Synecdoche New York

Consumed with existential dread, this film captures the feeling of near-death angst remarkably well, enough to the point where it's not Caden that's feeling it -- it's the audience.

Synecdoche, New York

Director: Charlie Kaufman
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton, Hope Davis, Emily Watson, Dianne Weist, Tom Noonan
Distributor: Sony
MPAA rating: N/A
Studio: Sony Classics
First date: 2008
US DVD Release Date: 2009-03-10

As a critic, it is often taught that you should never use first-person perspective when reviewing something. Hearing the phrases "Nickelback sucks" and "I think that Nickelback sucks" result in two different effects: one comes off more as fact, the other as mere opinion. All criticism, when you boil it down, can be construed as mere opinion -- but the use of a third-person perspective, by and large, gives off the air of authority when discussing the subject at hand.

I have always tried to remove the first-person perspective from my own reviews for this very reason. When it comes to reviewing Synecdoche, New York, however, I have to make a pretty definitive exception.

When I was 14-years-old, I heard of this movie called Being John Malkovich that was coming out to theaters, and the concept (puppeteer finds a hole into the head of John Malkovich for 15 minutes before dropping you out on the New Jersey Turnpike) really intrigued me. I convinced my mom to take me (it was, to the best of my recollection, my first ever rated-R movie), and, well, I cannot even begin to describe how much I hated the movie.

The thought of people crawling into my mind and controlling me -- it disturbed me, shook me to the core. I wanted to walk out on this film so badly but knew I just had to see what the ending was. I had nightmares for days.

The worst part of it all, however, was that I couldn't stop thinking about it. It's knotty, existential musings were still brewing in my mind well over a week after I saw it. Some months later, I buckled down and watched it again, finally coming to terms with the film, and actually enjoying it.

Each subsequent viewing has only made me love and appreciate Being John Malkovich all the more. Now, nearly a decade after that initial viewing, it is my unquestionable favorite film of all time.

Yet would I still love that movie if I didn't hate it so passionately at first? Was some of this love just me projecting my own personal insecurities onto Charlie Kaufman's meta-masterpiece? It's hard to say, but one thing is for certain: no film has ever stirred so many emotions during its first viewing for me as Being John Malkovich did, and I wasn't sure if I was ever going to feel that way towards a movie ever again.

It's fitting, then, that when I saw Synecdoche, New York for the first time in theaters, that exact same feeling of hatred returned. Yet I didn't hate the film because I hated the concept (nor did it give me nightmares); I hated this film because I hated its execution.

In Synecdoche, New York, we are introduced to Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman, as reliable a character actor as there ever was), a theatre director in New York whose marriage with Adele (Catherine Keener) is crumbling at an alarming rate. When Adele leaves for Berlin with their daughter in tow, she never comes back, forcing Caden to deal with the various women in his life: from manipulative box-office girl Hazel (Samantha Morton) to aspiring actress Claire (Michelle Williams), to Caden's condescending therapist Madeline (Hope Davis), there's almost no end to the social juggling act that ensues for the rest of his days (and that whole crying during sex thing isn't helping matters either).

Caden's fortunes turn, however, when he receives a MacArthur genius grant following his epic production of Death of a Salesman, which now allows him to create, in essence, whatever he wants. It's not long before his desire to create something true to life takes a shockingly literal turn: Caden rents out a gigantic warehouse and builds a full-scale model of New York inside, soon populating it with actors who, in turn, fill in for people in his life.

At one point, Caden even casts an actor named Sammy (Tom Noonan) to play himself, who in turn winds up building a replica warehouse inside of Caden's warehouse, wherein another New York model is made, wherein more actors are cast to play the actors playing the current actors, etcetera etcetera. Needless to say, the plot of the movie is unabashedly "Kaufmanesque" in nature.

Glancing at the critical reception to the movie, people seem to be firmly divided into two camps: there are those who love this movie to death, and those who find it to be the most pretentious, over-indulgent film of all time. Both groups are 100 percent correct in their assessment.

When watching Synecdoche, New York for the first time, it's hard not to get overwhelmed by the proceedings. Synecdoche, New York, as Kaufman explains on the "In and Around Synecdoche, New York" featurette, is a movie that adheres to dream-logic in a real, tangible world. This explains why Hazel, when shopping for houses, picks one that is perpetually on fire. This also explains why Caden keeps finding his image plastered on children's TV shows, websites, and other locales that he's never visited. Some have argued that this whole movie is a dream sequence, given that within the first five minutes of the film, a faulty sink faucet bursts off and hits Caden squarely in the head, forcing him to visit a never-ending trail of doctors who keep referring him to other doctors.

Yet this logic falls apart under close scrutiny: the opening scene of the film is Caden waking up, going downstairs and reading the newspaper. The DJ on his alarm clock radio station notes how it's September 22nd. When Caden picks up the newspaper, it's October 12th, and by the time he looks down at the obituaries, it's the 17th. He goes to the fridge to get some milk, but notes that the milk has expired (the expiration date is October 20th), and before the scene is over, the same radio DJ is wishing everyone a Happy Halloween.

Caden, quite obviously, is out of sync with the rest of the world, a trait that manifests itself in his conversations with Adele. Before they go to sleep, he tells his wife that he thinks he found blood in his stool. "Your stool at work?" she sleepily asks, marking the first of several times that Caden's words are misinterpreted by the people in the world around him.

At one point, he tells Maria (Jennifer Jason Leigh) that he must see his four-year-old daughter. Maria, Adele's oldest friend and fellow artistic bohemian, looks at Caden quixotically and informs him that his daughter is 10-years-old. Yet time is not the only thing that is off-base with Caden: as the movie goes on, he loses more of his own personal identity amidst his sea of doppelgangers, finally culminating with Caden losing his own sense of gender.

For such an endlessly complicated script, it's no surprise that every single person involved in the making of this film has to be on their A-game to try and make these dense themes accessible as possible for the audience. Though the special effects, score, and Oscar-worthy production design all rank up with the best mainstream studio productions, it's Robert Frazen's jerky, jumpy editing that winds up making the movie more inaccessible than it actually is.

Case in point: during the movie's first half, Caden is courting Claire, and -- in a quick jump-edit -- we see them getting married. So quick this jump is that we're not sure if it's an imagined sequence or real life. Immediately following, Caden is at home, looking at a magazine that shows his daughter naked, now 10-years-old, and with a full-body flower tattoo. He turns to Claire and says "I have to find my daughter", to which she counters "But your daughter is right here!"

The camera pans to a child's bed, and therein lies the daughter that Caden and Claire had together. This reveal is quick and unexpected, and also forces the audience to accept that within the past minute of film time, Caden has been re-married and has actually raised a second child. Without any establishing shots to ease us into these developments, we're forced to accept them at the surface level, and even the most ardent of avant-garde cinema fans will be scratching their heads during these confusing moments.

Speaking of establishing shots, given how there are warehouses within warehouses within warehouses in the movie, we the audience are never really given any frame of reference for the increasingly-meta environment of which we are submerged. In short, we are never actually sure what warehouse we are in, which is really more detrimental to the middle portion of the movie than its final scene, where in Caden is driving around some warehouse with bodies strewn about the streets.

At various points in the movie, small, subtle hints are given that the world as we know it is heading for apocalypse. When Caden -- now an old man -- is driving around the warehouse with the corpses all around him, we're never sure if these bodies are real or if these are actors simply lying still, accurately reflecting the world outside the warehouse(s). Many of these quibbles, however, are subjective.

Because of the film's numerous interpretive features, it's hard for any one person, critic, or patron to give an accurate reflection of what this movie is about, as it will mean different things to different people. It's surprising, even, how many of the critiques of this film are written in the first-person perspective (like this one from Newsweek, for example). During the "Infectious Diseases in Cattle: Bloggers' Roundtable" DVD featurette, one critic notes how Kaufman wanted this film to be like a play: every time you go to see live theatre, there are going to be subtle changes and nuances from night to night, simply because that's what human nature is and live theatre presents us with that ever-changing opportunity.

Kaufman wished to achieve the same thing with this film, as it will always change every time you come back to it, even though each frame is permanently set in history. What's interesting is how Kaufman has achieved this effect: no two viewings of Synecdoche, New York are going to be exactly the same, largely because all the little details that you didn't notice the first time around (like Sammy's stalking figure being ever-so-slightly out of frame during the film's first half-hour) will factor in to how you interpret the subsequent viewing.

Even after viewing it multiple times, there are still things that I myself keep noticing. Look at how Caden's job is that of a theatre director -- essentially telling others what to do for a living -- but when it comes to flirting with a girl as seemingly-timid Hazel, he keeps insisting that she tell him what to do, step by step, going as far as obliging her when she makes him beg her for a kiss ("for fun", she says with venomous delight).

This reversal of roles comes into play later when an actress named Millicent (Dianne Wiest) comes in to play the part of Ellen, Adele's housecleaner (wherein another fantastical element is introduced: Adele no longer lives in New York, but Caden -- pretending to be Ellen -- can communicate with her by leaving notes in her penthouse; though eventually the burden of playing her becomes too much, forcing him to give the role to Millicent).

Caden, collapsing under the stress of directing his multi-city epic, gives the role of director to Millicent ("I know it'd be non-traditional casting", she warns), and he takes the part of Ellen in exchange. Millicent gives Caden an ear-piece, and -- for the rest of his days -- she tells him what to say and do, and he does so without question. It's almost as if he's lost so much of his identity, he needs someone else to dictate it for him. During the final shot of the film, everything begins to fade to white, and then Millicent, without any hint of emotion, proceeds to give Caden the final stage direction of his life ...

Ultimately, Caden's creation -- which is a large-scale theatrical re-enactment of his own life -- not only consumes him, but controls him. Adele's specialty was in creating miniature portraits, which, as time went on, grew smaller in size. Both Caden and Adele were doing the same thing -- representing life in an art -- but both went about it in opposite ways.

Early on, before leaving for Berlin, Caden asks Adele if she's disappointed in him. "Well, everyone's disappointing, the more you get to know them" she counters, obviously trying to console him but failing in the process. The scene hurts not because Adele is intentionally trying to destroy Caden or because Caden reacts with tears: it hurts because, against our deepest wishes as a viewer, we can't help but find at least a small bit of truth in it.

It's fitting, then, that what may very well be the film's defining moment comes right at the end, not during a funeral, but during a recreation of a funeral. Following the death of his mother, Caden is staging the conversations that took place during the service, at least until Millicent -- now the director -- decides to try something new. She goes to the actors on stage, whispers something in their ear, and then the man playing the priest, amidst a swell of organ music, says the following:

"Everything is more complicated than you think. You only see a tenth of what is true. There are a million little strings attached to every choice you make. You can destroy your life every time you choose. But maybe you won't know for twenty years! And you may never ever trace it to its source. And you only get one chance to play it out. Just try and figure out your own divorce ...

And they say there's no fate, but there is: it's what you create! And even though the world goes on for eons and eons, you are only here for a fraction of a fraction of a second. Most of your time is spent being dead, or not yet born. But while alive, you wait in vain wasting years for a phone call or a letter or a look from someone or something to make it all right, but it never comes -- or it seems to, but it doesn't, really.

So you spend your time in vague regret or vaguer hope that something good will come along, something to make you feel connected, something to make you feel cherished, something to make you feel whole, something to make you feel loved. And the truth is, I feel so angry! And the truth is, I feel so fucking sad! And the truth is, I've felt so fucking hurt for so fucking long and for just as long, I've been pretending I'm okay, just to get along. I don't know why. Maybe because ... no one wants to hear about my misery -- because they have their own.

Well, fuck everybody.


Everyone says "Amen" in response, acknowledging the truth of what's just been said. When we step back and look at the big picture, we realize that our lives are very futile, very valuable, and -- in the large scale of things -- they exist for only a blip of time. Synecdoche, New York, consumed with all this existential dread, actually manages to capture the feeling of near-death angst remarkably well, enough to the point where it's not Caden that's feeling it -- it's the audience.

Synecdoche, New York isn't a feel-good film by any stretch of the imagination, and there is much to digest -- especially if you're viewing it for the first time. Repeated viewings gradually reveal more layers to this twisty, knotty piece of meta-fiction, but, ultimately, Synecdoche, New York -- glaring flaws and all -- remains one of the most profoundly unique, overambitious films to come along in some time. What you take away from it is what you put into it, and, personally, I'm more than happy to give it just a little bit more.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

The Hall of Fame has been harshly criticized for some of its more inexplicable exclusions and for neglecting certain subgenres of music. Cynicism and negativity over the Hall's selection process and membership is fairly widespread. That said, despite the controversies and legitimate gripes, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is still widely viewed as a career milestone. The Hall's stature feeds its surrounding controversies: after all, nobody would care to argue so vehemently about the merits of one artist over another if it wasn't important. Very rarely will a newly inducted artist miss the opportunity to appear at the star-studded ceremony to accept their honor.

The criteria for nomination is as follows: "Artists -- a group encompassing performers, composers and/or musicians -- become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first commercial recording. Besides demonstrating unquestionable musical excellence and talent, inductees will have had a significant impact on the development, evolution and preservation of rock and roll." Specifically for performers, "This category honors bands or solo artists which demonstrate musical excellence. Such a descriptor includes (but isn't limited to) influence on other performers or genres; length and depth of career and catalog; stylistic innovations; or superior technique and skills."

These standards allow the selection committee wide latitude with their choices, and generating a list that would create zero controversy is an obvious impossibility. As for those deserving artists yet to be included, their time will surely come. There has purportedly been an emphasis on increasing diversity among the nominating committee and voters in recent years, and the list of contenders for the class of 2018 reflects this.

Radiohead, as expected and deserved, are nominated in their first year of eligibility, and there is little doubt they will be inducted. Other nominees include Bon Jovi, Kate Bush, the Cars, Depeche Mode, Dire Straits, Eurythmics, J. Geils Band, Judas Priest, LL Cool J, MC5, the Meters, the Moody Blues, Rage Against the Machine, Nina Simone, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Link Wray and the Zombies. It's a strong and varied group.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise on the list, however, is the British duo Eurythmics. Even though they've been eligible since 2006, this is their first nomination. Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox certainly deserve recognition for their important contributions to the musical fabric of the last 40 years. While Eurythmics have always been generally respected, they've never been darlings with the critics like some of their contemporaries. It's puzzling as to why. Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting and creative audacity. Lennox is second to noone as a vocalist, not just in her lead parts but also in the creative, often rhythmic way she uses her voice as an instrument. This nomination could boost the stature and perception of Eurythmics' body of work immeasurably.

Although Eurythmics are often consigned strictly to the synthpop genre, that designation fits only a portion of their repertoire. Each of their nine studio albums has its own unique vibe while retaining the duo's core identity. Eurythmics never repeat themselves, often taking bold risks and swerving in unexpected directions. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Eurythmics didn't "sell out" or compromise by chasing after obvious Top 40 hits. Even their most popular singles aren't commercial in the traditional sense, and they've always sounded like nobody else on the radio.

Despite the sudden emergence of their 1983 single "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" as an MTV staple and international smash, Eurythmics are far from an overnight success story. Their story begins in London, 1975, when Stewart fortuitously encountered Lennox at the restaurant where she worked as a waitress. The Scottish singer had recently dropped out of the Royal Academy of Music, which she felt didn't suit her musical interests. Stewart and Lennox strongly connected over their love of music, and they quickly became a couple who were inseparable. Along with singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Peet Coombes, Stewart and Lennox formed a short-lived group the Catch. After one failed single, they added two members and renamed themselves the Tourists.

Coombes was the dominant creative force and primary songwriter behind the Tourists. Lennox and Coombes shared vocals on the band's dour and melancholy power-pop. The Tourists released three albums and managed a handful of chart appearances in the UK. Two of their singles, a peppy cover of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want to Be With You" and the hard-rocking "So Good T\to Be Back Home Again", made the UK Top 10. The band toured extensively, but their success was fleeting. The Tourists' third album, Luminous Basement (1980), tanked badly despite containing their strongest material yet, and the group dissolved shortly thereafter.

Lennox and Stewart also endured a painful ending to their sometimes tumultuous romance, but they recognized the power of their musical chemistry and decided to continue working together as a duo. They were a pair "who couldn't be together, and who could not be apart", as Lennox reflects many years later in the song "17 Again". History has shown that they made the right decision: Stewart and Lennox compliment each other intuitively through a shared passion for music, the thrill of experimentation, and the need for emotional release that songwriting and performing allows.

The name Eurythmics was derived from a technique used to teach music to children based on sensory and physical methods of learning rhythm. The newly-christened duo signed with RCA Records and in early 1981 headed to Germany to record their debut album with highly-respected krautrock producer Conny Plank.

Plank already had a long string of acclaimed albums to his credit, including collaborations with Neu!, Can, Ultravox, Kraftwerk and Brian Eno among others. The sessions for what would become Eurythmics' debut album, In the Garden, were held at Plank's studio in Cologne. He brought several of his regular collaborators into the proceedings, including bassist Holger Czukay and drummer Jaki Liebezeit of avant-garde rockers Can, Blondie drummer Clem Burke and D.A.F. electronics whiz Robert Görl. Stewart has described the sessions as a learning experience that helped expand his perception of what pop music could be and how it could be created without following any rules, a perspective that served Eurythmics well.

Eurythmics' austere and hypnotic debut single "Never Gonna Cry Again" was released in May 1981. They filmed a low-budget video and landed a couple TV slots to promote the track, but the song's haunted nature did not translate to mainstream success: it barely scraped the lower reaches of the UK singles chart. A second single, the dreamy guitar-rocker "Belinda", followed in August but failed to chart.

In the Garden was finally released in October 1981, but without a hit to generate momentum it was barely noticed. Despite scant sales figures, the album's gloomy psychedelic guitar-pop makes for a rather strong debut. In the Garden exists in late summer shadows, densely atmospheric and shrouded in a veil of dread. Lennox's vocals are understated, subtle and lower in the mix than on subsequent albums. Sound effects, odd vocalizations and bits of sonic experimentation fade in and out like flashes of hazily repressed memory.

RCA wasn't eager to invest in a follow-up to In the Garden after its disappointing reception, so Stewart financed Eurythmics' second album largely through a personal bank loan. Faced with a minuscule budget, they worked in a London warehouse to avoid spending money on studio time. They were able to purchase cheap second-hand equipment for the sessions, including the basic TEAC 8-track on which most of the album was recorded. Adam Williams, former bassist for the ska band the Selectors, helped the duo learn the equipment while co-producing some of their earliest tracks.

The primitive set-up was the ultimate blessing in disguise. Since they were financing the sessions and self-producing, Eurythmics had the freedom to experiment with no oversight. As both Lennox and Stewart were enduring periods of deep personal strife at the time, the sessions evolved into an emotional and creative catharsis that helped shape the mercurial nature of the music. It was out of this environment that a classic was born.

Despite appearing only a few months after their debut album, the first single to emerge from the new sessions proved radically different than any of Eurythmics' prior work. Released in April 1982, "This Is the House" is a flamboyant, horn-driven spectacle on which Lennox belts out a vocal more confident and brash than any of her prior work. The song's odd mix of synthpop, R&B; and latin influences renders it completely unique, but despite its infectious ingenuity and beguiling loopiness (or perhaps because of it), "This Is the House" failed to chart.

The follow-up single that landed two months later is even better. Entrancing and soulful, "The Walk" exudes the anxiety, drama and innovation that became Eurythmics' hallmark. The vocal arrangement is ingenious, and Dick Cuthell (known for his work with Madness, the Specials, Fun Boy Three and others) lets rip a blistering trumpet solo. As in many of their songs, "The Walk" slowly ratchets up the tension through hypnotic repetition and the gradual addition of more layers of sound until it reaches a haywire frenzy. Although a brilliant recording, "The Walk" fared no better than its predecessor.

With the duo's second album Sweet Dreams (are made of this) completed, RCA began a strong promotional push, issuing the opening track "Love Is a Stranger" as a single in November 1982. Lennox's dazzling vocal ranges from icy cool to fiery passion over a relentless electric groove bracketed by sinuous lines of synth. "Love Is a Stranger" rose to #54 in the UK, their highest placement yet, and momentum was finally building for the duo thanks in part to the single's provocative video.

The first significant chapter in a series of visually arresting promotional clips that Eurythmics generated over the span of their career, "Love Is a Stranger" showcases Lennox's dramatic presence and her innate ability to command the viewer's attention. She plays multiple roles, ending the clip with her red hair slicked back and dressed androgynously in a man's suit. Image was quickly becoming an important part of the Eurythmics' equation, with Lennox always compelling no matter which character she inhabits, and Stewart often appearing as her sort of mad-scientist counterpart.

Sweet Dreams (are made of this) hit the shelves on 4 January 1983, along with its title-track, a single that continues to reverberate through pop music nearly 35 years after its release. Suddenly everything changed for Eurythmics. An obscure British duo, barely managing to survive in the music business, soared to the top with one of the more unconventional songs ever to scale those lofty heights.

"Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" has an unusual structure, with no real verses or chorus. Lennox has described it as a mantra, and indeed it is. The lyrics, which Lennox rattled off spontaneously in a matter of minutes, are a simple but profound statement about the human condition: "Everybody's looking for something," the search for meaning and fulfillment, the ephemeral "this" of which sweet dreams are made.

Lennox begins the song with a single line of vocal, then starting with "some of them want to use you" at the 0:24 point it doubles. From there the song gradually builds intensity, with the vocals increasingly layered. A masterful finalé combines all the sonic elements before fading to black, the mantra repeating endlessly, the "this" still stubbornly undefined. The booming minor-key bass riff and the epic string-motif solo starting at 1:31 are played by Lennox on a Roland Juno-6 synthesizer. The main riff (improvised by Lennox while listening to Stewart working on a drum-machine pattern), is a simple two-bar arpeggio that loops throughout most of the song. Two parts were recorded separately and panned on opposite sides of the sound spectrum, creating a richly resonant effect. "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" is no dated relic from the early days of MTV burdened by the limitations the time. Its massive waves of synth flood out of the speakers with enormous power, as inexorably as the tide.

The music video, which became wildly popular on MTV during its heyday, is forever entwined with the song in listeners' collective consciousness. The iconic image of Lennox in her masculine suit and flaming orange flat-top helps to define the new wave era. Her forceful demeanor, nervy confidence and the subtle nuances of her facial expressions amplify the song's inherent tension. She confronts the viewer directly by pointing right in our faces at the 0:24 mark. At 1:56, she offers a sly half-smile with, "some of them want to abuse you", and at 2:15 she pounds her fist just as the song reaches its dramatic apex. Stewart appears throughout the video stoically pecking away on the drum machine he used in the recording of the song, the Movement MCS Drum Computer MK1 (except for that part where he and the cow have, well, a moment… It's all in the eye contact).

After a slow climb up the US pop chart, "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" was finally able to derail the Police's "Every Breath You Take" from its seven-week reign at the top during the week of 3 September 1983. It would be Eurythmics' only chart-topping pop hit in America, and it reached #2 in the UK. In the wake of Eurythmics' new-found fame, "Love Is a Stranger" was re-released, this time becoming a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

The album's deep cuts are every bit as strange and fascinating as its better-known singles. The ghostly "Jennifer" is a narcotic reverie of keyboard swells and spectral atmospherics. "I've Got an Angel" and "Somebody Told Me" are serrated neurotic fits, swerving dangerously off-the-rails from anything that would normally be considered pop music. A long and mesmerizing exploration of urban isolation, "This City Never Sleeps" is a powerful finalé. Sweet Dreams (are made of this) is an examination of the human psyche fraught with turmoil, a series of jagged recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks set to music that is soulful and experimental, melodic but eccentric, a stark electronic soundscape that bristles with horns and unexpected sonic jolts.

Next Page: Potent and Ferocious

This film suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

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Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

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Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

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Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

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