Friday, December 30, 2011

The Wild Swans - The Worst Year of My Life

For me, 2011 in a song:

Good riddance.

MIX - Old Wave New Year

We all know that NYE, like Halloween, is just a pretense for dressing fancy, get fucked up, and having sex with strangers. This is music for that, more or less.

Genre: New-wave, italo, synth-pop, disco, rug-cutters, nose candy for your ears

01) Chemise - She Can't Love You
02) Madonna - Don't you Know
03) Rebbie Jackson - Centipede
04) Moderne - Sans Signalment
05) Ivan - Fotonovela (chapter 1)
06) Desireless - Voyage Voyage
07) Pete Shelley - Telephone Operator
08) Silicon Teens - Sun Flight
09) Ultima Emocion - Maquinas Romanticas
10) Patrizia Pellegrino - Automatic Amore
11) Lilli Berlin - Midnight Lady
12) Telex - L'Amour Toujours
13) Fake - Brick
14) Colourbox - Tarantula
15) Trees - 11AM
16) Tirez Tirez - Set the Timer
17) Love Tractor - Neon Lights
18) Aviador Dro - Programa en Espiral


Bone Thugs-N-Harmony - Tha Crossroads

E. 1999 Eternal : Is there anything more representative of the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy in all of hip hop and more importantly, is there any more appropriate music to listen to while getting the bond for your theft case reinstated?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gary Oldman - Nil by Mouth (1997)

Two of the more PROgressive things I heard this year.

Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact

Remember that scene in Party Monster where Natasha Lyonne grinds up various pharmaceuticals in her 'drug salad?' Eye Contact is a lot like that. It's drug-induced melodies sound bizarrely alien and futuristic. Mellifluous chanting over textures and textures of some of the most pristine synthetic sounds you will ever hear. The opening track, "Glass Jar," is over 11 minutes in length and it's meanderings are fluid like ripples of water. This is not the type of album where the creators sat down armed with influences like many 21st century releases, but rather one where you get the impression that they made this from scratch, with only human creativity and mind expanding substances for inspiration. A very remarkable album.

Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica

Daniel Lopatin's Replica is a psychedelic ambient album and to be frank, it sounds like what I would imagine music sounds like a century from now. This is a truly progressive work, and it's obvious why I saw it on so many people's year end lists. All coherency is abandoned, preconceptions of structure and timing disregarded. Replica's composition is unpredictable from moment to moment, but it is far from 'random' - you get the idea that complex concepts are behind every transition, every loop, every alternation from harmony to dissonance, and it's all composed together in a cleverly woven tessellation of tonal adjustments and noise. It is in its very unpredictable nature that it's intensity arises. It is no doubt a beautiful set of music. However, it's beauty is a strange and dark one, like the radiation afterglow lingering in the atmosphere after an atomic explosion, the dichotomy of beauty and death. Much like The KLF's Chill Out, or Loveless, this is an album, not a collection of individual songs. Also contains my favorite cover art of the year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gaston Bussière - Yseult la Blonde (1900)

Try to think back on what the word 'awesome' meant before it was dragged through the dirt of 90s pop culture.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Rolling Stones - Paint it Black

MIX - Fuck the Holidaze

A 38 track punk rock holiday mix


01) The Incestors - Something Better Change
02) Country Teasers - Good Pair of Hands
03) Continental Co-ets - I Don't Love you No More
04) J.C. Satan - Morning After Love
05) GG Allin - Carmelita
06) Sonny & The Sunsets - Bad Vibes and Evil Thoughts
07) The Beets - Your Name is on my Bones
08) Hunx and his Punx - He's Coming Back
09) Dead Boys - Sonic Reducer
10) Undertones - Teenage Kicks
11) Special Forces - Rollercoaster
12) Magic Michael - Millionaire
13) Pentagram - Starlady
14) Electric Frankenstein - All's Moving Faster
15) 88 Fingers Louie - Try it Again
16) The Birdhouse - Sick Boy
17) The Moonhearts - Eat my Shorts
18) The Misfits - Where Eages Dare
19) Fetchin' Bones - You're so Much
20) SS Decontrol - How Much Art
21) Negative Approach - Nothing
22) Nausea - Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing
23) Funeral Oration - Never Die
24) Sorry - Listen
25) Generation of Vipers - Ritual
26) Last Rites - No Right to Take
27) Bevis Frond - High in A Flat
28) Reversal of Man - Obsession
29) Endtables - Trick or Treat
30) Long Hind Legs - Open Wide
31) Sneaky Feelings - Throwing Stones
32) World of Pooh - Cake Flotiulla
33) Primitons - All my Friends
34) The Trilobites - Venus in Leather
35) Ned's Atomic Dustbin - Happy
36) The Fumes - Poploaded
37) The Flatmates - Happy all the Time
38) Little Murders - 100 Drugs


Some thoughts on Lars Von Trier's Antichrist

There are few things more frustrating to me than having to state the obvious. Antichrist is a film that I feel has been largely misunderstood more so than any other film of the past decade. I could offer countless "essays" written about it that don't even focus on what it is really about for more than a sentence or two. I have a lot to say about this movie, but I'll try to condense/summarize it as best as possible.

Antichrist is about mental illness and 'neuroticism' (which is a state caused by our society's anal-retentive avoidance of the natural order: death, decay, chaos, 'creatureliness', meaninglessness, and ephemera to name a few) It is about how these states come to arise, how they are contagious, and how they can spiral out of control very easily. It is an extreme chronicle of such a downward spiral and how even the people society deifies - the so-called infallible ones - (in this case, a psychologist) are susceptible. It is the most uncomfortable and confrontational film I've ever seen.

If you browse over the (masturbatory) article I posted above, you'll see that the author is fixated on guilt and grief, but those are the catalysts, the precursors, not the central focus. Aside from maybe a tangential sentence or two, the article does not mention my above observations. The tragic and horrifying loss of her child, and the grief which followed, are what caused her to become mentally ill. My guess is she would have had some dormant issues beforehand which this triggered, given the topic of her thesis she was writing. The isolation and her phobia of the woods exacerbated these things.

Many feel that Antichrist is a very cryptic and ambiguous movie, but I strongly disagree. It's themes are fairly evident, unlike, say Lynch's Inland Empire. One of the reasons I claim to 'get' Antichrist is because it deals with a lot of issues I've experienced personally and have dedicated several years to researching. They are not very popular, and hard to understand from a distance. You really have to have to dig around in the psychiatric text of the last half century because the ideas are considered misanthropic/threatening by the majority of the psychiatric community who would rather sugar coat and speak in euphemisms. The gist is that civilization is one complex and ridiculous defense mechanism against finitude, meaninglessness, chaos, death, etc. etc. and when our own internal defense mechanisms fail, so do our hero systems, thus creating all mental illness (anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and so on). In essence our self-consciousness would drive us insane if it were not for culture, distractions, and the meaning we assign to things. When we are removed from these things we are more vulnerable to the threats the we try to avoid and from there it really becomes a slippery slope (which is the focus of Antichrist). Lars Von Trier who is one of, if not perhaps the most neurotic, phobic, manic depressed filmmakers alive has been doing what all artists strive to do, and that is to express and in turn, purge internal conflict, suffering, etc. So while many critics tend to argue that his intentions are vague, I feel that a neurotic, phobic, manic depressed filmmaker most likely made a neurotic, depressing film about phobias. But hey, it could also be a total coincidence and I may be the one projecting here.

I was having a discussion with a stubborn friend who claimed that guilt was a far more prevalent theme than insanity and even that the insanity in Antichrist is a fictional one (whatever that means). Dafoe sees a dead fox in the woods and it says fucking "chaos reigns" to him. That is unquestionably a hallucination which is an acute symptom of schizophrenia. That is purely objective and is not up for discussion. It could not be more blatant if he looked directly into the camera and proclaimed "My character is losing his shit." If Dafoe's character was of a sound mind, it would just be a dead animal, and hardly a big deal. This is just one example. I don't even need to explain how Gainsbourg's character is nuts. It is obviously a film about insanity, or more appropriately 'mental illness.' However, it is such a brilliantly accurate and intimate portrayal of mental illness, because it's written and directed by a man who has experienced it first hand, allowing him to capture the tiny details often overlooked by most cliche-ridden films on the subject (A Beautiful Mind, for example)

Then of course there is the sex guilt attributed to an overly moral and repressed society, the 'Adam and Eve' metaphor, the assumed misogyny, and She's paper are all symbolic on their own, but unrelated (well, yes, but not directly) and add even more depth to an already complex study. It also ridicules the notion that the psychologist is any different from the rest of us, which I feel is an important point that hasn't been properly made in a film. If I were to get into all of these things, I'd be merely restating what many people have already said before me, so I'll spare us both. I'll conclude by saying what I've told many people before: Antichrist is a work of genius. If you have watched this movie, and didn't like it for whatever reason, watch it again with what I've said in mind. I guarantee you will appreciate it more.

David Cronenberg - A Dangerous Method (2011)

As a preface I'd like to admit that as far as film critics go, I'm kind of a slacker. Unless a movie is just an atrocious mess and I must entertain myself by dissecting it in a humorous manner (recently, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale comes to mind, although I'm still unsure if that was just hilariously bad or a brilliantly subtle Michael Bay parody), I generally like to get lost in the fictional boundaries and not analyze it until afterwards, where the sum is often more apparent to me than the parts. I also tend to not re-watch movies very often, so unless I'm already infatuated with a movie (in which case my impressions will most likely be wildly hyperbolic anyways), its rare that I'll study a movie with several revisits. My point is that I like watching movies far more than I like writing or talking about them (both of which I do enjoy), so my film write-ups are far more casual than my music ones, and can typically be reduced to me either hating, being impartial to, liking, or loving, as opposed to getting really in depth. The only movie I can think of off the top of my head that I've felt an urge to truly analyze was Antichrist, and I may one day get around to posting my lengthy thoughts about it on here.

Moving on, there are a lot of arguments to be made against Keira Knightley. If you've ever seen her speak in interviews, you know she is a naturally obnoxious person. She's the type of girl who brings to mind a spoiled English princess ("But fother, I wont a poooooe-ny!"). That being said, I thought her portrayal of Sabina Spielrein in A Dangerous Method was one of the best performances of the year. Many will disagree, and say she overacted but I feel she played her character exceptionally well. Fassbender, Mortensen, Cassel, the girl who played Jung's wife, and hell, even the minor characters and extras were all very believable as well. Knightley especially though - not only was she a convincing schizoid, which is one of the most difficult parts an actor/actress can play, but she also had to forge a Russian accent on top of it, which makes the role even more difficult.

The film is a drama, and although there are some very intense erotic scenes, it is largely dialogue based and will likely bore some. Had it not been for the subject matter and the historical people/events it was focused on, which I find very interesting, I would have probably been bored as well. Although heavy, the dialogue was nearly impeccable throughout. In classic Cronenberg fashion, there are a few lines that are hilarious and a few that will linger in your memory for some time after ("I'll gently rip you to shreds"). Howard Shore's Wagner-inspired theme (featured in the trailer) is wonderfully suiting - I'd even say one of the better main themes for a film in the past several years. The cinematography was some of Cronenberg's finest as well. This was just a really well-made film, all around. Saying that it's Cronenberg's best would be difficult because its vastly different from his 80s work such as Videodrome and his 90s work such as Naked Lunch and Crash and it's hard to offer comparison with such different styles. He has transcended his reputation for being a gimmicky 'body violence' master and has showed with his recent films that he is capable of much more. To call him competent, would be a discredit to his talent - he is much more than that and his latest is my third favorite film I've seen this year.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

John Maus, Art as Politics, and The Predicament of Change

I mentioned some criticisms of John Maus' recent album in my year end post, and I would like to clarify and elaborate on them, so as not to be misunderstood. As a preface I would like to say something I mentioned on the mausspace forums, that he who writes, or paints, or composes may be considered as a kind of general challenger, whom everyone has the right to attack; since he quits the common rank of life, steps forward beyond the lists, and offers his merit to the public judgment. In essence, no man can justly aspire to honor, but at the hazard of disgrace. Without criticism there would be no progress, nor standards for quality. We must critique those who critique, even (and especially) our idols. This is my attempt at doing that, as I consider John to be one of the most influential people in my life.

The nature of the artist has always been ubiquitously narcissistic. John is obviously a very self- and world- conscious man and also arguably at the same time one of the most ‘selfless’ men I’ve ever met. I am guessing that he realizes this and wants his work to be more than just expression or some form of deification/immortalization vessel for himself, more than just a feeble attempt to say, "admire me, give me recognition, validate my wretched petty existence; tell me I am of value to the earth for my valliant contributions to culture," and I feel this is just one of the reasons for his changes in style we’ve seen take place over his last two albums. I am extrapolating here, so John, forgive me if I’m mistaken.

Although Songs (2006) was technically his first official release, it was actually a compilation of sorts composed of songs from his first two albums, I Want to Live (2003?) and Love Letters from Hell (2004?). In my opinion, these two albums are some of the most genuine and transcendental pieces of art I have ever come across in my 26 years on this planet. They are works of pure unadulterated genius, whose plethoric virtuosity and brilliance are rivaled only by how humble and human they are. They are devoid of the pretentions that generally surround music of such an epical nature, making them very, very unique. In terms of musical composition, they could be compared with and sit along side Mozart, Bach, Wagner, Beethoven, Schubert, and the rest. Moreover, these albums are humorous, the kind of raw humor that arises from the absurdity of the horror of existence. They encompass everything vital about art.

In an age where nearly everything feels contrived and is a revival or throw-back to something that preceded it, John’s first two albums sound bizarrely original. Of course there are influences, as with all art, particularly minimal wave acts such as Section 25, and classical structuring, but they are not directly borrowed from, rather only parts and ideas are borrowed to create true, 'unique' art. All art is intrinsically contriving to some degree, but it’s within the variations of that contrivance which we can discern its ‘originality.’

I feel that John’s live performances could best be compared to a ritual, a séance, or a church sermon. It is a means for both John and his audience to expunge something. Nothing pains me more than to see these drunken idiots dancing around like children, dressed up like fools, making a mockery of John’s true intentions all because they feel they are subscribing to what they feel fits some popular trend. These people should be exiled to some distant island where they can continue with their vapid, sexless orgies. Again, John, if you’re reading this and your intention is to make dance music and I am gravely misinformed, please let me know.

When I first heard Love is Real, I remember downloading a leaked copy on soulseek (I later bought it on vinyl, of course, along with a few more copies as gifts for friends) and being huddled close to my monitor as each individual song finished downloading, and listening – no, devouring, imbibing - eagerly. I was going to like it regardless, but I noticed immediately that something was missing. I was a pizza delivery driver at the time and I listened to it over and over in my car during the weeks (and months) to come. As I mentioned before, the macabre has been substituted for the panglossian. This much was obvious, but there was something else missing and I could not figure out just what it was. But I finally realized what the missing piece was: the realness of genuine suffering, longing, the pain and burden of love. The ‘love’ John seems to have found in Love is Real is an illusory love, an ideal love - not the kind of love found on his first two records – the kind that plagues you, that consumes you, not real love. Beyond that is the departure from poetry towards rhetoric that seemed to have taken place, rhetoric whose purpose seems to be that of sparking social and political awareness. Because rhetoric is a device that is arrived at willingly and consciously, and not a mechanism that is a product of its own accord, a certain element of sincerity is bound to be lost, and that is what is missing in Love in Real and We Must Become.... John's richest, 'realest' work has always been his love and existential songs, because these are the most guileless subjects for any human being, even the most altruistic of us.

Furthermore, the problem with attempting to merge art and politics is that it is useless, futile, ineffectual. John’s music is not going to change anyone’s mind or open anyone’s mind because of the very inaccessibility of his music. If the fucking Beatles couldn’t do it, If U2 couldn’t do it, two of the most colossal music forces the world has ever seen, it surely cannot be done. Educating others is a good thing, a noble thing even, but in John’s case with a fringe audience, it brings to mind the expression ‘preaching to the choir.’

The only way drastic, -significant- change has ever come about is from one of three ways: 01) the separation of those desiring change and exodus into a new land where a new country can be formed, 02) a violent overthrow/rebellion by the people, or 03) a rebuilding after a complete collapse. The first is irrelevant because there is no unclaimed, unoccupied, ‘free’ soil left. The second would be very difficult given the paradigm of the modern world, especially in America where everything is so spread out, and even then what is to say that the new rule and order would not be even more oppressive than than the previous? Throughout history, power and ignorance have almost always been parallel to one another. If you can name me one kind, wise leader of a prominent, prospering civilization, I will gladly paypal you $20. The third method seems to be the only viable option, and that leaves us with no other choice but to sit back and wait and watch the figurative train crash in slow motion.

Getting back to art as kindling for political revolution, not even literature (which I feel is a much better medium for actuating change) has been able to do this, George Orwell’s 1984 being the best example. This is a book that is –mandatory- reading in just about every high school in America. Yet despite being read by nearly every person in our country with a high school diploma, the once cautionary tale is no longer prophecy, but is becoming eerily true as we find ourselves in a vivid dystopian world of our own. Despite being warned, we have been duped, fallen into a cleverly conceived trap, and wonder why things have gone to shit, scratching our heads and being unable to do anything because it is much too late.

Perhaps you could accuse me of being overly pessimistic here, but the fact remains - no artist or group of artists have ever brought an end to tyranny. Art has always served best as a nexus between individuals, a way for us as isolated and simultaneously social creatures to relate to one another and communicate on a deeper level than symbolic language allows, and lastly a way to cling together and share the weight of our burden, the burden of conscious existence and finitude that can be so hard to bear at times.

John, if you are reading this (and I truly hope you are), please take what I've said to heart and feel free to respond to this and I will happily discuss my views further. I consider myself to be one of your biggest fans, and I will support whatever direction you choose to go in, but you at least know where I stand. I consider "Just Wait til Next Year" to be the greatest song ever written. I've had "That Night" haunt me because I could relate to it so, the music and lyrics perfectly encapsulating the heartbreak I was feeling at the time. I would be grateful if you even produced only one more song with such intense passion and sincerity as contained in either of those two songs. If there were more musicians like yourself I wouldn't be having to write this, but sadly you are one of a kind.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

MIX - Cheap Thrills and Alphavilles

Some songs that remind me of LA, for Ryan. I came across a lot of these bands when I was around 21 and 22. It was a very confusing time in my life and this weird shit helped to confuse me even further, but without them I would not be the person I am today.

01) Bubonic Plague - Polyhedron
02) Molly Nilsson - Poisoned Candy
03) Nite Jewel - What Did He Say?
04) Geneva Jacuzzi - Clothes on my Bed
05) Super Creep - Tasteless
06) Icy Demons - This is It!
07) UM - Africa is a Fridge
08) Chas Mtn. - Upsidedown Hanging
09) Softboiled Eggies - Underwater World (Fogatron edit)
10) Mordant Music - Winding Ourselves into the Ground
11) Rangers - Zombie (Night)
12) Temple Vibe - I Don't Think About Anyone
13) Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Steviepink
14) Ry Rocklen - My Crow
15) John Maus - Peace That Earth Cannot Give
16) Fred Frith - Walking Song
17) HOLY SHIT - Rough N Tumble
18) R. Stevie Moore - I go Into your Mind
19) Jeff Eliassen - E ( Across the Sky, a Web of Ice)
20) Vibe Central - No Ariozona
21) Need New Body - Poppa B


Friday, December 16, 2011

2011 In Film

A few things worth mentioning: there are several movies I have not yet seen, which I am looking forward to, including Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, Steve McQueen's Shame, and a few others. Also, I saw a lot of places including Love Exposure on their year-end lists, which is a fantastic epic Japanese melodrama that I included in my '09 list.


The Descendants

Saw this in theaters with a friend and I walked out 10 minutes before the end. A lot of people heralded this as Clooney's 'best role,' but that award goes to his perfomance in Michael Clayton (or maybe the neurotic dude in Burn After Reading). Sideways is great, but this is a stinky turd. Sid was funny at times, but not enough to salvage a sappy cliche-ridden train wreck. Some of the dialogue was so painfully unnatural that it made me cringe. Avoid like the plague.

The Last Circus

I wanted this to be good, I really did. I hoped it would be, I thought it would be. The trailer even made it out to be, but the movie itself was pretty awful. The first half was fine and quite sexy even, but the last half was an utter atrocity. A lot of good ideas wasted with boring execution, especially near the end.


We Need to Talk About Kevin

Recently, Tilda Swinton seems to be getting cast as these crazy, on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown female roles (Julia, Michael Clayton) but it is very, very hard for a sane person to accurately play an insane person no matter how good of an actor/actress they may be. However, Lynne Ramsay’s keen directing makes this one of the best portrayals of schizophrenia I’ve ever seen. The problem is that, sadly, despite some wonderful scenes, it is not that good of a movie. Kevin’s delinquency is so ridiculous and over the top that it’s almost comedic at times. The ADD alternating between present and exposition/flashback is at times too much to keep up with. Part of me feels it should have been called ‘Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly play the world’s most inadequate parents’

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Another movie centered around a schizophrenic character (I still need to see Take Shelter, because I've heard nothing but good things). I was really enjoying this until the end, where it just lost its way and came to an abrupt halt. To clarify, I do not have a problem with loose or open endings. Dogtooth is an example of this being done well. I have a problem with a film who is so unsure of itself that it relies on them out of necessity, which is the case here. Still, a pretty good psychological thriller, just don't expect too much.


Thematically, this was somewhat similar to Antichrist (sub castration anxiety for annihilation anxiety), but just not nearly as effective or powerful. Antichrist is so disturbing and confrontational that I'll probably never watch it again. With a title like 'Melancholia' I was expecting something as psychologically brutal as such a name suggests. Instead, I left feeling unaffected and indifferent and thus the title is simply pretentious, not appropriate. Melancholia's biggest failure, however, was in the area of atmosphere. For a film about the psychological dealings the end of the world, I expected something startlingly ominous and foreboding. I never got such a mood. Also, both Justine and Claire's behavior was inconsistent, unpredictable and ultimately unbelievable. In Antichrist the characters' mental states gradually declined, becoming more and more isolated and neurotic. There were causes and effects for their behavior. Justine often goes from being fragile to lethargic to spiteful to motherly and kind. Not even people with severe manias act so erratic and contradictory. Even beyond these failings I just felt it was a poorly written film. Not terrible by any means, but as I said before, wholly unremarkable.

The Tree of Life

This big beautiful film's biggest error was that it was too ambitious for it's own good. I might even say it's the most ambitious movie ever made in terms of what it tries to achieve. Mallick is a brilliant artist, but his work is better suited for more intimate and restrained environments ala The Thin Red Line and Days of Heaven (which are still both rightfully ambitious, just with a smaller scope, ie. not trying to poetically convey life in a 3 hour movie)


Felt a bit hollow to me, although very stylish and really well made, like all of Refn's films. The villains were completely uninteresting. Gosling's character was cool and all, but I wish he would've been more developed. Anyways, I enjoyed it though; definitely a well put together film and the soundtrack is awesome.

The Future

I saw this only a month ago, but oddly enough I can't remember much about it.
Miranda July makes, what, like one movie ever five years? I had forgotten how abstract the narrative in Me, You, and Everyone We Know Was and The Future is the same way. I really liked this, but as with many movies I saw this year, was expecting a little more.


A witty, angsty, existential bildungsroman in the form of a British comedy or rather a British comedy in the form of a witty, angsty, existential bildungsroman. Would probably be my 6th favorite film of the year if I did a top 10 instead of 5. Like many on this list, another one I need to revisit soon.


A classic example of style over substance, but I'll be goddamned if this wasn't one of the most beautiful animated movies I've ever seen. Fan-service (boobies, violence) galore, and the ending theme (featured in the trailer below) is so so so good. Fun, but far from flawless.

Midnight in Paris

Yet another case where it's been awhile since I've seen this but I remember liking it a lot. The 'psuedo-intellectual' was such a hilariously obnoxious character. A lot of people didn't like the portrayals of Hemingway and some of the other immortalized authors, but I thought they are pretty good exaggerated comedic fictionalizations. Not a big Owen Wilson fan, and I would have cast someone different, but he's at least tolerable here.


5. Tyrannosaur

This year's Breathless, albeit not quite as good. A bone-raw character study about two people worn down by life, and how they interact and relate with each other.

4. The Borrower Arrietty

I'm breaking the rules, yet again. This came out in Japan in 2010, and isn't due out here in the states until early 2012. However, I saw the British release which came out this year, so I'm including here. Another magical tale from Studio Ghibli which I would best describe as Spirited Away meets Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and their most visually captivating film to date.

3. Louis C.K. Live at the Beacon Theater

Probably my new all time favorite stand up special and a few separate segments made me laugh so hard I couldn't breath. The way he ties jokes together is just perfect - they just flow so nicely and bleed together into one continuous joke, there are no pauses between like many comedians. Also, he starts off relatively tame and works his way into the funny bits and it progresses. The clip below is just an outtake, but the actual special is golden.

2. Bellflower

I was originally quite hyperbolic in my initial write-up of this movie, so I'd like to re-watch it and see how it holds up. It's a modern Fight Club only on acid, and with far less Hollywood flash. Starts off quirky and cute, then turns into a horrifying nightmare. The use of sound design in one scene during the climax might induce a panic attack, so be forewarned.

1. Beginners

The day after I first watched this, I asked a friend of mine to 'please come watch this movie with me.' But after I said that, I realized how it silly it was to be asking that. It would be similar to asking her to 'please eat this delicious ice cream sunday' or 'please let Brad Pitt go down on you for an hour' or 'please have all these free drugs,' so I just said, "look, its really good. Either come over and watch it or don't." It made her laugh, cry, and become gravely silent. We talked about it for an hour afterwards, and we both agree it's the best movie released in 2011.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My top five favorite albums of 2011

5. John Maus - We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves

This is the worst John Maus album. By John's standards it is relatively bland and there aren't really any standout tracks like his previous releases. The macabre has been substituted for the panglossian. The political/social messages are admirable, but John's most sincere and 'real' work has always originated from his existential and love songs. Despite all of these things, We Must Become... is still better than 99.9% of everything else released this year. "Cop Killer" is a much needed anthem, but a part of me wishes some girl would get John to fall in deeply love with her and then break his heart so we could get another "Just Wait til Next Year."

4. Kate Bush - 50 Words for Snow

In a perfect world, everyone would have Kate Bush as a mom.

3. Destroyer - Kaputt

Dan Bejar takes the term 'stylistic departure' very literally.

2. Momus - Thunderclown

Not only one of the best albums albums of the year, but one of the Currie's own best behind classics like Voyager and Timelord. Sadly this will probably be overlooked by many, but it is a conceptual masterpiece and a veritable Momus magnum opus.

1. Nunzio Fattini - Album Primum

I am blatantly cheating here. Technically this album came out over two years ago (according to iTunes). Normally I wouldn't bend the rules so, but given the circumstances I feel it's acceptable. Nunzio's website 'promoting' (see: irony) the album didn't even appear until early this year and the earliest mention of his new project anywhere else on the internet didn't occur until March (correct me if I'm wrong here). So I don't know how anyone could have known of it's existence outside of Mr. Fanuelle himself until this year, and that's why I'm allowing this gem to appear on my 2011 list, despite actually being released earlier. I'm going to let this fact speak for itself and not write any more about this. The album is available on his website, but please, support him and buy it over iTunes, paypal him $5, something - anything - to keep this man making music. In a word: incommensurable.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My top ten favorite songs of 2011

(excluding songs by artists that will appear on my favorite albums list)

10. Rangers - "Zombies (day)" - Ariel would be proud.

9. Oneohtrix Point Never - "Replica" - Taking ambien to make music to take ambien to.

8. Toro y Moi - "I can Get Love" - Just ride the wave, brah.

7. Gang Gang Dance - "Glass Jar" - I was going to drop a Loveless reference, but you just don't do that.

6. Cold Cave - "Underworld USA" - A deeply excitable song off a pretty mediocre album.

5. Julia Holter - "Try to Make Yourself a Work of Art" A good example of "l'art comme philosophie," like that one French guy talked about.

4. Girls - "Vomit" - Do not be confused. This is actually a b-side to the unreleased single of Pink Floyd's "Us and Them"

3. Twin Sister - "Stop" - Easy on the ears? I think so.

2. Cass McCombs - "County Line" - Made the second spot on "songs I would like to get drunk and slow dance to on a lake shore under a full moon," just under Neil Young's "Harvest Moon"

1. Puro Instinct - "Lost at Sea" - Cocteau Twins + Felt + Los Angeles aesthetic = bonafied 2011 heavenly pop hit.


Comet Gain - "Clang of the Concrete Swans" - Youthful and vivacious as ever

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mike Mills - Beginners (2011)

This is the best movie I've seen all year. Consistently brilliant, charming, clever, funny, heartbreaking, genuine, and a million other glowing, over-used adjectives. The day after I first watched this, I asked a friend of mine to 'please come watch this movie with me.' But after I said that, I realized how it silly it was to be asking that. It would be similar to asking her to 'please eat this delicious ice cream sunday' or 'please let Brad Pitt go down on you for an hour' or 'please have all these free drugs,' so when she protested that she was 'busy' I just said, "look, its really good. Either come over and watch it or don't." It made her laugh, cry, and become gravely silent. We talked about it for an hour afterwards, and we both agree it's the best movie released in 2011.

Antena - The Boy From Ipanema

The Art of the Mix Tape (A BS Special Feature)

This is a guide that will hopefully give you a better idea of how to create an enjoyable, fluid, and memorable mix tape/cd.

A good mix is a lot like a good fuck: not too short, not too long, engaging from start to finish, and most importantly, ultimately transcendental. A good mix, if created for the right person at the right time and under the right circumstances can even make someone fall in love with you. It is an art that takes a lot of practice to master, and every mix requires patience and complete concentration. The only good piece of advice my father ever instilled in me was an old cliché: if something is worth doing, it is worth doing right. If you slap a dozen songs together haphazardly and without care, your mix will most likely not be ‘bad,’ but it will not be remarkable in anyway, thus, c'est une connerie. It will not achieve anything the radio or a podcast cannot and you are wasting the time of your audience (whether or not they realize it). All of the mixes I make generally take at least two hours to compile, some taking up to several weeks of scrutiny and consideration and until I feel it is polished and smooth enough to my satisfaction. Like any art there is an element of obsessive perfectionism if you want to achieve a good finished product. You can never put too much time into an endeavor - only too little.

This particular mix I’ve chosen to use as a demonstration is only one single method, and is my personal favorite template. For labeling purposes I will call it a M-type mix, as it progresses as such (ascend, descend, ascend, descend). It is divided into four distinct ‘sections’ (each with a unique style and mood, to create a diverse and compelling whole, and each transitioning naturally into the next, to create a sense of fluidity) but there is no one way to approach the process. Your mix can be genre specific, or have a wide variety of styles. I mentioned the symbolic ‘shape’ or progression earlier and there are many of these. There are mixes that are orbicular in nature, bell-like, unidirectional/progressive, and many more. A mix can be subtle and relaxing, or relentless. Your mix have can have one or multiple crescendos or climaxes or none at all. A mix can be constructed around almost any concept or theme, the trick is to be creative and learn to listen to what flows and sounds ‘right.’ Contrary to popular belief, pay no great attention to length as it is irrelevant. A 45 minute mix can be just as good as an 80 minute one. Try not to go below 40 minutes.

This is an old mix I made for a friend. I chose to this particular one as a demo because it is solid, yet flawed. I recommend downloading it before reading any further.

Title: Pretty Poisons

Part I

01) Max von Sydow - "Intro to Europa"
02) Mount Eerie - "Between Two Mysteries"
03) Kangding Ray - "Idle"
04) Cold Cave - "Love Comes Close"
05) Death in June - "Break the Black Ice"
06) Emptyset - "Aleph"
07) Television - "Elevation"
08) The Brian Jonestown Massacre - "Anemone"
09) Spiritualized - "If I Were with Her Now"
10) The KLF - "Build a Fire"

Part II

01) Flaming Tunes - "Restless Mind"
02) Nick Nicely - "On the Beach (The Ladder Descends)"
03) Holy Shit - "Hot on your Trail"
04) Sensations' Fix - "Visions Fugitives"
05) Felt - "Ancient City Where I Lived"
06) Robert Wyatt - "At Last I'm Free"
07) Iron Curtain - "Love Can Never Die"
08) Michel Polnareff - "Holidays"
09) Robyn Hitchcock - "Flavour of the Night"
10) Linda Perhacs - "If You Were My Man"


Start playing the mix and let’s break it down to better analyze its components. You’ll immediately notice that it’s divided into two parts. This structure is unconventional (and not recommended) but I felt that condensing it would ultimately detract, so I decided to be a little creative. If I were to create a graph of it's movement, it would look something like:

(note the 'M' shape)

There are a few different 'arcs' joined together by transitional pieces. The first track is a recording from the opening scene in Lars Von Trier’s Europa and features Max Von Sydow hypnotizing the viewer (or in this case, the listener). This is a good opening track for obvious reasons. It sets a tone and sucks the listener in. The next track is immerse and atmospheric as well and was chosen to further capture the attention and imagination of my intended listener(s). Tracks 2, 3, 4, and 5 compose the first arc, and are different styles, but are all similar in mood (mysterious, dark, yet hypnotic). The tempo is increased, but not drastically so; you will also notice the songs are more pop-ish. Track 6 was intended as a bridge between 5 and 7 because the two songs did not flow very well. In retrospect, I might remove this track completely. I wanted to create contrast between the almost silence lows of track 6 and the sharp highs of track 7 to give 7 more of an impact. The pace/mood/style transforms with the second arc, tracks 7-10. You should notice more guitar oriented 'rock' whose sound is narcotic, slightly psychedelic, and somewhat bluesy. The first half is not unlike a drug high, and I created it systematically to be so. The second half will continue with this concept.

The last track of part 1 marks a subtle, but distinctive decline. I set it up so the listener could take an intermission if needed or even listen to the two parts separately. The point of all these peaks and valleys, 'ups and downs' is to create titillation. To paraphrase a quote from High Fidelity, you don't want to blow your load too early, and to return to the sex analogy, you should tease, create anticipation in, and then deliver to your listener, repeating the process however many times you deem necessary. Tracks 11-14 make up the third arc, and this arc continues in the psyche vein, but is a little more experimental and the recording quality of the songs are noticeably different. Again, there is contrast between the end of the third arc, the transitional track (15), and the beginning of the final arc. The final arc marks a decline in velocity, but due to the haunting and sincere nature of its songs, is the heart of the mix. Despite once again the varying alternation of the genres in this last segment, the landing is smooth and easy and things come to a gentle close. I forgot to mention this earlier, but I'm doing so now (bolded for importance): Pay attention to how a preceding track ends and how its successor begins. As with everything else, avoid friction.

Do you always have to be so analytical/technical? No. Does it help? Most definitely. Again there are many ways to approach, so play around with themes and concepts until you find something that works. What I've outlined are only the basics. Feel free to go above and beyond by mixing your songs continuously with Audacity, create a custom designed cover art for them, et al.

One final thing that is equally important: you should keep in mind that there is also a discipline to follow on the part of the person receiving the mix. The listener must fully dedicate his/her attention in order to properly take in the mix. I like using headphones or driving around in my car, but all that matters is that you are focused and you have some decent speakers. For god's sake just don't put iTunes on shuffle and let it play as background music while you are vacuuming your house! That about wraps it up. I'll leave you with a little inspiration:

"The other day, a friend told me that she still listens to a mix that I made her five or six years ago, and that was a great feeling."

-Chris Piercy

Go forth and make good work!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Agustí Villaronga - In a Glass Cage (1987)

Here is a synopsis of In a Glass Cage that will paint a picture of what you're in for if you have not seen this movie: "A former Nazi doctor-turned-pedophile, paralyzed from the neck down after a suicide attempt, is forced to accept a boy as his nurse under threat of blackmail: the boy secretly witnessed the doctor's torture and murder of another boy, and possesses the man's diary, which details his wartime experiments and his subsequent descent into pedophilia and murder."

Sounds fun, no? The plot/characters/subject matter alone makes it one of the more interesting films I'm seen in some time and gives great perspective on sadism/masochism and how the two are not unilateral, but in fact can be closely interwoven. This is a very demented "love story," and the focus is on the deranged dynamic between the boy and the doctor and the intimacy of their relationship. A lot of people consider this to rank with Salo as being in the upper echelon of 'fucked up' films, but I didn't find it disturbing at all. Chilling and bizarre, definitely, but not particularly disturbing. In a Glass Cage is a very perceptive and well made film, but its definitely not for everyone (especially those who aren't a fan of blue, because that's pretty much the only color shown throughout). Check it:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Rain Parade - Emergency Third Rail Power (1983)

Rain Parade were a Paisley Underground group active during the mid 80's. I would best describe this album as sounding like a nineties college-radio indie band who wrote a bunch of seventies psychedelic inspired tunes using instruments and equipment from '83. Very indie-poppy, but of the low sugar variety. Main man David Roback went on to found Mazzy Star.

Rating: 7.5/10


The Raincoats - Fairytale in the Supermarket


Friday, December 2, 2011

Cocteau Twins - Those Eyes,That Mouth


Edwyn Collins - Selected discography

I like Orange Juice. A lot - and for obvious reasons. They were instrumental in the foundation of several of my favorite genres and I consider both Rip it Up and You Can't Hide your Love Away to be masterpieces. Their single, "Rip it Up" rapidly ascended the UK charts but unfortunately, it was their only 'big' hit and many wrote them off as a one hit wonder. I'm guessing most of my audience here knows better than to make that assumption, but I'm writing this just in case.

Edwyn Collins is a smart, witty lyricist, a talented musician and a distinguishable vocalist. The only minor gripe I have with his solo work is that I feel his voice is often unsuitable for some of the tracks. That is to say, that while it is appropriate for many, I feel an equal number could benefit from a different vocal style (Call me crazy, but Sarah Cracknell, maybe? I don't know). The music itself is mostly stellar, with a few sub par tracks here and there, but that is generally how it goes with most pop records. I'm sure you are probably familiar with "A Girl Like You" (video featured below), because it got a decent amount of exposure during the nineties, but other songs such as "Means to an End" (wait, the Paul Quinn version was actually a revised cover?), "50 Shades of Blue" and "Out of This World" which were overshadowed are all very approachable too. One final thing - all three of these albums go well played at loud volumes in your car. They don't work well as background music, so keep that in mind when listening.

Collection includes:

Hope and Despair (1989)
Hellbent on Compromise (1990)
Gorgeous George (1994)