Archive for January, 2009

A Stallone Sunday

January 26, 2009

No one plans to spend a Sunday watching two Stallone movies. Heck, a smart person should know better than watching anything that Stallone is in. But as luck should have it, I ended up spending my afternoon/evening watching Stallone kick butt in Demolition Man and do a whole bunch of nothing in Rocky Balboa.

There are so many great films that I haven't seen yet. I've had Harakiri sitting on my shelf for months now because of a Justin recommendation. I can't wait to watch it, mainly because it was made by the same guy who did Samurai Rebellion.  Samurai Rebellion is a masterpiece, a prime example of how to spend an entire film building up tension, and then releasing it in a perfect display of violence. Clearly, I am a fool for not having watched Harakiri yet. I promise to watch it soon, and I really should watch Samurai Rebellion again. God is that a good one.

Not a good one, but still entertaining, is Demolition Man. Demolition Man is hilariously anachronistic and prescient at the same time. It predicts a Schwarzenegger political career and the eventual merging of Taco Bell with Pizza Hut, while neglecting to realize that sooner or later Jefferey Dahmer would be dead. Sooner, as it turned out. One of DM's strength's is that it is one of the better examples of a 90's action movie. It celebrates the good old fashion world of bullets, burgers, and cool old cars. According to Demolition Man, the car's of the future are for losers. Stallone plays John Spartan(Awesome movie name!), the so-called Demolition Man because he always causes extreme property damage and large death tolls while pursuing criminals. Everyone remembers the classic scene where a reporter ask's Spartan why he blew up a multi million dollar strip mall to rescue a girl whose ransom was considerably less. Before Spartan can respond, the young girl says "Fuck you, lady!" which makes Spartan smile and exclaim, "Hey, good one." One could argue this makes Demolition Man better than most films in Stallone's career. They would be right.

John Spartan's arch enemy is Simon Phoenix(another great movie name!), played by Wesley Snipes with crazed glee. I believe this is Snipes stretching his acting chops to their breaking point. Snipes motivation is clearly something in the realm of "Sociopath who only wants to kill all the time. All the time. That is the only thing he wants to do. If he isn't killing, he doesn't care. But funny." Simon Phoenix drops plenty of references to movies and pop culture, which is surprising since he seems like the kind of guy who hates culture and people and movies and just wants to blow up the world. It should be noted that the only time he expresses any admiration for another human being is when he says, "Jefferey Dahmer? I love that guy!"

All of the action sequences are deleriously 90's, with plenty of sparks and explosions but surprisingly bloodless. This film earns its R rating mostly with language, and a gratutious tit shot that only could show up in a 90's movie. For gratutious nudity, it runs second to the nude scene in Timecop. According to the IMDB, Snipes had to slow down his kicks and punches because they were blurring on camera, which is used to explain why all of Simon Phoenix's fight scenes seem so heavily choreographed.

Do you know the plot to Demolition Man? Phoenix and Spartan are locked up in cryofreeze, and stay there for 40 years until Phoenix is released in the future and Spartan has to be unthawed as well in order to stop him. As far as portraying an interesting version of the future, I can't fault DM. One future aspect that made me think harder than anyone involved was the fines for foul language. In numerous scenes Stallone and Snipes swear up a storm and machines can be heard in the background issuing fines. So, this means that there are microphones all over every room and vehicle, listening to every word that is spoken. Someone must be monitering all this, yet the villain has one of those evil plan conversations with Phoenix, in a room where Phoenix is being repeatedly fined for swearing. This bugged me, probably more than any other person who has ever watched Demolition Man.
I hope this is the last time I watch DM for awhile.

Any good feelings I felt for DM were extinguished quickly by the turgid Rocky Balboa. The sixth Rocky movie, RB was apparently the first of Stallone's scripts where a crucial part of script writing was ignored. With last year's Rambo, Sly opted out of including certain expostion scenes in order to get to the violent action scenes quicker. This also meant that Rambo would have to make do without a middle. Rambo starts, introduces a few characters, you think you're getting toward the middle of the film and whoa! you're at the climax. This actually worked to the film's advantage. Rocky Balboa follows a similar style except it does have the training montage, which effectively functions as the films middle, all three minutes of it. However, you have to trudge through a solid hour plus of nothing happening in order to get to that middle, while noticing that Stallone decided to leave out any conflict. RB spends an obscene amount of time letting you know that Rock is sad, Rock is lonely, all his old haunts are boarded up, and yes, his wife is dead. Where Rambo is an overly serious gorefest that is entertaining because it is an overly serious gorefest where evil military soldiers are shot with giant guns until they liquify, Rocky Balboa is an overly serious boxing film that takes forever and then some to get to the boxing, and then ends without much of a point. From what I could gather, Rocky got old, and well, things ain't what they used to be. Kids are disrespectful and life is hard. I cannot relate, because I am fairly young and immortal. After ESPN posts a one minute segment of two videogame avatars representing Rocky and the current champ Mason Dixon(terrible movie name!), the whole world acknowledges that they all watch and are influenced by shitty graphics and ESPN filler. Two sleazy promoters approach Rocky and Mason and say they should fight because they'll make money. So they do. The end. Which, while depressing, is one of the more realistic aspects of the film. Sleazy people without ideas or talent pounce on a stupid but simple idea(old guy fights young guy), and exploit it for financial gain. And it works. Rocky goes toe to toe, holds his own, and in the end it's a draw. Because nothing sends me out of the theater with a spring in my step like a draw! "Nobody won! Hurray! Except for the money men! They cleaned up!"

The closing boxing match is fairly well filmed, though all this talk of it being the best Rocky match is pure hogwash. How quickly we forget Rocky III, where Rock goes head to head with Mr. T's Clubber Lange. Now that was a match. But why is so much of Rocky Balboa a boring slog? I find it hard to believe that any Rocky fan was happy with this film overall, but so many reviews had people raving "It wasn't that bad", and "You don't understand Rocky"(actually that was a guy at a party). Maybe I don't understand Rocky(highly unlikely), but what I do know about Rocky films is that they have lots of boxing in them. Not this one match at the end bullshit, but a bunch of matches throughout leading to the big one where Rocky, against all odds, defeats his opponent. If Rocky Balboa wanted to be honest with itself and the audience, the entire film would turn out to be a fever dream, where Rocky would wake at the end and find out that no one actually would want to see him fight someone and that if he did actually step into the ring, he would be killed. No draw. Sorry.


I noticed plenty of comparisons with Gran Torino while watching Rocky Balboa, but RB is a slightly better movie because it decided to employ actors instead of whoever walked in off the street, and is only just boring instead of a huge crock of shit. Sure, kids don't respect Rocky and are little punks, but that's only because Rocky is an unknown quantity to them. After they watch him get his face smashed in in the ring, respect is earned. As opposed to Gran Torino, where Clint Eastwood thinks that his angry retired auto worker demands respect because he's old. Give it to get it, dude.

Hopefully, I will remedy the pain of my choices on Sunday and watch a good movie for a change.  

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Notorious! Reviewed!

January 20, 2009

My first exposure to the Notorious B.I.G. was his video for "Big Poppa", a jam that has stood the test of time while displaying some of the nastiest video chicks ever. Who cast those hot tub girls? And the girl at the bar? That woman is 80% teeth. Back in the mid nineties, I did not count B.I.G. as a rap star on the level of say 2Pac or Snoop, simply because he wasn't as visible on MTV. Of course, that probably had more to do with his physical appearance than song choices, and by his second album it was nearly impossible to get away from "Hypnotize". In college Josh and Sean sat me down after I broke up with a girl and made me listen to "Friend of Mine", while they danced around and sang the lyrics in my face, which I think was intended to make me feel better. Results were mixed emotionally, but even through my melancholy haze I had to admit it was a pretty funny song.

Notorious B.I.G.- "Friend of Mine"

Actually sitting down and listening to Ready To Die from beginning to end, you're struck by the flow and the wit. Biggie Smalls was a pretty intelligent guy, and while his views on women were, shall we say, less than revolutionary, he had style and charisma on the mic and certainly stands as one of the greatest rappers of all time. Dead at 24 with only two official albums released, I questioned whether a Notorious B.I.G. movie even needed to be made, let alone whether I would want to see it. But 90's nostalgia got the best of me and I braved treacherous snow covered roads last Saturday night to meet up with Lauren, Luca and Brian and check out the big guy's life story.

Notorious is a pretty good time, anchored by some quality performances. Props to the casting director for deciding on Derek Luke for Puffy and Anthony Mackie as 2Pac. Luke doesn't really look like Puffy, but the Puffy in Notorious is decidedly more sage than I remember him, and while I would hesitate to call him saintly, Puff certainly doesn't seem to possess a mean bone in his body. When 2Pac and Suge Knight are bad mouthing Bad Boy, Puffy tells everyone to take the high road and be better people. And when Biggie first comes to his office, Puff is quick to let him know that Biggie's drug dealing days are over if he wants to be a star. Puffy doesn't have a scene where he walks on water, but I'm sure it'll be on the DVD. Anthony Mackie's 2Pac is coolest, most awesome guy ever. His every appearance is a sparkle, and Biggies voiceover oversells it a bit, stopping just short of "Pac, man, that dude was too cool for school, yo." His few appearances make the idea of a 2pac movie staring Mackie sound like a great idea. Justin, get cracking on a script!

The film follows a rather standard arc of triumph and heartbreak, though most of the issues in Biggie's life(besides getting shot dead), resolve themselves simply in a couple of scenes. Biggie's mom get's breast cancer! But then she gets better. Biggie cheats on his wife, who finds out and slams a door in a groupie's face and beats the shit out of her! But Biggie win's his wife back by beatboxing. And so on.

Jamal Woolard's portrayal of Biggie is capable and winning, though perhaps a bit too sympathetic, his puppy dog eye's felt just a touch too tender in scenes I felt he should have held himself slightly more menancingly. Biggie's hardscrabble life is a bit too shiny, to the point where a scene during which Biggie sells crack to a pregnant woman lacks the true grit of a similar scene on The Wire. But in fairness, Notorious isn't supposed to be The Wire, but a celebration of the life of an artist. The films greatest moments all revolve around B.I.G.'s music, which you might recall is the reason anyone knows who he is in the first place. Notorious has plenty of fine scenes where we see Biggie writing, recording and performing, and they elevate the film tremendously. My favorite scene involves the creation of Biggie's most iconic track, "Juicy". After Puffy plays the "Juicy" sample for Biggie the first time, Big is thrown. "What is this shit?", he asks while his entourage giggles along. Puff points out that without a song on the radio, "you'll just be another mixtape rapper no one's ever heard of." Puffy leaves and Biggie sits for a moment and then says, "I need more weed….and get some women up here!" Some chronic, titties and head later, a classic was born. I am certain most classic songs are written that way.

Notorious finishes up rather cleanly, with Biggie's funeral intercut with a family dinner of happiness and good feelings. I was a incredulous at the idea that the night he died Biggie had the forethought to call his mother, estranged wife and Lil' Kim and apologize for all his wrong doing's in his relationships with them. That struck me as a bit too pat, but hey, when they make a movie about me, I don't want to look like a dick either.

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A year of film! What a year! There was a Batman movie!

January 17, 2009

I think it is a shame to deride 2008 as a bad year for film. I think what everyone really wants to say is that it was a bad year for SERIOUS films. Think about it, all the Oscar bait flicks that came out at the end of the year were pretty far and wide rather average. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Gran Torino at two really good examples of work that has the pedigree behind it without much results. That's a nice way to say neither was any good.

2008 will stand in my head as great year for comedy. Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Pineapple Express, Role Models, these films weren't just funny, they were drop down on your knees with hilarity funny. Not to mention Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Tropic Thunder, which shouldn't have been that good(I'll never forget McConaughey and the TiVo). And superhero movies, holy shitballs. I don't think I need to mention what a year it was for superhero movies. Nothing can touch 2008 when it came to the supes on film. So, if you wanted important films dealing with deep issues, maybe 2008 wasn't your year. But if you want subversive Homo Comedies and Tony Stark being a dick, 2008 was killer.

Cloverfield is a hella entertaining film. Until I die, I will continue to use "hella". Along with being thrilling and exciting, it occured to me the other day that it is essentially every bland drama you have ever seen on television with a monster dropped on top of it. Or better, it's every party(fun or not fun) you have ever been to, with a monster killing everyone who didn't chip in for the keg. Remember every party at Robot House? Cloverfield is a Robot House party but instead of getting a noise violation, Justin gets eaten on the lawn and Ryan films it. Tor is the guy who gets killed on the bridge. Ambyr is Lizzy Caplan and I dunno, Sarah or Stacey is the chick in the tower. Is that everybody? OH shit, Joe. Joe is there. In closing, Cloverfield is like going to a party where everyone dies. It is so awesome.

9)The Fall
The most beautiful film of the year. Tarsem isn't a guy who is huge on story, but nobody can make a better looking flick. It is easy to be cynical about movies, about the circumstances that take place in them, but The Fall doesn't have a cyncial bone in its immaculate body. When a man riddled with arrows is a thing of disturbing beauty, I know that a film has hit on a special note. Tarsem mentioned in a interview that people love his work with water, both of it and under it. Well, it ain't bragging if you can do it.

8)The Wrestler
Back in 1999, I made a short film with the guys for AP English where I openly mocked Mickey Rourke for his failed career and joked at his expense, presenting a scenario where Sean Connery, yes, the star of Entrapment himself, refused to work with him. Come to find out, in '99 this wasn't far from the truth, and with his performance in The Wrestler, my presentation on Flannery O'Connor is now not only worth about a C/C-, but it is also dated. Congrats, Rourke, you did it.

7)Pineapple Express
Right now, the DVD for Pineapple Express is sitting on Rachel's shelf underneath a copy of Mission Impossible 2(M:I 2 if you're in a hurry). This is apt because both are pretty gay films. Also, both are awesome(this is fact, not up for debate). Pineapple Express is Seth Rogan making his version of those great action comedies of the 80's, with ridiculous fights, chases, and the homosexual overtones rocketed right to the forefront. I've heard plenty of complaints, both online and from actual people I know that the third act action sequence is "stupid", "impossible", and most appalling, "not funny". To this I say that if you can't laugh at Seth Rogan flying through the air and saying "You've been served", well, I think you probably should be killed by a DaeWoo. Motherfucker.

6)Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Jason Segel's greatest comedic ability is to cry like a little bitch. He did it to great effect on Undeclared and he does it to perfection in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Everyone kills in this movie. Segel, Bill Hader, Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell, all funny, and let's not forget the greatness of Russell Brand. Sure, he's since proven that in real life he isn't particularly funny, but in FSG he's gold with every word out his mouth. On a more serious note, these characters were more fleshed out and real than in any other Apatow production. Brand's exaggerated persona aside, the relationship between Segel and Bell felt like a real lived in thing, and Segel's use of real life experience probably went a long way toward establishing this tone.

5)Iron Man
This film is really lightning in a bottle. While I'm sure that future sequels will be cool and fun, none will carry the surprise and thrill that Iron Man delivered. Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark is another great cinematic drunk, and with a stripper pole in his jet and loose attitude towards his "secret identity", he's one of the most charming cads ever. Iron Man is a grand example of not listening to studio suits and "the general way things are done". Plenty of scenes present themselves as rote and typical, only to twist on their heads in a smart way that wakes you up and says, "Fuck the rules". Two scenes that stand out are Stark's post escape press conference where he makes the press corp sit on the ground while he eats a sandwich and the great end line where he reveals his identity to the world. Because, really, fuck it, Tony Stark definitely wants everyone to know he's Iron Man. Because so many people are going to want to fuck Iron Man.

4)Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Another guy who makes his own rules, Guillermo del Toro makes whatever he wants, and I've yet to see him phone it in. Besting the original, HB2 is more gorgeous and action packed, with sequences of great imagination and joy. Hellboy jumping from car to car fighting a giant tree creature, heck, I got giddy just typing that. Rachel hated it, but Hellboy dueting with Abe Sapien on "Can't Smile Without You" is the kind of silly abandon I look for in a movie. Ill advised and sure to hated by some, it was one of my favorite moments in any film this year. Not to mention the final battle against the Golden Army, the hidden city, the drunk fight. Y'know, the whole thing. That's what I loved, the whole goddamn thing.

3)The Dark Knight
What can I say that you, your mom and the fat guy online haven't already said? Heath Ledger, great. Christian Bale, also great. Same for Gary Oldman. And Aaron Eckhart. And Chris Nolan's direction. The script. I mean, you saw it, you know what I'm talking about. This is like discussing the importance of air or the fact that Hov has the flow of the century. The Dark Knight is amazing and spectacular, and it has Eric Roberts in it. We shall never see its like again.

I like to imagine the Pixar crew sitting around with things that no one could ever consider cuddly and saying, "Hey, let's make the most adorable tractor robot movie ever." Bugs, monsters, rats, and hey, this summer they're doing a movie about a cranky old guy. I'm sure I'm going to want to give him a big hug too. Wall-E does indeed have the greatest opening 45 minutes of the year, fairly plotless and poetic without dialogue, and also genius.

1)Rachel Getting Married
This is actually one of those heady, Oscar bait movies that I mentioned in the beginning, except this one got it right. After either being miscast or just plain sucking in everything, Anne Hatheway finally nails it here as the rehabbed trainwreck sister to Rachel, who, guess what? is getting married. Jonathan Demme pulls the most natural and real performances out of his actors here, presenting moments both funny and sad that never stray from feeling one hundred percent true and honest. The camera work is also a top example of how to do hand held while not forgetting how to frame a shot and keep it steady. Rosemarie Dewitt as Rachel is just about as perfect as they come here, and that's why she hasn't been getting the notices of so many other actors this awards season. Without being showy, which no one here is, it can be easy to overlook the performance and forget that is just what is, a beautiful, natural performance. I rarely get to see something like it.

Honorable Mentions
Tropic Thunder
Role Models
Funny Games
The Strangers

Punisher War Zone

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire

Worst Shit of the Year
Gran Torino
Diary of the Dead
The Foot Fist Way

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I spent my day on the internet, with music!

January 15, 2009

My afternoon was spent trolling around All Access, reading Idolator, Defamer and Videogum, and listening to a torrent of the Pitchfork Top 100 Songs of 08. I posted on the tumblr about this, but I wanted to add a few details. Pitchfork's list is actually pretty good. While it was always neat to have a favorite of my own pop up on the iPod, it was the new tracks that I'd either overlooked or forgotten that were exciting to hear. At the same time, some of this shit still boggles my mind. Richard Villalobos spends over sixteen minutes on some rudimentary beat with children chant singing over top of it. Explain that one to me, please.

Having inaugurated his first label, the vinyl-only Sei Es Drum, with
selections from his Fabric mix, Ricardo Villalobos chose one hell of a
follow-up. "Enfants" was essentially an extended edit of the
introduction to "Baba Yaga La Sorciere", Chrisitan Vander's 1995
recreation of his group Magma's Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh,
from 1973. But Villalobos' mildly accelerated loop– a chugging piano
line recalling Nina Simone's "Sinnerman" and a children's choir that
sounds like the Langley Schools Project speaking in tongues– somehow
captured the Zeitgeist. Whether heard amidst the throng at DC-10 or
accessed via YouTube while reading interminable blog posts about the
future of dance music, the song's combination of innocence and
melancholy was just the reality check needed. –Philip Sherburne

Reading this, I feel uninformed and stupid. What's the reality check? The fucker is nearly 20 minutes of not good and all you can give me is it's origins and the comfort that whether I'm on a plain or a train or off the coast of main, it's still going to sound like shit.

Tracks from Santogold and Hot Chip make me realize those records shouldn't have been discarded so quickly because there was some good stuff hidden(Hot Chip worked extra hard to hide the good stuff), and I actually didn't mind the No Age songs, which worked better in the context of the list than on a full album. I can't wrap my head around T.I. yet. He just sounds so boring and old. Ghostface and Jay-Z are two artists who the comments on Nah Right and Byron Crawford would easily nail as old guys for being in the game so long and having the gall to be in their late thirties(the aging process, the bastard). But if you listen to the last Jay-Z album or even the last new Ghostface, they still have that fire, they still have the swagger. T.I. is boring and dull in comparision, with tepid beats and silly samples. How did anyone in that Pitchfork office really listen to "Live Your Life" more than once. I know it was a big radio hit, but so was every single off Fergie's record. Sometimes they're insanely highbrow, followed by a lowbrow choice that is just as ill advised.

The M83 selections make me think I should relisten to Saturdays=Youth and the Shearwater song was surprisingly lovely, but like a bad apple the Hold Steady continue to ruin it for everybody. I've complained in the past about the singing, but "Constructive Summer" might stand as the perfect example of everything wrong with this band's songs. Much has been made of the Steady's chops, and that if you took away the singing you'd find the best bar band in the world. But why is the music so arbitrary? "Constructive Summer" is the sound of everyone throwing every sound they can at you, with no thought to a point. Why is there piano at the end? Probably because someone went, "Hey, lets tighten this bad boy off with a little work on the keys." "Summer" might only be about three and a half minutes but it sounds like it will go on forever.

It is easier to slam than praise here on the internet, so I'll do something hard and say that for the most part the Pitchfork list is a pretty fun listen. And there is something wonderfully insane about Portishead's "Machinegun" leading into "American Boys".

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2008, a year of music

January 7, 2009

If a year is ever a bad one for music, you'll know it because my list will be extremely short and I'll be bitching loudly about a lack of stuff to steal off the internet. Looking back at 2008, while we didn't have a groundbreaking year of insta-classics like 2005 and 2006, 2008 still gave me more than a few records that I will still be pulling out in a few years time. Face it, Eagles of Death Metal will outlive us all. 

Below you will find my picks for the 25 best albums of 2008, a few
honorable mentions, and new this year, my favorite 15 songs of the
year. I'll post the new podcast shortly, where Fritz and I go through my list and Fritz applauds and derides it in equal measure.

25)Clipse- Road To Till The Casket Drops
Road To Till The Casket Drops is all assured braggadocio, verbal dexterity and the punch-lines I've come to expect
from this dynamic duo. And the craziest thing is they gave this fire away for free! Hey, I like this more than Hell Hath No Fury. Ka-razy.

24)Bloc Party- Intimacy
Intimacy didn't win Bloc Party any new fans, despite how "awesome" Kele thinks it is. I think it is pretty great as well. "Mercury" is underrated and the softer songs are more defined than the some of the similar but uninspired slogs on the second half of A Weekend In The City. Bloc Party could still use an editor(this album be a bit long), but they're still passionate and decidedly Bloc Party.

23)Crystal Castles- Crystal Castles
Half the time they’re screaming, the other half they’re dropping lovely 8 bit blips that coo and sigh. The loud moments bring all the kids to the yard, but quieter songs like “Air War” and “Good Time” are where I take notice. Craft and nuance go a long way with this guy. Also, Warren Ellis called them “cunts”.

22)Ladyhawke- Ladyhawke
From the first second to the last second, Ladyhawke is all about the 80’s. 80’s synth, 80’s harmonies, 80’s hooks all right here, baby. A pleasure from beginning to end detailing those great touchstones of young love, doomed love, and bitches. You know a couple. The funny thing is that I never would have found this album if I hadn’t been trying to steal an album off the internet by the band Ladyhawk, who aren’t nearly as good as Ladyhawke. The moral? Internet stealing is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. And easy.

21)TV On The Radio- Dear Science
Everybody loves this album! I like it too. Dear Science one ups the bands previous efforts by amplifiying the consistency and the dancing. According to plenty of reputable journals, this is an extremely political album. I’ll take their word for it, because the lyric sheet is too hard to read. Double space, motherfucker.

20)MGMT- Oracular Spectacular
Beyond the life changing singles, this is actually a really good album. People will hate, the sun will rise, but we’ll always have “Electric Feel”. The epitome of hipster rock, I can only hope it isn’t a fluke.

19)The Black Keys- Attack and Release
Mr. Producer Of The Moment Danger Mouse was involved in plenty of dud albums in 2008, but thankfully this isn’t one
of them. DM pulled The Keys out of their basement and into his dusty arms. Aptly named, Attack and Release has more slow songs than usual for The Black Keys but for once you actually will want to listen to them. Nice. The rockers
rock of course because it is still The Black Keys, and there isn’t anything Danger Mouse can do about that.

18)Nine Inch Nails- The Slip
Trent Reznor is free of Interscope tyranny, and decided that as a gift
to all of us, he’d give away this fine, just fine, record. The Slip is Nine Inch Nails as their most raw and alive, and a welcome change after 2007’s overcalculatedYear Zero. NIN with live drums and blistering guitar is how I like it right now.

17)Nada Surf- Lucky
One of Nada Surf’s finest records, an honest and pure album that
demands repeat listens. “Beautiful Beat” is the kind of joyful track
that’s hard to find on most rock records. More than anything, I
appreciated the ability to write about being sad without wallowing in
self pity and ennui.

16)Juliana Hatfield- How To Walk Away
Juliana Hatfield has been doing this for awhile, but before this album all I knew was "Universal Heartbeat" and the cameo on My So Called Life.(I was going to say famous cameo, but people I've mentioned it to had no idea what I was
talking about. It was the Christmas episode, she talked to Angela, that's all I remember.) How To Walk Away is about just that, walking away from sad moments in your life stronger and better. A couple tracks lean darker but "Shining On" is the standout and a monument to overcoming the bad in our lives and coming out better.

15)Phantom Planet- Raise The Dead
Phantom Planet broke up at the end of 2008, going out on top with this
great concept record that actually adheres to its concept by actually
making the concept audible in the recording. Crazy, I know. Raise The Dead
is easily heard as the mad rantings of a crazed cult leader, making for
a stirring, occasionally chilling and especially rocking listen.

14)The Kills- Midnight Boom
Midnight Boom is The Kills best record and don't let anybody
tell you otherwise. Especially those fucks at Stereogum. Production
from Spank Rock genius XXXchange emphasized a more dance oriented sound
and pushed The Kills out of the gray murk and into full color.

13)Sebastien Grainger & The Mountains- Sebastien Grainger & The Mountains
Along with Josh, Greg and Hov, Sebastien is the only other musician
that I don't know but still feel comfortable referring to by his first
name. It might be because he sold me a Death From Above 1979 shirt at
the Lager House in 2005. On his first solo outing, he largely abandons the dance sounds of "When You Go Out" and heavy rocking of his
former band for a more straight ahead Singer/Songwriter with a full
band sound. It still traffics in the passion I love from SG, and if
he's singing something, I'm there. "American Names" is the standout,
but don't discount "Renegade Silence", the dancefloor jam.

12)Sloan- Parallel Play
Perhaps a little less hooky and ambitious than Never Hear The End Of It, Parallel Play stands strong with great contributions from the usual likes of Jay and Chris. "All I Am IS All
You're Not" is a classic Sloan shout along and further proof that Sloan
haven't run out of great songs by a long shot. And hey, one of the
Andrew songs is pretty good too.

11)Local H- 12 Angry Months
In the lead up to 12 Angry Months, Local H lead man Scott Lucas said that the record would be his most personal, to
the point that some of the lyrics were things he was a little embarrassed to say in public. A little too honest, he said. 12 Angry Months could be accurately summarized as transcriptions of a couple breaking up, with specific demands for returned property(Interpol and Libertines albums you didn't
listen to before we met) and angry comebacks regretted as soon as
they're uttered("I can't believe I fucked you" ends one particularly
vicious track). In less capable hands, this kind of material would overwhelm and depress, but each track swells with both emotion(obviously) as well as great musical ideas. They might be a two piece, but Local H can blow just about any band off the stage. The fury of "24 Hour Break-Up Session" isn't the kind of thing anybody can fake.

10)Alphabeat- This Is Alphabeat
This is the happiest album of the year. Even when the songs are about sad things like wayward boyfriends or rocky
relationships, the chorus and melodies and hell, everything comes together and creates pure pop bliss. "What Is
Happening" is most fun song about an argument I've ever heard in my life. And the pleasures of "Fascination" are known far and wide, but I'll say it again, "Fascination" is the best thing ever.

9)We Are Scientists- Brain Thrust Mastery
This is a mistake that works. I don't agree with all of the production
decisions on this album, and some of the arrangements still bewilder
me. But, I couldn't stop listening to Brain Thrust Mastery. I think it was when I realized that I wasn't going to get With Love And Squalor part deux that I came around and embraced the sweetness of "After Hours" and the 80's overkill of "Lethal Enforcer". BTM
also holds the crown for best last track of the year with "That's What
Counts", which knows just how to utilize that dangerous saxophone.
Don't think the sax is dangerous? Go listen and cringe at the new
Killers album.

8)Coldplay- Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends
I've always liked Coldplay and I've never felt wrong in liking them, even through the X&Y era("Fix You" is awesome. Deal with it.) Viva La Vida corrects many of Coldplay's faults by being concise and overjoyed. For an album about death, it embraces the time we still have and relishes in all of its ups and downs.

7)Fall Out Boy- Folie à Deux
Just getting better and better with every record, Fall Out Boy fully
shrug off their pop/punk label and move closer to becoming that great
pop/rock band I know they want to be. Patrick Stump is a great
songwriter, end of discussion. His way of making pop joy on track after
track is something to applauded throughout the land. And Pete Wentz can
writing his ridiculous lyrics as long as he keeps having Stump sing

6)Q-Tip- The Renaissance
I spent much of this year becoming acquianted with A Tribe Called Quest, and The Renaissance
fits right in with that discography, a smooth and perfect rap record
that emcompasses all that I demand from a rap record: Great beats and great rhymes. Oh, and charisma. The Renaissance delivers all this with stellar production from Q-Tip and on "Move", the late great J-Dilla.

5)Eagles Of Death Metal- Heart On
Josh Homme has one of the best track records in rock. His work with
Queens of the Stone Age, Desert Sessions and Eagles of Death Metal is
some the best rock and roll you're bound to find anywhere, and Heart On
is a sort of personal best. While this is easily the best EODM album,
I'm confident that we're going to be saying that about the next one too. And the one after that and so on into infinity.

4)Cut Copy- In Ghost Colours
The dance album of the year. If you aren't careful, it'll consume your
life. I'll end up giving you a call after not hearing from you for a
couple of weeks and all I'll be able to understand over the music
playing in the background is "Cut Copy! Oh god! 'Hearts on Fire', ahh!
The whole album kills-" click.

3)The Teenagers- Reality Check
Aptly named, The Teenagers are three scrappy hipster Frenchmen who craft synthy and processed guitar tracks about
girls they date but don't love and drunken hookups with girls who steal
your shit when they leave in the morning. It doesn't really have any
redeeming value, but its addictive and funny. It is as endlessly
superficial as anything a real teenager would say or do, which explains
"Fuck Nicole".

2)Does It Offend You, Yeah?- You Have No Idea What You're Getting Yourself Into
Someone, don't ask me who, once refered to DIOYY? as the Limp Bizkit of
Dance Rock. Well, I liked Limp Bizkit and I like Does It Offend You,
Yeah? even more. As hopelessly juvenile as their name would suggest, You Have No Idea What You're Getting Yourself Into
jumps from idea to pilfered idea, sounding like a different band from
track to track, with instrumentals, voice box vocals, normal vocals,
and hey, a guest appearance by Sebastien Grainger. It rocks from
beginning to end and yes, I love the fart noises in "Weird Science".

1)Friendly Fires- Friendly Fires
No album this year was as unflaggingly awesome as Friendly Fires amazing debut. Pitchfork actually said that this record had too much energy, which is like saying "This chicken tastes a little heavy on the chicken." Friendly Fires are destined for great things, with an energy and style owing to numerous dance rock forefathers like The Rapture and Gang of Four. They beat The Rapture by having made an album that's all killer no filler, now they just have to beat Gang of Four by having more than one good album.(burn)

Honorable mentions
Wale- The Mixtape About Nothing
Wolf Parade- At Mount Zoomer
The Music- Strength In Numbers
Neon Neon- Stainless Style
The B-52's- Funplex
Be Your Own Pet- Get Awkward
Filter- Anthems for the Damned
Wiley- See Clear Now
Slipknot- All Hope Is Gone
Van She- V
Spinnerette- Valium Knights EP

1)Beyonce- "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)"
2)Alphabeat – "Fascination"
3)MGMT – "Time to Pretend"
4)Paramore- "That's What You Get"
5)Dizzee Rascal ft. Calvin Harris and Chrome- "Dance Wiv Me"
6)Kelly Rowland – "Work (Freemasons Radio Edit)"
7)Janet Jackson – "Rock With U"
8)Estelle- "Pretty Please (Love Me)"
9)Juliana Hatfield – "Shining On"
10)Kanye West- "Love Lockdown"
11)Neon Neon- "Trick For Treat"
12)Nine Inch Nails – "1,000,000"
13)Frankmusik- "Your Face"
14)Pitbull ft. Lil Jon- "Krazy"
15)The Count and Sinden ft. Kid Sister- "Beeper"

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