Saturday, August 24, 2013

Jangle Pop from 1983

I made this playlist by seeding it with songs by R.E.M., The Smiths, and The Church and filling it up with others songs from 1983 that fit stylistically.

The Spotify playlist is here.

Southern Mark Smith - The Jazz Butcher

Radio Free Europe - R.E.M.
     Any track from Murmur could be substituted here.

This Charming Man - The Smiths

Sugar Bridge - It Will Stand - The Bluebells

Penelope Tree  - Felt

Gargoyle - The Lighthouse Keepers

Age of Consent - New Order
     I originally used this song to seed my 1983 Synth Pop playlist, but it just felt like it belonged here even though I never would consider New Order a Jangle Pop band.

One Day - The Church

Hip Hip - Hurrah

Spin Your Partner - Love Tractor
     Not much in the way of lyrics, but I love the banjo on this song.

Marilyn on a Train - The Cleaners from Venus

Second Skin - The Chameleons

Plaything - The Triffids

Whenever You're on My Mind - Marshall Crenshaw

The First Picture of You - The Lotus Eaters

Flaming Sword - Care

Beauty and Sadness - The Smithereens
  If the Beatles had recorded 'Tomorrow Never Knows' for Rubber Soul instead of Revolver.

Every Word Means No - Let's Active
    If I didn't know better, I would guess this song was actually recorded in the 60s.

Talking in My Sleep - The Rain Parade
    If Jangle Pop could be defined as "anything that sounds like The Byrds", this song would be a perfect example.

Gravity Talks - Green on Red
    I love the organ on this song.

A Million Miles Away - The Plimsouls

Numbers With Wings - The Bongos

(Let's All) Turn On - Hoodoo Gurus

In addition, these two songs weren't available for streaming on Spotify, nor are they available for purchase from Amazon mp3 download, but they definitely belong on this list:

Cattle and Cane - The Go-Betweens
    the video on YouTube

Oblivious - Aztec Camera
    the video on YouTube

appropriate comic from Overcompensating

Saturday, January 21, 2012

10 Year Anniversary

On January 21, 2002, NetFlix mailed me my first three discs (Brazil, Girlfight, and Sex in the City). Today, they mailed me my 1,175th disc (Toy Story 3).

Originally, NetFlix seemed (and was) forward thinking for it's innovative use of new technology and inventing a service most people didn't even realize they wanted. It seems strange now, that technology has made both DVDs and The Postal Service less relevant.

But I suspect I'll remain a loyal subscriber until the DVD by Mail service is as much a relic as the nickelodeon or the video rental store.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Top 3 Directors of 1931

3. Fritz Lang

2. James Whale

1. René Clair

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Shining

The opening scene is a small car driving on a curvy mountain road as seen from a helicopter. This match-cuts to long shots of characters moving through the cavernous rooms of a hotel as seen from a steadi-cam that is moving at the approximate relative speed as the helicopter. The effect is dwarfing; the character we're following is a small man in big world he can't control. He's there to interview for a job as a caretaker for a hotel that's closed and isolated from civilization over the harsh winters. He's a writer that plans to spend the winter there with his wife and son and use the isolation to focus on his writing.

While there, he goes a little crazy from the isolation (and perhaps the ghosts).

Director Stanley Kubrick maintains unnerving balances between sanity and madness, and between the real and the supernatural. The writer, Jack (played by Jack Nicholson) seems a little off even at his most sane, making it difficult to tell exactly when he becomes unhinged. Although there are definitely supernatural elements - the son, Danny, and the hotel cook (played by Scatman Cruthers) can communicate telepathically, and Danny has visions of the hotel's violent history - it's not entirely clear whether there are actually ghosts, or if these ghosts can physically harm anyone. Somebody does rip Danny's sweater, and somebody does unlock a door or two, but we never actually see these things happen. Every time Jack holds a conversation with a ghost, there's a mirror or reflective surface in front of him - might he actually be talking to himself?

Unlike other horror movies, the characters actually behave in a ways that real people might if they were in a similar situation - they make smart, well-reasoned decisions in their attempts to escape from harm. Also unlike other horror movies, the tension ratchets up higher than the body count. The Shining is a rare horror movie that stays with you for days after you've seen it, and is as frightening today as was 30 years ago.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th

It's easy to understand why a formula would start to get stale after a dozen sequels, but how did they manage to make it seem so tired the first time out? The trailer tells you what to expect: 8 teenagers are isolated alone in the woods while an unknown psycho murders them one by one. The movie meets that expectation, and nothing more.

Perhaps if the characters had been interesting, I would have cared about whatever it was they were doing before they got killed, but they are all amiable-but-bland samey-looking stiffly-acted teenagers. Only one is given a personality - Ned, the goofy prankster - but it's such an annoying personality that I found myself hoping he would be the first one offed. I assumed the pranks were introduced to set up some misdirection and I waited for an actual death to be laughed off as a prank or a faked death to be mistaken for a real one, but nothing ever came of it. There're no interesting characters, no misdirection, just 8 kids getting murdered one by one, and nothing more.

I also hoped that there would be some mystery. Who was this killer? Was it someone we met? It seemed like they wanted to throw in some red herrings: The camp boss leaves the camp just before the teenagers start to die, maybe it's him? No, the very next scene establishes that the killer is driving a jeep different from the one the boss drove out on. The town crazy shows up at camp shouting that they are all doomed, maybe it's him? No, we see him in the very next scene getting away on a bicycle, not a jeep. Maybe one of the kids is actually the killer? No, the very first kill happens far away from any of them establishing all their alibis. There's no mystery to figure out, just 8 kids getting murdered one by one, and nothing more.

Strangely, nobody even realizes there's a psycho killer on the loose until moments before they're killed. The last two alive are the first to suspect something's happening when they can't find their friends, but nobody ever witnessed a murder or found a body until there was only one left alive. It wasn't 8 kids trying to outwit a psycho killer in the wilderness, it was just 8 kids getting murdered one by one, and nothing more (well, maybe the last one was trying to outwit a psycho killer).

The movie even fails at being just a shameless excuse to show nudity and gore. Only one couple has a very tame sex scene were very little is exposed. The others engage in a very PG game of strip Monopoly that ends before they get very far. There are two or three gruesome images, but half the murders take place off-screen.

There was only one scene that gave me a genuine fright. It was a tacked on bit at the end, and even though I'd seen the movie before and knew what was about to happen, it still got me. But one well-executed scene doesn't justify the rest of the surprisingly boring, mostly un-scary movie. It certainly doesn't justify its dozen sequels.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

1. Van Morrison - Moondance

Counting down my favorite 25 albums of 1970:

Van Morrison - Moondance

Van Morrison must have been in a fantastic mood when he produced this album - it's the most comfortable album ever recorded.

Stylistically, the songs on this album have a wide range of moods and genres (blues, jazz, country, folk, rock), but thematically, they all address the warmest, most natural, most universal human experiences: nostalgia for carefree youth ('And It Stoned Me'), the buzz of good times with good friends ('Moondance'), the giddiness of a new infatuation ('Crazy Love'), the sense of security and validation that comes with camaraderie ('Caravan'), the rapture you feel in the awesomeness of nature and your place in it ('Into the Mystic'), etc.

The Moondance vs. Astral Weeks debate divides Van Morrison fans. The critical concensus is that Astral Weeks is Van Morrison's best album; Acclaimed Music ranks Astral Weeks as the #15 album of all time with Moondance at #95. I'm in the Moondance camp. My defense is that the emotions this album evokes are so primal, so visceral, that it doesn't pose much challenge to the listener - it's simply not humanly possible to dislike this album. I suspect this makes the album seem slight or vapid, but this is deceptive; It's not as easy as it looks to make it look this easy.

Friday, July 30, 2010

2. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Déjà Vu

Counting down my favorite 25 albums of 1970:

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Déjà Vu

This album, their first (with Young), was highly anticipated and was a commercial and critical success. Each of the four contributed two songs each plus an additional Stills/Young collaboration (the closer 'Everybody I Love You'), and the Joni Mitchell cover 'Woodstock'.

They provide the vocal harmonies and signature sound their fans expect on the opening track 'Carry On', but they also expand their sound and appeal with the country-influenced 'Teach Your Children' and the Beatlesque pop of 'Our House'. By the end of the album, they give an indication of the direction they're heading; Stephen Stills' '4 + 20' sounds like the mellow blues songs he would explore on his first solo album later in the year, and Neil Young's 'Country Girl' suite would fit right in with the rest of his moody minor-key ballads on his After the Goldrush album.

1970 was definitely CSN&Y's year. A few months after the release of this album, they would record and release the classic song 'Ohio' inspired by and released a few weeks after the Kent State shootings. A few months after that, the concert film for the Woodstock Festival and the soundtrack on which they are prominently featured would be released. By the end of the year, both Stephen Stills and Neil Young would release excellent solo albums.