Monday, December 22, 2008

Get Behind Me, Santa

Those who've been wondering what everyone's favorite banjo-totin' state history connoisseur, Sufjan Stevens, has been up to lately got an answer last week when his latest Songs for Christmas EP started floating around the internets.

The new record, called - in typically ornate-cum-silly Sufjan extravagance - Astral Inter Planet Space Captain Christmas Infinity Voyage, is apparently volume eight in his nearly annual series, meaning that my reporting last year of the dearth of an '07 Stevens holiday EP was inaccurate. (It also means someone's math comes off a little fishy, since volume five was released in '06...did volumes six and seven surface last year? Anyone got 'em?)

Anyway, it appears Suf has taken a page from Kanye, and employed all manner of electronic weirdness for the new EP - to the extent that, initially, I thought the thing might be a fake. But give it a listen-through, and it's clearly the real deal, harkening back a bit, perhaps, to the Enjoy Your Rabbit period. But it's also no coincidence that the disc's two originals ("Christmas in the Room" and "The Child with the Star on His Head") are its only non-electronic tunes, and happen to be its strongest.

Similarly, another new holiday EP, Christmas with Weezer, reveals a band in top form by sticking with what they do best. Surprisingly, a bunch of traditional Christmas songs have produced the most Weezer-sounding tracks the band's made in years. Although, I guess, both old school Weez and holiday classics are all about strong melodies, so maybe it makes perfect sense.

In any case, hooray for more yuletide jams. God bless us, every one!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Riddle me this...

So, British tabloid The Sun "confirms" that the featured villian of the - not-yet-certain - third Chris Nolan Batman film will be the Riddler, who will be played by...wait for it: Eddie Murphy.

Here's a riddle: which of today's headlines is 100% untrue? (It's a pretty tricky one.) I'll bet you a million dollars that Norbit will not be donning the question mark. Any takers?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shooting your eye out for 25 years!

Leg lamps, Little Orphan Annie Secret Society decoder pins, and, of course, Red Ryder BB guns: given the extent to which these Christmas Story set pieces have been woven into yuletide popular culture, I guess it isn't shocking that the film turns 25 this year.

CNN has a story on the relatively-booming industry attached to the movie, including the sale of real leg lamps, pink bunny suits, and annual pilgrimages by "Ralphies" (i.e., Star Trek's Trekkies) to the house at which it was shotnow, the A Christmas Story House and Museum.

PS: Did you know that that was Peter "Ralphie Parker" Billingsley, now a producer, you saw playing supporting roles in The Break-Up, Iron Man, and another modern Christmas classic, Elf? (He's pictured above.) 

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Coming up on the anniversary of St. Paul's officially recognized Heiruspecs Day (December 22), Minnesotans can pick up the aforementioned, new Heiru record tonight at the band's First Avenue CD release party - or get a taste (wink) of their self-titled, third LP with Pizza Luce's teaser CD giveaway, free with delivery.

In the meantime, non-Minneapolitans and St. Paulites, respectively, can enjoy a few of the new tunes via the band's in-studio performance at the Current yesterday, or on their MySpace.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

High hopes for this one

Plenty of extremely cool new Watchmen footage (previously seen only at Comic-Con) available for free download on iTunes, starting today. Check it out at

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Commence nerd-speak

Batfans got an early Christmas present today, when The Dark Knight (finally) dropped on DVD and Blu-Ray. While, for me, the film itself only gets better with each viewing, it turns out the two-disc special edition is a bit less than special, with only a handful of measly features that could've easily fit on one disc.

Aside from a couple of brief, albeit interesting, featurettes on the film's score and new gadgetry, respectively, there's very little by way of behind-the-scenes info - disappointing, after Batman Begins's packed-to-the-gils special edition. The presentation of scenes shot exclusively for IMAX in their original framing, as well as a series of "Gotham Tonight" fake news briefs, are mildly interesting. But no extensive making-of, no commentary, and - most bewilderingly, especially in light of his near-certain Oscar nomination - no tribute to Heath Ledger, all point to one, unfortunately likely, scenario: multiple release "editions," spread out over a few years.

Hey, it makes sense that Warners would want to milk the thing for all its worth (not like we haven't seen it from them before), what with TDK becoming, potentially, the highest grossing movie of all time, and I'm not complaining that it's already been released in several variations - the Blu-Ray edition offers more special features, but, given my late arrival to iPods, I'm sure it'll take me a while to get on board that train - and will be re-released into theaters next month. But it's a bummer coming from a franchise that got where it is based on fan support, not to mention director Christopher Nolan's commitment to quality.

Ah, well. Like a sucker, I'll still pump more money into it by going to another IMAX screening, which ought to help a "Super-Special Anniversary Edition" release materialize...

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Now That's What I Call Depressing Xmas Music! Vol. 2

David Bazan played an early Schubas show tonight, with a set consisting almost entirely of songs from his forthcoming ("About five more eight-hour days of work on it," the ex-Pedro the Lion frontman said, "and I'll be done") solo LP for Barsuk. It's worth noting that he's gotten to a stage in his career when playing only a couple of PTL tunes can satisfy a crowd, and his newest material is further evidence of his continued growth as a songwriter and singer. 

In the meantime - similarly to his buddies in Low - you can pick up the latest of his semi-annual Christmas seven inch records, Jingle Bells, on Suicide Squeeze Records. Bazan even gave fans a taste of holiday "cheer" this early December evening by offering up his killer version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." 

When asked if there will be another release from Suicide Squeeze labelmates/side project Headphones, Bazan said yes, but wouldn't offer a timeframe. "I've been promising you guys this record for a while, and that's still not out," he said.  

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Axl Rose: decidedly not a Pepper

So, Chinese Democracy finally arrived last week (to generally positive reviews, if slightly lackluster sales), and Dr. Pepper made good on its strange marketing-gamble of a promise to offer everyone in the country a free soda if GN'R released the record by the end of 2008...until high coupon demand crashed the soft drink company's website.

Now, apparently, people are pissed at Axl & Co. over their lack of free soda, and the band is apparently pissed enough at Dr. Pepper to sue. All of which provokes a resounding "Meh." 

Incidentally, do we think the cola giant was banking on the fact that the album has taken 17 years to release, and didn't figure it risked taking a free-soda-for-everyone bath, or do we think they're happy to have helped bring the record into fruition? Probably, they're just stoked that jerks like me are blogging about Dr. Pepper. 

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Slow-core sleigh ride

Low, contenders for this month's poll, are giving us the gift of more depressing holiday music with Santa's Coming Over. The 7", a follow-up to the band's Christmas LP, features both the title track ("a menacing ode to the night before Christmas") and "The Coming of Jah," a "supremely executed reggae number." Go ahead with your festive selves, Low!

In the meantime, enjoy the video for "Breaker," off last year's Drums and Guns (it doesn't have anything to do with holidays, unless you consider it a social commentary on the nature of materialism and over-consumption...which it probably isn't):

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Che: The Movie" t-shirts and iPods coming soon!

Walter Salles's celebrated Motorcycle Diaries was able to gloss over the less-inspiring aspects of Che Guevara's life by framing the story in the icon's pre-revolutionary days (while attempts to tell a different side of the story have had mixed results). Steven Soderbergh's new Che, then, walks a careful line by focusing intently on the warfare Guevara waged.

The four-hour-plus, Benicio Del Toro-starring biopic will be released in two parts (The Argentine and Guerilla, respectively), as well as screened in one sitting at select venues, including Cuba's New Latin American Film Festival. Shot in Spain and Bolivia, Soderbergh claims to have refused to portray "St. Che," while still seeking to showcase Guevara's ability to capture imaginations worldwide. The degree to which the director is successful - and the reaction to it - should be interesting to see...

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Living off the land and car insurance

Minneapolis enviro-orchestral-indie rockers Cloud Cult swung by Double Door over the weekend, winding down their fall tour in support of this year's excellent Feel Good Ghosts LP. Word is they'll be back for an extensive spring tour, along with a new documentary on the band.

In the meantime, check out their recent, unlikely starring role in one of those weird, animated Esurance commercials:

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Reno the Dog to serve as Deputy Chief of Staff

Beyond the facts that Chuck "Walker" Norris starred in Top Dog, and that Rahm "Rahmbo" Emanuel is Top Dog of the Obama Administration, the action hero and current Congressman/future White House Chief of Staff, respectively, have much in common: their tough, tenacious acts of battle feats are the stuff of legend.

Fitting, then, that recently made its debut, modeled in the style of the famed Chuck Norris Facts - except true. (Sample fact: "Rahm Emanuel declared his enemies 'dead' while repeatedly stabbing a steak knife into the table.")

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ever wonder...

...what happened to the Nevermind baby? Probably not, but Entertainment Weekly's got the update on the (now 17-year-old) subject of the seminal Nirvana album cover. 

In answer to the piece's question, I distinctly recall taping "Smells Like Teen Spirit" off the radio in elementary school, and it basically blew my mind. Good thing it wasn't until high school that I discovered the Pixies, because that would've melted my face off. Here's to you, Nevermind Baby!

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Is America ready for a black rapper?

Sure, the president-elect is black, but what of that last frontier, hip hop? Break it down, Brother Ali: his new track, "Mr. President (You're the Man)" was recorded on election night, and is available here

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008


MTV has a clip of Nas's brand new - recorded today, from Norway - track, "Election Night." A bit mediocre, but what do you want? Dude recorded it today.

This, on the heels of Jay-Z and M.I.A.'s ("Gotta get Bush out the chair/ Give Obama the floor") "Boyz" remix. Looks like no one on the corner has swagger like Obeezy. Tell me you can't see him walking in slo-mo to some Just Blaze beats in the picture above...

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Friday, October 31, 2008

This is Halloween

In celebration, the October poll's clear winner (here's hoping for landslide results like this on Tuesday) - the Best Halloween Song of All Time: 

Still as awesome as ever. Happy Halloween!

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gotta love the Favs

Ain't It Cool has a long, fascinating (for fanboys, anyway) interview with Jon Favreau, further confirming the Iron Man helmer's solidness.

Among the highlights: employing a Pixar approach on the Iron Man sequel (CGI serves the story, not the other way around); acknowledging that, while being grounded in reality is important, a strong sense of fun in comics movies is also necessary (you may recall that as my criticism of Dark Knight); the hit-or-miss potential of an Avengers movie; and collaborating with Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky on IM2's storyboarding and animation process. Sweet...

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Baracksteady Crew

Minnesotan live hip-hoppers Heiruspecs, whose new LP is due in December, just dropped the video for first single, "Get Up." In it, MC Felix (backed by his Secret Service/bandmates) appears as a record-shopping, house party-performing Obama:

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Two Bush terms, and this is the hardest they can rock?

In punk rock, six years is an eternity, and since it's been that long since Dillinger Four's last release, one might expect Civil War, the Midwestern stalwarts' fourth LP, to be a little more interesting.

While the record retains D4's signature hard-hitting energy, its overly poppy production sheen (the band's newfound affection for slick vocal harmonies is evident from opener, "A Jingle for the Product" forward) takes away from much of the intended anthemic impact - distorted basslines notwithstanding.
The group's strength has always been in their ability to straddle hardcore and pop-punk, with their best work maintaining a solid balance by pulling elements from both. Civil War relies perhaps too heavily on frontman Erik Funk's pop-leaning songwriting, which - combined with the new production bent - comes off a litte tired. The record would benefit from more of the rawness of bassist/co-singer Paddy Costello's songs (whose vocals sound like they've been auto-tuned here), which he lets show on standout "parishiltonisametaphor."
D4 successfully stretched themselves on 2002's Situationist Comedy with new arrangements and production, but that experimentation was achieved by building on their signature sound. Here, they seem to be exploring new territory, but in kind of a lazy way, largely turning out a generic sound. That said, it's still more exciting than most any other pop-punk today, and it's great to hear any new material from these dudes after a long wait.
Grade: B-
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Comic book to be turned into film

Now, here's a nice way of tying two previous, consecutive posts together: turns out Fear(s) of the Dark co-director Charles Burns's work will see a feature length adaptation, reports Splash Page - in the form of a Black Hole movie, scripted (at one point, at least) by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary. 

Word is that the pair got less involved once David "When I'm On, I'm Awesome - When I'm Not, I'm Not Great" Fincher came on board to direct. Which, most likely, also means it's live action, not animation. Huh. Should be interesting...

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Party for your right to fight

Pitchfork reports: while Beastie Boys may not have a record or real tour coming anytime soon (their last proper LP was in 2004, so we're probably still looking at a couple years), they're keeping busy.

First up is the "Get Out and Vote" mini-tour of swing states with Santogold and Ben Harper, among others, then Adam Yauch (aka MCA, aka Nathaniel Hornblower) promotes both the just-opening student council election chronicle Frontrunners - which he produced - and the DVD release of his streetball doc Gunnin' for That #1 Spot.
UPDATE: Apparently, we're actually looking at next year for a new, non-instrumental Beastie Boys release. Sweet.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Can he help on the Dark Knight sequel, too?

Speaking of Coraline, its creator (and author/Beowulf co-writer/all-around cool guy), Neil Gaiman, just announced he's writing a two-part Batman story, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, to be tentatively released in spring.

Gaiman + Dark Knight = much potential for creepy awesomeness. Now how 'bout an American Gods movie?

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

2 weeks to Halloween...

Here's a little something to tide you Edward Gorey-philes over until your annual Nightmare Before Christmas viewing (or, for that matter, until Coraline comes out in February): Fear(s) of the Dark, - which played Fantastic Fest last month, and plays the Chicago International Film Fest this weekend - opens wide next week.

Giving that other black-and-white, animated, French film a run for its money, Fear(s), a collaboration between a half-dozen renowned comic and graphic artists (among them, Charles Burns, whose work I've always felt could make a very cool transition into feature animation), weaves together several creepy stories into what Guillermo del Toro describes as a "thrilling, disturbing, and haunting" film. If that dude's endorsement doesn't qualify as a seal of scariness approval, I don't know what will...

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Straight Outta Gaza

Tonight, Chicago's North Park University hosts a screening of Slingshot Hip Hop, a doc - which bowed at this year's Sundance - about the evolution of Palestinian rap, closely following DAM ("Palestine's first hip hop group"), among others. Director Jackie Reem Salloum will be on hand for a discussion following the film.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008


...for the lack of posts lately, but you can blame it on my move to the land of Kanye, Anathallo, Smashing Pumpkins, Jeff Tweedy, The Cool Kids, Lupe Fiasco - and sadly, R. Kelly, among others (Barack Obama, for example).

That's right kids, I'm back in Chi City; one could call it a homecoming. You can soon expect a lot more of the On Tape-y goodness you've come to love.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

No Cameron Left Behind

Turns out Kirk Cameron's latest religious-themed, critcally-panned drama, Fireproof, made a ton of money this weekend, beating out Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna, among others. The film, about the marital problems of a firefighter, debuted in fourth place - pretty impressive for a picture made for $500,000, opening on under 1,000 screens.

Sherwood Baptist Church, which also developed the equally successful Facing the Giants, promoted the pic among megachurches, in much the same way that Walden Media has done for family fare including Narnia, and which Mel Gibson pioneered with the Passion.

After Passion made enough money for Jesus to go nuts at the Temple, Hollywood became instantly enamored of those wacky evangelicals, to sometimes mixed results. But after Fireproof's boffo box office, it seems pretty likely we'll see a whole lot more studios interested in working with churches to employ similar promotional tactics. Regardless, Kirk Cameron will forever be Mike Seaver to me.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Muppet Renaissance!

If the New York Times says there is one, it must be true. Yay!

In case you're wondering, yes, that is a Kanye puppet above - no relation to the Muppets...although Yeezy is working on a "Hip Hop meets the Muppets"-style variety show (seriously).

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Jazz, Poetry, and Drugs: The Movie

Like all good teenage, hipster wannabes, my favorite book in high school was On the Road. I remember hearing about a possible film adaptation then (I think Joel "Batman and Robin" Schumacher was attached at that point) and thinking, "No way, man! How could film, like, capture the nuance of Beat in its written form?"

I basically still think the same thing, which seems to the general consensus: the meandering, prose-laden tome is probably unfilmable. If anybody's up to the task, though, it just might be Motorcycle Diaries director Walter Salles, who the Screening Room confirms is actually planning on adapting it as his next project. Thoughts?

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