Anders Bergstrom's blog on Words, Films, and Music

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Year In Review - MUSIC

Ok, so I'm not normally known as the music guy (as has been stated, movies is my thing); but the end of the year came and I realized that, you know, I've listened to a lot of music this year. I've been to a lot of concerts. I've bought a lot of CDs. And boiling it down to a list of ten albums, takes a little bit of work, because music is such a constant part of my life. So like Luke I'm going to offer up my Top Ten Albums of the year, followed by some honourable mentions, some of my favourite singles and some memorable performances that I was able to take in this year.

Of course I do all of this with the caveat that I do not proclaim myself a music expert. I don't know everything about every band, nor do I have time or money to listen to every major release of the year (hence some major albums that I have yet to listen to, including Sufjan Stevens Illinois, The New Pornographers Twin Cinema and My Morning Jacket Z). Also, I do have to send some thanks in the direction of a few of the people who I credit with encouraging my interest/education in music: Ewan Currie, Joel Fonstad, Meghann Fior, and Lesley Matheson. And anyone else who suggested an album to me that I really liked. Thanks.

It's been an interesting year for music. Living in Victoria, in my own place, music is always on. I always have my iPod with me. That means that there's been some really great new discoveries for me this fall of old music as well. I must say that Joy Division and New Order will now always be among my favourites. Also, I discovered Jeff Buckley and realized what an impact he's had on the kinds of music I like. More recent bands that I've found, such as Interpol (thanks to Lesley's obsession) and The Libertines have also become regular fixtures in my listening patterns. It's also been a year of the Canadian Indie bands, a couple of which will appear on my list; discovering these bands has become much easier thanks to the CBC Radio 3 Podcast. It's a great weekly dose of the newest and most interesting happenings in Canadian music.

So, without further ado let me present my favourite albums of the year 2005.

10) Guero - Beck (Interscope)

There are certain artists who I will check out almost anything they release. Beck is one of those artists. He is the consumate eccentric musician (crazy tracks, Scientology) and he's difficut to pin down and define. Sea Change is one my favourite albums of the past few years, but for Guero he returned to the more "classic" Beck sound working with the Dust Brothers (Odelay) again and creating something that harkens back and looks forward at the same time. The first single "E-Pro" definitely got me moving, nodding my head along to the the album. The album title (which means roughly "white boy" in Spanish) is definitely fitting, as on the second track, Beck brings in the Latin influence that he experienced growing up. Of course part of the greatness of a Beck album is that you never really know what to expect, and yet you do at the same time. While Guero is a bit of a return to the sounds of the Odelay-era, and probably doesn't rank along with my very favourite Beck albums, it's so well done and sent me on a Beck listening spree in the spring and so it belongs on the list: Standout Tracks: "E-Pro," "Girl," "Scarecrow"

9) Don't Believe The Truth - Oasis (Epic)

Another old favourite band on the list. This album may get the award for "Biggest Surprise" of 2005. Last winter, when Ewan mentioned that Oasis had a new album out this year, I was kind of interested, but not really, since it seems it's been all downhill since (What's the Story) Morning Glory. But low and behold I listened to it and it rocks! Of course, if you're not an Oasis fan already, you're not likely to change your mind, but it's as if Noel Gallagher remembered what made Oasis the best wanna-be Beatles band in the world and went back to it. Standout Tracks: "Lyla," "Love Like A Bomb," "The Importance of Being Idle," "Let There Be Love"

8) Apologies to the Queen Mary - Wolf Parade (Sub-Pop)

The first Canadian Indie artist on the list, I had the pleasure of seeing these guys open for The Arcade Fire in Vancouver in October. Their stage energy and my friend Meghann's enthusiasm prompted me to check out a few tracks of theirs and low and behold, I liked their album work even better than their performance. The opening few notes of "It's A Curse" won me over, and Luke heard my comments and got me the album for Christmas. While the band may recieve some criticism from those who say they sound like other bands (their local compatriots The Arcade Fire, or Modest Mouse), I think they have a unique "indie" sound with a solid rock core. The whole thing is outstanding and makes me hungry for more. Definitely one of the best albums of the year. Standout Tracks:"Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts, "It's A Curse," "This Heart's On Fire"

Tune back in tomorrow for albums 7-5 of my favourite albums of 2005.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas Everybody!

I've been a delinquint blogger since I got back to Saskatoon. No Kong review. No music reports. No excited boyish exclamations about comics. But I did want to wish everyone who reads this blog and even those who don't a very Merry Christmas! To me Christmas is a wonderful time of year to be with friends and family, have good food and wonderful times, but most of all, for me and mine, it's about the birth of Christ. May the spirit of the season and He who it celebrates fill your heart with joy, in whatever way you observe this day.

P.S. I'm having a fantastic time here in Saskatoon. And you can all look forward to me publishing my yearly top ten movies list. And this year I'm also going to do a top ten albums list as well, as music has been a huge part of my life this past year. Stay tuned. At some point I will be back!

Friday, December 09, 2005

One last thing before I get back to work: the trailer for Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst and Jason Schwartzman. It looks beautiful, and both Dunst and Schwartzman look far better in the roles than I would have thought. Of course, this might be one of the coolest anachronistic music choices in a trailer ever. Gotta love New Order. Sofia might just have nearly perfect taste in music.

Essay writing in progress. However, you should all know that the song of the day is "Disconnect the Dots" by Of Montreal (click to listen), one of the catchiest little songs I've heard in a while.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The essay is going well. At least as well as things can be given the circumstances. However, I seem to have the attention span of a 12-year-old with ADHD. I'll get back to the essay writing in a moment, but first let's check in with the Kong news of the day.

The reviews are coming in now after the premiere in New York this past weekend, featuring the life size statue of Kong as seen in the picture above. How fun would that be? Anyway, the reviews are glowing! How glowing? Well, both Lisa Schwarzbaum from Entertainment Weekly and Peter Travers of Rolling Stone give the film their very highest grades, A and four-stars respectively. That's something, especially from the tight-fisted Travers who last year only gave out 2 four star reviews the whole year! I cannot wait!

On Monday night I finally got to see Good Night and Good Luck, the film about Edward Murrow and CBS news' conflict with Senator Joe McCarthy in 1953. Seeing the potential of the medium and way that Murrow and co. so doggedly pursued what they felt was justice was not only great filmmaking, but it was inspiring as well. Director/Actor George Clooney shows why I cite him as one of my favourite entertainers working today. His second film (the first being the underrated Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) shows that he is a serious director, with a knack for compelling drama and an eye for composition.

The Acting is fantastic - David Strathhairn does a great job as Murrow, and could even nab himself an Oscar nomination. The supporting cast, including Clooney, Jeff Daniels, Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey Jr. (great as always) and Frank Langella, are all great as well. Particularly interesting though is the use of historical footage for the portrayal of Sen. McCarthy. No need to fear that he's been "villanized." He does a fine job of that himself.

The picture is beautiful - This is a finely composed film, and the use of black and white makes me long that more films would do so. The black and white not only seems appropriate to the period, but looks great too. Clooney uses many tight close-ups in the film, giving it an intimate and personal feel.

One last thing that really stuck with me was the cigarette smoking in this film. Murrow always has a lit cigarette during his show, and at one point they even show an old 50s TV ad for cigarettes. It's shocking from the stand point of our modern culture which demonizes cigarette smoking, because it was so prevalent in that culture. But also, the black & white photography wonderfully captures the smoke in the air, lending some particularly memorable and beautiful imagery.


On another note, comic book fans should pick up the latest issue of Mark Millar's The Ultimates 2 #9. This is a shocker. Or if not a shocker, it's a definitely the most heavy-hitting issue of the series, especially if you thought that last issue (which saw Captain America accused of treason and placed under arrest) was full of surprises.

Millar is one of the best writers in comics (both this one and Frank Miller as well). His handling of The Ultimates concept (what if the Avengers existed in a world much more like our own) is spot on. He writes this series as if it is the ultimate political-action-science-fiction film. And what an insanely huge film it would be. This series has it all. Grand spectical. Personal insight. Characters who are well developed. Fantastic art design. I'd kill to be able to make this into a movie.


On a more personal note, I'm done one essay and working on the next two (hoping to be done by Monday before I jump on a plane back to Saskatoon for the holidays that night). Life keeps me busy here, so I haven't had a lot of time to contemplate going back home. Let's just say that as great as Victoria is (and it is), there are a number of things that will make the visit home very sweet indeed (and yes Aren, you're Xbox 360 is one of them).

Today I've been listening to Feist's album, Let It Die. It's great. I'm particularly enjoying "Mushaboom" and her cover of the brothers Gibb's "Inside and Out." As, Aren and Joel are prone to say, that is all.

Monday, December 05, 2005

In case anyone thinks my enthusiasm for King Kong has been on the decline, fear not! I've just had to force my mind to think about papers until next week. Today's Penny Arcade strip was of course hilarious. I don't know how many times I've talked about certain movies just assuming people knew what happened in them, in fact, I think I've done this about Kong as well in the past few weeks.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Today the unthinkable happened in Victoria. It snowed! When you think of how beautiful it was on the weekend it's even more strange. Of course, having lived in Saskatchewan for most of my life this didn't seem threatening. It seemed a fitting way to start the first day of December. But people in Victoria cannot drive in winter. It's not because they are somehow ridiculous, but the city lacks infrastructure to clean up snowfall, and people's vehicles aren't accustomed to it. Still it's got me in the Christmas mood, and it's still fairly warm out (zero degrees). I'm sure it will be gone tomorrow morning.