Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Some Songs from Today's Playlist

1. Net Babes - Free Pizza
2. Hollow Bedroom - Waxahatchee
3. Gone Daddy Gone - Violent Femmes
4. Schism - Tool
5. Look What Happened - Less Than Jake

Latest from Music and Movies with Mike and Ted

Check out the latest podcast with my partner in crime Ted Wahle as we interview local Duxbury up and coming rapper Jon Bartley.  We discuss his origins, inspirations, goals, and a whole slew of things relating to the experience of the independent musician in today's musical landscape.  Find his first two albums on Soundcloud and check out one of his tracks at the end of the interview.  IT'S CRAZY GOOD.

Movies and Music with Mike and Ted - Jon Bartley Interview

Waxahatchee Continues with Sincere Acoustic Alt Rock

Back in 2010, singer guitarist Katie Crutchfield then a member of indie rock outfit P.S. Eliot recorded a few dreamy acoustic pop songs in her bedroom.  The songs were deeply personal and would eventually lead to a debut album under the name Waxahatchee, named for a creek in Alabama where Katie grew up with twin sister and P.S. Eliot bandmate Alison Crutchfield.  The songs made up American Weekend released in 2012 on Don Giovanni Records.  The album was tight, definitively lo-fi and resonated with listeners.  As such, her follow up in 2013 was a highly anticipated record.  That follow up, titled Cerulean Salt was everything Waxahatchee fans hoped for and more.  Recorded in her basement this time, the songs retain their personal simplicity while adding layers of simple alt rock to push the tunes into new territory.  Recorded alongside her sisters band Sweain’ minus drummer Jeff Bolt, the tracks keep Katie’s voice and lyrics as the centerpiece with backing drums and haunting riffs supporting her ethereal, deeply intimate vibe.  Tracks like “Dixie Cups and Jars” are heavy in their own right with Swearin’ guitarist Kyle Gilbride’s succinct solos breaking up Crutchfield’s poetic ranting.  The light, happy “Lips and Limbs” gives off a campfire sing along vibe before the childlike “Blue Pt. II” which has the Crutchfield sisters singing in perfect unison.  While most songs keep things more low key fueling the feeling that you’re sitting in a living room watching her perform, some push things into static rock territory like the short “Misery Over Dispute” which gives way to one of the softer tracks “Lively”.  Closing track “You’re Damaged” give you goosebumps as Katie returns to the roots of American Weekend with a beautifully constructed acoustic gem.   Each and every track is better than the last and mixes up the sound of the album while maintaining a cohesive and understandable aesthetic.  Waxahatchee’s latest album Ivy Trip released earlier this month is her first away from Don Giovanni and also marks the first time she’s recorded in a studio instead of her own home causing many longtime fans to question her motives and sincerity.  However, the songs are all a product from a reclusive year spent with boyfriend and Swearin’ bassist Keith Spencer holed up in a house in Long Island.  As such, fans can expect the same 90’s infused poppy alt rock which Crutchfield has been known for since her days in P.S. Eliot.  The heartfelt lyrics, and profound sense of understanding which radiates from her songs is still present.  The studio space allows her to grow as an artist and while I appreciate the suspiciousness of leaving the lo-fi game behind for more polished compositions, I think it is something which Waxahatchee will only use to their advantage.  So much more than the solo project it began as, this is a musical endeavor which is quickly becoming one of the best acts of the 2010’s and is certainly cementing Katie Crutchfield as one of the preeminent songwriters of her generation.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Some Songs from this Morning

1. Life is a Chore - Yeehaw!
2. Just Perfect - Laika's Orbit
3. Hallway - Bugs and Rats
4. Three Ducks - Dinoczar
5. No Wind - Funeral Advantage

The Babadook - Unsettling, Demented.....Scary

I have been anxiously waiting to see the Australian indie horror film The Babadook for months.  The film received widespread critical acclaim after it premiered at Sundance last year.  Since then it has flown under the radar and recently I finally had the opportunity to sit down and watch it.  For the first time in years, I felt incredibly unsettled while watching the film.  The dark, ominous house in which most of the film takes place contributes to a heavy sense of dread which is ever present throughout the movie.  The depression and subsequent psychological issues felt by the two main characters is a constant force which weighs heavily on the viewer and contributes to the overall sense of doom which permeates each and every scene.  The films protagonists, Amelia and her son Sam have been trying to maintain a normal life after the death of Amelia’s husband on the way to the hospital the night Sam was born.  Since then, Amelia has never been the same.  Deeply depressed and wallowing in regret and resentment, Amelia’s demeanor has no doubt rubbed off on Sam his entire life.  Sam has trouble sleeping and has psychological issues, undoubtedly from living with a mother who subconsciously blames him for the death of her husband.  After Sam asks Amelia to read him a strange pop-up book from his bookshelf entitled “Mister Babadook” things begin to take a turn for the worse.  Slowly, Amelia and Sam fall prey to a dark entity that is constantly following the two, day and night.  Despite Amelia’s attempts to destroy the book, the evil tomes message remains true… “You can’t get rid of the Babadook”.  The concept of the pop-up book I found to be wonderfully demented.  Such an innocent child’s toy is used to represent unimaginable horrors as the book changes to reflect the Babadook’s increasing influence over Amelia.  While instances of “shock” are few and far between, the films strength is in its ability to convey a sense of dread.  The viewer is sucked into the sleep deprived paranoia that begins to fuel Amelia’s descent into madness.  Ultimately, it is up to the viewer to decide who and or what the Babadook is.  Left open to interpretation, the meaning behind to monster’s sudden appearance is something which adds to the unsettling feeling throughout the course of the film.  While this often doesn’t work (at least in my opinion) here it is absolutely necessary.  This isn’t a demon.  It isn’t a ghost or a poltergeist.  It’s not a physical being.  It’s all of those things and none of them at the same time.  It manifests in situations where it can thrive and thus becomes a direct product of the hatred and resentment which exudes from Amelia herself.  In a way, she is the Babadook.  Or at least that was this viewer’s humble interpretation.  You’ll have to sit through the uneasy fright fest yourself to form your own opinion. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Frank is a Quirky and Revealing Film About Music

Austin’s South by Southwest Music and Art Festival has long been a place where local, regional, and relatively unknown bands are given the chance to reach a wider audience.  Many see playing the event as a turning point in their careers.  With this year’s incarnation having recently come to a close, I figured it was an appropriate time to discuss a recent indie film I watched which deals with exactly this, among other things.  Frank directed by Lenny Abrahamson and starring Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Michael Fassbender is the story of a charismatic yet strange band called The Soronprfbs (the name is intentionally confusing).  After their keyboardist has a mental breakdown, the bands manager Don bumps into a young man named Jon who is in aspiring songwriter and performer.  Jon is invited to play with The Soronprfbs that night in town and jumps at the chance to play in a real band.  Lead by Frank, a mysterious yet determined man who always wears a large papermache mask, Jon has the time of his life and is thrilled when Frank invites him to join the band full time and come to Ireland to spend the next year recording their debut album.  Jon wants nothing more than to be famous and he can tell that Frank also wants to pursue fame despite the rest of the bands desire to remain anonymous and play the music that inspires them and only them.  Throughout the course of the year spent recording their album, Jon continually butts heads with band member Clara over the direction the band is taking.  After posting some of the songs online, The Soronprfbs are invited to play SXSW and Jon convinces Frank that this is exactly what they need to break into the mainstream and play music that everyone loves.  Despite Clara and the rest of the band insisting that Frank is not mentally stable enough to perform under such pressures.  Chaos ensues after many loud arguments, several mental breakdowns, and a stabbing which leads to disaster.  The film was an interesting take on the experience of independent bands.  The struggle between Jon’s aspirations of fame and Clara’s need to express herself free of outside influence is representative of the struggle many young bands face, particularly unsigned indie bands.  Frank encapsulates the pressures of pursuing that fame while maintaining your artistic integrity and you come to realize that the whole point of being in a band is to have fun and enjoy yourself.  If that isn’t the most important part, then you’re never going to last.  In this way, Frank ends up less of a character and more of a symbol of the freedom of doing and playing what you want.  Don tells Jon in the beginning that he shouldn’t try and be Frank.  Frank he explains, exists on a creative level that no one could ever hope to match and to try would be folly.  Jon comes to learn this lesson after many mistakes and both he and the viewer realize that self-expression is exactly that: SELF-expression.  It can’t be mimicked or faked.  It has to come from the heart, and Jon realizes in the end that that is exactly what made The Soronprfbs so inspiring in the first place. 

Today's Playlist

1. Suffragette City - David Bowie
2. Bargain - The Who
3. Sugarcrush - Joanna Gruesome
4. Confetti - The Lemonheads
5. Talking Trains - Quilt
6. Crimson Wave - Tacocat
7. That's Correct - Darkbuster
8. Tools and Chrome - Jawbox
9. Rush Hour - Miami Doritos
10. The Bends - Radiohead

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Episode Three of Music and Movies with Mike and Ted

Episode three of our podcast is up and running!  We discuss award shows, whether the Grammy's is a popularity contest, and our five favorite comedies of all time!  Give it a listen and stay tuned for more episodes to come!  Next week we plan on discussing movie franchises and how many only serve to destroy a once fabulous film.  We're looking at you Indiana Jones!

Music and Movies with Mike and Ted - Episode 3

The Homesman is a Powerful Western Drama

I’m not a huge western fan.  I’ve never been one for the whole cowboys and Indians storyline but I am a huge fan of period dramas and so I decided to give The Homesman a try.  Directed by Tommy Lee Jones and starring him alongside Hillary Swank, I figured the film had enough dramatic weight to be worth the watch and I was right.  The film was brilliantly acted and saw supporting roles by James Spader, John Lithgow, and Meryl Streep.  Taking place in the Nebraska territories in the mid-19th century, the film focuses on Mary Bee Cuddy (Hillary Swank), a single woman in her early 30’s who left her life in New York for a fresh start in the Western territories.  Though she has been successful monetarily, she has had no luck in securing a husband, something which begins to weigh heavily on her mind fueling a deep depression.  When three other women in their small frontier town go insane because of the daily stresses of their lives coupled with instances of tragedy, Mary Bee offers to take them back across the Ohio river to a church which has offered them sanctuary and care.  Along the way she saves a man named George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) left for dead by men who found him using land that wasn’t his.  After saving his life, he agrees to help Miss Cuddy on her journey.  While the film lacked any significant action, its strong suit was its ability to convey the mental hardships of life on the frontier.  The quiet, vast solitude is something that deeply affects the human psyche and that was represented clearly through each and every character.  While Mary Bee and George help these three women who’ve snapped, it becomes ever clearer that the two of them are not far off from that same insanity.  In the end, you’re left with both a profound respect and fear for the life of these pioneers and the struggles they had to go through to push the boundaries of this country westward.