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According to Entertainment Weekly, the trend of duelling movie projects continues, and their newest subject is Jeff Buckley.
Gossip Girl star Penn Badgley has reportedly signed on to play the late musician in the film Greetings from Tim Buckley, which is slated to start filming in August. The film will focus on Buckley’s life in 1991, which came well before the release of his lone studio album, Grace, in 1994, and his eventual drowning in 1997. Focusing on the early stages of his career, the film will depict Buckley’s performance at a tribute concert for his late father, Tim, who died of a drug overdose at the age of 28.
A second Buckley-centric project, based on the biography Dream Brother, is also in the works, but has yet to find a star.
It hardly seems coincidental that after years of rumours about a Buckley biopic, there are now two projects gearing up to start production. We’ve seen the same phenomenon recently with the two Snow White films slated for 2012 release (along with a spat of other fairytale updates), and 2005 saw the release of two Truman Capote biopics (Capote and Infamous).
Though I’m not sold on Badgley as the star (I have nothing against the guy, I just don’t really see much similarity between him and Buckley), I like the approach of covering only a small part of a musician’s life in a biopic. It’s a tactic that worked well in last year’s Nowhere Boy (which covering the formation of The Beatles during John Lennon’s teenage years), and it could perhaps work in Greetings from Tim Buckley‘s favour.
Over a year ago, I shared my choices for “8 Biopics That Need to Be Made“. In there, I suggested that James Franco would make a fitting Jeff Buckley. I still think he’d be a good choice, but as well as being a bit on the older side now (At 31, Franco is now slightly older than Buckley was when he died), I feel like Franco’s growing superstardom might be a bit incongruous with Buckley’s much more low-key persona. My current pick for the role is Reeve Carney (who is currently starring in the ill-fated Spider-Man musical). He’s a lot younger, has proven to be a good singer, and looks strikingly like Buckley at some angles. I haven’t seen him in anything, so I can’t vouch for his acting, but he seems like he has the right balance of charisma and enigma. I also think Rocket Science’s Reece Thompson could make for a more interesting, less “suave” Buckley than Badgley.
And then there’s the question as to whether we really need a Buckley biopic (let alone two). He is an amazing musician, but his following is still somewhat limited. A lot of people have never even heard of him, and while these films would almost certainly introduce him to a wider audience, they also run the risk of cashing in on his early death.
My dad has a pretty neat vinyl record collection in our basement. I’ve always been interested in it, and I was first introduced to artists like Queen, The Beatles, and Elton John thanks to him playing their albums in the house when I was a kid. Not everything in there is to my taste (why is there so much Barbara Streisand?), but there’s also some great stuff. And I know there are probably tons of albums in there that I’d love, but just have never listened to before. So I’ve decided to educate myself a little bit, musically, and listen to “new” albums. Today’s selections are all by artists that I’m familiar with, but I’m not especially well-versed in any of them, and I’ve never listened to these albums in their entirety before.
Billy Joel – The Stranger (1977)
In retrospect, The Stranger could almost play like a greatest hits album. Most of Joel’s most famous songs – “Just the Way You Are”, “She’s Always a Women”, “Vienna”, and “Only the Good Die Young” – can all be found here. However, even though I was already very familiar with almost half of the songs on here, The Stranger was a bit of a revelation to me on first listen. Before this, I’d usually listened to Joel in single-song servings at weddings and in movies. To me, he’d been a singer who sang pretty songs. But when I listened to The Stranger as a whole, it all came together and seemed artistic in a way that his work never has to me before.
I wouldn’t have necessarily thought that the rollicking “Only the Good Die Young” and the winsome “She’s Always a Woman” had much in common, but somehow it makes perfect sense when they play back-to-back on Side B here. And “Vienna” – a song I’ve loved for a while now – feels like a beautiful, weary sigh at the beginning of the album’s second side. Meanwhile, The Stranger‘s opening track, “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”, has lovely lyrics about casting aside society’s expectations, and that theme permeates the whole album.
The message and melodies of the album feel thoroughly modern, but there’s also more than a hint of retro fun (so many saxophone solos!) Despite a couple of songs that fall on the questionable side of schmaltz (“Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”, and yes, “Just the Way You Are”), this album is just an amazing example of pop songwriting at its best. No one does it like Joel, and I understand that more than ever now.
The Allman Brothers Band – Brothers and Sisters (1973)
Even though I don’t listen to that much of it, I really enjoy southern rock. And The Allman Brothers Band has always appealed to me, even though, again, I’m not especially well-versed in their music. But it seems like I got a pretty good formal introduction with Brothers and Sisters. Full of traditional roots influences, this album blends folk and rock in a really satisfying way. The standout track for me was “Southbound”, which is probably the most concise, accessible song on the album. I love the vocals on that track. As well, “Ramblin’ Man” showcases the band’s flawless melodies while simulataneously paying homage to their influences and influencing generations to come.
However, I wasn’t as enchanted by the album’s second side. Since I’m usually not a big fan of long, jammy instrumental songs, “Come and Go Blues” lost me a little bit. It seems like the band traded their gritty vocals for instrumental jams on the back half, which will suit some fans perfectly, but it didn’t sit as well with me. Overall, though, the Allman Brothers create a pretty euphoric offering of southern rock on Brothers and Sisters.
Tom Waits – Blue Valentine (1978)
It’s pretty easy to see why Tom Waits is a polarizing artist. That voice is certainly not for everyone (I’ve spent years debating whether or not I like it), and he often fuses his songs with more experimental jazz elements. And while I mostly like Mule Variations, Waits is not an artist that I’ve actively sought out much over the years. But I decided to give Blue Valentine a shot. Admittedly, it was mostly because of the title (I guess I was expecting some kind of aural link to the Ryan Gosling film?) and the strangely attractive photos of a young Waits on the sleeve. But I’m glad I did give it s listen, because it’s a very interesting album.
It opens with Waits crooning the star-crossed ballad “Somewhere” from Westside Story (a la Johnny Rotten’s “My Way”?), but then quickly cuts to the chase. The album alternates evenly between fairly straight-forward blues tracks and more challenging jazz-influenced songs, and to be honest, I much prefer the former. Tracks like “Postcard from a Hooker in Minneapolis”, “Wrong Side of the Road”, the title track, and especially the slow-burning “$29.00″ showcase his voice so much better, in my opinion; His voice sounds gruff and sexy in all the right ways when he keeps things simple. (Wow, apparently I’m just perving out on Tom Waits today).
Objectively, the experimentalism is interesting (though the less accessible tracks might take a few listens to get used to), and I don’t really consider the mix of styles a weakness of the album (in fact, it’s probably a strength) – it’s just a matter of personal opinion. However, “A Sweet Little Bullet from a Pretty Blue Gun” is a lively, more uptempo track that hits perfectly. The bass line is creates a sultry undercurrent, and Waits’ voice weaves perfectly with the horns. Blue Valentine is an ambitious, wonderfully atmospheric album. It’s one that I’ll definitely come back to in the future, because it seems like there’s so much more to discover here.
Sadly, I don’t live in Europe, so I won’t be seeing Ryan Adams live this summer. (Please do a North American tour soon!) But I couldn’t help but smile when I saw this pop up on my Twitter feed. Laura Marling has said in several interviews that Ryan Adams was a huge influence on her, and I remember Adams posted on his Facebook page last summer about how much he loved her new album. It’s always nice to see two musicians with such a respect for each other (especially when they’re both musicians I like), and it’s cool that they get to play together. Now, if only I lived in Amsterdam…
Here’s a new feature that I’m calling The Friday Five. It’s basically just a list of five things that I’ve been into the past week. I think it’ll be a good chance for me to talk about things that I might not otherwise discuss on here (and some things that I definitely would). I’m hoping to make it a weekly thing, so here’s the first one!
1. Friday Night Lights Season 2
(*SOME SPOILERS ABOUT SEASON 2 AHEAD*)
From what I understand, some Friday Night Lights fans have a beef with the show’s second season, but at the halfway point, I’m enjoying it so far. The whole murder (or manslaughter, I guess?) storyline is kind of ridiculous, but to me, FNL has walked a fine line between drama and melodrama several times before. And while it’s not where I would have wanted Landry’s character to go, at least he’s getting more screen time.
Julie’s storyline seems pretty natural to me. She was always a self-involved brat, so I’m totally not surprised to see her “acting out” more this season. I’ve never really liked that character (and I don’t Aimee Teegarden is a very good actress), so at least it’s something more interesting for her this season.
I also have to give them a lot of credit for where they’re going with Jason’s character. Because literally just at this point (I’m at the point in the season where he just got back from Mexico) I’m starting to care about his character. I’m not exactly sure why, but I never connected with him much before. But whenever you throw Jason Street and Tim Riggins together, I’m probably going to like it. Actually scratch that – whenever you put Tim Riggins with ANYONE, I’m bound to like it.
My hopes for the rest of the season are that they focus more on Matt, and that they find more excuses to put Coach Taylor in a suit.
2. The Head and the Heart by The Head and the Heart
Hey, do you know what the world needs? Another bearded folk-rock group from Seattle on the Sub Pop label.
Seriously, though, these guys are good. The lead single from the album, “Lost in My Mind“, is a hushed, harmonized stunner, and the rest of the album lives up to it. If you like bands like Mumford & Sons, and yes, Fleet Foxes, be sure to check these guys out. They released this debut album independently at first, but it was recently reissued on Sub Pop.
3. Taran Killam on Saturday Night Live
All four of this season’s SNL newbies (Paul Brittain, Vanessa Bayer, and Jay Pharoah are the others) have had really funny moments, but for me, the one that’s really standing out is Taran Killam. He was woefully underused at first, but after shining in the Unstoppable trailer spoof, delivering a spot-on Eminem impression on Weekend Update, and writing the off-beat-but-strangely-awesome “Les Jeunes de Paris” sketches, he’s getting more airtime (especially in the last two weeks). His best moment yet was in the Elton John episode, when Killam and John played a gay couple hosting their own show on the LOGO network. It’s a fine line to play a stereotypically gay character, but Killam’s performance was entirely sweet and affectionate. He played off Elton John perfectly.
4. “Fragile Bird” by City and Colour
Dallas Green used to be best known as the guy who sings the melodies in Alexisonfire, but thanks to two solid albums, he’s getting tons of praise for his solo work, too. Three years after his last album, we finally get to hear some new material, and it doesn’t disappoint. “Fragile Bird” is one of his strongest melodies yet, and Green’s voice sounds prettier than ever. There’s an electric element that might not sit well with some fans of his usually acoustic fare, but I personally really like the evolution in sound. It sits nicely between Alexisonfire and his earlier solo stuff. The only downside is that we have to wait until June 7 for his next album, Little Hell.
5. Modern Family
I know I’m late to the game on this one, but isn’t Modern Family such a nice little show? I’m halfway through the first season, and it’s totally living up to my expectations. I loved the episode where they throw a birthday party for Luke, and the one after that, where the Dunphys cancel Christmas.
Everyone is good on the show, but the immediate standouts for me were Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Ty Burrell. Ferguson plays Mitchell (half of the show’s same-sex couple), and aside from the fact that I can relate to that character to an extent that slightly frightens me, Ferguson just has such an easy, wry sense of humour. As for Burrell (who plays bumbling father of three Phil Dunphy), his physical comedy is absolutely fantastic AND he’s totally charming. He’s like some wonderful Chris Farley/Robert Downey Jr. hybrid. And he’s not bad to look at, either.
I’ve been watching a few old My Chemical Romance videos on YouTube (don’t ask why), and I noticed that Marc Webb was their go-to guy for direction.
Webb, of course, directed one of my favourite movies of last year, (500) Days of Summer, and is slated to helm the new Spider-man reboot (which I’m feeling more optimistic about. Andrew Garfield! Emma Stone! Dennis Leary!). But, like a lot of contemporary directors, he got his start directing music videos. And since this all happened in the early-to-mid 2000′s, he inevitably ended up directing videos for a lot of post-grunge and “emo” bands that were popular at the time.
Being in middle school around this time, I was greatly influenced by what my peers were listening to. And I actually watched Much Music back then. So, without knowing it, I’m pretty familiar with this guy’s back catalogue. Looking at the list of videos that he’s directed, I can immediately and vividly remember the following videos (in chronological order):
- Puddle of Mudd – She Hates Me (is that Minka Kelly in the video? I honestly can’t tell.)
- Yellowcard – Ocean Avenue
- My Chemical Romance – I’m Not Okay
- Jesse McCartney – Beautiful Soul
- My Chemical Romance – Helena
- Hot Hot Heat – Middle of Nowhere
- Hilary Duff – Wake Up
- My Chemical Romance – The Ghost Of You
- Weezer – Perfect Situation
- All-American Rejects – Move Along (notable for seizure-inducing chorus segments, and Tyson Ritter’s beauty)
- AFI – Miss Murder
- Fergie – London Bridge
- My Chemical Romance – I Don’t Love You
- My Chemical Romance – Teenagers
- Miley Cyrus – Start All Over
- All American Rejects – Gives You Hell
And that’s not even close to half the videos that he’s done. There are a few others that I don’t remember, and a bunch that I never saw, including some with Green Day (first in 2001, and then for their 21st Century Breakdown album), Good Charlotte, Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want to Be”, Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day”, and Maroon 5′s “Harder to Breathe”.
This might not be a shining era in music history, but you have to admit that Webb directed videos for some pretty prominent songs of the time. And the fact that I can actually remember so many of his videos means that they’re at least somewhat interesting (either that, or I just watched them so many times that they’re permanently engrained in my memory).
In fact, I think that a few of those videos are actually quite good. My Chemical Romance’s “The Ghost of You” is probably one of the best directed videos I’ve seen in a while. And even though it’s melodramatic and over-the-top, the theatrical tone is spot on for their fanbase. Same goes for their gothed-out “Helena” video, and the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” rip-off that is “Teenagers”. I’m not surprised that the band worked with Webb so often, because it seems to me that he deserves a lot of credit for helping them to cultivate a very specific and successful image.
And videos like “Start All Over” and “Move Along” are surprisingly memorable, too. Their concepts are simple and certainly not groundbreaking, but whenever I think of those songs (which, admittedly, is not very often), the music video immediately comes to mind.
Despite working with such a wide array of artists, I’m surprised by what a unique, recognizable style Webb has. I can’t really pinpoint it, but most of those videos have a signature Marc Webb look to them. I had no idea going into (500) Days of Summer that this guy had defined my middle school years, to an extent.
Not to get too sentimental, but I think that time period was the twilight for the music video. Sure, you can find some really innovative videos online by smaller artists, but mainstream videos are largely dead, as far as I can tell. With the exception of Lady Gaga, it seems like the big artists today and their labels are barely putting any thought into music videos. Of course, it doesn’t help that television stations barely play videos anymore, but there’s still the while “viral” market for them online that they could try to tap into. I’m not saying that music videos from the mid-2000′s were great, because most of them weren’t. And maybe I’m just fond of them because that’s when I came of age. But artists like Green Day, My Chemical Romance, and Billy Talent at least attempted some kind of visual style (no, I don’t count Katy Perry’s penchant for sepia tone as a “style”).
So there’s a look at some of the highlights from Marc Webb’s video career (you can see a more complete list on his Wikipedia page here). You can also watch a few of the videos below. I’m hoping to write up some future segments on the music videos of Mark Romanek, Samuel Bayer, and Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.
I just want to talk about my new musical infatuation…
Yeah, that’s right, I’m talking about the mid 2000′s “alt” rockers who sounded like some combination of Hoobastank and The Fray. I’m not ashamed.
Let me explain (even though this explanation is going to sound really, really lame).
A bit over a week ago, I was in a car accident. No one was hurt or anything, but my car is a write off, and the whole thing was pretty scary (for obvious reasons). So a day or so after that happened, I stumbled across Augusta’s song “Boston” on YouTube. I’d heard the song before and never thought much of it, but suddenly I was like, “THIS IS MY FUCKING JAM”.
Was it just my fragile state? I have no idea. But now I’ve listened to a bunch of their stuff, and I also really like the song “Stars and Boulevards“. My only explanation is that I subliminally associate this kind of music with stupid teen dramas like The O.C.. And since this car accident was basically the ONLY thing that’s ever happened to me that could happen on one of those shows, maybe I’m having some weird cathartic release from hearing that music? Haha, I actually have no idea. Either way, I’m basking in the angst right now and loving it.
To be honest, I don’t really know what the general perception of Augustana is. They’re not massively popular, but I imagine that some of those annoying “popular” girls in my high school jammed to “Boston” back in the day. They kind of sound like the Counting Crows to me, which I don’t see as a bad thing. I’m all about that melodic, angsty folk-rock.
I now find it really jarring whenever I see old N’Sync clips.
This is probably a testament to Justin Timberlake’s ability to reinvent his career. But it’s just so weird to think that he’s someone who I drooled over when I was nine years old (especially considering that at the time, he was younger than I currently am). It’s as though N’Sync Justin Timberlake and solo career/SNL host/Social Network Justin Timberlake are two entirely people. When he first started his solo career (as in, Justified days), the two seemed like the same person. It was like “oh, that’s the curly-haired guy from N’Sync, and his music maybe isn’t as terrible as we expected”. But then he became a person that (some) people actually respected, and kind of became a legitimate artist.
It’s hard to pinpoint when he became a different person. Was it “Sexyback”? I think it might have been. It’s not even an especially good song, but I think that was the first time, post-N’Sync, where he managed to create something that became a cultural touchstone. Then it turned out that he was funny, and could act decently. He played his cards right, and now people and waiting anxiously for another album (I’m not even a huge fan of his music, but “What Goes Around” is a song that I’ll probably always defend). Kudos, Justin Timberlake.
Can you think of any other teen pop idols that were equally successful as adults? While you’re pondering this (because I can’t think of anyone), enjoy this nostalgic N’Sync video. It’s like they just completely erased this part of pop culture history to save JT’s dignity.
(Side note: I honestly think that Chris Kirkpatrick’s biggest post-N’Sync “career move” was getting called out in that Eminem song.)
Call me crazy, but I actually really enjoyed the Grammys on Sunday night. I know that it’s cool to hate on the Grammys (I’m guilty of it), and to say that they’re irrelevant, but I liked way more of the performances than I expected to. Maybe I was just more open-minded, or maybe mainstream music has just gotten better. And the actual awards themselves weren’t the disaster that I’d expected, either. Here are a few quick thoughts on some of the key performances:
- The Aretha Franklin tribute was nice, but it felt a bit forced. Jennifer Hudson gave the most impressive performance, vocally, but Florence Welch also brought something refreshingly different to her rendition of “Think”. Everyone was trying to one-up each other to sometimes comical effect.
- Lady Gaga’s performance of her new song, “Born This Way” showed her typical showmanship. I like the song, and her performances are always interesting.
- The Janelle Monae, Bruno Mars and B.O.B. performance was very lively. Mars’ vocals were wonky on “Grenade”, but the dude wore half a dozen hats (figuratively speaking) in that extended number, so I have to give him credit for that. And it was another great example of Monae’s showmanship.
- I may have officially lost it, but I actually liked Justin Bieber’s performance. I certainly could have done without Jayden Smith popping out from beneath the stage (with copious shots of Will and Jada smiling smugly in the audience like they were at the world’s most prestigious school Christmas pageant), and the weird spoken-word intro with Usher. But when it was just Bieber, I thought he sounded really good. I think I like his voice more now that it has deepened.
- I was definitely the most excited for the Avett Brothers/Mumford & Sons/Bob Dylan performance. The transitions between songs were a bit awkward, but individually, they were really strong. Once Mumford & Sons got into the last half of “The Cave”, it was really powerful. The Avett Brothers were a bit more low-key, but great, as usual. And the finale sing-a-long of “Maggie’s Farm” was great.
- Was it really necessary to have Gwyneth Paltrow and The Muppets join Cee-Lo for “The Song Otherwise Known as ‘Forget You’”? Not really. Cee-Lo sounded fantastic on his own. But Paltrow offered some really impressive vocal moments, so I really didn’t mind it.
- I LOVED Norah Jones, John Mayer, and Keith Urban’s stripped down version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”. It had an intimate, impromptu vibe to it that was totally different from the rest of the show’s “bigger is better” ideology. I respect all three artists individually (though I don’t really actively seek out their music), and together it was kind of magical. Mayer and Urban are really fantastic guitarists, and Jones and Urban both sang really well (didn’t think Mayer’s vocals were as strong).
- My biggest knowledge gap in current music is probably with rap music. It’s not that I don’t like it, I’m just not…drawn to it, I guess? But by my judgement, Eminem KILLED it in his performance with Rihanna, Dr. Dre, and Skylar Grey. Everyone sounded good, but Eminem sang with the kind of conviction that reaches through the television, grabs you, and makes you listen. It was beyond performing. While other artists prance around the stage or dodge ninjas (I said I liked Biebs’ performance, but that was a bit much), Eminem is just living in his music.
- The Katy Perry/Russell Brand wedding album? No, thanks. Her performance was fine, but forgettable.
- Mick Jagger is amazing. The dude is ancient, and he didn’t even look winded after his high-energy take on Soloman Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”.
- Arcade Fire are also amazing. “Month of May” was great, but their post-win performance of “Ready to Start” was something really special.
- ARCADE FIRE. YES. YES YES YES.
- It’s sappy and all, but I do like Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now”. Them winning Song of the Year was acceptable (given the nominees), but I didn’t really need to see them up there three times, to be honest.
- I’m glad Eminem won Rap Album of the Year. He’s had an impressive comeback, considering that a lot of people thought that he was out of the game. I went through a phase when I was twelve when I sort of got into his music, thinking that I was a badass, so it’s cool to follow his career since then. And even though he may be incapable of smiling, I liked his speech. I thought it was gracious of him to thank Rihanna, because (as he acknowledged) her chorus on “Love the Way You Lie” definitely helped boost his recent popularity.
- Muse winning Rock Album of the Year? Bleh.
Is it just me, or were the past couple of weeks fairly eventful one in terms of pop culture? Let’s take a look:
- The White Stripes break up. Sure, they hadn’t released any new material since 2007′s Icky Thump, and hadn’t performed together since the finale of Late Night with Conan O’Brien. But fans still liked to cling to the faint hope that Jack and Meg White might once again don the red, white, and black.
- Black Eyed Peas Superbowl Fiasco. Wait, the fact that Fergie and co. are terrible live is considered news? I thought it was just puzzlingly accepted common knowledge.
- New single from The Strokes. “Under Cover of Darkness” is their first single since 2006′s First Impressions of Earth, and it’s pretty rad. I’m not even a HUGE Strokes fan (I do like them, but I don’t usually find them so unique or exciting to warrant so much praise), but I really love this song. Naturally, it’s very Strokes-y, but it’s also kind of different for them. I like that it gives Julian Casablancas the chance to show off vocally. This, coupled with speculation that they may be performing on Saturday Night Live on March 5 suddenly makes The Strokes relevant again.
- New Lady Gaga single. It seems a bit mainstream, but the song is catchy, and you really can’t argue with that kind of self-empowerment message.
- Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers to perform with Bob Dylan on the Grammys. Or: a reason to actually watch the Grammys.
- Oh, and some kid named Justin Bieber. He has, like, a movie coming out or something? I don’t know.
I’m probably forgetting other things.
Parks & Recreation was awesome. But something that happens every week doesn’t really count as news.
Warning: People who do not like Neon Bible will probably not like this list. But it happens to be my favourite Arcade Fire album so…
- Wake Up
- (Antichrist Television Blues)
- Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)
- We Used to Wait
- Keep the Car Running
- Deep Blue
- My Body is a Cage
- Ready to Start