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by Thomas Britt

20 May 2009

Dark Night of the Soul is a collaboration between Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse. Add to this already impressive pairing a dream team of assembled guests (Frank Black, Suzanne Vega, Gruff Rhys, Jason Lytle, Nina Persson, Iggy Pop, Vic Chesnutt, etc.), promised visual accompaniment by David Lynch, and details released on April Fools’ Day, and it is tempting to doubt the existence of something so potentially amazing.

Recent reports about the project suggest that skepticism is justified, though not because the project is bogus. Some “ongoing dispute” between Danger Mouse and label EMI is blocking the official release of the album. This dispute is possibly related to EMI’s disagreement with Danger Mouse over his Grey Album.

In what must be a music industry first, Dark Night of the Soul is being sold as a blank CD-R, and the following message appears at the store section of the project’s website: “Due to an ongoing dispute with EMI,  Danger Mouse is unable to include music on the CD without fear of legal entanglement. Therefore, he has included a blank CD-R as an artifact to use however you see fit.”

NPR is streaming the album in its entirety as well as offering individual tracks. The album is also showing up elsewhere on the Internet, apparently allowing those purchasing the blank CD-R to “use however [they] see fit”.

The CD-R (with poster) is available for $10.00, and another edition (CD-R plus exclusive book of original photographs by David Lynch) is limited to 5,000 copies and available for $50.00.

Various Artists
Dark Night of the Soul [Stream]

by Monte Williams

20 May 2009

I believe it was Neil Gaiman who suggested that writing serialized fiction is like jumping out of an airplane with a needle and thread and hoping you’ll have sewn a parachute before you hit the ground. Certainly there’s always been something of a slapdash, catch-as-catch-can, make-it-up-as-we-go-along feel to even the smartest and most ambitious of long-running television serials (Lost and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)

This reckless approach lends TV series (and some comic book series) a thrilling, anything-can-happen sort of spontaneity, but it also exposes the seams at times. (Fans rightly dismissed Spike’s attempt to rape Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s seventh season as a transparent bid by the show’s writers to remind the audience that Spike was evil, after having slowly neutered him over the course of three seasons.)

What I find most intriguing and satisfying about extended serial fiction is that it is uniquely equipped to reveal the startling extent to which a character can change over the course of time; while your average film might devote two hours to a given character’s narrative arc, Angel gave us five seasons to marvel at its title character as he struggled his way through 20-some episodes at a go. Removing commercials, each ostensibly hour-long entry offered perhaps 40 minutes of real story, but even then, you’re looking at a narrative which lasts well over 70 hours; a talented writer can do a lot with a character in 70 hours.

by Bill Gibron

19 May 2009

Addiction is a terrible thing. Not only is it damaging physically and psychologically, but it destroys aspects of one’s life that they barely have direct control over. Families suffer, as do friends, careers, and acquaintances, and while the person under the spell of their own individual affliction has no real connection to said reality, the repercussions can be powerful and last forever. Of all the filmmakers poised to make a profound statement on such a compulsion, Giuseppe Andrews would be king of the shortbus list. By utilizing a cast of trailer park residents, some of whom have their own battles with the bottle to contend with, he has an authentic source of real human misery to work with. So what does he go and do with his examination of addiction, Monkey? He makes the most literally symbolic statement on the subject ever attempted.

Apartheid has been ordered to Green Hockers Rehab Center for excessive drinking. His habit is so bad that his life has become one continuous case of the DTs. As a matter of fact, a disembodied old man with the same initials seems to be controlling his attempt at sobriety. Forced to wear a monkey around his neck to highlight his problem, said simian comes with two bags of rocks around its legs. The longer Apartheid stays, the more rocks will be removed and the less weight he will have to be subjected. Of course, DT doesn’t help. He offers disquieting visions of smiley faced stones that punch people out, remote control apes that choke people to death, and others with equally oppressive addictions of their own. As he battles with the bottle, losing most of the time, all Apartheid wants to do is get away from this abusive clinic. Little does he know that, just like Hotel California, he can check out any time he likes, but he can never, ever, ever, leave.

by Joseph Kugelmass

19 May 2009

I’ve done a bad bad thing
Cut my brother in half

—Little Dewey Cox in Walk Hard

The new millenium has been kind to biopics of musicians. We have, most of us, seen the blockbusters, including Walk the Line, Ray, and Notorious, and these have been accompanied by more minor films like Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, Cadillac Records, and Jenna Maroney’s unforgettable Sing Them Blues, White Girl: The Jackie Jomp-Jomp Story. Some of the recurrent themes of these films, such as drug abuse, became so predictable that they were easily satirized in Walk Hard.

But in thinking about how these films diverge, after finally reaching the (somewhat confused) end of Notorious, I realized that in both the earlier film 8 Mile, the semi-fictional story of Eminem’s life, and in Walk the Line, the white performer comes to a moment of emotional overload that threatens his very ability to get on stage. In Cash’s case, this is because he is re-living his brother’s death; in Eminem’s case, it is because he has to face a hostile, mostly African-American crowd as a white rapper.

By contrast, in their respective films, neither Ray Charles nor Biggie experience this kind of stage fright. Instead, particularly in Notorious, there is an utterly natural transition from the private work of practicing and writing to the public arena of performance. This is even the case despite Ray’s having undergone, like Cash, the death of a brother while very young.

by Sarah Zupko

19 May 2009

Eminem - Relapse
To say the record industry is hoping for big things from Slim Shady is an understatement. The music biz is in freefall, rather like print media, and Eminem is one of the few bonafide platinum disc movers left these days. Undoubtedly this one will sell well, but the truth is Marshall Mathers’ routine is growing pretty stale. Relapse is full of more violent fantasies, drug tales and moping about his screwed up family. Eminem has one of the best flows in the game and it would be nice if he would start using it to actually say something beyond self-indulgent rhymes.

Tori Amos - Abnormally Attracted to Sin
Amos continues her multimedia approach to creativity with this compelling 17-track album, each song to be accompanied by a video “visualette” as something of a documentary accompaniment to the music. Amos still defiantly creates “albums”, full works of art with strong conceptual underpinnings. This is not music for the easily distracted. Sit down with the headphones on and give a solid hour of your time and stay away from that “shuffle” button.

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