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

High-roo-spex

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 www.itunes.com/watchmenmovie

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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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