Thursday, December 31, 2015

Play It As It Lays - Book Review

Play It As It Lays - Joan Didion C

Published in 1970
In January 2010 critics Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo released their list of the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923. Joan Didion's Play It as It Lays was on that list. By all accounts, Didion is a literary legend. However, I was underwhelmed by her critically acclaimed memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking (it won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2005), and I just couldn't digest Play It as It Lays. Stylistically, it is an unflinching and cool novel about a woman's descent into nothingness. Yet, I never felt an emotional connection with the protagonist and the other characters were forgettable. I wonder if I would like the film adaptation starring Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins any better?

Here's a clip from the film adaptation

Here's The New York Times review circa 1970

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sprained Ankle - Album Review

Released Oct 2015
Sprained Ankle - Julien Baker A

Julien Baker is an über talented twenty-year-old singer-songwriter from Memphis, Tennessee. Sprained Ankle is her quietly impressive and addicting debut album. The music here is sans bells, whistles and unnecessary gloss. The album is a natural beauty, warts and all. The songs are confessional and sad. Sometimes, I listen to the album and feel like I am living in slow motion while the songs are my own personal soundtrack. The first song that really hooked me was "Everybody Does," possibly the most accessible song of the album and it totally feeds my self-loathing - "I know myself better than anybody else/and you're gonna run when you find out who I am/I know I'm a pile of filthy wreckage you will wish you'd never touched."

Baker's voice is lovely and vulnerable. Her lyrics are poetically tragic. This is what Sylvia Plath would've sounded like if she was a twenty-year-old singer-songwriter. Kudos to this young artist. I truly hope she never loses her edge. Sprained Ankle might be the start of something very very special. My favorite tracks: Everybody Does, Rejoice, Good News, Go Home, Blacktop.

For more check out ----->

Monday, December 28, 2015

First Comes The Night - Album Review

Released Nov 2015
First Comes The Night - Chris Isaak C+

I don't know what's harder to believe- that Chris Isaak is 59 years old, or that Chris Isaak is still heartbroken? The dude doesn't look a day over 48 and he can still sing your panties off. But actually, one of the reasons I've liked him all these years is because he's perpetually heartbroken (or pretends to be) and that makes him real to me. On his 13th studio album, First Comes The Night, you're not likely to find anything out of the ordinary if you're familiar with his music. However, that's not to say the album doesn't have its moments. Songs like "Please Don't Call," and "Baby What You Want Me To Do," will be instant fan favorites and recommended tracks for Chris Isaak newbies. I also like the title track a lot; it's a catchy, slow burning track that hurts soooo good. On the album's deluxe edition is a song called "Some Days Are Harder Than The Rest." This songs is grandiose, powerful, and has a badass retro vibe- It's currently my favorite song on the album and perfect for a film soundtrack (I can imagine the song playing as the closing credits roll). First Comes The Night is hit-or-miss. It probably won't win him many new fans, but it should keep his current fans satisfied.

Favorite tracks: "Please Don't Call," "Baby What You Want Me To Do," "First Comes The Night," "Dry Your Eyes," "Some Days Are Harder Than The Rest."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Vulnicura - Album Review

Vulnicura - Bjork A-
Released Jan 2015
So, this is what a break-up sounds like in the heart of Björk Guðmundsdóttir. Vulnicura, widely known as her "heartbreak album," is devastatingly lovely. From the opening lines of the opening track, Stonemilker, "moments of clarity are so rare/I better document this." One can sense that this is something thoughtful and sincere. The following track, Lionsong, also grabs my attention everytime I hear Bjork sing, "maybe he will come out of this loving me." Knowing that I've been the unloving "he" in such scenarios.  This album has a way of making one feel introspective with theatrical hindsight.  The liner notes even include a song/relationship timeline for the first six tracks- the aforementioned Stonemilker is nine months before the end of the relationship, while Lionsong is five months before the end, and so on. The timeline is a nice touch that adds perspective and dramatic effect.

Musically, there are a lot of beautiful string arrangements, electronic beats, and drum-and-bass loops to accompany Bjork's unique vocal style. Vulincura is entrancing. It inspired me to go back and re-listen to Vespertine, Bjork's 2001 album that never clicked with me... until now.

Favorite tracks: Mouth Mantra, Stonemilker, Lionsong, and Quicksand

The video for Lionsong courtesy of Youtube

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Poor Bastard - Book Review

Published: Jan 1997
The Poor Bastard - Joe Matt B

I've known a few poor bastards in my time. Most of them eventually figure it out and/or become better at hiding their misery. Joe Matt's The Poor Bastard, is a graphic novel born from the first six issues of his Peepshow comics. Peepshow, and subsequently this drawn dairy, is reportedly an autobiographical account of the writer's life. A life full of social awkwardness, masturbation, and angst. It's sometimes funny, mostly sad, and often cringe worthy. Underneath the surface of this unlikable protagonist is the sad reality for a lot of dudes. Sad but true.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Modern Romance - Book Review

Published: June 2015
Modern Romance - Aziz Ansari B-

As a guy who has never downloaded a cell phone app, Modern Romance was yet another reminder of how out of touch I am in the digital age. After listening to the book during 14 hour road trip I feel more informed and more enlightened. However, I'm not so sure if the current dating/hook-up technology is a help or a hindrance when seeking (and maintaining) true romance. Check out The New York Times review (below) for more about this book.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl - Book Review

Published: Oct 2015
Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl - Carrie Brownstein A

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl is a subtle rock memoir that totally delivers. A must for SK fans.

Check out The New York Times review by John Williams

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Girl in a Band - Book Review

Published: Feb 2015
Girl in a Band - Kim Gordon A-

When it comes to Sonic Youth my friends and I are split in two camps- the camp that thinks Kim's songs are always the best songs on any given Sonic Youth album, and the camp that thinks Thurston's songs are the best. However, we all agree that Sonic Youth is one of the best bands of all-time.

I read Girl in a Band as a fan boy. Kim Gordon is the shiznick, a rock goddess, the bees knees (can you tell which camp I'm in?). Usually, when I'm this excited about a book I'm setting myself up for disappointment... not this time.

Girl in a Band begins at that the end. The end of a marriage and the end of Sonic Youth. Then, Gordon recounts her own life and the early days of the band. I always dive into music memoirs with a singular mission to get the inside scoop on the band members, the albums, the songs, and the tours. But, this time I was also captivated by the obligatory born and raised/parents and sibling stuff. Gordon's tone is modest, the chapters are short, and the book is easy to read (nice flow/loved the photographs).  It is also not without its juicy bits and sad realities. What's it like to be a "girl in a band?" Now, I think I really do understand.

Check out the New York Times Review by QuestLove