Yeah – it’s another slow week. And yeah – I was slow getting this up and running. But next week sees a recap of the year’s best releases according to me – so be sure to be back.
As it stands…Jeb is going to kick eleven herbs and spices outta’ you this week.
And Tony – well…you’ll see.
Luc Besson – one of the world’s foremost purveyors of my favorite genre of films – the “Milla Jovovich is Hot and Kills Guys” genre – does the same thing for Zoe Saldana. So Does it work?
Q: Is Zoe Saldana hot?
Q: Does Zoe Saldana kill guys?
Obviously, the film is a success.
UNDERWORLD TRILOGY: THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION
Hey look – Sony pulled a Paramount! Just in time for the release of the new film, they repackaged the same discs as always with slightly different art! At least they tossed a cheesy anime-flavored featurette in the package – Paramount couldn’t be bothered to do include the Ghost Protocol trailer in their re-released box. I don’t care how amazing Kate Beckinsale’s shiny-vinyl clad ass is, don’t get suckered!
I’ve not seen this yet, but I really want to. Apparently, it’s amazing – though the plot sounds an awful lot like something PM Entertainment made with Gary Daniels in 1996. This is by no means a bad thing.
ALL IN – THIS WEEKS (FEW) BLU:
Anna Netrebko: Donizetti Anna Bolena
Blackthorn – Sam Shepard stars as Butch Cassidy in this revisionist western. Looks interesting.
Catch .44 – that cast goes straight to video? I’m worried.
Futurama: Volume 6
Glee: The Concert Movie
Heaven’s Lost Property: Complete Season 1
Lang Lang: Liszt Now
Midnight in Paris
Rush: Time Machine 2011 Live In Cleveland
Sid and Nancy – I swear this has been on Blu for awhile now…hm.
Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection – Hey look! Sony pulled a Paramount. These are the same discs as always with slightly different art, and a cheesy anime-flavored featurette! I don’t care how amazing Kate Beckinsale’s shiny-vinyl clad ass is, don’t get suckered!
NOW THAT’S WHAT CHUD CALLS MUSIC – WITH JEB DELIA!
This week, the first of two recaps of the year in music 2011, a month at a time.
2011 started off with The Decemberists making their chart-topper move, as The King Is Dead enlisted the help of Gillian Welch and Peter Buck, streamlining the sound while upping the emotional directness. For whatever reason, though, the band failed to repeat the experience of Arcade Fire or the Black Keys from 2010: it sold, but didn’t really cross over and become the subject of conversation in the same way that The Suburbs or Brothers did. And given that it lacked the melodrama of The Hazards of Love or the baroquely ornate structures of Castaways and Cutouts, I suspect it won’t be a first choice for Decemberists fans in years to come. Post-punk was the order of the day with Wire’s very good Red Barked Tree and Gang of Four’s excellent Content; post-post-punk was represented by Cage the Elephant’s Thank You Happy Birthday, while the Smith Westerns hinted at the pure pop riches to come with Dye It Blonde, and the musical kitchen sink got its workout in the wildly giddy Rolling Blackouts from The Go! Team. A good year in jazz was kick-started by Joe Lovano & Us Five and their Charlie Parker tribute, Birdsongs, as well as the glorious urban Hispanic landscape of Bill Frisell & Vinicius Cantuaria’s Lagrimas Mexicanas. There was also an embarrassment of riches on the reissue front, including the massive Hear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads, & Beyond: The Arhoolie 50th Anniversary Boxset, the best remastering yet of Magic Sam’s classic West Side Soul, the original Bossa Nova album, Joao Gilberto’s O Amor O Sorriso E a Flor, and two of the most powerful reissues in the Fela Kuti catalog: Coffin For Head of State / Unknown Soldier and Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense. On the letdown side of things, Jack White missed the point of Wanda Jackson’s simple strengths with the overwrought The Party Ain’t Over.
The Big Voice returned, with an army of hot producers and studio pros at her back, on Adele’s 21, the album that will pretty much stand for 2011 in years to come. She wasn’t the only strong woman with a release in February: P. J. Harvey’s Let England Shake redeemed some on-the-nose whining about her homeland with some of the strongest music of her career. There was typical excellence in Drive-By Truckers’ Go-Go Boots, and atypically varied studio hijinks on The People’s Key, which may or may not prove to be the final “Bright Eyes” album. Brad Mehldau released his first of several amazing jazz piano outings of 2011 on Live In Marciac, and Bitches Brew Live sounded like it would be the most impressive Miles Davis set of the year (little did we know). The Low Anthem provided an antidote to the raucous and racket with The Smart Flesh, and Telekinesis’ 12 Desperate Straight Lines offered bleak wisdom against madly catchy pop: “Always do what I am told/ Jesus Christ, I’m gettin’ old.” But the most impressive release of the month was the Civil Wars’ Barton Hollow: at a time when Nashville promotes the overproduced, overwrought vocal dreariness and generic off-the-shelf songs of Sugarland, Thompson Square or Lady Antebellum, Joy Williams and John Paul White harmonize like a pair of Everlys on a series of spare, quietly eloquent songs: the ache of a lost love in “20 Years,” the halting confession of “I’ve Got This Friend,” and the folk-metal urgency of the title song, are just a few of the high points, with virtually every track anchored by an unshakeable melodic hook.
March featured a couple of “growers”: Lykki Ly’s Wounded Rhymes and The Baseball Project’s Volume 2: High and Inside were appealing enough on first listen, but as the year went on, their strength and depth grew to be inescapable; in particular, High and Inside‘s use of baseball’s legend and lore for metaphoric examination of death, fate, and memory has kept it on my playlist all year. Radiohead’s The King of Limbs and R.E.M.’s Collapse Into Now were sort of the reverse: strong work from veteran bands that (for me, anyway), never developed the same kind of long-term relationship with my synapses. A jazz high point was the U.S. release of the Charlie Haden Quartet West’s Sophisticated Ladies, while Captain Black Big Band exploring an untraditional definition of the term. There was a brilliant pair of reissues of vintage Tex-Mex rock and roll: Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs’ The MGM Singles and Sir Douglas Quintet’s The Mono Singles ’68-72. A very busy month also included excellent releases from Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers (Rare Bird Alert), J. Mascis (Several Shades of Why), The Strokes (Angles), Panic! At the Disco (Vices & Virtues), The Dodos (No Color), New York Dolls (Dancing Backward in High Heels), DeVotchka (100 Lovers), The Sounds (Something To Die For), Band of Heathens (Top Hat Crown and the Clapmaster’s Son), Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, (Scandalous), and Mountain Goats (All Eternals Deck). Lucinda Williams’ Blessed reaffirmed her place as maybe my favorite songwriter whose singing I often can’t stand; a better balance between the two was Exene Cervenka’s Excitement of Maybe. Anna Calvi’s debut was less impressive than those as a piece of writing, but rich in the sensual depth of both her voice and her Telecaster: “Hold me down / And give me all your power.” Don’t mind if I do.
After Adele, probably the two biggest critical-commercial home runs of the year were Paul Simon’s So Beautiful or So What (which I found listenable but typically glib and affected), and Wasting Light from Foo Fighters’ (whom I described as “the flannel generation’s Aerosmith,” a phrase that seems to have been picked up by a few writers around the blogosphere); some more decent albums that other people seemed to get more out of than I did included Robbie Robertson’s How To Be Clairvoyant, and TV on the Radio’s Nine Kinds of Light. April did produce several of my favorite releases of 2011, including Bombino’s Agadez (the pick of a great year in Desert Blues), The Unthanks’ Last (an astonishing leap forward from last year’s Here’s the Tender Coming), Dengue Fever’s Cannibal Courtship (their most musically wide-ranging collection yet), Les Nubians’ Nu Revolution (more gorgeous vocals laid over the lushest funk grooves), and the amazing (if overly coy) w h o k i l l by tUnE-yArDs (Merrill Garbus). A clutch of April releases remain in my regular rotation, including The Kills’ Blood Pressures, Smithereens’ 2011, Jason Isbell’s Here We Rest, Panda Bear’s Tomboy, The Feelies’ Here Before, Steve Earle’s I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, Alison Krauss and Union Station’s Paper Airplane, and Karsh Kale’s Cinema, along with great jazz from James Farm’s self-titled debut, Bill Frisell’s Sign Of Life: Music For 858 Quartet, Marcin Wasilewski’s Faithful and Mathias Eick’s Skala.
To be honest, the May albums I listened to the most were a pair of related reissues: Tell My Sister, a loving, bittersweet selection of highlights from the career of Kate and Anna McGarrigle; and 40 Odd Years, which traces the unique and idiosyncratic output of Kate’s one-time hubby Loudon Wainwright III. Fleet Foxes came back strong, as did the Beastie Boys. R & B went simultaneously retro and psycho with Raphael Saddiq’s Stone Rollin’, Tyler the Creator’s Goblin, and The Road From Memphis by Booker T Jones and The Roots; it also met and hooked up with trad country in the Blind Boys of Alabama’s Take The High Road. And pretty much any and all sets of ears were catered to with Okkervil River’s I Am Very Far, Chris Thile and Michael Daves’ Sleep With One Eye Open, Thurston Moore’s Demolished Thoughts, Diamond Mine from King Creosote and Joh Hopkins, Boris’ Attention Please, Flogging Molly’s Speed of Darkness, and The Vaccines’ What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?. And then there was Hugh Laurie, whose Let Them Talk was simultaneously invigorating, irritating, exuberant, and expert, with the astonishing accomplishment of the seasoned professional transposed against the eager-to-please enthusiasm of the amateur.
Eleven Eleven is probably the best album of Dave Alvin’s solo career so far: rough-hewn and rocking, filled with stories and legends side by side with all too genuine, all too human tales of real lives ending in sadness, tragedy… and acceptance, for a couple of lucky bums. Taking Americana to its other extreme was the deathly hush of Gillian Welch’s harrowing (so to speak) The Harrow and the Harvest. Not far behind was the amazing King of In Between from the endlessly youthful 67-year-old Garland Jeffreys, the the self-titled album from Cults, Jill Scott’s tough-minded The Light of the Sun, Thievery Corporation’s Culture of Fear, Black Lips’ Arabia Mountain, Arctic Monkeys’ Suck It and See, Dolly Parton’s Better Day, Joe Ely’s Satisfied at Last, and Eilen Jewell’s Queen of the Minor Key. Red Hot & Rio 2 was a punchy successor to the original, while Richard Thompson Live at the BBC has continued to reveal amazing new facets to his songwriting and guitar playing all year long. Another plethora of fine jazz releases, including Live at Birdland from Brad Mehldau, Lee Konitz, Paul Motian, and Charlie Haden, Chick Corea’s Forever, Bonebridge by Erik Friedlander. And this was also the month that Bon Iver’s Bon Iver came out. Everybody seems to really love that one…
See you next week for “The Rest Of The Story”
TONY’S PLAYIN’ GAMES – WITH TONY RYAN!
It’s almost the end of the year and instead of highlighting some of the great games of 2011, I’d like to take the time time to acknowledge the huge crop of games that look like warmed, sticky turd ooze. Games I haven’t played – but will judge based on as little information as possible. I just want to say upfront – if I casually and flippantly dismiss one of your favorite games, you have awful taste. You should stop that.
MINDJACK (PS3, 360)
I don’t what the hell this is, but don’t call your game Mindjack. You’re just making the kids in the black trenchcoats horny.
HYPERDIMENSION NEPTUNIA (PS3)
An RPG where all the heroes are video game systems. God damn it, Japan.
AR TONELICO QOGA: KNELL OF AR CIEL (PS3)
This one has half naked underage robot ladies that want you inside them. And it’s called Air Tone Loco? What?
DYNASTY WARRIORS 7 (PS3, 360)
I swear I’m not just picking on Japan, and DW7 is probably the best game on this list. But there were two versions of 7 and a new Gundam game this year when one Dynasty Warriors title per generation is enough. It’s overkill for a franchise that’s simplicity should have made it a downloadable title by now.
DUKE NUKEM FOREVER (PS3, 360, PC)
I’m still convinced that this game exists in retail space simply so Gearbox can keep the IP. Or because someone really, really wanted to win a bet. Either way, this is the one game on the list I played. I would descend into hyperbole over how terrible Duke Nukem Forever is, but no one gives a shit. This game sold on dude/bro nostalgia, and it will provide hours of terrible entertainment for terrible people. Mission accomplished?
CALL OF JUAREZ: THE CARTEL (PS3, 360)
As hard as Duke Nukem tried, it could never be as offense as this.
X-MEN: DESTINY (PS3, 360)
It’s a little like seeing the girl you have a crush on wearing a handmade kitten sweater. A sweater with kittens on it, not made out of kittens.
Actually – made out of kittens.
Thanks, Tony. And personally – I can’t wait to play Air Tone Loco: The Guardians of Ga’hoole…