Oct 7, 2012

New Tracks: Girls Names

     Wanted to spotlight two new ones from one of the better newbies around, Girls Names. They caught my attention when they signed to Slumberland last year. They have some great pop sensibilites. Earlier stuff was super lo-fi, but as is now per tradition, most lo-fi sounders clean it up considerably with each sequential release. So too go Girls Names. Even if they kept the sound gritty, it would've been fine, but who's kidding who? This is how it's gonna sound to anyone seeing them live, so why not just keep the integrity of that? Good on 'em man. This new stuff is right up my alley. I am way too excited for their second full-length. Here're a few notes I had on each song.

     Sounds like early Cure. That shot, kinda-splash effect is especially effective. Love the guitar coming out of the verse, into the chorus. Absolutely love the drums in the end; that's a nice touch to close the song out.

Girls Names - A Troubled See by Tough Love

     Oh, boy! Big drum sound. Bigger than they've ever recorded. Cleanest bass, guitar, vocals they've recorded. Love the simple parts. Love the melancholic melody. Love when the synths emerge. Definately a driving song; driving or running. Could easily be used in a film; airy and cinematic. Lots of interesting textures added with the guitars towards the end. Lovely, man. Fills me with a quite joy.

Girls Names - The New Life by Tough Love

Commentary: Ti West

     Only thing wrong with Ti West, in my opinion, is his writing. He's a great visualist and I'd love to what he could do with a better screenwriter. I don't know why he doesn't want that to happen (his next two project have also been written by him). If I have to see another petite, unassuming, 21 year-old chick who's fond of skinny jeans and hoodies get herself into trouble, or another ho-hum plot, I'm gonna definately contact him via Twitter. Two films is quite enough of it, man. He's gotta evolve in that area if he wants keep me interested.

Film Review: The Innkeepers


     With his last two films, it would seem as if Ti West wants to be the Gus Van Sant of horror. House of the Devil and now The Innkeepers have more in common with Van Sant's Last Days or Gerry than any horror auteurs' fare, past or present. Any viewer has to believe that the reason for such lack of "action" has to point to a greater theme in the stories. West is more interested in characters than scares. And, as is clearly evident, just as Wes Anderson, West values set design and framing above all else.
     The first thing that seperates itself in a Ti West film is attention to detail. His films are a visual treat for anyone who enjoys how colors, objects, patterns, and angles affect any given scene. He has a great feel for what works best to create atmosphere. It reels me in, personally. It's motivation enough to endure any film at least once.
     Most directors would rather work with the same production crew on every film. A shared appreciation and trust for style, etc has already been established. Any process is streamlined where familiarity is present. West's cinematographer, art director, and score composer, all serve The Innkeepers as well as they had House of the Devil. Both films are set in a hyper-reality. They look beautiful but never implausible. It's a place where anyone wishes they could live. If more interior designers existed, these would be reality.
     On a limited budget, one might have to sacrifice acting talent for production. The Innkeepers employs even less story than its predecessor and slightly less acting ability. Both films being more character-based, but fleshed out (not unlike a Hemmingway short)through small actions rather than witty dialogue or dramatic moments, competent acting is all that's required. House of the Devil's cast was much better than what we get with The Innkeepers, but that cast also had more with which to work. West's writing is lacking some here and it's not helped any by Sara Paxton in the protagonist role. Her previous work mostly includes teen roles in forgettable teen films. She probably isn't used to showing nuance. There're some laughable lines that West wrote for her, but her delivery of these is near cringe-worthy. Pat Healy's performance is almost equally as pathetic. He's best here whenever he has something to chew on or drink. Again, both actors play kinda deadbeats so there's not much substance at launch, but their lack of charisma doesn't pair well with this film's pacing.
     As with House of the Devil, The Innkeepers saves all its energy for the last 15-20 minutes. The problem this time around is that the conclusion is not nearly as interesting as House's was. West smartly sets up what his audience should be expecting in the second scene of the film and then this idea is echoed as a bookend in what he calls The Epilogue. The idea of these two scenes is all that's clever about them. West fails to deliver in the execution, making this film, ulitimately, even more dull than we might've expected.
                                                Verdict: 2.5 Bedpans

Oct 3, 2012

Music Review: Frankie Rose-Intestellar

     Former Vivian Girls/Crystal Stilts/Dum Dum Girls drummer, Frankie Rose airs it out on her second album. She aims to guide listeners on a cosmic field trip and she hits her mark. Most of the tracks are synth-heavy, bass-foundational walkabouts and Rose doesn't have to project her voice much to achieve the desired effect. Most of the vocals register a slight notch above hushed, with over-dub and reverb used sparingly.
   This all would fit quite nicely on 4AD's late-80's roster. The Euros are still quite prone to sounding this way, but, in that Frankie Rose is an East-Coaster, she has distinguised herself with Interstellar. The last track, The Fall, is framed mostly with a cello and a Gibson Les Paul. It's a statement of confidence. She can succeed with any experiment applied.
                                               Verdict: 4 Bedpans




Oct 2, 2012

Music Review: La Sera-Sees the Light


     At the end of 2011’s eponymous effort, former Vivian Girls bassist, Katy Goodman, sings “I don’t want to crash and die” . Sees the Light yields “Drive off the edge, into the sun”. Goodman wrote a musically diverse sophomore outing to accompany lyrics which describe a tumultuous relationship and new-found love. “Can you see how far we’ve come now?” would seem to refer to La Sera, ignoring the fact that, especially for this one, it’s mostly just Goodman with a handful of one-off collaborators.
     It’s refreshing to have an album’s first song be a mid-tempo Country ballad and the second totally switch it up with the fuzzed-out Punk. Side B boasts a tune that starts with cowbell and segues into 50s Doo-Wop. By design, I’m sure; ‘How Far We’ve Come Now’ sounds the closest to La Sera’s first album.
     Half of Sees the Light’s songs are directed at an ex. She no longer wants him. She’s broken-hearted. She knows she hurt him so she admits to some blame, etc. ‘It’s Over Now’ has the clearest vocal mix. Goodman needs every word to be heard there. She simplifies the song further by making it slow and only using bass, mellotron, and drums. The very next song, ‘I’m Alone’ takes us to the peak of her therapeutic musings. It ends jovially in cacophonic crescendo. Anyone wanting a crash course in songwriting would do well to pay attention to everything Goodman accomplishes on Sees the Light.
     It may seem that Goodman’s boy troubles aren’t exactly over if the last song, ‘Don’t Stay’ is any indication. She must be of the opinion that happy endings aren’t satisfying. Drrrama! The story of her struggle is expressed through sadness as opposed to angst. There’s no sense of injustice. She isn’t calling for anyone’s head
                                                  Verdict: 4 Bedpans

Music Review: Best Coast-The Only Place


      Bethany Cosentino has a lot of friends. If her art is any indication of her personality, who wouldn’t want to know this gal? 2010’s Crazy For You got by solely on its’ vocals and what her partner, Bob Bruno, did with the guitars. For me, those two things were enough to forgive lyrics that could’ve been written by a 9 year-old; lyrics such as these…
      “There’s nothing worse than sitting all alone at home and waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting by the phone.”
      “I’d love him to the very end, but instead, he is just a friend.”
      “One day, I’ll make him mine and we’ll be together all the time. We’ll sit and watch the sunrise and gaze into each others’ eyes”
      “My highs are high. My lows are low. And I don’t know which way to go.”
      Three of the above-sampled are taken from one song. There has to be something else amazing going on, if I was willing to gloss over that sort of content two years ago. One line I actually do enjoy from Crazy for You  is “I lost my job. I miss my mom. I wish my cat could talk.” Viva non-sequiturs!
      So, going into this year’s The Only Place, Bethany and Bob still have great vocals plus catchy tunes as their foundation on which they might build and build they did. Bethany has a lot of friends. She was able to befriend super producer, Jon Brion. Brion’s influence on the proceedings is subtle. Most notably, the sound is much more cleaner than anything the duo’s produced to date. Each instrument is equally present in the mix and Bethany’s vocals shine.
      The biggest problem (lyrics) with the last album has been vastly improved. Most of them now sound like a teenager’s words as opposed to that of a pre-pubescent. However, some duds have lingered.
      “…we like to sit around and stare at the mountains, at the birds, at the ocean, at the trees.”
      How descriptive of her.
      The same song from which those words were sampled begins with a guitar riff that would make Peter Buck proud. Bob Bruno is a definite asset to Best Coast.
      The only thing that may irk a listener of The Only Place is the fact that, for the most part, it still sounds like the same three chords are employed in every tune. ‘The Only Place’ and ‘Why I Cry’—(the first two songs) are the exact same song (!); even down to the rhythm and tempo. ‘How They Want Me To Be’ and ‘Up All Night’ also fall into the aforementioned category.
      All that being said, The Only Place still wins me over. It’s Summah, after all, and I treat music during this season like some treat the over-bloated popcorn flicks; eeeasssy.
      Here’s hoping Best Coast’s third album will be another step in the right direction.

                                                  Verdict: 3 Bedpans