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Sweet like a Hershey’s chocolate kiss. Funky as if you forgot how good funk can feel. The sonic equivalent of sun rays bursting through an azure sky. That’s “Better”, the new single by Angela Johnson. How apt a title, because with each passing year and each new production, Angela Johnson only gets better.
A contender for the most infectious tune in her catalog, the song verifies that Johnson is one of the very best writers/producers/singers working today. Recently touring stages throughout France, this NY-native crafts grooves so tight that it’s no wonder why Johnson’s “Happy Feelings” was the highlight on Maysa’s Metamorphosis (2008). Nor is it surprising that Rahsaan Patterson readily agreed to collaborate with her on “Dream Flight”, a track from A Woman’s Touch (Johnson’s producer project of last year).
“Better” is the culmination of nearly a decade’s worth of recording, touring, and producing, both as a solo artist and her work with Cooly’s Hot Box. Those who have been following Angela Johnson will recognize the chord changes in the bridge as “distinctly Angela” while the drums and bass are luscious, deep and rich, just like the Cooly’s Hot Box cuts that found a home on the hippest European dance floors. Of course, there is her voice, a strident instrument that can become airborne within the space of two notes. Check her phrasing on “When you’re touching my skin / You’re lighting the fire deep within” at the 3:30 mark and brace yourself.
If you download only one more song before 2009 ends, make it “Better”.
Shout Out Louds
Releasing: 23 February
“Walls” is the perfect song for an anthem or a movie soundtrack or for making taking the bus feel much more grandiose and exhilarating. It’s almost cruel the way its crescendo hooks into that very Bruce Springsteenian impulse to drop inhibitions, romanticize running away, and take an ill-advised road trip with no money or destination.
02 Fall Hard
03 Play the Game
05 Candle Burned Out
06 Throwing Stones
07 Four by Four
09 Show Me Something New
10 Too Late, Too Slow
Excessive cuteness alert, and no, it’s not just the precious Bishop Allen tune. Lots of dancing, mod, ‘60s looking girls fill up the frames of the latest video from the Brooklyn pop band’s 2009 album Grrr…. This brings to mind the excellent recent Vanity Fair essay “Addicted to Cute”. Bishop Allen could indeed be the poster children for said trend.
The busy holiday season is here, which means you have shopping to do, dinners to prepare and in-laws to avoid. Somewhere in there, the studios hope, you’ll find time to see a movie.
Which to choose?
Fox is hoping it will be “Avatar” (opening Dec. 18), the sci-fi adventure from James Cameron with a reportedly humongous budget of $500 million. It’s already the most-talked-about film of the year, though whether it will connect with audiences remains to be seen. Its star, Sam Worthington, is a relative unknown, and its reliance on computer-animated actors could be a liability rather than a draw — just ask Robert Zemeckis, who replaced humans with pixels in “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” and “Beowulf,” both box-office disappointments.
That means there’s room for competition. Also on Dec. 18 comes “Nine,” a musical from director Rob Marshall (of the Oscar-winning “Chicago”) with an A-list cast that includes Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman and Penelope Cruz. On Christmas, Warner Bros. will unleash “Sherlock Holmes” with Robert Downey Jr. sexing up the fusty fictional sleuth. And Fox will go up against itself Dec. 23 by releasing “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel” five days after “Avatar.”
For more serious-minded filmgoers, the studios are also rolling out several movies based on novels, including Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalypse drama “The Road,” Walter Kirn’s semicomedic “Up in the Air” (Dec. 4) and Alice Sebold’s thriller “The Lovely Bones” (Dec. 11). Even long-dead writers Christopher Isherwood and Tennessee Williams have new movies coming out.
In case you find a few spare hours this season, here’s a list of major movies to choose from through January.
// Short Ends and Leader
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