Tag Archives: Best of 2009

New Album! Bobby Emmett

My #5 album from 2009

I’ll forgive you if you think you somehow slipped a Raspberries album in your player when the familiar staccato power chords come blasting out of your speakers on the opening track; I sure did. But quickly the bridge will reassure you that this is a different journey…and then the high octave harmony vocals sell the chorus, and the Todd-like guitar solo stutters and rips across the melodic ribbon…and your jaw, like mine, has dropped.

Bobby Emmett – you know him from The Sights – has stitched together a Frankenstein monster of a record that splashes the DNA of just about every powerpop touchstone you can name into an infectious, joyous blast. That he recorded it in a bedroom and played and sang the vast majority of it himself just makes it that much more amazing. Many albums start strong, an obvious single in the leadoff slot, but four, five tracks in you will find yourself hard pressed to settle upon a favorite.

“Still Wanna Be With You” borrows a line from “1-2-3 Red Light” for the chorus but dunks it into a modern framework not unlike Silver Sun or Farrah (and that vocal flourish at the end is spine-tingling). Sure, the haunted vocal in “Moving Ahn” suggests John Lennon, and the spelling of the song title correctly suggests a mix of Billy Joel and Big Star (think Chris Bell singing “Moving Out”) before the coda drifts into a mash-up of Pink Floyd‘s “Great Gig In The Sky” with “I Want You” (either The Beatles or the Elvis Costello song – your pick).

I say all this with reverence and a straight face. There are enough copycat bands of all genres exhuming the work of their predecessors and passing it off as their own sound, but Emmett has assembled a ten-track killer of a solo album here. Whether it’s the soulful mid-tempo “November” (a hipper “Everything I Own”), the sweet Harrison slide of “Never Waited So Long”, the psychedelic “Love Is Real” or the straight-ahead pop majesty of “Broken Hearted” and “Queen of Hearts”, Emmett is all hooks and harmonies and ear candy. Learning Love is a joyous and stunning effort. 

This review is from the brand spanking new issue of Bucketfull of Brains. Use the link on their page and sign up for a sweet three issue subscription.

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Valentines Day? Love and Curses!

The Best Album of 2009

On this day of gooey lovey-dovey Keep-Hallmark-Cards-afloat palpitations, allow me to remind you that sentiment and passion is not always a positive thing. Sometimes love can be gut-wrenching and soul-sapping and unrequited and dark. And no one – no one– captures the spirit of desperation and bitter loneliness in song better than Greg Cartwright

And as good as his recorded canon is (including solo efforts and his work with bands including The Oblivians and The Compulsive Gamblers) his live performances are stunning. Onstage there’s not a single moment when he does not wholeheartedly inhabit these characters and songs and – as the classic adage says – let it bleed

Time Bomb High School has long been my favorite Reigning Sound album; I consider it almost a perfect record. I truly believe that Love And Curses can proudly stand alongside it: 

Like prior Reigning Sound albums, Cartwright offers a strong theme and excellent sequencing to make a powerful statement that flows with dynamic appeal. Despite the aroma of desperation, unrequited love, and loneliness in the lyrics, there’s an infectious magnetism to a man who can bare his soul so completely in his music. Cartwright is a happily married man with a family, but he’s able to dip into some dark places and channel the angst and pain of a tortured soul with amazing clarity.  

He’s willingly haunted, like the man in the horror movie who is warned not to go in the basement but clutches a lit match in shaky hands and starts the descent anyway. The album was recorded over time in two studios but has the immediacy of a group documenting a feverish all-nighter, and the balance of hard rock and desperate shuffles is flawless. 

Read my full review of 2009’s best album at PopMatters

Check out some samples here

The Reigning Sound MySpace page and Wiki site

Curses...foiled again.

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Jacob, Oscar and Freebies

Locke invented Team Conan

Lost rang up some well-deserved ratings last night, and the net is abuzz with the latest storytelling vehicle that Darlton has tossed at us. I won’t spoil it for you DVR aficionados, but strap in, baby. Watch here.

For those who did watch last night, you might think you are going crazy. You have plenty of company, so check in with some of the primary Lost blog sites: Maureen Ryan at the Chicago Tribune, Doc Jensen at EW, SL Lost and Alan Sepinwall’s excellent What’s Alan Watching blog. Be sure to scroll through all the comments – some interesting ideas…and some complete nutjobs. 

(Speaking of Alan, he and I share a love for the classic series Homicide. Nice blog the other day from him about that show including clips to the great Crosetti episode. Reminded me how they don’t make them like that anymore, and soon they may not make them like Lost, either. It will be interesting to see whether V and Flash Forward survive to a second season as well as if Fringe can get a third.) 

 

I’ll have more about the Academy Awards later on, but the nominations were announced yesterday (I thought the Lost feature was more important). With one exception – a swap of one Supporting Actress nominee – they were exactly the same as the Screen Actors Guild nominees in the four major acting major categories. Nineteen for twenty! 

Here’s the link to the official site. More soon. 

And if you’re bored with The Oscars, there are always The Razzies

 

How about some freebies? For a limited time…while supplies last

Download the Research Turtles album for free

Buy any album from Kool Kat Musik and get a free copy of the Gamilons EP “Blue Whispers“! 

Caveat: The Research Turtles link will simply stop working when it’s no longer available. Please check with Kool Kat prior to placing your order to make certain the EPs are still in stock. It’s a great place to buy music regardless – I am a paying customer, not a sponsor. 

Everyone Pays The Price.

Beware The Lockeness Monster

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T.G.I.F. – Top Ten Albums of 2009

Someone always disagrees

As you may or may not know, scrambling to assemble a Top Ten list of the year for anything is a pain in the ass, since many times eligible films and albums don’t come out until December. For that reason (let’s put procrastination aside for a moment) my deadline has always been Super Bowl Sunday, which use to be sometime in January. This year the Gods of Sport have decided to move the game back into February, probably to pretend its part of the Winter Olympics. And with all the wonderful decisions they have been making, who are we to question the brilliance of network television executives? 

But each year the deadline for the Village Voice gets earlier. So while I am still filtering through decisions on the lower end of the top forty, the Top Ten is cut in stone. (The full list will be available after the Super Bowl.)

I’ve already posted reviews for some of these albums, others will be forthcoming (some are not yet published in the respective magazines they were submitted to). So without further ado, I hereby announce my choices for the Top Ten Albums of 2009: 

  

One : Love and Curses (The Reigning Sound) 

Two: Lions in the Street (Lions in the Street) 

Three: National Champions (Olympic Ass Kicking Team) 

Four: 1372 Overton Park (Lucero) 

Five: Learning Love (Bobby Emmett) 

Six: More Like Me (Webb Wilder) 

Seven: Tinted Windows (Tinted Windows) 

Eight: Little White Lies (Fastball) 

Nine: Spills and Thrills (John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives) 

Ten: House To House (Tripwires) 

 

Link to my Village Voice Pazz & Jop ballot

My centricity rating, or how far off center my choices are. (Very

*** 

R.I.P. – the Greta Garbo of authors, J.D.Salinger 

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T.G.I.F. – I’d Rather Coco

Before anything else, let’s credit the man who created this artwork in the first place – Mike Mitchell. I’ve seen this replicated everywhere and not only does he not get the props but people are slightly modifying and then selling his image without compensation. I believe we call that (ugh)… sampling.

Now on to the guest of honor.

Tonight is the last Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. Final guests? Tom Hanks, Will Ferrell and Neil Young, plus an unannounced pop-in or two, I’m sure. An unfunny comic segment that appears to cost NBC a fortune in royalties. A long standing ovation before the show – and afterwards, of course. Ratings to die for. And the last glimpse of what should have been a show we could have all grown old with.

This whole situation has been nothing buy ugly, and while I don’t blame Jay Leno for setting the chain of events in motion, I do think he should have taken the high road and just moved on. His weak explanation – I’m just an employee doing what my boss asks – isn’t fooling anyone. He never wanted to leave the Tonight Show and although he might feel bad for Conan, I’d bet the farm that he’s secretly delighted that he’s back in the chair. But this mess is squarely on the NBC executives shoulders.

Conan is a brilliant writer and knows funny. He’ll survive. He’ll come up with something that will entertain and amaze us, and whether that’s a new show on Fox or an Internet podcast that opens the door to the next generation of broadcasting, it doesn’t matter.

Thanks for a short but great run, Conan. Kudos for fighting to get severance for your entire staff, the majority of whom will hopefully be asked to rejoin Team Conan for the next adventure.

Tonight, in honor of Conan, I defer my usual Friday TGIF routine of posting ten links, clips or facts to someone who will surely do it better. Tune in tonight and see.

Watch the Hope for Haiti telethon this evening and please give what you can; there but for the grace of fate go you. Then let’s all dial in one last time to say “see you soon” to Coco. It will be tough to top Robin Williams (try here or here – I’m sure these clips will come down as quickly as NBC can find them) but let’s give it a shot.

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Golden Globes: Four Words

Well, compared to last year, I was a little more on target. Still there were some surprises along with the close races that just tipped the other way. After John Lithgow and Michael C. Hall won, I figured Dexter was a shoo-in for Best Drama, but you can’t stop Mad Men with a bullet. And as the nominees were read, I was reminded again how many serious omissions there were.

And I’ve really had my fill of talk about the “greatest crew” and the “best job” and “loving to come to work every day” to “a true collaborative effort”. At least do what Chloe Sevigny did and name some names (she thanked one of her PAs for running lines with her every day). But there’s something about seeing Mike Tyson on stage in a tuxedo being celebrated for his role in the highest-grossing comedy film of all time that puts things into perspective.

So I think a lot of my post-Golden Globes impressions can be summed up in four words

Not enough Ricky Gervais. He had some great moments, whether tossing zingers at upcoming presenters or pimping his own DVDs, but it seemed like there were often ten or fifteen minute gaps between appearances. Maybe it just seemed that long because (as usual) actors reading scripted gags from cue cards are painful to watch, especially when they’ve been downing champagne at a furious pace. But it probably didn’t matter that he didn’t get more podium time because…

They didn’t get him. “Looking at all the faces here reminds me of some of the great work that’s been done this year – by cosmetic surgeons.”…”I’ve had a penis reduction. Just got the one now. And it is very tiny. But so are my hands. So when I’m holding it, it looks pretty big. I wish I was doing that now instead of this, to be honest.”…(After visibly drinking beer from a pint glass hidden in the podium) “I like a drink as much as the next man. Unless the next man is Mel Gibson.”…comedy gold! But when the cameras panned to the crowd they were either enveloped in conversation or staring blankly. Too hip for the room, but thankfully not for those watching the broadcast.

The Dude finally abides. Jeff Bridges finally won on his fourth nomination, and between his appearance and attitude and his reminiscing about his father (Lloyd Bridges) and family, I would not have been surprised if he asked where his carpet was.

Jane Lynch got screwed. No disrespect to Chloe Sevigny, but this award should have had Jane Lynch‘s name on it. Her bitch-in-a-track-suit character from Glee is far from a one-note performance, as we got to see in episodes that exposed her family life and dating woes. Glee did upset 30 Rock for Best Comedy, however. (“This is for anybody and everybody who got a wedgie in high school” quipped director Ryan Murphy).

Meryl Streep is funny. “I want to change my name to T-Bone. T-Bone Streep!” Priceless.

Drew Barrymore was acting. So one minute she’s sitting at her table, giggling with friends, looking as comfy as can be. Then the red light comes on and she’s blubbering about growing up in Hollywood and dancing really close to the cliff of Sally Field’syou really like me” implosion. Yawn. Take a cue from Robert Downey Jr. next time and do something unique.

Mo’Nique nailed it. Great, emotional speech and a sincere call-out to victims of abuse to have the courage to come forward and heal. I don’t know why I thought the HFPA wouldn’t get such a dark performance, because every award ceremony seems to be honoring it. But if the night had a lump-in-throat moment, it was hers.

Martin Scorcese is awesome. What a fascinating man, and a true champion of film preservation. His batting average as a director is astounding, and he’s been blessed to have actors like Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel and Leonardo DiCaprio as collaborators and lead actors. Even DeNiro‘s odd comic riff about Scorcese having sex with film canisters couldn’t tarnish the accomplishments of a true giant in the industry.

Sir Paul is cool. “I’m Paul McCartney, or as I’m known, that guy from Rock Band“. Great line about animation being for “adults who take drugs“, but oddly not a peep out of the crowd when he dropped that blatant hint about a resurrected Yellow Submarine project.

NBC ducked a bullet. Outside of a couple of barbs from Julianne Margulies (“thanks to Les Moonves for believing in a 10:00 drama”) and Gervais (joking that NBC would replace him with Jay Leno during the show), the Tonight Show fustercluck was hardly mentioned. I heard there were comments on the red carpet part of the program, but I don’t do red carpets.

And most importantly I should never wager. Sure, I picked three of the four NFL playoff games (and would have won all four had San Diego’s kicker not gone Norwood on them) but betting on film awards is a good place to clean out your wallet. Six out of ten isn’t bad, but nothing to brag about. (Wrong picks in red.)

Best Picture (Drama): Avatar (The Hurt Locker)
Best Picture (Musical or Comedy): The Hangover (It’s Complicated)
Best Director: James Cameron, Avatar
Best Actor (Drama): Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart (George Clooney)
Best Actress (Drama): Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Best Actor (Musical or Comedy): Robert Downey, Jr., Sherlock Holmes
Best Actress (Musical or Comedy): Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique, Precious (Vera Farmiga) 
Best Screenplay: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air

But I’ll be doing this again at Oscar time, of course. It’s only Internet money, right?

Golden Globe nominees and winners.

Critic’s Choice Movie Awards also announced this weekend.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Globe Guesses

But before we get to the prognostication…and just to keep the teakettle whistling – here are the latest clips from the late night talk show hosts on the Tonight Show debacle, courtesy Gawker. Jimmy Kimmel bitch-slaps Jay Leno on his own show, and if you aren’t a Craig Ferguson fan after his clip…well, you might just be an NBC executive

So here are ten guesses for who will win at Sunday’s award show. I’ve limited this group to films; I always wonder why they even vote on American television programming anyway.

The Globes are always a crapshoot, since the voters are the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who (1) may not have seen all of the nominees, (2) might not get the context of American humor and cultural references and (3) tend to vote for their favorite people – those who play the schmooze game – regardless of merit. But what the hell, it’s only internet money.

Tune in to NBCif it’s still broadcasting – this Sunday night at 8:00pm EST to find out for yourself. (Even if you don’t care about the minor categories, watch or record the program; I wager that Ricky Gervais will make this an evening to remember).

Best Motion Picture – Drama:  There’s a lot of George Clooney love right now, but as much as I liked Up In The Air I think it’s been a wee bit overrated and it won’t hold up. Even those who don’t normally like war films are praising The Hurt Locker and I think it will resonate here as well

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama:  The HFPA loves Sandra Bullock. Lovvvvvvve her. And since this is being hailed as her “greatest performance” they are all but being directed to strike while the iron is hot. I thought she was great in Crash but she makes too many cheesey comedies (not that it stopped the HFPA for nominating her for that also).

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama: Did I mention how they love George Clooney? Caution spoiler: Morgan Freeman did play Nelson Mandela…

Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical – This is a horrible category. Of the films, I liked the flawed The Hangover the best, but the all-star cast suggests It’s Compicated is probably more up their alley.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical: This category tells you all you need to know about the HFPA – Bullock chewing the scenery, Julia Roberts automatic nod and two Meryl Streep roles. The only way Streep loses is if she splits her own votes, but since HFPA also loves people playing real characters, it’s Streep for Julia and Julia.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical: That Sherlock Holmes is a comedy tells you a lot about why I hate the very concept of the movie, but not enough people appreciate that Joesph Gordon-Levitt is the best young actor in Hollywood and not enough people cared about The Informant. So I’ll wager it’s Robert Downey Jr.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: As intense and worthy as Mo’Nique was in Precious, and as revered as Penelope Cruz is in general, I just have a gut feeling that Vera Farmiga will benefit from being in the most likeable film in the group. Not that she isn’t worthy – tough crowd here.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture – This is quite possibly the best group of nominees on the whole show (and they didn’t even nominate Christian McKay for Me and Orson Welles!) Any other year Stanley Tucci walks away with this for his chilling performance in The Lovely Bones, but Christoph Waltz probably gave a performence for the ages in Inglorious Basterds.

Best Director – Motion Picture – It makes no sense that someone could helm the Best Picture and not win as Best Director, but Avatar is a tidal wave and James Cameron gets rewarded for the sheer scope of the film.

Best Screenplay- Motion Picture – I think this is where the HFPA again gets to reward a feel-good picture (even though it was anything but feel-good) by Globing Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner for Up in the Air.

The full slate of categories and nominees can be found here. I’ll post links to the results, along with my reactions, on Monday January 18th.

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