Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007: A Year of Disc-covery

2007 was a very good year for discovering new and old music. The Internet has become a great source to learn about new or undiscovered artists or rediscover or discover for the first time known artists. For me, it has left radio and other sources of new and old music in the dust. Although DC finally has a pretty good new radio station in 94.7 the Globe, and a top notch classical station in WETA, radio is no competition for the Internet. While I still love listening to the radio on long trips and the discoveries that come with it, the Internet is an unlimited, worldwide jukebox virtually without limits. As the nation and the world in 2007 continue to get more divided and fragmented (as does some of the music), there are signs that there are more fusions and experiments across categories and nations and cultures, due in large part to the Internet and the exchange of information that has come with it.

The recording industry in 2007 did not seem to be any closer to developing a solid business model for selling and distributing music, but that is another sad story for the future. In the meantime, some of the new groups I came across and liked in 2007 included Regina Spektor, a talented pianist/singer from the Bronx by way of Russia; and her Swedish echo in Maia Hirasawa; Last Town Chorus, an off-beat cover group with a unique sound; two Israeli artists, Geve Alon, and Yau Decklebaum; Sense Field, a group that evolved from hard rock to emo to oblivion; Innocence Mission, who reemerged with a new album in 2007 that lived up to the group's name; Eleni Mandell, a talented singer/chanteuse; the Concretes, and Victoria Bergsman's new group, Taken by Trees both hold promise; Okkerfil River, an interesting sounding Austin indie group; Michael Nyman, a talented British composer of film/classical music; Jon Brion a multi-talented multi-instrumentalist, singer, American film music composer, and record producer; Scala and the Kolnasy Brothers, a young Belgium female chorus that dramatically covers modern rock hits; the Cinematic Orchestra, an inventive English flash-jazz group; Silversun Pickups, a smooth latter-day Smashing Pumpkins; the National, a group with a relaxed Leonard Cohen-like sound; Caribou, a feathery psychedelic Canadian group; Panda Bear, an experimental sound from Noah Lennix; Lamb, an inventive disco group; Sara Bareilles, a clever Internet popster; Kate Havneviks, a promising Norwegian indie rocker; Porn Sword Tobacco, an experimental group name for Henrik Jonsson from Göteborg, who assembles sounds, drifts away, picks up again, re-adjusts, levels noise, adds piano, guitar, organ, bass, and thinks of new chords; Amy Winehouse, a very talented but somewhat self-destructive force; Charlotte Hatherley , a spritely rocker; Marissa Nadler, an indie folker; Sophie Millman, a Russian/Canadian jazz singer; the Yellow Jackets, jazzers to the core; the Great Lake Swimmers, a group of fresh sounding Canadian indie folkers; Sallie Shapiro, an electro-poptress, and Emilie Autumn, a classically-trained turned goth violinist. There were also strong albums in 2007 from Radiohead, Wilco, Feist, Spoon, Josh Ritter, the Shins, and the Boss.

In live performances there were strong performances from stalwarts like Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello together, Vienna Teng, Southside Johnny, and the Boss. The year ended with a broadcast of Brian Wilson's Kennedy Center's award show--that gave him well-deserved recognition (he ironically smiled little after producing the well-regarded "Smile").

And so it was a very good year for music. And the next year looks like it could be equally good if not better. Happy New Musical Year!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

It's Not Really There

Sometimes the book is better than the movie. In this case, the review was better than the movie. What can I say. I liked the movie, but I loved the review in the NY Times.

The review was well-written, well-organized, and convincing in its enthusiasm. It was (in a way) everything the movie was not.

From the review, I could picture the movie I wanted to see. Unfortunately, that was not the movie I saw. Sure, I loved the music; there was a lot of great original Dylan, and some very good covers. And the movie had its moments--the prepubescent, African-American Dylan named Marcus was pure fun and his scene with Richie Havens was infectious. The town of Riddle was fun to visit. But much of the rest of it was not as much fun--especially the Richard Gere part as Billy the Kid, and the Julianne Moore part as Alice Fabian as Joan Baez, which was beginning to approach "A Mighty Wind."

For me, "I'm Not There," was partially, but not all there. For a neighboring moviegoer, it was a form of unusual, if not cruel punishment that was not quite torture, but she did not understand why she was being held there so long.