Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Weekly Whiskey Episode 45

Illness can't stop episode 45 from happening, though it did cause me to stop halfway through after a coughing fit. Yay!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jim O'Rourke- Bad Timing

A friend of mine was over a few nights ago. As per usual, he had his acoustic guitar in tow, absentmindedly fiddling with it as we talked and listened to music. He sometimes plays along with whatever I'm playing though usually it's too electric/weird to match well with an acoustic. Jim O'Rourke's Bad Timing popped into my head as a great record to play along to, since it's an instrumental album centered around O'Rourke's deft playing, sometimes with ornamental orchestral backing. Hearing my friend find his way into the chords and melodies, adding his own style to the songs along the way, was one of the best moments of pure music I've ever experienced.

Like Eureka, Bad Timing is a rather unassuming piece of music, pleasing enough on first listen but not so mindblowingly good as to keep it on top of your list of stuff you want to listen to everyday for weeks. Every time I come back to these records, though, I'm filled with an increasing sense of wonder at the timelessness of the music, as well as the care and loving grace put into the playing.

Neither Eureka nor Bad Timing have any of the abrasive/experimental elements that mark most of O'Rourke's other work as solo artist, collaborator, improviser, bandmate, and producer, yet they are not obvious attempts to shill to the mainstream. Eureka has a very cinematic feel, some songs lingering in the same section for longer than is normal for a pop song, suggesting some unseen onscreen action is taking place while the soundtrack kills time until the scene changes. Bad Timing is more about sheer chops and lyrical playing, reminding me of Nick Drake's complex Pink Moon guitar style and the flamenco flourishes of Sun Kil Moon's Admiral Fell Promises.

The story goes that Jeff Tweedy was obsessed with this album, driving around Chicago while listening to it incessantly, leading him to invite O'Rourke to play with him at the Noise Pop festival in 2000. This in turn led to Wilco's experimental period from roughly mid 2000 to the release of Sky Blue Sky in 2007. Bad Timing might not be as important and influential to my life, or to the life of my friend, but it remains a unique and rich listening experience.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Friday, February 17, 2012

Jackie Brown

I remember reading somewhere that Quentin Tarantino saw Jackie Brown as his "old man" movie, and I've always wondered what he meant. It has far less violence and pop culture references than his normal  fare, but other than the lengthy run time, methodical pacing, and older actors/actresses, Jackie Brown has always struck me as a 'hang out' movie more than anything.

'Hang out' movies are, to me anyway, the sort of films where the the overall plot is subservient to getting interesting characters together to do and say interesting things. They may be criminals, drug addicts, murderers, losers, etc., yet there's something oddly compelling about them all the same. 

They're bad people in good ways, perhaps. 

These are people we wouldn't mind hanging out with, for certain.

I guess what I ultimately mean is, everything memorable about films like The Big Lebowski and Clerks is due to the characters and things they say/do than any kind of plot or big important movie-style commentaries on, I dunno, guilt, man's own inhumanity to man, capital punishment, and so on.

The best scenes in Jackie Brown are top flight 'hang out' movie material. Robert DeNiro and Bridget Fonda are my kind of people: they lounge around a beach house smoking pot watching TV, drinking in the early afternoon, rambling about their pasts, saying incisive things (paraphrasing Bridget Fonda on Samuel L. Jackson's character: 'He moves his lips when he reads, what does that tell you?') and randomly deciding to fuck.

Still, there's something naturalistic about every interaction in this movie, from the way the two ATF agents (one played in wonderful eccentric style by Michael Keaton, who at one point eats a steak wearing a black leather jacket, which is worth infinite points on any critical scale) working with Jackie have an awkward semi-argument about the color of a shopping bag, to the way you know Max is falling in love with Jackie by the way he simultaneously falls in love with the music of the Delfonics, to the look and sound of genuine empathy and disappointment when Samuel L. Jackson's character kills Robert DeNiro's character near the end.

I guess that's a spoiler, but if you're really upset about that, you've missed everything I just said. You could go read the Wikipedia entry for this movie and get the entire plot and it would still be a delight and a pleasure to watch based on the performances and writing. I just love all the little details in the locations and set designs, too. Pay particular attention to Jackie's apartment.

Like the best 'hang out' and cult films, Jackie Brown improves with every subsequent viewing as you surrender to the familiar flow of the pacing of scenes and the rhythm of the conversations, DeNiro and Fonda's a sort of stoned, pleasant apathy, Pam Grier and Samuel L. Jackson's a tense, hypnotic, oddly calm game of wits.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tennis- Young & Old

A Few Thoughts (Unedited) Posing As A Review Of The New Tennis Album, Young & Old

1) I found out today at work that I didn't get the assistant manager job I had more or less counted on getting because I've been there the longest and worked the hardest of all the applicants. But this is a cruel, unusual universe that I inhabit, and I've long since adapted to survive as the life-long-loser. For some reason the lyrics "we could be good but we don't live the way that we should" from this album seemed especially apt today. Especially after I spent most of the day playing loud, noisy shit like The Black Angels and Flux Information Sciences with the bass and treble cranked.

2) One of my good friend recently moved to Kansas to pursue further schooling. He and I are fans, if not advocates, for Tennis. In a recent email to me, he summed up how he felt about this record thusly: "I listened to the new Tennis album; it is kind of different from what they did before, but I still think it is a good sophomore album." Pat, I couldn't have said it better myself.

3) I all-too-frequently go through periods of time where I feel an overwhelming apathy and negativity about a lot of things in my life. I end up listening to the first two Velvet Underground albums, when I normally only regularly enjoy their last two (post-Lou Reed VU isn't really VU, man). People try to cheer me up and, while it kind of annoys me because I wish people would commiserate instead of playing the "glass is half full" card so soon, I know, deep down, that they're right. In the same way, then, I know that I was wrong to underrate the first Tennis album when I reviewed it, and I also know that I'm right in declaring Young & Old a good sophomore album.

Oh wait, he just said that.

Um, let's see here.

4) Young & Old is smartly (and perhaps rightly) similar enough to their debut, while making some changes, to succeed mightily. This is especially key since this only follows Cape Dory by about a year, and I'd have been more than pleased if they'd turned in a similar-but-equally-good sophomore effort instead. But no, Young & Old still has a pleasant retro early 60s rock/pop sound with a little less overt surf influence; less sailing/nautical imagery, too, though travel as a concept still features prominently, such as on, you guessed it, 'Traveling.' 

5) Think of a slightly more fleshed out, full-band sounding version of Cape Dory with some new instruments and textures, and you've pretty much nailed Young & Old. It beefs up Tennis's sound in a way similar to The Shins' change from the classicist indie-pop of Oh, Inverted World to the power-pop, more muscular sounding Chutes Too Narrow.

6) I was watching a Beach House video earlier and it once more occurred to me that the reason my (male) friends and I react so strongly to bands like Tennis, She & Him, and Beach House in that we all want women to promise the kind of poetical romance and dedication that normally only men will sing about and/or offer their partners. I know I'm always on the other side of the losing equation, pining after women or wishing they would never leave my side...and then here's a bunch of women in amazing bands singing those same things to me. If that makes me sound pathetic and creepy, I suppose it will have to. I love Young & Old but I've been programmed to, I think.

7) I love that every song on this record is between 3:02 and 3:45 in length. Tennis are a very three minute song kind of band. I respect such inadvertent consistency. Their next release should be a concept album about the number 3, or maybe do it like i by the Magnetic Fields and have every song start with 3. Just a thought.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Weekly Whiskey Episode 43

We get back to basics, and don't let illness keep us down, in this three segment episode.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Grammy Awards

I feel that the awards this year...

Ha ha, just kidding! Nobody with a brain gives a shit about the Grammys. Like every other award show, even ones with respectability like the Oscars, there is so much nonsense in the entire principle of a small group of the population voting on art and those somehow ending up as the ostensibly official awards given out by our culture at large. Besides which, there is so much behind-closed-doors hanky-panky going on that it's even easier to fix the awards than it is the Super Bowl.

Anyway, an award is not a democracy, people! Award committees are not representatives voting on your behalf, that you elected! Stop complaining like these awards really matter. American culture has become so disparate and vast over the past 50 years there's no way the Grammys can encompass all of that. Take a look at the nominees for Album Of The Year this year and tell me that that isn't a narrow fucking range of all of the music that came out in whatever weird time frame the Grammys cover each year.

On a side note, I didn't feel like I "won" because Arcade Fire won the top award last year (partially because it's their weakest record, mostly because I don't consider myself as on their side in anything, really, except for being creative vs. being dead). Though some saw it as a validation of my subculture, I didn't. I'm not really strict hipster, for starters. But I digress.

Anyone who really cares about music, and not the business/fame side of things, wouldn't waste their time watching it or reading about it. Anyone who really cares about music, and not the business/fame side of things, would know that there were any number of amazing albums from any number of years the Grammys have been around which didn't get nominated for anything.

But I digress.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Top 10 Albums of 2007

Weekly Whiskey will be a day late this week due to some personal stuff. I figured I would just go ahead and post my top 10 albums of 2007 and then talk about them tomorrow in the next Weekly Whiskey to finish off this long-running 2007 retrospective series. Anyway, for now, here's the list. The reasons behind the choices, and rambling to spare, come in video form tomorrow!

1) Panda Bear- Person Pitch
2) Sunset Rubdown- Random Spirit Lover
3) The National- Boxer
4) Spoon- Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
5) Of Montreal- Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
6) Battles- Mirrored
7) Andrew Bird- Armchair Apocrypha
8) The Field- From Here We Go Sublime
9) Field Music- Tones Of Town
10) Animal Collective- Strawberry Jam

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cloud Nothings- Attack On Memory

Could it be said that an album can be great for the producer's body of work but not spectacular for the band? This thought had never occurred to me until listening to the new Cloud Nothings record, Attack On Memory. Steve Albini is a notorious, equally hated and loved producer, generally in indie rock and its similar genres. I haven't heard something he produced in awhile that really struck me as great work for him, as if he was killing time and saving up money to fund the next Shellac record.

But I think Attack On Memory works as well as it does because of his production style. He makes what would otherwise be a mediocre post-hardcore indie rock album into something at times akin to Bedhead, and at other times a parallel-future version of Slint that went on to record after Spiderland. The production is so key to my enjoyment of the album that it reminds me a lot of similar otherwise-mediocre albums elevated by their production, Walk It Off by Tapes N' Tapes and Some Loud Thunder by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!

As for Attack On Memory itself, I think it only occasionally rises above the level of especially good workmanlike takes on post-hardcore indie rock (the dynamics, man, the dynamics!). Kind of like Slint sometimes, kind of like Polvo. Kind of not as good as either, with vocals that sometimes sound like screamo bullshit, and other times like Blink 182 style "punk" rock.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


I feel like I must've written about Alien before, especially for the Halloween themed posts I used to do, but nope. Never the original anyway. Which is odd, because along with the Terminator series, it's probably my favorite film series. I even love and appreciate the flawed-or-downright-awful entries, like Alien: ResurrectionAlien Vs. Predator: Requiem and Terminator: Salvation.

On a side note, if odd numbered Star Trek films are always the bad ones, I think subtitled instead of numbered Alien and Terminator films are always the bad ones. This is why Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines is only half awesome and half awful, because it has a number and a subtitle. Hmm, wait, Terminator 2 had a subtitle, too. But I digress.

All I really want to do today, since so many others have covered this movie exhaustively in so many other reviews and essays of the film, is talk about how I think H.R. Giger's design for the adult alien creature is the most original in any medium, ever. Certainly Star Trek and Star Wars have some great ideas, even some that aren't humanoid. Yet Giger's alien, based heavily on his painting Necrom IV (above; which inspired director Ridley Scott to contact him in the first place), is so nightmarish and, well, alien looking, that even now, having seen the shit out of these creatures in well lit shots in other movies, the original Alien film has the power to transfix and terrify me. Even when I can frame-by-frame an HD version of it, it still isn't quite clear in enough of the frames to get a really good idea of just what the hell it is.

I would rant about how CGI ruined movies like this for me since for some reason my brain knows the monsters aren't "real" yet old, primitive practical effects in the first three Alien films still creep me out...even stuff like John Carpenter's The Thing is still creepy for this reason...but I'd just be ranting. You should still go check out some more of Giger's stuff, if only his published sketches/designs for the series and other movies he worked on.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Weekly Whiskey Episode 41

The triumphant(?) return of Weekly Whiskey (after only one week off, give a break!) sees us discussing changes to Whiskey Pie, the last entry in our 2007 retrospective series, and then rambling about Skyrim for awhile. Also starring intermittent beer burps.