Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wilco, Wilco, Wilco

Over the past four or so years I've become a pretty big fan of Chicago's greatest in alternative rock/country, Wilco. The four-piece band began over a decade ago in 1994, but they're still cranking out quality tunes. I find it interesting in today's fastpaced scene of band today, gone tomorrow, that certain group's were essentially made to stick around. While Wilco rose up from the proverbial ashes of distinctly alternative country, Uncle Tupelo, the new formation stuck for the most part, save the hi in 1996 of Jay Bennett and goodbye in 2001.

The group's set to play a sold out 5-day show in Chicago Feb. 15-20 at The Riviera. Boy, am I bummed that I can't go to that. At the same time, though, I know they'll be around for quite some time, and I'll be seeing the March 9 in Des Moines, IA. What's perfectly amazing about Wilco though is the mere fact that their 5-day is sold out, the tickets went for $35, and are now selling on eBay for more than 5 times that price.

The show in Des Moines should be an experience.

I'm jazzed.

-Brigid Marshall

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

She's dating Conor Oberst

The music I listen to differs greatly depending on the season. Maybe this is a symptom of that "disorder" that makes people depressed when it's cold out (I think it's called "human nature" or "freezing winds suck"), but nevertheless, there's a definite difference.

Summer music
Anything that sounds best with the car windows rolled down, played at outdoor festivals, carefree, danceable, and LOUD.

Winter music
Anything sad.

With those definitions out of the way, let me amend my "Best Albums of 2007" post to include one I neglected up until temperatures plunged this week. Maria Taylor, one half of Saddle Creek darlings Azure Ray (and girlfriend of Conor Oberst), released her second solo album Lynn Teeter Flower last summer. I saw her open for Jimmy Eat World's acoustic tour on a couple dates and was instantly struck by her soothing voice and strong stage presence. She was a force, albeit a physically tiny one. I bought the album, but since it isn't a) loud, b) sound better played loud, or c) danceable, I quickly moved on to bigger and louder things.

But now that I spend all possible waking moments under my electric blanket (I've spent an average of 18 hours a day in bed this week, I think), I have re-discovered the amazingness of Maria Taylor. I seriously can't get enough. There's not a bad track on the CD, which I consider one of the highest forms of praise possible for a collection of songs.

Maria Taylor's Saddle Creek homepage allows downloads of "Good Start" and "Lost Time" from Lynn Teeter Flower and the equally excellent "Song Beneath the Song" and "Speak Easy" from 11:11.

Disclaimer: Lynn Teeter Flower may cause you to lose the urge to get out of bed and tempt you to procrastinate homework assignments in favor of writing glowing blogs on the album.

— Susan

Rest In Peace, Heath

It's been a week since Heath Ledger unexpectedly passed away, and Hollywood is still reeling. The Screen Actors Guild rushed to add his image to the "In Memoriam" montage at its annual awards show, Entertainment Weekly printed a tribute with him on the cover of the latest issue and entertainment websites are buzzing with articles about what's happening to his remains, how his family is coping and what may have caused this immense talent to pass so young. In short, it's a flurry of attention and speculation that is equal parts heartbreaking, confusing and frustrating.

It would be foolish to act as if the passing of Ledger has affected me (or any of my Arts Staff cronies) in a different way than the rest of the world who didn't personally know him. But his death is a shock, and a reminder that demons are present behind even the most flawless of faces. Upon the news of Ledger's passing, I watched Brokeback Mountain. It made me appreciate Ledger as an actor, which I hadn't done before. He was adorable and charming as Patrick Verona in the classic Ten Things I Hate About You , which I recommend to anyone who hasn't seen it as the smartest of the late '90s/early 2000s teen movie surge. A Knight's Tale had Bowie and jousting, but isn't what I'd call noteworthy. But aside from the obvious political statement made in Brokeback Mountain , Ledger shined. He was able to evoke empathy from a viewer who had no idea what his character was going through, and he tapped into something deeply buried but painfully universal; longing. Ledger really was a great actor in his own right, one of the best in his generation, and he didn't have to die for people to realize that. It's just a shame that it took his death for some of us to catch on.

It's trite and true but Ledger had a lot of good work left in him. More importantly, he left behind a family, including a two-year old daughter (Matilda Rose, whose mother is Ledger's Brokeback Mountain co-star Michelle Williams). My thoughts and prayers are with them right now.

Ledger left plenty of evidence of his talent behind, and the risks he took in his work were a good example to other actors of how to maintain integrity. It would have been easy for him to be just another heartthrob making bonehead blockbusters.

In a land of fifteen minute celebrities, it always seems unfair when people of substance struggle and have their lives cut short, when other stars appear to be so reckless with their decisions. It isn't to say some people are more valuable than others, but some people are definitely more in tune with the fragility of life.

Sometimes that isn't enough.


january needs a moustache ride

Moustaches are my cure for ennui, anyways.

Already thinking of ways to blow off creepy guys for Valentine's Day dates? That's only one of many uses for this Teeth trailer.

Other uses forthcoming.


bonafide hustler making my name

January is boring. Winter is boring. Life is boring. Seriously, there is absolutely nothing to talk about. Reruns on TV, movies suck right now, and I'll be the first to admit that, sorry no, I don't really find the Vampire Weekend CD exciting. I need something more than this indie bullshit to get me out of bed in the morning.

Here is my cure for the winter ennui creeping into my life:

I can't get enough of M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" (Ask poor Jon, who has been forced to listen to this on repeat for the last week. That's the downside to sharing a cubicle with me, but I promise that's the ONLY drawback).

Drop by the arts cubicle and we can dance together, before I lose my mind completely. yeahyeah.

— Susan

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ban the use of this word

I have something else to say. And this is the most public way I can say it. Everyone on this earth needs to stop using the word "chillax." Survey says this is the worst word ever. People who use it seriously should probably evaporate, pronto.

Strangely enough, the overuse of tildes should also be stopped immediately.


PS susan I'm sorry this post is not very artsy oriented. please don't fire me

Hubba hubba

Quick question. Why is our profile picture that of a muscle-head pumping iron? This is the most awesome thing I have seen since discovering LOLCats/I can has cheezburger. (Thanks Jarrett, and anyone else who helped make my life a little more complete)

Currently spinning:
"On Call"- Kings of Leon. Why did it take me so long to discover the soothing sounds of Kings of Leon? Just exactly how much am I totally consumed by my newfound obsession? Survey says, um, totally.
"Polyethylene Part 1 & 2" Radiohead B-side from Leftover Computers
"Soul"- Deluca, Rocco and the Burden
"How it Ends"- DeVotchKa. Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack.
"Nosebleed"- Illinois. This track makes me pump my fist in the air and flail my limbs around in a lame hipster attempt to dance.

On that embarrassing note, I'm off to the gym to pump iron like my studly hero in our photo. Muah, mi amor.


let me grab my walker...

Hi, I'm Anna, and tonight I'll be playing the part of your grandma. I've been listening to Gershwin almost all day and YouTubing Fred Astaire dance sequences.

My personal favorite lately, though, was probably inspired by Mickey Rooney's tiny, ancient little self dutifully trotting out for this weekend's Screen Actors' Guild awards. Here's a clip from Babes on Broadway, one of the many sickeningly cute movies Rooney made with Judy Garland early on in both their careers.

Seriously? Precious. Maybe I need to brush up on my singing skills...not that guys can really hear me over the din of Field House anyway. A girl can dream.

-Anna, who in case you can't tell, is coming off a wicked commercial romance high.

Monday, January 28, 2008

It's been almost 14 years without him...

So I decided to celebrate the cinematic genius, the acting great, the oh-so-suave that is: John Candy.
Now, I don't claim to be any old John Candy expert, so here are simply my favorites. In no particular order.

1). Uncle Buck.

2). Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

3). The Great Outdoors.

4). Space Balls.

5). Blues Brothers.

6). Cool Runnings.

7). Splash. Actually this movie kind of sucked. And so did his role in it. But it's fresh in my mind from it's constant rotation on WE television.

and for appearing as the voice of Wilbur in "Rescuers Down Under" Mr. Candy receives my "most improved" award.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

These Songs Should Never Appear Together

I'm never on time, I've never been a trendsetter, and it usually takes me awhile to catch on. So it is only just with the universe that my "Top 10 of 2007" list would appear on this blog almost a month into 2008. Further missing the point, this list includes twelve songs that I discovered or re-discovered last year. They aren't in any order and they aren't supposed to be the "best" of anything. So take it as a guide, more of a soundtrack than a list of must haves.

1. "This Year's Love," David Gray
A song so sweet you might go into insulin shock. Gray's tune from 2005's White Ladder is vaguely reminiscent of Nick Drake. The piano makes you cry but the lyrics make you hope. This is a great song for people falling in love, looking for love, or unknowingly being taken hold of by love (in a far less violent manner than I've just laid out).

2. "Fidelity," Regina Spektor
There aren't enough good poppy piano songs on the radio. This track is the genre's rare beauty that surpasses expectations. Beyond its catchy skipping tempo and Spektor's class-shattering voice, the lyrics read like a diary entry you didn't know you wrote. Who knew heartbreak could keep even the most hardened cynics' feet tapping?

3. "1234," Feist
Apparently the entire Arts staff fell in love with this song, so I won't go on too long about it. I will say that girl pop made a huge comeback this year and Feist was captain of the ship, with this song as its fuel. "1234" takes me back to the beginning of every crush I've ever had, the palm sweat, stuttering and all. Handclaps+puppy love+jaunty rhythm=1234.

4. "The Difficult Kind," Sheryl Crow
If you've never had your heart broken, this song is the ultimate crib sheet. Crow outlines every emotion that follows an earth-shattering break up, and is resilient even at her most despondent. Whether you've been dumped or just cut down, underappreciated or left behind, this song will nurse you through it all and give you enough strength to know you'll get over it.

5. "How Many Hearts," Travis
I will never be able to figure out why this song wasn't a hit and why it isn't played under every sad "Grey's Anatomy" or "One Tree Hill" montage. This song is often overshadowed by the Scottish quartet's "Love Will Come Through." Both tracks can be found on 2003's 12 Memories. I promise you, this is the better track. The song drips with confusion, anger and frustration about a lovers' quarrel. Hit repeat because there's no way you can get the song's full meaning in one listen, and the guitar part is unforgettable.

(I can't find video, which is too bad, but I'll burn you a disc if you ask nicely)

6. "Work That," Mary J. Blige
This song is for every unconventional beauty. Many have come down on Mary J. for being "too happy" and sacrificing the heartbreak that made her the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Screw 'em. This song bounces higher and jams harder than "Family Affair," "Real Love" or any of Miss Blige's past dance tracks. And the message of beauty being universal in definition and expression scores points with every girl who wasn't voted prom queen.

7. "Ex-Factor," Lauryn Hill
It's too bad Lauryn Hill went crazy. She shepherded the neo-soul movement with her Grammy goldmine release The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. This single from that album is the R&B version of "The Difficult Kind." A bad breakup, articulated flawlessly by Ms. Hill, complete with a heartbreaking bridge and the kind of honesty that's a needle in the current music landscape's haystack. I challenge anyone to find a single thing wrong with this song. If you succeed, it's because you've never been hurt.

8. "Got 'Til It's Gone," Janet Jackson Featuring Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell
There was a time, before she bared her nipple and her music was disposable, when Janet Jackson was at the forefront of R&B. After a long time being considered a pop and dance artist, her 1997 release The Velvet Rope changed all of that. She settled into slow grooves and embraced her Afrocentricity (and I don't want any crap for using that possibly made-up word). She experimented musically, and also explored previously uncharted emotional depths but still kept the hits coming. This track joins blues, rap, and R&B into a low-key jam full of regret.

9. "Everybody Knows," Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams can rock. The version of this song found on his 2007 triumph Easy Tiger is slow, acoustic, and good, but the rocking version found on the single crushes it like a grape. Adams' alt-country twang is perfectly supplemented by backing band The Cardinals, transforming this tune into a boulder about an uneven relationship circling the drain. If this is the new face of country, I'll throw on a straw hat and a belt with an oversized buckle. (You can't embed this version and it's so good I'm just leaving it as a link)

10. "Can't Tell Me Nothing," Kanye West
This was the year of Kanye, but isn't every year? "Stronger" may have been the hit, and "The Good Life" had what's his face (T-Pain?), but this is the single that should have been a hit. Kanye's shout-outs to sitcom "A Different World" and biblical couple Adam and Eve may not have screamed chart success but those rhymes separate him from the superficial flashes in the pan he feuds with.

11. "Lake Michigan," Rogue Wave
2007 was also a year of catchy handclaps, and Rogue Wave may take Feist's crown for best use of the device. The guitar, handclaps, and harmonies join on this track to make an awesome lead single for the band's current release Asleep at Heaven's Gate. This track is pure fun and you'll be singing it all day. It sounds like nothing else that came out this year.

12. "15 Step," Radiohead
Radiohead spent 2007 playing the role of record label spoilsport and found time to craft one of the band's better albums, In Rainbows. Its leadoff track heralds the return of the '90s best (and most experimental) band, back and better than it has been in years. The beat is infectious, the bass line dominates and Thom Yorke's delivery is quantum. Simply quantum.

-Meryn, who thinks this post illustrates far more about her life than anyone could ever care to know.

best of 07 lists are SO last year...

Thus, I'm being bold and putting myself out there with the first list of 2008.

With that in mind, here are the 8 songs that are rewiring my head as we speak...

1. Down--Chris Brown, feat. Kanye West. Holy hell, is that guitar line catchy. Kanye produced this track along with guesting on it, and as usual, he's in great form. I admit to being unimpressed with young Mr. Brown's attempted rise to the Michael Jackson arena at last fall's VMAs. But, with a few more tracks as well-polished as this (I'll also admit to a fondness for "Wall To Wall"), he's well on his way to supplanting Usher in my heart.

2. Smile For Them--Armor For Sleep. Look, I'm not going to argue for the lyrics of this song. It really does sound like Ben Jorgensen watched The Truman Show recently and considered it the deepest film of his life. But that intro lick is killer, and it's been stuck in my head for the last two days, so AfS must be doing something right.

3. Let Me Hold You (Little Man)--Dewey Cox. I have not seen Walk Hard. Whatever. This song is hilarious.

4. Ching-A-Ling--Missy Elliott. It's been a few years, so it's understandable to perhaps have forgotten about Missy. But for the record: she's always creating some of the sickest and most original club-friendly hip-hop out there. Complete with some choice lyrics--I especially enjoy the reference to Michael Jackson's socks.

5. Broken Bride--Ludo. For God's sake, please pay no attention to the Final Fantasy fanvid that was created using this song. It tells its own story anyhow--an epic fantasy of love and time travel. Features mentions of pterodactyls in the chorus. This St. Louis-based band has another full-length due this year, but the odds that it can top their Broken Bride EP is low...some of the smartest pop-rock I've heard in a while.

6. Little Weapon--Lupe Fiasco. The news that Lupe Fiasco is already planning his final album and retirement came to me about two weeks after I began listening to The Cool, and I am left having to cross my fingers that he only means it in a Jay-Z kind of way. One of the "message" tracks on the album, never has the plight of child soldiers been so much of an earworm, thanks to some stellar production by Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump.

7. Think It Over--Buddy Holly. Juno included a Buddy track on its soundtrack, so over the winter I'd been inspired to start listening again to my first-ever rock star crush (in the fifth grade, yeah, it was weird, shut up). This is a lesser-known song, but it's one of his most awesome--not only does it have a kickass piano bridge, Holly's voice is dripping with sass, something I always champion.

8. Medicine Man--The Hush Sound. My own video, from the show I saw back in December! Apparently this is the new single from their forthcoming album in March, and it sounds like they're as a great as ever. Vocalist Greta Salpeter's voice has gotten stronger and stronger, and I highly approve of the move to a bluesier tone to their harmonies. Fantastic stuff.


Friday, January 11, 2008

The Bucket List

I never knew that dying of cancer could be so humorous until I saw The Bucket List.

Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) is a Fortune 500 billionaire while Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) barely has two dimes to rub together after half a decade as an auto mechanic and family fan. When both men wind up in the same hospital room with six months to live due to recently developed cancer the two strike up a friendship. Carter never made it through his first year of college, but remembered an assignment from a certain professor. The students were to make a "bucket list," essentially a list of things they wanted to do before they died, or kicked the bucket. The inspiration caused the two men to travel the world and do things they'd never experienced before. While some of the tasks were crazy, such as skydiving, others were more meaningful, like laugh until you cry.

The acting from then duo was truly remarkable and had many in the theater (men included) moved to tears or falling from their seats from laughter. And of course, the movie is chock full of good advice. (i.e "Here's something to remember when you're older Thomas [his assistant] - never pass up a bathroom, never waste a hard-on, and never trust a fart." -Edward Cole)

I definitely recommend this movie to people of all ages. And now I'm off to make my own bucket list...

-Lauren Matovina

Monday, January 7, 2008

sorry, rumer

As you probably know, Meryn and I are one person. Thus, me taking over her job as official Writer's Strike beat reporter isn't really as traumatic as you might think.

The latest news from Hollywood, as of tonight:

HOLLYWOOD, CA, January 7, 2008 – The Hollywood Foreign Press Association today announced that the recipients of Golden Globe Awards in 25 categories will be revealed during an hour-long HFPA press conference at The Beverly Hilton to be covered live by NBC News beginning at 6:00 pm PST on January 13. “The 65th Annual Golden Globe Awards” NBC telecast and champagne dinner in The Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom is officially cancelled.

That means: no pretty people in pretty clothes getting tipsy and making far awesomer speeches than at the Emmys or Oscars.

With so many A-list actors deciding not to cross picket lines by appearing at the show, the HFPA really had no choice. I think this is appropriate, given the ongoing conflicts involving the WGA. Doesn't mean it doesn't suck, though. And it's definitely making me nervous as to the future of my beloved, Jon-Stewart-hosted Academy Awards. Fingers crossed that the studios come to their senses soon.

-Anna, whose subject line refers to the fact that celebutard Rumer Willis will no longer get to be "Miss Golden Globe," which might be the only good bit of news to come out of this.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Grizzly Adams, or maybe a young Kris Kringle?

These are your favorite late night hosts:

These are your favorite late night hosts during a writers' strike:


-Meryn, who is thinking about growing her leg hair out in solidarity with the striking writers.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Whatever Gets You Through The Night...

I'm a huge disappointment. Such is my role on the Arts staff. So while all of you are taking the time to post stellar year-end lists, I'm going to continue my duty as Strike Bitch.

Between the "America's Next Top Model" Super Modelthon on VH1 (yeah, I know you're watching it too, don't lie) and the awesome DVDs I hope everyone was lucky enough to receive for Christmas, (or whatever gift-giving holiday you celebrate) check out the tube tomorrow night. Beginning at 10 p.m., the late night shows are back.

The Writers' Strike's first casualties, and some would argue the hardest hit, were the late night shows. Viewers have been without new episodes of "The Daily Show," "Late Night" and their brethren for about two months, and it has been rough. When you're used to new content every night, it's like drug withdrawal when it stops. Suddenly, a bunch of viewers were challenged to go to bed early.

Anyway, the AMPTP (aka the dark force the WGA is fighting in the struggle for fair compensation in the strike) stopped paying the staffs of the shows when the strike began. Hosts could only pay those salaries (out of their own pockets, mind you) for so long. NBC, Comedy Central and the other networks were going to fire these below-the-line employees. So Stephen and friends decided to return to the airwaves, and Wednesday night is when it's going to happen.

David Letterman's Worldwide Pants was able to negotiate a deal with the WGA, allowing both his writing staff and the staff of "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" to return and be justly compensated. The deal shows that fair ground can be reached, and ensures continued quality content for both of these shows. (Well, I don't watch Craig Ferguson but Letterman's "Late Show" will still rock I'm sure.)

Satirical news fans aren't so lucky. Where the rest of the network late night hosts can just expand guest segments since as WGA members they aren't allowed to perform writing duties, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart shows depend on writing. Viewers tune in to see them skewer the news, and the guests are usually a pleasant additional to the razor sharp wit of those staffs. And since Colbert and Stewart, formidable comedians in their own right to say the least, also cannot perform writing tasks, it is hard for viewers to see a bright side in their return.

I've just given you some reasons to tune in on Wednesday night for the late night. It is going to be a big deal. Maybe you want to see how much your favorite show's content suffers sans scribes, or if you want to hear Letterman support the writers and stick it to the producers, it'll be a worthy night of television. Turn Tyra off, take a nap, make some coffee, because I have a feeling late night TV hosts will be making waves and ruffling some higher-ups' feathers. They may have been able to force the hosts to return, but what they do with the airwaves is up to them.

All the good little reporters can keep making their lists now. Sorry I hijacked the blog's flow.

-Meryn, who is also obsessed with Feist's "1 2 3 4."
Lauren’s Top 25 Country Songs of 2007
25. “Good Directions” – Billy Currington
24. “As If” – Sara Evans
23. “Johnny Cash” – Jason Aldean
22. “My Wish” – Rascal Flatts
21. “Before He Cheats” – Carrie Underwood
20. “Don’t Blink” – Kenny Chesney
19. “Guys Like Me” – Eric Church
18. “Gunpowder & Lead” – Miranda Lambert
17. “I Need You “– Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
16. “Our Song” – Taylor Swift
15. “Yee Haw” – Jake Owen
14. “Til I Was a Daddy Too” – Tracy Lawrence
13. “What Do Ya Think About That” – Montgomery Gentry
12. “Laughed Until We Cried” – Jason Aldean
11. “What Kinda Gone” – Chris Cagle
10. “Watching Airplanes” – Gary Allan
9. “She Ain’t Right” – Lee Bryce
8. “Fall” – Clay Walker
7. “These Are My People” – Rodney Atkins
6. “Everybody” – Keith Urban
5. “Take Me There” – Rascal Flatts
4. “More Than a Memory” – Garth Brooks
3. “Cleaning This Gun (Come on in Boy)” – Rodney Atkins
2. “Stupid Boy” – Keith Urban
1. “Long Trip Alone” – Dierks Bentley