Archive for May, 2009

Introducing Palace Players

May 28, 2009

Mew Studio

Epic Danish art-rockers Mew are finally back with a full length follow up to the incredible 2006 …And the Glass Handed Kites.  The new album has an absurdly long title and possibly the ugliest album cover of all time, which only makes me more excited for August 25th.  Said title isn’t a word or even a group of words, but a short poem:

No more stories
Are told today
I’m sorry
They washed away

No more stories
The world is grey
I’m tired
Let’s wash away

I’d expect nothing less from Mew.  Pitchfork describes their style best, as a band that “doesn’t do anything halfway, making big music with big guitars and big vocals that suggest nothing less than the beautiful, horrible end of the world.”  In an interview with Spin this past February, lead singer Jonas Bjerre claimed the new material is a bit more upbeat.  “Oftentimes, even if the song’s not happy, the lyrics are.  I think that this record’s probably a bit weirder in some ways, but also there’s some really very clear stuff.”

Up to this point, we’ve had to take their word for it, but finally the first song from No More Stories… (“Introducing Palace Players”) has made its way to Mew’s myspace page and several other notable blog streams:

My first time seeing Mew at the Bowery Ballroom during CMJ 2006, the band came on stage and immediately started playing the most disjointed, loud, befuddled introduction I had probably ever heard in a live setting.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a melody started to emerge from the dissonance and gorgeous, angelic music erupted through the clutter.  I quickly realized the intro was all part of the plan, almost as an antithesis to most other live experiences.  Most bands go from clarity to inaudible noise, but Mew chooses the opposite.  “Introducing Palace Players” is a perfect studio exemplification of this alienating style that I happen to love.

No More Stories… was recorded during the summer of 2008 in Brooklyn, NY with renowned producer Rich Costey (Muse, Glasvegas, Nine Inch Nails).  Costey also produced Mew’s breakthrough Frengers, which I highly recommend purchasing immediately in preparation for the new album that you should be checking out when it hits stores this August.

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Just the Stirring in My Soul

May 27, 2009

Quarterlife

My early college roommate sent me this article over the weekend after a recent phone conversation where we both realized we were experiencing the same kind of frustrations.  With the exception of the relationships section, the article felt eerily familiar.  I highly recommend the read as it essentially serves as a thesis to why this blog began in the first place.

In a nutshell, the article describes the “Quarterlife Crisis” phenomenon that this generation of twenty-somethings seems to be finding itself in:

Unrelenting indecision, isolation, confusion and anxiety about working, relationships and direction is reported by people in their mid-twenties to early thirties who are usually urban, middle class and well-educated; those who should be able to capitalize on their youth, unparalleled freedom and free-for-all individuation. They can’t make any decisions, because they don’t know what they want, and they don’t know what they want because they don’t know who they are, and they don’t know who they are because they’re allowed to be anyone they want.

Boomer and post-boom parents with more money and autonomy than their predecessors has resulted in benignly self-indulgent children who were sold on their own uniqueness, place in the world and right to fulfillment in a way no previous generation has felt entitled to, and an increasingly entrepreneurial, self-driven creation myth based on personal branding, social networking and untethered lifestyle spending is now responsible for our identities.

While I certainly don’t fall victim to the needless spending, drinking, or relationship problems associated with this life phase, I completely identify with the overall theme of the discussion.  Even though it can most likely be attributed to the quiz’s underlying superficiality, I was happy to see that most of my answers were “A” to the “Are you having a Quarterlife Crisis?” quiz at the end of the article.  As she always does, my mom summarized the situation best:

Life in our 20’s has always been difficult, because you want to step off the bus where your parents left you.  You forget that you must start at the beginning, not where you left off at our house.  Enjoy the ride, you will kick yourself later if you don’t.  Life goes by fast, so enjoy the moments, handsome.

Yes, my mom thinks I’m handsome!  More importantly, I did as suggested this past weekend by enjoying a relaxing, action-packed Memorial Day with great friends down at the lake house.  I guess those simple joy kind of moments are what it’s all about in the grand scheme of things and I believe I have a lot more to look forward to in the future.

You’re By No Means Alone On That Score

May 20, 2009

A few weeks ago, a good friend and I planned what was supposed to be a classic movie marathon at a local Nashville theater.  Unfortunately, the marathon only turned out to be a back-to-back showing, but our second feature alone was worth the planning process.

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Although marketed as a comedy in the vein of Superbad, Adventureland turned out to be one of the best movies about growing up I’ve seen in several years.  The funny, intelligent, and well-written script mixed with excellent casting made for a great romantic comedy that felt more like a combination of Say Anything and The Graduate than one of Judd Apatow’s latest.  Set in 1987, the heavy use of 80s indie music as a form of added storytelling obviously didn’t hurt either, considering I’ll always welcome The Cure, Replacements, Big Star, or The Outfield to any movie soundtrack.

In Adventureland, Jesse Eisenberg’s character learns that amusement parks aren’t the only place with games rigged for the honest and trusting to always lose.  Upon hire, Eisenberg is deemed a “Games” guy, a group comically reserved to the intellectuals and introverts unworthy of being ride operators.  The main characters running around with “Games Games Games” printed on their chests is the perfect exemplification of Greg Motolla’s well-written, subtle script.

From Squid and the Whale fame, Jesse Eisenberg was spot on for the role of lead character James Brennan.  Riding on the positive vibes from Into the Wild, Kristen Stewart continues to add appeal points after an initial devastating blow from her association with Twilight.  As expected, the interaction between Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig’s characters was priceless and Martin Starr continued to prove his awesomeness originally showcased in Freaks & Geeks.

I was also impressed to see Ryan Reynolds take on a different kind of role than we’ve grown accustomed to seeing him in.  He perfectly captures the duplexity of a character that’s viewed as the coolest guy in town to the younger crowd he works with while a loser to the rest of the “real world.”  In a lesser film, his character would be a portrayed as the bad guy, but instead of taking sides, Adventureland chooses to focus on the richly developed characters’ struggles to get by.

While the movie falls victim of sometimes embodying the inevitable stereotypes associated with every other late teen/twenty-something coming of age relationship movie, Adventureland gets to the heart and deeper underlying truth within those clichés.  Granted, I’m biased considering I fall into the demographic currently experiencing the ups and downs associated with the youthful rites of passage, but regardless, Adventureland should be acknowledged for its ability to restore a piece of humanism to a comedic genre that has lately revolved around trite sophomoric jokes.

All that being said, I still like a good fart joke as much as the next guy.  I can only imagine how pretentious the previous paragraph sounded, so I felt a clarficiation was needed.  Basically, I just want you to go see Adventureland, so please do so as soon as possible.

Switching subjects, I’m also hoping that personal favorite Joseph Gordon-Levitt and sweetheart Zooey Deschanel come through in this summer’s similarly themed 500 Days of Summer.

We Want the New Temptations

May 20, 2009

Why can’t pop radio be filled with music like Alphabeat?  I’m a sucker for catchy melodies and windows down summer tunes, and this band delivers full force in both categories.  As All Music Guide puts it, “Listening to this unpretentious, joyful debut album is like having your favorite birthday party, winning the lottery, and going to Disneyland all at the same time.”

Some might resort to calling this style a guilty pleasure, but I’ll own up to it all day long.  Considering the entire band looks like they work at Urban Outfitters, I feel like I’m in the clear:

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Had “Fascination” been used in Apple promotions, their sound would undoubtedly be well on its way of over-saturating the market.  The video already feels like an iTunes commercial mixed with a healthy dose of Rick Astley.  If nothing else, “Fasincation” needs to be added to Rock Band for its West Side Story finger-snapping, Rick-roll dancing, Toni Basil chanting, rock out potential.

Expect more tasty treats in the form of summer music posts as the weather continues to heat up!

Live Together, Die Alone

May 19, 2009

I’ve unfortunately been following LOST since the beginning of the second season when all of the third floor Old East guys decided to get hooked together.  At this point, the only reason I still watch is because I feel like I have to know the answer after such a hefty time investment.  Thankfully to all the series followers, the opening scene of the Season 5 finale finally presented a preview of what the island may be all about:

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I’d given up trying to predict any major plot points after Season 3, but I want to write something down before the final season just to compare after all is said and done.  Jacob and his rival (commonly referred to as Esau by many fans due to the show’s frequent biblical undertones) seem to be immortal foes in an enigmatic battle that we really know nothing about yet, other than certain rules cannot be broken.  Although still extremely vague, this battle will undoubtedly act as the metaphor of all metaphors and an explanation for everything the viewers have seen up to this point.

Fan theories are being thrown out left and right regarding representations of good vs. evil, with Jacob’s rival believing the human race is doomed to destroy itself while Jacob feels humanity still has a chance.  I personally think it’s not so much about good vs. evil, but about free will and determinism.  Throughout the series, a theme of duality has emerged.  In the opening scene of this year’s finale, we see Jacob wearing a white shirt met by his black-shirted rival.  This scene reiterates Locke’s backgammon discussion with Walt in the first season regarding the two different colored pieces trying to win over the board:

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I believe the black/white symbolism is less about good and evil and more about opposing views.  Depending on the perspective of the viewer, each character can be characterized as “good” or “bad”.  Each character has been morally ambiguous from the first episode they were introduced.  We have even seen how once notoriously labeled “bad guys” like Ben and Widmore have seemingly acted in what they felt were the best interests of the island.  Everything is a shade of grey.

Revisiting the backgammon metaphor, neither side is right or wrong, only opposites, moving around the board in different directions acting for their own benefit.  Many of the show’s mythological and theological references are also ambiguous (i.e., the story of Jacob and Esau, Taweret and Apep, etc.) In the end, I believe LOST will leave judgement up to individual interpretation, based on our own moral code.  Right now, we generally see Jacob as good, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Season 6 tested viewer opinion as we learn more.  It should be noted that Jacob was eating a red herring at the opening of the Season 5 finale…

By using a variety of religions, mythologies, civilizations, and literary references, the writers are highlighting some of the famous proposals made in an attempt of trying to make sense of our world.  LOST can’t be about good vs. evil, because moral assertions are subjective.  We all possess “good” and “bad” qualities, and I feel that the show’s duality-focused imagery alludes to the unity between the two sides.

All that being said, here are some Season 6 predictions before the final EPIC season starts in 2010.  I think the writers want us to be rooting for Jacob’s side, because he wants humanity to be good to one another and work for a better world.  Various factions have fought one another throughout the course of the show.  At times, the audience didn’t even know why the groups were fighting.  When the sides truly unite and work together peacefully, we will see what Jacob has been trying to accomplish.  Rose and Bernard seem to be two characters that already understand this, hence why we saw their story wrap up in this year’s finale.

Redemption has always been a major LOST theme, so I expect it to be a big part of the endgame.  Will Jacob possess Locke’s body on the beach, resulting in two opposing Lockes on the island in Season 6?  When Richard answers that “he who will save us all” lies in the shadow, is he referring to Jacob or Locke?  I’d like to think it’d be Locke considering he’s seemingly been played his entire life up to this point.

Utilization of the free will endowed upon LOST’s main characters (which I see being most important among the characters Jacob met and touched in flashbacks) will be the determining variables in how everything ends.  Regardless of the outcome or how frustrating the plot twists have been over the past 5 years, I am thankful that a television show with this much popularity has the cojones to continually focus on complex philosophical and metaphysical subject matter instead of resorting to a dumbed down approach.  When the final credits roll next year, I hope that the characters’ search for actuality coincides in answers for its faithful followers that have stuck around over the years.

How to Successfully Promote an Upcoming Tour

May 15, 2009

Kudos, Coldplay.  A free thank you to the fans?  Imagine that concept…

Thank You

I’ll gladly give up my email address all day long for download opportunities like this.  Curious timing for a free live download considering today also happens to be the first of many North American tour dates, where the band is supposedly also giving away copies.

I’ve been on the fence about the June 6th show in Nashville (leaning towards “not this time”), but I might have to reconsider now.

So this is how you fill arenas in a down economy…

The True Essence of Life

May 15, 2009

A good friend sent me a link to the following documentary trailer with a simple declaration: “I bet you will really really really really enjoy this.”

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Recommended for any Girl Talk fan, RiP: A Remix Manifesto focuses on the current struggle of the remix culture against “the man” with everyone’s favorite Pittsburgh mash-up artist as the central protagonist.  Art Threat summarizes best:

The film is a fast-paced, entertaining and informative rave-like rip through the world of copyright, cultural policy and mash-up culture. The film’s form is its strength – a pastiche of interview, director POV, fantastic animation, music video, concert, home movie, and multi-media mix. It is in short, an exemplary mash-up piece, true to the investigation found within. By the end you might feel like you dropped acid and read a cultural policy paper, but chances are you’ll just be stunned that a documentary on copyright could be so damn fun.

One of the coolest aspects of this manifesto is that its first-time filmmaker Brett Gaylor has made every chapter available online for anyone to remix, going as far to even launch a website to act as a centralized hub for said remixers to work their magic.  Similar to the release of Feed the Animals, the film is also available as a pay-what-you-want download.  Hence, you have no excuse for not watching.

As much as I love the “pay what you want” model as a stingy end user, from a career standpoint, if you’re advocating the option to give your craft away for free and expect everyone else to do the same, how is anyone going to have a sustainable career?  This publicity may work for mash-up artists like Girl Talk that utilize samples, but what about musicians that are trying to earn a living by learning how to make their guitar talk?  A popular response is touring, but that may take several years before the handful of fortunate ones finally start to bank.

For better or worse, we are part of a “download generation” and there is no looking back.  Gaylor’s documentary was state funded by the Canadian government.  Is this an untapped viable solution? If everyone paid a few pennies for funding the arts, our cultural society could be much richer in the long term.  We’ve already met our quota for uninspired, packaged trash being force-fed to the masses.

Creativity is still alive.  A bigger question I wished RiP: A Remix Manifesto spent more time on is how we can support that artistic development, whether it be through laws, tax dollars, or simply an increased attentiveness from the general public.

On an important related note, one of my favorite publications needs your help (like so many others in the music and newspaper industry).  Over the past five years, Paste has consistently been one of the few magazines I could always trust and rely on for recommendations.  Unfortunately, the global recession has taken its toll on the magazine’s advertiser’s spending habits.

Check out the Paste family’s sincere letter to the readers for the full scoop.  In return for your donations, Paste is opening their vaults to tons of fantastic rare tracks from the creative career artists alluded to earlier.

If all discussed above continues to go unaddressed, we run the risk of losing several important, yet to be discovered cultural contributors…a danger which, in the tone of David Brent, “I HATE.”

Place You Can’t Remember and Can’t Forget

May 13, 2009

London’s six-pieced Fanfarlo’s Reservoir is surely worth adding to your collection. Strong utilization of instruments that include trumpets, violins, mandolins, and accordions is always welcomed in my book, and it also doesn’t hurt that the band has an Arcade Fire/Beirut/David Byrne vocal feel going on.  My ears first tuned in with “Harold T. Wilkins”:

For an interesting back story on how Reservoir‘s release came about, I recommend the band’s retelling on the official website.  Fortunately, Fanfarlo’s goodness doesn’t stop in the studio.  For live proof, check out this Secret Garden session courtesy of Hooves on the Turf:

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While on the topic, Secret Garden is a mini-documentary series that films bands performing a few songs outside the context of a regular show, and I wholly agree with Hooves on the Turf’s reasoning for establishing the series:

If it weren’t for people’s obsession with the process of music, there would be no air guitar tournaments, and years spent fantasizing yourself performing some of your favorite songs would vanish. Some people don’t care to watch the bands on stage as long as they can listen, but for others, the slight movement of hands, the swing of the arms, and the expression of faces that manufacture bits of sound that converge to form music makes a whole lot of a difference (though music videos seem to do the opposite, often distracting you from the music). And sometimes, a song you hadn’t specially cared for finally claims your attention when casually hummed by a friend.

The perfection that is sought for in a studio recording and at a live performance, though to a lesser degree in the latter, often pushes the process to an invisible terrain, in varying degrees. Unfortunately, these processes are allowed to surface only in private moments, barred from the audience. Some of La Blogotheque’s Take Away shows are so fabulous because they’re extremely successful in bringing said process to the forefront (which I find the Black Cab Sessions to do less of), and I believe Vincent Moon’s crew does it unknowingly. Though our videos will be no match to either, it’s this process we’re chasing after, knowingly.

New Secret Garden performances are uploaded every Friday, but I’m most excited for the June 9th session of previously blogged about Tallest Man on Earth.  In the meantime, you can check out the Tallest Man SXSW performances (part 1 and part 2) from Austin.  I’m loving the camera work.

I feel like it’s also important to note that, excluding this post’s title, I just wrote about a music-related “Secret Garden” topic without incorporating Bruce in any way.  You really can dream the impossible!

Something I’ve Been Meaning to Get Off My Chest

May 11, 2009

Two things.  First off, Aziz Ansari is funny.  I wish I could say the same about the rest of the Parks and Recreation cast.  I thought he killed this interview and I’m impressed that he made it possible to enjoy watching over 8 minutes of Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show:

As his momentum continues to carry through the rest of the year, I wouldn’t be surprised if he quickly becomes another household name.  Here are three more reasons to check him out if you haven’t done so already:

  1. His blog is fun to catch up on during slower days in front of the computer, regardless of the frequent self-promotions
  2. He’s the funniest member of the TV show that originally put him and his buddies on the comedic map
  3. His cameo in Observe & Report was easily one of the best scenes from the movie (as much as I also enjoy Anna Faris)

Secondly, Aziz is in good company, considering the last person to make me want to watch Kimmel is now my favorite comedian:

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Please let The Hangover meet its potential.  I feel that it will, as long as the Tyson “jokes” are kept to a minimum.  This needs to happen because Zach deserves his big break, especially now that Will Ferrell has simultaneously decided to stop being funny.

All That I Am or Ever Hope To Be

May 10, 2009

“Happy is the son whose faith in his mother remains unchallenged.” – Louisa May Alcott

In these uncertain times, there’s one person’s love and allegiance I’ll never need to doubt.  A long time ago, my mom decided to make us her life, and she has surpassed this personal goal with flying colors.  Needless to say, I am a pretty lucky guy.  Whether it was triple-checking my perfectionist homework in elementary school, taxi-driving us to practice during my teens, or spoiling with an abundance of my favorite food on visits home, my mom is basically the best.  I won’t even get into all the times where she’s magically quelled my stress out moments.  Being the proud mama’s boy that I am, I’ll salute the old Irish proverb that jokes, “A man loves his sweetheart the most, his wife the best, but his mother the longest.”

Me and My Mom As Danny Boy Was Entering the Picture

What Many Might Call a Tender Embrace As Danny Boy Enters the Picture

Dressing me in those striking suspenders is reason enough to love her! Happy Mother’s Day, Mom…and to all the other lovely madres out there!