How are you discovering new music?

Maybe you’ve read the article David Byrne wrote for the Guardian about how the Internet will suck all creative content out of the world. I’m not sure I agree with him. I think creativity can be really enhanced by the Internet. I think creativity will take new forms because of the Internet. The old model of the music industry obviously no longer applies. But there are artists like Macklemore and The Weeknd using the Internet to reach audiences. I think in general, the Internet has made audiences much smaller–there’s so much content out there now. But is that a good or a bad thing?

David Byrne is down on Spotify, and I don’t blame him. But I use it to listen to music these days, for one reason–it makes it really easy to find new bands. Not only does it recommend bands to me based on what I’ve already listened to, but I can follow my friends and even music artists to see what they’ve been listening to. You can share playlists with people. There’s probably more it can do that I haven’t figured out yet.

My two favorite discoveries via Spotify:

Rival Schools

Joe Pug

How are you discovering new music?

Best anime EVER in the history of the world EVER

We are a family of otakus. Every week, Shonen Jump (manga) gets downloaded to our tablets; I am currently reading Death Note (all 108 volumes); my daughter writes her own Sword Art Online stories; my son is in the Manga-Anime Club at school; my other son wishes he was Naruto; my wife has a Totoro purse; we have watched everything ever made by Hayao Miyazaki, including his 1978 TV series, Future Boy Conan; and we think that Ghibli’s Joe Hisaishi is the best film composer in the world.

However, I fully understand why anime doesn’t work for some. You either stop at Pokemon or roll your eyes at the Meido fetishes. Too many robots, too much whimsy . . . just too weird.

Fine.

But you have to give Space Brothers a try. We are absolutely in love with this series. As I said to Rebecca today — and I really mean it — I would choose Space Brothers over GoT or Sherlock right now. Yes. It’s that good.

Funny, sweet, epic, Space Brothers tells the story of be-afroed, hapless genius Nanba Mutta, who wants to be an astronaut. Alas for Mutta’s self esteem, his brother Hibito beat him to it.

That’s all I am going to say. Watch at least the first episode and fall in love. We subscribe to Crunchyroll and stream over the Xbox. I am sure there are unofficial ways to get it too.

Best Songs About Death

Don’t know if we’ve ever gone down this morbid highway to discuss the very best songs about shuffling off the mortal coil, but it seems like as good a time as any. So dredge the lake for the very best of them and make your nominees. Mine is this one from Elbow: Switching Off.

Best Episodes

Are there episodes of your favorite shows that really stand out in your mind? I was just recently rewatching Mad Men and the episode “The Suitcase” (season 4, episode 7) came up. That is truly a perfect episode, right down to the song that plays over the closing credits. If you knew nothing else about the show other than that episode, you would still recognize it as a truly exemplary television series. Continue reading

EuroTV: New Zealand edition

It seems many of you found The Fall. Not exactly the most cheery thing ever filmed. I hope you are also able to find The Returned/Les Revenants. It is the best thing I’ve seen on telly all year. Stylish French zombie fare par excellence. Luther is also back, so spool that up too, and cover yourself in Cockney bombast.

Recommended this time is Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake, a BBC/Sundance production set in New Zealand (so barely Euro!). You know Campion from The Piano, from which she brings Holly Hunter as one of the lead actors.

I’m only one episode in, so it’s a difficult show to properly describe. Imagine Twin Peaks crossed with The Killing but a little more subdued (at least compared with Lynch). A young pregnant girl goes missing in the remote community of Laketop and cop Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) is brought in to investigate. Hunter plays a Log Lady-esque weirdo who last saw the girl. Etc.

The reviews have been good and Campion’s involvement as writer-producer-director ensures that Top of the Lake succeeds or fails based on her vision. This is no series-by-committee but ambitious long-form drama. So far, me likey.

Interestingly, Australian funding for the show was pulled when Moss’s involvement was revealed. It seems the Aussies don’t like Americans playing Antipodeans. I call it revenge for Russell Crowe making a career out of dodgy accents.

Available on Sundance Channel and BBC2.

EuroTV: The Fall and Les Revenants

This really is a golden age of television. At the push of a button or the click of a mouse I can watch the best TV the world has to offer, whether it is a new, complex American cable series (Game of Thrones — made in Europe but with American money), tight-and-light BBC-fare (Sherlock), and Scandinavian cool (The Killing).

Here at the Kulturblog I’m going to offer regular, brief highlights of new European shows that our American readers might find on Netflix or PBS or the torrents of bit.

Two shows this time, one British, the other French. Continue reading

1968 and The Red Wedding: Mad Men vs. Game of Thrones

If you haven’t seen the most recent episodes of these shows and don’t want to know what happens, don’t read this.

I suspect you’ve noticed that two epic seasons are playing out right now in two TV shows that are arguably two of the best ever created. This is the sixth and final season of Mad Men and we are seeing Don and company in 1968, with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and the protests at the Democratic National Convention. The world is in turmoil and the characters lives are a pretty good mirror of the times, as they struggle with a multitude of personal and professional issues. Game of Thrones is set in a different world that, if nothing else, shows it is possible to have even more cultural and political upheaval than the 60s. This show is now coming to the end of its third season with drama that is almost too excruciating to watch. Continue reading

The Greatest of the Great Gatsby

In honor of the new movie, I’m posting here my favorite quotes from this, my favorite of all American novels. If you have other nominations, post them in the comments.

I was rather literary in college—one year I wrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials
for the ‘Yale News’—and now I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the ‘well-rounded man.’

Continue reading

When bands become their own tribute bands

My favorite metal band, Queensrÿche, now exists as two bands.  Meet-QUEENSRYCHE-Both-of-Them

 

It’s a mess.  Despite a rather large anti-Tate/Pro-Wilson bias, this article here does a decent job of detailing the twists and turns of the band’s craziness.  What I find most interesting about the split (other than how much the whole thing resembles a divorce – and considering one of the band members married and then quickly divorced Geoff Tate’s daughter, that couldn’t have helped band dynamics) were the competing visions.  In essence (and despite the fact both versions of the band are releasing new albums), Geoff Tate wanted to keep recording and playing new music, and the rest of the band rather explicitly stated they preferred to play songs from the first five albums (their most popular ones, and their most “metal” ones).  In essence, the debate was over progressing musically or else becoming your own cover/tribute band.

It seems like that step is inevitable.  It seems very few artists have the longevity to keep releasing new music that sells well their entire careers.  Most bands, at some point, start playing their own oldies (even if they may throw in a new tune here or there – I saw America in concert once, and in the two hour concert, they played a total of two songs that were “new-ish” and the rest were their oldest and greatest hits).

I have no real insight on this topic.  I just found it somewhat interesting.  It’ll be interesting to see which version of the band actually prevails in court over the legal right to the name.