9.28.09 My Top Ten RIGHT NOW
1. CONCERT Kristina
Rarely does hearing a musical for the first time etch itself so crisply and emotionally into my musical lexicon, especially when presented in a stripped down concert version. Thanks to the soaring orchestrations, unforgettable melodies and above all else, powerful voices, this 1997 Swedish musical by the team behind ABBA and more to the point, behind the awesome score that is Chess literally blew me away. You could feel the energy coursing through Carnegie Hall as Russell Watson and Helen Sjöholm took to the stage, the latter receiving a standing ovation in the middle of the show with her incredible plea to the existence of god in “Du måste finnas.” But the most gorgeous songs came from the brother character embodied in the sensational musicality of Kevin Odekirk. Truly a night to remember…
2. BOOK The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Never has a book so dark and twisted made me long so much for the days of college. With fascinatingly odd characters filling the pages, you find yourself thrust into a new and yet familiar world where everyone you meet is mesmerizing, your new best friend, but still a completely unknown entity…basically, it’s freshman year all over again. But in this version, freshman year is filled with Greek rituals, unheard of methods of teaching and a murder. That last bit actually opens the book, so you find yourself spending 200 pages trying to piece together the inevitable outcome and then another 200 pages in shock and awe at the consequences. You gotta love a nail-biter when you already know why you’re biting your nails.
3. ALBUM Man on the Moon: The End of Day Kid Cudi
While Kanye might be feeling the heat of public scrutiny, he should be feeling the heat of his protégé who absolutely stuns on this full length album of gorgeous hip hop mixed with ambient tones, haunting and completely addictive melodies (try to not sing along with “Soundtrack 2 My Life” or “Make Her Say”). The album is divided into five acts, interspersed with bits of spoken word poetry, creating a sonic collage unlike anything you’ve ever heard. The final track, “Up Up & Away,” has been on repeat on my iPod all week, with the awesome propulsive drums, and a hook that makes you want to get up and bop around your apartment. It is so amazing to actually be able to hear the evolution of a musical style in one album.
4. ALBUM Lungs Florence + The Machine
The album opens with handclaps, harmonious harps playing low underneath and a sultry sweet voice playfully spilling over it, slowly building into an anthem, “Dog Days Are Over.” By the time the song breaks open with drums a blazing, you can tell how much you’re going to love this band’s mix of soul and alt-rock. From here to the end, the album does not let you go, intoxicating with ethereal noises and luscious melodies all mixed with these edgier beat patterns punctuating and driving home the sonically charged beauty. “Howl” and “Drumming Song” are frontrunners for the more accessible moments of the album, but seriously, this is one where you don’t want singles, you want the whole thing… over and over again.
5. EXHIBITION Dirty Little Things Greg Haberny
The walls of the Leo Kesting Gallery are filled to the brim with all these dirty little things, forcing your eye to jump around like mad only to settle on the most amazing and politically charged details, from an adorable bunny with a crack pipe glued into its mouth to a golden urinal with a plastic statue of Jesus stuck in the middle (can you say Duchamp?) It is actually the larger scale paintings that held the most sway with me, taking familiar images of the capitalist market place and altering them into dramatic dark statements about the world surrounding us. And for those with a bit of time and stomach for it, check the video installation in the back… definitely not for the faint of heart, but fascinating none the less.
6. TV The Good Wife
I came to this show mostly out of my enjoyment of the work of Julianna Margulies and a bit of interest in expanding on that notion of “ripped from the headlines” that Law & Order has capitalized on so effectively. What I got instead was an amazingly enjoyable pro-woman message encapsulated in a courtroom drama, with the usual assortment of fun offbeat judges. Margulies is powerful and believable as the betrayed woman jumping back into her lawyer roots after a scandal erupts for her politico husband, Chris Noth in a role tailor made for his likeability and simultaneous skeez factor. And bravo on rounding out the cast with the excellent and underused Josh Charles and ever-present yet always-enjoyable (even if she plays the same person each time) Christine Baranski. I’m definitely curious to see where this show ends up…
7. ALBUM Emotionalism The Avett Brothers
This folk-punk outfit is filled with guitar and banjo riffs, giving the production something of a bluesy country feel, the lyrics more like emo-story time and the melodies almost musical in nature, all combining into a complex and deeply effective album of emotionally compelling songs. This is most clearly evident on the moving tune “Living of Love” with the soft banjo and piano melody playing perfect counterpoint to the rugged sumptuous vocal line filled with the bravura of love but quieted into a pop inflected tune in the likes of Counting Crows. For fun word play “The Ballad of Love and Hate” is a must, an acoustic gem using Love and Hate to play boy and girl in a sad melodrama that speaks to every relationship quite beautifully. And just listen to the dynamics and time changes on “Salina,” truly something oddly amazing.
8. TV Community
I must admit to my love and devotion of star Joel McHale, of The Soup-fame. His brand of cynical humor has always sat quite nicely with me. I was less assured that he could handle a serialized comedy, but the one-camera quirkiness of this show suits him quite well. As a lawyer going back to community college to get his degree (his original diploma came from way south of the border) he creates a study group of ridiculous types that includes the comedy stalwart Chevy Chase. I’m not sure the show has completely found its flow yet, but I see pockets of enjoyable hope that lead me to believe McHale is a master in many formats.
9. MOVIE The Anniversary Party (2001)
Playing like some sort of weekend project conceived by famous people (written, directed by and starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming), this film is surprisingly interesting and effective in its depiction of Hollywood types screwing up their lives over the course of one anniversary party. The whole meta-ness of the piece plays nicely with the intelligent casting of Jane Adams, Gwyneth Paltrow and the always-delightful real-life couple Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates. Sure it’s a bunch of celebrity navel-gazing while drunk, but unlike that other naval-gazing world created in the Mumblecore movement, this one is actually interesting.
10. TV Accidentally on Purpose
This show is definitely not breaking new ground with its older-woman-has-one-night-stand-and-gets-pregnant plotline, but it can thank the amusing talents of Jenna Elfman for elevating the show to watchable, much like she did with the equally inane yet enjoyable Dharma & Greg. Elfman is bolstered by the good works of Ashley Jensen, excellent on Ugly Betty and amazing on Extras opposite Ricky Gervais, and Grant Show, who seems to be popping up everywhere these days as both a comic and dramatic actor. Time will tell if this show has anything to really offer, but for the moment it will remain on my TiVo subscription list.