A Slice of Fried Gold

Coachella is Go

Sunday, January 31, 2010

It's official: I will be attending Coachella 2010.

Well, 95% official.

The logistics are all getting worked out, but it's looking like Joanne and I will be taking a trip down to California to attend the glory that is Coachella and to reacquire a surfboard. Obviously the latter task is slightly lower in import, but it will still likely happen. Who knows, maybe we'll throw in a trip to Joshua Tree and to Tijuana to recreate scenes from Entourage and The OC.

Minus the debilitating adventures with drugs of course.

I really can't wait for this adventure - so many awesome bands to be seen. I will make sure to photograph everything and catalogue all of the details for proper blogging later on. That is if I don't die from the catastrophically hot temperatures I'm expecting.

The Return of Lost

Lately my fake/Facebook wife Joanne and I have been tearing through season five of Lost. We're getting our fill of Daniel Faraday, Jeremy Bentham, Ben getting owned (rather repeatedly), retro Losties, and a lot more - it's a marvelous season.

Through and through, I'd say it is the most entertaining season of the series yet. You have reduced focus on Jack and Kate (the two weakest main characters in my mind), increased importance of Locke and Ben (if that is at all possible), and Sawyer taking the leap from a B grade character to an A+ character. While the segments that take place off the island early on are not the best the series has ever had (Joanne regularly responded to them derisively and we occasionally laughed at some of the drama), whenever the focus shifted back to the island of mystery, we were captivated.

We should finish it by Tuesday, when the sweet, sweet premiere of the sixth and final season starts up. When the fifth season ended in...well, disaster for almost all involved, I must admit I was perplexed: where could the series go from there? Previews have been minimal to date and Team Lost has done a phenomenal job of keeping word of its events down, but still, it will all be revealed soon in one hellacious season that will assuredly be as filled with crazy and intensity as we've come to expect.

While Joanne and I were watching, I had to pause and tell her my theory of what the last season will be and what reactions will be to it. I paraphrase:

Me: So I know what is going to happen in the last season.
Joanne: Oh yeah?
Me: Yeah, they aren't going to answer anything and we're going to be confused as all hell.
Joanne: They better not.
Me: They're going to do that because answers aren't what people want. When people get answers, they aren't happy. They aren't ever what they were looking for. The questions suck you in, but the answers just disappoint you. Trust me - more questions, no answers.

But it will be awesome.

That is without a doubt.

I think the quality of the last season depends on whether or not Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof, and the rest realize that sooner rather than later. While I think they're already not playing with a full deck (no Brian K. Vaughan on the writing staff this year), I do think they're fully capable of entertaining the living hell out of me. Let's just hope they realize my previous idea, and that the show is always better when Locke, Ben, Desmond, Daniel Faraday, or Sawyer are involved. That's your recipe people.

Now give us a tasty treat.

If you want to see the opening four minutes of Tuesday's premiere, check it out below. I would describe it as not really surprising, but they did a good job in the presentation of the predictability.

The Thermals Take Over the World

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Your favorite and my favorite power pop trio The Thermals are looking like they're going to have another big year ahead of them. Pitchfork posted a story yesterday about their rather expansive plans for 2010, that find them attempting to take over the world via their awesomeness.

Or at least China.

First up they will be releasing a 7" split record with The Cribs for Record Store Day (April 17th, in which the country celebrates the awesomeness of record stores) that will feature a brand new track from the band titled "Separate".

After that, they will be touring the world, including five dates in Australia and four dates in China. Nice! I'm not sure how big they are in Oceania and Beijing, but I can tell you that they'll likely win over a bunch of new fans with their fun as all hell live show.

If that isn't enough, the band is following up last year's exceptional album Now We Can See (my third favorite from last year) with a new LP titled Personal Life. Yes! That Chris Walla produced album will be released via Kill Rock Stars on September 7th. Get excited America, The Thermals are going to be one step closer to world domination by the end of this year.

All Songs Considered All of the Time

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lately I've been really hooked on NPR's weekly podcast All Songs Considered. My friend Erik has long sung its praises, but only recently have I been checking it out regularly. Whether it's presenting new tracks from Sigur Rós's Jónsi or debuting early cuts from upcoming hype albums like Spoon's Transference.

This week's edition is particularly fantastic, as it features new tracks from jj's upcoming release jj nº 3, The Besnard Lakes upcoming album Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night, and most importantly, the first track from Why? drummer Josiah Wolf's upcoming debut Jet Lag. That cut's name is "The Trailer and The Truck" and it's a killer, unsurprisingly focusing on percussion and vibraphone, but surprisingly featuring DeVotchKa esque vocals and a real haunting structure.

While I really love this podcast, this track is really my favorite I've heard so far from there. I highly recommend it, and it is up for a free download at Pitchfork right now. Don't miss out on it.

It doesn't hurt that Josiah Wolf looks like Joshua Gomez (Morgan from Chuck). That's a huge plus in my book.

Make Kaladi Not War

It seems as if Kaladi Brothers is always there for me. They're like that corporate friend I never knew I had or that I even wanted, yet their reliability is never in question. Let's say I'm lamenting the poor quality of my coffee (regardless of its place of origin) on Twitter, they'll quickly @ message me and tell me that if I stop by any of their locations they would remake my drink for me for free. That's without even mentioning the fact I basically loiter at their Title Wave location all weekend as if I'm some sort of urban hobo, using their internet to do my bidding and camping out for interminably long periods of time.

Then, to make them even cooler, they started doing this Work With Kaladi promotion on Twitter in which you qualify for the chance to win free coffee for your office just by retweeting their message. Given enough opportunities I knew I'd win, and I had a special feeling about today. That special feeling apparently was legit, as I won organic Red Goat coffee for my entire office! Yes! I imagine my entire day tomorrow in the office being one of celebrating my name, with coworkers high fiving or hugging me as they see me walking down the hall. It shall be a glorious day.

Thank you for that Kaladi's, and you're welcome office.

Review: Los Campesinos! - Romance is Boring

When Los Campesinos! released their debut LP Hold On Now, Youngster in 2008, I was very impressed with the seven piece band from Cardiff, Wales. Sure, it was a little all over the place, but good lord they really did a hell of a job of capturing their madcap energy all in one place. Then they did it again just 33 weeks later with their "EEP" (extended EP, they said it wasn't a full album) We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, and they'd really earned themselves a full time fan in yours truly.

Predictably, they somewhat fell off the face of the Earth (for them), as they didn't release anything for almost a full year! When "These Are Listed Buildings" and "The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future" in the latter half of 2009, we were given throwbacks to both previous releases. "Buildings" captured the restless energies of their debut while "Sea" captured the verbosity and more assured songwriting of their latter release.

These two tracks are highlights of their most recent release Romance is Boring (released today in the United States), which doubles as their best release to date as well.

While it isn't quite as loaded with standout tracks as their previous albums, it is more of a cohesive whole. Better yet, they've managed to whittle down their sound to build a stronger identity. They've taken the best aspects of previous albums and focused on them, and what that results in is a melodic and chaotic mix of twee sounding orchestral rock. That probably sounds like nothing to you, but to me it sounds like Los Campesinos!. Throw in a veritable cavalcade of new instruments (I suppose they had to find something to do with all of their members), giving us glockenspiel here, horns there, handclaps, and basically anything you can make a rhythm too, and you have a more complex and accomplished album than they've released before.

This is an album that finds the band dialing down the center on their last two albums while building on lead singer Gareth's verbosity. Even the song titles are long on this album, with tracks called "A Heat Rash In The Shape Of The Show Me State Or, Letters From Me To Charlotte" and "I Warned You Do Not Make An Enemy Of Me" appearing on the album. This is a man who obviously has a lot to say, whether it's about love, sex, death, or football, it doesn't matter - he'll say it and he'll say it at length. This length allows for some incredible lyrical moments, such as this bit from "Straight in at 101" when he laments:

"Some people give themselves to religion, Some people give themselves to a cause, Some people give themselves to a lover, I have to give myself to girls."
Oh how I relate to that little nugget. It's nice to know that given all of his gusto for lyrical exuberance, Gareth doesn't forget to make his words count when need be.

All in all, this is an album that makes every moment count. While it is definitely not something I can listen to always and it does drag a bit in the middle section (I think the heavier they get the worse off they are), it is a very well crafted album and a good capturing of their "shot out of a cannon" energy that they are so good at showing off.

Los Campesinos! - Romance is Boring: B

If you'd like to check it out for yourself, don't miss the stream that is up at Lala.

Track from Jonsi's Debut Release at NPR

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jónsi Birgisson from Sigur Rós is releasing his debut solo album Go in a couple of months, and while it isn't quite the same as getting a new album from from the band itself, from the sounds of debut single "Boy Lilikoi" it is going to be a splendor in itself. NPR's podcast All Songs Considered is currently streaming the track, and it's a lush, cheerful cut that finds Birgisson singing in English. That's right - in English!

It really is a beautiful and engaging piece, and highly recommended from myself. While his album last year he created with his boyfriend Alex Somers titled Riceboy Sleeps (releases as Jonsi and Alex) was a decent enough release, it really was more of the same atmospheric touchstones Sigur Rós has been perfecting for a decade now. This sounds more in the direction Rós' last album touched on, and is decidedly more upbeat than we've come to expect from his sound. Check it out at NPR, or at Jónsi's site.

Jónsi's debut album Go will be released March 22nd, 2010.

Review: Spoon - Transference

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

For the purposes of being up front with my biases, Spoon is part of a triumvriate of bands that are my favorites. The other two are Sigur Rós and Beirut, but Spoon is perhaps even higher than the other two. In my mind they are on a three album streak of absolute knockouts with 2002's Kill The Moonlight, 2005's Gimme Fiction, and 2007's blockbuster release Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.

However, leading up to their January 19th release Transference, reviews had been scattered. A lot of reviewers were making statements of "it's a step back for the band" and "this is no Ga x 5."

To me, that is an unfair way to review something. While Transference is assuredly no Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, that album in itself was wildly different than Kill The Moonlight or even Gimme Fiction. The same basic elements that comprise Spoon are evident across all of the albums - the swagger, the grooves, the unique, soulful vocals Britt Daniel gives us. To discredit the album in itself because of its inability to recapture the magic of a pop masterpiece like Ga or Moonlight is just a listener creating unfair expectations for an album.

Because this album is without a doubt a success, and another fine addition to Spoon's ever growing discography.

This album seems to fuse a lot of the more melancholy and lo-fi aspects of 2001's Girls Can Tell with the precision pop of their last two releases. I think one of the biggest issues people have with the album is that while listening to the opening four tracks, nothing jumps off the page like Moonlight's "Small Stakes", Fiction's "I Turn My Camera On", or Ga's "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb".

Then, the fifth track comes up and it is single "Written in Reverse" and it almost bottoms out those first four tracks by giving us a jam that is exactly like what we expect from the band. It hearkens back to "Camera", but with less emphasis on a smooth jam, more of something Daniel can really reach back and give us some hearty yelps and the rest of the band can give us some raw power - it really stands out given the low key nature of the albums beginning.

Yet those first four tracks hold a lot of gold in their lengths. "Before Destruction" and its slow build intensity coupled with Daniel's soulful vocals. "Is Love Forever?" and the echoing vocals and classic Spoon driving guitars. "The Mystery Zone" and its bizarre half song feel (it starts in the midst of the track and closes in the middle of Daniel singing the title) mixed with some fantastic instrumental arrangements that recalls "Don't You Evah". "Who Makes Your Money" is perhaps the most jarring of the openers, as it is a slow, hazy jam that ambles in its disconnectedness, but still draws you in.

Really, those first four tracks are a great sampling of what to expect. It's Spoon trying something new, but ultimately it still sounds like Spoon doing what they do better than almost anyone else: making great music. While tracks like the previously released "Got Nuffin" or the aforementioned "Written in Reverse" do bring our minds back to past releases, this is Spoon at their most experimental. While it isn't as instantly inviting as previously releases, it is more of a grower and something that is building on me after a delightful first listen.

Ultimately, what I'm trying to say is this: if you come into this album and are disappointed because you don't hear singles all over the place like on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, perhaps it isn't the album's fault but your expectations. This is a Spoon album through and through, and an occasionaly raucous and very enjoyable one at that. Enjoy it for what it is, and don't focus too much on what it isn't.

Spoon - Transference: B+

If you would like to try a free, legal stream of this album, check it out at NPR's website here. Thanks Web Sheriff!

Coachella vs. Sasquatch

This year I aim to make my triumphant return to concert festival going after a one year absence. 2007 I went to Seattle's Bumbershoot and Portland's Musicfest NW, 2008 I went to Sasquatch, and 2009 I went to...see The Wailers at Moose's Tooth? Even with the strong year in Anchorage for music, it still was a bad year in terms concert going for me.

This year though it's between going to Coachella for the first time or returning to Sasquatch, and it has been a really tough decision that has been weighing on me quite a bit. Let's look at the tale of the tape:

Sasquatch: $170 for a 3-day pass
Coachella: $269 for a 3-day pass

Winner: Sasquatch

Travel Partners
Sasquatch: Erik, Katie, and Kellie
Coachella: Umm...me, myself and I, plus probably some tumbleweed?

Winner: Sasquatch

Sasquatch: 70 to 90 degrees, sometimes windy and rainy but mostly nice
Coachella: I hope you like being hot, because it gets well over 100 here

Winner: Sasquatch

Sasquatch: To date? Umm...Pavement, Neon Indian and Vetiver (lineup announced the 17th of February)

Coachella: See the poster above, but for the ones I'm dying (exclamation points show how excited - 1 being least excited, 3 being most) to see for the first time or again we have: Jay-Z (!!), LCD Soundsystem (!!!), Muse (!!!), Faith No More (!), Gorillaz (!!!), Thom Yorke (!!), Phoenix (!!!), Spoon (!!!), Julian Casablancas (!), Vampire Weekend (!!!), MGMT (!), Hot Chip (!!), Major Lazer (!), Dirty Projectors (!), Passion Pit (!!!), She & Him (!!), The Whitest Boy Alive (!), La Roux (!), Yeasayer (!), The xx (!!!), Camera Obscura (!), Tokyo Police Club (!), Frightened Rabbit (!!), Portugal. The Man (!!), Girls (!), Yo La Tengo (!), Deerhunter (!), Matt & Kim (!), YANN TIERSEN (!!!).

Winner: Coachella, by a country mile

So for everything besides lineup, Sasquatch dominates. However, I really do not think there is a way in hell Sasquatch will be able to touch Coachella's lineup. That thing is insane. It's eclectic, it has a ton of artists I've never seen but would love to, and most of all, it has YANN TIERSEN. I was excited until I saw his name, and then I was blown away.

We're still a ways out until I make my decision, but man, that lineup announcement made it fairly hard on me. Let's hope I make the right one.

The Weekend Edition (Birthdays Rule)

Monday, January 18, 2010
This weekend (Sunday the 17th to be specific) I turned 26 years old. It was a very awesome weekend, as friends and family went out of there way all over the place to do awesome things for me. What I ever did to deserve them, I have no idea. All I know is I enjoyed their charity all weekend long. What went down?
  • 2010 Great Alaskan Beer and Barley Wine Festival with Joanne, Cate, Darren, Eric, Jason, Becca, Kyle, and Jessi
  • Riding the bull with Cate, Colver, Lorna and a bunch of others
  • Drinks at Sub Zero with Colver, Lorna, Emily, Potts and more
  • Bobby and I dominating downtown (I think)
  • Delicious Middle Way breakfast with my sister
  • Joanne and I, fake husband and wife date night! (Marian Call concert at Organic Oasis - so much deliciousness and good music, plus hanging with Eric and Olivia!)
  • Emily making the most ridiculously awesome brunch ever for my birthday morning - biscuits & gravy, omelettes, coffee, and mimosas with Emily, Cate, Darren and Eric
  • The Fantastic Mr. Fox at Bear Tooth with my sister Bobbie and niece Emily
  • Delicious Club Paris steaks with Joanne and my parents
  • Lost with Joanne
So yeah, it was a bit packed. The fun highlight was definitely the insanity that is the Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival. It's always an amazing time and a great way to run into people you haven't seen in forever. Of course, it's also a recipe for complete and utter disaster with a sprinkling of embarassing moments. I spent the rest of the evening, or at least most of it, dancing like a fool at The Avenue. I mean come on, how often do you get a chance to dance to Major Lazer?

There is a distinct possibility that there are sections of the evening I do not remember, but hey, that'll happen. I woke up in one piece and as of yet I haven't found anyone that's mad at me, so apparently the night went okay for me. See below for some pics from the rest of the night.

The rest of the weekend was highlighted by the Marian Call concert and dinner at Organic Oasis plus the dinner at Club Paris with my parents and Joanne. Club Paris is my absolute favorite restaurant and to share a meal with my family and my fake wife was glorious. To top it off, my parents got me some great gifts, in particular some amazing Karl Kerschl prints and a t-shirt from his webcomic The Abominable Charles Christopher. A superb finale to the weekend. Check out the prints below.

However, I'd be lying if I didn't say the true highlight is the brunch Emily prepared for me on my birthday. Eric, Cate, Darren and I went over there, and Emily made phenomenal biscuits & gravy from scratch for everyone. For those that do not know, B&G are pretty much my favorite food ever. It's very difficult to find quality versions of it as well, and Emily knocked it out of the park. Throw in omelettes, tasty coffee, cinnamon rolls, mimosas, and T-Pain, and it was an awesome start to my 26th year of life. I'm an incredibly lucky person to have people like this in my life. See a pic below of part of the spread (note that it's small because I devoured it - also, Emily the chef is at the center of the picture).

Welcome to Alaska, Bitch

In some parts, people greet visitors to their parts with beach fist fights (The O.C. and the legendary Ryan and Seth vs. Luke and a bunch of water polo players that inevitably ends with Luke winning and saying "Welcome to the O.C. BITCH") while others welcome people with dressing like ghosts or burning the letter t (South Park's "Here Comes the Neighborhood" episode). Apparently Fairbanks, Alaska goes another route. Only in Alaska would a hockey team have an opening video like the one above, in which a polar bear uses a fighter jet to blow up the Earth.

Whenever I wonder why I live in Alaska, I'll just think of that video...and immediately wonder why once again. Sigh...

Jimmy Kimmel Completely Owns Jay Leno

Thursday, January 14, 2010

While Conan O'Brien has pretty much taken the high road when it comes to the whole getting owned by Jay Leno and NBC thing, it's good to know some others aren't so nice. Watch the video above to see Jimmy Kimmel completely eviscerate Jay Leno (on Jay's own show no less) in uncomfortable and hilarious fashion. He's speaking for pretty much the entire country by doing so.

That is all

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Favorite Films of 2009

I always try to write my favorite films list last simply because most of the prestige pictures don't come out until after the year is out. It's a sad fact of movies, especially to us Alaskans. We're subjected to delays upon the already delayed nature of those movies.

What does that mean for my list? Well, before I get to my favorite films of 2009 list I'll list out the movies that would likely be contenders for my list. Also, the movies that just missed the cut are below.

Note: This was a weird year for movies. It seems like there weren't as many movies later on in the year that blew me away like last year with Let the Right One In and Slumdog Millionaire. No less, it was a good one, just weird.

Haven't Watched Yet: The Road, The White Ribbon, The Lovely Bones, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, The Informant!, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, In the Loop, Precious, Invictus, A Single Man

Missed the Cut: A Serious Man, Coraline, Zombieland

Best Documentary of the Year: The Cove

Why it's the best: I won't go into any details because a lot of this movie is based off the shock value and going in blind, but I can tell you this: when I was little I wanted to be a Marine Biologist because my affinity for Cetaceans (whales and dolphins, essentially). This movie is essentially a look into their treatment by certain communities in Japan and what the world is doing to confront these travesties.

What goes on in this hour and a half long documentary is horrific and heartwrenching, and really deserves to be watched. Some have called this film manipulative and even propaganda, but I disagree. It is an often beautiful film with a very important message. Highly recommended by yours truly.

15. Where The Wild Things Are (Directed by Spike Jonze, Written by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers)

14. I Love You, Man (Directed by John Hamburg, Written by John Hamburg and Larry Levin)

13. Moon (Directed by Duncan Jones, Written by Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker)

12. The Hangover (Directed by Todd Phillips, Written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore)

11. The Brothers Bloom (Written and directed by Rian Johnson)

10. An Education (Directed by Lone Scherfig, Written by Nick Hornby)

9. Star Trek (Directed by JJ Abrams, Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman)

8. Avatar (Written and directed by James Cameron)

7. The Hurt Locker (Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Written by Mark Boal)

6. District 9 (Directed by Neill Blomkamp, Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell)

5. Away We Go (Directed by Sam Mendes, Written by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida)

Why It's #5: This film didn't get the esteem that it deserved in my mind. It shouldn't be surprising that this film could be a success given that it is co-written by literary giant Dave Eggers and directed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes, but I think some discount it because of the rather unassuming leads in The Office's John Krasinski and Saturday Night Live's Maya Rudolph and the fact it is perhaps a bit twee.

One way or another, it is a movie to me that feels very real and easy to relate to. This film finds Rudolph five and a half months pregnant (but looking VERY close to labor) and Kransinski perpetually jovial as they are faced with the reality of starting a family without really having a home. Not a home in the sense of a having a house, but in having a place that emotionally and spiritually feels like the place they belong. What transpires in the length of this film is a journey from location to location to find the right place for themselves, and it is often hilarious and touching.

It also features an exceptional supporting cast, as we're given appearances from Jeff Daniels, Catherine O'Hara, Allison Janney, Paul Schneider, Jim Gaffigan, Melanie Lynskey, and more, all of whom do their jobs just as well as you expect them to. The soundtrack is mostly Alexi Murdoch, and his Nick Drake like sound really connects with the central themes of the movie.

Sure, this isn't a movie that is going to earn any nominations come Oscar time, but it is the type of movie that will connect with you as a viewer if you find yourself at the right point in your life. For myself, it is something that resonates.

4. Up in the Air (Directed by Jason Reitman, Written by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner)

Why It's #4: I wrote a more extensive review in December of this film, but I can summarize my feelings pretty well: this is a movie that finds writer/director Jason Reitman building on the considerable abilities he has demonstrated so far in Thank You For Smoking and Juno. The skills he shows within this film are of a master storyteller, ably handling the pacing and the look of the film to perfectly convey the emotion and power of the story on screen.

George Clooney gives another patented Clooney performance, although this time he mixes a bit of vulnerability into his concoction of effortless charm and complete self control. However, he is possibly overshadowed by his supporting cast, as the ridiculously sexy Vera Farmiga and the incredible Anna Kendrick frequently steal scene after scene. Kendrick in particular is excellent, as she manages to create a character that is a know-it-all on the surface and filled with regret and doubt internally. She wears it on her face like a seasoned veteran, and she has a hell of a future as an actress - not just in the Twilight films.

As I said to close my previous review, "This film is poignant, hopeful, funny, touching, and occasionally devestating. While it is predictable at times, I think that stems greatly from Reitman's naturalistic storytelling ability. It is a movie that demands you as a viewer to reassess your life and to think about what you want in your backpack. Powerful stuff, and in my mind is deserving of every accolade it has received so far."

3. Inglourious Basterds (Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino)

Why It's #3: If you've seen this movie you know why it deserves to be near the top of everyone's Best of 2009 list. This is Quentin Tarantino at his very best, as he manages to make a film that doesn't fall in love with its own voice and is incredible assured, yet is still incredibly cool and badass. I mean come on, this movie features a number of different stories at the beginning (the Basterds, Hans Landa and his quest to be the biggest badass ever, Shosanna and her revenge, Frederick Zoller and his quest to make Shosanna love him) that all converge at the end for a completely awesome finale. Even the chapter's name is fantastic - Revenge of the Giant Face. How is that not awesome?

I do want to note: while everyone in the cast is great, from Brad Pitt to Diane Kruger to Daniel Bruhl to Michael Fassbender to Mélanie Laurent, they are all greatly overshadowed. Christoph Waltz dominates this film as Hans Landa in a way that is rarely thought possible. His creation is one of the greatest villains I've ever seen, as he is fiercely intelligent, wildly unpredictable, despicable, and strangely hilarious. Every scene he is in is appreciably better than the ones that surround it, and to me, if he doesn't win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar they might as well simply stop the festivities because that would delegitimize the whole experience.

Amazingly enough too, this movie gets better every time I watch it. And I LOVED it the first time. To quote Tony Shalhoub in Galaxy Quest, that's a hell of a thing.

1 (tie). Up (Written and directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson)

Why It's Co #1: You can read my full review here, but really, if you've seen Up or know me, you know why it is finishing at the top of my list. Up is perhaps Pixar's finest hour, taking maybe their most outlandish plot yet (yes more so than talking cars) and turning it into something that is quotable, touching, hilarious, action packed, and incredibly rewatchable.

Better yet, they managed to create some of the best characters in their history. Whether you're talking about Kevin, Dug, Russell, or Carl Fredricksen, you have four characters who are on par with Woody and Buzz, Wall-E, Mike Wazowski, Remy, and all of their other masterful creations. Their relationships form the backbone of this film, and if this isn't the year Pixar finally earns their Best Picture nomination, I'll just assume it's never going to come.

In short, I hid under Up's porch because I love it. If you've seen the movie you know what I mean.

1 (tie). (500) Days of Summer (Directed by Marc Webb, Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber)

Why It's Co #1: Every year there is a movie that comes out of nowhere that I connect with entirely. It's always a quirky, charming romantic comedy with leads I've previously liked and it always features an awesome soundtrack. This year? It's (500) Days of Summer, and unlike previous years this movie has managed to have legs for me and hasn't fallen off the face of the Earth upon further viewings.

I think one of the main reasons is because unlike previous quirky romcoms that have sucked me in, this one has a strangely universal feel to it. Who hasn't found that one girl who when you think of her, you can't think of anyone else? That one girl who has no flaws and only stunning positives? That one girl who makes everything else go away? This movie captures that feeling, and the feeling of how you feel when she's no longer in your life.

I've been told by others that it is a kind of depressing movie, but I disagree entirely. I think it's an extremely hopeful movie in fact. By the end, you really get the feeling that all involved really are telling you that no matter what happens, the one for you could easily be right around the corner. There's something magical about that, and I think this movie does that and captures the wonders of love (like dance sequences the day after you first sleep with someone or IKEA ridiculousness) as well as any movie in recent memory.

While the cast is across the board great, this movie wouldn't be the same with a different lead. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has long been a very underrated actor (possibly because he started with 3rd Rock From the Sun), as he has blown people away throughout the years in under the radar films like Brick, Mysterious Skin, and The Lookout. This film earned him the spotlight for once, not to mention a Golden Globe nomination. He carries this movie on his back, selling every scene from an emotional standpoint as well as any male lead this year in my mind.

While he almost certainly won't earn an Oscar nomination this year, his performance helped make this my co-favorite film this year. Well done sir, and here's hoping DJ Caruso stops taking crazy pills and casts you as Yorick Brown in his adaptation of Y the Last Man.

New M.I.A. Album Coming This Summer

Monday, January 11, 2010

Some time last year I reported that M.I.A., the Queen of impromptu stage concert dance parties (see: Sasquatch 2008), had retired. Which was sad.

Now she said she's not only unretired, but is releasing a new album this summer, much to my excitement. Not only that but Diplo said in the past that this album sounds "like Gucci Mane meets Animal Collective." How could that not be awesome?

It will also be quite eclectic, even for the the ever surprising M.I.A. Apparently she has a track on the album titled "I'm Down Like Your Internet Connection" in which she samples the voices of Verizon employees. Really.

No final date, but I can tell you I'm excited. Anything new from M.I.A. is a moment of celebration in my book.

Chuck is Back

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chuck is back, and now everything feels right in the world.

Josh Schwartz, crafter of guilty pleasure of guilty pleasures The O.C., created this show the same year he created Gossip Girl, yet Chuck never received the same level of attention. However, since its inception it has steadily grown from a promising if not uneven show at first into what is quite possibly my favorite show on TV now that Battlestar Galactica is over. Tonight's two hour premiere does nothing to change that, as we're given all of the hijinks and awesome we can handle.

If you're not watching this show, you're really missing out on the single most consistently enjoyable show on TV. Really. How can you resist a show that stars a dork who doubles as a spy and features the insanely gorgeous Yvonne Strahovski and the intensely hilarious (emphasis on the intense part) Adam Baldwin as his spy handlers? You can't, trust me.

Welcome back Chuck! You were missed.

Bendis Week

As I say rather frequently Multiversity Comics, the comic blog I write for, has really taken off and been quite the success. We're looking into a redesign and looking to acquire advertising dollars very soon, but before we do that we're looking to build our audience. To do such a thing, we need something to draw in new readers.

Enter Bendis Week.

Starting tomorrow morning, we're going to be unveiling five days of Brian Michael Bendis. We had an extensive interview with Bendis last week, and we went over all aspects of his career with most of the focus being on his big Marvel event Siege. Bendis is pretty much the modern day Stan Lee, acting as the architect for Marvel comics over the past decade and helping turnaround the comic giant from bankruptcy. It's a huge moment for all of us at Multiversity, and any of you are interested I highly recommend visiting this week to read the interview.

Review: Freelance Whales - Weathervanes

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"freelance whales...you will love generator 2nd story...look into it. new. texting and driving."

That text message two days ago from my friend Kellie was the very first time I heard of the band Freelance Whales. This five piece group from Queens were so fitting for my tastes that Kellie risked her life (and clean driving record) to get me to listen to them. Evidently she had heard them from her long lost love/favorite DJ John in the Morning from Seattle's indispensable radio station KEXP, and she quickly had to share the track.

I of course immediately started listening to "Generator 2nd Floor" on their MySpace page. Then I listened a second time. Just to be sure I listened a third time. Then I listened to "Generator 1st Floor." Then I just threw objectivity and extensive listening to the wind and purchased their debut album Weathervanes off Amazon MP3 (just $9.99!) and here I am - a big fan of a band I hadn't heard of before two days ago and one that hasn't even released a physical album before.

Weathervanes was just released to digital media on December 29th and has quickly caught a buzz amongst the musical illuminati across the country. Their debut brought the interest of stellar indie label Frenchkiss (home of Passion Pit, crafter of my favorite album of 2009), who will be releasing this album March 16th. Save the date, because this is a joyous and oft beautiful album, channeling the multi-instrumental folk affectations of Sufjan Stevens while really layering their sound with pop sensibilities and a true sense of warmth.

Within the 13 tracks on their debut, Freelance Whales manage to create a sound that is reminiscent of many others yet wholly their own. Whether it's the synth and banjo that leads off opening track "Generator 1st Floor", the joyous singalong vocals that comprise the chorus of its opposite number "Generator 2nd Floor", or the Halloween, Alaska times Sufjan glitch pop stunner "Starring" that brilliantly infuses synth with live instrumentation, you have an eclectic album that is surprising not just in its structure and diversity, but the assured nature of the songwriting. There is a real level of confidence to this album that you wouldn't generally get from most debut albums, yet you get the feeling that the fact that this is a debut never really weighed heavily on this group's mind.

If you want a wonderfully diverse and charming pop album that really subscribes to every genre and no genre simultaneously, I highly recommend Freelance Whales debut Weathervanes. If I may suggest a methodry of purchase, you can pre-order the vinyl or CD on their website and it comes with a digital copy. Did not know that before hand and regret it now, but it's okay. I can just listen to their album and feel better.

Freelance Whales - Weathervanes: A-

Nic Cage As Everyone

Recently I came across a blog called "Nic Cage As Everyone" in which the blog runner and users who frequent the site create photoshopped images of Nicolas Cage as basically every person in history. Even fictional history. As you can see above, he was chopped into a picture of Prince, but there are many other great examples including him as Dexter, Hellboy, Harry Potter, Heidi Montag, and many, many more. The first time I looked at the page I laughed for pretty much ten minutes straight. I recommend it wholeheartedly - get on that people. Who doesn't want a good laugh at Nic Cage's expense?

Although to be fair, I like to think he enjoys this site himself.

Review: Vampire Weekend - Contra

Monday, January 4, 2010

When a band releases a successful first album they are placed in a very unenviable position once they decide to follow it up. You have a fork in the road as a collective of artists: keep on the path that worked so well the first time or forge ahead in an entirely new direction because that is what feels right.

The former decision is tricky because of two reasons. First, if you're successful in your venture you are questioned by fans because you didn't attempt to expand your sound and challenge yourself. Second, if you aren't successful you are dismissed as a one hit wonder who got lucky (if that is at all possible when it comes to art).

If you make the latter decision you are faced with very similar realities. Attaining your goal brings you the onslaught of fans who lament the loss of the band they used to love, while botching the job drives fans to question how talented you are (again).

Given that Vampire Weekend didn't just release a successful debut but perhaps the most universally acclaimed debut of the past decade save The Strokes initial release Is This It, this pressure is even greater upon them. What could they do to possibly survive the expectations?

Well, to me, it appears that they selected the option so many artists miss. Following the lead of other immediate successes like The Strokes or Interpol, Vampire Weekend created a fairly similar album to their debut while expanding their sound in other directions they were interested in.

While Contra is not the top to bottom stunner that their self titled debut was, I find it hard to fault them for most any decision they made and it is almost as enjoyable of a listen in a whole different way.

I think part of the reason why they struck gold once again is similar to why The Strokes did as well. While the band is great as a whole, each individual artist has disparate interests that they bring into the equation. VW is much the same way, although I think as a band they are more top heavy with Ezra Koenig and Rostam Batmanglij bringing most of the creative heat.

In between their self titled debut and Contra we've seen pieces of what to expect to be added to their sound. Whether it's Rostam Batmanglij's work with Ra Ra Riot's Wes Miles in their electropop side project Discovery or Ezra Koenig's singing on The Very Best's "Warm Heart of Africa", you see a lot of the warm washes of electronic influences that eventually will permeate through Contra.

While we still have the instruments in hand from time to time, gone are the days when they sell us with pure pop blasts crafted around angular guitars, drums and Koenig's vocals like they did with debut single "A-Punk." Okay, maybe even that is a lie as they still manage to have a knock your socks and shoes off two minute and 26 second jam in lead single "Cousins." But the point is, this band is a one that keeps all of the charm from their first album but pours it more into dreamy, atmospheric soundscapes.

The album begins with two tracks that almost act as rubrics for what we should expect from this album - "Horchata" and "White Sky." "Horchata" was the first track we heard off this album and something that was initially off putting to me. Yet, it has steadily grown and worked to ably prepare me for what to expect from this album with its pulsing synths, swirling strings, and charming steel drums. "White Sky" takes it to the next level, and in many ways feels like what the Koenig sung track from Discovery's album should have sound like: jangly synths, driving drums, and perfect opportunities for Afropop influenced vocal affectations (particularly in the chorus). A perfect intro to their new sound.

Of course, this is naturally where my two least favorite tracks fall. "Holiday" feels like a Vampire Weekend contribution to a The Strokes cover album - it's a decent song but feels too ordinary for them, while "California English" is burdened with borderline laughable auto-tune and cheesy instrumentation during the chorus. The song is partially saved by a very strong final minute or so when the strings kicked in, but these two tracks are my least favorite VW releases to date.

"Taxi Cab" and "Run" return us to the more dreamy elements of the first two tracks, with buoyant synths, twinkling pianos, and Koenig's lilting vocals making these two of the stronger tracks on the album. These are perhaps the prettiest songs the band has ever released and stand out as unique even amongst their brethren on this album.

"Cousins" comes next, and as I said this track is a bomb of energy. It comes at the perfect moment, as VW cared for their track listing on this album. They knew after the last tracks their listeners would be a bit slowed down, and "Cousins" is the perfect remedy to that.

The trio at the end are where the VW boys absolutely knock it out of the park though. Starting off with warbled synth pulses in the beginning, "Giving Up the Gun" quickly dives into an almost hysterically awesome driving guitar rhythm. Like "White Sky", this fits what I was hoping for from Koenig's track on Discovery's album. It's a well crafted pop gem with eclectic instrumentation arrangements that seem to dive in and out at the most random of times.

It's impossible to deny "Diplomat's Son". This is one of the most original songs they've ever released and perhaps their best, starting off feeling like an Amadou et Mariam track with an Afropop like chant being enveloped by soft vocals and warm synth from the very get go. It ends up being a six minute stunner that strongly emphasizes Koenig's charming croon and Rostam's ability to create an almost ambient hip hop structure that never seems to overwhelm. That the second half of the track mixes the tempo up to the point where it often doesn't feel like the same song should be surprising, but it isn't. It is inviting however as it provides an almost spellbinding power to the close of the track.

"I Think Ur a Contra" is to me the most cinematic and atmospheric track the band has ever done. It's for the most part soft, sweet synth throughout (with mini-glitches thrown in throughout) and Koenig holding notes to the maximum length that will allow him to still be melodic. It's a high point in terms of warmth and genuine feel to the album, and by the time the strings wash over you around the two minute, 40 second mark you start to feel that this is a fitting coda to an exceptional album.

My apologies for length. I love Vampire Weekend and think this album is quite good, and I think it is one of those albums that will connect with people quite effortlessly like their debut did. Perhaps not to the same degree, but in a whole new and exciting way.

Vampire Weekend - Contra: A-

Stream Vampire Weekend's "Contra"

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I must admit - in my intense anticipation of Vampire Weekend's new album Contra I've been searching for a leak on a daily (if not hourly) basis. There have been a number of bait and switches so far, but the best thing next to that option is finally upon us.

Vampire Weekend has now put up the entirety of Contra up for stream on their Mypsace page. If it is anywhere near as good as the initial releases indicate, we're in for one of the better albums of 2010 right off. Check it out yourself and look for a review of this coming up tomorrow, along with (hopefully) looks at Yeasayer's Odd Blood and Los Campesinos!' Romance is Boring. Both of those albums are also being released later this month.

Vampire Weekend's Contra is being released January 11th in the UK and January 12th in the USA. Don't forget to pick it up.

Thanks for the heads up from my friends at Vinyl and Vodka.

New Years Goals: 2010 Is Upon Us

Saturday, January 2, 2010
2010 is here and with that comes a new set of goals to accomplish. My friend Kim insisted that "New Years Goals" makes more sense than "New Years Resolutions" because goals are something we try to attain, as opposed to resolutions which are pretty much just things we say and hope for the best on.

This year features only two repeats that will likely be there until I actually make them happen. Here's hoping it's this year.

Resolution Number 1: Run a marathon.
Resolution Number 2: Get back above 300 posts in a year on this blog (and buy domain space!).
Resolution Number 3: Read 52 books or graphic novels.
Resolution Number 4: Get A Slice of Fried Gold up to 100+ visits a day and Multiversity Comics up to 1000+ visits a day.
Resolution Number 5: Leave North America for at least two weeks.
Resolution Number 6: Get to around 190 pounds and maintain.
Resolution Number 7: Learn another language.
Resolution Number 8: Get better at staying in touch with friends that don't live here.
Resolution Number 9: Get a promotion or find a new job.
Resolution Number 10: Be more adventurous and less self destructive.

So there you have it. I'll be keeping my readers up to date on how I am doing on all of them throughout the year - in particular the 52 books/graphic novels one. I've tried this in consecutive years since I found out that my blogging idol Largehearted Boy was trying to read 52 books in 52 weeks.

Here's hoping for the best. As I've said to basically anyone who will listen, I'm on at least a 24 month hot streak as 2008 and 2009 were awesome. I need to keep that stretch up, and the best way I can do so is keep my eyes on the prize.

New Years Goals: 2009 Revisited

Happy New Year all. 2009 was one of the best years of my life and I'm really hoping 2010 can match it pound for pound in awesomeness.

Before setting what you are looking to do in the upcoming year, it's a good idea to look back and see how you did in the previous year first. One of the easiest ways to not follow through on what you want to accomplish is to not share those things. Well, here they are, with the ones that were a success being bolded.

Resolution Number 1: Run a marathon.
Resolution Number 2: Stop going out to eat so much.
Resolution Number 3: Read 52 books or graphic novels.
Resolution Number 4: Get my blog up to 100 visits a day.
Resolution Number 5: Go to Europe.
Resolution Number 6: Get back to 190 and 200 pounds.
Resolution Number 7: Take a college course.
Resolution Number 8: Stop buying so many frivolous things.
Resolution Number 9: Learn something new that’s truly useful.
Resolution Number 10: Eat healthier and drink less.

Four out ten were accomplished - not bad but not that great either.

A couple notes about apparent failures:

- I will note that I'm not sure how much I read this year but I can assure you it was quite a bit.

- I did not get this blog up to 100+ visits per day, but I did hit that goal multiple times and my comic blog Multiversity Comics has hundreds of daily readers with a peak readership of over 1700 unique readers in a day

The rest I don't really have much of an excuse on, but they are things that I can easily carry over to 2010. Look for my goals for next year coming up soon.