RSS

Archive | August, 2015

Movie Breakdown: Two Step (Noah)

August 31, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

The pull quote on the poster the nice PR person sent me is from the New York Times and it reads, “Two Step is a nasty, flawlessly acted little gem.” I like good acting and nasty things, so I guess, well, I’m down.

The Reality:

Two Step is a film about the shitty, shitty coincidences that pull our lives apart. The moments that lead to the other moments that eventually end up with dead bodies and beaten faces and all the other bad stuff you imagine happening when the proverbial poo-poo hits the fan. Two Step, the directorial debut of Alex R. Johnson (someone most certainly to keep an eye out for), starts with three stories – James (Skyy Moore) a college dropout dealing with the death of his parents and grandma, Dot (the amazing Beth Broderick – kind of like Patricia Clarkson and Dolly Parton slammed together), a ballet teacher with more than few notches on her bedpost, and Webb (James Landry Hebert), a violent con-artist with a sizable debt on his fucked-up head. Johnson slowly weaves the lives of the three characters together, giving each one a solid chunk of time on their own, before slamming them together with sometimes awful, sometimes sweet consequences. Moore’s James is a lost kid, suddenly wealthy (relatively so), who finds some sort of solace in the maternal affections of Dot. A film just about these two characters would’ve been amazing, but the chaotic addition of Webb (who’s given a subtle character twist halfway through the film that made me love this movie all the more) as a sort of destructive element that drags the characters out of their predictable narrative arcs, makes the film crackle. You cringe every time Webb’s on screen, because Hebert instills him with just enough anger and unpredictability to ensure that at some point in this film, Webb is going to do something awful. And, he does. The film doesn’t rush anything, it meanders from character to character and even when they come together, or not, Johnson never pushes the pace. Instead he lets the coincidences of three lives tossed together slowly build, until, when the ending crashes down on top of you, it feels as if there was no other way it could’ve gone.

The Lesson:

If you want to know how to make a film that, from my limited experience, feels like Texas, this is the one to watch. The characters just seem to embody a certain desperado-type quality that I imagine only exists in the Lone Star State.

Continue reading...

Quickdraw: Mos Def, Giraffage And Slow Magic, Small Black, The Mantles, Speedy Ortiz

August 31, 2015

0 Comments

Music!  Enjoy.

:Mos Def – Sensei On The Block (Featuring Ski Beatz):  Oh man.  This track is old school Mos Def, and I just love the hell out of it.  Let’s get him to ditch that whole Yasiin Bey thing so that he can get back to being rad full-time.  The Sensei On The Beat single is out now via iTunes.

:Giraffage And Slow Magic – So Cute:  Giraffage and Slow Magic are about to hit the road together, so they’ve gone and collaborated to get everyone all worked up about it.  This spunky song is a lot of fun.  See both acts at Fun Fun Fun Fest in November.

:Small Black – No One Wants It To Happen To You:  What a beautiful synth pop effort this is.  Be sure to slap on some headphones before you hit play!  Small Black’s Best Blues is due out October 16 via Jagjaguwar.  See them at Sidewinder on October 16.

:The Mantles – Doorframe:  It was a pleasant surprise late last week when The Mantles announced a new album.  I’ve always loved their hazy, breezy pop sound.  All Odds End is due out October 16 via Slumberland.

:Speedy Ortiz – Hanging Around (Cardigans Cover):  I’m not familiar with the original version of this song (my Cardigans knowledge is pretty much limited to their hits), so as far as I can tell Speedy Ortiz totally nailed this cover of it!  Seriously though, I think this is really good.  This is a one-off effort, so grab it while you can.

Continue reading...

Kool Keith And L’Orange (Noah)

August 28, 2015

0 Comments

When I started writing for Side One Track One a million years ago, I think I was hip. Not totally hip, but you know, savvy enough to understand my phone and to spend way too much time scouring the internet, and my own inbox, for new music to turn on a whole wave of people to. And then I kept writing and, as it happens, I got older and I stopped understanding The Internet and I just wanted to listen to Counting Crows and cry into my Pepsi Clear. Even today, as I’m going through my list of recently enjoyed music and trying to pick something to share with you folks, I end up on a Kool Keith track. I saw Kool Keith open for the Red Hot Chili Peppers when I was 17. I saw him again at RKCNDY (rest in peace) when I was 18 (he threw plastic bags full of chicken and Capri-Sun into the audience before pulling a woman’s shirt off). And now, here I am, telling you folks, that his sort of new song with ace producer L’Orange (featuring contextually old school emcee Mr. Lif) is great. Because, well, hip or fucking not, it is. It isn’t a heater of a song, it doesn’t race along or use KK’s bizarro flow to spice anything up, but it still rolls, low-key like a mid-morning blunt. Kool Keith sounds like he just woke up, picked up his microphone and started laying down verses while L’Orange’s beat (sample heavy with a tweaked and twisted guitar riff) gets him to sit up and say something. It’s classic Keith with a surprisingly classic beat, and you toss in Mr. Lif’s nasally chatter, and well, this is, for more reasons than not, a pretty classic sounding jam. Which, giant hipness-shaped hole notwithstanding, seems right up my alley these days.

:Kool Keith And L’Orange – Twenty Fifty Three (Featuring Mr. Lif):

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Digging For Fire (Noah)

August 28, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

I’ve never watched a Joe Swanberg flick before but, because Joe Swanberg is a prolific man who makes movies like other people use the bathroom, there’s a lot written about his films. The pros, the cons, the impressive amount of – it’s all there. So I feel like I’ve seen a Joe Swanberg picture before, but, you know, I haven’t.

The Reality:

Digging For Fire doesn’t really feel like a movie. It feels like an extension of a series of conversations. As if Joe Swanberg was sitting around his house at a party or at someone else’s house at someone else’s party and heard people talking and saw interactions and thought, “I could apply a little story here, bring a few cameras, you know, make a movie.” And that is, well, pretty much what you get. The film follows two parents (Jake Goldberg and the criminally underused Rosemarie DeWitt) who spend a weekend apart from each other. Not for any dramatic reason (the film doesn’t really play in the drama sandbox), just because, well, they want/need to do some other things. And separate from each other and their child, other things happen – bones are found, digging occurs, there’s near extra-marital affairs – but there isn’t a lot of momentum behind it. The film just sort of moseys along with its characters, listening to them talk about life, fucking things up, stumbling through this one semi-arbitrary moment of their life. It could be boring, and to be honest it is a little, but somehow Swanberg, without ever saying it out loud, makes the fact that this is just another arbitrary moment in this couples life. It isn’t dramatic, and it doesn’t throw its emotions in your face, but for a 33-year old reviewer with a long-time spouse and a child (okay, dog) something about the slow, ambling way the film progresses made it stick even harder. At the end, when the arguments have been resolved (or not) Swanberg suddenly tightens the knot of the film just a bit, pulls the threads so they come together in a moment of more traditional cinematic narrative and somehow, well, the rest of the film seems entirely intentional. That this almost Altman-like progression of scenes and characters and moments all tie together, maybe loosely, maybe a little disjointedly, but in the final seconds, with Dan Romer’s beautiful score swelling in the background, it feels like Swanberg knew what he was doing all along.

The Lesson:

I’ll watch more Swanberg. Especially if Dan Romer is manning the music.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: No Escape (Noah)

August 27, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

I’m always wary of films that star famous people (here Owen Wilson and Lake Bell) but have had absolutely zero hype on the interwebs. Not that every film needs or benefits from hype, just that it’s strange that you spend all this money to get pretty faces in your movies and then you don’t do a thing to broadcast to the world that they, or the movie they’re populating, exist.

The Reality:

I think I’m losing what snobs refer to as “taste.” I can’t figure out if it’s because the summer offerings have been particularly weak this year and the movies I’m enjoying are just a little bit better than the bag-fulls of hobo poo that I usually find myself sleeping through; or, if after a lifetime of watching films, my brain has finally hit a point where all of the important pathways have collapsed under the weight of content digestion, and all I’m left with is a vague, blobbish hole where only the most underformed of content can happily live. So understand, that when I say what I’m about to say, I realize that it may be coming from a context of salvation from absolute mediocrity and/or slight brain damage: I liked No Escape. Yes, I fully understand that a film about four white people in a small Southeast Asian country fleeing from an army of brown-skinned savages hellbent on raping and killing them grapples with a perhaps undiscussed idea of American xenophobia. And yes, I understand that Owen Wilson, crooked nose and rugged blonde good looks on full display, might not be the best casting for a film that sells itself as an action movie. And with all that knowledge bubbling around inside my enormous head, I still liked No Escape. Director John Erick Dowdle (a pillar of the found-footage horror industry up to this point) manages, intentionally or not, to make No Escape feel like some sort of reflection of the simpler days of 80s action films, where there didn’t have to be fussy high concepts, but rather just a protagonist, a threat, and some reason for the protagonist to have to jump into action. In No Escape, our protagonist, bland water engineer Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson), and his family are moved into a generic Southeastern Asian country to help bring water back to the people. Turns out that on the day after they arrive, a violent coup occurs and the rest of the movie is spent following the Dwyers as they try to avoid being hacked to death by violent locals. Somewhere Pierce Brosnan (playing a sort of Ricky Gervais take on a bad-ass) appears to kick some ass, probably take some names. It’s a simple film. A lot of running, a lot of shooting, and a lot of hiding. But, what I liked was that Dowdle uses the Dwyer Family as a unit. This isn’t Owen Wilson trying to hunt down those who did his family wrong, and using a plethora of karate chops and machine guns to do so, this is Owen Wilson leading his family away from killers who will, if they catch them, kill them all. And Dowdle makes that both an advantage, an inspiration, a burden (at one point one of the kids asks to go to the bathroom in the middle of a firefight, and it’s pretty scary) and a terrifying prospect (Wilson throwing his daughter off a roof made me cover my mouth). It elevates the fear factor of the movie, lets every corner seem terrifying, every person possibly a threat. The film scoots along for the first two-thirds as The Dwyer’s fight there way through a series of coup-forced obstacles and though it slows down to a sodden crawl by the end, it still works. It isn’t really an action film, it’s a family film with a lot of exploding helicopters and decapitations and a mild amount of American xenophobia. Which, you know, aside from the xenophobia, works for me. It’s nothing special, you aren’t going to go home and tell your children that this film changed your life, but it has that warmth, that texture and believability of a good old fashioned 80s movie and in a world of CG, well, everything, it was at least a little refreshing.

The Lesson:

I’m an easy lay these days. Give me some decent actors and some explosions and I’m sold.

The Lesson #2:

Lake Bell is the real deal. She hits a whole spectrum of emotional notes here and they’re all entirely believable. Cast her more Hollywood.

Continue reading...

Protomartyr

August 27, 2015

0 Comments

I wasn’t able to fully get into Protomartyr’s last album, Under Color of Official Right (2014), but for whatever reason their new stuff is clicking with me and I’m really excited to hear their upcoming (and third overall) LP.  Below you’ll find both their new single and the one that preceded it.  Be warned, the former is dark as hell.  Enjoy.

:Protomartyr – Dope Cloud:

The Agent Intellect is due out October 9 via Hardly Art.

Continue reading...

Show Of The Week

August 26, 2015

0 Comments

There are some big, attractive shows set for this week – 101X Homegrown Live tomorrow night, Belle And Sebastian and Mos Def on Friday, the Lonestar Beer Texas Heritage Festival on Saturday – but my main recommendation is that you focus on heading to Hotel Vegas on Saturday night.  There are five bands – FIVE! – that will be there rocking and sweating the night away.  A Giant Dog, Flesh Lights and Hundred Visions are all loud and fun and have been mentioned here at SOTO a ton of times, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes are a buzzy punk act that should have been on SOTO by now, and Negative Scanner (the only non-Austin act on the bill) are a band that SOTO’s own Noah Sanders recently fell in love with. Sounds like a can’t miss night to me.  Go and indulge.

:A Giant Dog – All I Wanted:
:Negative Scanner – Would You Rather:
:Flesh Lights – Just About Due:
:Hundred Visions – You’re Gonna Cut Me Loose:
:Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes – Hot Shoes:

It’s Austin, so there’s always more to see.  Here are some other recommendations.

Thursday:
- 101X Homegrown Live with Sphynx, Letting Up Despite Great Faults, Shivery Shakes, Alex Napping, Gold Beach, Slomo Drags, Young Tongue, Tamarron, Velo at Empire Control Room
- Carry Illinois, Lindsey Verrill, Marijuana Sweet Tooth, Rain Collectors at Holy Mountain

Friday:
- Red 7 Closing Party with Nashville Pussy, Riverboat Gamblers, Valient Thorr, Crimson Devils, Spray Paint, Sweet Talk
- Belle and Sebastian, Wild Moccasins at ACL Live
- Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def): Black on Both Sides (15 Year Anniversary Tour) at the Mohawk
- Birdcloud, Moving Panoramas at the Mohawk

Saturday:
- Lonestar Beer Texas Heritage Festival with Old 97s, Black Angels, Grupo Fantasma, Dale Watson, LaTasha Lee & the Black Ties at Fair Market
- BLXPLTN, Ease Them Pistols at the Hole in the Wall
- Ghost Wolves at ABGB

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Mistress America

August 26, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

Noah Baumbach’s latest stars Greta Gerwrig and seems to be about what all of his movies are about – people trying to find their way in this crazy world.  I’m good to go as long as it’s more While We’re Young than Frances Ha.

The Reality:

Recently I saw The End Of The Tour and really liked the way that it was mostly conversation pieces and not much else.  Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America is sort of the same.  The film follows a freshman college student named Tracy (Lola Kirke) as she bounces around New York City with Brooke (Greta Gerwig), her soon-to-be stepsister, and talks and thinks about a lot different things.  Naturally, the topics aren’t nearly as heady as what’s discussed in The End Of The Tour, but they are done in an equally manic style and come off just as charming and interesting.  Sure, you may not get any closer to figuring out what watching too much TV may one day do to society, but you’ll laugh a lot and gain some insight on that loud person you know who recklessly/obnoxiously/sincerely attempts to talk their way out of every situation presented to them (Brooke) and/or anyone you may be acquainted who just can’t quite figure out how to fit in or find their own voice (Tracy).  That’s a solid trade, I think.

If you’ve been hanging around and calling out for Baumbach and Gerwig to reunite, then I don’t think I need to convince you to see Mistress America.  In fact, you probably already bought tickets.  As for the rest of you, see it if you feel as though a clever, dialogue-heavy film is something you want to get behind.

The Lesson:

One of these days I’m going to actually decide whether or not I truly like Greta Gerwig.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: We Are Your Friends

August 26, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

We Are Your Friends features Zac Efron as a young fella doing his best to make it as a DJ.  It looks ridiculous.

The Reality:

If you’re a fan of movies that aren’t really about anything, then We Are Your Friends is going to impress the hell out of you.  Cole Carter (Zac Efron just existing) wants to be a DJ (you know this because he always has headphones on) but he’s stuck in his dinky hometown with no real opportunities.  Since it’s a movie though and there has to be some glorious stroke of luck, a mega-DJ named James Reed (Wes Bentley – the only thing about the film worth remembering) arrives in his life, they become pals and then KAPOW, Cole now has a chance to do what he’s always wanted to do – push buttons on his laptop in front of a large crowd of people.  Along the way there’s some relationship stuff, talk about what it means to be DJ, info on how to be a good DJ, a few things on growing up, conflicting opinions on drugs and alcohol, a variety of useless moments with Cole’s friends, and somewhere around a million other random tidbits that keep you steadily wondering exactly what the movie is actually about.  Frankly, We Are Your Friends really just needed to be about music and what it takes to make it as an artist, but it’s a film so unsure of itself that it only hints at that and instead sloppily flops all over the place and ultimately says nothing about everything.  Only see it if you’re in the mood to challenge yourself to some kind of weird patience contest.

One last note, through at least the first half of We Are Your Friends I kept thinking it might actually turn out to be a modern Flashdance, Footloose or something similar, but its convoluted, meandering story proved to be unbeatable, and that kind of bummed me out.  The world could use another wave of silly but enjoyable “music” flicks.

The Lesson:

Why the hell is it called We Are Your Friends?  I’m going to be wondering this for hours!

Continue reading...

Pony Time

August 25, 2015

0 Comments

After a long day at work yesterday, I wobbled home, opened up my SOTO inbox and crawled through a bunch of emails until I got to one that had an actual song attached.  This selection turned out to be Pony Time’s new single, a scuzzy rock track that I promptly became hung up on and then used to forget all things work-related.  Hopefully it puts you in a better mood, too.  Enjoy.

:Pony Time – Really Nice Guys:

Rumours 2: The Rumours Are True is due out September 11 via Bandcamp.

Bonus Video:

Continue reading...

Quickdraw: Expert Alterations, Woolen Men, Shannon And The Clams, Computer Magic, Maserati

August 24, 2015

0 Comments

Music!  Enjoy.

:Expert Alterations – The Past And You:  This instantly likeable track is one of the more endearing pop efforts that I’ve come across in 2015.  Can’t wait to hear more off of Expert Alterations debut LP, You Can’t Always Be Liked, which is due out October 30 via Kanine.

:Woolen Men – Life In Hell:  Woolen Men are a trio out of Portland.  They have a lo-fi rock sound and like to say things like “Look us in the eyes and tell us you’re not getting old” in their press releases.  I’m into it.  Temporary Monument is due out September 4 via Woodsist.

:Shannon And The Clams – It’s Too Late:  If Corvette was a bit too slow for your liking, then this upbeat tune should bring you back around on Shannon And The Clams.  I think their upcoming LP is going to be fantastic.  Gone By The Dawn is due out September 11 via Hardly Art.

:Computer Magic – Be Fair:  Been a while since I’ve heard anything from Danz (aka Computer Magic).  This new single of hers is lush and hooky, and I really like it.  Davos is due out October 16 via Channel 9 Records.  See her October 17 at Stubb’s.

:Maserati – Rehumanizer II:  All I can hear throughout the first chunk of this is Flock Of Seagulls’ I Ran.  It’s kind of weird (in a good way, of course).  Maserati’s Rehumanizer is due out October 30 via Temporary Residence.

Continue reading...

Kiiara

August 21, 2015

0 Comments

Mr. Gross had something come up and had to bow out of doing a Sad Bastard Music mix today, so in his place I’m going to yell at you about Kiiara.  The kid (she’s only 20) has now put out three singles (the new tune, Feels, is today’s mp3, and the previous two, Gold and Tennessee, are in faux-video form below), and every one of them has impressed me.  Sure, her lyrics are a bit silly – for instance, “I’ve got too many feels” – but Kiiara can really write a hook and I really like how in every song she sounds like she’s having a blast.  Board the hype train now, people.  Enjoy.

:Kiiara – Feels:

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Hitman: Agent 47

August 20, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

Xavier Gens and Timothy Olyphant failed at making a good Hitman movie in 2007, but Aleksander Bach and Rupert Friend are going to get it right in 2015.  Or probably not.  Nothing about this reboot looks good.

The Reality:

Let’s just get down to it, Hitman: Agent 47 is an awful film.  The plot is muddled and boring, Rupert Friend looks like he’s upset with his actual agent in every scene and the only half shining moment in regards to Aleksander Bach’s direction is somewhere in the middle of the movie where there’s what can only be described as an extended Audi commercial.  “Why does this movie exist?”  This is all I could think while watching it.  I get that Hitman is a popular video game, but how much money is expected to be made off such a blatantly lazy attempt to makeup for the last blatantly lazy adaptation of the series?  My guess is just enough, otherwise there’s just no good reason for the existence of such a poorly conceived and executed film.

You should not even sort of consider seeing Hitman: Agent 47.  Save your money and your time and go do anything else with it.  Anything else.

The Lesson:

If your “action” movie nearly puts me to sleep, you’re doing it all wrong.

Continue reading...

Diet Cig

August 20, 2015

1 Comment

Diet Cig continue to be one of my favorite new things to come out of 2015.  I love the EP, Over Easy, that they released earlier this year, and their new 7″ is also a fantastic listen (new track is below, the other one is here).  Their songs are infectious, and I really dig Alex Luciano’s candid lyrics.  If you haven’t already, join me on their bandwagon.  Enjoy.

:Diet Cig – Dinner Date:

The Sleep Talk/Dinner Date 7″ is due out September 18 via Father/Daughter Records/Art Is Hard.  See the band at the Mohawk on September 16.

Bonus Video:

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: American Ultra (Noah)

August 20, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

I don’t really know where this film came from. One day I’m just surfing the ‘net and there’s this trailer for an action film starring Facebook Guy and Bella where stoners kill people. And if you know me, I love a stoner-turns-awakened-government-assassin film. I mean, honestly, it’s like watching The Bourne Identity if Jason Bourne took bong rips instead of hunting those who’d done him wrong.

The Reality:

When you cast Jesse Eisenberg in a film, you don’t do so because you want his natural confidence to bleed on to the screen. You want that low-level distrust and peripheral uncomfortableness to bleed into the character, the script, the very notion of the film you’re making. You want someone on the screen that might at anytime fuck things up with social awkwardness or, if his turn as Lex Luthor has anything to say about it, just plain evil. Or, if you’re Nima Nourizadeh (director of Superbad-meets-Blair-Witch-Project film, Project X) you cast him as a lovable stoner, trapped within the confines of a tiny town, who, well, is actually a super-secret government agent separated from his memories for “his own safety”. And, wow, it works. American Ultra is exactly the kind of action movie I’m glad to see storming the box offices these days, films that are happy to blow shit up, and knock out teeth, and throw people through windows and so on and so forth, but they do so with the full support of well-defined, interesting characters. Heck, there might even be a good story in there. American Ultra finds Jesse Eisenberg’s Will Howell, a forgetful, panic attack afflicted stoner, living with his equally stoned girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart, showing off some real warmth here). Things go bad quickly, when an FBI agent (Connie Briton) whispers a few secret words and Stoner Will Howell is turned into Stoner-Assassin Will Howell. What works so well here is that Howell’s character is a stoner before he ever enters a secret assassin training program, so the Will Howell we see battling against a gaggle of other secret assassins has all the trademarks of your classic pothead. Sure, he kicks ass (and Eisenberg represents the mixture of pothead and martial artist well, using a sort of loose-limbed flapping technique to attack his opponents) but he also lacks ambition and common sense and leans heavily on his lady for support, in all things. And that’s where I think the film really shines: Phoebe and Will’s relationship. Without the very sweet chemistry between Eisenberg and Stewart, this film doesn’t work – it’s just an overstylized action movie. And sure, at times the relationship grows a little cloying, but Nourizadeh actually, and I only say actually because Project X didn’t seem to be exactly imbued with subtlety, manages to balance out the more cloying moments with humor and action. Nourizadeh is still finding his feet as an action director, and at times the action seems muddled, without the strategic pops that make really good fight scenes work, but they’re interesting and unique and absolutely brutal. In general, as a second outing from a fairly untested director, this is a strong film, one that plays on a time-honored theme in an interesting way, pushing the limits of Stewart and Eisenberg’s acceptable roles in the process.

The Lesson:

Jesse Eisenberg, still uncomfortable smoking a cigarette. It’s as if he never smoked Basic Lights in an alleyway behind his mom’s house.

Continue reading...