Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

One Word Review: Paul

75: Impish

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Top 50 Albums of the 00s - #14: Radiohead - In Rainbows

Yep, we're counting down the top 50. Click here for overview and criteria.

This project was supposed to be long over. I made my list when there still remained six months in 2009, and I was hoping to be done before the year was out. Here we are halfway through 2011, and, well, we're getting there slowly but surely. Part of my reason for starting early was to get a jump on all those other lists that I knew would surely be arriving. Something about the best plans of mice and men something something. So all those lists finished way before me. I had made no predictions about what others would say when they compiled their opinions, though I must say I was not so surprised when Radiohead finished on top for many. The difference being that those sites all loved their 2001 release, Kid A. A fine disc, but more of a continuation of what they had started with OK Computer than a record that marks this decade in any way or broke much new ground.

And they continued on in that way throughout the years that followed until, quite suddenly, they gave away 2007 record, In Rainbows. The method of release was considered wildly innovative (though Smashing Pumpkins had done the same thing seven years previous). The bigger shock was how abruptly compelling their music had become. From the akbum-opening scuffling of “15 Step,” it was clear that the band had, if not exactly reinvented itself, done a refresh that would pay dividends throughout the record. For the first time, they were allowing the rhythm a certain catchiness. Not that this was house music, but a talented DJ could shoehorn it in if the vibe was right.

The whole album is chocked full of charming moments, and each song has something unique about it making it worthwhile. But there are some notable standouts. “Reckoner,” with its thumping percussion may be the best song Radiohead has ever made, and certainly their best in 10 years. And “All I Need” is a wholly unique take on forlorn obsession. Contrast this with Death Cab for Cutie’s obtuse “I Will Possess Your Heart” from their 2008 release, for example. We don’t get an epic concept record, but that’s OK. Like different short stories in a great collection, each one delivers intricacies in its own way.

I had gradually written this band off as each successive album seemed to get mathier and more remote. But the album is a reminder that a talented act always has potential for that next record to be their “best work in a decade.” Ten years from now, Kid A will be an old chestnut, dusted off for nostalgia’s sake, while this one will keep its groove. I’ve listened to In Rainbows more than anything else they’ve done. It even works at parties…

Previous Entries:
#15 - Interpol - Antics
#16 - Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
#17 - Jens Lekman - Oh You're So Silent, Jens
#18 - Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
#19 - Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
#20 - The Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!
#21 - Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
#22 - Mission of Burma - The Obliterati
#23 - Don Caballero - World Class Listening Problem
#24 - The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

One Word Review: Rango

61: Riffy

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Why Do We Hate Billy Joel?

This is as decent a summary as any. I'm in the 12%. I'm in all the other rows, too, actually.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Long form quote of the day

I sure wish I could write like this:

     "I looked at my watch and this high-powered publisher was already twenty minutes late. I would wait a half an hour and then I would leave. It never pays to let the customer make all the rules. If he can push you around, he will assume other people can too, and that is not what he hires you for. And right now I didn't need the work badly enough to let some fathead from back east use me as a horse-holder, some executive character with a paneled office on the eighty-fifth floor, with a row of pushbuttons and an intercom and a secretary in a Hattie Carnegie Career Girl's Special and a pair of those big beautiful promising eyes. This was the kind of operator who would tell you to be there at nine sharp and if you weren't sitting quietly with a pleased smile on your pan when he floated in two hours later on a double Gibson, he would have a paroxysm of outraged executive ability which would necessitate five weeks at Acapulco before he got back the hop on his high hard one.
     "The old bar waiter came drifting by and glanced softly at my weak Scotch and water. I shook my head and he bobbed his wine thatch, and right then a dream walked in. It seemed to me for an instant there was no sound in the bar, that the sharpies stopped sharping and the drunk on the stool stopped burbling away, and it was just like after the conductor taps on his music stand and raises his arms and holds them poised.
     "She was slim and quite tall in a white linen tailormade with a black and white polka-dotted scarf around her throat. Her hair was the pale gold of a fairy princess. There was a small hat on it into which the pale gold hair nestled like a bird in its nest. Her eyes were cornflower blue, a rare color, and the lashes were long and almost too pale. She reached the table across the way and was pulling off a white gauntleted glove and the old waiter had the table pulled out in a way no waiter ever will pull a table out for me. She sat down and slipped the gloves under the strap of her bag and thanked him with a smile so gentle, so exquisitely pure, that he was damn near paralyzed by it. She said something to him in a very low voice. He hurried away, bending forward. There was a guy who really had a mission in life.
     "I stared. She caught me staring. She lifted her glance half an inch and I wasn't there any more. But wherever I was I was holding my breath."

From Raymond Chandler's "The Long Goodbye." I swear the whole book is like this. I am convinced that Chandler just had some kind of innate genius or labored over each pronoun like the screws on the space shuttle. See? I can't do what he does. But I am enjoying the hell out of reading it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Just had to share this one...

On the Lollapalooza Lineup

One of the hardest things about living abroad is missing Chicago's amazing music scene. It's something that kind of hums in the background. I notice when I bother to think about it, but most of the time, I'm busy with other things and don't realize that nobody swings their tour this far south. But the Lollapalooza and Pitchfork festivals are big reminders that tend to stick out. Lolla just released their lineup, and here's how it looks.

Headliners are Eminmem, Foo Fighters, Coldplay, and Muse, none of which are exactly groundbreaking artists at this point. But let's run down the entire list, grouping (the bands I know) by category.

Washed up nostalgia acts: Big Audio Dynamite, Foo Fighters, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley & Nas, The Cars, Ween, Flogging Molly

Foofy mainstream mediocrity: Coldplay, Muse, A Perfect Circle, Eminem

Lollapalooza meta nostalgia acts: My Morning Jacket, Cage the Elephant, The Kills

On the list of today's popular indie-rockers, but not exactly cutting edge. Also including bands you may like, but I would prefer to be at the snack bar: Mountain Goats, Black Lips, Bright Eyes, Arctic Monkeys, Best Coast

Interesting acts who most would pay to see play in a club: Rival Schools, Imelda May, Titus Andronicus, Deftones, Cee Lo Green, Explosions in the Sky, Ratatat, Crystal Castles, OK Go, Beirut

Desconozco - bands I know nothing about: A ton of others. And here's where the big problem lies. Obviously, I'm out of touch these days, but I'm not the only one. Over the last several years, Lollapalooza has demonstrated an inability to bring worthwhile acts to the side stages. My last time in town for the festival was 2008, and I discovered precisely three new worthwhile acts thanks to the festival. Contrast this with Pitchfork where pretty much every band on the lineup brings something interesting to the table. In sum, the festival has no street cred.

I'm fairly certain that even if I was in Chicago, I would definitely not be visiting Grant Park this time around. I mean seriously, Coldplay? That's actually a band that came to Argentina and I still didn't bother to see them. Would it be worth listening to their Joe Satriani-inspired fluffrock while getting jostled by sweaty masses that actually want to see Coldplay?

No thanks.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Top Ten Sidney Lumet Movies

I'm on my honeymoon, so no blogging. But wanted to let anyone who may be following here that I wrote another Top Ten list for Scene Stealers. Click here for the Top Ten Sidney Lumet Films. Rest in peace, Sidney. You're greatly missed already...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

Unyielding Commissioning Jealous All Over Again

Hulosing Out - As you may know, I live in Argentina. That brings with it all kinds of benefits. The world's best ice cream. No real winter. Beautiful natural wonders and beautiful women. But there are limitations to living abroad. One of those is that we can't get on Hulu. This has been slightly bothersome as there have been moments when I wanted to remind myself of an old Saturday Night Live sketch or watch whatever random crap may be available. But now I am really upset.

The Criterion Collection has been made available on Hulu Plus. I have no idea how much Hulu Plus costs, but whatever it is, it's worth it. You may not like all the Criterion films, but there are so many hidden gems and landmark cinematic experiences that your life will surely be enriched for this feature. Mine, sadly, will not as Hulu has yet to figure out a way to make themselves available in foreign countries. Just another reason why everyone here pirates all their movies. Also, a letter from Hulu's Eugene Wei on the announcement.

Just givin' the people what they want, depending on the people - I love the Oscars, even though much of the program is utterly boring. The reason it's always given me a thrill is that when on its game, it is a great celebration of cinema. Apparently this year they are looking to celebrate other things. The Hollywood Reporter is, ahem, reporting that there will be fewer montages and more songs this year. Maybe the Academy assumes that fans of movies will tune in no matter what and they hope that all those Randy Newman die-hards will boost their ratings. Either way, it is a disappointing decision.

- Roger Ebert unveils his Best Art Films of 2011. Many of these films have gotten a ton of great buzz, and I want to see them all. Who knows when they'll arrive down here.

Maybe he should have listed BabeIn other Ebert news, my buddy PMaz (rightfully) sticks it to one of At the Movies cohost Ignatiy Vishnevetsky's selection of the five films that made him want to become a critic.

They obviously haven't been reading this blog (#nobody_is) - This is now old news, but Grammy fans across the globe were outraged that Arcade Fire won Best Album. And there's a hilarious tumbler of their twitterings.
My take on the Grammy. Uh, I guess it's good for the Arcade Fire. The Grammys are the least relevant major awards show around. I've never watched their broadcast. I can't now pretend to care simply because one of my favorites was honored by them. I'm fond of saying that the Oscars get it wrong about half the time. But the Grammys don't even care about whether things are wrong.

New Blog Alert!! - Check out Positive Spin. Do it now! They have just recently launched and have been busting out a dozen or so postings every day. As best I can tell, the overall premise is to be as codgery as possible while still celebrating the best rock music to have come down the pike. Many entries are Youtube clips, but they're all rare finds worth your time. I recommend this one to get you started.

Surprised at how many of these I have - Greg Kot lists 10 classic albums from Alligator Records in honor of their 40th anniversary. I'm especially happy to see Luther Allison's comeback on the list. That dude could really play - a great mix of soul and Chicago blues, and a fantastic live performer.

Watch it all - Yet another long video. Yet another that's well worth it! DJ Cheeba puts on a visual and musical mashup that will keep you moooovin'! (HT, my man Chili)

DJ Cheeba - Revenge of The Nerd from Solid Steel on Vimeo.

Friday, February 11, 2011

SS - We're open to other views

Here's someone else's take on Commando.

If that didn't whet your appetite for the original Schwarzenegger Sunday synopsis, well, you're a cold bastard then aren't you?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Unyielding Commissioning Predicted the Future (again?)

This is too much film for you - Time Out New York lists the 50 most controversial movies of all time. Usually I like to be a snarky jerk about these kinds of lists, but there is virtually nothing to argue with here.

Function and Form - Some of you may recall this blog's look at the Biggest Paycheck Hounds in Hollywood. Over at Scene Stealers, they've got a Top Ten that looks similar. Well, the concept is the same anyway. There are plenty of differences in practice. I happen to disagree with a number of technical points regarding the order its author chose to use. Though the goals may be the same, the criteria is obviously not. My main point about this difference is that bad movies were not necessarily done simply for the cash. Sometimes they just don't work out, and you can't always blame the star. But when an actor admits that his involvement in a film was solely because he could buy himself a "terrific house," well, that's a pretty strong data point right there.

Then, just a week later, Scene Stealer's next Top Ten List highlighting chick flicks for guys made a nice complement to FtY's look at the chickiest chick flicks that ever flickered.

I used to think the brain was the smartest part of my body, but then I thought, well look who's telling me that. - Tony Comstack, noted erotic documentarian takes a stab at the evolution of the X/NC-17 ratings.

But in Italian, it sounds even better - Criterion's quote of the day is pretty creative, and from someone who knows what the hell he's talking about.

Ready to press start? - One and a half hours of live Arcade Fire recorded at MSG last August. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

On Ebert's New Show

As you have probably heard and hopefully even seen, Roger Ebert returned to television with his new show, Ebert Presents At The Movies. Since he lost the ability to talk following complications from cancer, the fate of his long-running "At The Movies" endured a series of blows before finally being shut down. First, Buena Vista put a pair of mismatched hosts, one of whom was designed to appeal to the "average" movie fan. This completely failed. Ebert deserves credit for having the gumption to restart the program, doing it the way he wants.

After seeing the first episode, here are my reactions. The format is nothing new. It's the same one that Ebert created with Gene Siskel 25 years ago. Two critics debate the latest releases, and get it over with quickly enough to cover five or six movies in a half hour plus commercials. And that's probably OK. The only real reason the last show ended was that Ebert couldn't perform anymore.

Now, all eyes are on Ignatiy Vishnevetsky and Christy Lemire. I have to feel for them. Siskel and Ebert were able to start with a complete void of expectations. Nobody was paying much attention. Now these two are expected to carry the mantle while everyone watches them get their sea legs. And it's clear that they don't have them yet. Every movie discussion feels like they are a couple on a first date. They're both polite and when they disagree, they don't really want to get into an argument. Both are still hoping they'll hit it off and at least make it to date #2. And in that respect, the chemistry will simply take some time.

Perhaps more worrisome is that both hosts are clearly reading their parts. Yes, I know this is how television works. But it's important to keep in mind that these are writers, not talking heads. And it is also going to take them a while to feel comfortable being in front of a camera. They will surely improve, but the question is how soon. In this area the show may have made a miscalculation. For me, I don't really give a damn. If they are giving insightful commentary and an interesting take, I don't care if they stammer their way through the half-hour, but what I think doesn't matter so much

What is important is that a show like this succeeds. Because the movie industry is steadily devolving into marketed products. As Erik Lundergaard recently pointed out, whether a movie is, you know, good or not plays a bigger role in how it fares commercially than movie executives would like to think. But that's because most movie executives don't really care about seeing quality movies. They are marketers who are looking to get return on investment. And they feel that if they can get their movie's toys in Happy Meals across America, they will make a profit.

A show like this has power to combat that. It can bring more attention to the best movies, and get more people to shun the awful ones. But that will only happen if the show is good. People like you and me are going to find our own movie news and opinions. If the show fails, we will have our other outlets online. And there are only so many of us, anyway. What I would love to see is this show having the same impact on the public at large that Ebert's previous show did.

I know. I'm judging this output way too quickly. We owe them a fair shake. Watch as much as you can. Write the TV stations and tell them you want more. Because it's the best chance we have for worthwhile criticism being as mainstream as possible. The show matters, and the more support it gets, the better.

Bear with the new hosts. Once they're grow into "couplehood", we can expect some worthwhile battles of wit between Lemire and Vishnevetsky. Ideally they can even get to fighting like an intelligent yet acerbic married couple. If it doesn't work out, well, we'll have to try to find a way to enjoy Ashton Kutcher movies.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Top 50 Albums of the 00s - #15: Interpol - Antics

Yep, we're counting down the top 50. Click here for overview and criteria.

When evaluating Interpol, a friend of mine once scoffed, "They made a great album then they made it two more times." This was before 2010's eponymous release. And his biting statement is pretty true. They are not an outfit striving for diversity. Their singer is limited. Their songs don't even think about the existence of other genres. When I read my list to see what we had left, I was surprised to see Interpol this high. But then I played the record again, and instantly remembered why I had them where I did. I shouldn't have doubted myself.

When "Next Exit" begins, it does so at a pace that says, "I'm not going out of my way for you here." Still, it's got a groove that pulls you along in its own plodding way. Anyone who was feeling impatient is will be pleased as we quickly get to "Evil." The first time I heard this song, I was totally blown away, and haven't ever lost that feeling. It is without a doubt one of the five catchiest songs of the decade, and the chief reason why the album makes the top 15. This is one of those songs that, as soon as it ends, you have the urge to play it over again. What starts off with a gripping but calm groove explodes at the one-minute mark where the intensity increases before the track keeps building from there. The peak doubles as my favorite non-word vocal of the decade, Paul Banks' "awww!" that comes 2:52 into the song. It probably doesn't mean a damn thing, but it just sounds so cool. The song is simply a big part of my life. I don't think I've had a party or road trip in the last six years that didn't include it somewhere.

We're in the top 15 now. One track simply isn't enough. "Narc" keeps the groove going and builds to its peak where Banks hollers "You should be in my space, you should be in my life!" Between the pounding "Not Even Jail" and blend of light guitars and heavy everything else on "C'mere," there are other worthy additions to the Interpol oeuvre. Again, never steering too far off the charted course.

It is worth nothing that the mid-00s saw a tremendous resurgence of Joy Division inspired, dark indie pop. You can pick your preferred branch between Editors, The Bravery, stellastarr*, The Killers, and The Rapture, just to name a few. But nobody did it with more panache or talent than these guys. Maybe it doesn't point to anything new, but putting this album on again reminded me how perfectly they crafted their driving intensity.

If Turn on the Bright Lights was about a night in Gotham, Antics is where we pick up the day after. In the end, this dark, monotonous music somehow rings beautifully, and it's that touch of additional brightness that makes this Interpol's best release. They are likely to be a band lost to their (retro) time. I don't think people will be clamoring for an Interpol reunion tour in 2020. But by doing this list, I reminded myself that this is an album worth returning to.

The audio stinks on this video, which is a shame. But play it anyway.

Previous Entries:
#16 - Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
#17 - Jens Lekman - Oh You're So Silent, Jens
#18 - Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
#19 - Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
#20 - The Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!
#21 - Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
#22 - Mission of Burma - The Obliterati
#23 - Don Caballero - World Class Listening Problem
#24 - The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
#25 - Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon

Friday, January 21, 2011

Unyielding Commissioning Believes in Comebacks

We haven't had an update from UC since may of 2009, and that one was titled "Unyielding Commissioning Apologizes for Being Away So Long." Living in Argentina, it is pretty hard to stay on top of some of the goings on like I used to. Bands rarely come here, and the movie releases keep getting pushed back later and later. Far more impactful has been a heavy amount of work from both my job and planning my upcoming wedding. Those and other factors have seriously cut down on my connections to life on the internet, which means I don't have links for you like I used to. That said, EdWord passed me along some info that requires comment, and is just the kind of thing this type of posting was designed for. And come to think of it, there's a lot more worth discovering, so UC has plenty of good stuff to share with you today.

Please, please, please, please - I once briefly debated my buddy Erik about whether reunion shows are worthwhile. The band in question was Archers of Loaf. Erik's take was that he'd already seen them and no thrown together reunion tour would be the same. Mine was that I'd never seen them, and I'd take a half-assed reunion tour over nothing. And I'm not saying it would even be half-assed, just that I'd be ecstatic with half an ass anyway. That conversation inspired pleading on this blog some three and a half years ago.

Well, perhaps the band did indeed read my comments. More likely they simply realized that it was high time to kiss and make up because Pitchfork is reporting that Archers of Loaf has reunited for at least one show. I have long claimed that I would travel back to the US just to see these guys perform. They sure as hell aren't coming to Buneos Aires. We can only hope that they had as good a time as the audience seemed to and will give us the pleasure of some more shows. And I bet that Erik goes, too, even if it may not live up to his fond memories of earlier performances. Fingers crossed for hope!

There's no secrets this year - after 2009 was a general disappointment in both film and music, 2010 came back with a lot of high-quality, innovative stuff for our listening and viewing pleasure. I had been planning to provide a comprehensive summary of all those year-end lists, but, well you've probably read the ones you want. Just in case, here are Roger Ebert's Top Feature Films, Top Foreign Films, Top Documentaries, and Top Animated Films.

Meanwhile, over at Via Chicago, Jon has been putting together his year-end lists and is doing a smashing job of it. Starting with an Intro and then continuing into his EPs and Reissues, he is merely getting warmed up. Part III has his Favorite Songs of the Year, and is highly recommended. He not only lists 100 tracks worth checking out, he links virtually all of them to youtube videos where you can quickly make your own estimation. We can assume the album list is on its way, but given how comprehensive his work has been thus far, let's cut Jon some slack and be patient. Besides, you have a lot of new music to listen to!

There's just one Hitch - Erik Lundegaard has been posting some comprehensive and insightful reviews of Alfred Hitchcock films. Probably not worth reading if you haven't seen the movies in question because of the spoilers. But surely you've seen some of these masterpieces, right? The list thus far:

No, not that AFI - Trey Hock of Scene Stealers has been counting down the AFI's top 100 movies of all time. He's about halfway done having recently delivered a top notch review of A Streetcar Named Desire. Trey has kept up a pretty amazing pace. I can't even seem to get through 50 albums yet he keeps churning through these movies (many of which he doesn't end up liking). From Streetcar you can access the previous 53 reviews and look for your favorites.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Gettin' the Groove On, Deep

There is a ton of really cool stuff going on with soul music these days. If you're like me, you've been waiting for this to happen for deacdes. Maybe soul can finally turn a corner. Yes, most of this music is technically backward looking. But to be great, soul doesn't require innovation. Hop on board before we call it a movement. Some great labels worth exploring:
Daptone Records
Stone's Throw Records
Groove Attack Records
Strut Records (More jazz/funk than soul in this case, but still worth a visit.)

For now, check the hell out of Charles Bradley. Oooooh oh ohhhhh...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Monday, January 3, 2011