Monday, January 30, 2012

New Music Tuesday - 01/31/2012

The 2 Bears - Be Strong

The 2 Bears is a side project of Hot Chip's Joe Goddard along with Raf Rundell that formed three years ago. After three EPs and a great deal of support from the British press, they are releasing their first album. They have a eclectic sound, it seems like every word has been used to describe their sound. I would throw in spoken word, electronica and drone; it all makes for an interesting sound.
"Bear Hug"

Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas

Cohen is a master; one of the greatest songwriters alive (I think), rivaling Bob Dylan in his ability to craft a great story. He's written some of the most beautiful songs of the past few decades; such as "So Long, Marianne" and "Hallelujah." He shows here that he's still got it; presenting ten new songs that hold much of the same magic.
"Going Home"

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Music Tuesday - 01/24/2012

Chairlift - Something

Chairlift gained some attention a few years ago with the song "Bruises," which was featured in an Apple ad. I really liked that song, but found their first album, Does You Inspire You, to be woefully inconsistent. In the time since that release, they've lost a member, and matured their sound. Early listens show a much more stable effort and there are some early gems among the tracks!

Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory

Something that tends to plague younger punk bands is that they have a difficulty sounding grown-up or mature (which, of course, can often be the intent). On their first album (released almost exactly one year ago), Cloud Nothings, while charming, could easily sound like just another of those punk bands. They elevate themselves, however, with this release. Already showing itself as a potential end-of-year favorite, it maintains the punk aesthetic, but shows a band capable of much more with their sound.
"Fall In"

First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar

These sisters from Sweden got their start with a pretty decent cover of the Fleet Foxes' "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song." This go-around, they're aiming even higher, referencing Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash and June Carter. Bold girls, but they may be able to pull it off. While there's something in their style that prevents them from having quite the same magic, their harmonies are good and songwriting strong, they'll only get better with age.

Foxy Shazam - The Church of Rock and Roll

Local Cincinnati boys! They have an amazing throwback rock sound. It's raucous, glitzy and a lot of fun. They're doing what I wish some of the classic rockers (those that are still living, anyways) would do; make awesome music.
"Holy Touch"

Ingrid Michaelson - Human Again

Ingrid Michaelson has been good for simple, infectious pop, you may remember one of her songs, "The Way I Am," being used in an Old Navy ad a few years ago. In the past, her music has been fairly update and happy. Based on the songs I've heard here, her sound seems to have become a bit darker. Not a bad thing, of course; after four albums, it's good to see this type of progression.

Nada Surf - The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy

Like Guided By Voices a couple of weeks ago, Nada Surf is a more established indie rock band that I have had relatively little experience with. As before, I'm allowing the new album to serve as an introduction. The band has been around for 16 years and seven albums; their most iconic being considered High/Low. Only time can tell whether the new album can gain the same status, but I have liked the songs I've heard from it so far.
"When I Was Young"

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Goodbye, Etta James

Yesterday, at the age of 73, soul great Etta James passed away. She had been suffering from leukemia for about a year and succumbed to complications from the disease.

Etta got her start at the young age of 15, after auditioning for Johnny Otis (who also passed earlier this week). She had a number of hit songs, mostly throughout the 1950s and '60s, though her most known song is probably "At Last." She recorded and performed right up until the end, released her last album, The Dreamer, late last year.

She is my favorite voice from her era and it's sad to see such a great talent go.

"All I Could Do Was Cry"

"Welcome to the Jungle"

"At Last"

Santigold - "Big Mouth"

Santigold is back! Nearly four years after an amazing debut album and a name change (Santogold to Santigold), she will be back with a new album later this spring (no set date, yet). She released the first single and video from the new album, the '90s-tastic "Big Mouth."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Artist

I love movies that really strive to do something much different that most other films, which is why I jumped at the chance to see The Artist when it opened in Cincinnati this past week.

The Artist is a mostly silent film set in the time when silent films were commonplace, the last 1920s. It follows George Valentin (played by the very charming Jean Dujardin), an actor at the top of his game during the time. While promoting and filming a new movie, he bumps into a young aspiring actress, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), and gives her some pointers on making it big. There is a shift in the industry, silent films are giving way to "talkies." George refuses to accept the shift and is forced out of his studio contract. As he struggles to regain his fame and falls into personal turmoil, talkies are taking off with Peppy as the top star. Still feeling a strong connection to George, Peppy works to turn him around and get him on screen again.

The movie has some amazing performances; Jean Dujardin received a well-deserved Golden Globe for his performance, Bérénice Bejo is adorable and charming, and the film also includes John Goodman, one of my personal favorites. The stand-out performance, however, comes from Uggie, a dog, that served as George's voice of reason and his greatest protector. They need to start giving out awards to the animals in some of these films!

The movie's getting a lot of Oscar buzz coming off of a solid performance at the Golden Globes, and is well-worth at least one viewing. Be warned though, aside from score music and a few clever sound effects, the movie is silent. Don't be like those viewers in Liverpool who didn't realize this and tried to get a refund.

Mini soundtrack:

Billie Holiday - "Pennies from Heaven"

Bernard Herrmann - Scene d'Amour from Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo

The Kills - "Baby Says"

A couple of months ago, The Kills, put out this beautiful and tragic video for "Baby Says."

I though I had read somewhere that it was filmed among a subculture in Europe somewhere, but can't find that info now, so I will assume these are actors. Still an incredible video.

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Music Tuesday - 01/16/2012

The Big Pink - Future This

The Big Pink made a pretty big splash with "Dominoes" and the album A Brief History of Love about two and a half years ago. The album had a sexy, confident and almost hedonistic vibe to. For their sophomore release, while their sound is the same, the lyrics seem more personal, and they take a somewhat inspirational tone. I don't think the lyrics work as well with the music, but it's still a great listen.
"Stay Gold"

Shawn Lee - Tabla Rock

At one point of time, about then years ago, mixing soul, funk and electronic was something innovative. Today, however, not so much. Shawn Lee sweetens the pot a little bit by adding more bells and whistles. Although he builds on a now-familiar trope, his sound is considerably more eclectic. The man has a lot of side projects beyond being a solo artist, this release is being billed under Shawn Lee's Tabla Band.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

I was up for some espionage this week, so I went to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, based on the novel by John le Carré.

The movie follows George Smiley, played by Gary Oldman, a former espionage agent with the British secret service. He's forced out of retirement by some higher ups to find a mole within the agency. He must do this without the knowledge of his former coworkers, though he does enlist the help of one young agent. In his pursuit of information, he engages other fired agents, disgraced defectors and shows that he's smarter than the agents who had forced him out.

The movie stars one of my favorite actors, Gary Oldman, who I would probably see in just about anything. He was spectacular once again in this one. Also a consistent delight, Colin Firth, who played a detestable character well enough to make me hate him. The movie, overall, was a great show of British talent, showcasing both established actors and relative newcomers. I've never been much into spy novels, but will likely be checking out le Carré now!

Mini soundtrack:

Sammy Davis Jr. - "Spinning Wheel"

George Formby - "Mr. Wu's a Window Cleaner Now"

Julio Iglesias - "La Mer"

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Music Tuesday - 01/10/2012

The Babies - Cry Along with the Babies

The Babies is Woods' Kevin Morby and Vivian Girls lead singer Cassie Ramone. They released their debut album back in February of last year. The album was certainly more Vivian Girls than Woods, playing more to Ramone's modern girl group vibe than Morby's freak folk experience. This new release is likely to be more of the same, comprising demos and outtakes from the beginning of their work together.
"Here Comes Trouble"

Friday, January 6, 2012


This week's movie (yes, I skipped the theater last week) was Melancholia, directed by Lars von Trier.

Melancholia is a movie in two parts, each focusing on one of two sisters. The first part focuses on Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst, on the evening of her marriage. She starts off seemingly happy, in love and carefree. She, however, gradually slips into a strange funk, and slips away from the reception at nearly every opportunity. It's implied throughout this half that the wedding and reception were planned to make Justine happy, implying that she has some emotional problems that the people around her obviously don't know how to handle.

The second half focuses on Claire, Justine's older sister, played by the overly prolific Charlotte Gainsbourg. It begins with Justine coming to stay with Claire and her family. By this point, Justine has fallen into a deep depression (also known as...melancholia) leaving her constantly tired and unable to perform even the simplest of tasks. As Justine seems to get better (at least a little bit), Claire's emotional state begins to deteriorate. Alluded to briefly in the first half, a rogue planet, called Melancholia, is traveling towards Earth. Although her husband assures her that it will not hit Earth, Claire becomes increasingly concerned with the thought that it will.

This week was actually my second viewing of the movie; I had previously rented it on Amazon when I thought it wasn't going to be released locally. It was, however, certainly a movie that required more than one viewing. Though a bit hard to follow at times, it is an excellent story, made better by a stellar cast. I'm not really sure why, but I made up my mind that I didn't like Kirsten Dunst about eight years ago. Whatever her transgression was, she certainly redeemed herself here. Charlotte Gainsbourg, who I've already mentioned has spent the year doing way more than the rest of us, was excellent as well. The movie was also the first time I've seen Alexander Skarsgaard in anything; he is definitely swoon-worthy.

Maybe not for everyone, but definitely go see (or rent online) if you want to believe that Miss Dunst can be more than a baby vampire or Spiderman's girlfriend.

Movie score (the film did not feature a typical modern music soundtrack, but heavily incorporated elements of Wagner's Tristan & Isolde prelude):

As performed by the Bayerische Staatsoper Bayerisches Staatsorchester, conducted by Zubin Mehta

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bloc Party Lives!!

Apparently, all the rumors late last year of either the band's breakup or the departure of lead singer Kele Okereke were either lies or an elaborate scheme to get the band some more attention. The rumors were false and Bloc Party is apparently in the studio and working on an album set for release later this year. This breaks the three-year hiatus they went on after releasing 2008's Intimacy.

I, admittedly, believed the rumors, especially since they came at the same time as a new EP from Okereke's side project. As scary as the idea of the band breaking up was, it was even worse to think that they would try to replace Okereke, that would be impossible (well, technically possible, but the results couldn't possibly be any good). Thankfully, neither is the case and we will soon see new material from this amazing band!

Bloc Party retrospective:

"Like Eating Glass" from Silent Alarm (2005)

"Hunting for Witches" from A Weekend in the City (2007)

"Mercury" from Intimacy (2008)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Soundgarden Slow Jam

In hopefully encouraging news for D'Angelo's Voodoo followup (that he's been working on for almost 12 freaking years) a new song, potentially for that album, has been leaked online.

That song is "Black Hole Sun," and, yes, it is a cover of Soundgarden's 1994 hit. If this track is any indication, D'Angelo will remain true to his style; the song is a slow burner, soft but powerful, and definitely would have fit right in with his last release.

Listen to the song and Soundgarden's original below:



Beyond the new song, which was recorded in 2010, D'Angelo will be embarking on a tour this year and claims that the new album is "97% done." So, fingers crossed that at least of the albums by an artist I've been waiting on will get a release date soon.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Music Tuesday - 01/03/2012

Guided By Voices - Let's Go Eat the Factory

GBV are a well-established band, having been around since 1983. This, however, is their first album since returning from a seven year hiatus in 2010. It also marks a return of the band's "classic" lineup. Not being that well-versed in the band's music, I'm letting this be my introduction to the group. Based on what I've heard so far, it seems like a great band still at the top of their game!
"The Head"

Male Bonding/EMA - "Aneurysm"/"Endless Nameless"

Spin Magazine's tribute to Nirvana's Nevermind was released in July, near the 20th anniversary of the iconic rock album. The album only contained one cover of each song from the original album, but more songs were recorded by other artists. EMA's "Endless Nameless" was included on the original tribute record, but Male Bonding's "Aneurysm" (which was a B-side to "Smells Like Teen Spirit") was not included on the original release.
"Endless Nameless"

Monday, January 2, 2012

James Blake - "A Case of You"

I got so wrapped up in James Blake's cover of Feist's "A Limit to Your Love" for my favorite covers post that I forgot about another incredible cover he released for his Enough Thunder EP, Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You." I guess the man really likes his female singer-songwriters.

Blake recently released a video for the song, as well, starring the beautiful Rebecca Hall (from Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Everything Must Go). In the video, she exhibits every emotion known to man, including the elusive "I know what you did and I will kill you."

I don't know if I'm alone in this thought, but I love and want everything that's wearing in this video!

Here's Joni Mitchell's original song: