Monday, February 22, 2010

Lindi Ortega

I don't know what it is with me and pop music lately, but I seem to be more and more entranced with that perfect radio-friendly song that gets stuck in your head and won't let go. The Wilco album I loved so much from last year was oozing with it. And it's not as though I've had a long-standing hatred of pop music and am just now finally coming around to it - some of my favorite punk bands are extremely pop oriented(i.e., The Misfits, Buzzcocks). Pop is often maligned with soulless, manufactured stars who need to project an image of round-the-clock horniness in order to sell records. Pop, however, is far more universal than that and a good song is a good song.

Lindi Ortega is a Canadian songwriter who has written one of those pop gems that is stuck in my head currently. "Dying of Another Broken Heart" is a 2008 song from her Drifter EP(I know, I'm two years behind). Ortega sounds like a poppier version of Dolly Parton and she will begin recording her first full-length album for her new label Cherrytree Records next month.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Battle of Algiers

Terrorism. Torture. Occupation. The tension between Islam and the West. There is not a more relevant film for this post 9/11 world we live in than director Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers. And, yet, this film was made forty-four years ago in 1966.

The Battle of Algiers documents the Algerian War of Independence against French colonial rule between 1954 and 1960. It depends heavily on non-actors of Algerian descent which director Pontecorvo demanded as a necessity in the "smell of truth" for his film. And it works. Ennio Morricone's score is, at times, so maddening that it provoked anxiety within me. Even though that's not very difficult to do - Morricone's soundtrack for this film works. The bombing scenes are so real that you can't help but wonder if actors were actually hurt in the process.

The film also does a great job of exploring the logic of violence from both the Algerian perspective as well as the French perspective, so much so that the film was criticized for portraying French Colonel Mathieu as too elegant and noble. The Battle of Algiers is an excellent and well-rounded film that is a necessity in understanding the world around us today.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Marina and the Diamonds

It's not often that you will find me singing the praises of European pop music, but when it's dripping with the cynicism and sarcasm found in Marina and the Diamonds' latest song "Hollywood," it's hard not to pay attention.

There's not a whole lot of information in webland about Marina and the Diamonds but, apparently, it's the solo project of 24-year-old Marina Lambrini Diamandis. Her debut album The Family Jewels will be released on February 22, 2010. This young lady is going to be a star.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Allison Moorer

I don't wish emotional suffering on anyone, but when someone can channel that suffering into their music, it's often a beautiful thing no matter how uncomfortable it may make the listener feel. With Allison Moorer's latest album Crows, there's no hidden meanings or layers to unpeel - her sadness is on full display throughout the album's thirteen tracks. And though Moorer is generally regarded as a country singer, Crows doesn't feel like a particularly country album, but it is a beautiful listen none the less.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Casual Victim Pile

One of the biggest independent record labels around today is Matador Records based out of New York City. I had no idea that Matador's co-owner, Gerard Cosloy, actually lived here in Austin until the news broke last year that his house in Austin had been destroyed by a fire. During his four-year stay here, he's been checking out the local underground music scene and decided to put out a compilation of the bands he thought needed to be heard. The result is Casual Victim Pile and it is, in my opinion, the first great record of this decade. The nineteen bands on this compilation are all playing Beerland this weekend and it has all the makings of being a historic chapter in the Austin music scene.