On Saturday night I decided quite by chance to see a Hebrew/Arabic language foreign film called The Band’s Visit, after finding myself downtown with no other plans. This is a humble and unassuming film about the Alexandria (Egyptian) Police Orchestra who end up in the wrong Israeli town on a concert trip. It’s quietly and subtly funny, although not a comedy. It touches on the human facets of Arab/Jewish tensions, although not a political film. The themes hover around the kindness of strangers, the depths of loneliness and desire, but most of all the power of music and its strange necessity to the soul. As the final credits rolled, I thought it deeply lovely. Go see it.
Plus, bonus points will be awarded if you also notice the scene where the big dude from the band looks exactly like an Egyptian Cee-Lo sitting on the couch.
It Could’ve Been Worse
According to the liner notes, the new album from Matthew Ryan (Vs. The Silver State) was “rehearsed in [his] garage on Idaho Avenue during the summer of 2006. There was no air conditioning and more mosquitoes than musicians.” I can almost here the crickets and feel the humidity of a summer’s night on this gorgeous song. With lines that slyly borrow from the master of all repressed & padlocked teenage fury in smalltown America (“her mascara was born to run”), this album is rife with allusions to stymied desire and unfulfilled dreams. This song ruefully notes, “You promised her every thing, not knowing what every thing really was. She’s the first girl you kissed, she’s the first girl you miss when you feel like this, broken in the dark.” Be sure to also check out Aquarium Drunkard’s new Off The Record feature with Matthew Ryan.
Chicago quintet The M’s have been keeping my ears happy for a couple years now. Each time our paths cross, I find something new to appreciate in their eclectic hybrid songwriting which melds terrific retro influences from disparate ends of the spectrum (think T. Rex meets Kinks?). Enjoy the sloppy, handclappy feel with a little rainy day women drunken singalong feel on this cut from their new record Real Close Ones. It came out last week on Polyvinyl Records, and plays up that spacey-glam edge around traditionally structured pop songs. They currently are touring with Centro-matic.
California Soul (Diplo remix)
I have been consistently impressed with the visionary pairings of cratedigging deep cuts from decades past with modern mixmasters featured on the Verve Remixed series. They’ve just come out with Volume 4, and this preview mp3 resurrects the swanky sounds of Marlena Shaw (the first female vocalist signed to Blue Note Records) through the lens of hot-stuff Philly DJ/producer Diplo. The album boasts some ragingly fun remixes, from the R&B swing of Nina Simone-meets-Mike Mangini wailing “Gimme Some,” to the tinny Latin shimmy of the Astrud Gilberto/Psapp track, or the Afrobeat joy of “Dilo Como Yo.” It’s a conceptual series that just keeps getting better and pushing the boundaries, delightfully.
Revolution In The Heart
Let’s just put this simply: I am a sucker for a man and a piano. There’s something so bold and yet nuanced, even heartbreaking about the way a good player can accompany his songs with that instrument. So it’s no surprise that I take a sheen to Sussex songwriter songwriter Ed Harcourt and his musical weapon of choice. I’ve heard Harcourt’s name bantied about from past tours with folks like Wilco, Feist and Magnet, but this swirling cut from his recent release Beautiful Lie is my first personal listening experience. There seems to be a lot to appreciate in this artist, over the cascades of ivories. The “new” album is really the belated U.S. release of his 2006 album, and it features Graham Coxon (Blur) as well as the Magic Numbers. Ed is currently on tour with the Gutter Twins.
Soul On Fire
This back-with-a-vengeance song from seminal British space rock/shoegaze ’90s band Spiritualized starts gently, with lyrics about being born on a black day shot through with starlight, over an intimate acoustic strum. But before the first minute passes, all the strings swell and rise together and there’s a hurricane in your veins. It’s terrifically stirring yet somehow comforting, as if I’ve heard it a thousand times before and want to be a part of it. It’s a tourbus singalong, it’s a gospel choir, it’s a ballad just for me. Songs In A&E is out now (Spaceman/Fontana International).
Oh, and . . . Forza Azzurri!