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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Leftovers: Winter 2014

Leftover Movies:
The Lego Movie
          Make sure you get a good night's sleep before checking out The Lego Movie, or at least a sizable cup of coffee; this flick is almost as exhausting as it is exhilarating, relaying the tale of every(lego)man Emmet, and his quest that is far too convoluted and zany to be described in a mere paragraph. Co-writers and directors Phil Lord and Chistopher Miller imbue the film with the very same all-fun-all-the-time energy they brought to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, throwing every last joke they can come up with right at the wall, and watching a good many stick. The cast is fun as well, Parks and Recreation's Chris Pratt again giving voice to endearing befuddlement, Morgan Freeman and Will Arnett chipping in one-liners from the side. This all goes without mentioning the film's visual world, undoubtably the movie's greatest accomplishment, a whirligig of rapid-fire colors, motion, and creativity.

Leftover Music:
After the Disco---Broken Bells
        Nearly three months having already passed since its release, I think it's safe to assume that After the Disco will never reach the popularity or profitability of the band's self-titled debut, and it's not all that hard to see why. The latest from James Mercer and Dangermouse is far less radio-ready, nearly void of obvious singles, and wears its affections for forgotten musical eras with pride... and is all the better for it. My favorite Mercer output in at least five years, AtD flows ridiculously well, 45 minutes passing without a single glance at the 'track forward' button. Goofy falsetto-powered lead single Holding on for Life is just the tip of the ice berg, the band's twin senses of confidence and abandon leading us through surging opener Perfect World, woozy sing-a-longs Leave it Alone and Lazy Wonderland, and the rousing No Matter What You're Told and The Remains of Rock & Roll. If you're good with a little pitched-up silliness, this is essentially all-killer no-filler.

G I R L---Pharrell
        Pharrell Williams cannot be stopped. After a 2013 that included starring turns on the two biggest songs of the summer, as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, the world's youngest-looking 40-year-old is right back at it with his first solo album in eight years. As if radio-ruling single Happy hadn't already made it clear, Williams is in full-on keep-it-simple-stupid mode, each of G I R L's ten tracks settling into a repetitive groove, riding warm and inviting rhythms and sounds off into the sunset. Pharrell's voice won't exact bowl you over, but his charm and swagger probably will, an outed seducer one moment (Hunter, Gush), and a romancer of 20/20-era Timberlake devotion at another (Lost Queen, JT-featuring Brand New). Through a listen or two, the album can come off as uneventful, no single song ever rocking the easy-going track list, but each has its own distinct charm, and a soon-revealed knack for getting stuck in your head for days at a time. The reign of Pharrell continues.

St. Vincent---St. Vincent
        Annie Clark might be a little crazy, but that's just why we love her. The songstress' self-titled latest is my personal favorite of her career, an ideal encapsulation of her many strengths that's never ashamed to let its freak flag fly. Clark's songs always have a patchwork feel to them, as if a mad-cap guitar solo or space-case slow-down could breakthrough at any moment, though the artist herself maintains an unnerving sense of calm and control amidst the chaos. Birth in Reverse is a perfect early single, catchy and crunchy and aggressive, but the album is stocked with many treasures, the bare-bones attack of Regret, sonic mind-games of Rattlesnake, and punchy, physical sound of Digital Witness providing other highlights. With dense instrumentation and unapologetically unhinged lyrics, St. Vincent is a disc that only gets better every time you hear it.

        For Eric Berglund, lush sounds are the only ones worth hearing. A veteran of The Tough Alliance, Berglund's first outing as a solo artist occurred on 2010's ceo, a glittering, expansive set of eight tracks that deserved worlds more attention than it received. He's back with WONDERLAND, another 8-song set filled to the brim with the man's particular brand of warped, neon gorgeousness. The album is largely occupied by delightfully loopy interludes, In a Bubble on a Stream lofting around weightlessly while Ultrakaos rushes jubilantly forward. Mirage is also the real deal, a swirling, enveloping pop track with more than a touch of nighttime atmospherics fashioned atop its keyboard spine, but the irrepressibly jaunty Whorehouse is the record's lead single for a reason, a pure dose of bouncy pop euphoria. A half-hour tour through a disparate land that you'll want to revisit the moment its over.

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