Thursday, December 28, 2017

top 10 singles of 2017


Praying - Kesha


american dream - LCD Soundsystem


I Ain't Got Time - Tyler, the Creator


Valerie June - Shakedown


Younger Now - Miley Cyrus


Work! - Gigamesh (feat. Kaleena Zanders)


Pills - St. Vincent


LOVE - Kendrick Lamar (feat. Zacari)


Total Entertainment Forever - Father John Misty


Cut to the Feeling - Carly Rae Jepsen

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

top 10 albums of the year: #1


Masseduction - St. Vincent

On St. Vincent's terrific, slickly-produced new album, Annie Clark starts a fire--blazing through a fiery crown of intro songs (like rock candy anthems "Pills" and "Sugarboy") and then midway through comes the somber "Dear Johnny" which is the album's sad, conflicted heart (the lyrics and  carefully drawn instrumentation are quietly stirring) with the remainder of the record burning slowly out.

"...once the record is done and out in the world, it doesn’t belong to me anymore and it shouldn’t. People take it and weave it into their lives however they see fit. I have exactly zero qualms about being “misunderstood” — I’m happy to be misunderstood as long as the misunderstanding isn’t something horrible. I’m happy for people to find their own meaning and their own journey with it." -St. Vincent

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

top 10 albums of the year: #2


DAMN.  - Kendrick Lamar

After the impressive, daring, and varied opus To Pimp a Butterfly (my #1 album of 2015) and the compilation record Untitled Unmastered, Kendrick Lamar returned with the bold DAMN. Unlike previous studio albums, this one recalls the streamlined tightness of Section.80. The album is immediate but also grows on repeated listens, with an interesting mix of spot guests, and lyrics on the current state of affairs meshed with the intimately personal.

"The initial goal was to make a hybrid of my first two commercial albums. That was our total focus, how to do that sonically, lyrically, through melody – and it came out exactly how I heard it in my head. … It's all pieces of me. My musicality has been driving me since I was four years old. It's just pieces of me, man, and how I execute it is the ultimate challenge. Going from To Pimp a Butterfly to DAMN., that shit could have crashed and burned if it wasn't executed right. So I had to be real careful on my subject matter and how I weave in and out of the topics, where it still organically feels like me." -Kendrick Lamar

Sunday, December 24, 2017

top 10 albums of the year: #3


Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works - Max Richter

Max Richter's score to Wayne McGregor's ballet triptych is a radiant listen. Sometimes it bears chord change similarities, likely in homage, to Philip Glass' score to The Hours. It's also full of strings and broad gestures, spoken interludes--including Virginia Woolf herself--and eerie, stuttering synthesizers. There's a lot of complexities and textures on this entrancing, enveloping album.

"When we began to discuss making the ballet, I hunted around for material of all kinds, photographs, memoirs, biographies. I never expected to find a recording of Virginia Woolf - this is the only one to survive. It’s like a tremendous time machine which allows you to hear her voice and wonderful use of language. I’ve used spoken-word elements quite often in my work, so to come across Virginia Woolf reading her own words was like a Christmas present. That lit the fuse for the musical language of the ballet’s first act, based on Mrs. Dalloway, and the piece grew from there." -Max Richter

Saturday, December 23, 2017

top 10 albums of the year: #4


Melodrama - Lorde

Lorde sets the mood of her relationship-themed opus with tinges of anger and joy on pop ditty "Green Light." Her vocals are both raw and precious, crooning over delicious melodies (much is co-written by Jack Antonoff). There's nothing filler here and the production and transitions are incredibly sharp (those strings of "Writer in the Dark"--a personal fave on the album--with its towering, vintage-Tori Amos chorus moving straight into banger "Supercut"). Melodrama is a lovely, intimate set of heartbreak and determination.

"It’s really a collection of moments, thoughts, and vignettes when I said to myself, “Don’t forget this.” And it wasn’t until I went through heartbreak, and moved out of [my parents’] home into my own house and spent a lot of time totally alone, that I realized I do have very serious, vivid feelings I needed to get out." -Lorde

Friday, December 22, 2017


New music video for Kendrick Lamar's "LOVE." Maybe my favorite song off DAMN.

the post

The overall feel of Steven Spielberg's entertaining The Post is a see-saw with one person on one end and no one on the other. Unlike Lincoln, which was precisely paced, this is an unbalanced picture, with vivid, wonkish details of the first and middle halves not quite delivering the goods in the finale. This could be due to Spielberg's dash to get the film made at this particular moment in America, but it also encapsulates, in a way, the sense of journalism itself--with the build of research and sources and interviews and blustery walks across the newsroom to an ultimately fleeting conclusion (there are some shots of wind-blown newspapers that are almost elegiac). The movie is shaped around its leads, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, as characters on the precipice and within the short aftermath of publishing the Pentagon Papers in The Washington Post. While a younger Spielberg may have made Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee rosier and uncomplicated, the post-Lincoln Spielberg, along with Liz Hannah and Josh Singer's (Spotlight) snappy script, delves into Graham and Bradlee's cushiness with past Presidents and Robert McNamara himself. Spielberg portrays competitive capitalism as American as a lemonade stand with shares, profits, and beating rivals to the punch as much of the reasons why the Papers were hounded after in the first place. In some ways, one could construe a glimmer of Graham's eventual actions, as is also often the goal of many American historical pictures, to absolve oneself of guilt but her power is also rooted in her compassion.

Spielberg's supple manipulation and craftsmanship still can lead an audience to applause and / or tears.  His seasoned crew, including editors Michael Khan and Sarah Broshar, production designer Rick Carter and composer John Williams (one of his more unshowy, least remarkable scores, but one that works well as the cement holding it all together), all aide in Spielberg's savviness. Ann Roth's costumes, which floats out a soon-to-be-iconic caftan, are a dreamy set. I was mixed on Janusz Kaminski's cinematography which is both sort of muddy and gilded lily--figures edged with soft lamp light and sunlight; I felt sometimes I was sharing Graham's bad eyesight. Streep and Hanks who have had incredibly enduring careers are both excellent, charismatic, and fun to watch--at times, you can feel their characters' stress; it's strange that their combined on-screen chemistry hasn't been exploited before. There's also a good supporting ensemble scattered with the Spielbergian trope of doofusy guys and an especially slick turn by Bob Odenkirk.

In the ending of this year's I, Tonya, we are reminded how the media will pile on top of the past with  the next new thing. I am still intrigued somewhat with The Post's ending, its obvious coding of the moment in a sort of horror movie setup-for-a-sequel final note (a poster for The Blob is glimpsed in the opening, a movie that ended itself in the arctic with a loopy white question mark). It's a sly, devilish ending but also a hopeful one (a smattering of claps went through my audience)--a combination of notes that I don't think I've seen a Spielberg movie end on before. ***

-Jeffery Berg

top 10 albums of the year: #5


Pure Comedy - Father John Misty

The album's songs, varying in length and rock-folksy style, often stir Elton John-esque sunshiny melodies and production with introspective, sardonic lyrics of the social malaise all around us. There isn't a tune much sadder, frank and realistic about the state of affairs I've heard this year than "Total Entertainment Forever." I haven't dug much into the mystique and shtick of Josh Tillman's Father John Misty pseudonym because his work is so engaging and strong on its own.

Choice lyric from the potent "Leaving L.A."

My first memory of music's from
The time at JCPenney's with my mom
The watermelon candy I was choking on
Barbara screaming, "Someone help my son!"
I relive it most times the radio's on
That "tell me lies, sweet little white lies" song
That's when I first saw the comedy won't stop for
Even little boys dying in department stores

"I think people will occasionally be turned off by my work because they think that I think I can actually answer these big questions… and that asking them is all that original in the first place. ‘Who am I? What is love? What does it all mean?’ It’s the same ol’ shit people have been asking since time began.

But what’s often misunderstood is that I know I’m creating more questions for myself. I know I’m getting further and further into this morass. The questions are recursively spawning, like the broomsticks in Fantasia. You’re never going to get rid of them. Trying harder and harder is only going to create more confusion.

The irony is that the answers do not appeal to our intellectual vanity. The whole reason this album is called Pure Comedy is because there is a childlike simplicity to it all. That’s the cosmic joke." -Father John Misty

megamagictape 2017

The Magician drops his year-end Magic Tape!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

top 10 albums of the year: #6


Dreams and Daggers - Cécile McLorin Salvant

Somehow, through her genius styling and jazz vocal virtuosity, Cécile McLorin Salvant makes these old standards modern and intimately personal. The double-disc album zips by, much of it backed by a tremendous rhythm section. Each track is a bright standout in its own way--like the forceful "Never Will I Marry." In portions of the album from a live performance at Village Vanguard, you often hear and feel the crowd's enthusiasm (a woman saying "careful!" out loud during "You've Got to Give Me Some"). And other portions of the album are stirring, string-soaked studio recordings. It's all beautifully cohesive as she takes on these lithe little birds fashioning them as urgent and close.

"... some of the songs are dreams and some of the songs are daggers. So I guess it's up to the listener to decide which is which and some of the songs have elements of both. Dreams can also be expressed forcefully. If you have a dream or hope for the future it can be accompanied with some kind of force. I don't mean violence but any resistance or progress needs to be accompanied by some kind of force. So those are the ideas that I'm playing with. Part of the reason it's called Dreams And Daggers is that to me it's a very evocative idea... and it should be what people want it to be." -Cécile McLorin Salvant

anonymous women by patty carroll

Some selections of her brilliant work.

More here at her site.