Old Joy – Dir. Kelly Reichardt (Daniel London, Will Oldham)

I am always going to be predisposed to small, talky, meandering and largely plotless films featuring men about my age struggling with the realities of adult life. “Old Joy” like films like “Naked,” “Kicking and Screaming,” and “High Fidelity” largely puts a microphone up to a few characters and lets them wax poetic, often in unchecked streams of consciousness. “Old Joy” drops two friends into the Oregon woods, with a bag of weed, and a mountain of distance that has grown between them over the years. This voyage, like all great voyages, mostly unfolds in their minds, with nothing but memories left to bond them anymore. Accompanied by the near perfect score from Yo La Tengo, this film is a short 76 minute journey that says an incredible amount in a short time.

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Elliott Smith – New Moon (Kill Rock Stars)

Enough time has gone by that I now really appreciate how sad it is not to have another Elliot Smith record to look forward to. Towards the end I suppose my expectations and anticipation for his work had become somewhat muted, having enthusiastically ground every record, including those with his earlier punk effort Heatmiser, into a kind of exiled admiration. But “New Moon” features largely outtakes, covers and unrealeased gems from the mid-nineties, his pre-major label heyday, is a welcome farewell to those who never really took the time to mourn.

You will not find another side of Smith buried within this beautiful double album, but you will get the chance to hear him covering Big Star’s classic “Thirteen,” and stripped down versions of the overexposed but beautiful “Miss Misery,” as well as another twenty or songs good enough to be included on almost any of his previous works. There are those who find his music sad, but they are superficial and unworthy. In his melancholy, was the soul of a man looking for happiness, purging it beautifully onto a handful of albums to an audience of adoring fans who would take this theorhetical sadness and turn it into joy.

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Dinosaur Jr. – Beyond (Fat Possum)

Almost twenty years ago the original lineup of Dinosaur Jr. split up with Lou Barlow getting even indier forming Sebadoh a variety of other lo-fi offshoots and singer J Mascis releasing a bunch of great records for Warner Brothers before disbanding in 1997. Prior to that the band had released a handful of potent SST records into the post-punk world of college radio, more or less setting the table for what would ultimately become “grunge.”

Much has changed in the past decade: hip-hop and emo rules what’s left of the airwaves, digital distribution has driven most indie record stoes out of business, myspace has opened up the music business to niches previosuly unserved, and what’s is left of the alternative market is further diluted. But none of this should matter, “Beyond” picks up almost where the band left off, infusing pop into punk, melody out of pounding guitars and drums. The eleven songs don’t break any new ground, but I suppose that absense makes the heart grow fonder.

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Come Early Morning – Dir. Joey Lauren Adams (Ashley Judd, Diane Ladd, Tim Blake Nelson)

Like so many little films that get quietly swept away without much notice, “Come Early Morning” is a delicious southern fried indie (a la “Junebug,” “Undertow,” “Eye of God”) about a handful of people moving through their lives in a small Southern town. Ashley Judd plays a hard drinking contractor, struggling to allow herself to have real relationships even when the occasional good guy drops neatly into her world. Although the reasons for her anxieties seem a bit trite, primarily stemming from her relationship with her hard drinking emotionally unavailable father, their relationship seems authentically stilted and real.

Directed by “Chasing Amy” and “Dazed and Confused” star Joey Lauren Adams, the film has a patient and natural feel to it. A lazy warm air kind of rolls through the film, neatly paired against the choatic mellowness of the characters. In many ways if you weren’t really paying attention to what was going on, this film would seem kind of boring and unoriginal but Ashly Judd is a very compelling actor especially when she literally becomes “real people” not the hard wired detectives she has gravitated towards in the years since “Ruby in Paradise.”

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