Top 10 albums of 2019

 

 

So we are fast approaching the end of the year and end of the decade. And it’s list season. Would be easy to give up following new music, which many people have and I’m keeping it to a bare minimum next year. 
You can still find the occasional strong, ambitious album which is worth buying. I know for a fact Weyes Blood was given a budget and that definitely helped her reach her full potential with Titanic Rising. But it’s harder than ever for artists to get financing for their projects when music is free for the consumers. When there’s no budget we get homespun laptop-created albums, and while good music can come from a home environment and there’s no gatekeeper on creativity, you usually need money to get together the right musicians, instruments, and proper recording studio.
Quick shout-out to Graham/Aphoristical who convinced me to listen to Vampire Weekend. The band’s previous albums hadn’t clicked with me (aside from the odd song here and there) but the friendly prodding worked as you can see below. I’m not ranking the ten picks as the order changes from week to week!

 

 

 

 

Titanic Rising by Weyes Blood
Titanic Rising by Weyes Blood
Lovely vocal performance by 31-year-old Natalie Mering. The first 5-6 tracks of her ten song album are especially beautiful, creating an ethereal atmosphere that exudes a calm yet introspective mood. Lyrics that feel both personal and universal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norman Fucking Rockwell (2019)
Norman Fucking Rockwell! by Lana Del Rey
Her lyrics have improved and Lana seems more mature as a songwriter. Gorgeous production with lots of piano and beautiful instrumental details. The album is a bit long although there’s hardly any filler despite a 67 minute running time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

nick cave ghosteen
Ghosteen by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Arguably too much to soak up in one sitting so you may find yourself dividing the project into smaller pieces. At this point, Cave is not interested in pop singles but instead creating deeply personal, therapeutic music. As with Skeleton Tree (2016), the theme of loss and suffering is not self-indulgent, but with a bigger scope. The Bad Seeds have mellowed with age, the anger from their earlier work has gone, maybe never to return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Seeing Other People by Foxygen
In contrast to Ghosteen, this LP has some tasty pop hooks. A glam rock revival album although could also be described as danceable. Some parts are reminiscent of Bowie or The Rolling Stones. Foxygen aren’t able to top their heroes, but a very enjoyable listen, especially if you are a fan of 70s music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All Mirrors by Angel Olsen
A post break-up album. Olsen’s most sonically ambitious, featuring orchestral flourishes and a chamber pop sound. Lyrics about getting older(Spring), about taking the easy road(What Is It), and needing space away from other people(Tonight). She gives Elizabeth Fraser a run for her money with the haunting title track. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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U.F.O.F. by Big Thief
As far as contemporary folk goes, this is special. Adrianne Lenker’s whispering fused with the expressive guitars is a killer combination. Her gentle delivery reminds me of Marissa Nadler, on several tracks Buck Meek and James Krivchenia step in and add vocals. Might be too low-key for some listeners. A sweet, soothing listen that grew on me. Highlights: UFOF, Cattails, Open Desert, Strange

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

father of the bride vampire weekend
Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend
Features a few of the best songs of their career, Harmony Hall, This Life, and Unbearably White. Stranger is pretty catchy as well. A little too long and a few tracks could have been trimmed but still an easy album to appreciate with much replay value. The lyrics veer into marital conflict yet the music is often upbeat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Western Stars by Bruce Springsteen
Western Stars by Bruce Springsteen
A lush, cinematic, nostalgic album. Nice to hear Springsteen experiment with his sound at this late stage in his career and the songs fit his age. Certain moments are sappy but overall, while doesn’t reach the heights of his 70s and 80s prime, I consider Western Stars among his best post 80s efforts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dedicated carly rae jepsen album
Dedicated by Carly Rae Jepsen
Continues the 80s pop vibe from 2015’s E•MO•TION but with a few tweaks. Probably her most consistent effort from start to finish, in comparison to the filler on her previous albums. Catchy choruses, on tracks such as Now That I Found You, Julien, and The Sound. Happy Not Knowing could be a leftover from the E·MO·TION sessions. The tribal chant on For Sure deserved to be on the tracklist. Same applies for self-love anthem Party for One.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On the Line by Jenny Lewis
The opening five tracks have distinctive melodies, good songwriting and fine vocal performances by Jenny Lewis. She has spared no expense and is supported by a range of collaborators including Beck, Ringo Starr, under fire musician Ryan Adams, and Benmont Tench (keyboardist of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honorable mentions 11-20:
ANIMA by Thom Yorke
Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery by The Comet Is Coming
The Book of Traps and Lessons by Kate Tempest
The Secret of Letting Go by Lamb
In the End by The Cranberries
Originals by Prince
Ladytron by Ladytron
Thanks for the Dance by Leonard Cohen
Kiwanuka by Michael Kiwanuka
Office Politics by The Divine Comedy

 

 

 

 

What do you think? Have you heard any of these? As always, comments are welcome

Favorite cover songs of the decade

 

 

 

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Most of the picks add an extra dimension of emotion, new instrumentals, or change the pacing. Some of these are covers of classics. Others are recent tunes which got a makeover.

Here’s a link to the playlist which also includes the originals in the second half of the tracklist. The Julia Holter cover is not in the playlist as only available on soundcloud.
Obviously R Kelly has fallen out of favor but that shouldn’t diminish the work by the cover artist. Enjoy!

*I haven’t had a chance to listen to the new album Women Sing Waits by Various Artists which Rol just reviewed.

 

 

 

Johnny and Mary (Robert Palmer cover) by Bryan Ferry & Todd Terje (2014)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Is Blindness  (U2 cover) by Jack White (2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey Moon (Molly Nilsson cover) by John Maus (2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Movin’ On (Hank Snow cover) by Waylon Jennings & Johnny Cash (1980s/2014)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turnpike Ghost (Steel Train Cover) by Tegan and Sara (2010)

 

 

 

 

 

 

When You Sleep (My Bloody Valentine cover) Memoryhouse (2010)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Doin’ Time (Sublime cover) by Lana Del Rey (2019)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relief (R Kelly cover) by Sam Amidon (2010)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last One To Be Loved (Burt Bacharach/Dionne Warwick cover) by Rumer (2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Into the Black (Neil Young cover) by Chromatics (2012)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burn Your Life Down (Tegan and Sara cover) by Bleachers (2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Look At You (INXS cover) by Julia Holter (2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live In Dreams (Wild Nothing Cover) by High Highs (2010)

 

 

 

 

 

 
I Gotta Go (Little Walter cover) by The Rolling Stones (2015)

 

 

 

 

 

 
That Lucky Old Sun (Frankie Laine cover) by Bob Dylan (1986/2017)
(I prefer the Under the Covers (Live) version released in 2017 which as far as I can tell is a bootleg recorded with Tom Petty and backing singers from 1986. The Strangers in the Night rendition from 2015 is more stripped down)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heroes (David Bowie cover) by Peter Gabriel (2010)

 

 

 

 

 

Hold On (Tom Waits cover) by Aimee Mann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wayfaring Stranger (Burl Ives cover) by Neil Young and Crazy Horse

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wu Tang Clan (The French cover) by Allo Darlin’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

Films and TV of the month: November

 

 

 

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Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) (Tim Miller)

The 6th film in the series and a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Some entertaining action sequences, a couple of funny moments, and good to have Linda Hamilton back. But not enough innovation in the storytelling which is too familiar.
Half in the Bag in their video review compared Sarah Connor to Jamie Lee Curtis in the Halloween film series, both are “survival nuts”, criticizing Dark Fate for not providing a fuller version of Sarah’s and John Connor’s life after T2.
The diversity in the casting felt fresh and is watchable for the action, albeit not a necessary sequel. In the end, reeks of a commercial project. Better than T3 which confusingly has been erased from the time line. Not at the level of originality of T1 and T2.
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Print
The Souvenir (2019) (Joanna Hogg)
Won the Grand Jury Prize for best international drama at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
A semi-autobiographical story about the director as a young artist in the form of film student Julie.
Probably will be best remembered for the performance of Tilda Swinton’s daughter Honor Swinton Byrne. The two Swinton’s play mother and daughter on screen.
Read full review
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dragged Across Concrete
Dragged Across Concrete (2018) (S. Craig Zahler)

The violence is more restrained and believable compared to the batshit crazy stuff in S. Craig Zahler’s previous work (Bone Tomahawk, Brawl in Cell Block 99). A slow building story that is simultaneously a suspenseful thriller. I liked how we see events in real time though that could also put off impatient viewers. Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn are convincing as a duo. Interesting to see Mel Gibson in a buddy cop movie again. Darker than Lethal Weapon.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Sorry We Missed You (2019) (Ken Loach)

Thanks to Nostra at My Film Views for the recommendation. I watched an early preview screening.
family drama that reveals the relentless grind and long working hours of a delivery man and his wife who is an in-home carer, which results in stress and neglecting family matters at home. Reminds you others have it worse than you. Easy to empathise with their problems and with characters I’ll remember. Alarmingly, similar situations are going on every day. Very good performances by the fairly unknown cast.
8.5/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Personal Shopper (2016) (Olivier Assayas)

The opening 15 min is a total bore. If you get past that test, the story gets better.
Kristin Stewarts’ character seems lonely, working alone as a personal shopper, she talks to people she doesn’t know on her travels. At the same time, she is also dealing with her brother’s death who was a medium as she is.
The mysterious text exchange was captivating though I couldn’t see why it was needed. Unfocused, slight story, although I was curious to see how it all panned out.
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Inside Moves (1980) (Richard Donner)

We can thank Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and Midnight Cowboy (1969) for Hollywood financing a string of buddy movies, and this one, which is nowhere near as famous as those 60s classics, warms the heart with its compassionate depiction of a group of outsiders who go about their daily lives and frequent a local bar in San Francisco. Based on the book of the same name by Todd Walton, there’s plenty of character development and even though the film is close to two hours, I could easily have spent longer hanging out with them. Richard Donner (Superman, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon) has named Inside Moves among his 2-3 favorites of the films he directed. He knows how to display friendship on screen so you care. John Savage, David Morse, and Diana Scarwid are all brilliant and given room to shape their performances. A character based story and different to how films are made today. There’s a focus on basketball but you don’t need to be interested in the sport to enjoy the movie. About guy friendships, relationships, physical limitations, and finding your purpose. Inside Moves flopped due to poor marketing and actors who weren’t bankable yet still managed an Academy Award nomination for Scarwid.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stir Crazy (1980)
Stir Crazy (1980) (Sidney Poitier)

Thanks to Wolfman for the recommendation. According to the dictionary stir-crazy means “psychologically disturbed, especially as a result of being confined or imprisoned”.
Wacky, almost cartoonish comedy. I laughed more during the slapstick humor in See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) but Stir Crazy has a better second half and worth seeing for Richard Pryor’s and Gene Wilder’s chemistry.
The taxi driver-customer payment argument was hilarious, especially when Gene Wilder steps in to help. So too was the “tough guy” walk on the way to the prisoners. Wilder’s optimism yet naivety as Skip Donahue is infectious. There are aspects that don’t make sense such as the behaviour of the prison guards in the last act, and putting money on Skip to win despite his limited training. Sometimes the sight gags take over the plot but very charming and entertaining.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a christmas carol (1984)
A Christmas Carol (1984) (Clive Donner)
Charles Dickens’ Christmas ghost tale is brought to life in this better-than-average TV-movie with good special effects, believable sets, and a memorable performance by always reliable George C. Scott as Scrooge. British stage and screen actors round out the other key characters. Some parts felt sentimental but that was already in the story. From what I’ve heard, a very faithful adaptation. Has a great message about rich and poor. Dickens was the Ken Loach of his time.
7/10

 

 


 

 

documentaries

 

 

 

 

 


Marianne & Leonard Words of Love
Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love (documentary) (2019) (Nick Broomfield)

Combining talking heads with archive footage, depicts the muse-artist relationship between Marianne Ihlen and singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. Put together by their old friend Nick Broomfield. Very honest, on one hand Cohen cared deeply for Marianne but on the other hand his inability to let her go caused her suffering. Reveals the dark side of the era of free love. Having not read any of his biographies, the documentary changed my perception of Cohen. I wasn’t aware he was a womanizer and drug user but with women throwing themselves at him and the climate he was living, I guess he couldn’t resist. Interesting that people were “cursed” by the idyllic Greek island Hydra, I wondered if Axel and the Johnston family under different circumstances would have avoided their fate. The last half of the film focuses mostly on Cohen’s career as a singer. Marianne’s death bed scene at the end is easily the most powerful moment and brought me to tears. Some reviews complained the documentary is sordid and distasteful. The two people in the title are deceased and unable to endorse the contents. To me, frames Marianne as the victim and Cohen as the charming artist with commitment issues, seeking new experiences. Unfortunately Marianne’s side of the story is too sketchy. The mother-son part wasn’t explored enough to really get the full picture.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memory The Origins of Alien
Memory: The Origins of Alien (documentary) (2019) (Alexandre O. Philippe)

If you watch the documentary you will want to rewatch Alien. At times does look like a bunch of DVD featurettes stretched out to feature film length but I honestly was fine with that.
A number of influences are explored such as Francis Bacon’s painting Fury (1944) for the design of the creature. Alien (1979) itself is analysed; the realism, a corporation exploiting blue color workers, the class aspect on board, the use of the words Nostromo(space ship) and Narcissus(shuttle craft), book titles by Joseph Conrad who wrote Heart of Darkness about the fear of the unknown. The subtext of the monster with a theory that the male rape is the “retribution of the repressed feminine” , the fear of serial killers as a threat you can’t reason with. The ending of the film is interpreted as a transformation of Ripley as a way to avoid the self-destruction of our culture.
There are interviews with the cast, experts, and a timeline of the making of the film. Particular attention is given to the memorable chestburster sequence. HR Giger’s (who died in 2014) concept drawings inspired the Alien visuals. Giger previously worked on Jodorowsky‘s unfinished Dune film.
Apparently the co-writer of Alien Dan O’Bannon borrowed the idea for the chestburster from the comic Seeds of Jupiter (1951). A pity the documentary took so long to make as O’Bannon died in 2009 and it’s his wife telling his side of the story. O’Bannon’s notes and story ideas are in his wife’s storage boxes. A streaming service should buy those ideas and do something with them as the man was a visionary.
Similar to the Kubrick documentary Filmworker (2017), Memory: The Origins of Alien champions the lesser known makers of the first Alien movie rather than just Ridley Scott.
An interesting watch even if it is scattershot, made after several key players have died. Sigourney Weaver is sadly not interviewed, while the academic theories are merely presented and not contested by the surviving creative forces. A longer documentary could have gone deeper. But a part 2 (or other Alien supplements) could solve these weaknesses.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Life After Flash (documentary) (2017) (Lisa Downs)

Kick-starter funded documentary about Sam J. Jones and the cult movie Flash Gordon (1980) that made him famous.
Jones has a Hollywood story worth telling, we get to hear about the ups and downs, professionally and personally. His friend thinks Jones went into acting as an escape from a difficult past.
There are also interview clips with the cast and superfans remembering Flash Gordon. Peter Wyngarde (Klytus) not wanting to die was an amusing anecdote. The care put into the costumes was amazing. Brian May of Queen talks about the making of the soundtrack and plays snippets on the piano. Interesting that the “opening crawl” from Star Wars clearly was inspired by the 1930s Flash Gordon.
The documentary is no masterpiece, and there are plenty of self-congratulatory remarks, yet as a biased fan of the 1980 film it was satisfying. You can currently watch Life After Flash (2017) on Vimeo or Amazon prime.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

 

Older song discoveries: November

 

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You can listen to the playlist which will be updated as the year progresses.

 

 

 

 

 

This Strange Effect by Dave Berry (1965)
(A very haunting vocal. Should be used in a movie)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time Has Come Today by The Chambers Brothers (1966)
(George Chambers, bassist and vocalist for psychedelic soul greats the Chambers Brothers, died age 88. This is considered their best known song)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sea, Swallow Me by Cocteau Twins & Harold Budd (1986)
(Love Cocteau Twins. From the album The Moon and the Melodies, released under their real names Elizabeth Fraser, Robin Guthrie & Simon Raymonde)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too Late for Goodbyes by Julian Lennon (1984)
(John Lennon’s son had a hit in the 80s. He even sings like his old man)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Payback by Jan Hammer (1986)
(Hammer is a genius with a synthesizer. From Miami Vice: The Complete Collection. Episode: Payback)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Young Folks by Peter Bjorn And John (2006)
(If you can whisle a song, it’s probably going to have a wide appeal)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distance by Astrid (1999)
(”The sun always shines when you walk my way”.  Thanks Rol)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Morning by The Bolshoi (1986)
(Thanks Golden Eighties)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking In The Rain (With The One I Love) by Love Unlimited (1972)
(Female vocal trio that provided backing vocals for American R&B/soul singer Barry White on his albums and concert tours. This single by them sold over 1 million copies. At 3.10, Barry White answers the phone in his deep voice)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love & Affection by Joan Armatrading (1976)
(Thanks Stephen1001! I ought to explore her 70s work)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harden My Heart by Quarterflash (1981)
(Shared by Robert Horvat for his series Songs about overcoming adversity)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ndima Ndapedza by Oliver Mtukudzi (1999)
(This Zimbabwean musician died in 2019. Thanks for highlighting him Jeremy)

 

 

 

 
I’m Not Like Everybody Else (live 1994) by The Kinks (1966)
(Great live version and timeless lyrics. I like the rebel attitude and melody. Thanks Graham/Aphoristical)

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

Girl Week 2019: 90s female buddy movies

 

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Wendell at Dell on Movies is celebrating his annual blogathon Girl Week! An occasion to highlight women in films.  The criteria of the blogathon allows for movies with a female protagonist or directed by women.
I started out with a list of best female buddy movies which was way too long, so I narrowed it down to the 90s. Unquestionably there are films I missed, I tried to include what defined the decade for the female friendship aspects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thelma & Louise (1991)
Thelma & Louise (1991)

(Paving the way for great roles for women, a female version of 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, with two anti-hero rebels facing adversity. Directed by Ridley Scott, a dark yet empowering road movie. Beautifully lensed and well-acted, the ending is unforgettable)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Career Girls (1997)

(UK drama. An overlooked and rewatchable gem in Mike Leigh’s filmography. About two university friends who reunite and how their relationship has changed, or maybe not changed. At first we wonder why they are even buddies, they show it in very different ways. Funny and heartfelt)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)

(A warm-hearted crowd pleaser based on the 1987 book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. Evelyn (Katy Bates) is bored in her marriage. Things change when she meets Ninny (Jessica Tandy) at a nursing home and hears her stories. Ninny talks about her friendships of the past. Possibly too sappy for some viewers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Dreamlife of Angels (1998)

(French drama. Elodie Bouchez and Natacha Regnier both won Best Actress honors at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. I liked the friendship depicted, even though the blonde is making stupid decisions. I wonder sometimes when characters are supposedly without money or a roof to sleep under, why they don’t just go on the dole, but it does have excellent performances. Powerful story)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girl Interrupted
Girl, Interrupted (1999)
(A long time since I watched but left a mark .Takes place in a psychiatric hospital for women in the 1960s.  Angelina Jolie stands out as the mischievous Lisa whom Susanna (Winona Ryder) befriends)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Craft
The Craft (1996)
(I can see why has become a cult favorite, definitely rewatch potential. Apparently the lead is not the girl from Gilmore Girls. The opening 45 minutes are especially enjoyable, the second half is a bit over the top. According to what I’ve read, Fairuza Balk (Nancy) was an actual practicing Wiccan for a while. Yikes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Clueless (1995)

Mean Girls (2004) owes a lot to this 90s high school classic. Written and directed by Amy Heckerling, Clueless offered examples of the occasionally foreign way teens communicate, introducing new phrases into the teenage vernacular. Very entertaining and quotable. About popularity while also a clever satire of Beverly Hills)

 

 

 

 

 

Yet to watch:
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
Poison Ivy (1992)
Spice World (1997)

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome