Thursday, April 17, 2014

"Her", Eternal Sunshine of the Digital Mind


Thanks Spike Jonze for delivering one of the most special films this blogger has ever seen. Her is a unique tour-de-force. Sweet, wise and ahead of its time. Soulful and intriguing. Romantic and adventurous. Could be adding adjectives for days...

Her is a ridiculously smart and risky film. Smart because Jonze uses a just-barely-sci-fi setting, with a dreamy, pastel sun-setting but isolated L.A., the scenario in which he develops a profoundly deep and touching tale about human relationships in the digital age. And risky because the director is not afraid to take his time, making the movie a very peculiar one in terms of rhythm and tone (elegiac, dreamy). He's also brave enough to breath-in and breath-out. He demands an effort to the spectator (I admit the pace and the acceptance of the idea can be a bit too much for many), but the reward is mind-blowing, only comparable to, imo, to another undeniable contemporary masterpiece with whom Her shares quite a few resemblances, Eternal Sunshine of the Eternal Mind. Like Gondry's superb quest on memory and love Her connects with you in a way very few movies have.

Like Joel Barish in Eternal Sunshine, Theodore Twombly can't move on from his failed relationship, once that a hopeless romantic like him always was fated to last forever. He's lonely and self-protective, despite his work as a personal letter's writer requires him to be a very special connoisseur of human emotions. But then technology, in the form of an artificial intelligence operating system named Samantha appears. And a dozen of paradoxes and questions too. Can we reach a deeper level of communication with an OS? Can a machine, perfected to adapt itself, created to please his/her user, to meet all our requirements, understands us, also at an emotional level? Can we develop affection, empathy and finally, love, without physical attraction? Could that qualify as a real relation? What is this thing called love, anyways? Spike Jonze builds a slightly deformed, exaggerated mirror, on which he speculates with the overgrowing virtual affairs: are they the inevitable evolution of relationships? Are we that far of that scenario in our tech-blooming society (please try not to check you Iphone for at least ten minutes)?

Of course, this thoughtful and ambitious amount of dilemmas wouldn't make for a great movie without a script and real actors that transform the ideas into compelling scenes. But to this date, if Jonze was known as a masterful director in what regards to create surreal, bewildering worlds and situations (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are), this time he has exceeded all expectations, penning an equally arresting and witty script, that flows gracefully from drama to comedy, entirely on his own, allowing actors to excel with the material they have. Joaquim Phoenix as Theodore just carries the movie on his shoulders, he's the perfect fit: vulnerable, needy, confused, introvert, annoying, possessive, frightened. So human and recognisable. Scarlett Johansson, never on screen, also does for a very surprising role (let's admit I was thinking who wouldn't fall in love with her a couple of times while watching it, but keep the secret). The director does an incredible job on capturing the intimacy of the impossible couple. If you don't feel for the characters, you are made of stone (or made of Iphone, even worse). Amy Adams is also impressive in her secondary but very relevant secondary role as Amy, Theodore's best friend (and something more) who is struggling with a "real" marriage that goes nowhere...

I have developed several theories about the movie and its near-perfect puzzle, the crossing of parallel lines between real and technological. But I don't want to spoil you the film (or bore you). All I can do is enthusiastically recommend you to go watch this film. An arresting, uniquely beautiful and rich movie. Masterpiece.

SCORE: 9/10

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Indie Anthology 41: essential songs

Yes, I'm getting a little more "political" lately (my personal situation and several last reads for Indienauta are probably responsible of that), so I guess the next chapter of the Anthology couldn't be devoted to any other band: the best overtly political jangle pop group, in my opinion...

Song: Keep and Open Mind or Else!
Artist: McCarthy
Year: 1989

Lyrics matter a lot to me. I'm not saying every single tune has to be about politics or show social commitment, but lyrics should have some substance, meaning, charm or interest (even if it's about some cheesy love affair). And without losing the point of creating the best songs one can. The Essex band, leaded by Malcolm Eden and Tim Gane (who would later form my beloved Stereolab along with Laetitia Sadier) penned a bunch of personal favourite lyrics, not shy of showing heart will always beat on the left, and wrapped in, arguably, some of the best jangle pop (masterful Gane's 12-string Rickenbacker) tunes ever. Like this "Keep and Open Mind or Else!", where the bouncy, engaging drums and the sweet melodic style is combined with killer verses like You should always try to see / Another person's point of view /You should never, oh never/ Think that you know everything or the An open mind / Oh why don't you keep? / It's the true side / Of the civilized. Defending the right to disagree and think by yourself in a 3:30 minutes pop gem. Meaningful lyrics, amazing tune. McCarthy, one of the most underrated groups in music history...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Discoverer 90: new indie findings

What a trio of amazing discoveries, I 've prepared for you today, so sure you'll love them!

Fireflies. Lisle Mitnik is the one-man band behind Fireflies. Born and raised in New England but based in California, he's been around doing great music since early 2000s, solo or in delicious projects like Tiny Fireflies (check their wonderful EPs at EardrumsPop!), Very Truly Yours or Edine. As Fireflies he has released three "official albums" to date, "Goodnight Stars, Goodnight Moon" (2007); "Autumn Almanac" (2011) and the just out "In Dreams", via Jigsaw Records, a bunch of EPs (please do not miss the Covers Digital EP from 2009) and singles and four albums of home-recordings / demos. But let me go back to "In Dreams", because folks, this is one of the best records of the year. A humming, ethereal, gentle, delicate indiepop classic made in 2014 I cannot recommend you enough. Missing it should be considered a crime.
Should. Formed in Austin, Texas, initially under the name of shiFt, Marc Ostermeier together with Tanya Maus and his brother Eric debuted with EP "A Folding Sieve" in 1995'. After a 7" in 1997 came trio's first full length "Feed Like Fishes", in late 1998 via Words in Music. In 2002 the label re-released a expanded version of their debut EP, now a full album. In April 2011 arrived "Like a Fire Without Sound" while label Captured Tracks kicked off its Shoegaze Archive series reissuing again "A Folding Sieve" on its most complete version. And finally, since this March we can enjoy fourth record "The Great Pretend". Diverse and lush, dream pop, shoegaze, traces of post-punk, chiming guitars, propulsive drum beats and vocal harmonies coexist on an impeccable album full of rewards for the listener.  

The Skywriters. And we end in Philadelphia with this short -lived band now rescued from the twee-pop vaults. This quintet came out with a self released cassette tape, a CDEP, a Japanese 7” record, and a handful of compilation tracks on a career that only lasted from 1998 to 2000, with band members forming The Snow Fairies, Ex-Friends or more recently Scary Monster. But now the always reliable Jigsaw Records alongside with label Lost Sound are releasing a new compilation entitled "Skywriter Blue" that resumes the group's career. Fourteen songs of lovely twee-pop, full of the catchiest melodies, jangly guitars and adorable intertwined male/female vocals. Hard to resist.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bloodbuzzed at Indietracks 2014!

Not exactly a post, but I couldn't keep my mouth shut any longer: Bloodbuzzed will be covering Indietracks 2014 for Indienauta and this humble blog! The indie press from Barcelona is going to the railroad, so excited!

What an amazing line-up already!!
Gruff Rhys │ Allo Darlin’ │ The Hidden Cameras │ Dean WarehamJoanna GruesomeWithered Hand │ The Popguns │ Rocketship │ Sweet Baboo │ Spearmint │  Thee AHs │ Axolotes Mexicanos │ Big Joanie │ The Blue Minkies │ Cosines │ Elopes │ Franny & Zooey │ The Just Joans │ Let’s Wrestle│ Laura J Martin │ Linda Guilala │ Los Cripis │ Lost Tapes │ MJ Hibbett and the Validators │ Night Flowers │ONSIND │ Slum of Legs │ The Spook School │ TeenCanteen │ The Very Most │ The Yawns │ The Wellgreen

PD: Any suggestion regarding flights, accommodation, distances is more than welcomed, thanks in advance!

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Bloodbuzzed Jukebox 5

It's Friday, so the time for our next round of our TOP TEN playlistwith the tunes I have been enjoying the most lately, has arrived. As with previous sets, this is also available at the blog's soundcloud (come one and join us). Several discoveries, a pair of sure-fires & our first soundtrack tune, have a listen!

Direct links to the previous Jukebox weeks
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

Welcome to the Jukebox!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Indie Anthology 40: essential songs

Next chapter in our Anthology is another Sarah Records classic, a gem of a song on an album full of jangle-pop delicious pieces... chosen because of its lyric... One of these days when you want to shout out loud the world to go fuck up itself (sorry for the expletive language). Dedicated to all the scum out there.. Yours truly... with indiepop love.

Song: You Should All Be Murdered
Artist: Another Sunny Day
Year: 1992

"London Weekend"... what a great record! "I'm In Love With A Girl Who Doesn't Know I Exist", "Anorak City", "Can't You Tell It's True?", "The Centre of My Little World"... Harvey Williams... what a truly underrated genius. But if I have to choose only one tune (at least today) it has to be "You Should All Be Murdered". Guitars full of sonic gentleness and an upbeat melody hiding (for all non-English speakers) a lyric full of bite and frustration with a world so full of people eager to let you down. Verses like "The people who have left me down without reserve / The people who talk too much/ The people who don't care", or my painfully favourite "The people who broke my heart so bad it never mends / The people who wrecked my life & all my so-called friends", before Williams let the guitars (one of the most beautiful ends I ever heard) do the rest of the talking. Unfortunately, now the lines ring so true. So does this amazing song.

Monday, April 7, 2014

These Go to 11: interviewing February Records

Been meaning to post this one for days and finally here it is. For our next interview we go back to a record label. But a unique one, due to the good taste, being responsible of making me discover a bunch of great bands, like my beloved The Swapsies, The Pretty Greens or Caténine among others. And because its run by two of the nicest folks I've been lucky to meet (virtually to this date, would love to solve that soon). Ladies and gentlemen, a very special pleasure to introduce you the answers of Dan & Kristin, the bosses at February Records. These Go to 11!

Kristin Gill & Dan Goodwin, February Records
Dan & Kristin, indiepop all year 'round
Created as Tweefort Productions in late 2008, initially as a live music booking and promotions project in New Haven, CT, with their first show arriving in March 2009 and releasing first CD-R compilation albums afterwards. The focus of the project quickly shifted from booking shows to releasing music, so they changed their name to February Records in May 2010, with the label putting out its first original recordings few months later. February Records has hosted three Elm City PopFest in New Haven in 2009-2011 and 37 releases to this day, primarily online-only, from bands all around the world with a DIY ethic and a clear goal: offering amazing indiepop tunes, in all their styles. The micro-label is run by founder, label manager and creative director Dan Goodwin, who operates from Boston, and Kristin Gill, primary artist liaison and contact person, who recently moved to gorgeous Stockholm. Here we go!
The "other" Swedish pop

1. First record that you bought (be honest)
Dan Goodwin: I think the first music that I bought with my own money was a cassette single of Ace of Base's "I Saw The Sign." I loved that song so much when it came out. I guess it foreshadowed my love of Swedish pop music.
Kristin Gill: The first album I bought was The Wallflower's Bringing Down the Horse. I loved that song One Headlight, though I can't say I really remember anything else from that record.

2. First and last concert you have attended (be honest too!)
D: I believe the first concert I attended was a Christian rock band called Newsboys with a church youth group when I was in middle school. I'm not ashamed to say I thought they were awesome at the time. The last proper concert I went to was Elvis Costello at the University of Connecticut in November 2013. The last DIY show I went to was Eastern Phoebes, Pier Jump and some other bands at a very cool DIY space in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, called Machines with Magnets, in January 2014.
K: I suppose the first show I ever went to was something my friends organized at the local VFW. However, if we're talking about actual concerts, I'll have to go with seeing Howie Day when I was 14 or something. The last gig I went to was the Eastern Phoebes and Pier Jump show with Danny in Rhode Island back in January.

Taylor Swift, country pop?
3. Guilty pleasure (song/band you shouldn’t like but you do, yes, it’s the embarrassing question)
D: I'm not ashamed to admit that I own more than one Neil Diamond record.
K: This was tough as I'm not embarrassed about anything that I like. I'm really not ashamed at all to admit I like Taylor Swift. I don't own any of her albums, but I'm certainly not afraid to sing along. It's never been a secret - I think multiple people have been subjected to that by now.

4. Most precious music item you own (collector mode on)
D: I guess my most precious music items aren't really collector's items. I have a bunch of records that belonged my parents when they were teenagers. There are some really great records in there The Beatles, The Monkees, The Everly Brothers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Beach Boys and they are all marked up by my parents with their names and other doodles and writings. I just think it's cool to kind of get a glimpse of what my mom and dad were like and what kind of music they were into when they were younger.
K: I don't think I'm a collector by any means, though I have a great deal of records and instruments lying around. Like Danny, I inherited a lot of records from my parents, though I've grown the collection quite a bit on my own in recent years. I suppose the most precious records that I own are ones that have stories behind their acquisition or hold sentimental value for me.

5. Favorite lyrics (not yours)
D: For an art class I took in high school, we had to choose song lyrics for a typography project. I remember I chose a couple lines from "Strawberry Fields Forever," by The Beatles. I'm not sure I would say they're my favorite song lyrics, but they've always stuck with me. Living is easy with eyes closed / Misunderstanding all you see / It's getting hard to be someone / but it all works out / It doesn't matter much to me
K: Since I merely pretend to know anything about the technical side of music, lyrics are usually what draws me into a song initially. Therefore, this question is absolutely impossible to answer. Just about any song I like has at least one verse or phrase that I think is wonderful. I simply couldn't choose.

The drummer of that small band
from Liverpool, you know?
6. Musician/s you would like to meet (should be alive, for obvious reasons, but you can choose a dead one too)
D: I'd love to meet David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.
K: I've already embarrassed myself in front of Barry Tashian, so I'm going with Johnathan Sebastian and Peter Noone.

7. Favorite artwork album (not yours)
D: I've always loved the artwork for The Beatles' "Revolver." When I was younger I used to try to draw it all the time, but I could never get Ringo's nose quite right.
K: Admittedly, I don't pay a lot of attention to artwork on albums. There have been quite a few that I find aesthetically pleasing, but I couldn't narrow anything down. If anything, I focus on bad artwork more than I should!

8. Books or movies? Depending on your answer recommend us one (trick: you can choose both)
D: Lately, I've been watching a lot of movies. I even started documenting and rating them in a Tumblr I call I Like Movies. The last movie that I watched that I thought was really beautiful and moving was "Heartbeats." The original title in French is "Les amours imaginaires." It came out in 2010 and was directed by Xavier Dolan, who also stars in the movie. It's about a love triangle between three close friends. The music is amazing, the story and acting are great and it's beautifully shot. I'd highly recommend it. I recently read Gabriel García Márquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude" for the first time. I can't recommend it enough.
K: Danny's Tumblr does have some great movie suggestions! I haven't watched many as of late. I think the last film I watched was “Robinson in Ruins.” I never thought I would enjoy watching a butterfly sit on vegetation for five full minutes, but I did! The imagery was wonderful. Books are much more my thing, though. I was a literature major in school and I still tend to devour books quite quickly. Before I left for Sweden I read Donna Tartt's “The Secret History” in about a week, followed by Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn” in about the same amount of time. I highly recommend both! I'm currently reading Andrew Brown's “Fishing in Utopia.”

The Swapsies, better than any World Cup
9. Release (of yours) you are most proud of
D: I love all the music that we've been fortunate enough to release on February Records, but the ones I'm most proud of are probably the first three that we released back in January 2010. We had three digital offerings come out on the same day to make a splash as we made the transition from a booking and promotions outfit to a record label. Those releases were Onward Chariots, "I'm So Good at Shining"; The Fictional West, "Giant Clouds"; and Women's Basketball, "An Octopus, But Like An Octopus With MassiveWings And Junk". When Onward Chariots went on to release with Elefant Records, I considered that something of a victory for our little record label.
K: There isn't one release in particular that I'm more proud of or that I like more than the rest. I genuinely love everything this label has produced since the very beginning. I'm glad that my involvement brought the label back from it's hiatus, and I suppose in that sense I'm proud of the first two singles we released in which I played a major role: Finnmark's Everyone's Dying” and The Swapsies “Another Game on Saturday”

10. What’s does it mean indie for you? (yes, the “serious question”)
D: This is such a loaded question. In a sense, I feel like the word "indie" has nearly lost all meaning. A lot of people see it as an aesthetic, whether or not the band or label is actually independent or not. Indie is not a sound or a look. To me, it's a conscious choice to go your own way, do things how you want to do them, and seek the approval of a much smaller, but much more devoted, group of fans and music lovers, rather than the approval of the masses, the majors, or the corporate media.
K: I don't necessarily think “indie” holds the same connotation that it used to. Personally, it simply means doing things on my own terms. It's a concept in which I try to live my own life by.

11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
D: This is so far out for me to be thinking about. I guess I'd like to see February Records as an established record label with enough money to support a successful roster of bands.
K: I hardly know where I'm going to be a month from now, let alone ten years! I hope the label is still around in some capacity - maybe we'll be able to press vinyl eventually. Hopefully I'll still be in Europe, teaching somewhere. Maybe I'll even have learned how to play guitar by then. Better yet, perhaps I'll finally have caught up with the Lloyd Cole discography.

Zillion thanks Kristin and Danny!