Saturday, January 28, 2017

R.I.P. John Hurt

His film career goes back more than 40 years and includes 2 Oscar nominated performances (Midnight Express and The Elephant Man) and roles in an array of prestige projects (I, Claudius, The Naked Civil Servant, The Field) and big box office hits (Alien, the Harry Potter franchise, V for Vendetta). Here are three that stand out for me...

First his performance as Winston Smith in Michael Radford's film version of Nineteen Eighty-Four. I'm not sure why the movie wasn't better received by critics. I suspect the fiasco over the dueling scores (the studio commissioned original music from Eurythmics that the director wanted no part of. Radford wanted composer Dominic Muldowney's score but lost out in the end) is a good indication that the Radford lacked a strong advocate within the studio. Radford withdrew the film from BAFTA consideration (okay, it's starting to come together--director and studio didn't get along, that's rarely a good starting point for critics awards). Which is a shame: I thought Richard Burton would earn an posthumous Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor (Ralph Richardson received a posthumous nomination for Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes instead) and thought the art direction, visual effects, sound and editing were better than at least 2 nominees in each of those categories. I recall the cinematography being memorable but only realized it was one of the first films by my cinematography boyfriend Roger Deakins just a few years ago. So it's got that going for it too!!!

Next is a quirky 90s indie film update of Death in Venice, changing the setting to Long Island, and the supreme beauty from 14-year old boy to one of the stars of Hotpants College II. Hilarity, as you might imagine, ensues. But like a very dry hilarity. Jason Priestly gamely plays the star of the movie within the movie. Nothing else matters but these 2: Hurt's obsessive adoration and Priestly's affable cluelessness.

And finally, 2014's Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch's vampire tale/love letter to the bleak urban landscape of modern day Detroit. Hurt, Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are centuries-old vampires hiding identities of historic significance (Hurt plays Christopher Marlowe and within the film is revealed to be the writer of most of Shakespeare's plays--his story unfolds in Tangiers, a strange companion to the Detroit story line).

I am surprised to find no EGOT credentials aside from his 2 Oscar nominations.

Rest in peace, dude.

Song of the Day: "The Empty Chair"

Sting picked up his fourth Oscar nomination this morning (his previous nominations were all for Original Song for forgettable songs from The Emperor's New Groove, Kate & Leopold and Cold Mountain). His collaborator, J. Ralph picked up his third (his previous noms were also for Original Song for his less forgettable songs from the documentaries Chasing Ice and Racing Extinction).

Consistent with both their earlier nominations, this song is both forgettable and from a documentary. There was a very brief period, possibly 10 or 12 seconds, when I thought this was a lovely ballad that might find a lasting place in film history, a la "Moon River." I was probably drunk.

The song if from The Empty Chair, a documentary about the journalist who was the first American killed by ISIS. Maybe they should have gone with Toby Keith.

Song: "The Empty Chair"
Artist: Sting

Friday, January 27, 2017

2016 Singles: #30 through #21

30: Adele “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” 

We've gotta let go of all of our ghosts
We both know we ain't kids no more
Send my love to your new lover
Treat her better

At some point we should tally up whether Adele or Taylor Swift managed to garner more record sales and awards from their respective break-ups.

29: Lizzo “Worship”

Worship me
On your knees
Patiently, quietly, faithfully, worship me

Rhythmic, sultry, sexual… fucking hot.

28: Red Hot Chili Peppers “Dark Necessities”

Spinning off, head is on my heart
It's like a bit of light and a touch of dark

You got sneak attacked from the zodiac

The Chili Peppers are always at their best when Flea gets to do his thing.

27: The Dead South “In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company”

I see my red head, messed bed, tear shed, queen bee, my squeeze

The stage it smells, tells, hells bells, knocks me on my knees

I have no idea if we’ll ever hear from this band again, but this song is a perfect little gem.

26: Simon Love “The New Adam and Eve”

But with you, I’m alright

It’s just that everybody else can go fuck off and die

I don’t recall when I ran across this track, but I’m sure it was love at first listen.

25: Twenty One Pilots: “HeavyDirtySoul”

No, I didn't understand the thing you said

If I didn't know better, I guess you’re all already dead

21P update the Madchester drum machine nicely with this track.

24: CHVRCHES/Hayley Williams “Bury It”

I never promised you
Anything I couldn't do
We try to bury it and rise above

A carry over from last year’s #16 album. They’re continuing to build a solid musical foundation with me as if to undermine my early suggestion that they might be a bit faddish.

23: Christine and the Queens “Tilted”

I miss prosthesis and mended souls
Trample over beauty while singing their thoughts

I match them with my euphoria

There’s an elegant electro-pop sound here.

22: Band of Horses “Casual Party”
It's coming around as it did beforeIt's gettin' your attention but where's the door?
Band of Horses have become perennial entrants on these lists of mine.

21: Meghan Trainor “No”

My name is no
My sign is no
My number is no
You need to let it go

Meghan’s managed 4 singles on my last 3 years of singles lists.

2016 Singles: #40 through #31

40: Calvin Harris “My Way”

But in my heart I understand
I made my move
And it was all about you

If this is Calvin Harris’s break-up song about Taylor Swift then good for him. The relationship is fair game for any involved party, creatively speaking.

39: Red Hot Chili Peppers “Go Robot”

And when it's not as it appears to be, the flagrant foul
Can I put my fingers in your mouth before you start to growl

RHCP’s 11th album lacks another “Under the Bridge” and feels more fun than any they’ve released since Mother’s Milk.

38: The Lumineers “Ophelia”

Oh, oh, got a little paycheck, you got big plans and you gotta move
And I don't feel nothing at all
And you can't feel nothing small

There’s nothing wrong with saving the spot usually set aside from Mumford & Sons.

37: Madness “Mr. Apples”

Head of the table at the Rotary club
Never unsure of which shoulders he should rub

A song that so perfectly updates the classic Madness sound that I find myself wishing they were on the bill with Adam Ant next week.

36: Panic! At The Disco “Death of a Bachelor”

Alone at a table for two and I just wanna be served
And when you think of me am I the best you've ever had?
Share one more drink with me, smile even though you're sad

P!ATD out croon Michael Buble with this one.

35: Mike Posner “I Took a Pill in Ibiza”

I took a pill in Ibiza to show Avicii I was cool
And when I finally got sober, felt ten years older
But fuck it, it was something to do

It’s great when a song captures a feeling, like rolling on Molly or falling into a K-hole… or, cough, so I imagine from what people tell me.

34: Blink 182 “Bored to Death”

And it's a long way back from seventeen
The whispers turn into a scream
And I'm, I'm not coming home

The 90s were awesome, and Blink 182 was part of the reason why. They sustain their rhythmic urgency here but damn, over 4 minutes long? That seems epic for them.

33: The Paper Kites “Too Late”
No love you have come too late
I have no recollection of how I came across this song. It’s languid yet elegant; heavy with passion. It’s not the kind of power pop song I typically celebrate on this list, but damn, it’s good.

32: Trash Can Sinatras “Ain’t That Peculiar”

Ain't that something
The world surviving you
Ain't that something
Pulled me out of the blue

I helped fund TCS’s sixth studio album, and the result is full of solid pop gems like this.

31: Drake/Whizkid/Kyla Reid “One Dance”

I need a one dance
Got the Hennessy in my hand
One more time 'fore I go
Higher power’s taking a hold of me

I think Drake needs to stay out of the club for a while.

2016 Singles: #50 through #41

50: The Weeknd/Daft Punk “Starboy”

I’d put the composition of this collaboration at 80% The Weeknd status quo and 20% Daft Punk. It feels more open than past singles from The Weeknd, but nothing radically different.

House so empty, need a centerpiece
Twenty racks a table cut from ebony
Cut that ivory into skinny pieces

49: Teenage Fan Club “I’m In Love”

Teenage Fan Club embrace sweet harmonies and soaring melodies, wearing giddy pop perfection unabashedly.

It feels good
With you next to me
That's enough, that's enough

48: BeyoncĂ© “All Night”

Much deserves to be said about Lemonade, BeyoncĂ©’s most ambitious and most accomplished album to date. It’s a long lyrical journey from doubt to awareness to anger; ramifications to reconciliation to resolution (you have to change planes at least two times). The album’s penultimate song grants a second chance but the emotions of the journey are all evident here.

True love never has to hide
I'll trade your broken wings for mine
I've seen your scars and kissed your crime

47: School of Seven Bells “Ablaze”

Several musicians released swansong albums in 2016. For School of Seven Bells it was Alejandra Deheza’s task to finish the album she started with band-mate Ben Curtis after his untimely death in 2013. She’s transformed what started as the band’s fourth album into a eulogy for Curtis and for the band.

How could I have known
The god of my youth
Would come crashing down on my heart?

46:  Twenty-One Pilots “Heathens”

I’m unsure whether I should consider 21P’s music to be earnest or pretentious. Regardless, this track from Suicide Squad has sufficient drive to distract from the lyrics.

Just because we check the guns at the door
Doesn't mean our brains will change from hand grenades

45:  Phantogram “You Don’t Get Me High Any More”

The song could have come straight out of Garbage’s Version 2.0 recording sessions. That’s a pretty big compliment coming from me.

Walk with me to the end
Stare with me into the abyss
Do you feel like letting go?

44: Ladyhawke “A Love Song”

Over three albums, Ladyhawke has celebrated an 80s electronic pop sound without sounding unoriginal. There’s no denying the Kim Wilde influence here, but it feels inspired more than derivative.

This could be my life, but it's only words
To make me feel right when the meaning's blurred
You've opened my eyes to the oldest tale of time

43: Jane Siberry “Dante”

Jane Siberry’s return to that name, to the elegant music, soaring vocals and syncopated rhythms is a joy to behold.

A flash went up your spine
Instead you said, no one, no one nobody, nobody
No one ever taught you but you know

42: Coleman Hell “2 Heads”

Every year a song like this, seductive, thumping, more rock than dance or pop, sneaks in. This is this year’s.

There must be something in the water
And there must be something about your daughter
She said our love ain't nothing but a monster

41: Pageantry “Vicious Wishes”

I stumbled across this months ago and the George Harrison/Jeff Lynne guitars and rubber soul sound still make me smile.

Oh I wish that I had time to illuminate you with a tragic punchline
When you asked if I was fine as if all I ever really needed was time
But I don't bleed that way

Song of the Day: "HeavyDirtySoul"

Love the rhythm on this 21 Pilots track!

Song: "HeavyDirtySoul"
Artist: 21 Pilots

Thursday, January 26, 2017

R.I.P. Mary Tyler Moore

She has a worthy legacy as one of the most beloved women of television of ever, EVER. As Laura Petrie and as Mary Richards, the work, her presence, is completely charming and seemingly effortless. Comedy is hard; she never seems like she's acting.

Contrast her with Cybill Shephard - painful right?

Among the annals of bad timing is the fact that her astounding turn in Ordinary People, as a suburban mother grieving the loss of a son and the attempted suicide of her other son, which manifests in a character that on the surface plays like a cold, brittle bitch--a performance that in many other years would have been a slam dunk for an Oscar--came the same year as Sissy Spacek's uncanny and flawless work in A Coal Miner's Daughter.

It surprises me that she didn't capitalize on the acclaim of this performance, settling quickly into a few TV roles.

She was genuinely Oscar worthy again, 20+ years later, as Ben Stiller's adopted mother in Flirting With Disaster. So fucking brilliant.

She has 7 Emmys: 2 from The Dick Van Dyke Show, 4 from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and 1 for the made for TV movie Stolen Babies. She also has 2 Tony Awards: as producer of the 1985 revival of Joe Egg (nee A Day in the Death of Joe Egg) she won Best Revival of a Play or Musical (Stockard Channing won Best Actress in a Play). She received a Special Award Tony for her performance in Whose Life Is It Anyway (I'm not sure this would count toward full EGOT but she has the other which totally does).

Rest in peace dude.

Song of the Day: "Phone"

Why wasn't this song a bigger hit? I know so many people who lose their phones and this should be their theme song.

Song: "Phone"
Artist: Lizzo

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Song of the Day: "Hands of Time"

Margo Price's Midwest Farmer's Daughter is an amazingly good album. She carries forward the style and sound of many of the great women of country. Here it's Emmy Lou Harris around the time of her collaboration with Daniel Lanois (Wrecking Ball) or her follow-up (Spyboy). Elsewhere on the record she goes bigger, both in voice and orchestration, or more spare.

Song: "Hands of Time"
Artist: Margo Price

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Song of the Day: "Put Me Thru"

My review of others' best of 2016 music lists is uncovering some really fantastic stuff (which is why I do it every year)...

Song: "Put Me Thru"
Artist: Anderson  .Paak

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Song of the Day: "In The Morning I'll Be Better"

Tennis, the Denver-based retro pop duo, return with their fourth studio album--Yours, Conditionally--in March.

Song: "In The Morning I'll Be Better"
Artist: Tennis