Music

Beach House: Beach House

Baltimore duo spins soft vocals, electrified keyboards and mechanical percussion into pearlized fogs of melancholy pop.


Beach House

Beach House

Label: Car Park
US Release Date: 2006-10-03
UK Release Date: 2006-10-02
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Half hidden, Beach House's songs emerge from a dense, nebulous drift of reverbed sound, sad in the way that happy memories can be sad, simply because you can't quite get a grip on them. Partners Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally build layered, narcotic dreamscapes out of washes of voice, percussion, guitar, and keyboard, always more going on in a track than you hear at first. Album opener "Saltwater" emerges softly from a swirl of organs, its mechanical pulse all-Casio derived cymbal and snare. (The band's MySpace says they don't use drum machines, but almost all the percussion sounds programmed to me.) Legrand's voice floats disengaged over the top, cool and impressionistic as she mouths words like "Love you all the time / You couldn't lose me if you tried." "Tokyo Witch" is just as good, shaken sleigh bells keeping time as Legrand follows a snake-y organ melody through hallucinatory landscapes of mahjongg parlors. "Apple Orchard" leans further into country territory, its pedal steel guitar freeform and organic over geometric figures of keyboard. "Auburn and Ivory", with its waltz time keyboards and metronomic percussion, is a minor-key lament whose emotive power builds as the piece progresses. Scally's voice turns interestingly snarly at times, disturbing the limpid pool of sound, and she sounds like a whole other person, more passionate, more engaged, more Orbison-ish and louder in the chorus of "I'll wait for you / I'll wait for us." It is, perhaps, the best five seconds on the album. Yet don't write off late-disc triumphs like "House on the Hill", its clanking, nautical percussion subsiding under radiant washes of keyboard sound and rapid-fire guitar-picked runs, and Legrand self-harmonizing in heady sweetness. One complaint, though: when the main part of the album is so exceptionally well-shaped and unitary, why tack on an unrelated "hidden track" after "Heart and Lungs"? It's like another chapter after a page clearly marked "the end."

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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
Amazon

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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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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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

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.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

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

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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