New year. Slow week. Well – let’s awayyyy…



Soderbergh puts an all-star cast through their pandemic paces. Nothing more fun than watching the beautiful people die. I say.



The best show on television not featuring two hunky guys driving around in an Impala saving hot Canadian chicks from monsters and ghosts, Justified’s second season hits shelves with enough time for you to get ready for season three. Every episode is filled with understated menace, sideways glances, and the threat of impending violence (and every episode featuring Joelle Carter is filled with one of the most beautiful women on the planet), and nowhere is that more apparent than in the astounding Margo Martindale’s brilliant performance. If you’re not on this show, you need to be.




Yeah, the boss had a hand in it. He also had a hand in Grizzly Park – so that only goes so far. You gotta’ know this would be the movie of the week if Nick had nothing to do with it. It would be my pick if Nick hated it – because I thought it was fantastic. Drippy atmosphere, sinister lore, awesome, hateful little creatures, and all of those Del Toro tropes and themes mean I can’t turn away. Add to that a performance by Katie Homes that is almost revelatory – and this film becomes something special. It’s like the old Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series of children’s books come to life.


Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
The Guard
I Don’t Know How She Does It
Ice Quake
Justified: The Complete Second Season
Mildred Pierce
Ringo Starr and the Roundheads: Live
Sekirei 2: Complete Series
Shark Night
She’s All That


Over the holidays, I had very little chance to preview new music, and this week’s a pretty slow one, too. But there are a couple of new releases that might warrant your attention, and I’m also taking this opportunity to put the finishing touches on 2011.



Monk transcriptions aren’t exactly a dime a dozen; good ones even rarer. So it’s nice that the 2012 year in jazz begins with one of the more effective ones. While there’s a lot of puffery in the promo material about Owens’ honors-laden career (he’s about to receive “The A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy“), the music-making here is decidedly that of a young, aggressive thinker, a musician who understands the greats of history well enough to deconstruct them and put them back together as tight, perceptive ensemble playing.

The opener, “Bright Mississippi” (Monk’s take on “Sweet Georgia Brown”), is a brisk introduction, but the first hint of the album’s unique strengths come on Monk’s best-known tune, “Well You Needn’t,” presented here as a pensive blues, with Owens’ flugelhorn supported by Kenny Barron on piano, Kenny Davis on bass, and drummer Winard Harper. “Blue Monk” adds trombonist Wycliffe Gordon for a Crescent City second-line raveup. “Pannonica” has hints of flim-noir, while “Brilliant Corners” highlights the rhythym section for light-fingered funk. Rounding out the ensemble, saxophonist Marcus Strickland provides pointed call-and-response on “Stuffy Turkey,” while legendary tuba player Howard Johnson seals the deal on the high-stepping “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”… which this album definitely does.



Given that the advance press on this album was its immediacy (evidently recorded in just four hours on an old Ampex machine last January, and released for download the next day), I’m not clear why it’s taken this long for the CD version to become available Stateside, but for anyone entranced, so to speak, by its predecessor (Twilight in the Crystal Cabinet), it’s another deep, droning, meditative experience, all mellotrons and treated guitars, that occasionally rouses itself to suggestions of melody.

“Fire! Fire!” may not open the album with the sort of kineticism you’d normally associate with that title (this ain’t Hendrix instructing Rover to move over), but conceived of back-to-back with previous album closer “Death and Beyond,” there’s a winking touch of hellfire in the dual guitars of Nicklas Barker and Mathias Danielsson.

I know less than nothing about the album’s purported dedicatee, “the late, great Torbjorn Abelli of Swedish influential prog band Trod Gros och Stenar“, but the song named after him is eleven minutes of expert space ensemble. Naturally, we close on drifting mantra-like mellotrons with the title cut. I can’t say that this sort of thing is typically a priority for me, but if your record collection tends toward Amon Düül II or Hawkwind, then step right up.



Generally speaking, I don’t feature albums here that I haven’t actually heard, but in a slow week, how could I possibly resist this blurb, which I quote verbatim:

“JOHNFISH SPARKLE 2008 in Italy were founded by Dave Perilli in the bass, Rob Gasoline in the drums and Al Serra, Vocals and Lead Guitars. Decisively influenced three men of the 70s heroes see themselves like Humble Pie, Budgie and Led Zeppelin and already the first tones prime this also rather clearly. Just 41 minutes follow in crunchigem Boogierock, often ramming and heavy (On this occasion, however, attention: expected please no deep-inclined guitars!), but also sometimes quietly and melancholy. This should appeal above all to friends of newer blues rock á la Aynsley Lister here. How said a rather round thing, cleanly played and even more cleanly produce.”

Fuck if I know what “deep-inclined guitars” are, but the 30-second samples on Amazon do suggest that this is competently-played retro 70’s guitar choogle… and they name-check Budgie, so there’s that.

And, finally, my DEFINITIVE WRAP-UP to 2011:


Agadez, Bombino
Barton Hollow, The Civil Wars
Content, Gang Of Four
A Creature I Don’t Know, Laura Marling
Eleven Eleven, Dave Alvin
Marble Son, Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter
The Mosaic Project, Terry Lynn Carrington
Volume 2: High And Inside, The Baseball Project
Wild Flag, Wild Flag
Wounded Rhymes, Lykke Li


12 Desperate Straight Lines, Telekenesis
Bad As Me, Tom Waits
Blessed, Lucinda Williams
Demolished Thoughts, Thurston Moore
The Demon and the Devotee, The Love Me Nots
Devil’s Music, Teddybears
Dirty Radio, Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside
Dye It Blonde, Smith Westerns
El Camino, The Black Keys
Exits and All the Rest, Girl in a Coma
Fixed Hearts, The Bye-Bye Blackbirds
Go-Go Boots, Drive-By Truckers
The Harrow and the Harvest, Gillian Welch
How Do You Do, Mayer Hawthorne
Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, M83
The King of In-Between, Garland Jeffreys
The Last Place, Army Navy
Live at Birdland, Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian
Mali Denhou, Boubacar Traoré
Mirror Traffic, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
Only In Dreams, Dum Dum Girls
Pull Up Some Dust & Sit Down, Ry Cooder
Rio, Keith Jarrett
The Rip Tide, Beirut
Screws Get Loose, Those Darlins
Seeds We Sow, Lindsey Buckingham
Sky Full of Holes, Fountains of Wayne
Stone Rollin’, Raphael Saddiq
Undun, The Roots
w h o k i l l, tUnE-yArDs


40 Odd Years, Loudon Wainwright III
The Koka Koka Sex Battalion: Rumba, Koka Koka & Kamata Sukuma: Music From Tanzania 1975-1980, Vijana Jazz Band
Live at the BBC, Richard Thompson
Live in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1, Miles Davis
Midnight Sun, Dee Dee Bridgewater
The Smile Sessions, The Beach Boys
Smokestack Lightning: Complete Chess Masters, Howlin’ Wolf
Some Girls / Some Girls Live In Texas ’78, The Rolling Stones
Tell My Sister, Kate and Anna McGarrigle
West Side Soul, Magic Sam


100 Lovers, Devotchka
2011, Smithereens
21, Adele
All Day, Girl Talk
All Eternals Deck, Mountain Goats
All Things Will Unwind, My Brightest Diamond
Alone At The Vanguard, Fred Hersch
Arabia Mountain, Black Lips
An Argument With Myself, Jens Lekman
Attention Please, Boris
Badlands, Dirty Beaches
Better Day, Dolly Parton
Beyond The Sun, Chris Isaak
Biophilia, Bjork
Blood Pressures, The Kills
Blues Dream, Bill Frisell
Bouncer, Cedar Walton
Captain Black Big Band, Captain Black Big Band
James Blake, James Blake
Anna Calvi, Anna Calvi
Ceremonials, Florence & The Machine
Charity Starts At Home, Phonte
Chief, Eric Church
Cole World: The Sideline Story, J. Cole
Collapse Into Now, R.E.M.
Conatus, Zola Jesus
Concrete, Sunny Sweeney
Cults, Cults
Culture Of Fear, Thievery Corporation
D, White Denim
Dancing Backward In High Heels, New York Dolls
Days, Real Estate
Dedicated: A Salute To The 5 Royales, Steve Cropper
Diamond Mine, King Creosote And Jon Hopkins
Director’s Cut, Kate Bush
Dirty Jeans & Mudslide Hymns, John Hiatt
Dos, Andrea Echeverri,
The Dreamer, Etta James
Drums Between The Bells, Brian Eno
Everybody Wants to Be a Cat, Various Artists
Excitement Of Maybe, Exene Cervenka
Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Girls
Follow Me Down, Sarah Jarosz
For True, Trombone Shorty
Ghost On The Canvas, Glen Campbell
Goblin, Tyler The Creator
The Good The Bad The Sexy, Joe
Good Luck & True Love, Reckless Kelly
Green Naugahyde, Primus
Hell On Heels, Pistol Annies
Hello Sadness, Los Campesinos!
Helplessness Blues, Fleet Foxes
Here Before, The Feelies
Here We Rest, Jason Isbell &  The 400 Unit
The High Country, Richmond Fontaine
Horses & High Heels, Marianne Faithfull
Hot Sauce Committee Part 2, Beastie Boys
How To Become Clairvoyant, Robbie Robertson
I Am Very Far, Okkervil River
I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, Steve Earle
In Your Night Of Dreams And Other Foreboding Pleasures, Masonics
Indigo Dreams, Bodeans
Is That You In The Blue?, Dex Romweber Duo
James Farm, James Farm
Join Us, They Might Be Giants
Junk Of The Heart, The Kooks
Kaiso, Etienne Charles
Keeper, John Doe
The King Is Dead, The Decemberists
The King Of Limbs, Radiohead
Lagrimas Mexicanas, Bill Frisell & Vinicius Cantuaria
Last Of The Country Gentlemen, Josh T. Pearson
Last Summer, Eleanor Friedburger
Late Night Tales, MGMT
The Less You Know, The Better, Dj Shadow
Let England Shake, Pj Harvey
Let Them Talk, Hugh Laurie
The Light Of The Sun, Jill Scott
Live In Marciac, Brad Mehldau
A Map Of The Floating City, Thomas Dolby
Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton Play The Blues: Live From Jazz At Lincoln Center
Mayhem, Imelda May
Mesabi, Tom Russell
Metals, Feist
Middle Brother, Middle Brother
Modern Art, Matthew Sweet
Modern Music, Kevin Hays, Brad Mehldau, And Patrick Zimmerli
A Moment’s Peace, John Scofield
Neon Blue Bird, Ollabelle
The Nightwatchman: ‘World Wide Rebel Songs’, Tom Morello
Nine Types Of Light, TV On The Radio
Ninth, Peter Murphy
No Color, The Dodos
No Help Coming, Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs
Nursing Home, Let’s Wrestle
The Old Magic, Nick Lowe
One Man Mutiny, Tommy Stinson
Orvieto, Chick Corea & Stefano Bollani
Our Blood, Richard Buckner
Portomento, The Drums
Proud To Be Here, Trace Adkins
Purpose + Grace, Martin Simpson
Queen Of The Minor Key, Eilen Jewell
Rare Bird Alert, Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers
Red Barked Tree, Wire
Red Hot + Rio 2, Various Artists
Red Velvet Snowball, Pepper Rabbit
Relax, Das Racist
Rise Ye Sunken Ships, We Are Augustines
Ritual Union, Little Dragon
The Road From Memphis, Booker T. Jones
Road Shows, Vol. 2, Sonny Rollins
Roy-alty, Roy Haynes
Satisfied At Last, Joe Ely
Scandalous, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears
Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites, Skrillex
The Secret, Vieux Farka Touré
Seven Seas, Avishai Cohen
Several Shades Of Why, J Mascis
Shangri-La, Yacht
Sign Of Life: Music For 858 Quartet, Bill Frisell
Slave Ambient, The War On Drugs
Sleep With One Eye Open, Chris Thile And Michael Daves
Smart Flesh, The Low Anthem
Smoke Ring For My Halo, Kurt Vile
So Beautiful Or So What, Paul Simon
Social Studies, Body Language
Solitude Of Prime Numbers, Mike Patton
Something To Die For, The Sounds
Songs & Stories, Guy Clark
Songs From A Zulu Farm, Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Sorrow & Smoke: Live At The Horseshoe Lounge, Slaid Cleaves
Speed Of Darkness, Flogging Molly
Strange Mercy, St. Vincent
Stranger Me, Amy LaVere
Sweetheart Of The Sun, The Bangles
Take The High Road, Blind Boys Of Alabama
Tassili, Tinariwen
Tenderly, Kenny Burrell
Thank You Happy Birthday, Cage The Elephant
Tomboy, Panda Bear
Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster’s Son, The Band Of Heathens
Unconditional, Ana Popovic
Use Me, David Bromberg
Wasting Light, Foo Fighters
What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?, The Vaccines
The Whole Love, Wilco
Working In Tennessee, Merle Haggard
Yuck, Yuck
Zayna Jumma, Group Doueh


No video games this week. Apparently we’re done with that. So instead, I’m going to take up space writing about three – yes, THREE – of my favorite things in one lovely package. Adventure games,, and reading.



HG101 is one of my favorite internet stops. The site is a glut of informative game articles, music samples, and screenshots. The awesome Kurt Kalata has compiled a website meant specifically to waste my time, and it really, really works. Outside of 1UP‘s essential Retronauts podcast (of which Kalata has been an infrequent guest) it is the best stop on the internets for the classic gaming nerd. I’ve read up on hundreds of games that I would never have the time to play. The site has screenshots and a write up for all seven versions of Last Action Hero! There seems to be literally no game (total fart-rocket or not) that these guys won’t play and write an exhaustive article on. And I will read every single one of them. These guys are cataloging an academically-ignored medium with a voice and passion that rivals the best in pop culture academia – which is why I couldn’t be happier they wrote the definitive tome on one of my favorite genres.

Oh adventure games, how I miss you. No game genre was as obtuse and anarchistic as you were. The hours I spent trolling with Larry only to forget a condom in the first few minutes and die alone, and almost instantly, of herpes, I wouldn’t trade for anything. The time I spent at Callahan’s Crosstime Salon ruined every bar experience I’ve had in my adult life. Not even Spider Robinson (he of man-god status) could so expertly transport me to such a foreign yet familiar place. One of my first clear gameplay memories is of sneaking downstairs at around 2:30 in the morning to finish up a particularly difficult puzzle on the third floppy of Monkey Island, and I remember the first time I felt guilty playing a game when I heard (or possibly just read) someone proclaim “SHIT” in Gabriel Knight. Later, in that same game, I saw my first pair of digitized boobs. Or at least I was pretty sure I did. What I’m trying to say is, adventure gaming holds a special place in my heart. Not just as a gamer, but as someone who says “shit” and likes boobs (two things that define me to this very day). Adventure games were a very adult form of entrainment in my young, impressionable, mind. They were stories I interacted with, often in very illogical ways, and shaped. The games played off of my love of storytelling and adventure, but also challenged me in ways that nothing else at the time did.

All those gushy, lovey feelings; it seems like I share them with some really smart people. The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures is a love letter – a really informative love letter – to the games I hold so dear. The book is wonderfully paced. The sections are intuitively separated by company, genre, and just a good feel for the genre. This isn’t a linear history of adventure games, although there is a fair amount of behind the scenes stories and interviews, this is a subjective guide to every major (and nearly non-major) adventure game that has been released. Every game has gorgeous screenshots and a lengthy article. The articles aren’t your basic rundowns, but rather a personal look at the history and the reality of the games. A lot of adventure games are nearly unplayable now, and these guys make note of what worked then but doesn’t work now. It could easily be used as a “to play” guide for your classic gaming habits, but they do such a good job on the write-ups that I don’t feel like I need to play a lot of these games anymore (I missed out on the majority of the Police Quest games, but I feel like I know most of the major puzzles and plotlines now).

For someone interested in the context and history behind video game design and philosophy, there is great information to be had. From why the games were so popular to why the genre died so horribly, it’s all handled expertly in these pages. It’s easy to flip though and read like a coffee table book, but it’s so beautifully laid out and well written you’ll find yourself reading about games you wouldn’t look twice at in a free bin. The book has a few typos and obvious grammar snafus, but it’s an indie labor of love and that’s honestly much better than it has any right to be.

From Soft Porn Adventure to Sam and Max Season 1, I feel like I have a better grasp on the history of one of my favorite genres. And a large list of games that I missed that I want to play now. And even more that I don’t. If you have even the slightest bit of nostalgia or love for the genre, don’t hesitate to give these guys your money. If you’re too young or never cared about the genre, this is a perfect introduction to a kind of game that is, for the most part, long gone. I can only hope Kalata and the Gang do this again. I want a slim volume on TG-16 shooters or a massive tome on JRPGS. I’ve been spoiled. The website isn’t enough anymore. I want to give these guys my money and get something beautiful to show my friends again.

If you’re looking for more well-done dead trees about video games, I would recommend Scroll.VG and Gamespite Quarterly. Both of these are semi-regular, beautifully-designed publications with a heavy slant toward retro gaming. With games journalism taking some scary turns, now is the perfect time to support these smaller publications. Reading criticism on the internet is such a disposable act it’s nice to have something physical to revisit and appreciate. Plus, if you’re really cool and geeky, they look really sexy on the shelf next to your boxed copy of Renegade.

I rock a boxed copy of River City Ransom myself, but I know what you’re going for, Tony.

Thanks for reading, my friends.