This sophomore record from Junior Senior is hands-down the most infectious pop album of the year (and it says a lot about the sorry state of things that you'll never hear any of these killer tunes on the airwaves). Calling in crystalline vocals from the likes of the B-52s Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson (the standout track "Take My Time") and Bikini Kill/Le Tigre frontwoman Kathleen Hanna (whose supercharged naivete lifts "Dance, Chance, Romance" into the stratosphere), the dynamic studio duo of Junior Senior has crafted an infinitely addictive collection of songs about love and dancing. It's so relentlessly upbeat your skull may crack from smiling. Does that sound like a pan? Not so. Junior Senior have given us the most polished and infinitely replayable pop album since Michael Jackson's Thriller. Yes. That good.
Invoking the layered guitars and ethereal vocals of My Bloody Valentine and the Cocteau Twins, this Portland, Ore.-based group delivers a strong debut full of shimmering soundscapes and wistful longing. Singer Kaitlyn ni Donovan's angelic vocals are tethered by the sonic weight of a seasoned band that can shift from whispers to screams on a dime. From the opening lustful crawl of "Sunbaby" to the closing U2-flavored anthem "X-tacy," the High Violets recast their obvious alternative influences into something new, fresh, and exciting.
The sophomore record finds this Sri Lankan-born rap diva minus the trippy turntablism of Diplo (whose work made her 2005 debut, Arular, one of the decade's best). But the eponymous Maya Arulpragasam lands on both bare feet to shake the globe with her singular and boldly defiant brand of politically conscious world-funk. With the help of producer DJ Switch, M.I.A. arms herself with bass lines that pulse like pressurized lava and lyrics that sandblast everything from Third World-exploitation to rotten lovers. Standout tracks including the ferocious opening salvo of "Bamboo Banger," the bombastic, stuttering rhythms of "Boyz," and the dreamlike "Paper Planes," whose slow-drone synthesizers and lazy finger-snaps are punctuated with a chorus of gunfire.
Amy Winehouse -- BACK TO BLACK Amy's a miserable mess, a barely-walking trainwreck. But the haters need to back the fuck off because she's my favorite trainwreck of the year. If anything, re-listening to this, her second album, in light of recent bad publicity only serves to underscore that Winehouse isn't some pre-fab corporate-honed poseur. She's living a painful, heart-wracked, drug-addled life ... and somehow managing to sing about it convincingly, beautifully, with a voice that nobody else can match. Look, the girl clearly needs rehab. She also needs to work on her next album. I suspect those two actions are gonna prove to be one and the same.
The Hives - BLACK & WHITE There were a lot of fun rock-n-roll records this year. With this, their third platter, The Hives kick all their asses and laugh like hell whilst doing so. This band believes they rule the world and I think they're right. From the explosive opener, "Tick Tick Boom," these Swedish garage rockers unleash an upbeat sonic barrage of neo-rawk that makes me grin like a crazed anarchist. Other standout tracks include the bouncy "Try It Again," the speedy "Hello Little World," and the nitro-laced funk drone of "T.H.E. H.I.V.E.S.," possibly the best band theme in the history of the universe.
ALSO ROCKIN' ME IN THE ZERO-SEVEN: LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver, Spoon: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, White Stripes: Icky-Thump, Battles: Mirrored, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: 100 Days, 100 Nights., Robert Plant and Alison Krauss: Raising Sand.
Brian Hodge'sMad Dogs is the year's smartest, darkest, craziest crime thriller. For years his fans have been awaiting the follow-up to his highly acclaimed Wild Horses. Hodge, already a master of horror, pulls out the big guns here and blasts away. Now in a handsome small press hardcover from Cemetery Dance, Mad Dogs is a full-frontal assault on a hyper-surreal America inured not just to violence but to reality itself.
Brian's been a beer-drinking pal for decades. I'm right proud of this boy. Check him out.
"At the start of Hodge's darkly comic second crime novel (after 1999's Wild Horses), smalltime actor Jamey Sheppard, who's driving from California to Arizona to get married, makes a fateful pit stop at a highway "Gulp 'n' Go," where a drunken deputy mistakes him for Duncan MacGregor, the real-life crook Sheppard played on TV's American Fugitives. After the deputy accidentally shoots himself dead in a pitiful effort to arrest Sheppard, our decent, bewildered hero goes on the lam. Trying to make sense of his senseless circumstances, Sheppard suffers numerous travails, including capture by a crazy family out for reward money. Meanwhile, back in Hollywood, Sheppard's malevolent younger sister plots to kill him so she can own total film rights to his ongoing story, which has attracted national attention..." — Publishers Weekly
"This big, fast-paced thriller keeps Jamey and the reader on their toes from beginning to end. The book never quite goes where we think it's going to go, and by the time we figure out what Hodge is up to, we're completely hooked. Horror fans know Hodge's dark fiction—Lies & Ugliness (2002) and World of Hurt (2006)—but he's a new name to most crime-fiction readers. That deserves to change. This one is great fun." —Booklist
Once upon a time, a sweet, smart, and funny young girl named Allyson Beatrice fell in love with a TV show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She went online and found lots of other people who dug it, as well. Then she met some of them in person and started having adventures. And that's really all you need to know to get going here. Allyson's got a verbal wit and an acute eye for detail that brings the world of fandom to life in a way that hasn't been seen since Damon Knight's blissful memoir The Futurians.
Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby? is not just a love letter to geekdom. It's a fast-paced, moving and endlessly surprising examination of our need to find family wherever we go. I had a conversation recently where the topic was how many of us often seek out the company of those who remind us of family and friends -- not in looks at all, but in spirit. We seek gestalts that we can learn to recognize.
Allyson's breezy book is on a par with the best of Sarah Vowell and David Sedaris. And I'm so very glad to have her in my family. Who knows? Maybe her next book is gonna have a place for me.
"There's no better guide than Allyson when journeying through the surreal world of fan/celebrity interaction. She's smart, insightful and, best of all, supremely snarky." — David Fury, Co-Executive Producer,Angel, Lost, 24
"So that's what fandom's like from the other side. Eye-opening. It's a fast and funny read -- and you can't beat the title." — Nicholas Brendon, actor, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I'd like to welcome any and all Chinese readers who found their way here from Beijing Youth Weekend, a pop culture tabloid in China. The editorial staff interviewed me recently about the writers' strike. Chinese youth are huge fans of TV shows such as Lost but they have no real idea how our system works. The strike is a bit of a mystery to them and I was happy to help out as best I could.
If anyone out there can translate Chinese into English, I'd love to read what the heck I said. I tried one web-based translation service but could only trust it so far, as it reported my name as "Cluck Pagri."
Which is of course my alter-ego when traveling as a covert Hindu spy in Slovenia. And now it's blown. Great. And I'd just been fitted for a new sari!
Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken – if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose.
Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here. Even though I fear my words cannot match this moment, I pray what I am feeling in my heart will be communicated clearly enough that those who hear me will say, “We must act.”
A black list is usually a career killer, especially for screenwriters.
Not so with this Black List. It's an annual informal survey of the best unproduced screenplays making the rounds in Hollywood. In a town where an estimated 50,000 new scripts flood the market each year, these stand out as compelling reads.
That's what you want to provide, especially if you're a new writer. Something that stands out from the crowd, tells a great story, and does so in a way that holds the attention of your reader (often an underpaid soul who must churn through dozens of scripts each week).
I've read several of these scripts and am amazed, inspired (and sometimes a bit envious) with how they deliver the goods. I'm even fortunate enough to know some of these writers, and you can best believe I'm picking their brains for how they accomplished what they did.
Not all of these screenplays will get produced. But all of these writers will get meetings at studios and production companies all over town, and often land gigs writing other projects based on what they've done.
Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere offers this downloadable PDF of the Black List. Poke around and you can find most of these screenplays.
Evel Knievel died on my birthday last week. He was a huge childhood hero to me.
I had his dolls, his comic book, and the metal lunchbox. I was an avid fan of all the awful made-for-TV movies based on his life, whether Evel played himself, or was portrayed by Sam Elliott or George Hamilton. Although I was never inspired to fly off the roof or jump a canyon on my bicycle, I know I put that doll through some serious hell.
Knievel died of a terminal lung disease at the age of 69. Here's a diagram of the 35 bones broken during his daredevil career.