British electro-indie duo The Big Pink (yep, they’re actually named after The Band album) played to an excited crowd at D.C.‘s the Black Cat in support of their debut album A Brief History Of Love. Their rough, scuzzed out but occasionally poppy sound worked well live, but for a band that’s publicly stated they’re not cool, they could have fooled me—just like they apparently fooled NME into naming them best new act. If you missed them on this tour relax, they’ll be back in the US starting in March.
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Raekwon might be responsible for one of this year’s best albums but as his Washington D.C. fans found out earlier this week, he’s far from infallible. To be fair, the deck was stacked against him from the start: it was a cold Tuesday night and the 9:30 Club was less than half full. After a brief DJ set heavy on classic ‘90s cuts, the Chef came out swinging, digging deep with Wu classics like “C.R.E.A.M.” and old solo favorites like “Ice Cream”. Problem was, without the much-needed assists from his fellow Clan members, the songs were sapped of much of their momentum. Tracks from Raekwon’s latest opus, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II fared far better, with both “House of Flying Daggers” and “New Wu” being delivered with particular urgency. The night’s guest stars, however, left something to be desired. Though billed as Capone-N-Noreaga, the latter was a no show, though that didn’t stop Capone from trying—and failing—to carry the weight of the N.O.R.E. hit “Nothin’”. Still, Capone managed to cultivate some good will by effusively professing his love for the District, though it was immediately squandered by a hype man who mistakenly yelled, “Pittsburgh, make some noise!”. A lot of noise was indeed made, though it was probably not the kind he had had in mind.
Clay Hayes’ book is a collection of some of the finest posters from his website, Gigposters.com, an online community of designers and fans showcasing the incredible poster work being done around the world. Letterpress, screen printing, digital, and mash-ups of all forms do more than just advertise, they become art. The whole point is to grab someone’s attention. Hayes’ book is a design feat in itself. Each page is perforated and meant to detach, giving readers 101 mini-prints, making this a book one can literally deconstruct. This feature harkens back to the built-in disposability of posters which one hung on telephone poles, bar windows, or community bulletins boards. Gig posters are meant to be cherished. They’re the last great rock ‘n’ roll commodity, merchandise elevated above the commercial and into the artistic by the artists featured here and the others like them. Actually, they’ve always been art, and it’s the quality of the work, in everything from basic design down to the minute details, that makes these posters so amazing. And this book an amazing gift for any art or rock lover. And honestly, who doesn’t fall into at least one of those categories?
Mika’s The Boy Who Knew Too Much is the natural follow-up to his Life in Cartoon Motion in that it carries over the same energy and exuberance of his debut while adding more depth to the songs. The album opens with the single “We Are Golden” and it may as well be “Grace Kelly” 2.0 in the best way possible. Mika’s crafted yet another instantly catchy and idiosyncratic melody into a great single. Falsettos and handclaps abound, along with terrific choruses resulting in an album of such exuberance that it defies the listener to not give in completely. The album jumps from Mika’s piano sing-alongs to the Caribbean-tinged “Blue Eyes” to the gospel choir-backed “Touches You” to a tender duet on “By the Time” with Imogen Heap. Mika’s strength lies in his ability to infuse so much joy into his music. Who else could make a song about hating the rain (“Rain”) sound so wildly happy? The Boy Who Knew Too Much is a true pop album in the best sense of the word and Mika remains poised as that rare songwriter who straddles the line between artistic experimentation and a true popular sensibility, all the while creating irresistible songs.
Disney is offering an opportunity for post-modern munchkins to dig on what the older members of the clan clamored for back five decades ago. As part of the company’s exclusive metal box Walt Disney Treasures collection, Zorro: The Complete First Season (1957-58) and Complete Second Season (1958 - 59) arrive completely remastered, restored, and presented over 12 separate DVDs. In addition, the set also includes the four one hour specials created when rights issues halted production during the height of the series’ popularity. As nostalgia, it’s a knock-out, a wholesome slice of pre-cynic spectacle where the House of Mouse’s patented production value is draped onto a collection of continuing story arcs involving cautionary tale tenets like greed, disloyalty, and underhandedness.
Walt Disney Treasures: Zorro The Complete First and Second Season
Thanks to Disney’s attention to detail, the desire to preserve their heritage for future generations to enjoy, these limited edition box sets are like stepping back in time and witnessing the series premiere as it originally aired. Film critic and company expert Leonard Maltin is on hand to guide us through the experience (does this man ever age?) and the hour long specials, while padded in places, are solid attempts to keep the Zorro franchise moving forward. Williams would go on to yet another iconic series when Irwin Allen hired him to play John Robinson in his sensational sci-fi schlock-fest Lost in Space. But this is where the actor first found major mainstream success - and for a couple of years, America was indeed mesmerized by his character’s combination of swashbuckling and savoir-faire. Slice a “Z” into a piece of paper (or some other object) nowadays and you’re bound to get more than a few dumbfounded looks. In 1957, however, everyone knew the mark of Zorro. Thankfully, the House of Mouse is giving us a chance to experience this hero’s magic all over again.