Sunday, December 25, 2011

top 10 albums of 2011

Here are my Top 10 Albums of 2011.

James Blake - Enough Thunder (EP) & James Blake

Two extraordinary works by electro prodigy Blake featuring his swoony, not-of-this-earth vocals.

Adele - 21

The unlikely pop smash of the year.  A breath of fresh air: well-written ballads, gorgeous, emotional vocals; a smoky version of The Cure's "Lovesong."

Austra - Feel It Break

A throwback to Kate Bush's Hounds of Love: a moody mix of electronic pop and classical (lead singer Katie Stelmanis was a trained opera singer).

Holy Ghost!Holy Ghost!

Insanely catchy (and fun) electronica album.

Toro Y Moi - Freaking Out (EP) & Underneath the Pine

Bubbling hot lava nu-disco beats from the creative beat producer and chillwaver.

Feist - Metals

Didn't make as big of a splash as her last album (and radio friendly single "1234" did) but Feist has crafted some magnificent, intimate tunes here.

The Roots - Undun

The haunting tracks on this album makes a remarkable statement while tracing the life and death of a fictional character in reverse chronological order.

Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch the Throne

Two rap pioneers making good music.

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

A truly unique album with its percussive hits and horns and Harvey's intense vocals--harboring a global perspective (including testimonials of troops in Afghanistan) of passion, anger and fragility.  Definitely her best in years.

Bon Iver - Bon Iver

A swath of lush, melancholy indie rock and a great closer that's a melodic (and unexpected) throwback to mellow 80s pop in a major key.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

top 10 singles of 2011

2011 is almost over.  Happy Holidays & New Year, dear readers!

Be sure to check out my Top Films of 2011 next month!

Here are my top singles for the year.  What tunes were you feelin' this year?


The Hood Internet - "Sprawl of Glass"

A perfect mashup of Blondie and Arcade Fire!

The Go! Team - "Apollo Throwdown"

A rousing, cheerleader stomp.

Lykke Li - "I Follow Rivers"

Haunting electropop.

St. Vincent - "Cruel"

Builds beautifully.

Austra - "Lose It"

Aching vocal from Katie Stelmanis.

Bon Iver - "Holocene"

Sprawling mood piece.

Adele - "Rolling in the Deep" / "Someone Like You"

Finely written and performed torch songs by the talented young songtress.

Foster the People - "Pumped Up Kicks" / "Call It What You Want"

The year's catchiest single was disarmingly topical.  "Call It What You Want," with its tumbling piano riff was one of the best dance-pop tunes.

Jay-Z & Kanye West - "Ni**as in Paris"

Fun verses over a skittery, staccato beat.  Dubstep breakdown.

M83 - "Midnight City"

Layered electro number with a killer sax solo.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

silent night, evil night: a guest post by karen g.

The smell of cookies baking in the oven. Festive music fills the air. Visions of sugarplums and vodka fairies dance in my head. Yes boys and girls, it’s that wonderfully warm time of year again, when everyone’s a little nicer, a little more optimistic and filled with joy and hope.

And what’s more festive than a deranged serial killer stalking a group of students in a sorority house on Christmas Eve? Don’t be fooled by Bob Clark’s classic A Christmas Story, there were much more sinister yuletide forces at work in Clark’s mind when he brought us my holiday favorite Black Christmas (1974).

Starring a wonderfully cynical Margot Kidder as “Barb” and an overly-stressed Olivia Hussey as “Jess”, this cult classic has every creepy suspense element to make your hair stand on end from start to finish.

The young students, thinking they are just dealing with an obscene caller during the holidays, pay little attention to the increasingly threatening tone of our mysterious prankster. At one point in the movie, “Barb” jokes around with the caller until he replies: “I am going to kill you,” then quickly hangs up the phone.

The tension grows, as creepy camera angles sweep around the sorority house and more and more bodies drop, and the stomach-turning score by Carl Zittrer works well to keep you on the edge of your seat. Creaks in the ceiling, footsteps in the basement, and jolts every time the telephone rings.

While the 2006 remake had its fair share of scares, nothing comes close to the original film. An instant cult classic due to its legendary status of being based on a true story (a series of murders that took place in Quebec during Christmas time in the 1970s).

Look out for campy roles by Andrea Martin as the clueless sorority mother and an appearance by John Saxon as the police lieutenant, trying to assure the girls that they are merely dealing with a prank caller, nothing more.

When things do become more sinister, “Jess” works to keep the caller on the phone long enough for the police to trace the call, which of course, is coming from inside the house.

Black Christmas gained a cult following for being one of the first “slasher films” that is said to have inspired later films such as Halloween and Friday the 13th. If you’re ever in need of a break from the more traditional Christmas movies, check out this little gem. I assure you it will have you checking that your doors are locked twice, and that you’ve been less naughty and more nice!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

we need to talk about kevin

In We Need to Talk About Kevin, Tilda Swinton plays Eva, a mother devastated by the actions of her young son.  What Kevin (Ezra Miller) did that landed him in prison is gradually revealed as the film delves into the Eva's fractured psyche.  Kevin cries a lot as a baby: Eva takes him in his Rosemary Baby-esque stroller to a construction site of jackhammers to mute his wailing.  And then as a toddler, he's cold and unresponsive.  Once he gets to young adulthood, he's obsessed with archery and monstrously manipulative.  Although seemingly cosmopolitan and progressive, Eva doesn't seem to ever go to therapy for her sake or her child's (we are given one instance where she takes Kevin to a doctor for a check for hearing and autism).  Her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) receives much more adoration from their son and unnervingly and gratingly, he doesn't trust Eva's stories of how cruel Kevin can be to her.  The film seems to be concerned more with how desperately tried to get Kevin's admiration and respect and love despite being rather cool to motherhood in the first place.  The film's best assets are the houses: a gloomy, gray brick fortress-like mansion in a lushly wooded area where Kevin is reared, with clinical, bare and open interiors (the lack of privacy in it... people overhearing each other or seeing one another through windows is particularly spooky) and the one of Eva's present days, a worn little yellow house, splattered with red paint from vandals.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a tough sit not only for its brutal subject matter but for its the disjointed narrative and irritating soundscape. Tilda Swinton is certainly commanding in the lead role but we are offered very little in terms of her character development.  Her distinctive haunting look and the moves that she makes  are captivating.  Essentially she barely holds this broken film together.  She seems to be the only reason that this film is getting much attention since a better one with a similar story named Beautiful Boy starring Maria Bello was released earlier this year to little fanfare.  Overall in Kevin there is something lacking.  It could be because the film was adapted from a complicated (and what seems to be a richer), epistolary novel by Lionel Shriver with Eva as unreliable narrator.  But also director Lynne Ramsay lays it on too thick (like the red jam Kevin slathers on white bread).  There is heavy foreshadowing (despite not really needing it, since so much is presented in flashback) and an overly self-conscious, distracting and arty placement of the color red in every scene.  It's sometimes laughable in a film that really shouldn't be. **

-Jeffery Berg