Wednesday, January 31, 2007

There's this new band called Au Revoir Simone, who I first heard on an mp3 from the Grizzly Bear blog. I liked the song, "Backyards Of Our Neighbors." Then Pitchfork linked to a music video for a song called "Fallen Snow." They are three women, with keyboards that sound like pianos and vocal harmonies. It's not overproduced. It's pretty music, really pleasant and calming, kind of like Beach House minus the organ drone and dynamics.

From the video it turns out they're pretty as their voices, which will probably lead to creepiness in the future from music message boards. Let me lead the charge, with something that I don't think is inappropriate. The songs sound like deep tissue massage, and they have these kind of release effects. Wink wink. But this is the music's power- blockages become undone and thoughts get free, it feels like drinking water. It gets me in the mood to write, it brings on some kind of clarity. Lavender Diamond does the same thing.

The power lies in the freshness, more so than in repeated listens, I think. I compare it to water and there's this never the same river twice quality to listening to things that are unexpected. It's important to note also that the Au Revoir Simone structures aren't so repetitive in terms of recognizable choruses. There's just melody. Lavender Diamond repeat and chant, which is its own power.

Right now I wish I had the whole album.

EDIT: Some of the other, poppier songs, lose the melancholy r in a way that is still pleasant but maybe off-putting as a general aesthetic.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I decided towards the end of last year that I should spend this school quarter making a little movie, a comedy. There was some conceptual framework, but mostly the idea was that it would be funny. We didn't have a plot. We had a meeting, came up with some jokes. Today we had another one, finalized a narrative. Anyway, it's filthy. It's not filth, it should be good but oh man we just got together and came up with things we thought were funny and they were mostly dirty. And maybe mildly retarded. You might see my junk. Get ready, it should be great.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

It will be awhile before I write a list of my favorite movies of 2006. I don't see so many movies in a year, and mostly it feels like an even dumber enterprise than a list of albums- There's not as much emotional encoding, stuff doesn't strike me as strongly.

It will take me awhile to get through all the movies I heard were good. Tomorrow I'll be seeing INLAND EMPIRE.

But I just saw Idiocracy, now that it's on DVD. And holy shit that was funny. Not so well-made a movie, with the voiceover going over things that could probably be really well-executed, but it works really better as a satire than Borat did, and it works better as science-fiction than Children Of Men. These are specific criteria, those movies work better as movies. Idiocracy might be better than Office Space, if only on an idea level since it's not as likable. But I liked it a lot, I thought it did the whole smart/dumb comedy really well. I like movies, I haven't seen that many that came out this year.

I know it's better than For Your Consideration, though. I laughed out loud exactly once at that movie, and that laugh was not as sustained as the ones in Idiocracy.

These are just comedies, I haven't even seen Talladega Nights or Jackass Number Two. I don't really expect I'd like the latter, but you know. Saying. But yeah, good comedy in 2006. I also really liked the "Middle America" episode of Wonder Showzen, which falls along similar lines to a lot of this stuff. (Not like other episodes of Wonder Showzen weren't really good, but in terms of contempt for a large swath of America, that one fits the trend.)

I also saw Michael Showalter's The Baxter, from 2005, which has a likable cast and is mildly funny and I think succeeds at what it wants to be, and what it wants to be is something I like. Different from these other stuff for being gentle and a romantic comedy and things like that. It's kind of weird/interesting in its sincerity as opposed to the absurdism of Stella (which is actually a minor character's name in this movie). At the same time, there's still this level of self-awareness and ridiculousness, which is both subtle and played kind of straight, but still- Michael Showalter majored in semiotics and a lot of the comedy in something like Wet Hot American Summer comes just from the presence of cliches. So, it's a weird movie, but it works because of how likable the cast is, and their ability to play both angles, so it just becomes this thing that very much is what it is. Partly it's an exercise. Some scenes don't make sense. But essentially it comes down to being a romantic comedy, but cast with people that a certain type of people like and find relatable so it works for this audience which is not Nora Ephron. Anyway, if you think you'd like it, you probably will.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A brief bit of personal goings-on: My professors want me to either leave my program for an independent contract or in some way change my behavior, as they think me saying "Hey, I don't really think that what this is saying is all that interesting" after long periods made up of a whole lot of nothing is conducive to a positive learning environment. I maintain that this type of intimidating presentation of work is much more destructive, but clearly this is unbridgeable terrain. I don't know what I'll do, it was a weird conversation- these issues coming up now, two weeks in, rather than at my evaluation conference at the end of last quarter, and after I apparently did a good job facilitating seminar. I find it hard to process this conversation as taking place, but I'm sure as class becomes more awkward it will be more fully understood.

Also before I get to talking about music, I'll say I just did one of my Achewood-reading jags, which I hadn't read since mid-November. Since then it's been on fire, seemingly, totally hilarious. Start here, but open in a new window because I have opinions about music I want to regale you with.

I think that Panda Bear's Person Pitch record is going to be great. It's been coming out in drips and drabs, in the form of various singles on different labels, and what I've heard is quite good. I think I'll do the thing where I stop listening to these things as they leak and instead wait for the record's release, March 20th. I've heard enough of it to get a grasp for what it is, seemingly. It'll be the record to soundtrack my hair growing back and out, and winter turning to Spring and that then turning to Summer.

Seemingly different but in fact rather complementary is the new Boris record, Rainbow. Already out in Japan and coming out on Drag City in Spring. I only listened to Pink a little bit before deleting it from my computer. This past Christmas break, I downloaded the opening track, Farewell, off Pitchfork's top tracks list. That was my favorite track when I had the record, but it was just this drone piece, and when it ends on record it goes into crazy-rocking Japanese metal. (Japanese metal isn't like the Scandinavian crazy stuff, it's pretty likable. It's about as ridiculous as that movie Survive Style 5+, not ridiculous like blood sacrifices.) On its own it's unsatisfying. This is prettier, basically, not as loud. They're something of a drone band, but this is the drone taken away, and so this is a lot more dynamic than Pink. It's not free from rockers, but there's a lot of pretty stuff, and so those rockers stand out more, while still working as a record. It's more of a record and less just a general aesthetic.

Oh also, you might remember on my top 15 records of 2006 list that I didn't have a fifteen. Or that's how I remember it, I might be wrong. But I remember saying that if there was to be a next hip-hop record, it might be Spank Rock's YoYoYoYoYoYo, but I hadn't heard the whole thing. Now I have. I'd missed "Sweet Talk," which is the highlight.

I have been catching up on music, following all of the best-of lists calling things to my attention. I'd only heard a chunk of Girl Talk's Night Ripper, and made the declaration that Unstoppable was better. No one heard Unstoppable to know what the differences were. Basically, Unstoppable has songs, using the same samples throughout. It's a large number of samples, but they were these little self-contained units, and they were tweaked a bit more, pitchshifted to high pitches for comedic effect, and a lot of glitches added for more rhythms and individuality. Night Ripper is closer to a DJ set or a bunch of mashups. It still works well, it's still got some great moments, but the way those moments work is different.

I also hadn't heard Beach House's self-titled record, which is really nice. Two people, one male, one female, and there's an organ, and they make pretty droney dreamy pop songs. Basically, they are kind of similar to Brightblack Morning Light but better in every possible way. Including, probably, as people, because Brightblack Morning Light came off as really dumb hippies in that Arthur from a few months back.

That's the stuff that was really good. There's other things which maybe require a bit more of an investigation. (Although it turns out that Scott Walker's The Drift was about as boring as I thought it would be when I heard about in it January)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

That story I posted on Christmas has been rewritten and is now essentially finished. But why I write this is to bring attention to Douglas Wolk, a music critic who had a show on WFMU, wrote a book on James Brown's Live At The Apollo, and did a Christmas show in 2001 featuring six hours of James Brown, who's also a comics critic who resolved to read a graphic novel a day in 2006. He didn't do it, but you know- I admire anyone with that level of dedication to more than one interest. I'm listening to his James Brown Christmas special now.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Menomena are the favorite band of someone who is smarter than be. I imagine them as being younger, too. Their new album, Friend And Foe, is better than their first record, I Am The Fun Blame Monster, even though the same issue afflicts it. All of the songs are huge. Not in terms of length, like that Joanna Newsom record, but in terms of density of movement, how much is happening at any given moment. A lot of the songs are strong enough to serve as openers. Every song is an album in miniature, possessed of tiny thrilling movements. Every sound is huge- The drums could break fingers. I hear that this album, when released, will have art by Craig Thompson, a lot of it in a little booklet. Holy shit these songs are ridiculous. The lyrics are accessible as anthems or anything that would be on a rock radio ballad, but they're delivered as something careening, not safe enough to ride in without smashing your head multiple times against a window.

Every song is a bomb going off on a city block. The album jumps over the city, from territory to territory, finding different spaces to eradicate, and every little bit of demolition seems different. It's all fucking crazy. It's all a bit too much. It's like how when I watched Children Of Men, I was hoping for Car by Built To Spill over the end-credits. But that movie's too prog for such things. (The soundtrack has King Crimson on it, as well as Radiohead, remixes of Aphex Twin, a muzak-y cover of Ruby Tuesday by The Rolling Stones, and classical soundtrack music.)

Children Of Men is a good movie. Arguably great. It's got the stuff of greatness in it. But there's also a whole hell of a lot of "Wait why is this happening?" that is never resolved. Weird holes in the center of a science-fiction movie. As an action movie, it's well-done and brutal, thrilling and unexpectedly moving when the tension lets up just because of how nice it is that the tension lets up. As a political movie, it's muddled because of that issue of "why are things happening?" It's political in general, addressing that things exist, but just giving you an apocalypse in response. Alfonso Cuaron also made Y Tu Mama Tambien, and that movie was similarly a little bit overrated, and weird in its presentation of politics as backdrop. People respond to the presence of the politics, and see their sympathies in a weird horror about other people's reactions to immigration. Dystopianism. This was the stuff that got to me too- The moment of tension relief comes when someone says "Ceasefire" and somehow that speaks to a brief moment off in the future, our real future, when such things are widespread. A moment in miniature that gets to that hope by its ability to create a small world so tense and reflective of our own if only vaguely.

It also makes me think of the Destroyer song off City Of Daughters "No Ceasefires (Crimes Against The State Of Our Love, Baby)" although for no real reason. But you know, that simplicity, that relief of tension. "Think globally, act nobley" is how that song starts and it's what Children Of Men does, and so kudos are given. But I just wish I knew why things were happening, the same way that I wish Menomena gave you the occasional foothold.

Friday, January 05, 2007

If I could blog by telepathy, you would've gotten a bunch of stuff yesterday, concerning my stepfather's nudity, and how My Name Is Earl annoys me for the same reasons Arrested Development did.

Anyway, I'll just say that I'm currently a little bummed about the cancellation of a Black Dice show in Philadelphia. And that John Darnielle is currently doing a thing which should make the Da Capo best music writing 2007 book, with his "Thirty Short Poems About My Favorite Black Metal Band." It's maybe the best stuff he's done since that Strokes piece. He's stopped writing the long pieces, mostly, which I find disappointing, but it's the cumulative weight of this new series of short pieces which has works to the same effect.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

When I wrote my list of the best albums of 2006, I mentioned that there was a lot of stuff I hadn't heard. One that I listed was Juana Molina's Son. (Another that I listed was Earth's Hex, which came out in 2005, it turns out.) I bought that the other day. At the moment- It's pretty. It's interesting. It's overall pleasant but nothing heartstopping. There've been Notwist comparisons, but it's not as prone to anthems. The reason for my reservations might be the fact that the songs are in Spanish, and this puts a damper on singalongs. But it's also not really dynamic.

It's the type of thing I'd listen to a lot in mp3 form, I think, when it's nearing the end of the evening but there's a need for music. It's music for that mood, which is a tired one. I don't know if I'll select it in CD form to listen to in those moments, since usually, when I go to those, it is because I am reaching for a specific feeling, wanting to hear the songs that have been stuck in my head.

But the mood Juana Molina is for is a mood I am frequently in. I'm in it now, in New Jersey, 1:59 AM, and the only songs on this computer are things I've downloaded while I've been around here, with only mp3 blogs, and no file-sharing software to aid me.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A few days ago I cut my hair, all of it, the head stuff anyway. Not pubes. It got out of hand and I decided to just scorch the earth, because some people (women) had told me that the bald thing worked out well for me.

And I guess my head has grown, or maybe it's these glasses that are different from my old glasses although not so much that people can tell the difference.

Because hoo boy this doesn't look too good at all. I will wait for it to grow back, in this new year, and I resolve to learn a lesson, that a shaved head is a young man's game. (I got the idea from fictional characters that were the type that an angry young fellow would like. I might look like a monk now, but that's not where the impulse arose when I was in high school, and now there is a disconnect.)

It will grow back.

Spent last night running around with my brother keyless, and had to go back to his house with him because I didn't have a key. And we left early because he had been aching to fuck his ladyfriend. But I ran around spending money, bars with entry fees, with that feeling of restraint that comes from not really being in your element, when you are with someone who is in their element and probably judging your from your ability to roll with it.

So here is hoping that 2007 is spent in my element, that that is something I will be able I will able to break through to and then cultivate. That includes doing more writing, right? It does if I am at all the person I think of myself as being, which I kind of need to be, in order to ever be in my element.

The literal element I'm in would be oxygen, but I'm talking about figurative elements here people.