The Times Report: Sep. 17, 2007

In the New York Region section (Bostonites, even native New Yorker Bostonites, don't receive a whole metro section) there's an article about a statue in Herald Square which has been recently restored and contains one of the most hilarious paragraphs I've ever read:

"However, over the last few years, the seven-foot-tall Stuff statue “was coming too far forward, and it started tapping the bell — and then hitting the bell, which was damaging it,” said Marvin Schneider, the 68-year-old New York City clockmaster, who has been maintaining the bell mechanism and the monument’s pair of clocks for decades."

I'm having trouble putting my finger on why, exactly, I find it so amusing. Probably the dire tone it takes to describe a statue hitting a bell with a hammer as though the citizens of NYC have been completely captivated by it. It's like that little girl in the well, but with bronze.

New York Times - In Herald Square, a Monument Is Ready for Action


Looks like they're doing this thing right.

"D’oh! They’re Still Tinkering With Homer," New York Times 5.6.07: "Yet even at this late stage, the writers are reluctant to discuss what, exactly, “The Simpsons Movie” story is about. Judging from snippets of movie trailers, news releases and Internet chatter, the plot seems to involve the town of Springfield dealing with an environmental disaster that Homer accidentally starts. (Also, for some reason, Homer has a beloved pet pig.)"

Yeah, I know NYTimes pieces like this one, from the Summer Movies special section, can be a bit overly optimistic. But if they had the right people writing it and working on it, it could be a really good departure from the inertia that show has been in for years. Right?


Mark Ronson's Version: Not As Shitty As It Sounds

Mark Ronson's Myspace page

So, if you're at all like me, you never thought a Coldplay cover could ever be described as "hot like fire." Yet that is exactly what I found myself exclaiming this morning as I streamed the Dap Kings' version of "God Put A Smile On Your Face," from Mark Ronson's Version, the producer's album of pop covers done in the faux-Motown style he wrapped Amy Winehouse's last album in. So needless to say, it's one of the coolest, funkiest, most fun albums I've heard in a while. We get ODB on a cover of Britney's "Toxic," and in the cover of the Smiths' "Stop Me" there's a delicious reference to "You Keep Me Hangin' On" from the Supremes. And I'm just working off of the Myspace stream. It does look like the whole album is on there. This dude is gonna ride the Dap Kings to alternative/hip hop-ish producer of the year. I can't wait.


Feist: Good Songs, Great Videos

Jon Pareles's "Just Feist. Just Wait." profile in last Sunday's New York Times made me pretty excited for The Reminder, her upcoming follow-up to Let It Die. Let It Die was pretty good, but I found it pretty hit-or-miss. Some of it really bored me, but some if it was "Mushaboom," one of the best indie-folk songs since that genre came into being. But where Let It Die was apparently mostly collaborations and covers, every track on the new album was written by Leslie herself. Should be good, or at least settle once and for all whether she's an artist I love or just one who has a great song here or there. After reading the profile I can't imagine it would ever be the latter, but profiles in the Times (or anywhere) have a way of doing that to me.

But the real reason for this post was that the profile partly takes place at the shoot for Feist's new video, "1 2 3 4." It's a big song-and-dance number which Parales likens to a Busby Berkley film. That's exactly right. It's one of the coolest videos I've seen in a while (of course I've been without any real video channel for close to a year now). Take a look for yourself:

It's strange these days to see a video, or any filmed media, in a one-shot format. It's also strange to see Feist dancing around with such exuberance, not to mention any dance video having such a clean, almost family-friendly vibe to it. All the surprises are completely welcome. Feist's got some serious charisma. (Was there a Mushaboom video? Note to self: YouTube that shit.) Oh, and the song sounds as good to me as anything on Let It Die.

So I was pretty ready to award that clip "Video of the Year So Far," until this morning I saw the clip for another single from The Reminder, this one titled "My Moon My Man" and featuring the same awesome choreography and one-shot filming. But this time instead of Busby Berkley we get an airport's moving walkway! Check it:

Awesome, right? And again, that song is pretty great. She seems to be melding the jazzy-rocky thing a lot better on these tracks. Here's hoping the album is as tight as these two previews. I don't know which of these two I like better. Good thing I don't really have to choose.


My brain is really bad

at reconciling melodies with their originals. I think that Belle and Sebastian's "Fuck This Shit" from Storytelling sounds really familiar. Is it close to "Stars of Track and Field" from If You're Feeling Sinister or is it something else? I don't know. That's the problem.


The Queen shoudln't have touched me

as intensely as it did. After all, I'm an American, a New Yorker, and never particularly cared about the Royal Family. But of course director Stephen Frears does it again, maintaining his role as the most versatile director working today. Who else could direct The Grifters, High Fidelity, and (my personal favorite) Dirty Pretty Things? These are movies so far from one another that you'd never even guess they came from the same director. And The Queen fits the mold, or lack thereof. By focusing on a period of about seven days (though there's an epilogue), Frears gives the film, about pivotal days after the death of Princess Diana, an immediacy that I've never seen regarding Queen Elizabeth II (she is the second, right?). Here's wishing Steve, and everyone else involved, luck at the Oscars tonight.

Luckily I had the chance to watch this in a theatre full of (mostly) British kids. There were a lot of jokes I would have missed otherwise, and also a lot of bits that were funny to this audience. I think seeing caricatures of the Royal Family for their whole lives made some of the signals unintentionally funny. A chair pulled out behind the Queen as she stands, immersed in a phone call from Blair, proved funny to this crowd, as did Blair (circa '97 in the film) stating his main goal as education. Sure, it was highly fictionalized, and "just a movie," as my English flatmate Chris reminded me, but I came away with two things. One was just how out of touch the Queen was, and Two was just how special Lady Di turned out to be. In 1997, when the movie took place, I was eleven years old. I remember wondering just what it was about Diana that made my mom watch her funeral on live television early in the morning, and wondering just as well why my brother chided her for it (he was 14). And I'm still not sure what my mother had invested.

But for the English people, she was the one down to earth member of the Royal Family. To have a Queen that's actually a figurehead must be hard, but for that Queen to believe she's in charge is even more inconceivable to me. But Diana wasn't like that; she seemed to connect to and believe in the people and for that I respect her. The scene where it's suggested that the Thames Bridge be used for Di's funeral, to the dismay of the Queen Mum, whose own funeral is set to take place there at some point, was one of my favorites. It is one of the moments where it's suggested that Diana has a lot more immediacy to the greater UK than the proper members of the Royal Family. That disconnect is at the heart of this film.

Prince Philip exclaims at one point that the guest list for the funeral consists of "soap stars and homosexuals," and all I could think was that this is exactly what matters most to today's British society. Sure, I'm not British, so who am I to say, but just take a look at the Oscars and you'll see that America is already there. What am I getting at? Fuck if I know. But check out The Queen. Also, Children of Men was pretty great, but it's not even nominated, so my money's on The Queen for tonight at the Oscars. Or at least on Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen. Oh, what's that? He didn't even get nominated for Best Supporting Actor? Oh, nevermind then. Hand that shit over to...wait... seriously now, why wasn't he nominated?


Johnny Marr's definitely still got it.

I don't know if I hear it because I'm listening for it or if Marr's playing is really that distinctive (I like to think it's the latter), but I just got the leak on We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, the new Modest Mouse album on which the singular Smiths guitarist has joined the band (apparently as a full member, not just hired gun style as on Talking Heads' Naked. Seems like he's invincible even in his old age. Fuck a Smiths reunion; Morrissey's solo stuff is good enough (though his threats to make a Gilbert & Sullivan cover album scare me a little) and more importantly, Johnny Marr is still real and relevant. I've admittedly never been a huge Modest Mouse fan (Ugly Casanova's pretty great though), so who the fuck am I to say, but I'm going to go ahead and call this their best record yet. I mean, how do you add someone like Marr to the roster and not end up dwarfing the rest of your catalog? Sorry guys.

2007 is looking really really good for new albums. Of Montreal, the Fratellis, The Good The Bad and The Queen, now this Modest Mouse record, and a really promising Bright Eyes EP in preparation for his upcoming Cassadaga LP have me really excited. And it's not even March yet!


I'm not really sure

why I haven't posted in so long. I guess a lot's been going on in the last month (as of Jan 2nd, I've been living in Edinburgh until early June), but I stopped leaving posts well before that. Oh well. Beats me. I guess there wasn't a lot to say? Or maybe I've been saving it. Also, The Beatles' Love took up quite a bit of my time.

As I've posted before, Of Montreal were kind of on my bad side. I know they make stellar albums, on a pretty regular basis, too, but they stood me up for an interview and live mix at WERS last year, and then when I saw them at McCarren Park Pool last summer they just blew. Had so little dynamics, and I know that it's a hard music to recreate live, but jesus Kevin, take a step back. Start by making somone play drums, maybe? Anyway, that's neither here nor there. I downloaded yesterday Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? (I know that's a ridiculous title, but stay with me). The thing is, much as I want to hate this band (is it a band at this point? Apparently Kevin Barnes recorded most of it after he relocated with wife and infant son to Norway, beggin the question of whether this is a one-man-show type band) they keep coming out with really solid albums. It's just hard to argue with. So they suck live–I'll just stop checking out their live shows, I guess. From the album opener "Suffer for Fashion," which starts with a very Bright Eyes-esque distant-pianos-storms-and-babies-cooing sound, it breaks into the kind of deliriously dancable tune that we've come to expect since Barnes reinvented the group as an indie-disco-dance party. Overall the album kind of drops off towards the end, but even the twelve minute "The Past Is A Grotesque Animal" holds my interest with its spiraling keyboards and creepy backup vocals. Of course, as with any Of Montreal album or concert, you can't help but be confused at the dude's sexuality (Wife? Really? Like, a female wife?), but that doesn't really matter once you start dancing. I highly recommend this one.

Speaking of Bright Eyes, I also got my hands on a copy of his new Four Winds EP, and it also is very good. Makes me excited for whatever direction he's going with the upcoming LP Cassadaga, which apparently features Gillian Welch and M. Ward. The songs on here are fairly stripped down, and it sounds like he's finally finding the way to combine the country and electronic angles he felt the need to divide down the middle with his last simultaneously-released two LPs. How does this guy manage to make such unfailingly great records one after the other? Conor keeps me forever swooning.

Also yesterday I got from eMusic Meet The Smithereens!, a track-for-track cover of the Beatles' first stateside album, Meet The Beatles!. It plays alright, but really it just makes me want to listen to the original. There's not a lot you can add there, and these guys opt to not even try, just doing these faithful covers. I would, however, like to check out the tour they're doing in support of this release where they play the album start to finish. That would be fun to watch.

There's more, but I gotta save something for the next post.


I sell iPods at Dodger games.

Will Ferrell in some sort of Apple commercial spoof clip... I think it was in a keynote this year. Not sure. But either way:

And while we're at it,

Ooh ooh ooh ooh.


All You People Are Vampires

and all your stories are stale. I can't stop listening to this Arctic Monkeys. UK bands have really cornered the market on danceable rock with really rocking guitars. I don't want to keep trashing Of Montreal, because I really do like their albums, but the energy on the Monkeys' debut Whatever You Say I Am, That's What I'm Not is unbeatable. Combined with the slurred conversational vocals, the Arctic Monkeys have created this new kind of dance-rock. It's some kind of less embarassing danciness. These guys (I almost want to call them hooligans) could kick Nick Kapranos and Kevin Barnes' asses, but they still want to make people dance. It's kind of like a less boring Oasis.