Wednesday, October 8, 2014

American Horror Story Recap: 4.1 "Monsters Among Us"

We begin in Jupiter, Florida, 1952, where a milkman enters a house where his previous delivery remains untouched. The fancy house still has dinner set on the table, and an elderly woman dead next to the table. As he recoils, he hears a thumpity-thump and heads upstairs with the infalliable weapon choice of a rolling pin to investigate. What he thumps...we don't know. But it is rushed to the hospital and we see it's feet on a gurney being pushed down a hallway. The left toes are painted. The right ones are not.

A doctor and nurse in the hospital are looking at xrays, there's one bladder, three kidneys, two spines, four lungs, two hearts. The doctor is trying to play it cool but the nurse keeps staring instead of taking notes.

Enter the belle of all the American Horror Story balls, Jessica Lange, walking down a hospital hallway. She charms her way past a young candy stripper and gets her own outfit to see the double spined wonder. She gives the stripper a card for “Frauline Elsa's Cabinent of Curiosities” and says the only by entering can she know it's secrets. I bet we hear that line again!

In the hospital room, is the thing itself, conjoined twins. Sarah Paulson takes on this tricky role, and it seemed the editing/effects were a little clunky. Also, after hearing that there are 4 lungs and seeing only their heads are separate, they looked awfully small in the ribcage. When Elsa gives Left a drag on her cigarette, Right exhales, which would contradict the 4 lungs. Until we're told otherwise, the two heads are Right and Left, and we see that Right is not swayed by Elsa's initial compliments. Left, however, is sold on the idea that someone is nice and chatty. Elsa questions them about their sex life: two hearts but one reproductive system.

In an open field, a young couple are getting busy when the young man says he has a surprise back in the car for her. While she waits laying on the picnic blanket, her tulle playing in the wind, we meet everyone's new favorite character, who I am calling Stabby McStabberstiens. I'm sure he has a real name but I don't care.
Tattered suit, matted but still colored pom poms for buttons, an oversized dusty pink rose on his three tufts of colored, dirty hair and a huge creepy grin from a mask implanted into his face. He bows before the confused and scared lady and offers her fake flowers. The young man comes back and Stabby gets mad and earns his name by, well, stabbing him. Excessively. He's clearly not heard of the 'bros before hoes' adage.

A stereotypical diner has Elsa reading the papers and clipping movie reviews of Marlena Dietrich. She has a whole notebook of similar reviews, which doesn't seem obsessive at all. She sees a slick fellow flirting with her waitress. She knows him and interrupts by asking him to try her lighter. He tells Elsa that they all have to move away from the field they're renting. But Elsa has a plan. When the waitress asks her to close out her check, Elsa says it's on the house because stars never pay.

In a lovely house, girls in dresses are discussing their husbands' lack of sexual appetite. A woman emerges from the back room looking happy and diseveled. The host announces it's the next girls turn. When she gets to the room, we see the guy from the diner, Jimmy. His fingers are melted together in twos, sorta like the penguin's. The girl lays on the bed and he turns his “deformity” into a “proformity.” Just doing what he can to make the world a better place.

Elsa confronts the twins, or more accurately from Right, who silences Left mentally. But Left is eager to talk. Sadly, she just blabbers and Elsa calls her on her just using the plot of Gaslight. Elsa recommends they get their story straight before the cops come.

Stabby McStabbersteins is wandering through a house while a radio reporter talks about the 4 brutal murder in the past two weeks. Stabby takes Corey, the 8 year old boy. In the next scene, we find out where. He's being stored in a cage on a bus along with another, older girl. He takes his time showing them things, apparently trying to put them at ease but then laughs when they ask to leave. He shakes noise makers at them and then tries making balloon animals. When it goes askew, and the balloon pops, the kids startle and then he just gets mad and throws balls at the cage to scare them more. Clearly these children aren't ready for such showmanship.

Right and Left are packing when Elsa drops by to chat. Elsa has it figured out. Bette (Left) wanted to go out to a movie and ended up killing their mom when she says no. Dot (Right) could have stopped her, but decided to later stab Bette in the chest. Both girls are stuck and confused as to what Elsa wants, until Elsa explains that she simply wants them. Cue the twins walking to the entry of the freak show; Bette feeling free and hopeful, Dot far more weary and concerned.

Bette is sold on the 'bigger the star the bigger the tent' life with fancy things. Dot writes in her diary that she's not thrilled. Until she meets Jimmy Darling, who sends her a wink. The bearded lady is Kathy Bates and she's charged with preaching the gospel of Elsa. Elsa, she says, rescued her. More to come later, I imagine. Dot says they aren't anyone's trained monkey and won't perform. But Ethel explains this is the best possible outcome.

Jimmy and his friends are putting up an ad for the Siamese sisters when a car drives by throwing crap at them and calling them freaks. That will come back I'm sure.

Candy striper ruins Elsa's movie night by saying she wants to leave. Elsa calmly explains that she is just feeling the opium and can but not speak of her time here. Candy is all “hell no! I was ravaged!” and wouldn't you know, the movie Elsa is watching of Candy with.....pretty much everyone. “There's nothing to be ashamed of,” Elsa explains. The monsters are the people of the little towns, she explains. They don't have souls, and everyone is living the life they choose. Elsa is informed that the show has sold out for the night, every single seat.
Turns out Jimmy is Ethel's son and he wants out. But Ethel's God is Elsa. Jimmy sounds like he just wants to live a life outside the freak show. Ethel's compromise is telling Jimmy to get the twins to like it at the show. When a cop comes to arrest the twins for their mother's murder, Jimmy get pissed and impulsively stabs the guy in the throat. Dot is in TRUE WUV when he uncuffs them. “You saved us,” she said. “Now you save us,” he replies. And Dot is now a believer!

So who bought out the show? A man and his mom. Dandy is the son and he's a weirdo, making his

On to the show! Ethel is the announcer,showing off the line up and Dandy is so amped. But no more so than when he sees the sisters. And then we see Elsa Mars. Her talent? Singing on a cardboard rocket while in a periwinkle suit and Hedwig makeup. Now I'm not sure you can make Jessica Lange ugly. But the super tight old lady perm hair and horrid makeup come close. But so much glitter and everyone's working together! It's like the end of Rocky Horror, Hedwig and Rushmore. Elsa finishes her song to realize noone

Dandy wants to buy the Siamese Sisters. His mother (Francis Conroy) offers 15,000 “and not another penny unless she grows another head.” Dot turns them down to Elsa's delight. They're a family now. Dandy's mom leaves by throwing shade on Elsa's singing. Stabby rides the carosel, all alone.

After the show, Jimmy leads the crew to the woods and preaches about being left alone. And how if that's can't happen, they should rise up and take the happiness they deserve. If they want to call us monsters, we're gonna act like monsters, he says. He looks at Dot. “And that means you, because you're one of us now.” She swoons. Then they stab the ever-loving shit out of the cop's body as Stabby looks on from the woods. Could this be his home?

Ethel and Elsa have confession time where Elsa shares that her reason for bringing on the twins is so people will come, hear her sing and then she'll become famous. She cries and her cakey make up runs. Her hair flattens. She listens to “Auf Weidersein.” She pops her prosethic legs off. Maybe growing up with school shooting and Iraq wars has numbed me to missing limbs, but to me I was waiting for flippers or bird heads. She just doesn't have anything below the knees? That's not freaky.



The future:
Is Stabby part of the crew? He wasn't in the dance number. Elsa wants to stay and his rampant stabbings will bring a lot of unwanted attention. Any truce they forage will be temporary. Chiklis is apparently not Stabby, and Stabby has a name. Booooo. My love for either is untarnished. We'll talk about each next time.

Bette's head is always to the side which looks like a strange photoshop, not like something that she could hold for any amount of time. Yes, I'm saying there'd be a huge muscle strain if your second neck and head were constantly askew. They both have bob haircuts, but Bette's is always lopsided. Just saying.

Oh yeah, those kids are still locked in the cage somewhere. I hope Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConeghey show up and bust them out.

Coming up this season: Emma Roberts is back as a freak show head hunter/possible fortune teller. Angela Bassett is the 3 boobed hermaphrodite. Jimmy volunteers Dot to sing and she busts out Fiona Apple's “Criminal” to the ire of Elsa. She's going to need to kill her meal ticket. Stabby is bought/stolen to be a private clown for Dandy, which could set up a war of the freaks since Dandy and his mom seem to not like the “unbreakable” family ties of the show.


Everyone is about showbiz this year. And discrimination. And skeletons mimicking sex. And two heads, sometimes switched.  And protecting your people, though I'm sure that will fall asunder by the next episode. :) Bring it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Anyway you slice it, Jade is no longer a Magnetic Zero

Jade Castrinos, the forefront female in Edward Sharpe and Magnetic Zeros, seems to have her summer freed up. Last night she wasn't onstage for a show in Atlanta and quickly after there was a brief "she said/they said" over Instagram and Twitter. Jade posted on Instagram that the break up was over email a week before their tour kicked off; the remaining Zeros posted on facebook that to believe it was that simple and quick is to "have no idea who we are."

When we covered them live last fall, we gushed about Jade. There is no doubt that whatever the reason(s) for her departure, Jade will land on her feet. She has a great voice and looks like a little cherub I'd like to put on my mantle. It should be noted that Edward Sharpe and Magnetic Zeros will also be just fine. To think that a band of any size doesn't have turmoil is naive. The magic is when they stay together and are able to make awesome music for as long as they can. While I don't see Jade becoming an alt-metal icon, it will be interesting to see where she chooses to go from here.




Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Owls - Two

Owls
Two
Polyvinyl Records
March 25, 2013

4.9

Owls (not to be mistaken with Owl, from LA) was first formed during 2001 in Chicago out of a former project named Cap'n Jazz. Tim Kinsella, Mike Kinsella, Victor Villarreal, and Sam Zurick promptly released one album and broke up after a year to pursue other music. They only just now reformed, coinciding with the return of Zurick to Chicago, to capitalize on the incredibly deep and abiding love people had for Owls, after their self-titled debut in 2001. Apparently unsatisfied with the high level of thought involved in releasing a self-titled album, they decided to name this attempt Two.

Don't bother remembering any of this, unless you're boning up for a trivia night, because this album isn't going to be remembered. While the somewhat breathless press release goes to GREAT LENGTHS to convey just how many artistic disputes and the great amount drama (18 months! CANCELLED PRACTICES! COLLABORATING CIVILLY... wait) the band somehow overcame in the process of writing and recording Two, the actual delivered product is lacking emotional core and completely fails to deliver anything memorable (except the remarkably under-delivered and painfully compressed line "Oh No, Don't smash the bag of pretzels". Because that is funny). Don't expect this reunion to last long -- reading between the lines of the album announcement, it's pretty clear these guys can't stand each other.

Okay, so now we're reviewing Two, from Owls. Their second album in thirteen years, this is going to be a great band for hipsters. Perfectly obscure, with entirely forgettable music and incomprehensible lyrics guarantees that nobody else will ever have heard of them in a year's time. There are promising elements here -- some good hooks, some interesting melodies, and even the occasional meaningful, funny, or interesting lyric. Unfortunately, Owls never manages to combine those at any point -- if the lyrics are interesting, the song will have wandered off into a bland musical prairie. By the time the music finds itself again, the lyrics are back to pretzels.

The album starts off with promise, which is almost immediately taken out back of the shed and shot. An interesting intro proves to simply be the entirety of the track. The cover pretty much establishes the trend of the rest of the album -- tiny, tasty bits that are left uncooked.

Owls sound will be familiar to anybody who listened to alternative/emo/whatthehellever from the early-mid 90s to the early-mid 2000s. Likely because their other album came out right around then. These tracks could be cleaned up and sit comfortably next to the forgettable tracks on a Stroke 9 album, or the Urge, or any number of other bands of the day.

Lyrically, Two doesn't have much consistency. Singer Kinsella (not to be confused with his brother, Not Singer Kinsella) (aka Tim) often seems unaware of the song he's singing along to, happily smashing together syllables and mangling pace to "fit" long phrases to the music. This is perhaps most apparent on "Oh No, Don't...", which also illustrates Kisella's unwillingness to convey emotion in his singing. The flat delivery saps any emotional impact the music and lyrics would otherwise demand.

The listening experience is vastly improved by imaginging that this is in fact Derek Zoolander's Band for Kids Who Don't Music Good and Want to do Other Stuff Good Too. At least that way the pointless and grasping lyrics acquire a certain poignancy. Owls urgently wants you to feel the noise, but the images evoked throughout Two are laughably pointless and uninspired. Kinsella's flat delivery and seeming need to cram in extra syllables squeezes out what little emotion may have been found, leaving nothing behind but a mental image of Blue Steel... or perhaps MAGNUM.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Beck - Morning Phase

Beck

Morning Phase

Capital

Release Date: February 25, 2014

Rating 7.2

The cover of Beck’s new album, Morning Phase, should tell you everything you need to know: this is “Sea Change 2: Sea Change Harder”. A headshot of Beck with colors smeared over and across it, the cover deliberately evokes his 2002 album, whether as warning or enticement is up to you. Every time I listen to this new effort I get a sad, and I miss the energetic, rebellious Beck that produces infectious, kicking hits like “Black Tambourine” or “Sexx Laws”. Introspective, thoughtful Beck makes me mourn the puckish humor and impish energy he can bring to an album or performance, and the songs frequently fade into the background even as I’m trying to engage with them.

“Sea Change 2: Sea Change Boogaloo” sees Beck reunited with many of the same musicians that joined him on the first “Sea Change”, and that through-line is clear in tracks such as “Morning”, which really functions as more of a lullaby than a wake-up anthem. “Phase” is another such song, with long notes, stretched out sounds, and an overall gentle feel to the to the tracks that sounds like my phone’s “gentle-wake” alarm setting.  Perhaps the most direct connection to “Sea Change” comes on “Say Goodbye”, as Beck’s vocals directly hark back to his earlier work.

“Sea Change 2: The Squeakquel” will most likely bask in critical acclaim, and anybody who enjoyed “Sea Change” will find a lot to love on this album (though they may find it at times indistinguishable), but if you’re looking for a new “Hell Yes”, “Mixed Bizness”, or “Where It’s At”, you’ll leave disappointed.  Though the album doesn’t have much of anything new to offer, it is solidly constructed. The gentle, mellow emotional core does tie it together, and the twangy guitar of tracks such as “Blue Moon” and “Country Down” follows the recent trends of country-rock crossover hits. While “Sea Change: Part Deux” won’t blast your socks off, if you’re looking for a smooth listening experience there's nothing to complain about.

Friday, February 28, 2014

DJ 1000 Aces Playlist: The Rainy Season

Whether you're left coast, best coast or west coast, you're probably seeing precipitation. DJ 1000 Aces has some thematic tunes so you don't mind the puddles.

1. "Riders on the Storm," The Doors

2. "Raining Revolution," Arrested Development

3. "Rain," Madonna

4. "Rhythm of the Rain," The Cascades

5. "It Never Rains (In Southern California)," Tony! Toni! Tone!

6. "After the Rain," Little Dragon

7. "Naked in the Rain," Red Hot Chili Peppers

8. "Love Rain," Jill Scott

(These three were the rest of the staffs' picks.)

9. "The Rain [Supa Dupa Fly]," Missy Elliot

10. "Purple Rain," Prince

11. And the only song that matters, "November Rain," Guns'n'Roses


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

M.I.A's "Y.A.L.A." Video Is Kinda Awesome


She's an interesting gal, M.I.A. It would be easy to think she'd be on board with the YOLO craze, yet a track off her new album proclaims you can keep the party going....eternally. Samsara or no, "Y.A.L.A" (You Always Live Again) has her glammed up and rhyming 'contreau' with 'poncho'. It's just kitschy enough to make you cringe and just interesting enough to make you listen again.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Atlas Genius + Family of the Year + Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. Crystal Ballroom, Portland, Oregon November 9th, 2013



The night was packed! Doors opened at 8 with openers stating at 9. I arrived downtown at around 7 to find parking and grab a bite to eat and there was already a sizeable line waiting outside. A little after 8 my friend Katie and I went to get in and the line was around the corner and they had been letting people in by this point. What a crowd to rush when doors opened!

The crowd was fairly mixed between under/over 21.

The concert started promptly at 9 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. playing for 30 minutes. Their sound was electronic-ish/head bopping rock with a mix of 80's synthesizer in there too.The crowd was really into this band, jumping to make that springy Crystal Ballroom floor shake! At one point one of the band members went into the all-ages section of the crowd while singing a song to the delight of the under 21 year olds. Daniel Zott, asked the crowd if "they could dance as much as they screamed, it would be great." Neither disappointed.

I caught up with Daniel Zott at the merchandise table and asked him a few questions. When asked what he thought of the Portland crowd, he replied that they were the most energetic crowd he had seen the whole tour. With the band being from Detroit, I asked if the tour was wrapping up there, he said, "no, but they were doing a show there in a few weeks."

Family of the Year is not the name of the latest new sitcom out there but of the second opener of the night. They went on at 10 with a sound was almost reggae/alternative/indie rock all meshed to create a unique sound. The male and female vocals united beautifully live. The crowd was equally as pumped for this opener and as they started later, there were even more people to get things lively! They played 45 minutes. I was not loving the reggae/indie personally, their quality live was great.

I must say - I have never seen a crowd so pumped for 1 opener – let alone 2 openers!

Atlas Genius.... ATLAS GENIUS! Need I say anything more? This band rocked it! I wanted to move around and get pictures from all angles, but the crowd was so dense, it was impossible! Their stage looked like a laser light show it was so lit up and awesome.
This is the only concert I have been to where all acts started promptly on time! Atlas Genius was to go on at 11:15 and on the dot, they started. Second song in was, “If So”, followed by he title track of their album, “When It was Now”. Lead singer, Keith Jeffery, kept cheers-ing the crowd with his Red Solo Cup (I fill you up!) and gave shout out to both opening bands. He also joked (or maybe true) that he had played in Portland more than any other stop and was happy to be back in our town and was happy to put on a good show!
The show was nonstop sound – even some musical interludes that I swear were right out of Nintendo! They took the shortest bow off stage and came right back to finish the night with “Trojans” and the audience (myself included) went NUTS! They left the stage right before 12:30.

I find it impossible not to mention in this article that my parents knew of Atlas Genius before I did. With their “If So” song on the advertisements for HGTV’s “Cousin’s Uncover” my parents found the song and told me about them. This band not only pulls in the young teens , it has also seduced a fair number of baby boomers. For a 4 year old band from Australia – this is impressive task. It helps, of course, that they put on wild and amazing shows.