Archive for September 2011
As has been mentioned previously, even culture takes a vacation in summer. For most of you, this is not a big deal: you happily clear your minds of entertainment detritus while enjoying a nice bike ride or a dip in the lake. But, for the list-maker, the media slow-down is kryptonite; how to make a decent top 5 when only 4 things of value were released?
Luckily, the covers market never slows down. With 87% of the world’s bands actively touring and rehearsing, odd and surprising covers are certain to emerge. This month features re-imaginings of radio favorites, memories excavated from childhood, and another entry in Ryan Adams’ ongoing project to cover every song ever written.
5. Robyn – “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” (Coldplay Cover) Read the rest of this entry »
Sometimes I think I already am a Jewish grandmother. Let’s look at the facts: I love knitting, I think soup can cure anything, and I seamlessly insert Yiddish words into my sentences. What do you think, bubbelah? Do I pass the test?
Regardless of whether or not you have/are a Jewish grandma, I wanted to take a moment in honor of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, to highlight two of my favorite holiday recipes. These are, of course, no less delicious if you aren’t celebrating. So get in the kitchen, you little mensch, and start schvitzing over the stove.
I was a vegetarian for 6 years during high school and college. I embraced tofu and ground “beef” alike, learned to cook lentils, and relied on hummus like nobody’s business. Yet, try as I might, nothing could fill the void left by mother’s brisket. Eventually this, and this alone, brought me back over to the dark side. I simply couldn’t imagine another brisket-less holiday.
Ray Lamontagne has three kinds of songs: sad songs, really sad songs, and excruciatingly sad songs. A few hours after his wrenching performance at the Central Park Summerstage last night, I flipped on the season premiere of The Office to see a pregnant Pam sobbing as she listens to “Trouble,” the title track from his 2004 debut. (His songs have also appeared in the tearjerkers Rescue Me and Grey’s Anatomy.)
Lamontagne is an old-fashioned singer songwriter, the kind of acoustic strummer you find in your local coffeehouse and on the satellite radio station The Coffee House.) His music is a blend of country and folk—last night he covered Merle Haggard and The Byrds. But his raspy tenor voice sounds more like old school R&B. Close your eyes and you could mistake this bearded white boy for Sam Cooke or Otis Redding.
In many ways, Lamontagne is similar to Ryan Adams, whose 13th album Ashes and Fire, aired Sunday on NPR’s First Listen and will be reviewed here shortly. Both are 30-something guys who revive classic country sounds and like to wail about sorrow. Both enlisted Ethan Johns to produce their angsty debut records, Trouble and Heartbreaker. While Lamontage may be a less imaginative songwriter than Adams and is far less prolific, his voice has way more soul.
The trailer for the new film Drive promises heavy action, car chases, and a hot romance with a heroic Ryan Gosling. Both the film and its soundtrack, however, are more quietly subversive than its marketing suggests. The film’s Danish director, Nicolas Winding Refn, has created a moody neo noir that defies audience’s expectations. Recalling the dark disco sound of Giorgio Moroder scores of the 1970s and 1980s (Cat People, Midnight Express), the songs and score by former Red Hot Chili Pepper Cliff Martinez are winningly retro, slick, and eerily effective.
Without going cheekily retro or too obvious, the score provides an effective companion to the movie and its songs. With pulsating percussion, keyboards and dissonant strings, Martinez has a flair for creating an understated sonic background that’s never intrusive. The creepiest tracks of the film’s most violent moments, aptly named “Kick Your Teeth” and “Skull Crushing,” are subversively minimal—which makes these scenes in the movie all the more shocking and raw. He also composes some layered, hypnotic music for Gosling and Mulligan’s moments of yearning. Like John Carpenter’s throbbing, electronic soundtracks for Halloween and Escape from New York, the score provides a dark, seductive atmosphere.
As some of you know, I recently moved to Chicago from Washington, D.C. On a daily basis, I am shocked at the size of Chi-town, be it in number of residents or just the distance between two points. I moved to Ukranian Village, just off Wicker Park, aka Chicago’s Williamsburg. One of the benefits that comes with living in such a large metropolis is the excellent concert selection. This autumn delivers a hell of a line-up.
Below, see my picks for shows in the next two and a half months. Did I miss anything?
9/22 – Okkervil River – The Vic
9/22 – Laura Marling – Lincoln Hall
9/23 – They Might Be Giants – The Vic
9/23 – Beardyman – Double Door
9/23 – Liam Finn – Lincoln Hall
9/24 – Marnie Stern – Subterranean
9/24 – Block Party: Andrew Bird, Mavis Staples, Booker T. Jones, Dosh and more – The Hideout
9/25 – Big D and The Kids Table – Beat Kitchen
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Post-modernism was slow to come to rock music. Indeed, it wasn’t until the late 80s-early 90s that rock finally became comfortable mixing the high and the low, finally allowed itself to become humorous and self-deprecating. Hip-hop, by contrast, is fundamentally post-modern. Cutting up old songs to construct new songs, using the record itself as an instrument: these methods are emblematic of the post-modern project. All of which is a very pretentious way of saying that hip-hop is by nature fascinating, thought-provoking, and fun. Early records like Paul’s Boutique and 3 Feet High and Rising are full of the kind of hyper-referential, base-to-brilliant language endemic in “post-modern works.” These records took themselves seriously as art without taking themselves seriously. Of course, about 10 years ago hip-hop began to take itself very seriously (for better and for worse), but in the last few years, winking irony has found its way back into the music through the likes of MF Doom, Odd Future, and, perhaps more than anyone, Das Racist. Read the rest of this entry »