Angela James-Way Down Deep

October 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Way-Down-Deep-Cover

The worlds of folk and jazz music don’t often mix. Generally speaking, that’s a good thing because it usually only goes one of two ways: a major disaster or a decent sounding jazz album with too many vocals. Chicagoan Angela James bridges the two genres with her voice, creating what might be called something like Appalachian Jazz. With the help of over a dozen instrumentalists, her album Way Down Deep finds success where many have faltered.

Don’t take my word for it, though. The record is available to download right now in her bandcamp page. On November 1st she will be playing a release show at Constellation.

Here’s my favorite track from Way Down Deep, the stripped bare title track that features James alone.

Sinclair-“The World Is Ours”

October 28, 2014 Leave a comment

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Heard this fun synthpop track and wanted to share it. This is from Sinclair’s debut EP Sweet Talk, which comes out next week on November 4th. I’d never heard of Sinclair before, but the New York native now living in Nashville writes some catchy tunes. There isn’t much out there for you to check out just yet, so listen to the song below and remember to grab your dancing shoes when you download the EP next week.

Desert Island Picks

October 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Bacuit-Bay-El-Nido-Philip-001We’re about to head out for vacation this week, so I wanted to list which music and movies I couldn’t live without just in case we get stranded. It’s weird how something you may not think is the absolute best can be listened to or watched more often than a film or record you do consider superior. So these are my choices. What would you pick?

MUSIC

Cat Stevens-Tea For The Tillerman

The Beatles-With The Beatles

Wilco-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Prince-Purple Rain

Stevie Wonder-Songs In The Key Of Life

Otis Redding-Live At The Sunset Strip

Titus Andronicus-The Monitor

Bob Dylan-Bringing It All Back Home

Beck-Midnite Vultures

Jimi Hendrix-Electric Ladyland

MOVIES

Back To The Future

Empire Strikes Back

Goodfellas

Dr. Strangelove

Chinatown

Almost Famous

Vertigo

Rushmore

Paris, Texas

Superbad

Birdman ***** (Out Of *****)

October 24, 2014 Leave a comment

IMG_0883.JPGA play within a play has long been one of my favorite devices in storytelling. If isn’t used often, and some directors have a hard time keeping things together, but when it’s done well it can add such a great layer to each character. Such is the case with Alejandro González Iñárittu’s new film Birdman. Michael Keaton delivers the performance of his career as a washed up actor trying to regain credibility by writing, directing, and starring in an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”

Joining Keaton in the film we get a brilliant Ed Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Emma Stone, Zack Galifinakis, and Naomi Watts in her best role since I Heart Huckabees. Stone plays Keaton’s daughter, just out of rehab and trying to make the best of things. Norton, Watts, and Riseborough all portray actors in the play and somewhat caricatures of themselves as vain, petty, and arrogant but so fragile they could crack at any moment. Norton especially dazzles as the “stage” actor that thinks he’s better than everyone else-especially Keaton’s “movie” actor.

Iñárittu keeps his camera moving at all times, so much so that the whole film feels like one long tracking shot. It’s masterfully done, with Emmanuel Lubezki shooting fearlessly. The drum-heavy jazz soundtrack adds to the chaotic energy as we witness the toll this play is taking on Keaton.

His mind full of regret, jealousy, and booze, Keaton’s Riggan Thompson seems like he could go off at any second. This play has bankrupted him, his daughter hates him, and he’s reminded of his faded glory of his superhero Birdman years at every turn. He even has Birdman as the voice in his head, feeding him with delusions and false praise. His descent into madness is astounding to watch, and Keaton never misses a beat.

The trailers really don’t do this film justice at all. It’s a dark comedy for sure, but the depth of character isn’t something easily conveyed in 2 minutes. Iñárittu has thrown out his old formula familiar from films like Amores Perros and 21 Grams, focusing all his energy on one man. In doing so, he’s made his best film to date.

A Man Called War-The Eastern Seaboard Demo

October 21, 2014 Leave a comment

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A few days ago I heard a the debut release from Man Called War, a duo based out of Austin, TX. I was going back and forth trying to decide if I should write about it, as I tend to avoid most records so overtly religious. However, the songs work regardless of content, and I actually like them quite a bit. Rob Kelly and Maggie Foy have teamed up to create a quiet, meditative record not unlike the one put out by Band Of Horses guitarist Tyler Ramsey a couple years ago.

What really struck me is the building tension of the 7 minute “Gloucester, MA.” For the first five minutes of the song it’s a very soft, nondescript man-with-a-guitar type tune, and that’s fine. But then out of nowhere Kelly’s voice booms and it’s like you’re in the middle of Arcade Fire’s Funeral album. Kelly’s tone walks the line between nasally Jeff Mangum screams and the talk/sing of Conor Oberst through the verse and finds a perfect balance between the two. He also delivers a familiar voice in the words themselves-with these lines feeling like they could’ve been written for Letting Off The Happiness “And I keep asking myself, of all the people I’ve loved, how many have I already seen for the very last time? I guess I’ll learn to know, it’s ok to talk to ghosts,
cause they’re filling up the strange darkness on the outskirts of this strange town.”

I’ll be interested to see what they do next. Will they fill out these songs and release it as a non-demo EP or is this the jumping off point for a full-length? I suppose time will tell. For now, you can download The Eastern Seaboard Demo EP on their bandcamp page for free.

Ranking The Chicago International Film Festival

October 20, 2014 Leave a comment

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I didn’t get to see every movie I wanted to at the 50th annual Chicago International Film Festival, but I did see a bunch of good ones. Work and travel kept me away from the mid-week screening of St. Vincent and also Birdman on Saturday night so I’ll be seeing it when it hits theaters nationwide like everyone else. Here are my rankings of what I saw as of last night’s closing ceremonies.

9. The Alley Cat
8. Two Days, One Night
7. Red Rose
6. The Last Five Years
5. Miss Julie
4. Timbuktu
3. Still
2. The Clouds Of Sils Maria
1. Force Majeure

Many thanks to everyone at the Fest for making this a great experience. Hopefully I’ll be able to do it again next year!

Britpop Renaissance

October 16, 2014 Leave a comment

IMG_0789.PNGI can’t decide if it’s the new re-issues of early Oasis records or the bizarre desire for nostalgia that seems to pre-occupy anyone born between 1975 and 1990, but I’ve been really in to Britpop lately. So many good records blew up in a short time and then it all just faded away into the ether. I took a look back and made a little playlist of my favorites. Blur, Oasis, and Pulp get two spots, and a special shout out for fans of The Office.

1. Oasis-Live Forever
2. Pulp-Common People
3. Blur-Parklife
4. Elastica-Connection
5. James-Laid
6. Suede-Beautiful Ones
7. Oasis-Don’t Look Back In Anger
8. The Verve-Bittersweet Symphony
9. Black Grape-Kelly’s Heroes
10. Supergrass-G Song
11. Blur-Song 2
12. Manic Street Preachers-Everything Must Go
13. Pulp-Joyriders
14. Sleeper-Inbetweener
15. Ocean Colour Scene-Sway
16. Primal Scream-Jailbird
17. Cast-Fine Time
18. Stereophonics-Handbags & Gladrags
19. Travis-Why Does It Always Rain On Me?
20. The Boo Radleys-Wake Up Boo!

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