Lindsay Powell amazes as Cake Bake Betty. Follow the link to better understand greatness.
Part 7 In A Series: Year-End Lists Of Various Lengths
I read "comic books", despite the fact that they're rarely comic. Think sometime more than a movie, less than a novel, expertly sewed together by a committee of hands. There's a whole lot the medium has to offer, and these are a few titles I enjoyed, in the more mainstream genre of fantasy powered people.
01) [Runaways] - I enjoy all of Brian K. Vaughan's work, but the trials and tribulations of this teenage, largely female proto-hero gaggle is superb. The first volume was more insular, but the current series crosses their paths with the Marvel universe proper, much to my delight. Fun, imaginative, excellent rendered - it's all good.
02) [Seven Soldiers] - Grant Morrison, baby. I won't fully be able to appreciate this multi-series masterwork until it's over in 2006, due to the moebius strip like arrangement. Excellent art, and the usual way-out ideas and anti-memes that make the initiated shiver.
03) [Livewires] - A limited series now in a way-too-small manga-sized digest, this is Adam Warren's masterwork, borrowing liberally from cyberpunk, Masamune Shiro, and everyone's desire to follow after cute female killer robots. Quite dense, easy on the eyes, and a fun twist on the edges of Marvel-land.
04) Gail Simone at DC - Yes, that's a person rather than one series, but her writing of [Birds Of Prey], [Villans United] and [Action Comics] was a real treat this year.
There are obviously things I'm not mentioning due to lack of space, like [Hard Time] by Steve Gerber, the work of Mark Millar ([The Ultimates], [Ultimate Fantastic Four]) and Warren Ellis (too many series to mention), but sufficed to say this was a great year from fans of the medium. Oh yeah - just so that you know, [House Of M] (Marvel's big event) and all associated tie-ins suck. The [Infinite Crisis] phenomenon at DC is more tolerable.
In the more "independent" arena, Adrian Tomine, Anders Nilsen, Brian Wood, Nicc Balce and those behind [Street Angel] and [Strange Girl] aimed and pleased.
Part 6 In A Series: Year-End Lists Of Various Lengths
This is the list of some music I truly enjoyed in 2005. The fact that all artists are female is telling, but mostly I just follow the talent.
01) Metric, [Live It Out] - Emily Haines and crew have way too much talent, which is why they also showed up in Broken Social Scene this year. Dancy trance-wave rock that likes to break buildings and wake the living from their stupor. A guaranteed ear pleaser.
02) Cake Bake Betty, [Songs About Teeth] - Officially out in January, but the past two months with Lindsay Powell have been transcendent. Her debut album walks you blindfolded through dark forests, only to give a shove towards the light by the end. An all-around joy.
03) Sleater-Kinney, [The Woods] - No words suffice - Carrie, Corin and Janet make the best rock sounds in the world, only this time with more atonal oomph.
04) Juliana Hatfield, [Made In China] - She's been up and down, but obviously is ascending into the clouds right about now, seeding them for personal vendettas. Sing-along songs that touch many genres, cemented by her windy voice and everyday poetry.
05) Fannypack, [See You Next Tuesday] - A completely fun concoction, with just the right mix of youthful swagger, ex-teenage sex boasts, and what I think are cute faces backing cuter beats. Straight out of Brooklyn and so such, Cat, Belinda and Jessibel come correcting like red pens on paper.
I also have a thing for Fiona Apple and her [Extraordinary Machine], but the internet leaked version of the album beats the released one to death, literally. It was a sad funeral.
Part 5 In A Series: Year-End Lists Of Various Lengths
I had seen some Takashi Miike films before 2005, but this was the year I witnessed the few dozen films that are on US DVDs, much to my perplexed pleasure. My favorites from the past decade or so:
01) [The Bird People In China] - A highly nuanced film with little of the usual violence, replaced instead by semi-realistic fantasy drawn out in the lush hills of China. Tolerable for many audiences that Miike usually overlooks, and suitable for framing, with that special heart-stirring feeling that wows the more meek critics. Plus, you've got children being taught to fly - perfect.
02) [MPD Psycho] - A six part TV series, based upon the Eiji Otsuka manga, and equal parts horror, comedy, and fake colored rain. I really dug how the usual Miike craziness was grounded in elaborate mythology of pop-star killers and bar code eugenics.
03) [Sabu] - A solid historical drama, following the unfair incarceration of an ordinary man, and how events spiraling from that reveal the extraordinary. Something special on a detour from the usual Miike.
04) [One Missed Call] - Soon to be remade for the US (like almost all other J-Horror), this is entertaining as ghosts in the cell go. It pretty much has every cliche in the book, used to crochet a security blanket you can peek through, crying out between the giggles.
05) [Gozu] - All out yakuza horror, which Miike is usually obsessed with, only this time with animal-headed psychosis. Extremely great by all measurements.
06) [Ichi The Killer] - Oh yes. Do you like blood and body parts, expertly presented in piles and pools? Not for the squeamish, this extra-fetish exploration of the psycho killer in none of us takes it well beyond where most need to go, yet the artistry can't be denied.
Many of his other works are definitely above average, and due to his massive output, expect more new and classic films from his vaults in 2006. They are predominately in Japanese, with accurate subtitles and often extra interviews with the man himself.
Part 4 In A Series: Year-End Lists Of Various Lengths
I only partake in a few anime series, out of the scores of translated titles released in the US each year. The following are the ones that I saw and enjoyed, with the only qualification is that either the first or last volume came out in 2005.
01) [Stellvia] - You'd think that a space-based female-skewed soap opera would be boring, but this series is both action packed and tear inducing. I love the character design, and the relative complexity of the interpersonal relationships, along with the not-too-pseudoscience plot. Suitable for the young and old.
02) [Paranoia Agent] - Satoshi Kon is one of the few true masters of modern anime, and this 4 volume series was artistically resplendant, and straddled the border between profundity and confusion. By all means, check it out with English Subtitles, because the dub destroys the essence (more in this case than others).
03) [Genshiken] - Like babies like to look at other babies, so do otaku appreciate their own. Follow the subtle dramas at a campus based media club, but with more humor and honesty than you'd expect. Great manga, even greater anime, and well worth the attention.
04) [Mezzo] - This three volume series ended in 2005, and was one of my faves due to the energy, art direction, and fab Barnabys music. Mikura is such a great, scrappy character, that it's hard not to enjoy yourself despite the lower-tier [X-Files] vibe at times.
05) [Elfen Lied] - The equivalent of Miike meets your usual harem drama, with so much dismemberment and blood spurts at the beginning and end, it's beyond understanding. Invisible strong arms meet cousin love, and strange touches of melancholy and reflection mixed in with the nudity and tears. A bit too convenient when it comes to character relationships, but still quite the strong showing.
06) [Gantz] - Again with the body sections. A bit too detailed for its own good, in the sense that one gets the point after the first dozen gore explosions, and one doesn't want the boss battles go on and on for multiple episodes. Still, it lavishly adapts the manga, has lots of fan service for the droolers and killers, and seems to be coming together nicely in the end.
07) [Bakuretsu Tenshi (Burst Angel)] - The best excessively-female character design meets the lamest plots, and thus I'm conflicted. It's has this wonderful Gonzo sheen, but all the crow monsters and glowing brains induce slumber. I care about some protagonists more than others, appreciate the detailed future world building, but just wish that they went in less of a juvenile route. The saving grace is Jo's story arc, and her relationship with Meg. Thus, I like it, but not as much as I thought I would.
By the way, I also thought that [Petite Princess Yucie] was one of the best series I ever came across, so sweet and cute yet complex and complete. That was one of my Netfix rentals of note, and even though it's slanted towards little girls, I think that a much larger audience could enjoy it.
Addendum 12.31.05: I almost forgot about [Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex], which started in mid 2004, ended in the fall of 2005, and was without question one of my most favorite series, ever. Right now I'm enjoing the sequel, [GITS:SAC 2nd Gig], and I'll fully consider both volumes as one unit when that's done.
Part 3 In A Series: Year-End Lists Of Various Lengths
There are more great albums from Japan than I can rank comfortably, but of the ones I heard this year, a few stand out:
01) Salyu, [Landmark] - Too many amazing songs in one package, we should be paying her to sing forth the sun. Lily Chou-Chou makes good.
02) Jude, [Electric Rainbow] - At this point, no one can handle the amazingness of Kenichi Asai and crew. Continuing an unbroken run of brilliance.
03) Sherbets, [Natural] - Kenichi Asai alert! Emergency reunion, watch out for sleepy shock guitar implosions from one of the best bands yet conceived.
04) Tommy heavenly6, [Tommy heavenly6] - The best poppy-rock album of the year. Tomoko Kawase, minus the cheerleader synth pop, equals heaping handfuls of slightly distorted sugar.
05) Yuki, [Joy] - The patron saint of fake freckles and new braces, Yuki blesses the world with tortilla impressions of her smile.
06) Zazen Boys, [Himitsu Girl's Top Secret] - The Number Girl is finally up, replaced by more of the same difference. Like a guitar to the mouth, hentai.
07) Tamio Okuda, [Comp] - 7 songs from the master of any number of songs, be they rock-folk or pop-rock. He radiates frosty waves; we are not all that worthy, but adore his output anyway.
08) Thmlues, [Dreamy Wormhole J"ten] - Almost as grand as their last record, which rains undistilled pop into eagerly outstretched hands.
Polysics should be on this list, but I haven't listened to their latest yet (it taunts me unopened). The US releases from PINE*am and Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re are also quite exceptional, so check those out too. And no, I won't count the Boredoms, since that record came out in 2004, and hit the US much later in 2005. No matter, I understand it's great (another thing I'm strangely saving for later).
As for the thousands of records I didn't mention - why don't you tell me about 'em?
Part 2 In A Series: Year-End Lists Of Various Lengths
Another year end list; I didn't see many live bands this year, but here are the ones that impressed me the most.
01) Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re @ San Francisco/Berkeley - I'm in band-love three times over, and the three times I saw them this year ensured their top spot. Funk-punk with smiles all around, they're great recorded but stage-shattering live.
02) The Pillows @ San Francisco - I love this outfit, to the point of personally tracking down their dozen plus CDs in the US and Japan. Perhaps the most tuneful rock with that Pixies shine you can come across these days, and live they blew the head-hair of all spectators clear out the door.
03) Tegan And Sara @ San Francisco/Berkeley My most favorite musical twins, touring a few times to support their latest piece of encapsulated amazement, [So Jealous]. Three shows was the charm to fully transform my ears and heart with transcendent tales of love and loss - their stage banter alone is the price of admission.
04) Hot IQs @ Berkeley - I'm all about the Hot IQs, with their intellectualized dance-Pavement rhythms and catching them when they passed through my home town was a true highlight.
05) Sleater-Kinney @ San Francisco - If I have a favorite band list, they're always somewhere in the top 5. From their very first Berkeley show as relative unknowns, to their latest fuzzy-buzzy rock explosion, this trio from Olympia via Portland are sonic searchlights illuminating tears and triumphs against the status quo.
06) Pixies @ San Francisco - Do they count? As reunion tours go, this was grand - reminded me of my high school days, raging against the washing machine that was indie rock. Another always true band.
07) Titan Go King's @ San Francisco/Berkeley - Matching cute outfits always makes the Buzzcock punk-pop better benefit all comers. Their presentation is supreme, with fuzzy hats and shout-outs for arm movements.
08) PINE*AM @ Albany - Again, when everything matches, the smooth electro pop only comes easier. Three ladies from Japan that walk by lakes, collecting rocks as they surface and skip into their pockets. Which means they're fun live.
09) The Emeralds @ San Francisco/Berkeley - Anyone that worships Kenichi Asai is alright with me. The best Jude sound alike band I've yet come across - all jet propelled pleased to meet you rock.
Part 1 In A Series: Year-End Lists Of Various Lengths
I have a penchant for year end lists; this one deals with bands that I discovered via South By Southwest 2005, an annual musical get together in Austin, TX.
Now, I didn't actually attend, but I did research the bands that were playing via musical downloads, and bought albums from those that struck my fancy. The following list is of those fancy bands; some of their releases were actually from 2004, but I'm not going to let that stop me. All are worth long measures of your attention.
01) Hot IQs, [An Argument Between The Brain And Feet] - I am in awe of this talented trio from Denver - let your brain dance along with your body, thanks to their brilliant debut.
02) Cruiserweight, [Sweet Weaponry] - Austin grows great bands like grass on a lawn, and this one is in-your-face punk-pop with female vocaled specialness.
03) be your own PET, [Damn Damn Leash] EP (Japan)- The graduates of the Rock And Roll High School have kids, buy minivans, and use them to drive the next generation of punk rocky road salvation (with waffle cones) to extra-cool band practice. If you like music, and singing, and things that go boom then the pixie stick stylings of this crew are exactly what the ouija board ordered. Almost no longer young, soon to be huge.
04) The Like Young, [So Serious] - Lower-fi guitars, male/female vocals, and a certain higher octane grade of gas that's peppy to the point of explosion - think of the White Stripes with more tuneful talent.
05) Rescue, [Flamingo Minutes] - Drive Like Jehu for the kids that hang out behind Hot Topic, tearing discarded baby tees to shreds. A noisy fearsome foursome that I listen to on all possible occasions.
06) M.I.A., [Arular] - Technically I found out about Maya Arul a few months before SXSW, but her debut hit it big right around then, with beats broken with a sugar cane, gunfire meets firecrackers on the dance floor. Supergreat.
07) The Pretty Please, [Demonstration] - Carrie Clark has been my fave since her sweet Sixteen Deluxe coming out party. Sample her new wow-sounding rock band aid, torn from the elbows of cheerleaders and affixed to our ears for added glee.
08) Palomar, [Palomar III: Revenge Of Palomar] - If you miss Jale as much as I do, then introduce yourself to female-fronted pop that snaps and crackles just for the heck of it.
09) By The End Of Tonight, [A Tribute To Tigers] - Bass and guitars are Hella good, if you get my drift. These four guys forget to sing most of the time, but you won't mind as well-tuned broken guitar strings transmit the silence of sounds in a chaotically melodic milkshake.
10) The Damnations, [Where It Lands] - Don't dismiss poppy-country until you've heard it done right; this trio comes correctly from 2002 albums to present playing.
Due to various circumstances, including work and the recovery there from, I've only been posting once a week this month. That should change next week, with the annual tradition of year-end listings, involving my favorite movies, music, and the like for 2005. That should be worth checking out, but until then, don't expect new entries.
I've always enjoyed the work of Jackie Chan, but more so the films from Hong Kong, as opposed to his purely Western projects. No matter - one of his most recent productions that haven't hit the US yet is [The Myth], which is a pleasant mix between [Hero] and the [Indiana Jones] trilogy.
Stanley Tong directs the activities quite well, at least when it comes to the many action set pieces, designed to let Jackie's arms and legs sing. The story thematically concerns the true nature of archaeology (conservation of the past, or the acquisition of riches) as well as whether love can transcend time, even through reincarnation. Thus, the movie is concerned both with the present and the past, and how they interlink, with Jackie's character Jack as the conduit.
I liked the exploration of the Qin dynasty, the beauty and talent of Kim Hee Seon (Jackie's love from the past) and Mallika Sherawat (a traveling companion he meets in the present), and the quite successful special effects, including tons of wire work - part of the story is about meteorites that allow for levitation.
[The Myth] was released in theaters a few months ago, with blockbuster status in Hong Kong, and is already on DVD in Asia. I picked up a 2 disc set from Joy Sales Films and Video Distribution] (with optional English subtitles), from my local Hong Kong Movie vendor, but I'm sure you can find it in the usual places.
If you like lots of armor, swords, and ornate dresses, massive stunts and attempts at conveying positive lessons, then this is the movie for you. Humorous and contemplative, odds are that it will see the US soon. However, since it only has brief passages in English, hope for subtitles rather than a dub.
I didn't know what I was going to talk about tonight, until I opened my email. Someone representing a rock band from Argentina named MAUMA sent me a link to the craziest video I've seen in quite a while.
The song is entitled [Cybergeisha], and is sung enthusiastically in Spanish. My skills in that language are poor, but I didn't need to know what was being discussed to appreciate the ultra-flashy, 8-bit video. Imagine a world where there is no distinction between the everyday and classic 80s videogames, where Space Invaders are angered by our Martian space rovers, and decide to trash earth in retaliation.
There are way too many pop culture and gaming references to catch the first time around - imagine VH1 meets G4 and Adult Swim, and you got the general idea. It seems like the animation burst from some apartment somewhere, yet has enough verve, narrative flow, and humor to more than compensate for the few rough edges.
So, by all means, visit MAUMA's website, view the video, and pass on the link. And, if you're in a band anywhere in the world, please send links to your music so I can share highlights of what we're missing.
Last month, intrepid readers had a chance to win the Hot IQs first CD, [An Argument Between The Brain And Feet], along with an attractive T-Shirt. The randomly selected winners are:
T-Shirt and CD: Aaron D.
T-Shirt only: Meghan J.
This month should see another, semi-related contest. Prepare yourself (for good times involving emailing your entry)!
contests: [enter here]
po box 11501