New Tunes Reviews, Nov 12: The Killers, an ode to Slim Dunlap, Inside Llewyn Davis, and a frantic Retro Release

When The Killers gather their strongest songs on to one album, as in this week’s Direct Hits, its hard to ignore how great that band was. 2004’s Hot Fuss. Everyone danced along to their synth-influenced melodies. They scored some crossover hits and made some music videos and were suddenly everywhere. Their other albums were not as successful as that debut studio album, but each album did have some great songs. They were loyal to that Las Vegas sound (whatever that means).

This latest compilation includes “When You Were Young,” “Smile Like You Mean It,” “Read My Mind,” and “Mr. Brightside” (a song that is less annoying now as opposed to when it was initially released and subsequently over-played by radio stations, television shows, and bars). There is “Human” and “Spaceman,” two songs that just plain silly, but catchy. The first 10 songs are from that pre-2009 era of The Killers when you could always count on the band to construct a new-wave, pop power ballad.

Although, I wonder why “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” is missing from this collection. I always considered that one of their best songs.

Songs for Slim: Rockin’ Here Tonight is a project conceived as a way to raise money for Slim Dunlap, The Replacements guitarist who suffered a stroke last year. Originally released as group of EPs, this 2 disc set is a tribute to Slim’s songs (both as a solo artist and on Don’t Tell a Soul and All Shook Down), as sang by Craig Finn, Deer Tick, Patterson Hood (Drive-by Truckers), Jeff Tweedy, Lucero, Frank Black, Jakob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, and others.

It is a great testament to the far reaching influence of Slim on the music community and during his time as part of The Replacements. I enjoyed “Hate This Town,” especially when Patterson Hood interjects a direct shout-out to Slim towards the end of the song. He thanks Slim for “his beautiful songs” and hopes that he feels better soon. Jeff Tweedy’s twangy “Ballad of the Opening Band” is wonderful as well.

The whole album makes me want to do a deep-dive into Slim-era Replacements and post-breakup solo stuff. That is a definite possibility for the future.

Inside Llewyen Davis: Original Soundtrack Recording comes out a little bit more than a month before the release of the Coen Brothers movie by the same name. As with “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” this album features music from the movie, sang by some of the movie’s stars, produced by T-Bone Burnett. The music really sets the stage for the film, which is about the Village’s folk music scene of the 1960s. While a majority of the songs feature the movie’s stars (Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, and Oscar Isaac), modern day folkies Marcus Mumford and The Punch Brothers to make appearances. A song called “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)” leads directly into a Bob Dylan remastered b-side from the 60s called “Farewell.” This is the best type of period-piece. It feels authentic and spontaneous. This is where Coens and their creative team excel.

Apparently the Violent Femmes released a complete-6-disc remastered collection of all their albums this week.

This made me revisit their signature self titled album, Violent Femmes, from 1983 (!!!!) for this week’s Retro Release.

I’ll admit the main reason I knew about this band was their memorable cameo on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. But Sabrina/Clarissa/Melissa Joan Heart was always kind of hip. Its logical that she attended a Violent Femmes in-store appearance.

When thinking about this album in the context of the 1980s and current music, I thought it might be dated but it isn’t. There is something unique about this band’s sound. It could be the jittery mix of tapping drums and Gordon Gano’s weird, talk-along, raw and disorganized vocals. There is nothing refined about the Femmes. It sounds haphazard at times. The whole album emulates the anxiety of youth. Its unsure of itself. It is apprehensive with each step.

While “Blister in the Sun” might be their most popular song, the album is full of many more classics, like”Kiss Off” for example. Who doesn’t want to tell someone to just “Kiss Off!” The song starts off slow, with some talking vocals, and then speeds up with urgency. Then it slows down In the chorus, Gano sings, “They’ll hurt me bad but I won’t mind/ They’ll hurt me bad they do it all the time” while “Yeah!/ Yeah!/ Do it all the time!” echos in the background. Getting hurt is a shared experience and the Femmes know that.

“Please Do Not Go,” is another classic song. Lyrically, the song is a plea for company. Whether it be friendship or a lover, all that is required is a few more minutes of a little more explanation.  “Add It Up” asks “Why can’t I get just one kiss?,” escalates to “Why can’t I get just one screw?,” followed by “Why can’t I get just one fuck?” “Prove My Love” literally appears to be about the struggling to prove to someone that you care. When is it just too much??!!

This album is chock full of nervous panic. It is gritty and raw, while maintaining some innocence. If I was actually born in 1983, I would’ve been a big fan of this album. I’ll have to settle for loving it in 2013, while realizing that an anxious kid living in 1983 has basically in the same concerns as one living in 2013.


Links List: November 8

  • RIP Blockbuster. I spent many nights of my teenage years aimlessly wandering around the aisles, looking for a movie to rent. It always ended with grabbing “Cruel Intentions” or “Varsity Blues.” Sigh. Youth.
  • BuzzFeed said it won’t publish negative book reviews. I get how scathing news (and reviews) are often shared more than the positive ones, but if everything is sunshine and daises, how is independent reviewing different from sponsored publicity?  #ObjectiveJournalismRage

Wheel of Fortune, A Case of the Sniffles, and The Top 10 Movie Soundtracks for a Sick Day

Ever since Bob Barker left The Price is Right, it hasn’t been the same. I’m just not able to get that same home-from-school-sick rush I used to get. So having been sick for the past week, in lieu of one high, I traded in for another- an endless marathon of old movies ranging everything from cheesy 80’s romance to classic patriarchal Disney films. Nothing clears up a cough like cartoon plates and napkins singing “Be Our Guest!” So to pay tribute to my week long self-imposed exile, I’ve compiled my list of the Top 10 Best Movie Soundtracks (ever? or possibly within the last 50 years). There may be a lot of oversight in this list, but the incensed reader can either attribute that to my slow recovery or the obvious fact that subjectivity is in the eye of the beholder.

Let me just finally preface this with what I believe makes a good soundtrack. A worthy film score must capture some feeling encapsulated by the film, some intangible theme that is emanated but not given overt voice. A soundtrack can bring you back to a film long after it has ended; to help you relive that experience through the music. Furthermore, a truly great soundtrack will go even further, to not only capture the mood of the film, but of the times themselves. And lastly, there just need to be some kick ass tunes.

10. Juno– Honest to blog, the soundtrack for this cute flick about teen pregnancy is itself seriously pregnant . . . with some awesome tunes. Featuring songs by The Velvet Underground, The Kinks, and cute musical shorts by former Moldy Peaches member, Kimya Dawson.

9. I Am Sam Soundtrack -Sean Penn may not have won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a mentally retarded man fighting for custody of his daughter, but there is no question that this soundtrack is pure gold. A compilation of 17 Beatles covers by well respected artists of today, such as Ben Folds, Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright, and Eddie Vedder.

8. Singles -Cameron Crowe’s film about love in the 90’s not only paid tribute to the Seattle dating scene, but to the grunge sound coming out of there as well. The soundtrack has all the greats with Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, or should I say Citizen Dick. Eddie and the boys are not only on the soundtrack but stand-in for Matt Dillon’s band in the film.

7. Once: The Motion Picture – The acoustic rock songs by duo Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are the heart and soul of this movie and won them a very deserved Academy Award.

6. Velvet Goldmine – This post-modern glam rock pic, based roughly on 70’s glam gods David Bowie, Lou Reed, Brian Ferry and Brian Eno will have you reaching for the eyeliner and pair of platform space boots.

5. The Graduate – Ku Ku Kachoo Mrs. Robinson! This classic soundtrack with pivotal songs by Simon and Garfunkel leaves you wanting for anything but the sound of silence.

4. The Big Chill – Produced by Motown Records, the soundtrack features some of the best of 60’s do-wop and soul. From Smokey Robinson’s soft sounds to Rudy Clark’s Good Lovin’, its sure to have you twisting and shouting in your seat.

3. Garden State – The perfect songs to accompany a film about post-college apathy. Zach Braff, the film’s star and director, picks soothing acoustic tunes that will be played in college dorm rooms for years to come.

2. A Hard Day’s Night– The Beatles first film was a precursor to the modern music video, and features the Fab Four getting up to crazy hjinks with a terrific soundtrack to match, from the famous title track “Hard Day’s Night” to “If I Fell,” possibly their most beautiful song ever, and one of my personal favorites.

1. William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet – Baz Luhrmann’s modern re-imagining of Shakespeare’s classic love story was updated with a 90’s soundtrack featuring artists like Radiohead, Everclear, and one hit wonder The Cardigans (“Lovefool”). It’ll have you shouting up at balcony windows, “Wherefore is this soundtrack so freakin’ good?!”

Those Albums that Didn’t Make The Cut:

Dazed and Confused- Various Artists
About A Boy- Badly Drawn Boy
The Who’s Tommy- The Who

And For Your Consideration:

ALL soundtracks for movies written/directed by:
Wes Anderson, Quinton Tarintino, AND Cameron Crowe