4.27.09 My Top Ten RIGHT NOW
1. SHOW The Singing Forest
This confusing yet engrossing drama of deeply interconnected characters racing around New York City packs a surprising punch and belly laugh depending on which part of the three hours you’re experiencing. Craig Lucas’ script might be all over the place, hopping from NYC in 2000 to 1930s Vienna to 1940 London, drawing stark lines between multiple generations of a single loony family and the haunted Holocaust past that affects them all, but the anarchy is anchored by supreme performances from Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening) and the amazing stage and screen actress Olympia Dukakis. In these capable hands, you find yourself at the edge of your seat, curious to see how all these disparate characters finally come together (in that moment it’s pure American farce) and finally realize the tragedy that does bring them all together. The incredible flexible set adds to the intensity and movement of this ensemble cast as they navigate what, with a few tweaks and fixes, could be great drama.
2. ALBUM Colonia A Camp
If you miss the Cardigans, and specifically that distinctive voice of Nina Persson, then this album is a must. It’s a strange mash-up of heavily produced tracks harking back to the ‘60s and ‘80s (girl groups and synth respectively) and lyrical vocals. Persson tackles birth, animal cannibalism, and how love is stronger than Jesus, just to name a few of the strange things that occupy these songs. The album as a whole is a sonic collage that is at once pleasing and disturbing, as you listen to these little poems with their dark and odd themes colliding with supremely gorgeous music. The album hits an inspired peak with “Golden Teeth and Silver Medals,” a dark duet with winding melodies that entrance the ear, spinning and revolving over drums, piano and subtle synth chords. Directly following is the odd clap infused, Sheryl Crow sounding “Here Are Many Wild Animals” which just begins to demonstrate the odd range of this little gem of an album.
3. SHORT FILM Over Time: Jim Henson Tribute
This is quite possibly the creepiest tribute to one of the greatest artists of the last century, from the mournful music to the insane entourage of kermits without pupils. But there is true poetic beauty in this elegant black and white short film as the kermits discover Henson’s dead body and begin to pay tribute to their creator, playing music for him, giving him a clean shave and reliving golden memories with 3D glasses. Each frame is so complex and artfully created, filled with bits and pieces that you’ll remember from your favorite muppet sketches. And stay tuned to the very end in which the true poetry of the piece becomes quite clear in a haunting visual that ultimately is fitting for the genius puppet master.
4. TRIP Atlantic City
I’m not much of a gambler, but I do enjoy the game of poker (mostly watching my friends play with their money rather than losing my own). I’m not much of a shopper (that’s a blatant lie) but I love an amazing sale at already low outlet store prices. The weather was warm along the shore. The hotel room was roomy enough to fit all seven of us attending. And the breakfast included with the room charge. And the people watching is beyond incredible, from boob busting pieces of fabric that people mistake for dresses to the scariest interpretations of “current” fashion. Throw it all together with a short car ride outside of NYC and you have yourself a great weekend mini-getaway, not the least of which is that leaving the city, even for 24 hours, you feel like you’ve been gone forever and there’s nothing like the big smile of returning to the big city that you love and thank god is so far and away different than the trash-tastic-ness that is Atlantic City.
5. SHOW Next to Normal
A musical about depression and the drug regimens we use to treat it is an odd piece to have splashed across the Broadway stage, but this show stands firmly on its feet, demonstrating that good music, powerful performances and an interesting book can really take any topic and make it show worthy. Alice Ripley takes on the role of a mother overwhelmed by her psyche, filled with humor and the deepest sadness, you can hear every bit of those overwrought feelings in each note she sings. Aaron Tveit proves he’s more than eye candy in the role of the son, becoming the emotional crux of the show in a wonderful bit of a theatrical twist. Overall the show could use some trimming and I had trouble with bits of the score in which rock melodies are relied on to convey emotion that just singing the song as written likely could have achieved as deftly if not more interestingly.
6. ALBUM When the World Comes Down All-American Rejects
I will admit that it was the overplayed but fantastic single “Gives You Hell” that brought me to this album. But once it got me there, I was quite happy to stay. The pop rock sounds like it belongs on college radio, but that would be writing off what is truly more complex and musically interesting than the average white boy rock outfit. Take for instance “Fallin’ Apart,” with the odd string riffs and choral vocals that complement the standard guitar, drums and smooth vocals that you’d find in any other band. A softer side of the band comes through on “Mona Lisa” an acoustic guitar ballad about finding that person you could actually be with when the rest of the world starts falling apart. And then I just go back to that first single, which I play on repeat over and over until I fear my ears will bleed, it’s that addictively good.
7. ARTICLE My First New York in NY Magazine
To me, a great article is all about a great idea, and this is a phenomenal idea. It’s a series of short snippets from famous people talking about the first time they lived in NYC. Hearing from musicians like Rufus Wainwright and Wynton Marsalis, artists like Chuck Close and Cindy Sherman, actors like Maggie Gyllenhaal and Amy Sedaris, you get an incredible sense of how the city has shaped and created these people that have come to share and create our own mindset. The city means different things to different people, and yet the experiences are familiar, consistent with our own vibrant and challenging experiences in the city. But it is the opening article about newcomers that really captures the essence of NYC, the constant turnover, the constant newness, the constant hope of making it, and ultimately the constant draw that keeps bringing us back time and time again.
8. PHOTOS Celebration of Colors
Some things just have to be seen to be believed. These glorious hue-rich photos capture the essence of Holi, the Hindu festival of color in which the beginning of spring is celebrated by the throwing of colored powder on masses of people. The deepest of reds, the most unreal indigo blue I’ve ever seen, clouds of yellow and purple, it’s just beyond comprehension that these colors can even be created, let alone splattered across scores of people to create a kaleidoscopic mess of brilliance. But of course, credit must be given to photographer Poras Chaudhary, who is ferocious both in wide shots encompassing the largeness of the festivities and intimate portraits that isolate personality as much as the panoply of colors that are as much a subject as the person beneath the clouds of tint. I cannot imagine a more inventive and beautiful way to welcome the start of Spring.
9. WEBSITE Is This Your Luggage?
I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a voyeur. I’m fascinated by peaking into people’s lives, getting a glimpse of some truth in the sea of things we project and hide behind. So what better way to take a peak than seeing what people pack in their luggage? This website tries to connect people with their lost suitcases by posting the contents of the bag on the web. But for the voyeuristically inclined, it is a way to see what dirty laundry truly looks like even when you’re not supposed to be looking. The simple layout seems to invite the viewer to peruse all the contents, looking at each piece slightly ashamed at the curiosity, but ultimately rewarding it. My current favorite has to be the small black case that contained a naughty nurse outfit. It’ll certainly make you think twice about what you pack away for fear that your lost luggage might wind up the subject of suspicion and intrigue for everyone else to enjoy.
10. SONG “Turnin’ Me On” by Keri Hilson, Featuring Lil’ Wayne
I love a song that makes you move no matter where you are when it pops onto your playlist. This is definitely one of those songs with a strong beat, clear message of getting the groove going and repeated “heys” in the background reminiscent of pop-diva extraordinaire Beyonce. Hilson’s voice rings loud and clear, with a little more drive and tonal intrigue than her sound-al-ike, Rihanna. But it is Lil’ Wayne that really takes the song to the next level with his clever rhyme schemes and incredible interplay on and off the beat as he drops each line like it flows naturally from his brain with the greatest of ease.