Quick! Someone Identify These People!

February 20, 2009

Which ones are writer Miranda July and which ones are musician Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent).  Good luck.

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Passion Pit Drives Schubas Crazy

January 28, 2009

Just reviewed Passion Pit for UR Chicago here.

Will re-post the article below, and extend it with some more rambling commentary…

 

In a giddy fit of keyboards, falsettos, and saccharine dance beats, Boston newcomers Passion Pit are charming their way west during their first national tour.  P.P. bounced their way through a congenial but criminally short set last night at Schubas, as Michael Angelakos engaged the audience with the same disarming manner and sky-high vocals that seep through every track of his debut EP, Chunk of Change.

PassionPitSchubas1.28-7 

The set started out playful and keyboard-heavy with Angelakos’ ear for pop melody pushing to the forefront.  Flanked a guitar, drums, two Rolands, a Moog, and sitting behind a Yamaha synth himself, Angelakos’ dare-you-to-sing-higher-than-me octaves pierced through riffs, piano lines, and programmed back-beats. Espousing sentiments that in lower vocal ranges might be cringe inducing diary entries, the proper set ended with the dance-happy electropop of “Sleepyhead” and “Better Things” to which the sellout crowd lost their collective brains to, bloggers and ALTBros alike.

Angelakos apologized repeatedly for the abridged set, but, the audience couldn’t blame them for succinctness – Passion Pit just haven’t been around long enough to have a full set.

In a backstory that’s impossible not to repeat; Passion Pit’s origins couldn’t be more endearing: Originally a late Valentine’s Day present for Angelakos’ g/f, the “Chunk of Change” CDR made the rounds at Emerson University, made waves in Boston, and made headlines after some stellar sets at this year’s CMJ music fest in New York. A few months later, after some east coast practice gigs, they’re on tour backed by new label Frenchkiss, playing the six songs that everyone knows and road-testing a few new ones.

Passion Pit’s sincerity and DIY style fits with just a few other bands who somehow dodge be criticized for being goddamned “sincere” all the time — people have seemed to get really sick of that recently. (The fact that, as 20-something culture consumers, we already have issues with earnestness is fodder for a different blog).

I see Angelakos along side other singer/songwriters like Khaela Maricich (The Blow), Ben Gibbard (a-la The Postal Service), and Robert Wratten (Field Mice) as artists that manage to be shmultsy but nevertheless loveable.

Let it be a lesson to those aspiring coffeehouse guitar wankers… if you’re inspired to put your love / breakup letters to music and share it with the world, do two things:

  1. Sing higher and/or softer than you’re comfortable
  2. Put some good fucking beats behind it

You’ll be a blogosphere hero in no time.


Lost is Back in the Future

January 22, 2009

Through the darkness of future past,
The magician longs to see
One chance out between two worlds:
Fire, walk with me.

-Twin Peaks

As all great shows do, LOST’s Season 5 began last night and answered a few questions (that most already knew) and added a whole bunch more.  So now, as great politicians do, I will pose questions for myself to answer:

 

Q: Why is Sawyer so tubby?

A:  Despite the amount of ‘Suspension of Disbelief’ required for LOST fans, I’m still dismayed by how doughy Sawyer looks.  That said, I guess I have to accept that Sawyer is played by a real human who is not stuck on a mysterious time-jumping island.

 

Q: Why is Sawyer obsessed with putting a shirt on for most of the episode, and why do they focus on him getting jabbed by a sharp bamboo stick?

A:  My best guess is that Sawyer (who was stuck in a giant Skinner Box during Season 2), will now start living through Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Need” theory.  In which shoeless/shirtless Caveman Sawyer can not become truly “self-actualized” until his base needs are met — Food, Water, Clothing, Shelter, Companionship… or as Sawyer would see it — mangos, beer, flannel, a tarp and Juliet(?).   In fact, as LOSTwriters are prone to do, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an unsubtle hint, like a character named “Maslow”, show up on the island.

 

 

Q: Did I catch LOST using both the titles “3 years Before” and “3 Years Ago” in the same episode?

A: I thought I did… bullshit right?  It feels like they’re being aimlessly deceptive.

 

Q: Does the ability of all characters to jump through time and space revolutionize the show?

A: Prettymuch

  

 

Q: Do Tell.

A: It’s a smart move on the writer’s part.  Any loopholes that previous seasons have created can now be closed by depicting their preceding events (in the past) that haven’t been shown yet (in future episodes).

Also, it’s a great storytelling tool that allows the viewer to be sympathetic to a character’s implausible plight.  In that way it reminds me of the film Memento, where moviegoers observe a hero with no long-term memory in scenes which run backward from end to beginning — thereby projecting the character’s brain issues onto its viewers.

 

Q:  Intriguing.  Please go on!

A: If you insist, good sir…  by telling the stories of the “past”, “present” and “future” simultaneously, at some level the viewer will be rattled by revelations that the characters themselves are experiencing.

Also, if you care to geek out about physics even more so (like I occasionally try to), good ‘ol Einstein showed that all “time” really runs concurrently.  (As well as fixed and unalterable as Daniel Farrady emphatically argues.)

So… viewing LOST in what David Lynch might call “the futurepast”, with all times going on at the same time, is actually just as valid as viewing a story from what we perceive, relatively, as the right way — beginning, middle, and end.  Ohhhh, Science — fucking with my brain again.

photo via the Chicago Sun Times

Q:  I feel dizzy and humbled by this new knowledge.  Does this have any direct implications within the reality of the show beyond clever and overly-smart script writing?

A: Absolutely maybe!  For the first two seasons we’d been watching (what we thought were) real-time events buttressed by compelling (and suspiciously coincidental) background stories that manifest themselves on the island.

The first twist was that Beardy Jack (and later other characters like Sun and Kate) were being shown in what we first thought were flashbacks, then concluded were flashforwards, but know now thanks to Season 5 (and Einstein, I guess) that the correct timing of events is all um…. Relative.  I mean, it would be a flash forward or backward only if you view the Oceanic 6’s time on The Island as the “present”.  (And now even that’s messed up.)

So, now that we know that they ACTUALLY JUMP THROUGH TIME AND SPACE, all the things that seem like ridiculous happenstance and coincidence could actually be an intricate and calculated set of events put into motion not by chance, but by necessity.  (And, as a further mind-fuck, possibly set in motion by their future selves in order to set-right the only future that wouldn’t unravel the Fabric of the Cosmos).  And now, if you’re keeping score, we’ve stumbled into Donnie Darko territory.  Break out the emo eyeliner.

More on this later… some thoughts on the future/past, and maybe a sprinkling of mind/body and dream/reality concepts.  So yeah, stuff you talked about while high, or in your Philosophy 001 class, or possibly both simultaneously.


Two Wheel Empire

December 19, 2008

http://www.empirebegins.com/

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  Visually, this is really cool, stuff…  agressive city biking, but there’s not that many “tricks” so much as it is not getting killed in traffic — which, I guess, in itself is a pretty nifty trick.  It’s evident that hanging onto the sides of cars and trucks (skitchin’?) is all the rage, which places urban bike culture about 20 years behind urban skate culture…  Marty McFly would be like “‘pshaw, been there, done that.” 

I’m also a proponent of riding your bike in the city as opposed to cars.  It makes sense for SO many reasons, but, as a rider of a city bike, some of the stuff they do in this video is the reason why drivers hate bikers so much.  Just saying.  Cutting off pedestrians, weaving against traffic, etc, this is why some motorists honk/swear/cut you off.    Additionally, as many drivers correctly suspect, a big incentive of riding in the city IS pissing off cars.  It’s true, and I hate to generalize, but it seems that the bikers in this video are those sort of “He’s totally in my face” type bike enthusiasts.

Regardless… a pretty cool video.  Never have I been more concerned about the safety of the CAMERAMAN than the performer… in a way, the videographer in these type of films deserves a ton of credit, and maybe a generous healthcare plan.


Exquisite Cardboard

December 8, 2008

ExquisiteCityBlock
In their ongoing efforts to become a “non-typical” venue for the arts, The Viaduct Theatre on Western Ave has been hosting an exhibit called “Exquisite City“… a play off of the art game “Exquisite Copse” in which different artists depict parts of a body without seeing the whole — E.C. invited artists from across the city to depict their view of the city completely in cardboard, and then compile them together as individual, miniature city blocks.  Lots of great work, including from one of my favorite poster artists Dan Grzeca, musician/artists collaborator Sally Timms and TONS of others. 

The finished product of Exquisite City is very interesting… some abstract, some apolcolyptic, some detailed down to sidewalk curbs and little dramas taking place in little aprtment windows… wonderful stuff. 

I’ll upload more photo’s later, but here’s an impressive foot-tall appropration of The Hideout:

and the real one c/o the blog “The Inside Clam Digger“…


Stately Designs

December 8, 2008

Fun States

Gotta a tattoo of a State?  My boy Tim’s just created a Flickr pool that’s trying to compile tattoos from every state in the union — cleverly called “The Statoos Pool

BTW, Tim’s already got Wisconsin covered…

the Stattoos group icon

 

Oh, and if you just have a tatoo of a rectangle, I’m sure Time could find some Great Plains/Mountain Time state that it will accomodate.


Did You Get That Memo: Office Culture is Pop Culture

October 9, 2008

(Originally posted last February on the UR Chicago site but no longer accessible.  I had to save my baby).

Can you believe it’s been nearly a decade since Office Space? That’s roughly 36 financial quarters of bad Lumberg impressions and Swingline stapler jokes. The unforeseen longevity of a movie like Office Space -– a cynical look at corporate drones — stuck with the American audience long after its theatre run. Though the defining modern corporate farce is getting old, it seems like “life at the office” has become an increasingly prevalent touchstone. A new breed of unflinching, cynical, critical, tragi-comic and sometimes downright depressing office themed productions have hit a cultural nerve.

There have always been the silly corporate comedies and hyper-real farces a-la Office Space, Dilbert, and (can I throw in) Fred Savage’s short-lived Working, but it seems the new crop of pop-culture corporate landscapes have a biting, sad, desperate underpinning. What’s the deal?

The obvious jumping-off point is NBC’s excellent adaptation of The Office — a satire that turns a documentary-style camera on the lives of paper salespeople in first-world Nowheresville. It’s a show that’s both funny and melancholy — simultaneously hilarious and hitting a little too close to home. You’ve also got the inanity of Carpoolers, a silly single-cam show that’s the brainchild of Kids In the Hall graduate Bruce McCulloch. If you flash back 50 years and add some slick suits, the politics, binge drinking and philandering could easily be that of the sloganeering Madison Ave execs of AMC’s period drama Mad Men.

Elsewhere in the business world, author Matthew Beaumont documents the hilarity of London’s fictional Miller-Shanks office in a story told strictly through exchanged e-mail in e. If the U.K. doesn’t hit close enough to home, local cube dweller Joshua Ferris is getting stellar reviews for Then We Came to the End, a wry comedic novel chronicling the dismantling of a Chicago ad agency.

Of course, I can’t get too far into an office-themed blog without mentioning OFFICE, the group of former Chicago worker bees who produced a killer EP, quit their day jobs, and now professionally churn out bouncy pop tracks with some seriously sardonic underpinnings. Elsewhere in the music world there’s been a huge response to the National’s CD, Boxer. The album, with equal parts charm and anxiety, chronicles the Willy Loman-esque slide of a modern corporate worker into a nostalgic shut-in.

So if popular music, books and television are meant as means of escapism, what’s to say for an audience that’s developed an interest in fictionalized versions of working stiffs? Is the emergence of corporate-themed amusements just a mere coincidence, a blip on the radar, or a hint of more to come? Whatever the explanation, the subject matter has resonance and the writing is good, so I will continue to ignore the inherent irony of hanging around the office every week to talk about The Office.