The Last Shadow Puppets – The Age of the Understatement (Domino)

shaodw.jpgI pressed play on this album with a healthy dose of skepticism. Spinoffs so early in the career of over-hyped indie rockers rarely bare fruits. Granted this is an Arctic Monkeys side project, but to me that doesn’t even really provide much credibility. But from the first few notes, I was bought in. This record is at times dominated by that dusty swagger of Ennio Morricone spaghetti western soundtrack, at others it is a brooding Bryan Ferry inflicted drama. Much of this brought out by the always prevalent classical strings and horns backdrop that sets the tone to many of the songs.

There is still the issue of that very familiar vocal signature, which is both a tad nasal, but also oddly compelling conveyor of forward motion. In the end, from the black and white cover art to the almost gothic or Renaissance inflected vibe that the “Age of Understatement” gives there is a wonderful sense of time in place captured here that is really quite unique. Although the album goes by in a breezy 35 minutes songs like ‘My Mistakes Were made for You” and “Standing Next to Me” will be the ones I return to when the dust eventually settles. 

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Reprise – Dir. Joachim Trier (Anders Danielsen Lie, Espen Klouman-Høiner, Viktoria Winge)

reprise.jpgGreat films come in all shapes and sizes. Some look great, while others just make you think, and others are mostly about specific extraordinary performances. “Reprise” is that rare breed that manages brilliance on all fronts, but does so without a single recognizable actor, a single special effect or a story that follows an easy narrative thread. Instead it rips pages from everything from “Run Lola Run” to the Dogma films to last year’s “Control,” suspending reality, speculating on the future and meditating on the present. In it two young writers in Oslo each drop their debut novel manuscripts into a mailbox This sets off two parallel voyages that will lead them unknowingly into different arcs of discovery.

Set to the dark mediations of Joy Division, and filled with subtle allusions to everyone from Russ Meyer to the great existentialists, “Reprise”  is a tribute to hipsterism, but it is also fragile and self-conscious. Each character is ultimately forced to deal with each other’s success and failure at a time when both outcomes inform the rest of their lives. All of these events and emotions happen at an incredibly fast pace, both emotionally and cinematically.

But more than anything the film explores the importance of recovery: from a broken heart, from the shock of rejection, or the paralyzing effects associated with success. “Reprise” is without a doubt one of the most creative, inventive films in years. It captures the hope and dreams of youth, tempered with the complexity or becoming an adult. I relate entirely. This film is a minor major masterpiece.

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Hercules and Love Affair – Hercules and Love Affair (Mute)

hercules.jpgMy flirtation with electronica has been slowly waning for the past few years. Although I’ll always lapse back into the Kruder & Dorfmeister sessions, the Hotel Costes records, and Gilles Peterson, I have largely lost that loving feeling. Then along comes this disco record, probably best played at clubs that open their doors hours after I am soundly asleep. Featuring the fragile yet exquisite vocals of Antony Hegarty (of the gorgeous goth folkies Antony and the Johnson’s). All of a sudden, like a time traveler from the mid-70’s or club kid from the early 90’s, I am tapping my feet and bobbing my head like somebody who actually likes to dance.

Without my soft spot for Hegarty, I would have blown through this album once without much thought, but here I am, liking it more each time.  No bones about it this is modern disco, and although not all of it is perfect most of it very very good.  Tracks like “Time Will” and “Blind” bop with a gothic sheen, while “Hercules Theme” is straight-up platform shoe Saturday Night Fever.  This album will polarize fans of smart music, but I’m happy to count this as an extremely guilty pleasure.

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