This week, we do things a little different. Instead of making a new list, perhaps inspired by the new film Ted or the return of Louie to FX, we look back at the things that inspired all our lists so far. You see, we’re just about halfway through 2012, believe it or not, and now would be a good point to check out what’s made this year bearable (Ted pun intended). Oh, and happy birthday, Kathy Bates.
If there’s a bad song by Beach House, I haven’t heard it. It’s possible, I still haven’t gone back and listened to their first two albums, despite Teen Dream being one of my favorite records in 2010. Bloom, their newest release, has the same vibe that made me really like them two years ago, which is pretty great, since no one else sounds like this.
“Lush” is probably a good word for Beach House’s sound. It has a ringing, melodic, almost slow motion quality. The kind of music that envelops and enraptures, vibrating a deep, emotional chord that lots of music cannot reach. As my colleague Colin put it, in his discussion of the last album, they have an “expansive sound, while somehow feeling haunting and intimate at the same time.”
So what’s changed between albums? Not too much, methinks. As much as Teen Dream was a gateway for me, and probably still my favorite of their albums, if someone, especially a newcomer said that about Bloom, I’d have no beef with them. This is a more sophisticated album, perhaps one that warrants more listens to become completely submerged into – something I wouldn’t have said about Teen Dream. But when and if it does sink in, Bloom is an absolute delight.
Favorite Tracks: “Myth,” “Lazuli,” “Wishes”
Our friends at Pixar are putting out their latest feature, Brave which means we can talk about something vaguely related. Personally, I thought it would be pretty cool to talk about Disney princesses, since this is their first princess movie. But I guess we’re a bit to bro-y for that? Like, what’s the big deal? So what if Tinkerbell isn’t technically a princess? Close enough. This is America, we don’t even have royalty anyway! Screw princesses!
Check it out after the break, children.
Happy 70th birthday Paul McCartney! In honor of Sir Paul’s special day, here’s a post about his and his mate’s prolific songwriting careers. You may know the hits but what about the songs The Beatles gave away? You have to remember that there was a time where that Lennon-McCartney signature meant instant hit status and everybody wanted a piece of that Fab Four gold. This list details how other artists got their hands on the overflow of Beatles material and how it ultimately shaped Beatles’ history.
Prometheus is director Ridley Scott’s long-awaited return to the genre that made him famous. Tying into the beloved Alien franchise, it’s a breath of fresh air to get a film that for the most part is a new and original sci-fi story. It’s nice as well to see Scott make a film that doesn’t have Russell Crowe. I never would of guessed that thirtysomething years into his career Scott would craft his most intense work but here it is.
Without spoiling anything (including the mystifying opening sequence) Prometheus is about a group of scientific researchers on a two year space voyage to a distant moon that may hold the secrets to how life began on earth. While in stasis the group is monitored by an android named David (Michael Fassbender) who spends his days practicing ancient languages and modeling himself after Peter O’Toole from Lawrence of Arabia. Included in the rest of the crew is the cold mission director Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), the wisecracking captain Janek (Idris Elba), and Elizabeth Shaw a strongly spiritual archaeologist (Noomi Rapace) to name a few. The crew eventually reaches the mysterious moon LV-223 and from there on shit gets real.
Early on we see strong conflicting ideals between our protagonist Elizabeth and her archeologist boyfriend Charlie (Tom Hardy lookalike Logan Marshall-Green). Where Elizabeth is a believer Charlie is an atheist, which creates a dividing theme behind everything we see in Prometheus. Additionally, the film is continually open-ended to either create debate for the viewers or just to prepare for a sequel. It’s a film that’s insightful but not by being preachy, rather it operates on a much darker level.
Prometheus has to be one of the most visceral and violent sci-fi films I’ve seen. The kind of body-horror displayed in Prometheus is so flesh-crawlingly grotesque it would get David Cronenberg hard. I should clarify by saying “Yes, there are aliens in Prometheus and yes they do get inside you.” They’re not the ones we’re familiar with from the Aliens franchise but they are definitely tied to those movies. Though it’s the mystery behind these other lifeforms that’s really fascinating. “How are we connected to all this?” “What does it all mean?” Yeah, it’s one of those kind of movies.
Visually the film is stunning and makes magnificent use of traditional effects as much as it can. Iceland in all it’s vast beauty was used for some of the film’s opening shots and Swiss artist/set designer H.R. Giger gives the film the same Gothic look he gave Alien. Performance wise Idris Elba shines as the crew’s charismatic captain (despite an exaggerated American accent) and Michael Fassbender gives a hypnotic yet sorrowful performance as David the android. To make a long story short, this is one not to miss. I already eagerly await another installment in the great Prometheus enigma.
Neil Young is often my go to example of an older artist that hasn’t gone soft. Where so many other musicians lose their edge once they receive their AARP membership, Neil is just as rough around the edges as ever. Neil never hides behind studio tricks to improve his voice or even polish his sound. This can most notably be seen on his last solo effort Le Noise featuring no more than Neil and his sludgy axe. Americana is Neil’s latest joined by his old backup band Crazy Horse. The results are a jam based hard rock album centered around an unusual basis.
“Oh Susannah”, “Clementine”, “This Land is Your Land” are all tracks on Americana. “So it’s a cover album of American folk classics?” Not quite. At their core these are still the same American classics we all know but taken to new places. Aside from lyrics, these are essentially all new songs. The melodies are different, lyrics are shuffled around, and guitars are blazing. Additionally, Americana sounds like it was recorded live (with the exception of the some backing vocal overdubs).
By rearranging old classics, Neil transforms timeless folk songs into protest songs. Sometimes Neil even ditches key parts of the original song just to strengthen his message. Neil has never been one to sugar coat anything and on Americana he’s telling us that living in America is as tough as ever. Conceptually that’s a powerful idea but musically it’s uneven. The jam based rocking often goes on for far too long. Songs rarely wrap up under the five minute mark and my attention starts to wander. This would be fine if the musicianship was varied, but it’s usually the same part over and over again. In-between songs we hear Neil say things like, “I totally fucked that part up” or “You’re supposed to go to the F#m” the album is almost too casual.
It’s an interesting concept that has it’s moments, but also drags in many spots. I’m glad Neil found ways to build off old classics, but it still feels confined by the restraints of the original songs. Next time I’d much rather see Neil write some modern protest songs instead of re-working the songs we learn in elementary school.
Favorite Tracks: “High Flyin’ Bird”, “Oh Susannah” “Wayfarin’ Stranger”
Mad Men‘s season ended, so it’s obviously time for another albums list. This week, we take the Rock of Ages approach and turn our steely gaze toward the late Eighties. Now, the music in that movie might not be what we would have chosen, so don’t be surprised if our list doesn’t serve as an extended soundtrack for the film. In fact, it’s probably pretty different. And, if you ask us, a lot better.
Find the list hiding out below.