Unjustly Obscure Albums – Vol. 4

Dead Heart Bloom, Strange Waves

“An eerily smooth assimilation of the Beatles and The Bends that seems too pleasant to be true.”

“Coming on like the ocean, ancient, enveloping, and with just a little darkness beneath.”
-Under the Radar

This band has all of three fans on Facebook, and I’m one of them. All their stuff is good.

Dead Heart Bloom – Someday Will Not Come Again
Dead Heart Bloom – Strange Waves

Google A to Z

Out of morbid inquisitiveness, I decided to see what the top Google search terms were for each letter of the alphabet (i.e. what is the first suggested result if you only type in one letter). An intriguing snapshot of the current internet zeitgeist emerged…

A – amazon
B – best buy
C – craigslist
D – dictionary
E – ebay
F – facebook
G – google
H – hotmail
I – irs
J – jet blue
K – kohls
L – lowes
M – mapquest
N – netflix
O – old navy
P – pandora
Q – quotes
R – rebecca black
S – skype
T – target
U – usps
V – verizon
W – weather
X – xbox
Y – youtube
Z – zillow

Unjustly Obscure Albums – Vol. 3

Grand National, Kicking the National Habit

The debut album by London-based duo Grand National sounds something like the Police if they’d recorded disco tunes. While the songs are pop-like in structure and layered with sweet harmonies, they are also defined by their heavy beats, looping bass riffs and hypnotic synth lines. This is dance party music for anyone who loved the 80s.

Grand National – Drink to Moving On
Grand National – Talk Amongst Yourselves

Netflix Picks: Documentary

As a cinephile with an insatiable curiosity, whenever I find myself with a free hour or two, I scan my streaming Netflix queue for a documentary to absorb. Non-fiction films seem to me a better product than most of the rubbish Hollywood churns out for the sake of entertaining the masses. While I’d never consider sitting in front of the TV to be a productive use of one’s time, documentaries at least provide us with food for thought. Here are a few gems you might want to check out the next time you’re feeling blasé:

Brother’s Keeper (1992)

This acclaimed documentary from filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky explores the odd world of the four elderly Ward brothers — illiterate farmers who have lived their entire lives in a dilapidated two-room shack. When William Ward dies in the bed he shared with his brother Delbert, the police become suspicious and arrest Delbert for murder, penetrating the isolated world that left “the boys” forgotten eccentrics for many years.

Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

A family in crisis is “captured” through home video in this searing documentary about the Friedmans, an upper-middle-class family who found their world turned upside down when father and son were charged with child molestation in 1987. The media inundated the airwaves with coverage of the alleged crime, but some of the best footage — seen here publicly for the first time — was shot by the Friedman family members themselves.

Cocaine Cowboys (2006)

This penetrating documentary from director Billy Corben pulls out all the stops to explore the many dimensions of Miami’s cocaine-trafficking boom of the 1980s, as told by the smugglers, cops and average citizens who were there. The film is an unflinching study of Miami’s most notorious and lethal vice — from how the drug was moved and its financial impact on the city to the havoc and violence that followed in its wake.

Collapse (2009)

In an avant-garde soliloquy, investigative journalist Michael Ruppert details his unnerving theories about the inexorable link between energy depletion and the collapse of the economic system that supports the entire industrial world. Helmed by filmmaker Chris Smith (American Movie), Ruppert’s monologue explains how the lies and political propaganda fed to Americans by big business will eventually lead to human extinction.

Touching the Void (2003)

Mixing interviews with dramatic re-enactments of the event, this gripping docudrama retells the mountaineering trek gone awry of Simon Yates (Nicholas Aaron) and Joe Simpson (Brendan Mackey), who falls and breaks his leg while climbing in the Andes. Yates, who’s tethered to him, attempts to lower him to safety but fails, forcing him to make a pivotal decision that may or may not save both of their lives. The question is, was it the right one?

Unjustly Obscure Albums – Vol. 2

Zeus – Say Us

“Zeus doesn’t have a dedicated lead singer; songwriters Mike O’’Brien, Carlin Nicholson, and Neil Quinn all share that role, and they switch instruments with equal frequency. The result is an album relatively devoid of patterns, since no single musician remains with one instrument long enough to repeat the same trick twice. Zeus’’ retro state of mind remains consistent, though, and the band fills Say Us with vocal harmonies, vintage guitar jangle, and riffs culled from a lifetime of classic rock fandom. It’’s part British Invasion throwback and part 21st century indie rock, with a hint of heartland twang tying the package together.”
-All Music Guide

Zeus – Fever of the Time
Zeus – Kindergarten

Easter Sunday – Jesus’ Son

“The sun lowered itself through the roof of clouds, ignited the sea, and filled the big picture window with molten light, so that we did our dealing and dreaming in a brilliant fog.”
-Denis Johnson

Jesus’ Son is a book of short stories, some of the best I’ve read. The narrator, a young man known only as Fuckhead, possesses the drug-addled soul of a poet. As we accompany him on his journeys across 1970s America, his simple yet profound observations about the human condition affect us on a visceral level. He humorously conveys the pleasures and pains of existence in such a way that one can’t help but nod in quiet recognition of the notion that we are, all of us, borne from the same seed.

The 1999 movie starring Billy Crudup, as FH, and Jack Black, as a spastic emergency room orderly named Georgie, is also an underrated gem.

In Honor of Earth Day, The Giving Tree Band

“Hillbilly Jean”

The Giving Tree Band’s “stirring musicianship, exemplary songwriting, and emotionally engaged performances” (The Bluegrass Special Magazine) are “leaving audiences all around the country with dropped jaws and a string of incurable rhythms ingrained in their heads” (The Chronicle). The group’s all-acoustic sound has been described as “an ageless music that transcends centuries” (Honest Tune Magazine) and “timeless…reminiscent of Bob Dylan and Neil Young” (Green Guide Network).

They are also considered one of the greenest bands in the country. They have been touring in a bio-diesel bus and donating as much as 50% of their proceeds to charity. The all-vegetarian band uses many eco-friendly instruments such as handmade guitars from reclaimed woods and naturally fallen trees and a drum kit made from sustainable bamboo. Their last album was engineered with 100% renewable solar energy and all of the band’s CD’s are packaged with 100% recycled materials. The band’s music and extraordinary environmental stewardship have been highlighted by media all over the world.


Netflix Picks: Four Movies for 4/20

If you’re bored with the usual suspects (Dazed and Confused, The Big Lebowski, etc.) then check out the following flicks. While these movies are not quite great, they’ll blow your mind if you’re in the right state. Plus they’re all available to stream, so you don’t even have to leave your parents’ basement.

Enter the Void (2009)

When Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), a foreign drug dealer living in Tokyo with his stripper sister, Linda (Paz de la Huerta), is fatally shot in a police raid, his spirit leaves his body in a hallucinatory odyssey that merges his past, present and future into a chaotic whole. This riveting third film from provocative French auteur Gaspar Noe screened in competition at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

The Fall (2006)

Set in the 1920s, director Tarsem Singh’s visually lush drama stars Lee Pace as paralyzed movie stuntman Roy Walker, who bonds with an imaginative 5-year-old named Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) as they convalesce together in a Los Angeles infirmary. To coax the girl into procuring the cache of morphine he wants from the hospital pharmacy, the suicidal Roy regales Alexandria with an elaborate fantasy about larger-than-life heroes.

The Fountain (2006)

In this sci-fi drama that spans a millennium, a man (Hugh Jackman) searches for a tree believed to grant eternal life in 16th-century Spain; seeks a cure for his wife’s (Rachel Weisz) cancer as a present-day scientist; and traverses the universe as a 26th-century astronaut. As he travels through time in an epic struggle to save the woman he loves, he also comes to understand some of life’s murkiest mysteries.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)

When a deal with the devil comes due, the immortal Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) must renegotiate the pact to save his daughter. Now, with the help of his mystical theater troupe and a mysterious stranger, Parnassus attempts to right the wrongs of his past. Terry Gilliam’s quirky fantasy marks Heath Ledger’s final film, with Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law stepping in to complete his pivotal role.