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11.23.09 My Top Ten RIGHT NOW


1. ALBUM Songs from the Bromley House Lucius

Sometimes live performances are so much more exciting and capture the talent of true artists better than any recording can… in the case of Lucius, the recording is completely on par with the thrill and delight of their live performances. Starting strong with the melodic “Dear Tom,” Holly and Jess harmonize gorgeously throughout this album. I have a soft spot for “Shenandoah,” with its sweet falsetto opening breaking into the infectious repeated chorus that I dare anyone to not want to sing a long to. I thoroughly enjoy the retro fun of “8 Birds,” especially the inspired addition of the rock organ. But my heart belongs to “If I Were You,” building from an a cappella opening to a simple guitar and then breaking open into a song that is so authentic both in melody and especially in lyrics with its plea to put yourself on the line in love. I don’t know what else I can write to get everyone on board, but seriously, click here, or go to iTunes and buy the album, you will not regret it and you will be able to say you knew of them way before all your friends did.

2. PLAY A Steady Rain

It certainly felt like stunt casting to put Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig on the same stage playing Chicago cops, but after sitting through the intriguing 90 minutes of this show, there might have been good reason to pull such talent together. Jackman is more assured where Craig still seems to be figuring out how to maintain his character throughout, but thanks to a well written, if slightly drab, script and some excellent restrained directing, this show provides quite a lovely evening of theater. I was most enamored with the set, a bare stone slab with two chairs and interrogation style lights above, not much to enjoy, but at moments of intense storytelling, the scrim at the back all of sudden revealed the most ornate and haunting cityscapes to depict the gritty setting of Chicago. Truly evocative storytelling…

3. ALBUM She Wolf Shakira

Shakira seems to be touring the world on this latest concoction of uniquely enjoyable tunes that still somehow lack the fire that launched her on the scene in her native tongue, all exemplified with the comparison of “Did It Again,” sung in both English and Spanish on this album. It’s an awesome little song with complicated syncopated verses, excellent producing and a tinge of Asian influence. And yet, in English it falls a little flat, in Spanish it’s kinda rocking. The same holds true for the title track, with its seductive strong catchy bass line. But take a listen to “Long Time” and “Good Stuff” and you realize how talented and unique this artist is, especially with the cultural mash-up on the latter song. Unfortunately you can skip her re-teaming with Wyclef, which does not bring about the insane pleasure that was “Hips Don’t Lie.”

4. RECIPE Tempura Fried Green Beans

Sure all the hair on the back of my hand is burned off, but who cares when the end result is this delectable! Whipping up a simple tempura batter (egg whites, club soda and flour) and adding some fresh green beans, this Red Cat Restaurant inspired recipe is shockingly just the simple process of frying it all up in canola oil at 350 degrees until the bean becomes a nice shade of green and the batter a golden brown. But it’s the mustard dipping sauce that really makes the dish sing, spicy and sweet to perfectly accent the fresh veggie taste. The real difficulty here is timing, getting it all on the table with the entrée proved a bit difficult, but with a taste this good, you get over the delay.

5. EVENT Perpetual Fall

We used to blame el nino, now we say global warming, and I say who cares! It has been insanely warm in NYC these past couple weeks and I love every bit of it. Still being able to eat outdoors mid-day, just wearing a sweater and not having to pull out that massive winter jacket quite yet, running outside and not freezing to the bone, all wonderful ways in which this freakish weather brings a smile to the face. I’m sure we’ll pay for it later with a harsh winter or the destruction of mother earth, but in the immediate, I intend to enjoy it.

6. ALBUM Beatles for Sale The Beatles

I was amazed at how unfamiliar I was with much of the music on this disc. Opening with the excellent toe tapping rock flecked “No Reply,” the album expands from there into lesser-known tunes that are, of course, expertly crafted. “Baby’s in Black” is awesome with it’s borrowing of harmonies and guitar patterns associated with the black artists of the same period, also seen to less wonderful effect on “Rock and Roll Music,” sounding a bit like bad Elvis. But it is songs like “I’ll Follow the Sun” and the awesome chorus of “Every Little Thing,” that remind me what songsmiths these guys were, simple and elegant but never without heart.

7. FOOD Enoteca on Court

It’s all about the wood-burning oven at this Italian restaurant in the heart of Carroll Gardens. If you cannot resist an appetizer, start off with the pancetta bruschette, a nice crisped piece of bread topped with cured pork belly and basil pesto, but be sure to save room for the sizable entrees. Go simple with the margherita pizza, excellently thin and crispy, with all that darkened bread on the bottom that you can only get with that oven. And pair that with the more complex bomba calzone, filled with mozzarella, cherry tomato, sopressata, n’duja (that’d be extremely spicy pork sausage) and olives. It’s a bit too spicy but so delicious that you find yourself continuing to eat well after the stuffing point.

8. MOVIE La Belle et la Bete (1946)

There is no denying the gorgeousness of Jean Cocteau’s creations. While the seams are all there, and pale in comparison to what can be achieved with a computer, it is that very homespun nature that makes his work incomparable. His tricks are elemental, statues coming to life, candelabras that ignite themselves and are held by moving human arms, and yet they all come together to bring brilliant life to the timeless tale of Beauty and the Beast. Even the simple use of slow motion makes for the most sumptuous surreal moments, much thanks to the ornate costume design. Each frame seems to sparkle and shimmer in this work, making me long a bit for the days when directors really tried to create the magic on set rather than saying, “we’ll fix it in post.”

9. MOVIE Twilight (2008)

With all the insane hype around the sequel, the constant articles and inundation in the tabloids and my own obsession with the new soundtrack, I thought it was time to revisit the piece that started it all, well, the movie that started it all at least (didn’t feel like diving into the books). I get it. There is no doubt that the fantasy of that brooding boy having some fascinating dark secret and the romance of being the one person he can’t fully understand, it all adds up to an excellent bit of darker than Harry Potter whimsy for teens everywhere dealing with not quite fitting in and the awkward awakening of sexual desires. As a piece of cinema, I can’t get behind it. As a piece of cultural fascination, I’m totally there. And as someone not so far away from those teen days (at least I like to think that) I can totally understand the excitement.

10. ALBUM Battle Studies John Mayer

He’s at it again, which I’m not sure is a good thing. As with many prolific artists, the new stuff just makes me want to dive into the older and often better works. This is a pleasant set of songs, but he’s at his best in his most stripped form, on acoustic tracks like “All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye” and the Beatles influenced “Friends, Lovers or Nothing.” And while I have yet to come around to this tween sensation (oh who am I kidding, she’s awesome) the pairing of Mayer with Taylor Swift works nicely, their voices blend quite smoothly but it made me long for her to be more present on the track than just counterpoint to his already feminine male voice.

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