This is a funny and thought-provoking examination of Vowell’s personal obsession and America’s greater obsession with the past, with presidents and with their assassinations. Read More
I think it’s probably hard to discuss Brokeback Mountain without talking about the hype: this film is considered by many to be a landmark either in Hollywood with regard to LGBTQ topics, or in LGBTQ cinema in general. Now, I don’t know much about the history of LGBTQ cinema – just what I got from a documentary I once watched in sociology class and one or two films – but I know that the reception which greeted Schindler’s List was somewhat overblown given the number of films which had already dealt with the holocaust. I suspect the same is probably true with Read More
It’s easy to see why electronic music fans flocked to this record, as it has all the danceable repetition of dance music but also enough exoticism to appeal to people who don’t just want to listen to middle of the road, safe dance music. It almost feels like music has come full circle: electronic composers and musicians took inspiration from tribal rhythms from all around the world and now these guys have taken inspiration from electronic dance music. Read More
Finally, at long last, I am done with this book. If this isn’t the longest English-language biography of a novelist, I don’t want to read the longest one… Read More
1995, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2014, Concerti, Modern creative, Music, Orchestral Music, and Song Cycle.
This is a compilation of performances of some of Thomas’ writing for orchestra. I got this from the library by accident but decided to listen to it anyway. Read More
The Cunning Little Vixen (1952, 2005) by Leos Janacek, performed by Wiener Philarmoniker conducted by Charles Mackerras, featuring Lucia Popp, Eva Randovám, Dalibor Jedlička
This opera is considered by some to be Janacek’s greatest achievement and it’s easy to understand why. Though significantly lighter in tone than his other operas, it sounds more radical and more forward-thinking, musically. The use of the soprano as this bizarre little interruption (for lack of a better word) is really weird and I don’t know that I’ve heard things like its spoken parts before. And then, of course, there is the music that sounds like Bernard Herrmann’s source for Psycho. It’s a pretty cool piece. Not quite among the greatest operas of its era, in my opinion, but Read More
Note: I have never read anything more than a child’s abridged version of Beowulf. This appears to be an attempt to make a more “realistic” and revisionist Beowulf: Grendel is presented as humanoid, there is a lot of focus on Grendel’s reasons for terrorizing the Danes, there’s focus on the coming Christian conversion, and Beowulf is ambivalent about the whole thing. I think there’s probably something worthwhile in this. Unfortunately: the budget is lacking (this is, unsurprisingly, a Canadian film) and that is even more in relief in part because of the knowledge of the big Hollywood version from a Read More
1946, 1947, 1948, 2005, Acoustic Blues, Blues, Compilation, Country Blues, Electric Blues, and Texas Blues.
The music on this compilation is good. Let’s get that out of the way. Lightnin Hopkins was a great performer and he did a lot to standardize lyric and performance conventions in post-war blues. He was a pretty great guitar player for the era, and he did some things that sound unconventional to my ears. So that is all great. Lightnin’ Hopkins is someone we should all check out, if we’re interested in the blues. This is not the compilation is not the recording to introduce any of us to him, however. Far as I can tell, this collects his Read More
1888, 2005, 2015, Chamber Opera, Drama, Live Theatre, Modernism, Naturalism, Opera, Serialism, and Theatre.
This is a 2005 chamber opera based on the 1888 play Miss Julie by August Strindberg. I have never read Strindberg, and I don’t know if I’ve read much naturalist literature or drama, so this was a new experience for me. The staging and direction are fantastic – they’ve decided to stage the pay in some weird alternate reality where the time isn’t entirely clear (are they in 1888 Sweden or are they somewhere else entirely?) and there are odd things in the kitchen, such as a tire and a giant pipe. The storm in the middle of the opera Read More
2015, Animation, Movies, Puppetry, Radio Play, Romantic Comedy, and Stop Motion.
Kaufman is probably the most interesting American screenwriter of his era. This film is based on his 2005 “sound play” (i.e. a modern stage equivalent of an old radio play). POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT Read More
This is a collection of some of the works of the first great Western composer, Hildegard von Bingen. I know nothing about her beyond what I read in a book once, many years ago, and know very little about plainchant. I have no idea how these hymns were curating beyond what they tell me in the liner notes, or whether or not that curation makes any sense. I do know that the music is beautiful and an extremely important step in the development of western music. It’s hard for someone with as little knowledge of this music as I have Read More
I “saw” this a number of years ago on TV. Like many movies I saw in parts on TV when I was younger, I rated it without watching the entire thing. So I guess I’m making up for that. This was the only fantasy book I “read” as a child. (It was read to me, as I was that young.) Perhaps this explains my dislike of most fantasy. I experienced so little as a child that, as a teen and an adult, I found so much of it ridiculous because I wasn’t raised on it. Anyway, to the movie itself Read More
Like math rock mixed with and metalcore. I guess that’s what this whole “atmospheric sludge metal” thing is supposed to be. I don’t know. But that’s what I hear. It doesn’t sound that sludgy to me…I’m glad I can’t understand the lyrics most of the time, because that means if I don’t read the booklet, I can enjoy the music and forget about the ridiculous pseudo-philosophical nonsense being spewed. 7/10 Read More
This an amusing but very, very dry take on that typical Scandinavian (normally Swedish, this time Danish) obsession of Good vs. Evil: Is there a God? Is the world Good? Is the world Evil? In the battle between Good and Evil who will triumph? And so forth. You’d be forgiven for most of the movie if you didn’t realize it’s a comedy, it’s that dry. (Though if you still don’t think it’s a comedy by the climax well, Heaven help you, yuk yuk yuk.) A country minister who has the habit of adopting parolees takes on his newest charge, a Read More
Gustaven evokes the tradition of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett – though he is perhaps a little more obviously melodic than the former – though he manages the impressive feat of both sounding like them and not like them at the same time. But just when you think you have him figured out, he throws in some left turns, which keep things interesting, given how laid back everything is. Someone has noted that Gustaven is keeping the romantic tradition alive, and I think that is a fair assessment, but I would actually argue that if this has anything in common Read More
Well Cuaron’s gone and you can sure tell. (As an aside: I wonder whether he quit to make (literally) great films, or whether he was fired because his Potter film was the least financially successful to date.) I’m sure it’s not just the director but there is a definite lack of style about this one. The bigger problem, more than likely, is that this time Rowling has tried to make some kind of epic and she has unfortunately built it around a pretty boring tournament; a tournament that, in typical series fashion, should feature 3 contestants, but soon features Potter Read More
2005, Chamber Jazz, Chamber Music, Modern creative, Music, Soundtrack, and String Quartet.
This is an excellent set of compositions – inspired by painting – that show off Frisell’s abilities as a composer who can handle all sorts of instrumental ensembles. His writing for string quartet here and elsewhere merits serious consideration, I think, not in the least because of the room the musicians are given to go off-script. This was so successful that he wrote another set of pieces for this same group, which I actually like even more than this. But in addition to this music being great, it is also nice to hear and experience the inspiration for one of Read More
It must be an absolute thrill for musicians – even musicians as well-traveled as Frisell and Lovano – to play with a musical legend. I can imagine that a set like this is probably a personal highlight. But Motian seems stuck in another era. That makes sense, I mean Motian earned his fame from that era, but personally I don’t want to listen to 21st century jazz that makes me think it’s the ’60s. That may be slightly harsh – Frisell and occasionally Lovano sometimes remind me that I am not listening to an old jazz record with spectacular sound Read More
This is the kind of thing I feel I should eat up: it’s revivalist cabaret with clear doses of jazz, “classical” music, an awareness of punk, and a surprisingly good set of songs underlying it. But I feel like these guys never quite get to their potential; they could be so much more raucous, so much more extreme in their moments of dissonance, and a little more varied. To me, that would elevate what is a very polished act that is sort of dwelling in another century – at least in part – to something really notable in this century. Read More
More like West / East. For some reason Frisell seems to have switched the dates around, so that we encounter the newer, harder set first. And that’s not a bad thing. Though both sets show it off to some degree, it is the “west” set that, to my ears, is one of those great statements of the wondrous possibilities of post-free jazz. Frisell and his band make music that both questions and adds to tradition, and there is a healthy influence of minimalism as well, at least in the longer pieces. The “east” set is more subdued and more in Read More
If you can over the total utter Soderberghishness of this (much of it feels like it is Traffic without the drugs and cops) this is an excellent series. Don’t focus on whether or not it was improvised or semi-improvised; I don’t really see why that matters. This is probably as close as we will get to fully understanding how hard it is to make it in Hollywood. Now, that in itself is pretty inconsequential; I mean who really cares about actors? But the leads are all very convincing as people – whether or not they are truly playing themselves – Read More
This is only the second time I have personally heard turntables incorporated with jazz. The first time was by a Canadian drummer named Jerry Granelli back in 1999 or something. So that clearly beats this by a few years. And they went more deep into the hip hop influence, including spoken word posing as rap. But Douglas’ strength lies in recognizing the traditions he works within and without so this album is significantly more recognizable as jazz than Granelli’s venture into whatever this turntabilist jazz genre is. And that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. It certainly makes Read More
2005, Alternative Singer Songwriter, Chamber Pop, Music, Piano Rock, and Singer Songwriter.
So I paid no attention to Apple for years. I just lumped her in with that slew of women singer-songwriters that seemed to explode in the mid ’90s. That seems to me to have been extraordinarily unfair. What I failed to notice at the time was a strong but idiosyncratic songwriter who was willing to take musical risks, the kind of musical risks that appeal to me. So this is apparently (mostly) the second version of the album. But whether it’s the over-done arrangements of the remaining songs from the original concept or its the sparer and more idiosyncratic arrangements Read More
This is the Boston Public of War shows. Or, if you prefer, the NYPD Blue of War shows. Remember how on Boston Public there was always an “issue” that was taken as representative of school life in America that week? Or remember how NYPD Blue tried to balance serial drama of the characters with issues that normally were resolved within the 40+ minutes allowed per episode? (or when Law and Order fell to that in its later years and spinoffs?) That’s Over There. Over There completely ignores most war movies that exist since the ’70s – or at least the Read More
I suspect that the original story has something to do with the concept of evil begetting evil, but I have no idea, having not read it and getting very little of that in this episode. Like so many of these episodes (all of them perhaps, though I don’t know that), the reveal is way too early (though there is a reason in this episode). The twist feels pretty blah and also feels somewhat in-genuine. Oh well. 5/10 Read More
The first season is some of the best historical fiction you will ever see on TV, despite some pretty strong creative license. The second season is a mess: the show was canceled and they attempted to cram 2 seasons of story into 1 (though it feels like it was 3 seasons of story to me). The smarter decision, I think, would have been to just keep the story the same and end it like Deadwood, in mid story arc. 7/10 Read More
This had me for the first 20 minutes. With the exception of the creature it was about as compelling of any 20 minutes of this series I’ve seen. Unfortunately a pretty amazing concept goes off the rails a little bit with a little too much mystical silliness. There is some pretty amazing actual horror near the end. Solid for what it is. 6/10 Read More
2005, Art Rock, Avant Prog, Experimental, Jazz Fusion, Latin Rock, Math Rock, Music, Prog, and Progressive Rock.
The more I listen to the Mars Volta the more I become convinced that they are pretty much the only mainstream band keeping the spirit – if not the sound – of progressive rock alive. They manage to combine relatively adventurous ideas – whereas early prog rock usually borrowed from Romantic music or mainstream jazz, they borrow from free jazz and funk – with the volume that only a few select prog rock bands from back in the day actually managed. Too many of the revivalist neo-prog bands don’t are about the “rock” part of progressive rock but these guys Read More
I listened to System of a Down’s Mezmerize out of order. That may not be a problem for lots of people, but it is for me. But still, I will try anyway. I feel like there is a very conscious effort here to make this album another financial success and, as a result, the music is significantly more commercial (which is, I admit, a relative thing). There is a long tradition in western philosophy that says people are idiots / sheep (true) and therefore we (the elites) should trick them into liking things that are good for them (not so true). Read More
This isn’t really a rock opera, I guess it’s a roots opera. But the same idea applies: Cooder is attempting to use operetta / musical forms to create something unique and certainly ambitious (it’s far and away the most ambitious thing he’s done prior to 2005, that I am aware of). And I must say at first it put me off. I’m not a particularly big fan of Latin music in general, or many of he genres he mixes in here. I have always appreciated his attempts to bring lesser known songs and traditions to light, but the combination wasn’t Read More