Friday, December 25, 2009

Best Music of 2009

It's that time of year when every self-important asshole with Internet access and an opinion makes a list of his or her top albums of the year. They usually try to convince you that their list the final word. Well, don't listen to them, cause this is it:(a playlist featuring 25 songs via Lala has been posted separately)

1. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
Pssh...predictable. This guy has never done wrong. He has consistently been one of my favorite artists for about 10 years now. This one's a little more low-key. I fear he's turning NPR into a genre, but his arrangements and lyrics are always well thought out.

2. Banner Pilot - Collapser
Pop-punk? Wuh? Yeah, go to hell. In the past couple years I've going back to punk more and more. There's a lot of great stuff coming out and this band is one of them. They're from Minneapolis and you can tell by their bass lines. It's right at home with other bands in the land of a thousand lakes (Dillinger Four, Dear Landlord, Off With Their Heads, Rivethead (ex-members)). Pop-punk is a limited genre, for sure. It's like a Haiku--you only have so many syllables, so you have to make it count. You got a couple of chord progressions, a couple tempo changes and that's it. But when you can line-up some soul-wrenching lyrics with expressive (albeit redundant) guitars you have something on par with Jawbreaker. These guys rule and it's awesome they always acknowledge Fante in the liner notes.

3. Isis - Wavering Radiant
Maybe it's because they came off of their worst album, In the Absence of Truth, and made one of their best albums. I didn't have to much hope for this, but it surprised me. Aaron Turner sings more than he ever has and screams harder than he ever has before.

4. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
I'm not going to go, "Wow, a couple years ago when Dinosaur Jr. reformed I was skepical they wouldn't live up to they're back catalouge, but then they hit us with Beyond, and now this." I'm not going to do that, because that's every review of this I've read.

5. Chris Wollard and the Ship Thieves - s/t
Speaking of Dinosaur Jr....Chris Wollard was in Hot Water Music--probably one of the best punk bands ever. I'd prefer HWM to make another album over Chuck Ragan/Chris Wollard solo projects, but this is the best project to come out of ex-HWM members, and there's been a lot of them. Wollard didn't do the standard, punk guy goes acoustic, or punk guy goes country thing. This has some rockers on it.

6. Lucero - 1372 Overton Park
This may be my favorite Lucero album. They've added a horn section, which appears on the majority of the songs. This album makes you want to go to a townie bar, get drunk and a Hold Steady kinda way.

7. Fake Problems - It's GreatBe Alive
Speaking of horn sections...I never really paid to attention to Fake Problems before this album. To me they were always the muppet babies version of Against Me! This album was produced by Saddle Creek-er AJ Mogis and I think he's helped this band meet their potential. There's some swamp rock, funk, disco, and of course, folk punk. I like to think of it as Tony Joe White meets Against Me! (they'll never lose that AM! comparison).

8. Cobra Skulls - American Rubicon
Speaking of Against Me! comparisons. This band too, has grown. They don't even have "Cobra" in all there song titles anymore...except for "I Used to Like Them When They Put 'Cobra' In the Titles."

9. Attack in Black - Years by One Thousand Fingertips
I had never really heard of this band before this album. Apparently a lot of people are bummed that this band no longer plays hardcore, and instead plays...indie folk. They blend lo-fi indie, psych, folk, country, pop instead of punk, but keep the DIY spirit by recording it themselves. At times it reminds me of Fleetwood Mac. I hate Fleetwood Mac, but I love this. Why am I so conflicted?

10. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
Neko Case is like Andrew Bird to me. She really can't do any wrong. She didn't top Fox Confessor, but that's a pretty tough task. This album is about being or tornado, or something.

11. Andrew Jackson Jihad - Can't Maintain
Folk punk...blah blah blah. Horn section blah blah blah. Wait, is this a trend? I don't know, probably. They borrow Bomb the Music Industry's horns and keep going with their funny, self-hating, PC-shocking lyrics song with warbley Neutral-Milk-Hotel-esque vocals. I like this line from the press release: " There are even a couple of full-band numbers here, but please no lame comparisons to Dylan going electric. This is way better and more important."

12. Krallice - Dimensional Bleedthrough
This band along with Wolves in the Throne Room are part of the new school of US Black Metal. They don't subscribe to the corpse paint and staunch scene ethics. They take the sound and add to it with their own pinch of pepper, namely Mick Barr's crazy guitar playing. Mick Barr is one of those guitarists that dudes that work at Guitar Center talk about on their breaks in the snack room. In Krallice, he swears he's not showing off. This band is not supposed to highlight his talent, still does though. I think I like the self-titled album better, but this is damn good.

13. Baroness - The Blue Record
Speaking of sophomore full-lengths that don't live up to their debut, but are still pretty fucking good....Baroness like to throw a little bit of every kind of metal in their music. On this release, there's a lot more cheesy shit going on, but it still turns out pretty cool.

14. Wolves in the Throne Room - Black Cascade
Like I was saying about Krallice, I'm sure these guys get a lot of shit from dudes that dress up in panda makeup and sit in their mom's basement and listen to Norwegian cassette tapes that were probably recorded in the artist's mom's basement, but I'm sure they don't care. These guys are too busy trying to sustain themselves because they live in the woods in Washington.

15. Austin Lucas - Somebody Loves You
Austin Lucas is pretty country. Apparently he used to be in crust bands, but you don't really ever hear any of that in his music. The highlight is his kind of George Jones twangy voice. It gets to your soul.

16. Animal Collective - Meriweather Post Pavilion
I put a bunch of punk and metal before this because I like them better. This is good though. This is my favorite Animal Collective album so far. I like Panda Bear better. I'm sick about hearing about these guys.

17. Cheap Girls - My Roaring 20s
Cheap Girls really like the 90s almost as much as they like singing songs about booze and cigarettes.

18. Dear Landlord - Dream Homes
Like Banner Pilot, these guys are Rivethead alum and come from that incestuous MN scene. They've got great lyrics and catchy tunes. My favorite song is "Park Bench," which is about a minute long, and about a homeless drunk.

19.Teenage Bottlerocket - They Came From the Shadows
Ramones-core. "Bigger than Kiss" has the longest pick slide I've ever heard.

20. Obits - I Blame You
Not as good as Hot Snakes, but still pretty rocking. It's similar to Hot Snakes but a little more Rolling Stones influenced.

21. Pelican - What We All Come to Need
22.Bomb the Music Industry! - Scrambles
23. American Steel - Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts
24. Sunn O))) - Monoliths and Dimensions
25. Built to Spill - There is No Enemy
26. Chuck Ragan - Gold Country
27. Blacklisted - No One Deserves this More Than Me
28. Heartsounds - Until We Surrender
29. Future of the Left - Travels with Myself and Another
30. Tombs - Winter Hours
31. Volcano Choir - Unmap
32. North Lincoln - Midwestern Blood
33. O Pioneers!!! - Neon Creeps
34. Municipal Waste - Massive Aggressive
35. Caspian - Tertia36. Nothington - Roads, Bridges and Ruins
37. Cloak/Dagger - The Lost Art
38. Shook Ones - The Unquoatable AMH
39. Converge - Axe to Fall
40. Polar Bear Club - Chasing Hamburg
41. Mean Jeans - Are You Serious
42. Jesu - Infinity
43. King Khan and BBQ Show - Invisible Girl
44. Om - God is Good
45. Mountain Goats - The LIfe of the World to Come
46. Wooden Shjips - Dos
47. Matt and Kim - Grand
48. Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
49. Bowerbirds - Upper Air
50. Propagandhi - Supporting Caste

I didn't listen to every album that came out this year. Some I just didn't listen to enough. It was a pretty good year for music. This is what I liked the best.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


This is probably my favorite animated film, and, quite possibly, my favorite short film of all time. My brother Sean O))) and his (now) wife gave me a VHS copy of several, what were labeled, "Surrealist Betty Boop Cartoons." They became quite a hit in college as you may imagine. The entire collection is amazing and, since I received it, I've become a fan of Max/Dave Fleisher, especially of this era. You're probably as skeptical as I was since Betty Boop is modernly connotative with the t-shirts of helmet haired, face-painted camel-toed, white-trash and cheap souvenirs from New Jersey. You should watch the entire clip. The end is bizarre and somehow features a cameo by Michael Jackson from 1980.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

One Winter. Five Dreams.

Five different athletes training and competing for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. They aren't stars, they don't have major shoe endorsements, they aren't featured on trading cards. They are from five different countries and compete in five different sports but all share a common trait--passion.

Five winter athletes blog about their goals, training, fears, hopes, failures, successes, all progressing towards Vancouver.

This is what I've been working on the last couple months in a project produced by Suitmen Entertainment, directed by Young Kim (aka Suitman), and shot by photographer Davi Russo. I edited all five introductory web films for each athlete. I'm pretty proud of how they turned out.

Here is a link to the Site. Please check it out:

(NOTE: They are kind of small on the 5 Dreams Site, but they are nice and large on the YouTube page:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How I Almost Made State Champ

Singer/Songwriter/Violinist/Whistler/Guitarist/Genius Andrew Bird has been a staple in my life from the first time I heard his Bowl of Fire debut, Thrills, in high school. All of his work is fantastic and highly recommended if you are not already a fan. It seems like his fanbase is growing at an incredible rate. He, this year, had two sold out shows here in New York. The first at Carnagie Hall and the second, shortly after, at the even larger Radio City Music Hall.

His always-changing sound, no matter what it was--gypsy jazz, russian folk, Radiohead-esque experimentation, Ravel influenced neo-classical melodies--has always resonated with me. His lyrics, too, are incredibly insightful. He fixates often on certain themes that I take great interest in: the thin line between insane and genius, fixations on biology, drifting within weather systems. The beauty of any great lyricyst, poet, author, filmmaker, artist is that you can always revisit his or her work and find new meanings and how it relates to your life. The Mysterious Production of Eggs, Mr. Bird's second solo album is one of my all-time favorite albums. I've listened to it more times than I can count. After recently acquiring it on vinyl, I gave it a virgin spin last night and related in new ways his songs. Most notably "Mx Missiles." I a found literal and metaphorical meaning from his words. I won't say why or how, or assign the interpretation I got. I'll simply post. I recommend actually listening to the song, as Bird's melodies and vocal stylings give an extra layer of depth and humor to the song.

"Mx Missiles" by Andrew Bird

And now as i would judge and say you're aloof
but you know the truth is a seed
you know what you need is a conflagration
cause when i see the blood
and the bits of your broken tooth
it gives me the proof that i need
it's the proof that you bleed
it's a revelation
yeah it's a revelation, it's a revelation

I thought you were a life-sized paper doll
propped up in the hardware store
propped up on the front lawn watching the parade
of those legionnaires with two-by-four's
as they're marching off to war
yeah they're marching off to war

I didn't know what you were made of
the colour of your blood, what you're afraid of
are you made of calcium or are you carbon-based
and if you're made of calcium i'll have to take a taste
cause, listen, calcium is deadly tender to the tooth
and it's one sure-fire way to know if you're
MX-missile-proof, oh no, or if you're just aloof

You were in the ground in late november
when the leaves in earth are down
did you, did you think they would remember
how you almost made state champ
cause when you're running for the game against alfonso
and you fell upon the ground and chipped a tooth
oh no, listen, i really have surprised her
to learn that you are really MX-missile-proof

Oh, i thought you were a life-sized paper doll
and you're propped up in the hardware store
you were propped up on the front lawn watching the parade of those legionnaires with two-by-four's
as they're marching off to war
yeah they're marching off to war
oh they're marching

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bus Station Dispatch 01: Diary of a Schizophrenic Blogger, Or How the Bugs Will Eat the Armor of the Divine

Here's a new column. I basically write without thinking: let my fingers do the talking with no direction at all. What comes out sounds like the ramblings of a crazy person.

It isn't fair that so few animals have to rescue their antlers from the dens of rich men. They weep silently in the woods yet carry on the daily of lives of coffee and conversation. The squirrels are such gossips--nice but tricky. Don't trust them. When the weather changes so will your hair and I won't recognize you. Stay inside and I'll contact you by phone. Let it ring twice. Be there when I call. Quarters are hard to come by. I'll search the cracks in the asphalt. It's mostly gum and stones and the caverns of the ant empire. They wouldn't know what to do with a nickel if they had one. Buy yourself a better life! You have six arms but no bank account. No social security. Your stock and bond holdings are laughable. It makes me sick to my stomach. I'm not one to talk. I lost my ass in IBM after the supercomputer destroyed the senator's home. Took a killing that week. Time heals all wounds, but, at the same time, the technology keeps getting deadlier. When will it end? And how? If this were a horse race, I'd put my money the shifty eyed stud. You can't win without eye-gouging in this world. That's how they fill their pockets. Look close and you'll see lashes under the nails. It would take a forensic scientist as big as the sun to collect all the evidence. Damn! I get so sleepy these days.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Silent but Deafening 01: The Passion of Joan of Arc


Apologies for the cheesy title. The silent film is an abandoned art form. With few exceptions, filmmakers all but dropped it with the advent of synch sound. While it seemed "talkies" were merely a technological and logical upgrade of their predecessors, what was lost was a unique experience. The responsibility of storytelling weighed heavily on the actors non-verbal performance, shot choice, lighting and set design. The title plates intercut between shots often set up the scene or provided a textual dialogue, but good filmmakers knew that this abrupt break from the scene psychologically took the audience away, and used it only when necessary. The style, compared to early sound pictures varied greatly. Because converse to the cliched adage, a word is worth a thousand pictures and an actor could sum up the story, or his/her emotion or reveal motivations with just a sentence. Also, scenes were tethered to the then-stationary microphones capturing the sound. And, because the cameras were bulky and noisy, camera moves were almost out of the question. The film industry obviously adapted and created new technology to overcome these tragic faults, however the modern movie experience, while often still rich and artful, is a very different from medium than it's silent roots.

So that was my attempt at prefacing a new "column." We'll see how long it, or even this blog lasts.


One of my favorite films, silent or otherwise, is Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (La passion de Jeanne d'Arc). The French-produced film is based on the transcripts of the trial, torture and eventual execution of Joan of Arc. The entire story is told almost exclusively with close-ups of the actors. Ordinarily, I wouldn't think this would work as well as it did (close-ups can be very effective, however, it's the dynamic between mixed compositions that makes them effective. It's like metal band that's all solos, or a hardcore band that's all breakdowns...wait, that sounds pretty gnarly). The entire film is intense and emotionally exhausting. Renee Maria Falconetti plays the titular role with such emotion, it's one of the best performances from an actor in cinema's history (no hyperbole). What's even more amazing is that, with the exception to two short, rather unknown films, this is Ms. Falconetti's only major role in film (she was primarily a stage actress). Yet she plays to the medium so uncommonly well, with a subtlety that was rare among most silent film actors.


The film is amazing by it self, no doubt. However the mythos surrounding the film only adds to it's place in history. After initial views the French archbishop, outraged, requested changes be made. The British outright banned the film for it's portrayal of it's 15th century soldiers. Horrifically the master print was burned. Dreyer attempted to piece together an alternative version with outtakes--this must've been the version that most audiences had seen for decades. Inexplicably, a full film print version of the original, as it was intended, was found in the janitor's closet of a Norwegian insane asylum in 1981. Woah, 60 years. Typically film degrades over time, especially older film stocks, if not preserved properly in a climate controlled area, yet the print, at least what I've seen (the Criterion DVD, a VHS copy and a TCM viewing) looks stunning.

The film is available from the Criterion Collection. Watch it. And, even thought the film was intended, by Dreyer, to be seen without musical accompaniment, the score on Criterion's version is great.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Best Fiend, Werner Herzog

I applied for Werner Herzog's new undertaking--The Rogue Film School. It's rather expensive ($1,450 for a weekend seminar, plus expenses to, from and in LA), but I cannot resist. Herzog is one of my favorite filmmakers, and, probably moreso than any other filmmaker, will guarantee to be interesting and original. Here is the description on

"The Rogue Film School is not for the faint-hearted. It is for those who have traveled on foot, who have worked as bouncers in sex clubs or as wardens in a lunatic asylum, for those who are willing to learn about lock-picking or forging shooting permits in countries not favouring their projects. In short: it is for those who have a sense for poetry. For those who are pilgrims. For those who can tell a story to four-year-old children and hold their attention. For those who have a fire burning within. For those who have a dream."

I recommend any and all of his films if you're not familiar. Personal favorites: Stroszek, Fitzcarraldo, Agurrie, the Wrath of God.


The Hudson, The Acheron; The East River, The River Styx

Currently I'm reading Dante's Inferno. It's been difficult. I do 99% of all my reading on the train to and from work, and, considering all the distractions that the New York City subway beholds, a 13th-Century Italian Epic Poem about a journey into Hell is tough. However, there's something fitting about, blasting drone metal and diving into the outer-circles of the Netherworld while, in reality, am in small quarters with lunatics, crackheads, prostitutes, break-dancers, subway car preachers, and bums. Everyday is a wonderful mobile freakshow, riding on the rails of the subterranean serpent, slithering beneath the most populated 22-square-miles in the world. Humoring myself, I imagine that newfound modern political-correctness has lifted the segregation of the lustful and the glutinous, the violent and the fraudulent. We all live, stacked on top of one other, co-mingling at intimate distance, trying to pretend that one another doesn't exist.

Other news in google-searching "Dante's Inferno," I found there is video game coming out, loosely based on the story. Looks creepy and awesome.

The Daily Commute

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mission Statement

I have no clear purpose in creating this blog. It will be an unaimed, confused hodgepodge of personal interest--my personal interest. It will be things I think are interesting, clever, funny and all together radical. It is my attempt to flex my brain to come up with content.

So set your bookmarks to "stun," because this is going to be the most mind-blowing shit since The Butterfly Effect.