Music

20 Questions: Jupiter Rising

The LA electropop duo Jupiter Rising may not be re-inventing the wheel with their club-friendly pop, but as Evan Sawdey noted back in 2007 "who needs to be revolutionary when you’re having so much fun?" The duo's (Spencer Nezey and Jessica Payo) new record, The Quiet Hype came out March 17th and the recently sat down for PopMatters' 20 Questions.


Jupiter Rising

The Quiet Hype

Label: Chime Entertainment
Amazon
iTunes

Jupiter Rising

Electropop

Label: Chime Entertainment
US Release Date: 2007-09-11
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes
Jupiter Rising

Go! Remix

Label: Chime Entertainment
US Release Date: 2006
Amazon
iTunes

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Spencer: That's a tough one. I haven't read or seen anything that has made cry in a very long time. We need more sentimental material out there.

Jessie: The Apartment with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine during Christmas break after a break up. It’s a classic, but so sweet and heartfelt.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Spencer: Hands down I am like a young Black Tony Starks from Iron Man.

Jessie: Lydia from Beetlejuice. She’s a bit of a loner. She’s dark with a curiosity for the “other side” and ghosts. Plus all of her clothes are super rad,,,

3. The greatest album, ever?

Spencer: The greatest album off all time for me is A tribe Called Quest's Midnight Marauders. Changed my life at the age of 12.

Jessie: Tie with White Album by the Beatles and OK Computer by Radiohead. They both embody undeniably amazing songwriting, musicianship and the ability to go outside the box musically. They both have classic tunes that most people know of but they also have those wacked out obscure tracks for the super fans like me. Turn off the lights, sit down with these records and the experience is always amazing. They have been standby’s in my collection that I never tire of.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Spencer: I grew up watching nothing but Star Wars movies. I used to take my mom's iron hair straightener and pretend it was a light saber. Star Wars all the way.

Jessie: Star Wars. No big reason why, really. I just watched The Empire Strikes Back probably 20 times one summer break. I prefer the older versions. You know, pre-Jar Jar Binks. I hated that thing...

5. Your ideal brain food?

Spencer: My ideal brain food is fish. Because its a proven fact that it is healthy protein for your mind. look it it up its true.

Jessie: Sushi...the whole package...sushi, sake, green tea...I always feel fresh and ready after a good sushi session.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Spencer: I am proud to be a signed artist for over five years and still rollin'. This something that is not easy to do these days. Tanner holla at your boy.

Jessie: Running the LA marathon. I don’t have a lot of discipline so training and running 26.2 miles taught me to push past pain and fatigue. I actually stuck with something that was truly difficult. That’s a big deal to me.

7. You want to be remembered for...?

Spencer: I want to be remembered as a real musician who went out and changed peoples lives. And a great entertainer.

Jessie: Being versatile. I wanna pull off doing every style of music throughout my whole musical career. I want to be known for that...it’s also my excuse for my incapability to settle for one genre, one label...

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

Spencer: Those who have come before me. The most inspirational is Pharrell Williams. N.E.R.D. changed my life and made it OK to be a weird black kid.

Jessie: Shakespeare and Jesus. I’m gonna leave it at that...

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Spencer: Hands down I wish I wrote and produced Thriller. It's the ultimate dance pop record.

Jessie: The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The music is rad. It’s awfully distasteful yet incredibly fun. It’s silly. The whole piece of work isn’t taken too seriously. Plus I just want to wear the costumes.

10. Your hidden talents...?

Jessie: My ability to imitate people. Not major celebrities or anything...just people in my everyday life. I pick up on people’s accents and idiosyncrasies.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

Spencer: Best piece of advice was to always stay me. Which I agreed with because its gotten me pretty far so far. Thanks Dad.

Jessie: In piecing together the right outfit, pair anything with a neutral....thanks Stacey and Clinton from What Not to Wear. I kind of love them.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

Spencer: Best thing I ever bought was my first car 2003 Audi A4 3.0 Quarto. Makes me feel like in James Bond.

Jessie: Best thing I ever bought: guitar lessons

Best thing I ever stole: ideas

Best thing I ever borrowed: my best friend’s BCBG dress for an interview.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or...?

Spencer: I actually own a lot of clothes in both brands. So I am super comfy in both. Levi's/Armani, holla at your boy.

Jessie: Lucky Jeans and American apparel jersey t-shirt with white converse. I feel sexiest when I’m not done up. I think I look better that way, too :-)

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Spencer: My dinner guest would be all my friends from La La land. We would get the Ritz Poppin.

Jessie: Christopher Walken no doubt. He’s a classy fellow but I know it wouldn’t be boring to say the least.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

Spencer: I'm not really down for time travel. Too much crazy stuff happens, i.e. Back to the Future 2. I wouldn't want to wake up and Biff as a stepdad.

Jessie: 1969 Monterey Pop Festival to meet Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, and Janis Joplin...umm of course!

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

Spencer: By far a spa vacation any time. Especially if its at the Bacara in Santa Barbara CA. A little piece of heaven there.

Jessie: Hit Man. Guns and karate chops. I kick pretty high, too. That helps my stress these days. Prozac wears off and spas are expensive.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or...?

Spencer: All we need in life is a nice bottle of vodka and great conversation. That's what I have to say about that ;-)

Jessie: Red Velvet cupcakes...I made a batch the other day and almost ate alllll of them...

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

Spencer: I will always pick the city. And my final answer for 20 million rupees is Los Angeles forever. Love my hometown.

Jessie: Hard to say, just gimme a simple boat to sail in Hawaii and I’m straight.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Spencer: Yo man good ass job. Don’t sweat the haters.

Jessie: Can I help?

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Spencer: Currently I'm working in the studio with my production partner Greg Ogan as well as building our show for going back on the road.

Jessie: I’m working on getting the world to hear my music so that I can travel to sing my music and to make people dance and smile.

Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

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White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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Beware the seemingly merry shades of green and red that spread so slowly and thickly across the holiday season, for something dark and uncertain, something that takes many forms, stirs beneath the joyful facade.

Let's be honest -- not everyone feels merry at this time of year. Psychologists say depression looms large around the holidays and one way to deal with it is cathartically. Thus, we submit that scary movies can be even more salutary at Christmas than at Halloween. So, Merry Christmas. Ho ho ho wa ha ha!

1. The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932)

Between Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933), director James Whale made this over-the-top lark of a dark and stormy night with stranded travelers and a crazy family. In a wordless performance, Boris Karloff headlines as the deformed butler who inspired The Addams Family's Lurch. Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas and Ernest Thesiger are among those so vividly present, and Whale has a ball directing them through a series of funny, stylish scenes. This new Cohen edition provides the extras from Kino's old disc, including commentaries by Stuart and Whale biographer James Curtis. The astounding 4K restoration of sound and image blows previous editions away. There's now zero hiss on the soundtrack, all the better to hear Massey starting things off with the first line of dialogue: "Hell!"

(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

3. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

In the category of movies that don't explain themselves in favor of leaving some of their mysteries intact, here's Olivier Assayas' follow-up to the luminous Clouds of Sils Maria. Kristen Stewart again plays a celebrity's lackey with a nominally glamorous, actually stupid job, and she's waiting for a sign from her dead twin brother. What about the ghostly presence of a stalker who sends provocative text messages to her phone? The story flows into passages of outright horror complete with ectoplasm, blood, and ooga-booga soundscapes, and finally settles for asking the questions of whether the "other world" is outside or inside us. Assayas has fashioned a slinky, sexy, perplexing ghost story wrapped around a young woman's desire for something more in her life. There's a Cannes press conference and a brief talk from Assayas on his influences and impulses.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

(Available from Arrow Video)

​5. The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, 1969)

When a young man goes skinny-dipping with a mysterious stranger (Rod Steiger) who's covered with tattoos, the pictures comes to life in a series of odd stories, all created by Ray Bradbury and featuring Steiger and Claire Bloom in multiple roles. Nobody was satisfied with this failure, and it remains condemned to not having reached its potential. So why does Warner Archive grace it with a Blu-ray? Because even its failure has workable elements, including Jerry Goldsmith's score and the cold neatness of the one scene people remember: "The Veldt", which combines primal child/parent hostilities (a common Bradbury theme) with early virtual reality. It answers the question of why the kids spend so much time in their room, and why they're hostile at being pulled away.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

6. The Hidden (Jack Sholder, 1987)


In one of my favorite action movies of the '80s, a post-Blue Velvet and pre-Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan plays an FBI agent who forms a buddy-cop bond with Michael Nouri while pursuing a perp -- a bodiless entity that plugs into the human id. In the midst of slam-bang action comes a pivotal moment when a startling question is asked: "How do you like being human?" The heart of the movie, rich in subtext, finds two men learning to embrace what's alien to them. In pop-culture evolution, this movie falls between Hal Clement's novel Needle and the TV series Alien Nation. On this Warner Archive Blu-ray, Sholder offers a commentary with colleague Tim Hunter.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Speaking of Twin Peaks, here we have a textbook example of a movie that pleased almost nobody upon its release but has now generated such interest, thanks in large part to this year's Twin Peaks revival, that it arrives on Criterion. A feature-film prequel to David Lynch and Mark Frost's original TV serial that answered none of its questions and tossed in a raft of new ones, the film functions as one of cinema's most downbeat, disruptive and harsh depictions of a middle-class American teenage girl's social context. Sheryl Lee delivers a virtuoso performance that deserved the Oscar there was no way she'd be nominated for, and she wasn't. The extras, including a 90-minute film of deleted and alternate takes assembled by Lynch, have been available on previous sets.

(Available from Criterion Collection)

8. The Green Slime (Kinji Fukasaku, 1968)

Incredibly, Warner Archive upgrades its on-demand DVD of a groovy, brightly colored creature feature with this Blu-ray. As a clever reviewer indicated in this PopMatters review, what director Kinji Fukasaku saw as a Vietnam allegory functions more obviously as a manifestation of sexual tension between alpha-jock spacemen competing for the attention of a foxy female scientist, and this subconsciously creates an explosion of big green tentacled critters who overrun the space station. While we don't believe in "so bad it's good," this falls squarely into the category of things so unfacetiously absurd, they come out cool. There's a sublimely idiotic theme song.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

If the idea is that earth, water, fire, air and space constitute the core elements of life, then these five songs might seem as their equivalents to surviving the complications that come from embracing the good and enduring the ugly of the Christmas season.

Memory will never serve us well when it comes to Christmas and all its surrounding complications. Perhaps worse than the financial and familial pressures, the weather and the mad rush to consume and meet expectations, to exceed what happened the year before, are the floods of lists and pithy observations about Christmas music. We know our favorite carols and guilty pleasures ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night"), the Vince Guaraldi Trio's music for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas that was transcendent then and (for some, anyway) has lost none of its power through the years, and we embrace the rock songs (The Kink's "Father Christmas", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", and The Pretenders' "2000 Miles".) We dismiss the creepy sexual predator nature in any rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the inanity of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and pop confections like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

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