Sunday, January 30, 2011

My week in media: Jan. 23-29

The biggest shame in Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore is that the title song, performed by Miss Saeki, doesn't exist. Maybe I'll have to write some music for the lyrics. In Kafka, two cosmically-connected characters converge on Takamatsu, Japan. Murakami reminds us that crazy and unrealistic shit should happen in fiction. Nakata, an old man, talks to cats, and Kafka, a teenager, untangles an Oedipal curse put on him by his father. Also, Kafka listens to Prince several times in the story. 

Getting severely pumped for the new album by Heidecker & Wood. Tim Heidecker of Tim & Eric is vocalist and lyricist. Wood provides the cheesy rock. Two songs have come out: "Weatherman" and "Wedding Song." "Wedding Song" appeared for the first time late last week. In it, Tim proposes marriage. "Weatherman" first dropped in 2009, so maybe you've heard it. The song's protagonist worries about his alcoholic friend, Barry, amidst swirling Rhodes piano chords, a provocative bass part, and guitar/flute solos. So many funny lines. One of my most-anticipated records of 2k11.

Barry, when are you gonna grow up and finally put those brandies down?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Did you hear? Duress - Indifference

Punk recordings can suffer when they fail to capture a band's in-concert aggression. Duress's sets were fun (read: scary) to behold. Bodies and objects flying every which way, instruments and sweat. And then there's me standing in the back thinking about how it could possibly sound good at home on vinyl or mp3. Duress made it happen. 

The speed stands out at first. The record don't slow until the last song. The vocals are presented in the center of the mix, and Matt's harsh phrasing gives the 7" coherence. The drums pound in a similar way, often to accent the vocals. Kyle, the guitarist, rarely plays one riff for long, swiftly hopping from idea to idea while maintaining Duress's dedication to speed. The result is music that sounds like it could come unhinged at any time. By playing riffs way up on the neck, usually at the end of the song or passage, he rockets songs into outer space while the rhythm section focuses on pounding them back to Earth. Nowhere is this more prevalent than on my standout, "Allergic to Hope." In "Guilt," the affected guitar makes way for overdriven bass, and the conflict between these sounds almost, just almost, epitomizes the struggle in the pit. I can see it now as I saw it then.

My favorite 7" of 2010. Please sell me a physical copy, as I slept. 

Get it here! 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My week in media: Jan. 16-22

My parents see one "important" film each year. They like films with Oscar-buzz, films that are uplifting and not totally out there, and films based on true events. Think Slumdog Millionaire and The Blind Side. This year, obviously, Black Swan is out. My dad doesn't get Facebook, so why would he see The Social Network? Mom doesn't want to see True Grit. Fortunately, I found the perfect film for their annual foray into cinema, and it is called The King's Speech.

Colin Firth rocks the casbah as King George VI, the stammering English king with WWII to worry about. Geoffrey Rush is his speech coach. Man, if Geoff doesn't win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, I won't be surprised, but I'll act like I am. This film might make stammering, or stuttering as I've always called it, a hot cause for a hot minute, and it's great as the focus in the film, but there's more going on here. There's Daddy Issues and Brother Issues. George, or "Bertie" as Lionel insists on calling him, is one of the first politicians to reign entirely in the radio age. He can't fake speeches. He's gotta talk, and therein, my friends, lies the drama.

The Smith Westerns are garnering all sorts of attention with their new album, Dye It Blonde. The Pitchfork review says they went all Britpop. Maybe so (no), but I still get a strong Bowie vibe from "Smile," my favorite song on the record that isn't "Weekend." They're young, their jeans are ripped, and there is a great career in store for them. And that, folks, is how you use grammar.

A lot of L-7 Weenies didn't like Ricky Gervais's performance at the Golden Globes. See for yourself.

Another weekend, another trip to Hot Doug's. Another brewery. Go Bears.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My week in media: Jan. 9-15

It's already been one year since Jay Reatard died. That day fucked me up. His music moved me, and he had the trait that separates great musicians from the pack; he was prolific. I made a pact with J. Wilmes to see Jay each time he passed through town, and I saw him three times. Classic songs. There's "Screaming Hand." Jangly guitars open this bad mother, but then the chorus hits you with some flying-V noise and the poppiest chorus. But instead, I got a man with an empty beer bottle and a screaming hand. (Not on youtube- this is why I need a tumblr- nah fuckthatshit fuckthatshit, ya know the song anyway).

And then there's "Not a Substitute." Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, done. Seven words to the lyrics pack a big emotional punch.

PS - The new Smith Westerns record is hot hot, and I learned about them when they opened for Jay. Real shit, that is real.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My week in media: Jan. 2 -8

In this new feature, I will recap what I heard, read, and watched during the past week. That way, I'll be able to collect my thoughts at the end of the year, or whenever, really. You might find something you like, too.

The song I listened to most came from this mix by renowned guitarist Mark McGuire. It's called "Tossing and Turning," and it's by Windjammer. The 12-inch version is best for its extended intro, but for your sake, I'll embed a live performance replete with 80s wear, flashing lights, a mostly white crowd, and the literal interpretation of the lyric I wiggle in my sleep by the dancing frontman. Disco-influenced funk for fans of Prince and big hooks.


I finished John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces. I seldom laugh when I read, but this novel cracked me up more than nine times. Its protagonist is the unforgettable Ignatius Reilly, a fat and crazy guy from New Orleans who drives everyone crazy. 

Finally, I listen to NPR now. I am learning about so much more than buzzbands and foreign films, although I can learn about those things on NPR, too. Have a good week, friends.

Monday, January 3, 2011

30 for 30: Boom or Bust?

Sports aren't as interesting to me as they once were. In the mid-90s, I played them, watched them, and obsessed over them. Boys my age growing up in Chicago were blessed. We had the Bulls, Frank Thomas, and later, Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood, Brian Urlacher. Something changed in me, though. Now, it's all about books, music, movies, and original programming on television. I don't make time for sports. Actually, Chicago summers are still exciting when you follow one of the most rewarding professional baseball franchises and get to root against one of the least rewarding franchises in all of sports. But I digress. 

An underrated genre, then, is sports nonfiction. In a sports documentary, or in a book like Black Planet by David Shields, I can rekindle my love for sports without having to actually watch sports. It's totally awesome. For their thirtieth anniversary as a television network, ESPN commissioned 30 documentaries from 30 notable filmmakers. The films are about athletes and events from the past 30 years in sports, and mostly, they are excellent.

I've seen approx. ten of the films (from snippets to full-lengthers). I'll briefly talk about three. No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson was my first taste. Steve James, director of Hoop Dreams, is on some next-level shit when it comes to sports documentaries. In both No Crossover and Hoop Dreams, he examines race and community by unpacking events in the lives of talented young black athletes in white athletic institutions. Baller. 

Dan Klores's Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks makes use of hilarious talking heads to get at the frustration of New Yorkers over the NBAtitlelessness of their beloved Knicks.

The best of the bunch, Brett Morgen's June 17, 1994, weaves what Comcast's crackerjack TVguidetaggers call a 'tone-poem' about the titular day, a day in which OJ Simpson led the LAPD and the American public on an infamous car chase. Forget voice-over narration and talking heads; Morgen makes broad claims about American celebrity fixation and the palate-whetting of Americans for reality television by using only archival footage and text. He is masterful.

Thanks to ESPN for gambling on documentaries when they could have re-aired the ESPYs or Texas Hold 'Em. We're surrounded by sports, but we don't often try to make sense of what they mean to us. Hopefully, the Steve Bartman film leaves the cutting room floor. I'll be watching with the biggest bowl of popcorn and a grin that extends onto Waveland.