Wednesday, January 4, 2023

eo


If there are humanist films, there can also be animalist films, and Jerzy Skolimowski's donkey-led stunner EO (a callback to Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar) is an evocative animalist film--a blunt vision of how horrible humankind can be, especially in relationship to the natural world. I saw two environmental docs recently--The Territory and Wildcat--both powerful films which grapple with the devastating effects of deforestation on both indigenous people and animals. However, despite being fictional, EO has the same urgent feel and realism of a non-fiction work with an unbridled sense of lingering sorrow. Utilizing Michał Dymek's dynamic, groundbreaking cinematography, the film stays close to EO's perspective. A circus performer, EO escapes and goes on various journeys through towns and countryside. Sometimes we glimpse the world through EO's eyes--sometimes the point-of-view shifts, and we see our hero from afar and above, and sometimes we see him intimately close, with the keen sound mix enhancing the sonics of ants crawling on a piece of fallen wood below his muzzle. There's even a bizarre detour to a character played by Isabelle Huppert as a countess in a rambling Italian villa. The meaning of this sequence strikes like a wrecked chord: jarring notes of clarity and opaqueness, as the viewer wrestles suddenly with being placed within this very un-Christian "Christian" / "human" human environment of picturesque beauty riven with grim, seedy undertones.


Remarkably, EO was filmed over a few years by a director who shows considerable formidability in his mid-eighties. There are modern, unusual uses of lighting and color (garish red strobes of the circus and the sleek neon green lasers of trappers). It's a film of EO's wanderlust not by luxury nor choice, but by means of survival. We witness the treatment of animals in the wild, including in the fur trade (legal in Poland) and factory farming. It can be a grim experience, but the movie always feels sensitive and organic to its roaming, fable-like quality rather than exploitive. Suddenly, leopard-print pants look extremely strange! This is due to introspective, sharp film editing (by Agnieszka Glińska) and the stirring performances of the animals (EO was played by six different donkeys; you wouldn't know since the film is so well-cut) who express emotion that somehow feels tangible. Also of note are the burgeoning symphonic brays that sweep through the excellent score by Paweł Mykietyn. His work fuses the grandeur and horrors of EO and his experiences. In its modest runtime, EO is one of the few films I can think of that encapsulates much about the human and animal condition through observation and visual wit, rather than depressing didacticism.  ***1/2

-Jeffery Berg

Monday, January 2, 2023

jeffery berg's top 10 albums of 2022!




2022 was a robust year across genre for music. Adventurous records with hip-hop and rap elements ended up dominating my Top 10 for the year.




10.


MELT MY EYEZ SEE YOUR FUTURE


Denzel Curry


Denzel Curry has been around but he was a new discovery for me in 2022 with his bold, urgent album. Varied deliveries of profound lyrics and an arresting use of instrumental tracks.



‘Melt My Eyez’ is a metaphor for things we choose not to see on a daily basis: we avoid people, we avoid the news, we avoid criticism, but most importantly, we avoid facing the truth ourselves when it’s right in front of us. ‘See Your Future’ comes from self-reflection and the realization that I’m going to do something to better the world by letting them know that we are all the same and we can move forward in life if we don’t focus on the past. -Denzel Curry





9.


FEW GOOD THINGS


Saba


Like Denzel Curry, Chicago's Saba is another exciting artist who has been around and was introduced to me for the first time this year. This creamy-smooth rap / soul record, with its strong guest spots and lovingly-rendered samples is a triumph. The back-to-back highs of "Fearmonger" and "Come My Way" in the center of the record are particularly exbuerent. 




A few good things so for me right now [is] family, time, how we spend time, and peace. That’s a few great things to be honest. [Laughs.] It’s like how you said, with what we’re in right now with the world and everything, just finding comfort in whatever you can find it in. It’s such a thing I think we took for granted. So, I think, just finding comfort. Living in confidence [and] being sure of yourself. I’m always preaching confidence. Everything moves once you believe it’s gonna move. -Saba



8.




LETTERS FOR THE FUTURE


Time for Three, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Xian Zhang


Dynamic, vibrant, forward-looking performances from string trio Time for Three alongside The Philadelphia Orchestra of contemporary classical pieces by two key modern American composers, Kevin Puts and Jennifer Higdon.




[This album] is our collective way of journaling what is happening in music now, and sending it forth into the universe for the future... It’s definitely daunting how one moment like this, the big reveal, represents literally hundreds of elements coming together in perfect sync. -Time for Three





7.


IT'S ALMOST DRY


Pusha T


The Virginia Beach vibe is strong on Pusha T's speedy record--another smashing rap album from the year. The lyrics are sardonic and sharp overall, and Pharrell's pulsing production is singularly impressive. Kanye is unfavored (to say the least) right now, but hard to ignore his skills contributed here as well.



It’s all about creating the best product you can create... That’s just the standard. I want people to look at this street rap narration that I’m painting and understand that this is all I want to make. Don’t ask me for anything else. I’m not entertaining you. I’ve been a realist. I’ve shown you everything. I’ve won the wars. I went through label dramas. I withstood everything. Now is the best time for me to be more creative and fully uplift the genre. -Pusha T







6.


SMALL WORLD


Metronomy


There's not a dud on this tuneful folk-synth-pop album. It's a record that grew on me throughout the year and got better and better. Its warm optimism welcome ("Things will be fine" / "Right on Time"). The special edition flip version featuring an array of guest stars isn't too shabby either. Occasionally, less is more in a maximalist-feeling era: both Pusha T and Metronomy's crisp albums clock in under 40 minutes each. 




The songs that do engage with the kind of universal, youthful pop themes of old - like the sweet and groovy ballad ‘Right On Time’ - he explains are getting harder and harder to write. It’s basically about meeting someone and falling in love, and the last time that happened to me was 11 years ago! I suppose now, it feels a bit like, come on, start writing about something that’s true… -Joe Mount






5.


NO THANK YOU


Little Simz


A reason to wait for the year to end before compiling a Top 10 list: Little Simz's bold Monday album drop late-breaker! (should more albums start dropping on the most depressing day of the week?)  A bit leaner than her last record (my #1 of 2021), but Little Simz continues genius work here. The orchestral instrumentations and sound-work is just as impressive as her unworldly, acidic delivery and lyrics.






emotion is energy in motion. honour your truth and feelings. eradicate fear. boundaries are important. 

 -Little Simz








4.


MR. MORALE & THE BIG STEPPERS


Kendrick Lamar


It's pretty incredible to see Lamar's output with every new record. Not as hook-driven or catchy as some of his last efforts, but it's maybe his most rambling, epic work yet. Blazing, rapid-fire raps, unusual tempo shifts and piano-riff melodies. Some choice guest appearances too. "We Cry Together" is an electric mosaic of a crazy toxic relationship, and actress Taylour Paige's against-type performance on it is something else.




This is my most present album. -Kendrick Lamar





3. 


NATURAL BROWN PROM QUEEN


Sudan Archives


Clicks and clacks, jazz-inspired sound-beds, thundering drums, evocative interludes, singer / songwriter & violinist Brittney Parks aka Sudan Archives' incredible album always keeps one on their toes with inventive and pleasing sonics and tunes. 






It's my time to have joy — to have Black girl joy. Making art, loving, dancing. So I'm not trying to be vibrating low [and] thinking about all those things. I just kind of feel like it's a trap, in a way. Once I start thinking about that, then I'm in a box. So I'm free. -Sudan Archives







2.


GHOST SONG


Cécile McLorin Salvant


I have long been a fan of Salvant's broad, gorgeous voice, so when I saw she was covering Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights," I couldn't wait to hear what she was up to! I was not disappointed. Though a notable jazz singer, as a whole, the album is almost unclassifiable in a single genre--or Salvant is pushing jazz and blues into new spaces. Nevertheless, it's a cohesive, moody tapestry of haunted songs.




I wanted to have different sonic environments. I wanted to have a little bit of field recordings, some clean studio sounds, and echoing church. I really wanted to play with the different colors of environments and contexts, because that's how I listen to music. This is what I like as a listener — a lot of different textures. So, we were trying to go for that to an extent. 

But it's quite different from what I've done in the past. We recorded with great studio microphones but also with cell phones. Children recorded themselves on cell phones in their homes. I recorded my nieces in my sister's house on the cell phone. Then we recorded inside the St. Malachy's Church in Manhattan. So, there were a lot of different textures to play with. -McLorin Salvant







1.


RENAISSANCE


Beyoncé


Not much more can be said that hasn't been said about Beyoncé's thrilling, house-infused dance album of perfection. Renaissance is of shiny entertainment, sample-hopping, and joy, but also of contemplation. 




Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world. It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving. My intention was to create a safe place. A place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream. Release. Feel Freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration. -Beyoncé



For key tracks from my Top 10 Albums of 2022, see below for Spotify playlist of my favorite 2022 songs.






Friday, December 30, 2022

jeffery berg's top 10 singles of 2022

 



Here goes my Top 10 Singles of 2022!






10.


YOU AND ME ON THE ROCK 


Brandi Carlile (featuring Lucius)


Sunny, strummy and a pretty perfect Joni Mitchell-inspired love song with a chorus, like the tune's physical setting, that climbs higher than expected.






9.

ANTI-HERO


Taylor Swift


Lead single from Taylor Swift's brilliantly marketed record. A synth-dripped bright pop tune with a mid-80s Tom Petty-esque beat and playful, occasionally evocative lyrics including congressmen and monsters on hills.





8.

FREE YOURSELF


Jessie Ware


After stomping through the drudgery of 2020 with the What's Your Pleasure? album, Ware released an inspiring and much-needed disco banger this year.





7.


HIGH PRIESTESS / MY HORROR


Santigold


After a 4-year hiatus, Santigold released two great singles off her Spirituals album. "High Priestess" is an energetic trek: "The energy I was looking for couldn’t be the old version of punk rock, it had to be the future sound of punk rock," she notes. "My Horror" is a deceptively simple autobiographical song about motherhood, living, and grappling with the world.





6.


BREAK MY SOUL 


Beyoncé 


It's hard not to think of summer of 2022 without this song. Not particularly groundbreaking nor the best track off the album, but a breezy tribute to house and an undeniable anthem of the year. The "Queens Remix" featuring Madonna and the song "Vogue" feels like a new dance club classic too.







5.


WALKIN' 


Denzel Curry


Incorporating a genteel library music track, Keith Mansfield's "The Loving Touch," to varying tempos and reverbs, Curry outlines systematic oppressions while walking with his "back towards the sun"  





4.


COME MY WAY


Saba (featuring Krayzie Bone)


A sample of The Stylistics' "Everything" paired with the smooth-as-silk delivery of Krayzie Bone and Saba's evocative lyrics made for a choice single off the Chicago-based rapper's album that never wore out its welcome this year.






3. 


RIGHT ON TIME


Metronomy


Jaunty, sprightly earworm from Metronomy, acoustic-based with little synth flourishes, that I played over and over this year. Tune-Yards provided a good remix as well.





2. 


THE HEART PART 5 / N95


Kendrick Lamar


The world is never ready for a new Kendrick Lamar track and "The Heart Part 5" rewarded 2022 in droves--not only in its haunting use of Marvin Gaye's "I Want You," its eerie, deep fake people-shifting music video, but Lamar's unreal delivery of potent lyrics. "N95" is another spitfire banger tearing down capitalism, materialism and the hypocrisies of the times.






1.


AS IT WAS


Harry Styles


With strains of a-ha, constrained in a tight 2:47 runtime, "As It Was" is perhaps one of the most blissful-sounding melancholic pop tunes in ages; Harry Styles conquered radio waves and streaming with this smashing elegiac musing on where we've been and the uncertainty of where we are going. 




A look back at the Top 10 singles of 2021. 


My Spotify playlist of all my favorite tracks from 2022.


Monday, December 19, 2022

Monday, December 5, 2022

nanny


My review of Nikyatu Jusu's impressive, if slightly flawed, debut Nanny is now up at Film-Forward.

A sobering and potent picture of a Senegalese immigrant's experiences in New York City mixed with folklore horror elements.