Friday, November 27, 2009

Once upon a time, science opened up the door

80. Cerrone - "Supernature" (Atlantic, 1977)

The arpeggiated synths on this are very, very dope. I mean, everything on this is very, very dope. As far as early space disco classics, "Supernature" is up there with pretty much any of the Moroder classics. It has some odd moments, like the funky but not quite there right-channel solo that starts towards the end of its third minute, but there is so much here that works beautifully that when that triumphant riff comes in at 6:03 part of the thrill is kind of a "holy shit, how does this track have another gear to go into?"

Also, it's about nature getting its revenge on man.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thank you

81. Daft Punk - "Around the World" (Virgin France S.A., 1996)

As we give thanks for many things, including French robots, here's the stuffing I made for a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner we had at my homie Sam's house on Sunday. Recipe stolen pretty much wholesale from November's Bon Appetit except for a few tweaks.

- 2 loaves good Italian bread
- 1 pound each Hot Italian Sausage and Sweet Italian Sausage
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 2 large Spanish onions
- 4 celery stalks
- 4 Granny Smith Apples
- around 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 3 large eggs

The first part of this is by far the most annoying but at least you'll have it out of the way. Preheat an oven to 350 and take the crust off of the bread, cutting the rest of it into 1/2 inch cubes. When you've completed this surprisingly Herculean task, spread the bread on one or two baking sheets and put it in the oven to toast for like 15 minutes, or some of the pieces begin to get golden brown. When it's done, put the bread into a large bowl.

While the bread is toasting, chop the onions and celery into relatively small and, much more importantly, relatively equal pieces. Also peel and chop the apples. Put your largest skillet over medium-high heat and throw in the sausage (feel free to throw in some extra hot sausage if your grocer sells it in 1.5 pound bundles). Cook the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces with your spatula, until it all looks cooked through, then transfer it to the bowl of bread, making sure to leave the drippings in the pan. It might look like the sausage to bread ration is out of control, but it'll turn out ok, I promise.

Next, sautee the onions and celery in the sausage renderings until the onion is soft and just beginning to turn golden. Then, pour the contents of the skillet into the bread/sausage mixture, put the skillet back on the heat, and add two tablespoons of butter. Now throw in the apples, and sautee them until they're tender. God, cooked apples are delicious. When those are done, pour them into the bowl, and melt two more tablespoons of butter over low heat. The recipe said to sautee some fresh sage in the butter for 30 seconds, but I didn't have any, so I just used the butter. Feel free to add any herbs you feel appropriate, but either way, throw that butter into the bowl as well. Add the chicken stock and three gently beaten eggs as well.

Finally, butter a 15x10x2 glass dish (or, if you're like me and/or are transporting it anyways, a similarly sized, disposable aluminum roasting pan), spread the mixture evenly into it, and throw it into a 350 degree oven for around 50 minutes. It's delicious.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No offense to a player but yo I don't play

82. De La Soul - "Stakes Is High" (Tommy Boy Music, 1996)

The erstwhile Jay Dee's beat on this is fire (ooh lawd when it comes back in at 3:56 as Pos says "from dark to light sky") and Dove is great too, but Posdnous is in a whole other universe here so let's talk about him. The first couplet is one of the great shit-talking, "super lyrical" introductions ever: "the instamatic focal point, bringing damage to your borough/be some brothers from the east with them beats that be thorough". RAH! He was only 26 at the time, but on "Stakes is High" Pos raps about street life with the authority of a vet without falling into the self-righteousness and over-piety that many a conscious rapper would. He's super clever and passionate at the same time (" wonder where we live is called the projects") and delivers one of my favorite rap performances ever. This is probably my favorite De La Soul song and that's saying a whole lot.

To the break of dawn

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans was the film I was most looking forward to this winter and boy oh boy did it not disappoint. Nic Cage is on some next level here, and it's hard to think of another actor who would have taken the comedy this far. Though he has his die hard fans (of which I know more than a handful), Cage is still under-appreciated on balance (considering how many folks I've talked to who think he's a legit bad actor).

More than pretty much any major actor these days (DDL in There Will Be Blood is another great one), Nic Cage understands that there are places to go past realism and restraint. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't and a lot of the time the movie around him is so shitty that whether his acting is working or not is barely relevant. In Bad Lieutenant, it most certainly works as Cage and Herzog create one of the most unforgettable characters of the decade. Christ, just look at that eyebrow. And the movie works outside of Cage as well, Herzog treating the story in a completely original way (you'll know what I mean when the Captain pops into frame like a Close-up Monster in an old arcade shooter except pitched at the exact opposite mood).

Two crack pipes up.

Monday, November 23, 2009

YMD's Super Sweet Sixteen: REMIX EDITION (part 2)

8. Coyote - "Too Hard (Aeroplane Remix)" (Is It Balearic? Recordings, 2007)
Aeroplane were unbelievably on fire in 2007 and 2008, and this is my favorite of their wonderful string of remixes and singles. It starts off as a nice little balearic disco track, and then suddenly shifts, with a sublime new riff at around 2'47 that happens to be one of the prettiest moments of the decade. From there it's off to the beach at sunrise and away with any sense of worry or dread you may have.

7. M83 - "Teen Angst (Luciano Remix)" (Goom, 2005)
Luciano's remix of M83s thoroughly maximalist "Teen Angst" starts off with a fading memory of that tracks adrenaline-fueled whir, and quickly forgets it in favor of some very Luciano sounding drums that are soon joined by M83's vocals. The next 6 minutes are quite pretty, as Luciano subtly plays with the drums while letting the vocals run their course, and then the reverbed strings come in and things get a touch sublime. Then the strings disappear again, and the drums switch up and finally, after eight minutes, seem to get a little more in touch with the vocals. It's a beautiful journey.

6. Rubies - "Room Without a Key (Version by Studio)" (Tellé, 2008)
Containing certainly the oddest time signature on the list (I count it as either four measures of 3/4 + one of 2/4 or just straight up 14/4), Studio's version "Room Without a Key" by California band Rubies is 9 minutes of gentle riffs varied and layered on top of gentle percussion. It shimmers in a somewhat self-aware way, but that doesn't stop it from sounding light sunlight peeking through your window shades as you wake up at the exactly perfect place and time.

5. Rufus Wainwright - "Tiergarten (Supermayer Remix)" (Polydor, 2007)
Superpitcher and Michael Mayer first take Rufus' "Tiergarten" and make it a glacially perfect ballad and only then, two and a half minutes in, do they give away that this is a dance remix. This is the Kompakt style, clean, anthemic, melodically interesting, at its very best. And fuck it, because it was only ever a white label and you're not going to be able to get the full 13 minute experience on YouTube, here's a download link at Mediafire.

4. Delia Gonzales & Gavin Rossum - "Relevee (Carl Craig Remix)" (DFA, 2006)
I've written about this one here rather recently, and I stand by that short blurb. It's just super amazing. It's the soundtrack to the best movie John Carpenter never directed. It's the most purposeful, glee-filled robot with a knowledge of the history of techno. I'll stop now.

3. Pär Grindvik - "Do Us Part (Len Faki Remix)" (Drumcode, 2007)
Released to relatively little critical fanfare at the end of 2007, Len Faki's remix of "Do Us Part" is one of my favorite techno tracks of the decade. It has a one beat bassline, it doesn't have any particularly big, hands-in-the-air type breakdowns or build up, yet it works perfectly for me as a pure dance monster, in the right mood, this destroys me.

2. Gwen Stefani - "What You Waiting For (Jacques Lu Cont Thin White Duke Mix)" (Interscope, 2004)
There were a few years in the mid-00s when everything Stuart Price (aka Jacques Lu Cont aka Thin White Duke) touched turned to gold. This mix of Gwen Stefani's "What You Waiting For" adds what might be the most perfect synth line of the decade to an already great song and transforms a heart-pounder in to a melancholic epic.

1. Paleface ft. Kyla - "Do You Mind (Crazy Cousinz Remix)" (Maximum Bass, 2008)
This is that song that (through this ILM thread) introduced me to one of my main late 00s obsessions, funky house, so it holds a very special place in my heart. I'm not sure if I even have the origins of this track 100% correct, but I guess it's a remix of a bassline track by Paleface (who is actually one half of Crazy Cousinz). I had to do some searching to find even a clip of the original. Anyways, the original seems to me completely irrelevant in the face of this beautiful, sexy, poppy, Soca-drenched, and most of all incredibly fun Crazy Cousinz mix. It's as good a representation as any of what I love about music at the end of the 00s, so it gets the number one spot (this is the version you want to listen to on Youtube).

Any ideas for what countdowns we should to do next?

YMD's Super Sweet Sixteen: REMIX EDITION (part 1)

The so-called remix culture of the last half decade has, I'm sure, brought a lot of people into dance music through remixes of their favorite pop or indie artists. With the availability of new, easy to obtain software and a million mp3 blogs, anyone can cut up their favorite track with a club beat or a different instrumental and have a dance-floor banger ready to go. But, this democratization of dance, as wonderful in theory as anything that allows more people access to creativity and active participation, has also created a lot of incredibly cheap and half-assed sounding music. So this list is free of bootlegs, not because I am elitist enough to think that that process cannot create good music, but because to my ears there were simply a whole lot of "professionals" doing this shit a lot better.

I specified Dance remixes because Rap remixes are a whole different thing unto themselves (as are R. Kelly remixes), so maybe we'll get back to those later. But for now, on we go with my favorite house, techno, electro, and disco versions of the decade, starting off, of course, with me cheating by throwing down some honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions (alpha by remixer):
- Aeroplane's mixes of Friendly Fires' "Paris" and Grace Jones' "Williams Blood"
- Ame's remix of Etienne Jaumet "Repeat After Me", hypnotic 3/4 techno
- Carl Craig's mixes of "Part of Me" by Ayumi Hamasaki, Faze Action's "In the Trees," and Francesco Tristano's "the Melody"
- the famous DFA remix of Le Tigre's "Deceptacon"
- DJ Koze's off-beat remix of Matthew Dear's "Elementary Lover"
- Ink & Needle's futuristic remix of Amox and Atle's "A Witch Kiss"
- the Joakim Italo Dub of "Budapest" by Poni Hoax
- the M.A.N.D.Y. vs. Booka Shade version of Laurie Anderson's classic "O Superman"
- Martyn's house-influenced dubstep remix of "Seven" by Fever Ray
- Kris Menace's French House take on Roisin Murphy's "Overpowered"
- Theo Parrish's gauzy, kick-less remix of Jill Scott's "Slowly Surely"
- Radio Slave's merciless remix of "Deer in the Headlights" by Chelonis R. Jones
- Tobias Thomas and Michael Mayer's remix of Ada's cover of "Maps"

16. the Whitest Boy Alive - "Golden Cage (Fred Falke Remix)" (Modular, 2008)
Arguably less heralded than his partner Alan Braxe, never mind the holy robots, Fred Falke released by favorite remix by a French House mainstay this decade. He turns Erland Oye and co's bedroom funk song "Golden Cage" into an epic of yearning. This is just on the right side of maudlin, dipping its toe in to that pool more than occasionally.

15. Kylie Minogue - "Come Into My World (Fischerspooner Remix)" (Parlophone, 2002)
I was late enough to dance music to miss both Electroclash and most of its backlash, but this is certainly the best thing I've heard from Fischerspooner. But that somewhat cheap sounding bass line is somehow perfect to offset that lushness that is as much a part of Kylie's persona as her music from around this time.

14. the Knife - "We Share Our Mother's Health (Trentemøller Remix)" (Rabid Records, 2006)
I always seem to forget how great this is when I'm not listening to it. And then it comes on, and wow. The beat to this one is fairly straight ahead, but all the minor syncopation Trentemøller throws in on the hi-hats and toms is great fun. And then the handclap assisted breakdown comes in and that is just mindblowingly great.

13. LCD Soundsystem - "Tribulations (Lindstrøm Mix)" (DFA/EMI, 2005)
Lindstrøm's "Tribulations" remix is a great example of the man's gift at going out towards space while still sounding organic and loose. There seem to be two basslines working together, a big funky one providing the main riff and robotic, super-repetitive one holding things steady (and coming to the fore during the repetition of the titular lyric). Like most of Lindstrøm's best work, this one is constantly evolving, moving, and fun.

12. Cortney Tidwell - "Don't the Stars Keep Us Tangled Up (Ewan's Objects in Space Mix)" (2006)
Ewan Pearson takes Cortney Tidwell's soft, lovely voice and takes in on a blissful ride for just short of 12 minutes. This could hardly be any more lush. About seven minutes in this comes to a head with these shimmering, overpowering synths that almost match Cortney's voice for loveliness, until her cooing comes in after the beat comes back and puts any doubt to rest.

11. Jose James - "Desire (Moodymann Remix)" (Brownwood Recordings, 2008)
This is a house torch song, and one of the most beautiful things I've heard this year. It's a late night heartbreaker, this one. Moodymann's drums, as well as the space without them, are sublime. This is a track that breathes, and not just because of its breathy vocals.

10. Shackleton - "Blood On My Hands (Ricardo Villalobos Apocalypso Now Mix)" (Skull Disco, 2007)
Like many Villalobos tracks, this takes its sweet time (18 minutes to be exact) and is dark as night. It's also kind of a masterpiece, and one of the first great meeting points between dubstep and minimal techno. It's kind of one of those things you have to experience, extremely detailed and rewarding to the patient while being quite moving at the same time

9. Nathan Fake - "The Sky Was Pink (James Holden Remix)" (Border Community, 2004)
A monster of atmosphere, an amazing example of the potential of techno to be unsettling and at the same time make you want to dance as hard as you ever have before. Holden takes Fake's original, a cool track but not a dancefloor banger, and pushes all the right buttons to make it a classic.

Part two coming soon with more beats, long tracks, syncopation, and sublime moments of beauty.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

YMD's Super Sweet Sixteen: REALITY EDITION (pt. 2)

Continuing forth to victory, the long (almost 24 hours) awaited second half of this historic countdown.

8. Christian Siriano (Project Runway: Season 4)
He was fairly entertaining and bitchy, but Christian makes the list less for introducing the phrase "hot tranny mess" to Middle America and more for being one of the most dominant characters ever to appear in a Competition Reality Show. Christian may have only won three challenges, but it became very apparent just before midseason that he was going to win the competition and neither the drapery dude nor the retro girl was going to have a shot at beating him. He is also working hard to uphold the illusion that success on these shows actually leads to success in real life, by seemingly being quite successful.

7. Padma Lakshmi (Top Chef)
I've had arguments about whether Padma brings anything more than her considerable beauty to Top Chef and I've always maintained that she is key to the show. Colicchio is wonderful too, of course, as the well-respected professional and adviser, but Padma's mystery (by which I mean not her exotic-ness or otherness or anything, but rather her aloofness, the way you can't tell what she's thinking until she really loves or hates a dish) (and the scar doesn't hurt either) makes her that much more devastating. Of course the considerable beauty doesn't hurt.

6. Whitney Port (the Hills, the City)
I'll be the first to say that the City, though improving in its second season, isn't that great. But we should have seen that coming, and not just because of the success ratio of spin-offs in general. Whitney's role on the Hills, the role for which she gets this #6 spot, was as a device. It would be boring if Lauren had to narrate her thoughts for the whole show, so Whitney was there to ask Lauren questions about how last night went and what her feelings were about it. Of course, Whitney outperformed expectations, and while it wasn't surprising that Lauren's recollections of something we saw before the commercial break weren't that interesting, it was still amazing how great and entertaining Whitney's reactions to them were. We still get the occasional Whitney Face on the City, but Whitney does seem to be a performer who was amazing in one niche and doesn't quite work in a larger role. Still, we salute her.

5. Justin Bobby (the Hills)
He's the greatest role Keanu Reeves never got to play. Justin entered the Hills as the perfect companion and foil to Audrina's po-faced vapidness, with an altogether different, more artistic vapidness. Like Audrina, Justin barely ever says anything of importance, but while she might be the most boring TV character ever, Justin's nothings are such brilliantly affected and audacious pieces of bullshit that he almost becomes interesting. Even his silences (and there are a lot of those, this being the Hills are entertaining for how purposeful and self-aware they seem. His bravura performance comes about 15 minutes into this episode, in which he utters one of the most brilliantly meaningless statements ever on television, "truth and time tells all." Indeed.

4. Janice Dickinson (like ten shows, but ANTM and Finland's Next Top Model most importantly)

This is too good not to be embedded. Janice spent most of this decade being loud, obnoxious, and altogether amazing (her replacement by Twiggy on ANTM was one of the biggest steps down ever), and it all came to a wonderful climax when she hosted Finland's Next Top Model. Just watch the above, possibly the best clip of television ever in the world.

3.Real (I Love New York, I Love Money, Real Chance of Love)
His brother Chance might get drunk and piss off the side of cliffs more, but Real makes #3 on our list for his mouth, by which I mean not what he says, but the things his mouth does when he says them. He stretches his tongue, he shows his gums, he flexes his lower lip. You really need to see the show to see what I mean, but the man makes sounds that I cannot recreate while making the same movements that he is making with his mouth and tongue. And it doesn't look like lip syncing of anything, it just looks crazy. It's uncanny.

2. Tim Gunn (Project Runway, Tim Gunn's Guide to Style)
Tim Gunn's appeal isn't hard to explain. He is supremely likable, and probably the TV character, reality or otherwise, that most of us most need in our lives. He's a father figure, a teacher, an example, and a friend. He gets catchphrasey without losing a bit of his humanity, and he actually delivers constructive criticism. He can take joke. Even in a shitty season of Runway (this one), I am thankful that he is on my TV.

1. Tyra Banks (America's Next Top Model, the Tyra Banks Show)
Even if you discount Tyra the show because it's a talk show and not a straight reality show per se, Miss Banks would still walk this countdown based on ANTM alone. From the first time Tyra told a fledgling model to "smile with her eyes," she has been the foremost giver of incomprehensible advice on all of television. Her many faces, which Rich fourfour Juzwiak has devoted what must at least be a Tyra's forehead-sized chunk (we kid because we love) of his life to chronicling, keep us awake at night (with joy). If there's one person we'd want to give us advice when we need it it's Tim Gunn. If there's one person we want to hang around with all day because it would probably an amazing time it's definitely Tyra. She makes as much of a difference in our lives as she thinks she's making. Which is a lot.

How old are you, are you old enough

83. Happy Mondays - "24 Hour Party People (Jon Carter's Main Vocal Mix)" (London Records, 2002)

So the joke's on me! I was looking around for a video of this song (which could theoretically make it here on title alone), and I noticed all the streamable versions I found were different than the one I've been listening to for the last decade. So I did a little surfing of the ole web and apparently this whole decade I've been listening to this remix of "24 Hour Party People" that came out around the time of the film of the same name and not, in fact, the original. This is slightly embarrassing but goes a long way to explain why I've never been able to really get into a lot of other Happy Mondays songs, thinking it was just a gap in quality. The original sounds way less like "Groove Is in the Heart" than this mix and therefore isn't nearly as good.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

YMD's Super Sweet Sixteen: REALITY EDITION (pt. 1)

This was an amazing decade for television. It featured an amazing run of hour long dramas (the Wire, the Sopranos, Mad Men, Lost, L&O: Criminal Intent) that were eons ahead of the best the 90s had to offer and reawakened its funny bone a few years in with gems like Undeclared, Arrested Development, 30 Rock, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the Office (UK and US), Parks and Recreation (which has gotten amazing this season), the Venture Brothers, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

But a large part of this decade's narrative will undoubtedly be written about the decade that reality TV took over in a cynical attempt by the networks to cut costs, put actors out of work, and turn our brains to mush. Whatever. While reality television may not have the brilliant acting and sophisticated plotting of Party of Five or the Nanny, they have developed their own set of conventions, characterizations, and narrative devices. It's been amazing, enlightening, and batshit crazy, and I am honored to present Yes More Drama's Sweet Sixteen Reality Show Characters of the Decade.

16. Teresa Giudice (Real Housewives of New Jersey)
Teresa may not have consistently been the most entertaining Real Housewife, but she is responsible for one of my favorite catchphrases of the decade, and easily my favorite of the year so far. In an argument so intense Bravo took 4 episodes (the actual episode, a "Director's Cut" of the argument, and 2 reunions) to sum it up, Teresa famously uttered the best insult anyone has ever uttered, calling poor ex-something-or-other Danielle a "prostitution whore" before flipping a fucking table. Bravo.

15. Bret Michaels (Rock of Loves 1 thru Bus)
He has the finest European horse hair money can buy. Enough said.

14. Hayley Ray (Dr. 90210)
Sure, Robert Ray's blatant sleeveless flouting of health codes and martial artistry may be more central to the show, but if you combined the tragedy of all of his victims patients you still wouldn't come close to the sadness coming through the screen every time his poor, domineered wife is on the screen. She's probably the reality character you most want to (wrap in bubble wrap and then) give a hug and say everything is going to be all right (even though you know it isn't).

13. Flavor Flav (the Surreal Life, Strange Love, Flavors of Love)
I saw Public Enemy last year, and Flav said something about being the King of Reality TV and a few folks booed and I think I booed them. Flav's TV persona is no different from his PE persona, except instead of having Chuck D to play off of he has a house full of equally silly and much dumber people to frolic with. A pioneer in the field.

12. Daisy de la Hoya (Rock of Love 2, Daisy of Love)
I was tempted to include Riki Rachtman for his mountains of pathetic well-meaning but he just missed the cut and anyways, there would be no Riki (as a reality character) without Daisy's constant terrible decisions. She is the best though. Her "face" alone makes her inclusion necessary, a face seemingly designed to portray some exploded, carnivalesque version of what "cute" means, those permanent-pout lips, those huge eyes. When she cries, the world cries with her but sort of laughs too.

11. Cohutta Grindstaff (Real World: Sydney, RW/RR: the Island, RW/RR: the Ruins)
With apologies to the Miz (a Real World character whose life goal actually came through), C.T. (the supreme loud idiot of them all), Evan (a RW/RR: Fresh Meat entrant, wise-ass, and maybe the most effective overall player, in terms of a combination of plotting and physical aptitude), David ("dee-da-boo-dee-da-boo-dee"), the drunk Las Vegas shitheads, Hollywood Joey ("what you gonna do when the 12 steps run wild on you?"), and a legion of other idiots, Cohutta is our only Real World Universe rep. The RW/RR challenges have become much more interesting and fun to watch than the actual Real World, and we can only hope he keeps featuring in them. Cohutta is television's premier source of homespun wisdom and endlessly likable. His elimination of self-righteous idiot bully Wes (who dates Cohutta's ex-gf) on this season of The Runs was a special moment.

10. Kelly Cutrone (the Hills, the City)
Kelly is an essential and unique part of the Laguniverse (I really hope I just coined that) in that she, about a thousand times more than anyone else on those shows, acts like she's completely unaware of the show. Now, obviously she is aware of this and the show takes advantage of it, but the amount of Real Talk she lays down on the regular is astounding considering the show she's on. She is by far the best part of the City and brings so much fury that her walking into frame in a recent episode provoked an audible gasp from my viewing companions and I.

9. Spencer Pratt (the Princes of Malibu, the Hills, I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Outta Here)
This renowned drinker of "whatever is better than Patron" is basically an undergraduate course in postmodernist narrative unto himself and/or an idiot. He is as great at being a cartoon villain as he is about talking about being a cartoon villain (see his starring performance on I'm a Celebrity or well, don't see too much of it, that show mostly sucked except for Spencer, LDP, and Patty Blago). He is the opposite of Kelly Cutrone in that he exposes the business at every turn. And now he has a silly cowboy hat.

Whew. Stay tuned for the top 8 soon.

YMD's Super Sweet Sixteen: HORROR EDITION

So it's the end of the year, and that means lists. And if you haven't noticed, we're also moving into a new decade which means even more lists. And we're not gonna do some bullshit "TOP THOUSAND MOVIES EVER MADE" bullshit, because in addition to that being beyond retarded, we also don't like those squeaky clean numbers. Oh, you're going to do a Top 100 Movies of the Noughties (cute) London Times Online? Well fuck you, you included Crash. Our answer to that nonsense? Many lists of 16. The 16 Best Reality TV Characters of the Decade, 16 Documentaries, 16 Action Movies, 16 Albums, and the like. We're kicking this list BONANZA off with the Top 16 Horror Films of the Decade. There were a lot to choose from and sadly, I had to leave some of my favorites out. Sorry House of Wax, you may have impaled Paris in her lacy underpants, but you didn't make the cut.

16. House of the Devil - dir. Ti West, 2009
This teeny tiny sleeper (does it count as a sleeper if it's still sleeping) that came out a few weeks ago absolutely deserves a spot on this list. Babysitting, Satanic Cults, filmed on Super 8, 80s music. In the way that Far From Heaven perfectly replicated the 1950s melodrama genre, House of the Devil is so over the top copycat of movies like Prom Night and Stepfather that it puts those two films' remakes to shame. I really hope someone else besides me and Maciej would see this movie (and soon) so we could have someone else to talk to about it with.

15. Frailty - dir. Bill Paxton, 2001
File under: movies whose twists have actually shocked me and weren't preposterous. Also might be filed under: movies involving Matthew McConaughey that don't make me want to pick up an axe and recreate some of the scenes in Frailty

14. Slither - dir. James Gunn, 2006

13. Session 9 - dir. Brad Anderson, 2001
Pre-CSI David Caruso as asbestos remover in abandoned Massachusetts insane asylum. I think this movie was probably made for under $10 (again, eat shit and die Parashitty Actsuckity) but very possibly frightened me more than any other movie on this list. Driector Brad Anderson went on to later make The Machinist and Transsiberian which blurred the lines between drama, thriller and horror pretty well in my book. Do yourself a favor and Netflix this movie you've never heard of, and then give me credit when you can't sleep.

12. Vacancy - dir. Nimród Antal, 2007
This movie (which I initially thought I was going to hate) had me so terrified of the black stain on my motel room ceiling in central Pennsylvania last month that I was almost certain the nice Indian family running the place was going to make me into a snuff film.

Before you judge me, this was from like 6:30 in the morning, OK? Wasn't looking my best.

11. The Host - dir. Joon-ho Bong, 2006
Monsters in the sewer+Korean social commentary on pandemics=#11 on this list.

10. Cabin Fever - dir. Eli Roth, 2002
Another in the horror-com genre on this list, although Maciej so astutely points out that this one includes director Eli Roth's precious social "sub"-text. Also it includes the grossest sex scene ever filmed. Or thought of. God, Eli. Ew.

9. House of 1000 Corpses - dir. Rob Zombie, 2003
Here's what Rob Zombie is good at: making a horror movie that is yes, very very campy, but also so startlingly gruesome and gritty that it makes you feel bad for ever thinking that violence is fun to watch. He's also good at writing and recording the song "Dragula."

8. The Devil's Backbone - dir. Guillermo del Toro, 2001
There's del Toro, and there's Almodovar. Aaaand then they make a movie together. Done.

7. Inland Empire - dir. David Lynch, 2006
Maybe this is stretching the limits of what one might call a horror movie but have you seen this movie? HAVE YOU? The sounds in this movie are more horrifying than anything the Saw franchise could even dream up. And they thought up someone getting steamed to death people, think about THAT. Also, there's this:

6. The Descent - dir. Neil Marshall, 2005
I have never been so scarred by a second viewing of a movie. Word to the wise, the DVD ending is so hopeless it may leave you clutching yourself and rocking back and forth.

5. Let the Right One In - dir. Tomas Alfredson, 2008
There are two movies in which dubbing the voice of a little girl have worked and the other one is The Exorcist (Mercedes McCambridge ftw). Also, I could talk about the lighting in this movie for hours. I have. In a lighting class.

4. Three...Extremes - dirs. Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike & Chan-wook Park, 2004
This documentary about how Bai Ling stays young on the flesh of aborted fetuses really gets to you. She's fucked up.

3. Martyrs - dir. Pascal Laugier, 2008
As an avid fan of this blog, I read about a lot of movies that sound awesome...and then never come out in the US (STILL waiting for that Kerri Russell cannibal movie). This film and the following one I waited for for almost a year to be released on Region 1 DVD. This was the ultimate payoff. A confusing, if not frustrating explanation of the plot in the final 15 minutes? Yes. But the buildup is so impressively creative and terrifying it negates the curious ending.

2. Inside - dirs. Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury, 2007
A woman gets chased around for two hours while a maniacal woman in a black gown tries to give her a C-section with various kitchen appliances. You'd want to see that movie right? You should.

1. The Hills Have Eyes - dir. Alexandre Aja, 2006
I was sick on my 22nd birthday. Like tonsillitis, fucked up on steroids, at home in Connecticut and miserable sick. So my mom, in her infinite kindness, suggested I leave my couch and go to the movies with her. "We can go see anything you want," said Donna. "OK, take me to see a horror movie," I replied. Then we spent a couple of hours in a theater watching the most unpleasant movie either of us had ever seen. By the time that dude who played Jame Gumb in Silence of the Lambs got burned alive on a stake while his family watched, we had realized this. I made my mother sit through mutant rape. I still feel kinda bad about that. But this was by far, the best horror movie of the last decade.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"the one that makes me laugh," she says

84. the Cure - "Just Like Heaven" (Fiction Records, 1987)

It's a perfect rush of feeling. The intro layers hook after new hook every few measures until they're threatening to explode. First the bass and drums, then the guitar, then another guitar, then the synths, and then finally the lead guitar to put it into overdrive. It's a classic before the vocals and Bob even arrive. And the vocals and lyrics are good and endlessly singable too, of course, but the music shoots such an arrow straight for my heart that I'd honestly be pretty happy even if the vocals never came in.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's been years since you held the baby while I wrecked the bedroom...

86. Sinead O'Connor - "Troy" (Chrysalis, 1987)
85. Sinead O'Connor - "The Emperor's New Clothes"(Asylum, 1990)

So I've been trying to write a Sinead O'Connor post for a while, but I couldn't pick just one song. In fact, it was really hard for me even to pick two. Here's how it works: every time my computer, hard drive, or itunes crashes, I have to pick up the pieces of my music library. Every single time this has happened to me (upwards of six, I don't want to talk about it), I have rediscovered Sinead. Ultimately, this means I will forget about her again, and that usually happens around the time I get past her two great albums and into some of the...weirder...stuff. Stuff like showtunes, Gaelic Christmas carols, and rasta jams. Oh, baldy. You're so magical and strange and bald. Of course, like everyone else on the planet, I love that Prince song she covered that you may have heard but I won't mention here so The Artist won't sue us, but I'm partial to some of the other stuff. I was going to use "The Last Day of Our Acquaintance", but you shouldn't pick a song based on the fact that there's a video on youtube of tennis-playing animated lego characters dryly reciting the lyrics. So I chose "Troy" from her debut The Lion and the Cobra because the song pretty much sums up the tone of the entire album perfectly. Almost every track starts out barely audible and ends in some howling that puts Shakira to shame. That and the video is fierce. Note: that's the first time I've said fierce in a serious way. Dead serious.

And for her next trick? On her sophomore album she toned down the screaming, took on Margaret Thatcher and, you know, THE FUCKING POPE, and made a Prince song into her song. But the most fun on an otherwise heavy albeit brilliant album ("I Am Scratched On Your Grave" isn't the lightest of tunes) is "The Emperor's New Clothes." Who hasn't uttered "Maybe I was mean/But I really don't think so" in an argument? I'd use the word fierce again but 1) it would scare me a little and 2) does fierce do justice to something involving solid gold disco balls?

OK so maybe has never been the greatest dancer, but the banshee can sing.

Well I guess what they say is true

87. White Town - "Your Woman" (Chrysalis, 1997)

You know, Mr. White Town, it'd be more fun for me personally if you didn't break down these lyrics yourself and let me, A Critic, do it myself. Like a regular Artist, you know.

In all seriousness, "Your Woman" is a pop song so clever it's almost too cute to enjoy sometimes. What at first seems like a simple gender switch actually includes in its ambiguities a series of readings that could all be equally valid. Now, "...includes in its ambiguities a series of readings that could all be equally valid" basically applies to most text, I know, but, as Mr. Mishra begins to demonstrate in the link above, one of the fun (and almost too cute) things about "Your Woman" is how upfront and easy to fool around with its ambiguities (the gender of the narrator and whether it is the same as that of the singer, the number of narrators) are. Pop theory on a plate, this one is.

Plus the horn loop is killer.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I cannot recommend Tilda Swinton enough in this. She acts like she's interpreting Gena Rowlands through the lens of Charles Nelson Reilly and I'm only like a quarter joking about CNR. She's so wonderful as a promiscuous, drunk, annoying mess that I had to think for a bit to realize that this is a fairly new type of character for her and not one she's been playing her whole career. It's 2.5 hours of heavily-mannered self-destruction that could scarcely be more interesting even when it's hard to watch.

[end movie talk, begin award talk]

Barring some majorly impressive performances, I can't imagine this not making MY top 5 for the year, but it doesn't seem to be getting a major amount of award buzz. Too small of a film by too small of a director through too small of a studio, I guess? This is major though, I promise (It's on Netflix Instant).

Let it all go

88. Basement Jaxx - "Romeo" (XL Recordings, 2001)

So I saw Basement Jaxx DJ at Santos Party House over the weekend and despite the fact that I was running around handing out flyers and not drinking most of the time they were quite amazing. It's been a long time since I've seen a crowd that excited to dance in New York, never mind found it that hard to move around at a dance venue. Most everything they dropped, from their hits to stuff I didn't recognize to that huge A-Trak remix of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to the odd dubstep tune came off (I'm trying to forget the few minutes of a Kings of Leon remix). They had a singer/MC with them that was super charismatic, and hands were in the air all night.

They didn't play "Romeo", at least not while I was around, but for some reason it's the one song of theirs that has stuck with me most in the last few weeks. The very special moment at the end of the 90s and the first part of this decade when the Jaxx and Daft Punk were both approaching pop-dance perfection from opposite sides of the English Channel links the two groups together in my head inextricably (at least it has so far), and while I've probably listened to more of the French robots in the past few years, the Jaxx remain very special to me, so much brilliant and varied silliness in their ever-changing style. This song's super stiff bass never sounds quite right to me at first, and then I still start moving. And the vocals are actually kind of restrained when faced with the madness going on around them. And the "let it all go" refrain ends up being so touching. Perfect pop-dance madness all over the place really.

Monday, November 9, 2009

You're not the babysitter?

The homeboy Matty and I got to the Angelika (you know, the one where you convince yourself that the subway rumbling just adds to the atmosphere) right as it was opening today to catch Ti West's The House of the Devil, an 80s-set Satan movie that burns slow and delivers throughout. I was kind of wary because I've been burned in the past few years by horror movies seemingly recommended simply because they are not torture porn (see Bug) (actually, don't ever see Bug, it's terrible), but this isn't that. This is beautifully paced, lovingly rendered horror, with good acting (Tom Noonan should be in everything and Jocelin Donahue is a silly and likeable) and a solid payoff. See that shit.

Friday, November 6, 2009

So Gone

Do yourself a favor and go over to the homeboy Timmy's site Zone 2 Homebrew to read his interview with Huntsville MVPS G-Side, whose Huntsville International is out next week and I can't fucking wait for.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

and now, from NORTH CAROLINA

89. the Alan Parsons Project - "Sirius" (Arista, 1989)

I moved to Chicago at the age of five just as Jordan, Pippen, and company were starting their run of beating the shit out of everyone else in the NBA, so basketball was my sport growing up and, as a result, this is by far the song I've most imagined my name getting announced over. With basketball season starting, I might as well honor it here.

PS, I realized tonight that when the Bulls introduce Derrick Rose they introduce him not by his university, but as "from Chicago". Civic Pride! (and possibly some bad memories from Memphis).

BONUS: (players' introduction from Game Six of the 1996 NBA Finals, in which Dennis Rodman made Frank Brickowski his bitch)