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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…
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.
…But Paul McDonald is singing “Come Pick Me Up” by Ryan Adams tonight!
I know some DRA fans will be pissed, because it’s American Idol and all. But really, I think Paul can do it justice. He’s seems like the real deal (or at least, as close to the real deal as you can get on Idol). I watched this video of him talking about his influences, and I really can’t argue with anyone who likes Mumford & Sons, Ryan Adams, and The Black Keys. (Who has all three of those artists in their top 6 most played artists on Last.fm? Oh that’s right, it’s this bitch.)
I have somewhat mixed feelings about Ryan being shown to a wider audience. It is a good thing, but part of me is also one of those snobby people who doesn’t want “the masses” to taint their favourite musicians. But it was kind of cool when Jeff Buckley hit number one on iTunes after Jason Castro (was it him?) sang “Hallelujah” on the show.
Mostly, though, I’m just excited to see what Paul does with it. (And what they’ll change some of the lyrics to!)
(And yes, I know that Ryan Adams has been done on the show before, when Blake Whatshisface sang “When the Stars Go Blue”. But I think the less that it said about that, the better.)
This kind of reminds me of that final season of Canadian Idol where everyone kept picking the most unexpected songs. Someone sang fucking ELLIOTT SMITH on Idol. I had an existential “David After the Dentist” moment. Is this real life? We also heard, Ryan Adams (by my favourite contestant of the season, Earl Stevenson, who sang “Two”), Radiohead, The Kooks, Blind Melon, Feist, The Jayhawks, Joel Plaskett, The Tragically Hip, Matthew Good Band, The Black Crowes, and The Zutons. I mean, not everyone did it well (as evidenced by Mitch MacDonald, who probably didn’t hit more than about eight correct notes all season, but chose awesome songs – and somehow placed second), but at least they didn’t all sing “I’ll Be” and Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” (which never, ever works) every week like they do on the American counterpart. They had theme weeks like “Rock and Roll Heaven” (they had to pick songs by dead rockstars, which was kind of tasteless but kind of awesome) and David Bowie Week and Beatles Week and Unplugged Week (Canadian Idol did it a few times, and it was always really good). And then people kept picking Bread songs, too, which was weird.
But anyways, I didn’t mean this to turn into a Canadian Idol rant. Too much misplaced nostalgia.
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.
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
- Seven Nation Army
- The Union Forever
- The Denial Twist
- Fell in Love With a Girl
- Ball and Biscuit
- We’re Going to Be Friends
- The Big Three Killed My Baby
- Hello Operator
- Hotel Yorba
- Effect & Cause
My latest musical crush is Bobby Long. I’d heard about this guy a while ago (and momentarily wondered if he was somehow connected to the 2004 Scarlett Johansson movie that I’ve never seen, A Love Song for Bobby Long. He’s not.), but I’d never really listened to his stuff. But now that his debut LP, A Winter Tale, is currently streaming over at spinner.ca, I decided to see what the fuss was about. And literally from the opening few chords, I knew that this was an album that I was really going to like.
His husky, soulful voice was the first thing that got my attention. It sits comfortably between Gavin DeGraw and Ray LaMontagne, and he sings with a refreshing clarity. And while his style could sometimes be described as “blue-eyed soul”, there is none of the posturing or affectation that tends to comes along with that tag. Instead, Long’s delivery style suggests a world-weariness far beyond his 24 years. While someone like Marcus Mumford (whose voice I like quite a bit) seems to belt every lyric like it’s a matter of life and death, Long knows when to pull back. And some of the album’s most stirring moments occur in these moments of calm.
It’s going to take a few more listens to establish favourites, but on first listen, I liked every song on A Winter Tale. It’s (mostly) sombre folk, and it certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who like that style are sure to be presently surprised by this newcomer (he has a couple of self-released efforts, but this is his first release on a record label). His sound may not be as trendy as fellow British folk acts Noah and the Whale and Ellie Goulding, but Long strives for something far more enduring and timeless.
I have to say, this has been quite a strong year for music, so far. We’re barely a month in, and I’ve heard four albums that I really like so far (as well as Long, Bright Eyes, Cage the Elephant, and Iron & Wine have had very strong efforts). With a new Fleet Foxes album on the horizon (I love the first single) and endless possibilities for musical greatness, 2011 could be as good as or even better than 2010.