Saturday, January 3, 2009

Yer Sweet Chimneys' 2008 Year-End Extravaganza



We tend to scoff at the tidy reductionism of year-end lists... But we also feel a humble duty to share our impeccable taste... And who doesn't love a list?! So, without further ado, here are some of our favorite films and albums and miscellaneous audio/visual moments from oh eight...



Grouper — Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill
"Without a doubt the most ethereal and haunting thing I heard all year, the latest LP from Liz Harris (aka Grouper) soundtracked my summer and fall, sewing blankets of sonic bliss from my stereo speakers. Melodies emerge from a reverb-soaked fog, pulling you into or out of the depths (depending on your vantage point). Much of the tape hiss and dense washiness of prior releases is lifted like a veil, revealing heartbreaking pop songs ever drowning and drifting into seriously gravitational ambient tides." [BJK]
Sample: "Heavy Water/I'd Rather Be Sleeping" (download)








Lykke Li — Youth Novels
"For the past few years, the Swedes have been "bringing it," if you will. Not only are they all blonde and heartbreakingly beautiful, they can craft a better pop song than you. Lykke Li's debut, Youth Novels, is no exception. The beginning of the year brought this gem to the shores of ye ol' America: simple perfect pop that is made all the more charming with Lykke's accompaning music videos which feature her enchanting jerky-Madonna-meets-Thriller-Zombie dancing." [NLB]

Beach House — Devotion
"In the same way that Architecture in Helsinki and Mates of State took more than a few listens for me to love, I went from writing this off as too twee to really enjoying it. The heavy reverb on the guitar and that high, nearly whiney organ in the background is reminiscent of I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One-era Yo La Tengo. Couple bands: I love 'em." [NAB]

Violens — Self-Titled Tour EP
"I know that there are members of Lansing-Dreiden here, and I'm supposed to be wowed by that, but to be perfectly honest, I don't think I've ever heard any L-D. Seriously. I still listen to 14-year-old Palace Bros albums. I'm that stuck in my college radio past. But Violens' song "Spectator and Pupil" has been on repeat for a while now, I think because it harkens back to an even more compelling time in my past: the mid-80s. Prefab Sprout meets the Zombies meets Wire meets high sarcasm. (e.g.: "I've been waiting for this day / don't kill it with what you say") It's sort of perfect. And the 80s-esque production values! Dear me." [HAT]

Listening Party — Who Are We Missing?
"Saw these guys open for Wolf Parade this fall and they almost stole the show. Heavy, stripped down percussion, rolling bass... Sounds like a mix between Animal Collective and Wolf Parade if they lost two thirds of their instruments and lived in the woods. Likey." [TAB]

Paavoharju — Laulu Laakson Kukista
"Indescribable.  No touchstones or references. Or perhaps too many to count.  Laula Laakson Kukista is less an album than a mystical passport to exotic, other-/hyper-worldly sonic terrains. Gloriously weird." [BJK]

Bon Iver — For Emma, Forever Ago
"It was hard to find any 20- or 30-somethings who didn't enjoy this lovely—albeit too-short—record.  I try to avoid the hype machine as its promises usually yield disappointment (sorry, Vampire Weekend) but I happened to hear "Flume" as the backing track to a homemade internet video of some cats being, well, cats... and I immediately had to seek out the record. Seeing him (or, more appropriately, them) perform recently at Town Hall only cemented the fact this is truly spellbinding music. Perfect for snowy days and falling in love with lumberjacks..." [NLB]

Basia Bulat — Oh, My Darling
"You might cry foul because this was originally released in Canada in 2007 (Bulat is Canadian), but it didn't get a wide release until it went on sale in the US in February 2008. While basically any pretty woman hugging an autoharp could probably win me over, Bulat does so in particular because she's got a terrific voice. The songs are mostly standard in their structure, but when Bulat's on, she brings it as well as Sally Ellyson and Eleanor Friedburger do." [NAB]

Nico Muhly - Mothertongue
"New music wunderkind Nico Muhly is incredibly adroit at blurring lines. Timbres, genres, high brow/low brow, ... Reich-style minimalism, 17th-century choral music, cut-and-paste laptop manipulation, Appalachian folk, ... Accompanied by three vocalists (including Sam Amidon on the stunning "The Only Tune"), Muhly has delivered with Mothertongue a striking exploration of the human voice and has further cemented his place within the landscape of modern composition. I saw much of this music performed at the Kitchen earlier in the year (also in attendance: Lou Reed!), where Muhly strummed the hair of reclining women and Amidon sang his lines atop a white horse—best show of the year by far!" [BJK]

Feist Singing "1 2 3 4" on Sesame Street
"Maybe it's because I'm getting old and simultaneously curmudgeonly and sappy, but I really, really enjoyed Feist on Sesame Street, doing her version of "1 2 3 4" with the muppets. As with my experience of watching Wall•E, there was a moment when I'd be watching the video and absolutely forget that the muppets weren't real. Something about the video was just that compelling in its sweetness." [HAT]

Deerhunter — Microcastle
"Great? Loud? Hmm... I give up. Everybody already owns this album." [TAB]


Arthur Russell — Love Is Overtaking Me
"Achingly beautiful, folky/poppy tunes (what Russell's father called his "foot-stompers") make up this latest dug-up treasure from Audika.  As with the rest of Russell's catalog, everyone should hear this." [BJK]
Sample: "Close My Eyes" (download)








M83 — Saturdays=Youth
"I don't really know too much about M83. I could Wikipedia some info about them, but why don't you do that since by reading this you're necessarily already on the internet? All I know is that I acquired Saturdays=Youth after a recommendation by a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend's sister, I popped it in my car's (a 2003 Chevy Malibu, in case you're wondering) CD player and WOW! This is what we call "driving music." Synths, 80s-tinged pop, and passing scenery make ideal conditions for pretending you're in a John Hughes movie." [NLB]




A couple disclaimers regarding our list of films:
  • Most of us didn't see many movies this year, and we've yet to see any of the year-end flicks which all look promising (Milk, Frost/Nixon, Doubt, Slumdog Millionaire, The Class, The Wrestler).
  • Each of our individual lists contained Wall•E, which either says something about the strength and broad appeal of that film or the convenient congruity of our respective tastes, or both...

Wall•E
"Of course, this was a huge film that most everybody seemed to love... I'm ambivalent about heaping more praise here, but it was a genuinely good movie that brings some very serious issues to the fore. In fact, the sheer popularity of this experiment in feel-good, enviro-animation is part of the appeal for me: depicting the care for and maintenance of the environment as a value is a pretty cool thing. That it was also beautifully animated is, of course, awesome. (Negative points for the Phil Collins song, though. Blech.)" [NAB]

"Dear me, I've not been that ... happy ... while watching a film in a long time. It just brought forth a kind of joy thatI don't think I've experienced as a filmgoer since I was probably 7 and had a much healthier, much more exhuberant ability to suspend disbelief. Was it because the titular character was more human, more humane, more real than just about anyone on film in the past decade? (Answer: yes.)" [HAT]
[trailer for Wall•E]

Synecdoche, New York
"Though certainly not without its flaws, Synecdoche, New York is unquestionably the most dazzling thing I saw all year. The thing is, grandiose ambition and an over-expansive scope are in this case fairly forgivable flaws. Writer/director Charlie Kaufman's script is expectedly labyrinthine and quixotic, but also brimming with a profound, tragicomic empathy. The sets are spectacular and the performances are stellar (especially that of Philip Seymour Hoffman). It won't win over as broad an audience as Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind, but it is another boggling glimpse at Kaufman's terrificly idiosyncratic vision." [BJK]
[trailer for Synecdoche, New York]

Wendy and Lucy
"There weren't enough movies released in 2008 that I actually saw to warrant more than one contribution from me, so I'll go with this one, which is still fresh in my mind. Directed by Kelly Reichardt, Wendy and Lucy is a beautifully simple film that should probably be more depressing than it is, but despite all the loneliness and isolation that Wendy (played by the ridiculously talented Michelle Williams) seems to impose upon herself, there is an undercurrent of hope, a sense that we can survive by doing what's best for ourselves and those around us." [NLB]
[trailer for Wendy and Lucy]

Let the Right One In
"Okay, okay, so now I've picked two uber-hyped films as favorites. The justification here, though, is nothing so lofty as an appreciation for the positive reinforcement of good environmental practices. Instead, this makes my list because it's just damned entertaining. A cold-weather thriller set in 1980s Sweeden that features a child vampire? Yes, please. Also: I got to drink in the theatre while watching it (hot apple cider and bourbon—delicious)." [NAB]
[trailer for Let the Right One In]

Forgetting Sarah Marshall/Pineapple Express/whatever other comedies Judd Apatow was involved with in some capacity this year
"Somehow every comedy that I've seen and that I've liked in the past several years has been a Judd Apatow movie. Maybe it's Freaks and Geeks nostalgia, maybe the toilet/naked/stoner jokes, but I think the charges that his humor is purely male-centric are ridiculous." [TAB]
[trailer for Forgetting Sarah Marshall]
[trailer for Pineapple Express]

Wild Combination
"A heartfelt tribute to a true genius, Wild Combination explores the life and art of Arthur Russell (life and art being completely inseparable in this case). Containing one of the most heart-breaking/-warming scenes I've ever seen captured to film, the story of this extraordinary artist becomes a fundamentally human portrait of love, ambition, family, loss, and remembrance.  An absolute must-see for fans of Russell and anyone else interested in witnessing the very earthbound and all-too-short life of an otherworldly talent." [BJK]
[trailer for Wild Combination]

Be Kind Rewind
"This is kind of like how they sometimes give out the Pulitzer not actually for the book they say it's for, but really for a previous book by the author that everyone realizes, upon reflection, is better than the one that's winning (e.g., giving Junot Diaz the Pulitzer for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao instead of Drown, or Marilynne Robinson's Gilead winning in place of Housekeeping). This is the long way of saying that I really liked this movie, but I especially liked The Science of Sleep. Gondry has a way of creating dreams (literal and figurative) on the screen that are like nothing else—bizarre yet cohesive, surreal and lovely. Plus there's so much optimism and heartbreak in his movies that it's hard not to get pulled in." [TAB]
[trailer for Be Kind Rewind]

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