Monthly Archives: February 2011

Oscar Madness: Five Nominees For Best Film Song of 2010

2010 was a great year for music at the movies, especially if the kind of music you like is A-list Hollywood stars singing tender versions of famous pop ballads. There’s Annette Bening’s awkward-mom-at-the-dinner-table spin on Joni Mitchell in The Kids Are All Right; Christian Bale’s wheedling take on the Bee Gees’ “I Started A Joke” in The Fighter; and most memorably, Ryan Gosling’s “You Always Hurt The One You Love,” delivered with a ukulele and aching human charm, about halfway through Blue Valentine. (See here for an amusing reprise that is only partially degraded by the presence of Jimmy Kimmel.)

At the Academy Awards on Sunday evening, the world’s attention will congregate around the five best original songs written for films in 2010. But who cares about original songs? Especially when one of them features Gwyneth Paltrow  impersonating a country singer?  I’ve been done with the “Best Song” Oscar ever since Bruce Springsteen’s “The Wrestler” was snubbed back in ’08.

Instead, I thought I’d provide The Official NoiseNarcs Selections For Best Unoriginal Film Song of 2010. This is judged not by pure quality of song, but how well the song is integrated into the movie, with assistance provided by the very useful film music reference site what-song. And the Nominees are:

5. Bill Withers, “Lovely Day,” from 127 Hours. Is there a better possible tune to accompany a beautiful morning sunrise, while you sit trapped in a Utah rock crevice, all alone and dying of thirst? No, there is not. But Withers’s gentle joy at life is so infectious that he almost makes James Franco’s desperate escape maneuvers look like fun.

4. Chic, “Le Freak,” from Toy Story 3. It’s Barbie’s Ken trying on outfits, from Apollo 13 astronaut garb to Black Forest lederhosen. The music could have been provided by Jefferson Starship and it still would be awesome.

3. Gunther Feat. Samantha Fox, “Touch My Body (Remix),” from Restrepo. Probably the best moment of this entire Afghanistan documentary comes not when the troops are dodging bullets but when they crank the Samantha Fox remix.  Virtually stranded in the distant netherworld of the Korengal Valley, and worn down by the daily strain of trying to stay alive, it takes some techno-fied ’80s for them to fully reclaim their humanity. The raucous, ingenuously homoerotic dance circle is a treat to watch, but for all the bumping and grinding the encounter seems much less about sex than the even more elemental human need for the companionship of touch. Be careful: if Samantha Fox pipes her way through any speakers when we’re hanging out, I promise I will touch your body.

2. The Strokes, “I’ll Try Anything Once,” from Somewhere. I’ve already blogged about the joys of the pop music from this movie, and this song is the best of a delicious bunch. When Johnny and his daughter slip underwater for their brief hotel pool tea party, Julian Casablancas’ voice seems to capture both the fleeting joy and the underlying melancholy of the moment.

1. Penny and the Quarters, “You and Me,” from Blue Valentine. This is both the most heart-breaking and heart-roaring movie of the year, and Cydney has already done it ample justice on her own page. This song appears twice in the film — first, as doomed lovers Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling prepare to spend their hellish evening in “The Future Room,” it provides a brief, woozy hallucination of couplehood before the truth of their estrangement barks out. Second, and in keeping with the film’s jumbled account of their romance, we hear it produced as “their song,” and it plays while they make love at her parents’ house. In both its wrenching sweetness and almost claustrophobic vision of romantic love, it’s the perfect song for this magnificent movie.

The Strokes – I’ll Try Anything Once (You Only Live Once demo)

Penny & the Quarters – You and Me

Oh, and PS. For the benefit of NoiseNarcs’s vast and transcontinental readership, I realize I must plug my own quasi-blog, which is currently running down my 25 favorite films of the year.  Don’t worry, Gwyneth Paltrow is not invited.  Join us!

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Coast Narcs: Noise Narcs Checks out Portland and San Fran’s Music Scene. Plus: New Sonny and the Sunsets

Phew. Blogging’s hard work. Typing. While sitting. With headphones on. Sure makes one’s bones tired. So to relieve the strain, two of the Narcs (Billy L and myself) will be taking off for the West Coast tomorrow. But because blogging is already a vacation, we’ll be “working”: checking out two of Philly’s musical sister cities, Portland and San Francisco. Our other contributors will do sporadic regular posting, and we’ll occasionally throw up a post form the road. Expect a full report the week of March 7.

To launch the feature, tomorrow on Monday we’ll be posting a long-form interview with Jeremy Barnes from A Hawk and a Hacksaw (and formerly of Neutral Milk Hotel). Jeremy’s from Alberquerque, but he’ll be playing in San Francisco on March 3rd at Cafe du Nord [Buy Tickets].

But, since San Francisco’s Sonny and the Sunsets just announced a new album and released a track, we’ll have to pre-launch the feature now. Hard to believe that their sophomore is already here given the number of side projects that frontman Sonny Smith has been working on. But this is welcome news, and a tasty tease of San Francisco’s wonderful garage scene. Hit After Hit will sees a April 12 release from Fat Possum.

Sonny and the Sunsets, “I Wanna Do It”

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New TV on the Radio: “Will Do”

Oh boy. Nine Types of Light out 4/12.

TV On The Radio – Will Do by Interscope Records

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A note about the Radiohead album

I’m a big Radiohead fan. My AIM screenname (ugh) was “wadiohead” (triple, possibly quadruple ugh). The King of Limbs is very good. And even though I’ve listened to it a lot, I’m not done processing it yet. Not ready to say where it fits in the Pantheon of Radiohead. But I’m leaning towards this being their least successful post-Pablo Honey. Which may or may not be true. And certainly doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s very good: didn’t I just say that? What I am ready to say, with some level of certainty, is that it was not the best album released last week.

That PJ Harvey album? It’s an absolute monster. How much of a monster? So much of a monster that Kanye had to put himself in the sarcophagus. So much of a monster that it fades her entire back catalog. That it answers the question that Is this Desire? asked. That it made me re-listen to Uh Huh Her (still her worst). That it’s the first time in I don’t know how long that I’ve found myself worried about what an album has to say. That it made me break our rule about posting multiple tracks from an album. So much of a monster that it gives me the chills.

Or. Another way: So much of a monster that I’ve been listening to it rather than the newly released Radiohead album. And that you can now AIM me at PJCarvey.

Seriously: go buy Let England Shake. Now. But, yes. That Radiohead album is very good.

PJ Harvey, “Last Living Rose” [Buy]

Radiohead – Little By Little [Buy]

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Announcing Noise Narcs Show: March 19th with Cozy Galaxies, Grubby Little Hands, and Bridge Underwater

More on this–and the bands–later, but a month from tomorrow we’ll be throwing down with three of our favorite Philly bands. Really: we couldn’t be more thrilled to have all three bands on this lineup. Even if we weren’t involved, I’d call this show can’t miss*.

Cozy Galaxies, “Clean Yourself Up”
Cozy Galaxies, “Dreamer”

Grubby Little Hands, “Feel In My Back”
Grubby Little Hands, “The Length Of The Chains”

Bridge Underwater, “Send Me All Your Love”
Bridge Underwater, “The Whoa Song”

Cozy Galaxies, Grubby Little Hands, and Bridge Underwater
Saturday, March 19th, 8:00 PM, $10
The M Room, 15 W Girard, Philadelphia
Event Page

* It has been said by some that I also turn thirty suspiciously close to this date, to which I say: bullshit. Thirty is too old to run a music blog. Also, 15.
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Music from America’s Dairyland / Scott Walker: Governor vs. Singer

Before this month, I had never heard of Eau Claire, WI (motto: “Voici, l’eau claire!” or “Look, clear water!”), but two bands native to this clearly watered place have put out debut recordings that made their way onto my radar screen:

Revery is the debut EP by Johanne Swanson, who performs as Yohuna. True to its title, it’s a collection of contemplative-yet-catchy tracks. I keep changing my mind on which one is my favorite, but right now it’s “It’s All Yours.”

Yohuna, “It’s All Yours” [Buy].

You can also get this last track for free on yvynyl’s new mixtape.

Yohuna also appears in Moro‘s debut recording, “Embers.” Nolan Thomas and Daniel Smith, also of Eau Claire, have been performing as Moro for over a year, but they just released “Embers” this month. It starts with a soft, primordial howl, which leads into six minutes of melancholy-whimsical layers of sound. Lyrically, its childlike, escapist passages (“And when we hide away, We’ll find homes in rocks and clay”), are balanced by darker, more mature pronouncements (“We’ll break our bones again just to say: We’re embers caught aflame”).

Moro, “Embers” [Download free]

Addendum:

David G here. Seeing as this is a post about Wisconsin, it’d be a shame not to register a protest against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker who is attempting to take away the bargaining rights of WI’s public employee unions (something Yohuna herself has protested against on her Tumbler). I can think of no better way to object to Scott Walker’s policy than with Scott Walker himself:

We came through
We came riding through like warriors from afar
Haunted by our visions framed in fire

Fire the guns, and salute the men who died for freedom’s sake
And we’ll weep tonight, but we won’t lie awake
Gazing up at statues dressed as stars.

Scott Walker, “We Came Through” [Buy]

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Summer Fiction releases video for “Throw Your Arms Around Me”

Summer Fiction has released a video for their self-titled’s show stopper, “Throw Your Arms Around Me.” The video, like the song, is gorgeous.

Summer Fiction, “Throw Your Arms Around Me” [Buy]

And, to continue our New Zealand vs. Australia fight, my other favorite song of the same, “Throw Your Arms Around Me” by Australia’s Hunters and Collectors. Which I first heard as sung by Eddie Vedder. And no, I’m not ashamed by that*.

Hunters and Collectors, “Throw Your Arms Around Me” [Buy]
Eddie Vedder, “Throw Your Arms Around Me” [Buy]

* Okay, I’m a little ashamed by that.

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New Music Tuesday: PJ Harvey, Surf City, Tune-Yards, Drive-By Truckers, and Mogwai

Occasionally, we post on the week’s new music released on Tuesdays. You’d think, given the name, that it was a weekly feature: you’d be wrong.

PJ Harvey, Let England Shake

I wasn’t enthralled by Harvey’s White Chalk, which articulated itself in a sustained whisper. And the first time I heard Let England Shake on NPR’s preview feed, I questioned its worth. But what a difference fidelity makes. As soon as I started streaming it on MOG and its beautiful 320kbps ($5/month for 8 million tracks; Try MOG free!), I was enthralled. Layers of weirdness. An album about war that is chilling and beautiful. Standout track is “The Words That Maketh Murder:” pedaled high-tone guitar, punchy brass, a singsongy refrain, and lyrics about war’s horrors… all yielding to an (ironic? contrapuntal? pleading?) query “What if I took my problem to the United Nations?” borrowed from Eddie Cochran, “Summertime Blues.”

PJ_Harvey, “The Words That Maketh Murder”
Eddie Cochran, “Summertime Blues”

Surf City, Kudos

The last time we tuned into New Zealand’s Surf City, we were trying to start a continental shelf war with Australia via their “Icy Lakes”. With an album’s worth of 90s haze, New Zealand has some good ammunition. None of it measures up to the heights of “Icy Lakes,” but it’s a solid effort, and they’re at close to their best when they don their Pavement hat in “Teachers.”

Surf City, “Teachers”

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Chet Baker and “My Funny Valentine”

Rodgers’ and Hart’s 1937 showtune, “My Funny Valentine,” has been recorded by over 600 artists, if we believe Wikipedia on this.  Those artists include Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, The Supremes, Nico, Jerry Garcia, Chaka Khan and many others.  One of these days, we will give it the full “Noise Variations” treatment, and that’s a Noise Narc Promise.

But for today you’re just going to hear two of my favorite renditions, one from the very beginning and the other from the very end of Chet Baker’s career.

Baker, one of the giants of west coast cool jazz, was also one of the first to have a hit with the song when he recorded it with Gerry Mulligan’s quartet in 1952.  I think Baker is playing a flugelhorn on this cut, as he often did, and the contrapuntal style of harmonizing with Mulligan on bari sax develops the thoughtful, measured tone of the track, transforming a jokey song about a lover’s endearing imperfections into one that embodies the complicated sense of melancholy that characterized much of Baker’s oeuvre.

Gerry Mulligan Quartet, “My Funny Valentine” [Buy Chet Baker: Career: 1952-1988]

Baker was only 23 years old on the above track; the 35 years he had left would not be kind.  Heroin addiction is hard on the body.  The 58 year old face you’ll see in the following video will look older than that.  Once, trying to score, he got jacked and beaten, so all of his teeth were pulled and he had to relearn how to play with dentures.

Addiction also leverages personal relationships into money for drugs.  He was a liar and a promise breaker.  People cared about him, and he used that against them.  The highly recommended 1988 documentary of his life, Let’s Get Lost, exposes this cruelty through the hurt and hopeless faces of his friends and loved ones.  He was just so good at manipulating emotions.  It was easy for him.

The following video, excerpted from a 1987 performance in Tokyo (sorry that the piano solo is cut short), treats us to Baker’s trumpet-playing as well as his singing.  He sang like he played, and his voice, shakier than once upon a time, nevertheless has the soft, sweet tone for which he was famous.  In spite of everything, his last recordings in the 80s were among the best of his career.

He fell from his second story hotel room in Amsterdam and died on May 13, 1988.

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Radiohead Announce New Album to Steal Spotlight from Arcade Fire

The King of Limbs. Or: How We Learned to Love the Internet and Steal Arcade Fire's Limelight

Man, even when Arcade Fire wins, they lose. Despite shocking everybody and winning best album in an award show somehow even stupider than The Golden Globes (but still: great album and all), Arcade Fire have lost the indie blogosphere war. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry is now furiously typing with pale, sweaty hands the news that Radiohead will release their album, The King of Limbs, this Saturday. Yep. Call me Tom, Dick, and Harry, because I’m excited as all get out.

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