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Archive for December, 2005

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Is it cinematically correct to describe a film as both noir AND black? Because Kiss Kiss Bang Bang certainly qualifies as both, an engaging and occasionally quite grim modern film noir detective tale, and a wickedly black comedy. Robert Downey Jr, reminding everyone that he’s a hell of an actor when he’s not in rehab, plays a small-time crook who stumbles his way into a gig as an actor and then a private investigator, training alongside Val Kilmer and ending up neck-deep in a multiple-murder mystery involving an old flame (the smoking hot Michelle Monaghan). In the process, a lot of people get killed, a lot of wickedly sharp jokes about grammar and rudiementary mathematics are tossed around and a lot of smart-ass, fourth-wall-ignoring narration courtesy of Downey. This last point might turn some people off as it can be a little too smug, meta or self-aware for some tastes, but if you just go along for the ride, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

The film is the directorial debut of Shane Black, but though it’s his first film he’s no novice – he’s the guy who wrote the first Lethal Weapon film and The Last Boy Scout. He also wrote The Last Action Hero, but we’ll not speak of that. Here, he gets some excellent performances from all his principals and though I’m sure there’s some breakdowns in logic and believability as the plot gets twistier and twistier, I didn’t mind one bit – I was having too good a time. It’s smart (enough), sexy and goddamn funny with lines like, “This isn’t good cop, bad cop. This is fag and New Yorker” (Kilmer’s character is name Gay Perry. Because he’s gay and his name is Perry). Highly recommended. Metacritic and Rotten Tomatos also approve.

Mogwai have a track from Mr Beast, “Friend Of The Night”, streaming off their MySpace page. But don’t download or fileshare it, or Mogwai will smack your ass down – just ask Said The Gramophone. Don’t mess with the Scots, man. They’ve got nothing to lose. The band have announced some tour dates for March that take them from Chicago down the eastern seaboard into Austin for SxSW, but nothing up here. The new album is out March 7.

I think Indie For Dummies has surveyed all (or many of) the indie bloggers’ year-end lists and via some mystical mathematical formula, compiled the ultimate aggregate top 100 albums of 2005. If so, I am flummoxed and impressed. And I am also quoted in the entry for The Sunset Tree. Dang, ain’t I eloquent? And John Sakamoto dedicates this week’s Anti-Hit List to his best whatsits of the year. And in case you don’t have any friends who like to email you links to stuff, iFilm lists off the best viral videos of 2005 (via Largehearted Boy). Now let’s officially declare 2005 over and stop with the lists already, okay?

Challenge Of The SouthParkFriends – genius. Mr Garrison IS Lex Luthor. Via The Great Curve.

So that’s another year come and gone… I had thought about doing some sort of personal year in review dealie, but there’s really not too much to say. 2005 has been a good one. Life really does begin at 30. Be safe tonight, and I’ll see you in 2006.

np – The New Year / Newness Ends

Friday, December 30th, 2005

The Start Of Something

Thanks to Matt the other day for tipping me off that Austin’s Voxtrot would finally be touring up through Toronto for a show at Sneaky Dee’s on April 13 with California’s Irving. Voxtrot first appeared on my radar when I was wading through bands to check out at SxSW back in March, and though I didn’t end up catching their performance, I was impressed by their ultra-melodic, just retro enough pop stylings. And then I promptly forgot about them.

They did make inroads in the popular conciousness throughout 2005, though, as I’d see their name appear in blogs and whatnot periodically and be reminded, “hey – I liked them, I should check them out again”… and then I’d promptly forget about them again. But I won’t be making that mistake again – especially not now that Spin named them band of the day (there can only be 365 of those in a year!) and Gorilla Vs Bear named their debut Raised By Wolves EP his top EP of the year, and almost top record, period. They will be issuing a follow-up EP in the Spring which will no doubt fuel the slowly but steadily growing buzz surrounding the band – hell, Indie Interviews has them pegged as one of the Texas bands set to explode in 2006. That’s ALL of Texas. And Texas is big, y’know.

Need evidence? Check out one of the tracks from Raised By Wolves and stream some more at their MySpace page. Also, frontman Ramesh Srivastava keeps a blog, so you KNOW they’re cool. Cause bloggers are cool.

MP3: Voxtrot – “The Start Of Something”

Also appearing at Sneaky Dee’s this Spring – Montreal’s Kiss Me Deadly, playing a show March 23. And Evan Dando will be at the Horseshoe, sans “reunited” Lemonheads for whatever reason, on February 11. Tickets are $17.50.

And thanks to that Indie Interviews piece for the info that Shearwater’s new full-length has a title and a release date. Look for Palo Santo in finer indie-friendly record shops on April 22.

I keep wanting this year to be officially over, but the newspapers won’t let it go… The Globe & Mail and Toronto Star both have 2005 retrospective overview thingees.

Stylus pays tribute to some of the big name artists of 2005 in haiku form.

So SxSW 2006 is officially a go. For me, I mean. I booked my flight, hotel and rental car yesterday, and am working on some arrangements for the actual festival admission and whatnot now. It also means I’ll begin posting interesting schedule and artist appearance info as I come across it, alongside such fine sites as SxSW Baby and Donewaiting (I assume See You In The Pit will be back as we get closer to March as well. Having one festival under my belt means I’ll be better prepared to enjoy the festivities next year – hence the rental car (to make the day shows wherever they may be), hotel with free wireless internet (for easy blogging whilst there) and perhaps most importantly, I’ll know where the hell everything is. Yeah.

np – Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins / Rabbit Fur Coat

Thursday, December 29th, 2005

Take A Walk Outside

I thought I was done with shows for 2005, but a quiet night and an opportunity to see a friend and former bandmate play led me to Rancho Relaxo for one more bout of live music before the calendar expired. My involvement with Lake Holiday pretty much ended over a year ago, but singer/songwriter Brad Davis has been carrying on under the name in both band and solo formats. Last night it was just him with the acoustic guitar, playing old and new songs. I hadn’t seen him play since the last time I was onstage with him, so I was pleasantly surprised to see how much he’s improved as a live performer – more comfortable, confident and just plain sounding better than I recall. The songs sounded really good, too. He played a number of selections from his/our album, This Is How We Say Goodbye, which has been in process for, um, a couple years now. I’ve taken to calling it Chinese Democracy. But at the moment, it looks as though it’ll be out in late Winter/early Spring of ’06, so here’s hoping. I’d really like to hear it. And tangentially, it was quite weird/neat to click over to My Old Kentucky Blog this week and see my own mug and a writeup on Lake Holiday.

The only other act I stayed to see was The Coast, whose name was familiar to me because they were on the bill for the Ukula Bright Lights festival back in November, though I didn’t catch their set. After hearing them last night, I’m not surprised they were on that bill – their sound would have been a natural fit for that distinctly Brit-friendly lineup. The most obvious touchstone would be mid-era New Order (post-Movement, pre-Technique), and judging from their cover of “Face Up”, they know it. What’s impressive is that they manage to pay sonic homage without any of New Order’s trademark sounds – almost no synths, just effected guitars, mostly non-Hooky bass and stripped down drums. Not even any Anglo affectations on the vocals, which were still Sumner-esque but a little raspier. But wholly organic. What they do cop is the upbeat, shimmering pop music that could get folks dancing without a single disco hi-hat. Overall, I found them fresh and impressive, and considering they managed to nearly pack a bar three days after Christmas, I’m not the only one. I was under the impression that an official release of some sort was forthcoming in the near future – I’d like to check that out. In the meantime, there’s some audio on their MySpace page, and a handfull of photos from the show here.

The AV Club compiles a most essential year-end list, tallying up the least-essential releases of 2005. The Toronto weeklies have realized 2005 is over, so both eye and NOW have their year-end summaries up. DoCopenhagen offers up their top 50 videos of 2005, all with linkage. Now are these really their 50 best videos or just the 50 best they could find online? Who cares, it’s awesome. Via Brooklynvegan.

JAM! lists off their years best music interview quotes, with a special focus on Oasis’ Noel Gallagher’s Live 8 rant. I like how it’s acceptable to wrtie “fookin” in a newspaper.

Yay to myself and Zoilus for making eye‘s list of top music blogs for 2005. I don’t know who those other jokers are.

Creator Rob Thomas answers Veronica Mars season two questions for TV Guide. I am under the impression that VM is doing alright in terms of ratings this year – is this correct? It would be so nice for one of the very few shows I watch to not be on the cancellation bubble for a change. Besides 24, anyway. Link via Soaring With Eagles.

np – Spiritualized / The Complete Works Volume 2

Wednesday, December 28th, 2005

Stargazer

I made an inquiry back in August about Edinburgh’s Zephyrs, tantalized by a description I’d read somewhere about them being described as “the epic grandeur of Mogwai with the country-rock of Gram Parsons“. I subsequently acquired their second album When the Sky Comes Down It Comes Down on Your Head and was, frankly, a little disappointed that it wasn’t an epic post-rock record featuring pedal steel guitars (though apparently Mogwai have incorporated some of that on their new one Mr Beast…).

I found that When The Sky… sounded like a less-focused, even gentler Mojave 3 (if you can imagine that), a comparison helped out by Rachel Goswell’s contributing vocals to one track. Oddly, if there’s a Mogwai comparison to be made, it’s not in thundering quiet-loud dynamics but in the low-key vocals of Stuart Nicols, whose delivery reminds me of another Stuart – he of the Brathwaite persuasion. So as I said, I was initially disappointed because of unrealistic expectations on my part, but have grown quite fond of its laid-backness and general prettiness – enough to want more. So thanks to ebay I was able to get a copy of their 2005 release Bright Yellow Flowers On A Dark Double Bed in my mailbox just before the holidays arrived.

Two albums on from When The Sky…, the recipe hasn’t changed much, but the presentation has. The production is much drier and has a more “live” sound, which plays down the spacier vibe and plays up the folkiness – there’s even a couple of numbers that could be considered “rocking”, at least relative to the rest of the album. But overall, like its predecessor, it’s mostly quite pretty but a bit of a grower and less sonically interesting. They conventiently provide an easy point of comparison between the two records by including When The Sky’s “Stargazer” as a hidden track, re-recorded in the same style as the rest of the album. I don’t have mp3s of either to post, but their video for the song, circa the original version, is online and really quite beautiful. There’s also a live version “Lacua Head” from their 2003 album A Year To The Day (which I’m in the process of hunting down) that actually does have some of that post-rock vibe I was looking for, and Epitonic has a track from their 2002 EP The Love That Will Guide You Back Home available for download. There’s also a short film documenting the making of Bright Yellow Flowers called “The making of So Called Beau”, which I haven’t watched and thus can’t really comment on. But it’s there.

Video: The Zephyrs – “Stargazer” (MOV)
MP3: The Zephyrs – “Lacuna Head” (live)
MP3: The Zephyrs – “Obeyessekere”

But yes. The Zephyrs. They’re aptly named – the word means “a light breeze” – but quite nice even if not especially weighty.

Billboard talks The Believer with Rhett Miller. His second solo effort is out February 18.

Tom Verlaine talks to Guitar Player, but not about Television. Still, anytime you’ve got Verlaine talking shop, it’s worth a link.

The New York Times looks at how the internet has helped out the independent record label.

This is why I love Goldenfiddle.

Did you know the jive talking dudes from Airplane! had their own website? Well they do. And The Toronto Star has an interview with them.

np – Sarah Harmer / I’m A Mountain

Tuesday, December 27th, 2005

Season Of Lists – Finale

Canadian music rag year-end lists! JAM! likes My Morning Jacket (who are giving away burned copies of Z to anyone who got rootkitted), Exclaim! has their best of the year lists online, as does Chart who also give their writers some (virtual) column inches. And though not Canadian, PopMatters wraps up the year in Canadian rock. Our own feature! How sweet. And tangentially, The London Free Press looks at how and why 2005 was so good to Canadian indie music.

And more lists – Junkmedia and CMJ have their year-end lists up, bloggers From Blown Speakers, Drive Blind (Ride-monikered blogs represent!), Muzzle Of Bees and Geekent have posted their picks, Joe from Dirty On Purpose runs off his faves of ’05, ye olde Stereogum has said his peace and Largehearted Boy rounded up his top music DVDs of 2005 last week.

It may not seem like it, but the season of lists is winding down, and Angryrobot couldn’t be happier. He makes an interesting point about the homogeneity of everyones choices in the internet and blogopolis in particular, though I can’t say I’m in agreement. Yeah, there were a lot of the same picks on a lot of the lists, but to me all that says more that folks who run indie blogs have similar tastes and that the common albums were of genuine quality. The overlap is simply a result of everyone’s radar being that much broader now – what might have taken months or years to spread from a local scene to (inter)national profile now takes just a single well-placed online review or blog post. There really aren’t any secrets out there. I know I assembled my list without a thought to what everyone else was doing, and would expect/hope that everyone else did as well. While I fully support anyone’s efforts to be more adventurous in what they listen to, it should be out of genuine curiosity and a desire to hear something new – not as a reaction to others, or a desire to be different.

However, I will acknowledge a genuine downside to the widespread concensus of what was good this year – I’ve already heard it all. Just as there were no surprises on my list, there really weren’t any on anyone’s lists. Yeah, you could play with and debate the rankings and whatnot, but I didn’t find anything really came out of left field to pique my curiosity and the net result is that I’ve probably already got all the ’05 releases that I’m going to (at least that I can see right now – ask me again in a year). My shopping list is incredibly short right now, and even shorter now that my Boxing Day shopping is mostly complete, and looks to remain that way through the rest of the Winter as the 2006 new release schedule doesn’t really pick up in volume till February.

But speaking of Boxing Day, my pick ups yesterday were as follows – Fountains Of Wayne’s Out-Of-State Plates, Sarah Harmer’s I’m A Mountain, Seu Jorge’s The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions, Jens Lekman’s Oh You’re So Silent Jens, The Mendoza Line’s Full Of Light And Full Of Fire and The National’s self-titled debut. And my LP collection grew by David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane and Scary Monsters, a $2 copy of Elvis Costello’s King Of America and Crooked Fingers’ Dignity & Shame. Bonus tracks! I also loaded up on the Fables trade paperbacks, a series it took me a little while to warm to but am now very much enjoying.

Mercifully, what I didn’t get is shot in the face. I was right at that corner about an hour previous to the shootings, and it’s just a few blocks from my place. That something like this would happen at maybe the busiest intersection in Toronto on a Saturday afternoon, packed with shoppers, is really unnerving. I swear, this used to be such a nice quiet town.

np – Fountains Of Wayne / Out-Of-State Plates