situation I was after the first season. Am I supposed to take any of this seriously? Or, am I just to enjoy beautiful people acting fools?

Certainly addicting. Certainly a guilty pleasure.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Body Talk pt. 2, Robyn

BEST OF 2010

It is rare for me to find pleasure in an entire album. Especially an electro-pop album. I am still pretty new to the world of pop. Having spent most of my youth lost to folk singers, 70s rock bands, and hipster indie rock. Only in the past couple of years have I found the pleasure of a great pop song. Luckily for me I did it just in time. What an incredible couple of years for electro-pop (Lady Gaga, Kelis, Robyn, etc).

Body Talk pt. 2 is Robyn's middle piece of a proposed trilogy. And, I have never enjoyed the 2nd film in a trilogy. So, I had low expectations for a 2nd in a music trilogy. I was wrong. I was very, very wrong.

The album opens with 'In My Eyes.' This may be the only weak song on the album. And, when I say weak... I mean still pretty damn good. The fault is how catchy it is. This might be too radio friendly. A little formulaic. The voice at the start of the track reminds me a little of the voice found in some of the iamamiwhoami videos. I was startled at first. But, quickly the track opens up into a pop song that sounds as if glitter is raining in the background. The second track, 'Include Me Out,' gets the dance started. This is where the hips shake and I start to sing along. Again, falls in line with 'In My Eyes,' very radio friendly pop.

Body Talk pt. 2 finally takes off with 'Hang With Me.' On Body Talk pt. 1, Robyn did a beautifully stripped down version of the song. And, it worked on that album. But, once Robyn and others added the beat, the song has found new life. The sadness still exists. This is why I adore the song so much. The ability to wrap something so sad inside something so beat driven.

'Love Kills' is everything you want it to be. A hard beat and a bitter tone.

'We Dance to the Beat' starts where 'Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do' left off. The robotic repetition has returned. But, this time, I have no complaints. Robyn's voice comes across as a machine. And the lines she throws out are some of the most beautiful lines ever to find their way into pop music ("we dance to the beat of the continents shifting under out feet," "we dance to the beat of bad kissers clinking teeth," etc). This is my favorite song on the album.

'Criminal Intent' starts off, musically, like a song from The Knife. Quickly turns into a siren wail that appears throughout the album. And, it works. Not nearly as annoying as one might assume. Before you know it, Robyn has gone from The Knife to Lil Kim. Robyn gets dirty in her plea to the judge ("i can get a little x rated on the floor, but your honor how is this something you get incarcerated for?"). Absolute genius!

On 'U Should Know Better' Robyn works with Snoop Dogg. Typically, I'm over the whole Snoop Dogg guest artist situation. What is he doing anymore? Seemed silly when I first read Snoop Dogg would be appearing on the album. But, I can't imagine a better voice to match with Robyn's voice. And, to hear Robyn and Snoop Dogg sing along to a chorus that borrows from an Amanda Blank/Deadmau mashup is a musical dream come true.

The closing track, 'Indestructible,' is a strings arranged, acoustic song. Beautiful. I don't enjoy pop ballads. And, it would be unfair to suggest this song is a pop ballad. But, to follow the previous songs on the album, 'Indestructible' can only be considered a ballad. This is the song I always wanted Gaga's 'Speechless' to be. Where Gaga disappointed, Robyn has not. And, I can't wait to hear how she handles this song when it appears as a different version on Body Talk pt. 3.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Body Talk pt. 1, Robyn

This review is long overdue. And, I hesitated for a reason. When the album was first released I knew I enjoyed it. But, I knew I didn't enjoy it enough. I felt I wasn't connecting the way I was supposed to connect. Was I to blame? Or, the music?

On my first few listens, I thought Body Talk pt. 1 lacked an emotional backbone. The music and lyrics were fun, but lacked something sturdy. There was an emptiness to the sound. Many of the lyrics were too repetitive. But, all my friends love the album. Compared it with other pop albums I enjoy. What was the problem? I soon found out...

The atmosphere. Body Talk pt. 1 is a pure dance floor album. Not all the songs will work on the floor, but a handful will and do. When I first danced to 'Dancing on my Own' I learned what all the fuss was about. I rarely experience something so grand as singing word for word along with Robyn while I danced on my own. She captured a moment. A truth. A reality. An existence for those of us who crave the floor.

And, when I danced to "Don't Fucking Tell Me What to Do" I fell in love with the repetition. The song no longer seemed silly, shallow, or lazy. The version I danced to was a remix, but the song itself is what stood out. Sometimes you need something easy to grab hold of... to latch onto... to sing a repetitive chorus into the crowd of a hipster dance hall. This was when I finally understood the pure genius of Robyn.

After dancing to Robyn, the songs no longer seem empty. I am always reminded of the experience. The crowd and the sound and the connection. It all sounds a little addictive... drugged up and out. That is exactly how Robyn works. She seeps in slowly and then won't let go.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Happiness, Hurts

BEST OF 2010

Does happiness hurt? Accords to Hurts not only does happiness hurt… it may not exist. The Hurts debut album is quite dark despite all the dance pop sounds filling the tracks. This is 80s music the way 80s music was meant to sound… dance beats with dark tones. The Cure is one band that comes to mind with this style. But, the band Hurts most resemble would be Depeche Mode. In fact, Hurts is the sound child of Depeche Mode and Kylie Minogue.

This isn’t the type of album I’m supposed to like. At times the music is too dated. Even in trying to resemble the 80s, it still remains a little out of place. And, the vocals can be a little high, operatic even. There are some strange experiments in sound taking place. Actually, this isn’t the album I’m supposed to love. Strings appear from time to time. Other times, the electronic beat is so beautiful I imagine the crowded dance floor. And, those lyrics… over the top and emotional. I’m almost reminded of Savage Garden at times. But, there is more than teen pop here. This is understood pain. Experienced pain.

This is the album for crowded streets. For long lines. For stuffed subway cars. This is the album of larger cities. A way to escape in something real. But, not too real. Although, at times, the songs are extremely sad. The song ‘Stay’ is the most heart wrenching on the album. I tear up most times I listen.

Since I’m comparing the band to everyone under the sun, I have one final band to compare: The Editors. “Evelyn” is a song that reminds me so much of the songs featured on The Editors second album, An End Has a Start. This is the album to travel if you’re a fan of Joy Division, too.

I am not placing Hurts up as high as I place Depeche Mode, The Cure, or Joy Division. But, even falling into comparison with these bands is a great feat. And, I’m not promising this album won’t make you ask ‘why do I enjoy this?’ There is just something so good about how borderline bad the album may potentially be. But, it’s catchy. It’s brooding pop. It’s danceable. It’s new-ish.

You’ll hate yourself for loving it. But, love yourself for having it.