Mini-reviews of 2013 albums

Album: The Big Dream - David Lynch
Thoughts: Strangely the singles Star Dream Girl & The Big Dream are not my favorites. The album has excellent production, the soundscapes give it a dreamlike and haunting mood.
My picks are: The Line it Curves, Cold Wind Blowin, Are You Sure, Say It, Wishing Well, and I'm Waiting Here" (featuring Lykke Li)
Honestly most of the songs are of the same standard, so tough to say a track is better than another.
I could imagine is excellent driving music. (I listened to it at Pitchfork Advance)
Rating 4 out of 5

BE - Beady Eye
Thoughts: From Liam Gallagher, former member of Oasis. A pretty good album that was better than I expected it to be.
Favorite tracks:
Flick of the Finger
Don't Brother Me
Second Bite of The Apple
Shine a Light
Rating 4 out of 5

Album: Adam Green & Binki Shapiro - Adam Green & Binki Shapiro
Thoughts: The lyrics are quite “academic” and demanding on the listener. Has a few highlights, especially: Just To Make Me Feel Good, & Here I am. I like how it mixed the female and male vocals. If I had to criticize, it feels as if the writing is more important than the melodies.
Rating 3 out of 5

Album: The Redeemer – Dean Blunt
Thoughts: An experimental LP, which is not for everyone. It has weak tracks too, but atmospheric and genre-breaking, with a bit of everything: instrumentals, water, phone messages, horror music, church bells at New Year, you name it.
The Redeemer – feat. Inga Copeland
Demon feat. Joanne Robertson
Walls of Jericho
Seven Seals of Affirmation
Rating 3.5 out of 5

Album: Caveman – Caveman
Thoughts: The tracks float along, indie rock is probably best way to describe it. The vocal I feel I’ve heard before from other bands. What impressed me are the sonic soundscapes, which lift it above average.
Favorite tracks:
In the City
Shut You Down
Over My Head
Rating 4 out of 5

Album: If you Leave - Daughter
Thoughts: An interesting new discovery. It doesn’t leap out at you as that great on first listen, yet it has a quiet, understated power. Some listeners may not be able to handle the sad vocal, though the music does get under my skin. I don’t know if I’ll still be listening to the album in a few months, but you should give it a shot. The vocal is similar to Cat Power.
Favorite tracks:
3.5 out of 5

Album: Me Moan - Daugton Gibson
Thoughts: Two or three ok tracks, but I was bored by the rest of the album. Didn't live up to the promise of his debut album from last year, maybe he should have waited, and not have put out new material so soon.
The Sound of law
Into The Sea
2.5 out of 5

Heard any of these albums yet? Which new music are you listening to? Share your opinions in the comments.

Mini-reviews: Westerns (2 of 3)

3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Russell Crowe makes for a sinister baddie and the pacing of this western is excellent. My favorite part is the last half hour. A keeper that I look forward to revisiting in future. Among the best modern westerns I’ve seen. A remake of 3:10 to Yuma (1957)
Rating 8.3

Go West (1925)
The friendly cow that keeps following Buster Keaton about, and meal times at the ranch, were the highlights. That ending was impressive, god knows how difficult it must have been to set up. An under-appreciated comedy western.
Rating 8.0

Way Out West (1937)
I haven’t watched a lot of Laurel & Hardy, if this is what I can expect, I’ll definitely be looking up more of their stuff. Basically great for the entire hour it lasts. Scenes that stood out: Removing the family locket from around his neck, and his head is too fat to get it off, wading through the pond, the dance number, tickled in bed, eating the hat, the mule on a rope, head in the trap door, and stuck inside a piano.
The only weakness was the opening scene, which didn’t really fit with the rest of the film.
Rating 8.0

The Naked Spur (1953)
Wow, this didn’t feel like an old movie at all, it had the pacing of a recent film. Stars James Stewart, in one of his western collaborations with director Anthony Mann. They made 5 westerns which are talked of as classics of the genre:
Winchester '73 (1950), Bend of the River (1952), The Naked Spur (1953), The Far Country (1955), & The Man from Laramie (1955).
The Naked Spur is a film where the group of characters share an equal screen time, they go on an adventure through the mountains. Beautiful scenery, and one of the better westerns from the 50s, which at 90 minutes never gets boring.
The only thing I have against these Anthony Mann westerns is there's a hostility and violence towards the Indians, and seldom any understanding, but maybe that's how it was back then?
Rating 8.4

Winchester '73 (1950)
Anthony Mann/James Stewart western. As the title indicates, the main character in the film is actually a gun. Great photography at night of horses riding. Memorable scenes: shooting contest, the card game, the twist ending.
Favorite quote: “He taught quite a few folks how to shoot, only trouble was he taught em how, he didn’t teach em what to shoot at. Maybe he figured a man should know that, without telling. Yeah, that was his big mistake, he lived just long enough to find out”
Rating 8.0

The Man from Laramie (1955)
Anthony Mann/James Stewart western. Loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear, an engaging and well-told story of a stranger (James Stewart), who refuses to listen to those who warn him to stay away from their town.
Favorite quote: “I can’t rightly say any place is my home.” “But everybody should have some place to remember and feel like they belong to?” “I always feel like I belong where I am”
“I thought sometime we would have more to say to each other than just Hello”
Rating 8.0

Bend of the River (1952)
The weakest of the Anthony Mann/James Stewart westerns I saw. The scenery is great, which you would expect from this director, but not as entertaining or gripping as The Naked Spur (1953), The Man from Laramie (1955), or Winchester '73 (1950). There’s a lack of urgency to the story, so the movie, even at only 90 minutes, drags quite a bit. A somewhat tedious watch. The twist ending in the last 5 minutes was surprising.
Favorite quote: “So, following that star?” “Sometimes it’s better than having a man with a star following you!”
Rating 6.0

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
Very short western at only 75 minutes, about taking the law into your own hands. I liked the conflict of the story, and the photography of riding along the mountain edge. But a lot of superfluous dialogue in the first 40 minutes.
The film improves about half way through. A good western, albeit a bit preachy.
Favorite quote, about liquor: “Warms you up though, like fire creeping in the short grass, I guess I’ll just let her spread a little while”
Rating 7.5

My Darling Clementine (1946)
The title song is great, and good performances. It starts off well, Henry Fonda riding into town, but the story is uneven after that-and struggled to hold my attention. Not the best version of the Wyatt Earp tale. The villain lacks personality.
Rating 6.2

The Searchers (1956)
It has its memorable scenes, such as the battle by the river, shooting the Indian through the eyes who is already dead, or the Indian woman given as a gift, and John Wayne laughing about that. Plus the scenery is spectacular. I can’t say I was as impressed by The Searchers as others have been. It feels like a film another generation have fond memories of, but I found myself falling asleep on several occasions from boredom. The film does have something to say about racism, which is still a hot topic. While anti-hero Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) is the most interesting character, unfortunately I wasn’t as drawn to the characters as I had hoped.
Rating 7.3

Duck, You Sucker (1971)
Sergio Leone directed western. Also known as A Fistful of Dynamite. Quite violent, yet with surprising developments, and well worth a watch, if you like the director’s other work. However it does feels as if Sergio Leone is on autopilot and hasn’t added much new here to his bag of tricks, so I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece.
There’s an unforgettable opening scene on a stagecoach with close-ups of wealthy people’s mouths and eyes, who discuss the peasants, calling them animals and halfwits, which stayed with me.
There's also a bridge scene that is surprisingly realistic, and the introduction of the James Coburn character is memorable too.
You could argue, however, that the main characters, played by James Coburn and Rod Steiger, are a little too close to the ones from The Good The Bad and Ugly (1966), which is what prevented me from giving it a higher rating.
Ennio Morricone’s score is top-notch.
Rating 7.5

Lonesome Dove (1989)
6-hour TV miniseries based on the Pulitzer prize winning novel by Larry McMurtry.
A slow-building and dialogue-driven western. The first 30 minutes are quite boring, but I decided to stick with it, since it has popularity and acclaim. Despite the cliffhanger ending to first episode, I honestly feel the mini-series is a tad overrated and long-winded, but that could just be me who is not used to the pacing of a mini-series. It wasn’t as gripping as I had expected, and tested my patience, yet worth it, as the last 90 minutes is the best part, and very powerful.
The mini-series has its moments, the insulting barman, the army wanting to take the horse without permission, the boy who is bitten by snakes in the river, the scenes where Robert Duvall character must defend himself in the desert against Indians, the bandits who steal the horses, the attempted robbery with girl throwing rocks, and of course the ending which I won't reveal.
Favorite quote: “I figured if you didn’t come on your own accord, then I didn’t have any use for you anyway”
Rating 7.6

Agree or disagree? Any thoughts on the above titles? Seen any westerns this year?

Guest post: Top 10 Daft Punk Songs

I present to you a guest post by Steven from Surrender to the Void, who kindly compiled what he thinks are the very best tracks from Daft Punk's career. I was only familiar with the new album Random Access Memories (2013), so fun to listen to the older stuff too.

10. Lose Yourself to Dance
9. Alive
8. Revolution 909
7. Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger
6. Give Life Back to Music
5. Digital Love
4. Get Lucky
3. Da Funk
2. One More Time
1. Around the World

Readers, as usual, thoughts are very welcome in the comments!

Monthly links from the blogosphere: July

These kind folks posted lists of the Best Films of 2013 (so far): Eric, Josh, Alex Withrow, 3guys1movie, Shala, Tony Dayoub

Want a mid year report on the best 2013 music? Take a look at these lists: Steven, Josh, Andy Buckle

Douglas Engelbart, the man who invented the mouse for the computer, died on July 2, 2013

Nick from French Toast Sunday on his 6 ‘Shawshank Redemption Films’, and asks, what are yours?

Pete Turner writes about The Summer of 2050 at the Cinema

Sati's Visual Parallels: Somewhere + Earrings

Ruth asks What movie surprised you the most this year?

Bonjour Tristesse lists the award winners from 2013 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

Andina reviews Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express (1994)

Michaël Parent reviews the Bruce Lee martial arts classic, Enter the Dragon (1973)

Jack from Lights Camera Reaction looks at the career of Sofia Coppola

Chip Lary completed the entire 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die List

Dan Heaton as part of his Billy Wilder marathon, reviews Ace in the Hole (1950)

Top10films list Top 10 Opening Scenes in Film

Robert from The Escape Hatch on Our Favorite Summer Movies

SDG reviews Anatomy of a Murder

Jaina's Catch-Up Post

Nostra continues his 5 Obstructions blogathon

Sarah Ward from On Page and Screen reviews The Devil's Backbone (2001)

Dusty gets ponderous Is There Such a Thing as Watching Too Many Movies?

Favorite Songs of 2013 so far (tracks 1-25)

Becomes the Color - Emily Wells (From Stoker soundtrack)

The Line it Curves - David Lynch

Fifth In Line To The Throne – Camera Obscura

How Many Days - Kris Kristofferson

In Another Way - My Bloody Valentine

Came Back Haunted – Nine Inch Nails

If I Had A Tail – Queens Of The Stone Age

Blurred Lines [feat. T.I., Pharrell] - Robin Thicke

Step – Vampire Weekend

Hellbent – New Order

Assistant Director – Duck Tails

Do I Wanna Know? - Arctic Monkeys

In the City – Caveman

Was All Talk – Kurt Vile

She Will – Savages

Miss Fantasy – Fleetwood Mac

The Stars Are Out Tonight (youtube 5 min 53 sec version) – David Bowie

Oblivion (feat. Susanne Sundfør) – M83 (From Oblivion soundtrack)

Tap Out – The Strokes

Get Lucky – Daft Punk

Young and Beautiful – Lana Del Rey (from The Great Gatsby soundtrack)

If I Were Me - Dave Grohl, Jessy Greene, Rami Jaffee & Jim Keltner

Don't Swallow the Cap - The National

Song for Zulu – Phosphorescent

Push the Sky Away – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Agree or disagree? Did I miss anything great? Which are your best music discoveries of 2013, old of new?

Mini-reviews: Westerns (1 of 3)

The Wild Bunch (1969)
Directed by Sam Pekinpah, so I expected it to be violent. Bloodbath, especially at the beginning and ending of movie.
The back story flash-backs are a bit similar to Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy.
Entertaining western, which is as good as Leone’s work, which it aspires to be. I was wondering who the villain is, and maybe the wild bunch we follow ARE the bad guys.
William Holden wasn’t wild enough, though, perhaps he was supposed to be the quieter member of the group.
The machine gun out of control, that was pretty hilarious, which I would label morbid humor.
Rating 8.5

High Plains Drifter (1973)
Considered among the best Clint Eastwood westerns.
A somewhat dubious character (Eastwood) is hired to protect a town, whether he is exploiting or helping the situation is ambiguous. Again Eastwood plays the man with no name. The tone of this western is quite edgy and controversial, does he rape a woman? Or did she allow it? I didn’t like the way women were treated in the film, but this may also be due to how women were depicted on film in the 70s.
Smarter than most westerns, and it stays with you a long time after the credits roll. It asks how much would you surrender to protect your town. Yet it isn't all dark, with a certain amount of humor sprinkled in, especially from Eastwood.
Favorite quote: “The only problem you’ve got sheriff is a short supply of is guts, you people don’t need me”
Rating 8.0

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
John Ford western. Lee Marvin sure is one mean villain, I’ll say that much. Plus memorable characters played by John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Edmond O'Brien, and others.
Quote: “What kind of lawyer, the man who should function as both judge and jury, takes the law into his own hands?”
Rating 8.0

High Noon (1952)
Gary Cooper was old enough to be Grace Kelly’s father, but let’s forget that.
Does a good job of building suspense, which culminates in a classic shoot-out. Compared to other westerns, this doesn't have as many action scenes, though.
Rating 7.5

Django (1966)
The inspiration for Django Unchained, for my money Sergio Corbucci’s western is superior to Tarantino’s.
The death count is pretty high, but you keep watching, to find out what will happen to these characters. The story feels iconic, and the main theme is fantastic.
Rating 8.5

The Great Silence (1968)
Sergio Corbucci directed western. Stars Jean-Louis Trintignant (from Amour) and Klaus Kinski in a story about bounty hunters.
The film is pretty good and has a few nice details, the brilliant score by Ennio Morricone, the snowy mountain scenery, guns not working in the cold, the mute throwing the matchstick in the whiskey, shooting holes in potatoes, and Kinski’s menacing performance.
A slow-building western, without the big action scenes and urgent storytelling of Django (1966).
Favorite quote: “Calm down friends, since when are wolves afraid of wolves?”
Rating 7.5

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
Often in conversation as among the best Clint Eastwood westerns.
The manhunt story has been done before in other movies, but the story is entertaining. I felt I had been on a journey with these characters.
If you’ve enjoyed Dollars Trilogy, this is a similar style, and worth watching. Features possibily the longest dialogue scene Eastwood ever did in one take.
Clint Eastwood basically plays...Clint Eastwood. He sure did a lot of spitting in this western :)
Rating 7.8

Which are your favorite westerns? Any thoughts on the above titles?

Favorite Songs of 2013 so far (tracks 26-50)

These are favorites, and just what I think is the best music this year so far. For the sake of diversity, I've tried to include as many different artists as I can.

Honorable mention: Shut Up - Savages
(Love the intro in the short film version, an important message to our generation.)

Dream Machine - Tesla Boy

Roadgame – Kavinsky

Together - The xx (From The Great Gatsby soundtrack)

Rose Quartz – Toro Y Moi

Mantra - Trent Reznor, Dave Grohl, and Joshua Homme

Dumb Disco Ideas - Holy Ghost!

No Freedom - Dido

Just To Make Me Feel Good – Adam Green and Binki Shapiro

These Paths - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Love Bends – Wire

Suit & Tie - Justin Timberlake Feat. JAY-Z

Take Me - Stereophonics

Palace Posy - Boards of Canada

Beautiful – Mariah Carey & Miguel

The Raven That Refused To Sing - Steven Wilson

Chances – The Strokes

The Redeemer – Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland

Love is Lost - David Bowie

Saint of Impossible Causes - Joseph Arthur

The Lemon Trees #3 – Bill Ryder-Jones

Trouble - Hands

I'll Stay With You - New Order

Trying To Be Cool – Phoenix

Jubilee Street – Nick Cave

Where Can I Go? - Laura Marling

Which are your best music discoveries of 2013? Do we share any favorites? Next time I'll post tracks 1-25


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