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Monthly Archives: March 2009

From the raped-of-its-humor-and-insight-by-the-Gawker-drones New Defamer:

Two New Seasons of Friday Night Lights Just Begging to Be Ignored Completely

Funny how this person thinks FNL is “laboriously-praised” (as opposed to, say Mad Men and Battlestar Galactica) while deeming it necessary to have recaps of Gossip Girl and The Real World.

In other Real World/Gays I Can’t Stand news, MTV is rolling out its Dustin Lance Black-penned Pedro movie (because a, uh, whole documentary series wasn’t enough?) tomorrow, on April Fool’s Day, because this the fooliest thing in the world and DL Black is a terrible writer as undeserving of his Oscar as Diablo Cody was. DL Black is this year’s Diablo Cody, except at least her TV thing stars Toni Collette, GEEZ. You lose, DL Black.

By now we’ve all seen Spike Jonze’s trailer for Where The Wild Things Are, which for its duration turned me into exactly the post-grad corny indie fuck I have worked so hard to grow out of being. Also it’s the best argument for the Arcade Fire that will ever exist. I think it is clearly the time for a new genre of filmmaking to emerge, one that mixes auteur theory with hipster music and childhood nostalgia. Here are some FREE suggestions. You’re welcome, America.

  • Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. directed by Todd Haynes. trailer music: Sleater-Kinney’s “Call The Doctor”
  • Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. directed by Michel Gondry. trailer music: Belle and Sebastian’s “I Could Be Dreaming”
  • Le Petit Prince. directed by Gus Van Sant. trailer music: anything by Steve Reich
  • The Giver. directed by Alfonso Cuaron. trailer music: Scott Walker’s “Cossacks Are”
  • The Giving Tree. directed by Kelly Reichardt. trailer music: Neko Case’s “Timber” which then segues to “Look For Me (I’ll Be Around)”
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins. directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. trailer music: Slint’s “Good Morning, Captain”

DO IT.

If you want to see the fattest I have ever looked in my life (thanks to five hours of eating and drinking), you should check out my friend Brian’s food blog. Last Sunday’s El Salvadorean adventure was one of the most fun days I’ve had in a really long time, including that kind of really most perfect drunkness: the “late afternoon full of food ridiculous laughter at anything as the sun is about to set” drunk, where you’re satiated and at the height of decadence.

But yeah, fattest I’ve ever looked. HELLO, STOMACH.

This poor kid. All he ever did was have sex with his girlfriend just like 99% of all American teenage boys except it just HAD TO BE the daughter of the dumb moose broad thrust upon us by John McCain so he had to get trotted out onstage at the RNC with a nice haircut after being felt up by that old dude and then was ambushed by the AP in his driveway and now, NOW, post-Bristol break-up, gets accosted while in his FUCKING TRUCK by the fine upstanding journalists of Good Morning America.

Last week, after news of their break-up, I was commenting to some friends that I feel bad for Levi and Bristol when someone said, “Well, do you feel bad for all the other teenagers who get knocked up?” Yes, I do! Don’t you? The only difference is that this whole terrible private ordeal was shoved into our face by McCain and the Palins and the Republicans going “Boy howdy ain’t it grand this teenager is pregnant and keeping the baby!” and the media concocting a sideshow out of something as complicatedly personal as accidental pregnancy. There was no need for politics at this point, and yet because of who these two kids were they were thrust into the spotlight and were made to become some sort of paragons of conservative virtue (what?!) because they were keeping the baby (Jamie-Lynn Spears was just a slut though).

So I do feel bad. I feel bad that these kids had to have their own private drama, in media res all the way to its seeming finish, played out in front us, what with our horrifying bloodthirsty culture of celebrity. They never asked for any of it. So yes. I’m sad about it. It’s a sad situation that just about anyone else could be in, provided that you are both teenagers with impeccable skin at the height of your sexy powers.

Actually, you know? Fuck Bristol; she couldn’t wait to whore herself out to Greta von Susteren. So she is asking for every little bit that comes her way. Levi on the other hand has never seemed like a famewhore (I guess it’s only in the Palin genes). Staniel and I were having a conversation last week where he asked, “Levi will probably right a tell-all, right? That’s the next move?” I highly doubt it, considering these douchehole journalists keep trekking all the way to Alaska to bombard him with questions when he’s standing in his driveway or just trying to go to the gym for Chrissake.

Although Levi, really, you could just, I dunno, not talk to them, honestly.

I’ve been trying to work through my Levi Johnston issues you guys I know sorry, and other than Louche Doucheness (though I contend he seems like a nice enough boy, just watch how sad he is IN HIS TRUCK), I never really understood my weird affection until I noticed the following comment on this post:

this is a real life tim riggins.

Thus explains the appeal.

So here starts my petition for Levi Johnston to star in the next season of Friday Night Lights. Or in a gay porn. Or even better! For a life away from the spotlight as he learns how to be a father and hopefully gets to grow up.

In this week’s issue of The New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones profiles Neko Case in concert with the release of Case’s new album Middle Cyclone. In the article, Frere-Jones makes some stunning remarks–not least of which is “Neko Case is the horn section,” one of the best descriptions of a singer that I’ve ever read. I do agree that Middle Cyclone is Case’s best record; she seems to get exponentially more mature as a songwriter, most notable in the lyrics which have quickly caught up to the quality of her voice. Every record is better than the last, and each one capitalizes on Case’s strengths as a singer and songwriter while minimizing any previous misstep. But I’d have to contend with this point, even if I agree with it on a certain level:

At first, Case’s take on country was engaging, mostly because of her voice…Without Case’s voice, the Boyfriends records would have been fairly unremarkable country-rock albums.

By the Boyfriends records, Frere-Jones means The Virginian and Furnace Room Lullaby, albums she released before singularly owning 2003’s Blacklisted. I don’t really know that this criticism works for Furnace Room Lullaby, which keeps the production that Case calls “some sort of Owen Bradley magic” of The Virginian while branching into the moodier content and sonics that inform Blacklisted (the title track, after all, concerns the narrator cremating her lover).

Part of what makes Frere-Jones’s comment stick out to me is that it is in line with what I had thought of The Virginian–Case’s debut and her least ‘accomplished’ record–when I first heard it, dismissing it as lacking any of the qualities that made Case a unique artist. A few years removed and a healthy dose of Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline and Wanda Jackson has made me respect the charms, however slight they may be, of The Virginian–a modest iteration of the classic Nashville sound that manages to sound aged in moonshine while still full of modernity’s swagger.

And oh yeah, there are tunes.

Not to denigrate Case’s songwriting, but she no longer writes “songs” in the classic verse-chorus-verse tradition. And that’s fine; it works for her to create the prose found in Fox Confessor Brings The Flood (“Star Witness” being her greatest example) as well as the singularly poetic lines she has crafted with increasing frequency since Blacklisted (perhaps my favorite from Middle Cyclone: the title track’s “I lie across the path waiting just for a chance to be a spiderweb trapped in your lashes”). And what makes the songs work is the strength of Case’s writing coupled with the immense power of her voice. In fact, to turn Frere-Jones’s critique on its head, I feel as if Middle Cyclone would seem like your standard unremarkable indie-folk record without Case’s voice (plus, again, her lyrical talent). Imagine also if bearded white boys sang this; the amount of acclaim would be deafening (see: those indie-folk white boy beard records that came out last year which I don’t remember).

In fact, Case’s voice dials waaaaay back on Middle Cyclone than it previously has. It is, actually, much less of a horn section than normal. This disparity has been spotlit in the past three or so weeks as I’ve revisited Case’s catalog, most judiciously listening to the two I’ve heard least: the live record The Tigers Have Spoken as well as The Virginian. It’s not a coincidence that both are consisted of roughly half-originals and half-covers each. What is great about Tigers is how remarkably fun the whole thing sounds; it’s good to hear Case (armed with secret weapon The Sadies) take songs by the Shangri-Las and Loretta Lynn and the Nervous Eaters and make them her own. Case has an almost unparalleled ability to improve upon originals for the simple fact of her voice and her enthusiasm.

She does this tremendously on The Virginian, where it is almost impossible to tell which songs are originals and which ones are covers, except for maybe the betrayal by a slightly off-key lyrical flourish (like including the word “rhetoric” in a chorus, which OUCH). “Timber” takes a simple metaphor and makes it sound as big as the song’s fallen tree; her duet with Carl Newman on “Bowling Green” must have inspired their work in the New Pornographers; “Karoline” is a rip-snortin’ performance worthy of prime Wanda Jackson. These songs are as honky-tonk and grimy as Neko Case will ever be, I fear–it is great to hear this much propulsion and energy coming out of her and her band. But she can also do justice to the heartbreak she’ll explore later in much more poetic terms, while keeping them grounded in the simplicity of “Lonely Old Lies” and “Thanks A Lot.” This latter performance is not as distant or slightly ironic as when Ernest Tubbs, God bless ‘im, sang it, but I’ll take Case’s furious longing when she wails “I’ve got a broken heart, that’s all I got.”

This is the power of Case as a singer; she takes over, and she doesn’t let go. Middle Cyclone is clearly her best record by a longshot, and it benefits from her vocal restraint (making her powerful intonations that much more impressive) while expanding her content in impressive lyrical setpieces and song structures. It is almost impossible to break this record up into songs; they feel like a full, cohesive, linked whole. One song plays and you think it is the best song on the record, until you get to the next one, until you get to “I’m An Animal,” which from then on is the single best run of songs in Case’s recorded career. With this record, Case has vaulted even further into the upper echelon of musical artists of this generation.

But damn, I’m gonna miss the horn section that existed on The Virginian and The Tigers Have Spoken.

Hey, you know what’s fun?! Esquire‘s list of the 75 albums that every man should own. If by fun you mean shooting yourself in the face with semen. Which clearly, I do. Let us learn what it’s like to be a man from Esquire.

The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
Brit pop’s platonic ideal.
Because when I think of manliness, I think of the British.

Lust for Life, Iggy Pop
In 1977 Iggy ran off to West Berlin with David Bowie to record an album so juiced with spleen that even cruise-line commercials can’t make it sound safe.
Because to be a man is to experience sodomy at least once.

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Pavement
Makes you shout and rant and cry and it surprises you and challenges you and angers you and brings you to your knees. Then it makes you hit play again.
Because there is no greater and more truthful document of the emotional struggles of American men than a glib singer jabbering nonsense about cutting your hair and beefing with grunge.

The Headphone Masterpiece, Cody Chessnut
Thirty-six R&B songs recorded on a four-track at home. Makes you wish the lo-fi approach wasn’t almost exclusively embraced by sad white kids.
Because affirmative action is a good thing! I swear! I voted for Barack Obama!

MTV Unplugged in New York, Nirvana
It’s the last time a huge band recorded a surprising album.
Because it’s important to be sad.

Woke on a Whaleheart, Bill Callahan
Because we’re all just like a bee that “tries to find purchase in a turning spoke from Memphis to Potomac never giving up hope.”
Because…I’m sorry, I can’t even figure out why this is necessary.

The Velvet Underground & Nico, Velvet Underground
Makes you think that a woman’s voice could do any rock band good. Lou Reed’s heroin-addled musical lifeblood, for so long dependent on grit and experimentation, is chastened and made beautiful.
Oh really? This is the first lady you have included in your list, guys.

Workin’ Together, Ike & Tina Turner
Because they never did anything nice… and easy. They only did it nice… and rough.
Oh look the second lady, who was beat a lot.

The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, Explosions in the Sky
Words sometimes mess things up, fumbling, mumbling, and sometimes we need to be reminded what four super-earnest guys can do with some guitars and drums when they really care about what they leave behind. Chuck Klosterman once wrote that listening to Explosions in the Sky could make hanging drywall seem transcendental, and he was right. Make this record your soaring soundtrack to just about anything you might do – driving through snowy fields, playing with your kids after dinner, putting ink into the copy machine – and you’ll feel capable of achieving something powerful and beautiful at the same time.
Did you really need to write all that? Just say Friday Night Lights, the end.

Exile in Guyville, Liz Phair
Liz Phair can make you feel ashamed to be a man. And to want to make it up to her.
Because it’s okay to listen to girls talk sometimes, only if you want to bone her. (This is the third and final album on the list featuring a lead female singer, FYI).

Songs in the Key of Life, Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder can make magic in minutes, but this complex double album took him two years to produce. Gritty, funky, and lush.
Because I like soul music, really! So long as it sounds polite and polished even though I will call it “gritty” and “funky.”

Grace, Jeff Buckley
Hallelujah.
Because I am TORTURED, won’t you SAAAAAVVVE ME??!??!! Zach Braff.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like my dick grew an inch.

Let’s make fun of America’s Unhappiest Cities, based on broad stereotype:

1. Portland, Oregon
Reasons to be unhappy: it’s too wet to wear birkenstocks; all the men look like Colin Meloy or Ben Gibbard (redundant)

2. St. Louis, Missouri
Reasons to be unhappy: could only afford one-half of the McDonald’s arch, which is the only thing anybody knows about St. Louis

3. New Orleans, Louisiana
Reasons to be unhappy: well, erm, uh…

4. Detroit, Michigan
Reasons to be unhappy: no one can afford to buy a car anymore; Motown was FIFTY years ago

5. Cleveland, Ohio
Reasons to be unhappy: Drew Carey

6. Jacksonville, Florida
Reasons to be unhappy: Florida

7. Las Vegas, Nevada
Reasons to be unhappy: neon; no one has money to gamble; casinos based on better cities remind Las Vegas that it sucks

8. Nashville/Davidson, Tennessee
Reasons to be unhappy: modern country music is fucking bullshit, you assholes

9. Cincinnati, Ohio
Reasons to be unhappy: doesn’t even have a Drew Carey; people actually have to go to Kentucky to get there

10. Atlanta, Georgia
Reasons to be unhappy: shitty sports teams; Jonathan Krohn

11. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Reasons to be unhappy: IT IS SO FUCKING COLD YOU GUYS

12. Sacramento, California
Reasons to be unhappy: let’s say California’s major cities are the Jacksons; Sacramento is clearly Rebbie

13. Kansas City, Missouri
Reasons to be unhappy: not even named after the state they’re in; the Royals

14. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Reasons to be unhappy: internalized homophobia

15. Memphis, Tennessee
Reasons to be unhappy: every other building in Memphis is a rundown shack, seriously

16. Indianapolis, Indiana
Reasons to be unhappy: they built the Motor Speedway and imported Peyton Manning because they needed more rednecks

17. Louisville, Kentucky
Reasons to be unhappy: you can’t really LOVE a horse, unless you wanna be like that one dude who tried and died, on camera

18. Tucson, Arizona
Reasons to be unhappy: Arizona.

19. Minneapolis, Minnesota
Reasons to be unhappy: the Replacements are overrated; St. Paul is widely thought of as the prettier one

20. Seattle, Washington
Reasons to be unhappy: truthbombed by Courtney Love (“Don’t you get embarrassed that Seattle is famous for grunge, cappucino, and heroin?”)