15 April 2011

Now Playing: Camera Obscura's "If Looks Could Kill"

For today's Friday song and video here is a promotional video for Camera Obscura's 2006 album Let's Get Out of This Country, set to the upbeat song "If Looks Could Kill."

It's pretty perfect for this chilly April Chicago day. It makes me crave the dead heat of August, a cross country road trip with no air-conditioning, some vintage dresses and striped tees, midwestern lightening storms (3:08), and a kaleidoscope-ed home video of the whole thing.

11 April 2011

Melancholia and The Tree of Life

Late last week, the trailer for Lars Von Trier's latest film Melancholia was released.

Looking at the outset like a regular old "rich folks trapped on a lavish estate with their caviar and their problems" movie, we quickly discover that it's an end of the world movie too. With dreamy images of a planet headed towards earth and Kirsten Dunst's weepy declaration that "life is only on earth, and not for long," it reminded me of the trailer for Terrence Malick's highly anticipated The Tree of Life.

Even though in the Tree of Life trailer the connection to the images of space aren't rooted in any immediate, physical explanation (like, a planet is coming to destroy us), the scenes of the working class suburban childhood manage to convey that same sense of captivity that we get with the sprawling and isolated Melancholia manor. The scope of both look incredible, pitting the smallness of the family and the home against the vastness of the universe, thus allowing the films to pose big questions about existence, love, and mortality.

07 April 2011

Please Hear Me Ohio

I had the occasion to first listen to Damien Jurado's song "Ohio" at a particularly lonely moment in time - living alone in Columbus in a sterile high rise studio apartment the fall after graduation, feeling that overwhelming anxiety that everyone does when the weather starts to turn and you begin to realize, as lame as it sounds, that this is a new indeterminate phase in life (that feeling does end, folks).

I'm not particularly diligent in consuming recommended songs, but once I get around to it, I generally fall in love. Between my 25 minute drive to and from work and time in an apartment without internet or television, I listened to a lot of mixes that were any combination of months or years old. They were filled with melancholy songs like "Ohio," Yo La Tengo's "I Feel Like Going Home," and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's "A Strange Form of Life." It wasn't that I only liked sad songs, either. I also just desperately needed to decompress after a full day of Abercrombie & Fitch music blasting through the speakers of the corporate offices. If it was playing in the store, it was also playing in my cubicle, and aside from a pretty great remix of Rihanna's "Umbrella," every song was soul crushingly annoying.

I think I would have loved the song even if it weren't called "Ohio," but, as it happened, I started listening to it in a time of isolation and sadness living there. Of course it's not really about Ohio the place at all. It's about* a sad guy meeting a sad girl who is longing to return to Ohio to see her mother who she hasn't seen in ages. Even though I was personally longing for some other place, the slow guitar, persistent harmonica, and aching narrative combined with Jurado's mournful voice seemed to capture everything about that moment for me. And the best part is that the song is meaningful just because of that. I never searched Pitchfork to see if it had been deemed cool, I never looked up when the song was from, and I never listened another Damien Jurado song. It exists solely for that version of myself who lived in Ohio for nine months.

Some time after that, a friend directed me to a CocoRosie cover of the song.

Thanks to a voice that is somehow appealing even though the only way I can think to describe it is a 3-year-old shouting, the song is fundamentally altered, but the emotional resonance stays the same. I think it might be the addition of the lyrical "oooohhh seeeee you sometimes" in the background and the consistency of the harmonica.

This week TwentyFourBit linked a cover of "Ohio" by the new-to-me band Strand of Oaks, so of course I had to listen.

Strand of Oaks - "Ohio" (Damien Jurado Cover) by TwentyFourBit.com

I am all for a good cover song, no matter how drastically the original is altered, whether it's only slightly like Camera Obscura covering Bruce Springsteen or massively with Frente! covering New Order. But, this? I just don't like it. I get that it's nice sounding and that it's essentially the same song, but the vocals and the instrumentals are too pretty, too polished, like Ryan Adams crossed with Rufus Wainwright. I find myself yearning for the grittiness of the harmonica, Jurado's wobbly voice, and CocoRosie's crackly whine. There's no urgency in this version, no sense of loss.

Perhaps it's for the better. I don't have the capacity to love three versions of a song after "Tougher Than The Rest." Also, as a result of the news, I got to revisit a song that I loved dearly but had cycled out of my playlist over the past few years.

*I mean, I think that's what it's about. That line about "you see I was taken while I lay sleeping by my father's hired men" confuses me.Were they movers? Henchmen? Was she kidnapped?

06 April 2011

The Met Gala Rules

Anna Dello Russo, Editor-at-Large for Japanese Vogue and eccentric girl about town issued 10 Rules for those attending the annual Met Gala, with unfathomable standards, lousy but amusing English ("the Giselle's body" and HELLS for HEELS), and inexplicable usage of all caps. 

Anna Dello Russo

1. It's Prohibited choose the wrong OUTFIT.
Look and look again hundred thousand times
all the shows on Vogue.com.

2. Opt for the HAUTE COUTURE.
You only live once!

3. For at least a month before, prepare your
BODY with an iron DETOX discipline and
a daily TRAINING.
You must be radiant!

4. Choose a long evening GOWN.
Unless you don't have the Giselle's body
not wear a short dress!

5. Put some beautiful SHOES with which
walk straight and FIERCE.
Your legs cannot wobbling over
HELLS exceeding 11 cm.

6. MAKEUP and HAIR: 
Here you can exaggerate!
You have to invent a character,
you'll transform into another woman,
give her another name
and you'll feel more SECURE.

7. Strictly: JEWEL-CLUTCH in hand.

8. Leave your WATCH at home, even if precious,
cause it may be unkind to those who invited you.

9. Rigorously forbidden to take iPhone pics
at VIP'S and CELEBS!

10. When you get to that very long,
dreadful RED CARPET,
take a deep breath and SMILE."

Thanks, Anna, for insider tips, like "wear a nice dress and shoes you can walk in" and "try to avoid deep dish pizza the month before." I want the real stuff! Like don't UNPLUG Katy Perry's Dress, avoid spilling red wine ON Diane Kruger's Calvin Klein, and try to refrain from asking Andre Leon Talley how many CHILDREN are stashed under his cape."

Anyway, for all the normals out there, I'll see you on NYMag.com on May 3 to browse the 2011 slideshows, deal?

05 April 2011

Cannes International Film Festival: The Posters

Yesterday, the official poster of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival was released online, featuring a repurposed Jerry Schatzberg photo of Faye Dunaway circa 1970.

If you have some time to kill, it is kind of fun to go through the poster archives, which go back to 1946. I'd just recommend that you skip the '70s. They're truly horrible, and not even in a souglyitscool kind of way.

Here are some of my favorites.

04 April 2011

Rick Deckard's Apartment Woes

Frank Lloyd Wright's 1924 Ennis-Brown House is having a rough time. Fresh off of a costly renovation to repair the eroding structure thanks to a 2006 FEMA grant and a $4.5 million loan, the Ennis House Foundation decided that the famous Los Feliz structure would be best served by a private owner's care and resources (the Los Angeles Times estimated an additional investment of $5-$7 million would be needed to restore the house complete) - and not as a public access tourist destination. Thus in mid-2009, the house officially went on the market at an asking price of $15 million. Since then it's been slashed a number of times, and on Friday, CurbedLA reported that the price had dropped once more to $5.999 million.

Julius Shulman Photograph

As one of only four FLW textile block houses and the site of Rick Deckard's apartment, it must be surprising that it hasn't been scooped up yet by some architecture fanatic or Blade Runner fanboy.

Blade Runner (1982, Ridley Scott) 

Thom Anderson chronicles the pop history of the Ennis House in Los Angeles Plays Itself. It has played "a 19th century house, a contemporary mansion, a 21st century apartment building, and a 26th century science lab." Blade Runner and The Rocketeer aside, my favorite use of the house is as a location in David Lynch's absurd "Author Series" ads for Calvin Klein's Obsession perfume.

The Ennis House goes well with melodramatic readings of D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love.

But regardless of the low and highbrow interpretations of the house and its place on the pop culture register, the fact remains that it has yet to sell. After almost two years on the market, continued price cutting, rumors of being moved to Japan, wtf suggestions by Diane Keaton that perhaps Brad Pitt should buy it, I wonder why they can't revisit the concept of making the iconic house a museum like the Hollyhock House. At what point is it just embarrassing to leave it up for sale?


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