High by Choo Choo Train (1988)

In response to The Swede's recent post, I give you a criminally overlooked single from when Velvet Crush were known as Choo Choo Train. Irresistibly upbeat.

Top 100 songs of 2016 (tracks 40-31)

Evil by Savages
Post-punk revival. I wish the rest of the album had the same punch. Amazing guitar riff. The vocal is a throwback to Siouxsie & The Banshees.

Blackout by Garbage
Alternative Rock. Musically reminded me of The Cure and feels like an anthem for introverts.

I Need You by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Singer/Songwriter. Heartbreaking, regardless if you know what transpired in Cave's life or not.

Blackstar by David Bowie
Experimental Rock. Bowie is supported by a group of jazz musicians, who may go on to have separate careers of their own. A long time Major Tom has been looking for peace or rest and he found it as the skeleton in Blackstar video.

Dystopia by Megadeth
Metal. The album was considered a return to form by critics. Excellent guitar work. The title track earned the band its first Grammy win (for Best Metal Performance)

St. Ides by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Pop Rap. About family and the non-commercial life

Try Everything by Shakira
Pop. A catchy, fun track from Zootopia soundtrack

Doing It to Death by The Kills
Indie Rock. Love the guitar. Who said you shouldn't dance at a funeral?

Downtown by Still Corners
Synthpop. Using "Downtown" as the chorus is hardly new, Petula Clark did so in 1965. Yet still very atmospheric and Still Corners make it their own.

Amerika by Young Giants
Indie Rock. Perhaps the most underrated song of the year.

Find anything you liked? Already know some of these? Which are your favorites from these albums? As always, comments are welcome. Tracks 30-21 coming soon!

Federer as a future comedian?

Bongo Cam clip from the Hopman Cup in January brings a smile to my face each time I watch. Federer is not only the most successful tennis player but apparently also a comedian. I feel sorry for Zverev who is not half as animated.

Top 100 songs of 2016 (tracks 50-41)

Alone by Pretenders 
Rock. A patchy album some fans consider not to be proper Pretenders because of who is involved. Chrissie Hynde has a sense of humor. The title track is funny and relatable for introverts.

Lazarus by David Bowie
Art Rock. Using your impending death as inspiration to look back on your life. A dark, powerful swan song.

Kiss It Better by Rihanna
Pop. That opening guitar riff is stunning. 

Murder One by Metallica
Heavy Metal. A homage to Lemmy of Motörhead. The best animated music video in a long time. Scattered Ashes by Minor Victories is a close second for the giant cat among the skyscrapers.

Ultralight Beam by Kanye West
Hip Hop/Gospel. About Kanye’s faith in God, and there’s a surprising sample from Natalie is Great’s Instagram. He is backed by a church/gospel choir.

Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales by Car Seat Headrest
Indie Rock. Catchy and well-written ("that voice in your head, giving you shit again"). Generally the lyrics are good(take note of The Ballad of the Costa Concordia). There are some good ideas on the record, but I didn't like the noisy guitars and harsh sound of most of the songs. Cosmic Hero is my 2nd favorite.

The One by Carly Rae Jepsen
Synthpop. Easily digestible retro 80s pop.

Fever by Carly Rae Jepsen

Bear by The Wedding Present
Indie Rock. An overlooked gem by a band considered past their prime. We all need someone who catches us when we fall.

Alt-Country.  Another animated video."Go and live a little".

Find anything you liked? Already know some of these? Which are your favorites from these albums? As always, comments are welcome. Tracks 40-31 coming soon!

Films of the month: February 2017

Moonlight (2016) (Barry Jenkins)
Best Picture winner at the recent 2017 Oscars. Good performances that say a lot without the use of words. There's a restraint reminiscent of European cinema. The more I think about Moonlight, the more it grows on me. I don’t mind what color the actors are, as long as there’s a quality story, and thankfully there is. Nothing was especially new in Moonlight, yet you can empathize with the main character’s struggles. You might argue the film is too manipulative in encouraging us to feel pity for Chiron.
It’s debatable if the main character was too elusive, but could also be acknowledged as a strength by allowing the audience to contemplate their own injustice through a thinly-defined boy. And of course Chiron is written as a withdrawn character on the page.
Spoilers occur. The scenes between Chiron and Kevin are memorable, especially their encounter by the beach, the fight, and the reunion at the diner. A quality the film has is letting the supporting characters have layers. You can be a drug dealer(Juan) or a drug user(the mother), yet that is not all you amount to. I wasn’t bothered by the big changes Chiron undergoes, but it could be problematic for some viewers that the three actors look quite different physically. The poster reflects his growth and changing face.
I like what Courtney at On The Screen Reviews said in her review about “fears of acceptance and love continue to hold us back”.
Moonlight’s messages about tolerance of difference, acceptance of yourself, and the need for compassion towards the marginalized are important. Not just because of Trump's recent intolerance towards foreigners, but always.
The third act is the most captivating and André Holland as the adult Kevin delivered my favorite performance in the film, he made Chiron feel comfortable. It’s interesting the adult Chiron takes on the persona of Juan whom he met as a child. Could be because he perceives Juan as a hero/father-figure, yet in the back of his mind he must realize the consequences of drug-taking due to his mother’s addiction. An odd choice of job given his past, and one I struggled to come to terms with.
Some noticed similarities to Boyhood (2014) in the structure. I’ve read Jenkin’s was influenced by Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s film Three Times (2005). Aspects reminded me of Boyz n The Hood (1991), especially Laurence Fishburne's character Furious Styles who had a similar scene by the beach as Juan did.
On a side note, I find it troubling that professional reviewers are apprehensive to criticize a film with a black cast which has a message of tolerance that most agree on. But you are not, intolerant, homophobe or racist for finding faults with a film.
I’ve read it’s the same issue with the female Ghostbusters, film critics are cautious about their reputation and possible accusations of misogyny. Perhaps bloggers are the ones who can review these films fairly, because there is not the same risk when you have anonymity.
Favorite quotes: “You ain’t got to love me, but you gonna know that I love you, do you hear Chiron?”
”I wasn't never worth shit. Never did anything I actually wanted to do, all I could do was what other folks thought I should do. I wasn't never myself.”

La La Land (2016) (Damien Chazelle)
Musical. Considering the Best Picture buzz, and my appreciation of Whiplash, La La Land was a disappointment.
Let's start off with the positives. Apparently Ryan Gosling spent two hours a day, six days a week learning the La La Land music by heart, so that effort deserves praise. I liked the defence of jazz, with mentions of Charlie Parker, Chick Webb and Count Basie. The dance in the stars sequence was memorable, and the City of Stars song is catchy if overused.
But the music and story was not at the level of inventiveness of the classics. Even though musicals are a rarity today, it’s still a very contemporary piece of entertainment, in wanting to be retro and pay homage. Also, I think John Legend is dull as a musician. The musical numbers felt a bit forced and added on to give an average story some color. A frivolous, artificial movie that was difficult to connect with emotionally.
A defense of the realism I've heard is that the two leads are aspiring talents and not great singers yet. That's a fair point. If they were great singers they would have been signed already.
Musicals are supposed to lift our spirits and this one unfortunately didn't do that for me. Whiplash was a better film.

New York, New York (1977) (Martin Scorsese)
Musical. Actually better than I expected. Considered second tier Scorsese, but even his weaker films are as good as a lot of top tier stuff released today.
The opening ball sequence is my favorite part of the film, which is both technically impressive, and Robert de Niro’s stalking women is amusing to watch. The marriage proposal scene is also a stand out, a very awkward moment and that’s why it’s memorable. Robert de Niro was convincing as a saxophonist, although I’m not a jazz expert. New York, New York is among the greatest songs of the 1970s and the jazz music was given enough space to make an impression.
La La Land was heavily inspired by this Scoresese film, especially two leads as creative people in love in the entertainment business. In Scorsese's film I cared about them, in La La Land I did not.

Delicatessen (1991) (Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Marc Caro)
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s black comedy debut feature. Sweet, funny, dark and visually imaginative. You can’t tell what year the film is made, the dystopian future has a timelessness. The ”musical number” made up of rhythms and sounds in the building is pretty hilarious. Julie and Louison are a cute couple.
I never understood why the Troglodistes stayed so long, nor did I understand why the bathroom was filled with water? They should make a prequel with the main character as a circus clown.
May have been an influence on the comedy The Green Butchers, which German title is Dänische Delikatessen.

Valhalla Rising (2009) (Nicolas Winding Refn)
Beautifully shot with some very violent scenes. Remote locations, reminiscent of Aguirre the Wrath of God (1972). The story is set in 1000 AD and is about survival and faith. A difficult film to rate. Mads Mikkelsen delivers a captivating performance as the wordless one-eyed stranger, and the story has a hypnotic atmosphere. But I could see viewers becoming bored by the pacing and lack of story.
I’ve now completed Nicolas Winding Refn’s filmography and he really hasn’t made any duds. Even those that flopped at the box office (Valhalla Rising and Fear X) are interesting. I just hope he doesn’t sell out to Hollywood.

Johnny Larsen (1979) (Morten Arnfred)
Won four Danish film awards, including Best Film, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. A film about generations and making important choices. There's a nice flow to the coming of age story, which is set in the 1950s. The main character is in nearly every scene and his rebellious nature adds tension to situations. The love story is quite sweet.
It all feels very familiar and nothing especially original. If I had seen it when I was young I reckon the film would've been more impactful.

Lemonade (2016) (65 min version) (Kahlil Joseph & Beyoncé Knowles)
”Where do you go, when you go quiet”
”All the love I’ve been giving goes unnoticed. It’s just floating in the air”

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) (Frank Capra)
Rewatch (Review)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (BBC tv-series) (1981)
Comedy/sci-fi. You know what? I’ve never read the book. At three hours and only six episodes, the tv-series was quicker than reading the novel. Began life as a radio series in 1978. A satirical, at-a-distance look on human existence and foibles. To show the absurdity of modern life, and how things that we consider of great importance are actually insignificant in the larger scheme of things. Many of the situations mirror situations, events, or institutions on Earth, but are exaggerated for comedic effect. Galactic bureaucracy is shown to be staggeringly inefficient(Episode 6). Bad poetry is depicted as painful, the planet earth is disposable as a hyperspace bypass is to be built in its path.
Wasn’t laugh out loud funny, but imaginative and witty in its own way.  I like the sunglasses, those are pretty radical!
Author Douglas Adams was a convinced atheist, and the logic of why god vanished is quite clever. Very true that the lack of answer to the meaning of life is good business for publishers, because you can keep arguing on and on and never reach a result!
The story makes jokes about road work, loud concerts, and the food industry, a talking pig amusingly saying something like "it's ok to eat me". Adams pokes fun at the money-crazed culture with singer Hotblack Desiato spending a year dead "for tax reasons".
Now I know where Radiohead got the term “paranoid android”, which is how the manically depressed Marvin the robot is described. The robot is probably a parody on negative thinking and geniuses being too serious to have much fun.
Googleplex Star Thinker probably inspired the search engine Google. The Googleplex is the corporate headquarters complex of Google, Inc.
While the sets and practical effects do look slightly dated by today’s standards, I didn’t mind, as the story was the reason to watch. The sets and interludes have a certain charm. The scenes with supercomputer Deep Thought were especially memorable for the design. For an old series, I was pleasantly surprised there was an intelligent female character. I can see why it’s a celebrated cult classic because of the originality, quotable lines, and subversive commentary.
Favorite quote: “I'd far rather be happy than right any day.”

Any thoughts on these films and reviews? As always, I'd like to hear what you think in the comments.

Old and new albums of the month: February 2017

*(1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die)
The Stone Roses by The Stone Roses (1989)  
Baggy / Madchester/ Neo-Psychedelia / Jangle Pop. Considered The Stone Roses best work, and among the finest debuts by any UK group.
For some reason, I always imagined the artwork was a distorted map of a city, taken from above. Maybe it is, who knows. I still like to think of it in that way. In fact was inspired by the paintings of Jackson Pollock and there's a story behind what the lemons and French flag represent.
An important album that means a lot to those who grew up with it. The kind of music that sadly doesn't get released nowadays. Beautifully put together. Bass, guitar and drums form the basis of the jangle pop/Madchester sound and complement each other well. My favorite could be She Bangs the Drums for the sheer musicianship.
I can imagine anthemic songs such as Made Of Stone and I Wanna Be Adored getting played in huge stadiums with the crowd singing along. The opening lyric "I don't have to sell my soul, he's already in me" could be interpreted in different ways, including a gay reference and a theological claim, the devil is already within, hence he has no need to sell his soul.

*(1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die)
Marquee Moon (1977) by Television  
Art Punk / Post-Punk. Exceptional guitar playing with some great riffs and jazzy solos. An album you could listen to over and over and not tire of. The vocal reminded me of Chrissie Hynde, even though Tom Verlaine obviously is male. Did Johnny Jewel (born John Padgett) of Chromatics fame take his name from the stand alone single "Little Johnny Jewel"?

*(1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die)
Felt Mountain by Goldfrapp (2000)  
In anticipation of the new album in March I'm revisiting Goldfrapp's discography. Felt Mountain is their debut and defies genre categorization. Atmospheric and seductive. Alison has a vocal like no other. There's a hint of Ennio Morricone soundtracks, but they make it their own and it doesn't feel out of place. The album mixes orchestral flourishes with modern electronic production. On the second half, the songs tend to be a bit more restrained. Lovely Head and Utopia stand out.

Black Cherry by Goldfrapp (2003)
Electropop. Sensual, dreamy. I’ve even heard it described as futuristic. Especially impressed by tracks 1-4. I still consider it a pretty strong album despite the occasional weak track. If you like Black Cherry, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy Supernature.

Supernature by Goldfrapp (2005)
Electropop/dance pop. The sound is close to the second album Black Cherry, but more accessible and not as dark. Supernatural has a focus on pop hooks, repeated choruses, and simpler melodies. The lyrics hardly matter and I don’t say that in a degrading way.
I was ready to dismiss the album as throwaway pop, but actually holds up well to revisits and there’s very little filler. Supernature is an easy, undemanding listen. Stand outs: Ooh La La, Fly Me Away, Number 1

Take Me to the Alley (2016) by Gregory Porter 
A lot of new releases are disposable. I feel this one could hold up for a long time. Won Best Jazz Vocal Album at the recent 2017 Grammys. Porter has an old-fashioned, retro vocal style. He cites Nat King Cole as his biggest inspiration. I like the unhurriedness of the music. The first five tracks are probably the strongest on the album. The two closers have some nice instrumentals as well.
In a 2012 interview with Jazzweekley.com Porter explained why he wears a hat and balaclava: "I’ve had some surgery on my skin, so this has been my look for a little while and will continue to be for awhile longer. People recognise me by it now. It is what it is.”

Dixie Chicken by Little Feat (1973)
Their third album. A so-so listen. The title track Dixie Chicken has a memorable chorus. A very 70s rhythm ‘n funk vibe on Two Trains, easily my favorite for its energy and production. Tracks three to ten are pleasant enough but soon forgotten.

Feats Don't Fail Me Now by Little Feat (1974)
Their fourth. My favorite Little Feat LP up to this point. The musicianship is noticeably funkier and livelier.
Oh Atlanta is fuelled by a catchy chorus. The last two tracks impressed me with the guitar solos.
The sleeve with the lightning by the mountain is memorable and dramatic.  The band name obviously has multiple meanings and there’s a play on that in the album title.

The Last Record Album by Little Feat (1975) 
Little Feat's fifth LP and I find it overrated. A mix of elements from their previous albums. Funky and jazzy in some moments, often reverting back to their southern rock sound.
All That You Dream, Day or Night, and Mercenary Territory are fun and adventurous for the jazzy instrumentation. Somebody's Leavin' goes in a surprising direction. Generally I find the lyrics and vocal on their albums a bit bland.
The artwork is thought-provoking, the image of the jelly mountain with the Hollywood sign is particularly brilliant. Perhaps a warning that seeking your fortune in show business is a wobbly career path.

What do you think about the music and album artwork? As always, comments are welcome


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