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Monday, October 20, 2014

Lana Del Rey -- Video Games (Digital EP)

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Twitter is a strange beast I barely understand, and rarely visit. In October of 2011, I visited Josh Scogin's twitter and noticed he was giving a lot of props to some person named Lana Del Rey, for her new song, "Video Games." I checked out the song, and it is great. 2011 was a great year for me and for my family, and a string-dominated, sentimental-yet-honest song like "Video Games" was a lovely way to begin the end of it. The song sounds huge and ancient, Del Rey's alternatingly silky and husky voice fresh, and yet a ghost from the past. "Blue Jeans" is the perfect way to follow up such a song, as it is more upbeat and forward-thinking, giving an impression that a ball has begun rolling. That's it. Two songs. Two songs perfectly joined. I can't grant a two song EP higher than an "8," unless those two songs are both longer than eight minutes. Of course, there are the requisite remixes that play when the party is over, but I'm not counting those here. Still, this Del Rey kid has a future.

2011 Stranger/Polydor/Interscope

1. Video Games 4:46
2. Blue Jeans 3:34
3. Video Games (Mr Fingers Remix) 9:00
4. Video Games (Omid 16B Remix) 5:14

Friday, October 17, 2014

Re-purposed Destiny

Recently, I was spellbound by this video by Russian instrumental band, Sleep Dealer, for their song, "Nozomi."

However, I soon found out that the video was not in fact created for Sleep Dealer's "Nozomi," but The Audreys' lovely, if unremarkable, "Sometimes the Stars."

Someone took the video, cut out the audio, and replaced it with Sleep Dealer's song. However, the video's destiny and connection-seeking themes and mysterious, dreamy atmosphere fit "Nozomi" far better, in fact, miraculously so. To reiterate, as I watched the "Nozomi" version first, I was stunned at how well someone had translated the exact aural feeling of the song into a visual one. Watching the same video with "Sometimes the Stars" in the background is not nearly as serendipitous an experience. All of the backbreaking work by the animators, putting purpose to imagination, ended up better fitting a song they most likely never heard. How is that even possible? Why do I identify so much with this entire idea? Why do I feel like this describes my life? What is happening to me? Am I dead? Is my life flashing before my eyes! Am I dreaming someone else's life!? I need to get out of this study-library and pour myself a bowl of Frankenberry just in case it's my last! Is Frankenberry even real, or is it something I only dreamed, and that will cease to exist when I wake up, just like how I dreamed I had every Transformer I ever made sometime in 1987, then woke up to find I actually only owned three. WAS DREAMING THAT DREAM ONLY A DREAM?!?!
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Isn't this new, DC-Comics designed box, gorgeous? Was that too many commas? Are commas even real?
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lali Puna -- Faking the Books

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I picked up Lali Puna's Faking the Books shortly after its release because Radiohead told me to, and also because, at the time, I agreed with Lali Puna's politics. Lali Puna are based out of Munich, Germany, one of my favorite cities in the world (all the German-ribbing I do on The Nicsperiment is good-natured...I'm quite fond of that place), and I'm not usually one for loving cities.. Lali Puna are a rock band that employ a lot of keyboard, generally in place of the guitar (but not exclusively...there is still a bit of guitar in the mix). Wikipedia says Lali Puna is "electro-pop," and back when this came out, "hip" people were calling them IDM or EDM or something with three letters, but they have a bassist and a backbeat played by a live drummer, and their vocal hooks aren't very poppy, so whatever, cool people, Lali Puna are a rock band. Puna's songs...Lali Puna is a weird name...anyway, Puna's songs are about what living in a George W Bush-era America is like...for completely unaffected arty people living in a large German city. Politics aside, the band also explore the mechanization and dehumanization of life. This leads to their greatest musical flaw. Despite the fact that Faking the Books balances out its slower, tripper songs with some faster-paced jams, the album often feels like it lacks energy. After a decade, I think I've pinpointed the reason: their vocalist, Valerie Trebljahr, sings with a whispery monotone that sucks the life out of a lot of their songs. Don't get me wrong, dead-eyed female vocals can sound incredibly cool, but over the course of 11 songs, they can start to drain. Case in point, album centerpiece, "Grin and Bear."

Instrumentally, "Grin and Bear" hits on all cylinders, creating a sleek, building atmosphere that  is primed to explode during the song's extended outro. As Trabljahr repeats the song's final line, "We won't return here," all she has to do is emote. She doesn't, though. She sounds like she is leaving a fast-food restaurant who's service she is mildly dissatisfied with, and whispering the line into her mother's ear. She should be belting out these lyrics. The band loaded the gun, and she is disinterestedly taking out the bullets, hiding them in the sock drawer. However, it's not really until that moment that Trebjahr's vocals wear out their welcome.
Up until that point, they are, as stated earlier, quite cool. "Micronomic," the album's single, received a fittingly cool video. It's a highpoint on an album that's just a little too cool for its own good.
Meaning, her voice makes the songs a little too cold and distant. You got that from that sentence, right? Wasting all my good metaphors...grumble...grumble...

2004 Morr Music
1. Faking the Books 4:00
2. Call 1-800-Fear 3:24
3. Micronomic 3:23
4. Small Things 3:40
5. B-Movie 3:13
6. People I Know 3:05
7. Grin and Bear 4:41
8. Geography-5 2:27
9. Left Handed 3:44
10. Alienation 4:01
11. Crawling by Numbers 2:52

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

10/10/2014--LSU Student Union--8:50 PM

So here I am at ten minutes to nine on a Friday night, 32 years old, on the third floor of the LSU Student Union, listening to a bunch of extremely dorky college students badly sing karaoke through the floor as I attempt to learn 300 pages of organic chemistry. Kids, do what you love, but make sure you also set plans into motion so that you can support the family you may one day have. If not, they will stay home without you on a Friday night, eating popcorn and watching a movie while you listen to this girl singing so damn flat her voice might as well be a pancake while you curse out your organic chemistry teacher for assuming that all her students are 19 years old and boundless, full of energy, with three lifetimes worth of time to dedicate to her stupid class. There is only one option here, and that is to listen to Billy Idol at full blast to see if I can throw off the pitch on what is already the worst rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody I have ever heard.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Hannibal -- Season One (Review)

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2013 NBC
Season One
Score: 9/10

Hannibal is about a crocodile in human skin. The titular character is a psychiatrist whose expertise is requested by the FBI in a serial killer case. Hannibal, unbeknownst to anyone but himself, is a sociopath, serial killer, and cannibal. While he is interested in the case, he is far more interested in the FBI's Special Investigator, Will Graham. Graham has a strange, maddening, unwanted talent for empathizing with killers, and it might just be driving him insane. Hannibal swoops in to help, but he has his own deadly agenda. I can't believe I just wrote that terrible sentence.
The Bad: This show is disgusting. The creators do not believe in the Hitchcock approach. What you do not see is not scarier than what you do see because you do not not see anything. The effects of every sick and twisted serial killing are shown for far more than just a lingering glance. Bodies hung from deer horns, humans used to grow mushrooms, the skin on people's backs peeled up to make wings, humans turned into cellos. I don't know who is coming up with this stuff, but it's gross, and I can't believe NBC has allowed these images to be shown on television. Also, as immediately sure as this show is about its goals and how it aims to achieve them, there are a few minor signals that this is Hannibal's first year on television. The most major sign is a subplot involving a chief character's wife. She is diagnosed with cancer, and the couple struggle with how to approach their changed future. Halfway through the season, though, her character is completely dropped and never mentioned again. Whether this is due to the actress not being available, or the show just being more interested in doing other things, the sudden change in gears is noticeable.
The Good: I mentioned it above, but this show knows exactly what it wants to do, and how it wants to do it. I also mentioned the show's unrelenting gore, as well, but the nastiness comes with a purpose. As case after grows darker and darker, Graham falls further into madness. The murderous insanity peaks in episode nine, as the FBI team investigates an enormous totem pole made of decomposing human bodies. It is at this point that Graham completely disassociates, and, instigated by Hannibal, really begins to lose touch with reality. By this point, Hannibal's world has achieved a feeling of total depravity--a place where things cannot be anymore wrong, and yet one that shows no signs of getting better. As thick as this sense of darkness is, the show gets kudos for never allowing it to be compromised. Speaking of the C-word, Hannibal deserves accolades for such a non-compromising look at a sociopath's mind. The reason Hannibal can prey so well on those around him is because those people have the expectation that Hannibal is playing by the same rules they are. He isn't. He is not a human following a conscience, but a self-perceived god satisfying his curiosity. The show never wavers from Hannibal's true nature to make him more likeable or charming. This is someone who feeds human flesh to those who consider him a friend. This is not a man. While many other shows would try to make Hannibal the cannibal with a heart of gold, this particular show has a full understanding of sociopath behavior. Any time Hannibal does something good, the show (when you are reviewing a show where the main character's name is also the title, you have to say "the show" a lot) makes clear it isn't because that thing is the particular right thing to do, but because he wants to satisfy his own aims. While the vast majority of sociopaths do not kill and eat people, they do only do good things to satisfy their own agendas--"the right thing" isn't something that exists for them. Hannibal's agenda is testing Will Graham, and the psychological warfare and manipulation Dr. Lector wages is some of the most complex ever seen on television--all because he is simply curious about what Graham will do. Mads Mikkelsen's portrayal of the titular character is a stunning reversal of his very human roles in Danish cinema. Mikkelsen is slimy and terrifying, yet can effortlessly turn on the charm Dr. Lector uses to deceive those around him. Hugh Dancy does stunning work as a good man losing his mind. Laurence Fishburne, as Special Agent in Charge, Jack Crawford, is stellar as a driving, distant father figure to Graham. Gillian Anderson, who starred in a show whose darker episodes were certainly a progenitor for some of the things found here, is intriguing as Hannibal's psychiatrist. The show is lavishly shot, a waking nightmare, and the special effects team do groundbreaking work in disgusting. The two elements mentioned in the previous sentence are top-notch enough that there's an upcoming art book devoted to them.
In the end, the first season of Hannibal perfectly balances its "ARE THEY EVER GONNA CATCH THIS GUY?!" suspense with incredible performances, imaginative twists, and a pervasive, enveloping atmosphere of hopelessness and evil. It's more fun than a game of skin marbles.

Jesus Is For Losers, I'm Off About 100 Degrees

You still got it, Steve.