Monday, December 30, 2013


As for the last post of 2013, I think this heartbreaking story is well worth the finale of the year. Happy New Year everyone.... The Stunning Sacrifice.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Serious Radio: The Best Music of 2013

Admittedly, I dropped off the radar with music last year in 2012. I didn't listen to new artists.... seemed to glaze over with the music selections on my XM dials.... and downloaded/bought the least amount of music in a long time. With 2013, I made a vow to reverse that trend and I'm glad I did. My favorites of the year listed below (with videos included) are a mixture of new talent and old stalwarts. Also, consider this the kick off to some great end of the year stuff that will culminate in mid January. Enjoy.

10. The Appleseed Cast "Illumination Ritual"

Alongside Explosions In the Sky, The Appleseed Cast are the best, grossly unknown post-rock band out there. Their latest album, "Illumination Ritual", came and went in the spring without any notice. A bit derivative of their previous stuff, yet their sound is still stately and epic.

9. Bill Callahan "Dream River"

I'm not trying to sound snobbish, but either one gets Bill Callahan or not. His slow, baritone voice either hits you where it hurts or bores you to tears. His latest album, full of small ballads and love lorn lyrics hits me where it hurts, again.

8. Zola Jesus "Versions"

The idea of a singer re-inventing and re-playing certain older songs mixed in with new ones, backed by a shrieking classical orchestra can be risky. Mysterious singer Zola Jesus did just that and it reached haunting proportions.

7. Pearl Jam "Lightning Bolt"

Even sub par Pearl Jam is better than most straightforward rock out there. Yes, I understand that doesn't feel like a resounding endorsement, but "Lightning Bolt" is ragged, linear rock and roll performed with soul by the boys.

6. Grizzly Bear "Shields Expanded and B sides"

Like Zola Jesus, this release is a variation on an earlier release (from last year), but one that deserves to be mentioned. It also boasts the best single song of the year with "Will Calls".

5. Fuck Buttons "Slow Focus"

As someone who admires but rarely buys into the trance techno scene, my adoration for the English duo known as Fuck Buttons is surprising. Just listening to this album- which I've done ALOT over the past three months while driving- and you feel the vibrance of something new and exciting.

4. Daft Punk "Random Access Memories"

Part house party, part top 40 FM dance music... but mostly just great Daft Punk. After this album and their moody contribution to the "Tron: Legacy" film a few years ago, Daft Punk shows no sign of lessening their grip on the electronica crown.

3. Phosphorescent "Muchacho"

Earlier in the year, I called this album dark, introspective and something close to great. Nothing's changed. Singer/songwriter Matthew Houck has fashioned a host of songs that touch on the modern recesses of life with wit and, at times, extreme sorrow.

2. The National "Trouble Will Find Me"

The indie rock scene kings scored again this year with "Trouble Will Find Me", an album that zig zags from the depressing to the uplifting with verve, all led by Matt Berninger's self reflexive lyrics. As a longtime fan of this band, not only am I glad they've finally hit it big, but hope their stardom never diminshes their energy.

1. Volcano Choir "Repave"

Back around the first of the year, I finally discovered Bon Iver and his many permutations. This band, yet another of his, released their second album after a very mysterious and offbeat debut one. "Repave" sounds a little more like classic Bon Iver, but it has a reputation all its own. Not only has this been the defining album for me this year, but one that seems to grow and evolve with each listen. If that's not the sign of timeless art, then I'm not sure what is.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The Last Few Films I've Seen; November edition

1. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)- Jean Marc Vallee's sobering portrait of a heterosexual playboy (Matthew McConaughey in the capstone performance of his recent re-invention) struggling with his diagnosis of HIV handles everything with no overt sentimentality and genuine restraint. Jared Leto, as his cross-dressing partner in crime, also delivers an achingly real performance, none more so devastating than when he goes to visit his father. One of the year's finest.

2. Death of a Killer (1964)- Robert Hossein stars and directs in this French noir-western hybrid of a recently released crook trying to find out who double crossed him. Yes, this has all been done before (and better) with certain Melville films, but one has to enjoy Hossein's blending of genre. The wordless stretches, crossed with close-up then long shot, echo Sergio Leone. Hossein is such an interesting filmmaker whose works are all but extinct on domestic video release.

3. Computer Chess (2013)- Andrew Bujalski's black and white indie about an early 80's computer chess convention not only overdoes it in dress- butterfly collars and short ties in excess- but it brandishes a VHS camcorder visual style that feels as cliche as its rambling, uninteresting topic. I've admired some of Bujalski's films in the past, but this one (and really the whole mumblecore movement) is becoming an inverse joke about itself full of shoddy acting and stuttering hipster emotions.

4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)- I somehow missed this one in theaters last year, and with the second part soon to arrive, I needed to catch up. The zealous sheer of Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy has worn off, it seems. I found myself pretty dis-interested in this one from the start, whether it was the needless scenes of dwarfs and hobbits singing along or the pretentious, on-the-nose narrative that features none of the thrilling adventures of the Rings films.

5. Whores Glory (2011)- Simply tremendous documentary by critical darling Michael Glawogger examining the daily rituals of women in three brothels located in Thailand, India and Mexico. Once one gets past the salacious and frank material, what emerges is a terrifying portrait of the way men sublimate women and the hopeless cycles they endure with each other. The moment one Indian prostitute goes from simply explaining her role to the sobbing rhetoric of "there must be another way to live", "Whores Glory" transcends its unwavering, patient documentarian eye into something more poetic.

6. Oldboy (2013)- No doubt director Spike Lee and actor Josh Brolin were faithful to the original source material, but as with all remakes of previously great films, why?

7. Nebraska (2013)- As a bit of a resistant towards Alexander Payne films, I do have some exceptions with his latest film, yet it still works well as a muted character study. Although I'm not as enamored as most with Bruce Dern's stoic performance as an old man limping his way towards a pie-in-the-sky reward, the real revelation is Will Forte as his in-tow son. Bob Nelson's script hits a few skid marks along the way, including a very uneven rendition by actress June Squibb as Dern's wife, but "Nebraska" winds up a gently affecting drama.

8. Top of the Lake (2013)- Originally aired on Sundance earlier this year as a seven part miniseries, filmmakers Jane Campion and Garth Evans create an atmospheric mystery that's as much about a time and place as it is the disappearance of a young girl. Elsabeth Moss, as the young detective brought home to assist the local police due to her experience with young children, is fierce and intelligent. Bring into the mix a very intense Peter Mullan as the missing girl's father, a female hippie commune led by gray haired Holly Hunter and lots of psychological history throughout the whole town and "Top of the Lake" is the most idiosyncratic series since... "Twin Peaks"?

9. A Bullet For the General (1968)- Watched this one for the great Gian Maria Volonte and came away awestruck by the performance of baby-faced Lou Castel as a pin-stripe suit wearing assassin.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Masterfully Done Again.... the year in film

major bow to David Ehrlich at for another stunning best of the year edit. I really hope these become necessary viewing for years to come.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

And so the montage begins

hat tip toMinty's Menagerie for guiding me to this. First of the year with plenty more to come.