Monday, July 27, 2009

Meet Me in St. Louis - Meet Me in St. Louis

Having a good EP in your collection is essential. Sometimes you only have about 20 minutes before you have to go to work or go out somewhere or cry yourself to sleep and I mean sometimes, you’re just not in the mood for skramz. It’s because of this that Meet Me in St. Louis has the most played tracks in my media player. Their self-titled EP has only 5 tracks and runs just over 23 minutes and is perfect for when skramz just won’t do the trick.

I think the reason the EP works so well is because it is so spastic and neurotic it works well for such a short runtime. In fact, the band did release a full-length album called Variations on Swing, but I never truly got into it the way I did the self-titled. The best comparison I can think of for the band (well maybe not best, but most fitting) is Between the Buried and Me. Just like BBTAM, Meet Me in St. Louis is comprised of some wonderful musicians who can’t write a coherent song to write their lives, but they certainly know how to take their listeners on a journey. Each song on the Meet Me in St. Louis goes through about 3 or 4 tempo/theme changes, but the band’s technical prowess and Toby Hayes charming lyrics are enough to distract the listener.

Unfortunately, after releasing Variations on Swing, Haye’s decided to leave the group and the group decided to quit not long after. The band’s label started the first (un)offical Meet Me in St. Louis Day last year on September 24th 2008, so please do the world a favor and download this album so you can rock out to it this year.

Also I want to mention that Haye’s voice does this thing when he yells where his voice flares up and then sort of trickles down and I think it’s cool but I’m probably the only one. It also be of note that this band loves movies as much as we do as each track is a line from a movie:

1. We need to act like we don't need this shit then they give us the shit for free (Swingers)
2. The Kid who had his ear slapped by the druggist (It's a wonderful life)
3. Why Thank you Suzie (Fight Club)
4. What happened to you Dylan? You used to be someone I could trust (Predator)
5. You said your finger was a gun (Field of Dreams)

Sorry for the messy structure of these last few paragraphs, but I just wanted to emulate the band so that they can live on in our disjointed lives for eternity.


Friday, July 24, 2009

The Hurt Locker (2009)

Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Written By: Mark Boal
"There's enough bang in there to blow us all to Jesus. If I'm gonna die, I want to die comfortable."

I'll be brief with this post: The Hurt Locker is the best movie I've seen this year, and I doubt it will be topped. It maintains suspense and heart pounding action, until an emotional climax that rips your heart out. It is also a fresh look at life at war, focusing on war as a "drug" (addiction to adrenaline). All in all, it feels like a remarkably genuine portrayal of war experiences (which makes sense, since the writer is an Iraq war veteran and also wrote 2007's In the Valley of Elah), and that makes it all the more affecting. The visual work in the movie is also noteworthy: the shaky cam is an effective complement to the harrowing battle scenes, there is an overall grainy texture to the film reminiscent of recent similar films, such as Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, and the opening scene has one of the most memorable shots I've ever seen. Keep an eye out for Jeremy Renner; he gives a moving and honest performance that is certainly Oscar-worthy. Go and see it for yourself, and experience one of the best war films I've seen.

8Ball & MJG - Comin' Out Hard

In a recent interview conducted by Luck in Odd Number’s dear friend Christian Baer, Thurston Moore postulated on why he thinks black metal appeals to so many indie rock fans (see: hipsters). Moore says the minimalism of black metal is what draws him in, referring to it as almost anti-music in its approach: it’s so cold and distant from the rest of the metal scene, it’s somewhat endearing. Given hipsters keen sense of irony, black metal’s lyrical content which usually consists of paganism and JRR Tolkien worship, is also rather attractive to those in love with making a statement that doesn’t actually say anything.

So why am I talking about black metal in a review for a pioneering southern hip-hop album? Well I think the very same asthetic that draws listeners to black metal is the same that draws them to hip-hop. Hip-Hop groups like Wu-Tang Clan have thrived among white audiences since their inception thanks to RZA’s ridiculously minimalist beats and the rest of the clans graphically violent lyrics. I truly doubt that over 90% of hip-hop enthusiasts can relate to lyrics of killing niggaz, squashing beefs, pushing coke, and pimping, but it sells, or rather is listened to much in the same way black metal has become popular despite the fact that 99.9% of black metal enthusiasts have never feasted at Valhalla or been to jail for murdering Euronymous.

Now we finally arrive at 8Ball & MJG’s 1993 debut Comin’ Out Hard. The production is remarkably minimalist with most songs featuring a bassline that sounds like it was put together in some prehistoric ancestor of MIDI, a drum loop tinnier than anything on St. Anger, and the occaisional vocal sample from a 60s soul track now long forgotten. However, these parts all come together to form a groove so smooth it would soon become the trademark sound of the dirty South. The lyrical content ranges from pimping, ho’s revolting, killing for money, and a robbery Johnny Clay couldn’t pull off. While the album’s relevance in undeniable, the album itself can get a bit tiresome due to the aforementioned sound quality. The best thing the album does is limit itself to 8 tracks (and an introduction) because as we all know hip-hop releases have a tendency to overstay their welcome.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Directed by: Sidney Lumet
Written by: Frank Pierson
"It's your job, right? You know, the guy who kills me, I hope he does it 'cause he hates my guts. Not 'cause it's his job."

From 12 Angry Men's examination of the heated deliberation of 12 anonymous jurors, to the intense interpersonal conflicts of a family in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, to the portrayal of a real-life bank robbery by a first-time criminal and his partner (both clearly experiencing mental and emotional meltdowns) in the film that is the topic of this post, Sidney Lumet's films all seem to share a distinct feature: a pervasive, overwhelming sense of tension. No matter the setting or time period (this must be the case seeing as his body of work spans more than 50 years), Lumet is a master of conveying emotionally charged conflicts with poignancy and, often, discomfort. His films also tackle contextual social issues, such as racism against criminals in the 1950's in 12 Angry Men, and homophobia and anti-war sentiment in the 1970's in Dog Day Afternoon. In this film, Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) and his friend Sal (John Cazale) rob a bank on a sweltering August day in Brooklyn, 1972. It soon turns into a hostage situation, followed by a media frenzy. As conflict builds between Sonny and the police, details of his past are revealed, giving insight into the reasons for his distress. The whole situation unravels with a remarkable sense of tension, as the heat is visually emphasized and the sounds of the city are able to prevail without a soundtrack. The movie is brilliantly shot, with a signature 70's look akin to The Godfather. Pacino's performance rivals DeNiro's in Taxi Driver for one of the best mental breakdowns on the big screen, and his famous improvised "ATTICA!" lines are an inspiring example of a supposed villain quickly turning into a sympathetic, heroic character. Though the events of movie are said to be much different from the real bank robbery, the basic details seem to be similar enough, and the film gives tons of contextual insight into 1970's New York society. Oh yeah, and nearly the entire film takes place in one building, similar to Lumet's first film 12 Angry Men. Hell, just watch it if you like a filmmaker who seems to get everything right in all of his work.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shotmaker - Mouse Ear [Forget-Me-Not]

I’m a sucker for a sludgy riff. Give me some trudging bass lines, pounding drums, and distortion up the ass. And package it under the guise of a post-hardcore…errr, emo (maybe) band and I’ll be sure to blow my load all over it. Enter Shotmaker. Hailing from Ontario, Shotmaker crafted aggressive yet inexplicably melodic riffs that could stop on a dime and rip your face off with just one swipe. Formed in 1993, the band’s early work shows potential, but is executed a bit sloppily. In 1996, the band released Mouse Ear [Forget-Me-Not] that they finally perfected their abrasive yet catchy sound and while the lyrics are for the most part unintelligible they are remarkably anthemic.

Shotmaker’s a hard band to peg. Not fast enough for hardcore. Not melodic enough for emo. Not heavy enough for metal. The sound is intangible. The lyrics are incomprehensible. The feeling you’ll get listening to “Failure” is unforgettable.