24 January 2014

“One does not simply walk into Kate Bush’s discography"

After eleven years of loving Kate Bush, I’m still not the most informed of her ardent fans. The critical consensus seems to have placed Hounds of Love as her magnum opus. As a new fan – and then devoted listener – this album felt like the best way to get my Kate fix. It’s a wonderful album and it feels as if I’ve been rooted in that land for my entire life. Still, this album represents only one remarkable achievement in her career. Her discography is studded with gems across the output of nine full-length albums. With a work as formidable as Hounds of Love, how could anyone venture elsewhere? Kate Bush does not speak with one voice so in many ways her varied techniques of singing and rich cast of characters is the perfect vehicle for showing her talents and winning new listeners. Short of Bob Dylan, Tori Amos, or even Jandek – three prolific songwriters who come to mind randomly – who else has offered so many ways to see one person’s musical world? Not too many, but then again is Kate Bush even of this world? On the evidence of the passion, weirdness, and humanity of her music, I’d like to think that she is. Like all of Bowie’s infamous stage incarnations, there’s something immediately compelling about the sight of Kate Bush. For many, it’s the music video for “Wuthering Heights” while for others it’s the eccentric fashion sense of her early career. (Personally, the cover of The Dreaming is my favorite but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that her dancing and miming in “Wuthering Heights” remains the most potent.) Whatever the cause of so much fascination with the woman, this voice that seems to come from nowhere is still the most powerful. An acquired taste like Chinese opera or Joanna Newsom, it’s not a voice that immediately sounds like one destined for pop hit infamy. (Madonna’s first two albums were released between The Dreaming and Hounds of Love.) Despite what we consider fashionable or unconventional, it’s her voice and its wonderful manipulations that constitute much of her legend. Call her mother, witch, lover, friend, or “something that you’ll never comprehend” – all those roles are whatever you want to see in her, but it’s always on her terms. Who can’t love someone who is herself as much as others within herself in similar ways to how we love so many others different to us? Sometimes I can only wonder so here’s ten songs that bring me closer to her world. 

"Hounds of Love"
"Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)"  
"Oh to Be in Love"  
"James and the Cold Gun"
"L'Amour Looks Something Like You"

"The Big Sky"
"And Dreams of Sheep"
"And So Is Love"

10 January 2014

The Best of 2013

Wax Idols, Discipline + Desire
Janelle Monae, Electric Lady
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Push The Sky Away 
The Field, Cupid's Head 
Austra, Olympia 
Agrimonia, Rites of Separation 
Frankie Rose, Herein Wild 
Yamantaka Sonic Titan, Uzu 
Matmos, The Marriage of True Minds 
Camera Obscura, Desire Lines

04 January 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street and Moral Outrage

How anyone can find the movie anything less than scathing is beyond me. Most of it is uncomfortable enough to watch, but the increasing stakes (and grotesque excess) wind up the tension even more tightly. As the movie continues, it puts you off more and more thoroughly. As if the amount of money generated to create these bacchanals isn’t ridiculous enough, the men behind the parties create the most distance. Who would even want to celebrate with them? The movie shoots it all so quickly that it hardly creates a lasting impression beyond the momentary high that these men feel. The stakes and the consequences create the only sense of gravity. Even then it doesn’t last long as an act of God makes Belfort barely change his tune for longer than a minute. He fights against everyone and everything in his way until he’s truly cornered. Even then he tries to escape with no thought for those around him. I don’t know how Scorsese could make the man more contemptible. The voiceover narration almost does it all single-handedly! In many instances, he wasn’t all that subtle. Belfort at his club late at night drugged out of his mind is a notable example. It’s not funny or light or ironic. It’s physically uncomfortable to witness as his motor functions are utterly reduced. This really is Jerry Lewis in extremis. His struggle seems impossible, but consumed with saving himself the scene continues excruciatingly as he manages to get into his car. Belfort is never more degraded than here. Still, he keeps swimming through the garbage with many proudly beside him. It’s a disturbing picture of mankind. At first, rather than being swallowed by his environment, Belfort wades into it. Two scenes early on indicate the sort of scumbag that will stand by his side. Matthew McConaughey as Mark Hanna offers advice that indicates the hedonistic wherewithal needed to thrive in the business. Jonah Hill as Donnie Azoff is even more absurd as a man who marries his cousin because she’s too hot to be left around for other men to fuck her. The competitive acquisitiveness of such a man says it all and from there only gets worse. Belfort himself barely looks better. He’s not some genius analyst at all. He just wears people down and dares others to be just as overbearing. If you find that kind of man respectable then there’s not much to say. The movie certainly doesn’t make him relatable or likable. It’s a long, exhausting movie that makes the business world look like a total jungle. That the man who made Taxi Driver and Goodfellas has a cast of characters who look even worse than men in those earlier films is a sad enough commentary on our times.

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