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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Leftovers: June 2015

Leftover Movies (now Available at Redbox):
While We're Young:
        If one Woody Allen movie per year simply isn't enough to satisfy, may I introduce you to Mr. Noah Baumbach? Now exactly two decades into his filmmaking career, Baumbach is the modern poet laureate of New York's upper-middle class, having delivered such Big Apple-based wonders as The Squid and the Whale and Frances Ha. He adds another winner to his canon with While We're Young, the story of a middle-aged couple (played by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) who become infatuated with a younger bohemian pair (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) to the point where the millennials' social paradigm starts to rub off on their own. This marks Stiller's second collaboration with Baumbach, and while the movie asks less of him than the affectionately bitter pill that was Greenberg, he's fine once again, as is the entire cast. WWY is perhaps the writer/director's funniest film to date, thanks in no small part to its cutting honesty, and unique outlook on generational divides. Not to belabor the point, but Baumbach is an artist cut from the very same cloth as Allen, and if the Woodman isn't really your flavor, you might be wise to pass on this one. For lovers of Annie Hall and Manhattan, however, While We're Young is not to be missed.

Wild Tales:
        You know all that subtle, incisive social commentary I was just describing? Take that, wad it up, douse it in lighter fluid, and blast it with a blow torch. Wild Tales, the Argentinian Best Foreign Film nominee at this last year's Oscars, is as deranged as it is hilarious, a comedy about righteous indignation that never stops raging. Composed of six short films that each stand completely separate from one another, writer/director Damián Szifrón's nutso anthology picture is best viewed without pre-existing knowledge of its distinct brand of mania. The tales here live up to their billing, each opening with a simple problem or misunderstanding that eventually balloons out into sheer madness, like a mushroom cloud expanding upon impact. Some have compared it to Tarantino, while others say the Coen brothers, but a worldview this fully formed doesn't exactly need predecessors. This is an electric, unpredictable ride, bursting with gonzo energy from first frame to last.

Leftover Music:
In Colour---Jamie XX
        At long last, In Colour has arrived... and it is glorious. Jamie XX is a British electronic producer best known for his construction of the minimalistic, nocturnal atmosphere that powers The XX. His own star has been in ceaseless ascension for the last decade, powered by his work with the aforementioned outfit, the excellent Gil Scott-Heron remix album We're New Here, and a plethora of EPs. In other words, he's been making us wait on a proper solo album for years now, but it only takes one listen to IC to know that it was worth the delay. His debut LP covers a myriad of genres over its 11-track, 42+ minute runtime, the smattering of textures most aptly described by the kaleidoscopic album cover to the right. His XX buddies each make an appearance, and while Oliver Sim's outing is one of the album's lower points, Romy Madley Croft's gentle whisper gives Seesaw its beating heart, and turns Loud Places into a Song of the Year candidate. Their vocal longing is matched by Jamie XX's lush, evocative work on the soundboard, and it's a testament to his strengths that some of the album's most emotional moments happen without the aid of words. In Colour might have arrived later than expected, but it stands as proof that Mr. XX is here to stay.

Summertime '06---Vince Staples
        While we're on the subject of youngsters who have been on the come-up for a while now, let's explore the dark, seedy ocean of anxiety and violence that is Summertime '06. Once considered a periphery player in the Odd Future scene, Staples rode the buzz of his stellar verse on Earl Sweatshirt's Hive into last year's more-than-promising EP Hell Can Wait. That said, even the most avid of supporters could not have predicted '06, a descendant of Kanye West's immortal Yeezus that actually sounds like... you know... a rap record. The album will play nicely blaring out from car speakers, but is ideally suited to headphones, which bring the doom-laden sparsity of the production to the forefront. Norf Norf drips down your back like a cold sweat, while the leering, clanging beat on Street Punks proves downright infectious. Staples lyrics are focused and his flow is confrontational, trading in flowery wording and imagery for plain-spoken realism. This is Parental Advisory rap at its finest, with a no-B.S. author taking you on a tour of his mind's most frightening streets and alleyways. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Surf---Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment
        As bright and hopeful as Summertime '06 is dark and seething, Surf is a record that would be completely out of place in any other season than summer. The group features Chance The Rapper, whose much-lauded mixtape Acid Rap has allowed this outfit much more attention than previously seemed possible. If Surf is any indication, they deserve every last beam of the lime-light; the 16-track delight is packed with endless detours and surprises, all in the name of bliss and love. Busta Rhymes checks in for a characteristically bombastic verse on Slip Slide, Noname Gypsy goes full-on spoken word on Warm Enough, and Joey Purp comes correct for his moment in the sun on Go. This album is so generous that even Big Sean impresses with his bars on Wanna Be Cool, and despite the fact that Chance affords the disc so much immediate attention, he's only present on about half the songs. The titular bugler is a more consistent player, even going solo on the thematically bookending duo Nothing Came to Me and Something Came to Me. Surfing on an enormous wave of self-love from first track to last, the LP crests on the beautiful rally cry that is Sunday Candy before misting out of existence on Pass the Vibes. Don't wait until the weather turns to check out Surf. This is audio sunshine.

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