Friday, January 30, 2009

A Broken Heart, A Broken Tale

If you’ve ever seen a one trick pony out in the field, alive and free
If you’ve ever seen a one trick pony, then you’ve seen me

The Wrestler - Darren Aronofsky starring Mickey Rourke

Loss comes as the greatest of all life’s challenges. Sometimes what it lost is never found again. In the worst of cases life, as it once was, is never matched. When that occurs, a loss so severe, those that have suffered so deeply and so darkly, those people would give anything to feel again. To feel a tease of what life used to feel like. They would give everything to be alive again. It’s a terrible irony. To give one’s life in order to have lived once more.

There is even a darker place than this.

A place where all is lost and all is yearned for to return, however, it is uncertain what was ever there to begin.
The Wrestler is a tour de force of grit, despair, angst and grievance. All of this comes through the brilliance of Mickey Rourke’s portrayal of Randy “The Ram” Robinson. A performance worthy of the praise and should garner a title belt of its own right.
Alas, there is something missing here.

As the story unravels itself as a tale of loss from a low point to an even lower point repeating until the lowest is ultimatum. It is as desperate as films come. This darkness does not, however, make it a brilliant work.

This film wants you to believe you see an evolution of a man as he comes to terms with himself and his reality. The Ram struggles with his own identity, both in name (Robin) and history. He attempts to patch together a semblance of who he is amongst the tatters of a life his uncertain he has wasted or not. There are real moments as Randy reaches out one last time for the acceptance and love of his daughter. There is reality in Randy’s disillusion with holding a job in a deli after having once been great. There is reality in a man coming to terms with a body that won’t support his heart, spiritually and substantively. We even see a reality in an attempted relationship, but as with every other reality the film touches, it dissolves one heartbreaking failure after the next. This failure of the main character to ever absolve anything in his life prevents the film from ever completing its intent.

The Wrestler does a superb job demonstrating the world of amateur, semipro and professional wrestling, but it does so at the cost of allowing the film to grab hold and connect with the viewer as it should. Every opportunity that Randy has to right a wrong is tossed away, often in the most overtly demonstrative and destructive of ways.

He fails to reconnect with his daughter because he does coke and has sex with a woman twisted on fireman and ferrets. The “over the top” here is as shallow and as seedy as the sport of professional wrestling itself. It plays false to me. It’s a shame; this movie could have been everything it promised if it had simply taken itself a little more seriously. The climax of this comes about midpoint of the film when The Ram is subjected to one of the most gruesome scenes of brutality I’ve ever seen outside a horror films. Why? Why the flashbacks detailing each and every injury? Why the need to gore up a film that should be going for the heart and the mind, not appealing the jerk off meathead that watches wrestling to begin with. The time invested in showing us staples removed from flesh should have been spent in sincere dialogue between Rourke and Tomei.

Maybe I’m getting weak, I cannot say for certain. I expected more and left unfulfilled.
What should have been the turning sequence of the film, as Randy delivers his farewell speech to the legion of fans ends up falling to the mat with an elbow to the back and 5 min of mindless fumbling around. Sure it would have been cliché, but someone should have stopped the match, there should have been something to live for, something to fight for. Instead, we see the hero banish himself to the depths of darkness by giving his life to live once more.

I see the depth in his final act; I just wish I would have seen him reach this point more through despair and failure of human loss than the physicality of broken glass and folding chairs.
Some may argue that the gruesome way the story is conveyed is true to the content of the story, the world of wrestling is dark and brutal…they also tried to say that Showgirls was a brilliant story because it was as pathetic as Vegas itself, no one bought that.

The Wrestler is a quality film, it could have been great, epic even. It just didn’t know how to be true to its heart.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tears Are Buzzing

New tunes unleashed by Arctic Monkeys, who sound like they have refined their rock sound and should be ready for another onslaught of world domination. Via Stereogum, the Monkeys have been working with Josh Demme of QotSA, as Gum notes the material isn't heavier, just darker. This song is pretty great, I am excited about where this band may be headed, I'll be all about the return of the Monkeys.

Crying Lighting - Arctic Monkeys (from Big Day Out, AUS)

Man, there is a lot of amazing music going on in '09, could be a banner year. Saw earlier today that Pitchfork was gloating how Andrew Bird, Bon Iver and Animal Collective have cracked the Top 25 on Billboard...that's downright amazing. GO INDIE!

100 Greatest Debut Albums of All Time


This is possibly one of the more pathetic attempts at a list I've seen a blog put out, aside from that crap LTME does every now and again, laughable.

Some obvious selections make the cut, Velvet Underground, GNR, Pearl Jam, Talking Heads etc. But many baffle me. Miles Davis had accomplished recordings prior to the release of Birth of Cool, and despite my endless love of Led Zeppelin, the first album was more of a blues to rock standards album, some of which was arranged by Columbia records. Interesting to see Arcade Fire's Funeral so high, seems that should take a few more years to sink in, afterall the Fire hardly ahs the career that it's company has at their high spot.

The Band, Creedence, The Strokes...all grossly underrated. Perhaps the biggest WTF? moment happens at #71 Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes. It's a damn good album, but please, let's not mark it as one of the most important albums of all time just yet.

What are some others they left off?

Happy Birthday Jackson Pollock

Google just reminded me (well at least informed me with lack of prior knowledge) that today is Jackson Pollock's birthday. I have always been a fan of Pollock and his ordered mayhem approach to creating. I studied him a fair amount in high school and performed a Pollock style painting with a fellow student on a large canvass. The other student and I worked on a section at a time, opposite of the canvass of one another. Every other day we would swap sides and transform what the other had been working on. At times it was incredibly frustrating to watch your work challenged and altered and sometimes completely devastated by another student. In the end we created a piece that was visually intense and full of numerous styles and influences.

It wasn't the most amazing work I ever created but I learned more in the process of this exercise than any other attempt at being an artist. In order to grow and evolve you have to be willing to let go, challenge your instincts, take heed to the advice of others and sometimes allow the hand of another to direct you. I have always heard the most difficult part of art school is when they begin to teach you to be separate from your work, often destroying your art in front of you and your classmates. The principle is that once the art is created it no longer belongs to you, rather it belongs to us all. People will interpret, alter and judge, you have to allow them to do so.

I tell this story as I often keep it in mind when reviewing albums. These musicians that I judge on such a whim go through an difficult process of creating, then releasing their work and allowing the world to judge. Imagine if everything you did at work was reviewed by critics and amateurs the world over. Every time these musicians perform they are being judged, can't be easy. Some learn to nurture the critics and allow them to pass with ease, never influencing who they are or what the create (Thom Yorke is a great example of this). Others eventually cave to the pressure of expectations and constant criticism (see Ryan Adams).

Just thought I'd ramble for a minute, not sure what my point is here, but you can rest assured that it is like really deep and stuff.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

2 Too New Tunes

Great tracks from two bands on the rise:

I'm Confused - Handsome Furs (far more direct and pop sounding than anything off the premiere, anxious to hear this album, very high hopes coming from LTME)
Stream the song here. (thanks Stereogum)

Tightrope - Yeasayer (really pumped about the new album)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Noble Effort

Noble Beast - Andrew Bird
Andrew Bird is an odd one, there's no escaping that. He is fascinated by words, instruments, sounds and deeper/hidden meanings. His work is contradictory in that it combines things that would appear shouldn't belong together. Mandolins, violins and beatboxes.
Bird is a classic instrumentalist at heart. He is a trained expert on many instruments and he puts them to play in ways most could never dream up or contrive and even if they could they couldn't make them sound so perfect.
Alone is where Bird spends a fair amount of his time. He passes most of his days on his farm, loving the world he has and loving his instruments and the power of music.
He's become a force in modern pop music, a vibrant voice for the multi instrumentalists and classically trained artist and he is a bit of a standard in the world of indie music. His life performances are stuff of legend and his whistle is unlike anything I've ever heard. He's made amazing songs and compiled two stellar albums in The Mysterious Production of Eggs and Armchair Apocrypha. He earned the right to let his hair down and just have fun.
Noble is the fruit of such a thought.
Don't over think it or overdo it. If it feels right just let it be.
Andrew Bird is having fun with music again. Noble is short of a great album, but it's a worthy collection of songs that matter to Bird and are worth hearing. It's clear that Bird has been knocking these songs around for a long time, he's just never been sure what they were telling him, where to take them and how to fit them into an album. That being said, Noble does play a bit like odds and ends collected and recorded. Nothing is stunning, but all is delightful.
I wanted more from Noble, but I am not disappointed. It has it's moments, it has some great songs, just not enough of them. Things are slowed down and simplified. Luckily for Bird that still works as he's interesting enough without much going on. I love when he and Dosh construct odd arrangements, but that's simply not needed here. These songs do enough on their own.
Direct and Intriguing. Bird hasn't lost his touch or his sight, he sounds more comfortable with himself now than he has before. This album will be in the rotation for quite some time.

Well I did not see this coming

Blood Bank - Bon Iver

I met you at a blood bank, we were looking at the bags

You remember how you felt the first time you heard Bon Iver. It felt like a warm blanket by a fire on a cold winter day. It felt comfortable, by telling you that you are alone. It was a sound that yearned to be heard. It needed you to accept it, for it was dark, down on it's days and in need of a companion.

Blood Bank reminds you of why you first fell for Bon Iver, but it also introduces you to the new Bon Iver. Road tested, not quite so all alone and unsure, Bon Iver has allowed his wings to spread and although they aren't ready just yet, it's nearly time to take flight and soar.

Parts of this may scare some Bon Iver fans. Keep in mind that it's a EP, freedom and exploration are allowed, encourage and if need be excused. The songs on Blood sound more ready for the live performance. Written with a band and for a band. Theirs an expansion of what Bon Iver is capable of here. Steel guitars, auto-tunes(not a move I dig), backing vocals, a stronger folk sound, this is a promising exercise for a gem of a voice and what promises to be a spectacular band.
Blood Bank is a radio ready single, but by no means has Bon Iver lost touch. It plays more like and Andrew Bird or Spoon track. Perfect pop, just too far off the dial to ever be huge. If Bon Iver keeps this us they'll soon join the ranks of Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes etc. as the future of Indie rock and it's inevitable merging of the mainstream...after all nothing stays sacred in music forever and it seems more obvious than ever that the secret is out. With 2009 barely underway and the quality of output already out, I must say I'm thrilled by the prospects.

Find the words if you can feel the beat

The songs are in my ears but I feel them in my feet. These are cold cold days, but this album glows of heat.

Merriweather Post Pavilion - Animal Collective

A beautiful mess executed to perfection. More delightful, moving, engrossing and exhilarating with each listen; I haven't been this sincerely stunned or impressed by an album in quite some time.

Animal Collective put to use years of tweaking their sound and formulate a new sensation with a breathtaking new album, that for this band already seems dated. Animal Collective has always felt alien to me. Often that is not a positive thing to say about a group's craft. Here I mean that sincerely and endearingly. That's the feel they often reach for. They have amazed me for sometime now. Partly for the music they produce and partly for the amount of hysteria they cause. Heralded by some as the most important band music has to offer these days, years ahead of everyone else. Others claim they are void of the ability to write accessible music and they lack structure, trying to overcompensate with oddity. I kinda agree with both camps.

I first hoped on the AC bandwagon not long after Feels was released. You see I cannot resist trying new music and there was such a deafening buzz with that album that it was almost unavoidable. Needless to say I had not idea what to extract from my initial listen. "Was that the worst album I have ever heard, or should I listen to this album 10 mores times right now?" That's the magic of AC, they frustrate just as much as they please me. I love a healthy challenge, and that's what you'll get with their catalogue.

Strawberry Jam was an obvious breakthrough for me. I finally "got it." I guess I should say that I forced Jam on myself, not in a kinky way. I went into that album determined to find a way to fall in love with it. I guess I just wanted to understand and truly appreciate something that was not immediate with me. The music had meaning, difficult to find, but it even has a lot of heart. Stating that music generated almost entirely by computers has heart, well that almost goes against the core of what I love about music. But, I have ceased my relentless struggle to claim the computer is not an instrument. It is 2009 and the computer is not just an instrument, it is now an powerful and awing weapon. Everyone can make music now. Few can make that music sound so amazing as AC.

The difference is that AC is musically brilliant. They know music. They are true students of the craft and sounds. They just refuse to regurgitate what they hear. Instead they digest it, let it settle and when ready allow it to explode back out in the most unexpected of ways.

Merriweather Post Pavilion is a stunning sweep of an album. There are elements of such a myriad of music that it is nearly exhausted to analyze their work. Funk, soul, hip-hop, techno, dance, a-cappella, doo-wop, r&b and a boat load of pop. But it all blends together and sounds nothing like the genres it comes from. It can't be typecast. That's the way it should remain. Bold to say that AC is a genre unto itself? Yes, but damn if they haven't earned it.

I am on my 5th listen of Merriweather as I write this. It's hitting me harder now than it has before, almost scary to think how into this album I may eventually become. It's just so engrossing to me now, and that's brilliant because had I not fought to hear this band it would likely be unlistenable to me at times. I mean that in a good way.

In the Flowers is a true opening cut. At first you don't notice that much has changed with AC. In fact it sounds somewhat most turned down than the tracks of Jam. It's cliche to say, but it feels that Panda Bear was heavy handed in the direction of this album. Soon the song grows, unwinds and the chaos begins.
My Girls is when this album comes to chine for me. This song begins to illustrate a playful, almost dance style to AC. Heavy bass beats, it plays a lot like a club track. It's a fucking tight song. It is so ahead of so many other things you'll hear out there, yet the lyrics are screaming to remind you that AC doesn't want you to think they are so cool. They aren't into being praised, they just need to fulfill themselves by making difficult music that blows expectations away.

My favorite cut is Summertime Clothes. The cleanest and most approachable song on the album. The lyrics paint a brilliant day in the mind of the life of AC. I am such a fan of lyrics saying something direct and simple in a convoluted way, almost saying something completely different then what is intended, but still least to weirdoes like me who blog about this stuff.
Sweet Summer Night and I'm Stripped to my Sheets
Forehead is leaking my AC squeaks
And a voice from the clock says "Your not gonna get tired"
My bed is a pool and my walls are on fire
Soak my head in the sink for a while
It chills my neck and makes me smile
But my bones have to move and my skin's gotta to breathe
You pick up the phone and I'm so relived.

That says something to me. I think those lyrics are incredible. i won't even attempt to explain what going through my head when I hear that, but if I could invite you to see, I surely would send an invitation to all that would care to take a look.

I could go on and on, and at some point later I just might, but for now I'll close in saying that this album is everything it needed to be, it should be and could be.

Try this album and then try it again. When you think I'm not ever gonna get this, go ahead and give it one more chance. It may just knock you off your feet.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Good Things Happen to Good People

They just often have to go through a lot of shit (literally) before their victory is reached.

Slumdog Millionaire is the story of the everyman of this disillusioned generation. The world around us spouts wealth and glamorizes every nuance of the mundane that most lose sight of what's real and what's important.

It's important to follow your dreams, but it's just as important to rationalize your dreams. This is truly the story of the underdog. A modern day Romeo and Juliet of sorts with worlds at odds, families divided, cultures clashing and in the end true love aims to save all.

Told through chronological flashbacks, Slumdog brings to light the evolution of India from a cesspool of non-directional corrupt youth into the modern age, displaying all the growing pains associated with such a dramatic growth. You could go so far as to say the story of the characters parallels the culture, as both come of age, rid themselves of their troubled past and enter a new frontier of promise.

It's an uplifting tale to say the least. A bit Forrest Gump at times, at times Quiz Show and other times a WB sitcom...all with a twist. Slumdog is dark. Darker than expected. But so is life and so is the pursuit of happiness.

Balancing the serious nature of the story told with a light game show premise has been attempted before, but never executed so well. As the movie makes it's way towards the inevitable there is a growing swell of hope as David looks to overwhelm Goliath. This occurs, and all celebrate and all is great. It's a bit bittersweet that it ends so sweet...but there remains the shadow of darkness as some sacrifice for others.

To say this is the movie of the year strikes me as a stretch (I'd see Frost/Nixon again over this, and there is a slew else I have yet to see...I'm anxiously awaiting The Wrestler), then again this is the kind of story the world needs now. The most unlikeliest of heroes achieving his dreams in the most unlikeliest of ways, and is so doing overcoming unrelenting opposition and repression.

Slumdog is a success on all accounts and a worthy watch.


Monday, January 19, 2009

The Best Thing to Happen to America

The most important thing to happen to America in ages is now becoming even more of a part of your life. That's right, the ability to mock everything has taken one step further and now those awesome political posters used by whatshisname are availble for your mockery as well.
Thanks to Paste Magazine, you can upload your fav pic and turn it into a motivation/Americana/Obama poster...for better or worse.

Anywho, the damn thing is cool. Enjoy.

Preview of Bon Iver's EP due out 1/19

Track streams from Jagjaguwar site. Titled Blood Bank, the track is far more vocally direct, produced to emphasize the bass in the vocals, less reverb. The lyrics are more direct narrative, more singer-songwriter. The song wanders along the story he has to tell, but has no typical structure. An interesting approach and more accessible than many tracks on For Emma. Bon Iver seems on the brink of something big.

Fleet Foxes on SNL



Friday, January 16, 2009

Bonnaroo All Year Long?

Can it really be?
That's right gang, the folks over at Bonnaroo (Superfly) have put together a little something to get the festival juices flowing, which is fine with me in this frigid weather.
They'll be streaming exclusive footage from the epic fest. The footage is all live and the sound is remixed from the sounboard of the shows themselves, clever how they do that.
The program is called, drumroll please, Bonnaroo 365. Not sure yet what the 365 stands for, I'll look into that for ya.
On top of having kickass footage there are FREE DOWNLOADS!!!! Which I fucking love!

Up first is that little side project of Jack White, which really isn't that small anymore, The Racontuers.


The Flock Comes Home

The AV Club Interviews Brett and Jermaine from that little show that I am amped about. That's right, season 2 of Flight of the Conchords kicks off on HBO this Sunday evening. Since the Panthers pissed away their season last weekend (there firsthand) this is really going to be highlight of my weekend.

Pre-Post Merriweather Pavillion Thingy

If you haven't already heard Animal Collective have made themselves a little album and it's oh so special, isn't it children!
If you are one of those super duds that haven't given into the hype and illegally downloaded it, stream the sucker here.

Joy Division

The Joy Division Biopic that made it's brief run in the theatres last year is up on Pitchfork Media TV. Haven't watched it yet, but looks amazing, well shot. The story is quite intriguing as well.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Deer Tick Covers Paul Simon

It's as rewarding as it should be.

thanks for letting me steal your link, I Quess I'm Floating (a great blog FYI)
Still Crazy After All these Years (Paul Simon) - Deer Tick

Speaking of great covers, Stereogum is keeping us all posted on the new Phosphorescent album, a tribute by way of covers from the extensive and heartfelt catalouge of one Willie Nelson. Another pairing that will certainly yeild fantastic results. Very excited to hear this album (out 2/3).
Reasons to Quit (Willie Nelson) - Phosphorescent

Read more here from the Stereogum article.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bird Explains 'Noble Beast' via NYT Blog

Great perspective and insight on both the artist and the album. Audio available as well on the link.

I am a fan of this album despite it's tempid reviews thus far.

Thanks for the link Beale.

The Force is Funny with this One

Sent by occasional blog reader, fantastic emailer, father of one and current resident of Oman, Schant.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Greatest Gift of All

I feel lucky. No honored. In fact it goes well beyond a feeling or a notion, it is known. We are all fortunate people. These truly are the greatest day’s man has ever known.

Of course I am aware that we the world is in an economic downturn that has repercussions rippling to every corner of the civilized economic world.

There is war across much of the Middle East and religious tyranny reigns more prevalent today as it ever has.

It was announced today that unemployment in the US has reached 7.2%, a staggering number. I fret not.

The very infrastructure that supports our way of life is in question so why am I so brash, so nonchalant? Am I blind to the days that will come? Do I not know my own way of life and realize what impact the next year or few years will have on my future? What is it that keeps me above all this?

Do I feel the promise of hope in President Elect Obama?

Do I have an uncanny premonition of a return to glory for the US and its mighty economy?

Can I solve global warming, feed the hungry, educate the unlearned, clothe the cold and provide for the needy?

I cannot say for certain that I can do any of those things, but I must say that I still rest easy at night with the knowledge I have.

You see I realized something last night, something profound, real and yet so simple.
With desire and will we can overcome all.
I learned this from the greatest human ever, Tim Tebow, or as I like to call him, The Second Coming.

Tebow is the greatest gift we have ever received. We as a people should recognize this and begin our life of service to him.

Everything about Tebow is perfect. In fact, some may say he is the most perfect thing that has ever and will ever exist. These people are correct. The Alpha, the Omega, the Upsilon, the Supreme. In fact the word ‘perfect’ is to be replaced with the word ‘Tebow.’ We know Tebow exists because it would be weak and nonperfect to not exist. Tebow is incapable of imperfection and nonexistence. Zesus ain’t got shit on Tebow.

I have always been in awe of Tebow; he optimizes everything I strive to be in life. Last night’s triumphant victory of the Florida Gators (my favorite team of all time) served as the perfect reminder of how fortunate we are to live in the era of Tebow.

History will look back and refer to those that lived during the Tebow years as the Greatest Generation.

Soon we will all wear our hair gelled with pride and sport the finest of designer T’s. No man will withhold tears at a press conference and we will celebrate our accomplishments and feats with chest bumps, fist pumps and “Let’s go!” cheers. The formal ceremonial celebration once referred to as the “run around such as a jackass would” will now be known as “Tebow that dude.” The universe will soon fear the might of Tearthbow (the natural evolution of the name for the planet Tebow inhabits and allows us to remain on). The universe will never see a species work so hard, try so hard, fight so hard and do stuff so hard as we will for the rest of this game we call existence.

We will all learn to circumcise babies in third world nations and we will replace all religions icons (blasphemy) with the Heisman. Orange is the greatest of all colors, followed only by blue and green. All other colors are non Tebow and will no longer exist.

People unite!

Tebow has come to us all. Celebrate this gift. Relish in all that his presence brings. Clap your hands in a gator like mimicking motion at all those that stand in the way of Tebow. If opposition stands in our way, hah!, we’ll run right up the middle and like score all, wicked like.
Join me as I jump shot the most Tebow pass to the endzone of life and lead mankind to the BCS of the Universe!

Tebow will lead, all those that follow will be yelled at and belittled by his might, but we will be forever his.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Noble Tunes

Stream Andrew Bird's new album, Noble Beast. A departure from what I consider his peak in Armchair, but still a profound new album. The verbose lyricist does not disappoint and the myriad of instruments makes for a compelling listen. Verdict is still out on my overall impression, but I like what I hear so far. I do favor Bird more when tackles songs with Dosh and I was in favor of more exploration with electric sounds, but I can't complain with the results on Noble thus far.

If this album and Merriweather are true indicators then we are in for a musical treat in '09.