Electricity & Lust

Diggin

Posted in diggin by Sam Unsted on September 13, 2008

Music

Well, it’s been a little while since my last update so there is much to talk about. At work, I find I need to have very specific types of music playing to help my ability to type fast and not be too far taken out of my concentration. With this in mind, two types of music continually find their way onto playlists I make and so are often my working music pieces. The first is hip hop and in the past few weeks, I’ve become partially obsessed with finding good, eccentric and esoteric hip hop albums that sound interesting and manage to avoid much of the posing and faux-gangster braggadocio of much of mainstream rap. Peanut Butter Wolf and Madvillain are both amazing for this with the second’s Madvillainy album now placing itself among my all-time favourites in any genre. Also working for me are Prefuse 73, Flying Lotus, Aesop Rock, Cadence Weapon, J Dilla, Cannibal Ox, Edan, El-P and Sage Francis. All are recommended to those who like to avoid getting too much syrupy R ‘n’ B with their hip hop. Having said that, a man whose purveyance of syrupy R ‘n’ B verges on the R Kelly, T.I., has made the incredible, thrilling ‘Swagger Like Us’ with Lil Wayne (whose ‘A Milli’ is also a total masterpiece), Kanye West and the king of brag-rap, Jay-Z. For all my dislike of that kind of hip hop from lesser minds, this is a truly incredible song.

The other portion that’s working for me right now is long-form electronica and textural compositions. Lindstrom’s new album is wonderful while I would thoroughly boost Tim Hecker and Fennesz for some more challenging and dense electronic work. I’ve also fallen head-over-heels for the sweet, weird little songs from Books, a fine group making slight but hugely enjoyable albums of electronic-inflected indie. Just as a post-note on this, you can also add into the genres I dig for writing krautrock. I love me some really repetitive, motorik sound of Neu and Can, the latter providing some far more out-there, almost hippie moments while the former, and superior, is guitar-based pounding symphonies of rhythm and discipline. Neu would probably rank up as my absolute favourite of all for writing.

Other than these, and outside of work, I’ve become a little over-obsessed with a cover of ODB’s ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’ by White Pony and I really love the uber-heavy reggae dub of The Bug. The Hold Steady continue to float every portion of my boat, Jay Reatard (terrible name) has a singles collection which is filled with dirty garage rock and hooky choruses, the new songs from TV on the Radio are awesome and ‘Nonpareil of Favor’, the new track from Of Montreal, is terrific. Also well done to Elbow for winning the Mercury, even if it should have gone to Burial. Seldom Seen Kid is a fine record, even if they should really have won for their first record. At least, unlike many of the last few winners, they looked genuinely happy to have won the award rather than skulking off and remaining ‘cool’ in the moment.

 
Film

Busy weeks again on this front. Tom and I completed our 1980s marathon by finding out that Top Gun sucks, as does Arnie’s Red Heat. However, Total Recall holds up far better than it has any right to do and has ushered in an Arnie marathon which has thus far included Terminator (still superb) and Conan the Barbarian (has its moments). More are planned so stay tuned for that.

Better, and way cooler, than any of this though is Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai. Following Alain Delon’s Jef Costello, a Parisian hitman, through and existential passage of his life following a hit, it’s maybe the finest example I have ever seen of a hitman movie. Melville’s true skill is the economy of his filmmaking, allowing enigma to exist without providing spoonfed explanations for all that occurs and never over-indulging in dialogue. Alain Delon is likely the coolest human and if you witness this movie and don’t have an immediate urge to go and purchase a trenchcoat and hat, along with at least 500 packs of cigarettes, I don’t know your kind. It’s beautifully filmed, sparely written and acted without any theatrics from anyone involved. All remains at a level of cool detachment that, rather than making this overly-cold or uncomfortable, just makes you try harder to understand and engage with the story, the rewards for which are more than satisfactory. Hyperbole perhaps but I think this goes straight in amongst my all-time favourite films and I cannot recommend highly enough that you seek it out and take it in. I will now be searching out the rest of Melville’s work, including Le Cercle Rouge and Le Doulos.

I also got to see Pineapple Express which I absolutely loved. I’m a big lover and apologist for the Apatow-Rogen team and I really found nothing to hate in the mixture. James Franco is outstanding as Saul, bringing all he has to make sure you completely empathise with their plight and laugh hard while doing so. Rogen isn’t as good but I still feel this quasi-paternal nuturing sensation towards his projects due to my loving his work in Freaks and Geeks all that way back. I loved it and honestly, I think most who haven’t just didn’t drink enough before hand. We had a couple of glasses of wine and this film rocked. As an aside, our housemate also saw it but stone sober and still loved it.

I’ve managed to set a new rule with my LoveFilm account, only keeping DVDs for two weeks at a time, after which, if not watched, they go back regardless. I’ve recently taken in Miranda July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know which was too quirky for its own good but still quite enjoyable. I watched Pierce Brosnan in The Matador which I was close to loving and I checked out The Saddest Music in the World, Guy Maddin’s least-insane film about a contest set up by Isabella Rossellini in which people are invited to come and play the saddest music in the world at her club and win a prize if there is truly the most sad. It was somewhere between an overly-arty minefield of quirk and a complete, emotionally shattering masterpiece and I don’t know if I ever know which one it is. Next up is Jacques Tati’s M Hulot’s Holiday. From there, it could be another Tati, some Tarkovsky, Point Break, Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia or Living in Oblivion.

I this week completed Generation Kill, the mini-series on HBO from David Simon and Ed Burns that I wrote about a little while ago. I really loved it by the end, but purely on a level of filmmaking and acting. This is some distance from being enjoyable TV, so relentlessly depressing is its depiction of top brass in the US military and the parallel realisation that the whole thing is based on a true story. But Simon doesn’t ever judge and he depicts without any really heavy-handed preaching and with a sense that you understand what happened, what’s going on and why the mess is there. Also, Alexander Skarsgaard as Brad Colbert might be my televisual performance of the year.

Tom and I checked out the pilot of Fringe which was only okay and could possibly get interesting but is likely to suffer due to its slightly-less-than-brilliant cast. My  liking of Joshua Jackson unfortunately comes from Dawson’s Creek and before that The Mighty Ducks, both pieces of not-well-aging nostalgia pieces that I’m unlikely to ever watch again. The other pilot we checked out was Alan Ball’s True Blood, the vampire love story thing set in the deep South of the US in which vampires are just another race of people facing the same prejudices as any other. At current, having watched the first two, I want to like it more than I do but Alan Ball, the creator of Six Feet Under and writer of American Beauty, has earned my trust so I’ll give him the first season to make things work before I lay into him.

Other than those, Gossip Girl returned brilliantly and is just the most ridiculously enjoyable show on TV right now. Mad Men is not as soapy and ridiculous but is probably the best show on TV right now in its own right, given that Jon Hamm’s performance remains so shockingly good and they are building out the rest of the cast with aplomb. The reimagined 90210 is okay but could prove an annoyance in the long-run while this month sees the return of Heroes, The Office and then a chunk of other bits and bobs to be getting on with.

 
Books

I read Remainder, the winner of The Believer Book Award, by Tom McCarthy which was really strange but kind of great. It follows a man who suffer a psychological shift following a major physical trauma. He wins a massive amount of money through a settlement and embarks on a project to build his own world which continues to escalate until it becomes truly dangerous. I don’t want to say too much about it because really, the best way to experience this, is coming in with little or no knowledge of it. In short: recommended.

Better than this was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a complete masterpiece from Dominican writer Junot Diaz about an overweight geeky kid and his misadventures in life and love while living in a dictatorial country. It taught me a huge amount about the Dominican Republic’s history without ever losing a flow and portraying a cast of fully-drawn character, none of whom were given short shrift. I loved every second of this book and I would advise anyone to seek it out and just sink into its perfect storytelling and sense of language. Nearly perfection.

I’m currently on The Master and the Margharita, a truly classic allegorical novel from Mikail Bulgakov that I’m not even remotely qualified to talk about. Suffice to say, I flipping love it so far but I’ll report back more soon.

 
Other

I’m currently getting addicted to shirts for the first time since a brief period when I was younger than saw me purchase a number of Hawaiian-style shirts but graduating to padded lumberjack pieces in the winter. Not a good time. Uniqlo is proving the best for all this right now as its cheap, the clothes are good quality and its stores in London don’t have the cattle market chav feel of a Topman or H&M. The latter is still worth a look though. My current ones to hit are Urban Outfitters, Uniqlo, H&M, American Apparel and then maybe some vintage shopping again once the corporatising of Camden is completed.

I’m also really enjoying the political race right now. I’ll probably write a piece on it again in the next week or two but the entry of Palin as produced a fascinating new figure that seems to be entirely outshining John McCain. If she’s bringing in women, she’s got to be pushing out those who were worried McCain was too old. More on that soon.

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DVDs Last Week

Posted in DVDs by Sam Unsted on August 25, 2008

Pick of the Week:

Gossip Girl Season 1 – Perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire new season of shows, this has a terrible pilot but from there on in is the most ridiculous, silly, sassy, smart show on TV. It’s a beautifully rendered portrait of upper-class New York life which pokes fun in all the right places and, in Ed Westwick’s Chuck, has the most delicious semi-villain yet conceived for a teen-targeted show. The next season promises more sex, drugs and, well, more sex so I can’t flippin’ wait. As much fun as you can have with a new show right now.

Also out

Chuck Season 1 – Patchy and slightly uninspired tale of an accidental spy from the pen of The OC’s Josh Schwartz. Just never really kicked into an acceptable gear despite mostly decent cast. In fact, the key reason for its failing is Morgan, the sidekick to our eponymous hero, who is about as annoying as a human being can be.
Persepolis – Beautiful and charming little story and you can read my thoughts on it here.
Happy Go-Lucky – Mike Leigh’s new piece about a young lady with an unbreakably positive outlook on life. I will be watching it this week.
Never Back DownStep Up 2 The Streets with mixed martial arts. So bad, it’s awesome.
Stop-Loss – Misguided but valiant attempt at engaging with the psychology of modern warfare although it is packed with talented young males, not least the outstanding Joseph Gordon Levitt.
Love is the Devil – Intense portrait of Francis Bacon from Derek Jarman and starring Derek Jacobi. A fine, well-acted and well-balanced piece of work.
Pathology – Milo Ventimiglia from Heroes in some surgery horror thing. Haven’t seen and likely won’t.
Street Fight – A recounting of the battle between Cory Booker and Sharpe James to become the Mayor of Newark. An incredible, eviscerating study of dirty local politics with a bleakness to its conclusion which was eventually solved by life.
Lonesome Jim – Not seen but directed by the great Steve Buscemi and starring the soon-to-be-great Casey Affleck alongside the never-will-be-great-but-still-charming Liv Tyler.

Diggin

Posted in Beth, diggin by Beth Squires on July 28, 2008

Music: Having attended T4 On The Beach the weekend before last on a press pass for my day job, I have been enjoying all manner of poptastic tunes in memory of an awesome day. Yes, I met those McFly lads and although Sam doesn’t need to worry about me running off with Harry (though if I had to run off with a member of McFly he certainly smelled the nicest) I’m loving their new album Radio:ACTIVE. It’s lots of fun, even if we did have to buy the Mail On Sunday to get it. Staying on the poptastic jaunt I’m yet to grow tired of Drake Bell‘s music, which has improved remarkably over only two albums – It’s Only Time is the best of them. The live versions of tracks from his upcoming third album are also boding well… so bring it on! (Sorry Sam.) I’m also adoring the soundtrack to the awesome movie The Wackness which is full of 90s hip hop from the Fresh Prince to Biggie and Nas. It’s so summery and reminds me of the great film which I can’t see being overtaken as my favourite indie movie of the summer. Biz Markie’s Just A Friend is playing almost constantly in my head.

Film/TV: The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight. Wow. I gave it a 5 star review, I loved it that much – not a bad performance in the movie, and so much better than I even expected it to be. I also went to see Wall-E with Sam, which had me hooked too… such an adorable romantic movie with breathtaking CGI. Baby Mama was OK, lots of jokes fell flat but it was saved by the fact I love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and Steve Martin’s small role was hilarious. Sam does not believe me on that, but it’s true. Also The Wackness is coming out on August 29 so in case I don’t write again before then you must see it. It’s fab.

TV-wise Gossip Girl has just finished so I won’t be watching that anymore, at least until the second season starts airing in the States. Sam, Tom and I had a bit of a The Hills season one marathon at the weekend which caused more debate than you can possibly imagine between the boys. Always entertaining. I caught a show called Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide today while waiting for my daily Drake & Josh fix (I know, it’s still going on…) which was fairly amusing and I probably would have enjoyed lots if I was still of school-age. Alas, alack, I am not – no matter how much some of my pop culture tastes would have you believe I am. In relation to this, my favourite moment of T4 on The Beach came when I met Joe Dempsie who played adorable Chris in Skins, and he was lovely and so nice. Can’t wait to see what he does next…

Books: I haven’t been reading anything too exciting lately as I’ve been spending most of my time on the internet… but I did manage to read The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss which has some fascinating ideas about how you could arrange your working life if you just have the balls to do it. Stuff to implement and stuff to ignore, but it makes you think. I also picked up a couple of books featuring photos of hip kids at parties – last nights party and misshapes… curiously fascinating.  Also have been putting some positivity into practice with Gala Darling’s amazing blog iCiNG – read it and smile.

Other: The web browser Flock, the sun (but not the heat), sorting out my office (again), Sam catching me up in age until February, my housemate John being in Edinburgh to take over with Silence In C Minor, my other housemate Tom’s costume for his IMAX showing of The Dark Knight, a few days off. And, as if I couldn’t make this anymore D&J centric – I’m diggin the amazing transformation of Josh Peck. Bravo, Josh, bravo.

White Link, I Wanna Link

Posted in Links by Sam Unsted on June 21, 2008

Mercury Rev will return with two new records.

Josh Modell finally takes in Raging Bull.

Is Chinese Democracy finally upon us?

Wired has a piece on the Metallica reviews scandal.

Cody Chessnutt could be returning – inspired by Obama.

Chuck Bass in short-shorts.

Weezer adding more to the Rock Band party.

Is bottled water on the way out?

Here’s Jim DeRogatis’ top ten records of the year so far.

In Treatment has been renewed.

Inglorious Bastards may be split in two.

Link Rose

Posted in Links by Sam Unsted on June 19, 2008

Slate reviews Michelle Obama’s appearance on The View.

Best songs of the year so far, according to The AV Club.

The Boondock Saints gets its tribute as a cult gem.

10 screenwriters to watch.

Kiss no like Radiohead.

The next addition to the Spears clan has arrived.

PopMatters has a feature on George Melies.

Which TV catchphrase has entered your lexicon?

Lethal Bizzle talks about his Download experience.

Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III tops a first week million.

Madchen Amick is joining Gossip Girl.

Man Man provide a Guest List.

A red band for The Wackness is up.

Cool Ghostbusters tee!

Mercury Rev’s next record will be a free download.

Diggin

Posted in diggin by Sam Unsted on May 17, 2008

Music: I’m really loving two new records this week. First is No Age’s Nouns, the follow-up to their much-hyped EP compliation Weirdo Rippers. It’s streamlined noise-pop mastery at its best and manages to rattle through its songs fast enough that any sense of pretension or posing never materialises. The other is the amazing Music Hole by a capella chanteuse Camille which expands on the rough-hewn fun of Le Fil and creates a tangible world for her to exist in.
I managed to get hold of two great Jim O’Rourke soundscaping albums (Bad Timing and I’m Happy, I’m Singing, And a 1,2,3,4) and they are proving fantastic for working. As a general rule of thumb, krautrock and motorik electronica are efficient soundtracks for writing. I’m still obsessed with Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago which might be my favourite album of the year so far.
I got to see Sebadoh play Bubble & Scrape live as part of the Don’t Look Back series from ATP and that was some experience. The crowd didn’t quite get the concept fully, constantly requesting during the album portion of the show, but the band were affable and in good spirits so they took it well. For the record, it’s a much better album live.
Elsewhere, the new Scarlett Johannson record has a couple of nice moments but is mostly a slightly misguided folly. Death Cab for Cutie’s follows the trajectory of Plans in being good enough but not really closing in on the brilliance of Photo Album, We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes and their masterpiece, Transatlanticism.
Portishead are reassuringly brilliant and Wolf Parade are spiky but not fully satisfying. I haven’t absorbed My Morning Jacket’s Evil Urges yet but first listen reveals an album falling somewhere between the church-hall grandiosity of the first two and the slinky brilliance of Z.

(more…)

O Linker, Where Art Thou?

Posted in Links by Sam Unsted on May 1, 2008

A new trailer for the okay-ish looking Wackness is out.

Same story as above but for The Incredible Hulk.

McKellan will return as Gandalf.

Javier Bardem has dropped out of Rob Marshall musical Nine.

My Girl is joining Tony Soprano on Loop, an unofficial adaptation of BBC political comedy The Thick of It.

Who else is getting a little fed up with viral marketing?

The Lovely Bones has halted filming after disagreements between Peter Jackson and his art director over how to depict heaven.

The Penelope Cruz/Ben Kingsley drama Elegy has picked up a distributor.

The cast of Gossip Girl are officially beautiful.

IndieWire highlights some gems from the Tribeca Film Festival.

The AV Club interviews Harmony Korine.

It also pay tribute to i Am Cuba in its New Cult Canon feature.

The Virlink Spring

Posted in Links by Sam Unsted on April 11, 2008

Adrien Brody is to be in the next Dario Argento movie.

Latino Review has the first images of the next Pixar short which will appear ahead of Wall-E.

Portman to scale Wuthering Heights.

Jason Reitman has turned down the Justice League movie.

Moviehole has info on the script for the updated The Day the Earth Stood Still.

OMFG! Gossip Girl is coming.

The trailer for Neil LaBute’s new film, Lakeview Terrace, is around.

Also a new TV spot for Iron Man.

The NY Times loved The Visitor.

The Guardian is celebrating Phillip French’s 45th year in criticism.

Barstool Links

Posted in Links, Sam by Sam Unsted on March 25, 2008
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The AV Club has a wealth of goodness today. First an interview with David Schwimmer, Noel Murray reaches D in his record collection reliving and examines his taste for southern rock and gives its opinion on the Britney-fied How I Met Your Mother.

Sasha Frere-Jones had an odd experience watching Aretha Franklin.

The Return of Jezebel James will not be returning.

PopCandy links to the YouTube page of E&L favourite Milo Ventimiglia.

The Guardian profiles The Black Keys.

The Beatles are suffering from the exposure on American Idol. In fact, everyone is.

PopMatters interviews The Decemberists frontman and erstwhile solo artist Colin Meloy.

It also digs the new Gnarls Barkley record.

The New York Times profiles Kimberley Pierce, the director of Stop-Loss.

Jezebel comments on the pretty despicable new game, Miss Bimbo.

Readers of Entertainment Weekly list the shows they lost too soon.

Tyra’s stalker is back on the streets.

Gossip Girl gay rumours!

Smashing Pumpkins are to sue Virgin… for ‘artist integrity’.

The Raconteurs new record is out now.

Liars are supporting Radiohead. Gonna be a darn good show.

I Was Made For Linking You

Posted in Links, Sam by Sam Unsted on March 6, 2008
human-giant.jpg

The ’24’ prequel will explain all.

The AV Club talks to author Carl Wilson.

It also digs Human Giant.

Check out the stills from Watchmen. The Comedian is looking good.

What is the punishment for death? (Thanks Tom)

Another loved Warp release today. This time Clark.

A selection of art, doom and glitch luminaries are contributing to the Table of the Elements single series.

HUDGEWATCH! It’s been a while. She making a movie.

The Flaming Lips are playing Lovebox.

What’s with all the lack of decisions, Democrats?

Janet Malcolm discusses the Gossip Girl world.

Sasha Frere-Jones has some love for Sigur Ros.

Howard Dean is proposing a redoing of the primaries in Florida and Michigan.

So Obama still won more delegates in Texas? Explain, Wall Street Journal.

Chuck Klosterman contributes a piece on road movies to The Believer.

And that wonderful magazine also has a conversation between Werner Herzog and Errol Morris.

News on the new Death Cab.

The blog on Cracked isn’t too chuffed with these upcoming adaptations.

Slurm on sale!

Here’s a profile of the lovely Zooey Deschanel and M Ward collaboration, She & Him.

Behind the scenes on Sex and the City.

John McCain must be loving all the Democratic procrastination.

Here’s a piece by Jeff Tweedy for The NY Times on migraines.

New trailer for Wanted.

Pennsylvania is a should-win for Hillary.

Joe Klein says the pressure is all on Obama now.

Ken Starr tactics? Handbags me thinks?