Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Weaving is a man's game"

OK, so I thought I might be able to get my top albums of 2008 up before I left for Germany, but that's not going to happen. I'll get it up in January though, for sure. Besides, I've got a stack of new albums resulting from my usual year-end binge, and there's a reasonable chance that some of them will make the list (TV on the Radio, I'm looking at you!)

So, to make up for what I can only assume is a shattering disappointment, I'm posting the Season 2 premiere of Flight of the Conchords (legally!). It won't make much sense if you haven't at least watched the last episode of the first season. But if you haven't watched the first season by now, you should, because FotC is fun, and fun is good*.

*this rhyme blatantly ripped from from Dr. Seuss.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fables: The TV Show?

I wrapped up the comics primer I posted this past year with high praise for Bill Willingham's Fables series. I was surprised to learn today that it may actually be made into a TV series.

As the AV Club article mentions, this could either be really good or very disappointing. Any decent TV version of this series would have to have some incredibly high production values to be any good, and somehow I doubt ABC has the cojones to pony up that kind of money on something this risky. Maybe if they limited the TV series to Fabletown (which exists within NYC) and left The Farm (where all the non-human fables live) out altogether they could do it less expensively, but the writers would have to sacrifice several interesting story lines. I think the show is an ambitious idea, and someone in TV land knows some good story-telling when they see it, but I can't help but be a little pessimistic. I could maybe see HBO pulling something like this off, but ABC? Not so much.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

EJP's Top Irregular Albums of 2008

I had a post like this last year, so I figured I better get the ball rolling with this post. Actually, I'm not going to be quite as ambitious this year with the end-of-year lists. I leave for Germany in a week and have metric buttloads of stuff to do before then. I'll be condensing things a bit this year, and no way will there be a top 30 like last year. it is, I'm up way past my bedtime tonight.

Best 2006 album that wasn't purchased until 2008: The Dodos - Beware of the Maniacs
I already raved about this album extensively much earlier this year, so I won't really go into any details here. The Dodos got some good press in 2008 with the release of Visiter, their followup to this album, but I have to say I think BofM is the better album. It's more of a fun album, in any case, and it's still getting a lot of play time with me.

Best Reissue 2008: Andrew Bird - Music of Hair
This one wins by default because I think it's the only reissue I purchased this year. No, that's not true...I got something by Mission of Burma and hated it. It's no secret that I'm totally crushing on Andrew Bird's music, so this pick should not come as a surprise to anyone who reads this blog. That said, Music of Hair is not for everyone. In Bird's own words, "It is sort of a relic from the time before I got my conceptual shit together.” That sounds about right. The styles of the songs are spotty and the singing (what little of it there is) is fairly weak. There's little if any of the trademark whistling--the album is all about the violin. Lucky for me I enjoy the violin in nearly any style, so I found the album a great listen. I haven't had it for very long, so I can't really say I have a favorite track. I'd say it's a nice album to have playing in the background while preparing a Sunday dinner.

Best EP of 2008: Ben Kweller - How Ya Lookin' Southbound? Comein...
I also didn't get many EPs this year, but I'm glad I picked this one up. Generally when a rock artist "goes country", the result is pretty disappointing. But Kweller pulled this one off with aplomb. I genuinely liked every track on this EP, and I would go so far as to say that "Things I Like To Do" and "Sawdust Man" are two of BK's better songs as of late. This EP definitely whet my appetite for the upcoming LP. I'd say it was a must-have for any Ben Kweller fan, and even a should-give-a-listen to nonfans, though it's not really representative of his previous work.

Best Soundtrack of 2008: ???
I think the only soundtrack I bought this entire year was Juno's, which technically came out in 2007. I suppose that it'll have to count, but if anyone has any other recommendations, let me know. Not that the Juno soundtrack was bad, but I'd rather heap praise upon Kimya Dawson for...

Best Children's Album of 2008: Kimya Dawson and Friends - Alphabutt
This is a new category for me, and it's actually pretty competitive. My son listens to plenty of my music, but he's also got a growing collection of kids' albums, all carefully selected by me (which means no Rafi). Alphabutt won this one hands down. It has very, very little educational value, and let's face it, Kimya Dawson can't sing worth shite. But guess what? Kids don't care. These songs are fun and delightfully immature. There are several songs about farting, and I'm totally down with that. Farts are funny. My son might not appreciate this album much now, but he will. This'll be the CD we can only play when mommy's not home, because she loathes it. This is not to say die Frau isn't fun, but unlike me, she is usually unable to regress her sense of humor back to age 7. Oh well, more fun for the boys...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

EINR: My Picks For Best Albums of 2008

Straight to the point. Minimalistic. That's all I have to give right now. See my previous posts as references as well (here).

2008, Best Albums of the Year:

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

The Walkmen – You & Me

Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

J.Tillman – Long May You Run, J. Tillman/Minor Works/I Will Return. Kinda cheating with three albums, but they have really been hitting me hard. If you want happy go lucky, this is not for you. Trust me.

Calexico – Carried to Dust

Centro-Matic/South San Gabriel – Dual Hawks. This is the most recent addition, and it is possible that it should be higher, if that matters.

Cut/Copy - In Ghost Colours

Girl Talk – Feed the Animals

Thao & The Get Down, Stay Down - We Brave Bee Stings and All

Frightened Rabbit – Midnight Organ Fight

Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

Sun Kil Moon – April

Los Campesinos! – We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

The Wood Brothers – Loaded

Others that didn't make the list:

Portishead – Third
British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
The Black Keys – Attack & Release
The Broken West – Now or Heaven
Cold War Kids – Loyalty to Loyalty
M83 - Saturdays = Youth
Okkervil River – The Stand Ins
Mates of States – Re-Arrange Us
Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
Spiritualized – Songs in A&E
Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer
TV on the Radio – Weird Science
R.E.M. - Accelerate
Beck - Modern Guilt

Most disappointing album of the year:

My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges

Memorable Shows from 2008:
03/02/08: Wilco – The Ryman, Nashville, TN
03/12/08: Seeing David Berman 'poetry reading' at a small art design college in Nashville. Does this count as a show?
05/09/08: Radiohead – Charlotte, NC
05/17/08: Ladyhawk – The End, Nashville, TN
10/01/08: The Walkmen – Cat's Cradle, Carrboro, NC
10/02/08: Andrew Bird – UNC Memorial Hall, Chapel Hill, NC
10/03/08: The Black Keys – Orange Peel, Asheville, NC

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mmm...That's Some Good Sarcasm

I'm generally opposed to posting internetty stuff up here, but today's Toothpaste for Dinner just hit too close to home. It probably hits pretty close to home to more than a few people who read this blog...(you'll have to click on the pic to read the whole cartoon)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Retro Reviews: Hot Fuzz & WALL-E

I used the long weekend to catch up on some movie watching, and I watched TWO movies in two days. Maybe I'll even watch another one tonight, if I'm feeling crazy.

As a big fan of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's Shaun of the Dead, I'd been looking forward to seeing Hot Fuzz for a while. It did not disappoint. Hot Fuzz does for action movies as Shaun of the Dead did for zombie movies, only more so. Besides being everything a satire should be, it was also a virtual who's who of British actors and actresses. As a self-professed Anglophile, I found myself frequently distracted from the movie because I kept thinking, "Hey, there's Tim from The Office. There's Jim Broadbent. There's..." and so on. Even Timothy Dalton, who I generally only think of as my least-favorite Bond, hams it perfectly here. It's honestly pretty rare that I laugh out loud at a comedy, but I did so frequently here. Definitely worth checking out if you haven't done so already.

I won't go into many details about WALL-E, if only because Clyde Squid just posted a review of this movie over on his other blog. I'll just say I agree with his assessment--it's a fun flick, not that I expect anything less from Pixar. This also happens to be the first movie my son ever watched, which is kinda cool. I honestly can't believe he sat still long enough to watch this from beginning to end; his attention span doesn't usually last more than 15 minutes. By the end of the movie, he was yelping "Wall-E! Wall-E!" My little nerdling.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bender's Game (Is Over)

Watched the latest Futurama movie the other day, "Bender's Game." Despite the title, the movie is not a spoof of Ender's Game, which probably would have been a little too nerdy even for Futurama fans. It's really a send-up of Dungeons & Dragons, which is just nerdy enough, apparently.

There is an inherent problem with all of these Futurama movies, but it was never more evident than in this one. These "movies" were written so they could be broken up into 4 distinct episodes and broadcast on TV. That's a less-than-ideal way to create a cohesive story. The other two movies pulled it off reasonably well, but this third installment felt a bit more slapped together. What you get is something closer to the "Family Guy" style of writing--essentially a string of pop culture references held together by thinnest of story lines. I mean, the plot development that dumps the cast into a fantasy (as opposed to sci-fi) dimension makes no sense at all. The ground literally opens up, they fall through the crack, and suddenly they're in a land where Leela's a centaur and Farnsworth's a wizard. They're conveniently in the fantasy dimension for about 22 minutes.

This major complaint aside, I did chuckle out loud a number of times, just as I chuckle through Family Guy sometimes. I'm a sucker for pop culture references, but I've come to expect a little bit more from Futurama. The writers (and there were a lot of them for this movie) seemed to have phoned it in a bit here, which is unfortunate. Apparently there's yet another movie coming out--I believe there were originally supposed to be three--so maybe they'll try a little harder next time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nerd Rave: BSG 3rd Season

Since Clyde Squid did a BSG post on his other blog yesterday, I thought I'd mention that I finally finished watching the 3rd season this past weekend. I've finally caught up enough to be way behind again!

All I can say is that I enjoyed the entire season immensely, but that last two part episode blew my frakking mind. I've never been a huge fan of court room dramas (I'm pretty sure I'm the only person in this country who's never seen a single episode of "Law and Order"), but that was some trial. I'm not a huge fan of Apollo's character, but his rehashing of all the appalling things that various other characters had done over the past few seasons was incredible. And Baltar's exclamation after Gaeda's testimony may be one of my favorite lines of the entire series: ""The whole fleet knows this man tried to stab me through the neck. And you missed! Butterfingers!"
Shite...I still laugh every time I think about it.

I also loved the way the 4 new Cylons were revealed, two of whom are favorite characters of mine. One was not much of a surprise and one was a huge surprise. Oddly enough, the day after I watched these episodes, I accidentally left a crappy little radio on in our spare bedroom upstairs, which also happens to house the AC unit for the entire condo's central air. For the rest of the day, I kept hearing tinny music coming out of the ceilings and it took me a while to figure out where it was coming from. Thank goodness "All Along the Watchtower" never came on...

Anyway, I realize all of this is old news to you guys. Obviously I don't want any spoilers, but does the show continue to hold up in the next season? Season 4.0 arrives in mid-January.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Of All the Decemberists Songs to Get a Video...

There's been a lot of Decemberists backlash the last few years, but though I tend to like their earlier albums a bit more than the more recent albums, they're still one of my favorite bands. "The Tain" was arguably one of the more bizarre things they've put out--running around 18 minutes, the song is certainly not everyone's cup of tea. But I saw them perform it live at the Cat's Cradle years ago, as an encore, and it really is a creepy, fun song. Imagine my surprise when a video popped up on Pitchfork TV recently. If you can sit through the whole thing, it's actually pretty well done. It combines two of my favorite things: Decemberists music and weird animation. Take a gander if you've got about 20 minutes to spare...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Nerd Rant: The Stata Center

I know very, very little about architecture. I approach architecture the same way I approach many types of art about which I have little to no formal education: I either like it or I don't. Well, except for one general personal rule--the architecture I like must not sacrifice form for function. That said, I generally just don't think about architecture all that much, unless it's a building I work in or something exceptionally striking. The building I work in now is not much to look at and has some flaws, but for the most part I enjoy working there. The Stata Center, home to MIT's Computer Science Department and AI laboratory, is exceptionally striking. It's about two blocks from where I work and I walk by it nearly every day.

I've had mixed feelings about Frank Gehry's Stata Center since I first laid eyes on it years ago. There was the initial "Wow" factor, of course. I mean, look at it:
Then, when the novelty began to wear off, I began to wonder if it's actually just an eyesore. Then I got pretty used to seeing it on a daily basis, and I mostly thought of it as a helpful landmark. "Just take a right at the Crazy Building and you're there." But up until today, I'd never actually been inside the building. Now I have a new opinion of the Stata Center.

This is the worst effing building I've ever entered.

The professional reviews of the building have been mixed from the beginning, and much has been said by people smarter than me about how "uncomfortable" the building is. Have you ever imagined walking through an M.C. Escher drawing? Does that sound cool to you? Really? I mean really close your eyes and imagine it. Oops, did your stomach just lurch a little bit? Welcome to the Stata Center!

Here was my experience today, briefly. My boss, a colleague, and I decided to go to a seminar that happened to be in the Stata Center. I was pretty pumped to finally see the inside of the place. Upon walking through the front door, I found myself at the bottom of a psychedelic canyon. There were no 90 degree corners to be found. The walls slanted away and in many places went up a few stories to a variety of convoluted ceilings. It was all kind of a blur until the elevator. On the elevator, my boss, who went to MIT, told the story of a friend who had a job interview on the second floor of this building and was half an hour late because he couldn't figure out how to get to the second floor. Sure enough, I looked at the elevator buttons and there was no "2" to be seen. We went from L to 3 in one swoop, bypassing the mythical second floor completely.

We walked into the auditorium, which felt like walking into the bottom of a starburst shaped missile silo. I'm pretty sure we were inside the yellow structure you see here:
These walls actually lean inward, and were covered with a disconcerting grid of spots that probably had to be there to improve the acoustics in this unfortunately-shaped room. I soon discovered that if my eyes strayed too long from the screen or the speaker, I started to feel woozy. I have never experienced vertigo or claustrophobia, but this room made me feel a little of each.

Upon leaving the seminar (which luckily was interesting enough that my eyes seldom strayed from the screen), we decided to take the stairs down to the ground floor. There was a staircase right in front of us as we left the room, and we took it down to the fantastical 2nd floor. Upon doing a 180 at the bottom of the stairs to find the next flight down I found...nothing. A wall. Where were the stairs to the ground floor? I turned around to see that I had three choices: a hallway to my left, a bizarre twisty catwalk, or, hey a flight of stairs off to the right! Naturally we took the stairs down to...nothing. We found ourselves on a platform halfway between the 2nd and 1st floor that had no discernable egress. No more stairs, no doors. Not even a chair to sit on. There was a railing you could peer over into the cafeteria, in case you like to look at the tops of people's heads while they eat, but that was it. So we went back up the stairs and made our way over the twisty catwalk, where we eventually found the next set of stairs, essentially on the other side of the building, to get to the next floor.

WTF? Not to sound all Mr. Safety, but how the hell did this place pass fire codes? My colleagues and I are not stupid people, and yet it took us several minutes to figure out how to make a trip that should have taken 30 seconds.

The bottom line is, the Stata Center is the most pretentious pile o' crap I've ever seen or experienced. I can't imagine the poor people who have to work and study in it every day. I suppose they get used to it eventually, but you shouldn't have to gradually grow acclimated to the building you work in, at least not to this extent. And I haven't even gone into the fact that the building is barely even structurally sound--MIT sued Gehry last year for all the problems they've had with the building's integrity. What a disaster.

Please someone, direct me towards a building in the Boston area that will erase this nightmare from my memory.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Cannibal Movies: Mmm, Mmm Good

I have neither the time nor the energy to do a Halloween blog as elaborate as last year's, so instead I'm doing a brief review of a few cannibal movies. We're all very familiar with vampires, werewolves, zombies, and the like. Just to be clear, though zombies eat human brains, they are not cannibals since they are technically dead already. Cannibal movies are their own genre, though my very brief and far-from-complete list should prove that the genre can actually be quite diverse. Also, consider this a warning...I'm on my third glass of wine (the alcohol will counteract all the sugar I've consumed today, right?), so this post may very well make no sense whatsoever.

Ravenous (1999)
This movie features Guy Pearce as this army guy who's stationed at some fort in the middle of nowhere in 1847. Robert Carlyle shows up and he's all wanting to eat people and stuff, because he had to at some point and he realized it made him superhuman. David Arquette is in it and (spoiler alert!) he dies, which is awesome. It also features Jeffrey Jones, the principal from Ferris Beuller's Day Off, in one of his better roles, before we found out he was a pervert in real life. I once cooked dinner for Jeffrey Jones when he came to the restaurant I worked at, and it makes me sad that he is a pervert.
But I digress. This movie is actually not terrible. But it is not terrible despite having the worst, most inappropriate soundtrack of any horror movie ever. Even though it takes place in rural America in 1847, the soundtrack is very contemporary and it sounds like it was composed by a 12-year-old on his Casio synthesizer. Still, there were some clever surprises and some creepiness, so it gets at least one thumb up from me.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
I already reviewed this movie here. It was a wonderful return to form for Tim Burton, and it was a musical about cannibalism! Who could've thunk of such a thing! Oh wait....

Cannibal! The Musical (1996)
Honestly, it's been ages since I saw this movie, but after finding the trailer online to do this post, I think I may have to buy it. I mostly remember it was awesome. Like Sweeney Todd, it's a musical about cannibalism. It's also based on the true story of Alferd Packer, the only man convicted of cannibalism in the state of Colorado. Wait, did I just type Colorado? That makes sense, because this movie was also written, directed, and starred in by famous Colorado person Trey Parker. Is it mere coincidence that "Packer" and "Parker" are such similar names? Yes, I believe so.
In any case, as you can probably tell by the trailer below, this movie was made on a shoestring budget, so it looks pretty cheesy. But really, that just adds to the charm. The hilarious songs give you an early glimpse at the genius behind South Park and it's just good fun all around. This is an essential movie for anyone who likes Trey Parker/Colorado history/musicals about cannibalism.

Delicatessen (1991)
I've saved this one for last because a) I just watched it last night and b) Jean-Pierre Jeunet is one of my favoritist directors. I can't find anything about this movie not to like. Even though it's about a butcher in post-apocalyptic France who lures men into his building in order to eventually slaughter them and sell their flesh to his tenants (who know perfectly well what's going on), it's honestly more of a light-hearted jaunt of a movie. Like nearly all of Jeunet's movies--most notably Amelie and City of Lost Children--it is very, very pretty. From the opening panning shot and the beautifully clever credits to the Wes-Anderson-will-eventually-rip-this-off ending, this film is pure eye candy. Despite its plot (such as it is), it's really a dark comedy, heavy on the comedy. Nothing about this film is particularly scary. If you only watch one movie on this list, make it this one. If you watch it on my recommendation and don't like it, feel free to send a scathing comment or e-mail.

Do YOU have a favorite movie about cannabilism? Tell me about it!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Gooed times

For gamers, the madness has begun. We have entered the late fall release period, when every week brings the release of two or more AAA titles from major studios and publishers. Just looking at this week's release slate makes me so, so happy that I do not review games for a living: I would probably go mad just trying to cover a tenth of this mess. We have the big sequels — this week sees Fallout 3, Fable II and Far Cry 2 are already out, Gears of War 2 and others are coming. We also have some truly unique and original ideas out and on the way, with parkour adventure Mirror's Edge and the cooperative zombie shooter Left 4 Dead. In all of this noise, you might miss a game like the physics puzzler World of Goo, from independent developers 2D Boy. Well, don't get snowed by the big boys — World of Goo will put a smile on your face even as you violently curse the law of gravity for its obstinacy.

The World of Goo is inhabited by numerous little goo balls that can be stuck together to create structures. In each level you have a few goos and a gap you must cross somehow to reach a pipe that forms the level's egress — the goo balls only really move across structures made from other gooballs. Most frequently you must build a bridge, but towers, arches, pendulums, and other more exotic designs are also needed. The key to each level is making optimal use of the structural properties of the goos, as well as their special abilities. The goo balls can produce relatively strong structures, but you rarely have the numbers or the space to build anything more than a rather wobbly one. Figuring out how to turn your limited goo balls into an escape route can be quite a challenge, and success produces some great "Aha!" moments.

On their own, the puzzles would be entertaining enough, and the game doesn't really need anything more. What made the game for me, though, was the art direction. The environments are whimsical, cute, and a little creepy. The music also contributes wonderfully to the atmosphere of each level. Although at its core it this a game about cute little balls of goo that stick together, the levels manage an impressive range of moods. World of Goo has a light little story, mostly carried on by unobtrusive signs and a few cutscenes, about corporate greed, skin-deep culture, and advertising. Understanding that the goo balls are delicious, however, is not essential to enjoying the game.

World of Goo isn't perfect. It can be difficult to select a specific goo that you want, especially if your structures are a bit crowded. Some goo balls that can create either nodes or struts have a tendency to add in as the wrong thing, and when your structures get to wobbling it becomes very easy to make a mistake or drop a goo ball by accident. These problems are essentially minor and probably won't get in the way of your enjoying the game. The only real sin in the game is one of the last levels, which I felt depended too much on luck. It's one thing for me to flub a level, quite another for the level to be flubbed for me by the design.

That one level aside, however, World of Goo has plenty of fun and personality to offer. Although the game is short enough to finish in one or two sittings, getting the obsessive completion distinction on each level, and gaining more extra goo balls for an associated meta-game, will provide several additional hours of play. It's the season for hi-res, hi-polygon titles from big publishers, but you could do much worse than setting those titles aside and getting elbow-deep in some 2D goo.

World of Goo is presently available through WiiWare, and it can be purchased for the PC directly from the developers or via several download services such as Steam. If you don't have a PC, don't despair: Mac and Linux (!!) versions are currently in beta and should be available soon. For this review the game was played to completion on the Wii.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Spore Gets an F

This is really more MWC's territory, but when I first heard about Spore I thought it sounded pretty cool. A game that actually incorporates real scientific principles--evolutionary principles no less--sounded right up my alley.

Too bad it turned out to be about as scientific as Pac-man eating power pellets and getting chased by ghosts (sorry my game references are just a little outdated). Science's "gonzo scientist," John Bohannon, recently tried out the game with some actual scientists, giving it grades on scientific accuracy. The thousands of horrible reviews on Amazon already convinced me not to consider checking out the game, but the borderline angry flunking it received from these scientists served as the final nail in the coffin (sorry for the cliches here; I'm too tired to put that much effort into writing well today).

MWC--I've been aware of your disinterest in Spore for a while now. Any final thoughts?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

First Impressions: Dressy Bessy, I'm From Barcelona, Head of Femur, Airborne Toxic Event

After a relatively slow August and September, I got a pile of new music this past month. I'm still digesting a lot of it, but here are some quick first impressions of a couple albums from two bands I know and two bands I didn't know.

Dressy Bessy: HOLLERandSTOMP
Dressy Bessy will always hold a place in my heart (or at least my ears) because they've produced a few of my favorite albums of this past decade. This new album, by the band's own admission, is a bit of a departure for them. It's a bit more lo-fi, a bit darker, and many of the songs are slower than what I've come to expect from Dressy Bessy. To be fair, Tammy Ealom and her crew have been going at this for the better part of 12 years, so they could probably use a tweak in their formula. HOLLERandSTOMP is no Electrified or Dressy Bessy, but a not-fantastic Dressy Bessy album is better than none at all. I can't quite imagine Tammy shaking her thang in her go-go boots to many of these songs (and I already missed their show in Boston, so I won't be able to find out first hand), and I wouldn't recommend this as an intro to this band (I'd definitely go with their self-titled LP for that), but HOLLERandSTOMP is a more than adequate addition to this underrated band's discography.

Head of Femur: Great Plains
Here's another band that's apparently been around for a while, but this was my first foray into their music. This album is a bit weird, and coming from me, that's saying something. They play with a lot of musical styles and toss around a lot of instruments (many of which are played by guest musicians, I believe). They even get away with some saxophone on one of the standout tracks on the album, "Jetway Junior." Stylistically, these guys are as all over the place as Ween, and their writing is as all over the place as They Might Be Giants...I'm pretty sure the song "River Ramble" is about pollution, song from the point of view of a hick. Maybe. I'm actually not that sure about it at all, but it's a strange-but-pleasant tune. Individually, a lot of these songs are fun and catchy, but disparate enough that I'll probably listen to them on a song-by-song basis rather than listen to this whole album from beginning to end very often. I need to give it a few more listens, but I've enjoyed what I've heard so far.

I'm from Barcelona: Who Killed Harry Houdini?
I'm from Barcelona's last album, Let Me Introduce My Friends, actually made my Top 10 list for 2007. I can say with some certainty that Who Killed Harry Houdini? will not find a coveted spot on my 2008 list. I doubt it will even crack my top 20. It's not that it's bad necessarily, or even that the novelty of this humongous Swedish band has worn off. It's more that their debut album was filled with a certain child-like wonderment, and this album moves the group into a more somber early-adolescence. Emanuel Lundgren's motley crew (seriously, check out the members page on the band's website) can still create some great music, but the songs have lost their innocence. I don't mean to trash this album, especially after only one just wasn't what I expected. I'll certainly give it many more listens before I can relegate it to the "listen to only once in a great while" pile, but I'm not really that optimistic about this one.

The Airborne Toxic Event: The Airborne Toxic Event
If you have any faith in my musical taste whatsoever, then you will go out and buy or steal or do something that will allow you to listen to this album. Listen to the song in the video below (if it's working--I've been having issues with the video), and take note that as good as it is, it's probably not even the best song on this album...that would probably be "Gasoline." The songs are super-catchy, the music is plain and simple rock--I'm glad I stumbled across these guys. They're just what I needed after a slow few months. Though I like the other three albums in this post to varying degrees, none of them will be in my top ten for the year, whereas this one stands a very good chance.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gmail's Mail Goggles

Just a short blurb... not particularly music related, but seeing as we all are Gmail users at the Love-Camel, I thought it would be good to share the info. So the next time you are three sheets to the wind and think it is a good time to send your ex-whatever a little drunken email, Mail Goggles to the rescue. I can't make this stuff up. Yet another reason to have a Gmail account. Fo Sho. If you gotta read more about this fabulous application.

Friday, October 10, 2008

There Will Be Snacks

So for the first time since we started this blog, EINR and I have seen the same artist on the same tour, but in two different places. The other night I saw Andrew Bird on the tail end of his solo tour--EINR saw the first stop on that tour.

I won't go into a lot of details since there was such a recent post (with a link to another decent concert review within that post), but I really can't stress enough how good A.B. is live. His albums are great and I listen to them a lot, but the energy and virtuosity he showcases live make him one of the best performers I've seen in the past decade. During one of his songs, he looped at least three violin tracks, a whistling track, hand claps, a sound he made with his mouth that sounded like brushes on a snare drum, a cooing vocal with which he would later harmonize, and then he picked up his guitar and started singing the actual song. And set it all up withing about 1 minute. Sitting back and listening to this wall of sound, it's easy to forget that one man just produced all of that music in a very short period of time, and he's keeping it all in his head as he continues to modify his loops. As I told my sister (who awesomely got us center seats in the second row for this show), the next couple times she sees a guy just singing and strumming a guitar, she's going to be a bit disappointed. Andrew Bird has way more talent than any one person should have, but I won't begrudge him for it. I'll just enjoy it. A lot.

For once, I actually found the playlist for this one:
1) Intro (Il Conformista Prelude, I think it's called) 2) Sovay 3) Why? 4) A Nervous Tic Motion 5) Natural Disaster 6) Water Jet Cilice 7) Spare-Ohs 8) Plasticities 9) Anonanimal 10) Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning 11) Skin Is, My 12) Tables and Chairs ENCORE: Action/Adventure and Some Of These Days.

Pretty similar to the set in Chapel Hill, with a few change-ups. A.B. explained what Spare-Ohs was all about, which was an interesting story to say the least. Throwing "Action/Adventure" into the encore was also a nice bonus.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the excellence of the venue. Even Bird himself said he'd been playing a lot of lovely theaters during his current tour, but The Music Hall "[took] the cake." It is beautiful, and has some of the best sound of any venue I've ever been in. Sure, the new lobby looks like Tim Burton just created a set for Munchkin Land, but it's still pretty cool. Please go see a show there if you ever get the chance. Portsmouth is already a pretty cool city, but The Music Hall ups its cool factor considerably.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


The elusive Bison Whisperer stayed with me for a few days last week and this past weekend. Yes, he's real! He may not actually post on this site, but we did talk a lot about music and movies, as we tend to do when we're together. Saturday night we decided to see a movie at the little theater down the street from me, though pickings were a little slim. We decided on Choke, the movie based on the Chuck Palahniuk novel by the same name.

Now I love me some Chuck Palahniuk. His books are sick and twisted, but often fairly amusing, too. Choke is the story of a sex-addicted historical re-enactor who deliberately chokes on food in restaurants so people will save him and feel good about themselves (and later, send him money because they feel responsible for him). It's a good read. The problem is, though Palahniuk's books are generally quite entertaining, they've got to be a bear to adapt to film. They generally don't have much of a plot, they often jump around in time or have some complicated narrative device, and I can't recall any of them ending happily. A crazy good director, like, say, David Fincher, can still pull it off. First time director Clark Gregg...not so much.

That isn't to say this was a bad movie. Some individual scenes were pretty good, I laughed out loud a few times, and the acting (particularly by the star, Sam Rockwell, and the always entertaining Angelica Houston) ranged from good to excellent. But the heart of the book--the choking scam the central character practices to "earn" money for his ailing mother--is essentially side-lined in the film while the sex addiction comes to the forefront. The result is a movie that appears to be a bit slapdash. True, the book is pretty slapdash, too, but books can get away with that whereas movies generally can't. By the time we got to the "twist" ending (which I'd honestly completely forgotten since reading the book), instead of shock, there was more of a little shoulder shrug on my part. The ending was also completely different from the book, which ended on a huge downer. I was suprised this purported Sundance winner played it safe with even a marginally happy ending.

It's impossible to say how I would have liked this movie if I hadn't read the book. Bison Whisperer, who hadn't read the book, seemed to like it OK. I'd rent it at some point if you're a Palahniuk fan, just because adaptations of his books are few and far between. If you happen to like Sam Rockwell, who's a fairly underrated actor, you might enjoy him here in one of his few leading roles. If you want to choose between the movie and the book, however, go for the novel.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Musical Nirvana

So right now I am in the middle my personal Evelyn's Music Fest 2008, which is basically what I hope to be three amazing shows in three days. I wasn't able to make it to any festivals this year, which, while making me a little depressed, helps to reinforce the idea that life is always changing, and well, enjoy the moment, because those festivals and shows that we often reminisce about, like when I was at Stubb's in 2005 for Arcade Fire and Black Keys, are distinct moments in time and will never be reproduced.

So, it just so happened that on Thursday I picked up a Daily Tar Heel and saw that none other that Andrew Bird was scheduled to play at UNC's Memorial Hall. How in the hell did I miss that? Well, I blame being recently reunited with Chapel Hill...I usually pride myself on being aware of these things. I was introduced to Mr. Bird by EJP some years ago, and ever since, he has been a constant fixture in getting some airtime in my ears. Turns out, his performance was to be solo, even better, because if you've never seen an Andrew Bird show, this man is truely a one man show with layers of looping, whistling, and a really good voice. I won't go into a complete run-down of the show, a much better review is here, but some highlights for me included getting to hear new tracks from his upcoming release, Noble Beast, as well as the most amazing cover I have ever heard: Charlie Patton's 'Some of These Days.' This song just hit home for me ... I can only hope that this song ends up on

Then last night I was able to catch The Walkmen at The Cat's Cradle, which as I also learned in the Wed. DTH is slated to be leveled and replaced by a hotel chain in Carrboro (how wrong is that?; however, the CC's owners insist the Cradle will survive). Earlier I posted my 10 favorite albums of the year and Walkman's You & Me was on there, and I'd have to say, it might be my favorite of the year. It was a crazy good Walkmen show...I've seen them multiple times and there have been some stinkers...but from the first Dylanesque belted lyrics from Hamilton Leithauser, you knew it was on. Unfortunately, no setlist yet, but the boys played most of You & Me, with the noted exception of 'Seven Years of Holidays' which is my personal fave. A show highlight for me was 'All Hands and The Cook.' Of course they kept everyone happy with 'The Rat' ... even as I type this I'm still amazed how good Leithauser's voice sounded live. One perplexing thought about the show though, there were perhaps 150 people there. can you be serious with how amazing their new album is...and Girl Talk, which is playing soon at CC, sold out a month ago. Don't get me wrong, I like Greg Gillis mashups too...whatever. I was there last night and it was nice. Very nice.

Finally, tonight I'm headed to the Orange Peel in Asheville, gasoline willing, with Sir Widget to see the Blues Brothers from Akron, aka, The Black Keys. OK, side rant. You're aware that the Southeast has been in a gasoline shortage since hurricane Ike. Yeah, that's right, the one that hit Sept. 13th. Ike Spike alright. Anyway, in the Western part of NC , it has been a real hassle to get our drug of choice it seems. Here's to hoping the ride is worth it. Yes, I could see them play in RDU, but the Orange Peel really is one of my favorite venues, plus I am planning on some bouldering in the area the next day.

Just got to make a commemorative t-shirt and poster for my festival, and I'll be all set.

Songs in Search of a Soundtrack: Noah and the Whale

I am a sucker for Wes Anderson movies and indie rock bands, which means it's inevitable that I would post something about Noah and the Whale. Even the name of this London band apparently came from Anderson collaborator Noah Baumbach's movie The Squid and the Whale. And the video for their ridiculously catchy single, "5 Years Time," was certainly cut out of The Life Aquatic handbook.

I picked up their recent (and I believe debut) album, Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down, and was pleased to discover a solid set of songs from beginning to end. "5 Years Time" is certainly a standout track, but I find it fascinating that Pitchfork described it thusly: "takes up familiar ukulele strums ...., violin, and a heavy beat." Only the Pitchforkians would describe that as "familiar." Have these guys ever listened to a Top 40 radio station?

But I digress. The rest of the album is not as happy/shiny as the single, but the songs are nearly all catchy and well-performed. As I mention in the post title, these songs--most of which are about love, death, love and death, or the death of love--could easily fall into the soundtrack of a quirky indie romantic comedy (or, hey, even a Wes Anderson movie). That's not meant to be a negative critique, because I would probably enjoy or even buy such a soundtrack. It's just that a lot of these songs are begging for a montage, and I can't think of an album that's ever struck me like that before.

Enjoy the video (I challenge you not to enjoy it, at least a little bit), and know that the song comes from a very decent album. The more I listen to it, the more it's growing on me.

(This video became un-imbeddable, so you'll just have to cut and paste the link)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Wordle and Dr. Frank

Don't ask me how...but by some sort of King Dorkian intervention I ended up at Frank Portman's personal blog. I got distracted and started reading some of his posts (most are just YouTube vids) and came across something called a Wordle. Kinda cool. I'm sure everybody already knows about them. Anyway, here is my Wordle example: R.E.M. 'It's the end of the world...'

If you click on image, you can see a bigger size picture of the Wordle.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Beer Review: Redhook's Late Harvest Ale

OK, I'll keep this short and sweet (for once), because it's late, I'm going on 3.5 hours of sleep, but I'm bound and determined to get three posts up this month.

Fall is possibly my favorite time of the year to get seasonal brews. I like my hoppy IPAs in the summer and my lighter beach beers, but fall is when the malty beers come out. Pumpkin ales are very hit or miss--I generally try one new pumpkin ale a year and 2/3 of the time I'm disappointed because it tastes more like pie than beer. The so-called "Oktoberfest" beers tend to be a bit sketchy, too. But there are still plenty of rich, flavorful beers to be found, such as Redhook's Late Harvest Ale.

This is a relatively new seasonal for Redhook, which helpfully has breweries on the west coast and the east (though the Late Harvest is apparently an east coast exclusive). Pouring a dark amber with little head, this tasty ale uses a number of specialty malts: Crystal, German Smoked Munich, Caramel, and Smoked. I'm not going to bore you with my usual stats (all of which you can find on the website), I'll just say this is a delicious beer that deserves a tasting. You definitely get a sense of the caramel and hints of coffee and chocolate. It's by no means a sweet beer, and the web site suggest pairings with grilled burgers and other tailgate cuisine. But I'm having mine for dessert, all by it's lonesome. Redhook's seasonals are often quite good--with the possible exception of the disappointing Copperhook--and the Late Harvest is a nice gateway beer into the always satisfying Winterhook.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

EJP's Comics Primer, Pt. 5: Fables, Conclusion

Bill Willingham's Fables
I'm saving one of my favorites for last in my little comics primer. Fables is a great comic for anyone who's just too lazy to become engaged in new characters. You know these characters already. Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, King Cole, Prince Charming, Goldilocks...think of a character from a (public domain) fable, fairy tale, or nursery rhyme, and Willingham has probably incorporated that person or creature into his story.

OK, so the premise isn't exactly ground-breaking. Neil Gaiman used his fair share of mythological and literary figures in The Sandman series, but Fables takes things to a new level. As with most series of this length (the 11th TPB will be released later this fall), there is a long term story arc and lots of smaller story lines scattered about. The main arc focuses on the immortal--or nearly immortal-- Fables, who live in our world (the world of the Mundies) as refugees from the Homelands, which were usurped by the mysterious Adversary. The Fables who can pass as human live in a small neighborhood (Fabletown) in New York City; the not-so-human live on The Farm in upstate New York.

I'm a sucker for what-if scenarios like this. What if Rose Red got up to some zany antics with Jack from Jack and the Beanstock fame? What if Prince Charming had to constantly deal with bumping into his ex-wives, Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty? Willingham has fun with the premise, giving a lot of well-known characters surprising personalities and putting them in increasingly odd situations. And it's definitely an adult comic, with a fair share of sex and violence (though no where near as much as The Boys). I've stayed engaged throughout the long series, and the latest TPB, "The Good Prince," was one of the best yet. The art, which is primarily by Mark Buckingham, is consistently good. Nothing too ground-breaking, but detailed enough to make it interesting.

Like Hellboy, Fables also has it's own spin-off comic, Jack of Fables. Jack the Giant Killer eventually got his own series, which is written at least partly by Willingham and co-written and drawn by a variety of others. Unlike the Hellboy spin-off B.P.R.D., which can actually be a lot more serious than the parent comic, Jack of Fables is a lot more light-hearted and a really fun read. It's most recent TPB, "The Bad Prince," also introduces a whole new plot element to the Fables world that I couldn't possibly describe here. You'll just have to check it out.

So that pretty much wraps up my comics primer. I've described all the comics I've been reading over the years, though I'm sure new ones will pop up in the future. It's not a lot compared to some, but it's probably more than your every day joe walking down the street. I wouldn't have put this much time and effort into describing my favorite comics if I didn't sincerely believe that this was a valid artistic/literary medium. Some of the best stories I've ever read, and some of the best art I've seen has come from the world of comic books.

If I've convinced even one comic naysayer to rethink the medium, or even drop a few bucks on a comic book, I'll have considered this a success. If I've guided someone who wanted to delve into the comics world but didn't know where to start, that's good, too. If you're either type of person, please let me know what you've tried, what you've liked, and what you haven't liked. Maybe someone else out there has some good suggestions for me. Thanks for reading my thought bubbles.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Love Psychedelico: Annoying? Awesome? Annoyingly Awesome?

Love Psychedelico is one of the odder bands I've come to enjoy this year. This duo from Japan has apparently been all the rage in their home country and southeast Asia for a few years now. That's right, I said Japan and southeast Asia. It's my understanding that this is pretty general, Japan is the pariah of the Eastern world. Culturally, the country keeps to itself, and the rest of Asia likes it that way. But these rockn'rollers are changing that, and with the recent release of This Is Love Psychedelico in the U.S., they're now moving their way west.

With the exception of the Yoshida Brothers, who use ancient Japanese instruments in a crazy mixture of traditional and contemporary styles (and are pretty awesome), I haven't delved into the Japanese music scene all that much. Unfortunately, when I think Japanese music, I often think of the generic pop that plays in the background of a lot of anime (though perhaps MWC could point me toward some anime with good music?). LP is definitely a bit more western-sounding, and they definitely have a way with the hooks. When it comes to good hooks, I'm a hungry, hungry fish.

The lyrics are really the polarizing factor in these songs. They're basically a lot of Japanese words meshed not-so-seamlessly with Engrish. This basically means you won't understand half the lyrcis--unless, of course, you happen to read Japanese--and the other half are borderline hilarious. For example, listen to the English lyrics in the video below for "Standing Bird," an incredibly catchy song:

Did you listen? One string of relatively meaningless English phrases ends with a prolonged, sincerely sung "Breaking wiiiiind." I'm pretty sure this song isn't about farting, so I can only assume that this is an unfortunate misappropriation of an English phrase. Very few of the English lyrics make sense on this album, though few lyrics are as amusingly awkward as "Standing Bird." This will probably annoy a lot of people, but there's a large chunk of albums in my collection that I listen to for the music, and the lyrics are basically not that important. If these Love Psychedelico songs were exclusively in Japanese, I'd still listen to them.

My only quibble with a lot of these songs is that they're 1-2 minutes longer than they should be. Maybe the stories they tell in the lyrics, if they are stories, require that kind of song length. For western listeners, this is not profound stuff. It's rock candy, and it doesn't need to sit in my mouth quite this long. That said, I still recommend people check out some of their other tunes on their website(link at the top of the post). It might not blow your mind, but it'll get your head bopping. I'll call Love Psychedelico one of my guilty pleasures of the summer, and they're creeping into fall now, too.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Our Followers

So I added the "Followers" gadget to the sidebar. You know, for all both of this blog's followers. Considering the dearth of posting this summer, I guess we're lucky to have two.

Anyone have a good name for RB's L-C followers? The only thing I could could come up with off the top of my head was "The Camel Toes". That hardly seems appropriate, and it definitely doesn't reflect well on the thoughts swimming around the top of my head. It would probably increase the number of hits on the site dramatically, however.

Monday, September 1, 2008

EJP's Comics Primer, Pt. 4: The Umbrella Academy, Fray

Gerard Way's The Umbrella Academy
This entry into my primer is a bit of a departure for me in that I just finished reading the first and only TPB in this series yesterday (it just came out a few weeks ago). This first story arc in what appears to be a very promising series is called "Apocalypse Suite," and it was indeed pretty sweet.

For a Dark Horse comic, this series has received a fair amount of press, largely because Gerard Way is a member of a relatively famous band. I'm not going to mention the band because, from what I understand, it sucks, and it has no bearing on the quality of this comic whatsoever. This guy knows how to create characters and spin a good yarn, which is really all I care about. Here's the intro to the comic from the Dark Horse site, 'cuz I'm feeling a bit lazy:

"In an inexplicable worldwide event, forty-seven extraordinary children were spontaneously born by women who'd previously shown no signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children; when asked why, his only explanation was, "To save the world."

These seven children form The Umbrella Academy, a dysfunctional family of superheroes with bizarre powers. Their first adventure at the age of ten pits them against an erratic and deadly Eiffel Tower, piloted by the fearsome zombie-robot Gustave Eiffel. Nearly a decade later, the team disbands, but when Hargreeves unexpectedly dies, these disgruntled siblings reunite just in time to save the world once again."

Sounds pretty cool, huh? It is. And one of my favorite aspects of this comic was that it plays out kind of like a season of "Lost" in that it creates as many questions as it does answers. There's basically a 20 year gap in the story, and for the most part we have no idea what happened in those 20 years. By the end of this first story arc, we don't even fully know what powers all the members of the academy have. There's plenty of room for speculation, and plenty of room to grow. There's also plenty of humor to balance out the action, and the writing reflects Hellboy a lot in that respect.

Which brings me to Gabriel Ba's art, which is pretty Mignola-esque. That's certainly not a bad thing. It's a bit more detailed than Mignola's work, but it's got the same gothic vibe that meshes well with the story. I mean, c'mon, tell me you're not dying to see what zombie-robot Gustav Eiffel looks like. And that's not even the weirdest surprise to pop up in this story.

For a first-timer, Way has done an amazing job, and I'm really looking forward to the next batch. The next series, "Dallas," doesn't start until November, however. Makes me wish the guy would quit his band and just work on his comic.

Joss Whedon's Fray
I'll get to the point on this one quickly: if you like Joss Whedon's writing and/or if you like the Buffyverse, you really need to read this comic. It's about a slayer named the future. So besides the usual vampire slaying and such, there's also flying cars and mutants.

That description alone should be enough for some people, but for those that still need convincing, I'll elaborate a bit. This was a limited run comic of 8 issues (though it was left quite open-ended), all of which were collected in the TPB pictured here. Much as he did with Firefly, Whedon has created a rich new bastardization of the English language for all the future folks to speak. He's really good at that kind of thing. The characters, especially Fray herself, are just as rich and well-fleshed out as any of your favorites from the TV show. And importantly, if anyone out there is actually reading the Buffy Season 8 comics (which, again, I highly recommend), you have to read this TPB to understand the current story arc. Finally, Karl Moline's artwork is excellent and brings Whedon's writing to life handily. I don't think JW could or would work with a crappy artist.

The only downside here is that it came out 5 years ago and there were never any more of them. And as I mentioned, the ending left a lot of loose ends. I suspect those are going to be taken care of in the current season 8 arc, or maybe Fray will start back up again as its own series. Either way, I'll be glad to see more of it.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Chocolate Skittles=Candy Abomination

I have a weakness for impulse buying wacky candy variants, so when I was in my favorite candy shop in Harvard Square today, I couldn't resist picking up a package of Chocolate Mix Skittles. I don't actually eat much candy anymore, but I kind of like Skittles, and I definitely like chocolate, so I thought I'd give these a try.
I am officially cured of my impulse buying of wacky candy variants.

The package claims there are five "flavors" here (S'mores, Vanilla, Chocolate Caramel, Chocolate Pudding, and Brownie Batter), but they all tasted exactly the same to me. And by that, I mean they all tasted horrible. Up until now, I thought the worst chocolate candy in existence was the Tootsie Roll. Well Tootsie Rolls taste like Godiva compared to this garbage. I would rather boil off a can of Yoohoo and lick whatever dried crud is left over on the bottom of the pot than eat one more of these things. I can't remember when (or even if) I disliked a candy so much that I threw it out after trying just a few, but that's what I did today.

Do not buy this candy. If someone offers you some to try, don't just refuse--take it out of the person's hand and throw it on the ground. Then step on it. And don't associate with the person who offered you a chocolate Skittle ever again. Please just trust me on this one.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Evelyn's Top Ten Albums of 2008... So Far

A little over a month ago EJP put up his 10 favorite albums of 2008. Seeing how it has felt as if I've been on the planet Mars for the last two months, I have been catching up on all things Love-Camel as I prepare to relocate back to the Motherland.

EJP and I often differ in our musical tastes, but it must be said, I appreciate the disparity as it often widens my musical lexicon. I'd like to add that in some respects, 2008 has been a musical bust for me... bands that had releases I was eagerly awaiting, but that just didn't do it for me:
My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges, Silver Jews: Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, R.E.M.: Accelerate, The Black Keys: Attack & Release, and Death Cab for Cutie: Narrow Stairs. Except for DCFC, which to be honest I'm not so much a fan of anymore (the last show of theirs that I went to was an absolute disaster...couldn't hear the band of over the shrill shrieks of 14 year-old girls), I am a huge fan of the other bands and it pains me for them to put out sub-par music. I blame Danger can love, I think he over produces his music. Hence, both the Keys and MMJ sounds are off...hell, the Jacket comes off sounding like a 70s lounge club, church choir-boy act.

Righto, honorable mentions:

Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend. Initially, I would have thought this might be at the top of my list...I think this is a classic case of overexposure for me. Too much Vampire Weekend this and that. When making my lists, I tend to think about how often particular music makes it on my playlist. This album just didn't have staying power. I found the songs became stale after multiple listenings. Oh, I usually do this with my reviews, Pitchfork gave it 8.8.

Flight of the Conchords: Flight of the Conchords. This can't really count for 2008...but if it was new, it'd be in the top ten. Solid hits here. It's probably already been done, but I was thinking for Halloween this year I'd be Hiphopopotamus... just got to find out whose gonna be Rhymenoceros. Pitchfork gave it a 7.2.

Portishead: Third. Eleven years after their last release. That's some time to wait if you were a devout fan...fortunately for me, a friend turned me on to them more recently, so I didn't have to wait that long. It's good and it gets plus points for being released on vinyl with the digital download (why is everybody not doing this now?). Pitchfutch gave it 8.8. I know, you don't care.

#10: M83: Saturdays = Youth. In what might be a re-occurring theme for me this year, synths and beats are on. Must be the Chinese 'Year of Bass' (hehehe, I love my stupid puns. I blame Rick-dickulous). In places it gets a little to presumptuous... Frenchy, if you will. Pitchrock gave it 8.5.

Thao & The Get Down, Stay Down: We Brave Bee Stings and All. Yes, this is good indie pop. I can see why EJP is in love (even Sir Widget loves it, he actually bought the CD). It's great in places...but I feel like they are just beginning to understand what their sound could be even better in my opinion. I predict better things from Thao Nguyen and her band in the future. PF gave it 7.7.

#8: Sun Kil Moon: April. It is no Ghosts of the Great Highway, and for a while I thought it was going to be up there with the other disappointments, but after a while it just clicked. No Danger Mouse. I'm happy to say that I'll get to see Mark Kozelek at Cat's Cradle in November. He is a real treat to see, if you get the chance. PF gave it 8.3.

#7: Cut Copy: In Ghost Colours. I have a penchant for electro-house music. This has been a favorite of mine this past has a very positive feel. Kind of my Sound of Silver for 2008. Not as good, but it's easy on the ears. Pitchfork feels the love. 8.8.

#6: The Walkmen: You & Me. This is a band that I have always been on the fence about...I've seen them live multiple times. I even have a great scatological story, but you have to buy me several beers before I talk. I digress. The Walkmen may have finally done it. This album has just come out, but I already think it is one of the best of the year. This one has the potential to move higher. PF gave it 8.5.

#5: Frightened Rabbit: Midnight Organ Fight. I was going to see a French Kicks show and saw that these guys were the opening act. Checked out their music and whammo!!! This album is well put together. A definite sing-a-long. The hits keep coming song after song. PF gave it 8.1.

#4: Girl Talk: Feed the Animals. I know there are so many issues surrounding this 'album'...the sampling, is he really a musician...blah, blah, blah. Things I know. I listen to this a fuck-ton. I can almost recite the album line for line. Going to a Gregg Gillis show is hella fun. No I'm not into hip-hop, but for some reason, this does it for me. Pitchfork gave Gillis an 8.0 for effort.

#3: Beck: Modern Guilt. This is the first album that I completely disagree with PF on. It is way better than the 7.0 they give it. Beck runs the full happy/sad spectrum here...the album is beat heavy. I'd say it's his best effort since Sea Change.

#2 and #1: Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago & Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes. I cannot separate the two. I know BI technically came out in 2007, but realistically, no one (except for the cool kids) knew about it until it was re-released with a larger distribution. In fact, you couldn't find it. I wrote about this album earlier in March. This album will forever be etched in my memory. This year has been really trying and difficult...this album was its anthem. Pick it up.

Fleet Foxes... is, well, simply put just amazing. What the Jacket should have released. I'd highly recommend it as well. They sound amazing live from what I've heard. 8.1 and 9.0, respectively from PF.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Retro Review: Barbarella

So the other night, after a long and fairly stressful day, I decided I needed to watch something not-so-serious. I've had a copy of "Barbarella": Queen of the Galaxy sitting around for ages, and I knew it was time for a little Jane Fonda workout, if you know what I mean.

It had been years since I watched Barbarella, and it was every bit as awesome as I remembered. From the opening credits, played over Barbarella doing a strip tease out of her space suit at zero gravity, you know this film is going to be something special. That space suit? Clearly held together by Velcro (or something very much like it...did they have Velcro in 1968?). The entire inside of Barbarella's big pink spaceship? Orange shag carpet. The music? Never will you feel so compelled to run out and buy go-go boots.

Make no mistake, this movie is ridiculous from beginning to end. The plot, such as it is, involves Barbarella fulfilling her mission (as a what, you never really learn) to find Durand-Durand, the missing earth scientist who invented a positronic ray. But really, the movie is about Barbarella cavorting across a planet, conveniently ruining outfits and exploring her newly-discovered sexuality. Barbarella loses outfits the way people lose lives in some horror movies: very creatively. At one point she's attacked by razor-toothed baby dolls. Then there's the parakeet attack...and then of course her clothes are ripped off by the giant sex-torture piano. These are not really spoilers...these scenes really have to be seen to be believed.

Sometimes, the dialogue is clearly supposed to be funny, such as Barbarella's "What's that screaming? A good many dramatic situations begin with screaming..." Sometimes, I'm not so sure, such as when an enraged Durand-Durand yells, "I'll do things to you that are beyond all known philosophies!" But nearly all the dialogue is either hilarious or hilariously delivered. Every word Fonda utters, whether it's space jargon (much of which could rival anything on Star Trek) or sexual advances, is delivered in a dry, dead pan manner that has one marveling at her Oscar win just a few years after this film. The rest of the cast is just as awesomely bad, including John Phillip Law, who made a career out of movies like this (including at least two that became excellent MST3K episodes).

Watch it for the terrible special effects. Watch it for the awful dialogue and acting. Watch it for the crazy late-60s music and freak-out scenes. Watch it for the skin, 'cuz there's plenty of it. Just watch this movie at some point in your life. I've heard rumors of a possible remake of this movie for years now, but I don't think it can be done. Barbarella was paradoxically both ahead of its time and also purely a product of the 60s. I'm not sure exactly what I mean by this, but I think you'll understand if you watch. And remember, the password is "Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch"!