Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007

For my last image of 2007, I give you flowers in light. Shine on...

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And The Winner Is...

We finish our Music Countdown of my favorite albums of 2007...

It was close. Shins and New Pornographers were both delightful and flawless, but so was Spoon, and Spoon lept a few steps forward whereas the aforementioned peers "merely" consolidated their considerable strengths..

Let's hear it for Spoon!

#1 - Spoon - "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga"

Sound: Indie rock that is both minimalist and crisp and full of life;

What’s So Special: They can sound haunting and experimental at one moment and channel the Beatles, Billy Joel, or Hall & Oates the next; lead singer Britt Daniel’s protean, throaty voice; six solid albums, each one better than and building upon its predecessor.

Favorite Lyrics: 1) "Famous-sounding words make your head feel light; " 2) "Life can be so fair / let it go on and on / I can push for good / you got that cherry bomb; " 3) "I want to forget how conviction fits / but can I get out from under it?" 4) "It can't all be wedding cake, it can't all be boiled away"

Fun Facts: 1) Ignored by radio, TV and film have been friendlier to Spoon – Their urgent Beatlesque ‘The Way We Get By’ was used heavily in ‘The OC’ and the movie ‘Garden State.’ They’ve played frequently on late-night talk shows and musical-guested Saturday Night Live in October; 2) They’re now a ‘long-distance’ band, as Daniel moved to Portland, Oregon in 2006 but his four bandmates remain in their native Austin; 3) There is a Swedish electronic duo called ‘Knife’, and allmusic.com lists bands named Fork, P.L.A.T.E., and Table, but not Chair

and here's the music:

For many indie-rock fans, this is THE single of 2007… and I do love it… Billy Joel must be smiling somewhere : - )

Spoon chugs a 1965 rhythm as the Ghost of Motown Past - From my favorite album of the year, my favorite song of the year, ‘You Got Your Cherry Bomb..’ Spoon hasn’t bothered to make it a video (yet), but this fan did, and it’s pretty awesome…

Spoon are very ‘crisp’ live – here Britt Daniel does his Darryl Hall thang on ‘Don’t You Evah’…

Cartoon du Jour:

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Quote of the Day: “Never get into a wrestling match with a pig; you both get dirty and the pig likes it.” - John McCain

Northern Lights

And Music Countdown 2007 - My Favorite Albums approaches its climax and the year's end...

#2 - The New Pornographers - "Challengers"

Sound: Erudite, über-catchy, candy-coated power pop for adults

What’s So Special: They are Canada’s supergroup, with 8 members all of whom have established solo careers either solo or with groups. Their truly unique sound is the clash, blend and mix of styles of their three leaders, folk singer Neko Case, psychdelia meister Dan Bejar of Destroyer, tuneful indie rocker Carl Newman of Zumpano.

Favorite Lyrics: 1) "Under your wheels, the hope of spring / mirage of loss, a few more things / you left your sorrow dangling / it hangs in the air like a school cheer; " 2) "Go write down what you see / and see how far it can go;" 3) "We wrote down / another vision of us / we were the challengers of the unknown"

Fun Facts: 1) These ‘pornographers’ should be G-rated – there’s no sex or violence, it’s a joke based on evangelist Jimmy Swaggart’s comment that ‘music is the new pornography.’ Their smart, poetic lyrics, though, would go over any child’s head; 2) New P’s popularity has dwarfed the that of their members’ solo and group work, which is quite a statement given the critical adoration enjoyed by Neko Case and Dan Bejar;

And here's the music:

Here’s New P’s visually stunning video of their current single and title track, ‘Challengers’…

New P recently appeared on Letterman to sing their awesome ‘My Rights Versus Yours’:

Cartoons That Make You See Red...

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

The It's Great To (Still) Be Alive Dinner

On the mend, I ventured out with my camera and rented a few rare films. Flowers of many a color add sunshine to the premises. Finally, I brought out the fine china, ordered gourmet take out from Rocking Horse Cafe on 8th Ave near 18th St, and composed this lovely tableau:

The main dish, "Pollo en Pepián Verde," was free-range chicken breast morsels and grilled vegetables served in a spicy, thick pumpkin seed herb salsa. The rice was fluffy and garnished with 'pico de gallo,' a tomato-coriander-onion concoction that's no stranger to Rubio's or Baja Fresh.

Mixed Greens in Lime Vinaigrette.

There was also an awesome desert, even though I botched the photo - Ice Cream with Two Sauces - caramel swirl ice cream with warm chocolate sauce, cajeta (a Mexican cousin of 'dulce de leche'), and cinnamon tortilla crisps. This sumptuous delight remains locked in the inner memory of my camera - I'll fish them out somehow one day.

Here's the actual restaurant, seen from the sidewalk (as in lying down on. yes.) Rocking Horse describes itself as 'a uniquely elegant voice of New York with a warm Mexican accent that offers serious food in a casual environment.'

The restaurant's iconic horse sign...

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America's Best Band?

Music Countdown 2007 - My Favorite Albums continues...

#3 - The Shins - "Wincing The Night Away"

Sound: Intimate, wise, baroque, extremely melodious and well-sung – America’s best group?

What’s So Special: Every song is envigorating and unforgettable. Three perfect albums to date without a single clunker or mis-step.

Favorite Lyrics: 1) "I still owe you for the hole in the floor / and the ghost in the hall.. / Who decides who paddles over the falls, yeah, who makes the call? ; " 2) "Faced with the dodo's conundrum / I felt like I could just fly / But nothing happened every time I tried."

Fun Facts: 1) You may have heard their music despite a deplorable lack of radio play – these critical darlings are staples of hip TV soundtracks and Starbucks playlists; 2) Zach Braff, in his film debut ‘Garden State,’ pushes the Shins in a major way – Natalie Portman tells Braff’s character to listen to their album as it will ‘change his life’; 3) Their album covers are pretty;

And here's the music:

The best school play ever? Here’s the cute Shins video of the album’s best-known track, ‘Phantom Limb’:

They’re really, really, really good live:

Where Cartoonists Get Their Inspiration:

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Friday, December 28, 2007

More Aaron

Hey there, feeling better, slowly but surely.

As my sister Deena's reminded me, this blog's leitmotif, besides arts/entertainment and humor, is photographing and sharing what's new and interesting in my life.

I'll aim to include at least one photo a day along these lines.

Here I am at work 'modeling' a very serious Russian winter hat that my colleague Bevan's parents brought back from St.Petersburg. It's so warm, it feels like three layers of hat.

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Clam cakes from Newport RI, photo by David. I visited Newport in my Mom in 2005 on Labor Day weekend, on the way back from Boston. But I've still never seen the mansions, must go back there. David was born in R.I. There! Finally posted on something besides music and my health.

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Souls Remain

Music Countdown 2007 continues...

#4 - Suzanne Vega - "Beauty and Crime"

Sound: Beautiful, intimate folk, folk-rock, and folk-pop songs in the singer/songwriter mode; confessionals, slices of life, tableaus.

What’s So Special: Unexpected blast of quality from our past. 48 and nearly-forgotten, Vega’s concocted such a lovely collection of sincere, tuneful song gems. This lady, still in nursery school during folk’s first wave, relaunched the genre in the mid-80s, and scored a hit with ‘Luka,’ a song about child abuse that really stood out in a decade not known for grit. ‘My name is Luka – I live upstairs from you…’

Favorite Lyrics: 1) "And the wind kicks up in the smell of rain / now the kids are gone but their souls remain; " 2) "On the way to the bidet / is when the trouble used to start / It didn't mean she wasn't queen / of the tinderbox that was his heart..."

Fun Facts: 1) Vega is not Latino, but Scottish-German-Irish – Vega is her Puerto Rican stepfather’s name; she did, however, grow up in Spanish Harlem; 2) Her high school was the ‘Fame’ Peforming Arts school; 3) Vega is the ‘mother of the mp3’ as her other hit, the 1990 remix of ‘Tom’s Diner,’ was the song used in trials for that format; 4) In a film career attempt, she auditioned for the ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ role that went to Madonna.

And here's the music:

Are all of us really Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner at heart? “Frank & Ava” is an alluring song and video. It’s another instant classic for Suzanne, and less than three minutes long:

“New York Is A Woman” – an interesting title and the lyrics and storyline do not disappoint – this is live and the sound is perfect:

'Luka,' for those who haven't seen/heard this heart-breaker in a while - or at all.

Cartoon du Jour:

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thomas spent Xmas at Lake Tahoe. Emerson posted Hong Kong pictures.
Hope for America? McDonald's now sells as much chicken as they do beef.

I saw an ENT doctor yesterday, and I remain grounded, but hopefully will be cleared for flight when I see him again Monday at 9am. He says it's a slow recovery, but I've turned the corner.

Be Still My Jaded Heart

Music Countdown 2007 - My Favorite Albums continues...

#5 - LCD Soundsystem - "Sound of Silver"

Sound: Ironic, faux-blasé mix of dance music, punk, disco, and other styles, sometimes called ‘dancepunk’ – their lead singer James Murphy’s vocals are as endearingly cartoonish as David Byrne.

What’s So Special: Insight, humor and deft DJ skills make for highly listenable electronica – it manages to be both hip and critical of hip, and please both the club crowd and the club-averse.

Favorite Lyrics: 1) "New York's a great place if you can get someone to pay your rent;" 2) "Sound of silver makes you want to feel just like a teenager, until you remember the feelings of, a real live emotional teenager, then you think again..."

Fun Facts: 1) Murphy’s debut was the hilarious eight-minute ‘Losing My Edge,’ a laugh-out-loud funny pissing contest wherein a music snob rattles off his hip credentials and obscure musical influences to show how cool he is; 2) James Murphy owns DFA records and, as DJ and producer, has honed the funkily accomplished, tongue-in-cheek ‘DFA sound,’

And here's the music:

Here’s their futuristic, jittery and incisive ‘All My Friends..’

I have to laugh at a song called ‘North American Scum’ : -).. This clip starts to rock about 25 seconds in…

Cartoons du Jour:

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

OK, holiday over. Now, I'm going to get medical attention.. A good ENT doctor is squeezing me in this morning, and we'll see if we can fix this thing quickly...

Stop This Motion From Slowing

Music Countdown 2007 - My Favorite Albums continues...

#6 - Emma Pollock - "Watch The Fireworks"

Sound: Singer/songwriter genre with both melodies and song structure that are unusual but all the more endearing.

What’s So Special: The melodies! The lyrics! Back-to-back singles that grab your attention with joy from the first note.

Favorite Lyrics: ‘Set up the day / give it away / don't stop this motion from slowing;’ 2) 'When it raises its head and it threatens to stay / don't give the game away'

Fun Facts: 1) Pollock was lead singer of Delgados, a quirky, charming and subvervise Scottish indie-pop band; her ex-bandmates feature prominently on this album, and create perhaps their best work to date; 2) “Adrenaline” was my official fall theme song; alas, I first had it in my head on a chilly night with no coat on, beginning a 10 week cycle of being sick 2/3 of the time; :- (

And here's the music:

Emma Pollock’s song and video ‘Acid Test’ are instantly memorable:

Emma unplugged – here she is live with the ballad ‘Limbs’ – I heard this at Starbucks last week!!!!

Cartoon du Jour:

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Fa La La

Still in NY. Don we now our gay pyjamas. Fa-la-la, fa-la-la, fa la la.

The Wizards of Wales

Music Countdown 2007 - My Favorite Albums continues...

#7 - Super Furry Animals - 'Hey Venus'

Sound: Lush, full pop melodies crooned by lead singer Gruff Rhys, with catchy hooks belied by smart, criptic lyrics. Orchestrated, but more Barry White than the Beatles, rather remarkable for a Welsh Group. It’s a happy, soulful sound.

What’s So Special: Hailing from Wales, they sometimes decide to sing their catchiest melodies in Welsh, in one breath unforgetable and (for 99.9% of humanity) unintelligible.

Favorite Lyrics: 1) "Bring down those darkest years / bring down the chandeliers / we'll take you on at your game / Let the wolves... howl at.. the moon; " 2) "I can see flowers, wilting in the sun / Delusion of grandeur, can overcome anyone..."

Fun Facts: 1) Their song titles are often priceless: ‘If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You’, ‘The International Language of Screaming,’ and ‘The Man Don’t Give a Fuck;’ 2) Their first record has the Guiness Book of Records longest one-world album title ever: "Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndobwllllantysiliogogogoch"

And here’s the music:

Here’s SFA’s with their current single ‘Run Away,’ what a classic, graceful sound:

SFA playing ‘Show Your Hand’ live at the Wintercase 2007 festival:

Cartoon du Jour:

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Still grounded with an ear infection. To the doctor. It's going to be a very lonely Xmas week...

Deja Vu All Over Again

Music Countdown 2007 - My Favorite Albums Continues....

#8 - Field Music - "Tones of Town"

Sound: In the mold of the mid-period Beatles, short songs with hooks, harmonies, smart lyrics, and heavy orchestral arrangements a la ‘Eleanor Rigby.’ Their other influence is art-new wave like early XTC or Wire.

What’s So Special: Who else has effectively mined this turf lately? – you could mistake ‘A Gap Has Appeared’ for a cut off ‘Revolver’ or ‘Rubber Soul’, while ‘In Context’ has the clipped urgency of late 70s new wave.

Favorite Lyrics: 1) "At last a gap appears / a space in which to move; " 2) "Compound errors again and again / see mistakes we made and wouldn't change / I was expecting a change."

Fun Facts: Not much in the way of fun… 1) Misunderstood words led fans to believe Field Music were splitting, but they clarfied ‘We are still a band – we just wish you to know the band is a by-product of our existence, not the reason for it’ – Huh? ; 2) The band's nucleus is a pair of brothers, David and Peter Brewis, from quaint, remote Sunderland, UK.

And here’s the music:

Draw me a picture: Here’s a very kinetic and clever clip for Field Music’s lead-off single, ‘In Context.’ All my favorite songs on this album were not singles!

Here they are live in Pittsburgh playing the non-single ‘Working to Work’

Cartoons du Jour:

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Slept 12 hours, still congested... Crossing my fingers for tomorrow...

Genius Plus Love

Music Countdown 2007: My Favorite Albums

#9 - Yo La Tengo - "I Am Not Afraid Of You, And I Will Be Your Ass"

Sound: YLT works in the alternative wings of rock, folk, and country; their trademark though are solid songs with mucho guitar, and dollops of distortion and feedback. YLT’s greatest influence was the seminal underground 60s rock band Velvet Underground.

What’s So Special: YLT’s nucleus is a very smart down-to-earth husband/wife duo based in Hoboken, Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley. They’ve been a critical favorite for nearly 24 years and 15 albums, with a devoted fan base but practically no radio play.

Favorite Lyrics: 1) "Sometimes I don't know you, it's like we never met / and what seems fine by me is your litany of regrets;" 2) "And we'll forget about our problems, ignore them for a little while / and leave our worries in the corner, leave them in a big, big pile"

Fun Facts: 1) YLT’s greatest influence is Velvet Underground, the seminal 60s underground band sponsored by Andy Warhol, and in the movie ‘I Shot Andy Warhol’ YLT actually played the Velvets ; 2) James McNew, YLT’s base player, also records as ‘Dump,’ and did an album of Prince covers with the unlikely title ‘You Mean That Skinny Motherfucker With The High Voice?’ 3) ‘Yo La Tengo’ sounds misleadingly Latin – it stems from Kaplan’s baseball obsession, in 1962 he heard the Mets' Latino shortstop yell ‘I got it’ in Spanish

And here’s the music:

Here are YLT at their ‘Hoboken Hannukah’ celebration earlier this month at Maxwell’s, singing their pretty ballad ‘Sometimes I Don’t Get You’

YLT’s more upbeat track, “Mr. Tough,” is very “Linus and Lucy” : - )

Cartoon du Jour:

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

I still have an ear infection and can't fly home today : - ( I booked another flight Monday, Xmas eve, and will stay in bed & cross my fingers. This post, like many others, was written over a week ago:


It Begins: Music Countdown 2007

#10 - Scissor Sisters - 'Ta Dah'

Sound: Pastiche of 70s styles, influence of Elton John, Bee Gees, disco.

What's So Special: America's first openly gay (mostly) pop group, with a very gay sensibility. They are pop superstars in Europe, particularly the UK, but only get light airplay here at home. Their second album, Ta-Dah, was even better than their brilliant debut - they avoided sophomore slump.

Favorite Lyrics: 1) "Cities come and cities go just like the old empires / When all you do is change your clothes and call that versatile;" 2) "Life seems so much slower / with your toothbrush by the mirror."

Fun Facts: 1) I saw them live 3 times with Thomas in NY; 2) The entire band took stage names: Jake Shears (as in scissors), his songwriting buddy and production guru, Babydaddy, guitarist Del Marquis, drummer Paddy Boom, and the unusual touch of Ana Matronic, an uber-ironic 'drag queen trapped in a woman's body,' who is Jake's perfect foil for on-stage banter.

Watch Them Sing & Play: Their biggest hit, "I Don't Feel Like Dancing," not only reeks of Elton John influence, it features John himself on keyboards.

and the Sisters' mellower side, 'Land of 1,000 Words...'

Cartoon du Jour:

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Toxic Roger and His Nicer Nephew

Tomorrow, hopefully I'll be flying to Arizona - I'm writing this Thursday, in advance. I saw three good movies, courtesy Netflix, as I lay in bed recovering. The first was 2002's Roger Dodger, an acid potrayal of a fast-talking, bitter, misogynist pick-up artist and his teenage nephew, Nick, who shows up on his doorstep and awkwardly asks for tips on meeting girls.

The always superb Campbell Scott plays Roger defty, like a Stradivarius, reaching nasty, smoke-tinged verbal crescendos, while Jesse Eisenberg holds his own an insecure, but sensitive and good-hearted teen soul. Roger, his luck slipping, buttresses his ego by trying to take Nick under wing as a protegé, with interesting results. Ladies and Gentleman, the 5 Parameters of Criticism:

1. Four Words That Encapsule: "Mean-spirited Jerk: An Anatomy"

2. Haiku (5/7/5):
"What makes a boor?
What does he think, where's he from?
Will he just fester?'

3. Oblique comments: Campbell Scott impresses the hell out of me. I've seen him as a gay everyman (Longtime Companion), victim of a con-man (Spanish Prisoner), a feverish, lost tourist (Sheltering Sky), romantic lead in a grunge comedy (Singles), and slippery bisexual movie producer (Dying Gaul). He lucked out on DNA, as the child of two acting legends, George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst.

4. Insight: Interesting as dissecting Roger is, this film would be hard to watch without the contrast of his nephew's sweetness and unconscious steadfastness. The ending is satisfying and realistic - Roger changes, but not too much.

5. Link: Metacritic review. Average of 75, I'd give it a 90.

And, finally, not a trailer, but an actual clip from the film:

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Waiting For Pop

My ear, that is. The left one. To pop. Though s'pose that would be your right. I'm writing this last night, Thursday. If only my ear would clear. Then I would have clear ear. And I would cleared for take-off Saturday afternoon, when I hope to fly to Arizona to visit my family for the holidays. I wander in the desert of convalescene? Will today, Friday, be my turning point?

I have drunk immense quantities of orange juice. Somewhere there's a depleted grove with my name on it.

I was hoping to have seen Oscar-candidate films this week, and to review one such film for this morning's post. That did happen, me being stuck in bed in all. I did see a few good older films, which I'll share over the coming days... And I'll still be counting down my ten favorite albums of the year, from Saturday December 22 to New Year's Rockin' Eve...

Cartoon du Jour:

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