Do You Have the Time to Listen to Me Whine?

Up today at PopMatters, I've got reviews of Mira Nair's The Namesake and Puffy AmiYumi's live show, which we caught a couple weeks ago in Vancouver and Teresa already wrote about.


All In

For what it's worth, I finally got around to updating my Top 200 Films of the 2000's (so far) list. Lots of new additions, some placement switches, and a new number one. So, yeah, check that out, if you're so inclined.


My review of Sarah Johns' Big Love in a Small Town is up today at PopMatters.


My review of Carrie Underwood's Carnival Ride is up today at PopMatters.


I Notice You, I Know It's You

In Defense of Britney


Holding Patterns

Brief notes, new(ish) records. Let's do this.

Fiery Furnaces, Widow City
When, earlier this century, the Fiery Furnaces, Nellie McKay, and the Moldy Peaches crept onto the radar screen, they were amateur eccentric visionaries, each exciting as much for the possibilities they represented as for the music they were actually putting to record. Shortly after releasing their self-titled full-length debut, Kimya Dawson and Adam Green split up to pursue marginal-but-not-meaningless solo endeavors. The Fiery Furnaces and McKay, meanwhile, have developed into professional eccentrics locked into highly specific (and no less marginal) aesthetic strategies that, so far as I can tell, they'll probably be happy enough mining with negligible diversion for the remainder of their respective musical careers. The first three Furnaces records (counting EP) were messy, playful, allusive testaments to the strange fruits of "thinking outside the box." The Grandma record was basically unlistenable, but Bitter Tea had its art-rock charms, and so does this one. Just fewer of them, though "My Egyptian Grammar" is as lovely-weird as anything they've recorded and "Ex-Guru" is up there, too. (My top 10 Fiery Furnaces songs.)

Kanye West, Graduation
I'm way overdue writing this one up, I realize, but that might be a good thing, since Graduation, like the one before it, deepens markedly upon repeat listens. The best proof of how strong and utterly inexhaustible these songs are lies in how often I opt to play them. Answer: A lot. Just ask Teresa, who eventually came around on at least "Can't Tell Me Nothing" (and "I Get Money"!). There isn't a single weak track on this one. No failed experiments, no bullshit skits, no "Celebration" or "We Major." Even the one where Chris Martin sings about "fireworks at Lake Michigan" is terrific. To think we assumed mere beats were Kanye's greatest asset; rather, consistency and a nearly unerring perfectionism are what separates him from just about everyone else trying. And, three albums in, he doesn't look like he's about to fall off anytime soon.

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Magic
To say that Bruce Springsteen gets better with age is half-true--he got better with age, right up until age 38 and Tunnel of Love. But that was 20 years ago, and for the most part since (1995's The Ghost of Tom Joad is a possible exception), he's been treading water, sometimes thrillingly but with all too self-satisfied an understanding of the legacy he'd firmly established before he turned 40. So, if Magic is his strongest collection since Tunnel, well, so what, really? It still pales dramatically in comparison with everything he put out before that. Lead-off single "Radio Nowhere," as my non-Bruce fan wife observed, sounds like a classic rock radio staple the first time you listen to it, and maybe familiarity is the best thing Bruce, Tony Soprano's consigliere, Conan's in-studio drummer, et al. have to offer, at this point. This album fits like your favorite baggy sweater, and who knows? It might still be worth a spin or two come springtime. Note: Rolling Stone gave it five stars, as they did The Rising. And Goddess in the Doorway.

John Vanderslice, Emerald City Song for song, this is a slight cut above his last one, though there's nothing here quite as gorgeous as Pixel Revolt standouts "Exodus Damage" and "Peacocks in the Video Rain." Yes, his politics are thoughtful and personally rendered, but that doesn't change the fact that he's preaching to the choir; how many Republicans, you figure, even know who this guy is? Springsteen gets general enough to bridge the divide. "I met my new neighbor / had a drink on her veranda / and watched the ocean batter Bonita Point" ain't gonna cut it. Either way, this should suit suits his constituency (of which I'm probably a member) just fine. Like that other singer-songwriter John, there's nothing not to like, album after album--unless, you know, you just don't.


My review of Yung Joc's Hustlenomics is up today at PopMatters.