Moonbabies – Moonbabies at the Ballroom (Hidden Agenda)

I discovered this album through a poorly written set of user reviews on emusic. I shouldn’t be surprised that once in a pale blue moon, little diamonds can be found among heaps of ill-informed user generated endorsements. But Moonbabies are lovely. The band genre hops between old school shoegazing (a la Pale Saints, Lush, My Bloody Valentine) and modern folktronica (Zero 7, Beth Orton, Mojave 3), alternating between the lush vocal tracks and the upbeat vocals of Swddish duo Ola Frick and Carina Johansson.

Oddly enough this is the kind of record that could be playing at some plastically hip coffee shop, with people paying barely enough attention to feel at ease that their caffeine is infused with hipness, but not enough to realize how good it is. Most of the songs tend to drift along on a cloud of easiness, cheery but not sweet, jazzy but not stuffy, electronic but not artificial. Sometimes a record is best not being very complicated, bust being what it is. This one is just that, steeped in an vaguely obscure past but anchored in a modern present.

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Loney, Dear – Loney, Noir (Sub Pop)

Loney, Dear is yet another brilliant folk-pop songwriter project from Scandinavia. Following in the footsteps of brethern Sondre Lerche, Jose Gonzalez, and Kings of Convenience, this effort is a bit lighter and brighter, but also a bit easier to come onto. The work of a one man impresario from Sweden, Loney, Dear is a fully realized mini-symphony conducted by sweet, but not too wimpy, vocals surrounded by earthy guitars and a smattering of keys and strings.

Normally my rather specific musical taste should have had Loney, Dear pegged as a bullseye from the start, but this one took longer than I would have thought. Perhaps it is the production value, a kind of 4-track symphony, a little too thin at times, but everything is there, lush vocals and great overall pop songs. Leave it to Sub Pop, that label that continues to reinvent itself to unearth Loney, Dear and deliver it softly to the masses. This is a record that matters.

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Flannel Pajamas – Dir. Jeff Lipsky (Justin Kirk, Julianne Nicholson)

Indie films, art films, or whatever they are rightly called these days, will always involve the smartest people. They would have to be in order to 1) convince other smart people to see them vs. the litany of other more slickly produced, star studded alternatives and 2) to find a few people philanthropic enough to finance such a low risk venture. With this bias on my mind, I kind of trudged through the first 20 minutes of “Flannel Pajamas” forcing myself to at least “appreciate” the clever and hyper-lucid dialogue between the two main characters if not totally enjoying it. These early scenes are also peppered with an odd amount of sex and nudity that feels almost too real, without the benefit of airbrushed magazine sleek post-production.

“Flannel Pajamas” spends its entirety holding a magnifying up to relationship between two people, a mildly dysfunctional Catholic girl from Montana, and a nice but somewhat stereotypical Jewish boy from NY. But unlike every other Meg Ryan oriented relationship movie, and weighing in at a lengthy 2 hours of largely dialogue, “Flannel Pajamas” manages to capture the ugly warts of adulthood, marriage and the often massively corrosive nature of compromise (or lack thereof) between two people impeccably. Weeks later the film is still lingering, this is easily one of the most authentic and potent films on the subject since “Carnal Knowledge.”

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Charlotte Gainsbourg: 5:55 (Vice)

Daughter of an icon, film star, model, global hipster and now sultry singer in her own right, Charlotte Gainsbourg has delivered one of the finest folktronica records in many years. With dots, loops, keys and overall musical texture provided by French phenoms Air, “5:55″ is a luminously sweeping and at times gloriously moping mood piece rivaling the best DJ efforts of the genre (Zero 7, Morcheeba, Hotel Costes).

Gainsbourg is always at the center of it all with her seductively hushed vocals accompanying either lush string arrangements and brooding piano, or the upbeat almost dance tunes spun around tight drum loops, retro funk/dance rhythms or spacey sounding science fiction soundtrack music. It would be hard for anyone with a bias for pervasive and interconnected hipsterism not to fall hard and fast for a person so clearly steeped in so much of what is going on starring (films by Michel Gondry, records with Air, and a whole bunch of stuff I couldn’t possibly keep track of).

But more than yet another actress gone singer fiasco, “5:55″ is triumph with Charlotte Gainsbourg setting a very high bar …

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