Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for September, 2009

the_decemberists

Some bands deserve more than just a paltry mention. So let me start over again…Portland indie rockers The Decemberists make fantastic music that pauses every 20 seconds to consider metamorphosing into something more menacing. Sometimes it does and with sound and fury, gnashing its teeth and escaping most clichés; and sometimes it doesn’t, but stays just as captivating, with its affinity for ethereal lovemaking over a lush soundscape.

Colin Meloy, Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee, Nate Query and John Moen christened themselves as The Decemberists in 2000, having shared an equal fondness and fascination for the Decembrist uprising in Russia and fellow indie bands – Norfolk and Western, Camera Obscura, Long Winters and The Shins. While their music does bear similarities to their influences, it really does elevate itself by constantly evolving.

hazards of love

After a slew of mostly acoustic, accordion-based tracks and the erstwhile foray into 12-string guitar madness on their previous albums, The Decemberists have now tackled hard rock opera to the ground with dissonant ease. Their 2009 album The Hazards Of Love is the bastard child of The Who’s Tommy and the cult-tastic Neutral Milk Hotel’s  In the Aeroplane Over the Sea album. As we know, when storytelling meets clever chord progressions, music shakes it little butt and struts off into the sunset, looking prettier and more seductive than ever before.

The album recites a haunting story of a woman named Margaret who “falls in love with a shape-shifting boreal forest dweller named William.” The villains – a jealous forest queen and an ensemble of unruly characters – bring gnarly darkness to the story and appropriately make for the brightest moments.

becky

The sonic horizon of The Hazards Of Love also seems broader than ever, with gorgeous vocal performances by Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond and Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond. Bless these angels for reaffirming my faith (and another friend of mine) in female-fronted alternative rock music. Not often has this genre seen the species do it justice. “The Queen’s Rebuke” is a glorious testament to the oestrogen-fuelled awesomeness.

shara worden

Imagine, a deliciously modern twist of a Led Zeppelin’s The Battle of Evermore, with Robert Plant replaced by a pissed off Patti Smith; and I mean, raging, frothing and restrained all at once. As a thunderous riff rides on the spine of ethereal backing vocals, Shara Worden croons, “And you have removed this temptation that’s troubled my innocent child, To abduct and abuse and to render her rift and defiled. But the river is deep to the banks and the water is wild. But I will fly you to the far side” and lets you go to sleep, dreaming about great tree monsters preaching to a congregation of lepers and deaf children, but that’s just me. And Jenny Conlee is insanely great as the keyboardist. I would love to hear these guys cover Light My Fire just to see Conlee rip into that organ sound.

decemberists

The mesmerizing The Hazards of Love 3 features an eerie harpsichord tune performed by a children’s choir. I have been gorging myself on it for over a week now and it has become a prelude for most of my daily chores. I don’t what it is but there’s something appealing about angelic vocals singing, “Father I’m not feeling well, must be the flowers you fed, they tasted spoiled for suddenly I find that I am dead. But father don’t you fear, your children all are here, singing ohhhh, the hazards of love” while I procrastinate about deadlines at work. Oh, and I am almost sure that many cute instruments were injured during the making of this track.

Matter of fact, many silly theories about indie music have been knocked the fuck out after the release of Hazards Of Love. The Decemberists have done their bit to fade to black the pretentions and egomaniacal jackass-ery of the genre and its tendency to fall in love with itself.

Stand up, kindly sirs and sisters of indie rock, and be proud…if the world ignores you any longer, it is only to preserve your rare gift for creating beauty in silence and to a chosen crowd of those who either shake a fist or shed a tear at the current social and artistic dystopia.

Watch

The Decemberists – Queen’s Rebuke/The Crossing

The Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love 3

The Decemberists – Isn’t It A Lovely Night?

The Decemberists – The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid

Buy

The Hazards Of Love

The Crane Wife

Inexpensive pet food

Read Full Post »

vanishing point

Vanishing Point: I dig neither speed nor metal. The combination of both on a desolate highway gets me as excited as a rabid wolverine at a veggie salad bar. This is why I used to sneer at anyone who asked me watch Richard Sarafian’s Vanishing Point. Imagine…a film about a half-maverick half-psychotic driver called Kowalski who is set to deliver a 1970 Dodge Challenger drives from Colorado to San Francisco with a tagline that says “it’s the maximum trip at maximum speed”. Hell, I thought I’d be laughing during the course of film, thinking about when some shitty Kenny Loggins song is going to disrupt an even shittier chase sequence.

Vanishing Point is probably the only film about cars that I have ever liked (apart from Rajasekar’s Patti Sollai Thattathe which kinda ruled). Finally I have something intelligible to utter other than ‘oh wow’ or ‘uhhh I see’ whenever my friends or colleagues start babbling about Choppers, Porsches and that questionably invigorating vrooooom sound that one of those BMW cars make. Instead of pretending to give a shit, now I can try my best to look cool and say, “go watch Vanishing Point fuckers.” Having said that, avoid the 1997 remake with Viggo Mortensen like you would the monkey plague, it makes Torque seem watchable.

Vanishing-point_1394625i

The sound production and cinematography were two of the biggest reasons (along with the storyline or rather the lack of one) as to why the original seemed vastly superior. The sound reminded me of those old Seventies rock albums on audiotapes… frantic, crafty and a little murky, but attractively so. The soundtrack  itself is all kinds of awesome; little surprise it is that Quentin Tarantino hails this film as one of his inspirations. On the visual front, cinematographer John Alonzo has had his way with the vast landscape of the highway and the sweltering sun up in the sky; no real surprise that over the next few decades, he would continue to inspire beauty in visually-stunning films such as Chinatown and Grass Harp. The detour that the driver takes into the sandy desert is beautifully done, with the tyre marks forming mysterious patterns that make a whole of sense when seen in retrospect. I’m also really glad that the Kowalski character (aptly played by Barry Newman) wasn’t prone to theatrics; no overtly heroic deeds, no moral dilemma and mercifully, no ‘ooh naked lady on the bike, must woo and screw” and “dam rattlesnake, must kill you with my fingernails” scenes.

super soul

Blind radio jockey Super Soul (Cleavon Little), free-spirited chopper rider Angel (Timothy Scott) and the Prospector (Dean Jagger) play the kind, decidedly crazy souls who come to Kowalski’s aid. Despite the redundancy of their collective liberal state of mind, they really do fit in with the grander scheme of things – Kowalski’s journey. Let me pull the curtains down on this one with a comment by some bloke called Tom Darwin from IMDB…“stop wondering why Kowalski, on his quest for speed, is always being overtaken and passed by other vehicles; just put your brain on neutral, put your popcorn where it’s handy, and buckle up.”

lymelife3

Lymelife: Indie films make me feel all fuzzy and warm. No matter how emotionally overblown or fantastically silly they are, most of them are perfect precursors for lazy Sunday siestas. The commonalities between them range from the lucidity in which the frames move from one to another and gratuitously ambitious soundtracks chockfull of bisexual alt-country guitarists to anticlimactic and most often abrupt endings and random A-list guest appearances. Some of them become so full of themselves that they actually end up making that uneasy transformation into big-screen blockbusters; even so, they still remain cutely apologetic of such popularity. Case in point, Little Miss Sunshine and Juno to a lesser extent. Derick Martini’s Lymelife is one of the least interesting indie films I have seen over the past few years, but that probably has more to the do with the quality of similar films. While it doesn’t even begin to sniff the greatness that is the list of indie gems such as Station Agent, Mean Creek, Thumbsucker, Igy Goes Down and many others, Lymelife still gets a minor thumbs up on the weight of few its actors.

Cynthia Nixon doesn’t count because she is a regular on that terrible sitcom. Oh yes people, there are certain things artists do that just cannot be forgiven. She could crap Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony Movement on cue, but I’d still hold that ‘Sex In The City’ card against her. Alec Baldwin is convincing as the assholish husband, but in the later parts of the film when he has to be more of a husband than an asshole, it seems a little less believable.

timothy

The cake, if I had any, would undoubtedly go to Kieran Culkin who plays Jimmy Bartlett, a kid desperately seeking a young lassie by the name of Adrianna (Emma Roberts) and solace from his dysfunctional family. Timothy Hutton has a neat role too; he plays the Lyme-diseased Charlie Bragg who suffers just as many migraines as bouts of nagging from his wife. Most of all, I dug the ending and its lack of melodrama. Sort of like the Requiem For A Dream climax, but without the drug-infested gloom permeating the piteous decay of humanity.

The Big Nothing: Almost everyone reading this by now probably knows at least three of Ross’ girlfriends. They’d never admit it because lord knows – it is seriously uncool for an intellectual to confess to having seen at least one million out the eleventy billion episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Who in their insidiously pretentious mind in fact would? For someone who can probably hold his own in a trivia about the sitcom, I can safely say that Ross was one of the few characters I could watch without feeling the urge to stick a café mocha up my superfluous ass. I even liked that Run Fat Boy Run movie that had David Schimmer directing Simon Pegg and Hank Azaria! I like this one better and it has Mr Pegg in it too, but funnier, darker and more in tune with what made him completely awesome in Shaun Of The Dead.

Big Nothing

In Jean Baptiste Andrea‘s The Big Nothing, Schwimmer plays Charlie, a former professor who gets fired on his first day at a call center. Enter Gus (Simon Pegg), a scam artist who almost isn’t clever enough to count as one and former pageant queen Josie (Alice Eve) who convince Charlie to join them in a seemingly “snag-free plan to make some cash” involving Internet porn and men of cloth.

BigNothingfree

Of course things go wrong; with hearts, promises, arms, words and skulls broken all at once. The climax did take more turns than I had cared for, but the final frame in which…well, you’ll see…works wonderfully well. Schwimmer and Pegg are funny as hell, especially the first time their characters meet. Something about Gus is so perversely pathetic that you want to slap really hard before telling him that things might be ok after all. Charlie is just one of those characters you end up feeling sorry for; then months after watching the film, one fine day you’d wake up finally understanding why you probably shouldn’t have.

Read Full Post »

Kronos Quartet

The film Requiem For A Dream and a distinct lack of sobriety once introduced me to the haunting sounds of Kronos Quartet. Violins gratuitously meshed with their fellow strings and beat themselves to a bloody, self-loathing pulp that spoke of the mistakes made by the film’s sordid characters. In a perfect world, I’d be amazed if you hadn’t heard of David Harrington, John Sherba, Hank Dutt and Jeffrey Ziegler until now. However given our world and its abnormal distance from anything any of us would dare call perfect…ladies and gents, introducing The Kronos Quartet.

*****

Pete Philly and Perquisite

Pete Philly and Perquisite is an Amsterdam-based duo who make a fascinating blend of hip hop, neo-soul and broken beat jazz. Their first album Mindstate was a concept album, with each track representing a specific state of mind. A bunch of really nice people even awarded their effort with a Zilveren Harp award. ‘Hope’ featuring Talib Kweli was a standout, with its groovy-as-hell vibe and soulful sentiments. Following a sophomore remix album Remindstate, they released Mystery Repeats. Unless I start figuring what the fuss is all about with Mos Def’s new album or some indie rapper breaks the glass ceiling with a ridiculously awesome debut, I doubt that I’m going to listen to a collection of fresher beats in 2009. I swear, I know angels who would have sex to this music. You might want to close your eyes, light up some incense, and hit the loop button; lord knows, a cocktail of Dave Brubeck, DJ Krush, Q Tip, and coolest light-browned skinned MC you have ever heard deserves some incense.

*****

el-p-big

If Cannibal Ox never broke up and instead metamorphosed into a vortex that sucked away the memory of Eminem and the pin-cushioned moron from the criminally-awful ‘come my lady come come my lady” band from our collective consciousness, they’d sound something like Jaime Meline aka EL-P aka former Company Flow rapper.

*****

soulsavers_Lanegan

North England downtempo duo Soulsavers has released their third album (Broken) and second straight one with real godfather of grunge Mark Lanegan. Broken features an impressive list of guest artists including Mike Patton, Jason Pierce and Gibby Haynes, but the real story is that in the track You Will Miss Me When I Burn – Lanegan’s vocals inch closer towards the perfect blend of Tom Waits and Johnny Cash. Please continue deleting all those silly Nirvana songs from your hard disk.

Download

Kronos Quartet – Mugam Beyati Shiraz

Watch

Kronos Quartet – Requiem for a Dream (Complete)

Pete Philly and Perquisite – Insomnia

Pete Philly and Perquisite – Empire

EL-P – Drive

Soulsavers & Mark Lanegan – You Will Miss Me When I Burn

Soulsavers,  Mark Lanegan & Mike Patton – Unbalanced Pieces

Tom Waits & Kronos Quartet – Cold Cold Ground (live)

Read Full Post »

district-9-movie

District 9: Aliens have been at the rear end of the deal with cinema. Films with aliens in them fall prey to either predictability or patriotism, both of which have been known to cause unparalleled damage to its kind. Steven Spielberg’s ET made me want to eat my face inside out. I wanted to chew through my cheekbones and pull my eye sockets out through my nostrils every time the camera zoomed in on the ghastly bugger and everyone else in the room went, “awwwwww so cute”. Independence Day was big dumb mediocre fun, but it had its share of unforgivable crimes – especially, the ‘let’s hug it out, you earthling…you’ climax.

Neil Bloomkamp’s District 9 side-steps such irksome details and then some to deliver a kickass film. The coolest part of District 9 is that it never takes itself too seriously; even in the false finishes that threaten to pull the curtains when you least expect it to. It even avoids the shock shtick that such ambitious directors have been known to fawn over. For instance, like Ebert mentions, despite making it clear that Nigerian prostitutes were doing it with the aliens, director Blomkamp merely makes an awkward joke about it and never bothers grossing us out with unnecessarily graphic imagery.

cine-district-9-review

So the deal is that aliens have landed on Earth two decades earlier and after much diplomacy and brain cells-racking, the government of South Africa has decided to put them all in a “militarized ghetto” – where the only rule is that there are no rules…wait, there are a few rules like the aliens can’t purchase cat food without paying for it and kleptomania is generally frowned upon, but you get the picture. Pretty soon the lack of a civil and a maintainable social order in the ghetto drives the government to forcibly evict all the aliens.

Enter Wikus Van D Merwe (Sharlto Copley). A key player and bootlicker unparalleled in a premier ammunitions corporation – Multi-National United – who has been put in charge of the eviction formalities by his father-in-law. From then on, Wikus’ life becomes spectacularly worse than ever before, with aliens and humans conspiring to either kill him or dash his hopes of getting out of this mess, alive, well and almost human.

district-9-

With an engrossing storyline, a suitable cast (Sharlto is awesome) and tremendous CGI effects, District 9 gets my vote for the ‘flick of the year’. It can’t get any bigger or funner (yes funner) and god bless Nick Blomkamp for that. The only thing dumb about District 9 is that some movie executive in Los Angeles is probably jerking off to the thought of casting Steve Carell in the Hollywood remake. Please fucking don’t.

public_enemies064

Public Enemies: Two years ago, the sheer prospect of Christian Bale and Johnny Depp sharing screen space in a gangster film would have had me stalking YouTube and Daily Motion for every user-made promo video. Lately I have turned sour towards both of them. When the initial euphoria of Dark Knight faded away, I became increasingly cynical of it and especially of Bale’s performance. Much like Gerald Butler’s in 300, Bale’s overdubbed voice as Batman really really pissed me off. It sounded like he burped out Clint Eastwood after seven shots of single malt whiskey. In Public Enemies too, he sounds odd. So very odd that you almost forget that Bale is one of the top five method actors in his country; insert Dustin Hoffman quote (if there’s a method, where’s the acting?). As for Johnny Depp, well…part two and three of the Pirate series have made me rethink the whole ‘who’s my favourite American actor” business. If anything, it was a sign of an actor coming to terms with his own celebrity status.

Back to the film…I felt that Public Enemies showcased these two blokes quite poorly. It wasn’t as bad as Pirates III or Terminator IV, but it still was a pretty terrible way of utilizing them; especially considering how good director Michael Mann can be (Collateral).

Unless you have been living under a rock, you’d probably know the storyline by now…so I’ll close with something you might not know. Elliot Goldenthal’s original music for the film is brilliant and I really think you should go out of the way and buy the soundtrack. Matter of fact, it almost takes away the uneasy feeling that you have watched something mediocre by the time the end credits hit the screen.

bronson

Bronson: Director Nicolas Winding Refn has gone ahead and carved a nice little niche for himself in European pop cinema. His grim debut Bleeder and the Pusher trilogy have given him enough street credo and maturity to craft something as exquisitely brutal as Bronson. As for actor Tom Hardy, I have only seen him in the recent film adaption of Wuthering Heights, in which he plays Heathcliff. In this film, he plays the awesomely moustached and tough-as-nails – Charles Bronson– England’s most infamous prisoner and general pyschopath extraordinaire.

To call this a tribute to the real-life title character would be a bit short sighted since one gets the impression that it was more of a tribute to pulp cinema. The scenes in which Bronson addresses the crowd, dressed as a clown and drenched in existential ennui, are indicative of the theatrics that daftly help the film avoid genre classifications. The ending however made me feel a bit queasy with the melodrama and all, but as a whole – the film worked very nicely.

However once again, folks, life has asked art to sit the fuck down and observe. In 1994, the real Charles “Charlie” Bronson, whilst holding a guard hostage at Woodhill Prison, Milton Keynes, demanded an inflatable doll, a helicopter and a cup of tea as ransom. In 1998, he asked one of the Iraqis he had held hostage to hit him “very hard” over the head with a metal tray; when he refused, Bronson slashed his own shoulder six times with a razor blade.

EdWood

Ed Wood: There is something very strangely beautiful about this one. Why, you ask? Johnny Depp stars as the worst film director ever in the history of moving pictures and halfway through decides to start impersonating the bastard child of Michael Jackson and Willy Wonka. Martin Landau plays Bela Lugosi – the actor who was the original Dracula – but with more self-loathing decay. Bill Murray is Bunny Breckinridge – the soon-to-be transvestite perennially getting screwed over by bad luck and worse makeup. Jeffrey Jones is Criswell, the man who can see into the future as long as the TV ratings go up. So that takes care of the strangeness.

As for the beauty, tiny moments of awkward sadness make Tim Burton’s Ed Wood prettier than I had expected it to be. When the character Ed Wood watches Bela Lugosi for the last time, a gloomy ethereal note pierces the scene and threatens to make us feel bad for laughing about them earlier.

Funny thing is in 1980 when this gentle and eccentric man was voted as the worst director of all time, the Carroll Ballard’s tortorously dramatic The Black Stallion won a friggin Special Achievement Award. Probably for making a shitty movie without even an ounce of the dedication that Ed Wood had for his films.

Read Full Post »

Have faith, will post.

Until then.

Watch

Marta De La Aldea & Toledo Quartet – Moon Over Bourbon Street

Housemartins – Caravan Of Love

They Might Be Giants – Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Eagles of Death Metal – Eagles Goth

Bob Dylan – Desolation Row

Gogol Bordello – Start Wearing Purple

Thermal And A Quarter – Origami

MS Viswanathan and Crew – Mazhaithuli

SP Balasubramaniam and Crew – Enn Mel Vizhlundhe

MSV and Crew – Siva Sambo

Read Full Post »

the_shins

My first introduction to The Shins was through their sophomoric Oh Inverted World album. A friend of mine shared a few mp3s and well, I wasn’t too impressed with their cutesy, willfully ironic indie rock. It was almost as though Franz Ferdinand had been playing their brand of music for many years, but with a bit more bile in their balls and a penchant for experimental histrionics to boot; and who are those Ferdinand fellows really but Coldplay band members who bunked two decades of choir practice to drink coffee and beer at the local pub. Recently, after listening to their Chutes Too Narrow album, I have turned 360 degrees on these Portland lads. While the tracks maintain that grand mushrooming of gentle pop melodies into bursts of sunny, sometimes alarmingly pensive rock anthems, the ghostly rhythms that are gratuitously made to swim amidst them make all the difference.

chutes too narrow

Saint Simon is one those reasons why music remains as literature’s most cherished companion; some might have believe it’s a warm blanket or a mug of coffee, but to hell with them.  I can picture about seven hundred literary characters walk into the sunset with this track playing in the background. Kissing The Lipless could have so easily been that song, which Rent Boy heard before deciding to call it quits on drugs in Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting. In fact, those precious seconds of psychedelic guitar noodling towards the end could have made him go running back to Mother Superior Swan. Oh indie music, you gloriously inverted, lovable nincompoop…you.

*****

BadlyDrawnBoy

I’m pretty sure you have met Damon Gough. Maybe in the bar, gently mouthing the words to the songs playing in the jukebox or perhaps crossing the road, whistling an old folk tune…hell, you might have even seen him driving a car on the highway, unperturbed by everything but the music blasting from the stereo.  See, Damon Gough – also known as Badly Drawn Boy – is one of those kaleidoscopic glitches on the pop industry. He seems just like one of those blokes who couldn’t care less if VH1 wanted to do an episode of Cribs with him; he’d probably tell the host, “don’t touch anything and we’ll be ok”. Don’t we all know people like that?

hour of the bewilderbeast

He even strives to look like the average John despite his unkempt beard and trademark skullcap often threatening to make him a regular face on Billboard countdowns and other tripe endeavors orchestrated by bored marketing gurus at media and publishing companies. He refuses to let his music take its normal course into readily conformist U2-like landscapes of sound,  releases an album about once  every two years and promotes it with the enthusiasm of a goldfish fighting long-term cancer. Yet, he succeeds…as a musician making unique, pleasant alternative pop music and as an artist earning more than loaf of bread through his dedication to his art form. Pretty decent living, if you ask me. All Possibilities (Have You Fed The Fish?) is an ideal song to start with; funky, joyous and very aware of its distance from reality. Then you should immediately check out the tender and morose Stone In The Water or the gently alluring The Shining (of the fantastic The Hour Of Bewilderbeast). I swear, if I got paid for crafting something as exquisite as that, I would cry. Yup, me = man after all. You = will understand when you listen to it.

*****

m_ward

Mathew Stephen Ward (M Ward) makes music you can think about Leonard Cohen to. Matter of fact, at times he sounds remarkably like Adam Cohen – offspring of the man who made me forget every other interpretation of Hallelujah but his own (yes, even Jeff Buckley’s). He even channels the spirit of the late Nick Drake in Let’s Dance – the perfect song for the funeral of a lonely dancer.

*****

manatee

I must admit that the Coldplay comparison was rather harsh. After all Franz Ferdinand have been known to put out some decent music out there. Some of them even great enough for us to erase the memory of the British pub rock scene getting fucked in the wrong places by Coldplay’s complete nonchalance towards all that is worthy of a second listen. Everybody say hello to the dark side of the manatee.

Watch

The Shins – Saint Simon

The Shins – Kissing The Lipless

Badly Drawn Boy – All Possibilities

Badly Drawn Boy – The Shining

Badly Drawn Boy – Stone In The Water

M Ward – Let’s Dance

Franz Ferdinand – The Dark of The Manatee

Buy

The Shins, Badly Drawn Boy, M Ward, my spleen

Read Full Post »

Yeah, it’s that time of the month

Chennai Express has carried an article (thankfully, not sourced) by some good soul on indie darlings Department Of Eagles

How can you not love a list of top 10 films about pissed off primate and murderous monkeys? Browse through Shark Guy’s website; its co-owners wrote The Man Who Scared A Shark To Death

Beware of the blog, “a radio station that bites back”. Oh yes.

Duncan Jones’ Moon could do it for me. Sounds tremendous.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »