Monday, April 23, 2007

Recent iTunes downloads

• Quick takes on recent impulse purchases at the iTunes store.

No One Is to Blame • Howard Jones // A hapless music consumer could snag a copy of Howard Jones' The Essentials for $7.97 and think to himself that, if nothing else, there would be a few decent tracks plus Jones' signature hit, "No One Is to Blame." Then said consumer would want to break the CD in half upon listening to it and finding that it includes the original mix of the song, a different beast altogether from the Phil Collins-produced U.S. single/album mix, which adds that ticking percussive bit throughout, as well as lots of other aural flourishes. Whatever your opinion of Collins, there's no denying his crafty production infuses the song with new life. And the hapless consumer goes and downloads that version from iTunes.

Remind Me (Radio Edit) • Royksopp // Deliciously mellow and evocative electronica, "Remind Me" was purchased purely based on that pleasant bit that airs in the Geico commercial while the caveman rides the escalator. Released as a single in 2003, it features a smooth delivery of pensive lines about "another place and time where love that traveled far had found me." Why can't songs like this be hits?

Boys and Girls • Good Charlotte // This song first caught my attention because it begs lyrical comparison to Blur's "Girls and Boys." Good Charlotte has a sort of Blink 182-ish knack for strong pop melodies that helps make them palatable, and this is one of the finest examples. I love how the song changes pace for the fadeout with the lines about all of these boys and all of these girls losing their souls in a material world.

Better off Alone • Alice Deejay // A local radio station played this dance nugget enough in the last couple of years to convince me that it was one of the memorable dance highlights of the mid 2000s. And who couldn't like an album title like Who Needs Guitars Anyway? Turns out it's a 2000 single that defied the odds to climb to number 27 on the Hot 100, but it's no surprise that I never heard it in my radio wasteland.

I'll Fly With You (L'Amour Toujours) • Gigi D'Agostino // Ditto the above, except insert the year 2001 and a Hot 100 peak of 78.

You Know I'm no Good • Amy Winehouse // This was snagged as a free download just before all the press proclaimed her a Next Great Thing. Based on this song alone, I'd say the buzz is somewhat warranted: It's a clever slice of pop, channeling the sound of '60s R&B girls groups and carried by Winehouse's distinctive vocals.

All Along the Wall (Styrofoam Mix) • Leigh Nash // The former Sixpence None the Richer vocalist went the remix route with several of the pop nuggets from her solo debut, and the results are tasty.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Random tracks: Alanis' humps, etc.

Alanis Morissette does "My Humps" // Is it loving parody or biting commentary? Morissette would probably politely claim fandom of the Black Eyed Peas and say that it's all in fun. I'm neither a fan of the Peas nor of Fergie, and I think Morissette's cover of "My Humps" is a shrewdly effective indictment of the song and the mindset of many of today's biggest hits. There's just something irresistible about Morissette singing lines like, "What you gonna do with all that junk / All that junk inside that trunk" in the style of one of her intense drama pieces, such as "Mary Jane." On top of that, the accompanying video is blinging hilarious.

// Update // Per Billboard, Alanis' "Humps" is, indeed, getting a single release.

30 Rock // The season's best new comedy achieved near-perfection about mid-season, and NBC has rewarded it with a second season order. We can all breathe a sigh of relief that neurotic Liz Lemon, wacky page Kevin and egocentric exec Jack Donaghy have been spared NBC's itchy cancellation finger, which brings us to …

Kidnapped // The best new drama of the current TV season, unjustly cancelled by NBC after only a handful of airings, is already getting a DVD release on April 24. Like young Leopold Cain, I expected it to be held hostage indefinitely. And the TV on DVD stack grows taller yet again.

New Erasure single // My jury's still out on "I Could Fall in Love With You," but that underwhelming U.K. chart placing of 21 is feeling about right thus far. I haven't felt inspired to order the U.S. single or download the track or its b-side from iTunes. At least the art for this album (Light at the End of the World, out May 22) interestingly references the old stuff. Perhaps the music will, too.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

DVD: Children of Men

• Depending on your taste, it's either a highbrow thriller or quite overrated.

Genre: Thriller, sort of
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
DVD released: March 27, 2007
Run time: 1:48
Cast: Clive Owen, Claire-Hope Ashitey, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Pam Ferris
Verdict: &&1/2

Children of Men must have one of the highest body counts ever for such a critically lauded film. Based on a 1992 P.D. James novel, it is set in a bleak near future, 2027, in which human females have become infertile and society is coming unhinged. But a new hope arises in a young woman, Kee, who has mysteriously become pregnant, and a small group of protectors attempt to usher her into the care of a group called The Human Project. The movie is essentially one long chase scene as the small band gets caught between warring factions in an increasingly unstable world. Somewhere along the way, I simply lost my interest in whether Kee would make it through the next volley of bullets. There's really no reason to care; with the possible exception of Michael Caine, who provides a few moments of levity as a future hippie, no one infuses any heart into this dark existence, despite an A-list cast. There's no denying that the film is a masterpiece of cinematography, creating a vivid vision of a gritty, hopeless future society that is utterly believable, but technical brilliance alone cannot make me feel. // DVD notes // Deleted scenes and featurettes.

Pictured: A scene from Children of Men shows political marketing alive and well in 2027.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Movies: Disturbia

• It's Rear Window for the MTV crowd.

Genre: Thriller
Director: D.J. Caruso
Run time: 1:44
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Sarah Roemer, Aaron Yoo, David Morse, Jose Pablo Cantillo
Verdict: &&1/2

Between this moderately entertaining thriller and the upcoming likely blockbuster Transformers, up-and-comer Shia LaBeouf is poised for a breakout year. In Disturbia, he is troubled teen Kale, who becomes the center of a highly Rear Window-esque tale after he is sentenced to home confinement due to circumstances that occur in a rather painfully overwrought opening act. With a monitoring device attached to his leg, he cannot wander beyond the confines of his own lawn, and boredom soon sets in. His interest piqued by a young lady whose family moves in next door, Kale takes binoculars in hand to get a better view from the windows of his upstairs bedroom. He soon notices unusual occurrences at the home of another neighbor (David Morse) who seems to fit the mold of a killer in the news. As the girl next door (Sarah Roemer) joins him behind the binoculars to spy, the two develop a relationship while becoming convinced that they mysterious neighbor, Mr. Turner, is up to something nefarious. It's nicely jolting, then, when Turner suddenly turns up downstairs with Kale's mother, and Morse is icily effective in the role. The movie at least acknowledges its obvious influences with music that, in tense moments, occasionally references the Hitchcock cannon. While LaBeouf is engaging as the nosy teen, the movie doesn't have as much fun with the voyeurism angle as it could in its early stages, and the final act fumbles a decent head of momentum in a string of thriller movie clich├ęs.