Thursday, April 28, 2005

Late? Never?

So, because the HH had a delayed production schedule for a while there, we never got around to listing our top tens for 2004. Seeing how it's not yet May, anyone care to join me in listing them?

Top Ten of 2004
Hayden Childs

1. The Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat (album). Read about it here.
2. Mission of Burma at La Zona Rosa, March 18 (live show). SXSW showcase. Roger Miller had ear protection headphones on and stood behind his amp, and all three played like they were 20 years old. Excellent.
3. Jandek played live in Scotland (Oct 17, live show)? Really? I wasn't there, but wow. I'm still speechless.
4. The Wire Season Three (tv show). Featuring the most complex characters and almost primordially compelling storylines of any show ever filmed, The Wire is the best thing about television.
5. Kill Bill Vol 2 (movie). Between this & the Fiery Furnaces, I'm apparently a sucker for form. I loved the hell out of both Kill Bills, both of which were more semi-philosophical set pieces and love letters to great filmmakers than stories. And yet, also like the FF, they carry the weight of brilliance operating in confusing times.
6. Brian Wilson with the Wondermints at the Backyard, Oct. 24 (live show). They played SMiLE in its entirety, making sounds more beautiful than most live bands could even conceive. I remember reading a review of the Pet Sounds tour that commented about the loss of wonder in seeing those sounds reproduced on stage. That guy was nuts; I'm still reeling from the sheer talent in evidence.
7. Animal Collective - Sung Tongs (album). Dude. Seriously. Campfire music on acid.
8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (movie). This movie was near perfect. Lots has been written about it, but my only personal 2 cents is that it rips my heart out every time.
9. Deadwood Season One (tv show). It's Locke vs. Hobbes in the State of Nature. This show is about why philosophy is almost as important as soap, whiskey, and a sense of honor.
10. My wife's pregnancy (May 2004 - Feb 2005). Nah, this isn't really the least important of the great things in 2004 (and we're not going to mention the horrible, horrible political realities around us). I'm trying not to be overly sentimental, that's all. This one is just so far above the other stuff that it doesn't make sense in context. Our pregnancy months were amazing, almost as amazing as what came after.


Blogger jeff_v said...

I'll play.

1) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - The best movie since Mulholland Dr., Kaufman and Gondry firing on all synapses. With each passing reel, every direction that I hoped the story would take was probed.

2) The Wire Season 3 - If Steven Johnson really wanted to make a case that watching TV makes you smarter, he'd have cited The Wire.

3) The Red Sox vs. The Yankees - I'm not even a fan of either team. But jesus.

4) Green Day American Idiot - Continuing the comback begun by their Kinks-inspired Warning, this Who-inspired follow-up has deservedly become a blockbuster. Even my eight year-old niece has put down her Britney Spears record to sing along to "Boulevard of Broken Dreams."

5) Before Sunset - "I know." Those two words rank right up there with "Okay." as the year's best closing lines. And Before Sunset shares more than just that similarity with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Both films turn on the effect of memory in shaping our lives, particularly in how we make relationships to other people.

6) Pinback Summer in Abaddon - This grew on me like Chia-hair. Delicate, seductive melodies that register more strongly after repeated exposure.

7) The Arcade Fire Funeral - Just the right mix of heart-on-the-sleeve wearin' bombast and rawk. I love how many of the songs build and build, and then release into some sort of dance.

8) The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Surely, Wes Anderson has been reading his own press. Surely, he knows that critics were starting to express some concern after The Royal Tenenbaums that he was crawling up his ass. I have to admire Anderson for digging his heels and, instead of venturing into uncharted stylistic territory, retreating even further into Wesness.

9) "This Mystic Decade" by The Hot Snakes - A song. The most flat-out, badass mother of a song I heard all year, in fact.

10) The Rules of the Game DVD - Installed at #10 to boost my credibility. Also, this movie is awesome.

April 28, 2005 5:50 PM  
Blogger levide said...

1) "Tropical Malady" Thai director Apitchatpong Weerasethakul's second feature (unless you count the highly unusual travelogue/documentary/exquisite-corpse ghost story "Mysterious Object at Noon" and the botched fix-it work he did for the atrocious "Adventures of Iron Pussy"), and like his first (the hypnotic "Blissfully Yours") it imbues the mundane and workaday with poetry and deep, just unattainable, meaning. Part realist verite look at a burdgeoning romance, part animist fairy-tale, it's a breathtaking exercise in form that shows us two entirely different ways of looking at the same thing. The first way, sweet, woozy and tinged with magical realism, is nice enough, but the second half, where damp, heated metaphor and stifling atmosphere take over and the baboons start talking, is the most immersive film experience I can remember in recent years. Taken as a whole it's almost painfully gorgeous.

2) Sun City Girls at the Triple Door, Seattle WA, Nov. '04. The Girls hit some rough spots in their personal lives last year, but this performance was as fine a distillation of this neglected national institution as could be hoped for. Anyone who knows me knows I've seen roughly 200 or so Sun City Girls shows, and tonight's was easily the 3rd best of those I've seen, if not the 2nd. In a weird bit of 'what-the-fuck' election week confluence, they managed to get booked at Mytown's ultra-swanky-posh Triple Door (the kind of purple-velvet, table-seating place where there's pretty girls dressed as mermaids in fishtanks behind the main bar, where you pay about a dollar for every minute you have to wait for a cocktail -- 20 on average --, and the ashtrays cost more than anything in your own home, let alone the lighting system). Needless to say, they made the most of it and won't be invited back anytime soon. Six Organs of Admittance opened, but forget about that, everyone else already has. When the curtain rose on the Girls in a fog bank dressed in pig masks and Burmese robes singing Khmer anthems and knocking over the first row of booth's drinks and plates of creme brulee with bullwhips the tension was already palpable (most people go to this place to see the likes of Tito Puente, after all). The first set's hip-hop/Banghra/shortwave/guerilla theatre/tape-collage confrontation was pretty thrilling, with Bishop Brother n. 1 literally treating the audience and venue as a driving range (really, golfing into the audience), Bishop Brother n. 2 destroying an electrified an ridiculously ampliflied gamelan and Mr. Gocher embarking on the 30-minute drum solo of his life. The 2nd set calmed down a little, with the Bishops in costume and character pretending to be Cat Stevens and Nico perfectly deadpan and straightfaced performing Gordon Lightfoot covers. About this time most of the audience was scrambling over each other to settle their tabs, but it got better when Uncle Jim took over the 3rd set, running into the audience and knocking over tables and waitstaff ranting about the electrical impusles of crawfish brains while Gocher and Rick delivered a simply killer - for lack of a better word, but here it actually applies - spy-lounge backdrop. The 4th set consisted of a few old chestnuts ("Without Compare", "Sev Ascher", "Space Prophet Dogon" and whatever that thing from "Dante's Disneyland Inferno" was about multiple infanticide) and an extended "Dawn of the Devi" improv jam. Encore featured some achingly beautiful Burmese lullabys and, in acknowledgment of 4 More Years, easily the most stompingly rocking version of "Spirit in the Sky" I've yet to hear. Those of us left in the hall (outside of the poor, blinking-like-Wile E Coyote waitstaff) were fucking ecsatic, and so were the Girls. Good on 'em.

3) Holly Chernobyl. Look out for this girl, she's trouble. You may not have heard of her, but believe me you will.

4) "Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space". At first glance just another hyper-cute piece of Japanese eye-candy that gradually turns into a hyper-meta, concentrically inward-circling comment on media saturation, holding itself up as a prime example. The sad story of a corporate logo invested with a consciousness through constant recycling and reproduction, and her struggle to find an identity outside of her market-driven reason for being, it's also a nutzoid adaptation of "The Crying of Lot 49" (the plot figures heavily on a renegade 14thC postal cult turned intergalactic conglomerate). The only film I can think of that has a design firm taking director's credit, and it shows. The searing giddiness of the picture's look would carry it alone. That it's also hilarious, a little bit sad, and surprisingly complex seems like an exceptionally well-meditated pop-culture coup.

5) "The Saddest Music in the World", "Cowards Bend the Knee" and "Sombre Dolorosa". Guy Maddin's incredible run from last year (you can add "From the Atelier Tovar", his collected diaries/essays, to that list, too). Fresh out of the depressive fugue state following the disastrous "Twilight of the Ice Nymphs", Maddin's hit the ground running and shows no sign of stopping (he just completed a new feature, "The Brand on the Brain", here in Mytown, and reports from the set promise typical romantic and sexual hysteria and fiercely energetic creativity).

6) The ankimo nigiri at Maneki (304 6th Ave. S). There simply aren't words.

7) The election. Granted, the results weren't so hot, but have you and yours ever felt so invested in your lives?

8) Rasputin vodka. The house vodka at Rasputin's in Vancouver, BC (455 W Broadway). Distilled in Poland and completely unavailable in the States, but if you're ever there make sure to bring a few bottles home with you. The food's real good there, too, and any given meal there is literally a 7-hour party, but this stuff (served by the freakin' carafe) is sublime, balancing out the robust eats and frenetic atmosphere.

9) Re-bar, Seattle. Granted I have a bit of a bias being as I work there, but this is a personal best list, right? Part theatre, part nightclub, part art gallery there's literally something for everyone, and everyone's welcome. Despite the neck-breaking genre flipping, remarkably consistent in its arty, funky friendliness. At 15 years in business a bit of a local institution. And if the idea of a bar staff as dysfunctional family has any merit, this is a pretty good textbook example. Stop in, say hi, tip the barkeep and try the veal.

10) "Punishment Park", dir. Peter Watkins. Having been inexplicably unfamiliar with Watkins' work previously this thing hit me full in the face like an angry longshoreman. Maybe that has something to do with the lingering effects of the Ashcroft era (which this queasily represents well before its time), but its more likely that Watkins' commitment and freakish intelligence are what counts here. Now having caught up with the rest of his work (minus one or two titles) it's clear that other films of his can be considered "better" in every sense of the word (really, everyone owes it to themselves to see "La Commune"), but the unexpected force of this one still smarts.

April 28, 2005 8:16 PM  
Blogger Gary Mairs said...

1: "Lonely Woman," Ornette Coleman at the Disney Hall, Los Angeles. Accompanied by two bassists and a drummer, Coleman was at his most lyrical and haunting. Charlie Haden joined the quartet for an encore of the starkest, most fragile version of his best known song imaginable.
2, 3, 4: 10 Skies, 27 Years Later/One Way Boogie Woogie,13 Lakes: James Benning. Ten static shots of the sky, each exactly ten minutes long, and the most dramatically satisfying film of the year. The accompanying films lack its grandeur, but they are every bit as rigorous and beautiful.
5: Dogville
6: Notre Musique
7: Magnetic Fields in concert at the Wilshire Ebell. The new album, i, isn’t as good as 69 Love Songs, but not much is. The concert improved its mordant chamber pop. The glum drollery of Stephen Merritt's patter helped, though not as much as Claudia Gonson's goofy, rambling monologues.
8, 9: Dig!, Some Kind of Monster Three atrocious bands, two great documentaries. Dysfunction doesn’t necessarily produce great art, but it makes for entertaining autopsies.
10: Twenty-odd friends and I exchanged CD’s, all arranged by broad categories – something from the first record you ever bought, great song by a band you hate, like that. Beat the hell out of any official releases I heard this year.

April 30, 2005 1:58 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

1. "Sideways": The two big complaints I've heard about my favorite movie of the year are that (A) it has no compelling message, and (B)literate, critical-minded types ought to view with suspicion their attraction to a movie whose protagonist is a literate, critical-minded type, even if he does steal money from his mother and try to swig the contents of a vinyard's spit bowl. It remains the most pleasurable experience of 2004 for me, and with pleasure so thin on the ground these days, I regard it as almost churlish to work so hard looking for reasons to downgrade it. Honorable mentions: "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", "The Incredibles", "Bright Young Things", "Tarnation", "Festival Express".

2. Jon Stewart on "Crossfire": I assume that Michael Moore and his hardcore fans must really despise Jon Stewart, since Stewart has yet to step in front of a camera without giving them cause to question their argument that there's simply no way to speak truth to power in a funny way without coming across as a boorish, self--promoting jackass. In an election year when a lot of left-leaning artists tried to make a difference by out-assholing the right wing commentariat, it was Stewart who provided the Joseph Welch moment by going on cable news' pioneering shriek-fest and urging its hosts, in the politely stricken tone of someone negotiating with naughty children, to please "stop hurting America." The nationwide outpouring of gratitude for this expression of sanity, coupled with the subsequent recoil from "Crossfire" host Tucker Carlson when he tried to sell the idea that Stewart's interest in common decency was soooo uncool, was the most blissfully reassuring evidence this year that most of the country is still, at some level, human. Carlson can, and probably will, spend the rest of his life honing his skills by insisting that the subsequent cancellation of his show was just one of those fluky things. Honorable mention: Eminem's animated video for "Mosh", which seems to have won him some new fans, not that anyone who was still on the fence about this guy isn't probably undeserving of him.

3. Nellie McKay's "Get Away from Me": She is a cabaret, and her 18-track debut CD restores brains, guts, and wit to what was supposed to be a lost and abandoned art: popular songwriting. Honorable mentions: Joanna Newsom's "The Milk-Eyed Mother" and, R.I.P., Elliott Smith's "From a Basement on a Hill".

4. Richard Foreman's "King Cowboy Rufus Rules the Universe": I don't know if this rare foray into topical playwriting from the veteran Surrealist was the theatrical event of the year--I don't claim to make it out to the theater often enough to know--but it may well have been the most original and oddest shot across George W. Bush's bow, one of the few that went beyond name-calling and conspiracy-mongering into a real attempt to depict what it might look like inside that strange head. Honorable mention: Karen Finely's "George & Martha", which was just wrong, in a good way.

5. "Kramer's Ergot 5", edited by Sammy Harkham, "McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #13", edited by Chris Ware, and "Rosetta 2", edited by Nu Suat Tong: Three thick anthologies that, taken together, provide a map of what's going on in cartooning now and salvaged the year for comics readers. Honorable mentions: blasts from the pasts--Charles M. Schulz's "The Complete Peanuts 1950-1954", Jaime Hernandez's "Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories", Markk Beyer's "Amy and Maggie", and "The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker", edited by Robert Mankoff.

6. Idris Elba as Stringer Bell on "The Wire"--Over the course tof three TV seasons, a British actor, abetted by a small army of gifted, brave writers, took a potentially degrading cliche--one more dangerously seductive, evil-genius black drug dealer-- and fleshed him out with so much self-awareness and irony and so many compelling contradictions that he took on a near-tragic stature, until his death scene rendered the final episode of the very fine third season of "The Wire" into something of an anticlimax. Say what you like about series TV, no other dramatic form gives artists the space and time to lavish that much detail on its characters; the sad thing is that, in an industry that judges success by longevity, it's rare for them to be allowed to get the conclusion needed to give their work proper shape. Honorable mention: "Deadwood", the first series in memory to stake its claim to the viewer's attention on the power and vitality of spoken language.

7. TV on the Radio, "Desparate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes": Wall of sound. Honorable mentions: Eagles of Death Metal, "Peace Love Death Metal", and--better late than never--Brian Wilson's "Smile".

8. "End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones": Keep your tears to yourself; it may be a time capsule, but it sure ain't a tombstone. Honorable mention: Lenny Bruce's "Let the Buyer Beware", a better biography than Albert Goldman or Bob Fosse could manage, from the horse's mouth.

9. "The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy--Special Extended DVD Edition": I'll probably never see or hear most of what's on this package (the six discs' worth of behind-the-scenes documentaries, the crews' commentary tracks), but I love the fact that it exists, because there must be thousands of kids for whom these movies are what "Jaws" was to me when I was eight, and boy, could they do worse. And if all the overkill is what's silly about the DVD market, the now-definitive expanded versions of the movies themselves are what's great about it. Honorable mentions: the long-awaited "SCTV" DVD sets, the appearance of several of Robert Altman's most richly pleasurable works on disc (including beautiful Criterion Collections of "Secret Honor" and "Tanner '88"), and the oddly packaged but mighty damn handy "Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection".

10. "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth: Thirty years before Condaleezza Rice went on national TV and got huffy at the suggestion that anyone might have taken an intelligence report titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside the U.S" as a hint that the U.S. might be in danger of being attacked by someone named Bin Laden, Roth pointed out that the modern world is a peerless challenge to anyone who would try to satirize it. Most people who've had an insight like that would take their Nostradmus prize and start studying for their real estate license, but Roth just keeps rising to the challenge, as if he thinks that being the greatest living American novelist is something he has to live up to, a title he has to prove he's worthy of. It's a quaint notion, but at least it's not wiespread.

April 30, 2005 9:56 AM  
Blogger Andy Axel said...

Hoodoo Gurus, Mach Schau!. "Make a show!" According to legend, this was the exhortation given by Bruno Koschmider to The Beatles as they took the stage at the Kaiserkeller for one of their Preludin-fueled R&B shows during the Hamburg years. While the HGs are not carried by EMI/Captiol in US release, this follows hard upon the spectacular one-off outing by Faulkner and Shepherd as The Persian Rugs (a 2003 favorite, if my memory serves). This Australian import is a must-have for Hoodoo Gurus fans, and could easily be well-loved by fans of power pop and Aussie rock. Word has it that their brief reunion stint for the Big Day Out festival series was awe-inspiring. Mach Schau finds a level of three-chord oomph missing on some of the Gurus last releases (In Blue Cave, Magna Cum Louder, Crank in particular) and provides a punchier package than even what's considered as their unqualified best (Stoneage Romeos, and to a lesser extent Mars Needs Guitars! and Kinky). The battering-ram chord structure of "#17" captures their cohesion perfectly, and evokes the feeling of what it is like to hear them live. This album is a double high-five.

Wilco adds Nels Cline to the lineup. While A Ghost is Born tops my short list of heavy rotators on the iPod (so much so that my wife started to enforce an edict not to play it while she's in the car or in the house for a minimum of six months), the personnel change was a positive boon for their already electric live performances.

Guided by Voices leaves the scene after 20+ years, numerous major releases, revolving door personnel changes, and side projects with "The Electrifying Conclusion" tour and the release of Half Smiles of the Decomposed, their 11th or 12th major release. "Or something like that."

Iggy and the Stooges live DVD, featuring Mike Watt on bass. Especially pay attention to the bonus footage, featuring a journal entry read by Watt, and Scott Asheton banging out the rhythms for songs like "Loose" on a kit comprised of cardboard boxes and paint buckets at an in-store. Raw power, indeed.

Elvis Costello, The Delivery Man. The crown of the Elvis Costello '04 three-fer, including the [dismal] torchy/croony North and the Deutsche Gramaphon release of Il Sogno, which I will readily admit I didn't like either. Having now seen the live performance from "The Monkey Speaks His Mind" tour, DVD footage and collateral material on his performance from the Hi-Tone in Memphis, I have even deeper appreciation for it. It was so good I bought it once when it first came out, and then bought it again in the twin-disc repackage. You kill my wallet, Elvis, but I love you anyway. I hope he picks a venue as inspired as Oxford, MS for the next outing.

Mission of Burma, ONoffON. Picking up where they left off, and not losing many steps. They seem to be at the forefront of a trend of "artists who would be handpicked for reunion by the esteemed William Ham of the kinda-quasi-quarterly The High Hat Magazine." But we'll leave an evaluation of the Go-Betweens resurgence for the 2005 lists.

Steve Earle, The Revolution Starts Now. This is the album that Jerusalem could have been. This is more what I expect from Earle, which is steps up from the previous -- and in this case, the measuring stick is what I consider to be the genius contained within Transcendental Blues. Also available is the New West DVD of his performance from Austin City Limits circa 1986 (featuring Bucky Baxter, Mike McAdam, Ron Kling, Ken Moore, & Harry Stinson). It's an interesting artifact of the star on the rise, coming fresh off the release of Guitar Town, but you might especially note his cocaine-addled twitching mannerisms coming out for the first encore. Talk about your open secrets. I wonder if the video footage of "San Antonio Girl" actually made it to the KRLU broadcast. I would be surprised. I managed to miss Steve on his 2004 swing through Nashville, and now that he's departed Fairview for the sunny shores of NYC, it's more of a rare treat to get to see him perform around here.

Kings of Leon, Aha Shake Heartbreak. Based on a recommendation from Earle's XM radio show -- and is it ever good. While I believe that the US release is 2005, this was available as a European import as of late 2004. So it really counts as a 2004 release. Strangely enough, this band is from Tennessee and I have to go around the world to get the latest stuff from them.

A.C. Newman, The Slow Wonder. The New Pornographers tunesmith cuts a solo release, and crafts a wondrous work of power pop. (Honorable mentions here -- Neko Case's The Tigers Have Spoken, featuring The Sadies, and The Sadies Favourite Colours album, which is evocative -- in a good way -- of the Flying Burrito Brothers to my ears.)

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, Who is This America? Props to Doyle Davis for leading me to this American ensemble kicking it Fela style -- I expect a lot more from this band during the next four years of a Bush administration. "Indictment" has to be one of the angriest ... well, indictments handed out against the war criminals in DC. Supposedly they were so damned militant at their show here at the Mercy Lounge that they were driving patrons away. Those who stayed saw a burning rendition of Afrobeat not soon forgotten.

May 05, 2005 1:42 PM  
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