Saturday, October 17, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
Architecture in Helsinki - In Case We Die
Be Your Own Pet - Be Your Own Pet
of Montreal - Satanic Panic in the Attic
Menomena - I Am The Fun Blame Monster (and I wouldn't have been sad to see Friend and Foe)
Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
Pinback - Summer in Abaddon
The Strokes - Room on Fire
Beirut - The Flying Club Cup or Gulag Orkestar were both equally worthy
But whatever. It makes me look forward to having my own list done.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
This is just to amuse myself. Tomorrow they're unveiling their choices for the top 20 albums of the 2ks. And if I know this website as well as I think I do, I think I may be on the nose in my predictions. I don't know what order they'll be in, but I'm pretty sure I can guess a good number of the ones that will be on it.
Radiohead - Kid A (it's a too obvious number one for them; I'm hoping they'll surprise us with a worthy upstart)
Interpol - Turn On the Bright Lights
The Arcade Fire - Funeral
The Knife - Silent Shout
Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
Modest Mouse - The Moon and Antarctica
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Panda Bear - Person Pitch
Be Your Own Pet - Be Your Own Pet
Spoon - Kill The Moonlight
Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun
The Strokes - Is This It?
LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
I'm nearly positive that all of those will all have a place somewhere. I know there will be a few rap albums I haven't heard a lick of, and probably won't ever, but I'm not concerned with any of those.
Ones I'm less positive about, but still speculative:
Daft Punk - Discovery
Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog (I'm not too sure about this, but imho it should post very high)
Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam (they wrote at the start of the list that there were no more than three albums by any artist on the whole list, but it seems like a travesty if they leave this off)
Outkast - Stankonia
The Flaming Lips - Embryonic?
I know the last one hasn't even come out yet, but I can dream.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Adam and I were feeling a bit nostalgic, so we decided to watch Titanic. I was in 7th grade when that movie came out twelve (twelve!) years ago, and that movie always brings to mind the Titanic hysteria in the world of 1997's 12-13 year-old kids.
I'm sure no one has to be reminded, but girls my age fell for the Titanic love story in DROVES. Everywhere I looked in my middle school there were girls wearing plastic "Heart of the Ocean" necklaces from Claire's. They would grab hands and spin around in circles during recess, a la Jack and Rose spinning around on the table in that one scene (you know the one). The radio stations were inundated with requests for "My Heart Will Go On," which I'm sure we ALL remember. There were even "remixes" with cheesy dialogue from the movie, which my older sister dutifully taped off the radio. Her favorite one was the remix with dialogue between Jack and Rose, of course.
Then there was the Leo mania. Fans were mobbing Leo, and it took several bad movies and an under the radar five year hiatus for him to move on to what he is now.
Is Twilight not the new Titanic? Of course, the broad appeal of Titanic doesn't quite match the target audience of Twilight; Titanic is the highest grossing movie ever, and I know Twilight doesn't even come close on that count. But the way the teenage fanbase has reacted in their obsession with the movie, books, and last but not least Rob Pattinson, I think Twilight is TOTALLY the new Titanic. And I love it. Who doesn't love a new pop culture phenomenon? (And I mean an actual one - not The Hills).
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!; the best thing about the YYYs is that they could have been the worst kind of one trick pony. But they've shown remarkable growth over the years I've listened to them, and their latest is no exception. In fact, it builds and improves on all the elements of their arsenal. I think an electronic edge was just the thing they needed.
Favorite songs: Soft Shock, Heads Will Roll, Dull Life, Skeletons, Zero
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest; such a surprisingly good album! And I never would have thought that this band would be one to explode. I remember seeing them open for Feist and thinking that although their music was pretty, but with the exception of "Easier" and "Knife" it was way too boring to actually go anywhere. I was very wrong, as this album is one of the most listenable and impressive follow ups I've ever heard. Especially by a band that could have gone either way.
Favorite songs: Two Weeks, Southern Point, While You Wait for the Others, All We Ask, Fine For Now
Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca; despite putting it on this list, I can't find anything I think is all that remarkable about the Dirty Projectors, other than the fact that they have some unusual song arrangements, and pleasing harmonies. But this album is definitely a fun and easy to listen to. And I listen to it a lot, so there must be something special here.
Favorite songs: Cannibal Resource, Temecula Sunrise, Useful Chamber,
Passion Pit - Chunk of Change EP and Manners; I'm not sure when the EP was released, but I started listening to both it and the full length album at the same time, so I'm including them together. For me, Passion Pit came out of nowhere, recommended to me by one of my best friends because it would be "my new summer jam album," to which she was completely spot on. This band is nothing but exhilaration, excitement, and pleasure.
Favorite songs: Cuddle Fuddle, Sleepyhead, The Reeling, Moth's Wings, Swimming in the Flood (and pretty much everything else)
Bat for Lashes - Two Suns; Bat for Lashes' first album was pretty average except for "What's a Girl To Do?," although Natascha Khan had an undeniably beautiful voice. Two Suns improves remarkably on her talents, and the whole album is much more cohesive (and interesting).
Favorite songs: Glass, Two Planets, Daniel
Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career; Camera Obscura are so much less the Belle and Sebastian knockoff (although it was an enjoyable knockoff) that they used to be, and this album is their most impressive so far.
Favorite songs: French Navy, The Sweetest Thing, My Maudlin Career
Animal Collective - Sung Tongs, Feels, Strawberry Jam, Merriweather Post Pavilion; even though MPP came out this year, I'm including AC in older releases because I never really appreciated this band (like, at all) until this album came out. Before now I thought they were kind of kitschy and weird although they had a few fun tunes, but the release of Merriweather prompted me to take them much more seriously, and see that they are truly one of the most talented and innovative bands of all time. Seriously. Watch out for these guys because they're changing the way we think of music. The music they make is beyond description; it's like nothing I've ever heard. I'm so glad I am finally able to appreciate them for the geniuses they are, not just for Merriweather, but for a lot of their previous work as well.
Favorite songs: Did You See the Words?, My Girls, Fireworks, Brother Sport, Daily Routine, For Reverend Green, Chores, Leaf House, Grass, Banshee Beat, and so many more.
The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Clouds Taste Metallic; I'm still continuing my love affair with The Soft Bulletin, but have also come to appreciate the quirks of Yoshimi... as well as the earlier work in Clouds. I can't express how much I'm looking forward to their new release this fall.
Favorite songs: Slow Motion, Buggin', Race for the Prize, A Spoonful Weighs a Ton, The Spark That Bled, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1, Fight Test, Do You Realize?, and countless others.
Deerhunter - Microcastle, Weird Era Continued; Microcastle was one of my top albums of 2008, but I didn't come to fully appreciate it until this year. I think it took a solid love of My Bloody Valentine first or something. But my Deerhunter listenage has grown exponentially in the last few months. I love the shoegaze haze of their music; it's hypnotizing.
Favorite songs: Never Stops, Agoraphobia, Little Kids, Saved By Old Times, Microcastle, Nothing Ever Happened, Vox Humana, Calvary Scars, Calvary Scars II/Aux Out, Dot Gain
The Magnetic Fields - Holiday, Charm of the Highway Strip, 69 Love Songs; mostly I find myself listening to Holiday on repeat. 69 Love Songs is epically fantastic, but a little taxing to try and listen to all at once. Charm of the Highway strip shows tremendous growth from Holiday. I enjoy all three, but Holiday gives me the most enjoyment; 90's synth music is kind of hard to come by. It's not really an instrument/sound associated with mid nineties music. But one thing permeates all three albums, and that is Stephen Merrit's awesome lyrics. Catchy, yet clever, ironic, and complex, it harmonizes perfectly with their indie-pop sound.
Favorite songs: In My Secret Place, Deep Sea Diving Suit, Strange Powers, Take Ecstacy, Absolutely Cuckoo, Crazy For You (But Not That Crazy), and (once again) so many more.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I've started re-watching my favorite show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think I've waited the perfect amount of time, because I'm relishing every episode. Even the campy, silly first season had me laughing and just as deep into the plotline as the other seasons. It's been awhile since I've been able to fully appreciate a Buffy episode the way I used to, so this has been really fun and refreshing for me. I decided to make a list of my top 50 Buffy Moments and post it in here for fun. It's not very comprehensive, and I know there are tons of moments I've probably missed, not to mention the ones that just didn't make the cut. Also, I tried to add some pictures, but I guess I need some more practice with that, because it was kind of a disaster. Whatevs. I hope you enjoy!
50. Buffy lets Dracula drink from her; "Buffy vs Dracula."
I really enjoy this episode, especially when she lets him drink from her. Obviously it's not the first time Buffy's had her blood sucked by a vampire. Just more evidence that Buffy will always be in love with death (as Spike tells her in a later episode), not to mention vampires.
49. Oz leaves Willow; "Wild at Heart."
I was going to say that I saw this coming, but since I started this show by watching reruns on FX starting midway through season 5, it's a moot point. Although I didn't dislike Tara, I was always a bigger fan of Oz and Willow. The situation parallels what Buffy and Angel went through; Oz can never fully be there for Willow, because as of this episode he's starting to come to terms with the fact that the werewolf isn't just a full moon thing, it's a constant presence. So sad; they were my second favorite couple on the show.
48. Anya and Willow's bickering over Xander; "Triangle."
I love when Willow gets to show her claws a little. Since she's usually so docile and cheery, I always enjoy when she and Anya argue with each other. They've pretty much disliked each other from the beginning, and they both make it known to the other. I liked their exchanges in this episode most because, while being hilarious, you see that each side has a legitimate concern about the others involvement with mutual friend/love interest Xander. Plus, they both look so cute in this episode.
47. Joyce hits on Xander; "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered."
As soon as Cordy and Xander get to Buffy's house, you just know this is going to happen. But it still doesn't make it any less funny, especially since Joyce plays it so cool. She even inconspicuously gets Cordelia to leave the room while she tries to put the moves on Xander. I really think Joyce gets some of the best moments on this show.
46. Buffy hallucinates about being in the psychiatric ward (or does she?); "Normal Again."
What a cool concept for an episode! What a fantastic "what if?"! Especially when we learn that Buffy's parents actually did take her to a mental hospital when she first became a Slayer, it really does leave the viewer wondering if maybe this whole Hellmouth, Sunnydale thing is the real hallucination.
45. Hush in it's entirety; "Hush."
What a brilliant episode. Everyone always cites Hush and Once More With Feeling as two of the most groundbreaking episodes in television. At least, fans of the show do (and they're right). While I love OMWF, it was never an episode which beared a lot of repeat viewing for me. Not so for Hush. Hush is the turning point of the fourth season. Willow meets Tara, and they share a majik moment; you can just see how the two of them combining their majik skills means so much more than just this one moment in one episode. Buffy and Riley kiss! Giles does his fantastically bloody overhead projector montage explaining the legend of The Gentlemen, while Anya giddily watches and eats popcorn. Buffy mimes slaying (or masturbation)! The praises of this episode cannot be sung enough.
44. Military Xander on Halloween; "Halloween."
I loved how Xander finally became useful in this episode. His military training came in handy so much, and I just loved his transformation from goofy Xander to uber serious comando.
43. Willow's spell on the scythe; "The Chosen."
I have a general distaste for most of season 7 (almost entirely because of the OBNOXIOUS potential Slayers, most of all Kennedy; I hate to admit that my respect for Willow dipped a little when she kissed that stupid tramp). But I loved this last episode. It serves as Willow's penance for her Dark Willow rampage; the symbolism of her flowing white hair during the spell gets me tingly. Who would have ever thought that shy, stuttery, "softer side of Sears" Willow from the beginning of this series would end up being the real hero?
42. Xander and Buffy's reconciliation; "Seeing Red."
Although Xander and Buffy have had their fights, it's clear that Buffy has always been up on a very high pedestal in Xander's mind. His crush on her never really died until he hears the truth about Buffy and Spike's relationship. When the two of them reconcile in Buffy's backyard, we can see just how deep the rift has become between not just himself and Buffy, but between Buffy and everyone. It's been quite the dark season, and this scene (coupled with Willow and Tara's reconciliation) gives us that one faint glimmer of hope that things are going to be alright for the Scoobies. Of course, like always, we're wrong, but this moment stands apart.
41. Cordelia discusses boyfriend stealing with Vamp Willow; "Dopplegangland."
I just love Cordelia. A little part of me died when she left the show. This is one of my favorite Cordelia moments; you see the complete boredom on Vamp Willow's face, Cordelia's complete obliviousness to the situation, and of course, plenty of Cordeliaisms. "We kept being put in these life or death situations, and that's always all sexy!"
40. Buffy hears all of the Scoobies thoughts; "Earshot."
While each character's thoughts are pretty predictable, it's still hilarious to actually hear them. Oz thinks a long philosophical rant about Buffy's new power, but only utters a little "hmm." Xander, now that he knows his thoughts are being monitored by Buffy, thinks of sex even more than he already does. And of course, Cordelia just says whatever she's thinking.
39. Angel drinks from Buffy; "Graduation Pt. 2."
Several episodes earlier, the First tells Angel that eventually he will drink Buffy. It happens. I always wonder about this scene; it's so complex. I have no doubt Angel is getting unthinkable pleasure from a) finally drinking human blood again, b) finally drinking Slayer blood, c) drinking Buffy's Slayer blood. I've hypothesized before that Buffy likes to have her blood sucked. In a weird way, I feel like this scene is the second time they have sex.
38. Giles binds Bad Willow; "Two to Go."
I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that one of the reasons season six was so dark and full of personal turmoil for all the characters involved is due in part to Giles' absence. With Joyce dead, and Giles back in England, there's no stabilizing, rational adult influence, and the lives of the Scoobie gang sort of just fall apart. Giles is the last person I expected to show up for a showdown with Evil Willow, but I was sooo glad he did.
37. Harmony and Xander's girl fight; "The Initiative."
I don't really think a description is necessary for this one. It cracks me up every time.
36. Angel kills Darla; "Angel."
It's hard to understand the importance of Darla if you've only watched Buffy and not Angel. But when the relationship between Darla and Angel is fully explored in the spinoff series, this scene gains so much more importance. Darla and Angelus terrorized the world for over a century; she sired him, she taught him. Add in Darla's relationship with The Master, and this scene becomes one of the most important of the series, I think. Angel kills Darla without a second thought because all of his and Darla's history means nothing when compared to how much he loves Buffy.
35. Spike can't feed on Willow; "The Initiative."
This episode is important in and of itself because we learn about the chip implanted in Spike's head. It sets his character for the rest of the series. But this scene is the best one. I love Spike's twisted emotional moments with the characters of this show (at least, the ones before he gets soft, realizing his love for Buffy). Spike laments that he can't perform, and a lovelorn Willow believes that it must be her fault. Adorable.
34. Xander leaves Anya at the altar; "Hells Bells."
This always angered me. For all of the braveness Xander's shown throughout the series (he may be the Zeppo, but he really is a brave guy, considering he's the only character that never has any sort of superpower), for some reason, he just can't settle down with Anya, even though they love each other, and the reasons for his cold feet are completely fabricated. I feel for Anya, because she's done nothing but prove she's loyal to Xander, and in no way deserves this punishment. But also, I begrudgingly understand where Xander's coming from. He's what, 20, 21? That's pretty early for a guy to be getting married.
33. Gwendolyn Post gets the glove of Myneghon; "Revelations."
I love this scene because it's the first time Buffy and Faith fight each other, and that's always fun. Former watcher Gwendolyn Post sows the seeds of discontent between them, and pits them off against each other in her quest for power. We also see Faith's need for approval and for an authority figure. And Angel is semi-accepted back into the group after saving Willow.
32. Spike tries to woo manniquin Buffy; "Triangle."
Spike's so new in his realization that he loves Buffy. I love this scene because it's probably exactly how a scene between Spike and the real Buffy would play out, minus hitting her over the head with the chocolates. And I love that he's stolen some of her clothes to put on the mannequin.
31. Willow restores Angels' soul; "Becoming Pt. 2."
Jenny Calendar could work powerful majiks, but even she wasn't sure she could perform the spell of soul restoration. Willow has very little experience with majik so far, but in this scene we see just how potentially powerful a witch she can become. Already she's beginning the character arc which takes us all the way to Dark Willow, and to her spell on the Slayers at the end of the series.
30. Dawn's first appearance; "Buffy vs Dracula."
When I got to this episode, I knew Dawn would be in there somewhere (as I said, I started the show midway through reruns of season 5; it took a few months of watching the series on reruns and rented DVDs to get back to this point). But it was a perfect introduction for an integral character, and her personality. Dawn spent most of her time in this season being an annoying little sister. Even though I already knew Dawn's history, it was fun to see her just being there with no explanation, like she'd always been a part of the Summer's household.
29. Buffy and Faith switch back to their rightful bodies; "Who Are You?"
I've always been sympathetic towards Faith, even when she was at her worst. When Faith is letting loose on her own body, unleashing all the rage she feels towards herself, she becomes human again. She's not a psychopath like everyone has labeled her; the viewer sees that she's incredibly unhappy, and she doesn't know how to deal with all the wrongs she's done. Her two episodes in season four, and her subsequent stint on Angel show her humanity, and solidifies her as one of my favorite characters.
28. Oz and Cordelia walk in on Xander and Willow; "Lover's Walk."
Cordelia and Oz are probably my two favorite Buffy characters. I was so annoyed at the whole Xander/Willow hooking up, mostly for Cordy and Oz's sake. The scene sets the stage for Cordelia's drift from the Scoobies, her departure from the show, the introduction of Anya, and Cordelia's legitimate anger towards the Scoobies (she gets impaled for goodness sake!).
27. Defeat of Adam with the conjoining spell; "Primeval."
With the exception of The First, Adam is my least favorite villain. But I've always thought that season four was less about the big bad, and more about the Scoobie's maturation from high schoolers to young adults. All of the internal fighting between Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles is all put to rest with this awesome spell. And visually, it's one of the coolest scenes in the show.
26. Buffy finds out Angel is a vampire; "Angel."
I can't begin to imagine the internal conflicts that were brought out in both Buffy and Angel after she sees his true face. If only they knew what was in store...
25. Angel and Buffy's last dance; "The Prom."
Their love was so poetic and tragic, and from the moment Buffy and Angel are reunited in season three, it was obvious that it would never work out. The whole season deals with the fact that both of them know the moment of their break-up was imminent. But this scene serves as one last peaceful reminder of how deep their love is. I thought it was so decent for him to let her have her perfect prom night. At least, as perfect as any supposed "normal" night can be for Buffy.
24. Xander and Cordelia kiss; "What's My Line Pt. 2."
Xander and Cordelia are my favorite couple on the whole show. They were the most short-lived, but provide the most entertainment. My sister said they remind her of Han and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back; bickering, annoyed, etc., yet undeniably attracted to each other. I love their feeble arguments leading up to the big moment. You just know it's going to happen, and when it does, it's spectacular.
23. Giles leaves Sunnydale; "Bargaining Pt.1."
While Buffy's death is hard on everyone, you just know it's especially deep for Giles. He's been her father figure for the past several years, and the two of them have been through more than probably any other duo in the show. It's natural that Giles would leave Sunnydale, and it sets the stage for all of the hardships of this dark season. And who doesn't chuckle when Tara gives him the little finger puppet monster, and the trademark Mutant Enemy "Grrr, arrgh!"
22. Willow and Oz's last goodbye; "New Moon Rising."
I think this scene hits me pretty hard, as I'm gay and went through the inner anguish of knowing that someday I'd have to tell everyone close to me. It's a scary thing. But Oz is so gracious and accepting of Willow, and the knowledge that she's a lesbian now. He still loves her so much, which I think makes it easier for him to understand and support her. It's a simple, yet very touching scene, and it gives them the goodbye they didn't get to have the first time.
21. Anya's death monologue; "The Body."
I was never really impressed with Emma Caulfield's acting on Buffy; I liked her and her character, but this scene is what changed my mind about her abilities. It's clear how heartbroken and sad she is at Joyce's death, and she's expressing it the only way she knows how. Willow snaps at her (typically) for being so blunt, but when she starts to tear up and talk about how much this affects her, you see how different her perception is from everyone else's. She really doesn't understand death because as a demon, it's never affected her firsthand.
20. The First haunts Angel as Ms. Calendar; "Amends."
I'd already seen season seven when I watched this episode, so I already knew about The First. I thought it was so clever and appropriate that it would manifest first as Ms. Calendar. She was prepared to make her own amends and restore Angelus' soul, but he kills her. It's such a chilling reminder that Angelus was a horrific monster, and that Angel has so much to atone for.
19. Riley meets and fights Angel; "The Yoko Factor."
A lot of my fellow Buffy watchers didn't like Riley very much, but I did. I thought he was a good, decent man, who had more to offer Buffy than any of her other suitors ever did. I still liked Angel and Buffy of all the Buffy couplings, but I always loved how Riley was like the knight in shining armor. I thought this was a fun interaction between Buffy's two love interests.
18. The Master kills Buffy; "Prophecy Girl."
The Master was such an intriguing villain; I wish they could have done more with him. Obviously the first season of the show was a little limited in what they could do, but this is my favorite scene with the Master. He lets Buffy know how she played right into the hands of the prophecy, right before he drinks her and kills her. And he lets her know it's all her own doing. "Think about that."
17. Buffy has sex with Spike; "Smashed."
This scene was so well written, directed, and shot. Buffy's in so much turmoil, and much as she hates to admit it, Spike is the only one she can turn to. It's violent, it's bittersweet, and it seems almost inevitable. I didn't like Buffy and Spike together, but it was necessary, and made sense for both of their characters.
16. Faith accidentally kills the Deputy Mayor; "Bad Girl."
Buffy could have so easily been the one to accidentally kill the Deputy Mayor. I loved the Faith going bad scenario, because although their personalities differ, it could so easily have been Buffy.
15. Buffy convinces Dawn to not reanimate Joyce; "Forever."
This is the scene that got me to start watching Buffy religiously. They were both in so much pain, and neither one knew what to do. I want for people who doubt Sarah Michelle Gellar's acting abilities to see this scene. Also, this scene allowed me to sympathize with Dawn a little more. By now, she knows that she's the Key, and she knows the entire memory of her life is a sham. Add that she just lost her mother, and her motives become understandable and sympathetic.
14. Class Protector; "The Prom."
This was such a sweet, well deserved moment. Buffy spent her entire high school career being such an outcast; so much had happened to her, and it's amazing that she could deal with it all. In this scene, she's finally recognized as someone who's made a difference. It touches me every time.
13. Buffy reveals to Spike that she was in Heaven; "After Life."
Spike really is the only person she could have confessed this to, as he is the only one who didn't help with the ressurection spell, and she knows that telling him won't make him worry in the same way that it would Dawn, Willow, Xander, etc. With her confession, a Buffy/Spike relationship becomes a real possibility, whereas before it would have been impossible to imagine.
12. Tara dies; "Seeing Red."
So unexpected, and so heartbreaking. It's the first violent, non-demon murder in the show, and it's no wonder it drives Willow over the edge, even when she'd been doing so well in her recovery. They'd only been back together for one episode!
11. Angel's one moment of happiness; "Surprise."
The Angelus scenario of season two will always be my favorite story arc. When I first saw this season, I identified so strongly with what had happened to Buffy. It's like the ultimate nightmare for a vulnerable, emotionally fragile youth. She sleeps with someone and he turns on her; he becomes evil. Her pain becomes a joke, and you can't even begin to know how she's going to have to deal with the whole thing. Buffy matures so much after this.
10. Giles gets fired; "Helpless."
It's the last thing I expected. Giles fired from the Watcher's Council?? The person who was the most stable, consistent character on the show goes through such a complete transformation afterwards. While he gets to showcase his cooler side a bit when Wesley's around, it leads the way for his "mid-life crisis," so to speak, in the fourth season. And it's fun to see how much he and Buffy have in common in the aftermath of his sacking.
9. Angel breaks up with Buffy; "The Prom."
This goes hand in hand with their last dance, but the moment where Angel finally confronts Buffy to talk about the things they both already know but are too afraid to admit to themselves or each other is so heartbreaking. They and we all know it's for the best, and it's the only way it could end peacefully. For Buffy and Angel, the whole of season three was a coming to terms that they were from two different worlds, and that in spite of their huge love for each other, there was no way it could ever realistically work out. As Joyce says in the beginning of the episode, Buffy is very mature and has had to grow up fast. But when it comes to Angel, she's just like any other romantic young adult.
8. Willow goes to the Bronze disguised as Vamp Willow; "Doppelgangland."
Probably my favorite Willow scene ever. She's so awful at trying to be bad; it's hilarious, and so incredibly endearing. It sets the tone for Willow and Anya's later animosity. And it has one of my favorite lines in the whole series: "I'm a bloodsucking fiend!! Look at my outfit..."
7. Buffy hears the prophecy of her death at the hands of the Master; "Prophecy Girl."
Another scene to turn to if you doubt SMG's acting ability. Her pain is legit, and her frustration and anger at Giles and Angel is justified. Though there have been some dire situations in the Scoobie gang this past season, none of them (purposefully, I'm sure) show the real danger in Buffy's occupation. The prophecy is not just that she might die. She will die. It's a certainty, and no one, not Angel, Giles, Willow, Xander, or Buffy can do anything about it. Up to this point, Buffy's always had someone to fall back on and help her, whether it's Angel, Giles, or her friends. This is the first time we see how truly alone Buffy will be for the rest of her life.
6. Buffy and Faith's epic battle; "Graduation Pt. 1."
Two Slayers equally skilled at fighting in an all out battle. It's a beautifully choreographed fight, not to mention that Eliza Dushku and SMG both look totally hot. This moment was foreshadowed as early as Faith's very first episode. It's one of the best of the edge-of-your-seat battles in Buffy history. And there's so much emotion in it. You know both slayers are totally conflicted; despite Faith's devil may care attitude, she respects Buffy. Despite Buffy's strong stance, she understands and sympathizes with Faith. But this is the way it had to be. You don't poison Angel and expect Buffy to just take it sitting down.
5. Buffy finds Joyce on the sofa; "The Body."
The scene was taken all in one shot. Up to this point, Joyce had been fine; she'd dealt with her sickness and was supposed to be recovering. But despite the situation, it's a universal episode that speaks to everyone. I've never seen a movie or episode of television that's dealt with death in such a realistic way. And on a show about vampires and demons, no less. Buffy's slayer powers have always been nothing less than an asset, but here is the first time where being a Slayer is of no help and no comfort. Even though Joyce had been sick, it's still such a shock. No matter what the circumstances - illness, injury, old age - losing a parent is something you could never be prepared for.
4. Angel kills Jenny Calendar; "Passion."
He doesn't even drink from her. He snaps her neck without a second thought. If there were any doubts as to the evilness of Angelus, they're completely washed away at this moment. It's the first time we see the real terror he gives his victims, and the pleasure he gets from it. You can almost see the glee in his eyes as he sets out the rose petals, pours the champagne, and positions Ms. Calendar's dead body on Giles' bed. It's the first indication that even the most beloved characters of this show are never safe. She was one of my favorites. The death of Jenny Calendar is memorialized in the opening credits of the show. It's a constant reminder that no matter how hard he tries, Angel can never, ever make up for the sins he's committed. All the characters of the show are changed after this. It's not just their schoolmates and random bystanders that are going to be the victims of vampires and the hellmouth.
3. Buffy's ressurection - Willow performs the Spell of Osiris; "Bargaining"
It becomes apparent at the very beginning of the episode that the Scoobies are going to attempt to bring Buffy back to life. No biggie; Willow's a powerful witch, Buffy died at the hands of supernatural powers, how big of a deal could it be? Plus, it's not the first time Buffy's been brought back to life. Well, it's a big enough deal that snakes come out of Willow's mouth while she's performing the spell. With the exception of the majik she uses against Glory, this is the first time we see what a powerful witch Willow has become. This is the one season premiere that lives up to the excitement of BTVS's season finales. Plus, Willow freaking brought Buffy back to life after she was dead for like, four months.
2. Buffy dies to save Dawn; "The Gift."
In the one final moment where Dawn realizes what Buffy is about to do, it dawns (no pun intended) on all of us. But it's peaceful, and it's easy to accept. We've heard from the beginning of the series that the life of a Slayer is often a short one. Buffy (I hesitate to use this term, but whatever) sacrifices herself for Dawn not just because it's her job to save the world, but because she wants to. Most seasons of Buffy feel like they are a story arc about coming to terms with a specific thing (more than one, usually). Season 5 is about how much Buffy's love for Dawn grows. Even after she finds out Dawn's true origin, Buffy decides that the situation is nothing more than incidental. Dawn is still her sister, and no matter how annoying she can be, she wants to protect her. Dawn is an innocent; she's technically less than a year old, for goodness sake. I don't think Buffy sacrifices her life to save the world. I think she sacrificed it to save Dawn.
1. Buffy kills Angel; "Becoming Pt. 2."
This will forever be my favorite moment of the Buffyverse. While every significant Buffy moment is one where "the characters are changed forever," this one stands apart. Tellingly, right before heading to Angelus's lair, Buffy says to Whistler that she has nothing left to lose. And she's pretty much right. The love of her life is gone for good, she's wanted for murder, she's been expelled from school, she's finally had to tell Joyce that she's a Slayer, and has been kicked out of her home because of it. Willow is in the hospital, and Giles has been taken captive and tortured. She's even had to make a shady alliance with Spike, of all people. It's in this episode that we find out who Buffy truly is. After all this time, Buffy's finally set on ending it all. She knows there's no hope for Angel. Buffy makes what I have no doubt is the hardest decision of her life; Angel, not Angelus, is finally there with her. He's cured, his soul is back. But responsibility looms. She has to kill Angel, even though doing so leaves her with truly, nothing left to go on. She leaves town, and all I can do each time I watch is sit, sniffle, and marvel that more than ten years after it's debut, this show is still the best.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
It didn't take long at all to draw me into their beauteous psychadelia. I got the album over the weekend, and listened to it for the first time on Monday while at work. It was exactly the kind of rush I hope for in newly discovered music. The songs were badly labeled, and it was out of order (two things that I hate; I'm a total nut for having an organized music library), but I fixed that as soon as I got home. I don't like to use shuffle when listening to a full album - if by chance the artist actually had the time and scope to make an album, versus a collection of good singles and filler, I like to be able to listen to it as it was intended and gain that big picture perspective of the music. But even with the initial out-of-order listening, I knew that I'd found something good. I didn't have any standout songs yet, but I knew that they were there. And the album as a whole was just so incredibly beautiful; I knew it would become one of my regular rotations. And as I expected, over the past week the album and the band have become one of my new favorites.
I had never listened to The Flaming Lips before, other than "She Don't Use Jelly" and that song they played in Batman Forever; "In Your Dreams" or something. And I'm sure there have been other unknown listens on my part. It's not like The Flaming Lips are a super obscure band.
I was very impressed, upon my initial listen, with "Race For the Prize," "Slow Motion," and "Waiting for Superman." Over the rest of the week, I've come to adore "Buggin'" (the harmonies and what sound like harp flourishes are to die for), "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate," and "Sleeping on the Roof"; the latter two and "Slow Motion" probably being my top favorites on the album as a whole (so far). There aren't many pure instrumentals which I enjoy as much as songs with lyrics. There are a few instrumentals which I do enjoy as much as or even more than some lyrical songs (some random Sufjan Stevens and Cut Copy interludes, and "Lamb on the Lam" by Band of Horses come to mind). "Sleeping on the Roof" may be poised to become my most favorite one of all.
There is a recurring theme in the music. It's almost melancholy. My impression of the album was that it was about death, and how it's inextricably connected to life. The songs reference wounds, blood, death, keeping up the fight, but with each of these grim references is an accompanying reference to love. It never connotates violence, but the simple fact that death is around us, that it's a part of life, but there is still unspeakable beauty in the fight for life and love. Lead singer Wayne Coyne's tenor, almost boyish voice is a perfect compliment, adding even more depth and sincerity to the music and lyrics.
There is a great quality to the music. It's layered, but not too dense. There's a lot of reverb on guitar, which is one of my favorite effects. I had never given much thought to the term psychadelic pop before, but that's definitely what this is. It has an almost Dark Side of the Moon quality to it.
I'm always happy to have good, new music. I love discovering and exploring a new sound, a new voice, a new musical technique. Just like in any industry, there has to be those producers - the ones who create and challenge and discover new ways of making melodies, changing the way we think of music. Nothing can accurately describe the effect an extremely well crafted album can have on a person. It happens when I listen to a lot of my favorite artists; I hear the bounce and pop of "Soon" by My Bloody Valentine, the epic 16 minute "Only Skin" by Joanna Newsom, the simple bassline and drumbeat of "Our Swords" by Band of Horses, or "Paranoid Android" by Radiohead (which pretty much defies description), and I feel so lucky and so blessed to be able to listen to and enjoy a true artist. Someone (or a bunch of someones) who followed a vision for a new sound, a new concept, and succeeded. One of my favorite things about Loveless and Joanna Newsom's Ys is that the artists knew what they wanted, and they didn't let their vision be affected by anyone else's opinion. Joanna Newsom knew that her album would be a little hard to swallow (it's only five songs, and "Cosmia" is the only one under nine minutes - it's about 7), but she didn't let that stop her creation. Loveless took over two stressful, only spradically productive years to create; MBV's record label even refused to work with Kevin Shields afterwards, because he was such a perfectionist. There are times when compromise is beneficial; Joanna Newsom had to work together with Van Dyke Parks to ensure the orchestra fit well with her songs and her harp, and that she fit well with them. But in the end, a very personal dream was realized. Too much compromise on an artistic work is never good; the outcome of committee thinking is never good - it's an average on an average (just think of network television). It's the artist's work, and they made it for themselves. This staunchness in holding on to one's vision is what makes these albums so great. Well, that and the superb talent of the artists.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
One of my great, constant loves in this world is music. I love music. Listening to music makes just about anything better, even waiting seven extra hours for a snow delayed flight home for Christmas. To keep from sounding pretentious, I realize that music is a very personal thing; there's no accounting for taste, and because someone enjoys listening to Fallout Boy rather than The Shins says nothing about them other than that they enjoy listening to Fallout Boy rather than The Shins. I'm not better than anyone else for listening to the music that I do, and I fully realize that. But since this is my blog, it's all about my personal opinion, which is that I listen to only the best music.
Years ago in my livejournal, I termed the year 2005 as my "musical awakening." I'd been pretty sick of all of my own music and cds for awhile, but I had never been able to take part in music downloading because we didn't have Internet at my house until Christmas of 2005 when my parents finally got high speed Internet as a family gift. In fall of 2005 two of my good friends burned several cds of music for me, and my life hasn't been the same since. Suddenly with all of this new music, I was part of a new world; the independent music scene. And it was unlike anything I had ever heard. Here were bands that slipped under the radar of popular radio and the Billboard top 100, but were still making great music that not only sounded good in it's own special pop way, but did something more. It found ways to innovate and create new sounds, to expand and redefine what music is. The more I got into these so called "indie bands," the more pronounced the difference between them and popular music became. Popular music in many ways has ceased to be innovative and creative - it's stagnant and dead. Every time I hear a song from "the new Madonna album," "the new Mariah Carrey album," the thousands of obnoxious "punk" bands that grace the "hard rock" scene (Fallout Boy, Panic at the Disco, etc, etc.), not to mention the never ending slew of post grunge rehash, I can't help but think "I've heard this exact same song about a billion times already." It's no wonder the music industry is in trouble. There are, of course, exceptions to this, as many musicians who garnered popular followings are indeed very talented and prodigious (for example: Beck). But for the most part, as a young boy in suburban Frederick, MD, popular music was a dead end. DC 101 and the other radio stations I used to listen to were pretty much stuck in their post grunge nadir (Nirvana the only worthwhile thing they ever played), and it wouldn't be until I heard radio stations in Portland that I knew bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Spoon, M83, and Band of Horses could even get radio play (which is a little odd, considering the wild success of Death Cab). Thank the lord for metropolitan radio.
My "musical awakening" only became even more pronounced as 2006 progressed and I finally had my own access to high speed Internet and file sharing clients. My music collection ballooned up to over 1,000 songs on iTunes, which had seemed so unheard of before, and inspired me to buy my 30 gig iPod, which I still use (although now it's free space has severely declined). 2007 would be the pinnacle year of my downloading and musical discovery. It was a year rich with new releases from reliable bands I already knew and loved, as well as new artists. It was also the year I went to the most live shows, including the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, and the Virgin Music Festival in Baltimore.
This constant discovery of new music made each year more exciting than the next, but unfortunately for me, it peaked in early 2008. Last year didn't provide me with near the number of new artists I'd found in 2006 and 2007, and the new releases from my trusted veteran artists were, sad to say, disappointing. But what this did do, although I didn't realize it at the time, was open up the way to finding older artists and listening to albums which had already been out for awhile. One of my most notable obsessions of the past year has been Radiohead, which began with finally gaining a thorough understanding and appreciation of the musical genius of OK Computer and Kid A, which lead for a greater appreciation of just about all of their work. I've also come to really realize and appreciate the contributions of the American band, Pavement. At the suggestion of a friend, I downloaded their album Wowee Zowee in fall of 2007, and I really enjoyed it. I was already a fan of singer Stephen Malkmus's solo work. After reading more about Pavement's early days several months ago, I decided to check out their earlier releases Slanted & Enchanted, and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, and both quickly became favorites. Around the time I got these Pavement albums, I stumbled upon the band My Bloody Valentine.
I had heard of them before, but that name was an immediate turnoff. One hears the name My Bloody Valentine, and one automatically thinks of today's hardcore emo bands like My Chemical Romance. But nothing could be further from the truth. My Bloody Valentine is actually from Ireland, was formed in the mid-eighties, and is definitely NOT a part of the emo genre. Although I know I'd heard of them before, I first read of them this fall regarding their 1991 album Loveless. Every article I've read regarding the album has been near unanimous with praise, with many calling it one of the finest albums of the 1990s, a definitive work, and one of the best albums of all time. So like a good little music pirate, I downloaded it. The prospect of finally tackling such a critical success was very exciting, I must say.
After my initial listens, I could say that it was okay. Unfortunately just okay. Critics labeled it as part of the "shoegaze" genre (follow the link for the Wikipedia article of shoegaze - scroll down to read the definition). Shoegaze reached it's apex with Loveless and by now is kind of a dead movement (though hopefully it may be revived with success, now that MBV has reunited and will be issuing new material!); any previous experience I had with shoegazing bands ends with the sum of their parts. I was a little disappointed that the album failed to live up to my expectations, but I continued to listen to it, hoping that it was one of those albums that rewards after multiple, multiple listens. Fortunately for me, just before coming home to Frederick for Christmas, a little miracle happened.
By sheer coincidence, I happened to look at the iTunes page for Loveless, and I realized that I had the entire album out of order on my iTunes! So I quickly got to work fixing that, and began to play the album again, this time in the correct order. Within two songs, the difference was more than apparent. The brilliance of this album was finally manifested, and I haven't looked back since. It's such a layered sound, so rich, and so fulfilling. The music sounds just as amazing sitting here listening to it right now as it did just two weeks ago, when I listened to nothing but Loveless on my entire trek home. It was all I listened to at the airport, all I listened to on my seven hour wait for a snow delayed flight, all I listened to on the airplane, and all I wanted to listen to the entire way back. It's jumped about 200 plays on my last.fm since figuring out the correct track listing.
I feel like every so often I find a band that is just so life changing, I can't accurately describe it. Sufjan Stevens, Joanna Newsom, Band of Horses, Radiohead, Interpol, Fleet Foxes. These all changed my life. My Bloody Valentine has done the same. I get so happy when I hear music that has this effect. I think that most people would say that they love music. I think it's important that music progresses along with everything else in our world, and hearing something so mind blowingly innovative as Loveless gives me hope that music will continue to move along, just like the ever changing technological world that has become part of everyday life. I for one cannot wait for the newly reunited My Bloody Valentine's follow up to this album, and for all the new releases of 2009.