Friday, August 31, 2012

My latest Radio Hits One column for the Village Voice's Sound Of The City blog runs down some of my favorite singles of 2012 so far that I thought deserved to be more successful on the charts.

Thursday, August 30, 2012
This week's Short List.

TV Diary

Wednesday, August 29, 2012
a) "Copper"
Don't care for this too much so far, but it's alright, could grow on me. Will at the very least keep watching it for the redhead. But it's hilarious that the theme song is a transparent knockoff of "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" by The Dropkick Murphys, since the "Rizzoli & Isles" theme is a nearly identically knockoff of same.

b) "The Next: Fame Is At Your Doorstep"
I only watched the one Baltimore episode that I recapped, but it seemed like an especially genial and especially generic iteration of the usual talent search music reality show, biting the 'mentors' from "The Voice." Problem is pretty much all of "The Voice"'s mentors have a good combination of star power and/or charisma and all of "The Next"'s mentors are fatally lacking in one or the other.

c) "Bullet In The Face"
I love that IFC was apparently so appalled by the finished product after they ordered this show that they just decided to market it as a "two night miniseries event" and dump the six episodes as quickly as possible with no chance of a second season. It would be odd for them to be surprised by the violence given the title, so I kinda wonder if they just hated the show's cartoonish sense of humor, which I personally loved. I only have the vaguest memories of seeing the creator's first show "Sledge Hammer!" in the '80s, and in some ways the tone of the satire here feels a little dated. But it's still just fucking apeshit and fun, as far as I'm concerned.

d) "The Burn with Jeff Ross"
Every time Comedy Central throws Jeff Ross on the air for a few minutes a year to roast somebody I think he should be on TV more often, and they presumably do too, but it's easier said than done, really. In theory him just talking shit should be enough but in practice the format is transparently ("The Soup" via) "Tosh.0" with a dash of "Tough Crowd," but the whole comedy panel thing is actually kind of the most enjoyable part of it, just for feeling more loose and improvised, plus the first episode had my old college acquaintance Amy Schumer, whose new CC show I'm looking forward to.

e) "Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell"
Like "The Burn," another show with a comedian standing in front of a screen quipping on current events, but with an unknown guy with a Chris Rock co-sign. He seems sharp enough at times that I can imagine him wowing Rock in a writers' room at some point but he doesn't really carry this show, it's kind of flat while you wait for that one really stinging punchline every 5 minutes.

f) "The Newsroom"
There was a little lull about halfway through the season where I started to get comfortable with this show's innumerable fatal flaws and focus on the points at which Aaron Sorkin was writing well and the cast was doing the material justice. In the last couple episodes of the season it just became more loathsome than ever. I feel bad for Emily Mortimer and Alison Pill because they've just been given these insultingly incoherent characters, while Olivia Munn comes off well by virtue of not having insane screaming rants and kind of having her own way of delivering Sorkin patter. It just drives me nuts when he recycles lines I actually liked in "Sports Night" badly here, though. And goddammit I will still probably watch this show when it comes back next year.

g) "StandUp In Stilettos"
I feel like right now is a pretty good time for female comedians, just in terms of how many good ones are out there and how relatively little the "are women funny?" conversation comes up anymore, so it's kind of good and bad to see a show dedicated to women doing standup. I watched the show mainly hoping to find some funny comics I hadn't seen before, but mostly I've enjoyed the people I already knew were good like Rachel Feinstein, and most of the unknowns were pretty weak or unseasoned.

h) "Suits"
By now it's kind of a joke how much higher this show is held in my esteem than just about anyone else's. But it has been pretty damn good this season, nice little ramping up of the tension and advancement of the characters and relationships in a pretty solid old school TV drama way, nothing revolutionary but very little that's felt forced or lazy.

i) "Episodes"
The climactic season finale was kind of a bust as things broke down into a stupid British TV farce type thing, but most of this show's second year has been some really consistently hilarious shit. 

j) "The Heart, She Holler"
I still tend to be skeptical of live action Adult Swim shows in general, but for the most part if there are funny people involved I'll give it a chance. But despite the presence of Patton Oswalt and Kristen Schaal this is just totally worthless, a convoluted aesthetic choice and deliberately nonsensical premise in search of actual laughs.

k) "Childrens Hospital"
This show still redeems non-animated Adult Swim shows as a whole, so glad it's back, and that it keeps getting further and further from its basic premise.

l) "Breaking Bad"
I've always felt like this show had a distractingly prominent authorial hand guiding every single plot development, but at this point Walter White is approaching Homer Simpson levels of "he is the show, so he becomes whatever the show needs him to be" conveniently arbitrary character development. I feel like the show is more compelling to me, in terms of actually caring what happens next, than it's ever been, but I still don't know how much I admire it creatively. The Vince Gilligan interview where he describes his ethos as "showmanship" seems very true to me, in a not entirely good way.

m) "True Blood"
Sometimes I feel a little twinge of memory at how this show's plots used to have a more human element, and not just because at some point the majority of the  characters were ostensibly human. But I still like the bloated, histrionic soap opera this show has become, it's pretty entertaining, and the season finale, while not especially tense or suspenseful, was at least amusing and action-packed. 

Monday, August 27, 2012
I wrote a post on the City Paper Noise blog about the "Let The Light..." short music film by Yo Slick, aka OOH of Brown F.I.S.H.

The 2012 Remix Report Card, Vol. 6

Saturday, August 25, 2012
"Bag of Money (Remix)" by Wale featuring Omarion, Lil Wayme, French Montana, Black Cobain, Rick Ross, T-Pain, Trina, Rockie Fresh and Tyga 
I fucking hate the original version of this song so much, it's really just so many things I find loathsome about rap radio the past few years packed into one piece of shit (plus a Meek Mill verse to make me feel conflicted). And man is it not built for a bloated posse cut remix. Even worse, they actually put effort into it -- Rick Ross switches up the hook slightly ("like a bag of hundreds," just to remind you of how bankrupt a rich man's imagination can be), and they add an annoying synth line to the beat that basically makes me feel like Kanye's unnecessary additions to "I Don't Like" are becoming influential. And then they did an 'extended remix' with three more guests nobody gives a shit about. 8 minutes of this fucking song I have to listen to! I gotta admit that Wale cracked me up with "she hate the word moist," and Yo Gotti being all condescending about "we eat lobster la fleur/ French for 'flower'/ put you on that next level shit." Who the fuck is Black Cobain? Who the fuck is Rockie Fresh?
Best Verse: Omarion
Overall Grade: D

"I Got That Sack (Remix)" by Yo Gotti featuring Young Jeezy and T.I.
I already wrote about how amused I am that Yo Gotti's biggest song of 2012 is not from his 2012 album but from his pre-album mixtape. Nothing special, but Jeezy sounds good on this beat.
Best Verse: Young Jeezy
Overall Grade: B

"Snapbacks & Tattoos (Remix)" by Driicky Graham featuring Roscoe Dash, French Montana and Ca$h Out 
I like this song, kinda feel bad that its buzz has already started to die down, and this remix definitely won't help. They couldn't get any A-listers on this damn track? Driicky is actually good on it, but it's not like anyone here is hard to outshine, although Ca$h Out at least has the right energy for it, although it's a little too on the nose when the "Ca$hin' Out" beat comes in for a couple bars. French Montana is so fucking useless, how did he ever get past the career stage of putting songs on MySpace.
Best Verse: Driicky Graham
Overall Grade: C+

"U Don't Deserve Dat (Remix)" by Trouble featuring Gucci Mane, Rocko and Travis Porter
I hadn't really heard this song at all so I dunno if it's really made enough noise as a single to meet my usual criteria for inclusion here, but OK, good remix lineup, and I do like the song. Gucci's verse is pretty damn funny, didn't think he had something like that in him these days.
Best Verse: Gucci Mane
Overall Grade: B

"Want U Back (Remix)" by Cher Lloyd f/ Snoop Dogg
This song broke America pretty well on its own without a half-assed "California Gurls" Snoop verse, so I'm glad they let it come out here without tacking this on first.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: D

"Work Hard, Play Hard (Remix)" by Wiz Khalifa featuring Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne
Wiz had been talking up this remix for a couple weeks as having Wayne and Drake on it, so we really dodged a bullet that they swapped out the latter for someone decent. Jeezy sets it off well by actually making the beat sound kinda cold before that cheeseball chorus comes in and reminds you how terrible this song was to begin with, Wayne is more tolerable than usual, and Wiz makes a noble attempt to switch up his flow from the verses on the original, which I always appreciate when the main artist does new bars for a remix, even though the guy's limited ability and blank personality kinda keep it from being actually impressive.
Best Verse: Lil Wayne
Overall Grade: A-

Friday, August 24, 2012

I reviewed Dwele's new album on the City Paper's Noise blog in advance of the listening parties he's holding in Baltimore on August 29th.

Also, I recapped the Baltimore episode of The CW's new talent search show, "The Next."

1993, Reconsidered

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Top 50 Albums of 1993: 

1. Morphine - Cure For Pain
2. Snoop Doggy Dogg - Doggystyle 
3. The Posies - Frosting On The Beater
4. Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream
5. A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders
6. Wu Tang Clan - 36 Chambers
7. Nirvana - In Utero
8. The Boo Radleys - Giant Steps
9. U2 - Zooropa
10. Fugazi - In On The Killtaker
11. Janet Jackson - janet.
12. Scarface - The World Is Yours 
13. Black Moon - Enta Da Stage 
14. Maria McKee - You Gotta Sin To Get Saved
15. Counting Crows - August And Everything After
16. Lungfish - Rainbows From Atoms
17. Terence Trent D'Arby - Symphony Or Damn
18. Superchunk - On The Mouth  
19. Primus - Pork Soda
20. 2Pac - Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.... 
21. Pearl Jam - Vs. 
22. James - Laid
23. Jungle Brothers - JBeez With The Remedy
24. De La Soul - Buhloone Mindstate
25. Dinosaur Jr. - Where You Been
26. The Geto Boys - Till Death To Us Part
27. Mudhoney - Five Dollar Bob's Mock Cooter Stew EP
28. Tony! Toni! Toné! - Sons Of Soul 
29. Donald Fagen - Kamakiriad
30. Neil Young - Unplugged
31. R. Kelly - 12 Play
32. Liz Phair - Exile In Guyville
33. Sarah MacLachlan - Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
34. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Extra Width
35. Bjork - Debut
36. Jellyfish - Spilt Milk
37. Guns N Roses - The Spaghetti Incident? 
38. fIREHOSE - Mr. Machinery Operator
39. E-40 - Federal
40. Sting - Ten Summoner's Tales
41. Onyx - Bacdafucup
42. Polvo - Today's Active Lifestyles
43. Sun Ra - Somewhere Else
44. Aerosmith - Get A Grip
45. Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen 
46. Tears For Fears - Elemental
47. Jeff Buckley - Live At Sin-E EP
48. They Might Be Giants - Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas) EP
49. Arrested Development - Unplugged 
50. Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell 

After spending the last few months talking up '94 as the best year of the decade and the era through '96 as perhaps my favorite era of music, I've been getting better acquainted with '93 and thinking maybe that it should be included in that era. I was only 11 in '93, and it was kind of my first full calender year as an obsessive follower of pop music, radio listener, MTV viewer -- the year I started staying up for "120 Minutes" and "Headbanger's Ball." Still, I heard barely more than a dozen of these albums at the time, many of them the older-skewing ones that my parents bought. To give you an idea of how fucking lame I was back then, Arrested Development's Unplugged was the first rap CD that I ever bought. And I didn't even have their studio album. What the fuck was wrong with me?

Top 100 Singles of 1993: 

1. Smashing Pumpkins - "Cherub Rock"
2. A Tribe Called Quest - "Award Tour" 
3. The Proclaimers - "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)"
4. Lenny Kravitz - "Are You Gonna Go My Way?"
5. James - "Laid"
6. 2Pac - "Keep Ya Head Up" 
7. Nirvana - "Heart-Shaped Box"
8. Janet Jackson - "If"
9. Alice In Chains - "The Rooster"
10. Ice Cube - "It Was A Good Day"
11. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - "Someday I Suppose"
12. The Breeders - "Cannonball"
13. Tears For Fears - "Break It Down Again"
14. Dr. Dre f/ Snoop Dogg - "Let Me Ride"
15. Danzig - "Mother '93"
16. Souls Of Mischief - "'93 Til Infinity"
17. White Zombie - "Thunder Kiss '65"
18. Belly - "Feed The Tree"
19. Positive K - "I Got A Man"
20. H-Town - "Knockin' Da Boots" 
21. 2Pac f/ Digital Underground - "I Get Around"
22. Naughty By Nature - "Hip Hop Hooray"
23. Rage Against The Machine - "Killing In The Name"
24. Sade - "No Ordinary Love"
25. Dr. Dre f/ Snoop Dogg - "Nothin' But A G Thang" 
26. Tool - "Sober"
27. Tom Petty - "Mary Jane's Last Dance"
28. Sting - "If I Ever Lose My Faith In You"
29. Cracker - "Low"
30. Sarah McLachlan - "Possession"
31. Alan Jackson - "Chattahoochee" 
32. Guns N Roses - "Civil War"
33. K7 - "Come Baby Come"
34. MC Lyte - "Ruffneck"
35. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Soul To Squeeze"
36. Aerosmith - "Livin' On The Edge"
37. Bjork - "Big Time Sensuality"
38. Jodeci - "Cry For You"
39. Cypress Hill - "Insane In The Brain"
40. R.E.M. - "Nightswimming" 
41. New Order - "Regret"
42. AC/DC - "Big Gun"
43. Mick Jagger - "Don't Tear Me Up"
44. Afghan Whigs - "Gentlemen"
45. Nirvana - "Sliver"
46. Gin Blossoms - "Hey Jealousy" 
47. Dr. Dre f/ Snoop Dogg - "Dre Day"
48. R. Kelly - "Your Body's Callin' Me"
49. Depeche Mode - "I Feel You" 
50. U2 - "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" 
51. Pearl Jam - "Go"
52. Onyx - "Slam"
53. Biz Markie - "Let Me Turn You On"
54. Stereo MC's - "Connected"
55. Snow - "Informer"
56. Salt-n-Pepa f/ En Vogue - "Whatta Man"
57. Whitney Houston - "I Have Nothing" 
58. Haddaway - "What Is Love"
59. Morphine - "Thursday" 
60. Kix - "Girl Money"
61. SWV - "Weak"
62. Prince - "The Morning Papers"  
63. Zhane - "Hey Mr. DJ"
64. Pearl Jam - "Daughter"  
65. Soul Asylum - "Black Gold"
66. Redman - "Time 4 Sum Aksion"
67. Megadeth - "Sweating Bullets"
68. Snoop Doggy Dogg - "What's My Name" 
69. Wu-Tang Clan - "Protect Ya Neck"  
70. Primus - "My Name Is Mud"
71. Run DMC - "Down With The King"
72. The Pharcyde - "Passin' Me By"
73. Stone Temple Pilots - "Wicked Garden"
74. Mariah Carey - "Dreamlover"
75. Janet Jackson - "That's The Way Love Goes"
76. Ice Cube f/ Das EFX - "Check Yo Self"
77. Prince - "7" 
78. Alice In Chains - "Down In A Hole"
79. Nirvana - "Sappy" aka "Verse Chorus Verse"
80. Pearl Jam - "Crazy Mary"
81. Blind Melon - "Tones of Home"
82. SWV - "I'm So Into You"
83. Bjork - "Human Behavior"
84. R. Kelly - "Bump N' Grind" 
85. Radiohead - "Creep"
86. Stone Temple Pilots - "Creep"
87. Salt-n-Pepa - "Shoop" 
88. Ween - "Push th' Little Daisies"
89. 10,000 Maniacs - "Because The Night"
90. The Posies - "Dream All Day"
91. U2 - "Lemon" 
92. The Lemonheads - "Into Your Arms"
93. King Missile - "Detachable Penis"
94. Porno For Pyros - "Pets"  
95. Pearl Jam - "Black"
96. Urge Overkill - "Sister Havana"
97. INXS - "Beautiful Girl" 
98. Duran Duran - "Come Undone" 
99. Primus - "Mr. Krinkle"
100. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - "Boom! Shake The Room"

Great, great year for singles, once again nearly all of them conjure some memory of seeing the video for the first time on "120 Minutes" or "Yo! MTV Raps" or whatever. I remember listening to the radio alone in my bedroom when they said they were going to play the new Nirvana single and I very dramatically turned off the lights to blast "Heart-Shaped Box," really maybe my earliest memory of hearing an 'anticipated' new single like that (which is funny because at that point I had only really been into "In Bloom," In Utero was the first album I ended up buying by them).  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In this week's Baltimore City Paper I spoke to Height about the new Height With Friends album, Rock And Roll.

Also did The Short List as usual.

Sunday, August 19, 2012
I did a ballot for Pitchfork's The People's List poll, listing my 100 favorite albums of 1996-2011, which turned out to be kind of a fun way to boil down and revise all these lists I've been doing here of '90s and '00s albums and try to put what feel like very different eras of my musical life into perspective.

Friday, August 17, 2012

I wrote an entry on the City Paper's Noise blog about the awesome new Brian Ennals single "Newport Music."

Monthly Report: August 2012 Singles

Thursday, August 16, 2012

1. Linkin Park - "Burn It Down"
The last album had "Waiting For The End," which may ultimately become my favorite Linkin Park jam of all time, but this is really good, too, kind of feels like a refreshing way for them to do the trusty "Numb"/"What I've Done" crunchy midtempo track without making another carbon copy of those songs, except it's actually kind of propulsive and danceable, at least by Linkin Park standards. It's funny because I think of this as a Depeche Mode jam in a good way, but one of the most ubiquitous songs on alt-rock radio of the past year, M83's "Midnight City," doesn't work for me because I just think about how I'd rather hear actual Depeche Mode. 

2. Beyonce - "Dance For You"
When I saw the video for this, and later started hearing it on the radio, I instantly thought of my hobbyhorse about deluxe edition bonus tracks being released as singles from a while back. It's not as great as "Countdown" and "Love On Top," of course, but in a weird way it's more accessible than most of 4 proper, and easily sexier than anything on it, which when I think of it that album's one shortcoming was that it didn't really bring the sexy.

3. The Killers - "Runaways" 
I think the world is ready to admit that they gave The Killers too hard a time about Sam's Town and that "When You Were Young" was actually the best thing they've ever done, and with this song the band clearly knows it.

4. Toby Keith - "Beers Ago"
Someday when Toby Keith's career is summed up with a themed box set like Johnny Cash's Love, God, Murder, the collection of Toby's favorite subjects will probably be called America, Beer, Me. And the second disc will definitely be the best. It almost seems like he's trying to fill out that disc right now -- this song is his follow-up to "Red Solo Cup," and apparently the lead single from his next album is going to be called "I Like Girls That Drink Beer." But I think what I like about "Beers Ago" is that it's the most Springsteen chorus on country radio these days, even moreso than Eric Church's "Springsteen."

5. French Montana f/ Rick Ross, Drake and Lil Wayne - "Pop That"  
The whole French Montana thing over the past year has kind of mystified me, since it's predicated on a song, "Shot Caller," which succeeded almost purely because of a beat and a hook he had nothing to do with. And I feel like his label is pretty much admitting that by releasing such a guest-powered single, which I like even though I'm pretty good and sick of all three of the guests, mainly because of the clapper beat and the 2 Live Crew sample. 

6. Ace Hood - "B.L.A.B. (Ballin' Like A Bitch)"
Historically Ace Hood is the kind of guy who needs features like the French single has to keep his career on life support, but this song knocks and he's the only one on it. I always thought dude could flow, he just doesn't have much of a personality to carry records, but in this case it suits the blank aggression of the song.

7. DJ Drama f/ Young Jeezy, T.I., Ludacris and Future - "We In This Bitch"
This song is nuts, definitely one of the best Future hooks in the great year he's having, don't know why this kinda flopped, other than that it would've been a much bigger deal to hear the other three guys on a track together maybe 4-5 years ago when they all still mattered. 

8. Pink - "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)"    
It's so funny to see Greg Kurstin becoming the new default single producer for acts that usually work with Max Martin. This isn't one of Pink's best, and the "shit day" refrain is weirdly awkward in the explicit version, but I'm still kind of excited that she has a new album coming, I loved Funhouse

9. Chevelle - "Hats Off To The Bull" 
Even though I'm still kind of appalled at these guys lip syncing when I saw them live, they're still one of my favorite radio rock bands going. 

10. Anthony Hamilton - "Pray For Me"
Back when the album dropped I pointed out this song as a favorite, but it never really occurred to me that it might at some point become a single, so that was a pleasant surprise. Always cool to hear some evidence that Babyface still has it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Rap Sheet, one of my genre-specific music columns the Baltimore City Paper launched last month, returns in this week's issue.

Also did this week's Short List, as usual.

Movie Diary

Monday, August 13, 2012
a) The Dark Knight Rises
I understand and often agree with most of the big criticisms of this movie, but I also really enjoyed it, quite a bit more than expected. Tom Hardy's Bane was the weak link of the movie, as far as I'm concerned, mainly because of that stupid botched voice overdubbing and his goofy, Yoda-like inflections, but the way his character's role changed by the end also kinda robbed it of its power, in retrospect. But Hathaway killed it as Catwoman, and there were just enough twists not telegraphed by the trailer that I was pretty much on the edge of my seat the whole movie. I think there's a lot of inherent bombast and pretension in a Nolan movie, but while this wasn't as creative as some of his non-Batman movies, his Batman movies tend to be more watchable overall.

b) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
I was skeptical of Rooney Mara's casting in this movie, not because she was an unknown or I had any idea of what the book was about, but because the cute Natalie Portman type from The Social Network seemed like an odd fit for all those tats and piercings. For the most part, she seemed to fall into it well, but sometimes her voice didn't seem up to the transformation, and not just in terms of accent. Also just never really felt compelled with the story enough to really want to see some of the awful things the movie onscreen, and I don't just mean that cheeseball screensaver opening credits sequence.

c) In Time
This has a relatively novel premise, decent cast, nice-looking direction, but like a lot of promising sci-fi movies was ultimately flattened by its kind of artless exposition and businesslike way of rolling out the storyline and hitting all its predictable beats right on schedule. The way it eventually became so transparent about its central metaphor that it turned into an old fashioned Bonnie and Clyde movie was kind of fun, though.

d) What's Your Number?
Not as horrendous as the trailers made me fear, but pretty bad. Definitely one for the "why did I watch this?" files.

e) Straw Dogs
I never saw the original, but this did a pretty good job of slowly escalating the tension and becoming more and more difficult to watch. Toward the end the direction gets overwrought but for the most part it's pretty harrowing. I guess respect to Alexander Skarsgard for risking his sex symbol status to play a terrifying rapist in a movie that wasn't going to win anyone any Oscars, though. 

f) Contagion
My wife is a virologist who's working on a Ph.D, so it was fun to watch this with her and get running commentary on how accurate or realistic different aspects of the story are -- she was mostly impressed, only was really amused or annoyed by how quickly the scientific community was able to analyze the virus and start working on a vaccine, she thought that was pretty implausible. In general I thought this was really good, certain things about the handling and resolution (or lack thereof) of all the different intermingling storylines didn't always work well but it was mostly a good use of a strong ensemble and hit some interesting rhythms, kinda subverted expectations in some interesting ways. Probably the most implausible thing about this movie was the teenage girl who decided to play a 2nd tier '80s U2 song at her private prom (although I do love that song).

g) Colombiana
This had some pretty kickass scenes but it didn't really hold my attention. 

h) 30 Minutes Or Less
I had a bad feeling about this movie just from the fact that someone had the poor taste to turn the actual story of a pizza delivery boy getting blown up into a light stoner comedy, but god this was just the biggest piece of shit. Like someone trying really hard to re-write The Pineapple Express after having learned how to make a movie from Kevin Smith.

i) Swinging With The Finkels
This movie is about a couple played by Martin Freeman and Mandy Moore, and a lot of the rest of the cast was also a mix of Brits and Americans so for about half the movie I was just distracted trying to figure out what country it actually took place in. It was London, apparently, but it may as well have been California as far as I could tell. Kind of reminded me of Hall Pass in that it was kind of packaged as a raunchy sex comedy but ended up being a fairly sentimental ode to monogamy.

j) Jumping The Broom
It's sad that Tyler Perry movies have lowered the standard for mainstream black films to the point that I almost assumed this movie, which is mostly populated by Perry flick alums, would be as half-assed as one of his. It was actually pretty charming and well made, even if it was ultimately just an overstuff ensemble rom-com. 

k) Tomorrow, When The War Began
An apocalyptic action flick populated entirely by photogenic teens apparently based on a young adult novel, this probably could've been as good or as successful as The Hunger Games with more money pumped into the franchise. As it is, it's kind of an underwhelming but occasionally thrilling little movie that gets a lot of traction out of not letting the characters or the audience figure out what the hell is going on a lot of the time.

l) The American
This movie was not bad but I think it overlapped with enough other hitman movies and/or George Clooney movies that it just felt overly familiar and trite to people. Violante Placido is just an amazing-looking woman, though, movie was pretty watchable just for her.

m) Whip It
I don't know what was a stranger realization, that the Randy Quaid-looking guy in this movie was Daniel Stern, or that when I see Andrew Wilson in a movie now I think "Beef Supreme" instead of "Future Man."

n) Wake
You kinda know when a rom-com is doomed when the two leads are far better known for being good-looking than for being funny, and Bijou Phillips and Ian Somerhalder definitely don't let any air escape from this weak little trifle.

o) Bad Girl Island
Really bizarre straight-to-DVD movie starring Antonio Sabato Jr. that I thought was gonna be a straight up cheeseball erotic thriller but turned out to be like some weird conceptual shit where the second half of the movie is a meta thing about the characters making a movie of the first half, and then it turns out to be a weird political commentary, just a fucked up movie.

p) Charlie Bartlett
I have a theory that there's just way more movies being produced for high school/college-aged male leads than there are actors who can carry them well, which is why any Shia Lebeouf or Michael Cera with any ounce of popular appeal makes a billion movies by the time they turn 25 and even lower level guys like Jay Baruchel and Anton Yelchin get way more work than they really should. I mean, I get that Charlie Bartlett is not actually supposed to be a charismatic Ferris Bueller type so much as someone who wishes he was, but still, Yelchin is more convincing as an introvert who wants to be an introvert. Kat Dennings being Kat Dennings was kinda the main reason I watched this, though, and she was worth it, even if Robert Downey Jr. was mostly wasted as an empty foil.

q) Running With Scissors
Ryan Murphy turning a sketchy literary memoir about a dysfunctional family into some American Beauty bullshit is my idea of hell, I'm not sure why I watched this.

r) Masked & Anonymous
It's funny to me that history has remembered this movie, if it's remembered at all, as such an inscrutable experiment, when honestly, I feel like a movie starring and co-written by Bob Dylan couldn't be less ambiguous about what Dylan actually thinks of himself and how people see him than if his character was actually called Bob Dylan and not (ugh) "Jack Fate." Pretty stupid movie, in any event.  

s) Trekkies
After hearing about this movie for years it was interesting to finally see it, especially since the whole idea of sci-fi nerds, and their place in pop culture, has changed so drastically in the past decade. Obviously some of the people in this movie were kinda freaks and still would be today, but they're also just kind of an accepted part of the fabric of fan culture now, and this movie, even at it seeks to foster that acceptance, kind of buys into the freak show.

t) Mad Dog And Glory
Bill Murray never had a long wilderness period, but there was definitely a chunk of the '90s, after Groundhog Day ended his run of successful starring vehicles, and before Rushmore cemented him as a beloved aging institution, where the world didn't really know what to do with him or how to appreciate him. It's actually not a bad period, though: he's good in Ed Wood and King Pin, and The Man Who Knew Too Little and Larger Than Life are better than their reputations would suggest. This movie would seem to be the most promising of the bunch, and it might be the best, but the role reversal of Murray as the crime world force of nature and DeNiro as the normal nice guy caught in his orbit doesn't really pay off. Uma Thurman was really something back then, though.

u) This Is My Life
I have vague memories of watching parts of this on TV as a kid, but didn't really watch the whole thing until after Nora Ephron died. It's pretty good!

v) Scenes From A Mall
Another movie I vaguely remember coming out when I was a kid, and it's funny that my earliest memory of Woody Allen was a weird one-off example of him starring in a mainstream flick he didn't write or direct. The actual movie is really nothing remarkable, beyond it being surreal to watch Woody and Bette Midler pleasantly bicker.

w) Under The Cherry Moon
Knowing Prince's soundtrack well and only knowing the movie for its flop reputation, it's surreal to actually watch this goofy, goofy movie with all those great Parade songs popping up amidst absurd plotting and acting. Glad I got to know the songs before seeing it, though, this could've really ruined it for me.

Friday, August 10, 2012
I wrote an entry on the City Paper's Noise blog about Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts, Mike Apichella's new site dedicated to the '90s Baltimore county DIY scene.

Monthly Report: July 2012 Albums

Thursday, August 09, 2012

1. Nas - Life Is Good
I don't think of myself as someone who falls very hard for the endless cycle of anticipation and disappointment that accompanies pretty much any new Nas album, simply because I'm happy to let him do what he wants and not expect another Illmatic. But I also realize that most of his albums lack staying power and always sound they're best when new --Hip Hop Is Dead literally went from top 10 to not mentioned at all in my 2006 best-ofs over time. So I am very cautious in my praise of Life Is Good, because as great as "A Queens Story" sounds, it sounded better on first listen.

2. The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten
I kind of have more of an investment in the single off this record doing well than how good the album itself is, since I feel like they kind of perfected their sound already on the last two albums and all I really want from them now is to be bigger than the fucking Black Keys or whoever, because I want to hear them on the radio. This album hasn't gotten its hooks into me too much yet but I like how they sound with a little extra major label polish, although the difference from the indie records is really pretty minor. The texture of the guitar in the second verse of "Biloxi Parish" is the kind of subtle flourish that feels new for them, hopefully they can keep expanding their palette even if the content of the songs has remained somewhat static.

3. Eleni Mandell - I Can See The Future
Eleni Mandell is one of my favorite singer/songwriters working right now, and while I'm still slowly making my way through her back catalog, I'm finding that her last album, 2009's Artificial Fire, is still my favorite. So this album not striking me quite the same way is only a buzzkill in the sense that it means that someone this great is not necessarily still getting better and better with each record, but it's still really good, with songwriting and production that as usual flatters her lovely, languorous voice.

4. Mike Will Made It - Est. In 1989 (Part 2)
For a while I kept hearing about Mike Will's beats but not being able to really pick up on what people thought was good about them, but then Young Jeezy's "Way Too Gone" made me a big time convert, so I'm glad to not be totally perplexed by a new southern rap super producer's popularity the way I was with Lex Luger. This tape is about as inherently uneven as any producer-helmed mixtape, but there's really a lot of good shit here, especially Jeremih's "773 Love" and T.I.'s "Fightin' Words." No idea what to think about 50 Cent's "OJ," though, both musically and lyrically.

5. Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE
I've always been a little mystified by the breathless praise for this guy, especially his voice. I get why people think he's a unique songwriter, although a lot of his lyrics scan as overwrought and pretentious to me, but mostly it's just hilarious to me that the most critically acclaimed R&B singer in years sounds like a cross between Ryan Leslie and Omarion. A few tracks are growing on me, but seriously, "Forrest Gump" may be the worst song of 2012.

6. DJ Jonny Blaze - The Transition
I interviewed Jonny the day this album dropped so I've kinda still been letting the album sink in. The whole Baltimore club/gospel thing is crazy, but a few tracks aren't club at all and those slower tracks kind of hold up the momentum for me. On the whole, the experiment works pretty well, though, fun record.

7. Kane Mayfield - Rhymes By Kane: Thievery Corporation Edition
Also wrote about this already but it's still growing on me. Don't know the source material at all but Kane kills these beats, "Alpha Beta" is hilarious.

8. 8Ball - Life's Quest
It's weird to say but 8Ball is kind of twee, at least by southern rap legend standards. I originally noticed a sentimental streak in his later solo records, but really going back to the '90s 8Ball & MJG records he says a lot of earnest stuff, very 'conscious rapper' type lyrics for someone who's never really looked at that way. Life's Quest is perhaps his most touchy feely album yet, and that's not really a good thing, mainly because there's a lot of R&B choruses and weak beats, which is a shame because he's been really consistent the last few years, that Memphis All-Stars record is still a minor classic to me. Still the best rap album by a fat man in the last few weeks.

9. Rick Ross - God Forgives, I Don't
I think it's hilarious that people inflated their expectations for a Rick Ross album to such unrealistic proportions that they were actually disappointed by this, which sounds exactly like all his other albums. He's a slightly better writer than he used to be, and has been in slightly better command of his aesthetic in the past, but in general this is exactly what he always does. A couple tracks work for me, most of it's whatever.

10. The Cataracs - Gordo Taqueria EP
I literally just realized how these guys spell their name when this record dropped, and had been referring to them as "The Cataracts" multiple times on this blog. I love their beats but man the vocals on this are pretty terrible -- you know it's a problem when you think "man, I wish Dev was singing on this instead." That single with Waka is crazy, though.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012
The Short List in this week's City Paper.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

I reviewed Wordsmith's King Noah on the Mobtown Studios site.

Saturday, August 04, 2012
I posted the new Si-Notes video for "Go Dumb" on the City Paper's Noise blog.

Friday, August 03, 2012

I reviewed Dan Deacon's new album America for the August issue of Urbanite.

Thursday, August 02, 2012
Here's the Short List for this week's Baltimore City Paper.