Thursday, December 22, 2016

Big Band: My Favorite Music of 2016

7. Postiljonen "Reverie"

Swedish band Postiljonen is a newcomer for me, being introduced to their ethereal music by the great Gorilla vs. Bear. Culling the best parts of synth wave bands like Beach House and Chromatics while echoing Sigur Ros in small doses, their second album, "Reverie" ispure joy from start to finish.

6. Tindersticks "The Waiting Room"

English band Tindersticks (having been around since the early 90's) need no introduction. However, they still fly so far under the radar- composing lilting soundtracks scores now and then- that when they do release a full album, it's almost a minor miracle that I want to shout it from the rooftops. Every song on "The Waiting Room" is near perfect, alternating behind loud thrash and atmospheric doop-dips. It's a wondrous thing.

5. Mogwai "Atomic"

Yes, it's a soundtrack, so its audible intention is to mix with image and narrative, but Mogwai's sound is so immersive and transportive that it can exist on its own, allowing our brains to supply the images. Low key and droning one minute then full of space and room to breathe the next, each song expertly draws out unexpected emotions. I'm very curious to see the film now.

4. Mitski "Puberty 2"

An adrenaline rush of tunes that, initially, feels abstract with its crushing guitar-heavy backdrop against indie rock singer Mitski's beautiful and lamenting voice, "Puberty 2" eventually becomes an anthem about identity, self worth and, yes, pure indie rock fun.

3. Explosions In the Sky "The Wilderness"

I doubt one of my favorite bands of all time, Austin's own Explosions In the Sky, will ever release an album I don't completely fall in love with. "The Wilderness" is no exception, managing to wrangle a series of sounds and rhythms (some people aptly call it post-rock) into such a emotionally devastating swirl of sound that if often becomes the soundtrack of my life.

2. Bon Iver "22, A Million"

The first 2 songs on Bon Iver's experimental new album place his current mood somewhere between playful and alienating. The first typifies his soft, melodic side while the second bleeds into the first as if it were some 90's house song being played on fuzzy, worn out speakers at their highest volume. I knew I'd love this creation and it only deepens and absorbs upon repeat listen.

1. Radiohead "A Moon Shaped Pool"

Even though a majority of the songs on Radiohead's ninth studio album have existed in one form or another for years now, having them spruced up and officially released (with a few startling changes, looking at "True Love Waits") is a fever dream. No other band is producing music as soul-cleansing.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

The Last Few Films I've Seen, November edition

1.. Los Punks: We Are All We Have (2015)- Documentary about the grassroots underground latino punk scene in Los Angeles. Could have been great, but it gets stuck in boring profiles and brain-fried people sloshing about.

2. Black Rose Mansion (1969)- The always interesting Kinji Fukusaku attempts film noir with a cabaret singer who seems to attract and destroy every man she meets. Psychedelic 60's Japanese stuff. Way cool.

3. Doctor Strange (2016)- Walked out halfway through. I just can't take these CGI superhero films anymore.

4. The Cut (2014)- Turkish filmmaker Fatih Akin's ode to Elia Kazan with a sprawling exploration of one man's survival from the Armenian genocide and his propulsive search for his missing twin daughters. Sad, humane and infuriating.

5. No Blade of Grass (1970)- Surprisingly brutal Cornel Wilde apocalypse film that doesn't shy away from the rape of a young girl, the main character murdering when needed and a pretty hopeless trek across a collapsing society. Not on DVD but can be found on the world wide web if you look hard enough.

6. Salute (1929)- Working my way through all of John Ford's films and this one, so far, is the worst. The worst, Jerry! The Worst!

7. Audrey and Daisy (2016)- Like "The Hunting Ground", this Netflix documentary casts an infuriating light on teen sex assault and the constant barriers, both emotionally and bureaucratically, that exist in dealing with the problem.

8. The Sea of Trees (2016)- Gus Van Sant's mediocre tale about a man (Matthew McCoughnay) trying to end his life in the infamous Japanese 'death forest' is so rote and predictable that not only did the 'twist' ring hollow, but it managed to end good 'ol Matt's string of trenchant performances.

9. Loving (2016)- One refreshing theme from 2016 involved directors working proficiently. Not only did Pablo Larrain have two films open within a few weeks of each other, but American filmmaker Jeff Nichols started the year with "Midnight Special" and ended it with "Loving". While the former is a very good film, it doesn't compare to the nuance and sublimeness of "Loving". Ripping its story from the civil rights headlines- in which an inter racial couple bucked the Jim Crow ways and got married in late 1950's North Carolina- "Loving" contains an emotional force precipitated by lead actors Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton. Negga especially. Rightly deserving an Oscar nomination this year, her mixture of country humility and steely reserve shines through her eyes and crimped face in every single scene. Nichols also does the unthinkable and crafts a legal thriller (as their case eventually winds its way to the Supreme Court) that wisely avoids stepping foot inside a courtroom, maintaining its humane gaze on the couple's reactions and their unending wish to simply 'exist' as man and wife.

10. Writhing Tongue (1980)- Yoshitaro Nomura brings his elegant sense of procedural to the medical melodrama (complete with day and time stamps as the film progresses) with this odd but moving tale about a young girl's journey with a paralyzing illness. Almost punishing in the lengths it goes to portray her endless days in the hospital and even more honest in the way Nomura slowly tightens his gaze on the helpless parents (Tsunehiko Watase and Yukio Toake) as they watch their little girl suffer, "Writhing Tongue" ultimately becomes yet another stirring and competent entry in Nomura's largely unrecognized work here in the States that demands more of an audience.