Monday, March 16, 2020

I'd Love to Turn You On #252: Kings of Leon - Aha Shake Heartbreak (2004)


            In 2004 Kings of Leon (brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared Followill plus cousin Matthew Followill) weren’t the Kings of Leon we came to know in 2008 after MTV got their grubby corporate hands on them, made them cut their hair, take a shower and hit it big with “Sex on Fire” off their fourth studio album. In 2004 the sons of a Pentecostal preacher were dirty, long-haired dudes in their early twenties (one of them even a teenager) living in Nashville, and Aha Shake Heartbreak is their rebellion album. They wanted to make an album that just came to them, without a record label breathing down their necks. So they made Aha Shake Heartbreak, an all-out jangly garage rock album with mostly unintelligible and a little bit questionable lyrics. 
            Aha Shake Heartbreak is the only Kings of Leon album with a parental advisory label. You may not be able to understand most of what lead singer Caleb Followill is singing but believe me, it deserves that parental advisory. I had been listening to this album on repeat for years before I looked up the lyrics, I had always just sung along with what I thought he was saying. I was in for quite the surprise when looking up lyrics to some of my favorite tracks off the album. If y’all thought “Sex on Fire” was vulgar just take a look at “Soft” - never knew he was singing about perfect nipples, being “passed out in your garden” and umm…soft. Or “Rememo,” which I always saw as a swinging, twangy slow jam about nothing. Turns out it’s about the flirty girls they encountered on tour in Europe, some of which may have been young - but there was a 17 year old in the band. Or my personal favorite “Taper Jean Girl” - this song was my morning alarm for all of high school, one of the only things that would be loud enough to wake me up (the other being an air horn but that's a story for another time). It also has that word that rhymes with punt that shouldn’t be used in mixed company, which blew my mind when I found out they were saying it. If Caleb wasn’t singing, I think people would be way more in tune with just how dirty the songs on this album are, but he is and I can’t even begin to imagine what it would sound like if he wasn’t. He is all over the damn place and I love it. The rest of the band just seem to feed off of his rollercoaster singing, responding with their own out of control sound. There are many points in this album where it seems like everything is going to go off the rails, like in “Soft,” or “Razz” where you get this all-out freakout that makes you just want to just flail around, or “Taper Jean Girl,” which kicks off with a wall of sound lead by a big bass line. Even “King of the Rodeo” has such a good beat that it’s perfect for two stepping, as shown in the music video, or just flailing around, as shown in my car. All in all I love this album for the sound way more than the lyrics. I liked the chaotic noise, which I would say sounds best blasting out of a car stereo. It’s the kind of album you listen to on a road trip when you are trying to stay awake; I know this because I’ve done that with great success.
            I’ve never seen Kings of Leon live, and to be really honest, I don’t think I want to. Unless someone invents a time machine and I can go back to 2004 and see them at Exit/In in Nashville, cause I would do that in a heartbeat. It sucked seeing the Kings of Leon I knew, dirty long haired boys, get turned into a clean-shaven, cookie cutter, man-band. There was something charming about those quirky, dirty, long-haired boys that was gone not that long after Aha Shake Heartbreak came out. You can see hints of the weird on their third album - mostly in the first two tracks “Charmer” and “Knocked Up” - but they had cut their hair and started dating supermodels at that point. I’d like to think if 2004 Kings of Leon met 2020 Kings of Leon they would probably beat the crap out of them. I think it would be a fair beating.


- Anna Lathem

Monday, March 9, 2020

I’d Love To Turn You On At The Movies #237 - Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997, dir. David Mirkin)


            Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, if you weren’t in your teens or twenties in the late 90’s I bet you didn’t see it. It was Mean Girls before Mean Girls. It’s the story of two twenty-something overblown Valley Girls scheming up a plan to wow all the assholes who made fun of them in high school at their upcoming reunion - what’s not to love?
            I have a confession to make, I haven’t seen all of Friends. I know, shame on me I guess. I knew Lisa Kudrow as Michele before I knew her as Phoebe, even though Friends was a constant on television my entire childhood. I just saw this movie way more than I watched Friends. There just couldn’t be another Michele, just like no one else could be Romy but Mira Sorvino. They are the perfect combo of lovable idiots. And their friendship is so pure, you believe anything they say to each other. Romy and Michele have an eye for fashion - it might be the most outrageous eye for fashion but they have it. From the first time you meet them, lying in bed making fun of Pretty Woman decked out in neon colors like they are about to hit the club all the way to the baby pink and blue dresses they made for the reunion there are some seriously insane outfits. The catalyst for their epic life makeover is a chance encounter with former classmate, Heather Mooney (played by the one and only Janeane Garofalo). Now, Heather here is what one might call a stone cold bitch, and she has every right to be a chain-smoking, all-black-wearing, cursing bitch. She is the literal opposite of Romy and Michele. Like Romy and Michele she had a pretty shitty experience in high school thanks to the “A-Group” lead by Christie Masters (Julia Campbell) and her gaggle of dumb cheerleader friends. Heather also had a big time crush on big time nerd Sandy Frink (Alan Cummings), who had a big time crush on Michele. 
            Romy and Michele decide they can’t just show up to the reunion as their underachieving selves. They have to show up with new fancy jobs and hot boyfriends, but the best they can do is borrowing a fancy car and making their own outfits. So they hit the road, come up with the idea to tell everyone they invented Post-its, have a falling out, and then reach the reunion. Not surprisingly the Post-it scheme doesn’t work out, but the good news is they prove to Christie Masters and her bimbo jock husband Billy Christiansen that maybe their lives turned out for the better - even if they didn’t invent Post-its and get called out on it in front of everyone at the reunion. But then here comes Sandy Frink to save the day, showing up in a dang helicopter. Surprise! - turns out the nerd everyone restlessly made fun of in high school is super rich now and comes to the reunion to win Michele's heart with a dance - which Michele only agrees to if Romy can join them because it’s not Michele and Sandy’s high school reunion, it’s Romy and Michele’s high school reunion. Who knew Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" would turn out to be the perfect tune for three weirdos to do an even weirder interpretive dance to in front of everyone they went to high school with? Romy and Michele are truly ride-or-die best friends who end up with their own little clothing boutique in L.A. funded by Sandy. In the end they get the life that is perfect for them. 
            This may come as a surprise but Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is based on a play called Ladies Room by Robin Schiff. Schiff, a member of the Groundlings, also wrote the screenplay for and co-produced the movie. Lisa Kudrow played Michele on stage before she did in the movie, maybe that’s why she is so perfect for this part. She lived with Michele for longer than just the filming of the movie. Dim-witted dry humor saturates the film; it sneaks into every scene. Like when Romy asks Heather, who literally has a cigarette in her hand every time you see her, if anyone has ever told her that smoking can kill you, Heather stares right back at her and responds dripping with sarcasm and a little bit of sincerity “No. No one. Thank You.” Romy goes on thinking she had maybe made a difference in Heather's life, and Heather just goes about her life. It’s what makes the movie great, everything just rolls off Romy and Michele, they don’t take themselves or anything they do too seriously. 
- Anna Lathem 

Monday, March 2, 2020

I'd Love to Turn You On #251: Rupa - Disco Jazz (1982)

            Rupa’s Disco Jazz didn’t gain a ton of traction upon its initial release in 1982. Born as the brainchild of the now Grammy Award-winning musician Aashish Khan, the record sold very few copies in its native country and was quickly forgotten about as the weeks passed. Rupa Biswas, the record’s titular and charismatic vocalist completely put the memory of recording the album in the rearview as the years went on. It was only after her son rediscovered the album in his mother’s attic that the family would go on to find out Disco Jazz had become a grail item for record collectors across the world. While its grooves are oriented in something that could feel dated to the average listener, its instrumental and vocal idiosyncrasies make the album an enjoyable and impactful listening experience. It’s for this reason that Disco Jazz not only stands as a testament to the talent of Rupa and the collaborators that made this record possible but also to the strange relationship of the album format and time itself.
            Disco aside, there seem to be both spiritual and psychedelic influences at play across the album and musician Aashish Khan is likely to thank for this. Khan’s performance on the sarod as well as his credits as both the producer and arranger of the record suggest he had strong creative influence over Disco Jazz’s four tracks, each of which makes an impression on the listener. His expertise on the sarod, which makes an appearance on every track, is the glue that holds the charm and beauty of the album together. The opening cut “Moja Bhari Moja'' borrows the core of its elements from standard late seventies and early eighties disco, but one doesn’t have to listen too long to be sucked in by the stark contrast of its transcendent breakdown, which slowly and brilliantly melds the sarod and Geoff Bell’s tremolo-drenched synthesizer in beautiful harmony. “Aaj Shanibar,” perhaps the album’s most well-known track, also dabbles in the realm of psychedelia with its sleek bassline and near jam-band guitar solo. The highlight of the track is the falsetto vocal from Rupa as she sings along note for note with Aashish Khan’s rhythmic, instrumental triplet. Aashish’s brother Pranesh Khan makes an appearance on this track as well as the album’s closer, complementing the track's lush production with his table playing.
            The album has its fair share of floor killer elements as well. “East West Shuffle,” the album’s bounciest and funkiest cut, is carried by the booming drum sound of percussionist Robin Tufts, whose polyrhythmic tendencies keep the track's repetitive and hypnotic bassline moving through its duration. The rock-inspired chorus of “Moja Bhari Moja” somehow fits just as much on the dancefloor as it would on any Yes album before 1972. “Ayee Morshume Be-Reham Duniya,” the album's sprawling, 15-minute closing cut, wraps up the listening experience perfectly, bringing together the best elements of side one into one epic mega track. Rupa's vocal melody over the Western funk of the Khan brothers’ instrumentation makes for some of the album’s most captivating moments. The hypnotic and pulsing refrain sucks you in and when you’re finally lost in the world the album has created for its listener, you feel as though the track could have gone on for another 15 minutes.
Disco Jazz could have been more appropriately titled Disco Psych, but the album gloriously lives up to the potential its moniker suggests. Rupa Biswas never made another album and never fully got to realize her musical prowess as the years went on, but the recent resurgence of her singular effort has revitalized her career and made her of a cult figure in some circles. If the story of Rupa proves anything, it’s that it’s never too late to make an impact and that genius is sometimes never recognized until decades later.


- Blake Britton

Monday, February 24, 2020

I’d Love To Turn You On At The Movies #236 - In the Heat of the Night (1967, dir. Norman Jewison)

            I grew up watching the In the Heat of the Night television series all through the ‘80s with my parents. As police procedurals go, there wasn’t anything that particularly stood out about it (I’ve seen every episode multiple times and I couldn’t tell you the plot to any of them) other than it starred the genius Carroll O’Connor who we already knew and loved from playing Archie Bunker for all those years, so we just, as a family, liked it a lot. It would be years before I learned not only that there was a film version produced two decades earlier, but that said film version was, oh I dunno, a hundred million trillion times better than the show.
            For one thing the film, directed by Norman Jewison, is not just an effective whodunit, but it also acts as a lesson in civility. It was released in 1967, a time when the Civil Rights Movement was largely just starting to take shape with regards to actual effective legislation. Some sections of the United States, many in the South, were still rife with racial tension and uneasiness from all citizens. For Jewison, a Canadian, to come along and, in a way, hold a mirror up to those areas by portraying the small Mississippi town of Sparta as a cold, intolerant place was kind of a badass move. Sidney Poitier plays the well-read Philadelphia homicide detective Virgil Tibbs who, while visiting his mother in Sparta, is picked up by a small-time deputy (Warren Oates) as a suspect in the murder of a prominent industrialist. He isn’t doing anything suspicious mind you - other than being black - but again, this is the ‘60s in the deep South so that’s enough. He is taken back to the police headquarters where he meets the other officers and the surly chief of police, Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger) who is only too eager to assume Tibbs’ guilt as well. Once Tibbs’s alibi is cleared up by his own superior officer, he is asked to assist the Sparta department in their murder investigation; a request he reluctantly agrees to. This is essentially the plot to the pilot episode of the series as well, as they are both based on a novel by John Ball. But that’s really where the similarities end. After the pilot, the series just becomes another yawner prime-time buddy cop drama. The film, a much darker affair, really showcases those racial tensions between the two lead characters, and thus, again, given the time period during which it was released, showcasing the racial tensions in the country at the time. While there is a mutual respect that builds between the two men over the course of the film, they are still not going to be friends. We, the viewers, don’t get the impression at the end that these two are going to even keep in touch, much less continue working together.
            I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the acting in In the Heat of the Night, which is also top notch. It presents a cast made up of both seasoned veterans and relative newcomers alike. Poitier breathes an ambitious and determined fire into his portrayal of Ball’s Tibbs character, prompting two lesser known but still kind of charming sequels. In some ways, we can see why Gillespie doesn’t like Tibbs. He is arrogant and stubborn, something Gillespie calls him out on almost immediately. Tibbs is supposedly a genius homicide detective, yet he is at first unwilling to help on a case he knows that he can solve. Gillespie only responds with racist remarks because it’s the only defense he knows. And can we just talk about Rod Steiger for a second? Holy shit, that guy, right? It takes a lot for me to prefer an actor over my beloved Carroll O’Connor, but Steiger’s Chief Gillespie is truly one of the greatest characters in film history, something his Best Actor Oscar that he received for it supports. He’s got such a seemingly despicable disposition at the beginning of the film, yet we still kind of root for him because we can tell that, deep down, he is a good law man, a fact that Tibbs also begrudgingly recognizes. By the end of the film, we witness a very real change in him as he becomes more empathetic and more tolerant.
Given that the country continues to struggle with issues of bigotry and racism, especially involving law enforcement, In the Heat of the Night remains an important film with an important message that still resonates in America today. Though some of the ways in which it delivers this message can be a bit dated and gratuitous, it’s still a message that bears repeating.
          
  - Jonathan Eagle

Monday, February 17, 2020

I'd Love to Turn You On #250: Godspeed You! Black Emperor - F#A#∞ (1997)


Godspeed You! Black Emperor (or GY!BE) are well known for their long, instrumental post-rock compositions. GY!BE has been described as cinematic in their approach to music; their songs and albums seem to tell stories and there are times when their music wouldn’t feel out of place as the soundtrack to some unconventional work of genius. Their extensive discography is also notable for the artistic statements it makes on events, politics, and ideas, which is rather impressive when you consider the fact that there are no lyrics to almost anything they’ve written (although they do include audio samples of people talking as part of songs on most of their albums). Listeners should note that the CD and vinyl versions of this album are not quite the same; the order of the music is different. In this review, I will be talking about the CD version.
What makes GY!BE stand out is that they’re able to blend innovative experimental sounds with musical storytelling and deep, powerful emotion. Emotion dominates this album; it draws you back again and again. It’s expressed in a way that can only be accomplished with music. The fact that there are no lyrics allows for an exploration of feeling that words simply can’t articulate in the same way. This is an album that will manipulate your emotions.
This album, on first listen, was very clearly made by GY!BE, but it immediately stands out from their other work because it begins with a very distinctive spoken-word segment that gradually blends into the music. "Dead Flag Blues," the first song on the hour-long, three-song album, tells a bleak story about the end of the world. It’s sad, but it’s the kind of sad that’s oddly comforting, and the story it tells feels as relevant as ever two decades after its release. Whether or not you agree with the band’s anarchist and anti-capitalist stance, you can’t deny there’s something that cuts very deep in a world like this one about the imagery of leering billboards and flags “dead at the top of their poles.” It’s eerie, it’s sad, and it’s beautiful in a pleasantly disconcerting way. It sticks with you. The melancholy music puts you at ease; it’s dreamlike and comforting, and you don’t really want it to end.
Part two of "Dead Flag Blues" begins with the sound of a train and the distinctive feeling of falling. It maintains the dreamlike feeling from the first part as it transitions into something reverb-heavy and Western-sounding, like a cowboy’s eulogy for the city that burned in part one. As long as this song is, it’s not something you’ll get bored listening to; there are clear transitions that bring each part together in a way that feels natural, like changing scenes in a movie. There’s a moment of falling in the immediate aftermath of the disaster at the beginning, then a period of mourning, and then at the end a happy and upbeat segment that gives the listener a feeling of hope; the story the song seems to tell is that the world ends, we mourn it, and then at the end we begin to recover and build something better from the ashes.
"East Hastings," the second song on the album, begins with the sound of bagpipes playing a variation of the riff from part one of "Dead Flag Blues" over the sound of a street preacher. This fades into a segment of quiet and mournful guitar played over a tense, uneasy background. The tension builds gradually along with the volume. You can feel something bigger coming, but you’re not sure what; all you know is that it’s getting closer. It’s incredible how much variety in sound can be accomplished with the relatively simply riffs and the addition of a violin and a cello; the dynamics shift constantly. Part two of "East Hastings" tells an entire story in itself. The song’s mood then shifts to something strange, like a dream dissolving in several directions at once.
As you realize you have no idea what’s going to happen next, "East Hastings" ends and "Providence," the longest song on the album, begins. There’s an audio sample that echoes the themes of the two previous songs: it’s two people discussing the end of the world and what the preacher has to say about it. Then a haziness seems to settle over the music, and it feels like a dream again for a while before something new starts. You’re left thinking about what’s been said so far by this hypnotic album.
Then a new segment begins that feels like movement and liminality; the light rhythm in the background is constant, but it doesn’t want you to stay in one place. Things are happening; the world is changing in this part of the story. Sound and tension build once more (something GY!BE are very good at) and guitar is joined by drums, horns, and glockenspiel. It ends abruptly. A ghostly, echoing voice enters unaccompanied with what fans will recognize as a melody teased in GY!BE’s 2000 album, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. It sounds like an old folk or gospel song; one you’re hearing in your sleep.
But then the melody ends as abruptly as it began and a militant, drum-driven segment begins. Somehow, the juxtaposition between the peaceful, ghostly folk-gospel melody and the aggression of the drumming seems to make perfect sense. But just as the drumming seems to reach a sort of climax, a haunting voice begins to ask, “Where are you going?” and a mournful droning begins that feels like the aftermath of a war. Once again, you begin to think about the story the album is telling. How did the world end? It’s never explicitly stated. But the distant sounds in the background are reminiscent of bombs and battle.
The sound fades. All is quiet for a few minutes. You have a chance to process. The album is almost over. It’s been like watching a movie, the way the scenes shifted and the tension built at various points. Just when you think it’s over, an ethereal echo begins – a hidden track, or a post-credits scene. You can hear a guitar, but it sounds distant, like something heard through a cloud. Then the drums come back. Everything is echoing but there’s a melody now. Once again, the tension builds. It all comes together at the end.
It’s strange to think of an album like this coming out in the mid-1990s. It feels so relevant to the present. As long and strange as F#A# is, it’s not difficult to listen to. On the contrary, it’s deeply emotional and engaging and the long tracks are split into shorter segments that only go on for as long as they need to. With very little dialogue, this album tells a story. The details of the story aren’t important; what’s important is that the world as we know it ends, and it’s our fault, but it’s not necessarily the end of everything; there are moments of hope.


            - Madden Ott

Monday, February 3, 2020

I'd Love to Turn You On #249: Yes - The Yes Album (1971)


The Yes Album is a very hard one for me to start reviewing because there are so many things I can talk about with it. This album has not only been something I’ve been listening to since I first started playing guitar and bass; it’s not just an album that has started conversations with people who would become some of my best friends; it’s not just a weird album cover that you can stare at forever and still not understand it. This album is all that and more than I ever thought it could be. I don’t remember the first time I listened to this - it got lost in the brains of 14 year-old me - but I haven’t forgotten a note of it, and I still try to sing along to it even though I know I will never get close to Jon Anderson’s voice.
Starting an album with “Yours Is No Disgrace” seems so obvious - the opening hits trick you into thinking you know what’s coming on this album. Rarely do you hear all the instruments so crazily defined in the mix, with them all acting as one giant, speeding bus that they call a chord progression; but once you’re in for the ride they don’t let go because this song is just shy of ten minutes long and barely feels like it. It moves so freely that you don’t even feel exhausted by the end of it. The next song feels like it’s the complete opposite of what you’d hear on a classic prog rock album - solo acoustic guitar, courtesy of Steve Howe, with “The Clap.” It’s a piece that is just about three minutes of straight fire coming out of Steve’s fingers, a blend of classical, jazz, and traditional blues guitar styles all put in the stew of a kinda rock song - an odd choice for the second song on an album but it’s a very nice comedown from the extravagance that is “Yours Is No Disgrace.” “Starship Trooper” is really where this album takes off - that little bass part that kicks in when this song hits means as much to me as any two seconds of music ever has. Everything they were doing on the first track is executed perfectly here - the various melodies of the vocals, guitar, and bass all get stuck in your head as separate parts but you can’t have one without the others. It helps that the lyrics are inspired by the 1959 book of the same name, which was also the basis for the amazing movie of the same name (I’m still mad they never used the song in the movie). For as tight a band as Yes is, this song sometimes feels like it’s about to fall apart, but right when that moment comes they tighten up and become a much more cohesive unit, one that went on to take on the world.
Flipping the record over and dropping the needle on “I’ve Seen All Good People” is always going to be a therapeutic moment for me. It’s very clearly the first time I heard a musical Easter egg - the background choir singing “All we are saying, is give peace a chance” - that I haven’t been able to unhear since. My dad brought me up on The Beatles and Lennon, so I already knew that phrase and melodic line, but even just the simple line “Send an instant karma to me” was something I didn’t know you could do in music; it was so revelatory, and subconsciously made me interested in knowing what the bands I liked listened to. References like that make the music so much more personal, especially when some of the extreme metal bands I listen to now will have long extended solos and for a moment - blink and you’ll miss it - you’ll hear these bands do Yes riffs, ripped straight from this album, in their crazy distorted madness. It’s a moment that makes you feel connected to the band on a personal level and oddly makes some of these people more approachable, both in skill and personality. 
Outside of the music, this album has been a beacon in my life; it’s an album that my dad always said was one of his favorites ever, by one of his favorite bands ever. He took me to see what remained of Yes in 2012, far from the prime of this band, and most diehard fans wouldn’t want to see this version, but it was still so magical. This is the album that I had the cover of hanging next to my bed throughout middle school and high school - not a poster, the actual sleeve of the album with record still in it. It’s an album that I've been lucky enough to not only be able to share with the people I love, but use as jumping off points for things that some of my best friends and I first talked about, still talk about, and will always talk about.
- Max Kaufman

Monday, January 27, 2020

I’d Love To Turn You On At The Movies #235 - Poetry (2010, dir. Chang-Dong Lee)


           I've been patiently waiting since 2010 to review this film since our I'd Love to Turn You on at the Movies review program focuses on works over ten years old. Korean director Chang-Dong Lee’s most recent film, 2018’s Burning, garnered a lot of acclaim here in the States, but his two previous efforts, 2007’s Secret Sunshine and (especially) 2010’s Poetry are both better films. For me, Burning is solid enough, but Lee’s layered and complex way with the central relationships in his films is overwhelmed by author Haruki Murakami’s eccentric plotting and characterizations, and Lee has his own eccentricities that are fascinating enough.
            Lee, a South Korean novelist and one-time public official who moved into feature filmmaking, has made only six films in the last 23 years, most of them centering on characters who have difficulty adapting to new surroundings or complicated circumstances, and Poetry may well be the finest of them all. The film opens with a scene of boys playing by a river. One of them sees something floating in the river, and we soon see that it’s a schoolgirl’s body. We will later learn that she’s killed herself because she had been raped. We then cut to Mija Yang (a superb performance by Jeong-hie Yun, who came out of a 15 year retirement from acting to be in this film), a woman in her mid-60s who is waiting in a doctor’s office waiting room because she wants the doctor to examine the source of a tingle in her arm - but on examining her, the doctor is more concerned that she’s forgetting common words and recommends that she get examined at a larger hospital in Seoul, suspecting (correctly) that she may be experiencing the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s. We then see Mija in her day to day routines - caring for an older stroke victim in his home part time for some money, then going home to raise her snotty and indifferent grandson Wook who bothers her for a new phone (she tells him to ask his mother who works in another city; him: “That’s not fair!”), and runs off from playing badminton with her the second he gets a text from his friends.
            The next day she joins a poetry class and is assigned to write a poem, her teacher explaining “Writing poetry is all about finding beauty. It is about discovering beauty in everything we see in front of us in our everyday life.” And so we then find her trying to “see” the everyday and put it into words, to “see” an apple in her kitchen, or out on the front porch still trying to “see” the leaves of a nearby tree when she gets a call from a parent of one of her son’s friends asking her to meet him as soon as possible. After her next poetry class, she meets with the fathers of her son’s friends, finding out that their sons (and her grandson) had been involved in the rape of the young woman who committed suicide, and that the other parents intend to offer the girl’s mother compensatory money which she is now expected to raise.
            And so the film goes forth slowly, moving forward by the accumulation of small details, as Miji winds her way through her world, now turned upside down by the events surrounding her grandson and her own health diagnosis, trying to find the beautiful in an everyday that seems rotten at every level. And this is where the film is special - rather than engage in histrionics over a plot that could easily have become the fodder for melodrama, Lee’s screenplay (which deservedly won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes) keeps its focus on Mija’s internal struggle, portrayed magnificently by Yun, who certainly made the right decision in accepting this role. In fact, Lee wrote the role with Yun in mind, catering the particulars of the character to Yun, who had been a major star of Korean cinema in the late 60s and early 70s, but had dropped to only occasional roles through the 80s and 90s before her retirement in 1994. In an interview, she said of this role: “And after I did the film Manmoobang [in 1994], I got a lot of offers from all kinds of industry people for fifteen years. But I had saved myself and waited for something good to come along, and I got a wonderful film like this one.” With the film’s poignant focus on Mija, rather than on its more lurid elements, we, too, drift through the goings-on, trying to seek the beauty of poetry in a world that seems bereft of such beauty.
            Though it sounds like a difficult subject for a film, and in some respects it is, Yun's sensitive performance (which also won her over a dozen international awards and nominations) is pitch-perfect keep the film grounded and keeps our minds in place with her as she searches amongst the pain and sadness for beauty. The same description could be applied to Lee's films, which are often gut-wrenching in their subject matter, but deeply humanistic in their approach to their characters. As a touching coda, it was publicly announced last year that Yun herself has been suffering from Alzheimer’s since 2009. Her husband, renowned classical pianist Paik Kun-woo, said Yun had to read many of her lines from a paper and that the illness made it impossible for her to do another film.
            - Patrick Brown

Monday, January 20, 2020

I'd Love to Turn You On #248: Bill Evans - Waltz For Debby (1962)

Waltz For Debby is an amazing live document of one of the best jazz trios in peak form. The trio, consisting of Bill Evans on piano, Scott LaFaro on bass, and Paul Motian on drums, was in the process of redefining and expanding the language and roles of the piano trio. Traditionally the drums and the bass would serve as a foundation for the piano to rest upon, but the trio had evolved to a band that functioned more as a musical equals than a band that allowed one player to monopolize the musical landscape. In a traditional piano trio the piano is featured very prominently with the drums and bass playing a supporting role. The drums may provide texture and comping, while the bass provides a steady pulse and harmony. This group would redefine the jazz trio for the genre, providing a new model of excellence and grace.
"My Foolish Heart" opens the record with Evans’ trademark gentle touch. LaFaro plays clear and uncluttered harmony while Motian fills the space on the cymbals and prods with gentle brush work. Part of the magic in this recording is the stereo mix, with the piano in the right channel and the bass and drums mostly cut to the left. When I listen in headphones it gives the music life. There is a tiny portion of ambient club sound but just enough to add sonic depth. The sound is immaculate and any time LaFaro adds multiple notes to flesh out harmony the recording captures it precisely. The clarity of interpretation that comes across in this take speaks to the high level of mastery by the musicians. It also communicates the intent of the ballad, which is intimacy, longing, and a warning to a foolish heart that has been fooled before.
"Waltz For Debby," the song, is a great illustration of the kind of innovation that the trio was enacting. In the left speaker you can hear Scott LaFaro playing in the high register to complement Evans' piano playing. It is not until the after the one minute mark that he moves down to play a more traditional bass role. He is using notes that are harmony and color tones, tones that are not the standard designated function of bass players. Because of the range he is playing them in they are functioning as melodic tones rather than bass fundamentals, giving a new advanced melodic freedom and expressiveness to the bass that the instrument had been lacking before. On Evans' part he is as ever is treating us to the smooth voice leading that is one of the hallmarks of his style. This is to say that within the harmony between two chords he either kept common tones or found the shortest distances between notes so that the transition was not jarring, and that the overall effect sounded smooth and effortless. This is especially evident in a song like "Waltz For Debby" where the overall harmony is quite complex but the effort that it takes to play it seems minimal and graceful. One of the features of the song is a series of cascading chords which descends down and then circles quickly back up to repeat the cycle. Paul Motian drops in around 1:20 and the group starts to play more like a traditional trio. LaFaro is still hitting all kinds of upper color notes fleshing out the harmony during Evans' piano solo. Motian is laying down solid brushwork, and doing occasional cymbal splashes. He switches to a light cymbal ride pattern under LaFaro’s acrobatic solo. Evans returns to play the melody before the brief coda of the tune. "Detour Ahead" is a ballad-ish tune. Evans and LaFaro demonstrate how familiar they are with the song by playing spaciously around each other. LaFaro will cover the bass harmony and dart into the high register to add some melodic interjection over Evans’ chordal approach. Motian backs them up with stellar brush work. Evans takes the first solo, although LaFaro is so active it might be considered a duet. LaFaro takes the next solo, and then they return to the melody. I think what you can glean from an interpretation of a song as rhythmically interactive as this is how much synergy the trio was working with. Something with as many layers as this has to be developed by working on group interplay and communication, and this group was an amazing example of that kind of work.
"My Romance" features a lovely Bill Evans solo introduction. It is a simple run through the melody but it once again gives us insight into his voice leading approach. Evans has an economical approach that results in a gentle sound, one that utilizes common tones and close neighboring tones to minimize unnecessary movement. Once Motian and LaFaro enter, the song becomes a more swinging number rather than another ballad. The group interplay displayed during Evans’ solo is hard to match, and furthermore the bass solo might be the most virtuosic on the record, with LaFaro dazzling and flashing unbelievable technique. Listening to the way this trio treats time - stretching it, leaving empty spaces for other members to occupy - it is evident just how much of the ground work they have laid for modern groups' rhythmic concepts. Listeners can see the influence of this trio all around the jazz genre, but you really see the influence in groups like the Keith Jarrett Standards Trio with Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock, or Brad Mehldau’s trio.
"Some Other Time" is a beautiful ballad with a minimal approach that lets the melodic content do the work. Evans’ classic voicings really shine in this song. The harmony in the first part of the tune allows LaFaro to back up Evans with harmonics, an effect that produces a higher pitched portion of a note by partially applying pressure on a specific part of the string. Jaco Pastorius would later become famous for using harmonics extensively on the electric fretless bass. Scott LaFaro can be heard using harmonics to accompany Evans all throughout the song, providing a shimmering, high-pitched accompaniment on the double bass.
"Milestones" is a fast uptempo tune and a real showcase for Evans and LaFaro. Although I haven’t mentioned his name tons in this review let me take a moment to celebrate Paul Motian. As a player, he is what the music calls for, which is the kind of egoless playing that makes these records so great. It prevents it from being excessively technical. Scott LaFaro was a technical master and this was balanced by Motian whose technique was present but understated. Motian prods uptempo swing numbers like this with crisp, light, cymbal work that keeps the song buoyant. It is light and delicate so you can still hear the details of LaFaro's playing which is also light. It is the opposite of a heavy thunderous drummer like Elvin Jones.
So many things about this group are amazing. Tragically, Scott LaFaro died in a car accident in 1961 bringing this group’s growth to an abrupt halt, and stopping Bill Evans from even playing for a period of time. I always wonder what the group concept would have evolved into if Scott LaFaro had not passed away. Bill Evans went on to work with a number of great bass players that played amazing music, not confined to the rigid structures of bebop or traditional jazz. I just happen to think that this particular group was the pinnacle. I hope you enjoy Waltz For Debby!
            

- Doug Anderson

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Best of 2019 Lists from Friends of Twist & Shout! (Round 5)

Bevin Luna



My obsession with music only grows as the years pass.  Keep it up everyone, there's some killer music being released and I'm so humbled to be present on this earth at this time and place.  I'm releasing a playlist with tracks from all of my "best of" lists through my Instagram account @bevinlunamusic so please give my profile a follow and check it out!  Also, my website is www.bevinluna.com - HAPPY 2020!! I can't wait to hear how music morphs, changes, and paints our backdrop over this next decade!  Thanks to all of the musicians out there for sharing their gifts with the world.  Love you, Bevin

Top 10 Albums 2019
10) iLe - Almadura  
9) Black Belt Eagle Scout - At the Party With My Brown Friends 
8) Thelma & The Sleaze - Fuck, Marry, Kill
7) Helado Negro - This Is How You Smile
6) (Sandy) Alex G - House of Sugar 
5) Charley Crockett - The Valley 
4) Burna Boy - African Giant
3) King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Infest The Rats' Nest
2) NLE Choppa - Cottonwood
1) Jamila Woods - LEGACY! LEGACY! 

Top 10 Albums/EPs 2019 Colorado Music
10) TIE - Bellhoss - Geraniums / Wolf Van Elfmand - Music for Minors (3 to 300)
9) The Sickly Hecks - Go To Heck
8) Yasi - Unavailable
7) Dressy Bessy - Faster Faster Disaster
6) The Beeves - Adam & Beeve
5) Cheap Perfume - Burn it Down 
4) Whippoorwill - The Nature of Storms
3) Serpentfoot - Swaying Spine
2) The Reminders - Unstoppable
1) Kiltro - Creatures of Habit

Top 20 Albums of the Decade 2010-2019
20) Beyonce - Lemonade (2016)
19) Bonobo - Black Sands (2010) 
18) Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy (2018)
17) Kamasi Washington - The Epic (2015)
16) Broncho - Just Enough Hip to Be Woman (2014)
15) Tinariwen - Elwan (2017)
14) Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit (2015)
13) Sturgill Simpson - Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (2014) 
12) Kendrick Lamar - DAMN. (2017)
11) Big Thief - Masterpiece (2016)
10) Wye Oak - Civilian (2011)
9) Pelican - Arktika (2014) 
8) Mensch - Mensch (2012)
7) Y La Bamba - Ojos Del Sol (2016)
6) Bass Drum of Death - Bass Drum of Death (2013) 
5) Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color (2015)
4) Sylvan Esso - Sylvan Esso (2014) 
3) Anderson Paak - Oxnard (2017)
2) Lizzo - Cuz I Love You (2019)   
1) IDLES - Joy As An Act Of Resistance (2018)

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Edward Hill (our zine designer!)




Black Cilice - Transfixion Of Spirits
Danny Brown - uknowhatimsayin?
Byyrth - Cold Autumn Shadows
Cavalier - Lemonade REDUX
Cerebral Rot - Odious Descent Into Decay
Chromatics - Closer to Grey
Darkthrone - Old Star
DIIV - Deceiver
Ifernach - Skin Stone Blood Bone
Imperial Cult - Spasm of Light
Lampir - Demo III
Lamp of Murmuur - Melancholy Howls In Ceremonial Penitence
Leviathan - Verräter (Re-Issue)
Lizzo - Cuz I Love You
Mizmor - Cairn
Mortiferum - Disgorged From Psychotic Depths
Mylingar - Döda Själar
Pa Vesh En - Pyrefication
Sanguine Relic - The Essence of Eternity's Despair (2018 but LP dropped 2019)
Sleater-Kinney - The Center Won’t Hold
Sulphuric Night - Forever Cursed
Sunn O))) - Life Metal
Suspiral - Chasm
Tamaryn - Dreaming The Dark
Chelsea Wolfe - Birth of Violence

Albums that piqued my interest but I haven’t spent enough time with:
Aoratos - Gods Without Name, Belle & Sebastian - Days of the Bagnold Summer, Blood Incantation - Hidden History of the Human Race, Blood Orange - Angel’s Pulse, Cloud Rat - Pollinator, Cthonica - Typhomanteia: Sacred Triarchy of Spiritual Putrefaction, Lingua Ignota - Caligula, NIghtf@%ker - S/T, Pharmakon - Devour, Primitive Man/Hell - Split, S.E.K.H. - Acéphale & Arkhé Tenebre, Skáphe + Wormlust - Kosmískur hryllingur, Andy Stott - It Should Be Us

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Len Vlahos


Owner of Tattered Cover - https://www.tatteredcover.com/

2019, a Year in Records, by Len Vlahos, co-owner of the Tattered Cover Bookstores, and author of young adult novels The Scar Boys, Scar Girl, Life in a Fishbowl, and the forthcoming, Hard Wired. Learn more about Len at www.tatteredcover.com, and www.lenvlahos.com.

Before I was a writer and a bookseller, I was a musician. I wrote my first song on a two-octave Magnus organ when I was six. It was called "Dyn-o-mite," inspired by the TV show Good Times. The fan on the organ was louder than the music produced by pressing any of the keys, which was good, because the song was awful, even for a six year old.

From there I graduated to trumpet in fifth grade, a passion squelched by braces in the following year, and guitar when I turned 13. The moment I first held a guitar, my life changed forever. I spent the next 20 years playing in bands, most notably Woofing Cookies, who had a full-length LP and two 45s. Our brush with greatness came when Peter Buck (of R.E.M.), produced one of those singles, "In the City." It was released on the now defunct garage label, Midnight Records, sometime in the mid-1980s. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIF-AHsBjEo

There are two points to all of this:

1) I'm clearly a book guy, but music was/is my first love.
2) I'm old.

In fact, I'm at an age where I'm not discovering a ton of new music. So when Natasha at Twist & Shout asked me for my 2019 playlist, I warned her it would be entirely old. For reasons unknown to me, she was okay with that.

It goes without saying that the records on this list not already in my possession, with one exception, were happily purchased from my friends at Twist. With that in mind, and in alphabetical order by album title, here are the records that formed the heart of my personal 2019 soundtrack:

Bookshop Band, Accidents and Pretty Girls -- These former U.K. bookshop employees did a tour of American indie bookstores last winter, and Tattered Cover was one of their stops. We drew a crowd of 100+, including me and my two sons, and WE LOVED IT!. I'm not sure if their music (all inspired by books) is available anywhere other than their website (the aforementioned exception), but it's definitely been a part of the soundtrack of my year. My favorite track, "Shop with Books In" Watch the video, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CoONIC1UJc

Green Day, American Idiot -- A timeless record that is more relevant now than when it came out. My 9 year old is really getting into music, and Green Day is one of his favorite bands, so I've been rediscovering their whole catalog this year. (Though I'm still bothered that they made American Idiot into a Broadway musical. Oh well.)  My favorite is the title track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Yi-LvnM_5M

Sheryl Crow, Feels Like Home -- So I love Sheryl Crow. Her voice makes me melt. Maybe that makes me uncool -- maybe this whole ****ing list makes me uncool -- but I don't really care.  I'm also a pretty big fan of classic country. So when Sheryl released a full-on country record, I was in from the word go. I don't think it was ever released as a vinyl, but I wish it had been. I listen to this in the car all the time. Favorite track, "We Ought to be Drinking." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFV_yTpHhOs

Kate Nash, Girl Talk -- I love everything about this record. It's dark, it's light, it's sensual, it's screechy, and all in just the right amounts. My favorite track is a perfect punk-pop song called "Fri-End?" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eqm7lPEv5E

Bruce Springsteen, Greetings from Asbury Park -- We hosted Bruce at Tattered Cover a couple of years ago, and I stocked up on his records in advance. In my humble opinion, his first four records are by far his best -- Greetings from Asbury Park; The Wild, the Innocent, and the E-Street Shuffle; Born to Run; Darkness on the Edge of Town. I never went in for Born in the USA (though I saw him on that tour, and wow, just wow) or The River. Those earliest records have the most interesting songwriting and vocals. My favorite track is "Growing Up," and this video, with just Bruce and his guitar from Max's Kansas City in NY, is one of my all-time favorite videos.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dy7RTicVr0
Bonus video, we recorded this version of "Growing Up" to get Bruce's publisher to send him to TC on book tour. It worked. Please forgive the audio quality and my inability to sing.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_Fd3ucszz8&t=5s

Sufjan Stevens, Illinoise -- Very little of this record stands alone, but taken as a whole, it's a masterpiece. This is what albums should be, a work meant to be experienced in its entirety. I found myself listening to this while writing this past year. Even though I just said few tracks stand out, Jacksonville does. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8NIh2wid80

Noah and the Whale, Last Night on Earth -- I used to travel to the UK once a year for the London Book Fair. While there, I would visit various British record stores and ask for something new and cool that I wouldn't have necessarily found in the US. One of those years, the clerk put records by The Vaccines, Bombay Bicylcle Club, and Noah and the Whale in my hands. It wasn't until this year that I really listened to the last of those, and lo and behold, I loved it. I played it a lot in the car in 2019. Favorite track, "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCHzicKq3W4

Bob Marley, Legend -- Really, nothing needs to be said about this other than how much I love the multi-colored (in the colors of the Jamaican flag) double album vinyl I purchased from Twist. It is an absolutely timeless record that is also a favorite while writing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oi4I-Jh09WY

Johnny Cash and Friends, Water from the Wells of Home --  While I rarely listen to this record in its entirely, it does have my all time favorite song, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Jr.'s "That Old Wheel." I couldn't find a video of the song being performed, but there is this recording of Johnny's last live performance. I had tears in my eyes as I watched. This song winds up on many of my playlists, year after year after year, including in 2019.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqESx05OuCA

The Beatles, The White Album -- The Beatles were my first musical love. The White Album is a wildly inconsistent record that has many of the Beatles' best and worst songs, and many of their most interesting tracks as well. This includes two of my all-time favorites: "I'm So Tired," and "Dear Prudence." (Thank you John!). I rediscovered this record this year thanks to the film Yesterday. There is no video of the Beatles performing either song, but this Siouxsie and the Banshees cover of "Dear Prudence" is pretty cool: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6rrTROoZIw

Honorable Mention:
In the Valley Below
Jason Isbell
Wilco

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Tommy Robinson



Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains
Helado Negro - This Is How You Smile
King Gizzard and the Lizzard Wizard - Infest The Rats' Nest
Teebs - Anica
Pile - Green and Grey
Deerhunter - Why Hasn't Everything Disappeared
The Oh Sees - Facestabber
Steve Gunn - The Unseen In Between
Ty Segall - First Taste
Madlib and Freddie Gibbs - Bandana
Big Thief - UFOF and Two Hands
Wilco - Ode To Joy
Divino Nino - Foam
Viagra Boys - Street Worms
Crumb - Jinx
Charlie Megira - Tomorrows Gone
Paces Lift and Ben Bounce - Quick Trigger
Alex G - House Of Sugar
Bremmer / McCoy - Utopia
Panda Bear - Buoys
Fontaines DC - Dogrel
The Shivas - Dark Thoughts
Daniel Norgren - Woo Dang
Black Midi - Schlagenheim
AA Bondy - Enderness
Angel Olsen - All Mirrors
Nigeria 70 - No Wahala
DIIV - Deceiver
Slowthai - Nothing Great About Britain
Bill Callahan - Shepard In A Sheepskin Vest

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The Marquee Magazine


Top 20 Colorado bands! http://marqueemag.com/ 

1. AwareNess Sushi Wave
2. calm. Things I learned while dying in Denver
3. Daniel Rodriguez Your Heart The Stars The Milky Way
4. DBUK Songs Nine Through Sixteen
5. Gun Street Ghost Battles
6. Head For The Hills Say Your Mind
7. Heavy Diamond Ring - Heavy Diamond Ring
8. Kissing Party Mom & Dad
9. Kyle Emerson Only Coming Down
10.   Lief Sjostrom impossible parade
11.   Lightning Cult EP2: Ether Waves
12.   Reed Foehl Lucky Enough
13.   Rowboat Birchwood Halls
14.   Rumble Young Man Rumble Transmission
15.   Slow Caves Falling
16.   Sunsquabi Instinct
17.   The Beeves Adam & Beeve
18.   The Drunken Hearts Wheels of the City
19.   The Motet Death or Devotion
20.   The Yawpers Human Question

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Best of 2019 Lists from Friends of Twist & Shout! (Round 4)

Scott Brand


Director, Commercial Development, Caroline

Top 9 of 2019! (In no particular order!)
Obsequiae – The Palms of Sorrowed Kings
Besvarjelsen – Vallmo
Immortal Bird – Thrive On Neglect
Mndgsn - Snaxx
Horndal - Remains
My Diligence – Sun Rose (Mottow Soundz)
Frankie and the Witch Fingers – ZAM
Battles – Juice B Crypts
Mass Worship – Mass Worship

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Esmé Patterson


Denver-based musician. You can find out more about her here - https://esmepattersonmusic.com/

Bill Callahan - Shepherd In a Sheepskin
SUNN O))) - Life Metal
Solange - When I Get Home
Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains
Blackwater Holylight - Veils of Winter

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Michael Bunnell


ThinkIndie Executive Director; owner Record Exchange, Boise ID

Bob Dylan - Travelin’ Thru, 1967-1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 15
John Coltrane - Blue World
Hayes Carll - What It Is
Kronos Quartet - Terry Riley: Sun Rings
Steve Earle and The Dukes - Guy
Buddy and Julie Miller - Breakdown On 20th Ave. South
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen
Hildur Gudnadottir - Chernobyl Soundtrack
Eilen Jewell - Gypsy
Josh Ritter - Fever Breaks
Wilco - Ode To Joy

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Corsicana


Hiii, Ben here from the band Corsicana. I tried to list records in order of their personal significance, hope y'all enjoy! You can check out my band's stuff at www.corsicanamusic.com. (:

My top 10 list for the year would have to go something like this:
1 - i,i by Bon Iver
2 - U.F.O.F. by Big Thief
3 - MAGDALENE by FKA Twigs
4 - ANIMA by Thom Yorke
5 - Atlanta Millionaires Club by Faye Webster
6 - Dimly Lit by From Indian Lakes
7 - Anak Ko by Jay Som
8 - LP3 by American Football
9 - Better Oblivion Community Center by Better Oblivion Community Center
10 - Ventura by Anderson. Paak

My best of the decade list:
1 - 22, A Million by Bon Iver
2 - Familiars by The Antlers
3 - Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
4 - good kid, m.A.A.d. city by Kendrick Lamar
5 - Stranger In The Alps by Phoebe Bridgers
6 - LP1 by FKA Twigs
7 - The King Of Limbs by Radiohead
8 - Moving Away by Gleemer
9 - Pure Heroine by Lorde
10 - Ology by Gallant