Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Belated Coachella Highlights

The sun sets over the Coachella Valley
I went to Coachella a few weekends ago. Here is my belated report from the weekend, with categories inspired by the festival report backs on the All Songs Considered podcast.

Biggest Trend: The Power of Two
The Black Keys. The Kills. Death From Above 1979. Lightning Bolt. Over and over again, these bands hammered home the fact that two can make more righteous noise than a stage overloaded with musicians.

Biggest Surprise: The Excitement of the Old
I hadn't even planned on seeing Duran Duran. But then I thought I should at least check out a song or two - they were the required wall decorations of my junior high years after all - and I was really blown away by how good they sounded. And looked. Really, I was a little giddy.

Ditto Big Audio Dynamite: they were a big part of the soundtrack to my latter undergrad years, and it was really great to see them having such fun on stage. I mean, IT'S MICK FUCKING JONES. Bonus: this set was definitely where all the non-teens converged.

Best Discovery: Allison Mosshart is HOT
Main stage with balloon sculpture
As she prowled the stage during The Kills' set, they dropped a massive leopard print scrim over the back of the stage. All I could think was: she shed her skin before the show and now they are using it as a backdrop.

Best Show: Arcade Fire
Gorgeous. Infectious. Uplifting. Not only best show of the festival, but one of the three best of my life.

If I was choosing a best show by day, The Black Keys were hands down Friday's best, while PJ Harvey lived up to a fan's handmade sign that read "PJ Harvey is the REAL closing act" on Sunday.

Bonus: Fashion Report
Why did no one warn me that hippy chic is back?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

RIP Poly Styrene age 53 of cancer. I just downloaded a new song of hers yesterday. Girl rockers and riot grrrls everywhere are forever in her debt and awe.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Movie Music Madness

Sometimes music - and I'm talking rock music here - is so well integrated into a movie that you can't imagine a scene without it. Think Martin Scorsese at his best. Sometimes a movie is built around a soundtrack (Purple Rain), but you don't mind because the soundtrack is soooo good. When you're lucky, a movie can open a whole new world of music for you (Pretty in Pink), or perhaps better yet, take a song you know (and maybe love, maybe don't) and recontextualize it so completely that you can't imagine it any other way (Hall & Oates "You Make My Dreams" in 500 Days of Summer, for example).*

I discovered Wreckless Eric's 1977 "Whole Wide World" in Stranger Than Fiction. Will Ferrell's character Harold Crick sings the song to Maggie Gyllenhaal's Ana Pascal, and then the original recording kicks in. I've been listening to the song obsessively lately, and while the infectious chorus with its simple yet satisfying tambourine line is what originally grabbed me in the film, the sweet, naive, optimistic verses are what keep me coming back. 

After his mother's assured him that there is indeed someone waiting for him somewhere, the Brit Eric has a moment of clarity:
Why am I hanging around in the rain out here
Trying to pick up a girl
Why are my eyes filling up with these lonely tears
When there're girls all over the world

It's not long before the song is positively bursting with his hope:
I should be lying on that sun-soaked beach with her
Caressing her warm brown skin
And then in a year or maybe not quite
We'll be sharing the same next of kin

The original recording is a who's who of British punk: Ian Drury on drums and Nick Lowe on guitar and bass. The wreckless guy, that's Eric Goulden, who's now married to Amy Rigby, if that means anything to you.

Here's a rare clip of Wreckless Eric from back in the day. Sound quality's not that great, but the song still shines. It's the perfect soundtrack when you need a little encouragement.

*I'm of course completely ignoring here all the cynical soundtracks designed to do nothing but improve a movie's bottom line (Twilight** anyone?), or all those horrific theme songs that make you embarrassed for the musicians (almost all James Bond themes). I'll save that for another day when I'm feeling less chipper.

**OK, there's actually a lot of good music on the various Twilight Saga soundtracks, some of it even named by the author as her writing inspiration. But it was definitely a money-making move on the part of the movie people.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Journalists as the Subjects of Journalism

Photo by Lynsey Addario: Burial in Falluja, 2004
I've noticed recently a journalistic focus on the stories of journalists covering protests and revolutions in the Middle East who have been assaulted. Hearing photojournalist Lynsey Addario talk on NPR this morning about her own experience being held in Libya made me question the motivations of such stories: is it only natural for journalists to report on their own experiences? Or is there something else operating here? Certainly we all heard about the impeccable AC being roughed up in Egypt- I mean it even made the entertainment news. But in that case and many others, it was put in the context of what was going on in the whole country. But it seems to me that the coverage of assaults on female journalists, such as Addario or Lara Logan in February, focus much more on the women's personal experiences and far less on the politics of the situation, no matter how the women themselves place try to redirect what happened to the context of their jobs and the situation on the ground. Maybe this is just my feminist news filter talking - I haven't done extensive research to see if this is a larger pattern, and look to researchers like Women in Media & News (WIMN) for the informed analysis of such things - but it seems like this type of news coverage serves both a prurient interest in details about women being assaulted, as well as feeds the idea that Middle Eastern (read Muslim) men have it in for western women.


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