Saturday, March 7, 2015

2014 Singles #40 through #31

#40 Burial "Rival Dealer"
It's about sexuality, it's about showing a person who you are
To me, this is who I'm about

The Rival Dealer EP was my first introduction to Burial. He's worked with Thom Yorke and Massive Attack and his discography is littered with critical acclaim. I guess I should dig deeper.

#39 The Shins "So Now What"
Change lies in every direction, tonight
Guess we'll just begin again
Zach Braff's attempt to recapture the magic of Garden State didn't quite hit the mark but the remnants of his love letter to The Shins gets paid back at bit with this original track from them.

#38 London Rose "Kick Drum"
You make my heart beat
Faster than ever before
I'm not sure who London Rose is but I'm pretty sure she came to my attention from The Fabulous Clinton who is fabulous and whose musical tips are always top notch.

#37 Haim "If I Could Change Your Mind"
But if I was to say I regret it
Would it mean a thing?
During last year's recap I asserted that Haim (or HAIM but I opted for Haim moving forward) would be a band I could see enduring. This might be related to that, or just a tasty leftover from their breakout year.

#36 David Guetta/Skylar Grey "Shot Me Down"
Now he's gone I don't know whyUntil this day, sometimes I cry
Is David Guetta this generation's Giorgio Moroder? Let's say yes and enjoy his interpretation of Cher's "Bang Bang."

#35 Lana del Rey "Once Upon a Dream"
But if I know you, I know what you'll do
You'll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream
Del Rey didn't push my buttons a couple of years ago when she broke out. I'm not sure if relegated her to the same bin that I was putting St. Vincent and one other (I'll think of her name eventually) but this haunting cover plays to what passes as her strength, I guess. 

#34 Sam Smith "Stay With Me"
This ain't love, it's clear to see
But darling, stay with me
So you're telling me Sam Smith is straight?

#33 Cheryl Cole/Tinie Tempah  "Crazy Stupid Love"
Well, I don't know how you do it to me
You make my brain just stop
I think Cheryl Cole came from The Fabulous Clinton but I hold out the possibility that she came via Big Gay John.

#32 DJ Snake/Lil' John "Turn Down For What"
Fire up the loud
Another round of shots
Chalk one up to ubiquity.

#31 Enrique Iglesias/Pitbull "I'm a Freak"
No, I don't want you to stop it
Yeah, I'm a freak
This is the part where I allude to the fact that I had sex with Enrique Iglesias which, for all any of us know, I may have. It's really dark in some places.

It's Like This A Lot Lately

2014 Singles #50 through #41

#50 Beck "Blue Moon"
I'm so tired of being alone
These penitent walls are all I've known
Beck's Morning Phase was my album of the year for 2014 and this is the cherry on top of that.

#49 The Hold Stead "I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You"
There was a side of this city I didn't want you to see
There's just these guys that I know, we go back pretty deep
The Hold Steady put on one of the most exuberant shows I've seen in years. I'm not sure if I ever really connected with their blue collar anthems, but the joy they have in performing is infectious. 

#48 St. Paul & the Broken Bones "Call Me"
We ain’t the lovers that’ll tear it down
We ain’t the fortune all over town
This kinda reminds me of The Heavy's "How You Like Me Now" so if you hear it in a Kia commercial this summer, that's why.

#47 The Black Keys "Fever"
Fever, I'm a slave to
No one misbehaved too
Speaking of car commercials, hasn't this already been used in one? The Black Keys are not averse to licensing their music for ads which is probably smart. I'm sure iPod commercials did more to sell music than radio during their era.

#46 How to Dress Well "Face Again"
Look me in my face again and tell me what you wanna see
I don’t think you know what’s best for me
When I first heard this I wrote that it has "a moody urgency to its smooth R&B groove." I think that's still true.

#45 Chrissie Hynde "Dark Sunglasses"
Shaving, wearing a tie, isn't sacrificing much,
You lucky guy, you can still get high
All I wrote about Hynde's first solo album last summer was "it rocks." I don't recall it, but I'm sure it's true.

#44 Spoon "Rent I Pay"
Every kinda fortune gets old
Every kinda line is gonna come back to me
I don't even think I've heard this album yet.

#43 Ben Watt "Nathaniel"
At first, you deny it, and ten you get angry that they've gone
You try making a bargain, and then you accept it and you go on
It had been a long time to hear from Ben Watt. I'm glad he came back.

#42 D'Angelo and the Vanguard "Sugah Daddy"
You shoulda seen the way they tossed and turned
The way she made the congregation squirm
D'Angelo's Black Messiah was my second favorite album of 2014 and topped the Village Voice "2014 Pazz & Jop Poll." You couldn't have dreamed of a better return for him.

#41 Sky Ferreira "Boys"
Boys a lot of women love you
But boys they just make me mad
A touch of Garbage, a touch of Madonna. That's Sky.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Movies of the Year 2014

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
I was so elated after seeing this movie that I started writing again. I didn't write a ton, but it awoke me from dormancy and sparked a desire to create. A part of my shear joy was related to low expectations: I really expected this to be a "behind the scenes" send up like Soap Dish (a movie I very much love).

It was so much more than that.

And every time I thought I knew where the movie would go, I was wrong. Always wrong.

And, AND, the movie plays out so effortlessly, like improvisational jazz (that you don't hate) but that's only because it's all so meticulously choreographed. That's the genius beneath the inspiration.

American Sniper
The performance of the year was not Patricia Arquette or JK Simmons (two of the three Oscar performances written in stone weeks or months before ballots were tallied--DISCLAIMER: I haven't seen Still Alice yet). It was Bradley Cooper.

Cooper packs emotional power into movie star charisma and, in all honesty, looks really fucking hot while doing it.

I consciously separate this movie from the politics of the war it portrays and from the reality of the character Cooper portrays. I'm taking the movie as its own thing, and that thing is a taught, powerful and ultimately great platform for Cooper to tally his third Oscar nomination for acting in 3 years (as a producer of the movie he also shared in the Best Picture nomination, giving him 4 noms in 3 years).

The Imitation Game
In any other year this would easily be my movie of the year. It's beautifully produced, well acted and solidly directed. It's classic Weinstein: total Oscar bait.

And it's among their best (The King's Speech, Chicago, The English Patient, Good Will Hunting, Reservoir Dogs to name a few).

I would have given Keira Knightly the Supporting Actress Oscar over Arquette. Cumberbach will have to try again soon. I'm sure they'll both have their day (Knightly should take solace in eventual wins by Julianne Moore and Kate Winslet).

In any other year (that didn't also include Birdman and American Sniper and The Imitation Game) this would easily be my movie of the year. If there's a flaw in it, it's the rapped parts of its Oscar winning song "Glory." That's barely a thing.

David Oyelowo certainly deserved a nomination ahead of Steve Carrell.

I've read criticism that the movie is merely good. I think it's more than respectful to all characters portrayed in the movie and the acting is really solid at all levels.

The cinematography and editing each have moments of greatness. The lynching of a white minister outside a diner, thousands kneeling on the bridge into Montgomery both stand out.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Let's set aside the fact that "Winter Soldier" is not even remotely a good code name for a villain or hero. Unless there's some literary reference that I'm not able to uncover (and I've looked) it's pretty weak. I mean, it's not Matter Eater Lad bad (all food is matter), but it's pretty unmemorable.

Other than that, this is a fantastic action movie and, going one better, a terrific Parallax View-type paranoia thriller.

It challenges Iron Man as the pinnacle of Marvel's fantastic array of movies.

Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson both make me regret ever doubting either of them as right for their respective roles. Evans owns the role and everything it stands for. Anthony Mackie and Robert Redford are both excellent additions.

22 Jump Street
Yes, fuck you, it's a really great movie.

Everyone's including The Lego Movie on their lists and you don't question that. (Note: The Lego Movie is explicitly NOT among my movies of the year.)

The movie is so playful and unassuming while still being funny as fuck there's no way I could have left it off my list.

And lest you think this is all about my love affair with Channing Tatum, note that the movie where he's shirtless and sweaty, nipples perky and glistening, is not among my movies of the year either.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Another movie that celebrates the best of big budget tropes and leaves you wanting more.

It's really well cast (and I'm including Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Glenn Close, and Benicio Del Toro in that), really well directed and packed with humor, action and fun.

Zoe Saldana seems to be the new Harrison Ford, attached to multiple mega-franchise movies, and Chris Pratt's pretty much established himself as an A list movie star.

Oh, right, and the soundtrack is bad ass. Fun, fun, fun.

Gone Girl
What. The. Fuck.

The novel was a huge hit when it came out.

And the movie did solid box office.

But no one seems to be saying "what a fucked up story" the way I keep thinking "what a fucked up story."

Which is fine. Given what it is (a fucked up story), David Fincher evokes the right performances, mood and tempo to create a really polished (albeit fucked up) movie. Rosamund Pike in particular deserves much praise for pulling off a really fucked up character in a believable way. And also Tyler Perry is excellent in this movie. Take that America.

Only Lovers Left Alive
The languid elegance of a post-apocalyptic love letter to Detroit as told by vampires.

Jim Jarmusch wisely anchors the movie around Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton and John Hurt. There are others in the movie, and they are fine, but really who cares. These three, ahem, chew the scenery in the most hypnotic way.

The desolate cityscape of Detroit at night has never looked more chaotic and lovely. The wild reclaiming the land from its settlers.

"When the cities of the south start to burn this will be the new promised land."

Detroit should put that on t-shirts.

Jodorosky's Dune
This movie is cray cray.

Jodorosky is that crazy genius who seems a little too inspired for "the powers that be" to give him artistic freedom.

Or so he'd lead us to believe.

The wake of his attempt to film Dune is filled with some of the biggest and best regarded science fiction and fantasy movies of the late 70s and early 80s.

Maybe if he'd lined up some licensed toys and a fast food restaurant as a partner.

Cray cray.