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The Other Son
The Other Son
DVD
Price: $1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Deserts, Borders, & Genes : A Rare Masterpiece, July 17, 2014
Any work of art that blends Hebrew, Arabic, French and English dialogue with equally eclectic cinematography and performances that can only be described as borderline breathtaking gets my vote. This is a rare masterpiece that one should own, not rent. A special mention to Jules and Mehdi Dehbi who play the leads, as well as the female director who approaches geopolitical strife through an altogether unique lens, albeit realistic by the end of it.

Oscar-worthy? Yes. Virtually unknown? Yes. 2013's Film of the Year? Yes. On a side note, the multicolored hues of urban Israel and the various shades of brown across the dusty border have perhaps never been captured before on film this lovingly.

Five Stars.


Paradise Valley
Paradise Valley
Price: $11.88
89 used & new from $4.25

0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A raccoon tried to cross the highway and then.... SPLAT, December 9, 2013
This review is from: Paradise Valley (Audio CD)
Once upon a time in the imaginary land of Mayerville, a raggedy used up & washed out hobo from the streets accidentally chanced upon a guitar and took to pawing at it with his considerably large talons while contorting his face in a series of expressions that can only be termed as unfortunate. Between this depressing visual spectacle and the sounds that ensued from both guitar and hobo’s oral orifice, an entire town entered that quaint state of being that we in these times refer to as bankruptcy. Years later, while banging away at the same guitar with a most misplaced gusto, the hobo chances upon a gigantic blow up doll that also dabbles in ‘music’, conjuring up a dream team even Lucifer couldn’t quite put together if he wanted to. Defying all laws of photometry & biochemistry, the two cadavers traveled the length and breadth of the township reducing infants to tears & sending their elderly grandparents to a very early grave. Now they’re releasing a duet. Suffice to say this harsh treatment meted out to you, the most disrespected listener, is something one wouldn’t wish upon Mussolini. A great use for this disc is to fling it in the air, pretend it’s a UFO, & call NASA insisting you’ve broken the code. Avoid.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 14, 2013 5:41 PM PST


Britney Jean (Deluxe Edition)
Britney Jean (Deluxe Edition)
Offered by vsource
Price: $15.10
85 used & new from $5.12

7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Put a bunny in a blender & hit frappe, December 4, 2013
Abstract art is not exactly a concept Ms Spears was ever a proponent of, and this misguided stubbornness on her part lends her new supposedly personal work an air of abject irrelevance. Granted the artist in question was never one to transcend the pop stratosphere into a hallowed zone where only two or three human individuals have soared, but this project is at best a hollandaise sauce entirely ruined by the unfortunate addition of balsamic vinegar in the ratio of two tablespoons to one metric ton. As a `personal' work, advertised as such yet possessing none of the requisite preconditions to actually classify as one, this meandering and un-merry ride through the land of Autotunia is at best depressing and underwhelming, not to mention stripped of everything that, in basic terminology, makes music music. Drawing parallels between the artists' previous work and this one, it is evident that the downward spiral is well and truly in full force; or perhaps this is how said artist always is. In which case, the item under review is perhaps more depressing than previously thought to be. Amongst the many loosely termed musical compositions here is "Alien" where the artiste ponders on life and existentialism if she were an alien; "Passenger", where the artiste talks about being a passenger, & "Perfume", where the artiste waxes eloquent about the uses of perfume in certain situations. This is grim, dire stuff, altogether harrowing in parts. Watching an animal self combust is painful enough, but watching the long drawn out process of self slaughtering upon an axe of ones own making is something one would not wish upon unsuspecting audiences, no matter how morbid ones' tastes. As an exposition of the birth of the suicidal tendency, this is a masterclass on its own, but as an inspired work of sonic importance this is as necessary or relevant as Charlotte Bronte's lost letters to her maid Esmerelda. Avoid like the plague.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 4, 2013 9:09 AM PST


Traces of You
Traces of You
Offered by megahitrecords
Price: $12.99
71 used & new from $3.61

1 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Miss Jones Ruins The Perfect Recipe, November 24, 2013
This review is from: Traces of You (Audio CD)
Anoushka Shankar's previous albums "Rise" & "Traveller" may be recognizable to Western audiences due to the PR surrounding those projects at the time, but "Traces of You", her 2013 record, arrived with far less fanfare, despite it being in parts even better than her past works. Anoushka's training under the tutelage of her father Ravi Shankar seems to really showcase itself here - comparing this to her debut album that was striking in its ineptitude in parts, this one is a welcome relief & only goes to show how hard she has been working on her craft. She plays her instrument with the skill of an old hand, and wisely chooses melodies that highlight her excellent skills (something that was sorely missing on `Traveller', despite most people falling for it as it had more of a `world music' feel to it, and wasn't a traditional Indian classical album like her earlier "Anourag" was).

The highlight for most people who gravitate toward this record is that it features Anoushka's sister Norah on a handful of tracks - and whether or not this is enough to make people want to purchase this is up in the air, but in my estimation it perhaps was a most ill-advised move, as the Norah tracks are the most jarring & at times even cringe-worthy. Consider the pathetic songwriting on "Unsaid", which is supposed to be a heartfelt ode of some sort, but one listen to the amateur songwriting & you wonder how Norah could even sign up for something so decidedly mediocre. Certainly, Anoushka's sitar skills on this one are sublime, but they deserve a far better track. Easily the most disposable track on the entire album; but things don't altogether get better with the opening track "The Sun Won't Set", which consists of exactly two lines repeated ad nauseum in the hopes it will somehow function as a passable chorus ("The sun won't set, not now not yet"). When a song elicits laughs more than appreciation, there is definitely an issue at hand; one that again appears on the title track "Traces of You" (also the official first single), which is a much better example of how a Norah and Anoushka collaboration should sound. It isn't especially pathbreaking, but is sweet and pleasant and altogether serviceable, and I suppose if you go in with minimal expectations you might come away feeling halfway pleased.

The rest of the record is where the true talent lies, as its stripped down and features just Anoushka and her instrument - most beautifully evident on "Flight", which might easily be the best track here. Going back to some of her raga-based classical Indian roots is a good move on a record that seems just so scattered with those Norah collaborations, and once again reminds us why Anoushka is a worthy heir to her fathers' many talents. Along the way, she also pays homage to an Indian victim of abuse (a well documented case in India in 2013), celebrates Indian monsoons, walks us through the stages of illusion in "Maya", and celebrates her fathers' life on the touching instrumental piece "Fathers" (which thankfully Norah doesn't ruin with her voice as she isn't even featured). Heres the thing, if you were waiting around for a delicious collaborative record between the two sisters, this one definitely is not that project. Norah's husky voice just seems out of place and jarring in a setting as serene as Indian sitar playing, and try as she might, Anoushka's attempts to pair her instrument with her sisters' voice just doesn't work. They had three songs here to prove that they could harmonize, and each one only proves that they cannot. Pleasant enough, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to sit through an entire album of their bizarre musical pairing. There is something off with the way they try to be in sync - I can't put my finger on it, but I sure don't want them to team up again anytime soon if their results are this mediocre.

To sum up, I give this three stars. It would have been a four star record if Norah hadn't been on it. Unfortunately, she is, so there goes that plan.


Artpop
Artpop
Price: $6.96
148 used & new from $1.99

2 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Empiric Nature of Rational Existentialism, November 21, 2013
This review is from: Artpop (Audio CD)
When transposing the quantum principles of subatomic relativity to the parameters of musical possibility, the Eisenhower triplets were most benevolent in terms of massacring what was left of certain auditory crevices. In much the same manner, this artist embraces the terrestrial instrument known as a machete and proceeds to unleash it upon various notes and tones thereby rendering the landscape altogether unrecognizable. It is with this repeated action that said product is most unfathomable, both from a Victorian as well as a Renaissance perspective. In the age of Schopenhauer, it was altogether unanimously declared that the prime method to achieve unison with gravel and soil were to henceforth display qualities of the two items in question, which to much dismay, the artist has embraced most disconcertingly. In some circles, primarily those of the Neolithic era, specimens such as the artist in question were observed as an anomaly & an example of evolution's most cruel tricks upon truly unsuspecting masses. This in turn created two modalities, namely the butterfly effect & the Stockholm Syndrome, upon which this set is most unwittingly based. This would in part be a lesson in the loss of unrequited mirth, yet probing minds with a sense of inquiry and self reflection would relate this back to the era of the morse code, when undue importance was meted out to indecipherable messages that had no basis in reality or common sense to begin with. In the same vein, one could deconstruct this set by comparing the skills therein to the mimes of Paris, where invisible glass boxes became synonymous with a display of talent, despite there being a marked shortfall in said department. Most intriguingly, the bourgeois masses through the twenty first century, numbed by apathy and fatigue, are incapable of making the connection to things past, such as the design of watermarks in a vacuum and their invisibility thereafter, rendering things both non-essential and incapable of even existing, further destroying the third correlation to actual reality, which in turn is a concept best left alone. With time comes the return of certain vestibules, and the absence of vestibules altogether can only point to a negation of skill or the even more apt analogy that skill was non existent to begin with, unless one factored in slaughter houses. That opens up a plethora of various other possibilities, but in summary, it is best not to theorize and even better not to experience said product in a domestic or exterior environment without the backing of years of scientific and cumulative psychosomatic research. No stars.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 4, 2013 9:05 AM PST


PRISM (Deluxe)
PRISM (Deluxe)
Price: $13.00
45 used & new from $8.00

12 of 62 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The stable burned down & all the horses are dead, October 24, 2013
This review is from: PRISM (Deluxe) (Audio CD)
A horse wails over the sound of its own execution. A traumatized passer-by euthanizes the horse to put it out of its misery. All of a sudden, a gentle breeze. Alas, its not so much a gentle breeze as a gust of wind carrying biochemical waste in the form of dust particles. Soon, the barn is reduced to rubble, packed to the brim with animal corpses; a hint of sulphur dioxide in the air. An armed guard swoops down with a detonation device and the rest is history. Years later, the horse is crowned champion at the derby for the disabled, & hobbles its way past the finish line, crumbling to the floor in a heap of exhaustion & hopelessness. Unfortunately by this point, no one cares, and its limp, lifeless body is wheeled out of the arena only to be scavenged upon by cannibalistic lepers, leading to a photo finish of sorts, while trumpets blare & nightingales croon in unison. A month later, everyone is six feet under, but beneath the ground the hearts of the ravaged bodies still tick away, a premonition of things to come.

This is that album.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 24, 2013 10:12 AM PST


Tidal
Tidal
Offered by Lunch money
Price: $15.51
495 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Only Happens Once, October 22, 2013
This review is from: Tidal (Audio CD)
Its hard to believe a wafer-thin eighteen year old girl with no prior record deal would hit the ball out the park right with her debut but that is exactly what happened with “Tidal”, young Fiona Apple’s debut record; and till today possibly her finest. Despite belonging to the nineties, the album sounds timeless, the production sparkles, there is absolutely no filler, & it harkens back to the day when albums were real albums – as in a cohesive piece of work where one song flows into the next without pandering to the audience in the fashion that today’s singles-ridden record industry seems oft to do.

“Tidal” is exceptional for many reasons, and is perhaps the greatest debut by a female singer-songwriter in record history. The closest parallel that can be drawn is with Tori Amos’ debut record “Little Earthquakes” (although Toriphiles would argue that Tori’s actual first album was by her now defunct band Y Kant Tori Read). Nothing else comes remotely close. This album is immediately arresting due to its decision to put Apple’s jazz-influenced husky voice up front and center, rather than drowning it down with instrumentation. Considering the time period it came from, this is remarkable (try listening to some of those Sophie B. Hawkins & Heather Nova albums and you’ll know exactly what I mean).

Even more interesting, the best songs on this piece of art are the ones that were not singles. “Criminal”, for which it is best known, is a grand statement even all these years later, but check out the subdued production of “Carrion”, and also the subtle flourishes in “Pale September”. They work as the album closers but they are exceptional & possibly the best things on the record, followed quite obviously by “The First Taste”, which is still haunting in this day and age; the lyrics are something Fiona herself has been unable to surpass, despite of course their tendency to veer into dramatics & over the top imagery. That though is part of the magic, and I for one embrace Apple’s attempts at poetic genius rather than deride them.

Fiona’s next album “When the Pawn” was equally grandiose, albeit with more of an alternative rock edge, and her later albums “Extraordinary Machine”, and 2012’s “The Idler Wheel” are all naturally fantastic, but there is *something* about “Tidal” that is unforgettable. Definitely a desert island disc in my opinion, and one that every serious record collector should own properly on CD or vinyl. On a side note the production values on this disc are nothing short of overwhelmingly good. “Tidal” is on my Top 10 list of the Greatest Albums of All Time, a list that also contains Tori Amos’ “Scarlet’s Walk”, Joanna Newsom’s “Ys”, & Cocorosie’s “Gray Oceans”. If any or all of those albums appeal to you, you might want to check out this record.

Indispensable. Five Stars.


Strange Mercy
Strange Mercy
Price: $13.13
56 used & new from $7.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars St. Vincent in the Afternoon, September 19, 2011
This review is from: Strange Mercy (Audio CD)
St. Vincent's 2011 album reminds one a lot of "Wounded Rhymes" by Lykke Li, also from 2011. The two records share a lot in common, despite being thematically quite different. Where Li's album focused on remorse and the dark, St. Vincent's attempt is more light-hearted and more unapologetically bursting with estrogen. Whether or not this translates to a more rewarding listening experience is something only time will answer, but the similarities don't end there. Both the artists started off as mere whispers on the blogosphere before becoming huge independent artists with a very devoted fanbase. However, while Li's musical repertoire is more `user-friendly' for the lack of a better term, St. Vincent's is more experimental and definitely needs listener investment to reap any rewards.

The artists' second album, "Actor" was a fine piece of work, straddling both the old and new worlds of independent music in a revolutionary fashion, much like Sufjan Stevens did with "Illinoise" a few years prior to that. I still consider it a highly experimental record, with some tracks revealing themselves only after weeks and months of play; with very few that instantly grabbed ones attention. A singalong album it was not. Despite that, "Actor" went on to become one of the years most critically acclaimed releases - and some time down the line, it seems to hold up pretty well; indeed I discovered new layering on some of the tracks that I'd completely missed the first time around. In terms of unraveling, it does a fine job.

"Strange Mercy", the artists' third venture on record, opens on exactly the right note with "Chloe in the Afternoon". As a concept record, this one is pretty straightforward, as it embraces sensuality and all of its myriad possibilities - from furtive random encounters to more risqué episodes - in a manner that Annie Clark hasn't ever hinted at in her previous work. The opener is graphic and sets the tone for the rest of the record. Consider this line from "Surgeon", where St. Vincent reveals "I spent the summer on my back". For those who term St. Vincent's music as `low fi acoustic rock', that is in part true. There are moments on this album that are dark, toned down, and silent; while others, like a moment on `Northern Lights' leap straight through the speakers with an unbridled momentum. Its on tracks like these where Annie Clark truly gets to shine; and this record is testament to the fact that good songwriting is sometimes paired with some really good melodies as well (and of course, no one in the present day music world does that better than Joanna Newsom).

Mention must also be made of Annie Clark's almost ethereal vocals that do the hazy, otherworld thing as well as Beach House or even Mazzy Star. Someone who listened to this record as I initially began noting down its major points to review, said that it sounds like two or three minutes of Clark's fairy vocals over lush instrumentation, followed by a track that bordered on inspired rock music but actually isn't; with this formula being adapted through the running length of the entire album. This is in part true, as well, but I consider this a plus as it gives the listener a good chance to slow down after an uptempo track, and honestly, Clarks vocals are so beguiling, I wouldn't really mind even a wholly acoustic album from her.

On a side note, listeners will note that this album is released by 4AD. Hopefully there are some of us who still remember that this is the inspired label to whom Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, and the incomparable Lisa Gerrard owe the birth of their careers to. Any label that could release "The Mirror Pool" by Lisa Gerrard has some pretty good street cred. The label involvement seems to spill through to the record cover, it's a cover only 4AD could have endorsed, and rightfully so.

"Strange Mercy" undoubtedly is one of the best releases of 2011, and its contents sometime defy description. Lets just say that if you, at one point, enjoyed "Veckatimest" by Grizzly Bear, or "Merriweather Post Pavilion" by Animal Collective, this is the kind of record you should be listening to. And that is fine praise for Ms. Clark indeed.

Four and a half stars. An indispensable addition to your music collection.

Tracklisting:

1. "Chloe in the Afternoon" 2:55
2. "Cruel" 3:35
3. "Cheerleader" 3:28
4. "Surgeon" 4:25
5. "Northern Lights" 3:33
6. "Strange Mercy" 4:28
7. "Neutered Fruit" 4:13
8. "Champagne Year" 3:28
9. "Dilettante" 4:03
10. "Hysterical Strength" 3:16
11. "Year of the Tiger" 3:28


Pirate's Gospel
Pirate's Gospel
Price: $15.00
29 used & new from $5.96

5.0 out of 5 stars Sparse & Woodsy, June 28, 2011
This review is from: Pirate's Gospel (Audio CD)
"The Pirate's Gospel" has an unusual history. It was written by Diane on a trip to Europe in 2003, and recorded in her fathers' home studio in 2004. Its subsequent release was on CD-R back in 2004, until word of mouth and good indie press meant that it would eventually get a (slightly) wider release in 2006 through Holocene Music. Despite its near-reverence in indie-folk circles, it is a work of art that still remains virtually unknown and you would be hard-pressed to find many independent music listeners even passingly familiar with the back-catalog of Ms. Diane.

A pity to be sure, as "The Pirate's Gospel" sets the blueprint for what would be Alela's true masterpiece (her subsequent album "To Be Still"), and in many ways it can be considered a stripped down, acoustic template that served as a primer for "To be Still". It's a very woodsy album, low on even instrumentation, letting Alela's vocals take centerstage (as they should), with quaint lyrics that sound positively Victorian when compared to the work her peers are writing these days. There are medieval influences here, and her story-telling inclinations are well served, and even well-placed given the context. These songs literally breathe on the record, each one of them given the space and freedom to take their time. Its an easy album to get lost in, and one that draws the listener back for multiple listens. Despite being a wholly acoustic album, there are tons of little details that only reveal themselves upon repeated listens - such as the harmonized humming on "Can You Blame the Sky?", or the playful whistle at the start of "Somethings gone Awry".

At times, Diane's songwriting reminds me of Joanna Newsom. This became more apparent on her next album, but here its very close to the forest-spirit persona that Newsom perfected on her own initial EPs (there is an undeniable Newsom-Diane connection if you so choose to research it, as well). But while the writing is uniformly excellent, it's the melodies given to them that truly allow them to come into their own. Consider the simplistic yearning of "Pieces of String", a feathery track that makes itself absolutely vital due to its little touches; its unique harmonizing, and the sudden burst of childrens voices on the lines of the chorus.

True aficionados of Diane's catalog will (or perhaps not) agree that her best work came in the form of "White as Diamonds" and "The Alder Trees" from "To Be Still". The latter track especially has proved itself to be formidably timeless, and has had the good fortune of being responsible for some of Ms Diane's incredible indie success in France (both this and her next album are huge smoky folk-bar hits). It's a lush, tender record that gives Alela Diane's breathtaking voice the respect it deserves; and while it is by no means a `modern' sounding record, its vintage tweaks and production will certainly reel in lovers of music with a gothic, otherworldly touch to them.

In many ways, I would compare this to some of the earliest work of both Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart. While Banhart has lost some of his edge since his major label record contract, Newsom hasn't, and if you liked "Walnut Whales", then by all means go for "The Pirates Gospel". It has the potential to become a staple in your household, especially if quality, underrated female singer-songwriters is your forte.

File alongside Meg Baird, Vashti Bunyan, Joanna Newsom, Ex Reverie, Alina Hardin, Isobel Campbell.

Five Stars. An indispensable addition to your music collection.


Les premiers papillons
Les premiers papillons
Price: $8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spring, Butterflies & Teleportation, May 19, 2011
This review is from: Les premiers papillons (MP3 Music)
Fabien Boeuf's "Les Premiers Papillons" ("The First Butterflies") is yet another classic example of a folk-pop record that manages to stand out solely based on its musical merit. Its interesting to note that in this day and age there are still albums that are applauded and lauded based on their quality rather than their advertising budget. Boeuf's primary strengths are that he has crafted a collection of songs that are all hugely listenable, and also that even despite conforming to a sort of folk-pop blueprint perfected by Ben Ricour and Guillaume Cantillon, he still manages to stand out and hold his own.

"Le coeur en dentelle", the album opener, does an admirable job of setting the tone for the entire record, as it draws upon folk and acoustic rock elements and is the ideal track to begin the set. The Beatlesque mood continues with "Mois de Mai", and most notably "Demain les anges", which sounds like something Lenny Kravitz would have executive-produced. There is an infectious guitar riff in the background on this particular track that literally defines it. Also, throughout the entire enterprise, there is a sense of seasons, most notably spring turning into summer, and this gives off an ambience of lazy warm days, trees, shade, and lemonade. If that could be bottled in album form, this would be it.

The great thing about this album is that while the genre and mood of each song is the same, no two songs actually sound alike - a marvel in this day and age. Fabien's voice is straightforward, strong in parts and also light and airy when the songs demand it. There is also a reasonably strong backing vocal group that adds to the impact whenever needs determine so. Personal favorite "Autour de toi" is a prime example of the type of song Boeuf does best - a near acoustic vocal working its way up to a mellow Daft-Punkish beat before peaking in a comfortable sunny chorus that never feels out of place. Its plaintive, melancholic, and most of all, suits the voice of the vocalist (a simple tactic that if often forgotten by modern day musicians).

This 13-track album may not exactly be garnering the huge commercial acclaim that it rightly deserves, but it certainly is one of the more unique examples of a french language album that is capable of appealing to even an audience that doesn't speak French. Boeuf's primary strength is in great enunciation, good diction, and the ability to phrase every word very comprehensibly, so if this is something thats important to you, then this just might be the album for you.

All in all, this is a happy, sunny collection of songs that are almost a celebration of both spring and summer. They work ideally when listened to in sequence and there isn't a single filler or weak track that I could come across, so that is indeed a first for a french language album. If you enjoyed "Des Ballon Rouges" by Guillaume Cantillon, "L'Aventure" by Ben Ricour, "Courchevel" by Florent Marchet, or any of the albums by Albin de la Simone, then this is exactly the sort of music you need to be investing in.

With nary a flaw in sight, I rate this four and a half stars on five. An essential addition to your music collection.


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