127 Hours (2010, dir. Danny Boyle): Another work of style with just enough substance from Boyle. You probably know by now that it’s a true story about a dude who gets his arm trapped under a rock in a remote canyon, and is faced with a horrible choice. James Franco is good, the film is decent and certainly uplifting, but I’d class it as merely an above-average time-passer. (W) Worth a Look.
Cee-Lo Green – The Lady Killer (2010): Could never live up to my expectations after seeing one of the greatest videos of the years, which features his ‘Fuck You’ to delightful effect, but this is a listenable combination of throwback to Motown-era charm and Gnarls Barkley-ish chopped-clean production. Bright Lights, Bigger City is the best walking or driving song in a while. (W) Worth a Look.
Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009): I’m still so enraptured at the way track 4, ‘Love Like A Sunset’, was used in Somewhere that when I try to listen to this album, I can barely get past it without hitting repeat. OK, the other songs are good, some of them very good, and I really like this album, and you should listen to it. ‘Love Like A Sunset’ is just ridiculously epic. (R) Recommended.
CocoRosie – La maison de mon rêve (2004): First heard of CocoRosie when they performed the best song of the 00s live with Quinn Walker, but only picked up on their debut album lately – it’s really good, discordant at first glance but quickly altering the way I interact with the world around me. The use of a Godzilla toy’s roar on opener Terrible Angels is a perfect example of their experimental, carefree sound. Don’t know what the rest of their output is like but if it’s the same feeling with better production values, sign me up. (R) Recommended.
Paprika (2006, dir. Satoshi Kon): This fine director’s last film as usual demonstrates his metaphysical insights, this time on the nature of dreams and reality, and uses the potential of animation to create art that really wouldn’t be possible in any other medium. Vastly superior to that other dreams-within-dreams movie that came out earlier this year, give this a chance and be prepared to just go along with the ride… understanding everything isn’t absolutely crucial. Recommended.
Amy Winehouse – Back to Black: I don’t know exactly why I never gave this a go before; probably my distrust of anything too popular. Well, it’s tragic, artful, beguiling and flat-out incredible. Her songwriting is raw but very poetic, and she has this incredibly captivating swagger and charisma. There are a couple of more filler-ish tracks, but they’re still good, and the highlights – like ‘Rehab’, ‘You Know I’m No Good’ and ‘Love Is A Losing Game’ – just have me sitting and shaking my head in astonishment. Jools Holland said she has one of the best voices of anyone of all time, and he knows what he’s talking about. Essential.
Four Lions (dir. Chris Morris, 2010): I have never seen a film like this before. It feels like an entirely new kind of satire – very smart, provocative, and extremely funny. Hard to see me finding any better new films than this before the year’s out. Somewhere between highly recommended and essential.
Erykah Badu – Worldwide Underground: Saw the Badu light when I watched Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, and this is a fantastic (if somewhat poorly sequenced) album. She’s like a superhuman, so otherworldly. ‘I Want You’ is a phenomenal track, and Lenny Kravitz’s guitar at the end is RAD. Recommended.
dan le sac vs Scroobius Pip – Logic of Chance: Another solid offering from this beats merchant/spoken word duo. It’s not as good overall as their previous Angles, but it has I think their best track so far in ‘Five Minutes’, and definitely their most catchy – and probably the most enjoyable three minutes of pop all year – in ‘Cauliflower’.
A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2005): Altman’s final film, about the end of a famous radio show. Light and breezy but with an emotionally resonant core. Wonderful performances from an all-star ensemble cast. Death, or at least ending, casts its shadow over every scene – sometimes literally. Recommended.
LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening: ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ kicks things off in memorable LCD style – maybe James Murphy’s best lyrics yet – but then oscillates between the sublime and the ridiculous, much like ‘Sound of Silver’ did, but more frequently and with deeper troughs. If ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ is a career highlight, ‘Pow Pow’ is a never-to-be-forgotten embarrassment. Worth a look.