Monthly Archives: April 2009

Make the World as Pure and Strange

Went to see Adventureland yesterday, which was a way better movie than it seemed to have the right to be.

I should probably start with a disclaimer: I have a giant, giant, ridiculous crush on Jesse Eisenberg, who has the lead in the film. It is out of hand and would completely blind my sight to any other film being bad with him in it. But to Adventureland‘s credit, it’s a pretty good movie with or without the cutest guy in the world.

The film, to the surprise of me and my movie-watching companion, was not so much a light teen sex comedy in the confines of an amusement park. It was a light teen drama about the realities of unidealized adult love with characters that are legitimately too intellectual to function in the real world.Stuck miserably in the confines of an amusement park.

James, the main character who “after this summer, would never be the same again”, has just graduated with a degree in Comparative Literature and Renaissance Studies.

Joel, his eventual best friend, is studying Russian Literature. Just as an aside, Joel is played by the incomparable Martin Starr (also known, to me, as Bill on Freaks and Geeks). He attempts at one point to show a girl he likes her by giving her a copy of a novel by Nikolai Gogol, which he prefaces with a brief and horrifying synopsis of Gogol’s life. Martin Starr is my hero.

James’ “complicated” love interest, Em, is petite and sharp and rather pretty and a perfectly played as the type of girl that a neurotic dork like James would fall in love with.

There’s the obligatory baggage that makes their story difficult to maneuver. Though it inevitably works out in the end. Sometimes I am pissed when things “all work out in the end”, this time I was just satisfied. I liked the characters so much that they required a bow-tied ending to allow me to smile when I walked out of the theater.

(I am trying to decide where to work this summer in hopes of meeting people like this. Perhaps they went extinct after ’87?)

The movie is also funny, just not in the more obvious way that other teen movies that I have loved like Superbad and Orange County are. Adventureland is funny in the mere construction of its setting. Adventureland is funny because the dumbasses that sometimes frequent amusement parks are funny. Adventureland is funny because really smart 20-somethings are sarcastic and observant. I liked that kind of a funny, just like how I enjoy the simple kind of drama that the movie had to offer.

There was also a whole hell of a lot of Lou Reed on the soundtrack, which more movies would benefit from.

Good, good stuff. And, of course, there’s a cute, cute guy.

Just Drive Us Around

I am currently watching Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls sit in the back seat of a cab (in England, I presume) and playing a cover of “Creep” by Radiohead on a ukulele.

What?

Black Cab Sessions is the coolest thing I have watched online since 11:30 this morning when I watched that video of the little kid singing that Michael Jackson son on Britain’s Got Talent. Except it is much, much cooler. Just not as young and adorable.

So these guys take out famous and semi-famous and unknown musicians, sit them in the backseat of the cab and have them do acoustic versions of their songs while the cab rolls around the streets of the town. And they record the whole thing. And it is amazing.

I’ve watched Beach House, Death Cab For Cutie, Langhorne Slim, Johnny Flynn (who I am in love with now), the Raveonettes and just finished my Amanda Palmer. There are dozens of these. I will not be doing any homework today.

http://www.blackcabsessions.com/sessions.php?id=1191482374&sort=chronological

Tell me that is not the cutest little folk singer that ever lived.

Before You Cry

So Entertainment Weekly did a list the other day of the “50 Most Heartbreaking Songs of All Time”, and naturally, I have some thoughts on the matter.

http://music-mix.ew.com/2009/04/heartbreaking.html

It’s a decent enough assortment.  I agree that all of the songs are sad, just not necessarily the ones I would have chosen. First of all, no Radiohead? I could easily try and make a list and let Radiohead occupy numbers 25-1. But I won’t do that. I’ll limit myself to only one.

There’s several artists on the list that I agree have sad songs, but I can’t see the song on the list being their saddest song. Lauryn Hill’s “Ex Factor” over “When It Hurts So Bad”? Not a chance.

So here’s the younger, much, slightly hipper perspective on this. 50 songs, limiting myself to one song per artist (no matter how difficult that might be. In alphabetical order seeing as it’s far too hard to quantify sadness, especially when it comes to good songs.

The Arcade Fire-Haiti

Beck-Lost Cause

Beirut-Rhineland (Heartland)

Belle and Sebastian-Boy Done Wrong Again-

Bloc Party-Biko

Bob Dylan-Just Like A Woman

Brand New-Soco Amaretto Lime

Bright Eyes-Land Locked Blues

Broken Social Scene-Shampoo Suicide

Cat Power-In This Hole

The Cure-Charlotte Sometimes

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Remember Today

We were born to sin
We don’t think we’re special, sir
We know everybody is
We built too many walls
Yeah, we built too many walls
And now we gotta run
A giant fist is out to crush us

We don’t want to die
Or apologize
For our dirty god
Our dirty bodies

-“A Pillar of Salt”

I have liked the Thermals since 8th grade, when my first official published CD review was for their 2004 raucous sophomore release of Fuckin A. I have loved them since I bought the totally amazing The Body, the Blood, the Machine following their awesome concert at Bumbershoot in 2006.

The Thermals are fun, thoughtful, and a totally good time at any time.

So, yesterday I decided to skip all family-related Easter activities in Yakima and stay in Seattle to watch them play at Neumo’s.

Excellent decision.

They had a fabulous opener (also from Portland) called Parenthical Girls. Their singer was a spritely young man in a knit sweater that proclaimed “Butterflies are Free.” The music started and he immediately jumped into the crowd, dancing and singing like a pied piper of sorts. One of the girls I was there with leaned over to me and said, “Man, it totally feels like spring now.” And it totally did. They were wonderful and weird and exhibited an amazing dramatic flair, from dress to sound to the uneven wavering voice of their beautifully-featured woodland creature of a singer. For their last song, every member of the band left their regular post and started wailing in unison on the same drum kit. Wonderfully weird.

The second band,Panther (also from Portland), was expected to be goofy and fun. But just ended up being sloppy and hard to listen to. Between their guitarist losing three strings after the second song and the vocals being impossible to hear, it is pretty much not worth mentioning.

But the Thermals are.

I managed to struggle into a space front row, grasping the stage and speakers to keep my place, right in front of the stripey shirt of singer Hutch Harris. It was my first time to be legitimately and indisputably in front at a show.

They played songs that spanned all four of their albums, going back the six years of their highly-DIY, bike-rider politics of their cute-punk career.

They are a band that were clearly beloved by their audience. And I was apparently not the only one with a giant ladycrush on bassist Kathy Foster. Said one bearded man in the front, “Hottest bass player in the world guys! In the world!” She smiled sheepishly and politely. And cutely.

They are also a band that also takes clear delight in their audience. After playing the stand-out “At the Bottom of the Sea” from their new (excellent, but lower-key) album, Kathy leaned into her mic and noted, “It felt like we were all totally slow-dancing together.”

The Thermals have always wowed me with their lyrics, especially when delving into the politics of religion as the did on TBTBTM. I took great delight in screaming them back at Hutch throughout the night.

Sharing Different Heartbeats

This is a good song. It is really, really good. It is, in a very contemporary sense, groovy. It is cool and interesting and different and lovely.

This is an amazing song. It is beautiful, beyond beautiful. It takes the words and the basic beat and sound of the original and turns each element into an entirely different being. I have listened to it on repeat for about two weeks now and don’t feel quite close to being done with the way this guy sings and plays the guitar in such a simple way that I feel the chords echo against my skin. It is times like this when I wish there were more cover songs—cover songs that did the original song justice and also breathed new life into the words and sounds that are already familiar. He takes this lovely song and makes it into his own beautiful one. I now like this guy for many more reasons than just being a sexy Argentinean from Sweden. I like him for being enough of a visionary to hear synth beats and hear the lilt of guitar chords and whispered indie dance floor lyrics. Good, good stuff in addition to being beyond beautiful.

Give Me Your Eyes

This is one of my favorite songs.

I discovered it in 10th grade. 88.5 would play it all the time, and during those four minutes I would scramble to write down as many lyrics as I could catch so I could Google them later and perhaps finally find the band that the song belonged to.

The CD is amazing, but it is this song that takes my breath away every time.

I listen to it and my brain stops whatever it is doing. It’s a reaction that I have to only a couple of songs–“Sometimes” by My Bloody Valentine and “Shampoo Suicide” by Broken Social Scene among them–which usually means that there is something very good, or at the least very meaningful, going on in my head.

This song is in turns romantic and wistful and incredibly sad. The lyrics cutting to precise meanings for whichever audience and a very specific emotional landscape for me in particular. I fall in love with it every time and for entirely different reasons each time.

I love the tinge of desperation in the singer’s voice to have his words be heard. I love the drums and the rising strike of the guitars.

I love the words.

and I could take another hit for you
and I could take away your trips from you
and I could take away the salt from your eyes
and take away the spitting salt in you
and I could give you my apologies
by handing over my neologies
and I could take away the shaking knees
and I could give you all the olive trees
oh look at the trees and look at my face and look at a place far away from here…

The other day I was telling a friend that this is one of the songs that I feel compelled to listen to when I am crushing on someone (or beyond crushing on someone), because it is so entirely evocative of the hammering feeling of nerves and whatever else that rises in my chest constantly under those circumstances.

I can’t believe I had never seen this video before. It’s interesting and beautiful to look at–but not necessarily what I had pictured in my head for a song that I adore so much. Perhaps I had been given too much time to inject myself into the song, and can’t take the concept of men in powdered wigs stealing my vision of the music away from me. It’s a difficult position to get into when you are frustrated with a band for not sharing your concept of their music. I am trying very hard not to be upset with Wolf Parade.