Ives: Concord Sonata; Songs (2004) by Pierre-Laurent Aimard with Susan Graham

Categories: 1915, 1919, 1922, 2004, and Music.

This is one of those discs that pairs two different types of music and so, right off the bat, kind of annoys me. Ives has plenty of songs to release a whole disc (or many discs) of them, without instrumental music. (For example, one of his collections is called 114  Songs.) And he’s got plenty of piano music to do the same. I know this is something I need to get over, but I don’t fully understand the reason to program like this. As to the actual music: Read More

Being Julia (2004, István Szabó)

Categories: 2004 and Movies.

I haven’t read the novel (I gather it’s one of Maugham’s lesser regarded works) but I feel like the edge that I have always felt in his writing is present here, which is no small accomplishment. Benning gives a bravura performance in the title role (though everybody’s good) and the production design is excellent. But it’s all a little All Above Eve. 7/10 Read More

Friends Seen and Unseen (2004) by The Charlie Hunter Trio

Categories: 2004 and Music.

This band plays pretty traditional jazz for the 21st century – sure, there hints of more radical stuff, including odd syncopation and some relatively out playing by Ellis. But, for the most part, this is pretty mainstream jazz., primarily rooted in the blues. What makes it more interesting is Hunter, who is a phenomenal player who manages to play both bass and rhythm or lead at the same time (on his custom guitar). Ellis’ range of instruments also helps create a wider variety of experiences for us. So this is basically just above average mainstream jazz. It’s good, but it’s Read More

Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt (2004, Margaret Brown)

Categories: 2004 and Movies.

Like most music obsessives, I know of Townes Van Zandt. But I don’t know his songs too well – I have only ever heard his debut and Steve Earle’s tribute album. This is an impressionistic film: though there is some attempt a chronological portrait of Van Zandt’s life, it is inter-cut with performance and interview footage and reminiscing. And though I am not inclined to agree with those who think Van Zandt was The Greatest American Songwriter of All Time (sorry folks, that’s Bob Dylan…by a lot), I do find this a compelling portrait, when it could have been messy. Read More

HONEGGER: Symphony No. 3, ‘Liturgique’ / Pacific 231 / Rugby et al. by New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Takuo Yuasa

Categories: 1920, 1924, 1928, 1933, 1946, 2004, and Music.

This is a collection of some of Honegger’s works, pairing his three most famous pieces – the “symphonic movements” with one of his symphonies and a symphonic poem. The third symphony begins with a loud, fast movement that has been aptly described as “stormy.” It’s the kind of thing that makes me think maybe I was wrong to not invest more time in Honegger. Sure, it’s rather traditional for the era, but it’s the kind of thing I like. The second movement is considerably softer, more lyrical, though not exactly as somber as I might have expected (though it gets Read More

Black Books (2000)

Categories: 2000, 2002, 2004, and TV.

This is one of those mildly amusing sit coms that everyone goes nuts for because it’s British. Okay, maybe that’s a little mean. But I feel like this premise (irascible shop owner and his friends) has been done before. To be honest, it took me a really long time to warm up to this show. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood. I do feel like it got funnier as it went on, even if the pattern of the jokes really didn’t change much. Sit Coms are generally boring. This is better than many, but hardly one of the great Read More

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007, Gore Verbinski)

Categories: 2004 and Movies.

I’ve generally enjoyed these movies way more than I ever thought I would, but this one is so ridiculous, so convoluted, so unbelievable that whatever goofiness really doesn’t make up for the mess. (Though, I can’t help but think that the second one was maybe more of a mess than I remember.) It shouldn’t be this hard to figure out what is going on in what is, essentially, a kid’s movie. The character motivations are entirely – and I mean entirely – at the service of the plot. And it’s sooo long. Oh, and the weird Once Upon a Time Read More

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004, Kerry Conran)

Categories: 2004 and Movies.

A manchurian slave camp?!?!? Seriously, who writes this stuff? There’s no fear of consequences for anyone because so many of the background characters are animated and it feels like most of the human characters will make it. Super worshipful of old comics, old movies and particularly Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (not one of my favourites). But beyond that film, did anyone really make movies like this? It actually feels more indebted to old comics that nobody alive would have read. (Well, most people.) I feel like this is supposed to be part of a serial as the Sky Captain doesn’t Read More

House of Secrets (2004) by Otep

Categories: 2004 and Music.

Not having heard the initial album, where she apparently rapped, I can’t say what exactly about this is supposed to be nu metal (though I’m hardly a nu metal expert). To me it sounds more like what I might call emo metal, way to metal to be emo, but way to artsy fartsy to be straight up metal. Also, it’s signicantly more hardcore (or rather metalcore, yuk yuk yuk) than most nu metal I’ve heard.The relatively straight-forward metal is made less enjoyable by the sheer ponderousness and pretention of the concept, which makes me wish that some people just weren’t Read More

30 for 30: Four Days in October (2010, Gary Waksman)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

I hate the Red Sox. I mean, I fucking hate them. Though not as much as I hate the Yankees. But I feel like I remember this series like it was yesterday. (But I more remember where I was than the actual moments of the game.) Among the best baseball playoffs I’ve seen in my adult life. (There have been a few that were better in my mind, such as Diamondbacks / Yankees, but not many.) This was a great series and the film does a good job of getting us to understand how incredible it was, in part by Read More

The Universe: Cosmology Quest (2004, Randall Meyers)

Categories: 2004 and Movies.

Full disclosure: I never once took physics in high school and I certainly never took physics after that. My math background is so far in my past that I cannot rely on it. So you have to take everything I have to say about the physics of this film with a grain of salt. But before I get to the nature of the content, let me just say that this is a poorly made film: the narrator is brutal (his voice is given some kind of effect to make him sound like he’s from “Deep Space” and the script is Read More

Arrested Development (2003)

Categories: 2003 and TV.

I watched the initial run of this show years ago, when it initially aired. And not entirely in order, I don’t think. It’s been so long that I don’t know that I can do it justice in a review. It’s a classic comedy that managed to create its own style that I’m sure has been emulated in later shows, though I haven’t seen enough network comedies since to know. The fourth season is a little more hit and miss than the original, but the format is pretty neat and it has its moments. It’s not so weak that it ruins Read More

Camouflage (2004) by Acoustic Ladyland

Categories: 2004 and Music.

Coming at an artists backwards is always a big of an issue. Not only as it’s sort of unfair to the artist – we get our notions of what the artist sounds like when they are “mature” and try to apply that to their early work – but also as it’s unfair to the listener, often, because we don’t have a chance to grow with the artist, to learn from whatever journey they’re on. For example, I had no idea Acoustic Ladyland actually started out as an acoustic band performing Hendrix covers. I mean, I did know that intellectually, but Read More

The Sopranos (1999)

Categories: 1999 and TV.

The Sopranos has been seen by many many people at this point and so the fact that this review may include some mild spoilers should surprise no one. The Sopranos was the first massively successful American cable drama that aspired to levels of sophistication (and violence) only seen in movies. It was not the first sophisticated American TV drama, it wasn’t the first drama to bring movie-style violence to television. But it was the first one of these shows to be successful at this, the first runaway hit of these types of shows, and it established HBO’s “It’s not TV…” Read More

Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009)

Categories: 2003 and TV.

Battlestar Galcctica, the reboot, is probably the greatest science fiction TV show of all time. (That obviously depends on what we mean by “science fiction”, as if I included the original Prisoner in that genre, maybe I would be forced to rethink my position. And no, no version of Star Trek has ever particularly impressed me.) It has the highest production values of any science fiction show to date, it has the most complex mythology outside of Star Trek, and its characters are not one-dimensional – in fact most of them are quite complex. At its very best, it was Read More

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004, Alfonso Cuaron)

Categories: 2004 and Movies.

It’s amazing what a great director can do with material that might otherwise turn you off. The wife assures me that the third book is considerably better than the first two, and that may be true, but it’s pretty much astounding to see the quality improve so drastically with the change in direction. Cuaron practically reboots the franchise here: the colour of the students has changed and they now represent multicultural Britain instead of the white private school of the first two movies; and whether or not its closer or further from the source material, Cuaron’s Hogwarts is drastically redesigned Read More

Carlo Gesualdo Madrigaux a 5 voix (1988) by Les Arts Florissants conducted by William Christie and Tenebrae responsories for Maundy Thursday (2004) by the King’s Singers

Categories: 1590s, 1610s, 1988, 2004, and Music.

How we remember the past is always fascinating. They say the winners write history and that’s fine when it comes to political violence, but how relevant is that to art? Why exactly was Gesualdo forgotten for a couple centuries? Very briefly, the story with Gesualdo is that he was considered a minor Renaissance composer and then completely forgotten. When he was “rediscovered”, contemporary musicologists and composers were shocked to hear how adventurous his music was for the era; in fact little of the baroque and classical eras was this daring in terms of chord changes and the use of dissonance. Read More

Unspeakable (2004) by Bill Frisell

Categories: 2004 and Music.

I think there is a real tendency to look at a few of the moments on this disc – when Frisell really lets loose in the ways he can – and decide that this is some kind of return to form – for those people who do not enjoy his Americana obsession. My problem isn’t with his playing – though occasionally he does play it too straight – it’s more with the music surrounding his playing. I’m all for artists taking risks and this is a real curve ball given the kind of music he had mostly been making over Read More

N’ecoutez pas (2004) by Fly Pan Am

Categories: 2004 and Music.

I feel like they really are on to something on the first track, like some kind of unholy mixture of post-hardcore and Stereolab. But the second track – and all future noise fillers on the album – is just pseudo-avant-garde nonsense – honestly people have been making “music” like that since at least mid-’70s (and likely the 1950s). “Autant zig-zag” is I guess a little closer to what I thought I would be getting; like a more directionless GY!BE without the chamber influence and with more of a not so obvious pop – or at least Krautrock – influence, but Read More

Himalaya with Michael Palin (2004)

Categories: 2004 and TV.

This is yet another excellent Michael Palin travel series with the usual: great scenery, fascinating places and people, and Palin’s general affability. The only thing I can really say in criticism is that it seems a shame they were only able to get 6 hours out of 6 month trip through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. I am guessing that a longer series would have involved endless shots of him walking up or down or along a mountain. Well worth seeing for any fan of travel documentaries, as is always the case with everything he has Read More

Berlioz: Les Nuits d’Ete; Faure; Ravel (2004, Virgin Classics) by David Daniels, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris conducted by John Nelson, et al

Categories: 2004 and Music.

I have always sort of been annoyed by our collective obsession with vocalists. The human voice is indeed a powerful instrument, but it is hardly the only instrument out there. And I always am mystified when I see releases credited to vocalists when that vocalist isn’t even present on every track. Now, the music here is intended to feature a vocalist but there are moments that do not and one piece that does not include vocals at all. Why feature it under a vocalists name? It doesn’t make any sense!!!!! Alright, I’m over it. Now, the real review begins: Frankly Read More

Listening to You: The Who at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 (1970, 2004, directed by Murray Lerner)

Categories: 1970, Movies, and Music.

You should watch this if you like Live at Leeds.This is a pretty great performance by the Who at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. Some of the songs are the same from Live at Leeds, but there is enough of a variance in the set list that this is worth watching. And, you know, you can actually watch the band here. Really you should see it even if you aren’t a Who fan, as it’s pretty great for any fan of live rock music.The one issue is the camera work, some of which seems to be intending to Read More

The Secondman’s Middle Stand (2004) by Mike Watt

Categories: 2004 and Music.

Watt’s second album is an interesting thing: a guitarless trio playing what I guess you could call post-hardcore rock and roll with lyrics that often seem almost country. I’m not sure if that description sums it up. Idiosyncratic might do a better job. The musicianship is excellent – this is Watt after all, perhaps the best bass player to emerge from the various American punk scenes of the ’80s – and the arrangements are consistently interesting. The songs aren’t the most compelling despite, or perhaps because of, their idiosyncratic nature. It’s certainly a unique beast. 7/10 Read More

Strange Liberation (2004) by Dave Douglas (featuring Bill Frisell)

Categories: 2004 and Music.

This is a very solid “post-fusion” album, you might say. I say post-fusion because this is mainstream jazz that has been made in the awareness of fusion (and free to some extent, as well) but it is hardly readily identifiable as fusion. Everything here is great: the tunes, the playing, the moods. The one problem is that it isn’t exactly new. 8/10 Read More

The White Diamond (2004, Werner Herzog)

Categories: 2004 and Movies.

This is one of Herzog’s least coherent recent documentaries but despite that, it is still full of powerful moments and, as always, contains an interesting portrait of someone driven to extreme behaviour. Herzog seems even more interested in following his whims here than in most of his other docs: he goes to a diamond mind, he examines a rooster, etc. But he has also found an interesting subject (I’m guessing he looked into Plage’s death and that is how he found this guy). Herzog’s tendency to focus on people longer than their prepared statements last lets us see the real Read More

Contraband by Velvet Revolver (2004 RCA)

Categories: 2004 and Music.

I remember the instant hipster derision when this came out. Specifically, I remember watching the lead single’s video, and a friend of mine – a hipster if memory serves – was nearly apoplectic when Slash stepped forward to play the solo. Apparently such a longstanding expression of “rock” authenticity was just totally uncool, at least at that moment in time. Read More

Seven Circles by the Tea Party (2004 EMI)

Categories: 2004 and Music.

Though hardly the most original band ever, the Tea Party are clearly extraordinarily talented musicians (if not much else). Their second album, The Edges of Twilight, boasts as many instruments as you can possibly imagine on a mid-’90s rock album. And though they were never original (and they stole a little too much) they were at least remotely interesting in their desire to be so out of touch with the rest of the musical world of the early ’90s. So its sad to see what has happened. Yes, there were hints of their descent on their last album, but there Read More