Hypey McHypes A Lot

Nine Ten Overhyped Films To Consider When Pooping
   

overrated and updated: Waltz with Bashir
Powerful but not successful. I should amend that to say that as an experimental animated film it is successful (“Waling Life” in war boots) but as a war film, as a war documentary and as a personal exploration it is not. On one hand you could say “Waltz” is about ONE man who struggles to come to terms with his war ravaged memory. And he does so through this extraordinary medium. Except it’s not about one man (its open ended and draws upon many soldiers and many memories and many shitty 80s music video montages) and when it is about the one man, director and subject Ari Folman, the film is foggy and not very engaging because he’s not very engaging.
Okay, then there’s the other hand which feels like a slap in the face. “Waltz” presents critical one-sided look (attack even) at Israel defending itself against enemies on every direction in the early eighties (going on forever), which would be bearable or understandable even if there were some historical context provided. It’s like, look at all these horrible things being done and… yeah, okay, WE KNOW. No cause and effect here, just effect. As “documentary” “Waltz” shoots blanks because it teases us with an incendiary topic but then goes all Fellini with it. I’m like shut about wanting to loose your virginity to a giant naked mermaid, bro, and get back to that whole war thing you were talking about a second ago. If you want to find out about the Christian militia that massacred thousands of Palestinians or the IDF chain of command or the war in Lebanon… this is not your film. If you want to find out about ambiguous dreams, impressions and repressed memories, it is.
Grade: C-
  

The Rest 

  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Reader
  • The Wrestler
  • The Flight of the Red Balloon
  • The Visitor
  • Revolutionary Road
  • The Bank Job
  • Rachel Getting Married

….continue to full write-up

OSCAR NOMINATIONS–or, why I quit

Reaction: NERD RAGE! This has to be the most bland, stale and prosaic set of nominations since “Mississippi Burning” faced off against “Rain Man” in 1988. THE READER? FUCK YOU. Boring. God damn, who cares? Even the big presence, “Button” and “Slumdog,” are overrated and would not have even been nominated against last year’s lot (“No Country,” “Blood,” “Clayton” etc.). Virtually no culturally relevant films are repersented to any significant degree. Where’s Batman… where’s Wall-E… hell, where’s CLINT!!!??? Oh, but Wall-E, a film that stood out for its lack of dialogue, was nominated for screenplay, there ya go. And a guy in black face. And the bold visionary Steven Daldry “honored” over Christopher Nolan. Wow. I’ve seen just about all the films here and can find one, maybe two great titles. I don’t even know if I’m going to watch……. well, of course I am but I’m not going to be happy about it.   

Best Picture
Slumdog Millionaire🙁
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button🙁
Milk 😐
Frost/Nixon 😐
The Reader🙁

Best Director
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Gus Van Sant, Milk
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Stephen Daldry, The Reader😡

Best Actor
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Sean Penn, Milk
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor

Best Actress
Kate Winslet, The Reader
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Melissa Leo, Frozen River

Best Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road 😀

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Amy Adams, Doubt
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Original Screenplay
Andrew Stanton, Wall-E
Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky
Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Martin McDonagh, In Bruges

Best Adapted Screenplay
Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
John Patrick Shanley, Doubt
David Hare, The Reader

okay, I’m over reacting a bit. it’s not all bad. first, JENKINS gets a big tip of the hat (trite film, good performance). happy for Michael Shannon in supporiting actor, really happy for Herzog finally getting a nom after that Grizzly Man snub (documentary), Frozen River and In Bruges for screenplay as well as Mike Leigh for his screenplay (even he gave a big WTF to the academy for forgetting Hawkins) and Bruce Springsteen for best song… oh, wait, MIA was nominated over him, AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Best Tracks of 2008

This was not the year of the album. Or the artist. It was the year of the song.

Note: the songs are linked to the Youtube video. In some cases its a live version. Note #2: Yes, it’s in order of preference but a part of me considers the top fifteen songs a fifteen-way tie. Note #3: This list is proud to be Vampire Weekend free but kind of sad that MGMT missed the cut.

  1. Golden Age TV On The Radio (when I first heard it I thought: “cool! a new U2 song.” A second later: “Cool! U2 is good again.” I was wrong on both counts.)
  2. One Day Like This Elbow
  3. I Will Possess Your Heart Death Cab For Cutie (five minutes for the intro/three minutes for the song song and ten seconds for the chorus. So… how did this become one of the best songs of the year?)
  4. 1,000,000 Nine Inch Nails
  5. Country Boner (Disco Viagra Mix) Puscifer (a joke song that, somehow, transcends the joke)
  6. Buttons Sia
  7. Aluminum Park My Morning Jacket (the best Bruce song Bruce never made! eat it, Hold Steady.)
  8. Alice Practice Crystal Castles (the divider between fans from people who think they’re fans)
  9. Black Car Ladytron
  10. I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me Annie
  11. Today’s Lesson Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
  12. Run-Away Super Furry Animals (an alternate video has Gruff singing this song in a kitchen)
  13. Discipline Nine Inch Nails (the “official” video. also fan made. also features Village People!!!)
  14. The Snow Leopard Shearwater (Radiohead, is that you? anything that rips off Pyramid Song is fine by me)
  15. You Lie You Cheat Spiritualized (applies to those who didn’t pay for this great album)
  16. All Right Jim Noir
  17. The Geeks Were Right The Faint (yes, yes we were)
  18. Modern Guilt Beck
  19. Touch ME I’m Going To Scream Parts 1 & 2 and Evil Urges My Morning Jacket (I’m cheating)
  20. Yes Coldplay (no)
  21. Here’s The Thing Girl Talk (any song that successfully mixes Kelly Clarkson with Nine Inch Nails and throws in some Elvis Costello for the hellz of it earns a special place in my heart)
  22. Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (should be higher)
  23. The Bones Of You Elbow
  24. No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun Steven Wilson
  25. Graveyard Girl M83
  26. Zombie Boy The Magnetic Fields
  27. Blind Hercules And Love Affair
  28. Getting Down The Kills (ah-ah-ah-ah-ahhhhhh-ah-ah-ahhhh)
  29. Love Lockdown Kanye West (gets in touch with his inner Daft Punk –AGAIN–)
  30. Soothsayer The Mars Volta
  31. All The Stars NOMO
  32. Lights And Music Cut Copy
  33. Uncovering The Old Dr. Dog
  34. Waving Flags British Sea Power
  35. 10 Ghosts II Nine Inch Nails (I could very well put the whole Ghost experience on this list but that would mean my top fifty would come from this four-part album)
  36. Show Your Hand Super Furry Animals
  37. Ribs Out Fuck Buttons
  38. Air War Crystal Castles
  39. Ready For The Floor Hot Chip
  40. Which Song Max Tundra
  41. I’m Jim Morrison I’m Dead Mogwai (ironically better than anything Jim Morrison ever did)
  42. Head Down Nine Inch Nails (speaking of which… I was at this show, brah!!!)
  43. Lights Out Santogold
  44. Blue Ridge Mountains Fleet Foxes
  45. Machine Gun Portishead (great NIN-ish song, overrated album)
  46. Ghosts Ladytron
  47. Torture King Khan and the Shrines (craziness. thanks Esther)
  48. Porcelain Heart Opeth
  49. Agoraphobia Deerhunter
  50. Where you go I go too Lindstrøm (The song is longer than most sitcoms. and funnier too.)
  51. In My Butt Eric The Midget

Globes

Globes Wins

FILM

  • Best Picture, Drama: Slumdog Millionaire 😐 (yawn)
  • Best Picture, Comedy Musical: Vicky Cristina Barcelona 😀 (the surest way to shut me up is to give a Woody Allen film an award)
  • Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire (Sunshine was a way better Boyle film)
  • Best Actor, Drama: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler (yay, Mickey! Still a bit disappointed he didn’t toss a honey baked ham at the audience)
  • Best Actress, Drama: Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
  • Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight 😛
  • Best Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
  • Best Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy: Slumdog Millionaire 😐
  • Best Foreign Language Film: Waltz With Bashir
  • Best Animated Feature: WALL·E
  • Best Actor, Musical/Comedy: Colin Farrell 😯
  • Best Actress, Musical/Comedy: Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
  • Best Original Score: A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millonaire
  • Best Original Song: Bruce Springsteen, The Wrestler
  • Cecil B. DeMille Award: Stephen Spielberg

TELEVISION

  • Best Comedy Series: 30 Rock
  • Best Drama Series: Mad Men
  • Best Actor, Drama: Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment (If the name is not John Hamm I’m not listening))
  • Best Actress, Drama: Anna Paquin, True Blood
  • Best Actor, Comedy: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
  • Best Actress, Comedy: Tina Fey, 30 Rock Upon winning her hundredth award Tina Fey gets angry at the ten people “on the internet” that don’t think she’s the funniest, most gifted and talented presence alive. Yeah, poor thing–FUCK OFF!
  • Best Miniseries: John Adams
  • Best Actress, Miniseries: Laura Linney, John Adams
  • Best Actor, Miniseries: Paul Giamatti, John Adams
  • Best Supporting Actor: Tom Wilkinson, John Adams
  • Best Supporting Actress: Laura Dern, Recount
Reaction:Slumdog Sweeps/Greg Weeps

Best of 2009: Music (Albums)

Music didn’t do much for me this year but I’m going to force myself to write about it anyway. These were the albums that mattered to me most but, from the looks of it, not that of the critical consensus (Animal Collective is the best band of the year…um’kay) or public taste (Lady Gaga, the most “multi-talented” male “female” “artist” of the year) or just people who think they’re cooler than us (Girls fans, UGH). Overall, I heard 35 good albums worthy of a “best of the year” list. That is both a victory for the 09 album format and a defeat because for every 35 albums that were great to good to, uh, whatever the Flaming Lips album was, there were four times as many that were a mess. The album has been dead for a while and this year it’s easy to see why. On that sad note, check back in a few days for Paper Street Cinema Music’s best tracks of the year.

 

  1. Porcupine Tree (The Incident)–Lesser Porcupine Tree but that’s saying very little considering the near perfect decade this personal favorite (but hopelessly nerdy and indulgent) band just had. The 2000 era albums Lightbulb Sun, In Absentia, Deadwig and the defining prog masterpiece Fear of a Blank Planet (the album that made me a life long fan) are all flawless in their own way and I can’t recommend them enough. On each album the British Porcupine Tree managed to reinvent itself, on this album the band embraces what it has become. This is not the concept album I was hoping for when it was announced and it’s not even a concept album with much of a clear concept behind it (it’s about “beginnings and endings” via songs inspired by real people and incidents… whatever that means) but, rather, a set of tracks unified by Steven Wilson’s desire for us to hear and reflect on this album as one big song cycle rather than a handful of isolated tracks.
    What matters most is not the loosely threaded conceptual framework of random “incidents” but the fact that the music competently and ambitiously covers a lot of Tree’s varied sounds from the past ranging from electronic to acoustic to light rock to metal to progressive of course. The prog/metal stuff is exceptional and work best on stand-out tracks like the “The Incident” that tell a story of a car wreck and “wanting to be loved” while heavy, NIN-esq guitar stabs drive home the mixed emotions at play. Both storytelling and emotion is something this band is never low on and that annoys a lot of people but I find it totally unique. In a sense Porcupine Tree also wants to be loved but I’m not sure that’s possible here in the states where music is either pop, bombastic rock from third generation Pearl Jam hacks, rap or a dreadful combination of all three. 
    Forget about wanting to be “loved,” Porcupine Tree isn’t even really liked. It always amuses me how unpopular this band is so here’s two quotes from the Something Awful site that reviews the very “worst” of the web, sentiments I disagree with but have to laugh at because it’s funny how much people hate the two. (1) “With its unnervingly slinky ambiance and Wilson intoning the word “fuck,” “The Incident” could be Porcupine Tree’s “sex song,” if willing partners for its fans existed.” (2)“The concept format might have the lent the record more prog credibility, but this only exists within the genre, because no one outside its borders finds anything about prog remotely credible.”
    In the end, my selection of Porcupine Tree’s The Incident as the best album release of the year is a very personal choice (aren’t they all?) and one that was made to honor a band I didn’t know existed a few years ago and couldn’t live without today. Hearing the album played in its entirety live this year was a highlight. I suppose my rather obtuse enjoyment of Porcupine Tree reflects where I’m at right now in terms of what I get or, at least, what I want to get out of the music I listen to these days. And no album gave back more this year than The Incident so, like it or not, here it is at the top of the list.
  2. Jarvis Cocker (Further Complications)–Jarvis Cocker is a genus. A dirty, filthy, angry and passionate genus. Cocker is the kind of guy I wouldn’t want to spend one minute with in person but will gladly spend the rest of my listen listening to him through music. His new solo album is good enough to be included with the best of Pulp. Here, Cocker finds himself as conflicted as he was when he was singing about girls who didn’t love him and jumping out windows in his 20s but that doesn’t mean the aging crooner can’t laugh at his hopeless situation on songs like “Leftovers” where Cocker sings “I met her in the Museum of Paleontology, and I make no bones about it/I wanna love you whilst we both still have flesh upon our bones, before we both become extinct.” That’s vintage Cocker but the album is anything but. 
    Instead of facing the world with snarks he sets it on fire with sparks and, okay, cheesy as that sounds, this is quite simply the hardest Cocker has ever rocked and the most direct he’s ever been about rocking. I love how Cocker’s never ending and near schizophrenic internal conflicts find their way into the style of this multi layered album. Similar to my number one album, there’s are lot of different influences and styles on display here but Cocker makes no bones about it haha. There are Slater Kinney rock howls like “Angela” that make me wish I knew someone named Angela just so I could annoy them with Cocker’s “Angela, ohhhhhhh Angela” lyrics. There’s also Wilco sounding surfer jams (“Pilchard”) that recall “Spiders,” disco throwbacks (“Disco Song”–the album’s weakest track), punk (“Further Complications”), Lou Reed crooning (“Slush”), classic Pulp (“I Never Said I Was Deep,” “but I am profoundly shallow” he adds with a truthful wink) and Cocker’s most ironically romantic song to date appropriately titled “Fuckingsong.” That he masters all these styles in his own way goes without saying.
  3. Dan Decon (Bromst)–There’s nothing else like it. Woody Woodpecker meets Glenn Gould. The machine gun piano riffs and chatty vocals were sublime and strange yet not silly or trivial. There is a real gem of talent underneath all the fun and freaky noise.
  4. Annie (Don’t Stop)–In a world where straight guys are allowed one gay guilty pleasure per year, Annie is mine. Annie name drops every chance she gets (“Hey Annie”) and even dresses crazy (lipstick necklace anyone?) but she did in 09 what Lady Gaga did not yet tried to every second of every day: back up a dance-pop sound with something fun and meaningful. A key difference is that, as dance pop goes, Annie doesn’t need to play psycho Sesame Street dress up and hide behind fake theatrics up to be noticed. All she had to do was make great music. To which I tell Annie: don’t stop.
  5. Live Albums from Nine Inch Nails, Elbow, Ladytron, Leonard Cohen and Porcupine Tree: I’m cheating by not selecting one album but live recordings were pretty much the only albums this year I listened to with any pleasurable consistency (Porcupine Tree excepted). In no order: Nine Inch Nails recorded and unofficially released/bootlegged a full length, fan-shot video of a NY show dedicated to the classic Downward Spiral album. This is the holy grail for NIN fans (though I would greatly prefer to hear The Fragile live) and a true joy to see how much Reznor has evolved over the years and yet also how much his music hasn’t changed at all. He may have mellowed out but his music will sure won’t. 
    There was another band that revisited a whole album in the form of a concert CD. Elbow recorded last year’s superlative, Mercury prize winning The Seldom Seen Kid live. In many ways the live show experience surpasses the brilliant album. He manages to make “One Day Like This” sound even more epic and loving while songs like “Audience with the Pope” benefit from a smoother, less calculated delivery.  
    Next up is Ladytron’s fantastic live album that features a lot of songs from their brilliant last album Velocifero but also what have become Ladytron classics like “Destroy Everything You Touch.” This live CD reminded me of how many fantastic songs this band has. On that note Leonard Cohen is better than ever perhaps because hearing his gravely take on old songs is a pleasure that provides a new look into an old master. Finally, I reserve a spot on my top ten for another Porcupine Tree release. The band’s newest live album features almost every song from their Fear of a Blank Planet. Music this year didn’t get much better than hearing the 17 minute rendition of “Anesthetize.” Who needs to actually go to live shows when live albums are so good?
  6. The Horrors (Primary Colours)–This is the album will go on to define The Horrors. It’s so… improbable. And so good that even Trent Reznor (usually hard to impress) called it the best album he’s heard all year. Hard to argue when you hear the new wave sounding final track “Sea Within A Sea” which gets my vote as one of the best songs of the year.
  7. Tim Hecker (An Imaginary Country)–If you wanted to get into ambient music last year or, hell, any year, Hecker’s latest album is THE place to start. Music really sucked in 09 but Hecker’s pretentiously titled album made me forget about all the excess, all the posers and all the “good” bands like Animal Collective that whip up some random shit in their basement and get their asses licked for it. During many late night drives home and even more sulk-a-thons I found myself gravitating to this album’s silky ambient minimalism. Such beauty to behold and unlike a lot of ambient, just as much humanity to relate to. One sound drifts into another as one song does to another. This is not an album, it’s an audio meditation so easy to get lost in that if you happen to play An Imaginary Country on loop you may never escape its hypnotic lure. And may never want to.
  8. Mastodon (Crack the Sky)–Hard fucking metal and trippy fucking metaphysical folklore (about an astrally projected Rasputin I, erm, I think) found the metal nerds Mastadon at their best. I am becoming a huge fan of this band because they’re unapologetically metal while also being accessible to sorta metal fans like me.
  9. Fuck Buttons (Tarot Sport)–No electronic band has this much bite. And no noise band has this much rigor or focus. The stand-out track “Surf Solar” has to be heard to be believed.  The guttural and expressive and wordless noise gets in your head like the Ring calling to you from a steampunk version of “Lord of the Rings.” (Man, that sounds geeky even for me.) Anywhoo, Tarot is a lot less rigid and self conscious than the band’s Street Horrrsing album released just last year. I can’t wait to hear what’s these Fucks do next!
  10. Mars Volta (Octahedron)–Other than my number one album pick, no band unjustly got as much crap this decade than Mars Volta. A sad fact given the sate of genuinely new music this decade. This is the album that proves to the haters that Volta might not be pretentious noise makers after all. It’s their most soulful and measured effort to date. For me this “unplugged” (but not really) aesthetic choice means quite the opposite: that the band is as good as they’ve ever been because they can can change creative directions while staying true to the prog freakiness at the core. Funny to think how a decade that began with At the Drive In’s Relationship of Command for these guys could turn into something so mature.
  11. Fever Ray (Self Titled)–The album’s one flaw is that it is not made by The Knife (even though it pretty much was). This album exists in an alternative universe where a different but no less significant version of The Knife made a record. I like how Karin Andersson opts for a low key and almost haunting electronic sound rather than the darkly flashy electronica of Silent Shout and quirky Euro pop of Deep Cuts. This album took some time to get into but in the end cut as deep as the knife ever did.
  12. Neko Case (Middle Cyclone)–I will never love country music/I will always love Neko Case.
  13. Dave Matthews Band (Big Whiskey & The Crew Crux King)–At this moment in time what’s the point in defending Dave Matthews Band? I’ll try but if you’re not a fan or don’t have a soft spot you’ll laugh this ridiculous sounding title (with even lamer cover art) off. If you’re still reading, for what it’s worth, I’ll say that this is Dave Matthews’ first enjoyable album since the controversial Lillywhite Sessions debacle. This is a joyous resurgence full of bittersweet moments “Funny the Way It Is” and pure white-boy joy “Why I Am.” If it takes a band mate dying to make something this good then lets hope for more horrible ATV accidents in the years to come!
  14. Bat for Lashes (Two Suns)–A last minute listen and one of the few critics picks that I wholeheartedly agree with. In a year when Tori Amos sucked big time and Bjork was nowhere to be found (probably beating up a reporter somewhere), Bat’s Two Suns album effortlessly stepped in with majestic beauty and some really cool drum beats. What’s most impressive is how confident singer Natasha Khan sounds. It’s like she’s been at it for years. Lucky for us, her best years are ahead of her. KHHHHHAAAANNNNNN! Oh, come on, I had to.
  15. Super Furry Animals (Dark Days/Light Years)–Sad to have to say this but this is my all time least favorite SFA album. It never grabbed me or wowed me or moved me or even tickled me. The magic is missing and the humor, while there, was lost on me. I’ve listened to this thing multiple times (to do anything less on a SFA album would be criminal!) to try to find those things because, you never know, they could be buried deep within the funky soundscapes, but all I ever got back was something that sounded like a Super Furry b-side collection. That the wonderfully titled Dark Days/Light Years (one of those rare titles that perfectly encapsulates the essence of a band, in this case the band’s fun word play) is still on this best of list is because Super Furry Animals is so good at being Super Furry Animals. Because there’s no one else they can sound like and, in turn, no one else can sound like them. If it is true that every great band must to have at least one great dud then the good news is that this band just got theirs out of the way. 8 good albums out of 9 ain’t too bad. For every inspired song like “Inaugural Times” (it doesn’t get better than the German dude from Franz Ferdinand popping in mid song to rap to us), or that one about “The Very Best of Neal Diamond,” or the awesome, Prince inspired “Moped Eyes,” there’s something totally irritating like the album’s single “Crazy Naked Girls” that drones on and on like a wounded DJ.
  16. jj (jj n° 2) –A groovy and polished electronic afrobeat album from a Swedish pop band. And why not. If you could get high on indie music, this would be what it sounds like. jj also gets props because I can now say I like this type of “afrobeat music” without sounding totally douchey.
  17. The XX (Self Titled)–Just one more X and we’re talking a top ten album here. Fo real, the best chill out album of the year. I don’t know much about the band and I don’t want to. I just can’t believe I liked this album so much.
  18. Flaming Lips (Embryonic)–I’m still trying to figure this album out. I’m just glad the Lips shook off whatever was on their minds when they did “At War with the Mystics.” This band and album proved what Wilco failed to prove this year: that a band can return to what made them great without sucking at it.
  19. Gomez (A New Tide)–Another great band who happened to release their worst album. Not bad by any means though. Just not as memorable as their other work.
  20. Muse (The Resistance)–Ditto all over. Good band/bad (for them) album. Muse failed to make this album stick despite a lot of effort. This is sad for many reasons. One of them being that Black Holes and Revelations was my number one album the year it came out and one of the defining rock albums of the decade. While this album slips even further into what can only be described as a sci-fi version of Queen, it’s no revelation. A masterful dud at its best. I don’t know what this album is or what it’s going for but I do know that at the very least it’s fascinating to hear it not work
  21. Camera Obscura (My Maudlin Career)–the most beautiful voice in the world belongs to Tracyanne Campbell. The album is a bit uneven but her voice sure isn’t.
  22. Depeche Mode (Sounds of the Universe)–Take that U2.
  23. Datarock (Red)–Okay, disregard my Annie comments. In a world where all straight guys are allowed two gay guilty pleasures…
  24. Flow and the Machine (Lungs)–Embarrassed that I like Flow’s lungs. That sounds perverse.
  25. The Bravery (Stir The Blood)–Sure, any time The Bravery releases an album it’s considered their worst, but this one is. Even so, it has some great songs.
  26. Dirty Projectors (Bitte Orca)–Hey Pitchfork, we agree for once. Lets not let that happen again for a long while, okay?
  27. Trail of Dead (The Century of Self)–This is not a good trend. That Trail of Dead’s worst album is still good enough to make the list is not as bad as it sounds, it’s just not a best case scenario. This is the first Dead album that I remember more for its collection of songs rather than any particular track. In that sense it can be called a no nonsense return to form (meaning: Source Tags and Codes) except I actually like this band for their bombastic (and critically unpopular) sounds on albums like Worlds Apart and So Divided better. Now that I write that out I realized that those two albums are thematically linked by their titles and sounds. Assuming, then, the next Dead album is called something like Worlds Divided or So Apart it will rank much higher.
  28. Bruce Springsteen (Working on a Dream)–He’s still got it.
  29. Animal Collective (Merriweather Post Pavilion)–Okay, here’s where I have to admit that the album is not that bad and not even mediocre. It’s something I would almost call “good,” damn it. The band’s indie critic cred, however, reached an annoying peek this year. Hum, I wonder how all the hipsters feel about this sacred cow of a band now that Merriweather got so popular. Yup, this album is officially mainstream but somehow I don’t think that’s going to slow anyone down.
  30. Doves (Kingdom of Rust)–By the second track Kingdom of Rust was easily the best album of the year. Ten or so decent but derivative tracks later and it’s the 31st. This band may never recapture the britpop magic of Last Broadcast (one of the decade’s finest) but I’ll settle for this qualitative compromise after the band’s forgettable previous effort Some Cities. Above all I’m just grateful that this album holds one of the best songs of the year or any year. The song is “Kingdom of Rust” and if you haven’t heard it, do so, it’ll make your day.
  31. Mcachu & the Shapes (Jewellery)–I didn’t really get into this album until two things happened. First I fell in love with the loopy and impossibley catch song “Golden Phone.” Second, I discovered that Matthew Herbert produced it. At this point the reasons behind the band’s quirky “noise” all fell in place. Except this album doesn’t fall in place, it falls apart but in a good way, like a brightly colored array of pickup sticks.
  32. Phoenix (Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix)–Wolfgang Amadeus Awesome.
  33. The Soundtrack of Our Lives (Communion)–Ah, man, another “worst” from a really good band. Any why did this decent but far from earth shattering album need to be so long? 2 disks, 24 songs, an hour and a half! Good god! Hey TSOOL, where’s that follow up to Origin vol.1?
  34. Yacht (See Mystery Lights)–Wacky, original and also wonderfully awkward. The lack of structure is not destructive or annoying but exciting in a way. The goofy charm of the Oingo Boing-esq “Afterlife” (“It make come as a surprise but you are not alone, all that you have is not what you own, awwwwwww, awwwwwww, the after life…”) and the almost tropical underwater song “Voodoo City” is impossible to resist.
  35. Dream Theater (Black Clouds & Silver Linings)–In the middle of this decade I discovered that I loved Coheed and Cambria, at the end of it I have found out that I also kinda dig Dream Theater. What’s happening to me? I don’t wantto be this nerdy, I just can’t help it. The theater part of this band’s name really becomes clear on this album. As prog and vaguely metal rock albums go it’s so theatrical that it feels like this is what Tenacious D would sound like if they were as good as they pretend to be.

And finally… Andrew WK‘s 55 Cadillac–On the list because it’s Andrew WK doing classical piano music. And it’s not half bad! And I’m not joking.

Worst

  1. U2–Can go fuck themselves. No Line On the Horizon is not only the bands worst album but the worst album of the year.
  2. Paramore (Brand New Eyes)–What did we ever do to deserve Paramore?
  3. Lady Gaga (Fame Monster)–Ga ga go go away away. Lady Gaga is bad in a way that has me standing back and almost admiring her. She’s a former “Inside The Actors Studio” student and I mention this because it highlights the empty, hackish joke of her empty bracket “performance art.” This is the new era of music. It’s music as celebrity rather than aesthetics. Music as hype rather than content. Music as paparazzi pleasing/posing fodder rather than mystery. By name dropping with a wink and dressing up in a blanket of Kermit the Frog corpses, Gaga made the fake and superficial into a post-modern/pre-end-of-music-as-we-know-it statement about how cool it is to be a fake freak. It’s performance art for the sake of performance art with very little actual substance to refer back to. Just semi-catchy dance music. If a musical act is known more for how they look and dress and get photographed than their actual music, that’s sad.
  4. Kings of Leon (Only By the Night)–putting this album on for a second year in a row to emphasis how much I hate these southern rock yodel-fucks.
  5. Black Eyed Pees Peas (The E.N.D.)–Ahhahahahahahahaha. People actually fell for this! I do not for one second regret how much money this album made because all that means is that it parted stupid people with their hard earned money. Hahahahahahahaha, fools!
  6. Green Day (21st Century Breakdown)–Uh, what happened?
  7. Karen O and the Kids (Where the Wild Things Are Soundtrack)–No words for this. Just… no words.
  8. Wilco (Wilco The Album)–The alt-country Wilco started out the decade as one of the most original bands in music. And they ended up, well, on a list like this. I don’t think that Wilco will or can ever rebound and that just makes me want to enjoy the alt classics Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born all the more. Two moments of greatness gone forever.
  9. Chris Cornell (Scream)–Trent Reznor said it best on Twitter of all things. “You know that feeling you get when somebody embarrasses themselves so badly YOU feel uncomfortable? Heard the new Chris Cornell album? Jesus!”
  10. Tori Amos (Abnormally Attracted to Sin and Midwinter Graces)–The first Amos album I would qualify as unlistenable was released this year. And for the hell of it she decided to release her second unlistenable album this winter.
  11. Owl City (Ocean City)–Oh man, what a bummer. I listened hoping to get warm fuzzies aboutPostal Service. This may be one of the first knock off rip off bands that is so bad it makes me dislike the band they’re riping off which is totally unfair to Ben Gibbonds and Postal Service.
  12. Franz Ferdinand (Tonight: Franz Ferdinand)–Tonight: I’m Staying Home! It’s time to say it. FF is a one album wonder.

Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

What’s Good: David Fincher + Brad Pitt = something cool is going to happen.
What’s Not: A lot. The love story for one. The shallow sentimentality for another.
Fake Peter Traverse Quote: A power keg tour de force through time. This is one Button you’ll want to try on!

Curiously strong. But more than that, curiously long. I’m so… torn here. Did I actually just see David Fincher’s make his first mediocre film. And, no, “Alien3” is not mediocre, it’s something else… that, um, I don’t know what… but not mediocre. “Button” falls into a similar no-man’s-land. I can’t dismiss it. Nor can I deny it. Nor can I like it. There are moments of beauty and heart tugging poignancy to be sure but, at the same time, so much shallowness and conventionality surrounds and ultimately chokes the truth out of this picture like a spiraling Louisiana black snake.

Throughout the decades (and, on our side, hours) a man ages backwards as his one true love grows older. Simple notion, yes, but a tricky notion to film because, as we all know, film is so literal and definite. As is is aging. But Fincher films it! Scenes of epic poetry (classic, sweeping Hollywood images consist of free roaming cliches like sunsets, tides of war, sinking boats, and unique touches like all those random shots of a guy getting hit by lightening) are married with new technology. Both classic and new iconography, however, find themselves torn asunder by a soap opera English Patient-y flash-forward set in a hospital (to quote Elane from “Seinfeld”: “DIE ALREADY!”) and horrible period movie cliches (hey, look, the aging wonder is catching The Beatles on Ed Sullivan… f-you!). David Fincher is among the best filmmakers working in America because, for one, he mines beauty and humor within decay and in darkness. This, though, isn’t a David Fincher film. Or, rather, “Button” is a Fincher film for people who don’t love Fincher. It’s beautifully dark to be sure –and beautifully shot– but it’s also a tepid and tonally confused “love story.” It’s told more in the rote storytelling tradition of a Robert Zemeckis (you are hereby warned of the shrimp-boat load amount of cloyingly quixotic biographical Forrest Gump-isms) crossed with older Spielberg which, admittedly, is better than younger Spielberg but… still.

Here’s the deal: “Button” is sentimental and Fincher is not. He’s a dark and ironic ass-hole and so am I and, well, that’s what you call love fest. This newer, kinder Fincher though is proving to be palatable to the average moviegoer and of course will be auspicious amung Oscar voters in the next few weeks. Good for Fincher… bad for Fincher fans. The filmmaker seems trapped by the romantic material on one side (he drops the ball there) the stylistic flourishes on the other (he raises the bar here) and 800-pound gorilla Brad Pitt’s delusions of actor-auteurisms on all other fronts (uh, hey, dudes, lets have a scene with Hurricane Katrina; uh, lets go to India to shoot a thirty second montage of me washing my clothes with Indians… der). The film opens with cascades of buttons but even this promising motif turns out to be a minor detail that gets lost in the literal sea of subplots and unfocused moments. An example of another one occurs when the two lovers, “meeting in the middle” of the age spectrum, swim in a lake and gaze at each other. Beautiful and all but this is not Terrence Malick. Fincher captures the look of time passing but not the feeling of it–the effect is temporal dislocation and that is indeed captured but it is also fundamentally at odds with the more traditional elements of the plot. As with the time-torn “Babel,” the love story between Brad Pitt and Kate Blanchett is not as compelling as it should be (these two have no chemistry and need to stop being in movies together!). In fact, the most stirring moment of romance in this picture occurs with Tilda Swinton, playing an aging housewife that rendezvous with Button every twilight in an empty hotel. Fincher flawlessly captures the mouse stirring desolation and romantic grandeur at play. Great stuff. Beyond that –and most the film is beyond that– this is simply not the classic love story many would have you believe. The film hinges upon the curious byplay between star crossed lovers who drift and drift and connect then drift and drift. How ironic is it, then, that the film is strongest when they are not together. This is more of a lone story than a love one.

Just a year after Fincher’s pitch perfect period piece obsession “Zodiac” came to furition, it’s nice to this filmmaker (a) get a film made so quickly (maybe he’s not the Kubrickian tyrant people say), and (b) get his proper dues in terms of mainstream and critical recognition. Better ten years late than never I guess. But at what cost? It’s hard to tell. The film’s strength, Fincher’s pure talent, holds its own against its many weaknesses. And, no, the outlandish conceit of the aging backwards plot is the least of the Button’s problems. In fact, it saves the film from really getting lost at sea. I write “saved” here because think for a moment how plain this button would be without a touch of fantasy.

grade: B

Worst Albums of the 2008

  1. Katy Perry, One of the Boys: If looks and bustiness were in direct proportion to craft and talent then Perry and her cherry chap-shtick “Kissed a Girl” bullshit would have put her on the map as the best new artist of the year.  Well, it’s not proportional. It’s down right diametrically opposed. Perry is not an artist, she’s a fad.
  2. Shit Irish Bands, Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly: Despite my last name I hate Celtic punk. HATE it. Hate it more than country and more than British soul singers (Winehouse, Joss Stone and, well, see number 2). The retarded vocal style and harping rock gets an instant reaction out of me: nausia… then rage.
  3. Duffy, Rock Ferry: Soul? No, the opposite. Dead. I knew I was in trouble when I found myself missing Amy Winehouse half way through Duffy’s album.
  4. Guns and Roses, Chinese Democracy: We waited 15 years to find out that GnR still sucks.
  5. Of Montreal, Skeletal Lamping: Holy shit, shut the fuck up.
  6. Paremore, Riot!: Bad on so many levels. To describe: if AFI sucked harder, had a female lead singer and were a Christian rock group, they still wouldn’t be as bad as Paramore. They would be opening for them. (yes, I’m aware of how little sense that makes)
  7. My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges: Mourning is more like it. Such a waste. Such a sad, sad waste.
  8. Metalica, Death Magnetic: Metal up your ass, 666 mark of the beast, death to posers. Talica rules!
  9. Kings of Leon, Only By The Light: “Sex on fire,” meet band on death bed.
  10. Twilight Soundtrack: On the list for ruining two perfectly good Muse and Radiohead songs. Now when I hear “Super Massive Black Hole” I’m going to  think of vampires playing fucking baseball in the mist. You can’t just un-forget something like that.