Monday, October 16, 2017

Wolf Parade CRY CRY CRY (2017)



Really encouraging to hear Dan and Spencer still rolling on--true believers weathered worn and unbroken. They split songwriting and vocal tracks as always, but they feel better integrated than the last two albums.  Dan is still Bruce-Kurt-Bowie while Spencer is Bowie-Neruda-Vonnegut, and that overlap ties their visions together and makes a coherent and urgent album.  

Dan's Weaponized has my favorite music on the album, where they upgrade the formula with a nitro boost of M83.



Spencer's lyrics and performance on Lazarus Online make it one of his best, which is saying something.



There aren't the all-timer bleed-with-me anthems of ATTQM but these two are wise rejoinders; youthful firework memories sparkplugging the diesel old-man strength; endurance-living through long winters.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Tom Petty FULL MOON FEVER (1989)



This was one of the first CDs I ever bought, at Music Millenium naturally, and drove around to it incessantly.  "Yer So Bad" is my favorite Petty song. The man was so wry and laconic, he was like a Sam Elliott character or a Raymond Carver short story.  Exactly as many words and chords as needed, no more.

His music is the best pick-me-up I've yet found--an instant cure for beleaguered days.  I go into full Petty-mode in the month of April, when winter is survived, baseball is momentarily interesting, and the earth is beginning to look habitable again.  Joyful and stubborn, quiet and defiant, what a fucking cool dude.

I hope he's leading the Traveling Wilburys in the sky.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Miles Davis SKETCHES OF SPAIN (1960)



Free Catalonia!  Free Kurdistan while we're at it!  Who the fuck wants to impede self-determination?!

I had no idea Alan Lomax went abroad to make folk recordings as well; apparently they inspired this album.  What a hero.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Hey Violet FROM THE OUTSIDE (2017)



Top 5 song of 2017, as if Avril and Ashlee Simpson's squalid era had birthed a Venus from the scallop shell. The gf hoodie menace if real. Steph still has stolen and hidden my favorite, and I married the dang girl!  The album has some other fun tunes, bringing pop-punk sensibilities to a few different genres and pulling them off with the goofy sense of humor that was always people's favorite part of that genre's first-wave.



Anyhow, I'm rooting for them to break through and be as big as they want to be, because they're a tight band that know how to write a song---this album is >> better than whatever Bruce+Meatloaf spritzer we're about to get from the Killers, and I wish a freaky Friday could swap their audience sizes.




Thursday, September 21, 2017

Youth Bandits



When Steph is out of town for more than 24 hours, things get dire and I resort to singing myself theme songs from youth.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Neil Young HITCHHIKER (2017)



Ditch-adjacent, nocturnal and resigned to a fallen earth we made fell, not some garden with poorly-placed fruit trees, just natural frailty and greed summing and summing to larger burdens on this earnest, tender heart barely left beating in a collapsing cathedral of bone.

Not supplanting any of his impeccable run from '69-'75, but complementary, for a seamless cloth of doom folk ahead of its time. RIYL Live at Massey Hall or Live at the Cellar Door.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Satoshi Ashikawa STILL WAY (WAVE NOTATION 2) (1982)



"So what kind of music do you like, Ben?"
*deep breath*
"Right now it has been mostly Japanese minimalism and West Coast Jazz.  No one's more sorry than I am."

Sunday, September 10, 2017

THE HANDMAID'S TALE S1 (2017)



The front half was a lot stronger than the back--I think they are cutting the supply with a bit too much baking soda--but it is a truly intense experience of a show.  I saw the criticism on Twitter that it's a little "One Perfect Shot-y" and that is definitely true, but at least they're aiming for the brass ring and occasionally fall flat off their carousel horse. The soundtrack is also pretty amateur hour, and Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski aren't able to salvage their underwritten, over-explained architects of the patriarchy. But Alexis Bledel, Samira Wiley, and especially Elisabeth Moss are all fierce as hell, and they're worth the price of admission, each showing her own balance of desperation and dignity in an impossible situation.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Hiroshi Yoshimura FOUR POSTCARDS (2004)



Hang in there. Can you imagine how refreshing the future could be, when we're free of all this?

Friday, September 08, 2017

AMERICANS GODS S1 (2017)



We slogged through this out of loyalty and affection for the book, and disbelief that it could have yielded such a terrible adaptation.  But despite the charm of Ian McShane and the try-hard effort from Ricky Whittle, this thing was DOA and somehow got worse with each passing episode.

Imagine, if you will, a middle-schooler raised in a basement on only Tim Burton and Zach Snyder, then given complete control over a TV show with the caveat being that it must be infinitely long, despite the brevity of the source material.  Voilà!   

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Hiroshi Yoshimura MUSIC FOR NINE POST CARDS (1982)



There are some truly stupendous youTube uploaders doing the hero's work of sharing foreign and out-of-print works. This particular album will be reissued this fall, but why wait if you don't have to? I'd attempt to lure you into a listen, but the host described it better than I could: small spaces with warm notes.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

NOBODY MOVE Denis Johnson (2009)



Johnson brings a little extra literature to the high brow humor-noir of Elmore Leonard, and delivers two indelible couples, locked in a California cat-and-mouse game. His mastery of elevating the scrubby life of losers and outsiders to both mythic and hilarious is a straight analogue to the music of John Darnielle and Craig Finn. Sometimes you have to suffer a life of bad breaks and torn tickets to get the girl and finally find some fiber.

Monday, September 04, 2017

BLOOD MERIDIAN: OR THE EVENING REDNESS IN THE WEST Cormac McCarthy (1985)



The film rights have been bought and traded and forgot.  They, probably rightly, call it unfilmmable.  It really helped to read this post-Westworld, because so many of the visuals for the dark, Mexican-Apache hinterland of the park seem to have drawn inspiration from this horror novel masquerading as a Western.  Based on the true story of a despicable gang of scalp-hunting American mercenaries, it reads like an Irish epic poem as inspired by the gospel of Judas. The language is gorgeously peaty, like Seamus Heaney narrating The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  It is an unpleasant, gut-wrenching experience, like Crime and Punishment but tortuously longer and more graphic in the agony of living without civilization, at the mercy of the unmerciful. The rewarding part is meta-textual--having been raised on the simple morality of the Westerns of the 40's through 80's, whether Silverado, Tombstone, Gunsmoke, or any number of John Wayne films, to fully explore the logical conclusions of an unlawful world, where the white-hats aren't coming...it is oddly satisfying to contemplate the worst case scenario, and this is it.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Sunday, August 06, 2017

PERSON TO PERSON dir. Dustin Guy Defa (2017)



The low-key ebullience of not being alone in a city. Having people and a purpose.  Bene Coopersmith (above) is a terrific mostly non-actor --he runs a record store in Brooklyn--and I hope to see him in more stuff.  If not, this was a great role, and he played it with an unusual and very cool combination of grace, verve and charm.  It goes without saying that I would love a full PI movie of Abbi Jacobsen and Michael Cera, but I'll settle for this goofy novella.  I didn't find much in the Tavi Gevinson third, other than a thought about precociousness being its own challenge, but maybe it was to and for her underserved audience.  If you are in an emotionally exhausted place, I bet this film would put you back on your feet.  Salut!

Saturday, August 05, 2017

CATASTROPHE S3 (2017)



Beautifully filmed in London, painful and joyful to watch, similar to LOVE but at a different stage in the relationship.  Both know where the pressure points are, and neither is afraid to put its couple through the wringer to examine how characters respond.  CATASTROPHE feels more tense in the process--Sharon and Rob make their jobs, mortgage and kids so real you feel like you share in the burden--and Rob's succumbing in secret to back to alcoholism was hinted at and serialized in its ups and downs like the sordid, humiliating part of the hero's journey that it is.  It is funny too, but not big set-piece funny, opting for the more personal brand of humor that two people forge together, and supplementing it by saving the best one-liners for their rogue's gallery of deplorable, deeply human, friends.  Some of the accents are so back-side-of-the-spoon thick that jokes are probably lost on me and others in the American audience, but there's plenty to go around.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

GLOW S1 (2017)



Favorite new show of the year, best outlet for Maron's talents yet.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

DUNKIRK dir. Christopher Nolan (2017)


Managed to screw up seeing this in Omnimax 70mm by stopping for ice cream first, underestimating that St. Louis would show up. So I think it was a very fine film, but also I was halfway up, on an aisle, and couldn't tell if a ship was sinking or not (it usually was.)

The Sea and Air chapters were terrific and my only hesitation with dowsing it in holy water and crowning it with laurels is the role Kenneth Branagh plays.  He's in a lesser movie.  It's not especially his fault, dialogue is Nolan's Achille's Heel.  But c'mon man, push back! He was like a strange Our Town narrator character, which I guess could be meta if you want.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING dir. Jon Watts (2017)



I really didn't think I'd ever love an MCU movie but the bastards got me.



Michael Keaton was in the two best superhero movies since I was born, three if you count BIRDMAN, just saying.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

MASTER OF NONE S2 (2017)




The romance with Italy was great.  The romance with the Italian was not.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

FARGO S3 (2017)



Less fun than its predecessors, but I think more important. They created a villain who maps precisely on how actual evil operates like today: sociopathic determination to extract wealth at any cost, and use the existing infrastructure and good will of ordinary people against them.  David Thewlis is bone-chillingly vile. Carrie Coon plays it quiet and straight, with soul, like a Bill Evans solo album, and deserves so much work after this.  The struggle of the Ewan McGregor brothers place it within the literary timeline stretching back to Genesis. A profound, perfectly executed fable for our modern times, ended with grandmaster confidence.



We live in a time of convoluted predation; fractions of blood by vampire bats. Humans are volitional predators who've killed all else so cannibalism remains. Our society is dying because the herbivores refuse to band together against the carnivores, and pretend evil like this is either imaginary or inevitable, intractable, the cost of doing business.

Monday, July 17, 2017

THE BIG SICK dir. Michael Showalter (2017)


Kumail's family was incredible, Ray Romano was a revelation, Holly Hunter was at almost peak Holly Hunter, and Zoe Kazan finally won me over. Kumail has a brave performance as a coward, and the comic timing of this movie was just terrific.  Mr. Bax from the Battleship Pretension suggests it will become "a modern classic" and I'm inclined to agree.

PS the most recent BP podcast with Scott was really fun

Friday, July 14, 2017

Le chant des baleines



Go Beavers Beat Ducks



I dig the narwhal.



These are useful if you need to trick your dog to go outside.



hf fam the Eurasian eagle owl is called le grand duc d'Europe I love this planet and pray for it daily.

Monday, July 10, 2017

UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT S3 (2017)



It keeps getting better and the finale is the best episode of comedy in a calendar year.

Friday, July 07, 2017

HAIM SOMETHING TO TELL YOU (2017)



Another stone-cold classic. Trompe-l'oeil for the ears, they dance between tempos and styles, mix and marry contrasting sounds into something novel, fresh, light and seemingly effortless.  May very well be the album of the year.

I like to think this is the music Stevie Nicks would have made if some psychiatrist didn't get her hooked on Klonopin for nearly a decade, at the height of her powers.  But even that probably does them a disservice.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Shura NOTHING'S REAL (2016)



I liked this last year but didn't find my way in until this morning.  One of the HAIM sisters is lost and enlists The xx in a Homeward Bound scenario.

PS
I long for the day when supremely talented non-mainstream folks dispense with the art-school (vinyl?) signifier tracks- (i) and (ii) here-- functioning as strategic noncharisma at the party.  Let's stop.  WE KNOW YOU ARE ZOOEY DESCHANEL A BEANIE DOES NOT HIDE THAT.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

BABY DRIVER dir. Edgar Wright (2017)



It is less embarrassing to be nostalgic for half-remembered Americana, tactile objects and communicative signifiers of less-troubled times (we know things turn out ok!) when middle-aged British filmmakers feel the same way. Like Lynch without the Jungian unconscious, just an open love letter to an essential, mythic form that must still reside somewhere in us, when you can seek it between the static.  Radio waves soak through your skin. A precise tuner is a tool for living.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Lorde MELODRAMA (2017)



This was my most anticipated album of the year, so lend me my spleen as I explain why this mostly failed despite Lorde's inquisitive, adventurous nature and sophisticated palette: Jack Antonoff.  Ella was swept into the Lena/Rookie mag/Taylor Swift inner circles, got hoodwinked into abandoning her poetic sensibilities for lazy diary-spelunking, and worked with a graceless grifter of a producer/Lena bf.  Dude is responsible for the worst songs on 1989, and you wanted to work with him?  fun. was such an embarrassing band/moment: Glee still held sway, and well-enunciated self-empowerment anthems had a 50/50 shot of ending up being upgraded by Lea Michele, regardless of how tone-deaf these pocket sym-phoneys were.

It's fine.  I'm not mad on the internet.  You're mad on the internet.

In conversation, I tend to use the phrase 'theatre kid' as a put-down, but it is a lazy, sloppy shorthand for describing a kind of person whose life is full of drama without perspective, like they're a vacuum in search of titanic emotions, so any inconvenience or bad luck will do.  Live and let live, obv. but in proximity it is tiring, joyless, myopic, embarrassing; it is anxiety seeking more anxiety. And more often than not, that is what this album sounds like.

Green Light has some really cool stuff but could have used a hard edit

Sober is pulpy but those horns are vintage Kanye and the drums work

Homemade Dynamite has a cool ~Enya flute synth but is mostly lame

The Louvre is getting a lot of love but is a bore with a quotable punchline

Liability was disappointing when she played it on SNL, unfortunately it turns out to be one of the better songs on the album.

Hard Feelings/Loveless is two forgettable songs, but smushed together!

Sober II (Melodrama) Kate Bushwick

Supercut is an unsuccessful Dunder Mifflin sales call

Writer in the Dark is truly fucking awful.

Liability (Reprise) if you're going to be the downer at the (concept-album) party, just don't go

Perfect Places is very nice.  Ella, you're forgiven.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Rihanna Will Be Remembered as a Monumental Talent, But Yeah Tell Me More About LCD Soundsystem plz

Pitchfork published an impressively useless ranking of the best Rihanna singles so I thought it would be fun to try to set the record straight. They did 52 for "completists," but who the fuck needs a list with "Birthday Cake" on it?   The playlist is arranged in power ranking order, so it goes from all-timers to era-specific nostalgia pieces, but suffice it to say she's one of the most important artists of the last 10+ years.



Monday, May 29, 2017

Mark McGuire VISION UPON PURPOSE (2017)



"our souls should have been huge by now" says one flower to another in Louise Glück's The Wild Iris and tough titties, Louise, our souls grow very slowly, but we can hitch a ride on our betters, art is kind of like HGH, the NFL knows we're doing it and looks the other way.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Song of the Summer



My favorite song of the year thus far, and a 50:1 to break big, but it was really good to hear it on Top 40 the other night, as it has only climbed to 49 on the Hot 100.  It takes tropical house's luxury-lite aesthetic and gives it a steely backbone, boldly assuring us that salvation (romantic or perhaps political?) will be ours whether we can bear to ask for it or not.

The safe bets are "Despecito", which is p. good but will get stuck in your head soooo bad, "Something Just Like This" (whatevs,) and "Shape of You", which is just inescapable on radio right now, has 1.1B views on YouTube, and is the male gaze-y Lex Luthor to Gaga's Superman.  And now we get to look forward to seeing that schmuck on Game of Thrones.  "It Ain't Me" would also be great in my book but Selena just doesn't get the adoration she deserves.  So says I, adorer of Selena.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

COLOSSAL dir. Nacho Vigalondo (2017)



Superb science fiction allegory, Hathaway is modern heroine (is that word still ok?) writ large and Jason Sudeikis is in a role  that fits his particular set of skills to a T.  Give Nacho a chance.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2 dir. James Gunn (2017)



Somehow the 15th "MCU" film, I'm feeling the same sort of resigned fatigue for these things as new Star Wars films--they're serviceable enough storyboards of movies that I'd want to see,  but any opportunity for genuine charm is lost in the effort to keep the trains moving on time and allow for the requisite 4.5 big CGI battles that I guess they have evidence that kids need to stay enthused? There are enough goofs and heart to earn my genial, bemused goodwill but I sure wish the writers would do some soul-searching and think about why we really love the things we do. The X-Wing weren't the cool part.  Let the Wookie win.

"Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" is one of the pinnacles of 70's songwriting, and if this only serves to bring it to a new generation, then it earns a pass in my book.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

SNATCHED dir. Jonathan Levine (2017)



Had a lot of fun seeing this with the Mother's Day crowd. Goldie and Amy have great chemistry and the supporting cast--Chris Meloni, Ike Barinholtz, Wanda Sykes, Arturo Castro and Joan Cusack-- is aces. I have more room in my heart for simple throwback comedies than most people, but wanted to stan for it a bit because it seems like Amy is experiencing some sort of weird riptide backlash.

ps
Spelled Barinholtz right on the first go.  Excelsior!

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Gas NARKOPOP (2017)



POP (2000) soundtracked so many of my weird chilly nighttime strolls in Portland and Berkeley, helped me sleep in several cots and bunks, and this is arguably better, the kind of life music that comes from the wokest of pied pipers, as if the Beatitudes are some sort of chemo trip you have to stay on, 24/7, to capture the beauty and pain of decadence and decline, remoteness and accessibility, the confines of faith.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

San Fermin BELONG (2017)



One of the best live bands (8-piece!) I've ever seen, can't recommend seeing them enough.  They just started a tour behind BELONG, which Steph & co. caught in Portland.  They create an enormous sound, and downhill momentum that is so rare.  BELONG doesn't quite capture the verve and swing and crescendo of those euphoric moments.  Not sure what their recording process is, but it sounds a little flat, especially with the live show point-of-reference.  There also just isn't enough of vocalist Allen Tate, who possesses one of the coolest baritones on the planet.  Charlene Kaye is a tremendous showwoman, but her technically precise voice comes off as a bit thin and aetheric on record, blurring the songs into mood-pieces, which is trendy I guess, but does them a disservice.  She's a great counter-point to Allen, but personally I have trouble latching on and remembering her songs. The opposite problem as CHVRCHES, but they wisely don't split duties down the middle.

Spoon HOT THOUGHTS (2017)



Spoon make perseverance music.  To live in this world, you need to turn the fader up, tilt the L-R balance, bass up treble down, and cruise to your own whim, picking fights where necessary to keep your self-respect.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Future Islands THE FAR FIELD (2016)



I don't know how these guys do it, but they make the most perfectly propulsive springtime music: it is a distillation of a winter thaw, a college campus of competing and coinciding young narratives tied by a common thread of past and future both looming impossibly large.

Monday, April 10, 2017

HOMELAND S6 (2017)




After that finale, I am straight dunking on everyone who thinks THE AMERICANS has more to offer.  This episode was its own SICARIO, while resolving threads of past seasons, setting the stage for the next, and being bafflingly on pointe re: our horrifying now.

ps Straight out of Portland is the primer you need:


pps I've been suffering serious podcast fatigue for awhile now, probably dating back to the election if not before, and somehow this was a breath of fresh air.  He's born to the medium, and keeping it to 30:00 is 100%.
 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

REVIEW S3 (2017)

I can give no higher praise than Andy Daly created the modern Don Quixote.


(thanks Flavorwire)

Friday, March 31, 2017

George Saunders LINCOLN IN THE BARDO (2017)


I can't recommend strongly enough that you listen to the audiobook if able.

The Hobbit: LOTR:: Our Town: Lincoln in the Bardo

Exhaustively researched and shaped, with a Greek chorus of opinionated true people of history providing context for a moment where our nation stood on the knifepoint. Harrowing with acute anguish, leavened with slapstick and gallows humor; the most titanically empathetic work in any medium I've yet experienced.  Saunders is the fusion of Vonnegut and Whitman, and in this present crisis of American masculinity, there can be no more vital reminder of whom we should truly strive to emulate, who our spiritual father was and must continue to be.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Favorite Albums of 2016

20. Ian William Craig CENTRES
19. 1 Mile North AWAKENED BY DECAY
18. SubRosa FOR THIS WE FOUGHT THE BATTLE OF AGES
17. Margo Price MIDWEST FARMER'S DAUGHTER
16. Bruno Mars 24K MAGIC



15. Tim Hecker LOVE STREAMS
14. Caretaker EVERYWHERE AT THE END OF TIMES
13. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith EARS
12. Eluvium FALSE READINGS ON
11. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith/Suzanne Ciana SUNENERGY



10. Carly Rae Jepsen EMOTION: SIDE B
9. Chance the Rapper COLORING BOOK
8. Pallbearer FEAR AND FURY {EP}
7. Bon Iver 22, A MILLION
6.  Grouper PARADISE VALLEY {Single/B-side}



5. Rihanna ANTI
4. Lady Gaga JOANNE
3. Steve Hauschildt STRANDS
2. Julianna Barwick WILL
1. Beyonce LEMONADE

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mount Eerie A CROW LOOKED AT ME (2017)



I own every Phil project on vinyl, pending this one.  The most open and honest and brutal album I've ever heard. Had to be impossibly hard to share, but of incalculable value.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Visible Cloaks REASSEMBLAGE (2017)



Somehow Portland, and the Pacific Northwest, own at my favorite genres.  I'm kind of toggling in binary back and forth from ambient to doom, doom when I must face and live in the present, ambient when I need escape.  Visible Cloaks made a very good magic wardrobe of an album.



JoJopus is now up on Spotify, meaning that your playlists finally have the possibility of attaining perfection.

EDIT I am still waiting for Leave (Get Out) and there will be no justice no peace

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Drake MORE LIFE (2017)



Such is the state of poptism and its thirst for male heroes--not to mention the slow Q1 news cycle-- that this is hailed as some achievement.  Tremendously boring, punishing to deep listening...fine, I guess it's fine if you're using it like Eno to provide texture to household chores and malaise, but I'd like a headcount in Q1 2018 of the folks that still give a shit about this non-album. I like the title, though. "Yes, to smell pork" would be a great, unsettling name for his next playlist.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

ALLIED dir. Robert Zemeckis (2016)



What do you think it feels like to turn in very good performances, as Pitt and Cotillard do, and then watch the film to see that the cinematography has no depth or character, the extras are astoundingly bad (saboteur-level,) and the score is by turns limp and lame?  The whole affair seems like a prestige picture from the 90's that got gussied-up with modern after-effects.  Middlebrau like flat beer.

To be fair, Brad and Marion presumably read the unoriginal script, and hopefully had an assistant capable of pointing out that its author owns a clothing line based on his similarly uninspired creation, PEAKY BLINDERS.  Style over substance, and tired imitations of style at that.  Akin to 90's slacker-indie-rock revivalism, but that is a diatribe for another time...

Saturday, March 18, 2017

LOVE S2 (2017)



Captures the first few months of a relationship of co-dependents agonizingly well.  A comedy without being a sitcom in the least, moments of humor are all the brighter for their unpredictability. Bertie, another perennial Comedy Bang Bang hero, is one of my favorite characters on this thing I guess we still call television.  Steph and I probably watched it more like a triptych, and I do think it shares some spirituality with Linklater's Before trilogy.  It is strange that what we really crave from a romantic comedy is this, the tissue, the actual relationship, but most modern rom-coms are de facto action movies.



Carry Bertie in your heart.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

THE AMERICANS S4 (2016)



Olds will try to tell you it is the best show on television.  I can squint and see saying it is the best drama on television, but there are at least five 2016 comedies I would take over it without blinking.  The show is great when it sets the adults up in opposition or uneasy cooperation, but as the Paige saga (now with 900% more Pastor Tim and Alice!) continues to fester and consume the show with necrotic banality, we've lost the verve of seasons one and two, where Elizabeth and Philip were confronted with incredible challenges and had to find a way out-- at its best reminiscent of the set-pieces of BREAKING BAD.  And those external battles would reflect in the internal chess of their marriage.  Both aspects were mostly lost in season three and are completely gone in season four.  Season five just started, with renewed interested in our relationship with the Russians, and season six will be the end: must I keep slogging?  Will it improve?  I can't trust the olds to tell me! It can be beautiful, thoughtful, and engaging, but television critics are giving it such a pass on its dreadfully slow storytelling and now-static relationship/characters of Elizabeth and Philip, who by turns hector and assuage Paige, the worst teenage character since Dana.  Dana, you were awful, but Paige has taken the throne.

HOMELAND>THE AMERICANS come at me bro!

Monday, March 13, 2017

I DON'T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE dir. Macon Blair (2017)



Duplass Brothers meets Tarantino; Melanie Lansky is terrific, Elijah Wood needs to play this character in every film.  The Far East Portland setting is genius...the 80's, 90's seediness of Portland is still present, it has just been pushed to the fringes, but life out in the triple digits of the eastside is damp dark dank.  It has a left-behind quality.  IDFAHITWA (lol) is a kind of a grindhouse movie with an overeducated undercurrent of nihilism felt by the lead, who is activated from her despair when a mission of vengeance and justice presents itself, finding that taking agency provides its own strength and stamina.  Reminds me of something that Brandon Johnson said on a recent Harmontown: the only silver lining to this horrible mess we're in is that now we get to be the self that has been waiting for its cause.

ps Pitchfork wrote up a "best new reissue" on this excellent Midori Takada album I suggested a couple months ago, if you needed a co-sign:

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Friday, March 10, 2017

Amy Schumer THE LEATHER SPECIAL (2017)



Amy has the throne and Netflix is a disturbingly well-run company.  Amy's expanded and improved her physical humor and there is just no one who conducts a better maglev of humor and guts than her. Off-topic: her book was funny and brave and slightly tedious, but that seems what like most of these books by comedians end up being, except Michael Ian Black, WHO STEPH AND I JUST MET AND CREEPED OUT! He is such a careful craftsman of sentences and has a more literary spirit than stand-up I think.  He's an insanely good improviser though, so I think specificity is his strength, whereas the world-beater stand-ups--Chris Rock, Louis C.K., Amy, Jerry etc.-- have to go broad and universal to achieve that status.  


PS I found the perfect retirement home for Pat in Bland, MO

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Rhye WOMAN (2013)



I've listen to this album a bunch in the last 365 days, but wasn't inspired to share it until Ben Ratliff (GOAT emeritus) on the New York Times Music Popcast podcast (I'm mainlining the back catalogue) included it in his 2013 best-of and mentioned that it was a man's voice.  Previously I'd taken it as perfect Sade tribute, now I'm baffled in the best way.  Both members of the duo have gone on to work with really interesting people in pop, and have left this as a stand-alone debut and denouement.  Sade is the hero of Quiet Storm, one of the greatest musicians of Late Capitalism, and her music never fails to put me in deep remembrance of middle school crushes, because smooth jazz was the only music made available to me as a youngster, and I took the best of it, and molded it to fit the unsordid dramas of being thirteen and hopeless and bursting with hope, and of course those crushes reached titanic heights during summer vacation, when you are free to romanticize a person with English-poet-with-syphillis vigor.  To me, the most magical part of growing up in Portland was the summer evenings.  The sun sets behind the West Hills but hasn't really set, so there is this hour, but it feels like more, of soft lavender light.  That's what this music, and especially Sade, always invoke for me.  The clarity and harmony of zero humidity, sprinklers, ice cream trucks; anxiety and stress distant as probes sent far from Earth, never to return.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Joni Mitchell



one of the dang jazz guys I start the morning with worked in a Christmas song motif and I needed a fix, took a lot of discipline but I restrained myself to River.  What a song.  It was the entry point I needed to get lost in Joni, who is just singularly great.  Regret that it took me so long to learn that.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Happy Casimir Pulaski Day



I tried to explain to a freshman cello player how this was a better song about cancer than some dumb country song he played me and Robby but his face went blank and Robby tried to tell me, people don't listen, they don't want to listen, and that's alright.

I mean, you can think that, you can be in a glee club with those guys, perpetuating the Maroon 5 and have more friends than me.  But allowing, smiling past uncritical thought or feeling, is how we ended up in this fucking awful place.  Deuces up.

Bright as the Oregon breeze:



Sunday, March 05, 2017

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM dir. David Yates (2016)


WOOF fam I thought you loved me.  How was I not warned? I played Quidditch with you people.

I mean, it is bad in a way I never would have suspected, but I guess I should have given latter-day JK's heavy involvement.  Like, I guess I'm glad these messages are getting to the kids...but the vehicle is a goth Christian rock band.

LOGAN dir. James Mangold (2017)



The kids are alright.  The villains suck, per usual. I coulda used more Johnny Cash!  Packed house for the Saturday early evening show; I think I've been disconnected from how popular these things are...did you know that David Benioff, he of smug GoT HBO exec producer fame, wrote the X-Men Origins: Wolverine script?  I think I made it through the first 20 minutes of that.  The Wolverine was alright.  Logan was well-done.  Any other pseudo-trilogies have a similar ramp-up in quality to the end?

Saturday, March 04, 2017

ZOOPTOPIA (2016)



I'm really glad the kids are learning about prejudice and stereotypes and through a classic buddy-cop flick, by way of film-noir.  Funny, caring, better than it needed to be.  The Shakira song was tacked-on-af and really empty, broad and formless, it sounded like one of those World Cup theme songs or something.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Nick Drake



This is quickly becoming my favorite thing on youtube.  I always enjoy a little movement in the video, whether it is just the vinyl spinning or whatnot, but that sailboat is apt af.  Contrasts to what we've been listening to at work, 'tropical house' mixes by Kygo, et al., which just collage ladies who seem to've lost their pants to time or tide.  Real classy bros, like the new hair metal is some unholy cross-section of chill, privilege and MDMA.  Fine, utilitarian; perfect music to convince a young mom to buy a fun top, just because, but Nick wouldn't sell your fandom out, and that is nice to know.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Dexter Gordon BALLADS (1991)



what if living with constant anxiety and crippling bouts of terror is actually what it takes for a white man to become human idk

Allmusic calls it regal and they fucking nailed it.  I guess I'd usually not advocate a culled collection from over a decade+ of performances but desperate times call for desperate measures.  the voice as purveyor of human language has uh, lost its endurability right now.

Monday, February 27, 2017

John Darnielle UNIVERSAL HARVESTER (2017)


(For some reason Australia got a cooler cover.)

JD is so gifted at describing the way repressed and introverted people catalog and process emotions, how currents carry cold and warm water, circulating through their system for years, while they recover or collapse.  He understands fanaticism, family and friendship and describes their development so acutely, that you have to stop and admire and re-read several times per page.  He reminds me of the poet Carl Phillips, how he can slice days, interactions so thinly that you can stretch it out, see light through it, see the vasculature of emotions and time and stored memory and human myth de-randomized, in a woven capillary bed.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

John Coltrane BALLADS (1963)



a bunch of one takes...HF fam, here is a jazzy warm sweater for you.



So the new Lana Del Rey song is p. p. good y'all and she is helping cast the binding spell on the lame duck, so I no joke am feeling 17-18% more optimistic thank you LDR

Saturday, February 25, 2017

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA dir. Kenneth Lonergan (2016)



Friends, old Ben's heart is not made of stern stuff anymore.  I think I was already on a path of old fella heart-tenderizing, tearing up at weddings, etc. and recent events have accelerated that process. NOBODY WARNED ME that this film would have a second, much more devastating tragedy waiting inside it.  Will be unpacking for days.  I guess come for the gorgeous cinematography, stay for the bafflingly-authentic acting, then like, I hope you have a fat cat that you can hold for a good long while afterwards.

In closing, thanks to Stephanie, I now know that the Redbox site A. exists B. has reviews and C. you guessed it they are the dumbest fucking things on the planet.  A sampling:



"Fairly depressing"  FAIRLY????????????????????????????

Battleship Pretension Sundance review
Battleship Pretension theatrical review

Friday, February 24, 2017

Bill Evans WALTZ FOR DEBBY (1962)



Fuck yes, Debby.  Recorded in 1961 before his bassist passed---it might be just the narrative-bro in me but I love the bass here, it is so in the pocket, you actually have to listen for it most of the time, and it is just intuitive, supportive, gentle and melodic.   The cymbal work on "Detour Ahead".... I am a homer for Bill Evans, but LaFaro and Motian take it to the sublime.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Japandroids NEAR THE WILD HEART OF HEAVEN (2017)



Japandroids have also turned thirty, and are writing about it, acutely then obliquely, finding the crux of the age is feeling like a teen with bad knees and worse hangovers.  Feeling nothing like the guys in suits. Japandroids aren't genre-saviors, as they've been touted (not their fault!), but they are the ultimate mixtape band, like when you need a jump-start after a ballad.  Would slide well into any Saturday night mix of Spoon, The Hold Steady, Ted Leo, The Replacements, Dinosaur Jr., and more earnest-but-not-serious, genial, asexual bro-rock.  (Asexual compared to the absurd bar set in 70's rock and never altered.  Like, lots of Led Zeppelin is actually embarrassing to listen to in public.)

***BEN HAS FIRE TAKES***

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Menzingers AFTER THE PARTY (2017)



Scranton lifers make pop punk that hits a lot of the same sweet spots as The Gaslight Anthem but without some of the same backne-esque lyrical missteps (I get to say that.) I dumbly deprived myself out of a lot of the joys of this genre when it would have been more age-appropriate, as a depressive who looked side-eyed at anything with a lot of energy but without much grief.  Aiming for a higher class of emo, I guess.  Speaking of, we hung out with one of Steph's old friends yesterday, and she's a Something Corporate, et al. diehard, which of course made me think of John Burke, and hanging out with the throwers starting this time of year, of ugly singlets and massaging dirt out of javelin grips in the showers (ha), buses stuck on the highway, ducking out early and wandering through Aloha, looking at Albertsons' bakery case for an hour, wandering back before the goddamn relays were even done.  My saturated awkwardness.  This would have helped.  It helps now.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

ARRIVAL dir. Denis Villaneuve (2016)




I was cautiously optimistic before, but now I am going be full of unreasonable expectations for BLADE RUNNER 2049 (release date 6 October 2017.)  I have complete confidence Villaneuve can capture the tone.  I'd struggle to come up with a film that is as of-a-piece with its score like BLADE RUNNER, and he has shown a tremendous ear for music.  I need to go back to ENEMY (2013), PRISONERS (2013), but between ARRIVAL (click-thru for Scott's review) and SICARIO (2015) he has proven deftness in turning national and international dread into incredible small-scale morality plays with consequences like the very best science fiction does.  It is why TNG will be beloved as long as we persist but the Pine-ification will be soon forgotten.  Baseline dark days, mainline bad news...  I guess pray for hectapods?



ps Steph knew that there was nowhere in Montana that looks like that--turns out it was filmed in lovely Quebec, where I dream of becoming an evil real estate baron.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

THE HANDMAIDEN dir. Park Chan-wook (2016)



Scott liked it a lot (which should be enough for you people!) but I did want to throw my support for this ambitious film that hasn't yet opened in the St. Louis theater market (arthouse website says 'Coming Soon'), which I usually take as an indicator that it isn't penetrating the awareness of the mildly-conversant American film enthusiast, like myself.  We rented it on Amazon like common hogs.

Told in three parts that interlock in ways that grow more impressive as the film goes on, THE HANDMAIDEN is a Swiss watch of storytelling, coiled emotion, gears full of potential energy, biding their time.  By the end, the romance is all the better for the thorough demonstration of casual male perversity and evil.  If you want more exposition, the host of Battleship Pretension did the review and I'll take a moment to mention that I like that David Bax guy; he and Scott have terrific rhythm and comic timing on the podcast.  And I think he's from St. Louis, so there you go, a bow on it, stuck the landing Ben, well done.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thomas Pynchon BLEEDING EDGE (2013)

I think what Vonnegut was to my early 20's, Pynchon is going to be to my early 30's.  Hilarious, incisive, weightless speed-of-light exposition and dialogue, heavier-than-lead implication. He finds an even more precise knifepoint of history, Y2K-->dot-com bust-->9/11 and a heroine to match challenge, Maxine the de-frocked fraud investigator.  Her wise ass Jewish mom with x-ray vision through bullshit is the perfect magnifying glass for a moment when New York was far and away the most important place in the world.  Pynchon pinballs his characters against each other, not too worried about delving into development, prizing comic or cosmically revealing interactions, often at the same time.  I haven't zoomed through an author like this since I started Chandler, and I am similarly mind-boggled at the craft and gusto of each sentence, as not just a link in a story-telling chain, but its own spit-shined work of art.  Wise up!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Goodbye FRIENDZONE

James from FRIENDZONE passed away and recently I'd been meaning to reach out to him and let him know that this was still my favorite song of the decade:



FRIENDZONE made music that helped me through some of the worst days of my adult life and the least I can do is help pass it on.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Bill Evans MOON BEAMS (1962)



Seeing a Nazi clocked unconscious on the nuevo PDX carpet made the day.  Endure.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Thomas Pynchon INHERENT VICE (2009)

Loved the film, loved the book even more, just because there was more of it. Pynchon's sense of humor is relentless and right on my wavelength, and he mixes the conspiracy/investigation of the mysterious Golden Tooth with heavy handfuls of American history, the occult's alternate history, and levitates it with a constant, near equal-parts interest in television, film and music.


I am putting together a college Am Lit curriculum around the PI novel (invented here by Poe) as the truest expression of the American soul on paper, and one that permits examination of prime movers forces without rolled eyes.  Chomsky and Pynchon have similar interests, but where as Chomsky would be viewed as tiresome to most of the population, a fine detective romp is an easily digestible way to get those nutrients.  Stand-out course materials would be CHINATOWN, Raymond Chandler, even True Detective S2 for a study on what goes wrong in this avenue.  

(The audiobook narrator is aces, btw.)  Pynchon is concerned, as a lot of art is, about how the hippie movement lost steam and fizzled out into the ether. Only he has some answers too, that lead to even more intriguing questions.  Hippies, for lack of a better term, were disengaged consumers-and needed to be reprogrammed.  So they had to lose momentum.  Picking off and jailing leaders, introducing harder and harder drugs, etc.  The Golden Tooth is a shorthand for an Iran-Contra type situation, where the feds and 
'concerned citizens' use independent contractors to achieve their ends.  How did we get from the commune to the reign of Reagan within a decade?  Nixon has to be the most important American since FDR, and by force of will turned the cultural waters towards straight-laced suburban life from a dream now so hazy it doesn't seem like it could have been there at all.  

INHERENT VICE captures this with stupefying grace.  The NYT, the New Yorker, et al. reviewed it as a genial, lightly apocalyptic work (detective novels can't be deep!), but it isn't apocalyptic at all.  It is more about how forces keep progress at a bay, how stasis profits and will be fought for, as if capitalism has an immune system, and waves of killer T cells to come after infectious agents.  How do you explain the loss of the biggest counter-cultural movement in the U.S. in the 20th century?  We should at least try.  Mostly it was absorbed back into the superorganism, another wonderful, alternative revenue stream offering a diverse portfolio.  

Twinkie sales may be down, but we're making a killing on yoga pants.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

GREEN ROOM dir. James Saulnier (2016)



Perfect weekend to watch a movie about fighting neo-n*zis set in Oregon.  Catch it on amazon prime. Anton Yelchin is terrific (rest in peace) and I finally know what an Imogen Poots is.

Friday, January 20, 2017

HELL OR HIGH WATER dir. David Mackenzie (2016)



A terrific, 'manly' melodrama, right?  I loved how it not just identifies banks as villainous, but reflects on how their remorseless repossession of homes echoes that of white settlers a hundred years before.  I think a lot of the anger that 46% of voters expressed in November is tied to understanding that circumstances are more difficult than they need to be, that they are being preyed upon, but they wildly misidentify the culprit.  Predatory banking, whether through mortgages for homes banks are all too willing to foreclose on, or credit cards that make life real easy until it isn't, until you're effectively a debt/wage slave...we have monolithic enemies now, Voltrons of ten thousand people who cannot be challenged to showdowns at high noon.

The only option is to disengage, do everything within our power to remove leverage they have over us.  Don't join, don't sign, pay cash.  Because wily coyote one might be, but probably not smarter than the combined forces of accountants and lawyers and executives who need to make the quarterlies look good for a bonus.

I hope plenty of people get to see the film and don't get distracted from the message by the gunplay, or Chris Pine's enviable mustache.