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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Leftovers: March 2011

Leftover Albums
Das Racist: Shut Up, Dude
        Sure, this mix tape came out almost a year ago, and doesn't really have much to do with the month of March, but it's been blaring out of my car speakers more often than not of late. It's not like I've never listened to Das Racist; Their follow-up, Sit Down, Man, ranked pretty high on my Best of 2010 list. What I didn't realize, however, is that Shut Up is at least as good as these guys' next effort, if not better. Dueling MC's Kool A.D. and Heems both flow in ways playful, clever and seemingly unstoppable, all over the top of refreshingly minimal beats that reveal their brilliance on repeated listens. Rainbow in the Dark stands as a great example, the boys having far too much flowing on to waste any time on a repetitive hook, synths shifting in the background for one of the greatest driving songs imaginable. No matter how many times I've listened to the two DR discs of 2010, some new and hilarious lyric bubbles up to the surface, causing me to look like a crazy person as I walk around giggling to myself. Other highlights include You Oughta Know and Nutmeg, but just about everything here is more or less essential. And to think that this is the album that contains Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell...

Cloud Nothings: Turning On
        This recommendation comes complete with a semi-embarrassing, hopefully-not-just-boring story. A week or two ago, I attended Toro y Moi show in Portland, and subsequently made my mind to do a bit of research as to what their openers sounded like. It took me all of two listens, and I became hooked on Turning On, a garage-rock album that actually fits its description. Landing somewhere between early and minimal Modest Mouse and the super fuzzed-out sounds that Wavves was existing in before their latest disc, Cloud Nothings might not be the most musically refined or mature band, but they certainly know how to rock out and craft one heck of a catchy song. So, yeah, back to what I'm blushing about: When I finally got a chance to see them play in person, they hardly played any songs that I was familiar with, which resulted in me realizing that I had gotten a hold of some older album of their's (I know, kill me now, right?). Anyways, I've since listened to their newest, self-titled LP, and I don't want to discount it just yet, but so far I'm partial to the rowdy, sloppy, boisterous version of the band found on the first disc. Judge for yourself, just give these guys a try.

The Weeknd: House of Balloons 
        The Weeknd doesn't really sound like the kind of artist that I would listen to, and to be honest, I'm still not completely sure that they are, but I do know this: If you like R&B music, this one is a must. Singer Abel Tesfaye's voice could readily be described as mind-blowing, seemingly unaware of any note too high, or any wail too heartfelt. Underneath his stellar croon lurks beats dark, haunting, and yet surprisingly danceable. Be sure not to burn the album for your Mom; House of Balloons is purely Rated-R, full of sexual imagery and rampant drug use, but the twisted undertones of the music are part of what makes it so immediately singular. If R. Kelly upped and decided that he wanted Burial to do the beats on his next album, this would likely be the outcome, though it's hard to imagine that those two would dream of repurposing two different Beach House tracks for their beats. If you're the type who likes a little creepiness with their baby-making music, you're not going to want to miss this.

Netflix Instant Watch Movie(s) of the Month:
The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans
        Those who have never had the extreme pleasure of watching Nicolas Cage go absolutely crazy are really missing out. There are a good number of movies where you could witness it: Wild At Heart, Raising Arizona, and (to some strange degree) Leaving Las Vegas stand out as a few good examples. But perhaps the best incarnation of looney Nic is featured in his performance as Terence McDonagh, the cop-gone-bad at the center of Werner Herzog's Police Drama/Pitch-Black comedy The Bad Lieutenant. A family is brutally slain in their own home, and McDonagh, already nursing a hunch, a limp, and an insatiable dope-nose, sets out to find the killers by any means necessary. There are any number of things that one could say about The Bad Lieutenant, but only a prophet would call it predictable, as Herzog keeps his viewers deeply steeped in both the unknown and the absurd. Knowing just how seriously to take the movie is about impossible, but as the thing gets more and more gleefully bonkers as its runtime continues, such concerns fall by the wayside. Even those that can't get behind the wacky twists and turns of this one, or Nicolas Cage's unmistakably way-over-the-top performance, would have to admit that they've never seen anything quite like The Bad Lieutenant, and for that accomplishment, among others, this one gets my recommendation.

Kicking and Screaming:
        No, not the Will Ferrell (of course not the Will Ferrell one. Throw me a bone here!), and yes, this is actually a good movie. Contrary to popular belief, Writer/Director Noah Baumbach was, in fact, making movies before his 2005 breakthrough The Squid and the Whale. Like that movie, Kicking and Screaming is stuffed to the brim with unlikable characters that do shameful things, but just as with tSatW, their actions and personalities ring true, and speak to insecurities that we all face. Grover (Josh Hamilton) has just watched his girlfriend Jane (Olivia d'Abo) jet off to Prague in the wake of their college graduation, leaving him alone with a handful of his closest guy friends. Obviously, I felt the hankering to re-watch this movie due to the stage of life that I'm in presently, but KaS speaks to the big-picture confusion that we all face, and it does so with humor and empathy to spare. The group of guys speak in the same rapid-fire short-hand that all extremely close buddies tend to gravitate towards, and the witty remarks and references are just about endless. The movie is now up to the ripe old age of sixteen years, which means that it has mid-90's written all over it, but don't most 80's and early 90's movies show their age? This is a clever, insightful, and honest portrait of a period of life that the movies don't often cover, and an early testament to the powers of Baumbach.

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