Other Great Albums of 2007 (A Few Late Additions)

After reading through the various year-end lists, I tracked down a few of the interesting-sounding albums I hadn’t had a chance to listen to yet, and I discovered a few gems that I’d like to recommend as a sort of coda to my top 10 list:

Iron And Wine - The Shepherd's Dog

1) Iron and Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog

The Iron and Wine cover of “Dark Eyes” from the I’m Not There soundtrack is one of the standout songs on that album, so I decided to give Iron and Wine another listen-to, despite the fact that their Postal Service cover from the Garden State soundtrack was a bit mopey. This album is uniformly great, and if I had started listening to it earlier in the year, it would easily have been in my top 10 list. Rootsy, organic, full of beautiful harmonies and melodies, and highly recommended.

Battles - Mirrored2) Battles – Mirrored

My first exposure to this album was the video for Atlas, which I saw on Subterranean, i.e. the one hour a week (including 20 minutes of commercials) when M2 plays interesting music videos. The video is fairly minimal – just a shot of the band playing in the odd glass cube pictured on their album cover – but it fits the music, which is (mostly) instrumental rock, most of which is also very minimal, and generally composed of repeated percussion and industrial sounds. I’ve been drawn to more and more instrumental music in the past year or so, just because I find it hard to listen to vocal music when I’m reading (even though this was not an issue in my younger years when I had more brain cells…) Anyways, this one has really grown on me, much like similar music by Liquid Liquid did a few years back. “Atlas” and “Race: In” are the standout tracks here, although the band’s sound is a bit abrasive and may not be to everyone’s tastes.

LCD Soundsystem - 45:333) LCD Soundsystem – 45:33

This is actually a re-issue of an iTunes exclusive in a CD form. The new version splits up the formerly 45 minute first track into six parts (essentially the “movements” of the song) and adds on three bonus tracks (two b-sides and a remix). As you might imagine from my top 10 list, I’ve become a huge fan of LCD Soundsystem thanks to their second album. Much like the Battles album, this is primarily instrumental music (kind of a departure for the band), and I actually prefer it for reading because it’s a bit more soothing whereas the Battles album is more up-beat and rock-and-roll. Maybe I’ll use it for walking music when it isn’t so cold outside…

My Favorite Albums of 2007

Alright, in order for an album to end up on this list, it had to be an album that I find myself listening to regularly, even though time may have passed since it was released. I have several pretty great albums on my iPod that will end up on other end-of-the-year lists that haven’t quite grabbed me like the ten below.

This list isn’t perfect, of course, especially because I also limited myself to albums released in 2007. I guess including The Beatles album is kind of fudging things a bit, but it was a pretty amazing compilation that totally redefines what you can do instead of a vanilla “greatest hits” album.

Radiohead - In RainbowsLCD Soundsystem - Sound of SilverI’m Not There (Soundtrack)The Beatles - LoveQueens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Is IsField Music - Tones of TownIdlewild - Make Another WorldCaribou - AndorraRyan Adams - Easy Tiger

1. Radiohead – In Rainbows
2. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
3. Various Artists – I’m Not There (Soundtrack)
4. The Beatles – LOVE
5. Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Is Is
7. Field Music – Tones of Town
8. Idlewild – Make Another World
9. Caribou – Andorra
10. Ryan Adams – Easy Tiger

To see what some of the professionals think, I recommend the AV Club Best Music of 2007 list. Much better than Pitchfork (even though I’ll read that one, too).

Austin Film Festival: Day… um… All The Rest

So when I first started attending AFF, I had a fairly ambitious plan to blog daily about my experiences, but… as you may have noticed, this went by the wayside pretty quickly. I’m a blogging wuss, I know, but what can I say? Attending more than 12 hours of festivities in one day tired me out pretty quickly.

Here’s everything I attended after Thursday:

Friday

“TV Drama Today”
“Finding the Voice: Dialogue”
“Writing Comedy for TV”
“A Conversation With Glenn Gordon Caron
“Film Texas BBQ Supper”
Reservation Road
Numb

Saturday

“Juno: From Script to Screen”
“Production Team: Friday Night Lights”
Control
“Conference Wrap Party”

Sunday

Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist
Juno

Monday

Neal Cassady

Wednesday

Two Tickets to Paradise

Continue reading “Austin Film Festival: Day… um… All The Rest”

Austin Film Festival: Day One

As some of you may know, my buddy Alex works for the Austin Film Festival, and thanks to his generosity, I’ve been given a comped “producer” badge, which gives me full access to the festival – all of the panels, parties, and films. I asked off work today and tomorrow so that I can attend the panels.

Today was the start of the festival, and was a comparatively light day compared to what I have lined up for the rest of the weekend. Here’s a rundown of what I attended today: “Common Mistakes Writers Make”, “A Shot of Inspiration”, “Chicago 10“, and “The Walker“.

Continue reading “Austin Film Festival: Day One”

Welcome Back, TV Premiere Season

Here we are again… another year, and even more new shows to watch and watch fail. In the past few years I’ve paid much closer attention to the premiering shows, and I tend to check out anything with promise.

Of course, this means that I also end up watching plenty of shows that get canceled. Studio 60 is the most prominent example, of course, but I also watched Smith (I could tell after the pilot that it was done for), Help Me Help You (I had actually forgotten about this show), and Andy Barker PI. Studio 60 is the only one I really miss, but I started missing it a few episodes in after it never quite matched the promise of the pilot. It would also be nice if Andy Richter could find himself a successful show.

Earlier in the week I had a more ambitious goal to write a full review of every new show I watch, but I’m scaling that back a bit because I’m feeling lazy. I have, however, decided to rank the new shows I’ve watched so far:

Sam and The Devil1. Reaper – This is a must-see. The creators did a good job of establishing likable characters and the humor is right on target. The premise is dealt with in a fairly absurd way (“Sorry about that, son… we sold your soul to the devil to save your dad’s life!”), but overall that works for the tone of this show.

The actress who plays the love interest didn’t quite mesh with the rest of the show, but she was a late addition, replacing another actress, so hopefully things will gel more in later episodes. In fact, the most negative review of this show on MetaCritic says that “Reaper is strictly for fans of movies like Superbad.” How can you go wrong with that?

The main character from Journeyman2. Journeyman – I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this show. It gets major points for throwing in a completely unexpected twist, which is pretty impressive for a brand new show. I also liked that the character was resourceful enough to deal with the problems that time-jumping could cause for his life and marriage in the present.

I’ve read it did terribly in the ratings, however, so it may not be long for this world. Hopefully it’ll get some buzz and start holding on to more of the lead-in from Heroes. If you missed the premiere, you can watch the whole thing on NBC’s website, or you can buy it on the iTunes store, thanks to the funny ways of television production (just because it airs on NBC doesn’t mean it was produced by NBC).

Chuck at Buy More3. Chuck – This show was highly entertaining, but only if you can ignore the serious gaps in logic in the setup. Somehow Chuck is sent an email full of a huge number “encrypted images” that contain intelligence from the NSA and the CIA. When he watches a slideshow of these images (it apparently takes all night) he wakes up with a brain full of crazy intelligence that has been interpreted by the computer that the images were stolen from.

This raises major questions, like: How was someone able to send an “email” full of millions of images and possibly terabytes of data? Why on earth did the NSA and the CIA put “all of their secrets” together on one computer? Why did they encode all of these secrets into images? Was it some kind of secret training program, i.e. a more efficient way of teaching someone intelligence data? That would certainly make slightly more sense than the explanation given in the pilot.

I sound pretty negative about Chuck, I know, but I really did laugh a lot, and all of the previews make future episodes look even better. Maybe they’ll do a better job of explaining the premise in later episodes, or maybe I’ll stop caring if the show just gets generally better. I’d also accept it if they started making fun of their own premise. It would be more in line with the style of creator Josh Schwartz’s previous show – The OC.

Katee Sackhoff, the best thing in Bionic Woman4. Bionic Woman – The problem with this one is just that Katee Sackhoff is too damn awesome. In a perfect world, she would play the main character, but only if it meant she could also finish Battlestar Galactica.

Michelle Ryan as Jaime Somers is certainly nice to look at, but didn’t really hold her own against Sackhoff in the pilot. Some of the dialog was fairly clunky, especially her speech at the end of the episode. I wonder how much of this can be chalked up to a British actress trying to do an American accent – not everyone can be Hugh Laurie or Colin Farrell, after all. This show wasn’t a complete disappointment, but it definitely did not live up to my expectations. I’ll keep watching for as long as it is on air to see if it improves.

Other than those four shows, I’ve also got Dirty Sexy Money and Gossip Girl waiting to be watched, and this upcoming week I’m recording: Cavemen (too awful-sounding to miss), Carpoolers, and Pushing Daisies. Pushing Daisies has been getting ecstatic reviews, so I hope it lives up to the hype.

I Don’t Sleep, I Dream

I seem to be stuck in a repeating cycle of being exhausted during the day at work, so I take a nap when I get home, and then I can’t get to sleep when I need to, and then accordingly I’m just as tired the next day when I get to work. As good as my intentions may be, I still end up thinking “I’ll just lie down and rest for a little while” every night when I get home from work. Inevitably I wake up three or so hours later feeling better but a little ashamed at the same time. This really has got to stop, mostly because I feel awful all day at work lately what with the whole no sleep thing.

In other news, I’ve been working my way through the second season of The OC in preparation for the third season, which starts up next week. The second season is definitely good, although I definitely feel that there’s a slight dip in quality… The show’s producers were brave enough to change the main premise the second season, which is good, because the whole “new kid in town” thing only works for so long.

It’s mildly disappointing, though, because without that particular story arc, the second season so far has focused largely on the “are they on, or are they off” nature of the various relationships in the show. I don’t mind that so much as long as there are other story arcs going on as well… but so far there hasn’t been too much else. It looks like that sort of thing is going to start picking up in the second half of the season, which is good (everything I’ve heard is that folks generally thought the first half of the season was a little slow, but that it picked up a good amount in the latter half.)

I also read a kind of “amusingly hateful review of The OC”:http://www.thedigitalbits.com/reviews3/spinsheet083105.html. I say amusing because even though the writer heaps incredible amounts of bile and ridicule on the show, he still gives it a B-, which is a comparatively good rating considering he claims that he had to drink bottles of cough syrup to stand watching the show.

Brown Bunny

Ebert gives it three stars in his review of the theatrical release. Now, remember that Ebert was one of the most vocal haters of this movie at Cannes, but thing is… the theatrical release is almost a half-hour shorter. Apparently, this improves the movie by leaps and bounds. I always was interested in seeing this, but it’s nice to know that when I finally manage to, there’s the possibility it might very likely be worth my time. Hope it shows up here in Austin soon.