Archive for September 2012
This year the New York Film Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary. The NYFF50 launches tonight with the world premiere of Ang Lee’s fantasy Life of Pi and closes on Sunday, October 14th with the world premiere of Robert Zemeckis‘ drama Flight. As always, the annual autumn event at Lincoln Center offers the serious-minded film-goer an opportunity to view a wide-ranging lineup of the best in international, independent, and, sometimes, Hollywood cinema.
Last weekend, the newly relaunched Music Midtown festival brought a host of national acts to Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. The headliners were the Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam–and other acts included Florence and the Machine, Van Hunt, and 80’s revivals Adam Ant and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts–but I had gone to see The Avett Brothers. I wasn’t the only one. During T.I.’s set on the main stage, a formidable crowd swarmed the second stage to wait for the Avetts. When the band came on, the fans exploded in a frenzy of dancing, singing, and shouting that continued throughout the set, which drew from the band’s seven studio records, with a heavy emphasis on songs from their new album The Carpenter, released on Sept. 11. Clearly, the Avett Brothers are not a band that became successful overnight; they have slowly grown their dedicated fanbase over the course of a decade. At Friday’s show Seth Avett said that they’ve been playing in Atlanta for so long that it feels like a hometown show. (The band is actually from North Carolina).
It turns out that there is such a thing as a comfortable music festival experience. After an exhausting, disorienting and soaked (but successful) festival season, last weekend’s Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusement at Chicago’s temporary Riverfront Theater proved that a music fest can be as rocking as it is sanitary. All it takes are some pop legends, a few $7 PBR tallboys and a circus tent.
The second year of the showcase festival received minimal buzz, which is surprising for an event that went the extra mile to bring surprising and timeless performers. Anchoring each night of the weekend respectively were John Cale, Conor Oberst and Bobby Womack, three recognized monsters of their genres and generations. Add behind-the-scenes composing genius Van Dyke Parks and rising progressive artists Zola Jesus and Helado Negro, and you have a stellar, if short, weekend lineup.
I literally fell asleep the first time I heard the new album by The xx. If this English pop trio were a meal, they would be turkey. If they were a kind of tea, they would be Chamomile. If they were a prescription drug they would be Ambien. And so on. But beyond its soporific powers, their sophomore album might also work as the soundtrack to a low-key boutique or a café filled with “writers” on their laptops, or even as hold music while you wait for the next available customer service representative to assist you in the order that your call was received. But at the end of the day, Coexist seems like music made for the end of the night. It’s less a collection of distinct songs than a minimalist DJ set played when everyone in the club or lounge or house party is sprawled on couches, nursing one last drink before dawn.
David Byrne’s new manifesto slash memoir, How Music Works, has been written many times before. Ethnomusicologists and philosophers, from Theodor Adorno to Walter Benjamin to David Suisman, have chronicled the historical shift from classical to popular music, lamenting it, praising it, and/or evaluating the societal changes brought about by it and its corresponding technology. Byrne’s book, which illustrates the history of analog and digital recording, narrates the advent of the music industry, and claims to describe how to create a music scene or subculture offers almost nothing new. One could learn a similar amount about modern musical historical shifts through a single listen of LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge.” So what gives David Byrne the right to write?
To My Ex-Best Friend:
Thank you for the invitation to your Baby Barbecue. The invite (not to mention the title) surprised me. Never would I have expected to be included. But there, tacked on to the lengthy recipient list’s tail end, was my old email address, one I stopped using three years ago, one you in fact suggested that I retire because suzyQT, a remnant of my college days, screamed immature. How fortunate that I met you so soon after I moved to New York. You hoovered out of me almost all my sloppy traits, leaving an empty shell to fill with trimly tailored attitude. But I reserved one part, high up and out of reach, and kept it alive without knowing what it was. That bit would come in handy years later when I finally recognized it: my own damn self.
Zadie Smith’s writing has certainly changed in the 12 years since her debut novel White Teeth. She takes more risks and has become more obscure, placing more weight on the shoulders of the reader to interpret her meaning. While her style may be off-putting to some, it does allow her to creatively describe, say, the placement of teeth and fillings in one character’s mouth with a literary graphic.
In her new novel NW, Smith explores the London neighborhood through the eyes of best friends Leah and Keisha over the course of 35 years. Despite how much her neighborhood has fallen on hard times, Leah still feels sympathetic to those that dwell there, and relates to them as well. They are of the generation that grew up without global-minimizing connective technology, but eventually grew into it. Their first memories are of a limited location: Northwest London and the subtle differences between the people, streets, and homes that exist therein. They knew where their friends were without Twitter and how to get somewhere without Google Maps. Which is not to say they don’t embrace social media when they grow up. Who knew ChatRoulette could be referenced in literature?). So how does one stay grounded in the physical realm while steadily adapting to an abstract one?