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 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.)


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!