Monday, October 31, 2005

Because I'm not showing up enough on Stylus [that'd be a joke], I'm now contributing to Singles Going Steady. This week: loads and loads of crap, and a decent Josh Gracin single.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

There is so much good fucking music coming out right now that if you're not finding it, you're not trying.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Well, duh.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Yay! Nice to see that there are some rational folks in Kansas.

Friday, October 21, 2005

All of the activity below portends even more activity, yes, here. With apologies to Matos, from whom I outright stole my reformatting, submeat '05 is at long last (and I do mean long - it's been 6 months) updated. 6 hip-hop singles in my top 10, but only 2 hip-hop full-lengths so represented (including Roll Deep in both cases, but not including PCD f/Busta from singles): discuss.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

My yet-to-be-dethroned (and frankly, I don't expect 'em to be) single and album of the year:

Top 5 reissues of 2005:

Ann Powers is blogging, Courtney is still, well, Courtney, this is my favorite new non-music blog, and I am so loving this ice cream these days.

Oh, and CMT is showing Dixie Chicks' classic video for "Goodbye Earl" at the moment. I'm so ready for their comeback.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I'm embarassed to admit it, but I watched TRL yesterday to hear the new Madonna single, "Hung Up." It heavily (and rather craftily) samples ABBA's "Gimme Gimme Gimme," and I've got to admit it sounded pretty good. Current with retro touches, Stuart Price (a/k/a Jacques Lu Cont)'s production shines, too. I'm eager to hear Confessions on a Dance Floor; I mean, it can't be worse than American Life, right?

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession is a magnificent first film by Xan Cassevetes, with which I'm magnificently obsessed. This 2004 doc tells the tales of both the Z Channel, a groundbreaking pay-cable channel in Los Angeles in the '70s and '80s, and Jerry Harvey, who was Z's programming head for most of its existence. Is it a groundbreaking film of the kind you've never before seen? Nope, but with subject matter this fascinating, it doesn't particularly need to be. Z was the first place that Michael Cimino's director's cut of Heaven's Gate as shown in the U.S. Same with Bertolucci's 1900 [thanks Alfred], Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In America, and the original 6-hour German TV miniseries of Das Boot, and, and... But Z also showed Purple Rain, and Silver Streak, and The Empire Strikes Back. It if was good, and they (largely meaning Harvey) liked it, it aired, uncut and commercial free, (unfortunately for the rest of the country) only in L.A. Its influence on legions of filmmakers (Quentin Tarantino and Alexander Payne, come on down!) can't be overstated. Legions of filmmakers, including Tarantino and Payne, along with Robert Altman, Paul Verhoeven, and Jim Jarmusch, share reminiscences of Z here, along with actors (Jacqueline Bissett, James Woods), former Z employees, and many others, explicating just what Z Channel so important, so revolutionary in its time. As if that weren't enough to hold your interest, Harvey was a paranoid (likely manic) depressive who killed his wife and then committed suicide one night in 1988; his story, as sad as it is at points, is as compelling as that of his beloved Z Channel. The DVD release has a bonus disc of material that further enlightens; every film buff and fan should see this film.

Other things I'm loving at the moment:
-The photos of "Hip Hop Kings and Queens" and, separately, Hurricane Katrina survivors in the new Vanity Fair.
-New Order's Singles (currently only available as a London UK import in the U.S.), which is the about-damned-time long-needed double-disc retrospective on the Mancunian giants (the single-disc comps don't dig deep enough, and the Retro box is too messily sprawling; sure, 4 tracks from Sirens' Call is a bit of overkill, but for the rest of what you get, I'll take it). Warning, though: it's truth in advertising; these are single edits and mixes, which may disconcert some.
-"Jimmy Lee" (#2 R&B/#28 pop), the first single from Aretha Franklin's 1986 album Aretha (a/k/a 'After Who's Zoomin' Who, How Ya Like Me Now?'). This is blindingly, simply, good, in spite of (really, in large part because of, as much as it pains me) Narada Michael Walden. The chorus is so sweet, so Aretha-perfect, it can't not get you, unless you have a cold, metal heart. Why reading credits is fun: Acoustic Bass: Randy Jackson, as in Paula's pal.
-The Amazing Race: The First Season makes for damned fine DVD viewing, especially if (like me) you've not seen it (I started watching during the season of the Reichip). It's certainly better than the current "Family Edition," which I'm about one more flat episode from abandoning.
-His prose is as good as his songs, that asshole: Chronicles, Volume One definitively proves that Bob Dylan is just a fucking genius, and we (meaning the rest of the non-Bob Dylan world) just have to deal with it.

6-0 and the NFL's only unbeatens - now, that's what I'm talkin' about.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Pussycat Dolls decided to follow up one of the best singles of 2005, "Don't Cha," with "Stickwitu"?! A ballad?!?! It's got some mightily lame production, all tinkly-Casio keyboards, and serves to make you think, "Hmm, maybe the Spice Girls really were good singers." (For the record, I'm a big Spice Girls fan, don't hate. But great singers they most definitely were not.) It takes some effort to release one of the year's best singles, and one of its worst; it's almost perversely impressive.

As we left the movie theatre last night, I turned to the bf and said, "So, what did you think?" "It was a great play," he replied, "and a very good movie." We were referring to Proof, the new film by director John Madden, based on David Auburn's Pulitzer-winning play. I'd pretty much agree. This tale of mathematics and madness is very compelling, anchored by a set of blazing performances. As the family's patriarch, a brilliantly groundbreaking mathematician who's slipped across the line of demarcation labelled "crazy," Anthony Hopkins gives a very, very good performance (frankly, when doesn't he these days?). It's easy to take Hope Davis for granted, and she does in fact give a "typical" Hope Davis performance, but she's so good as the "responsible" older sister, so capable of conferring a wealth of emotion with just a glance, a turn. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers in spades as one of Hopkins' Ph.D. candidates who develops a relationship with Hopkins' daughter, played like you've never seen Gwenyth Paltrow before. Paltrow is indisputable the film's star, the film's center, and she owns it, giving by far the finest performance of her career as Katie, who may be a chip off the old block in ways good (is she also a brilliant mathematician?) and not so (is she also losing her mind?). Hers is a piece of gorgeous, mannered work, some of the finest acting I've seen onscreen in 2005. The film's not perfect; it's too stagey, certainly, and hemmed in by that, and there were points at which Madden's direction nearly interrupted the flow of the film, but with words this gorgeous it would take some serious effort to get less than a good picture out of them. This is definitely a good picture, and one you should definitely see. Paltrow deserves her second Oscar nod for her work here, and Gyllenhaal gives notice that this could be his autumn, with two more films on the way (Jarhead and the atom bomb, Brokeback Mountain). Proof is a very fine piece of work.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Would anyone care to explain to me why Trent Willmon isn't a rising star with a top 10 (country) hit or two under his belt, a gold-or-something-close-to-it debut album, and a CMA Horizon Award nomination? Instead, since his self-titled debut album was released one year ago this week, he's no longer listed on Sony Nashville's "Artists" page (the website launched for his album is still up, but hasn't been updated since early '05), his biggest impact on the singles chart was the #30 peak of "Beer Man" (three subsequent singles peaked at #36, #49, and #38), and he's not been nominated for a damned thing. This is a crying shame, because his album is one of the best Nashville's served up in the past 12 months.

Willmon, a good-looking guy just this side of 30 from the Texas hill country, wrote or co-wrote 8 of the 11 good 'n' solid songs on his debut, two of 'em with fellow rookie artist Bobby Pinson. First single "Beer Man" stated its case simply, and might've done better a year later, in the wake of the 2005 successes of Keith Anderson, Jason Aldean, (it's got that vibe, too). Its followup, the marvelously ridiculously titled (deep breath) "Dixie Rose Deluxe's Honky Tonk, Feed Store, Gun Shop, Used Car, Beer, Bait, BBQ, Barber Shop, Laundromat," is lots better, a single which had I heard it before the close of '04 (I probably first saw its video in January of this year on CMT) would've likely ended up in my top 10 singles of the year. It rollicks and rolls as Willmon spins his tale of Dixie's daughter Becky Jo, the prettiest girl in town (its video, along with two others of Willmon's, can be seen here). "Home Sweet Holiday Inn" is a sweet, sad song of divorce which Willmon co-wrote for his 6-year-old daughter, while "Population 81" is further proof he's as comfortable with balladry as with uptempo country (one guess what the population of the song's town used to be). This is no buffed-and-polished country album, either; Willmon's got a twang and a grit to him which you can hear on nearly every song here.

If there's any justice - and in Nashville, there usually isn't, but a guy can hope - someone, if not Sony Nashville, will give Willmon a second chance (it can't hurt that he's signed to a publishing company co-owned by Brad Paisley, who knows a thing or two about talent). He certainly deserves it; Trent Willmon's an artist who with the right promo TLC could really blossom into a career guy.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Unnecessary (Greatest Hits suffices nicely, especially since this is only one disc), and with two new tracks (talk about unnecessary) to boot, Eurythmics' Ultimate Collection obviously isn't. Downgrade.
However, their entire catalog remastered with copious bonus tracks? Now, that's what I call music! Upgrade!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Gary Allan is one of the sexiest singers alive, for one (though the above isn't my favorite photo of him; that's found on the front page of his website). He's also one of country's most expressive singers, blessed with a deep, gorgeous voice that wrings more emotion out of songs than most singers with twice his technical abilities. From his 1999 debut, Smoke Rings in the Dark, he's been pegged by those in the know as one to watch, with his combo of Bakersfield cool and Nashville je ne sais twang (not to mention his occasional rocky tendencies, akin to the rootsiness found in the Blasters and X). It all comes together on his new single, "Best I Ever Had," one of the most heartbreaking records you're apt to hear this year. Opening with the lines "So you sailed away, into a gray-sky morning/Now I'm here to stay, love can be so boring," "Best I Ever Had," a heartbreak/break-up song whose chorus is "It's not so bad/You're only the best I ever had," is a gut-punch of a single anyway. It takes on added resonance, however, once you know that Allan's wife committed suicide last year; how he found it in himself to be able to sing those lines is beyond me. If the rest of his new album Tough All Over can live up to that track, Allan's got a monster, a career-maker on his hands.

In another country note, Faith Hill's new single, "Like We Never Loved At All," is an okay, pleasingly overblown ballad with contemporary production but a '60s tearjerker feel (complete with burlap-to-her-silk backing vocals from hubby Tim McGraw), nothing to write home about. But its video? Like whoa. It casts Faith and Tim as a blatantly George and Tammy duo in the late '60s/early '70s and shows us the behind-the-scenes emotional brutality (they've already split as a couple) that those watching from the audience don't see (as they're still together as a duo). It's intense, and shows that both Faith and Tim have been working on their acting (as anyone who's seen Friday Night Lights certainly knows about Tim, at least). One of the clips of the year, no doubt. See it here or here.

This is not an [Ar]test... he's back, and as a Pacer fan I can only say, thank goodness! This could be our year, y'all.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Israeli filmmaker Eytan Fox is one to watch. His first internationally released feature, 2002's Yossi and Jagger (it played theatrically in the U.S. in 2003 and was released on video last year), is a sweet, well-made low-budget film about two Israeli soldiers in love. Much of the film concerns itself with the emotional toll on the men of having to keep their relationship a secret from the world around them. The performances are strong, as is the direction, though the screenplay could use some tightening, and the film itself could benefit from some more time (it clocks in at a mere 65 minutes). Yossi and Jagger spotlit Fox as a director to keep an eye on - and his latest film shows him living up to his promise. Walk On Water (2004, video release 2005) has a much higher budget (obvious from the sets, locations, and the whole look of the film), better acting (particuarly from Israeli Academy Award winner Lior Ashkenazi), more assured direction, and a far better screenplay than its predecessor. This may be one of the best films you see on DVD in 2005.

Walk On Water is a beautifully layered film concerning Eyal (the sensational Ashkenazi), a Mossad hit man given the assignment of befriending a young German, Axel, come to Israel to visit his kibbutzing sister; the German's grandfather is a notorious former Nazi who Eyal's Mossad boss wants killed (as he puts it, "Get him before God does"). Unexpectedly, Eyal becomes friends with Axel (and his sister, Pia), despite his issues with Axel's homosexuality. As the film proceeds, Eyal makes his way across much of Israel, as well as to Germany, while Walk On Water examines the effects that WWII still has on Israelis and Germans today. Fox is becoming a fine storyteller whose films should only get better as he continues his craft, and Walk On Water is a very good film well worth your time.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Go see Capote now. It's shocking that this is a debut feature film with a first-time screenwriter - it's really that good. This isn't a traditional biopic but concerns one particular period in the great Truman Capote's life, the time when he was working on his landmark "nonfiction novel" In Cold Blood. Clifton Collins, Jr. is sensational as Perry Smith, one of the two young murderers, and as Capote, well, Philip Seymour Hoffman might want to start working on an Oscar speech. He doesn't just have Capote's hand gestures and vocal tics down, it's as if he let Capote overtake his being. This is a performance on par with Jamie Foxx's in Ray; it's Hoffman's Oscar to lose at this point. And Capote is the best film I've seen yet this year.

Friday, October 07, 2005

C-SPAN is celebrating 25 years of live viewer call-ins by going doing 25 hours of live viewer call-ins, going on until 9pm EST Saturday night. They've got some fascinating guests, and it's all unfiltered - the biggest reason I love C-SPAN. Political junkies, rejoice!

Anyone else think that while it's a fine idea to do a cover of "Ever Fallen In Love" as a John Peel tribute, perhaps having it led by Elton, Daltrey, and Plant isn't the best way to go? Y'know?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

About damn time! Welcome back, cowboy. It's been way too long.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Speed round:

You MUST see the video for nine inch nails' "Only," directed by David Fincher and easily the tops this year. Here's a link.

Speaking of vids, why in the world hasn't the video for the Killers' "All These Things That I've Done" gotten more talk/heat/airplay/et cetera? Not only is it the first clip in years directed by giant Anton Corbijn, it's a beautifully twisted trailer-park spaghetti western, so obv. one of '05's best videos I just don't get why everyone (else) doesn't get it.

According to the fine folks at Popjustice - and they'd know - West End Girls are a Swedish duo who cover, yep, Pet Shop Boys songs, and have actually gotten signed, to SonyBMG Sweden. Their first single is a cover of "Domino Dancing," and it actually sounds rather good; take a listen here.

Sean Paul's return, "We Be Burnin'," is absurdly hot, no doubt his best (U.S.) single ever. Relentless beat, great rap, what more do you need?

The same can't be said, however, for the return of Big & Rich The title track from their sophomore effort, Comin' to Your City, isn't good at all. Musically it's basically a rework of "Save A Horse," and lyrically it's even sadder, a lame travelogue ("L.A.'s got the freaks," etc.) spiced with lines such as "If you wanna little bang in your yin-yang come along." No thanks.

How the hell did Gorillaz' "Feel Good Inc." become one of the global singles of the year? 7 weeks atop the U.S. Modern Rock chart? What kind of k-hole have we fallen down? (I'm quite happy with it, don't misunderstand me, just befuddled.)

Akon, get your Muppet-sounding ass back home and stop irritating the world with it. Please.

Next month. Double album. First in 12 years. Kate Bush. And The Guardian says, Hallelujah! (Link from Coolfer.)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Long day, too much bus-riding (job interview), exhausted and hungry, stop at Souplantation for a late lunch. I try the Field Corn & Very Wild Rice, and wowza - dressed in a honey-dijon vinaigrette which doesn't overwhelm, full of meaty lima beans, good and sweet corn, sweet red onion, healthy chunks of perfectly ripe tomato, with cilantro accents and a nicely peppery aftertaste (while still not overpowering any of the individual ingredients, all of which stand out, their tastes simultaneously melding mellowly) - well, wowza! You could nearly serve this as a main course, especially in summer; served cold, it's oh so refreshing. I had two servings, one as a starter and one just before dessert (warm, perfectly textured [barely crusty outside, tender, moist inside] brownie underneath decent vanilla soft-serve with a slight drizzle of warm, high-quality chocolate sauce). Further proof that great, not just good, food can be found anywhere, so keep a lookout.

It's not a brilliant film all-around, and I frankly expect I'll see better before the year's out, but nonetheless you need to go see A History of Violence. David Cronenberg's direction is some of the finest of his long career, and not what you'd anticipate, the script is solidly good, and the performances - oh! Viggo Mortensen, William Hurt (whose 8 minutes put him in line for the Dame Judi Dench memorial Supporting Oscar, and don't think he might not win it), Ed Harris, the stunning Maria Bello (who'd damned well better get nommed as well, doing career work), and the real discovery, Ashton Holmes, who plays Mortensen and Bello's son and who looks like he could have a long and rich career ahead of him (character actor, not leading man, and that's no slight) - all fairly stunning. Violence is breathtaking in the truest sense (and be forewarned, it's a hard "R"; this film is graphic and intense). This is at lest on par with Crash as the year's best thus far.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Last night, the bf and I went to MOCA to see a truly amazing exhibition of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat. This is, I believe, the biggest exhibition of his works ever, including 70 paintings and some 50 works on paper, and it (at points) gave me chills. I'm a big fan of a lot of the NYC "downtown" (or were they "uptown"?) artists of the '80s, such as Kenny Scharf and gay icon (well, his work is iconic, at least) Keith Haring, but Basquiat's work moves me in a way different from about anyone else. The bf suggested last night that Basquiat says "a lot, but I'm not always sure what he's saying," and I definitely agree. His work expresses, I think, confusion, addiction (two words, kids: crack kills), identity politics, playfulness, and a hell of a lot more. I've not seen anyone's work like his; Basquiat was most definitely (and defiantly) a true original. Being only 18" from his work was breathtaking in the truest sense.

Above is my favorite single image of Basquiat's. Rest in peace, JMB.

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