Sunday, September 11, 2011

St.Vincent, Goddess — "Strange Mercy": A

Annie Clark, who more or less is St.Vincent, strives at making music that remains reminiscent of her prior material. Take her performance at Our Band Could Be Your Life tribute concert where she covered Big Black’s “Kerosene”: dressed all in black, Clark shoved her typically maudlin-cool persona into the backseat and let a Jekyll-version of herself steer the song with a crackled, barking intensity. It would have almost been scary if wasn’t so damn fucking cool. But the thing about her performance was, even though she was covering someone, Clark was still completely herself; it was just a different side to her, which is something Clark fully capitalizes on in her third album “Strange Mercy.”
Part of Clark’s classic approach in the past rests in contrasting distinct sounds and ideas in her songs, and “Strange Mercy” takes that one step further by way of the record approach, which is to say there are two distinct sides to “Strange Mercy”: side one, a buzzing portrait of frantic intensity swooning with funk-texturized guitar solos (“Cruel”), falsetto crooning  and layered looping that rings of classic Brian Eno (“Surgeon”); and side two, a slightly-more gentle string of songs that’s power lies with the taught, eerie anxiety that makes them hit with a greater resonance than side one.   

And with the first listen, the divergence is so great it almost seems Clark should have been broken the album into two separate EPs, but the as the album marches towards the end, it becomes apparent that the two sides are completely complimentary. They are two different sides of the same coin, each presenting the different highs and lows that make Clark St.Vincent. The “White Light/White Heat” styled climax to side one ender “Northern Lights” marks the hysterical panic of an emotional break-through/breakdown whereas the Jeff Buckley-esque “Champagne Year” of side two gives a unnerving sneak into the truthfulness of Clark’s lyrics as she whispers to the listener “I make a living at telling people what they want to hear.”
The synthesis of the entire album, though, lies with the last track “Year Of The Tiger” which takes the best of both worlds — the creeping lyricism with Clark’s balls to the wall funk guitar — and smashes them together for one short peak at the future of St. Vincent music. It’s odd that an artist would provoke a desire for even more material with the release of a brand new album, but that’s exactly the kind of thing Annie Clark would do; and as she chants “Oh America, can I owe you one?” on the dauntingly short culmination to the closer, all the listener can really say is, “Yes, you can owe us one” and wait for her next album. It’s a strange mercy. 
Side One: Chloe In The Afternoon, Cruel, Cheerleader, Surgeon, Northern Lights.
Side Two: Strange Mercy, Neutered Fruit, Champagne Year, Dilettante, Hysterical Strength, Year Of The Tiger
Joel Samson Berntsen (Actor Out Of Work - St.Vincent)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Iceage: "New Brigade" — Refreshments, B+

Thinking about Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols evokes just about the right spark of debut familiarity before popping in latest Copenhagen-import Iceage. A post-punk band of adolescents (ages 18-20), Iceage stands as a refreshing breath of punk aesthetic that’s almost palette-cleansing to an era soaked with looped samples and abused auto-tuning. And with the arrival of their debut New Brigade state-side, the band offers up a very earnest and promising introduction to the new world.

With the back-to-basics approach of working and piecing together songs simply by playing with each other, Iceage has shaped together a remarkable number of taught, captivating songs. Despite the break-neck pace they play, there's still a clear precision that goes with each blitzing riff; every guitar hook and chorus chugs along until the very first hint of boredom, and then — wham! — the band descends into a whole new section of music, which is one of the reasons New Brigade is so enthralling; it has absolutely no filler. There’s always something new just waiting around the corner.

But don’t be misconceived that New Brigade is simply a wall of bombardment racing to the finish; there is an element of that to the music, but it’s mostly just Iceage’s well-placed hesitance to avoid overplaying hooks. Instead, Iceage teases brilliantly addictive hooks (“Broken Bone”, “White Rune”) with gushes of brevity, which plays out as a particularly smart move in the track’s ability to pull the audience for listen after listen.

Once the last notes of the album finale and standout “You’re Blessed” fades out, there are two instincts that echo through the listeners head. The first is to start the album over. The second is potential — raw, unabashed potential. While New Brigade sounds and acts like its own unique brute, the resonance reveals something indicative to an early Replacements record — something fast and loud, but still possessing meaning. There’s a rare integrity to the music Iceage creates, and it makes the future look very bright not just for the members themselves, but for the future of music. Who knows, maybe they’ll even make the next Let It Be.

Joel Samson Berntsen (Here Comes A Regular - The Replacements)

Monday, May 30, 2011

'Greenberg', LCD and the Perfect Album Arc

I watched Greenberg for the second time tonight. I really, really liked it the first time I saw it. I really liked it the second time I watched. The key difference there being that extra really. It kind of got bashed around a little bit when it came out by critics, but I like I said, I liked it. It’s a really good film if you’re an asshole guy (or if you’re some innocent-ish girl that’s only sort of innocent-ish in the naivety of dealing with asshole guys and all that confusing, issue-oriented jazz). Or if you dig a cynical Ben Stiller.

But anyway, James Murphy scored the soundtrack for the film! And it came out early 2010, meaning it was a prelude of sorts to This Is Happening, which means that LCD pretty much  in my love-dripping opinion  has a perfect discography arc:

LCD Soundsystem (a very nice introduction)
45:33 (a very nice interlude) 
Sound of Silver (a very nice perfect album)
Greenberg Soundtrack (a pretty nice interlude)
This Is Happening (a very nice classic conclusion)

Anyway, this is the kind of stuff I like posting here: my thoughts. Peace Booches.

Joel Samson Berntsen (The Wall - Yuck)

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Young and the Restless: College Year 1

So, I finished my year semester of college. Am I enlightened? No. Have a learned a lot? No. Have I learned much about useful things? Well, not in class. I do have new friends. That's nice. College is... Well, college is growing up, mostly. (someone punch me, right in my mouth). And now, various shit that involves bullet points, lots of namedropping, and a vague stab at bottling college life. Oh, there's also a playlist.

Favorite Moments of College, Year One:
  • Dancing for four hours to the greatest DJ ever at Hoochfest '10.
  • Roadtripping to Milwaukee to see LCD Soundsytem with my main motherfucker Brandon Foster, and then immediately driving back and jamming out for, like, five hours to stay alive and not die from a sleep deprived car crash.
  • Crossing the street, I asked Hillary Haaker if she'd heard the new Kanye album and she smiled and screamed yes and then her, Dylan Chapman and I jumped around in a circle and screamed with happiness in the middle of the road. 
  • When Brandon Foster looked up how to make an Em-Dash for me.  
  • The night it snowed at Mark Twain.
  • Devouring Season One of Fringe with Peter Legrand and Eric Briesacher.
  • (*shaking head back and forth*) "Never Again..." 
  • Meeting Rob's springfield crew and being forever hypnotized by that little niche of midwestern greatness.
  • The time that rando Maneater staffer went on a room-wide rant about how college is complete fucking bullshit.
  • Anytime anyone ever made a Community reference.
  • Watching Porco Rosso and Spirited Away with Dylan freaking Chapman.
  • Yelling Wavves really loud with Brandon while searching the frozen tundra of Mizzou for our friends
  • The Arcade Fire / National Roadtrip with Kristian, Brian, Dylan, and Brandon.
  • The first time I played Bryce in Smash Bros in that tournament. Best shit ever. (Also, all other times with Bryce). 
  • Meeting my journalism hero, Jimmy Hibsch.
  • Staying up all night playing Final Fantasy X with Dylan Chapman and Conor O'brien while I transcribed interviews for an ultimate frisbee article (even though Conor pretty much just slept).
  • The Rob/Will all-star moments at the first kickball game.
  • When I asked Brandon Foster and Eric Briesacher to guess what else I got at Streetside Records, and they, for no reason, started singing the lyrics Cape Cod Kassa Kassa, and then I pulled out a Peter Gabrial record at the same time they sang "Peter Gabrial Too"


College Year One Playlist: 53(Heavy on the Stairs)

1. All Tomorrows's Parties - The Velvet Underground
2. Afraid of Everyone - The National
3. Titus Andronicus - Titus Andronicus
4. Victory Garden - Galaxie 500
5. Common Heat - No Age
6. I'm New Here - Gil Scott-Heron
7. Only Shallow - My Bloody Valentine
8. Month of May - Arcade Fire
9. No Depression - Uncle Tupelo
10. Someone Great - LCD Soundsystem
11. Round and Round - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti


 Seeya Next Semester, Everyone.

Joel Samson Berntsen (New Age - The Velvet Underground)

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Tyler, The Creator: "Goblin" — B+

    Breaking into the mainstream conscious with the music video for “Yonkers,” an explosion performance on “Fallon” and record deal with XL, Tyler, The Creator has lead his crew Odd Future to gain some serious traction in the past six months. But with traction comes the price of fame, and Tyler’s been having some sobering struggles handling his new-found celebrity; he’s been overly simplified and vilified by one side and hyped, touted and glorified by the other side. This diverged dragging of character has taken an understandable toll on Tyler, and the effects indicated show up full force on his label debut Goblin.

    Tyler and Odd Future have been cranking out tapes for years and Goblin isn’t exactly a deviation from the OF norm. It maintains that home-cooked feel of an OF tape and is still littered with disturbia-filled, black lyrics (see “Tron Cat”). But where Goblin strays from the standard is how Tyler addresses pretty much every criticism of character that’s been shot his way over the past few months, be that the stress of producing since Kanye tweeted about Tyler, people saying he’s a role model, or dealing with Bill O’Reilly (“Fuck Bill O’Reilly”). 

    The thing to keep in mind, though, is that Tyler is only freaking nineteen years old. Even though he’s achieved a huge amount of success, he still deals with nineteen year old problems like a nineteen year old. He’s got self-doubt, daddy issues, and girl problems, and it’s reflected in Goblin. My pal Bryce pretty much said it best in a text: “heads up its long, really emo, and tyler breaks character :/ it’s still got some bangers on it though.” While a whole lot of Tyler’s stuff deals with super-murky topics, there is another, much more introverted, emotional side to Tyler, which can be incredibly disjointing considering the differing audiences listening to Tyler; when the misogyny-centric track “Tron Cat” goes into the friend-zone-stuck “Her” there’s a distinct moment of “wait, what?” Ultimately though, it’s best that Tyler flashes this delicate side because it shows that he’s not actually an evil Bastard (I mean he does directly tell the audience he doesn’t do any of that shit he says).  

    In the end, Goblin is just another Odd Future tape with a price tag. It strides with most of OF’s strengths: in-jokes, alter-egos, and OF culture (Free Earl, SWAG), and Tyler’s synth-haunting beats have never been tighter, especially with the surprising, Bowie-esque instrumental “AU79.” After over three years of giving away his stuff for free, Tyler’s not only deserving of some cash, but he’s crafted an album totally worth the cash (given if you have the stomach)

    Joel Samson Berntsen (Africa to America Anthem - The Very Best)

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    Parks and Recreation, Watch it Already: A+

    Originally published for The Maneater.

    When “Parks and Recreation” first popped up, it mostly got brushed off as a ploy by NBC to to cash in on the popularity of "The Office"; it seemed like just another mockumentary in another office, except this time the boss was a girl. Shoot, it was even co-created by the same guy. And for a little bit there — for those first couple episodes — it seemed like it actually would just be another carbon copy.

    Thank freaking Greg Pikitis that assessment was dead wrong. Not only has “Parks and Recreation” proved itself one of the best comedies currently running on television, it’s proved itself as one of the best shows on TV period. It’s somehow succeeded in finding the sweet spot of golden television. All those "aw-shucks" moments between Jim and Pam on “The Office” have been mastered to a science and applied to pretty much every character on the show. Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope easily stands as one of the sweetest and most sincere characters in television history.
    And Poehler isn’t the only embodiment of delightful; the rest of the cast boasts what might just be the greatest ensemble presently gracing TV (Aziz Ansari! Rob Lowe! Rashida Jones! Aubrey Plaza!) and that’s with a chemistry that’s spot on flawless to boot. I mean, really, I love every single character on the show. There's not a single person on the show that I dislike in the slightest. Furthermore, the guest spots shine with such talent (Will Forte as a crazed "Twilight" Fan, Louis C.K. as Knope’s boyfriend cop) that the feeling of sadness always looms after they have their final scene. Louis C.K. and Poehler's brief relationship remains one of my all time favorite TV romances (even if it was just for a couple episodes).

    But the greatest trait of “Parks and Rec” is how successfully it blends together laugh out loud comedy with real life. It’s genuinely unlikely that a show has ever handled relationships as well as “Parks and Rec.” The show feels like real life: the break-ups, the co-worker interactions, even the economy mirror the real, which makes everything about the characters a hundred times more relatable than the average show.

    By now, “Parks and Recreation” has transformed beyond what anyone could have ever hoped. It has totally surpassed “The Office” in every aspect, be that comedy, relationships or just overall adorableness. It is one of the golden comedies of the decade and belongs to be ranked among the greats “Arrested Development” and “Seinfeld.” Now go watch it. Please, watch it! It needs to last seven seasons! Netflix it! Hulu it! Pirate it if you have to! But start with the second season! Because that first one they're still finding their vision, which they find in the second season! Exclamations!

    Seasons one and two are available on Netflix Instant Streaming.

    Joel Samson Berntsen (Frank Ocean - lovecrimes)

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Dress Your Family In Poor Career Choices, or David Sedaris & the Great, Shaky Dismay

    "It's kind of sad that newspapers are crumbling and that no one really reads them anymore."

    This was the response I got from David Sadaris after I told him I was a journalism student.

    "Wait, what? What the fuck? Aren't you supposed to support writers? Aren't you supposed to offer a pep talk or something about how I'm making the right career move?" That's what my mind said. What I actually said amounted to me blubbering about how things are just evolving to more online centered media. He replied to that with, "I mean the thing I don't get -- is that I've been reading the papers every day of my tour..."

    This was after waiting two hours in line without anything to occupy my mind other than my own thoughts and the anticipation of actually getting to meet David Sedaris, which, granted, was poor planning on my part. Two hours for a two minute conversation that didn't really feel like a conversation at all. It wasn't terrible, but I wouldn't say the experience was pleasant at all. He just pretty much talked at me, mentioned  how "once you're in the New Yorker, you don't really care (about papers and journalism stuff) because you're in The New Yorker" and then sent me on my shell-shocked way.

    Up until this meeting point, I'd loved Sedaris. I'd read most of his books. Every time I listened to This American Life I'd wait for Ira to mention if he'd have a segment. Up until that meeting point, Sedaris had a very positive impact on life. He made me laugh. He made me think. However, since that brief conversation, I haven't listened or read a thing by him, and this meeting was over six months ago.

    Am I bitter? Maybe. Am I disillusioned? Probably. But it's not a conscious he-bad-mouthed-my major-so-fuck-him attitude, I'm just basically turned off by him now. I have an unfinished copy of "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" on my bookshelf. I'm looking at it right now. And I have no urge whatsoever to finish it. I'd like to, but odds are I'm not going to touch it for a very long time. 
    Sedaris was the first significantly important person I admired that I've met. Since Sedaris, I've met two other people I greatly admired: Kevin Barnes (lead singer from of Montreal) and Dan Bejar (New Pornographers side-man and Destroyer Lead). Both of these encounters were very positive, awesome experiences for me. So, I can say that leaving these conversations where you meet people you greatly  admire don't always leave you dismayed. On the other end though, they didn't ask me about my major and we mostly just talked about music.

    So why I am I just talking about all of this now? Well, partly because I'm lazy, but mostly because I wanted perspective. I can talk about my first break-up with considerably more articulation than my most recent. If had written this post the week of, it would have been much more pissy and angst-y than this post already is, which would not be good CAUSE PEOPLE GOT PROBLEMS OF THEIR OWN. You don't need to hear my complain about mine all the freaking time.

    But what's at the core of this? Why am I so bothered by this encounter? It's because I'm scared of my future (surprise! deja vu). Will I have a job? Will I survive? Having one of your favorite authors talk about how your career path is crumbling is some scary stuff. Eighty percent of the time I am fully confident of my career choice because I like journalism. I like where it's taking me. But, there's times -- mostly in the morning -- where I wake up and yearn for a steady job, a nice family, and a wife to wake up next to. I want the steady job and the steady life because I wake up unsure of myself.

    But if I followed that path I would become unsatisfied. I've seen too many people throughout my life depressed that took they took the easy path; they have the wife and kids, but they started right away. They didn't follow any of their dreams. They didn't see Europe or whatever. And now they're in an intense game of responsibility. Revolutionary Road is a very real thing.

    Don't get me wrong, I want a family. I just don't want a family till I can completely support one, and that's going to take a while with a major in journalism. There's just a million things I need and want to do before I have a family, which sounds vague, but you get what I'm saying? The best things come to those who wait right? Right? I sure hope so. I hope all my friends don't run out on me.     

    So, until next time, I'm telling the David Sedaris of my head to stop fracturing my dreams and maybe it's time for "Dress Your Family" to finally come off that shelf...

    Joel Samson Berntsen  (Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) - Arcade Fire)

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    One of the Best: Rest in Peace Sidney Lumet

    Around the time Before the Devil Knows You're Dead came out on DVD, I read an article in Rolling Stone celebrating the career of Sidney Lumet. It was one of those articles that I just got completely wrapped up in -- one of those, "what are all these awesome movies and who is this awesome person, I need to know more, TELL ME MORE" articles. I went out and bought Before the Devil on dvd later. It opened with a kind-of raw sex scene though -- and my parents soon discovered and confiscated it and then proceeded to throw it away in the trash. But my love for Lumet was sparked.

    There are eleven Lumet directed movies currently streaming on Netflix Instant Queue including Dog Day Afternoon, Network, and the Roger Ebert recommended Running on Empty. Go watch one if you've got netflix or just rent one if you don't.

    Joel Samson Bertsen (History Lesson Part II - The Minutemen)

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Pains of Being Pure at Heart: "Belong" — B

    New York’s premier pun-loving group, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, swept away the internet in 2009 with their cutesy, adorable music that focused on the emotional conditions of the every-person of indie-class America. Today, the group opens a new chapter as it delves into new territory with its sophomore album Belong.

    There’s an added reach to the songs on Belong, and it’s not just that the guitar is louder or that Kip Berman’s voice has more weight. It hinges on the fact that POBPAH, with the help of famed producer Flood (The Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, The Jesus and Mary Chain), has traded in its twee origins for a more throwback '90s alt-rock sound. There’s still a youth-driven urgency to each song, but instead of light, airy pop jangles drenched in sugar, it’s a rich, embellished dense sweetness — like a dark chocolate version of The Smashing Pumpkins.

     POBPAH caters to this change with a surprising amount of ease. Its sound overhaul seems to be a causal change of clothes for the group. Its knack for crafty lyricism stands as catchy as ever, especially with album highlight “Heart in Your Heartbreak,” in which Berman charmingly chants “you were the heart in my heart break / you were the miss in my mistake.” The album peaks with the waterlogged-guitar crooner “My Terrible Friend,” which comes closest to topping “Young Adult Friction” — the standout single from their debut.

    The majority of songs holds the same simple ability and effect: they’re catchy and likeable, and they’ll get stuck in your head. However, the actual body of music throughout Belong varies too little; the album shapes into a cloud of songs that remain too similar to one another. While POBPAH’s mastery of pop lyricism anchors the songs into the audiences' head, its music too often lays dormant.

    There are plenty of good songs for a schoolgirl's crush mix-tape or a sad indie-intern, but the formula remains too unchanged for the album to grow into the next Siamese Dream.

    Joel Samson Berntsen (On Repeat - LCD Soundsystem)

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    V for Venereal Disease: Alan Moore, STDs and Watching a Sex-Ed Video With My Dad

    “You have a choice. You can either watch Gandhi with me or this?” To which my Father displayed a DVD case with the title of Sex Still has a Price Tag.”

    I had spotted the movie on the top of our fridge over Christmas break, but I assumed it was meant to be watched by one of my younger sisters. I told my dad this and he said, “Oh, they’re going to watch it too.”

    India peace revolution or youth sex tutoring: that is the choice my father presented to me. I could watch one or the other, but I had to watch one of them.  And I couldn’t just watch the sex education video on my own. He had to be there for that. I actually had to plan out a day and time to watch a sex education video with my father. Or I could just watch Gandhi with him. I chose the sex ed. video. 

    Because I really don’t want to watch Gandhi. 

    But first things first: shouldn’t my dad have shown me this before I went off to my first semester of college?  I mean, if he wanted me to watch an informative video about sex and sexually transmitted diseases shouldn’t he have shown that to me before I went to the free range ranch of youth, sex, and STDs? I think that might have been a good idea. Not that I have any STDs. It just seems like that would’ve been a better plan.  

    You don't want to see the other pics
    Anyway, we watched the video and it was pretty much all stuff I learned freshmen year in health class except with more overt Christian overtones. It also had that super weird thing where Christian adults say, “Sex is great. I love sex. Sex feels great! God created sex, and it is fantastic!!! But don't even think about having sex because then you'll die unhappy and diseased.” 

    While the video pretty much just beat a dead horse, it did remind me of the kind of crazy-scary, exponential growth of STDs all over the world. It also re-enforced my initial middle-school reaction to STDs, which was “oh my gosh (*heavy breathing*) EVERYONE is going to get sex diseases and DIE.”

    Which totally reminds me of V for Vendetta (in the fear/STD aspect). 

    (Youth rebellion side-note: the first time I watched V for Vendetta, it was two in the morning and on my grandma’s computer, in a guest room where I was supposedly sleeping. Me and my grandma had rented it, but my parents where all you can’t watch this because of this, this and that, but I’d reached that age where I’d become a bit more sly and self-governing, and being I didn’t want to put my grandma in any tough position, so I waited till all the adults were asleep before I started it.) 

    In V for Vendetta the British government is all big brother and totalitarian because America went ballistic in some sort of STD anarchy. This to some extent frightened me when I first saw it, but it scares me considerably more now that I’m older. This is because I kind of consider STD USA and eventually STD PLANET EARTH a some-what plausible scenario, which scares the shit out of me because it seems like we're following an Alan Moore written doom-prophecy.  

    (sidenote: Alan Moore was the guy who wrote V for Vendetta about thirty years ago. He also wrote Watchman and several other comics that are better than 90% of anything, ever.) 

    Are we on the path to the disease-laden anarchy that is late America in V for Vendetta? Or the everything-in-our-lives-are-controlled-by-corrupt-scumbags British path (as also as depicted in V for Vendetta)? 

    It seems like that guy holding the cardboard the-end-is-near sign will always be there. Until he isn’t. Because the government took him away forever because he was scaring everyone.

    I don't know. The future is scary. Taking economics in college has made me more and more terrified at the general infrastructure of America and the world. America seems more fragile with each class. The world seems more fragile with each class. The future seems really, really fucking scary with each class.
    Sure, everyone in every period freaks out over the world ending: go back to Rome, go back to the Vikings, and go back to the cold war. It’s always, ‘how are we going to survive this because our lives are titter-tottering back and forth from fearful expectations to really fucking bleak death’.

    Of course, everything will probably turn out fine and I’m probably just freaking out.

    I’m too young to worry about this shit. 

    Moral of the story: STRAP UP and watch V for Vendetta.  

    Joel Samson Berntsen (Wars of Armageddon - Funkadelic)

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    Kurt Vile: "Smoke Ring for My Halo" — B+

    Orignally published for The Maneater 

    If Bob Dylan and Sheryl Crow had a child, it would be Kurt Vile. His music combines clever, whispering lines with a constant strumming that – if it weren't for the fuzz – would almost sound country. Returning to the present with his fourth effort, Smoke Ring for My Halo, Vile cements his status as modern day staple of lo-fi heartland rock by producing some of the freshest and finest music of his career. 

    Whereas previous efforts were glazed with layer of haze, Smoke Ring for My Halo carries a cleaner, crisper production that effortlessly balances with Vile's causal voice. The memorably charming guitar in standout track "Jesus Fever" adds a breezy quality to the already likable song. The whole album shows Vile proving his knack for clever lyrics with songs like the contrasting "Peeping Tomboy" or "Puppet to the Man" where he sings the sadly potent lyric "By now you probably think I'm a puppet to the man / well, I'll tell you right now, you best believe that I am."

    Vile's music has a tattered quality to it and gives impression that Vile's had some character forming experiences. It's wistful but wise – like that cowboy at the end of the bar that's staring down regretfully at his whisky. It reflects the old dust-bowl feeling of desperation but with a more modern touch. 

    Smoke Ring for My Halo is like a nice warm of cup of dark coffee. There's a rich fullness to each song, and it keeps the same, strong consistency with each sip. Vile's hushed vocals steam over his melodic guitar with just the right touch of sugar, and though it might not be the best cup of coffee, it's still a pretty good cup of Joe. 

    Joel Samson Berntsen (Bros - Panda Bear)

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Disturbia Lurking On the Horizon: Tyler the Creator & Odd Future Hang Industry, Critics

    Starting with the release of the “Yonkers” video and combined with Odd Future’s killer Fallon performance last week, my mind has been stirring  in a non-stop, whirlwind of obsession with Tyler The Creator and his L.A. rap collective Odd Future or OFWGKTA, which is an acronym for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All.

    Odd Future is disturbing. They are completely unsettling. There’s this feeling I get when I hear certain lyrics or verses in their songs that literally make my head hurt.

    But Odd Future is infinitely more intriguing than dangerous — at least for me. How many current rappers would say the following stanza in a rap: “(what you think of Hayley Williams?)/ fuck her, Wolf Haley robbin’ ‘em/ I’ll crash that fuckin’ airplane at that faggot nigga B.o.B is in /and stab Bruno Mars in his goddamn esophagus /and won’t stop until the cops come in.”

    No one would rap that. No one wants to start stuff like that. But Tyler did, and he could care less about the ramifications.

    And despite the heavy amounts of hate, there’s more to Tyler than spitting some substantial venom. The lyric that comes right before that “Airplanes” smash-fest is “I’m not gay, I just wanna boogie to some Marvin.” And just like that — in 12 seconds of verse, Tyler totally won me over. Plus, he also references watching Adventure Time in “Yonkers”. Swag.    

    Tyler is like Nicki Minaj except he actually stands for something: anarchy, disturbia, and youth culture. That line from “Roman’s Revenge” where Minaj says “I-I-I-I hear them mumblin', I hear the cacklin' / I got 'em scared, shook, panickin'” which might apply to Minaj, but it certainly suits Tyler better in that he’s seriously freaking people and parents the fuck out.

    Speaking of parents, Odd Future is playing at Coachella this year, but Future’s youngest member — Earl Sweatshirt — isn’t. His parents sent him off to boarding school or boot camp or something like that — it’s a little unclear except that it’s known that Earl is AWOL and Odd Future keeps posting stuff that says “Free Earl”. Can you imagine it though? Missing playing a staple U.S. festival because your parents sent you to boot camp? Sad times for Earl.  

    There are two things that make Odd Future so notable: 1) Everyone in Odd Future — at this time — are teenagers. Tyler is nineteen. Tyler is the same age as me. That kind of blows my mind. 2) They have the guts to disregard every censor and everyone in the industry and press. They are carving their own following by saying “fuck everyone”. It’s a bit ironic, but more memorable than anything. 

    Odd Future has the potential to become more than a hot topic, more than a weird outfit, and more than Die Antwoord; they have the power to actually stand for something, and maybe change a few things around in the “industry”. Now all we can do is wait for Tyler’s solo LP due in April.  

    Tyler the Creator is on twitter as @fucktyler. He’s pretty hilarious and he capitalizes every word, so he's cool in my book. Here’s some choice tweets from after his performance on Fallon: “Fans Were Crying Tears Of Joy Because I'm One Of Them. Feels Good. I'm Gonna Go jack Off And Go To Sleep.” & “This Nigga Travis On The Phone With Me. Nigga Crying.” followed by “Thats My Best Friend Tho, So Its Cool.”

    Joel Samson Berntsen (Unluck – James Blake)

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    James Blake: "James Blake" Review — A

    Originally published for The Maneater 

    Looking back over 2010, James Blake covered a whole lot of ground in a very short time, releasing a new EP almost quarterly.

    And while his varying EPs did a great job at advertising Blake's multi-faceted production chops, they also displayed just how ambitious Blake is with his music, trying out new styles and techniques with each EP. The new year brings a Blake that's finally ready to play with a complete studio album — he's practiced and experimented, and now the London dub-stepper stands prepared to unveil his first full album, the self-titled James Blake.

    There's a very tranquil quality that echoes through Blake's debut. The intrinsic layering of the production arranged with heart-breaking voice of Blake, stirs the mind both with emotional unease and satisfaction. In "Lindisfarne I," Blake somehow manages to make auto-tuning sound soothing to the ear. There's freshness to Blake's music, and while the sound might be sparse, an emotional intensity still looms throughout the album.

    Blake's production drips with the genius of an unconventional scientist. He takes the aspects of other genres — thunderous back drums of dance music, beats that'd usually be found on a rap album, auto-tuning — and mixes them into a calming blend of emotionally taught music. The build up to the climax of "I Never Learnt to Share" develops to one of the most stirring culminations of any song in recent years, reaching the point of comparability to the beginning of LCD Soundsystem's "Dance Yrself Clean."

    It's a rare occurrence that an artist can pump out music at break-neck speed without comprising quality, but somehow Blake has mastered the art of quick, smart production. Blake's debut is a breath of fresh air, and more than that proves the extent of Blake's musical genius and shows he's quite a bit more than just a producer — he's a pioneer.

    Joel Samson Berntsen (Good Moanin - Dead Meadow)

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Your Friendly, Neighborhood Hipster: The Indie-fication of Peter Parker & Spider-man

    Spider-man is getting rebooted, and man, I am freaking ecstatic.

    I liked the first two Raimi-Maquire Spider-man films, but — especially with Spider-man 3 — the time to bring in new creators to do a fresh rendition of the Spider-man saga is a long time coming. And the powers that be have assembled one sick crew to take out this latest version.

    Hello Marc Webb, yes, you can totally sign on to direct “Untitled Spider-man Reboot”. Name sound familiar? Odds are you’ve probably seen one of the fifty music videos he’s directed over the past ten years. Or maybe you’ve seen (500) Days of Summer? The film that was turned into a hit through the backing and love of a generation. There’s one consistent quality that defines Webb: clever. Clever, over and over; his videos show it, (500) Days especially shows it. I mean just look at this old MCR music video, it’s just goofy fun. And the main aspect that has to be right in a Spider-man film? Spider-man has to be smart-ass. Webb’s got that in the bag no sweat.

    And then Andrew Garfield signed on. Some consider him to be the best part of the Social Network (I’m one of those people), most consider him a really hot British import (mostly girls). Either way, he’s talented and attractive. And he clearly has the ability to make little quip-y remarks while bashing people up, and he certainly as the capacity to act like a angst-filled teenager (this Spider-man is going to be set in high school). If you don’t really understand what I’m saying just go see The Social Network — really, again if you’ve seen it before. There’s not really anyone I can think of that be better to play Peter Parker than Garfield.

    And then they got Emma Stone to play Gwen Stacy, who’s proven more than once that she can be a witty love interest (Superbad, Zombieland, Easy A). Also, did you know she’s a natural blond? Really, she is. Then they got Martin Sheen to play Ben Parker and Sally Field (Mrs. Gump in Forest Gump, the mom in Steel Magnolias) to play May Parker, Peter’s main parental figures and in pretty much every way the perfect parent figures. This really is the best casting ever. I’m not even pissed that Denis Leary is playing Gwen’s Dad. Mostly because I know he’s the perfect guy to play a New York dad and Police officer, and I don’t think I hate any more than Dennis Leary expect for, like, one other person in the world.

    Even the villain — Dr. Curt Conners, the lizard — is perfect based solely on the fact that Spider-man and a man sized lizard can totally just slug it out in an even, fist to fist fight (plus claws, tail, and webbing).

    But the main thing I’m curious about Spider-man-teen-version; is Peter Parker going to listen to New Order or The Smiths and longingly look at Gwen? Is the soundtrack going to be a little indie mix-tape, and is there going to be little references to Springsteen and epiphanies resulting from watching The Graduate? Is this going to be Spider-man saturated with a substantial amount of pop-culture references? I sure hope so. As a pop-culture nerd and comic nerd, that’s pretty much my dream. Webb has worked with music pretty much all his career and the soundtrack for (500) Days soundtrack has become synonymous with the film. So, I assume the soundtrack will be at least feature some sort of indie-collection of pretty cool tracks.

    Maquire does not get this Smiths reference.
    At this time, I just want to say — despite using the word twice in the previous paragraph and in the title — I hate using the word indie as an adjective. Yet, I’m using it here. I’m a hypocrite sometimes.

    Anyway, the cast and crew of “Untitled Spider-man Reboot” are doing a very smart thing: they’re keeping the film unconventional. They’re not going with the traditional villains and Mary Jane isn’t around. And by staying away from the norms, they’re freeing themselves from the limitations of the expectations placed by the previous films, which is a smart, smart move. They can carve out their own story and play to their own abilities without the worry of comparison. Oh, those smart people… I’m smiling right now.

    And with that, I wait for the film. Just like all of you. I hope you’re excited as I am.

    Joel Samson Berntsen (Friendly Ghost - Harlem)   

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Complicated Viking's Top Five Films of 2010

    1. The Kids Are Alright

    A perfect title for a perfect film: truly heartbreaking and heartwarming. Also, hilarious.

    2. Toy Story 3

    Again: generation-defining, animated prison breakout movie with babydoll Leatherface.

    3. The Social Network

    Aaron Sorkin, David Fincher, Jesse Eisenberg: the dream team, the dream movie.

    4. The King's Speech (please ignore clip if seeing film in the next month)

    An extremely-likable film of personal triumph: never bores, always entertains.

    5. 127 Hours

    An instantly enthralling movie that works the material like a high-class commercial.

    And that's all folks. Here's to another great year.

    Joel Samson Berntsen (Smith Westerns - Imagine, Pt. 3)

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Wavves on the Best Coast: Cali-fuse Couple

    Wavves and Best Coast are dating, or maybe I should say Bethany Cosentino and Nathan Williams are dating, but really, they're the leaders of their bands, right? So, Best Coast and Wavves are dating and did a Christmas song together. Good gracious, it's just kind of adorable, kind of like, Snacks, Cosentino's cat, who has a fucking twitter.
    There's a whole star-crossed, Californian lovers angle to all this. Both Cosentino and Williams are from Cali, they both toke up, they both had albums come out last year and both those albums had cats on them, and both their albums got an 8.4 on Pitchfork. God, I hope they don't die in each other's arms, or at least not for, like, fifty years.

    Bethany Cosentino stealthily rose to be one of my favorite people of 2010. First, I was all, "whoa, super cool, lovelorn beach music." Then, I was all, "oh gee, she's got a raw-ass, hilarious twitter and she likes iCarly." Then I finally listened to Wavves, and was like, "dude's on point." Then I found Williams's twitter which is just as, if not more, amusing.

    Bethany Cosentino is the female Kanye West of Twitter. She's raw ("Oh I hate Katy Perry so much, you do not represent California girls, bitch."), slightly vulnerable ("Watching icarly, missing @wavveswavves"), and almost always entertaining ("Nevermind I found my sweater! And I will never drink four loko again! Recipe for disaster!"). And so is Nathan Williams. I would say he's the white, weedy, version of Kanye, but now it's feels somewhat belittling constantly comparing one person to another. They're all relentless entertaining individuals, pitching their thoughts strait with no filters. Williams, also has got me really wanting to play Fifa 2011 (the soccer game).

    Another example, take Williams, who was arrested in Germany a couple months back. This was his press release:

    "We got stopped at a roadside check and I had six bags in the car and they only found one-- the fucking dogs never work. I bet it's high from all the fumes. Anyways, they put me in a cell which was a little nerve-wracking. More so because I was an American in a German jail and not because I have long gay hair. I did wrestle for four years in high school, so I could have fucked somebody up. So yeah, then I gave em €200 and walked out... not a terrible deal. And now I'm getting high again."

    See, totally raw, hilarious entertainment.

    There's this secret, evil-side to me though, that secretly hopes that they get blissfully married in a year or so and release a joint album of awesome, weed positivity, but then, one ugly year after that, they get bitterly divorced and then they'll both make super-depressing break-up albums. And, as some know, depression fuels some of the best bands/albums ever i.e. Joy Division, The Smiths, etc. It'd be amazing, right? I'm seeking help.
    Back to entertainment aspect of all this though, how engaging would a reality series on those two be? Just let the cameras follow them around. Like, Wavves / Best Coast just had a four day stint in Vegas. They were gambling, ordering room service, yelling at each other for winning. Reality TV could actually be good. MTV PAY ATTENTION TO THIS: there's the actual the possibliltity to create reality programming that has entertaining, music involvement. Though, there is the whole Wavves and Best Coast actually agreeing to participate in this programming, which seems slim, but one can hope, right? Maybe a mini-series at least? On PBS? I can and will dream about this.

    Anyway, Best Coast & Wavves, they rip it up. PLEASE COME BACK TO STL GUYS.

    You can find Nathan Williams aka Wavves at @wavveswavves.

    You can find Bethony Costello aka Best Coast at @bestycoastyy.

    Joel Samson Berntsen (King of the Beach - Wavves)