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Entries in alex carnevale (150)


In Which We'll Be Home For Christmas

The Week in Review

We have entered the giving holiday season here at This Recording. I thought it was a dirty little secret that Santa gave Jewish children coal in their stockings, but it turned out my mother was just screwing with me all those years. Things rarely seem as hilarious at the time, and Jackie Kennedy's last happy holiday moments with her husband weren't all shits and giggles. At least there was little in the way of porn stars back then.

kennedy christmas card for 1962In the haze of Christmas morning, I also believed Jesus was a satanic elf for a brief period in the late 1980s. Times were hard, our idea of Christmas was relatively inflexible and included a menorah largely for giggles. For a country like ours to survive this difficult period, we must avoid playing jokes on our Jewish sons, and harken back to the Christmas of olde.

Enjoy our week of holiday-based content:

The wonders of depression-era dating according to Meredith Chamberlain...

We unveiled the top 20 albums of the year...

Ray Zhong on Jason Reitman's Up in the Air...

Almie Rose on the promiscuous, sex positive Grace Kelly...

William Gass' letter for the ages...

All the vampires left New York...

Eleanor Morrow on the films of Yasujiro Ozu...

The aging oeuvre of Nancy Meyers...

The story of Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud...

The young auteurs of You Won't Miss Me...

Tao Lin discussed Thomas Bernhard...

Rufus Wainwright's iTunes playlist...

Elaine de Kooning remembered Mark Rothko...

Bob Dylan met John Lennon...

You can catch up on past Week in Reviews here.

"The Children" - Yeasayer (mp3)

"Madder Red" - Yeasayer (mp3)

"I Remember" - Yeasayer (mp3)

harry truman taking a christmas break in independence


In Which These Are The 20 Best Albums of 2009

The Top 20 Albums of 2009


By every measure the most important release of this or any other calendar year is the three-disc retrospective of Spiritualized's Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space. In what follows, however, we have confined our selections to original albums released or leaked in the year 2009. Also, we are happy to note that the Grizzly Bear (18 weeks on the Billboard 100) and Animal Collective albums released this year have achieved sufficient notoriety. Please enjoy the best albums of 2009:

20. Adam Franklin, Spent Bullets

Former Swervedriver vocalist Franklin's second album is a shoegaze classic, an album that could have been released in any of the past four decades and still be understood and enjoyed.

"Two Dollar Dress" - Adam Franklin (mp3)

"It Hurts To See You Go" - Adam Franklin (mp3)

"Autumn Leaf" - Adam Franklin (mp3)

19. Bad Veins, Bad Veins

Benjamin Davis and Sebastien Schultz's project achieved early acclaim after a few shows, but their mature self-titled effort is a masterpiece of songwriting.

"You Kill" — Bad Veins (mp3)

"Falling Tide" — Bad Veins (mp3)

"Gold and Warm" — Bad Veins (mp3)

"The Lie" — Bad Veins (mp3)

18. Mewithoutyou, It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All A Dream! It's Alright

The Weiss brothers tribute to Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, It's All Crazy! is a wild, rollicking record before it turns around for haunting paeans to Woody Guthrie and other more musical inspirations. Weiss' voice is a constantly flexible tool, swinging up for choruses and down to grovel at the altar of something mysterious. A wonderful, impeccably well-rounded 45 minutes of music. 

"A Stick, A Carrot and String" - Mewithoutyou (mp3)

"Bullet to Binary (Pt. 2)" - Mewithoutyou (mp3)

"Fig with Bellyache" - Mewithoutyou (mp3)

17. Girls, Album

This San Francisco collective's unexpected debut is a synthesis of 50s and 60s influences flaunted opportunistically.

"Morning Light" - Girls (mp3)

"Summertime" - Girls (mp3)

"Lauren Marie" - Girls (mp3)

16. Lisa Hannigan, Sea Sew

Since moving away from collaborator Damien Rice, Hannigan's music has taken on a delightful hopping twinge. Her music with Rice was sorrowful and rich. She hasn't lost the mournful beauty, but she added a sustaining optimism on the most consistently rewarding record of 2009.

"Courting Blues" - Lisa Hannigan (mp3)

"Lille" - Lisa Hannigan (mp3)

"I Don't Know" - Lisa Hannigan (mp3)

"Keep It All" - Lisa Hannigan (mp3)

15. Paleo, Pedestrian Crossing

David Andrew Strackany's become a prolific producer, but he's also a brilliant songwriter and shows as much on this album, which he began in 2005. Of Pedestrian Crossing, he writes: "a little bit of a Frankenstein, a product of meticulous, almost scientific, arrangement and editing techniques. For better or worse, I'll never make a record this way ever again."

"Too Poor" - Paleo (mp3)

14. Handsome Furs, Face Control

Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry are basically New Order but better in every detail. Their second album is every bit as delightful as their first.

"Legal Tender" - Handsome Furs (mp3)

"Evangeline" - Handsome Furs (mp3)

"Talking Hotel Arbat Blues" - Handsome Furs (mp3)

13. The Boy Least Likely To, The Laws of the Playground

Pete Cobbs and Jof Owen's followup to the critically acclaimed The Best Party Ever is pure pop without apologies or insinuations.

"The Boy Least Likely To Is A Machine" - The Boy Least Likely To (mp3)

"The Boy With Two Hearts" - The Boy Least Likely To (mp3)

"I Box Up All The Butterflies" - The Boy Least Likely To (mp3)

12. Volcano Choir, Unmap

Maybe the greatest thing to come out of Wisconsin since Bart Starr, Justin Vernon's collaboration with Collections of Colonies of Bees is another fun jaunt from an artist unafraid of experimentation or collaboration.

"Island, IS" - Volcano Choir (mp3)

"Cool Knowledge" - Volcano Choir (mp3)

"Youology" - Volcano Choir (mp3)

11. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Up From Below

Rollicking, breathless, and multi-instrumental fun to enjoy with your friends and lovers in a safe and orderly setting that holds some kind of underlying fascination or obsession for you. Alex Ebert's voice is a flexible instrument that cycles through country, folk, and rock'n'roll too fast to keep up and still enjoy the music.

"Desert Song" - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (mp3)

"Jade" - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (mp3)

"Home" - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (mp3)

10. Jóhann Jóhannsson, And in the endless pause there came the sound of bees

After releasing last year's masterpiece Fordlândia, Jóhann Jóhannsson proved he could make rewarding and complex music about nearly any subject, given that the album was about a rubber plant. bees has all the austerity you'd expect from a composer of film scores, mingled into a pleasing hybrid form with his command of other genres.

"Inside the Pods" - Jóhann Jóhannsson (mp3)

"Escape" - Jóhann Jóhannsson (mp3)

"End (Snowing)" - Jóhann Jóhannsson (mp3)

9. La Roux, La Roux

Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid's magical project brings the glory of synth pop into new interstices of how far dance music has come since the 1980s. 

"Fascination" - La Roux (mp3)

"As If By Magic" - La Roux (mp3)

"Bulletproof" - La Roux (mp3)

8. Beach House, Teen Dream

It was too difficult to make a follow-up to the imaginative shoegaze pop of 2008's Devotion, but Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand do one better: they manage to improve the alternately smooth and rough landscapes of their songwriting on Teen Dream.

“10 Mile Stereo” - Beach House (mp3)

"Norway" - Beach House (mp3)

7. Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Organized around a consistent and penetrable aesthetic that is remarkably joyful.

"Rome" - Phoenix (mp3)

"Girlfriend" - Phoenix (mp3)

"Lisztomania" - Phoenix (mp3)

6. The Antlers, Hospice

Peter Silberman's death project features a massive, swirling unforgettable soundscape. He's among the best lyricists working today, and his use of what seems like "found" sound but really isn't adds to the eerieness of his aesthetic. Hospice is the perfect headphones album and the saddest thing I've ever heard.

"Kettering" - The Antlers (mp3)

"Bear" - The Antlers (mp3)

"Thirteen" - The Antlers (mp3)

5. Miike Snow, Miike Snow

Andrew Wyatt's collaboration with producers Bloodshy and Avant resulted in this masterful first album, replete with incredibly catchy hooks and Wyatt's buoyant, glimmering vocals. A treasure.

"Animal" - Miike Snow (mp3)

"Plastic Jungle" - Miike Snow (mp3)

"Song for No One" - Miike Snow (mp3)

4. AA Bondy, When The Devil's Loose

Formerly of the band Verbana, Bondy's incredible sophomore album is filled with folk music for now, with enduring themes and beautiful melodies. The title track itself is as close to perfect as a song can get.

"False River" - AA Bondy (mp3)

"On the Moon" - AA Bondy (mp3)

"The Coal Hits The Fire" - AA Bondy (mp3)

3. Alela Diane, To Be Still

Haunting singer-songwriter stuff that gets all the little details right. Diane's voice, by itself or in tandem with others, sounds like Karen Dalton if she were actually focused on singing melodically.

"Age Old Blue" - Alela Diane (mp3)

"Take Us Back" - Alela Diane (mp3)

"To Be Still" - Alela Diane (mp3)

2. The-Dream, Love vs. Money

The 31 year old Terius Nash's producing career has recently paired him with the like of Katy Perry. He's vowed to give up his solo career after next year's follow-up to this year's R&B/hip-hop classic. The man who wrote "Umbrella" has a lot more tricks than that in his bag.

"Rockin' That Shit" — The-Dream (mp3)

"Love vs. Money" — The-Dream (mp3)

"Walkin' On the Moon" — The-Dream ft. Kanye West (mp3)

1. These United States, Everything Touches Everything

Jesse Elliott's constantly touring band of D.C. area musicians made an insta-classic with 2008's A Picture of the Two of Us At The Gates To The Garden of Eden. After last year's Crimes, the band brought the energy of their live performances to their songwriting. Instead of a lo-fi masterpiece, they made a studio album worthy of the name.

"I Want You To Keep Everything" - These United States (mp3)

"Everything Touches Everything" - These United States (mp3)

"The Secret Door" - These United States (mp3)

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here.

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In Which Everything Thinks That It Goes Away With Age

You Are Such A Charming Older Person


Nancy Meyers' new film It's Complicated begins with the most remarkable of conceits - a woman meets Alec Baldwin at an orgy. Known for her extraordinary skill at deflecting attention from the aging necks of Hollywood's finest, Meyers' second film, What Women Want, reimagined a decrepit oldster as a sex symbol who for some reason wished to press his wrinkles up against Helen Hunt's forehead.

I reminded someone recently about how much money Grumpy Old Men made, just before reflecting on how much I'd like to bathe in that money. Well, What Women Want is the most lucrative film ever made by a woman before Twilight.

Like Rob Schneider's classic The Stapler (seen below) the wacky uninspired Freaky Friday-esque premise of What Women Want explained part of its success. The magnificent Marisa Tomei's Italian sexuality was a key peripheral component, but the gimmick certainly helped.

Yet just as crucial a reason for What Women Want's success was glorifying the essentially horrifying presences of Mssrs Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. These two partially mutated ad executives were truly the most unappealing people in film until Andrew Bulgaski movies. And yet Meyers was able to resurrect them as likeable fops that got ruined by that week's dry cleaning.

Much hay has been made about how men age more lucratively than women do on the screen, but thankfully technology has leveled the field. Everyone except for Keira Knightley and Morgan Freeman looks absolutely horrible up close in Blu-Ray. Haven't you wondered why Brittany Murphy's been laying low lately? Our secretary of state looks like she spent the last two months in the Sudan.

Meryl Streep is the charming protagonist of It's Complicated. In other roles she's rarely permitted to depict what she actually is - a woman with an earthy sexuality and flirtatious demeanor. In contrast, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, and Jim Krasinski are only able to portray themselves or characters perilously close to themselves. Even though Krasinski was playing a character other than Jim Halpert, he still looked at the camera at the conclusion of every scene.

The key to Meyers' success is that she is better than anyone else at creating characters very close to how we imagine famous movie stars would act if they had slightly different occupations and personalities. (Otherwise instead of a debonair, Diane-Keaton loving Jack Nicholson, we'd see the Roman-Polanski enabling, abusive alcoholic Jack Nicholson). This is a particularly difficult straddling act in the case of the repulsive Alec Baldwin. In It's Complicated he plays a former minister with a passion for blondes who charms Streep's character into committing a deadly murder. Martin plays his Rain-Man autistic savant brother.

Wouldn't this actually be an amazing plot for a film with the title It's Complicated? Although I have watched the preview for It's Complicated over seventeen times, I can make no actual sense of the plot. In this way it resembles the most misogynistic film of the '00s, Meyers' Something's Gotta Give. The previous record holder for most generic film title prominently featured the crumbling carapace of Jack Nicholson lurched his body on top of Diane Keaton's torso. This is the same Keaton character who says no thanks to Keanu Reeves' face and penis in her life and fancies herself a famous playwright named Erica. Somehow this is more believable than Rain Man meets Before the Devil Knows You're Dead?

Casting directors go through slumps just like baseball hitters. Nobody has the balls to tell someone to dye their hair or insert Botox. Sometimes wrinkles have a good day. Other times, they add to the savagery of the intercourse. Usually they just gross me out.

clint's last scene alive, R.I.P.Maybe we will learn to appreciate age the way we have death. I'm proud of the way America has honored the filmmaking efforts of Clint Eastwood, who passed away at some point during Unforgiven. His movies about how other white people are racist both move and disturb my childlike sense of wonder.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here and twitters here.

is it true you're the grim reaper and that's why you made 'bridges of madison county'?"Tweeter and the Monkey Man" - The Traveling Wilburys (mp3)

"End of the Line" - The Traveling Wilburys (mp3)

"Margarita" - The Traveling Wilburys (mp3)