Posts Tagged ‘Documentary’

Coming Soon: LCD Soundsystem Concert Film!

January 11, 2012

Noticed on Pitchfork today that they were running a trailer (see below) for a new concert film documenting James Murphy and gang’s last performance in NYC in 2011.  I’m a sucker for music documentaries and I’m a fan of LCD, so this will be something I’ll be writing about.  Since I won’t be attending Sundance this year (ok, I’ve never attended Sundance), I’ll have to wait until it makes its way to theaters.  Having witnessed the power of their live show once, I’m thinking this will be pretty entertaining and James Murphy seems like he would be a fun person to follow around with a camera.

Here’s a few other music documentaries to tide you over while you wait:

  • Dig – A fascinating look at two bands trying to “make it”.  One succeeds, the other not so much.  In addition to the music, a great character study of the two lead singers.
  • Power of Salad – A little harder to find, but a great short documentary about noise rock pioneers Lightning Bolt.  Shows off the adrenaline and racket (I saw them once and it was definitely the loudest show I’ve witnessed) of their live show, as they rock anywhere from small clubs to some dudes’ kitchen.
  • The Filth and the Fury – Telling the story of the Sex Pistols makes for good film, and Julien Temple does not disappoint with candid comments from the surviving members.
  • Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii – Of course Pink Floyd would play a live set in the ruins of an amphitheater at Pompeii.  Filmed in 1972, before Dark Side, this covers material from Saucerful of Secrets and Meddle, with some in-studio cut-aways to the making of Dark Side.

I could keep on going, but that should be a good start.  Any one else have any favorite music documentaries?

Best of 2010

December 19, 2010

It wouldn’t be a music blog if I didn’t do some sort of end of year wrapup.  Problem is, while I listen to a lot of music, new music isn’t always on the menu.  I’m not sure I could even come up with a top ten albums released in 2010 since I’m not sure I listened to 10 entire albums that were made this year.  So, instead I wanted to highlight some good stuff I found this year regardless of its age (I thought this was an ingenious idea until I saw that AVCLUB had already done the same thing, oh well).

  • LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (album, 2010).  A terrific album from beginning to end.  The album opener, Dance Yrself Clean, is also one of my favorite songs of the year.  Lyrically, James Murphy is at his wittiest and musically he continues to evolve from just floor-burning dance tunes to really nuanced, but still danceable, songs.  And seeing them live was a revelation.  It was one of the best shows I’ve been to in quite awhile.
  • Black Keys – Brothers (album, 2010).  I’ve been a huge fan of the Keys since their first album, but I think on this album they took it to another level.  For their first couple albums it was straightforward blues-based rock, but here they are spreading their wings, with some definite glam-rock influences and adding other instrumentation beyond that bruising drum and guitar.  Another band I finally got to see live this year and they didn’t disappoint either.
  • Broken Bells – The High Road (single, 2010).  Pairing the sonic tapestries of Dangermouse with the crystal clear voice of Shins lead singer James Mercer sounds like a good idea to me, and this song is proof it was.  The song begins with playful electronic noises and then gets a more orchestral bent as the music and Mercer’s vocals soar.  This song really has a positive and inspiring vibe; it’s a great pick-me-up.
  • Gang Starr – Obviously this was going back to one of early 90s rap’s signature groups.  With the passing of MC Guru this year, I spent some time revisiting their music.  I had never realized how many of their songs I really liked.  Everyone knows Mass Appeal, but there are a bunch of other songs they have that are just a notch below that masterpiece.  Premier’s beats are almost always exquisite and Guru’s gravelly delivery worked so well with those beats.  RIP Guru.
  • White Stripes – Under Great White Northern Lights (album and documentary, 2010).  I have never gotten to see the White Stripes live, but this album and the documentary which I saw do a pretty great job of making you feel like you’ve been to a show.  Even harder and louder than in the studio, these are great foot-stomping rock n’ roll songs.   The documentary bares the painful shyness of Meg White, leaving one to wonder how many more times we’ll get to hear these two play together.
  • Taj Mahal and Vampire Weekend – Why do I mention these two artists together.  Because whenever I hear one of their songs, I feel happy and upbeat.  Both are artists I know only marginally, and I’m trying to get up to speed on both.  Taj is nominally a blues artist, but he puts a lot of other musical styles into his songs, including reggae and Caribbean rhythms.  Vampire Weekend also is nominally a rock band, but they also let their other influences show, including various Afro styles.
  • Sleigh Bells – Treats (album, 2010) – When I went to see them at this year’s VirginFest I wondered why they only were given a half hour set, but then realized their debut album was only a couple minutes longer.  But boy do they pack a lot of sound into that 32 minutes.  While some see the loud guitar/beats with the bubble-gummy lyrics as a gimmick, I don’t see it any more of a gimmick than a lot of other bands in 2010 (and before) doing similar things.  Sleigh Bells just does it more over the top than anyone else.  For me, the beats are what keep me coming back.
  • Scott Down and DJ Cutler – Ultimate Breaks and Beatles (album, 2010).  Found about this interesting project via Soulsides, this is not an attempt to create another Grey Album.  Instead, they blend all kinds of Beatles music (including covers by Jimi Hendrix and others) with famous hip-hop breaks.  While there are some misses, when it all locks together it’s pretty amazing stuff.  Also, trying to identify what song a break is from is fun too.
  • KMD – Boy Who Cried Wolf (from Mr. Hood, 1991).  Sometimes a song just clicks for you.  I’d finally gotten a copy of KMD’s Mr. Hood and it’s a really good album.  But when I heard this song, I was mesmerized.  I could listen to the beat all day long, loping and laid-back but with a bite.  The chorus “he’s a woolllfff, and you a sheep” his super-catchy and the verses pop along with the snare in the beat.

I didn’t include Kanye’s new album, which I have but haven’t had a chance to really listen to yet, though I’ve heard nothing but good things.  Same goes for the new Walkmen album and Sharon Jones’ latest.  Enjoy the holidays and looking forward to another new year of music.

Good and Loud

April 21, 2010

Seems like this has turned into a music documentary blog of late, but I keep seeing interesting music-related films.  Saw another one last Friday.  Part of FilmFest DC, Under Great White Northern Lights chronicles the Canadian tour by the White Stripes in 2007.  Apparently the band had troubles getting in the country in the past, and wanted to do a proper tour of Canada.  They head to all the Canadian provinces, depicted with a plane graphic flying and landing at each location.

Music docs usually take one of two forms.  The straight concert film that chronicles a concert or series of shows.  Or the story of the band film.  This one is definitely the first kind.  There is some post-concert backstage talk and mini-interviews throughout the film.  These are interesting for two reasons.  One, they show that Meg White is painfully anti-social.  She talks in a whisper (they give her subtitles) and is always sitting with her eyes down, slumping over.  You can just tell that she is not really enjoying the interview segments.   So Jack does all the talking.  This does lead to one funny exchange where he explains that he doesn’t talk over Meg, it’s just she doesn’t talk.  He does this while she is trying to say “let me say just one thing.”

The other thing the interviews show is that Jack is somewhat obsessed with others’ (especially critics’) views of the band.  He recites quotes from critics about the band and seems to want to explain how the band is so spontaneous even though they have a regimented look and perceived style.

One of the products of that spontaneity are the daytime concerts they give, on short notice at various locations, in the cities they are having concerts in.  Pool halls, bowling alleys, a park, and the back of a small boat are all “venues.”  These are neat scenes; you get to see the band in a setting you probably aren’t going to see them in otherwise.

And then there are the concert scenes.  These are fabulous.  I really felt like I was right there with the band.  On a few occasions, when they ended a song, I had to stop myself from clapping along with the audience.  I saw nodding heads and tapping feet in my general vicinity.  The Stripes are loud.  Jack shreds on the guitar and once in awhile he makes his way to a keyboard.  Meg seems much more comfortable behind the drumkit.  The live version of 7 Nation Army they play towards the end of the movie is very powerful and Meg crushes the drums.

The film ends with Jack playing a piano and singing “White Moon.”  Meg sits next to him and starts crying.  The film ends with Jack embracing her as she cries.  It’s an odd ending.  It’s like they forgot to play up the brother/sister, former marriage angle that is part of the Stripes’ mythology, so put this in the film.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this for Stripes fans and music fans in general because of the great concert footage and the impromptu outdoor performances.


April 19, 2010

Just got finished watching another neat little doc on Pitchfork, I Need That Record! (up for a week so hurry up if you want to check it out).  The film details the demise of the local record store, focusing on a few specific stores.  There’s nothing groundbreaking here in terms of content, as the filmmaker discusses the how the record industry, the rise of the “big box” stores, the internet and the mp3 have all led to hard times for local music stores.  The more interesting part is how the loss of these local record shops is indicative of a larger loss of community in United States cities.  These record stores serve as gathering places for people, and when they close, along with other locally-owned stores, there is one less place for people to gather.

I’ve always enjoyed going to record stores, and the loss of so many these local stores does make me sad.  I, like many of us, do most of my music shopping online, or at a big box store.  Neither of those captures the experience of going into a record store.  There’s not other stuff to distract you, it’s all music.  And the tangible feeling of flipping through vinyl or CDs can’t be recreated online, even with cover art online.  And then there’s personal experiences of discussing a record with either patrons or employees.  Your average Best Buy employee isn’t getting paid to chat with you about the new St. Vincent record, and probably won’t even know who the hell St. Vincent is.  One of my favorite activities in college was going to the local record store, thumbing through used CDs trying to find a disc someone else had abandoned that I could scoop up on the cheap.  These stores are also a great source for finding out about local shows, something Itunes or Walmart are not going to give you.

As Jello Biafra says during the movie, he’d like to support a local record store or book store, but you can find anything you’re looking for on Amazon or eBay and it’s cheaper than what you can get in these brick-and-mortar stores.  And because of that, me like him, finds myself frequently these local places less often.  So, the film does a good job of reminding us all that we should get off the couch and laptops once in awhile and get out there and find those local stores.  They need our help more than ever.

Norwegian….Death Metal?

April 9, 2010

Right after I had just written about a neat little music documentary, I ran across a much different music documentary on Sundance Channel.  Until The Light Take Us is a 2008 documentary about Norwegian death metal.  I’ve never had more than a passing interest in metal, and certainly the darker subgenres of metal have never garnered any attention for me (and I’m not a teenager any more).  But, I’m of Norwegian descent and I’m a sucker for music and documentaries so I did not flip the channel.

I missed the first half hour, so I was a little in the dark as to the players that are interviewed.   Norwegian death metal must be an exclusive club, because they focused on a few bands and about 10 people were interviewed.  Maybe the other bands were out killing puppies or something.  Or burning churches.   A good bit of the film focuses on several churches that were burned in Norway in the early 90s and that were blamed on death metal fans/band members.  The blame is at least partially justified, as one member of the featured bands is convicted of several arsons.

Strangely, the music in the film is mostly brooding, downtempo electronic and not the music of the bands featured in film.  Huh?  Don’t know what that was all about, but it surely didn’t do anything to pick up the pace of what for the most part was a dull film.  I’m still mostly in the dark about what exactly separates Norwegian death metal from the goth guy at the mall dressed in black, with studded bracelets and dark eyeliner.  Church burning?  Bottom line, no need to watch this.

The System

April 8, 2010

Just wanted to add a few comments to what Sriram said about last night’s 30 for 30 entry “The Guru of Go.”  I agree with his general thought that the filmmaker’s overlapping storylines is what held this entry back.  A quick introduction of the “system” could have ceded to the real star of this story, the 1990 Loyola Marymount team, and its stars Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers.  Other thoughts:

  • The Shakespeare transitions were contrived; moreover they’ve been done before in a documentary to much greater effect, see the Sex Pistols documentary The Filth and the Fury.
  • The segment at the end about Westphal coaching the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and instituting the “system” there was, well, unnecessary.  I had to look this up, but in their best season with Westphal, they averaged 89 points.  Sorry, the “system” did not produce point averages that low, even if it is the WNBA.
  • One last nitpick, but rather than that last segment about Westphal’s travels since LMU, I was more interested in what happened to the other guys on the 90 LMU team.
  • Westphal’s “system” was premised on being in great shape, run, get up more shots than your opponent, and trick the other team into playing at your pace where they will inevitably either get sloppy or just plain run out of gas.  It’s quite simple, and from playing a lot of pickup ball in my day, is how I approached those type of games.  Being small and quick, and generally being able to run for much longer than my opponent, my goal was to run a fast break every time my team had the ball.  Whether that meant immediately sprinting downcourt any time an opponent’s shot went up and waiting for the long bomb pass and easy layup, or pushing the ball as soon as I got it, it worked a lot.  So, I’ve always enjoyed teams and coaches that take this approach, as opposed to the boring halfcourt game that many coaches run.
  • Hank Gathers’ death was sad, and seeing the footage last night made me sad again.  It appears that Gathers felt the need to continue playing, and to make it to the NBA, after his first collapse and that desire to “make it” and provide for his family led to his death.  The resiliency of his teammates and the incredible run they made in his honor got short shrift and should have been the focus of this documentary.

    Attn: Music Doc Fans

    April 5, 2010

    Just a quick tip for those of you interested in music documentaries, is giving a free week-long preview of a documentary called We Fun.  I’m a sucker for music documentaries, and this one prominently features Jared Swilley (above) and his bandmates in the Black Lips.  The doc does a good job of giving a quick and entertaining overview of the Lips and a small group of like-minded bands and the scene they’ve created in Atlanta.  Some like Deerhunter, you’ve probably heard about.  For the most part, though it was an interesting introduction to some characters and some bands that I will have to investigate further.  There’s some good concert footage of the bands playing in various local venues and houses, including a couple good ones of the Lips, known for their live shows.  In fact, the picture I have behind my blog title is a pic I snapped of Cole from Black Lips climbing onto the ceiling at Black Cat in DC and hanging there, guitar in hand, above the hands of their fans.

    Just a warning, there are definitely some NSFW material, so probably not a worktime distraction.  But check it out soon before it’s gone.  Though it will be available for purchase.


    March 25, 2010

    Image Courtesy of Sarah Schuh

    So got to see some movies in the Banff Mountain Film Festival last weekend in L.A., which was sweet because I missed out on it when it swung through DC this year.  For those of you who don’t know about it, Banff is a film festival devoted to films about the outdoors and outdoor adventuring.  I was a little disappointed with this year’s selection compared to last, but my favorite film by far was one about Eric Honnold’s free solo climb of Half Dome in Yosemite called Alone on the Wall.  A nice picture of Half Dome is above, thanks to my girlfriend.  And free soloing equals climbing without ropes.  Yeah.  The video of the climb itself has you wondering “how can he do that?  He must be crazy.”

    Or is he?  I am not fond of heights, so what he is doing is an impossibility for me even if I did have the physical capabilities to do this sort of climbing (if you were wondering, I don’t).  But just because I (and probably lots of others) have an irrational fear of heights, that doesn’t mean Alex is insane for not having that fear.  I heard others remarking after the film that he must be missing some part of his brain that causes fear.  I guess this is a possibility, or maybe he has developed a mental strength that allows him to overcome the fear.  I think the latter, as part of the way up Half Dome, he has a moment of self doubt, and he spends several minutes hanging out on a tiny ledge just leaning on the rock, like you or I leaning against a wall with our feet firmly planted on the ground.  He gathers himself and continues on.

    The other thing about him was, well, he seemed so normal.  And calm.  There was none of the sort of typical male bravado you find in many of these “extreme” athletes.  No mohawks, no tattoos, no screaming.  I mean does this guy look insane:

    This was the other thing about the movie I found fascinating.  This guy is living out of a van, so he can pursue his love.  Climbing.  Reminded me of other docs I’ve watched about bands, where they are traveling around the country in a van, eking out a living, pursuing their love.  Music.  This single-minded devotion to a subject fascinates me.  His mother talks about how he was climbing from as soon as he was physically able.  I’ve never had such a passion for something.  Sometimes I wish I did, but then I think about all the things I’d be missing out on in life.  Is he happier soloing Half Dome than I was last Saturday running a 5k, hanging out with my girlfriend and her sister, going to the Getty Art Museum, watching a film festival, and eating a late Greek dinner with friends?  Hard to say, though I think I know how the two of us would answer that question.