Reviews

Gilmore Girls

Samantha Bornemann

Gilmore Girls is not the show it started out to be. It's a generation deeper, and much better.


Gilmore Girls

Airtime: Tuesdays, 8pm ET
Cast: Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Kelly Bishop, Scott Patterson, Melissa McCarthy, Keiko Agena, Yanic Truesdale, Edward Herrmann, Matt Czuchry, David Sutcliffe
Network: The WB
Amazon
These people live in a universe where they feel entitled to get what they want when they want it and they don't care who's in their way. I hate that world. Vapid. Selfish.
-- Lorelai (Lauren Graham), "Wedding Bell Blues"

Five years ago, Amy Sherman-Palladino pitched the WB a show about a single mom and daughter so close in age that they're more like best friends than parent and child. This week, the series -- Gilmore Girls -- turns 100 episodes old with "Wedding Bell Blues," an hour brimming with evidence that Girls is not the show it started out to be. It's a generation deeper, and much better.

While the WB promo department still privileges the dramedy's stunning, younger-skewing mom and daughter -- 30something Lorelai (Lauren Graham, proving week after week that there's nothing she can't do) and Yale sophomore Rory (Alexis Bledel) -- loyal viewers know better. It's the fireworks between Lorelai and her critical, blueblood mother (Kelly Bishop) that have kept the series crackling.

Obstinate from birth, Lorelai suffered a childhood of propriety and frilly party dresses in WASP-infested Hartford, Connecticut. At 14, she kissed Christopher (David Sutcliffe) in the parking lot of the A&P just because she "wanted to know what it would be like." By 16, she was pregnant with his child. Both sets of parents wanted the teens to marry -- Christopher would support the new family by joining his dad's firm -- and Chris was ready to do as he was told. Lorelai wasn't. She set off alone with her newborn namesake (nicknamed Rory), eventually settling in nearby Stars Hollow, a town even more quaint than its name suggests.

Aside from the occasional holiday, she didn't really let her parents into Rory's life until the pilot, when Sherman-Palladino supplied grandmother Emily with the collateral to demand it. Technically, Lorelai had succeeded on her own terms, rising from maid to general manager of the Independence Inn, but when Rory was accepted to private Chilton Academy, Lorelai couldn't pay the tuition up front. Borrowing from Emily incurred a stipulation: Lorelai and Rory would join them for dinner every Friday night, so she and Richard (Edward Herrmann) could finally get to know their granddaughter. Those dinners have sharpened the series' focus. With three generations in the mix, Gilmore Girls captures the myriad ways strong-willed women hurt each other, and themselves, in the name of getting or finding out what they want.

Though the younger Gilmores' almost-sisterly bond might seem the result of the small gap in their ages, Lorelai also works overtime to keep her relationship with Rory a full 180 degrees different from hers with Emily. That closeness only produces different problems. In last season's earth-scorching finale, Lorelai was forced to dust off the mom card, cross-examining her daughter for bad judgment after Rory lost her virginity to a married ex-boyfriend (Jared Padalecki). But the resulting pain of being shut out of her daughter's interior life was too much. When Dean's wife dumped him and he started dating Rory again in earnest, Lorelai bent over backwards to be cool with it, no matter how wrong-headed she found their romance.

Tellingly, neither Rory nor Emily has such qualms about meddling in Lorelai's affairs. Much to longtime fans' delight, this season Lorelai finally began dating Luke (Scott Patterson), the gruff diner owner she's been leaning on and bantering with for years. Anxious to see the pair happy, Rory ordered her dad to stay out of their way. Emily instructed him to do the opposite. While she is hardly Christopher's biggest fan ("You were... a weak, but charming boy"), she finds his "good breeding" and "impeccable family" far preferable to Luke:

He's uneducated, he's not a proper stepfather for Rory, and he's completely unsuitable for Lorelai. My daughter's stubborn, but she's capable of greatness. And watching her settle down with a man who could hold her back from that is unacceptable. You at least won't hold her back.

Next to mother-daughter dynamics, class conflict -- or more often, class stereotype -- is the series' most prevalent theme. Where Emily likes that Christopher is 'one of them,' Lorelai views him affectionately as a fellow soldier: both fought their way out of the blueblood trenches of their parents' world. Only Rory's fate remains undetermined. Were 16 years of humble but happy living enough to inoculate her against the breezy swagger of the entitled rich?

Sherman-Palladino only occasionally presents this as a serious question. Her roots are in comedy (like Buffy mastermind Joss Whedon, she once wrote for Roseanne), and mostly she's content to mine the screwball tendencies in all her characters for laughs. While Dawson's Creek came with a whiff of Kevin Williamson's autobiography and My So-Called Life felt like emotional documentary, quirky Stars Hollow and self-important Hartford are no more or less grounded in reality than the undead Whedon-verse. Gilmore Girls is a stylized farce grounded by moments of pathos and high drama.

And I do mean moments. Sherman-Palladino never tires of Stars Hollow's historical reenactments or jokes about her heroines' caffeine and junk food consumption, but she's downright parsimonious with the big confrontations and swoonworthy romance (which ought not be in short supply, given that seemingly every other man falls for a Gilmore girl and never recovers). For every long-awaited scene (Luke and Lorelai's first kiss) bestowed on viewers, three or four others (like Rory learning about that kiss and exploring the ramifications of a longtime surrogate family member becoming Mom's boyfriend) happen off-screen.

According to this oddball rhythm, Gilmore Girls is due for a big episode, and "Wedding Bell Blues" delivers. The elder Gilmores are celebrating their 40th anniversary (and week-old reconciliation) with a renewal of vows, and their lavish (but tasteful!) bash offers Sherman-Palladino the opportunity to illustrate both how far her characters have come and how far they have to go.

A book-smart late bloomer, Rory is still trying out personalities in her struggle to find a style that works for her. Often, she mimics her vivacious, outspoken mother, as when Christopher waxes nostalgic about his first kiss with Lorelai. "Did you like it that she kissed you first?" she asks, wheels clearly turning. "Who could not like being kissed by a Gilmore girl?" he replies. "It was the greatest day of my life."

So informed, she marches back to the reception to pursue -- with endearingly shaky confidence -- rich, smarmy Logan Huntzberger (Matt Czuchry), who's a shoo-in for her grandparents' vote but the last guy her mom would choose for her. Lorelai raised Rory to see through the gauzy trappings of her parents' world, but she's realizing that she failed to take into account every daughter's need to learn her own lessons and make her own mistakes (something Emily could tell her all about).

After countless fits and restarts, Emily and her daughter have achieved a kind of mutual acceptance -- or so Lorelai thinks. Seconds after indulging reflex by disparaging her daughter's hair, Emily apologizes. She's just nervous about the ceremony, and so relieved to have Richard back after their estrangement. "It's a wonderful thing to have a husband, a partner, someone who's always there. Oh Lorelai, don't you think you'll ever want to be married?" "Actually," Lorelai confesses. "I do." It's a lovely moment of connection, but it can't last. As far as Emily's concerned, the wrong man put that dreamy sparkle in her daughter's eyes.

She intends for Christopher to win Lorelai back from Luke -- a truth revealed in explosive fashion at the close of Episode 100. Lorelai's suitors move from arguing over their roles in Rory's life (Luke: "Where the hell were you when she got the chicken pox and would only eat mashed potatoes for a week?") to their claims on her mom (Chris: "Lorelai and I belong together. Everyone knows it. I know it. Emily knows it."), and the result is a rupture in Lorelai's two most precarious relationships: with Luke and Emily. One of these she'll do her best to mend, but the other Lorelai may have relinquished for good. Evolution -- romantic and familial -- might take years on Gilmore Girls, but, as in life, a few painful seconds are all it takes to dash that progress all to hell.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

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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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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