Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tokyo Police Club live at Webster Hall 2.25.2009

Wednesday night New York welcomed Tokyo Police Club back to town for a sold out show at Webster Hall along with the Born Ruffians and the Harlem Shakes. The show was only the second night of their tour but the band proved quickly that they were up to the task rolling through a number of their short upbeat tunes like "Juno" and "Your English Is Good" with enthusiasm.

What’s fun about their live show is the subtle variations in the performance of the songs which on record are often remixed and reworked a number of times. The band was a bit like a poppy, Canadian version of the Ramones with the plethora of great tracks that are nearly all around 2-3 minutes live. The crowd was a mixed bunch between young 16 year old fans using their iphones to grab photos along side twenty something kids dancing and thirty year old hipsters. The stand-outs were some of the more densely melodic songs off their recent album Elephant Shell like “Graves” and “Tessellate” but the band really did a good job keeping it varied and interesting.

One of the highlights was the score of new tracks like “Breakneck Speed” and “Favorite Color”. The most memorable moment was without a doubt the encore as the band stepped back onstage calling the Born Ruffians back out to play a new song, “Spark” which they recently wrote together. The track is really interesting with the merger of TPC’s Dave Monks unique vocal sound pairing up with Born Ruffians singer Luke LaLonde. They closed it out in style inviting the Harlem Shakes out onto the already crowded stage for a classic rendition of the Clash’s “Train In Vain”.

Here's a video clip of “Spark”

Monday, February 23, 2009

Film Review: Vicky Christina Barcelona

Here's a recent review for Vicky Christina Barcelona I did for Short & Sweet NYC- I was happy to see Penelope Cruz win a Best Supporting Actress last night at the Oscars, she was amazing in the film.

Sensual, candid, and intuitive, Vicky Christina Barcelona is one of the best Woody Allen films in years with a tremendous cast and an insightful focus on human behavior, passion, and love. Woody has an excellent understanding of the nature of relationships, or at the very least their failures, after dedicating his movie career to the topic (in addition to his own) and Vicky Christina Barcelona is a film that benefits from his comprehension. The neurosis that is trademark to Allen’s films feels more natural and honest this time around resulting in a direct confrontation with the audience’s fears and sense of security and dis-passion. The film follows two young American women with opposite ideals in the arena of love and romance Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Christina (Scarlett Johansson), on a summer trip to Barcelona to stay with relatives Judy (Patricia Clarkson) and Mark (Kevin Dunn).

The two women are opposite extremes in terms of their expectations in a relationship and during their stay, they are confronted with a sexual proposition from a local artist, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). The women are split in their reactions but they travel with the artist spontaneously for the weekend. This is the point at which the film takes off and focuses on the nature of relationships and their success from an almost mathematical or chemical viewpoint. To make matters more interesting, Juan Antonio’s ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz), who is the embodiment of passion, steps into the picture and tips the scales. One of the core themes of the film is in looking at the basic nature of people and their expectations about their relationships and their ability to work when paired with romantic partners.

The film focuses on the ever-fleeting dream of total abandon of the heart, which is all the more romantic when dealing with artists from Barcelona. The characters are well constructed and varied enough that nearly anyone can relate to one of them. The performances are also momentous with very natural and believable portrayals from Bardem, Cruz, and Scarlett Johansson. Patricia Clarkson was a bit distracting even while doing a wonderful job because she appeared so close to Mia Farrow.

In all, the film is perfect in detailing our imperfections and the reality of relationships. The city itself is an unbelievably gorgeous backdrop playing well into the film and the interactions between the characters will stay with you for years. This is a film that will make you re-evaluate yourself on some level, which can be a dangerous, but valuable proposition, and any film that has such a result is important. Without a doubt it is one of 2008’s best and is absolutely worth checking out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Interview with Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Kenny Wayne Shepherd is one of the formost blues guitarist of our time and I had a chance to interview him recently as he is preparing for a special event he is holding at Guitar Center in Pasadena, California. Shepherd is well known for making it big at an early age and at the age of 17 his first album, Ledbetter Heights, made a big impact spending 20 weeks on top of the Billboard Blues Charts. His most recent effort was a documentary film and album titled 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads and it paired him up with classic blues performers like B.B. King and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown for some outstanding performances.

On February 18, Kenny will be appearing at Guitar Center in Pasadena for a free discussion about his playing technique, his new Fender Signature Series Stratocaster guitar, and some advice on playing and songwriting. For more information check it out here- Guitar Center.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Shooting Vegas

I arrived in Las Vegas late last night after a long day of flying and checked out the strip (which has changed quite a bit since my last visit). I can't feel my feet and I'm already down money but on the plus side there is a Starbucks in my hotel and every woman seems to be wearing a micromini.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Typography discussion

When I was graduating SVA my first (and at the time only) goal was to secure a job and try to get published in Raygun magazine. I never had the chance because the magazine ended its run shortly afterwards but here's a great talk David Carson, the former art director of Raygun, gave at TED about typography.

I'm a huge fan of his innovative "grunge" design, check out his website- David Carson

Monday, February 9, 2009

Tim Needles Project 2009: Week 4

Week 4 was dedicated to taking photos of food and then photographing the food photos with food (was I hungry?).

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Theresa Andersson at Joe’s Pub 2.6.2009

It would be hard to find a more impressive show than Theresa Andersson’s performance Friday night at Joe’s Pub. The Swedish born and New Orleans raised musician is a virtual one-woman band using looping pedals to record segments of each song which combine for an amazingly sophisticated sound live in front of the audience. There are a few musicians out there today using this method of performing but one can’t imagine anyone could make it look so effortless balancing a violin, a guitar, drums, percussion elements, and vocals and seemingly having so much fun in the process. Theresa’s spirit was contagious as she danced on stage with a big smile and bowled the audience away with her incredibly soulful voice.

She began the show and made an impression immediately with a stirring a cappella introduction using just a tambourine and followed it up with a few tracks off of her new album Hummingbird, Go! (which she recorded entirely in her kitchen). The brilliant “Birds Fly Away” was a standout song with its Motown feel along with a very catchy track entitled “Na Na Na” which shows off Theresa skills with looping and multi-tasking.

As the mid-point of the show approached Theresa invited friends Davell Crawford, a legendary pianist and vocalist from New Orleans, and jazz-pop singer-songwriter Sonya Kitchell to join her onstage. The trio was fantastic in their harmonizing and jazzy call and response and the songs showed how far Theresa’s talents stretched. They covered a number of tunes such as “We Are One”, which was inspired by the recent presidential inauguration and a momentous cover of Betty Harris’s “Nearer to You” which was produced by Allen Toussaint. Theresa thanked Allen (who played the Pub earlier in the week) for his inspiration and knocked the audience out with her heartfelt vocals producing a range that should win her an epic title (maybe the Queen of Soul Loops?) someday soon.

The trio left the stage and the crowd understandably demanded more so Theresa stepped back up for a cover of Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s “Find the Cost of Freedom”. She ended the set like she began it, a cappella, but this time looping her vocal track producing a powerful crescendo calling Davell and Sonya back up for a climactic vocal improvisation which was truly dazzling.

Here's a video of Theresa recording a song in her kitchen to give you a better idea:

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chris Rock: Kill The Messenger

Few comedians reach the level of success that Chris Rock has achieved. He is the quintessential comic of our time and his most recent HBO special Kill the Messenger proves why he has stayed on top for so long. He opens his fifth HBO special (his first was way back in 1994) with sharp, insightful notes on politics and continues with material on relationships and work that is truly enduring. The special edition DVD set is extensive, including the HBO special along with a second digital copy and 3 full performances from: New York, London, and Johannesburg from his recent 141 date arena tour, which spanned four continents.

The special cuts together material from the 3 cities (often beginning a joke in one city and ending it in another)- something unprecedented in comedy. The editing between cities is often jarring and without a real purpose but at points it can also be poignant in showing how universal some sentiments are. Regardless, you have to give it up to Rock for being able to perform to such diverse and large audiences so well across the world. The DVD set is really interesting from the comedy science angle giving the audience an opportunity to see how Chris adds and subtracts jokes and how some jokes work in London but get booed in New York.

In terms of the comedy itself, this special is really effective because of the diversity of topics Chris has in his jokes. There are plenty of jokes about the election- Rock says John McCain was “too old 10 years ago” and Barack Obama is going to have it tough because a “black woman can’t be a first lady” but the best jokes are the ones that will last. Rock is terrific at illuminating the everyday truth in an interesting way such as when he compares people with jobs vs. people with careers pointing out how with a career “there’s not enough time in the day” and with a job “there’s too much time.” As always, Chris spends a good amount of time focusing on race and relationships- some of his most personal material. Having been married for a while, relationships is a topic Chris seems to understand fluently, pointing out how men “can’t go backwards in sex” and women “can’t go backwards in lifestyle.”

In all, the special keeps you laughing with thought provoking ideas in Chris’s famous aggressive cadence. It’s a showcase of a world famous comic at the top of his game and gives insight into the world we live in. Chris could have chosen to rest on his laurels like so many before him but he continues to produce classic comedic performances and Kill the Messenger stands up as one of them.

This is a review I originally wrote for Short and Sweet NYC