Last time on Yellington Abbey! Carson and Lord Robert yelled because Ethel got her whore hands all over Harriet Jones’ luncheon. Half the family yelled at Branson for wanting his daughter to be Catholic and everyone yelled at Edith for having an opinion. [Read more…] about Downton Abbey Recap: These Have Always Brought Me Luck
55th Annual Grammy Awards Live Coverage!
8pm Eastern Time tonight, CBS
7:30 pm Eastern: Good Evening! Welcome to what will be the first of many Manhattan Digest awards ceremony liveblogs! LL Cool J hosts the ceremony, which starts at 8 pm Eastern time on CBS. This should be an interesting evening tonight, with the Album of the Year award showing a surprisingly rock heavy slate with Mumford and Sons’ Babel, Fun.’s Some Nights, The Black Keys’ El Camino, and Jack White’s Blunderbuss, with Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange being the sole R&B outlier. Personally, I think that Babel and Channel Orange are the clear favorites, with Channel Orange being my pick to win the whole thing.
That being said, I’m here mostly to look at the show in terms of its’ presentation than to heavily critique the award choices themselves. The Grammy’s are known mostly for being the safest show on the February awards season, often only garnering attention for a killer performance (such as Elton John and Eminem’s killer performance of “Stan” in 2001), or some truly horrendous fashion calls (see Jennifer Lopez’s infamous green dress from the 2000 show). The latter is under intense scrutiny this year, as earlier this week CBS standards and practices sent out a letter vilifying the use of thongs or costumes that allow for exposed “breasts and buttocks”, singling out that earth-shattering corrupter of morals: the thong. Needless to say, my gut instinct is telling me that someone is going to find a way to defy this (odds on favorite here? Rihanna).
I would love for tonight to be a dialogue as we all react to the show together (and get different opinions at the same time), so feel free to use the comments section below and get involved in the conversation! Stay tuned to Manhattan Digest for more updates as the ceremony unfolds!
7:45 p.m.: Some early updates from the red carpet. Generally speaking it looks like the artists are complying with the S+P guidelines, with only a handful of particularly deep plunging necklines (including Miranda Lambert and Ashanti). Similarly the men seem pretty buttoned up, with a surprisingly large number of skinny ties. I think Taylor Swift’s dress was pretty impressive from a fashion standpoint. Conversely, Adele’s floral print design leaves a lot to be desired.
For me though, the highlight of the red carpet was Jennifer Lopez’s angry shrieks of protest after Ryan Seacrest noted that her dress was skirting the lines of what CBS was allowing screaming “I’m just showing a little leg and a little shoulder!”.
7:57 p.m.: Three minutes to the curtain and a large number of the awards have been given off camera already. Notable award winners included Gotye (who won two awards including Best Alternative Music Album, and Best Duo/Group Pop Performance – the latter with Kimbra for “Somebody that I Used to Know”), Skrillex (who also wont two awards for Best Dance Album and Best Dance Recording both for Bangarang), Rihanna (for her video for “We Found Love”), and Taylor Swift (for Best Song Written for Visual Media ).
Additionally it was announced on the red carpet that Ms. Swift will be the opening performance tonight, so expect to see her on your TV screens sometime in the next few minutes.
8:15 PM: And on cue we open with a weird man on a bike with a torch to introduce Taylor Swift who opens the show with “We are Never (Getting Back Together)” in a very sideshow circus vibe that involved a boyfriend strapped to a carnival wheel, trapeze artists, fire spinners and a large amount of pyrotechnics. The performance itself was pretty mediocre in spite of the spectacle, but it seemed like a fine way to amp up the crowd for tonight’s show.
Afterwords, we see our first appearance of show host, LL Cool J. He devotes his somewhat meandering opening monologue discussing music as a vehicle for bringing people together before pitching it to Eddie Sheeran and Elton John to perform Sheeran’s song “A Team”. I love Elton John as much as anyone, but it seemed like he was off for most of the song and it adversely affected the vocal harmonies. I did enjoy the off in the crowd staging aspect that they used, as it seemed to highlight the “lighter song” vibe that one gets when listening to “A-team”.
8:27 PM: LL Cool J asks us to use #Grammys when talking about tonight’s show before kicking it to J-Lo and Pitbull (with a split screen to the infamous green dress from 2000) with Pitbull fawning over J Lo before announcing the nominees for best solo pop performance:
The nominees are:
“Stronger” (Kelly Clarkson), “Set Fire to the Rain” (Adele), “Wide Awake” (Katy Perry), “Call Me Maybe” (Carly Rae Jespen) and “Where Have You Been?” (Rihanna)
AND THE WINNER: Set Fire to the Rain by Adele.
Adele gives a very brief speech (in which she called back to last year’s six wins) before Neil Patrick Harris enters to introduce Fun. (whom have six nominations this evening). Fun. then took the opportunity to play “Carry On.”, which started a little slow but picked up once the instruments kicked in. Once it built, we got a performance with a very strong cinematic vibe, including the obligatory downpour towards the end. One thing did bother me about the performance however, and that is why frontman Nate Ruess wore those Capris?
8:48 PM: Bonnie Raitt and John Mayer appear to introduce Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley. The duo play a couple of country tracks in “Over You” and “Home”. Their performance was perfectly fine and fairly low key compared to the immediately preceding performance before cutting to LL Cool J on American Bandstand in an awkward transition. LL then takes the opportunity to pay tribute to Dick Clark.
LL Cool J then makes an another abrupt transition, introducing Miguel and Wiz Khalifa, whom perform “Adorn” . The performance was sizzling, with Miguel showing off his pipes and performing the standard issue R and B theatrics. From there, our performer then announced the nominees for…wait for it…best country solo performance (because that made sense to me too right?)
The nominees for best country solo performance:
“Home” (Dierks Bentley), “Springsteen” (Eric Church), “Cost of Living” (Ronnie Dunn), “Wanted (Hunter Hayes), “Over (Blake Shelton), and “Blown Away” (Carrie Underwood)
AND THE WINNER IS: “Blown Away” by Carrie Underwood.
8:58 PM: LL Plugs social media again before telling everyone in the Northeast to stay warm and kicking it to Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, whom are presenting song of the year.
The nominees are: “Adorn” (Miguel), “The A-Team” (Ed Sheeran), “Call Me Maybe” (Carly Rae Jespen), “We are Young” (Fun. Feat Janelle Monae), and “Stronger” (Kelly Clarkson).
AND YOUR WINNER: “We Are Young” by (the now completely dry) Fun.
Nate Ruess gives a speech that has the first real crack of the night in “I don’t know what we’re thinking writing this chorus, now that we’re in HD and you can see our faces, we are clearly not young.”. They then thank Jay-Z (who mouths a “You’re Welcome” from the crowd) and Chick Corea before the orchestra kicks in to introduce Johnny Depp. I want them to win more awards now because they are clearly the only people so far who have not taken this awards show too seriously tonight.
Depp is there to introduce Mumford and Sons in 20 words or less. They play their hit “I will wait” in front of a large display of lights and had an excellent performance aside from some sound issues that seemed to keep the backing vocals from coming through, though the remainder of the sound was very impressive.
9:15 PM: We return to Ellen Degeneres and Beyonce (in a pantsuit tonight) whom do a shticky introuction for Justin Timberlake, whom is here to perform “Suit and Tie”. The screen goes black and white, which is probably not a right call because it makes Justin Timberlake look disturbingly like Rick Astley. Jay-Z then climbs on stage to perform his verse. The screen then goes color befor Justin does a new song with a full orchestra and band (Update: The song is titled “Pusher Love Girl”). All internet memes aside, the performance is excellent and realizing the irony in saying this about someone whose only a few years older than myself, he still clearly has it.
Following that performance, we next see presenters Kelly Rowland and Nas, whom announce the nominees for a new category: Best Urban Contemporary Album
Fortune (Chris Brown), Kaliedoscope Dream (Miguel), Channel Orange (Frank Ocean)
AND THE WINNER: Channel Orange by Frank Ocean
During the commercial, we saw a hard release date for Justin Timberlake’s new album, which will drop on March 19th.
Dave Grohl and Pauley Perette (Abby from NCIS) whom are here to announce that Dan Auerbach won producer of the year earlier in the day, before presenting the award for best Rock Performance
“Hold On” (Alabama Shakes), “Lonely Boy” (The Black Keys), “Charlie Brown” (Coldplay), “I Will Wait”, (Mumford and Sons) and
“We take care of our own” (Bruce Springsteen).
AND THE WINNER: “Lonely Boy” by the Black Keys
Following that, Maroon 5 and Alicia Keys perform “Room on Fire” and “Daylight”. While Maroon 5’s performance of Daylight was fine, “Girl on Fire” felt a little flat at points. This was a bit troubling as if there are two vocal artists who not only can, but are expected to let their vocals soar, it’s Adam Levine and Alicia Keys.
Kaley Cuoco and Keith Urban next came out to introduce the award for “Best Pop Vocal Album”. The nominees were:
Stronger (Kelly Clarkson), Ceremonials (Florence and the Machine), Some Nights (Fun.). Overexposed (Maroon 5), and The Truth About Love (Pink).
AND THE WINNER: Stronger by Kelly Clarkson
Kelly comes up and wings an acceptance speech, where she mentions being “stuck to Miranda Lambert” and expressed interest in working with Miguel. It was truly spontaneous and very welcome in this very overstuffed and seemingly overscripted show.
9:55 PM: After a performance from Rihanna that had shades of Adele’s performance of “Someone Like You” from last year, Carly Rae Jespen and Ne-Yo come out to present the award for best Rap/Sung collaboration
“Wild Ones” (Flo-Rida f. Sia), “Tonight” (John Legend f. Ludacris), “Cherry Wine ‘ (Nas f. Amy Winehouse), “Talk that Talk” (Rihanna f. Jay Z), and “No Church in the Wild” (Jay-Z/Kanye West feat. Frank Ocean and the Dream)
AND THE WINNER: No Church in the Wild by Jay-Z and Kanye West featuring Frank Ocean and the Dream.
In a classy move, Jay-Z gave most of the speech to Frank Ocean and the Dream, whom both give quick shout outs. Jay-Z on the other hand, simply thanks “The swap meet, because that’s where he (The Dream) got that hat.”
10:02 PM: The Lifetime Achievement award was announced with The Temptations, Carole King, Ravi Shankar, Patty Page, Glenn Gould, Charlie Haden, and Lightning Hopkins amongst the recipients.
After the break, Kat Dennings comes out to introduce the Black Keys, Dr. John, and the New Orleans Preservation Hall Band. All parties involved come out rocking, performing the Black Keys’ hit “Lonely Boy”. While I am typically not a fan of brass instruments in Rock Music. Adding to the proceedings was Dr. John, whom was dressed about as outlandishly as one could possibly be on a grammy stage, in full Hoodoo gear. It was a great performance, I do with it would have highlighted Dr. John a little more.
This was then followed up by Kelly Clarkson performing a medley including “Tennessee Waltz”, “Natural Woman”, in order to honor Patti Page and Carole King. This then segued into the nominations for best country album.
The nominees are: Uncaged (Zac Brown Band), Hunter Hayes (Hunter Hayes), Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran (Jamey Johnson), For the Record (Miranda Lambert), The Time Jumpers (The Time Jumpers)
AND THE WINNER: The Zac Brown Band’s Uncaged.
10:13 PM: We now get the Grammy’s tribute to Bob Marley with Bruno Mars, Sting, Damian and Ziggy Marley. The tribute started with Bruno Mars, who performed his hit single “Locked out of Heaven”. After the first chorus Sting came out in a fun moment as “Locked out of Heaven” is really Bruno Mars’ attempt at writing a police song. This then segued into The Police’s “Walking on the Moon”. This performance has been the best of the show so far, as Bruno hung out there with Sting and didn’t look out of place, though it looked like Sting initially hindered by the fact that “Locked out” was sped up.
Midway through the performance, Rihanna, Damian and Ziggy Marley came out and performed “Could You be Loved”. This actually created a largeness to the performance that made it feel more worthy of the Grammy stage, eclipsing even Rihanna’s prior appearance 15 minutes earlier.
10:30 PM: LL introduces The Lumineers, whom perform their hit single “Ho Hey”. The performance seemed perfectly servicable, and it seems like they have fixed the microphone problems from earlier. This then swept into Jack White’s performance of “Love Interruption”. After the completion of “Love Interruption.” Jack then exploded into “Freedom at 21”, giving the perfect loud kick after two quieter songs.
Katy Perry is now out to present the Best New Artist award. She marvels at the dedication it takes to get to that point before offering a little solace for those who didn’t win, saying: “I didn’t even get nominated for best new artist, but now I have my own eyelash line!”
The nominees are: Alabama Shakes, Fun., Hunter Hayes, The Lumineers, Frank Ocean
AND THE WINNER: Fun. (Fun has taken two Grammys tonight, I think they are now very much in the discussion for Album of the Year).
I think this one is a little bit of a shocker, I was pretty sure Frank Ocean was going to be a mortal lock for this one.
Hour three right now seems to have been a lot kinder to this show than the first two hours.
10:45 PM: And apparently I jinxed everyone (sorry!).
Hunter Hayes is out to sing (I wasn’t impressed, but I’m not a country guy) before introducing Carrie Underwood, who then sung two of her songs. Carrie’s vocals did not feel particularly impressive, but the lighting for this was particularly impressive as they used Carrie’s dress as a proxy for a projection screen, allowing for a neat visual that worked out superbly.
After this, Prince made a rare appearance to present Record of the Year, looking like a hybrid of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Puff Daddy.
The Nominees are:
“Lonely Boy” (The Black Keys), “Stronger” (Kelly Clarkson), “We are Young” (Fun.),“Somebody That I Used to Know” (Gotye f. Kimbra), “Thinking About You” (Frank Ocean), “We are never ever Getting Back Together” (Taylor Swift).
AND THE WINNER: “Somebody That I used to Know” by Gotye f. Kimbra.
11:04 PM: We come back to “Take Five” (no introduction, but it’s one of my favorite Jazz songs of all time, so uh, I know it…and now you do too.) for what I’m assuming is the tribute to Dave Brubeck as performed by Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Kenny Garrett.
Neal Portnow and Ryan Seacrest (who’s now the honorary chairman of the Grammy Foundation) are out to introduce Justin Timberlake. Mr. Timberlake comes out to shill for the Grammy Foundation and the new “music educator” award.
We now get the in Memorian Montage, which includes Dave Brubeck, Donna Summer, Andy Williams, Chuck Brown, Robin Gibb, Patti Page, Davy Jones , Dick Clark, Fontella Bass, Hal David, Marvin Hamlish, Richard Adler, Andy Griffith, Ravi Shankar, Adam Yauch (Adrock of the Beastie Boys), Levon Helm and others. Looking back at that last sentence, it seems like every genre of music took a heavy loss in 2012.
This then leads to a tribute to Levon Helm fronted by Elton John, Zac Brown, Mumford and Sons, T-Bone Burnett, Mavis Staples, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes as they played “The Weight”. This performance had a looser jam band performance due to the larger nature of this collaboration. Elton seemed a lot stronger in this performance than his earlier performance with Eddie Sheeran. This performance is easily in the upper echelon of performances tonight.
11:18 PM: We return to Juanes paying tribute to Elton John singing “Your Song” in English and Spanish in a very intimate acoustic vibe before kicking it to Frank Ocean, who’s performing his single “Forrest Gump”. They start with a cool visual effect where Frank is running on a video screen before completing his run up a hill to his keyboard in person. Frank wrenched a ton of emotion into this one and it created an excellent and haunting performance
We’re down to one last award, Album of the Year, and Adele is here to award it after making a quick crack about she got knocked up after winning Album of the Year last year.
The Nominees are:
El Camino (The Black Keys), Channel ORANGE (Frank Ocean), Blunderbuss (Jack White), Some Nights (Fun.),Babel (Mumford and Sons)
AND YOUR WINNER: Babel by Mumford and Sons.
A pretty deserving winner and one of my favorites from earlier. They managed to spread the love around somewhat with only Jack White not making the winner’s podium during the course of the show tonight.
11:42 PM: We’re down to the grand finale, a performance by LL Cool J, Chuck D, Tom Morello, Travis Barker, and DJ Z-Trip, whom performed “Whaddup”, which was a fun way to end the show if only because Chuck D’s voice IS rap to me, and LL was game. It was a pretty solid performance and I would kill to see the single, though it would not have killed CBS not to stick fee plugs in the middle of the song.
My Final Thoughts: This year’s Grammy ceremony felt a little overstuffed with tons of abrupt transitions and sequences and with a little bit of breathing room we could have cut some of the weaker performances (notably the lacking Maroon 5/Alicia Keys collaboration and Hunter Hayes’ introduction of an introduction). Additionally, at times the show had a somber, joyless feel at points during a night that should be the biggest party for the music industry of the year. That being said, what you expected to deliver did deliver (the Marley and Levon Helms’ tributes, as well your Album of the Year candidates’ performances), so check out those seven performances.
Also some enjoyable moments I didn’t get to point out amid the I Love Lucy Conveyor Belt pace of the show:
- Taylor Swift was rocking out to EVERYTHING. I’m not sure why, but this is really amusing to me.
- The full extent of Kelly Clarkson’s gushing about R+B artist Miguel
- Once the show hit hour three and it slowed down a little bit, it seemed like the show was able to gel a little more as the orchestra wasn’t cutting off awards speeches at the 30 second mark as it did for Fun.’s first speech
Final Verdict: If you haven’t seen the whole show, it’s probably not worth watching all three hours. You owe it to yourself to YouTube up the Marley tribute though, and I would probably check out Fun.’s , Jack White’s, and the Black Keys’ performances as well. LL Cool J was passable as a host, but the role of host honestly felt superfluous with the rapid pace that the show took.
Why Tunecore is awesome for artists
So many independent artists struggle with so many things, from getting their name out there to eventually finding the right record deal. Even some of the biggest selling artists in the world have had this problem and had to file for bankruptcy as a result (TLC, Toni Braxton, MC Hammer). One of their biggest problems is earning the most amount of money for the creative work that they produce. Enter in Tunecore. What does Tunecore actually do? Bottom line, they help you out. When you work with Tunecore, they will put your music on the biggest music downloading services out there, from iTunes to Spotify. They make it sure that you collect 100 percent of all the money you make from those sales. What do you need for this? It is simple. Music you have made and have the right to distribute it, cover art, a valid Paypal and high quality digital formatting music. It couldn’t get any easier than this. I had the great opportunity to speak with Chris Mooney, one of the senior directors at Tunecore, about the evolution of this great service and where he sees it going next.
How was Tunecore discovered?
About six years ago. It was founded by people with a record label background. We all knew how difficult it was for the artists to get their money. The way we did it was to skip the middle man, and simply distribute your music for a small fee. We maintain the accounting, and you get to keep the money. So far this formula has really worked.
Why do you think this is the best service for artists?
There are a number of factors as to why this is the best. For one, we want the artists to have an amazing experience. 60-70 percent of people come back, which is a great statistic. The big thing is that we don’t take any of your sales. There are also a ton of great things that we offer such as media players, exporting and so much more. These factors and others are just some of the reasons why we feel like we are the best.
How did it feel to get J-Dash’s song “Wop” certified gold (500,000 units)?
Amazing. We knew it was having incredible sales. We sent him a congratulations after we received the news. He’s still a top ten Tunecore seller actually. We have been able to harness his popularity in order to have people buy his music. He know has a shiny gold plaque as a result of all of this.
How many artists have Tunecore gotten certified at least gold?
I would say at least a dozen. Artists like Colt Ford and Lloyd Banks come to mind as some that have reached that pinnacle of success.
Is your primary focus hip-hop or are you open to any kind of music?
We take anybody from any background. We have so many genres from rock, singer-songwriters and even K-Pop (Korea) and J-Pop (Japan) are getting big as well. We even work with exercise videos. Native currency is very important when it comes to our international reach, so we make sure they are taken care of just as well as our domestic artists.
What other up and coming hip-hop artists are you working with in 2013?
We have an artist called Hoodie Allen, who actually made it to number one on iTunes with “AllAmerican”. Other artists like Wax, who was on a major label but now works independently, and Ab Soul who is part of Kendrick Lamar’s crew. Even Bubba Sparxx is making a big comeback this year and we are working with him as well.
This seems like a really great service for any artists out there that really want to keep the sales they make while making it big in the industry. For more information on Tunecore, log onto their site. Who knows, you might be the next big thing thanks to them.
Dead Man Down Remix Revenge Contest- with Fabolous
We all know who Fabolous is. He has had quite an impressive career for over a decade now, since we first heard him featured on one of my personal favorite tracks, Lil Mo’s “Superwoman”. Now he has branched off into the world of acting, starring in the upcoming film “Dead Man Down”. Dead Man Down is an action thriller that stars Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace as two strangers whose mutual desire for revenge draws them together and triggers an escalating trail of mayhem. His hit song “Breathe” is featured in the TV spot for the movie, which is due out March 8th. Check out the clip here.
Now Fab wants you to be apart of the movie experience by entering his “Dead Man Down Remix Revenge Ultimate Diss Contest”. All you have to do is tell Fab your tale about how you were betrayed, and if chosen he will turn it into a rap song that will be performed on BET’s “106th and Park”. Translation here, your pain will be turned into a diss track by a Grammy nominated performer. How freaking exciting is that?
Here is what you do- log onto Complex‘s website and it will further give you details on how to enter. You have from now until February 15th, so get that story of yours out there and turn it into a nationwide hit, courtesy of Fab.
Here is Fab talking about the contest. Good luck to all the people who enter!
Album Review: Four Tet – 0181
Four Tet: 0181
Similar Artists: Bibio, Mum, Jon Hopkins
Genre: Folktronica, Trip-Hop, 2-Step
When first hearing that Four Tet had released a free to download album, and seeing the album consisted of one 38 minute track, I was under the impression that “0181” was one of the artist’s live DJ sets similar to that of his live Fabric mix (perhaps from one of his nights at The Boiler Room). As it turns out, this is a rarities/b-sides collection from tracks made around the time of Dialogue and Pause; Kieran’s first two albums as Four Tet. Those two albums, dating from 1999 to 2001 respectively, remain excellent representations of electronic music at the turn of the millennia, and should definitely be checked out if you only started following Four Tet after his sorta breakout album “Rounds” in 2003. This was a particularly crucial time period for the artist as his focus was shifted from his fading post-rock band “Fridge” to working on solo productions which turned out to be much more representative of his talent.
In comparison to his first two LP’s though, 0181 is less engaging and less than essential, standing more as an easy listening experience to play a few times and then forget about. Then again, it is a very generous offering for Kieran to be releasing this album completely free of charge, so if you have enjoyed his material in the past, you will want to hit the download button anyway; it just might not dominate memory on your iPod the way his other albums surely do.
Most of this “new” material could be lumped into the Folktronica genre which Kieran has moved passed with 2010’s mesmerizing “There is Love in You” and last year’s ultra modern single collection “Pink”. I say “most” because variety exists through traces of cool jazz, trip hop, robotic funk and 2-step. Describing this music as traces or sketches would be accurate because despite Kieran’s decision to release this as 1 long track, this is not a continuously flowing piece. There are pauses, and some sections feel unfinished, which gives an abrupt feeling to the music. This disjointedness clashes with the lively production to leave us with an album that lacks the artist’s trademark personality. However, the production work itself is still impressive, and certainly has aged gracefully in the often rapidly moving genre of electronica. One particularly memorable section samples bird chirps and softly toned guitars to delightful effect; another casts a piano interlude that recalls Brian Eno’s early ambient works. Every so often a section appears that sounds unique and not so easily comparable to his other work, but these sections never last long enough to leave an impression. If nothing else, this is a great reminder of how sleek Four Tet’s productions were so early on, but it could have been a showcase for how much untapped potential was left for future releases.
While this is an enjoyable album to listen to, in the end it leaves me wanting to revisit Four Tet’s other, more focused releases. Still, this doesn’t hurt his reputation in any way; he did release this for free after all. I applaud Kieran for being so incredible to his fans. I certainly remain a devoted one.
The NY Experience- A New York City Street Photography Journal
To capture the people of New York City in photos is to indeed document the very soul of the most complex yet beautiful places in the world. The 2011 Census estimates there are 8,244,910 people and 800 languages spoken in New York City. Ask each individual what New York City means to them and you will probably receive 8,244,910 different answers in whatever of the 800 languages they are speaking. There is no more unique place on Earth and that uniqueness comes from the people here.
It’s easy enough to see that the city is not only made up of people, but the experience of life here is made up of their moments.
Hiding out from Winter Storm Nemo with a Chinese play on Seafood Ravioli
I felt like I was in the middle of a chopped episode when I opened up my fridge while hiding out from winter storm Nemo. I had been traveling so the cupboards are a little bare, and I just did not want to go back outside.
I gathered up this episodes mystery ingredients; crab and lobster ravioli, a Vidalia onion, baby spinach, baby portabella mushroom, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, curly parley and hot pepper.
I then wondered why I did not have any olive oil in the apartment, but then looked and the dish as a way to change ravioli into dumplings. I heated the oil with the hot pepper and let the flavor soak in. I then fried the onions, but to be honest, they needed a little more time on the high heat, and would have be much better suited with a sharper onion, instead of one with such a high sugar content. I grated the ginger on the onions as they cooked. From here I broke down the mushrooms with salt and tossed them in with the onions and the spinach and parsley followed shortly after. All this was tossed with the Nuovo’s Crab & Lobster Ravioli after a quick four-minute boil.
All and all considering the fact that I was cooking from what felt like a mystery basket of ingredients I’d say that I would have gotten a solid B on the test. But, I should have cooked down the onions further and chopped them smaller, infused more chili spice into the oil and included more spinach for better balance. The dish should have used a sharper onion.
But I will say I successfully transformed a very traditional Italian meal base to a Chinese fusion type of dish. The sesame oil, chili, garlic and ginger melded well with the seafood moose that stuffed the red and yellow pasta. The dish was nutritious containing those dark vegetables high in nutrition. The dish was not fat free by any stretch of the imagination, but the sesame oil does have additional health benefits when compared to other oils. One surprise about the oil is the high levels of calcium and magnesium. It also is know to lower blood pressure. This combined with the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger makes for a meal that is filling, delicious with health benefits.
This in my mind is a fun way to spend the afternoon while avoiding going out in the snow.
Album Review: My Bloody Valentine – M B V
My Bloody Valentine: M B V
Similar Artists: Slowdive, Ride, Cocteau Twins
Genre: Shoegaze, Dream Pop
Ah, I remember when the last My Bloody Valentine album came out; those were the good ol’ days. I might have only been an infant of 1 year and a few months at the time, but the roaring guitars completely stood out from the other albums my mom used as lullaby music. Ever since then, I, along with countless other fans have been eagerly awaiting the band’s follow up. Decade after decade passed and little to no news arose; although we still waited, most of us knew the sad truth that there simply wasn’t going to be any more material from the band. Well, it turns out that truth doesn’t really exist, as the new MBV album has just been released. As exciting as it is to know that dreams do come true, even after listening on heavy repeat for the last few days, it feels awfully strange to be writing this review. Despite the recent appearance of every other band from the 90’s reuniting to either put out a new record or roll around the country in a cash grabbing tour, this event seems bewildering, and similar to the music in question, dream like. The best comparison to this event would be the 44 year wait for The Beach Boy’s Smile sessions release, but even that was never actually completed. Now it would seem the only thing I have left to wish for is a new Neutral Milk Hotel record.
So the big question everyone seems to want to know the answer to is, “How does M B V compare to its highly lauded predecessor?” Let me talk about that. That album was known for its unexplainable production, restrictive use of non-guitar instruments, breathy vocals (often inaudible) and an ocean’s length of challenging tremoloed guitar waves. Well, this album has all of those things, and as it turns out, it has a whole lot more as well; so the question in hand should actually be “has Loveless been surpassed?”
This new album title, “M B V”, splits the band’s name into 3 letters with a space in between each. This seems to be in relation to the three distinct sections of the album, (of 3 songs each). The end of each section even has a few seconds of rest to symbolize the changing direction. Because of this, the album can even be taken as a grouping of EP’s the band has deemed up to its standards. Those standards in question are exceedingly high ones, but this release is proof that these individuals are the same group of perfectionists they were in the early 90’s.
The first of these sections is best described as a continuation of the Loveless style. The sounds, textures and songwriting are arguably more accomplished than they were before. We enter with “She Found Now”, a particularly majestic song that keeps things slow moving, yet tense due to the jagged, storm-brewing undercurrents. “Only Tomorrow”, brings on the band’s sorely missed crackling guitar fuzz. Major chords are introduced ¾ through to remind us of how the band excels at combining the accessible with the non-accessible.
The second section opens with “Is This and Yes”, which is an electronic ambient piece led by bright organ drones, the light thumping of a drum, and Bilinda Butcher’s tenderly sung vocals (which are featured prominently through these 3 tracks). It is a curious track that brings to mind select pieces from Angelo Badalamenti’s “Twin Peaks” soundtrack. “If I Am” and “New You” are the most accessible moments on the record, the latter of which throw us into a guitar bass shuffle and ends with beautiful vocal harmonizing from Bilinda.
The last section is the loudest, fastest and least comparable to anything else in the group’s discography (or anyone’s discography for that matter). “In Another Way” is an achievement in its use of superbly warped guitar licks, and a keyboard that sees the band at their most ethereal. “Nothing is” is three and a half minutes of punishingly repeating guitar and drums, but it proves so hypnotic that the word “repetitive” never comes to mind. Final song “Wonder 2” is another out there track that I won’t embarrass myself by trying to put into words….
Of course… none of my words have any relation to what this music sounds like. The band’s indescribability is how they have managed to never falter in turning up repeatedly in day to day conversation. The time off has proved this laughably unprolific band to be a true one-of-a-kind act. MBV’s followers have had 21 years to make an album that sounds like Loveless and nothing has come close. So here we are, listening to this unexpected new release, and all I can think is “I don’t need Loveless anymore.”
1.) She Found Now*
2.) Only Tomorrow*
3.) Who Sees You
4.) Is This and Yes
5.) If I am
6.) New You*
7.) In Another Way*
8.) Nothing is
9.) Wonder 2*
* – Album Highlight
Many Happy Returns: Community
Community: Thursdays at 8pm Eastern on NBC
Since we last saw Community: A ton has happened in the last 9 months since any new Community last showed new episodes. Community was narrowly re-upped for a fourth season. The show’s creator was unceremoniously canned due to budget issues with Sony, Chevy Chase got really mad for a bunch of reasons, the show was moved to Friday (to be paired with Whitney…ewwww) only for that move to be rescinded when the Peacock had a disastrous developmental season left too few shows to be called up from the bench. As a result, the show was pushed back to spring, which is perfectly acceptable to me as it means that we will be replacing one of my least favorite holidays (Valentine’s Day) with one of my most favorite holidays (Halloween). Finally, Barack Obama was reelected president and the Manhattan Digest was created.
Oh wait, that section was supposed to be a recap of what happened on the show to catch people up? Ok. So when we last left off, the Greendale Seven had just saved the school from Chang, who had taken over the school in pure Napoleonic fashion after installing an imposter dean and kidnapping the real dean. A few months later, Jeff was forced to choose between his career and his newly found friendship when Shirley and Pierce struggle to determine who would run their new sandwich shop. Troy saved the air conditioning school and moved into the room that was formerly the Dreamatorium. Finally Britta was giving Abed therapy, which almost led to Evil Abed trying to recreate the darkest time line by being generally evil.
Our season premiere looks to revolve around two key points. First and foremost, the Dean has a limited number of tickets to a course titled “The History of Ice Cream”, which in true Greendale fashion leads to a Hunger Games style campus-wide fight for those precious few tickets. Additionally, we learn that last year’s beloved dictator Chang has acquired a case of amnesia, meaning that he has completely forgotten about his psychotic reign of terror last year (though hopefully he hasn’t forgotten how to play the Key-tar).
What I’m looking forward to: One of the things that last season finale did well was leave a number of plot threads open for season four while leaving an ending that would not be a complete let down in the case of cancellation. We should finally meet Jeff’s dad this season, which I’m awaiting with baited breath as Jeff’s daddy issues played a large role in season 3. Finally, even without a fifth season renewal, season four seems like a natural closing point to the story about college, so the absolute worst case scenario is the story reaches what would be it’s natural conclusion.
What I’m not looking forward to: No new episodes after may? A possible change in tone in an attempt to “broaden” the show under Sony’s behest? Whatever line it was that made Chevy Chase blow up midseason? This topic is pretty difficult for me as Community is easily one of my favorite shows on the dial and I am way too happy to see it return (hence the column title: Many Happy Returns). However, knowing the creative tour de force that is Dan Harmon (and if you haven’t checked out his podcast Harmontown I strongly recommend it) is gone, the show could lose some of the intricacy that was it’s hallmark over the last two seasons.
Netflix’d: Days of Heaven
Well hello there, all those that be faithful towards internet news feed. Welcome to the first edition of my new column for Manhattan Digest that I will be calling Netflix’d. Those that have been following my reviews will notice that I’ve mainly been focusing on recent theatrical releases. Thing is, we currently live in a day and age where so many people are getting their entertainment fix from the internet thanks to legitimate sites like Netflix and Hulu. Seeing that people are always asking me for Netflix recommendations (and that I certainly watch Netflix enough to get more than just my money’s worth), I decided I might as well write about some of the more hidden gems that the site carries. For my first entry, I’ll be tackling Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, which is one of my favorite films, and a must see for any self-respecting fan of American cinema
Title: Days of Heaven
Director: Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick
Running Time: 94 minutes
Starring: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, Linda Manz
Genre: Drama, Period Piece, Surrrealism
Similar To: There Will Be Blood, Citizen Kane, great movies in general
What is the quintessential American movie? It’s a question that has plagued scholars for decades, with vital considerations coming up time and time again. Many would go with Citizen Kane, as it’s not just a powerful spectacle about the power our nation carries, but it’s one of the most important films ever made in terms of cinematic technique. Or, many could also suggest The Godfather as it’s a film so epic and ageless, that it’s subtext about capitalism is so relevant even today. You could even look at recent cinema like Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood and say that current film makers have a better understanding of America’s roots than ever before. I, however, feel that Terrence Malick’s 1978 masterpiece, Days of Heaven, is more transcendent and visually striking than any of those aforementioned films.
Set in 1916, the film takes place primarily in the panhandle area of Texas. It follows a trio of drifters, Bill (Gere), his girlfriend Abby (Adams), and his little sister Linda (Manz), who are on the run after Bill accidentally kills his steel mill boss. The protagonists join a large caravan, with Bill and Abby deciding to tell people they are siblings rather than lovers. Eventually they come across a large farm, where they take up jobs from the owner (Shepard) who is only referred to as “the farmer” throughout the film’s running time. We soon discover that the farmer is both dying from illness, as well as infatuated with Abby. Bill and Abby then hatch a plan to have her pose as the farmer’s lover, only so that she may inherit his fortune after he dies.
Of all the great new Hollywood directors, Terrence Malick was the most enigmatic. Keeping much of his personal life private, and rarely responding to interviews, the director almost immediately became seen as a recluse. Also, Malick’s films didn’t adhere to popular American genre conventions (i.e. film noir, westerns) as much as his contemporaries, didn’t have snappy dialogue to them, and featured characters that tended to be social outcasts. These might be the reasons his films aren’t as ingrained into the public conscious as much as films like Taxi Driver and Dog Day Afternoon are, but there’s no doubt that his work is just as influential. Days of Heaven was most certainly an ambitious project, especially considering that this was only Malick’s second feature, after having shot his debut feature, Bad Lands just a few years earlier. The film could of easily been a mess (like Michael Cimino’s disastrous Heaven’s Gate), but fortunately the script, cinematography, directing and editing all came together in a truly sublime fashion to form a film that remains an unqualified masterpiece.
Right from the film’s start, it’s clear that this is a film about America’s progression during the early part of the 20th century, even if the tone is so different than what we are used to. The film’s opening credits sequence showcases black-and-white photographs of workers, children and architecture from the era, with a rendition of The Aquarium by Saint Sans playing. It’s a haunting start for sure, and the film doesn’t become any less chilly. Regardless of the tension, the film is a perpetual beauty with Malick and his cinematographer Nestor Almendos illuminating the screen with lasting imagery. Malick said the film’s look took influence from the artwork of early 20th century painters like Edward Hopper, and it definitely shows. The film’s look is restrained yet expansive, asking us to view America during a shifting and perplexing period of time.
Still, as evoking the imagery is, it would fall on deaf ears if the story didn’t match. It certainly does though, despite it’s lack of dialogue. The film had a very arduous editing process, with Malick spending three years of his life to make sense of the massive amount of footage that he had shot. Eventually it was decided that much of the film’s shot dialogue scenes would be cut, and instead replaced with narration monologues from Linda Manz’ character. The effect is subtly eerie, as there’s just something so strong in hearing this story told from the point of view of a teenage girl, speaking in a very distinct Chicagoan accent. The film’s last spoken monologue from her is one of the most powerful closing lines I can think of.
Despite it’s surrealism and breaks away from convention, Days of Heaven is also a fairly accessible film too. It has a standard beginning, middle and end, a love story, and it does indeed climax with an exciting action scene that would not be uncommon in most other Hollywood films. Still, the more cinematically-savy people will get the most out of this film, and certainly find much to ponder about in terms of subtext, especially regarding it’s biblical content. Featuring an impeccably shot scene involving locust, a story that mimics Genesis 20, and lighting that often suggest illumination, Days of Heaven certainly seems to be tying godliness to the American dream. While many people have been discussing the religious implications in Tree of Life, I honestly think this earlier Terrance Malick film gives it a run for it’s money.
After Days of Heaven, Terrence Malick would not return to film making for another 20 years. I’ve heard conflicting reasons for why this is the case, with some sources telling me Malick was simply exhausted after the massive editing process, while others have told me that he was unhappy with the way the film was edited. Whatever the case, I feel that this film is likely to stay as his final masterpiece. While films like Tree of Life and The New World are certainly the work of a true visionary, they are ultimately bogged down by his insistence on using experimental and confusing narratives. Days of Heaven, however, is both a spectacle and a truly human work of art that will stay with you for a very long time. This and Bad Lands are enough to give Malick the distinction of being one of the best American film makers, and a most singular artist for the later half of the 20th century.