Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 Countdown Finish ... and the Top 5 Songs Are

5. Vampire Weekend - Diane Young

     This became a song people either loved or hated. I fell on the love side; it was like Elvis on steroids.


4. Macklemore & Lewis - Thrift Shop

    Backlash over this song, but particularly the video, developed over the song's send-up of commercial hip-hop culture. More on that further down the list but the important ingredient here is thrift shopping has long been the province of young, creative people in low-paying jobs. And $50 t-shirts deserve all the ridicule they garner.

3. Disclosure - When a Fire Starts to Burn
      UK brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence have been called 2013's stealth success. They were still living in their parents' home and taking festivals by storm last summer and hypnotizing people with the likes of ...


2. Lorde - Royals

     So ... about that backlash over criticism of hip-hop culture. Between "Thrift Shop," Lily Allen's "Hard Out Here," and "Royals," hubcaps and gold overlays took a minor stabbing. Are the complaints valid? I don't know. Perhaps. If so, they are no more (or less) valid than womens' complaints about 25 years of bitch/ho.

1. Kanye West - Black Skinhead

      And then there was this. Did someone say "bitch"? Why yes, actually.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Quick Take on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

       I saw the flick this afternoon. If you're a JRR Tolkien purist, you probably won't care for it — unless you're also a huge action fan and maybe a whitewater enthusiast. Peter Jackson has um ... Jacksonized the flick and turned it into a Lord of the Rings prequel that threatens the suspension of disbelief for the latter.  As a result, some of the best things about Hobbit 2 are also the things that also make it kind of dodgy.


     Visually it's a 3D-elight, if you decide to view it in that media. The movie opens with a dark orc chase that quickly gives way to a sun-filled, airy meadow, with bumblebees flittering around the screen.

      The Mirkwood elves' hangout. Of the three elf kingdoms, Mirkwood Hall is a little more decadent than Rivendell or Lothlorian. But it's also more tree-ier and looks more like a place you'd expect to see elves. (Did I really just type that?)

      Bilbo above the treetops. It's funny how such a simple scene was such a memorable passage, in the book.

      Bilbo and Smaug and Holmes & Watson. As UK tv's current Sherlock Holmes (and the most stylish man in the universe, since Bowie) Benedict Cumberbatch is making a lot of people his bitch these days. As Smaug, he gets outwitted by his Watson, Martin Freeman as Bilbo. Cute, huh?

    Gandalf gets attacked by formless, black smoke Sauron, who turns into Burning Slit Sauron as a result of Gandalf's defense spells (I think). 

    River Barrel Chase. As a kayaker, this may be the result of some bias on my part, but that looks like one badass run.



Not so much

    Legolas! I know, right? Orlando Bloom is always a welcome sight, but there's something that's just wrong about a scene with a Legolas that looks 10 years older than he was in the LotR movies, meeting Gloin, father of Gimli, several decades before LotR takes place.

    Mirkwood Spiders. That whole business was kind of a let down, compared to the book.

    The Sauron reveal is another instance where you wanna go, 'hey gee, cool,' before you wonder, if they knew this cat was out of the bag this early in the story, why didn't they start coming up with a Destroy Sauron plan much earlier?

   No emotional connection to the story. Or very little of it, anyway. There's an elf/dwarf (Legolas, Kili, and the newly introduced Tauriel) love triangle that got added into the mix, but even that doesn't seem to hold up as any kind of sweepstakes. Considering what we know of LotR, it's a safe bet Legolas is going to wind up single, anyway.

    Overall: It's a good popcorn movie; the craft that went into it was superb. On the down side, its soul is missing. You don't get the feeling the movie makers love these characters the way they did in Jackson's other Tolkien trilogy. When you consider that was a much shorter book, and it's getting three installments, you'd think someone would have taken a little more time for that.

Monday, December 16, 2013

2013 Countdown Continued (15 Songs)

At this point it starts getting hard, with self-second-guessing as the new hobby. At this point, almost any of the next ten songs could get my vote for #1, depending on what day it is and what I'm doing.

But ...

10. James Blake - Retrograde

            White soul doesn't get much whiter or much more soulful than this. Blake evoked early '80s UK acts, but traded out the fromage for some knob fiddling, taking home the Mercury Prize as a reward. 

9. Volcano Choir - Byegone

     Justin Vernon's other band, or one of them, has been kicking around since 2005. This summer saw their second release, Repave.  If the Bon Iver chorals put you off, you can relax. The guitar does the soaring on this one.

8. NONONO - Pumpin Blood

          What is it with the Swedes? They were all over the place this year, in pop, rock, and post-rock all.  In NONONO's case, it's pop of the infectious kind.


7. Valerie June - Twined and Twisted

          There are an unlimited number of gorgeous songs on the debut of Brooklyn-via-West Tennessee's Valerie June. Though initial hype focused on June's collaboration with Dan Auerbach, the ageless, deep-South, soulful country songs are the ones that leave an imprint long after the player has moved onto the next song in the shuffle.

6. Phosphorescent - Song for Zula

      And another from a deep South native, gone to NYC. Alabaman Matt Houck  made the album of his life, in the aftermath of that life falling apart. "Song For Zula" not only stood "Ring of Fire" on its head, it also became an anthem for anyone with a tired-of-love gripe to whine about.


My Top Songs of 2013 Countdown

 I'll be doing this over the course of the next few days, 5 tunes per day.

 15. Daft Punk - Get Lucky

            2013 was the year dance music got its due. Funny thing, just as EDM was officially recognized as a force to be reckoned with, Daft Punk reunited and gave us the old school with Nile Rogers, himself, contributing.

14. Atoms for Peace - Ingenue

            Speaking of dancey things, Thom Yorke's little side project became a full-fledged entity, complete with tour that even stopped in Nashville.

13. Franz Ferdinand - Goodbye Lovers & Friends

     Four years after Tonight: Franz Ferdinand pissed off the indie boys club, they came back with the slightly better-received Right Words, Right Thoughts, Right Action.  Though there were plenty of pop-ready tunes on the album and two or three radio-ready singles, the lyrics on "Goodbye Lovers and Friends" show a protagonist self-directing their future funeral, in all of Alex Kapranos' biting glory.

Don’t wear bright colours
You know I hate bright colours
I never liked you for the way you dressed

The groove is the icing.

12. The National - Demons

     2013 was also the year The National earned the respect to transcend their indie-darling status and start making the jump to bonafide pop culture.

11. Deerhunter - Dream Captain

        Indie rock was all over the place this year. This track stood out for me for the sheer power-pop noisiness, that didn't get old within the space of three weeks.  Big ear worm.