Friday, December 31, 2010

The Trivial Pursuit: NYE Edition

It's the morning of one of my least favorite evenings of the year.  This time around, it seems like fewer people than usual have exciting shit going on, which is why it's all the more irritating when they feel the need to ask what you're doing on NYE.  Example:  "Got any big plans for NYE?"  "Uh, avoiding everyone?"  "Oh yeah, me too."  Such a worthwhile exchange.  Anyhow, 2010 is on the brink of over, the Pop Candy Arcade 'best of' music lists are done, I'm looking ahead to the future, I'm not making resolutions (though M. and I have been making changes at Love & Squalor), and for the last time this year, I'm looking into the bad decisions celebrity types have been making:

 Hugh Hefner, king of the Playboy mansion, got engaged to one of his latest girlfriends this week.  The 84-year old made the announcement over Twitter, telling the world that just months after divorcing his second wife and splitting up with identical twins Kristina and Karissa Shannon, he intends to marry 24-year old Crystal Harris.  Dear Crystal Harris:  what are you thinking?  That man is six decades older than you.  I don't know how good you are at math, but that means that when you were born, Hef was already celebrating his 60th birthday.  Also, dear Hef:  at this point, what's the point of getting married again?  Also, dear Holly Madison: how are you feeling about this?  Bitter, maybe?  Dear Crystal Harris again: I don't know if this is going to pan out quite the way you imagine it now, but good luck with those "projects."  [via E!]

Self-proclaimed "Ivory Queen of Soul" Teena Marie was found dead last Sunday of natural causes.  The singer was only 54. [source]

Natalie Portman managed to scoop the tabloids this week when she announced that not only is she engaged to her choreographer on Black Swan, Benjamin Millepied, but, uh, she's also pregnant.  The 29-year old's reps told People the baby is due in 2011.  2011.  Huh.  Imagine that.  Well, I mean, I guess it's not happening today.  In other news: I was more alarmed by this announcement than anything in Black Swan. Also, I really hope that as they prepared, their relationship was nothing like the one between Nina Sayers and Vincent Cassel's character.   [via PEOPLE

Natalie Mendoza, a lead actress playing new villain Arachne in Julie Taymor's disastrous Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark production, has quit the show.  She's the latest casualty in what has now become a laundry list of injuries and issues.  Seriously, how long until they cancel this train wreck?

Horrible fact number one:  Kim Kardashian is pursuing a recording career. Why is this happening?  Because that family can't leave anything unbranded.  Horrible fact number two:  Kim shot the video for her first single the other day, enlisting the assistance of Kanye West.  Ugh.  Kanye, please, runaway fast as you can.  [source]

They're making a porn version of Reservoir Dogs.  Assuming you've seen Quentin Tarantino's dialogue and violence heavy film, just think that over for a few minutes.  [via /Film]

The almost finished video for Kanye West's "Monster" has leaked.  Take a look here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Novelty Treats: DJ Earworm Returns

Last year around this time, DJ Earworm mashed up the top 25 Billboard hits of 2009 into one big pop spectacular.  This year, he did it again, and apparently 2010 was a little lacking in diversity.  It's a repetitive Ke$ha and Katy fest of stutter-pop; an interesting curiosity, but oddly really exhausting.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Playlist: 55 Favorite Songs of 2010, 41-55

After a short holiday break, we've reached the last chapter of my list of 2010 song picks.   There's no doubt about it, the final fifteen were the hardest to finalize, and I've been editing and re-editing my choices, trying to not simply focus on the repeat artists whose songs were legitimately my favorites, but also on variety, and the musicians who managed to surprise me the most.  If you've been holding your tongue before attacking me on my exclusion of The National, worry not, we've reached that point.  If you've missed the previous chapters, find part I here and part II here.

41. JONSI / "ANIMAL ARITHMETIC" - If Icelandic artist Jónsi's falsetto sounds familiar, it's because he's the frontman for band Sigur Rós.  As that grouping went their separate ways earlier this year, Jónsi released his first truly solo album Go.  The album is an instrumental upheaval, boasting swells of noise like you've never heard before.  "Animal Arithmetic" is the sound of everything arriving at a joyous head, scampering, running, jumping, climbing, playing at one massive ADD summer recess.  

42. GRINDERMAN / "PALACES OF MONTEZUMA" - Probably my favorite love song of the year.  It could as easily lead a 90's teen romance into the sunset as it could be the soundtrack to an untimely death.  

43. THE NATIONAL / "LEMONWORLD" and "BLOODBUZZ OHIO" - The National has a goldmine in vocalist Matt Berninger.  Their heartachingly beautiful little rock songs become positively transportive once he starts singing.   "Lemonworld" and "Bloodbuzz Ohio" get equal ranking as the qualities I found within their surreal layers were based in matters of mood.

44. GLASSER / "APPLY" - "Apply" almost didn't make it onto this list simply because I had no idea it was considered a 2010 song.  "Apply" appeared, and yes, I'll admit it, on the LSTN #2 playlist I downloaded from the Urban Outfitters website in early 2009.  As I took the train to school, I was frequently nearly made deaf by its (for some reason) very loud opening through my headphones.  Glasser's album was finally released in September, and this song found the second wind that allows it to be considered a new old song of 2010.

45. CEE LO GREEN / "BODIES" (SPECIAL MENTION: "FUCK YOU") - You're like, really?  You chose some other Cee Lo song over "Fuck You"?  But "Fuck You" is one of the singles of the year!!  I'd agree with that.  It's a great subversive little pop song.  Super catchy, bitterly upbeat, makes for perfect Glee fodder, all that jazz.  Honestly, though, it's the rest of Cee Lo's Lady Killer album that appealed to me.  The Lady Killer throws around 007 strings and 60's soul hooks like nobody's business, building an album positively loaded with successful pop-funk odysseys.  The bass line on "Bodies" is working wonders, and it's that slickness that allows it to easily surpass "Fuck You" for me.

46. WASHED OUT / "YOU'LL SEE IT" - Washed Out made last year's list, and here they are again.  I'm sure that if you took a ton of psychedelics and listened to the album, you'd see fantastic colors...but with this music, I'd argue you actually really don't need to bother with the drugs.

47. TWIN SISTER / "ALL AROUND AND AWAY WE GO" - It's like a Muppet, late 70's Sesame Street dance party.  I can see Prairie Dawn setting up the punch bowl and being really into this.  There's no downside to that.  

48. ROBYN / "DON'T FUCKING TELL ME WHAT TO DO" - Just don't, alright?

49. SUFJAN STEVENS / "TOO MUCH" - I'm not really a Sufjan fan.  There's nothing wrong with him, I just can't find much to get overly excited about.  So, you know, I listened to Age of Adz and was sort of like well, there's a lot of noise over here and a lot of boring over there and god these songs are long but whatever.   Then, a couple of the songs began to reveal deeper properties to me.  This happens sometimes.  Sometimes things you say "meh" at transform after you've heard them a couple times.  I fell positively in love with the pretty of "Futile Devices,"  but decided to throw the emphasis on the much more sonically interesting "Too Much."

50. DEERHUNTER / "DESIRE LINES" - When I went to look for this on YouTube, I noticed that there were quite a few comments about actor Ian Somerhalder.  Apparently, "Desire Lines" made it onto some list Somerhalder compiled of his 'songs for seduction.'   The Gayngs' song made it their too, prompting me to now state for the record: Ian Somerhalder's seduction songs have absolutely nothing to do with this list. Also, I'm not so sure this would be a good song for seduction.  It's just a good song.

51. CARIBOU / "JAMELIA" -  "Jamelia" is one of the tracks on Swim that truly sounds as though you're submerged.  Also, it has a really rather fabulous unofficial music video.

52. HURTS / "BETTER THAN LOVE" - I couldn't resist including "Better Than Love."  It's just such a dazzling little dance pop track that carries with it marks of influence by some of my favorite 80's floor fillers.  Depeche Mode, dark Duran Duran, Pet Shop Boys = HURTS.

53. CRYSTAL CASTLES / "CELESTICA" - Seriously, when Crystal Castles are good, they're so good.  I've surprised myself in including them three times on this 2010 list, but the songs chosen represent very different aspects of the sound they're capable of producing.  "Celestica" is gorgeous, drifting and magnetic.  I couldn't not include it.  

54. DELOREAN / "INFINITE DESERT" - Delorean transforms 90's UK house music into sunsoaked indie pop.  When I listen to Delorean ("Infinite Desert" and "Simple Graces" in particular), I'm simultaneously reminded of when Ibiza was all the rage, when the Spice Girls went clubbing with their pregnant friend in Spice World, and when Renton moves to London in Trainspotting all at once.

55. THE FOALS / "MIAMI" - Last slot.  Instead of throwing more at you from Kanye West, Grinderman or LCD Soundsystem, I decided to give #55 over to "Miami" and its beachy sort of meandering vibe.  We should get out of town and have a party where it's warm.  

Review: The King's Speech

The King's Speech is pure Oscar bait.  Here we have it, ready, set, go: a film not only about the British monarchy, but also featuring wartime, inspirational storytelling, costume pieces, and obstacle disability delivered by a host of actors who already receive that little "Oscar nominee/winner" official title each time their name is listed in a trailer.  At first glance, there's nothing tremendously novel about The King's Speech.  It's a 'lessons learned' type of film about human shortcomings.  Just a gentle little drama built up around a crippling stammer.  Of course, first glances count for naught here... 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Review: True Grit

I'm not amongst those who are perhaps most qualified to discuss True Grit's transition from novel to John Wayne film to Coen Brothers film.  I've read the Charles Portis book, sure, it's one of only two true to genre "western" novels I can recall opening (the other, a seventh grade requirement, was Shane), but it didn't speak to me.  To make matters worse, I haven't seen John Wayne's performance as Rooster Cogburn in 1969's True Grit or 1975's Rooster Cogburn, and will confess that this is likely for the better.  Hell, I mean, I can't even pretend to have ever had a real desire to watch either of those Hollywood semi-classics.  My grave American sacrilege is this:  I simply do not care for 'The Duke', nor do I particularly care for the old notion of the Western as a genre.  That's right. Scalp me here....

The Trivial Pursuit: Slightly Delayed by Christmas Edition

Christmas.  It happened.  It was fabulous, but now it's over and we've got a year until the next one.  In the meantime, last week's gossip round-up was delayed by Santa Claus, shrimps, bacon wrapped dates, wobbling weebles, and 1.2 billion cookie tons.  Here's what you may have heard from your aunt who watches E! five hours a day:

After announcing their breakup last week, Ryan Reynolds officially filed for a divorce from Scarlett Johansson.  There was no prenup, and neither party is asking for spousal support. [via TMZ]

Actress/singer/hipster love doll Zooey Deschanel sued shoe designers Steve Madden Ltd. for failing to pay up the $1.5 million for a planned line of shoes and accessories.  Supposedly, the agreement was made orally a couple years back, but as it stands now, things haven't moved forward.  [source]

Lindsay Lohan scored the CNN-level celebrity news this week when she became wrapped up in a criminal battery investigation at the Betty Ford Center, where she is currently a patient.  Rumor has it that Lohan snuck out to a bar with fellow patients, and upon her return had an incident with Dawn Holland, a female staff member who now wishes to prosecute.   All is not cut and dry, however.  Lohan's attorney claims it was Lindsay herself who called the police, while Holland immediately began sending out e-mails and doing interviews for tabloid website TMZ.  Holland has been fired, and the Betty Ford center is under serious scrutiny.  This time, I honestly think this has little to do with Lindsay Lohan herself. [via AP]

Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband, Prince Frederic Von Anhalt, glued his eyelids shut with his wife's nail glue.  It was an accident, but wins the award for most bizarre celebrity headline.  Ironically, Gabor herself once suffered an eye injury when she accidentally used crazy glue for her false eyelashes.  [source]

Big Love actress Ginnifer Goodwin revealed this week that she's been dieting on Weight Watchers since the tender age of 9.  Goodwin is 32.  That's 23 years of creepy Hollywood obsession.  I don't like it... [via E!]

Tommy Wiseau is preparing cult classic The Room for a 3D remastered re-release in late 2011 or 2012. That's all that needs to be said.  [via /Film]

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Playlist: Favorite Songs of 2010, 21-40

We're on to part II of the list of 2010 favorites.  Prepare yourself, you haven't seen the last of Mr. West.  If you need to revisit part I, you'll find it here.

21. CARIBOU / "ODESSA" - If you actually listen to the lyrics, "Odessa" is about a woman escaping an  abusive relationship.  The story is backed by a chicken-disco whirligig of noise and yet told with absolute subtlety.  It's a rich sound, and quite different from anything else I've heard this year.

22. FLYING LOTUS / "...AND THE WORLD LAUGHS WITH YOU" -  This is a song deserving of a serious subwoofer.  The richly textured sounds of the universe layered with a cameo appearance by Radiohead's Thom Yorke, whose voice is always a welcome addition to the electronic fray.

23. MARK RONSON AND THE BUSINESS INTL. / "RECORD COLLECTION" - There's a lot to love about Mark Ronson's most recent incarnation as The Business Intl., and "Record Collection" sums it up nicely.  It's an expert mash-up of genres and decades into a singular pop sound.  You get Duran Duran's Simon le Bon co-starring with Grime artist Wiley on a track with a sentiment that's as simplistic as it is big, he "only wants to be in your record collection."  That's it.

24. KANYE WEST  / "CHRISTIAN DIOR DENIM FLOW" -  No, this was not an album release.  Additionally, the youtube version is wrong, you really need to just go get it.   This track, which features Kid Cudi, Pusha T., John Legend, Lloyd Banks, and Ryan Leslie was actually a free download on one of Kanye's G.O.O.D. Fridays in October.  It's an odd sort of mournful paean to high fashion materialism that touts the success of its lyricists as it laments their disconnect with where they came from.  It starts off strong, with an uptempo backbeat, but slowly grinds itself down to and absolute halt.  It's impressive, and seems to actually capture a wearing down of the individual from the initial highs of fame to a jaded absence.  Download it here.

25. MASSIVE ATTACK  ft. HOPE SANDOVAL/ "PARADISE CIRCUS" - Alright, so the actual video for this involves a fair amount of actual pornographic material, so we've swapped if for this fan-made version featuring footage from The Fall.  If you want to, you can see that video here.  As for the song itself, it's a dark beauty.

26. UFFIE FT. MATTIE SAFER / "ILLUSION OF LOVE" - Yes, "ADD SUV" was on my guilty pleasures list, and for all practical purposes "Illusion of Love" probably belongs there too.  It's a ridiculous, trite song punctuated by Uffie's pre-Ke$ha, oddly manipulated half-rap.  I love it though.  Absolutely love it.  What makes it for me, I think, are the verses relayed by Mattie Safer.  It's the syntax.  The way he delivers it transforms it into some sort of late 80's gay club anthem, a throwback to Army of Lovers spun over a musical loop that builds and gyrates.

27. WILD NOTHING / "CHINATOWN" - There may be a sadness here, like a tarnished childhood sadness, but ultimately this song just makes things like summer.

28. ARIEL PINK'S HAUNTED GRAFFITI / "ROUND AND ROUND" - Ariel Pink does not always make me a happy camper.  I remember stumbling onto their album Worn Copy in my college radio days and being made physically nauseous by the array of sonics in  "Bloody! (Bagonia's)".  There's a distant, wavering quality to the noise that just seems to confuse my ears and send jumbled signals to my brain.  I got sucked into "Round and Round" however, if only because I was desperately trying to figure out what song the beat reminded me of (first I thought it was "Love My Way", then I realized it was Marianne Faithfull's "Broken English").  It's mellow, a nice bastardized jukebox number.  Pitchfork chose it as their number 1 song for 2010.  I think that's pushing it a little...

29. KELIS / "4TH OF JULY (FIREWORKS)" - Kelis sort of killed it with her album Fleshtone.  Seriously.  Her divorce from Nas may have been the best thing for her artistically.  She's not even trying to make freaked-out pseudo hip hop anymore, she is now the dance commander.  Unfortunately, her transition still didn't seem to register for those still embracing her as a "Milkshake" novelty.  The album is big, Eurotrashy fun, and so is "4th of July".

30. ROBYN / "DANCING ON MY OWN" - I really shouldn't have to explain anything Robyn does to you.   Honestly, if you need that explanation you're living in denial or doing a great disservice to yourself.  Probably both.  For the ignorant amongst us, however, here's what you need to know: "Dancing on My Own" is the sort of pop song that resonates with everyone.  It's an anthem and a new classic, as emotional as it is tough.

31. BEST COAST / "GOODBYE" - Best Coast takes the 60's girl-group wall of sound and distorts it with a dirty grunge guitar and an above-it-all cool.  "Goodbye" catches the retro in the chorus, the modern twist throughout.  The balance is energetic and just a little bit ironic.

32. HOT CHIP / "ONE LIFE STAND" - "One Life Stand" builds and builds until it becomes an unstoppable mechanism. Piece by piece, steel drums by keyboards by secondary vocals by drum machines, go go go.

33. ZOLA JESUS / "NIGHT" - Zola Jesus is a 21-year old following in the footsteps of Fever Ray.  "Night" is a deliciously dark march towards the gaping mouth of Hell.

34. CRYSTAL CASTLES FT. ROBERT SMITH / "NOT IN LOVE" - I don't know how it happened, but somehow after releasing the muted album version of "Not in Love", the track was retooled with The Cure's Robert Smith brought on to sing lead vocals.  It's brilliant, the perfect hybrid between the two sounds, a collaboration that brings the best of each to the table and loses nothing.

35. DRAKE FT. ALICIA KEYS / "FIREWORKS" -  Alright, I have an important announcement to make: I was really wrong about Drake.  I misjudged him.  That wasn't fair.  His album, Thank Me Later is really good and he's much better than those radio singles.  Who knew?  Drake's rhymes are surprisingly smart, his sound remarkably polished.  I chose "Fireworks" for this list (though "Fancy" came really close) because it represents a cut that I would usually shy away from, but here really dig: the slow R&B relationship number.

36. TEENGIRL FANTASY / "CHEATERS" -  So, this year I was smart and knew this list was coming.  I've been compiling standout tracks in a playlist for months.  Anything that qualified, anything I liked from 2010.  This one kept slipping in and out.  It was there, then it wasn't, then it was in a secondary list, then I felt like its inclusion would make me feel like I was cribbing off All Songs Considered or Pitchfork, then I was like no, there's just something about it.  On the one hand, I'm not sure there's anything so special about "Cheaters".  It's a really simple house beat with some soul on big deal.  On the other, I keep coming back to it where others have failed.  Honestly, I'm not sure what makes "Cheaters" different.  It just is.

37. SCISSOR SISTERS / "WHOLE NEW WAY" - I was thinking the other day and I think this is a really great song for a drag act.  If I ever had to put on a drag king performance, this would be in my arsenal. It's loping and sleazy, a smarmy, fun, disco/glam song that could only come from the Scissor Sisters.

38. JANELLE MONAE / "DANCE OR DIE" - Yes, instead of "Cold War".  Why?  Because it's the jam.

39. KYLIE MINOGUE / "APHRODITE" - I love Kylie Minogue.  I just do.  In every other country in the world, Kylie Minogue is massive.  In America, people seem to think she came around with "Can't Get You Out of My Head".  Kylie is bubblegum.  She's a survivor from the 80's who understands that, if you do it right, there's absolutely nothing wrong with pure pop.  Kylie does it right, she doesn't have to change.  Aphrodite was an album with zero ballads.  Why?  Because Kylie knows that what you're looking for when you go to her is a happiness, not for her to wax serious or whine.  "Aphrodite" the song is great fun, a blast of positivity with space for hand clapping rhythms.

40. CEO / "COME WITH ME" - I don't know where he's going, but it sounds like it might be a pretty good time.  We should probably go with him.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: The Fighter

The Fighter opens with Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) sitting on a couch talking about their relationship for a documentary film crew.  "Taught him everything he knows,"  Eklund informs us, looking as excitable as a pop-eyed stick figure. The scene is our introduction to the brothers.  Micky, the younger of the two, idolizes Dicky.  See, Dicky once downed Sugar Ray Leonard in a match.  He's got an outdated reputation as the pride of their hometown.  About three minutes into the movie and you realize that what you'll be getting isn't anything like what the almost drippingly sentimental, overly inspirational trailer was selling.  This is a David O. Russell film.  In the wake of I Heart Huckabees, he hasn't taken to extremes to play The Fighter totally straight.  There's humor here, actual entertainment...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Playlist: Favorite Songs of 2010, 1-20

Now that the albums and guilty pleasures are out of the way, it's time to get into the massive undertaking that is figuring out exactly which songs from 2010 rank amongst the favorites.  It's tough.  Sometimes, whole albums feel like they should be included and it's near impossible to narrow the options down to a reasonable two or three.  Sometimes a sound dominates, or, the need arises to include things that might be amongst the technical best, but not a favorite.  So, because at the end of the day this is just a blog, and not a major media outlet, I've opted not to make this harder than it already is.  While looking over this list, know that there is no particular ranking system at work.  While some of the absolute favorites have made it to the extreme top, number 50 is no less valuable than 25 on any given day.  On some of these too, you may wonder how one can be a favorite while another of something similar made it on the guilty list.  It's personal, that's just the way it works.  Caveat: several of these videos will be lyrically or visually NSFW.

1. KANYE WEST / "MONSTER" - We've already established that the entire My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album is pretty brilliant.  With each listen, my favorite cut from the album shifts.  "Monster", though, is a standout rallying cry that cuts from one spot-on, brutal verse to another and comes to an absolute head not with Kanye, but with rap's self-proclaimed Black Barbie: Nicki Minaj.  On "Monster", Minaj kills it, delivering more schizophrenic, unhinged power in the song's final minutes than in anything on her solo Pink Friday album.

2. CARIBOU / "SUN" - The video gets it exactly right.  "Sun" has a ritual trance-like quality that grabs you at it's opening, echoing pronouncement and pulls you under.  It's oddly addicting.  Really.  True story: most plays on my iTunes of anything on this list.

3. JANELLE MONAE FT. BIG BOI / "TIGHTROPE" - You can't deny this is an awesome song.  Pure, unadulterated bad-assery combining James Brown soul with Outkast funkadelics; totally taut, totally in-control, no chance of taking a spill off the tightrope.

4. HOT CHIP / "I FEEL BETTER" - At first, I wasn't so sure.  Then, I embraced Hot Chip's oh-so-90's, oh-so-boy band approach (and, uh, for those who don't know, those dudes are not Hot Chip) to their own brand of overtly aware, clever indie.  It works.  The bombastic pop approach has a hook that kills, that eerie near-falsetto will stick with you (in the best, Jimmy Somerville way) long after the song is over.

5. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM / "POW POW" -  This song gives me all the lines I need to fill every work meeting I have to go to.  The first time you hear it, it's rambling over a back beat.  I honestly didn't think much of it.  A couple more run-ins, however, and it suddenly meshed completely with every aspect of this stress loaded life.  Is it too pretentious to say "Pow Pow" is a musical expression of a crisis of modernity?  Whatever.  It is. It begins to build into a complete thought, and that thought is pure David Byrne-influenced self-possession.  Oh, yeah, also, the video version is about half the actual song...the real one builds to a manic head.

6. THE BIG PINK / "TONIGHT" - Alright, so, the version of "Tonight" The Big Pink released as a single is actually different from the one on their debut album.  I prefer the album version, but you get the basic idea.  "Tonight" is a dreamy sort of rock song, and The Big Pink is an awesome reincarnation of shoegaze (but don't call them that), the kind of band that makes you wish you'd found them when you were 16.

7. GRINDERMAN / "HEATHEN CHILD" - Let's get visceral, visceral....and also: more eyeball laser beams!

8. SLEIGH BELLS / "RILL RILL" - The slickest, hookiest song on the overpraised Sleigh Bells debut.  Let's throw this over a really awesome slow-mo high school hallway scene.  It'll be amazing.

9. LINDSTROM AND CHRISTABELLE / "LOVESICK" - As previously mentioned, this album is effortlessly cool.  "Lovesick" is all you need to hear to know this. 

10. THE SCISSOR SISTERS / "INVISIBLE LIGHT" - With Night Work, the Scissor Sisters came of age.  Their 70's rock influence transitioned into the early 80's and entered a dark period at Studio 54, they've gone away from cheeky camp and dipped into a sexualized, club kid mode.  It's their best effort to date, and  "Invisible Light", the last track on the album, closes it out in a manner totally unexpected from the oft jangly band.   All that and it features an Ian McKellan voice over to rival Vincent Price's on "Thriller."

11. DEERHUNTER / "CORONADO"  - It's like Deerhunter was sitting around trying to figure out what The Strokes would sound like if they actually tried to do something that didn't replicate This is It, came up with the answer, and then decided to record it.  That's a good thing.

12. TAMARYN / "LOVE FADE" -  Again...the second coming of shoegaze.  "Love Fade" has such an outrageously big sound, it fills any space in its opening crescendo and can switch your mood in an instant.  Just lovely.

13. BIG BOI / "GENERAL PATTON" - This song is for three things: 1. preparing to win  2. being mad as hell  3. being awesome.  Also, the whole album is pretty good and makes for an interesting companion piece to Kanye West in the "nifty things hip hop was doing this year" category.

14. ROBYN / "NONE OF DEM" - Haven't you heard enough about Robyn?  Don't you know to embrace her already?

15. FOUR TET / "LOVE CRY" - Four Tet returns to bring stasis.  No, seriously, this song is 9 minutes of precisely controlled dance stasis.  Nine minutes long of slow growing repetition which, once it comes on, I can't seem to bring myself to shut it off.

16. CRYSTAL CASTLES / "BAPTISM" -  Crystal Castles.  What is there to say?  You either love them or you hate them, and the only way you really grow to love them is by experiencing something like Stockholm Syndrome.  It's a trap.  You like one of their prettier sorts of 8-bit chillwave, "Untrust Us" or "Celestica", and next thing you know you're suddenly enjoying Alice Glass's insane cacophonous screaming.  I'm sure "Baptism" is annoying to at least 80% of the world population, but I really have to admit that there's something about its rapid fire mood swings that makes me want to jump around like a crazy person.  Trust me, this noise can actually become music if you give it a shot.  Fun music at that.

17. KANYE WEST / "POWER" - Also good?  The Snap! incorporating "Power" remix available for free download as part of Kanye's G.O.O.D. Fridays.

18. M.I.A. / "BORN FREE" - It's winter now, but if you need a release I recommend putting this on and then running really fast in any direction you can.  It's worth mentioning that without the video, the song is significantly less disturbing. 

19. BEACH HOUSE / "SILVER SOUL" - Beach House's album Teen Dream is on the mellow side for me, but the sounds are so sweeping, so airy and unpretentious, I am swayed.

20. GAYNGS / "THE GAUDY SIDE OF TOWN" - What I love about the Gayngs album Relayted is that the whole damn thing is supposedly actually designed to be some sort of un-ironic tribute to smooth jazz/lite FM sounds, specifically 10cc's "I'm Not in Love."  My parents forced me to listen to an inordinate amount of that garbage for the first 11 years of my life, and as much as I hate to admit it, a little bit of it stuck.  "The Gaudy Side of Town" features Justin Vernon of Bon Iver delivering vocals that sound like they should be followed by some silky deep voiced DJ seducing you with a full three hour block of 'Night Moves'.  I'm thinking we'll follow it with either Enigma's "Sadeness" or Double's "The Captain of Her Heart."  That or, you know, sandwich it between the two.

Review: Tron: Legacy

The thing about Tron is that the original 1982 version was never a great movie.  Tron was, and I'm sure I don't have to tell you, never Star Wars.  It was a Disney kids movie with crossover adult appeal that used what were then state of the art computerized animation effects to tell a suspension of disbelief, barely there story.  If you were to watch it now, to come into it almost 30 years after the fact, it's nothing if not primitive.  The effects might actually reach the point where they're visually distracting the viewer from attempting to parse through the thin plot.  That said, you had to have been there.  There was a window, and you may have missed it.  I was not yet born when Tron was released, but my memory of it comes into play early on.  For me, Tron is about nostalgia.  When I see the white and day-glo suits of the original, or the early lightbike (they were bikes then, not cycles) battle, I'm transported to my early childhood. I'm not so sure, back in my early childhood, if I was in love with the movie or merely the idea of the movie, but I'd guess it was the latter...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

RIP: Captain Beefheart

Musician and artist Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart, died yesterday from complications with multiple sclerosis.  Vliet was only 69.

Though oft recognized as an American genius and found on all-time greatest album lists the world round, Vliet was generally considered something of an idiosyncratic mystery.  His music, on albums such as Trout Mask Replica (sidenote: I have always hated that cover art) and Lick my Decals Off, Baby featured challenging, blues-influenced rock and roll music.

Captain Beefheart divided listeners, likely earning more head scratches than critical accolades.  I have to admit, while his music never threw me, its sound was never something I went for. Yet, he was a renegade and a visionary, not to mention an influence to numerous artists.  Tom Waits, Devo, and Kurt Cobain all counted him as one of the greats, and his passing comes too soon.

[via NPR]

Friday, December 17, 2010

Review: 127 Hours

Let's make one thing clear right off the bat: if it weren't for James Franco's performance, 127 Hours would not be receiving the rating it has.  It is Franco that makes this movie what it is.  Otherwise, this film is a stone cold Squalor.  You can believe in Franco, you can read the panic and struggle in his expression.  He's putting his physical self into a role which involves very little in terms of believable dialogue or noteworthy relationships.  James Franco is the saving grace of 127 Hours.  Otherwise, Danny Boyle's first outing since Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire is a remarkably overrated low-budget thriller that has somehow been raised up towards art house distinction when it is anything but.  What it feels like instead is a neatly performed bit of student film, the handicam dry-land cousin of Open Water or Frozen, another hopeful bit of survivalist fancy based on a true story and peddling its cheap shot horrors for an audience who by now should really be more discerning...

The Trivial Pursuit: December 17th Edition

Carine Roitfeld, Vogue Paris editor for the past decade, announced her resignation today stating that she has opted to work on "personal projects."  The fashion industry is rightfully inconsolable.  [WWD]

Winona Ryder revealed revelations indicating that she's been aware of Mel Gibson's nasty prejudices for quite some time.  Radar online reports that in an interview with GQ, Ryder had this to say:
"I remember, like, 15 years ago, I was at one of those big Hollywood parties, and [Mel Gibson] was really drunk. I was with my friend, who's gay. [Gibson] made a really horrible gay joke. And somehow it came up that I was Jewish.
         He said something about 'oven dodgers,' but I didn't get it. I'd never heard that before. It was just this weird, weird moment. I was like, 'He's anti-Semitic and he's homophobic.' No one believed me!"
Opening night for troubled Julie Taymor musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has been pushed back for the fourth time.  The delay will now see the start date in February, and the production issues are supposedly abundant.  Aside from the technical delays, rumor has it that the entire script and structure is being toyed with at nearly every rehearsal.  [via /Film]

John Favreau announced via Twitter that he would not be returning to direct Iron Man 3, opting instead for Magic Kingdom. His primary reason, it would seem, is merely that he outgrew it and is ready to take on different projects. [via /Film]
Nicole Richie and Joel Madden did, in fact, get married.  The wedding featured an elephant, a Grace Kelly inspired gown (by Marchesa), and 150 guests.  Who wasn't invited?  Former BFF Paris Hilton. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Playlist: 10 Albums in 2010

1. Caribou / Swim:  Yes, it was a tough call, but Kanye West didn't quite make it to number 1.  Know that, if we were operating with decimal points, the difference would be minute.  The fact of the matter is, though, that Caribou's Swim has been my go-to soundtrack for most of 2010; a shift in the twilight of the year would ultimately make me a turncoat.  Even now, sandwiched between the Kanye tracks on my current iTunes playlist, the Caribou songs remain.  Caribou is mathematician/musician Daniel Victor Snaith, who previously recorded as Manitoba (until he, like Santigold, got served with a lawsuit by a man with a similar name), and there's something of a precise logic to the rhythms of his organically electronic music.  Swim is a beautiful album built up from a fluid arrangement of cross-genre instrumentals.  At times danceable, at times perfect for slipping into mellowed out coma; the songs seem to possess an undertow inherent in their basic composition, they suck you in and pull you through.  Glorious.
2. Kanye West / My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:  True fact: any 2010 best of music list that does not include Kanye West's truly outstanding album somewhere near the top should not be trusted.  Every song on here, including the Gil Scott-Heron outro "Who Will Survive in America?"  feels revolutionary.  This is not The College Dropout.  It is not Graduation.  It is not 808s and Heartbreak.  This is an entirely different breed of hip-hop that uses the full orchestra, the entire range of what this genre can be and what it could be which, while showcasing West, also includes some of the most inspired guest appearances in memory.  Kanye lives up to his own mythos, delivering the musical goods that give him some claim on his ego.

3. Janelle Monae / The ArchAndroid: All hail the arrival of a new breed of R&B queen: 24-year old Janelle Monae, a tiny dynamo with slick style who plays the game with her freak flag flying.  The ArchAndroid is a musically mature blast of tripped out funk bent through sci-fi instrumentals, pure Bowie glam rock, and a sort of psychedelic jazzed out fusion.  It's a hybrid helmed by someone who absolutely knows where they're going.  If you can, see her live.  Like now.

4. Robyn / Body Talk pt. 1 and 2:  It was a good year for pop music, particularly if you were living life off the top 40 grid.  Swedish chanteuse Robyn made a triumphant return five years after the release of her self-titled knockout to release two candy-coated EPs and a sort of best-of wrap up.  Dropping clever lyrics, killer ice cold hooks, and surprisingly genuine heartbreak ballads, Robyn could do no wrong this year; throwing down as much swaggering attitude as down-to-earth accessibility. Pure pop gold.

5. Grinderman / Grinderman 2:  On the opposite side of the coin, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis side project Grinderman returned with a sequel LP.  The result is a glorious, down, dirty, ultra gritty wallow in the sexed up, feral id of its creators.  I love Nick Cave, he conjures up some mean images in his lyrics, and the Grinderman side project feels like a shadowy continuation of the sound built up on the Bad Seeds album Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!.  The menace is almost always palpable (least of all perhaps on "Palaces of Montezuma," which has the distinction of being a sort of beautiful love song), the prowling violence best characterized by the album's cover art: they are the fairy tale big bad wolf, the beasts waiting in the Black Forest to lead you down the bramble path.

6. LCD Soundsystem / This is Happening:  James Murphy's album grew on me.  I put it in my car stereo and it sat there for awhile, spinning on repeat.  This is neurotic dance music.  It's a strangely present, forever self-assessing mash up of a jangly Talking Heads new wave conversation with krautrock by way of Eno's work on David Bowie's "Heroes" and alongside Iggy Pop.  Granted, there are points where the album hits critical cacophony for me, but for the most part, I find myself enjoying its clustered influences and dancey art party agenda more with each repeat listen.  

7. Deerhunter / Halcyon Digest:  Deerhunter is that band I've always rather liked, but been generally dispassionate about.  Tracks from Cryptogram and Microcastle were good, but not the type I could latch onto or necessarily dissociate from a really pleasant background noise (there are a few exceptions to this).  Halcyon Digest changed that.  It would seem to me that this is the quartet's most accessible album.  It's not lonely sounds and melancholy any longer, instead we get a touch of nostalgia, but with a beat and some subtle rock and roll swagger

8. Hot Chip / One Life Stand:  Just as with Deerhunter, my enthusiasm for Hot Chip had been a wavering one in the past.  One Life Stand, however, surprised me.  I entered into it largely for the oddly bombastic single "I Feel Better" and left thoroughly seduced by the album's crafty electronic wiles.  There's a pounding, disco cohesion that I didn't find on Hot Chip's previous albums; a polished up sound that doesn't seem as concerned with subverting sonics or simply being a smartass.

9. Flying Lotus / Cosmogramma:
Flying Lotus is the stage name of Steven Ellison, the great-nephew of John and Alice Coltrane.  Appropriately, his sound is a sort of free-form electronic experiment.  It is a wild variation on jazz via laptop, and the bass  line is bizarre.  At times, Cosmogramma sounds as though it's at risk of spinning out of control, as if it doesn't know where it's going but urges you to stay put.  The result is something absolutely manic, not made of individual songs, but running wild from track to track through industrial zones and dulcimer tones.  The closest comparison I can come up for in regard to Flying Lotus might be Amon Tobin, but FlyLo is operating on a different level.  

10. Lindstrom and Christabelle / Real Life is No Cool:  Surprise?  Yeah, I'd imagine so.  I'm sure Norwegian duo Lindstrom and Christabelle's album won't make it on to too many best of 2010 lists, but in assessing the albums I've enjoyed most in their entirety (after all, that is what this is about), Real Life is No Cool just edged out the bevy of competitors. The thing about this album is that it's just so effortlessly cool.  If you put it on in the car, it's like everything is immediately  transformed into a mid-80's, jet setting world.  Your car will feel like a Ferrari.  You will suddenly be wearing yellow Wayfarers.  All of your clothes will be ultra tailored and immaculately white.  You will wonder, out of the clear blue, why it is you can't drive with a cocktail in one hand.  That's what this album does.  Somebody mix me a drink.  Right now.  Make sure there's plenty of gin in it.

RIP: Blake Edwards

Beloved writer-director Blake Edwards passed away Wednesday from complications with pneumonia, he was 88 years old.

In the 1960's, Edwards earned a reputation as "a master of sophisticated slapstick," thanks in large part to his work with Peter Sellers on the Pink Panther series and 1968's The Party.  Prior to earning that title, however, Edwards career became part of film legend when he took on the adaptation and direction of Truman Capote's novella Breakfast at Tiffany's in 1961, an experience which found him clashing with studio heads and working discreetly around the Hollywood code to bring Audrey Hepburn's now iconic Holly Golightly to the screen.

The director, whose other notable work includes drama The Days of Wine and Roses, television show Peter Gunn, and a fabulous partnership with composer Henry Mancini,  received his only Oscar in 2004, when he was awarded a lifetime achievement honor.

Edwards married Julie Andrews in 1969, collaborating with her most notably in "10", Victor/Victoria, and S.O.B., his satirical take on industry heads.  Andrews was at his side with immediate family at the time of his passing.  [via  Los Angeles Times]

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Trailer: The Tree of Life

The official trailer for director Terrence Malick's (Badlands, The New World, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line) rather mysterious project The Tree of Life has landed.  The film, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn,  is the story of a Midwestern family in the 1950's and focuses on the coming of age of an eldest son, his complicated relationship with his father, and his disillusioned questions of the meaning of life.  The trailer is absolutely beautiful, and we can finally see traces of how the rumored metaphysical/sci-fi elements of the film might play out in the bigger picture. The overall aesthetic looks grounded in Malick's trademark naturalistic style, wide open spaces and epic landscapes that push past the edges of the screen.  Those additional cosmic elements, though, are what's seriously exciting.  This could be a major departure for Malick, and one I can't wait to see when it's released on May 27th, 2011.


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