Friday, September 30, 2011

Over on the Village Voice's Sound of the City blog, my latest Radio Hits One chart column is about the follow-ups to the last few Hot 10 chart-toppers and their odds of reaching the same level of success.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

In light of the news of Ponytail announcing their breakup, I reviewed their final album Do Whatever You Want All The Time for

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Green Naugahyde is Primus's first full-length album in 12 years, and it's been even longer since they made a good album, so it's hard to go into it with high expectations to begin with. But I was mainly disappointed to hear that Herb Alexander, the drummer on all their best early albums who reunited with the band for several tours in recent years, was again out of the fold.

In that sense, I was pleasantly surprised that Green Naugahyde is not bad. Founding drummer Jay Lane is no Herb, but he definitely is a suitable drummer for the band. And as much as Primus get knocked for having such a narrow, specific aesthetic, pretty much every album they've made has had its own subtly distinct sound and mood, and Green Naugahyde has this kind of dark, muddy feel that kind of contrasts nicely with the noodly musicianship and goofy lyrics.

Ultimately, though, Green Naugahyde is just as uninspired and overly familiar as most everything Les Claypool has done since the early Primus albums. The sound and tone of his bass is often more inventive than the actual grooves he's playing, and it sounds like the other guys are just kind of along for the ride. And worst of all is that Claypool's always dark, sarcastic worldview starts to come off downright surly and crotchety with his grumbling monotonous delivery, especially when his idea of injecting 'current events' into his songwriting is to reference Octomom -- I don't know what's more shameful, if he's writing lyrics about Brangelina and Octomom in 2011 or if he wrote them back when they were fresh references and held onto them this long.

Monthly Report: September Singles

Monday, September 26, 2011

1. Cee-Lo Green f/ Melanie Fiona and Philip Bailey - "Fool For You"
It bums me out that I haven't really been able to get behind Cee-Lo becoming hugely successful, mainly because "Fuck You" is such a shitty plastic Motown pastiche that I associate more with Bruno Mars and the Smeezingtons than Cee-Lo's own obvious and undeniable grasp on classic soul and ability to make that sound his own. So it's refreshing that The Lady Killer finally has a moderate R&B radio hit that's really fantastic, with backup vocals from Philip Bailey of Earth Wind & Fire. What really makes it great to me is the single mix that was turned into a duet with Melanie Fiona, whose voice I've really fallen in love with lately after her solo single "Gone & Never Coming Back."

2. Ximena Sariñana – "Different"
This is one of those artists that VH1 tried to make happen with the whole 'you oughta know' thing and it didn't seem to do much good, but hey, I liked it. Cute girl, cute video, really catchy song and punchy arrangement, even if the vocal lacks a certain punch that might've made it a pop hit.

3. Marsha Ambrosius - "Late Nights & Early Mornings"
"Far Away" is already one of my favorite R&B singles of the year but it's great to hear a follow-up that's almost as good and, from a production standpoint at least, a bit more unique and arresting. A lot of mainstream R&B has used that '80s Prince LinnDrum sound to great effect in recent years but this just takes it a little further out there with that smeared texture and halting triplet rhythm, really awesome track.

4. Seether - "Tonight"
Seether is, in my opinion, one of the least redeemable grunting neo-grunge bands that have dominated active rock radio for forever now, but like all their peers, they still occasionally stumble onto a hook. At first this sounded so vaguely familiar that I thought it might be a cover, then I thought maybe because it was called "Tonight" and had a chorus that mentioned rooftops that it reminded me of that Hot Chelle Rae song. Then I realized that the said 'rooftop' line is actually very similar to Republica's "Ready To Go," which is extra hilarious since Seether's first hit, "Fine Again," copped its hook from a line in Alanis Morrissette's "Head Over Feet." So now I just picture the South African grunge cavemen from Seether just being so into stuff like Alanis and Republica that it starts subconsciously influencing their songwriting.

5. David Guetta f/ Usher - "Without You"
I don't like a lot of American R&B stars going Eurodance and especially not Usher, but for some reason I'm kind of into this song. The weird thing though is that the first couple times I heard it I was so sure it was a comeback single from Mario, and I still hear a lot of Mario in the vocal performance.

TV Diary

Friday, September 23, 2011
a) "Prime Suspect"
This show feels like it has a little more to it than the average procedural but I think I like the character more than Maria Bello's performance, so I'm not sure if it's got legs.

b) "Person of Interest"
Michael Emerson getting his own show is probably the one "Lost" alumni development I've been most excited about over the past year or two, but now that it's finally here, I dunno. Pilot was not bad and kind of better than I expected but it's positioning itself as the kind of intriguing show you get obsessed with, not one you sit back passively entertained by.

c) "Revenge"
This just kind of washed over me too much to even work as campy stupid prime time soap opera fun.

d) "The X Factor"
"The Voice" was like oh wow this is everything I like about "Idol" without all the crap I'd gotten sick of. "The X Factor" is all that crap back in an unappetizing new package.

e) "H8R"
Lots of people have talked about how odious the whole concept of this show is but I have to admit that I was curious to actually see it in action, and it was amazing that I picked a night when that Scott guy from "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" showed up trying in vain to prove to someone that he's not a total douche, which was just priceless.

f) "Unforgettable"
A procedural with a goofy gimmick about a woman with perfect memory is not really my thing, but I have to say that I enjoyed the pilot for this, especially because within the first 5 minutes they show her making money counting cards, which is just the kind of thing you'd want a character like that to do but usually wouldn't on a show like this.

g) "The Playboy Club"
This show isn't entirely just dumb, stylish eye candy, but it's not far off. Can't see this having long term appeal but ehh it's OK.

h) "2 Broke Girls"
I love Kat Dennings enough that I will watch every episode of this no matter how bad it is. And it's not bad, really, there were a few genuine laughs in the pilot and I could see it getting better. But there is something undeniably hokey about a lot of it.

i) "New Girl"
I don't really have much affection for Zooey Deschanel so I don't think I'll be able to stomach this very far past the pilot, although it actually was better than I expected, if still pretty obnoxious.

j) "Free Agents"
It was kind of hard to muster any enthusiasm for this ahead of time despite Hank Azaria and the involvement of "Party Down"/"Veronica Mars" writer/producer John Enborn, but so far this has taken a small lead as my favorite new comedy of the season so far. The supporting cast feels very stock and annoying, but there's something I really like about Kathryn Hahn and she has good chemistry with Azaria.

k) "Up All Night"
I appreciate the attempt to do a show about life with a newborn that's kind of adult and not too cutesy, and the cast is pretty strong, but something about this just comes across kind of toothless and wishy washy (aside from the bit cursing about how cute their baby is). Christina Applegate is good but has been better, it's refreshing to see Will Arnett play an everyman and not a douchey villain type who always speaks in a husky whispter, and Maya Rudolph is hilarious as ever but is kind of awkwardly integrated into the family storylines. So it's hard to say if they can turn a great cast on paper into a great show.

l) "I Just Want My Pants Back"
This is a show that I guess is starting next year but MTV played the pilot after the VMAs and it was just amazingly stupid and oversexed even compared to other recent scripted MTV shows like "Awkward." and "Skins."

m) "Necessary Roughness"
This never quite rose above being a light USA trifle, but it's a pretty well written one with a likable cast, so I'm glad it's coming back next year.

n) "Death Valley"
As much as MTV's scripted programming these days is generally awful, and the concept of this show (a "Cops" type show in a world overrun with vampires and werewolves and zombies) is not that brilliant, it is pretty goofy and funny and surprisingly enjoyable, the kind of thing that could've been done better (or at least cooler) on Adult Swim but is still fine here.

o) "Raising Hope"
This show gets by on a lot of charm and whimsy and cast chemistry, but I'm really starting to respect how clever and inventive the writing can be, too. This was brought home during the season premiere, which featured both an oblique "Happy Endings" reference and perhaps the most tasteless 9/11 joke ever snuck onto a primetime sitcom.

p) "Haven"
Jason Priestley has been a surprisingly good addition to the cast of this show!

q) "How I Met Your Mother"
I was pretty appalled to see an episode based around a character having YouTube infamy (in 2011!) in the season opener, and then doubly so that the second episode that ran the same night also had a YouTube subplot. Really, just such a tired storyline. But the show is still funny (my wife laughed at 'Beercules' for about five minutes straight).

r) "Two And A Half Men"
As one of the rare people willing to defend "Two And A Half Men" as a comedy show, and someone who never thought Charlie Sheen was that big a part of why the show worked, I will say I had mixed feeelings about the reboot. But the way they killed off Charlie was pretty perfect, and Ashton Kutcher's introduction in the second half of the episode was not great shakes but felt surprisingly natural in the context of the show.

s) "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation"
I tuned in a little bit just for the weirdness of Ted Danson replacing Larry Fishburne but this didn't seem like a continuation of the unlikely late Danson renaissance of "Damages" and "Bored To Death." What the hell has even been happening on this show the last few years since I gave up on it?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The City Paper's 2011 Best of Baltimore issue is out this week, and as usual I helped write a little of the issue.

(photo by Christopher Myers)

1999, Reconsidered

Monday, September 19, 2011

Top 50 Albums of 1999:

1. The Dismemberment Plan - Emergency & I
2. Sparklehorse - Good Morning Spider
3. The Roots - Things Fall Apart
4. Ginuwine - 100% Ginuwine
5. Destiny’s Child - The Writing’s On The Wall
6. Built To Spill - Keep It Like A Secret
7. Superchunk - Come Pick Me Up
8. Eightball And MJG – In Our Lifetime
9. Jay-Z - Vol. 3... Life And Times Of S. Carter
10. Joan Of Arc - Live In Chicago, 1999
11. Missy Elliott - Da Real World
12. Sleater-Kinney - The Hot Rock
13. Method Man And Redman - Blackout!
14. Eleni Mandell - Wishbone
15. Dr. Dre - 2001
16. Tom Waits - The Mule Variations
17. DMX - ...And Then There Was X
18. Lil Wayne - Tha Block Is Hot
19. Beatnuts - A Musical Massacre
20. Beck - Midnite Vultures
21. Nine Inch Nails - The Fragile
22. Mark De Gli Antoni - Horse Tricks
23. Sloan - Between The Bridges
24. Nels Cline/Gregg Bendian - Interstellar Space Revisited: The Music Of John Coltrane
25. Krust - Coded Language
26. Mos Def - Black On Both Sides
27. Incubus - Make Yourself
28. The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin
29. Lee Ranaldo - Dirty Windows
30. Counting Crows - This Desert Life
31. Ben Folds Five - The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner
32. Rage Against The Machine - The Battle For Los Angeles
33. Saves The Day - Through Being Cool
34. The Foo Fighters - There Is Nothing Left To Lose
35. Beth Orton - Central Reservation
36. Chris Rock - Bigger & Blacker
37. "Weird Al" Yankovic - Running With Scissors
38. Moby - Play
39. Sonic Youth - SYR4: Goodbye 20th Century
40. Wilco - Summerteeth
41. Sting - Brand New Day
42. Our Lady Peace - Happiness...Is Not A Fish You Can Catch
43. Pavement - Terror Twilight
44. Fugazi - Instrument Soundtrack
45. Ben Harper - Burn To Shine
46. Guided By Voices - Do The Collapse
47. Ani Difranco - Up
48. Squarepusher - Selection Sixteen
49. Macy Gray - On How Life Is
50. Cibo Matto - Stereotype A

Since I finally finished my extensive review of my favorite albums and singles of the 2000s recently, I decided to go right back into the preceding decade, once again going backwards with my 25 favorite albums and 50 favorite singles from each year. Then I kept listening to music and thinking about what was released that year and decided to go for broke with 50 albums and 100 singles.

I was 17 in 1999, and hormones and various formative social experiences tend to leave one with a lot of vivid memories of that age, so a lot of this music is wrapped up in that for me. It was the last full calender year that I lived at home with my mom and brother, so in a way what this list conjures up that the '00s lists didn't is the music I got into via my family and various high school friends (about half of the albums here I first heard because my brother owned them).

In a way 1999 felt, both at the time and more recently in retrospect, like the first year that I regarded the critical mainstream as just as untrustworthy or divorced from my musical interests as the pop mainstream. R&B and hip hop were reaching incredible heights that critics took a limited interest in, while alternative rock had gone so soft and sophisticated trying to differentiate itself from nu-metal that it felt like the beginning of the road toward boring wishy washy indie that I spent most of the last ten years running from. A lot of the albums I grudgingly included on the lower reaches of this list were things like The Soft Bulletin and Midnite Vultures or Black On Both Sides that I never wholeheartedly embraced, but at least hold in higher esteem than the depressing final Pavement and Ben Folds Five albums. In fact outside the top 5, barely anybody here released their best album that year, it just feels like a lot of afterglow and preludes to better things. All in all '99 is one of the weakest years of the decade as far as my taste goes -- I won't have to pad out the top 50 with albums I feel conflicted about as much with most of the other years.

There is some great stuff at the top, though. I got Good Morning Spider during a kind of difficult period of my teen years, and obsessed over that record for a good 6 months. Then, I got Emergency & I and obsessed over that for the next 6 months. I was never a big Built To Spill or Sleater-Kinney fan, but those records have stuck with me, and Come Pick Me Up has become one of my favorite Superchunk records, so in a way 1999 is the last gasp of greatness of a few indie rock staples of the period. Plus, it was just an incredible year for Timbaland and so many of his projects.

Top 100 Singles of 1999:

1. Destiny's Child - "Bills, Bills, Bills"
2. The Roots f/ Erykah Badu - "You Got Me"
3. Rage Against The Machine - "Guerrilla Radio"
4. Jay-Z f/ Jaz-O and Amil - "Nigga What, Nigga Who (Originator '99)"
5. KoRn - "Falling Away From Me"
6. Backstreet Boys - "I Want It That Way"
7. 112 f/ Lil' Zane - "Anywhere"
8. Robbie Williams - "Angels"
9. Tal Bachman - "She's So High"
10. Whitney Houston - "It's Not Right But It's Okay"
11. Ginuwine - "What's So Different?"
12. Jordan Knight - "Give It 2 You"
13. Black Star f/ Common - "Respiration"
14. Lil Wayne f/ Juvenile & B.G. - "The Block is Hot"
15. DMX - "What's My Name?"
16. Kelis - "Get Along With You"
17. Raphael Saadiq f/ Q-Tip - "Get Involved"
18. Incubus - "Pardon Me"
19. JT Money - "Who Dat"
20. Metallica - "Whiskey In The Jar"
21. Mystikal and Outkast - "Neck Uv Da Woods"
22. Train - "Meet Virginia"
23. Limp Bizkit - "Rearranged"
24. Nine Inch Nails - "We're In This Together"
25. System Of A Down - "Sugar"
26. Garbage - "When I Grow Up"
27. Counting Crows - "Hanginaround"
28. Kid Rock - "Bawitdaba"
29. Ginuwine - "So Anxious"
30. Britney Spears - "(You Drive Me) Crazy"
31. Q-Tip - "Breathe & Stop"
32. Jay-Z f/ DMX - "Money Cash Hoes"
33. Rah Digga - "Break Fool"
34. No Doubt - "New"
35. LFO - "Summer Girls"
36. Enrique Iglesias - "Bailamos"
37. TLC - "Silly Ho"
38. Sugar Ray - "Someday"
39. Pastor Troy - "We Ready"
40. Blink 182 - "What's My Age Again?"
41. Tear Da Club Up Thugs - "Slob On My Knob"
42. Pharoah Monche - "Simon Says"
43. Lit - "Zip-Lock"
44. Dr. Dre f/ Snoop Dogg - "Still D.R.E."
45. Juvenile f/ Mannie Fresh and Lil Wayne - "Back That Azz Up"
46. Mobb Deep - "Quiet Storm"
47. Eve f/ Drag-On - "Let's Talk About"
48. Will Smith - "Will 2K"
49. Kid Rock - "Cowboy"
50. Third Eye Blind - "Anything"
51. 702 - "Where My Girls At"
52. Mystikal - "That's The Nigga"
53. Jimmie's Chicken Shack - "Do Right"
54. Christina Aguilera - "Genie In A Bottle"
55. The Goo Goo Dolls - "Black Balloon"
56. Dr. Dre f/ Eminem - "Forgot About Dre"
57. Ben Folds Five - "Army"
58. Mos Def - "Ms. Fat Booty"
59. Lauryn Hill - "Everything Is Everything"
60. Juvenile - "U Understand"
61. Staind - "Mudshovel"
62. Monica - "Angel Of Mine"
63. Sammy Hagar - "Mas Tequila"
64. Lamb - "B-Line"
65. 50 Cent - "How To Rob"
66. Lit - "My Own Worst Enemy"
67. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Around The World"
68. The Beatnuts - "Watch Out Now"
69. Limp Bizkit - "Nookie"
70. Eminem f/ Dr. Dre - "Guilty Conscience"
71. Naughty By Nature f/ Zhane - "Jamboree"
72. "Weird Al" Yankovic - "It's All About The Pentiums"
73. B.G. - "Cash Money Is An Army"
74. Ginuwine - "None Of Ur Friends Business"
75. Backstreet Boys - "Larger Than Life"
76. Jay-Z - "Jigga My Nigga"
77. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Scar Tissue"
78. Our Lady Peace - "One Man Army"
79. LL Cool J - "Deepest Bluest"
80. Missy Elliott - "She's A Bitch"
81. Snoop Dogg f/ Xzibit and Nate Dogg - "Bitch Please"
82. Eve - "What Ya Want"
83. Eiffel 65 - "Blue (Da Ba Dee)"
84. Moby - "Honey"
85. Drag-On & Juvenile - "Down Bottom"
86. Ricky Martin - "Livin' La Vida Loca"
87. Sleater-Kinney - "Get Up"
88. Pavement - "Spit On A Stranger"
89. Nas - "Nas Is Like"
90. Gang Starr - "Full Clip"
91. Puff Daddy - "P.E. 2000"
92. DMX - "Slippin'"
93. Sugar Ray - "Falls Apart"
94. Eve - "Gotta Man"
95. B.G. f/ The Big Tymers and the Hot Boyz - "Bling Bling"
96. Jay-Z f/ Beanie Sigel - "Do It Again"
97. Chris Cornell - "Can't Change Me"
98. Fiona Apple - "Fast As You Can"
99. KoRn - "Freak On A Leash"
100. "Weird Al" Yankovic - "The Saga Begins"

I kind of knew that my opinion of albums would diverge a lot from the 1999 Pazz & Jop critics poll, but I was surprised just how much I disagree with the singles choices as well -- I couldn't even stand to put any of the top 4 songs from that poll in my top 100, I really just never want to hear "No Scrubs" or "My Name Is" ever again.

In general, though, I feel better about 1999 as a singles year than as an albums year. It was a time when popular music seemed especially faddish, but a lot of the dominant fads of the era -- boy bands, rap metal, latin pop, amonth others -- reached their peak and yielded some of their best songs. A lot of times the first couple years of a decade are said to 'feel' like extensions of the preceding decade, but if anything I feel like '99 is more of a piece with the 2000s, and if I'd included this year in the '00s lists a lot of this stuff would just dominate.

Friday, September 16, 2011

This week on Radio Hits One, my chart column for the Village Voice's Sound Of The City blog, I look at how Adele's "Someone Like You" is both the first piano-and-vocals-only ballad to ever top the Hot 100, and how few downtempo #1s there have been in the last few years.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Use Your Illusion albums by Guns 'N Roses turn 20 years old this Saturday, and in observance of that I wrote a piece on Splice Today counting down the 20 most memorable interjections of spoken word commentary, movie dialogue and obscene outbursts on the albums.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lil Wayne is proof positive that rap superstars now enjoy the kind of unstoppable career momentum that classic rockers have been coasting on for decades. Wayne can go to jail for most of a year, release a horrible rock album with no hits and horrid reviews, and generally abandon the things that he built his fanbase on (great, unexpected punchlines and constant mixtapes) and still move a million in a week just like he did three years ago when the quality of his output was still just beginning to nosedive. All it matters is that he's still on dozens of hit songs ever years, not whether those songs would be just as good if you stripped his vocals off of it (really the only song I can think of in the past 3 years that that doesn't apply to is "Every Girl").

That said, Tha Carter IV isn't as bad as I thought it could be, and it's kind of funny that it's finally engendered a mild backlash against Wayne even from the brainwashed stans and critics who gave a pass to shit like No Ceilings. "How To Hate" is the belated arrival of a Wayne/T-Pain collaboration that's actually worth a damn, and songs like and "Abortion" and "Nightmares Of The Bottom" are kind of tastefully bland but effective, much more tolerable than the brooding 'thoughtful' stuff on Carter III.

Still, even the good stuff on Tha Carter IV isn't quite a dead cat bounce up from his low point a couple years ago, just a comfortable plateau of boring but not quite terrible. The Bruno Mars power ballad on the deluxe version is the kind of "Super Bass"-style deluxe-track-turned-pop-hit I'm afraid of being subjected to over the next year. But we'll see if people still care this much by the time Tha Carter V rolls around, or if Drake and Nicki will be just dutifully pulling their mentor along for the ride the way Kanye does with Jay these days.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I wrote a post about Wye Oak's new video for "Holy Holy" on the Baltimore City Paper's Noise blog.

Monthly Report: August Albums

Saturday, September 10, 2011

1. Butch Walker & The Black Widows - The Spade
Walker's last album, I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart, was my #1 album of 2010, so obviously I was anticipating this big time. But I think that Walker's real gift is for indelible songs that feel so tossed off and effortlessly catchy that there's not much room for high expectations or disappointment. So I don't care if this is not as front to back great as the last one because it's still making me smile more often than not, just a really raucous rock record with a lot of thought and heart put into every song and some really fun, unusual arrangement choices. The second half is where it really starts to click for me, particularly on "Day Drunk" and "Closest Thing To You I'm Gonna Find."

2. Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch The Throne
This is better than any album either of these guys have done in a few years, but considering my general feeling about their recent output that's not really high praise (that is to say, it's nowhere near anything they did before 2006). I can take or leave most of it, but there are two songs that make it worthwhile for me. One is "That's My Bitch," which continues Kanye's weird habit of layering Charlie Wilson's vocals over the Bon Iver guy's vocals so that people think the latter is actually a competent R&B singer, which has fooled an amazing number of people. The other is "New Day," which is probably the first time in a long long time that I've really felt like Jay's verse is just totally speaking from the heart in a totally frank and unfiltered way like he used to all the time on his albums. Jay and Beyonce are such a private and in many ways unknowable power couple, but that verse on "New Day" combined with B revealing her pregnancy at the end of perhaps the single greatest live performance of her live were really this exhilarating, beautiful human moment that I thought was just awesome and made me feel really happy for them, as people (perhaps partly because their relationship started around the same time as mine with my wife, and they got married around the same time as we did, and now they're having a kid not long after us).

3. Gucci Mane & Waka Flocka Flame - Ferrari Boyz
Maybe it's because Gucci's manager is Waka's mother, but the affiliation between these guys always seemed like a marriage of convenience that didn't result in much personal or musical chemistry. That said I feel like them kind of meeting each other halfway aesthetically on most of the tracks on this tape works better than I expected it to.

4. Mike Doughty - Yes And Also Yes
I've always been kind of ho hum about Mike Doughty's post-Soul Coughing solo career, which can be a bit drab and overly familiar to a fan of that band. But I enjoyed Golden Delicious enough a few years ago to check this out, and it's not nearly as engaging but has its moments, especially the two "Telegenic Exes" tracks, which make me wish he would do another solo joint as intimate and semi-lo fi as Skittish again.

5. Mike Doughty - Dubious Luxury
When I heard that Doughty had a new album, I went and pulled this up on Spotify and listened to it, not realizing that he actually released two albums in August, and this one was kind of the offbeat teaser for the 'proper' singer/songwriter album Yes And Also Yes. It's interesting to hear Doughty toy extensively with beats and vocal loops on Dubious Luxury, but a lot of said vocal samples are kind of annoying, and since I just listened to El Oso recently it was hard to forget that he was once part of a band that integrated electronic elements into his songs so much more inventively.

Movie Diary

Thursday, September 08, 2011
a) Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark
My wife got really upset the first time she saw the ad for this movie with the girl pulling up the sheets of her bed and seeing a monster. So when we got to go out to a movie recently and had someone to watch the baby, she wanted to see this, naturally, because she loves scary movies and she loves Guillermo del Toro. Overall I thought it was pretty well done, more spooky than scary and I actually didn't hate Katie Homes in it. Was not wild about the creature design of the little beasties, though.

b) Catfish
I can see both why this documentary (or faux doc or whatever it really was) generated a fair amount of excitement and why it had its share of detractors. Overall I thought it was compelling and annoying in equal measure, but annoying doesn't ever really mean less compelling, although it was traveling on such well trodden ground that I don't really feel like I got anything out of it that'll stick with me.

c) How Do You Know
The box office for this movie affirms the feeling that I am probably one of the only people in the world who sees that there's a James L. Brooks movie starring Paul Rudd, Reese Witherspoon and Owen Wilson and thinks "sign me up." But really, I did like this, for all its low key charm and somewhat failed designs on being something more than it was. Good cast, everyone got to play to their strengths.

d) The Town
I kind of rolled my eyes at the very existence of this movie, but in practice it wasn't too bad, although Jeremy Renner is one of those guys I just don't really care to see in anything ever.

e) Megamind
Being another 2010 computer animated movie about the redemption of a super villain voiced by a comedy A-lister really makes this feel like the Deep Impact to Despicable Me's Armageddon. And by that token, this fails at capturing Will Ferrell's sense of humor or using his voice well the way Despicable did with Steve Carrell. But it's definitely a pretty different story and is often pretty entertaining, if not especially funny (oddly enough, Guillermo del Toro is credited as a 'creative consultant').

f) Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
I always enjoy seeing Andy Serkis in a normal role (i.e. non-motion capture CGI role a la Gollum), and this movie in particular is just a really great star vehicle for him. I'm generally kind of allergic to rock biopics, but I think a lot of that is because usually I'm too aware of every level on which they fudge the history or the musical accuracy, and in this case my familiarity with Ian Dury is too basic for me to get all pedantic, so I was just able to enjoy the giddy frantic direction and performances for what they are.

g) You Again
The relative dearth of female comedies makes people all the more grateful for occasional hits like Bridesmaids; a movie like You Again, which features Kristen Bell and Sigourney Weaver and Jamie Lee Curtis and Betty White and Kristen Chenoweth, almost all of which billed above any male cast member, should ideally be in the same company. It doesn't quite hit the mark, but it's better than you probably think it is.

h) Machete
There's something adorably sad about Lindsay Lohan already becoming camp fodder along with Steven Seagal and Don Johnson in this Robert Rodriguez Grindhouse trailer-turned-spinoff. This had some fun moments but probably not as many as it was going for.

i) How To Train Your Dragon
This really seems like one of the more well-regarded non-Pixar computer animation flicks of the past few years, and I don't really get it. It was a nice story, and I thought the look of the movie was cute, but yeah, I dunno, felt kind of middle of the road to me.

j) Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
I don't know how I ended up throwing away an afternoon watching this.

k) Group Sex
I know how I ended up throwing away an afternoon watching this, but seriously, as sex comedies go it was neither sexy nor funny.

l) The Break-Up Artist
Another really cheesy low-budget relationship comedy that I rolled the dice on and lost.

m) Flashbacks of a Fool
Kind of a dreary and maudlin Daniel Craig movie where the younger actor who plays character as a teenager gets more screentime that Craig himself. Not bad but just kind of a downer.

n) The Life Before Her Eyes
God I just hated this movie, even though I should have seen the stupid 'twist' coming given the title, I can't believe I watched it all the way to the end, just offensively pointless and stupid.

o) Spiral
A psychodrama starring the guy from Avatar who looks like Shaggy from Scooby Doo, which is exactly as goofy and lightweight as it sounds.

p) Color Me Kubrick
I like seeing Malkovich have a bit of fun and the fact that this was based on a true story makes it all the more creepy and weird and entertaining, but the movie somehow ended up as less than the sum of its parts.

q) School of Life
You know who doesn't get enough good roles? David Paymer. That guy's all class. I'll even watch him opposite Ryan Reynolds in some touchy-feely direct-to-DVD business just to see him co-headline a movie.

r) Layer Cake
The Daniel Craig movie that supposedly got him the Bond job, really pretty great, although perhaps I'm just grateful for any British crime movie that in no way resembles the work of Guy Ritchie.

s) Larger Than Life
If Groundhog Day represents the last great work of Bill Murray's leading man period and Rushmore marks the beginning of his current period as a beloved aging icon, there are about 5 years in between when the world didn't much know what to do with him. And yet he did some good work there, if nothing especially great: fine work in Kingpin, the surprisingly decent The Man Who knew Too Little, amusing small roles in a truly strange trifecta of films (Ed Wood, Space Jam and Wild Things), and I'm guessing at some point I should see Mad Dog And Glory. But one movie I assumed I'd never be compelled to bother with was the one where he inherits an elephant. And then I was recently reading the entertaining book Alphabetter Juice and the author, Roy Blount, Jr., mentioned that he wrote the screenplay and I thought oh, well, maybe I'll give it a shot.

t) Less Than Zero
I always heard this kind of referred to as a bratpack movie, but I guess it's a Bret Easton Ellis adaptation and man does it suck.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Something else I wrote about 9/11 recently: a few paragraphs about my experiences that day, as part of a collection of remembrances in this week's Baltimore City Paper.

(illustration by Alex Fine)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

I wrote a piece for Splice Today about how 9/11 has become a convenient scapegoat for anyone in show business who had a flop in the fall of 2001.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

My latest Radio Hits One column is about rock bands (kinda) returning to the U.S. top 10 this summer.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

This week in the City Paper, I profiled the two Baltimore-based co-founders of the Riot Folk collective, Ryan Harvey and Mark Gunnery (who also records hip hop under the name Aryeh Gonif).

(photo by Christopher Myers)