Sunday, December 30, 2007

EJP's Top 10 Albums of 2007

Unlike the previous 20 entries on this list, these are actually sort of in order. #'s 9 and 10 are really pretty much a tie with Andrew Bird for 9th place, the top three are really the top three, and the stuff in between are all pretty close to each other. There are probably a few surprises on here, and then some complete non-surprises. Comments and questions are welcome.

10) Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
This album's really quite a departure for Sam Beam. There are a lot more musical styles involved, more instruments, more of just about everything. More is not always necessarily better, and I can't say this became my favorite Iron & Wine album, but a not-the-best I&W album is still better than a lot of other stuff out there. I ranted about going to see these guys live previously on this blog; it's really a hit or miss live show. But again, don't let that discourage anyone from checking out this CD.

9) Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
I sort of reviewed this album very early in this blog's life, and I stand by my statement that it only ranks third among Spoon albums. But Britt Daniel and his crew fall in with Andrew Bird and Iron & Wine in that for the time being, they can do no wrong in my eyes.

8) I'm From Barcelona - Let Me Introduce My Friends
Phew...I don't even know where to start on this one. What we have here is basically a bunch of Swedes (and by a bunch I mean over two dozen at times) who got together to make a lot of happy scrappy music. Oh, and they named their band, such as it is, after a Monty Python sketch. 'Cuz, you see, they're not really from Barcelona. They're from Sweden, being Swedes and all. These are songs about oversleeping, building a tree house, comparing love to chicken pox. Pretty simple stuff. Whenever I needed a pick-me-up, which happened a lot this past year, this was the CD I went to.

7) Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
It's kind of sad that I had to hear about Josh Ritter (who's from Idaho) from my Irish pen pal. The dude's apparently huge in Ireland. Again, there's lots of fun songs here, with "Wait For Love" and "Empty Hearts" being two of my favorites. A lot of it's just simple singer-songwriter stuff--Josh and his guitar. There's almost a crude quality to the production, which I like. I also liked this album considerably more than Hello Starling, the only other Ritter album I've hard. But after enjoying this one so much, I'm going to check out his last album, The Animal Years, as soon as I get the chance.

6) Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight
I read a lot of negative reviews for this album--a lot of Rilo Kiley fans apparently felt it was too much of a departure from their older stuff, or that it sounded like they were trying to hard to sound more accessible. Whatever. I thought it was a strong album pretty much from beginning to end with some great hooks and plenty of racy lyrics here and there. And how cool is Jenny Lewis? This album couldn't be much more different than Rabbit Fur Coat, the recent album she did with the Watson Twins, yet both are, in my opinion, excellent.

5) The New Pornographers - Challengers
I came very close to not even listening to this album. I liked the New Pornographers alright, but they never blew me away. This album changed that--it quickly became not only my favorite NP album, but obviously one of my favorite albums of this year. On earlier albums, the songs tended to blend together for me a bit, but here every song is different and every song is good. And "Myriad Harbour" is definitely in my top 5 songs of the year. It's just so weirdly addictive. Again I say, go Canada!

4) Menomena - Friend and Foe
I have to confess that I bought this CD this past spring based exclusively on the packaging, something I generally try not to do. But really, this is the the coolest CD package you might ever see. Sometimes cool packaging means the band is trying to compensate for crap music, so one can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to find the the music was awesome. There's so much to listen to in every song, it really bears repeat listens just to try to catch all the details. I'm extremely jealous that Evelyn Is Not Real got to see these guys live a couple times this year. They've got to do some mad looping to pull these songs off live.

3) Brandi Carlile - The Story
If any album on this whole list makes me lose any cool cred I ever had, it'll probably be this one. I heard Brandi Carlile interviewed on NPR and they played the title track of this album. "The Story" is easily my favorite track of the year. Why? It's hard to say. It's a love song, an anthem. It actually mentions crossing mountain tops and swimming oceans, or something along those lines, which should be the kiss of death for any song. It's really pretty over-the-top. But I really, really like it, and I'm not embarrassed to say so. I had it stuck in my head today just thinking about writing this post tonight. So I bought the CD and initially was listening to it primarily to hear this song, and it eventually occurred to me that I really liked most of the other songs as well. The primary category for this album on Amazon is "Adult Alternative." I'm not sure what that means, but I'm guessing it signifies that I'm getting old. This is an album you might buy for your mom (my mom would have loved it), but secretly make a copy of it for yourself.

2) Bishop Allen - The Broken String
Another year and this album may not have been as important to me, but The Broken String was exactly what I needed to cheer me up when I needed it. A lot of the songs are re-workings of the best songs from the band's monthly EP project from 2006, but I like most of these versions better. These songs are intelligent, personal, catchy...everything I could want from an album. This was my Chutes Too Narrow for 2007.

1) The National - Boxer

When Evelyn Is Not Real and his friends put up their top albums of the year so far this past summer, this album kept popping up. It was completely off my radar, so I'm grateful for those lists. I can't even pinpoint why I like this album so first listen it seems like a straight-up rock album. And to some degree, that's exactly what it is. Maybe it's Matt Berninger's vocals, or Bryan Devendorf's perfect drumming, the excellent song-writing...everything just gels for me on this one. This album became the perfect comfort food for my ears. It might take a few listens for it to really sink in, but it will sink in.

That's it. Finally. I'm sure I missed some good stuff. I'm also sure I like some stuff other people hate. Whatever. I hope this list at least piques the interest of a few people. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Holy crap, I saw another movie!

Since there are only about two dozen people in my building today, I decided to play hookie (am I really dating myself with that term?) and catch a matinee of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I don't really have time for a long review, but I can say that I enjoyed it immensely. I wouldn't say it's Tim Burton's best, but it's probably in the top 4 or 5. Ups: the visuals are excellent with a color palette basically consisting of black, white, and red; it's both amusing and gory and a musical without one detracting from the other; the three lead actors (Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman) are perfect for their roles. Helena Bonham Carter is the real convenient is it that Tim Burton's girlfriend is the go-to woman to play pale, frazzled psychos? Also, the three young newcomers in supporting roles are decent singers, which leads me to...downs: As good as they were in their roles, the three leads aren't great singers. But really, I didn't care that much about the quality of the singing. For the most part, I could almost forget that this was a musical (not my favorite genre). That said, some of the songs were painfully long and hurt the pacing--I feel like the movie could have been a good 15 minutes shorter. But all in all, a worthy addition to the Tim Burton catalogue. Probably not necessary to see at the theater unless you feel a geek-like obligation to help Burton's box office, but certainly worth renting at some point down the line.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

EJP's Favorite Albums of 2007 - Installment II

Sorry these installments are taking so long. What with the holidays and The Bug teething, I've either been busy or trying to catch up on sleep. Again, these 10 are in no particular order (for the most part):

20) Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala
Sometimes I just like stuff because it doesn't like anything else I've ever heard. This album falls solidly into that category. Imagine an old-school crooner with a slight Swedish accent who sings songs about cutting a tip of his finger off while slicing an avocado or pretending to be his lesbian friend's boyfriend to appease her Catholic father. I can appreciate anyone who writes amusing songs that don't cross over into novelty, and many of these songs pull that off.

19) Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles - Diamonds in the Dark
OK, when Sarah Borges writes her songs, a 30-something molecular biologist/dad is probably not the target audience she has in mind, which makes my enjoyment of this album that much more amazing. She's a local girl (local for me being Boston) and her songs are largely country-ish in nature. Why do I like twangy songs called "False Eyelashes" and "Belle of the Bar"? I can't really say...I just know I listened to this album a lot and it just got better with time. If you're looking to bust out of an indie-rock rut, I highly recommend this album.

18) Fountains of Wayne - Traffic and Weather
Pitchfork trashed this album: reason #205 why I don't particularly like Pitchfork reviews. A lot of critics lamented "more of the same" from the F of W, but I really don't think that's a bad thing, especially when the songs are as ridiculously catchy as these. And the surprise ending of "Someone to Love" is almost worth the price of admission right there.

17) Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - Living With the Living
Ted Leo manages to be politically relevant without being preachy and without losing entertainment value--no easy task. This is definitely a band I appreciate more for having seen live last year, and this album manages to maintain some of that live energy. You can just imagine Mr. Leo whacking his microphone into his forehead until he draws blood...but, but you know, in a good way.

16) Gogol Bordello - Super Taranta
Already reviewed this one here.

15) Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
I don't have much to say about this one, other than it's a consistently good album by a consistently good band. I'm glad they're getting more notice without having to clean themselves up much. Their music is kind of like that grungy old T-shirt that you kept wearing until it actually became retro enough to be cool.

14) Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
Probably my second favorite Wilco album after Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and definitely an improvement after the challenging A Ghost Is Born.

13) Feist - The Reminder
Wow, I'm realizing that I have a lot of Canadians on this list. Feist is one of 5. Go Canada! It was nice to see an album of originals since her first album, though good, was a lot of covers. I understand that at least one of these songs has turned up on an over-played commercial, but at least her stuff's getting out there. I'm all about artists I like actually getting heard.

12) Don Brownrigg - Wander Songs
What? Who? Yes. I randomly ordered this CD off the internets (probably the only way you'll find it) months ago. The description mentioned something along the lines of "If you like M. Ward then..." It's an apt comparison, but this Newfie (yep, another one of the Canadians) has his own style. He's not quite the guitar virtuoso that Ward is, but the song writing and his voice are solid. Probably the only purely folk album I have on this whole list, and I'm not talking about "freak-folk", whatever the hell that means.

11) Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
This album's place at number 11 is not random, because I had a hard time deciding whether or not to put it in the top 10. I'm still on the fence. It's not quite as good as The Mysterious Production of Eggs, but since I can honestly say that's one of my favorite albums, it would be tough act to follow. Also, some of the tracks are on the Fingerlings 3 album, and I like those versions a little better than the versions on AA. Those quibbles aside, Andrew Bird is still amazing. I hope he keeps making albums for a long, long time.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

EJP's Favorite 2007 albums - Installment I

So I'm totally cheating on the favorite albums of the year thing. Instead of doing 10, I'm doing 30, in three installments of 10. Since I haven't been watching many movies or much TV, I've been listening to a lot of music, so it's not like I'm just throwing every album I listened to up here.

My criteria are pretty simple. At any given time, I have a fairly large stack of CDs on my desk. I'm kind of anal retentive about my music, so I sort of have a system of listening to everything at least three times before it gets ripped onto the computer. There's always a few CDs that I have to force myself to listen to that many times. Those obviously wouldn't make this list. There are some that I don't mind listening to, but I know realistically that I probably won't listen to it much in the future. A good example of an album like this would be this year's new Animal Collective album, Strawberry Jam. Not a bad album at all, but not something I can listen to over and over again. Again, not making this list. Then there are albums that I really look forward to in the rotation, and I might cycle them through multiple times for several months. Many of those will be on my list. Finally, there are the albums that I find myself listening to over and over again, the ones that only come out of the stack because I've run out of room on my desk. Those will be the top 10.

In any case, here's 21-30. No particular order within this range, and I won't get into much or any details since this post is already long and I haven't even started the list yet. I'll probably have more details for stuff higher up the list.

30) Arcade Fire-Neon Bible
As discussed with Evelyn Is Not Real, this one would probably be higher on the list if I'd seen them live at some point this year. I didn't fall in love with this album, but I recognize it as excellent craftmanship all the same.

29) Devendra Banhart - Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon
Pretty much worth it for the song "Shabop Shalom" alone. Yeah, he's weird and probably crazy, but he can write some entertaining songs.

28) Manu Chao - La Radiolina
Way too long for a single album, but in bits and pieces, Manu Chao is always a fun listen.

27) The Pipettes - We Are the Pipettes
So silly and trivial. So very fun. Next year I might be rolling my eyes and shaking my head at the thought of how much I've listened to this CD, but for now it's a guilty pleasure.

26) Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings - 100 Days, 100 Nights
New music that sounds oldish. Good stuff, and quite a set of pipes on this woman.

25) The Hives - The Black and White Album
10%of the albums on my top 30 list (so, like, three of them) are from Scandinavian artists, this being one of them. I don't know that there's anything particularly unique about these guys, but their music is totally rockoutable.

24) The Brunettes -Structure & Cosmetics
A Kiwi couple that consistently creates cute and cuddly pop songs.

23) Cloud Cult - The Meaning of 8
Takes a couple listens, but this one really grew on me.

22) Bright Eyes - Cassadaga

Probably my new favorite Bright Eyes album. I wouldn't say every song is a winner necessarily, but there are a lot of good'uns. "Four Winds", "Soul Singer in a Session Band", and "I Must Belong Somewhere" are a few of the standouts. Also, for some reason, Conor Oberst's voice didn't bug me as much as it sometimes can. The packaging for the CD was pretty cool, too, requiring a secret decoder thing on the inside to look at most of the illustrations.

21) Tegan & Sara - The Con
I really their 2004 album, So Jealous, was way underrated. Pitchfork gave it a dismal rating, but then, Pitchfork hates a lot of bands that I like. This album didn't click with me as quickly as that one, but it's still full of plenty of catchy tunes. The best music being produced by cute, Canadian lesbian twin sisters today.

Monday, December 10, 2007

EJP's Best of the Oddball Classification Albums - 2007

I guess everyone has their own definition of what a "real" album is. In my mind, an album is an LP of songs by one performer or band, releasing primarily new, original material. Musical entities I don't feel fall under this definition are: EPs, posthumously released material, "Best of ..."s, soundtracks, and reissues. Yet I'll still buy some of these types of CDs, so before I start listing my real albums of the year, I'll list a few things I've enjoyed that don't qualify for the other lists. Also, I don't really have time for lots of links and pictures, but if you can't find more information on any given one of these albums in a 10 second search, you probably should stop using the internets now.

Best EP: Beirut - Lon Gisland
Pretty much worth it for the song "Elephant Gun" alone, Beirut also
released an LP, The Flying Club Cup, later in the year. That CD won't be making my album list--not that I don't like it, but it just didn't make the cut. Beirut is definitely a band to watch though.

Best posthumous album: Elliot Smith - New Moon
Kind of a no-brainer since it's the only posthumous album I listened to this year, but that's not to say it wasn't good. This really wasn't the best year for me to be listening to sad Elliot Smith music though...I'll probably bring this one back out next year and give it another shot.

Second Best Reissue: Pavement - Wowee Zowee
Only second best because I already posted on the best, Wowee Zowee is actually my favorite Pavement album. I'm sure other fans will take issue with that, but whatever. This reissue goes almost a little overboard with the extras, but I had to get it since I wore out my old copy of the CD (one of the first CDs I ever bought) a while ago.

Best Soundtrack: The Darjeeling Limited
Even without the help of Mark Mothersbaugh, Wes Anderson still produced yet another stellar soundtrack album. If he ever wants to stop making movies (please don't stop making movies), he can just spend his time making mix CDs for me.

Best CD I picked up for less that $4 at my local grocery store: Three Dog Night - Joy to the World: Their Greatest Hits
Don't you judge me. I used to listen to this album on a tape when I was a kid and I still know nearly every song by heart. Have you even heard "Never Been to Spain"? That's a kick-ass song.

Friday, December 7, 2007

From My Youth

One of my favorite CDs as a teenager was Fugazi's Repeater. I bought it on tape, and I listened to it until the tape fell apart. After that, I sort of forgot about it and never bought it on CD (by that time I was in college and was too busy working and studying).

During my 3 hours of driving today, on Sirius's punk channel I heard Fugazi's song "Repeater." Hearing that song really took me back to when I was 14 and had skater hair and red combat boots. And it made me realize just how fucking cool I was as a teenager in Alabama.

I just bought Repeater on iTunes, and it is just as great now as it was then. I HIGHLY recommend it.

Most Disappointing Albums of 2007

Not to be all Mr. Negativity, but not everything up here can be a rave. There were a couple 2007 albums for which I had high hopes that turned out to be pretty meh. I'll probably have some dissenters (if anyone's even still reading this blog), but these are, after all, just my opinions. No links on this post since I'm not really encouraging anyone to check these things out.

1.) The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
Chutes Too Narrow had to have been a difficult album to follow up--it's probably in my top 10 of the decade so far. I didn't expect the next album to be as good necessarily, but I was hoping to enjoy it more than I did WtNA. I gave this CD several chances, but it just never grew on me. I'm reminded of another band (cough, Weezer, cough, cough) that had a pretty good debut followed by an excellent sophomore album followed by an OK third album. If the comparison is really apt, the fourth album by The Shins will be barely OK followed by a critical disaster by album five.

2.) Okkervil River - The Stage Names

Again, considering how much I enjoyed Black Sheep Boy, maybe I just had my hop
es up too much. I actually really like a few of the songs on this album, but I find it tiresome to listen to from beginning to end. I'm generally not too picky about vocalists (I mean, how many indie rockers can actually sing, really?), but Will Sheff's voice started getting on my nerves after a while. Clever lyrics will only go so far if the voice that's singing them becomes grating.

There were a few more albums I didn't particularly like, but I can't really call them disappointing because I didn't really have high expectations. They Might Be Giants' The Else was neither better nor worse than their last "adult" album, The Spine. I will always have a special place in my heart for TMBG, but I have come to accept that either I've outgrown them to some extent, or they really did peak over a decade ago. This won't stop me from getting their children's CDs for my son, and I'll probably continue to buy whatever they put out for as long the Johns can continue to tolerate each other, but I doubt we'll see another Flood or Apollo 18 from them.

Pretty much the same story for Charles Thompson/Frank Black/Black Francis. He hasn't really done much I liked since the last album with the Catholics, Show Me Your Tears. I actually hated Honeycomb enough to sell the CD (something I almost never do), and this year's release under the Black Francis moniker, Bluefinger, is about the same standard of mediocrity as last year's Fast Man Raider Man. I was listening to Teenager of the Year not long ago, and I couldn't help but think, what happened to that guy? It makes me sad. At this point I'm expecting disappointment from him, so if he actually produces an album I really like again, I'll be ecstatically surprised.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Top 3 Albums I Missed in 2006

Before all the 2007 list-making starts, there are a few 2006 albums that I really enjoyed this past year that technically shouldn't make a 2007 list. Better late than never, I guess...

1.) Rotary Downs - Chained to the Chariot
I heard bits from this band on a couple different NPR shows (Studio 360, All Songs Considered) and found their songs getting stuck in my head. They're indie rockers from a place one doesn't usually associate with indie rock: New Orleans. You can hear some Pavement influence here, but for the most part it's a pretty unique sound with lots of catchy tunes. This one's been a heavy rotation for a few months now.

2.) Alexi Murdoch - Time Without Consequence

If you don't like Nick Drake, I'd quickly warn you away from this one. Murdoch's voice and style of music are very reminiscent of him. Since I do like Nick Drake (though I have to be in the right mood), I like this album. I wouldn't say I like every song, but the songs I do like, I like a lot. "Wait" and "Orange Sky" are a few of my favorites. Nothing you'd want to blast from your car with the windows down, but good chill out music.

3.) Forro in the Dark - Bonfires of Sao Joao

Say what you will about David Byrne--they guy has good taste in music. His solo stuff may be pretty weird (I don't know from first hand experience, but I've heard), but he's brought some cool music to the public's ears over the years. Besides giving a home to Jim White on his Luaka Bop label, he's brought a lot of Brazilian music to the US, including this group. I don't understand 90% of the lyrics on here, but it's still one my favorite albums I've heard all year. I'd love to hear these guys live, and I understand they brought down the house when they played in Austin this past summer. If you can listen to this album without shaking your ass, then you need to get to get your ass fixed.

That's it for now. There's a couple other albums that almost made this list (like The Hold Steady), but I'm out of time and these really were the top three. Check'em out if you get the chance.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Kiwi Comedy

This show has received enough press in various indie media venues that I'm assuming you guys have heard of it or watched it or whatever, but if not, I want to draw your attention to Flight of the Conchords. This review at the Onion A.V. Club sums it up pretty well (and I'm feeling a little lazy for a full review this afternoon). I haven't watched every episode, but I've watched enough at this point to say that it's brilliant. The fact that the songs--which are awesome--are incorporated into each show less than seamlessly is half the fun. All in all, I haven't been this enthusiastic about a comedy since the British version of The Office, which is the highest praise a show can receive from me. I highly encourage you to check it out if you haven't done so already.

Friday, November 23, 2007

One Of The Better Ones

This afternoon, I was bored of packing, working, and sitting around mostly full boxes. So, I went to the movie theater. I hate going to the movies, but boredom forced my hand. I set out to see Beowulf, but instead ended up in The Mist.

It wasn't great, but just pretty good. The acting and directing was great (especially Marcia Gay Harden's spot-on performance as the religious freak). The plot was nothing you haven't seen before: people trapped in chaos--NOTLD, The Thing, etc. It was scary enough and compelling enough to keep me on edge and interested. The CGI was brilliant and totally seamless, in the end providing some surrealist, almost wonder-inspiring moments of Lovecraftian terror. And Darabont just barely pulled off the ending.

The best part: Darabont cranked up the anti-religious aspect of the story to 11. And then some. Even in a mostly empty theater in Alabama, people cheered, really cheered, against Harden's unhinged, vainglorious Christer character who wanted human sacrifices over solutions. The idea that a religious fanatic can eventually control a majority of a given population under stress rang true, and it became the focal point of the plot.

The movie was depressing, as almost all films of this sort are, so don't go in expecting to walk out feeling better. And there were some cliched characters and moments, not to mention several rather obvious plot holes. However, it was certainly one of the better Stephen King movies and would be worth a DVD rental in a few months.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

If You Can Do It, Do It Seriusly

I used part of my relocation budget to buy a Serius satelite radio thing. I LOVE it. Punk, alternative rock, Martha Stewart, Howard Stern, an entire gay channel, NPR, raunchy comedy, and the BBC...will I ever be bored in my car anymore?

I doubt it. Today I had to choose between Frank DeCapo, Sublime, and The Bouncing Souls. All hail our space-based entertainers!

Thank you, Wikipedia

In honor of tomorrow's holiday, I encourage all of you to peruse the Wikipedia article on turducken if you have not already done so. Truly, the noble turducken is food as art, or vice versa. I was particularly astounded by the "variations" section. What I wouldn't give for a slice o' that lovely bustergophechiduckneaealcockidgeoverwingailusharkolanbler. It sounds much more appealing than turdbutt, anyway. Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I can finally post this...

So I've resisted doing a post about The Perry Bible Fellowship because up until recently, it was only an interweb thing. But now Nicholas Gurewitch has come out with a book of his comics, called The Trial of Colonel Sweeto. I guess I'm sneaking this one in through a loophole.

Simply put, this guy makes the funniest/sickest/prettiest comic strips I've ever seen. Some of you might have seen them, too, 'cuz I was sending them out to people in e-mails for a little while. Some of the drawings are so crudely drawn they make Gary Larson look like...umm...someone who draws really well. Some of them are works of art you want to blow up and put on your wall. The complexity of some of the jokes is amazing and it may take you a second to understand a few of them, but it's worth it. Here's the first PBF strip I ever saw, and I was hooked from then on:So check it out, either online or in book form, if you get the chance. Good stuff.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What I'm Reading Now

The Portable Atheist is a must read, and I'm only through the first 50 pages. And I bought it today.

Religion invents a problem where none exists by describing the wicked as also made in the image of god and the sexually nonconformist as existing in a state of incurable mortal sin that can incidentally cause floods and earthquakes.
Read through the history of nonbelief with relish. Note the surprise appearance of H.P. Lovecraft...

You're Not The Boss Of Tigerbot Hesh, Bitch

I had the great pleasure of going to an MC Chris concert tonight at the Zydeco. Unlike the first time I saw him, this time the crowd was all geeks who totally got it. The show was a lot of fun; go see him live if you can.

I haven't witnessed that much geek solidarity (and geek talent) since my first TMBG show back in the early 90s. It must be beheld to be believed.

Buy his CDs if you want to stay cool.

And give it up for the Tussin!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Stolen Child

I don't have much time to expound on The Stolen Child, but I will say that I really liked it. I don't think adult fairy tales are a particularly easy genre to pull off, but Keith Donohue pulls it off with aplomb. The story follows the lives of a little boy who is kidnapped by a tribe of hobgoblins (or changelings) and the changeling who takes over his life. It's unique for many reasons, not the least being that it takes place firmly in the US (as opposed to England) and during relatively modern times.
It's a fast, entertaining, and at times thought- provoking read, and I would encourage anyone to give it a try. There's not a lot of magic being tossed around here willy-nilly, so even readers who aren't big fantasy fans would probably find something to enjoy here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Last Starfighter

"Centauri: [voice in video game] Greetings, Starfighter. You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada. "

This movie rocked my world when I was a wee little lad.

I came across this today and had to post a link to the other blog that discusses it. You see, Atari never released The Last Starfighter video game until now, for free, here.

Damn, that would fit nicely in my dude room. I'll have to add the movie to my queue now. Polish up on my lines.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Darjeeling Limited

So I saw Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited the other night, as predicted in a previous post. For better or for worse, I don't think one can really see a Wes Anderson movie without comparing it to his previous movies; I also don't think one can really appreciate one of his movies without seeing it at least twice. But overall, I liked it. A brief break down:
Good Stuff:
  • The cinematography was the best I'd seen in any Anderson film. It's hard to watch this movie and not want to travel to India yourself.
  • Instead of the sprawling casts of borderline cartoonish characters that populated The Royal Tenenbaums and Life Aquatic, the plot just follows three brothers on their journey through India. Not that all the characters in the other movies weren't fun, but by focusing on just three characters and getting to know them better, the movie is much more streamlined and subsequently, more coherent.
  • The dialog is, as usual, almost poetic at times, though I'd have to watch it again to take it all in. Favorite line: "I love the way this country smells. I'll never forget it. It's kind of spicy."
Not as good stuff:
  • Though I feel kind of guilty criticizing the guy who just tried to off himself, I'm kid of tired of Owen Wilson. None of the characters he plays are all that different from one movie to the next. At least Adrien Brody kind of made up for that.
  • Anderson used the slo-mo move one two many times in this film. It's cool once in a while, but eventually I started to notice it too much--"Oh, they're running in slow motion again. Woopty-doo."
Other stuff:
  • This was the first Anderson movie not scored by Mark Mothersbaugh, but I can live with that considering the film's locale. The music was wholly appropriate, as usual, and I have the soundtrack already (though I haven't listened to it yet).
  • I can't say where I'd rank this among other Wes Anderson movies yet--though it's neither the best nor the worst. In a lot of ways, it's a departure from his previous films, and I think he was due for something a little different. I'll dutifully by the Criterion DVD when it comes out.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I know this isn't a Joss Whedon fan site, but...

I have no choice but to post this story about a new Whedon TV show in the works. Yes, it's for Fox, so it probably won't last long. But one can dream, can't one?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Werewolf Bar Mitzvah

n honor of this day... and for all those 30 Rock fans, me included.

As for my costume, maybe I'll put up a picture
post-facto. Think LOST, think Mikhail.... I'll be the guy in the DHARMA jumpsuit with the eye-patch.

EJP, if I had this t-shirt, I'd wear it on Halloween.

Who's a Halloweenie?

Some Halloween recommendations for this most pagan of holidays:
Donnie Darko.
Not really a horror movie, I know, but still very Halloween-centric. And that rabbit suit is pretty creepy. I can't imagine anyone reading this site who hasn't seen this movie, but if you haven't, check it out. Now that I think about it, Patrick Swayze is legitimately scary in this movie.

And if you don't like this movie, then sometimes, I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!

TV Show:
The League of Gentlemen.
This British sitcom is disturbing on multiple levels. The four writers (three of whom portray virtually every character in the town of Royston Vasey) are obviously huge horror movie fans. It's actually pretty hard to summarize this's incredibly funny at times, but some scenes also made me pretty queasy. There are the inbred monsters who run the "Local Shop for local people", the vet who accidentally kills every single one of his patients in increasingly gruesome ways, the butcher who sells his addictive "special stuff." There's nothing else like it out there that I've seen. If you come to visit, I can lend you the whole series on DVD.

Say Hi to Your Mom's "Impeccable Blahs"
I have yet to find anyone who actually likes this band as much as I do. Admittedly, the songs often border on novelty, but a lot of times they're really good songs that just happen to be amusing. In any case, this album, the band's fourth, is essential Halloween listening since virtually every song has something to do with vampires. There's "These Fangs", "She Just Happens to Date the Prince of Darkness", and "Angels and Darlas", just to name a few. It's pretty much nerd rock (if you couldn't tell from the Angel/Darla reference), and being a nerd who likes to rock, that's fine by me.

The shirt I'm wearing today:In case you can't tell what this shirt is depicting, it's a zombie donkey. That is, it's a little boy riding on the shoulders of a zombie, dangling a brain from a stick in front of said zombie. 'Cuz zombies eat brains, get it? It is awesome, and I will probably wear this shirt every Halloween until it falls apart or I get too fat. You can get shirts like this from (Clyde Squid has already received one or two from me), though you can't get this particular shirt anymore unless they reprint it.

That's it. I'm pop cultured out for the day. Have a spoooooky Halloween everybody!!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Queers For Fears

Video sent by sarahwarn
Great homo horror movie run-down. More at, where a certain queermo won the first Halloween contest.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Believer

I'm not a huge magazine person. I read Newsweek because it fills me in on the news I can't watch on TV or glean from various internet news sites. I peruse Newsweek while I'm waiting for or on the train, since it has relatively short articles and it's not that embarassing. I also have a few guilty pleasures, namely mental_floss and Geek Monthly. Both of those magazines are pretty entertaining and quasi-informative, and any given "article" is so short that I can usually read it while I'm eating a bowl of cereal in the morning. These are magazines I enjoy, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend them to everyone.

The magazine that I'm actually touting here is The Believer. Brought to you by the good people at McSweeney's, The Believer has a little bit of everything for people who enjoy The Arts (literature, music, film), politics, philosophy, science, or what have you. The last complete issue I read included: an essay on the subject of ceremony, based around the music of New Order and the funeral of Gerald R. Ford; a look at the influence of Arch Oboler's '40s radio dramas on the ultra-violent horror films currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity; an interview with the primatologist Frans de Waal discussing what we can learn about human behavior by studying bonobos and chimps; an interview with the Mike Scott, leader of the band The Waterboys, by Colin Meloy; and the regular column "Stuff I've Been Reading", by Nick Hornby. And that's not even half the magazine.

Yes, sometimes the essays and interviews can get a tad pretentious, and the magazine is undeniably left-leaning. But the bottom line is, whenever I finish an issue, I feel smarter. I've been reading The Believer for a few years now and I've lost count of the number of authors and musicians I've been introduced to through it. The magazine regularly thrusts things into my mind that I've never thought about before. Like the article I read last year, which was an account of two lesbian artists from the Bay area who attended a taxidermy convention in one of the Dakotas. It was amazing. The author obviously learned a lot about a part of American she had never encountered, and she related the experience while remaining respectful towards a very right-leaning group of people who could have been easily skewered by someone going for a quick laugh instead of insight.

So if you get the chance, try to pick up a copy and your local wherever-you-buy-magazines, or look up some of the recent issues online. It'll make you feel, like, wicked smaht.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


I have been promoted to a new position, one that requires me to move to Huntsville, AL. I expect those posters in Tennessee to feign mild excitement over my living a short weekend trip away. I will, of course, require coolness updates on band- and movie-fun in that great metropolis.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Reissue of the Year

I know it's a little early for best of the year lists or picks, but I'm confident nothing is going to top my favorite reissue of the year, The Traveling Wilburys. Their two albums were released together earlier this year, and I have to admit it's a largely sentimental favorite. My mom played these tapes in the car a lot. That said, this is a group made up of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and some other guy I can never remember. In any case, those are some big deal names, and for the most part, these are some fun songs. Vol. 1 is especially good, with songs like "Handle With Care" and "End of the Line." You really miss Roy Orbison in Vol. 3 (those wacky guys skipped vol. 2!) but it's still alright. It's nothing to take very seriously, just something fun to pop in when you're up for some simple tunes crafted by the some of the best songwriters of the past 30+ years.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Get Juiced

Wa-Wa-Wee-Wa. Holy Snikies Batman. I'm having a congasm. And then the gods opened up the heavens and produced Joost.

You know, like 15,000 of your favorite TV shows available to watch for free.
Babylon 5. Check. Transformers. Double check.

I'm still in the process of checking it out, but for someone
who doesn't have cable, this makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The software runs on either PC or Mac. Nice. Very nice. There is a little blurb about it on this NY times article. It's possible that this will be a waste of time, but so far it looks promising... and it's free. Anyway, it's nice to have options.