Friday, June 29, 2007

Kanye West - "Stronger" (Graduation, Hip Hop Since 1978/Roc-A-Fella 2007)

This sounds better with each listen - I mean, what kinda insane mixtape-birthed jam is this, Kanye rapping over Daft Punk's "Harder Better Faster Stronger"? Soto pointed out that 'Ye's wearing Chris Lowe's sunglasses (it's true) in the video, the best thing the formerly-mighty Hype Williams has had a hand in, in years. I pointed out that it's clearly Daft Punk in their robot suits in the vid - I mean, it has to be, doesn't it? Love the Japanese cyberpunk theme, too. Dunno who produced it, but I'd bet it's Kanye himself - that cheap-sounding drum whacking away under the DP sample sounds like no one else. And as for the lyrics, damn him for being so clever. Best couplet of course is the Prince/Apollonia/OJ/Isotoners one, though the Klondike/blonde dyke flip is off the proverbial heezy as well. He does know how to elevate his game, doesn't he?

Great emails in history II

From: Alfred Soto
Sent: Friday, June 29, 2007 8:16 AM
To: Thomas Inskeep
Subject: Re: "Dance"

What's in a protein bar – ground beef, cashews, and prunes?

Great emails in history

From: Alfred Soto
Sent: Friday, June 29, 2007 8:07 AM
To: Inskeep, Thomas
Subject: Re: Casey's greatest hits

> On 6/29/07, Thomas Inskeep wrote:
> "Up next, the only group to make the top 40 ever named after a
> recording studio."


[Honestly, we can - and generally do - do this all day. American Top 40 Classics has taken our mania to new heights.]

Thursday, June 28, 2007


They're back, reunited and the cash feels so good. (Reportedly, each Spice Girl is receiving $20M for this tour.) I don't care why, however, as long as it happens. There's a hits record (long overdue) out in November, with the tour starting in December - in Los Angeles! Better believe I'm trying to get tickets, too. Welcome back, ladies; we've missed you and pop has missed you. (News here and here.)

Photo credit: AP/Lefteris Pitarakis.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Vive la France

Paris, Je T'aime is a fine example of how to get an anthology film right. Not all of its 18 shorts succeed, but enough (most) do, to tip the balance in the film's favor - plus, this Paris is incredibly well-sequenced and sewn together; you can barely see the seams. "Quartier Latin," co-directed by Frederic Auburtin and Gerard Depardieu, is a true marvel of storytelling, due I believe less to its directors and more to its stars, Ben Gazarra and Gena Rowlands, who play an old married couple finally divorcing after many years spent apart. There's mastery in the 10 minutes (or so) together, perfect nuances of acting. "Latin" is followed by "14th Arrondissement," wherein Alexander Payne proves that he's still a brilliant filmmaker, telling a little happy/sad story of the human condition that nicks you like a cut while shaving. It's absolutely beautiful. Tom Tykwer's "Faubourg Saint-Denis" (starring Natalie Portman) will thrill his fans (especially of Run Lola Run, for me one of the landmarks of cinema in the last decade) and possibly annoy everyone else. I could go on and on - Gus van Sant succeeds, Wes Craven struggles a bit outside of his comfort zone, the Coen brothers have a bit of nasty fun at Steve Buscemi's expense, and lots of French directors I didn't previously know turn in fine work. This is a film to cherish - and it really will make you fall in love with Paris. Paris, Je T'aime, je t'aime.

La Vie en Rose isn't as good a film, overall, but you need to see it much more for one simple solitary reason: Marion Cotillard delivers the on-screen performance of the year (so far) as the great Edith Piaf. Many years, she'd be a lock to win the Oscar, but considering a) this is a French film, and b) it's been released in June, she could have a struggle just to get nominated. Cotillard's in one of the best performances I've seen this decade, a truly bravura turn in what could have easily been a watery, standard-issue biopic. Olivier Dahan wrote and directed Rose, and it's choppy and sloppy at points, with an entirely chaotic structure and some sizable gaps in its telling of Piaf's story, but that ultimately doesn't matter. What Cotillard gives will last for ages - Lord, do I sound like Peter Travers? - and is deserving of an Oscar. She's that good, and she makes La Vie en Rose all the better with her stunning performance.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Prince and the Revolution - "Pop Life" (Around the World in a Day, Paisley Park 1985)

One of the weirdest top 10 pop singles (it peaked at #7) ever - especially when heard via the prism of '85 pop, but not exclusively; it's still damned weird today.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I can't believe I'm going to say this, but here goes: God bless Clear Channel. Sure, they've done a lot to make radio worse, but their new(ish) Format Lab is full of good stuff, programming they're doing for their myriad HD channels. Nothing, however, can top American Top 40 Classics - it's AT40 broadcasts from the '80s, all hosted by Casey Kasem (one of my few professional idols, alongside Christgau), uncut and ad-free (sorry, Zena Jeans fans), and streaming online! THIS IS AUDIO HEAVEN. If you're a child of the '80s (and aren't an insufferable rockist), you may well agree.

Michael Bolton - "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" (The Hunger, Columbia 1987)

Bolton's such a punchline I'd forgotten just how bad his histrionics are on this cover; he makes Taylor Hicks sound subtle, and that's really sayin' somethin'.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Current listening

Hi there. Yes, I still listen to current (and sometimes, not-so-) music. Proof (in a kind of very-mini-Consumer Guide format):

-John Anderson, Easy Money: A superb, took-too-damn-long-to-get-here comeback from a man who's been one of country's finest vocalists for over 25 years now. I'm generally no fan of John Rich as a songwriter-for-hire, but his contributions here - and his production, wow! - are excellent. Full review to come for Stylus.

-R. Kelly, Double Up: About half of this is really great, starting but not ending with the "I'm A Flirt" remix. "Real Talk" is kinda-sorta-astounding, a Bobby Womack-esque guitar riff underneath Kels talkin' some serious shit to his soon-to-be-ex. Some of the collabos (Snoop, Nelly) are garbage, but others (Huey (!), Luda/Kid Rock, and especially Keyshia Cole/Polow Da Don's jailhouse opera "Best Friend") are sick. Also, "Sex Planet" isn't as bad as you've heard, though between this and "The Zoo," R. really needs to quit the metaphors-for-sex songs. And the Usher duet "Same Girl" is crazy, in every sense. There's crap here to be sure, but the good stuff is so good... B+

-Tricky, A Ruff Guide (above): From 2002, fairly easy to find everywhere cheap & used, and worth every penny - worth more, actually. While no home should be without Maxinquaye and Pre-Millenium Tension at least, for those not inclined to dig further into Tricky's catalog, this is a perfect summation of his career (is it over?). Even the best selections from his weirdo DJ Muggs collab Juxtapose are here (yay), and the likes of "#1 Da Woman," with Flea and friends, are not (double yay). Pretty well-sequenced, too, and full of one classic after another. A

-Pretenders: This is the double-disc remaster from late last year, and damn! Possibly one of the best debut albums ever, its sound is crisper and clearer than ever, and the accompanying bonus disc is actually insightful: demos of 5 tracks that made it onto the album and two that didn't ("I Can't Control Myself" is a real gem), the Bo Diddley rip/homage "Cuban Slide" (which was on the Extended Play EP and is fuckin' sensational), 5 live tracks including a ferocious rip through "Precious," and more. A

-Tim McGraw, Let It Go: About half of a great album, and half of a what's-he-thinking? The cover of Eddie Rabbitt's "Suspicions" is nearly as good as the original (which is to say, fairly excellent), and the Faith Hill duets are great, but too many of these songs (especially by McGraw's standards) are lyrically lacking - especially considering a song like "If You're Reading This," which he recently performed on the ACM telecast, and which is better than anything here. B-

Ice Road Truckers is already amazing; watched the first episode last night in utter fascination. (It's on the History Channel - I'm not sure why - Sundays at 10pm EST/PST. And no, I'm not being paid to pimp for them.)

Friday, June 01, 2007

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