November 28, 2012

The Hollyfelds - Title Stealers

It's been a while since I've written a review of an album. Like, two in the past 3 years, counting the one last week. But I like to support local kids, especially when I like their music.

The Hollyfelds get a lot of leeway in this town, and rightfully so. I think people want to say they're alt-country, but I think that comes from a misunderstanding of the term "alt-country."  As fluid and flexible as genres can be, I don't think you could stretch it to fit in The Hollyfelds.  They're definitely not what "country" has become, all due respect to pop-country diva Tailor Swift and ... Okay honestly I could look up a male counterpart in pop-country, but the genre (specifically pop-country) bores and nauseates me enough to give up on that.

The Hollyfelds are not, by any stretch of the imagination, pop-country, but they don't quite end up sounding like Will Oldham. I make the argument that it appears to me that they're unabashedly country, and that's why people like them. They play an unadulterated, genuine version of their overarching genre, endearing and engaging the listener beyond the disposable artists one might find oozing from commercial radio. 

Their only downfall may be that their lyrical content doesn't quite match up to the tone and style of their music. Their last release left me feeling a similar way. That said, on repeat listenings, I found myself listening closely to the lyrics, finding the story in the song, ending up feeling admiration for their ability to mix less common country song fare with their throwback, 70's/early 80's (pre-Hank Williams jr.) sound.

At the end of the day, I think by avoiding pop-country/sappy/soulless lyricism and alt-country/folky/occasionally-seeming-disengenuous themes, their new release feels more like a breath of fresh air than a rehash of a genre some feel as tried, true, tired, and trite.

Full disclosure, while i may not actually know them, I like these kids. When I friended their myspace page back in the day, they recognized me at their next show. Now that's how you connect to a fan. That is not, however, how you Make a fan. You Make a fan simply by playing music that connects with people, with making a bold and true statement, with grasping expertly what it is that you're trying to accomplish, then executing it.  That is The Hollyfelds.

If this in anyway sounds like something you'd like, check out their new tracks, off their album Title Stealers, which they're releasing This Friday, Nov 30th at The Soiled Dove

Hear one of them here:

Tickets to the show are here:

November 27, 2012

Retroview: The Beaver

A Retroview Review. 
Luke here.  Through a lucky break, I was able to see the Denver premier of Jodie Foster's new movie The Beaver.  Now there's a movie you're gonna have a hard time telling Mom you went to see...

I have an obsession with madness.  As Mel Gibson's character, Walter Black, says in The Beaver, "People seem to love a train wreck, as long as it's not them,"and I'd be remiss not to claim this quality for myself.  I also have a penchant for the absurd, coupled with a love of the uncanny.  So when I heard that a woman who I have an equally inexplicable attraction to, Jodie Foster, was throwing her director's hat back into the ring after having been absent for over 15 years, and it was going to star the Kanye West of movies, Mel Gibson, whose character begins to focus his delusions through a hand puppet... well I was sold.  And that's what makes this so hard...

The Beaver follows chronically depressed Walter Black (Gibson) down a twisting road to redemption.  He finds his way out of his depression by projecting his will to live on a hand puppet he find in the garbage.  The puppet takes on a life of it's own, it seems, and allows Walter to weasel his way back into the house his wife, Meredith (Jodie Foster), kicked him out of in the beginning of the movie. His family supports him the best they can, and his previously faltering company actually thrives due to his new found confidence.  Good things never last, though, and when things so sour, things really get out of hand.

The movie was, at times, a breath of fresh air.  It was impressively shot, the camera work and lighting highly commendable  The way certain aspects of the concept played out, such as actually seeing Walter speaking for the Beaver instead of cutting away to make it appear that the Beaver was speaking on it's own, felt risky and new.  The movie asks the audience to suspend it's disbelief about how the business world works in what could be called an unconventional move.  I enjoyed how, after a while, Walter legitimately seemed to have been taken hostage by The Beaver.  Mel Gibson's performance is understated, and easily over looked, but I think there is something to be said for the fact that, when he speaks as The Beaver, it honestly feels like a different person is on the screen, even though you can clearly see him speaking for The Beaver.  Truly a remarkable performance.  But this is me dancing around the point, which is, plainly, that I can not recommend this movie.

I would like to say that it must be difficult to write interesting, 'quirky' characters these days.  When I think of becoming 'jaded' to the things that movies throw at us, I think more along the lines of blood and gore ... not multifaceted characters.  Every major character in The Beaver has several sides to them; the wife who juggles her collapsing family and her roller-coaster designing career (meaning that she designs roller-coasters), the smart bad boy who has excessive daddy problems, the valedictorian who doesn't want to face her mysterious past (and is also 'bad'), and, of course, the mad business man whose alter-ego (superego?) is manifested in a stuffed beaver puppet.  I would like to say that it's as though every character in every movie has to have so many 'quirks' to be considered 'outside of the norm,' because the market is so inundated with 'quirk' that any character with only two different sides seem cliche, boring ... and follow that up with saying that we have kind of seen it all.

But that's not really true, is it?  I know that that's what I want to be true because I think the main problem with The Beaver is that there's a warmth absent from it that makes the movie lifeless.  We don't have anything invested in the family, no reason to root for their coming back together, because, honestly, no one in the family is very likable.  This could conceivably be overlooked, but we aren't even given a reason to like Walter other than a few points of exposition that he once was a wonderful father that loved his family.  In The Beaver, there is a lot of "show" and not a lot of "tell," which is great, but where we need it most, with the character development, we are short changed, and just sort of expected to accept that the family would be better together, without any real reason.

The movie is billed as a black-comedy, which is a little strange, as there were few laughs to be had, even at another's expense.  It was mostly just depressing and strange (not always a bad thing).  I suppose the eldest son's side plot was kind of funny at times, but because the side plot felt so out of place and unnecessary, I found myself not really caring if his part of the story was funny or not.  I was more interested in getting back to the bizarre Walter Black.

The Beaver is a crazy movie.  I'm glad I saw it once, and I can honestly say things happened in it that I did not expect even a little (my suspension of disbelief was stretched a little too thin in some parts, which was a little hard to handle).  But, with a heavy heart, I have to say I don't think I have much of a reason to go back and see it again.

---Luke Hunter James-Erickson

November 26, 2012

Wind Does - Beyond Passion

Hey kids,

I, as Wind Does, have just released my new
drone, doom, lowercase, transcendental EP, Beyond Passion.

Hear here:

SLM Mixtape # 35: Your Body

Besides You - Gold-Bears
I'm Alone - La Sera
Baby Talk - The Suspicions
Empty - Les.Petits
Love or Loneliness - Math and Physics Club
Shapeshifter - Hollows
Heart Stops - Anya Marina
Little Miami - Wussy

November 21, 2012

A Shoreline Dream - Three, 3, III Ep's

It's been a while since I've really written anything about a band, but when local post-dark-dream-pop kids A Shoreline Dream sent me their newest triple EP release, felt compelled to talk about it.

Three, 3, and III, released this last September, has A Shoreline Dream moving slightly in a new direction.  They've kept the crisp, emphatic drum production, ethereal vocals, spaced out guitar tones, and dialed-down-post-punk bass lines, but they're approach to the sound is a little different.

Their previous full lengths, Avoiding the Consequences and Recollections of Memory (I haven't had a chance to check out last year's Losing The All to This Time), at times leaned more toward harsher, more complex compositions, juxtaposed with very nearly ambient landscapes.

All three EP's here marry these two worlds, and cut out any remaining superflous complexity seen on the last LP's, which at times had a muddling and disengaging effect.  These three EP's are as focused as I've ever heard the band, who continue to meld their influences (I'm hearing a mix of shoegaze, 90's alt rock, ambient, dream pop, early 00's post-rock) into a solid foundation, allowing them steady ground from which to launch their own creative devices.

Check out 103 from the Three EP.  I thought there was a little bit of Brian in there.  Anything that reminds me of Brian is good in my book.

I wish I were able to post my favorite track, "Sixth" from III, but it hasn't been made available yet.  Maybe it'll show up on a bandcamp page though.  Here's hoping!

In their own words:

BIOGRAPHYMelodipsych night dreamers A Shoreline Dream spent the first part of 2012 locked away in their Barnum studio creating a series of EPs inspired by their mountainscape surroundings and the never-ending changes going on around them. 
Created as a concept album of sorts, these three EPs, released digitally over the course of three months, and each containing three songs, have come together as a full album once stitched together. Each disc plays a role to what was going on during these secluded sessions, which is ever present while listening to them with ears open and eyes shut. 
With mountains of tone, and dream drenched roads paving the way through the songs themselves, the 333 series is a unique gazed-out listening experience, similar in vein to the vibe contained on their 2007 EP, Coastal. The first EP, Three, brings to mind open landscapes, dune inspired within epic environments. The second, 3, sets its tone to the night, and to Barnum itself, with it's vibe being set by the studio and the circus neighborhood it was recorded in. The third and final EP, III, was written with driving in mind, as each song is dedicated to the roads the band uses to test their tracks, with the final epic song "103" actually being written as a soundtrack to the drive up the highest paved road in North America, to the very top of Mt. Evans. 
This unique collection of songs is soon to be available through toneVendor exclusively, in a quantity of 100only and then they will be gone for good. What you'll get is a set of 3 custom digipak CDs, in a O-card wrapped box, and each copy will be hand numbered and signed by the band.

November 19, 2012

SLM Mixtape #34: pure madness

II - Condom
i wish i was a mole in the ground -  anbb: alva noto & blixa bargeld
Machine Gun Remix (Noisia, Amon Tobin Remix) - Amon Tobin
Rodriguez - Black Dice
Groan Man, Don't Cry - Zammuto
Persuasion - Throbbing Gristle
Game And Performance - Deux
Kaapeec Tu Mani Negribi [Latvia] - Dzeltenie Pastnieki

November 12, 2012

SLM Mixtape #33: Never Return

Year of the Cock - Sonny and the Sunsets
When It Pleases You - Sara Watkins
Normal - Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight - Whiskeytown
Little Indian Maid - Tara Beagan & Henry Adam Svec
More & More - Les Shelleys
Please Don't Come Back - The Spikedrivers
I Can Tell You're Leaving - Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & Trembling Bells

November 7, 2012

Retroview: Suburban Commando (1991)

A Retroview Review.
Luke here, talking about a movie I revisited recently, after a long period of having forgotten about it entirely.

Often I come across a movie that is far more than the sum of it's parts. Meaning that, while watching the movie, I have to ask myself if the things in the movie are actually happening. Who wrote this script? Who did casting? How did this get green lit? With all these things working against it, why is it that I am absolutely in love with this movie?

The best example is, of course, Robocop. But a fair contender is the family favorite Suburban Commando. I should not, but gosh dang it I just love this movie.

By '89, Not-yet-Hollywood Hulk Hogan was a household name, Hulkamania still in full swing, and the Hulk was riding high. His first movie having not quite come out yet, New Line was ready to get the Hulk Movie brand off the ground. When America's #1 galumph (Arnie of course!) opted to take his burgeoning buddy-comedy career over to Universal (1988's Twins) and New Line picked up this script, they knew exactly who should fill the role: our man Hogan.

The plot is simple: Shep Ramsey (Hogan) is a cosmic bounty hunter that gets stuck in suburbia for six weeks. After answering an ad on a telephone pole, he moves in with Charlie Wilcox's (Christopher Lloyd) family. Charlie finds some crazy space equipment, which he turns on, allowing Shep's enemy's to track him down. Insanity ensues.

Every moment of this movie is sickeningly ridiculous. The actors themselves seem to be fully aware that the script is terrible, but they work it SO HARD and push their emotions all over their faces and throw their arms out Kermit-style that it becomes endearing. Seriously, it's as though every part was written so that, if one of the actors couldn't make it that day, Tim Curry could just walk in an seamlessly fill the spot. The one-liners are frequently delivered as though the actors read the lines moments before standing before camera, but their out-of-context-cadence often accents the scene, if not sells it entirelys.

The budget is low, but the then there are these surprising glimmers of genius. There is an alien suit that is honestly one of the most horrify images I've seen in a children's movie. The space suit and space ship are cleverly designed, though a few of the space ships (and the whole opening scene) is an almost blatant rip off of Star Wars (arguably intentional). And, frankly, some of the one-liners are hilarious. Larry Miller plays Charlie's boss, and delivers lines with such speed and wit that, if you're not really paying attention, just fly by.

Come to think of it, there are visual and sub-textual jokes flying off the screen, seemingly without the movie even knowing it. Usually, in comedy movies, there's a little time for the audience to catch up when a joke is delivered. Not with Suburban Commando! And I guess that really is what makes this movie so charming: It just, serendipitously, works. It's funny, the characters are actually lovable, it doesn't take it self too seriously, there's drama that doesn't ask us to suspend our disbelief too much, and some how, despite it's flaws, it comes together to be a high-five-and-a-half.

When the first New Line/Hogan movie flopped, and the second (this one) didn't really win any awards, New Line gave it one final shot with Mr. Nanny. After that, the Hogan Brand essentially dead in the water, we didn't see Hulk in a movie until 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain, which was only is only notable for one thing: it was shot in my home town. He may not have had a lucrative movie career, but having one gem, especially one like Suburban Commando, in your back pocket isn't too shabby. I don't condone the things Hogan does in his personal life, but that doesn't mean I can't hold this movie close to my heart.

---Luke Hunter James-Erickson

--As a side note, special effects technician Michael Colvin died on the set testing a trap door. Friends of mine who were present during the re-watching of this movie were quick to point out similarities between this occurrence and the curse of a movie that is Manos Hands of Fate.  I find the similiarities chilling, myself.

November 5, 2012

SLM Mixtape #32: Find a Hard Problem. Then Solve It.

Ablutophobia - Sheep, Dog & Wolf
A Tale of Life Part 6 - Ghost
Toe Tore Oh - Dustin Wong
Toast To Life - All Will Be Quiet
The Only Tune Pt. 2: The Old Mill Pond - Nico Muhly
Tide - Small Things Amplified
Graveyard - Feist
Fljótavík - Sigur Rós