AVRIL LAVIGNE - AVRIL LAVIGNE
i'm not sure how she's still making things happen for herself. is there anything left for her other than contacts that she built during the 'complicated' stage? the songs are easy and feel a little flat and young. i imagine, from the limited experience i have with both of them, that this could be what taylor swift's records sound like? talking about school ending and being 17 and kissing a boy at a record store. aaight. maybe it's the guitar? is it the guitar that, for me, isn't letting it call itself what it is? am i letting it look like (if only to me) she is trying to gain credibility? i heard there's a blog somewhere of someone who is a major fan of the movie alien, but their production assistant or something like that has never seen it, but loves all the new video games that take TONS of space marine material from that film itself, so he watches it with him and watches his preconceived notions get deconstructed. is this what i need for simple pop like this?
SELENA GOMEZ - STARS DANCE
and the thing with selena gomez now especially after following avril is that this girl is eight years younger than her, so at least singing about it being her birthday is acceptable. kinda? i mean, at least i get where a 21 year old would be coming from being "SOOO EXCITED!! <3", which is kind of the demeanor lavigne had going in. i mean, i'm going to go through waves like this if i'm trying to listen to EVERYTHING that i'm finding on different, varying lists. there's a major progression INTO pop that i'm finding, possibly starting with watching the movie pitch perfect and then getting into a full season of the voice on abc. am i understanding the culture more? am i learning the tropes? i think, like anything else, you start to gain a sense of quality the more you spend around something. not sure how this becomes WHAT you're listening to on the regular, unless you work in a boutique and need something saccharin to have in the background at all times. but this isn't awful. just nothing really digestible and anything to take with me.
DIANA VICKERS - MUSIC TO MAKE BOYS CRY
no idea what i'm getting into here. oh, okay. she's a young girl who was on the x factor. i feel no connection to this. it sounds like every song has just had the vepp vepp vepp vepp vepp wemmp wemmp wemmp wemmp beat.
ALUNA GEORGE - BODY MUSIC
oh cool, i mean so far it has kind of that little pop sound to it, but at least it's a bit of a reach. kind of a higher range, delicate female voice with more subtle, sensual electronic beats in the background. whole record has kind of a lavendar and grey vibe to it, very smooth and cool and velvet sheets. some songs are catering to a completely different taste and seem to me to be throwaway, but there's a sensibility there that makes me happy i ended up checking them out.
BRITNEY SPEARS - BRITNEY JEAN
the first song is called ALIEN. what. the second song starts off sounding exactly (well... not EXACTLY) like the song Breakfast by the Backbesh Beats. ultimately, starts off kind of clubby and what i expect from britney, which isn't necessarily BAD, but it plays into what i would generally ignore because i'm anticipating it. then something kind of different happens, where the production becomes something that i feel is distinctly UN britney, which is kind of chip tune-y and modern and different. after a while it gets past that peak and heads back down into predictable territory, but for what that moment was worth, kind of cool.
ARIANA GRANDE - YOURS TRULY
isn't this chick on nickelodeon? well, regardless, this is a weird situation because the music itself and the voice and everything is there. it works. she's actually really talented in the vein of, what, beyonce? mariah? yeah, both. around there. not really the same power in all of those ranges, but she has the ability to hit a lot of the notes and it sounds natural. the thing is... i'm not sure if she's singing songs that make sense to anyone who's not STILL watching TRL. like, the real TRL. the type of pop she's singing is calling to mind the era when "still not a playa" was a real thing that was actually happening.
a lot of things came out in 2013. i'm finally getting a chance to catch up with all of the stuff that i missed. i kept a list of other things that came out this year that i caught on others' lists of their favorite stuff of the year. this is less a list of reviews and more a compilation of what else came out of note.
THE FRONT BOTTOMS - TALON OF THE HAWK
cute, but i don't know how to listen to that whole album. i bet it's great when they're live and dancing around and feeling good. it's great girlfriend/boyfriend music. but i'm not sure how to really enjoy all of that all of the time. funny lyrics though and i really appreciated it.
DEFEATER - LETTERS HOME
i always forget about these guys, but when they come on, i'm consistently like YES. it's a very good album with a lot of smart parts. not just throwing breakdowns in there, although i do love breakdowns. definitely a hardcore album you can take seriously. caught some lines in there that were heavy as shit. great.
EARL SWEATSHIRT - DORIS
i know nothing about any of this stuff. it sounds like one of the homies of tyler the creator. looking forward to hearing it, so we'll see whattup. it's on a lot of lists that i liked over the year. it's like that one off-kilter result you get on a google search. there are some genius lines in here almost what seems like by accident. something about "a hickey on his aorta a tattoo that no one else can see" or something? sick. then there's a track that spits completely like a stream of consciousness which means almost nothing but everything. i'm into it. you'll catch some real moments in this record, too. about hoping he didn't hurt a female, about his grandmother passing, about his father leaving. a pretty diverse record here. though in this and other hip hop albums, for some reason i feel like you have to pay too much attention to get the full pull out of this. is that lazy? maybe. i'm just not as "in shape " of a rap listener as i used to be. i got way out of lyrics to the point where i barely hear words anymore, and with hip hop, that's a lot of what it is. i'm ashamed a little bit, because i'm sure i'd enjoy this a lot more than i already do. very cool record. totally get it if you're going to the face and vibing.
TOUCHE AMORE - IS SURVIVED BY...
a band that i don't really understand all the way through, but some of their moments are incredibly, incredibly honest and direct and perfect. i think the music on this one gets way more intricate and uses the entire canvas, if that makes any sense aurally. they gutiars are all across the board, leaving no white areas. lots of resonance and dissonance that i like and they also do a very good job of almost never doing any of the genre's old go-to moves. they keep it entirely fresh. i really feel like i'd like to watch/read interviews with the singer of this band just based on his approach to the content. rad.
ZENDAYA - ZENDAYA
i found a list that had some of the things that i liked on it as well as some random stuff that i know nothing about and this was the first on that list. i'm doing my best to check everything out that anyone gave any credo to. i can't be hurt by any of it. seems like generic pop stuff. i guess maybe there are some boops where the claps usually are?
NATALIA KILLS - TROUBLE
tooootally going for the lana del rey thing. powty and bad? sad maybe? powty, for real. except there's some of that party language in there, like "let's dance" and "our sex is super loud" and "the beach". in an alien language though, this could be passed as an underground lana release. i guess pretty good to have something to listen to when all we had last year from the LDR was remixes and rereleases. it's actually pretty good, all things considered. one thing though, i'm kind of embarrassed for her writing the song 'controversy'. or even worse, aww girl c'mon, please don't tell me you performed it live. i don't think you should do that. i get it. you think things. but.. mmm. don't.
GOLDFRAPP - TALES OF US
i only know the name of the artist because people i know have really liked her stuff. never ventured into it. it's always been really quality performance stuff but nothing grabbed me. another one of those things where i think i just never gave it the time to sink in. great, definitely captivating voice and a nostalgic vibe to it.
PET SHOP BOYS - ELECTRIC
i knew an album by these guys called fundamental from when i lived in miami. i kind of like their understated drabness voice mixed with the dancey beats. just a fun album. pretty good.
saw the obligatory summer movie last night with Steve and a couple of other friends, the blockbuster sequel to Marvel's Iron Man movies... and also an indirect sequel to The Avengers, which turned out to be one of the biggest movies of all-time.
the first two were directed by Jon Favreau - a director who not only made one of the best casting decisions in movie history at this point, but also knocked Marvel's first foray into the movie-making business out of the damn park with Iron Man. the sequel is widely considered to have been a letdown, but was still successful in some areas. Favreau opted out of the director's seat for the third installment, and I'm sure RDJ was heavily influential in getting the "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" director Shane Black the job. If you're not familiar with Shane Black's lengthy writing credits in Hollywood, do yourself a favor and check out his IMDB page. from "Lethal Weapon" to "Last Action Hero", Black owned the 90's.
I want to say a few words about Iron Man 3; not because I'm a comic book fan and it's a comic book movie and I like movies that go kablooey because, well, kablooey. I want to talk about it because I think it's a movie that played with a lot of tropes and took a SHITLOAD of chances, which is commendable to begin with. but those chances really worked. I think it's the best of the three, because it has everything. the action set pieces were huge and hugely enjoyable, the special effects were excellently done (you know, the stuff you expect from a superhero flick at this point). but what you won't expect is that this is the funniest superhero movie you've ever seen, and will probably ever see. the humor isn't forced by any means, it feels genuine and fluid. there are some lines in this movie (many lines) in which I found myself literally laughing out loud - and that's rare these days, especially for a movie that isn't technically a "comedy."
Iron Man 3 has a twist which is one of the ballsiest I've ever seen. it's a huge spoiler so I can't really get into it without ruining it for those that haven't seen it yet, but there is NO way you see it coming, and it's one of the best scenes ever. your jaw just drops - in a good way. I'm sure the makers had to fight the studio like crazy in order to work this twist into the movie and I'm thankful for it. I wish I could go into more detail, maybe I will a month or two from now. just trust me.
the flick's not perfect by any means, it does have it's flaws... but most of the problems I've seen bloggers take issue with online *are* explained away within the movie, it seems people just aren't paying attention. so please pay attention.
one thing I am going to ruin for you is at the end of the credits (after the obvious post-credit easter egg which you can stay for if you so choose) these words come up: "Tony Stark Will Return." considering RDJ isn't under contract for any additional Marvel movies, they seem pretty confident he's going to return. let's hope he does. because he's the lynchpin for these flicks and he's super enjoyable to watch as Tony Stark.
Here is a list that was given to Pitchfork by Andrew WK.
Top 10 Partiest Things I've Mentally Visualized This Year
10. I visualized what your face would look like when you read this list.
9. I visualized what it would feel like to smash a false wall with a small stone.
8. I visualized what it would feel like to become the President of the United States and crawl on my hands and knees through every room in the White House.
7. I visualized what it would sound like if I watched movies real loud in a small outdoor shed where I installed a large sound system, an amber colored lamp, a medium sized couch, a mini-fridge, and a microwave for burritos.
6. I visualized what the total amount of pizza ever made in the history of Earth would look like if it was piled into a huge pizza mountain.
5. I visualized giving up all fear.
4. I visualized roley poley baby bears nestling and tumbling on beds of pine needles and clover.
3. I visualized what it would taste like to eat $3 all at once.
2. I visualized what it would smell like to live under somebody's bed for six years without them knowing.
1. I visualized how good it will feel to keep on partying with the whole world forever.
a month ago, publisher D3 posted on their soundcloud the soundtrack to the DS/3DS title, Adventure Time: Hey Ice King, Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?. it's a video game soundtrack, so the appeal may wear off once you realize it's a lot of the same kind of stuff going on over the course of an hour. there are two or three tracks that have actual vocals and instruments. the rest are classic style chip tunes or even some beat box type stuff. i have to say, if you need one song to pick out of the litter, it'd be "It's So Cold" which is about 16 tracks down the list. it's cute, it's fun. give it a spin or two. the "You Just Leveled Up MEGAMIXX" got a laugh out of me as well. check it out.
as for the video game, it was a very simplified version game which played very similarly to Link's Adventure. i heard you could 100% the game in about 4-6 hours. but for the charm of the tie-in to the show, worth a cool $15. wait for it to drop or buy it preowned so you can return it within the week.
just this week i saw a performance at irving plaza. it's kind of a weird thing, though. it was of a band that i'd sort of set for myself as one of those iconic bands who could do no wrong, was on some sort of peak. some kind of untouchable, ultimately non-actual combination of human beings and sounds. it's a lot i know. the band was as cities burn and it was at the underoath farewell show with mewithoutyou and letlive..
it was one of those performances that almost didn't stand a chance. it was a curtain being pulled aside, revealing no longer some gigantic head who had built a great kingdom and its yellow brick road which led to the floating genius itself and a city built simply for its inhabitants. it was no longer possible to just be some series of notes or some series of lyrics once penned in some notebook. no. this was meant to only be a life changing experience where i would hear just these notes and nothing else, fall into a forty five minute long DMT trance in which fractals and audio-revelations would float me somewhere above the other attendees on a cloud of expectation and promise. yeah, you know. i set the bar pretty low.
but really, though. i have a two headed review for this performance and for this band and the kind of revelation that i actually did have during their set. the one, simple one is that standing there in front of them, finally seeing them reunited with TJ (the guy who screamed during son, i loved you at your darkest) was a big deal for fans of the band who'd gone two albums without him (except for that one track, gates which kind of blew a lot of minds when his part came in). i have to mention that their entire library consists of a lot of very complex guitars, lots of background layers of sound and tone. a lot of mood, a lot of semantics. so know that i mean with every bit of me that they completely pulled off every bit of what their record does. hums. feedback. tone. all of the scales and chromatics. they nailed it all. it sounded like the record. so there was nothing that i needed more of. the screams didn't seem as desperate, didn't seem as lost or consumed with distraught. but it was still hard and honest, no less.
but the other part of it, the real part of it, the part that i often overlook at live performances, the part that never matters, the other experience of the show that really made a huge difference was the heart of the show. the environment. i came to understand, really, that this performance showed me that some records and some songs aren't meant to be played in front of an audience so taut. i almost couldn't believe that i was seeing people jump up and down in front of me. it wasn't matching up to me that people were moshing or dancing to a record as dark as this one. the band opened with one track from come now sleep, a sort of solo, quiet track which questions the availability and presence of a God without our involvement with him. and then the rest of the tracks were all off of son.... and that record is sad. dark. solitary. introspective. and knowing and relating (or at least creating my own knowledge and relation) to these songs was something that i had always crafted in my head as something that i'd share with this band as nothing other than passing moments of meeting eyes with these guys and staring into a chasm. moments of "whoa."
i could quote two or three pages of lyrics to show you what i'm saying, but i'll allow you to check it out yourself if you care enough to. but understand me when i'm saying that this is a record wrought with some of the most direct and honest emotional specificity and that listening to it has always been a cross to me between walking through the fire of my own penance and baring the most intimate confessions of someone dragged over the coals of a life spent making choices between bad and worse. [i repeat, this record has a personal meaning to me almost indescribable by me. i think you get it by now.] i'll spare you the quotes and the signposts. but i can't imagine standing with your friends, telling them that this is going to be "a really rad show brahh" and then hearing this record.
for me, this was the first time that i really felt that i was in the wrong place at the wrong time during a band performing a record that i'd always wanted to hear live. i felt a strong, singular desire to be completely alone with this sound, with these words. i don't think i've ever felt something i've felt so strongly about come across so incorrectly translated. it felt like trying to share my experience and revelations with william s. burroughs' writing at a family christmas eve dinner. it felt like explaining the personal and spiritual benefits of psychotropics to a kid you're babysitting in front of their parents. i felt a little wrong. i felt my exposure was mistimed. but also, it explained to me, via action, just how strong this record was to me and just what kind of angle it needed to be experienced through. it gave me the glass to drink it through. it gave me the sight line.
this record needs to be me, just me. and it needs to be heard as it was recorded. with headphones and undisturbed.
years, maybe even a year ago, it would have gotten me angry. would have made me feel that i needed to sit each and every one of those kids down and explain to them the individual parts of the record and just how all of them needed to listen to it differently. AND TO SIT STILL. but not this time. i felt something different. something also stronger through this moment. and that thing was a complete and utter acceptance of just how this audience wanted to ingest this experience, this record, these songs, these people. i felt that all of this was a shared experience. they were seeing it through one set of eyes while i saw it through an equal but otherwise centered pair.
i'm saying shit got real.
also, i feel almost ridiculous buying a white stripes album. but i think i'm starting to hear that they might be awesome. they might rule.
we all love the greats. Or at least I do, from my lonely deserted Island Of Comic-Obsession. Alan Moore (who I just posted about here: http://www.wrankmusic.com/blog/?p=1534), Warren Ellis (http://www.wrankmusic.com/blog/?p=1027), Garth Ennis (http://www.wrankmusic.com/blog/?p=1305), Ed Brubaker, Scott Snyder... I can go on forever. I'm like that - it's kind of a problem. (if those don't come up as actual links, fuck it, I'm at work and I'm lazy so deal)
However one of the biggest surprises for me in 2012 was the discovery and immediate revelation that British writer extraordinaire Simon Spurrier was single-handedly shoving himself into my list of "Favorite Graphic Novel And Comic Writers EVAR OMGZ." Si Spurrier knows what the fuck he's doing, and he's probably one of the most obviously fun writers to actually read. What does that mean exactly, Dave? Well to me it means, loving every single goddamn word balloon. Chuckling to yourself routinely throughout the storyline because his writing is cheeky and/or devastatingly clever. That's actually the best adjective I would use to describe Si's work: CLEVER. And so damn entertaining. And since 2013 is shaping up to already be a huge year for him where he blasts all over the map (that sounds dirty somehow), I might as well make the effort to get you up to date with him now.
My first foray into the world of Spurrier was the insistence by a fellow blogger from a comics-loving website I read regularly, that a book called Extermination by BOOM! Comics, was fucking awesome. I checked it out, and oh, it was. Essentially Extermination is this; post-apocalyptic Earth, you open on a world where aliens have somehow invaded the planet and the devastation they have caused is both complete and total. There is *maybe* 1% of the human population left, if that. Cities are all ruins. And you open on two sole survivors making their way across a barren landscape. Why are they in costumes, though? Well that's because Nox (super-hero) and the Red Reaper (super-villian) used to be super-powered shits that you read about in the capes comics, and they used to actually be each other's nemesis as well, but they are literally depending on each other for survival now. Because, hell, they might even be the last humans left on earth for all they know. Great way to open a story right? The last issue (#8) just came out yesterday and all I have to say is - god damn, wait until you read the conclusion.
So that's a great introduction to a unique, creator-owned book right? I looked a bit more into his work around the same time as discovering Extermination and also discovered that, holy fucking shit, Spurrier also does a book for Avatar Press's Crossed series, which is hands-down one of my favorite ongoing books EVER. Wrankmusic's own Steve borrowed all of my Crossed books and blew through them all, and for the most part loved the shit out of them. Crossed was originally penned by Garth Ennis who created the universe, and it's about a worldwide, widespread infection that essentially turns humanity into depraved, murderous raping lunatics; and the few survivors of said infection (much like a post-apocalyptic zombie story a la "Walking Dead") have to struggle to find shelter, food and supplies and also not be rapefucked. It might sound weird, but it's probably one of the most engaging and thoroughly disturbing pieces of fiction I've ever read. The 1st trade paperback (or Volume 1 as it's known) written By Ennis and drawn by Jacen Burrows (see: Alan Moore piece) is a must-fucking-have. I implore you. Go buy now with funds. The opening pages of that book are probably some of the best comic pages I've ever read... the suspense, the shock, the slow realization of what's happening. Amazing.
Anyway, Spurrier's series is called Crossed: Wish You Were Here, and is actually a completely free webcomic available here: www.crossedcomic.com (and also available in print). Although it would help you to read Ennis' Vol 1 first, you can just jump in if you wish. It's about an small group of survivors that have established a colony on an island, and tells their ongoing tale. I'll tell you one thing; Spurrier is playing the long game with this one and I'm loving it. He's created way more questions than given us answers, and the twists and turns, the cliffhangers he leaves us off with every Thursday when the webcomic gets updated, is brilliant. Aaannd it's also free, so go read the thing, yeah?
One of the biggest surprises from out of Si's word processor, however, is the inclusion of a series called X-Men Legacy to Marvel's new "NOW!" titles, written by Spurrier. Legacy is a completely new series dedicated to telling the story of one David Haller, otherwise known as Legion, otherwise known as the son of Professor Charles Xavier. If you're unfamiliar with Legion, well he's probably the most powerful mutant that the world has ever seen; way more powerful than his Dad, Jean Grey, Scarlet Witch, or anyone else your nerd brain can think of. The problem is he also suffers from devastatingly acute schizophrenia and is constantly in a struggle to maintain his headspace. There's a whole cast of characters taking up residence in David's brain and depending on who's in control, it not only affects David's actions but also his powers. Very cool storyline. I started reading this only due to being a fan of Spurrier's other titles and I'm so happy I did. It also reminds me of a time where in my younger years I was constantly reading Marvel books. It feels familiar and warm. mmm, so warm.
Aaaanyway, Si just teased what I'm assuming is a new book he's planning for 2013 with Image on his tumblr here (http://sispurrier.tumblr.com/) called Why Are The Weavers, and I'm sure he's got more in the works. Keep appraised, peoples. This Brit has the goods. Sorry for the long post but hey, what can I say, I love this shit.
(a bit of a caveat, if you will: I always get into a little bit of a background explanation before I delve into what my post is mainly about, many of you might have noticed that already. so for those that enjoy the extra information, cool, for those of you that just want me to get to the point, I apologize.)
You've heard of Alan Moore before; yes, you have.
As one of our generation's most influential and ground-breaking graphic novel writers, the English writer has won pretty much every single award that a comic writer can win - and he deserves it. He's not only famous for his many extremely popular works (V For Vendetta, Watchmen, From Hell, Batman: The Killing Joke, just to name a few) but he's also infamous for his antics. He declared himself a "ceremonial magician" in 1993, which turned some heads for sure, and identifies himself as an anarchist. Moore is known to be vehemently opposed to anything and everything that publishers try to do with his successful ventures, from all of the movie adaptations of his material, to DC Comics recently taking the universe Moore created and establishing an entire movement of comics based around the "Watchmen" characters - without his consent, approval, and most importantly, his help. He's also known to be extremely hard to work with, probably has the heads of ex-editors in his office on stakes, and he will not work with pretty much all of the publishers he's ever worked with again.
Which is why it was surprising (pleasantly and genuinely) when Avatar Press started putting out some new material by him, one of the most recent being Neonomicon illustrated by the uber-talented Jacen Burrows. Neonomicon is set in the H.P. Lovecraft universe and shows that Moore is definitely a fan of Lovecraftian horror. If you aren't a fan of Lovecraft stuff, have never read any Lovecraft, or have never even heard of the guy, it doesn't matter in the case of Neonomicon though. The reader is treated intelligently and it's not necessary for you to know anything about Cthulhu. This is more of a psychological thriller and detective story, similar to something like the movie Se7en.
Neonomicon is easily one of the scariest and most gripping graphic novels I have ever had the "pleasure" of reading. Parts of this book shook me to my very core. But as psychological thrillers go, man, this one beats them all. It starts off with Chapter 1, called "The Courtyard" which is essentially like an extended prologue or introduction into the story. The rest of the book, which is the actual "Neonomicon" storyline, starts directly after, with a few chapters of it's own. This is definitely the scariest book Moore has ever written, and he doesn't hold back when it comes to subject matter. I'm warning you right now, there is some stomach-shifting material in here; there is rape, there is murder, there is gore. There are some pretty explicit sexual situations and imagery. That's not why the book is shocking though; it's not overt gore like in the Crossed series, shocking stuff for the sake of shock. But the book has enough jarring material that it's already been banned and pulled from the public library system in South Carolina (!!!) (http://cbldf.org/2012/12/neonomicon-banned-in-south-carolina/)
But enough about the disturbing material within; Neonomicon is an incredible new story written by who is probably our best, or one of our best, writers in the medium. The artwork is also absolutely stellar, and when I heard it was illustrated by Jacen Burrows it made the book that much more appealing. I'm more of a 'writer' guy than an 'artwork' guy to begin with, I just don't get as excited about that aspect of the medium as I do about the writers that I love and follow. That said, however, Jacen Burrows is hands-down my favorite artist in the graphic novel medium and I will collect everything the man does. For me and my tastes, he just does it RIGHT. And he's drawn for a lot of the writers I love, and he's always made their material stronger. His pages are engaging as hell and gorgeous to look at. Neonomicon looks magnificent and I get very excited when I find a new book written by one of the favorite writers, and illustrated by Burrows.
Anyway- do yourself a favor and check this book out - buy it if possible (because it's worth it) or borrow it from me, or whichever library hasn't banned it yet. Just strap yourself in for what you're about to experience, and enjoy the ride. And if you haven't checked out his other books, I don't know what you're waiting for. They are as important of a read as Huxley's "Brave New Wold or Melville's "Moby Dick."