Monday, May 26, 2008

Some Movies You Can't Pass Up

There are just some movies that when they are on TV, regardless of when you get to the film, you have to stop and watch. Over the weekend two such movies (and there are many), were on so it ate up a good portion of my Saturday and Sunday afternoons. I will address "Rounders" at another time, but this post is all about "O Brother, Where Art Thou?". Most people who speak of the Coen Brothers oeuvre tend to focus on "Raising Arizona", "Fargo" or, if they want to appear in the know, the brilliance of "Miller's Crossing". Having not seen "No Country For Old Men" I cannot speak on it's place in their catalogue but I often feel that this Depression era retelling of Homer's "The Odyssey" is far and away their best work. It is the perfect mix of comedy, drama and fantasy that highlights the Brothers' sense of timing and pacing in the writing and directing. It is also a cut above their other work because it seemlessly captures the time and place of the Depression through music and visuals. There is one particular scene that is absolutely riveting. The main band of thieves, having eluded the authorities and now on the lame, set up camp in the woods for the evening. The four men sit around a camp fire as Tommy, the guitar player who sold his soul to the devil, sings a soft bluesy tune as the others sit alone with their thoughts. George Clooney, who is rapidly becoming a real quality actor, protrays the sense of longing for a better life and the utter hopelessness of the Despression without uttering a word. But it's the music that makes the scene. It heightens it to a whole other level. It's always gets to me.

So I can guarantee I will watch it the next time I flip by. Good movies have that effect on us. They always make us stop and check it out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Contrast Podcast and Me

So I made a quick contribution to the latest Contrast Podcast, which was all about cities. I picked Ryan Adams' "New York, New York" because of my deep love for the times I visited the city. I don't think I could ever live there, but visiting always gave me some insight into the magic and majesty of the Big Apple. Listen to the Podcast here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Strange Duality That is The Cure

I seldom listen to the radio anymore. Most of the stations here in the LA area simply recycle 15 year old SUBLIME songs (can someone please explain how that band was ever popular?), but I found myself three minutes from home this evening and rather than flip through my Ipod endlessly I flipped the FM dial on the old radio. In a very serendipitous moment I landed on a station that was playing the new single from THE CURE!!!
Now, I have been a Cure fan for a long time. I spent the better part of one year absorbed in the beauty that was the "Wish" CD and still get goosebumps at "10:15 Saturday Night" and "Charlotte Sometimes". But since the "Bloodflowers" CD I have kind of lost touch with Robert Smith. I mostly ignored the last record (and judging by its sales I was not alone) so it's no real surprise that at first listen, the poppier, more radio friendly version of the band appears. "The Only One" is very much a carbon copy of "High" with its use of tympanies and Smith's falsetto pining over a lost love. "NY Trip" is the other track making the rounds and it also owes quite a debt to the "Wish" era wah-wah guitar effects. The songs actually come off as a bit derivative in many ways. The band (much like REM latest) are bidding for relevance in a time when most of the kids only know them from "Just Like Heaven" (Random side note: Why is it that this is the only song they will play when they appear on TV...I can count 6 occasions when the band was on live TV with new material to peddle and instead rolling this song out for the 1,000 time. I mean I like it and all but would it kill them to hit the catalogue a bit.)

So I will keep one ear out for the rest of the record (which is supposed to be rolled out in pieces until its official release in August). Here's hoping that it's not just a greatest hits retread but buried in their bid for radio airplay is the artistic daring that they were once known for.

(mp3) The Cure -- NY Trip (courtesy of SOTB)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Random Silver Lake Scene Posting

(ed. note: I'm stopping posting picks for awhile until I can get them to stay up. It seems my computer is a piece of crap and pictures just end up being large boxes with an x in it.)

Nestled in a corner of Los Angeles is Silver Lake, CA. Over the past decade or so it has become something of an artistic haven for DIY, Indie rock artists to live (because it is relatively cheap by LA standards) and isn't affected by most of the Hollywood feel of the rest of the City of Angels. Silver Lake's most famous resident was probably BECK, but others such as ELIOT SMITH and SILVERSHUN PICKUPS were prominent in the scene at different times. So with some time to kill I thought I would look up some of the up and comers from this little enclave.

SEAWOLF has all the makings of the next big thing. They have the sound that combines just enough pop sensibilities with some off kilter instrumentation (violins, accordions, etc) There sound is a little but Pete Yorn and little Arcade Fire. I actually first heard these guys as background for a local Sports Talk Show and was immediately struck by the guitar line in the song "You're a Wolf". There are also moment of hushed acoustics that allow the wounded voice of singer Alex Church to come through. A few of their songs are available here.

DAPPLED CITIES are a little more pop than Seawolf but still remain true to the anything goes aesthetic that is the Silver Lake scene. With a dash of Flaming Lips here and some The Shins thrown together, the band crafts sunny, cheery tunes with a hint of melancholy in the aftertaste.

THE ONE AM RADIO is really just one guy, so he obviously has a bit of a debt to Beck. But here the music is more dreamy folk than the kind of random collection of material that Beck throws together. Most of the music has a bit of a Postal Service feel to it, but with a greater emphasis on the guitar and less of the electronic bent. Several mp3's are available here.

DARKER MY LOVE fore sake the bedroom production that is the stock and trade of most of these artists for the shoegazer style of noise rock. They wear their influences on their collectives sleeves (RIDE, MY BLOODY VALENTINE) but surprisingly it never becomes derivative. (which is the case with so many of the fly by night shoegazer bands.) "Summer is Here" takes the above formula and adds a bit of a Beach Boys tilt to it (kinda like Jesus and Mary Chain), which makes for a very enjoyable bit of noise pop.

PETER WALKER is also front and center in the band EULOGIES. Both projects have the same quintessential Silver Lake feel (somewhere Pete Yorn is listening with a keen ear for similarities to his own music). Walker as a solo artist is a less quirky version of MARK E from the EELS, but has the same lyrical interests (namely early death). As a member of the band, he becomes a bit more adventurous (which is interesting since it usually works the other way around) and at the same time a lot poppier in his sound. Walker could be something special if he picks one personality to focus on and applies himself. But as is the case with most of these artists, I doubt he has an interest in international fame. Which is probably why, like all the other from here, it will most likely happen.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Cursory Listen to the New Death Cab For Cutie

First impressions are important when it comes to music. Often we make up our minds about a band or a record based on our first exposure to it in its totality. Sure we get a sense of the direction based on what comes out as a single or a snippet we here along the way, but it's not until we get a chance to absorb the whole record at once do we understand the intent of the musicians and the vision they have created.

In many ways, DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, are a band out of place in this digital age. They were made for vinyl. Their music is of another time, when records were complete thoughts and not dissected into bits for mass consumption. In their earlier works, the band played with mood and tempo to create complete portraits. This was the apparent knock on "Plans", namely that it was to radio friendly and betrayed the image most people had of the band. So with "Narrow Stairs" the band returns to its roots/ But there is truth in the saying that you can't go home again. The attempt here to find a balance and it appears they may have done it.

"Narrow Stairs" has some truly impressive highlights (aside from the monumentally great single "I Will Possess Your Heart"). "Your New Twin Sized Bed" has the kind of infectious guitar line that has made Chris Walla a musical genius (for more proof check out his criminally overlooked solo record). "Long Division" and "No Sunlight" are pop creations that were made for summer radio play lists. Even the middle eastern influenced "Pity and Fear", which could have gone so wrong, seems to fit in the context of the record as a whole. Some of the slower material gets a bit repetitive (I've never been a huge fan of naval gazing, self loathing that is represented here by "You Can Do Better Than Me"). Overall, there is loose feel the album but with still a eye to some kind of larger scale success. Believe me, I have seen dozens of bands fail at finding this balance. I feel that this record puts Death Cab in the discussion as a band of a generation type of group. Lofty praise after only two listens but I feel this record is an easy contender for record of the year...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Zencast #12 -- The Stress Cast

So I have been under a tremendous amount of stress lately. Work has piled up on me to the point where all I see is endless amounts of paper everywhere I turn. Normally stress doesn't really bother me (I am usually able to combat the feelings with my ADD like ability to multitask) but this last week hit me really hard. Getting up earlier than normal, going to bed later than I ought to and not eating very well certainly aren't helping. So this playlist was initially created to help me deal with this week's stress. As it turned out it made a pretty good podcast so here it is...


1) The Pixies - Umass
2) ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - The Rest Will Follow
3) Superchunk - The First Part
4) Superchunk - Hyper Enough
5) The Arcade Fire -- Keep The Car Running
6) Pavement -- Elevate Me Later
7) Desaparaceidos -- Greater Omaha
8) Fugazi - Cassavetes
9) The Betes Noires -- Black Blue Ink
10) Yo La Tengo - From A Motel 6

Friday, May 02, 2008

Enough of the old...gimme some new indie rock

So I admit I've been living in the past recently. It happens when you have kids. You reminisce more. There are things about youth that I miss and music from my formative years hits a soft spot in my heart. BUT ENOUGH OF THAT DAMNIT!! Lets get some new stuff in here.

I can't lay claim to discovering this band. That has to go to one of my favorite blogs called to die by your side, who turned me on to MARBLE SOUNDS. A five piece Belgian band (maybe the first thing I've ever heard from Belgium) that traffics in a mix of meloncholy folk (the sweet "Come Here and the boy/girl duet "Ragdoll Blues") and more esoteric, indie rock (the absolutely divine "Redesign") with hints of sugazer drone in the guitars. I am still digesting the tracks they have posted on their site but here is one off their ep which you can buy for small fee (come on people support those struggling artists out there!!)

(mp3) Marble Sounds -- Something That We'd Never Do (courtesy of to die by your side)