Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Songs for Cineastes: 2019 Edition

Cate Le Bon at KEXP in July. I was there! / Kathy Fennessy
Click here for the 2018 edition. Links lead to my concert previews for The Stranger.

Though I remain an avid, if not obsessive, radio listener, I heard considerably less new music in 2019 than usual, since I did considerably less writing about music than usual. I couldn't say whether that will continue, but I spent more time writing about film, and the writing and speaking projects I've lined up for 2020 also revolve around film, so it remains to be seen how things shake out in the months to come. At the very least, I know that I'll be writing about Harry Nilsson, Betty Davis, and Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette soundtrack. Maybe Charlotte and Serge Gainsbourg, too. Stay tuned for more details if any of that sounds appealing.

Top 10
1. Cate Le Bon - Reward (Kemado-Mexican Summer)
2. Jamila Woods - Legacy! Legacy! (Closed Sessions-Jagjaguwar)
3. Tanya Tucker - While I'm Livin' (Fantasy)
4. Kim Gordon - No Home Record (Matador)
5. Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains (Drag City)
6. Anderson .Paak - Ventura (12 Tone-Aftermath)
7. Lizzo - Cuz I Love You (Nice Life-Atlantic)
8. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - I Made a Place (Drag City)
9. The Specials - Encore (Deluxe) (Universal)
10. Snapped Ankles - Stunning Luxury (The Leaf Label)

Note: I listed Lorelle Meets the Obsolete's De Facto (Registros El Derrumbe) as part of my 2018 top 10. I didn't realize it was a 2019 release. Otherwise, it would be here. 

Sault - 5 and 7 (Forever Living Originals)
12. Altun Gün - Gece (ATO)
13. Sturgill Simpson - SOUND AND FURY (Elektra)
14. 75 Dollar Bill - I Was Real (Thin Wrist)
15. Angel Olsen - All Mirrors (Jagjaguwar)
16. Cross Record - Cross Record (Ba Da Bing)
17. Jenny Lewis - On the Line (Warner Bros)
18. Oh Sees - Face Stabber (Castle Face)
19. Weyes Blood - Titanic Rising (Sub Pop)
20. Aldous Harding - Designer (4AD)
21. Solange - When I Get Home (Columbia)
22. Adia Victoria - Silences (Atlantic)
23. Mega Bog - Dolphine (Paradise of Bachelors)
24. Moon Duo - Stars Are the Light (Sacred Bones)
25. Miranda Lambert - Wildcard (Vanner-Sony)
26. Medicine - Scarred for Life (Drawing Room)
27. Warmduscher - Tainted Lunch (The Leaf Label)
28. somesurprises - somesurprises (Drawing Room)
29. Ibibio Sound Machine - Doko Mien (Merge)
30. Red Kross - Beyond the Door (Merge)
31. Brittany Howard - Jaime (ATO)
32. Steve Gunn - The Unseen In Between (Matador)
33. Bruce Springsteen - Western Stars (Bruce Springsteen)
34. Föllakzoid - I (Sacred Bones)
35. Omar Souleyman - Shlon (Mad Decent)
36. Ex Hex - It's Real (Merge)
37. That Dog - Old LP (Universal)
38. The Highwomen - The Highwomen (Highwomen LLC-Elektra)
39. Raphael Saadiq - Jimmy Lee (Columbia)
40. Deerhunter - Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? (4AD)

Jamila Woods - Legacy! Legacy! (Jagjaguwar)
Also worthy of note: Bananagun - "Do Yeah" (Full Time Hobby), Bill Callahan - Shepherd In a Sheepskin Vest (Drag City), Karen O and Danger Mouse - Lux Prima (BMG), Mdou Moctar - Ilana (The Creator) (Sahal Sounds), Laurence Pike - Holy Spring (The Leaf Label), Matana Roberts - Coin Coin: Chapter Four Memphis (Constellation), Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow (Jagjaguwar), Sudan Archives - Athena (Stones Throw), Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride (Spring Snow-Columbia), and Michael Winograd - Kosher Style (Michael Winograd).

Top Songs and Singles
1. Prince - "I Feel for You" acoustic demo (NPG-Warner Bros)
2. Anderson .Paak ft. Andre 3000 - "Come Home" (12 Tone-Aftermath)
3. Rapsody ft. D'Angelo and GZA - "Ibtihaj" (Jamla-Roc Nation)
4. Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus "Old Town Road" (Remix) (Columbia)
5. Sault - "Don't Waste My Time" (Forever Living Originals)
6. Caribou - "Home" (Merge)*
7. GRID ft. Lydia Lunch - "Stranglehold: The World According to Herbert Huncke" (NNA Tapes)
8. Purple Mountains - "Maybe I'm the Only One for Me" (Drag City)
9. Kindness ft. Seinabo Sey - "Lost Without" (Female Energy)
10. Karen O and Danger Mouse - "Redeemer" (BMG)

*Features a sample of Gloria Barnes' Bobby Dixon-penned "Home." 

Songs/Singles Runners-up (Mostly Covers)
11. Nandi Bushell (nine-year-old American drummer) - "In Bloom" (Nirvana)
12. Yoyoka (10-year-old Japanese drummer) - "Bulls on Parade" (Rage Against the Machine)
13. Jon Hopkins and Kelly Lee Owens - "Luminous Spaces" (Domino Record Co.)
14. Nana Adjoa - "Love and Death" (Ebo Taylor) (Bloomer)
15. Empress Of/Lorely Rodriguez - "When I'm With Him" (Perfume Genius) (Terrible)
16. The Bird and the Bee ft. Beck - "Hot for Teacher" (Van Halen) (No Expectations-Release Me)
17. Bernard Fowler - "Sympathy for the Devil" (Rolling Stones) (Rhyme & Reason)
18. Warmduscher ft. Kool Keith - "Burner" (The Leaf Label)
19. Vampire Weekend - "Harmony Hall" (Spring Snow-Columbia)
20. Carly Rae Jepsen - "Everything He Needs" (Schoolboy-Interscope)*

*Features a sample of Shelley Duvall's Nilsson-penned "He Needs Me."

Top Reissues
1. The Beatles - Abbey Road: Super Deluxe Edition (Apple Corps-Calderstone Productions Ltd)
2. The House Guests - My Mind Set Me Free (Shake It)
3. Patrick Cowley - Mechanical Fantasy Box (Dark Entries)
4. Peter Ivers - Becoming Peter Ivers (RVNG Intl)
5. Arthur Russell - Iowa Dream (Audika Recordings)

Best needle drop: "Here Comes the Girls" in Synonyms.

Endnote: I saw very few shows this year, due primarily to a lack of money--fewer freelance gigs means fewer coins in my pockets--so I'm grateful that the Specials and Massive Attack were worth the wait and/or the trip. I'd never seen the former before--I've been a fan for almost 40 years--and I traveled all the way to Detroit to see the latter. Sorry I missed Stereolab and Jamila Woods. Both acts sold out their Seattle shows in a flash. I was tempted to travel to London to catch Woods in November, but after my trips to Detroit and Toronto, I was all tapped out. I also regret that I missed Jenny Lewis, but I bought a t-shirt, so I can't say I didn't do my bit for her merchandise sales.

Movies for Music Lovers: 2019 Edition

Aisling Franciosi in The Nightingale / IFC
Click here for the 2018 edition.

2019 was a good year for film. In most other respects--personally, politically, professionally--it wasn't the best. But it wasn't all bad. There were plenty of bright spots; it's just that the lows were so low, I've had trouble appreciating the highs. I'm working on it. The movies helped. They always do.

Links lead to my reviews for Seattle Film Blog, The Stranger, and City Pages. My reviews for Video Librarian live behind a paywall. Sadly, Video Librarian's founder retired this year and put the magazine to bed. Then, at the last minute, he found a buyer for the website, so I'll continue to contribute in 2020. Grateful for the 11 years of work he sent my way--timely payment, too. With the advent of streaming, video-reviewing gigs aren't as plentiful as they once were, but the need for reviews of non- and post-theatrical films remains.

Top 10
1. The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent)
2. The Irishman (Martin Scorsese)
3. The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg)
4. Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach)
5. Uncut Gems (Josh and Benny Safdie)
6. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)
7. Parasite (Bong Joon-ho)
8. Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar)
9. Hustlers (Lorene Scafaria)
10. First Love (Miike Takashi)

Note: Happy to see my piece about women + music in Tarantino's films in City Pages' roundup of the year's best music stories. ICYMI, I reviewed the new QT documentary here  

Strickland does it again / A24
11. In Fabric (Peter Strickland)
12. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma)
13. Synonyms (Nadav Lapid)
14. Asako I & 2 (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)
15. A Bread Factory (Patrick Wang)
16. Transit (Christian Petzold)
17. Fighting With My Family (Stephen Merchant)
18. Ash Is Purest White (Jia Zhangke)
19. Little Women (Greta Gerwig)
20. Charlie Says (Mary Harron)

Note: Fighting With My Family was the best Florence Pugh film of the year. 

21. Rocketman (Dexter Fletcher)
23. Destroyer (Karyn Kusama)
24. Diane (Kent Jones)
25. Atlantics (Mati Diop)
26. Us (Jordan Peele)
27. Gloria Bell (Sebastián Lelio)
28. Knives Out (Rian Johnson)
29. The Report (Scott Z. Burns)
30. Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu)
31. Dark Waters (Todd Haynes)
32. The Farewell (Lulu Wang)
33. Koko-Di, Koko-Da (Johannes Nyholm)
34. Booksmart (Olivia Wilde)
35. The Dead Don't Die (Jim Jarmusch)
36. Capernaum (Nadine Labaki)
37. Driveways (Andrew Ahn)
38. Dolemite Is My Name (Craig Brewer)
39. Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry)
40. Monos (Alejandro Landes)

Also worthy of note: Birth on the BorderBombshell, Burning Cane, Carmen y Lola, Cold War (2018), Crystal Swan, Depraved, High Flying Bird, High Life, Invest in Failure (2018), Invisible Life, Joker, Jojo Rabbit, Just Mercy, Knife+Heart, Knives and Skin, La Flor, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Les Misérables, Let the Corpses Tan (2018), Luce, Nailed It: Vietnamese & the Nail IndustryMarceline. A Woman. A CenturyNon-Fiction, Olancho, Richard Jewell, Sex Weather, Sollers Point, The Sound of Silence, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), Swinging Safari, A Thousand Girls Like MeTomorrow Never Knows, Waves, and Wild Rose.

American Factory worker / Higher Ground-Netflix

Top Documentaries
1. American Factory (Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar)
2. Apollo 11 (Todd Douglas Miller)
3. The Apollo (Robert Ross Williams)
4. Amazing Grace (Sydney Pollack and Alan Elliot)
5. Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (Stanley Nelson)
6. Rolling Thunder Review: A Bob Dylan Story (Martin Scorsese)
7. Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love (Nick Broomfield)
8. Barbara Rubin and the Exploding NY Underground (Chuck Smith)
9. You Don't Nomi (Jeffrey McHale)
10. Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska and Ljubo Stefanov)

Note: Of all the films I reviewed in 2019, Barbara Rubin and the Exploding NY Underground is the only one with a 100% T-Meter score. Also, Birth of the Cool will be coming to American Masters in 2020. I wrote a blurb about it for KCTS 9's e-newsletter. 

Doc Runners-up
11. The Edge of Democracy (Petra Costa)
12. Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman)
13. Roll Red Roll (Nancy Schwartzman)
14. Memory: The Origins of Alien (Alexandre O. Philippe)
15. Storm in My Heart (Mark Cousins)
16. Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound (Midge Costin)
17. On Her Shoulders (Alexandria Bombach)
18. The Two Faces of a Bamiléké Woman (Rosine Mbakam)
19. To Die in the Desert (Marta Ferrer)
20. Fyre: The Party That Never Was (Chris Smith)

Matt Baume introduces You Don't Nomi at NWFF
Missed or haven't seen yet: The Beach BumBy the Grace of God, Cats, The Case of Hana and Alice, The Cave, David Crosby: Remember My Name, An Elephant Sitting Still, I Lost My Body, Leaving Neverland, Little Woods, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Love, Antosha, Lynch: A History, MaidenMissing Link, The Mustang, One Child Nation, Peterloo, Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins, Sword of Trust, Tell Me Who I Am, The Third Wife, Toy Story 4, Weathering With You, What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire, and Wrestle.

Yes, I did see: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Greta, Honey Boy, Judy, The Lighthouse, Midsommar, and Under the Silver Lake.

Endnote: I continue to watch less TV than I once did. Last year, I said I looked forward to catching up with Atlanta, Barry, Better Call Saul, Sharp Objects, and the final seasons of Breaking Bad and Justified. I only caught up with Sharp Objects and Breaking Bad, not counting the made-for-Netflix movie El Camino, though I did catch up with Ken Burns' Country Music, The Durrells in CorfuFleabag, GLOW, Grantchester, Mindhunter, PressSuccession, Unbelievable, and When They See Us. Plus, I just started The Good Place--and I'm always caught up with Law & Order: SVU. Priorities!

Thursday, December 05, 2019

December Reviews

These are the reviews and other 
projects I'm working on this month.

KCTS 9 This Week: Staff Selection preview of Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (coming in February). 

Seattle Film Blog: Everything's Got 'Em: On the Point of Harry Nilsson's Animated Feature The Point!, Marching Band Member Goes Missing in Jennifer Reeder's Musical Teen Noir Knives and Skin, The Unstoppable Force of Adam Sandler in Josh and Benny Safdie's Uncut Gems, "If You Just Love Movies Enough, You Can Make a Good One," Says Quentin Tarantino in Tara Wood's Documentary QT8: The First Eight, and a revamped version of my Pierrot le Fou review: JLG 101: The Girl and a Gun.

SIFFcast: Oscar Edition 2020 (click here for 2019). Participant in SIFF's podcast in which producer Jeremy Cropf, host SJ Chiro, and a panel of critics and programmers discuss the highlights of the year.

The Stranger MTTD: Dâm-Funk, Nosaj Thing, Machinedrum
and Shooter Jennings, Jaime Wyatt.

Uproxx: Here's the list I submitted for the 2019 music poll:

1. Cate Le Bon - Reward (Mexican Summer)
2. Jamila Woods - Legacy! Legacy! (Jagjaguwar)
3. Tanya Tucker - While I'm Livin' (Fantasy)
4. Kim Gordon - No Home Record (Matador)
5. Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains (Drag City)
6. Anderson .Paak - Ventura (12 Tone-Aftermath)
7. Lizzo - Cuz I Love You (Nice Life-Atlantic)
8. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - I Made a Place (Drag City)
9. The Specials - Encore (Island-Universal)
10. Snapped Ankles - Stunning Luxury (The Leaf Label)

I attended this in-studio performance, a highlight of my musical year.
Endnote: Adam Sandler / Uncut Gems image from A24.