Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Reverse Appreciation

Reverse Shot writer Nick Pinkerton, in his dissenting year-end piece on Funny Ha Ha, writes:

"Bujalski is a rising star, I’m fairly certain, though I think I read—I forget where—that he was even now working at a bookstore, strapped for cash, and living for his art."

For the record, you read it here, Nick.

Just so you know.

Friday, March 24, 2006

This made my Monday

Hi Grand Epic,

Christian Pierre (the dEUS manager) asked me to invite you to the dEUS concert at the Great American Music Hall tonight in San Francisco. He's put you on the guestlist +1 under the name Grand Epic.

Let me know if you can make it and if so: enjoy!


dEUS article in the Newark Star-Ledger
dEUS tour dates

Friday, March 10, 2006

Radiohead's Seventh

Radiohead have been in the studio for the past year, creating what I hope is their next masterpiece. If we're lucky, it will be out in May or June, although the band has been known to delay releases. Since their music seems to benefit from being endlessly pored over in the studio before finally being released, I am hoping this is a good sign. The songs for their previous album, Hail to the Thief, were written prior to the studio sessions, debuted on tour, then recorded during a two-week stretch in Los Angeles. The result was a still a very good album--I was hard pressed to find a better one in 2003 (the year that The Rapture was supposed to save us all).

But the fact that Thief lacks the sonic details, and more importantly, the songs as great as the best of Kid A and Amnesiac is why it doesn't seem to hold up as well as those two albums. I realize that I am holding them to almost impossibly high standards here, but had they been as meticulous about Thief as they were on their previous albums, it might have come closer to reaching those heights.

As for the sound of the new album, it's anyone's guess. A couple of pictures on their blog suggest they might be delving into a baroque-pop sound on a song or two--Jonny's insistence on using a clavichord and the picture of him recording with a string quartet (pictured above) for the long unreleased and unrecorded "Nude" would seem to support this. Check out both Ed and Jonny on acoustic guitar, usually exclusively Thom's instrument--one might think the new record is going to be that acoustic album that Amnesiac was rumored to be. But other pictures of synths, the sequencer used on Kid A, and Ed bent over guitar pedals show that the band is still very immersed in electronics. Another likely influence is 20th Century classical music--a motif since OK Computer and the main influence on the brilliant Ether Festival pieces.

It's all open speculation. Let's just hope the album is released around the time of their summer gigs beginning in May.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Musical Absurdism

For those who get it--i.e., those who've given the music enough listens without writing it off--the music of Captain Beefheart is some of the most joyous and unique made in the 20th century. Not only are the lyrics absurd, but the music is as well, what the unimaginative might describe as "drug music." John Peel, Harlan Ellison, and Tom Waits were all fans, and that's all the evidence you need, really. Here's the wonderfully odd "Ice Cream for Crow" video from 1982:

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Pocket Revolution

Fans of bands characterized by their chaotic charm, dissonance, or experimentation often resent it when these bands begin releasing albums with a more streamlined sound. Take Sonic Youth for instance, who even during their "commercial" period in the early 90's, retained the dissonance of their earlier albums, but only recently recorded two albums with producer Jim O'Rourke that gave the band a less cacophonous and more accessible sound. They hardly went Pop, but many fans complained anyway.

dEUS, a Belgian band who started out with plenty of chaotic charm, gradually went from flirting with pop to making an all-out pop album with 1999's The Ideal Crash. Now, six years later with Pocket Revolution, dEUS return with another even more streamlined album. It may not be their most representative album, and many fans seem to begrudge this fact (if I am to use the posts on the official dEUS board as a barometer), but it is a pop masterpiece nonetheless.

On the album's best songs, the band not only displays its excellence at pop songwriting, but also shows that it is capable of incredibly subtle moments: On "Include Me Out," notice how the piano, guitars, and synthesizer interweave with one another, separating then converging. "Sun Ra" and "Cold Sun of Circumstance" employ the three-guitar approach in a way that recalls (not sounds like) late-90s Radiohead--without sounding like Coldplay (who lack a third guitar and the interplay crucial to that sound).

dEUS have never really had much reception in the U.S.--Pocket Revolution's fate was no different upon the album's release last year, especially since V2 didn't release it Stateside. Some webzines published reviews, but the response was lukewarm (Pitchfork gave it a 7.8). But albums this consistant, melodic and imaginative come around so rarely that it doesn't matter if it was the most innovative or unique album released last year. It was still the best.

UPDATE: Looks like I missed a piece of crucial news on Pocket Revolution is to be released in the U.S. on March 7th.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Andrew Bujalski

It's good to see that Andrew Bujalski, writer/director of Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation, is finally getting some recognition by a publication as big as the New York Times. When I met him a few months ago at the San Francisco premire of Funny Ha Ha, he told me that he'd just started working in a bookstore, and seemed unsure as to how he would go about financing his next picture (He's just now making the festival rounds with Mutual Appreaciation, so maybe he isn't really thinking about that right now). But this is someone whom I think has a great filmmaking career ahead of him. Both of his current films are pitch perfect in terms of chracteriaztion and dialogue, and I hope this sort of recogniton helps ensure future films.