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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Discoverer 16: new indie findings

After a short break, we go back to our Sunday proposals!

Be Like Pablo. Thanks, again (and won't be the last time!) to an Eardrumsmusic recommendation I have discovered this ridiculously addictive indie-pop meets power-pop band from North Eastern Scotland. They only have two singles released (the latest just out now), but the four songs we know of them to date are so irresistibly catchy that their inclusion here was a must. I have had "Spirit of Adventure" and "Julianne" on repeat all week. I will add just one more thing. We want more songs! We need more songs!

She Keeps Bees. From Brooklyn, New York, comes the duo of Jessica Larrabee (vocals and guitar) and Andy LaPlant (drums). Active since 2006, this year they have released "Dig On", their third record (counting Larrabee's solo debut). Brilliant and thrilling material, under the territory of blues-rock and alternative-rock that reminds to the best Cat Power or can compare to PJ Harvey. Try "Saturn Return" (to name one song) and convince yourself. Larrabee's voice is one of the discoveries of the year for me. Magnetic music.

Release the Sunbird. Our third proposal comes from a pretty famous indie musician: Zach Rogue. After nearly 10 years leading Rogue Wave, he envisioned a different project. In his own words, a “Sunday morning kind of record, the kind of campfire, sitting-on-the-back-deck-of-your house feeling”. "Come Back to Us", just released, is these album. Recorded in Bloomington, Indiana, with the help of local musicians, in which vocalist Kate Long stands out with her vocals, contributing to create the superb harmonies of the album. A relaxed, sunny and lovely folkie affair.
Release The Sunbird- Come Back To Us
Release The Sunbird - Always Like The Son

Saturday, July 30, 2011

10.000 visits and a summertime playlist!!

With the previous post the blog has reached the landmark (at least a personal landmark) of 10.000 visits.

 More to come, hope you enjoy.

To celebrate, and because August is almost here, and we have started our holidays, here's a happy compilation, a playlist for summer (despite today's awful weather). No special rules, just the intention of collecting some killer (some favourites here) and joyful tunes for you. Thanks again!
  1. Summertime- The Zombies
  2. Tonight I Have to Leave It- Shout Out Louds
  3. Bang!- The Raveonettes
  4. Summer's Here- The School
  5. The Sun, the Trees- Russian Red
  6. In the Sun- She and Him
  7. You're In Love With the Sun- The Very Most
  8. Mr. E's Beautiful Blues- Eels
  9. If Looks Could Kill- Camera Obscura
  10. Get Outta Town!- Lucky Soul
  11. Fonz You!- Monkey Swallows The Universe
  12. Western Hospitality- Club 8
  13. Crazy for You- Best Coast
  14. Summer Hits or J+J Don't Like- Mazes
  15. Times Table- The Hi-Life Companion
  16. Everybody Come Down- The Delgados
  17. Another Sunny Day- Belle and Sebastian
  18. Fluorescent Adolescent- Arctic Monkeys
  19. Take Me Somewhere- Tennis
  20. July, July!- The Decemberists
  21. Go Outside- Cults

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Midnight in Paris", romantic search of our Golden Age

Midnight in Paris

So happy to see the maestro is back. After quite a while (wouldn't call it a long wandering in the wilderness thanks to "Whatever Works" and some glimpses of genius in "Hollywood Ending", "Anything Else" or "Scoop" saving his filmography of the new millennium) Woody Allen's returns to form with a film that has magic and tons of charm. Allen is inviting you to a very special party. An invitation to a moveable feast in the city of lights. Would you like to come? Fun is granted.

As I really encourage you to watch this film, I'll try not to spoil its argument, because revealing something will kill part of its magic. So just let me ask you one question: what if you have the chance of  living your dream?

"Midnight in Paris" has three sides. One is the comical, on which Allen's ability for one-liners finds new peaks a couple of times (the "surrealist" scene goes directly to his best-of). Second, and inevitable being Woody in Paris, is the romantic side. In here, Allen triumphs (again, 'cause is something seen before) thanks to the bewitching (only comparable, although completely different in the story, with "Manhattan") way in which he films the city (credit to his artistic team), light-years from the advertising campaign of Barcelona in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" or his London films, but in particular thanks to the plot, close to a delicious absurdity/delirium, and the "real" innocence on the characters where the love story appears. All in all, it is brilliantly summarized on a night walk by Gil and Adriana through the Parisian rain. And third side, the most substantial, is an absorbing reflection on nostalgia and the idealization of past times. Thought-provoking and even self-referential (the New Yorker's filmmaker qualifies as a nostalgic himself).

Allen explores this subject with a refreshing grace for the majority of the film, but makes the mistake of stressing too much the message he wants to give, the only life worth living is our present, in a key scene near the end. This, the weak start with an unnecessary and overlong shooting of Paris' most touristic places before we see the recurrent, trademark credits of his movies, and the poor treatment of Inez's character (Rachel McAdams), too unidimensional to be credible (doing what she does near the end), are the few aspects that prevent "Midnight in Paris" from ranking alongside Allen's masterpieces.

Because everything else is light-hearted and fascinating (music, photography, plot, rhythm). Cast helps to make the film sweet and substantial. From the secondary (on top the funniest Adrien Brody) to the important roles, where Marion Cotillard does an impersonation of the muse every artist desires full of magnetism, but also going beyond the archetypical cliché, as she has her own dreams to follow. Owen Wilson deserves a separate mention. Having the task of impersonating Allen on screen, he is the first actor that in doing so creates a different character. His Gil aspires to be a writer, but leaves aside neurosis and hypochondria to offer a genuinely romantic, dreamy and innocent character. His performance is honest, nailing the sense of wonder, surprise and adventure with just a face.

"Midnight in Paris" entertains, makes you laugh, gives some lessons (on art and about life) and connects with the public in a special, haunting way. Is the sort of film (although its minor imperfections) that makes you ingratiate not just with Woody, but with cinema, again.

SCORE: 8/10

Thursday, July 28, 2011

FIB Festival 2011 Benicàssim: a personal overview

Back and alive from Benicàssim Festival. I let some time pass to make this overview, in order to be accurate and not say a couple of things without a second thought. Here it is:

The Good
Confirmations: Among the bands I love and had the occasion of seeing them before I have to mention, of course, Arcade Fire and The Joy Formidable, both delivering excellent shows (the lovely Welsh will be mentioned again later). And among the groups I never seen before, Veronica Falls showed there's a real band and a promising album just awaiting us in early autumn; while Russian Red and Elbow were great (so happy to see Guy Garvey and Co. finally). Looking forward to see both bands in their respective tours and more intimate venues. I wish I could say the same about Arctic Monkeys, but unfortunately other factors were in play during their gig (read the next section).

New discoverings: Weren't many if you consider FIB lasts four days, but at least this three names have to be highlighted. O Emperor, quality and intense folk-rock from Ireland that gave a solid, in crescendo gig; Los Ginkas, Spanish punk-pop, vital, joyous and really funny, smiles are granted with them; and Jane Joyd, the music name of Elba Fernández, a wonderful singer/songwriter from Galicia that captivated us with her rich folk (despite not being able of bringing her full band) and mesmerizing voice. One to follow closely.

The working staff: From the staff taking care of first rows, giving water and being aware of the people asking to be taken out of there, to the ones located in the middle/separation wall, who had a incredibly hard task, and suffered the brutal behaviour of some during The Strokes concert. And on a personal level, to the ones in charge of security at the Maravillas stage and the bar, who kindly helped us after we were crushed during the Arctic Monkeys gig. Thanks.

The Bad
Massification: I remember blaming the Primavera Sound Festival because of the massification problems, in particular on Friday 27th of May, during the Pulp concert. I apologise. It was nothing compared with what we suffered at FIB 2011. Friday and Saturday at the Maravillas stage and surroundings was just horrible. And excuse me, but Vince Power, FIB director, saying he saw a normal function of that stage, just means either he has no shame, or that he wasn't there.

The Brits: Should say the "hooligans" instead. Of course, I'm not saying every British citizen behaved like that. The majority we met were sympathetic, friendly and happy people. But unfortunately, a huge amount of them are just wild beasts that are not interested in the music at all, and are just coming to have a permanent, out of control party. No problem with that, but you know. Seeing you naked is not nice. Throwing drinks (or whatever it is) to the people, the same applies for your rubbish, is not nice. Trying to advance by the use of force to get a closer view of the stage is not nice. Crushing people is not nice. Peeing in front of a bar is not nice. Putting a fire or lighting a flare in the middle of the main stage is not nice (is insane). You might think this is "your Festival" (after all you are the target of the organization) but you know the venue is not yours and there are more people trying to enjoy FIB. The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys were frustrating gigs because of them.

The FIB Organization: Paolo Nutini, Chase and Status, Plan B, The Streets, Pendulum, The Coronas (from Ireland), Tinie Tempah and a long etc. We could discuss (endlessly) if these and many more fill into the music style that supposedly FIB used to cover. But I don't think it makes sense to debate about the repercussion these groups have in Spain, which is zero. So, it is clear, the Festival's target are the Brits. Fine. that's their commercial strategy. Linked with that, and again just commercial strategy, was the decision of announcing big, incontestable, headliners well in advance, and since then (with exceptions) complete the line-up with fillers. Anyway, the line-up on Thursday was terribly weak, and without headliners (something the organization admitted). Then we have the timetable thing (pathetic). Or the parking facilities. Or the overlaps. I could go on, but you get my point. The general feeling is clear: this is about the money for the organization, not about the music.

The Queen
The sound: The only aspect where FIB has been superior to Primavera Sound. Without very few exceptions (and one has to do with the overlaps, other with the wind on Sunday's afternoon, not with the sound quality of the stages), during all four days of the Festival the sound has been surprisingly good.

The fan moment: We had the pleasure of chatting for a second and take a picture with Layabouts, probably the best concert of Thursday, and (a personal triumph) with the gentle people of The Joy Formidable. Ritzy promised me they will go back to Barcelona soon (probably October). So great!

The music, after all: I could have titled this bands I don't like but were outstanding. Because that's what happened five times on this FIB 2011. Jerry Fish and The Mudbug Club, with his funny and engaging gig; Lori Meyers, that gave a phenomenal concert to an enthusiastic crowd, gathering an unanimous praise from their national fans as well as foreigners; And I Watch You From Afar, who did a brutal, thunderous show; Layabouts, who did the same with their more classic rock; and Portishead, with the amazing Beth Gibbons making the Maravillas stage hold their breath. They exemplify what music, and playing live should be. They enjoyed and made the audience enjoy every second of their gigs. Even the ones that are not fan of their music or style (like me) got pleased or mind-blowed by their performances. A matter of attitude and passion.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"The Legend of the Holy Drinker", an alcoholic tale

The Legend of the Holy Drinker (Die Legende von Heiligen Trinker, German original title) - Josep Roth

My introduction into Joseph Roth's literature, and most probably won't be the last. Published in 1939, the year the author died, this curious tale is a remarkable demonstration of style, with a simplicity and directness that I really enjoyed. Vocabulary and mannerisms in the way the people talks are present, but there's no bombast or rhetorical excesses, and the story flows in a surprising and quite engaging dynamism.

For what I have read, the story of "The Legend" has quite a few resemblances with Roth's real life. Andreas, the "drinker" is an alcoholic wandering through Paris, something that Roth did until he died. But the novella (that was turned into a film in 1988) quickly escapes from the biographical/realistic territory to become something pretty special. I couldn't say I enjoyed the development of the story, but certainly I have been deeply intrigued by its evolution.

There's something about this clochard (vagrant), Andreas, that transpires melancholia, but thanks to uniqueness of the story there's no occasion to get yourself carried away with condescending feelings. The miraculous side of the novella doesn't sound religious at all to me, but instead more of how good fortune, as it were a kind of a special character in the book, shows what could have been of Andreas and how impossible it is to be different, how hard is to confront the possibility of change to him. But instead of condemnation of his attitude or his alcoholic dependence, there's, at some point, a sort of celebration of alcoholism. In the sense of realising is Andreas' way to reach a different level of knowledge... No, not knowledge, a different sort of existence. 

Though strange and not completely satisfactory (a small sense of repetition in the acts of the story) this one goes to that sort of books that leaves you something. Something mysterious, hard to define, but definitely appealing. 

SCORE: 6/10 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"The Take", we can: a new economy without bosses

The Take

Those under 25 probably are too young to remember "el corralito". one of the biggest collapses a developed country has ever faced. It happened in 2001, and the country, once the wealthiest of Latin-America, was Argentina. The responsible of that disaster, that put the country into bankruptcy, a devastating unemployment rate and the sudden misery of Argentinian middle-class, were their perennially corrupted political class, banks, and the perverse policies of IMF. The picture hasn't changed that much since then, don't you think? After 10 years the problem is now planetary.

That's why watching "The Take" in 2011 is still relevant and attractive. Anti-globalisation activist Naomi Klein (responsible of "No Logo") and director Avi Lewis (in his first film) goes deep into Buenos Aires to portray the cost of wild capitalism and market... but this is not a reporting documentary or anti-globalisation manifesto. Is a fierce, because is real, example that another world is possible, and another economical system can work. 

Capitalism has tried to teach us that enterprises, run by entrepreneurs (what a nice euphemism) are the engines of economy we cannot live without. Even more, these enterprises have a boss, a hierarchy of power that has to be preserved. Bullshit. "The Take" shows a different model. One where cooperation is based in the best incentive: the common success, not just an individual, personal gain. It is called cooperation. And in a cooperative, a factory run by workers, where cooperation rules the structure, you don't need a boss.

Through the experience of Forja San Martín, an abandoned factory taken by 30 ex-workers, that is learning, struggling and figthing to rebuild the factory, the film exposes us to a real phenomenon. Other examples, like the historical sewing factory Brickmann run just by women or Zanón, are explored, so our vision becomes wider and richer. "The Take" focus on the workers, creating a compelling piece of their fair David-against-Goliath challenge. They vote, they doubt, they disagree, the divide the profits equally, the effectively manage the factory. They succeed. They prove there's an alternative.

The film also tries to explore the political responsibilities of the economic disaster in the country. These are the moments were the documentary gets closer to Michael Moore's style, but even then, Lewis and Co are wise enough to focus the film in real people and their relation with politics (the familiar dichotomy in election time is vividly presented to us) instead of wasting too much time in already-known slags (from Carlos Menem to Anoop Singh). This film is about really important people: Freddy Espinoza, Lalo Paret, Matilde Adorno, Celia Martínez...and a long and relevant etc.

There are few complaints to make to "The Take" aside the needed period where the film goes back into recent history (summarises many things too quickly). I would add the annoying music (unnecessary) and a more important one: the final part where Forja San Martín process (the legal process) is speeded-up, probably dramatically cut in the editing room in order to make the film more dynamic, but seriously hurting its level of realism.

Today, with the Global financial crisis, seeing "The Take" poses a question: "why should we let the ones who made us fail into this situation repeat the same mistakes again? Why don't we try a new approach? We know we can do different.

SCORE: 7,5/10

"Complete Works (and Other Stories)", playing Monterroso's games

Complete Works and Other stories (Obras Completas y Otros Cuentos, Spanish original title)- Augusto Monterroso

Yes, as a regular reader, I have been confronted with "The Dinosaur", the most famous short story? of Guatemalan writer Augusto Monterroso. But unlike many of these readers I don't find his "immortal" one-sentence that remarkable. I remember asking myself: so what? Many years have passed since then, but after reading this "Complete Works (and Other Stories)" I have the same question: so what?

His prose is inventive, witty, (occasionally) humorous, and sometimes sharp (usually when he refers to history or politics) and often we are immersed into a self-referential story about writers/artists. His style is compared with Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges, authors that, like Monterroso, are highly appreciated at literature classes and frequently referred by other authors. But excuse me for what many will consider a literary heresy, but I believe these sort of authors are mainly worried by their style instead of the content.

The case of Monterroso is no different. This book is a mere divertissement, with some entertaining and enjoyable  stories ("Mister Taylor" and "First Lady" are the ones I would highlight) but an overall feeling form is way ahead of substance. If you decide to enter Monterroso's games, be prepared to play. A curious world indeed, but not really my taste of literature.

SCORE: 4,5/10

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Huge defeat by Tennis in Barcelona

Tennis. La [2] de Apolo, Barcelona, July 21st
We just came back to Barcelona after FIB Festival with another music night on the agenda. And a very special one it was. After being completely haunted by Tennis performance at Primavera Sound Festival back in May, the idea of seeing them again, this time in the intimacy of such a small venue like La [2] de Apolo in Barcelona seemed just perfect to enjoy a lovely night with the joyful music of this wonderful duo (trio on stage).

But we were wrong this time. Is simple to explain. From the start to almost the end, the sound was awful. Don't know if it has to do with the venue (the sound wasn't impressive with Basia Bulat's gig in February either) or (shared suspicion) the volume of drums and guitar was excessive. The result? We couldn't hear Alaina's voice until the last 4-5 songs. And we were on the first row.

Yes, the natural charm was right there. They unforced approach towards the audience too. The way they play, with Patrick lost into himself and Alaina gracefully moving and jumping barefoot was inviting an enchanting, like if we were allowed to see them performing in their garden in Denver, or enjoying music in a relaxed way on their sailing ship. In an hour they played all their debut album, "Cape Dory" and experimented with three new songs and one cover. But honestly, we couldn't do much aside from enjoying the 60s vibe of the music and imagine Alaina's gorgeous voice. And that's far from being enough. Tennis are a great band, but Thursday's concert, taking advantage of their name to make a sports parallel, was like watching your favourite team being trashed by its archenemy. Hope there's a chance of seeing them soon again. We deserve a re-match!

A small clip that serves as example of how bad the sound was...

"Every Song Is About Me", of love and literature

Every Song Is About Me (Todas las Canciones Hablan de Mí, Spanish original title)

A cool title and a wonderful homage to Woody Allen's Manhattan on the film poster made me curious about this Spanish film. After watching it, I can say my curiosity was partially justified.

There are many good things to point out of this film. First, the attempt of relating a relationship mixing comedy (not one where you will laugh a lot, but with the feeling the film is not taking itself too seriously) without avoiding some somber parts of a relation. One of the true merits of the film is that the leading characters are pretty intelligent but ordinary people trying to make something with their life.

Second, the remarkable ability of newcomer director Jonás Trueba (check his interesting blog) in capturing the confusion of a self-obsessed generation, poised by music and literature (a minority, at least), hoping, like the title, of finding some comfort in a song where we are stuck in real life.

And third, the flair of the movie, with its episodic structure and the Nouvelle Vague atmosphere mixed with a dialogue-first composition of scenes. We can say Rohmer, Truffaut and Woody Allen's styles are all present. Nice to see a Spanish director with different references, filming a quite romantic/attractive Madrid and showing a great deal of inventive and wise ability to homage his favourite directors. In that sense, a couple of scenes will make you smile for sure.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn't fulfil its promises. The aesthetics/style gets a bit over the script, so there's not really a dramatic tension on "Every Song" despite the topic. Then the film decays and develops at a slow pace. A fact that has something to do with leading character Ramiro (played by Oriol Vila). Winning is a pretty realistic behaviour, but the development of the film (without spoiling the film, let's say Vila doesn't get locked at home despite being supposedly heartbroken) contradicts his understated attitude.

Then there's the tone. I said the film doesn't take itself so seriously, but that, mixed with an unnecessary voiceover or some lengthy dialogues, hurts its dynamism. And finally, and on the minor things side. There's no sense of reality in terms of social and economical background, making the characters live in a sort of surreal-parallel world. The literary references (Kundera on top) are pedantic. And Franco Battiato as the music choice for a thirty-something is a really weird choice...being polite. 

Overall, an attractive but unsatisfying film, that hast to be valued as an unusual proposal on Spanish cinema, with some fantastic moments and a charm in the way it is presented.

SCORE: 5,75/10

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My FIB Festival 2011: we have timetables!

Two days before leaving for Benicassim Festival and despite the shameful decission of the FIB organization of not the giving the timetables for free, the information has leaked (everybody knew it would happen), so here's how it looks (bold indicates the preferred option), in principle, My FIB Festival. Harder than expected, the amount of overlaps is dramatic and confirms Thursday as a pretty ridiculous day. 

18:00-18:45 The Spires
19:00-19:45 Layabouts
19:45-20:45 Anna Calvi / 20:15-21:15 Russian Red  
From 21:15 I don't mind going home. What a horrible (and overlapped) day!

18:00-18:45 Jane Joyd 
19:00-19:45 O Emperor
19:45-20:45 Ainara Legardon / 20:30-21:15 The Marzipan Man
21:15-21:45 The Paris Riots
21:45-22:45 The Undertones
23:15-00:15 Elbow
00:45-02:15 The Strokes / 1:30-3:30 James Murphy
The only day when schedule fits and has some logic...

18:00-18:45 Jerry Fish and the Mudbug Club / 18:30-19:00 Los Ginkas
19:30-20:15 Nadadora / 20:00-21:00 Tame Impala
21:30-22:30 Lori Meyers / 22:00-22:30 The Dandies
23:00-00:00 Mumford & Sons
00:30-02:00 Arctic Monkeys
02:30-04:00 Primal Scream
Already a seriously overlapped day, to decide between Beirut or the Monkeys is something to blame the organization for.

18:30-19:00 Indienella
19:00-19:45 The Coronas
19:45-20:30 And So I Watch You From Above
20:45-21:30 The Joy Formidable / 21:15-22:00 Veronica Falls
23:00-00:30 Portishead
01:15-02:45 Arcade Fire / 1:45-3:45 Chris Geddes
And the final, triple overlap, that will probably make me miss Noah and the Whale (sic).

Well, in any case, see you at the FIB Festival, come on over!
Come On Over by Veronica Falls

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Discoverer 15: new indie findings

Last weekend before FIB Festival, but before leaving... a new round of proposals for you!

Reverieme. Behind the stage name you'll find Louise Connell, a ridiculously young Scottish girl (note: one day we will have to honour Scotland as deserves for giving us so many unforgettable artists), based in Glasgow, with an equally ridiculous talent to find the perfect melody and merge it with her adorable voice. "Melodies", released in 2010, is her very-limited debut, a flawless ukulele (yes, ukulele!) indie-pop collection, far beyond the singer-songwriter acoustic cliché, inventive and riskier. I wasn't that impressed by a voice since I felt in love with Nat Johnson.

Favourite Sons. Ken Griffin is not a newbie. From 1992 to 1997 he recorded three albums in London and Dublin (with Rollerskate Skinny and Kid Silver) before moving to N.Y to disappear. But while working at a bar, Justin Tripp, A.J. Edmiston and Matt Werth, tracked him down and encouraged him to write again. Favourite Sons debuted in 2006 with "Down Beside Your Beauty", followed by "The Great Deal of Love", out past May. A rollercoaster fok-rock album, with Griffin's unique voice leading a band that recalls a subtler Nick Cave or early Waterboys. Be careful. Their band's name is well deserved.
Favourite Sons - The Great Deal Of Love

Army Navy. Born in Seattle but really shaped in L.A, the bedroom project of Justin Kennedy became a success after their debut in 2008. Ace reviews, fans admiration, support slots to The Lemonheads, Arctic Monkeys, The Dodos... Great achievements that will continue with "The Last Place", their second release, out next week. Why? Because I doubt someone can resist this infectious collection of jangle-pop, power-pop, shimmering guitars, choruses and hooks. “...our focus, creativity and inspiration had created something bigger than all of us…a classic pop masterpiece!” says Adam Lasus, album producer. Pretentious, but he might be right.
Army Navy

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Even the Rain", 500 years of imperialism in Latin America

Even the Rain (También la Lluvia, Spanish original title)
I was a bit reluctant to watch this film. Its topic and the (sadly justified) prejudice about Spanish cinema were strong arguments against. But “Even the Rain” is a very welcomed exception, revealing itself as a noteworthy and brave attempt of mixing a film-inside-the-film story with social reality, in the form of a revolt in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Not an easy combination, but despite some issues, the movie is solid during all its length.

The main plotline is a Spanish film crew that arrives to Bolivia in order to shoot a new take, denouncing the sins (why don't we call it genocide?) of Christopher Columbus and Spanish imperialism after his discovery of the New World looking for gold. That's the approach that Sebastian (performed by Gael García Bernal) the director, wants to give to his epic super-production (despite low-cost being located in Bolivia), with the help of producer's Costa (Luis Tosar), responsible of the money. But while they are preparing their ambitious shooting, contemporary South American politics appear, in the form of a revolt (based on the real water wars the country suffered in 2000) that directly affects their project.

Merging the two plots is a risky move that filmmaker Icíar Bollaín achieves, for the majority of the movie, with remarkable grace. Sure, there's no subtlety at all when we are exposed to see the parallels between the oppression and its forms hundreds of years ago (the movie the cast is shooting) by the imperialist Spaniards, and the ones regarding the local government plans to privatize the city’s water supply. That obviousness undermines the amazing potential of "Even the Rain". But the attempt is brave and other intriguing questions regarding art (cinema in this case), its value, meaning and costs appears.

All this conceptual and meta-cinema story could be on the verge of being a failure if the characters weren't credible. And despite Paul Laverty's (always linked to Ken Loach) doesn't really develop what could have been a very powerful character in the suffering director Sebastian (García Bernal) and the cliché looms with the drunken star (Karra Elejalde) is all saved by Luis Tosar, who plays Costa with an amazing consistency and disarming endurance (proving again he's the best Spanish actor alive) and Juan Carlos Aduviri, who plays Daniel, the rebel leader against the conquering Spaniards in the film-within-the-film, and one of the leaders of the revolt against the government that wants to privatize water's supply. The moments where the two are on screen are the real highlights of "Even the Rain".

I wonder if that's what really what Bollaín and Laverty's wanted to do, but to me, what carries the heart of "Even the Rain" is the personal, moral conflict of Costa. His evolution, and how he sees and growingly understand Daniel is a stronger, more honest and striking message than the schematic political issues raised and its parallels with the times of Columbus. Anyway, the result is a solid film that invites to a thought-provoking discussion about the sort of world we are living in. A world that, like the historian and activist Howard Zinn, to whom the movie is dedicated, brilliantly says in his must-read book "A People's History of the United States", maybe hasn't evolved that much from the 15-16th century.

SCORE: 7/10

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Stop awful album covers 2

It was bound to happen. Unfortunately, is a growing epidemic: horrible music artworks keeps spreading. This second round of visual disasters are all from albums/singles released this 2011, and wants to serve as an act of protest against them. This is war, stop awful sleeves!

Tennis: Cape Dory
Done on purpose, I know, but it's a crime to give a beautiful record such a kitsch sleeve

Beirut: The Rip Tide / Arctic Monkeys: Suck It and See
Put the albums together cause its the same case: brilliant works, zero effort on the cover

 Destroyer: Ideas for Songs (reissue) / Morrissey: Very Best of Morrissey
And they go together because... you get it. Great to know you are relaxing guys, but do we need to see it?

Lady Gaga: Born This Way
Photoshop indigestion + worst of metal clichés= Gaga's next chapter of awfulness

Peter Bjorn and John: Gimme Some
Coherency must be this: colour, design, image are all ugly. Ironic, of course

Vivian Girls: Share the Joy
Very little effort usually translates into a very poor artwork....

Steve Miller Band: Let Your Hair Down
....But sometimes a lot of effort in a cover can have an insane result 

Wavves: TV Luv Song (single)
And to end the "monsters parade"... this... What the hell?? Carl Winslow? Really??

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Blue Valentine", dancing to the end of love

Blue Valentine
First advice: be aware of the moment (your emotional moment) when you decide to see the film, as it is going to affect you. And second advice: don't miss it, try to watch it by all means (probably won't get a release date in Spanish cinemas, that's why I say "all means", I know you have read this rant before).

Because "Blue Valentine" is devastating. Like reading Richard Yates. Like listening to "Blood on the Tracks" by Dylan, "Ultraviolet" or "Love is Blindness" by U2. Is one the of most raw and compelling dissections of the death of a relationship I ever seen. A realistic, profound and utterly sad study-character of a couple, showing us, back and forth, their relation as a complex puzzle (as every human relation is), a collection of moments and situations: the great, the good, the bad, the worse.

First, I have to praise the writing and direction of Derek Cianfrance. The premise of the film is far from being original (the superficial story could be defined even as pretty conventional), but he's capable to craft a movie that breaths, exudes honesty and its poignantly alive. A big part of it success lies in the terrific script. Measured scenes where the joy of love is condensed on a sentence, a look, a song (excellent soundtrack), or on the contrary, dialogues like sharp knifes, ready to become daggers to harm the one you once loved.   

Second, and intrinsic to the script, is the acting, which is simply exceptional. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are Dean and Cindy. I mean you are not seeing just characters evolving during a film, you are seeing flesh and blood persons crumbling in front of you, alternated with scenes when it seemed nobody/nothing can stop them from being together. It's scary (because of the topic) how well they complement each other on screen.Though I'm not surprised because I already considered both actors the best of their generation (30 and under), with "Blue Valentine" they have added one of the best performances of their careers.

Dean (Gosling) turns from a charming, romantic and careless guy to a frightened, insecure and verbally aggressive person. Cindy (Williams) evolves from a lovely, shining sweet and caring girl into a consumed, frustrated mother. Their degradation is obvious, even physically. And you can sense easily their desperation as well. We have "disordered" glimpses of their relationship: the past just before meeting, how they fell in love, and how their choices turned their happiness into the regret and misery of their present. But we don't need to know it all. Filling in the intentional holes (just a couple of times, minor regarding the story, where ellipsis might be too broad), like on good literature, is our task. That way Cianfrance direct us to a personal connection, sometimes even a recognition of ourselves in the film.What we see is far from being comfortable or pleasant (hard to remember a film where sex scenes have been so relevant and poignant for example), there's even a physical threat all around, but is sincerely human.

"Blue Valentine" is a rare, brave and fierce, brilliantly acted, masterpiece, about the most important subject: human relationships and love. Don't miss it, please.

SCORE: 9/10

Monday, July 4, 2011

Playlisting: seeking for an apartment & moving away

A very personal one today. By the end of this week I'll start a new and very exciting period in my life. After few weeks seeking for an apartment, I'm (we) finally moving away from home. So I have created a special playlist "summarizing" the experience (I'm a weirdo, that's assumed), and also including, briefly, why the songs are listed: a "story" divided in seven musical chapters. Hope you'll find it funny (that's the intention), or at least enjoy the music!

Chapter one: the need to leave
1. Black and White Town- Doves

Chapter two: the places where I (we) would like to go, but unfortunately are just metaphoric (2), or simply unaffordable (3, 4)
2. Where the Streets Have No Name- U2
3. Country House- Blur
4. Island in the Sun- Weezer

Chapter three: the aim to seek for an apartment 
5. A Placed Called Home- PJ Harvey

Chapter four: seeking and getting close to it
6. Houses- Great Northern
7. Build- The Housemartins
8. The Walls Are Coming Down- Fanfarlo

Chapter five: we found it!!
9. My Wandering Days Are Over- Belle and Sebastian

Chapter six: anticipating possible domestical and collateral "issues"...
10. Dishes- Pulp
11. A House Is Not a Motel- Love (use the title as a word of warning to readers)
12. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight- The Postal Service

Chapter seven: ...but also anticipating the great moments that WE are going to have at HOME 
13. Weather With You- Crowded House
14. Apartment Story- The National
15. You Are the Everything- R.E.M. (because there's only one real reason for moving)