Mad Men

Mad MenI had an on-again, off-again relationship with Mad Men over the years. I watched the first couple of seasons live, but grew weary of the relentlessly bleak nature of the show. Bleak not in a Walking Dead type of way, but more so in the depravity of human nature the show showcased. That depravity was embodied mostly by the show’s main protagonist, Donald Draper, but even the sidekicks got into the act, boozing and cheating and in some cases even raping their way into our living rooms on a weekly basis. Like I have with so many shows over the years, I asked myself, “Are we supposed to like these characters, or root in any way for their success?” As the many Dabney Coleman series flops over the years have taught us Continue reading

Waxahatchee: Ivy Tripp

Ivy TrippI want to like this. I do. The same way I wanted to like PJ Harvey and some of those woman-fronted college radio rock bands from back in the 90s. I just can’t get past the meandering melodies of the whole thing. The lack of hooks. The lack of anything to grasp other than a nice singing voice and perhaps some sweet harmonies. It all feels a little too much like the Lilith Fair version of Dave Matthews to me. Ok, that’s too harsh. It’s more like I want more, well… More balls. Continue reading

Built to Spill: Untethered Moon

Untethered MoonBuilt to Spill sound like a band out of time. I mean people just don’t make music like this anymore. And that’s not a sentimental statement, but more so an indictment of the current state of indie rock. To be fair, though, very few bands made music like BTS even when slightly spacey guitar rock was actually a thing. I heard a podcast recently where Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie admitted that he just completely ripped the beginning of his musical career straight from BTS and that their influence propelled his music to the extent he thought that the similarities would be so shamefully Continue reading

Trance

TranceRating (out of 5):


This movie is such an amazingly over-engineered pile of crap, it’s shocking that Danny Boyle didn’t Alan Smithee the shit out of it. Like drown it in the bathtub and leave it for dead (but then hypnotize himself so he didn’t remember drowning it in the tub). I had honestly never heard of the thing before running across it in the on demand section of one of the millions of cable company channels I get for my $3,000-a-month cable subscription. Odd, considering this was a man who won an Academy Award and made fucking Continue reading

BXL East

BXL EastHot damn the Belgian’s love their beer. I mean they probably love chocolate just as much, but this joint doesn’t trade in the sweet stuff. Instead this hole-in-the-wall cafe deals in the briny and the sudsy. And by that I mean moules frites and beer in great abundance and great variety. And this, to my mind, is absolutely the shit. And by that I mean the best! Continue reading

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of PilgrimageI’ve read a bunch of Murakami over the years and am starting to wonder if, like Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen King before him, I have moved beyond him and would be better off leaving his tales for the young and less jaded of our world. It’s not that I now dislike or don’t appreciate Murakami, it’s just that all the things I appreciated and liked about him have been repeated and repeated ad nauseum over the course of his bibliography. The writing is very samey-samey across all of his books and the characters seem to meander from one book to the next with very little change in inflection or surrounding-area influence. Despite actually naming this male protagonist (and putting his name in the title!) he’s still just a small variation on his everyman, lost mid-thirties empty vessel. Even if he was trying to fill this one with more emotion and not make him the wishy-washy automaton he has proliferated his narratives with for decades, he fails to differentiate him from any of his previous sad sacks. And, who knows, this all may be part of Murakami’s huge plan, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to grow tired of it. Continue reading

Gang of Youths: The Positions

The PositionsOpening your album with a seven-and-a-half minute song is a pretty ballsy thing to do. It’s basically a band saying, “You’re gonna take us seriously, motherfucker!” And then to make that song a clear mashup to all of your heroes in U2 and Springsteen and some Tom Waits and perhaps something a little edgier version of The National, you’re laying it all out for listeners to either click away or be so intrigued they Continue reading

Tres Carnes (Midtown East)

Tres CarnesI’m always a little skeptical of chain restaurants that claim to have this crazy process that makes their food unique. Tres Carnes claims slow-smoke awesomeness on their Tex-Mex-inspired barbecue grub. But, really, how can one do this en mass? The answer is that there is probably some unevenness in the process. Maybe some batches are better than others. Maybe the quality control as more and more locations open is compromised. Whatever the case, the sound of the product turns out to be better than the result.

I came across this joint quite by accident. I was wandering the neighborhood Continue reading

Bloodline

BloodlineI’ve never been a fan of the Florida Keys ever since I was almost swallowed by the sea whilst driving in a huge storm on one of their stupid roads. The beach is non-existent and that giant Hawaiian-shirted douche, Jimmy Buffett, started his horrible empire right there in town. Plus the humidity is horrible and I had to attend two of the four funerals I’ve ever attended in that godforsaken state. Every episode of COPS should take take place in Florida — at least the 5% or so of them that don’t already. It was bad enough suffering through an almost unwatchable season of American Horror Story set in Florida, now I was subjecting myself to 13 episodes of more of the same. Though these freaks were a little more subtle in their freakishness.

I was also not a devotee of star Kyle Chandler’s Friday Night Lights, despite being told a million times by half a million people that it was awesome. I also don’t watch The Good Wife, even though people besides my CBS-loving parents, including some trusted critics, Continue reading

The One I Love

The One I LoveRating (out of 5): ***½


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 Sweatshirt: I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go OutsideEarl, 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

Better Call Saul

Better Call SaulLike 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

The Breslin Bar and Dining Room

The Breslin Bar & KitchenStylized 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: What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World

What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful WorldThe 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

Action Bronson: Mr. Wonderful

Mr. WonderfulThe 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

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

scientologyI 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

The Hotelier: It Never Goes Out

It Never Goes OutI 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

Neighbors

NeighborsRating (out of 5): **½

There are a lot of dicks in this movie. Like a TON of dicks. Big dicks. Little dicks. Short dicks. Long dicks. Dick, dicks, dicks, dicks, dicks, dicks, dicks. There’s also a really cute baby. But mostly a bunch of dicks.

Besides all the genitals, there is also a movie under there somewhere. If you’ve seen the previews or the unending commercials, you pretty much know exactly what the plot is. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are a young couple with a new baby. They’ve chucked their old life of partying and screwing in weird places for a house in the suburbs. And there comes the frat house. And they move in right next door. Talk about awkward situations! Continue reading

Bleeding Edge

Bleeding EdgeI 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

2014 Albums of the Year

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:

Continue reading