First we start with this amazingly creepy poster. I mean, Duplass looks like a serial killer and Moss looks like some awful painting out of The Royal Tennenbaums. As it happens, there are no serial killers in this film, nor is this a Wes Anderson joint. It’s more like an extended episode of mumblecore Twilight Zone. Or perhaps Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I’m not sure I knew that going into it, honestly. I just thought it was a another one of those talky-talky relationship movies where someone has an affair and then they spend the entire movie unraveling their relationship while the dude — in this case, the perennially wimpy Duplass — attempts to get revenge by awkwardly trying to cheat back. But not succeeding. I was way off.
Instead we get what is a sort of supernatural — or alternative universe — tale about a couple on the rocks who think they can reconcile their failing marriage by time away at an Continue reading
Earl, the reform school, bipolar rap prodigy from the hot-for-a-minute Odd Future, surprisingly seems to be the one that really broke out from under the yoke of insta-fame. Surprisingly because for a while there he looked to be the one who had the most to lose. Granted, I’m stuck in the white hipster echo chamber of joints like Pitchfork and the like who are less interested in what’s hot in the ‘hood and more about what they deem to be artful. So it’s a compete possibility that Earl’s haze-filled, jumbled bag of broken appliance-sounding beats may only appeal to an indie crowd unimpressed by 95% of the other hip hop out there. It’s not to say I’m completely in love with this album, as there are times when his delivery slows to a point that makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Like a train grinding to a halt. It’s not like I want Twista or anything, but most of the album sounds like it’s stuck in quicksand. Like a guy who’s just popped a handful of Continue reading
Like most people, I was a little nervous when AMC announced they’d be following up Breaking Bad with this less-than-inspired-sounding spin-off. On Breaking Bad, Saul (a.k.a. Jimmy) was often the clown, the comic relief, the buffoon. I mean it’s not as if Bob Odenkirk is someone I’ve certainly thought of as a leading man, or a marquee guy on which to risk the reputation of a series that made TV history. Not that the buffoonery was necessarily Odenkirk’s fault. The writers just gave him that kind of glib, slickster thing that always kind of felt like a put-on. And perhaps that’s why Vince Gilligan decided that his character was one worth investigating.
And the odd thing is that despite Saul being kind of a goofball in Breaking Bad, this series is somehow darker and more serious than the original. More serious and more sad, as we see the making of the man, who despite being what appeared to be a competent and earnest lawyer in Breaking Bad, just get shit on over and over again by friends, family and life. A man who started life as “Slippin’ Jimmy,” a nickname afforded him because of his conman ways. A petty criminal whose life of crime comes to a crashing end due to an Continue reading
Stylized to within an inch of its life, The Breslin is a bar and restaurant built for hangovers and dares. Any place that features this many parts of the pig from the shoulder up seems to a non-pork eater as something of a fucking travesty. Headcheese, pig snout, blood sausage… Jesus, I just totally threw up my stomach lining. But that was probably because most of the time I’ve spent in here I’ve been so brutally hungover that when I read “boiled peanuts in pork fat” and “chicken liver parfait,” I almost passed out cold from absolute disgust. Luckily, the restaurant, even in the bright summer morning sun, is dark as a tomb and my green color didn’t disturb our waifish, tattooed, hipster waiter. Though I did see something on the brunch menu that involved absolutely no odd animal parts Continue reading
The Decemberists are a ways off from their sea shanty days. A long way from tales that meandered through World War I circuses and purveyors of arcane goods and livers of extinct lifestyles. There are less instruments that look like pepper grinders and fireplace bellows and a move toward more traditional, modern day instrumentation. And despite that old sound growing, well, old, their new approach, which hovers somewhere around adult contemporary Americana, I miss some of that 6/8 wackiness. Ironically they even mention the change in the first track, and my favorite track, on the album, “The Singer Adresses His Audience.” It’s almost as if they were like “okay, we’ll give them a Decemberists’ track to start off the album, but in that song we’ll tell our audience not to expect any more.” It’s not as if the rest of the album doesn’t sound like them — in fact it probably sounds more like the older stuff than their last album, The King is Dead, but they clearly found a new Continue reading
The man is like the Chris Farley of rap. On second thought he’s more like the John Belushi of rap. And it’s not just because the man loves Italian sandwiches (lots and lots of them) but because there’s more to him, more under the surface, than just the fat, smirking guy. Sure he’s hard to look at with his giant ginger beard, XXXXL t-shirts and the now ubiquitous tats, but the man can not only rap like a stoned, white Ghostface, but can apparently cook the shit out of a nice Mediterranean meal. He also expands his sound quite a bit on this, his major label debut, showing range that he hinted at on his mixed tapes, but now apparently has the budget to execute. Live instrumentation, including drums, guitars and organs and a bunch of presumably purchased jazz samples pepper the tracks with a laid back vibe that melds with his almost loungey approach to hip-hop with his off-kilter singing and buttery rapping. Despite being laid back, he still has the swagger (however seriously you take it) of a man who is clearly not gorgeous, by continuously refers to himself that way. The perfect track for me that really sets the dude up is “Actin’ Crazy.” He kind of encapsulates everything about him as a person and him as an artist. It’s a dope song. Continue reading
I suppose I knew a bit about Scientology going into this thing. Ms. Hipster actually read the book on which this documentary is based and she’d occasionally turn to me while reading it at night and read me passages with total what-the-fuckedness in her voice. To me they were shocking individual stories, but total throw-aways without the larger context of the full narrative. This doc, produced beautifully, as always, by HBO fills in these gaps between those sensational stories told through archival footage, interviews with former high-ranking and/or celebrity members and some recreations and read correspondences. I’m not certain one could call it exhaustive, as you’d probably need something more on the level of The Jinx to tell the full story in minute detail, but it certainly fleshes out the narrative and gives you a good sense of why the church is as controversial as it is. Continue reading
I feel like someone is going to pop out any second and knock my iPhone from my hand while listening to this album and scream, “What the fuck are you listening to, you fucking pussy and your emo shit!” And then I’ll be ashamed that I really dig these guys, but poo-poo those who came before them in the pop-punk/emo genre. Because, at the end of the pain (that’s a very emo reference), these things are not so much different. But what makes it ok for me to bop my head and admire the group choruses screaming “We are the same!” and a lead singer who’s all of fifteen singing “You can’t fix me because I’m so burnt out.” I mean, seriously kid. Then there are lyrics that smack of R.E.M. and the The Get Up Kids and other touchpoints of being tired in a young body. You wonder how these things happen. This heartache. This need to get away from a situation which has barely had the opportunity to mature. It seems that the band’s lead singer was almost pre-destined to be a singer in a band like this having two of the biggest martyrs in literary history integrated into his name, Christian Holden. Yes, there’s our friend, Christ. The guy died for your sins, the scape goat and water and blood and all that. And Holden Caulfield, he of Catcher in the Rye. So what else is this dude gonna do but emote like hell in front of the squealing public?
I am still absorbing the album, and on my first few listens, it doesn’t quite have the impact of their last, breakout album, Home, Like Noplace Is There, but few albums are as listenable as that one, even after multiple spins. Continue reading
I thought I was making a smart decision trying to read this book. After all, I’d given up on the more esoteric Pynchon in favor of his more accessible works like this one. It turns out even his accessible shit isn’t accessible to me. I spent more time thinking about everything but this book while reading it than I did even caring about the offbeat characters, completely scattered plotlines and seriously annoying affectations that Pynchon is apparently allowed to get away with because he’s Pynchon. I mean the man continuously spells the word “says” as “sez.” And not for any other reason than I think he wanted to annoy the crap out of me.
I liken his writing and its free-form way it just kind of loops in characters and then drops them and brings others in with no context as if you’ve met them to awful jam band music. When, at heart, I’m a pop structure guy. It’s not as if I’m a mainstream popster, mind you. I don’t want a John Grisham novel or whatever the equivalent is in 2015, but some Continue reading
Looking back, 2013 was a weak-ass year for me for music. I couldn’t even come up with more than eight albums to stick on my year-end list. This year — a much stronger entry, in my opinion — I have not ten, but eleven, entries! Now keep in mind that my canvas is pretty damn small, so I probably haven’t considered some of those avant-garde albums you’re sitting there rocking. You know, the German EDM weirdos, or the pseudo-lounge guy from Bed-Stuy or the instrumental doom metal band from Sweden, or whatever. But this is my list in no particular order. Not the best, necessarily. Just the stuff I like the best:
Ms. Hipster is obsessed with the Day of the Dead. She loves the calavera, which is that Mexican sugar skull thing that you see all over the place around Halloween time, and is part of Ofrenda’s logo. Ofrenda, in fact, is Spanish for “offering.” The kind of offering one leaves in those crazy Day of the Dead, roadside-crash-memorial-looking amalgams. Luckily this joint doesn’t leave a bunch of beads and tchotchkes on your table as a matter of course, but rather serves up some sweet-ass homemade guac and chips and upscale Mexican grub that has become all de rigueur in NYC. I’m still reticent to pay over ten bucks for anything Mexican because of where and when I grew up, but I’m coming to terms with this whole gourmet taco Continue reading
I’m a fan of Steve Albini. I’ve written [not-so] extensively about my love of his engineering prowess — most specifically about how awesome he makes drums sound. Most producers these days (and most days) make drums sound like mushy peas. Not my Steve. That is very much on display on this excellent-sounding album. In fact the rhythm section as a whole — that being the drums and bass — are pretty intensely great-sounding throughout the album. Not surprising considering two-thirds of the band is made up of sound engineers. The drums are pounding; the bass is brutish and manly in a thick, rebellious kind of way. The whole album is akin to a Neanderthal playing math rock. Time signatures are all over the place, lines repeat and repeat and repeat, but instead of being spidery and technical sounding, they hit you over the head with a sledgehammer, just banging away in an almost primordial manner. It makes one almost wish that they employed a real Continue reading
Something about Jersey inspires emotion. Very seldom do you get bands from The Jerz that don’t either tug at those emo heartstrings — like the original screamo act, Thursday — or hit you with that sunny nostalgia, like Yo La Tengo. I mean if you really break it down, the original NJ rocker himself, B. Springsteen, trades in nothing more than emotional nostalgia. So here are the oddly and mysteriously named Paramus band, Dads, neither of whom are, apparently, dads. They hit that emo thing often and they hit it hard. Sometimes, like even the best emo, it’s a little too on the nose with its lyrical whining, but they do a great approximated mash up of early Built to Spill, bands like CaP’n Jazz and American Football (neither of which I love, honestly) and a small nod to their more modern compatriots like Japandroids and Patrick Stickles’ pained whelp. They really do a great job of mixing things up, swinging from one indie rock touchstone to another Continue reading
I have a love/hate relationship with modern rap. Mostly hate. With the whole mixtape thing, it feels like the market has been saturated with a bunch of assholes who have a laptop and absolutely nothing to say. How do I know you slang and shoot? You could be a kid in your basement in Sudbury, MA. Yo, man, yelling at your mom to get you a Dr. Pepper don’t make you hard. Nor do I really give a shit. There’s just too little of substance and dick this, gun that, molly and whatnot. And now I sound like my parents. But, seriously, rap kinda sucks in 2014. So along comes two Gen X dudes, who by all whatever should be completely irrelevant and run out of town as O.G. suckas — if these swag shitheads even know what that is. Instead, older white dudes like me appreciate them for trying to do something more than repeating the same thing 27 times in a song and calling it music. El-P, being an old white dude himself, has an appreciation Continue reading
These guys hold a special place in my heart. I absolutely adored their first two albums. Some have called them the poor man’s Neutral Milk Hotel, but I call them the Canadian Rush! Oh, wait… But they really do have a sound that is affecting in a way few other bands are. The have this far-away, harsh landscape thing that somehow marries itself with an almost dustbowl-era creakiness with subtle organs, strummed acoustics and spindly, animalistic drumming. Or at least they used to. This album feels more fleshed-out and “produced” than their last effort. The drumming, rather than all snare and cymbals (but awesome ones) employs a deeper, richer tom and floor tom thing, and the vocal accompaniment is richer than ever before. In other words, it doesn’t sound like it was produced in an isolated barn in the middle of a glacier — but perhaps it was. There’s also less of a rustic, backwoods sound to the record; less instruments that sound like wood Continue reading
It’s always a bummer not getting the true flavor of a place because you’re stuck partying in the basement. In this case, I’m being extremely literal (in the old-fashioned, literal sense of the word), as I didn’t get the flavor of the German food or the outside space because I was standing in front of a large speaker with an even larger stein of beer in a dark, underground space with a bunch of old co-workers, 99% of whom no longer worked for the company whose heyday was sometime back in the 2001-ish timeframe. And all I wanted was one of them beef brat things with the German potato salad and maybe a pretzel or some shit. But here I was struggling to drink down some sort of Hofbrau Summer swill that was in a way-too-big mug that just wasn’t Continue reading
My grandfather (b. 1910), who lived a good chunk of his adolescent and adult life in Williamsburg, would be thoroughly confused by this place. “Mr. Hipster,” he would say, “why in the hell would anyone want to sit outside in Brooklyn?” He was a smart man — an accountant by trade — but being open-minded about his old ‘hood, after moving to Long Island and then Florida, wasn’t one of his strong suits. Perhaps he thought there was disease, pestilence and those horse-drawn carts that delivered ice still infecting the borough’s streets. But ol’ grandpa (R.I.P.) might even be down with this chill spot. Though the German food on the grill in the beer garden out Continue reading
I don’t belong to a book club. Shocking, I know. But I do listen to a bunch of podcasts, among them one that occasionally suggests books and turns it into a book club-ish kind of thing. So, like the sheep that I am, I went out and bought this one so that I could sit and listen to a one-sided conversation about it after I finished. After all, why should Ms. Hipster have all the fun? Granted, I didn’t get any appetizers and wine like she gets, but at least I knew I could listen to a couple guys who are way smarter than I talk about literature in a smart way.
With that in mind, I can’t say the premise of this novel was particularly interesting to me. Set in 1975, when I was a wee lad, it follows this woman, Reno, and her pursuit of an odd mixture of motorcycle art and fucking European guys. I guess the former is her “job” and the second just a hobby. But, as it turns out, both are intrinsically intertwined. Continue reading